EVIL Doesn’t Joke Around. “Let’s Scare Julie” reviewed! (Shout Studios! / Digital Screener)


After the sudden passing of her father, Emma stays with her cousin, Taylor, along with her aunt and drunkard uncle. Taylor pressures Emma to be part of her prank habitual group of friends, trying to convince Emma how this is how things will be from now on while also trying to be a compassionate shoulder to her reserved cousin. With Taylor’s uncle passed on the sofa downstairs and her mother flying in from out of town, an impromptu sleepover encourages the group of girls to connive a break-and-entering prank to scare a new neighbor, a teenage girl named Julie, across the street. Emma half-heartedly participates by producing a way into the house, allowing her cousin and her heedless new friends onward on their scaring scheme, but when only two of the four girls return, the prank has turned terribly wrong as an urban legend about the house across the street might actually be true.

Breaking out from helming television documentaries and into the genre feature realm is filmmaker Jud Cremata debuting with his written and directed bloodcurdling slumber party, “Let’s Scare Julie,” premiering on in home theaters on digital and VOD come October 2nd, 2020. Starting off Halloween with an innovative filming structure and a good ole fashion horror tale, Cremata never eases on the reins of terror from nearly a single, continuous take of his mischievous teenage girls meet malevolent ghost story that occurs over a single night, condensed further to a time frame that’s almost parallel to the film’s runtime. Formerly known as “Let’s Scare Julie to Death,” the Santa Clara filmed, real time hijinks gone awry spook show is the first horror production from the Los Angeles and Moscow based Blitz Films in association with “Becky’s” Buffalo 8 Productions. Jud Cremata and Marc Wolloff produce the feature alongside Blitz Films’ Eryl Cochran and Nick Sarkisov.

Comprised with a small cast of new talent, “Let’s Scare Julie” focuses around a group of five teenage girls and one elementary grade school girl concentrated more so around a life rebounding Emma played by Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson, making her introduction into feature length films. What makes this a phenomenal role and performance for Johnson is the fact that the young actress has to maintain in-character for the entire length of the film with the camera rarely parting away from her in every moment of the nearly continuous take and she has to adjust her dynamics with a variety volume of characters ranging in temperament from meek, to obnoxious, to terrifying, to drunk, and to the perpetuance of adolescence behavior from her protective, yet peer pressuring cousin Taylor (Isabel May), the obnoxious goof Madison (“Ladyworld’s” Odessa A’zion), the unassertive duddy Paige (Jessica Sarah Flaum), and the confident showoff Jess (“Unearth’s” Brooke Sorenson). Individually, the characters are well developed, hinting more towards unravelling their true selves with each progressive moment their on screen, but not overly enough to have each figured out and that leaves their hopeful futures in ruin, offering more substance to their potential demise. Rounding out “Let’s Scare Julie” cast is Dakota Baccelli, Blake Robbins (“Rubber,” “Martyrs”), and Valorie Hubbard (“Resident Evil: Extinction”) as the evil spirit, Ms. Durer.

Uncomplicated with less fancy footwork adorned, “Let’s Scare Julie” is all about the story and less about the effects hoopla usually associated with vindictive phantasma creepers, especially ones like Ms. Durer who like to seep into her victim’s personal bubble using voodoo black magic dolls while wearing nothing more than her dirty nightgown and scathing glare on her face. The simplicity of the movie is almost refreshing in the inherent campiness of the anecdotal urban legend spieled by the girl living next to the house of ill repute, but one thing about the story that irks me is the marketing of “Let’s Scare Julie” being shot in one continuous take; yet, there are a few edits that not necessarily cut to a different scene, but rather just jump seconds of a frame and continue the moment. Whether the edit’s intent was because of timing, reducing frames in a scene to meet a certain runtime, or to give the actors a slight break, the expectation wasn’t fully met when the handful of edits are slipped in condemning that anticipated single take to just a still impressive compilation of long takes. Chuck Ozea’s maneuvering cinematography seamlessly tells the tale without so much of a hiccup as the veteran music video DP choreographs somewhat of a dance around Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson to capture her slow simmer into terror. “Let’s Scare Julie” does more with less as a round about ghost story, building up suspense above the guise of guilt-riddled themes without placing the perspective in the middle of the supernatural action.

Sometimes, pranks backfire and, in this case, this prank is to die for in the Shout Studios distributed “Let’s Scare Julie,” scaring up into home theaters on Digital and On Demand at the beginning of Halloween season on October 2, 2020. Being a brand new film, there were no psychical media specs to report nor would there would be any A/V if specs were available since this review copy is a digital screener of the film. As a digitally recorded production in this day and age, expect the found footage-like video and sound as faultless as expected, but the quality will be determined by your internet connection and streaming platforms. There were no bonus material with the screener nor were there any additional scenes during or after the credits. Five teens’ prank spree ends on a dark and stormy night of terror where urban legend trounces cruelty over shenanigans in the crafty and solid shiver-inducing “Let’s Scare Julie.”

