EVIL Infiltrates to Seduce All Your Women! “The Vampire Lovers” reviewed! (Scream Factory / Blu-ray)

“The Vampire Lovers” Now Available at Amazon.com!

The Karnstein family’s notorious legends of evil spread vast throughout 18th century Germany. Once thought their wicked leeching of nearby villages exterminated after the Baron Joachim von Hartog dispatched all the villainous vampires after his sister fell victim to their seductive fangs. However, years later, the aristocratical General von Spielsdorf and his niece Laura find themselves in the unexpected company of a houseguest with Marcilla, the beautiful daughter of a new neighboring countess. Days later, Laura unexplainably dies from continuous nights that drain her of energy and flourish her mind full of nightmares of being strangled by a large wild animal. In the wake of her death, Marcilla also disappears. Sadden by the news of her friend’s death, Emma and her father take in the daughter of a travelling countess named Carmilla to provide Emma with cheery, distracting company in a time of distress, but the mysterious cycle of enervation and nightmares start back up all over again and it’s up to the survivals of Laura’s death to stop death before it’s too late.

Unlike any other Hammer horror film you’ve ever seen before prior to 1970, “The Vampire Lovers” blazed the trail for permissiveness of the era’s newly reformed certification system that moved the bar from 16 years order to 18 and kept in line with society’s leniencies toward the favoring sex and free love.  “The Vampire Lovers” opened up to not only a new line of exploitation and violence at the turn of the decade but also introduced the longtime fans to new faces, especially actresses, who would accumulate labels and prominence inside the genre that last until this day.  Based from the story of “Carmilla” from Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu, relatively new at the time Hammer director Roy Ward Baker (“Scars of Dracula,” “Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde”) took the Harry fine and Michael Style adapted original story and ran the distance with the screenplay from Tudor Gates whose writing forte was not specifically well-known within horror genre nor was horror Gates’ personal interest, yet Gates tweaked the Le Fanu female vampire tale to accentuate more of lesbian themes in a very turmoiled time when lesbianism, or just being gay, was seen as a disease or an unstoppable influencing evil force amongst the young people.  Fine and Style serve as producers in this co-production between Hammer Films and American International Pictures.

“The Vampire Lovers” comes under an atypical rule of the protagonist role or roles.  Previous Hammer films oriented themselves with a male lead from Christopher Lee’s domineering monster Dracula to the fearlessly courageous vampire hunter played by Peter Cushing, but “The Vampire Lovers” has Hammer trade in the masculinity presence for femme fatale with the introduction of Ingrid Pitt (“Wicker Man”) in the role of the hungry Karnstein vampire, Carmilla as well as Marcilla and Mircalla as the sneaky creature of the night infiltrates estates. Pitt’s exotic look and uninhibited attitude discerns obvious sex appeal for the Polish actress who can also act with gripping emotion that develops compassion for her malevolent facade. Add another pretty face and innocently sensuous woman arm-to-arm to Pitt with then 20-year-old Madeline Smith (“Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell”) and you have a two-front protagonist made up of women. Tack on the dark features and piercing blue eyes of Kate O’Mara (“The Horror of Frankenstein”) and “The Vampire Lovers” evolves into the something unlike anything we’ve ever seen from Hammer horror trifecta as once the scene settles into the narrative’s girth, the dynamic turns into a love triangle of unspoken women intimacies and jealousy, under the guise of supernatural persuasion, rears its ugly head. The menfolk really do feel absent from the excitement despite being pivotal pieces to the story and despite being the iconic representation in face and name of Hammer films. Peter Cushing’s longstanding work with the company has branded him forever legendary in the eyes of horror fans young and new. As the benevolent General von Spielsdorf, “The Horror of Dracula” Cushing looks wonderfully regal, gentlemanly dashing, and epitomizes the very essence of a strong male figure who also takes a very noticeable backseat for much of the second and into the third act. Same can be said for that other vampire portrayer who’s not Christopher Lee, Ferdy Mayne (“The Fearless Vampire Killers”) as the village doctor with a scene plopped here and there to inch the story along as a motivational vessel and another player caught in the Karnstein fang-game. “The Vampire Lovers” sees through to move plot significant characters, played by notable actors, to and from the storyline with performances from George Cole (“Fright”), Jon Finch (“Frenzy”), Dawn Addams (“The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll”), Pippa Steel (“Lust for a Vampire”), Harvey Hall (“Twins of Evil”), and Douglas Wilmer as the Baron Joachim von Hartog who give a great opening expositional prologue that sets the background and tone of the film.

