A Retelling of an Iconic Evil! “Apostle of Dracula” review!


While at a Spanish night club, Lucy meets a darkly tall and handsome gentleman who takes her back to his luxurious yacht and spends a romantic night with him inside his cabin on the sea. The next morning, Lucy suffers from a terrible case of amnesia, unable to recall where she’s met this mysterious man before or even remember her own past and as she relaxes in her hotel room after a soothing bath, a past life vision of herself entangled with her one night stand, otherwise known as Dracula, establishes her place amongst Dracula’s side as his undead love, but vampire hunters, Doctor Van Helsing and his faithful assistant Seward, are hot on Dracula’s scent toward his brooding castle in order to save Lucy from succumbing to Dracula’s cursed evil forever.

“Apostle of Dracula” is a Spanish retelling of the classic Bram Stoker “Dracula” tale, versed in Edgar Allan Poetry, and is directed and co-written by Emilio Schargorodsky. Also known more in other parts of the world as “Dracula 0.9,” Schargorodsky’s film boldly tiptoes through a minimalistic approach regarding the mythos of the legendary vampire that dabbles in some special effects when required and uncomplicated imagery that still relishes in wondrous imagery. The “Spirits of the Dead” poetic works of American macabre writer Edgar Allan Poe reinforces the Gothically garnished settings and costumes and heightens the gloomy sensationalism in Schargorodsky’s melodramatic horror soap opera that redesigns slightly Dracula’s origins and his infatuating love interest that isn’t Mina Murray.

Instead, Dracula’s focus is resuscitating the undead cursed life into Lucy dreamily and elegantly portrayed by model-actress Nathalie Le Gosles. Le Gosles has ghostly grey eyes that pierce vividly on screen through her Lucy Westerna performance that’s quite different than what audiences might be typically used to in the character. Lucy is the titular character, being the “Apostle of Dracula,” and Dracula (Javier Caffarena) spares no expense or time and effort in making Lucy his forever. Caffarena’s Dracula is very much overshadowed by Le Gosles’s beauty and performance as Caffarena’s acting experience before his freshman film only credits him in on other role in a short film directed by Schargorodsky, but Caffarena’s a busy body on this feature, delving into many facets from cast to crew as also one of the three co-writers and also donning not only the cape and fangs of the vampire but also creating a composing soundtrack, editing the film, and acting as a producer. In all honest, Paul Lapidus stole the show with his role as the most famous vampire hunter that was ever created – Van Helsing. Virtually embracing every facet of his time hopping character, along with the rest of the cast, Lapidus’s steadfast approach toward a more conventional Van Helsing relieves many anxieties of jumbling up Dracula’s mythology. Antonia Del Rio, Francisco Del Rio, Jose Luis Matoso, and Virginia Palomino round out the cast.

Schargorodsky’s indie Gothic Dracula feature is not immaculate; however, because Schargorodsky is an experienced photographer, a silver lining in his filmmaking playbook is his impeccable eye for cinematography. Whether in the framing or capturing the organic beauty of the landscape, Schargorodsky blends a dream with classic styles that had once scared the pants off people by incorporating shadow imagery that pays a dear homage to that of F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” alongside Caffarena’s Dracula shaving his head and extending his fingers to be a lookalike Max Schrek. Captivating as many of the frames might be, the juxtaposition to the story doesn’t hold water as the story hops from one century to another without much regard for exposition. Lucy’s passionate yacht fling with a daylight walking vampire not only raises many vampire mythos questions, but also leads into Lucy displacing much of her memories of herself and her past. She then goes into a trance after returning to her hotel room, envision her great lineage self intertwined with Dracla and that story unfolds for a good portion of the film from the time Lucy’s bit to when Van Helsing and Seward interject at Dracula’s Castle. The story then returns Lucy’s back to present time where she then fights to urge to be a bloodsucker, but can’t stop her desires to be with her undead beau all the while a modern day Van Helsing and Seward, sporting sleek Secret Service-issues shades and wardrobe, seek to protect Lucy at all cost. Lost somewhere in the midst of the story is an important pice of the puzzle that goes unexplained.

