Caribbean EVIL is No Vacation. “Zombie Island Massacre” reviewed! (Troma Films / Blu-ray)

“Zombie Island Massacre” on Blu-ray here at Amazon.com

American vacationers in Jamaica book tickets to tour guide Chumlee Jones’s Sunshine Tours. Their destination is Santa Maria Island for a rarely seen religious voodoo ritual. After the unsettling experience involving live goat sacrifices and the necromancing of the dead, the tourists become stranded when the bus driver has vanished from his post. With no transportation to the seaport, a menace lurks amongst the darkness and is picking them off by-one-by. With no other options, the afeared excursionists trek through island thicket in search for a passed remote house but will they survive the perilous journey with an unseen murderous predator or predators camouflaged in the dense foliage?

Jamaica isn’t all about rum punch and ganja, mon. Voodoo is a big part of Jamaican culture. It’s so much a part of the Caribbean Island culture, the practice is a certified religion complete with voodoo priests and public ceremonies to exact a range of obeah spells – most for good, few for spiritual bedlam. For “Zombie Island Massacre,” a theme of mystic voodoo pitches the tale of two sides of every coin as the unknown and the usual differ from one’s own customs begins to swirl unnatural thoughts of fear, trepidation, and censure while other malevolent forces behind the veil may be at work. Also known under the working title of “The Last Picnic,” “Zombie Island Massacre,” a rather arbitrary and common structured title of choice, is the released Jamaican-shot inchmeal killer thriller from director John N. Carter, an industry editor with his one and only directorial credit to his name. The script is penned by Logan O’Neill and William Stoddard based off the O’Neill and David Broadnax concept story. Broadnax serves as producer alongside executive producers Abraham Dabdoub and Dennis Stephenson on a feature that undoubtedly was inspired by the 1982, George Romero influenced, Marion Girolami directed “Zombi Holocaust” in what is arguably influenced by title only as a marketing cash-in of the early 80’s Zombie success.

Stories that progress with a group of unfortunate souls trapped in a dire straits situation and there’s no way out but unwisely toward the path of danger in hope of salvation are some of my favorite types of threatening circumstances.  Think “Poseidon Adventure.”  Think “Predator.”  Think “Deep Rising.”  Any movie where a desperate group of diversified dog chow characters have to move from point A to point B without being swallowed by the darkness around them is great fun in its pick off pattern.  Archetypes of this linear lap through hell can be fairly conventional with its persona of characters where you have the strong hero type, the gorgeous level-headed love interest, the angry shmuck, the slower-downer, and there might even be a cultural token character to round the group out plus a red-shirted body or two for good carnage measure.  By design, there’s a need for these stereotypes and “Zombie Island Massacre” has a hit-and-miss, middle-of-the-road batting average with its cast of characters, beginning with a shared lead man role for Tom Cantrell and David Broadnax.  With his idea for the story and serving as producer, it makes a lot of sense why Broadnax co-ops the lead as a lone wolf, tough as nails photojournalist.  Cantrell, on the other hand, is just another pretty tall boy who becomes more-or-less a babysitter of the group while Broadnax stays behind to leave directional notes for lag behinds and to keep the retirees company when their tickers go South in the heat of turmoil and walking uphill.  This turns the co-op into more of a dog and pony show where the pony just stands there and dog runs around doing most of the entertaining.   Diane Clayre Holub is Cantrell’s love interest as a painter on holiday in Jamaica and the character is more than just reasonable and a pretty face that comes unexpectedly apparent in the third act of attacks.  Broadnax, Cantrell, and Clayre do not bring the star power to “Zombie Island Massacre” and that trend continues with the fourth top billed Rita Jenrette who brings more than just her pretty face to the table too in more of a full-bodied contextualized kind of way who ends up sliding into, if not encroaching into, Clayre’s assigned love interest role without a lick of love.  “Zombie Island Massacre’s” cast fills out with Ian McMillan, Harriet Rawlings, Emmett Murphy, Bruce Sterman, Deborah Jason, Tom Fitzsimmons, Christopher Ferris, Kristina Marie Wetzel, Debbie Ewing, Dennis Stephenson, George Peters, and the “Ghostbusters II” “The Titanic Just Arrived”-guy Ralph Monaco. 

