Nihilism Brings Out the Evil in All of Us! “The Vicious Sweet” reviewed!


Popular B-movie scream queen, Tyler Phoenix, just walked out belligerently from the latest screening for her new schlocky horror film. Fed up with worrisome managers, pressuring producers, and hot-headed directors, the leading lady glazes over her career as the past creeps back into her life, sourly affecting the platonic, one-sided relationship with her boyfriend. Tyler’s downward spiral toward the depths of depression and frustration attractively consider suicide by pills, but when Tyler awakes, she finds herself handcuffed to a bed with a mysterious masked man looming over her. What the man wants is unclear to Tyler, but one thing is absolute, he’s an adoring fan of hers who seemingly knows more about Tyler than she knows about herself. Hours seem like days, days seem like weeks, and weeks seem like months as Tyler is continuously drugged and asked personal questions about her past and about the disparage campaign to capsize her life. Tyler begins to hallucinate and can’t tell what’s real or not as she confronts internal demons while being completely forthcoming to her dangerously devoted captor.

“The Vicious Sweet” captures visceral surreal existentialism from Sub Rosa Studio’s own Ron Bonk in the shoes of writer and director. The 1997 thriller is a cinematic blend of psychological horror, self-deprivation, and coming to terms with one’s own identity. All shot on analog video and on a micro budget, Bonk’s able to depict dreamlike scenes hauntingly and pragmatically without the assistance of costly visual effects that often cheap in appearance on video transfers. Shot in Syracuse, New York, “The Vicious Sweet” could be set anywhere, USA and with locations that set the main characters in close knit quarters for nearly most of the 90 minute runtime, the “House Shark” is able to fashion an under the radar overwrought mystery. Though the SRS Cinema retro DVD cover is lustfully tasteful with an illustrative Tyler Phoenix handcuffed to the bed and in her underwear, “The Vicious Sweet” isn’t about abduction for sexual exploitation. Yes, one scene does represent the DVD cover; however, Bonk’s story tickles the frayed and blurry realm of the mortal coil that can push the limits of not only the story, but also Bonk’s ability to explore that plane of existence that inhibits zombies, large rat-faced looking creatures, and the intangibility of time.

Tyler Phoenix whirls as an angsty actress with a chip on her shoulder and a metaphorical duffle bag full of internalized secrets. Sasha Graham straps herself right into the role, exhorting all the right kinds of anger and cynicism into her seemingly successful character’s career. Graham has seen her fair share of mid to late 1990’s lowballed b-movie films, such as having a substantial role in “Polymorph” directed by “The Dead Next Door” director J.R. Bookwalter and in “Bloodletting” helmed by the “Witchhouse” screenwriter Matthew Jason Walsh, but “The Vicious Sweet” marks the debut of leading lady, a true scream queen role, and Graham wears it well. She’s complimented by the debut performance of the late Bob Licata as the mysterious tormentor who goes by the name of Grimaldi, one of the performers from Phoenix’s early, short-stinted porn career. Grimaldi, who repeatedly notes, is a part of Phoenix and, for a lack of a better term, symbolizes the actresses betwixt past and present on a conscious level of trying to make sense of all that’s entangled in that screwed up and complex mind of hers. Licata, in regards to his character, is cold and consistent, playing the act of a passionately solemn and unpredictable serrated fan hellbent on trying to expose Tyler Phoenix’s true self. “The Vicious Sweet” also stars Jason Wicks, Theresa Constantine (“Bloodletting”), Jeffrey Forsyth (“Gut-Pile”), Al Marshall, Steve Wood, and Jeff Jones.

