The Clap is the Real Evil Here. “Quiet Days in Clichy” reviewed! (Blue Underground / 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray)

“Quiet Days in Clichy” 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Set Available Now!

Joey and Carl are two broke writers living the coquet bachelor life in a small Paris, France apartment where they have a revolving door of transient sexual encounters with various women.  Despite being writer poor and hungry for most of the time, Joey and Carl happily lead a charmed life of meaningless moments.  Doesn’t matter to them how or from who they contracted a sexual transmitted disease.  Doesn’t matter to them how they pay for their carnal escapades.  And, mostly, doesn’t matter to them the age of the women they sleep with as long as it doesn’t cause them trouble.  The woes of everyday life do not stop the roommates from enjoying night clubs, traveling abroad, and the simple, bodily pleasures of French women.

In the same preface vein as Jens Jørgen Thorsen adaptively written-and-directed “Quiet Days in Clichy,” some readers may find the following material offensive, revolting, and not up to the universal moral standard – especially more so in the politically awareness of contemporary times.  Based off the novel of the same title from American writer Henry Miller, who was seen as an intellectual surrealist enlightened by the chauvinistic viewpoints on women and sex, the Danish, 1970-released blue film, “Quiet Days in Clichy,” resembles something of a semi-biographical depiction of Miller’s own personal non-fictional experiences as a proofreader in Paris during the 1930s, but updated to more contemporary times in the 1960s with genre designation that’s more of sex comedy than bio documentary.  The novel, which was banned in the United States for many years, focuses on the frivolous joys of simple pleasures that superseded the life sustaining necessities, such as food or money for food and become something of a blend between Miller’s explicit anecdotes and some wishful fantasy.  Shot on location in the small outer rim Paris neighborhood in Clichy, “Quiet Days in Clichy,” also known in the U.S. as the “Not So Quiet Days” or “Stille dage i Clichy” in the Norse Danish tongue, is produced by comedy producers Klaus Pagh and Henrik Sandberg.

A full skin, hang loose, and complete sexist semblance is no easy task and yet the two principal Dane actors Paul Valjean and Wayne Rodda, as Joey and Carl, are not the best looking in the men gene pool. “Quiet Days in Clichy” marks Valjean and Rodda’s one and only leading roles in their shrimpy career and while their performances paint the characters as apathetic womanizers, they still render a dopey slack-jawed dialogue as if delightful halfwits, a description not terrible too far off from the roles their portraying. The story substantially surrounds around Joey more frequently in what is an uneven dynamic development of the buddy comedy system to undercut Carl nearly completely out of the picture if no half-naked women are in the scene. Perhaps because Paul Valjean, or at least Valjean made up in Joey’s balding hair line and spectacles, looks a lot like the adapted story’s novelist author, Henry Miller. Again, this film is a semi-biographical onset of one man’s intellectual philosophy on sex and nihilism. There’s even a bit of nonchalant pedophilia as Carl takes a dunce young girl, Colette (Elsebeth Reingaard) at the ripe age of 14 off the street and keeps her as a sexual pet who keeps the house tidy in nothing more than a shirt and the way Thorsen depicts the introduction and the proceedings of keeping her around feels rather normalizing and whimsical despite Carl practically shoving her pubescence right in our faces with repetitive noting the illegality of underage exploitation and trouble that comes with it as long as the law doesn’t finds out. Even when the roommates are found out and confronts sans police, Joey and Carl’s punishment is nothing more than a stern warning from Colette’s mother. A plethora of women cross the screen and round out “Quiet Days in Clichy’s” menagerie of lewd and sensual women with roles by Ulla Koppel, Susanne Krage, Avi Sagild, Lisbet Lindquist, and Anne Kehler.

Henry Miller may have been something of a surrealist author, Jens Jørgen Thorsen was also something of a surrealist director that approached the adaptation with the knowledge the content would offend likely most people who find cavalier sex and arrogance to be offense.  “Quiet Days in Clichy” is certainly obscene with wanton waywardness.  Thorsen has a way of telling the lewd and crude story from the philanderer’s perspective that construes a routine day-and-a-life and everyone appears okay with what would usually be a Molotov cocktail exploding self-spiraling madness.  Instead, Thorsen paints a happy-go-lucky portrait of Joey (and Carl too) with aimless ambivalence and does so with frenzied edited scenes that trims out frames and you still get the gist of sequential events by letting your brain connect the dots.  The same cerebral interpretation also takes place during the photograph montage of Joey and Carl’s trip to the small country of Luxembourg in a flurry of images that tell a sequential ordered story of their whirlwind trip filled with seeing the sights, causing some mischief, and, of course, flirting with the local women.  Thorsen also showcases ground level Paris to the fullest with mom-and-pop storefronts, open aired dining, the widened trafficked lanes, and the night club scenes complete with featuring American Jazz saxophonist Ben Webster scoring a subdued hot number while Joey and Carl become handsy and indulge in covert public exhibition with the female patrons at a small-time cabaret club.  Miller’s adapted work is a philosophy of sexual freedom that takes precedent over personal welfare is akin to self-torpedoing with still a starry-eyed and goofy grin expression.

