Forcing Conformity on EVIL is a Violent Cause. “Murder in a Blue World” reviewed! (Cauldron Films / Blu-ray)

“Murder in a Blue World” now available on Blu-ray!  Purchase a Copy Here at Amazon.com!

Nurse Ana Vernia lives in an authoritarian, dystopian world where she just received a commendation for her work, but beneath the archetype of a scrutinizing society seeking to acculturate deviants by way of involuntary electroshock treatments, Ana moonlights in her own violent behavior as an act of mercy. Under the pretense of disguises, Ana seduces men aberrant to the social norms, returns them to her luxurious mansion, sleeps with them, and to then only murder them with precision before they can be subjected to imperious judgement for being different. All the while, societal dissentient David, an exiled member of a brutal gang, witnesses Ana’s exploits and infiltrates her home, her life, to garner incriminating evidence in order to blackmail her for money, but when David is tracked down for his former gang and beaten to near death, he comes ironically under the care of nurse Ana who plans to fix David before his fate before the electroshock treatments.

Get ready to dial high on voltage on the social commentary scale, “Murder in the Blue World” is a fascinating, dystopian look at social disorder. Heavily influenced in more ways than one by Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” the Eloy de la Iglesia 1973 picture was once entitled “Clockwork Terror” in the U.S. to ride the lucrative coattails of Kubrick’s symphony to violence. Also known in other parts of the world as “To Love, Perhaps to Die,” “Satansbrut” (“Satan’s Fiend”), and “La clinique des horreurs” (“The Clinic of Horrors”), Iglesia’s original penned script and title actually “Una gota de sangre para morir amando” (“A Drop of Blood to Die Loving”), co-written with José Luis Garci (“El Teroso”), Antonio Artero (“El tesoro del capitán Tornado”), George Lebourg, and Antonio Fos (“Panic Beats”). The Spanish film goes internationally by many monikers but has one objective and that is to counter the dictation of free-thinking individuals with violence. “Murder in a Blue World” is produced by José Frade under his self-titled production company, José Frade Producciones Cinematográficas S.A.

“Murder in a Blue World” is so much so in the Stanley Kubrick wake, the film stars Sue Lyon who played the titular character in Kubrick’s “Lolita.”  More than a decade later, the “End of the World” and “The Astral Factor” actress enters another emotionally lacerating role of a woman, a nurse, sworn to do no harm who sees that a quick euthanization is the only possible mercy she can offer to spare societal downcast souls from a fate far worse than death in a cold and cruel condemnatory world.  Lyon’s excellent in curating her different disguises and looks, taking on a variety of personas with subtle mannerisms despite how comical or implausible they may appear on screen, such as the idea of being an old, gray-haired woman.  Lyon is fair and small in stature compared to her male counterparts but commands the screen with her confident approach to Ana’s advantageous beauty and eroticism that can turn a gay man straight apparently.  Former gang member David shares her ideology to an extent, to the extent of capitalizing off her nightly murder for mercy escapades in order to survive on the street alone.  Christopher Mitchum, son of the late Golden Age of Cinema actor Robert Mitchum (“El Dorado,” “The Longest Day,” “Scrooged”), plays the nihilistic gangbanger with aversion to any or all rules that tell him how to think.  Mitchum’s impressive motorbike skills are utilized for an impressive chase sequence that incorporates ramp jumps and car crashes at a high speed velocity, a talent Mitchum and film producers utilized often in his other credits, such as “Sumertime Killer” and “Big Jake.”  Lyon and Mitchum don’t have much screen time until later in the story but their interactions are playful, flirtatious almost, but in a predator-prey kind of way and we’re not really sure which-is-which in that shifty relationship.   French actor Jean Sorel (“A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin”) rounds out the three-prong principal characters as a diehard representative of the authoritarian body and a potential love interest for Ana.  Playing Victor Sender, a neurologist experimenting on the criminally insane with electroshock therapy and working at the same hospital as nurse Ana, Sorel is the epitome of the calculating stability and clean-cut coldness of the ruling class that’s doesn’t see what they’re doing to be a unjust, cruel, or even a problem at all. “Murder in a Blue World” rounds out the cast with Ramón Pons (“Scarab”), Charly Bravo (“The Cannibal Man”), Alfredo Alba, Antonia del Rio, Domingo Codesido Ascanio, and Fernando Hilbeck (“The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue”).