Wild Eye Releasing MVDVisual present the 2012 “Apostle of Dracula” onto DVD for the first time in the U.S. The DVD, graced with a cover illustrating an unrelated naked female vampire crotched down and glaring outward, widescreen presentation sports a digitally shot transfer that fairly mediocre throughout despite soft details, faint aliasing, and spotty moments of digital noise during darker scenes. However, the worst technical aspect lies with the dialogue audio track that’s horrendously dubbed in non-optional English in such a flat, monotone voice that all the passion behind the actors is lost. If you watch close in the special features, clips of untainted portions of the film can be caught with the original Spanish track, bringing a whole new life into the scenes. There are no options to play the original language or even optional subtitles. Caffarena’s looming score comes out clean with subtitle details in the LFE emitting from Stereo audio which can be seen discussed on the bonus material about composing the score. Another special features contain a pleasant surprise with a never before scene interview with the late Jess Franco, who looked to be on his death bed, conversing his positive thoughts and praises on Emilio’s film that does have a faint resemblance to Franco’s work consisting of elements, but not limited to, the gothic, dream-like, and slightly sleazy. Bonus material comes full circle with Wild Eye Releasing trailers. Emilio Schargorodsky’s self-funded Dracula film proves any filmmaker can be a auteur without losing focus despite some flaws being on the grand stage of an iconic horror monster and while “Apostle of Dracula” flips the script on Bram Stoker’s telling of one of the greatest villains ever scribed, there’s something to be said for the multiple ways to skin a cat in this and still able to construct a solid story in this European horror.

Sit Back. Relax. Let Evil Take You For a Ride. “The Glass Coffin” review!


Her night was supposed to be a wonderful occasion of celebration, a night to showcase her lustrous career as an established actress, a night where she was set to receive her crowning lifetime achievement award, but when the gowned Amanda stepped into a luxurious, fully-loaded limousine, the night that was to be a collective jubilee of the last twenty-years of Amanda’s life will be turned into a terror ride of unspeakable acts in the name of pure hatred. Once inside, the limousine’s inescapable locks detainee Amanda as a voice behind a voyeuristic camera commands her every subversive move and a sadistic chauffeur uses pain to thwart any of Amanda’s attempts of refusal in on an interrogation on four hellish wheels.

“The Glass Coffin,” aka “El ataúd de cristal” is a 2016 Spanish thriller from first time feature film director Haritz Zubilaga and co-written with Aitor Eneriz. From the moment Amanda steps into the limousine built like a tank, Zubilaga’s film goes from zero to sixty in a matter of minutes with thick tension and high horsepower suspense. “The Glass Coffin” is a depraved film. This isn’t a sugar-coated stuck in a glass box Hollywood thriller like “Phone Booth.” Oh no. Zubilaga and Eneriz hitch your emotions on a tow bar and drag them through the filthy muck without as so much of a care. Is this a game like Jigsaw would construct in “Saw?” No traps or snares here, but there’s an ominous shroud of mystery behind Amanda’s captor that could certainly give Jigsaw a run for his money. “The Glass Coffin,” in fact, goes more in tune with Joel Schumacher’s “Phone Booth” when considering the villain. Well, more like a Eurotrash, alternate version of “Phone Booth” antagonist anyway because aside from deriving the guilt and the sin from Amanda, there’s a sleaziness about the captor whose presence becomes more and more gothic the closer we learn more about them on top of their already extreme methods in the right-the-wrong stance.

Very similar to most films with a slim-to-no cast, like the Ryan Reynolds’ thriller “Buried, “The Glass Coffin” fits the bill as a one actor film. Paola Bontempi stars as the targeted starlet Amanda and the Canary Islands born actress musters enough courage to accept such a punishing role where her character’s humility and pride stems from a base layered motivation in not wanting to become the masked Chauffeur’s punching bag. Amanda goes from high time to gutter low in an ugly show of stripping moralities and ethics in order to reveal one true self. A pivot does occur, turning the shredding of facade into plain and simple revenge that becomes the flashy bullet points of European horror and Bontempi changes with it in one fluid motion of character revival and redemption.

