Father Augustus Bane is a go-by-the-book type priest and through his unlimited optimism and passion, grudgingly turns the other cheek when life’s bitterly cold callousness bends him over a barrel and pulls his hair until bruised and raw on that very same turned cheek. When the God dedicated man of the cloth is pushed too far after the merciless slaughter of God worshipping parishioners and he is left for dead by a gang of demented family members, the surviving Father Bane is reborn and becomes destined to a vindictive life path with a six-shooting revolver he baptizes as The Lord. Hell hath no wrath like a priest scorned to obliterate all sinners from every walk of life in a blaze of the almighty glory (and gory) of The Lord and those explicitly responsible for the death of his congregational followers and much of the city’s crime and corruption will have nowhere to hide from their lethal penance.
What could be considered as the pious Punisher on steroids, Ryan LaPlante’s offensive-laden, satirical grindhouse exploitation feature, “Holy Hell,” is a confirmation of that films like LaPlante’s are sorely needed and pleasingly free in speech inside the dominion of today’s sensitive and politically correct cultural society. Surely not a product of the U.S. and will certainly piss some viewers off (especially zealots), this Canadian made production could only exist outside a conservative dome, looking inward for a weakness to seep and taint the sometimes too wholesome American cinema market that’s tiptoeing around what should expressively blunt and in your face. Let’s face it, folks, it’s a movie! LaPlante writes, directs, and stars in this movie of comedy, action, and exploitation that’s even too controversial for some of the supporting cast who used pseudonyms, such as punned Yennifer Lawrence and Zooey Deschansmell, as their stage names because of the deviant material.
The man with many hats, Ryan LaPlante stars as Father Augustus Bane, a cheerful priest with a firm belief of charity instead of violence, and as LaPlante’s first and only feature as a writer and director, “Holy Hell” snuggly fits the filmmaker’s contemning, vindictive, “autistic rage monger,” as another character described accurately. Satirically stoic, Bane reminisces the days of yore when severely slighted protagonist broke and the endured trauma became a journey of eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. LaPlante, whose career pivoted to the video game world and could so seamlessly, understood the mentality of once was with harden, good men turned relentlessly anti-heroic. Father Bane’s opposition had parallel penchants of aggressive stamina, but in a more deplorable and deviant calling. The MacFarlane family is about as coarse and as ruthless as they come ran unflinchingly by Dokes, the head of the family, with his wild eyes and skull earring atop his fishnet undershirt and open Hawaiian button down. Dokes is truly satanic as a ravishing villain from in co-producer’s Michael Rawley’s in his sardonic performance of the father of three. The “Disco Pigs” actor revels as Dokes in not only being the kingpin, but also a special daddy to his three rotten and just as maniacal kids – Trisha (Rachel Ann Little), Buddy (“Red Spring’s” Reece Presley), and, the more flagrant of the trio, Sissy, a labeled sadistic he/she of boundless perversion and a flair for the theatric played vivaciously by Shane Patrick McClurg and McClurg’s Sissy MacFarlane is difficult to dislike and is favorably one of the best and best portrayed characters alongside Father Bane and Dokes MacFarlane. The entire “Holy Hell” cast amazes as deviant delectation and round out with love interest Amy Bonner played by Alysa King (“Slasher” television series), Luke LaPlante, and Austin Schaefer.
While “Holy Hell” trails the established trope about a vindictive good man, a thrilling theme consisting inside half the grindhouse genre films of 70’s to 80’s, Ryan LaPlante doesn’t really offer much new to audiences whom are well versed; however, since “Holy Hell” is one big punch-to-the-face nod toward grindhouse and the filmmaker constructs a complete caricature picture, the shocking, the disgusting, and the hilarity mold almost an entirely new brand of grindhouse or, as I’ve coined, mockhouse. A mock-grindhouse film have natural degrading quality where filmmakers remain on the fray of getting the right look and feel of a grindhouse film, but LaPlante accomplishes the task, echoing the effect while adding his own brand of comedy. Also LaPlante’s bludgeoning of taboo is no holds barred comedy, especially on surface level narratives such as with Father Bane who has a tremendous arch to hurdle as a priest fueled with guilt and rage against an army of inhuman and derange psychopaths, plus all the other miscellaneous miscreants roaming the streets at all hours of the day, but the script is penned like the Divine retribution as the priest endures, almost in a supernaturally reborn or resurrected kind of way, after being shot six times in the form of a cross by Dokes that, ironically, acts as a blessing for Bane to declare war on evil.
