Hypothermia is EVIL’s Coldest Best Friend. “Frost” reviewed! (Cleopatra Entertainment and MVD Visual / Blu-ray)

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Seeking to reconnect with her estranged father, Grant, after five years, pregnant Abby drives up the mountainous rural cabin.    Though not the warmest welcome she was expecting with the sudden pregnancy announcement dropped into her father’s lap, the two manage to find common ground and connect again while reliving memories of Abby’s mother.  Their threadbare bond sparks an impromptu finishing trip to the local creek and as the begin to open up a little more with each other, their car accidently runs off the road and declines down a gradual mountain decline before becoming wedged in a thicket of tree branches.   Abby, stuck in the passenger seat facing a steep cliffside dropoff, is trapped and injured.  As Grant goes for help up the mountain, a severe storm rolls in bringing harsh weather and freezing temperatures down upon Abby who desperately tries to keep warm and prays to not go into early labor before emergency rescue can come to her aid. 

Snowy winter thrillers can be harrowingly exciting as much of the plot is fused with the icy and treacherous environment that make lives at stake higher. The snow and the ice become threatening characters and when combined with, at times, a more conventional and concentrated story antagonists, foreseeing path for survival can often feel frigidly impossible. There’s little room for error, there’s little room for warmth, but there’s always an unpredictable heap of bone-chilling snow as far as the eye can see and the elements are only but nature’s natural attributes man has yet to confidently conquer. “Frost” plays into mother nature’s strength when squalling down below freezing wind and snow upon a woman trapped in her own car. The 2022 released, Brandon Slagle (“Attack of the Unknown”) directed “Frost” goes for the jugular in a woman versus nature survival suspenser penned by frequent Slagle aide-de-camp Robert Thompson. The “Aftermath” and “Crossbreed” screenwriter adapts “Frost” from a story by “From Jennifer” writer-director James Cullen Bressack. Shot during the winter in the San Bernardino mountains, “Frost” is produced by the film’s star Devanny Pinn and Cleopatra Music’s Vice President Tim Tasui under the bankroll and production support of Bressack’s JCB Pictures, Inc., Snow Leopard Entertainment, Sandaled Kid Productions, Multiverse Cinema, and Cleopatra Entertainment founders Brian and Yvonne Perera along with Pinn’s co-star Vernon Wells and The Asylum’s Jarrett Furst serving as associate producers.

“Frost” fits into the solo survivalist subgenre category and only characterizes with three actors and a trained wolf. At the tip of the cast spear is independent film producer and broad-brush horror actress and filmmaker Devanny Pinn (“Nude Nuns with Big Guns,” “The Dawn”) in the principal role of Abby, a woman seeking to rekindle her relationship with her reclusive father living in the mountains because of her pregnancy. Genre legend actor Vernon Wells (“Innerspace, “Commando”) opposites Pinn as Abby’s estranged father who’s happy to see his daughter but feels initially threatened by the pregnancy announcement. Understanding the dynamic between Abby and her father was easy as we’ve seen this type of teetering relationship before from a slightly rebellious, new age child returning home to find familiarity with a widowed and waning parent. Pinn and Wells pull off the several stages of reconnecting from the heated exchanges to the sappy moments of loss to the unexpected joy the two characters can bring out of each other, but what’s more difficult to comprehend is the source material. What causes the father and daughter to divide in the first place and how does that division’s role play out in the perilous predicament of an isolating car crash during a severe winter storm? For the sake of critique, one could say that their dissolving disputable divisiveness ends in irony as if the cosmos ultimately pulls them a part in a fitful storm of rage. Wells does what he can to make the initial crash scene comforting while exuding a positive outcome, but the veteran actor appears blank to severity, especially as a woodsman father soon to be a grandfather. Much of “Frost’s” edge of your seat trepidation is shouldered upon Devanny Pinn to take reins of providing the emotional embattlement against the unforgiving weather elements and animal food chain. Armed with nothing more than the dwindling car’s battery to provide heat and a charged lighter as well as whatever lures and first aid accompaniments in her father’s tacklebox, a rather lightly dressed, nearly to term pregnant Abby is pinned to her seat, backed to the edge of a cliff, and must face the cold and wolves until her father retrieves a rescue party. Pinn does what she can to fill in a quivering battle between life and death with a story that’s heavily reliant on a cigarette outlet to ward off a snarling wolf and can burn through seat belts in a single charge. That’s independent move magic for you, folks!

