Four dark and terrifying tapes tell tales of a petrifying horror through the camera lens of various found footage assets. Whether between the bleak, grim nature of disturbed mankind or the ominous, otherworldliness of menacing creatures, each story’s ultimate objective is to expose what lies behind the scenes, to shine a light upon what lives shrouded in shadows, and to unearth what lurks in the mind’s subconscious. At first glance, the dark tapes might seem uncorrelated, but at closer examination, the tapes share a deep rooted evil that connects every afflicted recorded event and makes one think twice about their perception on reality.
“The Dark Tapes” are a formidable found footage anthology that resembles a familiar “V/H/S” layout under the meticulously constructed eyes of co-directors Michael McQuown and special effects guru Vincent Guastini (Child’s Play 3). Scripted by the anthology creator, Michael McQuown, “The Dark Tapes'” four interlocking episodes will leave inside you a paralyzing case of nyctophobia as the genre-spliced anthology has no shortage of bone-chilling creepiness; in fact, “The Dark Tapes” epitomizes the very term and with an alternate universe mixture of ghastly ghouls, ghosts, and grisliness, the extremely exhausted found footage genre might have discovered some new, and much needed, life before being on the brink of a near death extinction in this quaint independent production from Michael McQuown.
The three internal tapes, directed by McQuown, are entitled, and in this order, “The Hunters and The Hunted,” “Cam Girls,” and “Amanda’s Revenge” with Vincent Guastini’s external wrap around segment, “How to Catch a Demon,” being broken into four parts between each tape and each tape should be viewed in complete and utter darkness to achieve maximum level of pants-pissing fright. Your overworked heart will skip with long deadly pauses in between, your lungs that keep you breathing will cease to provide breath, and your mind will warp to unfavorably play tricks on your eyes from an unrivaled nightmare witnessed on “The Dark Tapes.” The full body-stopping, comatose-inducing effect can’t be accomplished without the collaborating cast that includes Brittany Underwood, Tess Munro, Stephen Zimpel, Meredith Thomas, David Roundtree, “Sushia Girl’s” Cortney Palm, Anna Rose Moore, Shawn Lockie, Jo Galloway, and Michael Cotter to just name a few.
Much is right about Michael McQuown’s “The Dark Tapes.” Always welcoming practical effects are better than most indie ran features, especially in the anthology category, and the effects can best some lower-end Hollywood productions inside eye-glueing, on the edge of your seat narrative designs that are smart, gripping, and definitely heart-stopping scary, but to be somewhat of a devil’s advocate, the acting was overall a bit stiff across the plane with an awkward uneasiness in the vary of lackluster performances and overzealous deliveries that petered scenes from reaching full potentials. Production wise, “The Dark Tapes” impress inside the sets of bland reoccurring locations, but coincide them with a vast amount of timely, well placed special effects that quickly mutate the stark locations and the uninteresting backdrops turn into vivid portraits of hell.
The Thunder Road Incorporated produced, “The Dark Tapes,” has been slated for a worldwide video on demand distribution release come this mid-April after a theatrical stint this past March courtesy of the Epic Pictures Group. VOD platforms include Google Play, Vudu, iNDemand (Comcast- Xfinity, Time Warner, Cox, Bright House & more), Dish TV, Amazon, Vubiquity (Verizon Fios, Charter, Sudden Link, Media Com &more), Xbox, Playstation, Sling TV & Vimeo. Unfortunately, I was provided with an online screener of the festival favorite and can’t necessarily comment on the video or audio qualities nor any bonus features that might be available on a home entertainment release, but I can firmly state that, visually, “The Dark Tapes” is the Haribo of horror eye-candy with the different flavors of thrilling genres in a pint-sized package and while a little tame with the cherry red graphic content, director Michael McQuown seizes the opportunity to instill an open faucet of fear rather than tease with gore and sleaze with sex. If I had to recommend a horror anthology for 2017, “The Dark Tapes” would be on the very short list.
