One man kidnaps women, gags and bounds them inside his bleak apartment, and unleashes a fury of hate and disgust whilst searching for one woman who will understand him and his relentless, and vehement, scouring. One woman lures highly aroused men back to their apartment for what they believe will be a night of passionate embrace or of simplistic carnalities of inhibition. While the guys are thinking with the wrong head, the woman slices and dices them to a pulverized pulp of death meat and repetitively fillets their manhood postmortem without guilt. She, too, also searches for something, but is more reserved about it as she allows men to verbalize their needs and desires to her. As the two killers go through the melee day-by-day, they eventually find each other, but before realizing their compatibility, the killer inside themselves square off against each other in a one-on-one bout of maniacal mayhem that must unravel in blood before unsheathing true love.
Who knew that love could hurt so badly? Director Takashi Hirose exhibits a painful peak into two desperate swains callously searching for some understanding, some deep rooted mutual pain that plagues their own embodiment, in “Brutal,” Hirose’s 2016 feature that packs a bloody brawling wallop of the human will toward punitive punishment and desperate determination. The Japanese filmmaker also wrote and co-produced the three part chapters that segments Man, Woman, and Man and Woman into a commingled three act narrative of utter chaos that glorifies finding a soulmate in the most insane circumstances. E-Harmony. OKCupid. OnlyFarmers.com. None of these so-called matchmaker websites have the formidable fortitude to remove all the political niceties and to dig into the human psyche the way that only Takashi Hirose can to lure out and strip one person’s entire vulnerability and, essentially, the parts that makes us ultimately human into a raging, yet emotionally unstable, hapless lover.
Butch, the one and only moniker for the actor, portrays the Man who is a very strong and determined man that brings to his apartment many nice, and sometimes unsavory, attractive ladies; however, he doesn’t whip them up an aphrodisiac dinner or sweep them off their feet with a romantic Rom-Com. He likes to move the relationship along, at a hare’s pace, with getting down and dirty and in certainly not in a sexualized manner. Butch pinpoints the man’s ambitions, machine-like in his will with a hint of softness behind the eyes when plucking through the headcount of numerous women for his match. Ayano is equally compelling as Woman and though Ayano has brawnier range of comedies and dramas under her belt, she notches gore and shock as if it’s simple to get stabbed 50 times and be completely nude with unpleasant prosthetics garnishing the naughty bits of your body. Butch and Ayano are quintessential to “Brutal’s” languishing love story and present themselves with such confidence, which is made key from their previous work with Takashi Hirose – Ayano worked with Hirose in his dramatic horror short, “Bandaged” in 2011 and then Hirose worked with Butch in a 2012 zombie short entitled “Moratorium” that starred Japanese cult and former pinku actress, Asami. The film also stars Katrina Grey (“Vampire Reborn”), Takashi Nishina (“Ringu 2”), Naho Nakashima, and Nanako Ohata.
Hirose doesn’t hold back the punches. In fact, he’s added one or two more for good measures. Helmed by a three person crew and one visual effects artist, the special effects department ramps up the rampage and carnage, making poetry out of ruthless romanticism. The end result is absolutely killer with stab after stab, gore galore, and post-mutilation prosthetics of the naughty bits. Hirose steps aside for fight sequence director Satoshi Hakuzen to exalt his gift for action sequences. Having previously worked on “Resident Evil: Degeneration” and “Dead Sushi,” Hakuzen showcases his mixture of gore and shock horror and hand-to-hand combat in the smallest of quarters while still seamlessly continuing Hirose’s narrative. Yet, “Brutal” doesn’t follow much of the laws of basic human biology as when people are knifed multiple times, whether spreading punctures along the various parts of the body or more precise slices into one focused area like the crotch, they keep breathing breath and they keep moving like their Arnold Schwarzeneggers covered T-800 endoskeletons in “The Terminator” and that unfaithfulness to realism inches “Brutal” more toward a fantastical flavor.
Unearthed Films and MVDVisual present Takashi Hirose’s “Brutal” onto Blu-ray for the first time and it’s brutally honest with a phenomenally fair picture engrained from a singer layer BD and presented in 1080p with a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors really match the film’s coarse tone of a desaturated hue where the blood runs like caramel colored water. Textures look fine, especially around the natural looking skin toned bodies of each person, and the no noticeable issues with compression. The Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track fairs equally well with a prominent dialogue track and a sickening range of lacerating thrust that make wet whiff sounds of cold steel that much painful. Tatsushiro Hirose’s rock score unfortunately wanes in soundtrack behind the intensity of Man and Woman’s blood thirst for love to the point of almost non-existent. Subtitles sync up nicely to the dialogue track. Bonus features a clipped production progression of behind-the-scenes, trailers, and music videos. “Brutal” and Unearthed Films found each other, just as Man and Woman in their twisted circumstances, and present an entertaining 67 minutes that solidifies Takashi Hirose one hell of a romanticist and absolutely, 100% bestow his film a true-to-form designation.
