The Devil’s Tongue is a Powerful, Influencing EVIL. “The Dark and The Wicked” reviewed! (Acorn Media / Blu-ray)



Siblings Louise and Michael Straker return home to their farmland house when their terminally ill father becomes bedridden.  A long time alone and isolated before her children arrived, Virginia provided suitable care for their father up until the voices started.  Lurking in between the shadows around the rural home, a menacing presence wedges itself into an already splintered family spirit as the harbinger of death coming for their father’s soul.  The influence of voices and grim visions tatter Louise and Michael resolve, testing their unconditional love for family and moral obligations, but evil can be very persuasive the closer their father comes to his end. 

The battle grounds of losing oneself during the verge of loss has commonly been a recurrent topic amongst indie films.  For filmmaker Bryan Bertino, the concept feels deeply personal.  “The Strangers” and “Monster” writer-director’s latest discomforting horror film, “The Dark and the Wicked,” uses Devil speak in mass, detrimental volumes as an allegoric device for the internal deconstruction of family, capitalizing for his tale the use of his family’s rural Texas farm house written as a threatening locale of isolation and the tenebrous unknown.  “The Dark and the Wicked’s” paganistic undertones heavily perceive a dissipating family structure’s disconnect from not only God but from the community who has been all but absent from coming to the fictional Straker family aid.  The 2020 released film is produced by Bertino’s production company, Unbroken Pictures, alongside Shotgun Shack Pictures (“Hurt”), Traveling Picture Show Company (“The Blackcoat’s Daughter’), and in association with Inwood Road Films.

To play characters accustomed to the rural lands of the Texas outskirts, “The Dark and the Wicked” required a range submerged with leisurely movements, a Lonestar draw, and to, of course, look good in plaid and Wrangler jeans.  The cast that emerged was nothing short of spectacularly precise in fabricating the lives of remote lives rural Texans, opening with a Texas-born Julie Oliver-Touchstone (“Bounded by Evil”) sewing dresses in the barn, tending the farm’s goats, and chopping produced in her white nightgown as who will be the catalytic mother, Virginia Straker, that passes not only the 24-hour hospice care to her children but also all the beneath the light misery that drives her terrified.  The girth of the story revolves around, Louise, “The Umbrella Academy’s” Marin Ireland, and Michael, Michael Abbot Jr. from the upcoming “Hell House,” as sister and brother who return back home upon the news of their bedridden father (Michael Zagst).  At this point in the story, where we meet Louise and Michael for the first time, a shrouded background puts a delectable side dish of mystery into making them initially interesting, but over the course of the 96 minute runtime, the enigma dissolves around why Louise no longer works from the Postal Service and what’s stringently being shied away from the thick layered division between the siblings from being close to one another.  The impending standoffish goes unspoken, never comes to a head between them as like the unfolding of “The Strangers” where Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman unravel and expose their marital struggles with the invisible wall between them before, and even in the midst of, being terrorized.  There’s something there that isn’t being part of the exposition or coming back around when the Devil comes really calling for their father’s doomed soul.  Instead, Ireland and Abbot simply assimilate well enough into their falling into farm life dynamics as the sister who must shoulder the responsibility of hospice care and the brother overseeing what could be considered man’s work of handling the duties of raising livestock.   We also get some messed up supporting second fiddlers to execute Satan’s handywork with performances Lynn Andrews, Tom Nowicki (“Conjurer”), Mindy Raymond (“Bigfoot Wars”), and “The Walking Dead’s” Xander Berkeley channeling his best Julian Beck’s Kane performance as a sinister Priest making a house call.

