When Greed Induces EVIL at “The Estate” reviewed! (Vertical Entertainment / Digital Screener)



Spoiled rich gay son George despises his cheapskate father.  George’s equal in age, and similarly spoiled, horny step mother Lux also equally despises the loaded philanderer who rarely stays in town, leaving them with little to do and with little money to do it with.  When they meet tall, dark, and handsome Joe at a bar and invite him back to their estate house, a psychosexual love triangle leads to a murder-for-hire plot against the patriarch billionaire to collection the opulent inheritance.   Complications arise when unbeknownst bastard children cause a legal clog in their pipedreams of being insanely well-off.  One murder after another begins to unravel not only their lust for wealth and each other, but also a deeper, darker secret to rue for the wealth they wished (and killed) for.

An over-the-top, narcissistic machination-built dark comedy of greed, self-importance, and lust is how I would personally define the first feature length film, “The Estate,” from director James Kapner.  Diverging from his own comedy web series, “Baker Daily,” to work again with Kapner, from their previous collaboration on the political lampooning “Baker Daily:  Trump Takedown,” is Chris Baker, screenwriter of “The Estate,” who not only pen strokes the worst-of-the-worst of diabolical super-egos but also plays one of the downright flamboyant scoundrels as the lead role.  Majority of “The Estate” takes place inside the grand titular location, compartmentalizing the indie film’s budget solely on the sordid activity of three main characters without much of else as a distraction.  The Los Angeles shot film is independently produced by comedy producer Rod Hamilton, Kapner’s business partner Adam Makowka, and the second producing credit for Alixandra von Renner (“Boogeyman Pop”), with Mark Boujikian, William Bruey, Nicholas Lyons, and Scott R. Long as executive producers and is made under the Stone Lake Production and Runners Films production companies. 

“The Estate” is a haute and brutish trio’s tale of sex, lies, and murder.   At the head of the snake is George, an entitled son seeking elegance and power as he longs in the background to attend the prestigious Black and White Gala, and is played bitingly by the film’s genesis writer, Chris Baker.  Baker, a Harvard graduate and a gay man, certainly utilizes both personal traits for George he’s clearly written for himself.  George is smart under that superficial Versace façade and, also, is a gay man looking for a romantic connection, but like any relationship single person, told by one’s own vantage point such as George’s, a wash of doughy-eyed thick-headedness just completely engulfs his rational senses when a pretty face suddenly shows up.  That rugged handsome face just happens to be of “iZombie’s” Greg Finley as hunky hitman Joe who George unexpectedly bumps into due in part of his oversexualized and, too, vain Stepmother Lux donned wonderfully with a wickedly crass tongue of comedienne, Eliza Coupe.  Together, a charcuterie board of carnality ceases to no end between the three in a back-and-forth, pass-the-man around pansexual affair with plotting and murder speckled in the middle.  Performances are concentrated with tongue and cheek, black matter comedy with ultra-ostentatious gab and garb to deliberately set the satirical tone metaphorically for the super-rich attitude of white, wealthy America.  With all that jazzy, pent-up, entitlement, add Eric Roberts into the mix, then you really get the worst-of-the-worst from the “Best of the Best” actor as the filthy rich patriarch.  Roberts can exude sleazy well with his own mannerisms and deliveries, solidifying his own Eric Robert’s laidback version of a despised billionaire debauchee.  “The Estate” rounds out with Rif Hutton (“The Thirteenth Floor”), Ezra Buzzington (“The Hills Have Eyes” remake), Lala Kent (“The Row”), Kyle Rezzarday, and “Hostel:  Part II’s” Heather Matarazzo as the tech-savvy lawyer office secretary who shamefully peters out after an interesting turn of events with the character’s involvement.

