The Dark One’s EVIL Sucks the Air Out of You! “Robot Holocaust” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)

“Robot Holocaust” enslaves Humanity on Blu-ray!

Year 2033 – a robot rebellion turned the once convenient machines into man’s most deadly adversary.  The aftershock of war has left mankind almost extinct and most of the atmosphere uninhabitable with radiation.  The last standing metropolis on what is now known as New Terra has the only breathable environment monopolized by the tyrannical Dark One, a disembodied machine that uses human slave labor to fuel the air producing contraption for the entire city.  A motley band of heroes, led by an outsider from a wasteland tribe who can breathe the toxic air, embark on a perilous journey to the Dark One’s factory lair, evading deadly flesh-eating worms, wasteland mutants, and a ruthless robot subordinates under the command of the Dark One.   Their mission is to rescue a purloined scientist after developing a device that lets people breathe outside the Dark One’s grip of a controlled environment.

The 1980s is a goldmine for post-apocalyptic cinema that has virtually no ambit.  Whether a big Hollywood studio or a rinky-dink production, inhospitable badlands filled with cutthroat survivors and malformed beings unfortunate enough to be left alive to battle it out to the death over the Earth’s last remaining precious resources was (and to an extent, still is) a salivating story prospect with vast barren landscapes, dangers around every corner, an untamed primal violence, and a BDSM-like wardrobe that hits the suppressed kink nerve in all of us.  Tim Kincaid’s “Robot Holocaust” is right smack dab in the middle of the subgenre and plays tune to every crowd-pleasing characteristic.  The 1987 post-apocalypse actioner is written-and-directed by Kincaid who cut his teeth on gay adult films in the late 1970’s and has maintained a healthy dose of homosexual erotic and adult films throughout his career until 2017 under his pseudonym of Joe Gaga.  After complete stag only cheapies “Cellblock #9” and “…in the Name of Leather,” Kincaid received a hankering to dip his directorial toes into sci-fi and horror, beginning with the sexual assaulting alien flick “Breeders” in 1986.  “Robot Holocaust” became the filmmaker’s subsequent feature one year later, shot mostly in the abandoned Brooklyn Navy Yard buildings as well as the undeveloped then Roosevelt Island in New York City.  Presented by Wizard Video (“I Spit on Your Grave”), Tycan Entertaiment and Taryn Productions are the companies behind the film. Taryn Productions is a subsidiary created by Charles Band (“Puppet Master’) and named after his daughter Taryn. Cynthia De Paula produces the film, who she almost exclusively produces every Kincaid sci-fi horror fixation, and the film likely supported by Charles Band in an executive producer role.

“Robot Holocaust” follows the narrative of a ragtag bunch of good-guy survivors journeying to rescue a friend and take down a tyrannical overlord.  While not one role stands as a principal lead, the band of heroes is led by Neo, played by Norris Culf.  Starring in his first lead role following a couple of smalltime gigs in supporting roles in another Taryn Production, “Necropolis,” and in Tim Kincaid’s “Breeders,” Culf receives his big break as a wasteland conqueror able to breathe outside in the radioactive atmosphere.   As a leader, Culf isn’t as charismatic as Keanu Reeves’ Neo nor is he fierce enough to be intimidating; instead, Culf is quite reserved, unpowerful, and lacks coordination to pull off choreographed fight sequences with a believable plausibility.  Nyla, on the hand, is played Jennifer Delora of “Frankenhooker” and “Fright House.”  Delora, an martial arts blackbelt, brought the proper attitude to her fiercely feministic leader of the She Zone women tribe by adding the mean to Nyla’s demeanor.  The other woman of the group is Deeja, Jorn the Scientist’s daughter who terribly reliant on her father, sparking major contrast between her delicacy in daddy issues and Nyla’s hardnosed, man-hating feminism.  Nadine Hartstein and Michael Downend reconnect from their minor roles in “Necropolis” to be the daughter and father team at the core of suicide mission. More ceremonious than being an emotional wreck of being separated during the middle of a robot run world, Harstein and Downend bring little flair as they themselves often are more automaton than the automatons. Joel Von Ornsteiner (“Zombie Death House,” “Slash Dance”) had the most flair as Klyton, a pickpocketing free-thinking droid that looks like a cross between Star Wars’ C3PO and MAC from “Mac and Me.” Ornsteiner never let up or broke the eccentric droid’s light-hearted Robin to Neo’s Batman antics complete with rigid, robotic movements and a ray gun that never seems to work. One of the more painfully pressed roles is Valaria, the Dark One’s flamboyantly dressed second in command. Think “Forbidden Zone”-esque. Angelika Jager performance in cahoots with the Dark One is about as dry as toast and at odds with her own vestigial accent. Jager’s the congenial visual to her counterpart Torque’s effectual exoskeletal mechanical cover who could pass for a T-800 with the teeth replaced by dangling like Lobster antennae. Rick Gianasi, who went on to be Troma’s Sgt. Kabukiman, plays the underestimated and underrated villain, leading the way for other sidelines roles with a cast that rounds out with George Grey, Michael Azzolina, John Blaylock, and Nicholas Reiner.

