After receiving a distressing call warranting a trip to Mexico, alcoholic and drug dealer Warran Novak attempts to sell half cooked crystal meth to junkies that ends in two fatalities and two armed drug pushers in hot pursuit of Warren after he steals their cash for the road trip to the border. Before entering Mexico after a tireless drive and unaware of where to exactly go next once crossed the border, the fallen military soldier rents a motel room in the rundown town of Bedford Flats, a once thriving community lush with value and tourism derived from it’s once popular hunting tradition of bison and other wildlife. Now that the wildlife has dried up, Bedford Flats has landed in a stage of an ugly depression and to keep on the tradition of hunting, the foundation of which Bedford Flats has been built, the towns people gather to conduct a merciless hunting expedition of drifters and unsavory folk. Warren and his two pursuers, plus a homeless Mexican and the town drunk, are forced to participate in the hunt as prey with only their able bodies to carry themselves across the salt flats and seek shelter in the rocky landscape just beyond, but Warren decides to fight back against the towns’ most capable hunters in a twisted game of cat-and-mouse.
Western horror has always been a fascinating subgenre with a bleak and barren landscape denizened with colorful, hellbent characters committing one of three sole acts: taking, surviving, or dying. Selective Collective and Waterstone Entertainment’s “Happy Hunting” steps ever so lightly beyond the border into the realm of modern western horror involving a deranged game of hunting and killing humans for sport backdropped mostly in Bombay Beach, California and written and directed by first time feature film filmmakers Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson, who is one of the sons of Hollywood superstar, and who knows all about western dystopias, Mel Gibson (“Mad Max”). Louie Gibson might have learned a thing or two from his “Apocalypto” directing old man by delivering the brash ferocity and the stoned-heart, icy personas into the story and into the shot twisting an already vulnerable situation into sheer, bite-the-bullet terror.
Martin Dingle Wall delivers every shaky alcoholic tremor as drifter Warren Novak. Wall’s soft eyes, but rugged appeal justifies the 46-year-old actor as an unlikely, likable hero even though Warren will do just about anything for money and for the drink. Wall is able to tap into Warren’s subtle high intelligence and exploit it for the screen against a variety of aberrant game hunters by actors including “Devil Girls'” C.J. Baker, Michael Tipps, Kenneth Billings, and Liesel Handson of “Planet of the Vampire Women.” Dietsch and Gibson pick out one hunter to be the most versatile bad guy in Ken Lally. Lally, whose voice has captured legendary video game characters such as Mortal Kombat’s Smoke, Goro, and Shinnok, brings that malevolent tone to the silver screen as Bedford Flats all around nice guy, Steve Patterson. Of course, “all around nice guy” is an oxymoron in “Happy Hunting” because there are no such thing as nice guys in Bedford Flats, not even the crooked Sheriff Burnside (“Sasquatch Hunters'” Gary Sturm) who acts as the maestro for Bedford Flat’s great annual hunt.
What’s interesting about the film is that there is no love interest which is a rarity; instead, Warren is motivated by a mysterious phone call regarding a possible Mexican love child in the need of help. The mysterious plea over the phone line provides Warren with a purpose in this purposeless life, but that purpose is amplified by the very abrupt detour by a deranged town seeking to rid, what they consider to be, lowlife scum. Another side to Warren’s plight is that the whole sadistic game, the entire inhuman hunt, could be a figment of his withdrawal. Being a drifter and a person who doesn’t amount to much, Warren self worth goes in and out of various stages of withdrawal throughout the duration, before and during life stakes, with dropped dialogue and visible hints about symptoms of going cold turkey. Lets not forget to mention that the directors make an elucidation of Warren’s withdrawals with visions of a dead man, one in which Warren kills prior to his trek to the border, conversing with him, providing him undue advice during the predicament. Then, there’s the very end scene which shoots the likelihood of Warren’s version realism and sanity right out the window and begs the question if everything Warren went through, every struggle, and every death experienced was all inside his head.
