An estranged and recently widowed grandfather purchases a used RV to take one last family road trip with his two sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter to rekindle a broken relationship. On an isolated stretch of desert highway, the family decides to pull over to assist two stranded motorists and offer them a ride to the next town. Suddenly, the RV veers out of control, steering itself to the middle of the dangerously sweltering desert. The group now finds themselves all stranded and alone with a RV that outputs a strange vibe, displaying vividly horrific secrets inside the RV’s enclosure. One-by-one, the RV kills them off and soon they realize that their ride to family fun is no more than a reincarnated recreational vehicle with a long lineage for death and thirsty for new blood.
Fan crushes are a strange phenomena. Once an actor or an actress imprints their image, their voice, or their one-time portrayal of a charismatic character onto you, the unexplainable captivation never releases the firm grip around the psyche. Denise Richards has had a long impression on this reviewer, resulting in a severe case of fan crush. The Illinois actress won my heart as the determinedly beautiful starship pilot Carmen Ibanez in Paul Veerhoven’s “Starship Troopers,” one year before her anticipated and unforgettable champagne popping nude scene in the convoluted thriller “Wild Things.” Twenty years later, Richards, an ageless beauty, co-stars in the Tom Nagel supernatural horror, “The Toybox.” Nagel (“Clowntown”) directs his sophomore film penned by screenwriter Jeff Denton and, together, the pair of filmmakers toy with and present an idea of a detestable serial killer leaving his twisted soul in the under the rusted hood of a his torture chamber, a beat up old RV camper. A killer RV story that sounds to be right up horror-comedy’s alley is actually a rather earnest narrative that has a solid kill count with an innovative, outside the box villain and a no one is safe attitude.
I’ve already mentioned that the goddess Denise Richards co-headlines “The Toybox” and though I have yet to experience her more recent work over the years, “Valentine” was the last horror film that I can recall with Richards in the cast and her role in Nagel’s film as a loving, yet undisciplined mother and wife in “The Toybox” puts her at the opposite spectrum of her roles in the late 90’s/early 2000’s career. Still, the now recently re-married mother of two still has her unrivaled hots and still has her acting chops as a leading lady despite the lack of Hollywood glam and stardom. Her co-star, Mischa Barton, has been an upcoming figure in the b-horror community. “The O.C.” actresses has starred in a string of horror films in recent years such as “The Hoarder,” “L.A. Slasher,” and “Apartment 1303 3D.” Barton tackles a tomboy Samantha whose picked up, along with her brother, by the RV traveling family and while Barton has a fine performance, she doesn’t quite sell the intensity as a final girl. Greg Violand (“The Devil’s Toy Box”), Matt Mercer (“Contracted”), David Greathouse (“Yoga Hosers”), writer Jeff Denton, director Tom Nagel, and introducing Malika Michelle round out of the remaining cast.
“The Toybox” loosely aims to unravel the inner turmoils of the characters mainly focusing around the estranged relationship of the father and his two sons. The trio can’t quite shake the secret inducing uneasiness that boils inside their broken relationship, making a situational cakewalk for the killer RV to pit them against each other as a deranged therapy session to unsheathe their kindred issues. The bickering and the blaming hurts those they love the most around them first, a very relatable and unfortunate circumstance in beyond the sensational borders of movie magic. However, no matter how much movie magic Nagel constructs to gore-out “The Toybox,” a stiflingly story rears an ugly head via undercooked characters pivotal in being the heart of the narrative. Samantha, Barton’s character, has soft, buttery edges that don’t take shape to ultimate purpose for being a focal point and the same can be said for David Greathouse’s serial killer character Robert Gunthry whose RV-inhabiting backstory is whipped swiftly a single anecdote.