Pre-order “Let’s Scare Julie” on Prime Video.

Slavic Folklore EVIL Goes Full Amber Alert in “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” reviewed! (Digital Screener / Shout! Studios)


Still reeling over the loss of his mother, a disheartened Egor has moved to a new apartment on the forested outskirts of the city with his father, step mother, and infant half-sister. A nanny is hired for house upkeep and to look after him and his sister, but the nanny’s strange behavior borders hostility toward him while also bewitching his father with her beauty and charm. Since her hire, the nanny cameras alert Egor of movement in the nursey, projecting an unknown and disfigured woman in the room hovering over the baby. When his parents don’t believe him, there’s nothing more the older boy can do until his baby sister goes missing and his parents don’t remember her, as if she never existed. Egor, along with his friends, track down a man living in the woods who seems to have an inkling about the mysterious disappearances of children and why everyone forgets about them as he has experienced the loss of his daughter and can barely remember her. Based off the man’s ramblings, their search for Egor’s baby sister leads them to an old and abandoned power shack that serves as conduit to the world of Baba Yaga, a Slavic witch with the influencing ability in kidnapping and devouring children’s souls for power and Egor’s sister, along with the rest of the nearby children population, have been abducted to lure in the pivotal pure child to set her free into their world.

“Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” is the second part of this unintentional two part Russian horror film appraisal following our extrospective look into Olga Gorodetskaya’s psyche serrating “Evil Boy” that just happens to have another protagonist by the name of Igor, but in this case, the spelling is Egor and, instead of a middle-aged doctor, Egor is a pre-teen boy with pre-teen issues – just to jazz it up a little. Also originally known as “Yaga. Koshmar tyomongo lesa,” the supernaturally Slavic folklore tale, directed by Snyatoslav Podgaevskiy (“Mermaid: The Lake of the Dead”), was released February in motherland Russia and is making a distributive second coming toward the States on September 1st courtesy of a collaboration between Shout! Studios and Leda Films. Penned by Podgaevskiey as well as Ivan Kapitonov and Natalya Dubovaya, the scribing trio pickup right where the wrote off form the gritty mysticism of fabled creatures beginning with “Mermaid: The Lake of the Dead” and into a classically frightening and morose villain salivating for juvenile souls spurred from one of the numerous variations of one of the more popular, if not grotesque, Russian mythological being. “Baba Yaga” is a production of the Cinema Foundation of Russia, Central Partnership Productions, Non-Stop Productions, and QS Films.

In much of the reverse from “Evil Boy,” Podgaevskiy’s “Baba Yaga” rocks the cradle in a “Goonies” approach with a condiment and courageous group of pre-teen, developmentally spongy, angsty, and hormonal driven children to solve the big bad witch mystery that not only afflicts the very lives of their brethren age group, but also the parental halfwits who have their minds erased like a chalkboard with nothing more than tiny dust particles to cling to to keep their missing children alive in their memories. From the visually powerful alien invasion thriller “The Blackout” (ItsBlogginEvil review here), Oleg Chugunov spearheads a trio of adolescents on the cusp of being witch-fodder. Chugunov plays Egor, a dispirited youth unhappy with his father’s remarriage to another woman and the target of bullies at his new school before becoming the chosen meal plan for Baba Yaga’s unholy escape for an ethereal world. Egor’s experience of an afterthought to a savior of child-kind isn’t represented well through Chugunov and how the character is written as Egor just falls into the “pure” child role without much explanation to why, staying flat on the personal growth scale for 113 minute runtime. Egor’s followed by a love interested in Dasha (Glafira Golubeva) and lead bully Anton (Artyom Zhigulin) who both have bouts with their parental caretakers; Dasha’s mother is a scorned beauty hellbent on controlling Dasha’s life form outside influences while Anton is a parentless brute with a guardian who is equally as callous as him, if not more. Svetlana Ustinova (“Hardcore Henry”) has two roles in this film and both are bad guys: Baba Yaga and Baba Yaga’s half-bird, half-human hench-thing. Ustinova shows immense range by fielding human to hybrid to full out witch qualities, inching the insidious intentions through the storyline that requires varying degrees of discourse with other characters along the way. The cast list rounds out with Aleksey Rozin (“Leviathan”), Maryana Spivak (“The Outbreak” TV series), Igor Khripunov (“The Bride”) and Marta Timofeeva (“Welcome to Mercy”).

