Mama’s EVIL Little Boy. “Mother” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

A boy’s best friend…is his “Mother.”  DVD at Amazon.com

In the deep pocket of rural America, a son is born in a country home and over the years, the baby of the house lives a cossetted life by his mother.  Warped by her mollycoddling ways and unaffected by the death of his father, the now young man apathetically bends to his mother will whether she’s conscious of it or not.  He responds in unkind to overprotect his mother when an envious older brother derides their special son and mother bond and is murdered in cold bold.  As more years pass and his mother succumbs to her health deterioration, the son, now the last of his family, remains in solitary at the family home and the absence of his beloved mother haunts him as he processes his unnurtured and unhealthy sexuality onto the unwilling living and the unresponsive dead. 

In 2003, the NY-based indie horror filmmaker Michael P. DiPaolo gave us “Daddy,” an undead rape-revenge zombie-thriller that brought the corpse of an abusive father back from the grave to exact a fate far worse than death on his daughter and her friends who put an end to drunken state defiling of his little girl.   Three years later, DiPaolo releases to us “Mother.”  However, don’t expect this to a companion film connected to “Daddy.”  Instead, “Mother” is a whole new story with a whole new stylistic approach, including zero dialogue in a black and white frame – much like a silent movie but with more Foley and no corresponding continuous piano tunes. Ed Gein became the core inspiration for DiPaolo who retells the Plainfield, Wisconsin described Ghoul‘s horrifying deeds of exhuming corpses, creating trophies out of the remains, and even the slaying of two women, a tavern owner and a general hardware store clerk. DiPaolo self-produces the film under this Black Cat Cinema productions along with associate producer Zachary Balog and shoots the film most of the homestead around Cropseyville, New York, near Albany, and the surrounding area.

Comes no surprise that the actor who once portrayed the former Republican Vice President, Dick Chaney, for Damon Packard’s Fatal Pulse also plays the details likes of one of America’s most notorious murderers. The Buffalo, New York born John Karyus, who had a minor role in “Daddy,” reteams with DiPaolo to present a dialogue-less version of the life and death of Ed Gein by stepping into virtually his skin – that’s an Ed Gein joke in case you were paying attention. Karyus and DiPaolo don’t hold anything back in the peculiar biopic that dives deep into dismemberment madness, fascination killings, and the loss of motherly love. Half of the praise should be awarded to Nina Sobell as the son’s mother. Sobell not only plays mommy dearest but also the hardware store clerk and the tavern owner in an unrecognizable fashion. The up-in-age actress’s comfort level was high enough even for a nude scene in which Karyus has to dress her approaching older age and invalid body. Karyus might be on centerstage as the star of the show, but Sobell’s in the backstage manipulating the pullies, curtains, and supporting Karyus with different angles that give way to the avenues of an aggressor’s cloistered milieu. Other minor characters quickly come and go amongst the silence feature with costars in Jason McCrea as the bigger brother, Phil Sawyer Jr. as the best friend, Adam Zaretsky as the father, and Svetlana as the exhumed corpses brutally hacked away for her bone-afied trophies.

The distorted mind of Ed Gein must have been a surreal inverted world. I think Michael DiPaolo encapsulates a similar essence of the upside-down perspective seen through the eyes of a killer with what can be said to be his woven auteur’s arthouse tapestry. You would think no dialogue would drag the film through the monotonous much and show signs of repetitive tiresome, especially dressed in a colorless monochrome but the crafty cinematography and grisly gestures never waver interests as we’re along for the fall of man beheld as not only mother’s baby boy but also as her ardent admirer. Her presence was a tattered thin tether that kept him secure to reality and once she checked out, the abnormal fascinations that always laid dormant now flourishing with full force like an unchecked weed in an immaculate garden of prize-winning roses. The son goes from a chaperoned teetering-maligned individual to full-fledged grave robber and skin suit tailor, raping and ripping the flesh from dead bodies over the course of years, denoting just how psychologically paramount a mother’s care is for a boy in the balance of good and evil. DiPaolo more-or-less hits every note in the book in regard to Ed Gein’s past, tweaking a few historical moments for dramatization or budgetary limits, while still maintaining a professional code of conduct despite constructing the film on the cheap. DiPaolo definitely knows and understands what he’s doing and how to work the system as clearly seen between the tone and expression differences of 2003’s “Daddy” to 2006’s “Mother.”