Laced in the traditional gothic style we all know and love from Hammer Films, “The Vampire Lovers” has grandiose late 19th century interiors and costumes with the latter gracing the starlets with strikingly bright tropical colored dresses that are elegant beyond the more stiff, and sometimes more imperialistic, outfits representing the period.  In a way, the outfits contrast against the brooding gothic prominence that speak of subversive liberation much paralleling the very thematic elements of lesbianism, sexual motifs, and a nearly an all-encompassing female lead.  If sex was ever a subtle insinuation in previous Hammer film it was not so subtle in “The Vampire Lovers” that consistently and constantly thickened the sexual tension and produced blunt scenes of eroticism between two or more women.  Even with the powerful commingle of womanhood desires, as much as it was depicted to be devasting to their lifeblood, Tudor Gates’ narrative still pit them up against nearly impossible odds when the male characters, no longer duped by the formalities of chivalrous intentions, figure out what’s really happening under their noses, in their households none the less, and band together to put a to a heart-staking stop to the macabre madness aka metaphorical lesbian evil.  The story has the women’s lusts and desires, whether their choosing or not, be an outlier from normalcy, yet on the other hand, nudity flourishes within the new laxed certification guidelines that see in some way, shape, and form four actresses baring skin in what what would have been considered risqué X-certificated scenes prior to 1970.  “The Vampire Lovers” is by far a perfect film with a lack of character context, such as with the male vampire on horseback indulging his penchant for observing Camilla’s attacks from afar and doesn’t proceed to explain further or with more insight to who he is and what his position may be within the Karnstein family ranks, as well as the narrative format with early on into the story being bit choppy and disorienting when Carmilla assaults nightly the General’s fair niece as a furry beast in the confines of a lurid nightmare.

Deserving of a collector’s edition, Shout Factory subsidiary horror label, Scream Factory, presents a new Blu-ray release of “The Vampire Lovers” scanned in 4K of the original camera negative.  Scream Factory should be extolled for their color grading toward Hammer transfers as the release looks stunning with quality stability and richness that brings the era alive.  Transfer also appears free from any kind of major blemishes and barely of any smaller ones. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio mono has resolute fidelity in the best possible audio offering “The Vampire Lovers” will likely see now and in future releases with a clear dialogue track and a Harry Robertson score that relives the classic studio orchestra in compelling fashion. The release comes with a slew of special features including an exclusive new interview with film historian Kim Newman, who also shows up again in archived interviews in the “Feminine Fantastique: Resurrecting ‘The Vampire Lovers'” (Scream Factory lists it as Femme Fantastique on the back cover) featurette commentary snippets from John-Paul Checkett and David Skal and other historians and collectors of Hammer Films. Audio commentaries with director Roy Ward Baker, star Ingrid Pitt, and Screenwriter Tudor Gates, audio commentary with film historians Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby, two interviews, one of them new, with co-star Madeline Smith that span about 10-15 years apart, Trailers from Hell: Mick Garris on “The Vampire Lovers,” a reading of Carmilla by Ingrid Pitt, a single deleted scene of Baron von Hartog radio spot, still gallery, and the theatrical trailer round out the bonus material. The 89-minute, Region A encoded, R-rated version runs solo as the only main feature and the transfer Scream Factory uses, or licenses, is the edited version of Ingrid Pitt’s bath scene that cuts away to a medium closeup of Madeline Smith holding a towel for Pitt who’s standing up in the tub and then cuts back to Pitt’s bare backside. However, in the “Feminine Fantastique” featurette, you can experience the unedited brief full-frontal of Ingrid Pitt standing up in the tub if that tickles your fancy. The collector’s edition sports reversible cover art with original poster art on the inside and a newly illustrated, and superbly beautiful in its simplicity, front art by Mart Maddox sheathed inside a cardboard slipcover of the same Maddox art. Turning a corner into vast opportunities for more violence, explicit nudity, and unrestrained vampire gore became a new dawn for Hammer Films without entirely prostituting themselves with wayward tactics to the point of unrecognition as “The Vampire Lovers” still emitted gothic characteristics and a partial token cast and now made even more alluring with a feature packed collector’s edition from Scream Factory!

“The Vampire Lovers” Now Available at Amazon.com!

Let EVIL Free You! “Jakob’s Wife” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)



Anne is a minister’s wife living in a dying small town where the only thing left for the residents is their faith.  Once inspired to travel and do something meaningful with her life, Anne has found that the last 30 years of marriage to Jakob has robbed her of her self-empowerment, diminishing her as nothing more as than just Jakob’s wife.  When the opportunity to impress an old fling during a business trip turns into a nightmare with an attack by a shrouded figure in a rundown, vacant mill, the disorienting days after having provided Anne with a sense of expressive freedom, a chance to be bold, and to feel more alive than she has felt in years.  Her new lease on life comes with a ghastly cost, a severe hunger for blood.  With the help of Jakob, they realize the dark forces of a vampire has infected Anne and their road back to normal life, a life where Anne is dull and drab, will the paved in blood. 

