Mama’s EVIL Little Boy. “Mother” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

A boy’s best friend…is his “Mother.”  DVD at Amazon.com

In the deep pocket of rural America, a son is born in a country home and over the years, the baby of the house lives a cossetted life by his mother.  Warped by her mollycoddling ways and unaffected by the death of his father, the now young man apathetically bends to his mother will whether she’s conscious of it or not.  He responds in unkind to overprotect his mother when an envious older brother derides their special son and mother bond and is murdered in cold bold.  As more years pass and his mother succumbs to her health deterioration, the son, now the last of his family, remains in solitary at the family home and the absence of his beloved mother haunts him as he processes his unnurtured and unhealthy sexuality onto the unwilling living and the unresponsive dead. 

In 2003, the NY-based indie horror filmmaker Michael P. DiPaolo gave us “Daddy,” an undead rape-revenge zombie-thriller that brought the corpse of an abusive father back from the grave to exact a fate far worse than death on his daughter and her friends who put an end to drunken state defiling of his little girl.   Three years later, DiPaolo releases to us “Mother.”  However, don’t expect this to a companion film connected to “Daddy.”  Instead, “Mother” is a whole new story with a whole new stylistic approach, including zero dialogue in a black and white frame – much like a silent movie but with more Foley and no corresponding continuous piano tunes. Ed Gein became the core inspiration for DiPaolo who retells the Plainfield, Wisconsin described Ghoul‘s horrifying deeds of exhuming corpses, creating trophies out of the remains, and even the slaying of two women, a tavern owner and a general hardware store clerk. DiPaolo self-produces the film under this Black Cat Cinema productions along with associate producer Zachary Balog and shoots the film most of the homestead around Cropseyville, New York, near Albany, and the surrounding area.

Comes no surprise that the actor who once portrayed the former Republican Vice President, Dick Chaney, for Damon Packard’s Fatal Pulse also plays the details likes of one of America’s most notorious murderers. The Buffalo, New York born John Karyus, who had a minor role in “Daddy,” reteams with DiPaolo to present a dialogue-less version of the life and death of Ed Gein by stepping into virtually his skin – that’s an Ed Gein joke in case you were paying attention. Karyus and DiPaolo don’t hold anything back in the peculiar biopic that dives deep into dismemberment madness, fascination killings, and the loss of motherly love. Half of the praise should be awarded to Nina Sobell as the son’s mother. Sobell not only plays mommy dearest but also the hardware store clerk and the tavern owner in an unrecognizable fashion. The up-in-age actress’s comfort level was high enough even for a nude scene in which Karyus has to dress her approaching older age and invalid body. Karyus might be on centerstage as the star of the show, but Sobell’s in the backstage manipulating the pullies, curtains, and supporting Karyus with different angles that give way to the avenues of an aggressor’s cloistered milieu. Other minor characters quickly come and go amongst the silence feature with costars in Jason McCrea as the bigger brother, Phil Sawyer Jr. as the best friend, Adam Zaretsky as the father, and Svetlana as the exhumed corpses brutally hacked away for her bone-afied trophies.

The distorted mind of Ed Gein must have been a surreal inverted world. I think Michael DiPaolo encapsulates a similar essence of the upside-down perspective seen through the eyes of a killer with what can be said to be his woven auteur’s arthouse tapestry. You would think no dialogue would drag the film through the monotonous much and show signs of repetitive tiresome, especially dressed in a colorless monochrome but the crafty cinematography and grisly gestures never waver interests as we’re along for the fall of man beheld as not only mother’s baby boy but also as her ardent admirer. Her presence was a tattered thin tether that kept him secure to reality and once she checked out, the abnormal fascinations that always laid dormant now flourishing with full force like an unchecked weed in an immaculate garden of prize-winning roses. The son goes from a chaperoned teetering-maligned individual to full-fledged grave robber and skin suit tailor, raping and ripping the flesh from dead bodies over the course of years, denoting just how psychologically paramount a mother’s care is for a boy in the balance of good and evil. DiPaolo more-or-less hits every note in the book in regard to Ed Gein’s past, tweaking a few historical moments for dramatization or budgetary limits, while still maintaining a professional code of conduct despite constructing the film on the cheap. DiPaolo definitely knows and understands what he’s doing and how to work the system as clearly seen between the tone and expression differences of 2003’s “Daddy” to 2006’s “Mother.”