Bryan Bertino has a stillness about his films. Their creepily quiet, stirred in a somber stew of macabre, and utterly deranged in a nihilist coating. What appeals to me about “The Dark and the Wicked,” as well as “The Strangers,” is Bertino’s gift to deliver powerful fatalist realism. His stories couple earthly family drama with otherworldly malevolence stemmed from the deeper affects of prolonged relationship breakdowns that literally assigns a demonizing blame on the supernatural for people’s own crumbling failings. Another aspect is the godless presence wholeheartedly felt throughout from the Straker’s loud and proud proclamation of atheism to the lack of religious artifacts. Michael nearly tosses the priest out of his keester just for making checking and noting his mother’s recent unbeknownst connection to God to which Michael took great offense. This leads into the Straker’s lack of community connection as they seemingly are adverse or are agonized by those who wish to help and those who rather seem them burn under the guise of the malice presence. Goats are thematically prevalent to the story, especially when the shadowy Wicked hides amongst the herd, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Goats are often associated with Pagan beliefs, such as with the deity Baphomet, and the evils marked upon them by cultures all around the world and by having the Straker farm be a goat farm is more than just coincidence. “The Dark and the Wicked” brings chaos and confusion much like any circumstances where one or both parents die and all the burdens, all the consequences, and all the pure emotional baggage that comes with death is passed to the children whether the Devil is involved or not. When broken down rudimentary that decline of hope and overwhelming grief can cause a great amount of destruction for any family and even extend to friends with suicide being heavily portrayed in the film. Bertino masterfully touches upon every collateral damage output leaving no one spared from death’s, the Devil’s, hopeless hold on them.

Filled with frightening imagery, plenty of toe-curling suspense, and a loud silence of utter despondency, “The Dark and the Wicked” is a must own for any horror fan and, luckily for you, Acorn Media International just released the Bryan Bertino film on Blu-ray in the UK in alliance with horror’s favorite streaming service, Shudder. Listed as region 2, but more accurately a region B in Blu-ray format, the PAL encoded release is presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio. If there was one word to describe the comprehensive picture that word would be dark. Bertino maintains an eclipsing cinematography through hard lighting, matted lifeless colors, and a reduction tint to give it that extra gloomy blackness. Cinematographer Tristan Nyby’s first collaboration with Bertino is also the first debut into the genre field and Nyby comes out on top with an ability to show just enough, whether through shallow focus or obscured wide shots to always keep the depth and range of the unknown factor alive and frightening. In regards to the Blu-ray quality, “The Dark and the Wicked” has little to offer in details not because of the lack there of but because much of the film is shot in the dark, a fine midnight black with little-to-no wish or noise, and dim lighting . Facial details do appear slightly soft as you can’t make out the blemishes or even skin pores, but the intentional flat coloring steers much of that away from the senses. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound is a boost of jumpscare ambient effects. The range and depth finely pitch the position of well-timed scares, especially when the strung together bottles, glasses, and cans rattle in a discordance. Dialogue has lossy muster that makes discerning characters’, especially Michael or his mother, Virginia’s, Southern draw. English subtitles are optional. Special features include only a Fantasia Q&A with actors Merin Ireland and Michael Abbott Jr that dive into their characters quite a bit and into Bertino’s morose mindset. Bleak and genuinely personal on a whole other level, “The Dark and the Wicked” is quintessential truth when talking about the Bryan Bertino Americana horror film and, believe you me, expect more devilish descriptors that’ll shock you.

EVIL Will Have You Die Laughing! “Too Late” reviewed (Gravitas Ventures / Digital Screener)



Non-stop and around the clock, Violet is the worked obsessed assistant to legendary showman and standup comic Bob Devore at the Too Late comedy club.  Violet books new talent and schedules the lineup day in, day out, but that isn’t all she does for her overly demanding boss.  Bob Devore has been around for a long time and during a very specific moon cycle, Bob needs to eat and we’re not talking pizza or Subway sandwiches.   Bob is a literal monster who feeds on devouring entire people, especially no comedy talent hacks provided by his assistant, Violet.  The longevity of Bob’s Life spans decades, if not centuries, as he sees people come and go right off existence.  When Violet meets a nice guy comic who Bob takes a shining to, the long time lonely assistant decides enough is enough and the time to stand up to the eternal stand up comedian and monster boss is now before what little she has is taken from her. 