“Happy Hunting” has been released on DVD courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment. The region 4 DVD is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio that’s utterly gorgeous and stupefyingly frightening in the long and wide shots of Bombay Beach’s desert wasteland. Heavy in dusty yellow and rich in lifeless landscape, the color palette is understandably one-sided, but the merit is in the detail of every dry land crack and every minuscule dust bite being disseminated about with every action. The English 5.1 Dolby audio track has balance, range, and fidelity. Dialogue’s clear and prominent, even with Martin Dingle Wall’s slightly raspy and sluggish deliveries. A blight on the DVD is the bonus material and that goes without saying because a single extra doesn’t grace the package, constructing an anemic, film-only DVD presentation of Joe Diestsch and Louie Gibson’s first feature run. However, “Happy Hunting” re-illuminates Western horror stark with a dire need for survival during trying times and Joe Diestch and Louie Gibson have fashioned a subtle analogy of what life would be like in a supposed Trump America where the U.S.-Mexico border wall would be infact 10 feet high, “deplorable” people are axed from today’s American society, and the small rural, once thriving, communities are stuck in the past with outdated viewpoints and assumptions of how maintain existence in a world changing around them. In the end, “Happy Hunting” goes beyond Western horror into being an insightful dystopia of exploitive western survival horror.
While embarking through Kentucky on a camping road trip, four friends make a pit stop at a Kentuckian scream park called Talon Falls, suggested to them by squirrelly and unusual gas station attendant. As they work their way through a labyrinth of gore and torture, the realization that the local attraction harnesses realistic inflictions of pain hits them squarely in the jaw as they become unwilling participants instilled into the hyper-horrific entertainment that’s recorded onto a snuff tape. In order to not be strapped to a jerry-rigged electrocution chair or be the guinea pig for a sadistic mad doctor with a niche for painful exploratory surgery, they must fight the entire company of Talon Falls’ scream park in order to not be a piece of recorded snuff.
“Talon Falls” is the 2017 torture and survival horror named after and shot on location at the real life scream park located in Melber, Kentucky and written, directed, and co-produced by indie filmmaker Joshua Shreve. Shreve’s story tip-toes around being a familiar narrative that might not seem so different from other works ranging from Nimród Antal “Vacancy” to maybe even Rob Zombie’s murder-world fun-n-games “31,” but if you take a step back and take a long, hard look at “Talon Falls'” gore scenes that don’t just secretly record the assortment of death, but exhibits the ghastly torture for the entire public eye to see. If you’ve been to a Halloween Horror theme park, you know very well the adrenaline pumps, the hearts thump, and the fear tops into a knot in your throat and “Talon Falls” simply adds that what if factor. What if it’s not fake? What if these people being dismembered and vilely tortured are ultimately put to death right before our eyes, like some Captain Spaulding backwoods horror show with a side bucket of his famous fried chicken?
In any case, the four friends, made up of two couples, don’t have one ounce of star power behind their name, but each one of them spearhead the project with enough enthusiasm and gusto that there’s no short fall of trepidation even if the level of fear stalls slightly on overkill at times. Brad Bell, Jordyn Rudolph, Sean Rudolph, and Morgan Wiggins don’t necessary have the on-screen chemistry as friends or couples, even if Sean and Jordyn Rudolph are an offscreen husband and wife, but the palpitating consternation dynamic solidly sells when all hell breaks loose inside the walls of Talon Falls. Between Jordyn Rudolph and Morgan Wiggins, either actress could be a vocal stretching scream queen, especially Wiggins who reaches ranges that could pierce eardrums.
When the spectrum-filled makeup palettes and every single destructive deconstruction prop is laid out at your finger tips, the special effects comes as second nature and to introduce a high level of design detail to the already elaborate set, inside a really monstrous horror park, then “Talon Falls” without a doubt will walk, talk, and look like a top-notch horror film. However, not all aspects are perfect with the Shreve film, produced by Kent Hammond and Todd Ferren, as the story progression with the characters becomes minimized that result in haphazard camaraderie between the friends who are more turnstile acquaintances than lustful lovers or deep-rooted long time friends. Also, characters make hot-headed or stupid-minded questionable decisions when in hot pursuit of an axe-wielding, piggy-masked killer and the scribing of the irresponsible decisions when safely stowed away when being pursued, roots out Shreve’s inexperience in a time of a building block career.