“The Estate” is one of those dark comedy thrillers where one wrongdoing subsequently creates a domino effect for more wrongdoings.  How’s that saying go?  Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.  Indeed, the characters do get what’s coming to them as one killing turns into two killings and two killings turns into three etc.  As the bodies pile up in between the bedroom sheets sex and the coy flirting during initial stages of affections, the kind where butterflies flutter inside the stomach, what turns from an aloof pair of spoiled rotten solitaries is a false confidence in blindly following boredom’s famished way of saying death and sex is all-around exciting.  There’s also this vying of the sexes to see who can sweep Joe off his feet and while there’s obviously no issue with the polyamorous pansexuality, the story’s a bit lopsided with Baker’s intimate scenes with Finley being more expositional compared to Joe and Lux’s more implied romps and that inherently leads viewers onto one obvious path without the spice of unexpected chance.  Though George is written to be an alter egocentric doppelganger of his creator, Chris Baker, the Frankenstein theory only works well to extent before seeping into obnoxious conceited territory.  This is where “The Estate” begins to show signs of wearing out it’s welcome with living in George’s weighted down perspective of the high life.  Purpose seems vague mostly yet “The Estate” is also one of those nonchalant, throwing caution to the wind dark comedy narratives, sinfully funny, for the sake of touting an exaggerated resemblance of a detached privileged mindset. 

Things are not so nice and cozy at “The Estate” that has arrived this October on VOD and in theaters from Vertical Entertainment. Clocking in a 85 minutes, “The Estate” is paced to fit the conspicuous cinematography from the Texas born Mike Simpson with mood lighting mixed with tinting and as well as using a spherical lens to set the current tone. Simpson keeps shots tights between medium and closeups for more intimacy between the trio as well as to keep within the confines of a smaller production and set location. Since a digital screener was provided, I can’t comment on the quality of the audio and video aspects, but “The Estate” comes with an eclectic soundtrack that includes tracks from Lucky Beaches, Viagra Boys, Ritchie Valens, Joy Downer, and Toots and the Maytals. There were no bonus material or after credit scenes. Witty, dark humor that teeters always on the cups of being too much for one sitting, “The Estate” deadeyes the caricatures of the 1% with fatal attractions and an inheritance stocked with greed culminating to an unbelievable finale

EVIL Lays All the Cards on the Table. “As the Village Sleeps” reviewed! (Indie Rights / Digital Screener)

Sarah is throwing a birthday party at her stepdad’s large house on Indian reservation land.  What should have been a quiet, boozy night with a handful of close girlfriends turns into a bigger and tense shindig of drugs and alcohol when her ex-boyfriend’s band and her step brother and sister unexpectedly show up at her doorstep.  With them comes a game, called Lynched, her ex purchased at the nearby gas station, but after playing, then drinking, the night away, the quickly find out the game is far from being over.  The mysterious card game comes to life, pitting friend as foe, and Sarah’s friends disappear one-by-one in the order of their in game deaths.  Leveled heads tip in the balance of fear and loss as the game plays havoc on their psyche, creating nightmare visions and that feeling of being watched and hunted, and the rules are anything goes when the game goes halfheartedly unfinished.

Werewolves.  Witches.  Vindictive townsfolk.  Murder.  Lynched, the game, sounds like an intense and medieval whodunit that insidiously presents mistrust into who you think are your closest friends and allies.  An interesting setup for the Chloë Bellande penned and Terry Spears directed 2021 released horror-mystery thriller, “As the Village Sleeps.”  The feature is Bellande’s first produced script based off her short, “While the Village Sleeps,” she wrote and directed in 2012 and with a few tweaks to the characters and location, the “American Terror Story” and “Hell’s Belle” director Spears, whose career as a musician only recently sought expansion into filmmaking, depicts that some games should never be played.   The independent film is a production of Spears’ 19 Artists Development and is co-produced by Kris Young as well as award-winning producer Gray Frederickson of “Apocalypse Now” and “UHF.”

