I Think We’re Going To Need Bigger EVIL! “Deep Blood” reviewed! (Severin / Blu-ray)

As kids, four boys were warned with an anecdotal tale of an ancient Native American spirit that took the shape of a killer shark malevolently stalking and killing the native villagers for their overfishing ways.  Now adults, the four friends pursue very different lives as all four return home for the summer with interests in rebuilding family relations, girls, colleges, and avoiding the local punk, Jason, hellbent on making their lives miserable, but when a shark turns up and kills one of them during a solo dive, they recall the ancient tale and sound off to the authorities who take little heed to the incident.  Their small beach community thinks they’ve killed the man-eating shark causing the ruckus, but when more chewed up bodies color the ocean red, the friends must take the task upon themselves to see the shark never devours anyone else again. 

Italian shark-on-a-loose romper helmed by the legendary serial Italia horror and erotica trash filmmaker, Joe D’Amato (“Emanuelle in America,” “Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper”), cashes in on the monster, man-eating shark celluloid frenzy with an uncredited directorial of the 1990 sharksploitation, “Deep Blood.”  Originally to be Raffaele (Raf) Donato’s directorial debut, the George Nelson Ott script was salvaged by the then producer and cinematographer D’Amato after Donato’s change of heart and professions in the film industry.  “Deep Blood,” that went under working titles “Wakan,” the designation for the Native American evil spirit, and just simply “Sharks,” was shot mostly with an English cast in the sunshine state of Florida with various underwater scenes filmed in Italy.    D’Amato’s production company, Filmirage, supported the film in collaboration with Variety Film Production that has dipped it’s toes into another killer shark flick, Enzo G. Castellan’s “The Last Shark,” which some footage was utilized for D’Amato’s film nearly a decade later.

“Deep Blood” circles around the opening of four friends innocently having the time of their lives with a normal ocean side firepit, roasting wieners, being told horrifying campfire stories of the black finned Wakan by a mysterious Native American (Vans Jensens) who hands them a relic piece of oblong driftwood with noteworthy carvings about Wakan and slicing their wrists to make an impromptu blood pact to fight against Wakan whenever the time comes.  You know, the usual stuff you do with your friends.  As grown men, Miki (Frank Baroni), Allan (Cort McCown), Ben (Keith Kelsch), and John (John K. Brune) find themselves back home, reunited to only have their friendship ripped to shreds when John becomes Wakan’s tasty snack on a solo dive.  Ott’s script really, really, and I mean really, tries to add depth to the characters, such as Allan’s spoon-feeding Mayor of a father handing out life advantages to his son every possible moment or with Ben who struggles between fulfilling his parents’ wishes of going to college or starting his professional golf career.  There’s also some backstory about the death of Ben’s sibling at sea that has had some psychological torment on his father, Shelby (Charlie Brill, “Dead Men Don’t Die”).  D’Amato crumples up character development like a piece of scrap paper and shoots a fade away jumper into the waste basket.  My personal favorite in the shallow end moment is the local lout and head of a gang, Jason, who senselessly disparages the four friends, for whatever reason we don’t know, acutely 180’s from I’m-going-to-kill-you to becoming a good friend (out of respect?) and takes an active participation in hunting down the shark.  All the relationship dynamics seem to just culminate right into the big, explosive deep-dive and pursuit for shark blood in the guys’ booty shorts and cut off sleeve shirts.  Talking roles are aplenty but nothing worth the empathy or sympathetic emotional baggage surrounding the remaining cast of characters played by actors James Camp, Margareth Hanks, voice actress Mitzi McCall, and Tom Bernard as Sheriff Brody…I mean, Cody.   