Set in Rome of 1912, a newly constructed wax museum, under a mysterious alchemy artist known as Boris Volkoff, stirs controversy with the showcasing of the world’s most grisly and notorious murder scenes. Two brothel customers’ debate result in the one challenging the other to spend the night at the curated museum of horror without having an ounce of fleeting fear. The next morning, the man has been found, apparently keeling over in fright, and the police are baffled, but something more sinister is afoot when Sonia, a young costume designer with a horrific past as the sole witness in the gruesome death of her mother and father in Paris 1900, becomes employed at the museum to costume the wax figures and faints when the scene of her parents’ brutal death is recreated as the museum’s new showpiece. Sonia and a reporter closely examine the museum when more people begin disappearing off the street, people who have ties with the beautiful costume designer, and learn the waxed creations are much more underneath their plastic-lifelike skin.
Before his untimely death, the Godfather of (Italian) Gore, Lucio Fulci, had been cooperating on a semi-quasi remake of Vincent Price’s 1953 thriller “House of Wax,” based on the Gaston Leroux’s novel, alongside fellow iconic Italian horror director Dario Argento (“Suspiria”) in a comeback collaboration for Fulci, but the entitled “The Wax Mask” film was evidently delayed partly in because of Fulci’s death. “The Wax Mask” was handed over by Argento, who was producing, to special effects guru Sergio Stivaletti (“Cemetery Man,” “The Church”) and months after Fulci’s death, a finished product shared very similar traits to the Godfather of Gore’s style craftily blended with more modern approaches to filmmaking was released to the public. Though tailored more toward the interests of gory special effects, Stivaletti’s 1997 film is dedicated to Fulci with the implementation of many of the director’s popular trademarks, including closeups on various eye expressions and zoom-ins on gore and the weapons before their fateful strikes, while also basking in strong bright colors in the midst of shadowy cinematography that’s typical of the giallo genre.
In such a crimson world, an elegant performance by Romina Mondello, who stars as the orphaned Sonia, has the Rome born actress bring beauty, innocence, and charm to the macabre that harbors contrasting arguments against undermining marred antagonists and she provides a breath of aesthetic liveliness amongst a narrative that surrounds itself in capturing beauty in inanimate wax figures. “Cemetery Without Crosses'” Robert Hossein embraces the enigmatic museum curator, Boris Volkoff, with struggling internal black aspirations that involve his recently acquired employee, Sonia, and Houssein is able to turn off and on that switch of longing and menacing, playing the hand of the character superbly to keep audiences guessing his true intent. Volkoff’s faithful assistant and exhibit creator, Alex, embodies creepy and morbid attributes wonderfully contributed by a relatively unknown Umberto Balli. The trifecta cast sells the ghastly science fiction that slowly builds toward the transformation of “The Wax Mask” from classic giallo to sensational mad science Gothicism with a boost of euro trashiness that’s more relative to the work of Jesús Franco or Joe D’Amato. Riccardo Serventi Longhi (“Symphony in Blood Red”), Valery Valmond, Gabriella Giorgelli (“The Grim Reaper”), and Gianni Franco (Dario Argento’s “The Phantom of the Opera”) round out the cast.
Stivaletti’s toolbox of special effects celebrate in the practicality that escalates when the cloaked killer’s metal claw literally rips terror through the hearts and souls of characters, but the glossy composite imagery thwarts realism and cheapens the already cheesy Euro horror with a laughable fire set ablaze and a slew of lampoon electricity while half naked women are strapped to a barbaric mechanized chair. The cut-rate composite won’t ruin a guilty pleasure viewing and won’t blast apart an arguably respectable adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s novel, but the script, co-written between Argento, Fulci, and “The House of Clocks'” penning collaborator Daniele Stroppa, does pull from other, interestingly enough, inspirations that one wouldn’t think would be genre compatible. The action-packed finale of James Cameron’s 1984 pre-apocalyptic, time-traveling cyborg blockbuster, “The Terminator,” makes an unexpected appearance with an endoskeleton villain donning some familiar and memorable moments from one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time.
