Evocation of EVIL in “The Girl In the Crawlspace” reviewed! (ITN Distribution / DVD)


Jill escapes from the grip of a kidnapping-serial killer who kept her confined in a crawlspace under the house. Her courage brings lethal justice to the captor when the local marshal shoots and kills him upon confrontation. Jill struggles to reintegrate back into her local community in the aftermath, sleeping unconfined in the outdoors and withdrawing herself for social interaction, including from her weekly role playing game with friends. When Kristen moves back into her hometown from college, she aims to set up her therapy practice to assist families impacted by the serial killer as well as Jill by special request from the marshal, but Kristen’s rocky relationship with her substance abusive, off-Hollywood screenwriting husband on the mend drags out Jill’s much needed treatment. With Jill and Kristen preoccupied, they’re oblivious to the concealed threat that plots the next terrorizing exploit of kidnapping and tormenting young, beautiful women.

From under the grubby wooden floorboards to the strategic folding table of a role playing game, “The Girl in the Crawlspace” is the Midwest direct-to-video suspense thriller that tackles post-traumatic stress and marital strife while submersed in a looming trail left by a notorious mass murderer, written and helmed by first time director John Oak Dalton. Dalton, who has penned several low-budget grindhouse titles over the last decade and half, including titles such as “Among Us,” “Sex Machine,” and “Jurassic Prey,” returns once again to the genre with the repercussions of Podunk psychopath upon small town America, filmed in Indiana and release in 2018 hitting the ground running with film festival circuits. Indie filmmaker Henrique Couto, schlock horror director of “Scarewaves” and “Marty Jenkins and the Vampire Bitches,” signs on as producer, stepping back from his usual productional duties, and letting an occasional collaborator Dalton to completely engulf himself as the omnipotent auteur. Midwest Film Ventures serves as the production company, shot in Farmland, Indiana.

Erin R. Ryan has continuously sustained a low level hover on the indie horror radar after taking her in Dustin Mill’s “Bath Salt Zombies,” based on the Miami incident based on a naked man eating someone’s face induced by being high on bath salts, and the gooey-gory body horror, “Skinless,” that’s also a Mills production. Ryan expands her portfolio outside physical horror with Jill, a traumatized recluse derived from her abduction and torture, as a subdued component that’s contrary to previous roles, but Ryan capitalizes the opportunity of a scared kitten, recoiling from public gatherings, and slowly and silently emerging back into society while recalling chilling moments as the story progresses. However, there’s difficult pinpointing the head lead as the protagonist roles are shared between Ryan and depicted married couple, a pair of more Henrique Couto casted actors, in Joni Durian and John Bradley Hambrick as Kristen and her husband, John. Between the three, chemistry clicks better than cooking meth in a chemist’s unsanctioned laboratory and offer ample contention without the attending killer’s presence hanging over the whole town’s head. Rounding out the remaining cast is Chelsi Kern (“Scarecrow Count”), Joe Kidd (“Ouija Room”), Jeff Kirkendall (“Sharkenstein”), Clifford Lowe (“Scarecrow County”), and re-introducing Tom Cherry as the good old boy town officer, Marshal Woody.

With a title like “The Girl in the Crawlspace,” I would be remiss if I didn’t say there were some expectations of bodily torture, psychological terror, and teeth-clinching tension when sitting down to watch. The hype was high considering the post-after-post amount of positivity for “The Girl in the Crawlspace” on my Twitter feed. The catchy name and optimistic comments provided real temptation, but Dalton steers in another direction, the what follows in the state of everlasting shock and the reliving of moments seared into your psyche. The direction wasn’t as expected, but that’s necessary a bad thing. “The Girl in the Crawlspace” is exposition heavy with considerable amount of movie referencing peppered with some current event topics, such as the brief mentioning of killing of migrant children, throughout and continuously wanders off point, strolling more into Kristen and John’s crumbling marriage. Jill, the supposed centerpiece of the story, feels more like an afterthought, despite being the “girl” in “The Girl in the Crawlspace.” The cantankerous marriage supposedly jeopardizes those personally involved in Jill’s well-being as John exploits Jill’s idiosyncratic experiences from being a captive by turning them into inspirational junk food for his fading screenwriting career, but the catalyst incident doesn’t stick, becoming more of a weak opening for a more pronounced return of Jill’s haunting past.

From ITN Distribution and Mill Creek Entertainment, “The Girl in the Crawlspace” lands onto a not rated DVD home video release. The single layer DVD is presented in a full frame widescreen of an 1.78:1 aspect ratio. In a framing sense, Henrique Couto’s cinematography distinctly places small town in a spectrum view that highlights the soybean fields and farms, the rustic brick infrastructures, and the simplicities of a relaxed, old-fashioned town, using some drone shots to expose the green belt greenery. For an indie feature, the agreeable bitrate has a frank, clear image despite some consistent overexposure that softens details, especially on faces in the outside scenes. The Dolby Digital stereo 2.0 mix has also agreeable dual channel output. Some of the dialogue scenes suffer through an echo, but for the majority, the lines have clarity and unobstructed by ambient layers or the soundtrack. The depth discloses some distant ambiguities, such as in a train shot that’s not rendered in the background as it should, but the amount of range is palatable. English SHD subtitles are available. The only bonus features available on the release are the theatrical trailer and an commentary with producer Henrique Couto and director John Oak Dalton regarding their history together and going through the shot techniques as well as touching upon the actors. The road to recovery is paved in nightmares, psychological terror, and Midwest psychopaths in “The Girl in the Crawlspace,” but pitches away from the principal concern that turns second fiddle to one struggling screenwriter’s difficult assimilation into rural life while simultaneously rethreading a floundering livelihood and a tattered marriage.

