Everything is EVILLER in Texas. “The Hoot Owl” reviewed! (Brink Vision / Blu-ray)

“The Hoot Owl” on Blu-ray is Slasher-iffic! Available at Amazon.com!

Blind buying a house is never good idea.  Blind buying a murder house in the middle of nowhere should be on the list of if you bought it, you deserve what’s coming to you.  Scott and April do just that as the recently troubled couple start afresh with a purchase of a fixer upper after suffering a late term miscarriage.  Deciding to not have Chip and Joanna Gains to rehab the dilapidated new residence set deep in the woods, the couple invite a small group of friends and family to assist in the much-needed repair and cleanup.  Interrupting their pass-the-doobie high and their positive high spirits while renewing an old house into a home, death and destruction erupts as a pair of demented squatters don’t take too kindly to the new homeowners. 

As far as debut feature films go, “The Hoot Owl” is a gory practical effect driven, true-to-form independent slasher film born and bred out of the great state of Texas.  The co-directing, co-writing Jasons, Jason Rader and Jason Von Godi, are the masterminds behind the cow head-boned masked killer and the very pregnant and very inbred wild woman lying in wait for the naive trespassers to drop their guard and thin out before the slaughter.  Having worked together for years making short films together, the 2022 released slasher was setup by Rader and Godi as a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, but out of the filmmakers’ flexible 20K goal, “The Howl Owl” concept received a measly $275 from four backers.  That roadblock was only temporary and didn’t stop the aspiring retro-slasher artists to complete their foot-in to the passion project that took over 9 years to complete from pre-production-to-post-production under their co-created company banner, Vanishing Twin Productions, in association with Rise Above Productions and producer Raymond Carter Cantrell.

If you’re going all out to make a slasher film, then you’re going to need victims to slash! Most indie slashers nowadays have a synopsis that begins something like this, “a group of teens go into the woods…,” and just by those few key introductory words, we know perfectly well what to expect as the drinking, smoking, and sex-crazed youth meet the homicidal maniac with a bloody machete in one hand and a decapitated head in the other. There’s a rhythmic comfort in that classic symbiosis. The downside to the structure always boils down to the shot in the dark cast and cast of characters that can make or break a slasher film’s success. Scott (Jason Skeen, “By the Devil’s Hands”) and wife April (Augustine Frizzell) bring along Scott’s longtime good friend Drew (J.D. Brown, “Cross Bearer”) and April’s estranged sister Suzy (Katharine Franco, “The Inflicted”) offer a little bit of everything in a hodgepodge of backstories that don’t quite become reinforced in the end with the exception of April whose miscarriage and loss transcends into twisted maternal madness. Frizzell’s glow for the first two acts doesn’t really yell grief but when the ardency takes over, stemmed by her vivid gruesome dreams of her miscarriage, the Texas-born actress steps up to the plate of a psychotic break. Suzy’s also interesting enough character to spark curiosity with the enigmatic contentiousness in a heartfelt scene of two sisters rekindling their bond while actually actioning those same emotions on screen; instead, Franco enjoys the blithe nature of Suzy’s indecisiveness about school and about her family but discovers a quick and sudden fascination with Drew, the least interesting principal that hires two colorful buddies: Hank (Carl Bailey, “A Ship of Human Skin”), a father of two who a penchant for sexual harassment, and an obvious long hair wig-wearing oddball Bugs (Roger Schwermer Jr.). Bailey resembles pure Texan posture but is stiff as a board in his sleazy contractor role. “The Hoot Owl” rounds out the cast with Joshua Ian Steinburg playing the boned-face killer and Johnny Wright reaching inside to extract his inner Neanderthal-like wild woman ready to emulate a putridly picturesque birth.

“The Hoot Owl” is a by-the-numbers man-in-a-mask slasher riddled with familiar tropes and conventional clichés.  Baseline fact is that the film is not breaking any molds here and won’t be a contender for horror picture of the year.  With that said, and as harsh as that may sound, what “The Hoot Owl” represents is pure spirit and appreciation for what the film ultimately represents – a love for the heyday horror. Rader and Godi firmly believe in their film with a sincere attempt at a feature and pulling all the material together during a near decade-long process to get the film released out into the world. Far from perfect, “The Hoot Owl” relies heavily on the gruesome practical effects and there are some good gory terminations with a piledriving beartrap, a split-head decapitation with a large chain, and a long, rusty drill bit through the eye socket that ends in a spurting splatter of blood. The expo is an impressive effort from Allan David Caroll in his first go-round with the effects trade that could rival the early works of Tom Savini or Greg Nicotero. What breaks up the story most of all are the secondary shoots used to swell and cut into the first-round material shots to beef up a feature production. For instance, the opening credit chase sequence of a maniac cop (at least I think it was a cop) hunting down a man and his pregnant wife is a moment that is never clearly referred backed to, but the assumption is that the pregnant woman is the encountered savage later on in the unveiling climatic and the bone-head killer is her child from the rundown who then impregnates his own heathenized mother…? Connectively, it’s all unclear in unfused ends, causing a break in the signal from the lead-in to the trunk of the story, and that underdevelopment pursues throughout with loops never coming to a close.

