After an intense stand off with a powerful and playful demon during a supernatural expedition gone wrong, the unfortunate death of a young girl has Jonas Littleton facing skeptics that hand the ghost hunter a five year sentence behind bars ruling. His release from an Arizona prison offers him a second chance to start over with his wife and young son and Jonas makes promises to no more paranormal pursuits in hopes for a normal life. Miraculously, Jonas is offered a good paying job despite his manslaughter record that affords him seven years of suburban comforts and family growth, but little does Littleton know that his good fortune is the handiwork of the very same demon who bested him so many years ago, tricking him into a underhanded deal that requires his son’s soul with his wife being a casualty of war. Another seven years later, an obsessed Jonas fields every call that comes across his paranormal investigator’s desk as he tirelessly searches for his son and with the help of an eager investigator, Ron Tippard, and a green horn assistant, Ellie French, Jonas will come face-to-face with his rival evil again for one last time.
Welcome back to part two of our unexpected two part review segment of films that were disowned, supposedly, by their filmmakers. Today, we take a look at the 2010 supernatural thriller, “Hunting Evil,” or more commonly known under the title as “Closets” or “The Closet.” Already, the evidence is clearly powerful against “Hunting Evil” that alternate titles bares the potential markings of a repudiated film, aimed to cloak and shield the ramifications that would be supplied to unsuspecting audiences renting or blind purchasing. Director Charles Peterson has been reported to have disowned the Bob Madia (“You Can’t Kill Stephen King”) penned film because of too many chefs in the kitchen, if you smell what I’m cooking. Peterson, who has directed other indie horror projects such as “The Eleventh Aggression” and most recently, “A Killer Awaits,” which will be released this month, has ties with the investment group Old World Investors Group Incorporated a.k.a. OWIGI Films. Now, OWIGI Films is ran by “Hunting Evil’s” producer and star Lenny Rethaber (“Blood Moon Rising”). So, the lingering questions is this: Did star-producer Lenny Rethaber force the whip and reigns from Charles Peterson? Well, all this reviewer can say is that Lenny Rethaber also produced “The Eleventh Aggression” and the upcoming release “A Killer Awaits,” so seems like any adversity between the two has long since settled or just comes and goes with the industry territory.
However, what’s inherently curious about the DVD release from World Wide Multi Media is the three names headlined on the DVD’s front cover to which none are the film’s star Lenny Rethaber as the embattled Jonas Littleton. Knowing the type of distribution company WWMM is, more than likely the case is the first three credits, which are also in alphabetical order, and slapped them onto the front cover, one of which is just an unnamed barkeep who has approx. 5 minutes of screen time and not one other single credit to his name. As Jonas Littleton, Rethaber is soda flat with no bite and fizz to his performance and though his entertaining enough, the producer-star is also on the wrong side of the tracks in that category. There’s even whispering talk that “Major League’s” Corbin Bernsen, who has dappled in directing horror with “Dead Air” starring Bill Moseley (“Devil’s Rejects”), had issues with the producer (Rethaber), yielding to yet another instance of production problems. Though I’ve had verbal disagreements with Bernsen with his previous work, I find his performance as an enigmatic father of a missing child refreshing and complex, but the fate of his character poofs into thin air as if the writers, directors, or, most likely, producer didn’t know how to finalize the character. The sole best role comes from Patrick Adams as the enthusiastic paranormal investigator Ron Tippard. Not to be confused with “Suits” actor Patrick J. Adams, the Arizona resident Adams sparked life into a relatively unhinged project with an amusing and interesting performance in a side kick role who has substantial screen time and adds value to the situation. Rounding out this remaining cast in this conundrum is Darl Chryst (“Autopsy: A Love Story”), Dena Esquivel Frederickson, Jackson Furedy, Sallie Glaner (“The Visitant”), Davina Joy (“Death of a Ghost Hunter”), Pete Kelly, and Orchid Tao.
A twitching, tingly part of my soul yearned for “Hunting Evil” to come out on top, to be a solid supernatural saturation that a viewer, like myself, can sink into immensely, and with a script that precedes “The Conjuring” with the perceptive view of an unoriginal, yet sparsely used investigator concept, the appeal hyperdrives into salivation, but instead of salivation, “Hunting Evil” sluggishly drips slowly from the mouth’s corner crevices with script plotholes, badly layout composites, and undercooked characters. The story follows Jonas for nearly two decades, yet the man never ages despite already starting out looking middle aged to begin with so where are the streaks of grey, the loose and wrinkled skin, or maybe even a display a little physical ailments? Each of these natural flaws could have further enhance his lifespan evolution on Earth and speak to a little down to Earth as well. The composites look horrendously old fashion like from an antiquated video game platform. It’s as if the creators of 3D Realms not only provided the MS-DOS source code for those amazing Duke Nukem 3D levels also provided the visual worlds for “Hunting Evil” actors to humorously and painfully act against. the underwhelming, unfinished characters were slightly touched on before, but their arcs just ultimately poof into smoke without constructive reasoning or even to leave as fishhook into another movie.
