A wilderness camping trip in the rural terrain of an Alaskan landscape becomes the serene backdrop for a pair of couples on a romantic getaway. With their backpacks in tow and a sense of adventure in hand, one of aspirations amongst the peaceful setting would be to create an ideal engagement spot for a happily affectionate couple while the other couple taps the trip as a therapeutic escape to rekindle or salvage a flailing relationship. Deeper and deeper they trek into the woods that begins to feel engulfing with a sense of lurking, ominous eyes voyeuristically peering at them from afar and as gunfire rings out in the distance and camping gear winds up missing, spine-tingling fear starts to set in for the couples eager to leave quickly as they came, but those in the woods, those menacing figures that have been keeping distance, are now toying with the campers’ very lives.
Impelled into a throng of horror films set with backpackers becoming lost on a camping trip with a mysterious figure in the midst, “No Way Out” struggles to find a distinct voice from writer and star Chris Levine and introducing Joe Hamilton in his very first feature length directorial. Following his 2017 “Anabolic Life,” a crime-injected thriller circled around bodybuilding, co-written alongside Cameron Barsanti and Landon Williams, Levine steps solo into the horror ring, penning a camping-gone-wrong 2020 released thriller that displays themes of secrecy, family, and the mentally unstable futile pursuit of happiness compounded by half-frozen isolation off of sideroad Alaska and a tactical gas mask wearing loom creeping through the thicket. “No Way Out” is an independent funded production by the Alaskan based companies, Baird Media (Charles A. Baird) and RocketJoe Films, which I believe “No Way Out” used the latter company’s monolithic humanoid props from a defunct film entitled “Seven Bones,” and in association with services provided by Levine’s own co-founded London Levine Pictures company.
The small cast is centrically focus around the four campers for approx. 98% of the film, only briefly swerving away from the core characters to interject some meaningless exchanges between backpackers and to also setup a lying-in-wait antagonist to build up prelude suspense. Leading the foursome is Chris Levine as a multi-hat contributor along with his written and co-produced thriller by playing Blake, a hands off, anti-woods boyfriend being dragged against his will to go camping in order to recoup his girlfriend’s goodwill in their sinking relationship. “Apocalypse Rising” and “President Evil’s” Johanna Rae is Blake’s contentious other half as girlfriend Jessica. The dynamics between Levine and Rae couldn’t push the turbulent couple’s interpersonal problematic parameters beyond the scope of vomiting their frustrations to the same sex individual of their camping buddies on the trip with only one minor other instance of a short-lived spat in an attempt pull in some kind of concerning emotion for either Blake or Jessica, but the scene falls flat and so does that thick air tension that repels any kind of bridging of the gap forcing Blake and Jessica to seem not like a couple with progressing relationship issues, but rather argumentative friends with benefits. On the other side of spectrum, Norah (Jennifer Karraz) and Kyle (Christopher McGahan of “Virus of the Dead”), portray parallel mirror opposites of a happy-go-lucky couple on the brink of engagement and parenthood and while the couple should be gleaming with affection, Norah and Kyle barely speak a couple of sentences to each other, marking their character profoundly shapeless and plain among the limited roles to root for survival.
Aside from not being able to relate to the characters, who more or less meander about asking each other what they should do or not do next, “No Way Out” can’t find a way out of the nonsensical design to shepherd audiences into the throes of character plight and make the hairpin turn toward revealing the abhorrent culprit of their situational terror. The story seems stuck in a rut in garnering not enough background or tidbits of intricacies to formulate a clear answer to the subtle hints being conveyed along the way about what’s unfolding before our eyes. Luckily, our brains start to take over, filling the gaps where needed, and coming to a haphazard conclusion that through the characters wavering suspense of the unknown encased around them, not everything is what it seems and that aspect really comes early on in the film, whittling down the complexity of the story to a low-effort thriller that can be solved by the time the four campers reach their terminus by car and have to hoof it aimlessly rest of the way. Unfocused editing of a fragmented story and misused ambience, such as the prolonged whooshing of highway cars when characters are supposed to be deep in the woods, added to the viewing friction. I liked the headspace of the story concept for “No Way Out,” where a shadowy, uncouth stalker sets a target on unsuspecting camping folk accessorized with a shrouded plot twist, but, ultimately, the execution flopped as a pitched tent overwrought thriller set in the icy, backwoods topography of Alaska.
