When developer project manager Daniel, on the verge of a lucrative deal in flattening an old rental property , meets Nina, a clairvoyant who rents space on the property, an mystifying, and on the house, psychic reading opens up old wounds of Daniel’s previous life involving the death of his beloved artist wife, Maggie. The successful developer becomes frantically obsessed with reaching Maggie from the other side, believing he is paying Nina handsomely to be a vessel conduit, but as a single mother on the verge of losing everything, Nina exploits Daniel’s fixation on the past that’s more dangerous than initially presumed. Daniel and Nina become sexually and spiritually entangled on two false pretense fronts while behind the scenes, a malevolent presence orchestrates a sinister campaign of perverse revenge.
In her fiction feature film debut, Ilana Rein writes and directs “Perception,” a 2018 suspense thriller aimed unsheathe and reactivate the agonizing secrets and those who reap the benefits from them. Rein, who previously helmed documentaries that includes the award winning Battlestar Galatica fandom documentary, “We Are All Cyclons, pivots from non-fiction into creative invention alongside producer and writing partner Brian Smith. “Perception” tackles various themes from severe mental illness, to dangerous obsession, to how we initially and naively perceive individuals without knowing exactly who they really are, especially when they’re in the white collar, high dollar, social category. Rein focuses on rooting out psychotic and sociopathic qualities through the power of flashbacks while chucking in a scornful spirit into the background for good climatic measure.
“Perception” perceives hard bodies and chiseled faces over a few recognizable ones, which typically isn’t a bad aspect of filmmaking but may not draw a wide viewership. Though in the entertainment industry for some time, Wes Ramsey is one of those fresh faces, headlining as Daniel, the successful developer with an unhealthy mania for his deceased wife. Ramsey has seen more roles in television than in feature films, but the “Brotherhood of Blood” and “Dracula’s Guest” actor pockets horror theatrics here and there and uses his tall, dark, and handsome charm to be a good source for Daniel as the presumptuous, if not stereotypical, good guy. Opposite Ramsey is Meera Rohit Kumbhani, an Indian American actress with beautiful big and round eyes, to star as the clairvoyant Nina. Kumbhani has solid onscreen sincerity and a sexiness to match, but as Ninia’s has a principle crises, Kumbhani is able to sell practically a RickRolls performance that fools us all as uncertainty clouds judgement about her ethics when it’s whether to exploit a desperate widow or pay for her troubled young son’s educational necessities. Together, Ramsey and Kumbhani contently compliment each other’s performances and when you mixed the specter playing Chaitlin Mehner in flashback sequences, an out-of-body love triangle experience ensues. Rounding out the cast is Max Jenkins, J Ro, Vee Kumari, and J. Barrett Cooper as the only face I recognize more recently from Nathan Thomas Millinar’s “A Wish for the Dead.”
The depth of the story, especially with main characters Daniel and Nina, really hinders judgement on the outputted result. Not enough vivid and harrowing memories of Daniel and Maggie’s rocky relationship stir very little toward a stroppy receipt for disaster. Their coupling went from casual to 120 mph in two scenes flat never laying down a sturdy foundation on why viewers should put stock into their story if there’s no stock to really sell. Same can be said for Nina and her son’s simmering obtuse relationship where Nina believes all is hunky-dory, despite her son’s suddenly mute stature, and her unmotherly attentiveness to his disturbingly illustrated clues to his inner demons. Stronger supporting characters saw through the boy’s facade, such as Nina’s friend J Ro (who plays himself, by the way) and her mother; both of whom are on the polar opposite sides of the clairvoyant spectrum. Those underwhelming characters flaws suck the energy out from the main arteries in Daniel and Nina’s carnal exploits and meddling to thwart the very fiber of “Perception’s” thrilling suspense.
