When Greed Induces EVIL at “The Estate” reviewed! (Vertical Entertainment / Digital Screener)



Spoiled rich gay son George despises his cheapskate father.  George’s equal in age, and similarly spoiled, horny step mother Lux also equally despises the loaded philanderer who rarely stays in town, leaving them with little to do and with little money to do it with.  When they meet tall, dark, and handsome Joe at a bar and invite him back to their estate house, a psychosexual love triangle leads to a murder-for-hire plot against the patriarch billionaire to collection the opulent inheritance.   Complications arise when unbeknownst bastard children cause a legal clog in their pipedreams of being insanely well-off.  One murder after another begins to unravel not only their lust for wealth and each other, but also a deeper, darker secret to rue for the wealth they wished (and killed) for.

An over-the-top, narcissistic machination-built dark comedy of greed, self-importance, and lust is how I would personally define the first feature length film, “The Estate,” from director James Kapner.  Diverging from his own comedy web series, “Baker Daily,” to work again with Kapner, from their previous collaboration on the political lampooning “Baker Daily:  Trump Takedown,” is Chris Baker, screenwriter of “The Estate,” who not only pen strokes the worst-of-the-worst of diabolical super-egos but also plays one of the downright flamboyant scoundrels as the lead role.  Majority of “The Estate” takes place inside the grand titular location, compartmentalizing the indie film’s budget solely on the sordid activity of three main characters without much of else as a distraction.  The Los Angeles shot film is independently produced by comedy producer Rod Hamilton, Kapner’s business partner Adam Makowka, and the second producing credit for Alixandra von Renner (“Boogeyman Pop”), with Mark Boujikian, William Bruey, Nicholas Lyons, and Scott R. Long as executive producers and is made under the Stone Lake Production and Runners Films production companies. 

“The Estate” is a haute and brutish trio’s tale of sex, lies, and murder.   At the head of the snake is George, an entitled son seeking elegance and power as he longs in the background to attend the prestigious Black and White Gala, and is played bitingly by the film’s genesis writer, Chris Baker.  Baker, a Harvard graduate and a gay man, certainly utilizes both personal traits for George he’s clearly written for himself.  George is smart under that superficial Versace façade and, also, is a gay man looking for a romantic connection, but like any relationship single person, told by one’s own vantage point such as George’s, a wash of doughy-eyed thick-headedness just completely engulfs his rational senses when a pretty face suddenly shows up.  That rugged handsome face just happens to be of “iZombie’s” Greg Finley as hunky hitman Joe who George unexpectedly bumps into due in part of his oversexualized and, too, vain Stepmother Lux donned wonderfully with a wickedly crass tongue of comedienne, Eliza Coupe.  Together, a charcuterie board of carnality ceases to no end between the three in a back-and-forth, pass-the-man around pansexual affair with plotting and murder speckled in the middle.  Performances are concentrated with tongue and cheek, black matter comedy with ultra-ostentatious gab and garb to deliberately set the satirical tone metaphorically for the super-rich attitude of white, wealthy America.  With all that jazzy, pent-up, entitlement, add Eric Roberts into the mix, then you really get the worst-of-the-worst from the “Best of the Best” actor as the filthy rich patriarch.  Roberts can exude sleazy well with his own mannerisms and deliveries, solidifying his own Eric Robert’s laidback version of a despised billionaire debauchee.  “The Estate” rounds out with Rif Hutton (“The Thirteenth Floor”), Ezra Buzzington (“The Hills Have Eyes” remake), Lala Kent (“The Row”), Kyle Rezzarday, and “Hostel:  Part II’s” Heather Matarazzo as the tech-savvy lawyer office secretary who shamefully peters out after an interesting turn of events with the character’s involvement.

“The Estate” is one of those dark comedy thrillers where one wrongdoing subsequently creates a domino effect for more wrongdoings.  How’s that saying go?  Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.  Indeed, the characters do get what’s coming to them as one killing turns into two killings and two killings turns into three etc.  As the bodies pile up in between the bedroom sheets sex and the coy flirting during initial stages of affections, the kind where butterflies flutter inside the stomach, what turns from an aloof pair of spoiled rotten solitaries is a false confidence in blindly following boredom’s famished way of saying death and sex is all-around exciting.  There’s also this vying of the sexes to see who can sweep Joe off his feet and while there’s obviously no issue with the polyamorous pansexuality, the story’s a bit lopsided with Baker’s intimate scenes with Finley being more expositional compared to Joe and Lux’s more implied romps and that inherently leads viewers onto one obvious path without the spice of unexpected chance.  Though George is written to be an alter egocentric doppelganger of his creator, Chris Baker, the Frankenstein theory only works well to extent before seeping into obnoxious conceited territory.  This is where “The Estate” begins to show signs of wearing out it’s welcome with living in George’s weighted down perspective of the high life.  Purpose seems vague mostly yet “The Estate” is also one of those nonchalant, throwing caution to the wind dark comedy narratives, sinfully funny, for the sake of touting an exaggerated resemblance of a detached privileged mindset. 

