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I am also the author of Depressions Of The Soul and Demon In The Mist. Depressions is a collection of thoughts and poetry from a place of nightmare and chaos. Demon In The Mist is my first horror fiction novel set in SE KY .
New Blood Rising (2014)
My Review Of "New Blood Rising"
The story presented by Zuver with "New Blood Rising" offers a twist, placing vampire as victim (sort of) and man as violator (again-sort of). It is a view that is under-told in horror. Usually television medium is the ones focusing on the supernatural as being persecuted so it is a fresh change to see the roles flipped. The film gives a strong story arc that seems coherent and complete-a lot of indie films, especial low budget horror, tend to rush the story and loose a lot of the meat of the story. Chad Zuver as director manages to give us a clear vision that holds one's attention from start to finish.
The acting is pretty well executed, the cast show commitment to their characters, execute their lines effortlessly. True that some of the needed emotion to really sell the story falls flat at times, but for low budget/homemade style indie cinema "New Blood Rising" delivers a quality product. The action scenes didn't really have much impact, and the special effects are bare minimum. That would normally kill a film like this but considering the cast's ability to keep the story alive through drama, and dialog from start to finish I enjoyed watching is vampire flick-"New Blood Rising".
Overall the film puts out a nice story, gives a unique view on a over- tapped subject, and is entertaining. This is ultra low budget cinema with an "amateur" cast, (amateur being a relative term here because I recognized the names from a couple other projects), so if you are expecting something with high production value or effects gimmicks that dazzle then "New Blood Rising" will disappoint you. If you are a fan of low budget/homemade horror that is nicely executed, gives good story and is entertaining on a stripped down scale, then "New Blood Rising" is one of those films you will enjoy. I dug it- I recognized the vision Zuver was trying present, enjoyed the ride and felt a bit of the lost Gen-X vibe that indie film once held.
Hell's Caretaker (2013)
My Review Of "Hell's Caretaker"
"Hell's Caretaker" is a psychological thriller directed by Phillip Cappello and stars Patrick McGowen, Alexandra Mingione, Joey Mintz, Sean Deblat, Aya Beldi (Shapovalov). The story revolves around a group of friends who take a trip back to a family retreat in order to say goodbye to a four-legged friend. They are greeted by a horror far worse than the pain of saying good by when the caretaker turns out to be a brutal psychopathic killer.
The plot for "Hell's Caretaker" is a well thought-out concept that screams terror. Unfortunately that terror becomes lost in translation when acted out. The cast give good enough performances, even though the characters seemed a bit two-dimensional. The dialog and most situational moments play out convincingly enough and feel authentic, but a lot of little inflections and interactions seem nonsensical-not true to human nature, so the feel of those moments drop a bit. Cappello creates a nice enough story that should have been a tight nightmare, however I never felt any suspense or chill as a horror fan while watching this film.
The special effects here are obviously where budget cuts were made in "Hell's Caretaker" because the kill scenes seemed rushed and pushed off as "just another scene to get through". The blood and gore was almost nonexistent, not that every film needs it or that I have to have it to appreciate a film, but if you are gonna have a story tease and take you to that moment then the director should deliver it. Cappello never really delivers on it-it being the horror and terror aspect of this film.
The soundtrack and sound effects in "Hell's Caretaker" are quality additives offering a blend of melancholia and sorrowful nostalgia. It is really the only true nod to horror, or suspense in the film. There is slight flash gore visual affects, and flashback to the death scene moments that give a slight nightmarish quality to the story but it isn't enough to push "Hell's Caretaker" to that true horror or thriller level that the story arch teases. Plus the killer is never really defined separately, or terrifyingly enough, against the rest of the characters/victims to make him monstrous so it causes the kill sequences to fall flat.
Overall "Hell's Caretaker" is a bummer of a horror film, feeling more made-for-TV than actual indie horror. It does manage to bring to life a good drama, even has a small amount of haunting suspense in certain moments of the film, unfortunately not enough to satisfy me personally. The acting is standard with characters that are clichéd but relatable and the story arch is completed. So those elements offer so compensation for the time spent watching "Hell's Caretaker". The real problem with the film and how Cappello chose to bring this nightmare to life is the unwillingness to show the actual horror, I am all for "implied or suggested horror" but I don't want to have to do all the work, I wanna see some bloody gruesomeness to help get me there.
My Review Of "Sledge"
"Sledge" is a return to the classic slasher gore. The plot puts a group of campers in the direct path of a homicidal maniac whose weapon of choice is a sledge hammer. "Sledge" is a comfortable, steady slasher with great direction, backgrounds and carnage.
