Once You Let EVIL In, EVIL Will Never Let Go. “The Babadook” reviewed! (Second Sight Films / Blu-ray Screener)



Stage set six years after a car accident involving the death of her husband, single mother Amelia and her difficult six-year-old son, Samuel, struggle to find a harmonious balance in their mother-son relationship.  Samuel’s outbursts and aggressive behaviors deflate the boy’s sometimes sweet nature that has oppressed Amelia into her wits end, alienating her from connecting with other people, even her own sister.  For days Amelia can’t sleep as the stress mounds and Samuel’s erratic temperament continues to worsen, especially when Samuel discovers a mysterious book from the shelf entitled Mister Babadook.  A book he can’t shake from his mind.  The frightening book, filled with graphic imagery and popups, tells of an ominous, dark figure eager to be let into their lives and when the Babadook presence lurks from the pages to reality, hiding in the darkest corners of their home and leeching on the strained anxiety and fear, Amelia and Samuel must rely on each other to wade out the Babadook’s horrible wretchedness only to realize that the way to stop from succumbing to the Babadook’s wrath is to face it head on. 

I can not believe that nearly 7 years has gone by and I have not once sat with a viewing of Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook.”  Well, luckily for me, genre UK curator and distributor Second Sight Films is releasing the golden egg of limited edition 4K UHD/Bluray sets and was able to snag a screener for review!  The Australian film is an emotionally complex and enormously identifiable thriller that demonizes the post-death states of those dealing with loss and struggling to live on tasked with what’s typically a two person responsibility of mutual support and care.  Kent, who wrote and directed the film, expands upon her original 2005 short entitled “Monster,” by keeping the wrenching core that close in tighter and tighter on the mother and son while upping the visual and audio stylistic elements to make an immersive sympathetic undergo and not just an empathetic one.  “The Babadook” is a production of a conglomerate of companies, including Screen Australia, Causeway Films, Smoking Gun Productions, The South Australian Film Corporation, and Entertainment One and is produced by “Cargo’s” Kristina Ceyton and Jeff Harrison along with “The 13th House’s” Kristian Moliere.

Tackling these performances of a suppressed grief-stricken mother on the edge of snapping and a young boy growing up without a father and innocently oblivious to his own autistic like behavioral issues come with layers upon layers of character depth and, in my firm opinion, Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman crush the roles with a heartbreaking dynamic.   “The Matrix Reloaded” and “Revolutions” star Davis has a tangible wearied performance of a single parent with no one to turn to for help as your unconditional love for her troubled son runs on fumes, dangerously low without an outlet for support, encouragement, or relief.  Samuel has more familiarity in the genre as a relatively new trope, an autistic child that becomes intertwined with a wicked presence that has popped up more recent films, such as Jacob Chase’s “Come Play” and Greg McLean’s “The Darkness,”  as researches learn more about autism and society has been able to authenticate the condition over the years.  The debut feature performance from young Noah Wiseman can get under-your-skin being a restless busy body, a screeching backseat thrasher, and a poke and prod child in constant need of attention, but Noah is able to switch right into a sweet natured young boy with lots of wonderment and love for his mother.  Noah’s inventive, creative, and has a knack for self-preservation when dealing with a looming evil hungry for his fearful submission but because Noah is different from other children, he’s society labeled “disadvantage” is actually advantage, a tool for survival, that keeps him fixated on what’s important.  Focally attuned to just Amelia and Samuel in the story, the film barely registers the supporting cast that rounds out with Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West, and Tim Purcell as the obscured Babadook.