The story progression through Tyler’s figuratively personal hell hardly goes stagnant despite, for most of the her status, being manacled to a bed for relentless interrogation. Tyler’s put through a variant ringer of drug induced hallucinations and cerebral caprices and much of the credit, alongside Sasha Graham, should go to writer-director Ron Bonk who is able to translate from script to screen his vision. Contrary to the restraints of a SOV production, the creativity of Bonk’s camera work in masking, in more ways than one, Grimaldi’s stoic façade and centralizing Tyler’s and her experiences is evocative , the antiquated practical effects are still appositely poignant, and the diverse content holds “The Vicious Sweet” to a larger scale than the finances suggests. I’m not trying to elevate Ron Bonk’s film up to being the Holy Grail of low budget horror held in the vibrancy of limelight, but in my opinion, to dismiss the appreciation for producing something out of nothing would be a tremendous disservice to all auteurs. “The Vicious Sweet” leaves us with an open for interpretation perspective that somehow manages a jaw-dropping mound of shock and perplexity, nothing short of the likes of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” ending.

The SRS Cinema DVD home video release of Ron Bonk’s “The Vicious Sweet” is presented region free, 1.33:1 aspect ratio from a S-VHS Betacam SP, that mostly result with black bars on each side of your 16:9 HD television. The limited edition Blu-ray is marketed as remastered, but the DVD image quality is awfully poor from the analog master transfer and doesn’t seem to have a smidgen of touch up where marco-blocking artifacts and aliasing run rampant. What also doesn’t help matters is the faded coloring and the blacks nearly void of any shape of definition as if you’re in a bright room and the light is shutoff and nothing but a blurry black void is present between the light and the time you’re eyes can adjust. The English language lossy 1.0 uncompressed mono track is frail and shaky, but still manage to push through without an obfuscate obstacles. Dialogue cozily lies low on the audio totem pole and the range and depth lack during more fantastical moments of zombies and monster swarming about. Bonus features include a director commentary, a director and Sasha Graham commentary, and SRS Cinema trailers. The best DVD feature, along with the film itself, is the illustrated, VHS letterbox DVD cover of the aforesaid Tyler Phoenix beautifully bound to the bed with candles lit by her table side and dressed scantily with a nice Please Be Kind, Rewind cherry on top. Despite the technical woes, “The Vicious Sweet” remedies the longstanding misinformed notion that independent b-horror movies are a hack and burden to the cinema fuselage with vast imagination and sturdy ambition.

The Vicious Sweet DVD is a must buy!

Evil Doesn’t Care for pH Levels! “Hot Tub Party Massacre” Review!


In the midst of a deranged serial killer’s escape from prison, Four Delta Omega sisters enter a school raffle to represent their sorority and end up winning an all expenses paid hotel suite complete with a luxurious hot tub. As student bodies fall in the maniac’s wake, the sisters flight toward fun times before taking notice how many of their friends and fellow students become unfortunate slashed-up victims and just when things are getting wet and carnal, the killer checks in, crashing good times, and making mince meat out of the lucky winners and their boyfriends.

Budget horror filmmaker Chris Greenaway gets his hands into the sisterhood horror genre with his 2016 written and directed tongue-and-cheek horror-comedy “Hot Tub Party Massacre.” Campy. gratuitous. Schlocky. Greenaway has covered all the bases of a satirical slasher sporting a killer wielding a small garden cultivator – “cultivator” is a good title or moniker for another campy slasher as long as you put the proverbial “the” in front of it. Instead, we get the Canadian cult no-so-classic “Hot Tub Party Massacre” because nothing says killer party than an actual killer at your party and here the party is wet and wild with an escaped maniac on the loose, ready to randomly slice and dice the unscrupulous and individualistic sisters of Delta Omega sorority.

While there’s not a sole headliner to Greenaway’s film, like a Jamie Lee Curtis to Laurie Strobe or a Neve Campbell to Scream, the sorority girls attending the bubbly hot tub affair function as a collective headlining mass of alternative women. In alphabetical order, Amanda Nickels, Erin Hyndman, Jynx Vandersteen (“Father’s Day”), and Sarah Foster each represent Delta Omega’s finest in their respective personas as popular, bookworm, party (or slut?), and goth. The quintessential tropes to any routine slasher star as surprisingly benevolent with their upbeat attitudes and gracious acceptance of all kinds of people. When Hyndman’s nerdy Bethany states she probably shouldn’t attend trip, party girl Brandi, aka Vandersteen, counteracts with you’re one of us, a Delta Omega, and only the best become Delta Omegas. Their stalker, the elusive serial killer, is played by Mark Kiazyk trying to do his best Michael Myers impersonation from the chest down, as he’s frequently screened. Kiazyk’s has the look, a face of pure hatred, and I wish that was more prevalent as it’s a face for television. Rounding out the cast are Delta Omega boyfriends Danny Warren and Ken Wright, “Rust’s” Corey Taylor as a school spirited University newscaster, “you’re all doomed” guy Nicholas MacDonald, and the indie scream queen Brinke Stevens making her bit cameo.

