EVIL Lays All the Cards on the Table. “As the Village Sleeps” reviewed! (Indie Rights / Digital Screener)

Sarah is throwing a birthday party at her stepdad’s large house on Indian reservation land.  What should have been a quiet, boozy night with a handful of close girlfriends turns into a bigger and tense shindig of drugs and alcohol when her ex-boyfriend’s band and her step brother and sister unexpectedly show up at her doorstep.  With them comes a game, called Lynched, her ex purchased at the nearby gas station, but after playing, then drinking, the night away, the quickly find out the game is far from being over.  The mysterious card game comes to life, pitting friend as foe, and Sarah’s friends disappear one-by-one in the order of their in game deaths.  Leveled heads tip in the balance of fear and loss as the game plays havoc on their psyche, creating nightmare visions and that feeling of being watched and hunted, and the rules are anything goes when the game goes halfheartedly unfinished.

Werewolves.  Witches.  Vindictive townsfolk.  Murder.  Lynched, the game, sounds like an intense and medieval whodunit that insidiously presents mistrust into who you think are your closest friends and allies.  An interesting setup for the Chloë Bellande penned and Terry Spears directed 2021 released horror-mystery thriller, “As the Village Sleeps.”  The feature is Bellande’s first produced script based off her short, “While the Village Sleeps,” she wrote and directed in 2012 and with a few tweaks to the characters and location, the “American Terror Story” and “Hell’s Belle” director Spears, whose career as a musician only recently sought expansion into filmmaking, depicts that some games should never be played.   The independent film is a production of Spears’ 19 Artists Development and is co-produced by Kris Young as well as award-winning producer Gray Frederickson of “Apocalypse Now” and “UHF.”

Starring in her first feature film, Eleonora Saravalle has to be puzzler piecing together the deadly mystery intruding upon her character’s remote birthday bash.  The rather tall Saravalle is paired up with a rekindling love interest in the rather short Oliver Rotunno in their respective roles of Sarah and Alex who hold onto a sparkle with a rough patch in a rocky relationship history that stays in the past never to be fleshed out from their backstory involving Sarah dumping Alex for unsaid reasons.  That dimly lit sparkle doesn’t really shine through much between Saravalle and Rotunno with a dynamic resembling more big sister and little brother than crisscrossed lovers.  More so than the sibling rivalry from Sarah’s stepsister Tala (Shiah Luna, “Age of the Living Dead”), and stepbrother Jacey (Daniel Olguin) with an uptight and contentious static background noise that, again, fails to come to ahead about why Tala is stubbornly irritated with Sarah; instead, the attempt at building something more between them during shared terror experience quickly fizzles out of complacency without so much as a hurdle to make their bond more impactful.  None of the characters are terribly impressive or worthy enough for sympathy, not even the flawed ones had any emotional weight when meeting their maker, falling into uncomplex tropes stapled to the genre such as with the naïve party girl Connie (Chloe Caemmerer), the immature rocker Matt (Rane Thomason), and the I-hate-city-slickers town cop (Mark Adam Goff).  The more interesting characters, like the old, long in the tooth, gas station attendant who sold the game and walks to work every early morning, doesn’t receive the time of day though very important to the plot.  “As the Village Sleeps” rounds out the cast with Michael Gum, Tyler Malinauskas, Kenzie Leigh Spears, Victoria Strange, Winnie Du, and Otis Watkins as the elusive Midnight.

“As the Village Sleeps” has too many strikes against it to ignore.  Between significant plot holes, underdeveloped characters, snuffed out offshoot side stories, and an arterial scenario struggling to stay cohesive by a bunch of no-named actors, who more or less do okay in their lackluster residing roles, the already low-budget production deserves every grain of a derisible reaction with its horrifying-veneered derivative hand at “Jumanji.”  Instead of a stampede of elephants, a ferocious crocodile, and a hairy Robin Williams being roused from out of the board game world by the roll of the dice, the card game Lynched barely rears itself back into the fold after the players supposedly don’t finish the game in order to drink themselves into a stupor.  Only just a handful of cards reappear on the spot where those disappeared, turning the game into a supernaturally present character without ever manifesting tangibility and that becomes a running motif for Spears’ film, that lack of finishing something to elicit a gratifying arc of completion.  We see fragmentary elements everywhere with the aforementioned character dynamics between Sarah and Alex and Sarah and Tala, the unresolved routes of unearthing the game’s racist atrocities against Native American origins by investigating the obvious gas station merchant Midnight who sold our protagonists the game, and the characters who don’t disappear at the game’s hands, but just vanish without so much of a word about their fate.  From what I’ve briefly watched, Bellande’s 2012 short would be a tad improvement over the 2021 release and might be more worthwhile with a mindful production value that’s more attuned to being budget friendly and a sound design that’s not a stock file folly with depthless growling wolves and overexaggerated footsteps.  The overall experience just might be more pleasant. 

