Dark Universe Resurrects an Ancient Evil! “The Mummy” (2017) review!


Entombed under the volatile sands of what’s now the Iraqi dessert, an ancient Egyptian princess Ahmanet, who made a pact with an evil God named Set, lies and waits for more than 500 years to rise again and fulfill a destined promise to birth hell on Earth and rule the world. Ahmanet resurrects after being mistakenly unearthed by loose cannon treasure seeker Nick Morton and curses a reign of archaic terror over Nick and all of modern day London in search for a gem cladded dagger to make good on her pact. With the help of a well-funded secret organization called Prodigium ran by mysterious physician Dr. Henry Jekyll, and skillful researcher Jenny Halsey, the cursed Nick will need all the help he can muster to save himself and humanity from a mummified, hellbent she-devil.

Alex Kurtzman’s “The Mummy” is the gateway reboot that’ll give life once again to Universal’s classic monsters and place them in Universal’s newly established realm known as Dark Universe, think what Marvel accomplished with Marvel Comic Universe but with monsters. The kickoff action-horror has the delectable adventure wit seen from the Stephen Sommers directed, Brendan Fraiser starred trilogy from 1999 to 2008 while channeling the Boris Karloff mysticism and menace that made a frightening black and white classic. So, how did Kurtzman exactly provide new breath to an ancient, decrepit mummy that’s been redone two times over and has been spun off more ways than wrapped? One major way was to be the inaugural launch of Universal’s Dark Universe that opens the door for other classic monsters such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. In fact, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde makes a brief appearance as the head of the Prodigium, the ringmaster that’ll be the epicenter connecting creatures together. In another aspect, Kurtzman isn’t afraid to use practical effects, such as Ahamanet’s mummy minions, while also lighting up the screen with some brutal thrilling moments, such as murdering a baby and killing pilots with a murder of crows, that clearly separates the 2017 film from it’s 1999 predecessor, but watch for the quick scene easter egg that pays homage to the Fraiser film.

Upon first hearing Tom Cruise would star in a reboot of “The Mummy,” a long moment of hesitation washed over like a cold wet blanket as the “Mission Impossible” star hadn’t tackled a horror film since the adaptation of Anne Rice’s 1994 Lestat film “Interview with the Vampire” during a time when Cruise bathed in dramatic thrillers and added quite a bit of finesse to his characters. However, with every passing year, Cruise becomes more and more involved with not only his love for acting, but sides heavily with the unquenchable need to a part of action films and “The Mummy” promised to display his enthusiasm for accomplishing his own rigorous stunt work and the script provided the heart-throbbing intensity that’ll sure to awe audiences. Cruise’s performance as a shoot first, ask questions later Nick Morton snugly fits the razor sharp mold the megastar has equipped himself ever since the first “Mission Possible” film over two decades ago, but as a selfish knucklehead, Cruise short sells the charm with a flat expressive tone and doesn’t progress his shell of Nick Morton to a enlightened savior battling for the fate of humankind. Yes, there are other actors in “The Mummy” other than Cruise. Russell Crowe fills the mighty big shoes of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, splitting his personalities into two and fulfilling both characters to the very epitome they’ve been classically scribed. Love interest Annabelle Wallis (who was also in John Leonetti’s “Annabelle”) sparked little-to-no chemistry with a overpowering Cruise and she felt rather like a Robin sidekick in a Joel Schumacher Batman film, but Wallis did a fine job as a historical researcher with a lifelong goal of discovering ancient artifacts. Algerian actress Sofia Boutella as the titular character was almost non-existent until the filmmakers had to scramble to redesign the villain due to similarities in another film, but the dark features of Boutella and her elegant performance made Ahmanet lustfully scary with dual irises and body-riddled tattoos, like a wild animal with deep blue eyes, and she sinks into Ahmanet’s malevolent soul and embraces the darkness that is the mummy. Jake Johnson (“Jurassic World”), Courtney B. Vance (“The Last Supper”), and Marwan Kenzari, who will star in Guy Ritchie’s upcoming “Aladdin” film, costar.

