EVIL Spirits and Japanese Internment Camps in “The Terror: Infamy” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Chester Nakayama floats through life living with his immigrant parents on Terminal Island in San Pedro, California during World War II. A photographer hobbyist who helps on his father’s fishing boat and studies at a university, Chester doesn’t have steady employment and has recently learned his girlfriend, Luz, is pregnant with his baby. But those are not the height of Chester problems, or his family’s, when the country of Japan declares war on the United States by bombing Pearl Harbor and mysterious deaths surrounding the Nakayama family point to ancient Japanese beliefs of a Yūrei, or a ghost, clinging to a grudge. As the years past, Japanese American citizens are move from one internment camp to the next with no end in sight being projected as potential spies for the country of the rising sun and for Chester, Luz, and his family and friends, the Yūrei’s scheme endangers Chester’s life and legacy.

Following the success of the Ridley Scott (“Alien”) produced AMC horror television series, “The Terror,” the second season aims to build a new path of dread with a storyline plucked from the late 1900’s of two stranded artic explorer British ships trying to navigate a Northwest passage and now placed in a whole new and different, massive turbulent story and setting laid out in the early-to-mid 20th century during World War II America with Japanese Internment camps.  The second season comes with a partially new title, “The Terror:  Infamy” along with a new cast and new crew as well.  The subtitle’s double entendre refers to the then era United States 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Day of Infamy speech given to the public after the assault on Pearl Harbor and also refers to another American infamous time of the mistreatment of the country’s own citizens, the Japanese Americans, placed into internment camps and constantly scrutinized as potential Japan spies.  “Infamy” showrunners Guymon Casady, David Kajganic, Scott Lambert, Alexandra Michan, Jonathan Sheehan, and David W. Zucker, along with Ridley Scott, return to the AMC, Entertainment 360, EMJAG Productions, and Scott Free Productions series.

At the tip of the ensemble cast spear, most consisting of Japanese heritage actors and actresses, is Derek Mio as the Yūrei plagued Chester Nakayama.  Perhaps the biggest role for the Mio, the role transcends Chester from a stagnant part-time fisherman on the dead-end Terminal Island settlement of San Pedro, California to a responsible man of action that sees Chester fight for his family, his wife, his children, and even fight for his country despite the maltreatment in order to course his loved ways safely through a plethora of evil.  While the character grows in an arc of accepting responsibility as a son, husband, and father, Mio never expresses the range of a story of his magnitude that takes him across various domestic terrains and on the other side of the conflict-engulfed world as he’s afflicted by a malevolent spirit.  Constantly confident and seemingly unafraid, Chester just simply endures the hardships along “The Terror’s” bombardment of grim reality.  Comparatively, the younger Japanese American generation are culturally more expressive next to the immigrated older generations in Chester’s father (Shingo Usami) and eldest family friend Nobuhiro Yamato (“Star Trek’s George Takei”) who we witness keep mostly in line with their stoic composures.  Takei, born in 1937, and his family were actually forced into living in converted horse stables and official internment camps across the country during the War and that gives the series a morsel of 100 times it’s weight in authenticity with firsthand experience. Along with the deep sympathies and an infinite amount of shame for the wrongfully imprisoned citizens of war, there’s also immense compassion for Chester’s wife, Luz, played by Chrstina Rodlo (“No One Gets Out Alive”). Rodlo runs the gambit of emotions that convey happiness with her time with Chester, to despondent loss, and to fear while on the run from the American government as well as an evil spirit who threatens her child. Just like the first season of “The Terror,” character staying power is often short lived as the horror and, well, the terror catches up to them in one way or another, but we see fine performances from Miki Ishikawa (“I Don’t Want To Drink Your Blood Anymore”), Naoko Mori (“Life”), Alex Shimizu, Lee Shorten, Hira Ambrosino, and Kiki Sukezane as the incessantly stubborn Yūrei and C. Thomas Howell (“The Hitcher”) with another flimsy performance as a hardnose major serving as head of an internment camp.