Become lost and hunted down in the gameplay of “As the Village Sleeps” now available on Amazon, currently free with Prime Video, under the distribution of Indie Rights Movies with more streaming platforms to be announced.  Titus Fox serves as the film’s cinematographer whose most intriguing scenes are under the latticed deck.  Between the combination of steady and handheld camera work, Fox implements a voyeuristic and stalking POV of the shadowy werewolves coupled with the stark contrast between black negative space and sphere of torch light.  The scenes are brief but well-executed to drawn some visual aesthetic and sense of threat with the remaining cinematography reliant on common swivel panning and edited stationary positions.  There are no extras or bonus scenes accompanying this streaming release.  Whether be the filmmaking inexperience of Terry Spears, Bellande’s perforated story, or the limitations on the production and sound design, “As the Village Sleeps” should be slept through to not rouse exhaustion from consistent frustration. 

“As the Village Sleeps” is available on Prime Video!

EVIL Goes Metal! “Project Metalbeast” reviewed! (Invincible Entertainment and MVDVisual / DVD)


A top secret CIA operation, known as Operation Lycanthropus, leads two agents to a Hungarian castle where they must retrieve a sample of werewolf blood in order to create the prototypical ultimate super soldier. With his partner’s throat ripped out during the initial werewolf attack, agent Butler manages to retrieve a sample after plugging the werewolf with metal bullets, but upon returning to the secret operation headquarters in the States, his supervisor, Agent Miller, and a team of scientists pursue a more subdued approach in synthesizing an advantageous killing machine. The unhinged and impatient Butler injects himself with the remaining blood sample, transforming him into a blood thirsty werewolf. After attacking and killing a scientist, Agent Miller neutralizes the beast and places him in cryogenic suspension, hidden away in the secured basement, for future sinister endeavors. Twenty years later, a new secret operation headquarters building is erected after the first burns down, clearing the way for a new team of scientist developing game changing medical technology for burn and cancer victims by creating artificial skin out of metal, but when the project is suddenly taken charge by Agent Miller, the bewildered and upset scientists are impelled to work on human cadaver trials, placing Agent Butler’s inanimate body on the operating table for a metal skin transplant. When he suddenly awakes, the base of unsuspecting scientists and military personnel come under attack by a formidable and blood hungry beast now armored plated with a metal exterior and virtually no way in stopping it’s vicious wrath.

Talk about an archetypical blend of classic and tech horror, “Project Metalbeast” exemplifies the age-old theme of scientific research being usurped for control and power and the end result is fatally catastrophic. Also known as “Proect Metalbeast: DNA Overload” and just plain ole “Metalbeast,” the film was written and directed by Alessandro De Gaetano (“Bloodbath in Psycho Town”) who spun a 1995 unorthodox werewolf feature that presaged playing God in more ways than one and added a fresh and new elemental armament to an iconic, and already super, beast on the prowl. Tom Irvin, Brad Hardin, David Barrett and Wesley Wofford, who makeup (no pun intended) the special effects team of Magical Media Industries, have credits that include the “Carnosaur” killer dinosaurs and a couple of the “Halloween” franchise sequels and have applied their combined tapestry of creative talents to bring a practical, larger-than-life metalbeast to the screen that’s not only monolithic in size, but also fearsomely primal with a glint of “Terminator” characteristics in its glowing red eyes. “Project Metalbeast” was one of the last semi-cult releases of Prism Entertainment Corporation, a company that chugged out some great B-horror films mainly in the 70s and 80s with titles such as “Eaten Alive” and “Body Melt,” and one of only a few films from the associated production company, Blue Ridge Entertainment.