Skyline Entertainment and Steel House Productions present Tom Nagel’s “The Toybox” onto Blu-ray home video in high definition 1080p and a widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Image is quite sharp despite lacking vivid coloring and going more for a dusty western-horror, exhibiting the rocky arid landscape of the pacific coast. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is nothing to write home about, but offers a clean dialogue track, ample ambience, and balance. Depth’s slightly weak, but won’t hinder the experience. Bonus material on the single layer BD-25 includes a behind the scenes of various takes throughout production, the theatrical trailer, and a feature commentary with cast and crew. “The Toybox” is no child’s plaything. A RV serial killer with the homicidal motivations stemmed from pure evil and, in a fair opinion, only director Tom Nagel could have poised a coherent film without making it out too, for a lack of a better word, campy and that’s not my weird obsession with Denise Richards talking.
After bearing witness the brutal suicide of her father, Mary undergoes family counselling as a result of being the cause of her father’s death with repetitive public accusations of molestation. The ill-equipped counselor suggests medical evaluation from a professional who beseeches the assistance of The Catholic Church when the determination concludes that Mary is suffering from severe Satanic possession. Directives from high positions in the Church service in waves three priests to perform the delicate exorcism; all of whom have conducted an exorcism under difficult and soul-exhausting situations. The irresolute and embattled priests field the call, blindly walking into Mary’s slithery persuasive possession state of soul-tormenting and death. The priests will tirelessly seek to have the beleaguered Mary exorcised of the nasty demon from within and have her tattered body come back to Jesus…or perhaps be personally delivered to the Devil.
Finally! American Guinea Pig: “The Song of Solomon” has been on my highly anticipated review material list for a very, very long time. Written, produced, and helmed by the founder and president of Unearthed Films himself, Stephen Biro has been more than widely known for years to promote and glorify gore in the shock-provoking films underneath his banner; a practice that has made his company a stable in the realm of horror aficionados. “The Song of Solomon” keeps the blood flowing….splattering, squirting, spurting, spilling, in fact! Whereas many of the Unearthed Films productions and distributions have a granular or avant garde stories, Biro, despite the confined and limited locations, pens an engrossing narrative with evocative, haunting, and surreal characters surged into a powerful and ageless tale that sordidly spanks “The Exorcist” like an irrefutably forgotten and spoiled rotten step-child. “The Song of Solomon” is that good and soars to the top in being one of this reviewer’s favorite Unearthed Films’ titles.
Jessica Cameron should just be handed a ton of awards for her performance as the possessed Mary. Cameron’s creative creepiness is unsurpassable and just oozes out of the character, zapping an icy chill down each disk of the spine whenever she uses the playful sing-songy voice of a snake’s fork tongue. As a whole, Cameron singlehandedly comes off overwhelming haunting and delivers a personality made up of nightmare material; a phenomenal performance that rivals, if not outright tops, Linda Blair’s Regan. There are moments when you think the 2003 “Truth or Dare” director and actress had post-production enhanced vocals to make Mary persuasive, enticing, and demonic, but only a slight vocal overlay on top is the only thin icing on the already devilish cake. It’s not as if Cameron didn’t have any competition on screen, either. Scott Gabbey, David E. McMahon (“Followers”), Angelcorpse’s Gene Palubicki (“American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock”), and Jim Van Bebber (“The Manson Family”) compliment the versus’ righteous, if not also flawed, challenger with immense passion for their respective roles of grief-stricken priests, plucked carefully by top Church officials to handle the exorcism. Maureen Pelamati, Josh Townsend, and Scott Alan Warner (“3-Headed Shark Attack”) co-star.
Production value must reign above the conventional indie fare and special effects owns much of that real estate. The man behind the special effects on such films as “Mohawk” and “Lung II,” Marcus Koch, has teamed up with “Bereavement” and “Murder-Set-Pieces'” Jerami Cruise to assemble some of best, yet refreshingly basic, gore effects seen recently. Regurgitation of internal organs, the compound splintering of bones, and even a Columbian necktie are the prime examples of what to expect from the unlimited imagination of the Koch and Cruise collaboration. Locations are simple and tight, leaving not much room for exploration of options for practical effects, but each scene is well thought out, choreographed, and designed for gruesome upshot that keeps true to Unearthed Films brand of filmmaking. Toss all that into a sack along with fellow colleague Gene Palubicki’s malevolently cacophony soundtrack and the outcome is a well-rounded horror film with extreme unapologetic values worth the time of day and night.