Right from the opening scene, director Jennifer Kent instills a visually stylish premise geared to layer Amelia’s troubled mindset with an etherealized environment nightmare of her husband’s tragic death followed with the reality-grounding energy drain of raising single-handedly a difficult child and the rest of Amelia’s social bubble imploding without a sense of compassion.  From Samuel’s school to her own sister, Amelia is bombarded with delineation of Samuel’s behavior, riddling her psyche with shot after shot of disparaging remarks compounded upon a lingering pain that goes all the way back to her husband’s death nearly seven years ago and to which she subconsciously assigns Samuel blame.  Culminating to a head on Samuel’s birthday, the exact same date of her husband’s death, is a flood of weary and breakdown overtaking Amelia’s last bit of hope for her child and for herself.  This manifests an internalized darkness protruding out into the exterior in the form of Mister Babadook, the embodiment of grief pent up and let loose, feeding off Amelia’s exhaustion and malevolently possessing her being to want to do the worst possible thing overly stressed and repressed parents can do – take out their pain on their children.  Kent masterfully crafts symbolizing grief as an atypical presence of our normal selves.  The sheer amount of dimly lit negative space for the Babadook lying in waiting goes not to waste as when you think something is there, perhaps the Babadook, nothing actually materializes from the ominous shadows, but, in the realm of the story’s reality, that sensation of feeling a presence in the room with you is beyond a tauten tangibility and Kent, playing with that construct, adds stomach knotting audible cues, a guttural discordance, that narrow the eyes, pull the covers over the head, and have you wait with bated breath.

Let the “The Babadook” in with Second Sight Films’ 3-disc limited edition dual formatted, region free 4K UHD and region B Blu-ray, release arriving in the UK on June 21st.  The 4K presentation, an upscaled 2160p, is mastered by the original post production facility and presented in a 10-bit HDR10.  Both 4K and Blu-ray have an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen.  Audio options include the an English language DTS-HD master audio 5.1 and an English LPCM 2.0, complete with perplexing creature roaring soundbites from the original Resident Evil game on PlayStation.  Since only a screener disc was provided for this review, I am unable to comment on the exact quality of the release’s audio and video outputs; however, the rigid slipcase, with artwork from Peter Diamond, sheaths an abundance of special features, including a new audio commentary by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson, “This is My House!” – an interview with lead actress Essie Davis working with the cast and crew as well as her impressions of the story, “The Sister:  Interview with Hayley McElhinney” who talks about her character’s uncompassionate sibling role, and interviews with producers Kristina Ceyton and Kristian Moliere, editor Simon Njoo, production designer Alex Homes, composer Jud Kurzel, and book illustrator of Mister Babadook Alexander Juhasz.  The release also comes with Jennifer Kent’s inspirational short film, “Monster,” the making-off “”They Call Him Mister Babadook,” featurette about production design and set location in “There’s No Place Like Home:  Creating the House,” special effects talk about the sole stabbing scene, segment on stunt work, “Illustrating Evil: Creating the Book” that was illustrated by Alexander Juhasz, and a 150-page hardback book with brand new essays, an achieved interview with the director, concept illustrations, and behind the scenes photos  and collectors’ art cards that were not included with the screener.   Broodingly topical and harrowingly acted with perfection, “The Babadook” is the epithet for silent deadly threats, squirrelled and suppressed away by innate survival instincts only to be a subsonic explosion when the unstable psyche’s flashing point is sparked. 

When EVIL Becomes Obsolete, Its Time for an…”Upgrade” reviewed!


In the near future where assistive technology serves as the cultural way of life, a very manual Grey Trace still clings to being self-independent while his loving wife, Asha, laps up and embraces new and innovative tech. When an fatal shooting strikes down Asha and cripples Grey to an automated wheelchair, Grey is forced into a depressive world he no longer recognizes. Desperate to find his wife’s killers, he accepts experimental computer chip implant known as STEM to send the signals from his brain to his extremities; however, that is not all STEM can do. The smart technology can also scan, record, and reactive to all of Grey’s experiences, be a voice of knowledge, and enact super human abilities that will aid in Grey’s vengeance, but without much control over his own body, how much will Grey continue to use the smart device that becomes smarter every minute.

