In the moments before attending a pool party, apparent strangers-to-acquaintances, a distinguished, if not quirky man and a promiscuous, self-involved German woman, withdraw to a secluded building in order for the brazen woman to shave the bikini line exposed excess hairs before strapping on a suit. Their intricately deep discussions about desires, sex, and kinky foreplay fair nothing more but course, blunt banter between two familiarities, but when the woman pretends she must be tied up and punished for playfully biting the man’s ear until bleeding, the next few moments after fall into a state of obscurity of a he said, she said rape accusation. As confounding declarations are made and fingers are being pointed to decimate lives, a sack of deceptions and an abundance of threats accrue through a blackmail scheme and an abduction based vendetta. Nothing can be certain and no one can be trusted between the two, but one thing is definite, a third man watching from afar has nefarious plans of his own.
Like sitting front row at a bastardized version of an off-broadway show, “Open Wound” is an immaculate stage performance of battered psychologies and visceral deceptions from writer-director Jürgen Weber. The thriller, also known as “Time Is Up” or “Open Wound: The Über-Movie,” measures extreme lengths of human bitterness while constantly shapeshifting into plot twist after plot twist aggregated with clusters of popup violence. The Chinese born Weng Menghan, under her moniker Tau Tau, is the financial backer of “Open Wound. The globetrotting author makes her breakthrough imprint into the feature film business that modestly begins with an opening scene about anal sex among other verbal sexual references before man versus woman fisticuffs and a pivoting third act that rapidly alters character compositions into, essentially, a free for all. So metaphorically speaking, a Chinese producer walks into a bar, sits onto a stool next to a German director, and orders one of the more absorbingly chic cocktail thrillers in English. “Open Wound” is a melting pot of cultural influences and a display damaged egos that’s simply brilliant.
“Open Wound” has a short character list comprised of three characters. The first is woman who is introduced first, or rather her lips do when she declares her love anal sex and the parallel criteria for types of cars in one man’s garage, as she’s using a straight razor to trim the dark haired pubes from her bikini line. She oozes eroticism like a bodily fluid that gravitationally seeps from between the legs, spilling innermost desires, whims, and historical sex-capades with in a philosophical prose. #Nippelstatthetze advocate, German podcast expert, and stunning model, Leila Lowfire engrosses herself into the role of fierce, proud, confident, and strong woman. With an established vigorous sexual prowess, Lowfire culminates the femme fatales and breakneck show-stoppers female roles, notably similar in Quentin Tarantino movies, with high-brow tastes and a debasing reprove. Lowfire’s accent is low and thick and can be considered her weakness here as getting your brain to interpret the fluidity of the words, structures, and compositions is undeniable challenging at times, but acts upon fervor while in her lingerie or even topless throughout the film. The contrast against man is stark. His introduction paints him as unequipped, socially inept, and hopeless desperate. Man longs for Woman, but knows he doesn’t have a chance with her until she offers up a random game of role-play that inevitably leads to disarray. Jerry Kwarteng’s man performance is systematically peerless and a complete joy. Even if the character lacks depth, Kwarteng’s range is devilishly good with the only comparison coming to mind would be James McAvoy and his multiple personality disorder in “Glass.” Once Man and Woman comes to terms after a back and forth bout with dominance, the Suicide King’s grand appearance bestows upon the plot an even bigger, clunkier monkey wrench. The Suicide King’s an ex-con, looking for revenge in a small vat of acid, and his mark and him have a long, complicated history which parts personally shock the other. Erik Hanson’s raspy voice, feeble appearing physique, and lofty age has a second row seat to his character’s unwillingness to die, in a slick performance that’s part nihilist and part psychotic to which Hansen pulls off.
