Dark Universe Resurrects an Ancient Evil! “The Mummy” (2017) review!


Entombed under the volatile sands of what’s now the Iraqi dessert, an ancient Egyptian princess Ahmanet, who made a pact with an evil God named Set, lies and waits for more than 500 years to rise again and fulfill a destined promise to birth hell on Earth and rule the world. Ahmanet resurrects after being mistakenly unearthed by loose cannon treasure seeker Nick Morton and curses a reign of archaic terror over Nick and all of modern day London in search for a gem cladded dagger to make good on her pact. With the help of a well-funded secret organization called Prodigium ran by mysterious physician Dr. Henry Jekyll, and skillful researcher Jenny Halsey, the cursed Nick will need all the help he can muster to save himself and humanity from a mummified, hellbent she-devil.

Alex Kurtzman’s “The Mummy” is the gateway reboot that’ll give life once again to Universal’s classic monsters and place them in Universal’s newly established realm known as Dark Universe, think what Marvel accomplished with Marvel Comic Universe but with monsters. The kickoff action-horror has the delectable adventure wit seen from the Stephen Sommers directed, Brendan Fraiser starred trilogy from 1999 to 2008 while channeling the Boris Karloff mysticism and menace that made a frightening black and white classic. So, how did Kurtzman exactly provide new breath to an ancient, decrepit mummy that’s been redone two times over and has been spun off more ways than wrapped? One major way was to be the inaugural launch of Universal’s Dark Universe that opens the door for other classic monsters such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. In fact, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde makes a brief appearance as the head of the Prodigium, the ringmaster that’ll be the epicenter connecting creatures together. In another aspect, Kurtzman isn’t afraid to use practical effects, such as Ahamanet’s mummy minions, while also lighting up the screen with some brutal thrilling moments, such as murdering a baby and killing pilots with a murder of crows, that clearly separates the 2017 film from it’s 1999 predecessor, but watch for the quick scene easter egg that pays homage to the Fraiser film.

Upon first hearing Tom Cruise would star in a reboot of “The Mummy,” a long moment of hesitation washed over like a cold wet blanket as the “Mission Impossible” star hadn’t tackled a horror film since the adaptation of Anne Rice’s 1994 Lestat film “Interview with the Vampire” during a time when Cruise bathed in dramatic thrillers and added quite a bit of finesse to his characters. However, with every passing year, Cruise becomes more and more involved with not only his love for acting, but sides heavily with the unquenchable need to a part of action films and “The Mummy” promised to display his enthusiasm for accomplishing his own rigorous stunt work and the script provided the heart-throbbing intensity that’ll sure to awe audiences. Cruise’s performance as a shoot first, ask questions later Nick Morton snugly fits the razor sharp mold the megastar has equipped himself ever since the first “Mission Possible” film over two decades ago, but as a selfish knucklehead, Cruise short sells the charm with a flat expressive tone and doesn’t progress his shell of Nick Morton to a enlightened savior battling for the fate of humankind. Yes, there are other actors in “The Mummy” other than Cruise. Russell Crowe fills the mighty big shoes of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, splitting his personalities into two and fulfilling both characters to the very epitome they’ve been classically scribed. Love interest Annabelle Wallis (who was also in John Leonetti’s “Annabelle”) sparked little-to-no chemistry with a overpowering Cruise and she felt rather like a Robin sidekick in a Joel Schumacher Batman film, but Wallis did a fine job as a historical researcher with a lifelong goal of discovering ancient artifacts. Algerian actress Sofia Boutella as the titular character was almost non-existent until the filmmakers had to scramble to redesign the villain due to similarities in another film, but the dark features of Boutella and her elegant performance made Ahmanet lustfully scary with dual irises and body-riddled tattoos, like a wild animal with deep blue eyes, and she sinks into Ahmanet’s malevolent soul and embraces the darkness that is the mummy. Jake Johnson (“Jurassic World”), Courtney B. Vance (“The Last Supper”), and Marwan Kenzari, who will star in Guy Ritchie’s upcoming “Aladdin” film, costar.

