Insecurity is a Path to the EVILside! “Killing Spree” review!


Airplane mechanic Tom Russo is a newly married man; it’s his second marriage, in fact. Tom’s first go around in marital union didn’t go over so well as found himself on the other end of being a victim of adultery. Paranoid and skeptical, Tom requires his young and hot new wife, Leeza, to become a house wife as he works long, exhausting hours to support his family in a one income household. As the work hours pile, money becomes tight, and tensions build in the back of Tom’s mind, paranoia steamrolls Tom’s reality when he starts suspecting a lonely Leeza of screwing every delivery, repair, and lawn car man that knocks at their door. Without confronting Leeza with his delusions, Tom’s extreme jealously pushes him to kill and bury the men that he envisions involved in the affairs, but his victims don’t stay dead, they don’t stay buried, and seek the eternal suffering for their killer.

A few, long years have gone by since our last encounter with the practical effects-heavy, indie horror director Tim Ritter. From his disturbing tale of destructive descent in “Truth and Dare?: A Critical Madness to his “Switchblade Insane” segment from the SOV masters of horror in the ghastly-variant anthology “Hi-8 (Horror Independent 8)” that also helms short films from Donald Farmer (“Cannibal Hookers”), Todd Sheets (“Dreaming Purple Neon”), and Brad Sykes (“Camp Blood”), the filmmaker has a legacy of blood-shedding entertainment. Today, exploration into Ritter’s “Killing Spree” unearths his passion for horror that develops out of influences from other horror icons before leaving his bloody footprint in the indie scene. “Killing Spree,” written and directed by Ritter, displays the filmmaker’s deep affection for Fangoria magazine having it displayed, repeatedly used as coffee table literature prop. There’s also admiration for “Night of the Living Dead” in the bonkers film about one man’s mind snapping like a twig under the formidable stress. The main character’s name is Tom Russo and Russo is the last name of NOTLD co-writer John Russo and let’s not also forget about the undead rising from Tom’s backyard is fairly synonymous with zombie classic.

While Tim Ritter flicks may not be graced with star-studded actors and actress, even from the B-movie lot, and more than likely don’t spawn hidden talent, there’s still something to be wholeheartedly said about the cast of his films that can only be described as an eclectic bunch of marvelous misfits that bring underground brilliance to the screen. Asbestos Felt is one of those said characters. No, I don’t mean the toxic asbestos felt roofers use as a underlaying backing when nailing in shingles. “Killing Spree” is one of three films Felt and Tim Ritter have worked on together and the scrawny-build with a strung out Grizzly Adam’s head on his shoulders has a wide-eyed spectacle about him when playing Tom Russo spiraling down the crazy train drain. Tom’s obsession with keeping Leeza from the perverted grips on those naughty repairmen would drive any wife away, but not Leeza, played by Courtney Lercara. The “Slaughterhouse” actress is an aesthetic flower growing in the middle of all the mayhem and she protrudes an innocence well received by her character. Other cast members include Bruce Paquette with the white boy dance moves, indie horror vet John D. Wynkoop (“Brainjacked”), Kieran Turner, Alan Brown, Rachel Rutz, Cloe Pavel, and Raymond Carbone as a dirty old pilot with a wise guy brogue.

Remember when I said these types of horror films don’t typically expose acting artistry? Well, behind the camera, one or two crew members start their illustrious careers in the indie trenches. Such can be said for special effects master Joel Harlow who makes his introductory launch with “Killing Spree” and then find work on a couple sequels for “Toxic Avenger,” “Basket Case 2,” and all the way up to the Neil Marshall “Hellboy” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” Yeah, I think Harlow made out OK. Harlow’s effects on “Killing Spree” will “blow your mind,” as stated on the back of the Blu-ray cover. Well, when Leeza’s head turns into giant lips then goes oral on Raymond Carbone’s head until his crown ejaculates, then, yes, these effects will blow your mind…literally! The medley macabre showcase Harlow’s craft from A to Z that includes a torched corpse, a disembowelment, severed undead head, and a nosy neighbor without a nose or without half a face for that matter.

