Online Bullies Deserve All the EVIL in the World! “The Columnist” reviewed! (Vertigo Releasing / Digital Screener)

Columnist Femke Boot is a damn good writer backed by her publication. Yet, Femke feel unsatisfied and unsettled by the extremely harsh social media comments aimed to not only torpedo her career in the column section but also discredited and publicly shamed by twisting events in her past. The barrage of nasty comments, determined to bully her into oblivion, plug up Femke’s creativity, causing severe writer’s block on an upcoming book her editor continues to pressure her on. When she discovers that her next door neighbor has disparaged her online as well, the struggling writer snaps, taking revenge on her neighbor and an army of internet trolls by pursuing their true identities, tracking them down, and takes her revenge, plus takes a little more for an indulging gratification.

Relevant. Chimeric. A social war on words that can be fatally influential from anonymous patrons of the world wide web is Ivo van Aart’s black comedy of retribution entitled “The Columnist.” Also known originally titled as “De Kuthoer,” roughly translated as “The Pussy Whore,” a way better and in your face title in my opinion, the Netherland tongue-and-cheek-and-severed-finger comedy-thriller is the third feature, first beyond the 60-minute mark, clocking in at 86 minutes, for Aart from a screenplay penned by Daan Windhorst. Aart and Windhorst last paired up for a Dutch miniseries, “Suspicious Minds,” and Aart’s debut film, “Quantum Zero,” two years prior. Their concrete foundation of collaboration sets up an engrossing insight on masked mindsets of internet bullying that backfires but not in the typical way and also indorses a freedom of speech theme caught in a vicious circle of death. Sabine Brian and Ronald Versteeg serve as producers under the Benijay capital investment group’s NL Films.

Katja Herbers (HBO’s “Westworld”) gives a stress-inducing performance as the tormented-to-insanity columnist.  Absorbing, like a sponge, of all the scornful negativity, Herbers leaves little room for writer Femke Boots to expand and breathe as a normal person who can filter out the harsh criticism as the “Loft” actress can tune into a louded, distracted mindset of delusion and have an underscored inkling twinkle in her eyes as her character muddles around in life normalcy of being a good mother to her free-speech advocating daughter Anna (Claire Porro) and be in a radically unlikely relationship with a gothically-cladded, fellow writer, Steven Dood aka Steven Death (Bram van der Kelen).  Journalist are trained to accept the harshest criticism as long as they can back up their stories with facts and references, but for a columnist, who makes a living off opinions, the same can not be said and it’s in that gray area where “The Columnist” likes to dwell that someone’s subjective living is under attack and the enemy is the entire world who thrives off being antagonistic just for the hell of it.  Herbers plays right into that soul sucking anger, directing all her energy into those who mask themselves in anonymity as they bombard her character with comments of ill-intent.  The frustration mounts, especially when Femke attempts to file police reports about the death threats, but is shrugged off by an unsympathetic uniform, and the pressure blows her top off in a silent switch into swift vengeance of a variety misogynistic trolls.  Genio de Groot, Rein Hofman, Seno Sever, and Achraf Koutet round out “The Columnist’s” cast.

Though not written, shot, or produced by women, “The Columnist” follows in suit with a string of strong pro-feminism films, coursing with the same blood of the feminist revolution in cinema that has empowered women to exhibit their artistry, such works include Brea Grant’s dual female-lead, black comedy about an opioid addicted nurse’s mafia entanglement in “12 Hour Shift,” Jill Gevargizian’s gothic trip into hairstyles and isolating madness of “The Stylist,” and Emerald Fennell’s 5-Academy Award nominated revenge-thriller about the social system’s gender double-standards in “Promising Young Woman.”  “The Columnist” topicality revolves around a woman writer being bashed, sometimes just for kicks of callous community fun, by a plethora of trolling men who hide behind self-attributing epithets and nicknames.  With only her their commenting handles, Google, and her wit,  Femke tracks them down comment-by-comment for confrontation with her weapon of choice, usually a state forestry bag full of gardening tools, and this is where the good writing and directing comes into the fold by establishing a complete smorgasbord of different male personalities to circulate with Femke’s rage against the unwarranted slanderous and malicious of their own doing. Where “The Columnist” also gets you thinking is the freedom of speech movement that Femke’s daughter, Anna, so tenaciously hammers into her stern high school’s administrative hierarchy, helmed by a, you guessed it, a male principal. While Anna’s story is relatively tongue-and-cheek in comparison to Femke’s more serial killer storyline, there’s a whole lot of irony happening between the two paralleling, mother and daughter narratives with Anna battling the school system singlehandedly to allow her words to ring true and free from principal oppression and repression while Femke, on the other side of coin, is permanently silencing the cataclysmic of social media hate mail in an act with a killer, survivalist instinct. “The Columnist’ is speechlessly brilliant under a candy-coated, caustic-comedy cover.

