Blair Jensen rode the highlife of drugs and partying until her arrest that separated her from Husband Roberto and her young daughter. Her release a year later thrusts her into a desperate state of self-effacement, swearing to not only to herself, but also to others a clean slate with a life of sobriety and future employment to better her odds at court ordered visitations with her daughter, but while incarcerated, Roberto left for another woman and her family is in the hands of Donna who is eager to do anything in order to stop Blair’s interposing unto her new life, including retaining a witch to invoke the Obsidian curse onto her. The curse attracts all nearby evil toward her. From flesh eating demons and zombies to murderous serial killers and powerful vampires, Blair is constantly on the run and with the help of a former archaeologic professor and his colleagues, she can better understand her dreadful predicament.
“Obsidian Curse” is the 2016 action-horror from schlock and knock-off B-horror director Rene Perez whose brought us such cinematic gems as “The Burning Dead” with Danny Trejo and the “Playing with Dolls” franchise that spawned two sequels, titled “Bloodlust” and “Havoc”. Perez, who also penned the script, has a slight obsession with Obsidian curses as he directed and co-wrote “Obsidian Hearts” in 2014 with nearly an identical premise that begs the question whether Perez just rebooted his own film to tweak and change here and there to gain redemption for initial mistakes? Having never viewed “Obsidian Hearts,” I personally can’t speak upon the film’s merits, but what can be commented about “Obsidian Curse’s” appeal is that the relentless action smothers any kind of insipid narrative traverse and is massively ambitious in wrangling a meshing of a monster mash. Perhaps too massive for it’s budget, Perez roams the locale landscapes as a flawed heroine flees from the flock of fearsome fiends following her like flies to a foul stench. How’s that for alliteration!
Party girl, Blair Jensen, is trying to regain her life after incarceration, but the convicted mother never had a chance. Stripped of her rights and left to fend for herself for the first time, Jensen is at the bottom, starting over, and attempting to claw her way back up the rank to mother of the year with young daughter, but Karin Brauns doesn’t fit the bill. The Swedish-born, blonde beauty is gifted with a paint brush and a canvas, but her talents don’t translate well as the downtrodden Jensen. Perez really over sexualizes her presence from scrip-to-screen that doesn’t seem necessary to the story and Brauns egregiously lacks capturing the struggles of her character’s life changing freedom and the struggles she must endure to survive an all-evil summons. The character is also written and visually portrayed poorly that follows a released felon fallen on hard times having a nice vehicle to drive around, a cell phone to use, and all the makeup applications and hairdo fashions bestowed to the character in every scene. Reggie Bannister should have been the lead, because the “Phantasm” actor really exhibits falling on hard times. Perhaps the most convincing actor on camera, Bannister’s archeological professor is diluted to just a mere paranormal researcher which resembles a shell of his former gun-toting Reggie role. The dimpled chinned Richard Tyson is no longer the seared image of Crisp from “Kindergarten Cop” in my memory bank. The aged actor also fills a professor role in Pere’z film, but, like Bannister, doesn’t register a pulse. Hard to swallow to very screen captivating actors being diminished in performance on a movie that’s engulfed in horror action. Rounding out the cast is former Playboy model Cody Renee Cameron (“The Neon Demon””), John Caraccioli, Julia Lehman (“Constantine” television series), Charlie Glackin (“Playing with Dolls”), and John Scuderi as the Vampire.
While “Obsidian Curse” has entertainment value, the value is rather low on the metric scale. What’s missing from Perez’s film is a rich, engrossing story that requires more than just peppered moments of indistinct human connections spread thin throughout the storyboard action sequences. Blair Jensen might have been the victim of a witch’s dastardly cursed as the bread crumb trail for monsters of countless configurations, but the mother was never tested as, well, a mother whose supposed to be fighting for her daughter and while a scene or two of malicious attacks and chases on Jensen is the rudimentary premise of her plight, the curse never truly agitates into a test of her maternal bond or her compassion for her friends. As far as the overall appearances of the creatures, they check the box as meeting expectations. The rubbery, latex look is conventional of horror creatures in the 1990s and you can see the awkward folds and the distinctive differences between makeup and skin as the two don’t move or mesh appropriately, but the creativity behind the general appearance offers a broad range of antagonists suited for carnage like an empty eye socketed demon with razor teeth who sees by holding up his detached eyeball with a bloody optic nerve dangling about and a vibrant blue vampire with medieval armor and has sexy, disposable women servants.