Big kudos to story creators David Broadnax and Logan O’Neill for delivering a narrative with an unpredictable twist that immerses you deep into the voodooist rituals and gets your blood pumped for the monikered title to deliver flesh-eating, blood-thirsty zombies only to be hoodwinked into a genre trap and a good one at that too.  Sneaky and subtle are the hints that not everything is what it seems on the island that hits you like a flashbang grenade when the truth is revealed, shocking the sensory system with a welcome voltage of sleight of hand.  I never saw it coming though I will say that the creature or creatures roaming the woods initially looked shoddy draped in blue trash bags with patchwork foliage sticking out but remaining relatively obscure from view that implored more of a slasher design than one of the undead one. However, “Zombie Island Massacre” is too by far a good film with precarious burlesques that result in a tacky feigning of thrills and chills hubbub. Only a handful of kills rendered a golden touch, such as the slow-motion bashing in of a man’s head with a large stick is effectively gruesome, but yet lots of the kills are done off screen and implied which can be a deficit for a slasher-like story that takes pleasure in and makes whoopee of the big bloody death scene. Some kills are even half-hearted in their execution. For example, one unlucky tourist has his head chopped off with a machete in slow-motion and audience has full view of the entire act; yet the machete snags on the initial slice point into the neck but the head still severs cleanly. The scene, likely needed to be done in one take, makes the cut…pun intended. “Zombie Island Massacre” wiggles peacockishly into the realm of island horror with a mawkish audacity but the wild pragmatic pivot is worth every second of humble hoodooism.

Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz presents a Troma team release with “Zombie Island Massacre” on a new region free, uncut, director’s cut Blu-ray. The HD 1.78:1 aspect presented John N. Carter film has favorable surface arrayal with natural grain off the 35mm film stock that comes with very little, yet still noticeable unobtrusively, vertical scratches and white dust specks. Skin hues appear natural, island bush backgrounds are lush despite some contrast issues deep into the background, and no blatant touchup enhancements awkward stand out, confirming that the transfer was in good shape to begin with and compression upon the BD25, churning out an average of 30Mbps, didn’t cause a technical gaff. The English language mirrors the Vinegar Syndrome release with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 and the audio isn’t as near flawlessly fortunate as the image transfer with voice trailing hissing and lots of noticeable crackling and white noise interference which can eat into the already soft and muted dialogue from time-to-time and downsize the details of audio clarity. Plenty of range of sound effects to go around in the story but the depth just isn’t there to elevate it. Harry Manfredini’s score is essentially a reworked composition of “Friday the 13th” and if you close your eyes and listen, you’ll nearly hear the ch ch ch, ha ha ah and have visions of a headless Mrs. Voorhees and a hockey mask stuck in your head. Special features are mostly Troma-related as expected with any Troma Team release. There’s Toxie and Uncle Lloyd smoking ganja introduction at the beginning of the feature. In sectionalized bonus menu option, the film’s theatrical trailer, a promo reel of all the kills under Harry Manfredini’s original “Friday the 13th” score, a 3-part special effects tutorial plucked from various Troma videos through the years, a super-short film “Blood Stab,” and other Troma feature trailers. “Zombie Island Massacre” is an excursion to remember lined and studded with Caribbean macabre that sink tapered teeth into the skin only to have just barely missed the pulsating vein for the kill.

“Zombie Island Massacre” on Blu-ray here at Amazon.com

Beware! EVIL is Afoot in a Small Town! “I Scream on the Beach” reviewed! (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)

First you Scream, then you DIE!  “I Scream On the Beach” available to buy at Amazon!

Mellow Coast is a small, quiet fishing town typically free from big city violence.  When a dead body shows up on the Mellow Coast’s shoreline, a past of enigmatic and thought solved disappearance cases return to haunt Emily whose father was murdered right in front of her when she was little, yet the local police department ruled her father’s case as simply a father-husband leaving his family when no evidence of blood was recovered, and his car was missing.  The murders and disappearances are connected to a now defunct large corporation working on shady experiments and as Emily digs deeper into her father’s case, a light is shed upon the dastardly transgressions of a shifty, under handing corporation as well as more bodies, including her close friends, turn up dead around town. Pieces all the clues together with the help of a keen detective desperate to solve a case no other officer wants to touch, Emily comes face-to-face with an unsuspecting, tightly knitted killer.