In my first brush with Brink Vision since reviewing their DVD release of the 2008 alien transmitted dead-resurrecting bacteria film, “Evilution,” a tinge of satisfaction embraces my little heart to see Brink Vision come back across with a Blu-ray release of their latest “The Hoot Owl,” distributed by MVD Visual. The quick-paced 72-minute film is presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, is not rated and is region free. Video quality doesn’t represent the best-of-the-best of the 1080p high-def resolution with a commercial standard definition equipment and know this mainly because compression that doesn’t display a myriad of issues. Details are not as sharp and there is banding more obvious in one scene of negative space, but the picture is otherwise free of artefacts and other data loss issues. The English Language 5.1 surround mix fairs much of the same albeit the electrostatic noise. While not overwhelming the dialogue to a point of murkiness, the steady shushing combined with the poor audio recordings can vary the quality and depth with a blunt flatness. Bonus features includes a commentary with directors Jason Rader and Jason Von Godi, a second commentary with Creepy Peepy Podcast, a featurette of Rader and Godi looking back at their 9-year pilgrimage to completion, Godi’s short film ‘The Voyeur,” trailer and still gallery. The physical release has beautiful artwork of the Hoot Owl killer in a throwback, almost Scream Factory-esque, illustration. The back cover is a little wonky with a composite that’s hard to read with deep purple lettering on the credits and bonus material listing almost invisible amongst the black background. “The Hoot Owl” endears the slasher fandom with a callback to the brute strength of a wanton villain and if only the script was smoothed over, this little indie film from Texas could have better laid a stronger foundation.

“The Hoot Owl” on Blu-ray is Slasher-iffic! Available at Amazon.com!

This Bundle of EVIL has a Dirty Diaper! “Baby Oopsie” reviewed! (Full Moon / Blu-ray)

“Baby Oopsie”  The Baddest Baby in Town on Blu-ray!

Who would have thought that playing with dolls could be deadly.  Sybil Pittman certainly didn’t think so as she hosts her internet streaming doll vlog showcasing her collection of pint sizes doll babies most of which Sybil has restored back to life…literally.  When a mysterious package arrives with the battered and stitched together head of Baby Oopsie, a severely bullied and neglected Sybil locks herself in the basement to work tirelessly on repairing Baby Oopsie’s head and mechanical body that includes, unbeknownst to Sybil, one special gear under a satanic spell to for collecting souls.   Baby Oopsie, the once pride and joy of Sybil’s restorations, has been resurrected from the toy junkyard and aims to claim the lives of Sybil’s tormentors to sustain it’s own diabolic animation.  When all of Sybil’s adversaries are eliminated, Baby Oopsie still requires lives to live and turns on Sybil’s friends and Sybil herself that becomes a battle to the death.

Full Moon knows how to run and market a good product that can last a lifetime and they continue to stroll through their finely tuned niche of deranged doll other pint-sized psychos to this very day with brand new produced features hitting the physical and streaming retain shelves in 2022.  Following the success of “Don’t Let Her In,” one of those new features aforementioned, is the return of the evilest rug rat known to infant kind, Baby Oopsie, from the “Demonic Toys” universe.  William Butler, who I fondly remember playing sweet country boy Tom being blown up and having his corpse feasted on in Tom Savini’s “Night of the Living Dead” remake, continues his long-standing tenure with Charles Band and Full Moon that began in 1986, under the Charles Band Empire Pictures company production and Stuart Gordon directed “From Beyond,” with a new written-and-directed feature “Baby Oopsie,” a concentrated, standalone spinoff of “Demonic Toys.”  This isn’t Butler’s first go-around with the go-go-ga-ga-gut your guts dolly as the filmmaker helmed “Demonic Toys 2:  Personal Demons” in 2010.  Charles Band and Butler produce the film with regular Full Moon executive producer Nick Blaskowski under the Full Moon Features in association with Candy Bar Productions.