Breaking Glass Pictures distributes “Obsidian Curse,” in association with High Octane Pictures and iDiC Entertainment, onto DVD home video. The 79 minute feature runs on an single sided, double-layered DVD9 and is exhibited in an widescreen 1.79:1 aspect ratio. Picture quality maintains vibrancy without loosing the edgy details though a large percentage is filtered through a blueish tint. The drone sequences of Blair running through a field, whacking zombies with a basement ball, withstands the picturesque and lush backdrop and even with Blair makes a splash in a creek, the beads of spray really come out in the quality for a DVD. Though quick to edit, the gory scenes are visually tasty too. The digital dual channel audio track is par for the course, but there are some balance issues between score and dialogue that makes Karin Brauns’ accent difficult to interpret. The foley is all out of whack and could use tinkering to hone in or expand upon the range and depth; the repetitive chain rattle used in Blair’s ball and chain chase scene desperately needed to be mixed better. Bonus features include a sole photo gallery. “Obsidian Curse” subsequently cursed itself with a slew of monsters but displayed no character substance to bind the narrative together, leaving Blair’s character arch to flounder in a mindless and endless cycle of bashing in the hostile chromes of enticed evil.
Daryll, a New York City night shift janitor and decorated Vietnam war veteran, becomes obsessed with beautiful female reporter and wealthy socialite Tony Sokolow. When Daryll claims to be a key witness to a murder of one his business building’s high profile tenants, a once in a lifetime opportunity opens up to meet Tony when she’s assigned to cover the murder and as Daryll pours his heart out to the reporter, he’s also torn by his claim that could place his war buddy friend Aldo, a hapless former employee of the recently deceased and the prime suspect in the murder investigation, in jeopardy even more. Is Aldo the killer or is the mystery much deeper, tied to a world unforeseen by Daryll whose working in the depths of the building’s janitorial confines?
Hot off from her success from Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” Sigourney Weaver goes from sci horror-thriller to mystery-thriller and alongside her is up and coming co-star William Hurt in Peter Yates’ 1981 mystery drama “Eyewitness.” The film sparks a string of obsession suspense features that would span a decade and firmly place the genre into a popular notoriety among audiences who couldn’t get enough of the peeping tom debauchery. A hefty roster of talented actors also co-star, some on the verge of stardom to the likes of Hurt and Weaver, including Christopher Plummer (“The Sound of Music”) in the prime of his career, the crazy eyes of James Woods (John Carpenter’s “Vampires”), an un-grayed Morgan Freeman (“Se7en”), Kenneth McMillan (“Dune”), “Mission: Impossible” television series’ Steven Hill, and Pamela Reed (“Kindergarten Cop”).
Performances all around are phenomenal as every actor and actress cultivates their character’s purpose in the story and you can surely experience the humble beginnings to some of the biggest A-list celebrities of today; however, Hurt’s performance was one of the only concerning factors. Hurt’s portraying a modest, perhaps slightly traumatized, Vietnam veteran with an afar obsession toward an attractive public figure and his presentation was overly awkward and certainly creepy too the point where I even felt embarrassed and uncomfortable. What made the situation more bizarre was the verbal and facial exchanges between Hurt and Weaver’s characters. Tony didn’t quite seem affected by the oozing creepiness this supposedly good man seeps from every pore of his skin and she, in fact, embraces his forward, if not crossing the line, affections that would certainly warrant a restraining order in today’s society. Maybe social interactions vary from generations and decades, but this type of relationship building dialogue and scenes didn’t produce the appropriate type of chemistry between Weaver and Hurt reducing the strength of their bond.
The Steve Tesich script strummed the strings reminiscent to my viewing experience of George A. Romero’s “Land of the Dead.” Yes, you read that correct – “Land of the Dead” – and what does this zombie horror film have in common with “Eyewitness?” Well, in the 2005 film about the continuous decline of humanity in a zombie apocalyptic world, Romero had written a social commentary about the separating of social classes where, even in a dying world, the rich stayed safe in their loft, sustaining an obsolete lifestyle, and the poor suffer below their feet living in the present, but in the end, anyone and everyone is fair game for being unprincipled and for the undead. Tesich’s script does the same without being lavishly upfront and without the hordes flesh eating zombies. Beneath the obvious murder mystery lies the merger of the classes as Dyrall and Tony eventually fall for each other, but their friends and family on either side condemn the relationship, making the statement numerous times that a janitor absolute can not fall for someone as wealthy as Tony. James Woods’ Aldo becomes just another example out of many where a court-martialed and discharged Marine with erratic behavior and struggling with living a middle class life becomes suspect number one in a murder case, but with a victim whose profession was international trading, the pockets might be a bit deeper and with a laundry list of ill-will individuals.