As if slasher films are already tough enough in trying to unlock and solve who the mysterious homicidal wolf in sheep’s clothing is before the big, blood reveal, the 2020 horror-comedy “I Scream on the Beach!” surely takes the cake as the impossible and no-win kobayashi maru test of the slasher genre. Hailing from United Kingdom with a retro 80’s VHS veneer, the Alexander Churchyard and Michael Holiday written-and-directed parodying red herring seeks to be deceptive and as cryptic as logically possible with a masked serial killer storyline stretching over a span of 10 years that culminates to an illogical and shockingly socking finale. “I Scream on the Beach!” is the first feature from the filmmakers working as a pair and as individuals, but Churchyard and Holiday have been skimming together that micro thin layer of the horror stratosphere with college short film works, such as “Fragments” and “The Ratman of Southend,” the latter referencing Churchyard and Holiday hometown of Southend-on-Sea in Southern Essex. The duo cofounded TIS Films Limited during their production of “I Scream on the Beach!” with Churchyard and Holiday as producers alongwith Claire Bowman and executive producer Hill Burton (“RoboWoman, “Slasher House 2”).

The story follows Mellow Coast local Emily, her friends, including a bashful big city transplant with a crush on her, and Detective Kincaid embroiled in a 10-year mystery beginning with the murder of Emily’s father (Rob Shaw) or maybe even beginning with the murder of Dr. Lloyd (Lloyd Kaufman, “The Toxic Avenger”). Hard to tell as Dr. Lloyd expositional death is brought up as background plot painting an unscrupulous picture against a devious, experiment-conduction corporation. In her first feature film and first of many productions with the Churchyard and Holiday team, Hannah Paterson is placed in the final girl role of a VHS decorated slasher that has her twisting and turning from the pub to every which way to find corpses stabbed, gutted, and decapitated in the search for the truth about her father. Her friends, played by Jamie Evans, Rosie Kingston, Ross Howard, and Reis Daniel, are the trope typical asshole, hot girl, filmic nerd, and good guy love interest, in that respective order, are definitely defined to bring out the shine around this specimen of the slasher genre. Lurking in the shadows, as a contemporary scream queen of such films like Debbie Rochen’s “Model Hunger” and “Cute Little Buggers” starring alongside the iconic Caroline Munro, is the Australian born, English raised actress Dani Thompson as a snarky bar keep and aspiring actress who pokes her into the picture as the sort of easy girl and easy target for other characters to love-and-hate, especially amongst Emily and her friends in a mixed bag of feelings toward her role of bitchy Paula. Martin W. Payne (“Toxic Schlock”) as the staunch, Mellow Coast chief inspector, Tess Gustard as Emily’s combative mother, Will Jones (“Terror at the Black Tree Forest”) as the dispassionate inspector, Andrea Sandell (“Patient Zero”) as a fake nun, Chris Linnat-Scott as the creepy Dr. A, and Mark Keegan in a surprising reprising role fill out the cast.

Churchyard and Holiday embark on a VHS faceplate journey with their inaugural film complete with faux tracking lines, low-quality picture, lo-fi audio, and rounding out the semblance with schlocky f/x composition and content.  “I Scream on the Beach!” is a non sequitur, yet perfectly fitting, title for a seemingly beach-themed slasher that evolves erratically and radically as the story progresses into an eyebrow raising “…what?”  I would also dare to say that the acting isn’t the best but rather reflects the modeled era of straight-to-video indie low-budget horror with mild ostentation exaggeration with a character or two grounding the film with relative gravity from floating toward a too far-gone outcome. “I Scream on the Beach” is a kind of film that sits in the nosebleed section of the video rental and physical media aisle (if there are such things as video rental or physical stores anymore) but, sometimes, the cheap seats can be the section where anything goes, and no one will ever know about what happens near the roof. I’m not saying the Churchyard-Holiday production is a raunchy, nudity-laden, immodest, grindhouse peepshow worthy of the now ousted 42nd Street; in fact, “I Scream on the Beach!” mounts a tame and respectable horror-comedy that, like the cheap seats, is nothing to be ashamed of because in the end, they both provide entertainment on a budget.

Continuing to pluck out atypical wild horror genre films, Darkside Releasing distributes “I Scream on the Beach!” onto Blu-ray home video as part of the UK release collection. Keeping with the VHS effect, the stretched 1:78:1 aspect ratio feels to mimic only the very summary of details that continue into employing other SOV gags such as tracking lines, as I mentioned above, as well as a flat coloring palette. The English language PCM 2.0 continues to stay the antiquated technical course, taking the joke all the way, with a badly dubbed and ambient filled lossy audio tracks that keep with the kitschy package. The unrated, 87-minute, full director’s cut release comes with retrograded previews, such as “Mask of Thorn,” optional cast and crew introductions to the film, an audio commentary, complete short films “The Decorator” and “The Hiker” that were briefly spotlighted in the story, and promo spots from the Music and Film Festival. “I Scream on the Beach!” falls above being better than low-rung horror that’ll still knock your socks off, literally, with surreptitious corporation experiments insidiously embedding its clandestine claws into small town denizens in the dark and being stalked.