Horror is such a versatile and malleable medium to convey allegorical messages, drawing audiences into the writer’s or director’s world of the fantastic and the horrific while laying down a subfloor of real world truth most passionate to them in a social, religious, or political context.  To point out a few examples (most of us already know), George Romero was renowned for his multiple social commentaries throughout his “Living Dead” series and a slew of vampire films construct the bloodsuckers as metaphors for an addict going through the ugly turmoil of addiction.  “Jakob’s Wife” is a different kind of vampiric allegory film that bites into feminism values.  The “Girl on the Third Floor” writer and director Travis Stevens follows up his introductory haunted house film with an inverted Nosferatu-esque dark comedy co-written alongside “The Special” screenwriter, Mark Steensland, and the “Castle Freak” remake’s Kathy Charles.  The Canton, Mississippi location evokes the dried up, small Southern town aimed to build a depression enclosure around the titular character.  Barbara Crampton’s Alliance Media Partners, whose spearheaded creative and imaginative films such as Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Sci-Fi cult looper, “The Endless,” and the Romola Garai demonizing guilt film, “Amulet,” presents “Jakob’s Wife” in association with executive producer Rick Moore’s Eyevox Entertainment (“Purgatory Road”) at one of the banner’s production studio locations in Canton, Mississippi.

In concurrence as a producer of “Jakob’s Wife,” scream queen of horror legend, Barbara Crampton (“Re-Animator,” “From Beyond,” and most recently, “Sacrifice”), steps into the torn role of the titular character.  In Stevens’ direction, as well as Crampton’s portrayal, Anne is so diminutively overlooked in the first act, you’ll hardly notice her even though Anne is practically in every scene.  Between Jakob’s interruptions, meek output, and overall quiet behavior, Crampton’s able to exact the very essence of the idiomatic phrase the calm before the storm.  Also, I must mention, just like I’m sure others have already pointed out, the early 60s Barbara Crampton looks smokin’.  She must have been bitten by an actual vampire in order to seemingly de-age right before our eyes.   Larry Fessenden, who does age accordingly but also very handsomely in his genre characters, is the God-fearing minister playing opposite Crampton.  The “Habit” and “Jug Face” actor has always been quite the character actor and as husband Jakob, that beneficial streak continues as an old ways man of God with an innately built-in chauvinistic ritual of keeping everything the same day in and day out.  Jakob’s absentminded blinders suppresses Anne into a depressive submissive state until she comes across The Master, the sorely underutilized and shamefully absent from more screen time chieftain vampire played superbly by Bonnie Aarons in an unexpected female version of Nosferatu.  Aarons gives her best Max Schreck performance while commanding a distinctive mentorship that’s unusual for the vampire race; The Master is greatly highlighted in the most subtle of ways as being a repressed liberator and Aarons understood that compulsion to educate, revitalize, and blossom others by offering a new kind of death, the burgeoning power and desires of a vampire, from their previous one, a rather dull life stuck in a no-win circumstance.  “Jakob’s Wife” rounds out the cast with Jay DeVon Johnson, Phillip “CM Punk” Brooks (“Girl on the Third Floor”), Robert Rusler (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 2:  Freddy’s Revenge”), Angelie Simone, Mark Kelly (“Dead & Breakfast”), Sarah Lind (“The Exorcism of Molly Hartley”), Omar Salazar, and Nyisha Bell.

“Jakob’s Wife” is a treasure trove of feminism and lesbianism undertones that stands on higher ground without pulverizing masculism to a pulp.  There’s seemingly little-to-no ill will against the minister Jakob Fredder previous inattentive and subservient expectations of his wife Anne.  Anne even becomes conflicted by her newfound self, a rebirth of life that sheds the shackles of monotony and, as it were, it’s overstepping masculinity, and she questions the power, she questions her choices, and she maintains the unity of marriage despite a little taste of tantalizing freedom from it all.  The Master becomes the allegorical test of faithfulness to another in a bored housewife scenario and I’m not talking about Anne’s old high school fling Tow Low, played by Robert Rusler.  I’m speaking of the lesbian undertones involving The Master, a female vampire who stood in Anne’s shoes and was turned, in more ways than one, toward a new path.   The Master sparks a long-lost fire in what is now only a shell of an unhappy woman and Travis’ scenes of Anne touching herself, mimicking The Master’s moves, plays into theme of fantasizing about that other woman and what secret they share, being perhaps symbolically the intimate nature of the attack that puts Anne into The Master’s craving sites.  The innuendo is rich and robust and coupled with fire hose sprays and gallons upon gallons of an unquantifiable amount of blood and gratuitous violence, “Jakob’s Wife” is the vital vampire film of 2021. 

