When EVIL Runs The Show, That’s When the Reality Sets In. “Funhouse” reviewed! (Magnet Releasing / Digital Screener)

Eight C-grade social media celebrities sign a contract for a new reality show, Furcas’s House of Fun.  The reality show streams worldwide on all electronic devices in an exhibition of different and standoffish personalities locked together in apartment-size living quarters.  Contestants will have to face challenges and weekly viewer voting to be the last one standing for a chance to win a 5 million dollars cash prize  Instead of sexy making out sessions, drunken brawls, and contestant melodrama to boost viewer ratings, Furcas’s House of Fun is in actuality a syndicated snuff reality show where a contestant is voted out is a contestant receiving a brutal death in front of the entire world.  Survivors watch behind paned glass as one-by-one their castmates are dispatched in the most gruesome way possible, directed by a screen animated panda bear helmed by a sadist eager for the show to go on.

Ready to have a little fun?  The “Funhouse” is open for what is a variety show of horrors in this 2019 shot, 2021 released reality show of encroaching aggravation and gore from writer-director Jason William Lee.  “The Evil In Us” filmmaker plays his hand at personifying internalized resentful rage for hack, do-nothing, inconsequential to society celebrities by feeding them gladly and enthusiastically to the bloodthirsty wolves.  “Funhouse” isn’t your typical social media or tech horror film as Lee dishes out a thought-provoking disgust covered in a powdery sugar and popcorn veneer that’s surely to please the broad range of horror fans.  The co-ventured Canadian-Swedish story of shallow fame nihilism is shot in the Providence of British Columbia and in Stockholm, home base of Ti Bonny Productions under executive producer Henrik Santesson, in collaboration with Lee and producer Michael Gyorl’s Sandcastle Pictures.

With the surname Skarsgård, acting is in certainly in the blood.  Valter Skarsgård, the youngest son of “Nymphomaniac” and “Deep Blue Sea’s” Stellan Skarsgård’s first marriage and the brother of terrifyingly frighteningly Pennywise actor, Bill Skarsgård (“It”), branches out following his ancestral destiny by headlining as the lovable and misjudged Swede, Kasper Nordin, who leeched fame by being the ex-husband to a renowned singer.  Nearly the spittin’ image of his older brother Bill, Valter brings his name and family looks to the table while showcasing his own talent amongst a motley crew of nationalities.  That’s one of “Funhouse’s” main messages about social media stardom as a plague that has spread to every corner of the world symbolically infecting each contestant from a different country:  Dayleigh Nelson (“Island of the Dolls”) of Britain, Khamisa Wilsher of America, Gigi Saul Guerrero (“Puppet Killer”) of Mexico, Amanda Howells of the Philippines, Mathias Retamal (“The Source of Shadows”) of Chile/Canada,  Karolina Benefield of Poland, and Christopher Gerard of Ireland.  The roles of wannabe celebrities is an ostentatious representation of click bait influencers who will sell essentially their soul and show their skin to be noticed and this turns the clear antagonist villain, a merciless gamester and contract abider with business dealings more vile than from the Devil himself, to be a subtle antihero of sorts as the cast rounds out with Jerome Velinsky’s wickedly sophisticated performance as Nero Alexander that is urbane nihilism at its best. 

Outrageous, fun, and gory – “Funhouse” has all the hallmarks of a 90’s horror on cruise control.  With a bedazzling rudimentary shell of a panda bear avatar animation and blend of practical and digital blood over the simplicity of a small location and indie production, Lee is able to fly through the narrative at whiplash speed and still drop animosity-awarding and empathetic traits to believe in the cast of characters.  In the middle of the chaos of axe splitting heads and being dunked into a barrel of highly corrosive acid, a topical theme of the detrimental social media and influencer stardom to society really positions “Funhouse” on the frontline for inflammatory and anti-social media messages, harping on the noncontributing and unbeneficial role of these money-generating, like-focusing, click baiters in culture and society other than selling to their audiences sex, gossip, and violence.  Speaking of violence, I was pleasantly surprised by the right amount of gore that didn’t shoot for extravagant levels despite some smoothing around the digitally added sinew and guts, keeping a modest amount of realism to the dystopian gameshow construct.  Initially, there are dubious first act moments that quickly shuttle hapless soon-to-be-casualties into the same location, much like in “Saw II” when characters all wake up in the room together and we have no idea who they are, where they come from, and what their backstory is, but as the film progresses we learn more about them and the roles they play in the maniacal puppeteer’s design.  The twist, almost meta-like, ending leaves “Funhouse” on a low note that doesn’t fulfill any void for its existence, but a good chunk of the story is really meaty with a revolving door of plights and a small, yet efficient, compassion outpouring spicket.

