Forcing Conformity on EVIL is a Violent Cause. “Murder in a Blue World” reviewed! (Cauldron Films / Blu-ray)

“Murder in a Blue World” now available on Blu-ray!  Purchase a Copy Here at Amazon.com!

Nurse Ana Vernia lives in an authoritarian, dystopian world where she just received a commendation for her work, but beneath the archetype of a scrutinizing society seeking to acculturate deviants by way of involuntary electroshock treatments, Ana moonlights in her own violent behavior as an act of mercy. Under the pretense of disguises, Ana seduces men aberrant to the social norms, returns them to her luxurious mansion, sleeps with them, and to then only murder them with precision before they can be subjected to imperious judgement for being different. All the while, societal dissentient David, an exiled member of a brutal gang, witnesses Ana’s exploits and infiltrates her home, her life, to garner incriminating evidence in order to blackmail her for money, but when David is tracked down for his former gang and beaten to near death, he comes ironically under the care of nurse Ana who plans to fix David before his fate before the electroshock treatments.

Get ready to dial high on voltage on the social commentary scale, “Murder in the Blue World” is a fascinating, dystopian look at social disorder. Heavily influenced in more ways than one by Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” the Eloy de la Iglesia 1973 picture was once entitled “Clockwork Terror” in the U.S. to ride the lucrative coattails of Kubrick’s symphony to violence. Also known in other parts of the world as “To Love, Perhaps to Die,” “Satansbrut” (“Satan’s Fiend”), and “La clinique des horreurs” (“The Clinic of Horrors”), Iglesia’s original penned script and title actually “Una gota de sangre para morir amando” (“A Drop of Blood to Die Loving”), co-written with José Luis Garci (“El Teroso”), Antonio Artero (“El tesoro del capitán Tornado”), George Lebourg, and Antonio Fos (“Panic Beats”). The Spanish film goes internationally by many monikers but has one objective and that is to counter the dictation of free-thinking individuals with violence. “Murder in a Blue World” is produced by José Frade under his self-titled production company, José Frade Producciones Cinematográficas S.A.

“Murder in a Blue World” is so much so in the Stanley Kubrick wake, the film stars Sue Lyon who played the titular character in Kubrick’s “Lolita.”  More than a decade later, the “End of the World” and “The Astral Factor” actress enters another emotionally lacerating role of a woman, a nurse, sworn to do no harm who sees that a quick euthanization is the only possible mercy she can offer to spare societal downcast souls from a fate far worse than death in a cold and cruel condemnatory world.  Lyon’s excellent in curating her different disguises and looks, taking on a variety of personas with subtle mannerisms despite how comical or implausible they may appear on screen, such as the idea of being an old, gray-haired woman.  Lyon is fair and small in stature compared to her male counterparts but commands the screen with her confident approach to Ana’s advantageous beauty and eroticism that can turn a gay man straight apparently.  Former gang member David shares her ideology to an extent, to the extent of capitalizing off her nightly murder for mercy escapades in order to survive on the street alone.  Christopher Mitchum, son of the late Golden Age of Cinema actor Robert Mitchum (“El Dorado,” “The Longest Day,” “Scrooged”), plays the nihilistic gangbanger with aversion to any or all rules that tell him how to think.  Mitchum’s impressive motorbike skills are utilized for an impressive chase sequence that incorporates ramp jumps and car crashes at a high speed velocity, a talent Mitchum and film producers utilized often in his other credits, such as “Sumertime Killer” and “Big Jake.”  Lyon and Mitchum don’t have much screen time until later in the story but their interactions are playful, flirtatious almost, but in a predator-prey kind of way and we’re not really sure which-is-which in that shifty relationship.   French actor Jean Sorel (“A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin”) rounds out the three-prong principal characters as a diehard representative of the authoritarian body and a potential love interest for Ana.  Playing Victor Sender, a neurologist experimenting on the criminally insane with electroshock therapy and working at the same hospital as nurse Ana, Sorel is the epitome of the calculating stability and clean-cut coldness of the ruling class that’s doesn’t see what they’re doing to be a unjust, cruel, or even a problem at all. “Murder in a Blue World” rounds out the cast with Ramón Pons (“Scarab”), Charly Bravo (“The Cannibal Man”), Alfredo Alba, Antonia del Rio, Domingo Codesido Ascanio, and Fernando Hilbeck (“The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue”).

