At 42,000 Feet, EVIL Can Hear You Scream! “Row 19” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)



Don’t Miss Your Connection For “Row 19” on Bluray!  

Young Katerina survives a deadly commercial plane crash that killed her mother.  As the only survivor to miraculously to alive, she becomes the center of the public and media attention over the next 20 years.  Now as a grown woman with a young daughter of her own, around the same age of her deadly tragedy, Katerina is about to embark on a plane for the first time to visit her mother and though past feelings leave her tense and scared, her daughter and her being a psychologists help soothe her fears…to an extent.  The late-night flight during a snowstorm leaves half the cabin empty with only a few passengers and the flight dwindles the numbers even more when passengers begin to die off in mysterious random misfortunes.  Lines blur between reality and the past for Katerina who’s about the relive the worst day of her life. 

I consciously realize that all things Russian is likely on everyone’s blacklist at the moment with the unfounded war Ukraine, but anything not created by the authoritarian Russian governing body could be, more-or-less, independently controlled by the people of Russia who are, again more-or-less, against the bloody and unnecessary Putin-fueled conflict outside their country.  So, when I sit and analyze Russian native Alexander Babaev’s latest film, a mile-high horror known as “Row 19,” I’m objectively looking at the artist and his craft rather than the possibility of a stalwart countryman just doing his propaganda duty for the motherland.  In fact, there’s none of that latter statement present in Babaev’s paranormal 2021 thriller that touches upon regret and facing fears, penned in the debut feature film screenplay by James Rabb. “Row 19,” or “Ryad 19” and, in South America, “Passenger 666” is the high-flying, dark mystery of the air film from multiple production studios in KIT Film Studio (“Mermaid: Lake of the Dead”), Central Partnership, Monumental Film, and Red Media.

“Row 19” sets the stage with a handsome cast of ensemble characters boarding a sole frostbitten and nearly vacant plane bound for a destination that audiences know all too well will be a landing zone that is anywhere else, but the destination printed on their purchased tickets. A variety of character flavors is always a classic touch when elucidating an unexplained threaten situation. At the yoke is Svetlana Ivanova (“The Blackout”) playing the adult version of the Katerina who bested death being the only survivor of a deadly plane crash 20 years ago. Scarred not only on her leg but also in her head, Katerina vouchsafes herself into getting back on than massive flying steel horse with an internalized pep talk by way of her psychologist vocation who she also helps people with their own internalized issues. However, Katerina is not a very good psychologist when the cabin goes into a tailspin of unexplained death and disappearances. The impression from the film is that the script, at one point or another, had Katerina as a medical physician as she’s often called upon and looked toward by the other passengers to know what to do when a passenger faints or another passenger is burnt to a crisp. She also doesn’t help the matter when she claims to be a doctor (and neglect to mention she’s a mind doctor. I believe that warrants a case for malpractice.). In the adjacent row is the hunky former combat news reporter Alexey (Wolfgang Cerny, “The Red Ghost”) who makes small talk with Katerina and her daughter Diana (Marta Timofeeva) and yet, the suspected sexual tension between them became never present and never materialized. Instead, Katerina and Alexey go back and forth on their mental blocks that causes drug use and shaky hand syndrome, a welcoming change to a rather routine love interest path that’s been overtrodden in other films in similar plots. However, there’s never a full understanding of Katerina’s role in this topsy-turvy spin through realities that only suggests that Katerina has a mighty will that can’t be contained even for her own good. Anatoliy Kot, Denis Yasik, Irina Egorova, Viktoriya Korlyakova, Ivan Verkhovykh, Anna Glaube, and Yola Sanko as the Witch (yes, there is a regular Baba Yaga-esque in the character list!) round out of the cast.

