Obey EVIL’s Every Last Command! “Held” reviewed! (Magnolia Pictures / Digital Screener)

Emma and Henry Barrett celebrate their 9-year marriage anniversary by renting an isolated house complete with modern day automation bells and whistles. On the morning following their first night’s stay, they come to a horrifying realization someone was in the house and has displaced their clothing. As panic begins to set in and the couple try to flee, the house suddenly locks down, barring the windows and doors under the smart home controls, and a Voice commands them to obey every word in order to reveal devastating secrets and fix what’s broken in their splintered marriage by returning to antiquated ideas of a patriarchal system. Implanted with an electroshock device, Emma and Henry have no choice but to comply to every authoritative command, turning their romantic getaway into a house of wringing pawns.

Out of all of fight against misogynism and #MeToo inspired films that have been released in the last few years, Jill Awbrey’s scripted story is the most fascinating with an implausible overkill plot derived from, and this would be the scariest part, actual male frames of mind that were not systemically changed too long ago and are still ineradicably infesting a good chunk of male psyches today. The Fresno, California-shot film is entitled “Held,” a literally captivating suspense-thriller with whispers of James Wan’s “Saw” crisscrossed with, and I may get flak for this, Wes Craven’s “Scream.” “Held” is steered by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, directors of “The Gallows” and the subsequent “Act II”, with a follow up with edgy confines of a pintsize location embellished with hidden rooms and secret passageways bringing normalcy to the forefront of topsy-turvy inequity. Under Cluff and Lofing’s Tremendum Pictures banner, “Held” is also produced by the directors alongside Kyle Gentz and Cody Fletcher.

Jill Awbrey is not only the screenwriter of “Held” but also stars as the Emma Barrett, an internally traumatized woman weary of strange men asking none-of-their-business questions. Her feature film actress debut plays opposite of vet actor Bart Johnson. The television and “Simon Says” actor Johnson puts on his husband hat as Henry Barret frustrated and disheartened by Emma’s recent lack of intimate interest. All of the Henry’s resentment and Emma’s self-reproach fades away when the house comes down on top of them, literally, in a barrage of hidden spy cameras, an uncontrollable to them security system, and by an obscured voice coursing through various wall intercoms with ground rules and instructions. Before trouble finds them in the guise of a vacay rental, Awbrey and Johnson make a fairly convincing seasoned husband and wife with all the rapport familiarity trimmings; Awbrey instills a meekish quality that makes Emma reserved in not being assertive enough to help herself, a condition stemmed from a traumatic event in her past as the opening moment of “Held,” while Johnson follows Awbrey’s lead in an equally good job showing a nurturing and doting husband who wants nothing more than to take care of everything for his wife. When the panic sets in and the possibility of escape seems futile, Awbrey and Johnson have to use separate approaching methods and mindsets that become essential to “Held’s” time warp speeding male chauvinism undertones. The supporting cast is folded into “Held’s” firm two-lead narrative with precision story placement from Rez Kempton (“Stag Night of the Dead”) and Zack Gold (“Fear Lives Here”).

“Held” is a fight in hell for women who feel that there is life bares no choice in the matter, when their voice is silenced by fear, when the prospect of death is as strong as a masculine build, and when an atrocious past experience hinders personal growth. The commanding-to-demanding obedience tale freefalls from worse case scenario to the absolute worst case scenario of a clear cut redeeming need for change and to once and for all extinguish the old-fashioned binary thought of men being stronger, faster, smarter, better, and more dominate then women. Speaking of old-fashioned, Cluff and Lofing incorporate 1950s era technology, such as a tube television set, rotary phone, and computers with nobs and dials, into the vacation rentals’ futuristic hardware as a symbolizing blend of the seemingly evolved present day man being motivated and driven by antiquated thoughts. The filmmakers also work in nicely Awbrey’s misinterpretation of a Biblical paradise by parochial views by warping the fabled beginnings of man and woman for their own selfish desires. The plot point twist was uncomplicatedly easy to predict but wasn’t necessarily unwelcomed either as the turning point layered a crazy subplot involving a radical marketed and hairbrained scheme with such audacity it’s felt unbelievable. And there were a handful of select scenes that did feel unbelievable by computing more a comical reaction than a petrifying one as perhaps intended. What’s probably more even more of a quirk in “Held” is the script’s subdued dialogue that garnished with not one single obscenity, but the action, which includes multiple graphic stabbings, a self-surgery extraction, and one particular scene where Emma is choked slammed through a wall, conveys extreme intensity in a superficial imbalance with the dialogue. Underneath the tender discourse, “Held” has a crupper of brutal violence that never slips.

