Caribbean EVIL is No Vacation. “Zombie Island Massacre” reviewed! (Troma Films / Blu-ray)

“Zombie Island Massacre” on Blu-ray here at Amazon.com

American vacationers in Jamaica book tickets to tour guide Chumlee Jones’s Sunshine Tours. Their destination is Santa Maria Island for a rarely seen religious voodoo ritual. After the unsettling experience involving live goat sacrifices and the necromancing of the dead, the tourists become stranded when the bus driver has vanished from his post. With no transportation to the seaport, a menace lurks amongst the darkness and is picking them off by-one-by. With no other options, the afeared excursionists trek through island thicket in search for a passed remote house but will they survive the perilous journey with an unseen murderous predator or predators camouflaged in the dense foliage?

Jamaica isn’t all about rum punch and ganja, mon. Voodoo is a big part of Jamaican culture. It’s so much a part of the Caribbean Island culture, the practice is a certified religion complete with voodoo priests and public ceremonies to exact a range of obeah spells – most for good, few for spiritual bedlam. For “Zombie Island Massacre,” a theme of mystic voodoo pitches the tale of two sides of every coin as the unknown and the usual differ from one’s own customs begins to swirl unnatural thoughts of fear, trepidation, and censure while other malevolent forces behind the veil may be at work. Also known under the working title of “The Last Picnic,” “Zombie Island Massacre,” a rather arbitrary and common structured title of choice, is the released Jamaican-shot inchmeal killer thriller from director John N. Carter, an industry editor with his one and only directorial credit to his name. The script is penned by Logan O’Neill and William Stoddard based off the O’Neill and David Broadnax concept story. Broadnax serves as producer alongside executive producers Abraham Dabdoub and Dennis Stephenson on a feature that undoubtedly was inspired by the 1982, George Romero influenced, Marion Girolami directed “Zombi Holocaust” in what is arguably influenced by title only as a marketing cash-in of the early 80’s Zombie success.

Stories that progress with a group of unfortunate souls trapped in a dire straits situation and there’s no way out but unwisely toward the path of danger in hope of salvation are some of my favorite types of threatening circumstances.  Think “Poseidon Adventure.”  Think “Predator.”  Think “Deep Rising.”  Any movie where a desperate group of diversified dog chow characters have to move from point A to point B without being swallowed by the darkness around them is great fun in its pick off pattern.  Archetypes of this linear lap through hell can be fairly conventional with its persona of characters where you have the strong hero type, the gorgeous level-headed love interest, the angry shmuck, the slower-downer, and there might even be a cultural token character to round the group out plus a red-shirted body or two for good carnage measure.  By design, there’s a need for these stereotypes and “Zombie Island Massacre” has a hit-and-miss, middle-of-the-road batting average with its cast of characters, beginning with a shared lead man role for Tom Cantrell and David Broadnax.  With his idea for the story and serving as producer, it makes a lot of sense why Broadnax co-ops the lead as a lone wolf, tough as nails photojournalist.  Cantrell, on the other hand, is just another pretty tall boy who becomes more-or-less a babysitter of the group while Broadnax stays behind to leave directional notes for lag behinds and to keep the retirees company when their tickers go South in the heat of turmoil and walking uphill.  This turns the co-op into more of a dog and pony show where the pony just stands there and dog runs around doing most of the entertaining.   Diane Clayre Holub is Cantrell’s love interest as a painter on holiday in Jamaica and the character is more than just reasonable and a pretty face that comes unexpectedly apparent in the third act of attacks.  Broadnax, Cantrell, and Clayre do not bring the star power to “Zombie Island Massacre” and that trend continues with the fourth top billed Rita Jenrette who brings more than just her pretty face to the table too in more of a full-bodied contextualized kind of way who ends up sliding into, if not encroaching into, Clayre’s assigned love interest role without a lick of love.  “Zombie Island Massacre’s” cast fills out with Ian McMillan, Harriet Rawlings, Emmett Murphy, Bruce Sterman, Deborah Jason, Tom Fitzsimmons, Christopher Ferris, Kristina Marie Wetzel, Debbie Ewing, Dennis Stephenson, George Peters, and the “Ghostbusters II” “The Titanic Just Arrived”-guy Ralph Monaco. 

