EVIL Can Never Replace Love in “After Midnight” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / DVD)


Well known country boy Hank has everything he could ever need in the small, rural Florida town: having an establish family lineage, being the owner of a local bar hotspot, and obtaining the love of the beautiful Abby. Their gleaming happiness suddenly goes dim when Abby abruptly takes off, leaving a note with little information of her whereabouts or her plans. Fraught in her absence, Hank drinks himself into a stupor most nights of romantic nostalgia while also fending off his rustic home from a beast out of the surrounding woods that continuously scratches at his front door nightly. Hank’s friends believe he’s suffering a mild mental break as night-after-night, the snarling beast evades Hank every effort to capture and kill it.

“After Midnight” is a sheering melodious and delicately programed romance-horror from “The Battery” writer-director Jeremy Gardner allotting co-directorial duties again with continuous collaboration beside Christian Stella. As Gardner’s third film in the director’s chair, second inside the realm of horror, “After Midnight” brandishes more a sappy love story that sings the tune of a love lost warrior where the relationship woes lie within the deepest, darkest corners of himself rather than being a frontline horror sprinkled lightly with dusted coating of amorous renewal. “After Midnight” is a topsy-turvy monster movie not for an insouciant genre fan who rather skim the surface for blood on the topsoil than dig feverously for the originating root. If you’re also a fan of the mysteriously acclaimed, H.P. Lovecraft-inspired “The Endless,” the filmmakers behind that film – David Lawson, Aaron Moorhead, and Justin Benson – produce “After Midnight” under their Rustic Films label in association with Vested Interest, Cranked Up Films, and Kavya Films, casting that querying memento clinging like a foreboding, nagging scratch needing to be itched.

Not only is Gardner the director, he also stars as Hank, enduring the multi-hat involvement in his films in thematic fashion from his previous films, spearheading the roles in “The Battery” and “Tex Montana Will Survive!,” and Gardner has also branched out beyond his work, having roles in the visceral Joe Begos’ films “Bliss” and “The Mind’s Eye.” Gardner sports his common wear of a U-shaped V-neck t-shirt and bushy beard overtop his large frame and wields a sharp tongue, whiplashing small witticisms as he charms his serenading rustic charisma upon Brea Grant as Abby. The “Dead Night” actress enacts every man’s inherent fear of being lost without their better half when Abby hightails from Hank’s steadfast stance on life. Grant provides a flood of emotional drought through a series of Hanks’ melancholy, good times flashbacks that provide backstory fuel to Hanks’ quickly withering grounded state. Gardner and Grant’s chemistry eerily dons the routine life span of young love and weary complacency without so much showing the beat work argumentative discussions and differences of a diminishing relationship; their natural banter never derails even amongst a bedeviling beast with nightly visitations on a drained Hanks’ doorstep. “After Midnight” fleshes out with a cast of superb supporting roles with nearly Henry Zebrowski (“Cut Shoot Kill”) stealing the show as a half-wit yokel, Justin Benson (“The Endless”), Ashley Song, Nicola Masciotra, Taylor Zaudtke, and creature performer Keith Arbuthnot as the man in the monster suit.

Speaking of the monster suit, the unknown origin creature is very Guillermo del Toro-esque with a quasi-rubbery look, but still renders terribly real with the puppetry facial expressions and Keith Arbuthnot contorting his body to exuberate natural movements. However, don’t look to be thrilled by a ferocious beast as the constant the source of contention. It’s more of an afterthought, a pleasant afterthought, filling Hank’s Abby void or is it? It’s a question you’ll be contemplating when the credits role when a monkey wrench finale disrupts your premediated blue print scheme of a reason for the creature’s existence. Romance and melancholy cross paths in an overwhelming heap of love sickness, guilt, disappointment, and jealousy in a well thought out, smart dialogued version of a self-growth narrative.

There always seems to a malevolent monster behind the scenes, perpetrating the demise of a flourishing relationship exemplified by a beautifully wicked allegory in “After Midnight” distributed onto DVD home video by Umbrella Entertainment. The transfer is presented in the original widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, on a region 4, 83 minute runtime disc. The presentation is virtually flawless with palatable natural coloring, gleaming southern-sweat coated, natural looking skin tones, and overall details with Hank, and Hank’s house, looking specifically grimy and unkempt. Greenery is of a brown lush backdropped inside what could be anywhere small town America. The English language 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound audio renders a nice range and depth with the monster’s muffled scratching and growling outside the door, the shotgun blasts are powerfully exalting, and the dialogue clearly couriers through all relationship qualms and Hanks droll dialogue. As of many Umbrella Entertainment standard feature releases, there are no bonus features nor a static menu. “After Midnight” is a contagious love story for not it’s mushy, heartfelt, weepie doting into the tears of self-pity, but for that lingering presence of sinister cynicism the monster epitomizes, a stark terror scratching every night under the skin until the unbearable hole in our hearts is finally sated by love’s return.

“After Midnight” available on DVD at Amazon

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.

Finding Love in the Most Evilest Ways! “Brutal” review!


One man kidnaps women, gags and bounds them inside his bleak apartment, and unleashes a fury of hate and disgust whilst searching for one woman who will understand him and his relentless, and vehement, scouring. One woman lures highly aroused men back to their apartment for what they believe will be a night of passionate embrace or of simplistic carnalities of inhibition. While the guys are thinking with the wrong head, the woman slices and dices them to a pulverized pulp of death meat and repetitively fillets their manhood postmortem without guilt. She, too, also searches for something, but is more reserved about it as she allows men to verbalize their needs and desires to her. As the two killers go through the melee day-by-day, they eventually find each other, but before realizing their compatibility, the killer inside themselves square off against each other in a one-on-one bout of maniacal mayhem that must unravel in blood before unsheathing true love.

