Evil Isn’t Home. “Death House” review!


Top law enforcement agents, Boon and Novak, achieve special access through steep sacrifice during job assignments and are permitted to tour their upcoming placement in the highly exclusive Death House, the ultimate maximum and multi-level penitentiary home to the nastiest criminals known to society and the deadly threat to mankind in a metaphysical way. Death Houses uses virtual reality to keep inmates stimulated to the point of calm submission as well as drugging the homeless and the unwanted to supply killers with victims upon victims in an their personalized virtual surroundings, but when an outsider uses an EMP to knock out all power within the facility, the cages are open and the ruthless animals are free to overrun, beating to death the guards and staff. Boon and Novak must fight their way to the bottom level that hold the Five Evils, criminals with grotesque supernatural abilities and a wickedly grisly past, where the two agents believe the Evils are their best hope for survial against a Five Evils acolyte named Sieg and his faithful jailhouse followers.

Considered as “The Expandables” of horror, “Death House” had gained almost instant fandom solely from the long-list of horror icons in the cast. Director B. Harrison Smith (“Camp Dread”) re-writes most of Gunnar Hansen’s original “Death House” story produced by Cleopatra Entertainment and Entertainment Factory. Cleopatra Entertainment is more notably a music label that has delved into films the last few years and, in my opinion, haven’t faired positively in the horror genre, but “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” star fought tooth and nail to try and get his script off the ground, even in the face of death. “Death House” saw release after Hansen’s death, but from interviews with the filmmakers, Smith had almost totally revamped the original treatment, leaving The Evil’s at Hansen’s request if his script was to be entirely cleaned. Shot right in this reviewer’s backyard of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the historic Eastern State Penitentiary, the defunct prison is an ideal location as the “Death House” due in part to John Haviland’s separate cell design and gritty appeal that was once of the home of Al Capone, but more of the focus is on the interior than exterior with green scenes and Los Angeles shots constructing the story-lined scenes.

Like aforementioned, “Death House” has been called the “The Expendables” of horror. An immense, if not soaked, cast of horror fan favorites are peppered about around the main characters of Agent Boon and Novak. “Sushi Girl” and “Zombeavers” star Courtney Palm embodies the Agent Boon character with G-man toughness, but finds difficulty leaving that b-horror mentality with shakiness in working climatic scenes. Palm’s also roped into doing an extremely gratuitous shower scene with Cody Longo (“Piranha 3D”) as Agent Novak. Novak’s a hotshot and Longo has the looks and the talent to out perform his character, but Smith’s script doesn’t do justice to either Boon or Novak’s character that blatantly underwhelms their performances with cameo star power and a shoddy narrative. Dee Wallace (“Cujo”), Barbara Crampton {“Re-Animator”), and Kane Hodder (“Jason Goes to Hell”) have prominent roles that are pertinent to the story and are enjoyable to see them in more of a supporting capacity. Andrenne Barbeau {“The Fog”), Sid Haig (“The Devil’s Rejects”), Vernon Wells (“The Road Warrior”), Bill Moseley {“The Devil’s Rejects”), Lloyd Kaufman (Mr. Troma), Michael Berryman (“The Hills Have Eyes”), Tony Todd (“Candyman”), Sean Whalen (“The People Under the Stairs”), Debbie Rochon (“Killer Rack”), Bill Oberst Jr. (“Deadly Revisions”), Felissa Rosa (“Sleepaway Camp”), Danny Trejo (“Machete”), Tiffany Shepis (“Abominable”), Brinke Stevens (“The Slumber Party Massacre”), Camille Keaton (“I Spit On Your Grave”), Gunnar Hansen (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and R.A. Mihailoff (“Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). Whew. Rounding out the remaining cast is Lindsay Harley (“Nightmare Nurse”), Vincent M. Ward (“The Walking Dead”), and Bernhard Forcher.

While the genre star-studded ensemble cast is a wet dream for horror fans, “Death House” fails in numerous filmmaking categories with the first being the most important, the script. Smith’s re-work of Hansen’s original story requires another drastic once-over, or two, as the final result attempts to push, stuff, and cram 100 lbs of multi-subgenre elements into a 10 lb, inflexible bag, cramping the ambitious project with dis-connective storyline tissue braced together with shoddy visual effects, like the two agents free-falling down a bottomless elevator shaft and able to precisely shoot their targets on each level. The overall result of “Death House” just endures an unfinished varnish and seems slapped together with pre-schooler glue and claggy spit. Singular moments surface as diamond specks amongst cubic zirconias, like the Mortal Kombat fatality-esque practical effects, but are too far and in between to muster up an enjoyable film. The Five Evils definitely and desperately needed more presence in the story instead of just flexing the talking heads muscle; well, the only two Evils to say anything at all were Bill Moseley and Vernon Wells. The Five Evils didn’t quite have that oomph to be a force to be dealt with as Gold-described beings who philosophical interpretations on the concept of good and evil.