Opt into “The Columnist’s” op-ed with your own periling opinion as the film circulates around UK and Ireland theaters, and on various digital platforms, courtesy of Vertigo Releasing. Martijn Cousijn is credits as the cinematographer for the film whose mostly bright and buoyant scheme is peppered just enough with darker, minimalist lighting, askew in most case, to capture Femke’s sinister half of this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde duality with pessimism at the door being the altering elixir. Cousijn doesn’t play too much with the lighting, keeping true to a soft and bright air that doesn’t drop “The Columnist” acutely into a dismal perspective tale of a killer. My only disappointment with the film lies with the gore effects when it’s time to dispatch some rude keyboard-knuckleheads from the comforts of their own safe haven. Much of Femke’s desires to keepsake parts of her tormentors is nothing more than a slight of editing to achieve and that kind pelts holes in the freedom of speech aspect that’s perhaps one-third of the story. “The Columnist” is by no means made for young teens, but Femke Boots deserved to reign hellfire in a fiery display of well unexploitable violence. Having just released March 12th in the UK, there are obviously no bonus material, but there are also no before or after credit bonus scenes to keep you anxiously waiting to the end. Writers will undoubtedly hail Ivo van Aart’s “The Columnist” as a win against stony critics with the film’s profuse display for social change against cyberbullying and the reaffirmation of free speech or else there will be blood.

The EVIL Experiments of Dr. Frankenstein’s Great, Great Grandson in “The Hideous Bog Monster” reviewed! (Cheezy Movies / Digital Screener)

Fouke, Arkansas is a small town about to have big problems when a maximum security hospital maniac escapes and now roams loose in the woods.  Disguising himself as the infamous hairy bog creature of local lore, the lunatic embarks on a killing spree, massacring the local game hunters, and collecting their dead corpses for the unholy experiments of Dr. Frankenstein, the fourth generation heretic from a long lineage of conducting evil scientific practices.  Together, the lunatic and Dr. Frankenstein plan to use a stolen ancient Vatican book, not meant for the eyes of man, for his sadistic work of defilement, but a supernatural warrior, an elite team of Vatican assassins, and the local yokels seek to join forces to stop evil at all cost. 

Backwoods horror has never been more backwards when trying to absorb James Baack’s escaped lunatic killing, Satanic cult worshipping, slasher-esque aping, demon slaying, rootin’-tootin’ “The Hideous Bog Monster” released in the most backwards, backlogged, backache year of the global pandemic of 2020.  By now, you’re probably thinking you’ve never seen so many backs in one sentence in all your life, but James Baack, who wrote and directed the 2020 film, is no stranger repeating himself at the helm of homemade schlock and title pulpy horror as the filmmaker has made a career behind the 70’s-inspired horror entitles, such as “Dracula’s Orgy of the Damned” and “Werewolf Massacre at Hell’s Gate.”  “The Hideous Bog Monster” is a production of Baack’s Chicago-area centric The Great Lakes Artists Group, using the Arkansas folklore of the Fouke Monster of Boggy Creek as a foundational backdrop for more sinister practices, shot in nowhere near Arkansas, but all over tarnation in Illinois.