Ilana Rein’s “Perception” comes to DVD home video courtesy of Gravitas Ventures and presented into a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ration. Image quality is obvious clean as with all digitally shot, yet the hues are a slightly warm, favoring more of a yellowish tint into every scene, and while maintaining solid definition, some scenes bask in a softer glow at times. Stylistically, not much to report as the film follows conventional strides. The English language 5.1 surround sound has strong, dialogue favoring, and balanced with depth and range. There is also a dual channel track available, but not really needed, as enough dramatics flare up to tip into the five channel. As bonus features go, there are none. Ilana Rein’s debut into the feature film market could have been worse, but “Perception” is a strong entry into the horror-thriller market with some Hitchcockian undertones. Definitely sexy and psychotic, “Perception” puts onto a pedastal humanity’s worst when the sheep’s clothing has finally shed and that’s worth reviewing.
Flustered about the severe flop of her latest book, crime novelist Robin Richards encounters writers’ block as a result. Losing inspiration in the big city with her droll boy-toy, her publisher recommends a visit to the scenic Swedish countryside as a change of pace that’ll remove her out from the comfortable surroundings and, hopefully, begin to craft new ideas for a rebound book. Totally out of her element quartered inside a farm residence, Richards can’t help to investigate her peculiar hosts and a chauffeur, a super fan who is besotted with her while his wife voices her utter disdain for the writer, but their odd behaviors stimulate inspiration for her work beyond her ability to observe that something is dreadfully and dangerously wrong with them.
From a title that can be interpreted as an oxy-moron, “Blood Paradise” spills onto the screen as a sexy suspense-thriller with pinpoint-peppered dry comedy. The Swedish bred film is directed by Patrick von Barkenberg, who also has an important-minor role contribution to the narrative as well as co-written alongside the film’s lead, Andréa Winter, that proposes total control over the juxtaposition of not only the sane versus the insane, but also enthralls with a crime storyteller from the city thrust into her own calamitous tale of murder on the rural fringes. Barkenberg and Winter have poised chemistry weaving a story that’s mostly building the bizarre attributes of characters with even Robin Richards’ pooled into that group being a stranger in a strange land; the filmmakers’ past collaborations of short films, including “A Stranger Without” and “A Little Bit of Bad,” firmly establishes them as being the right kind auteurs for the job.
As stated in the above, Andréa Winter stars as Robin Richards, an adventurously alluring writer willing to try anything to get her career back on track. Winter, who is also an electro indie pop singer in Baby Yaga, is as stunning at her performance as she is in her natural beauty with a role that tenaciously exhibits her uneasiness with the locals and their bare necessities while also not being afraid to bare nearly all herself in compromising positions and places. While Robin is most solitary in conversation as she is interactions with other characters, there’s great dynamic contrast with Hans. Hans Bubi and, yes, if you say it out loud, a definite nod to a memorable line from “Die Hard.” Played by Christer Cavallius in his sole imdb.com credit, Cavallius’s wide-eyed and big smile below his shoulder length hair makes him a comical to a point and when you add Hans’ current hell of a marital status with a potted plants devoted woman and his mental blocking obsession with Robin Richards, the overly flawed and desperately optimistic character has hopes and dreams from a slim chance opening that he is hesitant in completely seizing, though we, and even perhaps Hans himself, knows the outcome if he took the risk. Another character highly involved in Richards’ circle of exchanges is with the farmer, Rolf, played by Rolf Brunnström. Rolf is a seriously complex character, an irresistible mystery to the author who spies on his enigmatic tasks involving a locked barn with windows covered with plastic. Rolf’s detached and impassive with his wife’s death that looms throughout the story and Brunnström, a middle-aged man, turns out to be more than his simple life implies. “Blood Paradise” remaining cast includes Martina Novak, Ingrid Hedström, Ellinor Berglund, and Frankie Batista.
Finding the comedy in a film like “Blood Paradise” might be a task suited for people with a dark sense of humor, but the quality is present and can be compared to the offbeat nature that Eli Roth subtly nurtured in his breakout flesh-eating squeamish-er “Cabin Fever.” Dry and restrained, the comedy is dialed down to a low-lying hum in “Blood Paradise,” honing in frequently on the sexualized suspense that’s audience attractive and runs parallel with Robin Richards profession as a crime novelist who pens tales involving gimp-cladded deviants, and the story simmers to a boil, reducing down story intricacies into an unraveled macabre of things once dead are now very much alive in transcendence, just like a good crime narrative should unfold.
