Burt Gummer Neutralizes EVIL Graboids in “Tremors: Shrieker Island” reviewed! (Universal 1440 Entertainment / Digital Screener)

A wildlife preservation maintains categorizing and tracking of native elephants, but when one of the company’s philanthropist turns his private island, just across the water from the preservation campsite, into a game reserve for apex predators, nothing will stop him from wagering the thrill of the hunt on expensive, top-of-the-line game.  That is until the graboids he’s illegally bred and genetically modified starts to hunt the wealthy trophy gamers back, especially when the Precambrian lifeforms metamorphize into the fast-spawning shriekers.  With an island full of graboids and shriekers that contributed to already one death, graboid expert and arms enthusiast-survivalist, Burt Gummer, is tracked down and brought out of retirement to once again battle his longtime killing machine adversary.  With no munition weapons, an obstinate playboy’s maniacal urge to hunt the fierce predator, and the most powerful of the graboids bred on the island able to wriggle underneath the sea floor between land masses, Gummer and a team of preservationists must band together to stop the graboids from being an invasive and unstoppable species. 

From an icy Canadian landscape in “Tremors:  A Cold Day in Hell” to the tropical beaches of Thailand, “Tremors:  Shrieker Island” is the seventh feature film in the Tremor’s 30-year franchise.  Heading straight to video on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital, including Streaming and VOD platforms come this October 2020, the subterranean monster action-comedy is steered by serial sequel director Don Michael Paul, who directed the last two “Tremors” installments, off a Paul script co-written with Brian Brightly that set sights on expanding the graboid footprint even farther East and surrounded by the seas of Thailand, further more distancing itself from the dust bowls of Perfection, Nevada and Mexico into new and unexplored terror-itories.  Universal Pictures’ off-shoot subsidiary banner, Universal 1440 Entertainment, and Living Films serves as the presiding production companies. 

 

The smart-mouth, quick-wit, arms-toting Burt Gummer has become, dare I say it, the Ash Williams of the Tremors’ franchise as a perpetually dragged back hero into monstrous circumstances to battle graboids and their offspring on land, air, and in the pits of hell of the innate underground habitat.  Aside from Bruce Campbell, there are not too many heroes in a genre that usually has a villainous backbone and so Michael Gross is the longest lasting reoccurring actor, spanning now 30-years, to return as an original hero who first encountered and killed the bastard creature who “broke into the wrong God damn rec room” in Perfection, Nevada.  Gross, now gray with a few more wrinkles sporting his iconic Gummer mustache, fits into the military-esque attire under his ball cap to square off alongside a ragtag team of unprepared, unqualified, and novice graboid hunters in Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”), Jackie Cruz (“Orange is the New Black”), Caroline Langrishe, and Richard Brake (“31”).  Heder fills in for the Jamie Kennedy role of Burt Gummer’s son, Travis, from the two previous installments and though Travis is mentioned briefly, the character’s presence is extended through Caroline Langrishe as Travis’s mother and preservation camp leader.  Heder and Langrishe complete that entangled trio that has been a trope present in nearly all the Tremor Films, starting with Val McKee, Earl Basset, and Rhona LeBeck, battling side-by-side to overcome the odds.  Cruz and Brake offer a serious side dish of badass on a polar opposite spectrum.  Jackie Cruz as Freddie, an entrenched team member of elephant tracking, is the Latina MacGuyer and is a weapon in herself that only someone like Burt Gummer would fully appreciate while Richard Brake, with his trademark sinister smile as obsessed game hunter Bill, relishes the role, pulling a watered down, PG-13 version of his typical bad guy motif from the more violent-venomous Rob Zombie films.  However, a minority of characters fall through character development cracks, such as Anna played by the up and coming Cassie Clare (“Death Race 4:  Beyond Anarchy”).  The archery expert Clare is a pertinent show off with a bow and arrow and is Bill’s right hand, but the Anna, under Cassie’s muscular thin frame and ironclad persona direction, has an inclined built up that goes to naught as she’s snubbed-shoved to a lesser role without having a significant impact in the latter half.   The reverse can said for Heder’s Jimmy character with first impressions of a top class scientist with lower class ambitions; yet, in an instant, Jimmy becomes a battle-worn graboid and shrieker killer while more experienced hunters, especially one wielding a mini gun, have less of a handle on the situation. 