First, there’s was the back form the dead “Daddy.” Now, there’s the spoiling to sociopathic “Mother.” A match made in Hell and both available on a region free home video DVD from SRS Cinema. The “Mother” release is presented in black and white on SOV 1.33:1 aspect ratio, reconstructed in an impressive 6-7 megabytes per second due partly because there is nothing to decode from a RGB color signal. Contrasting is good as you can greatly appreciate the spectrum between light and dark patches. Sporting no dialogue, the LPCM 2.0 stereo features slightly exaggerated Foley and a dissonant vocal score, some in the Russian language nonetheless, from the Moscow born, New York residing folk instrumental artist LJova (Lev Zhurbin). There’s clarity over ambiguity to the action-destined soundbites being conveyed even if a bit over-the-top as if to compensate for the no dialogue. The 76-minute film is coupled with a DiPaolo short film “Brutal Ardor” about a woman trapped inside her small apartment and an immense amount of despair living with a sexually overbearing and jealous husband. Also included in the bonus material is a making of featurette voiced over by DiPaolo as he goes through his creative process and techniques (and is also somewhat of a comedy track), a director’s commentary, the feature trailer, Michael DiPaolo film trailers, and other SRS trailers. Perfect for a double bill with DiPaolo’s “Daddy,” “Mother” is a cynical and desolation ark of biblical proportions adapted from a horrid torrent of truth.

A boy’s best friend…is his “Mother.”  DVD at Amazon.com

Cannibals’ EVIL Break a Family’s Bond. “Blood for Flesh” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)



“Blood for Flesh” has a healthy amount of both!

Primitive cannibals sexually violate a brother and sister by a campfire ritual while feasting on entrails.  A family in the throes of hatred and forbidden incest is torn apart between death and mercy.  When these two powerful moments spur friction amongst the family, blood and betrayal runs like an unstoppable torrent.  Animalistic urges take over and neither brother, sister, or father are safe from the cannibals or each other in a landscape of barren and sociopathic madness.  Who will survive and come out on top of the internal upheaval when bloodlust is at its highest?

“Sangre Para la Carne,” or for the single-lingual, English-comprehending audiences, “Blood for Flesh,” is the 2019 ultraviolent and in your face gore-and-shock short-feature film from Mexican director Alex Hernández.  Though completed in 2019, “Blood for Flesh” gains traction into the at-home market three years later, finding distribution on multiple independent physical media distributors as well as video streaming services.  In his debut directorial, which doesn’t list the filmmaker as the screenwriter but is likely the architect of its abstract, Hernández caught the eye of another extreme auteur in “House of the Flesh Mannequins” and “Xpiation” director Domiziano Cristopharo and Italian-based TetroVideo to lift “Blood for Flesh,” fitting right into TetroVideo’s cache of erotic and extreme horror, into production and home video distribution. Shot in the arid depths of Tlaxcala, Mexico, labeled the epicenter in internationally trafficking female sex slaves to the United States, “Blood for Flesh” deluges itself with more unsavoriness, produced by Porfirio Hernández and Rodrigo Tellez Pérez.

To put it simply, “Blood for Flesh” is madness of unchecked immorality and to make something this deranged, Hernández would have needed a likeminded cast small enough to pull off callous scenes of rape, torture, and merciless death as well as aberrant scenes of incest surrounding three members of a truly messed up family. Beginning with the patriarch who is only know as the Father, played by Juan Manuel Martínez, whose subsequently becomes the violently persecuted by his own spawn after groveling at his daughter’s feet in a moment of bawling seeking forgiveness. Bound and gagged, beaten, and hung upside, the Father receives no mercy from his children and there’s no real revelation to why he’s become a subject of torture. Brother (Luis Navarro) and Sister (Erika López) fashion a complex relationship of courtship and collusion. As the Brother notes more than once in a divulging of truth the longing for his sister and his regretful reluctance in continuing the mistreatment of his father, its the Sister who seemingly has the upper hand, the hypnotic spell, over her love stricken brother and as Hernández dives into Sister’s unhinged scenes, especially where she marks her face and body with makeup, we come to realize that Sister just might not be right in the old cabeza. Now, how the cannibals – played by Christian Camara, Daniel Cruz, Enrique Diaz Duran, Aldo Palacios, and Marisela Plaza – fold into the family’s unraveling is a bit of a mystery but I’d like to think their naked savagery represents the rupture and hate between family and the cannibalism is kind of this dog-eat-dog mentality to come out on top by exploiting the other.