The sky is the limit with airplane horror as the concept of inescapable terror above the clouds can be the most frightening experience for not only acrophobia or claustrophobic individuals, but for average joe passenger looking to earn extra flyer miles on their fear membership cards.  We’ve seen zombies on a plane (traditional and Nazism), we’ve seen gremlins on a plane, and, hell, we’ve seen snakes on a plane.  Now, Babaev introduces the spell-casting witch confined to the rows of the tightly packed, small, and uncomfortable airplane seats and served the Salisbury steak with a side of rancid bag peanuts.  I can see why a witch would be pissed off as well.  However, there’s more than what meets the eye in Babaev’s witch that isn’t just on an obvious killing spree because her inflight cocktail was a little watered down or because of something a little more worthy of a massacre.  “Row 19” aims for misdirection in trying to get the audiences thinking one way by using sleight of hand but really a behind-the-scenes motive is kept in the dark for most of the runtime.  Babaev keeps the momentum fairly charged by setting up individual character personalities with just enough of a touch of odd behavior to make the atmosphere feel foreboding and keep interest in the next key scenes of story progression and at the climatic reveal is where the director’s momentum takes a nosedive, losing the altitude and the cabin pressure of smooth flight with a bow-wrapped-gift exposition that takes all the air of the suspension. 

Fasten your seat belts. Secure all lose items. Lift your tray table and lock it in the upright position. “Row 19” is about to take off and take flight on a Blu-ray home video release from Well Go USA Entertainment. The not rated, region A Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio with a decompression of around 20-26 Mbps, rendering picture quality of this AVC encoded release better than expected from Well Go USA. Image is sharp, well-delineated, and abundant with the right amount of color, appropriately denoting flashbacks with a filtered color reduction with only the slightest of change by director of photography Nikolay Smirnov. The Russian language 5.1 DTS-HD master audio track is crisp and clear. A solid track, well-established, full-bodied fidelity track that hits all the right channels with the right balance. There is an option English dub as well as available English subtitles on the Russian track. The subtitles synch well, though fast, and are transcribe with no errors detected. The 79-minute feature comes with a static menu, scene selection, and zero bonus features, which is typically the case with these U.S. distributed Russian releases. “Row 19” is visualized phobic fear, a self-flagellation of trying to change the past with what ifs, and director Alexander Babaev instills a shadowy creepiness inside the cockpit of consternation, but stalls at the height of the film’s storytelling success with a wrap-it-up quick and loose ending.

Don’t Miss Your Connection For “Row 19” on Bluray!  

Southern Hospitality is all EVIL Cloaks and Daggers! “The Long Night” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)

“The Long Night” now available on Blu-ray home video!

After spending years in foster care as a child, the now adult Grace tries to track down any information or background about her biological parents with the help of affluent boyfriend Jack.  The New York City couple travel into the rural, deep south on a seemingly solid lead about her folks.  As Grace and Jack drive up to their contact’s isolated and grand manor estate, their contact with the information doesn’t greet them upon their arrival and as they search the house, they find it as empty and still as the wide open land around them.  When darkness falls, cloaked members of a demon worshipping cult surround the estate, using their telekinetic and telepathy powers to infiltrate and corral Grace toward being a host for the prophesized return of 400 year slumbering and powerful demon the night of the equinox.  The couple battle the subservient minions inside and outside the manor as the night progresses into terrifying visions of Grace’s predestined lineage and the hope of surviving the night is quickly dwindling.

A longstanding demonic cult with supernatural psychotronic abilities besieging two city slickers armed with broken cell phones and a fireplace poker feels like the mismatch from Hell.  Somehow, “The Curse of El Charro” director, Rich Ragsdale, was able to stick the landing with loads of dourly, yet intensely powerful, cinematography crafted from a Mark Young (“Tooth and Nail”) and Robert Sheppe script based off the Native American mythology of the Horned Serpent, Utkena.  Keeping with the mythos’ descriptors involving snakes and horns or antlers, Ragsdale utilizes his usual bread and butter music video talents to fashion psychedelic imagery out of an extremely committed cult mercilessly stopping at nothing in resurrecting their preeminent master who will cleanse the world of corrupted humanity to start the world afresh…or so they believe.  Shot on site at a deep-rooted and isolated plantation house and property in Charleston, South Carolina, “The Long Night,” also known as “The Coven, is a production of Sprockefeller Pictures (“Fatman”) and Warm Winter in association with Adirondack Media Group, El Ride Productions, and Hillin Entertainment.

