Sometimes, You Can Feel EVIL Tightening Around Your Throat. “Death Knot” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)

“Death Knot” Hangs Loose on Blu-ray! Purchase Your Copy Here!

Hari and his sister Eka receive the tragic news of their mother’s suicide.  They return to their rural childhood village home to attend her funeral and prepare arrangements for the family home, but the siblings are met with a cold shoulder as the locals have shunned their mother, fearing her as a black magic practitioner who made a pact with the Devil himself.  The suicide and the village distress illicit different responses in both children – Eka wants to put everything behind her and live her life in the city of Jakarta. While Hari drowns himself of guilt over his mother’s death as he hasn’t visited his mother in years and wants to cherish the time left of his mother’s house, despite the not so pleasant childhood memories of his mother’s descent into mental instability.  When a upcoming storm makes leaving the village impossible, in what the superstitious locals note as The Harvest to claim souls, Hari, Ek, and Eka’s husband, Aldi, are forced to stay the night and that’s when strange visions and odd behaviors evoke the presence malevolent entity, an ancient deity, to beleaguer Hari and Eka into submitting to its will.   

Not too many Indonesian horror films see the light of day, buried beneath the massive manufacturing machine from the West, such as North America and Europe, that churns out films about every 8 seconds, the same rate in which babies are born at in the U.S, but that doesn’t mean the country known for its idyllic 17,000 islands and Buddha temples doesn’t have a repertoire of horror. In fact, obscure cult celluloids like “Lady Terminator” and “Satan Slaves,” known to those with indie horror running through their veins like crack cocaine, are the exemplar of the scarcely noticed Indo-horror collective and now that modern technology provides streaming servies far and wide from every corner of the world and advances in filmmaking make accessibility and recording film considerably cheaper and easier to complete, getting exposure becomes greater to other titles mostly hidden gems from the rest of the narrowed focused general population. Point in case, Cornelio Sunny’s “Death Knot” debuts his occult thriller that incorporated the grimly prophesized myth known as the pulung gantung that speaks of a great, fiery meteor being a harbinger of suicide and in Indonesia, the most common suicide method is by gantung aka hanging. “Death Knot,” also known as “Tali Mati,” isn’t the only film based on the myth, but what separates this film from other myth-based works is that the pulung gantung is still relevant today with highly resolute belief amongst the underprivileged and poorer neighborhoods. Sunny co-wrote the script with Ike Klose and is produced by Ismail Basbeth under Sunny’s company banner Matta Cinema in association with Kathanika Entertainment, SRN, and Umbara Brothers.

To ensure his debut directorial goes without a hitch, Sunny slides into the lead role of Hari and how Sunny and Klose write the character counterintuitively to screenplay 101 by not building him up, providing background, or instill preconceived notions through the acts. Hari’s a clean slate from start to near finish from scene one that involves him waking out of a horrible dream about his mother after briefly texting his sister. Written to have no depth in existing or having interests in anything, Hari’s hyper-focus is his mother’s legacy and commorancy, leaving his current mundane left in Jakarta to worry about his decease mother he hasn’t seen or talk to in years. Sunny is swarthy handsome, strong in subdued stubbornness, and limits his range toward his character in being the nondescript nonbeliever of occultism that innately scares the dickens out the poor village people. Hari and sister Eka (model/actress Widika Sidmore, “May the Devil Take You Too”) toss crumbs of background about growing up with an absent father and a community abhorred mother but appear unruffled by a broken home and, for the most part, shrug much of that rich backstory from their tabled history. Sidmore does a better job bottling Eka’ fear and loathing of a place that dejects her existence as villagers shun them for their devil pact bloodline and, eventually, the ooze of unwantedness seeps out of her to the point of being an emotional mess. Only when her loveable and amenable goofball husband, Adi (Morgan Oey, “The Deadly Love Poetry”), suddenly grows an obstinate backbone and refuses to leave the village, acting strange with an uncomfortably warped smile on his face as he fixates his glare deep into the forest, does Eka’s emotions pour toward a direction and hone in on a purpose until she, herself, falls into the same possessed-like predicament that befits her more than Adi but would be two perfectly ear-to-ear, Chesire cat-grinning candidates for Parker Finn’s horror-hit, “Smile.” The entity that has dominion over them isn’t so subtle, but Oey and Sidmore’s performances are, in a good way, awkwardly creepy and perfectly executed. Oey’s mimicking of a twist on the Balinese dance Hari’s mother performed in the opening scene before her demise and with what looks to be Hari’s mother silhouette impelling the dance in the shadows is “Death Knot’s” eeriest moment that lands traditionalism and supernaturalism into a single scene of shadows and visitants.