Starring in her first feature film, Eleonora Saravalle has to be puzzler piecing together the deadly mystery intruding upon her character’s remote birthday bash.  The rather tall Saravalle is paired up with a rekindling love interest in the rather short Oliver Rotunno in their respective roles of Sarah and Alex who hold onto a sparkle with a rough patch in a rocky relationship history that stays in the past never to be fleshed out from their backstory involving Sarah dumping Alex for unsaid reasons.  That dimly lit sparkle doesn’t really shine through much between Saravalle and Rotunno with a dynamic resembling more big sister and little brother than crisscrossed lovers.  More so than the sibling rivalry from Sarah’s stepsister Tala (Shiah Luna, “Age of the Living Dead”), and stepbrother Jacey (Daniel Olguin) with an uptight and contentious static background noise that, again, fails to come to ahead about why Tala is stubbornly irritated with Sarah; instead, the attempt at building something more between them during shared terror experience quickly fizzles out of complacency without so much as a hurdle to make their bond more impactful.  None of the characters are terribly impressive or worthy enough for sympathy, not even the flawed ones had any emotional weight when meeting their maker, falling into uncomplex tropes stapled to the genre such as with the naïve party girl Connie (Chloe Caemmerer), the immature rocker Matt (Rane Thomason), and the I-hate-city-slickers town cop (Mark Adam Goff).  The more interesting characters, like the old, long in the tooth, gas station attendant who sold the game and walks to work every early morning, doesn’t receive the time of day though very important to the plot.  “As the Village Sleeps” rounds out the cast with Michael Gum, Tyler Malinauskas, Kenzie Leigh Spears, Victoria Strange, Winnie Du, and Otis Watkins as the elusive Midnight.

“As the Village Sleeps” has too many strikes against it to ignore.  Between significant plot holes, underdeveloped characters, snuffed out offshoot side stories, and an arterial scenario struggling to stay cohesive by a bunch of no-named actors, who more or less do okay in their lackluster residing roles, the already low-budget production deserves every grain of a derisible reaction with its horrifying-veneered derivative hand at “Jumanji.”  Instead of a stampede of elephants, a ferocious crocodile, and a hairy Robin Williams being roused from out of the board game world by the roll of the dice, the card game Lynched barely rears itself back into the fold after the players supposedly don’t finish the game in order to drink themselves into a stupor.  Only just a handful of cards reappear on the spot where those disappeared, turning the game into a supernaturally present character without ever manifesting tangibility and that becomes a running motif for Spears’ film, that lack of finishing something to elicit a gratifying arc of completion.  We see fragmentary elements everywhere with the aforementioned character dynamics between Sarah and Alex and Sarah and Tala, the unresolved routes of unearthing the game’s racist atrocities against Native American origins by investigating the obvious gas station merchant Midnight who sold our protagonists the game, and the characters who don’t disappear at the game’s hands, but just vanish without so much of a word about their fate.  From what I’ve briefly watched, Bellande’s 2012 short would be a tad improvement over the 2021 release and might be more worthwhile with a mindful production value that’s more attuned to being budget friendly and a sound design that’s not a stock file folly with depthless growling wolves and overexaggerated footsteps.  The overall experience just might be more pleasant. 

Become lost and hunted down in the gameplay of “As the Village Sleeps” now available on Amazon, currently free with Prime Video, under the distribution of Indie Rights Movies with more streaming platforms to be announced.  Titus Fox serves as the film’s cinematographer whose most intriguing scenes are under the latticed deck.  Between the combination of steady and handheld camera work, Fox implements a voyeuristic and stalking POV of the shadowy werewolves coupled with the stark contrast between black negative space and sphere of torch light.  The scenes are brief but well-executed to drawn some visual aesthetic and sense of threat with the remaining cinematography reliant on common swivel panning and edited stationary positions.  There are no extras or bonus scenes accompanying this streaming release.  Whether be the filmmaking inexperience of Terry Spears, Bellande’s perforated story, or the limitations on the production and sound design, “As the Village Sleeps” should be slept through to not rouse exhaustion from consistent frustration. 