Subtly contrasting two very different kinds of horror between the yore of the fantastical Kaiden ghost stories coming to fruition with the Yūrei and the very non-fictional blight on American history that was falsely imprisoning American citizens with Japanese roots no matter what age. Both unsettling constructs are unequivocally provided equal weight in dread much like with season one that showcased the dog-eat-dog desperation of man isolated and trapped in extreme terrain with the supernatural forces of nature with a monstrous, polar bear like creature hunting them down one-by-one. Though the same dance, but a different song, season two has a very welcoming different take of blending of yore with lore that separates itself into a new entity, a new engagement, and a new facet of terror very befitting to the anthological series. Eventually, “Infamy” starts to lose steam when the Yūrei side of the story insidiously infringes fully into the fold when Chester and Luz have fled the internment camps and are living in nowheresville New Mexico. The camps fade away from the story and also from our consideration with only bits and pieces to chew on just to check in on principal characters and has a resolution that’s about as cheated as the Japanese Americans survivors given $25 by the American government to start a new life. Yet, “The Terror: Infamy” is poignant and informative, a better picture of what really happened on the American home front better any textbook could ever properly depict, and exposes the mainstream into the Kaiden-verse of Japanese culture.

The 2-disc, 10-episode Blu-ray set comes from UK distributor, Acorn Media International, with each episode with a runtime on an average of 40 to 45 minutes long and a total runtime of 419 minutes. The region 2, PAL encoded release is presented in a standardized for television widescreen format of 16X9 and the Acorn release doesn’t present a flawless picture with noticeable issues with severe cases of banding and compression artefacts around the darker portions of the scene and trust me, “Infamy” is plenty dim and leaden between John Conroy and Barry Donlevy’s cinematography unlike the previous season’s artic white landscape that brightens much of the frame. The Dolby Digital soundtrack produces a better product with satisfactory quality in all categories of score, ambient noise, and dialogue and is accompanied by well-synced and timed English subtitles. Bonus features include a look at the series part 1 (for disc 1) and part 2 (for disc 2) and the biographical and inside the head look at the characters through the eyes of their portrayers. “Infamy” is UK certified 15 as it contains the AMC edginess of bloody graphic content as well as some offensive language. “The Terror” series as a whole has remarkable historical insight commingled with soul-stirring, skin-crawling old wives’ tales. “Infamy” may not supersede its predecessor but is still one hell of an engaging and unique story that salivates us into wanting a third season.

Crawling Through the Bavarian Forest is an Eight-Legged, Seething EVIL Spider. “Venom” reviewed! (Twilight Time / Blu-ray)

Own the Limited Edition of “Venom” aka “The Legend of Spider Forest” on Blu-ray!

On holiday in a small sawmill town located in Bavarian countryside, artist and photographer Paul Greville seeks to capture the serenity of nature’s bountiful beauty. When he comes across a strange, wild woman with a spider scar on her shoulder, known as the “Spider Goddess” to the townsfolk as a curse individual, his curiosity sends him poking around the quaint, sleepy village that leads him into discovering also a rare and priceless painting thought lost after World War II. The deeper Greville digs into the mysteriously beautiful, unfettered girl and the valuable lost artifact, the more the town begins to resent his nosiness into their hidden agenda of a former Nazi scientist extracting deadly venom from the lethal forest spiders for noxious nerve gas weaponization.

Screenshot from IMDB.com

Better known as “The Legend of Spider Forest,” or “The Spider’s Venom” in the States, director Peter Sykes pulls from the madcap story cache a sticky, wacky web of lies and deceits with the unwinding-arachnid thriller “Venom” that involved mad scientists, creepy-crawly spiders, a half-naked wildling girl, and a plot planned from a World War sore loser shot in the United Kingdom as the backdrop for a Bavarian woodland. Five years before directing Christopher Lee and Denholm Elliott in “To the Devil….a Daughter,” the Australian-born Sykes was outfitting his sophomore UK feature with real, untrained, bird-eating tarantulas to be the basis of his visual terror in a mind baffling labyrinthine screenplay from the filmic exploitation brothers Derek and Donald Ford who, when not selling sex with their erotica celluloid (“Suburban Wives,” “The Swappers”), they were dappling in low-rung independent horror as such with the psychotronic “Venom” which is a co-business affair between Cupid Productions and Action Plus Productions with Michael Pearsons and Kenneth Rowles producing.