From filmmakers Chris Levine and Joe Hamilton comes a brand a new backpacker thriller, “No Way Out,” premiering the last weekend of August in Alaska and then hitting VOD platforms in the next couple weeks, including Prime Video, Google Play, Pluto, Tubi, and more. Since “No Way Out” is a new, completed feature film and a digital screener was provided for review coverage, the typical A/V evaluation will not be done, but the debut of cinematographer De Gosh Reed’s hybrid found footage and observational shot style captures a pair of perspectives of not only an outsider, but also as the characters to join in as a terrified participant. Aforesaid, the English language audio mix is a bit wonky with some ambient missteps. The dialogue also comes and goes in an undiscernible pinpoint of depth that, at times, is trounced by the steadily vivacious soundtrack. The film felt very technically raw and unfinished, but, again, this is a digital screener of an unreleased film on the brink of debuting and maybe altered or adjusted for the premier/VOD. There were no special features included with the screener nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. Though not my cup of flavored untamed tension tea, “No Way Out” has the bones to be a straight forward VOD thriller outlier despite being misshaped and disjointed around the particular edges.
Set years inside the landscape of a post-apocalyptic world, a young locaiton scout named J.D. stumbles upon a hidden cabin after being severely injured during his travels. While catching his breath and notating the position of the cabin in his notebook, a man comes up behind him, armed with a hunting rifle and has it pointing at J.D.’s head. Playing cool and calm, J.D. relinquishes himself to the man’s every suspicion, even to the point of chaining himself inside a locked room, to ease the man’s fears. The next day, the man introduces himself as Henry and provides food and medical assistance when J.D. proves he doesn’t pose a threat. The two men begin to form a bound once the waters of distrust subside, providing Henry with much need and desire companionship and a place where J.D. can soothe his trekking feet, but when Henry’s paranoia bubbles to the surface and the feasible threat of a raiding group upon Henry’s quaint isolated cabin appears imminent, their newfound friendship will be tested.
In an unpredictable course that has been marked in our year of 2020, a pandemic has quickly spread through the most powerful and copiously stocked sovereign nations on Earth. Now, imagine if that same pandemic, ravaged the world’s population, and subsequently it’s resources, to the extent of lawlessness and death, leaving many question, lonely, and afraid and what that would do to their mental state. AMC’s “The Walking Dead” explores this pretty well through the course of the first few season until it just became a ebb and flow battle of the good versus the bad. However, writer-director Marvin Choi recaptures the core essence by exploring his vision of the apocalypse in “A Knight’s Tour,” where there’s more of a mighty, but small undercurrent of the unknown that overwhelms the brain’s rational thought process, affecting prosperous relationships and transforming them into a claustrophobic resistance of dangerously delusional episodes. The film, being released in 2020, is Choi’s first behind the camera and in the seat of the director’s chair, helming a script with a title based off a game played with a chess’ knight piece that has to tour every spot on a checkered chessboard within its allowed moving pattern, not to repeat a spot, and return back to its original point. “A Knight’s Tour” is also the Korean-American Choi’s graduate thesis at the California Institute of the Arts that saw supplemental fruition from fellow student-turned-producer Sara Razack and shooting was held on the Dominguez Ranch near California’s Lake Piru on a budget of $25,000 and released under Choi’s company banner, Fugitive Frames, a subsidiary of the Fugitive brand that also includes Fugitive Games, for videogame reviews that Marvin Choi plays, and Fugitive Photography for professional photos with partner John C. Velez.
The intimate production allows for the characters to unfold the story from the only two actors in performances that really saturate the frames with uneasy intentions and keep posterity uncertain outside cabin doors and beyond the safe haven thicket. Darnel Powell and Joseph Price star as J.D. and Henry in what would be their debut full-length feature film performances. Taking the roles head on, Power and Price relationship never takes a backseat during the entire 77 minute runtime. J.D. and Henry are rudimentary beings trying, in their own ways, to survive in what is now a collapse society; J.D. runs with groups, scoring out locations that might serve himself for refuge and, maybe, a bit of payment depending on the group whereas Henry shuts himself in after losing not one person but two people he’s cared about to death and the other reason is unknown during the chaos of the mysterious outbreak that cut society into grated chaos. Despite the subtle acquiescent approach to Henry’s disregard toward stranger-danger concept, Price plays into Henry’s strong silent type and can field and hold the switch out into Henry’s obtrusive and frantic visions of the past. Powell’s take of J.D. comes off a rudimentary and less of a bamboozler as suspect. J.D.’s smart, cunning, and experienced in the field and Powell plays into well enough, but not enough to actually sell the hustle or if there is even one. Dynamically, they’re not embroidered into the elaborate patterns of the knight’s tour, but more related to the chess match itself with sacrificing trust like pawns, able to diagonally out smart each other like Bishops, and exposing their true intentions like an unprotected King until they find themselves in a stalemate of unglued trust and friendship when designs are calculated and true self invokes pity.