On the surface, director Eloy de la Iglesia carves a rib right out of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” with themes of exquisite, unprovoked violence sparked by the very basis of rebellion against authority. Not to also forget to mention the elaborately dressed gang of four, the electroshock treatment that aims to cure the criminal cerebrum, and the dystopian, futuristic guild with hints of fascism. “Murder in a Blue World” is a mixture that’s two-third post-Kubrick and one-third part pre-Paul Verhoeven, the latter reaching into fascist imagery as well as extreme commercialism that has surely inspired the “Robocop” and “Starship Trooper” director. Blue wellness drinks and panther-primitive men’s underwear are just a few the commercials fabricated for Iglesia’s coloring of an influential culture as the filmmaker uses the motif to symbolize and parallel brainwashing that becomes more severe when the government attempts to force a cure for criminality down incarcerated individuals’ throats. Even David announces to the world in multiple scenes how he doesn’t care what others think and he’s a free thinker. Homosexuality, prostitution, and physical imperfections suggest master race ideology amongst the domineering class hierarchy. Those who Ana seduce, as well as David, struggle in poverty and are considered inferior though not explicitly mentioned in the story. Iglesia integrates his trademark graphic violence, closeups of stabbings and throat slitting, but only really visualizes post-third act climax to keep more of an implied violence, off screen, and quickly edited to maintain an unclear vagueness of what’s right and what’s wrong in what Ana’s accomplishing.

A phenomenal companion piece and second bill to Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” Eloy de la Iglesia’s “Murder in a Blue World” finds Blu-ray love with a high definition, 1080p release from the genre film eternizing Cauldron Films. The Blu-ray debut is a 2K restoration of the 35mm transfer that has held up fairly well over the decades to only show pockets of wear and tear. Presented in a widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio, there’s no edge enhancement or digital noise reduction to clear out the natural stock grain, leaving the picture quality with more texture. Skin tones are, for the most part, natural and popping color grade doesn’t stray too far from its integrity until one brief scene goes full Oompa-Loompa orange before reverting back to normal. Light scratching is common throughout but not obtrusive to the viewing. Two audio options come with the release, an English dub dual mono and a Spanish dub dual mono. Since the cast is comprised of American, French, and Spanish native actors, neither track appears attractive from a lip-reading and audio-hearing perspective. Preferably, I went English dub as Sue Lyons and Chris Mitchum monopolize the lion’s share of screen time. There’s quite a bit of hissing and popping on the single channel output that can render dialogue almost indistinct but passes with a D+. The English subtitles synch well and show no sign of inaccuracy or grammatical issues. English SDH captions are available as well. Special features include a 2008 archive interview with Chris Mitchum, an interview with dubbing guru Ben Tatar Dubbing in a Blue World, a video essay read by Spanish Gothic film and literature scholar Dr. Xavier Aldana Reyes who dives into the themes and constructs of Iglesia’s film, audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger, the VHS cut of “Clockwork Terror” in 720p standard definition, and image gallery. The physical release comes in a clear Blu-ray snapper with a colorfully illustrated cover art that is reversible with one of the more notable and beautifully shot scenes on the inside. With a runtime of 97 minutes, the release is region free and is unrated. “Murder in a Blue World” receives a gorgeous Blu-ray restoration and debut as it’s an eclectic work of inspired and pioneering visual art from one of Spain’s most individualist directors.

“Murder in a Blue World” now available on Blu-ray!  Purchase a Copy Here at Amazon.com!

Never Cry EVIL Unless You Mean It! “Night Visitor” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)

“Night Visitor” Creeping Onto Your Doorstep!  Now on Blu-ray!

Never-on-time high school senior Billy Colton can’t seem to catch a break in arriving to class on time. To make matters worse, Billy makes up a lame excuse for every tardy to his surly history teacher, Mr. Willard. On thin ice with Mr. Willard with only a few weeks left to graduation, Billy must keep his nose clean in order to not make any more waves that’ll cost him his diploma. When a new, extremely sexy, call girl neighbor moves in next door, Billy becomes entranced by her casual sexual affairs. So much so, Billy sets up a telescope from out his bedroom window to spy on her and convince his naysaying friends of her profession by sneaking a rooftop picture catching her in the middle of a tryst. What Billy sees is his neighbor being stabbed to death and the culprit is none other than his history teacher, Mr. Willard, continuing his conducting of Satanic rituals and sacrifices on local prostitutes. Because of his reputation for making up stories, no one believes Billy, not even the police, and he’s forced to attend Mr. Willard’s class with both parties having the knowledge of what really occurred. Billy’s desperation sends him to seek the help of a retired detective, Ron Devereaux, a close friend of Billy’s late father, and extreme measures must be taken by Billy to prove a killer’s identity and to stop Mr. Willard from coming after him.