Any kind of solo act surrounding a single location, remote at that, with no other actor or other mobile organic object to feed off and bounce off its energy is a difficult task to undertake, especially on a hyper cost-efficient production.  Slagle’s “Frost” is certainly not immune to the difficulties and the filmmakers, and his crew and cast are well aware of the challenges to make the survival thriller engaging despite fluffing and padding the story with filler clichés and needless setup.  The production and location value are comparatively impressive against the limitations of the budget with a practical and computer-generated encroaching tundra of snow, ice, and wind that can insidiously invade a cold snap into the viewers bones, creating that intended atmospheric of a hell freezing over complete with the teeth of a hungry wolf, a biting rime, and deadly falling icicles.  More obvious than what perhaps Slagle and creative team realize is that “Frost” relies terribly on the shocking climatic scene, a scene so unimaginable and so appalling that it hits all the right gut-checking spots, but the setup to the scene and all the trials and trepidation Abby has to endure doesn’t quite mesh with a well-rounded plight that usually cradles an emotional pull string for the viewer to continuously root for and support those in the thick of the predicament.   Honestly, that heaviness for empathy never provides the emotional weight toward the character and never sparks that flame of hope to keep us warm and fuzzy on the inside to then quickly be extinguished by merciless mother nature. There’s also the plausibility of survival and the way that survival instinct is applied that makes “Frost” too far-fetched to be a strong contender in the subgenre. At near subzero temps, Hypothermia can set in in under an hour. In “Frost,” three days of severe snowstorm pummeling has past, segued by scene time stamps, before Abby becomes a popsicle and is delusional. I’m pretty sure with almost nothing to eat and very little warmth, Abby would have expired in under 48 hours. Yet, the 72-hour mark becomes the most chilling, literally and figuratively, in “Frost’s” invigorating third act snack that’s more abominable than it is nutritional!

Cleopatra Entertainment, the cinematic subsidiary of Cleopatra Records delivers a 2-disc Blu-ray set for Brandon Slagle’s icy thriller “Frost.” Presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the 91-minute film has a crisp, lively picture compressed without much to complain about. Banding issues are held to barely any and the details don’t whiteout during the wintery whiteout, leaving key delineations to be present in bold contrasts, especially during the severe snowstorm scenes. Foliage looks thick and green before for the storm with a lot of good textural details on the impaling branches that perforate the car and Abby. The English language 5.1 surround mix conveys the problematic sound design issues that have been consistently found in many of Cleopatra’s releases. Mostly in regard to the dialogue tracks, the dialogue tracks pick up static and other minute ambient noise during microtonal intervals, creating an unwelcoming and stark contrast with a dialogue mix that cuts obviously cuts in and out between character speak and isn’t simultaneous with the score. However, much like with other Cleopatra releases, the score is production and distributor company’s best trademark with a full album including music from various artists, such as L. Shankar, Big Electric Cat, Terry Reid, Rick Wakeman, and amongst others. The 2nd disc, an audio CD, contains the 15-song soundtrack. Other physical noteworthy aspects of the release include the double-sided cover art – one filmic and the other CD listing with both include different variations of the front cover as well as a translucent Blu-ray snapper cast that adds to the snowy theme. Software bonus features include only the theatrical trailer and a still gallery slideshow. Exposure to “Frost” is deep freezing frills for most of the picture but if able to withstand the coldshoulder of cliches, the mare peaks with a blood-filled and tasty horrific morsel that makes the frippery first half worth the wait.

Get the Bluray and Soundtrack for “Frost!”

EVIL Says, Victor Crowley Who? “Freak” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)

Get Freaky with “Freak” on DVD at Amazon.com

Arthur Crenshaw – the name of a terrifying urban legend.  The story has it that the religious small town-born Arthur was malformed unlike anything anyone has ever seen and that the God-fearing townsfolk didn’t take kindly to his existed as Arthur was looked down upon as an abominable creation of Satan.  His parents, giving into constant community pressure, casted him out into the nearby woods to die alone.  Years later, campers would record that their food and supplies would go missing.  Some campers even went into the woods and never came out.  Present day, a group of campers reserve a campsite, seeking the thrill of the woods’ notorious backstory and for a little R&R on a quick weekend getaway, but the stories of the misshapen, monstrous Arthur Crenshaw are not just tarradiddles to give people the willies and for the youthful campers, a night under the stars has become a night of survival.

