On Valentine’s Day, Were You Struck by EVIL’s Arrow? “Cupid” reviewed! (High Flier Films / Digital Screener)

In one interpretation of the legend involving the god of love, Cupid is betrayed by his mother, Venus, the Roman goddess of beauty, when she poisons Cupid’s consort, Psyche, over conceited jealously with the tainted tip of his own arrows of love and desire.  Enraged, Cupid denounces love and if he can’t have love, no one will love as he sells his soul to Death in the underworld and becomes a demon of execution summoned by those who abuse love.  When the incessant bullies as Faye’s school push her too far, Faye evokes Death through a black magic ritual and contracts with the master of the netherworld that all those in her high school shall never know love.  Death summons the scorned Cupid to do the ghastly bidding that places not only Faye’s tormentors in Cupid’s destructive path, but also her friends, her teachers, and herself.    

Post-Valentine’s Day horror movies always seem appropriate as if love itself is fleeting, elusive, and nothing but trouble and elicits a bit of cathartic relief for unfortunate souls unable to find love come February 14th.  Nothing screams more about anti-love than Scott Jeffery’s arrow-through-the-heart and twisted Roman mythology story, “Cupid,” that festers from a lower fork in the road possibility of the god of love and desire aggrieved to become malevolent and spiteful in a cheeky, campy rampage.  Jeffery isn’t afraid to take on the challenge of transforming Cupid into a heart-stopping death-dealer as the film’s writer-director who has credential history of being a serial B-horror movie filmmaker with a resume of titles stemmed from myth, legend, and tall tales having produced and written the Frau Perchta inspired “Mother Krampus,” the Gorgon fueled, “Medusa:  Queen of the Serpents,” and producing that little dental-snatching hag known as the “Tooth Fairy.”  Jeffery aims to demonize the match-maker in the UK production from his Proportion Productions alongside co-producer and CEO, Rebecca Matthews.

The heart of the story begins with Georgina Jane (“Pet Graveyard”) as the hopeless romantic schoolgirl, Faye, reading from a book of black magic spells to bewitch the high school’s hunky male teacher, Duncan Jones, played by Michael Owusu in his introductory feature film performance.  Though Owusu is a handsome devil that plays authentically into his role, Faye’s character surpasses shallow and gullible traits as she’s desperate enough to try enchants for an older man to fall for her teenage body and soul and naïve enough to think that her charm passage actually worked enough to warrant sending scandalous pictures of herself over the phone to whom she believes to be Mr. Jones when in actuality is a Faye browbeating clique led by the insufferable rebellious student Elise, a role callously perfect for “Pagan Warrior’s” Sarah T. Cohen.  Jane tries to squeeze out as much as she can as the victim of Elisa’s volley of vile bullying tactics but also somehow cope the receiving end of embarrassment of kissing a shocked Mr. Duncan and as the two instances clash in a heap of dump on Faye day during Valentine’s, Faye retreats back to her fantasy safe haven as she tries to summon Death in vengeance.  This time, the incantation works and in flies with two large white wings and Roman sandals is Bao Tieu caked in some pretty atrocious facial makeup with a horizonal cleft nose, exposed teeth in a skull’s bare smile, and some serious baggage under the eyes.  I’m assuming Tieu’s short stature and small frame makes him suitable to portray the Cupid look often depicted as a child or as a slender, nearly feminine man in mythology art, but in “Cupid,” as the harbinger of death, the overall package feels less menacing and more absurd appropriate for the B-horror mockup as the dialogue-less winged villain hunts down rather easy prey using a campy assortment of atypical, Valentine’s Day weapons like heart shaped cookie cutters, a bouquet of roses, and mushy, sharp-edged greeting cards alongside Cupid’s go-to bow and arrows.  “Cupid” rounds out the cast with a majority of Scott Jeffrey entourage actors who’ve been in many of his produced films, such as Abi Casson Thompson (“The Candy Witch”), Ali Barouti, Georgie Banks (“The Mermaid’s Curse’), Kelly Juvilee (“ClownDoll”), Jake Watkins (“Toothfairy 2”), Adrian Bouchet (“HellKat”), and Nichola Wright (“Witches of Amityville Academy”).