Super stoked that “The Lurker” and Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remake star Scout Taylor-Compton is playing an age-appropriate role and not another high schooler, the actress plays the soul and parent searching Grace who has a strong desire to track down her parents, which never comes to the forefront why Grace was placed in foster care to begin with. Compton is completely competent assuming a role that requires her physicality as well as her emotional range in fear through resistance against a group of mostly unknown cast of characters that mostly keep their hoods and masks on for the entire engirdling of the manor house. Compton can also exude being a badass at times, but the script shamefully holds the character back that never allows Grace to become a true opposition to their exalting will toward their demon god. Nolan Gerard Funk (“Truth or Dare”) might ooze that trope persona of a dude-bro bred out of spoiled opulence as Grace’s boyfriend Jack. Despite his unappealing swaggering veneer, Jack reaches for depth more than any other character in the film and Funk pins it pretty well. Jack loves Grace but can’t face his Hamptons residing parents’ derision of a woman, of any woman in fact, who will never be good enough for their son and that creates some nice early on tension that fizzles out to being actually nothing of real importance to the couple. Yet, Jack continues to be the one with more common sense, receiving pre-plot point hump bad vibes since arriving at the manor and also making some of the better decisions when the bottom drops out and snake-charming demonists come calling for his main squeeze to squeeze out the resurrection of an unholy being. Funk adds bits of comedic charm throughout like someone who watched too many horror movies and tries to reenact scenes that could be beneficial to their survival in theory but hopelessly fails in a humorous way. A real waste of a raw cinematic talent is in Jeff Fahey (“Body Parts”) who plays the brother of the missing manor owner. Fahey feels very much used for solely his veteran star power, a recognizable face, just to be nearly instantaneously forgotten at the same time and by the climatic ending, you might not even remember Fahey being a part of the story. “The Long Night” rounds out with Deborah Kara Unger (“Silent Hill”) and Kevin Ragsdale (“Little Dead Rotting Hood”).

“The Long Night” is a delicate incubus uncoiling its snake-biting venom of inexorable fate. Rich Ragsdale hyper stylizes flashbacks and often mundane moments to conspicuously denote unimaginable and resistant-futile power over a pair of out of their league NYC outlanders. Speaking of which from within the script, there is a sting of contrast between North and South, as if the Civil War was still relevant, ever since the first moment Jack and Grace hit the screen with their travel plans. Jack passively continues to harp upon his dislike of South and even looks to Grace to make sense of a demon cult outside on the front and back lawn, hoping that her Southern roots can explain the provincial nonsense raising torches and speaking in tongues that’s blocking any and all exits. Even Grace, a character originating from the South, believes that the makeshift totems surrounding the property are resurrected to ward off evil. As a Southern, I never heard of such a thing. The concept for a Lazarus possession out of the depths of dimensional binding sounds like a winner in my book, but Ragsdale can’t quite smooth out the edge to effectively and properly give the cult and Grace a banging finale of supercharged hellfire that sees our heroine fight to the bitter end. Instead, the entire third act and ending feels like a sidestep because not a single better thought came to the writers’ imaginations. Cool visuals, good special effects, but a banal trail off ultimately hurts “The Long Night’s” longevity.

Well Go USA Entertainment delivers the Shudder exclusive, “The Long Night,” onto Blu-ray home video with a region A, AVC encoded, high definition 1080p release. Presented in 16X9 widescreen, some scenes look compressed or rounded suggesting an anamorphic picture, but the overall digital codec outcome is really strong elevated by the creepy folkloric and the pernicious dream atmospherics of “Escape Room’s” Pierluigi Malavasi who can masterfully casts the light as well as he shields it in a menacing silhouette. Some of the nightmares or hallucinations see more of compression flaws in the mist, smoke, or gel lighting with faint posterization. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD master audio balances a vigorous surround sound output, catching and releasing all the appropriate channels with a range of environmental ambient noise and the scuffle between violent contact, denoting a strong amplitude with depth between foreground and background. Dialogue comes out nice and clear with a vitality that’s reverberates in the ear channels whenever a momentous moment sparks an outburst of rage and dominion. Special features include a behind-the-scenes featurettes that look at the raw footage of the birthing flashback scene, the overall aesthetic tone of the film, and the resonating tribal score. Also included is a Rich Ragsdale commentary track, the theatrical trailer, and Ragsdale’s 2019 short film “The Loop,” a meta-horror surrounding a scary VHS tape and two young brothers. While “The Long Night” has flaws with unfinished plot details that will leave a lingering unsatisfied aftertaste, entrenched within the narrative is a contemporary premise revolving around dark fate and that gut feeling toward belonging to something bigger that unfortunately turns out to be murderous summonsing of a demon scratching at the door wanting to be let out in the world. An unforgettable long night of terror.