First, there’s was the back form the dead “Daddy.” Now, there’s the spoiling to sociopathic “Mother.” A match made in Hell and both available on a region free home video DVD from SRS Cinema. The “Mother” release is presented in black and white on SOV 1.33:1 aspect ratio, reconstructed in an impressive 6-7 megabytes per second due partly because there is nothing to decode from a RGB color signal. Contrasting is good as you can greatly appreciate the spectrum between light and dark patches. Sporting no dialogue, the LPCM 2.0 stereo features slightly exaggerated Foley and a dissonant vocal score, some in the Russian language nonetheless, from the Moscow born, New York residing folk instrumental artist LJova (Lev Zhurbin). There’s clarity over ambiguity to the action-destined soundbites being conveyed even if a bit over-the-top as if to compensate for the no dialogue. The 76-minute film is coupled with a DiPaolo short film “Brutal Ardor” about a woman trapped inside her small apartment and an immense amount of despair living with a sexually overbearing and jealous husband. Also included in the bonus material is a making of featurette voiced over by DiPaolo as he goes through his creative process and techniques (and is also somewhat of a comedy track), a director’s commentary, the feature trailer, Michael DiPaolo film trailers, and other SRS trailers. Perfect for a double bill with DiPaolo’s “Daddy,” “Mother” is a cynical and desolation ark of biblical proportions adapted from a horrid torrent of truth.

A boy’s best friend…is his “Mother.”  DVD at Amazon.com

Cannibals’ EVIL Break a Family’s Bond. “Blood for Flesh” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)



“Blood for Flesh” has a healthy amount of both!

Primitive cannibals sexually violate a brother and sister by a campfire ritual while feasting on entrails.  A family in the throes of hatred and forbidden incest is torn apart between death and mercy.  When these two powerful moments spur friction amongst the family, blood and betrayal runs like an unstoppable torrent.  Animalistic urges take over and neither brother, sister, or father are safe from the cannibals or each other in a landscape of barren and sociopathic madness.  Who will survive and come out on top of the internal upheaval when bloodlust is at its highest?

“Sangre Para la Carne,” or for the single-lingual, English-comprehending audiences, “Blood for Flesh,” is the 2019 ultraviolent and in your face gore-and-shock short-feature film from Mexican director Alex Hernández.  Though completed in 2019, “Blood for Flesh” gains traction into the at-home market three years later, finding distribution on multiple independent physical media distributors as well as video streaming services.  In his debut directorial, which doesn’t list the filmmaker as the screenwriter but is likely the architect of its abstract, Hernández caught the eye of another extreme auteur in “House of the Flesh Mannequins” and “Xpiation” director Domiziano Cristopharo and Italian-based TetroVideo to lift “Blood for Flesh,” fitting right into TetroVideo’s cache of erotic and extreme horror, into production and home video distribution. Shot in the arid depths of Tlaxcala, Mexico, labeled the epicenter in internationally trafficking female sex slaves to the United States, “Blood for Flesh” deluges itself with more unsavoriness, produced by Porfirio Hernández and Rodrigo Tellez Pérez.

To put it simply, “Blood for Flesh” is madness of unchecked immorality and to make something this deranged, Hernández would have needed a likeminded cast small enough to pull off callous scenes of rape, torture, and merciless death as well as aberrant scenes of incest surrounding three members of a truly messed up family. Beginning with the patriarch who is only know as the Father, played by Juan Manuel Martínez, whose subsequently becomes the violently persecuted by his own spawn after groveling at his daughter’s feet in a moment of bawling seeking forgiveness. Bound and gagged, beaten, and hung upside, the Father receives no mercy from his children and there’s no real revelation to why he’s become a subject of torture. Brother (Luis Navarro) and Sister (Erika López) fashion a complex relationship of courtship and collusion. As the Brother notes more than once in a divulging of truth the longing for his sister and his regretful reluctance in continuing the mistreatment of his father, its the Sister who seemingly has the upper hand, the hypnotic spell, over her love stricken brother and as Hernández dives into Sister’s unhinged scenes, especially where she marks her face and body with makeup, we come to realize that Sister just might not be right in the old cabeza. Now, how the cannibals – played by Christian Camara, Daniel Cruz, Enrique Diaz Duran, Aldo Palacios, and Marisela Plaza – fold into the family’s unraveling is a bit of a mystery but I’d like to think their naked savagery represents the rupture and hate between family and the cannibalism is kind of this dog-eat-dog mentality to come out on top by exploiting the other.