In a cinematic age when remakes, re-imaginings, and sequels really do rule supreme, a breath of innovation and compelling storytelling in Leigh Whannell’s 2018 science fiction, action-noir “Upgrade” is a technological advance that’s feels lightyears ahead in comparison. The “Saw” and “Insidious” writer, who indulges in all of horror’s gracious qualities, tackles the future with a synergetic and brutal vengeance film on indie-budget proportions; however, “Upgrade” feels no where near being low budget in a futuristic world that includes monochromatic self-driving cars, bio-weaponized forearms and hands, and a robotic protein shake slingers for those meal replacement pick-me-ups. With the assistance from Blumhouse Tilt, a Blumhouse production sublabel that seeks to release projects onto multi-platforms, Whannell gained freedom to script, in every sense of the world, his own vision of cyborg horror and crime thriller.

Logan Marshall-Green stars as Grey Trace, an analog man living comfortably in a digital world. Trace is a dying bred as the technology ecosystem slowly creeps into all that earned by hard work, even in his small classic car restoration business. The “Prometheus” star tackles a unique physicality aspect of an action film that involves the robotic responses of hand-to-hand combat while also being the emotional punching bag of pelted heartache and turmoil. Portraying his character as a man’s man, Marshall-Green has to find humility in not only unable to self-serve himself as a cripple, but then also rely on the one thing he withdrew himself from for help….a machine. “Upgrade” primarily focuses on Trace to even having the camera affix to his character during fight sequences, but though most of the narrative is through Trace’s vindictive narrative, a cascading effect of his destruction brings one of his nemesis’s into reactive defense. Fisk, Benedict Hardie from the upcoming remake of “The Invisible Man” that’s also directed by Whannell, is a mysterious soldier of fortune whose backstory, that salivates at the tip of the tongue to be told, is only sampled at best with his cybernetic implants or why he was even chosen to be a deadly, robotic killing machine. Perhaps Fisk’s backstory, and those of his fellow veteran comrades, are another misrepresentation or the maltreatment of veterans by conglomerate, privately owned tech and weapon companies that lean more toward involuntary experimentation rather over anything else that’s an allegory of owning a person, a piece of property, as we also see with STEM attached to Grey Trace’s spinal cord. “Upgrade” rounds out with performances from Melanie Vallejo, Harrison Gilbertson (“Haunt”), Betty Gabriel (“Get Out”), Kai Bradley, and Simon Maiden as the voice of STEM.

Shot in urban Melbourne that’s quasi-reflective of the gritty streets of Chicago, Leigh Whannell aimed for a fatalistic mystery that breaks down relationship barriers and sustains a punitive jurisdiction of grime. Whannell surely achieves the desired affect that goes from a classy futuristic society to the bottom barrel of human existences that have been tainted by the dark side of tech including addiction and dangers of being fully aware as a sanctioned being. “Upgrade” capitalizes on every inch of its capital to enlarge the quality of a miniature budget and utilizes local talent, who, aside from Logan Marshall-Green, never wane from their unnatural American English accents, to offer heartfelt human performances despite their mechanical transitions. “Upgrade” isn’t “Robocop” or “Nemesis,” but rather more “Terminator” where organic and inorganic don’t exactly coincide to benefit as a single entity. Unlike the autonomous killing machine portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, “STEM” acts like a computer virus working off commands, coding, and complex algorithms to infiltrate and deploy executions to subverse the man over the machine and Whannell’s concept brilliantly contextualizes that dynamic without having too much exposition to divulge and is easily computed without having to be deciphered from binary code.

Coming November 18th is Second Sight Film’s limited edition Blu-ray release of “Upgrade” presented in full HD, 1080p, and clocks in at 100 minutes under a region B UK coding. Unfortunately, a screener disc was provided for review and so I will not be critiquing the video or audio quality at this time so this review is solely about the film only. A static menu including chapters were available on the disc as well as bonus features including a commentary by writer-director Leigh Whannell, a new Second Sights’ interview with the director about his envisioning and how it came to fruition, more new interviews with producer Kylie Du Fresne, cinematographer Stefan Duscio, editor Andy Canny, and fight choreographer Chris Weir. All the interviews showcase depth with the material to their respective roles and opinions about “Upgrade.” Don’t think it necessary to refer filmmaker Leigh Whannell as the “Saw” guy now that “Upgrade” has completely overshadowed the franchise in a single sitting entertained with action, gore, and a heart-rendering story. Surely to be Whannell’s break out film from the horror genre.