Viral sensation the McRib Queen versus demonic toy Baby Oopsie. Stand up and character comedienne, Libbie Higgins, debuts in her first feature headlining role as Sybil Pittman, the repressed and intimidated vlogging doll queen living in abusive hell with tyrannical stepmother after the death of her beloved father. Higgins, who has an Onlyfans page for only $8 a month for all you obsessed fans out there, adorns a wig, glasses, and meme cat sweaters to get into the head of Pittman’s secluded world and where outsiders browbeat her into a reserved submission and wishful thinking only provides little comfort returning the hurt played out internal sadistic fantasies. For her breakout role, Higgins transcends her comedienne persona and into an anxiety-riddled outcast wretched by life’s punches and horror-struck by a doll that walks, talks, and kills like a macho-sadist. Before going head-to-head with the berserk Baby Oopsie (voiced by newcomer Jill Barlett), Sybil is caught between the devil and a saint with her brash, overbearing, stepmother played by Lynne Acton McPherson (“Improbus”) and the attentive and caring subletter played by Marilyn Bass, who tries very hard to be Full Moon sexy and skin-revealing without showing the camera too much. Her “best friend” Ray-Ray tips the scales toward believing in Sybil’s beauty and craft, befriending the doll queen despite her large radius of shunning those want to get closer to her, such as the mailman or the gardener, because of the depressive self-pity. Yet, Ray-Ray brings to the light and so does the actor who portrays the upbeat Hey Hunny sassy-mouth in TikTok and Youtuber influencer Justin Armistead. Armistead is magnetically chipper onscreen compared to Higgins story-obliged monotone placidness that balances out quite nicely the duo’s vanilla and peanut-butter-marshmallow swirl relationship. “Baby Oopsie” is full of character and characters, rounding out it’s smorgasbord of victims and supports with Diane Frankenhausen, Shamecka Nelson, Joseph Huebner, Michael O’Grady, Michael Carrino, Christopher J. Meigs, Tim Dorsey, and Josephine Bullock.

Set and filmed in Cleveland, Ohio at the proclaimed Full Moon estate, a 60’s-70’s anachronous house with many rooms becomes the playground setting for “Baby Oopsie,” the cast, and the crew. The location that reflects an era no longer modern, a dated obsoletism, to match Baby Oopsie’s classic and ideal bald-bald in a night gown form. However, normal Baby Oopsie also comes with that grotesque, malformed face that only a doll obsessed mother could love and would cause the toughest of horror fans to fear in their pants in on glance at the augmented representation of a human infant. It’s the creepy old doll look you definitely don’t want to see sitting in a dark corner blankly staring at you.  Of course, the special effects are not the classic Full Moon stop motion you see with the “Puppet Master” flicks as “Baby Oopsie” deals in tangibility with a bait and switch editing between the number of diverse molded Oopsie dolls created by special effects supervisor Greg Lightner (“Corona Zombies,” “Don’t Let Her In”) that include an open mouth and sneering face or a set of glowing eyes to provide a sense of evil.  Oopsie fits right into Sybil’s down on her luck story that is nicely compact and complete for an indie horror quietly but surely touches upon Sybil’s life in various key scenes, such as the gardener who hangs around because her father was much beloved or how much Sybil is despised at work between the dragooning, nitpicking, and strict boss and the snickering colleagues that look down at her.  Butler’s sweet-and-salty route delegates a fine line between her friends and foes that make the stakes clear when Oopsie decides impulsively to go off the bad-guy only rails. “Baby Oopsie” is far from cute and cuddly. “Baby Oopsie” is closer to being ugly and uncouth as the prime and pinnacle sequel of anthropomorphic toy horror in today’s Full Moon toy chest of films.

