A Single Spool of Film Can Make the Filmmakers EVIL Enough to Murder. “Naked Over the Fence” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)

“Naked Over the Fence” on 2-Disc Blu-ray and CD set!

Rick, who runs an arcade business and is a pigeon enthusiastic with a dovecote on his building’s rooftop, attends his friend’s Karate competition with another good friend, a schoolteacher and his tenant, Penny.  Learning that his Karate friend, Ed Swaan, has developed a romantic relationship with Netherland pop-singer Lilly Marischka and will have a small role in an upcoming movie with the star, shooting in building adjacent to Swaan’s Karate studio, Rick doesn’t think twice about it until Penny catches glimpse of naked photography happening in the very same building.  Rick is sent that night to investigate, and witnesses Ed and Lily uncomfortably being persuaded to take part in a private viewing porno and nearly escape with their lives when they rescind their participation and are chased by two low-life goon twins.  Ed and Lily’s nudie film now threatens them with scandal and as Rick pokes his nose into the production team’s business, innocent lives pay the price to keep the film in the blackmailing and profit seeking hands of the filmmakers. 

A cult comedy-thriller for the ages, “Naked over the Fence,” aka “Naakt over de schutting,” is a murder-mystery monkeying with spirited jest from the Amsterdam-born filmmaker Frans Weisz. The screenplay treatment comes from Weisz familiar writers Rob du Mee and the late Rinus Ferdinandusse, who penned the novel of the same Netherland title from which the story was adapted and who had passed away back in July of this year. Both writers have worked with the director on respective projects, such as “The Burglar” and “A Gangstergirl” before “Naked Over the Fence.” Set in and amongst the close quartered housing of Amsterdam and along the river of the Amstel, Weisz very much incorporates the intertwining the compact of the brick-and-mortar and the expanse of a widened landscape flow of the surroundings into tongue-and-cheek situational micro comedies that sometimes has you forget your watching a rather cynical and entangling murder mystery involving shady pornography, blackmail, and murderous foul play. Parkfilm and Cinécentrum N.V. are the production companies behind the film with Rob du Mee producing and Gerrit Visscher as associate producer.

Initial previewing presumptions about “Naked Over the Fence” might fall along the lines of being a highly erotic comedy because of not only the film’s suggestive title and the half-naked actors halfway over a fence on one of the original poster artworks, but also the fact that Sylvia Kristel as one of the principal stars.  Kristel is far and wide known for her continuous provocative performances as the lusciously licentious title character in the erotically charged “Emmanuelle” mega-series that has expanded decades since the 1970s.  “Naked Over the Fence” is not that kind of movie.  Not even close.  There are moments of skin, conservatively from Kristel, and subtle and not so subtle scenes of sensuality coursed throughout but the Weisz film notes as one of the Netherlands’ actress’s first films of her career before “Emmanuelle,” exploring her range as a scared pop singer backed against into a career stemmed quid pro quo before becoming an embedded typecast of the erotic genre. Kristel perfectly complements as a beautiful, delicate, yet reserved in strength starlet alongside arcade owner and staunch friend Rick (Rijk de Gooyer, “Rufus”) and her new beau, a large karate dojo owner Ed (Jon Bluming, Paul Verhoeven’s “Turkish Delight”). As much as an odd couple as they’re describe, Gooyer and Bluming are greatly well-received on screen as a dynamic duo attempting to outwit shady porno makers, blackmailers, and merciless murderers as if the contest to the film reel is a game with that swashbuckling, self-assured attitude as two amateur sleuths. The one character I thought was a little out of place was Penny, played by Jennifer Willems as a schoolteacher renting a room in Rick’s arcade building but is also a good friend of both men. Penny feels solely like an object used to force the hands of Rick and Jon when trouble arises and never actually does any leg work in tracking down the film reel. Willem performs to the best of her extent in a role that doesn’t obtain much action until the unique action chase at the end. Willem, Gooyer, and Bluming have all worked with previously with director Frans Weisz on “The Burglar,” alleviating beforehand any undue first meet jitters and that translate tremendously on screen. “Naked Over the Fence” has an ensemble cast of color characters, each one more interesting than the next, that include Jerome Reehuis, Tom Lensink, Adèle Bloemendaal, Jerry Brouer, and mustache and curly perm identical twins Lodewijk and Hans Sijses as a pair of cronies.