Now while “The Mummy” is overly successful and generally positive, an itch of amiss pains a slimly slithering way nearly through the entire runtime. Perhaps because the premise involving a mummy sets itself more in the dank and dark allies of London rather than in the hot Egyptian sands where thirst, heat, and isolation provide a slew of dangerous possibilities. During multiple scenes, a looming sensation that Jack the Ripper would pop out with blade in hand ready to strike at Jenny Halsey’s non-prostitute neck, but like a good adventure film, the story’s progression goes through numerous UK hotspots such as the Natural History Museum and tries to blow up London with every Mummy superpower. Ahmanet compounded concerns about her powers such as the introductory prologue of her characters, told in flashback scenes, where after she obtains all this evil power, the princess is easily taken down by Egyptian guards with blow darts and spears. You figured a Demigod like Ahmanet would be able to summon creatures to her aid, mold the sands of Egypt to free her, or resurrect other Egyptian dead, but none-the-less she was mummified alive and buried thousands of miles away under a giant crypt.

“The Mummy” is a win for the first of many Universal reboots under the Dark Universe label. The September 12th release of the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set, with also a digital copy, clocks in at a hour and 50 minutes and is presented in 1080p High Definition 2.40:1 aspect ratio with no flaws in the image, quality is crisp, and the coloring is naturally lively. The digital effects don’t exhibit an amateur hour complexion that was more attuned to the 1999 film, a different time two decades ago. The Dolby ATMOS is booming with LFE action that reverberates nicely with every nail-biting mummy scenes; certainly balanced with the surround sound. The dialogue is coarse at times during these intense sequences but overly prominent and clear for the most part. Extras on the release are about as monumental as the antagonist with deleted and extended scenes, Cruise and Kurtzman: a conversation, Rooted in Reality – a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “The Mummy,” Life in Zero-G: Creating the Plane Crash, Meet Ahmanet – the stark villain, Cruse in Action – a segment involving Cruise’s action in the film, Becoming Jekyll and Hyde, Choreographed Chaos, Nick Morton: In Search of a Soul, a graphic novel about Ahmanet, and featured commentary. “The Mummy” is all Cruise, all the time, but lives and breathes like a true Universal classic monster movie in modern day, providing superb visuals, an engrossing storyline, and delivers an action-topping-action ferocity. A whole new line of respect must be bestowed upon star Tom Cruise for his insane work ethic and his dedication to any project, especially a one half horror film that redesigns the gender of the iconic villain while maintaining the values of the original.

Pre-Order your Copy of “The Mummy” starring Tom Cruise right here!

It’s a Dog-Evil-Dog World. “White God” review!

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Lili and her mixed breed dog, Hagen, are best friends and are inseparable. When Lili’s mother and stepfather travel to a three month conference in Australia, she is dropped off to live with her humdrum father who takes a special disliking toward canines, especially mutts. After Lili and her father get into a heated argument about the friendly Hagen, her father forces Hagen out of the car and leaves him at the side of the road to defend for himself. Hagen goes through a series of misfortune adventures: being chased down by merciless dog catchers, being abused to train for a dog fighting circuit, and narrowly escaping being euthanized by a local dog pound employee.

