A War Criminal’s Evil Influence. “Apt Pupil” review!


Next time you suspect your neighbor is a wanted criminal, they just might very well be as in the case of Todd Bowden, an excelling high student who discovers a WWII Nazi war criminal has been secretly living in his quaint hometown. Through his own investigation of photograph comparisons and retrieval of finger prints, Bowden confronts the old man, Kurt Dussander, about his notorious past. Living under a pseudonym and wanted by the Israeli government, Dussander attempts to dismiss the boy’s claims until his bluff to call the police is called, resulting in Bowden’s curiosity to become a blackmail gambit that puts Dussander under the student’s quizzical thumb. In return for not informing the authorities, Bowden requires Dussuander to reveal his story, the story of his stint at the extermination camps without sparing any details no matter how gruesome. Bowden even goes as far as purchasing a replica SS officer uniform that he forcibly commands Dussander to put on and march. Through his reminiscing of the past, an evil reawakens in Dussander and their banal friendship of psychological warfare goes into the dangerous trenches of survival and eradication that spreads like a cancer inside and outside their private lives.

Before the monumental eruption of continuous claims of sexual misconduct by various accusers, Bryan Singer furnished significant prominence as a director and overall filmmaker before he inadvertently kick started a very long, very successful, and very lucrative series of superhero films and their related and unrelated sequels and spinoffs, starting with Marvel’s “X-Men” in 2000…19 years ago, Holy sh*t! Well, in 1998, coming off his success of “The Usual Suspects” with fellow accused celebrity and now blacklisted actor Kevin Spacey and currently untarnished Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, Singer and Phoenix Pictures presented and released the suspense-thriller, “Apt Pupil,” a Bad Hat Harry production. Inspired by the Stephen King novella, “Apt Pupil” is the polarizing observation of two evil souls where one might be significantly eclipsing the other. Brandon Boyced (2005’s “Venom”) drafted a script based of King’s novella that was comprised of a different, and less pessimistic, ending to the novella while still uncompromising King’s baseline evil theme.

High school students, especially males, often have an aggressive temperament. Whether it’s sports, girls, or just trying to fit in, guys almost always take their tunneled focus to the extreme. For Todd Bowden, a brilliant young student, a fascination with the grim extermination of Jewish people and the Nazi culture tickled his fancy. Brad Renfro, only 14-years-old at the time of filming, stars as Bowden and really digs into the character’s adolescent psyche of relentless obsession, having his character converging all power from a big time war criminal and, even more simplistically, an older adult male, to himself, but when things go sour and Bowden starts to lose grip of his pawn, panic sets in and Kurt Dussander’s wicked and warped mind structures a counterattack that seemingly befriends the boy, but really demonizes Bowden’s already appalling obsession. Sir Ian McKellen, in a performance of pure brilliance, masterfully crafts a representative of evil in Kurt Dussander. The scene with McKellen stepping into a SS officer uniform and then marching with prerogative purpose that’s topped with a Nazi salute is perhaps one of the best chilling and unsettling performances of our lifetime. The dynamic in the scene between Renfro and McKellen, carefully shot and executed in direction by Singer, respects the bleak humanity enthralled by Stephen’s King body of literary work. There are some other amazing performances here by the supporting cast including David Schwimmer (“Friends”), Bruce Davison (“Willard”), Ann Dowd (“Hereditary”), Joshua Jackson (“Urban Legend”), Elias Koteas (“The Prophecy”), James Karen (“The Return of the Living Dead”) and Heather McComb (“Stay Tuned”).

