A Cop, a Paranormal Investigator, and a Priest Walk Into an EVIL Extermination Plan! “Belzebuth” reviewed!



The joy of a new baby is cut short for Detective Ritter who bares the tragedy of his little boy viciously killed in a massacre of nursey infants by a psychotic nurse before taking her own life.  Five years later, and losing not only his child but also his wife to severe depression, a disheveled Ritter is called in to investigate a mass murder involving a 12 year old boy slaughtering young children in a preschool classroom.  To him, the two events don’t spark similarities, but to a paranormal investigating Catholic priest, Ritter’s tragedy and the events in the classroom are linked by the unorthodox priest’s examination.  All the evidence points to an excommunicated Catholic priest practicing demonology that sends the two men down a path of unholy darkness in a series of murderous catastrophes influenced by the rebirth of the Messiah.

When the first scenes from “Belzebuth” open with a maternity ward nurse stabbing with vigorous force every single infant child in their crib with a scalpel, you know nothing wholesome is sacred and everyone is fair game in what is to be a grim story of infinite barbarity and darkness.  “Belzebuth” falls in the line of fire of Mexico City born writer-director Emilio Portes with an augmented, dark humored social commentary loaded with evil entities and grimace-laden gore.  The “Meet the Head of Juan Pérez” filmmaker cowrites “Belzebuth’s” irrational rational for the unfortunate real world trend of mass murders and touches upon, sensationally, the evolution of Catholicism extremities to battle evil in the world with first time feature length film screenwriter Luis Carlos Fuentes.   The Mexico/American film is produced by Rodrigo Herranz, Michelle Couttolenc, and Jaime Basksht, with Ana Hernandez as executive producer and Pastorela Peliculas in cooperation with patriotic promotion from the Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografia, aka IMCINE, serving as the production companies.

If you Google Mexican actors, the power of artificial intelligence and ignorant manual input couldn’t separate Mexico form any other Latin American country as the powerhouse search engine provided me results like Danny Trejo, John Leguizamo, Jennifer Lopez, Javier Bardem, and Penélope Cruz.  Now, while I respect each and every one of these performers who provide a variety of lush character and emotional erudition to each of their roles, not one of them is born in Mexico.  Some that listed do not even share the same heritage.  But do you know what the most astonishing, most outrageous, and most shameful aspect of my search was this?  The Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico born Joaquín Cosio was not among the top 50 results.  From captivating television with Guillermo del Toro small screen adaptation of vampiric apocalypse of “The Strain” and the intense drug-fueled drama of “Narcos: Mexico” to his Hollywood presence in the star-studded, James Gunn directed “Suicide Squad” to his humbler beginnings that includes Bond, James Bond, in “Quantum of Solace,” Cosio’s a strong and versatile candidate for intense thrillers and “Belzebuth” is right in the actor’s wheelhouse as a downhearted Detective Rigger with a short fuse.  As a supernatural skeptic, Ritter’s forced into confronting his past demons with the demons of the present by tracking down rogue priest Vasilio Canetti (Tobin Bell, “Saw” franchise) with the help of Father Ivan Franco (Tate Ellington, “Sinister 2”) of the Paranormal Forensic Department, which sounds kind of silly because Franco’s squad is an extension of the Church.  Bell brings his delightful deadpan bedside manner as the excommunicated priest in guerilla warfare with a determined, demonic evil trying to massacre as many children as possible to find the reincarnated Messiah in what would be the Third Coming as the Second had come and failed during the Crusades.  Bell is the yin to Cosio’s yang until circumstances rear-end last ditch efforts and all Hell breaks loose in a drug smugglers’ tunnel.  Aida López, José Sefami, Yunuen Pardo, and Liam Villa round out the cast.

