Yossi Ghinsberg yearned for more than the comfy, cushy life he was born into and being young and adventurous, Yossi travels abroad to backpack in Bolivia to pursue self-discovery and beauty in places far less travelled despite his father’s wishes. He quickly befriends fellow backpackers Marcus and Kevin and together, they lay tracks through the eclectic terrain of the breathtaking Bolivian landscape, but wasn’t until an Austrian geologist named Karl approached Yossi about a promise of unearthing gold and experiencing hidden tribes deep inside the lush jungle. After some convincing, the three friends venture into the jungle with only Karl to guide them and, at first glance, the wilderness is an escape from the noise and pollution of human corrupted inhabitations, but a drastic realization quickly washes over them when they’re force to separate and that the jungle is a cauldron of constant survival. Along with captivating beauty, fire ants, poisonous snakes, symbiotic organisms, jaguars, and torrential rains tip the iceberg of everything that embodies the sequestered jungle and Yossi must endure the trials and tribulations alone in order to make it out alive.
Based off the book of true events from Yossi Ghinsberg comes the motion picture retelling of Ghinsberg harrowing tale of survival in “Jungle.” The 2017 biographical adventure-thriller is penned by Justin Monjo (teleplay writer for TV hits like the sci-fi odyssey “Farscape”) and directed by “Rogue” and “Wolf Creek” director Greg McLean. “Jungle” showcases the night and day environment of one of the world’s most beautiful, yet deadliest locations, cascaded with awesome uncharted landscapes with an augmentation of great mortality once man is introduced. However, the thing with the jungle is that no matter what man’s objectives may be with the rainforest, whether it’s to destroy it or to embrace it as were Yossi’s intentions, nature treats all with the same merciless brutal as it’s kill or be killed. Yossi is in the midst of a man versus nature thematic element where Darwin’s survival of the fittest lays all well true and from his book, Yossi Ghinsberg went through a nearly three weeks of severe isolation, stomach-devouring starvation, and vigilant hyperawareness against the local wildlife. Yet, somehow, he survived.
To play such as downtrodden character needed an actor committed wholeheartedly to the story and, luckily for McLean and the rest of the crew, Daniel Radcliffe encompassed Yossi Ghinsberg and his plight with passion and dedication. So much dedication that the Harry Potter famed actor lost about 14 to 15 pounds in order to mimic starvation and really put his body close to the hazards Yossi had faced. “Jungle” has certainly solidified his range as an actor inside the genre of not only fantasy films, but also thrillers as well. From “Horns” to “Imperium,” the English-born, 5’5”, 28-year-old actor has placed a major footprint in the industry that stretched from low-budget to Hollywood stardom and doesn’t seek to stop in the near future. Radcliffe is joined by a pair of Australian actors in Alex Russell (“Chronicle” and “Bait”) as American photographer Kevin Gale and Joel Jackson as Swiss teacher Marcus Stamm on sabbatical. A standout performance, one that really rivals Radcliffe in cliffhanging suspense with cryptic intentions, is that of Thomas Kretschmann (“Blade II”) playing the Austrian geologist Karl Ruprecther. Fantastic chemistry between all four men with spot-on performances, especially not portraying their native heritage.
While Greg McLeans has no fear in getting gritty where gritty needs to be get, “Jungle” has a tame nature about it for a director well-known for Outback cruelty. McLean doesn’t exact the right amount of perilous attitude that was unfortunately bestow upon Yossi. Much of Yossi Ghinsberg’s book was not translated to screen such as his rectum being impaled by a large stick when he falls down a slope. The hard stop editing and pivot bounces the viewer around being out of control on a trampoline. When we meet Yossi for the first time and he encounters Marcus Stamm, a cascading event of one jointly pursuit with another that string along and attach Kevin Gale to a web of awkwardly editing scenes of traveling through Bolivia in what felt like a slapdash montage with the sole purpose of setting up the trio’s friendship in an unsympathetic way. Another issue with the editing was that the film had to keep reminding the viewers about previous events, such as when Yossi was bitten by a fire ant, and those scenes ended up being a redundant time filler that points audiences to being naive and inattentive to cherry pick previous actions.
Umbrella Entertainment releases “Jungle” on a rated mature, region B Blu-ray with crystal clear full high definition, 1080p presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Image quality bares no marks of compression issues nor any flagrant fouls in the coloring, whether natural or generated. Aliasing is also a non-issue. The 5.1 DTS-HD English soundtrack has moments of low fidelity at the beginning of the film where making out the dialogue can be challenge, but the jungle ambiance and the Johnny Klimek (“Land of the Dead”) score bring alive the eclectic atmospherics of the wild, wildlife. Bonus features include a featurette that extends up Danial Radcliffe becoming Yossi Ghinsberg, the making of the Yossi Ghinsberg story, cast and crew interviews, and the theatrical trailer. “Jungle’s” adventurous first half sets up the catalytic downfall into desperation and despair of a man versus nature thriller in the latter half, splitting Daniel Radcliffe into two auspicious roles of enchanting self-discovery and a fight for survival. The movie most certainly encourages one to read the book of Yossi Ghisbergs edge of death misadventure.
