Evil’s Calling… “Cell” review!

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-04-17-pm
Clay Riddell just landed in Boston after scoring a huge deal in New York involving concepts for his graphic novel. With all the cellphone charging stations occupied, Clay calls his estranged wife from a pay phone to speak with his son, but when the landline severs communications, that’s when it started. People on their cellphones turn into Phoners, murderous maniacs who tear through anyone in a destructive path mindless insanity. Clay, in the midst of panic, bumps into subway train conductor Tom McCourt and fight their way out of the city, barely escaping with their lives. Fleeing a burning Boston overran by Phoners, Clay is determined to track down his family in New Hampshire with the help of Tom and two teens, Alice and Jordan, but the Phoners are not just absentminded anymore as individuals start to flock together exhibiting the beginning signs of their telepathic network lending to something far more sinister than just temporary mayhem.
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-01-05-pm
“Cell” is the feature film adaptation to Stephen King’s novel of the same title and reunites John Cusack with Samuel L. Jackson once again since their last costarring venture of King’s book-to-silver screen production of “1408.” King shares screenplay credits with Adam Alleca, who co-penned “The Last House on the Left” remake in 2009, and with “Paranormal Activity 2” director Tod Williams at the helm. From the first inkling of a “Cell” movie, back with Eli Roth was attached, the excitement couldn’t be contained as I read the Stephen King novel and was captivated by the unique story of mixed and varied human emotions and the uncontrollable yearnings to be a part of the collective through being electronically connected that ultimately becomes mankind’s undoing.
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-20-28-pm
However, “Cell” was heading in the direction of certain doom from the moment Roth unattached himself from the project, sending “Cell” into the annoyance of limbo until a production company conglomerate formed to pull “Cell” from it’s stagnant state and attached Williams to direct. Yet once again, King’s beloved story goes into the throes of uncertainty with distribution after filming wraps in 2013. 2016 comes and Saban Films, along with Lionsgate , distributes “Cell” theatrically and within the home entertainment market respectively.
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-02-05-pm
After all the monumental problems, I personally wanted to “Cell” to be one of the most entertaining and frightening horror films of the modern age, but as fate would have it, the Williams’ film disappoints. An film adaptation of a King novel needs more minutes to cover the story’s girth and “Cell” lacked pages of warranted minutes to be a full tell all for Clay, Tom, and the Raggedy Man. Portions of the novel were translated to the screen, but for the majority of the film, a rushed version of the story debuts to silver screen audiences that loses the book’s essence and dilutes character development, such as with Raggedy Man who has a sizable role in the book, but the character in Williams’ movie barely scratches the surface with being just a figurehead for the Phoners and not the collective’s soap box looming leader. The film started out great with intense chaos at Boston airport, pictorializing to life the Phoners from the King’s book with pinpoint precision, but from there on, the story’s time span goes vague whereas the book stretches out the length of time. Only a matter of two or three days does it seem the survivors jump from Boston, to the school, to the bar, to the story’s final location of Kashwak, but in reality terms and in the amount of devastation and character portrayal, weeks have passed.
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-03-17-pm
The ending has been rewritten from a surprisingly mixed reaction to the book’s and yet, the unravelling of the finale does more than convolute matters when Clay finds his son. There lies almost a dual ending where one’s interpretation can be the film’s own storybook ending. Stephen King’s “The Mist” had an ending that, when compared to Frank Darabont’s totally new ending for the film, was totally inferior to Darabont’s and I feel like that’s the stage that was trying to bet revisited here with “Cell” and it just missed the mark completely. Not all changes are for the worst. Character Tom McCourt, whose white in book, went to Samuel L. Jackson who absolutely fits the role without question, nailing PTSD stricken McCourt with little emotion but with untapped hurt. If I ever had to choose an middle aged white actor for the role of Clay, John Cusack would be my first and only choice even before casting began for the film. I do feel like having a white Raggedy Man was purposefully steered away from social sensitivities with an antagonistic young black male in a hoodie. The cast rounds out with Isabelle Fuhrman, Owen Teague, and Stacy Keach (“Slave of the Cannibal God”).
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-01-43-pm
The digital visual effects were so poorly constructed and composited that I’m not surprised “Cell” didn’t have a longer theatrical run. The book had a number of jaw-dropping visuals the imagination could run with and now with seeing the depictions of those visuals on screen, they seemed seriously slapped together in such haste to where the devastating sensationalism turns inane and bland. King’s apocalyptic story warrants Hollywood scale effects, but received a few levels below that bar, failing to deliver major catastrophe on a world ending scale to the likes of “War World Z” or to cleverly style the film through a smaller medium such as George Romero accomplished with this first three “Living Dead” films.
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-20-59-pm
Lionsgate’s Blu-ray release is presented in widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio and the 1080p Hi-Def resolution becomes a disadvantage that clearly outlines the quality of the effects. The English 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is par for the course, but slightly in-and-out with dialogue that’s difficult to balance. The 98 minute feature’s bonus features includes an director’s commentary and “To Cell and Back: The Making of the Film” which is redundant if you’ve read the novel. Bottom line is if you’re fan of Stephen King’s novel, you’ll be sorely disappointed with Tod Williams’ “Cell” that’s nothing more than a long awaited entertaining rated-R apocalyptic horror with obsolete effects and with star-studded names attached to this Stephen King story adaptation.