Darker powers answered the call of Anne’s internalized prayers. I don’t even think Jakob’s God even picked up the receiver. In any case, pick up your copy of the RLJE Films and Shudder exclusive, “Jakob’s Wife,” on a full high-definition Blu-ray releasing next year, January 17th, 2022, courtesy of Acorn Media International. The PAL encoded, region 2 BD25 is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Compression issues have never really been a problem for the Acorn Media releases that detail and texture greatly under “Jakob’s Wife’s” austere color palette that favors more of a nature fixture than a stylish one. Darker color tones, such as the blood, are viscosity rich looking and, perhaps, the most color the film plays to its strength. The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track bares no complaints either in the distinctive and effective channels that isolate each output neatly, cleanly, and blemish free. Prominent is the discernible dialogue, that in due course becomes more pivotal to the story, while giving way to an original score from Tara Bush. Special features include the making of the film with clip interviews with the film’s stars – Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, and Bonnie Aarons – and deleted scenes that provide more insight and background on the finished cut’s bit characters. The Blu-ray is rated UK 15 for strong bloody violence, sex, and language (there’s also brief nudity for all you puritans in the U.S.). With the duo of Crampton and Fessenden in the middle of matrimony-macabre, “Jakob’s Wife” is a no-brainer success.

Dinner Parties and the Special Guest is EVIL. “Climate of the Hunter” reviewed! (Dark Star Pictures / Blu-ray)

MIckey Reece’s “Climate of the Hunter” Now Available on Amazon.com

Sisters Alma and Elizabeth meetup at their childhood cabin for a quick getaway.  Their individual neurosis induces the incessant minor league friction between them but never causing any real strain until an old friend, returning from abroad, arrives at his neighboring cabin alone.  With his wife suddenly committed to a mental institute, the well cultured and practically single Wesley finds himself in the company of the desirous Alma and Elizabeth every night for dinner as they vie for his attention and affection.  When Alma crosses paths with Wesley’s strange and curious vibes, they compound upon her baseline suspicion of Wesley possibly being a vampire.  Elizabeth finds herself the victor of Wesley’s adoring warmth, leaving Alma to ramp up her scrutiny into their longtime acquaintance before her sister falls victim to his deadly charm.

Arthouse meets grindhouse in this Mickey Reece written and directed mystery thriller “Climate of the Hunter.”  Co-written alongside frequent collaborating screenwriter John Selvidge, the 2019 take on subtle vampiric ambiguity is punctured, tapped, and drained from the same blood rich veins as Robert Bierman’s “Vampire’s Kiss,” starring Nicholas Cage, and George Romero’s “Martin,” but instead of a protagonist believing in the transference into a bloodsucking creature of the night, “Climate of the Hunter” steps back furthering by approaching with a more elusive and Lynchian-like 3rd party perspective as the story focuses prominently the sisters’ thoughts and actions while Wesley does what Wesley does without self-doubt or obvious distinction.  Shot during the winter months of the diffusely populated woodland area of Welling, Oklahoma, “Climate of the Hunter” is the sole released presentation of Mikey Bill Films and the more seasoned VisionChaos Productions (“The Field Guide to Evil”) under executive producers Uwe R. Feuersenger and Sasha Drews in collaboration with production companies of Adam Hendricks and Greg Gilreath’s Divide/Conquer and Jacob Snovel’s Perm Machine Productions.

Diving into his best performance as an enigmatic rake with unpronounced intentions is “Minari” actor Ben Hall, who recently costarred as a crises of faith priest in Mickey Reece’s latest release, the comedy-horror drama, “Agnes.”   As the sophisticated wordsmith neighbor, Wesley commands every ounce of oxygen all in thanks to Hall’s elegant pacing of Wesley’s uttered mannerisms and inflections.  Hall is joined by fellow “Agnes” costar Mary Buss as the pining Elizabeth.  Elizabeth practically resents Alma’s seemingly historical persistent hold over Wesley’s affections and Buss bitterness, whether because of Wesley or because of Alma’s uncharacteristic behavior as of late, oozes into the stagnant folds of their relationship.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, “Climate of the Hunter” has an Oklahoma-centric and Mickey Reece’s staple go-to cast, which brings us to the other sister Alma played by Ginger Gilmartin who fits into that aforementioned niche category.  Alma is running from something that goes essentially unsaid that leads her to hide out in the family cabin and Gilmartin, as best as she can, shepherd’s that motivation without the better part of context.  Alma’s also dresses like a crazy cat lady, except she owns a dog, and so reading Alma’s state can be taxing to nail down in an arthouse film where nailing down anything in arthouse cinema is inherently taxing in itself.  The small cast rounds out intermittently with smaller roles that build upon Wesley’s vague nature beginning with a local friend to the sisters named BJ Beavers (producer Jacob Ryan Snovel).  Witnessing Wesley’s strange behavior but oblivious from his own strangeness, BJ becomes a confidant and a collaborator with Alma in revealing Wesley as a vampire.  Sheridan McMichael grows resentful toward his father as Wesley’s spiteful son Percy, Danielle Evon Ploeger seeks incompliancy from her mother Alma as her daughter Rose, and, in the more curious role, is Laurie Cummings (“It Lives Inside,” “Army of Frankensteins”) as Wesley mentally incapacitated wife who somehow manages to lose her wheelchair as it drops from the sky.  You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it!

