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!

There’s Evil in Oklahoma! “Meet Me There” review!

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Ada and her boyfriend Calvin love each other tremendously, but Calvin finds difficulty in their intimacy when Ada continues to push him away, as if hurting her, in the middle of intercourse. Her sexual dysfunction puts a strain on their marriage, but Calvin has a plan that he hopes will resolve Ada’s, as well as Calvin’s, intimacy issue. His plan involves travelling to her hometown of Sheol, Oklahoma where much of Ada’s childhood memories seem to have been repressed and might be the root cause of her mental blockage. When they arrive at Sheol, they’re not exactly welcome as the town’s deranged inhabitants have a bible-thumping darkness about them and they don’t agree with Ada’s and Calvin’s lifestyle. When the couple try to escape, the town won’t let them.
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Director Lex Lybrand helms the “Meet Me There” story, written by Brandon Stroud, and Lybrand seems to lose the structure as soon our hero and heroine arrive in the town of Sheol. The film tries to relay underlining messages about sexual dysfunctions, repressed or fragmented memories, suicide, paranoia, and, of course, just plain lethal psychosis. In short, “Meet Me There” attempts to mask the mental repercussions of childhood atrocities with a story about a couple becoming trapped in a town of deadly druids and God-fearing folk. Lybrand didn’t quite pull off the effect I think he was going for and that was creating an overall nightmarish realm without no escape, like a bad dream you’re unable to awake from, and what was missing was smooth segues to keep the glue together for the plot to naturally play out.
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The story’s outer shell might be compromised, but only technically from a director’s chair. The introductory story of two complete strangers meeting at an airport bar, flying in separate passenger seats to Sheol, renting a car together to head to the same destination, and only to blow their brains out in a field at the same instance becomes lost in reason without the backup of exposition. However, the story of how Ada overcomes her sexual dysfunction and her fragmented memories can’t be any clearer and once she realizes and understands her upbringing involving drugged up parents, a creepy Grandfather, and a verbally abusive father, she bangs Calvin in the middle of the field, half naked and without care.
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Lisa Friedrich and Michael Foulk as Ada and Calvin make a mediocre convincing couple. Their tattoos and choice of music, whether created for their characters or in most micro-budget productions the actors just have to bring themselves, labels them as rebellious to which heightens the towns’ scrutiny upon them. Foulk has great timing in his delivery when being comical with Ada, fairing rather naturally for him. Friedrich’s character lumbers a good amount of the film; her spacey attitude leaves nothing to desire and her character becomes dislikeable. I don’t blame Friedrich for a character written too sluggish and poorly for viewing comfort because even when Ada triumphs over her problems, she’s still very out of sorts.
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Ada and Calvin don’t really have a single antagonist pitted against them; basically, the whole town is against them. WWE’s Golddust, aka Dustin Runnels, is one of a many wrestlers who appear in “Meet Me There,” along with other unknown wrestling talents such as Addy Starr, Leva Bates, and Angelus Layne, and is also one of the villains as the town’s preacher. There’s also Ada’s paranoid Aunt who severely disapproves of Ada’s lifestyle choices, the country store bumpkins who wield shotguns, the cloaked orgy-committing druids, and etc. Now, that all might sound enticing, but only the orgy gives a little stimulating thrill to the bone. I would like to know who set fire to Ada and Calvin’s car because the effect is priceless; when Ada and Calvin return to her aunt’s house to flee town, their car is set to inferno and someone on the crew thought that a matchbox car with blazing flames through the windows and being shot up real close would be pass for a great special effect. I admit, the effect kind of works, but still hilariously executed.
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“Meet Me There,” distributed by MVDVisual and produced by SGL Entertainment, is presented in a widescreen presentation with a standard 2.0 mix. The images a bit grainy with dark tones during night scenes. Overall, “Meet Me There” needs a bigger catalyst to get Ada and Calvin into a more dire situation, but the sensation of being in a bad dream is achieved here yet the transitions from act-to-act or even scene-to-scene becomes muddled. Check out Lex Lybrand’s “Meet Me There” and see what the town of Sheol has in store for our hero and heroine.