Down in the relationship dumps, Carly and Rina struggle with sustaining the love between them. Carly recently dropped out of medical school to pursue a videography career, Rina, whose a battling bulimic, can’t secure a job, and, together, the financial strain and their respective personal issues is pushing them apart as they indolently work toward a seemingly futile plan for the future in a rundown motel recently purchased by a college friend named Wyatt. As if things can’t get any worse, an infectious pandemic turns the diseased into flesh hungry zombies and has quickly engulfed their area shortly after devouring Europe before anyone knew what hit them. With all communications down and surrounded by the infected, Carly and Rina rely on each other for survival, armed with only a couple of handheld cameras and a knife, but one Rina becomes sick, how far will Carly go to save the love of her life.
Love and zombies. Never has there been a more catalytic experience when the fate of an undead ravaged Earth becomes the tinder box for rekindling affection of a broken relationship. That’s the surmised premise of Michael Souder’s director debut, a found footage horror entitled “By Day’s End,” released onto DVD by the Philadelphian home video distributor, Breaking Glass Pictures. The LGBTQ aware zombie horror is based on Souder’s short marketing preview entitled “Hunger” that involved a man and woman couple rather than two women and was set at a motel site with Souder acting as narrator in explaining his vision. While “Hunger’s” financials didn’t gain footing through crowdfunding, Sounder was able rework his vision that incorporates a different breed of zombie that can learn at a rapid pace, shot his film in 2015, and finally hitting the retail markets in 2020. Sci-Fi-fantasy writer, Justin Calen-Chenn, co-writes the script with Sounder and serves as co-producer with the director along with another co-producer, Alicia Marie Agramonte, in her first feature produced production. Joe Wasem serves as executive producer for this complicated love story in the midst of a zombie Armageddon.
The rocky romance between Carly and Rina land praise for Lyndsey Lantz (“Lore”) and Andrea Nelson (“I Spit On Your Grave: Déjà vu”) in being a convincing complex couple with tons of baggage including relationship singeing secrets from one another and an underlying passion that has grown a little stale from a future strained of financial collapse. The chemistry between the blonde haired Carly and the dark browned Rina sizzles with tension that steams like when hot water hits a freezing cold surface. Lantz provides Carly’s bubbly optimism of a woman in love that finds climbing Rina’s colossally icy barrier a frustrating feat despite an immense amount of devout love and loyalism for her partner. The one character that isn’t very convincing is the former military turned motel host Wyatt Fremont played by Joshua Keller Katz. Katz’s rigid performance falls into the stereotype category of a bad script read, overplaying Wyatt’s previous life with a smug thinning effect on the whole zombie chaos and Wyatt sticking out of place like a giant sore thumb. Rounding out the cast is Diana Castrillion (“Godforsake”), Umberto Celisano (“First House on the Hill”), Devlin Wilder (“Grizzled”) and die-hard horror fixtures Maria Olsen (“Starry Eyes”) and Bill Oberst Jr. (“3 From Hell”) with the latter providing his voice only.
Rina’s unceasing eating disorder has staked a claim as one of the spurs affecting Carly and Rina’s declining relationship and, yet, when another eating disorder where mankind craves the taste of each other, the once quarreling lovers reignite the warmth that was once their bond in an amusing parallel of events. Character analogies are not the only nice touches provided by Souder who tweaks the zombie, extending upon George Romero’s evolutionary concept of a learning and pliant zombie while also creating a big world apocalyptic problem with small world capabilities, with the undead playing possum – how very “Resident Evil.” The 74 minute runtime offers ideal pace to not linger in exposition, which some horror love stories tend to do, balancing the backstory and the instantaneous chaos into a smooth transition of events. The camera POV style renders the same objective with also a bit of tranquility that’s like a calm before the storm rather, as some ambience is muted by security cameras. The effect results a frightening, breath holding silence which is a nice, eerie touch of cinematography and uncluttered audio.