Having watched “Agnes” before diving into “Climate of the Hunter,” I mentally prepared myself for a breathy, long-winded, talking head film.   That readied mindset 100% gave me more clarity into Mickey Reece’s shadow narrative.  “Climate of the Hunter” is an uncharacteristic slow burn for the idiosyncratic grindhouse veneer.  With a 4:3 aspect ratio and a color reduction into a warm hue palette that glows, Reece insists on a design that usually offers loads of cheap thrills in action, sleaze, and gore, but the director’s story is toned down, subtle, and very much ear candy as opposed to a rush of visual adrenaline.  Instead, lucrative character building fizzes with tension as elements of the past and present unravel who’s who and what’s what before the climatic finale that suggests nothing was what it seemed to be.  Though prepped for profound exposition, the dialogue can still be boggling with a composition of Wesley’s personal anecdotes and philosophical quips and quotes.  As stated, Ben Hall is amazingly poised in this film, the unflinching star, rolling easily with Wesley’s gift of gab, persuasive magnetism, and maintaining an oblivious eye to an undercurrent of potential classical madness in Alma.  Between her recreational use of drugs and an ugly divorce, Alma has retreated into herself as well as her isolating cabin and when the spotlight isn’t on her, is her perception of Wesley really fantastical or is there actually something broken within her.  Reece explores a related theme of loneliness around the table with each principle character and how differently being lonely is digested and secreted through the pores of desperation.  Once aspect of Reece’s film that will puzzle viewers, and did puzzle me, is the narrated introduction of the food whenever there is a tabled conversation.  Since there already Portuguese titled chapters segmenting the story, a bit of a harp back to Wesley’s travels abroad, announcing what the character are dinning on seemed virtually unnecessary other than the idea that food brings people together in which it then fits the narrative of loneliness. 

“Climate of the Hunter” is quintessential Mickey Reece melodrama tinged with droplets of horror and subtle dark comedy.  Dark Star Pictures releases the film onto region free, dual layer Blu-ray home video in full 1080p High Definition.  Reece and director of photography Samuel Calvin aim for a vintage but not superannuated look for “Climate of the Hunter,” in which follows suit with the story set circa 1970s, with a 4:3 image on a pillarbox 16X9 display, relying also heavily on a softer lens to produce a dreamlike and luminescent effect but not overdoing it.    The release comes with two audio options – an English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and, if one wants to fully immerse themselves in the era, a stereo 2.0.  Dialogue is crisp and clean as it is refined as expected. Levels are balanced, range and depth are acceptable, but with this sort of wordy production, switching between the 5.1 and the 2.0 only discern subtle differences. Optional English SDH subtitles are available. The not rated, 82-minute-long film has special features that include another full-length Mickey Reece entitled “Strike, Dear Mistress, and Cure His Heart” as well as a short film “Belle Ile,” deleted scenes, production designer Kaitlyn Shelby’s preparations of the food presented in the film Recipes from the Kitchen of Alma Summers, and production stills and behind-the-scenes gallery. “Climate of the Hunter” deserves at least a once over and, in my opinion, a second viewing to become fully submersed in Mickey Reece’s dialogue rich and nebulous style.

MIckey Reece’s “Climate of the Hunter” Now Available on Amazon.com

Tune Into EVIL’s Overnight Radio Programming! “Ten Minutes to Midnight” reviewed! (MVD Visual / Blu-ray)



Veteran night shift disc jockey, Amy Marlowe, has hosted her own renowned punk rock show for the last 30 years.  On the night of a major hurricane rolling through town, the broadcast must go on as radio never sleeps, but Amy is bitten on the neck by flying bat prior to arriving into the station.  If things couldn’t get any worse, she’s trapped inside the station with the sleazy station executive who surprisingly introduces the disc jockey’s much younger and beautiful replacement.  As Amy deals with the sudden aftershock of forced retirement, she slowly descends into a topsy-turvy reality full of unannounced secrets, movements through her own past and present, and the unusually strange staff transforming into monsters inside the station walls.  To top it off, Amy craves blood.  Between the possibilities of unexpected grief and anger, rabies, or becoming something far more evil, Amy Marlowe, either way, is losing her grip on the real world.