In the Australian outback, a prehistoric and ginormous crocodile has surfaced in the wake of mankind’s gentrification of the wilderness land. Between ambushing crocodile poachers and snatching little Aborigine children from off the river shore, the ancient saltwater hunter has become the hunted as park ranger and crocodile preservation expert Steve Harrison has been assigned to kill the beast, but the local Aborigine tribe holds the killer croc sacred, calling it Numunwari, an ancient, spirit carrying crocodile that has embodied the bones and souls of ancestral aborigine. Together, Harrison and local tribe leader Oondabund must find a way to stop the chaos without terminating the Numunwari while combating drunken poachers and a rattled ranger chief looking to abruptly end public fear. With the enthusiastic help of Harrison’s ex-lover, Cathy Pope, the three devise a dangerous plan to sedate the massive croc and transport it to a secluded habitat before death rears it’s ugly head once again.
Arch Nicholson’s “Dark Age” is the Australian “Jaws” equivalent, introducing a massive crocodile that puts the fear of the murky rivers into the hearts of audiences much like a giant great white shark did for the ocean beaches. “Dark Age” is a raging adventure with a delicate undertone about nature fighting back against an aggressive, occupying force called man, especially the white man, who kills without cause, who plagues without consciousness, and whose power instills a reactionary fear to kill. A single, monstrous crocodile embodies and symbolizes the essence of an entire habitat, chomping through flesh and doing a death roll to make known that nothing can stop nature or as “Jurassic Park’s” Dr. Ian Malcolm so eloquently put it, “Life, uh, finds a way.” Nicholson’s film, from the novel of Grahame Webb novel Numunwari, isn’t solely a man versus nature horror despite marketed as one; instead, “Dark Age” unveils more the cruel side of human nature that’s more Machiavellian than nature running its course.
“Wolf Creek” star John Jarrett, who I better know from “The Odd Angry Shot,” stars as the conflicted park ranger and crocodile preservation expert Steve Harrison. Jarrett’s more convincing a maniac outdoors man than a crocodile conversationalist, but the iconic Aussie convinces us all that being in between two opposing sides is no easy task with this willingness to do what’s right on both sides. Nikki Coghill portrays Steve Harrison’s love interest, Cathy Pope, and Coghill is a dominating female lead by, not only being the only prominent female character, but with her striking ability to overpower Jarrett in scenes and with her also very striking beauty that comes to peak in a fleshy sex scene with Jarrett. The second most recognizable face behind Jarrett is aborigine descendant David Gulpilil. Most Stateside filmgoers may recall Gulpilil’s long locks and distinctive facial features from Crocodile Dundee in a ceremonial Aborigine dance alongside Paul Hogan. In “Dark Age,” Gulpilil plays Adjaral, son of Aborigine tribe leader Oondabund played by Burnham Burnham. “The Howling III” actor acts as a spiritual liaison between the crocodile and the white man world and Burnham Burnham’s childlike presence onscreen makes the actor very memorable and likable. Ray Meagher, Max Phipps, Jeff Ashby, Paul Bertram, and Ron Blanchard co-star.
There have been many installments and versions of crocodile leviathans. In fact, in It’s Bloggin’ Evil’s last review, Sion Sono’s Tag, there’s a dream sequence of a giant crocodile gorily snapping down upon a Japanese schoolgirl with blood spraying everywhere. While the scene is graphic, eye-catching, and notable, the croc was a mockery of reality with disproportionate jowl and a flimsy design that’s more cartoonish than substantially factual. Kuddos to the monster effects and long time visual effects artist Roger Cowland for constructing a frightening behemoth of a crocodile. Though slightly stiff in some scenes, Nicholson camera placement exhibits just enough to warrant a shortage of breath whenever the crocodile goes in for the kill or stalks a prey with the round eyes popping just above the water’s surface. This effect is masterfully executed by the late director who didn’t feel the need to be gratuitously gory with the death scenes that are modest, intense, and sheerly practical.
Yet to be on DVD or Blu-ray in the U.S.A., the good blokes over at Umbrella Entertainment release ultra-rare “Dark Age” for the first time hi-definition on Blu-ray as part of Ozploitation Classic series presented in a 1080p widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, format. The image looks clean without any noticeable enhancements, distortions or print damage with only some heavy noise in the darker scenes. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is just as perfect with clarity in the dialogue, a pulsating synthesizing score, and fine fidelity and range. No hissing, popping, or any other noise annoyances were detected. Umbrella unleashes a slew of bonus material includes an audio Commentary with Actor John Jarratt and Executive Producer Antony I. Ginnane, a Bicentenary with Bite: Revisiting “Dark Age”, panel discussion with film historians Lee Gambin, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Emma Westwood and Sally Christie, and Uncut Not Quite Hollywood Interviews with John Jarratt and Antony I. Ginnane which are tremendously enlightening about the film’s birth and concluding reactions. There’s also a 1986 documentary entitled Living With Crocodiles with Grahame Webb, author of Numunwari, trailers, and an image gallery. Forget “Rogue.” Forge “Lake Placid” Lets even forget “Dinocroc!” Umbrella Entertainment’s “Dark Age” is the ultimate formidable 90-minute action-horror with trembling induced fear and adrenaline produced thrills accompanied inside a hi-definition release packed to the razor sharp teeth with extras.
