To Death Do Us EVILLY Part! “Savage Vows” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

“Savage Vows” on DVD at Amazon.com

A fatal car crash claims the life of Mark’s wife.  Plagued by vivid nightmares of death and grief-stricken by the loss, Mark finds comfort in his closest friends who have come to console and stay with him after the funeral.  Slowly, Mark’s friends begin to thin out.  Thinking they’ve gone home or stepped out briefly, Mark continues to spend time with his remaining friends, watching horror movies, and eating fast-food hamburgers while contemplating how to handle the sorrow for the rest of his life without his wife by his side.  Other than a select few of his friends attempt to take advantage of his vulnerability, what’s really happening behind the scenes is a crazed killer is taking out his friends one at a time and while Mark continues to sink deeper into self-pity and become contentious with the greed of others, the killer mercilessly works closer to him by wiping out his entire friend network before he even comprehends what’s going on.

Let me take you back in time to the archaic and fashion disreputable (or maybe just plain questionable) year of 1995 where the hair was bigger, the cars were more manual, and where Blu-rays, DVDs, and those godawful streaming services were a futuristic glimmer in the eye as cassette videotapes were stocked the shelves. One of those physical retail locations was a brick-and-mortar store owned by Robert (Bob) Dennis who became enticed to stick his hand into the movie making machine and convinced to direct his one and only full length feature film, a shot-on-video slasher indie entitled “Savage Vows.” Bob Dennis’s then wife-now-ex, Carol Dennis, co-wrote the 80-minute script of an obscured death dealer racking up a body toll of Mark’s disputable friends who secretly despise each other and have sub rosa intentions. Shot in and around Wilkes-Barre, PA, where Dennis operated and shared ownership alongside brother Michael J. Dennis his video store, Full Moon Video (no relationship that I can deduce to Charles Band’s Full Moon aside from selling his hot horror commodities on tape), “Savage Vows” retains a two-location shoot encompassing Mark’s house and an always tight budget cinema staple cemetery for full blown low-budget honors. Gage Productions funds the project under another Dennis relation, executive producer Gage Dennis, along Carol Dennis wearing the dual hat of producer.

“Savage Vows” transposes the family affair from behind the camera into the forefront of the camera as Bob and Carol Dennis not only nurture widowed-slasher concept into a full-fledged video feature but also take on principal, yet ill-fated roles themselves while also employing Bob’s brother, Mike Dennis, and Jamiece Dennis into the background and extra fatality-fodder to fill in where needed. The scene interactions transcend through naturally as suspected with having family members mimic being mincemeat for the grotesque grinder and to put forth their best foot in the dialogue despite the rather cliched and trite rap. Though Bob Dennis and his cohort crew of closely related cast member might not be the marquee glowing luminaries of low-budget lore, there is one name, a singular cast member, that sticks out as a present-day household name in rinkydink D-movie horror. The filmmaker who has made a notorious name for himself for his schlocky and shoddy sharksploitation films, has trespassed and exploited the property of Amityville on more than one occasion, and continues to be an unfazed direct-to-video deity amongst the bedrock in the bottom of the barrel genre pool is none other than Mark Polonia, the director, who often collaborated with his late twin brother John Polonia, brought us “Splatter Farm” and has also a defacing sharksploitation rut-rack with the so-bad-it’s-drinking game good grievousness of “Land Shark,” “Virus Shark,” and, most recently, “Sharkula.” Mark Polonia has more than just the role of Adam, Mark’s best friend, in this story as the then just hitting his stride Polonia encouraged Bob Dennis to expand beyond his wishful thinking of creating a horror movie and also provided creative notes during principal photography. Just being this far down in the character-cast paragraph section, you know “Savage Vows” Armando Sposto (“Night Crawlers”) barely makes a blip on the radar as the widowed Mark, but the shame of it all is that Sposto provides fathoms of depth when juxtaposed to any other in the cast. Having just lost his beloved, Mark’s up against the wall of grief and Sposto does his damnedest to convey that without flinching as the young actor has to teeter between misery and another self-conscious emotion pivotal to the endgame. Kelly Ashton, Adam Bialek, Jackie Hergen, Grand Kratz, and Sally Gabriele make up the rest of the “Savage Vows.”

