EVIL is All in Your Head! “Implanted” reviewed! (Gravitas Ventures / Digital Screener)

Year 2023.  After a devastated global pandemic, health companies engineered an experimental personal diagnostic nanochip called LEXX that is surgically implanted into the a human’s spine.  For Sarah, a woman down on her luck living homelessly after being let go from her job and struggling to cope with her mother’s early stages of dementia, quick cash is essential for survival and this experimental program, that uses advanced AI technology, tempts a desperate Sarah into participating in human trial runs.  Initial implementation serves Sarah with quick vitals and healthy lifestyle recommendations articulated by an artificial voice in her mind, but when the AI has other plans for Sarah, such ordering the assassinations of the health startup’s top leadership and destroying all evidence of the program, Sarah has to either obey every lethal command or fight against the insidious tech that has complete control over her pain sensors as well as her mother’s life.

COVID-19 has been the baseline culprit for millions of deaths worldwide.  The impact of the pandemic has inspired filmmakers to a creative outlet of churning out stories surrounding a lifechanging and devasting virus.  Some are ridiculous, off-color, cash grabbers – “Corona Zombies” comes to mind – but there are a few out there that challenge the gratuitous advantage-taking by folding in more substance into the story.  Fabien Dufils attempts to go above and beyond the here and now with a post-pandemic, self-containing thriller entitled “Implanted” and is the first written and directed non-made for television feature length independent film for the once music video director set in the urban jungle of New York City.  “Implanted” spins A.I. tech horror with the whooshing fast track of the health care system to eagerly push experimental drugs, in this case a clinical artificial intelligent grafting, upon the desperate, often marginalized, public.  There’s also an allegorical smidgen of mental illness thrown in there as well.  Dufils co-writes the script with fellow Belgium screenwriter David Bourgie under Dufils’ Mad Street Pictures production company.

Making her lead performance debut, mentally wrestling an invasive cybernetic nanochip, is Michelle Girolami who also serves as associate producer.  We all have that little voice inside our heads, telling us what do and think to an inevitably end of accordance with that ever so delicate whisper of persuasion and that’s how Girolami has seemingly approached this role with that little suggestive presence cranked up to the level of full-fledged chaos on two-legs.   Girolami ultimately is a reverse mech with all the cold puppeteering directed shots directed by programmed software and so much of the actress’s performance is solo, feigning responses to a bodiless voice and reacting to pain generated from within whenever she doesn’t comply to the relentless LEXX.  Unable to bounce dialogue and reactions off of others can be a tough sell for most actors, but Girolami really slathers it on thick the vein-popping strain of integrated torture.  Opposite Sarah is Carl (Ivo Velon, “Salt”), another hapless experiment participant forced into assassination servitude, but Carl’s purpose isn’t exactly crystal clear.  His LEXX unit shepherds him down a collision path with Sarah, but the two separate LEXX units have no shared intentions and while that’s wonderfully niche to provide individual A.I. with their own personal liberties and schemes, Carl just wanders the city, sometimes murdering the program’s top leadership or doing something polar opposite of Sarah with no substantial collusion about their subversive attacks.  The what could have been interesting cat-and-mouse game tapers off and the story leads into more of characters trying to regain back their autonomy and this is where Dufils’ narrative shines using LEXX as a symbol for mental disorders and how those impoverished or distressed are struggling to cope can lose themselves and give in to the internalized madness slipping outward.  Parallelly, Sarah’s mother (Susan O’Doherty) suffers from dementia that reinforces the theme.  Martin Ewens, Shirley Huang, Sunny Koll, John Long, and David Dotterer wrap up the cast list.

“Implanted’s” sci-fi concept can be described as if Amazon’s Alexa, with all the internet connections and text-to-speech bells and whistles, suddenly became murderously woke inside your cerebral cortex.  “Implanted” relays humanity’s lopsided dependency on advanced technology that continues to make us even more less connected to each other and the possibility of a machine takeover just that more feasible.  However, much like when a software program crashes, a malfunctioning script error ravages the narrative for not being tight enough, leaving unaccompanied loose ends as devices that fail to progress the story along stemmed by sudden drop off character development and unknown, speculation at best, motivations.  There’s also no discernable backstory to the why LEXX’s A.I. has snafued.  At least with “Terminator,” Kyle Reese provides exposition about Skynet’s sudden upheaval and domination over the human race whereas “Implanted” dives into none of that rich framework and tossing it aside for the sake of just tormenting Sarah into being a killer pawn, moving her across the NYC chessboard with the intent of taking down the king, queen, and knights of LEXX’s program.  To what ends?  Explanation on the specified targeting isn’t made entirely clear as programmers to CEOs are solely liquidated for just being involved.  