Now while “The Mummy” is overly successful and generally positive, an itch of amiss pains a slimly slithering way nearly through the entire runtime. Perhaps because the premise involving a mummy sets itself more in the dank and dark allies of London rather than in the hot Egyptian sands where thirst, heat, and isolation provide a slew of dangerous possibilities. During multiple scenes, a looming sensation that Jack the Ripper would pop out with blade in hand ready to strike at Jenny Halsey’s non-prostitute neck, but like a good adventure film, the story’s progression goes through numerous UK hotspots such as the Natural History Museum and tries to blow up London with every Mummy superpower. Ahmanet compounded concerns about her powers such as the introductory prologue of her characters, told in flashback scenes, where after she obtains all this evil power, the princess is easily taken down by Egyptian guards with blow darts and spears. You figured a Demigod like Ahmanet would be able to summon creatures to her aid, mold the sands of Egypt to free her, or resurrect other Egyptian dead, but none-the-less she was mummified alive and buried thousands of miles away under a giant crypt.

“The Mummy” is a win for the first of many Universal reboots under the Dark Universe label. The September 12th release of the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set, with also a digital copy, clocks in at a hour and 50 minutes and is presented in 1080p High Definition 2.40:1 aspect ratio with no flaws in the image, quality is crisp, and the coloring is naturally lively. The digital effects don’t exhibit an amateur hour complexion that was more attuned to the 1999 film, a different time two decades ago. The Dolby ATMOS is booming with LFE action that reverberates nicely with every nail-biting mummy scenes; certainly balanced with the surround sound. The dialogue is coarse at times during these intense sequences but overly prominent and clear for the most part. Extras on the release are about as monumental as the antagonist with deleted and extended scenes, Cruise and Kurtzman: a conversation, Rooted in Reality – a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “The Mummy,” Life in Zero-G: Creating the Plane Crash, Meet Ahmanet – the stark villain, Cruse in Action – a segment involving Cruise’s action in the film, Becoming Jekyll and Hyde, Choreographed Chaos, Nick Morton: In Search of a Soul, a graphic novel about Ahmanet, and featured commentary. “The Mummy” is all Cruise, all the time, but lives and breathes like a true Universal classic monster movie in modern day, providing superb visuals, an engrossing storyline, and delivers an action-topping-action ferocity. A whole new line of respect must be bestowed upon star Tom Cruise for his insane work ethic and his dedication to any project, especially a one half horror film that redesigns the gender of the iconic villain while maintaining the values of the original.

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Evil Who Kills Together, Doesn’t Necessarily Stay Together. “Capture Kill Release” review!


Fun-loving couple, Jen and Farhang, seem like your average young twosome. Underneath the common surface, they plot a sinister murder of a random stranger. Toying with hardware store supplies and dissecting the knowledge of the human anatomy, Jen and Farhang are well prepped to tackle the abduction, the murder, and the disposal of a human being, but when Jen’s obsessive nature can’t hold back her desire to kill any longer, the couple’s relationship will be harshly tested when a hesitant Farhang is unexpectedly confronted with Jen’s opportunity to kill a kind-hearted dinner guest and decides to pull out from their ghastly thought out preparations that results turning a potential grim bonding experience to a deadly relationship fallout.

“Capture Kill Release” is the 2016 Canadian film from co-directors Nick McAnulty and Brian Altan Stewart. McAnulty also penned the script. The handheld POV thriller has a story that places Jen and Farhang’s union in a familiar, yet deceiving manner, coupling routine relationship quibbles and desires with an unorthodox principles shared amongst them. While acting upon their romantic affair in the archetypes that include one-sided back rubs, jointly frustrating shopping adventures, and an infinite amount of trivial bickering, the dynamic between them feels no different from ours with their interaction with each other in their isolated internal pact being very relatable for audiences with partners or had the experiences with former partners. Enormous, thick tension sets the foundation for “Capture Kill Release” that continuously mounds an already pressurized and emotionally compromised partnership, strained to the brink of chaos that’s hard to dig out from under.