“The Long Night” now available on Blu-ray home video!

I Would Be EVIL Too If Disturbed at “6:45” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)

Now on Blu-ray “6:45” the Worst Time of Your Life!

Bobby and Jules seek to fix their broken relationship with a vacation to the island resort town of Bog Grove after a big fight about Bobby’s suspected infidelity.  The off-season island is strangely quiet with hardly any tourists roaming the shops and boardwalk.  The couple stay at the Cozy Nook bed and breakfast, owned and operated by an eccentric host, Gene, whose more personally invasive than he is hospitable, yet everything else feels like a dream for both Jules and Bobby reconnecting to what is lost between them until a hooded man slices Jules’s throat and snaps Bobby’s neck.  Next thing Bobby knows, he becomes awoken by a 6:45 am alarm and feeling relieved that the horrific moment was only a dream, but when the events exactly play out as they did in his dream and he dies again the same way only to wake up again at 6:45 am, he, and he alone, realizes he and Jules are trapped inside a time loop driving him to face a different, more grim reality.

Ah, yes.  The time loop genre.  An alternate dimension where reliving the same day over and over again without a new path of escape on the horizon had established a foundation of fear beginning with Bill Murray starring in the Harold Ramis directed comedy “Groundhog Day” and has more recently been a executed (pun intended!) delightfully in the Christopher Landon cycling slasher “Happy Death Day.”  Well, here we are again, as if we ourselves are stuck in a time loop, with another rinse and repeat picture titled “6:45” from the “Perkins’ 14” director, Craig Singer.  “6:45” will mark as screenwriter Robert Dean Klein and Singer’s fourth collaboration in their respective roles and their first feature together in 15 years following 2001’s “Dead Dogs Lie,”, 2003’s “A Good Night to Die,” and 2008’s “Dark Ride.”  The fictional locale of Bog Grove is actually multiple locations up and down the new Jersey Shore from Ocean Grove to the Seaside Heights, showcasing a few local hangouts and attractions of the upper Jersey shore of Ocean County.  “6:45” is coproduced between the director and the films’ stars Augie Duke and Michael Reed under the Birds Fly Dogs Bark Wind Blows productions.

Augie Duke must need a vacation because “6:45” makes the second getaway horror where one of Duke’s previous characters vacations at the Jersey Shore following the Cape May-shot psychological thriller “Exit 0” alongside sojourning costar Gabe Fazio.  While there are parallels between the two Jerseyan films, Singer’s very own holiday in Hell is set on repeat and poor Augie Duke has to continuously have her throat cut more than a handful of times as the romance-question Jules, but being a quietly discreet scream queen of indie film (“The Black Room,” “Hell’s Kitty,” and “Necropolis:  Legion”), the L.A. born Duke can handle a simple boxcutter to the juggler.  Opposite of Duke, playing a recovering alcoholic musician in Bobby, is an equal match for indie horror credits to his name with Michael Reed (“The Disco Exorcist,” “Exhumed,” and “Subferatu”).  Duke and Reed play nice as a happy couple on the rebound but as death and the date never ends, the strain between them grows with intensity every cycle as Reed has been the outlier in remembering every moment of his girlfriend’s death and the helplessness he feels in the inability to stop it no matter what route he tries. Creepy characters a peppered throughout just to make more peeving towards Reed tumble drying recollection of events from the Cozy Nook’s nosy nuisance of a host Gene (Armen Garo, “The Manor,” “Coda”), the drunk lesbian Brooklyn (Sasha K. Gordon), and the shadowy, silent man (Joshua Matthew Smith) who’s a representation of the incessant range and has one job of slicing throats and breaking necks. Remy Ma, Sabina Friedman-Seitz, The 45 King, Allie Marshall, and Windows, himself, from “The Thing” Thomas G. Waites co-star in the film.