Sub Rosa Studios re-releases “Killing Spree” onto the dual format, DVD/Blu-ray combo set with MVDVisuals providing distribution of the limited 666 copies. Essentially, this is the same release that was made available a couple years back presented in a standard television format of 1.33:1. The Betacamp SP 16mm video has held back the test of time since 1987, but with any video film on a budget, the rather cheap recording method does come with inadequacies, even if being remastered. For the entire runtime and not just in the tinted moments of carnage, the skin tones are akin to Donald Trump’s uncanny neon orange flesh and perhaps could have gone under an extensive color correction. Aside a few very minor tracking issues and faded coloring, the video transfer passes substantially well despite the continuous flare of orange. The English stereo 2.0 mix isn’t hearty or robust. Whenever Tom goes into maniacal mode, his crazy quips are quite soft even when he elevates his voice, and that goes the same with depth and range which are non-existent over the course of a flat audio tracks. Though soft at times, dialogue strongly comes through in the forefront with some fuzzy nuances. Bonus features are killer on this release with the Blu-ray sporting the majority with a never before seen extended director’s cut, a new commentary track from director Tim Ritter, a 90 minute documentary entitled “Blinded by the Blood,” a radio show commentary by H.G. Lewis and Tim Ritter, music tracks, photo slide show, three alternative scenes, blooper reel, and a Joel D. Wynkoop segment. The DVD also includes the director’s cut version of the film, the new commentary by Tim Ritter, and commentary for the original cut by Tim Ritter. “Killing Spree” is as grisly as the SRS cinema Blu-ray/DVD cover implies and then some with all the characteristics of a deranged and unhinged man exerting himself beyond the limits of sanity and mortality to unambiguously protect what is his; a dramatize example rendered as a metaphor for those who will do anything to protect what’s theirs.

Limited Edition. Get it now!

Indie Evil Whips Horror Back Into True Form! “HI-8: Horror Independent Eight” review!

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On the heals of my review for excellent “Hillbilly Horror Show Vol. 1,” the next review had to be another anthology. There was a must-watch horror short attitude swirling in the cold air. Out of everything that lies on the review docket, by chance “HI-8 (Horror Independent Eight) was next on the chopping block and already the drool slithered itself from the corner’s of my horror-hungry mouth. “HI-8” brings together the best-of-the-best shot on video horror directors of the last three decades and where going back to your roots is not so much a challenge for the eight horror-short directors, but rather a natural like riding a bike scenario.

0: “No Budget Films Present…” by Brad Sykes
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The anthology begins with a wrap around short entitled “No Budget Films Present…” and starts off innocent enough with three young and inspired horror filmmakers creating a slasher picture of a female jogger being terrorized by a masked killer. The short weaves in and out between the other shorts and during the intermediate of the story a terrifying myth is laid out about a face-ripping fiend who stalks the very location where they’re shooting their movie. By the end, you can only imagine the fates of our young filmmakers.

“No Budget Films Presents…” is directed by Brad Sykes who happens to also a co=producer of “HI-8.” The short isn’t the campiness of eight and is a bit hard to follow due to the choppiness of the in-and-out story telling between other shorts, but the story is still very solid and the ending is nothing short of a surprise. With great creature effects and a use of a video camera, this innocent story turns deadly and chilling real quick.

1: “Switchblade Insane” by Tim Ritter
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“Switchblade Insane” follows the marital complications between a killer, the Switchblade Butcher, and his wife. The Switchblade Butcher feels the need to kidnap, rape, and murder his female victims and when his wife confronts his ghastly actions at gun point and caught red handed, he persuades her to join in his blood-letting ecstasy. Her lust for blood was just as thirsty as his and brought their relationship to new heights. As the story of the Switchblade Butcher is being told by the wife, the lines become blurred between killer and wife and the ending provides a better than M. Night Shyamalan twist!

Director Tim Ritter is one of my all time favorite shot on video directors. “Truth or Dare? A Critical Mass” is one my personal favorite films and to see his name as one of the directors gave me goosebumps. Ritter doesn’t disappoint bring out his A game witi “Switchblade Insane.” The story is freshly twisted and the laid out perfectly frame by frame to leave a lasting impression with no too much gore to try and ingest.

2: “A Very Bad Situation” by Marcus Koch
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A handful of desparate survivors steadfast in a cramp and tight-knit garage after a exotic meteor-shower slowly turns humans into hideous flesh-eating monstrous transformations. Suspicions run rampant, weapons are drawn against one another, and nobody trusts the other as anybody could be infected in this John Carpenter-esque “The Thing” type horror short.

As aforementioned, Carpenter had already done this similar scenario in the arctic with a group of station inhabits who are imitated precisely by an alien being. The first minute, minute and half, is a bunch of stock footage of people in the masses reaping havoc and violence, but it’s the end of the short that will get your heart racing when the creature unveils itself to the group in a very practical and gross special effects way.

