EVIL’s All Inclusive Resort. “Paradise Z” reviewed! ((Yet) Another Distribution Company / Digital Screener)

Sylvia and Rose are living the life of harmonious luxury together on a beautiful and serene Thailand resort. There’s only one tiny problem with their first-class accommodations: the world surrounding them is overrun by a population of rabidly crazed zombies. After establishing a rigorous routine of perimeter checks and pool time, food and gas are running dangerous low to keep a secluded and safe survival lifestyle sustained, leaving them no choice but to venture out to nearby villages in search for fuel, but the smallest of sounds could invite the hungry dead to storm their idyllic retreat. No matter how careful scouring outside the gated walls of isolated tranquility, the zombies’ insidious ways infest as bad resorts guests that turn Sylvia and Rose’s make-due habitation to their prospective tomb when all routes of escape are foiled by flesh-feasting zombies. The couple must rely on each other for survival.

There’s trouble in paradise from Wych Kaosayananda’s melancholic-apocalypticism horror “Paradise Z” focusing on two young women, romantically brought together by undead circumstances, to outlive the encompassing fatalist outlook. Marketed in the United Kingdom as a “Lesbian Zombie Apocalypse Gore-fest” and having been through the wringer with title changes from the original title of “Two of Us” to “Dead Earth,” as called in the States, the uptrend to incorporate the Z in any zombie film has been a musky motif ever since Max Brooks introduced the epithet for his 2006 zombie apocalypse novel, “World War Z,” yet that doesn’t stop writers Kaosayananda and Steve Poirier in dishing out a sanguine trilogy with “Paradise Z” laying the ground work as the first installment and “The Driver,” the third installment, following suit shortly after wrapping production on “Paradise Z.” With the second film, “The Rider,” is still in pre-production and the shot films released out of sequential order, Kaosayananda’s unconventional trilogy methods caters to a seemingly budget and location ready-timeline to which characters from all three films will interconnect the dissociated titles under the filmmaker’s self-funded production company, Kaos Entertainment.

Throughout the entire 1-hour and 35-minute runtime, there are only five speaking roles with three of those roles rarely comprising of about four minutes of combined dialogue, assigning by default much of the chitchat the principle characters, Sylvia and Rose. For the first nine and half minutes, Milena Gorum and Alice Tantayanon don’t say a single word as the day’s routine of waking up, showering, topless swimming, poolside yoga, lunch, and other recreational activities dominate the setup of quietude. When Gorum (as Sylvia) and Tantayanon (Rose) do utter a few words, they’re muttered projection is nearly unintelligible with little effort into the purpose of speaking. Born in Los Angeles and now, predominately, a New York city fashion model, Gorum has come across my radar before with a bit Succubus role in the 2017, Cleopatra Films produced demonic thriller, “The Black Room,” opposite Lin Shaye, Lukas Hassel, and Natasha Henstridge and though “Paradise Z” provides Gorum with her first lead role that showcases her immense beauty but limited acting range. The same wooden expressive opinion can be said for the little known Alice Tantayanon whose pigeonholed herself into a Kaosayananda celluloid corner with her only credits being three of his films. Sylvia and Rose rarely separate from each other sides, being lovers noodled into a pot of thick zombie soup, in a rigid position of affixed dynamics difficult to gauge how either one of them is handling the situation. When a show of complexity is finally unveiled, such as when Sylvia murders in cold blood two other survivors and turns to Rose to say it’s better this way, those actions somewhere along the story from there on out should be dissected in explaining just why lacerating two men to death is a good thing. Of course, we can all assume the survival of the fittest and selfish obvious reason that two rugged men are looking for more than just a box of Twinkies and an unopened can of goulash substitute from two good-looking ladies outside the safety of their homemade stronghold; yet, doesn’t answer where the killer instincts root and Kaosayananda shelves that bit of human nature when the zombie caca spreads throughout the resort upon their return that also evaporates a steamy sex scene and inklings of frustration for their dwindling supplies and mundane routine symbolizing an inching wedge between them. “Ghost House’s” Michael S. New rounds out the cast the DJ, an on-air beacon of infected information.