As mentioned earlier, “Robot Holocaust’s” acting isn’t good.  It borders old-timey melodramatic in a proclamation sense.  There are no in-depth discussions, debates, conversing naturally, or any aspect of the dialogue having a normalcy about it as everything is vigorously proclaimed or is awkward narrated for exposition.  The other half of the problems is in direct result of Kincaid’s poorly written script that can’t capture ordinary conversation, much like those of his pornographic films, I would think. Nor could Kincaid write himself out of the erratic flippancy of some principal characters who woujld go from bad to good then from good to bad in a blink of an eye.  While the communication is about a dull as a butter knife, the costuming is where “Robot Holocaust” balances the scales with 80’s ridiculously appropriate garb of what the ruined future would sport.  A metrosexual mixture of v-neck pelt shirts of mystery animal origin and early WWF professional wrestler spandex turn the men into “Conan the Barbarian” types, to which a few other influencing aspects are pulled from the Schwarzenegger epic fantasy.  The women are equally suited but with more finesse in the way of warrior princess as well as a goddess. With a title like “Robot Holocaust,” the android designs better be spectacular and in all for its time period, Ed Fench’s designs and Valarie McNeill’s fabrications are a mixed bag of good and bad. Klyton derives too heavily from “Star Wars'” inspiration without wowing into something of the tiny production’s own while Torque radiates power and fear with a complete head-to-toe body suit of an acolyte with attitude. Both designs don’t compartmentalize by operating individual body parts, such as moving mouths or even hands for that matter, which would have nailed the robots down for a film called “Robot Holocaust.”

Ronin Flix, under the re-distribution of Scorpion Releasing and MGM, release “Robot Holocaust” on a 1080p high-definition AVC encoded Blu-ray. The hard coded region A North American release is presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio from the original 35mm negative. Natural grain, a palatable and diverse color palette, and swelling textures, such as fine details in the skin, scuffed up droids, and a grimy industrial complex provides a zestier interest that parallels the languishing storyline. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is remarkably clean, much like the transfer, with a coextending presence of robust range, depth, and quality. The proclaiming dialogue is crystal clear, hanging on every syllable and syntax, with no issues with hissing, popping, or other flaws. Jager’s accented monologues and conversations are kitsch guilty pleasures to hear her laissez faire style and delivery. Special features include a new interview with Nyla actress Jennifer Delora touching upon little-by-little her experience with cast, crew, and overall project. There’s also the official trailer included. The physical release comes in a regular blue snapper case with one-sided grindhouse artwork of a looming Torque, an explicitly worn skull, and Angelika Jager’s Valaria with her eyes closed and slight smirk. The unrated film runs a brisk 79 minutes. The “Robot Holocaust” is only 11 years away according to the film’s timeline, but director Tim Kincaid’s future can’t help but feel like a vintage hunk of junk by the stale performances and skimpy Tarzan-like duds and getting through the brief runtime proved unfortunately challenging.

“Robot Holocaust” enslaves Humanity on Blu-ray!

Bestest EVIL in the Whole Wide World! “Clifford” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)



“Clifford” is the Best Comedy of 1994 and Now on Blu-ray!

10-year-old Clifford wants to go to Dinosaur World in Los Angeles.  I mean, really, really, wants to go to Dinosaur World and will stop at nothing to get his heart’s desire, even if that means intentionally grounding his parent’s plane destined for Hawaii.  Clifford’s parents, on the verge of strangling their own relentless mischievous son, concocts a care plan that includes reaching out to Uncle Martin, an out-of-touch, workaholic, kid-adverse L.A. resident looking to impress upon longtime, child-longing girlfriend that he adores children.  It’s a win-win for everyone, even Clifford who’s chances to ride Larry the Scary Rex rollercoaster at Dinosaur World have significantly increased.  The perfect plan is swimmingly going well until Martin’s boss throws him a deadline curveball that sidelines Clifford’s theme park trip, breaking his promise to a more than impish little boy who has declared life-ruining war against the Bestest uncle in the whole wide world.