“Naked Over the Fence” might be a pulp novel coursing loosely as a glib tongue in cheek but the complexities the film assume merits cult-worthy cachet. The adaptational flow of a novel story, its wildly entertaining and diverse performances, and its bold direction deserve accolades upon its accolades. The very beginning sets the tenor of the film on the Amsterdam rooftop with tracking shots that are simply amazing, smooth, and precise toward the working up of Rick waiting for his named pigeon friends to return, the Ferenc Kálmán-Gáll cinematography and Ton Ruys editing is remarkably accomplished as the intercut composite between Rick peeping through the fence and the boiling-to-conflict back-and-forth conversing of the pre-setup porn scene that lead up to the film’s title of Ed and Lily hopping climbing over 6 to 7 ft wooden fence is tip-top execution, and the extended tram chase is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in a bird-dog chain of scenes as the two trams zip down the engrooved track lines on the streets of Amsterdam while making it whimsical and parlous with excitement. there’s real production money financially backing the uncontained and mutable story and it shows right from the get-go to the very end with only a handful of key instances where the digression of the certain level of high-dollar antics can only be done at a lower quality and that drags down Weisz’ flair quite a bit. An enjoyable romp of Dutch cinema, “Naked Over the Fence” ossifies friendship, loyalty, and morality over the forces of tit-for-tat evil.

Proudly continuing their restored release of Sylvia Kristel films, Cult Epics presents “Naked Over the Fence” onto a 2-disc, region free Blu-ray home video set with a newly restored high definition 4K transfer from the original negative. Virtually unscathed by time, the original negative beams with vitality in its showcased 1.37:1 aspect ratio, upgraded into an improved compression rate to hold all its detailed wonders for the full 91-minute runtime. The stable picture and natural, unwavering coloring persists with a consistent color palette. Other than complimentary natural grain of the stock, there’s no obvious instances to fault the image quality that’s above exemplary. The Dutch language tracks come with two audio options: a LPCM 2.0 and a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Both render audibly clear and emphatically enough with the DTS providing a little ambient and dialogue boost with a cleaner track of the dub Dutch language. English subtitles are included and don’t have an apparent errors and synchs well with the pace. Special features include an audio commentary by biographer Harry Hosman, a 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette of unpolished footage of scene takes and director Frans Weisz at work with his cast, a 2014 Dutch audio interview with Frans Weisz that includes English subtitles, an interview with composer Ruud Bos from 2015 that includes performances with the B-Movie Orchestra, a promotional gallery, Sylvia Kristel trailers, and a 2nd disc, included only in limited edition, 1000 copy sets, of the exclusive compact disc Soundtrack by composer Round Bos. The physical bonus material with the limited-edition release is cardboard slipcover and a reversible cover art that includes the original poster art and a list of the score’s 16 composed track list. I adore the quirkiness and relish in the story’s transgressional diegesis and now with this stellar new and improved Blu-ray release of the Netherlands’ “Naked Over the Fence,” the perfect movie does exist.

“Naked Over the Fence” on 2-Disc Blu-ray and CD set!

To Death Do Us EVILLY Part! “Savage Vows” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

“Savage Vows” on DVD at Amazon.com

A fatal car crash claims the life of Mark’s wife.  Plagued by vivid nightmares of death and grief-stricken by the loss, Mark finds comfort in his closest friends who have come to console and stay with him after the funeral.  Slowly, Mark’s friends begin to thin out.  Thinking they’ve gone home or stepped out briefly, Mark continues to spend time with his remaining friends, watching horror movies, and eating fast-food hamburgers while contemplating how to handle the sorrow for the rest of his life without his wife by his side.  Other than a select few of his friends attempt to take advantage of his vulnerability, what’s really happening behind the scenes is a crazed killer is taking out his friends one at a time and while Mark continues to sink deeper into self-pity and become contentious with the greed of others, the killer mercilessly works closer to him by wiping out his entire friend network before he even comprehends what’s going on.