An Elysian-fabricated getaway resort can be an ideal hunker down for an apocalypse of the zombie kind. Mega resorts have a large footprint that are usually gated and fenced, plenty of food and lodging to accommodate a small village, and an escape route from the beach to the open waters where we all know zombies can’t swim. That works here for “Paradise Z” and almost plays like a pillar character that embeds the women survivalists from going on walkabouts, creating a real sense of comfortable isolation and simmering paranoia of the outside world. Kaosayananda, who can’t quite get the bad taste that lingers from out his mouth with the panned Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu starring critically slammed and chaos-riddled film “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever,” left himself to his own devices in trying to rebuild his career shooting in Thailand, but “Paradise Z” crumbles as a stepping stone trilogy that lacks proper severe conflict of placing the heroines into a tight, perhaps inescapable, spot. What the couple have to escape from are the wild, warm flesh-craving leftovers of a plagued mankind, springing to a sprint at the first audible or visual morsel that tickles the eardrums, but the patchwork caked-face, grayscale zombies don’t render the likes from the bygone Golden Age of Horror, or even the current Golden Age of Modern Horror for that matter, in what looks and feels like cheap knockoffs of the genuine fictional man-eaters by rouge applying professionals. What Kaosayananda has made here is a two-tone, straight-forward, out-smart the dumb zombie breed of uninspired mirth, burdening the actresses to shoulder the story on looks alone rather than include emotional depth oppressed by the Z-factor.

Spend your vacation in a halcyon “Paradise Z” exclusively releasing on UK digital platforms come the new year on January 4th from the marginalized advocating distributor (Yet) Another Distribution Company. In regards to cinematography, presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, Kaosayananda safely approaches most stories set in Thailand with a warm, yellowish glaze overtop the lush tropic vegetation, but, aside from a class I rapid stream the women decide to cool off in on a whim, without weapons and, basically, in their skivvies, outside the resort walls, there’s a limit to the Thai landscapes that doesn’t reach beyond the resort perimeter sufficing to just the surrounding allure rather than cutting in scenes of breath-taking grandeur. Kaosayananda occasionally reduces the frames per second to emphasize certain scenes with slow motion, such as with Gorum and Tatayanon’s topless make out session or when the two are back-to-back unloading an unlimited amount of ammo against a rushing horde with every shot being a fatal one; the silver lining here is the scene is at least aesthetically cool to watch. However, once again, Sylvia and Rose are given winning hands to play without as much showing their cards that work backwards their highly skilled background of arms fire. With the digital screener, there were no bonus material or bonus scenes included. No need to check the yelp reviews on holiday spot as “Paradise Z” is a four star resort with one star performances battling an underwhelming, minimum gory zombie contingent without dutifully jeopardizing survivors enough for the sake of gratefully being alive.

Money is the Root of All EVIL! “Beasts Clawing at Straws” reviewed! (Blu-ray / Artsploitation Films)

A middle-aged man working a meager job at a gentleman’s bathhouse finds a Louis Vuitton bag full of money when routinely checking the storage lockers at closing.  Unsure about what to do with the money, he stows the bag away in the backroom and continues a moral, yet pauper’s, life while dealing with financial and family troubles at home.  Meanwhile, a border customs agent finds himself in severe debt with an unstable loan shark after his girlfriend skates and disappears with a large borrowed sum.  With a week to come up with the money, plus interest, he calls upon his distant cousin to assist in scamming a scammer who illegally came into some money, but things go awry when an overly friendly and clingy cop begins to snoop around.  Lastly, a prostitute grinds tirelessly to work off a large debt her abusive husband continues to blame her for with night after night beatings.  She jumps into bed with a young, handsome foreigner and her eager to support female boss to off her husband and collect the insurance money.  Yet, these troubled souls find that sticking to their convictions doesn’t always bode well as the unexpected happens in a blink of an eye.