“The Song of Solomon,” an Unearthed Films production, lands onto Blu-ray distributed courtesy of MVD Visual. The 86 minute runtime film is presented in a High Definition 1080p widescreen format, 1.90:1 aspect ratio, on a single layer BD-50 disc. If you want gore, you got it with this particularly warm hued transfer really puts the devil in the details with grisly effects that could be hard to stomach. The English LCPM Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track caters with nice fidelity. Dialogue is clearly present amongst the Palubicki score and the ghastly ambience augments the visual viscosity of the gore. Bonus features include an audio commentary with Stephen Biro and Jessica Camera, another commentary with Biro and effects gurus Marcus Koch and Jerami Cruise, interviews with Jessica Cameron, Stephen Biro, Marcus Koch, Gene Palubiki, David McMahon, and director of photography Chris Helleke, a behind the scenes look, outtakes, and a photo gallery. Comparing Stephen Biro’s “The Song of Solomon” to William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” is like comparing apples to oranges as both films relish and thrive in their own atmospheres. However, “The Song of Solomon” stands firm as a powerful competitor that offers up a ravishingly foul and metaphysical entry into the genre realm of demonic possessions casted with raw talent.
Paul and Jennifer Hemdale snag a great deal on their dream home withstanding an ugly past considering the previous homeowner who disappeared without a trace and a woman ending up badly burned. Despite the stigma surrounding the house, the Hemdales vow to turn their first home into a marital love nest, but every instance in which one of them is ready to break in the new home underneath the sheets, the other falls flaccid, as if something is keeping them from making love. Beneath the first floor, in the darkest part of the basement, there lies a locked black room with ritualistic pagan writing sprawled inside every wall, floor, and ceiling surface and an demonic incubus, lying in wait for the perfect opportunity to reinstate a master plan to take over the world. When Paul becomes a host for the incubus, the body count rises when repairmen, friends, and family come calling to their home and Jennifer must discover what’s causing her husband to act like a perverted jerk before she too falls into the incubus’s malevolent grip.
“The Black Room” mixes dark demon humor with perversions in a butt-cheeky horror comedy written and directed by Rolfe Kanelsky, whose credits in “Nightmare Man” and “Emmanuelle 2000: Emmanuelle’s Intimate Encounters” have sure to have aided in the director’s seamlessness in blending an erotic tone with an aggressive horror element. Kanelsky’s cavalier approach to the 2016 film, “The Black Room,” hints at the Sam Raimi approach with the unexpected and the bizarre mischief of the demon and a violin heavy folk-artsy soundtrack style with jump scare after jump scare techniques, but without going full blown with “The Three Stooges” antics as Raimi is well-known to implement. Instead, Kanelsky’s far more subtle and isn’t afraid to be verbally pun awful, even during more positionally vulnerable scenes involving actresses. Whereas most horror films uses horror as an exploitative tool or an ultimate means to be hacked to pieces, “The Black Room” transforms nudity, and sex, into a running joke much like a Troma production would gravitate to, with “Tromeo and Juliet” being a prime example, and then punch the joke into hyper drive by either being overly gory or ridiculously impractical.