No matter which way you slice it, no matter how sharp the blade divides the skin, the muscle, the meat, or the bone, making sense of “Blood for Flesh” will never, ever happen as the almost an hour runtime feature, setup into chapters, is a bundle of biting brutality possibly representing a wide variety of real-world complications. The non-linear structure formulates no sensical path from beginning to end as you’re plopped right into the family’s madness from minute one and though I’m no stranger to undisguised abstract art in indie film, I can usually piece together to symbolic impressions or the weave a clear justification for most scenes in arthouse horror. With “Blood for Flesh,” I’m about as lost as a 5-year-old in a mall whose wander off from his inattentive shopaholic mother perusing the hot deal clothes racks at JCPenney’s the day after Christmas. I watch as Erika López strip away her clothes and her character’s mortality in every scene, I ponder and consider Juan Manuel Martínez’s Father’s compulsive reactions to seek forgiveness as well as to be vindictive toward his off-color and off-their-rocker offspring, and I am beguiled by Luis Navarro’s need to be inside his sister and, yet I feel nowhere near grounded to “Blood for Flesh’s” message if there is even one to be grounded to. Maybe we’re not supposed to connect with such corrosive content in what’s supposed to be just purely unabated shock content to rock the core of typicality. The cannibal scenes seem to be just an object of the director’s fascination with the ugly side of tribal horrors in a stereotyped rendition that depict them as nothing more than basal beasts that take what they want without an out of compassion and my mind continues to lean toward that high degree of barbarism to equate to a family built upon by hate, loathing, and individual interests.

“Blood for Flesh” could have easily fit in the catalogue of other extreme and underground horror labels, but this experimental purge of images and sins has found a home at SRS Cinema on the company’s Nightmare Fuel banner DVD distributed by MVD Visual. The single layer, region free, and unrated DVD is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio that decompresses content around 5-6 Mbps, hovering around par for the course when considering DVD picture quality. Generally, the cinematography is bleak, like it’s content, with muted coloring or shot in the dark to avoid any colorful hues. Only when stark red filters are used, which is only one or two scenes, is when color unloads in every inch and corner of the frame. There’s some aliasing and banding in certain scenes that cause momentary distortion that make it hard to delineate exactly what you’re looking act – is it an open and bloody slit or gash or is a cheeseburger? That’s always a fun game to play. The Spanish language audio tracks come in two formats – a PCM Stereo 2.0 and a Dolby Digital 2.0. The PCM is, again, muted with a lack of robust quality the Dolby Digital has much more vigor in all the sub-tracks. Unfortunately, the pieced together soundbites lack creativity and are poorly spliced together that continuously drop off in an instant on the backend. The forced English subtitles synch okay and are captioned well. Bonus features include a filmmaker’s commentary track, interviews with the cast that come with awful Spanglish translations, and the film’s trailer. If Domiziano Cristopharo saw something unique in Alex Hernández, I have yet to see it as I’m not sold on the director’s fringe horror film that aims to just be randomize acts of violence for 59 minutes.

“Blood for Flesh” has a healthy amount of both!

Sonar Radiation is Music to the EVIL’s Ears! “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” reviewed! (Synapse / Blu-ray)



Don’t Let the Sleeping Corpses Just Lie!  Grab a copy of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” at Amazon!

After having a run-in with a beautiful woman, Edna, at a gas station who accidently wrecking his motorbike, Manchester antique dealer George offers to drive her car to her destination in the country, her sister’s place in Southgate, and then borrow the car to continue on toward his appointment in Windermere.  However, upon their arrival in Southgate, Edna’s husband Martin has been brutally murdered and the police immediately suspect the two urbanite out-of-towners George and Edna of coming the heinous crime.  In reality, the recently dead in a mile radius has their nervous system reactivated and directed to kill the living by a new sonar radiation technology aimed to destroy crop pests.  With the police and the dead on their heels, George and Edna seek to expose the truth to the world before its too late and the experimental new pesticide’s range is extended to cover more ground. 

