To Death Do Us EVILLY Part! “Savage Vows” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

“Savage Vows” on DVD at Amazon.com

A fatal car crash claims the life of Mark’s wife.  Plagued by vivid nightmares of death and grief-stricken by the loss, Mark finds comfort in his closest friends who have come to console and stay with him after the funeral.  Slowly, Mark’s friends begin to thin out.  Thinking they’ve gone home or stepped out briefly, Mark continues to spend time with his remaining friends, watching horror movies, and eating fast-food hamburgers while contemplating how to handle the sorrow for the rest of his life without his wife by his side.  Other than a select few of his friends attempt to take advantage of his vulnerability, what’s really happening behind the scenes is a crazed killer is taking out his friends one at a time and while Mark continues to sink deeper into self-pity and become contentious with the greed of others, the killer mercilessly works closer to him by wiping out his entire friend network before he even comprehends what’s going on.

Let me take you back in time to the archaic and fashion disreputable (or maybe just plain questionable) year of 1995 where the hair was bigger, the cars were more manual, and where Blu-rays, DVDs, and those godawful streaming services were a futuristic glimmer in the eye as cassette videotapes were stocked the shelves. One of those physical retail locations was a brick-and-mortar store owned by Robert (Bob) Dennis who became enticed to stick his hand into the movie making machine and convinced to direct his one and only full length feature film, a shot-on-video slasher indie entitled “Savage Vows.” Bob Dennis’s then wife-now-ex, Carol Dennis, co-wrote the 80-minute script of an obscured death dealer racking up a body toll of Mark’s disputable friends who secretly despise each other and have sub rosa intentions. Shot in and around Wilkes-Barre, PA, where Dennis operated and shared ownership alongside brother Michael J. Dennis his video store, Full Moon Video (no relationship that I can deduce to Charles Band’s Full Moon aside from selling his hot horror commodities on tape), “Savage Vows” retains a two-location shoot encompassing Mark’s house and an always tight budget cinema staple cemetery for full blown low-budget honors. Gage Productions funds the project under another Dennis relation, executive producer Gage Dennis, along Carol Dennis wearing the dual hat of producer.

“Savage Vows” transposes the family affair from behind the camera into the forefront of the camera as Bob and Carol Dennis not only nurture widowed-slasher concept into a full-fledged video feature but also take on principal, yet ill-fated roles themselves while also employing Bob’s brother, Mike Dennis, and Jamiece Dennis into the background and extra fatality-fodder to fill in where needed. The scene interactions transcend through naturally as suspected with having family members mimic being mincemeat for the grotesque grinder and to put forth their best foot in the dialogue despite the rather cliched and trite rap. Though Bob Dennis and his cohort crew of closely related cast member might not be the marquee glowing luminaries of low-budget lore, there is one name, a singular cast member, that sticks out as a present-day household name in rinkydink D-movie horror. The filmmaker who has made a notorious name for himself for his schlocky and shoddy sharksploitation films, has trespassed and exploited the property of Amityville on more than one occasion, and continues to be an unfazed direct-to-video deity amongst the bedrock in the bottom of the barrel genre pool is none other than Mark Polonia, the director, who often collaborated with his late twin brother John Polonia, brought us “Splatter Farm” and has also a defacing sharksploitation rut-rack with the so-bad-it’s-drinking game good grievousness of “Land Shark,” “Virus Shark,” and, most recently, “Sharkula.” Mark Polonia has more than just the role of Adam, Mark’s best friend, in this story as the then just hitting his stride Polonia encouraged Bob Dennis to expand beyond his wishful thinking of creating a horror movie and also provided creative notes during principal photography. Just being this far down in the character-cast paragraph section, you know “Savage Vows” Armando Sposto (“Night Crawlers”) barely makes a blip on the radar as the widowed Mark, but the shame of it all is that Sposto provides fathoms of depth when juxtaposed to any other in the cast. Having just lost his beloved, Mark’s up against the wall of grief and Sposto does his damnedest to convey that without flinching as the young actor has to teeter between misery and another self-conscious emotion pivotal to the endgame. Kelly Ashton, Adam Bialek, Jackie Hergen, Grand Kratz, and Sally Gabriele make up the rest of the “Savage Vows.”