Stylistically, even though this Thorsen sex comedy is labeled a blue film by subgenre the film actually is voided color all around with a black and white cinematography approach by Jesper Høm that looks super slick with a well-preserved transfer in a slight low contrast on the new Blue Underground 2-disc 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray set. The brand-new restoration on a 66GB, double layer, release comes scanned in 4K 16-bit from recently discovered uncut and uncensored original fine-grain negative that absolutely is very fine indeed! The black and white picture is presented in a European widescreen standard of a 1.66:1 aspect ratio and barely shows signs of age with an anti-wear, which makes me suspect there might have been some cleanup work. There’s clearly some DNR use to smooth out the grain, but this effort also clears up the black and white picture very nicely, resulting in a solid contrast that favors the lower said a tad. The 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray process mid-to-high 30s Mbps with no pacing issues to the frame rate. Both come with new rescored English 1.0 audio mixes with the 4K Ultra HD sporting a Dolby Vision HDR while the Blu-ray’s DTS-HD Master Audio presents an equally clean file. Both offer quality audio designs that are free from undercutting distortions, such as a cracking, popping, hissing, etc, and are greatly robust with the Dolby Vision eking out a little fuller bodied product. One gripe I have is that Blue Underground doesn’t translate the French-speaking ancillary roles that become lost to conversation if one does not know the tongue, but the English subtitles are free from error and synch up well without any delay or being too quick. French subtitles are also included. Bonus features include new deleted scenes and new theatrical trailer on both discs. The Blu-ray also includes the Songs of Clichy – a 2002 interview with soundtrack composure Country Joe McDonald speaking about one note role of just scoring the film and coming to terms with his unaware sexism, Dirty Blooks, Dirty Movies, Barney Rosset on Henry Miller – an interview with Henry Miller’s editor and publisher that touched upon the mad, chauvinistic genius and perversions of the blacklisted author, Midnight Blue – an archival second interview with Barney Rosset, new poster and still gallery, a new Henry Miller book cover gallery of the title, and new scanned court documents when America seized the film upon entry into the country and the legal fight that ensued to obtain it back. The physical release comes with a not safe for work cardboard slipcover with imprinted frames from scenes while the blacked out 4K and Blu-ray snapper case comes with original artwork of one of the more memorable scenes. The release comes not rated with a runtime of 91 minutes. “Quiet Days in Clichy” lead to more rambunctious nights in the Paris suburb of debauchery and Blue Underground preserves the perverse with a higher quality of lower standards in a beauty of a release.

“Quiet Days in Clichy” 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Set Available Now!

The Dark One’s EVIL Sucks the Air Out of You! “Robot Holocaust” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)

“Robot Holocaust” enslaves Humanity on Blu-ray!

Year 2033 – a robot rebellion turned the once convenient machines into man’s most deadly adversary.  The aftershock of war has left mankind almost extinct and most of the atmosphere uninhabitable with radiation.  The last standing metropolis on what is now known as New Terra has the only breathable environment monopolized by the tyrannical Dark One, a disembodied machine that uses human slave labor to fuel the air producing contraption for the entire city.  A motley band of heroes, led by an outsider from a wasteland tribe who can breathe the toxic air, embark on a perilous journey to the Dark One’s factory lair, evading deadly flesh-eating worms, wasteland mutants, and a ruthless robot subordinates under the command of the Dark One.   Their mission is to rescue a purloined scientist after developing a device that lets people breathe outside the Dark One’s grip of a controlled environment.