“6:45” has a story that can easily wrap you up initially and have you invested in a couple burdened by their love-hate relationship. To lure you in more, that light-and-dark balance tilts more toward the latter in a dangerous askew manner and love morphs into a blinding obsession to where anything is possible, making that narrative of a volatile human chemistry cocktail needing to be told as straightforwardly as humanly possible. Singer works diligently on keeping Reed and Jules on that track of an askew reality revolving around the historical mysteries of a bruised romance that include infidelity, alcohol abuse, and even violence, but Singer keeps close to the chest in not unveiling the true nature of Bobby’s repetitive retreat on what should have been the best day the newfound happy couple’s lives after rekindling and taking next steps to marriage with an island proposal that’s seen as Bobby’s good faith effort in turning around his life for the better because of his love for Jules. Yet, out of nowhere, the established linear narrative takes an unexpected montage turn in style, blending the couple’s past, present, and future all in one Brady Bunch grid mixed with even more flashbacks and repeated scenes that tries to explain more of Bobby’s checkered, playboy background and hand over emotional stress of repeating everyday like a persistent and noisy street hawker trying desperately to hand you pamphlets. Yet, the repeated days stay sequential after Bobby’s next death and so Bobby and Jules die more than a dozen or so times, but the next title card follows in sequential order (but aren’t they also reliving the same day so wouldn’t be day 2 over and over again). “6:45” attempts unnecessary stylistic approaches to keep the story fresh because no one wants to see the same thing over and over again and that’s perhaps where Robert Dean Klein collapses in the second act that inevitably bled to a total meltdown of story in the third act in trying to connect the time of 6:45 am to an important event with an end result of just leaving us more bewildered about the reference. The gist of Bobby and Jules’ downfall is clear, but how Singer takes us there is a pothole-laden path with lots of senseless bumps along the way.

This off-season, Jersey shore, psychological thriller really casts a dark cloud over the sunny good times usually offered for vacationers. “6:45” is the shark roaming just offshore in that feeling of fearful uncertainty of what lurks about. Well Go Use Entertainment releases the Craig Singer film onto a region A Blu-ray home video, presented in a widescreen 16X9 aspect ratio, and is rated R for strong violence and gore, sexual content, nudity, and language throughout. Cinematographer Lucas Pitassi casts a fairly natural image, clearly sharp and texturally above par in Well Go Usa’s high-definition Blu-ray release. While much of the gels and abnormal lighting comes more into play at the tail end of the film, “6:45” offers a more than just a paradoxical effect on the mind but also on the sight of seeing what should be a joyfully hopping with out-of-town patrons and vividly bright with beach sun resort town turned into a cold and dreary Hell by the ocean. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 had some issues with inconsistent dialogue levels that were, at times, muffled without just cause. Perhaps, the cause was more boom placement or interference of some sort. The soundtrack by Kostas Christides has a smoother quality while creating tense atmospherics where needed and ascending into rock instrumental for those black sheep montages and flashbacks. English SDH subtitles are an available option. On the variable-trailer-esque menu, there are no bonus features nor are there any bonus scenes during or after the credits on this barebones release. The cardboard slipcover, of the repeated Blu-ray cover art, is a flat, smooth matte that nicely sheathes the snapper case. “6:45’s” thrills and chills literally emanate a no time to die mantra disillusioned by guilt and death and the only slither of hope out of purgatory is to come clean, but if it was only that simple – in life and in Craig Singer’s film.

Now on Blu-ray “6:45” the Worst Time of Your Life!

A Security Guard’s Terrifying Dance With EVIL in the “Morgue” reviewed! (Blu-ray / Well Go USA Entertainment)

After fleeing a hit and run on his way to his girlfriend’s house, night security guard Diego Martinez is called to work a shift at the hospital morgue later that evening.  Seemingly showing very little concern for what transpired earlier, Diego goes through the motions of the night, checking doors and making sure the area is locked up tight and secure.  When a pursuit of a vagrant ends with Diego trapped inside the eight table slab morgue, he comes face-to-face with the malevolent paranormal in a terrifying night of survival.   Could what be happening to the scared night security be connected to the pedestrian he hit with his car or the transcendence of a purgatory afterlife from those who pass through the morgue without a pulse? 