Buy “Cell” on Amazon! Cusack and Jackson reunite!

The Evil Doctor is in! “Doctor Butcher M.D. (Medical Deviant)” review!

Screen shot 2016-08-06 at 8.24.03 PM
New York City hospitals are being terrorized by a crazed maniac or maniacs stealing the body parts of the deceased and local authorities are discovering the half eaten remains of torn apart bodies in the streets. When a medical orderly is caught in the act of cannibalism by nearly devouring a corpse’s heart and then commits suicide by diving out high rise window, the Doctor’s assistant and leading anthropologist Lori Ridgeway recognizes the tattooed symbol of Kito on the orderly chest, a symbol from a long forgotten tribe in the Moluccas Islands. Worshipping a cannibal God, the primitive tribe still practices the form of anthropophagy. Lori’s colleague, Dr. Peter Chandler, has been placed on a research team to root out New York City’s recent cannibal problem and when the Kito symbol clues him and his team of a possible lead, an expedition team forms to travel to the Moluccas Islands in search of the existence of inhabitants. Dr. Chandler rendezvous with a long time acquaintance, Dr. Obrero, whom has lived on the islands for years. When Dr. Obrero arranges a boat and his right hand man to accompany the expedition, Dr. Peter Chandler and team step foot into a hellish nightmare, bloodied with unspeakable and aggressive cannibal acts. Just when nothing could be worse than flesh hungry cannibals, hideously disfigured zombies frighten even the primitive locals. The island holds a dark secret and Dr. Chandler aims to unveil it no matter the cost!
Screen shot 2016-08-06 at 8.27.21 PM
Finally! The definitive 2-disc edition of Aquarius Releasing’s “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” aka the Italian cut “Zombie Holocaust,” from the Flora and Fulva Film production companies, has been released and, oh, how glorious the Severin Films release is with a super sleek Blu-ray reversible cover art – “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” title as the main cover and “Zombie Holocaust” title on the reverse side – and the high definition gore that hasn’t been gooier and oozier than ever and all in thanks to the upscaled 1080p full HD resolution transfer. Uncut with eye-gouging effects, eviscerated and mangled bodies, and packed with a slew of medical terrors and oddities, the Marino Girolami’s directed video nasty from 1980 just might get itself banned once again by the international censorship boards.
Screen shot 2016-08-06 at 8.26.32 PM
The schlock runs thick through a plot that’s eerie similar to Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (aka Zombie 2) with many of the locations and sets repurposed for the Girolami picture involving exotic land cannibalism, a mad scientist, and, you guessed it, zombies. Yet, “Doctor Butcher M.D.” rightfully receives being a detached entity, an “Annabelle” to “The Conjuring” of sorts, even when both films star Scotland-born leading man Ian McCulloch. With uncanny and grisly disemboweling special effects that turn a stomach inside out and give you a reason to make use of that barf bag provided by Severin Films as a bonus insert, some death effects didn’t go quite as planned such as, in example, when the cannibal orderly dives out a multistory window and the stunt-dummy loses an arm when crashing onto the floor. The next scene has the actor, with arm intact, lying in a pool of blood. Another scene involving Doctor Butcher and his cranium saw nearly doesn’t sell the effect when the saw itself isn’t spinning at all during close ups of a cranium cap removal. However, none of these miscues matter as the rest of the special effects trumps any other gore film of this decade.
Screen shot 2016-08-06 at 8.25.29 PM
