Slavic Folklore EVIL Goes Full Amber Alert in “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” reviewed! (Digital Screener / Shout! Studios)


Still reeling over the loss of his mother, a disheartened Egor has moved to a new apartment on the forested outskirts of the city with his father, step mother, and infant half-sister. A nanny is hired for house upkeep and to look after him and his sister, but the nanny’s strange behavior borders hostility toward him while also bewitching his father with her beauty and charm. Since her hire, the nanny cameras alert Egor of movement in the nursey, projecting an unknown and disfigured woman in the room hovering over the baby. When his parents don’t believe him, there’s nothing more the older boy can do until his baby sister goes missing and his parents don’t remember her, as if she never existed. Egor, along with his friends, track down a man living in the woods who seems to have an inkling about the mysterious disappearances of children and why everyone forgets about them as he has experienced the loss of his daughter and can barely remember her. Based off the man’s ramblings, their search for Egor’s baby sister leads them to an old and abandoned power shack that serves as conduit to the world of Baba Yaga, a Slavic witch with the influencing ability in kidnapping and devouring children’s souls for power and Egor’s sister, along with the rest of the nearby children population, have been abducted to lure in the pivotal pure child to set her free into their world.

“Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” is the second part of this unintentional two part Russian horror film appraisal following our extrospective look into Olga Gorodetskaya’s psyche serrating “Evil Boy” that just happens to have another protagonist by the name of Igor, but in this case, the spelling is Egor and, instead of a middle-aged doctor, Egor is a pre-teen boy with pre-teen issues – just to jazz it up a little. Also originally known as “Yaga. Koshmar tyomongo lesa,” the supernaturally Slavic folklore tale, directed by Snyatoslav Podgaevskiy (“Mermaid: The Lake of the Dead”), was released February in motherland Russia and is making a distributive second coming toward the States on September 1st courtesy of a collaboration between Shout! Studios and Leda Films. Penned by Podgaevskiey as well as Ivan Kapitonov and Natalya Dubovaya, the scribing trio pickup right where the wrote off form the gritty mysticism of fabled creatures beginning with “Mermaid: The Lake of the Dead” and into a classically frightening and morose villain salivating for juvenile souls spurred from one of the numerous variations of one of the more popular, if not grotesque, Russian mythological being. “Baba Yaga” is a production of the Cinema Foundation of Russia, Central Partnership Productions, Non-Stop Productions, and QS Films.

In much of the reverse from “Evil Boy,” Podgaevskiy’s “Baba Yaga” rocks the cradle in a “Goonies” approach with a condiment and courageous group of pre-teen, developmentally spongy, angsty, and hormonal driven children to solve the big bad witch mystery that not only afflicts the very lives of their brethren age group, but also the parental halfwits who have their minds erased like a chalkboard with nothing more than tiny dust particles to cling to to keep their missing children alive in their memories. From the visually powerful alien invasion thriller “The Blackout” (ItsBlogginEvil review here), Oleg Chugunov spearheads a trio of adolescents on the cusp of being witch-fodder. Chugunov plays Egor, a dispirited youth unhappy with his father’s remarriage to another woman and the target of bullies at his new school before becoming the chosen meal plan for Baba Yaga’s unholy escape for an ethereal world. Egor’s experience of an afterthought to a savior of child-kind isn’t represented well through Chugunov and how the character is written as Egor just falls into the “pure” child role without much explanation to why, staying flat on the personal growth scale for 113 minute runtime. Egor’s followed by a love interested in Dasha (Glafira Golubeva) and lead bully Anton (Artyom Zhigulin) who both have bouts with their parental caretakers; Dasha’s mother is a scorned beauty hellbent on controlling Dasha’s life form outside influences while Anton is a parentless brute with a guardian who is equally as callous as him, if not more. Svetlana Ustinova (“Hardcore Henry”) has two roles in this film and both are bad guys: Baba Yaga and Baba Yaga’s half-bird, half-human hench-thing. Ustinova shows immense range by fielding human to hybrid to full out witch qualities, inching the insidious intentions through the storyline that requires varying degrees of discourse with other characters along the way. The cast list rounds out with Aleksey Rozin (“Leviathan”), Maryana Spivak (“The Outbreak” TV series), Igor Khripunov (“The Bride”) and Marta Timofeeva (“Welcome to Mercy”).