McAnulty and Stewart cast unknown Jennifer Fraser as Jen, much of the cast keep their namesakes with their respective characters, and Fraser, placing aside her remarkable beauty, inarguably locks in Jen’s sociopathic charm. Jen’s manic personality, jumping from conversation piece to conversation piece without smooth transitions and unable to focus without the determination to kill on the mind, contrasts sharply with the more reserved and constant Farhang, a role awarded to Farhang Ghajar who has worked on the directors’ prior film, “Uncle Brian.” Farhang’s conservativeness bares an ugly unconfident image that Jen wholeheartedly exploits, nearly forcing Farhang to go along, or play along, with Jen’s disturbed fantasy. Farhang Ghajar simply plants his character in a shot without much a change between appearance or delivery whereas Fraser frequents and embraces more everyday changes, including even minor ones like her hairstyles that seem to change every scene. Polar opposites, homeless guy Gary and ‘Rich guy’ jerk, round out the significant characters with actors Jon Gates and upcoming “Exorcism of the Dead” star, Rich Piatkowski.

In retrospect, “Capture Kill Release” feels rather depressing. The angst that’s imploding from within the Jen and Farhang bubble touches upon the everyday relationship attributes where couples fight or couples unite in not so extreme measures. Jen shows no empathy or sympathy for anybody with the exception of Farhang, a grappling, fleeting emotion to cling on someone who loves you for you. To further the depression, the recent hike in POV films beats into us the obsession with vanity. The camera, no matter the capacity, is a vain concept and McAnulty and Steward’s thriller spares no expense of arrogance when Jen can’t put down the camera, no matter how much Farhang pleads and persuades her, but If I were an amateur plotter toward killing an absolute stranger, I wouldn’t be a complete novice and record my handy work. This is where McAnulty builds in an unspoken caveat that Jen has a passion for filmmaking, dreaming big of directing, one day, her own feature, a notion that’s explored more during her rooting of her mother’s stored VHS collection from Jen’s childhood. The filmmaking approach to Jen’s obsession loosely bounds the implement of the handheld and feels forced like a last minute decision, especially when genuine home videos of Jennifer Fraser are cut into the story that’s out of place.

Midnight Releasing has released “Capture Release Kill” as a high definition online streaming video feature. I was supplied with a screener and can’t comment on quality or bonus features, but the co-directed film is available on these formats: iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play, Vudu, XBox, FlixFling and more. Even with the brief moments in gore, the blood runs extra thick with sickeningly realistic and shocking scenes of butchery. Gory found footage, such as “The House with 100 Eyes” or the more viscerally vigorous “The Butcher,” have been gaining momentum in their popularity with the handheld camera bringing a little authenticity to grisly murders that are on the other side of the spectrum of being a very anti-Hollywood concept that less sensationalized, but devilishly effective, on a budget. Throw in a handful of motivated and talented actors, such as Jennifer Fraser and Farhang Ghajar, in this semi-exploitation gore-thriller and you can strike gold with “Capture Kill Release” that’ll please even the harshest of found footage or handheld camera critics.

A Double Bill of Evil! “Murderlust” and “Project Nightmare” review!