On the surface, director Eloy de la Iglesia carves a rib right out of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” with themes of exquisite, unprovoked violence sparked by the very basis of rebellion against authority. Not to also forget to mention the elaborately dressed gang of four, the electroshock treatment that aims to cure the criminal cerebrum, and the dystopian, futuristic guild with hints of fascism. “Murder in a Blue World” is a mixture that’s two-third post-Kubrick and one-third part pre-Paul Verhoeven, the latter reaching into fascist imagery as well as extreme commercialism that has surely inspired the “Robocop” and “Starship Trooper” director. Blue wellness drinks and panther-primitive men’s underwear are just a few the commercials fabricated for Iglesia’s coloring of an influential culture as the filmmaker uses the motif to symbolize and parallel brainwashing that becomes more severe when the government attempts to force a cure for criminality down incarcerated individuals’ throats. Even David announces to the world in multiple scenes how he doesn’t care what others think and he’s a free thinker. Homosexuality, prostitution, and physical imperfections suggest master race ideology amongst the domineering class hierarchy. Those who Ana seduce, as well as David, struggle in poverty and are considered inferior though not explicitly mentioned in the story. Iglesia integrates his trademark graphic violence, closeups of stabbings and throat slitting, but only really visualizes post-third act climax to keep more of an implied violence, off screen, and quickly edited to maintain an unclear vagueness of what’s right and what’s wrong in what Ana’s accomplishing.

A phenomenal companion piece and second bill to Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” Eloy de la Iglesia’s “Murder in a Blue World” finds Blu-ray love with a high definition, 1080p release from the genre film eternizing Cauldron Films. The Blu-ray debut is a 2K restoration of the 35mm transfer that has held up fairly well over the decades to only show pockets of wear and tear. Presented in a widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio, there’s no edge enhancement or digital noise reduction to clear out the natural stock grain, leaving the picture quality with more texture. Skin tones are, for the most part, natural and popping color grade doesn’t stray too far from its integrity until one brief scene goes full Oompa-Loompa orange before reverting back to normal. Light scratching is common throughout but not obtrusive to the viewing. Two audio options come with the release, an English dub dual mono and a Spanish dub dual mono. Since the cast is comprised of American, French, and Spanish native actors, neither track appears attractive from a lip-reading and audio-hearing perspective. Preferably, I went English dub as Sue Lyons and Chris Mitchum monopolize the lion’s share of screen time. There’s quite a bit of hissing and popping on the single channel output that can render dialogue almost indistinct but passes with a D+. The English subtitles synch well and show no sign of inaccuracy or grammatical issues. English SDH captions are available as well. Special features include a 2008 archive interview with Chris Mitchum, an interview with dubbing guru Ben Tatar Dubbing in a Blue World, a video essay read by Spanish Gothic film and literature scholar Dr. Xavier Aldana Reyes who dives into the themes and constructs of Iglesia’s film, audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger, the VHS cut of “Clockwork Terror” in 720p standard definition, and image gallery. The physical release comes in a clear Blu-ray snapper with a colorfully illustrated cover art that is reversible with one of the more notable and beautifully shot scenes on the inside. With a runtime of 97 minutes, the release is region free and is unrated. “Murder in a Blue World” receives a gorgeous Blu-ray restoration and debut as it’s an eclectic work of inspired and pioneering visual art from one of Spain’s most individualist directors.

“Murder in a Blue World” now available on Blu-ray!  Purchase a Copy Here at Amazon.com!

The EVIL Gutierrez Family Accommodations are to Die For! “Fucking Bastards” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)

Those “F**king Bastards” on DVD at Amazon.com

On the walk path to Santiago, on an isolated stretch of the trail, hikers Richie and Lucia run into a bit of bad luck when Richie’s foot is severely injured by a speeding car driving recklessly on what’s typically a walking path.  Needing immediate aid, they’re forced down a offshoot path to the isolated Hotel Gutierrez, a local hostel ran by the eccentric manager, Arturo Gutierrez, and his family.  Unsure about the odd hostel manager and even more unsure about the temperamental cook serving questionable, gloopy slop but continue to entertain their hosts’ hospitality to not offend or make upset, Richie and Lucia quickly realize they’ve made a grave mistake in staying when the Gutierrezes are actually a deranged family of cannibals exploiting their guests for the one thing, to be the main course on the Gutierrez menu.  The path trekkers find themselves on the receiving end of a butcher’s block that might not have been an accident after all.