Only slightly echoing acts of Steven Spielberg’s flawless “Jaws,” “Deep Blood” also begs, borrows, and steals scenes to piecemeal together a semi-coherent story.  In the wild Great White shark snippets from National Geographic video clips and shark scenes plucked and reused straight from another Italian schlocker, there lies a nonexistent sliver of thought in creating an original piece of footage that puts the resemblance of a monstrous shark and an actor in the same scene together with D’Amato relying burdensomely on editor Kathleen Stratton to handle the fragmentary bits of different look and feel shots and turn it into single profit linear narrative gold. But honestly, what do you expect? D’Amato was to be the director of photography but ended up in his lap directorial duties, taking on the extra work like any good producer. Many of the shark attack scenes are spliced together with the actors bobbing and turning up and down in the water with the iconic bubble and splash sequences that solidly create the allusion and the illusion of a frenzied blood bath, but some locations are blatantly amiss shots, especially those of the actors snorkeling and scuba diving inside an obvious aquarium vivarium in clearly an exterior beach scene, that are more of a blow toward our intelligence than anything else. When the movie magic shark finally does make an appearance, a rigid, clean cut, my 9-year-old nephew could draw better shark effects sells little amazement, wonder, or pelagic terror of the open water. “Deep Blood” is a see-it-to-believe sharksploitation disaster-piece with the Joe D’Amato Midas touch.

Luckily, seeing every story blighted nook and cranny and experiencing all the dysfunctionalities between characters have never looked better with Severin Films’ worldwide inaugural Blu-ray release of “Deep Blood.” Newly scanned in 2k from the original 35 mm negative and presented in a pillarbox 1.33:1 aspect ratio with a high definition 1080p transfer, the image clarity is about the only thing flawless in the film with natural looking color grading for a richer hue presentation. Aside from the wonkiness of equipment quality differences with Nat Geo’s stock footage, there wasn’t much in the way of image imperfections aside from faint speckle damage and a slight scratch briefly visible in one of the later scenes. Details are phenomenally crisp in the face, as you see every sagging wrinkle on Van Jensens’ mug, and even the slight white capping of the waves renders clearly across. The English language 2.0 mono track features a clean, discernable dialogue albeit some slight hissing. Carlo Maria Cordio’s synthesized score doesn’t invoke fear of the water, but does contribute to the Italiano-charm of D’Amato’s underwater thriller with a seducing melody of lo-fi chords to accompany the shark attack scenes. Optionally, a parallel Italian track provides a dub that isn’t typically as elegant in syncing with American actors. Special features for the 91 minute film include a trailer and a listed multi-region playback; however, I could get the disc to play on the region B setting. If you’re a shark film aficionado like myself, no matter how undeniable cheesy (and I’m looking at you “Bad CGI Sharks”), then “Deep Blood’ is an enjoyable serrated chomp into a chum soaked sandwich good to the last morsel.

Own Deep Blood on Blu-ray from Severin Films!

EVIL Hatches a Plan Against EVIL! “Death Laid an Egg” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)

The Chicken farm and trading association industry lies on the fringe of near collapse and poultry scientists are hastily working on a solution experimenting with chicken embryos to create more meat for a nosediving commerce, but that doesn’t concern farm owner Marco whose more interested in having an affair with his wife’s young and beautiful cousin, Gabrielle, as well as moonlighting in his perverse side hobby of killing prostitutes at a hotel room.  Marco’s wife, Anna, who runs the farm single handily with the assistance of newly purchased machines, is ignorant of Marco and Gabrielle’s more-than-casual dalliance.  When a genetic modification accident produces the bulbous, meaty parts of live chickens without the heads, necks, and wings, the chicken association sees this changing event as the potential saving grace for chicken farmers everywhere and a financial reconciliation from foreboding ruin, but Marco wants nothing to do with the horrors of livestock manipulations and abominations.  Unable to understand his hesitation, Anna’s frustration is compounded by an anonymous note about Marco’s “affairs” with prostitutes that sends a simmering love triangle into a deadly internal coup.

What came first, the Chicken or the Egg?  In Giulio Questi’s inverted giallo thriller, “Death Laid an Egg,” the insoluble question parallels another question, who is deemed more sordid, an unchaste husband with a decadent desire for killing prostitutes or those conniving a plot involving murder to expose his vices and overthrow his wife for total control of their budding chicken farm? The 1968 Italian Giulio Questi and Franco Arcalli (“Tis Pity She’s A Whore”) written collaboration roosts at the edge of being an Italian murder mystery because of the atypical structure not terribly familiar to the genre and it’s fandom. Instead an unknown, gloved hand killer with a switchblade reflected with gleamingly terrified eyes of a barely clothed young woman screaming at the very top of her lungs, “Death Laid an Egg” is an Italian-French coproduction between Summa Cinematografica, Cine Azimut, and Les Films Corona.

