The Greatest Trick EVIL Ever Pulled Was Convincing Couples the Perfect Marriage Ever Existed. “Happily” reviewed! (Saban Films / Digital Screener)

Tom and Janet have been married for 14 years.  By that amount of time elapsed, marriage has moved past the honeymoon stage and settled into routine with the spark having dulled and sex life becoming nearly, if not totally, stale, but for Tom and Janet, their libidos are the equivalent to hormone-driven teenagers.  Their marriage has happily sustained over the years, never veering off course, but when a couples’ retreat invitation is rescinded by their friends because of the envied desire for each other and a mysterious man arrives at their door step next day offering a syringe injection that will cure them into a normal married couple, Tom and Janet believe they’re a part of a sick joke by one of their so-called friends, leading to a dead body, a brief case of unknown substance, and a re-invitation to the couples’ retreat where they must figure out who is and who isn’t of the four other couples are on team Tom and Janet.  Yet, the trip founded on the idea booze and relaxation turns into a disclosure of lies, secrets, and deadly disconnections. 

What’s the secret to a long lasting marriage?  Good sex, obviously.  But can an ostensibly impenetrable marriage be flawless?  That’s one of the themes writer-director BenDavid Grabinski toys with in his inaugural feature film directorial of “Happily” that disparages the unsullied union of Tom and Janet by a quartet of couples, who are also Tom and Janet’s closest friends, who aim to stick it to the happy couple because of their own marriage and life failures.  Grabinksi, creator and writer of revamped “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” television series, incorporates that element of grim tale mystery for allegorical effect into the psychology of envious, mal intent friends projecting their negativity on Tom and Janet’s positivity and love.  “Happily” is a production of the Arizona based Common Wall Media, an indie record and film production labeled owned and operated by Chuckie Duff, and, perhaps, the reason “Happily” has a killer soundtrack that includes Tim Capello “I Still Believe.”  Jack Black (“Tropic Thunder,” “Goosebumps”) also produces the film under his Electric Dynamite Productions, Inc. banner in collaboration with Indy Entertainment (“Nightmare Cinema”). 

I find extreme difficulty seeing Joel McHale in anything remotely with a serious tone for someone who grew up with the comedian during his 12 season days of E!’s spinoff of Talk Soup titled simply, The Soup.  McHale’s range as a funny man is beyond being paramount with great comic timing and able to deliver an unlimited amounts of laughs in just his mere expressions and that has translated well into his filmic career from comedies such as “Ted” to “The Happytime Murders” and even well into his more earnest and darker roles in “Deliver Us From Evil” and, his most recent release which is “Home Alone” for a more mature audiences, “Becky.”  In “Happily,” McHale plays Tom, a loving husband to wife Janet who can’t keep their hands off each other and never fight for more than half a day in what’s staunchly considered a perfectly sickening marriage by their closest friends.  One thing I’ve learned from watching Joel McHale in this role is not only can he bear the weight evenly of an emotional thriller, but the guy is jacked!  Opposite McHale is “Penny Dreadful:  City of Angels” star Kerry Bishé, matching the sexual and profound tone as the wife, Janet. Bishé takes on Janet’s ever benevolent wifedom, elevating it to a whole new level as the working spouse, ready to gratify Tom by any means possible and in any compromising position possible, who’s also served hand and foot by the same man who knows how to reciprocate at the right moment. Bishé’s a favorable compliment to McHale as a power couple daring the odds together on the same page until losing they’re way because, simply, they’re inevitably human. Tom and Janet square off against four other couples under suspicion of a suspected prank-gone-wrong after meeting with a mysterious man played by “Office Space’s” Stephen Root. Could the pranksters be the flamboyantly affluent, but unaffectionate Karen and Val (Natalie Zea of “The Following” and Paul Scheer of “Piranha 3DD”)? Could it be the uptight lesbian couple Carla and Maude (Shannon Woodward of “Westworld” and Kirby Howell-Baptiste of the upcoming “Cruella”)? Or is it the carefree Patricia and her inhospitable husband Donald (Natalie Morales of “The Santa Clara Diet” and “Mastermind’s” John Daly)? Maybe its the anger unmanaging Richard and his newfound fiancé Gretel (Breckin Meyer of “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” and Charlyne Yi of ” Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich”)?

