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

Copulating in the Woods is Evil’s Catnip! “Don’t Fuck in the Woods” review!


Alex and Jane just graduated college with an uncertain future ahead of them. In financial debt with no aid from their family because of their lesbian relationship, Alex can’t shake the uncomfortable sensation that her life spirals down an unknown path. Jane’s optimism stems from the upcoming reboot woodland retreat with friends. Booze, drugs, and a whole lot of sex is planned to escape reality’s harsh unforgiving grip. There’s only one problem. A creature lurks in the woods, sniffing out the moment of vaginal penetration, and ripping to shreds the naked, sweaty bodies that were entangled in raunchy passion. A jock, a cheerleader, a geek, a stoner, and a pair of lesbians are the familiar horror film tropes fighting for their very lives in a grisly battle against a ghastly man-beast.

“Don’t Fuck in the Woods,” an alluring cavalier horror film title, is the indie project from writer-director Shawn Burkett. Burkett’s crowdfunded low-budget venture doesn’t piddle around the subject matter with interpretive titles or undertone stories. Burkett, with every intention, aimed his sights on developing the most proverbial scenarios of horny young folk in the woods being stalked by an inhuman monstrosity and achieved great success while also topping his film off with a sexually explicit cherry, defining “DFITW” as every young boy’s wet dream with gratuitous nudity and blood splatter mayhem! In fact, nudity, at least in my belief, outweighs the creature in screen time with the majority of the female cast baring more their breasts than the creature bares it’s teeth.

Brittany Blanton and Ayse Howard lead in the lesbian roles of Jane and Alex and are the only two actors to have characters to have some meat on their depth chart. Hence, why they’re in the lead role shoes. Blanton and Howard alternative style spills into the rest of the cast pool. Roman Jossart, the stoner, naturally gushes with wit and delivery that makes the sweaty, large, and overly perverted character very likable. Then there’s the inexplicable Nadia White. The “Give It To Me Grandpa” actress (look it up in Google) wears many shameless hats off screen, from modeling to fetish porn, but the stark blonde who once wrapped herself completely in duck tape except for her massive boobs, dons a hardly uncharacteristic character whose attached to the hip of her tall, dark jock boyfriend Conor, played in a debut performance by Brian Cornell. Hannah Herdt picks up the geek trope with credulous rant about iconic scream queens and their rise to fame without having to bare it all on screen. Kayla Stone, Brandy Mason, Derek Wehrley, and Scott Gillipsie in a dual role as Luke and the creature round out the rest of the “DFITW” cast. What I love about this cast is the fact they’re not these super slender and fit individuals with four, six, eight-pack abs you typically see in horror films. Instead, each one has their own little mid-section cupcake pudginess or pooch and that’s okay!

Above paragraphs contain praise for admiration and passion toward everything that’s right about “DFITW,” but there’s also plenty to dislike and many viewers, and reviewers too, have spoken publicly their harsh negativity. In a more constructive criticism, the first point is that Burkett’s film has no real logical story structure. Why should we care about these characters who trek into the woods, bone like rabbits, and then become lunch meat for an anti-fornication fiend? Secondly, the editing and special effects need firming as some kill scenes felt unnecessarily rushed and prolonged terror scenes didn’t really induce the terror, requiring that edit to break apart the monotony of the scene. The cheaply made creature passes, but the imperfections in the latex, or whatever material it was constructive of, can be clearly captured. Which leads me into the Alfred Hitchcock quote at the beginning of the film, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” The anticipation of the creature was sorely absence as much of the film focused on the group and their shenanigans and didn’t give the creature much hype, reducing it to a powerless vessel until rearing that jacked up Ninja Turtle head into the campers’ den.