“As the Village Sleeps” is available on Prime Video!

A Saltwater Croc is Pure EVIL in “Black Water” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / Blu-ray)



On a two week holiday, Grace, her husband Adam, and her younger sister Lee, embark on a road trip through Northern Australia, stopping at the local bars and roadside attractions all along the way.  Their next ad hoc destination is to fish at the rurally located and rinkadink river tour and fishing guide, Backwater Barry’s.  With Barry himself already out with another tour group, his assistant happily agrees to take them fishing out on a small, metal Jon boat along the mangrove tree dense distributaries.  When their boat is flipped by a large, aggressive crocodile and their guide dead, the water-protruding trees become a lifeline for temporary safety, but being fully encircled by murky water leaves them with no escape route and hidden from the river mainstem where help would like cross.  With a hungry croc lurking below, the only means of survivor is to reach the flipped Jon boat that’s stuck stranded in the middle of water. 

Aside from my personal favorite subgenre, Sharksploitation, the next best would the reptiliansploitation!  If there is even such a scaly subgenre about cold-blooded killers, especially involving the waterproofed skin of alligators and crocodiles lurking and wriggling in murky waters.  I’m a child of the 80’s and grew up on such classics as “Eaten Alive” (technically the late 70’s), “Alligator” and “Alligator 2, and the Australian ozploitation thriller, “Dark Age.”  Even the more modern reptilian ravagers, “Lake Placid” series and Alexandra Aja’s “Crawl,” are hugely exciting, entertaining, and come with a lot of bite!  Another ozploitation crocodile themed film came across my viewing pleasure just recently is the Andrew Traucki and David Nerlich co-written, co-directed “Black Water.”  The 2007 independent production is filmed across multiple locations in the Northern Territories and New South Wales of Australia where much of the butt-clenching terror is filmed in the crocodile-less mangroves of the Georges River.  “Black Water” is presented by The Australian Film Commission and Territorial Film Developments and developed by Michael Robertson’s ProdigyMovies who cater to low-budget ozploitation genre pictures that usually pit man versus nature to the death!

The concise cast provides “Black Water” with an intimacy you wouldn’t get with a bigger, cast-saturated production.  Three principles and two supporters imbues the characters’ fears, tensions, and their rush of adrenaline into the viewers without having to dilute into offshoots with an extensive list of throwaway and expendable roles.  Diana Glenn, Maeve Dermody, and Andy Rodoreda turn from touting tourist to terrorized tenderloins for one of nature’s most ruthless hunters. The dynamic between the three is one that is high on the relationship status; a family consisting of a wife and husband and sisters, leaving zero room for apathy between the characters themselves and between the viewers and the characters as their importance of loss is greater to each other and that extends beyond the screen.  Traucki and Nerlich give little-to-no wiggle room for escape, forcing the survivors to wade the ominous waters.  The fear is prevalent more so in the eyes of Grace (Glenn) who is not only worried about her husband and sister, but also her motherly instinct to protect her newly learned pregnancy.  Lee (Dermody) and Adam (Andy) lack that hesitation, that trembling moment of dipping their toes back into water, in a seemingly inability to feign being affected by the force of flesh-ripping nature lurking just below the surface.  Even with subsequent failed survival attempts, I found difficulty relating to Lee’s fear who, in the latter half of the story, calmly breaststrokes approx. ten yards to reach the boat in a moderate attempt at heart-racing desperation.  Fiona Press (“Out of the Shadows”) and Ben Oxenbould (“Caught Inside”) round out the cast.