As aforementioned, “Apt Pupil” has an evil duality narrative that contain descriptive horrors of the past, paints the means of callous obsession, and symbiotic necrosis of any good left in Todd Bowden or Kurt Dussander when together, but on the surface level, Kurt Dussander’s murderous duty to the cultural cleanse severely overshadows Bowden’s seemingly curious obsession, his blackmail of a notorious war criminal, his deception amongst those close to him, and, the inevitable, stony perception to murder. More than likely innocence could be blamed for the fact that Bowden is a child and Dussander’s a man living the last moments of his life, but Bowden becomes the catalyst for Dussander, reigniting the evil thoughts and actions of SS officer’s former life. Dussander attempts many degenerate actions from his past and never successfully succeeds in completing them whereas Todd ultimately finishes it either for Dussander, willing or not, or for his own self-preservation. By the end of “Apt Pupil,” the question you might ask yourself is how do you feel about either character? Despite the scale of their evils, which character ultimately, in the scope of Singer’s film from beginning to end, is the true representation of evil? To me, the finale feels like Dussander inadvertently passes the torch to Bowden and with his obsessive nature toward Nazism and extermination, the boy will grow up to continue being that representative of evil?

Umbrella Entertainment presents Bryan Singer’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, “Apt Pupil” onto Blu-ray home video. The region B, full HD, 1080p Blu-ray is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and the quality is crisp excellence with a sharp hi-def scan of textures and the details in Mckellen’s facial curvatures that just open up to expose the wily diabolical smirk from the vet actor. Coloring and skin tones are okay despite the release being slightly yellowish and inkier in comparison to other releases. The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio does the job and is balanced all around with dialogue clear and present and the John Ottoman (“X-Men” franchise) is menacing without being overwhelming, but the ambience’s depth and range are stiffened from a lack of surround sound that could have been achieved with this release. The special effects are slim with a behind-the-scenes featurette that’s more surface level depth with cast brief cast and crew interviews and also includes theatrical trailer and TV spots. Viewers too caught up in the superhero hype might not recognize that Bryan Singer helmed “Apt Pupil” or might not even care in lieu of sexual accusations, but hardcore Stephen King fans and horror aficionados can certainly appreciate a blanket thriller with haunting performances that will be remembered more than the marring scandal behind-the-camera.

Might be a REGION 2 release, but still available on AMAZON.COM here in the states! Click the cover above to purchase 🙂

Sion Sono’s Brings the Evil Back to the Japanese School Girls! “Tag” review!


Life is seemingly pleasant and happy-go-lucky when two fully loaded coach buses of high school girls travel down a forestry passageway toward a lakeside hotel until sudden violence and gore turns Mitsuko’s classmates into minced meat. Overcome with shock and fear, Mitsuko escapes the terror only to find herself in another horrifying scenario. The vicious cycle continues as Mitsuko is thrusted into one chaotic, blood-splattering world after another, quickly losing her identity with each threshold crossing, and with no clue of what’s going on and how she got into this limbo of hell, Mitsuko must stay alive and unearth the truth behind the surreality of her being.

Nothing is more terrifying than being in a heart-pounding situation and not having one single clue why bodies are being sliced in half like corks popping violent out of champagne bottles, why childhood mentors break their professional oath and slaughter students with a ferocity of a mini-gun, or why being chased by a tuxedo-decked out groom with a gnarly pig head is in tow ready to drop kick anything, or anybody, standing in the way. Writer-director Sion Sono manifests that very chaos entrenched world in the 2015 action-horror “Tag” and, once again, the “Suicide Girls” director puts Japanese school girls back into the harrowed ways of gore and death over salted with an existential surrealism based off a novel by Yûsuke Yamada entitled Riaru Onigokko aka Real Game of Tag. Yamada’s story is followed more closely to that of Issei Shibata’s 2008 “The Chasing World” that involves a Government influence and parallel universes, “Tag” serves more as an abstract remake that Sono masters a soft touch of irrational poetry bathed in gore and strung with chaos rectified with a tremendously talented cast of young actresses.