Screenshot from IMDB.com

The unlucky sap caught in the village scheming drama is liberal arts enthusiast Paul Greville understood in his thirst for solving the case of the missing medieval art by English actor Simon Brent. The “Love is a Splendid Illusion” Brent, who left acting a few years after “Venom,” finally lands a significant lead man role albeit in a rather stretch of post-war German antics horror that has more twists in the narrative than there are actual spiders. Brent exudes an uncomfortable amount of a curious confidence as he charges through the forest to track down, or rather just happen to run into by chance within the vast area of a mountainous forest, “Erotomania’s” Neda Arneric, a Serbian rugged beauty playing wildling Anna with red-hot hair atop her short frame. We are first introduced to pixie cut Anna during a flashback of a full-frontal skinning dipping frolic in the river with a young, also naked, man and while the unknown man and Anna gaze with an effervescent stars of love in their eyes, the chemistry between Brent and Arneric is about as sparkless as a dud sparkler in a warehouse full of dud fireworks as their characters are too far apart and unalluring to fall for each other at first sight; instead, Brent casts such a demanding go-getter presence with his amateur investigation into the village’s little secret, his murky intentions toward the locally feared Spider Goddess is nothing more than nearly a figment of formulaic structure. We, as the audience, literally attempt to use our own mental will power against them in order to fall in line, or in love. More infatuation buzz surrounds the sawmill boss’s cloak-and-dagger daughter Ellen with “Children of the Damned’s” Sheila Allen as a willing and brazen femme fatale that seduces the hapless artist more than once, especially during one intimate session that restores him back to full health. Although an English production shot in an English forest despite being backdropped in Germany, there is one German actor that gave “Venom” that je ne sais quo toward locale authenticity, beginning with the sawmill boss and self-proclaimed first village resident Huber, played by Gerard Heinz (“Devils in Darkness”) in his last feature length film before his death one year later in 1972. The rest of the cast predominately is English with Derek Newark (“Fragment of Fear”), Terence Soall (“Theatre of Death”), Bette Vivian and one sole Czech actor Gertain Klauber (“Octopussy) giving it all with his very convincing German accent as the village Alps only pub and inn owner Kurt.

Screenshot from IMDB.com

The sting of “Venom’s” unavailing characters is dangerously potent to a near effect of paralyzing the narrative. From Huber’s ireful small talk foreman with his own entourage of blue collar lackies to the mad scientist who doesn’t actually arrive onto the screen until the very last 10 minutes of story, in who is also perhaps the most interesting character garnering deadly spider venom and doing a little crossdressing on the side, “Venom” bears the brunt of unnecessary and disproportionate figures to be an implemented stopgap in managing Simon Brent’s screentime. Sykes teeters away from the majority of Greville’s point of view with little windows outside his perception that drop more diversional obscurity in who Huber and his operatives think Greville really is, why Greville is really there, and how can they handle Greville once he’s become too close to Huber and company’s operations. “Venom” slips unintentionally into the being a low-rent, haphazard Bond film or, better yet, a Scooby-Doo mystery without the Scooby Snacks, but there is ascot fashion. The story implies some exploitation of the mentally instable, using the “Spider Goddess'” strange behavior and her ominous ill-repute to be a warning to outsiders but Sykes conveys the latter allegorically with the destruction of pure, free love by an oppressive governing head, spreading lies about being cursed and deadly, only to find it again in a similar person, a person like Graville seeking to subvert the old wives’ tales and explore his unwaning curiosity no matter the consequences of bodily harm. I just like that Paul Greville drives off-road with a conspicuous bright yellow fiat through the forest shrubby and muck without getting stuck and without blending in.

Screenshot from IMDB.com

The skirmishing climatic finale quickly wraps up loose ends and, at the same time, is an intoxicating delirium of madness and suspense. Twilight Time delivers another Screen restored eldritch mystery onto Blu-ray home video as part of the limited-edition series licensed for a U.S. release from the UK’s Screenbound Pictures and distributed by MVD Visual. Presented in a 1080p, high-definition widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this is a good-looking transfer with soft, dream-like overtones stemming from a well-preserve original negative with the only drawback being the edge of the 35mm stock occasionally being visible in perhaps a mishandling or misaligning of the film reel that may have also been exposed to light slightly. Other than that, only a few hardly noticeable blemishes are on the image. The English language 2.0 LPCM Dual Mono that separates the dialogue and the ambient/score tracks. You’ll find a robust vocal channel, discerning very nicely from the action, but there’s still quite a bit of hissing and popping on the tail end that denotes more attention needed for better clarity. The film is rated PG but that doesn’t mean much of anything in early 1970’s with Anne Arneric going full-frontal, along with young beau Ray Barron, in emerald green tint as well as other brief flesh scenes from Arneric, arthropod terror, some blood, and the quickest flash edit I’ve ever seen of the lower half of a post-sawed torso. Much like the “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” release, “Venom” also has zero special features and, as a more tangible replacement, is a 11-page booklet with color and black-and-white stills, various poster art, and an essay by author Mike Finnegan. The Blu-ray cover art is also reversible with a color still on the backside. Don’t expect to contract arachnophobia after watching “Venom” in this high concept, poor execution of cheap boscage thrills.