“Jordidos Kabrones” aka “Fucking Bastards” is the 2012 precursor film to Manolito Motosierra’s “Spanish Chainsaw Massacre” from 2017, introducing viewers to the morbid-madcap antics of the Gutierrez family. The comedy-horror uses the Camino de Santiago, or the walk to St. James, as the backdrop that ultimately leads to an unprovoked massacre of the pilgrims traversing to the shrine of the first martyred apostle St. James at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Some believe that walking the trail is a part of a sinner’s expiation toward God. In Motosierra’s case, as seen in “Fucking Bastards,” the seemingly normal hiking trail is a gateway to Hell for all when a local family exploits the pilgrimage as a source of unconventional comestibles that has been a tradition passed down from generation to generation. Over-the-top with nauseating ordure and gore, Motosierra refuses to hold back in the mire situation that leaves Richie and Lucia being the unfortunate guests of the Gutierrez hostel. The feature is produced by Motosierra and Kiko Navarro, who’ve went on to collaborate on “The Corpse Grinders 3” and “Spanish Chainsaw Massacre,” assistant producers Santi Banjo and Fernando Montano Galvañ, and is a Spanish conglomerate production of AGP Productions in association with Olga Underground, Yosoyfande Reanaimator Association, Dark Times Visual, Esquizoide Productions, San Jorge School of Film and Audio, and the Alcoi Film Office.

If you’re like me and ended up watching the follow up film, “Spanish Chainsaw Massacre,” first, then you may recognize a couple of familiar faces in “Fucking Bastards” of the atrocity paving duo of Arturo and Guti Gutierrez, played by José Luís Tolosa and Manuel Rodriguez. Tolosa tall stature, wide, sinister grin, and antsy movements perfects Arturo’s wildly tormenting behavior as the collected, but not also cool and calm, head of the family. Then, there’s Guty, the clearly deranged imbecile delighted to follow Arturo’s direction and take verbal abuse times infinite as long as he gets to tenderize, fillet, and serve up guests for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Rodriguez plays a derived goof that’s nothing really to note and write home about in his goon and goof performance that does support Arturo’s more sophisticated role as a deviant duo. While “Spanish Chainsaw Massacre” inundated viewers with extended family member of maniacs, “Fucking Bastards” starts out with slow with select immediate relations, such as their veiled and grunting grandmother played by Motosierra himself. The Gutierrez family’s pilgrim victims come in pairs. The main hapless marks are Richie and Lucia, played by Ricardo Pastor and Miriam Larragay and who both went on to have a new role in Motosierra’s “Spanish Chainsaw Massacre,” are suitable enough saps to be slaughtered by their own dimwittedness by ignoring that little voice inside their heads screaming at them to run for the hills upon meeting Arturo and Guti. Pastor and Larragay, compared to Tolosa and Rodriguez, are satisfying normal pilgrims without life infractions, without ulterior motives, and with nothing other than the backpacks on their back on what should have been a simple hike to pay respects to St. James and God, making their detour-to-death that much more nihilistic and grotesque. Sonia Ayala, Pedro García Oliva, Xima Perpinyá Mira, Marino, Yolanda Berenguer, Raúl Darío Gandoy, Jaime Martínez Moltó, and Jaime Martínez Moltó round out the cast.

By all means, “Fucking Bastards” is no great cinematic masterpiece. With an offensive title, not one person should expect it to be a great Spanish cine, but what should be expected from the Manolito Motosierra picture is a ton of gore and a load more of offensive and garbage slopped material to flaunt to shock the casual cinema consumer or speak the niche lurid language of gore film fiends around the world. Motosierra accomplishes both as “Fucking Bastards” will disgust the weakest of stomachs and will galvanize others to glue themselves to the story to see what happens next. Those viewers excited for the kills will find the gore effects to be inconstant at best from special effects artist Ruben Vallés Guerrero who has worked the movie grade gamut from the micro-indies, such as “Fresh Flesh,” to moderately budgeted films like “Down a Dark Path,” starring Uma Thurman (“Kill Bill”), and “A Monster Calls” with Sigourney Weaver (“Alien”) and Liam Neeson (“Darkman”). The Motosierra picture became a jumping point for Guerrero to show off his effects skills and delivers on some Tom Savini-inspired hand chopping and leg slicing but in the same breath also approves the use of an augmented plastic baby, with non-lifelike stiff arms and legs, in the bashing of a pregnant woman to force deliver. Whether due to limited funds, or the content was too shocking overall, or out of respect for depicting infant children in hugely Catholic culture, the scene sorely cheapens the already shoddy, low-budget production with artificial appearances. Refreshing is not a term I would say defines Manolito Motosierra’s “Fucking Bastards” but there’s a sense of unassuming relief from the lack of pretense because from front cover to end credits, you know exactly what type of vulgarity to expect.

