In the S.H.U., The EVIL Comes From Within. “Caged” reviewed! (Shout! Studios / Digital Screener)

Psychiatrist Dr. Harlow Reid is sentence to life in prison after being convicted of murdering his wife.  With his assets frozen and his legal representation dropping him as a client, Reid is forced into being his own legal counsel.  To make matters worse, a female prison guard’s perverse pleasure is to slowly torture him while in her custody at solitary confinement.  His only means to enter general population is to behave and confess to the crime he contests, but he continues to maintain his innocence by refusing to sign the confession, remaining alone and withstanding abuse until he can write a formal plea to a judge to reconsider the facts in his case.  As the days turn to weeks and weeks turn to months, the usually stable minded Dr. Reid, alone with his thoughts, has his fortress of reality buckle under the heavy burden of isolation compounded with the maltreatment and his personal demons that struggle with the actual events in his wife’s sudden death, questioning himself that her death might have been at his hand.

Inside the clink is a maelstrom set in a pressure cooker. Ready to explode at any moment are cons of, mostly, unsavory personalities simmering with pent up anger, desperation, and ill-will positioned by equally fraught guards harried by timebomb temperaments and undervalued in training and payment. In Aaron Fjellman’s written and directed debut feature film, “Caged,” the strain festers toward being hell behind bars in a ruthless determination of survival. Also once known as the working title, “The S.H.U,” Fjellman constrains his American-made, and inspired, big house thriller with a minimalist approach set with a backdrop of chiefly the solitary housing unit to lock up viewers in, as witnessing accomplices, with a protagonist’s downtrodden path of mental degradation as well as being humanly degraded. Aaron Fjellman produces his film for production company Panic House Films and Shifty Eye Productions with the latter a company created by the film’s star, Edi Gathegi, serving on the board as executive producer.

It’s no big surprise that Edi Gathegi dons the prison house jumper and clanking shackles in this social commentary thriller. The “Blacklist” and “X-Men: First Class” actor knows a good role when he sees with, especially inside the body and mind of one Dr. Harlow Reid. Gathegi regularly has to battle with himself filtered through the madness of the S.H.U. mind-breaking solitary with a little fanning of the flames from sadistic prison guard, Officer Sacks. In an extremely ghastly transformation, Melora Hardin goes from a classic beauty with a big smile and high cheek bones to baring an unflattering lumpy posture with hair pulled back in a tight, short ponytail overtop a demonizing trope of a scar down the left side of her face and an assured cockiness symbolized by the gum smacking that’s sometimes becomes the only thing in the camera frame. As Gathegi masters the ideals of a convict presuming himself innocent, Hardin lurks beyond his cell door as the devilish guard over his shoulder. Officer Sacks defines a face with a story and her story has a hard on for power over prisoners, especially affluent ones or, maybe, those of African American descent in a tinge of racist undertones as Fjellman notes on the racial injustices in the prison system. A smidgen of that notion is supported shown in Officer Sacks behind-the-back passive aggressiveness toward Warden Perez. “Annabelle’s” Tony Amendola truly delivers being a heartfelt ally, yet sturdy firm handed warden with Reid. Perez, an expressed Catholic, seeks Reid’s redemption through the admittance of wrongdoing and that becomes the steadfast barrier Reid has to hurtle that will test his convictions and his sanity. “Caged” rounds out with Mick Jagger’s son, James Jagger, as Reid’s unhinged S.H.U. bedfellow who speaks in hyperbole of inmate hauntings in an opaque analogy of guilt mixed with madness, and “Westworld’s” Angela Sarafyan told through flashbacks and supernatural induced psychosis as Reid’s wife, Amber.

To tell an inmate’s nearly yearlong story succumbing to the brutal and segregating abuses surrounding him in solitary confinement is a tremendous feat working into the mental cracks and exploring the fallacies. Yet, Aaron Fjellman made his fictional interpretation look easy by relating a surreal, but telling story in just 80 minutes, gripping with metaphorical concepts of an overcrowded prison system preying on uncontested obedience, even if the lengths taken to obtain complete compliance is trauma exacting torture of draconian policy, by primarily privately funded institutions with little-to-no funding or resources to manage. “Caged” is very fleeting with montage upon montage of Harlow Reid’s day-to-day, but never becomes a monotonous roundabout vivarium of Reid sitting hopelessly-looking in his cell. Gathegi’s put to work as a man determined to challenge the system that engages Reid to keep sharp and in shape by working out in various exercises, entertain an unhinged neighboring inmate with his ramblings and blurbs of crazy talk truths, and feverishly work on his legal case by any extraordinary measures, including using his own blood as ink. Yes, “Caged” can elicit a genuine sense of horror, a perspective on psychological terror, and be an eye-opening gasp of real life prison dread when good versus evil is mirrored in reverse with the good guys not being the prison guards. Fjellman imprisons us all in “Caged” by culminating the fact that no matter your social circumstances, the S.H.U. breaks everyone.

