Nihilism Brings Out the Evil in All of Us! “The Vicious Sweet” reviewed!


Popular B-movie scream queen, Tyler Phoenix, just walked out belligerently from the latest screening for her new schlocky horror film. Fed up with worrisome managers, pressuring producers, and hot-headed directors, the leading lady glazes over her career as the past creeps back into her life, sourly affecting the platonic, one-sided relationship with her boyfriend. Tyler’s downward spiral toward the depths of depression and frustration attractively consider suicide by pills, but when Tyler awakes, she finds herself handcuffed to a bed with a mysterious masked man looming over her. What the man wants is unclear to Tyler, but one thing is absolute, he’s an adoring fan of hers who seemingly knows more about Tyler than she knows about herself. Hours seem like days, days seem like weeks, and weeks seem like months as Tyler is continuously drugged and asked personal questions about her past and about the disparage campaign to capsize her life. Tyler begins to hallucinate and can’t tell what’s real or not as she confronts internal demons while being completely forthcoming to her dangerously devoted captor.

“The Vicious Sweet” captures visceral surreal existentialism from Sub Rosa Studio’s own Ron Bonk in the shoes of writer and director. The 1997 thriller is a cinematic blend of psychological horror, self-deprivation, and coming to terms with one’s own identity. All shot on analog video and on a micro budget, Bonk’s able to depict dreamlike scenes hauntingly and pragmatically without the assistance of costly visual effects that often cheap in appearance on video transfers. Shot in Syracuse, New York, “The Vicious Sweet” could be set anywhere, USA and with locations that set the main characters in close knit quarters for nearly most of the 90 minute runtime, the “House Shark” is able to fashion an under the radar overwrought mystery. Though the SRS Cinema retro DVD cover is lustfully tasteful with an illustrative Tyler Phoenix handcuffed to the bed and in her underwear, “The Vicious Sweet” isn’t about abduction for sexual exploitation. Yes, one scene does represent the DVD cover; however, Bonk’s story tickles the frayed and blurry realm of the mortal coil that can push the limits of not only the story, but also Bonk’s ability to explore that plane of existence that inhibits zombies, large rat-faced looking creatures, and the intangibility of time.

Tyler Phoenix whirls as an angsty actress with a chip on her shoulder and a metaphorical duffle bag full of internalized secrets. Sasha Graham straps herself right into the role, exhorting all the right kinds of anger and cynicism into her seemingly successful character’s career. Graham has seen her fair share of mid to late 1990’s lowballed b-movie films, such as having a substantial role in “Polymorph” directed by “The Dead Next Door” director J.R. Bookwalter and in “Bloodletting” helmed by the “Witchhouse” screenwriter Matthew Jason Walsh, but “The Vicious Sweet” marks the debut of leading lady, a true scream queen role, and Graham wears it well. She’s complimented by the debut performance of the late Bob Licata as the mysterious tormentor who goes by the name of Grimaldi, one of the performers from Phoenix’s early, short-stinted porn career. Grimaldi, who repeatedly notes, is a part of Phoenix and, for a lack of a better term, symbolizes the actresses betwixt past and present on a conscious level of trying to make sense of all that’s entangled in that screwed up and complex mind of hers. Licata, in regards to his character, is cold and consistent, playing the act of a passionately solemn and unpredictable serrated fan hellbent on trying to expose Tyler Phoenix’s true self. “The Vicious Sweet” also stars Jason Wicks, Theresa Constantine (“Bloodletting”), Jeffrey Forsyth (“Gut-Pile”), Al Marshall, Steve Wood, and Jeff Jones.

The story progression through Tyler’s figuratively personal hell hardly goes stagnant despite, for most of the her status, being manacled to a bed for relentless interrogation. Tyler’s put through a variant ringer of drug induced hallucinations and cerebral caprices and much of the credit, alongside Sasha Graham, should go to writer-director Ron Bonk who is able to translate from script to screen his vision. Contrary to the restraints of a SOV production, the creativity of Bonk’s camera work in masking, in more ways than one, Grimaldi’s stoic façade and centralizing Tyler’s and her experiences is evocative , the antiquated practical effects are still appositely poignant, and the diverse content holds “The Vicious Sweet” to a larger scale than the finances suggests. I’m not trying to elevate Ron Bonk’s film up to being the Holy Grail of low budget horror held in the vibrancy of limelight, but in my opinion, to dismiss the appreciation for producing something out of nothing would be a tremendous disservice to all auteurs. “The Vicious Sweet” leaves us with an open for interpretation perspective that somehow manages a jaw-dropping mound of shock and perplexity, nothing short of the likes of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” ending.

