EVIL Metal vs EVILER Zealot! “We Summon the Darkness” reviewed! (Lionsgate / Digital Screener)


Set in the Midwest of the late 1980’s when a satanic cult has killed upwards of 18 people, slain in groups of threes, across the United States, three good girlfriends set forth on a road trip to a heavy metal concert. The girls bump into and befriend three aspiring musicians and fellow metal heads at the venue, inviting them to beers and some company while rocking out to killer show. The after show party moves to one of the girl’s father’s pastoral home for some late night boozing around the firepit, reminiscing about their favorite bands, and whatever else the dark night has in store for them, but the night of hedonism turns quickly into a night of terror when that satanic cult comes calling for three more souls. Some of the group isn’t truthful about their intentions and dead bodies pile up as the ritual killings aim to continue to spread.

Harking back to that killer trope oddity, a setup very keen in the 1980s, of a mysterious killer hiding behind a friendly façade, “We Summon the Darkness” is a modern day remembrance of such a subgenre in the slasher-survival field set along the drab bible belt of Indiana landscape, though, in actually, filmed in Winnipeg, Canada. At the helm is “My Friend DahmerMy Friend DahmerMy Friend Dahmer” director Marc Meyers from a script by Alan Trezza, who is the creative mind behind the short and feature film versions of another Alexandra Daddario comedy horror, “Burying the ExBurying the ExBurying the Ex,” that co-starred the late Anton Yelchin. May he rest in peace. Meyers moves his hand from the somber and inquisitive mutilations to murder of the Jeffrey Dahmer biopic origins story to the fanatical whims of pious psychopaths, daggering the crux of the issue into the misperceptions of stigmatic cultures and beliefs while at the same time being an extension of the dark comedy tone that worked charmingly with the tale of zombified ex-girlfriend hellbent on revenge. “We Summon the Darkness” is a product from a conglomerate of production companies, highlighting The Fyzz Facility,= (“47 Meters Down: Uncaged47 Meters Down: Uncaged47 Meters Down: Uncaged”), Grey Hawk Productions, Nightshade Entertainment, MEP Capital, and Common Enemy as well as Daddario, herself, pitching in into the producer pool that isn’t her first rodeo in that role.

If you haven’t guessed already, Alexandra Daddario (“Burying the Ex,” “True Detective”) stars as Alexis Butler, one of the three metalhead girlfriends cruising to the show, and sequestering herself the ringleader of the road tripping trio as a level headed, parental type with an edge to keep her ostentatious blond friend, Val, played to the fine tune of being uninhibited crazy well by Maddie Hasson, and the timidly sharp Beverly, a role docile to the point of uncertainty and shepherd well by “Hell Fest’s” Amy Forsyth. The three very attractive concert goers bump into another trio of friends, more haplessly hazardous, if not hopeless, band mates who try their hardest to be as metal as they can be, even if that meals throwing a chocolate milkshake out of the window of their speeding van onto the gals’ Jeep. Austin Swift, Logan Miller (“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”), and Keenan Johnson (“Alita: Battle Angel”) make up the group caught red handed in a stroke of coincidence that the girls find them at the very same concert. As much as the two groups mirror each other in personalities, matching up almost perfectly in the varying degrees of state, one group holds a darker secret that could cost the other their very lives. That level-headedness Daddario portrays onto Alexis’ mindset becomes ravaged with wild fires in her eyes and her laid back amount of patience becomes threadbare frazzled when the bodies start to drop in a satanic twist of murder and mayhem, frenzied with extreme ideology founded on multiple levels of greed. Daddario wears crazed well in a very different side to her usually starry eyed and elegant approaches, making all the others seem abhorrently normal in comparison. “We Summon the Darkness” rounds out with Allison McAtee, Tanner Beard, Harry Nelken, and that “Jackass” Johnny Knoxville as Pastor John Henry Butler.