Who knew that love could hurt so badly? Director Takashi Hirose exhibits a painful peak into two desperate swains callously searching for some understanding, some deep rooted mutual pain that plagues their own embodiment, in “Brutal,” Hirose’s 2016 feature that packs a bloody brawling wallop of the human will toward punitive punishment and desperate determination. The Japanese filmmaker also wrote and co-produced the three part chapters that segments Man, Woman, and Man and Woman into a commingled three act narrative of utter chaos that glorifies finding a soulmate in the most insane circumstances. E-Harmony. OKCupid. OnlyFarmers.com. None of these so-called matchmaker websites have the formidable fortitude to remove all the political niceties and to dig into the human psyche the way that only Takashi Hirose can to lure out and strip one person’s entire vulnerability and, essentially, the parts that makes us ultimately human into a raging, yet emotionally unstable, hapless lover.

Butch, the one and only moniker for the actor, portrays the Man who is a very strong and determined man that brings to his apartment many nice, and sometimes unsavory, attractive ladies; however, he doesn’t whip them up an aphrodisiac dinner or sweep them off their feet with a romantic Rom-Com. He likes to move the relationship along, at a hare’s pace, with getting down and dirty and in certainly not in a sexualized manner. Butch pinpoints the man’s ambitions, machine-like in his will with a hint of softness behind the eyes when plucking through the headcount of numerous women for his match. Ayano is equally compelling as Woman and though Ayano has brawnier range of comedies and dramas under her belt, she notches gore and shock as if it’s simple to get stabbed 50 times and be completely nude with unpleasant prosthetics garnishing the naughty bits of your body. Butch and Ayano are quintessential to “Brutal’s” languishing love story and present themselves with such confidence, which is made key from their previous work with Takashi Hirose – Ayano worked with Hirose in his dramatic horror short, “Bandaged” in 2011 and then Hirose worked with Butch in a 2012 zombie short entitled “Moratorium” that starred Japanese cult and former pinku actress, Asami. The film also stars Katrina Grey (“Vampire Reborn”), Takashi Nishina (“Ringu 2”), Naho Nakashima, and Nanako Ohata.

Hirose doesn’t hold back the punches. In fact, he’s added one or two more for good measures. Helmed by a three person crew and one visual effects artist, the special effects department ramps up the rampage and carnage, making poetry out of ruthless romanticism. The end result is absolutely killer with stab after stab, gore galore, and post-mutilation prosthetics of the naughty bits. Hirose steps aside for fight sequence director Satoshi Hakuzen to exalt his gift for action sequences. Having previously worked on “Resident Evil: Degeneration” and “Dead Sushi,” Hakuzen showcases his mixture of gore and shock horror and hand-to-hand combat in the smallest of quarters while still seamlessly continuing Hirose’s narrative. Yet, “Brutal” doesn’t follow much of the laws of basic human biology as when people are knifed multiple times, whether spreading punctures along the various parts of the body or more precise slices into one focused area like the crotch, they keep breathing breath and they keep moving like their Arnold Schwarzeneggers covered T-800 endoskeletons in “The Terminator” and that unfaithfulness to realism inches “Brutal” more toward a fantastical flavor.

Unearthed Films and MVDVisual present Takashi Hirose’s “Brutal” onto Blu-ray for the first time and it’s brutally honest with a phenomenally fair picture engrained from a singer layer BD and presented in 1080p with a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors really match the film’s coarse tone of a desaturated hue where the blood runs like caramel colored water. Textures look fine, especially around the natural looking skin toned bodies of each person, and the no noticeable issues with compression. The Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track fairs equally well with a prominent dialogue track and a sickening range of lacerating thrust that make wet whiff sounds of cold steel that much painful. Tatsushiro Hirose’s rock score unfortunately wanes in soundtrack behind the intensity of Man and Woman’s blood thirst for love to the point of almost non-existent. Subtitles sync up nicely to the dialogue track. Bonus features a clipped production progression of behind-the-scenes, trailers, and music videos. “Brutal” and Unearthed Films found each other, just as Man and Woman in their twisted circumstances, and present an entertaining 67 minutes that solidifies Takashi Hirose one hell of a romanticist and absolutely, 100% bestow his film a true-to-form designation.

More evil than the deadly Firestone blowouts! Rubber review!

As a graduate of film studies, my viewing pleasure has changed to minus “viewing” and adding “analytical” to make it now my viewing analytical.  Taking classes on film sucks the fun at watching Michael Bay and Uwe Boll films which is not really a bad thing, but you’re programmed to pick out the flaws in every little detail.  One thing we learned in class is that there is a purpose for everything in the mise-en-scene; every street lamp as a purpose so says Alfred Hitchcock.  Obviously, these people who expect you to guess the significance of each action and every prop didn’t expect the killer tire film Rubber to ever be created.

Robert wakes up in the desert.  He tries to move only to keep falling down.  As he eventually gets the hang of it, he crosses paths with various objects and creatures in which he destroys…with his mind.  Besides Robert’s murderous telekinetic powers, Robert other’s mysterious issue is that he is also a used vehicle tire.  Robert becomes obsessed with a beautiful young woman and won’t stop killing folks until he gets what he wants.

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