Actresses such as the Vienna born Reina Triendl. Being Japanese doppelgänger to Mary Elizabeth Windstead with soft round eyes and the picturesque of youthfulness, Triendl transcends tranquility and innocence when portraying a content Mitsuko in the midst of many of her classmates boorishly bearing the typical, low-level adolescent anarchy. When Mitsuko’s thrusted into phantasmagorical mayhem, Triendl steps right there with her discombobulated character in an undried eye panicky frenzy whose character then spawns into two other fleshy vessels, a pair of recognizable names of J-Pop fandom in Mariko Shinoda and Erina Mano, when Mitsuko enters another zone in her fictional world. Though different in all aspects of their appearance and in name – Misuko, Kieko, and Izumi, the three women share the same existence and fathom a unbroken entity of character that hacks her way through the brutal truth. The remaining cast, Yuki Sakurai, Aki Hiraoka, and Ami Tomite, sport the high school miniskirt wardrobe and garnish a bubbly-violent J-horror persona very unique to the genre.

“Tag” is a plethora of metaphors and undertones likely to be over-the-head of most audiences, but if paying close enough attention and understanding the subtle rhythmic pattern of Sono’s direction, the gore and the fantastic venues are all part of an intrinsic, underlining message of feminism and sex inequality that’s built inside a “man”-made, video game structure thirty years into the future. Sono points out, in the most graphic and absurd method, how men treat women like objects or playthings. There’s also a message regarding predestination with white pillow feathers being the metaphor for fate and being spontaneous is the key to break that predestined logic and all of this corresponds to how Misuko, the main character, needs to break the mold, to choose her path, and to remember her past in order to free all the women trapped inside a male-driven purgatory of pain, punishment, and pleasure. Supporting Sono’s ability to disclose an epic survival-fantasy horror in such a way comes from multiple production companies, one of them being NBCUniversal Entertainment, providing the cash flow that allows Sono to flesh out the gore, to acquire massive amount of extras, and to scout out and obtain various locations.

Eureka Entertainment presents a dual format, Blu-ray-DVD combo, of “Tag” for the first time in the United Kingdom. However, the disc provided was a feature-only screener and a critique on the video, audio, and bonus material will not be conducted, but in itself, “Tag” is a full throttle encephalon teaser warranting a need for no supplementary content aside from conventional curiosity into what makes Sono’s “Tag” tick. When all pistons are firing, from the visual effects of Satoshi Akabane to “The Walking Dead” familiar score, “Tag” is no child’s game with a heavily symbolic, touch-and-go and bloodied pro-feministic essence that would serve as an abrupt and acute wakeup call to all the Harvey Weinsteins in the world that women are not to be simply playthings and that their gender destiny lies solely with them despite the misconstrued male manipulation.

This Is One Evil Bunny! “Bunny Und Sein Killerding” review!