Buy your Limited Edition UK Blu-ray today! Click the cover to purchase!

Cult Epics’ First 2017 Releases Announced!

Cult Epics continues to bring the best in cult cinema right to your doorstep and this 2017 year won’t be any different with the announcement of the label’s first release – the 3 Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD/CD double-feature “Mondo Weirdo & Vampiros Sexos” by director Carl Andersen!

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Here are the details:

3 Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD/CD Double-feature of 2000 numbered copies features Exclusive CD Soundtrack of Mondo Weirdo & Vampiros Sexos by Model D’oo, including 4 bonus unreleased tracks.

Carl Andersen’s “Underground” Vienna years
Carl Andersen’s films are the European answer to the Cinema of Transgression of Richard Kern and Nick Zedd, except more extreme, eccentric, surreal and genuinely erotic.

“The Hard-core version of Eraserhead” –Jan Doense (Weekend of Terror)
MONDO WEIRDO: A TRIP TO PARANOIA PARADISE aka JUNGFRAU IM ABGRUND wallows in smut, sleaze, gore, splatter, and dark comedy and is set in an underground world where both vampires and punk rockers engage in straight, lesbian & gay hardcore sex to the highly addictive and hypnotic electro music of Model D’oo. Dedicated to Jess Franco and Jean Luc-Godard and featuring Franco’s own daughter. Shot on 16mm stock, presented in a new High-definition transfer.

“Vampire Porno”
VAMPIROS SEXOS aka I WAS A TEENAGE ZABBADOING… is Carl Andersen’s debut film and is one of the weirdest movies ever, and it will certainly shock your mind. VAMPIROS SEXOS is the ultimate European underground punk rock hardcore sex vampire film. Stylish and trashy at the same time in the best sort of way, the film also features an endlessly entrancing no-wave score by Model D’oo. Cult Epics presents the rare only existing SD version.

WHAT’S SO DIRTY ABOUT IT? Bonus short film. Cut-up sex trance noise nihilistic short film, reminiscent of the work of Throbbing Gristle and Kenneth Anger. SD

SPECIAL FEATURES
New High-definition Transfer and Restoration (from original 16mm print)
Introduction by Erwin Leder (star of Angst)
The Making of Mondo Weirdo (2016)
The Making of I was a Teenage Zabbadoing aka Vampiros Sexos (2016)
Bonus film: What’s So Dirty About It? (1990)

MONDO WEIRDO SD clip

More @ www.cultepics.com

Evil Surpasses Decades and Has Never Looked So Good! “Francesca” review!