Before taking Jason Voorhees to space to metalize the already the indestructible carnage incarnate, Kane Hodder did a test run stepping inside the augmented paws of a gnarled werewolf. Instead of space, Hodder grounds his performance by barely able to walk on two hind legs in the fabricated prosthetic suit, but the veteran stuntman and character actor is the dynamo practical effects horror version compared to today’s CGI-guru, Andy Sirkis, thriving tangibly polar opposite on the character effect sake, but Hodder captures the metalbeast’s utmost power gait and stance despite the extremely limited range of motion. Another symbol success in his own right is Barry Bostwick as Agent Miller. Bostwick is best known for his hero role in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” but to me, he’ll always be the aloof mayor in Spin City opposite Michael J. Fox so it was challenging to accept Bostwick as a conniving cutthroat intelligence agent. Yet, the longtime actor has perfected the knack of being haughty in not only his performance, but in all his mannerisms, making Agent Miller a completely loathsome character undeterred by the sensitives of others. Opposite Agent Miller is the more rational and sensitive head scientist, Dr. Anna de Carlo, played by Kim Delaney who appeared in “Darkman II: The Return of Durant” that was released the same year. Delaney didn’t excel as the strong heroine one might expect her character to be thrust into a situation that calls for her to protect not only her life, but all the lives outside the base if the creature escapes and the scientist is more-or-less part of a splinter group derived from a team effort against the metalbeast. Costars include Musetta Vander (“Mortal Kombat: Annihilation”), Dean Scofield, Tim Duquette, Lance Slaughter, William G. Clark, and John Marzilli as the unhinged Agent Butler.

“Metalbeast” sounds like a metal title, but Gaetano works the orchestrated talents of Conrad Pope into the soundtrack and “Project Metalbeast,” at the time, was Pope’s scored feature as a composer, the classically trained musician has been the orchestrator on a variety of films, such as the films of “Jurassic Park,” “Star Wars,” and “Harry Potter.” Yet, Pope’s score is akin to Harry Manfredini, a character of the story, that maneuvers coincidingly with the metalbeast while simultaneously triumphantly denotes specific scenes of dread, victory, and intense suspense with the latter being reminiscent of Mandfredini’s “Friday the 13th” brashly intrinsic cello and violin composition when Jason Voorhees would startle victims on the screen and chase them down a moonlit forest path. While Pope’s score is invigorating, the story leans more toward less so with a tediously uninspired quality regarding the film’s semblance of a comprehensive secret operations base that has corridors stunk of a standard hospital setting and story structure that fortunes little against the beast’s point of view in which Gaetano merely removes a few frames and adds a distortion effect to the picture that peers out of the eyes of a drunkard’s discombobulated staggering as well as leaving some plot holes with the bit characters, such as the other military police who simply just vanish though the character pool has been whittled down near the climax. Plus, Bostwick’s Agent Miller doesn’t age in the 20-year gap in the story, leaving any tidbits of truth versus a metallic werewolf as dust in the wind. Even with the faults, “Project Metalbeast” without a doubt is a product of it’s decade with a touch of lycanthropy campiness illuminating a sardonically augmented military killing machine.

Resurrected from the video graveyard and for the first time on a home video release in the States, or at least officially, Alessandro De Gaetano’s “Project Metalbeast” lands onto DVD from independent entertainment distributor, Invincible Entertainment, and partnered with MVDVisual. Presented in a full frame, 1.33:1, the transfer looks like either a VHS rip or a scan from an unofficial DVD release with heavily lossy details amongst a washed hue overlay. There’s some transfer imperfection, such as slight scratches, but is less intrusive than the soft image. The English language mono audio is bombastic, but there’s no strength behind the explosions, beast growls, and such to emphasis the impactful scenes. Dialogue remains in the forefront behind the ambience and, even, Conrad Pope’s powerful, but non-subversive score. Depth and range are acceptable as the camera and sound relation viably work hand-in-hand. The Invincible Entertainment release is nearly bare bones without an significant transfer upgrade, no bonus features, and barely a static menu. “Project Metalbeast” lives and breathes as a poster boy of a 1990’s revamped creature feature genre that transforms a classic monster into a man’s weaponized wet dream, but the film stutters as a reserved case of conservative metal monster mayhem.

Own “Project Metalbeast” on DVD!

Available for free with a Prime Video subscription!

Small Town Evil Under a Full Moon! “Silver Bullet” review!


A small town is under sieged by a callous killer, ripping victims to bloody pieces and shreds without an ounce of mercy. As the town goes into a lockdown curfew, a paraplegic young boy named Marty decides to enact his own version of rebellious fun with a stroll in his gas-engine powered wheelchair for some nighttime fireworks, despite a killer on the loose and lurking in the moonlight. Marty’s fun turns into a terrifying nightmare when the killer stalks the boy and when Marty comes face to face with the killer and lives to tell the tale, he discovers that the town maniac is no ordinary deranged person but, in fact, a nasty, snarling werewolf whose also living in plain sight amongst them in the small town community. The only two to believe Marty’s harrowing tale is his older sister, Jane, and his drunk Uncle Red, whose still on the fence about Marty’s werewolf encounter. When the moon is high and full, the three devise a plan to lure out the monster to definitively put it down with a single shot from their one and only silver bullet.