“Implanted” is a warzone for headspace and there can be only one victor in this psychological, sci-fi thriller released now, digitally, from Gravitas Ventures.   The unrated, 93 minute film also showcases the various hats of director Fabien Dufils with one being cinematographer.  Dufils captures obscure, slightly neglected, areas of New York City that’s becomes refreshing to consume because even though the Big Apple is well known for glass and steel skyscrapers, the undergrowth locations ground “Implanted” as relatable without the monolithic structures and hustle and bustle tropes.  In juxtaposition to the down-to-Earth background, the decision to sprinkle in visual effect blood splatter taints “Implanted’s” realism.  Though not gory by any means, digitally added blood can’t be cleansed from the physical veneer and being an indie feature, I would have though a run to corner store for a bit of red food coloring would have been a cost saving measure.  “Implanted” adds another layer to the man versus machine subgenre with tinges of mental illness and too reliant on tech themes but undoubtedly leaves gaps in the narrative coding, racking strenuous mental effort without the egregious assistance of an A.I. nanochip.

Furbish the Four Walls EVIL Lives Inside of Your Brain with “The Yellow Wallpaper!” (Hysteria Pictures / Digital Screener)

A prominent physician escorts his wife, Jane, and newborn child to a secluded countryside home after a severe episode of hysteria rattles Jane’s mental state.  For three months in the Summer, Jane is confined to the house grounds with strict instructions to do nothing to exert herself other than to partake in a little gardening.  Even writing, which was profusely Jane’s pursuit, is harshly forbidden.  The bedroom she shares with her husband is nearly unadorned with only their bed in the middle of the room and yellow wallpaper ornamenting all four walls.  As the weeks pass in isolation, Jane can’t escape the feeling the yellow wallpaper is creeping into her mind, imprisoning her, and driving her mad, lending her relaxing retreat from societal nervousness be laid to waste in solitude. 

Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” has seen a fair share of filmic adaptations in over a span of a century since being published back in 1892, but all of those variated works have been grounded in the last four decades .  Amongst the numerous shorts and a handful of features, the most notable version of “The Yellow Wallpaper” would be Logan Thomas’ 2012 interpretation, starring Juliet Landau, daughter of the late Martin Landau.  That’s the funny thing about public domain property is it opens up a plethora of pathways to spin and redefine creativity to rework Gillman’s feminist tale from the artists’ voices speaking of the times when women’s mental health, and mental health in general, was perceived naively as anxiety.  Kevin Pontuti steps up to the plate to take a crack at the spiraling to madness story as the filmmaker’s inaugural feature directorial of the American and Ireland co-produced celluloid from an adapted screenplay written by the director and co-written with the story lead actress and producer, Alexandra Loreth.  Under the duo’s entertainment banner, Hysteria Pictures in association with Ireland’s Emerald Giant Productions, the crowdfunded “The Yellow Wallpaper” project receives the latest contemporary treatment that brings Gillman’s words back to the screen.

Co-writer and producer, Alexandra Loreth, takes the lead as Jane coming down off the ledge of a nervous breakdown but still ballooning with instability that’s stretching her fashioned societal-front seams. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is also the California based filmmaker’s first feature film alongside Pontuti, basically penning Jane’s entire mindset of combating the time’s unfamiliar sexisms and mental health. Loreth crawls on her hands and knees, feign glossy, far away eyes, and be cold and distant to be in tune to a woman disassociating with herself and reality and, truth be told, portrays a convincible case that shows feature debut courage with on screen nudity and a stamina for being the focus for the entire 99 minute runtime; however these acts remain stuck in a excessive loop that roots Loreth’s character decline to one a taciturn setting, lacking range and depth to carry Jane into full metal straightjacket crazy. Opposite Loreth is Irish actor Joe Mullins as John, the physician, the only character mentioned in Gillman’s short story. Mullins impels like an automaton through the role with not a lick of zestful misogyny to contrast against. Loreth completely dominates the screen as you barely notice Mullins whisk in and out of scenes to medicate Jane or comfort her with little white lies. John’s dismissive attributes were more dispassionate with Mullins behind the wheel that leaves only half the work’s presence omitted and it’s sorely felt. In the role of Jane’s domicile caregiver, Jeanne O’Connor paves a road of sturdy era authenticity that also is fleeting from “The Yellow Wallpaper” and with her 19th century genteel aesthetics, we’re sucked into the period to keep us grounded in time. Performances round out with Clara Harte as the abstruse infant caregiver and Mark P. O’Connor briefly standing in as Jane’s doctor brother.