Big kudos to story creators David Broadnax and Logan O’Neill for delivering a narrative with an unpredictable twist that immerses you deep into the voodooist rituals and gets your blood pumped for the monikered title to deliver flesh-eating, blood-thirsty zombies only to be hoodwinked into a genre trap and a good one at that too.  Sneaky and subtle are the hints that not everything is what it seems on the island that hits you like a flashbang grenade when the truth is revealed, shocking the sensory system with a welcome voltage of sleight of hand.  I never saw it coming though I will say that the creature or creatures roaming the woods initially looked shoddy draped in blue trash bags with patchwork foliage sticking out but remaining relatively obscure from view that implored more of a slasher design than one of the undead one. However, “Zombie Island Massacre” is too by far a good film with precarious burlesques that result in a tacky feigning of thrills and chills hubbub. Only a handful of kills rendered a golden touch, such as the slow-motion bashing in of a man’s head with a large stick is effectively gruesome, but yet lots of the kills are done off screen and implied which can be a deficit for a slasher-like story that takes pleasure in and makes whoopee of the big bloody death scene. Some kills are even half-hearted in their execution. For example, one unlucky tourist has his head chopped off with a machete in slow-motion and audience has full view of the entire act; yet the machete snags on the initial slice point into the neck but the head still severs cleanly. The scene, likely needed to be done in one take, makes the cut…pun intended. “Zombie Island Massacre” wiggles peacockishly into the realm of island horror with a mawkish audacity but the wild pragmatic pivot is worth every second of humble hoodooism.

Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz presents a Troma team release with “Zombie Island Massacre” on a new region free, uncut, director’s cut Blu-ray. The HD 1.78:1 aspect presented John N. Carter film has favorable surface arrayal with natural grain off the 35mm film stock that comes with very little, yet still noticeable unobtrusively, vertical scratches and white dust specks. Skin hues appear natural, island bush backgrounds are lush despite some contrast issues deep into the background, and no blatant touchup enhancements awkward stand out, confirming that the transfer was in good shape to begin with and compression upon the BD25, churning out an average of 30Mbps, didn’t cause a technical gaff. The English language mirrors the Vinegar Syndrome release with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 and the audio isn’t as near flawlessly fortunate as the image transfer with voice trailing hissing and lots of noticeable crackling and white noise interference which can eat into the already soft and muted dialogue from time-to-time and downsize the details of audio clarity. Plenty of range of sound effects to go around in the story but the depth just isn’t there to elevate it. Harry Manfredini’s score is essentially a reworked composition of “Friday the 13th” and if you close your eyes and listen, you’ll nearly hear the ch ch ch, ha ha ah and have visions of a headless Mrs. Voorhees and a hockey mask stuck in your head. Special features are mostly Troma-related as expected with any Troma Team release. There’s Toxie and Uncle Lloyd smoking ganja introduction at the beginning of the feature. In sectionalized bonus menu option, the film’s theatrical trailer, a promo reel of all the kills under Harry Manfredini’s original “Friday the 13th” score, a 3-part special effects tutorial plucked from various Troma videos through the years, a super-short film “Blood Stab,” and other Troma feature trailers. “Zombie Island Massacre” is an excursion to remember lined and studded with Caribbean macabre that sink tapered teeth into the skin only to have just barely missed the pulsating vein for the kill.

“Zombie Island Massacre” on Blu-ray here at Amazon.com

EVIL Trifles With a Vindictive Obsessed Cop in “Split Second” reviewed! (MVDVisual / Blu-ray)

Global warming has taken a toll on the Earth’s polar ice caps in 2008 with cascading amounts of water flooding around the world bringing knee high waters to coastal cities.  London is hit hard with drenching sewer overflows and coastal run overs that result in an over infestation of rats to storm the streets, back alleys, and even resident homes, carrying a harmful disease in their occupation.  However, something else compounds the rat plague that slashes at random victims, tearing their hearts out violently from their chests without ever leaving a witness except for one, a rogue and paranoid detective Harley Stone whose partner was slain in one of the deadly attacks and himself marred by the killer. Partnered with a new hot shot know-it-all detective following the murders, an obsessed Stone confronts his haunting traumas as he continues to pursue the inhuman perpetrator who has a psychic connection to Stone, personally toying with the on-edge officer, and has kidnapped his girlfriend as bait.