To death do us part” is the ceremonious idiom that signifies an everlasting commitment to one another. For Bob Dennis, it’s the marginally grim phrase that also drives the plot, but “Savage Vows” wanes nearly entirely from matrimony motifs, never really genetically incorporating the sacred act of bonding two people itself into its slasher anatomy.  Instead, Bob Dennis (and Mark Polonia) land on the ghastly side, or rather the latter side, of a marital life span with the untimely splitting of a union and this particular union, Mark’s marriage, ends in tragedy and therefore a gothic-cladded funeral of gloom and despair are rooted and entrenched into the story.  Though perfectly suitable to drown oneself woes, “Savage Vows” reaches further into that dispirited nature with Mark having fallen into negativism and his friends lend their sympathy with a sleepover offer of consolation. That’s where the comradeship becomes icky at best with friends who disguise their underhanded true intentions with a show of spurious sympathy and that kind of malevolence benevolence within the closeness of others mirrors itself, in a foreshadowing type of way, in the heart of the plot that lacks the pith of solid slasher kills. The kills scenes are of the run-of-the-mill stratification that slowly ascend to a not so bigger or better rehashed versions of themselves. The finale cap sets the bar a little too late in my book with a deserved kneecapping kill that simultaneously sums up “Savage Vows” skin-deep concept.

A longtime leader in resurrecting obscure SOV horror back from the 80s and 90’s analog grave, SRS Cinema does what SRS Cinema does best with a supremely graphic and retro-approached DVD of Bob Dennis’ “Savage Vows.” The NTSC encoded, region free DVD5 presents the film in the original aspect ratio of a matted 1.33:1 with a shot on video quality that’s high on fuchsia hue in what’s a warm, inflamed, infrared color palette that obtrudes in a non-stylistic choice. Certain trope-filled nightmare scenes have a catered good synth score and stay ablaze with visual terror fuel in which the hot pink-purple palette would have worked to the scenes advantage. As expected, as these imperfections add that wonderful je ne sais quoi to the shot-on-video epoch, the subpicture white noise and tracking lines are a welcome treasure trove for trashy rare cinema albeit the gargling of quality. The English Mono track never flushes or levels out with any promise due to a lack of a boom recording and far-removed mic placement. The dialogue remains boggled down also by e-interference with a slog of hissing issues, but still manages to be intelligible. Bonus features includes an 80-minute, feature length, commentary track with supporting star Mark Polonia on the phone with writer-director Bob Dennis, a bloopers reel, and theatrical trailer. Say, I do to “Savage Vows,” a love-it or hate-it, little known, SOV slasher with a can-do attitude of stab-happiness of the unprincipled so-called nearest and dearest.

“Savage Vows” on DVD at Amazon.com

This Bundle of EVIL has a Dirty Diaper! “Baby Oopsie” reviewed! (Full Moon / Blu-ray)

“Baby Oopsie”  The Baddest Baby in Town on Blu-ray!

Who would have thought that playing with dolls could be deadly.  Sybil Pittman certainly didn’t think so as she hosts her internet streaming doll vlog showcasing her collection of pint sizes doll babies most of which Sybil has restored back to life…literally.  When a mysterious package arrives with the battered and stitched together head of Baby Oopsie, a severely bullied and neglected Sybil locks herself in the basement to work tirelessly on repairing Baby Oopsie’s head and mechanical body that includes, unbeknownst to Sybil, one special gear under a satanic spell to for collecting souls.   Baby Oopsie, the once pride and joy of Sybil’s restorations, has been resurrected from the toy junkyard and aims to claim the lives of Sybil’s tormentors to sustain it’s own diabolic animation.  When all of Sybil’s adversaries are eliminated, Baby Oopsie still requires lives to live and turns on Sybil’s friends and Sybil herself that becomes a battle to the death.