I hear the Los Angeles stand-up comedy scene is tough.  Sometimes, even cutthroat.  In D.W. Thomas’ comedy-horror “Too Late,” a blend of mic night funnies with a hunger for full body snacks, dying on stage turns into a whole new meaning!  Thomas’ debut feature film kills it as a low-budget horror that incorporates figurative levels of monstrosities behind the curtain of a stand-up’s spotlight.  The 2021 film is the first screenplay credit for Tom Becker that tackles underappreciated long hours and work ethic of female workers in a typical male dominated profession., touching upon the toxicity of the business.  “Too Late’s” underground comedy-horror sees the light of day under the indie production studio, Firemark Media, and is produced by Thomas and Becker as well as executive producer and long time industry vet, Lonnie Ramati, a production business affairs manager dabbling in producer with the selected credits including “The Expendable” sequels, “Leatherface,” and 2019’s “Hellboy” under his belt. 

“Too Late” marquees mostly tongue-and-cheek talent in a cast list chocked full of comedians, starting with actress, writer, and jack of all trades stand-up comedian Alyssa Limperis in the headline role of Violet.  What’s ironic with Limperis’s “Too Late” role is that Violet is perhaps by design the least funniest amongst the characters as a lonely, borderline depressed, and overworked slave of an assistant to Bob Devore, a renowned variety show presenter and entertainer played by one of my favorite spoof performances by Ron Lynch from last year in Travis Irvine’s “Killer Raccoons! 2! Dark Christmas in the Dark!” as General Negligence.  As Violet begins to blossom after meeting humble comic, Jimmy Rhodes (Will Weldon), after bumping into him renting out one of her friend’s closet since, you know, L.A. is a tough, expensive town, this give Limperis ammunition to turn Violet sour on her abrasive, glass ceiling mentor.  Limpers excellently conceals intentions in each relationship step taken with her new unassuming and amiable beau and this really brings out Devore’ darkness crafted so well by the New York born actor and comedian with a gloomier roaring-twenties vaudeville vibe.  One thing I will say about the chemistry between Limperis and Weldon is I didn’t think there was much spark as their flirting banter catered to good friendzone material.  Perhaps used for their more syndicated appeal, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Fred Armisen add very little to the mix.  “24’s” Rajskub is a no-nonsense hotshot comic who has Devore wrapped around her finger whereas Armisen plays a nearly simpleminded stage hand who adds a bit of levity to the darker tone with his pudding cups and indecisiveness on blue filter gels for the spotlight.  The rest of cast pans out with Jack De Sena (“The Veil), Brooks Wheelan, Jenny Zigrino, Billy Breed, and Paul Danke. 

“Too Late’s” opening drive buildups a focuses around Violet’s passively aggressive position in being an undervalued assistant to her bark-and-you-jump Boss.  Constantly scribble but unenabled to perform her own material be her own self-starting, stand-up comedian, Violent falls into a lonely state that she is unaware of and it takes her best friend/roommate’s lighthearted berating to get Violent to come to a Jesus moment with her total profession and lack of relationship unhappiness. What’s not in the prevalent in the first act is Bob Devore’s permanence, his beastly transmogrification, and his appetite for anthropoids. If you didn’t read the synopsis beforehand, the acute dark turn “Too Late” takes comes at a shock because of how little-to-no prep there is setting up the true Bob Devore. A backfill of creeps a long, like opening the little chocolate stuffed doors on an advent calendar, in a wait and you’ll get more character treats up to a grand finale. About two-thirds of the way through, “Too Late” starts to flounder with what to do about Devore as a character, never expressing a full delineation of character to how Devore ended up at a nightclub, or who, or actually what, the actual hell is he and how Violet, who isn’t as innocent as one might believe, became so fatefully involved. The underlining theme here, noted explicitly in the title, is don’t hold yourself back no matter the circumstances, whether be an actual monster or a monstrous personality, because life is short, time is of the essence, and carpe diem! Violet, a hard working female in a male dominated industry and is undercut by not only her dominating boss but also her advantage taking male peers, need a monkey wrench in the gears of a monotonous, browbeaten life and that happened to be Jimmy Rhodes, a nice, non-threatening, and unimposing comedian who seemed to be just be handed the keys to Violet’s rightful castle just because he’s a man, and though she falls for Jimmy, that’s the career careening straw that breaks Violet’s abuse absorbing spirit.