If possession-fueled carnage and the antiheroic archetype weaponizing demonology for good tickles all the right places, “Belzebuth” can be the feather tickler of dreams.  Fans of Clive Barker’s “Lord of Illusions,” Peter Hyams’ “End of Days,” and the graphic novel “Constantine” can indulge into Portes’ explicit nihilism and lack of public conviction in religion in the director’s allegoric telling of something really big and really satanical happening right under people’s noses while a small motely crew of conversant peons try to stop a wall of Deviltry.  Portes also consistently touches upon Mexico’s unsystematic corruption, even among Ritter and other protect and serve officers, and the once firm-handed political system of the Institute Revolutionary Party (PRI) as potential cause for all the suffering enacted demon-rooted abscessations.  The mentioning of drug cartels pop up frequently, too, symbolizing the seemingly random acts of violence are just never just random acts, but an perpetrated hit on a human target much like the cartels’ unsavory methods to either take out competition, eliminate obstacles, or to silence whistleblowers.  Portes does a phenomenal job using his film as an allegory in making a political statement but lacks balance in favoring gore over profile with some characters who rather feel written in just for the sake of a broader English audience.  Father Ivan Franco is such character with interesting combinational vocations as a paranormal investigator and a holy man of the cloth.  Yet Franco, who wields a gun and has supercool video and audio recording specs, spearheads a larger suborganization shielded away from the public eye and, unfortunately, the viewer eye that never feels like a cog in the entire “Belzebuth” machine.  Franco and his team of spook-sleuths, who, by the way, vanish completely from his side early into the investigation, supposedly follow and investigate peculiar tragedies connected to misaligned presences leaving spiritual residue on the real world plane, but how his team comes about connecting the dots exclusively to just the first two tragedies, five years separated, is a bit of stretch and a letdown in fabricated continuity and weight behind Franco’s existence to be involved.  Pockets of plot holes pop up here and there on other facets but generally speaking, “Belzebuth” works black magically as a spiritually and culturally vivisecting detective thriller.

The Shudder original 2017 release, “Belzebuth,” scares up onto an UK Blu-ray release from Acorn Media International. The region 2, PAL encoded, single layer BD25 presents the film in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with a runtime of 109 minutes.  Ramon Orozco’s cinematography flashes with a gorgeous red and blue color palate that fits the iniquitous tone and adds an ethereal, hazy backlighting to only enhance the tone to more sinister levels.  Acorn’s Blu-ray sharpens Orozco’s already byzantine schemes that enriches the details in the skin as well as a the sacred relic artifact-cladded locations that become claustrophobic and entombing.  Even Juan Martínez Espín visual special effects casts a solid effort of barely a smooth surface computer generated phoniness, especially in one crucifying scene of psychological torment.  You’ll know it when you see it.  “Belzebuth’s” powerful Dolby Surround 7.1 audio track is an assault on the eardrums of the best kind with a husky, industrial melodic soundtrack and hefty sound design with accompanying diverse range and proper depth that could be described as literally placing every creak, stab, and cackling laugh sound right into the darkest corners of your ears.    An unfortunate surprise about the Acorn release is that there are no special features aside from the animated menu that is essentially chaotic “Belzebuth’s” trailer plastered with menu options.  Possession films tend to stale at a dime of dozen, but Emilio Portes’s freshly terrifying “Belzebuth” entertains and scares to the very last morsel.

A Nightclub Owner is One Evil Bloodthirsty Bootlegger! “Bloodrunners” review!