Full Moon knows how to run and market a good product that can last a lifetime and they continue to stroll through their finely tuned niche of deranged doll other pint-sized psychos to this very day with brand new produced features hitting the physical and streaming retain shelves in 2022.  Following the success of “Don’t Let Her In,” one of those new features aforementioned, is the return of the evilest rug rat known to infant kind, Baby Oopsie, from the “Demonic Toys” universe.  William Butler, who I fondly remember playing sweet country boy Tom being blown up and having his corpse feasted on in Tom Savini’s “Night of the Living Dead” remake, continues his long-standing tenure with Charles Band and Full Moon that began in 1986, under the Charles Band Empire Pictures company production and Stuart Gordon directed “From Beyond,” with a new written-and-directed feature “Baby Oopsie,” a concentrated, standalone spinoff of “Demonic Toys.”  This isn’t Butler’s first go-around with the go-go-ga-ga-gut your guts dolly as the filmmaker helmed “Demonic Toys 2:  Personal Demons” in 2010.  Charles Band and Butler produce the film with regular Full Moon executive producer Nick Blaskowski under the Full Moon Features in association with Candy Bar Productions.

Viral sensation the McRib Queen versus demonic toy Baby Oopsie. Stand up and character comedienne, Libbie Higgins, debuts in her first feature headlining role as Sybil Pittman, the repressed and intimidated vlogging doll queen living in abusive hell with tyrannical stepmother after the death of her beloved father. Higgins, who has an Onlyfans page for only $8 a month for all you obsessed fans out there, adorns a wig, glasses, and meme cat sweaters to get into the head of Pittman’s secluded world and where outsiders browbeat her into a reserved submission and wishful thinking only provides little comfort returning the hurt played out internal sadistic fantasies. For her breakout role, Higgins transcends her comedienne persona and into an anxiety-riddled outcast wretched by life’s punches and horror-struck by a doll that walks, talks, and kills like a macho-sadist. Before going head-to-head with the berserk Baby Oopsie (voiced by newcomer Jill Barlett), Sybil is caught between the devil and a saint with her brash, overbearing, stepmother played by Lynne Acton McPherson (“Improbus”) and the attentive and caring subletter played by Marilyn Bass, who tries very hard to be Full Moon sexy and skin-revealing without showing the camera too much. Her “best friend” Ray-Ray tips the scales toward believing in Sybil’s beauty and craft, befriending the doll queen despite her large radius of shunning those want to get closer to her, such as the mailman or the gardener, because of the depressive self-pity. Yet, Ray-Ray brings to the light and so does the actor who portrays the upbeat Hey Hunny sassy-mouth in TikTok and Youtuber influencer Justin Armistead. Armistead is magnetically chipper onscreen compared to Higgins story-obliged monotone placidness that balances out quite nicely the duo’s vanilla and peanut-butter-marshmallow swirl relationship. “Baby Oopsie” is full of character and characters, rounding out it’s smorgasbord of victims and supports with Diane Frankenhausen, Shamecka Nelson, Joseph Huebner, Michael O’Grady, Michael Carrino, Christopher J. Meigs, Tim Dorsey, and Josephine Bullock.

Set and filmed in Cleveland, Ohio at the proclaimed Full Moon estate, a 60’s-70’s anachronous house with many rooms becomes the playground setting for “Baby Oopsie,” the cast, and the crew. The location that reflects an era no longer modern, a dated obsoletism, to match Baby Oopsie’s classic and ideal bald-bald in a night gown form. However, normal Baby Oopsie also comes with that grotesque, malformed face that only a doll obsessed mother could love and would cause the toughest of horror fans to fear in their pants in on glance at the augmented representation of a human infant. It’s the creepy old doll look you definitely don’t want to see sitting in a dark corner blankly staring at you.  Of course, the special effects are not the classic Full Moon stop motion you see with the “Puppet Master” flicks as “Baby Oopsie” deals in tangibility with a bait and switch editing between the number of diverse molded Oopsie dolls created by special effects supervisor Greg Lightner (“Corona Zombies,” “Don’t Let Her In”) that include an open mouth and sneering face or a set of glowing eyes to provide a sense of evil.  Oopsie fits right into Sybil’s down on her luck story that is nicely compact and complete for an indie horror quietly but surely touches upon Sybil’s life in various key scenes, such as the gardener who hangs around because her father was much beloved or how much Sybil is despised at work between the dragooning, nitpicking, and strict boss and the snickering colleagues that look down at her.  Butler’s sweet-and-salty route delegates a fine line between her friends and foes that make the stakes clear when Oopsie decides impulsively to go off the bad-guy only rails. “Baby Oopsie” is far from cute and cuddly. “Baby Oopsie” is closer to being ugly and uncouth as the prime and pinnacle sequel of anthropomorphic toy horror in today’s Full Moon toy chest of films.