Weber’s choice toward “Open Wound’s” narrative layout conflicts with how the DVD release is specifically marketed. “Open Wound” rides the dark comedy pine that is peppered with black tongue-and-cheek dialogue and violence and as will be noted later in the review, the advertising depicts something far more extreme and graphic. On the shock value scale of one to ten, “Open Wound” hovers around a solid five and maybe a seven or eight for the casual popcorn viewer and, personally, I don’t believe “Open Wound” was intended to be a source of utter distress and visual barbarity. There’s brisk lighthearted comedy that softens the blunt force. For example, in the room with the Man and Woman, a record player will every so often, to comically assist in explaining the actions, play the cheesy tune of lounge background music with a singer narrating the character’s every move and also be the voice of between chapter contention or bewilderment. The singing is privy to only the audience just as the twelve chapter titles that offer a mixed bag of sequences that interchange between English, German, and Chinese title introductions, a toilet paper title card in reverse action, and an artistic rendering of chapters titles and just like his title card introductions, Weber also utilizes an assortment of styles to tell his story, whether be a 5 minute sepia, nitrate film burn effect, or day dream sequence, that peers the sudden twists and eruptive chaos between the characters. While the effects work to sensationalize the context, they tend to be equally be nauseating and annoying as a disruptive structure that seemingly doesn’t make sense to the naked eye.
MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing distributes Jürgen Weber’s “Open Wound” onto DVD home video as the the 11th spine feature under the Wild Eye Raw & Extreme sub-label. The DVD is presented in a widescreen format and the image quality holds up well, withstanding Weber’s bombardment of stylistic techniques of distortion, over exposure, sepia, and contrast. There’s a little softness around the skin, more noticeably during facial close ups, with a slightly lower bit rate in the compression but still very agreeable detail. The stereo two channel audio channel does the job, but has flaws with Weber’s score have an equal playing field with the dialogue tracks. The audience already has to manage Leila Lowfire’s thick German accent and their ears will also need to try and filter out the soundtrack that’s invasive upon the colloquy. Not much range to warrant mentioning, but the depth was well tweaked amongst Weber’s visual compliments. There are unfortunately no bonus material with the feature, but the DVD reversible insert is graced with a semi-naked and bound Leila Lowfire. “Open Wound” is dangerous, sexy, thrilling, and complicated to say the least, but stamped as a Raw & Extreme film it should not; however, see this film! Director Jürgen Weber’s visionary molotov cocktail of a story is an underground must for arthouse lovers and noir enthusiasts.
Astral projection defined per Wikipedia: an interpretation of an out-of-body experience that assumes the existence of an “astral body” separate from the physical body and capable of traveling outside it. The otherworldly experience befalls suddenly upon Jamison Mandao, a young man living off the royalties of his late father’s flailing popular cereal brand, and his recently discovered, and also bewitching, new astral plane exploring powers land him in a macabre laced predicament with his adult squatting nephew, Jackson, and his nephew’s blood hungry, murderous ex-girlfriend, Maeve. With a little help provided by Jamison’s astral enthusiast relative, cousin Andy, and Maeve’s recent victim whose ghost is stuck in limbo, Jamison must use his astral projection to travel back in time, rearranging the series of events in order to not only appease the desperate pleads of a ghost, but to also save his daft, but good natured nephew becoming her next hapless fatality before the stroke of midnight segueing into the Day of the Dead when their chance to live again will rest in peace for eternity.
Here we go again with a time traveling genre film, the horror-comedy “Mandao of the Dead” from writer, director, and star Scott Dunn. Dunn’s sophomore feature film of 2018 dares the chances in being overly and, frankly, unnecessarily lambasted by internet trolls aiming to pick apart the film, hunting vigorously for time travel plot holes, but, and I reiterate this point again, that Dunn’s film is mainly a comedy where the laws of physics and ideas of probability have no bearing on Dunn’s grim fantasy loop. Despite the rather clichéd title suffix implying a facet from the zombie genre, “Mandao of the Dead” refers toward the post-Halloween, more traditionally Hispanic recognized Day of the Dead on November 2nd and while Dunn uses the day typically held for respect of past lives, the “Schlep” director conjures up a lively twist upon deathly circumstances that forms a cut-off date when that slither of twilight time for the dead ceases to be no more.