The Asian film machine has mastered the art of the crime thriller from a proven track record that began with Akira Kurosawa films, if not even before that, and has chronically grown stronger, and sometimes more peculiar, with choice stylistic elements, suggestive themes, and extreme violence that has garnered, to much disdain, Westerner attention over the last 20 years with films like Park Chan-wook’s “Oldboy” and Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s “Internal Affairs” being Americanized with a Hollywood remake.  With that being said in an upward trend of remakes spilling over the edge, there would be no eye-brow raising surprise if the introductory film, the tri-narrative crime drama idiomatically titled “Beasts Clawing at Straws,” from South Korean filmmaker, Kim Yong-hoon, will one day grace the English silver screens in a diluted variation of a Brad Pitt featured carbon copy.  Based of the Keisuke Sone neo-noir novel of the same name, Kim Yong-hoon’s pulpy impression of against-the-wall misdeeds is dog-eat-dog dark comedy gold.  “Beasts Clawing at Straws” is produced by Jang Won-seok (“The Gangster, The Cop, and The Devil”) and is a production of Megabox Plus M films (“Zombie for Sale”) and B.A. Entertainment.

The three prong, greed-catapulting narrative converge characters separately at first and then string them linearly together when the picture becomes clearly what exactly each one of them is chasing, but every story is magnetized to a single focal point, a person under immense pressure, stress, and the malice forces that thirst for their humility, kinetically embarking on the bad choice choo-choo steaming toward the station of vary bad things.  Bae Seong-woo stars as a downtrodden Joong-man, a middle-aged man stuck in the rut of poverty with a geriatric, browbeating mother, a fatigued wife, and busting his rump in a dead end job.  Seong-woo combats himself as a man tight rope walking the thin line of ethic principles when opportunity knocks at his door, but his ill-timed strike to grab life by the balls blows up in his face in a farce of instant karma leaves him less than what he had before.  Then there’s a Tae-young, a comfortably Governmental positioned customs agent facing a different kind of hardship when his ex-girlfriend, Yeon-hee, disappears with a borrowed lump sum of a gangster’s money and he’s left on the fence.  “Illang:  The Wolf Brigade’s” Jung Woo-sung plays into the desperate stench of the superstitious and ambitious customs agent.  Slightly cradling the severity of the situation, Jung amply positions Tae-young’s dilemma that resembles spearfishing in a barrel and he’s the fish.  The last story follows the abused wife Mi-ran, played reservedly by Shin Hyun-bin as a desperate woman looking to bank her soon-to-be dead’s insurance money.  When Mi-ran is abetted by motive-dueling pair of instigators, she finds that paying her debt can be more severe than ever imagined.  While sitting back and basking in the stir-craziness of the leads’ turmoiled chaos, the best characters of the film are the supporting roles of Kim Jun-han as an intestine devouring, fanny-pack wearing henchman, Park Ji-hwan as Tae-young’s bumbling, but begrudgingly loyal distant cousin, and Jung Man-sik as a breezy mobster with a cherry, yet malevolent disposition.  Youn Yuh-jung, Jin Kyung, Jung Ga-ram, Bae Jin-wong, and Heo Dong-won round out the cast.

Non-linear yet interconnected in story, “Beasts Clawing at Straws” hawks a Tarantino layered thriller with colorful deplorables from all walks of life and luxuries.  Kim Yong-hoon nourishes the unbridled, free-for-all nature of diving into the murky, shark-infested waters uncaged and tethered with cuts of raw steaks dangling from the pelvis area in this two wrongs don’t equal a right account of mistrusting desperation and misguided optimism.  Kim’s style echoes the likes of the popular “Pulp Fiction” filmmaker along the lines of shooting techniques and a frank view of violence to tell the frantic clutching of hanging onto what is left of tattered lives and borrowed time while disavowing pure, unadulterated nihilism by at least giving characters a grain of hope.  With any non-linear, multiple moving part films, individual aspects tend to become lost in order for pacing and “Beasts Clawing at Straws” doesn’t fall into the excluded category as factors that play into the main quandary are left hanging, such as in Yeon-hee’s circumstantial results of jetting off with a mobster’s money as the assumption is there, but nothing is fully concrete in her storyline.  The same indiscernible spousal battery stemmed from Mi-ran and her husband’s severe debt that leads to transgressions beyond marital misuse isn’t privy to the audience of how circumstances come about surrounding their predicament and we’re forced to speculate and shoulder an explanation that doesn’t quite feel justified.  However, neither of the slapdash developments hinder “Beast Clawing for Straws’” steamrolling posture to get that desirable bag full of problem-solving, filthy lucre. 