Even though 2008 has come and gone now almost 12 years ago, Tony Maylam’s 1992 actionized-creature feature “Split Second” still holds water just like the rising tide pools on the streets of London.  “The Burning” director, Maylam, helms, with the finishing touches of the final sequences directed by Ian Sharp after Maylam’s sudden departure, a fast paced and snarky script penned by Gary Scott Thompson as one of the writer’s very first big budget outputs from nearly 30 years ago that was followed up with major studio films, including a little project you may or may not have heard of, “The Fast and The Furious” mega franchise.  Before nitrous suped-up cars hot-rodding on asphalt, jumping high speed trains, and flying off cliffs in a lap strap of criminal activity luxury, Thompson created a formidable, heart-devouring beast that became the trap-setting, trophy-hunting predator and the teeth-snapping, chest-bursting xenomorph all in one package to symbolize the irreversible and ignored effects of an overpopulated, warming planet.  “Split Second” is a production of Challenge Film Corporation and produced by Muse Productions with Chris Hanley, Laura Gregory, and Keith Cavele serving in a producer role.

The Netherlands’ very own Rutger Hauer sheds his nice guy exterior for Harley Stone’s shell-shocked, rough and tough outer shell.  The late “Blade Runner” and “The Hitcher” actor brings a certain cinematic coolant to “Split Second’s” overheating fringe of disproportionate action and science fiction horror, a lop-sidedness typical of a Rutger Hauer production, by being larger than life in the little aspects that add to the dimensions of the scene, making every moment famished for Stone’s next eccentric and animated move.  Stone is partnered with an equally vigorous Detective Dick Durkin who starts out as a cultured drip of criminal activity and an astronomical proficient before quickly blooming into the same gritty mirror image of Stone.  Credited as Neil Duncan, the current vocational voice actor Alastair Duncan has a natural dynamic with Hauer despite their asymmetrical careers and endures an incredible character arc successfully turning Durkins’ relatively square image – though debatable with smart, good looking, and gets sex every day swagger – into a Stone acolyte after witnessing the human threatening existence of an unnatural ferocious monster.  The female love interest didn’t seem to fit the “Split Second’s” gentle steampunk lace and zany character scheme with Kim Cattrall as Stone’s estranged girlfriend, Michelle McLaine.  As much as love the “Big Trouble in Little China” actress’s late 80’s to early 90’s career, the girlfriend role feels sorely plopped into the film for the sake of having a love interest as much of the character is illuminated through exposition with McLaine being the wife of Stone’s former partner stemmed from her and Stone’s affair and then lingers her subsequent alienation from the rogue cop despite an inextinguishable flame between them. As Cattrall provides the sexiness in the city of London, McLanie iss aesthetically airy without tangible substance other than kick in the pants motivation for saving. “Split Second” rounds out with the late Pete Postlethwaite (“The Lost World: Jurassic Park”), Alun Armstrong (“Van Helsing”), Stewart Harvey-Wilson and “Scoorged’s” Michael J. Pollard as London’s the rat catcher.

“Split Second” is an early nineties junket spiraling with flashy facets of easily digestible, entertaining chewables that continuously hits all the right flavor sensations in terms of acting, dialogue, production design, creature design, and cinematography. The bonkers script and equally as bonkers visual concept inserts an extremely likable brazen world of the future in the form of a dank, or danker, London under one or two feet of water; in every moment Stone or Durkin hit the streets, they’re essentially swimming in brown street liquid and the overall effect places a blanket of filth glazing over my eyes and secreting out of my captivated body is a cold spine-shivering chill that’s immersive to Stone and Durkin’s slushing around. Stephen Norrington, who went on to direct “Death Machine” and “Blade,” slapped together a fairly effective creature design despite the creature rarely being in full exhibition and for very good reason. A brief flash of razor sharp fingers, a quick dash of unearthly skin, and the gruesome aftermath in it’s wake evolved a better rendition of the creature in our minds than perhaps the actual resulting appearance with result that tacked on one big mysterious allure that doubled down coinciding with the principle characters who also has never seen the killer before. “Split Second” is constantly suspended in action with little down time to reflect on the theme of global warming and it’s life-changing choking effects that not only rushes thousands of gallons of water onto the streets and increase the survivalist rat population up to nearly impossible control levels, but also tampers with the balance of astrometric forces, bringing evil to the world in the form of a heart-eating devil to the surface when astrology deemed the moon in position for such an event and that’s also perhaps the downside to Tony Maylam’s film. The monster bares little backstory to sink one’s teeth into and raises an immeasurable amount of unanswered questions relating to the fate that intertwined Stone into the creature’s inner sphere of extrasensory perception, the origins of the creature and it’s genetic makeup, and the relationship between it and the cult correlations.