The story is one that is sort of cookie cutter in most slasher films, but it is a pattern to the genre that works. In "Sledge" the collection of meat lined-up for the killer are out camping and drinking and having a big ole time. Only, in this film, that story is framed by a more modern story of a young girl watching "Sledge" on a late night horror show called 'Assly's True American Horror'. This almost gives a blend of horror host/anthology vibe to the viewing experience. It is a unique aspect that created that comfortable air going into the story.
Now the killer on the other hand, although I dug the design, was a bit uncomfortable to watch on screen. For me personally , the over-the-top jokey quality took away from the power that "Sledge" was generating for me. It was really the only hang up I had in this entire film. The cast gave great performances, made the characters believable and added authenticity to the story arch, instead of seeming like actors put into a situation they can't relate to. The killer's too hokey personality aside, did manage to create some nice slasher moments that almost makes his dialog and style forgivable.
The special effects are on the cheaper side, most indie slashers do and "get it done". "Sledge" is no exception, the film gives good gore. The kills fun, bloody and classic. The intro effects at the beginning had me worried with the obvious CGI blood, but the energy and feel of the kill sequences and use of practical effects made everything all better for me as a horror, and slasher, fan. The atmosphere stays very casual while being very dark which really shines during the dialog/drama scenes of the cast. Reminiscent of early 80's indie slashers, the comic relief of the killer interactions give hit and miss moments that sometimes complements the overall film and other times holds the energy back, It is really up to personal preference as a horror fan whether it all works well for you or not.
Sound effects and soundtrack both create and add eerie, entertaining levels of emotion, suspense and fun to "Sledge". It stays organic and indie, but through most of the film sound really gives this slasher the breathe to scream. Nothing is really radically new or flipped from what we expect from our horror films in "Sledge", but it carries you into the intensity during suspenseful moments, keeps you chill during the dramatic moments, and even during the clunky killer scenes leading to a kill, the sound manages to keep the desired effect. Really I enjoyed pretty much everything about "Sledge" except the chosen portrayal of this formidable slasher, where his personification is concerned.
Eternal Damn Nation (2013)
My Review Of "Eternal Damn Nation"
The story for "Eternal Damn Nation" is grandiose and over-thought but complete. It has the feel of some of the later "Prophecy" films but without the cast or budget. The vision and direction in "Eternal Damn Nation" is done well enough, just not to the level it needed to sell the story arc the writer was going for. The weak acting, poor timing between dialog & action, used for character development, created an awkwardness for me as a viewer. Everything came off a bit more like episodic melodrama with no real soul.
The special effects are basic low-grade CGI effects used mostly in vid games or television series so don't expect much when watching "Eternal Damn Nation". The film is a low budget film so I knew the effects were not going to be a big selling point, as most fans of indie cinema will also understand. I think with the weak, and stereotyped performances the CGI was becoming a bit more annoying to watch. "Eternal Damn Nation" is not a film that would watch again but the concept and vision is enough to make we look forward to the creative people behind this one's future projects.
The Impaler (2013)
My Review Of "Dracula The Impaler"
The story created in this "return to Gothic horror" is a decent enough concept, but some of the more detailed portions of the story fell flat. I never really felt a connection to the characters or the vision that Hockenbrough was going for in "The Impaler". The story arc kept a mediocre drama but there were no real thrills and the whole atmospheric suspense was missing in this film. The characters were two dimensional and sort-of cliché, even though, it is a major hang-up within the genre, acceptable as long as the cast can sell it. Unfortunately the cast never really convinced me of who they were in "The Impaler".
The special effects in this one try to pull off the blood and guts nightmare but a few scenes failed to do so. The ones that did work created a decent practical effect. The only real problem and major irritation I have with "The Impaler" is that "if you are gonna make a movie featuring Dracula then you bloody well better have Dracula in your film!" Only two maybe three scenes even had the guy on screen. Just a lot of folklore and fabrications that were incorrect and blasphemous to the Dracula mythos, filled with inaccuracies about the Dark Prince. I didn't really care for "The Impaler" , found the film's inability to provide both horror or enough vampire in a film labeled horror and about vampires.
Hanging Shadows (2007)
My Review Of "Hanging Shadows"
"Hanging Shadows" by Paolo Fazzini is a documentary offering perspectives on Italian horror from the maestros of giallo. The 60 minute film is a truly informative gem for any horror fan, especially the fan that loves Italian horror. "Hanging Shadows" has originally only been available as an education tool for film students but it is now being made available to the general public. I have to say it is a must have for any collector. It presents the giallo genre from the directors themselves through continuous interview sequences that weave first-hand accounts of Argento, Bava, Deodato, Cozzi and others relationships to projects and one another.