At the epicenter of this switcheroo intrigant and strange triangular love affair are Marco, his wife Anna, and Anna’s younger cousin, Gabrielle, and only one of them, one of the three inside and out of the chicken farm, don’t entangle themselves in illicit activity.  French born actor, Jean-Louis Trintignant, stars as the diverging Marco with infatuating love sickness for his wife’s secretarial cousin, Gabrielle.  The “So Sweet… So Perverse” and “Malevil” star emits a pressurizing performance, ready to melt down and volatilely combust, when Marco agitatedly paces between Anna (Gina Lollobrigida of the French versions of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” of 1956) and Gabrielle, played by a relatively newcomer to the silver screen from Sweden in Ewa Aulin (“I Am What I Am”) to traverse from an old love to a new love despite the possibility of losing his entire livelihood.  The two female principles’ distinct personalities make for a great Trojan horse of shocking betrayal that goes against the grain and against the proverb that blood is thicker than water and Questri exploits with hard unstrung scenes of choppy segues that leave behind granular clues to their intentions in an almost abstract, auteur series of events.  When the love triangle because a quartet and actions become clearer with the clarity in advertisement specialists, Mr. Mondaini’s, underhanding involvement, a role shrouded in apprehensive mystery by Jean Sobieski, the enigma dissipates rapidly into a more tempered narrative of ill-tempered acts.  None of the four actors are cherished with equivalent screen time, orbing around more Marco’s ping-pong, zig-zag unconventional philandering and Gabrielle’s supporting role as Anna’s relative confidant, and this creates a visceral tension in the forefront of a economic crisis in the chicken farm market.

Giulio Questi always seemed to be pulling back the, excuse the pun, yoke to never let “Death Laid an Egg” fully nosedive into a blaze of a gruesome glorified giallo full of sleuth paranoia and scantily-cladded female victims stalked, hunted, and, eventual, murdered, but the Italian film, which saw a fair share of censorship cuts bordering around those aforesaid attributes, had no pretense about being a part of the traditional sense of the genre in the first place.  I wouldn’t even consider Questi’s film a typical example of the giallo’s Poliziotteschi subgenre though may have been more of a byproduct of the time period with the chicken economic crisis being a metaphor for the socio-political unrest, known as Years of Lead, that began in Italy in the 1960s.  The story’s crestfallen poultry association and it’s desperation for a godsend out of the newfangled embryotic manipulation procedures parallel, or perhaps even dominate, the plotline with a subplot coiled around Marco and Anna’s estranged life together in an allegorical fashion; the bastardization of genetically altering embryos is forcing the chickens’ hands to unravel a certain, horrible way and the same can be said for Marco and Anna who succumb to duplicitous external forces manipulating their every move toward an outcome that’ll likely destroy and takeaway not only their nest egg farm but could also cost them their very lives.  “Death Laid an Egg” does present a substantial amount of sexualization where Questi focuses, and sometimes lingers on, the half-naked portions of the actresses bodies.  The established Gina Lollobrigida and the up-and-coming Ewa Aulin, plus a handful of bit role prostitutes, show a fair amount of skin without ever baring the tongue-lapping essentials with Questi, in a stream of elegance, captures their shadowy curvatures and even loiters on the more publicly unpopular parts of women, such as around the abdomen or the shoulders, while obscuring more private areas with on set censoring, perhaps due in part of the Italian censor boards guidelines of the time.  In a feverish attempt to unclog Giulio Questi’s inscrutable character exploits, “Death Laid an Egg” shrouds itself with pygmy themes of obsession between death, lust, and control that tip-toe over a cracking, crackling egg shell in a rouse of debauchery indiscretions.