MVDVisual and Lost Empire present “Talon Falls,” the Terror Films and Flashback Pictures production, onto DVD home entertainment in a widescreen 2.35:1 that atheistically gritty in the detail. Even the darker scenes, with well established and positioned shadowing, bring substantial substance to liven up and level up this independent feature from Kentucky. The 5.1 surround sound track has stable range through and through with a caustic toned score to convey terror and a clear and prominent dialogue track that doesn’t muddle through a surplus of ambient tracks. Bonus material include a behind-the-scenes featurette that runs through a randomizer of footage markers and some bloopers. A theatrical trailer is also included. Josh Shreve can only get better from his Sophomore film as a director whose hot off his solid genre entry in “Talon Falls” with the aid of the scream park’s unlimited horror resources and though popping with toe-nail pulling moments, the extremely short runtime of 75 minutes suggests a stiffened premise with undercooked character development that diminish that high production value and bloody effects.
Unable to escape her past, Rachel’s unforgettable terrors stem from being the center of a grisly mass murder that involved the death of all her close friends whom were all vacationing at a secluded cabin in the woods. Years later, Rachel, still haunted by the frozen and bloodied faces of her dead friends, reluctantly decides upon attending a spring break getaway with a group of new, still very much alive, school friends; a spring break trip that’s not on a tropical beach, but in a remote cabin. She desperately hopes to face her past and her relentless fear from a killer who was never caught. Through the typical vices that are involved in high schooler hijinks, Rachel tries to cope with not only her fears, but with also her degenerate boyfriend who gawks at any passing woman that makes two second eye contact with him and her superficial stoner friends who relish in their immature partying. As night falls, one-by-one her friends start to die brutally, just like before, and their lifeless bodies vanish, returning Rachel to relive a world of horror that pits her once again against the same maniac as before.
After a brilliant and bloody marketing campaign that involved posters of gore-splattered, half-naked bodies and a slew of “Clue”-esque, whodunit, story characters, “WTF!” has been the Peter Herro directed slasher constantly blipping on my upcoming release radar. “WTF!” is Herro’s breakout feature film debut that lives to tell death in the most formulaic slasher way that’s intentionally campy, persistently raunchy, and keeps you guessing until the end. Despite having character archetypes that genetically makeup the cast in the conventional slasher genre – a stoner, a socialite hottie, a muscular jerk, etc – there is not one single character with redeemable values in the bunch, except for Rachel who constantly shells out her conservative hesitations, and even when faced with their cat-and-mouse induced mortality, Herro, and fellow co-writers Adam Buchalter and Christopher Lawrence Centanni, design an unfortunate bunch of grade-A assholes who could do the world a favor and die a horrible death.
Do you recall my review from last year for the 2015 thriller “The Horror” directed by Jerry J. White III? If you do, you may remember co-star Callie Ott! Ott is back on the scene, starring as Rachel, the traumatized young lady trying to get back on that horse to face her fears, and this leading lady has come a long way to become a scream queen in Herro’s “WTF!” Ott’s joined by two other female co-stars, “Awaken the Shadowman’s” Andrea Hunt and “Hatchet II’s” Sarah Agor, as a pair of girlfriends hellbent to one up each other. When compared to the male characters, Hunt and Agor own their shamelessness and are likable despite their ruthless snobbish attitudes. For the bros, Benjamin Norris, Adam Foster, and Johnny James Fiore are respectively the childish stoner, the ambiguously gay prep, the feverishly perverted jock and, together, they perfectly pitch a tri-force of juvenile incompetence with endless depravities on a continuous repeat cycle. They portray the type of characters you hope, or you pray to God, that they go first and go painfully. Painfully slow, if possible. Nicholas James Reilly rounds out the group of friends as Rachel’s brother, Toby, who tags along to make sure Rachel doesn’t have a mental moment during what should be a fun and relaxed spring break. Oh, and Perez Hilton makes a brief cameo appearance as a pool party host, flavoring his scenes with an exaggerated comedy that’s very similar to his real life and persona.