Out of the two terror inducers from Russia, “Baba Yaga” inches out “Evil Boy” on the supernatural spectrum. Between Anton Zenkovich’s colorfully prismatic photography, Vlad Ogay’s sleek-straight and modernally tight architectural designs juxtaposed against a vastly rustic and chaotic woodland lore, and topped off with Podgaevskiy’s highly effective misdirection jump scares, “Baba Yaga” inveigles to a palatable lore horror invigorated by a two-timing enchantress with a sweet tooth for kid blood. Despite not being exact to the Baba Yaga’s tale, as the creature’s house is supposed to erected by actual chicken legs, Podgaesvkiy shoots a fear-laden heartstopper where anything can happen in any scene at any moment. Yet, something is indubitably missing from “Baba Yaga.” Perhaps, what’s missing is that meaningful message about rekindling that spark between parent and child, patching up the tears in the relationship that’s been strained by XYZ reason. Perhaps, what’s missing is the unsatisfactory ending of easily dethroning of a powerful and mighty mage. Perhaps, what’s missing is the explanation on why Egor is the key to Baba Yaga’s tyrannical freedom from cursed exile. I’d say all three contribute to the cause and not much, not even a wonderfully animated s storybook prologue depicting the phantasmal enterprise and downfall of Baba Yaga, could save the heartache in wanting more substance from the already loaded story but, then, we would be looking at another hour of runtime though its sorely warranted. In sum, “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” slips in a variant version dispersing a tingling tale of Russian folklore with stunning visuals and dutiful scares that ends deficiently and mediocrely.

Hide your children! “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” will be unleashed on VOD, digital, and on Blu-ray and DVD September 1st from Shout! Studios and Leda Films. You can look for it digitally or on-demand from the following providers: AppleTV, Amazon, VUDU, GooglePlay, PlayStation®, XBOX, hoopla, Fandango Now, DirecTV, Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Charter, and AT&T U-verse. Since the review is based off a digital screener, the A/V aspects will not be examined but the Scream Factory Blu-ray and DVD release will be region A/1, presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and will include a powerful Russian language Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix with English subtitles and will also include a dubbed English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Unlucky for me, I had to screen the movie with the dubbed version. Lucky for you, I can confirm that though obvious, the dubbing isn’t horrendously overly-hyperbolized or too asynchronous. There were no bonus features or bonus scenes included nor none announced on the press release. Grab a bottle of Vodka, pop some Zefir candies, turn off the lights, and sink into an Eastern European mythos horror with Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy’s “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” that’ll scare the Ushanka right off your head.

Pre-order “Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest” on DVD or Blu-ray for Sept 1st release!

Evil Lurks in the Woods. You’ve Been Warned! “Altar” review!


Maisy and her socially reclusive brother, Bo, venture on a mountain getaway trip with Maisy’s former college friends. With Bo documenting with a handheld video camera as part of his way in comforting his anxiety, he captures the dynamic of how each of Maisy’s friends have changed over years, especially with Asher and his recently High School graduated girlfriend, Pam. After breaking down on the side of the road, falling behind the rest of the caravan, they encounter a strange man with an axe, harshly warning them to not continue up the mountain pass. Shrugging of the warning and returning to their now working vehicle, the group resumes their drive, but makes a wrong turn and becomes lost in the mountains’ thicket of the Sierra Nevada. They decide to setup camp for the night and continue their way back the next morning, but the discovery an ominous, skull-riddled altar in the woods unleashes a frightening presence that won’t allow them to leave. As tensions rise and night falls, Bo keeps his camera running as a soul inhabiting evil has fallen upon them that seeks to destroy them one-by-one.

“Altar” is the 2016 found footage horror from writer-director Matthew Sconce. Sconce is actually able to harness a fraction of the mysticism and presence that made the found footage genre a thing back in 1999 with the ground breaking flick “The Blair Witch Project” and does a well enough job implementing it into his very own version of an allusive satanic cult ghoul, but with more specials effects and screen time. Despite being titled “Altar,” the story barely wraps itself around the titular object with only a handful of brief scenes, one of the scenes being the thinly-connected introduction that intensely catches the attention, while mostly focusing on the friends’ road trip chatter, breathtaking scenic gasps, and becoming lost on the mountain without much peril in-between. Even the creature, whom makes the scene approximately the last 10 minutes, has more of a presence than the altar itself.

