After an intense stand off with a powerful and playful demon during a supernatural expedition gone wrong, the unfortunate death of a young girl has Jonas Littleton facing skeptics that hand the ghost hunter a five year sentence behind bars ruling. His release from an Arizona prison offers him a second chance to start over with his wife and young son and Jonas makes promises to no more paranormal pursuits in hopes for a normal life. Miraculously, Jonas is offered a good paying job despite his manslaughter record that affords him seven years of suburban comforts and family growth, but little does Littleton know that his good fortune is the handiwork of the very same demon who bested him so many years ago, tricking him into a underhanded deal that requires his son’s soul with his wife being a casualty of war. Another seven years later, an obsessed Jonas fields every call that comes across his paranormal investigator’s desk as he tirelessly searches for his son and with the help of an eager investigator, Ron Tippard, and a green horn assistant, Ellie French, Jonas will come face-to-face with his rival evil again for one last time.
Welcome back to part two of our unexpected two part review segment of films that were disowned, supposedly, by their filmmakers. Today, we take a look at the 2010 supernatural thriller, “Hunting Evil,” or more commonly known under the title as “Closets” or “The Closet.” Already, the evidence is clearly powerful against “Hunting Evil” that alternate titles bares the potential markings of a repudiated film, aimed to cloak and shield the ramifications that would be supplied to unsuspecting audiences renting or blind purchasing. Director Charles Peterson has been reported to have disowned the Bob Madia (“You Can’t Kill Stephen King”) penned film because of too many chefs in the kitchen, if you smell what I’m cooking. Peterson, who has directed other indie horror projects such as “The Eleventh Aggression” and most recently, “A Killer Awaits,” which will be released this month, has ties with the investment group Old World Investors Group Incorporated a.k.a. OWIGI Films. Now, OWIGI Films is ran by “Hunting Evil’s” producer and star Lenny Rethaber (“Blood Moon Rising”). So, the lingering questions is this: Did star-producer Lenny Rethaber force the whip and reigns from Charles Peterson? Well, all this reviewer can say is that Lenny Rethaber also produced “The Eleventh Aggression” and the upcoming release “A Killer Awaits,” so seems like any adversity between the two has long since settled or just comes and goes with the industry territory.
However, what’s inherently curious about the DVD release from World Wide Multi Media is the three names headlined on the DVD’s front cover to which none are the film’s star Lenny Rethaber as the embattled Jonas Littleton. Knowing the type of distribution company WWMM is, more than likely the case is the first three credits, which are also in alphabetical order, and slapped them onto the front cover, one of which is just an unnamed barkeep who has approx. 5 minutes of screen time and not one other single credit to his name. As Jonas Littleton, Rethaber is soda flat with no bite and fizz to his performance and though his entertaining enough, the producer-star is also on the wrong side of the tracks in that category. There’s even whispering talk that “Major League’s” Corbin Bernsen, who has dappled in directing horror with “Dead Air” starring Bill Moseley (“Devil’s Rejects”), had issues with the producer (Rethaber), yielding to yet another instance of production problems. Though I’ve had verbal disagreements with Bernsen with his previous work, I find his performance as an enigmatic father of a missing child refreshing and complex, but the fate of his character poofs into thin air as if the writers, directors, or, most likely, producer didn’t know how to finalize the character. The sole best role comes from Patrick Adams as the enthusiastic paranormal investigator Ron Tippard. Not to be confused with “Suits” actor Patrick J. Adams, the Arizona resident Adams sparked life into a relatively unhinged project with an amusing and interesting performance in a side kick role who has substantial screen time and adds value to the situation. Rounding out this remaining cast in this conundrum is Darl Chryst (“Autopsy: A Love Story”), Dena Esquivel Frederickson, Jackson Furedy, Sallie Glaner (“The Visitant”), Davina Joy (“Death of a Ghost Hunter”), Pete Kelly, and Orchid Tao.