Things are not so nice and cozy at “The Estate” that has arrived this October on VOD and in theaters from Vertical Entertainment. Clocking in a 85 minutes, “The Estate” is paced to fit the conspicuous cinematography from the Texas born Mike Simpson with mood lighting mixed with tinting and as well as using a spherical lens to set the current tone. Simpson keeps shots tights between medium and closeups for more intimacy between the trio as well as to keep within the confines of a smaller production and set location. Since a digital screener was provided, I can’t comment on the quality of the audio and video aspects, but “The Estate” comes with an eclectic soundtrack that includes tracks from Lucky Beaches, Viagra Boys, Ritchie Valens, Joy Downer, and Toots and the Maytals. There were no bonus material or after credit scenes. Witty, dark humor that teeters always on the cups of being too much for one sitting, “The Estate” deadeyes the caricatures of the 1% with fatal attractions and an inheritance stocked with greed culminating to an unbelievable finale

Tribes at War makes for Eternal EVIL. “The Secret of Sinchanee” reviewed! (Vertical Entertainment / Digital Screener)



Watch “The Secret of Sinchanee” on Amazon Prime Video

Deerfield, Massachusetts – 1995 – a young boy becomes the sole survivor after a drifter senselessly massacres his mother and sister during the Christmas holiday while his father was out of town.  25 years later, Will Stark, that once little surviving boy now haunted by his past, bothers not live outside expectations and to be left alone to a life of normalcy, even working at the same industrial towing company his father once worked managed, but when the untimely death of mentally unstable father, who battled dissociative identity disorder and depression, among other psychological problems stemmed by the tragic loss of a wife and daughter, leaves Will inheriting his childhood home, the same home where the gruesome murders took place, Will’s life becomes anything but mundane with a house pulsating with malevolent paranormal energy connected to the sacred land it’s built on.  Searching for an ancient talisman, unyielding entities exploit Will to stop at nothing and kill anyone to get back what is theirs lost 25 years ago.

Shot on location around the snowy banks of Deerfield, Massachusetts comes the Steven Grayhm written and directed “The Secret of Sinchanee with a folkloric backstory set in New England about a feud between an invulnerable indigenous people versus malicious pagan settlers stretching over time into present day with an ancient artifact as the centerpiece to possession and murder.  The “House of Dust” and “Crash Site” actor steps into his first feature directorial and writing project with a story that crosses paths the hereditary burden of lineage bred mental issues with the tribalistic supernatural forces, opening with text origins of the longstanding rival feud between the selfless mysticism and disease immune Sinchanee people and the black magic disciples of Atlantow who seek to snuff out the Sinchanee bloodline.  The 2021 American made film is the first product of the Steven Grayhm and Nate Boyer co-founded, military veteran empowering Team House Studios and presented by Truth Entertainment. 

Not only does Steven Grayhm write and direct “The Secret of Sinchanee,” the Canadian actor also helms the lead as Will Stark, the town-talked recluse troubled by his grisly past.  Quiet and unphased by the strange nightmares and powerful visions inside his father’s house, Stark gradually becomes an entranced pawn and Grayhm poses a lifeless, wandering shell of a man honestly enough but on paper, Stark never questions the housebound oddities or even shed a lick of emotion when his dog, his only companion, vanishes.  Grayhm just kind of sleepwalks through the performance which I’m sure was his intended purpose since, you know, he wrote and directed the film.  In a parallel plane, detectives and marital exes, Carrie Donovan (Tamara Austin, “The Walking Dead”) and Drew Carter (Nate Boyer), embroil themselves into a Deerfield homicide case despite their past differences and their shared preteen daughter (Laila Lockhart Kraner).  Though not playing a footballer or someone in the armed forces, Carter steps into law enforcement as Boston PD and though Massachusetts is not a big state, I’m not sure a Boston detective would travel 120 miles outside of the city to continuing investigating a Boston murder in the rural sticks of Deerfield.  The entire dynamic between the local Donovan and the big city Carter plays to unresolved subversive tune of Carter taking advantage of the moment in order to rekindle the spark with his ex-wife or, perhaps, just be close to this daughter.  Obviously some personal tension between them but rarely does that tension surface to endorse strife as Donovan is carried away the homicide case, taking her investigation to an unlawful next level by trespassing onto Stark’s land and inside his house to be spooked by the spirits’ distorted reflection of herself.  Somewhere in the trio of leads lie a more meaningful connection that’s more muddled by individual character, side story offshoots, leaving what’s most important to the film scattered profoundly thin to meet the bar.  What also doesn’t bode well for Grayhm’s debut is the late introduction of a key Sinchanee descendent, Solomon Goodblood, played by Rudy Reyes who starred alongside our horror community gal pal, Diana Prince, in “Beach Massacre at Kill Devil Hills,” who intercedes for his fading bloodline as a shaman against Atlantow. 