Valentine’s Day holiday has seen a fair share of engendered horror films. While “Cupid’s” heart doesn’t beat to the same lovestruck drum as George Mihalka’s “My Bloody Valentine” or Jamie Blanks “Valentine” that scoff at romance by killing every love sick person in the room, Jeffrey’s take on Valentine’s Day stays on the slasher subgenre path, but takes a tongue-and-cheek route despite the earnest performances. I mean, really, who gets ninja starred in the back with Valentine greet cards or have their skin sliced out with heart-shaped cookie cutters? Jeffrey’s killer concepts have immense heart, no pun intended. Where “Cupid” begins to stray lies in the left out important details and the fast-and-loose character development that leaves a rancid taste of an expired box of chocolate in your mouth. For instance, Faye, a high school girl of maybe 16 or 17-years old, has what seems to be an archaic artifact of ancient black spells in her possession for reasons we don’t know how she obtained. Do we then conclude that Faye obsessively meddles casually with the black arts? Or did she visit Ray Stantz’s Occult Book store in NYC? There’s also a rich backstory, if not tale-telling, in Faye and Elise’s contention for each other involving a relationship scandal between Faye’s mom and Elise’s dad that’s only scratched at the surface and never really brought to light, but would have greatly help in explaining Elise’s wickedness toward Faye, who briefly blames her mother’s aggressive libido for all her high school problems. In what is, in all serious, an allegory for bullying spun high school mass murder, “Cupid” heavily ousts the outlier as a person lost in the fray of struggling to cope and turns to evil to solve their problems by taking out everyone in an instant. The only thing different is Jeffrey doesn’t arm Faye with a rifle; instead, he weaponizes her impulsive desires in the form of a demonized Cupid. Another character who doesn’t flesh out is Duncan Jones who drops out of medical school in order evade debt for the rest of his life; instead, he’s a substitute teacher with feelings for a colleague and his biggest prospect is chaperoning the Valentine’s Day dance. Instead of nurturing Jones’ arc from the beginning of the film, his medical background is only brought in later to serve as the needle in the arm for all the blood junkies out there as “Cupid” gets gory with a hacksaw scene that comes out of left field compared to the rest of the movie. “Cupid’s” story wilts like 6-day old roses starting to smell like rot, but is still thorn sharp as a campy, fun slasher braided with classical mythology and mass shooting undercurrents.

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but you won’t be able to get away from “Cupid” that easily as the Scott Jeffrey written-and-directed holiday slasher soars in onto DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment and High Fliers Films in the United Kingdom. The PAL encoded DVD has a runtime of 84 minutes. There were no details provided on the DVD specs and since the screener provided was a digital screener, no critique will be made on the A/V aspects other than director of photography Ben Collins’s cinematography that deploys a better way to experience “Cupid” with perforated soft glows of vibrant tints in the most weirdest of places, like the school bathrooms, during tense supernatural expectations or when Cupid is on the prowl, giving more interest toward the scenes that might seem more run of the mill ordinarily. There were no bonus materials with this release nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. Abuse love and love will abuse you right back tenfold in this death-summoning, tale-twisting holiday themed horror “Cupid.”

To Unearth a Lifesaving Plant, You Must Survive EVIL! “Yeti” reviewed! (High Flier Films / Digital Screener)

When a medical research team scouring the Himalayan mountains for a miracle plant that can cure cancerous cells disappears without a trace, a second team, armed to the teeth, venture up the harsh terrain to locate them and recover any evidence of the mythical plant dubbed the Yeti plant.  They discover the research station has been abandoned with examination equipment and notes left behind.  With a storm brewing and the topography jamming their radio signals, the only thing to do is push themselves to setup a triangulated perimeter in order to boost the radio strength and comb the mountainside for the plant before hunkering down from the storm, but little do they know that they’re being hunted by a primordial and fabled creature, the Yeti, stalking prey to protect his uncharted, stuck in time territory.

As the third film to be titled “Abominable” in the last 15 years, this particular 2020 creature feature on the ever elusive and mysterious Himalayan Yeti is helmed by the 2018 released scurrying little feet of those mischievously cursed “Elves” director Jamaal Burden might not be at the top of your search engine results, but if you search “Yeti,” you’ll see High Flier FIlms aims to detach from the previous moniker inhabitants.  Burden’s modestly budgeted, internationally shot, sophomore film returns the filmmaker right back into the mythic subhuman category with yet another timeless storybook creature living in legends slithered within the shadowy veil from a script written by J.D. Ellis (“The 13th Friday”) that’s of indie caliber with a touch of jaw-ripping, blood-sprayed snowy carnage in this post-Holiday, winter-horrorland super beast feature.  “Yeti” is the latest in a long line of horror schlock produced by Justin Price, Khu, and Deanna Grace Congo under Pikchure Zero production company and is filled in St. Petersburg, Russia. 