The plot follows around Maisy Marks and her Aspergers labeled brother, Bo Marks, played by Stefanie Estes and Jesse Parr who pull off the socially awkward brother and the cutesy overprotective sister well enough to pass muster. Maisy’s other “beau” is Ravi, played by Deep Rai, and along for the ride as well is muscle head Asher, Tim Parrish, and his ditzy, teenage girlfriend, Pam, played by Jessica Strand. Rounding off the group is Chelsea, a communications graduate who could only find work as a bartender who seems to be stuck in life, and she’s catered to by Brittany Falardeau. Michael Wainwright, Tina Johnson, Master Dave Johnson, and Catherine Wilcox make up the rest of the cast. As a whole, the acting wasn’t terrible even if the script was conventionally kitschy and with a group of young actors, I’m fairly encouraged to see more of their work.

However, acting is only a third of the battle when critiquing a film and “Altar” has falters more in it’s own story and script that’s peppered with cliche after cliche. The scenes leading up to the mayhem constantly hyped that something bad is going to happen; Bo finds an online article of two newlyweds missing for six months (part of the introduction), characters kept comparing their scenarios like horror films, or a daunting man, named Ripper, sternly warns them with a very large axe in his hand. Moments like these try to build tension, but when overtly and grossly laid out for views, sustaining the substance behind them is lost and waters down the effect toward campy foreshadowing. Special effects weren’t overly cinematic nor where they similar to video nasties and kept simple, much like “The Blair Witch Project, with a little more padding to them. The Evil Spirit, as it’s credited in the film and portrayed by Nicole Osborne, is a black and white nightmare that’s effective on camera; slightly cheesy with a hint of gooeyness, but edited in nice and sporadically for those eye-clenching jump scares.

Production company Movie Hero Studios partners with Distribber for a VOD nationwide release of Matthew Sconce’s “Altar,” including platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, PlayStation Network, and on Hulu. A DVD-R screener was provided and so commenting on video and audio quality will not be critiqued and there were no extras on the reviewed disc. “Altar” is, disappointingly, just another found footage casualty with hasty slivers of hope of not falling into the muck that has become an over-tapped genre. What Sconce has done with “Altar” makes the film enjoyable enough for a single viewing with little-to-no repeat value as everything lays out in the open and the only subtly in the entire film is the altar itself.

Watch “Altar” on Amazon.com!

Where There is Darkness, There is Evil. “The Dark Tapes” review!


Four dark and terrifying tapes tell tales of a petrifying horror through the camera lens of various found footage assets. Whether between the bleak, grim nature of disturbed mankind or the ominous, otherworldliness of menacing creatures, each story’s ultimate objective is to expose what lies behind the scenes, to shine a light upon what lives shrouded in shadows, and to unearth what lurks in the mind’s subconscious. At first glance, the dark tapes might seem uncorrelated, but at closer examination, the tapes share a deep rooted evil that connects every afflicted recorded event and makes one think twice about their perception on reality.

“The Dark Tapes” are a formidable found footage anthology that resembles a familiar “V/H/S” layout under the meticulously constructed eyes of co-directors Michael McQuown and special effects guru Vincent Guastini (Child’s Play 3). Scripted by the anthology creator, Michael McQuown, “The Dark Tapes'” four interlocking episodes will leave inside you a paralyzing case of nyctophobia as the genre-spliced anthology has no shortage of bone-chilling creepiness; in fact, “The Dark Tapes” epitomizes the very term and with an alternate universe mixture of ghastly ghouls, ghosts, and grisliness, the extremely exhausted found footage genre might have discovered some new, and much needed, life before being on the brink of a near death extinction in this quaint independent production from Michael McQuown.

The three internal tapes, directed by McQuown, are entitled, and in this order, “The Hunters and The Hunted,” “Cam Girls,” and “Amanda’s Revenge” with Vincent Guastini’s external wrap around segment, “How to Catch a Demon,” being broken into four parts between each tape and each tape should be viewed in complete and utter darkness to achieve maximum level of pants-pissing fright. Your overworked heart will skip with long deadly pauses in between, your lungs that keep you breathing will cease to provide breath, and your mind will warp to unfavorably play tricks on your eyes from an unrivaled nightmare witnessed on “The Dark Tapes.” The full body-stopping, comatose-inducing effect can’t be accomplished without the collaborating cast that includes Brittany Underwood, Tess Munro, Stephen Zimpel, Meredith Thomas, David Roundtree, “Sushia Girl’s” Cortney Palm, Anna Rose Moore, Shawn Lockie, Jo Galloway, and Michael Cotter to just name a few.