“White God” is a hybrid film from Hungary by director Kornél Mundruczó. Part canine drama and part vicious animal thriller, “White God” is equivalent to the string of 1980 films where the day of the animal comes to snout and man takes an unwanted step down from the dominance hierarchy. With stunning cinematography of Hungarian landscape and an uncanny look at two terrific animal actors, “White God” deserves to be one of the top foreign films in the United States and one of the better movies to be have been released from Hungary in the last few years.
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Mundruczó, who also had a pen-ship hand in the screenplay, tightrope-walks that fine line between drama and horror and with familiar collaborating co-writers Kata Wéber and Viktória Petrányi, “White God” is no different. The story molds Hagen, the leading dog actor, into the displaying of a human personality and expressing human-like feelings. Hagen, a once lovable, dependent, and faithful companion to 13-year-old Lili, is forced to defend for himself, learning that the real world is nothing like the cozy comforts of his adored Lili who catered to his every whim. When Hagen reaches that breaking point of when enough is enough, he becomes the “Rise of the Planet of the Ape'” Caesar to “White God,” breaking free his fellow mutts, constructing a ruthless canine army, and seeking vengeance on all who took advantage or mistreated him by severing their throats from the rest of their necks. The film quickly becomes bloody with mauled bodies and the sharp turn from a sad “Marley & Me” to a “The Breed” thriller, proceeding with a smooth transition without much notice.
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Luke and Body, the two unwanted mixed breed dogs that were adopted to play Hagen, are well trained, delivering emotion that told the downfall story of Hagen and expressing a physical acting style very rare in animal actors. The production company also adopted from the pound a record breaking 274 dogs for the final scenes, a massive undertaking that shouldn’t go unnoticed. The same kind of enthusiasm can’t be said about the human actors. The young and beautiful Zsófia Psotta portrays an unsympathetic, robot-like Lili and she’s suppose to be heartbroken and devastated by her father’s rash decision to discard Hagen; instead, she dissolves back into her normal mundane routine after a few feeble attempts to locate Hagen and adhering to her father’s commands with prompt attention. If my father scraps my loved pet to the curb, I would be insanely mad for months, ignoring him until he couldn’t take it. There also must be a Hungarian law or code about mutts as their fondness in the film is on the lower end of the totem pole and where tenants must pay a fee for owning them or put them down for a single bite on hand. Many other countries do have an out of control mutt population problem and “White God” feels about right when concerning that system of controlling the mutt population.
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“White God” doesn’t claim to be an intense when-animals-attack horror movie, but serves as a beautifully blended sub-genre film, shot and edited with the intention of classing up, and slightly educating, an issue that warrants attention of an unwanted dog’s mistreatment. I wasn’t able to cover the DVD or Blu-ray release as Magnolia just provided, very generously I might add, a streaming link and with streaming links, the quality wasn’t up to par and didn’t include any extras. “White God” feels like a PETA over-executed attempt to make cruelty to animals a horrifying act that will cost you your life in the end.

Movie Magic Evil Waters Down Real Evil. “House on the Hill” review!

