EVIL Hoodooism is No Mumbo-Jumbo! “Spell” reviewed! (Paramount Pictures / Digital Screener)

Marquis E. Woods is a powerful defensive attorney good at his job, attaining wealth and position to the likes he’s never had as young boy raised by a fervent and abusive father in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky; a life now he always wanted he can now share with wife, Veora, and pass to their children, Samsara and Tydon.  The news of the death of his father sends him and family on a flying to the rural part of Kentucky to pay their respects in Marquis’ personal small aircraft.  A terrible storm forces down the plane down in a remote wooded valley and an injured Marquis wakes up in attic on a farm ran by a proclaimed rootwork old woman, Ms. Eloise, with her husband and oxen-strong farm hand.  Trapped and concerned for his missing family, Ms. Eloise slowly nurses him back to health with a Boogity, a Hoodoo figured representation of Marquis comprised of his flesh, blood, and other DNA elements, but her Southern hospitality isn’t for good intentions as she mends and prepares his wounded body, brewing a sinister spell upon his soul, for the forthcoming blood moon that lies days ahead.

Experiencing Hoodoo dark magic horror back on a bigger production scale is on the same extraordinary gamut in discovering the lost city of Atlantis.  Well, maybe not as profoundly archeological as discovering Atlantis, but still immensely impactful. Films like the Mark Tonderai directed “Spell” hit like a ton of brick-shaped talismans, fettering the imagination with hexes that bewitch fascination and captivation, and roots through an endless torrential fountain of ancient beliefs to scour the dark side of the practices for celluloid terror. “The House at the End of the Street” director Tonderai moves away from restraints of PG-13 horror before heading into a stint of helming television episodes only to make a glorious return back to features with the R-rated black magic action-thriller, “Spell,” penned by Kurt Wimmer who knows a thing or two about action-thrillers as the writer of the gun-toting, martial arts dystopian, “Equilibrium,” and bloodily vindictive thriller, “Law Abiding Citizen”.  Filmed in Cape Town, South Africa that, through the slight of hand of movie magic, turns South Africa into rural Kentucky, “Spell” is a co-production of Paramount Pictures, LINK Entertainment, and MC8 Entertainment as well as being a product of puncturing the rarely topical social class and racism division within the same race.

To play a determined and savvy father and husband on the ropes of survival, “Power’s” Omari Hardwick steps into the detained role of Marquis E. Woods, surely prepping himself against Ms. Eloise’s wicked dark magic before battling the flesh hungry undead in the upcoming Zack Snyder zombie-geddon horror, “Army of the Dead.” Hardwick is the ideal actor for a role that, at times, can be physical; his athletic build suits also Woods’ affluence though not required as scene with the brawny farm hand that introduces South Africa’s very own fitness entrepreneur, Steve Mululu.  Woods is pitted not only against formidable muscle, but also has to outwit the four or five lifetime smarts of an old root woman, Ms. Eloise, diabolically portrayed with a legendary entrenched Southern vernacular by the “Urban Legend” actress, Loretta Devine.  On the downside of the character, Ms. Eloise is rich with historical saturation that goes unchecked and unexplored and she seems a little more slapdash with her rituals and her captives.  In what really is a mind game of wit and Podunk wizardry between Hardwick’s Marquis E Woods and Devine’s Ms. Eloise, the remaining cast for “Spell” shoulders only little to annex more substance toward the tensions between the two principles, including performances from Lorraine Burroughs, John Beasley, Andrew Jacobs, Tumisho Masha, RJ-Karlo Handy, Hannah Gonera, and Kalifa Burton.

Aforementioned, “Spell,” between the domestic xenophobia opulence dividing the Woods family, the quaint, yet tangible body horror, and the abhorrent mysticism surrounding Hoodooism, teeters on loose ground with not only Ms. Eloise’s foundation, but also with main character, Marquis E. Woods, who suffers continuously from trauma-induced nightmares of his abusive father. Through flashbacks, Marquis is beaten with verbal assaults and even, seemingly, being stabbed or mutilated by his father. Yet, that’s about as far as the flashback dynamic progresses the thread bare bond until a minor moment at the climax is when Marquis then embraces his father’s aggressive nature, tuning more into a theme of stative stance that Marquis and father might not have seen eye-to-eye, but the son learns to survive through amplified evil by way of his father’s tough, tortuous care. The relationship circles backs with Marquis’ entitled children, whose piggyback wealth has molded them indifferent against the benefits given to them and partisan toward the backwoods people of color, and “Spell” becomes an insidious allegory creeping into the fold with a little tough love from your parents, in this case father, will go a long way. “Spell” also rarely pulls any punches with a welcoming cringe of ghastly violations of the human body (that pulling, inserting, and then re-pulling out the spike in the bottom of the foot gag will make you actually gag!) and inside the rustic and isolating confines of Ms. Eloise’s Kentucky farm compound, there’s a rough-hewn atmosphere that elevates the subgenre, shaking it to the core at times.