The SRS Cinema DVD home video release of Ron Bonk’s “The Vicious Sweet” is presented region free, 1.33:1 aspect ratio from a S-VHS Betacam SP, that mostly result with black bars on each side of your 16:9 HD television. The limited edition Blu-ray is marketed as remastered, but the DVD image quality is awfully poor from the analog master transfer and doesn’t seem to have a smidgen of touch up where marco-blocking artifacts and aliasing run rampant. What also doesn’t help matters is the faded coloring and the blacks nearly void of any shape of definition as if you’re in a bright room and the light is shutoff and nothing but a blurry black void is present between the light and the time you’re eyes can adjust. The English language lossy 1.0 uncompressed mono track is frail and shaky, but still manage to push through without an obfuscate obstacles. Dialogue cozily lies low on the audio totem pole and the range and depth lack during more fantastical moments of zombies and monster swarming about. Bonus features include a director commentary, a director and Sasha Graham commentary, and SRS Cinema trailers. The best DVD feature, along with the film itself, is the illustrated, VHS letterbox DVD cover of the aforesaid Tyler Phoenix beautifully bound to the bed with candles lit by her table side and dressed scantily with a nice Please Be Kind, Rewind cherry on top. Despite the technical woes, “The Vicious Sweet” remedies the longstanding misinformed notion that independent b-horror movies are a hack and burden to the cinema fuselage with vast imagination and sturdy ambition.

The Vicious Sweet DVD is a must buy!

An EVIL Beast’s Carnivorous Addiction! “The Hidden” reviewed!


A sewer dwelling beast attacks and kills a cocaine fueled junkie. Now hooked on the drug and pained with addiction, the beast needs more cocaine. Every exchange meet up by the sewer entrances become a deadly encounter and as dealers and customers start to disappear, winding up dead, a drug cartel kingpin mourns the loss of his business. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the junkie’s older brother is also suffering a loss. Spiraling down a path of grief, he must find his brother’s killer at any cost, even if that means breaking up with the love of his life. A vindictive brother and a savvy drug dealer must team up to hunt the beast that stalks the sewers, looking for it’s next high, and put an end to a reign of terror.

Australia. Early 1990’s. Nathan Hill wrote and directed a crime thriller SOV, shot on a Video8 handheld, that just happened to have a bloodthirsty beast roaming the sewer system who unwittingly becomes addicted to cocaine after munching on a junkie. The 1993 film was entitled, “The Hidden,” which is not to be confused with the late 1980’s science fiction-horror, “The Hidden,” with “Twin Peaks'” Kyle MacLachlan. Hill’s film, also considered a sci-fi venture, had a minuscule, barely functioning budget and in a sense of unawareness, the filmmaker didn’t quite realize that a film, already popularizing the title, had the exact same moniker. In any case, Hill’s “The Hidden” has a premise far from the already established indulging in a vindictive creature feature with an internal turmoiled drug cartel subplot.

“The Hidden” comes to no surprise that the cast is constructed of no-named actors and actresses. Simon Mosley debuts as Michael Wilcott, a grief stricken brother looking for vigilantism vengeance. Mosley doesn’t have an acting bone in his body as he punches doors and pushes pushers around as if on command and carries a monotone, automaton performance throughout. He’s only rivaled by Daniel Rankin from another Nathan Hill directorial, 2011’s “Seance” (aka “6:66: Seance Hour: if that makes any more sense). Rankin’s a tall, muscular drink of water in comparison to Mosley and has a bit more acting chops that not only contemplates the hits he’s taking on his drug gig as dealer Guy Taylor, but also pulls a little more weight as a compassionate individual who takes a homeless boy as his surrogate father. As Mosley and Taylor team to battle the beast, the unlikely duo also have another foe to hurdle in the obstinate Steve, a junkie with a hard on for being bad, a role fit for the blonde haired and severely acned Chris Robbie. Paul Mosley, Chris Goodman, John Goodman, and Narelle Sinclair, as Michael Wilcott’s girlfriend, co-star.

