Take a Dekko at this EVIL! “The Collingswood Story” reviewed! (Cauldron Films / Blu-ray)



Rebecca moves from her small town of Bedford, Virginia to Collingswood, New Jersey to attend college.  Her small town boyfriend, Johnny, buys her a webcam to keep in touch with long distant video chatting, or to more so keep tabs on the sanctity of their fraying relationship.  For her birthday, Johnny provides her an entertaining list of audiovisual phone numbers to call, one such number belonging to an enigmatic online psychic Vera Madeline who is compelled to reveal Collingswood’s gruesome, satanic ritualistic history with one of the town’s most horrific mass murders having occurred at the very house Rebecca currently resides.  As Rebecca and Johnny investigate deeper, the webcam keeps rolling as their curiosity leads them into a dark and deadly supernatural mystery that will engulf them both. 

Talk about dated content!  “The Collingswood Story” is the 2002 trailblazer for the paranormal webcam subgenre that has ballooned over the last decade with the success of “Host,” “Followed,” and even the “Paranormal Activity” mega-franchise.  Writer-director Mike Costanza’s early 2000s film starkly contrasts how internet communication technology has changed over the last two decades with the ridiculous long corded phone jack plugins, time consuming uploading of camera footage before the invention of social media live platforms, and the lack of a pre-multiple participant teleconference with a limited single caller-to-caller video application. Once under the working title of “Mischief Night” as the story is set around Halloween night, “The Collingswood Story” is one of Constanza’s first feature films after branching out from the Paramount Pictures’ art department and right into the low-budget horror constraints, but the novel stylistic idea, based off real reports of a mass murder in a New Jersey town and saw little-to-no post-completion success traction back in the early 2000s, was a sell-produced production by Constanza’s Cinerebel Media along with associate producer Beverly Burton.

An interesting tidbit about “The Collingwood Story’s” shooting with the cast is that all the actors were shot individually since everything was done on essentially a webcam. Constaza would be in the room and read opposite the actor in performance. What’s spliced together makes good on delivering reasonable and believable menace, but without talent performances, there would not have been a revisiting home video release of this title. Stephanie Dees got her start in a major horror franchise by playing a minor role in “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” and 13 years later, Dees finds herself in the lead role of pioneering computer horror as birthday Rebecca. Opposite Rebecca is the lovesick paranoid puppy Johnny, played by Johnny Burton in his only credited role. Rebecca and Johnny go through the song and dance of his skirting around his relationship controlling paranoia as he bounces from Rebecca to his crass friend Bill (Grant Edmonds) while Rebecca is the picture of studious student, ignorant to the self-imposed friction in Johnny’s head. Burton’s a little stiff around the gills in his one-note and uninspired blue collar rendition of a longing, small town boyfriend whose personality matches his small bedroom as a background that never changes with the character unlike Rebecca who seems to grow into her environment with ever frame. In what’s probably her biggest identified role in a feature film, television actress Diane Behrens lurks in the shadows as the enigmatic psychic Vera Madeline wresting the story away from the slow burn of a dissolving relationship of young lovers and diverting into what we all came here for – a thrilling ghost story. Behrens plays the part with showmanship and a subtle inking that anything itching to come off her of mouth will be infomercial and portentous.

What Costanza has accomplished technically with “The Collingswood Story” is nothing short of amazing in his ability to seamlessly film and edit not only the scenes together coherently but also fabricate a meaningful connection between the two actors, shooting separately without a breath of another’s creativity to pull from, over still rather new and evolving technology to which some opposing critics would consider the technology to be disassociating the social standards.  “The Collingswood Story” is not a point and click monotony of talking head syndrome one might expect as Costanza, despite the gratuitous B-roll footage recorded by Rebecca as she drives around Collingwood searching specific locations, adds enough main footage filler of Johnny’s suspicions of a secret boyfriend, Johnny’s lowlife, yet witty, friend Billy giving him bad advice, and of psychic Vera Madeline’s mystifying mysticisms to keep viewers engaged while looking through the garbled eyeglass of lower compression bitrate quality of webcam footage shot on a Hi-8 camcorder that truly gives Costanza’s film that 90’s SOV feel at times.  There’s also the age-old theme of helplessness associated with webcam horror where those characters watching, just like us viewers, can only watch in an eye-widening terror unable to be a lifesaving branch of help when the supernatural stuff goes down.  Costanza also conveys the sense that the paranormal has zero limitations on a medium, in either a soothsayer or an internet conduit facet, to extend evil from the beyond, but the limitations on sensibility can extend only to a certain point in a culminating of Rebecca’s foreboding curiosity as her expedition into her lodging’s attic behooves her to take her laptop, along with its super long extension jack plugin cord, in order for her boyfriend, who lives a good 600 miles South, to accompany her into the darkness.  At this point, technology has yet to catch up with “The Collingswood Story” need and that’s where plausibility of the characters logic fumbles coinciding with an open for interpretation ending that wraps too quickly and asks more questions than provide answers.