The diabolical game is, well, diabolical and sincerely rich in providing an attractive story, but the film doesn’t go without it’s problems. Whether lost in the Spanish translation or just simply unexplained, an opaque mystery clouds Amanda’s captors, especially with the maniac Chauffeur and his bizarre relationship with the planning perpetrator, that puts a sour afterthought into analyzing “The Glass Coffin.” The Chauffeur was one realistic element of an intriguing conglomerate that tipped the ice berg of sinister deplorability and I was yearning for more of that; instead the game turned, the plot transformed, and “The Glass Coffin” took an approach that routed far into left field. Not a bad route to take as, like much of Zubilaga’s film, the moment had me at an astonished state as the film continued to keep me guessing what was going to occur next.

MVDVisual and Synergetic Films distributes the Basque Films production, “The Glass Coffin,” onto DVD home video. Short in giving any sort of physical or emotion breaks, the 77-minute runtime feature is presented in a vibrantly engrossing widescreen presentation and while at times soft on the auxiliary background, the image quality is flashy and sharp surrounding Amanda. Darker scenes in the tail end lose quite a bit of definition that makes eyeing the moment difficult to capture. The Spanish 2.0 stereo mix does the job and profusely invigorates the voice behind the camera, a voice made of nightmares and all that horrifying in the world. The English subtitles sync well, but I spotted a couple of typos along the runtime. There are zero extras on this release and even though a smidgen of behind-the-scenes material would have been curious to view, the film is a simple bliss. “The Glass Coffin” arches over the niceties and lands right smack into obscenity to destabilize integrity in a cruel ride of exploitation. I wanted more, the unfiltered, fully unadulterated, story of Amanda and her polar opposite antagonist, but I’ll settle for the Cliff Notes version. For now.

A Must See! “The Glass Coffin” to purchase at Amazon.com!

Evil Tempts With the Body and the Heart! “Inquisition” review!


In 17th Century France, the torturous and deadly persecutions of innocent lives at the merciless hands of the almighty Church coinciding with the vast number of ill-fated deaths from bubonic plague made the medieval era a ghastly and forsaken time. Religious pursuers, known as judges, sought to unearth those who hold contract with Satan, who lustfully weaponized their bodies, and faithfully serve the dark prince and burn them at the stake after vigorous torture to obtain a must-have confession. One particular and notable judge, Bernard de Fossey, travels to a small providence to serve similar inquisition standards, but falls in love for Catherine, the mayor’s eldest daughter who holds a secret affair with a passionate lover named Jean. When Catherine’s lover is suddenly murdered, Catherine’s uncontrollable melancholy thrusts her to shift loyalties toward the alluring power of Satan in order to reveal the person behind Jean’s murder. Bernard’s trapped between his brutal crusade and the love he has for Catherine and tries to protect her from persecution by his fellow judges and from the execution stake. While many innocent claimed women and the few who confess to witchery burn alive, the judge teeters carelessly through the conclave of trials as Catherine has her blazing eyes set to destroy the person responsible for her overwhelming grief.

The one and only Paul Naschy stars and directs, in his directorial debut under the moniker Jacinto Molina, the remarkable underrated “Inquisition,” an time-piece tale accompanied with Spain’s 1970’s macabre ornamenting from the beginning credits to the aflame tragic ending. Spanish horror generally has an unusual gothic knack that can’t be emulated. With the blunt visual cues and the in your face gratuitous sleaze that manages to be naturally appropriate in the same spatial existence, Spain’s horror scene was put on the worldwide map that cordially sat itself right next to Italian’s giallo and UK’s Hammer Horror. Putting aside the budget, Spain’s underground cinematic gems flourished in a time of governmental conservatism and, to the likes of “Inquisition,” were, If I may be so bold, well equipped with scenic locations and props, scored charismatically, shot beautifully, and even maintained some provocative acting from actors and actresses all over Europe and even the world who were willing to bare it all for the project.

A buff, and rather brutishly handsome, Paul Naschy stars as the ruthless witch hunter Bernard de Fossey, but that’s not all. Naschy dons another role as the formidable and all powerful Satan in a dual-role performance of good and evil, of sorts. As de Fossey, Naschy’s chiseled, if not slightly stoic, portrayal of a pious huntsman locks in that medieval aroma while as Satan, similarly stoic but often with a devilish charm that Naschy often pulls off well under the latex and makeup. “Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key’s” Daniela Giordano marvelously shapes her character. The leading actress’s Italiano dark features, piercingly cold eyes, and shameless willingness to bare it all, topped with an on-off switch of ferocity, makes Giordano a powerhouse antagonist against Naschy’s de Fossey. Mónica Randall, Ricardo Merino, Tota Alba in one of her last roles, Antonio Iranzo, Julia Saly (“Panic Beats”), Tony Isbert (“Tragic Ceremony”), and Loreta Tovar (“The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff”) co-star.