“Black Water” is the epitome of ingenuity when placing actors and crocodiles in the same space together.  Real people, real crocodiles.  Yes, the visual effects produced by Nerlich, Traucki, and their team, including of compositor Peter Jeffs, create a frightening cohabitation, stretching the limits of the VFX with the instinctual movements of in captivity crocodiles and laying them over the mangrove scenes that have the actors.  Whenever the croc pops up from the water with just his snout, eyes, and the few ridges of his back breaking the surface, the motionless stare from the beady Devil-eyes can make you hold your breath.  “Black Water” has killer anticipation with a death roll component that no one is safe from a maneater’s hunger. At some instances, the composites are not entirely seamless with the depth or the angles as which the croc moves through the water, but the overall effect is successful and potent. With limited escapes routes come limited plot devices. “Black Water’s” length felt almost painfully reliant on time spent in the mangrove trees with the characters mulling and weighing the options, the option to go for the boat became it’s own motif, and a short lull quickly stiffens the initial boat-flipping tumult. One second, the four fishers have lines in the water and the next second they’re in the water, “crocodile in the water” is being screamed at the very top of Adam’s lungs, and tour guide Jim has instantly disappeared from story in a blink of a crocodile’s snapping smile. No amount of backwater expertise assisted in Jim’s, or any of the patrons’, survival. After the commotion has subdued and the realization that a crocodile has come to feed, survivors stick the trees like monkeys a mere 7 to 10 feet from the surface water, stagnant still in shock and unable to muster a thought about what to do. After the lull, man versus nature gets right back outwitting one another with the croc having a big screening advantage.

Holidaying never looked so terrifying where a day in the office seems like an escape in “Black Water.” The story is a cautionary one of the increasing populations of both humans and crocodiles in Northern Australia and was based off true events as noted by director Andrew Traucki off the account of two teenagers stuck in a tree after the death of their friends by a croc in an interview with MovieWeb.com. A reemergence of the 2007 film, stemmed by the recent sequel, finds itself on a full HD, 1080p Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment. The Australian label’s region B release presents the 89 minute feature in a widescreen 1.85:1. More than most of the picture is shot in natural light without being too heavily under the guise of lens manipulation with the steady cam under “Primal’s” John Biggins cinematography. The composited recordings crocs and locations blend almost seamlessly, only rendering a smidge of smear glossiness around the croc’s edges in the tinted blue nighttime scenes. Whenever the croc pops up in the water with a human character sharing the scene, the frame unveils evident cropping but only to sell the effect of the two being in the same moment, removing the outer edges to avoid potential gaffes. The English language and ambiance audio tracks offer two options, a 5.1 and a 2.0, both congenially in a DTS-HD master audio mix. For this particular review, the 5.1 was explored and the dialogue, ambience, depth, range, and run of the mill soundtrack do sound clear, without a hinderance of muddles dialogue, and pertinent to the circumstances happing on screen. Special features include an audio commentary with the directors, a mixture of polished and rough deleted scenes, a making of segment that includes interviews with the directors, actors, and producer Michael Robertson about locations, special effects challenges, and the characters who sell the story, and the theatrical trailer. There’s no pretense with “Black Water” in it doesn’t hawk mutant crocodiles or a behemoth beast thought lost over time; instead, “Black Water” feasts on realism, capturing plausibility and instinctual fear that makes us never want to go into knee high water ever again.

“Black Water” is now available from Umbrella Entertainment on Blu-ray!

When The Waters Rush In, It’s the EVIL in Your Head That’ll Kill You. “Relentless” reviewed! (Terror Films / Digital Screener)

Jennifer Benson’s life is a storybook fairytale that’s embraced by her close sister, exalted by a sweet, kind husband, and excited with the news of an upcoming baby. Yet, all good things come to an end and in Jennifer’s case, in a devastating tragedy when everything and everyone she held close to her heart is unexpectedly wiped away within a single year. Physically injured and suffering from depression, Jennifer withdraws from family and friends inside an empty house, sinking lower into despondency, and letting bills and the house upkeep slip through the seemingly insignificant cracks. Jennifer eventually decides climb up a little out of her rut by cleaning up and letting go of some sentimental materials that leave painful memories by storing them in the unfinished basement, but when the basement door jams and won’t open, Jennifer finds herself trapped in a subterranean state with a large thunderstorm dumping rain that’s seeping from the basement walls, plumbing, and the ground. As the torrential rain continues to fall, the water level continues to rise with no way out.