Movies similar to “The Hideous Bog Monster” usually involve a tightknit troupe of cast members that have performed in some way, shape, or form in previous James Baack productions in a kindred melting pot of close friends and family members.  Tina Boivin is one of those actresses who has had a role in every James Baack film to date.  This time, Boivin braided her red hair and hiked up her booty shorts resembles a redneck version of Dave Thomas’s Wendy in Sally Bell, a foul-mouth, uncouth, hayseed maiden caught in the mix of all hell breaking loose in and around Boggy Creek.  Sally Bell is joined by her equally unsophisticated friend, Flunky (James Baack), and the elite Vatican hitwomen, The Sisters of St. Tommy Gun, to do the Lord’s work with disparate to the story planetary names in Sister Saturn (Bianca Baack), Sister Venus (Jenna Aboukamar), Sister Jupiter (Tanya Raz), and Sister Mars (Suzy Streske).  As what seems like a climatic clash of a good versus evil showdown, the action is sorely subdued to little excitement, exhilaration, and enthusiasm to the spirited adversaries who are eager to destroy, but barely use the zapping powers, automatic rifles, submachine guns, and hand-to-hand combat blades they’ve been so graciously armed with and, instead, Baack weaponizes only the wit of Sally Bell to verbally assault otherworldly demons. Hasn’t the filmmakers heard of sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me? Depth is also lacking behind the eyes of every one-time use characters, especially in Herbie Savages’ deranged killer dressed up in a Spirit Halloween bought gorilla outfit to exude his insanity and obsession with the Bog Creek monster. The remaining cast rounds out with Andrew Baack, Wendy Pierson, Kandace McVickar, Steve Galayda (also producer), Nicholas Baack, Evan Pierson, Tom Ziellienski, and Pete Alessi as Dr. Frankenstein.

“The Hideous Bog Monster” follows no rhyme or reason story structure that ultimately feels, at every possible angle, very arbitrary coming to ahead. Paced like a slug riding a sloth dragging it’s long-nailed feet through the strong winds of category five hurricane, a resembling randomizing character generator also creates pop up characters adding to the enigmatic puzzle dish of cryptic and longwinded exposition and then disappear in the blink of an eye in a fueling the flame to only be quickly extinguished in a heap of plot-choking smoke moment. Between pillaring principle leads are the Witch, Lumpy, the Apprentice, and even Dr. Frankenstein, who exceed the amount of allotted strain in following these half-built story arcs, causing a major slow down of the story progression. Partnered with run amuck scenarios that have little-to-no links of connective tissue also dampens the likelihood of seeing “The Hideous Bog Monster” from beginning to end without feeling either confused on just about everything thrown at the audience, hoodwinked by the decently illustrated poster art, or exhausted to the point of surrender in keeping up with James Baack’s four-letter word spouting clunker. Much like many urban legend spun horror films, the Fouke Monster has had about the same amount of butchered luck down the cinematic avenues as Big Foot and there have been better films, such as “The Legend of Boggy Creek” in 1972 to “The Legacy of Boggy Creek” in 2009, inspired by the nefariously elusive swamp creature since the mid-70’s after it’s so-called sighting in Fouke Arkansas.

Another small town is on a trope-laden path to terror as “The Hideous Bog Monster” set to be unleashed upon us all in 2021 on DVD courtesy of Cheezy Movies (aka Trionic Entertainment). The region free, 110 minute runtime release will be presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, and will be not rated. While I can’t comment on the DVD’s audio or visual components due to the digital screener provided, the SOV-esque of “The Hideous Bog Monster” shimmies barely into the said style made popular in the low-budget 80’s and 90’s horror scene, capturing crudely the video recordings of creative horror filmmaker and despite poor output quality, regardless of a digital screener or not, but Baack was able to garnish some respectable eerie shots like the opening of the film of a young boy wondering through a desolate trailer park on a foggy day. What happened to the young boy after being chased by the phony bog monster? Nobody knows and nobody explains what happens, what’s going on, or where’s things are going as gaps continuously riddle holes in James Baack evil has come back to small town America in a slap-happy slap-comedy horror squeezed dry of terror, but pumped full of unfunny hillbilly rhetoric.Another small town is on a trope-laden path to terror as “The Hideous Bog Monster” is set to be unleashed upon us all in 2021 on DVD courtesy of Cheezy Movies (aka Trionic Entertainment). The region free, 110 minute runtime release will be presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, and will be not rated. While I can’t comment on the DVD’s audio or visual components due to the digital screener provided, the SOV-esque of “The Hideous Bog Monster” shimmies barely into the said style made popular in the low-budget 80’s and 90’s horror scene, capturing crudely the video recordings of creative horror filmmaker and despite poor output quality, regardless of a digital screener or not, but Baack was able to garnish some respectable eerie shots like the opening of the film of a young boy wondering through a desolate trailer park on a foggy day. What happened to the young boy after being chased by the phony bog monster? Nobody knows and nobody explains what happens, what’s going on, or where’s things are going as gaps continuously riddle holes in James Baack evil has come back to small town America in a slap-happy slap-comedy horror squeezed dry of terror, but pumped full of unfunny hillbilly rhetoric.


