While embarking through Kentucky on a camping road trip, four friends make a pit stop at a Kentuckian scream park called Talon Falls, suggested to them by squirrelly and unusual gas station attendant. As they work their way through a labyrinth of gore and torture, the realization that the local attraction harnesses realistic inflictions of pain hits them squarely in the jaw as they become unwilling participants instilled into the hyper-horrific entertainment that’s recorded onto a snuff tape. In order to not be strapped to a jerry-rigged electrocution chair or be the guinea pig for a sadistic mad doctor with a niche for painful exploratory surgery, they must fight the entire company of Talon Falls’ scream park in order to not be a piece of recorded snuff.
“Talon Falls” is the 2017 torture and survival horror named after and shot on location at the real life scream park located in Melber, Kentucky and written, directed, and co-produced by indie filmmaker Joshua Shreve. Shreve’s story tip-toes around being a familiar narrative that might not seem so different from other works ranging from Nimród Antal “Vacancy” to maybe even Rob Zombie’s murder-world fun-n-games “31,” but if you take a step back and take a long, hard look at “Talon Falls'” gore scenes that don’t just secretly record the assortment of death, but exhibits the ghastly torture for the entire public eye to see. If you’ve been to a Halloween Horror theme park, you know very well the adrenaline pumps, the hearts thump, and the fear tops into a knot in your throat and “Talon Falls” simply adds that what if factor. What if it’s not fake? What if these people being dismembered and vilely tortured are ultimately put to death right before our eyes, like some Captain Spaulding backwoods horror show with a side bucket of his famous fried chicken?
In any case, the four friends, made up of two couples, don’t have one ounce of star power behind their name, but each one of them spearhead the project with enough enthusiasm and gusto that there’s no short fall of trepidation even if the level of fear stalls slightly on overkill at times. Brad Bell, Jordyn Rudolph, Sean Rudolph, and Morgan Wiggins don’t necessary have the on-screen chemistry as friends or couples, even if Sean and Jordyn Rudolph are an offscreen husband and wife, but the palpitating consternation dynamic solidly sells when all hell breaks loose inside the walls of Talon Falls. Between Jordyn Rudolph and Morgan Wiggins, either actress could be a vocal stretching scream queen, especially Wiggins who reaches ranges that could pierce eardrums.
When the spectrum-filled makeup palettes and every single destructive deconstruction prop is laid out at your finger tips, the special effects comes as second nature and to introduce a high level of design detail to the already elaborate set, inside a really monstrous horror park, then “Talon Falls” without a doubt will walk, talk, and look like a top-notch horror film. However, not all aspects are perfect with the Shreve film, produced by Kent Hammond and Todd Ferren, as the story progression with the characters becomes minimized that result in haphazard camaraderie between the friends who are more turnstile acquaintances than lustful lovers or deep-rooted long time friends. Also, characters make hot-headed or stupid-minded questionable decisions when in hot pursuit of an axe-wielding, piggy-masked killer and the scribing of the irresponsible decisions when safely stowed away when being pursued, roots out Shreve’s inexperience in a time of a building block career.
MVDVisual and Lost Empire present “Talon Falls,” the Terror Films and Flashback Pictures production, onto DVD home entertainment in a widescreen 2.35:1 that atheistically gritty in the detail. Even the darker scenes, with well established and positioned shadowing, bring substantial substance to liven up and level up this independent feature from Kentucky. The 5.1 surround sound track has stable range through and through with a caustic toned score to convey terror and a clear and prominent dialogue track that doesn’t muddle through a surplus of ambient tracks. Bonus material include a behind-the-scenes featurette that runs through a randomizer of footage markers and some bloopers. A theatrical trailer is also included. Josh Shreve can only get better from his Sophomore film as a director whose hot off his solid genre entry in “Talon Falls” with the aid of the scream park’s unlimited horror resources and though popping with toe-nail pulling moments, the extremely short runtime of 75 minutes suggests a stiffened premise with undercooked character development that diminish that high production value and bloody effects.