Releasing on a very special edition Blu-ray release, genre label Cult Epics proudly issues a limited edition, Hi-Def package of “Death Laid an Egg” with two versions of the Giulio Questi avant-garde giallo on a region free BD50, a 105 minute director’s cut and a 91 minute alternate international giallo Plucked version. Both versions of the film went through a 2K HD scan from the original 35mm negative, that’s been preserved quite well, renders a touch of pristine celluloid with hardly a flaw in it’s crisp technicolor perspicuity amongst the natural, stressed grain in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation. The Italian-English mono 2.0 LPCM casts a lively track across it’s broad audio spectrum with clear, forefront dialogue leading the charge with the purposeful and prosaic ambience and the harshly dissonance of viperous synth-and-string soundtrack from Bruno Maderna in strong supporting roles. Bonus features are aplenty with no only the alternate Plucked version of the film, but also with exclusive content such as a director’s cut commentary with Troy Howart & Nathaniel Tompson, a review by Italian critic Antonio Bruschini, a final interview with Giulio Questi entitled “The Outsider,” the short film by Questi “Doctor Schizo and Mister Phrenic” from 2002, with English and Italian language trailers, a reversible sleeve, and a limited slipcase printed with Fluoro inks! “Death Laid an Egg” dispenses more than just an effectual variation of giallo being also an odious bullet piercing the ramifications of modern technology and played on the blinding perversions of the weak minded that became the seeds that sowed their own ruin.

Own SE of “Death Laid an Egg” on Blu-ray!

EVIL is a Slice of Deep Dish Hell in “Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore” reviewed! (Bayview Entertainment / Screener)


Pizza, that delicious concoction of bread, marinara, cheese, and your topping of choice kneaded and pieced together in a gooey circular of staple culinary awesomeness, has somehow found its way baked into an Italian-sans-meatball horror anthology that promises an equally saucy taste of crusted blood red gore. Five varied, harried tales of horror molded into a gruesome and terrifying VHS-style that will send chills down your spine as you swallow your first piping hot bite of pizza will either have you hungry for more or hurling out your pepperonis. These tales of macabre include the cursed audio tracks of a deadly screaming ghost, the grisly torture and murder in the name of Satan, the tragic and supernatural deaths of two ill-fated lovers, a wooded creature stalking stranded motorists, and a VHS tape that seeks revenge on its former, ungrateful owner.

Let’s take our time traveling machine back to 2014 where Italian filmmaker, Lorenzo Fassina, releases his second feature directorial film behind the horror-comedy, “Anamnesi Mutante,” transmitting by way of a five tale anthology humorously entitled “Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore;” the titles of the shorts are “Screaming Ghost,” “Devil of the Night,” “Alone in the House,” “Wood,” and “Killer Tape.” Co-directed with producer Marco Giangiarelli, The Milan born Fassina’s background also includes being a director of a collection of short films and music videos for bands that include Italian metal bands Cripple Bastards and Viscera///, similar music scores the anthology. The eclectic tales that greatly homage horror of the 80’s that include rich in color film titles and poignant atmosphere audio mixes, each have a runtime average of approx. 10 minutes long, and offer a mixed macabre of subgenre goodness from technological horror to inanimate object horror besieged with an interlacing host, a faceless, demon-like presenter with much to say, much like the Crypt Keeper. My apologies in advance as the screener that was provided didn’t have subtitles so the host’s soliloquy goes mostly misunderstood, but by the way of editing and how the syntax is structured, one would assume the ghoulish emcee sets up the pizza eaters with the next short video nasty. “Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore” is produced by Fassina’s indie company, DirtyTape.

Most of us in the States more than likely won’t find any familiar faces inside the confines of these five tales and, know what? That’s okay! Aside from our hell bound host, there’s not a lick of dialogue spoken, but the capability to connect with the characters and the capacity to understand the story without words is as transparent as crystal clear waters of the Venice canals. An assemble of facial and eye expressions and a well edited together script and structure by Fassina for each short provides a sustainable and a sufficient menacing mixed bag of mouthwatering horror. The largely novice cast has either worked on previous projects with Fassina before or are an unknown delight to us viewers and cast list includes Sara Antonicelli, Beatrice Cartoni, Jonathan Farlotta, Jacopo Grandi, Francesco Marra, Tommaso Meledina, Alessandro Melito, Riccardo Tiberi, and Bunny Roberts with a cherry on top topless scene for good measure.