The 1980s is a goldmine for post-apocalyptic cinema that has virtually no ambit.  Whether a big Hollywood studio or a rinky-dink production, inhospitable badlands filled with cutthroat survivors and malformed beings unfortunate enough to be left alive to battle it out to the death over the Earth’s last remaining precious resources was (and to an extent, still is) a salivating story prospect with vast barren landscapes, dangers around every corner, an untamed primal violence, and a BDSM-like wardrobe that hits the suppressed kink nerve in all of us.  Tim Kincaid’s “Robot Holocaust” is right smack dab in the middle of the subgenre and plays tune to every crowd-pleasing characteristic.  The 1987 post-apocalypse actioner is written-and-directed by Kincaid who cut his teeth on gay adult films in the late 1970’s and has maintained a healthy dose of homosexual erotic and adult films throughout his career until 2017 under his pseudonym of Joe Gaga.  After complete stag only cheapies “Cellblock #9” and “…in the Name of Leather,” Kincaid received a hankering to dip his directorial toes into sci-fi and horror, beginning with the sexual assaulting alien flick “Breeders” in 1986.  “Robot Holocaust” became the filmmaker’s subsequent feature one year later, shot mostly in the abandoned Brooklyn Navy Yard buildings as well as the undeveloped then Roosevelt Island in New York City.  Presented by Wizard Video (“I Spit on Your Grave”), Tycan Entertaiment and Taryn Productions are the companies behind the film. Taryn Productions is a subsidiary created by Charles Band (“Puppet Master’) and named after his daughter Taryn. Cynthia De Paula produces the film, who she almost exclusively produces every Kincaid sci-fi horror fixation, and the film likely supported by Charles Band in an executive producer role.

“Robot Holocaust” follows the narrative of a ragtag bunch of good-guy survivors journeying to rescue a friend and take down a tyrannical overlord.  While not one role stands as a principal lead, the band of heroes is led by Neo, played by Norris Culf.  Starring in his first lead role following a couple of smalltime gigs in supporting roles in another Taryn Production, “Necropolis,” and in Tim Kincaid’s “Breeders,” Culf receives his big break as a wasteland conqueror able to breathe outside in the radioactive atmosphere.   As a leader, Culf isn’t as charismatic as Keanu Reeves’ Neo nor is he fierce enough to be intimidating; instead, Culf is quite reserved, unpowerful, and lacks coordination to pull off choreographed fight sequences with a believable plausibility.  Nyla, on the hand, is played Jennifer Delora of “Frankenhooker” and “Fright House.”  Delora, an martial arts blackbelt, brought the proper attitude to her fiercely feministic leader of the She Zone women tribe by adding the mean to Nyla’s demeanor.  The other woman of the group is Deeja, Jorn the Scientist’s daughter who terribly reliant on her father, sparking major contrast between her delicacy in daddy issues and Nyla’s hardnosed, man-hating feminism.  Nadine Hartstein and Michael Downend reconnect from their minor roles in “Necropolis” to be the daughter and father team at the core of suicide mission. More ceremonious than being an emotional wreck of being separated during the middle of a robot run world, Harstein and Downend bring little flair as they themselves often are more automaton than the automatons. Joel Von Ornsteiner (“Zombie Death House,” “Slash Dance”) had the most flair as Klyton, a pickpocketing free-thinking droid that looks like a cross between Star Wars’ C3PO and MAC from “Mac and Me.” Ornsteiner never let up or broke the eccentric droid’s light-hearted Robin to Neo’s Batman antics complete with rigid, robotic movements and a ray gun that never seems to work. One of the more painfully pressed roles is Valaria, the Dark One’s flamboyantly dressed second in command. Think “Forbidden Zone”-esque. Angelika Jager performance in cahoots with the Dark One is about as dry as toast and at odds with her own vestigial accent. Jager’s the congenial visual to her counterpart Torque’s effectual exoskeletal mechanical cover who could pass for a T-800 with the teeth replaced by dangling like Lobster antennae. Rick Gianasi, who went on to be Troma’s Sgt. Kabukiman, plays the underestimated and underrated villain, leading the way for other sidelines roles with a cast that rounds out with George Grey, Michael Azzolina, John Blaylock, and Nicholas Reiner.