Artsploitation Films delivers a stylish and avaricious South Korea crime drama with “Beasts Clawing for Straws” into the U.S. Blu-ray home video market. The not rated BD25, high-definition 1080p release is presented in a widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, and nears the epitome of flawless. Aside from the picture slightly flickering, more noticeably on solid colored backdrops, the hue palette is absolutely gorgeous with the neon lights of South Korean cities, the breathtaking silhouettes of the natural mountains adjacent to a lifelessly still lake, and the variety of settings from an airy fish house to a modern, symmetrically designed bordello denote a keen eye by Kim Tao-sung. The South Korean language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound couldn’t be any better with a crystal clear aptitude for strong dialogue balanced in front of a robust soundtrack accompanied by deep range of ambience from fire crackling to the faint hint of rain drops audible from inside a restaurant, solidifying the depth package as well. English subtitles are available along with an English dub track in a dual channel Dolby stereo. What’s lacking with this release is bonus material as there is virtually nothing besides four Artsploitation trailers and the film’s own theatrical trailer. Parlous and deadpan funny, “Beasts Clawing at Straws” amazes as Kim Yong-hoon’s first time effort with the technical grace and the story construction that has been a paradigm for only a handful of notable directors able to execute an impeccable result.

Own “Beasts Clawing at Straws” on Blu-ray! Click the poster to go to Amazon.com

This Dinner Party Dishes the EVIL! “Happy Times” reviewed! (Artsploitation Films / Digital Screener)

A small, but affluent, Los Angeles Jewish community dine together at a Hollywood mansion in celebration of the Shabbat.  Mixed feelings about each other compounded with mixed drinks stir the emotions of heated topics, including business ventures, religious attitudes, social statuses, marital qualms, and hidden desires.  Lines are being drawn and sides are being taken when one thing leads to another and undisclosed secrets become evident in a clash of suburban violence that pits friend versus friend, colleague versus colleague, and husband versus wife to the death. 

Director Michael Mayer reminds us that you should never mix business with pleasure with a keep your friends close, but your enemies closer black comedy entitled “Happy Times.”  The brawl of survival centered around Israel immigrants living in the U.S. is the second written and directed film from Mayer, following polar oppositely against another Israel themed, 2012 picture, “Out in the Dark,” a gay drama in the backdrop of the two rival and patriarchal sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The only conflict in this 2019 thriller-com is of the gravely plentiful and concentrated kind inside a L.A. mansion turned battle arena that sees about as much confrontation as the war-torn Gaza strip.  Co-written with Guy Ayal, “Happy Times” is a collaboration produced by Erri De Luca and Paola Porrini Bisson of OH!PEN and, the Israeli born, Gabrielle and Tomer Almagor’s Urban Tales Productions in association with Michael Mayer’s own company, M7200 Productions.

The Israel-nationality cast can be an immersive experience and a sign of good faith casting from the filmmakers as well as a show of open diversity from the production studios that casting Hebrew speaking, Israel background actors implies a serious interest and respect embroidered into the project. Mayer, born in Haifa, Israel himself, is a breath of a fresh air of non-appropriation in a time where whitewashing can still be prevalent in the movie industry. Israel born actresses Shani Atias, Liraz Chamami, and Iris Bahr command the screen not only as Israeli women in lead roles, but as different personas that interact and keep lively the one night, single dinner party narrative. Chamani especially dazzles in the details as the dinner hosting socialite wife and mother, Sigal, who exacts an assertive Jewish woman with a cooped up attitude and a knack for handling her own while also worried about her social status, an extravagant exhibition of a screen trope that you might experience on shows like “The Marvelous Ms. Maisel” or movies like “The Slums of Beverly Hills,” enacted on point when she’s handing a frightened dinner guest, outside their Jewish circle and fleeing from the scene, tin foil wrapped leftovers with a wide menacingly unsure smile, while holding a medieval crossbow to go frag another party guest, in the plain view driveway. The wives’ counterparts are equally as Jewish and equally as prominent in the fold of the affair with Ido Mor as a unscrupulous businessman co-hosting the dinner, Guy Adler as a construction manager with money problems, and Alon Pdut as an unhappily married Ph.D engineer bothered by his fellow dinner guests’ lack of education and tact. In all, most of the characters are undilutedly snobbish with the exception of Sigal’s struggling actor cousin, Michael, played by Michael Aloni, whose magnified Hollywood liberalism deconstructs the Hebrew bible as racist and inaccurate among other colorful adjectives and becomes the catalyst that begins all hell breaking loose. Stéfi Celma, Mike Burstyn, Daniel Lavid, and Sophie Santi become the filament around the principle leads that strengthen the kill or be killed melee in “Happy Times.”