Orange may be the new black, but Aaron Fjellman’s bleak fretting “Caged” jars with somber authoritarian power. The new thriller released by Shout! Studios premiers unrated on VOD and digital January 26th. “Caged” is film by director of photography, Jessica Young, with an Arri Amira camera and presented in a widescreen format, 16×9 aspect ratio, and, typically, the Amira camera versatility is in the use for low-budget films, perfect for “Caged” in it’s nearly singular setting and two-tone, steely gray and black, atmospherics that naturally have devoid color vibrancy. CJ Johnson, who will soon see his musical scores in a pair of upcoming Friday the 13th fan films, lines “Caged” with a soft, building industrial score that tunes the disquiet in Reid’s racked inner conflict. With this digital screener, there were no bonus materials or any bonus scenes during or after the credits. Through the use of visual and audible horror tropes and with potent performances from Edi Gathegi and Melora Hardin, “Caged” is a ghost story told for the unspoken voices victim to long-term confinement.

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EVIL Goes Metal! “Project Metalbeast” reviewed! (Invincible Entertainment and MVDVisual / DVD)


A top secret CIA operation, known as Operation Lycanthropus, leads two agents to a Hungarian castle where they must retrieve a sample of werewolf blood in order to create the prototypical ultimate super soldier. With his partner’s throat ripped out during the initial werewolf attack, agent Butler manages to retrieve a sample after plugging the werewolf with metal bullets, but upon returning to the secret operation headquarters in the States, his supervisor, Agent Miller, and a team of scientists pursue a more subdued approach in synthesizing an advantageous killing machine. The unhinged and impatient Butler injects himself with the remaining blood sample, transforming him into a blood thirsty werewolf. After attacking and killing a scientist, Agent Miller neutralizes the beast and places him in cryogenic suspension, hidden away in the secured basement, for future sinister endeavors. Twenty years later, a new secret operation headquarters building is erected after the first burns down, clearing the way for a new team of scientist developing game changing medical technology for burn and cancer victims by creating artificial skin out of metal, but when the project is suddenly taken charge by Agent Miller, the bewildered and upset scientists are impelled to work on human cadaver trials, placing Agent Butler’s inanimate body on the operating table for a metal skin transplant. When he suddenly awakes, the base of unsuspecting scientists and military personnel come under attack by a formidable and blood hungry beast now armored plated with a metal exterior and virtually no way in stopping it’s vicious wrath.

Talk about an archetypical blend of classic and tech horror, “Project Metalbeast” exemplifies the age-old theme of scientific research being usurped for control and power and the end result is fatally catastrophic. Also known as “Proect Metalbeast: DNA Overload” and just plain ole “Metalbeast,” the film was written and directed by Alessandro De Gaetano (“Bloodbath in Psycho Town”) who spun a 1995 unorthodox werewolf feature that presaged playing God in more ways than one and added a fresh and new elemental armament to an iconic, and already super, beast on the prowl. Tom Irvin, Brad Hardin, David Barrett and Wesley Wofford, who makeup (no pun intended) the special effects team of Magical Media Industries, have credits that include the “Carnosaur” killer dinosaurs and a couple of the “Halloween” franchise sequels and have applied their combined tapestry of creative talents to bring a practical, larger-than-life metalbeast to the screen that’s not only monolithic in size, but also fearsomely primal with a glint of “Terminator” characteristics in its glowing red eyes. “Project Metalbeast” was one of the last semi-cult releases of Prism Entertainment Corporation, a company that chugged out some great B-horror films mainly in the 70s and 80s with titles such as “Eaten Alive” and “Body Melt,” and one of only a few films from the associated production company, Blue Ridge Entertainment.