With a dry wit, “Too Late” black humor is more figurative than funny but first time director D.W. Thomas makes good on her debut horror-comedy that has released this month in select theaters and on digital platforms, such as iTunes, Google Play, Fandango Now and all major cable/satellite platforms from Gravitas Ventures. A digital screener doesn’t allow me to fully dive into the A/V quality but the Scott Toler Collins cinematography grasps the underground comedy scene experience, selling the location of an boutique variety show club, hard mood lit in various colored staged lighting with a smoky irradiance, of tight medium and closeup shots that kind of hover amongst the characters. “Too Late” is not effects heavy though maybe should have been to make Bob Devore a real menacing presence as much of his late night snacking is done off screen, through shadows, or blurred during a shallow focus. We always get the aftermath Bob Devore, bloated and bulging at the seams from a big meal, like a secondhand Eddie Murphy fat suit from “The Nutty Professor.” Still, kudos to Mo Meinhart (“The Walking Dead”) in making Ron Lynch appear farcically 40lbs heavier in what you might typically seen in a Looney Toons episode. Bucking the more modern trend, this indie picture has no bonus scenes during or after the credits. The in-film stand-up is spotty at best but “Too Late” has a lot else to focus on with a deeply disturbing look at machismo arrogance and sexism inequality that are the relevant horrors of today.

“Too Late” on Amazon Prime!

EVIL’s Checkmate! “A Knight’s Tour” reviewed! (Terror Films / Digital Screener)


Set years inside the landscape of a post-apocalyptic world, a young locaiton scout named J.D. stumbles upon a hidden cabin after being severely injured during his travels. While catching his breath and notating the position of the cabin in his notebook, a man comes up behind him, armed with a hunting rifle and has it pointing at J.D.’s head. Playing cool and calm, J.D. relinquishes himself to the man’s every suspicion, even to the point of chaining himself inside a locked room, to ease the man’s fears. The next day, the man introduces himself as Henry and provides food and medical assistance when J.D. proves he doesn’t pose a threat. The two men begin to form a bound once the waters of distrust subside, providing Henry with much need and desire companionship and a place where J.D. can soothe his trekking feet, but when Henry’s paranoia bubbles to the surface and the feasible threat of a raiding group upon Henry’s quaint isolated cabin appears imminent, their newfound friendship will be tested.

In an unpredictable course that has been marked in our year of 2020, a pandemic has quickly spread through the most powerful and copiously stocked sovereign nations on Earth. Now, imagine if that same pandemic, ravaged the world’s population, and subsequently it’s resources, to the extent of lawlessness and death, leaving many question, lonely, and afraid and what that would do to their mental state. AMC’s “The Walking Dead” explores this pretty well through the course of the first few season until it just became a ebb and flow battle of the good versus the bad. However, writer-director Marvin Choi recaptures the core essence by exploring his vision of the apocalypse in “A Knight’s Tour,” where there’s more of a mighty, but small undercurrent of the unknown that overwhelms the brain’s rational thought process, affecting prosperous relationships and transforming them into a claustrophobic resistance of dangerously delusional episodes. The film, being released in 2020, is Choi’s first behind the camera and in the seat of the director’s chair, helming a script with a title based off a game played with a chess’ knight piece that has to tour every spot on a checkered chessboard within its allowed moving pattern, not to repeat a spot, and return back to its original point. “A Knight’s Tour” is also the Korean-American Choi’s graduate thesis at the California Institute of the Arts that saw supplemental fruition from fellow student-turned-producer Sara Razack and shooting was held on the Dominguez Ranch near California’s Lake Piru on a budget of $25,000 and released under Choi’s company banner, Fugitive Frames, a subsidiary of the Fugitive brand that also includes Fugitive Games, for videogame reviews that Marvin Choi plays, and Fugitive Photography for professional photos with partner John C. Velez.