A pledge group of amateur, hippie Satanists on a LSD-induced drug trip have their nationwide havoc reeking voyage come to a screeching halt when their dilapidated van breaks down at an equally dilapidated small quarry town with an isolated population of 40 residents. Squatting in a vacant hotel, Horace, the clique’s leader, dangerously lets his followers indulge in their whims while under the powerful hallucinogen. Their brutal run in with a local girl causes a stir of attempted reprisal amongst the girl’s family, especially with her grandfather who aims to remove the hippies from the area, but when the elderly man is beaten up and given the a taste of LSD, a whole new can of meat pies is opened up! Looking for retaliation for his grandfather’s battering, the grandson withdraws blood from a rabid dog he killed earlier in the day and spikes the town bakery’s meat pies that were to be specifically purchased by Horace’s gang. The combination of rabies and LSD turns the deranged Satanist into foaming at the mouth and infectious killing machines set loose amid the town’s 40 person population.
Let it be known that Satan was an acidhead. That shocking phrase serves as a prelude of the horrible acts to come in David Durston’s “I Drink Your Blood.” The 1970 Jerry Gross produced exploitation and infected horror video nasty, notoriously labeled an X rating solely for the graphic violence, is a quintessential staple of Americana horror. Shot in upstate New York and based off true, and disturbing, events, Durston’s written and directed feature is a horrific tale harnessing every unspeakable evil in the unholy book: rape, drugs, murder, abortion, promiscuity, cannibalism and even touches a little upon racism. Durston flaunts a scattered-brain and raw edit that fluently rides along with the script’s crazed atrocities.
“I Drink Your Blood” never cashes in on one headlining actor to fulfill a star lead; instead, calculated characters fill the void where needed, an endearing homage attested by the structures invested by George Romero who used a similar blueprint for his pioneering, black and white horror classic “Night of the Living Dead.” Bhaskar, aka Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury, tops the credit list. The India born actor stars as the sadistic Satanist leader Horace, one of the handful of ethnic roles whose character background mingles more on the Native American side. Every so often, Bhaskar’s native accent filters through, but the actor’s devilishly brilliant performance reassures a radically raw and physical undertaking that forgiveness for such a small concern is automatically defensible. Other prominent roles were awarded to John Damon (“Blue Sextet”), George Patterson (“God Told Me To”), Rhonda Fultz, Arlene Farber (“The French Connection”), Iris Brooks, Richard Bowler, and a young Riley Mills has the rabies-revenger Peter Banner. However, another cast member, in a minor, less dialogue role, has overshadowed many of her costars in light of her legacy since then. Lynn Lowry, known for her role in George A. Romero’s “The Crazies” and more recently in Debbie Rochon’s directed exploitation film “Model Hunger” that was reviewed here at Its Bloggin’ Evil, plays a mute hippie turned rabid killer in a memorable video nasty-warranted scene involving a, then, antique electric knife, like the ones you plug into the wall.
In the glory of “I Drink Your Blood’s” sickest and most stunning special effects that include the poignantly severed limbs and heads of likable characters, a synthesizing score also gnaws at your gut-riddled nerves. During intense moments, harmless butterflies fluttering against your stomach’s inner layer, tickling your core’s coy innocence, violently alter through a bone-chilling metamorphosis, evolving into gut-busting vampire bats with razor sharp talons and flesh ripping fangs. Your whole whitewashed body will clench during Clay Pitt’s one of a kind visceral score, pitched in an ear piercing vortex during high anxiety segments such as when a diseased oppressed Horace and a shaken dam worker are toe-to-toe in a deadly standoff in the hotel’s attic. The jarring soundtrack pulses up until the end which stands as my only gripe for Durston’s film. The climatic ending has it’s formidable bubble popped when the tense scene immediate concludes while obvious questions still remain, such as what happened to Carrie, Lynn Lowry’s character, that goes unexplained?