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Chronicling the Cannibalistic, Necrophilism EVILs of a Serial Killer is for Adult Eyes Only! “LoveDump” reviewed! (A Baroque House / Digital Screener)

July, 2003 – a hollow-hearted serial killer, Denise Holmes, moves into a motel room of a populated metropolis of the West Coast.  Journaling every perverse and murder-lust desire in a diary, the unspeakable acts of sex and death blend together as one as the urge to kill grows bolder, leaving a trail of gore in the wake.  Paranoia begins to sink in after the last execution of an innocent victim and desecrating their bloodied, decapitated head in an inerasable moment from the mind. What you’re about to hear are the audio recordings of Denise Holmes’ diary inserts, read by Detective Jamie Reams whose giving a tactile voice to a wraith-like monster.

Over the years, the term Horror has been exploitatively glamourized for capital, trendsetting and bedazzled with glitzy gems of tamed teenager torment that sold the strung up, struck down, and sliced-and-diced adolescent carnage-fodder into each and every way the human brain can conceive with only a tweak of difference adorned with each ornate kill. Horror has also become garish with gorgeous women for the gratuitous donation of bare skin for the camera and the audiences to entice and gawk at the beauty in death. I’m not going to lie, I eat every millisecond of film of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to horror, and, truthfully, horror has been making a strong stance in the last couple of years and I’ve been embracing the subtle tingling of mind game thrillers to the overtly ostentatious gore-soaked slaughterhouses of a genre with the broadest spectrum known to the cinematic universe. The filmmaker under the alias of SamHel pushes our tolerance for extreme content to the breaking point with the written-and-directed 2020 adult-fetish exploitation, “LoveDump,” an independent film from the USA under the production company, A Baroque House, that set out to pay homage to the graphic adult and fetish horror films of 1990s Japan.

The 33-minute short film only stars two performers in non-speaking, purely physical roles. First up, Wolvie Ironbear, an intersex non-binary adult content pansexual specializing in gothic and kink fetishisms, depicts the notorious necrophiliac serial killer, Denise Holmes, and Apricot Pitts, an unshaven fetishist whose also in the adult content creator realm, as a hapless prostitute who becomes a slayed statistic of sadism lured in by Holmes to greedily satisfy the nagging ghastly degeneracies. Most of the runtime runs with Ironbear licking at the chops, contemplating the next libidinous victim. Thick in the air is the sordidness moisture of solo self-gratification with unorthodox sex toys: a pig’s head, human blood, and other interesting, socially ignoble objects not fit to describe without dismantling in spoiler territory. Ironbear has to be a killer and a pretender, playing into a pretense that is a wolf in a sheep’s kinky-gimp clothing when Pitt’s prostitute steps into the motel room. Together, Pitts and Ironbear are electric, sexy, and give a damn good X-rated show of lust and macabre that turns the fever of carnality into a gruesome display of monomania participation.

“LoveDump” is not an attractive title, but suitable for unattractive content of desecrating the dead to the likes of Jörg Buttgereit’s “Nekromantik” and Marian Dora’s “Cannibal” while striving to be akin to Japan’s extreme horror like “Splatter: Naked Blood” or the notoriously sought after Guinea Pig films. “LoveDump” has an outrush of a snuff film that emanates a deep, dark secret club with elite memberships under pseudonym-ship in the producer and production departments. The makeup and special effects prompt disconcert of an upholding quality for an indie picture and, so much so, the affect of the human soul skin-crawlingly good that we can’t find ourselves looking away when the urge to be squeamish is strong. SamHel’s film digs niche graves that not everyone will have the courage enough to step into by choice. For myself, “LoveDump” is purely curious voyeurism, ingesting and digesting the film as an informational vessel of visceral paraphilias and without a solid plot to chew on, “LoveDump” is a straightforward stitch in time gorging more on graphic imagery than story and that is where the A Baroque House flick loses me to an extent.

