A Double Dose of Jason Blade Breaking Bad Guys’ EVIL Jaws in “Day of the Panther” and “Strike of the Panther” reviewed!


A secret strike force known as the Panthers enlist the best of the best when considering agents and those who pass the Panther’s rigorous training will become part of the fight for good organization. The Hong Kong Panther branch graduates two Westerners, Jason Blade and Linda Anderson, who become a perfect undercover team. When the pair uncover a Triad drug ring, the investigation sends Linda ahead to Perth in West Australia to initially track down Jim Baxter, a lethal enforcer in the drug dealing business. Anticipating losing the tail on Baxter and disregarding Jason’s wishes to wait for his arrival, Linda surveils and sneaks into the Baxter’s hideaway only to be falling into a trap that ends in her demise. Jason vows vengeance and infiltrates Baxter’s organization for leads and information, using his martial arts expertise to gain him complete trust and access to the kingpin.

“Day of the Panther” is part one of this two part film series which has been released onto Blu-ray courteously by Umbrella Entertainment and, perhaps, even showcases Australia’s most famous martial arts superstar! Released in 1988, “Day of the Panther” combines fisticuffs, roundhouse kicks, and an arsenal of quips into a panache of action hailing from the land down under. Hard to phantom that Brian Trenchard-Smith, man behind “Dead End Drive-In” and then later went on to direct demonic anarchy in “Night of the Demons 2” and a couple of those pint sized “Leprechaun” sequels, one including space, was at the helm, steering eight glorified and unstoppable fight sequences complete with “Street Fighter II” punch and kick sound effects. “Dangerous Game” stunt coordinator and writer, Peter West, pens the script that leads Jason Blade down a road of vengeance for a slain colleague in a formulaic and cliché trope driven plot, but this Ozploitation is more entertaining than uninteresting for a younger audience.

In “Strike of the Panther,” the break a politician’s drug addicted daughter out of a brothel and inclusive crime fighting Panther, Jason Blade, returns when Jim Baxter holds hostage’s his girlfriend, Gemma Anderson, after a deadly prison escape. Fortified in a ready to detonate vacant Perth power plant, Blade and his crime task force attempt to beat the information out from Baxter henchmen before sieging a rescue. Baxter declares his own brand of revenge toward Blade that not only includes high yield explosives that could wipe Perth from off the map, but the brute also summons every malign martial arts fighter he can muster to cloak themselves in amongst the power plant rafters, lying in wait for Blade and the police to storm their holdup. Blade must go for Baxter alone to not only save his girlfriend, but save Perth as well.

What is essentially Jason Blade part deux, “Strike of the Panther” retreads over old footsteps in this 1989 release with Brian Trenchard-Smith and Peter West filling in once against as director and writer. The obvious back-to-back shoots suggests that not much has diverted from the original tone of the film and with that truth, Jason Blade continues his trend of human punching bags without so much of breaking a sweat. The sequel, much like the first film, is good, clean action without much blood, without much cursing, and without much perversion. “Strike” might be edgier with a few more side boob scenes. That’s about it.