A melting pot of feculent and bloodshed pother, “Split Second” arrives onto a high definition Blu-ray courtesy of 101 Films and on MVDVisual’s MVD Rewind Collection banner. The region free, R-rated feature is presented in 1080p with a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a newly 4K scan complete with restoration and coloring grading from the original 35mm negative. The inviting image, with adequate grain and a cigarette burn here and there, basks mainly in a steely blue among other primary colors rearing up while thick with a brightly contrasted neo-noir shadow wrung through. Skin textures are consistently and continuously glistening with sweat setting on top of the natural coloring and the facial follicules present a rather sharp image, making this release the best looking transfer to date. The English language 2.0 LPCM stereo mix doesn’t let up with a robust mix of forefront dialogue, a balance of range and depth, and a pulsating cheesy-action soundtrack Stephen Parsons and Francis Haines. English subtitles are optionally included. The heft bonus features package includes exclusive content such as an audio commentary by action film history Mike Leeder and filmmaker Arne Venerma, a new conversation entitled “Great Big Bloody Guns!” between actor Alastair Duncan and producer Laura Gregory, a “Call Me Mr. Snips!” interview with composer Stephen Parsons, a “Stay in Line!” interview with line producer Laura Borg, a “More Blood!” interview with creature effects designer Cliff Wallace, and a “Shoot Everything!” interview with cinematographer Clive Tickner. But, wait, there’s more! Also included is the original making of feature with stars Rutger Hauer, Kim Cattrall, Alastair Duncan, Michael J. Pollard, writer Gary Scott Thompson, original behind the scenes feature with effects creator Stephen Norrington and other cast and crew, the “Second Split” Japanese cut includes the deleted scenes and built in Japanese subtitles, 7 promotional TV clips, U.S. VHS home video promo, theatrical trailer, and a MVD exclusive reversible sleeve with artwork from The Dude Designs, cardboard slipcover, and mini-poster insert. The difficult decision to determine Rutger Hauer’s best work can be daunting as the man is King Midas with every project he touches, but “Split Second” reveals now more than just being pure gold with this MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray release that’s a must own, must have, must see, and a must collect physical release of the rundown of a monster-run amok, neo-noir, steampunk, action-comedy-horror….in a nutshell.

Own this Rutger Hauer classic “Split Second” on Blu-ray!

Evil Takes Form in the “Terror 5” review!


In the wake of a tragedy that resulted in the loss of life, a small Argentinian funeral procession progresses in tandem with the court hearings of a supposedly corrupt politician, the governmental figurehead indirectly responsible for the deaths of innocents. When the verdict of not guilty surfaces over the news media waves, the grief-stricken family and friends, praying at a cemetery memorial, shrill in anguish their displeasure that becomes a calling for the undead to rise up and exact revenge toward the capital. In the midst of the resurrecting chaos, others simultaneously face terror in other forms such as exacting sadistic punishments in a backwards universe of role reversals, the elaborately ill-fated plan of swapping girlfriends on the streets of the city, a night of sordid carnalities at a hotel becomes a night of horrendous violence, and a group of candid friends indulge in a snuff film comfortably and safe inside an apartment, but an evil is slowly boiling to ahead right before their very unsuspecting eyes.

“Terror 5,” a title that one would assume on first thought that five horror icons team together for utter slaughter of hapless cheerleaders or, perhaps, clash in one epic villainous mêlée of monumental proportions, but the film is actually an Argentinian anthology of urges and terror and for the record, if “Terror 5” was a collection of the top five horror icons, this reviewer’s enlistment would include Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Pinhead, Predator, and Charles Lee Ray aka Chucky. Jason Voorhees is a bit of a mama’s boy, if you ask me! Let’s get back on the topic of the brothers Sebastian and Federico Rotstein’s helming of an interweaving, anthological horror film from 2016. The Buenos Aires born siblings collaborate with the “The Vampire Spider” writer, Nicholas Gueilburt, to construct five tales that plant the seed of danger from the sordid impulses that motivate impure, and sometimes supernatural, malevolencies. The five tales digs into the depths of quivering human interaction and the immorality of their choices that inevitably leads them toward their own gruesome destruction.

