Evil Tempts With the Body and the Heart! “Inquisition” review!


In 17th Century France, the torturous and deadly persecutions of innocent lives at the merciless hands of the almighty Church coinciding with the vast number of ill-fated deaths from bubonic plague made the medieval era a ghastly and forsaken time. Religious pursuers, known as judges, sought to unearth those who hold contract with Satan, who lustfully weaponized their bodies, and faithfully serve the dark prince and burn them at the stake after vigorous torture to obtain a must-have confession. One particular and notable judge, Bernard de Fossey, travels to a small providence to serve similar inquisition standards, but falls in love for Catherine, the mayor’s eldest daughter who holds a secret affair with a passionate lover named Jean. When Catherine’s lover is suddenly murdered, Catherine’s uncontrollable melancholy thrusts her to shift loyalties toward the alluring power of Satan in order to reveal the person behind Jean’s murder. Bernard’s trapped between his brutal crusade and the love he has for Catherine and tries to protect her from persecution by his fellow judges and from the execution stake. While many innocent claimed women and the few who confess to witchery burn alive, the judge teeters carelessly through the conclave of trials as Catherine has her blazing eyes set to destroy the person responsible for her overwhelming grief.

The one and only Paul Naschy stars and directs, in his directorial debut under the moniker Jacinto Molina, the remarkable underrated “Inquisition,” an time-piece tale accompanied with Spain’s 1970’s macabre ornamenting from the beginning credits to the aflame tragic ending. Spanish horror generally has an unusual gothic knack that can’t be emulated. With the blunt visual cues and the in your face gratuitous sleaze that manages to be naturally appropriate in the same spatial existence, Spain’s horror scene was put on the worldwide map that cordially sat itself right next to Italian’s giallo and UK’s Hammer Horror. Putting aside the budget, Spain’s underground cinematic gems flourished in a time of governmental conservatism and, to the likes of “Inquisition,” were, If I may be so bold, well equipped with scenic locations and props, scored charismatically, shot beautifully, and even maintained some provocative acting from actors and actresses all over Europe and even the world who were willing to bare it all for the project.

A buff, and rather brutishly handsome, Paul Naschy stars as the ruthless witch hunter Bernard de Fossey, but that’s not all. Naschy dons another role as the formidable and all powerful Satan in a dual-role performance of good and evil, of sorts. As de Fossey, Naschy’s chiseled, if not slightly stoic, portrayal of a pious huntsman locks in that medieval aroma while as Satan, similarly stoic but often with a devilish charm that Naschy often pulls off well under the latex and makeup. “Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key’s” Daniela Giordano marvelously shapes her character. The leading actress’s Italiano dark features, piercingly cold eyes, and shameless willingness to bare it all, topped with an on-off switch of ferocity, makes Giordano a powerhouse antagonist against Naschy’s de Fossey. Mónica Randall, Ricardo Merino, Tota Alba in one of her last roles, Antonio Iranzo, Julia Saly (“Panic Beats”), Tony Isbert (“Tragic Ceremony”), and Loreta Tovar (“The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff”) co-star.

Supporting the remarkable cast is the incredible work of special artists Francisco Garcia San José and Pablo Pérez. These two aren’t widely known for their talent, but their grit behind “Inquisition” shouldn’t go unspoken. Naschy’s Satan wouldn’t be a glowing-eyed, skull-staff carrying Baphomet without them nor would there be that pec-tensing nipple severing during a great torture scene. There’s something very simple about San José and Pérez’s work that speaks volumes that virtually delivers in the heinous acts of the inquisition to life and that give Satan an embodiment that has inspired many films even to today. For 1976, I’m in awe of the caliber of the effects, especially being a Spanish horror film that’s notoriously inherited being low-budget.