Before taking Jason Voorhees to space to metalize the already the indestructible carnage incarnate, Kane Hodder did a test run stepping inside the augmented paws of a gnarled werewolf. Instead of space, Hodder grounds his performance by barely able to walk on two hind legs in the fabricated prosthetic suit, but the veteran stuntman and character actor is the dynamo practical effects horror version compared to today’s CGI-guru, Andy Sirkis, thriving tangibly polar opposite on the character effect sake, but Hodder captures the metalbeast’s utmost power gait and stance despite the extremely limited range of motion. Another symbol success in his own right is Barry Bostwick as Agent Miller. Bostwick is best known for his hero role in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” but to me, he’ll always be the aloof mayor in Spin City opposite Michael J. Fox so it was challenging to accept Bostwick as a conniving cutthroat intelligence agent. Yet, the longtime actor has perfected the knack of being haughty in not only his performance, but in all his mannerisms, making Agent Miller a completely loathsome character undeterred by the sensitives of others. Opposite Agent Miller is the more rational and sensitive head scientist, Dr. Anna de Carlo, played by Kim Delaney who appeared in “Darkman II: The Return of Durant” that was released the same year. Delaney didn’t excel as the strong heroine one might expect her character to be thrust into a situation that calls for her to protect not only her life, but all the lives outside the base if the creature escapes and the scientist is more-or-less part of a splinter group derived from a team effort against the metalbeast. Costars include Musetta Vander (“Mortal Kombat: Annihilation”), Dean Scofield, Tim Duquette, Lance Slaughter, William G. Clark, and John Marzilli as the unhinged Agent Butler.

“Metalbeast” sounds like a metal title, but Gaetano works the orchestrated talents of Conrad Pope into the soundtrack and “Project Metalbeast,” at the time, was Pope’s scored feature as a composer, the classically trained musician has been the orchestrator on a variety of films, such as the films of “Jurassic Park,” “Star Wars,” and “Harry Potter.” Yet, Pope’s score is akin to Harry Manfredini, a character of the story, that maneuvers coincidingly with the metalbeast while simultaneously triumphantly denotes specific scenes of dread, victory, and intense suspense with the latter being reminiscent of Mandfredini’s “Friday the 13th” brashly intrinsic cello and violin composition when Jason Voorhees would startle victims on the screen and chase them down a moonlit forest path. While Pope’s score is invigorating, the story leans more toward less so with a tediously uninspired quality regarding the film’s semblance of a comprehensive secret operations base that has corridors stunk of a standard hospital setting and story structure that fortunes little against the beast’s point of view in which Gaetano merely removes a few frames and adds a distortion effect to the picture that peers out of the eyes of a drunkard’s discombobulated staggering as well as leaving some plot holes with the bit characters, such as the other military police who simply just vanish though the character pool has been whittled down near the climax. Plus, Bostwick’s Agent Miller doesn’t age in the 20-year gap in the story, leaving any tidbits of truth versus a metallic werewolf as dust in the wind. Even with the faults, “Project Metalbeast” without a doubt is a product of it’s decade with a touch of lycanthropy campiness illuminating a sardonically augmented military killing machine.

Resurrected from the video graveyard and for the first time on a home video release in the States, or at least officially, Alessandro De Gaetano’s “Project Metalbeast” lands onto DVD from independent entertainment distributor, Invincible Entertainment, and partnered with MVDVisual. Presented in a full frame, 1.33:1, the transfer looks like either a VHS rip or a scan from an unofficial DVD release with heavily lossy details amongst a washed hue overlay. There’s some transfer imperfection, such as slight scratches, but is less intrusive than the soft image. The English language mono audio is bombastic, but there’s no strength behind the explosions, beast growls, and such to emphasis the impactful scenes. Dialogue remains in the forefront behind the ambience and, even, Conrad Pope’s powerful, but non-subversive score. Depth and range are acceptable as the camera and sound relation viably work hand-in-hand. The Invincible Entertainment release is nearly bare bones without an significant transfer upgrade, no bonus features, and barely a static menu. “Project Metalbeast” lives and breathes as a poster boy of a 1990’s revamped creature feature genre that transforms a classic monster into a man’s weaponized wet dream, but the film stutters as a reserved case of conservative metal monster mayhem.

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Triangular Space EVIL is the Sign of the Beast! “The Dark Side of the Moon” reviewed!