Much is right about Michael McQuown’s “The Dark Tapes.” Always welcoming practical effects are better than most indie ran features, especially in the anthology category, and the effects can best some lower-end Hollywood productions inside eye-glueing, on the edge of your seat narrative designs that are smart, gripping, and definitely heart-stopping scary, but to be somewhat of a devil’s advocate, the acting was overall a bit stiff across the plane with an awkward uneasiness in the vary of lackluster performances and overzealous deliveries that petered scenes from reaching full potentials. Production wise, “The Dark Tapes” impress inside the sets of bland reoccurring locations, but coincide them with a vast amount of timely, well placed special effects that quickly mutate the stark locations and the uninteresting backdrops turn into vivid portraits of hell.

The Thunder Road Incorporated produced, “The Dark Tapes,” has been slated for a worldwide video on demand distribution release come this mid-April after a theatrical stint this past March courtesy of the Epic Pictures Group. VOD platforms include Google Play, Vudu, iNDemand (Comcast- Xfinity, Time Warner, Cox, Bright House & more), Dish TV, Amazon, Vubiquity (Verizon Fios, Charter, Sudden Link, Media Com &more), Xbox, Playstation, Sling TV & Vimeo. Unfortunately, I was provided with an online screener of the festival favorite and can’t necessarily comment on the video or audio qualities nor any bonus features that might be available on a home entertainment release, but I can firmly state that, visually, “The Dark Tapes” is the Haribo of horror eye-candy with the different flavors of thrilling genres in a pint-sized package and while a little tame with the cherry red graphic content, director Michael McQuown seizes the opportunity to instill an open faucet of fear rather than tease with gore and sleaze with sex. If I had to recommend a horror anthology for 2017, “The Dark Tapes” would be on the very short list.

Welcome to the Family. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Review

I want you all to try to go back to 1996. You just got your Playstation and you picked up the newest game called Resident Evil. You know nothing about it and when you start playing you have a wave of emotions hit you. You feel fear, excitement, and anxiety; but yet you keep playing. You were just introduced to the world of Survival Horror. Now it’s 2017 and we are now into seventh main installment of the Resident Evil franchise and sort of a moment of truth for Capcom. Last few years have been rough for Resident Evil so lets see how the latest installment stands.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. It is the seventh main installment in the Resident Evil series and was released on the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

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The game takes place in the fictional town of Dulvey, Louisiana. You play as Ethan Winters who goes searching for his wife 3 years after her disappearance. The only information you have of her location is at the Baker estate, this is where your nightmare begins.

There is no denying that the RE engine is amazing. Resident Evil 7 passes with flying colors when it comes to visuals, the game is absolutely gorgeous. Realistic graphics with so much attention to detail really makes the atmosphere. Paired up with its excellent sound design which really puts you on edge, hearing random foot steps and loud bangs some where in the house can quickly make you stop what you’re doing and check behind you. Unlike older Resident Evil games, there really isn’t much background music. The only time i’ll hear music is either in the save rooms or during cut scenes, which is fine. No music really does build the tension and makes you listen to your environment.

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The most controversial aspect of the game is its change to game play. Resident Evil 7 now puts the player in first person view, which this isn’t the first time they’ve experimented with this. Resident Evil: Survivor being the first one that was in first person, so I was quite interested when they said they were trying it again. As a big Resident Evil fan I can tell the skeptical fans that the first person view works. Resident Evil now feels even more immersive with it. The game still has its slow and sluggish movement, puzzle solving, save rooms , and combat just like the previous titles and the first person view fits perfectly. I haven’t played the game in VR because I’m broke but I have heard that game is even better with it, so now I guess I’ll have start saving up for one.

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I feel I have to talk more about combat since I still see people complain how the game is like other non combat horror games, like Amnesia or Outlast. The combat feels just like an older Resident Evil, except Resident Evil 5 and 6. Thank god Capcom abandon the combat from the previous two and went right back to how Resident Evil 1 through 3 combat worked. Ammo and healing items are extremely scarce and you must manage your inventory to survive in certain situations. Enemies will move unpredictably and you must control your shots and keep your distance if you want to take down your foe. When it comes to difficulty, the game on normal is pretty easy, some parts can be a little challenging but if you’re careful and know where to go, then the game is a breeze.

Now Resident Evil 7 isn’t a long game. It took me about 7 to 8 hours to beat on normal difficulty my first time. It can easily be finished faster when you know where to go and what to do, There have been people who finished it in under 2 hours. But if you’re like me and like to explore then it will take you a while to finish. The story is where this game made me fall in love with it. This is by far my favorite Resident Evil story. The team they have behind this game is solid, the director behind the Revelation games is directing it and the writer behind the F.E.A.R 2 expansions made this a memorable experience and I hope Capcom keeps this team for future installments. Everything about the story is great, every character was interesting, and every location was awesome. The story to Resident Evil 7 is definitely more competent compared to the previous games.