 

Own the Limited Edition of “Venom” aka “The Legend of Spider Forest” on Blu-ray!

No Sam Raimi. No Bruce Campbell. Just the EVIL! “Evil Dead Trap” reviewed (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)



Nami, a Japanese late night show host, is seeing her ratings dipping.  Though not in danger of losing her all-female produced show, Nami decides take her team on an investigation of a mysterious snuff tape that was mailed to her specifically.  Left for her is a bread crumb trail of directions to an abandoned military base, Nami and her crew explore the campus’s rundown structure, searching for evidence, a body, a story that they can televise.  Ignoring the dangerous presence around them, they dig deeper into the dilapidating labyrinth where they horrifying discover something waiting for them laid out in a cruel plan of deadly traps with a maniac pulling at all the strings. 

Bred out of a pedigree of pinkusploitations and a nation’s crisis of identity after the Second Great War, “Evil Dead Trap” is a greatly symbolized Japanese machination tale helmed by pink film director Toshiharu Ikeda (“Sex Hunter,” “Angel Guts:  Red Porno”) and penned by an equally historical pink film screenwriter and “Angel Guts” manga series creator Takashi Ishii (“Girl and the Wooden Horse Torture,” “Angel Guts” series).  Also known under its original Japanese title, “Shiryô no wana,” as well as, and my personal favorite, “Tokyo Snuff,” in Spain, “Evil Dead Trap’s” smorgasbord of rape, torture, and gory death naturally shocked viewers upon release and continues to do so as one of J-Horror’s branched out films that segued out from the brutal and depraved pink film inspired context into the new longstanding ghost genre we’ve seen over the last few decades with “Ringu” (“The Ring”) or “Ju-on” (“The Grudge”).  The production company Joy Pack Films, behind the 1980’s obscure Japan films, such as Genji Nakamura’s “Go For Broke” and Banmel Takahashi’s “Wolf,” houses the “Evil Dead Trap” from executive producer Tadao Masumizu.

If you recognize a couple cast members, or maybe just their naked bodies, then there’s something depraved about you!  With all kidding aside, but no seriously, if Rei (Hitomi Kobayashi) or Kondo (Masahiko Abe) look familiar, then you my friend are pink film aficionados as Kobayashi has starred in “Hard Petting” and “Young Girl Story” and Abe was in these pink film hits the “Pink Curtain” trilogy and “Female College Dorm Vs Nursing School Dormitory.”  If these faces didn’t touch you in any kind of sensual way, no worries, leading lady Miyuki Ono brings the star power.  The “Black Rain’s” Ono plays Nami, a go-getter television host/personality with her sights set on ramping up her late night show’s ratings, but also sucked into the posted snuff film’s darkest allure that’s personally calling her into to a precarious story lead.   Nami could also be a homage to one of screenwriter Takashi Ishii’s manga-inspired pink films entitled “Angel Guts: Nami” and the title might not be the only aspect paid honor to with that particular Nami written with a journalistic vocation drawn into and obsessed with a serial rapist’s attacks, making a striking parallel between the two stories that are nearly a decade apart. Eriko Nakagawa and Aya Katsurgagi fill out Nami’s investigating team as Rei and Mako. As a whole, the characters lack personality; Rei and Kondo tickle with relationship woes that are snuffed out before fruition, Rie’s timid innocence barely peaks through, and Nami and Mako’s thicker bond compared to the rest of the team is squashed to smithereens way before being suckled into note worthy tragedy. This late night show team has been reduced to slasher fodder and, honestly, I’m okay with that as we’re only here for the deadly traps. Noboru Mitani, Shinsuke Shimada, and Yûji Honma, as the mystery man looking for his brother, complete “Evil Dead Traps” casting.