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During Sunday’s services, a calm and confident Steve Belmont heads the Christian Sunday school youth class and seeks to be the permanent director of the Church’s suicide crisis unit that’s coming to the end of the planning stage. On Sunday’s, Steve performs as the model citizen whose ready to serve and give back to his community. During the rest of the week, the horse race track security guard can barely sustain societal worth, arriving late for work, constantly drunk, and has disdain for people being a speed bump in his path to greatness. All Steve Belmont has in life is the potential director’s job and his thirst, his unquenchable thirst for strangling women and dumping their bodies in the excessive heat of the Mojave desert. The local newspapers label his killings that of at the hands of the “Mojave Murderer” and his lust for killing call girls and young women runs a thin line alongside his Sunday best and when he begins to trust a Church regular, Steve’s mistakes begin to catch up with him.
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“Murderlust” is the first feature on the Intervision Picture Corp’s double bill DVD release from director Donald Jones and writer James Lane. The 1985 suspenseful horror-thriller comes to DVD for the very first time and doesn’t just boldly display a story of another run of the mill serial killer but does so with remarkable performances and a body of work that’s well crafted. Lane pens the center character focus on Steve Belmont and his delusion of power, being an overwrought sociopath with a belief he’s better than everyone else, and Belmont’s brazen lures to secure helpless victims is nothing short of a con artist’s trait. The ability of convincingly seducing the congregation to his benefit provides him pseudo mystical powers that pull the blinds over their God fearing eyes while he continues to slack through a meager life and holds tightly his reign of terror near the Mojave. Basically, in Belmont’s mind, he is God.
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Eli Rich plays Steve Belmont, who can only be described as a twisted blend between Michael Beihn and Nick Offerman, and Rich canisters Belmont’s psychopathic tendencies in an terrifying performance of exact realism. Not many films can pull off the on and off switch of a serial killer, even Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho” was sensationalized, but the relatively small time actor produced a manufactured fearful reaction. Rich splits Belmont into two personalities while still managing to be contain a menacing aurora to feed audiences with dread, fear, and suspense and while Rich might be doing more than just one public service for his community by picking up and strangling local street walkers, Belmont never transitions into that role of the likable anti-hero as he manages to forthrightly ostracize himself from friends and family. As Steve’s square statured and responsible cousin Neil, Dennis Gannon epitomizes the upstanding citizen character, but maintains a soft spot for his unscrupulous next door neighbor cousin. Rochelle Taylor’s role is something of a love interest for Steve, who can’t bring himself to kill her even when the opportunity is present, but the one film and done actress Taylor can’t bring “Murderlust” to the promise land with an overzealous portrayal of an eager beaver, love struck Church girl that doesn’t fit the bill of Belmont’s world.
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After a couple of quick Mojave Murderer victims, one including the scene illustrated for the DVD’s front cover with a topless and unchaste Ashley St. Jon, Steve, along with the flow of the story, banks into a suppressive funk. The narrative’s pace slows when Steve attempts to organize his life around his murderess hobby, turning the suspenseful thriller into a drama segment that is more or less of a laundry list on how to obtain rent money for an aggressive landlord, until the demand to hunt tugs heavily at his pant leg and he can no longer ignore the urge. “Murderlust”, despite the captivating title, is nearly a bloodless horror thriller. Steve uses his signature method of strangulation, leaving smartly no blood trail, and only at the finale does blood spill when Steve deviates from his unsympathetic hunt, kill, and dump program.
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Woodland campers and best buds Gus and Jon wake up to discover their gear has been shredded and dispersed. They’re soon pursued by a frightening force of unknown origins. Lost and hungry, the two friends stumble upon a mountain cabin where cabin owner Marci shelters them for a night. Rested and resupplied, but haunted by their dreams, the two continue on foot in search of a town; instead, they become split up and Gus finds himself in the bizarre belly of a government facility that’s conducting an experiment and root of Gus and Jon’s predicament. Gus must confront the inner workings of his mind and take back control of his thoughts or else all that he knows, his friendship with Jon, and all that he desires, his passion for Marci, will soon be lost to the unchecked government secret known only as Touchtone.
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The second film on the double feature, “Project Nightmare,” starkly contrasts in genre with “Murderlust.” “Project Nightmare,” otherwise known as “Touchtone,” is a science fiction thriller piggy backing as a bonus feature and the 1979 conduit for confusion showcases how scarily surrealistic director Donald Jones can achieve. An odd film that materializes shortly after Gus and Jon’s plight begins and doesn’t let up the enigmatic ambiance as the audience will surge deeply into the rabbit whole. Even though told linearly, “Project Nightmare” feels, in fact, like a nightmare, peppered with sporadic scenes of uncomfortable imagery and repetitive ambient noises and soundtrack that jar the senses. Jones’ direction and style denotes an appeal of black and white scenes, but, in color, the film works better to give an ominous a stimulating visual and without that color, the story just wouldn’t work.
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Charles Miller and Seth Foster star as the baffled and lost campers Gus and Jon. They’re joined by Elly Koslo, as Marcie, and Harry Melching, as Carl the government scientist, who provide indifferent character roles or just products of the imagination to support the dreamlike atmosphere. As a whole, the actors’ dynamic was obsoletely rigged but in an unsettling Lynchian fashion causing your eye balls to stay with the scenes. “Project Nightmare’s” experience will make you feel you’re watching a film much older than produced with the costumes, the language, and the wood paneled elevator and granted that Jones’ isn’t big budget, but the director was able to deliver with the minuscule budget available to fruition a sci-fi odyssey.
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Intervision Picture Corp has a snazzy, two-headed snake in “Murderlust” and “Project Nightmare” presented in full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio with a single channel Dolby Digital mono track. The original prints looks great with “Murderlust” slightly heftier in the cyan department during it’s 98 minute runtime. The single channel had better luck with the 74 minute runtime in “Project Nightmare and “Murderlust” had moments of softness where dialogue became a strength in exercising one’s hearing. Both issues listed didn’t hinder the final product; in fact, I’m quite pleased with the end result on both features. “Project Nightmare” has a natural presence that’s appeasing and “Murderlust” blankets itself warmly in, well, the associated Mojave desert. The bonus content on the Intervision release include two audio commentaries with writer-producer James Lane. The “Project Nightmare” commentary has partial audio. In conclusion, “Murderlust” might not be this tour de force of bloodletting hookers. The sheer realistic characteristics of a serial killer among us are more alarmingly exploited and continue the terrifying ordeal with “Project Nightmare,” a sci-fi sensory conundrum overloaded with spastic psychological terror from the Golden Age of film.