Now while “The Hidden” has rough SOV quality, that’s is nowhere near the issue with Nathan Hill’s debut feature. Nick Goodman’s script spits out varying story tracks that never really shape subplots into being an unquenchable and flaccid tangent. For example, Guy Taylor’s adopted son, Carl. With the exception of a brief flashback of Guy and Steve working out together and coming across the boy. The scene’s brief but affective substance lies with setting up Guy to be a big softy on the inside and making Steve a complete jerk, yet keeps the relationship between Guy and Carl disjointed and ingenuous. There’s also the little (as in little of) mentioning of the special effects. No special effects technician is credited and it shows as the beast is absent in nearly the entire 77 minute runtime with the exception of the Predator first person infrared vision and it’s not until the climatic finale does “The Hidden” come visible and it’s a big whomp-whomp.

Nathan Hill Productions, under his NHProduction company, presents “The Hidden” distributed by SRS Home Video and MVDVisual onto DVD home video that’s encased in nostalgic, VHS cover art with a “Please Be Kind and Rewind” cherry sticker on top. The Video8 SOV image is quite washed and unstable in the 4:3 aspect ratio as if the color has been zapped right out, even after being re-animated, reduxed, and remastered. The limitations of the Video8 camcorder hinder the single channel audio, leaving the range and depth something to wonder rather than experience. Along with the anemic audio and video presentations, the bonus features doesn’t stray far as only the trailer and bonus trailers are included. “The Hidden” is unglamorous under the eye-catching cover art and more attuned to being an investigative thriller than a creature feature and a recommendation wouldn’t be hard-pressed for anything stellar.

“The Hidden” available on DVD

Insecurity is a Path to the EVILside! “Killing Spree” review!


Airplane mechanic Tom Russo is a newly married man; it’s his second marriage, in fact. Tom’s first go around in marital union didn’t go over so well as found himself on the other end of being a victim of adultery. Paranoid and skeptical, Tom requires his young and hot new wife, Leeza, to become a house wife as he works long, exhausting hours to support his family in a one income household. As the work hours pile, money becomes tight, and tensions build in the back of Tom’s mind, paranoia steamrolls Tom’s reality when he starts suspecting a lonely Leeza of screwing every delivery, repair, and lawn car man that knocks at their door. Without confronting Leeza with his delusions, Tom’s extreme jealously pushes him to kill and bury the men that he envisions involved in the affairs, but his victims don’t stay dead, they don’t stay buried, and seek the eternal suffering for their killer.

A few, long years have gone by since our last encounter with the practical effects-heavy, indie horror director Tim Ritter. From his disturbing tale of destructive descent in “Truth and Dare?: A Critical Madness to his “Switchblade Insane” segment from the SOV masters of horror in the ghastly-variant anthology “Hi-8 (Horror Independent 8)” that also helms short films from Donald Farmer (“Cannibal Hookers”), Todd Sheets (“Dreaming Purple Neon”), and Brad Sykes (“Camp Blood”), the filmmaker has a legacy of blood-shedding entertainment. Today, exploration into Ritter’s “Killing Spree” unearths his passion for horror that develops out of influences from other horror icons before leaving his bloody footprint in the indie scene. “Killing Spree,” written and directed by Ritter, displays the filmmaker’s deep affection for Fangoria magazine having it displayed, repeatedly used as coffee table literature prop. There’s also admiration for “Night of the Living Dead” in the bonkers film about one man’s mind snapping like a twig under the formidable stress. The main character’s name is Tom Russo and Russo is the last name of NOTLD co-writer John Russo and let’s not also forget about the undead rising from Tom’s backyard is fairly synonymous with zombie classic.

