Former war veteran and hot rod enthusiast Larry and his wife, Carmel, take a weekend off from the children to vacation in Paradise, a retreat on the outskirt, rural area of Australia that includes pleasurable amenities such as fishing, swimming, and being an ideal location for a dirty weekend between two lovers, but an Earthquake triggers a major nuclear leak at Waldo, an international nuclear waste storage facility who aims to coverup to radioactive contamination. Heinrich Schmidt, an engineer who was deeply exposed to the waste flees from Waldo’s goons to reveal to anti-nuclear agencies the corporation’s dastardly concealments and warn locals of the tainted public water supply. With not much time to live and suffering from a serious head injury, Schmidt, with partial amnesia, is sheltered by an unsuspecting Larry and Carmel as they help him piece together his life while Waldo sends recovery and murderous thugs to quiet those who wish to leak information. Paradise is anything but as trouble brews between the vacationing Larry and Carmel, the witless locals, and Waldo in disclosing radioactive waste streaming through the water passage ways.
“The Chain Reaction” is the freshman film of writer-director Ian Barry released in 1980. Produced by “Mad Max’s” George Miller, “The Chain Reaction” was considered an unrelated companion piece that also starred a number of the same actors, but the action-thriller aligned more with the populistic nuclear disaster genre of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Whereas George Romero focused on accidental biological effects in his 1973 science fiction horror, “The Crazies,” Barry honed in on nuclear waste disaster and the reaction of those responsible, to what length of measures would be necessary and taken to keep exposure from happening. Caught in the middle are locals and unfortunate vacations, who actually take more a stand against tyrannical, above the law organizations. “The Chain Reaction” is packed with exciting car chases and glazed with testosterone enriched standoffs on a nuclear level.
Steve Bisley steps into the lead role of hot shot Larry Stilson working his solid strong physique with a general moral, but still bad boy composure when unravelling and thwarting the Waldo conspiracy. Bisley costars alongside the late Arna-Maria Winchester. Winchester screams screen time sauciness, but as a mother of two, Winchester’s Carmel Stilson comes off as promiscuously uncharacteristic as a mother but, to be fair, Larry doesn’t necessarily yell conventional father either. However, I’m impressed by the turncoat engineer Heinrich Schmidt played by Ross Thompson, an Australia actor who can really accent well the German language and puts into his role a languishing, broken man trying to do the right thing. Together, the Stilson’s and Heinrich are tracked down by Waldo henchman Gray, portrayed by English actor Ralph Cotterill (“Howling III”). Cotterill’s menacing, stodgy dagger eyes make him a suitable villain, but falters in the screen time department, seeing not much action as needed to take care of monumental business against possible exposure. Huge Keays-Byrne (“Mad Max: Fury Road”), Richard Moir (“The Odd Angry Shot”), Laurie Moran, Lorna Lesley (“The Survivor”), and a cameo of Mel Gibson round out of the cast.
The overall problematic crux with “The Chain Reaction” stems from that director Ian Barry is no George Miller when presenting his own version of pacing a film. The narrative is casually abrupt and edited shoddily with very rough and hard to follow sequential events that are supposed to be a fiery ball of nuclear mishandling and underhandedness fury. Though highly doubtful Umbrella Entertainment took the censorship scissors to this Ozploitation flick, there are moments of bizarre, if not expurgated, cuts that debase the illustrative graphic violence. One particular moment in the climatic third act, a shotgun was only aimed to intimidate would be attackers, but never discharged. However, a character is seemingly gunned down with a blood splattered mid-section being the only clue of his demise, but like aforementioned, the shotgun was never fired. Barry’s riveting action story plays out mostly like this, reducing the action to a meager narrative withstanding only a few good car chase sequences, some character intimacy, and laced with some shrouded mystery.