Coming right in as spine number 69 on Wild Eye Releasing’s Wild & Extreme label, “Fucking Bastards” offers its sadistic viewing pleasure onto DVD home video. Presented in an open matte widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the feature is housed on a lower storage format, likely a DVD 5, that suffers tremendous compression pockmarks, such as smoothed out textures, blotchy-pixelated patches, banding, and contrast issues. Video presentation is watchable and not a terrible eyesore but definitely not the pretty picture around with a good portion of the issues stemming from commercial grade equipment. The Spanish language Stereo 2.0 audio tracks varies in dialogue levels, leaving depth unaccounted for and very little in range value as there’s not much of an ambient arrangement. Though varied, dialogue is clean and clear with English subtitles that have some synch/timing issues. There were a few occurrences where the subtitles on flashed and vanished in an instant. The English subs are also severely consolidated with characters’ throwing out much more than what is being translated…trust me, I know enough Spanish to tell. Bonus features only included the theatrical trailer plus other Wild Eye previews which, in my opinion, are worth checking out. No dialogue, just impressively edited, impressively scored, make-you-want-to-check-it-out handful of trailers that include “Death to the Ten Commandments,” “Gore Grind,” and “The Thrill of a Kill.” Stay tuned for an after credits bonus scene that displays the horrors of the Gutierrez children. The exterior features include a clear DVD snapper with a photoshop filtered act of asphyxiation on the front cover while the inside reveals a reverse cover of a screen grab of one of torturous moments of the story. The Wild Eye release of the film is unrated, has a runtime of just over an hour at 63 minutes, and is region free. Get your gonzo gore on with Manolito Motosierra’s humble beginnings in “Fucking Bastards” that could be considered the Rob Zombie’s Firefly family of Spain.

Those “F**king Bastards” on DVD at Amazon.com

Enter the Patron Saint of EVIL Cannibalism! “The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)

“The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre” now on DVD!  

A degenerate heavy metal rock band and their pressurized manager are cast off on their very first ever music tour by their financing dictatorial mogul eager to recoup his investment as quickly as possible.  While en route, their van breaks down at the edge of a small town who welcome them with open armed hospitality, warm accommodations, and a hot meal with the promise of a day turnaround on fixing their van for free.  The next day proves to be a joyous occasion for the villagers celebrating their patron saint and little does the band know they’re an unwittingly big part of the ceremony as every villager is a ruthless cannibal ready to devour to the bone their haplessly stranded guests. 

About as vile and gross as they come, “The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre” is a Spanish-bred, slop-house, comedy-horror that plucked from the horror history timeline an unfaithful and a stretch comparison to a portion of the iconic title from the 1974 “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”  Writer-director Manolito Motosierra helms nothing remotely familiar to the Tobe Hooper classic, there’s barely the sweet exhaust coughing sound of a chainsaw ripping and shredding through Motosierra’s actual film, but “The Corpse Grinders 3” director has brought one well-known component to his film, lots of crazy long pig action!  Originally titled more appropriately as “Carnivoros” – Carnivores –  in Spain, the 2013 release only saw a U.S. release date merely 5 years ago in 2017 with supplementary prologue footage from Scorpio Film Releasing’s Richard Griffin and his entourage that bares big breasts as well as the only big chainsaw under its unaffiliated storyline of a woman double-double crossing two men to get away with $30K only to find herself inside a seedy hotel room and the unsuspecting starlet of her very own snuff film.  Though I usually adore Griffin and Michael Thurber, who usually has a role in a Griffin release in some random capacity, the opening fits like a square peg being jammed into triangle hole, accumulating confusion more than making sense.  “The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre” is a Fantastika Team and Olga Underground production presented by Tyrannosaurus Entertainment. 

If you can get past all the fart and poop jokes, the band known as “The Metal Cocks” are the epitome of well-received degeneracy in their unromantic, polyamorous pansexual quickies, blatant addictive vices, and an overall uncouth behavior and appearances in a mockery of hair metal bands from the 80s.  Dani Mesado as Rasputin, Óscar Gilbert Escarabajal as Petete, Torete playing himself as Torete, El Capitan Almendra as Bull, and Nereida López Vilaplana as Penny Pussy are Las Pollas del Metal – The Metal Cocks – taking on a rocking tour de force against insatiable backwoods cannibals of Spain.  If you think the band is depraved, wait until you see the villagers’ madness for meat foul up the screen with a mangled dick scene (someone call the expert Felissa Rose!), an intestine eating contest straight from the gut, and the recipe with baking instructions for a popular diarrhea shake.  With viciously varicolored characters like the Spanish whore (“Vampire:  Hounds of Horror’s” Yolanda Berneguer), the unsanitary naked food prepping cook known as The Chef (“Fucking Bastard’s Tam Sempere Miro), and the murderous simpleton Guti (Michael Rodriguez) among others, a motley macabre bunch of crazed cannibals have systematic knowledge of separating and conquering their dinner, each involved in a role important to the façade that plays to the prey’s vulnerability before digging into their food with both hands clawing.  Everything and everyone are over-the-top and that really defines the line between the cold simmering terror family of Texas massacre and the wild family of maniacs of the Spanish massacre; though the idiom says everything is bigger in Texas, Spain certainly has the most peculiar of películas between the two territories.  “The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre” rounds out with Hilario Blas, Miriam Larragay, Ezequiel Campos-Zeta, Raul Dario Gandoy, Richardo Pastor, José Luís Tolosa, Mayama Lia, and Yolanda Diaz Dengra.

