An Experiment Backfiring with EVIL Payback. “Moonchild” reviewed! (Visual Vengeance / Blu-ray)

“Moonchild” now on Blu-ray from Visual Vengeance!

An Inhuman government body of a dystopian future experiments with genetic splicing to create the ultimate weapon, known as Project Moonchild, against the human rebellion. That weapon, Jacob Stryker, is unaware of his newly encoded abilities when he escapes one of their holding labs to rescue his captive son from the very same apathetic regime. Stryker teams up with a group of human rebels and uncover by mistake Stryker’s hidden super solider talent of turning into an unstoppable beast – a werewolf. Hellbent on taking down his son’s brainwashing captives by any means necessary and to do it before an intestinal bomb explodes within 72 hours, Stryker convinces the rebels to assist him and now they have an ace in the pocket as they traverse in search for Stryker’s boy, encountering android and mutant bounty hunters, cannibalistic human survivors, and a surfeit of governmental soldiers hot on his tail, but when the werewolf comes out, Project Moonchild is out to seek and destroy those son-stealing son-a-of-bitches by ripping them to shreds.

Director Todd Sheets has long been considered one of the kings of SOV. The “Zombie Rampage” and “Clownado” Kansas City filmmaker writes and directs “Moonchild,” the 1994 direct-to-video, post-societal, lycanthropy actioner is Sheets’ attempt in splintering himself away from the gore. The American Prince of Gore and the Master of Splatter accomplishes the lessened bloodletting and liquid innards coming outwards werewolf feature with a dystopian rescuer that pits what remains of a separatist human society on a verge of collapse to go on a quest to cure a dividing mutation affliction and to go up against the malign immortals of killers and assassins constructed with nuts and bolts and sawblades on a super independent budget. The ambitious project comes with car chases, a large cast, and a hairy beast that fights for family! Executive producer Greg Petrak returns to Todd Sheets’ side after “Bloodthirsty Cannibal Demons” and is a production of Sheets’ very own Extreme Entertainment, a now 34-year standing product company based out of Kansas City, Missouri. Feel old yet?

Playing the lab rat, the werewolf, and the integral hero, Jacob Stryker, to the story is Auggi Alvarez (“Zombie Bloodbath”) as a widowed father who will stop at nothing to save his son Caleb (Stefan Hilt) in the hands of iron-hearted inhuman leader, Lothos (Harry Rose). Alvarez, like much of the rest of the cast, fall into a monotonal expositional black hole that can make “Moonchild” a slog between the excitement. While fleeing captivity, Stryker runs into Rocky (Julie King, “Zombie Bloodbath 2”), Talon (Dave Miller, “Violent New Breed”), and Athena (Kathleen McSweeney, “Violent New Breed), a band of underground resistant fighters who are desperate enough to overthrow the authoritarian ruling class that’s comprised of henchmen with duct tape masks and are skippered by a mustache wearing an unadorned samurai kabuto helmet – catching a tad resemblance to Mel Brooks’ Lord Helmet of “Space Balls.” If you have noticed already, the cast is an entourage of Todd Sheets regulars, a small niche of actors and actress with close ties to the Master of Splatter and have reoccurring roles in most the director’s early 90s indie gems. That trend continues with Carol Barta (“Prehistoric Bimbos in Armeggedon City”) as the bounty hunter, Medusa. Looking more like your next-door neighbor grandmother, Medusa is viper-tongued assassin with an unforgettable cackle and a throaty super ability that’ll inject nightmares for nights to come. Barta’s performance is one of those cliched it’s so bad, its good acts that you have to see to believe. Cathy Metz, Kyrie King, Rebecca Rose, Jody Rovick, and Mike Hellman round out the cast.