As if dinner parties weren’t already stressful enough, having to make trivial small talk, possibly acquaint or re-acquaint with unaccustomed faces, or pretend to enjoy the slop being served as food, “Happy Times” turns the internally exasperating dinner party debacle on its head with guests and hosts who are just too terribly comfortable with each other as volatile personalities explode like little active volcanos plumed to reach every corner of the house in a deadly playground for unstable, on-edge adults spewing their strident emotions and Mayer is able to maintain a layered pace with a narrative that’s snowballing quickly.  Where “Happy Times” struggles is the redline occurrences that trigger things to go very badly.  Though hardly trivial episodes between the guests, involving innocent infidelity affections or a slight practical joke stretched beyond devastating consequences, the harried moments afterwards diverge into a blown out result while more nefarious consequential revelations are held back, in after the fact chaos, and these differently graded spurs seem unbalanced, if not flip-flopped, in the story.  The characters themselves adequately course into being delightfully insane and as about as relatable as the internal frustration against our friendly-façade enemies, but there’s a part of me that personally wanted more development.  Military vet Avner, for example, exhibits symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as the horror sounds of war play in his head when under stress.  As he stares into oblivion when the rage fills into his face, especially by a nagging, browbeating wife who doesn’t seem to be aware of his condition, the subconscious killing-machine overcomes the mild-manner tech engineer.  There’s also Yossi’s opaque tax evasion scheme, Michael’s thespian struggles, and Mati, the late arriving Rabbi, who pockets money on the side from Yossi and Sigal that factor into an erratic equation that’s a mind field surprise every step of the way.

“Happy Times” relishes in unpredictable violence as a round table of feast or famine hatred in this dog-eat-dog thriller coming to you from the Philadelphia based distributor, Artsploitation Films. Slated for a February 9th, 2021 release, the unrated film will be presented in a widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, in a gorgeously rich color of a modest, natural color scheme. Kazakhstani cinematographer, Ziv Berkovich, distills a solid, yet uninspiring, photography of mostly still cam mixed with subtle steady cam, rooting firmly to particular rooms without capturing the flow of a big mansion, reducing much of the in clover luxuries of the hosts. The Hebrew, English and some Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital mix offers well balanced layers of audio tracks with dialogue clarity and establishing good range with depth not really set up because of the close up or medium shot frames. Guy Aya;’s score offers a good blend of a violin-screeching from a murder mystery dinner theater with the inklings of traditional Israel folk sprinkled in to create an anxiety riddled brew of trouble. There were no bonus material included with the digital screener nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. The best of times and the worst of times doesn’t compare to the bloodletting of “Happy Times” in a wildly amusing dark comedy with every impulsive-driven and tension-wrought scene chockfull with bated breath.

Pre-order “Happy Times” on DVD or Blu-ray at Amazom.com (Click the poster)

EVIL Gets Loopy in “Welcome to The Circle” reviewed! (Artsploitation Films / Blu-ray)

Greg and his young daughter Samantha are turning out the lights on a camping trip in the woods.  When a bear attacks in the middle of the night, Greg awakens in the care of a commune-like camp.  Injured but alive, Greg is given the grand tour of the encampment of a cult known as The Circle where he rejoins with his happy-go-lucky daughter and meets a few other strange and unusual members who worship the legacy and the omnipotent existentialism of The Circle’s creator, Percy Stephens.  What the father-daughter combo don’t realize is that The Circle is a demon worshipping cult bidding on the whimsical demands of Percy Stephen’s rancor and malice.  A group of outsiders led by Grady, a former cult member in his youth, are determined to rescue and reprogram one of the followers close to them, but step into an upside-down world, demonized with smoke and mirrors, set on swallowing their souls for the sake of Percy Stephens delight. 