Out of the two terror inducers from Russia, “Baba Yaga” inches out “Evil Boy” on the supernatural spectrum. Between Anton Zenkovich’s colorfully prismatic photography, Vlad Ogay’s sleek-straight and modernally tight architectural designs juxtaposed against a vastly rustic and chaotic woodland lore, and topped off with Podgaevskiy’s highly effective misdirection jump scares, “Baba Yaga” inveigles to a palatable lore horror invigorated by a two-timing enchantress with a sweet tooth for kid blood. Despite not being exact to the Baba Yaga’s tale, as the creature’s house is supposed to erected by actual chicken legs, Podgaesvkiy shoots a fear-laden heartstopper where anything can happen in any scene at any moment. Yet, something is indubitably missing from “Baba Yaga.” Perhaps, what’s missing is that meaningful message about rekindling that spark between parent and child, patching up the tears in the relationship that’s been strained by XYZ reason. Perhaps, what’s missing is the unsatisfactory ending of easily dethroning of a powerful and mighty mage. Perhaps, what’s missing is the explanation on why Egor is the key to Baba Yaga’s tyrannical freedom from cursed exile. I’d say all three contribute to the cause and not much, not even a wonderfully animated s storybook prologue depicting the phantasmal enterprise and downfall of Baba Yaga, could save the heartache in wanting more substance from the already loaded story but, then, we would be looking at another hour of runtime though its sorely warranted. In sum, “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” slips in a variant version dispersing a tingling tale of Russian folklore with stunning visuals and dutiful scares that ends deficiently and mediocrely.

Hide your children! “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” will be unleashed on VOD, digital, and on Blu-ray and DVD September 1st from Shout! Studios and Leda Films. You can look for it digitally or on-demand from the following providers: AppleTV, Amazon, VUDU, GooglePlay, PlayStation®, XBOX, hoopla, Fandango Now, DirecTV, Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Charter, and AT&T U-verse. Since the review is based off a digital screener, the A/V aspects will not be examined but the Scream Factory Blu-ray and DVD release will be region A/1, presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and will include a powerful Russian language Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix with English subtitles and will also include a dubbed English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Unlucky for me, I had to screen the movie with the dubbed version. Lucky for you, I can confirm that though obvious, the dubbing isn’t horrendously overly-hyperbolized or too asynchronous. There were no bonus features or bonus scenes included nor none announced on the press release. Grab a bottle of Vodka, pop some Zefir candies, turn off the lights, and sink into an Eastern European mythos horror with Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy’s “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” that’ll scare the Ushanka right off your head.

Pre-order “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” on DVD or Blu-ray for Sept 1st release!

When The Earth Goes Silent, EVIL Begins to Conquer. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” reviewed! (Shout Factory! / Digital Screener)


In a distant future, the entire Earth goes dark without warning. Communications are completely severed with no sign of life exists except for those scared and confused inside what is to be called The Circle of Life that has encompassed Moscow and other parts of neighboring countries. Reconnaissance teams venture out into the quarantine zones, discovering dead bodies as well as noticing people have gone missing. A month later, an outpost goes under siege by an army of bloodthirsty bears. These bizarre events go unexplained, leaving military jarred, and to find answers, seven teams are dispatched to various areas surrounding the outpost to locate signs of life. While the teams are scouting, an powerful alien reaches out to the outpost, warning them that Earth is in the middle of a four wave attack by his race looking for a new home. Before their 200,000 year trip ends with destination Earth, the last wave, 160 million mind-enslaved missing humans, will attack the Circle of Life at the command of the alien informant’s counterpart and it’s up to the ravaged scout team to band together to extinguish the extermination of mankind.

Nothing is more frightening than wiping out 95% of the world’s human population in the blink of an eye without so much of a sign of explanation. Welcome to “The Blackout: Invasion Earth,” which depicts just that very unfathomable scary episode of terra-loneliness and free-for-all, fear induced panic amongst the civilian population, tapping into the same vain of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” or “Arrival.” The big budget, Russian sci-fi action-horror, originally titled “Avanpost” or just “The Blackout,” is penned by television scriber Ilya Kulikov and directed by Egor Baranov. Released this past November in Russia, “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” touchdowns inside the North American market from genre distributor Shout! Studios come June 2nd, becoming a planet-sized contender for the biggest science fiction film of the year with relentless suspense, alien-on-alien hand-to-hand combat, and an encroaching bear blitz that can’t go unseen! The Moscow based TV-3 and Premier Studios serves as the production companies with studio heads, Valeriy Fedorovich and Evgeniy Nikishov, producing an estimated $4.3 million dollar film.