“By Day’s End” is the motel mayhem zombie movie you’ve been hungry for and comes to you on a DVD home video being released March 17 courteously from Breaking Glass Pictures. The DVD9, region 1 release is presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, that splices together handheld camera and security cam footage. The image quality respectively shares the diverse filming tactics used to interlace a story. Handheld footage features a bright, natural appeal whereas the security footage purposefully instills as ashen approach and softer, fuzzier details with the horizontal lines created by direct light The English language 2.0 stereo mix has clean and forefront dialogue; the creature gutturals cast a more over-the-top and tawdry vocal disappointment that wasn’t fear invoking. Ambient depth and range are sizable and balanced. Special features include a behind-the-scenes, a quaint blooper reel, and Souder’s short film “Hunger.” “By Day’s End” marks the first indie horror success story of a 2020 release with a delicately modeled blend of romance and horror and a surge of lasting captivation on both of those fronts.
In 1978 Chile, a powerful political extremist exploits the Chilean army to conduct and carrier out the physical and sexual abuse against the people of Chile, including forcing his own son, Juan, to have sex with his tortured mother and executing her right in front of him while in the fornicating act. Juan’s father continues to further the abuse with fear, terror, and misogynistic berates until he’s finally fatally coup. Fast forward to 2011, Juan’s an unstoppable madman as he terrorizes the locals over the years without authoritative regulation and also four female outsiders on holiday for a girls’ weekend. Juan and his son force their way into their residence, tyrannizing, raping, and even killing one of them before leaving his cruel mark in his wake, but with the help of a local officer, the remaining three survivors seeks to make sure Juan, and his equally screwed up family, never harm anyone again. However, Juan is prepared, held up inside a compound subterfuge, well-armed and well-unhinged.
Perhaps based loosely off the atrocities of of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet in the 1970’s, Artsploitation Films’ distributed “Trauma” goes to the unapologetic extreme, building upon an already unsavory narrative into the bred morbid disposition of the human psyche. Written and directed by “Zombie Dawn’s” Lucio A. Rojas, “Trauma” is a cold, blunt object with a razor sharp bite and has a penchant for the twisted. The Chilean director’s film isn’t the only game in the market of extreme movies, but does manage to create a motive of separation between most with the offending character experiencing traumatic corruption by someone close; in this case, Juan’s father 40-years earlier by oppressing the boy through physical pain and scrambling his son’s mental state by removing any humility, compassion, and reasoning that manufactures the perfect ruthless butcher. Pinochet used his military power to be a lethal strong hand when desired; Rojas spices it up by adding forced incest, rape-after-rape, and implementing a subconscious malevolency.
“Trauma” stars “To Kill A Man’s” Daniel Antivilo as the despicable Juan. Antivilo is patient and soft in his approach to a deranged character that doesn’t display that wild abandonment in psychotics. Juan goes on to slowly terrorize four lovely outsiders from the city in Andrea (Catalina Martin), Camila (Macarena Carrere), Julia (Ximena del Solar of “Perfidy,” another Rojas film), and Magdalena (Dominga Bofill). The four actresses offer up different character perspectives and personality that should divide the dynamic or, at least, complicate it; there’s a strong sense of lesbianism between them, even exhibiting traits in those who don’t identify as such. Antivilo macho savagery pitted against the four stunning, but strong women does create a black and white, stark-producing character placement. Outside that dynamic, one character has no dialogue and, yet, manages to high level physical role that’s barbaric, humiliating, and spacey and that role is inside of Juan’s schizoid son, Mario, is donned by Felipe Rios who has the strung out appearance of a long, drawn out face and muscularly thin. Eduardo Paxeco, Claudio Riveros, and Florencia Heredia round out the cast.