Grabinski forcibly shoves the happily in “Happily’s” Tom and Janet’s marriage down our throats with a diabolical lustful half-exposition, half-hanky-panky action before title sequence intro into their infinity spicy life. The couple screw like two teenage rabbits hopped up on an aphrodisiac more than a typical mundane couple of 14-years should ever seen in their union’s lifetime, but, then, Grabinski throws in the proverbial monkey wrench into the gears. The question comes up, and lingers throughout, whether Tom and Janet are inherently broken, a defect in their existential creation, and that begins to snowball down the hill of insidious thoughts as the protagonists have their idyllic marriage tainted by the hair brain idea of a stranger, carrying two syringes of an insta-fix made up of unknown, illuminating material, who beguiles them with bureaucratic niceties to lie his way into their home and tells them he works for a higher power. Is this mysterious man God? Perhaps, the Devil? Grabinski smartly keeps that little detail under wraps and, for the first half of the film, stays a mystery upon itself. In time, each couple begins to unravel cankerous secrets, all of which have been targeted at Tom and Janet for their perfection and that’s perhaps where “Happily” struggles a bit as a story as Grabinski has a rolodex of past events being flipped through a plethora of interaction exposition, leaving morsels to try and puzzle the uneasiness of the morose couples’ retreat together. The long and short of the story is that the audience will need more morsels to chew on, get the creative juices flowing, to understand character motivations because, in the end, “Happily” is one big couples therapy session of divulging secrets to wash away, more or less, soul-deteriorating sin.

Before all hope is lost between two people, an intervention is warranted, even if it’s a divine one in BenDavid Grabinski’s dark comedy “Happily” heading our way to theaters, digital, and on demand come Friday, March 19th from Saban Films. The R-rated film runs for 96 minutes is presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio that gets to showcase more of Adam Bricker’s luridly dreamy style. The “Starry Eyes” cinematographer instills a firm taste of precise, primary coloring tinting that evokes the intensity of the scene rather than pitching an outlined overlay on top of his soft lighting. The red “Predator”-esque vision through CCTV lens is a nice touch of also breaking up the more natural lit scenes for that ominous approach. Since “Happily” is coming to theaters, there is obviously no bonus material, but stick around for scenes during the credits and after credits. Lies, betrayals, murder, and the uncanny are soaked into “Happily’s” absorbent fibers as one of this years best dark comedies that hones in on ascertaining that nothing is perfect but the perfection that you make together.

Father and Son Bring EVIL Down Upon a Tormented Detective in “Darkness Falls” reviewed! (Vertical Entertainment / Digital Screener)


Los Angeles detective Jeff Anderson has his perfect world turned upside down upon discovering his beloved wife dead of suicide in their apartment bathtub. Losing his bid for Captain and having his life be in utter shambles, Anderson becomes obsessed with lurking around incoming suicide calls on the CB radio, trying to make sense of his wife’s sudden reasoning to end it all. When a similar case produces a survivor from a familiar fate as his wife’s, Anderson learns two men are behind similar forged suicides stretched out over the past ten years against prominent women figures in and around the L.A. area. The detective spins a wild theory that has him following every lead to track down and stop the father and son serial killers without any backup from his local precinct, forcing his hand to choose whether to be a cop and uphold the law or seek lethal retribution for the woman he loved.

From French director Julien Seri comes “Darkness Falls,” a crime thriller released in 2020 that is entirely shot in English, a first for the French filmmaker who helms a script from the executive producer on “Starry Eyes” and “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot,” the Belgium native, Giles Daoust. Also produced by the Belgium, the film, that was formerly titled “Anderson Falls,” gorges on the detective exemplar of the prodigal crime fighter stripped down to next to nothing before regaining footing against the two experienced serial killers out to reduce the highly professional woman population with one bottle full of sleeping bills and one razorblade at a time. “Darkness Falls” is an exaggerated piece of nurture versus nature on systemic toxic masculinity seething under the guise of one man’s oppressed childhood from the abusive women in his life and then enlightening his son to his ways while the open minded, Renaissance man climbs back up the mountain toward redemption, not only for himself or his wife, but for all women being forced in a dual parental role. “Darkness Falls” is released under the production companies Koji Productions, Lone Suspect, and Giles Daoust’s Title Media.

Despite the international production and filmmakers, the solid cast is compromised of familiar faces from respectable actors, starting with not-the-Elsa-“Frozen’s” Shawn Ashmore. Ashmore, who I considered to a steady part of any project – he’s phenomenal in Fox’s “The Following” with co-star Kevin Bacon, – finds himself in the shoes of a L.A. detective who has fallen by no cause of his own, but as consumed as detective Jeff Anderson is with proving his wife’s murder, Ashmore doesn’t sell Anderson’s convictions and doesn’t properly apply Anderson’s super sleuth talents to wade through the sea of angst and torment. Anderson’s also written poorly as a man who consistently lingers around suicide call-ins and has constantly has numerous visions and memories of his wife that serve little to her importance to him, serving more toward just being story fillers instead of providing a little more value to Anderson’s character. What attracted me more to “Darkness Falls” was Gary Cole as one-half of the father-and-son serial killer team. Cole takes a break from the Mike Judge and Seth McFarland humor to stretch his legs amongst the thriller genre, playing an unnamed dark toned character derived from hate, abuse, and the thrill of seeing women die. Cole’s performance is a step above Ashmore’s lead role, but still flat, flat to the point of almost monotonic pointlessness that doesn’t exalt his need to kill high profile women. “Darkness Falls” rounds out the cast with Danielle Alonso (“The Hills Have Eyes 2”) as a Anderson’s former partner turned police captain, Richard Harmon (“Grave Encounters 2”) as Gary Cole’s accomplice son, and the legendary Lin Shaye (“Insidious”) as Anderson’s mother.