Gore aplenty!  “The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre” bathes in troughs of blood as well as other human body fluids that make your eyes sink deeper into the back of your head while your eyes lids slowly act like shutters trying to protect the vision and mind pure of only the blood and not anything else.  That task is a lost cause of impossibility as Motosierra lathers a thick, slick of sick onto every frame, leaving no grotesque rock unturned before and after the victims’ final curtain call.  Yet, in the end, what Motorsierra constructs is the Looney-Toons of descendental cannibalism that’s full of maniacal laughter and delusional actions with no rhyme or reason to determine causality.  The celebrated patron saint seems to require the villagers, or strongly encourages them, to act a fool, to put on a show, and to treat human meat as a delicacy to plunder.  Neither The Metal Cocks nor the villagers receive a proper introduction, backstory, or arc in what is basically a show up and be present for gratuitous slaughter in a variety of random pockets that not all necessarily have to do with the band.  In some scenes, an old military man is tied to a tree, sitting down, and being tossed firecrackers at this crotch while a clown eggs on the kids with frenzied laughter and, in another scene, two adolescent boys are tied to a tree standing and sliced across the belly so they’re intestines can be used for a food race.  Where these characters came from is never touched upon or explained but understood that they’re a part of the festivities toward the patron saint.  Like what AC/DC once said – if you want blood, you’ve got it! – with “The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre” having gallons of it. 

“The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre” is a DVD re-release for the indie distributor, Wild Eye Releasing, as spine number 54 on the company’s Raw & Extreme sublabel.  The DVD, distributed by MVD Visual, presents the 70 minute, 56 minutes of actual feature with 14 minutes of Richard Griffin’s snuff film preface, unrated film in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  I really like this transfer from Wild Eye because of the sole fact of virtually no compressions issues obviously present and that’s not just because of the lack of bonus feature, which is common amongst most of Wild Eye’s library, on the DVD’s limited capacity.  Previous studies on other single feature releases proved Wild Eye to be a mixed bag regarding quality.  With “The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre,” the image quality is highly detailed and lush in black areas and in texture that makes Motosierra’s stomach-churning content that much more stomach-churning. The warm color palette of yellows and reds provides an exaggerated tint of a rural Spanish village.  In contrary to the DVD back cover, the feature’s native language is not English but rather a Spanish 2.0 stereo track.  Much of the dialogue track is all yelling synched well with the English subtitles that are not entirely accurate.  The subtitles are extremely abridged and loosely translated.  A robust metal soundtrack plays into the whole metal brand, but the other tracks lack depth as all outputs, much like the characters on screen, are upfront and loud; yet the compression handling sustains an agreeable fidelity with little no popping or screeching within or on the tail end.  Bonus features include promo videos and the official trailer with a stretch into a credits gag reel of sorts with candid and shooting mistakes in crediting the cast and there’s also an end credit scene that setups the cannibal family’s return with a Christmas themed sequel.  However, 9 years has passed and don’t think Motorsierra is working on any drafts at the moment.  The snap case comes with reversible DVD cover art with a touched up-front cover not pulled from the film itself while the inside has a blown-up bloody aftermath still of the narrative’s first victim with a dislodged lower jaw and a hunk missing from her face.  Ultra-indulgent with biofluid glop, “The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre” is a ruthless, toothless puta de madre of a film if you can get past the stink of butt humor.

“The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre” now on DVD!  

Tune In to EVIL’s Frequency. “99.9” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)

Lara, a paranormal radio show host, learns her close friend and former lover has been tragically killed in an accident at small village of Jimena.  Determined to find out what happened after a mysteriously mailed tape unveils disturbing images of her friend, Lara travels to Jimena to investigate the accident she believes was intentional.  Entangled amongst the village’s strange residents, suspicions are high on just about everyone who had contact with the deceased, but Lara is certain about one thing, at the center of her investigation is an abandoned house with a ghastly urban legend, afflicted by the entombment of murdered women and children souls and, one-by-one, the faces of the torture souls are manifestly etched out from within the walls onto the surface.  As Lara inches closer to the truth of her friend’s research of the phenomenon, the shocking truth will reveal a dark power trying to keep the house’s secrets contained.

