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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s EVIL That Can Truly Bring Love Back Together. “By Day’s End” reviewed! (Breaking Glass Pictures/DVD)


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.

Evil Wants Your Children! “Slender Man” review


A Massachusetts foursome of girls, Wren, Chloe, Hallie, and Katie, invoke the summoning of an internet lore named Slender Man after watching an instructional online video on how to evoke his presence to reality. After the video completes and the girls dismissively chalk this activity up as hoax-filled rubbish, an embattled and disconnected Katie vanishes a few weeks later during a school sanctioned field trip to a historical graveyard, thrusting the remaining three friends into investigating her abrupt disappearance all the while they each experience an ominous figure haunting them in and out of consciousness. As the continue to look for Katie, Slender Man keeps popping up into the findings. Wren’s convinced, after suffering from terrifying visions, that Slender Man wants the four who’ve contacted him and when her friends dismiss Wren’s frantic ravings, she employs Hallie’s sister, Lizzie, to assist in stopping Slender Man. All of reality is being skewed while Slender Man hunts them down one-by-one and if they’re not taken, those left in Slender Man’s wake will forever be deranged with madness.

Straight from it’s internet meme playbook origins comes the constructed next chapter in “Slender Man’s” mythology from the “I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer” director Sylvain White and written by David Birke (“Elle”) that feels very familiar to “The Ring” premise. Based of the mythos created by Victor Surge, aka Eric Knudsen, “Slender Man” fruition onto the Hollywood scene finds a home under Sony’s Screen Gems division, the same division that delivered the Paul W.S. Anderson “Resident Evil” franchise. While not a mega-glossy action horror piece for Sony and Screen Gems, White’s take on one of the internet’s most popular and mysterious spawns revels in it’s own crowd funded supernatural element and White is the grand puppeteer behind the scenes piecing the material together that builds upon, and extends, “Slender Man” canon into film and video visuals. “Slender Man” provides the character flesh, extenuating doubt where special effects can make monolith his presence of inception and flourish from imagination to terrifying reality. If looking outside the box, “Slender Man” could also be translated into symbolism for the online predatory habits men take towards young, sometimes teenage and impressionable girls. There in lies references to this notion with such in Katie, who is a runaway teenage girl with a fixation toward an obscured man from the internet, aka Slender Man, and also Hallie’s vivid nightmares of being pregnant with the very Lovecraftian-esque spawn of Slender Man as tentacles shoot out from her large, protruding stomach. Yes, she’s a high school girl…

“Slender Man” centers around a four female, high school age characters: Chloe, Katie, Wren, and Hallie. The latter being the leader, Hallie, played by Julie Goldani Telles, is an unwavering non-believer of Slender Man, contributing her visions and feelings as some sort of coming of age Freudian bizarro show. The now 23-year old Telles convinces to pull off a well adjusted teenage girl spiraling into Slender Man’s otherworldly oblivion and absolutely turns the corner when younger sister Lizzie, Taylor Richardson, becomes an unwitting participate. Hallie almost comes toe-to-toe with her confident and frantic friend Wren, a character bestowed to Joey King of “Quarantine” and “White House Down.” King’s townboy-ish approach has served well to keep her character apart in order to not clash with other warring personalities. Yet, there’s not a whole lot interesting aspects associated with the other two characters, Chloe and Katie. If audiences were expected to be concerned for Katie, then Annalise Basso needed her character to have more screen time. The “Ouija: Origin of Evil” actress barely had a handful scenes to try to convey a poignant life with an alcoholic father before she’s whisked away to never been seen again. Chloe had a slight more substance as means to exhibit the result of not being taken by Slender Man; “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s” Jaz Sinclair didn’t really add any pizzaz to her poorly written flat character.

Though Slender Man’s origins surpasses being a byproduct of an internet meme and becomes woven into a lore of all it’s own through a global, technological network, the very fabric “Slender Man’s” tech horror theme had laid a negligent foundation. Viewers without a hint of Slender Man knowledge will find the connection between the shadowy figure that stalks and kidnaps children and the domain from which it was born, witnessing the technology used in the film being wielded as a tool of evil rather than a conduit of to connect two worlds. What works for Sylvain White is his knack for shaping Slender Man into physicality in an applauding effort that combines chilling atmospherics, well timed visual and audio cues, above decent special effects, and the crunchy, contorted body of Javier Botet as the Slender Man. We’ve covered Botet before in “Insidious: The Last Key” as the antagonistic KeyFace creature. KeyFace and Slender Man, two similar but still vastly different villains, wouldn’t be as influential or be brought to such a horrifying fruition if Botet was not behind the mask and it’s because of Botet’s blessing, but also a curse, Marfan Syndrome physique that he’s able to accomplish a wide range of distorted and malformed characters.

Sony Pictures presents “Slender Man” onto HD 1080p Blu-ray under the Screen Gems label. The Blu-ray is presented in widescreen of the film’s original aspect ratio, 2.39:1. “Slender Man” doesn’t sell itself as high performance, resulting in more details in the range of textures rather than relying on a clean, finished look. Colors are remain behind a cloak of darker shades to pull of gloomy atmospherics, but do brighten when the scene calls for it. The digital film looks great, if not fairly standard, for movies of today. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is quite high performance, like revving an engine on an imported roadster. Slender Man comes with his own cache of audio tinglers to send chills up your spin and invoke cold sweats. Every branch breaking ambiance and desperate and exasperated breath being took by the teen girls aligns cleanly and nicely with the visual representations. Dialogue is lossless and prevalent as well as being integrated seamlessly during more active sequences in a well balanced fit all with range and depth. Thin extras do put a damper on the release with a bland featurette entitled “Summoning ‘Slender Man:’ Meet the Cast.” The featurette doesn’t do much more than give the actors’ and White’s opinion of their characters and Slender Man. The shame of it is that the internet is a vast place of information and knowledge and, yet, the featurette doesn’t knick the surface of who and what is Slender Man. Plus, if remembering correctly, there are scenes omitted from this release; more intense and bloodshed scenes that would have granted a more adult friendly rating. This release doesn’t offer up two versions of the film. Despite embodying a rehashed, bi-annual story of supernatural and psychological tech horror of the PG-13 variety, “Slender Man” endures through with a sliver of appreciation for the easily missed facets that work as a positive in Sylvain White’s 2018 film, such as bleak atmospheric qualities and Javier Botet’s performance, but the diluted final product, released on Blu-ray, benches what could have an at home video entertainment home run for Sony Pictures.