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Based on the true story of serial killers Leonard Lake and Charlie Ng, director Jeffery Frentzen (Black Dahlia) chronicles the speculated portions of Lake’s and Ng’s homicidal and psychopathic murders. Their murderous spree involved kidnapping young women, enslaving them, and eventually murdering them while also targeting their own relatives and friends, and even seizing the opportunities to abduct whole families. After Lake served in the Marine Corps, he met Charlie Ng and by the 1980s, the two men had constructed an isolated house where innocent people were brought to be tortured, ransomed, and eventually their demise at the hands of their materialistic and deviant captors.
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“House on the Hill” is the Jeffery Frentzen directed and co-written with Nicole Marie Polec film that semi-documents the tragic events of Leonard Lake’s and Charlie Ng’s serial killing spree of the 1980s and incorporates actual footage of Leonard Lake speaking about his disturbing views on the world such as enslaving women and being prepared for the inevitable world apocalypse. Most of Frentzen’s movie is embellished as, like the majority of serial killer documentaries, most of what is unknown of Lake will never see the light of truth of what really happened on his ranch. The legend behind Lake and Ng states that there could have been as few as 11 murders or as high as 25; Frentzen attempts to showcase the latter by adding many fictional victims into his film to be representatives to those unknown victims who were never discovered or whose bones were severely untraceable.
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However, some of the facts that are true, that we do know about Lake, didn’t quite make the cut because of Frentzen’s x, y, or z reasons. In the film, Lake’s wife is named Cat played by Rachel Devlin (Zombie Nation), but in reality Lake’s wife name was Claralyn Balazs aka “Cricket.” If Lake’s wife name is clear, why go with “Cat?” Also, Lake had constructed a bunker in the backyard of his ranch, but “House on the Hill” has a separate, well-locked shed in the backyard. Simultaneously, Frentzen’s movie has consistent filming errors that even the untrained eye can catch. Continuity glitches that are obvious (Naidra Dawn Thomson’s bra strap is in various positions between takes on a particular scene) and obvious props that are in more need of a convincing sell from the actors and to be well edited to not give the impression of false intentions. Lastly, the overly generic title doesn’t specifically speak much upon Leonard Lake and his accomplice Charlie Ng. “House on the Hill” title has no curb appeal and no real bite to entice viewership.
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What I did find pleasurable about “House on the Hill” was the leads’ acting. Canadian actor Stephen A.F. Day and first feature film actor Sam Leung do an above mediocre performance of Leonard Lake and Charlie Ng. They manage to show and sell having no empathy when committing terrible acts, managing the ability to embody the evil within a killer on screen. Barring Frentzen’s epileptic editing and use of tints, lenses, and over exposers, I still was able to see the good in Day’s and Leung’s performances without the editing hoopla that attempted to make the events more dramatic, shocking, and traumatizing.
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I’m a little disappointed in the distribution of this film. Not only does the jejune title leave a bleak taste, but the DVD cover doesn’t quite represent what is being sold here. On the cover, there is a dirt pathway leading up to a two story, mansion-like structure sitting on top of a hill and seemingly decayed and abandoned. On the DVD backside, a meathook pops right out at you along with a female victim strung up by her arms, screaming toward to the sky. Meathook does not make a credited or on screen appearance nor does the house in the film look like the mansion on the DVD cover. What is even more disappointing, and what I have to comes to term with every now and then, is the heavily edited cut in which “House on the Hill” was released. The DVD cover states, “Warning Explicit Content,” and does show some intense moments containing blood and torture with implied rape. ‘Some’ being the key word because I’ve seen more explicit content on the local evening news. This might be due in part of the post-production censorship which most noticeably focuses on covering up any and all nude scenes. Olivia Parrish’s topless scene was crudely censored by being blurred out and awkwardly cropped to show a low-resolution image, a forced zoom in, of her neck up as she’s being molested. The same cropping censorship goes against Laura Hofritcher’s topless scene as well during her torturous scene.
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The North 40 Production film and MVD and ITN distribution DVD release doesn’t score to well for this reviewer. I’m able to look past the editing techniques, post-production effects, and unbalanced audio, but being a writer and a firm patron of freedom of speech, the censorship of the nudity and potentially the bloodletting has my blood boiling. However, even though Leonard Lake and Charlie Ng may have not been extensively covered on the silver screen or on entertainment television, I am glad Frentzen told partial of the notorious story and was able to tell his rendition of the unknown accounts.

Evil Dwells in Your Nightmares! “Horsehead” review!