“Hot Tub Party Massacre” is essentially one big homage to the enshrined horror flicks and pays it’s respects to, as aforementioned, Halloween with the killer. Also gives a head nod to Friday the 13th Part II in which a couple are jointly impaled in a very similar frame-by-frame sequence. Even one of the official poster concepts is a direct take from “Slumber Party Massacre” and perhaps the Delta Omega is a sign of respect to another Brinke Stevens’ classic, “Die Delta Die!” Greenaway’s “Hot Tub Party Massacre,” by title alone, is not a serious horror film looking to ripoff the foundational slashers, but relishes in a lighthearted satire that begins in a realm of Zuckeresque that loses the visual gag steam at the tail end. The montage of gratuitous nudity of Amanda Nickela, Jynx Vandersteen, and Sarah Foster notch up the “Hot Tub’s” antics in fleshing out the skin craving viewers who can’t get enough of blood and boobs. Awarding this feature as a good film, as a pivotal staple in horror, is an extreme over exaggeration and a poor case of judgement, but consider only chocking “Hot Tub Party Massacre” up to being Chris Greenaway’s ode to the archetype slasher genre.

Ron Bonk and his Sub Rosa Studios, along with MVDVisual, proudly present “Hot Tub Party Massacre” onto DVD that absolutely belongs right in SRS’s arsenal of cheap and outrageous horror. The Full Screen 1.33:1 presentation is what it is, an unmatted sign of low resolution and blotchy, patchy image quality. The 2.0 audio track is a seesaw of fidelity where some aspects of the dialogue are barely audible and then the high pitched shrieks, and their are many shrieks, could pierce ear drums through popping static noise. There wasn’t an expectation of par level video-audio quality, but the due diligence is to publicize, not necessarily criticize, that of the DVD technical contents. The DVD cover is straight out of a photo shoot with a round, thong-cladded booty and long legs very shapely in front of an in ground hot tub. FYI – the hot tub in the movie is above ground and in a hotel. Bonus features include commentary tracks, behind-the-scenes footage (that contains more nudity, by the way), and trailers. Chris Greenaway’s “Hot Tub Party Massacre” has a premise of a short-lived concept that has been run through the kitty-grinder more than once over, but unquestionably is a honoring low-rent tributing spoof of cult classic works that obviously inspired the Canadian horror filmmaker.

Get wet with “Hot Tub Party Massacre!”

Full Blown Evil is Only One Snort Away! “Dreaming Purple Neon” review


The last bloodline of a black magic rite has manufactured a highly addictive drug called Purple Neon into pill, powder, and injection form and has distributed it through the pipeline of local dealers amongst an unsuspecting community unaware of Purple Neon’s real and highly potent side effects. The drug transforms the dopers into mindless, blood thirsty slaves and connects the them telepathically to a diabolical underworld queen that’s sought to be risen through the blood and body of a youthful human sacrifice and the very spot, deep inside the hellish maze of a business building, is where a motley crew of drug dealers, estranged lovers, and dentistry employees and patrons are caught dead center in the middle of the hell seekers’ ritual. Armed with only melee weapons and their wits, an unspeakable journey trek to the belly of hell pits them against nightmare creatures and a dastardly queen hellbent on ruling the world.