The intimate production allows for the characters to unfold the story from the only two actors in performances that really saturate the frames with uneasy intentions and keep posterity uncertain outside cabin doors and beyond the safe haven thicket. Darnel Powell and Joseph Price star as J.D. and Henry in what would be their debut full-length feature film performances. Taking the roles head on, Power and Price relationship never takes a backseat during the entire 77 minute runtime. J.D. and Henry are rudimentary beings trying, in their own ways, to survive in what is now a collapse society; J.D. runs with groups, scoring out locations that might serve himself for refuge and, maybe, a bit of payment depending on the group whereas Henry shuts himself in after losing not one person but two people he’s cared about to death and the other reason is unknown during the chaos of the mysterious outbreak that cut society into grated chaos. Despite the subtle acquiescent approach to Henry’s disregard toward stranger-danger concept, Price plays into Henry’s strong silent type and can field and hold the switch out into Henry’s obtrusive and frantic visions of the past. Powell’s take of J.D. comes off a rudimentary and less of a bamboozler as suspect. J.D.’s smart, cunning, and experienced in the field and Powell plays into well enough, but not enough to actually sell the hustle or if there is even one. Dynamically, they’re not embroidered into the elaborate patterns of the knight’s tour, but more related to the chess match itself with sacrificing trust like pawns, able to diagonally out smart each other like Bishops, and exposing their true intentions like an unprotected King until they find themselves in a stalemate of unglued trust and friendship when designs are calculated and true self invokes pity.

“A Knight’s Tour” doesn’t feed into the thrills of a do-or-die, post-apocalyptic death heap as Choi carves out the materials for the ever fluid human disposition. Instead of junk cars revamped for destruction and pillaging carnage, Choi challenges the overglazed with violence eyes of audiences to determine the gambles set by the two leads, to extract the souls of J.D. and Henry, and watch them either become brittle or come to terms with a change of heart. What’s interesting about the two men, or more the structures of these two men inside the pages of the script, is there willing to quickly trust each other. At first sight, Henry has a rifle pointed at J.D., has the location scout chain himself inside a closet, and keeps the chain on him for a few days after. There are two sides to this coin soon after that first night. One, J.D. allows himself to be captured and subjected to Henry’s every called shot. J.D. even provides step-by-step exposition how he could have taken the rifle left on the table and shoot Henry in the back. J.D. is either a very honest and trustworthy individual or is trying to get on good terms with Henry, to observe his habits, and to get a better look at the loner’s stockpile for future taking. Two, Henry, though careful and precise, easily lets J.D. into his life, letting him out of the closet and able to roam around the cabin with the chain still around his ankle. Henry gives in into his desperation caused by loneliness, allowing himself to instantly attached to J.D. as if, and probably was, the only person he’s seen in a very long time. Much like the sequences of the game, “A Knight’s Tour” never retreads on the same path twice, proving to uphold the tension with a singular theme to chew on and comes out on top without any glossy doomsday bombardments that makes the blood boil with cathartic obliteration of each other.

“A Knight’s Tour” depicts the fragility and longevity of one’s inner thoughts sanctum while in a post-apocalyptic world and is feature debut from Marvin Choi, distributed by independent genre distributor Terror Films, and has made a noble run of the festival film circuit, including the Pan African Film Festival, DisOrient Asian American Film Festival, and Montreal International Black Film Festival. Set to release this month digitally, the roll out will include multiple streaming services for viewing pleasure, such as Prime Video, Tubi TV, Watch Movies Now, Google Play, and others. Since the product is a digital screener, the video and audio aspects will not be covered, but nothing obvious inherent seemed to disrupt the balanced, yet low-keyed audio mixes and 1.78:1 widescreen video presentation. There were no bonus features included or additional bonus scenes during or after the credits. Marvin Choi’s “A Knight’s Tour” will make a subtle impact across the indie film circuit with searing themes of manipulation, deterioration in solitude, and the games we play against each other for the advantage over our fellow man.