Let me take you back in time to the archaic and fashion disreputable (or maybe just plain questionable) year of 1995 where the hair was bigger, the cars were more manual, and where Blu-rays, DVDs, and those godawful streaming services were a futuristic glimmer in the eye as cassette videotapes were stocked the shelves. One of those physical retail locations was a brick-and-mortar store owned by Robert (Bob) Dennis who became enticed to stick his hand into the movie making machine and convinced to direct his one and only full length feature film, a shot-on-video slasher indie entitled “Savage Vows.” Bob Dennis’s then wife-now-ex, Carol Dennis, co-wrote the 80-minute script of an obscured death dealer racking up a body toll of Mark’s disputable friends who secretly despise each other and have sub rosa intentions. Shot in and around Wilkes-Barre, PA, where Dennis operated and shared ownership alongside brother Michael J. Dennis his video store, Full Moon Video (no relationship that I can deduce to Charles Band’s Full Moon aside from selling his hot horror commodities on tape), “Savage Vows” retains a two-location shoot encompassing Mark’s house and an always tight budget cinema staple cemetery for full blown low-budget honors. Gage Productions funds the project under another Dennis relation, executive producer Gage Dennis, along Carol Dennis wearing the dual hat of producer.

“Savage Vows” transposes the family affair from behind the camera into the forefront of the camera as Bob and Carol Dennis not only nurture widowed-slasher concept into a full-fledged video feature but also take on principal, yet ill-fated roles themselves while also employing Bob’s brother, Mike Dennis, and Jamiece Dennis into the background and extra fatality-fodder to fill in where needed. The scene interactions transcend through naturally as suspected with having family members mimic being mincemeat for the grotesque grinder and to put forth their best foot in the dialogue despite the rather cliched and trite rap. Though Bob Dennis and his cohort crew of closely related cast member might not be the marquee glowing luminaries of low-budget lore, there is one name, a singular cast member, that sticks out as a present-day household name in rinkydink D-movie horror. The filmmaker who has made a notorious name for himself for his schlocky and shoddy sharksploitation films, has trespassed and exploited the property of Amityville on more than one occasion, and continues to be an unfazed direct-to-video deity amongst the bedrock in the bottom of the barrel genre pool is none other than Mark Polonia, the director, who often collaborated with his late twin brother John Polonia, brought us “Splatter Farm” and has also a defacing sharksploitation rut-rack with the so-bad-it’s-drinking game good grievousness of “Land Shark,” “Virus Shark,” and, most recently, “Sharkula.” Mark Polonia has more than just the role of Adam, Mark’s best friend, in this story as the then just hitting his stride Polonia encouraged Bob Dennis to expand beyond his wishful thinking of creating a horror movie and also provided creative notes during principal photography. Just being this far down in the character-cast paragraph section, you know “Savage Vows” Armando Sposto (“Night Crawlers”) barely makes a blip on the radar as the widowed Mark, but the shame of it all is that Sposto provides fathoms of depth when juxtaposed to any other in the cast. Having just lost his beloved, Mark’s up against the wall of grief and Sposto does his damnedest to convey that without flinching as the young actor has to teeter between misery and another self-conscious emotion pivotal to the endgame. Kelly Ashton, Adam Bialek, Jackie Hergen, Grand Kratz, and Sally Gabriele make up the rest of the “Savage Vows.”

To death do us part” is the ceremonious idiom that signifies an everlasting commitment to one another. For Bob Dennis, it’s the marginally grim phrase that also drives the plot, but “Savage Vows” wanes nearly entirely from matrimony motifs, never really genetically incorporating the sacred act of bonding two people itself into its slasher anatomy.  Instead, Bob Dennis (and Mark Polonia) land on the ghastly side, or rather the latter side, of a marital life span with the untimely splitting of a union and this particular union, Mark’s marriage, ends in tragedy and therefore a gothic-cladded funeral of gloom and despair are rooted and entrenched into the story.  Though perfectly suitable to drown oneself woes, “Savage Vows” reaches further into that dispirited nature with Mark having fallen into negativism and his friends lend their sympathy with a sleepover offer of consolation. That’s where the comradeship becomes icky at best with friends who disguise their underhanded true intentions with a show of spurious sympathy and that kind of malevolence benevolence within the closeness of others mirrors itself, in a foreshadowing type of way, in the heart of the plot that lacks the pith of solid slasher kills. The kills scenes are of the run-of-the-mill stratification that slowly ascend to a not so bigger or better rehashed versions of themselves. The finale cap sets the bar a little too late in my book with a deserved kneecapping kill that simultaneously sums up “Savage Vows” skin-deep concept.