Since the mid 1980s, Todd Sheets’ expansive B-horror library of schlocky old school horror elements have stayed true and brutal for the last four decades. One of his latest ventures, “Dreaming Purple Neon,” has been described by the writer-director as an ode to the the horror films that once were where the buckets of rampant gore covers like wall-to-wall carpets in every scene, where innovative practical effects made the sizably impossible possible, and where the story is chummed into an ocean of entertainment and fun. “Dreaming Purple Neon” favors a long lost market that rarely exists anymore. “Hi-8 (Horror Independent 8,” in which Sheets wrote and directed a segment, showcases directors who revert back to their analog foundation in horror filmmaking. Sheets is credited alongside “Truth or Dare? A Critical Madness'” Tim Ritter and Donald Farmer, director of “Cannibal Hookers.” Sheets continues his legacy, notching another hole in his belt with an ambitious story soused with formidable, if not a bit extravagant, special gore effects.

At the epicenter of all hell breaking loose is Jeremy Edwards as Dallas whose thrusted into the bane experience inadvertently as he’s trying to reconnect with girlfriend Denise (Eli DeGeer from Ron Bonk “Empire State of the Dead”). A better suited budding duo lies with Ray Ray and Tyrone King, respectively Antoine Steele and Ricky Farr, as a pair of hard nose drug dealers tracking down Catriona (Millie Milan) who stole a kilo of Purple Neon and Tyrone’s custom twin beretta handguns.  So far, an eclectic group of characters have formulated but doesn’t end there with two barely cladded actresses, donning sometimes just horned prosthetics on thier nipples, as demonesses. Jodie Nelles Smith bravely and enthusiastically bares it all with full frontal openness to give birth to her Godless vessel demon and her counterpart, the great queen Abaddon, posts up Dilynn Fawn Harvey’s well endowed assets into a sexy medieval getup suiting her ultimate unholy power. Jack McCord receives the last honorable mention in his role of building landlord and high priestess Cyrus Archer to facilitate the Purple Neon and to summon the demon Abaddon. McCord’s theatrics integrate well into Sheets’ splatter film by not only providing exposition for the entire scenario, but also being that faithful right hand henchman to a backdrop antagonist – think Demagogon to the monstrous upside down world creature in “Stranger Things. Grant Conrad, Nick Randol, Jolene Loftin, Ana Rojas-Plumberg, Daniel Bell, Glen Moore, and Stacy Weible costar.

Now, “Dreaming Purple Neon” won’t win any Oscars. Award potential isn’t in the films’s DNA.   Being in a niche horror genre narrows the frame of potential viewers, but Todd Sheets” didn’t write and director “Dreaming Purple Neon” to win hunks of glorified metal and plastic and even though the performances were outright corny, sappy, sometimes frivolous, and delivered cue-by-cue, there inarguably radiates a labor of dedication and passion for a nearly forgotten splatter genre of this magnitude. Realistically, the special effects are the unanimous winners with the overly large intestines, the spray of viscera, and the stretchy ripped flesh that are mutilated, mangled, and meshed together to engross, and to gross, viewers deep inside to become fired up and excited, or maybe just disgusted, about turning nothing into a sickening something that’s out of this world.   Today’s horror is all about the glossy, the shiny, and the clean without much of the muck usually associated with death, destruction, and mayhem. “Dreaming Purple Neon’s” gets the demonic facts right by not only getting down and dirty with the likes of demon horror which films like “Demons,” “Night of the Demons,” or “Demon Knight” are akin, but also solidifies Todd Sheets as a true filmmaker and friend to the gore film even in today’s modern day apologetic society.

“Extreme Entertainment’s” “Dreaming Purple Neon” lands DVD distribution with MVDVisual and Unearthed Films presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Clocking in a 1 hour and 39 minutes, the DVD image quality varies from scene-to-scene, but mostly a washed gray display doesn’t exuberant a color palette, but this overall look goes hand-and-hand with Todd Sheets’ analog style. The 2.0 stereo sound isn’t Earth shattering and to be honest, there wasn’t any expectation for it to be so, but the dual channel is uncharacteristically strong and balanced with clear dialogue to which can be all a testament to Sheets’ long list of experience. Bonus materials include a commentary track with Todd Sheets, a behind-the-scenes, and an Unearthed Films trailer reel. Savage. Unapologetic. Herculean. These terms can all describe the feelings felt when watching Todd Sheets’ “Dreaming Purple Neon” that tells a bizarro “Re-Animator” story chocked full of graphic gore and conveyed with a dry and morbid sense of unsullied humor thats contrasted against today’s spoiled and scorched popcorn and soda pop horror film.