“A Knight’s Tour” on Prime Video!

Evil Isn’t Home. “Death House” review!


Top law enforcement agents, Boon and Novak, achieve special access through steep sacrifice during job assignments and are permitted to tour their upcoming placement in the highly exclusive Death House, the ultimate maximum and multi-level penitentiary home to the nastiest criminals known to society and the deadly threat to mankind in a metaphysical way. Death Houses uses virtual reality to keep inmates stimulated to the point of calm submission as well as drugging the homeless and the unwanted to supply killers with victims upon victims in an their personalized virtual surroundings, but when an outsider uses an EMP to knock out all power within the facility, the cages are open and the ruthless animals are free to overrun, beating to death the guards and staff. Boon and Novak must fight their way to the bottom level that hold the Five Evils, criminals with grotesque supernatural abilities and a wickedly grisly past, where the two agents believe the Evils are their best hope for survial against a Five Evils acolyte named Sieg and his faithful jailhouse followers.

Considered as “The Expandables” of horror, “Death House” had gained almost instant fandom solely from the long-list of horror icons in the cast. Director B. Harrison Smith (“Camp Dread”) re-writes most of Gunnar Hansen’s original “Death House” story produced by Cleopatra Entertainment and Entertainment Factory. Cleopatra Entertainment is more notably a music label that has delved into films the last few years and, in my opinion, haven’t faired positively in the horror genre, but “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” star fought tooth and nail to try and get his script off the ground, even in the face of death. “Death House” saw release after Hansen’s death, but from interviews with the filmmakers, Smith had almost totally revamped the original treatment, leaving The Evil’s at Hansen’s request if his script was to be entirely cleaned. Shot right in this reviewer’s backyard of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the historic Eastern State Penitentiary, the defunct prison is an ideal location as the “Death House” due in part to John Haviland’s separate cell design and gritty appeal that was once of the home of Al Capone, but more of the focus is on the interior than exterior with green scenes and Los Angeles shots constructing the story-lined scenes.

Like aforementioned, “Death House” has been called the “The Expendables” of horror. An immense, if not soaked, cast of horror fan favorites are peppered about around the main characters of Agent Boon and Novak. “Sushi Girl” and “Zombeavers” star Courtney Palm embodies the Agent Boon character with G-man toughness, but finds difficulty leaving that b-horror mentality with shakiness in working climatic scenes. Palm’s also roped into doing an extremely gratuitous shower scene with Cody Longo (“Piranha 3D”) as Agent Novak. Novak’s a hotshot and Longo has the looks and the talent to out perform his character, but Smith’s script doesn’t do justice to either Boon or Novak’s character that blatantly underwhelms their performances with cameo star power and a shoddy narrative. Dee Wallace (“Cujo”), Barbara Crampton {“Re-Animator”), and Kane Hodder (“Jason Goes to Hell”) have prominent roles that are pertinent to the story and are enjoyable to see them in more of a supporting capacity. Andrenne Barbeau {“The Fog”), Sid Haig (“The Devil’s Rejects”), Vernon Wells (“The Road Warrior”), Bill Moseley {“The Devil’s Rejects”), Lloyd Kaufman (Mr. Troma), Michael Berryman (“The Hills Have Eyes”), Tony Todd (“Candyman”), Sean Whalen (“The People Under the Stairs”), Debbie Rochon (“Killer Rack”), Bill Oberst Jr. (“Deadly Revisions”), Felissa Rosa (“Sleepaway Camp”), Danny Trejo (“Machete”), Tiffany Shepis (“Abominable”), Brinke Stevens (“The Slumber Party Massacre”), Camille Keaton (“I Spit On Your Grave”), Gunnar Hansen (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and R.A. Mihailoff (“Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). Whew. Rounding out the remaining cast is Lindsay Harley (“Nightmare Nurse”), Vincent M. Ward (“The Walking Dead”), and Bernhard Forcher.