The amount of thought and expression on blunt force change, numb appreciation, and profound existentialism worked into the allegorical dark vampire comedy, “10 Minutes to Midnight,” never steals from the narrative’s basic element, a breed of classically fed undead horror.  Writer-director, Erik Bloomquist, helms his sophomore feature film directorial that is also the second film written collaboratively with brother, Carson Bloomquist, following their 2019 debut thriller, “Long Lost.”  The Connecticut based siblings shoot “!0 Minutes to Midnight” at the ABC affiliated WILI radio station in Willimantic over the course of seven week nights, self-producing under the Bloomquist Mainframe Pictures banner alongside the third “Long Lost” screenwriter-turned producer, Adam Weppler, who also has a major role in the film. 

A soulful, applause-all-around performance by headlining scream queen Caroline Williams who makes her return to the DJ booth 35-years later after going face-to-face with Leatherface’s chainsaw in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” and, by God, Williams still has the cold-cocking charisma of her 1986 self.  Pinned to be discarded by station exec Robert (William Youmans), Amy Marlow loses control of her on-air persona for the first time in 30-years of broadcast radio.  Williams is on target with Marlow’s salacious-pointing meltdown rant with a viperous, quick-witted tongue spurred by the very news of her canning that started the hamster wheeling rolling, putting the pieces together of how much backstabbing, ungratefulness, and all-for-nothing hard work (and her younger days’ sexual servitude) becomes a deafening cacophony of noise before her Ten Minutes Before Midnight broadcast segment airtime.  Watching Williams work never gets dull from the one moment she’s rightfully screaming and ripping someone a new one to being overwhelmingly fractured by the venom that courses through her veins in a transformative and stunning performance.  Accompanying Marlow on her sudden career nosedive are a trio of dividing personalities that pull a different versions of the radio star.  Marlow’s seemingly only workplace friend and confidant, Aaron (Adam Weppler), has been a fan of hers ever since he was little, even providing a touching anecdote about him listening to her broadcast when he was a little boy, and there’s something between them, but teeters between admiration and desire that doesn’t flesh out because, again, it’s another problematic thematical item being circled around.  The other two characters rile up Marlow’s inner angst with their threatening postures or their maddening babble.  Nicole Kang (“Swallow”) and the late Nicholas Tucci (“You’re Next”), in their roles of hotshot millennial newcomer, Sienna, and the quirky and rambling security guard, Ernie, achieve just those respective levels of kicking someone when they’re already down with a flurry of annoyance.  Kang and Tucci deliver concentrated performances.  The acting is so entrenched into their characters, as well as with Weppler and Youmans’,” that when Marlow enters a status interchangeable, role-reversal, and nightmarish last stage of her existence coming to a conclusion, “Ten Minutes to Midnight” reups another thought-provoking scenario; one that has you frantically rewiring the tightly woven profiles your brain has determined about the characters to keep up with Bloomquist who is clearly three steps ahead.

Martin Scorsese once compared certain films to theme parks, noting their cinematic worth only in their high octane action entertainment and special effects that draw audiences in like moths to a flame and never letting the actors do the meaningful work themselves.  “Ten Minutes to Midnight” is a blue-chip, character driven vampire story rare to these parks.  Bloomquist’s themes on ageism, sexism, regret, change, grief, millennials, and more, snake through Marlow’s multifaceted transitional experience in a stylishly cynical fantasy.  Much of Marlowe’s perception isn’t tenaciously reliant on the consequences of the vampire bat bite to her neck.  Reoccurring as an example of perception throughout the film, whenever the camera hovers over a clock displaying 11:50 P.M., is the fading disc jockey finding herself stuck in a timeless rut, eternally clinging to her show in a disparate attempt to be relevant despite the inevitability of change as often noted by each idiosyncratic character – Aaron changing up her normal broadcast set start to call-ins, Robert axing her for younger talent, Ernie incessantly pointing out her symptomatic changes after the bite, and Sienna embodying the very epitome of change.  Marlow’s mind melds with her physical transformation as she goes through the seven stages of grief to at which one point she talks to who might be her younger self over the phone.  Marlow, initially hesitant, does not guide change, but to rather embrace it in a moment of accepting her own checkered past.  However, the dialogue I found to be most poignant was during the retirement party with sunken-eyed celebrators who just randomly show up for the event and Marlow turns to Aaron and comments on not exactly knowing who these people are.  There’s depth and soul in that comment for someone going through the process of retirement who sees unacquainted, new faces and perceiving them with only a tinge of familiarity and a lot of isolating loneliness.