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Fifteen years after the kidnapping and disappearance of Francesca, the young daughter of renowned poet and stage performer Vittorio Visconti and his wife Nina, a string of brutal murders by a relentless psychopath links itself to the case of missing Francesca and sparks community outrage with the deaths that are connected with Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. Detectives Moretti and Succo eagerly take on the case, that’s heavy with burden, to quickly apprehend the murderer but to also solve a more than decade old missing child case. As the bodies pile up and Moretti and Succo attempt to get closer to a resolution in the midst of grave public panic, a web of past dark secrets depict a convoluted picture surrounding the private Visconti family that may or may not be directly involved in what really came of poor young Francesca.
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The sweet, bloody sweet giallo genre is not dead! The crime mystery thriller with shockingly grisly murders is alive and well and embodied in the soul of Luciano Onetti’s 2015 sophomore directorial that’s co-written with his brother, Nicolas Onetti. The Onetti brothers’ “Francesca” release gets a treatment deserving of kings with a gloriously and beautifully illustrated cover and inner lining that contains powerfully-packed 3-disc Blu-ray and DVD combo set distributed by the artistic gorehounds Unearthed Films and the multifaceted MVDVisual. Complete with an inscrutable and deranged killer that’s greatly diabolical in their own insane world built upon the Buenos Aires born director’s passion for Italian horror, every giallo loving attribute has been meticulously applied to “Francesca” from the shrouded killer to the use of characterizing the antagonist with simply their leather bound, throat-gripping hands high above the clicking of offbeat high heals not casted far from a creepy doll used to motif the killer’s ominous presence. Blood red violence streaks of eye disfigurements, or any facial disfigurement, throughout a script that’s much attuned to the structure and content, reigniting a flame of hope in a declining genre to which the 33-year-old Onetti appears to hold very dear to his heart.
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In addition to the inner mechanisms and the ivory gears that constitutes a giallo film, Luciano Onetti takes his feature that one step further by reducing hues and adding an Italian post-production dub track, overlaying the assumptive Argentinean dialogue, to zip back to the past for a time hop location that’s purposefully set in 1970’s Rome. With props true to the time period, “Francesca” has undoubtedly a budget that delivers the malevolent charm of a Dario Argento slasher with a slightly modern taste for the Michele Soavi ghastliness, working seamlessly together to compile an apt tribute of surging giallo birthed right out of South America. “Francesca” is a stunning visual, a clear marker of filmmaking inspiration inspired by classic filmmaking that’s specific in it’s venture from familiar Italian editing techniques to capturing or creating the menace in even the most mundane of filler scenes.
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“Francesca” is certainly a film that glorifies the anti-hero with a killer wreaking havoc amongst the public’s most disparaging people who got off the hook easily. When considering the depth chart, this vigilante psychopath exploits Dante’s work as a means of justification where one’s person journey to the gates of heaven must first travel through the gates of hell, providing a similar Charon’s obol of sorts where a metaphorical coin is viewed as a bribe for the gatekeeper or ferryman of souls. Even if considered an anti-hero, the murderer still manages to appeal as the villain because so much of the story’s focus is on Moretti (Luis Emilio Rodriguez) and Succo (Gustavo Dalessanro) and both Rodriguez and Dalessanro make their first on-screen film debut, suitably connecting with “Francesca’s” elderly ambiance.
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The Not Rated Unearthed Films and MVDVisual 3-Disc Blu-ray and DVD combo is 77 minutes of pure fanboy gold, presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 in a vary of purposefully pruned coloring and intended faux film stock imperfections to recreate a 1970’s Italian giallo. The Italian dialogue track doesn’t quite synch and, again, that’s deliberate to fabricate a past ideal. My only gripe with this release is with the English subtitles as there were a few issues, including some key mistakes in spelling and with the pace of the subtitle that were way too quick. That shouldn’t sway anyone from this awe-striking and gorgeous limited edition release that comes complimentary with a booklet of an in-depth review from Ultra Violent Magazine’s Art Ettinger. The third disc rounds out the release as the film’s soundtrack, scored by Luciano Onetti and his progressive rock that’s a slight modernization of the synch-prog rock of this particular genre’s decade. “Francesca” comes straight out of a forgotten 40-year time capsule, looking to violate the eyes, minds, and ears of a younger generation and stimulating the nearly flatlined Italian giallo genre.

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Hurry! “Francesca” is a Limited Edition release! Won’t be around forever!

Quick Pic: Nekromantik Blu-ray

Exciting Blu-ray release news! Nekromantik is coming October 7th with only 2,000 copies available. I probably won’t make the purchase (I have Nekromantik 1 and 2 on DVD already), but I suggest you take the plunge!

) NEKROMANTIK tells the story of Rob (Daktari Lorenz) who works at a street-cleaning agency, who visits roadside accidents to clean up the scene. Incidentally, Rob collects the body parts and shares them with his girlfriend Betty (Beatrice M.) When Rob presents a complete corpse taken out of a swamp, their undying love reaches its peak, but soon after Betty starts liking the corpse and leaves Rob, which takes him to the sick end of his destruction.”

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