“Night Visitor” is the 80’s alteration of the classic Aesop fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” The 1989 teen-campy cult horror is the first venture into feature length films by Rupert Hitzig, producer of “Wolfen” and “Jaws 3-D.” The twisted, modernized story derived from the fable was penned by Randal Viscovich to sought to provide nods to other films, one film in particular, “Fright Night,” shares a story parallel or likeness of an older teenage boy spying on the carnal rendezvouses of his alluring neighbor and ends up becoming involved in something far more sinister. At one point in time the film was under the working title, “Never Cry Devil,” a spin on the fable idiom cry wolf, Hitzig’s final product eventually landed on “Night Visitor” and the graphic nudity and cannibalism pared down for general audience consumption. Premier Picture Corporation served as the production company with Alain Silver (“Kiss Daddy Goodbye,” “Mortuary Academy”) producing, Randal Viscovich and Richard Abramites associate producing, and Tom Broadbridge (“The 13th Floor”) and Shelley E. Reid (“Nine Deaths of the Ninja”) as executive producers with United Artists serving as film rights distributor.

At the center of the story is a coinciding dual lead. One might be more prominent in the beginning, but the second soon catches up to run alongside in an even dichotomy of good and evil. Derek Rydall (“Popcorn”) plays into the stereotype of a hang loose teenage boy named Billy Colton on the edge of adulthood with a penchant for voyeurism as he spies on the late-night sexual commerce of her blonde bombshell neighbor. Rydall introduces mis makings of an energized, poofy-haired hunk who might be a little bit naive as a closeted peeping tom and looks to score with an older woman despite exhibiting and declaring feelings for his longtime friend Kelly (Teresa Van der Woude, “Killer Workout”). Who can blame Billy when Billy’s new neighbor was a Playboy Playmate? Shannon Tweed (“Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death”, “Of Unknown Origins”) seduces, arouses, and paints by the numbers in what she does best – to be the sexiest woman on screen. Having never really dug herself out of being typecasted, Tweed humble horror beginnings is about the extent of her range before being cornered in the sex-thriller market and the Playmate of the Year 1982 is great fun to watch onscreen as her sex-working-kittenishness character, Lisa Grace, causes Billy Colton to steam in his pants. As much as it was a joy to watch Rydall and Tweed chart a possible older woman, younger man fling (fun fact: Tweed was supposedly playing a 26-year-old but was actually 31-32 and very much looks her age in the film), I thought Allen Garfield (“Diabolique”) and Michael J. Pollard (“Scrooged”) as brothers rollicking as Satan acolytes or rather just Garfield’s character Mr. Willard is the Satanist and Pollard as brother Stanley is just insane and fancies mentally manipulating the furniture as he calls the working girls him and his brother abduct and hold in the basement. Pollard is absolutely demented! All of the snarky quirks, plus a slew of scampish facial expressions and remarks, turn the fun-loving eccentric into a total maniac of truly scary proportions. Garfield’s method approach offers a different kind of demented, one that’s calculating and cunning to counter his brother’s outward lunacy. “Night Visitor” rounds out the cast with more gifted, recognizable talent in Elliot Gould (“Dead Men Don’t Die”), Richard Roundtree (“Shaft”), Scott Fults (“Hide and Go Shriek”), Brooke Bundy (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”), Henry Gibson (“The ‘burbs”), and adult film actress Teri Weigel giving Shannon Tweed a run for her money in the skinemax department as the basement-bound prostitute.

If you had told me “Night Visitor” was a strictly a chilling cut thriller, I would have not believed you and would recommend psychiatric help. Aside from the opening scene of a hooker being violently snatched and grabbed into a gothic black car, “Night Visitor” has the hallmarks of a teen comedy amped up on sex-driving hormones, teenage melodramatic antics, and parades light-hearted teen comedy up until throats are slit, chests, are daggered and Michael Pollard wildly wields a chainsaw with an impish grin. The blithe spirit soon turns dark and grim as the carefree attitude of the hero goes toe-to-toe with stern and Satanic teacher, a wonderfully metaphorical relationship to the extreme that’s universally relatable as everyone has had an encounter with a discontented classroom instructor at least once growing up. Surprisingly stark how bleak the film turns, an overwhelming sense of dread lingers after that second prostitute meets her maker in a ghastly way that, as far as kills go, isn’t very radical but the true nature of the subject matter is shaded so well that the moment literally hooks you into the story as you start to connect what just might happen next to the new neighbor. One aspect that felt lacking was that there isn’t much depth to the Willard brothers’ Satanism; a few upside-down pentagrams, a goat’s head, Baphomet’s goat head statue, a topless sacrifice with chant, and Allen Garfield’s robe and elaborate horned masked, which is an excellent design, are all the thin layer of thematic elements but still retains sufficiently the Willards connection to Satanism. Whenever the story moves from Billy Colton’s obsession to expose Mr. Willard, much of the narrative then focuses on the interrelationship of Zachary and Stanley Williard which is mostly a nonaggressive superior and subordinate kinship. Stanley, who caters to Zachary’s every request and even squeezes for him fresh orange juice, plays along with his brother’s inadequate display of being a disciple just to get his own malevolent kicks out of tormenting women of the night. There’s this unexplained fixation with prostitutes that puts forward less a Satan worshipper and puts forward more a pair of mania driven maniacs quenching a thirst for blood by offing the lower class of society that no one will miss. A brief scene backs up this theory of an angry prostitute chewing Captain Crane’s ear off about protecting the girls on the street and he just casually strolls along, waving her off as if to say, yeah whatever.