“A Knight’s Tour” doesn’t feed into the thrills of a do-or-die, post-apocalyptic death heap as Choi carves out the materials for the ever fluid human disposition. Instead of junk cars revamped for destruction and pillaging carnage, Choi challenges the overglazed with violence eyes of audiences to determine the gambles set by the two leads, to extract the souls of J.D. and Henry, and watch them either become brittle or come to terms with a change of heart. What’s interesting about the two men, or more the structures of these two men inside the pages of the script, is there willing to quickly trust each other. At first sight, Henry has a rifle pointed at J.D., has the location scout chain himself inside a closet, and keeps the chain on him for a few days after. There are two sides to this coin soon after that first night. One, J.D. allows himself to be captured and subjected to Henry’s every called shot. J.D. even provides step-by-step exposition how he could have taken the rifle left on the table and shoot Henry in the back. J.D. is either a very honest and trustworthy individual or is trying to get on good terms with Henry, to observe his habits, and to get a better look at the loner’s stockpile for future taking. Two, Henry, though careful and precise, easily lets J.D. into his life, letting him out of the closet and able to roam around the cabin with the chain still around his ankle. Henry gives in into his desperation caused by loneliness, allowing himself to instantly attached to J.D. as if, and probably was, the only person he’s seen in a very long time. Much like the sequences of the game, “A Knight’s Tour” never retreads on the same path twice, proving to uphold the tension with a singular theme to chew on and comes out on top without any glossy doomsday bombardments that makes the blood boil with cathartic obliteration of each other.
“A Knight’s Tour” depicts the fragility and longevity of one’s inner thoughts sanctum while in a post-apocalyptic world and is feature debut from Marvin Choi, distributed by independent genre distributor Terror Films, and has made a noble run of the festival film circuit, including the Pan African Film Festival, DisOrient Asian American Film Festival, and Montreal International Black Film Festival. Set to release this month digitally, the roll out will include multiple streaming services for viewing pleasure, such as Prime Video, Tubi TV, Watch Movies Now, Google Play, and others. Since the product is a digital screener, the video and audio aspects will not be covered, but nothing obvious inherent seemed to disrupt the balanced, yet low-keyed audio mixes and 1.78:1 widescreen video presentation. There were no bonus features included or additional bonus scenes during or after the credits. Marvin Choi’s “A Knight’s Tour” will make a subtle impact across the indie film circuit with searing themes of manipulation, deterioration in solitude, and the games we play against each other for the advantage over our fellow man.
Frontman Bobby Gray and his Southern rock band, Dark Roads, were supposed to be next big hit next to The Rolling Stones, but there fame and fortune started dwindling after some short-lived success. Barely surviving on a here-and-there gig in 1979, Dark Roads manager, Grace King, secures a secluded cabin in the woods for them to find their new sound before being dropped by their record label. Along with their female companions, chatty coach driver, their sensible roadie named Cash, and a handful of some hallucinogenic drugs, the trouble band members continue to squabble amongst themselves, especially more so against the vain and alcoholic Bobby Gray. Gray holds a terrible secret from his bandmates, a secret involving a pact he made with the Devil ten years ago and, now, the debt is due, placing the entire group in mortal danger…the price for fame and fortune.
Based loosely surrounding the tragic circumstances of the infamous 27 Club mythos, a moniker given for a collection of up and coming talented musicians who die unexpectedly and prematurely at the ripe young age of 27, “Dark Roads 79” incorporates into the fold the legendary tale of Blues musician, a 27 club victim named Robert (Bobby) Leroy Johnson, who sold his soul to the devil at a Georgia crossroads during midnight for to be the greatest blues musician, or so the story is told. The 2017 film is the fifth macabre picture from writer-director Chase Smith who co-wrote the film with documentarian filmmaker, Richard Krevolin, who no doubt kept the script on a historical accuracy path, as much as one supernatural storyline can stay on. “Dark Roads 79” is a production from Smith’s Georgia based independent filmmaking company, Spirit World Productions, and brought to viewers by “Old 37” executive producer “Jason Anderson” and co-executive producer Nicholas Frank Auger.