As much as I love Resident Evil 7, I do have some minor gripes with the game. First one isn’t a big deal but I was a bit disappointed. Resident Evil has a tradition, when a player presses start on the main menu, they will hear a loud, deep voice reading the title of the game. Example:

Like I said this isn’t a big deal or a turn off for me but I was a bit bummed they broke tradition. Another gripe I had was the lack of variety with enemies. Before you always fought zombies, mutant dogs, and big hulking monsters. But now the only enemy you fight besides the Baker family are the ”Molded” which look very similar to Resident Evil 4 ”Regeneradors”. Yes these enemies are creepy and hard to take down but after a while you just get tired of fighting them and want something else. Hopefully in Resident Evil 8 we get a bigger cast of monsters.

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In conclusion, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a great game. I’m so happy that Capcom put the brakes on the franchise and went back to how it originally was. Unlike other companies that have completely abandon their horror franchises. I’m glad that I stuck with Capcom all these years and going through many disappointments to finally see my favorite horror series come back on top. Resident Evil veterans would love this and for new people I highly recommend it. It is a great starting point for newcomers to get invested into world of survival horror.

My final score for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a 9/10

Fear The Future. Metro: 2033 Review

Metro-2033

Well here I am doing another late review, this one being 5 years late but I just finished my first playthrough of the game and I feel the game needs more publicity since it still isn’t that well known. Before we go on with the review I want to tell the reader that there is a HD remaster version of this game on PC, PS4, and XBOX ONE. This review will not include that version. Review will only be on the version released back in 2010.

Metro: 2033 is a post-apocalyptic survival horror game. Developed by 4A Games and published by THQ on March 2010. The game is based on the science fiction novel by Dmitry Gluhvsky. The game takes place in Moscow in the year 2033, 20 years after a nuclear war that has devastated the world and has forced the survivors to live in the Moscow metro stations.

Since the game’s release I never thought much of it. I thought it was just a cheap game trying to get success after Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, I never even heard a single person talk about it. When the sequel Metro last light was coming out I started to hear more about Metro 2033 and that it was good. I was still not sold but of course I guess waiting proved to be good since I got this game free a few months ago during a giveaway. So I finally downloaded it on steam and started playing. While playing I started to have regret for not picking this game up sooner, I was totally immersed into the game. First I would like to talk about the atmosphere of the game, It is amazing, one of the best atmospheric games I have ever played. From the old, dark metro stations to the silent, scorched surface of Moscow. Everything around you made the experience of the game very enjoyable, especially the feeling of sadness and gloom I had while on the surface looking at a destroyed city and wondering what it was like before the apocalypse.

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Game play is simple and easy to learn, pretty much feels like a standard shooter but as for difficulty this game can be brutal. Even on normal difficulty I had a very hard time at certain moments and If you plan to play on ranger mode then you better hope you have a tolerance for dying over and over. Now for what you can do in the game is limited. Through your journey you will stop at multiple stations where you’ll be able to purchase or sell equipment. You can trade in ammo for currency, buy supplies, and buy better modified weapons which can fit your certain play style. You want to hide in the shadows and be stealthy? Buy a suppressed revolver or sub machine gun or if you are a shooter then buy the bad ass automatic shotgun machine gun thing. In the metro of course there are hostiles both mutants and humans that you will have to fight through. You have your standard mutants who crawl through the metro hunting you down. Then you have your Nazi and Soviet parties both at war with each other over different stations.

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The graphics are very well down, the environments are detailed and very nice to look at. NPC characters do look generic but none of it really effects the game. Now if you planning to play this game on PC please check the requirements for the game as it is a little demanding. I had to put the game on low settings just to get a decent frame rate. But if you do not have a decent PC then I would say try it out on XBOX 360

So for my final thoughts on Metro 2033 I’m going to give it a 8/10 score. It is a very good game, not much of a horror but a damn good science fiction. I highly recommend this game to people who love post-apocalyptic movies, games, books, etc. It is an amazing title. Before you play this title I must tell you, If you want the best experience of this game then please switch the language to Russian with american subtitles and have it atleast on normal. I promise you, you will be immersed in the game like I was.

Metro: 2033 (Original version) is only on PC, and XBOX 360