No matter which way you slice it, no matter how sharp the blade divides the skin, the muscle, the meat, or the bone, making sense of “Blood for Flesh” will never, ever happen as the almost an hour runtime feature, setup into chapters, is a bundle of biting brutality possibly representing a wide variety of real-world complications. The non-linear structure formulates no sensical path from beginning to end as you’re plopped right into the family’s madness from minute one and though I’m no stranger to undisguised abstract art in indie film, I can usually piece together to symbolic impressions or the weave a clear justification for most scenes in arthouse horror. With “Blood for Flesh,” I’m about as lost as a 5-year-old in a mall whose wander off from his inattentive shopaholic mother perusing the hot deal clothes racks at JCPenney’s the day after Christmas. I watch as Erika López strip away her clothes and her character’s mortality in every scene, I ponder and consider Juan Manuel Martínez’s Father’s compulsive reactions to seek forgiveness as well as to be vindictive toward his off-color and off-their-rocker offspring, and I am beguiled by Luis Navarro’s need to be inside his sister and, yet I feel nowhere near grounded to “Blood for Flesh’s” message if there is even one to be grounded to. Maybe we’re not supposed to connect with such corrosive content in what’s supposed to be just purely unabated shock content to rock the core of typicality. The cannibal scenes seem to be just an object of the director’s fascination with the ugly side of tribal horrors in a stereotyped rendition that depict them as nothing more than basal beasts that take what they want without an out of compassion and my mind continues to lean toward that high degree of barbarism to equate to a family built upon by hate, loathing, and individual interests.

“Blood for Flesh” could have easily fit in the catalogue of other extreme and underground horror labels, but this experimental purge of images and sins has found a home at SRS Cinema on the company’s Nightmare Fuel banner DVD distributed by MVD Visual. The single layer, region free, and unrated DVD is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio that decompresses content around 5-6 Mbps, hovering around par for the course when considering DVD picture quality. Generally, the cinematography is bleak, like it’s content, with muted coloring or shot in the dark to avoid any colorful hues. Only when stark red filters are used, which is only one or two scenes, is when color unloads in every inch and corner of the frame. There’s some aliasing and banding in certain scenes that cause momentary distortion that make it hard to delineate exactly what you’re looking act – is it an open and bloody slit or gash or is a cheeseburger? That’s always a fun game to play. The Spanish language audio tracks come in two formats – a PCM Stereo 2.0 and a Dolby Digital 2.0. The PCM is, again, muted with a lack of robust quality the Dolby Digital has much more vigor in all the sub-tracks. Unfortunately, the pieced together soundbites lack creativity and are poorly spliced together that continuously drop off in an instant on the backend. The forced English subtitles synch okay and are captioned well. Bonus features include a filmmaker’s commentary track, interviews with the cast that come with awful Spanglish translations, and the film’s trailer. If Domiziano Cristopharo saw something unique in Alex Hernández, I have yet to see it as I’m not sold on the director’s fringe horror film that aims to just be randomize acts of violence for 59 minutes.

“Blood for Flesh” has a healthy amount of both!

Prostitution Might Be the Oldest Profession but Killing People on Camera is the Evilest! “Snuff Tape Massacre” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)



Pick Up This Nightmare Fuel of “Snuff Tape Massacre” on DVD at Amazon!

