Slavic Folklore EVIL Goes Full Amber Alert in “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” reviewed! (Digital Screener / Shout! Studios)


Still reeling over the loss of his mother, a disheartened Egor has moved to a new apartment on the forested outskirts of the city with his father, step mother, and infant half-sister. A nanny is hired for house upkeep and to look after him and his sister, but the nanny’s strange behavior borders hostility toward him while also bewitching his father with her beauty and charm. Since her hire, the nanny cameras alert Egor of movement in the nursey, projecting an unknown and disfigured woman in the room hovering over the baby. When his parents don’t believe him, there’s nothing more the older boy can do until his baby sister goes missing and his parents don’t remember her, as if she never existed. Egor, along with his friends, track down a man living in the woods who seems to have an inkling about the mysterious disappearances of children and why everyone forgets about them as he has experienced the loss of his daughter and can barely remember her. Based off the man’s ramblings, their search for Egor’s baby sister leads them to an old and abandoned power shack that serves as conduit to the world of Baba Yaga, a Slavic witch with the influencing ability in kidnapping and devouring children’s souls for power and Egor’s sister, along with the rest of the nearby children population, have been abducted to lure in the pivotal pure child to set her free into their world.

“Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” is the second part of this unintentional two part Russian horror film appraisal following our extrospective look into Olga Gorodetskaya’s psyche serrating “Evil Boy” that just happens to have another protagonist by the name of Igor, but in this case, the spelling is Egor and, instead of a middle-aged doctor, Egor is a pre-teen boy with pre-teen issues – just to jazz it up a little. Also originally known as “Yaga. Koshmar tyomongo lesa,” the supernaturally Slavic folklore tale, directed by Snyatoslav Podgaevskiy (“Mermaid: The Lake of the Dead”), was released February in motherland Russia and is making a distributive second coming toward the States on September 1st courtesy of a collaboration between Shout! Studios and Leda Films. Penned by Podgaevskiey as well as Ivan Kapitonov and Natalya Dubovaya, the scribing trio pickup right where the wrote off form the gritty mysticism of fabled creatures beginning with “Mermaid: The Lake of the Dead” and into a classically frightening and morose villain salivating for juvenile souls spurred from one of the numerous variations of one of the more popular, if not grotesque, Russian mythological being. “Baba Yaga” is a production of the Cinema Foundation of Russia, Central Partnership Productions, Non-Stop Productions, and QS Films.

In much of the reverse from “Evil Boy,” Podgaevskiy’s “Baba Yaga” rocks the cradle in a “Goonies” approach with a condiment and courageous group of pre-teen, developmentally spongy, angsty, and hormonal driven children to solve the big bad witch mystery that not only afflicts the very lives of their brethren age group, but also the parental halfwits who have their minds erased like a chalkboard with nothing more than tiny dust particles to cling to to keep their missing children alive in their memories. From the visually powerful alien invasion thriller “The Blackout” (ItsBlogginEvil review here), Oleg Chugunov spearheads a trio of adolescents on the cusp of being witch-fodder. Chugunov plays Egor, a dispirited youth unhappy with his father’s remarriage to another woman and the target of bullies at his new school before becoming the chosen meal plan for Baba Yaga’s unholy escape for an ethereal world. Egor’s experience of an afterthought to a savior of child-kind isn’t represented well through Chugunov and how the character is written as Egor just falls into the “pure” child role without much explanation to why, staying flat on the personal growth scale for 113 minute runtime. Egor’s followed by a love interested in Dasha (Glafira Golubeva) and lead bully Anton (Artyom Zhigulin) who both have bouts with their parental caretakers; Dasha’s mother is a scorned beauty hellbent on controlling Dasha’s life form outside influences while Anton is a parentless brute with a guardian who is equally as callous as him, if not more. Svetlana Ustinova (“Hardcore Henry”) has two roles in this film and both are bad guys: Baba Yaga and Baba Yaga’s half-bird, half-human hench-thing. Ustinova shows immense range by fielding human to hybrid to full out witch qualities, inching the insidious intentions through the storyline that requires varying degrees of discourse with other characters along the way. The cast list rounds out with Aleksey Rozin (“Leviathan”), Maryana Spivak (“The Outbreak” TV series), Igor Khripunov (“The Bride”) and Marta Timofeeva (“Welcome to Mercy”).