“Hunting Evil” haunts onto DVD from World Wide Multi Media and MDVisual. Presented in a widescreen format and clocking in a 90 minute runtime, the DVD technically has little faults to discuss aside from the coloring looking a little desaturated and don’t visually pop. Some digital noise from the low end production quality during the night scenes that are accompanied by a little compression blotchiness, but the DVD passes muster in image quality. The English language 5.1 surround sound finds itself limited moderately to a two-channel output which is unfortunate with the amount of demonic tomfoolery being subjected to Jonas and his team. Low of the LFE and minimalistic on the depth and range, “Hunting Evil” couldn’t scare the pants off viewers audibly alone. There are no bonus features on this disc. Jonas Littleton’s troubles spread beyond a malevolent and playful demon destroying his family with “Hunting Evil” targeted as a suspect of an unfinished and problematic film. Whether turmoil driven or just the lack of rightfully placed funding, the spooky stories of paranormal investigators are left to the genre platonic professionalism of James Wan and not Charles Peterson and Lenny Rethaber.
An investigative reporter witnesses right in front of him his wife commit a gruesome suicide in their bedroom. Lana searches for her lost brother whose been missing for over a year. The two combine forces in Taylorsville believing their loved one were connected to a group of satanic followers led by the Reverend Hiram Graves. When the local authorities prematurely close the case on Lana’s missing brother, Lana and the reporter seek the truth and the truth might be more deadly than they’ve ever imagined. Halloween night brings the satanic sect to kidnap five innocent and random women, five sacrificial lambs, in order to bring death back to life.
As a little piece of Independent cinema from writer-director Bobby Easley, “All Sinners Night” comes from the production company Horror Wasteland Pictures and is brought to DVD by the multi-genre distributor World Wide Multi-Media. Now, if you haven’t heard of filmmaker Bobby Easley, the company Horror Wasteland Pictures, or the distributor World Wide Multi-Media, then now you’re one step closer to being caught up on micro-budget filmmaking and one step closer to viewing lesser known film titles that you won’t normally screen at a theater or even come across in a Redbox inventory. Now, while budget films aren’t necessarily for everyone, I have to say that “All Sinners Night” isn’t the best ease-into segue, but if your mind is open and your cinematic palate is vast then Easley’s film might be right up your alley.
Easley’s film involves a satanic cult collecting female sacrifices to raise the dead has a slow, unfocused beginning that slightly picks up and gains more focus a long the way, but the momentum begins a little too late to obtain entertainment value and much of the other sorts of value, such as the film’s budget, falls right onto the finale where characters die, faces explode, and blood spills when the black magic ritual begins. The bloodletting is creative, but various scenes, which could have been explored further with death exploitation, use editing techniques to convey and imply death when in reality there needs to be more visceral visual stimulants to show the brutality and mercilessness, especially for satanic cults because they’re one of the realistic forms of horror that exist in the world today and displaying the violence on screen, making it breathe on screen, would scare people more than implied violence.
The acting is a bit clunky from the lead actors and that drag the story’s motivation down a bit. Brittany Jesse as Lana and Tom Sparx as the reporter try to build a dynamic duo that more or less fizzles and their characters are to partly to blame for their characters bring no real spark to their quest and cause of discovering the truth behind Taylorsville’s secrets. The evangelical preacher Hiram Graves played by Bill Levin has grand on screen physical characteristics to pull off a satan fanatical cult leader, but Levin’s acting doesn’t quite have the range of a twisted lord of darkness pastor and just stays on that horizontal plane throughout the film’s duration. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s original grandpa actor John Dugan and horror and sci-fi genre fanboy Sal Lizard headline “All Sinners Night” even though their cameo scenes are short and sweet. I found the one cameo of Indianapolis born and based horror host Sammy Terry, an Elvira type host of sorts, to be welcoming and well-fitting for the film’s gloomy nature and to be a nice shout out to the local Indianapolis horror scene. Lets not also forget about actress Sam Alford and her two courageous scenes of exploited nudity. Alford’s character is of generic and lesser value – like a Star Trek minor character labeled for certain death – and she is the sole kidnapped to bare her chest. I’m sure Easley didn’t mind shelling out a couple more bucks for the Alford’s assets.
After reading a number of reviews online about the film, the consensus on the Bobby Easley’s shooting style is that “All Sinners Night” resembles the visual stylistics of Italian directors such as Mario Bava or Dario Argento’s with their surrealistic or brooding atmospheres. I would venture more toward a duller hue with the right in your face shot-on-video style cinematography of those from such directors as Brad Sykes or Donald Farmer where as Bava or Argento focused more on vivid and popping colors and symbolic suggestions within their mise-en-scenes.
