Evil Isn’t Home. “Death House” review!


Top law enforcement agents, Boon and Novak, achieve special access through steep sacrifice during job assignments and are permitted to tour their upcoming placement in the highly exclusive Death House, the ultimate maximum and multi-level penitentiary home to the nastiest criminals known to society and the deadly threat to mankind in a metaphysical way. Death Houses uses virtual reality to keep inmates stimulated to the point of calm submission as well as drugging the homeless and the unwanted to supply killers with victims upon victims in an their personalized virtual surroundings, but when an outsider uses an EMP to knock out all power within the facility, the cages are open and the ruthless animals are free to overrun, beating to death the guards and staff. Boon and Novak must fight their way to the bottom level that hold the Five Evils, criminals with grotesque supernatural abilities and a wickedly grisly past, where the two agents believe the Evils are their best hope for survial against a Five Evils acolyte named Sieg and his faithful jailhouse followers.

Considered as “The Expandables” of horror, “Death House” had gained almost instant fandom solely from the long-list of horror icons in the cast. Director B. Harrison Smith (“Camp Dread”) re-writes most of Gunnar Hansen’s original “Death House” story produced by Cleopatra Entertainment and Entertainment Factory. Cleopatra Entertainment is more notably a music label that has delved into films the last few years and, in my opinion, haven’t faired positively in the horror genre, but “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” star fought tooth and nail to try and get his script off the ground, even in the face of death. “Death House” saw release after Hansen’s death, but from interviews with the filmmakers, Smith had almost totally revamped the original treatment, leaving The Evil’s at Hansen’s request if his script was to be entirely cleaned. Shot right in this reviewer’s backyard of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the historic Eastern State Penitentiary, the defunct prison is an ideal location as the “Death House” due in part to John Haviland’s separate cell design and gritty appeal that was once of the home of Al Capone, but more of the focus is on the interior than exterior with green scenes and Los Angeles shots constructing the story-lined scenes.

Like aforementioned, “Death House” has been called the “The Expendables” of horror. An immense, if not soaked, cast of horror fan favorites are peppered about around the main characters of Agent Boon and Novak. “Sushi Girl” and “Zombeavers” star Courtney Palm embodies the Agent Boon character with G-man toughness, but finds difficulty leaving that b-horror mentality with shakiness in working climatic scenes. Palm’s also roped into doing an extremely gratuitous shower scene with Cody Longo (“Piranha 3D”) as Agent Novak. Novak’s a hotshot and Longo has the looks and the talent to out perform his character, but Smith’s script doesn’t do justice to either Boon or Novak’s character that blatantly underwhelms their performances with cameo star power and a shoddy narrative. Dee Wallace (“Cujo”), Barbara Crampton {“Re-Animator”), and Kane Hodder (“Jason Goes to Hell”) have prominent roles that are pertinent to the story and are enjoyable to see them in more of a supporting capacity. Andrenne Barbeau {“The Fog”), Sid Haig (“The Devil’s Rejects”), Vernon Wells (“The Road Warrior”), Bill Moseley {“The Devil’s Rejects”), Lloyd Kaufman (Mr. Troma), Michael Berryman (“The Hills Have Eyes”), Tony Todd (“Candyman”), Sean Whalen (“The People Under the Stairs”), Debbie Rochon (“Killer Rack”), Bill Oberst Jr. (“Deadly Revisions”), Felissa Rosa (“Sleepaway Camp”), Danny Trejo (“Machete”), Tiffany Shepis (“Abominable”), Brinke Stevens (“The Slumber Party Massacre”), Camille Keaton (“I Spit On Your Grave”), Gunnar Hansen (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and R.A. Mihailoff (“Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). Whew. Rounding out the remaining cast is Lindsay Harley (“Nightmare Nurse”), Vincent M. Ward (“The Walking Dead”), and Bernhard Forcher.

While the genre star-studded ensemble cast is a wet dream for horror fans, “Death House” fails in numerous filmmaking categories with the first being the most important, the script. Smith’s re-work of Hansen’s original story requires another drastic once-over, or two, as the final result attempts to push, stuff, and cram 100 lbs of multi-subgenre elements into a 10 lb, inflexible bag, cramping the ambitious project with dis-connective storyline tissue braced together with shoddy visual effects, like the two agents free-falling down a bottomless elevator shaft and able to precisely shoot their targets on each level. The overall result of “Death House” just endures an unfinished varnish and seems slapped together with pre-schooler glue and claggy spit. Singular moments surface as diamond specks amongst cubic zirconias, like the Mortal Kombat fatality-esque practical effects, but are too far and in between to muster up an enjoyable film. The Five Evils definitely and desperately needed more presence in the story instead of just flexing the talking heads muscle; well, the only two Evils to say anything at all were Bill Moseley and Vernon Wells. The Five Evils didn’t quite have that oomph to be a force to be dealt with as Gold-described beings who philosophical interpretations on the concept of good and evil.

Cleopatra Entertainment and MVDVisual present B. Harrison Smith’s long-anticipated “Death House” onto DVD home video. The unrated, all-region DVD is presented in a widescreen format that displays some frayed flaws like contrast; there’s way too much inky black in the dark scenes and little-to-no definition in more visible sequences. The compression suffers from blotchy artefacts at times too and lacks hues, which works with the gritty tone inside the Eastern State Penitentiary’s decomposing walls of rubble and decay. Visual effects are glossy with virtually no textures to give detail or, essentially, life amongst the continuous death. Bonus features include multiple interviews with director B. Harrison Smith, Courtney Palm, and more. Also included is a behind-the-scenes feather, a gallery slideshow, and theatrical trailer. Despite being true to the title and highly anticipated since it’s inception into the public market, “Death House” ultimately disappointments as an unfurnished mess enlisted with big names in the horror domain that’ll unfairly sell the film on it’s own, but all-star cameos won’t establish “Death House” as a solidified cult favorite, being unfortunately one of the biggest release flops of 2018.

The Evils After World War III! “The Aftermath” review!


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.

The Aftermath available at Amazon.com!