On Christmas day, Diane, a widowed mother, has her dysfunctional children and their families over to celebrate the festive holiday at the remote family home set in the countryside Outback. When a black cloaked stranger with a face wrapped in white cloth strips arrives at her doorstep, Diane’s good heart and generosity invites the peculiar man inside in order to not celebrate Christmas alone, but when the religiously zealot stranger reveals a letter and begins to read from it out loud, the mother of four is shocked and angered by the content and violently has him thrown out of the house, threatening him to never return. As night falls and all is calm considering the families offbeat relationship, the stranger lurks outside, waiting to seek deadly vengeance upon a family that houses dark secrets; secrets written on the pages of the stranger’s letter that connect him to Diane and her four children and he’ll stop at nothing to unearth the truth, to get the answers he desires, from Diane, even if that means slaughtering them all to pieces to get it!
“Red Christmas” is the Craig Anderson written and directed holiday classic that spills a lot of blood and sucks out completely the christmas spirit. Under the cloak of a prevalent hot and debatable topic, the social commentary aspect of “Red Christmas” blends an unapologetic slasher with turbulent subject matter that can strike chords with just about everybody, especially parents with special needs children. However, Anderson owns a black horror comedy wrought hard in exhibiting a family with unintentional aspirations to be the worst family in the world with eclectic characters ranging from religious fanatics, to closeted perverts, to pot smoking stoners, and putting them all in one house seems to bring the worst out in all of them on a day where sharing is caring and to pit them against a deadly stranger that forces them to build a malfunctioning opposing defense that works as well as a football bat.
“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Cujo” star Dee Wallace headlines as the mother of three, Diane, and the recently awarded lifetime achievement winning actress’s exuberant strong will and determination of being a badass, kickass mother remarkably unearths Wallace’s natural killer instinct to be an on-screen protective den mother of her children played by Australian actresses Sarah Bishop as the acolyte daughter to Janis McGavin as a inconsiderate pregnant stoner. The relatively unknown Deelia Meriel played the third sister as a free-spirited artist with a dark personality. The fourth child is a key player to the plot so one of the most important roles to the story was awarded to Gerard O’Dwyer, a humanitarian actor who brings encouragement and awareness about Down Syndrome, and the actor uses “Red Christmas” as an appropriate platform to continue his ongoing fight against societal stereotypes while showing off his talent for the theatrics. “Rogue’s” Geoff Mortell and David Collins are hilarious when undertaking their respective roles of a likable laid back uncle with a penchant for the pot and a curiosity sheathed Catholic pastor unsure how to find faith in a faithless house. Rounding out the bunch is Bjorn Stewart, Anthony Jensen, Robert Anderson, and an masked Sam Campbell as the cloaked villain Cletus.
When noting the technical portions of “Red Christmas,” the practical special effects, under the Craigfx team helmed by Craig Anderson and Doug Bayne, implemented to create a mixed bag of horrible deaths is one particular aspect worth mentioning. Just enough to tease the tip of the gore hounds’ testicles while not being submersed in the super-soaked overkill that indie slashers take route now-a-days. Instead, AFI award winner Craig Anderson kept his moments of axing off characters very clean, superbly neat, and visually attractive, honing in on the maniacal killer aspirations in order to create kills worthy of more established Renaissance slasher icons and when the killing begins, Anderson makes certain heighten the tension by importing a vary of vibrantly hued filters that light up scenes like retro-colored Christmas light bulbs. When considering the character development, Cletus, visually, is jarring, like seeing the Grim Reaper in the flesh (or is it bones?), but the character’s written erratically enigmatic in a sense that most of Cletus’ brief backstory is quickly explained through flashbacks in the opening credits, leaving not enough to explain the amount of how deranged and how creepy a bloke like him is and while “Red Christmas” puts Cletus’ motivations right upfront, right on the Christmas Turkey, a subsequent question mark still lies hanging over our noggins about the full and complete story of Cletus and his ill-advised demeanor.
Artsploitation Films proudly presents Craig Anderson’s “Red Christmas” that’s currently playing in select theaters near and far and soon to be on home video come October 17th! For now, a DVD-R screener was provided for this particular review and so I am unable to comment on the audio and video quality. There were also no extras available on the screener. “Red Christmas” harnesses inspiration from other cult Christmas classics, horror and comedy alike, while tackling head-on today’s tough fiery topics like women’s rights, abortion, Down Syndrome, and how people deal with regrets in their present and past. As genre fans, October will always the Christmas month for horror and after thoroughly enjoying the dementedness of Bob Clack’s “Black Christmas” to start the night of mischief off right, make sure to pop in Craig Anderson’s psycho-cinematic “Red Christmas” to totally ring in the complete holiday fear!