Three peoples’ lives become coiled around the unfortunate state of death with each experiencing individual variations of the concept. The recently released convicted felon, Ed Kunkle, faces reality on the brink of insanity as his past demons vilify his temperament in the direction of total carnage. Befriended by Kunkle is Eve Adams, a single mother who struggles to cope with her infant son’s untimely murder that happened right under her watch. Assigned to the Adams Boy’s case is detective Bodie Jameson who struggles with own malevolent urges brought upon by the unsurmountable cases of grisly homicides that come cross his desk while he also tracks down a child killer. Their differences connect them, looking into their future to rediscover the past that molded their disheveled lives into fateful affairs with death.
Over the course of three years between 2007 to 2010, auteur filmmaker Joaquin Montalvan directed and assembled a gritty glimpse into the grubby windows of condemned souls with the 2010 released “Hole,” produced by his own independent production company, Sledgehammer Films, and co-written with his longtime collaborator and wife in life, Eunice Font. “Hole” is Montalvan’s third horror feature following 2002’s beleaguered with loneliness thriller “Adagio” and psychological horror, “Mobius,” which was released the year prior in 2009, plus also behind a string of documentaries. Montalvan’s an optically surreal storyteller basking in a rich and unorthodox story and color palette that revives originality bobbing in an heaving ocean of lemming horror.
“Hole” is comprised of showcasing three stories from three tormented lives. One of those lives, the mentally unfit Ed Kunkel, gorges on being the centric force that thrives the other two into a descendant hell. The late Paul E. Respass tunes into Kunkel’s manic polarity as a person who can be extremely mild mannered and pleasant then explode with caustic abrasiveness and ugly torture. Respass’s shoulder length, wavy hair, graying goatee, and iron contoured face gives him a Charles Manson appearance that goes good with crazy. Behind closed doors Repass’s Kunkle breaks with sanity slaughtering his mother lookalikes as a result of mommy issues, but when conversing with Eve Adams, Kunkle’s maintains an upright keeled temper. Teem Lucas, who like Respass has worked with Montalvan previous, subdues the abnormal imbalance with a normal person’s reactionary response to loss and heartache when Eve Adams copes with the murder of her young child. In the middle these two extremities, detective Bodie Jameson’s work seeps into his psyche, fluctuating between irrational and rational thoughts. Another actor in Montalvan’s corral, Jim Barile, who looks more like a 70’s hippie than a detective, has the hardest performance of them all of slipping into a terrifying unknown mindset while maintaining status quo in work and romantic relationships. Barile’s role isn’t well recieved, flying mainly under the radar with an underperformed and pointless conclusion to detective Jameson right and wrong affliction. Charlotte Bjornbak (“Camera Obscura”), Katherine Norland (“Cannibal Corpse Killers”), Alina Bolshakova (“Dead End Falls”), Dennis Haggard (“Cannibal Corpse Killers), Theresa Holly (“Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher”), Micki Quance, Gavin Graham, and Char Frost (“Someone’s Knocking at the Door”) co-star.
Right away, a strong sense of resemblance washed over me when viewing “Hole.” The lead actor, Paul Respass, and the overall texture felt already acquainted with my visual cortex nerves. My suspicions were justified and my sanity was cleared as I have seen “Hole” before in a later film entitled “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher,” another Joaquin Montalvan flick featuring Respass as a delusional manic. Yet, “Hole” is one of those films that after the credits role, hasty judgements should be chewed on, reflected upon, and recollected for a second analysis. Hell, you might as well just re-watch it all over. The thing with Montalvan is is that his brand has trademark cognizance on such a level that even if “Hole,” released in 2010, and “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher,” released in 2014, instinctually ride the same wave, they ultimately compare as individual projects with a distinct personality and artistic flair. For instance, “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher” denotes more of an homage to early exploitation films and “Hole” puts more stake into societal system failures, even if borrowing from the likes of Ed Gein with the killer wearing a flesh mask and sewing up a fleshy garment. Both films hark about mental illness, but one glorifies the act for the sheer sake of carnage fun and the other considers it a collateral damaging symptom of a broken justice structure. Another difference to note is “Hole’s” three-way non-linear narrative that moves like the Wonkavator from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in every way imaginable and can be daunting to keep up.