The DVD screener is presented in a 4:3 ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix and a 5.1 stereo mix. The full screen video, like I mentioned before as a shot-on-video style, has significant grainy interference, but the video is still watchable as if you’re watching straight from VHS quality. Not necessarily a bad thing but in today’s day and age or unless your intentions were to create a throwback, the video quality should be clean. The coloring is all off too with overused darks making certain scenes incomprehensible. The 2.0 mix and the 5.1 mix stiffens the unbalanced sound quality. Some dialogue emits too low of a range and then in the next scene the screaming is overbearing and crackling out of the speakers. The glam, goth rock or punk rock soundtrack is fairly decent, but the preference and priority should be on the dialogue or the story becomes lost without it. The disc did pack quite a few extras including a gag reel, music video from the band Dead Dick Hammer, interviews, and a trailer for the film and also :Atah Saia”.
Overall, “All Sinners Night” wears a lot of masks – literally, a large number of extras wear masks as if they raided a Halloween party store, but trying to piece together a story that tends to omit key elements or strays away from trunk of the plot is difficult and, basically, one would just need to take the film for what it’s worth, the epitome of independent filmmaking. The effort of introduce homage and the effort to construct a brooding atmosphere makes the Dr. Jekyll side of me admire this film, but the technical and educated Mr. Hyde side of me can’t ignore the obtrusive flaws. In short, rent this title to be adventurous on a forlorn night.
When I first read the title “Zombie Isle,” the first thought was the popular survival horror game “Dead Island” where you can take on a horde of bikini clad, thong and thong wearing, tropicana-sippin’ zombies with various melee weapons. Sounds blood thirsty enough to be turned into a movie, right? Well “Zombie Isle” is obviously not the same brainchild from the people behind the “Dead Island” video game. One could only help and what happens to high hopes usually? High hopes are usually squashed and sure enough “Zombie Isle” was a big bust for not only meeting my expectations of being like the “Dead Island,” but for also being one of the many sheep in the undead genre.
A group of university students and their teacher embark on a field trip to an uninhabited island to study the habitat. When they split up into groups of two, all hell on the island is unleashed and the students succumb as meals for the zombies that inhabit the uninhabited island. Not only do the flesh eaters swarm the island, but a mad Nazi doctor looks to replace the brain his deceased love into one of the bodies of the gorgeous girls trespassing on his island.
“Zombie Isle’s” plot is, first off, way too scattered to fully explained how this island became ground zero for possible Nazi or U.S. Army experimentation – it’s not really explained. The Nazi mad doctor has a syringe he injects into the neck of the dead bodies to awaken them into flesh eaters. Nobody knows how he got to the island and no one really seems to ask. Also, the doctor keeps a giant three headed mutated zombie chained to a tree. Again, this all goes unexplained. Half the characters gets rip to shreds in the first 15 minutes of the film and that makes caring for characters really difficult.
On the positive spectrum of “Zombie Isle,” the gory schlock really is potent. Zombies scooping out brains with their hands, stomachs being ripped open and disemboweled, and brains being munched on. With the gory and the blood, the parodical nature of the film, especially with the two dimwitted hotties, can kind of keep us awake at times; as for the rest of the duration, watch your eyelids become heavy and heavier. The zombies themselves do a good job. Hell, even the three headed mutant zombie has a certain ghoulish charm to it even though it’s obviously fake and goofy cladded, but with director Robert Elkins’ use of cigarette burns and faux faulty-like film strips the creature is hidden behind the throwback grindhouse cinematic style. The cast consisting of Crystal Howell, Tony Jones, Apryl Crowell, Kyle Billeter, Davids S. Witt, and Jonathan Moody are seemly a tight-knit group of people who’ve worked on films together before. They feel comfortable in what they’re trying to accomplish, but their really is no depth in their personas.
On a technical note, the dialogue audibility is absolute crap. One minute you can hear the characters fine and then the next you’re turning up the volume. Constantly I was fiddling with the controls to find a ideal setting and just wasted my time and energy. Also, the soundtracks is very repetitive and drowns out most of the dialogue as well. The sure signs of low budget filmmaking and not making use of something better than to just repeat soundtrack audio. The foley sounds of squished heads and knocks to people’s dome pieces might as well come straight out of a Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon.
“Zombie Isle” heart and soul likes with the gore effects not leaving the film to be an empty shell. The characters are the empty shells and the production kind have been better along with fine tuned story in which the parody could have stayed as some of bits were smirk-able. Surprisingly, no nudity for a zombie film with a bunch of university students, but that doesn’t give the film low marks at all. With that being said, “Zombie Isle” releases this Tuesday October 7th, but if you must venture into an overplayed genre, there are better zombie films out there that won’t leave you stranded on an island.