As mentioned earlier, “Robot Holocaust’s” acting isn’t good.  It borders old-timey melodramatic in a proclamation sense.  There are no in-depth discussions, debates, conversing naturally, or any aspect of the dialogue having a normalcy about it as everything is vigorously proclaimed or is awkward narrated for exposition.  The other half of the problems is in direct result of Kincaid’s poorly written script that can’t capture ordinary conversation, much like those of his pornographic films, I would think. Nor could Kincaid write himself out of the erratic flippancy of some principal characters who woujld go from bad to good then from good to bad in a blink of an eye.  While the communication is about a dull as a butter knife, the costuming is where “Robot Holocaust” balances the scales with 80’s ridiculously appropriate garb of what the ruined future would sport.  A metrosexual mixture of v-neck pelt shirts of mystery animal origin and early WWF professional wrestler spandex turn the men into “Conan the Barbarian” types, to which a few other influencing aspects are pulled from the Schwarzenegger epic fantasy.  The women are equally suited but with more finesse in the way of warrior princess as well as a goddess. With a title like “Robot Holocaust,” the android designs better be spectacular and in all for its time period, Ed Fench’s designs and Valarie McNeill’s fabrications are a mixed bag of good and bad. Klyton derives too heavily from “Star Wars'” inspiration without wowing into something of the tiny production’s own while Torque radiates power and fear with a complete head-to-toe body suit of an acolyte with attitude. Both designs don’t compartmentalize by operating individual body parts, such as moving mouths or even hands for that matter, which would have nailed the robots down for a film called “Robot Holocaust.”

Ronin Flix, under the re-distribution of Scorpion Releasing and MGM, release “Robot Holocaust” on a 1080p high-definition AVC encoded Blu-ray. The hard coded region A North American release is presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio from the original 35mm negative. Natural grain, a palatable and diverse color palette, and swelling textures, such as fine details in the skin, scuffed up droids, and a grimy industrial complex provides a zestier interest that parallels the languishing storyline. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is remarkably clean, much like the transfer, with a coextending presence of robust range, depth, and quality. The proclaiming dialogue is crystal clear, hanging on every syllable and syntax, with no issues with hissing, popping, or other flaws. Jager’s accented monologues and conversations are kitsch guilty pleasures to hear her laissez faire style and delivery. Special features include a new interview with Nyla actress Jennifer Delora touching upon little-by-little her experience with cast, crew, and overall project. There’s also the official trailer included. The physical release comes in a regular blue snapper case with one-sided grindhouse artwork of a looming Torque, an explicitly worn skull, and Angelika Jager’s Valaria with her eyes closed and slight smirk. The unrated film runs a brisk 79 minutes. The “Robot Holocaust” is only 11 years away according to the film’s timeline, but director Tim Kincaid’s future can’t help but feel like a vintage hunk of junk by the stale performances and skimpy Tarzan-like duds and getting through the brief runtime proved unfortunately challenging.

“Robot Holocaust” enslaves Humanity on Blu-ray!

Everything is EVILLER in Texas. “The Hoot Owl” reviewed! (Brink Vision / Blu-ray)

“The Hoot Owl” on Blu-ray is Slasher-iffic! Available at Amazon.com!

Blind buying a house is never good idea.  Blind buying a murder house in the middle of nowhere should be on the list of if you bought it, you deserve what’s coming to you.  Scott and April do just that as the recently troubled couple start afresh with a purchase of a fixer upper after suffering a late term miscarriage.  Deciding to not have Chip and Joanna Gains to rehab the dilapidated new residence set deep in the woods, the couple invite a small group of friends and family to assist in the much-needed repair and cleanup.  Interrupting their pass-the-doobie high and their positive high spirits while renewing an old house into a home, death and destruction erupts as a pair of demented squatters don’t take too kindly to the new homeowners. 

As far as debut feature films go, “The Hoot Owl” is a gory practical effect driven, true-to-form independent slasher film born and bred out of the great state of Texas.  The co-directing, co-writing Jasons, Jason Rader and Jason Von Godi, are the masterminds behind the cow head-boned masked killer and the very pregnant and very inbred wild woman lying in wait for the naive trespassers to drop their guard and thin out before the slaughter.  Having worked together for years making short films together, the 2022 released slasher was setup by Rader and Godi as a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, but out of the filmmakers’ flexible 20K goal, “The Howl Owl” concept received a measly $275 from four backers.  That roadblock was only temporary and didn’t stop the aspiring retro-slasher artists to complete their foot-in to the passion project that took over 9 years to complete from pre-production-to-post-production under their co-created company banner, Vanishing Twin Productions, in association with Rise Above Productions and producer Raymond Carter Cantrell.

