Kent Chubbs manages a popular fetish nightclub called Den O’Iniquity in a small conservative town and the demanding, ever-present pressure to close his proclaimed “smut” club from the angry puritanical protestors and unethical politicians have Kent on the hair pulling fences about what to exactly do with his beloved club and loyal employees. To make the matters worse, Kent’s father and club owner, Shank Chubbs, is knocking on death’s door with a bad ticker. To make the matters even more worse, the club’s been a remarkable safe haven for those who choose to express their closeted intimate desires in spanking, furry sex, or lube wrestling, but, during the holiday season, the club has had a low hanging dark cloud in a form of a deranged killer whose been destructively rampaging through the club’s most precious employees and enthusiastic patrons. In order to save everything he holds dear, Kent must find a way to keep everything afloat despite the challenges and his ill-advised legal advice from his acid tripping hippie attorney while also tracking down a psychopath.
In 2007, Richard Griffin directed a hybrid film that structured an abled bodied comedy and interjected moments of gruesome horror and fashioned it with elaborate musical numbers and the result was a niche slasher-musical simply known as “Splatter Disco.” We like this film. Actually, we love this film. Not because we enjoy watching and reviewing Richard Griffin films (see “Flesh for the Inferno,” “The Sins of Dracula,” “The Disco Exorcist,” “Frankenstein’s Hungry Dead,” “Future Justice”) and enjoy seeing where his toddler career began, but because “Splatter Disco” embodies the unlikely mixture of oil and water genres, doesn’t take itself seriously, and was whole-heartedly invested in by some of the biggest names in cult cinema as well as some talented actors and actresses you’ve may have never heard of before, but should certainly know.
Ken Foree, Lynn Lowry, and Debbie Rochon. Three big, well-known names that add their own delectable charm into the mix and, also, three big names who have developed a dynamic, who know each other’s styles, and who can still churn new material on the fly like it’s no big deal. Tack on Trent Haaga (“The Ghouls”) and the then new and Richard Griffin regular from that point on, Sarah Nicklin, who both have the favorably b-movie glow and “Splatter Disco” goes to a whole new level. One of the best performances goes to Jason McCormick as Echo, a DJ Qualls lookalike, with a timely comedic toss that provides a unique schtick to keep the character rememberable and McCormick nails the character right on the flat head. Overall, there were no slacking performances; every actor was chin deep getting into their respective roles with the various fetishes, cloak and dagger shades, and violent intentions. Rounding out the cast is Carlos Brum (“Beyond the Dunwich Horror”), William DeCoff (“The Haunting of Alice D”), Robin L. Watkins (“Poultrygeist”), and Brian L. Mullen III (“Pretty Dead Things”).
If you never experienced a Richard Griffin feature, you’ll pleasantly find out very quickly the director goes all out and the Providence, Rhode Island born director has a great 1970’s-1980’s homage style side dished with lots of vibrant colors and the abundance of suspending smoke and you’ll see why we cater to much of his work. The script’s dialogue, co-written by Griffin and producer Ted Marr, also excellently defines and solidifies the quick wit and whimsical nature of the comedy-horror and to make no mistake, this comedy-musical-horror has no shame with perversions, has well edited bloody special effects, and is ultimately a blast of lively cult cinema! “Splatter Disco” is a self-proclaimed first slasher musical of it’s kind; honestly, I couldn’t think of a prior film of it’s kind, but “Splatter Disco” has hit and catchy imitative tunes provided by Tony Milano and performed by Daniel Hildreth that go hand-and-hand with the humbling dance choreography.
MVDVisual, POP Cinema, and Shock-O-Rama re-releases “Splatter Disco” onto a not rated DVD home video with a 16:9 widescreen presentation. Regrettably, I’m sorely disappointed in the video quality that fully suffers from the distorting and blotchy compression artifacts that make night scenes fuzzy and flimsy in defintion. The lossy 2.0 stereo track is par for the course, even with musical pieces and soundtrack overlay, but does provide a little restitution for the image loss. Bonus features are aplenty that include a commentary with director Richard Griffin and star Lynn Lowry, a behind-the-scenes documentary, alternate scenes, and a Shock-O-Rama trailer vault. “Splatter Disco” is an entertaining 87 minute Richard Griffin slasher capsule classic full of degenerate song and dance!
Six friends break bread for the holidays in a remote woodsy cabin. As their jovial and joyful conversation continues, a wicked evil lurks in the forest. A sudden and harsh knock at the door confuses the group on who would be calling at their isolated retreat and at the late hour. When Tess volunteers to answer the knocking, a stranger spews blood all over her and falls to the ground as she opens the door. With his dying breath, the aging stranger warns them to never open the door. stunned with complete shock and terror, the group doesn’t realize that the very moment the strange dies on their doorstep is the very moment of the beginning of the end as weird occurrences and odd behavior pits friend versus friend, girlfriend versus boyfriend, and spouse versus spouse when staying or fleeing the cabin becomes a life or death decision.
