Evil Is Only Skin Deep. “The Wax Mask” review!


Set in Rome of 1912, a newly constructed wax museum, under a mysterious alchemy artist known as Boris Volkoff, stirs controversy with the showcasing of the world’s most grisly and notorious murder scenes. Two brothel customers’ debate result in the one challenging the other to spend the night at the curated museum of horror without having an ounce of fleeting fear. The next morning, the man has been found, apparently keeling over in fright, and the police are baffled, but something more sinister is afoot when Sonia, a young costume designer with a horrific past as the sole witness in the gruesome death of her mother and father in Paris 1900, becomes employed at the museum to costume the wax figures and faints when the scene of her parents’ brutal death is recreated as the museum’s new showpiece. Sonia and a reporter closely examine the museum when more people begin disappearing off the street, people who have ties with the beautiful costume designer, and learn the waxed creations are much more underneath their plastic-lifelike skin.

Before his untimely death, the Godfather of (Italian) Gore, Lucio Fulci, had been cooperating on a semi-quasi remake of Vincent Price’s 1953 thriller “House of Wax,” based on the Gaston Leroux’s novel, alongside fellow iconic Italian horror director Dario Argento (“Suspiria”) in a comeback collaboration for Fulci, but the entitled “The Wax Mask” film was evidently delayed partly in because of Fulci’s death. “The Wax Mask” was handed over by Argento, who was producing, to special effects guru Sergio Stivaletti (“Cemetery Man,” “The Church”) and months after Fulci’s death, a finished product shared very similar traits to the Godfather of Gore’s style craftily blended with more modern approaches to filmmaking was released to the public. Though tailored more toward the interests of gory special effects, Stivaletti’s 1997 film is dedicated to Fulci with the implementation of many of the director’s popular trademarks, including closeups on various eye expressions and zoom-ins on gore and the weapons before their fateful strikes, while also basking in strong bright colors in the midst of shadowy cinematography that’s typical of the giallo genre.

In such a crimson world, an elegant performance by Romina Mondello, who stars as the orphaned Sonia, has the Rome born actress bring beauty, innocence, and charm to the macabre that harbors contrasting arguments against undermining marred antagonists and she provides a breath of aesthetic liveliness amongst a narrative that surrounds itself in capturing beauty in inanimate wax figures. “Cemetery Without Crosses'” Robert Hossein embraces the enigmatic museum curator, Boris Volkoff, with struggling internal black aspirations that involve his recently acquired employee, Sonia, and Houssein is able to turn off and on that switch of longing and menacing, playing the hand of the character superbly to keep audiences guessing his true intent. Volkoff’s faithful assistant and exhibit creator, Alex, embodies creepy and morbid attributes wonderfully contributed by a relatively unknown Umberto Balli. The trifecta cast sells the ghastly science fiction that slowly builds toward the transformation of “The Wax Mask” from classic giallo to sensational mad science Gothicism with a boost of euro trashiness that’s more relative to the work of Jesús Franco or Joe D’Amato. Riccardo Serventi Longhi (“Symphony in Blood Red”), Valery Valmond, Gabriella Giorgelli (“The Grim Reaper”), and Gianni Franco (Dario Argento’s “The Phantom of the Opera”) round out the cast.

Stivaletti’s toolbox of special effects celebrate in the practicality that escalates when the cloaked killer’s metal claw literally rips terror through the hearts and souls of characters, but the glossy composite imagery thwarts realism and cheapens the already cheesy Euro horror with a laughable fire set ablaze and a slew of lampoon electricity while half naked women are strapped to a barbaric mechanized chair. The cut-rate composite won’t ruin a guilty pleasure viewing and won’t blast apart an arguably respectable adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s novel, but the script, co-written between Argento, Fulci, and “The House of Clocks'” penning collaborator Daniele Stroppa, does pull from other, interestingly enough, inspirations that one wouldn’t think would be genre compatible. The action-packed finale of James Cameron’s 1984 pre-apocalyptic, time-traveling cyborg blockbuster, “The Terminator,” makes an unexpected appearance with an endoskeleton villain donning some familiar and memorable moments from one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time.