Looking for something different, unusual, and still carnage drunk in a disfigured, backwoods killer of a campy slasher?  Look no further!  Lucky Cerruti’s very own misunderstood reject Arthur Crenshaw is the type of “Freak” we’ve all been craving.  The 2020 American indie feature is the sophomore production from writer-director Cerruti who oversaw all the pre-, principle, and post- in the height of pandemic time.  The “Kindness of Strangers” filmmaker films “Freak” in New York’s picturesque Adirondack mountains surrounding the community of Ochiota and Cerruti’s able to capture a slither of the landscape beauty with the majority of shots constrained to closeups due to puppetry.  Yes!  Arthur Crenshaw is but a mere puppet with more than frightening features that makes him appear more alien than human.  “Freak’s” indie crew consists of James Bell on special effects with producers Matthew Sorensen, Kegan Rice, Jessica Fisher, Leslie Dame, and Robin Cerruti serving under multiple hats with cinematography, puppetry control, and creature design under directors Dead Vision Productions.

Consisting of mostly Adirondack local artists and actors, “Freak’s” casts yips with little bite to make Arthur Crenshaw’s wretched, hillbilly kill-monger. Unimpressive and uninspiring character buildups coupled with so-so first-time acting doesn’t exactly put one on edge for these unlucky campers’ survival. I realize that Cerruti attempts to parallel Crenshaw with the awkward tag-a-long little sister Jenna, played by independent painting artist Sasha Van Cott, by focusing on both of them being an outcast and misunderstood. Cott’s meek performance aligns with that element but the character, like the others, is terribly bland. Her brother Ryan, performed by independent musician Dorran Boucher, is portrayed as seemingly have little to do with Jenna in a big brother role that can be described as neither sympathetic or apathetic to his sibling and treats her more like just one of the friends, but encouraged by their parents to bring Jenna to socialize her into having…I don’t know what. Jenna does manage to have a spark with or soft spot for Ryan’s best friend Henry as she constantly sides with his oddball interest in the legend of Arthur Crenshaw. Her fascination keeps Henry interesting in a subconscious kind of way but the two are a mismatch from the start as he appears to be the cool kid or the jock trope of the group. “Freak” sacrifices up a platter of kill-fodder with throwaway roles by more feature film first timers in Annachristi Cordes, Hunter Wilson, Leslie Dame, Hope Stamper, and Lucky Currati in an intense introductory opener and Kent Streed as Arthur’s old man who gave a damn and one of the only principals to receive a proper personal history that provides depth and understanding.

“Freak” might have low marks in acting, but the self-labeled C-movie has straight up, grade-A kills. We’re not talking about a simple knife to the gut or a slice across the throat here. Arthur Crenshaw doesn’t quite know when to stop as that single slice turns into two slices, three slices, four slices, and on and on until the who head hangs barely on the sinew attaching the head to the rest of the body. You know when you’re dicing up chicken breast and that white tendon streaking through the raw white meat is so damn hard to cut through, it’s like that. There’s blood everywhere and then some. “Freak” is surprisingly and pleasantly gore-laden and that goes hand-in-hand with the antagonist’s physical existence as a rod puppet worked from behind under the guise of a green screen by creature designer and executive producer Matthew Sorenson. Sorenson’s visualization is quite the abstract concept in reality with reverse knee flamingo legs, essentially no torso, and a head with one big blue eyeball and snaggle teeth. Arthur reminds me a little of the aliens from the 1996 David Twohy alien conspiracy film “The Arrival.” Hell, he could have very well been a stand in. The puppet and the puppetry are quite crude but are profoundly effective, welcomely campy, and an ingenious way to make a horror film during pandemic pandemonium.

Wild Eye Releasing, along with distributor MVD Visual, get in bed with the “Freak” on region free DVD home video. The big question is is “Freak” considered a feature film since the runtime is only 52 minutes? Some would argue the not rated Lucky Cerruti production doesn’t make the cut. I would say so what? But I did find the short runtime does hurt the storyline that’s unable to beef up portions that severely lack substance, such as the campers. The DVD is presented in a widescreen format that doesn’t list the ratio on the cover but if I was a betting man, 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The digitally recorded video’s data decompresses are varying levels between from a high 4 to a low 7 Mbps as banding and digital noise inference sneak into on the low-lit scenes negligibly. The DVD lists the audio as stereo, but the release actually has an English Dolby Digital 5.1. In fact, for some reason, there are two of the same Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks without any metric differences available. Despite some crackling during the more intense audio moments, the audio tracks are pretty well balanced and keep most of the blights at bay. The bonus features include a nifty behind the scenes featurette that dives deep into creating “Freak” in a wholistic view, a directory’s commentary, and Wild Eye trailers. We want more of the “Freak,” more of Arthur Crenshaw, as the Lucky Cerruti and Matthew Sorenson have a goldmine of a cult slasher right at their fingertips as the potential next big backwoods franchise that’ll breathe new life into horror and provide the genre what it sorely needs and deserves. Now…where’s Part II: The Return of Arthur Crenshaw?!?

