Pandemic EVIL Is Just Not For Dry Land Only! “Virus Shark” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)



Deep at the bottom floor of the ocean is CYGNIS, a research laboratory retrofitted to be a race against the clock in finding a cure for a world devasting virus called SHVID-1.  Spread by infected oceanic sharks, a handful of shark attacks on unheeding beachgoers turns the world’s populace into mutated marauders and blood thirsty, zombified killers.  Running quickly out of time, the handful of scientists, a maintenance chief, and a security guard find themselves under pressure, literally, as the 30-year-old antiquated CYGNIS station is beginning to show signs of buckling under the ocean’s immense weight.  Factor in virus-mad sharks chomping at the station’s life sustaining systems and a betrayal by the project leader looking for cure glory in greed, a perfect storm brews 1000 leagues down overshadowing the severe global pandemic that has swallowed the world whole.  Survivors must surface topside with the cure before all hope comes crumbling down on top of them.

Okay!  I’m pretty sure director Mark Polonia parallels or exceeds my own unhealthy obsession of the sharksploitation genre with his own series of outrageous D-flicks dedicated to the gross profit of the monstrous shark rampage stigma seen in the Pennsylvania born filmmaker’s previous works in “Sharkenstein,” “Land Shark,” “Amityville Island,” “Shark Encounters of the Third Kind,” and the soon-to-be-released, the vampire and shark alliance, “Sharkula.”    Polonia’s latest, “Virus Shark,” is written by Aaron Drake and echoes the pro-Trump public ideology of willful ignorance in snubbing governmental official warnings about staying away from large crowds unmasked during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Polonia throws Megalodon-sized shade at partygoers and right wing conspiracists with SHVID-1, an obvious play on the real virus, and the sun and sand worshippers who venture into the shark infected and infested waters despite the recommended counsels to stay on shore.  Aside from the social commentary lampooning, the rest of “Virus Shark” is in shambles as a super low-end indie production from Polonia Bros. Entertainment and produced by SRS Cinema’s Ron Bonk. 

Served up as chum for contagious sharks are a troupe of regular independent staples beginning with lead actress Jamie Morgan entering her second bout with a killer shark after surviving another SRS Cinema gem, “House Shark.”  In the role of marine biologist Kristi Parks, Morgan is not free diving into the vivarium pens and wrangling or bareback riding the maneaters like “Deep Blue Sea’s” Thomas Jane; instead, the actress has a more meek stance as her limiting character transforms into a protective shield over mankind’s last known hope – a cure for the virus.  Fellow scientists Anne Satcher (Natalie Himmelberger, “Shark Encounters of the Third Kind”) and Gregory McLandon (Natalie’s real life husband, Titus Himmelberger, “Sharkenstein”) don the lab coats and spectacles to look the researcher part without actually seemingly doing anything of importance, or anything that makes sense anyway.  The team is rounded out with “Queen Crab” actors Steve Diasparra as the maintenance man Rickter D’Amato, an homage to Joe D’Amato who has helmed a trashy sharksploitaiton film himself with “Deep Blood” (read our recent coverage review here!), and the awesomely 80’s hairdo’d Ken Van Sant the dated commanded-cladded security guard and horn ball, Duke Larson.  Deliveries and any sense of conveyed emotions are a smidge above forced as if reading straight from a cue card.  The off camera stare has to be my favorite gaze into space moments, especially when an aggressive Great White beelines right toward them and the reactions are nothing more than a gaping mouth.  Van Sant wins top prize for at least giving a half-hearted attempt at empathy for a character completing a character arc.  “Virus Shark” fleshes out with Yolie Canales, Noyes J. Lawton, and Sarah Duterte who are also a part of the tight knit celluloid circle of deep-six cinema. 