First you Scream, then you DIE!  “I Scream On the Beach” available to buy at Amazon!

EVIL Masked as a Religion. “Bryan Loves You” reviewed! (MVD / Blu-ray)

All New Blu-ray release of “Bryan Loves You” on Amazon.com

Something weird is spreading across a small Arizona town.  A chapter of a new religion has influenced most of the community into believing in Bryan, a pure and pious young boy from long ago who was brutally slain by the devil.  Jonathan, a local psychotherapist receives a camera from his uncle, also a health professional, with a self-recording that warns Jonathan that Bryan zealots are a dangerous, violent cult.  Deciding to document the situation himself, Jonathan repurposes the camera to clandestinely record the widespread Bryan gatherings and even infiltrate their church where they speak in tongues and wear the scarred mask of Bryan.  As Jonathan goes deeper into the uncomfortable insanities of Bryan’s world, the more Bryan followers takes an interest in reconditioning Jonathan. 

“Bryan Loves You’s” grainy SOV pseudo-documentary lacquer not only captures the icy blank stares, the unabating drone chanting, and the brainwashed coup of an insidious cult assimilating small town America, but the Seth Landau written and directed film also homogenously captures, all too presently well, that sense of ambivalent and conspiracy dread that knots apprehension uncomfortably in the pit of the stomach.  The 2008 released “Bryan Loves You” has the story set in 1993 Arizona made out to be a historical home video and CCTV recorded account of the analyzed and dissected suppressed footage coming to light for the first time incomplete with censored last nights and specific addresses to make the pseudo-doc appear more genuine and shocking.  Filmed in and around the suburbs of Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona, “Bryan Loves You” is a found footage subgenre production self-produced by Mike Mahoney and Seth Landau, under the filmmaker’s Landau Motion Pictures, and marks the debut feature film of Landau’s humble career that started roughly around 2003 as a production assistant on “Arrested Development.”

For the average popcorn movie goer, “Bryan Loves You” is about obscure as they come with a no-name director and a cast with relatively no-name actors with the exception of one that might have a chance of recognition by the common Joe Schmo.  Old heads may recognize George Wendt, one of the barflies from the sitcom “Cheers” and the Saturday Night Live sketch of Super Fans, in his brief and strange scene as a patient holding a doll that speaks to him about people who talk about him.  For chin-deep genre fans, Wendt is about the biggest A-lister you can have in an indie film and what’s unusual about “Bryan Loves You” is the stacked list of iconic made-by-horror names that make up the cast list.  It’s impressive.  Landau’s connection to the late great master of horror Stuart Gordon (“Re-Animator”) opened the door to George Wendt, who starred in Gordon’s “King of the Ants,” and, likely, led to the onboarding fan favorites such as Brinke Stevens (“The Slumber Party Massacre”), Tiffany Shepis (“Tromeo and Juliet”), Lloyd Kaufmann (“The Toxic Avenger”), Daniel Roebuck (“The Devil’s Rejects”), Chuck Williams (“Demon Wind”), and Tony Todd (“Candyman”).  Now, with these many names, none of them have starring roles and few have reoccurring scenes, but they are headlined to draw attraction for “Bryan Loves You.”  Honestly, the performances are hardly worth nothing.  Steves and Kaufmann have little dialogue and are shot at weird angles that makes them hardly recognizable.  Best scenes go to Tony Todd as a hesitantly disturbed and full of fear narrator standing in an empty board room and talking directly into the camera about what we, the audience, are about to witness, even directing viewers to turn away or to be ushered out of the theater (did this get a theatrical release?) if the content becomes too shocking to behold.  Seth Landau stars as the principal lead Jonathan who can’t be taken seriously as a psychoanalyst as there is no depth to the character in those regards.  Plus, as someone who’s supposed to uphold ethical standards, Jonathan breaks quite a few HIPPA regulations and breaks into houses with a camera, filming Bryan acolytes without their consent.  “Bryan Loves You” rounds out the cast with Tori King, Candy Stanton (“Exit to Hell”), Shane Stevens (“The Graves”), Jilon VanOver (“Bad Blood”), Tom Noga (“Anonymous Killers”), Jesse Ramiawi, Jacqui Allen (“Blue Lake Butcher”) and Daniel Schweiger (“Die-ner”)