Ronin Flix, in association with MGM and Scorpion Releasing, urges you to never cry wolf in this tale of terror as “Night Visitor” lands on a Blu-ray home video, distributed by MVD Visual. The 1080p, high-definition release comes with a brand 2019 transfer master that’s clean as Mr. Willard’s rap sheet with no 35mm celluloid impurities, no aged wear or tear, and a healthy amount of unadulterated grain, presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Color grading has excellent appeal and defines the natural color palette greatly amongst the delineated details and appeasing textures. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo is on the only audio mix on the release and while it provides clean and clear dialogue track, the depth is often disproportion to the characters on screen. Much of the dialogue is in the forefront channel of the dual outputs, making every sentence feel closer than it should actually be in the stationary location of the character. Other than that, transfer’s hyper free of hiss, pops, and other audio blights. Option SDH subtitles are available. Bonus content has the original theatrical trailer and brand-new interview with director Ruport Hitzig, editor Glenn Erickson, and writer Randal Viscovich who all share a commonality regarding “Night Visitor,” the story was trimmed down of all of Viscovich’s nasty bits and shocking ending and made more upbeat for a better sell. Physically, “Night Visitor” comes in the traditional blue snapper keep case with brilliant red and illustratively glowing cover art of the sacrificial mask. The back cover claims the cover art is reversible, but it is not. The Blu-ray is region A encoded, has a runtime of 93 minutes, and is rated R. The cast alone is worth the price of admission as “Night Visitor” preys on the inculpability of Satan’s most righteous worshipper and on the power position of a role model with a secret life who has it out for the boy who cried wolf too many times.

“Night Visitor” Creeping Onto Your Doorstep!  Now on Blu-ray!

After Death is When Things Get Really EVIL! “One Dark Night” reviewed! (MVD Visual / Blu-ray)

Good girl Julie wants to join a The Sisters, a small high school club ran by three girls, one of who is the ex of Julie’s boyfriend.  Out to prove to herself and to The Sisters she’s willing to go the distance being fun and reckless, Julie subjects herself to The Sisters’ initiations, even the more cruel ones set by her boyfriend’s spiteful ex.  When the last initiation involves staying locked in overnight at a mausoleum, The Sisters will go beyond the limits in trying to scare her out of pledging, but the death of a bio-energy telekinetic practitioner with a cryptic occult past is freshly stowed away in one of the mausoleum’s coffin crypts and in death, he is more powerful and dangerous than when alive.  Trapped, Julie and The Sisters are terrorized by his power as he seeks to transfer his malevolent energy into one their bodily vessels. 

A PG rating back in the pre-1990 was also an abstract concept.  “Clash of the Titans.” “It’s Alive.”  “Jaws. “ “Prophecy” (the one with the spirit bear, not the Christopher Walken film).  These are a handful of titles that were MPAA rated PG approved, but contained nudity, bloody kills, and not to forget to mention some terrifying visuals that’d make anyone piss their pants.  “One Dark Knight” also fits into that category as the 1982 teen horror from “Friday the 13th Part VI:  Jason Lives!” director Tom McLoughlin set his sights toward a R-rating with the mindset that his detailed scenes of decay and rotting corpses and a face blistering the flesh to the skull would surely be slapped with the 17 years or older rating.  Low and behold, the ratings board thought otherwise, surprising McLoughlin and his co-writer Michael Hawes (“Family Reunion”) with a parental guidance rating that my 7 and 4 year old could sit in on without me fearing theater security or, even worse, the mind control hypnosis and repetitive nurturing elements of today’s movies and shows that don’t make a lick of common sense or brandish any artistic heart. McLoughlin’s ‘One Dark Night” has plenty of heart and plenty of floating dead bodies in this Comworld International Pictures production with “Out of the Dark” director Michael Schroeder producing and Thomas P. Johnson as executive producer.

