Night Terrors Are Not EVIL Enough. “While We Sleep” reviewed! (VMI Releasing/ DVD)

“While We Sleep” available on DVD home video at Amazon.com!

Neurologist Nina Evanko is perplexed by the unusual CAT scans of 13-year-old Cora whose been suffering from sudden onset sleepwalking after her birthday party.  Believing the CAT scan is going through calibration issue with imaging process, Nina orders another set of scans, but when the scans produce the same result and a death of another patient right in front of Cora sends her home early before Nina’s arrival to study the results, Nina convinces Cora’s parents to an at-home sleep observation to root Cora’s sleepwalking cause.  What Nina finds is far more sinister than night terrors or any other kind of parasomnia as a demon has inhabited Cora’s body with nefarious intentions.  Cora’s only hope to save her soul is her bewildered parents, a rattled neurologist, and a rogue priest but a family secret may consume everything. 

If you’re still looking to support Ukraine during the now 6 plus months Russia invasion of their sovereign neighbor, why not support the Ukrainian-U.S. collaborative cinema?  Why not start more precisely with Andrzej Sekula’s 2021 child-possession thriller “While We Sleep” set in the Ukrainian capital and flagship city of Kiev.  Sekula, known more for his work with Quentin Tarantino as a cinematographer on “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” as well as “American Psycho” and “Hackers,” has quietly and seldomly helmed a handful of films over the two decades with “Cube 2:  Hyperspace” being one of them.  “While We Sleep” returns Sekula to the director’s chair for the first time since 2006 with a script by Rich Bonat and the film’s supporting costar Brian Gross, the first feature script penned by the “Jack Frost 2:  Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman” and remake of “2001 Maniacs” actor.  “While We Sleep” is coproduced by American Brian Gross and Kiev-Los Angeles based CinemAday productions, which include company bigwigs Rich Ronat, Yuriy Karnovsky, and Yuriy Prylypko. 

While much of the story begins with Cora and her parents (real life family of husband Brian Gross, wife Jacy King, and daughter Lyra Irene Gross) cursed by Cora’s acute and disconcerting sleepwalking disorder and moody behavior, the daily battle to understand their predicament is not left in the out of their league but most lovable hands of the parents as the film leads you to believe.  Roughly half hour into the film, the narrative switches from the convincing family perspective, despite building background on their low-band relationship troubles and move it nearly 100% to Nina’s problem-solving perspective with a hint of her own troubled past.  Kiev born and “Stranger” actress Darya Tregubova plays the neurologist too curious to shrug off the mysterious case of Cora’s abnormal scans.  Tregubova is fetching without saying but she doesn’t provide the necessary emotional weight of person who’s going through grief and loss issues from the past.  Tregubova also doesn’t convey the necessary weight toward her strong connection to Cora and Cora’s case with only a few expositional moments that hint at such.  These aspects leave Nina outside the bubble of plot events that make the character stick out as unnecessary even more with the character’s negligent professionalism surrounding the wellbeing of Cora and with the parent interactions.  Once the story butts in randomly the blacklisted priest, Father Andrey (Oliver Trevena, “The Reckoning”), with an intimate familiarity with the demon that possess Cora, we know that the story is lost as it tries to quickly and covertly wrap its grip around how to come to a head with this storyline.  You can’t have a possession film without a priest, right?  Father Andrey feels very much like a leftover thought, but Trevena tries his darnedest to sell a washed-up man of the cloth with desperation pouring from word out his mouth despite looking like an English hooligan in a pop collared leather jacket. 

“While We Sleep” has not-so-brittle bones of demonism and possession albeit lacking its own or established cultural mythos, yet there’s a disjointed nature about the story structure and plot points that just don’t make sense that crumble that coherency faster than Cora descending into the depths of demonic disorder. The opening scene is the most perplexing of all with an elaborate birthday cake that neither mom nor dad had made or bought for Cora’s 13th year. Without a care in the world, mom and dad don’t explore further who could have possibly made such a beautiful cake and little do they know, the cake, or rather the cake’s candles, are a conduit for demonic transmission into the soul. This part is never explained through the rest of the picture and, in fact, Gross or Bonat don’t touch back upon a possibility of explaining the odious presence. Much of everything is taken a face value, such as the fact Cora cuts her long hair to a pixie style without an eyelash being bat or in what’s more crtical to the plot is with Cora’s real and darkly unholy father backstory. Those facts are a shot to the brain and we’re still not understanding where Cora’s biological father fits into Cora’s space, into her mother’s space, or even into Father Andrey’s space, but you would think as important as this twist was suddenly deluged in a quick spit of point-blank honesty, the edges would be smoothed over and the picture would become clear as the holy water that was cross was spritzed with; yet, that the aggregation of aggravation of little-to-no details continues to carry out as if everything is perfectly peachy and comprehendible within the story context.