Hitting the stop button here before we dive into our review of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue.”  If you’ve never seen the Jorge Grau directed 1974 flesh eating zombie film then drop everything – you’re work, your kids, your winning lottery ticket worth millions – and take the next one hour and 33 minutes to enjoy the graphically gory, social commentary horror that not only cashes in on the George Romero “Night of the Living Dead” gamechanger undead horror but also rivals Romero’s film in story and in full, gorgeous color.  “The Legend of Blood Castle” director Jorge Grau helms the Spanish-Italiano co-produced script penned by Sandro Continenza (“Uncle Was a Vampire”) and Marcello Coscia (“Teenage Emmanuelle”) and was provided to Grau by “The Eroticist” and “Don’t Torture the Duckling” producer Edmundo Amati who wanted to make a Romero-esque flesh-eating zombie film of his own.  Also more widely known as “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie,” “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” is co-produced by Manuel Pérez and is a co-production between Star Films and Flaminia Produzioni Cinematografiche.

Hot off the presses of Italian action-crime dramas, Ray Lovelock (“Emergency Squad,” “Almost Human”) finds himself playing an antique merchant holding up shop in the metropolitan area of Manchester, England and as George Meaning, the relatively undisclosed personal experience as an antique merchant, Lovelock gets into character not on the business end but when the shopkeeper goes on holiday in the country, riding his motorcycle Windermere where he has arranged a meeting with some very important people that never flesh out in the end. Speaking of flesh, don’t expect the leading lady Cristina Galbó (“The House that Screamed”) to provide any as the panicky Edna Simmonds on her way to her sisters (Jeannine Mestre, “Count Dracula”) for an intervention toward her sister’s severe heroin use. Much of the only flesh to be hand in “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” is that is which ripped from the bodies and stuffed into rotten, undead mouths. In itself, the entire scenario between Edna and her druggie sister is a compelling enough story to warrant attention in accumulating a sense of sisterly betrayal and a sacrificial compassion to do the right thing despite the consequences. However, that pathway, no matter how distressingly prominent it may seem, does not carry over into the main plot points of an experimental pesticide treatment involving sonar inadvertently raising the dead to be superhuman zombies. Between an Italiano (Lovelock) and a Spainard (Galbó), who not throw in an American while we’re at it with Massachusetts born Arthur Kennedy (“The Antichrist”) to be the aging local inspector keen on pinning every murder on youthful urbanites with their hippie ways and satanists beliefs. “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” fills out the cast with José Lifante (“Night of the Walking Dead”), Vincente Vega (“Historias para no dormir“), and “Flesh+Blood’s” Fernando Hilbeck as the foremost feared zombie.

What makes Jorge Grau’s take on the living dead canon so impressive is not only the social commentary story that seeks to deconstruct ecological progression as an ironic destructive poison to the Earth and its inhabitants and the striking moments in gore effects from the team of Juan Antonio Balandin, Luciano Byrd, and Giannetto De Rossi (of Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi”) that have remained timeless in holding up and rivaling against many of today’s gruesome effects, but also the terror-inducing sound design that combines Giuliano Sorgini’s funky-spook with Antonio Cárdenas zombie-vision resonances of heavy breathing and resonating heart thuds that cues the lurking of an undead lurker.  The effect is potent and full of imminent danger when included into Grau and cinematographer Francisco Sempere’s (“Death Will Have Your Eyes”) perfectly framed shots of the Romero-esque zombie lumbering toward their prey in an unstoppable hunger to kill and eat and, sometimes, convert to their infant-legion inside-and-out of the zombie perspective.  Along the lines of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue’s” environmental theme is the juxtaposition of big city and countryside in regards to their pollution levels in the opening credit scene where George rides out of Manchester through the degradation of the masses who are popping pills, wearing face masks (like in today’s COVID climate), numb to shock (in the scene where a naked protestor runs in front of stalled traffic for peace and the motorists are blank to the moment), passing by death and polluted nuclear smoke stacks.  Once the lead George reaches the countryside, he removes the scarf covering his nose and mouth and breathes in fresh air with a smirk on his face.  From then on, the story moves forward with a cautionary tale of ill-fated modern progression, such as urbanism, seeping into a natural landscape and causing death and destruction, leaving an poignant aftertaste in the inevitably of man’s ignorance will kill us all.  Grau’s film is a good candidate to be a promotional movie for the dramatic effects of climate change in today’s campaign for ecological change to reduce our carbon footprint.

