Evil Ousts Evil in “Christmas Blood” review!


On Christmas Eve for over a Decade until 2011, a psychopath dressed as Santa Clause hunts down people on his naughty list, people whom have, at one time or another, been incarcerated. Santa’s violent kill streak ends when detective Thomas Rasch tracks puts multiple bullets into Santa after the gruesome slaughter of three people. After 6 years of imprisonment, with no sign of improvement from his holiday hallucinations, Santa escapes to continue checking and crossing those unlucky souls off his naught list, leading him to Alta, a small, quiet village in the northern most part of Norway where one woman when unpunished on his list. Unbeknownst to Santa, the woman he intends to frightfully dispatch has committed suicide, leaving behind a daughter, Julia, to oversee her mother’s home. Struggling to cope with her the loss of her mother, Julia’s college friends from all over the world embark to comfort her on Julia’s first Christmas without her mother, but the gesture of goodwill only speaks to their impending doom with a serial killer Santa ready to reign in Christmas with red blood soaked, holiday fear.

“Christmas Blood, aka “Juleblod” in the original Norwegian lingo, is Reinert Kiil’s yuletide splattering spectacular. Kiil writes and directs a new horror-holiday classic of the Norwegian variety that turns the jolly, red nose, cookie-eating fat guy into an axe wielding maniac. “Silent Night, Deadly Night.” “Black Christmas.” “Jack Frost.” “Christmas Blood” joins the high ranking level of a niche genre, the X-Mas horror genre, which doesn’t see really the light of day in conventional theaters, but home video unsheathes the new life into films one may have never heard of such as Kiil’s “Juleblod” Yet, the overall body of work for Christmas films is very black and white. They’re either overly feel good films with a blanket of pure white joy and happiness or utterly insane and soaked with the crimson interior body fluid, unless you count Die Hard or Lethal Weapon as Christmas films than one can make a case. “Christmas Blood” is certainly in that far right polar opposite of extreme violence, but is solid and engrossing, chopping body parts away with trepidation and stringed up with multi-colored lights.

Ringing in the holiday screams are young victims typically associated with familiar slasher archetypes. The “Christmas Blood” prey, typically adorned by actresses due to their ability produce toe curling, are a pact of university school friends gathered together to rally around one who has recently lost her mother to suicide. Helen Eidsvag, Haddy Jallow, Yassmine Johansen, Karoline Stemre, Kylie Stephenson, and Marte Saeteren share the limelight as unsuspecting Christmas carnage-fodder and all of the actresses hail from Norway with the exception of Kylie Stephenson, who has odd interjecting into Norwegian conversations with her Australian English dialect. Written as great friends, but also depicted as the worst of enemies as various facets of animosity slithers between them, the actresses pull off of their ill-fated character quirks well: Eidsvag as the innocent and naïve Sanne, Jallow as the drug indulgent and secret keeping black sheep Kitika, Johansen does stern and uptight girlfriend well in Katja, Stemre as a favorably licentious mute Elisabeth, Stephenson is the fun-loving non-national in Annika, and Saeteren as the heartbroken Julia with loss of her mother. I’m not sure if “Christmas Blood” would be a socially acceptable film in the States and not because of the blood-spatter blasphemy of traditional holiday and Christianity values, but because of how the one and only black character is treated throughout the narrative in a predominately white movie. Kitika has no verbal filter, smokes weed despite her host’s severe objection, slept with and was going to sleep with again her friend’s boyfriend, is kicked out into the freezing cold along with said friend’s boyfriend by the rest of her white friends, and is eventually slaughtered and stuffed into Santa’s sack. The remaining cast includes Jørgen Langhelle, Stig Henrik Hoff, Sondre Krogtoft Larsen, and Andreas Nonaas.