“Morgue” is the Paraguayan poltergeist and purgatory thriller of high anxiety and tenebrific atmosphere proportions from the introductory feature film directorial debut of Hugo Cardozo.  The 2019 released horror film, which only recently made Stateside debut onto home video, is supposedly based on real events and written and produced for the silver screen by Cardozo and not only does the filmmaker showcase a hair-raising fright of a foreign film, “Morgue” also highlights the intrinsic South American infostructure and societal norms that’ll certainly be eye-catching details and differences to audiences from Paraguay’s northern neighbors.  From the Toyota Hillux trucks that are not sold in the U.S., to the wheel valve toilet flushes, to the open plaza compounds, “Morgue” is a down-to-Earth Latin American production that offers no unrepresentative notional misconceptions of other parts of the world.  Trust me, I’ve been to South America and to me, the city framework is authentic to the location.   With the support of FilmSharks’ subsidiary, The Remake Co., and HJ (Hugo Javier) Producciónes, a music video and film production company, “Morgue” is filmed in the district city of Encarnación, the capital city of Itapúa in Paraguay. 

Much of the story lands on poor Diego Martinez’s shoulders.  A cheapskate and a bit of an overall scoundrel, Martinez’s loafing life only has one thing going for it, his doting girlfriend who keeps him on thin ice because of his wandering eye and penchant for breaking promises.  Pablo Martinez has no problem playing a fool in Diego’s pitiful life as the actor shifts right into being indolent young man driving a beat-up jalopy and steel shavers just to keep ups his groomed look.  On the job, Pablo Martinez has to shift postures to a more diligent security guard which, for a character already established in a foundation without throwing down a trickster trope card, creates an uneasiness and a sense of empathy for Diego during his otherworldly ordeal as he follows his duties without much messing around.  Martinez, in both the character and actor, radiates fear once the tables turn and he realizes what he’s up against isn’t human or in figment of his imagination.  Or is it?  The role is written with some ambiguity on whether his experience might be guilt induced, but that’s for you, the audience, to decide.  “Morgue’s” one man show fleshes out with some strong supporting performances from Francisco Ayala, Willi Villalba, María del Mar Fernández, Abel Martínez, and Raúl Rotela.

Not many horror films hecho en Paraguay come across our screener desk; in fact, Cardozo’s “Morgue” is probably the first from the country and not too sound like a stuffy harsh critic, but I wouldn’t exactly say I’m more than pleasantly surprised by the overall design; yet,  I’m not not impressed either.  The middle of the road impression balances the bone-shivering atmospherics of a dark and tightly confining morgue where mischievous spirits seriously terrorize and toy with Diego’s physical and mental being with an about-face in Diego nonchalant behaviors and the established and recognized grim tone Cardozo slowly builds around the bonehead protagonist quickly fades at the very tail end with cheesy special effects and unfitting Latin rock music.  Without going too much into spoiler details, “Morgue” strongly reminds me of some elements of the “Creepshow 2” segment, “The Hitch-Hiker,” blended with Ore Bornedal’s “Nightwatch” while being stuffed with paranormal psychotic-nightmare fuel straight into the guts of story for gaslighting a terrified response.  The slow burn beginning might seethe a few eager to dive right into the you can’t-spell-pandemonium-without-demon action, but does set up perfectly, in a few suppressed laughs kind of way, Diego’s series of events that serve as a bread crumb trail to his frightening ordeal.  Cardozo utilizes various shooting techniques, many stunningly achieved in the manipulation of the film, to capture Diego’s fear and hikes the tension to a bite your lip in suspense level that’s well deserved. 