Pontuti and Loreth’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” targets the very essence of Gillman’s journal narrated themes of the downplayed and untapped mental health and the secondary expectations of women in 19th century society.  The differences between the 1800’s paper and 2021’s movie narratives are ever so slightly tweaked into the contemporary medium with Loreth narrating right from Gillman’s pages word-for-word in between the auxiliary scripted dialogue and the finale concluding toward a more grim avenue that will surely satisfy the more macabre of hearts.  Yet, not enough material could be extracted from the short story to entice as entertainment as the adaptation lingers in monotone fashion. Jane carries on about the woman trapped behind the yellow wallpaper and is shown going in circles of staring at the wallpaper, crawling on her hands and knees on the estate grounds (as describe in the short story), and just being listless throughout the entirety with her mental issues linked to post-partum and drowning in passive despair.  Perhaps better suited for a short film, as many have been completed already, audiences will become tiresomely and frustratedly lost in all of Jane’s 99-minutes of tedium as there just isn’t enough to sate a feature length film unless you add embellishing bells and whistles in the realm of supernatural or the puppeteering of an unseen force symbolizing Jane’s fractured mindset. Don’t expect “The Yellow Wallpaper” to paint a gripping tale of feministic horror as the story peels off in a superannuated ream of soapbox issues.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” made its world premier this past March at Cinequest in San Jose, California. The film is shot in a modernly unconventional 4:3 pillarbox aspect ratio aka the black bars on each side of the near square image presentation. The intention by cinematographer Sonja Tsypin (“Scare Package”) was to meet the age of Gillman’s original. Yes, I know in 1892, video wasn’t exactly a thing, let alone pillarboxed formats, but aspect ratio does point the a modern adaptation into the right blast from the past direction. What is also curious about Tsypin’s photography, and I’m not positive if this is in fact intentional or not, is the lesser frame rate that induces jumps in the picture in an almost lag effect that doesn’t add much but of annoyance to the viewing pleasure. I was slightly more impressed with Robert J. Coburns score fathomed the depth of disturbance going through Jane’s head and lured out the creepy that played like a broken-melody music box. There were no bonus scenes during or after the credits. Even with a well established and powerful ending shot, a preserving memento of the patriarchy’s ill-conceived mansplaining of a woman’s mind and body, and an intrepid performance by Alexandra Loreth, “The Yellow Wallpaper” stagnates in faithfulness to Gillman’s short and doesn’t offer new and improved ideas of century old, feminist gothic literature.

In EVIL’s Chair and Ready for a Cut. “The Stylist” reviewed! (Arrow Films / Digital Screener)

Excellent at styling hair, but not so much at making friends, Claire lives a solitary life as she’s unable to personally spark connections, even with those who she interacts with on a daily basis.  As a hairstylist, she absorbs a plethora of private information provided willingly by her clients who see her as someone not significant enough to be troublesome or detrimental to hurt them, but, little do her clients know, Claire has a dark secret with obsessively overstepping into their lives and, sometimes, directly into their shoes as murder becomes a conduit for Claire to experience a slither of momentary solidarity and belonging happiness.   Brief in its euphoria, the elated feeling doesn’t last and Claire finds herself back into a vicious cycle beginning with being defeated, but when a regular client, Olivia, begs for wedding hair help, Olivia befriends the stylist who begins to sink deeper into a misinterpreted friendship with Olivia fabricated inside Claire’s disturbed mind. 