Umbrella Entertainment presents under their Ozploitation Classics’ sublabel, Ian Barry’s “The Chain Reaction” onto a full High definition, 1080, region free Blu-ray with a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Honestly, a slightly cleaner and re-refined release was expected. Natural grain is expected, but the lossy definition and blurriness could have been tweaked for optimal results on the print. No edging enhancements nor print damage detected surrounding the fair natural coloring, skin tones, and, sometimes, vivid photography from Russell Boyd (“Picnic at Hanging Rock”), which is surprisingly rather bland overall. The DTS-HD Master Audio dual channel track is excellent with upfront and clear dialogue, ample ambient range, and a clean harrowing and resonating classic disaster scenario score composed by Andrew Thomas Wilson in his sole composure credit. Bonus features are aplenty with extended Not Quite Hollywood interviews with stars Steve Bisley and Arna-Maria Wichester, director Ian Barry, and producer Ross Matthews, a couple of featurettes entitled Thrills & Nuclear Spills and The Spark Obituary, deleted and extended scenes, an early cut with alternate title of “The Man at the Edge of the Freeway,” and media spots from theatrical release, TV, VHS trailer, and image gallery. “The Chain Reaction” is far from noxious, but the nuclear disaster piece could have been more radiant, a quality very difficult to achieve deep in the midst of so many great titles similar in the genre category; yet, the Ian Barry action thriller is an entertaining adversity excursion nonetheless.
After the untimely death of her mother, Linda returns from her university studies to reacquaint herself with the inherited Montclare, a home for the elderly her mother owned and operated through the decades as a family business. As she internally debates about whether to sell the grand, yet antiquated estate, 24-year-old Linda shuffles through her mother’s left behind things that rekindle Linda’s faded memories of her youth and add a sense of melancholy about her mother’s mental condition. A seemingly quiet, if not quirky, home for the elderly quickly becomes shrouded with mystery after the discovery of one of the residents found dead in a bathtub. Soon after, Linda feels as if she’s being watched and toyed with inside the corridors of Montclare: candles found lit, bathroom fixtures overflowing and cascading with water, mysterious figures looming from inside her room’s window, and her mother’s belongings sprawled out about the room. Paranoia sets into Linda as she suspects the resident caretaker and doctor of a lethal plot against her inside an old, foreboding manor that troubled her mother into deathly consequences and she searches for answers inside her mother’s extensive diaries that reveal the ominous dread that overwhelmed her inside an evil house.
“Next of Kin” is Australian’s answer to Dario Argento’s hauntingly apprehensive and vividly hued classic, “Suspiria.” Directed by Tony Williams and co-written with Michael Heath (“Death Warmed Over”), “Next of Kin” embodies monolithic brooding merits of a gracefully shaped horror and palpitating anxiety unlike any other Australian horror film we’ve ever seen before. In fact, Williams 1982 film doesn’t feel very Australian at all that’s set chiefly in and around Montclar, a lavishly gothic estate with expensive fountains and floral garnishes. Aside from native accent and barely a dusty road to drive down, the country of origin could be anywhere, punching home the aspect that the incident at Montclar is universal. Looking into a couple of their techniques, Williams and cinematographer Gary Hansen (“Image of Death”) utilize slow motion and interlaced scenes to convey a surreal dread that transcends from film to senses, also involving disruptive audio cues and visual jump scares, to culminate every scene, ever moment, into a well thought out result on how to effectively reach out and affect that scared little boy or girl in all of us.
Primarily a television and mini-series actress, Jacki Kerin sets foot into the main actress Linda. Kerin’s able to flip emotions from emitting a passive quality while she seemingly annoyed by her mother’s death while switching gears into a hyper-tensive defender. The small screen actress translate well onto the big screen, accompanying well versed thespians in “Picnic at Hanging Rock’s” John Jarratt, who went onto to more notably the “Wolf Creek” franchise. There’s also Alex Scott (“The Abominable Dr. Phibes”) and Tasmanian-born actress Gerda Nicholson. Scott and Nicholson do a fine job of portraying un-trust worthy snoops with underlining knowledge yet to be exposed and with Kerin, the fear goes unopposed and spreads like wild fire. the remaining cast includes Charles McCallum, Bernadette Gibson, Robert Ratti, Vince Deltito, and Debra Lawrence.