Spinoffs have become the new favorite amongst audiences, “Baby Oopsie” even pays a sideswiping jab to “Annabelle” of the “Conjuring” universe, and while we see a lot of spinoffs in television, the concepts and ideas are beginning to spill more frequently for filmgoing fans and, as such, “Baby Oopsie” is reborn onto her (or is it him? or it?) own Blu-ray home video from Full Moon Features. The region free, high-definition release, presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, is the epitome of digital recording without much of a single critique or compression issue. Inundated with a more realism than stylism presence in front of the camera with the exception of a few edited in art renditions of satanic imagery, Butler and cinematographer Josh Apple apply a clean, high-resolution coating that undeniably very familiar to Full Moon’s repertoire. What’s also a motif straight out of Full Moon’s bag of goodies in the carnivalesque score. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack raises the volume on the Fred Rapoport and Rick Butler above a superseding level that swallows the English dialogue at times. You really want to absorb Jill Barlett’s vulgarities as Baby Oopsie but need to fight the soundtrack to do so during key moments when Oopsie’s profanity-laden Tourette like behavior kicks in. The release also comes with a second audio option with a Dolby digital 2.0 stereo. Bonus features include a behind-the-scenes featurette with cast and crew interviews on their experience making the film and poking fun at each other at times in a well-edited jest, a Videozone featurette that’s essentially a mini panel with producer Charles Band, director William Butler, and stars Libbie Higgins, Marilyn Bass, and Lynne Acton McPherson taking a break in the midst of filming to talk about their characters, to talk about the film itself, and for Band to plug his streaming service and new projects, there’s a mini-featurette All Dolled Up! that has Libbie Higgins in character, Justin Armistead self-recording in his bathroom, like on TikTok, and Baby Oopsie announce the winner and runner-up’s of a contest to win a Full Moon prize package. Bonus content rounds out with Full Moon trailers. The Blu-ray comes unrated, and feature has a runtime of 78 minutes. “Baby Oopsie” is not the addendum to the profane book of “Demonic Toys” but rather an extenuating chapter that opens the door for all the misfit and maniacal toys to one day have their own independent rampaging furtherance that are likely already drafted, budged, and ready to shoot at a moment’s notice.

“Baby Oopsie”  The Baddest Baby in Town on Blu-ray!

Fixing the Tracking on Those EVIL VHS Cassettes! “Snuff Tapes” reviewed! (MVDVisual / DVD)

Ready to be Recorded?  “Snuff Tapes” now available at Amazon.com!

Marcela Arkaino investigates a Talca, Chile rapist and murder who has been drugging and abducting women for years to record aberrant tapes of his cruel exploits.  Marcela takes a special eager interest in this particular assignment as she was one of those unfortunate women.  As a silver lining out of an extremely bad situation, she is one of three women left alive by her brutal sex-sadist aggressor.  As the reporter in her garners the difficult stories from the other two survivors, Cataline and Jesus, abused by the same masked man, she inches closer to his whereabouts by triangulating attacks and connecting similarities but her scouring of roadside market, unlabeled VHS tapes became the smoking gun needle in a haystack that produces not just any depraved tape of his victims but of her own ordeal, turning now an inch into a mile in finding him.  Bring the other two women into the fold, Marcela devises a plan of revenge to direct a snuff film of her own, starring their rapist and torturer.  

Hailing from Talca, Chile, the same location where the story is set, comes the shock-slamming, VHS-inspired thriller “Snuff Tapes,” aka “Cintas Tapes,” from the Chilean born independent filmmaker, Vito Garcia Viedma.  The writer-director’s prior two zombie-influenced short films, the 2012 “Bajo el sonido del tren” and the 2017 “Escape from Zombie City,” along with the criminal underbelly 2017 feature, Los culpables,” displays a course change deviation that wouldn’t prepare the average Viedma film fan for his 2020 venture into the dark underworld exploitation of indie snuff.  While the title highlights the concept around videotaping the misuse of a person’s trust and vulnerability for one’s own disturbing profit, in this case to get one’s jolly’s off, much of Viedma’s story skirts around the edge with just mentioning the nixing of captured and consumed of vivacity women, saving the story’s climax for more detailed death dealing in a vengeful perspective rather than a videotaped one. “Snuff Tapes” is created under Viedma’s ZineFilms production company in association with Cabro Chico and Trippas Productions.