In all honesty, “The Black Room” is the second Cleopatra Entertainment title reviewed at Its Bloggin’ Evil, with the first being a clunky deal-with-the-Devil thriller entitled “Devil’s Domain” by director Jared Cohn, but Cleopatra’s latest entry into the demonic hierarchy enrolls more star power to provide legitimacy in the horror realm by casting horror hall of famed actress and “Insidious” series star Lin Shaye as the snarky previous house owner with a dwelling secret and as well as “Species” series and “Ghost of Mars” actress Natasha Henstridge as the lovely Jennifer Hemdale. Shaye’s dedication to any project, big or small, places the four-decade-careered actress as a beacon of hope for the indie project and Henstridge, still oozing that blonde bombshell of sexiness image, is the proverbial cherry on top. Shaye and Henstridge bare a heavy cast presence without having to bare much skin, but there’s a fair amount of nudity to behold from actresses Augie Duke (“The Badger Game”), Jill Evyn, Alex Rinehart, cheesy horror goddess and “Killjoy” actress Victoria De Mare, and a full frontal nude debut by Milena Gorum in her first credited film. When you’re done ogling over the female roster, a tall, baritone voiced Lukas Hassel illuminates as the sleazy parasitic host of an sex-crazed incubus, embracing every tall, dark, and handsome aficionado to dream of Paul Hemdale in a variety of gore-raunchy segments while maintaining a straight face about the filth that seeps from his character’s mouth. Rounding out this cast is a “Skarkansas Women’s Prison Massacre’s” Dominique Swain as the film’s third headliner on the Blu-ray cover and intro credits, one of my personal favorite supporting actors James Duval (“Cornered!”), Caleb Scott, Robert Donovan, and with genre favorite Tiffany Shepis.
While the story’s nuts and bolts of “The Black Room” consists of demons, possession, and world domination, lots of sex, sex talk, and sexual situations litter every scene. Yes, the demon is an incubus and by very definition of the term, a demon who makes sexual advances on women while they sleep, whole-heartedly defines the amusing premise. Maybe with Kanelsky’s background in softcore erotica, sex comes second hand and writing all the associations with the act is easier for the filmmaker who installs both main characters, Paul and Jennifer, with an insatiable sex drive from beginning to the end. Even with side characters untarnished by the incubus’s powers, such as the perverted water heater repairman, become a slave to the story’s grossly sexual tension. Now, I’m not complaining, but the continuous play on sex is odd without the slither of a moral growth. After all is said and done and the characters walk away from a deadly supernatural cluster-you-know-what, neither Paul and Jennifer progress, knowing nothing more from when they first started, and plateau to a level right from the start when first purchasing the dreadful dream home.
Cleopatra Entertainment and MVDVisual present “The Black Room” on a region free Blu-ray with 1080p on a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Coloring is everything and the range of hues in “The Black Room” vividly crisp off the screen and the filter lighting smoothly goes unnoticed when sudden changes from natural to red flare up. For most of the 91 minute runtime, a clean image plays out a levelness throughout, but film grain presents itself in last moments of said titular room and the digital effects are gaussian soft that it’s penalizing. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix has a compressed audio that’s not up the spec when considering Cleopatra is a major record label. The dialogue is clean and prevalent, but sorely soft at times with ranges between ambient, soundtrack, and dialogue fluxing more on the lower volume totem poll rather than being beefy and in charge. Audio is passable, being free from damage and distortion, but a little more range would do this demon dance some justice. Bonus material includes commentary with director Rolfe Kanelsky, star Natasha Henstridge, supporting actor Augie Duke, and producer Esther Goodstein, a slew of extra and extended scenes, a severely anemic behind-the-scenes short, a brief blooper reel, slide show, storyboards, and the film’s trailer. When considering between the two demonically-charged Cleopatra Entertainment productions “Devil’s Domain” and “The Black Door,” there’s no contest as the latter is technically a much better film and a lot of fun to watch and sure to be every gore and sex-hound’s wet dream with titillating special effects, especially with an invisible entity seducing a sleeping Alex Reinhart with a major titty-twister, and a dark sense of humor of unholy pleasure.
In a small South Korean village, tight-knit families practically know one another in the quaint middle-class community. When mysteriously deadly destructions from inside local families and strange stories of animal carcass devouring creatures in the woods surface, local police sergeant Jong-Goo begins an investigation to connect a pattern of violence and superstition and at the center of it all is a suspicious and reclusive Japanese traveller. Bound by the law and an overall lack of courage, Jong-Goo proceeds to investigate with extreme caution, but when his young daughter, Hyo-jin, becomes subjected to the same symptoms that overtook destroyed families from within, the desperate father sets aside rules and regulations and uses threats and force when visiting the Japanese Stranger, whose rumored to be an evil spirit that’s plaguing the small village with terror and death.