Indican Pictures presents a Rogus Gallery production with “Holy Hell” onto a not rated DVD home video. The widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, has a warm toned coloring grading from digital grader Defiant and also embellishes the natural grain and blemishes to assimilate into the grindhouse collective. “Holy Hell” is intent only appealing to a comic book illustration that makes definition fuzzy, but not totally cleared from the playing field. The closes up of the gore is nicely displayed with a drenching and gruesome effect. I couldn’t detect a lot of girth from the Englih language 2.0 stereo track which makes me think LaPlante intended on suppressing much of the ambiance and up the soundtrack quality from composer Adrian Ellis, whose upbeat, synch-rock has killer intentions whenever the MacFarlane’s are rolling heads. DVD extras include a director’s commentary and a blooper reel. Chockfull with affronting one liners, “Holy Hell” is utterly sound being well-rounded with the best intentions paved in hooker blood and indecent exposure, as well as being highly entertaining, in one holy redeemable package of horror exploitation blessed by Ryan LaPlante himself.
On the space shuttle Nautilus, three astronauts are returning home after one year in deep space. Their outbound transmissions to Earth are not being returned nor are they being received and as their ship draws closer to Earth, the only option for reentry is to take a risky crash landing into the Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of California, hoping someone, anyone, would see their shuttle coursing downward from the sky. Only two survive the crash and swim to shore where no boats, no planes, nor onlookers were around to receive them. They soon find out why. World War III had engulfed much of the Earth during their time in space, reaping the land of the urban jungles and making food and living conditions scare. Germ warfare had mutated much of the population to cannibalistic creatures and when torrentially raining, acid rain pours from the war torn atmosphere from ferociously brilliant and deadly clouds. Only a small band of good people remain and the two astronauts seek to keep them safe from the harsh elements, even against a merciless gang of thugs.
In the early 1980s, an ambitious and visionary filmmaker sought to produce, write, direct, and star in his very own modest budget feature film that would rival Hollywood’s glamourous and expensive effects while still maintaining a down-to-Earth independent production. That filmmaker was none other than Steve Barkett, creating his debut film, the 1982 science fiction post-war catastrophe, “The Aftermath.” “The Aftermath” is like if the “Planet of the Apes” met “The Walking Dead,” a sheer blunt for trauma of returning to your home to discover the world in shambles with different factions of hard nose killers ready to plunder all that you own and all that you will ever have. Barkett, with assistance from the brothers Dennis and Robert Skotak, who’ve went on to work on major studio films such as “Aliens” and did the matte work for John Carpenter’s “Escape from New York,” create a destroyed Los Angeles landscape through the power of some serious movie magic considering the time period and the budget.
Steve Barkett is Newman, one of the three astronauts with no first name, and the tough hombre’s hard disposition comes from his background exposition where he lost his wife and child before going up into space. Newman’s cold, but not heartless, and Barkett taps into that fairly well despite some robotic and formulaic performances. However, Christopher Barkett, Steve’s son, was a complete first generation cyborg, a regular toaster oven with teeth and eyeballs that monotones through all the lines and actions. The most interesting casting here is Lynne Margulies, who at the time of this release, was or was not yet the late Andy Kaufman’s girlfriend. Margulies, who previous worked on an adult film entitled “Young, Hot ‘n Nasty Teenage Cruisers,” continued the racy trend with a shirt-pokey role in Sarah, Newman’s quick-to-sack love interest with a briefly, well-endowed nude scene. Yet, Sig Haig manages to steal the Barkett’s film from right under his nose. The young and ruggedly muscular “The Devil’s Rejects” star sports his trademark shaved head and thick, dark goatee, labeling him the perfect casting choice in gang leader Cutter. Alfie Martin, Forrest J. Ackerman (“Dead Alive”), Larry Latham, Linda Stiegler, and Steve’s young daughter, Laura Anne Barkett costar.
One aspect that’s really appreciated in Barkett’s enterprising venture through post-war commentary and morally righteous themes is the special effects matte work from the Skotak brothers. Detailed paintings, such as exampled in the war-ravaged metropolis that was formerly L.A. embodying the once towering buildings, are now destructively cut short in a mangled heap in a matte effect with live actors. Practical effects work wonders for Barkett’s large scale premise despite the small scale performances, except from Sid Haig. The detail in the violence dawns a newly restored faith in early 1980’s sci-fi films; violence that was more prevalent in the genre later in the decade, in such films as “Aliens” or “Robocop,” making Barkett’s film a trail blazer that paved the way to deliver more sensational savagery and lots of blood of a high body count to a already fantastic genre.