Cecile and Brigitte have served two of their twelve month sentence for inappropriate sexual acts involving prostitution and stripping. International authorities, including an American Senator, remove the two ladies of the night from their incarcerations and have them audition a private and provocative dance routine that will spring them from prison life and place them into a contract for hire that the pair of beauties find difficult to refuse. Cecile and Brigitte use their God-gifted talents to slip undercover as a pair of lesbian dancers in order to spy on Mr. Forbes, the Flamingo club owner on the Canary Islands who moonlights as a sadistic sex trafficker. Forbes kidnaps, rapes, and then, with the help of his wife Irina Forbes, hypnotizes well-known and famous women to be the ever faithful lovers of Mr. Forbes wealthily clients and to stop the egregious trafficker, any smoking gun evidence must be photographed for the international police to make a move on an arrest.
Jess Franco is the maestro of guilty pleasure shlock and the 1980 violently erotic, crime drama “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” is no different inventoried with ubersleaze spiced in folly comedy and tense sadism. The sort of mixed bag genre film only writer-director knew, and understood, how to achieve on a minuscule budget level in hastily conditions, but “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties,” whether designed or by chance, stemmed from the combination of old and new footage, re-edited out of the original title, “Ópalo de fuego: Mercaderes del sexo,” and told a slightly different tale with slightly rearranged character backgrounds and graphic scenes, and featured two different locations that were later labeled Las Palmas of the Canary Islands to tie it all together. Severin has included both versions on a limited edition Blu-ray (“Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties”) and DVD (“Ópalo de fuego: Mercaderes del sexo”) release to experience both versions.
Franco’s long time common law, then legal in 2008, spouse Lina Romay, under pseudonym Candy Coster stars as Cecile in really a non-seductive, non-promiscuous, and only pinched with erotica role. Unlike Romay’s “Bare Breasted Countess” (aka “Female Vampire”) role, Cecile undercuts the erotic tone with more gratuitous comic and threatening nudity. Relishing into a staple of erotica are all of Romay’s supporting cohorts consisting of “Zombie Lake’s” Nadine Pascal, “Women Behind Bars'” Joëlle Le Quément, Susan Hemingway of “Love Letters from a Portuguese Nun.” Interesting enough, Hemingway isn’t credit in either version of the film. Pascal offers playful dilly-dally while practically be nude throughout whereas Quément slips into a deeper carnality with an unhinged relationship with her sex trafficking husband Mr. Forbes while Hemingway just provides a taken-advantaged vessel to plunder her dignity, soul, and body for easy money. Surrounding the gorgeous vixens are ruthless, dirtbag men played by Claude Boisson as the club owning sex trafficker and “Elsa Fräulein SS’s: Olivier Matthot as the sleazy American Senator Connelly. The role with the most opaqueness between the two versions of the film goes to Mel Rodrigo as Milton, the club’s gay artist organizer with an existential crisis and a quick to rebel attitude.
Though charming in its own delectable unchaste ways, Jess Franco deploys a haphazardly glued story inflamed with by chance moments shrouded with psychosexual tendencies. Sexually ostentatious and manic, “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” wildly pivots like an out of control sprinkler, spitting lustful filth, jovial comedy, and menacing suspense everywhere while still, by way of only Franco can accomplish, accurately hitting the intended mark of downright Eurotrash entertainment. A shocking, yet hardly noticeable, factor of the director’s is his film withholds any large amounts of blood or gore; in fact, gore is absent and the blood is sparse, especially during the girls-on-girl torture scenes involving bondage, a switchblade near the hind parts, and a cinder-weaponized cigarette, but the element that sparks gritty fortitude in those same said scenes, shot intently with fraught close-ups and well positioned shadows, could culminate a subversive tone that ultimate could convey a scene without words.