Mondo Macabro’s widescreen Blu-ray release of “Inquisition” deserves to be one of the best home entertainment releases of the year as it’s spectacularly gorgeous with an upgrade to a 1080p transfer from the original source material. Vibrant, natural coloring charms the pants of the depth and range in the image quality from various obstacles including such as night and day scenes. For a first time director, Naschy had the eye for cinematography and capturing the moment; Mondo Macabro takes his vision a step further by reducing the grain to a minuscule amount and without completely enhancing “Inquisition” with zooming and cropping to offset source material garbage. The Spanish dialogue and English dubbed 1.0 mono track score a high bitrate with flawless integrity from the source. Extras include a audio commentary with Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn, an interview with Paul Naschy and Daniela Giordano, a retrospect on Spanish horror from the 1970’s entitled “Blood and Sand,” and a lengthy Mondo Macabro marketing trailer.

In my opinion, Paul Naschy is the greatest Spanish horror film icon ever and “Inquisition” is some of his primo work. Mondo Macabro works miracles with original source materials, one of the best video distributors of cult cinema in the business, and continues to be a leader in releasing hidden and well-known gems of the genre. Together, “Inquisition” is powerful, is scary, is gritty, is detailed, and is sexy without being campy and schlocky. The mammoth amount of production value is well worth the price of admission alone. One of my personal favorite witch hunting films from the same decade is Vincent Price’s “Witchfinder General” as it has that same barbarity in the air, those merciless persecutions that led to the anti-Church movements, and that undeniable lead actor providing a strong performance. Nothing is scarier than fact and the “Inquisition,” though just a story on paper and reel, was based off real facts and that’s the kind of horror that sears into souls.

Buy this gorgeously illustrated copy of “inquisition” starring Paul Naschy and Daniela Giordano!

Hither Cometh Evil! “The Witch” review!

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Set a few years after the 1620 arrival of the Mayflower ship, a faith-entrenched Puritan family becomes ostracized by a tightly knit plantation community and leave their home to settle near a woodland landscape. The family of seven build upon their quaint home, growing crops for food and for trade, but when the youngest child, an infant, disappears into the depths of the dark woods, the family slowly starts to unravel at the inexplicableness of their loss. The once tranquil and beauty of the woods dreadfully alter into a coven for dark and fear inducing figures that root themselves between the family binds, untying their sanity and faith that once held them close and separating them toward a Godless path of destructive witchery.

Writer-director Robert Eggers’s “The Witch” steps into a time machine and travels back in time to the New World era and delivers an American Folklore horror film that’s honestly genuine and deeply haunting. Eggers constructs a mood and tone stripped of comfortable commodities from the moment the family takes on the New World for the very first time away from the plantation. The isolation is immense, the tension is thick, and the cast and crew dynamic squeezes tight around the heart, ripping out every raw emotion and turning the display into a gut-wrenching performance. Eggers had done the appropriate leg work by researching various diaries, folklore tales, and recorded accounts of the time to achieve elaborate detail; even the dialect is true to the period.
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The film’s devil worshipping namesake ghastly conjures a simple, yet legendary form. Without the use of glossy special effects, “The Witch” mesmerizes with practical makeup, slight of hand editing, and implied black enchantment while pulling at our internal sinful desires of the flesh, lust and deceit. Eggers kept the mainly nude Bathsheba Garnett in the shadows to give the menacing Witch a closing-in threatening appeal that corners an easy prey, such as children. The Witch’s power, a contractual perk with the devil, is vast and unholy that becomes a fierce antagonist to the family’s unnerving, yet powerless faith.
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Eggers and his team uses a sepia visual to devoid much of the color as possible from a naturally bleak mid-17th century community style that’s more binary and cramped, setting the stage for doom and gloom. To continue with the adverse affect, an everlasting current of formidable abstracts are implemented for uneasiness. These signs of inauspiciousness can be as obvious as Ralph Ineson’s sonorous voice as the family’s patriarch and resonating religious leader William or can be as opaque as their corn crop turning suddenly rotten or the reoccurrence of a toying hare and an unsteady, long-horned goat named “Black Phillip, who may or may not be the devil himself.
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In the midst of the family being torn apart, the eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) desperately tries to keep her family together, but with her mother Katherine (Kim Dickie) in severe grief after the loss of her newborn son, Thomasin absorbs the blame and disdain from her mother. Thomasin’s abuse doesn’t end with her mother, which the story mainly touches upon with each of Thomasin’s parents and siblings, in one way or another, demeaning her. The oldest brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) under the spell of hormones repeatedly stares at his sister’s chest, lusting after the female form. Thomasin’s sibling twins Mercy and Jonas remorselessly believe her and label her a witch from the time of Samuel’s disappearance. Even her father, who stood up for her honor and her dignity when neither her mother or siblings would, eventually broke with a misguided view of trust. Thomasin’s world of faith, family, and, basically, everything she once believed in has been stripped away and without that barrier of ideals, a contract with the devil tempts her weakened will.