If you’re going all out to make a slasher film, then you’re going to need victims to slash! Most indie slashers nowadays have a synopsis that begins something like this, “a group of teens go into the woods…,” and just by those few key introductory words, we know perfectly well what to expect as the drinking, smoking, and sex-crazed youth meet the homicidal maniac with a bloody machete in one hand and a decapitated head in the other. There’s a rhythmic comfort in that classic symbiosis. The downside to the structure always boils down to the shot in the dark cast and cast of characters that can make or break a slasher film’s success. Scott (Jason Skeen, “By the Devil’s Hands”) and wife April (Augustine Frizzell) bring along Scott’s longtime good friend Drew (J.D. Brown, “Cross Bearer”) and April’s estranged sister Suzy (Katharine Franco, “The Inflicted”) offer a little bit of everything in a hodgepodge of backstories that don’t quite become reinforced in the end with the exception of April whose miscarriage and loss transcends into twisted maternal madness. Frizzell’s glow for the first two acts doesn’t really yell grief but when the ardency takes over, stemmed by her vivid gruesome dreams of her miscarriage, the Texas-born actress steps up to the plate of a psychotic break. Suzy’s also interesting enough character to spark curiosity with the enigmatic contentiousness in a heartfelt scene of two sisters rekindling their bond while actually actioning those same emotions on screen; instead, Franco enjoys the blithe nature of Suzy’s indecisiveness about school and about her family but discovers a quick and sudden fascination with Drew, the least interesting principal that hires two colorful buddies: Hank (Carl Bailey, “A Ship of Human Skin”), a father of two who a penchant for sexual harassment, and an obvious long hair wig-wearing oddball Bugs (Roger Schwermer Jr.). Bailey resembles pure Texan posture but is stiff as a board in his sleazy contractor role. “The Hoot Owl” rounds out the cast with Joshua Ian Steinburg playing the boned-face killer and Johnny Wright reaching inside to extract his inner Neanderthal-like wild woman ready to emulate a putridly picturesque birth.

“The Hoot Owl” is a by-the-numbers man-in-a-mask slasher riddled with familiar tropes and conventional clichés.  Baseline fact is that the film is not breaking any molds here and won’t be a contender for horror picture of the year.  With that said, and as harsh as that may sound, what “The Hoot Owl” represents is pure spirit and appreciation for what the film ultimately represents – a love for the heyday horror. Rader and Godi firmly believe in their film with a sincere attempt at a feature and pulling all the material together during a near decade-long process to get the film released out into the world. Far from perfect, “The Hoot Owl” relies heavily on the gruesome practical effects and there are some good gory terminations with a piledriving beartrap, a split-head decapitation with a large chain, and a long, rusty drill bit through the eye socket that ends in a spurting splatter of blood. The expo is an impressive effort from Allan David Caroll in his first go-round with the effects trade that could rival the early works of Tom Savini or Greg Nicotero. What breaks up the story most of all are the secondary shoots used to swell and cut into the first-round material shots to beef up a feature production. For instance, the opening credit chase sequence of a maniac cop (at least I think it was a cop) hunting down a man and his pregnant wife is a moment that is never clearly referred backed to, but the assumption is that the pregnant woman is the encountered savage later on in the unveiling climatic and the bone-head killer is her child from the rundown who then impregnates his own heathenized mother…? Connectively, it’s all unclear in unfused ends, causing a break in the signal from the lead-in to the trunk of the story, and that underdevelopment pursues throughout with loops never coming to a close.

In my first brush with Brink Vision since reviewing their DVD release of the 2008 alien transmitted dead-resurrecting bacteria film, “Evilution,” a tinge of satisfaction embraces my little heart to see Brink Vision come back across with a Blu-ray release of their latest “The Hoot Owl,” distributed by MVD Visual. The quick-paced 72-minute film is presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, is not rated and is region free. Video quality doesn’t represent the best-of-the-best of the 1080p high-def resolution with a commercial standard definition equipment and know this mainly because compression that doesn’t display a myriad of issues. Details are not as sharp and there is banding more obvious in one scene of negative space, but the picture is otherwise free of artefacts and other data loss issues. The English Language 5.1 surround mix fairs much of the same albeit the electrostatic noise. While not overwhelming the dialogue to a point of murkiness, the steady shushing combined with the poor audio recordings can vary the quality and depth with a blunt flatness. Bonus features includes a commentary with directors Jason Rader and Jason Von Godi, a second commentary with Creepy Peepy Podcast, a featurette of Rader and Godi looking back at their 9-year pilgrimage to completion, Godi’s short film ‘The Voyeur,” trailer and still gallery. The physical release has beautiful artwork of the Hoot Owl killer in a throwback, almost Scream Factory-esque, illustration. The back cover is a little wonky with a composite that’s hard to read with deep purple lettering on the credits and bonus material listing almost invisible amongst the black background. “The Hoot Owl” endears the slasher fandom with a callback to the brute strength of a wanton villain and if only the script was smoothed over, this little indie film from Texas could have better laid a stronger foundation.