For the first time, “The Collingswood Story” receives a proper North American release where technology has finally caught up to Mike Costanza’s vision! Cauldron Films presents the worldwide debut of a high definition, unrated, and region free Blu-ray release, remastered from the original source tapes by Costanza himself. Filmed on a Super Hi-8 camcorder, with Costanza undoubtedly the DP, “The Collingswood Story” remains presented in it’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and what also remains is the compression artefacts associated with transferring the source tapes. Certainly nothing devastating beyond a handful of B-roll scenes as much of the webcam shots look neat and tidy, but I’m surprised the reversal, aka webcam perspective of the person talking, scenes still shows a fair amount of blocky noise. The English language 2.0 stereo mix emits noticeable background static from, more than likely the culprit, the digital interference. The faint hum of dialogue track feedback hum is annoyingly choppy and it’s not just the play on the webcam mic of come-and-go vocals and background noise; however, the dialogue is clean and clear. The choice of soundtrack, a sundry of late 90’s-early 2000s placid rock, is audibly limp even for the dual channel output. The release comes with option English SDH subtitles and has a runtime of 82 minutes. Special features includes a behind the story with Mike Costanza looking back at the genesis of the idea as well as noting his inspiration for the idea, an interview with Stephanie Dees, an interview with Johnny Burton and Grant Edmonds, a director commentary, image gallery, and trailer. Despite it’s antiquated flaws, the crossbreeding of tech and terror in “The Collingswood Story” should have lifted the film into the cult status rafters of found footage films with the likes of “The Blair Witch Project,” but in lieu of the world’s massive oversight, Cauldron Film’s release is a big leap forward that looks back to the past.

Own the Limited Edition “The Collingswood Story” on Blu-ray Today!

When You’re Jilted and You Contemptuously Summon an EVIL Succubus! “Lillith” reviewed (Terror Films / Digital Screener)



Jenna’s been dating Brad for 5 years and when she catches him red-handed with another woman, learning that he’s been with multiple women over the span of their relationship, blood boiling revenge seems like the only course of action.  Jenna’s wiccan friend, Emma, has a radical strategy to summon a succubus to sleep with Brad and give him heartbreaking Satanic STDs.  Warned about the dangers of black magic that could backfire 3 times the affliction upon them, Jenna and Emma go through the summoning ritual, calling forth the sex-crazed succubus named Lillith.  Quickly making short work of Brad, tearing him open like a gift on Christmas day, the friend soon realize they’ve unleashed an unstoppable, man-eating killing machine and they have no idea how to stop her. 

In Jewish theology, the she-demon Lilith has been weaves into popular culture and literature time after time again with tweaks, alterations, and revamps to capitalize on the first wife of Adam’s infamous name in various outlets.  Amongst being one of the first female demons, the figure, in name only, has been broaden across numerous religious texts and  pop culture mediums from vampires, to a wild beast, and to a source of lustful dreams.  For Lee Esposito, Lillith sticks to the demoness basics, luring gullible and randy men to sex and death as a ritual beckoned succubus, in the 2019 horror-comedy, merely titled “Lillith.”   The indie picture cautions revenge as a hasty, reckless option that tows disastrous, deadly consequences.  Based off Esposito’s 2016 7-minute concept short of the same name, the 93 minute feature length film levels up the concept’s sound department crew member, Luke Stannard, to cowriter and was the genesis of Esposito’s New Jersey-based production company, Ritterhaus Productions, with executive producers Joey Esposito and Mike Arpala footing the bill. 