Australian EX Films presents a monster of a high definition bundle release for David E. Durston’s “I Drink Your Blood” that includes two Blu-ray discs bundled with a VHS clamshell of the film. Inside a reversible artwork case, the first disc is an all region BD50 that stuns in a vivid 1080p in an 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Image quality maxes out with vibrant blues, yellows, and, especially, blood red, your three main colors in technicolor. The second disc gets even better with two bonus films, Del Tenney’s 1964 usual associated doubled bill feature “I Eat Your Skin” and David Durston’s 1969 erotic “Blue Sextet.” Over the course of the two Blu-ray discs, there are a slew of extras including a commentary by David Durrston and the late Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury, four never before seen scenes, video interviews with Lynn Lowry, Tyde Kierney, and Jack Damon, along with stills, poster, and home video art. You’ll also get rare footage of Bhaskar performing “The Evil King Cobra Dance”, the original trailer with two radio segments, and much, much more. Dolby Digital two-channel track vibrates constantly with forefront dialogue, hardly any disruptive damage, and well balanced levels amongst all tracks. The limited edition bundle includes a PAL formatted cassette of the original double billed films, as aforementioned, inside a reversible artwork housed clamshell. And that’s not all! Lastly, this bundle includes a Horror Hypo Needle and LSD Blotter Art tabs, featuring the artwork from “I Drink Your Blood.” Check out the image below to get an inside look. Even though “I Drink Your Blood” beats around the bush with social depravities such as gangbangs, drugs, and a quick stint of Satanic activity, this overall mega fan package from EX Films is a must own for the true video nasty collector or aggregate aficionados of unhinged horror.
Coping with the sudden death of their parents, twins Malcolm and Isabel Rademacher take a trip with their friends to the family lake house in Bear Lake, Michigan. The siblings ultimately neglect their friends, forcing their companions to abruptly leave the lake house without Malcolm or Isabel’s knowledge. Soon after, the two experienced a home invasion by two masked individuals, barely escaping with their lives. Feeling alone, isolated, and ill-fated, Malcolm and Isabel steer to two different paths: Isabel seeks professional counseling, while her brother sank deeper into his own despair. Malcolm spends most of his time at the lake house, digging into the lake’s frozen over to reclaim one of the mask’s of the home invaders. Isabel fears that Malcolm’s obsession threatens her safety, as well as her counselors.
“The Horror” is a story of one person’s traumatic event turning deeper into the darkness, taking a turn for the worst, and becoming overwhelming with rage and insanity. Director Jerry J. White III’s first solo feature thriller features a talented cast with Raymond Creamer, “WTF!’s” Callie Ott, and Schell Peterson headlining. Raymond Creamer also pens the script and Creamer’s character becomes centric heavy; an internally emotion individual just ready to explode from a slow burn. However, the film is literally a slow burn, creeping along, without being too frighteningly creepy, at a snails pace that doesn’t translate into Malcolm’s transition into madness. While in session with her counselor, Isabel states her brother is changing and we see Malcolm’s odd behavior at the lake house, but nothing suggests menacing turmoil. Until Malcolm randomly shows up at the counselor’s door step.
Raymond Creamer’s Malcolm is clearly the fearsome force of the film, flying solo for most of his scenes. But when Creamer interacts with others, he’s absolutely frightening. This makes Creamer outshine the rest of the cast and leaving no yin to his yang, unbalancing the film in oppositions. Creamer’s dark, bleak attitude and tone is solid throughout to where hope feels like a memory and a part of natural extinction. If Isabel is suppose to be the light, then her character must have had black out shades on as she can’t withdraw herself from the shadow casted down from the giant that is Creamer’s Malcolm. The unbalance creates no passion for revival and no sense of the grim reality resolving itself. This ultimately begs the question, what are we, the viewer, suppose to be hoping for?