Rojas does a beautiful job in the juxtaposition department, paralleling the bleak, grimy, and yet agreeable life of Juan and his equally as certifiable family next to the full of life and vigor in the unsuspecting women that Rojas’ introduces off with Camila and Julia engaging in a steamy girl-on-girl love making scene that doesn’t leave much to the imagination and, then, slides into their instant road trip the day after. Rojas had built up Juan’s pain and suffering toward being molded into a monster whereas the women fly by the seat of their pants, churning out memorable moments in a flash whereas Juan’s unfortunate course was a slow burn throughout his long, hard life. The parallelism flips from Juan to the women up until the moment their lives intertwine and this is where things get messy with Roja’s script. Between Julia, Camila, Magda, and Andre, three of whom are related, tension builds as Julia plays the flirtatious and brazen field between hooking up with the cousins as stroppy Andrea steams in a passive stew on the sideline. This subplot never goes explored, going uncooked right in the middle of a hot flame where passions and couples’ plights evolve the story. The abrupt presence of Juan puts a cease and desist on any other subplot that ultimate funnels “Trauma” to be a rape-revenge flick with a graphic content.
Artsploitation Films continues to distribute internationally provocative films that always delight as well as disgust (in a good way). With Lucio A. Roja’s 2017 film, “Trauma”, casualties pile high and damage control is non-existent, fitting the Philadelphian-based company’s axiom that presents the film onto a high-definition Blu-ray. With a widescreen, aspect ratio 2.35:1, the image quality is quite good. Details are very promising here and really need to be with the gore. The face explosion and the jaw unhinging deaths are certainly not stodgy as the scene on these moments linger more than most would, soaking up the full effect of the viscous covered chunks out from the face crater by a high caliber handgun is a thing of beauty. The Spanish 5.1 surround sound syncs up well in all aspects from dialogue to ambiance. English subtitles are available and line up well enough though speedy at times. Dialogue is clear and present, Ignacio Redard score is heard, and no signs of any kind of distortions or other issues. Bonus features are limited to just the theatrical trailer. “Trauma” might have vastly skewed the actual events the film is based off of to pen a story, but what a gorgeously gory-filled and exploitively-charged narrative that can be a tell all for the cause and effect of political extremism at it’s worse. Director Lucio A. Rojas puts Chile on the controversial and extreme horror map.
Cecile and Brigitte have served two of their twelve month sentence for inappropriate sexual acts involving prostitution and stripping. International authorities, including an American Senator, remove the two ladies of the night from their incarcerations and have them audition a private and provocative dance routine that will spring them from prison life and place them into a contract for hire that the pair of beauties find difficult to refuse. Cecile and Brigitte use their God-gifted talents to slip undercover as a pair of lesbian dancers in order to spy on Mr. Forbes, the Flamingo club owner on the Canary Islands who moonlights as a sadistic sex trafficker. Forbes kidnaps, rapes, and then, with the help of his wife Irina Forbes, hypnotizes well-known and famous women to be the ever faithful lovers of Mr. Forbes wealthily clients and to stop the egregious trafficker, any smoking gun evidence must be photographed for the international police to make a move on an arrest.
Jess Franco is the maestro of guilty pleasure shlock and the 1980 violently erotic, crime drama “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” is no different inventoried with ubersleaze spiced in folly comedy and tense sadism. The sort of mixed bag genre film only writer-director knew, and understood, how to achieve on a minuscule budget level in hastily conditions, but “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties,” whether designed or by chance, stemmed from the combination of old and new footage, re-edited out of the original title, “Ópalo de fuego: Mercaderes del sexo,” and told a slightly different tale with slightly rearranged character backgrounds and graphic scenes, and featured two different locations that were later labeled Las Palmas of the Canary Islands to tie it all together. Severin has included both versions on a limited edition Blu-ray (“Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties”) and DVD (“Ópalo de fuego: Mercaderes del sexo”) release to experience both versions.