In the year 2022, orbital satellites carry nuclear missiles and maintain flight patterns around the moon. When a satellite repair ship, known as a “refab” ship called Spaecore 1, attempts to intercept a satellite for maintenance, the system wide computer goes into an unexplained power failure that jeopardizes communications, life support, and navigation. Drifting helpless toward sector Centrus B-40, the dark side of the moon, all hope will be lost within 24 hours unless operations can be restored, but a mysterious spacecraft, NASA’s Discovery shuttle, heads toward them and docks onto their outer hull without so much of a hail from the shuttle. Captain Flynn and Lt. Giles investigate a seemingly abandoned ship until coming across a dead body of a presumed missing NASA astronaut, eviscerated with an opening left in a perfect triangle as the cause of death, and that opens the door to more questions than answer as a sinister presence boards their ship, pursuing damnation for their souls.

Just think, in two more years, weapons of mass destruction satellites will loom just above fluffy white clouds, ready to mushroom clouds out of targets with a 10-ton yield; at least that’s what director D.J. Webster and the screenwriters, identical twins Carey W. Hayes and Chad Hayes, modeled the future when conjuring up this delectable Sci-Fi horror film approx. 20 years ago. With special effects models and techniques that withstand against powerhouse space films, such as from the immaculate effects of Alien franchise, “The Dark Side of the Moon” becomes more than just a 1973 Pink Floyd album title Fabricated out of warped creativity of old and new concepts with a Biblical horror base that only the 1990’s could loosely spin into an hour and 27 minute feature, for many of the filmmakers involved, “The Dark Side of the Moon” credits as their first taste of a feature length, large scale production, especially with the mainly music video director D.J. Webster, who loves his closeups, and director of photography Russ T. Alsobrook, as they auto clicks into a team that seemingly have experience of seasoned veterans or, perhaps, spent some secretive, unlogged time in space. Who knows, but the outcome ruminates about the dark side of religion and how each of us deal with it internally.

When mullets and giant framed glasses are afoot, the late 80’s, early 90’s filming era is beyond evident with interestingly gritty characters lined up for an evil figure eager to knock them down and, of course, the story’s lead character is the mullet sporting pilot named Lt. Giles Stewart who is unwittingly thrust into the fast track of a hero’s lane. Giles’s atheism framework has a pleasant sardonicism about it when face-to-face with the immortal conqueror of his ship and crew. Will Bledsoe paints Giles as such as faithless space pilot, bound to duty, and willing to do anything to just not save himself, but others. One of the only recognizable faces, at least for myself, in the cast is John Diehl. The “Stargate” and “The Shield” television actor is best at being a wild card in turmoil situations and as shipmate Phillip Jennings, the same can be expected without being utterly conventional or warrant any kind of typecast label. Another actor to note is Alan Blumenfeld as the ship’s panicky Dr. Dreyfuss Steiner. Blumenfeld, who had a role in the best Jason Voorhees film, in my humble opinion, “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, is once again stalked by a larger-than-life villain while maintaining a profusely sweaty persona that’s symbolically intended to be true, unadulterated fear. As a whole, the cast is amazing regardless of some first time filmmakers at the helm, rounding out with “Re-Animator’s” Robert Sampson as the ship’s Capt. Flynn, Joe Turkel from the first “Blade Runner,” “Blood Frenzy’s,” and overall erotic thriller goddess, Wendy MacDonald, stunt man (“Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, “Army of Darkness”) Ken Lesco, and another “Friday the 13th” actor, Camilla More, or Tina from “The Final Chapter,” as the stationary sexy, ship’s onboard computer-robot named Lesli – think on the same lines as Mother from “Alien,” but in the flesh.

What makes “The Dark Side of the Moon” very interesting is the film being an unofficial precursor to other science fiction horror films like “Event Horizon” that was released roughly seven years later. Space as this gateway to Hell concept is sorely under-appreciated and underutilized. Space is already vastly frightening to begin with and by adding a devilish abyss aspect to it makes the idea an absorbingly scary thought. What’s also fascinating is the Hayes brother. “The Dark Side of the Moon” is the brothers’ roots film; the proverbial patient zero that spread successful movie writing careers for the twins, spawning turn of the century horror with the remake of “House of Wax” that saw the on-screen death of Paris Hilton, had “Underworld” star Kate Beckinsale track down a killer in Antarctica in “Whiteout,” and they penned “The Conjuring” that constructed its very own universe.