Speaking of deep six, as in “DeepStar Six,” a semblance toward notable underwater horror films of the deep really do crest through “Virus Shark’s” stagnant flat surface.  Little bits of adulation toward “”DeepStar Six” with the jettisoned escape pod, “Deep Blue Sea” with the shark pool, and “Leviathan” with the topside communication sans Meg Foster sprinkle a blanket of welcoming derivativity amongst a cheaply endeavor.  When I say cheaply, I mean “Virus Shark” scrapes the bottom of the barrel with embarrassingly bad shark hand puppets, interior locations of the underwater sea lab are about as realistic as the innards of your run of the mill High School building, and every single gunshot is the same soundbite stuck on repeat, no matter the gun or the caliber.  I do admire the innovation at times.  An example I would pull would be the two miniaturized pincers matted on top of a live-action still frame used as hydraulic clamps to pickup the rather rigid shark figurine from the “pool.”  You can call it sloppy, but on a pea-sized budget, I call it thinking outside the box.  Much of the story felt underdressed, missing parts pivotal to the impelling actions that either progress cataclysmically or just drop off the face of “Virus Shark’s” malfunctioning sonar.  Under the table deals and sexual innuendos made between project head Dr. McLandon and topside liaison Shannon Muldoon are skimpy at best as well as Kristi Parks’ all for naught endgame to saving the world.  Everything seemed and felt pointless, senseless, and without merit that the “Feeders” and “Splatter Farm” director shouldn’t be totally judged by as we’ve seen much better on much lower budgets from Polonia who he and his late twin brother, John, have been around for decades making movies up until 2008 when John passed away.  Mark Polonia continues to carry the torch but the lack effort has seemingly been replaced with chugging out one scab film after the next to the tune of tone deaf gratification.

Wash your hands, wear your mask, and maintain a social distance of 6-feet from the television when swimming with the “Virus Shark,” that has beached itself onto DVD home video courtesy of SRS Cinema.  The unrated DVD is an AVC encoded single layer DVD-5 and presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The image quality appears relatively sharp without a hefty loss from compression, especially around the spectrum of low-cost effects that range from rigidly clean to absolutely warped and absurd, but what do you expect from a release that has the cameraman’s reflection visible in the shot and spells region with an extra I – reigion 0 – on the back cover?  Underwater sea lab shots filtered through an oceanic blue hue make due the illusion of a domed research station on the sea floor bed whereas the insides lack a production manager’s personal touch as much of the interior scenes look to be a school with an obvious swimming pool setting and many insipidly sterile hallways and rooms.  Extras on the 74 minute film include a commentary track and SRS trailers with no bonus scenes during or after the rehashed intro credits for the end credits.  The English language 2.0 mono track isn’t the peak of fidelity with the lossy audio compression and inadequate mic placement made apparent by the limited depth and range in  dialogue tracks.  The overlaid narrow foley remains on one level from start to finish finished by stock soundboard snippets.   As far as Sharksploitation goes, “Virus Shark” ranks near the bottom of the food chain.  Of course, there have been far worse killer shark films threshing in the genre pool, but the COVID parodied subaqueous actioner wades underneath the skills of Mark Polonia.

Get Infected by the “Virus Shark” on DVD Home Video!

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!

Knights, Murder, Zombies…It’s an EVIL Smorgasbord! “Erotic Nights of the Blind Dead” reviewed!


Buitrago, Spain in 1310, Templar priests set forth on a mission, wandering the countryside to root out evil witches for torture, flogging, and eradication, but what the priests kept secret from public eye is that the village women they were apprehending were actually innocent and used as a means for sacrifice. The sadistic, malevolent priests drank the blood of their innocent victims for eternal life. Fed up with the Templar priests authority, the village men tracked them down to a gruesome end as the vowed in the throes of death to return for revenge. Buitrago, Spain in 1976, the Templar Priest, decomposed to the bone inside their tattered and dirty ceremonial robes, arise from their shallow graves with a hunger for vengeance and feed upon the flesh and blood of unsuspecting outside partygoers under the moonlight night.

Baring a thin shred of anything approximating a resemblance to Joe D’Amato’s “Erotic Night of the Living Dead” and Amando de Ossorio’s “Tombs of the Blind Dead” from the 1970’s to early 1980’s is Vick Campbell’s “The Erotic Nights of the Blind Dead. Also known as “Graveyard of the Dead” or, in it’s original language, “El Retorno de los Templarios,” is the 2007 Spanish produced throwback to the gothic and erotic ghoulish horror genre that once widely flourished through Europe and parts of South America and has, more or less, been nearly forgotten admirably for decades. “Erotic Nights of the Blind Dead” marks Campbell’s feature and script debut that blends the gothic and the erotic for an entry into the soles (or souls, perhaps?) of considerable shoes to fill and the consensus is Campell’s a size 10 trying to fill out into a size 18 wide but leaving too much wiggle room for missteps.