While it’s neat and cool and nostalgic to see graboids and Burt Gummer back in action, much like the disconnect with lopsided arch able characters left to be graboid-fodder, “Tremors:  Shrieker Island” falls short of earlier predecessors, replacing personal filmmaking style over story substance.  For one, graboids just haven’t been the same since going from practical applications to computer imagery since “Bloodlines” on that has radically evolved the creatures from a less-is-more model to a complete overhaul of their veneer, resembling the dark and slimy man-eating tentacles of “Deep Rising,” and as well an overhaul of the creature mechanics that lead graboids to leap out of the ground and into the air like a flying fish, spiraling and twisting back into their dirt environment.   The graboid burrowing irks me as well as the ground explodes 10-15 feet up into the air in a blatant uses of detonating charges by the effects team to create the earthworm moving effect instead of just a perpetual hump and collapse of the ground that’s more of a menacing effect. Nuances run amok, causing subtle points of frustration in how Paul’s direction is really more a passive glance than a serious absorption of the franchise. Meandering people on the ground when they fully well know graboids are attracted by movement, half the film scaled back to slow motion to accentuate big money explosions, and the mother of all graboids able to target Burt Gummer for a mano on monstro showdown are just more examples of the charmless details in, what is, a palpable comedy with Earth dwelling monsters. “Tremors: Shrieker Island” is the equivalent of “Jaws: The Revenge;” the story may not make sense, but watching gigantic monsters cause mortal destruction is pure creature feature bliss.

What may be Burt Gummer’s last ride (or so they said in the last film), “Tremors: Shrieker Island” tunnels onto Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD come October 20th, 2020 and soon to be streaming on Netflix shortly after. The BD50 Blu-ray will feature an anamorphic widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, with an English language DTIS-HD Master Audio 5.1 while the DVD9 is presented in a widescreen 16:9 with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. Both formats will include optional English Dolby Digital 2.0 as well as a dubbed French, and Spanish DTIS Digital Surround 5.1 with a slew of option subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian, French European, and Latin American Spanish. Since the film was reviewed on a digital screener, the A/V aspects will not be critiqued. The exclusive bonus features listed on all physical and VOD include a Burt Gummer narrated “The Monster of Tremors” that gives you everything you need know about the diabolical monsters, “Tremors Top 30 Moments” that hone in on 30 years worth of scenes that provide laughs, Burtisms, and some of the most gory moments in graboid history, and, lastly, “The Legend of the Burt Gummer” that focuses on the iconic graboid hunter character told by his persona creator himself, Michael Gross. Richard Brake, once again, nails the villain, Jackie Cruz stuns as a resourceful Gummer-ite, and Michael Gross fleshes out one more commando swashbuckling Burt Gummer in the zany seventh installment of the unstoppable “Tremors” franchise.

Pre-order Tremors: Shrieker Island on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital!

Edna is EVIL According to the “Reform School Girls!” Reviewed!


After being apprehended for robbery, underage Jenny is sentenced to 3 years at Pridemore reform school where she immediately clashes with an iron fisted dorm administrator named Edna and her intimate inmate enforcer Charlie Chambliss. With a few friends on the inside, Jenny’s group becomes the target of Edna’s biased infraction system and Charlie sets her domineering sights on breaking the girls’ wills into submissive followers. The school is controlled by an equally sadistic, evangelically abusive Warden Sutter and Jenny’s multiple attempts at reforming the reform school with the assistance of a sympathetic psychologist staff member, and even her attempt to escape, have failed with torturous consequences. As Edna tightens her grip, Jenny and the girls seethe more violently as the weeks pass up to an inevitable uprising, snapping the young girls’ spirits when enough is enough.