To pull off a slimmer version of “Jennifer’s Body,” “Lillith’s” cast had to be indispensably funny and well-versed with their characters.  For the most part, the cast stick the landing, running away with their character ticks that fully engulf the colorful performances and making them certifiably memorable.  Savannah Whitten most notably showcases her amusement playing the titular character decked out as an alternative-cladded woman with promiscuous purpose.   Whitten also doesn’t look too shabby in full body lime green attire that requires the actress to don a protruding head prosthetic, bulky mouthpiece, and vibrant yellow contacts as the Lillith shifts, in edited scene transitions, back and forth from alt-girl to full blown succubus.  The snazzy redhead, NYC based actress is opposite Nell Kessler and Robin Carolyn Parent in their respective roles, who spell besties as demon summoning chaos, Jenna and Emma.  Kessler and Parent equally have fun in being the vindictively scorned, jilted lover and her eccentric best friend who just wants to see if she can conjure up evil for the hell of it.  The female-led cast deliver timely, funny bits of dialogue individual wrapped like their very own personal skits, but then the attitudes change and the range stretches more meaningful when circumstances become dire and that’s when the cast of ladies really do shine as actors.  “Lillith” wouldn’t be as half as successful if it wasn’t aslo for the supporting cast, even in the small roles, to add a smooth ebb and flow of macabre comedy with Langston Fishburne (yes, that iconic surname is related to Laurence Fishburne), Taylor Turner, Lily Telford, and Michael Finnigan.

“Lillith” very much appeals to the feminist esteemed without beating you over the head with the crusading theme.  Cornerstones like a succubus snacking on sexually-charged males, Emma’s astute quips and enthusiasms about the historical and religious rises and victories over men while also in an unabashed lesbian relationship, and the vagina being held as a live or die power source of extraordinary consequences all reflect feminized filmmaking, but then Esposito, who is a man and identifies as a male, makes a sharp criticism that isn’t exclusive to feminism but can be said about most subjects if slipped into an oversaturated abundance.  What if the actions of feminism goes too far?   What if drilling an ideology beyond the point of no return causes more corrosive damage than actual good?  That’s what Esposito’s “Lillith” explores inside the “uh-oh, we made a mistake and must fix it” latter acts with great attention to how a woman’s genitals becomes key to saving all of mankind.   The irony is unbelievably hilarious, smart, and provocative, whether intentional or not.  What kills most of “Lillith’s” boutique vibe is the fluidity of the A/V technical quality that often approaches homemade movie levels of inconsistent sound design.  I’m frequently adjusting up and down the volume and trying to discern dialogue out of stronger ambience and noise the boom captures in an unfortunate leaky blockade of decent script dialogue. 

July saw the release of Lee Esposito’s “Lillith” rip through the hormonal student body pool with a laid back and snarky she-demon from Hell on Demand and Digital courtesy of indie genre distributor, Terror Films.  “Lillith” is shot over the course of 33 consecutive days from New Jersey to New York with director of photography Vincent Caffarello behind the camera and though making any sort of judgement on the A/V aspects for a streaming link might as well be akin to chucking my words right into the trash, I do firmly believe a considerable amount of budget went into casting solid actors and eye-catching makeup work as sound design guerilla notches into Lillith’s smoother interior like a throwing small river rocks at a pristine car. Maybe the shooting equipment lacked high definition properties or maybe post-production could have cleaned up Caffarello’s basic standard efforted shots but, either way, the DP’s stationary and steady cam of mediums and closeups, with occasional slight POV or over the shoulder, gather enough information about what’s happening in the scene in a still interesting perspective. With any digital screener, special feature content is at a zilch and there are also no bonus scenes during or after the credits; however, let “Lillith” speak for itself without the glamour of extra goodies. There’s hell to pay but paying hell with lives is what the sultry death-dealer “Lillith” does best between the sheets…just watch out for her teeth, gentlemen.

“Lillith” is right now included with Prime Video!  