Spinoffs have become the new favorite amongst audiences, “Baby Oopsie” even pays a sideswiping jab to “Annabelle” of the “Conjuring” universe, and while we see a lot of spinoffs in television, the concepts and ideas are beginning to spill more frequently for filmgoing fans and, as such, “Baby Oopsie” is reborn onto her (or is it him? or it?) own Blu-ray home video from Full Moon Features. The region free, high-definition release, presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, is the epitome of digital recording without much of a single critique or compression issue. Inundated with a more realism than stylism presence in front of the camera with the exception of a few edited in art renditions of satanic imagery, Butler and cinematographer Josh Apple apply a clean, high-resolution coating that undeniably very familiar to Full Moon’s repertoire. What’s also a motif straight out of Full Moon’s bag of goodies in the carnivalesque score. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack raises the volume on the Fred Rapoport and Rick Butler above a superseding level that swallows the English dialogue at times. You really want to absorb Jill Barlett’s vulgarities as Baby Oopsie but need to fight the soundtrack to do so during key moments when Oopsie’s profanity-laden Tourette like behavior kicks in. The release also comes with a second audio option with a Dolby digital 2.0 stereo. Bonus features include a behind-the-scenes featurette with cast and crew interviews on their experience making the film and poking fun at each other at times in a well-edited jest, a Videozone featurette that’s essentially a mini panel with producer Charles Band, director William Butler, and stars Libbie Higgins, Marilyn Bass, and Lynne Acton McPherson taking a break in the midst of filming to talk about their characters, to talk about the film itself, and for Band to plug his streaming service and new projects, there’s a mini-featurette All Dolled Up! that has Libbie Higgins in character, Justin Armistead self-recording in his bathroom, like on TikTok, and Baby Oopsie announce the winner and runner-up’s of a contest to win a Full Moon prize package. Bonus content rounds out with Full Moon trailers. The Blu-ray comes unrated, and feature has a runtime of 78 minutes. “Baby Oopsie” is not the addendum to the profane book of “Demonic Toys” but rather an extenuating chapter that opens the door for all the misfit and maniacal toys to one day have their own independent rampaging furtherance that are likely already drafted, budged, and ready to shoot at a moment’s notice.

“Baby Oopsie”  The Baddest Baby in Town on Blu-ray!

Book an EVIL Getaway Rental from the “Superhost” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Never Again Feel Welcome After Watcing “Superhost” on Blu-ray Available at Amazon

Airbnb reviewer vloggers Claire and Teddy are bleeding viewership fast.  To save their monetized video channel, their financial independence, and possibly live happily ever after as man and wife, the duo was finally able to rent a highly demanded location set in isolated in the forest when it became available.  The house is more than they could ever hope for with beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious accommodations, and breathtaking idyllic mountain views.  The one little hiccup about the residential stay is the quirky superhost, Rebecca, who has been more than overly friendly.  An unsuspecting guest from the past turns the tables on Claire and Teddy as Rebecca slowly unravels her true intentions in a nerve-wracking game of life and death with all the amenities.

From the director of the supernatural baby-snatching “Still/Born” and the imaginary friend from Hell in “Z” comes Brandon Christensen’s next written-and-directed demented thriller “Superhost” that takes the automated vacation rental methodology and breaks them in half.  Shot just outside Las Vegas in the rural area of Mount Charleston, Christensen provides the illusion of a far trek away from busy street society with a cabin in the woods what if’er of an overzealous hosting homeowner making weird and uncomfortable conversation with their tenants on a daily or nightly basis.  Tacked onto that idea is the new age monetizing of vlogs and racking up subscribers that overtake or make us blind to what’s really important.  The Superchill and First Look Releasing production is executive produced by the Ty and Darren Siversten and produced by Christensen, Kurtis David Harder (“Spiral,” “V/H/S/94”), and stars Sara Canning and Osric Chau.