A longtime leader in resurrecting obscure SOV horror back from the 80s and 90’s analog grave, SRS Cinema does what SRS Cinema does best with a supremely graphic and retro-approached DVD of Bob Dennis’ “Savage Vows.” The NTSC encoded, region free DVD5 presents the film in the original aspect ratio of a matted 1.33:1 with a shot on video quality that’s high on fuchsia hue in what’s a warm, inflamed, infrared color palette that obtrudes in a non-stylistic choice. Certain trope-filled nightmare scenes have a catered good synth score and stay ablaze with visual terror fuel in which the hot pink-purple palette would have worked to the scenes advantage. As expected, as these imperfections add that wonderful je ne sais quoi to the shot-on-video epoch, the subpicture white noise and tracking lines are a welcome treasure trove for trashy rare cinema albeit the gargling of quality. The English Mono track never flushes or levels out with any promise due to a lack of a boom recording and far-removed mic placement. The dialogue remains boggled down also by e-interference with a slog of hissing issues, but still manages to be intelligible. Bonus features includes an 80-minute, feature length, commentary track with supporting star Mark Polonia on the phone with writer-director Bob Dennis, a bloopers reel, and theatrical trailer. Say, I do to “Savage Vows,” a love-it or hate-it, little known, SOV slasher with a can-do attitude of stab-happiness of the unprincipled so-called nearest and dearest.

“Savage Vows” on DVD at Amazon.com

Caribbean EVIL is No Vacation. “Zombie Island Massacre” reviewed! (Troma Films / Blu-ray)

“Zombie Island Massacre” on Blu-ray here at Amazon.com

American vacationers in Jamaica book tickets to tour guide Chumlee Jones’s Sunshine Tours. Their destination is Santa Maria Island for a rarely seen religious voodoo ritual. After the unsettling experience involving live goat sacrifices and the necromancing of the dead, the tourists become stranded when the bus driver has vanished from his post. With no transportation to the seaport, a menace lurks amongst the darkness and is picking them off by-one-by. With no other options, the afeared excursionists trek through island thicket in search for a passed remote house but will they survive the perilous journey with an unseen murderous predator or predators camouflaged in the dense foliage?

Jamaica isn’t all about rum punch and ganja, mon. Voodoo is a big part of Jamaican culture. It’s so much a part of the Caribbean Island culture, the practice is a certified religion complete with voodoo priests and public ceremonies to exact a range of obeah spells – most for good, few for spiritual bedlam. For “Zombie Island Massacre,” a theme of mystic voodoo pitches the tale of two sides of every coin as the unknown and the usual differ from one’s own customs begins to swirl unnatural thoughts of fear, trepidation, and censure while other malevolent forces behind the veil may be at work. Also known under the working title of “The Last Picnic,” “Zombie Island Massacre,” a rather arbitrary and common structured title of choice, is the released Jamaican-shot inchmeal killer thriller from director John N. Carter, an industry editor with his one and only directorial credit to his name. The script is penned by Logan O’Neill and William Stoddard based off the O’Neill and David Broadnax concept story. Broadnax serves as producer alongside executive producers Abraham Dabdoub and Dennis Stephenson on a feature that undoubtedly was inspired by the 1982, George Romero influenced, Marion Girolami directed “Zombi Holocaust” in what is arguably influenced by title only as a marketing cash-in of the early 80’s Zombie success.

Stories that progress with a group of unfortunate souls trapped in a dire straits situation and there’s no way out but unwisely toward the path of danger in hope of salvation are some of my favorite types of threatening circumstances.  Think “Poseidon Adventure.”  Think “Predator.”  Think “Deep Rising.”  Any movie where a desperate group of diversified dog chow characters have to move from point A to point B without being swallowed by the darkness around them is great fun in its pick off pattern.  Archetypes of this linear lap through hell can be fairly conventional with its persona of characters where you have the strong hero type, the gorgeous level-headed love interest, the angry shmuck, the slower-downer, and there might even be a cultural token character to round the group out plus a red-shirted body or two for good carnage measure.  By design, there’s a need for these stereotypes and “Zombie Island Massacre” has a hit-and-miss, middle-of-the-road batting average with its cast of characters, beginning with a shared lead man role for Tom Cantrell and David Broadnax.  With his idea for the story and serving as producer, it makes a lot of sense why Broadnax co-ops the lead as a lone wolf, tough as nails photojournalist.  Cantrell, on the other hand, is just another pretty tall boy who becomes more-or-less a babysitter of the group while Broadnax stays behind to leave directional notes for lag behinds and to keep the retirees company when their tickers go South in the heat of turmoil and walking uphill.  This turns the co-op into more of a dog and pony show where the pony just stands there and dog runs around doing most of the entertaining.   Diane Clayre Holub is Cantrell’s love interest as a painter on holiday in Jamaica and the character is more than just reasonable and a pretty face that comes unexpectedly apparent in the third act of attacks.  Broadnax, Cantrell, and Clayre do not bring the star power to “Zombie Island Massacre” and that trend continues with the fourth top billed Rita Jenrette who brings more than just her pretty face to the table too in more of a full-bodied contextualized kind of way who ends up sliding into, if not encroaching into, Clayre’s assigned love interest role without a lick of love.  “Zombie Island Massacre’s” cast fills out with Ian McMillan, Harriet Rawlings, Emmett Murphy, Bruce Sterman, Deborah Jason, Tom Fitzsimmons, Christopher Ferris, Kristina Marie Wetzel, Debbie Ewing, Dennis Stephenson, George Peters, and the “Ghostbusters II” “The Titanic Just Arrived”-guy Ralph Monaco. 