This EVIL Santa is Ho, Ho, Horrible. “Slayed” reviewed! (Terror Films / Digital Screener)

Five years after a murderous, Santa Claus-cladded maniac massacred a couple of young women in the dank basement of a water treatment plant in Harris County, AZ, the stigma of the plant being open has caused enough controversy, heartache, and notoriety for the local residents and will soon close the chained-link gate forever to soon transform into a car dealership. On the last day of operation, Christmas Eve night, the lone survivor of that night five years ago walks vigilantly around the perimeter with a tingled sense that something just isn’t right as he stashes weapons around the facility…just in case. With the last administrative staff gone for the night and a novice guard at the helm of watch, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse, until there arose such a clatter and who did the guard and the survivor find? It was the return of Jolly Old Saint Nick with an axe to grind.

Merry Christmas, readers! You can’t spread Christmas fear without watching at least one, count them one, homicidal Holidays flick starring our favorite Yuletide strangler, Santa Claus. This year, the Fatman reins down upon a few unfortunate recipients on his coal gifting list in Jim Klock and Mike Capozzi’s “Slayed” that was released digitally this last month of 2020. The script is penned by Jim Klock following another Klock and Capozzi collaboration, the 2019 released Devil trickery detective-thriller, “Red Letters,” that has the unconventional atmospherics of a Christmas themed slasher set in the fictional location of Harris County, Arizona even though the climate of Arizona is semiarid and “Slayed” appears to be taking place in a lush, semi-tropic climate that’s perhaps more in tune with a Floridian winter. However, production company, Jim Klock and Darrell Martinelli”s Code 3 Films, is based out of New Jersey with offices in Los Angeles, suggesting a summer shoot with the cut off shorts, short sleeves t-shirts, and the wicking sporty running attire being worn amongst the limited primary characters.

Klock not only directs, writes, and produces the serial killer Santa but also co-stars as a new-to-the-area, aspiring actor standing in for a regular security guard. Klock enacts a classic clueless constitution for a baffled and bumbling outsider caught in the middle of historical notoriety having returned from the grave. Standing side-by-side and opposite is co-director, Mike Capozzi, who institutes a doomsday prepper’s fantasy come to fruition as the lone survivor of the 5-year bygone Harris County water plant massacre. The role of a water plant operator turned lone wolf of misanthropy never truly fleshes out of a state of rigid inflexible measures that stagnant the character’s mysterious backstory of surviving Santa’s bloody red-handed carnage and extend his development into an explanation of his long-awaited revenge obsession. Klock and Capozzi only bookend the film being in the same scene together, leaving much of the midsection, essentially the second act, for distressing females as hunting game for Santa’s slay. Coel Mahal and Kyra Kennedy, who have previously worked with Klock and Capozzi on previous projects, adequately fill in those rolls to an extent. Mahal’s masculine bity, water plant administrator acutely shifts into trope slasher-fodder of hapless articles of loosely bound prey. Things worsen with Kyra Kennedy’s rando abductee with an uncontrollably irritating sniveling in unprompted immediate danger as she sits in the passenger seat of a truck and just inconsolably cries, cries, and cries. Luckily, “Slayed” is a indie-reined in production that doesn’t swarm with halfhearted and ill-deserving characters as the film rounds out with minor roles casted to Delton Goodrum, Chuck Roberts, and Jennifer Meakin and Crystal Cameron as half-naked, strung up torture toys for a deranged Kris Kringle.