Cleopatra Entertainment and MVDVisual present B. Harrison Smith’s long-anticipated “Death House” onto DVD home video. The unrated, all-region DVD is presented in a widescreen format that displays some frayed flaws like contrast; there’s way too much inky black in the dark scenes and little-to-no definition in more visible sequences. The compression suffers from blotchy artefacts at times too and lacks hues, which works with the gritty tone inside the Eastern State Penitentiary’s decomposing walls of rubble and decay. Visual effects are glossy with virtually no textures to give detail or, essentially, life amongst the continuous death. Bonus features include multiple interviews with director B. Harrison Smith, Courtney Palm, and more. Also included is a behind-the-scenes feather, a gallery slideshow, and theatrical trailer. Despite being true to the title and highly anticipated since it’s inception into the public market, “Death House” ultimately disappointments as an unfurnished mess enlisted with big names in the horror domain that’ll unfairly sell the film on it’s own, but all-star cameos won’t establish “Death House” as a solidified cult favorite, being unfortunately one of the biggest release flops of 2018.

When Evil Lurks Outside… “Never Open the Door” review!

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Six friends break bread for the holidays in a remote woodsy cabin. As their jovial and joyful conversation continues, a wicked evil lurks in the forest. A sudden and harsh knock at the door confuses the group on who would be calling at their isolated retreat and at the late hour. When Tess volunteers to answer the knocking, a stranger spews blood all over her and falls to the ground as she opens the door. With his dying breath, the aging stranger warns them to never open the door. stunned with complete shock and terror, the group doesn’t realize that the very moment the strange dies on their doorstep is the very moment of the beginning of the end as weird occurrences and odd behavior pits friend versus friend, girlfriend versus boyfriend, and spouse versus spouse when staying or fleeing the cabin becomes a life or death decision.
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“Never Open the Door” strikes as an odd feature that marries projecting horror genres with resurrecting structures from the past into modern times. The Vito Trabucco directed 2014 released film, who also had producer Christopher Maltauro collaborate on to pen the script, stirs up vintage Alfred Hitchcock cinematography craftwork and mirrors the enigmatic nature of particular and peculiar “Twilight Zone” episodes. Trabucco and director of cinematographer Joe Provenzano voids the film of color to encompass the mood of bygone black and white thrillers and employs composer Carlos Vivas to enchant the story with a classically engaging score that embellishes upon harrowing pivotal moments in the story. Vivas and Trabucco have a prior working relationship under Trabucco’s previous nunsploitation slasher “Bloody Bloody Bible Camp.”
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Vito Trabucco casted his staple entourage of actors. If you’ve ever seen “Bloody Bloody Bible Camp,” you’ll recognize many faces with the exclusion of George Troester, who plays the crude, unhitched Terrence. However, Troester does fit into the whole seven degrees of Kevin Bacon theory, being a co-star in “Crack Whore” along side Kristina Page and Steven Richards, Angel and The Stranger in their respective roles. Contemporary scream queen Jessica Sonneborn, the lead actress in “Never Open the Door’s” quasi-dual Tess performance, has a director’s credit under her name for her work on “The Haunting of Alice D” starring the iconic Kane Hodder. The 2014 film also rostered supporting actresses Kristina Page and Deborah Venegas, who portrays in Trabucco’s film as Maria, Luke’s wife. Luke is portrayed by Mike Wood with fellow “Bloody Bloody Bible Camp” co-star Matt Aidan as Angel’s fiance. Whew. Overall, the actors click as a group with a dinner room dynamic that’s natural with slightly pretentious moments that don’t really kill the mood. When the story ramps up, performances start to dwindle and overacting starts to unfold. Mike Wood absolutely murders the shower performance with ghastly exposition, but, again, this might be playing the retro card. Sonnerborn does well as the headliner. Her demon-like twin dominates, but just didn’t receive much screen presence in measly 66 minute runtime.
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Continuing with the Tess demon, the black and white style fortunately masks most of the low budget special effects with the aid of some great uses of silhouettes and editing. Evil Tess’s pudgy demon sausage fingers dressed with cheap plastic looking fingernail attachments couldn’t fool a fool that they’re razor sharp, but with jagged teeth and glowing eyes encircled by a pitch black ring, she’s a nightmare inducing boogeywoman. Aside from a pair of demonic dispatches with one involving the razor blade finger caps, the effects were safely contained inside the realm of an independent feature. A few spurts of black blood and a handful of stabbings share a common bound of having being what remains of the effects which were executed well enough to serve the intended purpose. Mostly, “Never Open the Door” relied heavily on editing. Editing that involves characters’ hallucinating future or past events, attributing their frantic confusion and life threatening situation toward an endless loop of purgatory.
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Yes, the characters are afflicted with a hell on repeat, switching identities on a continuous horizon that leaves fragments of prior rebroadcasts. From gathering information about the characters, none of them strike me as a damned souls. Tess is a veterinarian who performs the occasional neutering and spade and dates a man nearly twice her age. Terrence just doesn’t want to grow up, but no skeletons appeared from out of his closet. The couples, Angel and Isaac and Luke and Maria, grow suspicious of each others’ intentions that involve jealousy, paranoia, and hatred. Unlike a “Twilight Episode,” “Never Open the Door” leaves open doors of unsolved questions, such as answering the question of how the group came to acquire the house. Before the abrupt knock at the door, the person who located the isolated question seemed to befuddle the entire group. Another loose end lies with the person texting Luke messages about an illicit affair his wife’s having with one of their friends. Again, the loop doesn’t quite close on this interesting caveat.
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Maltauro Entertainment presents in association with Baumant Entertainment the Vito Trabucco film “Never Open the Door” on Blu-ray. Unrated in a HD 1080p, the widescreen 1.78:1 is delectably sharp on a BD-25, but that really isn’t a surprise here with a black and white feature barely over a hour long. However, black-upon-black scenes define the Blu-ray with a low bitrate, displaying some blotchy, compression issues. Audio quality is quite fair. Carlos Vivas score channels through a Dolby Digital dual output that caters, again, to a vintage replication, but in creating an atmospheric feature, having surround sound would have boosted the result tenfold. The dialogue is a bit wish-washy, pending on the scene and character positioning, but forefront evident in the quality and that is what really matters. English subtitles are also available. “Never Open the Door” has grand potential in a small package, but trips over it’s own inconsistencies with erratic editing and walled details. Director Vito Trabucco’s vision in modernizing classic techniques and styles merely becomes just that, a vision, and was inches, or rather seconds, away from opening the door for potentially a far greater anxiety-riddled psychological thriller.