Character names drenched with Greek mythology inspiration and a contemporary take on the werewolf canon, “Moonchild” is an interesting and unorthodox story to say at least. Todd Sheets had obviously perfected the limited capabilities of S-VHS shooting or was confident enough to build in a lengthy car chase into a project that didn’t rely on disgusting audiences with blood and guts, but rather actionable thrills and singular characters of the post-apocalypse with only a smidgen of horror. You see, the werewolf doesn’t make too many appearances on screen, only surfacing from beneath Jacob Stryker’s human skin twice in total. The wolfish transformation is shoddy but for the budget, there is an appreciation for the amazing looking effect as well as the other practical effects throughout the feature. “Moonchild’s” pacing can be concernedly plodding to make sure the exposition covers aspect of Stryker’s intentions, slowing down the film to the point sluggishness. It doesn’t help that the scripted word-for-word, automaton performances are not tonally textured with droning dialogue that can’t captivate and contributes to the fatigue at times. Though “Moonchild” is an evolving project for Sheets with conviction in his ability to produce, there are still some editing continuity blunders that downgrade the overall result. Upward closeup shots of Julie King as she looks down when supposedly holding a rifle on Auggi Alvarez show her hand mock holding a rifle as it comes into the frame and then the next cut is the actress actually holding a rifle. Another scene involving King has her smash in the head of a traitor on a concrete floor and the next shot is of her running down the hallway away from where the body should be but wasn’t. The corpse had vanished. Howlers, pun intended, like these conspicuous examples are what depreciate an already discounted movie, curbing any kind of recognition for Todd Sheets going outside his blood and guts comfort zone.

As one of Visual Vengeance’s SOV cult-horror titles, we come to expect temperamental image and sound quality from the Wild Eye Releasing banner due to the consumer grade S-VHS equipment and the novicey of the filmmakers as, and mostly related to the former, Visual Vengeance warns of prior to the start of every feature so thus far, but the 50GB, MPEG-4 encoded, 2-disc Blu-ray set, that presents the feature in 1080p of the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, is the best technical-looking SOV to date for the company. Hardly any tracking issues, artefact issues, and any tape distortion of any kind and while still lacking premium quality as we all expect today, nothing is taken away from “Moonchild’s” original SD master transfer that is a director supervised. The single soundtrack audio option is an English analogue 1.0 mono mix and the dialogue as well as the score come over nicely despite a less punchy channel output. There’s a steady, feature length electrical interference from start-to-finish that is no surprise and is not terribly audio intrusive. Depth suffers mostly with the type of equipment that doesn’t filter and level out ambient noise, but the range of sound is pleasant with the added clip tracks. English subtitles are option. The bonus features include two new audio commentaries – director Todd Sheets and star Auggi Alverz and Todd Shoots and Visual Vengeance. Other bonus features include the alternate VHS cut, Wolf Moon Rising documentary, archival behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews featurette, the original VHS trailer, deleted ending, the Todd Sheets’ directed music video Burn the Church by the now defunct Kansas City-based, goth metal band Descension, short film “Sanguinary Desires,” trailer for Todd Sheets “Bonehill Road,” and other Visual Vengeance trailers.” The phyical release comes with a 2nd disc, a bonus audio CD of the movie soundtrack, reversible cover art featuring original VHS cover on the inside, new art on the clear cased Blu-ray snapper, and original art on the cardboard slipcover by The Dude Designs aka Thomas Hodge. Inside the snapper lining are four-page liner notes by Matt Desiderio, folded mini poster of the snapper front cover, and the standard VHS throwback sticker sheet. “Moonchild” on a Visual Vengeance Blu-ray comes unrated, region free, and with a runtime of 87-minutes. Todd Sheets is a maniacal moviemaking machine with “Moonchild” being released a decade after the gorehound began and there’s plenty of admirable spirit and effects in the Kansas City werewolf in dystopia tale, but one can’t shrug off the oversights and the exasperating exposition that goes way off trail the turbulent path of indie filmmaking.

“Moonchild” now on Blu-ray from Visual Vengeance!

Channeling the EVIL from the EVIL DEAD! “Slaughter Day” reviewed! (Visual Vengeance / Blu-ray)

SOV “Slaughter Day” on Bluray for the First Time Ever!