In a peeve already mentioned, “Slayed” rarely invokes as a Christmas chronicled horror film, striking lukewarm resemblances to that of “Silent Night, Deadly Night” or “Christmas Evil,” to which those films set a very low bar to emulated, unless you’re a trash-loving, so-bad-it’s-good, cult film enthusiastic, like yours truly, than its nothing but top shelf quality. However, the unexplained warm weather upholstery cripples “Slayed’s” genre-blend construct that’s been in august status of next level output over the last few years to dispel the happiest time of year into a certifiable time of fear in an apparent hostile seasonal takeover in a return of spite that Halloween shortens every year with Christmas nipping at the heels as soon as the first brown leaf hits the ground. If the shooting location is truly set in Arizona, winter months typically hover around a light jacket and shorts 60 degrees during the day and nippy 40 degrees at night, but the sweaty, wintery deficient clothing worn suggests a sweltering otherwise. Klock and Capozzi’s good faith effort into “Slayed’s” festive fare is in the garish Holiday decorations and ornamental lighting production design denotes the showy display of Christmas spirit, held in which season is not exactly clear. To speak more on the lighting, Emily Adam, another patron believer of Klock’s work, uses a restrained soft fuchsia lens tint, among other vivid primary colors, to elevate the seasonal veneer and Adam’s lighting is especially a favorable hallmark of the season with the use of the soft, but brilliant glow of Christmas string bulbs utilized to lash and tie up up naughty listers. Yet, up to scratch cinematography can’t fix what’s inherently broken with a story penned as a sequel structure that assumes the audiences’ knowledge of past events when, in fact, leaves viewers in blackout darkness with many questions: Why the Harris County water plant? Where did maniacal Santa go for five years? How did the water plant survivor make it out alive and is now determined to end not only maniacal Santa’s life but also his own? Why did maniacal Santa kidnap this random young lady from her house? What’s the significance of Christmas for maniacal Santa and why this period in time to return? I enjoy Christmas horror as much as the next genre votary but wrapping your head around “Slayed” topples any chance of actually enjoying the disgruntled, menacingly muttering “Ho Ho Ho” catch-phrasing, maniacal Santa terrorizing an unjolly skeleton crew on Christmas Eve night.

Ho Ho Horror! Santa delivers the gift of sufferable tidings and killjoys in the Terror Films distributed “Slayed” digitally only onto Prime Video. If you didn’t catch “Slayed” before Christmas when released on December 18th, then no worries! Quickly nosedive into your laptop or television set and catch Santa axing away on Prime Video today! An interesting tidbit about the crew of “Slayed” comes from the music department with composer Jojo Draven, former guitarists for a number of Las Vegas shows such as performance artists, the Blue Man Group, and Gothic street illusionist, Chris Angel. The Indonesian-American female rocker’s agreeable experimental-industrial sound comes across professionally astute toward the context with unbuckling tension baked right into the scene. There were no bonus material included with the screener nor where there bonus scenes during or after the credits. Instead of racing down the stairs, excited by the prospect of unwrapping that one main horror-inspired Christmas movie on Christmas Day, “Slayed” turns out to be a disappointing hefty lump of coal with a few diamond patches sparkling through the sedimentary rock and catching our eye in a rather humbug holiday horror falling short of that so-bad-its-good set bar.

Watch “Slayed” on Prime Video by clicking the poster!

Flesh Combustible EVIL Ore in “Primal Scream” reviewed! (Dark Force and Code Red / Blu-ray)


In the future of 1993, a privatized and powerful mining corporation is extracting a newfangled element cleaner and more abundant than any other energy source known to mankind, but the element, known as Hellfire, is also the most dangerous as it causing the human body to spontaneously ignite the internal organs in a heap of electro-combustion, searing the body from the inside out. A private detective is hired under the pretense of an affair scandal but becomes intertwined in a power struggle to harness complete control of Hellfire that leads from explosive skirmishes on a mining station on Saturn to the many charred bodies scorched by the unforgiving Hellfire on Earth and the investigator is caught in the middle behind a veil of cloak and dagger criminal conduct, searching for answers and the truth.

A gumshoe narrative with a caustic boost of flesh destroying flair, “Primal Scream” is the 1987 independent science fiction action epic from first time filmmaker William J. Murray and an equally tenderfoot crew buckling down for their inaugural ignition into full-length feature film space. More recently familiar with Murray’s work on the Jersey shore thriller, “Exit 0,” as the director of photography, the writer-director got his big start helming “Primal Scream,” also known originally as “Hellfire,” a planetary, melodramatic perusal also set in New Jersey, shot primarily on location in Atlantic City. The title change from “Hellfire” was the brainchild of the distributor who bought the rights to the film, claiming “Primal Scream” as a more marketable title, but with a name like “Hellfire,” the spaceship models, web of lies, and evil corporations detective story would have garnered an audience. “Primal Scream” is a production financed by a movie theater concession stand franchisee, Howard Foulkrod, looking to be a part of movie-making team.