Yes, finally!  “Clifford” has arrived onto Blu-ray home video and just like that that mischievous little brat comes back into our nostalgic hearts.  The 1991-filmed, 1994-released PG-rated comedy is written by “Back to School” duo Steven Krampmann and William Porter and directed by Peter Flaherty, director of “Who’s Harry Crumb?” and Martin Short’s pseudo-late night talk show series “Primetime Glick.”  If you don’t see Krampmann or Porters’ names in the pre- and post-credits but notice Jay Dee Rock and Bobby van Hayes scrolling by than that’s because the writers used pseudonyms to quietly disown the finish final film that was embroiled in questionable approaches such as hiring Martin Short, a then 40-year-old comedian-actor, to portray a 10-year-old boy.  Yet, the bizarre comedy that has a talented cast as well as a demented and twisted side to it has gained a rather quiet cult following.  Larry Brezner (“The ‘Burbs”) and Pieter Jan Brugge (“My Demon Lover”) produces “Clifford” and is one of the last releases to trickle out from Orion Pictures before their unfortunate bankruptcy. 

Through extremely creative measures to ensure Martin Short can sell the physicality of a prepubescent boy on screen, “Clifford” is one of the former SNL performer’s best and memorable roles amongst his arsenal of personalities.  The naughtily tormenting persona with a Devil’s grin and absent eyes for sympathy brings Clifford to a level that’s analogous to a fixated horror villain setting a target goal of destruction, mayhem, and chaos. No one is safe from Clifford’s duplicitous trajectory, not even Uncle Martin played by the late, great Charles Grodin (“Midnight Run”) who provides his standard uptight and exasperated character at first but slides into a sinister nihilism when push beyond the point of return. Short and Grodin are centric to the story, phenomenal dynamically, and funny at very second despite how antiquated the content and comedy is at 30 years old. Seeing Short play a little boy doesn’t even register he’s a grown man in an adolescent role and that’s how good Martin Short can massage the material in his favor. You see Short, you see he’s a kid amongst the rest of the cast, you see his childish exploits, and, yet, none of that is troublesome, bothersome, or even a tiny bit weird as you’re drawn into an overexaggerating, yet highly relatable, parenting hardships in negotiating with out of control, scheming children and the pure, unabashed wackiness of Martin Short who, in my mind’s eye, is essentially in a step-down version of his iconic Ed Grimley personality. Bringing down Short’s antics and Grodin’s disgruntled demeanor is the measured Mary Steenburger (“Back to the Future III, “Powder”) subduing, in a good way, audiences as Uncle Martin’s lowkey love interest to bring us down from the eccentric shenanigans. The casting is overall tight on those three leads but Dabney Coleman (“Dragnet”) becomes the sleazy bigwig wedging between his employee, Uncle Martin, and Martin’s girlfriend, Richard Kind (“Stargate”) searching for patient with his insufferable Clifford, Jennifer Salvidge (“Evolution”) as Clifford’s yielding, but equally as exhausted, Clifford’s mother, and “Little Monster’s” Ben Savage as a troubled youth set to follow Clifford’s footprints.

How does “Clifford” hold up to today’s comedies? Rated PG, the 1994 film lacks the big hitting criteria that ultimately slaps stricter rating labels right onto the trailer and home video covers, that ultimately bring in audiences with sex, violence, and harsh language, but “Clifford” isn’t a kids’ film per se and subtly lands more adult oriented and sexually suggestive one-liners and scenes that wouldn’t fly by today’s standards. In fact, I personally believe the entire production would have been scrubbed if the first casting choice for a young boy was a 40-year-old man. Movies like “Clifford” are relics that should be treasured because we’ll never see comedy like this again and that’s what makes “Clifford” a part of cult cinema. “Clifford” doesn’t need itemized fixings to be a great story and to possess substance to be a phenomenal film. Instead, the idiosyncrasies of the plot and the singularity of talent glue the first draft of the inane script together in its finished product, rewinding that chunky gray and white brain matter and the bits of skin, tissue, and tufts of hair back into and onto the head after having its top blown thinking, how the hell do we pull off this script? The first two acts are character building and about the dynamics of two conflicting temperaments that ensue a series of tit-for-tat jail landing pranks and a slew of grating and passive insults, suggesting a character-driven, quirky slapstick story of growth and understanding between the two sides. However, the third act shows another, unexpected side of “Clifford” that revels in Uncle Martin’s vindictiveness after having his mind and spirit broken by a child’s chastising for breaking a promise and Flaherty goes big and berserk with the Larry the Scary Rex rollercoaster (which looks amazing to ride to this date) to which the calamity of events culminates an epiphany for one of them, abetted by the fact a run amok mechanical dinosaur nearly chomped down on a human-sized snack.