From the at-home release distributor that delivered John Travolta as “The Fanatic,” VMI Releasing, a subsidiary of VMI WorldWide, releases “While We Sleep” on DVD home video. The clear snapper cased DVD, a MPEG-2 formatted DVD5, is presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio with an average speed bitrate of 4-5 Mbps. You can see noticeable banding issues in the darker bedroom scenes sporadically throughout. Aside from that, the picture result is fair with more than enough detail for viewing. The English-Ukranian soundtrack is not listed on the back cover, but my SEIKI player reads two audio options: a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a Dolby Digital dual channel 2.0. Discerning the difference between two is not worth the effort as there’s only subtleties in the output. The 5.1 surround sound has obvious better capacity for multi-channeling. Optional English subtitles are available but neither one of the audio tracks available nor the subtitles offer English captioning for the Ukranian dialogue and often times, there are back and forth exchanges that are intended to carry worth behind the exchange. The subtitles just state foreign language speaking which doesn’t help at all so there’s a bit of lost in translation in the dialogue unless you happen to speak or understand East Slavic languages. The 92-minute film comes unrated but doesn’t come with any bonus material as a feature only release. “While We Sleep” only nips at attempting to be a better than average “Exorcist” akin contemporary but remains on the haphazard course of shaky character building and bumpy, unpaved developments that make only for a rocky portrait of possession.

“While We Sleep” available on DVD home video at Amazon.com!

 

EVIL Will Scrape You Clean Right to the Bone in “Scavenger” reviewed! (MVDVisual – Cleopatra Entertainment / Blu-ray)

A ruthless post-apocalypse world consists of killing others for their vital organs and sell them on the black market to earn a living or to score the next high.  The latter is the life Tisha lives as a bounty hunter assassin sustaining through a bleak existence of the next job and another hit.  When a new job brings her ugly past to the present, no payment is necessary as she gladly assassinate a smutty bar owner and brutal cartel head.  Things don’t go as planned when Tisha winds up naked on one of grimy sex mats of her target’s whore house after encountering and being seduced by Luna, the boss’s best laid side piece stripper and confidant.  The assassin must fight tooth and nail to survive on her filthy course to truth-hurting vengeance.

A complete ball of filth and fury is how I would begin to describe Eric Fleitas and Luciana Garraza’s sordid wrapped “Scavenger,” hailing from Argentina with wild west undercurrents in a post-apocalypse wasteland that makes George Miller’s barren lands look like Disneyworld.   Titled originally as “Corroña” in española,  the filmmakers also pen the violent screenplay alongside a third writer in Shelia Fentana to produce their very first feature length credit together that clocks in at 73 minutes, and 73 minutes is plenty enough to be entranced and be gorged by the anarchist sleaze, galloping gore, fast cars, and loose whores.  The trio financially self-produce “Scavenger’s” journey to silver screen fruition while Ronin Pictures provides special effects work that can rival the best independent productions. 