Whenever stepping onto the hair clippings of a barbershop, sit on the padded, pump-hydraulic chair, and be asked by a for certain fallible person how I want would like my haircut, my hands nervously clutch each other, the space between my eyebrows fold in and crunch, microscopic beads of sweat go down my hair raised back and the agitation in my mind grows louder than a blow dyer on a high setting.  Why do all these externally stemmed irritants happen to me at the seemingly communal and smile gracing barbershop?  Think about my situation, one driven by introverted behaviors and pessimism for the human race, this way:  your neck is choked tight with a hairdresser body-bag resembling cape, sharp, haircutting sheers clipping swiftly overhead, and the loud buzzing of a motor purring around your ears’ edge before they detailing the side of your face with tiny razors moving hundreds of miles per hour.  Let’s not also forget about the straight-razor across your neck to attack the five o’clock shadow!  No, thank you!  So, there was already an abundance of established anxiety heading into Jill Gevargizian’s written-and-directed hairdresser horror, “The Stylist,” that takes just a little bit more off than just what’s on top.  The “Dark Web” filmmaker reteams with co-writer Eric Havens to extend the profile of the quiet and quaint, Victorian chic hairdresser, Claire and her lonely killer inclinations based off their 2016 short film of the same title and add Los Angeles based copywriter and “Night of the Wolf’s” Eric Stolze into the salon of psychological horrors mix. “The Stylist” is a production of Gevargizian’s Sixx Tape Productions, that also includes Eric Havens and lead star Najarra Townsend, alongside co-productions Claw Productions, Method Media, and The Line Film Company.

Najarra Townsend reprises her role as Claire, the lonely hairstylist bedeviled by a lack of belonging and rapport with no family or friends. Claire spirals into internalized madness that unveils when trying to step inside the lives of others as her own. The “Wolf Mother” star becomes a granular speck of torment plagued severely by social awkwardness to the point of her need for perfecting the imaginary bond between her and Brea Grant’s character, Olivia, goes into destruction level transgressions that’s normal, living rent free, in Claire’s headspace. Grant, writer and director of one of our favorite films of 2020, “12 Hour Shift,” and in the recently released, critically acclaimed, Natasha Kermani thriller, “Lucky,” has to be a larger than life persona whose the center of attention, as soon-to-be-bride going through the throes of wedding planning, that can draw in the wide-eyed and impressionable Claire like a moth to a flame. Townsend’s a specific kind of talent to get inside Claire’s ennui state not once, but twice. The latter precisely nails down Claire’s outlying, exterior behavior, but also smooths out a mustard nuance veneer of vintage chic that becomes a part of the building blocks peculiarly exclusive to her quietly disruptive cause. Starkly contrasted against Claire, Grant relates to who we all see on the outside as Olivia, a shining glow of smiles and worries that most people can digest with ease on a daily bases and while her life, as chaotic as may seem with a wedding near on the horizon and questioning a deep down decision about marriage, is juxtaposed with such distinction that Gervargizian literally puts Claire and Olivia side-by-side in a split screen early in the film to expose one hiding her secrets and the other letting them all hang out. Sarah McGuire (“The House of Forbidden Secrets”), Millie Milan (“Clownado”), Davis DeRock and Laura Kirk round out the supporting cast.

Take a moment and breathe the very essence of women-driven horror that’s as stylish as it is deliciously deranged.  “The Stylist” echoes similar psychopathic traits of William Lustig’s “Manic” and displays self-careening elements soaked in barbicide and Gothicism.  The junior film of Jill Gevargizian narrates through the eyes of Claire’s unraveling humanity from the stylist’s quick fix of bloody hair removal to the potential for climbing out of that deep, dark hole of loneliness only to be suddenly sideswiped by the falters of manufactured delusions. “The Stylist” is wrapped in a sullen hairnet that never shows the jovial side of Claire’s pleasures as she’s embodying someone under their locks after calculatingly cutting more than just their hair; a perspective exclusively held within Claire’s head, leaving viewers entangled in her in seemingly normal beauty shell and her inner demented chaos. You feel sorry for her forlorn life, but creeped out by that same life’s byproduct. One aspect that “The Stylist” lacks, that can be off-putting for some, is the mold that made Claire. Miniscule slips of her upbringing becomes not enough to paint an exact portrait of Claire as a malevolent monster with sociable dysphoria and as the story builds to a climax and Claire tries to imitate her mother, who died in her mid 30’s when Claire was 17, the mimicry fairs to say that her mother also had similar problems that has innately passed and has coped a different way of dealing with mental illness by way of alcoholism, mentioned by Claire in a moment of courting a friendship with an eager bridezilla, Olivia.