While the genre star-studded ensemble cast is a wet dream for horror fans, “Death House” fails in numerous filmmaking categories with the first being the most important, the script. Smith’s re-work of Hansen’s original story requires another drastic once-over, or two, as the final result attempts to push, stuff, and cram 100 lbs of multi-subgenre elements into a 10 lb, inflexible bag, cramping the ambitious project with dis-connective storyline tissue braced together with shoddy visual effects, like the two agents free-falling down a bottomless elevator shaft and able to precisely shoot their targets on each level. The overall result of “Death House” just endures an unfinished varnish and seems slapped together with pre-schooler glue and claggy spit. Singular moments surface as diamond specks amongst cubic zirconias, like the Mortal Kombat fatality-esque practical effects, but are too far and in between to muster up an enjoyable film. The Five Evils definitely and desperately needed more presence in the story instead of just flexing the talking heads muscle; well, the only two Evils to say anything at all were Bill Moseley and Vernon Wells. The Five Evils didn’t quite have that oomph to be a force to be dealt with as Gold-described beings who philosophical interpretations on the concept of good and evil.

Cleopatra Entertainment and MVDVisual present B. Harrison Smith’s long-anticipated “Death House” onto DVD home video. The unrated, all-region DVD is presented in a widescreen format that displays some frayed flaws like contrast; there’s way too much inky black in the dark scenes and little-to-no definition in more visible sequences. The compression suffers from blotchy artefacts at times too and lacks hues, which works with the gritty tone inside the Eastern State Penitentiary’s decomposing walls of rubble and decay. Visual effects are glossy with virtually no textures to give detail or, essentially, life amongst the continuous death. Bonus features include multiple interviews with director B. Harrison Smith, Courtney Palm, and more. Also included is a behind-the-scenes feather, a gallery slideshow, and theatrical trailer. Despite being true to the title and highly anticipated since it’s inception into the public market, “Death House” ultimately disappointments as an unfurnished mess enlisted with big names in the horror domain that’ll unfairly sell the film on it’s own, but all-star cameos won’t establish “Death House” as a solidified cult favorite, being unfortunately one of the biggest release flops of 2018.

In the Shadows, Evil Awaits to Rule. “Shadowbuilder” review!


In the fight against pure evil, the Catholic church trains champions to battle against the forces of hell and all that is unholy. Father Jacob Vassey is one of those very champions. The man of the cloth who wields dual 9mm handguns and has a penchant for penancing through the act of self-righteous wrongdoing in the name of Church and of God. When an treacherously evil Archbishop summons a shadow builder to undo all of God’s creation on Earth, Father Vassey pursues the demon to the small town of Grand River in search for a hunted pure soul; the demon tracks down young Chris Hatcher whose been through a sign of God’s passion, the stigmata, and is the key to demon’s ultimate goal. Once the shadow builder has collected enough souls and has laid sacrifice to the boy, the demon will reverse the creation of God, humanity will cease to exist, and the world would be ripe for restructuring at the whim of one of hell’s most demented minions. Humanity’s last hope lies with Father Vassey, a local sheriff, Chris’s veterinarian aunt, and the town loon to bring forth light toward the prospect of a dark and gloomy apocalypse.