Synapse brings “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” home onto a Blu-ray home video, restored in 4K from the original camera 35mm negative that includes the authentic and intact opening and closing credit sequences. The region free, AVC encoded release is presented in 1080p high definition of a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the picture is the gold standard of presentation with a vivid and stable color palette, controlled DNR without any posterization, and greatly detailed without an inkling of lossy image quality. Two audio mix come with the release – a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound remix and the distinctive to the Synapse release the original English theatrical mono mix. Though nice and nostalgic in the original English mono mix, the clarity and robustness of the channels on the DTS-HD track is by far superior with its reformulated by Synapse lossless quality and fidelity, especially in that aforementioned sound design by Antonio Cárdenas. The English dub on Ray Lovelock can be off-putting at times but the track is still beyond the best of the two available audio options. English SDH subtitles are available. Extras include two audio commentaries by author and film scholars Troy Howarth, Nathaniel Thompson, and Bruce Holescheck, a feature length (89 min) documentary Jorge Grau – Catolonia’s Cult Film King that explores the lift and films of director Jorge Grau, The Scene of the Crime is special effects and makeup artist Gionnetto de Rossi discussion on the film, another de Rossi feature of the SFX artist at a Q&A at the Festival of Fantastic Films in the UK (43 minutes), the theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots, and a sleek black snapper case that wouldn’t be complete with a Synapse catalogue booklet. If you’re a diehard zombie genre fiend, Jorge Grau’s “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” must be at the top of your personal video collection. If it isn’t, kick yourself in the shin really hard and then check out Synapse’s gorgeous release of the Spanish-Italiano production that’s worth every second of your life viewing.

Don’t Let the Sleeping Corpses Just Lie!  Grab a copy of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” at Amazon!

EVIL Lights Up When Peeling Skin! “Human Lanterns” reviewed! (88 Films / Blu-ray)



Own this beautiful release from 88 Films of the “Human Lanterns”

Two respected and wealthy Kung-Fu masters have a long rivalry, trying to one-up each other at any cost even if that means stooping into their personal life to gain the most public admiration.  With the annual lantern festive approaches, to have the best and brightest lantern would sustain at least a year of gloating over the other master.  When a lantern maker with a retaliation mindset against one of the more boastful masters is hired to make his festival entry, the lantern maker exacts horrifying revenge by fueling their feud behind the scenes. Kidnapping beautiful women who are dear to each master and exploiting their soft delicacies for his crazed creations, the maniac lantern maker turns the village upside down, forcing the local constable into an impossible investigate into the village’s most popular residents when none of the evidence points to the other.

“Ren pi den long,” aka “Human Skin Lanterns,” aka “Human Lanterns” is a grisly Kung-Fu murder-mystery that’ll make your skin crawl right off from your body. The stylishly colored and ethereally varnished 1982 Hong Kong film is written-and-directed by Taiwanese director Chung Sun (“Lady Exterminator) that blended the likes of a giallo mystery into the well-choreographed martial arts mania with the profound Kung-Fu screenwriter, Kuang Ni (“The One-Armed Swordsman,” “The Flying Guillotine”), co-writing the script alongside Sun. While not as ostentatiously gory or as cinematically profane as the 80’s released Category III certified films that rocked Hong Kong audiences, and the censor board, with shocking, gruesome imaginary and content, “Human Lanterns” does sit teetering on the edge with mostly a tame Kung-Fu feature that quickly turns into the blistering carnage of a basket case, or in this a lantern maker, who uses hiding as a double entendre. “Human Lanterns” is a Shaw Brothers Studio production executively produced by the oldest of two brothers, Rumme Shaw, and, then new to the Shaw Brothers’ board of directors, producer Mona Fong.