Severin’s limited edition 2-disc release of the Eurocine produced “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” has rightfully been graced with the Blu-ray treatment. The release also has the Spanish edit version of “Ópalo de fuego: Mercaderes del sexo.” The Blu-ray is a 1080p encoded AVC transfer presented in a near stand definition aspect ratio format from a restored into HD, uncut print. The overall color palette appears fairly washed with only some segments, especially peering out over the water or inside tight quarters, stand out with rich color. Darker scenes are heavily splayed with turquoise that, again, give the washed overlay, but the richness of the shadows with grindhouse print grain is stellar. Franco’s struggle with focusing, as part of technical self embattlement or as part of an against-the-grain auteur, are prominent throughout. The two LCPM 2.0 tracks are dubbed only in English or French and while not tracked in the native Spanish, either track will serve as a palpable substitute despite the English track being transcribed awfully cheesy and the French track with consistent hiss. Bonus material includes “Two Cats in the Canaries: An Interview with Jess Franco” is an undated interview with Franco recalling his love for the Canary Islands and being a genre maverick. There’s also a 1993 interview with long time Franco composer Daniel White conducted by “Cannibal Hookers'” Donald Farmer, a thorough analyst of Franco and “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” by Stephen Thrower, location outtakes, and a theatrical trailer. While “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” is not the best example of Jess Franco’s credits, the vicious erotic thriller is arguably ambitious and epitomizes the style of the legendary filmmaker with sultry, fringed performances and an unforgettable narrative lined up in a one-two punch package from Severin Films!
Before being butchered in the woods of a small town, a frightened young woman, Lexie, sends her estranged Uncle Dominic a letter desperately asking for his help. Plagued by his own dark past and a penchant for being hot tempered, Dominic drags his wild, coked up daughter Kendall to his quaint home town which he had long ago abandoned. Most town folk don’t want Dominic snooping around, investigating a town that faces a sinister murder spree under the unmotivated supervision of a perversive and power hungry eye of the local sheriff. Dominic’s anger rages on, fueled by sheer vengeance, as he searches answers for the cause of his niece’s untimely and gruesome death in which three strips of her flesh were torn from her bloodstained thigh, but the closer he gets to the unbearable truth, those closest to him are swallowed by the town’s harboring unimaginable secret and that’s when Dominic’s true violent calling becomes unleashed upon the unsuspecting locals.
Self-described as a “modern, Midwesternized spin on the Giallo,” Jakob Bilinski’s “Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh” is the writer-director’s comprehensive ode to the multifaceted cult genre. Set on location in Evansville, Indiana, Bilinski unapologetically implores an outrageous white trash horror story that can drop just as many F-bombs and be just as sadistically crude as any Rob Zombie production, but on an indie budget. A budget with unlimited constraints when pinpointing a genre identity as “Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh” has the word play of a Giallo-like inspired title, even accompanied with masked antagonist armed with a switchblade in a complex plot, but also sharply pivots and dabbles heavily in subgenres such as the revenge thriller, the occult, and torture porn that engages a plot twist, after plot twist, after plot twist up until the very end.
Bill Gobin stars as Dominic and Gobin’s appearance and actions channel very similarly that of Michael Chiklis’ Vic Mackey from F/X’s hit cop drama “The Shield,” but with an important piece of Dominic missing to fully sell the performance. Dominic’s tender melancholy moments of his lost Lexie are to bring out the human side in a cold and stern tough guy, but Gobin lacks that rightful emotion, replacing the tearjerking moments with more of the icy blank stare used in just about ever other scene and to the point where Gobin just might smack his tears back into his tear ducts. Kendall (Kayla Crance) is the constant bittersweet thorn in Dominic’s life as the father and daughter are more like father versus daughter. Crance challenges Gobin very well, even overpowering him in select scenes, protruding a defiant brat without an inkling of remorse until bodies start to really pile high. While Dominic and Kendall are certainly scribed as emotionless mavericks, Stella (Angela Steel) brings us down to a more sensible and realistic character who grieves for her slain daughter with alcohol and depression while also rekindling a once extinguished flame in a surprising twist of events. The best character performance overall goes to Jim Dougherty as the local sheriff who can stand toe-to-toe with Dominic and spitfire insults between Dominic and Sheriff Rex scribed very well for the Indiana University studied actor. Rounding out the cast is Scott Ganyo, Rosalind Rubin, and Grant Niezgodski.