A true piece of Americana horror, “Silver Bullet” remains a staple werewolf flick for those who grew up watching genre films in the 1980s. Daniel Attias, his first and only ever feature film, had embraced a larger-than-life monster movie from a script written by the legendary macabre novelist Stephen King, based off his novella “Cycle of the Werewolf.” Attias and King were practically novices when in regards to directing and screenplays; yet, “Silver Bullet” offers much in the way of comedy, drama, and the frightening scares with a practical effects wolf and snippets of gruesome, violent death at the hands of the beast. “Silver Bullet” goes beyond just being a thrilling story of good versus evil by also blurring the lines of the conventional establishment that spark up the old idiom, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and dives into a satirical outlook of certain religious faiths and their viewpoints.

What makes “Silver Bullet” as one of the most recognizable and rememberable films, regardless of some microscopic sloppy screenwriting and first time directing woes, is the cast. Before his life altering motorcycle accident, Gary Busey (“Predator 2”) as Uncle Red brings flesh and bone, and booze, to akin King’s Uncle Al character from the novella. Busey fabricates a wonderful, heartwarming performance dynamic with Marty, whose played by the late Corey Haim (“Lost Boys”). Haim is fresh to the scene with his chubby cheeks and doughy soft eyes that would eventually make him a heartthrob idol later into his career and at the young age of thirteen, Haim’s paraplegic performance is respectable and empowering. Uncle Red and Marty are pitted against a sleeper antagonist in Revered Lester Lowe, a role who I could see no one else being in aside from Everett McGill (“People Under the Stairs”). McGill has a face for television, or the big screen in this case, as his chiseled, dark features make him a formidable foe that’s hidden behind a clerical collar. Longtime television and TV movie star Megan Follows plays big sister Jane whom factors in as Marty’s only ally despite their dysfunctional relationship which Follows portrays well with verbal jabs of adolescent wickedness toward her disabled little brother. Rounding out the cast is Terry O’Quinn (“The Stepfather”), Bill Smitrovich (“Manhunter”), and “Reservior Dogs” Lawrence Tierney.

Television cooking show host, Giada De Laurentiis’ grandfather, Dino De Laurentiis, produced the film who was no stranger to the horror genre, such as “Orca” and “Amityville II,” nor to films adapted from Stephen King’s work like the “Dead Zone.” Under Luarentiis’ wing, “Silver Bullet” delivered brutal, traumatizing werewolf kills spun from the werewolf suit creating hands of another Italian, Carlo Rambaldi (“The Hand That Feeds the Dead”), and together, the two Italian filmmakers, along with an apt cast and crew, saw their installment flourish amongst an overcrowded werewolf subgenre in the early 1980’s with competition from films such as John Landis’ “An American Werewolf in London,” “The Howling,” and, yes, even “Teen Wolf.” “Silver Bullet” didn’t just arrive on the scene without some challenges to the storyline. For instance, a killing spree has already established with more than five townsfolk dead and a strict curefew has been set in place, but Marty, ignoring his Uncle Red’s solicited advice about staying near the house to set off fireworks, sneaks out in the middle of the night to shoot off fireworks away from the house. Marty’s fairly bright through the entire story and a nice kid, but the initial encounter between him and the werewolf is by far one of the most unintelligent and dim-witted action any character to make in the history of horror films. What makes the scenario even worse is that Marty is handicapped.

Umbrella Entertainment presents Daniel Attias’ “Silver Bullet” on region B Blu-ray home video in a widescreen 2.35.1 aspect ratio. Image quality of the full high-definition 1080p picture has an agreeable color palette, sharpness, and pinpoint details that especially come to light during the memorable church of wolves scene. A very few scenes have transfer instability where, in a blink of an eye, a revert to a faded frame comes into the fold. The English 2.0 DTE-HD master audio poises and harmonizes the elements and the dialogue into a vat of consistency that isn’t flawed by track damage. Jay Chattaway rallying, chilling score is a candor testament to the quality of the soundtrack that follows suit right behind the beyond par quality of the dialogue and ambient levels. Special features include audio commentary with director Daniel Attias, interviews with special effects artists Michael McCracken, Jr (“Deep Blue Sea”) & Matthew Mingle (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”), an interview with actor Everett McGill, an Umbrella exclusive interview with producer Martha De Laurentii’s remembering “Silver Bullet,” isolated score selections and audio interviews with composer James Chattaway, theatrical trailer, TV Spots, radio spot, and still gallery. A complete and definitive set from Umbrella Entertainment! “Silver Bullet” is a howling success story of classic American horror that has timeless practical effects, a riveting narrative, and cast enriched characters that invest into the lycanthropy film paralleling David versus Goliath.