“WTF!” is a clichéd junket. The over-the-top, stereotypical characters develop like defrosting slabs of beef that are massaged with well-seasoned genre-staple hallmarks, soon to be ready to be filleted into murdered medallions for our viewing pleasure after we’ve suffered the exhaustion over the characters brutal unfiltered banter. Think Perez Hilton and then double the personality. While the characters marinate in moronity, Herro and his crew are able to pull off a back-and-forth of Rachel’s pre- and postmortem experience with interrogation scenes that sweat Rachel to clue in the clueless detectives with the meat of the story. There’s also a competing story involving Rachel at a family wake that’ll become less perplexing when explained in the finale. I found myself not able to grasp entirely who the killer might be until about half the bodies pile up, making “WTF!” an effective slasher with ORLY? capping it off. However, I do grouse with the fact that “WTF!” was suppose to bring that killer mayhem, a tour de force bloodbath, that ultimate gore-soaked slasher as presumably promised in those awesome marketing posters; instead, blood didn’t flow, it merely dripped off into silhouette shadows and the fleeting off-screen moments.
Slathered heavily with many obvious “what the fucks” in the dialogue, Peter Herro does give a fuck with “WTF!” as he lathers his film into an ode to the slasher genre. The Cthulhu Crush Production will be released nationwide on VOD courtesy of Midnight Releasing come August 1st and will be available on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Xbox, Vimeo, Steam, Vudu and Google Play. I was provided with a screener disc so I’m unable to comment on video and audio quality and there were no extras included on the disc aside from a static menu. “WTF!” is a must-see. A definite homage to the butchery of trashy teens with a small gratuitous nudity cherry on top. Make sure to catch it August 1st with your video on demand provider.
The trailer for this year’s Jigsaw (Saw 8) has arrived online! The San Diego Comic Con red band trailer promises to bring back the grisly games, the blood, and the terror. You can’t have Halloween without the Jigsaw Killer as the two of synonymous and expect Jigsaw, who was sorely missed over these passed few years, to ramp up his games this October 27th!
One of the highest grossing Horror franchises of all time is back, taking the Jigsaw killer’s signature brand of twisted scenarios to the next level.
Cast: Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Clé Bennett, Hannah Emily Anderson, Laura Vandervoort (“Bitten”), Mandela Van Peebles, Paul Braunstein, Brittany Allen, Josiah Black
Directed by: The Spierig Brothers (“Undead” and “Daybreakers”)
Written by: Josh Stolberg & Peter Goldfinger
Produced by: Oren Koules, Mark Burg, Greg Hoffman
A Lionsgate release, Twisted Pictures presents, a Burg/Koules/Hoffman production.
A small and sleepy town has a haunting and grisly past. Old man Robert Bowery, stricken with a degenerative eye disease, once believed his failing eyesight would return if he gouged and digested the eyes of young children. Younger the eyes, the better. Thought to be long dead, Robert Bowery’s legacy of sadistic evil has left a dreadful impact on the town, so much so that the young townie and Sheriff’s daughter, Helen Connolly, still feels the long lasting fright of the horrific stories of Bowery’s hide-and-seek hunt of his adolescent victims at his dilapidated campground compound which he knew every inch of it’s isolated wooded location. When Helen is persuaded by her father to babysit Lucas, a little boy whose family is new in town, she begrudgingly accepts to take care of the boy in Robert Bowery’s former home, but Lucas goes missing during the middle of the night. Helen tracks him down to Bowery’s rundown hunting ground where the child eater lies in wait to sink his razor sharp teeth into children’s eyes and burst their anatomical fluids!