Gripping with toe-curling tension, “Blood Paradise” arrives on a Blu-ray home video courtesy of the Philadelphia based distribution company, Artsploitation Films. Presented in HD, full 1080p anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Artsploitation Films has a remarkable looking release on their hands that’s soft where intended and detailed where necessary, registering a vast palette of rich colors thats typical with digital films recorded with an Arri camera, as listed on the internet movie data base. The English and Swedish 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound has an equally good and clean facet of range and depth for a rather subdued thriller that’s more mystery, than panic stricken. Soundtrack by Andréa Winter adds a bit of lively-atrocity synth that doesn’t push through enough to be a factor in it’s assimilation between the ambience and dialogue tracks. Bonus material includes three deleted scenes and two music videos by Baby Yaga – “Dreamer” and “You and Me” – that feature artistic renders of the film. “Blood Paradise” is no tick sipping on sangre-sangrias on a beach somewhere. Patrick von Barkenberg’s “Blood Paradise” captivates in the inexplicable without sheering away from fraught character contexts while still maintaining a healthy dose of sex appeal and blood.
Scott and Annie Russell have it all. Two successful millennials living and working comfortably and successfully in urban San Francisco. There’s just one issue with their life, Annie wants children to raise outside the city. Their house hunting ventures takes them more than an hour outside the city to wine country, Napa Valley, where a serene and beautiful English style cottage rests privately around a nature preserve and becomes the ideal home prospect for Annie. The homeowner, Charlie Peck, seems eager for the married couple to purchase his home that has been in his family for three generations, even knocking down the price and leaving all the furnishings to sweeten the deal. After purchasing the house of Annie’s dreams, Scott makes due with his work in San Francisco, leaving Annie home alone for most of the week, but when Charlie keeps showing up at their doorstep, a frustrated Scott knows something just isn’t normal about the former owner who develops an obsessive fascination with his wife and won’t let go of his beloved home so easily.
From Deon Taylor, the director of “Traffik,” comes the 2019 suspenseful horror-thriller “The Intruder.” Penned by David Loughery, a writer who knows a little something-something about obsession thrillers with his work on “Lakeview Terrace” and “Obsessed,” “The Intruder” becomes a trifecta completing hit of dark compulsions shot actually not in California, but in Vancouver as an alternative in filming in the sacred Napa Valley. What could be said as a concoction of the over-friendly cable guy from “The Cable Guy” mixed thoroughly through a Bullet blender with Ray Liotta’s fixated Officer Peter Davis in “Unlawful Entry” and out pours “The Intruder” with all the creepy niceties of a mania driven illness to a subconsciously dangerous idiosyncrasy set in today’s paradigms for a new generation of thrill seekers.
With a couple of exceptions, “The Intruder’s” cast doesn’t impress, especially with Michael Ealy who shutters a range of intensity and temperament as once showcased as the psychopathic Theo in Fox’s television hit, “The Following.” Ealy, who will be the lead star in the upcoming “Jacob’s Ladder” remake, designates a flat and removed performance for a rather more than ordinary husband with a checkered past with women who are not his wife. Opposite Ealy is “Saw V’s” Meagan Good as a brighter star amongst the relatively small key cast with a tighter grip on the wholesomely ingenuous Annie. Perhaps very similar to herself according to the behind-the-scenes feature accompanying the home video release, Annie’s humble positivity blooms the potential weight effect of Charlie Peck’s devious charisma that explodes to a head when Peck’s good guy mask has been removed. Like many reviews before this one, Dennis Quaid opens incredulous eyes as Charlie Peck. The then 64 year old actor, whose worked with screenwriter Loughery in the 1980’s as the star of “Dreamscape,” flaunts a muscular physique upon an inclusive depth and range of his character that really puts Quaid into a new light. “The Intruder” rounds out with Joseph Sikora (“Jack Reacher”), Alvina August (“Bad Times at the El Royale”), along with minor performances in a handful scenes or less from Erica Cerra (“Blade: Trinity”), Lili Sepe (“It Follows”), Lee Shorten (“In the End”), and “iZombie’s” Kurt Evans.