“Human Lanterns” starred two the renowned names in martial arts films from the 1970s and well into the 1980s with “Fist of Fury” and “The Swordsman and the Enchantress’s” Tony Liu as the impeccably arrogant Lung Shu-Ai with a self-image to protect more than the women in his life and “Bloody Monkey Master” and “Return of the Bastard Swordsman” Kuan Tai Chen sporting a sweet mustache as Lung’s longtime rival, Tan Fu. Shu-Ai and Chen have really spot on, well-versed, fight sequences together braided into their play off each other’s character’s haughty personas. While behind the curtain of overweening and defiance between the two masters, Chao Chun-Fang unceremoniously sneaks into the fold by happenstance as Lung offers him money for the best lantern this side of the lantern festival. Lung and Chao Chun-Fang, played with a demented, idiosyncratic duality from Leih Lo (“The Five Fingers of Death,” “Black Magic”), another master in the art of fighting in his own style, have an inimical past…well, at least thought so by Chun-Fang. In a sword dual over a woman, Lung defeats Chun-Fang and purposefully scars him above the left eye, causing him the inability to look up, and while the lantern maker has stewed for many years, training all the while to be the best fighter, his tormentor Lung Shu-Ai has nearly all forgotten about the incident and found trivial enough to ask Chung-Fang to make him a lantern and offer him out for drinks for being old buddies of yore. However, this yard pulls the wool over the eyes of self-centered, the upper class, and the unruffled nonchalant as Chung-Fang takes advantage of the Kung-Fu masters naivety and uses the rival as a screen to cover up his kidnapping deeds of the women in their lives, played by Ni Tien (“Corpse Mania”), Linda Chu (“Return of the Dead”), and Hsis-Chun Lin. “Human Lanterns” rounds out the character list with a hired assassin in Meng Lo (“Ebola Syndrome”) and a competent but out of his league village constable in Chien Sun (“The Vampire Raiders”).

The look of “Human Lanterns” is often dreamy. No, I don’t mean dreamy as in gazing into the strong blue eyes of your tall and dark fantasy man. The dreamy I’m speaking of is produced by cinematographer An-Sung Tsao’s luminescence that radiates of background and the characters through the wide range of primary hues. Tsao’s colorful and vibrant eye doesn’t clash with the vintage era piece consisting of impressively detailed sets, a costume design plucked straight from the 19th, and hair, makeup, and props (which I’ve read some of the blades were authentic) to bring up the caboose of selling the completed package of delivering a spot-on period film. When Leih Loh dons the skull mask, an undecorated and unembellished human skull, with wild, untamed hair sprouted from every side of the eyeless mask, Loh transforms into a part-man, part-beast jumping, summersaulting, leaping, and seemingly flying through the air like a manically laughing ghost. The visual cuts petrifyingly more than described and if you add an extensive amount of Kung-Fu to the trait list, “Human Lanterns” has a unique and unforgettable villain brilliantly crafted from the deepest, darkest recesses of our twisted nightmares. “Human Lanterns” has a wicked and dark side that balances the more arrogantly campiness of Lung and Tan’s hectoring rivalry. When Lieh Loh is not skinning in his workshop or Lung and Tan are not bullying each other into submission, there’s plenty of action with the heart stopping, physics-defying martial arts that just works into the story as naturally as the horror and the comedy. With shades of giallo and fists of fury, “Human Lanterns” is Hong Kong’s very own distinctive and downright deranged brand of good storytelling.