Seth Landau’s found footage cult film is a rough cut of rudimentary psychological suspense restrained by its limiting low-ceiling budget.  The acutely hard cut editing and wonky framing is enormously puzzling within the narrative’s supposed single camera source documentary structure that suddenly diffuses into being a splice between Jonathan’s camera, which he loses halfway through the story, and a bunch of randomly placed CCTV footage across all of Arizona, in which some scenes are randomly placed in the desert where no structures are seemingly present to house a camera.  Who gathered and edited all this multi-video footage together?  Or does that play into the mystery, no matter how illogical, of adding to “Bryan Loves You’” unsettling allure?  What Landau does accomplish compares closely to what directors Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick were able to profoundly achieve with their unexpected breakout found footage blockbuster, “The Blair Witch Project.”  Now, I’m not saying “Bryan Loves You” had the audience gasping power as the “The Blair Witch Project” but the air in the story still feels very uncomfortably still, like in holding your breath, because something sinister is closing in and that type of disturbing presence, coupled with the erratic demonic behavior boiled to the surface if love for the almighty Bryan is absent, is all too relatable in today’s political climate.

Though “Bryan Loves You,” MVD Visual really loves Bryan right back with a high-definition Blu-ray release, remastered and upscaled from the original master source, a digital recorded standard definition, with an approved up-conversion of 172,800 pixels to over 2 million pixels per frame to achieve full HD.  For SOV, the handheld cam footage turns out more detailed than expected with suitable tinctures that are often less vivid in the found footage genre; however, there are still varying levels of quality from lower quality posterization to better than mid-grade delineation.  Though stated as presented in a widescreen 1:78:1 aspect ratio on the MVD Marquee Collection back cover, the actual ratio is a pillarbox 1:33:1 without straying from that display. The English language dual channel stereo track also has varying fidelity levels using the inconsistency of a built-in handheld mic but the good bones behind the range and depth retain the natural auditory proportionate. A few augmented audio tracks are snuck in for effect, such as the preacher’s demon-speak and the school PA system. English subtitles are optional. With a new Blu-ray release comes all new special features with a few short film-length interviews between filmmaker Seth Landau and George Wendt (44:50 minutes), Tiffany Shepis (50:49 minutes), Daniel Roebuck (59:35 minutes), and Brinke Stevens (31:46 minutes) touching upon more than just “Bryan Loves You” but also various career moments and other media cultural topics. Also featured are two commentaries: a 2008 commentary with Landau, select cast and crew, and JoBlo critic James Oster and a new 2022 commentary with only Landau. Plus, a brand new 2022 theatrical trailer. “Bryan Loves You” draws parallels to the 1993 Waco, Texas cult led by David Koresh of the Davidian sect preaching fire and brimstone, but writer-director-product Seth Landau adds his own supernatural concoction in a trade-in of doom and gloom for mindless devotion and diabolism that turns folks into followers and flesh-hungry fiends at times. Maybe not the prime cut of the cult genre but does stand out even if you don’t really love “Bryan.”

All New Blu-ray release of “Bryan Loves You” on Amazon.com

EVIL Trolls the Waters, Angling for a Kill. “Bood Hook” reviewed! (Troma Films / Blu-ray)

Troma’s 2-disc “Blood Hook” Available on Amazon!

Muskie Madness.  That’s the moniker for the locals’ fishing contest set as the background for a group of city slicker friends looking to unwind and do a little fishing themselves.  17 years earlier, Peter van Clease witnesses his grandfather suddenly fall into the lake and disappears without a trace.  Present day, Peter returns to his grandfather’s cabin with his friends but is still haunted by the memory from his childhood.  When locals and tourists engage in the contest for who can catch the biggest Muskie, a maniacal fisher casts his giant fishhook lure into the flesh of unexpected contestants on the lake and on the shore, dragging them violently into water and never to be heard from again.  The disappearances send Peter into not only an investigation of those currently missing but also into the cold case of grandfather’s demise whose fate was eerily similar. 