MVDVisual and VCI Entertainment release Steve Barkett’s “The Aftermath” onto a dual format, DVD and Blu-ray, combo pack. Presented in 1080p on a MPEG-4 AVC encoded BD-50, the post apocalypse never looked so good in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio from a 2K remastered transfer of the original 35mm negative. VCI has bested the rest with colorfully enriched scenes and untouched framing. Slight grain more so over the matte special effects that optically contrasts between the two different layers where a little touchup could have smoothed out the indifferences, but other than that, the details are quite stark. The clean and untarnished English LCPM 2.0 mono track is also vastly well constructed that contains minuscule hissing and the occasion pop, clearly making the dialogue a prevalent force. Composer John Morgan’s traumatically dramatic score is full-bodied and robust that coinciding renders well with the action sequences and tranquil moments. The extras offer the original laserdisc bonus material that provide snippets of interviews from cast and crew, Steve Barkett’s short film “Night Caller,” over an hours’ worth of John Morgan’s soundtrack complete with title information, VCI promo announcement for Barkett’s other director “Empire of the Dark, and the original theatrical trailer. A retrospective journey to the early 1980’s science fiction indie sector is also a visually stunning resurrection of “The Aftermath” courtesy of VCI Entertainment and with impressive effects and a bigger-than-life concept despite an underwhelming performance as an actor, director Steve Barkett’s legacy as a filmmaker remains stronger than ever with this prominent and well-deserved upgrade of the lazer-gun and mutant inhibiting world reckoning.
All Doctor Victor Wolffenstein wanted to accomplish is to invent an occult practiced serum that would permit eternal life, but his pure genius was corrupted by an egomaniacal drive during his time of research in a small village of 1930’s Germany. When Dr. Wolffenstein began gruesomely experimenting with the body parts of the resident dead, local inhabitants labeled him an abomination against humanity and God and sought to expunge him from life by cutting out his tongue and burying him alive in a wooden coffin. Before his ultimate fate, Wolffenstein injects himself with his latest serum batch and curses the villagers prior to his damnation. His serum works, giving the malevolent doctor decades to perform his vital experiments for the next 80 years, but portions of his body start to decay and rot. To keep his tissue viable, this time he steals body parts from the living!
Director Marc Rohnstock’s German gore film “The Curse of Doctor Wolffenstein” finds residence on a callously displayed Blu-ray/DVD combo set courtesy of the blood aficionados over at Reel Gore Releasing. While the premise sounds like nothing more than one deranged doctor’s thirst to slice and dice at his little black heart’s whims, running parallel to Wolffenstein’s monstrosity narrative done in the dank dull light of a mad scientist’s bloodstained lab is the declining story of five young partygoers living life to the fullest travel to a rave festival and when their car breaks down in an eerie and isolated village, beginning the Rube Goldberg process of landing on the front door step of Doctor Victor Wolffenstein’s castle home. The two stories are structured almost purposefully divisive to distinguish on one hand the relationship ups and down of Mike, David, Tina, Jenny, and Emily and while on the other hand, the good doctor straps victims to his cold metal slab, performing invasive experiments on them, and finishing them off by slashing right into the thick of the noggin with a machete, solidifying a hard motif that eventually becomes a the doctor’s MO.
A big part of the Rohnstock 2015 gore film is Wolffenstein’s numerous machetes to the cranium kill that explodes a geyser of dark red blood all over the place. The special effects and makeup by Oliver Müller literally had the blood rushing to brain, splitting the skull to unleash the blood splatter, and Müller does offer a bit more than sustaining as a one trick pony. Realistic arm dismemberments and reattachments, decapitations, exploratory surgical openings, and much, much more are a part of this gore-God’s repertoire. So much gore is present that gore itself becomes a character. That’s saying something since Rohnstock exploits his short lived, ill-fated red shirt characters that roster many recognizable Germans such as porn star Lena Nitro and one of the great gore and shock directors Olaf Ittenbach!
Without a doubt, “The Curse of Doctor Wolffenstein” is a labor of love that subtly borrows from the films of the director’s fandom. There’s a bit of “Evil Dead,” a piece of “Night of the Creeps,” and a flair of Hammer Horror in a mix that defines Rohnstock’s writing and director perspective and style. As the co-founder of the film’s production company Infernal Films, Rohnstock and his Infernal Films team have free reign over the overall structure, style, and tone of this fantastic flesh filleting of a film. What Infernal Films couldn’t really control was the relatively young cast of Isabelle Aring, Robin Czerny, Roland Freitag, Stephanie Meisenzahl, and Julia Stenke whom are pitted against the dual role performance of Mika Metz, playing a miserable mechanic and Doctor Wolffenstein.
Reel Gore Releasing’s gorgeously slipcovered 2-disc Blu-ray and DVD combo release doesn’t hold back standing behind a flick that gallops in blood, bares it all with female nudity, and even has an orifice invading creature with enough ooze to lube it’s way down with ease. Video quality wise, the image is heavily showcased in a cyan hue that’s feels unnatural. The day or brighter scenes look good enough for hi-def in the widescreen presentation in a 16:9 aspect ratio. The German DTS-HD 5.1 option with optional English subtitles is flawless in all areas of the audible tracks. There is also a DTS-HD 2.0 with optional subtitles. Bonus features include a showcase reel in a behind-the-scenes featurette, a German only bloopers reel, “Trapped & Stabbed” short film by director Marc Rohnstock, the film’s trailer, and a still image slideshow. Gore films have always been a hit or miss with this review, but “The Curse of Doctor Wolffenstein” has reclaimed my faith in the intensity of content that’s not suitable for most viewership in one way or another.