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In 1933, the heart of prohibition-era regulation, a corrupt Southampton, New Jersey police department shakedown the illegal alcohol distilleries and bootleggers, forcing establishments to cough up payment for police protection. Chesterfields, the hip new brass club in the sleepy town, falls into the sights of enforcement officers, an alcoholic with post-war issues, Jack Malone and his partner Sam, who want the club owner, a ruthless black bandleader named Chester, to pay for his establishment’s booze sales and bootlegging, but Chester, and his conspicuously strange henchmen, are more than just bootlegging booze runners. The nightclub is a front for a vampire den that’s draining, bottling, and shipping the blood of Southampton residents and master vampire, Chester, operates the business with his human associate, Victor Renfield. An invasion of bloodsucking gangsters seep into the affairs of not only Jack Malone’s baffled police department, but also into the resident brothel that homes Jack’s longtime beloved lover, Rosie. Only Jack, the deranged town priest, and Willie, a boy caught in the middle, stand in between the corrupt, yet still innocent, souls of Southampton and the terrorizing dark forces that scratch at the town’s door.
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Hybrid genre film “Bloodrunners” blends a spin of classic tale vampirism with early 20th-century gangsters that concocts a bad batch of cinematic bamboozlement. Filmed in West Chester and Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, director Dan Lantz, who helmed adult film star Alexis Texas in “Bloodlust Zombies,” does construct a marvelous speakeasy, prohibition-era world out of the greater Philadelphia region’s most popular and historical locations. From the period piece costuming to the acquisition of an antique 1921 Ford Model A car, Lantz’s ability to build a story around such facets on pocket-sized finances that help bring 80 years past back to the present can certainly compete with settings of many big-budgeted Hollywood productions. Being a previous recent resident of West Chester, the landscape was convincingly alien to this reviewer. Co-star Michael McFadden co-wrote the script with Lantz and, together, they input a girth of 1920s to 1930s terminology and slang into a script that can’t quite coherently string along a narrative that works under cut and dry filmmaking involving anemic mains characters.
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Alongside McFadden, the “Law & Order: SVU,” or rather from one of my personal favorite films from 1994 entitled “Surviving the Game” co-starring Gary Busey and Rutger Hauer, star Ice-T takes on being a master, bootlegging vampire when he’s not busting heads of pedophiles on the streets of New York City. Ice-T maintains a hip hop persona that doesn’t translate well toward the 1930’s, but the legendary gangsta rapper has kept the hip hop schtick throughout this career and never in a hundred roles, eighty-seven credited roles to be exact, would I imagine Ice-T to break from a moneymaking image. Like his co-star, McFadden comforts himself in familiar roles that pigeonholes his career made up of authoritative figures such as cops or gangsters with examples including being a gangster in Fox’s hit television series, the Batman spinoff “Gotham” and also portraying the notorious real life gangster, Jimmy Hoffa, in the upcoming Tigre Hill film “American Zealot.” Then, there’s Philadelphia native Peter Patrikios. Patrikios’ phenomenal take on the iconic Renfield character is a break in the monotony highlight, reviving Renfield back to a sophisticated right hand man instead of a relapsing bumbling aid for his master’s whims of daylight chores and being more memorable than the “Bloodrunners'” main headliners. Airen DelaMater, Chris James Boylan, Julie Elk, Kerry McGann, Jack Hoffman, John Groody, and Dan McGlaughlin round up “Bloodrunners'” roster.
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When attempting to examine “Bloondrunners'” vampiric special effects, only this descriptive phrase comes to the forefront of my mind: “Bloodrunners” pits vampire gangsters against crooked cops in a “Matrix” styled, slow-motion action-horror. While that sounds rather exciting, selling these particular creatures of the night didn’t enlighten a firm stance that the modern vampire is alive (well, technically undead) and well. Instead, the Dan Lantz and Michael McFadden story stays the routine course that fills the overstuffed and out of control vampire barrel that desperately requires genre damage control from the first moment a scofflaw vamp enters the scene. Vampire action films haven’t been popular since “Blade,” unless adapted to television as in the case of FX’s “The Strain,” and “Bloodrunners” doesn’t fit the bill, boozing in as a blasphemous contemporary day vampire film.
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Paoli, PA based production company Impulse-FX delivers Dan Lantz’s latest schlock horror “Bloodrunners” with Speakeasy Films releasing the film out to the world and landing on retail shelves March 7th. The trailer held promise with vigorous action stamina, but, in the end, just turned out to be a well-edited trailer for an action-horror-thriller that needed a touch of stability in the story. Portions of the story are deemed absolutely unnecessary to motivate the characters or are place mats interjected to connect characters, such as Jack Malone’s encounter with a specific German vampire who just coincidently happens to be one of the henchmen in Ice-T’s vampire gang. The Speakeasy Films dual format 2-disc, Blu-ray and DVD combo, presents the film 1080p widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio in which the Blu-ray is on a AVC 26Mps disc. The image was a bit shaky under the compression, fizzing at times, more so during darker scenes, that outlined compression artifacts that remarked upon lighter shades of grey and black. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is fine through the 95 minute runtime. Jack Malone’s raspy gangster voice doesn’t become muddled and Ice-T’s epic hip hop swag comes through without even a hitch. The soundtracks fades in and out quite a bit over the LFE, during the “Matrix” slow-motion, that leaves much unbalanced when the soundtrack becomes warranted. Bonus features are nice, including a gag reel, deleted and extended scenes, filmmakers commentary, and an official trailer. In conclusion, “Bloodrunners” teeters on the edge of being a full bodied beverage that never really carbonates into a high-alcoholic contestant in being a good, modern day vampire thriller.

Watch “Bloodrunners” on Amazon Prime!

Decadent Evil Takes the Form of Two Blood-Sucking Lesbians! “Vampyres” review!