Already donning many hats, Chase Smith slips on one more broad brim and trashy cowboy mesh hat with Ian Cash, the level-headed, good natured roadie with a voice like an angel, but built like a Mack truck. Cash serves as narrator who sets up the story that swerves across the dotted line into spoiler territory just a tad, but Cash becomes the vehicle that brings the viewers up to speed on the legend of Bobby Johnson and the rise and fall of the Dark Roads, like a cowboy quick connect in case you needed help in establishing that Dark Roads’ success hinges on a fatal pact with the Devil himself. While Cash may seem like the focal point of the story, there’s a split with lead singer Bobby Gray (David A. Flannery, co-star from a few of the homoerotic thriller series “1313”) whose vanity flushes Dark Roads’s stardom down the toilet. Cash and Gray go toe-to-toe many times and Smith’s emits formidable tough guy appearance on screen while Flannery impresses with a complete loathsome veneer. Neither Smith or Flannery make top bill however as long as “Devil’s Rejects” Bill Moseley has a show stealing bit role as the wicked tongue Christian, Caretaker Williams. Moseley’s short, catchy tune of “Boys and Girls they’ll make some noise. They’ll all be burning in Hell” is a classic, archetypal Bill Moseley character idiosyncrasy. Though Moseley’s scenes are short, they’re definitely sweet and rememberable. “Dark Roads 79” rounds out with “Creature Feature’s” Austin Freeman, Lance Paul, Libby Blanton, and Chance Kelley alongside April Bogenshutz (“Attack of the Morningside Monster”), Jessica Sonneborn (“Never Open the Door”), Jennifer Masty (“Rabid”), Eddie George, Ramona Mallory (“Piranha Sharks”), and co-writer Richard Krevolin as the bands’ chatty driver, Thomas ‘Motormouth’ Jones.
“Dark Roads 79” is categorically a a mystery slasher with a supernatural edge that tinkers with blending lore and the theme of lost good times and friendships despite how unfriendly and uncouth they might be, but Smith and Krevolin purely tiptoe around the keynote of terrible, yet sense of family, camaraderie, failing to capture the coherency of the melancholic essence due to loss and despair built upon years of cathartic criticism, distrust, loathing, and continuous bickering between best buds. In fact, the band and it’s entourage displayed little love if it wasn’t under the influence of some drug, but we must remember that the narrative is told through the perspective of roadie Ian Cash who believed in the band, and, in so, believed in each band member albeit their merciless fair share of busting his balls. The editing, cuts, and transitions are, perhaps, some of the most interesting with “Star Wars”-like wipe transitions that effectively heightened as a hallmark of the swanky 1970s era and the emotion-extracting lingering shots, such as with the handheld super 8 cam that roams the room of an abiding jovial moment in time, capture more of the tender times between the group of bitter and weary druggies, alcoholics, and vain temperaments. Unfortunately, the positives do not outweigh the negatives with a scatterbrained and predictable story that comes off as another failed spawn of the 27 Club urban legend and shaves off the emotional baggage with cheap kills and too many unfulfilling characters.
Make a pact with the Devil himself by watching Chase Smith’s “Dark Roads 79” that’ll debut on stage with a wide digital release by the end of May from genre distributor, Terror Films. No set date has been announced. The film will be hosted on multiple digital platforms, such as TUBI TV, Google Play, Prime Video, ITunes, and various other streaming options. Since “Dark Roads 79” will be a digital release, the video and audio specifications will not be reviewed as it’ll be different for all personal devices, but I will note that some minor portions of the dialogue elements were echoey at times. The original soundtrack has strength behind it with Southern Rock tracks by Black Mountain Shine, Mark Cook, Benton Blount, and HK Jenkins, who composes the single “The Road You’re Going Down,” written by Chase Smith, for the film’s official music video. There were no bonus features with the digital screener. “Dark Roads 79” has the necessary ingredients of a backwoods-frat party gone awry slasher except with Southern Rock, but this Georgia based production is tuneless and tone deaf as it stutters through the Devil’s network of deadly deals.
After squandering a shady investment group’s money, a struggling filmmaker stages a last attempt effort in writing and directing an all-out and profitable horror movie. Isolated on a stretch of private land sits a house which his movie will be set. The director installs camera monitors, archaic printers in each room, and fashions a room for himself in the confining attic space, turning the house into a platform for five young actors to perform at his instructional, omnipotent influence without having to ever personally interact with the actors, a group he strongly loathes. His despise for actors and the financial pickle he finds himself in with shark investors places him at the centerpiece of his slasher film as the masked killer. With the stage set and the actors all in place, the directing maestro helms unsuspecting actors to their violent deaths in the name of art, self-preservation, and actor genocide.