Wet, wild, and womanizing, Tom DeSimone’s 1986 satirically women in prison film, “Reform School Girls,” is a cavity invasive good time all around! DeSimone, who also penned the script, has a revolutionary background as a male gay porn filmmaker, but made the crossover into cult genre films after his successful runs with “Chatterbox” featuring exploitation starlet Candice Rialson and “Hell Night,” starring “Exorcist’s” Linda Blair. Yet, “Reform School Girls” is hardly separation from the director’s once moonlit experiences other than the cast is almost entirely made up of beautiful, naked women showering together and when they’re not fully nude and wet, they might as well be wearing nothing while cladded in skimpy outfits and lingerie as a few characters copulate insinuatingly instead of explicitly. The only thing DeSimone was probably uncomfortable with was his last two WIP features, “Concrete Jungle” and “Prison Girls,” as they struggled to find an appreciative audience and thus “Reform School Girls” was constructed to be a mockery of the whole WIP market, exploding it violently, and sensationally, with the genre tropes that, ironically, skyrockets this film’s cult success.

The incarcerated characters offer a wide variety of individualities that are ultimately filled by big personalities themselves. Sometimes, those personalities come with a little head scratching questions. Such is the case with lead actress Linda Carol who isn’t the headliner of the “Reform School Girls,” but she’s certainly one of the main leaders, Jenny, of an imprisoned pack. Born in 1970, Carol had to be no more than 14 to 16 years of age at filming and was cleared for a number of nude scenes, especially around other nude women, but Carol had fire in her performance; in fact, the cast from specified roles to the undesignated titled roles were all highly stimulating in their presence and demeanor. When first entering dorm 14, teased hair and underwear was the unofficial name of the scene that spoke about the genre of the decade in a matter of a few minutes. This is where we meet Charlie Chambliss, a buff, scantily-cladded, totalitarian gang leader of dormitory 14, played fluorescently by rocker Wendy O. Williams. The then mid-30-year-old Williams was a bit of a duck out of water in a role that was for a teenage girl, but the front woman of The Plasmatics was awfully charismatic, brash, and a real illustrated performer who exaggerated dramatics to the next welcoming level in her knee high platform boots. While Williams had sexy hot-to-trot flair, Pat Ast leisurewear offered nothing more than a dull white coat over matron garb, but Ast punctures through anything matriarchal and goes full blown maniacal as dorm keeper Edna. Ast goes over the top and beyond with a love to hate – scratch that – kill character. If you think the evil that embodies Charlie and Edna ends there, you’re wrong! “The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf’s” Sybil Danning’s apex of evil, Warden Sutter, struts around the school like a German commandant with a soapbox of vile and wretched women in a perverted Biblical sense and mastermind behind the abusive culture at Pridemore. The cast concludes with Charlotte McGinnis, Sheri Stoner, Denise Gordy, Laurie Schwartz, Tiffany Helm (“Friday the 13th: A New Beginning”), Darcy DeMoss (“Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives”), and Winnifred Freedman.

Shooting from the hip on first viewing impressions, “Reform School Girls” is nothing like we’ve ever seen before. Sure, we’ve all see women in prison films, from “Big Bird Cage” to even making an argument on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” and we’ve also see cheeky 1980’s comedy that if made today would be grossly lambasted with politically incorrect protestors. Yet, DeSimone’s satire take undercuts the stern nature of the WIP genre with great flamboyancy toward institutional exploitation and the ugly invasive issue of sodomy and rape that the themes can be easily pushed aside without so much of an inkling of consideration. Explosions, gunfire, skimpily dressed women, shower sequences, bitter tongue and cheek, and anything and everything that was omitted from grindhouse market place in this film constructs a smoke and mirrors effect that pivots sharply before getting ankle deep into the issues, no matter the severity just as long as Pat Ast crunches her face into a luffa shape and appoints a barely clothed inmate to a mandatory cavity search and the viewers would be just as captivated.

Umbrella Entertainment and Lakeshore Entertainment release the International Cinevision and New World Pictures production of “Reform School Girls” on a PAL 4 region DVD, presented in a widescreen, 1.77:1 aspect ratio; a slightly cropped version of the original film format. Whatever is cropped out is too trivial and the image picture supplies a palatable presentation with bold hues and bare, but naturally colored, skin tones, despite some fake tanning. One noticeable fleeting moment of an 35mm stock cigarette burn in the upper left corner of a scene, but in-and-out in a blink of an eye. The stereo 2.0 Dolby Audio mono track has balance that singles out the robust dialogue against a leveled down ambient and score recording. The range is good amongst all the reform girl chatter in the dorm rooms. A handful of shower and bathroom scenes have some muffled echoed moments, but the discord in these moments is still extremely low. Surprisingly, there isn’t one single bonus material on this disc, not even a static menu as the film goes right into play feature mode. “Reform School Girls” makes light of wretchedness, revels in the fun of unsavory fraternizing, and is unapologetic of a carnal and wicked tone on and off the screen, harboring one hell of a women in prison cinematic guilty pleasure.