The complete South American cast will be more than likely unknown faces to audiences of the United States, unless broadening your film library is a must-do compulsion. In which case, Gaston Cocchiarate is a familiar face who had a supporting role in Gonzalo Calzada’s devilishly feministic empowering thriller, “Luciferina.” Cocchiarate’s character goes from being a naïve college kid in “Luciferina” to a bullied simpleton that gets pushed too far by his peers in “Terror 5.” Nicknamed Cherry for his plump figure and, more likely, his untapped virginity, Cocchiarate’s character seems like a nice enough guy, but powerful when provoked and Cocchiarate embraces the oppression punishment-to-maniacal psychosis well. Another fascinating actor to look for is Walter Cornas as the KISS-cladded Juan Carlos on a night of costumes, drugs, and booze during a small get-together. The dirt-bike riding jokester has a hard on for it all: booze, women, Cherry, and even snuff porn. The character is brutally charming like that one asshole guy who always manages to get with the girls no matter how much of a douchebag they are and the character is very relatable to us all because we all know someone like Juan Carlos. Under the black and white makeup and reckless cruelty is Walter Cornas whose versatile demo reel on IMDB.com and performance in “Terror 5” gives a great insight into his vibrant character performances that make him so enjoyable to behold. Cocchiarate and Cornas stand out with the better and most chilling performances amongst the remaining cast that includes Augusto Alvarez, Juan Barberini, Nai Awada, Magdalena Capobianco, Cecilia Cartasegna, Rafael Ferror, Lu Grasso, Flavia Marco, Jorge Prado, and Marcos Woinsky,.

As far as anthologies are concerned, “Terror 5” favors a string of scary stories to be strung together being each a cataclysm spun from the negativity produced by the outer story that includes blazingly blue-eyed revenge zombies and the result is, on the surface, quite convoluted. What doesn’t help “Terror 5’s” case either is that the Rosenstein brothers decided to interwoven all but one of the stories together, creating a multi-narrative mesh. Instead of individual chapters or title card introductions, the stories have a lattice blueprint and the audiences are forced to go back and forth between the dissimilar story lines that, on initial viewing, would be assumed that one story is a fraction to the other. The stories also didn’t have that killer kick in the pants that makes you go , “WTF!” Each tale ends rather abruptly, leaving morsels of the carnage to be further imagined rather than be digested in full and I’m sure, though couldn’t locate any background about it, that these tales are based in part of an Argentinian, or even in a broader South American sense, contemporary urban legends that are unfortunately not explored in detail. If approached positively, the human thirst for flesh, morbid curiosity, and unflinching corruption is well laced throughout and that’s the real terror behind the surface level macabre.

Artsploitatoin Films and Reel Suspects introduces Sebastian and Federico Rotstein’s “Terror 5” onto DVD home video presented in an anamorphic widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Director of photography Marcelo Lavintman works in the shadows with a very cloaked and dark alleyway approach. Some minor digital jumping in the blacks that’s underwhelming at best and in more lit scenes, clarity reigns with promising detail and natural coloring, despite not being variably hue heavy. The Spanish language 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound has prominent dialogue and a balanced, foreboding score by Pablo Borghi, but the tracks lack a range and a depth magnitude and, essentially, all the sound is right in front of you without the bulk of the surround sound too enhance the effect. English subtitles are available and though generally translated well, there were some slight typos. The only bonus material included is the trailer. As far as Argentinian horror anthologies go, “Terror 5” leads the pack with directors, Sebastian and Federico Rotstein, pulling from familiar filmic influences and gutter cravings with turnaround consequences and mortal coil tussles. Schematically, “Terror 5” has profound leap frogging narratives that challenge the conventional way we view anthologies or overall films, creating a bit of havoc on the tale or tales at hand.

Argentinian horror anthology available to purchase at Amazon.com

Canada’s Evilest Alien Movie…Ever! “Phobe” review!