“Evil Dead Trap” boasts a melting pot of inspirations, a mishmash of genres, and spins a nation’s split identity variation crowned in aberration. Diversely colorful neon-hazy lighting complimented by a Goblin-esque synth-rock soundtrack from Tomohiko Kira (“Shadow of the Wraith”), Toshiharu Ikeda shadows early Dario Argento inside and outside the popularity of the Italian giallo genre as the “Evil Dead Trap” murder-mystery horrors resemble more of a westernized slasher with a killer concealed behind a mask stalking a fringed, neglected compound in a conspicuous outfit. While the killer dons no hockey mask or snug in a mechanic’s jumpsuit, an equally domicile, yet more calculated, antagonist taunts more brains than brawns, especially with the severity of traps that seemingly float from out of nowhere. The fun is chiefly in the imagination of how the trap designs operate in the void of physics of a slasher fodder film so wipe clean the Jigsaw and the “Saw” films from your mind completely and relax to enjoy the outlandish kill scenes. Some of the kills are imperialistically inspired by Imperial Japan, that is, to blend the wartime nation’s atrocities with how the proud country wants to distance itself from that old-fashion, war-criminal, stoically perverse superstratum layer, but that’s were “Evil Dead Trap” pulls for most of the juicy parts as well as supplementing with Argento lighting, some, believe it or not, “Evil Dead” elements of that menacing presence bulldozing through the spiritual world, and an divergent climatic finale stuck to the narrative body that’s akin to pulling off the head of a doll and replacing it with T-Rex head’s. The uniformity quells under the pressure of how to end Nami’s and her attacker’s coda with pageantry weirdness that’s typical status quo Japanese cinema. Lots of symbolism, little modest explanation.

Get caught in “Evil Dead Trap” now back in print and on Blu-ray courtesy of Unearthed Films, distributed by MVD Visual, as part of the extreme label’s Unearthed Classics spine #5. The Blu-ray is presented in a matted 1.66:1 aspect ratio, a format rarely used in the States but widely used in other countries. Reverting to the 1.66:1 from Synapse’s 1.85:1 crop, Unearthed Films showcases more of the European feel, heightening that colorful vibrancy of the Argento-like schemes. Image quality has peaked on this transfer with natural grain with the 35mm stock, but details are not granularly sharp in an innate flaw of the time’s equipment and lighting. Shinichi Wakasa’s unobscured practical effects heed to the details and don’t necessary suffer the wrath of miniscule soft picture qualities when you’re impaling someone or birthing a slimy evil twin…you’ll see. Add in Ikeda’s wide range of shooting techniques, you’d think you’re watching Hitchcock or Raimi and the focus really lands there with the differently camera movements and techniques. The Japanese language single channel PCM audio fastens against that robust, vigorous quality to make “Evil Dead Trap’s” diverse range and depth that much more audibly striking, but there’s a good amount of silver lining in there being no damage albeit discernable, but not intrusive static to the audio files, dialogue is unobstructed and prominent, and the stellar synth-rock soundtrack nostalgically takes you back to when you first watched “Suspiria” or “Dawn of the Dead.” English subtitles are available but display with a few second delay which can be cumbersome if trying to keep up. Special features includes three commentaries that include director Toshiharu Ikeda and special effects supervisor Shinichi Wakasa, filmmaker Kurando Mitsutake (“Gun Woman”), and James Mudge of easternKicks. Plus, a Trappings of the Dead: Reflecting on the Japanese Cult Classic retrospect analysis from a Japanese film expert, Storyboards, Behind the scenes stills, promotional artwork, trailers, and a cardboard slipcover with phenomenal artwork. Highly recommend this atypical Japanese slasher, “Evil Dead Trap,” now on Blu-ray home video!

Own “Evil Dead Trap” on Blu-ray!