Getting through the first act without whiplash was nearly a struggle. With hardly any buildup through a speedy introduction of the Russell’s, who are the central focus of this film, one of “The Intruder’s” themes became nearly neutralized. Emotional triggers, the things and events that set us off or make us anxious, make up the very fiber of these characters, so importantly so, that their weaponized to divide and conquer the morality of their being. Annie’s emotionally deteriorating trigger is receiving a working late text from Scott because of his pre-martial affairs, verbally ripping into him when he returns home and reminding the circumstances of his last text of that nature and Scott’s traumatizing trigger stems from his youth when his brother was gunned down so every time he sees a gun, Scott’s visibly agitated and shaken. These coattail effects of these backdrop moments were implemented into the heart of the story, never emphasized initially as a flaw the character would overcome; instead, the triggers are thrown kind of haphazardly into the middle, jostled out indirectly or directly by Charlie Peck, and then revisited for the finale but doesn’t warrant a viewer appreciated response as anticipated. Peck’s trigger, of course, is losing the precious home to a relatively ungrateful couple and his trigger has been present since the start, making Charlie a more well-rounded character, even if an antagonistic one.
Screen Gems, a Sony Pictures sub-label, presents the Hidden Empire Film group production, “The Intruder,” onto DVD home video. The DVD is in an anamorphic widescreen presentation, a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, on MiniHawk Lenses digital camera as noted on IMDB. The aesthetic picture has virtually no issues, as typical digital recorded films go, but was taken aback by the lack of eloquence into cinematographer Daniel Pearl’s work. The man who began his career with “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” turned more toward his forte in the music videos, patterning sleek speedy cars with some warm neon tinting into a delicate, woven tapestry that really should have focused on the cottage itself, as a calm before the storm character in the film, but the interior and partial exterior became the game plan for Pearl. There was a scene or two where thick mist envelops the house that forebodes a menacing factor much needed throughout. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has ample qualities and will deliver range and depth as Charlie Peck moves through a creaky old house. Dialogue is clear and welcoming. Bonus features include an alternate ending, which to be honest was about the same, deleted and alternate scenes, a gag reel, cast and crew commentary, an interview style behind-the-scenes featurette. Dennis Quaid was destined for Charlie Peck, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who shines as an absolute emphasizer on the “The Intruder’s” belaboring shock palette worthy of an effective modern horror-thriller available July 30th. Pre-order your copy below!
During Sunday’s services, a calm and confident Steve Belmont heads the Christian Sunday school youth class and seeks to be the permanent director of the Church’s suicide crisis unit that’s coming to the end of the planning stage. On Sunday’s, Steve performs as the model citizen whose ready to serve and give back to his community. During the rest of the week, the horse race track security guard can barely sustain societal worth, arriving late for work, constantly drunk, and has disdain for people being a speed bump in his path to greatness. All Steve Belmont has in life is the potential director’s job and his thirst, his unquenchable thirst for strangling women and dumping their bodies in the excessive heat of the Mojave desert. The local newspapers label his killings that of at the hands of the “Mojave Murderer” and his lust for killing call girls and young women runs a thin line alongside his Sunday best and when he begins to trust a Church regular, Steve’s mistakes begin to catch up with him.
“Murderlust” is the first feature on the Intervision Picture Corp’s double bill DVD release from director Donald Jones and writer James Lane. The 1985 suspenseful horror-thriller comes to DVD for the very first time and doesn’t just boldly display a story of another run of the mill serial killer but does so with remarkable performances and a body of work that’s well crafted. Lane pens the center character focus on Steve Belmont and his delusion of power, being an overwrought sociopath with a belief he’s better than everyone else, and Belmont’s brazen lures to secure helpless victims is nothing short of a con artist’s trait. The ability of convincingly seducing the congregation to his benefit provides him pseudo mystical powers that pull the blinds over their God fearing eyes while he continues to slack through a meager life and holds tightly his reign of terror near the Mojave. Basically, in Belmont’s mind, he is God.