While Tim Ritter flicks may not be graced with star-studded actors and actress, even from the B-movie lot, and more than likely don’t spawn hidden talent, there’s still something to be wholeheartedly said about the cast of his films that can only be described as an eclectic bunch of marvelous misfits that bring underground brilliance to the screen. Asbestos Felt is one of those said characters. No, I don’t mean the toxic asbestos felt roofers use as a underlaying backing when nailing in shingles. “Killing Spree” is one of three films Felt and Tim Ritter have worked on together and the scrawny-build with a strung out Grizzly Adam’s head on his shoulders has a wide-eyed spectacle about him when playing Tom Russo spiraling down the crazy train drain. Tom’s obsession with keeping Leeza from the perverted grips on those naughty repairmen would drive any wife away, but not Leeza, played by Courtney Lercara. The “Slaughterhouse” actress is an aesthetic flower growing in the middle of all the mayhem and she protrudes an innocence well received by her character. Other cast members include Bruce Paquette with the white boy dance moves, indie horror vet John D. Wynkoop (“Brainjacked”), Kieran Turner, Alan Brown, Rachel Rutz, Cloe Pavel, and Raymond Carbone as a dirty old pilot with a wise guy brogue.

Remember when I said these types of horror films don’t typically expose acting artistry? Well, behind the camera, one or two crew members start their illustrious careers in the indie trenches. Such can be said for special effects master Joel Harlow who makes his introductory launch with “Killing Spree” and then find work on a couple sequels for “Toxic Avenger,” “Basket Case 2,” and all the way up to the Neil Marshall “Hellboy” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” Yeah, I think Harlow made out OK. Harlow’s effects on “Killing Spree” will “blow your mind,” as stated on the back of the Blu-ray cover. Well, when Leeza’s head turns into giant lips then goes oral on Raymond Carbone’s head until his crown ejaculates, then, yes, these effects will blow your mind…literally! The medley macabre showcase Harlow’s craft from A to Z that includes a torched corpse, a disembowelment, severed undead head, and a nosy neighbor without a nose or without half a face for that matter.

Sub Rosa Studios re-releases “Killing Spree” onto the dual format, DVD/Blu-ray combo set with MVDVisuals providing distribution of the limited 666 copies. Essentially, this is the same release that was made available a couple years back presented in a standard television format of 1.33:1. The Betacamp SP 16mm video has held back the test of time since 1987, but with any video film on a budget, the rather cheap recording method does come with inadequacies, even if being remastered. For the entire runtime and not just in the tinted moments of carnage, the skin tones are akin to Donald Trump’s uncanny neon orange flesh and perhaps could have gone under an extensive color correction. Aside a few very minor tracking issues and faded coloring, the video transfer passes substantially well despite the continuous flare of orange. The English stereo 2.0 mix isn’t hearty or robust. Whenever Tom goes into maniacal mode, his crazy quips are quite soft even when he elevates his voice, and that goes the same with depth and range which are non-existent over the course of a flat audio tracks. Though soft at times, dialogue strongly comes through in the forefront with some fuzzy nuances. Bonus features are killer on this release with the Blu-ray sporting the majority with a never before seen extended director’s cut, a new commentary track from director Tim Ritter, a 90 minute documentary entitled “Blinded by the Blood,” a radio show commentary by H.G. Lewis and Tim Ritter, music tracks, photo slide show, three alternative scenes, blooper reel, and a Joel D. Wynkoop segment. The DVD also includes the director’s cut version of the film, the new commentary by Tim Ritter, and commentary for the original cut by Tim Ritter. “Killing Spree” is as grisly as the SRS cinema Blu-ray/DVD cover implies and then some with all the characteristics of a deranged and unhinged man exerting himself beyond the limits of sanity and mortality to unambiguously protect what is his; a dramatize example rendered as a metaphor for those who will do anything to protect what’s theirs.

Limited Edition. Get it now!

Free Your Soul With the Evil Mad Doctor! “The Soultangler” review!


Experimental doctor, Anton Lupesky, invents a controversial drug that can free a human soul from its vessel and travel through into the lifeless eyes of a corpse, possessing the body to reanimation. The only side effect is grotesque hallucinations that are so horrible, few survive the experience. After a stint of missing persons and a string of mysterious deaths at the Whitebriar Institution, Lupesky is fired from his position, banned from the medical board, and brought up on criminal charges. His acquittal sparks him to embark on a journey overseas to continue his radical medical experiments, away from regulations and tremendous oversight. The doctor returns six months later for far superior medical innovations in America and begins practicing again in his own basement with the unscrupulous help from a couple of lackey acolytes that leaves Lupesky’s supply of “patients” not in short demand. One reporter keeps investigative tabs of the good doctor as she suspects a connection between him and her father’s death at Whitebriar and when her and her friends starts to snoop around, Lupesky has no choice but to use any means necessary to thwart her investigation, even if that means secretly administrating the drug to her in hopes that her soul can fly with his – if she survives.