A twitching, tingly part of my soul yearned for “Hunting Evil” to come out on top, to be a solid supernatural saturation that a viewer, like myself, can sink into immensely, and with a script that precedes “The Conjuring” with the perceptive view of an unoriginal, yet sparsely used investigator concept, the appeal hyperdrives into salivation, but instead of salivation, “Hunting Evil” sluggishly drips slowly from the mouth’s corner crevices with script plotholes, badly layout composites, and undercooked characters. The story follows Jonas for nearly two decades, yet the man never ages despite already starting out looking middle aged to begin with so where are the streaks of grey, the loose and wrinkled skin, or maybe even a display a little physical ailments? Each of these natural flaws could have further enhance his lifespan evolution on Earth and speak to a little down to Earth as well. The composites look horrendously old fashion like from an antiquated video game platform. It’s as if the creators of 3D Realms not only provided the MS-DOS source code for those amazing Duke Nukem 3D levels also provided the visual worlds for “Hunting Evil” actors to humorously and painfully act against. the underwhelming, unfinished characters were slightly touched on before, but their arcs just ultimately poof into smoke without constructive reasoning or even to leave as fishhook into another movie.
“Hunting Evil” haunts onto DVD from World Wide Multi Media and MDVisual. Presented in a widescreen format and clocking in a 90 minute runtime, the DVD technically has little faults to discuss aside from the coloring looking a little desaturated and don’t visually pop. Some digital noise from the low end production quality during the night scenes that are accompanied by a little compression blotchiness, but the DVD passes muster in image quality. The English language 5.1 surround sound finds itself limited moderately to a two-channel output which is unfortunate with the amount of demonic tomfoolery being subjected to Jonas and his team. Low of the LFE and minimalistic on the depth and range, “Hunting Evil” couldn’t scare the pants off viewers audibly alone. There are no bonus features on this disc. Jonas Littleton’s troubles spread beyond a malevolent and playful demon destroying his family with “Hunting Evil” targeted as a suspect of an unfinished and problematic film. Whether turmoil driven or just the lack of rightfully placed funding, the spooky stories of paranormal investigators are left to the genre platonic professionalism of James Wan and not Charles Peterson and Lenny Rethaber.
New York City hospitals are being terrorized by a crazed maniac or maniacs stealing the body parts of the deceased and local authorities are discovering the half eaten remains of torn apart bodies in the streets. When a medical orderly is caught in the act of cannibalism by nearly devouring a corpse’s heart and then commits suicide by diving out high rise window, the Doctor’s assistant and leading anthropologist Lori Ridgeway recognizes the tattooed symbol of Kito on the orderly chest, a symbol from a long forgotten tribe in the Moluccas Islands. Worshipping a cannibal God, the primitive tribe still practices the form of anthropophagy. Lori’s colleague, Dr. Peter Chandler, has been placed on a research team to root out New York City’s recent cannibal problem and when the Kito symbol clues him and his team of a possible lead, an expedition team forms to travel to the Moluccas Islands in search of the existence of inhabitants. Dr. Chandler rendezvous with a long time acquaintance, Dr. Obrero, whom has lived on the islands for years. When Dr. Obrero arranges a boat and his right hand man to accompany the expedition, Dr. Peter Chandler and team step foot into a hellish nightmare, bloodied with unspeakable and aggressive cannibal acts. Just when nothing could be worse than flesh hungry cannibals, hideously disfigured zombies frighten even the primitive locals. The island holds a dark secret and Dr. Chandler aims to unveil it no matter the cost!
Finally! The definitive 2-disc edition of Aquarius Releasing’s “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” aka the Italian cut “Zombie Holocaust,” from the Flora and Fulva Film production companies, has been released and, oh, how glorious the Severin Films release is with a super sleek Blu-ray reversible cover art – “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” title as the main cover and “Zombie Holocaust” title on the reverse side – and the high definition gore that hasn’t been gooier and oozier than ever and all in thanks to the upscaled 1080p full HD resolution transfer. Uncut with eye-gouging effects, eviscerated and mangled bodies, and packed with a slew of medical terrors and oddities, the Marino Girolami’s directed video nasty from 1980 just might get itself banned once again by the international censorship boards.