Out of the depths of obscurity comes “Hole” distributed on DVD home video by MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing under the Raw and Extreme banner. Presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Montalvan and his D.P. R.T. Norland, brightly bedazzling with every shade of matte box and some slow motion, play the field utilizing various techniques to tap into Ed Kunkle’s disorienting madness. Using backdrops like the ghost town of Bodie and the spiritual sanctuary (or bohemian commune) of Salvation Mountain, Montalvan’s able to cast an aberrant vision out inside an independent means. There are some points of posterization, details are softer than desired, and blacks lose composition with blocky noise so there are some drawbacks to the encoding. The English language dual channel audio mix pairs about the same as the video with spliced competing facets that tend to offer come-and-go range and depth. Scream queen moments go into feedback mode during Ed Kunkle’s kill mode, losing the ideal quality via unsound mic placement. Dialoge is okay being on the softer side with some background noise being flowing in and out between the audio edits, emitting a static effect around the dialogue and then cut out when not the actors are not speaking. The bonus features are aplenty and informative with a Montalvan commentary track, an extensive mack of documentary that fine combs every pore of the film that includes interviews with cast and crew, Ed’s Journal segment conversing about the backstory on Ed Kunkle’s perverse family and killed friends portraits and souvenirs, as well as trailers. Bloodhounds will want more from Ed Kunkle’s shed of horrors, but what director Joaquin Montalvan has fashioned threads madness with a neglected mental heath system while polishing a a shiny three prong, moviegoer narrative with blood, body parts, and butchery.
Buitrago, Spain in 1310, Templar priests set forth on a mission, wandering the countryside to root out evil witches for torture, flogging, and eradication, but what the priests kept secret from public eye is that the village women they were apprehending were actually innocent and used as a means for sacrifice. The sadistic, malevolent priests drank the blood of their innocent victims for eternal life. Fed up with the Templar priests authority, the village men tracked them down to a gruesome end as the vowed in the throes of death to return for revenge. Buitrago, Spain in 1976, the Templar Priest, decomposed to the bone inside their tattered and dirty ceremonial robes, arise from their shallow graves with a hunger for vengeance and feed upon the flesh and blood of unsuspecting outside partygoers under the moonlight night.
Baring a thin shred of anything approximating a resemblance to Joe D’Amato’s “Erotic Night of the Living Dead” and Amando de Ossorio’s “Tombs of the Blind Dead” from the 1970’s to early 1980’s is Vick Campbell’s “The Erotic Nights of the Blind Dead. Also known as “Graveyard of the Dead” or, in it’s original language, “El Retorno de los Templarios,” is the 2007 Spanish produced throwback to the gothic and erotic ghoulish horror genre that once widely flourished through Europe and parts of South America and has, more or less, been nearly forgotten admirably for decades. “Erotic Nights of the Blind Dead” marks Campbell’s feature and script debut that blends the gothic and the erotic for an entry into the soles (or souls, perhaps?) of considerable shoes to fill and the consensus is Campell’s a size 10 trying to fill out into a size 18 wide but leaving too much wiggle room for missteps.