The role of Tisha is not a pleasant one, no role in where the protagonist being raped is pleasant to begin with, but to compound the character with a nasty drug habit, a gruesome vocation, traumatically scarred past, and be the objectifiable plaything for a bunch of society-fallen degenerates, Tisha’s fortitude had to be uncompromisable and her sensitivity dialed way down to zero in order to survive in her cutthroat world where not even your bodily organs are safe.  In steps Nayla Chumuarin, a fresh face Argentinian actress unknown to the majority of general audiences, ready to slip into a demanding role antithesis to Mel Gibson’s Max Rockatansky that’s only similar in a very few ways.  Geared in masculine attire, sporting a pixie cut, and gleaming with sweat and dirt from head to toe, Chumuarin offers up an intriguing anti-femme fatale in a more cold shouldered assassin vibe with a fast barb wired cladded car and who can handle herself around all types of antagonists, even those two times her size and are a disfigured mutant!  Tisha tracks down Roger, a brothel and bar owner who has ill-fatedly crossed paths with Tisha in a previous life.  Played by Gonzalo Tolosa, the mohawk-sporting Roger abides by his own set of rules unless they’re coming out of the sensual viperous mouth of Luna (Sofia Lanaro), Roger’s stripper girlfriend with a true sense of the femme fatale archetype.  Together, Roger and Luna call the shots and lust suck each other faces in the torment of Tisha who by the end of the film just wants to waste them both from the face of the post-apocalypse Earth.  Fleitas and Garraza purposefully and rightfully omit much of the backstories from most of the film and slide them in, crashing down like a house of falling cards, right on top of not only the characters but also the audience in a moment of realization and shocking truth from everything that has happened in the story up to that climatic end.  “Scavenger” rounds out the cast with Tisso Solis Vargas, Denis Gustavo Molina, Norberto Cesar Bernuez, Vanesa Alba, Rosa Isabel Guenya Macedo, and Gaston Podesta as the Mutant.

“Scavenger” is pure debauchery nonsense.  A gore loaded free for all.  The story is about as ugly as you would expect with the exploitation of carrion from those slowly succumbing to death in one form or another.  “Scavenger” is an entertainment juggernaut doused in corrosive material that will either disgust or amuse, depending on your temperament, with no middle ground to balance.  Characters are driven by unadulterated greed or rage, even the heroine of vengeance who just a few scenes prior stabbed a man in the back to harvest his organs, without one morally redemptive character to relieve the incessant current shocking the mind’s nipples with searing voltage.  Fleitas and Garraza slather in a laissez-faire fashion the exploitation veneer of grindhouse muck to serrate the unsavory snaggleteeth even sharper, but there are points where too much of a good thing becomes bad to the film’s health.  As such is with the licking of the face motif.  Like Quentin Tarantino and his obsession with closeup shots on female’s feet, Fleitas and Garraza shoot a handful of scenes of sexually engaged males lapping the sweat and pheromone droplets from the faces of their carnal conquests in all types of scenarios from rape to consensual.  The saliva wet, grainy muscle just slides right across the soft flesh covered cheekbone in more scenes that I cared to count in what seems more like a filmmaker fetish than an object necessary to overboard the obscenities.  It’s a weird action to call out but happens more than just a couple of occasions and between different characters.  The pacing’s fine albeit a few nauseating slice and dice editing that doesn’t take away or hinder in abundance understanding the progression of Tisha’s journey, but definitely causes a bit of blurriness on the heroine’s perspective of whether what she’s experiencing is a nightmare, a flashback, or a bad trip from whatever narcotic she withdrawals from that once injected speeds her into a kill monger. 

If what I’ve gone over doesn’t entice you, I can tell you this much.  “Scavenger” is perhaps the best Cleopatra Entertainment film release I’ve seen up-to-date.  The subsidiary of the independent record label, Cleopatra Records, Inc, in collaboration with MVD Visual release the South American grindhouse-fest film on a 2-disc Blu-ray and Compact Disc set featuring the film’s soundtrack, including music from Rosetta Stone, The Meteors, The 69 Cats, Philippe Besombes, Damon Edge and more with a full artist list on the reverse side of the cover liner along with alternate cover art of the film.  Presented in a widescreen 16:9 ratio, don’t expect a high-definition output with a homage to grain and a warm high-key contrasts to augment the desert outward show under the eye of Sabastian Rodriguez.  Negative space is only used for intense shadows to cloak the lurking menace around every corner.  There’s a variety of shots, including some great wide shots and crane angles, that sell “Scavenger” beyond the frenzy of blood-soaked and furrowed brow closeups.  There are four audio options available:  a dubbed English 5.1 surround and a 2.0 stereo as well as the original Spanish dialogue track in a 5.1 surround mix and a 2.0 stereo.  Unfortunately, the Spanish tracks do not come with option English subtitles so if you don’t understand the language, you’ll need to sit through the always awful English dub; however, this particular dub track is not obviously horrendous.  With all the Cleopatra Entertainment titles, the soundtrack sticks out like a sore thumb to promote their investments with high quality sound but also in true Cleopatra Entertainment titles, the lack of bonus features continue with “Scavenger” with only a theatrical trailer and an image slideshow.  “Scavenger” is a particular breed of film where you just flip your mind’s decency switch to off and gladly watch the world burn in depravity to get your jollies off.

