The Dying Baltic Traditions Live in the Ashes of EVIL. “Cult Girls” (Umbrella Entertainment / DVD)

The pagan Cult, the Golden Path, remains nearly all that is left of the ancient practice as Lithuania becomes one of the last countries to be converted to Christianity in the late 14th century.  Led by an archaic, yet powerful, goddess named Ragana, the Golden Path promises to flourish once again with the power of death, reincarnation, and control through sordid misdeeds.  When Dalia and her two young sisters become prepped for a ritual of an important role in the cult, potentially leading them down the path of sex and sacrifice, a traitorous follower helps the sisters attempt to escape their emmeshing fate as the police raid the Golden Path compound ensuing a firefight that leads to the death Ragana and Dalia’s getaway, but her sisters are kidnapped and held captive by the remaining cult members.  Years later and riddled with guilt, Dalia must know what happened to her sisters and she tracks down a death metal cultist, Moloch, who seemingly has a connection to Golden Path, with the help of Samoth, a black metal fanatic, but Moloch forestry hermit lifestyle cuts off Dalia and Samoth from the rest of the world and the convicted arsonist against all things Christianity may have more up his sleeve than what meets the eye.

With a title that sounds like an all-girl goth band from the grunge era of the 1990’s, or maybe even more so from the “Scooby Doo” franchise (Hex Girls anyone?), “Cult Girls” summons the actuality of being an acute quasi-historical and dark fantasy thriller hailing from the Ozploitation capital of the world, Australia.  “Cult girls” is the second, non-documentary film from “The Matrix’ inspired “Narcosys” director, Mark Bakaitis, who directed, wrote, and edited his the multi-location sophomore film that has on location scenes from not only in Australia, but also in Lithuania, at the notable Hill of Crosses landmark, and in the indiscernible urban locations of Germany.  Bakaitis serves as producer alongside executive producer Douglas Kaplan of the diverse arts platform production company, All Edge Entertainment, based in Santa Monica, California. 

The Australian production casts an American to star as Ragana, the brood matriarch destined to rejuvenate Golden Path’s permanence, with “V’s” very own Jane Badler.  Badler brings an international presence to the feature and isn’t a stranger to films from the down under.  With the actress’s soul-seducing cutting eyes and demonic empress allure, the New York born Badler exacts Ragana’s clutching strength as an underground Pagan seeking unlimited decadent power.  However, Badler is overshadowed by the timorousness of Dalia whose polar opposite presence is granted a more favorable chunk of screen time.  Finnish born Saara Lamberg plays the humbled Dalia, living her life out of a covenant while searching out the cult that once almost stitched her into the sew of sleazy affairs to unearth the whereabouts of her younger sisters.  Dalia’s a bit of a dull principle with no substantiated efforts in finding her siblings and it isn’t until Samoth stalks her one night, recognizing the Golden Path’s symbol tattooed on her wrist and offering his manhunt services to find the expelled Moloch, an exaggerated black metal anti-Christianity anarchist in a saturating performance by Albert Goikhman.  In the middle, masked brutes, half naked women, and, fallen by the waist side, Dalia’s sisters in standalone plot point narratives that, as far as story structure goes, does nothing to motivate the narrative other than be an ostentatious aesthetic of locations and debauchery.  “Cult Girls” rounds out the cast with Tony Markulin (“MurderDrome”), Algias Karazija, Dean Kirkright, a handful of Bakaitis’s family, and Simay Argento, a distant relative to Dario Argeno playing a Cult Auntie in the film.

“Cult Girls” borders being avant-garde of an unfiltered auteur’s will in a mesh of artistic polishes and prose dialogue, but the film slides into being more of an 83 minute music video over staying it’s welcome and drudges through a repetitive stylistic cycle to an almost nearly unwatchable extent.  Yet, “Cult Girls” somehow manages to retain attention despite the chewy acting and it’s ambling story that hits a dam wall of uncertainly of where the script should head. Bakaitis shoulders the story for modern Gothicism tapped with half naked occultist, sometimes bathing in blood, and a plague of nightmare imagery that director of photography Trent Schneider tunes into well with noir vitality despite being the cinematographer’s debut feature film, but through the shiny exterior of a handful of solid mise-en-scene work, “Cult Girls” numbs the impact of the soul corrupting Pagan syndicate, that may or may not be shrouded with supernatural foundations, and the anti-Christian propaganda with half-baked violence from geriatric men, masked with Dia de los Muertos style masks, able to be kingpins of an untouchable prostitution ring façade for their occult sacrifices in broad public without a bat of an eyelash.  Granted, prostitution is likely legal in Germany and Lithuania so authorities might turn a blind eye, but brothels are a convenient opportunity for police investigations. “Cult Girls” treasures the fact of Lithuania’s languishing heritage without being overly filmic heresy by blending in shaded sleaze and death, but there lies no story in Dalia’s unenthusiastic search for her sisters in a much more preacherly themed death metal horror that confuses cult with religion.