“The Horror” story is also very encrypted. Explanations aren’t rapid nor are they delivered as an easy handout. Everything from physical metaphors to character dialogue can have an underlining meaning, sourcing “The Horror’s” entertainment value out to be another hard sell. The film’s marketing focused “The Horror” as a home invasion sub-genre film, but that particular scenario only lasts mere minutes that leaves more focal points on Malcolm’s odd behavior and Isabel’s therapy sessions explaining Malcolm’s odd behavior to her therapist. Also, the finale is wide open, again more underlining, that results in no concrete conclusions on where we leave Malcolm, holding an axe, invading Isabel’s counselor’s home.
The indie thriller “The Horror” is released on Digital VHX and limited edition VHS courtesy of Moondog Media. Jerry J. White III’s freshman film circles around being a Hitcockian draft of a modern day thriller with day of reckoning performance by writer-star Raymond Creamer, but pieces are missing or omitted to actually have “The Horror” come full circle.
The Video Home System, aka the VHS, became a leap forward for home entertainment in the mid to late 1970s growing widely popular by the 1980s and into the better half of the 90s. Two decades later, most of the youthful generation can’t even tell you what a VHS tape looks like or spell out the abbreviation. Today the DVD is the standard norm and DVD has made a fatal blow that killed the VHS tape forever in the industry retail market, but believe me or not, the VHS tape still lives and breathes among us and those who collect the out of print format believe that VHS is the ultimate haven for movie lovers. Today, not everything is on DVD. VHS had thirty years to collect films from all over the world and DVD nor Blu-ray have captured them. They are timeless vintage that doesn’t have a expiration date (until the sun gets a hold of them).
Now, the VHS tape has been used in horror movies before – The Ring, Vacancy, etc – and has become sort of a icon for the genre. Nothing about a DVD disc is scary, but bring out a VHS tape with the grain and the tracking blemishes and that can even make the happiest of times seem creepy as shit. This leads me into V/H/S a horror anthology of short films surrounded by main film where adult juvenile delinquents decide to pursue a lead in gaining a cash prize if they pinch a VHS tape from an old man’s house as if sharking (scoping out women targets and exposing their breasts on camera unwillingly) and breaking windows in an abandoned complexes wasn’t exciting enough. After they break into the house and discover the owner apparently dead in a room full of televisions, they decide to split up and search for the tape. One by one they view a different tape and get more then they bargain for as each tape contains a horror story which once watched will never leave them the same again.
V/H/S is damn scary. Plain and simple. Black and white. Up and down. Five short horror stories with an horror story – a resemblance, if not a respectable nod, to Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt era, but the writers and directors made these stories their own constructing each one carefully to where the content just doesn’t scare you stupid but will also leave your jaw dropped and your mind racing. Being a recently married man myself, one episode entitled ‘The Second Honeymoon’ had my mind racing and paranoid – you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see the anthology. V/H/S encompasses different genres such as creature feature, thriller, haunted house, satan, slasher, and even aliens. A little something for everyone to enjoy. You might even recognize some of the directors and writers names such as Ti West (House of the Devil), Adam Wingard (Pop Skull), David Bruckner (The Signal), and Glenn McQuad (I Sell the Dead).
There is definitely a feeling of no holds barred when an series of short come out like this. I feel that the nudity and gore taboo go right out the window and anything can go. A big F.U. is given to the MPAA and, for this review, that I’m on board with that as I my philosophy in life is the more brutality, more nudity, more visceral the better and though each director accomplished their part in each of their respective story, I couldn’t help that something was missing. The characters and some of the dialogue just weren’t doing it for me. I must be jaded as I write myself and I find some of the dialogue to be at a third grade level along with most of the character’s mental states. Again, ‘The Second Honeymoon’ separates itself from the pack with sympathetic characters and an adult, non-frat party attitude dialogue. ‘Friday the 17th’ episode could just be a spoof on the 80’s slasher now that I think about it and that makes me a feel a little better about the writing.
Go grab your DVD or Blu-ray copy of V/H/S from Magnet Releasing and keep your eye out for V/H/S/2 – I’m sure it’ll bite even harder than the first.
Mail call from the past week! MVDvisual’s Bath Salt Zombies, which you know and can read my review here, and V/H/S/ from Magnet Releasing! Review to come!