Practical effects are minimal in “Next of Kin,” but are well integrated with a meticulous purpose. Williams maintains the gore to an infancy amount, but the New Zealand born director doesn’t nickel-and-dime the macabre. Much of the death displayed comes in at post-humorous, visually positioning the cold and blue hued, more at times ripped life from, bodies to vessel the story forward toward a shocking, what-the-hell, and oh glorious climax. Then, when all the proverbial cards on the table, Linda finds herself ensnared in a cat-and-mouse game where Chris Murray’s practical effects come to the forefront. Special effects maestro, Chris Murray, had the George Miller experience while working on “Max Max” in 1979, prepping him to be the adequate effects artist to create surreal and, also, brutal Giallo-like murder.
Umbrella Entertainment presents Tony Williams’ “Next of Kin” onto a region free, full HD 1080p Blu-ray home video. An Ozploitation classic in itself, Umbrella Entertainment puts the film on a home media pedestal with a remastered 4k transfer from the original 35mm interpostive and presented in a widescreen, 1.77:1 aspect ratio. Beyond gorgeous with lush grim colors and able to keep the natural grain of the 35mm nitrate, “Next of Kin” sees one hell of an upgrade that shows no wear in the transfer and no compression issues or edging enhancements. Even with the heavy blue tint at time, the amount and the use is appropriate alongside Gary Hansen’s vision. The new English DTS-HD master audio emphasizes the heavy synthesized score by German electronic music composer Klaus Schulze that meshes fine with the creepy house ambiance. Dialogue is properly forefront and crystal clear. Special features run amok with audio commentaries with director Tony Williams, producer Tom White, and with cast members John Jarrett, Jackie Kerin, Robert Rattie. Also on the release is a “Return to Montclar – Next of Kin” shooting locations revisited, extended interviews from “Not Quite Hollywood” director Mark Hartley, deleted scenes, original and VHS trailer, German opening credits and trailer, an image gallery, and a couple of Tony Williams’ short films: “The Day We Landed on the Most Perfect Planet in the Universe” and “Getting Together.” “Next of Kin” has a brawny Italian Giallo flavor with a gritty, distinctive core of Australian horror filmmaking; sheerly beautiful and indisputably morbid, director Tony Williams has garnished a choice horror favorite that’s been sorely passed over through the years.
Molly is a loner scavenger in a post-apocalyptic badlands. She’s hunted down by a separate faction of scavengers to be a champion in their sadistic one-on-one bouts as Supplikants, ruthless and mindless killing machines produced by a synthetic drug. With food being scarce and peoples’ humanity on the edge of total extinction, Molly’s on the run on barren land until she happens upon Bailey, a young girl held up in a makeshift tent and waiting for her departed parents to return with food. When the scavengers track down Molly, Bailey becomes a bargaining chip, used as bait to lure sought after Molly to the scavenger offshore compound where the odds are in their favor, but Molly knows how to fight when she forgoes using her pulsating supernatural power. She will stop at nothing to save and protect Bailey, one of the last good and innocent humans left amongst desolation and savagery.
One part mad science, one part cyberpunk, “Molly” is all post-apocaplytic kickass from Netherlands’ director Colinda Bongers and co-directed with screenwriter Thijs Meuwese. “Molly” is this generations “Mad Max,” a vibrant gauntlet of darkness with a speck of illuminating hope, with the very first scene being a brief glimpse of the past, a fun-in-the-sun holiday at the beach, but in a split second, the cut-to abruptly cuts out the chirping of seagulls, the jovial laughter of children, and the familiar hum of all beach goers. The story literally cuts to the chase with Molly running for her very survival from three armed scavengers, setting up the story from the get go that Molly’s guard would always be tested. “Molly,” without a doubt, resembles a George Miller first film concoction of noticeable low-budget quality with high caliber, high-octane action.
Julia Batelaan tackles the namesake role. The then 20-year-old Batelaan musters up enough physicality to compete with a highly demanding character despite her slender, unlikely heroine frame. Batelaan is no Gal Gadot, but she gives the performance all she can and, then, gives some more in a role that requires a lot of gear to be worn, numerous fight sequences, extended physical scenes, and brief nudity whilst in battle. Batelaan clearly overshadows a cohort of onscreen antagonists, including even her best possible match as a rival by Annelies Appelhof who displays a different kind of tough; one that’s more henchman centric and mechanically advanced. Appelhof’s taller, broader, and equally as tender as Batelaan that dictates her character, Kimmy, the ideal barrier to best if Molly wants to succeed. Yeah, of course, there’s also a clear cut boss in actor Joose Bolt. In the role of Deacon, a maniacal scavenger leader hellbent on winning the world’s bullet currency through the mortal combat of Supplikants by proxy, Boost supplements a harlequin character to fold. “Molly” also includes Emma de Paauw, Tamara Brinkman, and Andre Dongelmans in the cast.