Estranged lover.  Tortured souls.  Witchcraft.  Secret experiments.  Murder mystery.  Agustí Villaronga’s “99.9” depicts a loaded, shrouded ethereal thriller with a thin translucent layer of homosexuality draped over so delicately you almost don’t realize the Spanish filmmaker’s subtle exhibition of lifestyle exile.  The 1997 film, also known as “99.9:  The Frequency of Terror,” a subtitle moved from the main title to tagline status, is shot primarily in Madrid as well as certain exterior shots in La Vereda, Guadalajara to provide the intimate essence of a small village’s ever-watching glower.  Villaronga, along with cowriters Lourdes Iglesias and Jesús Regueira, stitch an argyle style narrative sweater of consistent checkered behavior inside an ostentatious presentation of simmering hostility toward foreigners and homosexuals, stirring an isolating heroine into a mixture of local animus and lingering occultism.   “The Black Moon” and “Ninth Gate” executive producer Antonio Cardenal solely funds “99.9” and with Impala and Origen Producciones Cinematograficas serving as co-productions. 

Bearing most of the story’s weight is lead actress María Barranco (“Witching and Bitching”) in an unfamiliar to her thriller role polar opposite of her profound previous work as a comedienne in the vocational genre.  Yet, Barranco grabs the role with undue hesitation or eager to professional please Villaronga with her character entering a spurning atmosphere seething with mistrust and ill-intent.  Playing a single mother enduring the unknown status of her estranged lover, also the father of her fatherless child, it isn’t until a package containing a VHS tape of mostly recorded static and a naked man, her estranged lover Victor (Gustavo Salmerón, “V/H/S Viral”), briefly seen fleeing for his life instills a strong uncompromising need to find the truth.  Barranco captures being rocked and shaken by Victor’s footage so much so that her tension and fear contagiously transmit to the viewer and that hardly lets up in a deluge of suspicious and dread curiousness compelling her to investigate the gruff and oddly civil villagers.  One of those village inhabitants, Juan Márquez, reeks of nervous energy that’s poured into his hunky local mechanic Mauri who becomes the mystery’s weakest link amongst the unbreakable locals, especially under the rigid impatience of Mauri’s girlfriend Julia (Ruth Gabriel), house owner Lázaro (Ángel de Andrés López, “Sexy Killer: You’ll Die for Her “), and the creepy committed bruha mother Dolores (Terele Pávez, “The Day of the Beast,” “Witching and Bitching”).  Pávez stamps her presence into “99.9’s” grim resolve that links Dolores to the souls trapped in the house with fanatical obsession.  The cast rounds out with Simón Andreu (“Flesh+Blood”), Pedro Mari Sánchez (“Creation of the Damned”), Maite Brik, and Paula Soldevila (“Immortal Sins”).

If I had to compare another film to “99.9’s” persistent bleak atmospherics and a singular principle quietly poking around to solve a cryptic scene-turner, a more widely known and recognizable title with a familiar cast, I would put up Villaronga’s film against Robert Zemeckis’s circa 2000 Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer thriller “What Lies Below.”  Both works are saturated with melancholy stuffing and are beautifully shot in their own stylistic right, but Villaronga adds an undercurrent of homosexual persecution as well as a xenophobic aspect that seeks to discourage, dismay, and disconcert nosy foreigners poking around in local business with a gray area of a big city versus little community vibe and scientific fact versus yokel superstition.  Yet, the script renders omission at more pivotal character junctures that go in-depth about backstory, such as the case with the forgotten Victor who, despite being a major plotpoint in the opening scene of the movie, is more a name thrown around as device to stir commotion amongst the locals.  Victor’s experiments in capturing the images and sounds of tortured souls aimlessly floating inside an ethereal plane in the electronic noise of television broadcast during his very much alive subjects’ REM sleep practically dissipates faster than a bottom burp with the window open and the breeze blowing. As loose as the script may be, Villaronga makes up for it with a tone of stern pall, a delicate theme of bigotry mitigated by the tortured souls and mischievous plot ingredients, and the timorous determination exuding from Maria Barranco’s portrayal.