Alongside Scott Dunn as Jamison Mandao, Sean McBride buddies up as the freeloading nice nephew, Jackson. Dunn and McBride have previously worked together in Dunn’s first feature entitled Schlep and their rapport in “Mandao of the Dead” indubitably confirms a harmonious witty banter and a light-hearted dark comedy in fine, mechanical form. McBride’s spot on heartfelt halfwit Jackson nicely compliments Mandao’s knack for impatient contemplating. Throw a dude name Darth into Jamison and Jackson’s inert existence and things get dire and interesting. “2-Headed Shark Attack’s” David Gallegos isn’t portrayed as your friendly neighborhood ghost nor is he a malevolent one; instead, Darth begs for help and the cosmic universe delivers to him an astral projector and Gallego’s couldn’t be more sharply colorful with his spontaneous humor. Together, the three 30-something year-olds are pitted against the dark horse that is Maeve. Playing an incognito blood drinker, Marisa Hood has an innocence about her that renders a false sense of security and, in Jackson’s case, a pair of weak knees. Alexandre Chen, Sean Liang, and Gina Gomez round out the cast as characters finding their ways into the Day of the Dead debacle.
While we’ve seen where timelines become mangled by the interference of a time traveler and where the theme is fondled with in “Mandao of the Dead,” Dunn doesn’t over knead the narrative with it though certainly a centerpiece of the film as a whole. Mandao’s adventure with astral projection and his middling with the planes are only the beginning that have stirred a frenzy of unhappy campers in the spiritual world. The whole event of Mandao going back in time, twice, to save people is the proverbial tip of the iceberg and a welcoming taste of what’s to come from Dunn and his team. Shot in 10 days with a tight budget, Dunn, who also self-produced and edited the final product, has crystal clear storytelling abilities even with some of the rough, less glamourous edges encompassed within the world indie filmmaking. The characters are well written, from Cousin Andy, to Jackson, and to Darth, as their three various personalities colliding under a thin, blurry gothically influenced omen line.
“Mandao of the Dead” arrives onto Amazon Instant via Prime Video and presented in a widescreen, 2.35:a aspect ratio, and clocking in at a runtime of 74 minutes. No physical media specifications were provided now or for future release. With a budget around $13,000, the English stereo audio track and Panasonic GH5 image quality are finely calibrated and a flat out success for streaming platforms. No bonus features are included with this release. Vampirism, science-fiction, spirits, and astral planes, “Mandao of the Dead” is Scott Dunn’s golden genre-bending film of ghoulish and space and time continuum disproportions! So much so, a sequel has been announced, “Mandao of the Damned,” sparking a positive anticipated interest, by at least this reviewer, for the next chapter of a hapless, macabre adventures that Jay Mandao and Jackson will step into in the next astral plane!
Phil Stevens returns! The Philadelphian filmmaking is coming back for more surreal and gory abstract horror in his next upcoming project “Flowers 2,” a direct sequel, that “explores the final days of the serial killer known as ‘THE EXILE’ through a macabre birthday party held by his past murder victims. We are shown this monster’s violent past life through the eyes of his dead.”
However, Stevens needs your help because making movies you love and that you’re passion about is most certainly not free or cheap despite our best efforts. An Indiegogo page has been setup and the fans of “Flowers,” and I know there are many of you, should take the time to read thoroughly through the campaign page and think about donating to a original horror storytelling. The goal is $15,000 and Stevens is only 6% there from eleven backers. Please donate, no matter the denomination! Your contribution goes a long way and there’s swag for donations starting at $25, but you better hurry due to limited stock.
If you haven’t caught up with “Flowers” and you would like to know more, please read our positive review for “Flowers”. Also, “Lung,” another Phil Stevens directed film, received positive praise as well. We like Phil. So, we like to see him succeed in getting another chance to continue his story and to put into fruition his visionary tale of macabre.
You keep up-to-date with Phil and Flowers 2 at the official Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/flowers02themovie
On the campus of Williamsburg University in 2006, a popular fraternity house holds an upscale house party, filled with the most beautiful students dressed in formal wear, liquored with martinis and gin and tonics, and customized to fit the luxurious lifestyle the men of fraternal brotherhood. When the fraternity president Christian Roane conducts a round around to greet guests, he catches glimpse of Sarah Stein, a coed being a good sport by giving into her friends’ urges to party greek. Christian’s unhealthy obsession with Sarah starts innocent enough, but when Sarah doesn’t take that step toward sharing the same affection, Christian’s control goes into self destruction that not only threatens Sarah, but also threatens to unearth the true and ghastly nature of the brotherhood and the brothers aim to lockdown their secret by any means necessary.