“Death Knot” is a slow burn, dread building, culture integrating, ambitious debut feature from actor-turned-director Cornelio Sunny.  Performance driven with little-to-no special effects, the surrounding morose atmospherics of “Death Knot” relies on the cast and it’s portentous, jump scare score to deliver a palpable fear without a perceptible villain, keeping very much in tune with one of Indonesia’s notorious folklores.  The limited budget constrains Sunny to character exposition and pursuance of self-selling the concept of an entity inhabiting friends and family with only their God-given talents and appearances to construct ominous opposition.  Descriptively, the notion sounds monotonous in tone, substandard in achieving a certain level of jitters, and gridlocked from a story perspective, but Sunny and his counterparts are able to feed the idle monster with energetic enthusiasm that turns the notion on its head with menacing and foreboding results, amplifying to one of the story’s other themes of paralyzing guilt that affects Hari from moving forward in life because of that equivocal estrangement between him and his mother.  However, one of the biggest problems to come out of “Death Knot” is the ambiguously fated ending for Hari, surrounded by a 50-yard radio of melee weapon-holding villagers like he’s been suddenly dropped in the middle of the Resident Evil 4 video game.  Perhaps not making the connection more evident, Sunny and Klose do faintly paint the picture of social class tensions with big city Hari, Eka, and Adi being met with aversion by the lower-class, rural village who have a strong belief system in the supernatural but is not a major clash or even an apprised motif represented only by a few aloof moments.  I was also hoping to see the myth’s harbinger of death with a great fireball in the sky to signify the beginning of The Harvest, aka hangings to usurp soul energies to feed the devilish deity, but that didn’t happen considering the budget for limited-to-no visual effects. 

“Death Knot” has this somber quality in its characters who are dropped into an unwelcoming village on a dark and stormy night scenario that puts a very Plutonian stamp on what kind Hell-crafted mark an ancient, malevolent God has left on forgotten land.  Well Go USA Entertainment picks up and distributes the home video rights to Cornelio Sunny’s debut hair-raising feature with a Blu-ray release. Presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the cinematography by Gunna Nimpuno captures the elemental beauty of rural Indonesia with rolling fields as far as the eye can see and the integrated towns built into hills becomes one seamless graft of spartan man living humbling on nature. Night shot continuity is Nimpuno’s weakest link in the arrangements of shots between the house at night and the forest at night. Outside the house is a natural pitch black with little lighting other than a green gel or another warm color in the house exterior but the forest scenes, every single one, are glazed with blue tint during day shooting to fabricate night sequences. The reproduction compression on this AVE encoded BD25 is rather good with little-to-no signs of banding, artefacts, or other lossy content issues. The Indonesian DTS-HD 5.0 Master Audio is digitally a solid track with a lamentably fine, back of the mind, sound design harmonized with an intense summitting score. There are also no issues with the digital tracks, any audio compression, and each track plays its role in sundered channels, creating an omnidirectional biodome that immerses you into the Sunny’s intimate family curse. English subtitles are option and are well-synched with grammatical accuracy. Aside from the opening previews of other Well Go USA titles, there are no other bonus features with this release. The physical features include the traditional Blu-ray latching snapper with a creepy enough illustrated cover art of a small smiling evil figure standing and surrounded by an engulfing forest. Inside is a leaf insert advertising other new Well Go USA distributed films. The film is not rated with a region A coded playback and has a runtime of 101-minutes. Cornelio Sunny first efforts don’t go unnoticed as “Death Knot” hooks with a mystery that slowly unravels the ugly truth of material myth and renders a stagnant guilt out of a powerfully, paralyzing combination of estrangement and loss.

“Death Knot” Hangs Loose on Blu-ray! Purchase Your Copy Here!

Come With EVIL If You Want to Live. “The Zombinator” reviewed! (Bayview Entertainment/Screener)


In Youngstown, Ohio, a small documentary team follows popular fashion blogger JoAnne and while continuing to roll film during a friend’s wake, a fallen member of the military during combat, a horde of zombie horror storm the reception hall packed with celebratory mourners. JoAnne, the documentary crew, and a handful of JoAnne’s friends run for their lives through all of Youngstown only to be rescued by a former Afghanistan war solider, Atam, debriefing the situation of a powerful drug manufacturing corporation behind the localized crisis. The survivors soon realize that a band of greedy mercenaries, Atam’s ex-brothers in arms, are supervising the drug’s effects that will, in turn, create a money making, desperation cure in the weeks to come.