Speaking of Atlantow, there is hardly a sense or a tangibility to the sect God plaguing the Stark family going on for decades now and that sides more with the mental instability theme of a family with a history of mental illness coinciding the allusions of one’s own internalized battle with trauma, insomnia, and past down disorders to manifest tragedy into a shared psychosis of Atlantow’s sinister and manipulative craft.  Perceived heinous actions, such as modern day scalping or wielding a tomahawk, can be seen as someone possessed with incoherent malintent because that traumatized person’s survival’s guilt warps them so.  Unfortunately, the story’s jumble beyond one aortic premise and spreads the whole concept thin without hardly touching upon the Sinchanee and Atlantow quarrel as noted in the opening text that laid out the intentions of a contentious war between good versus evil.  In the film’s reality, “The Secret of Sinchanee” is about two cops stumbling into Atlantow’s business in trying to find a sacred artifact.  We’re not even granted the reason why this talisman, a decently sized arrowhead, is terribly significant to the dark forces of Atlantow aside from vocal desperation in the object’s return to sacred ground.  Is “The Secret of Sinchanee” more aligned with themes of desecration of sacred land?  The meddling of a once proud culture now lost?  Not much clarity among the variety of circumstances happening inside Grayhm’s runtime lengthy debut picture other than the surface level possession and the cops’ investigation that motivates them into the paranormal situation.

Under the executive producer team of Joe Newcomb (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and Jose Martinez Jr, “The Secret of Sinchanee” is now available on Digital HD and On Demand this month of October, released by Vertical Entertainment.  With a runtime just shy of two hours, 115 minutes, the film will be available on all major cable and digital platforms, including Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Comcast, Cox, and Spectrum, as well as playing in select theaters. Though an indie picture, production value pinnacles the budget, shot cleanly by Logan Fulton using an ARRI Alexa camera to capture the serene snow covered wooded landscapes of typical rural New England while succumbing to remain steady in the clean-cut darkness and warmer hues when things go bump in the night. Definitely not much camera movement, but the still shots, mostly medium to closeup, are framed properly without an any abnormality, providing just enough evidences to keep viewers on edge, while sprinkling in a Dutch angle or two to encourage anxiety where due. No special features included with this digital screener nor were any bonus scenes present during or after the credits. “The Secret of Sinchanee” remains private under a lock and key guise of mental illness and consigned to oblivion of parentage without breaking through those cognizant barriers to fully grasp a ancient tribal hatred that spills beyond normal time and space.

Father and Son Bring EVIL Down Upon a Tormented Detective in “Darkness Falls” reviewed! (Vertical Entertainment / Digital Screener)


Los Angeles detective Jeff Anderson has his perfect world turned upside down upon discovering his beloved wife dead of suicide in their apartment bathtub. Losing his bid for Captain and having his life be in utter shambles, Anderson becomes obsessed with lurking around incoming suicide calls on the CB radio, trying to make sense of his wife’s sudden reasoning to end it all. When a similar case produces a survivor from a familiar fate as his wife’s, Anderson learns two men are behind similar forged suicides stretched out over the past ten years against prominent women figures in and around the L.A. area. The detective spins a wild theory that has him following every lead to track down and stop the father and son serial killers without any backup from his local precinct, forcing his hand to choose whether to be a cop and uphold the law or seek lethal retribution for the woman he loved.