Despite Daddario’s rising stardom and luminous performance, “We Summon the Darkness” falls hard into a mosh pit of despair. The concept is sound and promising, but the execution couldn’t rise to the occasion with limited secretion of the murderous evil that has spread like a pandemic across the nation that’s has sorely downgraded and diluting the nature of the news and media’s role in beyond hammering in the deaths. When story turns dark, the effect feels whiffed and not as jarring as hoped as little is then diagramed to help assist the viewer grasp just what these satanic cultist wish to accomplish. Also, Trezza’s script is highly predictable as the twist is unfolded fairly early on even before the catalyst transition to a darker tone, spoiling the unveil with too many gnomic sidebar conversations and a slew of obvious character tells that don’t exactly shield the truth of their true wolf in spiked studded, black jacketed, metal band patched sheep’s attire. Also, the film pulled too many punches, teetering on the balancing beam whether it’s an edgy killer comedy or a killer comedy with that’s soft around the belly area. Plus, I’m still trying to figure out why a walk-in pantry has a lock on the inside…?

Metal posers rule while the victims haplessly mewl in this Marc Meyers’ film, “We Summon the Darkness,” hitting retain and digital shelves this week on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital courtesy of Lionsgate and Saban Films. Since the screener provided was a digital streamer, the video and audio aspects will not be covered; however, the Blu-ray specs will feature a 1080p High Definition, 16X9 (2.39:1) widescreen presentation with an English 5.1 Dolby True HD mix while the DVD is presented in the same aspect ratio and will sport an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Both releases with have optional English, Spanish, and English SDH subtitles. Special features will include a featurette entitled “Envisioning Darkness” and an audio commentary with director Marc Meyers and writer Alan Trezza. “We Summon the Darkness’s” cheekiness is fresh for an 80’s maniac homage armored with solid performances by Alexandra Daddario and an uncharacteristically stoic Johnny Knoxville as a devout pastor against metal music, but seizes up, derails off the tracks, and fizzles to a reduced version of the greater version it could have been.

“We Summon the Darkness” out now on Blu-ray / DVD/ Digital! Click the cover!

A War Criminal’s Evil Influence. “Apt Pupil” review!


Next time you suspect your neighbor is a wanted criminal, they just might very well be as in the case of Todd Bowden, an excelling high student who discovers a WWII Nazi war criminal has been secretly living in his quaint hometown. Through his own investigation of photograph comparisons and retrieval of finger prints, Bowden confronts the old man, Kurt Dussander, about his notorious past. Living under a pseudonym and wanted by the Israeli government, Dussander attempts to dismiss the boy’s claims until his bluff to call the police is called, resulting in Bowden’s curiosity to become a blackmail gambit that puts Dussander under the student’s quizzical thumb. In return for not informing the authorities, Bowden requires Dussuander to reveal his story, the story of his stint at the extermination camps without sparing any details no matter how gruesome. Bowden even goes as far as purchasing a replica SS officer uniform that he forcibly commands Dussander to put on and march. Through his reminiscing of the past, an evil reawakens in Dussander and their banal friendship of psychological warfare goes into the dangerous trenches of survival and eradication that spreads like a cancer inside and outside their private lives.

Before the monumental eruption of continuous claims of sexual misconduct by various accusers, Bryan Singer furnished significant prominence as a director and overall filmmaker before he inadvertently kick started a very long, very successful, and very lucrative series of superhero films and their related and unrelated sequels and spinoffs, starting with Marvel’s “X-Men” in 2000…19 years ago, Holy sh*t! Well, in 1998, coming off his success of “The Usual Suspects” with fellow accused celebrity and now blacklisted actor Kevin Spacey and currently untarnished Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, Singer and Phoenix Pictures presented and released the suspense-thriller, “Apt Pupil,” a Bad Hat Harry production. Inspired by the Stephen King novella, “Apt Pupil” is the polarizing observation of two evil souls where one might be significantly eclipsing the other. Brandon Boyced (2005’s “Venom”) drafted a script based of King’s novella that was comprised of a different, and less pessimistic, ending to the novella while still uncompromising King’s baseline evil theme.