“Somebody’s Darling” is the 2016, independent drama horror from the multi-faceted filmmaker, writer-director Sharad Kant Patel, churned out from a story by Sebastian Mathews. In his directorial debut, Patel, known more for his short film work, heedfully courses through detail and treads lightly on the coattails of a sensitive social issue. His film skirts on the subject of rape culture in the American college and university setting while also touching upon sexuality complexities and severe anguish in today’s youth. Basically, “Somebody’s Darling” is a higher education dissertation on the experiences of collegiate life with a horror twist and all the along the way, Patel slowly paints Christian and his brotherhood onto a canvas of ambivalent malevolence by deconstructing Christian to quickly reconstruct him in a ravaging roundabout. Patel throughout leaves a bread crumb trail of clues that don’t make sense at first, that might lead to other conclusions, and that doesn’t explicitly genre “Somebody’s Darling” as a horror.
Christian is the film’s central focus and with a dark and brooding character, a dark and brooding soul must ride parallel and Paul Galvan intently delivers a cryptic persona. Peppered erratic is Christian obsession Sarah Stein, a run-of-the-mill coed playing darlingly enough by Jessa Settle. Then there’s the brotherhood, whom are begrudgingly split on how to action Christian’s off course fixation, consisting of a youthful lineup of white, stuck-up preppy frat boys with an actor list to match including Fred Parker Jr., “Spirit Camp’s” Matt Tramel, and Mike Kiely. Sarah also has an entourage but not as prominent and, to be honest, the brotherhood weren’t just a hair more involved, but Kristen Tucker and Cathy Baron (“The Lights”), who play Madison and Riley, hit the stereotypical college coed right on the head as the two look to score big when scouring their hot boy wardrobe and provide unnatural sexual banter toward their goody-two-shoes friend, Sarah.
“Somebody’s Darling’s” independent genetic makeup doesn’t hide under a flashy production, but presuming an indie dramatic horror that’s more bark than bite isn’t worth wild should is the incorrect assumption as the climatic end will be attention catching. Granted, the dialogue’s overdrawn breathiness can bog down a regular popcorn viewer and turn away heads that have a disdain for immense screenplay scripture, but to comprehend the whole story and to become invested in the characters, being a viewer from start to finish won’t go in vain. Patel personal investemnt extends to much more than spitfire directions and scribing with a hand in producing, composing, editor, and digital effects with the latter being used sparsely to convey the Christian’s internal aspirations and quondam self. When effects do come into the real word, a practical, lifelike approach is taken and that intensifies the horror tenfold.
Distribber released Sharad Kant Patel’s “Somebody’s Darling” onto various streaming platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu on December 1st. I was provided a screener disc and can’t focus on or comment too much on the details of image or sound quality, but the disc did provide bonus material including the making of the score and behind-the-scenes in creating the dream sequence. Sharad Kant Patel’s “Somebody’s Darling” has an edgy appeal that draws you in like an unsuspecting moth to an alluring light and then zaps a fatal shock right into the nervous system as soon as the undertones are evidently a metaphor for something far more sinister.
Special effects technician Dom joins a small cast on the scenic outskirts of Pittsburgh to work on a horror film with wealthy director Lacey Bickel at the helm. Filmmaker Bickel’s indifferent passion about obtaining the perfect shot for his movie puts Bickel at odds with the other cast and crew, rendering Lacey just another irregular and peculiar director attempting to show the general public his ultimate vision, but during one particularly odd behavioral moment, Dom was subjected to the exhibition of a presumably snuff film possibly directed by Bicket during a coke-filled round table discussion. Dom begins to suspect that the movie he’s laboring over isn’t the sole objective of Bickel’s, but stays quiet about his instincts and he forms a romantic relationship with Celeste, a gaffer whose worked with Bickel prior to, and the two resume their work on the film despite the being the oblivious subjects of a real snuff film.