What a fitting film to be discussed and celebrated on International Women’s Day 2021 in the Jill Gevargizian directed and Najarra Townsend lead “The Stylist” now released exclusively on Arrow Film’s UK VOD platform ahead of the physical Blu-ray package and digital HD releases come June 2021. Film film clocks in at a 105 minute runtime and is presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Behind the camera is Robert Patrick Stern whose composition of imagery is based mainly in natural lighting while dabbling in warm coloring such as reds, the occasional vibrant magenta, and a consistent yellow mustard, a favorite not only in Claire’s wardrobe but also tinged on the lens whenever a part of Claire’s localized disturbia. Stern’s clean and sleek picture palpably elevated John Pata’s editing of montages that were superimposed with transitions and the soul searing music of Nicholas Elert’s melancholic inducing piano-industrial score. There were no bonus features included nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. “The Stylist” honors the past by reinventing the wheel in Jill Gevargizian’s clipping thriller with a hair-raising performance by Najarra Townsend as the maniacal hairdresser lonely next door.

The EVILS of the Jersey Shore! “Exit 0” reviewed! (DVD / Breaking Glass Pictures)


A young New York City couple drive down the Jersey Turnpike down to the Jersey Shore for a quaint getaway in the comforts of Cape May’s Doctor’s Inn Bed and Breakfast. With the hopes of rekindling the spark between them, the omission of the fast churning city living will surely become dampened by the island’s off-season quiet that’s more in sync with focusing on each other. However, after a strange incident at a curbside rest stop, something hasn’t felt right. From the odd tenants to the inexplicable occurrences of the Doctor’s Inn, the strain between their recoupling becomes a daunting wedge and when a videotape is discovered in their room, a videotape that shows a grisly murder on the exact spot they sleep in their room, that wedge not only drives deeper between them but also begins to suspend reality and raise paranoia.

Set on location at the Doctor’s Inn Bed and Breakfast of Cape May, New Jersey is the jarringly fear-fostering “Exit 0” that delivers the grim goods on a dead end, spook story skippered by writer-director E.B. Hughes (“Turnabout”) from a story co-writer with Philadelphian native, Gregory Voigt. Being a local Philadelphian suburbanite myself and a patron visitor of Avalon, New Jersey, having “Exit 0” be a horror-thriller that showcases the tremendous historical and Victorian-laden edifices and tourist retreats like the lighthouse on Cape May point is really invigorating to know that any kind of story, whether horror or otherwise, can be tailored into the seams of just about anywhere on this designer planet. Cape May is charming, inviting, and bustling with touristy customers who’ve answered the call from the beach from up and down the East Coast and surrounding inland areas, but during the off-season, the Jersey Shore, as a whole, is a gloomy and desolate barren land that would emit the appearance of invoking an eerily haunting atmosphere. “Exit 0” is also a charming little independent picture, self-produced by Hughes under his production company EBFIlms.

The cast is comprised of mostly locals in the tristate New Jersey, New York, and Philly area, starting off with Gabe Fazio (“Trauma is a Time Machine”) anchoring down Billy in the lead role of the boyfriend reminiscing about when his parents took him to the Doctor’s Inn when very young and being the plagued victim of severe anxiety when things go strangely muddled during his stay. “The Badger Game’s” Augie Duke plays a constant in Billy’s quickly downgrading opaque craziness as the teetering love interest, Lisa, and though typically the foundering relationship could be the heart of the story, but in “Exit 0,” Lisa might be portion of the reason for Billy’s seemingly unhinged fear. Duke’s wonderfully seductive from a distance, blue balling Billy on his wishful romantic long weekend. Billy and Lisa’s chemistry is in a beaker of unknown substance as we’re not really sure where the stand with each other: Billy doesn’t know whether he loves Lisa or not and Lisa keeps Billy at arm’s length while at the same time attempts to engage in Billy’s sexual advances. Hughes highlights often usual and direct characters to round out Billy’s source of burdens, especially with The Writer played by “The Mask’s” Peter Greene. Greene’s method approach plays into his deep ominous eyes and contoured facial features as a mysterious fixture. Federico Castelluccio plays into the latter direct category as the island’s Detective Mueller. The “Midday Demons” actor perhaps provides a character who becomes the only source of sanity not influencing Billy’s instability and Castelluccio courses a hardnose investigator to reach the truth. “Exit 0” fills out with a couple of veterans in Kenneth McGregor (“Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil”) and Daniel O’Shea (“The Rocketeer”).