The American bought rights to “Zombie Holocaust” were destined to be re-edited as the film had to bulk up on Americanized tastes, slightly targeting specific, well versatile audiences of New York City’s infamously sleazy and exploitive 42nd Street, which is now defunct. The additional and pointless scenes that were intercut from a scrapped Roy Frumkes’ horror anthology, “Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out, at the beginning of the film didn’t transition seamlessly enough to cause an unfavorable reaction, but only added on to the powerful zombie train that spawned from George A. Romero and the Living Dead films. The antics of Terry Levene, an American producer and 42nd Street icon, led to guerilla marketing, an overlapping score from the late “Blood Sisters'” composer Walter Sear, and the superbly cut trailers had guaranteed butts in the seats at Levene’s, amongst others’, circuit theaters. Plus, the T&A from cult Italian actress Alexandra Delli Colli might have had something to do with putting butts in seats as well.
Screen shot 2016-08-06 at 8.28.49 PM
The story hadn’t changed much between the alternate film versions of the Romano Scandariato screenplay and the story itself is wound looser than a turn of a century Gary Busey. Thin motivations drive characters to do the stupidest things possible such as go on an expedition to a cannibal island, go to a cannibal island without state of the art weaponry and more bodies than a modern day NFL football roster, or go straying away from the safety of your group to stroll through the island’s bush alone. The obviousness is aggravating to say at the least, but omit the blatant stupidity of the characters and no one would die a horrible and gruesome death that fastens our morbid tastes to the screen. The story’s spontaneous and adventurous nature appeases thrills of a long-lost culture on an island of hell that’s ready to be explored and re-discovered and ready to taste fresh blood and organs once again.
Screen shot 2016-08-06 at 8.31.56 PM
Severin Films have outdone any previous release of the reconfigured “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” and the original “Zombie Holocaust” when discussing the video presentation. The 1080p performs at a high bitrate with a vibrant display of natural colors that diminish much of the natural grain and negative damage and exhibits finely tuned and leveled darker tones from the original 35 mm negative; a HD presentation that, and this goes without saying, naturally outperforms the the transfer from Shriek Show’s “Zombie Holocaust” DVD release in the early 2000s. The English DTS-HD Master 2.0 audio mix on “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” performs greatly without many given distortions or loss of audio while the “Zombie Holocaust” on disc two has the same DTS-HD Master option, but also gives an alternative with a linear PCM Italian only audio mix without subtitles. Walter Sear’s Stateside score and Nico Fidenco Italiano score tribute their respective nations clearly through the mastered audio mixes with Fidenco’s score surfacing here and there on the Aquarius Releasing edit. Severin Films provides an impressive list of new bonus material on each disc, with the first disc having insightful interviews with Aquarius Releasing’s Terry Levene, editor Jim Markovic, filmmaker and documentarian Roy Frumkes, “Temple of Schlok’s” Chris Poggiali, Gore Gazette editor and Butcher Mobile rider Rick Sullivan, and Gary Hertz all discussing their involvement “Doctor Butcher M.D.” and their ties to 42nd Street. The second disc focuses more on “Zombie Holocaust,” interviewing male lead Ian McCulloch and McCulloch sings “Down by the River” in another segment, FX masters Rosario Prestopino and Maurizio Trani, actress Susan Buchanan, and a look at New York City then and now piece where “Zombie Holocaust” shot certain scenes.

Buy the 2-disc Definitive edition of “Doctor Butcher M.D.” from Severin Films today!