“The Hoot Owl” on Blu-ray is Slasher-iffic! Available at Amazon.com!

The EVIL Anti-Abortion Film You Never Knew You Wanted. “Evil Dead Trap 2” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)

Aki is a self-solitude movie theater projectionist who avoids talking to men and to pretty much everyone in general.  Her high school friend, Emi, is the complete opposite, a socialite of sorts, with a previous celebrity career as a singer and a high profile television news reporter.  While Emi thrusts her unusual interests upon encouraging her married boyfriend, who is more than game, to sleep with Aki, the projectionist has a secret of her own in being the culprit of a string of grisly murders involving young women with their ovaries ripped from the inside out.  When these murders occur, Aki is in a feverish, yet reserved state of mind that borders being sexually and dangerous uninhibited and totally blackout deranged.  She discovers mementos of the night before in her home and questions her actions, especially as the kill count grows and Aki’s mind wanders between reality and the supernatural as a mysteriously eerie boy keeps popping up everywhere, even at the crime scenes.  Emi’s dangerous game and her smug prodding of Aki sends her friend down a rabbit hole of a disturbing past. 

If you’ve seen “Evil Dead Trap” then essentially forget everything you knew about the first film as the sequel is not a direct follow-up and concerns a different tale of prenatal byproduct revolving around a common moniker that connects both films.  That name of evil that binds would be Hideki with the sequel titled “Evil Dead Trap 2:  Hideki,” bestowed the subtitle to ensure proper acknowledge.  Another aspect that’s different is the person in the director’s chair as “Akira’s” screenwriter Izô Hashimoto helms the 1992 sequel from a script cowritten between Hashimoto and the then early in career Chiaki Konaka who would go on to pen teleplays for a number of Ultraman series and get his hands colorfully deep within various anime project, such as the Digimon series.  With such anime talent behind one of the more brutally savage renditions to sow the seeds early in the J-horror supernatural genre that incited the widely popular “Ringu” and “Ju-on” franchises less than a decade later, “Evil Dead Trap 2” pelts a supernatural and homicidal esoteric storyline riddles with themes of abortion, guilt, and deriding judgement.  Naokatsu Itô and Mitsuo Fujita produce the Japan Home Video production, the company behind metal-horror “Tetsuo” and the Yakuza-zombie film “Junk.” 

“Evil Dead Trap 2” washes the slate clean with a new cast enveloped into a ghastly chaos the abhorrent an the unnatural.  The story takes on a bold female lead in Shoko Nakajima at the beginning of her career and the fresh faced actress doesn’t also have the typical physique of leading lady.  Nakajima is not only a fascinating and curious choice to be the centerpiece principal but her performance is rock solid with an unsettling, mild-manner manic approach of a night stalker of women opposite her appearance.  Now, whether Hashimoto intended juxtaposition is completely unknown to me, but I find the affect potent nonetheless in unification with Nakajima’s near-subdued and muted act.  On the flipside, there’s “Last Frankenstein’s” Rie Kondoh as Aki’s good friend Emi.  Emi’s a hotshot in her mind fabricated from the television reporter’s brief stint with fame and is cavalier in nature when it comes to her friends and flings.  The contrast between the two is often playfully contentious that never settles on firm ground about how these two become to be friends to begin with, but when their friendship comes to a head in a heated and bizarre one-on-one skirmish with a boxcutter and film sheers, all bets are off and all our conclusions about the two friends are thrown to the wind.  What sets them off is a man, Kurahashi to be exact, a role filled in by Shirô Sano (“Infection”) playing a boyish-behaving philanderer between the two women.  The character of Kurashashi, much the same as Aki and Emi, have his own offshoot piece of the narrative pie with an unsound wife who waits for son to return home – the only problem is, Kurashashi’s wife never had a child.  This is where the 3 characters arcs begin to meld together in a disorder of surrealism between reality and nightmare and those entangled in that web are, for lack of a better phrase, entering a consuming darkness from which they can’t escape, and Hideki is in the middle of it all.  Performances are perfectly unhinged and coy, a variety of personas that make “Evil Dead Trap 2” engaging enough until the end, with a cast list that fills out with Sei Hiraizumi (“Orgasm: Mariko”), Kazue Tasunogae (“Ring 0:  Birthday”), and Shôta Enomoto as the ominous, tangible presence of Hideki.