Two killers are employed to do what they do best, to make a snuff tape.  Brokering the deal is Brand, a middleman serving on the behalf of a unknown client and relaying the job’s details to his contracted filmmakers.  The casted stars of their next production is a young pregnant woman who works at the home for the disabled and one of the residents, a 15-year-old deaf-mute girl who can’t utter a single sound due to her extreme incapacitated condition.  Pretending to be making a documentary about the disabled, the two killers were able to gain the women’s trust, easily drug them, and move them to a secluded location where the sadistic torture and affectionless murder show begins.

Straight torture and gore with no cinematic style or undertone depth is not every moviegoers preferred cup of tea.  For this gore hound, I can take it or leave it but would enjoy the darkest recesses of human sadisms and fantasies more if something was more germane to the reason for gore, but as far as Juval Marlon’s “Snuff Tape Massacre” is concerned, what you receive is a single perspective propelled by unsympathetic maliciousness, nihilism, and a taste for that metallic sweetness of blood.  The Germans are fairly well known for their insensitive, uncouth, and extreme films from the likes of directors Olaf Ittanbach and Jörg Buttgereit.  Does Juval Marlon have the blood and guts to be on the same level?  His written and directed 60-minute independent feature, also known as “Stermgewehr,” (“rifle” in German), aims to be a gruesome shocker under Marlon’s own befitting Beheading Films banner.

Obviously, none of the following names will be a part of a familiar, household cast fixture.  These types of gorging gore films usually have a small and conversant with each other cast of at approximately a hand full of willing actors and actresses to possibly mar, or better yet castrate, their acting aspirations with needless disturbing content that’s ironically overstated as well as understated.  “Snuff Tape Massacre” has a total of five members in the cast and out of the five members, only one uses a first and last name. The others go essentially dark with their real or full names anonymous to the world because who would ever in their right mind want to be associated with a movie about a snuff film? Thomas Goersch is the only full name credited and the only actor who a respectable credit list. However, Goersch has had many publicly and critically panned low-rent features with “The Curse of the White Woman,” “Bloody Shadows,” and “Poltergeister Experiment” being just some of his most recent samples that fallen into the depths of unsalvageable dumpster fires (and this has perked my darkly morbid and unusual curiosity in bad, bad movies!). As businessman Brand, Goersch never gets his hands dirty, leaving the role and his name unscathed and to leave all death-dealings to his hired hands in a pair of automaton teenage terminators including the head Snuff Filmer (Navarro) and his unnamed companion on the trail of blood. At least Goersch has a bit of Bill Zebub underground star power in Germany, Navarro exists only in this film as the one of the two mostly shaded and masked killers who kidnap actresses Tanja and Maria V. to exploit. The ruse surrounding the kidnapping leaves what ever little effort there was to be, to make the ordeal more engaging and exciting, was left back on Brand’s phone call as the Snuff Filmer’s plan to be pseudo-interviewers for a documentary goes off without a hitch. Maria V. does find as an interviewee of a second-year social worker enthusiastic about helping but her fellow co-kidnappee in binds Tanja literally serves as a second body to humiliate, torture, and execute by two desensitized individuals that isn’t a far stretch from their rigid performances as high and tight killers.

The crux of the problem with “Snuff Tape Massacre” is that the movie is just too long. Right now, you’re sitting there, reading this, cross-eyed by confusion, and thinking to yourself, “Steven, didn’t you say this was a 60-minute movie?” The answer is, yes, I did say that, but Marlon’s previous work, of similar extreme fetishisms, have been short films and “Snuff Tape Massacre” feels very much like a short film that’s been mishappened by a rack, stretched beyond its limits to where the possibility of being recognized for what it is, an orthodox gore and shocker, no longer factors into the equation. Scenes run too long and are over kneaded to the point of losing its impactful rise. For instance, when the young 15-year-old mute-deaf girl is being threatened by the Snuff Filmer’s automatic rifle barrel as he stuffs it into her mouth in an unspoken, simulated act of fellatio, the scene drags on for minutes upon minutes. As aforementioned, “Stermgewehr” in Germain is rifle and so these scenes should have some significance importance but overall feels juvenile and executed with poor time management. Marlon obviously doesn’t have two Nickels to rub together to fund this film, using old compact, pocket-sized digital cameras to record the varying levels of video and audio quality, but the one thing us gore hunds can appreciate is the gore. We can certainly tell a fake leg, arm, and even penis when one comes on screen and “Snuff Tape Massacre” is not exempt from using more-so than obvious inner details with no arterial or vascular details whenever a leg or arm is chopped (or even sawed) off with a dull hatchet, but what can be admired is the seamless look of the leg and the arm to the actresses. We’re not talking about a mannequin’s appendages or a plastique digits here when the dragged-on interview has finally wrapped, and the real raw material begins with decent prosthetics and blood pumping mechanisms that squirt blood longer and for the duration. The most effective effect is dick-hole jab stuck on repeat until the snuffer hits what we all presume is the back off the prosthetic piece but in the back of our mind, we’re really thinking bone. It’s a crotch-grabbing, leg-crossing, dick mangling moment no guy will ever forget.