Eli Rich plays Steve Belmont, who can only be described as a twisted blend between Michael Beihn and Nick Offerman, and Rich canisters Belmont’s psychopathic tendencies in an terrifying performance of exact realism. Not many films can pull off the on and off switch of a serial killer, even Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho” was sensationalized, but the relatively small time actor produced a manufactured fearful reaction. Rich splits Belmont into two personalities while still managing to be contain a menacing aurora to feed audiences with dread, fear, and suspense and while Rich might be doing more than just one public service for his community by picking up and strangling local street walkers, Belmont never transitions into that role of the likable anti-hero as he manages to forthrightly ostracize himself from friends and family. As Steve’s square statured and responsible cousin Neil, Dennis Gannon epitomizes the upstanding citizen character, but maintains a soft spot for his unscrupulous next door neighbor cousin. Rochelle Taylor’s role is something of a love interest for Steve, who can’t bring himself to kill her even when the opportunity is present, but the one film and done actress Taylor can’t bring “Murderlust” to the promise land with an overzealous portrayal of an eager beaver, love struck Church girl that doesn’t fit the bill of Belmont’s world.
After a couple of quick Mojave Murderer victims, one including the scene illustrated for the DVD’s front cover with a topless and unchaste Ashley St. Jon, Steve, along with the flow of the story, banks into a suppressive funk. The narrative’s pace slows when Steve attempts to organize his life around his murderess hobby, turning the suspenseful thriller into a drama segment that is more or less of a laundry list on how to obtain rent money for an aggressive landlord, until the demand to hunt tugs heavily at his pant leg and he can no longer ignore the urge. “Murderlust”, despite the captivating title, is nearly a bloodless horror thriller. Steve uses his signature method of strangulation, leaving smartly no blood trail, and only at the finale does blood spill when Steve deviates from his unsympathetic hunt, kill, and dump program.
Woodland campers and best buds Gus and Jon wake up to discover their gear has been shredded and dispersed. They’re soon pursued by a frightening force of unknown origins. Lost and hungry, the two friends stumble upon a mountain cabin where cabin owner Marci shelters them for a night. Rested and resupplied, but haunted by their dreams, the two continue on foot in search of a town; instead, they become split up and Gus finds himself in the bizarre belly of a government facility that’s conducting an experiment and root of Gus and Jon’s predicament. Gus must confront the inner workings of his mind and take back control of his thoughts or else all that he knows, his friendship with Jon, and all that he desires, his passion for Marci, will soon be lost to the unchecked government secret known only as Touchtone.
The second film on the double feature, “Project Nightmare,” starkly contrasts in genre with “Murderlust.” “Project Nightmare,” otherwise known as “Touchtone,” is a science fiction thriller piggy backing as a bonus feature and the 1979 conduit for confusion showcases how scarily surrealistic director Donald Jones can achieve. An odd film that materializes shortly after Gus and Jon’s plight begins and doesn’t let up the enigmatic ambiance as the audience will surge deeply into the rabbit whole. Even though told linearly, “Project Nightmare” feels, in fact, like a nightmare, peppered with sporadic scenes of uncomfortable imagery and repetitive ambient noises and soundtrack that jar the senses. Jones’ direction and style denotes an appeal of black and white scenes, but, in color, the film works better to give an ominous a stimulating visual and without that color, the story just wouldn’t work.
Charles Miller and Seth Foster star as the baffled and lost campers Gus and Jon. They’re joined by Elly Koslo, as Marcie, and Harry Melching, as Carl the government scientist, who provide indifferent character roles or just products of the imagination to support the dreamlike atmosphere. As a whole, the actors’ dynamic was obsoletely rigged but in an unsettling Lynchian fashion causing your eye balls to stay with the scenes. “Project Nightmare’s” experience will make you feel you’re watching a film much older than produced with the costumes, the language, and the wood paneled elevator and granted that Jones’ isn’t big budget, but the director was able to deliver with the minuscule budget available to fruition a sci-fi odyssey.