To death do us part” is the ceremonious idiom that signifies an everlasting commitment to one another. For Bob Dennis, it’s the marginally grim phrase that also drives the plot, but “Savage Vows” wanes nearly entirely from matrimony motifs, never really genetically incorporating the sacred act of bonding two people itself into its slasher anatomy.  Instead, Bob Dennis (and Mark Polonia) land on the ghastly side, or rather the latter side, of a marital life span with the untimely splitting of a union and this particular union, Mark’s marriage, ends in tragedy and therefore a gothic-cladded funeral of gloom and despair are rooted and entrenched into the story.  Though perfectly suitable to drown oneself woes, “Savage Vows” reaches further into that dispirited nature with Mark having fallen into negativism and his friends lend their sympathy with a sleepover offer of consolation. That’s where the comradeship becomes icky at best with friends who disguise their underhanded true intentions with a show of spurious sympathy and that kind of malevolence benevolence within the closeness of others mirrors itself, in a foreshadowing type of way, in the heart of the plot that lacks the pith of solid slasher kills. The kills scenes are of the run-of-the-mill stratification that slowly ascend to a not so bigger or better rehashed versions of themselves. The finale cap sets the bar a little too late in my book with a deserved kneecapping kill that simultaneously sums up “Savage Vows” skin-deep concept.

A longtime leader in resurrecting obscure SOV horror back from the 80s and 90’s analog grave, SRS Cinema does what SRS Cinema does best with a supremely graphic and retro-approached DVD of Bob Dennis’ “Savage Vows.” The NTSC encoded, region free DVD5 presents the film in the original aspect ratio of a matted 1.33:1 with a shot on video quality that’s high on fuchsia hue in what’s a warm, inflamed, infrared color palette that obtrudes in a non-stylistic choice. Certain trope-filled nightmare scenes have a catered good synth score and stay ablaze with visual terror fuel in which the hot pink-purple palette would have worked to the scenes advantage. As expected, as these imperfections add that wonderful je ne sais quoi to the shot-on-video epoch, the subpicture white noise and tracking lines are a welcome treasure trove for trashy rare cinema albeit the gargling of quality. The English Mono track never flushes or levels out with any promise due to a lack of a boom recording and far-removed mic placement. The dialogue remains boggled down also by e-interference with a slog of hissing issues, but still manages to be intelligible. Bonus features includes an 80-minute, feature length, commentary track with supporting star Mark Polonia on the phone with writer-director Bob Dennis, a bloopers reel, and theatrical trailer. Say, I do to “Savage Vows,” a love-it or hate-it, little known, SOV slasher with a can-do attitude of stab-happiness of the unprincipled so-called nearest and dearest.

“Savage Vows” on DVD at Amazon.com

Subscribe to EVIL’s Vlog! “Followed” reviewed! (Global View Entertainment / Digital Screener)


Unable to entertain that ghosts actually exist and to be one of the best social media influencers he can be on the world wide web, influencer “DropTheMike” vlogs locations’ ghastly back stories that are now presumably haunted by the very souls the locations consumed. When offered a once in a lifetime opportunity, worth a small fortune in the sum of a quarter of a million dollars and set start up his family with his recently pregnant fiancé, “DropTheMike” quickly challenges his followers to scout out the next paranormal investigation on the cusp of Halloween in 2016. With the results in, an overwhelming number of responses held one of the most notoriously haunted hotels in America, The Lennox, as his and his video crew’s next targeted exploration from the tops of the roof to the dank, dark basement. Ecstatic and eager in a pool of mixed emotions amongst his crew, “DropTheMike” pushes forward despite the forewarning counsel from a hotel historian and his friends, booking rooms for a three day stay that turns horribly frightening when the social media influencer’s greed for followers and fortune provokes the damned souls and the spirit of an infamous serial killer who once hacked up his victims in the very same room “DropTheMike” is staying in.