SRS Cinema is well-known for bringing schlocky shockers to the table under the guise of really fantastic and detailed artwork for the banner’s DVD covers. “Snuff Tape Massacre” is no exception here as Juval Marlon’s film is juicy enough to make the company’s Nightmare Fuel line with an unrated and extreme release presented in widescreen 1.85:1 (16:9) aspect ratio in a lower resolution of 720 pixels (due to the compact digital cameras). Though unable to tell what cameras are being utilized, there are two different cameras are being used based on the vast difference in picture compressions with one looking stronger and more detailed than the other. The onboard microphone for the English language dual channel stereo mix is a lossy MPEG audio format that really takes a hit with the inconsistent background noise and electronic interference with a straight hum throughout when Marlon’s industrial sampler score is not substituted for sole audio dominance. Like many other SRS titles, the only special features included are SRS trailers for their catalogue unless you count the aforesaid artwork design of an illustrated half-naked bathtub victim with eyes of kitchen knife-stricken terror as part of the special features package – see below. “Snuff Take Massacre” is considerably low for a repeat viewing, but there are enough scenes that will undoubtedly make you recoil and squirm and that, my gory compadres, is worth the sole price of admission.

Pick Up This Nightmare Fuel of “Snuff Tape Massacre” on DVD at Amazon!


EVIL Ditches Satan, Picks Up a Camcorder. “Midnight 2: Sex, Death, and Videotape” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

“Midnight 2:  Sex, Death, and Videotape” now available on DVD!

The sole survivor of the murderous, devil-worshipping cult family, Abraham Barnes, continues to kill under a new outward show as amateur videophile recording everything and everyone to gain their trust.   Instead of harboring his mother’s dark intentions of eternal life, Abraham simply thirsts for killing, documenting his premeditated methods using a camcorder.  When his latest victim goes missing, her friend initiates an investigation with a police detective, but Abraham is always recording, always one step ahead of them both, always on the hunt.  With the trap set and the play button pressed, the blood-lusting survivor of the maniacal, serial killing Barnes family preserves a lineage legacy of death. 

Screenshot from AGFA

Ten years after releasing his moderately successful All-American shocker, “Midnight,” John Russo returns with the Barnes family.  Well, at least one of them in the 1993 release of “Midnight 2:  Sex, Death, and Videotape.”  Also known as simply just “Midnight 2,” the secondary title references the widely popular 1989 Steven Soderbergh film of sexual testimonial video-tales in “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” starring James Spader and Andie MacDowell.  The sequel gives way to a new motive and theme that’s very different from the satanic panic aspect of the original.  “Midnight 2” enters the mind of a serial murderer with every calculated and cold thought and whim that crosses the killer’s mind laid out in detail to paint a compulsive picture. Behind the scenes, conjuring up resources to make the sequel exist as it stands today, is “Dead Next Door” and “Robot Ninja’s” J.R. Bookwalter, the head-honcho in production and distribution of his own created company banner, Tempe Entertainment. Bookwalter, who also wears the director of photography and editor hat on this film amongst others, produces the Russo sequel that was shot on location in Bookwalter’s home city of Akron, Ohio.