"Hanging Shadows" is a wealth of knowledge, shedding light on the horror genre from Italian points-of-view. It gives insight to very specific projects like "Demons", "Cannibal Holocaust", and "Once Upon A Time In America". Plus the documentary gives us an understanding on the love- hate relationship the Italian film community held for the masters of horror and the whole "fantasy" film concept. It goes without saying that the Western, English speaking world had a higher respect and love for the films than Italian counterparts. Not my American pride, the issue is addressed in the documentary.
This is a film to get, I imagine watching it over and over. Mostly because the stories, collaborations and perspectives come from men whose films I have watched over and over. "Hanging Shadows" is a fascinating collection of information, Italian directors discussing how they met one another, experiences on set, and the publics reaction to the films at the time of their release. There isn't much more that I can really say other than this, "Hanging Shadows" is necessary for horror fans, if you want to understand the films and the people responsible for giving them to us, then why not let them tell you in their own words. Which is exactly what you get with this documentary. It is the best perspective on Italian horror on the market.
Mad in Italy (2011)
My Review Of "Mad In Italy"
aolo Fazzini's 2009 psychological thriller, "Mad In Italy" , is the story of a budding serial killer, who takes a young lady from a prominent family in the neighboring town, and holds her captive. The film examines the the young girl's plight as she faces a very human terror, and fights for survival. It is a dark, contemporary story told in a haunting giallo style. The story is based on true events, yet imagines the horror that may have unfolded in absence of actual evidence. The body was never found and the killer never caught. "Mad In Italy" brings to life a serial killer protected by members of the very community he terrorizes in the Italian countryside. It is a stark, menacing prose that unfolds in a enthralling and chilling narrative. The characters are only partially developed, but instead of seeming unfinished, they display a hollowness that must exist in such cold, sinister people. The emptiness present in the characters echo the despair of film's setting- a country in economic collapse, and a people facing ever growing hardship and struggle.
Fazzini brings a blend of verite and giallo together in blunt, disturbing resonance. "Mad In Italy" creates a dark, malevolence to the mundane side of light where harsh circumstances can create harsh personalities. The cast manages to bring a measured depth to the characters, while giving us some disconnect that allows authenticity to settle into the film's intent. There is nice bit of neo-noir mixed into the "Mad In Italy" that keeps the film from falling too far into the surrealist style. Paolo Fazzini manages to use these various styles smoothly so that the film has a nice dramatic consistency during transitional moments between the different styles. There isn't that choppy look that some directors present when blending different genres.
The special effects are more visual aspects to create atmosphere and enhance the thrilling context of the film. There is some gore, however it is minimal, and blunt. Most giallo over exaggerates the gruesome elements of Italian horror, playing up the brutality of kills, but "Mad In Italy" makes those moments a bit softer and matter-of-fact. They become just one part of a bigger story driven by more psychological effects. The color and cinematography effects common in giallo are still present in "Mad In Italy" which gives us the surreal elements that define the mood of the film, but they don't define the whole film. The style is blended with a slight noir and the shaky, natural style of verite also. It all comes together nicely.
The soundtrack is what you would want and expect from a film like this, haunting-hypnotic-chilling. The atmosphere is as sinister as the material expressed in "Mad In Italy". The only thing that may bother horror fans is the amount of time between the horror elements found in the kill sequences and the dramatic portions that bring to life the psychological and suspenseful. Overall, I found "Mad In Italy" mesmerizing, and entertaining but I was irritated somewhat by the more subdued and minimalist approach to the gore and kill scenes. I thought they could have been a bit more theatrical and exploitative. Still this is a strong thriller from Paolo Fazzini that Italian horror fans should check out.
Scavenger Killers (2013)
My Review Of "Scavenger Killers"
Dylan Bank's "Scavenger Killers" is a 21st century spin on the Bonnie & Clyde construct with a horror/torture porn (I know a lot of people are turned off by the use of that term but I am not one of them) spin, in what is definitely an all in, psycho-drama, slaughter fest. The plot revolves around a potent judge and a hot criminal defense attorney who go on a maniacal killing rampage. Taylor and Sara are hot for legalese rationality, one another and hunting prey.
"Scavenger Killers" is a creative, modern spin on the serial killer lovers concept, although they are more Mickey & Malory than Bonnie & Clyde but either criminal duo applies with these two characters, Taylor and Sarah. The prose has Kenneth Del Vecchio and Rachael Robbins coming off like the super-hetero-bastard-children, of some twisted love affair between Quentin Tarantino and John Waters. The cast, and it is a recognizable and eclectic one, give pretty convincing -all be it over- the-top performances that really sell this story. I mean considering the subject matter and vision that Bank shoots for in "Scavenger Killers" it is noteworthy that everyone delivers reasonably believable characters. The film is dark, satirical and gory.