A pair of friends who run a small construction company drive up to an isolated cabin project in the outskirt nooks of Hawaii.  When they arrived, they encounter disgruntled employee John Jones who dabbles in the dark occult.  Having murdered already one of their construction crew members, Jones invokes the evil from the book of the dead, the Necronomicon, to bestow upon himself unnatural powers to seek revenge for years of abuse on the job.  Enslaving two other members of the construction Crew, Jones relentless goes after his former employers who must fight tooth and nail for every minute of their lives.  The fight stretches across the island and spills into the streets, abandoned factories, tropical brush, and even on the side of a mountain. 

“The Evil Dead” meets “Double Dragon!”  A fierce bareknuckle fight against a malevolently possessed construction crew is the not-stop action and gore premise of the Brent Cousins’ “Slaughter Day.”  The heavily influenced Sam Rain and “The Evil Dead” 1991 shot-on-video occult survival horror is co-written by Brent’s twin brother, Blake Cousins.  The twins’ filmic debut concept where a maniacal occult enthusiast goes on the offensive with his vindictive side by conducting dark, Necronomicon evil against the two construction supervisors is pieced together, scene-by-scene, from the various shorts created when they were adolescents.  The four short films from their inspired youth were revisited and remade into a full length feature film financed by a nearly a next-to-nothing zilch budget, but with more than a little can-do attitude, a group of close friends and family, and a willingness to drench the cast in splatter bags fill of fake blood, Brent and Blake’s balls-to-the-wall, commercial grade equipment schlocker never lets up and pays endearment to the legendary video nasties that have stimulated their need for tangible blood-shedding effects.  “Slaughter Day” is a self-funded labor of love under the Cousins Brothers Productions and is made in one of the more tropical places on Earth, the Big Island of Hawai’i, with a few scenes shot in the town of Honokaa.

Aside from being one of the two writers, Blake Cousins jumps in the front seat to become one of the hapless heroes in the suddenly twisted, Hellish ride of that classic story of good versus evil. Blake embodies one of the few aspects that makes the viewing of “Slaughter Day” so infectiously exciting with a high intensity level somewhere around near redline critical. The intensity spreads to each and every actor in front of the camera and with Blake’s breakneck pacing as the film’s post-production editor, there’s a side-scrolling, beat’em-up video game quality about the whole run through. The acting isn’t terribly good with haywire yelling and screaming from start-to finish with a lack of professional training that gives way to under developing a story, but story be damned, the brother Cousins ambitiously puts caution to the wind by balancing out the acidic acting with exceptional camera work that occasionally would involve hazardous to their own health amateur stunt work. The unharnessed and unpadded fight sequence in the back of the pickup truck gets mad props in succeeding instead of squashing someone’s head under the tire. If everyone lives and you get the shot, it’s a win, right? The fight sequences themselves are extensive, as I aforesaid, the breadth of the short feature is like experience a live action “Streets of Rage 2,” and they have the smack of decent choreography with near miss blows and head whips. Some of the bigger fake hits lack sterling results but are nonetheless entertaining and expected. “Slaughter Day’s” cast is made up of essentially a closeknit group of friends with performances from Sam Bluestone, Dave Anderson, John Lambert, Kulaka Branco, Jeremy Couchiardi, Joe Ross, and Lincoln Ross who all have never again seen the gaffer lights of another film production.