“Shadowbuilder” is the 1998 apocalyptic horror film from director Jamie Dixon, steering his sole major production from a high octane and progressive anecdotal script by “Iron Eagle IV” screenwriter Michael Stokes and produced by Imperial Entertainment, who delivered some great films like “The Bikini Carwash Company” and The Bikini Carwash Company II.” Based off the short story in the “Under the Sunset” collection by Bram Stoker (author of “Dracula”), “Shadowbuilder” expands, develops, and morbidly seduces around Stoker’s tale that doesn’t necessary implement a Universal Studio’s “The Mummy” like tale progression and design, telling of a weak, yet venomous creature feeding on souls or people in order to regain world destruction strength. Stokes script goes right into the action with Vassey’s hunt for the beguiled Archbishop and the way Vassey is introduced is absolute 1990’s gold: a priest armed with two handguns with laser sights. Studios don’t make films like this anymore! Rivals as one of those films that has a doppleganger, like “Deep Impact” and “Armaggeddon” that coincidentally came out the same year as “Shadowbuilder. “End of Days” is that doppleganger film as the two share unholy similarities of a citizen of hell on a mission to sacrifice a human for above ground dominance.

No actor could pull off properly the gun-toting and shrewd role of a haunted and troubled priest that is Father Jacob Vassey. No actor except Michael Rooker (“Henry: The Portrait of a Serial Killer” and “The Walking Dead”). Rooker’s gravel pit voice is inarguably his best trademark trait that nails extra tension into the substantially bleak and world-ending situation; a tone that carries enormous weight and Rooker’s natural vocal gift, along with his lip snarling, square chin and piss-offstare, earns the actor to be the well armed and dangerous man of the cloth. “Bruiser’s” Leslie Hope joins Rooker as the Veterinarian aunt and the film’s love interest, but not of Father Vassey. Instead, the love interest belongs to the local town sheriff, Sam Logan, played by Shawn Thompson. Hope and Thompson’s on-screen chemistry can’t seem to puncture through as it’s defined as back burner material, overshadow by Vassey’s unwavering pursuit of the demon and the frantic search for the boy, Kevin Zegers (“Dawn of the Dead” remake), through the muck of the shadow builder’s poisoning of the town upstanding morality and ethics. Rounding out the cast is Andrew Jackson as the shadow builder, Hardee T. Lindeham (“Survival of the Dead”), Catherine Bruhier, and genre vet Tony Todd (“Candyman”).

“Shadowbuilder” is by far a perfect horror film. Dixon, new to directing, dives into the infancy stages of CGI and, for the most part, the turnout pans out with the effects despite being slight crude around the edges. Stokes script puts story development right into the fast lane and doesn’t let off the gas so if you walk out of the room for a coke and return, you’ll miss something pivotal. The design works well to keep up the pace for a story that has a lot to tell and to not give the viewers a chance to piecemeal pick apart a teetering concept. One aspect that really tilts toward the negative is actually Tony Todd’s performance as the town crazy, a one-eyed Rastafarian named Evert Covey who is completely aware of the demon’s presence, but goes unexplained. Todd sells crazy, and sells it really well, but the lack of exposition into purpose plunders the character into outside the lines oblivion that begs the question, why is this character here? A guess would place Covey as a means to keep the lights running as he’s some sort of convivial, jerry-rigging mechanic.

MVD Visuals Rewind Collection label sports a special edition Blu-ray of Bram Stoker’s “Shadowbuilder.” The 1080p resolution is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Despite the the 1080p resolution that aims to bring a little more detail to the fold, the coloring on the transfer is quite faded with considerable noise that’s hard to ignore, but while the noise is underfoot it doesn’t necessarily cripple “Shadowbuilder’s” ominous and foreboding vehicle. The CGI looks better than expected being an early model from the millennial transition into more prominiment animation in the turn of the century. The English uncompressed 2.0 PCM sound track passes muster, leaving dialogue rightfully forefront and substantial ambience as support. Bonus features include a nifty poster insert, a visual effects tour, and a making of featurette with interviews that include with the director Jamie Dixon, screenwriter Michael Stokes, the demon himself, Andrew Jackson, and Tony Todd. Kevin Zegers has his own featurette, a commentary director Jamie Dixon, and the theatrical trailer alongside MVD trailers for other Rewind Collection films. Michael Rooker, Tony Todd, and a demon. A winning combination reamed with apocalyptic mayhem, destruction, and undiluted carnage and up on a pedestal with on the eclectic MVD Rewind Collection.

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