If you’re expecting or anticipating seeing John Amplas (“Martin,” “Day of the Dead”) return to the Abraham role 10 years later, be prepared to be severely let down as Amplas does not return for “Midnight 2.” Instead, profound schlock horror screenwriter and composer, Matthew Jason Walsh, brings a whole new peculiarity to Abraham Barnes and I’m not just talking about his face or mannerisms. Walsh, who penned such David DeCoteau C-list gems as “Witchouse,” “Young Blood, Fresh Meat,” and “The Killer Eye,” goes face-to-face with the camera in a hybrid performance as lead actor and lead narrator of his own exposition into his own executions. Being a sociopath is never fleeting from Walsh who can sink into the sardonicism of the Abraham character naturally as one of the two only traits to carryover from the original film with the other being a killer. Aside from a boat load of archival footage and a verbal recap of nearly the entire first film, the whole Devil-worshipping aspect of the Barness family is dropped in favor of a more undisclosed truth in the hidden agenda of a person who thrives off the hunt and the kill. Abraham goes through verbatim his daily, stalking routine in a publicized manner of videorecording everything and everyone to capture as much detail as possible as well as capture their last moments. Russo does throw in escape clause caveat for Abraham in that if he meets the right girl, the love for her will be strong enough to break him away from killing and possibly start a family and while Russo plays into that tangent a little with Jane (“Killer Nerd’s” Lori Scarlett), nothing much more materializes significantly as a romantic conflict that circles back to that subtheme. Russo ultimately gives in to a more cat-and-mouse game with Jane’s worried friend Rebecca (“Chickboxer’s” Jo Norcia) and the detective who rather slip into Rebecca’s pants than actually solve the case in a stiffer than roadkill performance by Chuck Pierce Jr. (“The Legend of Boggy Creek”).

Screencap from AGFA

I wonder how much ‘Midnight 2″ is actually from the mind of John Russo or if it’s more of the J.R. Bookwalter show in calling the shots from the producer’s director’s chair as the film feels very much like Bookwalter’s usual fare, a SOV, DIY, home brew production of local Ohioan talent. “Midnight 2” also goes from the backwoods suburbia of Pittsburgh to the concrete structures of Akron, leaving behind any remnants of Abraham’s satanic past in the ground along with his dead siblings, but the sequel very dutifully leans into us with a heavy archival footage recap with Walsh narrating the entire damn thing. I kid you not, the recap is approx. a third of the runtime and so essentially, “Midnight 2” is a two for one straight-to-video special. Granted, the archival footage remains in its untouched up state so don’t expect the Severin grade video quality. In one way “Midnight 2” is discerned to be more of a Russo film is the very hesitancy of graphic, blood-shedding violence. Bookwalter’s a bit of gorehound in making some gruesome grisliness out of the singles from a Podunk stripper’s Kmart thong. There’s none of that imaginative ingenuity here with a surprising severe lack of that adored shot-on-video nastiness common of its era, especially from the likes of John Russo in filing a rated 13 release according to the DVD back cover, enervating “Midnight 2” as a inferior sequel that tries on a new pair of shoes but ends up limping with a lame gait.

Screencap from AGFA

Russo might always be remembered for his contribution to the start of the “Living Dead” franchise. The cult legendary filmmaker surely found modest success with his first directorial run with “Midnight.” Yet, “Midnight 2” will have a tough time keeping out of the celebrated shadows of Russo’s credits, but the indie, underground horror label SRS Cinema pulls back the shrouding curtain with a newly released, MVD Visual distributed DVD featuring two cuts of the film. Fitted with a retro look and ghastly illustrated cover art, a superb upgrade from the VHS cover, the region free DVD is presented shot-on-video in a 4:3 aspect ratio on both cuts. Essentially, both cuts are the same with reworked scenes and narration with the except of the 90-minute rough cut having extended archival footage of the first film. The main version runs slimmer at 72-minutes. The lossy image quality abides within both versions with a flat color palette that, at times, had a singularity about its choice of unflattering hue, compression macroblocks consistently flare up, and dimly discernable innate tracking lines with video recording destabilize the image. The anemic English Language single channel mono mix is a bottom of the barrel budget sound design and that was to be expected. Dialogue does come over clear enough but lacks vigor and crispness as there is just too much electrical interference shushing in the background. Depth’s a bit awkward too with the actors conversing in the background but have foreground decibel levels. Aside from the two cuts of the feature, the only other bonus content is the theatrical trailer and other SRS home video trailers. “Midnight 2” works as a standalone in a different shot-on-video horror light but is crammed with unnecessary recapping on a story built around the destined, convoluted conjecture of a homicidal narcissist and his videotape addiction.