Martial arts expert Edward John Stazak is quintessentially the Chuck Norris of Australian cinema, but whereas Norris has a prolonged career in the film industry, with credits out the wazoo, Stazak’s success in the biz never took a jump kick flight. Not even with Jason Blade, a character who sounds like a fighter straight out of a Mortal Kombat installment, could boost a lustrous vocation. Stazak’s likeability is only shorn by his lack of expressive versatility as he’s virtually one dimensional, showing no range of emotion when the scene calls for it or even when in the rare instance of being bested at a fight, but the handsome, muscular Aussie can sell a hand-to-hand skirmish with one or ten opponents without wondering too far into cheesy coordinated territory, which Stazak co-assisted in the fight sequences alongside screenwriter and stunt man Peter West. The lack of a good and powerful antagonist also spikes “Day” and “Strike’s” well-rounded action status. Jim Richards as the tough Jim Baxter wasn’t a formidable adversary for Jason Blade. Baxter never challenges Blade’s weaknesses because Blade doesn’t have any weakness so it seems. Even with Gemma Anderson is kidnapped, Baxter never really leverages the opportunity. Jim Richards also looked out of shape in comparison to Stazak, who routinely went sleeves and, more frequently, shirtless to show off his physique, but Richards is also a well-known self-defense instructor who has worked with military personnel. In short, Stazark looked better for the camera. If you’re not an actual fighter, you’re an actual actor, such is the case with John Stanton and Michael Carman who brought a little thespianism to the “Panther” films. Stanton presented a fatherly figure, playing a Panther named Wes Anderson at the tail end of his tenure with the organization, to Stazak’s Blade. Andersen’s barely copes to the loss of his daughter, Linda, but that’ the Panther way or so it’s assumed as he puts it, “life goes on.” That such detached reality can be said about Zukor, the drug kingpin of Perth, played by Michael Carman (“The Devil’s Playground” and “Quigley Down Under”). Carman provides the aggressive affluent with has thugs to do his dirty work. Unfortunately, Carman does not continue with his Zukor role in “Strike of the Panther,” but Zukor and Wes are the fire and ice that motivate the marionettes into action at least in “Day of the Panther” while Wes pivots on a strange character tangent with supernatural abilities that’ll be explored later. As far as Love interests go, Paris Jefferson fills that void as Gemma Anderson. The “Xena: Warrior Princess” star becomes the niece to Wes Andersen, taking care of her uncle while she takes care of Jason Blade’s needs – wink wink. Jefferson’s stout feminine performance perfectly outcasts any kind of frail attributes typical of a damsel in distress that’s is trope-laden in action films; think Mary Elizabeth Winstead in “Live Free, Die Hard.”

Overall, as action films, “Day” and “Strike of the Panther” are fairly conventional martial art films for the 1980’s with a few eye brow raising quirks. For instance, Jason Blade is infallible. Perhaps, too foolproof as he single handily breaks down drug structures with a one-two punch simplicity, as if the level setting was on easy mode. Another what? moment stems from the character Wes Anderson in the sequel film when he suddenly obtains empathic powers after being grazed by a fleeing car and he’s able to reach Jason Blade on a subconscious level as he enters the power plant’s maze and takes on ninja-cladded warriors. Lastly, for back-to-back shot films where the release dates are stack closely upon each other, the need for an in-depth recap was terribly excessive that perhaps only required a tiny bit of exposition to fill in the gaps. “The Evil Dead” series is an ideal candidate for comparison of prologue recaps. Ashley Williams explains, with accompanying depiction variants, in “Evil Dead II” and “Army of Darkness” his misadventure to a cabin in the woods and his poor Linda becomes a Candarian demon plaything, but the Sam Raimi directed cult horrors are also at least five years separated. Brian Trenchard-Smith concentrates his direction of “Strike of the Panther” to detail almost every plot point through a Wes Anderson voiceover and rehashed footage. There are also awkward workout and dance scenes reused for the sequel that are not a nod back to the first film, but are used as current storyline. Talk about your deja vu!

Umbrella Entertainment release “Day of the Panther” and “Strike of the Panther” onto a double bill Blu-ray, a first for the Ozploitation gems. The two-films on a single BD50, region B disc is presented remastered in a high definition 1080p widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, from the original 35mm interpositive negatives, scanned and restored in 4k. Despite some minor strip issues (i.e. some cigarette burns and a few translucent scratches), the picture has tremendous stability in color and in natural grain. However, the framing seems a bit off as if the cropped, but that could also be very much intentional by cinematographer Simon Akkerman. The English language 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track has full-flavor robustness and balanced across the board. Remember those Street Fighter II sound effects? Dialogue has good distinction with solid range and depth with the soundtrack and ambience. No subtitles are available on this release. Unfortunately, there are no bonus features on this release either. The Brian Trenchard-Smith back-to-back films, bustling with endless wrangle, hail from Australia for the first time on Blu-ray and while might seem excessively obsolete in contrast to today’s action film, “Day of the Panther” and “Strike of the Panther” are ravishing relics that are extremely priceless to martial art cinema collectors.