Big kudos to story creators David Broadnax and Logan O’Neill for delivering a narrative with an unpredictable twist that immerses you deep into the voodooist rituals and gets your blood pumped for the monikered title to deliver flesh-eating, blood-thirsty zombies only to be hoodwinked into a genre trap and a good one at that too.  Sneaky and subtle are the hints that not everything is what it seems on the island that hits you like a flashbang grenade when the truth is revealed, shocking the sensory system with a welcome voltage of sleight of hand.  I never saw it coming though I will say that the creature or creatures roaming the woods initially looked shoddy draped in blue trash bags with patchwork foliage sticking out but remaining relatively obscure from view that implored more of a slasher design than one of the undead one. However, “Zombie Island Massacre” is too by far a good film with precarious burlesques that result in a tacky feigning of thrills and chills hubbub. Only a handful of kills rendered a golden touch, such as the slow-motion bashing in of a man’s head with a large stick is effectively gruesome, but yet lots of the kills are done off screen and implied which can be a deficit for a slasher-like story that takes pleasure in and makes whoopee of the big bloody death scene. Some kills are even half-hearted in their execution. For example, one unlucky tourist has his head chopped off with a machete in slow-motion and audience has full view of the entire act; yet the machete snags on the initial slice point into the neck but the head still severs cleanly. The scene, likely needed to be done in one take, makes the cut…pun intended. “Zombie Island Massacre” wiggles peacockishly into the realm of island horror with a mawkish audacity but the wild pragmatic pivot is worth every second of humble hoodooism.

Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz presents a Troma team release with “Zombie Island Massacre” on a new region free, uncut, director’s cut Blu-ray. The HD 1.78:1 aspect presented John N. Carter film has favorable surface arrayal with natural grain off the 35mm film stock that comes with very little, yet still noticeable unobtrusively, vertical scratches and white dust specks. Skin hues appear natural, island bush backgrounds are lush despite some contrast issues deep into the background, and no blatant touchup enhancements awkward stand out, confirming that the transfer was in good shape to begin with and compression upon the BD25, churning out an average of 30Mbps, didn’t cause a technical gaff. The English language mirrors the Vinegar Syndrome release with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 and the audio isn’t as near flawlessly fortunate as the image transfer with voice trailing hissing and lots of noticeable crackling and white noise interference which can eat into the already soft and muted dialogue from time-to-time and downsize the details of audio clarity. Plenty of range of sound effects to go around in the story but the depth just isn’t there to elevate it. Harry Manfredini’s score is essentially a reworked composition of “Friday the 13th” and if you close your eyes and listen, you’ll nearly hear the ch ch ch, ha ha ah and have visions of a headless Mrs. Voorhees and a hockey mask stuck in your head. Special features are mostly Troma-related as expected with any Troma Team release. There’s Toxie and Uncle Lloyd smoking ganja introduction at the beginning of the feature. In sectionalized bonus menu option, the film’s theatrical trailer, a promo reel of all the kills under Harry Manfredini’s original “Friday the 13th” score, a 3-part special effects tutorial plucked from various Troma videos through the years, a super-short film “Blood Stab,” and other Troma feature trailers. “Zombie Island Massacre” is an excursion to remember lined and studded with Caribbean macabre that sink tapered teeth into the skin only to have just barely missed the pulsating vein for the kill.

“Zombie Island Massacre” on Blu-ray here at Amazon.com

Night Terrors Are Not EVIL Enough. “While We Sleep” reviewed! (VMI Releasing/ DVD)

“While We Sleep” available on DVD home video at Amazon.com!