Umbrella’s DVD is available for purchase at Amazon.com!

Bank Robbers Find Evil in “The Vault” review!


Leah and Vee, Two estranged sisters, their knee deep in debt brother, Michael, and a couple of money hungry hired hands take siege of an old bank to score a half a million dollar payday. With hostages bagged and tagged, security cameras disabled, and no outside communication to the police transmitted, the situation and plan seems to be going smoothly, but when the actual pay load is lighter than expected, desperation takes over and panic overwhelms when the prospect of load sharks will seek to take more than just fingers for payment. A more than helpful assistant bank manager is eager and willing to share information about how to obtain the 6 million dollars in an archaic vault beneath the upper levels just as long as nobody gets hurt, but the heist’s meddling into the basement’s vault stirs a malevolent evil force and their fates will be sealed inside an unsafe repository.

The 2007 “The Signal” director, Dan Bush, directs and co-writes 2017’s “The Vault,” a supernatural thriller co-written by “The Reconstruction of William Zero” scriber Conal Byrne. Tense and polished, “The Vault” has the makings of a velvety heist film that holds up formidably strong, setting up a hostage situation after a well-executed pilferage involving zesty characters with dire complexities that drive them to villainy. The opening credits provide glimpses into the duration along with associative theme, much along the same lines as Victor Salva’s “Jeepers Creepers” that scores the Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer’s jazzy “Jeepers Creepers” track from 1938 that inspired fear before the arrival of The Creeper. “The Vault” uses a song 30-years junior to “Jeepers Creepers” with Tommy James and the Shondells’s psychedelic pop track, “Crimson and Clover.”

The sisters could be exemplary examples of fire and ice; Vee’s hotheaded obstinacy and violent tendencies makes her a volatile wildcard whereas Leah’s calm, cool, and calculating measures maintain their heist from derailing into violent panic. Their estrangement boils from a tiff about Leah’s loyalty to her family as Vee burgeoningly bludgeons Leah and her their brother, Michael, that Leah will skate soon after their escape, leaving the family one-third complete yet again, but Leah being involved in this heist, coming to her brother’s aid from her possible story bred locale of South America, or wherever she might have been, has Michael questioning Vee’s steadfast position. “Orange is the New Black’s” Taryn Manning is a natural born roughneck on screen and Vee is no stretch from her Pennsatucky character on the Netflix hit comedy-drama. Manning opposites Clint Eastwood’s piercing round-eyed daughter, Francesca Eastwood, whose a complete badass in her own rite. The two actresses might be short in stature, but Manning and Eastwood effectively symbolize large personalities in “The Vault” to the point where no other character can come close to competing with them, not even James Franco as an assistant bank manager with an all-too-happy to help personality. Franco, who sports a sweet stash and wavy dark hair, provides a steeliness shroud around his character, whose credited as Ed Mass in the credits, but never specially mentioned by name. Mass is a pivotal character to the story and, if analyzed thoroughly, can be unsurprisingly figured out with relative ease, but the who, what, and why are vital questions that go unfortunately unanswered. Scott Haze rounds out the four main roles with Michael, the gentle brother to Vee and Leah whose deep in debt with collectors who have already diced off one of his fingers. Haze, who has worked alongside “127 Hours’” star in a number of films such as “The Institute,” “Future World,” and “In Dubious Battle” to name a few, doesn’t have much interaction with Franco, but is more a satellite in his own regard becoming the protector of his two more than capable sisters. Supporting cast includes Q’orianka Kilcher as lead teller, “Day of the Dead: Bloodline’s” Jeff Gum as bank officer, the late Keith Loneker as a shotgun toting cohort, Michael Milford as the safe cracker, and “Traffic’s” Clifton Collins Jr. as the shady detective Iger.