Day and Strike of the Panther on a Blu-ray! WHAT!! Get it now at Amazon!

Edna is EVIL According to the “Reform School Girls!” Reviewed!


After being apprehended for robbery, underage Jenny is sentenced to 3 years at Pridemore reform school where she immediately clashes with an iron fisted dorm administrator named Edna and her intimate inmate enforcer Charlie Chambliss. With a few friends on the inside, Jenny’s group becomes the target of Edna’s biased infraction system and Charlie sets her domineering sights on breaking the girls’ wills into submissive followers. The school is controlled by an equally sadistic, evangelically abusive Warden Sutter and Jenny’s multiple attempts at reforming the reform school with the assistance of a sympathetic psychologist staff member, and even her attempt to escape, have failed with torturous consequences. As Edna tightens her grip, Jenny and the girls seethe more violently as the weeks pass up to an inevitable uprising, snapping the young girls’ spirits when enough is enough.

Wet, wild, and womanizing, Tom DeSimone’s 1986 satirically women in prison film, “Reform School Girls,” is a cavity invasive good time all around! DeSimone, who also penned the script, has a revolutionary background as a male gay porn filmmaker, but made the crossover into cult genre films after his successful runs with “Chatterbox” featuring exploitation starlet Candice Rialson and “Hell Night,” starring “Exorcist’s” Linda Blair. Yet, “Reform School Girls” is hardly separation from the director’s once moonlit experiences other than the cast is almost entirely made up of beautiful, naked women showering together and when they’re not fully nude and wet, they might as well be wearing nothing while cladded in skimpy outfits and lingerie as a few characters copulate insinuatingly instead of explicitly. The only thing DeSimone was probably uncomfortable with was his last two WIP features, “Concrete Jungle” and “Prison Girls,” as they struggled to find an appreciative audience and thus “Reform School Girls” was constructed to be a mockery of the whole WIP market, exploding it violently, and sensationally, with the genre tropes that, ironically, skyrockets this film’s cult success.

The incarcerated characters offer a wide variety of individualities that are ultimately filled by big personalities themselves. Sometimes, those personalities come with a little head scratching questions. Such is the case with lead actress Linda Carol who isn’t the headliner of the “Reform School Girls,” but she’s certainly one of the main leaders, Jenny, of an imprisoned pack. Born in 1970, Carol had to be no more than 14 to 16 years of age at filming and was cleared for a number of nude scenes, especially around other nude women, but Carol had fire in her performance; in fact, the cast from specified roles to the undesignated titled roles were all highly stimulating in their presence and demeanor. When first entering dorm 14, teased hair and underwear was the unofficial name of the scene that spoke about the genre of the decade in a matter of a few minutes. This is where we meet Charlie Chambliss, a buff, scantily-cladded, totalitarian gang leader of dormitory 14, played fluorescently by rocker Wendy O. Williams. The then mid-30-year-old Williams was a bit of a duck out of water in a role that was for a teenage girl, but the front woman of The Plasmatics was awfully charismatic, brash, and a real illustrated performer who exaggerated dramatics to the next welcoming level in her knee high platform boots. While Williams had sexy hot-to-trot flair, Pat Ast leisurewear offered nothing more than a dull white coat over matron garb, but Ast punctures through anything matriarchal and goes full blown maniacal as dorm keeper Edna. Ast goes over the top and beyond with a love to hate – scratch that – kill character. If you think the evil that embodies Charlie and Edna ends there, you’re wrong! “The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf’s” Sybil Danning’s apex of evil, Warden Sutter, struts around the school like a German commandant with a soapbox of vile and wretched women in a perverted Biblical sense and mastermind behind the abusive culture at Pridemore. The cast concludes with Charlotte McGinnis, Sheri Stoner, Denise Gordy, Laurie Schwartz, Tiffany Helm (“Friday the 13th: A New Beginning”), Darcy DeMoss (“Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives”), and Winnifred Freedman.