A diabolical drip of disorienting deception, “Welcome to The Circle” is a roundabout from Hell, cordially ostracizing the love and blessings ideology for more sinister, soul-sucking profit of an unconventional demon film.  “Welcome to the Circle” is a Canadian-made debut independent feature from write-director David Fowler and Fowler, better known for his work on documentaries, knocks on the door of insanity with a tailspin narrative that collides John Carpenter’s “In the Mouth of Madness” with Clive Barker’s “Lord of Illusions” with Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s “The Endless” rapping at the door and the results are an enigmatic nightmare full of stone faced mannequins, body inhabiting occupations, a series of blackhole peculiarities, and being eaten alive by crazed acolytes.  The Vancouver, British Columbia based Canadian company, High Deaf Productions, embarks into the feature film bazaar, with Mack Benz and Michael Khazen serving as company producers, with co-production association from Corvid Arts and Upfront Films.

Broken into two parts, the narrative opens the first portion up to familiarize with the cultist sheep in the stark white attire of wolves’ clothing that throws Greg and his daughter Samantha’s kismet into the uncertain pit of a demon’s impish thirst for souls.  When introduced to Greg (“Dragged Against Concrete’s” Matthew MacCaull), much of the character falls below the waist side as a single father detached from his own child and surrounded by conniving zealots that funnels into becoming weak, if not also immaterial when MacCaull is unable to explore Greg more in depth.  Nothing against MacCaull who performs well enough with an unsympathetic character that has a cold shoulder connection with his insubordinate child and no real background fuel a feed into Greg’s worth as one of the mainstay roles.  I also thought a little more on The Circle’s followers would be constructive to The Circle’s reason for fervor and appeal, but instead, Sky (“Supergirl” television series’” Andrea Brooks), Lotus Cloud (“Pacific Rim’s” Heather Doerksen), Rebekah (“The Wrong Daughter’s” Cindy Busby), and Matthew (“The Unspoken’s” Michael J. Rogers) are members developed only inside a crumbling hierarchy structure obtaining cryptic messages from a demon, Percy Stephens, from beyond their plane of existence.  Percy Stephens is perhaps the best complex character in the fold without having a stable foundational actor in his shoes and is played by various faces of the film’s cast able to reach back toward an immense and mysterious backstory that involves a slew of daring and impressive accomplishments and a demonic tiger shark that may or may not be Stephen’s aquatic damnation to Hell.  The second portion moves greatly away from Greg and his daughter and into a rescue operation, led by the unfiltered and unorthodox Grady, a former The Circle youth who landed in a psyche ward only to be hired to infiltrate the cult to extract Rebekah, paralleling his motives to understand the mechanics of the cult that led to the disappearance of his mother.  “Stan Helsing’s” Ben Cotton delivers a performance that is anything but vanilla as the sharp wit and cool as a cucumber Grady, dominating each and every scene in a disheveled and aloof veneer that becomes Grady’s best defense against Percy Stephen’s engaging entanglements.  The cast rounds out with Taylor Dianne Robinson (The Twilight Saga:  Breaking Dawn Part 2), Hilary Jardine (“Teen Lust”), Matt Bellefleur (“In Their Skin”), Christian Tessier (“Night of the Demons III”) and Jordana Largy (“Rememory”). 