“Midnight 2:  Sex, Death, and Videotape” now available on DVD!

A Dilapidated Terminal Full of EVIL Spirits. What Could Go Wrong? “Prison of the Psychotic Damned” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)

A pre-depression era railway terminal is now an aging and decrepit structure left to ruin in Buffalo, New York. It’s also the site where an experienced paranormal investigator, her ghost-tech guru, and three volunteers venture for exploration, hoping to uncover something spooky that goes bump in the dark because of the buildings long-marred and infamous history that includes an insane asylum, an unorthodox cattle abattoir, and many unexplained and terrible deaths throughout the decades. The deeper they dig down into the terminal’s underground corridors, the more they find themselves lost in a labyrinth amongst a taxonomic diversity of unhinged ghosts and ominous orbs. Lost and being hunted down, the ghost hunters fight for topside survival before absorbed by the terminal’s evil past.

Ghost hunters investigating the eerie ambience has been a source of easy pickings for producers and filmmakers from television’s “Ghost Adventures” to the popular James Wan phenomena that is “The Conjuring” franchise based off the Ed and Lorraine Warren investigations. The then mid-30s, New England filmmaker, David “D.W.” Kann hops aboard the investigator train with his own specter-sleuthing indie film, “Prison of the Psychotic Damned,” penned by producer David R. Williams (“Frightworld”) and released in 2006.  Also known as “Prison of the Psychotic Damned:  Terminal Remix,” the once puppetry and props master, who worked on such classics as “Carnosaur 2” and “Children of the Corn III:  Urban Harvest” as well as hitting the big time with Jim Carrey’s “The Mask” and the 1995 video game adaptation, “Mortal Kombat,” showcases the historic Fellheimer & Wagner Art Deco-architecture that once stood grand inside the Buffalo Central Terminal.   Built in 1929, the 15-story building has been abandoned since 1979 and left for the whim of vandals until its sloth restoration in the 2000’s that even saw paranormal activity themed reality shows take a crack of discovering spirits beyond the grave.  “Prison of the Psychotic Damned” also is an imprisonment of psychotic fraud as David R. Williams was arrested and convicted of embezzlement of his then employer’s capital back in 2010 to fund his schlock ventures under his production company, Red Scream Films, including this film but that didn’t stop Williams who went on to continue producing and directing long after his short stint in the slammer. 

About as volatile as Mount Vesuvius wiping out Pompeii in 79 A.D. are the five, dynamically counterpoised ghost hunters driving toward their insensible doom at the Central Terminal.  Spearheading the venture is the most experienced investigator Rayna (Susan Andriensen, “The Blood Shed”) with the intention of reviving her dwindling career before becoming defunded by the grant investors.  Rayna is joined by her longtime tech assistant Jason (James Vaughn) looking to capture something, anything, supernatural with his homemade psychokinetic-detecting gear as he innocently enough flirts with the snarky unwilling participant Kansas (Melantha Blackthorne, “Bloody Slumber Party”) who finds herself on the brink of losing her funded wayward lifestyle if she doesn’t join Rayna’s expedition per her moneybag father’s direction.  The relation between Rayna and Kansas is being step daughters, but that connection isn’t made entirely clear with only one brief exchange regarding Kansas’s forced attendance.  While Kansas disparages much of the investigation, and many of its participants, she’s joined by fellow volunteers Nessie (Noel Francomano, “Kottentail”) and Aurora (Nemesis 5:  The New Model’s Daiane Azura, credited as Demona Bast) in their respective roles of Rayna’s geeky fanatic and go-to psychic.  The one aspect that really kills these characters (pen intended) for me, and probably the audiences, is the consistent, continuous, ceaseless contentiousness between them with a slew of nitpicking, name-calling, and verbal and physical abuse that makes you wonder why should we even care for a bunch of people who can’t get along.  Brief moments of reasoning flash between them that could end up turning the dynamic around, but the fleeting qualities subside to blunt anger and hate to the point they’re bashing each other’s heads with bricks and leaving each other to fend for themselves against a horde of surgery-conducting ghost-zombies with revoked medical licenses, played by Kidtee Hello, Terry Kimmel, Michael Ciesla, Kelly Budniewski, and Jessica Grangler rounding out the remaining cast list. 