Neurologist Nina Evanko is perplexed by the unusual CAT scans of 13-year-old Cora whose been suffering from sudden onset sleepwalking after her birthday party.  Believing the CAT scan is going through calibration issue with imaging process, Nina orders another set of scans, but when the scans produce the same result and a death of another patient right in front of Cora sends her home early before Nina’s arrival to study the results, Nina convinces Cora’s parents to an at-home sleep observation to root Cora’s sleepwalking cause.  What Nina finds is far more sinister than night terrors or any other kind of parasomnia as a demon has inhabited Cora’s body with nefarious intentions.  Cora’s only hope to save her soul is her bewildered parents, a rattled neurologist, and a rogue priest but a family secret may consume everything. 

If you’re still looking to support Ukraine during the now 6 plus months Russia invasion of their sovereign neighbor, why not support the Ukrainian-U.S. collaborative cinema?  Why not start more precisely with Andrzej Sekula’s 2021 child-possession thriller “While We Sleep” set in the Ukrainian capital and flagship city of Kiev.  Sekula, known more for his work with Quentin Tarantino as a cinematographer on “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” as well as “American Psycho” and “Hackers,” has quietly and seldomly helmed a handful of films over the two decades with “Cube 2:  Hyperspace” being one of them.  “While We Sleep” returns Sekula to the director’s chair for the first time since 2006 with a script by Rich Bonat and the film’s supporting costar Brian Gross, the first feature script penned by the “Jack Frost 2:  Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman” and remake of “2001 Maniacs” actor.  “While We Sleep” is coproduced by American Brian Gross and Kiev-Los Angeles based CinemAday productions, which include company bigwigs Rich Ronat, Yuriy Karnovsky, and Yuriy Prylypko. 

While much of the story begins with Cora and her parents (real life family of husband Brian Gross, wife Jacy King, and daughter Lyra Irene Gross) cursed by Cora’s acute and disconcerting sleepwalking disorder and moody behavior, the daily battle to understand their predicament is not left in the out of their league but most lovable hands of the parents as the film leads you to believe.  Roughly half hour into the film, the narrative switches from the convincing family perspective, despite building background on their low-band relationship troubles and move it nearly 100% to Nina’s problem-solving perspective with a hint of her own troubled past.  Kiev born and “Stranger” actress Darya Tregubova plays the neurologist too curious to shrug off the mysterious case of Cora’s abnormal scans.  Tregubova is fetching without saying but she doesn’t provide the necessary emotional weight of person who’s going through grief and loss issues from the past.  Tregubova also doesn’t convey the necessary weight toward her strong connection to Cora and Cora’s case with only a few expositional moments that hint at such.  These aspects leave Nina outside the bubble of plot events that make the character stick out as unnecessary even more with the character’s negligent professionalism surrounding the wellbeing of Cora and with the parent interactions.  Once the story butts in randomly the blacklisted priest, Father Andrey (Oliver Trevena, “The Reckoning”), with an intimate familiarity with the demon that possess Cora, we know that the story is lost as it tries to quickly and covertly wrap its grip around how to come to a head with this storyline.  You can’t have a possession film without a priest, right?  Father Andrey feels very much like a leftover thought, but Trevena tries his darnedest to sell a washed-up man of the cloth with desperation pouring from word out his mouth despite looking like an English hooligan in a pop collared leather jacket. 

“While We Sleep” has not-so-brittle bones of demonism and possession albeit lacking its own or established cultural mythos, yet there’s a disjointed nature about the story structure and plot points that just don’t make sense that crumble that coherency faster than Cora descending into the depths of demonic disorder. The opening scene is the most perplexing of all with an elaborate birthday cake that neither mom nor dad had made or bought for Cora’s 13th year. Without a care in the world, mom and dad don’t explore further who could have possibly made such a beautiful cake and little do they know, the cake, or rather the cake’s candles, are a conduit for demonic transmission into the soul. This part is never explained through the rest of the picture and, in fact, Gross or Bonat don’t touch back upon a possibility of explaining the odious presence. Much of everything is taken a face value, such as the fact Cora cuts her long hair to a pixie style without an eyelash being bat or in what’s more crtical to the plot is with Cora’s real and darkly unholy father backstory. Those facts are a shot to the brain and we’re still not understanding where Cora’s biological father fits into Cora’s space, into her mother’s space, or even into Father Andrey’s space, but you would think as important as this twist was suddenly deluged in a quick spit of point-blank honesty, the edges would be smoothed over and the picture would become clear as the holy water that was cross was spritzed with; yet, that the aggregation of aggravation of little-to-no details continues to carry out as if everything is perfectly peachy and comprehendible within the story context.