Get ready to hold your breath in Barry Andersson’s agog of metaphorical poignant survival, “Relentless.” The filling of the fish tank mender is the director’s first and only release of 2020, following his 2019 releases of the historical drama, “The Lumber Baron,” and a 1940’s set sleep deficient thriller, “The Soviet Sleep Experiment.” Andersson continues to tell stories of intricately varied human responses as the filmmaker pens “Relentless” surrounded by themes of reactionary and recovery paths toward death with the film echoing more so with Andersson’s introductory “The Lumbar Baron” on a much smaller scale in terms of cast and setting. The story is set in or near Minnesota, a Midwest state prone to some of the United States worst flash flooding hit areas, and Andersson crafts his creative juices with that in mind to mold a symbolic cognitive descension stemmed by escapism inside creature comforts. Deodand Entertainment and Andersson’s filmic workshop company, Mogo Media, designate as the production companies.

“Relentless” indurates around being a one woman show with Rachel Weber spearheading the subject of crippled and downcast Jennifer Benson. Weber, whose worked briefly with Barry Andersson in “The Soviet Sleep Experiment,” has to operate Jennifer animatedly in a near voiceless, tacit role to simulate one alone with their thoughts and emotions. Only flashbacks limn with dialogue present the state of Jennifer’s woebegone mind as she goes from despair to reluctant acceptance by reopening the wound of concealed painful memories. Weber fulfills every inch of empty space with a tinge sorrow in some way, shape, or form but doesn’t quite convey the impact well enough to fortitude a presence. Weber’s post-flashback expressions deflect the corpus theme with no real tell of how Jennifer actually feels as she stands over a box full of memorabilia of what should be inducing whether a pensive sadness or vitalizing inspiration as she goes through an unbalanced reel of memories that include bedroom book snuggles with her sister at young age or survival life lessons with her father to up at the moment of what was supposed to be a joyous baby shower occasion that turns unexpectedly into tragic point in her life. Though the story acutely restricts the camera on Weber, the unfolding flashbacks ultimately tell the story from the past that includes stint performances from Charles Hubbell (“The Bitch That Cried Wolf”), Anna Hickey, Bea Hannahan, and Presley Grams.

“Relentless” has thought-provoking messages splayed up, down, and all around it’s encased four-walled theme of, literally, drowning in your own self pity and digging yourself out of a hole of depression. The water that gushes into the air tight unfinished basement represents the rising fathoms of depression that initially trickle in harmlessly enough, but the longer the despair drips go unchecked, as noted when Jennifer reaches out to nobody up on the top floors of her house and would rather recap wedding photos in the first act, the more intense the cascades can become when your submerged in from head to toe. Along Jennifer’s rather stagnant perilous journey, sitting on top of work benches as a hapless invalid and rummaging through miscellaneous items, she opens and goes through various storage boxes of her past that she carefully tries to keep dry by continuously moving the boxes out from the low-lying waters. Each box evokes a single memory from her past fashioned in an unchronological order and stews in a melting pot of stirred emotions that work backwards from melancholy to hope to, eventually, in my opinion, an inescapable suicide. My subjective take on Barry Andersson’s open-ended culmination is purely speculative as Jennifer’s struggles for survival may all be for naught, even in the evidence of the character leaving behind a note for storm survivors, or whomever, to collect staggering into what could be Jennifer’s tomb strongly suggests that particular path. That’s what admirable about intense thrillers, such as “Relentless,” that teases an unwritten coda for those to survive and tell the rest of the story, woven with their own personal singularities, but Andersson’s film, heavy in metaphors, lacks spirited vitality in a somber stroll through what’s innately a human fear: death.