If you haven’t guessed, 2012’s “The Zombinator” is a zombie title melded with “The Terminator” franchise and helmed by documentarian and comedy writer-director Sergio Myers. “The Zombinator” is the first horror feature in the filmmaker’s videography repertoire that chips in comedic soundbites to fully absolve the zombie apocalypse film from being a strictly horror. The very reason the film’s called “The Zombinator” should have been a great comedy-horror indicator as well. Sergio Myers’ 7 Ponies Productions finances the micro-budget, semi-found footage feature that egregiously pollutes the very “Terminator” brand in a way that promotes “Lady Terminator” from being not only a grandly exploitation of Indonesian deference, but now an innate fragment of the renowned franchise. “The Zombinator” endoskeleton is not as indestructible with little-to-no homage connection other than a muscly actor donning his best Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalike getup, dressed a bastardized version of the T-800 infiltrator. No machines. No time travel. No anything that approximates the franchise that would have been a cool concept of a time traveling machine hellbent on blowing zombie scum away.

The cast is virtually made up of unknowns, faces who certainly received their career start with a foot inside the door of “The Zombinator.” The talent is young and unseasoned, but hungry to make a name for themselves with melodramatic performances despite a poorly written script that’s more stationary than progressive on the coattails of the last “Terminator” film “Salvation.” While the documentary team films fashion blogger JoAnne played by Joanne Tombo, Tombo isn’t the headliner. In fact, a lead is lost in the scuffling mist of the zombie outbreak, but the top bill is certainly given to an experienced acting vet in the hard-nosed form of Patrick Kilpatrick (“The Toxic Avenger,” “Eraser”) as a military colonel squaring up against the poster boy of “The Zombinator” and the film’s co-producer, Joseph Aviel in his debut feature film. Aviel, who has doubled as Arnold Schwarzenegger in the YouTube sci-fi comedy episodes of “Terminator: Genisys: The YouTube Chronicles,” is just as monstrous as Schwarzenegger was in his prime, garbed in a pitch black trench coat, wielding a shotgun, and sporting shades inside dark warehouse and nighttime scenes – keep in mind, Aviel is not playing a machine, but a ex-soldier so there’s really no need for the sunglasses. The rest of the cast, including Aviel, are quite rigid and lost, stuck in a loop of spewing much of the same peculiarities without every changing. “The Zombinator” rounds out with Lucia Brizzi, Justin Brown (“Early Grave”), Diana Sillaots, Jennifer Sulkowski, Scott Alin (“What’s Eating Todd?”), Travis Bratten, Melvin Breedlove, Maria Desimone, and Michael Angelletta.

Recently, I caught “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” episode from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” with Patrick Kilpatrick as a hardnosed, war-torn Starfleet officer whose been part of a team holding a pivotal Jem’Hadar communications array in the Chin’toka system. The lean and towering Kilpatrick from 20 plus years ago is nearly unrecognizable as Father Time has been rather unforgiving to the actor’s midsection, but Kilpatrick still has that apathetic stare on top of a sternly contoured face graced now by an impressively horizontal and lengthy bushy mustache. Kilpatrick’s a brilliant highlight in a rather abysmal film of bleary lines on whether it’s supposed to be found footage or not horror-comedy; somehow the found footage crew are not a part of the surrounding action to the extend that zombies and the mercenaries are not aware of their presence despite standing merely a few feet away in plain view, but the survivors are clearly aware of them combatively noting to the crew to turn off their cameras …? Also, the comedic lines, such as, “getting popped by the grand fucking wizard of zombies,” seem sorely out of place, poorly timed between frantic moments of confusion, fear, and strife, and don’t really know if they’re actually intended to be funny…? Confusion doesn’t end there as Youngstown, Ohio is a hop, skip, and jump from rural, to urban, to a dam-side cabin in segued acts, scaling down to miniature and unrealistic grounds of time and space. Lastly, there’s an uneven ratio of zombie action and dialogue exposition that will bore audiences with locale-to-locate histrionics without the commingling remedy of undead mayhem equalization to lure back in the attention of wandering eyeballs and dissatisfied brains.

“The Zombinator” targets and destroys zombies with a brand new DVD home video, released this past March from New Jersey based distributed, Bayview Entertainment, with a slick looking front cover of a T-800 skull half dripping with zombie flesh surrounding a milky white eye. Unfortunately, I was provided with an online screener for review and can’t officially comment on the exact video and audio technical quality, but I will say that the found footage approach render very dark when only a couple of moving LED ring light accessories become the primary source of lighting. The underused original score provided by Todd Maki bests out much of everything else about the project with harrowing tracks baselined by zombie groans and the undetermined reverberations of distant ambience. There were no special features on the screener as well. Like a chunk of spoiled meat prime for tasteful critical fodder, there’s absolutely no wriggle room for positivity for the high concept, low output film, “The Zombinator.” Hasta la vista, baby.

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