Those following Ephesians 5:22-24, reading wives should “submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the LORD,” will find “Held” as a blasphemous counterattack of disobedience against the strong arming of a behind-the-times complementarian marriage. “Held” will be released by Magnolia Pictures as a Magnet released film, presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with a runtime of 94 minutes. The Frightfest 2020 film is a perfect union of imperfect times and feminism fight back and director of photography, Kyle Gentz (“The Gallows Act II,” “Zombies 2”) captures it all with a bright, nearly sterile, perspective full from closed circuit voyeurism, to aerial shots of isolation, and to shaky cam with flashing lights to produce ear splitting pain effect. There were no bonus scenes during or after the credits. The Garden of Eden has been man and woman’s place of paradise and destruction but for Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing’s “Held,” the battle of the sexes is more barbaric than it is biblical when Adam’s machoism stakes claim to Eve’s forbidden fruit.

Evil’s Coming Out of the Closets! “Hunting Evil” review!


After an intense stand off with a powerful and playful demon during a supernatural expedition gone wrong, the unfortunate death of a young girl has Jonas Littleton facing skeptics that hand the ghost hunter a five year sentence behind bars ruling. His release from an Arizona prison offers him a second chance to start over with his wife and young son and Jonas makes promises to no more paranormal pursuits in hopes for a normal life. Miraculously, Jonas is offered a good paying job despite his manslaughter record that affords him seven years of suburban comforts and family growth, but little does Littleton know that his good fortune is the handiwork of the very same demon who bested him so many years ago, tricking him into a underhanded deal that requires his son’s soul with his wife being a casualty of war. Another seven years later, an obsessed Jonas fields every call that comes across his paranormal investigator’s desk as he tirelessly searches for his son and with the help of an eager investigator, Ron Tippard, and a green horn assistant, Ellie French, Jonas will come face-to-face with his rival evil again for one last time.

Welcome back to part two of our unexpected two part review segment of films that were disowned, supposedly, by their filmmakers. Today, we take a look at the 2010 supernatural thriller, “Hunting Evil,” or more commonly known under the title as “Closets” or “The Closet.” Already, the evidence is clearly powerful against “Hunting Evil” that alternate titles bares the potential markings of a repudiated film, aimed to cloak and shield the ramifications that would be supplied to unsuspecting audiences renting or blind purchasing. Director Charles Peterson has been reported to have disowned the Bob Madia (“You Can’t Kill Stephen King”) penned film because of too many chefs in the kitchen, if you smell what I’m cooking. Peterson, who has directed other indie horror projects such as “The Eleventh Aggression” and most recently, “A Killer Awaits,” which will be released this month, has ties with the investment group Old World Investors Group Incorporated a.k.a. OWIGI Films. Now, OWIGI Films is ran by “Hunting Evil’s” producer and star Lenny Rethaber (“Blood Moon Rising”). So, the lingering questions is this: Did star-producer Lenny Rethaber force the whip and reigns from Charles Peterson? Well, all this reviewer can say is that Lenny Rethaber also produced “The Eleventh Aggression” and the upcoming release “A Killer Awaits,” so seems like any adversity between the two has long since settled or just comes and goes with the industry territory.

However, what’s inherently curious about the DVD release from World Wide Multi Media is the three names headlined on the DVD’s front cover to which none are the film’s star Lenny Rethaber as the embattled Jonas Littleton. Knowing the type of distribution company WWMM is, more than likely the case is the first three credits, which are also in alphabetical order, and slapped them onto the front cover, one of which is just an unnamed barkeep who has approx. 5 minutes of screen time and not one other single credit to his name. As Jonas Littleton, Rethaber is soda flat with no bite and fizz to his performance and though his entertaining enough, the producer-star is also on the wrong side of the tracks in that category. There’s even whispering talk that “Major League’s” Corbin Bernsen, who has dappled in directing horror with “Dead Air” starring Bill Moseley (“Devil’s Rejects”), had issues with the producer (Rethaber), yielding to yet another instance of production problems. Though I’ve had verbal disagreements with Bernsen with his previous work, I find his performance as an enigmatic father of a missing child refreshing and complex, but the fate of his character poofs into thin air as if the writers, directors, or, most likely, producer didn’t know how to finalize the character. The sole best role comes from Patrick Adams as the enthusiastic paranormal investigator Ron Tippard. Not to be confused with “Suits” actor Patrick J. Adams, the Arizona resident Adams sparked life into a relatively unhinged project with an amusing and interesting performance in a side kick role who has substantial screen time and adds value to the situation. Rounding out this remaining cast in this conundrum is Darl Chryst (“Autopsy: A Love Story”), Dena Esquivel Frederickson, Jackson Furedy, Sallie Glaner (“The Visitant”), Davina Joy (“Death of a Ghost Hunter”), Pete Kelly, and Orchid Tao.