Don’t expect palsied love-stricken hearts to be oozing with jubilee affections; instead, expect a romantic bloodbath of narcissism in a solo courtship like none other in SamHel’s ultra-gory “LoveDump” on a limited edition DVD and Blu-ray from A Baroque House. The camera work by the monikered Excessive Menace renders a SOV resemblance from the 90’s with a lot of unsteady handheld shooting as well as adjusting the clarity of focus, but the frames do flicker noticeably which can be a minor nuisance. Almost all the sex and gore scenes are in an extreme closeup the gives you an extreme eye feel for the commingling faux blood and real semen. One of my only gripes is with the angles in the intercourse with Apricot Pitts that didn’t translate over well without the proper focus and lighting to be as a graphic as possible. Since provided with a digital screener and the screener provided is a rough cut of the short film, there were no bonus material included, if there were any. The limited edition physical packaged Blu-ray will include the full HD uncut version of the film, a still gallery, a behind the scene making of, and trailer. I assume the LE DVD contains the same features, but are not specified. Be warned! “LoveDump” is not teeny-bopping horror filmed for any Joe Schmo to casually sit down to Netflix and chill with their partner, unless they’re into switch BDSM with an ichor fetish and, in that case, “LoveDump’s” an avant-garde aphrodisiac bred out of extreme and unwavering compulsions.

See Through the Eyes of EVIL. “Dahmer” reviewed! (MVDVisual / Blu-ray)

On February 15th, 2992, Jeffrey Dahmer was convicted on murder, dismemberment, and sexual offenses on 17 young males.  Before then, Dahmer preyed on the desperate and the unsuspecting males living undisclosed in the then tabooed gay culture between 1978 and 1991.  Drugging, raping, killing, and then sometimes raping his victims posthumously became the Wisconsin serial killer’s unhinged obsession for companionship while working auspiciously as a chocolate factory warehouse worker.  Dahmer’s mind blossoms through the graphic dual prose narrative of events that circle around his lonely existence from a novice outcast drawn to kill to a calculating cold-blooded manhunter with deviant tendencies. 

Jeffrey Dahmer is one of those cerebral oddities you wish had a sight tube or a port hole to gape into and absorb the torrent of deranged thoughts in order to get a better understanding of how a serial killer’s mind functions and rationalizes vice and death as a sustainable life style.  Writer-director David Jacobson attempts to explain that very concept that sordid Dahmer’s visceral vision of the world around him in the 2002 interpretational blend of fact and fiction film, “Dahmer.”  Based on real events with some tweaks to protect the identities of real people, Jacobson’s crime biopic forces the uncomfortable measure of a bedeviled seduction, placing viewers in both the objective and subjective hot seat of Dahmer’s beginnings to his submersed praxis of his warped theoretical longings.  “Dahmer” is a production of a Peninsula Films, Inc., the same production company behind another serial killer biopic, Clive Saunders’ “Gacy,” a year later.

Surrounding the film, it’s been rumored that many actors don’t want anything to do with playing the titular sociopath; perhaps, Dahmer’s past scruples the filling of his size 10 shoes smeared with blood or, perhaps, exploring the dark caverns of his mind was too treacherous to traverse and come out unscathed from a crippling, crestfallen place of trauma.  Then, there’s Jeremy Renner.  Before his fame and fandom from “The Avengers” franchise, even before his breakout role in the pro-cop action blockbuster, SWAT, Jeremy Renner filled those monstrous size 10 shoes in the most quietest of ways, but the Hawkeye star’s skin-crawling version of a notorious killer he eerily takes a resemblance of provided that much more of a tactile insight into Dahmer’s inhuman nature.  Renner carries the film through two stages in Dahmer’s life, one being as an adolescent with homoerotic obsessions and deranged peculiarities whose living with his parents and grandmother while the other is paved by his own hands as an emotionless and manipulative rapist and murderer.  The distinct development is brilliantly illuminated by Renner’s understanding of Dahmer at certain stages of life.  Rounding out “Dahmer’s” cast is a fellow cinematic Marvel comics movie actor in Bruce Davison (“X-Men”) as Dahmer’s father, Lionel, Artel Great whose character is derived from real life Dahmer victim escapee, Tracey Edwards, and with Matt Newton, Dionysio Basco, and the late Kate Williamson adding their supportive performances.