“Snuff Tapes” is no “8MM” with a mega-Hollywood budget and Nic Cage doing Nic Cage antics. “Snuff Tapes” is no “Effects” with cult icons Joseph Pilato and Tom Savini helming sordid scenes from fantasy to non-fiction. “Snuff Tapes” isn’t even on the same level as “A Serbian Film” and, to be honest, I don’t think any film anytime soon will ever be on the same level as that twisted picture. What all three of those successful and notorious films have in common and what Viedma lacks in separating itself from the rest are in two very important details: a budget and an array of talent. Viedma’s film humbles in comparison with not only a microbudget but also in a cast makeup of essentially five actors with withering substance. Valentina Soto Albornoz stars as the retribution-reporter, Cataline Ibarra, who for the last decade has been piecing together clues of her kidnapper’s whereabouts by purchasing random video cassettes tapes from Talca street vendors and when Ibarra strikes gold unearthing her own ugly tape, she understandably feels overwhelmed reliving visually the nightmare and subsequently gravitates toward being hellbent for revenge. Ibarra recruits her survivor carbon copies in the tattooed Jesus Mayano (Camila Medina) and aspiring photography model Marcela Arkaino (Camila Carreno Arancibia) for a little payback, but Ibarra, aside from her good friend Esteban (Hugo Villar) providing her a PAL encoded VHS player and rewatching her tape to catch clues missed, she virtually does all the legwork in pinpointing the one responsible, drugging him, abducting him, and committing herself to the nitty-gritty, fantasy plan for whenever she got her hands on him. I’m not sure what roles or business Arkaino or Mayano actually had to just stand there moping other than maybe bear witness to the end of their lifelong torment, to see the boogeyman parish once and for all? Reinaldo Aravena plays the man behind the mask who initially puts up a strong showing as the camera operator and stud of his homemade videos but then quickly fizzles disappointingly on the opposite side of the camera due to a lack of scaled down combating in what becomes just a one-woman show without much to show for it.

Viedma paves an interesting structural path for his film, taking the audience an extended 36-minute introduction of voiced over VHS recordings of survivor stories before entering opening credits to what then becomes a dichotomy narrative between backstory and present day. This also speaks to the visual cinematography as well that jumps back and forth between being shot on the VHS’s boxed-in format (found footage) to a wider lens of the digital world, capturing past and present in two distinct formats as well as capturing the past that isn’t glossy, pretty, and is an inescapable prison where the walls, the horizontal pillars, are closing in on the world.  Appearances, no matter how apt to the subject, do not give the movie soul and “Snuff Tapes” misses that poignant shock value target with poorly written characters and a misaligned connect-the-dots investigation that doesn’t make much sense.  Ibarra examination of the evidence, or really lack thereof, points to one man, but like a cheating slacker in high school, she does not show her work to come up with that result.  Instead, she repeats, at least in a couple of instances, her gut knows she has the right man.  In Viedma’s world, a gut feeling is factual evidence for stringing someone up to face judgement.  In reality, that’s a severe boo-boo case of miscalculation that would get you jail time.  Circumstantial street justice on little-to-no proof separates the empathy from what an audience is supposed feel fired up against an unspoken truth and gives them satisfaction in a just cause to see the obliteration of scum from the face of the Earth. In the first half, “Snuff Tapes” is undeniably graphic and cuts deep with a veridical, degenerate villain, but falters with a lazy second half approach and gratuitous revenge.

MVD Visual in association with Danse Macabre and Jinga Films release “Snuff Tapes” on a North American DVD release. The region free DVD is presented in a VHS format of 1.33:1 when looking cassette camera lens with the rest of the film in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. As expected, the VHS quality has semblance of overuse and age with a fuzzy display and muted, boxy sound. Outside of that, the picture quality is not much better in reconstituting a playback on lower end of the DVD spectrum – approx. 3-5 Mbps. Compression artefacts are heavily present with poor clarity around the edging and blacks shimmer and appear blotchy. The lossy Spanish language Dolby Digtial 5.1 Surround Sound loses some of it’s fidelity in the compression but is the overall highlight amongst the DVD’s A/V scorecard; however, the subtitle transcription is the worst I’ve seen in quite some time with duplicated segments, spelling errors, and a timing that equates to a microsecond blip of dialogue on some occasions. The release comes with another version of the film as the sole bonus feature with an entire VHS 1.33:1 (4:3) VHS Cut for an immersive effect. As always, snuff features can be difficult to digest but they are becoming more and more prevalent and popular in a highly accessible home video market and director, Vito Garcia Viedma, tries his creative hand at creating disturbing content only to defile the genre with a subpar entry sullied by deficient storytelling.

Ready to be Recorded?  “Snuff Tapes” now available at Amazon.com!

EVIL Strikes at the Stroke of “Midnight” reviewed! (Blu-ray / Severin)

Teenager Nancy searches for forgiveness through reestablishing her faith in God after being dumped by her sexually active boyfriend.  When her alcoholic, police officer stepfather learns of the relationship’s abrupt ending, he moves in quickly to take advantage of Nancy while under the heavy influence of the bottle.  Escaping his grasp, she flles home and hitchhikes a ride with two men travelling South on a getaway from Pennsylvania to sunny Fort Lauderdale, but when facing trouble with small town local law enforcement after attempting to steal groceries, the three find themselves right in the middle of a Satanic cult’s sacrificial ritual that requires the killing of three women for eternal life, one a night at midnight for three days.  Held in a dog cage, Nancy anxiously awaits her turn at the bloodletting alter surrounded by the cloaked-cladded cult and their decomposing mother’s corpse  Praying to God to save her soul, little does Nancy know that her stepfather has tracked down her whereabouts, leading to a bloody showdown of one cop pitted against a family of satanic psychopaths. 