“Clifford’s” mischief and mayhem in hi-def never before has looked so good on this new U.S. release Blu-ray from Ronin Flix in association with Scorpion Releasing and MGM. The region A, 90-minute release is presented in 1080p and in an anamorphic widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and much like the Blu-ray’s front cover of blown-up headshot closeups of Martin Short and Charles Grodin and a crumbling two-story home that’s not a component in the film, the picture quality also appears to be a bit stretched, leaving details slightly scattered and marginally pixelated. The transfer print is without a doubt clean and discernable but retains the original, untouched up MGM anterior. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is the only audio option that provides a good mix and balance of dialogue, chaos, and everything else in between to come together for a gratifying dual channel audio alloy. In extreme instances of bickering, high level pranking, and even the clamorous and deep dino-discharging climax, much of the details remain intact and clear without losing distinctiveness. The Ronin Flix Blu-ray is a feature only release with no software or hardware bonus content. With or without bonus features, the film itself is worth the cinematic calories as “Clifford” shines as arresting tale full of laughs, heart, and anarchy and is a hellraising life-amenity that shouldn’t be lived without.

“Clifford” is the Best Comedy of 1994 and Now on Blu-ray!

Out With the Old EVIL. In With the New! “Modern Vampires” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)

“Modern Vampires” available for purchase on Blu-ray at Amazon.com

Blacklisted for not killing the vampire nemesis Dr. Van Helsing, Dallas is shunned by most of the underground Los Angeles vampire scene now presided over by Count Dracula himself, but as he returns to the city after decades of being gone and gathers with old – very old – dear friends, Dracula threatens him with being burned alive if he overstays his begrudged welcome.  When a newly turned rogue vampire under the pretense of a corner prostitute starts ripping the throats out of unsuspecting Johns, Count Dracula doesn’t want the potential public attention drawn on his species.  Taking a shine to this mysterious woman’s insubordinate nature, Dallas finds her, cleans her up, and introduces her to his inclusive friends, but little do any of the bloodsuckers know is that the Van Helsing is in town and has recruited local Crips to be the holy servants of God in wasting away the vampiric filth that plagues humanity.

Here I thought Casper Van Dien’s only good film was 1997’s galactic war with the extraterrestrial bug species in “Starship Troopers!”  Nope, one year later, Dien follows up his iconic global militant-nationalism and gory-filled sci-fi blockbuster with the little-known American comedy-horror “Modern Vampires.”  Better known around the world as “The Revenant” to not confused American audiences with a highly ingrained British term, “Modern Vampires” is directed by a principal one-half of the 80’s American new wave band Oingo Boingo in Richard Elfman.  The other half of that duo is Richard’s brother, who we all know and love in his unmistakable musical scores of “Batman” ’89 and “Edward Scissorhands,” Danny Elfman who also scores the opening theme to “Modern Vampires” with recognizable and trademark notes from those previously stated Tim Burton pictures.  The script was also penned by a fellow Oingo Boingo original member and the Kiefer Sutherland and Reese Witherspoon “Freeway” film, and its sequel, screenwriter Matthew Bright.  Bright and Richard Elfman had previously collaborated on the comedy-musical “Forbidden Zone” surrounding sixth dimensions and damsels in distress as well as the Charles Band produced “Shrunken Heads.”  “Modern Vampires” is produced by Elfman, Brad Wyman (“Barb Wire”), and Chris Hanley (“American Psycho”) under the Storm Entertainment and Muse/Wyman productions.

Ladies, if you thought you’ve seen the last of Casper Van Dien’s backside in “Starship Troopers,” then worry not! As the hunky, cigar-smoking, former World War II pilot Dallas, Van Dien, once again, shows off his hind parts in a steamy sex scene one top of Dallas’s car with costar Natasha Gregson Wagner (“Vampires: Los Muertos,” “Urban Legend”). As the indifferent vampire Nico under the pretense of a prostitute who seduces men into vulnerability before gashing open their necks, Wagner adds a bloodthirsty ferocity to her uncouth, undead character’s tremendous and tragic depth surrounding a trailer park trash childhood of sexual abuse and a grandstand mother. As a pair, Dallas and Nico are essentially made for each other or, rather, Dallas turned Nico because under all that pretty boy veneer, Dallas still has a beating heart for compassion and friendship as noted with Dr. Frederick Van Helsing’s crippled son, Hans, and the choice made between the two young men before the whole debacle of nixing to the fearless and relentless vampire killer of all time. Rob Stieger plays that character beautifully manically. “The Amityville Horror” and “End of Days” actor graces the production with seasoned vitality while also trying something new himself, a slightly fascist German vampire hunter who hires L.A. gangsters to help him do his dirty work and has to be the butt of the joke at times at the hands of Count Dracula (“Striking Distance”) as well as Dallas. Stieger does his scenes with great earnest yet great fun that puts the legendary actor into a new perspective. “Modern Vampires'” star-studded cast doesn’t end there was Dallas’s friends include performances from Kim Cattrall (“Big Trouble in Little China”), comedian Greg Furgeson, Natasha Lyonne (“Slums of Beverely Hills”), and the legendary Udo Kier (Andy Warhol’s “Dracula”) as well as a cast round out with Natalya Andreychenko, Gabriel Casseus, Peter Lucas, Victor Togunde, Cedric Terrell, Flex Alexander, and Conchata Ferrell.