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Revenge is an Evil Dish Best Served Cold! “Gelosia – Vendetta D’amore” review!

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After Thomas’ voluptuous wife’s immaculate beauty falls victim to a horrifying and scarring fiery car accident, the sex-addicted womanizer, fueled by a constant stream of strong alcohol, dumps his maimed wife and obsessively hops from one unchaste woman to next, but in the darkest shadows lurks a hidden danger toward his newfound, unrestricted fast and loose lifestyle. A sinister plot of revenge against him begins to quickly unravel and Thomas’ stretch of unscrupulous carnal behavior is about to be ‘cut’ short because, as the ancient saying goes, “hell has no fury like a woman scored.”
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Alberto Barone’s vengeful sex-thriller “Gelosia: Vendetta D’Amore” is a short film laced with irrepressible desires and consequences, doused in pure hatred and nihilism, and packaged as a vibrant grindhouse homage garnished with a tightly-knotted black bow. Milton Welsh stars as Thomas, a man on a bulldozing sexcapade, and with Welsh’s raspy, baritone voice and slick back, greasy hair makes him, on screen, the perfect, middle-aged creep, hooking up with the shameless, uninhibited women. The German born Welsh has indistinguishable looks and talents with the impeccable “Doom” and Rob Zombie “31” actor Richard Brake that brings a lot of despicable enjoyment to not only the performance, but also with the monologue by Welsh throughout the short film. Welsh’s previous credits include the 2011 remake of “Conan the Barbarian,” “Aeon Flux,” and, one of my personal favorite Norman Reedus films, “Antibodies.”
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Welsh’s performing cohorts makeup solely of very well-endowed, very offensive-embracing women that include a porn star, a dominatrix, and a couple of veteran genre actresses starting with the Southern France born Manoush (actress in Marian Dora’s “Cannibal,” “Philosophy of a Knife,” and, most recently, “The Curse of Doctor Wolffenstein”) as Heidi, Thomas’ discarded wife. This dominating role didn’t feel quite right, slightly forced, from the possibility of this role not being in Manoush’s native tongue, constraining the gushes of violent emotions that should be exploding from within the character outward. Manoush directly interacts alongside “German Angst’s” Kristina Kostiv, as a very seductive Eastern European escort girl in a manner that blurs the motivations of the characters, but we’ll discuss that later in this review. Rest of the cast fills every man’s, sometime woman’s, prominent fantasy with sacrilegious Nunspolitation and naughty nerd girl scenario roles, respectively donned by Tara Rubin and German porn star Lana Vegas. Both Rubin and Vegas steal from “Gelosia’s” root message with their provocative performances that leave almost nothing to the imagination. Tattoo model Alexa van Unique gets kinky in a brief scene of dominance that’s short and sweet and gets the message across.
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“Gelosia” is Italian for Jealousy, but Alberto Barone’s written and directed film doesn’t hit hard with one of humanities irrational and vile attributes. More in line with the subtitle of “Vendetta d’Amore,” aka Revenge of Love, Barone tells two-stories: One of the monologuing, sex addict that objectifies women more than he wishes to understand them and a vengeful wife with a dastardly plot of deadly retribution against him. I just don’t see jealousy as the major player this short film is titled after and that, at least for me, dilutes much of the radical content supporting the story including the naked women, the gruesome violence, and the admirable cinematography.
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“Gelosia: Vendetta d’Amore” is sexy with shock value. Produced by Ingravisione, the exploitation thriller seeks to debut in late 2017! Overall, Barone’s ultra-exploitation leaves an indifferent residue with me as I’m still hung up on a few difficult to ignore hiccups, but I love the short’s perverse freedom as a whole that’s vivid and modern while staying classic in style. “Gelosia: Vendetta d’Amore” is starting to hit festivals as I type this, bringing all the castrations and sex to an arthouse theater near you!
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[youtubehttps://youtu.be/9PR-KtfhaA4]