Supporting the remarkable cast is the incredible work of special artists Francisco Garcia San José and Pablo Pérez. These two aren’t widely known for their talent, but their grit behind “Inquisition” shouldn’t go unspoken. Naschy’s Satan wouldn’t be a glowing-eyed, skull-staff carrying Baphomet without them nor would there be that pec-tensing nipple severing during a great torture scene. There’s something very simple about San José and Pérez’s work that speaks volumes that virtually delivers in the heinous acts of the inquisition to life and that give Satan an embodiment that has inspired many films even to today. For 1976, I’m in awe of the caliber of the effects, especially being a Spanish horror film that’s notoriously inherited being low-budget.

Mondo Macabro’s widescreen Blu-ray release of “Inquisition” deserves to be one of the best home entertainment releases of the year as it’s spectacularly gorgeous with an upgrade to a 1080p transfer from the original source material. Vibrant, natural coloring charms the pants of the depth and range in the image quality from various obstacles including such as night and day scenes. For a first time director, Naschy had the eye for cinematography and capturing the moment; Mondo Macabro takes his vision a step further by reducing the grain to a minuscule amount and without completely enhancing “Inquisition” with zooming and cropping to offset source material garbage. The Spanish dialogue and English dubbed 1.0 mono track score a high bitrate with flawless integrity from the source. Extras include a audio commentary with Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn, an interview with Paul Naschy and Daniela Giordano, a retrospect on Spanish horror from the 1970’s entitled “Blood and Sand,” and a lengthy Mondo Macabro marketing trailer.

In my opinion, Paul Naschy is the greatest Spanish horror film icon ever and “Inquisition” is some of his primo work. Mondo Macabro works miracles with original source materials, one of the best video distributors of cult cinema in the business, and continues to be a leader in releasing hidden and well-known gems of the genre. Together, “Inquisition” is powerful, is scary, is gritty, is detailed, and is sexy without being campy and schlocky. The mammoth amount of production value is well worth the price of admission alone. One of my personal favorite witch hunting films from the same decade is Vincent Price’s “Witchfinder General” as it has that same barbarity in the air, those merciless persecutions that led to the anti-Church movements, and that undeniable lead actor providing a strong performance. Nothing is scarier than fact and the “Inquisition,” though just a story on paper and reel, was based off real facts and that’s the kind of horror that sears into souls.

Buy this gorgeously illustrated copy of “inquisition” starring Paul Naschy and Daniela Giordano!

The Counselors Face an Evil Murderous Rage. “Summer Camp” review!