Own “Scavenger” on Blu-ray and Soundtrack CD combo Set!

Two Evil Guys Stick to the Script! “Snowflake” review!


Tan and Javid go on a killing spree in anarchy-riddled Germany after their families were killed in a house fire in which emergency services were purposefully withheld. After slaying bystanders at a diner, they happen upon a script in a stolen car; the script reads line-by-line, word-for-word on everything the two men say and do. Simultaneously, the wealthy Eliana is hunting them down, seeking revenge for the death of her parents by collaborating with her parents’ former bodyguard to hire cold-blooded serial killers to kill the men. As Tan and Javid try desperately to not follow script, the two men seemingly can’t avoid their fate along with circumventing a variety of dangerous people crossing their path. Only a couple of people from the script can possibly save them, an Angel named Snowflake, and, possibly, the screenwriter himself.

Adolfo Kolmerer’s “Snowflake” has maybe little-to-no relevance to the derogatory term commonly used by right-winged conservatives when describing the assumed liberal millennial with a heightened sense of uniqueness and having a knack of being overly offended by, well basically, everything. Kolmerer’s “Snowflake” also has no correlation with the concept of winter, snow, or even Christmas. So, the question is, what the hell is “Snowflake” about? The 2017 shocker, also known originally as Schneeflockchen in the German language, is as cold and as unique as any snowflake mother nature can cruelly reign upon down a person and methodically compounds the series of gritty events, from two sets of characters, through a head-bearing funnel that’s supernaturally poised and brutally executed. From writer Arend Remmers, the script itself is smartly constructed as a narrative character, woven to become a pivotal motivator that not only churns out characters’ supposedly ill-fated destinies, but also a metaphysically, arch-able player in the grand scheme of gruesome revenge and absolute atonement that within the bookend pages of the treatment has unorthodox religious themes and a radical, almost anti-hero like quality of rising against the powers of racially insensitive autocratic and populist agendas. The film’s location of Berlin isn’t the only thing that’s anarchical driven as Kolmere and Remmers bends cinema conventional rules to enthrall one punch to the gut movie.

Erkan Acar and Reza Brojerdi play the brothers in arms, Tan and Javid. As they venture on nihilistically slaughtering quest to come face-to-face with their maker, Tan and Javid have nothing more to lose and Acar and Brojerdi depict themselves in that predicament while maintaining their characters’ seamless, longtime friendship, like watching two sets of personalities move as a single unit. Tan and Javid are hunted down by another character seeking vengeance for her parents are the wrong place, at the wrong time. Eliana has money, status, and all that she could ever want, but when she befriends her family’s bodyguard who is then let go from the position, she loses sight of the meaning of uncoupled protection in Berlin’s anarchy state and also loses sight of what’s truly important to her – her folks. When they’re slaughtered, Eliana, played by Xenia Assenza, is hellbent on exacting retribution. Assenza clearly proceeds with a cold, drafty personality for Eliana with unrelenting ambition. The character is scribed as ultimately over flawed if not even expressly obvious and Assenza does a fine job bubbling those flaws ever so delicately to the surface in every loss Eliana sustains. Tan, Javid, and Eliana have a very grounded reality about them when contrasted with other characters such as the superhero-esque Hyper Electro Man (Mathis Landwehr) with the steampunk power backpack of electrical power, a blind man named Fumo (Eskindir Tesfay) with fits of fury, and a madman named Caleb (“Braveheart’s” David Gant) who could very possibly be God himself. Electrifying, mysterious, and powerful can be their only descriptive adjectives that steer “Snowflake” into the graphic novel universe. David Masterson (“German Angst”), Gedeon Burkhard (“Inglourious Basterds”), Selam Tadese, Adrian Topol, Judith Hoersch, Alexander Shubert, and Antonio Wannek, Bruno Eyron, Martin Gores, Mehmek Kurtulus round out this amazing, eclectic cast.