The schlock runs thick through a plot that’s eerie similar to Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (aka Zombie 2) with many of the locations and sets repurposed for the Girolami picture involving exotic land cannibalism, a mad scientist, and, you guessed it, zombies. Yet, “Doctor Butcher M.D.” rightfully receives being a detached entity, an “Annabelle” to “The Conjuring” of sorts, even when both films star Scotland-born leading man Ian McCulloch. With uncanny and grisly disemboweling special effects that turn a stomach inside out and give you a reason to make use of that barf bag provided by Severin Films as a bonus insert, some death effects didn’t go quite as planned such as, in example, when the cannibal orderly dives out a multistory window and the stunt-dummy loses an arm when crashing onto the floor. The next scene has the actor, with arm intact, lying in a pool of blood. Another scene involving Doctor Butcher and his cranium saw nearly doesn’t sell the effect when the saw itself isn’t spinning at all during close ups of a cranium cap removal. However, none of these miscues matter as the rest of the special effects trumps any other gore film of this decade.
The American bought rights to “Zombie Holocaust” were destined to be re-edited as the film had to bulk up on Americanized tastes, slightly targeting specific, well versatile audiences of New York City’s infamously sleazy and exploitive 42nd Street, which is now defunct. The additional and pointless scenes that were intercut from a scrapped Roy Frumkes’ horror anthology, “Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out, at the beginning of the film didn’t transition seamlessly enough to cause an unfavorable reaction, but only added on to the powerful zombie train that spawned from George A. Romero and the Living Dead films. The antics of Terry Levene, an American producer and 42nd Street icon, led to guerilla marketing, an overlapping score from the late “Blood Sisters'” composer Walter Sear, and the superbly cut trailers had guaranteed butts in the seats at Levene’s, amongst others’, circuit theaters. Plus, the T&A from cult Italian actress Alexandra Delli Colli might have had something to do with putting butts in seats as well.
The story hadn’t changed much between the alternate film versions of the Romano Scandariato screenplay and the story itself is wound looser than a turn of a century Gary Busey. Thin motivations drive characters to do the stupidest things possible such as go on an expedition to a cannibal island, go to a cannibal island without state of the art weaponry and more bodies than a modern day NFL football roster, or go straying away from the safety of your group to stroll through the island’s bush alone. The obviousness is aggravating to say at the least, but omit the blatant stupidity of the characters and no one would die a horrible and gruesome death that fastens our morbid tastes to the screen. The story’s spontaneous and adventurous nature appeases thrills of a long-lost culture on an island of hell that’s ready to be explored and re-discovered and ready to taste fresh blood and organs once again.
Severin Films have outdone any previous release of the reconfigured “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” and the original “Zombie Holocaust” when discussing the video presentation. The 1080p performs at a high bitrate with a vibrant display of natural colors that diminish much of the natural grain and negative damage and exhibits finely tuned and leveled darker tones from the original 35 mm negative; a HD presentation that, and this goes without saying, naturally outperforms the the transfer from Shriek Show’s “Zombie Holocaust” DVD release in the early 2000s. The English DTS-HD Master 2.0 audio mix on “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” performs greatly without many given distortions or loss of audio while the “Zombie Holocaust” on disc two has the same DTS-HD Master option, but also gives an alternative with a linear PCM Italian only audio mix without subtitles. Walter Sear’s Stateside score and Nico Fidenco Italiano score tribute their respective nations clearly through the mastered audio mixes with Fidenco’s score surfacing here and there on the Aquarius Releasing edit. Severin Films provides an impressive list of new bonus material on each disc, with the first disc having insightful interviews with Aquarius Releasing’s Terry Levene, editor Jim Markovic, filmmaker and documentarian Roy Frumkes, “Temple of Schlok’s” Chris Poggiali, Gore Gazette editor and Butcher Mobile rider Rick Sullivan, and Gary Hertz all discussing their involvement “Doctor Butcher M.D.” and their ties to 42nd Street. The second disc focuses more on “Zombie Holocaust,” interviewing male lead Ian McCulloch and McCulloch sings “Down by the River” in another segment, FX masters Rosario Prestopino and Maurizio Trani, actress Susan Buchanan, and a look at New York City then and now piece where “Zombie Holocaust” shot certain scenes.
Single mother Madison lives with her two small children in their presence-plagued home. When money becomes severely tight and her son’s violent behavior erupts once again, the family of three are hesitant to leave their home, but once one of the apparitions transmit something to the children that won’t allow them to leave the house without becoming severely ill, the family is forced to remain stuck in their abode cell. Madison’s scientific boyfriend Nikolai looks to help the weary family fight this evil that won’t let them leave, but when Madison digs further into the apparitions, she discovers that their is more to their sudden and random appearances and that the once trusted Nikolai might somehow be maliciously involved.
