After bearing witness the brutal suicide of her father, Mary undergoes family counselling as a result of being the cause of her father’s death with repetitive public accusations of molestation. The ill-equipped counselor suggests medical evaluation from a professional who beseeches the assistance of The Catholic Church when the determination concludes that Mary is suffering from severe Satanic possession. Directives from high positions in the Church service in waves three priests to perform the delicate exorcism; all of whom have conducted an exorcism under difficult and soul-exhausting situations. The irresolute and embattled priests field the call, blindly walking into Mary’s slithery persuasive possession state of soul-tormenting and death. The priests will tirelessly seek to have the beleaguered Mary exorcised of the nasty demon from within and have her tattered body come back to Jesus…or perhaps be personally delivered to the Devil.
Finally! American Guinea Pig: “The Song of Solomon” has been on my highly anticipated review material list for a very, very long time. Written, produced, and helmed by the founder and president of Unearthed Films himself, Stephen Biro has been more than widely known for years to promote and glorify gore in the shock-provoking films underneath his banner; a practice that has made his company a stable in the realm of horror aficionados. “The Song of Solomon” keeps the blood flowing….splattering, squirting, spurting, spilling, in fact! Whereas many of the Unearthed Films productions and distributions have a granular or avant garde stories, Biro, despite the confined and limited locations, pens an engrossing narrative with evocative, haunting, and surreal characters surged into a powerful and ageless tale that sordidly spanks “The Exorcist” like an irrefutably forgotten and spoiled rotten step-child. “The Song of Solomon” is that good and soars to the top in being one of this reviewer’s favorite Unearthed Films’ titles.
Jessica Cameron should just be handed a ton of awards for her performance as the possessed Mary. Cameron’s creative creepiness is unsurpassable and just oozes out of the character, zapping an icy chill down each disk of the spine whenever she uses the playful sing-songy voice of a snake’s fork tongue. As a whole, Cameron singlehandedly comes off overwhelming haunting and delivers a personality made up of nightmare material; a phenomenal performance that rivals, if not outright tops, Linda Blair’s Regan. There are moments when you think the 2003 “Truth or Dare” director and actress had post-production enhanced vocals to make Mary persuasive, enticing, and demonic, but only a slight vocal overlay on top is the only thin icing on the already devilish cake. It’s not as if Cameron didn’t have any competition on screen, either. Scott Gabbey, David E. McMahon (“Followers”), Angelcorpse’s Gene Palubicki (“American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock”), and Jim Van Bebber (“The Manson Family”) compliment the versus’ righteous, if not also flawed, challenger with immense passion for their respective roles of grief-stricken priests, plucked carefully by top Church officials to handle the exorcism. Maureen Pelamati, Josh Townsend, and Scott Alan Warner (“3-Headed Shark Attack”) co-star.
Production value must reign above the conventional indie fare and special effects owns much of that real estate. The man behind the special effects on such films as “Mohawk” and “Lung II,” Marcus Koch, has teamed up with “Bereavement” and “Murder-Set-Pieces'” Jerami Cruise to assemble some of best, yet refreshingly basic, gore effects seen recently. Regurgitation of internal organs, the compound splintering of bones, and even a Columbian necktie are the prime examples of what to expect from the unlimited imagination of the Koch and Cruise collaboration. Locations are simple and tight, leaving not much room for exploration of options for practical effects, but each scene is well thought out, choreographed, and designed for gruesome upshot that keeps true to Unearthed Films brand of filmmaking. Toss all that into a sack along with fellow colleague Gene Palubicki’s malevolently cacophony soundtrack and the outcome is a well-rounded horror film with extreme unapologetic values worth the time of day and night.
“The Song of Solomon,” an Unearthed Films production, lands onto Blu-ray distributed courtesy of MVD Visual. The 86 minute runtime film is presented in a High Definition 1080p widescreen format, 1.90:1 aspect ratio, on a single layer BD-50 disc. If you want gore, you got it with this particularly warm hued transfer really puts the devil in the details with grisly effects that could be hard to stomach. The English LCPM Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track caters with nice fidelity. Dialogue is clearly present amongst the Palubicki score and the ghastly ambience augments the visual viscosity of the gore. Bonus features include an audio commentary with Stephen Biro and Jessica Camera, another commentary with Biro and effects gurus Marcus Koch and Jerami Cruise, interviews with Jessica Cameron, Stephen Biro, Marcus Koch, Gene Palubiki, David McMahon, and director of photography Chris Helleke, a behind the scenes look, outtakes, and a photo gallery. Comparing Stephen Biro’s “The Song of Solomon” to William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” is like comparing apples to oranges as both films relish and thrive in their own atmospheres. However, “The Song of Solomon” stands firm as a powerful competitor that offers up a ravishingly foul and metaphysical entry into the genre realm of demonic possessions casted with raw talent.