A dense English forest surrounding a decaying manor house sets as the hunting playground for a pair of seductive female vampires, Fran and Miriam, who have reigned a disconcerting terror through the area’s local inhabitants. When Fran lures and imprisons a touristing male as her bloodletting sexual hostage, Miriam believes Fran is diverging into a dangerous game of simply playing with her food for too long. Miriam proves to be right when a trio of campers stumble upon the vampires’ manor lair, causing a fair amount of distraction when the three friends attempt to uncover the secrets of the area and the myths of the house that will expose the true and terrifying nature of the two vampires. A mistake the three may wish they never would have made.
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“Vampyres” is a Victor Matellano 2015 rendition of the 1974 José Ramón Larraz directed abundantly sensual, over sadomasochistic vampire film of the same title but also known as “Vampyres: Daughters of Darkness.” Matellano’s remake faithfully follows the original storyline and with the assistance of Larraz himself tacked on as a credited writer, Matellano was able to keenly hone in on the ambient tone and the graphic slaughtering display the story necessarily requires to quench it’s own thirst for blood. Let’s also not forget the sex, the sex, and the sex that absolutely sinks it’s teeth into of most scenes. Long time has passed since the rebirth of an erotic creature of the night; a plague of mindless ferocity has been the modern vampire. From “Blade” to “The Strain” to one of the more recent reviews of an independent film in “Black Water Vampire,” a dark cloud of a deformed and mutated species of bloodsuckers have been more popular with the masses. Matellano’s “Vampyres” is a love song to the erotic European vampire that’s powerfully seductive, classically gothic, and simply pure blooded with two fantastic femme fatales.
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Underneath the dark and ominous cloaks are the beautifully succulent Marta Flich and Almudena León as blood fiend lovers Fran and Miriam. Flich and León have a combined total of 5 feature length films between them, including “Vampyres,” but where the duo lack in experience, Flich and León thrive with their onscreen chemistry that delivers an piercing intensity with a dynamic blend of softcore porn and tantalizing terror as if they’re real life lovers with a real life knack for killing. León has previously worked with Victor Matellano under the Spanish director’s prior horror film, 2014’s “Wax,” and their relationship growth comes whole with the addition of Marta Flich, a buxom brunette willing to savor every moment and put forth every effort into some extremely difficult scenes. No two women can make gore sexier than Flich and León.
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Vampires Fran and Mirian heavily overshadow the remaining characters consisting of actors such as Verónica Polo, Anothony Rotsa, Victor Vidal, Christian Stamm, and Fele Martinez who, as a whole, do a fine job performing in this rekindled niche of horror. To add a bit of flare and to help “Vampyres” stick out from above other remakes involving an slew of unknown faces, “Dracula A.D. 1972” and Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter’s” Caroline Munro and “Tombs of the Blind Dead’s” Lone Fleming have more than cameo appearances, providing familiar genre faces fans know and are attached to when riding along the reminiscing train from the era of which this film’s story is birthed. Munro and Fleming are also accompanied by other genre vets including “Zombie Lake’s” Antonio Mayans, Concrado San Martín from “The Awful Dr. Orlof,” and Hilda Fuchs and the late May Heatherly from 1980’s “Pieces.”
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Visually, “Vampyres” dotes as cinematography worthiness in being a European inspired film from a Spanish production by not being flashy but rather grim and simple. Using elementary special effect techniques, “Matellano” doesn’t cheapen an already intentional trashy vampire schlock film with story stiffening CGI; instead, buckets of blood and practical effects elevate the aspiration toward the resemblance of a 1970’s inspired story complete with broken English performances. Set locations are purposefully vanilla, including a plain small bedroom with white sheets overtop a simple bed frame, a bleak forest inhabited with thin trees, and an isolated manor with middle life bones standing lifeless in the woods, and with key shots staged with vivid conventional colors, such as the bathtub scene that’s feels very clean even with the amount of blood used, and the cellar finale that’s very subtle in it’s background even if it’s the root motivation for the vampires.
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“Vampyres” is one of the best remakes there is, there ever was, and there ever will be by staying faithful to the Larraz’s original film and Artsploitation Films should be basking in the fresh, warm blood of their latest and greatest release. José Ignacio Arrufat’s brooding score seizes to snare the soul from the well balanced Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround Sound mix laid over a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. With a slight tilt toward a darker variation on the grayscale, the overall picture is clean and unhindered and even though stark colors don’t run throughout, the bland coloring provides richer qualities toward a excellent homage. One thing is for sure, blood red is the only vivid hue here. Bonus features include an Interview with Caroline Munro, a making of the “Vampyres,” and trailer reels of Artsploitation Films films. The modern masses can have their disease-ridden vampire genres for the very fact that director Victor Matellano’s “Vampyres” entices with an alluring butchery based on fundamental foundations of European horror values and endearment, resurrecting the erotic vampire once again!