Before working with Murray in “Exit 0” as a heedful bed and breakfast front desk attendant with a pervading cocksure attitude, New York born Kenneth McGregor first and foremost collaborated with the filmmaker on “Primal Scream” as a washed up police officer turned private dick Corby McHale that became McGregor’s debut lead role in the low-budget sci-fi feat. McGregor could carry the weight on such a profound role that required physicality from a browbeaten scoundrel that could attract young new love as well as re-attract his former affairs. However, I wasn’t especially sold on McHale’s love interest, Samantha Keller, who came off strong toting up a lip-giving and gritty female officer who has history with McHale. Sharon Mason dons the role with her lanky, on the gaunt side, appearance that could have elevated the role in a incongruous, yet positive, light, but Mason withers down to a lovestruck puppy besotted with McHale back in her life, losing that salt of the Earth edge that keeps her sharp in repelling the scum around her as a beat cop. Jon Maurice was a real presence on screen as a weary and angry captain on the force and maintains a mutual respect for his former office and friend, McHale, though doesn’t look it. In his only credited acting role, Maurice has the towering posture of “Dawn of the Dead’s” Ken Foree or “Candyman’s” Tony Todd with a resonating voice, a gospel actor, and compliments McHale’s unkept and insouciant façade. Rounding out the cast is Julie Miller, Stephen Caldwell, Edward N. Fallon, Joseph White, and timeless showman Mickey Shaughnessy in his last performance before death.

I find difficulty in thinking of one single aspect in where “Primal Scream” doesn’t deserve admiration. Do I think “Primal Scream” is a flawless attempt of a gargantuan dystopia of escapism? Not at the least, but for a pressurized, first time director, William Murray, his equally untried crew, and a cast of novice actors, the space ship model and pyrotechnics-laden gumshoe narrative palpitates wildly with tremendous heart for the amount of other intrinsic details that went into the feature, like the video phones and the ultramodern everyday vehicles, that didn’t produce a sensory overload of futuristic adornment and kept a practical milieu of face-to-face gambling bookies (location was set in Atlantic City after all) and ballistic projectile weapons despite a significant advancement in space travel. Hell, there’s even a sleek unrivaled-looking DeLorean in the first moments of the movie as a cherry on top. Granted, “Primal Scream” is set in 1993, nearly a decade outlook from production, and maybe undershot a realistic timeframe for interplanetary mining base construction. Another thing unclear is the story’s plasticity, murkily prefaced with a drop-in climax that is then refocused on the beginnings of Corby McHale’s seemingly diminutive hired involvement that leads to corruptive strife and dislodging of greed for the better of mankind. While trying to maintain a belief in the systemic universe the characters live in, the scenes are told through McHale as noted in the climatic introduction, but there are a few scenes outside that perspective box and don’t make filmic sense to the storytelling core. Ambitiously executed, “Primal Scream” dotes on films, such as “Blade Runner” or “Brazil,” of an Earth dystopian future and challenges us to totally recall our affection for the practical movie making magic.

In what I consider an odd release for Dark Force Entertainment and Code Red, I have to remind myself that William Murray’s “Primal Scream” is an oddity film with rich background and ludicrous-speed potential all around and makes a grand, high-definition Blu-ray debut distributed by MVDVisual. The region free release is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, from a rather preserved source. The picture maintains a stable course throughout with some flare ups of scratches, blemishes, cigarette burns, and omitted frame jumps that were nearly inherent with 35mm productions. Yet, the coloring is excellent and balance with no diluting edge enhancements or cropping. A forced English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo mix is a palpable mix that is clear and unfractured by distortions. There remains a constant, low-toned crackle and hum throughout the approx. 85 minute runtime, almost as if it’s electronic interference, but the mix maintains a par score that offers beveled depth and a resounding range of bombastic explosions and the snap, crackle, pop of skin being corroded and cooked by Hellfire. Special features include an audio a new commentary by director William Murray and crew as well as the same group in a Making of “Primal Scream” featurette “Made A Movie, Lived to Tell,” showcasing current interviews recollecting 30 years ago their experience in making, and surviving, their first movie. Also included is the “Hellfire” 1981 promo reel. “Primal Scream” is more down to Earth than it is pew-pewing in the inky expanse, paralleling the dangers of new and unexplored elements and mining procedures, such as fracking, with a sleuth story rigmarole to save man from not only destroying their corporeal selves, but also destroying their souls from corruption.

Own Primal Scream on Blu-ray today!

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