From the at-home release distributor that delivered John Travolta as “The Fanatic,” VMI Releasing, a subsidiary of VMI WorldWide, releases “While We Sleep” on DVD home video. The clear snapper cased DVD, a MPEG-2 formatted DVD5, is presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio with an average speed bitrate of 4-5 Mbps. You can see noticeable banding issues in the darker bedroom scenes sporadically throughout. Aside from that, the picture result is fair with more than enough detail for viewing. The English-Ukranian soundtrack is not listed on the back cover, but my SEIKI player reads two audio options: a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a Dolby Digital dual channel 2.0. Discerning the difference between two is not worth the effort as there’s only subtleties in the output. The 5.1 surround sound has obvious better capacity for multi-channeling. Optional English subtitles are available but neither one of the audio tracks available nor the subtitles offer English captioning for the Ukranian dialogue and often times, there are back and forth exchanges that are intended to carry worth behind the exchange. The subtitles just state foreign language speaking which doesn’t help at all so there’s a bit of lost in translation in the dialogue unless you happen to speak or understand East Slavic languages. The 92-minute film comes unrated but doesn’t come with any bonus material as a feature only release. “While We Sleep” only nips at attempting to be a better than average “Exorcist” akin contemporary but remains on the haphazard course of shaky character building and bumpy, unpaved developments that make only for a rocky portrait of possession.

“While We Sleep” available on DVD home video at Amazon.com!

 

The Reining Bullies Get the EVIL They Deserve! “Massacre at Central High” reviewed! (Synapse / Blu-ray)

“Massacre at Central High” is Grade A Exploitation!

David just transferred to Central High School, reuniting with his good friend Mark, but Mark is no longer a part of the outcasted crowd at his new high school as he has joined Bruce and his pals to be the apex elite in the school’s lopsided social hierarchy.   Refusing to abide by the relentless and ruthless bullying, attempted rape, and intended bodily harm, David stands up for the oppressed with firm and actionable rebuke.  Bruce and his gang don’t take kindly to David’s opposing behavior and purposefully cripple him to teach him a lesson in disobedience punishment under their sovereign thumb, but what doesn’t kill David makes him a retribution killer as he begins his one-by-one takedown of the disparaging upper-class.  When there are no more bullies left at Central High, the once oppressed turn into the oppressors and it’s up to David to continue the cleanse of megalomanias.   

Now here’s a unique take on the revenge thriller that doesn’t involve the conventional concepts of a slaughter escapade return from being nearly raped to death or to exact revenge for the untimely and heinous murder of a loved one at the hand of sociopathic other.  “Massacre at Central High,” written and directed by the late Netherlands filmmaker Rene Daalder, is the sociopolitical, slashereseque picture from 1976 that is just as parentless and bizarre as it is cold in its exaggerated truth of undiplomatic ways.  Also known as “Sexy Jeans,” the Italian X-rated interposed cut, “Massacre at Central High,“ is Daalder’s second feature behind his 1969 exploitation and organized crime thriller “The White Slave” that tells the story of one man’s righteous crusade turns into a bungled mess with him being intertwined in a scheme to sell unsuspecting young Dutch women into sexual slavery.  Daalder’s sophomore film might not be as controversial, but certainly maintains that provocative and erotica bravado under the otherworldly shadow of an ultra-angsty high school veneer.  Filmed in and mostly around Los Angeles’s Griffith Park that included an abandoned private high school in Burbank, “Massacre at Central High” is produced Harold Sobel (“Very Close Quarters”) with Jerome Bauman serving as executive producer.