“The Wax Mask” greatly resembles Italian horror cinema from the 1970s and 1980s spawned in the late 90s, a superb feat for a director more aligned in vocational special effects, but the jaded historical background accompanying the film places a stain on whether Lucio Fulci had much to do with the project at all. Much is speculated that Argento and Stroppa re-wrote Fulci’s original script after his death, removing much of Fulci’s atmospheric flair and adding more gore, but in the end, “The Wax Mask” instabilities are overshadowed by great practical effects, an engaging storyline, and a roster of flavorful characters. The One 7 Movies and CAV Distributing Blu-ray release is presented in 1080p. The widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio is the not the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but doesn’t constrain the image. The MPEG-4 AVC codec emits a bit of shakiness under the compression, suggesting a lower bitrate, but the One 7 Movies’ release is the best, sharpest looking transfer of the original source material with natural coloring on skin tones, vibrant shades of various colors, and shadows being exquisitely black. Four audio options are available from the English and Italian Surround 5.1 tracks to the English and Italian Stereo tracks with no accessible English or Italian subtitles in the static setup menu. Extras are slim with a handheld camera behind-the-scenes that’s solely in Italian. “The Wax MasK” is an ambitious Gothic hybrid horror that cements the memory of Lucio Fulci, pleases the gore of Dario Argento, and showcases the talents of debut director Sergio Stivaletti.

Purchasing One 7 Movies’ “The Wax Mask” at Amazon!

This is How to Revolt Against an Evil Empire! “Private Vices, Public Virtues” review!

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On the countryside of a 19th century central European empire, Crown Prince Rudolf resides at his manor estate with his nanny, faithful servants, and armed guards. However, the Prince abstains from being stately and goes against his father’s, the Emperor’s, wishes. Instead, the pan-sexual Prince frolics through life with his two lovers, his half brother and half sister. Their apathetic about the Emperor’s inclinations and enjoying the carnal pleasures, juvenile games, and the ecstasy of free-spirit inducing drugs with their communal aristocratic friends and feral manor servants. The Prince plans to humiliate his stern father by hosting the biggest festivity with dancing and champagne, laced with uppers that has his guest losing their clothes and parading amongst the grounds in a merry-go-round of uninhibited jovial madness that sends his the Prince’s father into an uproar that calls for the execution of his son and his lovers.
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The 1976 “Public Vices, Public Virtues” is a circus of eroticism with a belly full of symbolism and ambiguity. Hungarian director Miklós Jancsó has developed a masterpiece from a script co-written with Giovanna Gagliardo that’s loosely based off the infamous 19th century murder-suicide known as the “Mayerling Incident,” which involved Prince Rudolf, the Crown Prince of Austria and the son of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. Jancsó, called “the greatest Hungarian film director of all time” by his peers, maintains elements of the tragically historical event and morphs it into a melodramatic comedy penned with singsongy dialogue and communicated through various performances of the arts.
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Fellow Hungarian Lajos Balázsovits encompasses the lead role of Prince Rudolf who ravages the screen with a lighthearted and uncut male nudity performance that sets an artistic and ethereal tone of beauty, of love, and of revolt. Alongside Lajos Balázsovits comes cult actors such as Tinto Brass regular Franco Branciaroli (“The Key,” “The Voyeur” which he was spectacular), Teresa Ann Savoy (“Salon Kitty,” “Caligula”), Laura Betti (“A Bay of Blood”), and “Night Sun’s” Pamela Villoresi to be at Jancsó disposal to be free to unclothe in a joyous protest against a ruthless and steely ruler. The mutton chops of Emperor Franz Joseph make a resembling appearance as part of the lucrative backdrop for the boisterous sexual revolution that stormed the cinema markets and Balázsovits fully submerges into a pan-sexual role, gladly submitting himself to women, men, and even his goggly-eyed Nanny, Laura Betti, who gets to touch the royal scepter in more ways than one.
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The co-produced Italian and Yugoslavian “Public Vices, Public Virtues” has an astonishing production value for soft core erotica. The elaborate, detailed wardrobe and authentic appeal to recreate the 19th century era is stunningly breathtaking and highly infatuating to be in the midst of an amorous atmosphere. With the costumes and manor home, the cash flow trends toward the amount of extras casted to prance and dance in an everlasting parade of jubilance. “Inglorious Bastards” and “The New York Ripper” composer Francesco De Masi displays his brass, as in brass instruments, continuously conducting a marching tune to the aristocratic orgy that doesn’t attest to a viewer allurement, but does put into place a bit of pizzaz into the melodrama. De Masi’s soundtrack compliments the nursery rhymes and classical scores that round out this Filmes Cinematografica and Jadran Film production.
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Proclaimed the wild side of world cinema, Mondo Macabro releases “Private Vices, Public Virtues” on a glorious restored and uncut Blu-ray region ABC release. The original negative restored and transferred to a single layer BD25 displays a vibrant 1080p and progressive widescreen presentation. I’m amazed at the retaining of the natural coloring, the amount of spacial depth, and prolific details that doesn’t display a hint of compression artefacts and maintains very low digital noise interference, especially in the black levels. The LPCM audio contains an English dub track and an Italian track with optional English subtitles on both. The digitized analog audio clearly expresses itself without hisses, pops, or other types of disruption. Mondo Macabro stuffs this Blu-ray with exclusive bonus material including three interviews with writer Giavanna Gagliardo, actress Pamela Villosesi, and film historian Michael Brooke. The original theatrical trailer and Mondo Macabro previews bring up the bonus feature rear. “Private Vices, Public Virtue,” to the naked eye, is 104 minutes of a frisky spectacle of the utmost buffoonery, but in the trenches, the Miklós Jancsó film is a Hungarian filmmaker’s undercurrent of inspiration and revolution against oppression and Mondo Macabro just highly defined the era!