I’m not a terribly big fan of anthologies. Yes, I enjoy “Creepshow 2,” like every other horror fanatic smuck, and I do revel in the grave zest of the low-budget spectrum, especially with compilations from directors of the “HI-8”, aka “Horror Independent 8,” that featured the bloodbath films of some 80s/90’s SOV prodigies in Ron Bonk, Donald Farmer, Tim Ritter, and Marcus Koch, but most anthologies find their unsuccessful way right toward the trash bin, condensed to third-rate releases with little-to-no marketing and hardly any surplus material in the special feature department. “Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore” may be a foreign anthology barely making an insignificant speck in the cinema market, but certainly shouldn’t be overlooked as the derived golden age of an immensely beloved straight-to-VHS horror courses through the veins of Fassina’s reverencing anthology. The stories garnish b-reel content, but not necessarily effortless or incompetent in substance and range from serious, to tongue-in-cheek, and out right absurdity, with the latter stories being the weaker links. In all, it’s a fun and entertainment horror show from our Italian friends.

“Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore is delivered fresh and blood warm onto DVD home video courtesy of the New Jersey based distributor, Bayview Entertainment. As aforementioned, Bayview Entertainment publicity provided a streaming screening link so the audio and video aspects will not be critique for this review, but the DVD specs include a single disc, Anamorphic widescreen presentation, with an unrated rating on an Italian language anthology that, supposedly, has English subtitles – my screener did not have subtitles. Bayview Entertainment’s DVD casing resembles entirely like a VHS-cassette with faux movie rental stickers stuck on the outer plastic. The packaging is a nice and warranted touch to a VHS-homaging anthology. There were no special features included with the screener or released in the press release. Chow down on night with “Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore;” a validating horror anthology worthy of time and effort and reaffirming the faith in anthologies once again with wild, imaginative macabre ambitions without the stiffening efforts of pushy financiers calling behind-the-wheel shots.

“Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore” won’t disappoint! Buy here on Amazon.com

Marco Ferreri’s “The Flesh” and the Blu-ray desire! September 12th release!

Cult Epics has announced in a press release the upcoming Blu-ray/DVD combo of Marco Ferreri’s 1991 romantic black comedy and cult film “The Flesh” set for a September 12th release date. For this first time ever, the Italian film will be release with an upgraded HD transfer from the 35mm negative and exclusive bonus material including Behind the Scenes of The Flesh, Interview with Marco Ferreri, Francesca Dellera, Sergio Castellitto from the Cannes Film Festival 1991, Original Theatrical Trailer, The Flesh Lobby Cards photo gallery, Original art Slipcase with newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx – limited to first 3000 copies!!!

Synopsis:

THE FLESH (La Carne) is a romantic black comedy about a divorced piano player named Paolo (Sergio Castellitto) who meets and falls in love with a most beauteously busty woman (bombshell Francesca Dellera), who uses her special powers to turn the man into her sex slave. The film depicts the oftentimes torturous nature of carnal desire and the erotic power of women in a cinematic work where Francesca becomes a symbolic representation of male desire, with her voluptuous figure and sex appeal being intoxicating to Paolo. While he is completely taken by his desire for Francesca, she eventually gets bored with him and decides to leave. Unfortunately for Francesca, Paolo loves her and has no intention of allowing her to go.

http://www.cultepics.com

When Grief Strikes, Evil Gets Insane! “Beyond the Darkness” review!


The fiance of an orphaned villa owner named Frank dies in within their last loving embrace. Struck with immense grief, Frank digs up his fiance’s freshly packed corpse, injects her with embalming fluid, discards her major organs, installs glass eyes into her eye sockets, and processes her to be with him forever as a taxidermal doll laying in the bed next to him. Presumably behind Frank’s fiance’s untimely death is Iris, the family housekeeper who has an unhealthy obsession with Frank and his wealth, and when Frank instability goes beyond the means of all reason, an ill-tempered and mentally paralleled Iris swoops in to be Frank’s comfort, voice of guidance, and abetting culprit to Frank’s crimes as he can’t seem to stop killing young women in order to either replace or protect his adored doll and when a nosey mortician snoops around his residence, turmoil between Frank and Iris boil over in a heap of violence turned into a showdown of ill-fated and gruesome death.