Before hitting the sequel and remake circuit with “Psycho II” and “Body Snatchers,” Meg Tilly broke onto the scene as “One Dark Night’s” leading lady as the amiable Julie whose looking to shake her good girl image. The little sister of “Seed of Chucky” and “Bound” star Jennifer Tilly takes the role by the reins by undulating her fear and determination to do what The Sisters initiate her into completing. The Sisters is comprised of renowned voice actress and “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” costar Elizabeth Daily, Leslie Speights, and lead by Robin Evans as Carol, the spiteful and venomous ex-girlfriend of Julie’s now jock boyfriend (and Christopher Reeves lookalike in my opinion) in David Mason Daniels. You know what they say about love triangles they? They always lead to psychopathic, telekinetic psychics reeking havoc in a mortuary. Luckily for Tilly, Speight, Daily, Evans, and Daniels, psychopathic, telekinetic psychics are not real and neither is the person who plays the Karl Rhamarevich aka Raymar character! You see, the opening is the post-death scene of Raymar whose lying dead under a coroner’s white sheet along with six beautiful women stuffed into a corner closet in his oddly tatterdemalion apartment. The next time we see Raymar is in his casket, wide open, wide eyed with blue lightning summoning to animate the dead from the mortuary crypts; yet, Raymar is played by a dummy in the film created by Tom and Ellis Burman (“Star Trek” franchise in various capacity and “Scrooged”) and Bob Williams (“The Terminator”) who mold Raymar after the contours of Christopher Walken – second time Walken has popped up in this review! The more interesting casted parts, whose characters don’t do diddly squat in the film, is Adam West (“Batman”) as Raymar’s daughter (Melissa Newman) level-headed husband and The Predator himself, the late Kevin Peter Hall, in a minor appearance before becoming the man behind that one ugly son of a bitch mandible mask. You also actually get to see how tall Hall was in his prime.

“One Dark Night” flirts with being this strange horror that blends teen suspense and shenanigans with gothic horror with pseudo-science deviltry sushi wrapped into a Euro-horror roll. I kind of love it. I’m one of those horror fans who avoid trailers like the plague and try not to read synopses on the back cover, going into every viewing with complete ignorance, total unbias, and good attitude. I didn’t even know Meg Tilly was in “One Dark Night” for Christ sake! As the 90 minute runtime ticks down, I’m curious to where McLoughlin starts to take this film that doesn’t seem to quite get into the horror portion of Raymar’s show-stopping comeback. McLoughlin and Hawes hype up the love triangle with Carol’s bitter acrimony and Julie’s adolescent need to not be a one-note complexion all the while Steve desperately needs Carol to cease and desist any and all torturous hazing attempts, but there’s still this itty-bitty connection still tethered between the two that also causes Steve to two-time his new, more benevolent, girlfriend. In the end, I can confidently say that Steve is a good dude, a guy who double downs on a girl like Julie who can’t seem to get it through her thick skull that she doesn’t need to prove anything to three dimwits with sheeny club bomber jackets. I can tell you who isn’t a stand up guy – Raymar. Kudos to McLoughlin and his crew for creating one evil son of a bitch villain without there ever being a palpable proverbial man behind the mask to bounce off a projection of fear and contention. The evil Raymar practice was so intensely evil it was beyond our dimensional comprehension and broke the mold of death with the abilities to animating the dead among other things. “One Dark Night’s” slow start leads to a not to be forgotten survival terror against an army of the harnessed dead.

Raymar isn’t the only thing brought back from the dead, but also “One Dark Night” as MVD Visual, under the MVD Rewind Collection, strike a deal with Code Red to utilize their OOP transfer and bonus materials for a new re-release Blu-ray hitting retail shelves this Tuesday, August 24th! The 1080p high definition transfer is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio speckled nicely with natural, pleasant looking reel grain. Like the Code Red special edition release, plenty of details shine through the delicate rendering that can be image wispy at times. Loads of superficial damage – frame scratches, edge flare ups, rough editing cuts, smudges – can’t go unnoticed, but these blemishes don’t hinder much as the scenes are more transitional during the setup to the big mortuary finale. What differs from Code Red’s DTS-HD 2.0 mix is thee English language LPCM 2.0 mono mix that still lightly treads with subdued effect, much like the Code Red release. Dialogue can sound muffled with popping landing just under the surface and bubbling up during dialogue scenes. Still, the audio track stands it’s ground by clearly rendering every dialogue, effect, and soundtrack without question. English subtitles are also available. You want bonus features? You got’em! Interviews with director Tom McLoughlin, actress Elizabeth Daily, actress Nancy Mott, cinematographer Hal Trussell, production designer Craig Stearns, producer Michael Schroeder, and special effects crew member Paul Clemens are all individualized for maximum recollection tidbits and factoids. There’s also audio commentaries by McLoughlin and Schroeder as well as McLoughlin and co-writer Michael Hawes. Plus, we also graced with McLoughlin’s director’s cut, a standard definition, unfinished, work print version in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio that shows the director’s true take on the narrative before producers ultimately decided to go another route…behind his back nonetheless. Behind-the-scenes footage, Paul Clemens photo gallery, and original theatrical trailer round out the disc bonus content while the physical release comes with a retro-take card board slipcover, reversible cover art, and a collectible mini poster inside the case liner. If you’re a fan of Euro-horror, “One Dark Night” embodies the very soul of the Lucio Fulci and Michele Saovi supernatural archetype sewn seamlessly into an inescapable and hopeless dance with the gnarly energies of the stoic dead.