“The Dark Side of the Moon” comes in at #2 on the Unearthed Films’ Classics label distributed MVDVisual. The newly restored 4K transfer of the Wild Street Pictures production is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, region A Blu-ray release. Surprisingly sharp despite consistent low-lit scenes and not as washed like previous VHS versions, this restoration fine tunes the nitty-gritty specifics needed for proper presentation that doesn’t falter from heavy digital noise or blotch artifacts and shows no signs of enhancing The English language LPCM 2.0 audio track is strapping for a dual channel format. Dialogue pronounced clearly, ambient spaceship clinks and clunks create atmospheric range and depth, and the relentless brooding score by “Society’s” Mark Ryder and Phil Davies delivers shuddering spinal-tingles without being monotonously dull. Bonus features include a commentary with executive producer Paul and Unearthed Films’ Stephen Biro, interviews with Alan Blumenfeld, FX artist R. Christopher Biggs, and stuntman Chuck Borden, plus vintage audio track, trailers, photo gallery, and a insert booklet that dives into about the production and the cast. All packed into a nice little slipcover package. “The Dark Side of the Moon” pioneers into the future of space horror as a good ole dread-inducing fear-monger of the great expanse, deserving this Unearthed Films’ release, hands down.

Evil Takes Form in the “Terror 5” review!


In the wake of a tragedy that resulted in the loss of life, a small Argentinian funeral procession progresses in tandem with the court hearings of a supposedly corrupt politician, the governmental figurehead indirectly responsible for the deaths of innocents. When the verdict of not guilty surfaces over the news media waves, the grief-stricken family and friends, praying at a cemetery memorial, shrill in anguish their displeasure that becomes a calling for the undead to rise up and exact revenge toward the capital. In the midst of the resurrecting chaos, others simultaneously face terror in other forms such as exacting sadistic punishments in a backwards universe of role reversals, the elaborately ill-fated plan of swapping girlfriends on the streets of the city, a night of sordid carnalities at a hotel becomes a night of horrendous violence, and a group of candid friends indulge in a snuff film comfortably and safe inside an apartment, but an evil is slowly boiling to ahead right before their very unsuspecting eyes.

“Terror 5,” a title that one would assume on first thought that five horror icons team together for utter slaughter of hapless cheerleaders or, perhaps, clash in one epic villainous mêlée of monumental proportions, but the film is actually an Argentinian anthology of urges and terror and for the record, if “Terror 5” was a collection of the top five horror icons, this reviewer’s enlistment would include Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Pinhead, Predator, and Charles Lee Ray aka Chucky. Jason Voorhees is a bit of a mama’s boy, if you ask me! Let’s get back on the topic of the brothers Sebastian and Federico Rotstein’s helming of an interweaving, anthological horror film from 2016. The Buenos Aires born siblings collaborate with the “The Vampire Spider” writer, Nicholas Gueilburt, to construct five tales that plant the seed of danger from the sordid impulses that motivate impure, and sometimes supernatural, malevolencies. The five tales digs into the depths of quivering human interaction and the immorality of their choices that inevitably leads them toward their own gruesome destruction.

The complete South American cast will be more than likely unknown faces to audiences of the United States, unless broadening your film library is a must-do compulsion. In which case, Gaston Cocchiarate is a familiar face who had a supporting role in Gonzalo Calzada’s devilishly feministic empowering thriller, “Luciferina.” Cocchiarate’s character goes from being a naïve college kid in “Luciferina” to a bullied simpleton that gets pushed too far by his peers in “Terror 5.” Nicknamed Cherry for his plump figure and, more likely, his untapped virginity, Cocchiarate’s character seems like a nice enough guy, but powerful when provoked and Cocchiarate embraces the oppression punishment-to-maniacal psychosis well. Another fascinating actor to look for is Walter Cornas as the KISS-cladded Juan Carlos on a night of costumes, drugs, and booze during a small get-together. The dirt-bike riding jokester has a hard on for it all: booze, women, Cherry, and even snuff porn. The character is brutally charming like that one asshole guy who always manages to get with the girls no matter how much of a douchebag they are and the character is very relatable to us all because we all know someone like Juan Carlos. Under the black and white makeup and reckless cruelty is Walter Cornas whose versatile demo reel on IMDB.com and performance in “Terror 5” gives a great insight into his vibrant character performances that make him so enjoyable to behold. Cocchiarate and Cornas stand out with the better and most chilling performances amongst the remaining cast that includes Augusto Alvarez, Juan Barberini, Nai Awada, Magdalena Capobianco, Cecilia Cartasegna, Rafael Ferror, Lu Grasso, Flavia Marco, Jorge Prado, and Marcos Woinsky,.