While Molly’s a beautifully visual film with moments to be excited about, Bongers and Meuwese’s post-apocaplytic tale has a hard time being a great film to revisit over and over again. For one, the fight choreography is a slow and robotically rehearsed and doesn’t strike as completely natural. In fairness, this flaw should be given a pass as the last shot is just over a half-hour long of an uncut take of Molly doing her best Tony Jaa impersonation with extended fight takes from room-to-room, up to the top boss level, as if you’re nostalgically playing Streets of Rage 2 (ya know?! On the Sega Genesis!). Yet, there’s still something off about “Molly” and one could say that that the focus of storyline uneasiness surrounds Molly herself: Who is Molly? Why does she have super powers? Where did she come from? Why does she really care for this child? All good questions that don’t really come to fruition in the film, but have promise to be answered by the open-to-a-sequel ending.
Artsploitation Films presents “Molly” on a high definition 1080p Blu-ray home video in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio format. Bongers and Meuwese deliver such rich coloring while not over-saturating the 2017 film to the point of obnoxiousness; Molly herself is a hue enriched character, with all her gear, trekking through a desolate oceanside landscape that’s mainly white sand and brown foliage, especially with the marauders who also sport ragged, dark colors, and leaving such an impacting visual aesthetic to digest while concreting a heroine. The English DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound is full of range from a slew of kick-punches from the numerous fight sequences to the juicy stitching of her own profusely bleeding wound. Even though this is a Dutch film, the casts’ English is quite good and well prevalent. Bonus features include a 30-minute featurette entitled “Making of Molly,” directors’ commentary with Colinda Bongers and Thijs Meuwese, and Artsploitation Films trailers. Bordering self-explosion with a barely hinged story, “Molly” eeks out an entertaining, post-apocalyptic, retribution narrative on the opposite side of the spectrum and the palette punctuating visuals and an extremely long take finale make this film a science fiction worth scavenging for!
Nuclear war had demolished the quiet rural areas harboring bio-engineering plants and has crumbled societies in a post-apocalypse. The nuclear fallout caused a deadly bacteria to thrive and spread amongst the region, wiping out millions of lives in its path. A group of scientists seek to rebuild the devastated population by devising a plan to send an electromagnetic pulse that will directly input inhibitors in the brain to block the bacteria from overwhelming a dwindling human race, but the success of the pulse came with a severe cost involving the death of every child on the planet. Also embedded in the pulse is a mind altering virus that encoded itself into every person’s brain to act as a mind control device. The only person virally immune, a fallout survivor, is a struggling father, Jake Slater, trying to protect his adolescent daughter, Molly, at all cost as she’s the only child left on Earth due in part to her father’s immunization. Malevolent creators behind the virus aim to get their hands on Molly and experiment on her immunization before inevitably releasing upon the world a much more sinister version of the virus from the pulse tower that only Jake can destroy.
“Blue World Order” is the martial arts, post-apocalyptic, science fiction flick from first time feature directors Ché Baker and Dallas Brand. Baker and Bland co-wrote the screenplay with Sarah Mason that flaunts a major concept, perhaps better suited as a major Hollywood studio concept, but wouldn’t quite cross that threshold of positive public opinion stemmed from cramming too much into the a non-stop, action-packed contiguous acts laid simply out to illuminate an aged old theme of power hungry Government against meager do-right resistance. To further add on top of all that doesn’t feel right about this film, we’ve all seen this film before or, perhaps, a similar rendition of it. The 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme film, one of many Van Damme guilty pleasures, “Cyborg,” blends martial arts with a futuristic wasteland decimated by a deadly plague and while the gritty and dark “Cyborg” carries itself vastly different from Bland and Baker’s more flashy and glossy approach, the story’s core is virtually the same with oppositions desiring to save the world for an interior motive.