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An ambivalent group of people are under the relentless rampaging attack of a half man, half bunny. Kidnapped and given an unknown chemical cocktail, one man looking for creative inspiration in a quiet snowy woodland becomes forced to be the object of experimentation by armed and dangerous thugs, transforming him into a vicious hybrid seeking only one desire…fresh pussy. Shredding through every single body who stands in the beast’s path, the chances of surviving the snowy night dims rapidly in the isolated Finnish Mountainside. Under the sheath of dirty fur, the unstoppable creature runs wildly with large limp genitalia flailing about, ready to stick it anywhere and into everyone with, what constitutes as, a fleshy hole.
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“Bunny und sein Killerding,” otherwise known in English as “Bunny the Killer Thing,” is an insanely phallic and deranged creature feature with special needs under the madness of director Joonas Makkonen. Based off of Makkonen’s short film of the same name with a noticeably different storyline, both inhabit a mythically outlandish villain with a raging hard on and mouth agape to swallow any bulbous genitalia that’s ready for the taking. If you couldn’t tell already, Joonas Makkonen is a Finnish native and, thus, the film comes straight from Finland’s snowy landscape. München, Germany distribution company Tiberius Films releases Makkonne’s pet Bunny project onto a region 2 DVD given the reason for the German title “Bunny und sein Killerding.”
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Makkonen’s unorthodox and unpredictable story scratches at being bold and unprecedented with a maniacal furry woodland animal while still being relative with the typical tropes when creating a horrific atmosphere. When dissecting what the director does best, not one character has been penned to stand above amongst the group that continues a revolving door of hero and heroine perceptions, opening up possibilities for each character on all fronts to come forth for glory. A killer bunny with a veiny stiffy looking for the freshest of the snatches doesn’t even explain the absurd juvenility that went through the creation of this film. Yet at the same time, something has to be said about the endless amount of sleazy enjoyment being had into the viewing experience. A slimy guilt residue overtakes just one piece more of your remaining morality and innocence every time Matti Kiviniemi, in a shamelessly shoddy adult bunny outfit, twirls clockwise the at least ten-inch lifelike dildo in such a menacing and manic manner that it makes turning away from the screen that much HARDer.
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However, there’s plenty to dislike about this particular release and none of the negativity originates from the 2015 Finnish film. The Tiberius Films’ heavily edited treatment of this release has been reworked toward a more anti gun violence propaganda film rather than a bunny rocking out with a large cock out. About four minutes, most of it gun violence, has been purposefully omitted, resulting in a slew of choppy scenes that are attempting to piece together a coherent story. If you’re like me and never seen “Bunny the Killer Thing” before, then you may not know much better, construing a mental story about how foreign films sometimes just like to be too artsy. I did have an inkling that an edited disc was in my possession and I was unfortunately correct. The first two acts are passable in the reassembled manner, but the last act has been reduced to nothing more than shambles of it’s true, gory self and, disappointingly enough, the edit loses the required connectivity tissue needed to fire up the necessary neurons of associating scenes with one another. Pivotal scenes are harshly given the editorial boot to remove any type of explicit gun violence, leaving all overly graphic and icky parts of “Bunny und sein Killerding” involving firearms are solely on the Germany theatrical trailer.

Cut Scene from “Bunny und sein Killerding”


“Bunny the Killer Thing” runs the horror comedy at an uncut 88 minutes, but the Tiberius Films upcoming Region 2 DVD and Blu-ray December release will clock in at a shocking 84 minutes. Fortunately, the DVD and Blu-ray will be presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with a German and Finnish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and a German DTS option. I won’t be able to critique either the audio or video qualities as I was sent a press screener only; however the Ari Savonen and Janne Andberg special effects and the creations by the visual effects teams along with Makkonen’s directorial style dares to be big production and reminds me a lot of what the Spierig brothers accomplished with their Aussie zombie film “Undead” in 2003. Bonus features consists of a theatrical trailer, behind the scenes featurette, and Makkonen’s 17-minute plus short film of the same title. A remarkable class act of Finland and British actors comprises the film’s lineup in this raunchy and violent horror comedy including a stunning, on-point beauty in Enni Ojutkangas, Jari Manninen, Orwi Manny Ameh, Veera W. Vilo, Roope Olenius, Hiski Hämäläinen, Vincent Tsang, Marcus Massey, Katja Jaskari, Olli Saarenpää, Maria Kunnari, and Matti Kiviniemi as Bunny the killer thing. British actors, you say? Yes! Much like the Bunny creature, the film’s a bit a hybrid itself when on the topic of dialogue. The DVD and Blu-ray will have German or Finland audio tracks with German subtitles, but the natural dialogue track will be a combination of Finnish and English! In conclusion, I watched the film, but, at the same time, I didn’t because of the extreme cuts, whether to discourage gun violence or for whatever reason, made to the original runtime that reduced the intended gruesome firefight ending to nothing more than incomprehensible scenes resembling an intense slap fight.

UNCUT TRAILER!

Evil Knievel Eat Your Heart Out! “Psychomania” review!