“Spell” is terrific urban horror tinged with “Misery” but driven by historical oppression stemmed Hoodoo, releasing just before Halloween on October 30th distributed by Paramount Players, a division of Paramount Pictures that’s still very much in it’s infancy. Jacques Jouffret (“The Purge” franchise) has a tight knit and jarring cinematography that puts the audience in the front, debilitating seat, empathizing the mind-warping effects that Marquis faces with a violent plane crash, nerve seizing torture, and banding Hoodoo hallucinations. Plus, there is fancy crane camerawork that marvels to capture multiple actions between characters. The score from Ben Onono fulfills the tension-riddle need with incessant zest, complimenting the narrative tenfold. Since “Spell” is a brand new release, there were no bonus material included and there were no bonus scenes during or after the credits. Don’t belittle the Boogity in this year’s most unique and contending horror movie that casts a “Spell” over the rest of the competition.

Pre-order “Spell” on Prime Video

 

Neighborly Isn’t In EVIL’s Vocabulary in “Red Letter Day” reviewed! (Dread and MVDVisual / Blu-ray)


A divorce lands Melanie Edwards and her two teenage children, Madison and Tim, to redefine their live a new and quiet suburban community called Aspen Ridge. While adjusting to their new normal and becoming acquainted with their new neighbors, the Edwards receive a mysterious red letter in the mail, calling for each person to kill a neighbor from an algorithm, created by a masked anarchist group named The Unknown, has vied them against by working from the parameters set to calculate each individuals’ polar opposite personal, political, or religious beliefs. Every resident in Aspen Ridge has received a red letter with the same instructions that mounts tension amongst friends and neighbors until, eventually, all hell breaks loose and it’s kill or be killed.

Welcome to part one of my unofficial independent horror films out of Canada series where we take a look at Cameron Macgowan’s written and directed 2019 horror-comedy, “Red Letter Day.” Filmed entirely in Calgary, Alberta providence, Macgowan and his production crew claim numerous AirBnB rentals to exact the sleepy, suburban, sanctuary to instill the murderous wrath that simmers just beneath the surface of every mild-manner person living next door, seething with contrasting opinions and beliefs. As a sort of a permission granted for carnage, “Red Letter Day” aims to set itself a part from the typical archetypes that hide the horror in the dark shadows and obscured corners with a bright and sunny morning melee armed with shotguns, baseball bats, sledgehammers, and a kitchen knife with a transfixed cooked chicken on it. “Red Letter Day” is a product of Macgowan’s Calgary, Alberta based production company, Awkward Silencio” in association with Tanda Films.

“Red Letter Day” focuses around the Edwards family who have just gone through the trials and tribulations of divorce proceedings, settling into their new surroundings with relative ease in Madison finding love with an older boy, Tim rounding out a routine, and their mother Melanie shaping a safe haven environment as a soft cushion for her children from the spoils of her ex-husband, but their ease comes with some conventional teenager microscopic social nuisances beneath the surface that places the barely adult Madison as a defiant outlier and the 17-year old, almost in adulthood, Tim as a clinching mama’s boy. All the breakdowns of their everyday life becomes superficial and, at the same time, becomes thought provoking on how they view themselves as a family when a domestic terrorist group invokes hunting season on the neighbors to kill their specific opposite of themselves. Dawn Van de Schoot (“Ice Blue”) steps into a role she’s relatively familiar with in being the mother, Melanie, and while Van de Schoot is perfect as the down to Earth, cool mom with some loose ground rules and sizes up tolerably being a proactive mother, her overall performance is shaky at best as she never finds solid ground in the malicious circumstances that are unfolding around her. Despite being a good chunk of exposition, there isn’t much on-screen friction between Melanie and her daughter, Madison, played by Hailey Foss making her feature film debut. Foss well walks the shoes of a naïve and expressively angst teen that unfortunately does cross beyond that as her character is written to almost physically fade out of the story with an inaptitude toward re-bonding with her mother. The introduction as Kaeleb Zain Gartner as kind of a dorky, smart-mouthed, but overall nice kid, Tim, is perhaps the better of the three character and performance to not only be written as a dependent driven millennial who musters up an ounce of strength to defend his mother, but also acted well by Gartner’s boyish charm. Together, the three less inexperienced actors harness the story enough to push it forward, even if that bind is attached by a thread. Rounding out “Red Letter Day” is Roger LeBlanc (“Painkillers”), Arielle Rombough, Michael Tan, Peter Strand Rumpel (“Devil in the Dark”), and “Friday the 13th Part V’s” Tiffany Helm in a religiously passionate cameo.