Out of the two terror inducers from Russia, “Baba Yaga” inches out “Evil Boy” on the supernatural spectrum. Between Anton Zenkovich’s colorfully prismatic photography, Vlad Ogay’s sleek-straight and modernally tight architectural designs juxtaposed against a vastly rustic and chaotic woodland lore, and topped off with Podgaevskiy’s highly effective misdirection jump scares, “Baba Yaga” inveigles to a palatable lore horror invigorated by a two-timing enchantress with a sweet tooth for kid blood. Despite not being exact to the Baba Yaga’s tale, as the creature’s house is supposed to erected by actual chicken legs, Podgaesvkiy shoots a fear-laden heartstopper where anything can happen in any scene at any moment. Yet, something is indubitably missing from “Baba Yaga.” Perhaps, what’s missing is that meaningful message about rekindling that spark between parent and child, patching up the tears in the relationship that’s been strained by XYZ reason. Perhaps, what’s missing is the unsatisfactory ending of easily dethroning of a powerful and mighty mage. Perhaps, what’s missing is the explanation on why Egor is the key to Baba Yaga’s tyrannical freedom from cursed exile. I’d say all three contribute to the cause and not much, not even a wonderfully animated s storybook prologue depicting the phantasmal enterprise and downfall of Baba Yaga, could save the heartache in wanting more substance from the already loaded story but, then, we would be looking at another hour of runtime though its sorely warranted. In sum, “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” slips in a variant version dispersing a tingling tale of Russian folklore with stunning visuals and dutiful scares that ends deficiently and mediocrely.

Hide your children! “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” will be unleashed on VOD, digital, and on Blu-ray and DVD September 1st from Shout! Studios and Leda Films. You can look for it digitally or on-demand from the following providers: AppleTV, Amazon, VUDU, GooglePlay, PlayStation®, XBOX, hoopla, Fandango Now, DirecTV, Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Charter, and AT&T U-verse. Since the review is based off a digital screener, the A/V aspects will not be examined but the Scream Factory Blu-ray and DVD release will be region A/1, presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and will include a powerful Russian language Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix with English subtitles and will also include a dubbed English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Unlucky for me, I had to screen the movie with the dubbed version. Lucky for you, I can confirm that though obvious, the dubbing isn’t horrendously overly-hyperbolized or too asynchronous. There were no bonus features or bonus scenes included nor none announced on the press release. Grab a bottle of Vodka, pop some Zefir candies, turn off the lights, and sink into an Eastern European mythos horror with Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy’s “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” that’ll scare the Ushanka right off your head.

Pre-order “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” on DVD or Blu-ray for Sept 1st release!

Adolescence isn’t Innocence. Adolescence is Evil! “We” reviewed! (Artsploitation Films / Blu-ray)


Four teenage boys and four teenage girls decide one summer to live free, without inhibition, and to make as much money as possible. Discovering an abandoned caravan in the middle of nowhere, they set up their home away from home where doing what they want, and who they want, becomes a way of life. Sexual freedom and adolescent independency quickly leads the friends down a path of miscreant wandering and sordid pornography and prostitution. When one of the teens accidently dies, four accounts of what happened are told aloud to the court and with each version, the truth becomes indistinct amongst the slander, exploitative sex work, and their anarchist ways that surround a seemingly corrupt politician.

Debased youth bored with the common fabrics of society stitch their own downfall into extreme moral degeneration in Rene Eller’s 2018 dramatic-thriller from the Netherlands entitled “We.” Also known as “Wij” in the Belgium tongue, Eller tackles the cinematic adaptation of an Elvis Peeters’ novel of the same name from 2009 with not only directing a compelling and frightening image of idle hand youth, but the filmmaker’s also credited as penning the non-linear script told in four chapters that highlight four out of the eight teens’ versions of events and how that fateful summer not only saw their ethics become shattered, but also their close-knit friendships. Eller also co-produces the film, working alongside production companies Pragma Pictures and New Amsterdam Film Company.

“We” consists of a young cast, in age and in experience, bred from the Netherlands and though virtually credit-less, powerful performances from the lot all around that touch not only the venereal stimulators, but also reaches the twisted knot inside the gut of how being human equals being depraved. The four chapters begin with Simone, a young man smitten by the Femke (Salomé van Grunsven) who becomes a catalyst for the trial, played by an Anton Yelchin lookalike, Tijmen Govaerts. Govaerts gleams in Simon’s adolescent jubilee of love, sex, and carefree attitude. His story is followed by Maxime Jacobs’ Ruth, a 16-year-old who can’t seem to step beyond the line into total reckless abandonment, Yet, Ruth’s game for risky her own body to gain approval from her friends and for her shadowed love for Simon. Jacobs gapped teeth act as imperfect perfection upon her slumping figure sheathed in plaid, screaming purity inside her outcast shell, but Jacobs proves she can be more naughty in her character than that of her co-stars. Liesl’s third chapter paints a more grotesque picture of her friends summer. Pauline Casteleyn acts in the role of Liesl, an aspiring artist with that tough inner and outer shell Ruth aspires to but ultimately lacks. Casteleyn can cast a deadpan stare with the best of them that offers more of a chilling vibe off of Liesl, but neither of these roles could outwit, out-dominate Thomas. Aimé Claeys concludes the fourth chapter as the ringleader of the friends, or, more accurate, as the pimp and the kingpin. Thomas’ manipulate hand fosters questions about his past left purposefully open for a subjective opinion on whether his actions were that of his own boredom or being pushed to his limit by external forces. “We” rounds out with Friso van der Werf, Folkert Verdoorn, Laura Drosopoulos, Lieselot Siddiki, Gaia Sofia Cozijn, and Tom Van Bauwel.