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Jessica is plagued by recurring horrific and lucid nightmares of a horse-headed figure that brings death to her dreams. When she has a nightmare about her grandmother being impaled to death by the horsehead monster, she’s immediately phoned by her mother Catelyn informing Jessica that her grandmother has passed away. Jessica travels to the family’s countryside estate for the funeral and is welcomed by her stern mother. Jessica’s nightmares worsen the first night and she becomes trapped in her own dreams as she can feel the haunt of the horse-head figure in the corner’s of her mind. When Jessica soon realizes that her’s grandmother’s death and her mother’s cruelty might be more involved and connected with the horse-head creature, she attempts to stay in a semi-conscious sleep state to puzzle together the mysterious pieces and to control her nightmares once and for all.
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The freshman feature film from Romain Basset contains such promise and maturity and Basset shows daring courage to create a horror-fantasy of this caliber thats very aesthetically symbolic and worthy of being awarded qualities of early Dario Argento’s films with intensive surreal and haunting facets. “Horsehead” embodies the character Jessica’s head in creating and blending an atmospheric jigsaw and visceral puzzle of a world while being a mirror in which you can glance back into time, far back beyond your own existence. “Horsehead’s” unique tribute blend contains the bizarre and frightening worlds of Tarsem Singh’s 2000 film “Cell” intertwined with one’s life story similar to the past and present tales of “A Christmas Carol” with Ebenezer Scrooge. However, Jessica’s past is much more dark and grim than Scrooge’s will ever be and her future won’t end in her being generous and kind to a crippled poor boy named Tiny Tim.
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Certainly a visually stunning film, “Horsehead” tries turn the mind on it’s end, leaving the suspended muscle dangling near the edge of insanity. Jessica’s reality becomes no more real than her nightmares as the horse-headed monster is has comparable dream-bending qualities to the the same effect as Freddy Krueger of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” but “Horesehead” is a lot more gothic and whole lot less sarcastic than the fedora sporting child murderer. The creature has haunted Jessica’s lineage for at least three generations, presumably starting with her late grandmother and is a symbol of Jessica’s strict-bible-following grandfather who becomes the epicenter of all the family’s issues. Her dreams hold a dark mystery to her family’s continuous cycle of troubles and use horrific symbolism to express, in stages, the truth behind their ancestral secrets.
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As much as I love the symbolism in this film, I’m worried about the psycho-sexual portion the film markets, splashed as a tagline right on the Blu-ray cover. Yes, the once little girl from Robert De Niro’s “Ronin” actress Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux does become involved briefly in highly sexual situations in her electric dance music soundtrack nightmares in a down the rabbit hole type of situation, but really serve no purpose to Pointeaux’s character in reality because no much is conveyed except for her profession as a dream psychologist and she has quarrels with her mother, especially on why her mother refuses to informer on the identity of her father. Gala Besson, who plays a younger version of Jessica’s grandmother, also briefly bares skin for a more gruesome and twisted scene that would make Pinhead smile with such pleasure. Perhaps the psycho-sexual scenes stem from the heavily implied incest relationships in the story between father and daughter, sister and sister, and mother and daughter. If incest is the answer to my question on why the film blatantly markets psycho-sexual, than the taboo subject matter makes “Horsehead” that much more risque and that more interestingly ambitious, creating a film that’s hard to swallow and shocking to behold when put into that perspective. Some dream interpreters believe that being chased by a white horse, in which case the horse-headed creature is of off-white color, may represent chaste or having issues with intimacy. This might explain some of Jessica’s unusual sexual scenes in her dream sequences involving relatives.
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You might recognize a name from the past in the Italian horror genre: Catriona MacColl, an United Kingdom actress who portrays Jessica’s uptight mother Catelyn. MacColl is best known for her early 1980’s rolls in the Lucio Fulci films “The Beyond,” “City of the Living Dead,” and “House by the Cemetery.” With MacColl and Pointeaux’s as the overpowering female characters, “Horsehead” rounds out with weak male characters such as Jessica’s stepfather Jim, played by Murray Head, and an estate servant George, played by French acting vet Vernon Dobtcheff.
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Overall, “Horsehead” delivers solid acting, dons great editing, and has better than average makeup and effects making “Horsehead” a winning release, yet again, for Artsploitation Films. The Blu-ray release is perfectly graced with a stunning 2.35:1 widescreen transfer with a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, evenly balanced with appropriate LFE during the EDM nightmares. The picture is quite clear with some digital noise interference but only on some minor facial closeup scenes and no damage on the prints. Even though “Horsehead” is a French film and most of the cast is French, the movie is in English and it’s not dubbed English either. Bonus features also include “Inside Horsehead Making of” and four short films that have a total runtime of 81 minutes – a movie in itself.

Satan’s Cult Seeks to Raise the Dead! “All Sinners Night” review!