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Four camp counselors prepare a woodsy, dilapidated living quarters a couple of days before their anxious campers arrival. As the preparations seem to be going as scheduled, a sudden violent rage takes over the head counselor with the eyes turning severely bloodshot and a bloody-black ooze seeping from the tightly grit mouth. The isolated camp structure that should bring joy and excitement to young children becomes an unescapable labyrinth for the counselors when the local transient residents fall also to the murderous madness. Trust between the terrorized counselors thins as none of them have an idea how the infection transmits. Without an operational phone or vehicle, the surviving counselors can only count on themselves to flee and fend from a fury seeking to massacre them all.
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When first hearing of Alberto Marini’s inaugural co-written and directed film entitled “Summer Camp,” a vivid portrait of radiant sunshine, lake canoes, bow and arrow games, and lots and lots of children campers naturally come to the forefront of mind – basically, “Salute Your Shorts” pops right into the old “cabeza,” even in front of slasher genre fave “Friday the 13th” that culturally Hollywood-ized camp counselors, transforming them into unlimitedly horny teens, subjecting campers into hapless victims, and demonizing campgrounds as death camps. And while “Summer Camp” resonates good times in the season’s solstice heat, Marini’s version of camp weaves a craft basket of intense fear.
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“Summer Camp” opens to a newscasters voice over reporting that three American counselors have vanished in the wilderness of Spain and are unlikely to be alive at this point of search. The setup already denotes no resolution to the counselors’ fate who make their on screen appearance in the following scene engaged in a trust game the Italian filmmaker had constructed to appear as every horror trope imaginable – a woman running through the woods with a blindfold and hands tied behind her back, a lurking ruffian peeping the counselors from the dense tree lot, and etc. The possibility of horror themed scenarios trickle at the top of a hill, snowballing until Marini decides to sudden plop down a massive, unbreakable brick wall in front of soccer ball size snowball before reaching critical speed, size, and strength for massive destruction. Marini’s a magician by convincing viewers to believe the trick in one hand, yet subtly revealing the real trick in the other and by doing this, a flare of confusion immerses the counselors and the audience in order to keep them guessing at every step of the way.
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Continuing with Marini’s script co-written with Danielle Schleif, a contrived portion of many possible triggers that causes the violent behavior almost as if Marini and Schleif used satire to highlight the absurdity of previous zombie or infected films and their numerous infected origins. “Summer Camp” leads you to believe that one of the following three, or perhaps a combination of all three, possible culprits are responsible for spawning deranged and violent behavior. Characters are purposefully shown to be unprotected to the transmission of external blood or saliva, seen drinking the mysteriously broken and recently fixed well water pipes, and being exposed to an unusual after spring pollen buildup that seems to be everywhere. Which element prompts an outbreak? Or is it all three?
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When the characters are aggressively possessed, a crossbreed between an “Evil Dead” Kandarian demon possession and a hybrid-rabies strain infected from “28 Days Later” sum up a “Summer Camp’s” possessed state of being. The actors themselves wholeheartedly accepted the role, doubling and switching themselves between normalcy and lunacy with ease. While the story prides itself on being quick to action and fast paced like Danny Boyle’s 2002 film, the characters’ depth burdens no viewer and their ultimate fate will raise no brows. The bare bones character backgrounds only affix their red shirt destiny; yet, Marini has already doomed his own characters for on script stupidity and whether intentionally or not, written to be cursed never qualifies a character to be a likable hero or heroine. When Will knocks out a possessed Michelle, he quickly unlatches his belt that holds up his pants to tie her legs with it and while that seems like a smart idea in the beginning, Will stills needs a way to keep his pants up from falling to his ankles in order to run through a dark dense forest from the numerous possessed individuals lurking about, screaming their lungs out. Will also attempts to unlace one of his shoes to bound Michelle’s hands. Why?! You’re going to need a tight fitting shoe to run through the forest and…oh forget it.
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Diego Boneta portrays the unluckiest of the luckiest counselors. As Will, he’s accused of murder and along with being bitten, battered, incised, and even drilled; yet, he manages to still lead the surviving charge even if the odds are against him. The physicality of the role contrasts with Boneta’s character whose short and has a vision disadvantage, but Boneta underneath the skin of his character sports an athletic build as shown from one gratuitous shirtless scene. The dynamic between Boneta, Jocelin Donahue as Christy, and Maiara Walsh as Michelle couldn’t have been any better with decoding the group’s trust issues even until the very end, especially between the tomboy with a mysterious past Michelle and the prissy and uptight Christy. Dynamics stands out as the bright point of Marini’s skeleton script that doesn’t involve many complexities as it does debunking horror tropes.
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The Lionsgate distributed the rated-R DVD release of the Spanish horror film has a 16:9 widescreen presentation with a Spanish and English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio complete with Spanish and English subtitles. With an average film runtime of 84, “Summer Camp” maintains just enough endless terror to suffice an entertaining haphazard horror-comedy and that’s about all the entertainment delivered from a DVD with thin extras including only trailers and a digital ultraviolet. The lightweight nature of this release should definitely not deter a viewership, but rather “Summer Camp” should be embraced as an intense and scary gauntlet of escape and survival. A well-fought first time feature from director Alberto Marini and a good showing of faith for a talented young group of actors seeking to imprint their names into horror.

Buy “Summer Camp” at Amazon.com!

 

2014 Horror Commercials #5: Snickers – ‘Satisface tu Hallowen” (Spanish)

Since it seems that Halloween-horror inspired commercials are scarce this year, I went else where to find a great commercial coming from the Spanish culture. The commercial is for Snickers and has a bit of an exorcists feel to it and, frankly, I can see why something like a neck twisting possessed demon wouldn’t make the U.S. commercial cut.

Check it out!