Pre-order “One Dark Night” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

EVIL Trifles With a Vindictive Obsessed Cop in “Split Second” reviewed! (MVDVisual / Blu-ray)

Global warming has taken a toll on the Earth’s polar ice caps in 2008 with cascading amounts of water flooding around the world bringing knee high waters to coastal cities.  London is hit hard with drenching sewer overflows and coastal run overs that result in an over infestation of rats to storm the streets, back alleys, and even resident homes, carrying a harmful disease in their occupation.  However, something else compounds the rat plague that slashes at random victims, tearing their hearts out violently from their chests without ever leaving a witness except for one, a rogue and paranoid detective Harley Stone whose partner was slain in one of the deadly attacks and himself marred by the killer. Partnered with a new hot shot know-it-all detective following the murders, an obsessed Stone confronts his haunting traumas as he continues to pursue the inhuman perpetrator who has a psychic connection to Stone, personally toying with the on-edge officer, and has kidnapped his girlfriend as bait.

Even though 2008 has come and gone now almost 12 years ago, Tony Maylam’s 1992 actionized-creature feature “Split Second” still holds water just like the rising tide pools on the streets of London.  “The Burning” director, Maylam, helms, with the finishing touches of the final sequences directed by Ian Sharp after Maylam’s sudden departure, a fast paced and snarky script penned by Gary Scott Thompson as one of the writer’s very first big budget outputs from nearly 30 years ago that was followed up with major studio films, including a little project you may or may not have heard of, “The Fast and The Furious” mega franchise.  Before nitrous suped-up cars hot-rodding on asphalt, jumping high speed trains, and flying off cliffs in a lap strap of criminal activity luxury, Thompson created a formidable, heart-devouring beast that became the trap-setting, trophy-hunting predator and the teeth-snapping, chest-bursting xenomorph all in one package to symbolize the irreversible and ignored effects of an overpopulated, warming planet.  “Split Second” is a production of Challenge Film Corporation and produced by Muse Productions with Chris Hanley, Laura Gregory, and Keith Cavele serving in a producer role.

The Netherlands’ very own Rutger Hauer sheds his nice guy exterior for Harley Stone’s shell-shocked, rough and tough outer shell.  The late “Blade Runner” and “The Hitcher” actor brings a certain cinematic coolant to “Split Second’s” overheating fringe of disproportionate action and science fiction horror, a lop-sidedness typical of a Rutger Hauer production, by being larger than life in the little aspects that add to the dimensions of the scene, making every moment famished for Stone’s next eccentric and animated move.  Stone is partnered with an equally vigorous Detective Dick Durkin who starts out as a cultured drip of criminal activity and an astronomical proficient before quickly blooming into the same gritty mirror image of Stone.  Credited as Neil Duncan, the current vocational voice actor Alastair Duncan has a natural dynamic with Hauer despite their asymmetrical careers and endures an incredible character arc successfully turning Durkins’ relatively square image – though debatable with smart, good looking, and gets sex every day swagger – into a Stone acolyte after witnessing the human threatening existence of an unnatural ferocious monster.  The female love interest didn’t seem to fit the “Split Second’s” gentle steampunk lace and zany character scheme with Kim Cattrall as Stone’s estranged girlfriend, Michelle McLaine.  As much as love the “Big Trouble in Little China” actress’s late 80’s to early 90’s career, the girlfriend role feels sorely plopped into the film for the sake of having a love interest as much of the character is illuminated through exposition with McLaine being the wife of Stone’s former partner stemmed from her and Stone’s affair and then lingers her subsequent alienation from the rogue cop despite an inextinguishable flame between them. As Cattrall provides the sexiness in the city of London, McLanie iss aesthetically airy without tangible substance other than kick in the pants motivation for saving. “Split Second” rounds out with the late Pete Postlethwaite (“The Lost World: Jurassic Park”), Alun Armstrong (“Van Helsing”), Stewart Harvey-Wilson and “Scoorged’s” Michael J. Pollard as London’s the rat catcher.