Julia Trent is left orphaned after the fatal accident of her parents that involved them falling to their fiery deaths when their car careens off a cliff attempting to drive their housekeeper home. The only family Julia has left is the Bryant family whom she hasn’t seen in over 15 years. The Bryants welcome their niece with consolation and open arms, inviting her to room with her cousin, Rachel. Rachel has the perfect life: a loving mother and father, a cute boyfriend, and the ability to ride and compete in horse competitions. However, Rachel’s world is upended when Julia enters her life and something just doesn’t seem right when Julia slowly begins to push Rachel out of her comfy position, bewitching the men in her life to turn against her and being the center of a number of considerable accidents. As Rachel suspicions grow and she becomes further attached from all those that surround her, an investigation ensues with Rachel at helm to retrieve what’s rightfully her’s from an underlying evil.
The late Wes Craven made for television movie “Summer of Fear,” also known as “Stranger in the House,” is a living relic; a time capsule type horror this generation will find difficult to grasp, like Nintendo’s Gameboy or music tape cassettes, with thrilling suspense unlike today’s cookie cutter product. After he shocked audiences with the controversial “The Last House on the Left” and crafted a shifty dream killer in “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” director Wes Craven embarked on a venture into the television movie scene that didn’t spur graphic content, but focused putting the supernatural in the forefront of reality with a similarity to that of “Tales of the Darkside” or “The Twilight Zone,” captivating audiences sitting in front of the boobtube with twists and thrills in a Halloween premiered NBC movie. Based on Lois Duncan’s novel of the same title and written for television by Glenn Benest (who also wrote another Craven directed picture “Deadly Blessings”) and Max Keller, Wes Craven greatly accepted the challenge of reaching a broad audience without being subversive and explicit, sharing his vision with another living horror icon in the starring role.
“The Exorcist’s” Linda Blair has a role that’s certainly a far cry from the possessed Reagan, but the 1978 “Summer of Fear” had opened up a sleuth-type role for Blair that made her more of the hunter than the victim. Blair’s raspy voice and spoiled girl attitude completes the privileged daughter of the household compared to her tall and charming rival, Julia Trent, in “Necromancy’s” Lee Purcell. Purcell compliments Blair all too well and, together, the on screen tension is ever present, even if slightly over exaggerated. From that point on, “Summer of Fear” was filled in by other great talent such as Jeremy Slate (“True Grit” ’69), Carol Lawrence, a very young Fran Drescher in the beginning of her career, Jeff McCracken, and Jeff East (“Pumpkinhead”), but the more fascinating role, that was hardly explored, is awarded to MacDonald Carey, the resident occult professor of the neighborhood. Carey’s has a very old school actor with a performance very familiar to Robert Mitchum and the veteran actor’s vast career felt very small here in the catalytic role as the confirming source for Rachel in her suspicions.
In addition to the withdrawal of the contentious content, “Summer of Fear” entertains on a minimalistic special effects stage that still pops with jaw-dropping suspense and still caters to an, even if slightly dated, story altering moment that rockets toward a maelstrom finish. All the while, Lee Purcell’s character has such glam and beauty that the bewitching sticks overpoweringly raw as a telling moment that beauty isn’t all that’s wrapped up to be and people can be ugly on the inside. Through brief glimpses into Julia Trent’s authentic past, including the mountainous Ozark retreats, one could conclude the story’s ultimate ending, but the fact that the actors embrace their rolls and Wes Craven connects himself enthusiastically to the project makes “Summer of Fear” a solid small box show of terror.
Doppelgänger Releasing releases the Wes Craven classic “Summer of Fear” for the first time onto Blu-ray home video. Transferred to a 1080p resolution, the presentation is certainly made from TV in the Academy, 4:3 or 1.33:1, aspect ratio. Image quality sporadically has moments of definition instability where the image goes fluffy or soft and amongst the duration’s entirety are a slew of white specks and noticeable grain, but the transfer remains solid over the decades that display a grandeur of vivid coloring despite some scenes of with an overburdening washed yellow tint. The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio cleanly presents the feature with not a lot of flashy audio moments and the dialogue is clean and clear suggesting that the audio track aged very well. Bonus material includes an audio commentary track by director Wes Craven, an exclusive interview with Linda Blair, photo and poster gallery, and concluding with the original 1978 trailer. “Summer of Fear” might be obsolete in modern ways of terror filmmaking, but Wes Craven imprints a searing cult classic that brandishes more than just guts and gore. Instead, the father of “Scream” continues to impress beyond the grave, thanks to distributors like Doppelgänger Releasing, with the filmmaker’s expansive range that debunks many popcorn horror goers’ assumptions about the director and his films. “Summer of Fear” simply showcases that Craven was a jack of all trades when coming down to brass tax in creating a terrifying story.