Own a copy of Dreaming Purple Neon!

Indie Evil Whips Horror Back Into True Form! “HI-8: Horror Independent Eight” review!

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On the heals of my review for excellent “Hillbilly Horror Show Vol. 1,” the next review had to be another anthology. There was a must-watch horror short attitude swirling in the cold air. Out of everything that lies on the review docket, by chance “HI-8 (Horror Independent Eight) was next on the chopping block and already the drool slithered itself from the corner’s of my horror-hungry mouth. “HI-8” brings together the best-of-the-best shot on video horror directors of the last three decades and where going back to your roots is not so much a challenge for the eight horror-short directors, but rather a natural like riding a bike scenario.

0: “No Budget Films Present…” by Brad Sykes
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The anthology begins with a wrap around short entitled “No Budget Films Present…” and starts off innocent enough with three young and inspired horror filmmakers creating a slasher picture of a female jogger being terrorized by a masked killer. The short weaves in and out between the other shorts and during the intermediate of the story a terrifying myth is laid out about a face-ripping fiend who stalks the very location where they’re shooting their movie. By the end, you can only imagine the fates of our young filmmakers.

“No Budget Films Presents…” is directed by Brad Sykes who happens to also a co=producer of “HI-8.” The short isn’t the campiness of eight and is a bit hard to follow due to the choppiness of the in-and-out story telling between other shorts, but the story is still very solid and the ending is nothing short of a surprise. With great creature effects and a use of a video camera, this innocent story turns deadly and chilling real quick.

1: “Switchblade Insane” by Tim Ritter
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“Switchblade Insane” follows the marital complications between a killer, the Switchblade Butcher, and his wife. The Switchblade Butcher feels the need to kidnap, rape, and murder his female victims and when his wife confronts his ghastly actions at gun point and caught red handed, he persuades her to join in his blood-letting ecstasy. Her lust for blood was just as thirsty as his and brought their relationship to new heights. As the story of the Switchblade Butcher is being told by the wife, the lines become blurred between killer and wife and the ending provides a better than M. Night Shyamalan twist!

Director Tim Ritter is one of my all time favorite shot on video directors. “Truth or Dare? A Critical Mass” is one my personal favorite films and to see his name as one of the directors gave me goosebumps. Ritter doesn’t disappoint bring out his A game witi “Switchblade Insane.” The story is freshly twisted and the laid out perfectly frame by frame to leave a lasting impression with no too much gore to try and ingest.

2: “A Very Bad Situation” by Marcus Koch
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A handful of desparate survivors steadfast in a cramp and tight-knit garage after a exotic meteor-shower slowly turns humans into hideous flesh-eating monstrous transformations. Suspicions run rampant, weapons are drawn against one another, and nobody trusts the other as anybody could be infected in this John Carpenter-esque “The Thing” type horror short.

As aforementioned, Carpenter had already done this similar scenario in the arctic with a group of station inhabits who are imitated precisely by an alien being. The first minute, minute and half, is a bunch of stock footage of people in the masses reaping havoc and violence, but it’s the end of the short that will get your heart racing when the creature unveils itself to the group in a very practical and gross special effects way.

3: “The Tape” by Tony Masiello
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An obsolete VHS rental store is shutting the doors for good and store clerk Tim is able to take one of the VHS tapes home with him as part of a severance package type deal. He pops in the tape to find that it’s an unfinished, self-taped film entitled Bloodgasm. Just as the name suggest, Bloodgasm is a more gory and colorful version of the tape in “The Ring.” Tim becomes engrossed to the point where raunchy sex with his girlfriend is nearly non-existent and can’t sway his attention away from the screen. His obsession is so strong that he researches the tape and finds the director who wishes to finish (off) the film with Tim and his girlfriend.