“Split Second” is an early nineties junket spiraling with flashy facets of easily digestible, entertaining chewables that continuously hits all the right flavor sensations in terms of acting, dialogue, production design, creature design, and cinematography. The bonkers script and equally as bonkers visual concept inserts an extremely likable brazen world of the future in the form of a dank, or danker, London under one or two feet of water; in every moment Stone or Durkin hit the streets, they’re essentially swimming in brown street liquid and the overall effect places a blanket of filth glazing over my eyes and secreting out of my captivated body is a cold spine-shivering chill that’s immersive to Stone and Durkin’s slushing around. Stephen Norrington, who went on to direct “Death Machine” and “Blade,” slapped together a fairly effective creature design despite the creature rarely being in full exhibition and for very good reason. A brief flash of razor sharp fingers, a quick dash of unearthly skin, and the gruesome aftermath in it’s wake evolved a better rendition of the creature in our minds than perhaps the actual resulting appearance with result that tacked on one big mysterious allure that doubled down coinciding with the principle characters who also has never seen the killer before. “Split Second” is constantly suspended in action with little down time to reflect on the theme of global warming and it’s life-changing choking effects that not only rushes thousands of gallons of water onto the streets and increase the survivalist rat population up to nearly impossible control levels, but also tampers with the balance of astrometric forces, bringing evil to the world in the form of a heart-eating devil to the surface when astrology deemed the moon in position for such an event and that’s also perhaps the downside to Tony Maylam’s film. The monster bares little backstory to sink one’s teeth into and raises an immeasurable amount of unanswered questions relating to the fate that intertwined Stone into the creature’s inner sphere of extrasensory perception, the origins of the creature and it’s genetic makeup, and the relationship between it and the cult correlations.

A melting pot of feculent and bloodshed pother, “Split Second” arrives onto a high definition Blu-ray courtesy of 101 Films and on MVDVisual’s MVD Rewind Collection banner. The region free, R-rated feature is presented in 1080p with a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a newly 4K scan complete with restoration and coloring grading from the original 35mm negative. The inviting image, with adequate grain and a cigarette burn here and there, basks mainly in a steely blue among other primary colors rearing up while thick with a brightly contrasted neo-noir shadow wrung through. Skin textures are consistently and continuously glistening with sweat setting on top of the natural coloring and the facial follicules present a rather sharp image, making this release the best looking transfer to date. The English language 2.0 LPCM stereo mix doesn’t let up with a robust mix of forefront dialogue, a balance of range and depth, and a pulsating cheesy-action soundtrack Stephen Parsons and Francis Haines. English subtitles are optionally included. The heft bonus features package includes exclusive content such as an audio commentary by action film history Mike Leeder and filmmaker Arne Venerma, a new conversation entitled “Great Big Bloody Guns!” between actor Alastair Duncan and producer Laura Gregory, a “Call Me Mr. Snips!” interview with composer Stephen Parsons, a “Stay in Line!” interview with line producer Laura Borg, a “More Blood!” interview with creature effects designer Cliff Wallace, and a “Shoot Everything!” interview with cinematographer Clive Tickner. But, wait, there’s more! Also included is the original making of feature with stars Rutger Hauer, Kim Cattrall, Alastair Duncan, Michael J. Pollard, writer Gary Scott Thompson, original behind the scenes feature with effects creator Stephen Norrington and other cast and crew, the “Second Split” Japanese cut includes the deleted scenes and built in Japanese subtitles, 7 promotional TV clips, U.S. VHS home video promo, theatrical trailer, and a MVD exclusive reversible sleeve with artwork from The Dude Designs, cardboard slipcover, and mini-poster insert. The difficult decision to determine Rutger Hauer’s best work can be daunting as the man is King Midas with every project he touches, but “Split Second” reveals now more than just being pure gold with this MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray release that’s a must own, must have, must see, and a must collect physical release of the rundown of a monster-run amok, neo-noir, steampunk, action-comedy-horror….in a nutshell.

Own this Rutger Hauer classic “Split Second” on Blu-ray!

Evil Asks, Why Haven’t You Checked the Children? “When A Stranger Calls” and “When A Stranger Calls Back” review!