“Red Letter Day” could be construed as an interesting social experiment if people were given the freedom to carry out their anger on another person due to their conflicting ideologies. The film feels very much like a part of a small world portion of “The Purge” universe in a sense that the premise allows individuals to blow off resenting steam in the most old testament way: murder. Being that the story’s setting locale is in Canada, a typecast for welcoming benevolence, adds to the already dark and dry humor charm director Cameron Macgowan has applied to his script paralleled with some terrific gory prosthetic work from Stacey Wegner (“Decoys 2: Alien Seduction”) involving a bloodbath drenched meat fork through the neck and a gnarly split down the middle jaw courtesy of a meat tenderizer, adding yet another layer of subtle comedy with household items turned into melee weapons. Macgowan’s adamancy about practical effects hones in on the fork to the neck and a prologue kill scene involving a shotgun being the only two scenes to receive a VFX treatment by adding touches of gore components to sensationally sell the effect and the result is simply and effective complement to the scene without the visual effect grossly absorbing the moment with an indelicate cringe of an ornate polish that becomes the unintended main focus. With a runtime of just 76 minutes, “Red Letter Day” jockeys right out of the gate in this don’t-mess-with-mama bear fighting frenzy.

Presented by Dread, “Red Letter Day” finds home onto a Blu-ray home video distributed by MVDVisual. The region free release is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and the digital image has no obvious imperfections or color obstacles to hurdle over in this vividly detailed hi-def release. The cinematography by Rhett Miller poises a neighborly atmosphere of a bright and sunny picturesque community in the throes uncuffed chaos. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound displays a well-balanced layer between dialogue, ambience, and soundtrack with the dialogue in the forefront. Considering the material, range isn’t a big factor into the film’s repertoire built into the story, but is sufficient to pass with minor edits of videogame jingles, various gun shots, and a few whacks with a sledgehammer or meat tenderizer. This also translate well into the depth that some of the acts happen offscreen up or down stairs in these community’s houses and that’s reflected properly as well along with the minor random acts of implied violence in the distance outside. Bonus features includes a commentary by director Cameron Macgowan, a make-of documentary that charts pre-production through post-production with cast and crew interviews, an interview with Tiffany Helm who recollects her filmic career, and Dread trailers. File “Red Letter Day” as a social media thriller bordering on an episodic premise similar to that of “Black Mirror” that infuses technology with the deinstitutionalize of ethical niceties and neighborly good deed for miscreant terror and murdering.

“Red Letter Day” is on Blu-ray and Included in Prime Video!

The EVILs of Drugs, Addiction, and Art in “Bliss” reviewed!


Dezzy Donahue, a struggling Los Angeles artist, lives life ferociously with hard drugs and heavy drinking despite the cautionary advice of her quasi-boyfriend, Clive. Her current masterpiece falls behind on schedule and she hits a formidable creative block that results in being fired by her managing agent and with cash quickly dwindling, Dezzy’s losing the battle for inspiration that turns to an increasing narcotic intake surging through her system where any and all substances are fair game to explore. When she snorts a line of Diablo, a blissful, out of body experience drug, she finds herself in a rapturous three way with friend Courtney and her on-off side piece Ronnie that leave her with a post-high, post-sex altering inner body inexperience of opening the flood gates on her creativity to draw again as well as pang her with an insatiable need for a fix when no longer riding the high. Soon, Dezzy discovers the Diablo might not have been the drug that lit the fire inside her when a strong craving for blood becomes an inescapable addiction and a means to finally finish her greatest triumph work of art.

An audio/visual besieging rabbit hole shiplapped with braided beleaguering addiction and vampiric pathology in the stimulating aggressive, Joe Begos written and directed visceral horror, “Bliss,” set in the sordid Los Angeles metal scene. The “Almost Human” and “The Mind’s Eye” filmmaker hypnotizes on a stroboscope wave with his latest take on the vampire mythos with a drug-fueled, warmongering hell on a canvas tale of sex, drugs, and diabolical fiend cravings. Produced by Channel 83 Film, as are all of Bego’s works, “Bliss” is the director’s next notch up on the crazy, unrestrained belt that’s already garnished and weaponized with razor wire and three-inch cone spikes and while the story itself isn’t fashioned for originality, the way Joe Bego’s exfoliates the overripe garbage of rehashed formulaic filmmaking from the excessively strained eyeballs, sheepish with mawkish and dull stories, will be a new design to treasure as cult status.