“Slaughter Day” has many flaws: bad acting, continuity mistakes, not much of a plot, etc. While honest attempst were made to rectify a handful of those sore points, those very same imperfections are what make “Slaughter Day” ironically perfect in the SOV canon. Some of the gags land relatively smooth, such as being John Jones being bent backwards in half and sucked into a copy of the pop media cultural influencing H.R. Giger’s Necronomicon book, and others kind of flounder in the lukewarm stew of unskilled technical know-hows. Yet, I do firmly believe the brothers achieved a memorable salute to Sam Raimi’s breakthrough 1981 video nasty, “The Evil Dead” in pulling more so the macabre-isms then comedic slapstick elements of the “3 Stooges.” Brent and Blake obviously understood what they wanted to see and how much familiar content they wanted to rework to open the recesses of our memory banks to access and recall “The Evil Dead” playbook, but then the flyby the seat of their pants filmmakers take their committed vision farther by adding certifiably crazy stunts and be big and bloody as all bloody hell! Severed limbs, decapitations, exploding shotgun bursts, and impalings are difficult for even the most seasoned effects artist, taking sometimes years to master a simple effect to perfection. With “Slaughter Day,” the brothers are unafraid to take risks, something the filmmakers proved with audacious stunts, by rendering a practical effect inclined storyboard or script thought to the screen tactic and owned it with a pinch of panache pizzazz!

“Slaughter Day” might be release number five for Visual Vengeance but is clearly the Wild Eye Releasing cult-horror SOV sublabel’s second adulation of “The Evil Dead,” following “Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell.” The rough-and-ready S-VHS quality, presented in a full screen 1.33:1 from the original standard definition master tapes, can take on a grueling affect with a below par outcome. Tape lacks the proper color resolutions and that displays here immensely with full of deep and warm purples, reds, and yellows that you’d think the brothers were using gels to tint the picture. Tape wears, static interference, tracking lines… you name it, ‘Slaughter Day” visually had it. Delineation and details are deduced to a softer, overlapping ghost image that barely yokes together resolution pertinent pixels. Like always, Visual Vengeance’s disclaimer warns of the consumer grade equipment issues. These issues extend also into the English Stereo audio mix with a consciously underlay of static shushing, lo-fi dialogue recording, and zero depth and range to add more fuel to the “Slaughter Day’s” chaotic fire. Perhaps that’s why the dialogue is terribly rampant with the hope to invigorate and illicit engrossing captivation. The video game punch throw sound bites are a good touch and a innovative way to keep with the fighting game motif. The special features include a new audio commentary by directors Brent and Blake Cousins, a new audio commentary with Visual Vengeance’s own Matt Desiderio and Rob Hauschild, a quickly paced new interview with the Cousins Brothers regarding the genesis of “Slaughter Day” and they’re excitement about the new Blu-ray release, all four original “Slaughter Day” shorts, an earlier short entitled “Full Metal Platoon,” the “Slaughter Day” theme song, trailers from other Cousins films, such as “Rising Dead,” and the original trailer cut. Physical release features include a mini poster of the Visual Vengeance cover artwork, a three-page colorful essay from long time cinema contributing writer Tony Strauss, retro Visual Vengeance stickers that has graced all the company’s releases so far, a reversible cover art with new artwork as well as the original VHS art, and a cardboard slipcover with a heavily demonic and menacing Thomas “The Dude” Hodge design. The film comes unrated and has a runtime just shy of an hour at 58 minutes. I always get the warm and fuzzies when obscure works of art receive the red-carpet release treatment and “Slaughter Day” is an exemplar of SOV at its best while being innately its technically worst. Lots of ambition, lots of derived creativity, and lots of guts behind and in front of the camera to make a life-long dream of filmmaking come true.

SOV “Slaughter Day” on Bluray for the First Time Ever!

Evil’s Ultimate Climax. “Gorgasm” review!


A low on the totem poll detective receives the chance to get out from behind a paperwork overloaded desk to investigate the gruesome death of a seemingly BDS&M gone array. The case lures the investigator through the muck of the sleazy and sexy underground to where an independent zine lists GORGASM as the ultimate climax. With every lead, GORGASM connects them all and there’s one person, one suspect, on his radar and her name is Tara, the face of GORGASM. Tara’s a psychopathic call girl, aiming to dish out a finitely pleasurable zenith to those who want more than just sex, and the unlikely hero detective embraces the case personally to put a stop to Tara’s gruesome delusional calling before he’s sucked into an inescapable world blended with lustful carnalities and death.