As far as anthologies are concerned, “Terror 5” favors a string of scary stories to be strung together being each a cataclysm spun from the negativity produced by the outer story that includes blazingly blue-eyed revenge zombies and the result is, on the surface, quite convoluted. What doesn’t help “Terror 5’s” case either is that the Rosenstein brothers decided to interwoven all but one of the stories together, creating a multi-narrative mesh. Instead of individual chapters or title card introductions, the stories have a lattice blueprint and the audiences are forced to go back and forth between the dissimilar story lines that, on initial viewing, would be assumed that one story is a fraction to the other. The stories also didn’t have that killer kick in the pants that makes you go , “WTF!” Each tale ends rather abruptly, leaving morsels of the carnage to be further imagined rather than be digested in full and I’m sure, though couldn’t locate any background about it, that these tales are based in part of an Argentinian, or even in a broader South American sense, contemporary urban legends that are unfortunately not explored in detail. If approached positively, the human thirst for flesh, morbid curiosity, and unflinching corruption is well laced throughout and that’s the real terror behind the surface level macabre.

Artsploitatoin Films and Reel Suspects introduces Sebastian and Federico Rotstein’s “Terror 5” onto DVD home video presented in an anamorphic widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Director of photography Marcelo Lavintman works in the shadows with a very cloaked and dark alleyway approach. Some minor digital jumping in the blacks that’s underwhelming at best and in more lit scenes, clarity reigns with promising detail and natural coloring, despite not being variably hue heavy. The Spanish language 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound has prominent dialogue and a balanced, foreboding score by Pablo Borghi, but the tracks lack a range and a depth magnitude and, essentially, all the sound is right in front of you without the bulk of the surround sound too enhance the effect. English subtitles are available and though generally translated well, there were some slight typos. The only bonus material included is the trailer. As far as Argentinian horror anthologies go, “Terror 5” leads the pack with directors, Sebastian and Federico Rotstein, pulling from familiar filmic influences and gutter cravings with turnaround consequences and mortal coil tussles. Schematically, “Terror 5” has profound leap frogging narratives that challenge the conventional way we view anthologies or overall films, creating a bit of havoc on the tale or tales at hand.

Argentinian horror anthology available to purchase at Amazon.com

Evil Ousts Evil in “Christmas Blood” review!


On Christmas Eve for over a Decade until 2011, a psychopath dressed as Santa Clause hunts down people on his naughty list, people whom have, at one time or another, been incarcerated. Santa’s violent kill streak ends when detective Thomas Rasch tracks puts multiple bullets into Santa after the gruesome slaughter of three people. After 6 years of imprisonment, with no sign of improvement from his holiday hallucinations, Santa escapes to continue checking and crossing those unlucky souls off his naught list, leading him to Alta, a small, quiet village in the northern most part of Norway where one woman when unpunished on his list. Unbeknownst to Santa, the woman he intends to frightfully dispatch has committed suicide, leaving behind a daughter, Julia, to oversee her mother’s home. Struggling to cope with her the loss of her mother, Julia’s college friends from all over the world embark to comfort her on Julia’s first Christmas without her mother, but the gesture of goodwill only speaks to their impending doom with a serial killer Santa ready to reign in Christmas with red blood soaked, holiday fear.

“Christmas Blood, aka “Juleblod” in the original Norwegian lingo, is Reinert Kiil’s yuletide splattering spectacular. Kiil writes and directs a new horror-holiday classic of the Norwegian variety that turns the jolly, red nose, cookie-eating fat guy into an axe wielding maniac. “Silent Night, Deadly Night.” “Black Christmas.” “Jack Frost.” “Christmas Blood” joins the high ranking level of a niche genre, the X-Mas horror genre, which doesn’t see really the light of day in conventional theaters, but home video unsheathes the new life into films one may have never heard of such as Kiil’s “Juleblod” Yet, the overall body of work for Christmas films is very black and white. They’re either overly feel good films with a blanket of pure white joy and happiness or utterly insane and soaked with the crimson interior body fluid, unless you count Die Hard or Lethal Weapon as Christmas films than one can make a case. “Christmas Blood” is certainly in that far right polar opposite of extreme violence, but is solid and engrossing, chopping body parts away with trepidation and stringed up with multi-colored lights.