Since this is an Australia production set on location in Australia, seems like a no brainer that Melbourne born actor, Jake Ryan (“Wolf Creek” the television series), would snatch the lead of Jake Slater. Ryan’s beefy build and rugged appearance have him a prime candidate for a hero, a fighting father, in a world in turmoil, but the way the film’s edited, Ryan comes off a bit aloof and a droll warrior. Ryan is joined by a few other familiar Australians and New Zealanders such as Jack Thompson (“Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones), Bruce Spence (“Mad Max”), and Stephen Hunter (“The Hobbit” trilogy) as a screw loose rebellion leader with a awful martial arts stand-in that dons a lighter shade wig. There’s also Billy Zane. Zane, a native of Illinois, has a knack for hitching himself onto foreign products; his last venture we reviewed was a Greek production entitled Evil – In the Time of Heroes, but Zane’s a remarkable actor whose able to morph into the essence of any character, especially characters that sport lopsided power like his character Master Crane, a martial arts instructor turned catastrophic savior post-fallout. The cast rounds out with newcomer Billie Rutherford, Kendra Appleton, and Bolude Fakuade.
One headache smoldering as a consistent motif throughout is the lack of character development. Before his calling as the one to save humanity, a dream sequence exposition touches upon Jake Slater’s time before nuclear war. Slater’s seen engaging in a friendly, if not slightly competitive, martial arts bout with instructor Master Crane. The two have an important, intrinsic history, involving Jake contracting a debilitating disease and able to bounce back with rehab through Master Crane’s teachings, that goes sorely unexplored. Most likely, the lack of development can be a direct result of the aforementioned with too much jammed into an already cluttered heap that jumps from one thought to the next without a proper seque. Even the introduction and the removal of characters has a nauseating sway. For example, when Stephen Hunter’s Madcap is introduced, he suddenly runs up to a fleeing Jake Ryan and the overweight, disheveled, rambler is able to best the physically fit, martial arts instructed, desperate father in more than one occasion. More instances like these can be exploited throughout, but we could be here all day breaking down the details or lack there of.
Random Media delivers Ché Baker and Dallas Brand’s fantasy-action “Blue World Order” onto DVD and VOD nationwide. A DVD-R screener was provided and can’t officially comment on the presentation or the audio tracks, but if there’s one issue to be said about the image quality, the special effects are horrendously Sy-Fy channel cheap with superimposed flames reaching six feet high in a monolithic-like pose. With effects like that, the indie Sci-Fi picture’s intended purpose is to solely entertain on a round house kick and uppercut punch level and not to invoke too much thought into a series of concepts. Instead, to sell the next Billy Zane installment, the selling point long shot of a “Back to the Future” Delorean car chase through the Australian desert is nice and attractive and proven to work. Shoddy blaster sounds and crumbling CGI put the last few straggling nails into “Blue World Order’s” vast coffin for a film that aimed really high for the bar but missed really low with unfocused material and devastating plot holes on a world-ending scale.
After receiving a distressing call warranting a trip to Mexico, alcoholic and drug dealer Warran Novak attempts to sell half cooked crystal meth to junkies that ends in two fatalities and two armed drug pushers in hot pursuit of Warren after he steals their cash for the road trip to the border. Before entering Mexico after a tireless drive and unaware of where to exactly go next once crossed the border, the fallen military soldier rents a motel room in the rundown town of Bedford Flats, a once thriving community lush with value and tourism derived from it’s once popular hunting tradition of bison and other wildlife. Now that the wildlife has dried up, Bedford Flats has landed in a stage of an ugly depression and to keep on the tradition of hunting, the foundation of which Bedford Flats has been built, the towns people gather to conduct a merciless hunting expedition of drifters and unsavory folk. Warren and his two pursuers, plus a homeless Mexican and the town drunk, are forced to participate in the hunt as prey with only their able bodies to carry themselves across the salt flats and seek shelter in the rocky landscape just beyond, but Warren decides to fight back against the towns’ most capable hunters in a twisted game of cat-and-mouse.