High school students, especially males, often have an aggressive temperament. Whether it’s sports, girls, or just trying to fit in, guys almost always take their tunneled focus to the extreme. For Todd Bowden, a brilliant young student, a fascination with the grim extermination of Jewish people and the Nazi culture tickled his fancy. Brad Renfro, only 14-years-old at the time of filming, stars as Bowden and really digs into the character’s adolescent psyche of relentless obsession, having his character converging all power from a big time war criminal and, even more simplistically, an older adult male, to himself, but when things go sour and Bowden starts to lose grip of his pawn, panic sets in and Kurt Dussander’s wicked and warped mind structures a counterattack that seemingly befriends the boy, but really demonizes Bowden’s already appalling obsession. Sir Ian McKellen, in a performance of pure brilliance, masterfully crafts a representative of evil in Kurt Dussander. The scene with McKellen stepping into a SS officer uniform and then marching with prerogative purpose that’s topped with a Nazi salute is perhaps one of the best chilling and unsettling performances of our lifetime. The dynamic in the scene between Renfro and McKellen, carefully shot and executed in direction by Singer, respects the bleak humanity enthralled by Stephen’s King body of literary work. There are some other amazing performances here by the supporting cast including David Schwimmer (“Friends”), Bruce Davison (“Willard”), Ann Dowd (“Hereditary”), Joshua Jackson (“Urban Legend”), Elias Koteas (“The Prophecy”), James Karen (“The Return of the Living Dead”) and Heather McComb (“Stay Tuned”).

As aforementioned, “Apt Pupil” has an evil duality narrative that contain descriptive horrors of the past, paints the means of callous obsession, and symbiotic necrosis of any good left in Todd Bowden or Kurt Dussander when together, but on the surface level, Kurt Dussander’s murderous duty to the cultural cleanse severely overshadows Bowden’s seemingly curious obsession, his blackmail of a notorious war criminal, his deception amongst those close to him, and, the inevitable, stony perception to murder. More than likely innocence could be blamed for the fact that Bowden is a child and Dussander’s a man living the last moments of his life, but Bowden becomes the catalyst for Dussander, reigniting the evil thoughts and actions of SS officer’s former life. Dussander attempts many degenerate actions from his past and never successfully succeeds in completing them whereas Todd ultimately finishes it either for Dussander, willing or not, or for his own self-preservation. By the end of “Apt Pupil,” the question you might ask yourself is how do you feel about either character? Despite the scale of their evils, which character ultimately, in the scope of Singer’s film from beginning to end, is the true representation of evil? To me, the finale feels like Dussander inadvertently passes the torch to Bowden and with his obsessive nature toward Nazism and extermination, the boy will grow up to continue being that representative of evil?

Umbrella Entertainment presents Bryan Singer’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, “Apt Pupil” onto Blu-ray home video. The region B, full HD, 1080p Blu-ray is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and the quality is crisp excellence with a sharp hi-def scan of textures and the details in Mckellen’s facial curvatures that just open up to expose the wily diabolical smirk from the vet actor. Coloring and skin tones are okay despite the release being slightly yellowish and inkier in comparison to other releases. The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio does the job and is balanced all around with dialogue clear and present and the John Ottoman (“X-Men” franchise) is menacing without being overwhelming, but the ambience’s depth and range are stiffened from a lack of surround sound that could have been achieved with this release. The special effects are slim with a behind-the-scenes featurette that’s more surface level depth with cast brief cast and crew interviews and also includes theatrical trailer and TV spots. Viewers too caught up in the superhero hype might not recognize that Bryan Singer helmed “Apt Pupil” or might not even care in lieu of sexual accusations, but hardcore Stephen King fans and horror aficionados can certainly appreciate a blanket thriller with haunting performances that will be remembered more than the marring scandal behind-the-camera.

Might be a REGION 2 release, but still available on AMAZON.COM here in the states! Click the cover above to purchase 🙂

Evil Walks Among Us in “The Zodiac Killer” review!


Jerry is your average, everyday Californian man. He’s tall, handsome, and can hold down a good government job as a United States postman, but Jerry has another side to him. A dark side that’s hidden beneath a façade of apparent normalcy. His random acts of senseless violence and murder have Jerry a great advantage over the rest of society, especially the police, as he commits homicidal tendencies right under their noses without an inkling of a motive and stretching out his urges to kill days, weeks, and months a part under the guise of the notorious Zodiac Killer.