Based of his 1980 novel of the same title, “Midnight” is known to be John Russo’s heart-and-soul project that ended up suffering one mishap after another in the two years of its production and post-production until it’s final release in 1982.  Also known as “Backwoods Massacre,” the “Night of the Living Dead” co-writer Russo helms the low-budget occult slasher out from his usual stomping grounds in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  “Midnight” showcases a story themed with a depraved sense of race intolerance for African Americans and all varieties of religious convictions to be innately false in an atheistic Russo viewpoint amongst a glorified surface level of enrapturing inhumane violence seasoned by brainwashing.  This West Pennsylvanian born and bred grindhouse exploitation found producers in  Sam Sherman and Daniel Q. Kennis of “Blazing Stewardesses” and “Blood of Ghastly Horror”) along with Donald Redinger under the now defunct Independent-International Picture Corp.

In a sea of smaller fish of Pittsburgh actors in “Midnight’s” casting tow is a larger and rougher around the gills grouper embodied by the singular Lawrence Tierney (“Reservoir Dogs,” “The Prowler”) in the Officer Bert Johnson role. Tierney’s no stranger to the horror genre, flaunting his thick New York tough guy accent that typically typecasts the veteran actor into authoritative roles. In being no exception, “Midnight” has Tierney playing a sleazy, alcoholic, police officer who winds up more-or-less unearthing sense in his old age and utilizing his skills for good to fully satisfy his character’s arc, but Tierney alone is wonderful to behold and easy to be disgusted by as he solicits his underage teenage stepdaughter with a perverted proposition. That stepdaughter, Nancy (Melanie Verlin), is the face of “Midnight’s” protagonist whose attempting to get back on track with God after a sinful bedroom relationship with an ex-boyfriend, but her plans are slighted by a brood of young Satanists keen on keeping their now long deceased mother’s irreligious convictions intact. David Marchick, George Romero regular Ted Amplas (“Day of the Dead” 1978, “Martin”), Robin Walsh, and the face of “Midnight” on many of the posters, Greg Besnack, size up as the Satanic terrible and merciless foursome. The cast fills out with Charles Johnson, John Hall, Bob Johnson, Lachele Carl, Jackie Nicoll, Doris Hackney, and Ellie Wyler.

After the success of a collaborated run with George Romero on a handful of projects, John Russo ultimately branches off to do his own creative output after their production company, Latent Image, brought on newcomers’ and the shared ideas on the direction of their company didn’t sit well with Russo – an irk that Russo still harps upon to this day, according to the special features’ new interview from the latest Severin Film’s release.  Yet, I digress into the review of “Midnight” that has feral narrative with an irregular plotted blueprint of teenager exploitation, racial injustice, and backwoods barbarians.  Somehow, Russo’s able to juggle his jotted down on a budget scrambler with a threadbare satanic family baseline that unsettlingly feels snagged in a randomizing generator spitting out scenes to see if they cohesively connect into the next.  Nancy’s traversing into the thicket of terror story cuts into and undermines more of the sibling’s unholy ritual, which the title “Midnight” becomes an important piece to the ceremony, with a subplot of the teen running away from a handsy stepfather and into the Mystery Machine modeled van-driving hands of a pair of cavalier friends on a road trip and then find themselves in an endgame of rotten luck with bad company.  The whole lead up to the two groups running into each other is suddenly dropped like a bad habit, forgoing much of the racial tensions, the youthful subverts, and even the attempt at pedophilia when the main, overarching theme of cult mayhem and religion inadequacies come to the forefront.  “Midnight” inarguably a gargantuan piece of good ole American hicksville victimization with some underappreciated manic performances by John Amplas and Greg Besnak, but there’s difficulty in shaking “Midnight’s” stark story division that leaves much to be desired.