“The Diabolical” is an interesting horror film from first time feature film writer-director Alistair Legrand. Legrand, whose credits mainly include music videos, opens the story up to a withering family on the verge of destruction with the father-husband having already left due to a lingering love-hate relationship between him and Madison and they’re well aware of the presences, some more grotesque than others, that come and go with a sudden spark of electricity. No set up laid out to introduce the initial contact between apparition and family; instead, the characters, though still unsettled by each frightful visit, continue to live life amongst the paranormal. Not even paranormal scientists have the fortitude to challenge the eidolons, which pokes fun at films like “The Conjuring.”
I say that “The Diabolical” is an interesting film because the apparitions have complexities that are not made clear until near the end, but hints are strewn through to give that something isn’t exactly clear sensation. However, Legrand doesn’t quite piece together the story to deliver a packed full package to feel the full effect. The story feels undercooked and when the finale is revealed, many of the previous events in the film don’t quite add up to conclude nicely the twist ending. The apparitions have qualities that are never explained and don’t contribute to their reason for being. Another frustrating underdevelopment is with Madison, the family, and their relationship with Nikolai. Were not quite sure if Madison’s husband left because of Madison, a little exposition states that’s the case, or if their son Jacob did something to harm him fatally. The father just doesn’t exist and his presence felt neglected, ignored, and forgotten to the point where there was really no need to have the off-screen existence. Nikolai fills in that father shoe, but his relationship with Madison seems very casual as if Madison didn’t just come off a serious relationship and was dating for the first time.
Madison is not the kind of typical role for lead actress Ali Larter. The Resident Evil and Final Destination star has been an archetype of strong female characters in most of horror movie credits and while Madison is a strong female lead, envisioning Larter as a mother of two children sits unimaginably. Besides, Legrand doesn’t make the beautiful and unflinching Larter seem like a worn and torn down person whose husband has is gone, bills are piling up to the ceiling, and harmful apparitions are popping up all over the house. Legrand also doesn’t necessarily pit the evil apparitions against Madison until near the tail end, painting the apparitions almost as if their part of the family’s imagination in the beginning. The sense that the family is completely cool with these ghost-like-gruesome and terrifying presences does nothing to motivate the family, especially Madison, to move out form the house.
The special effects department delivers top notch phantasms even if some of the apparitions move around the house like Bill Cosby in “Ghost Dad” or look like creatures from the “Silent Hill” films. Nothing from the practical or the computer generated effects appeared shoddy. I’m pleasantly appeased by the work special effects artist Jason Collins and his colleagues have conjured up. However, the story doesn’t reflect the effects as the story loses steam abruptly for a knockout ending; the ending felt, as it looked, rushed. Tying up the mystery of the apparitions into a brief, underdeveloped scene. Then to top off the ending, leave an open ending scene that doesn’t quite work to solidify an understanding.
“The Diabolical” is truly diabolical as Alistair Legrand’s horror film with a Sci-Fi flair teases a good and fascinating story, yet only manages to founder with an over saturated underdevelopment. I really wanted to like this movie, especially since I’m fond of Ali Larter and her work, but trying see past the Alistair Legrand’s flaws is like throwing a no hitter and still walking half the batters that come to the plate – its not a perfect game. In any case, I would still recommend “The Diabolical” from the UK distributor High Flier Films for a unique story, eye glazing CGI, and, of course, the gorgeous Ali Larter!
The homeless twosome Caesar and his half brother Otto haphazardly take down a notorious serial killer and are awarded a fall-to-winter housesitting gig at a powerful California politician’s summer home where multiple families have been brutally murdered. Their good fortune seems ill-fated as the two encounter strange house employees, random levitating objects, and an endless supply of dead bodies. Tagging along with the brothers is their drunk and inattentive father Fred who spearheads his own agenda in a house full of secrets. When Fred ends up trapped on the other side of the spirit world, Caesar and Otto’s antics strive far and wide within their bag of tasteless tricks to not only save their hapless father, but also save their very lives and, perhaps, the entire state of California. In the middle of all the chaos, Otto is informed that his once thought dead mother is truly alive and discovers he was born with a hidden talent that’s soon to be pertinent to his current and dire situation.