It suffices to say that David Fowler’s topsy-turvy and boundless the fake-fake, a descriptor of the story’s in-between existences, is an alternate universe complete with hope chest portals and wraith approaches that will disrupt the audio and visual perceptions, disconnecting the straightforward wiring only to cross the stepping stones of normalized story structures to fissure what we know into a fractured reality.  The foyer to oblivion, the fake-fake, isn’t an easy one to digest and Fowler is very much aware of the real-real consequences of traversing into the world of the fake-fake.  Fowler forces you to pay a penance for crossing the threshold that will cause dizziness and nausea, the same affects the characters sometimes experience through the compressed spaces of time and planes of The Circle, soldering an unintentionally immersive experience with the combination of simple and natural cinematography infused effects that spun, tilted, and corralled acute fear and isolation from under the DP supervision of Sterling Bancroft. In regards to Fowler’s darkly imaginative story, the script a lively progression of diverse ideas and concepts that construct a little world within a bigger world, especially on a modestly tight budget that can’t afford mind-blowing special effects, but the cohesiveness is heavily reliant on the character’s to explain the actions that are occurring to progress an outline and much of that explanation falls into poetic prose and riddles. Characters Percy Stephens and Grady to much of the grunt work in vocalizing the visuals, but the course is a rocky road and with every bump there’s a meaning within a meaning and to know the meaning is to meaning to know. See what I mean? “Welcome to the Circle” chips away the substantial concrete barrier with a bombardment of incorporeal flak that comes in wave-after-wave of full blown auteur creativity.

 

To get caught in the loop is to loop in getting caught and that’s what Artsploitation Films has done by acquiring and distributing “Welcome to The Circle” on a Blu-ray home entertainment release. Presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the digitally recorded picture is about as immaculate as they come nowadays with tactile textures of grainy log of the cabins, the floral of the forest, and the scruff of Matthew’s bristly beard all looking particular sharply detailed albeit some minor fluctuations of softness seeping into the brush and into more dreamlike sequences and though flat, the colors due run unbridled with the forestry green and the eggshell color of mannequin “skin” that renders subtle differences more distinct. Darker scenes render nicely and smoothly without as much of a flicker of interference and Bancroft’s use of depth forces audiences to focus only on what’s extremely close up or what’s faraway by way of adjusting the focal length. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio also has little-to-no complains with a well rounded discernible platter of clear, forefront dialogue, depth and range of vocals and ambience, and a combination score and soundtrack by Reid Hendry with original and haunting folk tracks by Jo Krasevich do an insidious one-two punch that bruises the soul. The not rated, 93-minute film comes with only a theatrical trailer in the bonus features. Despite the dense ambiguity that surrounds the film, the demonic ensnaring doom that accompanies “Welcome to The Circle” is, simply put, psychosis in a bottle that director David Fowler just effortlessly uncorked.

Own “Welcome to the Circle” on Blu-ray!

EVIL Fillets Family Strife. “Broil” reviewed! (Well Go USA Entertainment / Blu-ray)

Chance Sinclair is a rebellious 17-year-old closeted lesbian and Catholic student.  After a couple of school related incidents she didn’t instigate, Chance’s parents send her to live with her despotic grandfather, August Sinclair, despite her parents’ reluctance.  August rules with an iron-fist not only with his grandchildren, but with his entire family of powerful elitists who have a dark secret – they’re actually soul harvesting demons preying on the malintents around the world and is headed by August.   When Chance’s parents want out of the family business and reclaim their daughter from August’s authoritative grip, they hire a culinary prodigy with a skill for assassinations for a grand dinner that’ll have the whole family in attendance.  Chance is ignorant of her family’s history and the balance of power is not the only stake served on the menu, but also Chance’s very soul hangs in the very midst of the Sinclair’s family game night of internal carnage. 

Like a Gothic storybook enclosed with deception, murder, and unhallowed demons at their last supper, “Broil” is a going to hell in a handbasket supernatural feast and an unholy coming-to-age sophomore feature from by the upcoming “Cosmic Sin” writer-director Edward Drake and co-written alongside Piper Mars.  The 2020 Canadian murder-for-hire thriller vies against the stylish similarities of the “Twilight” saga with well-groomed, well-off, and sophisticated groups of strangers bound as family from supernatural circumstances, but distills itself out the frivolous teeny-bop pulp and teen heartthrobs for a modestly R-rated cutthroat kindred melodrama by the netherworld’s most notorious soul-suckers, shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  “Broil” Is produced by “Cabin Fever 2:  Spring Fever” executive producer, Corey Large, and first time producer Kashif Pasta with 308 Entertainment (“It Follows”) and Good Complex serving as production companies. 