By far, “The Wailing” sets the precedent on folklore horror. Acclaimed writer-director Hong-jin Na lands a harrowingly ambitious, well-constructed film right into the lap of horror fans with “The Wailing,” known also as “Goksung” in the film’s country of South Korea. South Korean filmmakers have once reestablished proof that foreign films can be as masterful, as bold, and as elegant when compared to any other film from major studio productions. Hollywood has started to come around by remaking one of South Korea’s most notorious films, the vengeful thriller “Oldboy,” and seeks to remake recent international hits in “Train to Buscan” and “I Saw the Devil.” Lets also touch upon that top Hollywood actors are beginning to branch out to South Korean films. “Captain America” star Chris Evans had obtained a starring role in Joon-ho Bong’s “Snowpiercer” alongside co-stars Ed Harris and the late British actor Sir John Hurt. “The Wailing” will reach similar popularity being one of 2016’s most original horror movies and one of the more unique visions of terror to clutch the heart of my all time favorite’s list.
Do-won Kwak stars as Sergeant Jong-Goo, a officer who avoids trouble at all costs and has no motivation to be on time for anything. Kwak, basically, plays the fool character, comically going through the routine of investigating brutal murders complete with stabbings, burnings, and hangings despite his Captain’s constant chastising and seizes every opportunity to act dumb and look stupid, but once the story starts to focus “The Wailing” as nothing more than an offbeat black-comedy, Hong-ja Na devilishly about-faces with a severe turn of events that’s a mixed bag of genres. Kwak no longer plays the lead role of comic relief; instead, a more self-confident Sergeant Jong-Goo takes control of the investigation as the deeper he finds himself involved in the dark plague that’s ravaging his village. He hunts down the Japanese Stranger, the debut South Korean film for long time Japanese actor Jun Kunimura (“Kill Bill,” Takashi Miike’s “Audition”) with a zen like aurora that’s enormously haunting to behold and captivating when his presence is lurking amongst the scene. Though Kunimura’s demeanor contrasts with other actors, he’s very much in tune with the dynamic, but it’s the maniacally, foul-mouth ravings of Hyo-jin, played by Hwan-hee Kim, that stand out and are the most distraught during her possession state that could give “The Exorcist” a run for it’s money and is a visceral vice grip to the soul that has to be experienced. Woo-hee Chun and Jung-min Hwang round out the cast in their respective and memorable co-starring roles as a peculiar no named woman and a flashy shaman.
“The Wailing” incorporates various folklore stemming from cultures all over the world including the Koreas, China, Japan, and even from China’s bordering neighbor Nepal and meshes them with religious practices of Buddhism to even the far corners that the Catholic faith possesses. The luxuriant green South Korean mountain backdrop sets an isolated, ominous cloud over a beautiful and serene archaic village, an awe-inspiring juxtaposition created by cinematographer Kyung-pyo Hong that coincides with the complete dread piercing through the heart of the story; a perspective vastly opposite to Hong’s works in the previously mentioned “Snowpiercer” that’s set in the tight confines of a class dividing bullet train. “The Wailing” bundles together mythos with visionary concepts and landscapes in an epic mystery-thriller that’s unforgettable; it will cling to you, like a evil-dwelling spirit, well after the film is over.
20th Century Fox, in association with Ivanhoe Pictures and Side Mirror, produce Hong-jin Na’s top horror contender “The Wailing” with Well Go USA and Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment distributing on DVD and Blu-ray. Unfortunately, I was provided with a DVD-R screener and can’t specifically comment on specifications and image or audio quality. Accompanying the screener were two bonus features: a behind-the-scenes featurette and the beginning tale of “The Wailing” featurette. Both were fairly informative that gives insight on Hong-jin Na’s mindset and how the director’s ambitious story in a malignant tale of comedy, horror, and mysterious involving demons, shamans, and, quite possibly, the devil himself. “The Wailing” significantly captivates, sucking you into the darkness with an uncanny amount of pull with a story too terrifyingly original to avert and too thick with vigorous characters in a plot twist too harrowing to forget.