Us bloggers always try to use our social media platform powers to not only gain internet popularity amongst the ever growing, or continuously exploding, tsunami of 24/7 news, reviews, and inspirational muses for instant, impactful transmission to billions of users, but also to express the things we, the bloggers/vloggers, express what we’re passionate about. Sometimes, what we’re blindly passionate about undertaking can haunt and consume our very being, and also destroy our souls and that’s the epitomic baseline for Antoine Le’s 2020 supernatural cyber-horror “Followed” that’ll feed into select drive-in theaters Friday the 19th. “Followed” is Le’s debut full-length feature film penned by the self-help screenwriting guru, Todd Klick. Shot on location in Los Angeles, Le and his crew use a number of different hotels give the illusion of being inside the fictitious Hotel Lennox, including Hayward Manor Hotel for the lobby scenes and Hotel Normandie for the interior rooms, re-working the rest digitally to effectively pull off the faux location without issue. Branded Pictures Entertainment and Le’s own co-founded Viscape Arts, along with co-producers Greg Berlant and Matthew Ryan Brewbaker, server as the production studios that pushes cyber-horror virtually toward to the forefront of found footage and dark web terror.

In front of the camera, the main attraction, the host with the most is “DropTheMike,” played enthusiastically by Matthew Solomon in his sophomore feature film and handling the pressures of a demanding social influencer position with pizazz to generate subscriptions with the utmost vigor. Personally, I’m familiar with too many influencers that cast a pendulum energy to the akin of a zany children’s educator personality known as Blippie. Google Blippie and have you’ll be able to paint a picture of a less morbid version of “DropTheMike” but with the same kind of body and facial expressions. Solomon’s counterpart is Tim Drier as Mike’s director of photography, Chris. Reversed within the confines of his Christian faith, Chris has serious reservations about The Lennox stunt, opposing Mike at every plea for him to shoot what could be the influencer’s biggest achievement and turning point of his mediocre career. If it wasn’t for being sweet on Danni, a fellow DP, Chris would snuff out any venture into the what Mike thinks is the one big publicity stunt. Played by “The Incantation’s” Sam Valentine, Danni’s a bit of an instigator or, perhaps, shares Mike’s agnostic views on the spirt world, but communes with the film crew in order to reach out to her former fling in Chris and see what materializes from the questions that have been plaguing her. The story primarily focuses on the trio and their friendship dynamics, but there are interesting key support roles that provide a well timed and deserving boost to keep “Followed” grippingly tense and violently rough-hewn toward the path of the malevolent specter plane, including performances by Caitlin Grace, Kelsey Griswold, Christopher Ross Martin (“American Horror Story: 1984), and veteran actor of “Deer Hunter” and “Carnisaur 2,” John Savage.

What makes “Followed” different from other cyber-horror genre films, such as “Unfriended,” “iLived,” or “Like.Share.Follow?” Cyber-horror looks a lot different now than 20 years ago when the genre viewed the mechanics of machine was bedeviling autonomy and people were slave to the machine in one way or another. “Death Machine,” “Lawnmower Man,” and “Evil Speak” are the quintessential ghost in the machine with each plot platters different variations of to subordinate mankind. Now, these films might seem low-tech and more tangible instead of the trying to grasp the idea of cyberspace. Aside from the dark web snuff premises, cyber-horror nowadays, such as “Followed,” is bound by the original influencer, the devil, who has strewn his watermark through the many conduits of streaming services, infecting at will the dark powers to beguile and besiege the barrier of rationality, and deconstruct human morality to the most primitive and primary sin. “Followed” doesn’t break the mold of cyber-horror, but exploits the mold to the max to deliver a terrifying hotel with a ghastly black past. Based perhaps on a number of personal grim accounts and then chained together like an all-in-one anthology, “Followed” jazzes up with the second act with myths, visions, and theories between the rather ordinary bookend beginning and end, always stepping up evil’s game to the point where you never know what to expect and that’s what’s enjoyable about the found footage aspect because nothing is certain, especially when each floor has a history of violence.