“Never Open the Door” on Blu-ray, DVD, and Video on Demand!

Legacy of Evil! “Legacy of Thorn” review!

What truly makes an ultimate killer and when I say “ultimate” I mean a killer with great power and will stop at nothing to get a prey? Jason Voorhees is an ultimate killer as he’s able to resurrect over and over and over again in order to slaughter mischievous camp goers. Michael Myers is an ultimate killer as he’s able to pick a victim up by the victim’s head and gouge his eyes while crushing his skull at the same time. Both Voorhees and Myers contain a certain kind of ruthful, limitless evil that makes Ted Bundy and Ed Gacy seem like cut and cuddly kittens. These ultimate killers are the very definition of the moniker. We can now add one more name to that list: Thorn.

Jess and three other survivors look to save their town and see revenge after a night of hell four years ago, February 29th – leap year. Every leap year, Thorn, a vicious, supernatural, and unstoppable killer, roams the town of Avondale to reek chaos and death until he locates his sacrifice. Four years later, Jess and her friends are able to capture Thorn and when their decision to kill Thorn backfires, another night of hell ensues and this time nothing will stop Thorn from taking what Thorn seeks.
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The character that is Thorn is a mixture of Jason Voorhees and the DC Universe and Batman villain Bane in a sense that while Thorn has an immense amount of strength and rejuvenation, Thorn is dependent. Bane relies on Venom to induce superhuman strength. The same goes for Thorn but with his mask giving Thorn also superhuman strength and while Voorhees has his machete, Thorn has two machetes for double the decapitations but he wasn’t limited to just his machetes as crushed multiple skulls with his bare hand and tore a woman half also with his bare hands – best scene ever. This will be Richard Daniel Thomas Holloran (whew) second time playing the Thorn character and he has the slow stalking walk down and the menacing posture that resembles the posture of the iconic horror legend Kane Hodder!
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Director-writer MJ Dixon captures the essence of an ultimate killer combining brutal deaths and a silent hatred while giving Thorn his own murderous theme soundtrack that is a necessity amongst all ultimate killers. Dixon’s editing techniques are top-notch and can rival many of today’s A-list directors; he has talented eye for editing and from “Legacy of Thorn” and “Slasher House” (a semi-sequel to “Legacy of Thorn” – read my review here), I’d trust the director with my low-budget screenplay and precious backing money. I’m certainly thought fond of the linear progression of current time and the reverse chronological order of four years ago when the group of friends were attacked. This editing choice resulted in more dramatic character developed. I actually give a shit about these people who are being hunted. The writing could use a bit of work especially in the first act as the pace slowly builds. There was also a scene where the hero characters – Jess (Jade Wallis), Eric (Paris Rivers), Alice (Jane Haslehurst), and Clark (Craig Canning) – kept debating why they should or should not kill Thorn. Another little annoyance was the blue tint. Much like in Slasher House with the yellowish green tint, Dixon’s heavy hand on blue tint made the film nearly too dark; however, the Duke blue tint did bring an ominous feel. The special effects involved with Thorn’s kills were subtle and the use of slight of hand came off a bit obvious, but overall the deaths were well executed, if I may use that pun.
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Thorn will never die like the ultimate killer he is and will need more stories in the future. His Legacy will live on and I hope to see him again in another rampage involving another group of shaken and distressed teens. There definitely needs to be more background on the character as we don’t know much about Thorn but the facts that returns to Avondale on every leap year and the majority of the town has conspired to keep Thorn pleased with their assistance. Lets establish more of that and make it more coherent in Legacy of Thorn: Chapter 3! “Legacy of Thorn” is now available for DVD pre-order in the UK and the US from MyCho Entertainment Group and Red:Fuse Releasing and looking to hit retail shelves on Tuesday October 27th – just in time for Halloween.

Nudity Report

Jade Wallis – Rear in the Shower
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Jane Haslehurst – Giant Sideboob in the Shower
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