Comparing the original to the sequel is like comparing worn infested apples to bloody rotten oranges.  The melding of the characters in the third act succumbs to an arthouse avalanche of symbolism, upon symbolism, upon symbolism.  The audience is expected to piece together the chunks of sinew and connect the dots of sibylline secrets of a past contrition. There are strong themes of abortion that persist up into every other few scenes and mostly allude to Aki as the one who gave up a child that has somehow manifested into living, breathing, perceptible and tangible man-child. Aki’s haunted under her fragile, if not delusional, state and while making sense of the manifestations, that hasn’t quite come clear, yet the mental noise leads her to murder when provoked and has her staggering out into the middle of the night to be willingly ravaged by strange men. A logical response to Aki’s action is that internally grieved recluse has snapped, coming unhinged outside the guise of regret as she kills exclusively around a maternity ward that has since closed and is under heavy construction. However, you can’t disregard the supernatural element so easily as Aki visits a miko, a Japanese shaman of sorts, who is senses Aki’s connection to the other side. Multivocal like primordial Hell, Hashimoto works in beautifully shot scenes with brilliant urban lighting that collocates looming, in-your-face figure over the head of the antisocial Aki and shepherds the characters’ darkest secrets to summit before the entity rips them a part in a bloody showcase of madness.

Unearthed Films continues to reverse coagulation and let the blood flow once again with another obscure Japanese gory horror, “Evil Dead Trap 2: Hideki,” onto a new Blu-ray home video coming in at number nine on the spine for company’s Unearthed Classics banner. The release’s image is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio and retains much of the luminescent coloring of heavy neon-lighting and intended gel filters to play down the story moment’s stitch in questioned reality. Skin textures appear really defined and that also translates into much of the other details as well. No bulky discolorations, splotchiness, or banding stand to say that there were no real compressions with this release albeit having virtually no special features to go along with the single layered feature. The release comes with two audio options, a lossy Japanese LPCM mono and a far more robust LPCM stereo. Both tracks outline a clean and clear passage with no real threats to the audio with only minor white noise in the background. Optional English subtitles provide an error-free experience and pace well with the film. Aforementioned, a lack of bonus features is reduced to only a photo gallery of scene stills and Unearthed trailers, “Evil Dead Trap 2: Hideki” included. “Evil Dead Trap 2: Hideki” challenges each and every one of us to think outside its basket case box and dredge up reason from an addled, abortion-deviled, and serial murdering narrative.

“Evil Dead Trap 2:  Hideki” on Blu-ray Home Video from Unearthed Films!

When the EVIL Novice Becomes the EVIL Master. “Assault! 13th hour!) reviewed! (Impulse Pictures / DVD)

“Assault!  13th Hour” on DVD from Impulse Pictures!

A gas station attendant is beguiled by the culpable bad boy antics of a serial rapist in a red jacket. As the attendant becomes more enthralled by the sociopath’s life-altering school of assault and apprenticeship, he attempts a solo flight to turn his women victims into loving his deplorable acts of sexual misconducts. His emulation of sprouting a decadent rape fantasy fails as the connective alternative sexual experience between the powerful and the powerless only induces complete fear. Curious to how the connoisseur of forced copulation gets away with women paying him for ravishment again, the novice learner of lechery aims to seek as much knowledge as possible without hesitation and without question but a homosexual gang hunts down his master in the crimson jacket for an unspecified act that warrants retribution. Caught in the middle, the gas station attendant must fight for his life if he wants to continue the legacy of violation.

Better known as “Rape! 13th Hour,” Yasuharu Hasebe’s “Assault! 13th Hour” is a perhaps a more marketable film for many western distributors with the world rape kicking off as an exclamational in the title. One of Japan’s well-known exploitation and pinku filmmakers, having directed a slew of films with a combination of action, crime, and sexual dysphoria and kink with the Stray Cat Rock film series (“Sex Hunter,” “Delinquent Girl Boss”) as well as “Rape!,” “Secret Honeymoon: Rape Train,” and “Raping!” Yeah, I would say Hasebe had a deviant fantasy for the subject. Released in 1977, “Assault! 13th Hour” comes from the same mind of “Hausu” screenwriter Chiho Katsura and Toshiro Masuda’s “The Perfect Game,” a Criterion release film, screenwriter Yoshio Shirasaka. Now, the 73-minute narrative rapt in the idea of women throwing themselves, as well as their yen, at the attacker in a twisted reaction to forceful violation with a greenhorn being trained-to-inherit the practice is by no means as surreally horrifying as “Hausu” or as complicatedly thrilling as the gambling-gone-awry “The Perfect Game.” Still, an underlying, nagging feeling of the patriarchal power that is deeply engrained into Japanese culture can be digested with this pinku-production under the company eye of Nikkatsu Corporation, releasing the film under its pinku eiga subsidiary, the Nikkatsu Roman Porn banner, with Ryoji Ito (“Cruel High School Girls: Sex Lynch”) producing.