On the calm, glossy surface, “Blood Hook” resembles the quintessential severed tongue-and-cheek comedy and horror of Troma’s outrageously independent repertoire.  Tossed around as a crude idea about opulent society diluting the quality and the quietness of quaint lake resorts during their extravagant vacations outside city life, “Blood Hook,” once under the working title of “Muskie Madness,” is the first, if not the only that I can recall, American fisher-slasher from the unique imagination and vision stemmed from director Jim Mallon (producer, writer, and director of the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” series and movie) and producer David Herbert’s childhoods growing up in the summers of small town Wayward, Wisconsin.  Larry Edgerton and John Galligan were brought in to spruce up the script as the official screenwriters, adding bits of dry humor to an already unorthodox slasher in this catch-and-released in 1986 B-movie produced by Golden Charges and Spider Lake Films Ltd.

Like a Kleenex, the young cast falls into the fresh for one-use category of being mainly known for their role in “Blood Hook” and I hate to use that analogy because there are some really campy, genre-perfection talented acts here for a relatively large cast of a small, independent production about a killer fisherman.    Granted, a handful of the talent were able to snag up minor roles in bigger films, such as with Mark Jacobs (“Goodfellas) in the principal lead of Peter van Clease.  Jacobs, who is a dead ringer for David Schwimmer appearances and mannerisms, castrates van Clease’s manhood with extreme meekness more so than the character’s wishy-washy stance on his university music studies, romantic connections, and confronting homicidal maniacs when his abducted woman is in danger of becoming grinded up minnow chow.  What is more vexing about van Clease is the fact he essentially woes 2/3 of the principal ladies without even casting a line.  Beyond the frustrating namby-pamby, all other characters are depicted, in every sense of the term, more in accordance with those who portray them.    There is a side relationship building between van Clease’s friend Finner (Christopher Whiting), an enthusiastic fisherman who is new to the group of city friends, and Bev D. (Sandy Meuwissen), a single local with a toddler, that the audience can get invested in and takes an interesting turn when Bev D. plays the fishing rod at both ends, dipping her toes in another man’s lake with fellow local, and crazed military nut, Evelyn Duerst (Bill Lowrie).  Evelyn’s father, and yes Evelyn is a grown man with a beard, is played by Paul as the van Clease estate caretaker and a real stern pit for local purity.  A fan favorite will be the salty-looking bait shack owner Leroy Leudke complimenting his lovable persona, thick Minnesotan accent, and overall mysterious allure (with a lure) from Don Winters.  The cast rounds out with Lisa Jane Todd (“Playback”), Sara Hauser, Patrick Danz, Dale Dunham, Paul Heckman, Bonnie Lee, Don Cosgrove, Dana Remker, and Donald Franke.

Blood Hook” trawls through the familiarity of the 80’s slasher genre with an obscured hunter, a high body count, and a copiously campy campsite of carnage, but this peculiar fillet is sliced from a different kind of fish. While casted under darkness, the killer flings a cast of nylon fishing line with a large, sharp-hooked Suick lure distinguish itself as a unique weapon of choice that fills the icy blood cooler. There’s comedy in that diabolical device, largely so when making too much noise on the water that can scare fish away from patient fishers as Mallon hyperbolizes the idea of outsiders raising a ruckus amongst the sanctity of the local waters while paralleling a message about the aftereffect horrors of war; however, where we should be laughing at the idea of a fisher hooking a 150lb prize human, we’re only barely smirking at the irony as much of the dark comedy doesn’t precisely translate well from paper to screen. “Blood Hook” is about as big as the hook going into the gut as it’s no ordinary jonboat film as Mallon’s film looks serious, feels serious, and acts like a contender up against the iconic slasher-mega yachts of the time with a disconcerting sound design by Thomas Naunas of deafening cicada tymbal clicks all too familiar during summer days coupled with an eerie gelled and moody cinematography from Marsha Kahn that sets the slasher narrative as such. Both Naunas and Kahn exhibit perfect harmony in a disharmonious narrative context as a pair of feature film greenhorns looking for a launching point in their careers.