Perhaps a little too ambitious trying to compact a endless frontier, Grand Theft Auto world story into over two hours, clocking in at 142 minute runtime, that feels every minute of it. There’s, perhaps, too much going on here with the potluck genres and plot twists that once the apex of the story has finally been reached, the first acts take on a whole different significance that doesn’t build to the necessary resulting finale that ultimate defines Dominic who, in the beginning, starts off strong, a tough guy who doesn’t take crap from anyone and that’s including his rebellious daughter Kendall, but then flounders just after reaching the small town, interacting passively with his sister Stella and a few townies, to the point where Dominic is just an inquisitive visitor. Dominic’s purpose is the push, push, push the town folk into giving the answers he seeks, like Porter tracking down his share of the stolen money in “Payback;” instead, Dominic’s is the one being pushed to the point of breaking and, finally, then do we see the Dominic’s dark side and his particular skill set in torture and manipulation.
Unearthed Films and MVDVisual presents a not rated 2-disc DVD collector’s edition of Jakob Bilinski’s “Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh.” The 2014 Cinephreak production is display in widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and the image quality above par with a clean picture composited with natural color tones and colorful filters to give some Giallo cinematography charm. The CGI bloodsplatter near the end is, well, CGI, but the run of the scene is fun and brutal that the generated pseudo-blood is used appropriately. The Dolby Digital 5.1 dishes out a well-balanced concoction of ambiance, soundtrack, and dialogue, with the dialogue being clean and clear even during more intense moments. Disc one contains the feature film with option audio commentary by writer-director Jakob Bilinksi and star-producer Bill Gobin. There’s also commentary by Cinematographer DP Bonnell along with Bilinski on the track. Disc two contains even more with a making of piece entitled “Peeling Back the Flesh,” 21 deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, auditions, and Unearthed Films trailers. Under a stellar presentation within the plentiful content of a 2-disc set from Unearthed Films and MVDVisual, “Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh” is certainly a “modern, Midwesternized spin on Giallo,” plus much, much more when considering the other genres that might have diluted the foul-mouthed scripted story and left the focus more fuddled, but happens to maintain a fun, semi-gory approach that can’t be argued.
Lisa is just your average high school student, except this particular teenage girl bares the blunt carnage of on and offline bullying. From her extreme bulimia to her sexual orientation, Lisa absorbs daily taunting from her peers in a merciless presentation of harassment and she has lost the connect between all of her close and dearest friends, even her childhood friend Andrew, the boy living next door, betrays her trust and privacy. Nobody seems to care about whether Lisa lives or dies, except for one individual who has taken an interest in Lisa and her situation. A mysteriously beautiful woman, who goes by the name of Destiny, befriends the teen, offering her hand in friendship as well as physical intimacy, but when Destiny reveals herself as Satan, Lisa is offered a trade that’ll not only benefit Lisa’s status and exact revenge on all who have done Lisa wrong but will also require an enigmatic desire of terrible consequences from the unholy beast. As Lisa soul hangs in the balance, she’s stuck between an deal with the devil and the evil bestowed upon her by her schoolmates.
“Devil’s Domain” is the 2016 new age horror from writer-director Jared Cohn. The New York born Cohn, known for his various contributions in the direct-to-video horror market, attempts his taste for horror by commingling the ongoing social issue of high school cyber bullying with a polished satanic spin. Cohn’s depiction of bullying, though a bit exaggerated, radiates with a lot of truth with the way kids nowadays treat each other from conniving behind their backs to exploit their privacy to straight-to-the-face insults. The way in Cohn constructs Lisa’s responses and reactions to all of that tormenting punishment is more-or-less accurate, if that’s fair to say, as Lisa is reclusive to her well-decked out room, showers with a hint of self-inflicted cutting, and attempts to fit in by committing dangerous acts of being thin.