“Never Open the Door” strikes as an odd feature that marries projecting horror genres with resurrecting structures from the past into modern times. The Vito Trabucco directed 2014 released film, who also had producer Christopher Maltauro collaborate on to pen the script, stirs up vintage Alfred Hitchcock cinematography craftwork and mirrors the enigmatic nature of particular and peculiar “Twilight Zone” episodes. Trabucco and director of cinematographer Joe Provenzano voids the film of color to encompass the mood of bygone black and white thrillers and employs composer Carlos Vivas to enchant the story with a classically engaging score that embellishes upon harrowing pivotal moments in the story. Vivas and Trabucco have a prior working relationship under Trabucco’s previous nunsploitation slasher “Bloody Bloody Bible Camp.”
Vito Trabucco casted his staple entourage of actors. If you’ve ever seen “Bloody Bloody Bible Camp,” you’ll recognize many faces with the exclusion of George Troester, who plays the crude, unhitched Terrence. However, Troester does fit into the whole seven degrees of Kevin Bacon theory, being a co-star in “Crack Whore” along side Kristina Page and Steven Richards, Angel and The Stranger in their respective roles. Contemporary scream queen Jessica Sonneborn, the lead actress in “Never Open the Door’s” quasi-dual Tess performance, has a director’s credit under her name for her work on “The Haunting of Alice D” starring the iconic Kane Hodder. The 2014 film also rostered supporting actresses Kristina Page and Deborah Venegas, who portrays in Trabucco’s film as Maria, Luke’s wife. Luke is portrayed by Mike Wood with fellow “Bloody Bloody Bible Camp” co-star Matt Aidan as Angel’s fiance. Whew. Overall, the actors click as a group with a dinner room dynamic that’s natural with slightly pretentious moments that don’t really kill the mood. When the story ramps up, performances start to dwindle and overacting starts to unfold. Mike Wood absolutely murders the shower performance with ghastly exposition, but, again, this might be playing the retro card. Sonnerborn does well as the headliner. Her demon-like twin dominates, but just didn’t receive much screen presence in measly 66 minute runtime.
Continuing with the Tess demon, the black and white style fortunately masks most of the low budget special effects with the aid of some great uses of silhouettes and editing. Evil Tess’s pudgy demon sausage fingers dressed with cheap plastic looking fingernail attachments couldn’t fool a fool that they’re razor sharp, but with jagged teeth and glowing eyes encircled by a pitch black ring, she’s a nightmare inducing boogeywoman. Aside from a pair of demonic dispatches with one involving the razor blade finger caps, the effects were safely contained inside the realm of an independent feature. A few spurts of black blood and a handful of stabbings share a common bound of having being what remains of the effects which were executed well enough to serve the intended purpose. Mostly, “Never Open the Door” relied heavily on editing. Editing that involves characters’ hallucinating future or past events, attributing their frantic confusion and life threatening situation toward an endless loop of purgatory.
Yes, the characters are afflicted with a hell on repeat, switching identities on a continuous horizon that leaves fragments of prior rebroadcasts. From gathering information about the characters, none of them strike me as a damned souls. Tess is a veterinarian who performs the occasional neutering and spade and dates a man nearly twice her age. Terrence just doesn’t want to grow up, but no skeletons appeared from out of his closet. The couples, Angel and Isaac and Luke and Maria, grow suspicious of each others’ intentions that involve jealousy, paranoia, and hatred. Unlike a “Twilight Episode,” “Never Open the Door” leaves open doors of unsolved questions, such as answering the question of how the group came to acquire the house. Before the abrupt knock at the door, the person who located the isolated question seemed to befuddle the entire group. Another loose end lies with the person texting Luke messages about an illicit affair his wife’s having with one of their friends. Again, the loop doesn’t quite close on this interesting caveat.
Maltauro Entertainment presents in association with Baumant Entertainment the Vito Trabucco film “Never Open the Door” on Blu-ray. Unrated in a HD 1080p, the widescreen 1.78:1 is delectably sharp on a BD-25, but that really isn’t a surprise here with a black and white feature barely over a hour long. However, black-upon-black scenes define the Blu-ray with a low bitrate, displaying some blotchy, compression issues. Audio quality is quite fair. Carlos Vivas score channels through a Dolby Digital dual output that caters, again, to a vintage replication, but in creating an atmospheric feature, having surround sound would have boosted the result tenfold. The dialogue is a bit wish-washy, pending on the scene and character positioning, but forefront evident in the quality and that is what really matters. English subtitles are also available. “Never Open the Door” has grand potential in a small package, but trips over it’s own inconsistencies with erratic editing and walled details. Director Vito Trabucco’s vision in modernizing classic techniques and styles merely becomes just that, a vision, and was inches, or rather seconds, away from opening the door for potentially a far greater anxiety-riddled psychological thriller.