Muskie Madness turns into a Muskie Massacre. “Blood Hook” is the cinematic catch that almost got away, but Troma reels this trophy cult film back aboard onto a new 2-disc Blu-ray release distributed by MVD Visual. Presented in 16:9, “Blood Hook” holds up even to today’s standards against scrappy independent productions with a slight soft, yet noticeably clean presentation from the Super 16mm stock blown up to 35mm.  Some frames appear cropped and stretched on faces in extreme closeups, losing a bit of textural definition that leans more into a softer picture, but the contrasting is balanced which is unusual for a Troma film, the coloring is richer around the lush outdoor vistas without breaking stride of other color appropriate opportunities, like the vibrant red blood, and no evidence of any damage transferred over from the negative.  No formal mention of audio specifics on the back cover, but I suspect the track to be DTS-HD Master Audio Mono that’s clear but has issues with projecting low-talk dialogue.  Thomas Naunas’s soundtrack introduces a repetitive looming synth score kept well in check around more less-than-major problematic dialogue scenes.  Naunas’s sound design as a whole is paramount to “Blook Hook’s” envisioned success with an incessant cicada clicking combined, on the regular, with discord tones to jar the audio senses in relationship to an imminent threat.  First disc contains the feature plus scene selection menu.  The second disc is all special features clunkily arranged around the rehashing of Vinegar Syndrome produced interviews from their 2018 Blu-ray release with director Jim Mallon, actress Lisa Jane Todd, special effect artist Jim Suthers, and an audio interview with cinematographer/editor Marsha Kahm.  Along with the theatrical trailer, there’s also the usual Troma promos that accompany their re-release such as for Troma Now, Radiation March against pollution, and the Return of Gizzard Face 2 to promote Troma NOW’s streaming service.  The 2020 Metal + Hitchcock “Blood Stab” short, starring Lloyd Kaufman, finds its way onto the release too. “Blood Hook” is a tackle box of slasher tropes and anti-war and PTSD undertones though slightly dragged down by its weighted comedy; however, a killer sound design and a topnotch killer makes “Blood Hook” a perfect poster film for Troma heads.

Troma’s 2-disc “Blood Hook” Available on Amazon!

EVIL Hangs Ten! “Surf Nazis Must Die” reviewed! (Troma Films / Blu-ray)



Check Out the New Price Drop for the New “Surf Nazis Must Die” on Blu-ray!

The waves of Power Beach wash ashore red with the blood of territorial gang war.  Wiping out is not an option for the Nazis, the largest and strongest wave riders consisting of new age Neo-Nazis led by Adolf, his lady Eva, and ingenious welding right hand Mengele.  As they surf for turf, the Nazis strong arm the rival gangs into a no choice option of calling a truce amongst themselves to attack and take down the Krauts and regain control over the towering waves and lucrative scores of Power Beach.  Caught in the middle is Leroy, a young black man who becomes gang war collateral damage on the unsafe beaches.  When Eleanor “Mama” Washington gets wind of those responsible for her son’s death, she’s blitzkriegs the surf Nazi’s of Power Beach with her own brand of grenade throwing justice.

Ever since being highly promoted at random on Alex Powers’ wannabe Troma film “Sadistic Eroticism” starring adult film actress Sophie Dee, perhaps as Powers’ favorite Troma release, seeing “Surf Nazis Must Die” tickled the curiosity of the olfactory snout and became one of those must watch titles canonized with outrageous, off-color content that’s routine for the Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz independent shock-and-comedy distributor, Troma Films.  Peter George directed his semi-serious, mostly satirical-toned debut film from a Jon Ayre script based off George’s original story idea of incorporating the territorial surfer scene of California with a laying siege, post-apocalyptic, gang and revenge narrative that’s a delectable smorgasbord buffet of low-budget subgenres.  Perfectly situated in front of deep-water oil rigs and the towering smokestacks of power plants and other various manufactories along California’s graffiti-cladded Huntington Beach, “Surf Nazis Must Die” is a production of Peter George’s The Institute alongside company co-owners in editor Craig A. Colton and producer Robert Tinnell (“Frankenstein and Me”).

Tennessee born actress Gail Neely receives her big break in a lead role of a feature film.  Lamentably, that film was full of bad taste and full of punk surfers with red painted swastikas on their black wetsuits who also paralleled nefariously notorious figures of bigotry and war crimes against anyone not white Anglo-Saxon.  Yes, Neely is a black actress pitted against and taking revenge on a group of racist thugs, a narrative we’ve seen before, but the “Naked Gun 2 ½:  The Smell of Fear” actress took an unjust backseat (an unfortunate and unintended Rosa Parks pun) in sharing the lead with the very Nazis she ruthless takes head on.  Trying to understand why Peter George and Jon Ayre decided to focus more on the strategic overthrows of gangland rather than to journey Mama Washington’s revenge in her death wish arch is beyond comprehension in a lopsided narrative that gives more screen time to Nazis and gangs than it does a grieving, nursing home-residing, mother hellbent on avenging her slain son with vigilantism.  The latter is a much better story that breaks up the stagnant gang mentality unwavering throughout.  Neely does her best to pull audiences back into the revenge fold with a grit and attitude that takes us back to 1970’s blaxploitation films of yore, but ultimately, “Maniac Cop’s” Barry Brenner and “Star Slammers’” Dawn Wildsmith and Michael Sonye inadvertently bleed out Neely’s full potential with their respective Nazi counterparts – Adolf, Eva, and Mengele – and their intercompany squabbles and beach brawls against rival gangs.  “Surf Nazis Must Die’s” cast rounds out with Robert Harden (“Dead Girls”) as Leroy, Joel Hile (“Deadly Friend”) as Hook, Gene Mitchell as Brutus, and Tom Shell (“Hard Rock Nightmare”) as Smeg.