On a single read through of the synopsis on the Artsploitation’s Blu-ray back cover, trying to process the quickly summed up tale might also quickly scorch and burn off invaluable brain cells, but “Snowflake” has an immensely alluring nature once reviewed on a second read. Might not be a tearjerking romantic comedy and can be stupendously offensive with hints of barbarism, but the fantasy element, infused with Western composition at times, is stone strong with this film that’s more than just a Tarantino or Coen brothers’ akin film as the summary impresses to potential viewers. I’d toss in their some steampunk aspects of early Terry Gilliam or the delicate fable-isms of Marc Forster. It’s also a little razor blunt like Takashi Miike and perhaps could have surrealistically lobotomized and strenuous dreamlike sequences that speak to the likes of David Lynch, in choice scenes. Adolfo Kolmerer can be considered an equivalent to not one, but all of these visual icons and mega storytelling filmmakers.

Truly unique like an ice crystal falling from the winter sky, “Snowflake” falls onto Blu-ray home video courtesy of Artsploitation Films. Presented in 1080 and in a widescreen format, “Snowflake” vividly impresses with a broad color palette and a sleek, crisp digital picture. Hyper Electro Man has vibrant electrical currents snaking around his body and arms that aren’t just blurry blobs, but maintain two-tones of color and depth. Various decrepit buildings have the details pop out to bring an anarchy German to life. The German-English-Polish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track has range, balance, and fortitude with a clarity and prominence in all spoken dialects. English subtitles are available. Bonus features included a behind-the-scenes look at “Snowflake” that clocks in just under a hour and trailers of other Artsploitation films. “Snowflake” has an original frame that’s built to sustain the broken westernized violence and is tightly glued together with likable berserk characters and an engaging labyrinthine story that ultimately feels genuine, versatile, and thematically relevant in, nearly, a not-so-abstract vision.

Acting Evil Isn’t Necessarily Evil. “Sins of Dracula” review!

output_xnW8RJ Billy, a good church-going man, reluctantly leaves his choir to join the community theater at the request of his girlfriend Shannon.  What Billy doesn’t realize is that there are all different kinds of characters who partake in the community theater – the nerdy gamers, the anti-establishment antagonizers, the gays, and, of course, Dracula.  Yes, Dracula – the Prince of Darkness.  The theater’s director is a satanic worshipper who feeds off the sins of his actors to resurrect Dracula and start a whole new world order of vampires. vlcsnap-2015-03-27-18h46m37s8 “The Sins of Dracula” film is a homage to multiple horror genre branches. Decades including the 1970s and the 1980s source the brilliantly colored and expression heavy of the Hammer horror era and combine it with the gore of video nasties marking all present and accounted for in this ode to classic horror and that’s the creative style of director Richard Griffin and his Scorpio Film Releasing company which quickly produces many independent films that hit many media platforms. My previous film experience with Griffin includes “The Disco Exorcist” that implements film stock imperfections and the hardcore porn of the 1970’s. The other Griffin film, “Murder University,” aims to create a satirical look at a murderous cult gone collegiate. Lastly, my very first Richard Griffin film was Feeding the Masses wanted to be a social political zombie following in a George A. Romero fashion. So there is no surprise here that Griffin does what he does best, but after seeing “The Disco Exorcist” and “Murder University” both which I liked in previous reviews The Disco Exorcist review here and Murder University review here, “The Sins of Dracula” warranted high hopes for Griffin to do something new and cut ties with the old, regurgitated scenes. vlcsnap-2015-03-27-18h48m14s212 Enough about Griffin, let’s talk about “The Sins of Dracula.” Just from reading the synopsis alone, one can conclude that this horror-comedy will come off as a bit outrageous, delving into and dissecting the sins of certain kinds of people who walk in all kinds of life and exploiting them for the sake of our good boy Scott’s heroic journey and also exploiting them to awake the evil Dracula. The story doesn’t waste any time putting to waste the sinfully deemed characters and going on a Godsend vampire hunting spree. At the end, most peoples’ personal views are made light of in a satirical fashion. vlcsnap-2015-03-27-18h49m10s0 Michael Thurber, a staple actor of Griffin’s, does a solid job as a Hammer horror Dracula mirroring the likes of the vampire exposed Christopher Lee. Steven O’Broin, as Lou Perdition the satanist devotee theater director, had some excellent lines and quips and made his Vincent Price-esque character enjoyable when on screen. Another of Griffin’s minions, Aaron Peaslee pranced around fairly well as a gay theater actor and his raunchy sex scene with fellow actor Johnny Sederquist was the most controversial aspect of the film. I can’t say that about the other characters. Other characters fell a bit flat and didn’t convey their characters intentions well enough to pull off a spoofy-stereotype. The fact that their characters where put to death way too early in the film doesn’t give the character a chance to make their presence more well established. vlcsnap-2015-03-27-18h47m22s202 The blood letting could have been, well, bloodier, but there is enough letting to super soak and saturate one’s thirst. Some of the scenes are restaged from the likes of “Fright Night” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” the movie. Like I was saying early in the review about the film’s originality, the lack of new material makes the likelihood of repeating a viewing of “The Sins of Dracula” very unlikely which is difficult to say about a solid homage. vlcsnap-2015-03-27-18h49m25s152 “The Sins of Dracula” is good for a one time single viewing and but lacks new and fresh material to really captivate attention. The MVDVisual DVD cover also doesn’t explicitly want you to go out and rent this title, but the disc art is amazingly detailed and you shouldn’t judge a film’s material by the cover. I do strongly suggest to check out “The Sins of Dracula” if you’re into the Hammer horror scene and into Griffin’s Quentin Tarantino homage style of directing.