Not your traditional participatory surprise-laden and mirror maze attraction, “Funhouse” will still bring old-style thrills with some new blood spills in it’s grand opening release in theaters and on demand on May 28th courtesy of Magnet Releasing. Shawn Seifert (“Dead of Night”) lays out a smorgasbord of cinematography techniques that includes rich, un-matted color filters, isolating characters in darker, dim rooms in making them seem centerstage for their own grand demise, and cultivates stationary, handheld, tracking, and some drone shots for an extremely vibrant and glossy approach and feel for reality television version 2.0. Lee edits the digital reel himself and, honestly, the pacing wanders quickly to the overly rushed section like a quick-spit-it-out story wanting to be finished before it even begins and is compounded with another intrusive quality in the hyperactive back-and-forth of shots that aims to resemble the irksome flight in and out of reality shows that speed up and slow down like a nervous teenager behind the wheel of their parents and continuously presses down on the brake pedal. Stay tuned after credits for a gag bit scene that ties into the main story but promises nothing more. No more being voted off the island or nixed by expert judges, “Funhouse” cleans house with deadly eliminations and a message of the unyielding power granted to many so easily through a rapidly reshaping medium that has become too influential on a braindead scale.

Satan’s Evil Indestructible, Hairy Servant! “Beast of the Yellow Night” review!


At the tail end of the second great war, Philippines based U.S. army deserter and Japanese sympathizer, Joseph Langdon, runs for his life as the Philippines police and guard track him down through the jungle for committed heinous acts that not only include treason, but also rape and murder. Exhausted and dying from his wounds, Langdon will do anything to stop the process of pain and death, including making a deal with Satan himself. In exchange for saving his life, Langdon commits himself to eternal servitude at the malevolent pleasures of Satan by inhabiting various souls and bodies through the decades and extracting the latent evil from his interactions with people, but Langdon finds himself again exhausted and exacts free thought and a rebellious stance against his master after inhabiting an American business man and given back his own face. The Dark Lord, as amusing as he wicked, bestows upon Langdon the ability to transform into a flesh hungry man-beast whenever his desires boil to the surface and he becomes the most wanted man in the Philippines, but how can they stop a monstrous fiend they can’t kill? The answer lies solely with the damned Langdon himself.

Rarely does a horror film birthed from the Philippines reach my critical virtual desk and, fortunately, “Beast of the Yellow Night” lands smack-dab in my lap as an absolute jewel from the early 1970’s from writer-director Eddie Romero. The 1969 “The Mad Doctor of Blood Island” director, who’s heritage is Pilipino, had visions of grandeur for his large scale features that stem from an infinitesimal budget, but with enthusiastic energy from former musician and beach party, teen heart throb John Ashley, the duo cofounded their theatrical finance company, Four Associates Ltd, to produce their very own horror feature films straight out of the Philippines which “Beast of the Yellow Night” was one of first to be released, if not the very first to be produced. Additional funding was provided by a little known distribution company, New World Pictures, jointly founded by the genre-setting Corman brothers, Roger and Gene, and thus forth “The Night of the Yellow Beast” was built upon a rich and solid cult foundation that began a Philipino-film circuit conversely well-known in the U.S. and put Eddie Romero on the proverbial map of relatively unknown and granular cult directors while providing a branching out of yet another successful credential façade for John Ashley that doesn’t involve country music or being just another pretty face in the beach party moviegoer crowd.