In 1978, the Godfather of the modern zombie film, the late great George Romero, had an inner circle of friends conjure up their own funding for an idealistic, ahead of it’s time horror film entitled “Effects” with then newcomers and Pittsburgh natives Dusty Nelson at the helm, John Harrison producing and starring as the offbeat Lacey Bickel, and post-“Effects” “Day of the Dead” and “The Dark Half” editor, Pasquale Buba, as the other producer. Filming had wrapped with tons of positive public review potential to be the next big horror film of it’s time being produced out of Pittsburgh, but a major distribution complication had put the kibosh on any theatrical and home release run, leaving “Effects” to be shelved for nearly thirty years until 2007 when Synapse released the film on DVD. The snag resonates soundly with the group of filmmakers who are probably more than acquainted with their friend and colleague George Romero’s “Night of the Living” and the copyright problem. However, the American Genre Film Archive, or AGFA, began a kickstarter funding campaign to buy a 4K scanner to remaster cult and underground titles to Blu-ray and “Effects” became one of the first selected!
“Day of the Dead” star Joe Pilato stars as special effects technician Dom and Dom is a far cry from being his future role of the sadistic and stir crazy Captain Rhodes. Pilato brings a lot of peace and tranquility to his mild mannered, if not very gullible, character. Along side Pilato is another fellow “Dead” series star, Tom Savini, as portraying not his trade of a special effects tech, but as a producer of sorts in the film. Off camera, Savini handles the gruesome special effects with a straight blade and gunshot sequences. In character, Savini doesn’t stray too far from his character on “Dawn of the Dead,” donning the black leather jacket and sporting a cocky-jerk attitude. Producer John Harrison also has a role as the callus director Lacey Bickel who bosses around his two surface actors “Life of Brian” actor Bernard Mckenna and a “Dead” series dead head zombie in two of Romero’s films, a Mrs. Debra Gordon. McKenna delivers question mark after question mark of a performance that Matthew Lillard, perhaps, imitates the best in Wes Craven’s “Scream” whereas Gordon just provides a straightforward background performance with her scene with Lacey conversing over the idea of stress releasing sex being one of the more intense moments of the movie. Susan Chapek, Charles Hoyes, and Blay Bahnsen complete the cast.
Despite the modest budget, Nelson and his team construct monumental frightening moments. When Dom, Lacey, Lobo, and Barney converse around a mirror laced with coke, Lacey wants to show Dom a film after their sharing their opinions on what the general public will or will not pay to see. The actors’ faces and reactions as the snuff film rolls is on the brink of teeth clenching madness. The catalytic moment bombards questions internally into the group of presumably professional people and starts the separation between whose really in control of their fates. “Effects” is a movie within a movie and a deception within a deception where the characters have more than one role and pinpointing their specific purpose is difficult to land that Nelson’s film will have your head spinning with guesses. A fierce and boldly ambitious film from a scrappy Pittsburgh crew of talented filmmakers taking a risk with an intricate plotted thriller.
AGFA and MVDVisual present Dusty Nelson’s “Effects” for the first time on a region free Blu-ray. The 1980 thriller has been scanned and restored in 4K from the only existent copy of the 35mm negatives and delivered the original aspect ratio, an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1. The image quality is better, but only slight above the Synapse DVD that sourced from 16mm negative and still maintains a healthy dose of noised induced and film grain and print damage. The color palette has a dullish grey-brown combination fairly noticeable to the naked eye. The English DTS-HD dual channel audio has hints of a hiss and faint crackle in more scene intense segments, but relatively clean and clear inside a limited range. Extras included are an updated version of Synapse’s retrospective documentary entitled “After Effects” that brings a stingy melancholy when seeing George Romero converse with his friends. There are also two short films by John Harrison, an archival commentary track, and liner notes by AGFA’s Joseph Ziemba. Plus, the AGFA Blu-ray has a snazzy illustrated cover, with reverse cover art, encasement. “Effects” glorifies snuff film with ample attention to detail and precision that only this Pittsburgh all-star team of filmmakers could produce on a limited budget and AGFA, alongside MVDVisual, amplify their efforts by a hundredfold with a remastered transfer withstanding straight razor home movies, a bombastic car explosion, and cloak and dagger guerilla filmmaking that’ll have you second guessing if the effects are only movie magic or not?