 

 

Grade A Evil! Murder University review!

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Enthralled from last week’s viewing of Richard Griffin’s The Disco Exorcist (see review here) that I checked into the player another Griffin film entitled Murder University from 2012. A fairly generic titled college slasher with semi-comedic values that tries to blend in with similar genre slashers such as Urban Legend, House on Sorority Row, Black Christmas, or Sorority House Massacre. Comedy elements separate Murder University from the rest as well as Murder University doesn’t set itself in the present time of which the setting takes place. I’ll dissect Griffin’s film the best I can because my response post viewing teeters back and forth of a thumbs up for pratical effects and homage or thumbs down for storyline and dialogue.

Greensboro University has a notorious reputation for being constructed by a founder who ritualized satanic values and murdered people for years in the late 19th century. In the late 20th century, the New England university is once again plague by the cult-like killers who call themselves the Greesnboro Devils. A survivor of a recent attack and a shunned detective try to hunt down the motives behinds the killings and the secrets of a legacy of killers.
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The upside of Murder University stems from the use of practical special effects. Decapitations became an obvious motif for this film (though there was no reason to explain this and I can only guess that beheadings were a big way to die in the 80s) with a grand total of six axe-chopped decapitations. The detail in the severed heads had high marks as well as other death scenes in the movie. Another throwback from the 80’s is the music and Murder University’s soundtrack certainly have that synth, brit-rock feel in some scenes, but in other scenes, 90’s grunge ruled the screen a long with hairstyles and clothes of a more recent decade.

The downside holds more weight coming from the story and the dialogue. The story comes a part at the seems with lead character Josh Greene as his backstory is intertwined with the murders and to get more of that backstory from his past would have been better than the exposition given nature of who Josh really is destined to be and what Josh is destined to be comes off pointless by default. Was this the divine will of Satan? Were these killers psychotic? What were the motivations? That is the real questions. The dialogue also scores low marks for being off key, choppy, awkward, and explicatively gratuitous. Not everybody is Quentin Taratino and can pull of mouthy vulgarity with ease and the script with Murder University just seems too forced for comfort.
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Jamie Dufault has a solid performance as our hero Josh Greene coming from a nobody in college and transforming to becoming the ultimate domineer in the end, but Nat Silva gives an even more solid performance as the killer (when the killer has dialogue) and Samantha Acampora (Josh’s girlfriend Meg) is certainly the eye candy that we wish would show a little more skin than just her bare ass.

Murder University‘s retro entertainment keeps afloat just under chin level and won’t bore you to death. Richard Griffin is two for two in my little black book of directors and I’ll keep an eye out for more of his material in the future. MVD and Wild Eye Releasing release this Not Rated, widescreen disc with deleted scenes and two commentary tracks. This should be a fairly affordable, tongue-and-cheek horror movie if you’re looking for a cheap, yet entertaining, thrills.

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