 

Apocalyptic reincarnations and traditional folklores collide in Mark Bakaitis’s “Cult Girls” on DVD now from Umbrella Entertainment. The Australian release is a single layer DVD with region 4, PAL encoded format, presented in a widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Trent Schneider’s keen eye captures a grim fairytale surface of black magic masochism and, at the same time, breathtaking in the pure nature scenes, but the imagery is mostly in devoid of richer color that lingers around a bluish-gray monochrome tone and struggles with hazy details, especially around facial features, that smoothly fuzz over. The English, German, and Lithuanian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix battens down with shiplap genres of traditional Lithuania folk and modern metal from composing sound designer Erin McKimm, implementing the traditional songs of Lithuania sung by the Melbourne-Lithuania community singers, The Lost Clogs. Industrial action fills in every nook and cranny of the remaining score with decent range and depth of ambiance. While the dialogue is prominent and clear, there are spelling errors and tiny text issues with the English subtitles when the narrative lands in Germany and Lithuania. The DVD’s bonus features includes audio commentary, making of featurettes with cast and crew interviews, Bakaitis’s short film, “Mercy Kill” that serves one of the founding themes for “Cult Girls,” and music videos directed by Mark Bakaitis. For an Australian film, “Cult Girls” will feel more worldly, unlike anything else that comes out of Australia, and have partisan propaganda against Christianity, but in the end, the insidious Pagan evil, on the precipice of resurrecting, wearies on, like a tireless sermon of doom.

Bill Murray’s Suggested Actresses for Female Ghostbuster Film.

Bill Murray will forever be an ultimate and timeless hero to everyone. If you don’t like Bill Murray, than you’re obviously an idiot because what is their not to like about a comedic icon who loves to crash weddings and end up being the face of all of American’s hipster community? So when news came out today that Bill Murray, at the Toronto International Film Festival, gave his his opinion on who should be cast in the new Ghostbuster film, I was rather disappointed in his taste.

Melissa McCarthy
Kristen Wiig
Linda Cardellini
Emma Stone

The list is…well…eh. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson were practically every day looking Joes and a couple of those guys weren’t really funny.

I, personally, would not suggest Melissa McCarthy. I could never in a million years image her with a proton pack strapped to her. Subtlety, in a comedy sense, was very much a part of the Ghostbuster persona and McCarthy has not one subtle bone in her body as she’s an “in-your-face” type comedy actress.

Kristen Wiig, I’m good with. I think she’s awkward enough like Murray to pull off the lead role for the film and still have a sexy side of her while busting some ghouls. Her comedy style could be comparable to Murray’s as she is not necessarily over the top with her performances and doesn’t try to steal the show but yet add to the material of the other cast members.

Linda Cardellini made a good Velma in the Scooby Doo movies. As a Ghostbuster, I don’t think she has what it takes as I picture Cardelline more of a Janine Melnitz type character, but since this is a Ghostbuster movie with all female cast, will Janine’s role be replaced by a nerdy, yet somewhat irresistibly cute, man? I shutter at the thought.

Emma Stone comes off a bit dry. Her role would resemble that of Ernie Hudson’s Winston – the character that just joins the ranks for a paycheck. To be one of the guys but stays in the background most of the time. Stone doesn’t have the on screen persona that the original trio (Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis) possess and I would expect too many chefs in the kitchen amongst women star power.

So in all, Kristen Wiig was my only keeper, but who would I chose? Whom am I to fans? I’m certainly no Bill Murray, but I am a fan of film and of actresses and I think the following would be a great cast. Keep Kristen Wiig for the sole reasons I have above. Lets add in a blonde as in Amy Poehler with her subtleness and silliness works well. Mary Elizabeth Winstead would be my next choice because of her dark side that accompanies her – a good choice to be the Egon Spengler equivalent. Then either Mindy Kaling for her awkwardly funny quips or Rinko Kikuchi to be the stand out, kick ass Ghostbuster who seems standout like a sore thumb.

These are just my thoughts and I wouldn’t mind hearing yours!

Kristen Wiig

Kristen Wiig

Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler

Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling

Rinko Kikuchi

Rinko Kikuchi

Didn’t know Vincent Price could be so evil! Witchfinder General review!

My experiences with Vincent Price films is almost next to none.  All I got is his voice and likeness appearances on the Scooby Doo cartoons.  I didn’t quite know what to expect when delving into the Odeon Entertainment’s Blu-ray edition of Witchfinder General.  Something to the like of being light hearted and tame was my initial impressions before even watching the movie because I had this idea that Vincent Price was too family oriented and that the late 60’s wouldn’t allow much to be reveal as far as shock and vulgarity value goes.  Boy, was I wrong…

As England is in distress due to a civil war amongst the Royalist and Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads, an unforeseen man rises to power exploiting village superstitions for his own gain in wealth and sexual prowess.  Matthew Hopkins travels from village to village proclaiming those innocent to be witches and having them confess by brutally sadistic tortures in which there are no ways out.  These tortures are carried out by his brute of an accomplice John Stearne.  When Hopkins and Stearne kill a falsely prosecuted priest and repeatedly rape his niece, they invoke the vengeance of militant Richard Marshall who is engaged to the priest’s niece.

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