Intervision Picture Corp has a snazzy, two-headed snake in “Murderlust” and “Project Nightmare” presented in full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio with a single channel Dolby Digital mono track. The original prints looks great with “Murderlust” slightly heftier in the cyan department during it’s 98 minute runtime. The single channel had better luck with the 74 minute runtime in “Project Nightmare and “Murderlust” had moments of softness where dialogue became a strength in exercising one’s hearing. Both issues listed didn’t hinder the final product; in fact, I’m quite pleased with the end result on both features. “Project Nightmare” has a natural presence that’s appeasing and “Murderlust” blankets itself warmly in, well, the associated Mojave desert. The bonus content on the Intervision release include two audio commentaries with writer-producer James Lane. The “Project Nightmare” commentary has partial audio. In conclusion, “Murderlust” might not be this tour de force of bloodletting hookers. The sheer realistic characteristics of a serial killer among us are more alarmingly exploited and continue the terrifying ordeal with “Project Nightmare,” a sci-fi sensory conundrum overloaded with spastic psychological terror from the Golden Age of film.
Friday night, A stranger breaks into the home of Tom and Alison. After tying up and torturing Tom, leaving him in the bathtub, he reveals a weekend long scheme that involves convincing Alison to genuinely want him by Monday morning. The stranger’s psychological game slowly breaks down Alison’s perception of her relationship with her husband through consequential threats toward a battered Tom, survival obedience, relationship morals, and untapped desires while Alison desperately attempts to squeeze away her captor’s maniacal grasp any way possible. With Alison’s husband undergoing continuous abuse throughout the weekend, the stranger persistently exhibits various versions of being the perfect husband to appease Alison’s preference in a partner, a striking contrast that begins the spiraling doubts about Tom and the life to which she’s submitting to with him.
The director who gave audiences a reason to believe in their zany childhood imaginary friend in “Drop Dead Fred” and who drove viewers through the depths of Satan’s domain on the epic retrieval of love journey that was “Highway to Hell” has resurfaced. Director Ate de Jong’s 2014 film has found a home for his British exploitation thriller eloquently entitled “Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey.” at the Philadelphian based home entertainment distributor Artsploitation Films. An intense eye-opening experience that makes couples’ therapy a cut rate rekindling process, the “Deadly Virtues” story comes from the talented, yet relatively unknown, drafter Mark Rogers whose characters contribute a fierce and engaging potency.
Characters can be written from head to toe with gargantuan electricity, but it takes the actors and actress portraying the characters to actually flip their switches on, vividly toggling their characters to shine. Edward Akrout’s puts forth a dangerously sophisticated Stranger excellently defining the term acting. Every unique touch of the binding rope used on Tom and Alison, every calculated sinister action taken against Tom, and every apt expression emits just enough information to state the Stranger’s purpose without spoiling the character’s mysterious motivations. Akrout is joined by American actress Megan Maczko with a selfless performance that pits her character Alison in a cat-and-game mouse against the Akrout’s Stranger. There are bits of unwanted sexual activity and nudity and role playing BDSM that might mistakenly place Jong’s film in the incorrect genre; instead, Akrout, Maczko, and, even Matt Barber as Tom, acutely pivots the subject matter, even with the provocative nude and bound woman graced film poster.
Not all is copacetic with “Deadly Virtues.” Some of the pacing slows down a bit where the motivation feels arguably aimless as Alison quickly becomes content and comfortable with a man who just softly raided their home and violently turned their lives upside down. Also, as a matter of character, Tom needed fine sprucing from being painfully forceful with how the character critically needed to know, to ultimately compute, trivial information at the most inappropriate moments. The story itself might have forced Tom’s inadequacies and insecurity issues to completely tell the story within the total 97 minute runtime, but in the end, the finale loses that little something something to put the final nail into an already furbished piece of work by director Ate de Jong.
Artsploitation Films’ latest release, “Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey,” surfaces deep rooted marital issues in an extreme, hostile manner, bringing to the forefront the versus struggle of adapting or fighting back, and also touches upon the beauty of the overlooked. The film’s poster, which I already remarked upon having some minor nudity, accentuates a woman’s other pleasant bodily features including the small of her back, her long neck, and her protruding deltas which Akourt’s portrayal of the Stranger similarly remarks briefly upon when more pigheaded men not noticing, or appreciating, other, less obvious, parts of women. I’m sure for most viewers, gazing at Megan Maczko strung up and suspended in an inviting position can stimulate a lot of interest. “Deadly Virtues” is currently only exclusively available in United States via VOD formats, such as Amazon, Vimeo, and GooglePlay, courtesy of Artsploitation Films.