My second “Caesar and Otto” experience compares to nearly the same tomfoolery as their “X-Mas” inspired horror spoof, except that “Paranormal Halloween” is vastly more superior when considering the comedy quality. Caesar himself Dave Campfield once again stars and directors the spoof that pays tribute to many classic and modern horror films such as “The Amityville Horror,” “Paranormal Activity,” “Halloween”, and “The Conjuring.” Campfield joins forces once again with his longtime sidekick Paul Chomicki as Otto to produce and star in the Campfield’s and Chomicki’s four feature film of nitwit wonders Caesar and Otto who resemble a one more tool in the toolbox version of Harry and Lloyd from “Dumb and Dumber.”
Campfield pens more dialogue for Caesar who hilariously continues to generate a well-defined lisp while spit firing one-liners, comebacks, and insults at Otto and anyone and everyone standing in the vicinity. Chomicki’s Otto is the big lovable oaf whose on-going hunt for love in all the wrong places, but manages to catch a break in nearly biting the bullet by sheer dumb luck and stupidity. Campfield and Chomicki’s whole schtick isn’t groundbreaking as we’ve seen this kind of film before in “Scary Movie” and even outside the realm of horror with “Airplane!” Unlike “Scary Movie,” Campfield and his team dedicated horror icons maintain a sense of dignity and respect that honor horror more than just dumbing it down. My first experience with the “Deadly X-Mas” Caesar and Otto wasn’t a very pleasant one as I couldn’t grasp the scene-by-scene speedy pace, the cut rate budget, and the inexplicable reference, after reference, after reference structure and I was a bit hesitant in enduring another episode of their continuing legacy. Now that I’ve matured as a viewer a little bit more from two years ago, I can honestly state that “Paranormal Halloween” is calculated corniness and precisely patronizes faithfully the horror outlets.
Like the predecessors before, “Paranormal Halloween” contains the usual cast of entourage actors that coincide with Dave Campfield, Paul Chomicki, and Scott Aguilar as the fatherly Fred. Deron Miller again ends up shaggy and disoriented, Ken MacFarlane once again plays a guy with a J name, Avi K. Garg is calm and cool until he loses an arm, Ray Plumb quickly makes an appearance, Keith Bush sports a rad stash, Samantha Barrios makes another cut, and “Sleepaway Camp” legend Felissa Rose conjures up some on-screen time and this marks the second time I’ve seen her in a film that I’ve reviewed twice in a month. The credits also add other “Felissa Rose” type stardom actors from the similar molds such as “The People Under The Stairs’s” Sean Whalen, “Commando’s” Vernon Wells, b-horror vixens Tiffany Shepis, Debbie Rochon, and Brinke Stevens, and along with “Return of the Living Dead’s” Beverly Randolph. An excellent lineup for a horror spoof of this size. Tack on a few cute faced actresses and a nude scene from Model Mayhem model Jin N Tonic and you have a decent, well-rounded cast to support this Wild Eye Releasing film.
The Wild Eye Releasing backed production “Caesar and Otto’s Paranormal Halloween” won’t be the last of it’s kind (a hint from the film suggests that Caesar and Otto’s Spring Break of the Dead will be the next title) from funny guys Dave Campfield and Paul Chomicki. A second chance or a second look never hurt anybody and taking a plunge after a seemingly disastrous first round with “Deadly X-mas” will now be deemed as only a fluke. With giggly-garbage writing, a cast of willing horror legends, and cruise ship filled of homages (or horror ripoffs such as the same John Carpenter “Halloween” font used on “Halloween” in the title), “Paranormal Halloween” smarts oh so good and doesn’t apologize for any or all of it’s budgeted quality.
Before The Conjuring, there was Annabelle. The new tagline for the upcoming spinoff film to James Wan’s The Conjuring in which a doll becomes possessed by a deranged cultist killer and forces itself into the lives of John and Mia Form.
What was the last creepy doll movie? Oh yea, another James Wan related film, Dead Silence and lets not forget about the doll in the Saw movies either. Wan has a major hard on for creepy killer dolls, but then again, dolls are absolutely horrific in the first place.