Campbell, also known Vick Gomez, commissions mostly a Spanish cast of the unknown variety, starting off with Eloise McNought in her breakout performance as the troubled, young Miranda who has been sexually abused by her father and has, somehow, misplaced her husband. Miranda’s backstory has an equal amount of ambiguity as the rest of the cast with bits of family melodrama to piece together her obviously distraught mental state. McNought’s a budget actress at best as she sometimes looks right at the camera in the midst of intense scenes and Campbell has a knack for upskirt scenes with McNought which feels creepy and impertinent to the story. Miranda’s the searched figure for her brother Jorge, Albert Gammond. Gammond, who had a role in Campbell’s short “Violencia gore,” has less backstory as the estranged son of the family and when he arrives to 1976 Buitrago, out of nowhere, to search for his sister, the siblings tango the enigmatic dance of who, what, when, why, and how? Gammond’s few dialogue moments are eaten up by Jorge trying to convince a distressed Miranda he’s her brother and reminding them of the childhood songs they sang as kids. Thais Buforn, Rick Gomans, Anarka de Ossorio, Dani Moreno, Anthony Gummer, Julian Santos, and Jose Teruel co-star.

“Erotic Nights of the Blind Dead” flatters being as an economic version of an Amando de Ossorio “Blind Dead” film, which centers around the vile and wretched depravities of the ghastly Templar Knights ethos and while Campbell captures the essence of the Knights and their menacing macabre presence of soiled garbs and persistence, the attention to the rest of a, literally, non-story is hastily slapped together or stuffed with cinched time wasters. The first half hour involves nothing more than Templar Priests roaming the countryside, flogging with an endless crack of a whip those who they deem dissident. The Knights’ whip must be malfunctioning as it could not rip flesh or break the souls of man until well into the lashing that mercifully warrants an edit for some bloody, but still steadfast firm, scarring and sheered rags. I felt the floggers arm and shoulder pain with such extensive beatings. Next, the majority of the second act consists of Jorge pleading with his sister Miranda to listen to him and convince her about his brotherly love and bring her back home. At this point, flashbacks of her father’s lust for her are introduced to backstory Miranda’s despair; the smoking gun catalyst finally rears a father-daughter rape-incest ugly head in act three when the Templar Knights have resurrected for blood thirsty revenge and gives some context of Miranda’s blabbering incoherency in the middle of the dry Buitrago landscape; yet, Miranda’s daddy issues hardly explain why the Templar Knights have returned at this point in time and just want the undead Knights tend to accomplish with their revenge at hand. In fact, there’s no explanation given at all…they just return and rampage. Campbell extends upon the risible execution of an Amando de Ossorio film by inverting scenes that are the same shot just in reverse, utilizing a single ambient track over and over again on multiple scenes, and countering whatever shred of terror from the Knights with an easy way out of unexplained reasoning for their befuddling demise. Almost as if Campbell didn’t know how to end his film and gave up with a snap of his fingers. Who does he think he is, Thanos!?

“Erotic Nights of the Blind Dead” lands DVD home video distribution from MVDVisul and Wild Eye Releasing on their Raw and Extreme banner. More raw, then extreme, Vick Campbell’s gleaming debut homage offers no eroticism either on the region free, 70 mintue runtime title, but, rather, lingers over incest and whipped-bloodied breasts of slim illicit pickings and suggests the title was more a ploy against “Graveyard of the Dead” to gain buys. The picture is presented in a widescreen format, but suffers from horrible color banding and severe compression issues that nearly make this title indiscernible like an aged or scores of duplication VHS transfer. The Spanish language stereo track also has flaws with speckled quality and coarse feedback at times due to bad mic placement. As aforementioned with the repetitive ambient and score tracks, range and depth do not reside with these versions of the Templar Knights that are probably inundated in a violent anguish of the same loop of rattling chains and heavy breathing. To add salt to the audio wound, the English subtitles are riddled errors such as Obbey instead of Obey or Swete instead of Sweetie. Special features include a behind-the scenes segment of ho-hum production takes, deleted scene, and Wild Eye trailers. One thing I think might be interesting is actress and executive producer Anarka de Ossorio who, I can’t confirm, might have some relation to Amando de Ossorio; the idea would be neat if his legacy still lives on through his kin. A brooding atmosphere from beginning to end, “Erotic Nights of the Blind Dead” has little else to offer under a guise to link itself to legendary Euro-trash gold, but filmmaker Vick Campbell detrimental diegesis could tarnish the very jeweled films in which he attempts to honor.

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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!