In a small South Korean village, tight-knit families practically know one another in the quaint middle-class community. When mysteriously deadly destructions from inside local families and strange stories of animal carcass devouring creatures in the woods surface, local police sergeant Jong-Goo begins an investigation to connect a pattern of violence and superstition and at the center of it all is a suspicious and reclusive Japanese traveller. Bound by the law and an overall lack of courage, Jong-Goo proceeds to investigate with extreme caution, but when his young daughter, Hyo-jin, becomes subjected to the same symptoms that overtook destroyed families from within, the desperate father sets aside rules and regulations and uses threats and force when visiting the Japanese Stranger, whose rumored to be an evil spirit that’s plaguing the small village with terror and death.
By far, “The Wailing” sets the precedent on folklore horror. Acclaimed writer-director Hong-jin Na lands a harrowingly ambitious, well-constructed film right into the lap of horror fans with “The Wailing,” known also as “Goksung” in the film’s country of South Korea. South Korean filmmakers have once reestablished proof that foreign films can be as masterful, as bold, and as elegant when compared to any other film from major studio productions. Hollywood has started to come around by remaking one of South Korea’s most notorious films, the vengeful thriller “Oldboy,” and seeks to remake recent international hits in “Train to Buscan” and “I Saw the Devil.” Lets also touch upon that top Hollywood actors are beginning to branch out to South Korean films. “Captain America” star Chris Evans had obtained a starring role in Joon-ho Bong’s “Snowpiercer” alongside co-stars Ed Harris and the late British actor Sir John Hurt. “The Wailing” will reach similar popularity being one of 2016’s most original horror movies and one of the more unique visions of terror to clutch the heart of my all time favorite’s list.
Do-won Kwak stars as Sergeant Jong-Goo, a officer who avoids trouble at all costs and has no motivation to be on time for anything. Kwak, basically, plays the fool character, comically going through the routine of investigating brutal murders complete with stabbings, burnings, and hangings despite his Captain’s constant chastising and seizes every opportunity to act dumb and look stupid, but once the story starts to focus “The Wailing” as nothing more than an offbeat black-comedy, Hong-ja Na devilishly about-faces with a severe turn of events that’s a mixed bag of genres. Kwak no longer plays the lead role of comic relief; instead, a more self-confident Sergeant Jong-Goo takes control of the investigation as the deeper he finds himself involved in the dark plague that’s ravaging his village. He hunts down the Japanese Stranger, the debut South Korean film for long time Japanese actor Jun Kunimura (“Kill Bill,” Takashi Miike’s “Audition”) with a zen like aurora that’s enormously haunting to behold and captivating when his presence is lurking amongst the scene. Though Kunimura’s demeanor contrasts with other actors, he’s very much in tune with the dynamic, but it’s the maniacally, foul-mouth ravings of Hyo-jin, played by Hwan-hee Kim, that stand out and are the most distraught during her possession state that could give “The Exorcist” a run for it’s money and is a visceral vice grip to the soul that has to be experienced. Woo-hee Chun and Jung-min Hwang round out the cast in their respective and memorable co-starring roles as a peculiar no named woman and a flashy shaman.
“The Wailing” incorporates various folklore stemming from cultures all over the world including the Koreas, China, Japan, and even from China’s bordering neighbor Nepal and meshes them with religious practices of Buddhism to even the far corners that the Catholic faith possesses. The luxuriant green South Korean mountain backdrop sets an isolated, ominous cloud over a beautiful and serene archaic village, an awe-inspiring juxtaposition created by cinematographer Kyung-pyo Hong that coincides with the complete dread piercing through the heart of the story; a perspective vastly opposite to Hong’s works in the previously mentioned “Snowpiercer” that’s set in the tight confines of a class dividing bullet train. “The Wailing” bundles together mythos with visionary concepts and landscapes in an epic mystery-thriller that’s unforgettable; it will cling to you, like a evil-dwelling spirit, well after the film is over.