Franco’s long time common law, then legal in 2008, spouse Lina Romay, under pseudonym Candy Coster stars as Cecile in really a non-seductive, non-promiscuous, and only pinched with erotica role. Unlike Romay’s “Bare Breasted Countess” (aka “Female Vampire”) role, Cecile undercuts the erotic tone with more gratuitous comic and threatening nudity. Relishing into a staple of erotica are all of Romay’s supporting cohorts consisting of “Zombie Lake’s” Nadine Pascal, “Women Behind Bars'” Joëlle Le Quément, Susan Hemingway of “Love Letters from a Portuguese Nun.” Interesting enough, Hemingway isn’t credit in either version of the film. Pascal offers playful dilly-dally while practically be nude throughout whereas Quément slips into a deeper carnality with an unhinged relationship with her sex trafficking husband Mr. Forbes while Hemingway just provides a taken-advantaged vessel to plunder her dignity, soul, and body for easy money. Surrounding the gorgeous vixens are ruthless, dirtbag men played by Claude Boisson as the club owning sex trafficker and “Elsa Fräulein SS’s: Olivier Matthot as the sleazy American Senator Connelly. The role with the most opaqueness between the two versions of the film goes to Mel Rodrigo as Milton, the club’s gay artist organizer with an existential crisis and a quick to rebel attitude.
Though charming in its own delectable unchaste ways, Jess Franco deploys a haphazardly glued story inflamed with by chance moments shrouded with psychosexual tendencies. Sexually ostentatious and manic, “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” wildly pivots like an out of control sprinkler, spitting lustful filth, jovial comedy, and menacing suspense everywhere while still, by way of only Franco can accomplish, accurately hitting the intended mark of downright Eurotrash entertainment. A shocking, yet hardly noticeable, factor of the director’s is his film withholds any large amounts of blood or gore; in fact, gore is absent and the blood is sparse, especially during the girls-on-girl torture scenes involving bondage, a switchblade near the hind parts, and a cinder-weaponized cigarette, but the element that sparks gritty fortitude in those same said scenes, shot intently with fraught close-ups and well positioned shadows, could culminate a subversive tone that ultimate could convey a scene without words.
Severin’s limited edition 2-disc release of the Eurocine produced “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” has rightfully been graced with the Blu-ray treatment. The release also has the Spanish edit version of “Ópalo de fuego: Mercaderes del sexo.” The Blu-ray is a 1080p encoded AVC transfer presented in a near stand definition aspect ratio format from a restored into HD, uncut print. The overall color palette appears fairly washed with only some segments, especially peering out over the water or inside tight quarters, stand out with rich color. Darker scenes are heavily splayed with turquoise that, again, give the washed overlay, but the richness of the shadows with grindhouse print grain is stellar. Franco’s struggle with focusing, as part of technical self embattlement or as part of an against-the-grain auteur, are prominent throughout. The two LCPM 2.0 tracks are dubbed only in English or French and while not tracked in the native Spanish, either track will serve as a palpable substitute despite the English track being transcribed awfully cheesy and the French track with consistent hiss. Bonus material includes “Two Cats in the Canaries: An Interview with Jess Franco” is an undated interview with Franco recalling his love for the Canary Islands and being a genre maverick. There’s also a 1993 interview with long time Franco composer Daniel White conducted by “Cannibal Hookers'” Donald Farmer, a thorough analyst of Franco and “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” by Stephen Thrower, location outtakes, and a theatrical trailer. While “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” is not the best example of Jess Franco’s credits, the vicious erotic thriller is arguably ambitious and epitomizes the style of the legendary filmmaker with sultry, fringed performances and an unforgettable narrative lined up in a one-two punch package from Severin Films!
After Thomas’ voluptuous wife’s immaculate beauty falls victim to a horrifying and scarring fiery car accident, the sex-addicted womanizer, fueled by a constant stream of strong alcohol, dumps his maimed wife and obsessively hops from one unchaste woman to next, but in the darkest shadows lurks a hidden danger toward his newfound, unrestricted fast and loose lifestyle. A sinister plot of revenge against him begins to quickly unravel and Thomas’ stretch of unscrupulous carnal behavior is about to be ‘cut’ short because, as the ancient saying goes, “hell has no fury like a woman scored.”
Alberto Barone’s vengeful sex-thriller “Gelosia: Vendetta D’Amore” is a short film laced with irrepressible desires and consequences, doused in pure hatred and nihilism, and packaged as a vibrant grindhouse homage garnished with a tightly-knotted black bow. Milton Welsh stars as Thomas, a man on a bulldozing sexcapade, and with Welsh’s raspy, baritone voice and slick back, greasy hair makes him, on screen, the perfect, middle-aged creep, hooking up with the shameless, uninhibited women. The German born Welsh has indistinguishable looks and talents with the impeccable “Doom” and Rob Zombie “31” actor Richard Brake that brings a lot of despicable enjoyment to not only the performance, but also with the monologue by Welsh throughout the short film. Welsh’s previous credits include the 2011 remake of “Conan the Barbarian,” “Aeon Flux,” and, one of my personal favorite Norman Reedus films, “Antibodies.”