From French director Julien Seri comes “Darkness Falls,” a crime thriller released in 2020 that is entirely shot in English, a first for the French filmmaker who helms a script from the executive producer on “Starry Eyes” and “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot,” the Belgium native, Giles Daoust. Also produced by the Belgium, the film, that was formerly titled “Anderson Falls,” gorges on the detective exemplar of the prodigal crime fighter stripped down to next to nothing before regaining footing against the two experienced serial killers out to reduce the highly professional woman population with one bottle full of sleeping bills and one razorblade at a time. “Darkness Falls” is an exaggerated piece of nurture versus nature on systemic toxic masculinity seething under the guise of one man’s oppressed childhood from the abusive women in his life and then enlightening his son to his ways while the open minded, Renaissance man climbs back up the mountain toward redemption, not only for himself or his wife, but for all women being forced in a dual parental role. “Darkness Falls” is released under the production companies Koji Productions, Lone Suspect, and Giles Daoust’s Title Media.

Despite the international production and filmmakers, the solid cast is compromised of familiar faces from respectable actors, starting with not-the-Elsa-“Frozen’s” Shawn Ashmore. Ashmore, who I considered to a steady part of any project – he’s phenomenal in Fox’s “The Following” with co-star Kevin Bacon, – finds himself in the shoes of a L.A. detective who has fallen by no cause of his own, but as consumed as detective Jeff Anderson is with proving his wife’s murder, Ashmore doesn’t sell Anderson’s convictions and doesn’t properly apply Anderson’s super sleuth talents to wade through the sea of angst and torment. Anderson’s also written poorly as a man who consistently lingers around suicide call-ins and has constantly has numerous visions and memories of his wife that serve little to her importance to him, serving more toward just being story fillers instead of providing a little more value to Anderson’s character. What attracted me more to “Darkness Falls” was Gary Cole as one-half of the father-and-son serial killer team. Cole takes a break from the Mike Judge and Seth McFarland humor to stretch his legs amongst the thriller genre, playing an unnamed dark toned character derived from hate, abuse, and the thrill of seeing women die. Cole’s performance is a step above Ashmore’s lead role, but still flat, flat to the point of almost monotonic pointlessness that doesn’t exalt his need to kill high profile women. “Darkness Falls” rounds out the cast with Danielle Alonso (“The Hills Have Eyes 2”) as a Anderson’s former partner turned police captain, Richard Harmon (“Grave Encounters 2”) as Gary Cole’s accomplice son, and the legendary Lin Shaye (“Insidious”) as Anderson’s mother.

While “Darkness Falls” conveys a strong, if unintentional, message that grossly sheds light on the overstepping male view toward the idea of a successful woman, director Julien Seri missteps multiple times through the dramatics of a cop on the edge of the law and on the brink of despair while also not completely rigging out Gary Cole and Richard Harmon with more conniving wit, especially when their kindred reign of terror is well versed throughout the years. What fleshes out from Ashmore’s rolling on the floor and spitting shade performance at pictures of women on his crime wall trying to get into the head of the killers and Cole’s character who relinquishes freedom in sacrifice, even after a daring great escape from a botched crime scene that involved killing two cops in the process, is this weirdly uncharismatic collapse of a story from within the parameters of a well-established cast and premise. “Darkness Falls” barely pulls out a believable crime thriller that can only be described as vanilla, a term that stakes the heart terribly knowing that Shawn Ashmore and Gary Cole deserve so much better just from their lustrous careers and polar acting styles that don’t counterbalance the dynamics at all in this film. The original title, “Anderson Falls,” is fresher salt than the stale, rehashed title change of “Darkness Falls” to, perhaps, gain traction in a fruitless action of selling more tickets, adding even more vanilla flavor.

Releasing on VOD and Digital this month is “Darkness Falls,” an unrated release, courtesy of Vertical Entertainment. Streaming services such as iTunes, Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, FandangoNow will carry Shawn Ashmore’s 84 minute sordid themed detective thriller as well as all major cable and satellite companies. Since this is a digital screener, the audio and video aspects will not be reviewed, but if running on digital and VOD, the presentation should be excellent provided that your internet’s not sluggish and a good connection is established. I will say that the score by Sacha Chaban is against the grain with a brawny anti-brooding soundtrack more suitable for intense action than stylish poignancy than ends in uninspired ca’canny. That’s also not to say it wasn’t a good score. There were no bonus material included with the digital screener and no bonus scenes during or after the credits. Sitting through “Darkness Falls” was tough to sit through as the anticipation for the morbidity level to increase with due pressure onto detective’s Anderson’s browbeaten shoulders for a hellish ride solving his wife’s untimely death was never sated, sputtering along as a halfcocked story with performances to match.

“Darkness Falls” available for rent on Prime Video!