Lionsgate home distribution releases the horror sub-genre reviving “The Witch” on DVD and Blu-ray. This review covers the Blu-ray release that consists of a MPEG-4 AVC encoded disc that delivers a stunning high definition 1080p picture in a rare 1.66:1 original aspect ratio. The intentional reddish-brown coloring properly dates the era the film is set and the picture is detailed to display the grit, the dirt, and the muck that further enhances the foreboding of calamity. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is crisp and clear, favoring more on the shocking and slightly experimental soundtrack, but still manages to place the dialogue in the forefront, steering clear from the cacophony. Still, I found the dialogue hard to follow because of the puritanical dialect of that time. Bonus features include an audio commentary with director Robert Eggers, the featurette “The Witch: A Primal Folklore,” Salem Panel Q&A, and a design gallery.
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Folklore horror hasn’t died just yet. In fact, the sense of a witchcraft resurrection is on the horizon, possessing now a new high profile inside the horror community that’s sure to pick up steam. Newcomer Robert Eggers puts new life into gothic, despondent horror with contrast characters living in a stark reality. “The Witch” will launch Eggers into horror orbit and keep Lionsgate as a friend to the genre.

No Escape from Evil’s Spell. “Rows” review!

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After serving an eviction notice to a strange old woman, with a grisly rumor in her past, for her realtor mogul father, Rose becomes drugged and bound against her will by the old woman who injects Rose with something. When Rose awakes, she finds her self caught in a repetitive cycle of murder, betrayal, and mystery brought upon by a spell conjured upon Rose by the old enchantress woman. The key to breaking the spell is the enchantress’s family home and it’s up to Rose to whether destroying the home or not will save her father who also falls victim to the old woman’s bewitching power.
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“Rows” is the fantasy-horror brainchild of writer-director David Warfield and stars “Feast” actress Hannah Schick along side “House with 100 Eyes’s” Lauren Lakis, Kenneth Hughes, Joe Basile, and Nancy Murray as the enchantress or the witch, which I like to title the character. The overall small casts’ performance achieves the toned-down, nearly expressionless portrayal of characters stuck in the confines of a hex; the “something-doesn’t-feel-right” notion is hyped up without the idea constantly up in your face and is more downplayed to let the viewer interpret Rose’s beyond twisted “Alice in Wonderland” experience. Instead of a world full of giant smoking caterpillars and tea drinking mad hatters, Warfield writes about the relatively unknown horrors of corn fields, an endless maze with rows and rows of high stalks that traps Rose and Greta.
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But the corn rows go to the back burner when the nature of the house comes to the forefront. The house’s claim to be the smoking gun to all of Rose’s obstacles is undervalued by the poor written construction of the southern belle style home in the script. The house doesn’t loom, isn’t very menacing, and just can’t seem to ever get on it’s feet to become a character wroth being frightened over. Warfield should have stuck with the corn rows which creates a surface murkiness, goes beyond our heroine’s ability to see or hear, shreds any hope for escape, and looks more ominous during the night; the house was always kept in the daytime. However, the old witch’s power stems from the house and for whatever reason, aside from the extended family history under their thumb, there is this unsatisfied, unknown conclusion for the viewer and the finale is up for personal interpretation.
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In making the ending open, Warfield’s “Rows” eases onto the border of experimental. Act one and two weren’t exactly straight forward either, but the understanding was clear and present enough. Once the transition, or the epiphany if you will, into the third act begins, a struggle to grasp Rose’s direction and, in the end, destination becomes more difficult. I can only go on my own interpretation of Rose’s journey and, much like that of the fantasy-ridden “Labyrinth” starring David Bowie, I felt like actress Hannah Schick was the Jennifer Connelly character in the sense that Rose has to grow up, leave the comforts of home, and be responsible and this whole event with the enchantress and the spell is an internal mental battle that ultimately is decided by a choice. In Hannah’s case, her inner, warped conflict is to fight her father’s will or embrace it.
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Indie Rights Films and MVDVisual distributes the StorySolver Film Lab production to DVD in a stunning 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. Details look fantastic from the farm landscapes to the skin tones with no sign of touch up enhancements such as cropping, sharpening, or smoothing. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track clearly balanced and diversifies all sub-tracks, especially the ambient sounds of the rural atmosphere to set an looming setting. There are no subtitle or settings options, nor do extras exist. Only “play” or “chapters” line the menu title. “Rows” has a sizable underlining gloom about it, setting a rightfully impassive mood through the spell world Rose is thrusted into combating.