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Sergeant Gregory Dapp, A lone wolf space cop, travels lightyears to Earth, ordered to hunt down and capture one of the universe’s deadliest and sought-to-extinction creatures, simply called a Phobe, before the extraterrestrial being reproduces on a massive, world obliterating scale. This particular species has wiped out all of Drapp’s special Phobe hunt and destroy unit and were thought to have been blotted out off the face of his planet until one lands on Earth. Drapp must team up with Jennifer, a local high school girl caught in the middle, to help capture the Phobe before spreading it’s seed for world domination.
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“Phobe: The Xenophobic Experiments” is an extremely ambitious sci-fi action film from Canada. Directed by Niagara, Ontario filmmaker Erica Benedikty, the 1994 film had a ultra-micro-budget of only $250 to cast a two-world, space odyssey complete with light-saber action and a behemoth amount of laser fodder. Being a slave to nearly no financial backing, “Phobe” had to manage without shame and roll with the flawed punches and, somehow, obtained popularity when broadcasted at a television station with which Benedikty was associated even when the film had to be diluted down to PG content. Fast forward 22-years later, Intervision Picture Corp. releases the aspiring director’s DIY fantastical vision in a glorious and plentiful remastered DVD edition.
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The Benedikty written and directed alien action feature pulls inspiration from many admired blockbuster sci-fi films including some potent familiarities, such as a revamped form of the alien from “Predator” who stalks with heat vision and blends in with camouflage or the dazzling lightsaber duels from the epic saga that is “Star Wars,” creating an endearing homage from a knowledgeable science fiction enthusiast with a dedicated cast and crew during a year long shoot. The Ontario filmmaker scribes her hero as not necessarily the hunter, but as the hunted because as soon as Dapp lands his ship and saves Jennifer’s life from a Phobe laser (a roman candle blast), Dapp and Jennifer spend the entire night on the run, never challenging the being until forced to do so and the structure harps upon a plot similar to “The Terminator” with a “Battlestar Galatica” villain presence.
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Rostered completely with unknown local actors, John Rubick stars as the mullet sporting, Phobe asskicker Sgt. Gregory Dapp who bolts into light speed with a very John Belushi appeal set upon the shoulders of a calm and candid Rubick demeanor throughout the entire Phobe capturing and Phobe egg destroying ordeal. Dapp’s semi quasi love interest Jennifer, Tina Dimoulin, blankly unconditionally follows Dapp into certain utmost danger. The Dapp and Dumoulin combo are Earth’s last hope against the Merv Wrighton’s portrayal of an invading, combat-ready, ultimate killing machine species. Wrighton’s tall and broad shoulder stature ideally constructs an intimidating antagonist being ultimately unraveled by a very inanimate casted mask with no texture or any kind of cosmetic makeup whatsoever and that highly resembles a toothless ivoried skull.
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“Phobe” won’t be palatable to every sci-fi devotee’s intergalactic taste. Only a microscopic niche fan base will greatly appreciate the tongue-in-cheek fashioned computerized imagery, the depth scale modeling, and the automaton deadpan acting that establishes “Phobe” as cult material and Severin’s InterVision Picture Corp. label does right by this small time Canadian film by remastering the original video elements and supplementing the DVD with a vast amount of bonus material. The video quality presented in a full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio is as good as it’s going to get with the inconsistencies of magnetic tape from a camcorder as the darker scenes are, at times, hard to visually construct because of the digital noise, but the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio quality is quite balanced and clear. The laundry list of bonus material includes an audio commentary from writer-director Erica Benedikty, the first feature film from Benedikty “Back in Black,” “The Making of Phobe,” Q&A with cast and crew, original FX shots from the 1995 broadcast version of “Phobe,” outtakes, and “Phobe” theme performed by Gribble Hell. Whew, that’s a lot of extras. To sum up the experience, “Phobe” is campy sci-fi schlock with stellar intentions and with tons of heart made of grenade tomatoes (this reference will make sense once you see the film) all while breaking the DIY mold.
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Grab a copy of “Phobe” at Amazon.com!!!!

Mountain Hag Gets Evil! “Girl in Woods” review!