While “Darkness Falls” conveys a strong, if unintentional, message that grossly sheds light on the overstepping male view toward the idea of a successful woman, director Julien Seri missteps multiple times through the dramatics of a cop on the edge of the law and on the brink of despair while also not completely rigging out Gary Cole and Richard Harmon with more conniving wit, especially when their kindred reign of terror is well versed throughout the years. What fleshes out from Ashmore’s rolling on the floor and spitting shade performance at pictures of women on his crime wall trying to get into the head of the killers and Cole’s character who relinquishes freedom in sacrifice, even after a daring great escape from a botched crime scene that involved killing two cops in the process, is this weirdly uncharismatic collapse of a story from within the parameters of a well-established cast and premise. “Darkness Falls” barely pulls out a believable crime thriller that can only be described as vanilla, a term that stakes the heart terribly knowing that Shawn Ashmore and Gary Cole deserve so much better just from their lustrous careers and polar acting styles that don’t counterbalance the dynamics at all in this film. The original title, “Anderson Falls,” is fresher salt than the stale, rehashed title change of “Darkness Falls” to, perhaps, gain traction in a fruitless action of selling more tickets, adding even more vanilla flavor.

Releasing on VOD and Digital this month is “Darkness Falls,” an unrated release, courtesy of Vertical Entertainment. Streaming services such as iTunes, Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, FandangoNow will carry Shawn Ashmore’s 84 minute sordid themed detective thriller as well as all major cable and satellite companies. Since this is a digital screener, the audio and video aspects will not be reviewed, but if running on digital and VOD, the presentation should be excellent provided that your internet’s not sluggish and a good connection is established. I will say that the score by Sacha Chaban is against the grain with a brawny anti-brooding soundtrack more suitable for intense action than stylish poignancy than ends in uninspired ca’canny. That’s also not to say it wasn’t a good score. There were no bonus material included with the digital screener and no bonus scenes during or after the credits. Sitting through “Darkness Falls” was tough to sit through as the anticipation for the morbidity level to increase with due pressure onto detective’s Anderson’s browbeaten shoulders for a hellish ride solving his wife’s untimely death was never sated, sputtering along as a halfcocked story with performances to match.

“Darkness Falls” available for rent on Prime Video!

EVIL’s Fixed on Not Letting Go. “The Intruder” reviewed!


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!

Pre-Order “The Intruder”

Horror Short: Happy Halloween

Here’s a little horror short from director Adam Green (“Frozen” (2010), Hatchet) and starring Shawn Ashmore (“Frozen” (2010), ‘The Following’) and Brea Grant (“Halloween II” (2009)). Everything seems normal between a husband and wife chatting over Skype on Halloween night until the truth comes out and a turn for the worst is revealed!

Kevin and the Evil Cult! The Following (Eps 8 review)

About time we have a more passionate episode making us care about characters who have been dormant for too long. Perhaps the anticipation came to the edge of the boiling point and finally spilled over unto the flame. Will this be the turning point for the characters? I hope so – fuck! I’m tired of Ryan Hardy chasing the tail of his nemesis. I’m tired of Weston being a geeky waste of space. I’m tired of Joe Carroll speaking in riddles. In this episode, Ryan gives respect, Weston is strong, and Carroll has ultimate power or mind control however you would like to label it.

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Also, the refreshing part about the episode is how the characters’ roles have reversed. Carroll is out and free with a hoard of acolytes to do anything for him even kill themselves – devotion that is almost non-existant in today’s world unfortunately. Ryan feels constrained by his new boss, Agent “Asshole,” and is stuck within the confines of the law but wants to break free by beating down the captures acolytes.

Of course, I was wrong about who Rodrigo turned out to be with Rodrigo being a man and not the super cute cougar Agent Debra Parker. Rodrigo turns out to be a better character, but a character we have not seen before. However, we can understand where Rodrigo pulls his influence and how Rodrigo became a part of Carroll’s crew. Carroll isn’t the only power house character to have a devotee; Ryan Hardy has Weston who was kidnapped, beaten, and stab to protect a very important secret on the behalf of Hardy. Weston has finally earned Hardy’s long becoming respect.

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I’m certainly looking forward to the next episode to see how the characters unfold and to see who my be the next surprised acolyte, but I have a hunch, and I’ll probably be wrong again like I was with Rodrigo, that there might be a friend within the Carroll following. Stay tuned.