Gory, sexy, and overflowing with politically incorrect humor, Richard Elfman’s “Modern Vampires” more than likely would not be a film made today, but definitely suits the 90’s scene.  There are stereotypes and jokes radically exaggerated for comical effect and land with such insouciant ease that the entire production felt at peace with the humor, emitting “Modern Vampires” as an enjoyable, blood-soaked, outrageous vampire comedy unearthed from over 20-years ago and landing onto a new Blu-ray release where the Elfman film deserved an upgraded treatment.  Los Angeles in ’98 didn’t look extremely different than what’s depicted in the film – late night clubs with half-naked patrons doing all sorts of weird and bloodletting fetishes, leeching prostitution on the delinquency riddled streets, and unsavory, unwilling gang bangs but, in “Modern Vampires’ case, the one tied to the bed is a female vamp fully-transformed into a human-sized bat and those who have sex with her, turn into a vampire themselves.  See the humor and symbolism in that?  Almost as if having unprotected sex with a creature of night is akin to contracting a sexually transmitted disease.  Despite the waggishness, “Modern Vampires” holds other staid themes as well with an arteria one being reflective in the title.  The genesis of the species emerged from Count Dracula who had moved from his old Germanic country to the hip and upcoming L.A. area. With each generation of vampire, the loyalty gap becomes wider until the turned from the 20th century are fully unmanageable by the Count’s supreme power. Nico, the youngest turned is in her vampiric infancy often noted throughout the film, can’t be contained and won’t be told what to do, much like teenagers butting heads with their parents on every little subject. Traditions are broken, heads are severed, bodies are burned, and the “Modern Vampires” is a wildly funny and gruesomely gnarly.

“Modern Vampires” is now the vintage vampires that hit the silver screen some 24 years ago and is now basking with the great 90’s flair of special effects, clothes, and hair on a new Blu-ray release from Ronin Flix in association with Quiver Distribution (“To Your Last Death”). Newly scanned in 2K of the Richard Elfman’s personal film print, the picture retains an unsullied quality with impeccable detail delineation for a story that’s mainly set/shot at night. There’s quite an overlay of purple flush that I’m fairly positive is not intended that pulls away, at times, from clearcut contrasting and blend the objects in the scene together. The film is presented in full high definition1080p in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with an English language DTS-HD master audio 2.0 stereo that retains the amplitude of every categorical track. Dialogue track provides a clean depth and clarity that doesn’t swerve into boxy territory like many indie productions do. Ambient and foley range is quite limited for a bunch of different locational shots and in a crowded location full of extras but the extent of the quality is good enough. The 91-minute film comes not rated and has an exclusive extra with an introduction by director Richard Elfman plus archival features, such as audio commentary with Richard Elfman and star Casper Van Dien, a behind-the-scenes featurette with on set mini-interviews with the cast and crew. and the theatrical trailer. “Modern Vampires” might now be long in the tooth (get it?) but has the classic campy escapades of an unpretentious good time and, that my friends, is timeless.

“Modern Vampires” available for purchase on Blu-ray at Amazon.com

EVIL’s on the Shallow End of “Deep Space” reviewed! (Scorpion Releasing / Blu-ray)

“Deep Space” Invades Blu-ray on Amazon.com!

A government funded space craft containing a monstrous biological weapon crashes to Earth.  The organic creature is genetically coded to be a killing machine with a craving for eating it’s enemy and, now, it’s loose in the city and not responding to the scientists’ command self-destruct codes.  Tough and obstinate cop Ian McLemore and his partner, Jerry Merris, are ordered ot investigate the crash site before government agents take control of the case, even removing a pair of strange organic pods with them for further examination.  When a couple of close colleagues are shred to pieces at the hands of the creature, McLemore will stop at nothing to figure out what’s wreaking havoc in his city and blow it away.  