Basements continue to retain their bad rap in the traditional horror sense as well as in Terror Films’ release of Barry Andersson’s survive-or-die succumbing to mopery in “Relentless,” distributed digitally across multiple platforms. Rigorous self preservation might be watered down, but the stagecraft and production design is top shelf quality with a simple set of a well dressed dank and bare basement where streams of water rush into from the barred awning windows and waterlogged plumbing. The basement in itself is a character of misfortune, a cell of rehabilitation, and is just simply effective in a cinematic sense without seeming overly menacingly but rather like every other basement in the world. With the digital screener, there were no bonus material included nor any bonus scenes during or after the credits. Don’t expect a nonstop nail-biter that aims to fill your lungs with asphyxia inhaled water; instead, sympathy or empathy will play significantly in “Relentless'” success with an aggregating flurry of thoughts generator in a post-traumatic vicissitude.

“Relentless” included with Prime Video and available for purchase!

EVIL is One Big Vagina Looking Stain on the Wall! “Dead Dicks” reviewed! (Artsploitation Films / Blu-ray)


Becca’s careworn life, concerning for her mentally unstable brother as well as maintaining her expenses through the up and down cashflow of a bartender’s tour, suddenly gleams with a ray of hope when a prestigious opportunity she’s earned calls for her to move across country in a matter of weeks, but when her brother, Ritchie, leaves multiple distressing messages on her phone, Becca’s continuing efforts to care for her troubled older brother forces her to abandoned the bar’s night shift duty and check on him. What Becca finds is Ritchie’s dead body strung up in the closet, and another Ritchie dead body electrocuted in the tub, and a very much alive Ritchie walking around naked. The perplexing phenomena all stems around a vaginal resembling wet stain on the bedroom wall that birth’s another copy of Ritchie after each death, but with every copy comes copious amounts of provocative questions that keep Becca from leaving Ritchie’s forlorn and tormented side or is it something much more paranormal detaining her?

Welcome back to our part two of the unofficial look at independent Canadian horror with a totally different and existential horror entitled “Dead Dicks” from the dynamic directing duo of Chris Bavota and Lee Paul Springer. Also possessing creative control of their own script, Bavota and Springer flex their filmmaking muscles by initiating themselves into the feature film market with an alternative impression on the lingering effects of mental illness and suicide, which Bavota and Springer preface the film responsibly with a public service announcement for audiences where those struggling with suicide or those who know someone struggling can reach out for information and help via a suicide prevention hotline telephone number. Believe it or not, ItsBlogginEvil has been exposed to some script work by Chris Bavota who penned the tyke-terrible, otherworldly beings in “Ghastlies,” helmed by Brett Kelly, and while I admire Kelly’s legendary practical effects ambitions on a microscopic budget and “Ghastlies” praise to the cult of small creature features villains, like “Gremlins” or “Critters,” I ultimately found the film and the screenplay to be fragmented and unflattering that doesn’t live up to honoring the retro creature ideals in a heavily slapstick and erroneous attempt. However, from 2016 to 2019, Bavota has shown to have an increased level of story maturity in his writing with, perhaps, an assist from his colleague Springer for their subject matter and execution of “Dead Dicks,” a production of Bavota and Springer’s Postal Code Films company in association with Red Clay Productions and distributed by Devilworks and Artsploitation Films.

The low-key cast brings a blanket of intimacy that’s synonymous with how suicide is often a loner’s internal battle with themselves. In this regard, Bavota and Springer needed an alleviator for the somber material with a pitch perfect front man in order to radiate the dry humor and convey the relatively taboo message of speaking up, speaking out, and speaking for suicidal tendencies. They found that man to be Heston Horwin who the filmmakers had had in mind to play the role of Ritchie. Bringing the quick wit and exact timing to Ritchie’s compromised soul, and serving also as executive producer on the film, Horwin becomes the vexed tinkerer trying to problem solve the causality of his own immortality who is stuck in a loop, a motif of in death there is life that continues to pop up, and also contorts his personality to make Ritchie a Rubik cube of anxiety, twisting and turning with tacit body language that serves as a roadblock to his frequently burdened little sister, Becca, played by newcomer Jillian Harris. The strong female role is outlined with meticulously sage from a new actress submersed for the first time credited in an existential and cosmic horror with a genitalia fascination. The duo becomes a trio when Matt Keyes enters the fold as the annoyed apartment neighbor one floor door to be jostled into Ritchie and Becca’s abundant death dilemma. Also known in character as Matt, Keyes deceives as a snarky, impatient prude masking his nice guy principles but when enough is enough, Keyes goes into angry neighbor mode whose fed up with Ritchie’s loud music and building shaking incidents.