Campbell, also known Vick Gomez, commissions mostly a Spanish cast of the unknown variety, starting off with Eloise McNought in her breakout performance as the troubled, young Miranda who has been sexually abused by her father and has, somehow, misplaced her husband. Miranda’s backstory has an equal amount of ambiguity as the rest of the cast with bits of family melodrama to piece together her obviously distraught mental state. McNought’s a budget actress at best as she sometimes looks right at the camera in the midst of intense scenes and Campbell has a knack for upskirt scenes with McNought which feels creepy and impertinent to the story. Miranda’s the searched figure for her brother Jorge, Albert Gammond. Gammond, who had a role in Campbell’s short “Violencia gore,” has less backstory as the estranged son of the family and when he arrives to 1976 Buitrago, out of nowhere, to search for his sister, the siblings tango the enigmatic dance of who, what, when, why, and how? Gammond’s few dialogue moments are eaten up by Jorge trying to convince a distressed Miranda he’s her brother and reminding them of the childhood songs they sang as kids. Thais Buforn, Rick Gomans, Anarka de Ossorio, Dani Moreno, Anthony Gummer, Julian Santos, and Jose Teruel co-star.
“Erotic Nights of the Blind Dead” flatters being as an economic version of an Amando de Ossorio “Blind Dead” film, which centers around the vile and wretched depravities of the ghastly Templar Knights ethos and while Campbell captures the essence of the Knights and their menacing macabre presence of soiled garbs and persistence, the attention to the rest of a, literally, non-story is hastily slapped together or stuffed with cinched time wasters. The first half hour involves nothing more than Templar Priests roaming the countryside, flogging with an endless crack of a whip those who they deem dissident. The Knights’ whip must be malfunctioning as it could not rip flesh or break the souls of man until well into the lashing that mercifully warrants an edit for some bloody, but still steadfast firm, scarring and sheered rags. I felt the floggers arm and shoulder pain with such extensive beatings. Next, the majority of the second act consists of Jorge pleading with his sister Miranda to listen to him and convince her about his brotherly love and bring her back home. At this point, flashbacks of her father’s lust for her are introduced to backstory Miranda’s despair; the smoking gun catalyst finally rears a father-daughter rape-incest ugly head in act three when the Templar Knights have resurrected for blood thirsty revenge and gives some context of Miranda’s blabbering incoherency in the middle of the dry Buitrago landscape; yet, Miranda’s daddy issues hardly explain why the Templar Knights have returned at this point in time and just want the undead Knights tend to accomplish with their revenge at hand. In fact, there’s no explanation given at all…they just return and rampage. Campbell extends upon the risible execution of an Amando de Ossorio film by inverting scenes that are the same shot just in reverse, utilizing a single ambient track over and over again on multiple scenes, and countering whatever shred of terror from the Knights with an easy way out of unexplained reasoning for their befuddling demise. Almost as if Campbell didn’t know how to end his film and gave up with a snap of his fingers. Who does he think he is, Thanos!?
“Erotic Nights of the Blind Dead” lands DVD home video distribution from MVDVisul and Wild Eye Releasing on their Raw and Extreme banner. More raw, then extreme, Vick Campbell’s gleaming debut homage offers no eroticism either on the region free, 70 mintue runtime title, but, rather, lingers over incest and whipped-bloodied breasts of slim illicit pickings and suggests the title was more a ploy against “Graveyard of the Dead” to gain buys. The picture is presented in a widescreen format, but suffers from horrible color banding and severe compression issues that nearly make this title indiscernible like an aged or scores of duplication VHS transfer. The Spanish language stereo track also has flaws with speckled quality and coarse feedback at times due to bad mic placement. As aforementioned with the repetitive ambient and score tracks, range and depth do not reside with these versions of the Templar Knights that are probably inundated in a violent anguish of the same loop of rattling chains and heavy breathing. To add salt to the audio wound, the English subtitles are riddled errors such as Obbey instead of Obey or Swete instead of Sweetie. Special features include a behind-the scenes segment of ho-hum production takes, deleted scene, and Wild Eye trailers. One thing I think might be interesting is actress and executive producer Anarka de Ossorio who, I can’t confirm, might have some relation to Amando de Ossorio; the idea would be neat if his legacy still lives on through his kin. A brooding atmosphere from beginning to end, “Erotic Nights of the Blind Dead” has little else to offer under a guise to link itself to legendary Euro-trash gold, but filmmaker Vick Campbell detrimental diegesis could tarnish the very jeweled films in which he attempts to honor.