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An investigative reporter witnesses right in front of him his wife commit a gruesome suicide in their bedroom. Lana searches for her lost brother whose been missing for over a year. The two combine forces in Taylorsville believing their loved one were connected to a group of satanic followers led by the Reverend Hiram Graves. When the local authorities prematurely close the case on Lana’s missing brother, Lana and the reporter seek the truth and the truth might be more deadly than they’ve ever imagined. Halloween night brings the satanic sect to kidnap five innocent and random women, five sacrificial lambs, in order to bring death back to life.
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As a little piece of Independent cinema from writer-director Bobby Easley, “All Sinners Night” comes from the production company Horror Wasteland Pictures and is brought to DVD by the multi-genre distributor World Wide Multi-Media. Now, if you haven’t heard of filmmaker Bobby Easley, the company Horror Wasteland Pictures, or the distributor World Wide Multi-Media, then now you’re one step closer to being caught up on micro-budget filmmaking and one step closer to viewing lesser known film titles that you won’t normally screen at a theater or even come across in a Redbox inventory. Now, while budget films aren’t necessarily for everyone, I have to say that “All Sinners Night” isn’t the best ease-into segue, but if your mind is open and your cinematic palate is vast then Easley’s film might be right up your alley.
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Easley’s film involves a satanic cult collecting female sacrifices to raise the dead has a slow, unfocused beginning that slightly picks up and gains more focus a long the way, but the momentum begins a little too late to obtain entertainment value and much of the other sorts of value, such as the film’s budget, falls right onto the finale where characters die, faces explode, and blood spills when the black magic ritual begins. The bloodletting is creative, but various scenes, which could have been explored further with death exploitation, use editing techniques to convey and imply death when in reality there needs to be more visceral visual stimulants to show the brutality and mercilessness, especially for satanic cults because they’re one of the realistic forms of horror that exist in the world today and displaying the violence on screen, making it breathe on screen, would scare people more than implied violence.
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The acting is a bit clunky from the lead actors and that drag the story’s motivation down a bit. Brittany Jesse as Lana and Tom Sparx as the reporter try to build a dynamic duo that more or less fizzles and their characters are to partly to blame for their characters bring no real spark to their quest and cause of discovering the truth behind Taylorsville’s secrets. The evangelical preacher Hiram Graves played by Bill Levin has grand on screen physical characteristics to pull off a satan fanatical cult leader, but Levin’s acting doesn’t quite have the range of a twisted lord of darkness pastor and just stays on that horizontal plane throughout the film’s duration. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s original grandpa actor John Dugan and horror and sci-fi genre fanboy Sal Lizard headline “All Sinners Night” even though their cameo scenes are short and sweet. I found the one cameo of Indianapolis born and based horror host Sammy Terry, an Elvira type host of sorts, to be welcoming and well-fitting for the film’s gloomy nature and to be a nice shout out to the local Indianapolis horror scene. Lets not also forget about actress Sam Alford and her two courageous scenes of exploited nudity. Alford’s character is of generic and lesser value – like a Star Trek minor character labeled for certain death – and she is the sole kidnapped to bare her chest. I’m sure Easley didn’t mind shelling out a couple more bucks for the Alford’s assets.
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After reading a number of reviews online about the film, the consensus on the Bobby Easley’s shooting style is that “All Sinners Night” resembles the visual stylistics of Italian directors such as Mario Bava or Dario Argento’s with their surrealistic or brooding atmospheres. I would venture more toward a duller hue with the right in your face shot-on-video style cinematography of those from such directors as Brad Sykes or Donald Farmer where as Bava or Argento focused more on vivid and popping colors and symbolic suggestions within their mise-en-scenes.
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The DVD screener is presented in a 4:3 ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix and a 5.1 stereo mix. The full screen video, like I mentioned before as a shot-on-video style, has significant grainy interference, but the video is still watchable as if you’re watching straight from VHS quality. Not necessarily a bad thing but in today’s day and age or unless your intentions were to create a throwback, the video quality should be clean. The coloring is all off too with overused darks making certain scenes incomprehensible. The 2.0 mix and the 5.1 mix stiffens the unbalanced sound quality. Some dialogue emits too low of a range and then in the next scene the screaming is overbearing and crackling out of the speakers. The glam, goth rock or punk rock soundtrack is fairly decent, but the preference and priority should be on the dialogue or the story becomes lost without it. The disc did pack quite a few extras including a gag reel, music video from the band Dead Dick Hammer, interviews, and a trailer for the film and also :Atah Saia”.
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Overall, “All Sinners Night” wears a lot of masks – literally, a large number of extras wear masks as if they raided a Halloween party store, but trying to piece together a story that tends to omit key elements or strays away from trunk of the plot is difficult and, basically, one would just need to take the film for what it’s worth, the epitome of independent filmmaking. The effort of introduce homage and the effort to construct a brooding atmosphere makes the Dr. Jekyll side of me admire this film, but the technical and educated Mr. Hyde side of me can’t ignore the obtrusive flaws. In short, rent this title to be adventurous on a forlorn night.