Shooting from the hip on first viewing impressions, “Reform School Girls” is nothing like we’ve ever seen before. Sure, we’ve all see women in prison films, from “Big Bird Cage” to even making an argument on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” and we’ve also see cheeky 1980’s comedy that if made today would be grossly lambasted with politically incorrect protestors. Yet, DeSimone’s satire take undercuts the stern nature of the WIP genre with great flamboyancy toward institutional exploitation and the ugly invasive issue of sodomy and rape that the themes can be easily pushed aside without so much of an inkling of consideration. Explosions, gunfire, skimpily dressed women, shower sequences, bitter tongue and cheek, and anything and everything that was omitted from grindhouse market place in this film constructs a smoke and mirrors effect that pivots sharply before getting ankle deep into the issues, no matter the severity just as long as Pat Ast crunches her face into a luffa shape and appoints a barely clothed inmate to a mandatory cavity search and the viewers would be just as captivated.

Umbrella Entertainment and Lakeshore Entertainment release the International Cinevision and New World Pictures production of “Reform School Girls” on a PAL 4 region DVD, presented in a widescreen, 1.77:1 aspect ratio; a slightly cropped version of the original film format. Whatever is cropped out is too trivial and the image picture supplies a palatable presentation with bold hues and bare, but naturally colored, skin tones, despite some fake tanning. One noticeable fleeting moment of an 35mm stock cigarette burn in the upper left corner of a scene, but in-and-out in a blink of an eye. The stereo 2.0 Dolby Audio mono track has balance that singles out the robust dialogue against a leveled down ambient and score recording. The range is good amongst all the reform girl chatter in the dorm rooms. A handful of shower and bathroom scenes have some muffled echoed moments, but the discord in these moments is still extremely low. Surprisingly, there isn’t one single bonus material on this disc, not even a static menu as the film goes right into play feature mode. “Reform School Girls” makes light of wretchedness, revels in the fun of unsavory fraternizing, and is unapologetic of a carnal and wicked tone on and off the screen, harboring one hell of a women in prison cinematic guilty pleasure.

Umbrella’s DVD is available for purchase at Amazon.com!

The EVIL of True Norwegian Black Metal Roots Out the Posers! “Lords of Chaos” Review!


Euronymous, an Oslo teenager hellbent on launching true Norwegian Black Metal, shapes his band Mayhem with edgy publicity stunts that invokes the calling of Satan and being an anarchist against the moral norm to make his brand renowned around the underground music world in the late 1980s. As his fame flourishes with creating ungodly music, owning and running a music store, and helming his own record label, Euronymous continues his crusade agasint the establishment, but the lines blur when his messages of hellfire become unforeseen reality. Suicide, arson, violence, and coldblooded murder push Euronymous to the limits of his own soapbox inactions, leaving him open for the possibility of being overthrown by his own acolyte metalheads.

To prepare myself for Jonas Åkerlund’s biographical thriller, “Lords of Chaos,” I immersed myself into Jason Lei Howden’s 2015 black metal horror film “Deathgasm” as precursor preparation into the intense and unforgiving metal macabre genre. Whereas “Deathgasm” is a balls to the weed whacker splatter film of the pissed off demonia kind, “Lords of Chaos” is a polar horror feature with factual roots. Åkerlund’s, who directed Mads Mikkelson in Netflix’s “Polar” and has an extensive history in directing music videos for various artists, draws inspiration for the 2018 film from his own experience in a Swedish Black Metal band, Bathroy, from the late 80’s. The Grammy award winning music video director creates beauty out of the horrific true life event, unidealized nearly entirely without much speculation that faithfully puts to picture a misanthropic tragedy in a bone-chilling manner.