Where’s “Bliss’s” 2019 nomination for best actress in a lead role!? Dora Madison seizes the performance of Dezzy Donahue by storm inside a role of careless abandonment that coils into viperous mode and lashes out with a deadly strike of unconventional fangs. Madison embraces the exotic Joe Begos route covered in blood, paranoia, and a sleazy shade of florescent neon and runs a willingness to express his mesmerizing vision with body cam harnesses. “Bliss” quickly establishes a hard-hitting tenor and Madison, whose credits include “The Loft,” “Night of the Babysitter,” and in the next upcoming Begos release, “VFW,” exacts a fortified layer of extreme sovereign, a do-what-I-want policy with a zero complaint department attitude, while stowing away what little hope and compassion Dezzy has in the forgotten corners of her plainspoken mind until the moment is too late to turn back. The story solely follows Dezzy’s perception of events as she encounters and reencounters characters before and after needing a junkie’s fix, an exaggerated play on an abusers volatile relationships. The cast affixed to roles of Dezzy’s vexing fix are Tru Collins, Rhys Wakefield (“The Purge”), Jeremy Gardner (“The Mind’s Eye”), Graham Skipper (“Carnage Park”), Chris McKenna (“King of the Ants”), Rachel Avery, Abraham Benrubi (“Wristcutters: A Love Story”), and that lovable “Cheers” regular, George Wendt.

At this point in the review, an overabundance of praise for Joe Begos’ “Bliss” has been logged by this reviewer, who is obviously a fan of the film, but more can be unquestionably explored. From previous reviews and comments I’ve come across regarding “Bliss,” a minority have displayed a disdain for the indistinct theme of drug withdraws and vampirism that resembles Abel Ferrera’s 1995 film “The Addiction,” but instead of being set in shadowy alleys of New York’s urban jungle, Bego’s relocates to the wayward esse of L.A. life. Perhaps Begos was inspired by Ferrera’s undiluted struggle and violence that makes “Bliss” a clone to “The Addiction’s” chief thread, but the film’s are artistically polar opposites. “The Addiction’s” black and white photography and slow-burn air tunes more into the story of the Shakespearian tragedy variety, especially when Christopher Walken provides lengthy life stance and coping monologues to establish his eternal dominance over Lili Taylor. “Bliss” proclaims a stimulus trip from the very beginning with a favorable thrashing metal soundtrack and an psychedelic filmic presence that comes with an opening epileptic warning. Both films compliment the figurative comparison for a fix in their own poetic ways and would make a fantastic double feature release or double bill midnight movie.

If this writeup has a jonesing affect, “Bliss” is cut and lined ready for blipping on an Umbrella Entertainment DVD home video presented by Dark Sky Films. The Channel 83 Films production is presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, being shot with a ARRI/ZEISS Super Speed Lenses, as credited on IMDB, that would explain the sharp image and stark contrasts on the colors. The visual perception of the seemingly humming-on-your-eyeballs neon lighting barely lets you experience the film in natural lightening during night scenes and only in the daytime that resembles the little normalcy left of Dezzy’s life, fade away with natural light the more she succumbs to blood cravings. “Bliss” feels and acts out like a 90’s film, slightly grainy for grindhouse seduction by way of shooting of actual film stock (35mm!), and forgoes the bubbly shine of perfection, coinciding damningly with Dezzy’s inner circle of sleaze, grime, and gore. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has a lot of kick and energy with a prevailing metal and punk/post-punk soundtrack feature Doomriders, Deth Crux, and Electric Wizard just to name drop a few. Dialogue is clean with an appropriate depth in the midsts of hard partying and live bands. Range is a little harder to discern since the soundtrack really is overpowering and dialogue sops up the remaining amount of audio track space, but when opted, the ripping of flesh and breaking of bones doesn’t disappoint. No subtitles are offered. Like many of Umbrella Entertainment’s standard releases, the single sided, singer layer DVD has no static menu or special features to offer other than the 80 minute runtime feature. “Bliss” is one coked-out, blood hungry hell of a vampire tangent from the norm that rectifies the optic and audible sanctuary for shock brilliancy to flesh out the Machiavellian in all of us.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KdXU-n7qSg]

You want it, You need it, You desire it! Own “Bliss” today!