“Exit 0” will unavoidably not be a hit with most audiences as a salt of the earth kind of psychological thriller bearing no teeth when considering general moviegoer baits, such as lots of gore, action, and skin, but despite the rudimentary building blocks, E.B. Hughes braises shuttering tension inside a compartmentalized configuration that includes a bit of found footage vehemence mixed with some spun Cape May folklore that’ll find regional nepotism amongst from friends and relatives of the cast and the crew and favoritism from the locals and enigma enthusiastic. Another disadvantage against “Exit 0” is more technical in regards to poor sound editing that picks up way to much noise, ambient and static alike, that’ll certainly dissuade some from enjoying the core plot involving triggering suppressed mental illness and eliciting out of the box interpretation of whether or not what Billy experiences are in fact real or just in his piecing imagination.

Embark on a minatory trip to Cape May with E.B. Hughes’ “Exit 0” on DVD Home Video distributed by Philadelphia company Breaking Glass Pictures. The region 1 DVD is presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, with a runtime of 95 minutes. “Exit 0” isn’t a popping color film that limits the ranges to being bleak shades of primary colors that opalescent from scene to scene until we meet The Writer whose basking in a harsh, almost heater like, fluorescent red. These scenes exhibit quite a bit of color banding, noticeably on the walls. Details are moderately soft on times, especially on faces, but there’s plenty of good contour lighting to equalize the effect. The English language dual channel stereo mix initially begins with a rough edit that can’t discern dialogue and backdrop noise audiophiles, making the car ride exchange dampened between Billy and Lisa who are nearly drowned out from the car’s whooshing ambience. Stereophonic sound system feels more mono that can’t grasp the voices and the anxiety riddle milieu that bombard Billy’s crumbling agitation. Dialogue tracks are, for the most part, prominent and can be discerned. Special features include a lengthy and in depth Q and A with director E.B. Hughes, Gabe Fazio, Peter Greene, and Federico Castelluccio, behind the scenes footage, outtakes, a bonus short film “Harsh Light” written and directed by E.B. Hughes about an aging boxer whose career has hit a dead end, and the theatrical trailer. “Exit 0” is abstruse conjecture that mental illness and chilling folklore can be one in the same, depending on one’s subjective perspective, and E.B. Hughes and his anchoring leads masterfully leave open the murky, rheumy wounds for personal contemplation in a hair-raising tale.

Available on DVD at Amazon.com

The Analogies of the EVIL that Plagues Us. “Hole” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)


Three peoples’ lives become coiled around the unfortunate state of death with each experiencing individual variations of the concept. The recently released convicted felon, Ed Kunkle, faces reality on the brink of insanity as his past demons vilify his temperament in the direction of total carnage. Befriended by Kunkle is Eve Adams, a single mother who struggles to cope with her infant son’s untimely murder that happened right under her watch. Assigned to the Adams Boy’s case is detective Bodie Jameson who struggles with own malevolent urges brought upon by the unsurmountable cases of grisly homicides that come cross his desk while he also tracks down a child killer. Their differences connect them, looking into their future to rediscover the past that molded their disheveled lives into fateful affairs with death.

Over the course of three years between 2007 to 2010, auteur filmmaker Joaquin Montalvan directed and assembled a gritty glimpse into the grubby windows of condemned souls with the 2010 released “Hole,” produced by his own independent production company, Sledgehammer Films, and co-written with his longtime collaborator and wife in life, Eunice Font. “Hole” is Montalvan’s third horror feature following 2002’s beleaguered with loneliness thriller “Adagio” and psychological horror, “Mobius,” which was released the year prior in 2009, plus also behind a string of documentaries. Montalvan’s an optically surreal storyteller basking in a rich and unorthodox story and color palette that revives originality bobbing in an heaving ocean of lemming horror.