If looking for wildly crafted and superbly acted vampire celluloid, I highly recommend Erik Bloomquist’s “Ten Minutes to Midnight” to sate your thirst now on Blu-ray home video from MVD Visual in associations with Jinga Films and Danse Macabre. The region free Hi-Def 1080p Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 on a BD25 and has a runtime of 73 minutes. Shot in a shadows of hard lighting, the picture quality is relatively sharp in the lack of natural light, but that sharpness scatters like roaches when a spectrum wave of neon hues or a bathe of vivid tint casts a psychotomimetic inducing trip through Thomas Nguyen’s tightly quartered medium and close up angles. The overall coloring on the location and characters falls into a matte flatness that works to the lightings advantage when using rich exterior color sources. The atmospherics are Amsterdam sultry under the heat of a carnal fluorescent red and Nguyen’s lofty present steady cam endues a nostalgic flame of eerie dreamscapes similar to early John Carpenter, such as in “The Fog” or “Prince of Darkness.” The English language audio tracks come with two options, a 5.1 surround sound and a stereo 2.0. “Ten Minutes to Midnight” is an audio-visual probe into the mind and senses and so the obvious choice here is the 5.1 surround sound; however, the lossy dialogue track becomes quickly overwhelmed by the behemoth sound design and soundtrack, the latter being original music by Gyom Amphoux. Musically, not my cup of tea, but will find an audience and fits into the narrative perfectly. Bonus materials include a behind the scenes entitled “Take One,” audio commentaries by director Erik and Carson Bloomquist as well as star Caroline Williams, multiple featurettes, a Grimmfest interview with the Bloomquists, Williams, WIlliam Youmans, and Thomas Nguyen, Grimmoire Academy and Popcorn Frights intros, and a festival teaser trailer. “Ten Minutes to Midnight” is a dusk till dawn decimator of sanity, a wickedly fun vampire oddity, and has an unforgettable, batty performance from Caroline Williams.

Recommended!  “Ten Minutes to Midnight” now on Blu-ray!

EVIL Necking in Bavaria! “The Kiss of the Vampire” reviewed! (Scream Factory / Blu-ray)


English newlyweds, Gerald and Marianne Harcourt, travel by motorcar to their honeymoon destination when, all of the sudden, the car breaks down in a small Bavarian village. The remote village is barren of life except a few irregular villagers remaining reclusive in their residence. Unable to go any further, the Harcourts stay at the local hotel where one other guest resides. Soon, their presence is requested in invitation by Dr. Ravna, a prominent and respected gentlemen of affluence, to have dinner with him and his family, but little do the newlyweds know is that Dr. Ravna is the master of a vampiric cult that has been plaguing the small village, turning the inhabitants into acolyte vampires, and now Dr. Ravna has turned his fixation on the beautiful Marianne. Will Marianne succumb to the vampire’s alluring powers or with the help of Professor Zimmer, a drunkard vampire hunter bitter with revenge, stop Dr Ravna before it’s too late for his new wife.

Stepping once again into the mystifyingly, macabre tale of a Hammer Films’ production, “The Kiss of the Vampire” stimulates as one of the progenies of the early beginnings that is today’s Hammer Horror as we know it and adore with the 1963 gothic tale of seductive vampirism and the callous, if not equally heartful, reprisal of the brokenhearted vampire hunter from director Don Sharp, who would direct a decade later the deadly occult riders of 1973’s “Psychomania” aka “The Death Wheelers.” The picture is produced and penned by “The Curse of the Werewolf’s” Anthony Hinds with the latter being credited under Hinds’ pseudonym, John Elder. Perhaps one of the lesser known Hammer Horror films due to limited broadcasting, “The Kiss of the Vampire” becomes the next installment of a Hammer Horror classic upgraded through a 2K scan from Scream Factory for maximum restoration on a nearly five decade year old film that included a scene straight out of the book of Alfred Hitchcock, but instead of birds, a swarm of crazed bats scour a chateau tower for blood. One of the last films to be shot at the Bray Studios in Berkshire, England, “The Kiss of the Vampire” is a smooch baring fangs that pits good versus evil marred as a defect from the Devil himself.