“Gorgasm.” By title alone, “Gorgasm” has already peaked interest and paved for a path of optimism and delight despite the inkling in the back of the mind about the film’s low-budget shlock. In any case, the title comes from the imagination of creator, writer, director of “Dead Silence,” a one Mr. Hugh Gallagher, and is his 1990 sophomore feature that showcase plenty of violence in an ostentatious psychosexual thriller. Gallagher, perhaps, isn’t the first to delve into porn’s mucky and sleazy underworld that’s universally stigma in many cultures, but, and again perhaps, is the first to explore the many facets that porn has to offer and highlights the habituating circumstances porn has to morph into to keep up with customer demand, whether it involves whips, clips, and chains or to be more specific in the realm of fetishes.

Gallagher didn’t manage to make any old, run-of-the-mill low-budget venture, but managed to do so with a professional lead in Rik Billock. The name might sound familiar to horror fanatics. Billock has been a stock regular in George Romero films: “Dawn of the Dead,” “Knightriders,” “Monkey Shines,” and in “The Dark Half.” He also had a small, yet door knocking down roll in Tom Savini’s “Night of the Living Dead.” Billock’s a bright star with an organic singularity amongst a mechanical lineup, popping out like a child’s pop-out book that solidifies his presence. Even his co-lead, introducing an actress only known as Gabriela, a former wrestling-affiliated performer in her first feature film. Gabriela is stunning, beautiful, and well-endowed, perfectly casted to be the personal-placing killer call girl with dark features and though her method is a bit monotoned and monologuing, Gabriela’s looks really do standalone. “Gorgasm” also co-stars Paula Hendricks who puts a real damper into the ebb and flow of being a strict and condescending sergeant to Billock’s character, but the silver lining is that this Hendrick’s sole credited role. Rounding out the cast includes Paula Gallagher, Kevin Patterson, Denis Hellrung, and co-producer Flint Mitchell in a show-stopping slimeball performance as a sleazy magazine owner.

With an extreme and inviting title like “Gorgasm,” there comes a usual, if not blatantly given, perception that blood will flow and guts will be strung and plastered on forefront of the featured scenes, but to an extent, the gore and the blood splatter were surprisingly granular results and doesn’t ultimately champion an autassassinophilia effect. However, don’t be scornfully turned away from Gallagher’s film if “Gorgasm” isn’t locked and loaded with blood drenching entrails and other body fluids and fleshy tissue. Gallagher executes tasty scenes of violence and mortality on a budget with examples being a garage door decapitation and a kill shot to the vagina. There’s also a weed whacker chewing through a pervs face. “Gorgasm,” perhaps, does find space in the gore and shock subgenre pie, even if only a sliver of a piece.

MVDVisual and SRS Cinema release the Draculina Productions film, “Gorgasm,” onto DVD home video and present the film on the original SOV, full-frame format that’s pleasantly held up over the last 28 years. Aliasing is quite common on shot-on-vide, even on Super VHS that director Hugh Gallagher shoots the film, and the coloring has a slight washed look, but considering the VHS monstrosities out in the world today on DVD, “Gorgasm” has no ill-will toward this release. The uncompressed PCM 1.0 mono track has limited depth and range with a consistent static hiss throughout, but generally adequate with clear dialogue upfront. The “bloody” bonus features include a commentary with Hugh Gallagher, behind-the-scenes footage, and trailers. Also, the grisly-gorgeous illustrated cover art by Mike Mez Phillips is exquisitely killer and on point. While director Hugh Gallagher mediocrely went through the nuts and bolts of vehement slasher violence without really thickening already deep pool of gore, the director did manage to fulfill a promising title with meshing sexual deviancy and blood in an entertainingly provocative feature. Rik Billock and Gabriela, whose half naked through more than half the 82 minute runtime, embraces their twisted characters that you’ll love to death!