Confronting opposite the terrible Yeti is a cast of alien talent without so much as a recognizable genre name or face to anchor “Yeti’s” marketing success, beginning with Katrina Mattson in her debut lead performance as a young scientific assistant to the terminally ill-fated Dr. Helen whose played by Seattle born Amy Gordon.  The body of dialogue or visual communication didn’t flesh out Mattson’s assistant’s strong yearning to support Dr. Helen’s obsession in rooting out the never before seen Yeti plant other than stating she will do anything to help the Glioblastomas-doomed doctor by whatever means possible.  The disconnect in dynamic between the two supposed friends is not well established and completely melts away faster than the Himalayan snow on a Summery day when the two barely reunite after separating from the abandoned research station.  They’re each accompanied by a couple of mercenaries hired to be an armguard, for a reason why scientists needed M16 assault rifle toting ex-special forces types is beyond me, but actors Robert Berlin and Brandon Grimes serve as such, adding a tinge of military machoism that could have been amped up more against a Jason Voorhees worthy disappear and reappear act Yeti with the given inherent superhuman strength. Berlin wildly over performs at times just spouting out his lines as if reading off an instruction manual. Plus, his character is poorly developed as a money hungry Yeti hunter with an extremely naïve and arrogant personality to the point of yelling in the Yeti’s face when the Yeti is clearly not dead or incapacitated.  Victims pile up with the remaining cast becoming Yeti chow, including supporting performances from Justin Prince Moy, Magdaln Smus, Victir Ackeev, J.D. Ellis, and with Timothy Schultz passing as the scraggily titular abominable snowman.   

The reason why Burden’s “Abominable” might not be numero uno on your search engine results shouldn’t be total surprise, but even “Yeti” may not produced the same desired outcome.  Aside from not having any grade of star power attached to it, audiences will be awkwardly thrusted right into a perplexing point in the story of dropping us right into complication with a rescue team entering the abandoned Himalayan station and, from then on, a straight forward, uncompelling path of infinite chase with the ball incessantly in the Yeti’s corner trounces on any kind of hope or resistance for survival.  The man-in-a-suit Yeti and makeup effects are not too bad as an admissible effort for an indie production and what’s even more impressive is how Burden felt confident enough to actually show the creature. There have been Yeti, bigfoot, sasquatch, etc., films aplenty of that stray away from displaying much of the hairy beast, only providing glimpses of the large feet, ape-like hands, or fanged teeth to represent a presence, but for “Yeti,” the creature is proudly displayed in all it’s full glory despite being half hairless with patchy spots of snow-stuck fur. Joe Castro, an effects guru for off-the-wall horror for the past three decades with credits including “Night of the Demons III” and “Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat”, created the Yeti suit while also dishes out some surprisingly decent gore effects that have a real palpable face mangling fetish and so bloody great. On the other hand, the visual effects and props are an abomination in themselves with obvious toy guns and lack of continuity and cause and effect visual effect givens.

 

Is “Yeti” another filmic miss on the missing link or can there a slither of entertaining gore with creature lucidity amid a trite script? I do think the latter in Jamal Burden’s “Abominable” from High Flier Films slated for a January 11th DVD release in the United Kingdom. Producer Khu is also the director of photography, using the steady and handheld cams to capture a heap of medium and closeup shots without seizing the opportunity to get a lay of the actual snow covered forest which the characters are heaving hot breaths in the frozen air. Khu does exude the fact of actual frigid conditions with the use of a bluish tint in every outdoor scene. “Rave Party Massacre’s” Matt Jantzen composes a tense-situated, industrial epic score that doesn’t fit “Yeti’s” marginal story structure and can be nearly rave-like and repetitive at times while overpoweringly robust. Sound design is another favorable aspect in “Abominable’s” chaos with a discernible range and depth, especially when working with crunchy snow and a lot of bulky clothing that can be heard rustling when characters move around frantically. Gore scenes are laced nicely with gooey, gushy sounds that can be tangibly slimy. There were no bonus material included with the digital screener nor where there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. The great Yeti adaptation still eludes our ever curious eyes as “Yeti” quenches a only blood thirst through an over-trekked, over-defiled snowy path of the subhuman subgenre.