Director David Jacobson didn’t want to explore and exploit the gory side of Jeffrey Dahmer’s tucked away carnage; instead, Jacobson dives into the psyche of Dahmer, molding human emotions around the sociopath who felt inadequate, if not also frightened, of his yearnings that propelled him to do the unspeakable acts of meticulous violence.  “Dahmer” obviously isn’t a true-to-fact biopic, regaling with colorful discourse and captivating with uncomfortable actions as filler to a near Hollywoodize stitching, but Jacobson did sprinkle with truth to fill in the mental gaps with interpretations of Dahmer’s connections with others, from family to victims.  Director of photography, Chris Manley, is able to capture the intensity with contrast lighting between young Dahmer and old Dahmer.  In Dahmer’s young life, the lighting is very natural, very bright, and very normal in a showcase of Dahmer’s mental space and, if we were not already enlightened about the serial killer’s, Dahmer would be just an usual misfit or a closeted homosexual with an obscure inkling to do more malevolency.  Only during scenes of mature Dahmer is the lighting saturated with hazy primary colors of blue, green, yellow, etc. that heighten madness and mark an ominous, dangerous presence inside the gay club or Dahmer’s apartment while everywhere else is in natural lighting.  A good companion piece to “Dahmer” is “My Friend Dahmer” directed by Marc Meyers that sought to visualize High Schooler Jeffrey Dahmer as an outlier spaz who desired attention to the point of making ruckuses in public places with other practical jokers and dived more into his obsession with eviscerating the local wildlife for curiosity and disolving them with his father’s chemistry concoctions, a nice little connective tissue between the two films. Watch Meyers’ “My Friend Dahmer” and Jacobson’s “Dahmer” in said order and while the two films are veritably different in style, each depiction captures a loner at heart with a minacious defense to feel, the very least, something by overpowering-to-death the unsuspecting prey.

Jeffrey Dahmer’s tactics were gruesome, perverse, and unsavory without question, but David Jacobson attempts the impossible of detaching the human from the monster in “Dahmer” that’s now being distributed onto Blu-ray by FilmRise and MVDVisual under their Marquee Collection. The High-Def, 1080p picture is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, from the original 35mm negative film. While the upscaling looks fairly well achieved that seizes to put more life into the coloring, especially with those rich colorful shots in Dahmer’s later years, a good portion of 35mm negative sheens through with hairline scratches and the occasional blip of a cigarette burn. The overall delineation renders nicely with little-to-not soft edges and there doesn’t seem to be any cropping or edge enhancing. The English language DTS 5.1 Surround sound is as equally competent with clarity throughout the vocal track. There was too much depth or range to paint a picture, gaining a win by default with the conversing being held in tightly packed rooms or in extreme closeups of conversating duos. The musical score by Christina Agamanolis, Mariana Bernoski, and Willow Williamson haunts mostly like the caressing sounds of viper’s mellifluous tongue with breathy moans, irregular percussions, and a whisking uneasiness tune that sinks its teeth into you. The soundtrack is mixed with some monotonous club beats, doo-wop, and soft and classical alternative rock that include Patsy Cline, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Freddie Cannon. Bonus materials are a little antiquated with a making of featurette from back when the film was closer being first released, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, story boards, a red band and theatrical trailer, and an audio commentary by director David Jacobson and actors Jeremy Renner and Artel Kayaru. “Dahmer” doesn’t need to sell us on the diabolical nature of Jeffrey Dahmer, but what the film does do is formulate a systemic idea of who Dahmer disposes to be, as a loner, as a sufferer, and as a killer, underneath the skin of an average young white male.

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Father and Son Bring EVIL Down Upon a Tormented Detective in “Darkness Falls” reviewed! (Vertical Entertainment / Digital Screener)


Los Angeles detective Jeff Anderson has his perfect world turned upside down upon discovering his beloved wife dead of suicide in their apartment bathtub. Losing his bid for Captain and having his life be in utter shambles, Anderson becomes obsessed with lurking around incoming suicide calls on the CB radio, trying to make sense of his wife’s sudden reasoning to end it all. When a similar case produces a survivor from a familiar fate as his wife’s, Anderson learns two men are behind similar forged suicides stretched out over the past ten years against prominent women figures in and around the L.A. area. The detective spins a wild theory that has him following every lead to track down and stop the father and son serial killers without any backup from his local precinct, forcing his hand to choose whether to be a cop and uphold the law or seek lethal retribution for the woman he loved.