EVIL is Undead…And Rides a Shark! “Sky Sharks” reviewed (Umbrella Entertainment / DVD)

Former Nazi scientist Dr. Klaus Richter’s past has finally caught up with him after 70 years when a clandestine German laboratory, disguised as an aircraft-battleship hybrid, thaws from behind a globally warmed sheet of frozen ice and rock, releasing Dr. Richter’s regenerated legion of undead Nazi super-soldiers piloting genetically engineered flying battle sharks complete with guided missiles alongside their razor sharp jaws.  Loyal to the Third Reich, the sky sharks continue their master race patronage with a blitzkrieg in the skies, attacking commercial aircraft, boarding the cabins, and slaughtering every last person on board before crashing.   Now contractually working for the U.S. Government as the biggest name in technological advancement, Dr. Klaus, with the help of his two daughters, has a plan to nullify the sky sharks’ defenses to make them vulnerable to his latest newest experiment in warfare, Dead Flesh, under the guidance of his fellow covert government agency heads.

Apex predators of the waters are now apex predators of the skies in Marc Fehse’s ridiculous, frenzied, and utterly mad ultra-violent Nazi-exploitation, “Sky Sharks.” Soaring through the heavens soaking fluffy white clouds with blood, the Carsten Fehse and A.D. Morel co-written film took off virally in 2020 with the promise to the internet, especially horror fans, of zombified SS soldiers mounted standing on humungous Great White, Hammerhead, and Megalodon jet-propelled sharks. Fehse’s team delivered. “Sky Sharks” has not one single serious bone in all it’s cartilaginous gory-glory body in what’s Fehse’s second film behind the 1999, straight to video, “Mutation” involving the what-if factor of a surrealistically free reigning and sadistically unbridled Nazi force hellbent on winning World War II no matter how many lives needing to be sacrificed for the sake of the Führer’s dominion. The Germany-made production is a Fuse Box Films and Fantom Films.

“Sky Sharks” is studded with cult stars, but those studs pop out mostly after the carnage-laden opening scene of passengers on a commercial flight being ripped to shreds by undead super-soldiers hog-wild about killing. Robert LaSardo (“Strangeland”), Lynn Lowery (“Model Hunger”), Tony Todd (“Candyman”), Diana Prince (“The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs”), Mick Garris (director of “Critters 2”), Dave Sheridan (“Scary Movie”), Amanda Bearse (“Fright Night” ’85), Asami (“Gun Woman), Naomi Grossman (“American Horror Story” franchise), Lar Park-Lincoln (“Friday the 13th Part VII:  The New Blood”) and “Mortal Kombat’s Shang Tsung himself, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, make an appearance in some minor way, shape, or form, but since “Sky Sharks” is a German production, much of the cast is geared toward German and Austrian actors with Thomas Morris spearheading the lead role of the inverted mad scientist, Dr. Klaus Richter, a centenarian mastermind behind the birth and, hopeful, destruction of his monstrous airborne jaws of death experiment.  The role itself isn’t very exciting that refrains Morris to be nothing more but a talking head who recounts his failed World War II and Vietnam resurrection serum to turn the tides of war.  While Dr. Richter has immense blood on his hands from a long and rich background, the present day Richter has lackluster appeal and Morris doesn’t provide much zest either.  More complexities reside in Richter’s two tech-savvy and kickass daughters, Diabla and Angelique.  Their signifying names alone provide some foreshadowing of events, but the close sisters are boots on the ground with their father being the eye in the sky; yet, Diabla and Angelique have been kept in the dark from their father’s horrid past that factors little into parting ways from being daughter’s little girls.  Blonde beauties Eva Haberman and Barbara Nedeljakova successful roles in Germany and the U.S. include “Hostel” and the sci-fi tele-series “Lexx,” but their blind obedience to the patriarch roles downscales any moments to shine individually as free thinking agents of good.  Any other character factored into “Sky Sharks’” whiplash narrative come and go without a single ounce meaningful impact becoming background noise for the fray. There’s not even a singular villain to speak of as a focal point to direct a challenger against forces of good.