From “Signs” to “Scream 4,” Rory Culkin has remained on the actors-to-watch radar and is most certainly, our favorite Culkin to watch on the screen. In “Lords of Chaos,” Rory plays and narrates the story as Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth, the guitarist and creator of Norwegian Black Metal band, Mayhem. As if written stars, Euronymous surrendered to Rory Culkin’s performance and Rory Culkin became Euronymous. The eerie synonymous blurred identities that catapults Culkin to be admired amongst his peers and his worked beloved. Opposite Culkin is Emory Cohen as Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes, former Mayhem bandmate and convicted murdered of Euronymous. Cohen is bitterly intense with a historical figure whose committed arson and homicide and the New York City born actor uncomplicated approach to a complicated character had a natural phenomena about that would spook your soul from your body. Culkin and Cohen fed off each other’s energy to an explosive dynamic too good to be stagecraft. Another highlight from “Lords of Chaos,” though rather story line brief, is Val Kilmer’s son, Jack Kilmer, as Per Yngve Ohlin aka Dead. Kilmer tackles a depressed introvert and, in one opinion, nails the mental deficiency metalhead who was ordained to take his own life with great savagary showmanship. The film also costars Sky Ferreira (“Green Inferno”), Valter Skarsgård, Anthony De La Torre (“Johnny Gruesome”), Jonathan Barnwell, Sam Coleman (“Leatherface”), and Lucian Charles Collier.

If not paying attention, “Lords of Chaos” will slip under the radar since most audiences are conditioned to subsidize shiny cinema productions that make you feel all warm and cozy inside and spark wander and induce marvel and amazement. Åkerlund’s film will not send those sorts of puppy dog tingles down your spine. Many biopic films about ill-fated tragedy don’t do well with the general population; “Auto Focus” comes to mind with Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe. Critics eat up the inherent black dramas like Cookie Crunch and “Lords of Chaos” exudes madness and misery through deep seeded vigor for fame and principle. Åkerlund deserves nothing but our admirable applause for delivering an unadulterated visualization of literal mayhem from soup to nuts.

Umbrella Entertainment releases onto DVD home video “Lords of Chaos,” a co-production from Gunpowder & Sky, 20th Century Fox, Vice Films, and Insurgent Media. Presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Umbrella Entertainment’s picture quality is exemplary in it’s natural, yet supernatural-like surrealistic manner in a clean digital presentation. Pär M. Ekberg’s depiction is hard-edge elegant and haunting with recreations of and the intertwinement of actual photos of Euronymous, Varg, and Dead. If you’ve seen “Polar,” you know Åkerlund and Ekberg brush stroke a fine line between reality and graphic novel much the same as “Lords of Chaos'” allegory. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix has high level attributes with clean and perceptible dialogue, a vast range of ambient noise, and a killer black metal soundtrack worth banging your head to. No bonus features accompany this title. “Lords of Chaos” is a heavy story that needed to be told and feels very much like a part of Åkerlund, an extension of himself through his past brought forward to illuminate the blackness in us all derived from the power of metal with a psycho-psychology that’s industrial-built.

Lords of Chaos available at Amazon.com

A War Criminal’s Evil Influence. “Apt Pupil” review!