A twitching, tingly part of my soul yearned for “Hunting Evil” to come out on top, to be a solid supernatural saturation that a viewer, like myself, can sink into immensely, and with a script that precedes “The Conjuring” with the perceptive view of an unoriginal, yet sparsely used investigator concept, the appeal hyperdrives into salivation, but instead of salivation, “Hunting Evil” sluggishly drips slowly from the mouth’s corner crevices with script plotholes, badly layout composites, and undercooked characters. The story follows Jonas for nearly two decades, yet the man never ages despite already starting out looking middle aged to begin with so where are the streaks of grey, the loose and wrinkled skin, or maybe even a display a little physical ailments? Each of these natural flaws could have further enhance his lifespan evolution on Earth and speak to a little down to Earth as well. The composites look horrendously old fashion like from an antiquated video game platform. It’s as if the creators of 3D Realms not only provided the MS-DOS source code for those amazing Duke Nukem 3D levels also provided the visual worlds for “Hunting Evil” actors to humorously and painfully act against. the underwhelming, unfinished characters were slightly touched on before, but their arcs just ultimately poof into smoke without constructive reasoning or even to leave as fishhook into another movie.

“Hunting Evil” haunts onto DVD from World Wide Multi Media and MDVisual. Presented in a widescreen format and clocking in a 90 minute runtime, the DVD technically has little faults to discuss aside from the coloring looking a little desaturated and don’t visually pop. Some digital noise from the low end production quality during the night scenes that are accompanied by a little compression blotchiness, but the DVD passes muster in image quality. The English language 5.1 surround sound finds itself limited moderately to a two-channel output which is unfortunate with the amount of demonic tomfoolery being subjected to Jonas and his team. Low of the LFE and minimalistic on the depth and range, “Hunting Evil” couldn’t scare the pants off viewers audibly alone. There are no bonus features on this disc. Jonas Littleton’s troubles spread beyond a malevolent and playful demon destroying his family with “Hunting Evil” targeted as a suspect of an unfinished and problematic film. Whether turmoil driven or just the lack of rightfully placed funding, the spooky stories of paranormal investigators are left to the genre platonic professionalism of James Wan and not Charles Peterson and Lenny Rethaber.

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Trailer: Annabelle

Before The Conjuring, there was Annabelle. The new tagline for the upcoming spinoff film to James Wan’s The Conjuring in which a doll becomes possessed by a deranged cultist killer and forces itself into the lives of John and Mia Form.

What was the last creepy doll movie? Oh yea, another James Wan related film, Dead Silence and lets not forget about the doll in the Saw movies either. Wan has a major hard on for creepy killer dolls, but then again, dolls are absolutely horrific in the first place.

Wan Conjures Evil! The Conjuring trailer is HERE!

James Wan

James Wan

When I see the name James Wan, I think Saw and thats about all that comes to mind. But I do know of, have seen of, and have enjoyed much of Wan’s work. Dead Silence was a solid sophomore film while Insidious gave Wan a second look by not only fans but by studios as well, proof is in the Insidious sequel. Death Sentence strays away from his horror roots yet still delivers a dark and gritty atmosphere and one of my favorite Kevin Bacon movies. Also, Wan is part of the R-rated, low-budget group of filmmakers called the “Spat Pack” which has pretty much dissolved now, but this group consists of Eli Roth, Alexander Aja, Rob Zombie, Darren Lynn Bousman, Neil Marshall, Greg McLean, Robert Rodriguez, and Leigh Whannell.

Today, Wan’s latest venture has been given a trailer and was released to us. The Conjuring which tells the story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who were hired to help a family against a terrorizing dark spirit in their farmhouse. Sounds simple enough, right? The trailer itself leaves a good taste in your mouth and doesn’t market itself as your run of the mill haunted house film. I, for one, am excited about The Conjuring and movies about hauntings are low on the totem poll for this guy. Lili Taylor, whom I haven’t seen in a movie since…well…1999’s remake of The Haunting, stars along side her on screen husband Ron Livingston (Office Space) and paranormal investigators played by Vera Farmiga (Orhpan) and Patrick Wilson (Insidious).

A scene from Insidious

A scene from Insidious

I’d like to say a little something about the spirit in the trailer; though too early to tell how the film will play out, the trailer makes the spirit seem playful yet personally dark. The trailer builds the suspense with long, still, and quiet scenes – which makes every scene on high tension terms.

Warner Brothers is behind James Wan and his film which is penned by Chad and Carey Hayes – the duo behind the remake of House of Wax so we have quite of bit of Vincent Price homagers behind The Conjuring. July 19th is the release date and I’m holding this film in high regard. Can’t wait! #theconjuring http://theconjuring.warnerbros.com/