From French director Julien Seri comes “Darkness Falls,” a crime thriller released in 2020 that is entirely shot in English, a first for the French filmmaker who helms a script from the executive producer on “Starry Eyes” and “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot,” the Belgium native, Giles Daoust. Also produced by the Belgium, the film, that was formerly titled “Anderson Falls,” gorges on the detective exemplar of the prodigal crime fighter stripped down to next to nothing before regaining footing against the two experienced serial killers out to reduce the highly professional woman population with one bottle full of sleeping bills and one razorblade at a time. “Darkness Falls” is an exaggerated piece of nurture versus nature on systemic toxic masculinity seething under the guise of one man’s oppressed childhood from the abusive women in his life and then enlightening his son to his ways while the open minded, Renaissance man climbs back up the mountain toward redemption, not only for himself or his wife, but for all women being forced in a dual parental role. “Darkness Falls” is released under the production companies Koji Productions, Lone Suspect, and Giles Daoust’s Title Media.

Despite the international production and filmmakers, the solid cast is compromised of familiar faces from respectable actors, starting with not-the-Elsa-“Frozen’s” Shawn Ashmore. Ashmore, who I considered to a steady part of any project – he’s phenomenal in Fox’s “The Following” with co-star Kevin Bacon, – finds himself in the shoes of a L.A. detective who has fallen by no cause of his own, but as consumed as detective Jeff Anderson is with proving his wife’s murder, Ashmore doesn’t sell Anderson’s convictions and doesn’t properly apply Anderson’s super sleuth talents to wade through the sea of angst and torment. Anderson’s also written poorly as a man who consistently lingers around suicide call-ins and has constantly has numerous visions and memories of his wife that serve little to her importance to him, serving more toward just being story fillers instead of providing a little more value to Anderson’s character. What attracted me more to “Darkness Falls” was Gary Cole as one-half of the father-and-son serial killer team. Cole takes a break from the Mike Judge and Seth McFarland humor to stretch his legs amongst the thriller genre, playing an unnamed dark toned character derived from hate, abuse, and the thrill of seeing women die. Cole’s performance is a step above Ashmore’s lead role, but still flat, flat to the point of almost monotonic pointlessness that doesn’t exalt his need to kill high profile women. “Darkness Falls” rounds out the cast with Danielle Alonso (“The Hills Have Eyes 2”) as a Anderson’s former partner turned police captain, Richard Harmon (“Grave Encounters 2”) as Gary Cole’s accomplice son, and the legendary Lin Shaye (“Insidious”) as Anderson’s mother.

While “Darkness Falls” conveys a strong, if unintentional, message that grossly sheds light on the overstepping male view toward the idea of a successful woman, director Julien Seri missteps multiple times through the dramatics of a cop on the edge of the law and on the brink of despair while also not completely rigging out Gary Cole and Richard Harmon with more conniving wit, especially when their kindred reign of terror is well versed throughout the years. What fleshes out from Ashmore’s rolling on the floor and spitting shade performance at pictures of women on his crime wall trying to get into the head of the killers and Cole’s character who relinquishes freedom in sacrifice, even after a daring great escape from a botched crime scene that involved killing two cops in the process, is this weirdly uncharismatic collapse of a story from within the parameters of a well-established cast and premise. “Darkness Falls” barely pulls out a believable crime thriller that can only be described as vanilla, a term that stakes the heart terribly knowing that Shawn Ashmore and Gary Cole deserve so much better just from their lustrous careers and polar acting styles that don’t counterbalance the dynamics at all in this film. The original title, “Anderson Falls,” is fresher salt than the stale, rehashed title change of “Darkness Falls” to, perhaps, gain traction in a fruitless action of selling more tickets, adding even more vanilla flavor.

Releasing on VOD and Digital this month is “Darkness Falls,” an unrated release, courtesy of Vertical Entertainment. Streaming services such as iTunes, Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, FandangoNow will carry Shawn Ashmore’s 84 minute sordid themed detective thriller as well as all major cable and satellite companies. Since this is a digital screener, the audio and video aspects will not be reviewed, but if running on digital and VOD, the presentation should be excellent provided that your internet’s not sluggish and a good connection is established. I will say that the score by Sacha Chaban is against the grain with a brawny anti-brooding soundtrack more suitable for intense action than stylish poignancy than ends in uninspired ca’canny. That’s also not to say it wasn’t a good score. There were no bonus material included with the digital screener and no bonus scenes during or after the credits. Sitting through “Darkness Falls” was tough to sit through as the anticipation for the morbidity level to increase with due pressure onto detective’s Anderson’s browbeaten shoulders for a hellish ride solving his wife’s untimely death was never sated, sputtering along as a halfcocked story with performances to match.

“Darkness Falls” available for rent on Prime Video!