Get Freaky with “Freak” on DVD at Amazon.com

A Grand Tour of EVIL Only Costs Your Life. “The Curse of Dracula” reviewed! (MVDVisual / DVD)



Own the Curse….The Curse of Dracula on DVD at Amazon.com

Con-artist brothers Bojan and Marjan whip up a quick-cash scheme by price gouging tourists to roam the Slovenian grounds of the infamous Valburga castle, a restricted and vacant manor estate that was once owned by a ruthless inhabited, known by the people as the Baron of Blood, believed to be a cousin of the vampiric legend Count Dracula.  The lore itself would bring in lucrative customers and lucrative cash would be easily raked in or at least the brothers thought so until the types of tourists attracted to visiting Valburga castle are anything but easy targets with a pair of German alcoholic partiers looking for a good time, a sleazy Russian porn director scouting locations to shoot his two beautiful starlets, than demonists, goths in search to become vampires themselves, and Swedish demonists on the hunt for ultimate power.  Biting off more than they can chew with their new venture, Bojan and Marjan must also contend being trapped with an industrial-sized circular saw wielding maniac roaming the mazelike passageways of the castle. 

Let us preface this review with the “The Curse of Dracula” almost entirely has little to do with Count Dracula.  The original film title, “The Curse of Valburga” was altered to “The Curse of Dracula” in an appeal to a broader, Western audience who may not have a clue what or where Valburga is on a map and for those who do not know, Valburga is a quaint little settlement area in Slovenia, the birthplace of the 2019 film and the birth home of “Killbillies” writer-director Tomaz Gorkic.  Gorkic plays the Americanized game of Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon with a story that links Count Dracula to a mysterious Baron of Blood who once resided and laid down massacring roots in Valburga, but instead of a grave tone surrounding one aristocrat’s austere penchant for sadism, “The Curse of Dracula” plays out a dark horror-comedy with a cynical sense of humor and a punk-attired killer.  Gorkic coproduces the film with fellow “Killbillies” producer Nejc Saje for 666 Productions in association with Strup Production, MB Grip, NuFrame, Supermarket Production, and Sonolab.

The opening driver of the story is setup like a buddy comedy revolving around two brothers Marjan and Brojan (Jurij Drevensek and Mark Mandic) joined by business associate Ferdo (Ziga Fodransperg) who has the keys to their castle con and when I say keys the toe castle, I mean it literally as the owner of the security company that services over the grounds.  Sifting through their snarky teasing, you get the senses the three are close despite their tough guy act and jabs at one another who leveling onto Marjan price gouging unrestricted tourism plan.  While Marjan and Brojan are seemingly being carved out as principal characters, that feeling quickly diminishes upon the arrival of the tourist group that includes Sven (Niklas Kvarforth), a Swedish neo-necromancer clandestinely on the scour for the eye of the baron – yet, we’re never told what the eye of the baron is or specifically why Sven is searching for it other than it can summon demons, connecting back to the prologue scenes of staticky, post-industrial score with him conducting satanic-like ritualistic hand movements and unheard chanting verbiage. Then, you have the Russian porn director Vasily (Luka Cimpric) with his two floozies, Dasha (Zala Djuric) and Anastasya (Sasa Pavlin Stosic) trying to make sexy-time promo happen on the Baron’s rundown manor. However, a favorite out of the bunch are the German man (Jonas Znidarsic) and wife (Tanja Ribic) who just keep pulling beer from the wife’s tiny purse – a good gag by the way – and treat the whole contention and violence as one big party. Despite all their idiosyncrasies and motives, not a single one of them are redeemable from out of their petty and conceited intentions. “The Curse of Dracula” rounds out with Katarina Stegnar, Gregor Skocir, Odina Kerec, Matevz Loboda, Neza Blazic, and Anton Antolek as a one-of-a-kind subjugator of souls with his wild circular saw blade slingshot and Nazi helmet.