Welsh’s performing cohorts makeup solely of very well-endowed, very offensive-embracing women that include a porn star, a dominatrix, and a couple of veteran genre actresses starting with the Southern France born Manoush (actress in Marian Dora’s “Cannibal,” “Philosophy of a Knife,” and, most recently, “The Curse of Doctor Wolffenstein”) as Heidi, Thomas’ discarded wife. This dominating role didn’t feel quite right, slightly forced, from the possibility of this role not being in Manoush’s native tongue, constraining the gushes of violent emotions that should be exploding from within the character outward. Manoush directly interacts alongside “German Angst’s” Kristina Kostiv, as a very seductive Eastern European escort girl in a manner that blurs the motivations of the characters, but we’ll discuss that later in this review. Rest of the cast fills every man’s, sometime woman’s, prominent fantasy with sacrilegious Nunspolitation and naughty nerd girl scenario roles, respectively donned by Tara Rubin and German porn star Lana Vegas. Both Rubin and Vegas steal from “Gelosia’s” root message with their provocative performances that leave almost nothing to the imagination. Tattoo model Alexa van Unique gets kinky in a brief scene of dominance that’s short and sweet and gets the message across.
“Gelosia” is Italian for Jealousy, but Alberto Barone’s written and directed film doesn’t hit hard with one of humanities irrational and vile attributes. More in line with the subtitle of “Vendetta d’Amore,” aka Revenge of Love, Barone tells two-stories: One of the monologuing, sex addict that objectifies women more than he wishes to understand them and a vengeful wife with a dastardly plot of deadly retribution against him. I just don’t see jealousy as the major player this short film is titled after and that, at least for me, dilutes much of the radical content supporting the story including the naked women, the gruesome violence, and the admirable cinematography.
“Gelosia: Vendetta d’Amore” is sexy with shock value. Produced by Ingravisione, the exploitation thriller seeks to debut in late 2017! Overall, Barone’s ultra-exploitation leaves an indifferent residue with me as I’m still hung up on a few difficult to ignore hiccups, but I love the short’s perverse freedom as a whole that’s vivid and modern while staying classic in style. “Gelosia: Vendetta d’Amore” is starting to hit festivals as I type this, bringing all the castrations and sex to an arthouse theater near you!
The following review is NSFW…
Christina Von Belle is a youthful playgirl heiress who travels through the exotic locations of Europe modeling and making love to the men of the world. Her jet-setting life screeches to a full and sudden stop when a vicious and merciless faction of lesbian guerillas, led by their determined leader Rosa who seeks to inspire young women to live a life of liberated homosexuality, kidnaps Christina for a high dollar ransom because paying for the liberation cause is quite pricey. Christina will be put through multitudes of depravity seductions to pursue the heiress that woman does not need man. As the ecstasy of her captures becomes more and more difficult to defend against, Christina jumps into action, escaping when the chance presents itself, and finds herself leaping into the arms of smugglers and thieves who seek to also use Christina’s title for a wealthy pay out. Christina’s only weapon, her only means of freedom, is her young, sensual flesh that puts everybody, even lesbian commandoes and high society smugglers, under her sultry spell.