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EVIL Wants to Feed Off Your Pain & Suffering in “Hotel Inferno” Reviewed!


Gulf War decorated soldier Frank Zimosa uses his particular set of skills as a professional contracted hitman. Frank’s current assign takes him oversees to a luxurious hotel to eliminate a couple of marks, a man and a woman, who are itemized as atrocious serial killers who’ve murdered over 150 people and Frank’s employer seeks to provide the same gruesome retribution in a certain kind of way – remove the brain the skull and the guts from the body. The relatively simple task for Frank turns into a fight for his life and his very soul as he finds himself trapped inside the hotel, owned by a secret organization swarming with putrefying acolytes of an ancient, fire breathing demon known as The Plague Spreader. Frank was ordered to kill to satisfy her pain and suffering hunger pangs, but his tenacious refusal awakens the demon who now hunts him, craving his pain, his suffering, his eternal soul for her own sated gratification and disrupts the organization’s creed to keep her dormant for the sake of humanity.

More, more, more! My internal fireworks outpouring and wanting more from a fire and brimstone gore forged finale from the action-packed first person view feature length horror film, “Hotel Inferno,” could not quell the embodied explosiveness wanting more from writer-director Giulio De Santi! Hailing from Italy, “Hotel Inferno” pulls little-to-no punches when dishing out uber-violence and non-stop carnage that invigorates the sensory and corporeal experience in the first installment of what’s called the Epic Splatter Saga that will total over six films. Two have already been produced with the third in production! De Santi, who is no stranger to the fervid gore film, teams his visual effects knowledge with long time, special effects collaborator, David Borg Lopez (“The Mildew from Plant Xonader”), and makes something shockingly beautiful that’s only been wrongfully teased in predecessors.

What’s also unique about “Hotel Inferno,” other than its first person perspective, is nearly the entire dialogue is layered with a voice over track. Unique as well as cleverly cool, we’ll touch on why later, faces with distinctive dialogue pinpoint main characters, but their faces are either shrouded by some sort of horror-esque mask, turned away toward another direction, or fed through a communication conduit, such as a portable television-radio device. Same goes with lead character Frank Zimosa whose vision never goes eye line with a mirror, never gaining a glimpse see his frantic mug, though Zimosa sounds like a chisel chin, hard-nose, angry-looking ass kicker, especially when voiced vehemently by Rayner Bourton. Playing the arch nemesis that’s quickly established and continuously prominent through duration is not the all-powerful Plague Spreader, but, in fact, the faceless Jorge Mistrandia. Donning the voice is English born actor Micahel Howe (“Solo”) who has one of the more sinister intonations amongst the few; an attribute that can be cool, calm, and inviting and can suddenly transform into a treacherous, malevolent, and vile performance that amplifies the intensity tenfold. Bourton and Howe are essentially the sole two main characters inside a melee of supernatural goons and goblins, amongst them in the cast is the introduction of Jessica Carroll who went on to do more voice work in video games and actors from De Santi’s inner film circle with Christian Riva and Wilmar Zimosa, who without a doubt was the moniker inspiration for Frank.

What sets “Hotel Inferno” apart from other splatter films? The first person shooter style, or FPS, video game structure is it! In literally the first of it’s cinematic kind, “Hotel Inferno” looks, sounds, and feels like a FPS from start to finish, a blended progeny from the ultra-violent horror survival games like DOOM or BLOOD; honestly, everything about De Santi’s film feels like a BLOOD rendition minus the shirtless, axe-wielding zombies and the robe hooded, tommy gun shooting cultists, though the rotting henchmen due speak in a high pitch dialect. Think about it. In BLOOD, a game built on a foundation of iconic horror, the anti-hero, Caleb, is a gunslinger against a unholy cult he once was a part of and then becomes his opposition. Same goes with “Hotel Inferno’s” own anti-hero Frank Zimosa, a hitman hired by an organization who then deceives him for nefarious reasons and then Frank has to blast his way out to save his soul. The story goes right for the throat, throwing Frank almost immediately into peril, and from room to room, layout to layout, the anti-hero has to slice through henchmen and ghastly demons in a very HOUSE OF THE DEAD kind of face-off, weaponizing everything against foes with armaments in the anterior of a cultish backdrop. Super. Fucking. Cool.

MVDVisual distributes Giulio De Santi’s “Hotel Inferno” onto DVD from the Wild Eye Releasing’s Raw and Extreme label. Presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, the Necrostorm produced “Hotel Inferno” engages the viewer into battle, but also invokes slight vertigo and turbid at times, especially the cave-like dungeon that’s almost absolute pitch-black. Again, atmospheric video games are much of the same regard for instant jump-scares and De Santi pulls that off here by not illuminating much of the scenes. The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track is in an opposing stratum to how the film plays out; doesn’t quite sync with the action as the audio track is an obvious track laid on top to emphasis how much “Hotel Inferno” is like a FPS storyline. There’s an array of depth and range from each tier Frank has to painfully endure and willfully live through. English and Italian subtitles are available. Bonus material includes a secret bonus film entitled “Hallucinations,” a rough cut SOV, direct-to-video supernatural gore feature from twin brothers John Polonia (“Feeders”) and Mark Polonia (“Sharkenstein”) and Todd Michael Smith (“Splatter Farm”). Giulio De Santi’s “Hotel Inferno” is only part one of the highly anticipated Epic Splatter Saga, with part 2 and 3 very high on my to-do list The blood splatter is in a doom of mayhem, will quench gore hounds from any walks of life, and reap the collective FPS gamer from their stationary consoles and blow their mind with the most seriously berserk action-horror of this decade. Crudux cruo!

Purchase Wild Eye Releasing’s “Hotel Inferno” today!