“Broil” doesn’t denote a lead character at the heart of this story, but pinpoints principles along a chaptered structure, signifying their importance by following them with an objective point of view.  The whole setup begins with the granddaughter, Chance Sinclair, who a bit rough around the edge and doesn’t play with her schoolmates, especially having an affinity for the same sex while being a student in a Catholic school, but that factoid doesn’t blossom into thing though be noted a couple of times.  Instead, Chance, played by Avery Konrad in her first principle character role, struggles with her teenage angst and hormones like any more adolescent, but she finds her educational woes pale in comparison under her family’s archaic secret ruled by the patriarchal domination of August Sinclair, a ruthless enforcer and head of the family business brought to an autocratic fruition by Irish actor Timothy V. Murphy (“Snowpiercer” television series). While Chance and August strongly convey a presence in the first act, Jonathan Lipnicki reins in the latter acts in an unexpressed spectrum performance of Sydney “The Chef” Lawson, a calculating killer taking out the transgressional trash informed by a mentor and father-like man named Freddie Jones, “Jason vs. Freddy’s” Lochlyn Munro, who may or may not have ulterior motives in exploiting The Chef’s gift for murder. Lipnicki’s work is a culinary delight in as much as The Chef’s actually culinary expertise, braising the character to eventually be the mainstay character. There are other exigent roles that seem important, but are only keystones that hold more principles roles from crumbling, such as Chance’s parents, June (Annette Reilly “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”) and December (Nels Lannarson “The Cabin in the Woods”) Sinclair, who initiate the murder-for-hire spark that set things in motion. Rounding out “Broil” is Corey Large, Megan Peta Hill, Abby Ross, Jenna Berman, Phoebe Miu, Alyson Bath, David Hennessey, John Cassini, and Kyra Zagorsky.

Playing out in chapters, “Broil” feels like a murder-mystery adapted from a on fleek novel written by a panache author from Switzerland, but from what I’ve researched, “Broil” is an original narrative only to be segmented to amass refined character details and redirect turn of events as they unfold. However, the chaptering aspect veers the narrative off course, careening “Broil” more toward edit oblivion that doesn’t layer the foundation properly causing as much confusion as the inhuman characters trying to decide whether the Sinclairs are either vampires, demons, witches, or some kind of incubus-succubus blend for a better part of the film. A theme that doesn’t withstand the pressures of Drake’s zigzag directional layout is the unholy atmosphere the Sinclair’s protrude into the world. Chance, who is ignorant of her lineage and of what she really is, turns crosses upside down, turns crucifix necklaces ablaze, and her family sends her unusual gifts like parceled decorated daggers as seen on sacrificial stones, but the satanic tropes cease to do little more than be hints bound to expose the Sinclair’s true selves and really nothing to do with Satan himself, leaving much of the Sinclair powers left unexplained, like their lightning speed and pulsating purple glow that illuminates in patches under the skin (another “Twilight” element?). The acting is palpable, even if it’s melodramatic and under a slew of unlikeable characters, and the story does throw a few notable curve balls, some wickedly diabolical knuckle curves involving eating a child, to intrigue an inch by inch progression of the story. “Broil” unsheathes moments of Gothic schadenfreude, but the moments are fleeting, too short and far in between, to swimmingly bask in the horror of demonic soul snatchers in the throes of a murderous coup d’état.

A delicacy unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, “Broil” is served onto a Blu-ray release as the plat de jour distributed by Well Go USA Entertainment. The unrated film is region A coded and presented in high-definition, 1080p, of a 16:9 widescreen format. Details on the image render very soft, undiscerning outlines that infuse where a person ends and the background begins, but as the lighting choices change from flared hues to more hard lighting, profiles are to take more shape. Director of photography Wai Sun Cheng, making his introduction into feature films, keeps the focus primary in the foreground, obscuring the backdrop just enough to make it still perceivable and mixes well in the extreme close ups with wide angled shots to not be a one trick cinematographer. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio has severe troubles with Hugh Wielenga’s score tremendously overpowers everything else with a profound overlap. The composition is so unbalanced and loud that the resonating LFE completely drowns out the dialogue at times. “Broil” does not contain any feature specific special features other than a static menu containing upcoming previews of other Well Go USA films. Despite the title and the infernal nature, “Broil” is a dish served too cold with an unsavory plot of a young woman’s coming of age tribulations in midst of family squabbles and treachery that Edward Drake couldn’t quite fuse together.

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