“The Wax Mask” greatly resembles Italian horror cinema from the 1970s and 1980s spawned in the late 90s, a superb feat for a director more aligned in vocational special effects, but the jaded historical background accompanying the film places a stain on whether Lucio Fulci had much to do with the project at all. Much is speculated that Argento and Stroppa re-wrote Fulci’s original script after his death, removing much of Fulci’s atmospheric flair and adding more gore, but in the end, “The Wax Mask” instabilities are overshadowed by great practical effects, an engaging storyline, and a roster of flavorful characters. The One 7 Movies and CAV Distributing Blu-ray release is presented in 1080p. The widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio is the not the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but doesn’t constrain the image. The MPEG-4 AVC codec emits a bit of shakiness under the compression, suggesting a lower bitrate, but the One 7 Movies’ release is the best, sharpest looking transfer of the original source material with natural coloring on skin tones, vibrant shades of various colors, and shadows being exquisitely black. Four audio options are available from the English and Italian Surround 5.1 tracks to the English and Italian Stereo tracks with no accessible English or Italian subtitles in the static setup menu. Extras are slim with a handheld camera behind-the-scenes that’s solely in Italian. “The Wax MasK” is an ambitious Gothic hybrid horror that cements the memory of Lucio Fulci, pleases the gore of Dario Argento, and showcases the talents of debut director Sergio Stivaletti.
Timid sociopath Andrew patrons alone at a low-end bar, sipping delicately on straight whiskey and waiting for the perfect opportune moment to approach the right lonely woman. Andrew is not looking for a one night stand. Andrew is on the hunt for a victim, but when the night’s odds don’t seem to be in Andrew’s favor, a lovely young woman approaches him at the tail end of the night and begins to make small talk. After a night of coincided flirting, the woman seductively invites Andrew back to her motel room for some provocative foreplay, but before Andrew can move in for the kill, he suddenly realizes that the woman might just be as more of a sociopath than he could ever imagine by turning Andrew’s moment of a gratifying kill into her tragic tale of a more experienced and assured killer.
Suspense thriller “The Anatomy of Monsters” is the sophomore film from the multitalented writer-director Byron C. Miller and stars Tabitha Bastien, Jesse Lee Keeter, and Connor Marx in a twisted narrative involving love, death, and the struggle between the two. Miller, unfortunately, wrestles to keep buoyant the scope of his story contained as scenes teeter when holding an airtight structure as Bastien’s character, Sarah, asserts her mortal coil. Her plight doesn’t grasp the attention needed to draw in an audience; instead, the back and forth between her present plea with Andrew and her past of leading a double life of affliction with whether to act on her killer instinct with the love of her life or not either passively regresses or just stands completely in place, not moving a motivational inch to take the much needed mile in making us believe in Sarah’s tragic love story and the story is actually, well, tragic by not building the passion between Sarah and Nick, played coyly by Connor Marx, as they just hunker inside Nick’s quaint apartment, affixed to his bed or couch while contemplating their instantaneous love for each other.
A part of the film’s indelicate sting comes from Tabitha Bastien’s performance. Sarah, in the very definition of the character’s persona, is a sociopath which denotes a monotonous person to be without empathy, to have an ice cold demeanor, and to be calculating in their actions. While Bastien epitomizes a sizable amount of emotionlessness, her presentation leans a bit more toward being ingeniously staged, emitting a phoniness that doesn’t naturally crossover. If I didn’t know better, I would have guessed Bastien was a T-100 cybernetic organism underneath a flesh and blood outer layer from “The Terminator’s” apocalyptic bleak future. What Bastien does attribute very well to “The Anatomy of Monsters,” aside from her mechanical display, is a pair of piercingly bright eyes set upon a unique belle face akin to that of the nice looking girl next door you peeping tom on through the cracks of your window shades. Jesse Lee Keeter opposites Bastien with a more genuine approach that favors a Michael C. Hall similarity complete with a kill kit. Keeter’s Andrew is an example of well-written hesitation, exhibiting more of a killer’s struggle to maintain a low profile whereas Sarah leaves nothing to the imagination, baring it all out on the proverbial table with the extreme potency of egocentric cockiness.
Along with Miller’s stationary script, the industrial rocker’s sporadic editing technique can be best described having a short-sighted attention span and his shaky handheld camera visually impairs the viewing pleasure of one monster’s monstrous thirst for death. “The Anatomy of Monsters” feature does play the role of being the quintessential independent product, but without stability and patience, Miller’s artistic craftsmanship suffers heavily from the technical aspects with really the only exception stemming from the minor gore scene during Andrew’s brief description of past murders, committing to a solid neck piece mock-up that realistically seeps blood in order to get the good throat slit shot.
A fond blend of John McNaughton’s “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” and Showtime’s “Dexter,” “The Anatomy of Monsters” is slated for a DVD and Video on Demand release on November 15th from the Philadelphian distributor Artsploitation Films. Certainly a film that’s an attestant to an American-horror, Byron C. Miller explores the corners of the dark and deranged minds associated with serial killers while meddling through the conventional intimate affairs of the masses, spurring an atomically explosive situation from a slowly, simmering boil. Though technically unattractive with arguably underwhelming and sulky performances, suggestions of a greater notion leaves behind an everlasting scar tissue from the necessary urges and the unquenchable desires of a killer can be appreciated.