Book your reservation to hell and subscribe to the nerve-racking black magic of Antoine Le’s “Followed” hitting the drive-in theaters on June 19th, insidiously expanding into more drive-in theaters on June 26, and eventually landing onto VOD later summer 2020 courtesy of the new kid on the film distributor block, Global View Entertainment. Since “Followed” was viewed as a digital screener, the video and audio aspects will not be critiqued, but the official specs include a presentation in a widescreen format, aspect ratio 1.85:1 with an English language 5.1 surround sound audio mix inside a 96 minute runtime. “Followed” is a visual feast that apply a number of different kind of filming techniques from handheld, spy cams, and security footage and brush the hue spectrum from the ominously vibrant reds to the forlorn splay of sterile metal and steel. With tactics that include a pluralistic phantom ecosystem all living together at the Lennox Hotel, the varied soundscapes and ambient bytes spookily outfit the multi-headed apparition commune existing just on the threshold of the reality plane and seeping in when poked, like a sleeping bear with a stick. There were no bonus material included or any additional scenes during or after the credits. “Followed” is a cherub of the cyber-horror junkets before it’s time that indulges itself into the destructive and careless path of a social influencer, ignoring the sinister forces amongst the other things, like personal property, public safety, or personal safety, real influences tend to disregard when climbing the social media latter to the 15 minutes of fame of internet stardom.

Find a Drive-In near you by clicking on “Followed” official website : https://followedhorrormovie.com/

[youutube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VduFOTzm8DI]

Death Fears No EVIL in Takashi Miike’s “First Love” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)


Orphaned boxer Leo grows up to be an up-and-coming star in the sport. After losing a match by TKO from a soft punch, Leo is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that sends himself into despair. In another part of town, the established yakuza and the imported Chinese mafia boil toward an inevitable war over turf and drugs. When Kase, a junior enforcer, betrays his yakuza family, scheming with a crooked cop to steal drugs for profitable gain, the tide turns blood red as the yakuza naively blames the Chinese. Caught in the middle is a drug addicted prostitute named Monica, a slave to the yakuza for her father’s past mishaps, who is kept locked away in a small apartment overseen by a yakuza lackeys, romantic couple Yasu and Julie, that also use the apartment to control drug flow. When Kase plan to raid the apartment and steal the drugs goes array, Yasu winds up dead and Monica escapes, running into Leo who has nothing left to live for except to protect Monica. A distraught-induced psychotic Julie, the deadly yakuza, the Chinese Mafia, a double-crosser and his crooked cop partner, a delusional girl of the night, and one apathetic boxer clash in a single night’s ultraviolet web.

Extreme Japanese auteur Takashi Miike fastens a lively tongue-and-cheek and supremely savage crime thriller in his latest mad yakuza film, amiably entitled, “First Love,” also known “Hatsukoi.” “First Love” is anything but friendly and pleasant as the street of Tokyo run red with blood or else the 2019 released film wouldn’t be a Takashi Miike trademark special. Penned by Miike’s long time collaborator, Masa Nakamura, the filmmaker’s affection for horror eludes this title that hones more toward the unpleasantries of clan betrayals, snarky criminal shenanigans, and, of course, a flavor for mega violence that become a maelstrom angrily surrounding a demoralized boxer and the victimized forced-into-prostitution young woman he aims to selfishly protect while in his mental clout regarding his mortality. Produced by OLM, Inc production company headquartered in Tokyo takes a step away from manga with “First Love,” a step that has been evolved over the last few years, but may have contributed to some of the illustrated content that seemingly has infiltrated into the third act with an initial explosiveness in the beginning portions of a car chase scene.