“Hole” is comprised of showcasing three stories from three tormented lives. One of those lives, the mentally unfit Ed Kunkel, gorges on being the centric force that thrives the other two into a descendant hell. The late Paul E. Respass tunes into Kunkel’s manic polarity as a person who can be extremely mild mannered and pleasant then explode with caustic abrasiveness and ugly torture. Respass’s shoulder length, wavy hair, graying goatee, and iron contoured face gives him a Charles Manson appearance that goes good with crazy. Behind closed doors Repass’s Kunkle breaks with sanity slaughtering his mother lookalikes as a result of mommy issues, but when conversing with Eve Adams, Kunkle’s maintains an upright keeled temper. Teem Lucas, who like Respass has worked with Montalvan previous, subdues the abnormal imbalance with a normal person’s reactionary response to loss and heartache when Eve Adams copes with the murder of her young child. In the middle these two extremities, detective Bodie Jameson’s work seeps into his psyche, fluctuating between irrational and rational thoughts. Another actor in Montalvan’s corral, Jim Barile, who looks more like a 70’s hippie than a detective, has the hardest performance of them all of slipping into a terrifying unknown mindset while maintaining status quo in work and romantic relationships. Barile’s role isn’t well recieved, flying mainly under the radar with an underperformed and pointless conclusion to detective Jameson right and wrong affliction. Charlotte Bjornbak (“Camera Obscura”), Katherine Norland (“Cannibal Corpse Killers”), Alina Bolshakova (“Dead End Falls”), Dennis Haggard (“Cannibal Corpse Killers), Theresa Holly (“Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher”), Micki Quance, Gavin Graham, and Char Frost (“Someone’s Knocking at the Door”) co-star.

Right away, a strong sense of resemblance washed over me when viewing “Hole.” The lead actor, Paul Respass, and the overall texture felt already acquainted with my visual cortex nerves. My suspicions were justified and my sanity was cleared as I have seen “Hole” before in a later film entitled “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher,” another Joaquin Montalvan flick featuring Respass as a delusional manic. Yet, “Hole” is one of those films that after the credits role, hasty judgements should be chewed on, reflected upon, and recollected for a second analysis. Hell, you might as well just re-watch it all over. The thing with Montalvan is is that his brand has trademark cognizance on such a level that even if “Hole,” released in 2010, and “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher,” released in 2014, instinctually ride the same wave, they ultimately compare as individual projects with a distinct personality and artistic flair. For instance, “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher” denotes more of an homage to early exploitation films and “Hole” puts more stake into societal system failures, even if borrowing from the likes of Ed Gein with the killer wearing a flesh mask and sewing up a fleshy garment. Both films hark about mental illness, but one glorifies the act for the sheer sake of carnage fun and the other considers it a collateral damaging symptom of a broken justice structure. Another difference to note is “Hole’s” three-way non-linear narrative that moves like the Wonkavator from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in every way imaginable and can be daunting to keep up.

Out of the depths of obscurity comes “Hole” distributed on DVD home video by MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing under the Raw and Extreme banner. Presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Montalvan and his D.P. R.T. Norland, brightly bedazzling with every shade of matte box and some slow motion, play the field utilizing various techniques to tap into Ed Kunkle’s disorienting madness. Using backdrops like the ghost town of Bodie and the spiritual sanctuary (or bohemian commune) of Salvation Mountain, Montalvan’s able to cast an aberrant vision out inside an independent means. There are some points of posterization, details are softer than desired, and blacks lose composition with blocky noise so there are some drawbacks to the encoding. The English language dual channel audio mix pairs about the same as the video with spliced competing facets that tend to offer come-and-go range and depth. Scream queen moments go into feedback mode during Ed Kunkle’s kill mode, losing the ideal quality via unsound mic placement. Dialoge is okay being on the softer side with some background noise being flowing in and out between the audio edits, emitting a static effect around the dialogue and then cut out when not the actors are not speaking. The bonus features are aplenty and informative with a Montalvan commentary track, an extensive mack of documentary that fine combs every pore of the film that includes interviews with cast and crew, Ed’s Journal segment conversing about the backstory on Ed Kunkle’s perverse family and killed friends portraits and souvenirs, as well as trailers. Bloodhounds will want more from Ed Kunkle’s shed of horrors, but what director Joaquin Montalvan has fashioned threads madness with a neglected mental heath system while polishing a a shiny three prong, moviegoer narrative with blood, body parts, and butchery.