3: “The Tape” by Tony Masiello
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An obsolete VHS rental store is shutting the doors for good and store clerk Tim is able to take one of the VHS tapes home with him as part of a severance package type deal. He pops in the tape to find that it’s an unfinished, self-taped film entitled Bloodgasm. Just as the name suggest, Bloodgasm is a more gory and colorful version of the tape in “The Ring.” Tim becomes engrossed to the point where raunchy sex with his girlfriend is nearly non-existent and can’t sway his attention away from the screen. His obsession is so strong that he researches the tape and finds the director who wishes to finish (off) the film with Tim and his girlfriend.

“The Tape” will have your entrails running for dear life. The tape is nothing but shock and gore and I get why Tim loves it due to it’s realistic effect. This is another short that deserves kudos for the awesome twist ending. Though the events are rather rushed, Masiello is able to squeeze everything to provide a well coherent, gut wrenching, bloody festive screening.

4: “Gang Them Style” by Ron Bonk
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A zombie breakout ensues. One man decides to break into a nursing home to save his Nana. He takes on more than he can chew as Nana brings with her a handful of other nursing home residents. The long 10 foot walk between the exit doors and the minivan is the dangerous journey the survivors must make in order to survive the ordeal.

By far the campiest short of the all, “Gang Them Style” incorporates and pays homage to the indie horror icons and classics especially such with John Carpenter, names of the characters from “The Thing” are reused for some the cast in “Gang Them Style” and some of a few taglines made in the dialogue as well; the “kick ass and chew bubble gum” comes to mind. The short doesn’t take itself serious and does a great job on homing in on the 80’s style in every way – soundtrack, camera angles, clothing, acting, effects, zombie makeup, etc.

5: “Genre Bending” by Chris Seaver
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A curvy young woman has gained a couple of creepy, sleazy stalker that she may or may not be oblivious to the fact. Once all the characters come into play, “Genre Bending” is true to the title with a a back and forth game between genre and gender.

“Genre Bending” is the least horrific film of all the shorts and plays out more like a dark comedy. The short does speak upon the terms of gender, sexism, race, and voyeurism. Even though each film is only 8 to 10 minutes long, this short feels a bit overplayed and does over stay its welcome.

6: “Thicker Than Water” by Donald Farmer
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Emily’s jealousy and paranoia wigs out her boyfriend Ted with accusations that he’s fooling around with ex-girlfriend Lauren. After Ted calms down Emily’s suspicions, She reveals reveals that she’s pregnant. But Emily isn’t quite convinced of Ted’s assurance; she wants to be completely sure so she wants Ted’s to rid of his previous relationship and takes him into the back room where Lauren sits tied up. Will Ted cut ties with Lauren for good by overseeing her demise?

Donald Farmer is the quintessential SOV director; one of the legends much in the same class as Tim Ritter. His entry is brutal and unapologetic pitting current life agains’t the past. The drastic measures Lauren takes is not fantastic or far from the truth as many will do anything for love or for a child. “Thicker Than Water” is not necessarily fresh script, but certainly visceral and emotional.

7: “The Scout” by Brad Sykes
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Director Adrian is scouting the desert for the perfect location for his next film and tagging along is Madison, an aspiring actress. When their car breaks down by a run down structure, Madison has a few choice words for Adrian and embarks on her own back to town as she is already late for potential acting gig. When she becomes lost, she circles back and can’t locate Adrian. Instead, she locates his camera and is shocked by the found footage.

“The Scout” is a bit more spellbinding and greatly introducing more blood than his wrap around short “No Budget Films Presents…” The sheer mystery of the camera’s ability to see into the future could have been explored a little more instead near the end of the short, but this provides a mysterious and supernatural tidbit that leaves open the chilling story.

8: “The Request” by Todd Sheets
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A late night radio DJ is being phone stalked when counting down the top music hits. The calls are mysterious, menacing, and spooky giving a tingle down the DJ’s spine. He thinks a prank is being played on his good nature, but the DJ has a secret – a secret that haunts him and, eventually, catches up with him even from the grave.

Todd Sheets Lives! The legendary SOV director stirs in his own gruesome material into a story that eerily resembles a Stephen King story. The film speaks about the ultimate betrayal and proves that karma is a bitch. Timing of the story is enough to keep your attention quenched and the ending will eat your heart out!

“Hi-8” brings the beloved 80’s and 90’s analog horror back to the small screen giving future generations only a small taste of CGI-less horror. The nostalgia for this review alone is over-stimulating. Greats like Todd Sheets, Tim Ritter, and Brad Sykes are not a dying breed, but rather an underlying threat to mainstream horror, lying and waiting for tween horror acolytes to drop dead and have SOV rise from the tomb once again. Check out this Wild Eye Releasing DVD that is already out on shelves ready to be picked up, watched, and loved.