Lovecraft Evil Done Well! “The Thing on the Doorstep” review!

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“The Thing on the Doorstep” is a nearly 8o-year-old gothic tale converted the short story written by H.P. Lovecraft to a small screen adaptation from Leomark studios and MVDVisual home entertainment. The story tells of Daniel Upton and his relationship with friend socially hopeless affluent Edward Derby. When Edward meets and weds a bizarre hypnotists Asenath Waite, his relationship with good friend Daniel turns eccentric and mysterious. Edward’s personality switches from the person Daniel knows and loves to a completely separate entity. As Daniel investigates down the rabbit hole, he learns that Edward might be a victim of black magic and that Asenath’s disturbed and demented background might be behind it all.
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Telling the story of this magnitude would be a difficult feat but director Tom Gilserman’s style through the narrative the character Daniel Upton and the structure is simple enough to make this story work well on screen. Penned by Mary Jane Hansen, who also has the lead role of Asenath Waite, pieces together natural dialogue to form believable characters. For great writing to transmit, you also need great actors. David Bunce, Susan Cicarelli-Caputo, Ron Komora, and Rob Dalton round out a great first time cast of actors that join Hansen and have completed a flowing conversations.
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Gilserman does try to a create a Lovecraftian atmosphere with unique camera angles, a dark complexion, and a gothic facade that would make H.P. proud to have his story told through this medium. The film plays out as a bad nightmare full of continuous and repeated flashes of scenes that will drown you into madness while also attempting to make Edward have two sides of him – his soul and a wicked others.
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One thing that I thought the film lacked with the use of black magic revealed. Anenath is suppose to be this powerful being who may or may not be human, but a witch, a succubus, a shell of a human. What the plot is more focus on is Daniel and Edward’s relationship and I believe this to be contributed to the narrative style of this film as it delivers as if one is reading straight from the source – the short story. Not too much is given about Asenath or her ‘hired help.’ Budgetary constraints more than likely contributed to the lack of black magic effects if there were to be any.
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Take the plunge and test out this adaptation of one of Lovecraft’s more psychological horror stories. The DVD from MVD was released this past tuesday and surely will get your head twisted around and your spine snapped with intense suspense and mystery.

No Nudity 😦

2014 Halloween Commercial: Totino’s Pizza Rolls – ‘So Fast, It’s Scary!’

Here’s a commercial that harks back on the classic black and white scares. Totino’s Pizza Rolls Halloween commercial is more kid friendly, but still iconic and homaging.