Next time you suspect your neighbor is a wanted criminal, they just might very well be as in the case of Todd Bowden, an excelling high student who discovers a WWII Nazi war criminal has been secretly living in his quaint hometown. Through his own investigation of photograph comparisons and retrieval of finger prints, Bowden confronts the old man, Kurt Dussander, about his notorious past. Living under a pseudonym and wanted by the Israeli government, Dussander attempts to dismiss the boy’s claims until his bluff to call the police is called, resulting in Bowden’s curiosity to become a blackmail gambit that puts Dussander under the student’s quizzical thumb. In return for not informing the authorities, Bowden requires Dussuander to reveal his story, the story of his stint at the extermination camps without sparing any details no matter how gruesome. Bowden even goes as far as purchasing a replica SS officer uniform that he forcibly commands Dussander to put on and march. Through his reminiscing of the past, an evil reawakens in Dussander and their banal friendship of psychological warfare goes into the dangerous trenches of survival and eradication that spreads like a cancer inside and outside their private lives.

Before the monumental eruption of continuous claims of sexual misconduct by various accusers, Bryan Singer furnished significant prominence as a director and overall filmmaker before he inadvertently kick started a very long, very successful, and very lucrative series of superhero films and their related and unrelated sequels and spinoffs, starting with Marvel’s “X-Men” in 2000…19 years ago, Holy sh*t! Well, in 1998, coming off his success of “The Usual Suspects” with fellow accused celebrity and now blacklisted actor Kevin Spacey and currently untarnished Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, Singer and Phoenix Pictures presented and released the suspense-thriller, “Apt Pupil,” a Bad Hat Harry production. Inspired by the Stephen King novella, “Apt Pupil” is the polarizing observation of two evil souls where one might be significantly eclipsing the other. Brandon Boyced (2005’s “Venom”) drafted a script based of King’s novella that was comprised of a different, and less pessimistic, ending to the novella while still uncompromising King’s baseline evil theme.

High school students, especially males, often have an aggressive temperament. Whether it’s sports, girls, or just trying to fit in, guys almost always take their tunneled focus to the extreme. For Todd Bowden, a brilliant young student, a fascination with the grim extermination of Jewish people and the Nazi culture tickled his fancy. Brad Renfro, only 14-years-old at the time of filming, stars as Bowden and really digs into the character’s adolescent psyche of relentless obsession, having his character converging all power from a big time war criminal and, even more simplistically, an older adult male, to himself, but when things go sour and Bowden starts to lose grip of his pawn, panic sets in and Kurt Dussander’s wicked and warped mind structures a counterattack that seemingly befriends the boy, but really demonizes Bowden’s already appalling obsession. Sir Ian McKellen, in a performance of pure brilliance, masterfully crafts a representative of evil in Kurt Dussander. The scene with McKellen stepping into a SS officer uniform and then marching with prerogative purpose that’s topped with a Nazi salute is perhaps one of the best chilling and unsettling performances of our lifetime. The dynamic in the scene between Renfro and McKellen, carefully shot and executed in direction by Singer, respects the bleak humanity enthralled by Stephen’s King body of literary work. There are some other amazing performances here by the supporting cast including David Schwimmer (“Friends”), Bruce Davison (“Willard”), Ann Dowd (“Hereditary”), Joshua Jackson (“Urban Legend”), Elias Koteas (“The Prophecy”), James Karen (“The Return of the Living Dead”) and Heather McComb (“Stay Tuned”).

As aforementioned, “Apt Pupil” has an evil duality narrative that contain descriptive horrors of the past, paints the means of callous obsession, and symbiotic necrosis of any good left in Todd Bowden or Kurt Dussander when together, but on the surface level, Kurt Dussander’s murderous duty to the cultural cleanse severely overshadows Bowden’s seemingly curious obsession, his blackmail of a notorious war criminal, his deception amongst those close to him, and, the inevitable, stony perception to murder. More than likely innocence could be blamed for the fact that Bowden is a child and Dussander’s a man living the last moments of his life, but Bowden becomes the catalyst for Dussander, reigniting the evil thoughts and actions of SS officer’s former life. Dussander attempts many degenerate actions from his past and never successfully succeeds in completing them whereas Todd ultimately finishes it either for Dussander, willing or not, or for his own self-preservation. By the end of “Apt Pupil,” the question you might ask yourself is how do you feel about either character? Despite the scale of their evils, which character ultimately, in the scope of Singer’s film from beginning to end, is the true representation of evil? To me, the finale feels like Dussander inadvertently passes the torch to Bowden and with his obsessive nature toward Nazism and extermination, the boy will grow up to continue being that representative of evil?