“99.9” is Lara’s radio station frequency; a frequency in the story that nurtures and embraces the abnormal paranormal from callers night in, night out. Instead of sitting comfortably behind a mic and headphones, cozy in her sound proof studio, her frequency is a barrier that is flipped on it’s head as she becomes involved in like the stories of her callers. Speaking of flipping, in more of a “99.9” is Lara’s radio station frequency; a frequency in the story that nurtures and embraces the abnormal paranormal from callers night in, night out. Instead of sitting comfortably behind a mic and headphones, cozy in her sound proof studio, her frequency is a barrier that is flipped on it’s head as she becomes involved in like the stories of her callers. Speaking of flipping, in more of a layman, satanic sense, “99.9” inverted is also the sign of the beast. Either way, two solid possible metaphors for “99.9” give meaning to the tuning title that’s now available on a dual-layer Blu-ray and DVD combo from Cult Epics who present the film in the original European preferred widescreen 1.66:1 aspect ratio from a 2K scan of the original 35mm negative. Villaronga’s chromatic vision finds unadulterated success in the crisp, clean picture of the Cult Epics release with almost no damage from the original transfer. There’s a slight, and extremely brief, scratch noticeable in the first half of the film, but the amount of grain is perfection and no evidence of manipulation of enhancing. Details are insanely delicate on every tactile texture, even the skin. Aforesaid, Villaronga expresses in color, using a cool blue tints, which is actually toned down some with the transfer, and implementing different lighting techniques to reinforce Javier Aguirresarobe’s breathtaking scenic wide wide shot cinematography. The Spanish language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 on the Blu-ray packs a punch with balanced channels funneling not only clean, unobstructed dialogue, but also “Pan’s Labyrinth” composer, Javier Navarrete,’s brooding baritone, chordophone score. There are two other audio options for the DVD: a LPCM 2.0 Stereo and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Optional English subtitles are available and do match up well with no faults. Special features include a new-ish interview with director Agusti Villaronga conducted by Cult Epic’s Nico B, the making of 99.9 that has archival interviews with the director, María Barranco, and other cast and crew, an isolated Javier Navarrete score, and Agusti Villaronga trailers. Both formats are region free and not rated with a runtime of 111 minutes. Back in the 90’s when Spanish supernatural thrillers peaked, “99.9” was right there with a captivating ghostly gossamer from Spain.

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One EVIL Deed Doesn’t Correct The First EVIL Deed! “Cannibal Man” reviewed (Severin / Blu-ray)

Marcos, a middle-aged abattoir worker, resists the pleas of Paula, his young girlfriend, to confess their self-defense killing of a taxi driver.  When Paula decides she’s inform the police without him, Marcos strangles her and stows her body in the bedroom of his outworn house.  The killing continues when loved ones come poking around to find answers about the disappearance or discover the macabre scene in Marcos bedroom.  Bodies pile up, the smell reaches decaying levels, and Marcos is plagued with nervous guilt.  Every day using his meat clever, he chops up bits and pieces of each victim and takes them to the slaughterhouse processing to rid the evidence and the smell, but no matter how many body parts he unburdens or how much fragrance he sprays, the sweet smell of death sticks with him. 

If someone would have said to me – you need to see a flick from Spanish director Eloy de la Iglesia – would you have ever guessed my first stop would be with his 1972 “The Cannibal Man” shocker?  To get to know a filmmaker’s directorial style and personal themes, the most gruesome horror can sometimes be a reflection into the soul of full disclosure because life, as most of us know from our own personal accounts, demons, and happenstances, can be ugly, nasty and unfair and can be cathartically expressed through film by a wretched shell navigating an undercurrent message to others.  That’s how Eloy de la Iglesia’s “The Cannibal Man” speaks to me.  Also known as “La semana del asesino,” or “The Week of the Killer,” as well as “The Apartment on the 13th Floor,” don’t expect an archetypical slasher and cannibal framework from this picture with many names.  “The Cannibal Man” is no “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or similar to that of “Wrong Turn” as the film stands alone, conveyed as unsurmountable struggles of renewing oneself, a social commentary of class structures, and, also, dabbles in homosexuality suggestion.  Executive producer José Truchado, who also produced “Hundra” and had bit roles in Jesús Franco’s “The Mistress of Dr. Jykell” and “Killer Tongue,” finances the film under his self-titled production company and presented by Atlas International Film (“The Blind Dead Collection”).