Conscripted to tackle such a burdened role is Madi Vodane with “Devil’s Domain” being her only film to credit. Though Cohn squeaks by with the proper junctions at which a trouble teen might take, I can’t fathom actress Madi Vodane looking the part of the bullied Lisa. The whole scenario feels like how “Not Another Teen Movie” spoofed “She’s All That” with a good looking young girl portraying the unwilling participant of high school oppression and to top it off, Cohn has Vodane prance and lounge in her underwear for a good portion of the film, making Lisa’s plight even more harder to swallow. Lisa even partakes in a four-way with three scantily-cladded women in a devil manifested fantasy with one of the women being “Ratpocalypse’s” Linda Bella as Destiny/Satan. The French born Bella eagerly takes on the role of Satan in a familiarity akin to Elizabeth Hurley in “Bedazzled.” In the beginning when Bella comes onto the scene as the Devil, the supermodel statured actress is tucked into a skin tight, short skirt party dress wearing a long horned and barbarically cool satan latex mask. As she dances seductively toward her first victim Lexi (Molly Nolan) before commanding her minions to rip her to shreds with a chainsaw, the first thought was how interesting and intriguing this portrayal of Satan might be in Cohn’s film, but the character quickly becomes conventional, less evilly frisky as the story unravels around Lisa, and transforms more into a more grislier version of a trickster devil that we’ve all seen before. “Reservoir Dogs” and “The Hateful Eight” star Michael Madsen headlines the film despite being just a familiar face playing a side role of unimportance as Lisa’s sketchy, but understanding step-dad. As much as he tries and as much as I love him for it, Madsen can’t grasp being uncool, can’t fathom being understanding, and knows more about anger, thrills, and being the tough guy in the room. There other characters, played by Zack Kozlow, Kelly Erin Decker, Desanka Julia ilic, and others, but they come up short with sorely underdeveloped worth that they’re offed even before getting to know who they are and why we, as viewers, should care about them.
Cohn and his special effects techs bring some gore to the table in a few over-the-top kill scenes that show promise early on, but the blood flows tamer after Bella’s Devil character drives a machete over-and-over into one of the cruel schoolgirls at a kegger party. Also, when Destiny morphs into her true self, a wide wing-spanned and hideously grotesque Balthazar, played by a shorter actress named Angie Stevenson, the effect hardly sells itself, but Stevenson, I must admit, looks great in an elaborate, if not slightly Halloween-esque, costume accompanied with a set of razor sharp dentures on top of her bat-like outfit. However, one scene reaches new heights when the devil, though female in true form, rapes one of the female characters from behind in a show of pure malicious dominance that leaves a cold sweat and a gloomy mood over the treatment of dumped upon characters to whom never really dig themselves out of that deep hole from which they start, but rather they lay stagnant throughout without any hint of redemption. So you can say the whole story peters out after the apex of the she-devil climaxing because even though that particular moment is pivotal, the outcome briefly captures the meaningful intention as the message of the entire film becomes utterly lost and not anymore about resolving cyber bullying.
MVDVisual delivers the Cleopatra Entertainment production of “Devil’s Domain” on high definition Blu-ray. The unrated, 91 minute runtime of the 2.39:1 presentation is stored on a region free MPEG-4 AVC (BD 25). The image palette goes through a score of colored filters, from a scorching red to an intense blue, that removes much of the detailed definition, but natural coloring and skin tones do emerge from unfiltered sequences and bring full definition to the scene. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track heavily promotes Cleopatra Records music talent for obvious reasons, such as Iggy and The Stooges, DMX, and Onyx. However, much of the track looses transitional traction between layers that abruptly pop in and out. The dialogue comes out clean and coherent. Extras include a making of featurette entitled “The Devil Made Me Do It,” a slideshow, the red carpet premiere featuring brief cast and crew interviews, and the theatrical trailer. Despite having gleaming moments of pure demonic appeal and a taste from many women in many undergarments, “Devil’s Domain” looses a bit of ground covering the topic of severe high school abuse and cyber bullying and doesn’t have the stamina to keep out from being a candy-coated horror film.