88 Films lights the way with a new high-definition Blu-ray of the Shaw Brothers’ “Human Lanterns” from the original 35mm negative presented in Shawscope, an anamorphic lensed 2.35:1 aspect ratio that more than often displays the squeeze of the picture into the frame. One could hardly tell the upscale to 1080p because of the very reason I explained in the previous paragraph of the airy An-Sung Tsao façade that softly glows like bright light behind a fog. Nonetheless, the image quality is still stunning and vivid, a real gem of conservation and handling on this Blu-ray release. The Mandarin dubbed DTS-HD 1.0 master audio is synched well enough to the action for a passing grade. The foley effects, such as the swipes and hits, are often too repeated for comfort, but adds to “Human Lantern’s” campy charm. The newly translated English subtitles are synchronous with the picture and are accurate but, in rare instances, come and go too quickly to keep up with the original language. The release comes not rated with a run time of 99 minutes and is region locked at A and B. Why not go full region free is beyond me? Licensing? Anyway, special features include an audio commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Phil Gillon of the Podcast On Fire Network, “A Shaw Story” interview with then rising Hong Kong star Susan Shaw who talks about the competitive and easy blacklisting Hong Kong and Tawain cinema market, “The Beauty and the Beasts” interview with in story brothel mistress played by Linda Chu often harping upon not wanting to do nudity despite directors begging her, “Lau Wing – The Ambiguous Hero” interview with Tony Liu that comes with its own precaution title card warning of bad audio (and it is really bad and kind of ear piercing) as the lead man really regales his time on set and in the industry between Golden Harvest Productions and Shaw Brothers Studios, and rounding out the main special features is the original trailer. The package special features is a lantern of a different color with a limited edition cardboard slipcase with new artwork from R.P. “Kung-Fu Bob” O’Brien, a 24-page booklet essay entitled “Splicing Genres with Human Lanterns” by Barry Forshaw accompanied by full colored stills, posters, and artwork by O’Brien, a double-sided fold out poster, and reversible Blu-ray cover art that can be flipped from the same, yet still awesome, O’Brien slipcover art to the original release art. The new 88 Films’ Blu-ray set conjures a renaissance satisfaction like none other for a highly recommended, genre-ambiguous, vindictive affray.

Own this beautiful release from 88 Films of the “Human Lanterns”

Southern Hospitality is all EVIL Cloaks and Daggers! “The Long Night” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)

“The Long Night” now available on Blu-ray home video!

After spending years in foster care as a child, the now adult Grace tries to track down any information or background about her biological parents with the help of affluent boyfriend Jack.  The New York City couple travel into the rural, deep south on a seemingly solid lead about her folks.  As Grace and Jack drive up to their contact’s isolated and grand manor estate, their contact with the information doesn’t greet them upon their arrival and as they search the house, they find it as empty and still as the wide open land around them.  When darkness falls, cloaked members of a demon worshipping cult surround the estate, using their telekinetic and telepathy powers to infiltrate and corral Grace toward being a host for the prophesized return of 400 year slumbering and powerful demon the night of the equinox.  The couple battle the subservient minions inside and outside the manor as the night progresses into terrifying visions of Grace’s predestined lineage and the hope of surviving the night is quickly dwindling.

A longstanding demonic cult with supernatural psychotronic abilities besieging two city slickers armed with broken cell phones and a fireplace poker feels like the mismatch from Hell.  Somehow, “The Curse of El Charro” director, Rich Ragsdale, was able to stick the landing with loads of dourly, yet intensely powerful, cinematography crafted from a Mark Young (“Tooth and Nail”) and Robert Sheppe script based off the Native American mythology of the Horned Serpent, Utkena.  Keeping with the mythos’ descriptors involving snakes and horns or antlers, Ragsdale utilizes his usual bread and butter music video talents to fashion psychedelic imagery out of an extremely committed cult mercilessly stopping at nothing in resurrecting their preeminent master who will cleanse the world of corrupted humanity to start the world afresh…or so they believe.  Shot on site at a deep-rooted and isolated plantation house and property in Charleston, South Carolina, “The Long Night,” also known as “The Coven, is a production of Sprockefeller Pictures (“Fatman”) and Warm Winter in association with Adirondack Media Group, El Ride Productions, and Hillin Entertainment.