Thirty years ago, “The Soutangler” hit the cinema market. A low-budget gruesome mad scientist flick with a penchant for some fantastically grisly practical special effects. The 1987 shocker was directed by Pat Bishow, penned by John Bishow and Lance Laurie, and shot on location on Long Island, New York. The Do-It-Yourself and Lovecraftian macabre does a bit of soul-searching to find resurrection from the video graveyard. Luckily, Bleeding Skull! Video and the AGFA come to the rescue with a chock-full of extras release that digs up the Bishow’s lost creation, dusts it off, cleans it up, pats it on the butt, and sends it back out into the world onto DVD home video. “The Soultangler’s” niche envisioning goes against the grain of traditional filmmaking, bordering experimental, but definitely a must-see for those interested in existentialism horror: the removal of free will to be replaced by another’s.

Pierre Devaux stars in his only credited as the mad Dr. Anton Lupesky that resembles along the lines of a Dr. Herbert West from that little known trilogy of the H.P. Lovecraft inspired “The Re-Animator.” With a wiry frame, stringy shoulder length hair, and government-like issued classes, the very animated Pierre Devaux casts the ideal character whose maniacal and perverse in his medical malpractices. The only one willing to stop the Lupesky’s experiments is investigating journalist Kim Castle of The Daily Chronicle. Castle, played by Jane Kinser, is about as ferocious as her beautiful as an aggressive reporter, unwilling to stop to unearth the truth of her father’s tragic death. Kinser’s not much of an onscreen force to reckon with as she’s quite timid, but she manages to hold her own up against Devaux wild eyed lunacy. Rounding out the cast is Bob Cederberg as a Carl the drugged addict henchman, Louise Millman as a loyal minion to Lupesky, and Tom Ciorciari as Castle’s concerned friend who battles the zombified corpses embodied by Dr. Lupesky.

While a strong appreciation exists from the outstanding attention to detail with the decayed bodies and the explicit violence in the finale that nightmarishly flourish in a heap of ghastliness, the rest of the film is as disjointed as the dismembered bodies in Lupesky’s basement of horrors. Despite being submersed in various talking head scenes that divulge significant backstories between Dr. Lupesky and Kim Castle, the story struggles to keep the straight line focus, swerving erratically between subplots and the main premise. Castle’s horrific dreams of aggressive zombies loosely makes a connection other than prepping Castle’s subconscious when ingesting Lupesky’s soul freeing drug. The story of Dr. Simpson also flounders to the waist side with her and Dr. Lupesky’s love affair, the only women he would even consider getting close to and not slaughter for his own amusement.

“The Soultangler” arrives onto full-bodied, graphically illustrated DVD from the B-movie collaborators Bleeding Skull! Video and the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) and distributed by MVDVisual from the original 1″ master tapes. Shot on 16mm, but edited on video, “The Soultangler” has a SOV experience in it’s original aspect ratio of a full frame 1.33:1. Quality varies from the source material, including some tracking and edge flare issues, but overall a solid transfer with a sizable color palette that includes tints, natural skin tones, and visceral dream sequences that show little-to-no sign of diminishing. Stereo mono track does the job despite poor mic placements to get the full girth of dialogue. HypnoLoveWheel’s indie synth/rock soundtrack has more popularity on the B-level than in the mainstream music, but serves “The Soultangler” with broad depth to solidify a wedge between “The Soultangler’s” whimsical charm and the Gothicism that is Stuart Gordon’s “Re-Animator.” Bonus features include, for the first on any release, the Unseen 62 minute alternate director’s cut, a commentary track with director Pat Bishow, behind the scenes footage, trailers for “The Soultangler” and “Dead of Night Town,” music video for “wow” by HypnoLoveWheel, and liner notes by Bleeding Skull’s Zack Carlson. Conceptually, “The Soultangler’s” premise oozes originality and creativity involving soul transformations through the portal eyes of a dead body and that’s simply brilliant and what today’s horror genre certainly craves. Constructionally, Pat Bishow couldn’t push the momentum to pickup the pace to overripe an engaging story, but the climax, out of left field, unsheathes a bloodbath of ultra-stellar, DIY proportions!

At Amazon, The Soultangler, Right now!