Sergeant Gregory Dapp, A lone wolf space cop, travels lightyears to Earth, ordered to hunt down and capture one of the universe’s deadliest and sought-to-extinction creatures, simply called a Phobe, before the extraterrestrial being reproduces on a massive, world obliterating scale. This particular species has wiped out all of Drapp’s special Phobe hunt and destroy unit and were thought to have been blotted out off the face of his planet until one lands on Earth. Drapp must team up with Jennifer, a local high school girl caught in the middle, to help capture the Phobe before spreading it’s seed for world domination.
“Phobe: The Xenophobic Experiments” is an extremely ambitious sci-fi action film from Canada. Directed by Niagara, Ontario filmmaker Erica Benedikty, the 1994 film had a ultra-micro-budget of only $250 to cast a two-world, space odyssey complete with light-saber action and a behemoth amount of laser fodder. Being a slave to nearly no financial backing, “Phobe” had to manage without shame and roll with the flawed punches and, somehow, obtained popularity when broadcasted at a television station with which Benedikty was associated even when the film had to be diluted down to PG content. Fast forward 22-years later, Intervision Picture Corp. releases the aspiring director’s DIY fantastical vision in a glorious and plentiful remastered DVD edition.
The Benedikty written and directed alien action feature pulls inspiration from many admired blockbuster sci-fi films including some potent familiarities, such as a revamped form of the alien from “Predator” who stalks with heat vision and blends in with camouflage or the dazzling lightsaber duels from the epic saga that is “Star Wars,” creating an endearing homage from a knowledgeable science fiction enthusiast with a dedicated cast and crew during a year long shoot. The Ontario filmmaker scribes her hero as not necessarily the hunter, but as the hunted because as soon as Dapp lands his ship and saves Jennifer’s life from a Phobe laser (a roman candle blast), Dapp and Jennifer spend the entire night on the run, never challenging the being until forced to do so and the structure harps upon a plot similar to “The Terminator” with a “Battlestar Galatica” villain presence.
Rostered completely with unknown local actors, John Rubick stars as the mullet sporting, Phobe asskicker Sgt. Gregory Dapp who bolts into light speed with a very John Belushi appeal set upon the shoulders of a calm and candid Rubick demeanor throughout the entire Phobe capturing and Phobe egg destroying ordeal. Dapp’s semi quasi love interest Jennifer, Tina Dimoulin, blankly unconditionally follows Dapp into certain utmost danger. The Dapp and Dumoulin combo are Earth’s last hope against the Merv Wrighton’s portrayal of an invading, combat-ready, ultimate killing machine species. Wrighton’s tall and broad shoulder stature ideally constructs an intimidating antagonist being ultimately unraveled by a very inanimate casted mask with no texture or any kind of cosmetic makeup whatsoever and that highly resembles a toothless ivoried skull.
“Phobe” won’t be palatable to every sci-fi devotee’s intergalactic taste. Only a microscopic niche fan base will greatly appreciate the tongue-in-cheek fashioned computerized imagery, the depth scale modeling, and the automaton deadpan acting that establishes “Phobe” as cult material and Severin’s InterVision Picture Corp. label does right by this small time Canadian film by remastering the original video elements and supplementing the DVD with a vast amount of bonus material. The video quality presented in a full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio is as good as it’s going to get with the inconsistencies of magnetic tape from a camcorder as the darker scenes are, at times, hard to visually construct because of the digital noise, but the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio quality is quite balanced and clear. The laundry list of bonus material includes an audio commentary from writer-director Erica Benedikty, the first feature film from Benedikty “Back in Black,” “The Making of Phobe,” Q&A with cast and crew, original FX shots from the 1995 broadcast version of “Phobe,” outtakes, and “Phobe” theme performed by Gribble Hell. Whew, that’s a lot of extras. To sum up the experience, “Phobe” is campy sci-fi schlock with stellar intentions and with tons of heart made of grenade tomatoes (this reference will make sense once you see the film) all while breaking the DIY mold.
30 years have passed since Bruce Wayne survived Skynet’s nuclear blasts in August of ’97. Iron demons now roam the planet, and without the requirement to defend the innocent against crime and injustice, Wayne has seeked refuge in the bomb shelter that saved his life; the Batcave.
Having scavenged the wasteland for resources, he discovers the radio of a dead soldier. There is static over a frequency. Flesh and blood is rising up to the west. With The Stinger; a riot control vehicular unit built before the apocalypse along with a refitted bomb blast vest, Batman makes his way across what remains of the United States to join forces with the man determined to neutralize the electronic menace – John Conner.
In a single word, awesome.