Grab “Private Vices, Public Virtues” on Blu-ray!

The Mountains are Filled with Evil! “Killbillies” review!

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Cynically unimpressed Zina agrees to partake in a friend’s nature photo shoot with idyllic mountains and forest splayed in the backdrop. Soon as the shoot begins, two disfigured and armed mountain men abruptly interrupt the foursomes’ serene surroundings, kidnapping the city folk by brute force, and holding them hostage in the basement of a ramshackle distillery. Confused and scared, Zina takes action, fighting back for her life against a family of hillbillies yearning to mix their victims’ organic essences into a fine, smooth-tasting, down-the-hatch liquor that recently become popular in the region.
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Horror has finally found a home in Slovenia with Slavic writer-director Tomaz Gorkic’s freshman feature, the whimsically titled film known as “Killbillies! ” Alternatively known also as “Idila” originally and “Idyll” world-wide, the hillbilly survival horror-thriller is an unique feature in it’s own right, being the first horror film to be produced out of the European nation bordered by Italy, Austria, and Hungary. “Killbillies” savagely pits the entitlement of urbanity against the underprivileged and judged rural community who will kill for what they desire in an intense tale plastered with unforgiving violence and human rancidity. Gorkic’s film rivals America’s “Wrong Turn” series containing murderous, inbred mountain people and sets the foundational work for a potential “Killbillies” franchise to put Slovenia on the map and instead of rehashing the cannibal market, “Killbillies” can go out on a tangent by turning terrified victims’ brains in a tasty homemade brew.
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Gorkic decisively also lays the solid groundwork of separating the two classes of characters with the beautiful and sensible urbanites in the models, the photographer, and the apathetic assistant, and the deformed and unhinged states of the no nonsense hillbillies played convincingly, and terrifyingly enough, by the bear-framed Lotos Sparovec and the gangly Jurij Drevensek inside the detailed workings of some gnarly prosthetics to sell the hillbillies from hell. The ugly twosome seek to extract their moonshining secret ingredients from a tough Zina, a role executed well by Nina Ivanisin, a prissy up-and-coming model Mia, played by Nika Rozman, a quiet photographer named Blitcz in Sebastian Cavazza, and a middle aged hair, makeup, and wardrobe assistant named Dragica given to Manca Ogorevc. Each role tackles a unique persona that’s vital to their characters’ survival and Gorkic writes clearly the characters’ purpose in how they interact when pressured upon.
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While the visually visceral “Killbillies” requires a minor tweak here and there to only fine tune upon character development and to be slightly more forthright into the intriguing backstory with the liquor and even with Zina’s life struggling puzzlements, Gorkic ultimately captures the bones and soul that genetically makes up that mechanisms of bona fide horror as when the hillbilly duo proceeds through the extraction process with one of the victims, a montage of scenes, sold with composer Davor Herceg’s romantic gothic score, delivers a living, breathing machine of unspeakable mad science without ever divulging a word, without ever being gratuitously gory, and without ever being overly or explicitly taboo. The gore is just enough to sate with head bashings, decapitations, and even a “Walking Dead,” Negan style overkill with a very large, very nasty axe.
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“Killbillies” is the latest brazen DVD release from Artspolitation Films and the release is presented not rated in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio that gorgeously and cleanly contrasts the beauty of the trees, mountains, and blue skies with the vicious ugliness that quickly grounds you back to reality in an epic struggle of life and death. Aside from a simple static menu, chapter selection, original trailer, and an option for English subtitles and English SDH subtitles are only available. Raw and acute, “Killbillies” fears nothing by dipping it’s bloody Slovenian toes into the horror pool for the first time and able to tread water for the full length of the story that ultimately becomes a deadly cat-and-mouse game.
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Get your Killbillies on DVD and streaming video at Amazon!