If you haven’t guessed by now or if you’re just as dense like myself, John Ashley also stars in his co-produced creature feature and Ashley, who goes without saying that he stands in his own rite, is also the Paul Naschy equivalent of the Philippine Islands with his all hands on deck attitude toward filmmaking and being the man behind the gnarly man-beast makeup that more than likely takes hours to apply. His performance as even tempered Joseph Langdon is a stark contrast from the wild and vicious beast with a flesh appetite and knack for mauling that herd this film into the werewolf category according many descriptive plots, summaries, and reviews, but “The Night of the Yellow Beast” actually resembles more of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde familiarity as Langdon doesn’t transform when the full moon is high, but rather at the whims of his tormentor, in this case it’s Satan rather than an ill-fated elixir, and then he morphs more rapidly and explosively during exhilarating and endorphin stimulated moments like intimacy to further exacerbate his dreadful curse on Earth. Langdon and beast Langdon are befriended by a blind, long-tooth ex-con, Sabasas Nan, played by “The Big Bird Cage’s” Andreas Centenera and Centenera captures the gentle nature and extended wisdom of a man at the tail end of life and looking to right the wrong for his past mistakes. Sabasas Nan is similar to the blind man in the tale of Frankenstein that doesn’t judge, become frightened, or even shun the ugly shell of a monster, but though visionless, both blind men are able to clearly see into the soul of what used to be once a man. “Beast of the Yellow Night” also stars leading lady Mary Wilcox (“Love Me Deadly”), Leopoldo Salcedo, Eddie Garcia (“The Woman Hunt”), Ken Metcalfe (“TNT Jackson”), and labeled as the Filipino Peter Lorre, Vic Diaz (“Black Mama White Mama”) as the pot-belly Satan and Langdon’s mischievous master.

Eddie Romero’s deep and intellectual script sticks out amongst the fray of time lapse and post-skirmish makeup effects that teeters “Beast of the Yellow Night” on a B- to C- movie. Not that the special and makeup effects were completely awful or subpar by any means, but the directing filmmaker pushes the boundaries to scribe the pull strings of a man’s soul, really digging into the anguished flesh of redemption and mankind’s mortal coil, which puts a lightly coated dampening on Langdon’s transformations from man-to-beast that hasn’t yet reached the Paul Naschy level of editing and progressiveness toward his horror films. In fact, the “Yellow Beast’s” effects are merely one step below that aforementioned level. However, the beast is no wolf of any sorts, but nor it isn’t a man in a cheap leathery or latex rubber mask that materializes a rather mangled, mangy beheld fiend with razor sharp canine teeth shown through a ferociously hungry and breathy-snarling maw set below equally ravenous eyes that yearns for the blood of man. For 1971, the effects are exceptionally marvelous, but Romero’s script just blows the practicalities out of the water being ahead of its time and sorely overshadow the effects work.

MVDVisual and VCI Entertainment proudly gift to us “Beast of the Yellow Night” onto 2-disc all region DVD/Blu-ray home video. Produced from a 2K scan of the original 35mm negative, VCI Entertainment’s widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation in full Metrocolor is mondo cult cinema exhibited on a high level and despite some blotchy patches, the corrected coloring and cleaner picture are by far the best we’ll ever see while still sustaining a healthy amount of beneficial cinematic grain. The prologue has coloring issues with about 20% of the right side of the film strip in sepia harboring in sepia town, but becomes corrected after the title and credit sequence. The English and Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, mono audio track has lossy bite that’s expected and yet, still maintains ample dialogue track and a solid and balanced in range ambient track. Optional English subtitles with SDH are also included. Bonus features include a 2018 commentary track by writer and filmmaker Howard S. Berger and the head of Mondo Digital, Nathaniel Thomspon, old and insightful video interviews about John Ashley and the Filipino films of the 19870’s with Eddie Romero, Sam Sherman, Patrick Wayne, Peter Tombs, Eddie Garcia, Gloria Hendry, Sig Haig, and Jan Martin, a Remembering John Ashley featurette that includes interviews with wife Jan Ashley, filmmaker Fred Olen Rey, Steve Stevens, and Andrew Stevens, original theatrical trailer and TV spots. Plus, a thorough inner liner essay from Howard S. Berger that goes examines “Beast of the Yellow Night” and the films of that era that are a metaphor for much, much more. “Beast of the Yellow Night” is a simple message cause and effect. If vileness becomes you, then villainy will forever run fluidly through your icy veins in this Eddie Romero and John Ashley monstrous picture that pulls at the tattered strings of a downtrodden soul.

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