Light and spooky, “Morgue” is a lean, shivering supernatural story machine released onto digital and Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment this past May.  The not rated, single-layered AVC encoded disc, 1080p Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, has a runtime of approx. 81 minutes, and has a region A playback. Director of photography, Blas Guerrero, discerns a softer touch that you can more or less notice around Diego’s face as the details are not as fine, but the deep blue and purples hued tints (and other lightly used color grades) and lighting make for elevated stellar direction toward the things that go bump in the morgue at night. Cardozo employs closed circuit cameras, extreme closeups, sped up playback, and a nifty deep focus of indiscernible corporeal silhouettes that is just creepy in itself. The Spanish and Guarani DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track has little to muster in the dialogue department with Diego having very little interaction with others, such as his girlfriend through a video call or the night guard he’s relieving, but the dialogue track does come through clearly. The captioning is synched well with no obvious errors aside for some translational preferences from Spanish to English. Catered to be a startling romp, “Morgue” is heavy on the ambient LFE effects that do a nice job filtering through and landing the desired whip-in scare and then quiet again, resetting for the next go around. In the background, there is a slight engine-esque hum throughout and I thought maybe it’s presence was just in the Morgue, the rumbling spans the almost the entire duration of the story and doesn’t seem to be emanating from the dialogue track. Bluntly, the Blu-ray release lacks bonus features with only a theatrical trailer along with preview trailers before the film. The physical release does have a cardboard slipcover but of the same images and stills as the snapcase. A good time can be had with “Morgue’s” karma emerged psychological torment of one man and the spooky energy swarmed in shadows and dodgy point of views that solidifies Cardozo’s Paraguayan thriller as a rival to most name brand counterparts, but because of the ending that kills the entire mood of “Morgue’s” misery lashing, that bad taste of an anticlimactic drop off finale cuts far deeper than expected.

“Morgue” Blu-ray is on sale now at Amazon.com!

77-Minutes of Nonstop EVIL Combat! “Crazy Samurai: 400 vs 1” reviewed! (Well Go USA Entertainment / Blu-ray)

The Yoshioka clan has been dishonored by the death of two of their samurai warriors in an attack that has left the clan in desperate need for revenge.  Yoshioka clan’s sensei devises a plan to gather the clan’s best 100 samurai and 300 mercenaries and set an ambush for the one they call the crazy samurai, Musashi Miyamoto.  But Miyamoto strikes first, killing two Yoshioka clan members, sparking a torrent of warriors and mercenaries to besiege upon the crazy samurai and bombard him with attack.  The long sword combat stretches for over a hour as Miyamoto defends himself in an impossible task of standing alone while an entire clan’s army of swordsmen come at him from every angle, but Miyamoto is no ordinary master samurai, leaving the 400 to 1 odds in his favor. 

Journey back to Japan’s bushido era when honor and courage reign supreme during times of conflict and unrest with Yûji Shimomura’s nonstop, way of the sword, battle royale skirmish, “Crazy Samurai:  400 Vs 1.”   Originally titled “Crazy Samurai Musashi,” changed only for the home video release and on streaming platforms, the samurai film from Japan sticks out amongst the countless in the genre not for being filmed nearly a decade ago and finally receiving a theatrical and at-home release, but with a one particular, grand feature in being cinema’s first non-stop, one-take action shot for approx. 77-minutes, bookending between a story-functioning epilogue and prologue that clocks the film’s runtime at a total of 92 minutes from start to finish.  Shimomura, who directed the fantasy-action “Death Trance” in 2005 and the covert war drama “Re: Born,” helms a script penned by first timer Atsuki Tomori that bares little dialogue and even less plot to unreservedly place the juggernaut shot into the main spotlight.  The film is a production of the action enrapturing company, Uden Flameworks, based in Tokyo and with the North American streaming rights funded exclusively as a Hi-Yah! original film.

Reteaming with Yûji Shimomura in their third collaboration together following “Death Trance” and “Re: Born” if you follow each film’s sequential release date and if not following the release dates, then, more accurately, “Crazy Samurai:  400 vs 1” would be their second collaboration, Tak Sakaguchi, who cut his teeth in the cult favorite “Versus,” becomes a one-man show as the titular principal samurai, Musashi Miyamoto, slicing-and-dicing his way through a village horde of sword-wielding antagonists.  Kudos must be given to Sakaguchi with the stamina of a workhorse who carries the entire production on his back with a seamless performance without ever breaking stride, or taking a break for that matter, as you can see the sweat beading from his face and weariness in his eyes during the 77-minute long performance that takes a natural exhausting toll on his body, but the actor’s spirit to go on never breaks in any regards.  Sakaguchi fortitude for Musashi is unquestionable, but the backstory quivers at the knees with a character whose unable to be deciphered whether a hero or the villain.  The latter feels like the befitting choice as the plot begins with a Yoshioka clan ploy of arraigning a honorable duel between Musashi and the clan’s child prince after killing two of the dojo’s promising members in an act of defacing, but the ruse is an ambush to swarm Musashi upon arrival and execute him on sight.  Known for being a madman, Musashi comprehends Yoshioka’s deception and penetrates their defenses to immediately strike down the innocent child prince, who is only a pawn following council’s guide to be there, in the first blow that would set off a chain reaction of swordplay events.  Is Musashi that much of a cold-blooded lunatic to kill anyone, even children, and that is why he’s the villain who must be stopped by any means possible?  Or are the Yoshioka so dishonorable that Musashi will take on 400 or more well-armed men, and sacrifice one child, to slaughter them all for the sake of mankind?  Where Musashi motivations lie teeters into well after the credits roll, making the Crazy Samurai an enigmatic means to an unsatisfactory end.  Kento Yamazaki, Yôsuke Saitô, Akihiko Sai, Ben Hiura, and Fuka Hara round out the cast.