20th Century Fox, in association with Ivanhoe Pictures and Side Mirror, produce Hong-jin Na’s top horror contender “The Wailing” with Well Go USA and Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment distributing on DVD and Blu-ray. Unfortunately, I was provided with a DVD-R screener and can’t specifically comment on specifications and image or audio quality. Accompanying the screener were two bonus features: a behind-the-scenes featurette and the beginning tale of “The Wailing” featurette. Both were fairly informative that gives insight on Hong-jin Na’s mindset and how the director’s ambitious story in a malignant tale of comedy, horror, and mysterious involving demons, shamans, and, quite possibly, the devil himself. “The Wailing” significantly captivates, sucking you into the darkness with an uncanny amount of pull with a story too terrifyingly original to avert and too thick with vigorous characters in a plot twist too harrowing to forget.
Journeying from the South to reside with her son Michele, Lea is a boisterously strong matriarch whose suffered through twelve miscarriages in fifteen years and has become insanely protective of her sole breathing progeny. Michele lives in a stately condominium that accommodates an eclectic bunch of women of various tastes, housing his mother Lea to mix as a lottery fortune teller of sorts. Lea’s talents go beyond just predicting winning lucky numbers as she’s also a fantastic cook in the kitchen, a superb soap maker, and an efficient killer that supplements the prior traits. Madness consumes a mother who seeks to absolutely protect her only child and a contractual deal with Death itself orders the end of minuscule lives, such as the other tenants of Lea’s apartment building, to fulfill her obligations to Death.
I promise you, you’ve never seen a Shelley Winters performance like this! “Gran Bollito,” otherwise known in the U.S. as “Black Journal,” is a 1977 Italian macabre from director Mauro Bolognini and has for the first time ever been slow cooked to Blu-ray high definition. “Gran Bollito” has been resurrected from the archives of production company Italfrance Films’ with Shelley Winters (“The Poseidon Adventure”, “Lolita”) exploiting her mother’s animal instincts to provide Death with as many souls as she can chop up and boil into a lathery substance. “Gran Bollito” loosely translate as very boiled, a form of murder that would top the charts and these heinous acts were, in fact, inspired by the true, inexplicable story of an Italian serial killer named Leonarda Ciancillui, a soap maker whom sacrificed three women in hopes to protect her war drafted son. Alongside mother mayhem are a trio of cross-dressing actors portraying the three victims; actors such as singer-actor-director Renato Pozzetto, Italian sex-comedy actor Alberto Lionello, and the legendary Max von Sydow (“The Exorcist,” “Game of Thrones”) go full blown drag, donning the period piece’s late 1930s conservative wardrobes while conducting themselves loosely with their intimate and delicate privacies.
As I mentioned, “Gran Bollito” tackles numerous undertones with multiple notations of the horrors of war and the inexplicable amount of death from it as well as from disease, to miscarriages, and to the actual beheadings to sustain a red soap bar factory and food processing plant Lea runs in her custom made kitchen. The Bolognini film also notes many facets of mental illness and health with merely Winters’ topping the psychological pyramid. Conditions consisting of states from a stroke, absentminded dementia, and severe delusions to name a select few are displayed throughout to which almost puts the perception of Lea, or maybe Lea’s perception, one of relative normalcy. Lea’s derangement stems from her fifteen years of pain and suffering through multiple miscarriages. Bolognini very conspicuously has Pozzetto, Lionello, and Sydow portray Lea’s victimized women. They represent Lea’s resentment for their wasteful contributions toward their natural given right to bear children as if the women were merely men without a womb and that strikes a sensitive nerve with Lea who would do anything to give her children life again.
Generally, Bolognini’s constructs a well paced film, seamlessly passing the days, weeks, or months from Lea’s condominium integration to the slow seep that eventually breaks into maddening despair and desperateness. The cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi is soft and lofty that appeases to angelic similarities akin to that of Tinto Brass films, but when the tide turns, her kitchen brights white and Lea is dressed in midnight black as if she’s the Grim Reaper herself. Nannuzzi’s an artist at his trade by enabling Shelley Winters to shed the wholesome of her prior performances and at the same time present a false sense of calm and good fortune. Composer Enzo Jannacci’s score underwhelms when accompanying said Nannuzzi’s style; the score’s flat and breathy tone just doesn’t leave an impression, lacking substance and girth that doesn’t quite fit the Bolognini’s mold. Though acting and performing not in her native country, the St. Louis born Shelley Winters extracts a true life serial killer from off the Italian crime section.
Twilight Time’s “Gran Bollito” is now on a Blu-ray High Definition 1080p transfer presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The limited edition release look impeccably detailed, sporting natural coloring and depth. Twilight Time, by far, has the best image quality compared to any release. The Italian 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is pretty good with balanced range and clarity in all aspects of audible tracks with only a minor pops in the tracks during transitional scenes. Bonus features include an audio commentary with film historians Derek Botelho and David Del Valte with also the original theatrical trailer. Twilight Time polishes “Gran Bollito” with the respect this obscure Shelley Winters film deserves; a horror-comedy that pushes the limits bordering insanity and disparity in a twisted display of narrative too intriguing to fathom.