Ringing in the holiday screams are young victims typically associated with familiar slasher archetypes. The “Christmas Blood” prey, typically adorned by actresses due to their ability produce toe curling, are a pact of university school friends gathered together to rally around one who has recently lost her mother to suicide. Helen Eidsvag, Haddy Jallow, Yassmine Johansen, Karoline Stemre, Kylie Stephenson, and Marte Saeteren share the limelight as unsuspecting Christmas carnage-fodder and all of the actresses hail from Norway with the exception of Kylie Stephenson, who has odd interjecting into Norwegian conversations with her Australian English dialect. Written as great friends, but also depicted as the worst of enemies as various facets of animosity slithers between them, the actresses pull off of their ill-fated character quirks well: Eidsvag as the innocent and naïve Sanne, Jallow as the drug indulgent and secret keeping black sheep Kitika, Johansen does stern and uptight girlfriend well in Katja, Stemre as a favorably licentious mute Elisabeth, Stephenson is the fun-loving non-national in Annika, and Saeteren as the heartbroken Julia with loss of her mother. I’m not sure if “Christmas Blood” would be a socially acceptable film in the States and not because of the blood-spatter blasphemy of traditional holiday and Christianity values, but because of how the one and only black character is treated throughout the narrative in a predominately white movie. Kitika has no verbal filter, smokes weed despite her host’s severe objection, slept with and was going to sleep with again her friend’s boyfriend, is kicked out into the freezing cold along with said friend’s boyfriend by the rest of her white friends, and is eventually slaughtered and stuffed into Santa’s sack. The remaining cast includes Jørgen Langhelle, Stig Henrik Hoff, Sondre Krogtoft Larsen, and Andreas Nonaas.

“Christmas Blood” is a retro-grade horror film that very merrily feels like a product of the Golden Age of slasher-survival genre from the 1980’s with a powerful and unstoppable aggressive killer, a delectable high body count, and a significant calendar date to infamously memorialize the event, similar to Friday the 13th or Halloween dates that are have been synonymous to Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Generally speaking, Santa’s already this jolly mystical being worshipped by all and in “Christmas Blood,” that mysticism is really exploited, but as a frightful killer Santa who is seemingly able to be in two places at once and survive a barrage of bullets. Only a couple gripes linger that don’t necessarily derail Santa’s slay-ing of bitchy former co-eds, daft police offers, or any unfortunate person in his blizzard path of butchery. For one, the wordy title card sequence explaining the background of serial Santa’s 13-year killing spree is sorely out of place and slightly kills the buzz built up initially by the gruesome opening scene that sets the morbid tone. Secondly, on the technical side, the lighting is very dim lit. The coloring scheme from the decorative bulbs is festively great and there’s also a very low-tone neon red, blue, and yellow juxtaposed against a bleak, cold setting as if walking through Amsterdam’s Red Light district at night, but with less people, more snow, and no peep shows, but the overall lighting is thin-to-damn near black at times that, shamefully, shades some of the gore work into a silhouette something and your eyes attempt to define what is being seen, but can’t definitively consume the form. Luckily, numerous gory moments make the cut in the light that include exposed entrails and some sheer brutal force with an axe to the neck and to the vagina!.

Artsploitation Films present “Christmas Blood” onto DVD this December. Presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the details are a little lost in the dim lighting as mentioned before, but the image quality looks vibrant on colorful in the mise-en-scene lighting and there are no issues with artefacts. The Norwegian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track is rather pristine like a bow-wrapped present under the tinseled tennenbaum, gifted with clarity, synchronization, and no distortion in any aspect. English subtitles are available and are synched well. However, Artsploitation’s release offers no bonus materials aside from a static menu, but this Reinert Kiil’s “Christmas Blood” snarls Merry Fucking Christmas by bastardizing the popular Scandinavian folkore of the genial Saint Nick into a fierce and frightening killing machine!