The possibilities of something going wrong is extremely high when attempting to film one long scene without breaks that include not only harmless slipups in choreography or dialogue, but also fatigue and risk of injury are likely to be greater.  Luckily for Tak Sakaguchi, and the production’s insurance company, there were enough water bottle and rest breaks strategically placed in between each pocket battle.  On the other side of the katana, the breaks frequent into improbability that there will be a full water bottle and a new sword just laying about in a Japanese village in the exact path of Musashi’s bore.  While most of the wardrobe and scenery feels authentic to the Edo-esque period and each actor puts in the effort to complete the scene, the unthought out choreography cheapens “Crazy Samurai’s” straight-gimmick concept by rotating out Musashi attackers who stumble off screen after being “killed” and rejoining the ranks on the backend.  More than once you’ll see the same faces go toe-to-toe with Musashi.  Rarely do the extras fall and lay dead at Musashi’s feet and only do so when the time at the present scuffle location comes to an end, but when the camera turns in a 360-motion around Sakaguchi, the bodies that had lain fallen previously where the fighting was held have now mysteriously disappeared. And the buck doesn’t stop there as Shimomura’s action film fails to impressive with the swordplay, outlandishly flaunts no blood other the visual effects spray in a blink-and-you-miss-it style, certain samurai have specialized wigs on to absorb Musashi’s signature Three Stooges-style bonk the enemy on the head move, obviously squaring off against more than 400 bodies, and, bluntly, the 77-minute runtime was tediously too long. You can also tell that the opening scene and ending scene were spliced into fold around the story’s trunk, probably shot years later from the original uncut scene, as we’re never able to connect the main characters from the opening and ending to the extended midsection in a slight of misdirection, obscure camera angles, and connecting only a pair of characters in act one and two.

Don’t be remiss to check out Yûji Shimomura’s see-it-to-believe-it “Crazy Samurai: 400 vs 1” on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment. Unrated, region A, and presented in a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, Well Go USA’s Hi-Yah! original film allures solely by the idea of the stunt, but hones in on two contrasting cinematic styles. The opening and ending scenes are consistent with conventional action flicks with fast edits, slow motion, and purpose with what’s seen in the scene whereas the midriff feels like a third person videogame that dodges and turns around Musashi, rarely taking the focus off him, and “Jaws in Japan’s” Yasutaka Nagano’s near entirely mobile steady-cam is quite an impressive feat considering the amount of moving objects in the frame, even capturing a manufactured lightning storm with rain while the camera then attaches to a boom for an areal shot; however, aside from the post-visual blood and embroidered sound effects, there was little touchup work done to polish the outwardly raw appearance. The Japanese language DTS-HD Master Audio is solid and holds up during the action though having barely much dialogue to play with during the fight. Ambient levels elevate a little louder above norm to put the sounds of a struggle right in your lap, or your ears, while the percussion of traditional Japanese instrumental, in the tune of war, plays erratic at times on the soundtrack. The Blu-ray is encased in a cardboard slipcover of the same illustrations and pictures as the snap case. Bonus material only includes the international and domestic trailers of the film. Yûji Shimomura and Tak Sakaguchi’s ambitious feat deserves a master stroke commendation for pulling off a historical and strenuous deluge of action, but “Crazy Samurai: 400 vs 1: fails to muster much more than that with threadbare editing and tip-toe choreography too dishonorable for the likes of feudal Japan.

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