Concept Media and Shawn Burkett’s “Don’t Fuck in the Woods” is a horror homaging and referencing machine, spitting out as much time-honored horror movie no-nos and final-girl conventionalism as one film can, but the story feels hollow inside and doesn’t offer worthwhile character development in neither protagonists or antagonist. Definitely the title, and even the film as a definitive whole, borders that thin line of becoming a ridiculously bad, but very interesting, parody porn, exploiting the rules of the slasher genre and having little-to-no girth of a plot. Roman Jossart’s hilarity, notable “Predator” references and remarks, and the fair amount of fair skin saves this exploitive film from being a total loss and, as well, the overwhelming communal participation and support to have this film see the light of day is absolutely amazing as a title like “Don’t Fuck in the Woods” would financially scare the money bag pants off any potential backer. You can see “Don’t Fuck in the Woods” on Vimeo On Demand by clicking the link below!

E/V/I/L! V/H/S review!

VHSMain

The Video Home System, aka the VHS, became a leap forward for home entertainment in the mid to late 1970s growing widely popular by the 1980s and into the better half of the 90s. Two decades later, most of the youthful generation can’t even tell you what a VHS tape looks like or spell out the abbreviation. Today the DVD is the standard norm and DVD has made a fatal blow that killed the VHS tape forever in the industry retail market, but believe me or not, the VHS tape still lives and breathes among us and those who collect the out of print format believe that VHS is the ultimate haven for movie lovers. Today, not everything is on DVD. VHS had thirty years to collect films from all over the world and DVD nor Blu-ray have captured them. They are timeless vintage that doesn’t have a expiration date (until the sun gets a hold of them).

Now, the VHS tape has been used in horror movies before – The Ring, Vacancy, etc – and has become sort of a icon for the genre. Nothing about a DVD disc is scary, but bring out a VHS tape with the grain and the tracking blemishes and that can even make the happiest of times seem creepy as shit. This leads me into V/H/S a horror anthology of short films surrounded by main film where adult juvenile delinquents decide to pursue a lead in gaining a cash prize if they pinch a VHS tape from an old man’s house as if sharking (scoping out women targets and exposing their breasts on camera unwillingly) and breaking windows in an abandoned complexes wasn’t exciting enough. After they break into the house and discover the owner apparently dead in a room full of televisions, they decide to split up and search for the tape. One by one they view a different tape and get more then they bargain for as each tape contains a horror story which once watched will never leave them the same again.

The Second Honeymoon

The Second Honeymoon

V/H/S is damn scary. Plain and simple. Black and white. Up and down. Five short horror stories with an horror story – a resemblance, if not a respectable nod, to Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt era, but the writers and directors made these stories their own constructing each one carefully to where the content just doesn’t scare you stupid but will also leave your jaw dropped and your mind racing. Being a recently married man myself, one episode entitled ‘The Second Honeymoon’ had my mind racing and paranoid – you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see the anthology. V/H/S encompasses different genres such as creature feature, thriller, haunted house, satan, slasher, and even aliens. A little something for everyone to enjoy. You might even recognize some of the directors and writers names such as Ti West (House of the Devil), Adam Wingard (Pop Skull), David Bruckner (The Signal), and Glenn McQuad (I Sell the Dead).

There is definitely a feeling of no holds barred when an series of short come out like this. I feel that the nudity and gore taboo go right out the window and anything can go. A big F.U. is given to the MPAA and, for this review, that I’m on board with that as I my philosophy in life is the more brutality, more nudity, more visceral the better and though each director accomplished their part in each of their respective story, I couldn’t help that something was missing. The characters and some of the dialogue just weren’t doing it for me. I must be jaded as I write myself and I find some of the dialogue to be at a third grade level along with most of the character’s mental states. Again, ‘The Second Honeymoon’ separates itself from the pack with sympathetic characters and an adult, non-frat party attitude dialogue. ‘Friday the 17th’ episode could just be a spoof on the 80’s slasher now that I think about it and that makes me a feel a little better about the writing.

Tuesday the 17th

Tuesday the 17th

Go grab your DVD or Blu-ray copy of V/H/S from Magnet Releasing and keep your eye out for V/H/S/2 – I’m sure it’ll bite even harder than the first.