“Dead Dicks” doesn’t boil down to simply suicide as the main theme to digest, but sharpens the graphite toward a much broader point that incorporates the lingering shockwave effects of severe mental illness while touching upon the bitter aftertaste of post-suicide. Becca’s caught in Ritchie’s woeful web that results in her always picking up the pieces left in her big brother’s wake. The act of unreciprocated love for Ritchie stems from almost losing him when they were younger, an anecdotal story brought up a couple of times between Becca and Ritchie, and the image of his lifeless body in the hospital has been forever seared in Becca’s mind and body matrix to the point she feels indebted to protect him. It took Ritchie to die, multiple times, for him to understand the inflexibilities of the loop Becca is coiled into with his own unhinged state and can’t proceed forward with her own life. Each copy of his former self slices away a layer of unstable irrationality that have become blinders detrimental to his and his sister’s life and once he’s reached the core of his true self, clarity forms around processing the chaos around him, but doesn’t ever remove the sadness and pain that has been imprinted onto him over the years from family and friends distrust and disdain and that makes his argument to die that much more logical to himself because for Becca to be free from the loop, which is represented by being trapped inside Ritchie’s apartment and objects around him that go into restart mode like the earshot cacophony of heavy rock music starting over after every death, one of them must die and the other be reborn. All of this is in encompassed with a display of in your face genitalia, a discolored wall that suspends death, and grimly funny gore that seamlessly blend computer imagery and practical effect, making “Dead Dicks” a taut downcast, dark comedy full of ostentatious and provocative symbolism from our Canadian neighbors!

The seismically cosmic “Dead Dicks” is intrinsic to the creative fluidity of the indie film culture and is now available on an Artsploitation Films’ Blu-ray release. The release is presented in in a widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, captured with an Arri Alexa camera providing a clean digital picture vivid in detail and distinct depth. The entire color package denotes warm atmospherics, more so from Ritchie’s off white and mustard yellow apartment to the hot soft pink of the vaginal canal scene, that becomes a consistent and engrossing product worked by cinematographer Nicolas Venne to still be able to find the humanizing angle of each individual character. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound for the first half is quite wonky that perhaps stems from mismanaged discerning the vocals properly, leaving the dialogue depth obscured from background to foreground and from foreground to background. On the story’s flipside, the issues are worked out which would suggest the cluster of shots and audio takes were eventually adjusted or tweaked to sync appropriately. Julien Verschooris’ score and the introduction of Tusk and Bruiser on the soundtrack is an eclectic mix of dramatic synth and grunge rock that impeccably keeps the nearly one-location film from getting stale with a coagulating of an energizing and mellow temperment which would usually have a counter-effective result. Bonus features include commentary by directors Chris Bavota and Lee Paul Springer, four video diaries from the directors that span from pre-production to after the first week of production, a FX featurette that exhibits Matt Keyes going through a cast mold for his head and how his wonderfully gore scene was accomplished, and, lastly, four trailers from films distributed by Artsploitation Films. “Dead Dicks” is pneumatically bursting with the compressed scent of David Cronenberg; a deluxe doppelganger dark comedy bound with provoking the consequences surrounding death in a surrealistic effort to ease in and move past an inexorable acceptance.

“Dead Dicks” available on Blu-ray and DVD!