“The Tape” will have your entrails running for dear life. The tape is nothing but shock and gore and I get why Tim loves it due to it’s realistic effect. This is another short that deserves kudos for the awesome twist ending. Though the events are rather rushed, Masiello is able to squeeze everything to provide a well coherent, gut wrenching, bloody festive screening.

4: “Gang Them Style” by Ron Bonk
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A zombie breakout ensues. One man decides to break into a nursing home to save his Nana. He takes on more than he can chew as Nana brings with her a handful of other nursing home residents. The long 10 foot walk between the exit doors and the minivan is the dangerous journey the survivors must make in order to survive the ordeal.

By far the campiest short of the all, “Gang Them Style” incorporates and pays homage to the indie horror icons and classics especially such with John Carpenter, names of the characters from “The Thing” are reused for some the cast in “Gang Them Style” and some of a few taglines made in the dialogue as well; the “kick ass and chew bubble gum” comes to mind. The short doesn’t take itself serious and does a great job on homing in on the 80’s style in every way – soundtrack, camera angles, clothing, acting, effects, zombie makeup, etc.

5: “Genre Bending” by Chris Seaver
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A curvy young woman has gained a couple of creepy, sleazy stalker that she may or may not be oblivious to the fact. Once all the characters come into play, “Genre Bending” is true to the title with a a back and forth game between genre and gender.

“Genre Bending” is the least horrific film of all the shorts and plays out more like a dark comedy. The short does speak upon the terms of gender, sexism, race, and voyeurism. Even though each film is only 8 to 10 minutes long, this short feels a bit overplayed and does over stay its welcome.

6: “Thicker Than Water” by Donald Farmer
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Emily’s jealousy and paranoia wigs out her boyfriend Ted with accusations that he’s fooling around with ex-girlfriend Lauren. After Ted calms down Emily’s suspicions, She reveals reveals that she’s pregnant. But Emily isn’t quite convinced of Ted’s assurance; she wants to be completely sure so she wants Ted’s to rid of his previous relationship and takes him into the back room where Lauren sits tied up. Will Ted cut ties with Lauren for good by overseeing her demise?

Donald Farmer is the quintessential SOV director; one of the legends much in the same class as Tim Ritter. His entry is brutal and unapologetic pitting current life agains’t the past. The drastic measures Lauren takes is not fantastic or far from the truth as many will do anything for love or for a child. “Thicker Than Water” is not necessarily fresh script, but certainly visceral and emotional.

7: “The Scout” by Brad Sykes
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Director Adrian is scouting the desert for the perfect location for his next film and tagging along is Madison, an aspiring actress. When their car breaks down by a run down structure, Madison has a few choice words for Adrian and embarks on her own back to town as she is already late for potential acting gig. When she becomes lost, she circles back and can’t locate Adrian. Instead, she locates his camera and is shocked by the found footage.

“The Scout” is a bit more spellbinding and greatly introducing more blood than his wrap around short “No Budget Films Presents…” The sheer mystery of the camera’s ability to see into the future could have been explored a little more instead near the end of the short, but this provides a mysterious and supernatural tidbit that leaves open the chilling story.

8: “The Request” by Todd Sheets
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A late night radio DJ is being phone stalked when counting down the top music hits. The calls are mysterious, menacing, and spooky giving a tingle down the DJ’s spine. He thinks a prank is being played on his good nature, but the DJ has a secret – a secret that haunts him and, eventually, catches up with him even from the grave.

Todd Sheets Lives! The legendary SOV director stirs in his own gruesome material into a story that eerily resembles a Stephen King story. The film speaks about the ultimate betrayal and proves that karma is a bitch. Timing of the story is enough to keep your attention quenched and the ending will eat your heart out!

“Hi-8” brings the beloved 80’s and 90’s analog horror back to the small screen giving future generations only a small taste of CGI-less horror. The nostalgia for this review alone is over-stimulating. Greats like Todd Sheets, Tim Ritter, and Brad Sykes are not a dying breed, but rather an underlying threat to mainstream horror, lying and waiting for tween horror acolytes to drop dead and have SOV rise from the tomb once again. Check out this Wild Eye Releasing DVD that is already out on shelves ready to be picked up, watched, and loved.