The Analogies of the EVIL that Plagues Us. “Hole” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)


Three peoples’ lives become coiled around the unfortunate state of death with each experiencing individual variations of the concept. The recently released convicted felon, Ed Kunkle, faces reality on the brink of insanity as his past demons vilify his temperament in the direction of total carnage. Befriended by Kunkle is Eve Adams, a single mother who struggles to cope with her infant son’s untimely murder that happened right under her watch. Assigned to the Adams Boy’s case is detective Bodie Jameson who struggles with own malevolent urges brought upon by the unsurmountable cases of grisly homicides that come cross his desk while he also tracks down a child killer. Their differences connect them, looking into their future to rediscover the past that molded their disheveled lives into fateful affairs with death.

Over the course of three years between 2007 to 2010, auteur filmmaker Joaquin Montalvan directed and assembled a gritty glimpse into the grubby windows of condemned souls with the 2010 released “Hole,” produced by his own independent production company, Sledgehammer Films, and co-written with his longtime collaborator and wife in life, Eunice Font. “Hole” is Montalvan’s third horror feature following 2002’s beleaguered with loneliness thriller “Adagio” and psychological horror, “Mobius,” which was released the year prior in 2009, plus also behind a string of documentaries. Montalvan’s an optically surreal storyteller basking in a rich and unorthodox story and color palette that revives originality bobbing in an heaving ocean of lemming horror.

“Hole” is comprised of showcasing three stories from three tormented lives. One of those lives, the mentally unfit Ed Kunkel, gorges on being the centric force that thrives the other two into a descendant hell. The late Paul E. Respass tunes into Kunkel’s manic polarity as a person who can be extremely mild mannered and pleasant then explode with caustic abrasiveness and ugly torture. Respass’s shoulder length, wavy hair, graying goatee, and iron contoured face gives him a Charles Manson appearance that goes good with crazy. Behind closed doors Repass’s Kunkle breaks with sanity slaughtering his mother lookalikes as a result of mommy issues, but when conversing with Eve Adams, Kunkle’s maintains an upright keeled temper. Teem Lucas, who like Respass has worked with Montalvan previous, subdues the abnormal imbalance with a normal person’s reactionary response to loss and heartache when Eve Adams copes with the murder of her young child. In the middle these two extremities, detective Bodie Jameson’s work seeps into his psyche, fluctuating between irrational and rational thoughts. Another actor in Montalvan’s corral, Jim Barile, who looks more like a 70’s hippie than a detective, has the hardest performance of them all of slipping into a terrifying unknown mindset while maintaining status quo in work and romantic relationships. Barile’s role isn’t well recieved, flying mainly under the radar with an underperformed and pointless conclusion to detective Jameson right and wrong affliction. Charlotte Bjornbak (“Camera Obscura”), Katherine Norland (“Cannibal Corpse Killers”), Alina Bolshakova (“Dead End Falls”), Dennis Haggard (“Cannibal Corpse Killers), Theresa Holly (“Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher”), Micki Quance, Gavin Graham, and Char Frost (“Someone’s Knocking at the Door”) co-star.

Right away, a strong sense of resemblance washed over me when viewing “Hole.” The lead actor, Paul Respass, and the overall texture felt already acquainted with my visual cortex nerves. My suspicions were justified and my sanity was cleared as I have seen “Hole” before in a later film entitled “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher,” another Joaquin Montalvan flick featuring Respass as a delusional manic. Yet, “Hole” is one of those films that after the credits role, hasty judgements should be chewed on, reflected upon, and recollected for a second analysis. Hell, you might as well just re-watch it all over. The thing with Montalvan is is that his brand has trademark cognizance on such a level that even if “Hole,” released in 2010, and “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher,” released in 2014, instinctually ride the same wave, they ultimately compare as individual projects with a distinct personality and artistic flair. For instance, “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher” denotes more of an homage to early exploitation films and “Hole” puts more stake into societal system failures, even if borrowing from the likes of Ed Gein with the killer wearing a flesh mask and sewing up a fleshy garment. Both films hark about mental illness, but one glorifies the act for the sheer sake of carnage fun and the other considers it a collateral damaging symptom of a broken justice structure. Another difference to note is “Hole’s” three-way non-linear narrative that moves like the Wonkavator from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in every way imaginable and can be daunting to keep up.