Looking to separate himself from strapping hunk typecasting and to show the world he can do more than just romantic comedies and action, the Madrid born Vincente Parra undertook a massive risk with the lead role Marcos, a meat processing factory worker in his, presumably, late 30’s to early 40’s with little education and social status who’s keeping company with a younger woman still living with and under the rules of her parents.  Let’s not to forget to mention Marcos’s grisly acts of murder and the homosexuality suggestions during his middle of the night rendezvouses with new best bud and neighbor Néstor (Eusebio Poncela, “The Death of the Scorpion).  Nothing sexual happens but the innuendo is there as, aside from his dog, the single bachelor Néstor often invites a tense Marcos out for a late night café visit, an afterhours swim at the local late night pool, and up to his swanky apartment where Néstor often watches Marcos from his high-rise balcony through Marcos’s makeshift skylight with binoculars.  Iglesia, who is gay, puts his own spin on the characters to allude to, and often over played as well, the two men as equally interested parties without ever having to speak a single word or make visible a single touch that would confirm otherwise.  Parra and Poncela couldn’t have acted better a disinterested-interested pair full of sexual tension and naïve foreplay.  Aside from the significant love interest characters from Vicky Lagos, who plays local waitress, Rosa, at the eatery Marcos patrons and “Night of the Walking Dead’s” Emma Cohen, Marcos’s girlfriend Paula, no other character have reoccurring scenes and are simply drafted as what should be major roles in the story to then be cut down by Marcos’s undervaluing psychopathy.  Charly Bravo, Fernando Sánchez Polack, Goyo Lebrero, and Lola Herrera fill in the rest of the cast list.

Strike out the slasher category for “The Cannibal Man” as Iglesia offers more than just a mindless, demented, hack’em up killer.  Behind Marcos brown eyes lies a reason of cold truth about his place in the world as a man who is ultimately and foremost stuck.  Stuck at a dead-end job.  Suck in his relationship with Paula.  Hell, Marco is even stuck living in a small bygone bungalow sticking out like a sore thumb right in the middle of new and wealthy high rise buildings.  He’s unskilled and uneducated, living in his brother’s house, and with no end to his personal wedging between his lackluster coursed life and his own short failings as a man until all that mediocre and mundane misery begins to ooze and shape into the one thing he tries to control – murder.  Even murder starts to spin out of control and heavy, burdensome guilt sets as seen in scenes with Néstor who’s choice of words perk up Marcos’s jumpy ears with fear of being caught.  Iglesia is a master at scene compositions that use audio cues, along with a jarring, tonal reversing soundtrack, to accentuate Marcos’s ascending paranoia as well as accentuating the scenes of the more period radical grasping social commentary on homosexuality and the unthinkable back-to-back-to-back-to-back murders.  Editor José Luis Matesanz also slyly cuts transitional scenes together in a stunningly seamless and crafty way that resemble close to Robert Wise (“Citizen Kane,” “The Andromeda Strain”) with harsh cuts that form a directional track and utilizes semi-abstract panning and reverse panning to fill in less significant gaps between the action.  Don’t expect a large amount of cannibalism in the story either.  Marcos isn’t gnawing on bones or baking a flesh brisket; instead, his act of cannibalism falls upon irony in that the bodies he tries to purge from his home ends up coming back to haunt him in more ways than one. 

If you love obscure, foreign horror that sustains a fresh packaged air about it, in story and in a remastered transfer, I highly recommend checking out Severin’s newly scanned, region free Blu-day distributed by MVD Visual.   The BD50 comes with two versions of the film, the 98-minute international cut and the 107-minute Spanish version extended cut, newly scanned from the original 35mm negatives for the first time.  Both transfers have excellent picture quality, some of the best I’ve ever seen come out of Severin, presented in 1080p in a widescreen 1:85:1 aspect ratio.  Not a lot of age wear and tear on the either transfer with each cut having only minor and light scratches scarcely throughout.  There’s sufficient, natural grain in both versions, but the extended cut’s grain flattens up, looking coarser, in the extra scenes.  Coloring grade is gorgeous with natural looking skin tones and you can see the details were refined and redefined.  Both versions come with an English dub and Spanish language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track with some back-and-forth forced English dub in those coarser grained scenes that make the flow unsettling.  Both versions render hearty range and fidelity with a strong dialogue track that syncs well with the option English subtitles, but slightly off sync with image unity.  Underneath the double-sided cardboard sleeve, Severin’s special features include Cinema at the Margins – a Stephen Thrower (author of “Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci”) and Dr. Shelagh Rowan-Legg (author of “The Spanish Fantastic: Contemporary Filmmaking in Horror, Fantasy and Sci-fi” on director Eloy de la Iglesia, The Sleazy and the Strange – interview with Spanish film scholar Carlos Aguilar on director Eloy del la Iglesia, deleted scenes, and trailer.  An engrossing bodega of vile Euro horror is what “The Cannibal Man” presents as a first-rate cutthroat thriller from the shamefully underrated filmmaker, Eloy de la Iglesia.

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