1988 – a weird, yet greatly satisfying transitional period of fading 80’s horror into nipping at the insanity of 90’s brazen prosthetic creature effects right before the turn of the computer generated decade.  Granted, Fred Olen Ray’s Sci-Fi horror “Deep Space,” which is ironically set on Earth, is very much an enamored 1980’s horror, but the Olen Ray film is where you can kind of see the turning of change on the horizon when the story’s ideas become too grandiose for tangibility alone, no matter how much us fans love to see practical effects over CGI.  The script, cowritten between Olen Ray and T.L. Lankford (“Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers,” “Fatal Passion”), is massive more expensive than anything the filmmaker’s had previously done and with a $2 million budget, “Deep Space” gets a giant explosion, high speed car scenes and wreckage, the iconic face and voice of Charles Napier, a Xenomorph-like creature, and a ultra-bloody chainsaw scene that could give “Evil Dead’s” Ash Williams a run for his money.  “Deep Space” is a production of Trans World Entertainment (no, not the same monikered company that sunk money into the bleeding financially physical media brick and mortar outlets like FYE, Camelot Music, or Suncoast) and shot in Los Angeles under producers Olen Ray, Alan Amiel (“Inner Sanctum”), and Herb Linsey (“Neon Maniacs”) with Yoram Pelman (“Commando Squad”) as executive producer.

At the center of the chaos is Ian McLemore, a hardnose and stubborn, harmlessly sarcastic detective who goes against the authoritative grain and cuts through bureaucratic tape to get the job done.  Playing McLemore is the unmistakable Charles Napier.  The “Rambo:  First Blood Part II” and “The Silence of the Lambs” actor, who is about as legendary as they come in supporting roles, lands his own lead man role with his own buxom beauty romantic leading lady in Ann Turkel {“Humanoids from the Deep”), as a new, but experienced, cop, Carla Sandbourn, on the L.A. force.  Experiencing Napier as an attractive male lead was a little more off-putting that initially thought.  The veteran actor, who began a career in the movie picture industry in his early 30s which was later than most of his counterparts, is hovering around early 50s in this role, middle of the ground with his physical appearance, and has a masculine square chin akin to Ron Pearlman with matching hair color to the “Hellboy” actor.  At an age gap of approx. 10 years between them at the time of filming, Napier and Turkel make their courtship appear easy; in fact, almost too easy as Turkel’s drops her shirt at the mere sight of McLemore dressed as a Scotsman blowing away at bagpipes for a gag effect in sleeping with him.  Both Napier and Sandbourn are charming enough to pull off a love affair without causing too much of a they’re so old stir.  “Serenity’s” Ron Glass plays the casual with the flow Partner Jerry Merris, “The Inglorious Bastards’” Bo Svenson is full of patience as the McLemore insubordination absorbing Captain Robertson, and the original Catwoman herself, from the Adam West “Batman” television series, Julie Newmar as a psychic who can clairvoyantly see the creature’s murderous mayhem.

The fact that “Deep Space” doesn’t take place at all in space is innately tongue in cheek to begin with, but that brand of flippancy courses through the film’s veins despite the blood splattering and semi-serious veneer, weaving between an action-horror and a horror-comedy during the entire 90-minutes.  Some of the comedy is intention, such as McLemore’s husky wit and sarcasm, but there’s also the extremely foggy campy side to this gem.  Some of these elements include the creature being hinted as a genetically mutated cockroach or the left field use of Julie Newmar’s psychic abilities that are randomly injected the storyline for the sole purpose of forewarning McLemore over the telephone rather being an intrinsic piece to stopping the creature.  The creature carnage would undoubtedly be investigated and exterminated without the psychic’s help, making her character farcical in futility.  “Deep Space” also pulls a little inspiration from “Alien,” maybe even the sequel, “Aliens,” with a toothy, long-headed, and eyeless black organism that resembles much like a Xenomorph or the Xenomorph queen and there’s also a near shot-for-shot sequence of a security guard whistling to and trying to persuade a cat to come to him while the monster rises from behind and strikes a fatal blow.  The scene is very reminiscent of Harry Dean Stanton’s death in “Alien.”  Being campy has it’s highlights but never can fully overshadow scenes that erect suspense or are saturated with gore which “Deep Space” has both with a combination of editing and piercingly sharp sound design and a rip-roaring, blood-splattering chainsaw kill that’s leaves that good metallic taste in your mouth.