Unorthodox exorcist and hobby writer Richard Vanuk lives a depressing and humble life full of endless booze and filthy altruism. Driven by the need for alcohol and an underline desire to help possessed strangers for a small fee, Vanuk barely maintains his own sustainability. With each challenging case of demonic inhabitance, the poor full time exorcist, and part time writer, expels demons from their misfortunate hosts into his own wretched soul, draining his self-respecting humanity out of him one demon-expulsion job at a time. The deeper Vanuk spirals downward into nihilism and the deeper he goes into severe debt, the choice to withdrawal from the toll of exorcising demons becomes no longer an option, but a fruitlessly fateful venture to just surviving in a world that’s scarce of good people.
My second undertaking into a Daniel Falicki horror film has the “Awaken The Devil” director batting a solid hundred percent on the ever honest critique block, going a strong two-for-two with his latest film, 2016’s “Accidental Exorcist,” that’s drenched with a despair atmosphere that swallows the intentionally pathetic character who is granted only a glimmer of unattainable hope for a good life. The writer-director has a keen eye for developing horror in various comedic, dramatic, and absurdly berserk formatted segments, delicately defining details to capture memorable moments. Falicki also stars as his own character, Richard Vanuk, and Falicki charms the audience by creating a likable anti-protagonist whose cavalier about demonic possessions and begrudged by a “corporate” employer who pays very little for the precision of demon banishment; this same company performs a stigmata on him after every exhausting job, discarding his limp, unconscious body in a different snow covered park afterwards.
Falicki drowns Vanuk in vices and addictions. Aside from the obvious alcohol and constant inebriation, Vanuk needs the pain of performing exorcisms as much as he loathes the process and the people who employs him. The character can’t reform, can’t function properly in normality, as witnessed when his successful brother offers Richard a once-in-a-lifetime position at his mundane company of pigmentation for sports equipment. When the exorcism well runs dry, Vanuk goes into full blown, borderline psychotic detox as he’s cut off from his, one and only, natural born skill and the ceasing of his per diem position sends him into frantically gulping down bottles of cold medicine to get a soothing fix. Falicki punishes the audience beloved, unconventional exorcist by having Vanuk fall to the bottom by not being unlucky or plotted against, but by simply self destruction and having God turn his back on his loyal servant when the promise, or a test, of a favorable outlook reveals itself.
The casting couldn’t be much more perfect with a cast of talented b-movie stars such as Jason Roth (“Awaken The Devil”), Chris Kotcher, and Jeffrey Goodrich to quickly name a few. Falicki owns Richard Vanuk, embodying the character so brilliantly that I would have a hard time relinquishing Richard Vanuk from Daniel Falicki’s face. Falicki pulls out all the stops by putting every once of degradation the director can muster into the downtrodden exorcist with a performance that sells his hapless nature and spew-filled gigs. Every client Vanuk attends to is portrayed honestly and earnestly from Sherryl Despress’s role of a desperate mother turned possessed super sewer to Patrick Hendren’s blind and levitating demonic being who goes on to have a heart-to-heart with Vanuk after an exorcism recovery.
“Accidental Exorcist” is unapologetic and shameless; a real nasty bitch to love unconditionally. The fun soars above the summit and the ingrained heart bursts beyond the restrictive seams of the reel. The film is nothing I’ve ever scene before; yet, still manages to homage legendary films that “Accidental Exorcist” built it’s bones upon. Similarities to, of course, the iconic William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” are apparent throughout with the almost beautifully grim and isolated atmospheric exterior scenes of foreboding destiny. Falicki’s film contains special effects so convincing by leaps and bounds when compared to other modern independent horror, portraying Vanuk so well within the confines of his dank and dejected existence that it’s as if he’s sharing his grime and his loneliness with us that’ll result with a quick shower when the credits roll.
Sector 5 Films and Rotomation Studios courtesy produces “Accidental Exorcist,” that’s not related to the Joshua Graham novel, but the audio and video will not be critically reviewed since I received and viewed a press screener and the film has yet to be released onto a home entertainment platform. However, make no mistake that “Accidental Exorcist” strides cockily into the first half of 2016 horror season, flying unnoticed, under the radar, as sleeper agent dangerous to demonic possession film competitors. Director Daniel Falicki is on the up and coming watch list like a high target terrorist, striking the heart of modern day horror and putting fear, and comedy, into a cynical cauldron.