Entertaining B-Movie Evil! “Werewolf Rising” review!

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“Werewolf Rising” revolves around Emma (Melissa Carnell), a big city girl moving back to her secluded childhood home in the country after a long stint of battling alcoholism. But working on keeping her sobriety is a piece of cake compared to the full moon nights as werewolves roam the forest. Her relaxing vacation has turned into a nightmare when the wolves start to hunt her and her secluded getaway home has her trapped.

When I was a young lad, I remember watching old movies where actors dressed up in really bad Ape or Werewolf costumes and they would chase after the damsel in distress as she screams her head off. “Werewolf Rising” welcomed me back to my childhood with a big embracing hug made up of offbeat werewolf makeup and costumes. Nothing wrong with a man (or woman) in a fur coat with a immobile headpiece, but there is something campy in nature about the whole scenario.
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In cahoots with the “classic” costuming, the story and acting are made up of the best b-movie attributes. From Matt Compko’s character Johnny Lee and his goofy-serious posture and speech to Bill Oberst Jr.’s overzealous portrayal of an escaped werewolf convict, B-movie madness is back in full swing. Speaking of Bill Oberst Jr., the veteran B-movie actor is a man on a movie role mission. The guy has way too many upcoming roles on his plate, but with a mug like his, I can see why he can be very versatile to filmmakers. In “Werewolf Rising”, Oberst is one creepy dude covered in blood and mucus – lets just leave it at that.
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After 24 hours of having watched “Werewolf Rising”, I’m still trying to puzzle together to plot. I get that our heroine Emma retreats to her childhood home after a long and hard battle with alcoholism, but what does alcoholism really have to do with werewolves? What’s the parallel there? There seemed to be some underlying message that states drinking an colossal amount of hard alcohol, werewolves (or your demons) will come back into your life or am I reading too much into this B-movie? We see the same kind of alcoholism with the character Wayne played by Brian Berry so I could be correct. A blind squirrel finds a nut every once and awhile.
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For the werewolves, how and why do they come into play? These creatures just happened to appear in the woods at this very particular moment with no explanation. Beatrix, played by Irena Murphy, seems to have some sense of what is going on as she waits in the woods for the beast. Emma involvement has more lycanthrope lineage, but again, the detail is limited and complex that nothing makes any real sense. I can tell you this. These werewolves love to go for the throat, they love to take long runs in the woods, and their red-tinted, nearly blind night vision sucks.
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You have to hand it to writer/director BC Furtney because he was able to bare all with Irena Murphy’s character! But in all seriousness, Furtney tries his hand at direct-to-DVD horror and doesn’t come away exactly breaking even, but there is still some pride to be taken away from this piece of work. “Werewolf Rising’s” cast also includes Taylor Horneman as the man in the werewolf suit and Danielle Lozeau who you might remember completely buff from my review of “Black Water Vampire.” Werewolf Rising will be available to own September 8, 2014 in the uK from Image and RLJ Entertainment.

Evil Mail Cal! Check out what is on the chop block for It’s Bloggin’ Evil!

MAIL CALL!

The mail man finally brought me my packages.  As I tracked the package, I saw that the package shipped from Pittsburgh, went to Ohio for processing, traveled to Southeastern PA, then to Downingtown, PA which is two minutes from where I reside.  However, when I thought the package would arrive the next day, my blood started to boil when I found that it was just processed in Jersey City, NJ.  Gah!  Five days later (after a weekend), my package finally arrived and I was relieved and now I can share with you what might the content be for future articles.

For the first time on It’s Bloggin’ Evil, I made a video post about what was received.  This gives you a clear idea on the content that one might come across.  Now not every film in this video will be reviewed here because their genres just aren’t evil enough, but I still think it’s interested to see what people can hunt down in flea markets, yard sales, Movie Stop’s used section, Walmart’s $5 dollar bin and so on.  Also, don’t expect just movies on future video posts!

Hopefully you enjoy the video.  I can be a dry talker at times, but I’m a bit camera shy and can get nervous.  There is some bloopers and humorous remarks in this little over 8 minute video.  Thanks again for watching and make sure you return from the grave and check out the evil to come.