Let me start off by saying that when the teens’ entrepreneur pornography ambitions comes to fruition, these reviewers’ eyes widened at the surprising site of explicit penetrations and fellatios; however, the unexpected hardcore isn’t the act of our already very naked actors who probably stood out for stand-ins as the story leads the friends to think of using masks for anonymity and all explicit scenes of sex involve masked performers or implied scenes are angled just right from the cruel and smart tactics of Rene Eller and cinematographer Maxime Desmet. “We’s” unreserved sexual boot up the censorship’s tight behind is this junkie’s drug of choice that gets the blood pumping in all the right places; yet, “We” garnishes a heavy topical subject serrated with generational and societal gaps of corrosive virtue and speaks in volumes of what entitlement entails for a body of minors spoiled by the very community that either nurtured or tormented them and then, finally, turn on them all, parental or not, with harsh repudiation. As a sincere compliment to director Rene Eller, “We” belongs in the maladjusted family tree that also bears the rotten teenage fruit of Larry Clarks’ “Kids” and Catherine Hardwicke’s “Thirteen” and harks back to the Golden Age of Dutch Cinema with the Dutch Sex Wave from the 1970’s which produced controversial erotica with “Blue Movie” and “My Nights with Susan, Sandra, Olga and Julie” from Scorpio Films. “We” has a friendly look and feel of a 70’s film despite modern devices, making the resemblance to the Golden Age that much striking.

From the Netherlands’ festival circuit comes the highly engrossing, explicit drama “We,” distributed stateside by the Philadelphia based Artsploitation Films onto an unrated director’s edition Blu-ray home video release. Presented on BD-25 in full HD and in a widescreen, 2.65:1 aspect ratio, impressive textures flourish every inch of skin of the actors and in the panning ariel shots, which are, at times, hard to obtain. Despite some early on aliasing during the opening scene and a bit of warm washed coloring that doesn’t pop with a colorful hue range, I’ve still become satisfied with the end result that sells the illusion of Summer (you can see the hot breath during some outdoor scenes), the immense use of natural lightening, and the skin tones announce a fresh feel for the flesh aplenty. The Dutch language DTS-HD Master Audio mix holds nothing to ill speak of with a rendered clear dialogue, ample range and depth, and subtitles that sync fine with clear delineation and no mistakes. Other than a static menu, the only other bonus on this feature is the explicit reversible Blu-ray cover that displays the bare ass(ets) of half the cast from one particular scene. There’s also the PG cover that you’ll see below to not offend any sensitive souls. Coinciding with being a great story, “We” is also an important film of human callousness hidden within the prospect of free love, an age-old infiltration and exploitation concept captured by Rene Eller’s subversive eye and Elvis Peeters sage mind.

“We” Available for Artsploitation Films!

 

Based On Real Life Evil? “My Name is ‘A’ By Anonymous” review!

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Based on the real life teenage ‘thrill killer’ Alyssa Bustamente, Shame Ryan (“Amateur Porn Star Killer”) directs “My Name is ‘A’ By Anonymous” to tell what may or may not have happened to murdered Elizabeth Olten by her neighbor Alyssa Bustamente. The story tells the story of a group of teenagers left to their own emotional devices and left to their own parentless neglect manifesting a dark world that sparks angst leading to murder.
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Shane Ryan mixes real life with an art film and the result doesn’t and won’t translate to most audiences. The non-linear story creates more confusion than clarity and being that this is one possible scenario on the murder of Elizabeth Olten, the scenario leaves more questions that perhaps vivid answers. One quality the film does do is color Alyssa Bustamente to be a thrill killer with self cutting tendencies, a dry attitude toward life, and the possibility of having a multiple personality disorder. Does this revolution around Alyssa paint a portrait that the film is more about a killer than about the victim?
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The expectation bar was set high for director/writer Shane Ryan. With the exploitations of his earlier work such as “Amateur Porn Star Killer” movies and “Warning!!! Pedophile Released,” there were hopes that this film would be more intense and graphic. Since Ryan decided to take a cheap and artistic route, the outcome will confuse, bore, and shred any bit of entertaining qualities to itty-bitty pieces.
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Marketed as being in the same vein of more infamous teen angst films such as “Kids” and “Ken Park” is very deceiving. Besides the killing, which was mostly described in sub context art form, and the implied incest-rape, also in sub context, there is really no comparison to “Kids” or “Ken Park.” Very few moments in the movie where the scene feels powerful and telling but these scenes are overpowered by lack of story telling and more of just teenage girls scenes of them brutalizing themselves and dealing with parental issue.
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I’m not a fan of this Wild Eye Release. I’m encouraging you, however, to try to have an open mind and give it a whirl. Ryan’s film is not for everybody and won’t be a stellar hit. “My Name Is ‘A’ By Anonymous” teases mostly in the same likes as “The Life: What’s Your Please?” teases the possibility of Denise Richards and Daryl Hannah, a pair of escorts, getting their freak on but leave the view limp all the way to the end. This film harks on that same flaws. Don’t get your hopes maxed out, but instead go into the movie, being released this Tuesday September 23rd, with a backup plan just in case of severe boredom.

http://youtu.be/a1GyyoiXVew%5D