Now, whether “Assault! 13th Hour” is a sequel to either Hasebe’s “Rape!” or “Assault!” is not clear from this reviewer’s eyes – I have yet to see either one of those particular previously films – but there lies one commonality between all of them, Akira Takahashi. A lifer in the pinku eiga industry, Takahashi has collaborated with Hasebe on a number of films that run the gamut of exploitation. For his role of Crimson, a serial rapist and delinquent who sports a red bomber jacket, the principal predator is more mysterious in not only his actions but his backstory involving the homosexual gang boss and his two equally sapphic goons and this is where I suspect “Assault! 13th Hour” might be a follow up film as Crimson’s historical transgressions don’t come to light. Hence, the gang’s manhunt never fleshes out to a warranted chase down and the unsuspected sexual tension that produces from it between Crimson and the gang boss. Takahashi brings a confident and suave creep to the lead but doesn’t necessarily have the charisma to make Crimson stand out on his own as a memorable character. Crimson’s accomplice, and the story’s perspective primary, played by Yûdai Ishiyama (“Izo”), fits snuggly into the part of curious in his character who takes uninitiated baby steps into wanting to be a part of this cabal of beastly baroque bedfellows that can persuade Stockholm syndrome upon their victims before they zip up their pants. Ishiyama’s role provides more depth as a low-end gas station attendant with a pent-up perversion and who’s better to exploit and nurture his willingness more than his equivocal new best friend, Crimson. The story’s unpublicized character list provides the story with a nebulous pall to make a statement that this can happen to anyone and can even happen to this cast list of Yuri Yamashina, Tamaki Katsura, Naomi Oka, and Rei Okamoto.

I’m still wrapping my head around the plot’s sudden drop into mid-story without a callback to Crimson’s sordid history that weaves between his seemingly magical persuasion of perversion and his tumultuous involvement with the homosexual gang who want more than just to beat him to pulp. The chance stance Hasebe has to fashion into a comprehensible story, based off the script’s limiting section of a whole, is turned into a wildly suitable and often alternate universe viewed milieu where corruption and immorality goes without proper attention or justice. There are no detectives tracking down the rapists’ rampage or even the display of just a single police vehicle at the aftermath of the crimes. Judgements are contained within the confines of the criminal underworld from a twisted perspective of vigilante justice and, you know, it works! The one-sided standpoint immerses the viewer into a filthy, degrading, and perversely fantastical sea of immorality where lawlessness is the law, but as far as pink films are concerned, “Assault! 13th Hour” is a tame entry that doesn’t shockingly exploit the senses. Likely, that reserved jolt from the jarring material stems from decades of repetitive similar films of the same genre and/or nature and we, those fans drowning in fascination of the pink film category, might feel a little numb to its debauchery though the ending’s infringing necrophilia onto nearly every possible orifice on the victim’s body can be an eye-opener, or an eye-closer depending on your level of comfort and intrigue. Assault! 13th Hour” explores a trade far less trodden in its unusual master and pupil dynamic and subjugates any ambiguities over the blurry line between heterosexuality and homosexually with a slightly biased preconceived notion that heterosexual assault leads to viable passion whereas the counter only offers brutality and bloodshed.

Arriving onto DVD from Impulse Pictures, the XXX and erotica sublabel of Synapse Films, is the Nikkatsu Roman released “Assault! 13th Hour!” The anamorphic 1.85:1 presentation renders a respectable transfer of the 35mm film despite the noticeable age and wear of the warm, inferior negative stock that often appears dark and detailed indiscernible, unlike the stylish use of high contrast. The Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 dual channel casts a better-than-expected dialogue track and general ambient score albeit the overplayed audio bytes for cars revs and screeching tires. The constant low whir never goes above a whisper, leaving alone the dialogue to remain clear and free of obstructions and that also goes for the absence of pops and hissing. The newly translated and removable English subtitles pace well, display without typos, and are synchronously consistent. The 1977 Japanese erotica and roughie is a feature only release for Impulse Pictures with no bonus material included. The tight and taut, rough and dirty, “Assault! 13th Hour” is a tinderbox of ferocity as well as a tender box of far out fantasies that makes this dichotomy of sexuality and violence an interesting slice of Japanese erotic cinema.

“Assault!  13th Hour” on DVD from Impulse Pictures!