As much as the concept excites me on an obscurely dysfunctional level, a real telling tale of who I am as a person, who also praises “Snakes on a Plane” as cult candy, “Sky Sharks” has atrocious issues with pacing and story quality.  The opening scene sets up what to expect of gore drenched Nazis yoking back on genetically mutated sharks, zipping through high altitude to acrobatically infiltrate commercial planes for complete and total annihilation of every passenger onboard.  Tickles me in all the right places.  Yet, the sky sharks’ unveiling background whizzes past right into death from above world apocalypse, skipping keynote details resolving the giant warship beached on the Antarctic ice.  Fehse decides to redirect our focus with a bunch of explicit violence and sex and while that’s all nice and good…really good…the misdirection can’t coverup the necessities needed for a good story even if the story is absolutely bonkers. The visual effects are not distinct from the ream of shark-sploitation films that have become popular over the last decade in a cheaper slaved effort to capitalize on the majestic beasts of the sea…who sometimes mistake a surfer for a sea lion. The flying sharks swim in a stiffly pattern and move inorganically through their uncharacteristic ecosystem as they rocket in a school of steampunk nightmares. Not all visuals fall short of satisfaction when they’re appropriately blended with practical effects. Under that hood of tangible horrors is “Iron Sky: The Coming Race’s” Martin Schäper and, the legendary, Tom Savini, who we haven’t seen special effects work from since 2012’s “Death from Above” (an also fitting title for killer sharks in the sky). Schäper and Savini bring it with blood. Each plane sequence, there’s two of them, exhibit different deaths with each one more outrageous than the next. My favorite is the inverted periscope through a guy’s cranium and having a looksie at the screaming, bloodied passengers. “Sky Sharks” is, literally, an over-the-top scream of slice’em and dice’em fun.

Cresting through the blue yonder and painting the sky blood red is the deadliest gang of shark riding Nazi’s to ever grace a cinema platform in “Sky Sharks,” coming to DVD in Australia, no stranger to large, deadly sharks, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment in association with Raven Banner. The NTSC encoded, region 4, rated R release will present the film in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. “Sky Sharks” is a turbulent wonderland of rustic computer generated visual effects with a Marco J. Riedl and Olaf Markmann cinematography, typifying a clashing style, of keeping actors tightly in focus to sell a futuristic fluorescent environment. A few scenes give a sense of layered paper mâché sitting in front a green screen as the forefront images seemingly pop out of their backdrops. The English and German Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix falls victim to an overpowering score of a weak dialogue track that washes key pieces of exposition that might explain more as the scenes fleet away in the rushed paced 103 minute runtime. Aside from a brilliantly detailed DVD cover robust with a glowing eyed, half-decaying Nazi soldier as centerpiece amongst flying, weaponized sharks and Robert LaSardo and Lynn Lowry cameoing off to the left side with a half-naked female warrior on the right, the DVD has no bonus features included. After the credits, a fake commercial for “Sky Frogs,” starring that half-naked female warrior I just mentioned, is a satirical happy ending full of even worse, 80’s caliber, visual effects worlds and frogs. Though not at the top of the food chain being one of the grossly ostentatious and shoddily visual effects films ever, the mindless, search and destroy, crudeness of “Sky Sharks” chums our oceans of entertainment with some of the bloodiest fun we’ve seen in a long time from a Nazisploitation.

Own Umbrella Entertainment release of “Sky Sharks” on DVD! Click the poster!

EVIL Uses EVIL as a Conduit in “Amulet” reviewed! (Digital Screener / Magnet Releasing)


Tomaz, former Eastern European soldier of war is now living homeless in London, squatting overnight in rundown buildings with other displaced individuals and families. When the building he’s sleeping in goes up in fire, he’s injured upon escape and wakes in a hospital to learn that a nun found him and his belongings, leaving him a note to visit her upon his release. The nun, Sister Claire, offers him food and a bed in exchange for dire house maintenance for a sickly mother, Miriam, and her caretaker daughter, Magda. As time passes, Tomaz begins to fall for Magda, but her odd behavior and the dying Miriam’s severe skeleton living accommodations in the attic as well as her frail, pail body nag at Tomaz’s conscious that something is awfully amiss. However, his present enigma isn’t the only thing tugging at his tormented conscious when faced with the shocking truth of his residence.

Actress turned filmmaker, Romola Garai, makes her full-length feature debut with a fissionable creepy, punish-thy-sinners, slow burn horror film entitled, “Amulet.” The UK production is written and directed by Garai, who previous work includes main cast acting roles in Joe Wright’s World War II dramatic thriller, “Atonement,” the sci-fi horror “The Last Days on Mars” along with costar Liev Schreiber, and filling in some tremendous shoes in the prequel to the 1987 rom-edy, “Dirty Dancing,” “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.” Now, Garai peers through camera lens, orchestrating from the director’s chair, an eerie body horror tale that involves demons, past regrets, and a diabolical, antiheroic nun conniving for the sake of humanity. Speaking of which, humanity is one of the central themes that “Amulet” explores in hellish fashion as our actions determine the outcome of our various shade of humanity forged ourselves and how we will be judged accordingly. “Amulet” is a production of Head Gear Films and Kreo Films FZ, and Metrol Technology, who have all collaborated on “Cargo, as well as in association with “Shed of the Dead’s” Trigger Films.