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Vividly haunted by the nightmares of her childhood, Grace Walker struggles with recouping from the brutal suicidal death of her father that has plagued her into adulthood.  Her boyfriend Jim plans a romantic getaway for just the two them in the remote region of the Smokey Mountains.  After a horrific accident fatally strikes down Jim, Grace is alone and lost in the thicket without her coping medication and without a basic knowledge of survival skills.  Battling with starvation, unequipped with survival supplies, and besieged with a mental breakdown, Grace combats against her inner and outer demons in order to stay alive.
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Eight years have passed since writer-director Jeremy Benson’s last film, the carnal exploitive “Live Animals,” and the filmmaker comes back strong with the upcoming deeply psychological horror “Girl in Woods.”  While the title seems unoriginally simple, the character Grace is anything but simple; however, primitive is a more suitable description of both title and character in the end.  Benson sets up the character by writing Grace as a woodsy no-nothing on the brink of insanity.  As Grace hikes behind Jim, whose carrying a rifle, she’s complaining about the possible dangers of bears and snakes while attempting to use her pink incased cellphone in a kill signal area to gossip about Jim’s engagement proposal the night before.  Immediately, Benson places an unstable, and the creature of comfort, Grace into panic and peril, the starting line of her laundry list of troubles.  From then on, the director relentlessly pounds Grace with hallucinations set within the Tennessee backwoods, torturing her from the mind with mental deterioration stemmed by hunger and onset psychosis to her body with physical pain from a deep gash wound in her hand.
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And who is this actress to which Benson mercilessly puts through the meat grinder?  Veteran actress Juliet Reeves (“Automaton Transfusion”) fills Grace’s disturbed shoes with a formidable solo performance for much of the duration.  The then 36 year old actress was pregnant with her second child during various filming shoots.  The father of the child is with none other than her co-star, now husband, Jeremy London (“Alien Opponent”) who portrays Jim.  Reeves is able to maintain a convincing lunatic lost in the woods despite the non-liner storyline where dream sequences and, supposedly, flashbacks intercut to build upon Grace’s tragic and unfortunate background.  Reeves commits herself to the stages of psychosis, slowly transforming from a manageable, calm medicated state to severely severing all ties from external reality.  Even when performing with her angel and devil conscious in the form of herself, Reeves doesn’t flinch, fashioning a frightening internal dynamic that’s damn realistic.
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“Girl in Woods” ultimately becomes a collaboration between the subgenres of psychological horror and man versus nature.  Benson’s story explores the possibilities of what might happen if a mental case like Grace is put into a dire predicament and the non-linear narrative simultaneously attempts to display how Grace is destined to be molded.  Interestingly enough as a tidbit of analytical comparisons, “Girl in Woods” marginally parallels with a few popular scenes from the 1987 John McTiernan film “Predator.”  When Mac, played by Bill Duke, chases down the extraterrestrial game hunter, he notes to Carl Weather’s Dillion, whispering, “I see you” toward the cloaked alien, which feels similar to when Grace spots the forest “demon” and chases after it, yelling, “I saw you” over and over.  Other scenes sport the same similar inkling from Grace whittling makeshift weapons to going full blown guerilla attack commando on the “demon,” who oddly enough also makes similar vocal  gutturals like the Predator.
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As far as production value is concerned, “Girl in Woods” has an ambitious approach with a infinitely engulfing forest that lurks like an antagonistic villain and an in-your-face motif of self-inflicted suicides that’s extremely graphic and hard to absorb with the brain-splattering, wrist-slashing overdose potency.  The CGI is kept at a minimum, but have one hell of a nasty bite that spurs the heart to a sudden pounding.  The practical effects reign supreme over CGI and within the confines of a warped mind, the possibilities are endless and Benson exploits the potentials.  Overall, fine performances by the rest of the cast:  Jeremy London, John Still (“Live Animals”), Lee Perkins (Slime City Massacre), and the stunning Charisma Carpenter (“Angel” television series) as Grace’s mother.

Produced by GIW in association with Yield Entertainment and distributed by Candy Factory Films, “Girl in Woods” is an upcoming film you don’t want to skip over.  Jeremy Benson has the talented eye of capture beauty within the horror and has the talented pen to wield craziness on paper.  I’m not at liberty to critique the audio and video quality as I was provided an online screener, but “Girl in Woods” is being released on iTunes, VOD, DirectTV, Cable, Dish, Amazon Instant, Google Play, and Vudu so there are plenty of formats to choose from on June 3rd.