Opening Your Eyes Takes a Necessary Evil! “Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey” review!

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Friday night, A stranger breaks into the home of Tom and Alison. After tying up and torturing Tom, leaving him in the bathtub, he reveals a weekend long scheme that involves convincing Alison to genuinely want him by Monday morning. The stranger’s psychological game slowly breaks down Alison’s perception of her relationship with her husband through consequential threats toward a battered Tom, survival obedience, relationship morals, and untapped desires while Alison desperately attempts to squeeze away her captor’s maniacal grasp any way possible. With Alison’s husband undergoing continuous abuse throughout the weekend, the stranger persistently exhibits various versions of being the perfect husband to appease Alison’s preference in a partner, a striking contrast that begins the spiraling doubts about Tom and the life to which she’s submitting to with him.
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The director who gave audiences a reason to believe in their zany childhood imaginary friend in “Drop Dead Fred” and who drove viewers through the depths of Satan’s domain on the epic retrieval of love journey that was “Highway to Hell” has resurfaced. Director Ate de Jong’s 2014 film has found a home for his British exploitation thriller eloquently entitled “Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey.” at the Philadelphian based home entertainment distributor Artsploitation Films. An intense eye-opening experience that makes couples’ therapy a cut rate rekindling process, the “Deadly Virtues” story comes from the talented, yet relatively unknown, drafter Mark Rogers whose characters contribute a fierce and engaging potency.
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Characters can be written from head to toe with gargantuan electricity, but it takes the actors and actress portraying the characters to actually flip their switches on, vividly toggling their characters to shine. Edward Akrout’s puts forth a dangerously sophisticated Stranger excellently defining the term acting. Every unique touch of the binding rope used on Tom and Alison, every calculated sinister action taken against Tom, and every apt expression emits just enough information to state the Stranger’s purpose without spoiling the character’s mysterious motivations. Akrout is joined by American actress Megan Maczko with a selfless performance that pits her character Alison in a cat-and-game mouse against the Akrout’s Stranger. There are bits of unwanted sexual activity and nudity and role playing BDSM that might mistakenly place Jong’s film in the incorrect genre; instead, Akrout, Maczko, and, even Matt Barber as Tom, acutely pivots the subject matter, even with the provocative nude and bound woman graced film poster.
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Not all is copacetic with “Deadly Virtues.” Some of the pacing slows down a bit where the motivation feels arguably aimless as Alison quickly becomes content and comfortable with a man who just softly raided their home and violently turned their lives upside down. Also, as a matter of character, Tom needed fine sprucing from being painfully forceful with how the character critically needed to know, to ultimately compute, trivial information at the most inappropriate moments. The story itself might have forced Tom’s inadequacies and insecurity issues to completely tell the story within the total 97 minute runtime, but in the end, the finale loses that little something something to put the final nail into an already furbished piece of work by director Ate de Jong.
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Artsploitation Films’ latest release, “Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey,” surfaces deep rooted marital issues in an extreme, hostile manner, bringing to the forefront the versus struggle of adapting or fighting back, and also touches upon the beauty of the overlooked. The film’s poster, which I already remarked upon having some minor nudity, accentuates a woman’s other pleasant bodily features including the small of her back, her long neck, and her protruding deltas which Akourt’s portrayal of the Stranger similarly remarks briefly upon when more pigheaded men not noticing, or appreciating, other, less obvious, parts of women. I’m sure for most viewers, gazing at Megan Maczko strung up and suspended in an inviting position can stimulate a lot of interest. “Deadly Virtues” is currently only exclusively available in United States via VOD formats, such as Amazon, Vimeo, and GooglePlay, courtesy of Artsploitation Films.
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