Based upon the short film of the same title, “Child Eater” is director Erlingur Thoroddsen’s unholy birth of a slasher paragon. The subtle, patient approach Thoroddsen establishes stretches an unlimited amount of a brooding atmosphere that compliments the gangly stature and unpigmented color of the demon-looking Robert Bowery. With Bowery’s round, tinted spectacles, thin whipping cane, and bald top, the fragile elderly have a new heroic face when combating youthful brats. Thoroddsen, who also penned the script, purposefully leaves Bowery in an ambiguous light, never really obtaining a good solid shot of the villain’s icy and bleak veneer until near the very end, that mystifies a character with such a monolithic and infamous lore surrounding him. Every character in town knows one version or another the story of Robert Bowery and his sick obsession of regenerative eye method, but not one person can put truth to the plague of his affliction and that makes the town stain that more tough to remove.
Cait Bliss returns as Helen Connolly from the 2012 short as the conflicted heroine with change of heart toward her perspective on children, especially when feels obligated in her duty to serve and protect a snatched Lucas. Bliss feels a little too old for the role that involves her character living with her Sheriff father, but Helen might be part of the millennial group where you live with your folks until your thirty or older; yet Bliss teeters on the fine line of being a final girl, similar to Heather Lagenkamp’s Nancy in “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” turning her entitled life of aimless wandering into one possibly worth living and fighting for once the life changing ordeal is over. “You Can’t Kill Stephen King’s” Jason Martin provides the elephant ears, bald head, and lanky features that spectacularly builds Robert Bowery and Martin also provides a persona for a character whose always in the shadows, intoxicating the scene when visible with a nefariously bowie knife grin under a pair of Nazi-era mad scientist eyewear. Melinda Chilton, Brandon Smalls, Colin Critchley, Dave Klasko, James Wilcox, Andrew Kaempfer, and Kara Durrett make up the remaining cast in “Child Eater,” a unforgettable dooming blood junket.
Thoroddsen masterfully crafts “Child Eater’s” unsettling composure with unrivaled pacing, well edited jump scares, and an unchained animalistic killer crutched on sense other than his sight and who wouldn’t love a wretch plucking out peepers from eye sockets or ripping out jugulars with a single forceful bite? Robert Bowery could be a villainous idol and deservingly needs to be just that, but the vast weight of the Bowery mythos was attempted to be explained in too little of narrative run time, killing much of the hype that engulf’s his presence. The nearly unexplained death defiance follows into the trope trap similar to that of Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, but the background provided on Bowery is unique, stemming from a vague portion of German and Polish folklore in which the latter may explain the child eater’s power, donned symbolically and, perhaps, even physically given his ability to be in the right place at the right time almost in simultaneous moments, that has been granted by the Devil.
Technically, I adore much of Thoroddsen’s slasheresque style blended with a calming patient that’s nearly unseen in the slasher genre. The only technical aspect I was not fond of was the fish eye lens used mainly in the beginning that spun a sickening wave of nausea through my corneas, the same sensation felt by viewers watching the jerky motions of a handheld found footage film. Still, Thoroddsen’s use of space, lighting, and special effects by Fiona Tyson states more than just another indie production and mesh those attributes with a superbly captivating and haunting string score by Einar Sv. Tryggvason and “Child Eater” strives further from being just another horrendously dubbed horror shunned aside for it’s nothing new attitude.
Black Stork Productions in association with Wheelhouse Creative and Blue Fox Entertainment deliver 82 minutes of toe curling fear in 2016’s “Child Eater.” MVDVisual distributes the Elingur Thoroddsen film onto a region free, not rated DVD that’s presented with an Anamoprhic Widescreen 1.85:1 presentation that’s definitely sharp even during the film’s mostly nighttime scenes. There are two audio options available: a Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 and a stereo 2.0. The 5.1 draws back the dialogue leaving more room for Tryggvason’s excellent score. Bonus features include a theatrical trailer, deleted scenes, and an audio commentary with director Erlingur Thoroddsen and stars Cait Bliss and Jason Martin. The deleted scenes leave good insight, explaining some scenes that might need more detailed clarification, and round out a rough edges. “Child Eater” eats into being an well played atmospheric horror on a budget with a rememberable child predator who can go eye-to-eye with foundational renaissance slashers!