With a title like “Surf Nazis Must Die,” the expectation bar was high to bequeath audiences guaranteed politically incorrect exploitation and sizable good versus bad mayhem crashing like a cacophonic wave on the surf.  “Surf Nazis Must Die” does meet that brazen bar that associates surf territorialism to the likes of Nazism by way of excluding outsiders from their surf turf and be nasty about it as well.  Would I compare it to Nazism?  Probably not, but in the heat of control and power over others less fortunate in riding waves might draw a vague resemblance.  In a bit of satire and irony, 1940s Nazi Germany was ruled by an extremely authoritarian people running a tight ship in every facet from the meticulous armed ranks to innovative engineering to the ostentatious decorated halls and buildings of propaganda and flag hoisting pageantry, but Peter George’s Nazis, granted the new age variety, plague themselves about the beach, living off stolen goods while driving around in a makeshift shark modified van, tanning their mostly exposed bodies, or dressed in graffiti stylized wetsuits and trench coats with glitter-face painted swastikas.  The characters are cuter in caricatures than they are in terrorizing tyrants of the beach.  What’s even more interesting about “Surf Nazis Must Die” is that none of the gangs carry firearms despite one of the popular Troma cover arts displaying an archetypal lampooned Nazi riding a wave and wielding an Uzi.  The “Clockwork Orange” gangs meandering about with unprovoked violence carry traditional switchblades, nontraditional switchblade surfboards, nunchakus, staffs, a hook for an arm, and there’s even one guy with a speargun.  Only Mama Washington is armed to the teeth with conventional weaponry of grenades and a handgun that makes this film even more unfathomable at times.

Thirty-five years later, “Surf Nazis Must Die” continues to make waves a war zone with a new Blu-ray released from Troma Films and distributed by MVD Visual. The newly restored, newly remastered, high-definition region free Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen 16×9 aspect ratio from the original 35mm negative and is not quite the fully uncut version, running two minutes short at 83 minutes from the director’s cut that circulates overseas. The color matte lacks bounteous vision that fails to give range to the graffiti art amongst other aspects. The transfer has little-to-no blights with some transparent vertical scratches in a single frame but nothing else more to note. George and editor Craig A. Colton work their magic on a remarkable cutting room performance with splicing in Hawaiian surfing footage with the Huntington Beach narrative in a near seamless manner. The English language lossy LPCM 2.0 track doesn’t hook into you with a linear fidelity with no range or depth but does provide fair dialogue clarity and no impeding audible damage. “Terror Eyes” and “Future Shock’s” Jon McCallum has a fantastic synth score that pulsates life into the overabundance of stagnant moments and the film is worth a watch just for McCallum’s soundtrack alone. Gnarly special features include a new introduction by a locked down stricken Lloyd Kaufman diving into his pool to take a bath, a circa late 80s/early 90s interview with Peter Geoge conducted by the enthusiastic Lloyd Kaufman, another circa late 80s/early 90s snippet interview with producer Robin Tinell, a pair of deleted scenes with Peter George commentary, scenes from the Tromaville Cafe, Radiation March Promo against pollution, a pair of archived Troma NOW PSA announcements that are as sexually titillating as they are meaningful in their message, a Soul of Troma promo trailer,” “Latched” short, and various other Troma promos: Indie artists vs cartels, Lloyd Kaufman gets “fucked” by the Hollywood system, and Lloyd Kaufman’s Audiobiography. There’s also mention of a “Gizzard Face” promo, but I did not see it as an option in the bonus content. “Surf Nazis Must Die” inches along and loses a lot of key momentum along the way building around the striking title. Eventually, the undercutting of gang machoism crumbles away to leave an open path for Mama Washington’s full-blown assault as a true cinematic Nazi hunter extraordinaire.

Check Out the New Price Drop for the New “Surf Nazis Must Die” on Blu-ray!