High schooler Jill takes a babysitting job, overseeing two sleeping children while the parents have date night. The phone rings and an assumed prankster tries to scare Jill, either asking why she hasn’t checked the children or doesn’t say a word, but as Jill fields calls throughout the night with the same terrorizing voice, the terrified sitter phones the police whom trace the call from inside the house. Jill barely escapes the deadly encounter that left two children victims to a psychopath; yet the now happily married, mother of two small children is faced with the same killer seven years later after he escapes from a mental institution. Hot on his trail is detective turned private eye John Clifford who will stop at nothing from stopping a maniac who will kill again. Years later, Jill and Clifford team up once more to investigate a similar case of a co-ed being specifically terrorized by an obsessive stalker through the span of five years to the point where his next move could be her last.

Perhaps one of the best, if not the best, openings to a horror movie ever, Fred Walton’s “When A Stranger Calls” puts a freeze on the heart, forces to choke down the breath, and tightens the already painfully clenched fists with sheer, thick tension bred from an urban legend of the babysitter and the man upstairs. Walton, and co-writer Steve Feke (“Mac and Me”), develop two successful thriller from script to screen, spanning over the course of 14-years. Walton’s uncanny ability to invoke fear through a conduit of simple objects, such as a telephone ring or in the thicket of dead silence, and leading a direction of motivational hesitation or slowness to the story and through it’s characters is dread absolute. There’s similarities between Fred Walton and “The Driller Killer” director Abel Ferrara with a scent of realism and grittiest blanketed with a knack for the abstract in certain facets. Though slightly fluffier to Ferrara’s shock value, Walton builds anticipation in not just his hit first film in 1979, but also in his made for TV movie in 1993.

Starring as the lead in both films is Carol Kane. The “Scrooged” actress shells out a white knuckling performance in Jill, the terrorized babysitter phoned inside the house by man upstairs. The harrowing night that will scar for Jill for life will continue through into the sequel, “When A stranger Calls Back.” As Jill grows through both films, so does Kane who builds the character a tougher exterior to match wits with second psychopath stalking a hapless co-ed. She’s teamed with legendary actor Charles Durning. Essentially in Walton’s “When A Stranger Calls,” Kane and Durning never have any scenes together, performing in almost two separate stories until the climatic that intertwined that collaboration. During’s a fine actor and can be the bull of any detective and/or private dick lead, but, to be honest, Durning always carried a hefty, front-heavy load that didn’t quite fit his character, John Clifford, chasing on foot a much leaner foe. “When A Stranger Calls” cast also includes Ron O’Neal (“The Final Countdown”), Tony Beckley (“In the Devil’s Garden”), and Colleen Dewhurst (“The Dead Zone”) while “When A Stranger Calls Back” also includes Jill Schoelen (“The Stepfather”) and Gene Lythgow.

A fleeting glimpse of brilliancy can go relatively unnoticed in Fred Walton’s “When A Stranger Calls.” Much of what makes the film so effective is essentially obsolete; for example, rotary phones are dinosaurs or even landlines for that matter. Also, the way Walton breaks up the film into a definitive three separate acts perfectly stretches the urban legend much more than warranted and the director also completes the story and character arcs. Dana Kaproff’s sophomore score can be characterized as menacing, suspenseful, and aesthetically unfit to the point of inspiring dreadful sensations that heighten the story’s already engrossing nature. In “When A Stranger Calls Back,” the opening is basically a mirror image of the original film with a slight (of hand) change and the narrative itself is captivating enough to get engrossed with, but there’s something about the made for TV movie that doesn’t quite sit right. Perhaps, the killer’s underdeveloped motives doesn’t make things crystal clear or just maybe the killer’s use of a ventriloquist and body art into his perverted and obsessive arsenal is too zany. Despite being a made for television movie, Walton’s followup film was premiere on Showtime back in 1993, giving the movie a not-so-diluted and PG-13 appeal; instead, bits of grittiness and some strip club nudity rivals the tone of it’s predecessor.

Second Sight presents “When A Stranger Calls” and “When A Stranger Calls Back” double feature on Blu-ray home video in the United Kingdom. Despite the upgrade, a DVD-R was provided for the review so technical aspects will not be reviewed. The disc did include bonus features such as Fred Walton’s inspirational short film “The Sitter” and interviews with director Fred Walton, Rutanya Alda, and Dana Kaproff, and Carol Kane. Carol Kane has more recently been the quirky and city-salty landlady that’s quick to whip sarcasms and clobber any hipster with a gentrifying agenda with a baseball bat in “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” but Fred Walton saw Kane for how the actress could truly perform under a realistically terrifying moment, a moment that savors being on tenterhooks and frozen in time for almost the last 40 years as a classic and iconic scene in horror movie history. “When A Stranger Calls” and “When A Stranger Calls Back” is simple, yet deploys effective thrills with pure impending loom and dread in massive, lucrative quantities that may have been antiquated by time, but is epitomized as vintage and elegantly construed horror.