There’s no escaping the blood-hungry tentacles of the “Deep Space” monster coming at you in a brand new 2018 high-definition master Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing, leased from MGM, and distributed by Ronin Flix and MVD Visual. The hard-locked region A Blu-ray is presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is rated R. Fred Olen Ray knew how to develop an eerie, twirling fog and wind atmosphere and this master crisps up that iconic trope image. Textural details and natural-appearing skin colors are delineated nicely throughout as you can make out every little blemish and hair on a shirtless Charles Napier as well as really getting into the slimy orifices of the creature and having a sense of its viscosity with a decisive sheen. Black areas are inky and dense with the right amount of grain in the overall picture and no obvious signs of image posterization, retaining the natural shadowing, along with no cropping or border enhancements. The English language DTS-HD master audio stereo finds common quality ground with a tidy dialogue track that does Napier’s resonating and recognizable jest justice. However, there is some hissing early on into the film, especially in the lab scenes in the contentious dialogue between the military general and the lead scientist. Omar Tal’s sound design proves vital to the story that relies on the screeching, the scuttling, the whooshing of tentacles, and the booming roars of the creatures, coinciding appropriately with Alan Oldfield and Robert O. Ragland’s rather run of the mill serrated and discordant electronic score. What “Deep Space” Blu-ray lacks is robust extras with only an audio commentary with director Fred Olen Ray and a scene selection index. “Deep Space” ages about as well as you expect over the last 35 years, but this Fred Olen Ray creature feature relic becomes rightfully preserved for being quintessential B-movie verve that no longer seems to exist in today’s age and also the fact that Charles Napier wears a kilt.

***Stills do not represent or were captured from the Blu-ray release

“Deep Space” Invades Blu-ray on Amazon.com!

Meir Zarchi Returns With Another Round of EVIL Exploitation! “I Spit On Your Grave Deja Vu” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)

Forty long years have passed since the sexual assaulting atrocities of Johnny Stillman and his gang were committed on the young and beautiful Jennifer Hills.  Empowered by her horrific tale of survival with the release of a new tell all book of how she outwitted and took homicidal revenge on her rapists by luring them in with her sexual persuasions, Hills finds herself back in familiar terrorizing territory being kidnapped by Johnny’s devoutly vindictive widow and three living relatives of the gang that once ganged raped and brutally beat her, but she’s not alone.  Captive with her as collateral damage is her famous supermodel daughter, Christy.  Both are caught up in an eye-for-an-eye revenge plot where being lethal is the only means of survival and with a long history of resentment, rooted deep inside Johnny’s kin, fighting back will take every ounce of resilience and strength against a community of hellbent sociopaths. 

Circa 2005-2006 is around the time I first bared witness to Meir Zarchi’s 1978 controversial exploitation shocker, “I Spit on Your Grave.”  Popping in the DVD popped open my eyes to the world of graphic vengeance and the submission to primal, carnal whims inside the human-on-human violence context.  Before Zarchi’s film, which is also known as “Day of the Woman,” and even Wes Craven’s “The Last House on the Left,” this neophyte’s description and knowledge of horror was limited to the stymies of broadcast television that only aired edited and censored slashers like the “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween” series or supernatural presences of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Poltergeist.”  Never has the likes of “I Spit on Your Grave” been a red pill option into the vast horror matrix for this then college kid who glazed over with the façade of sleeping through studies and worrying over trivial matters involving the opposite sex.  In a way, Zarchi was a kind of Morpheus to me when I started purchasing physical media that opened my eyes and my mind to the rape and revenge facet in horror hidden behind the commercial veil.  In 2010, a Zarchi produced reboot saw more light in the commerciality and spawned two sequels in its wake, but not until 2019 did Zarchi get back to writing and sit back in his director’s chair to helm an official, yet less commercial, sequel entitled “I Spit On Your Grave Déjà Vu” or “Day of the Woman Déjà vu” that was produced by his limited company banner, Déjà Vu LLC with son Terry Zarchi and Jan O’Connell producing.

The long-awaited sequel reteamed Zarchi with original lead actress, and also ex-wife, Camille Keaton, distant relative of the famed comedy and stunt actor, Buster Keaton.  Camille Keaton, who looks phenomenal in her 70s during production, steps back into the infamous Jennifer Mills role that made her a household name amongst grindhouse-horror community.  Though completely nude for most of the 1978 film, that part of her performance takes a step back for a new actress to pave a new path in the saga.  Obscure indie scream queen Jamie Bernadette (“Axeman,” “The Bunnyman Massacre”) is ceremoniously passed the torched as the new riches to ragdoll as the Jennifer Mill’s unhappy supermodel daughter, Christy, who becomes haplessly snagged into her mother’s unforgotten past.  Bernadette offers a variable beauty and a diverse poise that doesn’t make Christy a carbon copy of Jennifer Hills, but the actresses deliver the same apathetic venom of a woman scorn.  More of a carbon copy is the four backwoods bumpkins fuming over Jennifer Mills’ vindictive dissecting of their dead relatives.  The gang is spearheaded by Beck, played by Maria Olsen who, like Bernadette, has made a name for herself in low-budget horror having roles in films such as “To Jennifer,” “Starry Eyes,” and “Gore Orphanage.”  Olsen projects Becky as the gas station attendant from Hell, someone you don’t want to interact too long with as you’re pumping gas in the middle of nowhere, but Becky is not a woman of a few words who constantly has to remind us, to the blistering point of annoying, that she must avenge her late husband’s sinful murderess.  The rest of the gang didn’t impress much after that.  Jonathan Peacy has a chance to shine from out of the extra and bit part shadows as the crazed and hyperactive Kevin, brother of Stanley from the original film, and while Peacy channels his best Al Leong look, Kevin is ultimate a big detrimental goof with small dog syndrome than actual menace.    The last two aren’t any better with a lackluster act by Jeremy Ferdman as Andy’s cousin and “Tales of Frankenstein’s” Jim Tavaré’s rather befuddling downplay of Matthew’s mentally disordered father, Herman, who teeters back and forth between morals with a jumbled underlay of piety.  There are not many sane performances in a rather loose and unbridled Zarchi follow up with a cast that rounds out with Alexandra Kenworthy, Roy Allen III, and Holgie Forrester.