In what feels like the distant cousin, watered down version of “House on Haunted Hill” lite, Kann’s lowbrow, Digital8 shot film is a talkative spew of exposition that lends itself to pretentious prologue surrounding Kansas’s opening scenes of self-mutilation and prosaic nudity as if she’s on an unidentified narcotic.  What’s more confusing about the out of context opening scenes is we don’t really know it is Kansas alone in her apparent apartment.  The film begins with a woman slashing her wrist and licking the blood from her wound, before two medically masked men rush through apartment door and whisk her away.  Next scene, the same woman is back in perhaps her same dingy, dim lit apartment, but this time she’s spouting out philosophy and exposing her breasts by ripping her cheap cotton, tight white top before getting into a warm, steamy bath to stare at the candles at the other end of the tub.  Next thing we know post title creds, we’re riding in a van with the five paranormal investigators and Kansas, sitting in the back seat with Nessie and Aurora, doesn’t even look like the person we saw in the prologue as her hair is put up tight in a bun and she outfits more makeup and gothic drapery.  Once Rayna and Kansas have a sidebar chat and Kansas’s hair progressively loosens and falls, the pieces begin to fit together that Kansas’s disturbed impulses has forced her father’s hand to pair his errant daughter with Rayna for some extracurricular activities that maybe will do her some good…?  Ghost hunting must be the new vogue therapy the kids are into these days, or at least back in 2006.  Structurally, “Prison of the Psychotic Damned” runs faithfully the same obscured narrative course with Rayne expiating mouthfuls of the Terminal’s anecdotal infamy to build a dark dome above the longstanding history, but we rarely see any of the said mythos come for blood and get punted random glowing orbs, creepy doll room, and gloppy possession in return.  Along the way, Kann finds some ways to expose all but one of the actresses’ breasts in a gratuitous-laden attempt to advert our attention from the misaligned components like the story or the performances that just consist of ball-breaking personalities becoming trapped underground with killer spooks and have to duck and dodge the malevolent spirits to survive.  Though the gory bits sate nicely and David Williams erratic editing of eerie filler shots of the Terminal and surrounding area renders like a formidable damaged homemade movie on screen, “Prison of the Psychotic Damned” ultimately boils down to just more of the same rebranded indie slop we’ve all seen before.

Wild Eye’s DVD is released under the indie company’s Raw & Extreme sublabel and is the third physical release of “Prison of the Psychotic Damned” behind the cheap York Home Entertainment DVD and the SRS Cinema limited edition Blu-ray that was released approx. 2 years ago.  The DVD back cover lists the region free film as a widescreen presented transfer, unrated, and clocking in a 100 minutes.  Producer David R. Williams once noted that the surviving master transfer of a flood that destroyed nearly all material is the best there ever will be and with many dark areas shot on a Digital8 camcorder, the presentation is practically raw footage switching back and forth between digital third person and POV with ghosting and soft details amid the thick grain that collaborates the fact of a cruddy transfer. The lossy English 2.0 stereo sound mix toggles with the ears about as much as you have to toggle with the volume. From dialogue to score, insipid flat audio mix universally stiffens the Terminal urban legends Rayna rambles on about as well as extinguishing the score to a putter of insignificant industrial tones with a bookend and backup soundtrack by The Voodoo Dollies and actress Demona Bast serenating with the gothic-vamp vocals with Sonic 14 on an outro track. Among a static menu with scene selection, only Wild Eye trailers are included with the release. Buried beneath the torment of deranged souls, “Prison of the Psychotic Damned” sequesters itself from originality and from graspable, relatable, or even likeable characters in a vanilla story with decent gore effects.

Own “Prison of the Psychotic Damned” on DVD from Wild Eye!