Cast in “Amulet’s” only male role is the Romanian born Alec Secareanu as Tomaz. The graduate of Caragiale Academy of Theatrical Arts and Cinematography actor envelops himself into a trouble ex-soldier without a country, unwilling to return to a worn-torn land in hopes to relieve himself from reliving the past. Secareanu exudes tenderness for Tomaz in order for audiences to empathize for a homeless man who has agreed to assist Magda and her ill mother. Garai engrains Tomaz with such sentimentality, it’s proves difficult to see the man any other way until the filmmaker incorporates Magda into the mix, a capricious role imparted upon to “Blade Runner 2049’s” Carla Juri. Juri moderately reprises her eccentrically free performance from the 2013 comedy-drama, “Wetlands,” as a seething promiscuous and alluring woman but, in the darker vision of “Amulet,” Magda is a servant of her dying mother who has a lying in wait, sheathed vocation yet to be revealed until Tomaz’s curiosity becomes too much. Secareanu’s and Juri’s performances define the characters with no details left out, but the overall best performance goes to Imelda Staunton as Sister Claire. As professor Dolores Umbridge from “Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix,” Staunton was maniacal as she was sophisticated, channeling that same energy into Sister Claire as a double-dealing nun with a fraudulent ebullient attitude. Sister Claire was molded surely for the English actress whose high cheekbones, tight mouth, and round eyes give her a perfect blend of meek malice. “Amulet” rounds out the cat with Angeliki Papoulia and Jacqueline Roberts.

“Amulet” scores well as a feminist’s film, more so as the debut film from a woman filmmaker, that takes the horrifying actions of men and, literally, demonizes their red herring benevolence, but, in Garai’s style, that isn’t overly provocative and megaphoned from a soapbox. The doleful, sometimes frivolous, tone regales in a bleaker light of conniving and withholding intentions. While “Amulet” relishes inside an original thought, the story ebbs with disjointed connective dots. The story itself isn’t linear as we’re moved back and forth between Tomaz’s tenure at Madga’s residence and his wartime past being posted up far from the frontlines in isolation, a moment Tomaz continues to relive while dreaming during his time his hands are self-bound with tape, a curious event that becomes important to note as the story unfolds. While the story isn’t linear, that is not why the audiences’ problematic pursuit will be challenging, but more so with the discerning of the amulets role amongst the trifecta of outcomes for Tomaz, Magda, and Sister Claire. The amulet, which is unearthed by Tomaz in the middle of the woods during his draft, is a woman with a shell headdress. Shells are a common motif throughout, serving as a warning of what to come. In some Christianity folklore, shells are a sign of light and salvation and, in a way, serve as Tomaz’s path toward salvation from a lost soul to provided a purpose with unholy consequences. It’s all interpretation, but “Amulet” is a novel look at blending religious predestination with a grim mythological tenor as an excellent melting pot source of ghastly affliction.

From Magnet Releasing comes the twisted tale of transgressional talisman, “Amulet,” from first time filmmaker Romola Garai. Since this film will release potentially in theaters and definitely on demand on July 24th, the digital screener will not be reviewed on it’s audio and video technical aspects, but Laura Bellingham, the direct of photography working on her debut full-length feature as well, introduces an uncomfortable warmth that engulfs the characters. It’s a reoccurring fire like theme, from Tomaz’s hotel inferno to Madga and Miriam’s home, that could be synonymous to the accommodations of fire and brimstone. Dialogue clarity is good and the ambience is equally fine. The soundtrack by Sarah Angliss didn’t do much for story, striking a pretermit chord in order to focus more on the story. There were no bonus features included with the digital screener nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Amulet” is the very definition of feminist horror that bludgeons the stereotype and is well executed to deliver not just a subvert message of importance, but a damn fine film of dreadful body horror and artful mythos.