Aforementioned, Sara Canning (“Z,” “The Banana Splits Movie”) and Osric Chau (“Supernatural”) star in the film as vlogging couple Claire and Teddy.  Whether be the actors’ performances or the blind obsession toward their monetized YouTube platform to secure financial freedom, the on-screen chemistry between the couple didn’t jive.  What doesn’t help is there’s no real romance being displayed during their time together nor was there any expositional or any form of mentioning what their life looked like before becoming internet influencers.  Being influencers makes up a sizeable portion of what the audiences (us as viewers and not their video channel followers) know about the couple sans the miscellaneous background of Teddy’s parents providing rent aid whenever needed and Teddy’s top-secret engagement plan in which he also vlogs to his viewers behind Claire’s back.  We experience a little more where Teddy comes from, but Claire is a complete mystery much in the same way as superhost Rebecca.  However, as the crazed host, the enigma surrounding the jovially expressed Rebecca, eager to help with clog toilets and whip up pancakes, adds to her strange and frightening demeanor.  I would never want Gracie Gillam (“Fright Night” ’11, “Z Nation”) to uninvitedly walk into my vacation rental in her full Rebecca form.  I would forego my deposit lickety-split and hightail away from a much-needed getaway to literally save my skin from Rebecca’s crackpot revelry. Popping into the frame a couple of times is genre veteran and overall fan favorite is Barbara Crampton (“From Beyond,” “Re-Animator”) as Vera, a disgruntled property owner who tracks down Claire and Teddy for a vindictive, rock-throwing rant but becomes unsuspectedly ensnared in the Rebecca’s mare’s nest.

Brandon Christensen is no stranger to small productions with a small cast, but “Superhost” is a micro-production with a micro-cast and, somehow at no surprise, busts out a truly terrifying lunacy that can make you double think before clicking that confirmation button on the vacation rental reservation. “Superhost” is unsettling and invasive as if privacy is nonexistent and the ever-watchful eye is always looming. In fact, it is! With security cameras installed in basically every room, there’s 24-hour CCTV footage of every moment of Claire and Teddy, but isn’t the moment captured and being filmed constantly is what their livelihood and vocation is all about? Christensen has that paradoxical undertone packed exceedingly well beneath the veneer of voyeurism, inescapability, and troubled relationship issues that the theme becomes a backburner hit on the tail end in that what the thing that provides Claire and Teddy a reason to be free as individuals is the also the very thing that they can’t flee from and become merely a battered object of one’s mad person’s whims much like their more critical reviews can be ruinous to others. While “Superhost” can feel a bit slow for the first two acts, the story showcases a development and escalation of Grace Gillam’s Rebecca as a woman with more than one loose screw. Of course, Rebecca’s not seen for who she really is by the compulsion to film not just the rental, but also her, as gold-plated viewership material. “Superhost” admonishes a tread carefully thriller to beware and adhere the signs of mania danger and all those Rebeccas out there.

Trust me – cancel that reservation, plan on a staycation, and watch the Shudder-exclusive “Superhost” now on Blu-ray home video from Acorn Media International. The region 2, PAL encoded, Blu-ray is presented in an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Nothing terrible to note here as much of the digitally captured, RED Gemini images are about as crisp as they come with a natural presentation all around from cinematographer Clayton Moore (“It Stains the Sands Red”) with the exception of the unfiltered handheld camera and CCTV footage, which is also very authentic. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound rustles together clearly and discernibly ever creak of the floorboards and every gushy stabbing sound for full impact purposes. Dialogue track is clean with pronunciation clarity and the bottom-and-bass dropping score by instrumental band Blitz//Berlin (“Psycho Gorman,” “The Void”) continue to impress with their original soundtracks. The special feature includes a director’s commentary, a behind-the-scenes that talks about Mount Charleston location, the annoying tiny beetle swarms, and how amazingly small the production crew was, a solid blooper reel, “Superhost” VFX featurette with green screening and matting car scenes and the ultra-graphic knife through the mouth effect, a behind-the-scenes still gallery, and episodes 1 and 2 of Brandon Christensen’s television shorts, “Scaredycats.” Remember, guys, hit that like bottom and subscribe to follow Brandon Christensen’s descension of guests becoming unaccommodated by a psychotic “Superhost!”