Before he was the four-eyed face of the franchise where it was cool to be square in “Revenge of the Nerds,” Robert Carradine landed one of his first principal roles in Daalder’s “Massacre at Central High” as free-lovin’ hippie, Spoony. Though Spoony is an activist idealist and gets two chicks, the half-brother of David Carradine wasn’t in the star lead though he certainly had the presence and the state of mind to withstand it. Instead, Derrel Maury enveloped the role David that seeks vigilante justice to a bunch of entitled school bullies lead by Bruce (Ray Underwood, “Jennifer”) with Craig (Steve Bond, “The Prey”) and Paul (Damon Douglas) being a part of his gang. Maury’s deep eyes and good looks make him a shoe in to be one of the top-predators to join Bruce’s paleoconservative circle and, as David, his personal connection with good friend Mark (Andrew Stevens, “The Terror Within”) who eggs, basically begging and pleading, David continuously to join or face the consequences of Bruce’s wrath. The acting and dynamics between this already complicated group of late teens is basic in its formulaic high school turmoil but also very disturbing on many levels that puts the boys-will-by-boys mantra into a whole new comfortless light. We all know characters like Bruce and his lackeys from High School where guys like him think the student body pledges allegiance to their unofficial rule; Ray Underwood, Steve Bond, and Damon Douglas do a phenomenal job of letting you hate them for who they portray with characters who are not beneath attempting the rape of two female peers in broad daylight and in one of the classrooms. To provide another twist to this tale, Bruce and his gang are not the real antagonists in the story but rather just a part of a bigger, broader discernment that’s infectious as it is dangerous in the realm of political power and hierarchy. Kimberly Beck is the angling love interesting that teeters between good friends Mark and David and “Friday the 13 Part IV: The Final Chapter” actress ultimately doesn’t become the focal purpose to David’s revenge (remember, this isn’t a typical revenge narrative) as Beck more than spurs jealously with her feelings for David as well as become eye candy with gratuitous and beachy full frontal nudie scenes. “Massacre at Central High” rounds out the cast with Steve Sikes (“Horrid”), Tom Logan, Jeffrey Winner, Rainbeaux Smith, Dennis Kort, and Lani O’Grady.

The sociopolitical aspect of “Massacre at Central High” is by far the most compelling with the story’s uncompromising subcomponents of teenage high school perils. The fact that are zero parents introduced into the mix makes Daalder’s narrative that much crisper in its poignancy as these children are left to fend for themselves in like some bizarro version of William Golding “Lord of the Flies” that dives into similar themes such as groupthink mentality, social organizations that reshuffles into a lemming trajectory, and even outlier themes comparing Bruce’s gang to Nazism. Behaviors turn on a dime for the worst and bring out the worst when the opportunity to govern the school affairs leads to an asymmetrical power struggle. Even David, our hero of the story, isn’t immune to the adverse effects of change when pushed beyond reasonable reaction after having his leg crushed and he left maimed by Bruce. To David, this turning point reduces down below differentiating the difference between morality and immorality as he views them as equals to right-the-wrongs and to be a way to level out toward equity for all, a quality that’s been an attribute to David’s pre-murderous existence ever since transferring to the school, but the all-around good guy couldn’t rub off the impartial view of the world to others and so he finds himself in a continuous solo crusade of course correcting. “Massacre of Central High” isn’t as austere as “House of the Flies” as its facade is campy and contrived in an artificial manner. The parentless environment disintegrates principles right at the door in “Massacre of Central High’s” biodome of guttersnipes and that sections off this gem from other exploitation ventures in a must-see good way.

Enroll yourself for September 13th releasing of “Massacre at Central High” on Blu-ray home video from Synapse! The spectacular course offers a region free, AVC encoded BD50 Blu-ray that presents the feature in 1080p at a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio and the take on the director’s approved 35mm remastered presentation is tight, detailed, and utterly clean. Color palette is warm but diverse with a great bit of contrast where needed, such as the nighttime skinny dip and love-makin’ beach scenes. Virtually free of wear and imperfections, the impeccable transfer dodges four and half decades of negative ageing with great delineation to show for it. The original English DTS-HD Master Audio mono soundtrack is the only audio option on this release and is more than adequate with the same clarity as the picture. There’s quite a few, ACME-ish style explosions, a tumbling rocks scene, and spates of variable automobile revs, exhausts, and engines to quench an audiophile’s interest with a broad ambient range. With the original soundtrack comes Tommy Leonetti’s clashing lead melodic and easy listening track “Crossroads” that sticks out like a sore love song thumb in the background of murderous revenge. Newly translated optional English subtitles are available. The bonus material includes an audio commentary by “The Projection Booth” podcaster Mike White interviewing cast members Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Derrel Maury, and Rex Steven Sikes. Also included is an archived audio interview with director Renee Daalder with horror historian Michael Gingold, Hell in the Hallways making of featurette with new recollection interviews from the cast and cinematographer, fellow Netherlands native Bertram van Munster, theatrical trailer, TV, and radio spots, and a still gallery. The film is rated R and has a runtime of 88-minutes. “Massacre at Central High” focuses more on detonation than detention as bodies pile high in this explosive dog-eat-dog hatchetjob of unsupervised minors gone wild.

“Massacre at Central High” is Grade A Exploitation!