Based on the factual and claimed murders of Northern California’s infamous serial, director Tom Hanson helmed the thriller “The Zodiac Killer” and released his finished project in spring of 1971 when the serial killer was still very active. In a little history tidbit, Hanson had the idea to premiere “The Zodiac Killer” at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco in attempt to lure the Zodiac Killer to the screening by way of having patrons writing “what-ifs” as the real Zodiac Killer and then analyzing the handwriting to the letters the real killer submitted to the police and news outlets. Of course, the stunt didn’t work, but did bring about awareness of the prospect that everyday people – neighbors, gym teacher, mailman – could be a deranged, blood thirsty wolf underneath sheep’s clothing. In their first and only writing credits, Manny Cardoza and Ray Cantrell penned the script.

With a minuscule budget and a performance driven script, “The Zodiac Killer” could only speculate on the person behind the deaths and though in today’s filmmaking standards, some points in the dialogue and the action are awfully outdated in it’s rigidity and over exposition, but when getting down to brass tax and looking deep at the root’s message, the effective troubling performance by lead actor Hal Reed, as Jerry the Zodiac, transfixes viewers as the tall, handsome, and baritone-voiced actor bore an eerie on-off switch between pure good and polluted evil. Before knowing Reed’s true self, not every character was black and white as Hanson attempts to a lineup suspects, especially with a truck driver named Grover (Bob Jones) whom had a knack for pretending to be a wealthy businessman on his nights off in hopes to score naive bar tail. Whether flawed by design or by the obsolete nature of filmmaking, the curve ball attempt to throw the viewer for a loop doesn’t stick and for every second, Hal Reed is the titular maniac even if not proclaimed at first sight. Ray Lynch and “Invasion of the Bee Girls'” Tom Pittman round out the cast as the two police officers not hot on the Zodiac’s trail.

For early 1970’s, “The Zodiac Killer” is graphic, verbally and in imagery with an example being Jerry enthusiastically jumping up and down on a car hood while an elderly woman is pinned between the hood and the engine or Grover calling every single female character a “broad” or a “bitch” in the film; “The Zodiac Killer” certainly strikes a chauvinistic chord from a male’s point of view with not only Grover’s attitude toward women, but also portraying women as shrewd, powerless, and as sex objects. Culturally, this attitude toward women might have been accurate for the time period as well as many of the portrayed Zodiac attacks though numerous of the attacks were only claimed by the Zodiac and not actually confirmed. In any case, Hanson’s rendered theories are well thought out and entertaining in spite of their tragic background.

The American Film Genre Archive, Something Weird Video, and MVDVisual present “The Zodiac Killer” on a 2-disc DVD/Blu-ray set exhibited in the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, keeping the black bars on the right and left of the screen to preserve the format. The new digital transfer was scanned from the only existing 35mm theatrical print through to 4K resolution on a Lasergraphic film scanner and the image has a real clean look to it despite some minor print damage with horizontal scratches and burn flares. The print also suffers from a color degradation, voiding the coloring and replacing it was a washed look. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track has a mighty bite that’s surprisingly clean and clear despite the obvious low fidelity. Special features include an interview with director Tom Hason and actor Manny Nedwick, a commentary track with Tom Hanson, Manny Nedwick and the AFGA crew, and a tabloid-horror trailers from the AGFA archive. Also, the release has a sleek illustration with reversible cover and an inner booklet complete with the film’s tidbits, transfer information, and distribution company credentials. Plus, a bonus movie “Another Son of Sam” (1977) that’s been scanned in 2k from the original 35mm theatrical print. The Zodiac might have ceased a wrath of carnage and made a brazen exodus from California before being caught before his or her identity became known, but the killer’s notorious legacy lives on with this stellar release of Tom Hanson’s “The Zodiac Killer” and serves as a chilling reminder that vicious killers walk among us.

Buy “The Zodiac Killer” on Amazon Today!