“Christmas Blood” is a retro-grade horror film that very merrily feels like a product of the Golden Age of slasher-survival genre from the 1980’s with a powerful and unstoppable aggressive killer, a delectable high body count, and a significant calendar date to infamously memorialize the event, similar to Friday the 13th or Halloween dates that are have been synonymous to Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Generally speaking, Santa’s already this jolly mystical being worshipped by all and in “Christmas Blood,” that mysticism is really exploited, but as a frightful killer Santa who is seemingly able to be in two places at once and survive a barrage of bullets. Only a couple gripes linger that don’t necessarily derail Santa’s slay-ing of bitchy former co-eds, daft police offers, or any unfortunate person in his blizzard path of butchery. For one, the wordy title card sequence explaining the background of serial Santa’s 13-year killing spree is sorely out of place and slightly kills the buzz built up initially by the gruesome opening scene that sets the morbid tone. Secondly, on the technical side, the lighting is very dim lit. The coloring scheme from the decorative bulbs is festively great and there’s also a very low-tone neon red, blue, and yellow juxtaposed against a bleak, cold setting as if walking through Amsterdam’s Red Light district at night, but with less people, more snow, and no peep shows, but the overall lighting is thin-to-damn near black at times that, shamefully, shades some of the gore work into a silhouette something and your eyes attempt to define what is being seen, but can’t definitively consume the form. Luckily, numerous gory moments make the cut in the light that include exposed entrails and some sheer brutal force with an axe to the neck and to the vagina!.

Artsploitation Films present “Christmas Blood” onto DVD this December. Presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the details are a little lost in the dim lighting as mentioned before, but the image quality looks vibrant on colorful in the mise-en-scene lighting and there are no issues with artefacts. The Norwegian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track is rather pristine like a bow-wrapped present under the tinseled tennenbaum, gifted with clarity, synchronization, and no distortion in any aspect. English subtitles are available and are synched well. However, Artsploitation’s release offers no bonus materials aside from a static menu, but this Reinert Kiil’s “Christmas Blood” snarls Merry Fucking Christmas by bastardizing the popular Scandinavian folkore of the genial Saint Nick into a fierce and frightening killing machine!

Evil Spanning Four Decades! “Dangerous Men” review!

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Recently engaged lovers Daniel and Mina take a trip to visit Daniel’s brother. When they stop to take in one of California’s breathtaking beaches, two vicious bikers, looking for kicks, intrude on the lovebird’s romantic getaway, looking to rape Mina but ending up mercilessly murdering Daniel. Mina’s grief turns the distraught lover into a vengeful bitch, taking the lives of all salacious and beastly men who wish to exploit Mina’s virginal beauty. Meanwhile, Daniel’s brother, a praised police detective, personally takes on the case despite his Captain’s insistence of not getting to close due to his personal connection. The detective tracks down the drug dealer Black Pepper, the head of a notorious biker gang connected to the slaying of his brother, that results in an all out war!
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“Dangerous Men” is an action film you hate to love, being so bad it’s good. The film was the non-aborted child of Iranian born, U.S. bound director John Rad, a pseudo name, who had a life-long vision from way back in 1979 to put an eternal awesomeness on the big silver screen and, in one way or another, completed that feat no matter how long the creative process. Only 26 years stood in between John Rad and his masterpiece “Dangerous Men” from being completed and theatrically released to the public, but, low and behold, “Dangerous Men” didn’t succeed into billions or even millions of box office dollars; instead, Rad’s film gained popularity in its notoriety, gaining almost instantly cult status through a niche group of garbage cinema aficionados. By the grace of the provocative arthouse film brew masters at Drafthouse Films and their continuous begging toward Rad’s daughter, “Dangerous Men” redefines the term guilty pleasure.
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But what makes “Dangerous Men” so irresistibly appealing? Is it that fact that Iranian born Peter Palian from “Samurai Cop” fame is the most experienced crew member on John Rad’s amateurish, if not solo performing, team? To properly answer that conundrum-filled riddle, looking at what makes “Dangerous Men” so standardly terrible would ultimately lead to the answer. For one, a prominent lead character doesn’t exist in a plot that can’t focus due in part of the two decades the film was shot that resulted in the actors or actresses not being available or unwilling to complete Rad’s work. Various characters, like Mina (Melody Wiggins) or the cop brother (Dutch Van Delsem), come and go in their respective, decade housed plot paths and like one of Drafthouse Films’s bonus features makes light, the film ends on a still frame of characters who have had less than half an hour of screen time. Secondly, the amateur acting in exposition, the cut and dry editing, and the cartoonish foley, by the also writer-director John Rad, hones straight toward gut-punching you to explode into outrageous, painful laughter. “Dangerous Men” is a serious film that’s full of wacky action and some great moments of exploitation, especially scenes involving women knees, but when all the punching and exasperating is of the identical sound bite, like in a “Street Fighter” video game, taking Rad’s film seriously is hard to fathom. Thirdly, the longevity of filming created many production goofs that mistakenly implied the decade. From props, to haircuts, and to clothes, hints of years were obvious to the naked eye. Lastly, a title like “Dangerous Men” should end on an detonative high note; instead, falls just short of a chuckle and a “WTF.”
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“Dangerous Men” snuggly finds a spot within the realm of other bad movies not to be missed. “Troll 2,” “Silent Night, Deadly NIght 2” with the infamous garbage day line, “Leonard Part 6,” and “Jaws: The Revenge” would gladly welcome “Dangerous Men” with open arms as a peer in preposterousness. With a little over a measly $2,300 in ticket sales on opening weekend from a film that probably cost John Rad thousands upon thousands of dollars to produce and a whole hell of a lot of time to construct, “Dangerous Men” is most likely an action-packed feature you’ve never, ever heard of before. One positive remark is the soundtrack, which is also composed by John Rad, was, in my humble opinion, swanky and, well, rad – a true testament to the era and the best effort for such bad film. Unfortunately, John Rad never saw his film blossom as he died soon after the release of his masterpiece, sometime mysteriously between 2005 and 2007.
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Drafthouse Films, in association with MVDVisual distribution, courteously releases “Dangerous Men” on a sleek not rated two-disc, 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray and DVD set which has a region free presentation that still manages to hold in the cigarette burns and the faded coloring in a sort of time capsule from the 80’s and 90’s. The original print looks to have been kept in good condition for an easy upgradeable and cleanable transfer. The Dolby Digital mono stereo mix is fairly clean aside from some misaligned dialogue tracks with the video and the prevalence of background noise in certain scenes of poor record quality such as the Daniel and Mina restaurant scene. Drafthouse Films doesn’t discriminate amongst the quality of their releases when considering the bonus features. A 16 page booklet featuring documented full-length interviews with director John Rad, audio commentary featuring “Destroy All Movies” authors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly, “That’s So Rad,” an epigram stemmed from this film, is an original documentary about the film and its initial 2005 release, an interview with cinematographer Peter Palian, Rare footage of John Rad’s appearance on local access television, and the original theatrical trailer. Quite the laundry list of extras! “Dangerous Men” is so spectacularly unspeakable and trashy it shouldn’t go unseen for absolutely anything, not even for the birth of your first born child!