Initially, Dan Bush played his cards right setting up the pre-heist all the way through the locking down the bank and all bank employees and customers are bound and gagged. Conal Byrne’s characters spill enough backstory to water our mouths, eager to know more about the angst between the two sisters, the lopped off finger of their brother Michael, and how the turmoil between the robbers is spurred and transitioned to resolution with the introduction of the helpful assistant bank manager and his helpful information about more money in a dank, dark basement vault. At this point, the salivation is intense when only tidbits of bank’s frightening phantasms are given that place the ball on the tee, stomach high, ready to knock the living daylights out our hapless and woebegone thieves, but the surefire, can’t miss swing tops the ball that scuttles in and out of bounds. The second and third acts are a completely clunky with abrupt and disjointed storytelling involving a copout exposition on the bank’s wretched backstory that ultimately leaves that important Ed Mass character hanging out in the pointless wind. Near the tail end, the film just didn’t feel complete, bordering dangerously in choppy filmmaking waters without a woolly and unexplored antagonist at the helm and Bush can’t quite pull all the end strings together to tightly knit a harrowing climax, vacating character substance with disingenuous plot twists.

MVDVisual and FilmRise introduce “The Vault” for the first time on a full HD Blu-ray home video. The widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, presentation is a great digital asset that favors a night and day conception. Ground level on the bank is pure daylight or exact lighting that vibrant and clear, not a lot of noise, and no observation of aliasing. In the basement, the abyss like somber darkness doesn’t fade away any details, but in all fairness, the haunting figures in the dark are nearly saturated with creeping ill-lit blackness. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 and stereo 2.0 audio tracks evenly set the dialogue and ambient tracks with diverse depth, but with the 5.1 surround sound and basement dwelling apparitions that indirectly cause explosions, the range didn’t embark through the varying to and fro levels appropriately and, thus, impresses a lackluster lasting impact. FilmRise has been quite a bust for bonus content lately and “The Vault” is no different with only the theatrical trailer attached. “The Vault” has sturdy initial framework of agitated vehement characters and a clouded venomous basement, teasing the prospect of two powerful rams running to tangle horns, but, without warning, the narrative unfairly falls to pieces as if one of the male sheep decided to swerve last minute before the game of chicken came to a crash and morbid curiosity becomes sorely deprived of cinematic lethal misgivings.

Buy “The Vault” on Amazon.com

Colleen and Colleen Versus the Evil Bratzis! “Yoga Hosers” review!


Colleen Collette and Colleen McKenzie are best friends. They’re also two superficial 15-year-old girls who are nose deep into their social media campaigning cell phones, jamming in their girl punk band Glamthrax, and living by the unorthodox, yet namaste driven, yoga practices while exasperatingly working at one of girl’s father’s convenient stores called “Eh-2-Zed.” Set in the Great White North of Canada, the Winnipeg, Manitoba sophomores are surprisingly invited to a senior party, a lure by a popular, good-looking senior boy who has a darker, Satanic side to him. The Colleen girls’ run in with a murderous devil worshipping senior inadvertently opens another hidden danger lurking 37 feet beneath their “Eh-2-Zed” soles. A slumbering Nazi mad scientists has been awoken and aims to finish his Third Reich master plan to take over Canada with a cloned army of Bratzis, living Bratwurst sausages who are pint-sizes Nazis, and seeks to unleash evil upon the Manitoba Earth.

Kevin Smith’s latest pop-cultural flick, a comedy-horror feature, entitled “Yoga Hosers” is the second installment, following 2014’s film “Tusk”, in Smith’s horror-inspired trilogy known as The True North Trilogy. Did you noticed I labeled “Yoga Hosers” as a comedy-horror instead of a horror-comedy? The “Mallrats” and “Clerks” director basks more in the familiarity of witty, profane humor in this second of three films, but Kevin Smith has known to dapple, gradually stepping over to the dark side into horror with his radical religious sect piece “Red State” and, like aforementioned, the body-horror “Tusk.” The Jersey native also has an occasional appearance on AMC’s “The Talking Dead,” a talk show about “The Walking Dead’s” post-premier of each episode, and has meddled in the realm of the fantastic. Not only is Smith a strong advocate and sincerely passionate comic book enthusiast, coinciding with his own AMC show “The Comic Book Men,” but “Dogma,” starring the late Alan Rickman, delivers divine revelations and, now, with “Yoga Hosers,” a villainous Nazi clones miniature Bratwurst soldiers. Smith holds, in my opinion, one of the most extremely diverse bodies of work in our lifetime.