Every nine months, the vengeful spirit of an atrocity dealing plantation slave owner, known as the Honey Baron, seeps from a cursed slumber to reclaim his once profitable Brazilian manor home. Also, every nine months, caretakers of the manor home resurrect Bento, the once voodoo practicing slave to the malicious Honey Baron, to fortify the longstanding damnation. Until four friends gather to invoke the myth in jest, lightly treading over the forsaken manor home, and getting themselves unwittingly involved in the releasing of Hell on Earth. Caught in the middle between the Honey Baron and Bento, there’s nowhere to escape, nowhere to hide, and noway to distant themselves from an ancient wickedness.
Directors Dante Vescio and Rodrigo Gasparini’s “The Devil Lives Here” is sorely what the horror community needs and desires, an original vision of spine-tingling Brazilian folklore horror. It’s a damn good story that’s engrossingly rich with captivating characters, virtuous and villainous, simultaneously breeding a delectable devil in São Paulo actor Ivo Müller. From the opening scenes of Müller’s sadist applications upon a humble whimpering slave to the highly climactic and unforgettable shocking end, Vescio and Gasparini details every inch of reel with patience, organization, realism, and a sense of admiration for one of a kind antecedent horror films and concocts a molotov cocktail spiced with numerous Brazilian folklore.
Folklore envelopes “The Devil Lives Here.” Ivo Müller portrays a blend of two distinctive mythological beings, the Anhangüera and an Encantado. Anhangüera, basically, is a version of the devil while Encantado paints a more vivid image of the Honey Baron as a man, whose so ruthlessly evil, that he becomes ensnared in limbo by voodoo, in this case the voodoo of African slaves during the colonial era, and lives a vain life for his atrocities. On the other end of the spectrum, Bento, once a young slave boy, seeks to endure the curse, reestablishing it’s constraints around the Honey Baron’s Anhangüera ways. Bento resembles more closely to the story of Negrinho, a slave boy fatally punished for his loose bindings on responsibilities to his master. Negrinho died on an anthill, in which ants later feasted on his flesh, and returns to help others. In the 2015 film, ants and bees are clear motif before Bento’s horrible demise and Bento also returns from the grave like an original African or Caribbean dirty working zombie, the kind of mindless zombie before George A. Romero took the undead head to new flesh eating heights. “The Devil Lives Here” embellishes upon each lore to up the ante and deliver a shock to the system.
Alongside Ivo Müller is a young, but a formidable cast. Pedro Carvalho, Mariana Cortines, Diego Goullart, and Clara Verdier have performance that are simply enjoyable to absorb and are just wonderful being the unexpected catalyst. With a slight twist in one of the four’s well-kept motivations, the brilliancy of Rafael Baliú’s script, based off the story by co-writers Guilherme Aranha and M.M. Izidoro, comes to a head by not following the conventional tropes of hapless pranksters unwittingly hitting the bees nest. Instead, the characters are grossly flawed by one of their own; however, I did hope there was a little more exposition toward Mariana Cortines’ Alexandra clairvoyant ability between the world of the living and the spirit realm as I thought the relevancy was too important to leave open. Pedro Caetano and Felipe Frazão master their roles of being caretaker descendants to Bento. Caetano and Frazão tackle multiple personas with a well armed cache of emotional ranges that split their dutiful commonality and define their positions amongst the story. The cast couldn’t have worked well enough any better making “The Devil Lives Here” a film adorned with God-mode proportions.
Artsploitation Films has become a prominent label in providing provocative and outstanding domestic and global cinema and “The Devil Lives Here” only solidifies their true power amongst other home entertainment distributors. The film is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio with slight blotchiness in darker tones, but the image is still very sharp with a filter blanket of a warm yellowish glaze. The stereo 2.0 audio with optional English and English SDH subtitles is fine coming through the dual channels. The subtitles are a bit quick, but so is the portuguese language. The DVD cover art is nightmarishly inviting, just like the film itself. “The Devil Lives Here” will completely suck you into the original narrative and curse you with screen glued eyeballs to deliver an inspired and indigenous film that shouldn’t be missed by any horror fan.