Western horror has always been a fascinating subgenre with a bleak and barren landscape denizened with colorful, hellbent characters committing one of three sole acts: taking, surviving, or dying. Selective Collective and Waterstone Entertainment’s “Happy Hunting” steps ever so lightly beyond the border into the realm of modern western horror involving a deranged game of hunting and killing humans for sport backdropped mostly in Bombay Beach, California and written and directed by first time feature film filmmakers Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson, who is one of the sons of Hollywood superstar, and who knows all about western dystopias, Mel Gibson (“Mad Max”). Louie Gibson might have learned a thing or two from his “Apocalypto” directing old man by delivering the brash ferocity and the stoned-heart, icy personas into the story and into the shot twisting an already vulnerable situation into sheer, bite-the-bullet terror.
Martin Dingle Wall delivers every shaky alcoholic tremor as drifter Warren Novak. Wall’s soft eyes, but rugged appeal justifies the 46-year-old actor as an unlikely, likable hero even though Warren will do just about anything for money and for the drink. Wall is able to tap into Warren’s subtle high intelligence and exploit it for the screen against a variety of aberrant game hunters by actors including “Devil Girls'” C.J. Baker, Michael Tipps, Kenneth Billings, and Liesel Handson of “Planet of the Vampire Women.” Dietsch and Gibson pick out one hunter to be the most versatile bad guy in Ken Lally. Lally, whose voice has captured legendary video game characters such as Mortal Kombat’s Smoke, Goro, and Shinnok, brings that malevolent tone to the silver screen as Bedford Flats all around nice guy, Steve Patterson. Of course, “all around nice guy” is an oxymoron in “Happy Hunting” because there are no such thing as nice guys in Bedford Flats, not even the crooked Sheriff Burnside (“Sasquatch Hunters'” Gary Sturm) who acts as the maestro for Bedford Flat’s great annual hunt.
What’s interesting about the film is that there is no love interest which is a rarity; instead, Warren is motivated by a mysterious phone call regarding a possible Mexican love child in the need of help. The mysterious plea over the phone line provides Warren with a purpose in this purposeless life, but that purpose is amplified by the very abrupt detour by a deranged town seeking to rid, what they consider to be, lowlife scum. Another side to Warren’s plight is that the whole sadistic game, the entire inhuman hunt, could be a figment of his withdrawal. Being a drifter and a person who doesn’t amount to much, Warren self worth goes in and out of various stages of withdrawal throughout the duration, before and during life stakes, with dropped dialogue and visible hints about symptoms of going cold turkey. Lets not forget to mention that the directors make an elucidation of Warren’s withdrawals with visions of a dead man, one in which Warren kills prior to his trek to the border, conversing with him, providing him undue advice during the predicament. Then, there’s the very end scene which shoots the likelihood of Warren’s version realism and sanity right out the window and begs the question if everything Warren went through, every struggle, and every death experienced was all inside his head.
“Happy Hunting” has been released on DVD courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment. The region 4 DVD is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio that’s utterly gorgeous and stupefyingly frightening in the long and wide shots of Bombay Beach’s desert wasteland. Heavy in dusty yellow and rich in lifeless landscape, the color palette is understandably one-sided, but the merit is in the detail of every dry land crack and every minuscule dust bite being disseminated about with every action. The English 5.1 Dolby audio track has balance, range, and fidelity. Dialogue’s clear and prominent, even with Martin Dingle Wall’s slightly raspy and sluggish deliveries. A blight on the DVD is the bonus material and that goes without saying because a single extra doesn’t grace the package, constructing an anemic, film-only DVD presentation of Joe Diestsch and Louie Gibson’s first feature run. However, “Happy Hunting” re-illuminates Western horror stark with a dire need for survival during trying times and Joe Diestch and Louie Gibson have fashioned a subtle analogy of what life would be like in a supposed Trump America where the U.S.-Mexico border wall would be infact 10 feet high, “deplorable” people are axed from today’s American society, and the small rural, once thriving, communities are stuck in the past with outdated viewpoints and assumptions of how maintain existence in a world changing around them. In the end, “Happy Hunting” goes beyond Western horror into being an insightful dystopia of exploitive western survival horror.