Out of the depths of obscurity comes “Hole” distributed on DVD home video by MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing under the Raw and Extreme banner. Presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Montalvan and his D.P. R.T. Norland, brightly bedazzling with every shade of matte box and some slow motion, play the field utilizing various techniques to tap into Ed Kunkle’s disorienting madness. Using backdrops like the ghost town of Bodie and the spiritual sanctuary (or bohemian commune) of Salvation Mountain, Montalvan’s able to cast an aberrant vision out inside an independent means. There are some points of posterization, details are softer than desired, and blacks lose composition with blocky noise so there are some drawbacks to the encoding. The English language dual channel audio mix pairs about the same as the video with spliced competing facets that tend to offer come-and-go range and depth. Scream queen moments go into feedback mode during Ed Kunkle’s kill mode, losing the ideal quality via unsound mic placement. Dialoge is okay being on the softer side with some background noise being flowing in and out between the audio edits, emitting a static effect around the dialogue and then cut out when not the actors are not speaking. The bonus features are aplenty and informative with a Montalvan commentary track, an extensive mack of documentary that fine combs every pore of the film that includes interviews with cast and crew, Ed’s Journal segment conversing about the backstory on Ed Kunkle’s perverse family and killed friends portraits and souvenirs, as well as trailers. Bloodhounds will want more from Ed Kunkle’s shed of horrors, but what director Joaquin Montalvan has fashioned threads madness with a neglected mental heath system while polishing a a shiny three prong, moviegoer narrative with blood, body parts, and butchery.

How About A Nice Evil Plate of Hillbilly, Long Pig Meat? Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher!

lothbposter

Taking after his demented butcher of a father, Carl Henry Jessup (Paul E. Respass) is a backwoods living hunter whose local delicacy amongst his surround neighbors is serving up grade-A human meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Carl relives the past with the tragic death of a murder-suicide of his parents and tries to summon them to live again with the help a demon named Sam Bakoo. When the loner cannibal doesn’t get his wish from Sam Bakoo, he curses and rejects the demon starting a whole new set of problems for poor old Carl. All this is told in narrative story of the “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher” to three young children by an old man who knows Carl and his murderous history.
vlcsnap-2014-09-05-21h15m55s240
Director Jaoquin Montalvan could be considered the underground doppleganger of Rob Zombie in filmmaking especially in “House of a 1000 Corpses” or “The Devil’s Rejects.” In the “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher”, all the makings of a Rob Zombie like film are accounted for with the exception of hard rockabilly music. White trash and white trash dialogue? Check. Grindhouse style editing and cinematography? Check. Cannibalism and demon summon horror genre? Check. It isn’t like Montalvan exactly mirror’s Zombie’s films from scene to scene. Montalvan makes this film his own in the subtlety of the work; many of the scenes are low key and not over the top with dialogue and heavy moments of stimulating effects. And the indie director does make this into a bit of a horror comedy. In a number of scenes, the characters will sit across from each other, have a meal or a drink of moonshine, and bullshit in a quippy could of way. End scene.
vlcsnap-2014-09-05-21h14m32s180
The cannibalism story tangent takes a bit of a backseat to the demon that plagues Cary Henry. The quick switch in plot direction is a good, positive change for the Hillbilly Butcher as monotony would set in with the cannibalism plot line. Much of the “meat” effects were a bit scarce and cheesy. The dead bodies were not so realistic. But the quick edited dream sequences of Sam Bakoo and Carl Henry’s visions of Sam Bakoo were intense, surreal, and welcomed. What also helped was the performance from amateur actor Allen East as Sam Bakoo – a scrawny, bald man who can conform with the best of them like Doug Jones from “Hellboy.”
vlcsnap-2014-09-05-21h16m15s185
Another good actor (or actress in this case) is Theresa Holly. A blue eyed, black haired beauty with a bust that would break hearts. Her character Rae Lynn, a friend of Carl Henry, is sweet and tender but when push comes to shove, her salvation lies with her fighting for her life. While there were no nude scenes for her character, Theresa Holly does do some bra and panty scenes in a, and again in a Rob Zombie like way, montage scene.
vlcsnap-2014-09-05-21h14m15s9
With any cannibal archetype or cannibalism film, I expect a lot of gore and with a title like the Legend of the “Hillbilly Butcher”, there comes an expectation that meat would be separated from the bone for consumption. Well, prepared to be mostly disappointed with only one real scene of disembowelment. The scene is fairly gory and intestinally jarring, the movie is practically over by the time we get to this scene. The film does speak more to it’s tone toward placement in the world and in the afterlife; how the good become better and those who do wrong get what they deserve in the end.
vlcsnap-2014-09-05-21h16m36s141
MVDVisual is releasing this 2012 festival hit on September 23rd, 2014 and while I won’t expect this to be flying off the shelves, reaching cult status in a matter of weeks, I do expect a pretty good following for poor old Carl Henry.