Signal One Entertainment releases “Eyewitness” in the UK for the first time on Hi-Def region B Blu-ray anywhere with a 1080p presentation in a widescreen 1.85:1 format. The video quality is far superior than, of course, it’s DVD revival with the restoration of much of the natural color tones without a hint of compression artefacts or obvious image or edging enhancements from the 35mm stock footage. The English LPCM audio 2.0 track is fair, full-bodied, and well balanced with really no issues, especially not with composer Stanley Silverman’s lively score. Signal One Entertainment certainly knows how to treat a classic film providing a slew of extra features including an audio commentary with director Peter Yates and film historian Marcus Hearn from 2005, an audio only conversation with the director along with film critic Derek Malcolm and another conversation with another film critic Quentin Faulk on a separate extra feature. Composer Stanley Silverman discusses his approach to scoring “Eyewitness” and there’s also an alternative VHS presentation of the film under one of the original titles “The Janitor.” Original trailers and TV spots round out this robust bonus feature cache. “Eyewitness” on Blu-ray is a must own with a clean and refreshing version of a this classic whodunit thriller from Signal One Entertainment!
Twenty-one year old Eve has been chained to a basement structure of a desolate house in the desert. She turns the tables on Phil, her sexual predator, by clocking him hard with a stone brick and escaping his hellish domain, until she realizes, through Phil’s pictorial archive, that he has more girls in similar captivity. Driven by guilt over her sister’s own demise at the hands of their captor, Eve sets forth a nonstop mission to release girls no matter the cost even if that means bringing her injured rapist along for the ride. As they stop from location to location, not all the victims are as calm and collected as Eve and her predator isn’t the only dangerous one in this particular sex trafficking ring.
“Bound to Vengeance,” also known under the working title “Reversal,” would naturally seem from first glance reading the title as a rape-revenge exploitation film by José Manuel Cravioto, except the story begins in the basement with Eve’s escape. Cravioto’s film fast forwards past the pre-show character story development, the terrifying abduction, and the uncomfortable rape scenes or sequences. Instead, the story bee lines straight toward the revenge act, raising Eve out of the ashes like a worn torn Phoenix and obtaining the upper hand on Phil. From there, only sporadic interjections of her prior abduction are revealed through video tape footage of her and her boyfriend. Even without displaying all the horrible things that have happened to Eve, a successfully conveyed cognizance of her strife goes without saying, or in this case, showcasing because the Rock Shaink Jr. and the late Keith Kjornes, whom I remember from his first penned wacky work in “Repligator,” cover Phil’s monstrous and unquenchable sexual rampage through the scared and scarred eyes of all the victims Eve intends on liberating and from Phil’s spew of lies from his own snake forked tongue.
Dark Factory Entertainment, for a company as a whole, is as small as a guppy when compared to bigger, badder fish in the ocean; however, “Bound to Vengeance” is like a piranha, a flyspeck river fish with a vicious bite. I’m also impressed to see “Kindergarten Cop” star Richard Tyson presenting a delightfully decadent performance in his character Phil, whose a mid-40’s man living a double life, living the American dream with a beautiful wife, innocent young child, and living in a grand house while a darker, hidden side revels in an oversight role in the world of sex slavery. Phil represents the very definition of a very real evil inside our society and Tyson, through that slightly raspy and baritone voice of his, brings out the character’s warranted ugliness. Tyson opposites Stephanie Charles, saddling into the empowering female role Eve, and Charles meets the veteran Tyson eye-for-eye on all their scenes together, never once sensing a performance recession.
The rape-revenge flick, minus the rape, concentrates, just outside the surface, around the sex slavery ring. In fact, the insightful story is quite educational and informative, sectoring separate pieces of the sex trafficking ring from a simple abduction, restraint, and rape to a criminal empire consisting of various locations and various hands in this particular ring. Victims also go through stages of stockholm syndrome, such as with one of the girls Eve attempts to free, but she’s too far gone under the influence of Phil and his forceful philandering friends. And for a film that’s about sex trafficking, sex has nearly been omitted from the entirety with only some disheveled and scanty covered women, some with BDS&M outfits. Criavioto’s suspense thriller breaks the narrative barriers without being, story suggestively, sexually explicit and gratuitous.
The High Fliers distributed DVD and Dark Factory Entertainment production is a win-win for both companies where dynamic actors and sexually charged subject matter thoroughly straps you forcibly in the passenger seat and causes a five-finger death grip on the oh-shit handle bar. Prepare to have your eye balls glued to screen and your jaw drop when each scene becomes more intense than the other, from girl-to-girl, to house-to-house. Gravitate to this release as soon as possible as I swear disappointment will be far, far away from any reaction bestowed upon this Cravioto film.