Master thieves Blair and Ollie have known heists for most of their young lives but promise themselves one more job before a long overdue retirement with their stashed earnings. When the job goes South and Ollie gets pinched by the police, Blair has to use all of their savings and borrow on top from a ruthless crime boss to utilize his connections for Ollie be released from jail. With the first payment due in a week, Ollie and Blair have no choice but to put their lives in the hands of Blair’s brother Connor, a two-bit thief with a seemingly full-proof plan of scoring big at a vacant vacation home. The only problem is is that the home is a murder den for a deranged serial killer and with being trapped from the inside, Blair, Ollie, Connor, and their crew are being separated in a maze of murder with no way out.
“Crush the Skull” is a cleverly scribed 2015 horror-comedy from writer-director Viet Nguyen and co-star, co-writer Chris Dinh that was molded from the brimstone and fire of two successful short films, “Crush the Skull 1” and “Crush the Skull 2,” and a modest crowd funded financial backing that brought this witty and terrorizing film to fruition. Seriously, it’s been a long time since I’ve been entertained and jumpy with a film, especially one that’s working with a little more than a $75,000 budget. The superb character development and dialogue produces lively characters built upon an established dynamic group of tight knit actors whose on screen chemistry is beyond just a spark. Much of the character interactions are comical with a wrap around horror story and the mixture is purely potent and damn good that’s trying to pinpoint whether “Crush the Skull” is a dark-comedy or a flat out thriller.
The unconventional lead man Chris Dinh is Ollie, the quintessential good guy despite his lawbreaking thievery profession and Dinh provides a semi-serious, semi-standup comedian performance that makes Ollie likable. What also makes Ollie likable is the character’s main concern ultimately lies with concerning for the love of his life Blair, casted by the gorgeously talented Katie Savoy. Savoy’s Blair has fathomless compassion for Ollie and the Boston-bred, actress can imitate that affection, stating she would do anything for her lover. Both characters connect well within the context of the roles played by Dinh and Savoy, but connect them with actors Chris Riedell and Tim Chiou and you have a fearsome foursome of hilarity. The merciless jabs, the daunting quips, the pleasantly bad jokes, and the utter goofiness somehow manages to be experienced very naturally from the hapless heist team of Connor (Riedell) and his simple-minded, light-hearted crew Riley (Chiou). Though Connor is far more bright than Riley, their additions add colorful farce to production, causing more mayhem than mending to Ollie and Blair’s predicament.
“Crush the Skull” doesn’t strike as a very effective horror title at first glance with a slight vapidness about it. Yet, the title works as an appreciation to the series of events leading up the final moments when reformed do-gooders combat a demented and unspeakable evil and only then does the title reach out, grip tightly your neck, and slap you right in fat part of your cheek. Now, that’s a horror title! The horror portion inside this genre blend is an effective outer hull providing a superstructure of motivation and to stimulation. “Crush the Skull” doesn’t splinter at the first sight of blood, keeping the bones intact to scare the pants off edgy audiences when the diabolical game begins between naive robbers and a calculated killer until the instant of truth serves a fracturing blow that’s hard to reset. Nguyen and Dinh’s script isn’t overly gory; in fact, with a few blood splatters and a brief moment of a decapitated body, gore shouldn’t even be in the film’s glossary, but their script works diligently and brilliant along side amazingly gritty production design of the maze-like torture dungeon from Eloise Ayala to produce traumatic moments of gut-wrenching terror that’s hard to forget.
Breaking Glass Pictures absolutely crushes it distributing “Crush the Skull” on a not rated DVD. The 80 minute film is presented on a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio DVD9 MPEG-2 disc with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. No issues with video and audio qualities with balanced color hues and audible tracks though the David Frank Long score was generically clunky at times as I swear I’ve heard that particular score before in other microbudget films. A small band of powerfully punching bonus features include both shorts that I’ve mentioned prior to and an informative behind-the-scnes with the cast and crew speaking about their experiences of the 18 day shoot. “Crush the Skull” is one part “The Bone Collector” and two parts “Silver Streak” with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor – an entertaining cult inspiring horror-comedy that’s shamefully too far under the radar.