Buy “Vampyres” on October 18th. Just in time for Halloween!

Below Us Doesn’t Live Evil. “Above Us Lives Evil” review!

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After the tragic and accidental death of their young son, Richard and Doreen escape from their painful memories by moving to a quick-sell, rundown house with their two children, Jen and Ben. The house holds a unfathomable mysterious past with the previous family disappearing without a trace, leaving many of their possessions behind in the house’s desolate rooms. Ben, who hasn’t spoken much after the untimely death of his twin brother, encounters humanoid creatures in the attic at night when they roam the house. Ben becomes unsuccessful communicating about the horrifying creatures to his parents and even his older sister, shrugging his warnings off as a sign of his continuous grief. When Richard and Doreen leave Jen and Ben home alone in order to go to all night work function, the creatures descend from their attic abode and seek to devour people they can get their hungry hands on.
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“Above Us Lives Evil” is the freshman film of Jason Mills circa 2009 and transpires to be a visually interesting piece of creature feature horror cinema even though the story is a bit undercooked and the acting more than often feels like watching a robotic cluster, monotonously reading the script line-by-line. The story opens ambiguously enough with a glum looking man, sitting in his car with a young boy laying motionless at the foot of man’s front bumper while Doreen cries hysterically over him and another boy, Ben, stands in tragic shock over the dead body of his brother. The opening only connects the rest of the story by the segue of the family driving, moving away antagonistically from their tragic past, but the melodramatically written opening needs being revisited, perhaps in the third act, but doesn’t make a reappearance, missing the opportunity to explore deeper into the family’s separation, and becomes sorely adrift from the rest of story’s girth.
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The story continues to plug along of a supposedly grieving family, starting a new life in a new home where we’re informed by the strange neighbors that the previous family just up and vanishes. That sums up the complete backstory revealed of the previous inhabitants. Similar types of voids also rear their ugly little heads. The development upon the creature’s existence isn’t forthright nor is there any explanation into their background, making their existence to be fixtures of the house. These human devouring beings could have been born in the house and lived in that house since the beginning of time for all we’re led to understand.
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The Canadian based produced film stars 30 year old Vancouver native Nicola Elbro as the eldest sister Jen. Nicola maintains a solid performance throughout to pull off this low key creature feature and with a little elbow grease added on, I can see Nicola moving from low budget features to the major leagues of horror Hollywood. However, the rest of the cast shares similar generic performances that painfully lead us by the hand, as if we’re not-yet-ready-for-horror-movie toddlers, through the exposition of everything that could have been just simply implied. Even though being one of the more experienced actors on this project, Robert Duncan’s monotony only suffers more drastically from his dimwitted, excuse-ridden character as Nicola’s father Richard. Richard neglects his children’s immediate needs and fears, dismissing them as if they’re too young and naive to know how the world works. Combine everything said here about Richard and he becomes the worst character amongst the rest of underdeveloped characters and there are quite a few.
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The creatures had more personality with their caveman-like gaits and ghastly limber appendages, chasing down quickly disposable characters (which inconsequentially are also the main characters). Jason Mills and his relative Simon and Johnny take on “The Strain” resembling creature roles; the Mills’ lanky builds added that extra something to the overall appearance of the creature. Jason Mills took the creature look and ability a bit further with the adjunct mandibles that cover the snake-like tentacles; the construction of this achievement is a mixture of practical effect and CGI. Usually, I’m not a big fan of CGI, but Mills strategically, and successfully at that, obscures much of the creature, hiding the full overlook in the shadows, in the quick cuts, and in the low-light. Many of the effects are obscured; the special effects team mainly uses slight CGI and a bucket of blood or two to create their desired creature attacking effect. Most of the attacks are implied or too far in a long shot, creating the allusion of vicious creature film.
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The Sector 5 Films and Chemical Burn distributed home DVD release technically suffers. Digital interference plays havoc, graining certain portions of night scenes while also causing digital waves on other night scenes. The loss of frame rate during other night time moments result in an awkward slow motion. “Above Us Lives Evil,” much like the creatures, should store itself in the attic until ready to descend for blood and to be more captivating with the characters. Jason Mills and Nicola Elbro show promising attributes that can contribute to the horror community and while their contribution may not be with this particular Jason Mills film starring Nicola Elbro, I’m sure we’ll see more of the two in the near future either on another collaboration or separate projects that could, and probably should, begin to turn some heads.