Super stoked that “The Lurker” and Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remake star Scout Taylor-Compton is playing an age-appropriate role and not another high schooler, the actress plays the soul and parent searching Grace who has a strong desire to track down her parents, which never comes to the forefront why Grace was placed in foster care to begin with. Compton is completely competent assuming a role that requires her physicality as well as her emotional range in fear through resistance against a group of mostly unknown cast of characters that mostly keep their hoods and masks on for the entire engirdling of the manor house. Compton can also exude being a badass at times, but the script shamefully holds the character back that never allows Grace to become a true opposition to their exalting will toward their demon god. Nolan Gerard Funk (“Truth or Dare”) might ooze that trope persona of a dude-bro bred out of spoiled opulence as Grace’s boyfriend Jack. Despite his unappealing swaggering veneer, Jack reaches for depth more than any other character in the film and Funk pins it pretty well. Jack loves Grace but can’t face his Hamptons residing parents’ derision of a woman, of any woman in fact, who will never be good enough for their son and that creates some nice early on tension that fizzles out to being actually nothing of real importance to the couple. Yet, Jack continues to be the one with more common sense, receiving pre-plot point hump bad vibes since arriving at the manor and also making some of the better decisions when the bottom drops out and snake-charming demonists come calling for his main squeeze to squeeze out the resurrection of an unholy being. Funk adds bits of comedic charm throughout like someone who watched too many horror movies and tries to reenact scenes that could be beneficial to their survival in theory but hopelessly fails in a humorous way. A real waste of a raw cinematic talent is in Jeff Fahey (“Body Parts”) who plays the brother of the missing manor owner. Fahey feels very much used for solely his veteran star power, a recognizable face, just to be nearly instantaneously forgotten at the same time and by the climatic ending, you might not even remember Fahey being a part of the story. “The Long Night” rounds out with Deborah Kara Unger (“Silent Hill”) and Kevin Ragsdale (“Little Dead Rotting Hood”).

“The Long Night” is a delicate incubus uncoiling its snake-biting venom of inexorable fate. Rich Ragsdale hyper stylizes flashbacks and often mundane moments to conspicuously denote unimaginable and resistant-futile power over a pair of out of their league NYC outlanders. Speaking of which from within the script, there is a sting of contrast between North and South, as if the Civil War was still relevant, ever since the first moment Jack and Grace hit the screen with their travel plans. Jack passively continues to harp upon his dislike of South and even looks to Grace to make sense of a demon cult outside on the front and back lawn, hoping that her Southern roots can explain the provincial nonsense raising torches and speaking in tongues that’s blocking any and all exits. Even Grace, a character originating from the South, believes that the makeshift totems surrounding the property are resurrected to ward off evil. As a Southern, I never heard of such a thing. The concept for a Lazarus possession out of the depths of dimensional binding sounds like a winner in my book, but Ragsdale can’t quite smooth out the edge to effectively and properly give the cult and Grace a banging finale of supercharged hellfire that sees our heroine fight to the bitter end. Instead, the entire third act and ending feels like a sidestep because not a single better thought came to the writers’ imaginations. Cool visuals, good special effects, but a banal trail off ultimately hurts “The Long Night’s” longevity.

Well Go USA Entertainment delivers the Shudder exclusive, “The Long Night,” onto Blu-ray home video with a region A, AVC encoded, high definition 1080p release. Presented in 16X9 widescreen, some scenes look compressed or rounded suggesting an anamorphic picture, but the overall digital codec outcome is really strong elevated by the creepy folkloric and the pernicious dream atmospherics of “Escape Room’s” Pierluigi Malavasi who can masterfully casts the light as well as he shields it in a menacing silhouette. Some of the nightmares or hallucinations see more of compression flaws in the mist, smoke, or gel lighting with faint posterization. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD master audio balances a vigorous surround sound output, catching and releasing all the appropriate channels with a range of environmental ambient noise and the scuffle between violent contact, denoting a strong amplitude with depth between foreground and background. Dialogue comes out nice and clear with a vitality that’s reverberates in the ear channels whenever a momentous moment sparks an outburst of rage and dominion. Special features include a behind-the-scenes featurettes that look at the raw footage of the birthing flashback scene, the overall aesthetic tone of the film, and the resonating tribal score. Also included is a Rich Ragsdale commentary track, the theatrical trailer, and Ragsdale’s 2019 short film “The Loop,” a meta-horror surrounding a scary VHS tape and two young brothers. While “The Long Night” has flaws with unfinished plot details that will leave a lingering unsatisfied aftertaste, entrenched within the narrative is a contemporary premise revolving around dark fate and that gut feeling toward belonging to something bigger that unfortunately turns out to be murderous summonsing of a demon scratching at the door wanting to be let out in the world. An unforgettable long night of terror.

“The Long Night” now available on Blu-ray home video!