Umbrella Entertainment presents Bryan Singer’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, “Apt Pupil” onto Blu-ray home video. The region B, full HD, 1080p Blu-ray is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and the quality is crisp excellence with a sharp hi-def scan of textures and the details in Mckellen’s facial curvatures that just open up to expose the wily diabolical smirk from the vet actor. Coloring and skin tones are okay despite the release being slightly yellowish and inkier in comparison to other releases. The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio does the job and is balanced all around with dialogue clear and present and the John Ottoman (“X-Men” franchise) is menacing without being overwhelming, but the ambience’s depth and range are stiffened from a lack of surround sound that could have been achieved with this release. The special effects are slim with a behind-the-scenes featurette that’s more surface level depth with cast brief cast and crew interviews and also includes theatrical trailer and TV spots. Viewers too caught up in the superhero hype might not recognize that Bryan Singer helmed “Apt Pupil” or might not even care in lieu of sexual accusations, but hardcore Stephen King fans and horror aficionados can certainly appreciate a blanket thriller with haunting performances that will be remembered more than the marring scandal behind-the-camera.

Might be a REGION 2 release, but still available on AMAZON.COM here in the states! Click the cover above to purchase 🙂

Evil from the Sky! “Devil’s Gate” review!


In the small rural community of Devil’s Gate, Oregon, a boy and his mother disappear without a trace. FBI Special Agent Daria Francis spearheads the investigating to atone for a regretful previous child disappearance case. She’s accompanied by a local deputy, Colt Salter, to assist her. During her brief investigation upon arriving at Devil’s Gate, Agent Francis comes to the determination that Jackson Pritchard, the father and husband of the missing boy and mother, is directly involved in their sudden disappearance. The investigation turns from a seemingly straight forward, open and shut case to a colossal mystery that’s beyond their comprehension when arriving at the religious dogmatist’s boarded up and disturbing cladded farm house where unearthly forces lay claim to the Pritchard family home for sinister reasons. With one of the beings caged in his basement, the desperate Pritchard seeks an exchange with the creatures he labels as the fallen angels in attempt to regain his wife and son, but as the night falls, trapping Agent Francis and Deputy Salter with Prichard inside the residence, they become surrounded by the fire in the sky creatures aimed to reap not only the world, but their souls.

Like an enigmatic report straight from the non-redacted portions of a nail-biting X-Files case, “Devil’s Gate” is a we are not alone sci-fi horror film from 2017 under the apocalyptic eye of director Clay Staub and co-written by video game plot scriber, Peter Aperlo. The considerably financed project is the first feature film for both filmmakers in their respective roles with Staub having served as an assistant director on other paranormal plotted projects like Zack Snyder’s heavily praised remake of George Romero’s flesh-eating zombie classic, “Dawn of the Dead,” and Matthijs van Heijningen’s underrated “The Thing,” a prequel to John Carpenter’s film of the same title. One quality that we can all can be pleased about is that Staub carries over from his previous experience as a genre filmmaker participate is the use of gore in the “Devil’s Gate” because, honestly just by looking at the cover and reading the plot, the bloodletting expectation was low on the totem pole. Staub doesn’t unload a gratuitous splatterfest of alien and human entrails, but subtly sanctions the right amount of extrasensory chest bursting and finger snapping goo that plays an ill-fated role of circular or motivational circumstances for the characters.