Unless you’re a no-life film buff whose up to speed with all the latest Russian thespians, many of us in the States will not recognize these Slavic actors; actors such as Aleksey Chadov, Pyotr Fyodorov, Artyom Tkachenko, or Svetlana Ivanova with no standing in the usual cache of domestic and international circle of ascertain identity that any joe can just look at a cast list and go, “aha!,” and put your index finger right on their name in recognition. However, if you look closer, you’ll unearth titles you might have heard of, such as “The Darkest Hour” (Pyotr Fyodorov) and Night Watch (Aleksey Chadov). Fyodorov and Chadov play Yura and Oleg, military comrades by circumstance who are pitted against an inexplicable and unknown occurrence. Though fighting the same war, the two friends contrast different backgrounds. Yura comes from a long lineage of military blood, but becomes somber in his soldier role as he suffers an immense loss at the moment of blackout and when he discovers love for a field medic, Olya (Svetlana Ivanova), his will to fight survives by a thread. Juxtaposed against Yura is the cab driver turned enlisted man Oleg whose only living relative, his dementia-malady mother, had survived the blackout and the event has given this man in a rut purpose and a fire lit inside him. Artyom Tkachenko plays the stoic alien savior with a nearly human form, all except the three slit vertical mouth, makes him deceptively trustworthy and Tkachenko eats into that cautionary persona of whether this being is actually assisting in saving the human race or angling his prey to work against an adversarial counterpart, Ra (lya Volkov) to gain dominance totality. Performances all around exact a fair amount of rigidness to them, but I blame the forced English dub that can seemingly thwart natural deliveries. The physical and range of action is choreographed with assiduity from the actors, making me believe root cause of the rigidness is certainly the dubbing. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” closes out the cast list with Konstantin Lavronenko, Andrey Mezhulis, Artyom Markaryan, and Lukerya Ilyashenko.

“The Blackout: Invasion Earth” is a special effects juggernaut; some of the best, awe-inspiring visual effects I’ve ever witness has come from Russia, with love, that’s a projectile explosion of a thriller and, in true Russian fashion, a slew military grade heavy duty vehicles are heavily showcased through as if they’re on parade as modified tanks, BTR-70’s, and triple rotor attack helicopters for answers and rescue recovery. Being that the film is set in the future Moscow, Baranov didn’t oversell the evolution of technology and, in fact, made a stark contrast that hindered humanity still in the throes of a primitivism culture when up against otherworldly powers. Yet, there were still boots on the ground soldiers tossed into the meat-grinder that is the quarantine zone. Sure, there were some sentinel machine guns that shredded the enemy at the first sign of sensor, but despite all the flying gizmos, armed to the teeth choppers, and nifty gear, mankind had not strayed far into development. The stagnancy of man’s evolution became the highlighted theme as their deconstructed to being simply a virus that loves, hates, mates, etc. and without all that man has technically progressed throughout the years, man, itself, stays the same. The 160 million people caught in the blackout, turned into mindless slaves, and even before the war against an unknown force, rebellious and fearful groups pit brother against brother. The message suffers slightly from the cut-and-dry rigidness as aforementioned, but more so with the main characters with try to digest the alien’s, perhaps, too complicated plan of usurpation that has been 200,000 years in the works. While the story might be clunky and kind of claggy in the middle, the intensity clings to you from the moment of the alarming sound, troop mobilizing opening credits to to those BRT-70 trucks mowing down a horde of slaved individuals and never ceases with jaw-dropping, effects-driven cinematography to let you re-catch your breath for 128 minutes.

Witness mankind’s last stand against it’s first form in “The Black: Invasion Earth” being distributed on June 2nd by Shout! Studios onto DVD, Blu-ray, On-Demand, and digital streaming from these streaming services: AppleTV, Amazon, VUDU, GooglePlay, PlayStation®, XBOX, hoopla, Fandango Now, DirecTV, Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Charter, and AT&T U-verse. Since a digital screener was reviewed, the video and audio technical aspects will not be reviewed, but for the record, while the English dubbing is less desired and still hinders the story slightly, the dubbing isn’t all that terrible with crafty timing to stay in sync and maintaining some natural exposition deliveries. There were no bonus materials accompanying the release and there were no extra scenes during or after the credits. No bonus features were listed on the press release either. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” bedevils with a population consuming reset laced with existential philosophies and the ups and downs of human nature set up behind the curtain of an impressive visual menagerie of brilliantly detailed special effects on the most grandest of scales.

Available on Blu-ray!

And Prime Video!!!