Where as “Tusk” goes gritty and gory with R rated horror-comedy, Smith’s intentions for “Yoga Hosers” has always leaned toward that of PG-13 and, maybe, that’s due in part of the two films’ minoring connection. The connection, presumably set in the same whacked out alternate universe, stem from the two Colleens, one played by Smith’s hysterically funny daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, and the other being Harley’s longtime, kindergarden friend Lily-Rose Depp. Yes, the daughter of mega star Johnny Depp and French singer Vanessa Paradis brings her inherited talent and French dialect to one-half of a buddy comedy. The 15-year old girls, who are also 15-year old in character, transfer their natural offscreen relationship into being an entitled millennial pair with every intent on neglecting responsibility until faced with the moment of truth. Teamed up well with Lily-Rose’s father, Johnny Depp, under the heavy makeup of a fictional French manhunter named Guy Lapointe, also from “Tusk,” with scene-to-scene rotating facial mole, the crime fighting, buddy trio awkwardly moves across the plain in an enjoyable double entendre performance of simple wit. Accompanying Depp, Smith, and Depp are an eclectic roster of Kevin Smith’s usuals such as Justin Long (“Tusk,” “Jeepers Creepers”) as a reality-severed Yoga instructor named Yogi Bayer, Jason Mewes (“Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”) in a bit part, and, of course, Kevin Smith himself as the devilish Bratzis. New faces also make the scene with an unrecognizable Haley Joel Osment (“Sixth Sense”) as a young Canadian Nazi and “Orange is the New Black” Natasha Lyonne portraying a slutty Eh-2-Zed manager who sleeps her way to the top with Colleen C’s father, “Veep’s” Tony Hale.

“Yoga Hosers” explodes with Canadian farce that’s laced heavily with jokes on ‘aboots,’ hockey jersey-wearing patrons, an alternate version of Lucky Charms called Pucky Charms, and many more stereotypical references that satirically poke a good humored finger at Canadian culture and pop-culture. To top this satire sundae, the smug Colleens define the very title of the film with their dimwitted sludge and white girl yoga written into every storyboard moment. “Yoga Hosers'” buddy film concept gives an opportunity to two young and clueless teen girls who genre pirate the story with a jalopy of unsystematic plot humor, sucking away and discarding like garbage the sole ounce of blended “Gremlins” and “Puppet Master” cavalier subgenre horror that’s comfortably pleasant and inarguable right for a fun film of this triviality. Though I think the Colleens’ have had their story told, I’m intrigued to see what the pair of aloof teens offer in Smith’s third film of the trilogy, “Moose Jaws.”

MVDVisual distributes a dual format Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD release of the various production companies’, including main investor, Invincible Pictures, and Kevin Smith’s founded SModcast Pictures, “Yoga Hosers.” The Blu-ray disc is a MPEG-2 encoded 1080p transfer with a 2.38:1 presentation and, rarely, flutters under a mediocre bitrate. Image brightens with a glossy coating that revels in brighter hues of blue, pink, orange, and yellow while starker bolds such as red and purple pop with vividness. Yet, sharp details are thin, less defined to bring high definition to present technological age. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track slightly elevates the ambient noise, especially during the girls’ punk rock practice that muffles out portions of their vocals, yet still manages to vary and balance. The only bonus feature available is a behind-the-scenes featurette that includes some insightful interviews. “Yoga Hosers” oppresses a melancholy reminder that the old Kevin Smith is no more and dawns a Kevin Smith 2.0 who transforms his satirical trademarks and his witty banter into strange misadventures, involving, in this case, two teenage fools flighting from one sub-narrative to another in a mixed bag of comedy and inferior minion horror.

Buy “Yoga Hosers” on Bluray/DVD/Digital HD at Amazon!