Cast as Leo Katsuragi, the boxer, is Masataka Kubota, a familiar face from another Miike film, “13 Assassins,” and most recently from the heavily Japanese cultured specter feature, ‘Tokyo Ghoul.” Leo’s lighter weight physique and fresh face has Masataka look the part of a promising fighter whose positioned for fame early into the story, but that framework comes to a screeching halt when he’s destined for a tumorous death. When Leo is coupled with Monica, a drug addicted forced in prostitution plagued with crippling hallucinations side effects, the repressed Leo finds himself sheltering someone with more burden on her shoulders than upon his own. Monica’s portrayed by Sakurako Konishi in what’s essentially her first major role and being paired as a scared, lonely, and crazy character coupled with a stoic vet in Masataka makes for an easy dynamic. Shôta Sometani’s chin deep in trouble Kase goes without saying that Sometani’s unfathomable range and charisma adds an aloof comic relief along with Kase’s dishonest detective slipped covertly into by “Ichi the Killer” himself, Nao Ohmori and pursued by a retribution spirited girlfriend, Julie, of her slain yakuza boyfriend; a role spearheaded with such energy and gusto from Rebecca Eri Rabone, credited solely as Becky, who has a slight Cynthia Rothrock vibe. “First Love” is no slave to boorish performances from Takahiro Miura (“Shin Godzilla”), Cheng-Kuo Yen, Sansei Shiomi, and Mami Fujioka.

“First Love” emerges as a smart and fun battle royal of decimation in the anarchist criterion. One would think a prolific director such as Takashi Miike would wear out his welcome with tired and stale filmic bread, crumbling with every soggy rinse and repeat. That’s not the case with “First Love.” Why is it entitled “First Love” anyway, you ask? The question’s open for viewer interpretation, much like most of Miike’s suggestive elegant style, and presents an illuminating unexplored journey in itself. A ventured guess would be that Leo and Monica have never experienced the feeling previously in either content or a labored life with Leo being an impassive athlete and Monica an escort since high school. The corollary of bumping into each other by chance results in the unorthodox dismantling of two rival criminal organizations, baring then an age-old theme of love conquers all and renders the mystics of destiny fueled from from within all the way easter egging sexual taboos inside his brazen, sometimes insane, transgression storyline. Either way, Takashi Miike helms a tremendous brutal-comedy that brands him as being the Martin Scorsese of Japanese filmmaking.

Blades, guns, and a fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, “First Love” has mainstream aptitude with a carnage driven crime syndicate finesse and is now available on a two-disc, dual format Blu-ray and DVD release from Well Go USA Entertainment. Encased in a slipcover, the not rated feature is presented in full HD, 1080p, and in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio. This review will focus it’s review on the Blu-ray quality. Much of Miike’s style is neo-noir basking in very grounded color palette that’s occasionally adorned by the neon brights of Tokyo. Often does Miike composite in his work and “First Love” is no exception with a brief manga nearly a rallying ending; the illustration is super sharp, a visual pop of blue and white, and, obviously, clean. Ultra-fine details add to a prizing fatalism and even the tasteful gore, on a granular level, passes the screen test. Some scenes appear sleeker than others inside a dark scope coded with darker shades of green and yellow, but the overall result smothers any kind of inconsistency. The Japanese and Chinese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks savor every last audiophile morsel. The clear dialogue renders nicely, big effects and action sequences offer a wide range, and the depth covers more than enough ground surrounded by hustle and bustle of the urban element. Kôji Endô’s enchantingly lethal score will immerse you right into the mix and provide a slick culture twist upon classical composition. The English subtitles are well paced and mostly accurate as I did catch one grammatical mistake. Incased inside a slight embossed titled cardboard slipcover, the release also offers a teaser and a theatrical run trailer. Cynical on the surface and romantically submersible to the core, “First Love” is a Takashi Miike instant favorite of amusing antagonism and shorn almost completely of genial garments.

Own Takashi Miike’s “First Love” on Blu-ray+DVD combo set!