Never Again Feel Welcome After Watcing “Superhost” on Blu-ray Available at Amazon

EVIL Wants a Cuddle in “Benny Loves You” reveiwed! (Epic Pictures / DVD)



35-year old man-child Jack still lives with his parents, still plays with toys, and remains stuck in a dead-end job.  When his parents tragically die in a surprise birthday for him and his professional prospects at an all time low, Jack decides to grow up and improve his life, even if that means throwing away his favorite childhood stuffed teddy bear, Benny.   Being discarded in a blink of an eye resurrects Benny to life, seeking Jack’s affection like the good old days when Jack was a child.  There’s only one problem, Benny doesn’t want to share Jack’s love and the toy’s thirst for blood sends him into playful murderous rage against anyone or anything that comes near him.  Jack has come to terms with Benny’s intentions, even mocking up a new craze toy line inspired by Benny, but as the bodies pile up and a new woman comes into his life, Jack must confront his plushy childhood best friend to save what little of a life he has left. 

What an age us horror fans live in!  Our good guy doll Chucky makes a tremendous comeback these last couple of years with a reboot film and a new television series on SyFy!  Killer dolls are back, baby!  Joining in on the fun is another pintsized maniac with just about as much red coloring on its soft nap as Chucky’s stringy hair on top of his head and, also, sees about the same amount red when wielding a knife with homicidal intentions.  From the United Kingdom comes Karl Holt’s time to grown up or die horror-comedy “Benny Loves You.”  Holt’s a one man show in his debut feature film that he doesn’t just direct, but also is the writer, editor, cinematographer, composer, lead star, and producer of this heart-warming and heart-severing, cute and cuddly, gore show.  The 2019 released riot is an exclusive Dread Central (Dread) presented release of a joint production from Raven Banner and Darkline Entertainment.

Alongside Ken Holt as Jack, the failure to launch mid-30’s man still parent dependent, are a slew of individuals with a variety of personalities suited to Benny’s killer taste in protecting his most beloved human.  From home to the office, Benny slays through the competition in the game of life and death, starting with an indifferent bank representative, played by Greg Barnett (“Hot Property”), looking to foreclose on Jack’s family home.  Yet, Jack has seemingly always been destined for a grisly fate, just not his own, as his parents (Catriona McDonald and Greg Page) die in a “Final Destination” style accident rooted by the very theme of the story – his inability to grow up.  As when Jack and Benny’s new dynamic goes through a 180-degree positive spin on Jack improving his downtrodden life is when more unfortunate souls become ensnared in Benny’s mission.  More of the oppressive office environment, with snide performances from a pug pooch-adoring and stern boss in absolute deadpan by James Parsons and a jerk colleague in the running for a promotion played perfectly tat by George Collie.  Then there’s the love interest in Claire Cartwright (“Souljacker”) as Dawn, a toy tech engineer who finds common interests in Jack and falls for him.   Cartwright exudes pleasure seeking in an overreaching of every man’s fantasy categorized kind of gal.  Holt tries to maintain Dawn’s perfection with her own Benny-esque storyline but that never brings the character down to his level of trouble, leaving Cartwright cornered in being just a slave to Jack’s coyness instead of a sympathetic character.  Cast rounds out with Anthony Styles (“Razors: The Return of Jack the Ripper”) and Darren Benedict (“Aux”) as two oblivious cops who are actually inching closer to the truth as well as David Wayman (“Seven Devils”) as a real estate agent and Lydia Hourihan (“Inmate Zero”) as Jack’s ex-girlfriend.

While Benny may not have the massive sex appeal of a one Brad Dourif or a mega franchise with vary degrees of success, “Benny Loves You” is still a delicious small fry of the toys gone murderously wild horror-comedy subgenre that dapples into a little of everything from gratuitous gore to the heartfelt warm and fuzzies.  The blend of practical and composited computer imagery of Benny’s movements is the work of a mad genius and I’m sure we have Holt to thank for that as well under his many hats in production.  Benny strikes me more differently than the likes of “Child’s Play” or even the anthropomorphic toys of “Puppet Master” with an encompassing amount of personality.  From his cutesy voice box limited to only a handful of says like cuddle me or Ta-Da! to the way he flops around like a possessed rag doll with wide eyes and an ear-to-ear smile, Benny’s an easy villain to love and is easily able to root for when the unlikeable people of Jack’s life suddenly hem in with unforgiving, browbeating mercy, making Benny the cutest and most loveable anti-heroic punisher of the killer toy canon. Holt’s film doesn’t come out flawlessly unscathed, however, where minor issues of lightspeed pacing and choppy editing aims to get through one scene to the next leaving little to sink in when plot points, monkey wrenches, or heart-warmings transpire. Much of the background into Benny’s sudden erect to life goes unexplained but that Devil in the lack of details is better suited for a film about a discarded toy coming to life – “Toy Story” did it and look how successful Disney made that franchise – and while the whole film is fluff filmmaking at is finest, you have to find appreciation in the smallest details, especially with Holt’s forging of horror scenario tropes into embarrassing personal ordeals that don’t even involve the titular killer.