Merry Evil Xmas! Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas review!

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Just in time for the 2013 holiday season comes Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas the sophomore sequel the original film humbly titled Caesar & Otto. Caesar and his half brother Otto embark on a religious cause to become a traveling Santa Claus and his buddy elf. Another Santa has other plans as the bodies of Caesar & Otto’s friends begin to pile up from his deranged thirst for blood. As the blood flows, Caesar & Otto’s oblivious nature doesn’t leave them one clue to the chaos that has been ensuing.
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The indie horror comedy is a large homage to the genre that references mainly back to Silent Night, Deadly Night and just like Silent Night, Deadly Night, Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas comes off just as cheesy as Cheez Whiz to where most scenes are not very funny and where very few scenes give a good chuckle. The main characters are whimsical, but immature to the point where the comedy makes my take teeth grit together painstakingly.

Dave Campbell directs, pens, and stars as Caesar and his love for horror shines through into his work, but Campbell also has his hand in editing and the his editing work leaves the film feeling too fast pace that if you look down for a second or blink your eyes, you’ll end up missing an entire sequence or a key part of the film. Also, I’ve never seen the previous two films, Caesar & Otto nor Caesar & Otto’s Summer Camp Massacre, and there feels to be that some portions of the movie carried over into Deadly Xmas. I was waiting for a flashback sequence or something else that would reference what had happened previously, but nothing came about leaving more confusion.
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Like a good homage, Deadly Xmas involves a lot of great horror icons that also made an appearance in Summer Camp Massacre as well. Slumber Party Massacre’s Brinke Steven’s, Return of the Living Dead’s Linnea Quigley, Sleepaway Camp’s Felissa Rose, Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, and Soultaker’s Joe Estevez make a b-list guest cameo appearance. Kaufman’s scene was particularly the funniest of them all, but I don’t want to discredit the others as they have bring something special to the Campbell’s film even with Joe Estevez making light and spoofing Doctor Phil with Doctor Pheel!
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Wild Eye releasing and MVDVisual bring Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas to life with some really good appeasing art work that will sure attract attention to the Christmas horror genre. Check out the bonus features that include alternate scenes, behind the scene featurette, a short film entitled Piggyzilla, another short film entitled Otto’s First Job, trailers, and a bonus short film starring Maniac Cop’s Robert Z’dar entitled The Perfect Candidate.