At the center of the natural versus supernatural tug-a-war is Marianne, a young, blonde English on the heels of being quickly hitched to Gerald Harcourt seemingly on the downlow, is played by Welsh actress Jennifer Daniel, who, at the time, was a newcomer to full-length features as she developed a steady career in television from the 50’s to the 60’s. Daniel is no Tippi Hedren, but she’s close, as the English socialite having embarked toward unfamiliar surroundings, a brooding Bavarian land with a fatal affliction that’s ravaging through the residents. Marianne and Gerald, an elated husband in a role by Edward de Souza, make a fairly adorable couple complete with newfound marital bliss and ignorance of the harsh realities of the outside world; perhaps, that young and in love ignorance is the most profound theme in “The Kiss of the Vampire” that explores the naïve nature of outsiders and blinded youthful endeavors despite the clear and present dangers that loom around them. Playing Dr. Ravna, who is not Dracula mind you, is Noel Willman, who bares a stunning resemblance to plumper Peter Cushing, and Willman’s socialite role is interesting as Dr. Ravna’s a blunt around the edges and, yet, unbelievably charming, a find blend from the Irish born actor who would later collaborate again with Jennifer Daniel in another Hammer Films product, “The Reptile,” in 1966. Opposite to the abundance of Dr. Ravna’s seemingly endless wealth and power is Professor Zimmer, a brooding dipsomaniac hellbent on destroying Dr. Ravna for the death of his daughter, played by “The Curse of the Werewolf’s” Clifford Evans. Though we know immediately from the opening graveyard funeral scene Professor Zimmer’s outskirt profession, his dark top hat, cape, sunken eyes, and brash persona places him in a seemingly villainous category and that displays Clifford Evan’s range as an actor. “The Kiss of the Vampire’s” strong support cast includes Jacquie Wallis, Peter Madden, Isobel Black, Vera Cook, and “The Devil-Ship Pirates’” Barry Warren as an intense spellbinder disciple of Dr. Ravna.

Critically speaking, “The Kiss of the Vampire” tenders more of an extension of the vampire mythos that directs more of the classic creature to the enigmatic way of the cult through an elegant Don Sharp vision rich in Gothicism and sound in the era it’s portrayed, early 20th century. Focusing more on the Hinds’ story that more or less involves Dr. Ravna’s fascination with Marianne to join his co-ed harem, the way he initiates Marianne might also indicate that the good doctor his binary feelings toward both sexes, making “The Kiss of the Vampire” very much an appealing, but clandestine, homoerotic companion to it’s more straight seduction tale. Another more obvious taboo for a film from the early 1960’s, “The Kiss of the Vampire” has no shame in being bloody. Scenes involving Professor Zimmer impaling his undead daughter violently with a shovel through her coffin and the blood floods upon the coffin opening is morbidly beautiful. Even when Gerard Harcourt smears with blood the sign on the cross on his chest is an absolute eye opener of the use of blood, as a weapon, and a defender of holy sanctums that nearly frightened Universal Pictures to the point of changing the entire essence of Sharp’s original depiction. Yet, one thing is constant between Hammer’s version and Universal’s broadcasted edit, the batty ending is a quick, cut-corner finale that puts a bat screeching halt to everything the story built up to and leaves plot holes that go seriously unexplained no matter how newfangled the method was on how to dispatch a cultish vampire coven. Okay, that’s enough vampire puns for this review.

Pucker up! “The Kiss of the Vampire” is receiving a Blu-ray collector’s edition treatment from Scream Factory! The interpostive went through a 2K scan and presented in a high definition, 1080p, of two widescreen aspect ratios, 1.66:1 and 1.85:1. The picture is phenomenal with lush hues that earlier home video versions, even the Warner Blu-ray boxset, didn’t even skim the level of Scream Factory’s collector’s edition. Colors only fade during the superimposed editing between scenes that really rack the vision cortexes to try and make sense of the transitions. The original negative survived well over the years with little wear and tear that consists of some minor scratches that are barely noticeable. The English language DTE-HD Master Audio mono track is a suitable accompaniment for single channel audio. Dialogue is clear and relatively unobstructed aside from a low distortional hum throughout the entire 88 minute runtime, but it’s faint enough to be a natural tune of the film. One audio mishap happens around the opening scene with the priest’s depth during his graveside sermon. The priest’s dialogue starts out strong and prominent, but when cut to Professor Zimmer, standing far in the distance, the priest vocals are reduced by a few decimals, but the volume remains the same when cut back to the priest, never upping his dialogue when cut back to his graveside sermon. English SDH subtitles are optional. A slew of new bonus material includes a new audio commentary by film historian and author Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr and Little Shoppe of Horror’s founder, Richard Klemensen, speaks in tribute to the life of the Men Who Made Hammer with composer James Bernard and production designer Bernard Robinson. Other bonus content includes audio commentary with actors Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel that’s moderated by Peter Irving, deleted scenes from Universal’s NBC Broadcast that are bloodless filler interjections reshot with a brand new sub-story involving new characters not from the Don Sharp production, and the theatrical trailer. “The Kiss of the Vampire” might be an offbeat Hammer film, but the Scream Factory collector’s edition aims to infiltrate into horror collections nationwide with glorious looking picture and a stockpile of new bonus features to chew on.

Own The Kiss of the Vampire on a Scream Factory Collector’s Edition.