“Beyond the Darkness” is by far beyond sick. Director Joe D’Amato (Aristide Massaccesi), one of Italy’s legendary video nasty filmmakers, reaches far into the darkest crevices of the criminally insane and exhibits every aspect of cold and brutal murder when the small window of opportunity and hope goes horribly wrong. The 1979 film shot in the Bressanone area of Italy exudes breathtaking countryside hills; so serene and peaceful that when Frank’s mind breaks and he crosses into an irreversible dark state, his frigid and murderous emotions make him a monolith that shadows the expansively green landscape. Tack on an equally demented housekeeper with a penchant for diabolical motives and the juxtaposition is no where near being level, creating this idyllic nightmare of taxidermy slaughter, a rancid deterioration of the mind, body, and soul, and a perversive obsession of inhuman replacement.

A baby faced Kieran Canter stars as the orphaned villa owner Frank Wyler who can’t handle one more tragic death of a loved one and Canter provides the blank stare, the outer shell of a spent and lost lover, despite his attractive attributes just like his the inner bones of his villa manor and speaking of juxtapositions, “The Other Hell’s” Franca Stoppi over achieves Iris’s internal and external ugliness. Iris, a seeming fixture of a puritanical matriarch in her dress and stature worn magnificently by Stoppi, uses manipulation and supernatural forces to gain power right under Frank’s already malfunctioning mentality. In the light, Frank and Iris are polar opposites, but they break bread together in the dark, feasting off each other’s malice. “The Beyond’s” Cinzia Monreale dons a dual performance as the corpse of Frank’s fiance and of her living sister. Monreale’s amazing performance in being such a still carcass struck a recall chord in me thinking of Olwen Kelly’s eerie portrayal of a slab table stiff in “The Autopsy of Jane Doe.”

Speaking of autopsies, when Frank begins his taxidermal procedures, surgically slicing down Cinzia Monreale’s freshly demised midsection, the attention to detail rapes the spine with chilling ferocity and though dated within the confines of the practical special effects from nearly forty-years ago, D’Amato’s controversial and unquenchable need for violence doesn’t hold back the gore, the guts, and the glory of chopping a British slag into pieces with a butcher’s knife and tossing her overweight remains into a cast iron tub-cauldron of skin-eating acidity only to have her partial face float up to the surface in a display of how far these vile characters are willing to entertain their pure evil. “Beyond the Darkness” lives up the title with the barbaric nature of the characters who clamp down their teeth and rip out the flesh of their, burn alive joggers in an industrial grade furnace, and store corpses like valuable baseball cards of your favorite major league players. Yes, “Beyond the Darkness’s” gold is worth it’s cinematic weight in gore.

Severin’s 2-disc Blu-ray and CD Soundtrack release of Joe D’Amato’s “Beyond the Darkness” is presented in HD 1080p 1.67:1 aspect ratio. The image quality is strong, unmolested, and rich with a vibrant color palette that gets ickier with every organ removed, every body part dismembered, and every shocking event unraveled. A dubbed English DTS-HD master and an Italian Dolby Digital dual channel mix are quite good, spanning out a brazen fidelity of leveled ranges and the Goblin soundtrack enriches every scene with gothic notes of progressive rock. Check out the CD Soundtrack “Buio Omega” (“Beyond the Darkness”): The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to get an isolated experience of one of horror’s most fascinating scoring groups known worldwide. Bonus material is aplenty with a retrospect interview on the late Joe D’Amato entitled “The Horro Experience,” an interview with Actress Franca Stoppi entitled “The Omega Woman,” an interview with Cinzia Monreale entitled “Sick Love,” a live performance of “Buio Omega by Goblin, a visit to set locations, and the theatrical trailer. Severin completes a snazzy package and includes an plethora of auxiliary material for this ultra-violent video nasty that’s delivers the uncut and uncensored blood and nudity in a twisted 94 minutes of “Beyond the Darkness.”

“Beyond the Darkness” + Goblin on Blu-ray!