Now, the title already irks me. Insinuating or, better yet, incepting an idea that hapless tourists will be become victims of Dracula’s curse was a terribly misleading campaign strategy to get the Dracula, or just simply the vampiric, fanbase to hop aboard a quick cash in on the Lord of Darkness. However, “The Curse of Valburga” is an apt title for a slasher-survival tale around the sawblade killer who hunts trespassers for his crypt-dwelling clan in the cellar. Gorkic never fleshes out the enjoyable turn of events with the mysterious group that causes all of the tourists’ troubles in full disquisition and tries to sneakily skimp by with just a rudimentary, flyby explanation that doesn’t clearly paint the picture or really denote a reason. One thing Gorkic didn’t convey confidently was the appearance of the chief who wore a MM35 or MM40 style German helmet on top of a metal and chainmail masked face and sported a cutoff sleeve shirt while flinging giant-saws from a handheld slingshot rifle. I wanted to know that guy’s backstory! Yet, each character is cut short and never massaged with arc to care about and, frankly, wanted them all to feel the serration of the saw from how terribly poor they’re written. It’s as if the characters were farmed to be massacred, having no sense of purpose to live or garner audience sympathy to overcome the struggle, and just like the characters, the story is also equally deprived of a proper concluding finale that leaves us hanging, waiting for that satisfying high-five. The script written by Gorkic might be poor in arc development, but I will say the Slovenian filmmaker does have a small taste for comedy as there are moments that will have you chuckling, especially the phone call between Sven and Gregor Skocir in what’s llike a classic Abbott and Costello dialogue gag.

If you’ve never seen Slovenian horror, then I suggest checking out the bloody chuckles of Tomas Gorkic’s “The Curse of Dracula” now available on DVD distributed by MVDVisaul in collaboration with Jinga and Danse Macabre. The poorly designed DVD cover of a wide-eyed, gaping mouth vampire with fangs drawn superimposed behind a cracked open upright coffin with dirty/bloody hands stretched straight out overtop and bats positioned adjacent to the coffin on both sides doesn’t do this story an ounce of actual justice, but the DVD is presented in a widescreen 16X9 aspect ratio with a solid 5 to 6 Mbps of data transmission, rendering the picture fair for DVD image quality. Some of the details in the background and even on the characters are not as finely crisp but the picture maintains an above adequate quality. The English, Slovenian, Swedish, Russian, and German Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is nicely robust but offers the same quality as there Stereo 2.0 when toggling back and forth between the two audio options and never distinguishing the difference between the two. Dialogue is clear albeit the broken English and thick accents when characters are speaking English. There are option English subtitles; however, they do contain a handful of errors and are text size is a bit small so if you have a 42″ or smaller TV, you may need to squint. The release is region free, has a runtime of 82 minutes, is unrated, and does not contain any special features or bonus scenes during or after credits. “The Curse of Dracula” is a slaughter-horse of a different color with a fascinating villain and a blindsiding coven of flesh-craving basement dwellers that pivot the narrative in a wild direction but the story lacks comprehension that results dissatisfaction.

Own the Curse….The Curse of Dracula on DVD at Amazon.com

The Pangs of an EVIL Movie in “Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” reviewed!


Shane desperately desires to be a part in the making of a low-budget horror movie. Failure after failure of submitting to production studios who opt out rather than option his scripts and the discouraging financial hits with each festival entry, Shane and his girlfriend Chloe decide to venture into producing, writing, and shooting a film themselves. With the script still a work in progress, the promising title alone scores a film crew from his friends and roommates, generate a small fortune of crowdfunded cash, a leading scream queen from the skanky residue poles of a strip club, and a set location provided by a local video store clerk and schlocky indie horror filmmaker named Machete Mike. As the young film crew bumbles through raising more money and the headaches of production woes without a completed script, a demented clan of hardcore snuff and cannibalistic filmmakers seek a hostile takeover of their ambitious endeavor that’ll produce authentic screams and real blood, the very basic foundations of a good horror movie.

You have to admit it. “Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” is an appetizing, exploitation glazed carrot of a title, a salivating lure that’s hard to ignore for any enthusiast for licentious material. Brazilian born director, Paulo Biscaia Filho, helms the Big House PIctures and Vigor Mortis Apresentam production of an ostensibly horror-comedy that leisurely alters into a slasher-survival-esque structure courted with all the admirations of torture porn with a pinch of homage toward the iconic Sawyer family without a Texas size chainsaw wielding maniac wearing a flesh mask. Blueprinted as a meta-horror with twists and turns galore, “Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains,” by name alone, doesn’t take itself seriously as an inebriated version of the genre it represents and layers to weave a non-linear, outlier story into the heart of the plot, sewn together by the co-producer Gannaway and went in and out of production in 20 or so days to finally hit festival markets a year later in 2018.