“Midnight” is the particular video nasty that’s surpassing all of it’s other formatted counterparts with a Severin Film’s 4K scanned Blu-ray of the full uncut negative.  The 1080p Full High Definition, region free BD50 is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a respectable color correction, but the correction sees unstable moments regressing near the cuts revealing the lifeless yellow tinge of unmastered quality. A right amount of grain, a great amount of detail, and hardly any damage to the thought-lost uncut negative proves Severin found buried treasure of the John Russo shocker. Two audio options grace the release with an English language DTS-HD 5.1 surround and an English 2.0 Stereo. While the 5.1 offers a more robust audio option of funneling individual tracks through their respective channels, I wouldn’t necessarily say “Midnight” has an overwhelming yield for audiophiles. Soundtrack comes across just enough to know it’s there, the dialogue is clean and unimpeded, but what unfolds out of clarity is the wonky foley ambience that just render solemn scenes silly. Severin offers up a new interviews under “Midnight’s” mediocre cult status with director John Russo – Making Midnight – as top bill in a lengthy discussion about his long career, his acquaintances including George Romero, and, of course, his recollections about “Midnight.” Other interviews include producer Samuel Sherman – Producing Midnight, actor John Amplas – The Midnight Killer, and special makeup effects artist Tom Savini – Small Favors – who barely remembers working very little on this film by providing pre-fabricated headshots and sliced throat prosthetics. An isolated score selection with audio interview with Mike Mazzei, an alternate title card for “Backwoods Massacre,” the trailer, and radio spot round out the bonus content inside the blackout snapcase. Prolific as John Russo may be in horror literature, filmmaking, and in legendary regards with his work alongside Romero, “Midnight” reflects poorly on his cinematic vocation and while many problems plagued production and post-production, Russo somehow managed to root out a passable working cut of crazed satanic panic.

“MIDNIGHT” available on Blu-ray from Severin!

EVIL is Undead…And Rides a Shark! “Sky Sharks” reviewed (Umbrella Entertainment / DVD)

Former Nazi scientist Dr. Klaus Richter’s past has finally caught up with him after 70 years when a clandestine German laboratory, disguised as an aircraft-battleship hybrid, thaws from behind a globally warmed sheet of frozen ice and rock, releasing Dr. Richter’s regenerated legion of undead Nazi super-soldiers piloting genetically engineered flying battle sharks complete with guided missiles alongside their razor sharp jaws.  Loyal to the Third Reich, the sky sharks continue their master race patronage with a blitzkrieg in the skies, attacking commercial aircraft, boarding the cabins, and slaughtering every last person on board before crashing.   Now contractually working for the U.S. Government as the biggest name in technological advancement, Dr. Klaus, with the help of his two daughters, has a plan to nullify the sky sharks’ defenses to make them vulnerable to his latest newest experiment in warfare, Dead Flesh, under the guidance of his fellow covert government agency heads.

Apex predators of the waters are now apex predators of the skies in Marc Fehse’s ridiculous, frenzied, and utterly mad ultra-violent Nazi-exploitation, “Sky Sharks.” Soaring through the heavens soaking fluffy white clouds with blood, the Carsten Fehse and A.D. Morel co-written film took off virally in 2020 with the promise to the internet, especially horror fans, of zombified SS soldiers mounted standing on humungous Great White, Hammerhead, and Megalodon jet-propelled sharks. Fehse’s team delivered. “Sky Sharks” has not one single serious bone in all it’s cartilaginous gory-glory body in what’s Fehse’s second film behind the 1999, straight to video, “Mutation” involving the what-if factor of a surrealistically free reigning and sadistically unbridled Nazi force hellbent on winning World War II no matter how many lives needing to be sacrificed for the sake of the Führer’s dominion. The Germany-made production is a Fuse Box Films and Fantom Films.