As a film that turns the slasher mythology on its head, G. Patrick Condon’s “Incredible Violence” is a serrated vision of bleak, dark comedy too sharp to really fully digest and that’s okay. Filmed in Canada of 2018 and released this year on SVOD from The Hunting Party Inc., production studio, “Incredible Violence” strays away from the young, naive victims points of perspective and opens the path up for a nihilistic killer to control the narrative around his desperate motives. Though having complete control over most of the factors and planning ahead of time, “Incredible Violence,” as a partial comedy, folds miscreant mishaps and caricatured flaws on top of, indeed, incredible violence and while that vehemence is focused primarily on actors as a while, a good portion pivots and breaks down even further to the individual level that can be personal and can be insensitive for women who have to best themselves, sometimes together and sometimes separately, against two different antagonistic foes of the opposite sex.
The largely based Canadian cast begins with Stephen Oates playing the hack director and self-imposed killer, named after director G. Patrick Condon, of the titular film and though that might seem egotistical of the Condon, enough humiliation smothers the self-assuring and struggling character to the point of utter satire with even going as far as poking fun at his last name in a brief quip of dialogue. Oates, who has starred alongside Jason Mamoa on the historical Canadian action Netflix series, “Frontier,” is an intriguingly no-shame filmmaker who hustles together a plan schemed to save his life. Sporting a wife beater, long fur coat, and an unadorned mask, Oates exhibits Condon perfectly as a hack artist in filmmaking and in being a badass serial killer. Then there’s Grace, the lead character bound for stardom as an untrained actor taking a role in, what she considers, a performance art film and naively goes into the project with such gusto that she blatantly ignores all warning flags from the beginning, a role very well suited by the striking eyes of M.J. Kehler. Grace endures shots left and right, from friends and foes alike, as a hopeful artist, but like “Incredible Violence” shows, a true inclination comes out of people when push comes to shove and Grace, through Kahler’s physical bombarding of a final girl trope, doesn’t need acting school or any other doubters to trump her will, passion, and ferocity. One scene to note is between Foster, Kahler, and Kimberly Drake and Kahler’s Grace is just stricken by fear over being ask to kill someone, she’s screaming and is essentially rooted to her spot. The moment is grippy and terrible empathetic to know that true fear does freeze one’s fundamental functions of survival and of morality. “Incredible Violence” co-stars Michael Wotherman, Kimberly Drake, Erin Mick, Meghan Hancock, and Allison Moira Kelly.
“Incredible Violence” bursts with a talented cast with deserving of a curtain call performances and lives up to the title with incredible, if not whole heartily gratuitous, violence and some brief macabre nudity, but Condon’s story has a lot of zeal that doesn’t properly switch tracks when characters break under their obscure tormentor’s direction. Condon, the director, builds the tension more through the repetition of violence with a slight tweak every time rather than crafting a breaking point, a catalyst that dissembles sanity and refigures patchwork insanity, making characters alliances difficult to place that ultimately crumbles the dynamics into just a bunch of people beating each other to a pulp. The same kind pivoting told differently can be said about the strange, public television show Celebrity Autopsy paralleling as intra-story that often feels disconnected to Oates and his film. I guess with a film entitled “Incredible Violence,” a substance merit to the narrative would be a long shot, but as an exploitive, self-described meta-horror centerpiece, “Incredible Violence” is made up of all sorts of gut-checking goodness with torture, madness, and cynicism helmed by sadism without the presence of slasher-esque, blank evil.
1091 Films, in partnership with G. Patrick Condon’s The Hunting Party Inc., presents “Incredible Violence” that runs 89 minutes onto a plethora of media streaming platforms, such as Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play and Vudu, and on-demand cable services. Unfortunately, “Incredible Violence” is a streaming only feature so image and audio qualities will vary across streaming devices. There were also no bonus material or special features present, but as an extra tidbit about production, the film took approx. 2 years to complete with the unpleasant misfortunate of one of the original cast members passed away during rehearsal. This forced the script to be re-written, delayed, and ultimately triggered G. Patrick Condon to write himself, as a character, into the script. Futhurmore, the cast and crew had agreed to stay in the house set location until filming wrapped which resulted in some actual anxiety and stress to spill out into the performances. Contextually sound in the confines of violence, “Incredible Violence” finds footing staggering abroad the cascading carnage of horror-comedy with a single character arch involving making it big in the acting world only to just make it out alive and in one piece of this film.