I’m sure “Benny Loves You” has already been through the toyetic process, at least on the indie production circuit, but, in any case, you can definitely own Karl Holt’s wonderfully macabre and instant cult classic on DVD home video from Epic Pictures, a Dread picture label. The not rated, region free release clocks in at 94 minutes and is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Where Benny shines as a grisly tale of saying goodbye to your childhood stuffed friend, the clarity in the image state is not so defined with a meager detail and sharpness. Scenes with the matted CGI often appear blurry and chunky with Benny very flat in what should be his grand alive and breathing opus. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 lossy audio too inadequate for the scope of content. Holt included a wide range of sounds, and this audio track is bridled to curb in an assortment of a blend of action, horror, and the downright awe of Benny’s cuteness. Dialogue a bit muddled but overall perceptible. So far, audio and visuals are a blinking sign to a rather cheapie DVD presentation and the lack of special features hits the last nail into the mass-produced coffin, reaffirming that the standalone movie home media is all well and alive and that’s okay with me in the case of “Benny Loves Me.” A chip off the old diabolical doll block, “Benny Loves Me” is an out of the blue hit, a real cutup, and the perfect Friday night fright to enjoy with your own personal favorite, stuffed animal buddy.

MUST OWN!  Bring Benny Home on the “Benny Loves You” DVD!

Dan Stevens. The New Face of EVIL? Freakin’ Love It! “The Guest” reviewed! (Second Sight Films / BD-R Screener)

Recently hospital discharged combat soldier David Collins visits a fallen brother in arms’ family, The Petersons, to convey their son’s last moments of love for his family.  Taken immediately in by the grieving mother, David stays for a few nights at the Peterson home, quickly befriending the family of four with his military “yes ma’am” charm and good looks.  When a string of accidental and homicide related deaths begin to flare up in what’s typically a quiet rural town, eldest daughter, Anna, suspicions turn to David.  As Anna digs deeper into David’s past, nothing can stop the elite special forces soldier from taking steps to protect his identity and his mission, even if that means turning the Petersons’ hometown into a deadly warzone. 

One part action, one part slasher – Adam Wingard’s “The Guest” is a hot take on the infiltrator horror subgenre.  The “Pop Skull” and “You’re Next” director, who went on to helm the epic clash of the two biggest creatures in all of creature feature history with this year’s “Godzilla vs. Kong,” directed “The Guest” to challenge the slasher narrative with an atypical, slightly campy, American indie thriller with an unanticipated and surprising twist that’s more than just your run-of-the-mill snapped war-traumatized soldier gone shell-shocked rogue.  The script reteams “Dead Birds’” writer Simon Barrett with Wingard for their eighth collaboration that pits all the story’s action into the rural confines of an unnamed small town in America while the actual shooting location takes place in New Mexico.  “The Guest” is a production of the UK based HanWay Films, which also oversaw the production of Wingard’s “You’re Next,” and Snoot Entertainment of the zomedy “Little Monsters” from the producing management team of Keith and Jess Wu Calder.