“Sky Sharks” is studded with cult stars, but those studs pop out mostly after the carnage-laden opening scene of passengers on a commercial flight being ripped to shreds by undead super-soldiers hog-wild about killing. Robert LaSardo (“Strangeland”), Lynn Lowery (“Model Hunger”), Tony Todd (“Candyman”), Diana Prince (“The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs”), Mick Garris (director of “Critters 2”), Dave Sheridan (“Scary Movie”), Amanda Bearse (“Fright Night” ’85), Asami (“Gun Woman), Naomi Grossman (“American Horror Story” franchise), Lar Park-Lincoln (“Friday the 13th Part VII:  The New Blood”) and “Mortal Kombat’s Shang Tsung himself, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, make an appearance in some minor way, shape, or form, but since “Sky Sharks” is a German production, much of the cast is geared toward German and Austrian actors with Thomas Morris spearheading the lead role of the inverted mad scientist, Dr. Klaus Richter, a centenarian mastermind behind the birth and, hopeful, destruction of his monstrous airborne jaws of death experiment.  The role itself isn’t very exciting that refrains Morris to be nothing more but a talking head who recounts his failed World War II and Vietnam resurrection serum to turn the tides of war.  While Dr. Richter has immense blood on his hands from a long and rich background, the present day Richter has lackluster appeal and Morris doesn’t provide much zest either.  More complexities reside in Richter’s two tech-savvy and kickass daughters, Diabla and Angelique.  Their signifying names alone provide some foreshadowing of events, but the close sisters are boots on the ground with their father being the eye in the sky; yet, Diabla and Angelique have been kept in the dark from their father’s horrid past that factors little into parting ways from being daughter’s little girls.  Blonde beauties Eva Haberman and Barbara Nedeljakova successful roles in Germany and the U.S. include “Hostel” and the sci-fi tele-series “Lexx,” but their blind obedience to the patriarch roles downscales any moments to shine individually as free thinking agents of good.  Any other character factored into “Sky Sharks’” whiplash narrative come and go without a single ounce meaningful impact becoming background noise for the fray. There’s not even a singular villain to speak of as a focal point to direct a challenger against forces of good.

As much as the concept excites me on an obscurely dysfunctional level, a real telling tale of who I am as a person, who also praises “Snakes on a Plane” as cult candy, “Sky Sharks” has atrocious issues with pacing and story quality.  The opening scene sets up what to expect of gore drenched Nazis yoking back on genetically mutated sharks, zipping through high altitude to acrobatically infiltrate commercial planes for complete and total annihilation of every passenger onboard.  Tickles me in all the right places.  Yet, the sky sharks’ unveiling background whizzes past right into death from above world apocalypse, skipping keynote details resolving the giant warship beached on the Antarctic ice.  Fehse decides to redirect our focus with a bunch of explicit violence and sex and while that’s all nice and good…really good…the misdirection can’t coverup the necessities needed for a good story even if the story is absolutely bonkers. The visual effects are not distinct from the ream of shark-sploitation films that have become popular over the last decade in a cheaper slaved effort to capitalize on the majestic beasts of the sea…who sometimes mistake a surfer for a sea lion. The flying sharks swim in a stiffly pattern and move inorganically through their uncharacteristic ecosystem as they rocket in a school of steampunk nightmares. Not all visuals fall short of satisfaction when they’re appropriately blended with practical effects. Under that hood of tangible horrors is “Iron Sky: The Coming Race’s” Martin Schäper and, the legendary, Tom Savini, who we haven’t seen special effects work from since 2012’s “Death from Above” (an also fitting title for killer sharks in the sky). Schäper and Savini bring it with blood. Each plane sequence, there’s two of them, exhibit different deaths with each one more outrageous than the next. My favorite is the inverted periscope through a guy’s cranium and having a looksie at the screaming, bloodied passengers. “Sky Sharks” is, literally, an over-the-top scream of slice’em and dice’em fun.

Cresting through the blue yonder and painting the sky blood red is the deadliest gang of shark riding Nazi’s to ever grace a cinema platform in “Sky Sharks,” coming to DVD in Australia, no stranger to large, deadly sharks, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment in association with Raven Banner. The NTSC encoded, region 4, rated R release will present the film in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. “Sky Sharks” is a turbulent wonderland of rustic computer generated visual effects with a Marco J. Riedl and Olaf Markmann cinematography, typifying a clashing style, of keeping actors tightly in focus to sell a futuristic fluorescent environment. A few scenes give a sense of layered paper mâché sitting in front a green screen as the forefront images seemingly pop out of their backdrops. The English and German Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix falls victim to an overpowering score of a weak dialogue track that washes key pieces of exposition that might explain more as the scenes fleet away in the rushed paced 103 minute runtime. Aside from a brilliantly detailed DVD cover robust with a glowing eyed, half-decaying Nazi soldier as centerpiece amongst flying, weaponized sharks and Robert LaSardo and Lynn Lowry cameoing off to the left side with a half-naked female warrior on the right, the DVD has no bonus features included. After the credits, a fake commercial for “Sky Frogs,” starring that half-naked female warrior I just mentioned, is a satirical happy ending full of even worse, 80’s caliber, visual effects worlds and frogs. Though not at the top of the food chain being one of the grossly ostentatious and shoddily visual effects films ever, the mindless, search and destroy, crudeness of “Sky Sharks” chums our oceans of entertainment with some of the bloodiest fun we’ve seen in a long time from a Nazisploitation.

Own Umbrella Entertainment release of “Sky Sharks” on DVD! Click the poster!