One of Francisco Lara Polop’s (under the moniker credit of Poco Lara) last known feature films and penned by the legendary schlock writer Harry Alan Towers (under the moniker credit of Peter Welbeck), “Christina” expos a mingling cast of B-movie stars and starlets such as “Return of the Living Dead’s” Jewel Shepard. Before Shepard was a blue-haired, punk-rocking goth chick ready to be munched on by brain eating zombies, the native New Yorker stripped bare as a promiscuous woman meandering quickly through hordes of wealth and a legion of similar status men. For much of Poco Lara’s film, Jewel Shepard is damn near naked the entire time, exposing her perky breasts whenever the opportunity presents itself. The same whip-it-out concept can be attributed for nearly the rest of the female cast: Josephine Jacqueline Jones (“Black Venus”), Pepita Full James (“The Story of O 2”), Helen Devon, and Anne-Marie Jensen. The male performer counterpart understandably lacks in comparison, but rounds out nicely with Ian Sera (Pieces), Emilio Linder (Monster Dog), Tony Isbert (Tragic Ceremony), and Emilian Redondo (Black Venus).
Christina’s sexual adventures turned passionate plights purposefully lays the groundwork in attempting to pave a similar path toward the highly popular French series “Emmanuelle,” its sequential films, and it’s cheaply produced spin-offs which simply focused around the erotic escapades of a young woman seeking to enhance her sexual experience. Also akin to the “Emmanuelle” series is the fact that “Christina” is an adaptation from a series of sexually charged books printed by Playboy Press. Yet, “Christina” failed to peak interest in spawning sequel additions, despite the high production value that includes exotically breathtaking locations in France and Spain and also the impressive car, dirt bike, and horse chases. To further be pro-“Christina,” the gratuitous nudity explodes onto nearly every single scene with Jewel Shepard’s tight and slender physique causing most tongues to go limp from gawkers’ mouths, secreting saliva with hound dog anticipation for more.
Though prevalent nudity thrills, the sex scenes lack that certain special something. The longevity of the scenes seem as transient as the Christina character, leaving more of the sexual intercourse to the far reaches of the implied sector than trying to push the envelope. The lesbian moments with Josephine Jacqueline Jones and Helen Devon cut briskly away to a dream sequence where Christina faints from the intensity of her captor’s advances and in these dreams, she’s metaphorically assessing her experience with black glove cladded hands rolling cars and tanks around the curvatures of her breasts and teasing the pubic edges of her nether regions. Another dilution of “Christina” is the stunts. While I mentioned the chase sequences were a refreshing surprise for soft core erotica, the hand-to-hand combat nullifies that pleasantry. The lesbian mercenaries fight each other, literally ripping the clothes from their hard bodies, to award themselves the pleasure of guarding, and seducing, Christina while Christina fights her way to escape from their enlisted clutches; yet, the choreography is horrendously slow and bad, resulting in more of an awkward contest rather than a test of might. I will say that the actresses did, in fact, do their own stunt work.
Intervision Picture Corp. and CAV Distribution release a region free, re-mastered Blu-ray edition of “Christina” in a spellbinding Hi-definition 1080p resolution. The widescreen 16×9 presentation only adds to the HD transfer without forcing to strain the image framing and clarity. Clearly more vivid than any of the film’s at-home distributed predecessors, Intervision Picture Corp.’s improvement bares ample of detail, pops the natural coloring, and balances the blacks amongst the original print damage from minor grain to centering scratches. A few times a grey-to-blue toned sepia interludes during more closeup scenes, but the vast exteriors of locations, and for most of the film as well, share in the wealth of the image upgrade. The Dolby Digital English 2.0 mix has varying levels that, at times, sporadically lower the dialogue which might have stemmed from misplaced mic setups. No hissing or pops detected, resulting in clear and spotless finish on the tracks that smooths out the dialogue and sports a rather snazzy synth Ted Scotto soundtrack, especially during more action packed moments. Finally, no extras are included with this release.
Overall, a solid piece of lost skin-er-iffic treasure dug up for display by Intervision Picture Corp. Never in my lifetime would I have guessed that Casey from the “Return of the Living Dead” would be fully nude, nearly full time, in a unique sexploitation gem entitled simply “Christina.” The Poco Lara directed soft core film might be based off the popular sleaze reads and trashy sex novels of the same name, but ultimately “Christina” just couldn’t gain any steam powered momentum on film as it so rightfully did in bedroom fantasies, leaving the kinky-lust and the misadventures of our heroine permanently in black and white of its literature bound kin.