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A terrorizing motorcycle gang named The Living Dead wreak mischief and murderous havoc amongst the local residents. When Tom, the gang’s leader, learns of his family’s dark agreement with the devil, he seeks to reap the benefits of the agreement’s eternal life bestowed upon his family, but before claiming a long-life of unstoppable hog-wild carnage, Tom must die first and truly believe he’ll return from the afterlife. Convincing the rest of the gang to kill themselves in order to return from the grave and live forever was easy, except his girlfriend Abby who wants to actually be alive. As the torment rips through Abby involving the man she loves, not all satanic bound agreements can last forever and Tom, Abby, and the rest of the gang are caught in a contract that’s all but binding.
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“Psyhomania,” also known as “The Death Wheelers,” is a stunt-heavy horror film from “Kiss the Vampire” and “The Face of Fu Manchu” director Don Sharp and written by “Horror Express’” Julian Zimet and Arnaud d’Usseau. “Psychomania” is a fun, b-horror feature from the swinging London era of the 1970s and rosters a young cast of some seriously talented actors in Nicky Henson as Tom, Mary Larkin as Abby, and Ann Michelle as Jane Pettibone while also being graced with two veterans, George Sanders, who voiced Shere Khan in “The Jungle Book,” and Beryl Reid from “Dr. Phibes Rises Again,” and were most likely the most expensive actors on set, being well worth the cash to balance out a relative unknown cast at the time.
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Yes, this film is British. Yes, this film is horror. But, no, “Pyschomania” is not a Hammer Horror film. The Don Sharp film lightly tip-toes through being a horror film with only the supernatural element placing the feature in the thriller category, but the PG-rated horror has other admirable qualities that certainly differentiates itself from the blood-heavy, frighten laden Hammer films. For instance, a story about an undead motorcycle gang should obviously entail motorcycle stunts and “Psychomania” delivers with surprisingly various top-notch stunts with, and without, motorcycles, involving dedicated stunt men and women challenged to be engaged in nearly all stunts, and whereas the blood does not run thick and heavy like with many fright flicks, the bikes certainly do and revs a different, yet welcomed, change of pace.
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If the intent here was to make a serious film, the mark was missed by a good margin. Outdated and obsolete, “Psychomania” is the epitome of aging with dated hairstyles, dated clothing, and dated dialogue. If the intent was to be campy, Sharp and his team of willing participants hit the center of the bulls eye. The premise of a motorcycle gang committing themselves to a suicide pact only to come back and continue their barrage amongst humane society while choking out nearly everybody they feel tramples upon their aimless and ferocious cause seems like an outright folly. Who knew that in forty years time that “Psychomania” would be a British cult favorite, sparking a well-deserved upgrade Blu-ray and DVD combo release from the British Film Institute, also known by as the BFI.
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BFI Flipside presents “Psychomania” on a Blu-ray and DVD combo presented in the original aspect ratio 1.66:1 and scanned and restored in 2k from preservation negatives. The 1080p Hi-Def Blu-ray runs on a BD50 gigabyte at 24 frames per second with a PCM mono audio mix. The PAL DVD runs about the same, near 25fps, and sports a Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio mix. I was presented the DVD version for review and I must say the original print looks immaculate. The lens flares in the corner from previous releases have been extinguished. The colors and skin tones have never been more vibrant through the three layers of the black and white master copies containing yellow, blue, and cyan. The mono mix clearly states a purpose and goes through the ears without muddling and much defect. The BFI have also spared no expense on the bonus features that include various interviews with Nicky Henson and other cast, an interview with Harvey Andrews on the “Riding Free” single, a Hell for Leather documentary about the company who supplied the leather for the cast, a short remastering “Psychomania” segment, and other various extras that dive into British culture. I was a bit disappointed with the Sound of “Psychomania” segment as the track portion in the interview with film composer John Cameron seems to be overlaid by something totally off-the-wall and we’re unable to get the full 9 minute audio from the interview. The bonus material rounds out with original theatrical trailer and a nice, vividly colored illustrated booklet with new writing by Vic Pratt, William Folwer, and Andrew Roberts. BFI’s “Psyhomania” release is one of the best re-releases to hit the region 2 market and will re-hit the youth once again on it’s climbing cult success that branches off far from the bloodlust of 1970’s British horror.