While Shane might feel like the focus of the story, Amber and Chloe undercut his presence and steal his thunder as the naïvely ambitious filmmaker with their final girl fight and vengeance. Amber’s the stripper whose yearning for her spot in the limelight no matter how small and she’s portrayed by prominent Manga voice actress Elizabeth Maxwell (“Dragon Ball Super”) and Maxwell is paired with “Last Girl Standing’s” Kelsey Pribilski in Chloe, initially as a mortal enemy toward Amber when the issue arises of the most common, basic, and core division between women – men. Yet, Amber and Chloe dominate the principal antagonists whose subtle quarrels frame an mulishness and aversion relationship build a stronger support for one another when they come toe-to-toe with utter sadism that threatens what collectively matters most to them. Maxwell and Pribilski demonstrate the conventional markings of the popular final girl trope, acting as a single unit, while Ezekiel Swinford bares the helpless victim and ignorant filmmaker, Shane, to be in the crosshairs of death and for the two corners of his semi-triangular love affair to be his saviors. Swinford acts the giddy fool well enough to warrant his character’s witless person in distress calling. Machete Mike lastly, but not at the least, rounds out the core four personas from Don Daro. The “Sex Terrorists on Wheels” actor has little-to-no kindness in his face, marking him intriguing and guileful as the video store clerk whose more than what meets the eye. Ariana Guerra (“Hollow Scream”), Lindsey Lemke, Gary Kent (“Bonehill Road”), Ammie Masterson, Larry Jack Dotson (“Humans vs Zombies”), Kaci Beeler, Michael Moford, Woody Wilson Hall, Ken Edwards, and professional bassist musician in the band Drag, Dominique Davalos “Howard the Duck”), co-star.

“Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” resembles a movie inside a movie that tries to pull a fast one over the audiences with an open for interpretation of the true nature of events and leaving those once thrilled at firsts sight of the title moviegoers kind of stun like a mouse batted over the head right before being fed to the famished pit viper. Filho and Gannaway’s film does swallow you whole, down it’s gullet, and dropping you right into the stomach acids that begins to dissolve the disillusion of what was imagined from the get-go. Nothing wrong with some slight of hand, but the overall result meanders on the promise of being hyper meta; an attempt to disrupt the conventional and tummy tuck in the tropes from being too loose and obviously exposed. The attempt is well intentioned, but that’s where the summiting the mountain ceases, at attempted, with a great, low-budget desired, premise aimed to upheave the genre and the audience’s expectations, whirl them all into a massive maelstrom, and spit out a “I fooled you!” expose. One aspect that made the grade were the Creeper Labs FX’s Andy Arrasmith and artist Shelly Denning’s special effects work that held a modest candor of blood and severity when the proverbial shit hit the fan. Heads being lopped off, eviscerated stomachs with guts oozing out, and just enough chainsawing and machete work to go around to properly finish the beautifying of “Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” appropriately.

Rack’em and hack’em those chaste cheerleaders with a Blu-ray copy of “Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” distributed as the 10th spine from the wild cinema aficionados of Darkside Releasing and MVDVisual. The Blu-ray is presented unrated and in 1080p on a BD-25 with a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The estimated $70,000 crowdfunded budget has a rather aesthetic and sleek digitally recorded imagery, perky with natural lighting and dark tint where appropriate, and is an overall pleasant outcome on a moderately robust budget for indie horror out of Austin, Texas. The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track maintained a balancing act between dialogue and score where the two fought for priority. Dialogue should always have right of way unless intended not, but for the sake of “Virgin’s” story, there’s doubt that drowning out the dialogue momentarily was purposeful. Bonus material includes Brazilian promotional videos, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Bloorhouse Tour with Gary Gannaway being the tour guide himself, a Machete Mike introduction version of the film, and a 16 page booklet that includes stills, original sell sheet cover art, and the birth of the project penned by Gannaway. “Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” is meta-sexy, meta-slasher, and meta-fun, but wanders into meta territory a little too long for comfort while still positioning a piecemeal survival horror with fine talent and high kill count.

“Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” available on Blu-ray!

Evil Loves to Pursue and Kill for Sport! “Happy Hunting” Review!


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.