Putting the pieces of the Pritchard mystery together is Agent Francis who is a to the point and tough national law enforcement officer with a bleeding heart complex after her very first assigned case went tragically sour that looms an unexplainable root cause cloud over her straight blonde hair. Desperate to cure her past, Agent Francis rushes into Devil’s Gate, bypassing the notable chicken fried steak meal offered by Deputy Salter upon her tarmac arrival and defying the local Sheriff’s heed to not interview husband Jackson Pritchard, that sorely causes her to land in the virtually the same predicament of just trying to get the right thing done no matter the unclear ancillary evidence. “12 Monkey’s” television star Amanda Schull spearheads the character with the characteristics aforementioned with drab appeal, lacking the emotion and the intensity her character is supposed to be exhibit when trying to solve a case of personal redemption as well as the fear from an higher ominous power that can shoot lightning down from the sky and flash velociraptor toe-claw sized fangs. Colt Salter might be a small time, Podunk deputy, but the born and raised Devil’s Gate officer can match wit with his FBI counterpart. Salter strikes me as a character who doesn’t stray far from home, mentioning various times, in various ways, his parallel path to high school friend Jackson Pritchard. Shawn Ashmore, from Joe Lynch’s “Frozen,” opposites his costar Schull like Mulder and Scully type as well as an all-around good guy who happens to stray from his protocol path once Agent Francis puts her federal fingers into his already investigated investigation. Like his performance in “Frozen,” “X-Men” franchise, and even in FOX’s television thriller “The Following,” Ashmore is a pretty solid actor, showing a range of emotion that transcends him from easygoing deputy to mortality fearing when mankind’s on the verge of extinction comes into the equation. An equally solid performance by Milo Ventimiglia, who recently starred in “Creed II,” really sells the crazy portray by Jackson Pritchard, a God-fearing man with a long lineage of misunderstood family heritage that leads him to the uncanny bombshell that has been bestowed upon his family farm. Ventimiglia, in his roughest, toughest country twang, creates such an anxiety-riddled and frantic character that unravelling his fate is not too clear which is refreshing to be able to retain mystery to a role as we can kind of figure out how Agent Francis and Deputy Salter when fair in the end game. Rounding out the cast is Bridget Regan (“John Wick”), Javier Botet (“Slender Man”), and “Star Trek: The Next Genergation’s” Jonathan Frakes, still sporting that iconic beard even if it has grayed, as the town Sheriff.

In spite of some really cool visuals, especially of the man underneath the mask, Javier Botet, inside a ghoulishly white extraterrestrial suit that only his elongated and thin body (and perhaps also Doug Jones’) could snuggly fit into, “Devil’s Gate” tells a narrative that hails from a lot of re-spun material. Whether intentional or not, viewers more than likely won’t be able to help themselves as they’ll eagerly point to the television screen and say, ““Independence Day” did that first,” or exclaim, “didn’t Donald Sutherland star in the same kind of thing???” I know I did. However, Staub and Aperlo don’t completely ape the concepts that surely haven’t inspiring them, making the effort more endearing, and visually crafted a well-blended plot into an enjoyable and captivating story; a story that has been mostly devoid of underlining messages and symbolism other than the themes of religious zealots are extremely bad for the world and living with past regrets can be hazardous for your health if not properly accessed. “Devil’s Gate” focuses more directly on just entertaining another version of visitors from another world and how those no-so-little-green-men play an assimilating role into humanity.

Umbrella Entertainment releases “Devil’s Gate” onto a region 4 DVD presented in widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The vast Midwestern landscape with the foreboding rolling clouds stretches from top to bottom with an exact sharpness and crisp from the digital picture. The textures in the broad, yet barren-esque fields look especially detailed, more so with the wind and brownish-yellow color. Speaking of color, the hue is a filter of shadowed purple and on a sepia side that works the dread atmosphere. The English 5.1 Dolby audio track has ample range and depth. Lightning strikes boom equally from the five channels, alien shrieks trembles through, and the dialogue is not obstructed. Surprisingly, there are no bonus features with this release as the Stateside counterpart even has a trailer in the extras. There isn’t a static menu either as the film goes right into play feature mode. c