When You Hear Evil, Do You Get Involved? “The Neighbor” review!


Mike, a mild mannered, middle-aged man, notices a young couple moving into the vacant house next door. His mundane marriage roots out a curiosity infatuation with Jenna, a young and beautiful woman, next moving in. Jenna and her husband Scott, a fast talking exotic car salesman, have recently only have been married for the short time of four months and Mike feels something isn’t quite normal with Scott when he witnesses and overhears violent behavior from his new neighbor toward his wife. Concerned for her wellbeing, Mike, at first, attempts to interject the best way he can without over stepping his bounds by offering to assist with Jenna’s work-in- progress garden or just chatting over the yard dividing wall when Scott isn’t around, but when he assumes things become physically abusive between them, Mike is forced to do more than just mind his own business at the request of his wife and friends. Is Mike willing to risk everything, such as his long term marriage, in order to help a complete and total stranger he barely knows?

“The Neighbor” is a dramatic thriller from the 2011 crime drama “Catch .44” writer-director Aaron Harvey co-written with first time writer, long time editor, Richard Byard. Harvey and Byard attempt to explore the very common situation of what do you do when you’re exposed to marital violence and how much involvement one should put themselves into assisting the battered party. In short, you’re morally obliged to dial call 9-1-1 and report spousal abuse, but to ensure entertainment value for us viewers, the filmmakers pen Mike as something far worse – a concerned spectator. Instead, Mike wallows about by attending to his garden, working on his technical writing from home, or slicing tomatoes in the kitchen all the while being a part of the problem of the domestic violence next door and it’s not as if the violence is even in question as Jenna flat out tells Mike that Scott has a behavior problem whenever he drinks too much. Right then and there, Mike should be ringing the police the next moment a flare up occurs. Mike is the epitomized reason audiences would be vacuumed into the story as each and every one of us could potentially be a passive Mike in a similar situation.

One of the more underrated actors in the industry today, William Fichtner, steps into the comfy slippers of the garden trowel wielding Mike. The “Armageddon” and “Drive Angry” Fichtner’s chiseled and unique facial features typically casts him as hard nose characters – military types, villains, etc., – but “The Neighbor” offers Fichnter a chance to play normalcy. However, Fichtner’s approach to a house husband bears an uncanny resemblance to Michael Myers from John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” With stiff, straight arms by his sides, soulless eyes, and an absent personality, Mike has the gait and the expressions of the William Shatner masked psychopath that’s churns out an awkward performance that blurs the character’s intentions between either being righteous and obsessed. The good looking couple next door are played by Australian born Jessica McNamme and Michael Rosenbaum, also of “Catch .44.” Rosenbaum plays an impeccable dick so well there’s a surefire chance that his character, the fast talking exotic car salesman, will be disliked and as a stark contrast, Namee’s channels a sweet disposition that surfaces the question, why these two are even together? Yet, the Jenna wish-washy stance with Scott makes her frustrating which Mike takes with an astonishing grain of salt. Jean Louisa Kelly, Colin Woodell, and Erich Anderson “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” costar.

With a solid cast with a few quirks, “The Neighbor,” under the directorial eye of Aaron Harvey, should have shaped up to be an apprehensive, nail-biting thriller. Instead, some aspects of the Harvey’s film didn’t feel right. For instance, Lisa (Jean Louisa Kelly) and Mike’s marriage was never rocky; the union might have been stagnant from just the day-in-day-out repetitiveness and the longevity of knowing someone from an extended period of time, but there’s a scene when Lisa abruptly decides to throw Mike out of their house. The moment is so random and so unexpected the momentum and the weight of the story changes, pivoting too acutely to compute why Lisa would doghouse Mike over his justifiable concerns over Jenna’s safety without prior marital complexities between them. The entire film almost feels like it’s from Mike’s perspective as everyone, from his friends to his wife and son, seem to unacknowledged his presence whereas Jenna brightens, smiles, and welcomes him in conversation, advice, and even a little intimacy, but that may or may not have transpired.

The Michael Bruce Pictures and Blood Moon Creative produced “The Neighbor” is currently in select theaters from Vertical Entertainment. With a runtime of 105 minutes, “The Neighbor” will drag out under an engaging plot that ultimately goes sluggish at the tail end and even though brilliant and colorful in his prior work, Fichtner is a complete shell of his former characters as a expressionless zombie softly hellbent on saving a train wreck of a young woman from her volatile husband. Overall, “The Neighbor” falls flat to technically write how to right a situation without being caught in the middle of the situation.