Performances aside, “I Spit on Your Grave Déjà vu” is also a cacophony of yelling as the script, from paper to pronunciation, reaches top of the lung levels with every bit of dialogue from every player in this tussle of who’s right and who’s wrong when it comes down to justifications of killing.  Zarchi’s sequel lacks the tact his first film achieves so delicately with Mills post-assault softer approach to lay waste her assailants.  “Déjà vu” satisfies its own revenge kicks with little subtly in trying to be outrageous, outlandish, and off its rocker as the confrontation between Christy and the gang becomes a rancorous grudge match.  What concerns me most about “Déjà vu” is the year in which this sequel takes place.  Between the 1978 original and the 2019 follow up, 40 years have passed, but the characters don’t fit any of Father Time’s natural aging characteristics on the surface.  Becky looks okay as an early to mid-60s woman despite Maria Olsen’s actual age being early 50s at the time of filming and release.  Herman is another one that sneaks into fathomable constructs as a character living a farmer’s life in the latter half of middle age, but I question whether Kevin and Scotty were even born yet.  The two youngsters barely seem to be out of their 30s and the same can be said for Christy where much more of her life is revealed as the story progresses.   If following the script logic, I would assume the story takes place in the 90s, but certain technologic advances, like modern day touchscreen phones, suggests no earlier than late 2000s.  As a whole, time and space don’t appear to exist on any reasonable plane for the film with characters able to bump into each at random intervals despite being a densely wooded and rural location and, for all you cinematographers out there, if your location is supposed to be rural, don’t shoot in at a cemetery with a massive grave footprint with a stream of cars speeding down a busy suburban street.  You instantly lose the illusion.  Zarchi’s intentions were clear to only echo the original while allowing for individuality with a brasher onslaught of right versus wrong, eye for an eye, and misguided righteousness for injustice, but the execution crumbles with excruciating results, never reaching the same poetic justice the first film accomplishes so graphically grafted. 

As far as rape and revenge exploitation is considered, “I Spit on Your Grave Déjà vu” gets about as down and dirty and ugly as they come.  Cult movie curator, Ronin Flix, delivers the Meir Zarchi sequel onto Blu-ray home video, presented in 1080p, full high definition, with a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  A+ for natural lighting, skin tones, and overall appeal, Pedja Radenkovic’s cinematography is about as uninspiring as they come artistically, but, as a personal preference, the shots are more organic, raw, and less distracting from the content that’s much more abrasive and interesting.  A more natural framework also more time for Russell FX’s practical effects to be showcased without enhanced imagery.  As long as the details are there (they are), no damage is concerning (there wasn’t), and the framing made sense (for the most part), “Déjà vu” can be considered a win for Radenkovic.  The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack for “Déjà vu” is a blessing and a curse.  Dialogue clarity is excellent and there’s a wide range to exploit, forgive the punned term, each channel with great balance, but remember what I said about all the character yelling?  Also, with the higher bitrate DTS, the quality is too good for some of the applied ambient effects like the exhaust sputtering of an old Ford pickup that sounds way too fake and way too close despite its positioning in the scene. The region A, not rated Blu-ray is stored on a BD50 due in part to the film’s massive 148 runtime and the inclusion of special features that include a new audio commentary with film critic and “The Last Drive-In” host Joe Bob Briggs, select cast interviews, the making of the film, behind the scenes footage from producer Terry Zarchi, and the theatrical trailer. Is “I Spit on Your Grave Deja Vu” the long-awaited sequel to Meir Zarchi’s first film? I’d say they’re two totally different exploitation entities cut from the same cloth with ties only in names and some flashbacks alone, but both films would make for a great double bill that starts with a harrowing, nothing-to-lose, woebegone toned, revenge thriller complimented with a lukewarm and unfocused follow up to help come down off the original’s gripping ultra-violence high.

Ronin Flix’s “I Spit on Your Grave Deja Vu” Blu-ray available at Amazon.com!