To put things simply, Dan Stevens is scary good.  The “Downtown Abbey” star plays the titular troublemaker and, now, I will never look at Matthew Crowley the same way again.  Stevens trades out the proper aristocracy of British English with a slight American English Southern draw, a heavily used trope portrayed with U.S. troops in cinema, but Stevens does more than just talk-the-talk.  The Surrey born actor who once played the Beast in Disney’s live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast” plays a different kind of monster that’s akin to a wolf in sheep’s clothing with David, adorning his physically fit character with a clandestine depth in his ambiguous background and sociopathic tendencies that makes him very much a mysterious maniac much in the same fashion as iconic slasher villains.  Trying to stop David’s undermining reign of controlled carnage is Anna Peterson, played by Maika Monroe (“It Follows,” “Independence Day:  Resurgence”).  Ana’s a levelheaded, yet rebellious, teenager adverse to being told what to do to much of her parents chagrin from dating a pot dealer to her objection in David’s stay with them.  Monre puts angsty effort behind Anna Peterson’s eyes, but the character herself is rather flimsy willing to put her trust in an unsponsored secret organization agent, “John Wick” films’ Lance Reddick, and his request to get into his car urgently without hesitation, but has a difficult time swallowing at her own pace her dead brother’s fellow soldier even with the stamp of whole heartily approval from her parents and little brother and photographic evidence of her brother’s relationship with David.  Yet, Barrett’s openly oblivious characters play into the slasher/thriller campiness of accepting everything at face value without ever an inkling of doubt.  Perfect examples of this would be 3/4th of the Peterson family: the mother (Sheila Kelley, “A Passion to Kill”) trust him with handling routine tasks like picking up her son from school or laundry, the father (the great supporting actor Leland Orser, “Alien:  Resurrection,” “The Bone Collector”) trusts him with personal secrets, and even the school outcast brother (Brendan Meyer, “The Color of Space”) desperately believes David is his friend.  Tabatha Shaun, Joel David Moore, Ethan Embry, Chase Williamson, and Steven Brown co-star.

Pulling loads of admiration and inspiration from the “Halloween” franchise, “The Guest” not only rocks as an action thriller but also mimicking a retrograded slasher in a subgenre slapped with a label I like to call the infiltrator subgenre.  David Collins is no mindless, walking and not talking, killing machine like The Shape, but instead gains trust, backdoors problems, and has the quick confident moves to see the job through with hand-to-hand combat and other more visceral merciless methods.  Barrett and Wingard purposefully leave much to the imagination with David’s past, turning what would usually outcome as frustrating ambiguity for an essential character to more of an enigmatic antagonist allure similar to the way we don’t have a clear-cut motivation why Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees shish kabob horny teens without a second thought.  Sure, there are sequels that try to enlighten reasons, such as being pure evil, but abstract is not concrete.  Same with “The Guest” with a control spoon feeding of just enough backstory to wet one’s thirst for more on David’s ruthless sociopathic behavior.  David’s also a very likeable with the impression that his good deeds done in violence speaks to a justice-driven character, but what’s brilliant about David, and enhanced profoundly by Dan Stevens, is that when he does kill someone in cold blood for this first time, the impact is tremendously unreal because it’s unexpected and off brand from the Barrett and Wingard’s buildup of him being a standup and do-what’s-right soldier.

Second Sight Films invites you to be their guest for their limited edition 4K Ultra Hi-Defintionand Blu-ray of Adam Wingard’s “The Guest” that hit retail shelves this month on October 25th.  The stunning makeover of this cult favorite, limited to 5,000 copies, offers a brand new color grading for both formats supervised by Wingard with 4K UHD presented in Dolby Vision HDR.  Since a BDR was provided, commenting on the exact audio and video quality of the release isn’t possible, but rest assured, knowing the care and attention Second Sight Films put into their releases, “The Guest” will surely not overstay it’s welcome in the image and audio department.  The film has runtime at 100 minutes and a UK 15 certification; however, there is much more to this 3-disc release that includes the film’s 80’s inspired soundtrack on a compact disc.  Special features include new Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett commentary plus an archive commentary track from the two filmmakers, a new interview with actor Dan Stevens The Uninvited Guest, a new interview with actress Maika Monroe A Perfect Stranger, a new interview with Wingard and Barett By Invitation Only, a new interview with producers Keith and Jessica Wu Calder Producing the Guest, a new interview with director of photography Robby Baumgartner Light and Fog, a new interview with production designer Tom Hammock Lightning Strikes, a new interview with composer Steve Moore The Sounds of The Guest, and deleted and alternate including an outtake gag with optional director commentary.  With this limited release comes a rigid slipcase with new artwork by Adam Stothard, 160-page booklet with new essays by script to screen storyboards and extracts, behind the scenes photos, Wingard’s soundtrack notes, and new essays about the film, and, lastly, 6 collector’s art cards. In a time when modern horror desperately needs a solid sequel, “The Guest” is a good candidate with it’s captivating villain with so much story still left to tell. Hopefully, Second Sight Films’ irrefutable powerhouse release will ignite step-taking action amongst the rumors.

Grab it fast!  Liminted Edition “The Guest” on 4K UHD and Blu-ray Now at Amazon.com!