The special effects used in "Scavenger Killers" is a standard assemblage off practical (small amount of CGI) effects that is necessary for this sort of film. Trust when I say that this is a visceral, all out, gory film filled with plenty of kill scenes and blood splatter. Considering the budget and the lack of fear to put the effects in your face, it is commendable the amount of care Bank and his team put in to giving us the gruesome. Some of the sequences are obvious and don't quite reach the "reality" mark, but the quality of the effects in "Scavenger Kills" is equal to that of most blood soaked horror effects of films with a much higher budget. My only turn off was the little bit of CGI that was used for blood splatter and kill effect. Most scenes embraced straight-up, practical effects, and since the CGI was very minimal it doesn't hurt the film or the kill sequences that featured them.
The soundtrack and sound effects are pretty tight, atmospheric madness that really frame the complete psychotica that unfolds in "Scavenger Kills". It keeps a high energy excitement that accents the carnage and semi-surreal, semi grindhouse performances. The timing and style offer a bizarre blend of mentally-unstable insanity and emotionally charged melodrama that fit in every scene that sound was key in "Scavenger Kills". Let's face it, this film will be seen as either complete garbage or beautiful trash by horror fans. I for one see it as the latter. The film is a schizophrenic tirade of satirical camp, American psychotica and torture porn gorefest.
Overall "Scavenger Kills" creates a wicked, modern spin on the Bonnie & Clyde concept with total homicidal depravity. The style is a Sado- sexually charged, exploitation blend of torture-porn and serial killer celebration which normally is not my favorite subgenre in horror, but the over-exaggerated, insane characters and dark humor make everything fun, and entertaining. "Scavenger Killers" is not like other films in this category. The film will offend some, irritate others but for those special, slightly disturbed few, this film will be pure, unadulterated fun. Which ever column you fit with your reaction to seeing "Scavenger Killers" , the film is definitely an instant cult classic.
Monkey Boy (2009)
My Review Of "Monkey Boy"
2009's "Monkey Boy" is a dark fantasy, giallo film directed by Antonio Monti. The Italian horror is a bit of an odd, fairy tale story that follows the journey of Monkey Boy and Agata, a young princess. The fairytale is played out in a urban drama that has a strange humanoid "freak of nature" who's destiny crosses the path of a young girl Agata. "Monkey Boy" stars Giampiero Bartolini, Gianni Fantoni, Giovanna Gardelli, and Andrea Melli.
The story is an odd mix of fantasy, drama, and horror with stoic characters that seem to be a little bit nonsensical. It has plenty of heart, even as dark a fairytale as it is. "Monkey Boy" plays out in a surreal melodrama with characters that are only partially defined. These aspects of the story come off more intentional instead of in error. This is probably due to the fact that the two main characters are a mutant and an autistic girl. Either way the style of storytelling used for "Monkey Boy" works wonderfully, and creates a captivating adventure with actors that give believable characters.
The special effects are on the milder side and only used to enhance the harsh world this fairytale world creates. The effects are practical and habitual tricks common in Italian horror. The overall outcome of the special effects and visual style that Monti uses is reminiscent of 80's spaghetti thrillers. More importantly they work. The cinematography is haunting, shades of poor lighting, tight frame shots and atmospheric surrealism. "Monkey Boy" gives good giallo vision. A style that is as contemporary as it is classic. Considering the story content and creature effects required of the film I was pleasantly surprised to see that things came together as well as they did. The sounds used aren't really anything major but the instrumental effects accentuate the already dark fairytale theme nicely, giving an added emotional energy.
Overall "Monkey Boy" is a nice Italian fantasy, horror film. There is some odd moments that were a bit confusing but I think that they were more cultural difference than directing or writing flaws. The film will not appeal to all horror fans, and the parallel drama that mirrors fairytale with actual character prose (the monkey boy and Agata of the fairytale kingdom and that of the "real world" characters) has moments that are not as authentic as intended. However the total result of "Monkey Boy" is a well directed, oddly entertaining fantasy that delivers both in story and horror.
My Review Of "City Of Lust" a.k.a "Yellow"
The story that Holcombe weaves together, of building a future-facing a dark past-and struggle, is one of nightmares told is surreal horror. From start to finish "City Of Lust" creates a strong, chilling prose. The characters are twisted representations of over-exaggerated flamboyance. The most subdued and grounded character is the mousy Arianna. It as if all her world is developed of dreamlike perversions of her reality. This directorial style gives us a framework that manages to stay dark, even in it's heightened theatrical state. The camp is even a sinister spin of hypnogogic that reminds me of a blend of cult-camp and Argento's, 80's giallo style. It could be off-putting but combined with the deep horror element, "City Of Lust" stays true to the genre.
The special effects is low budget, but done with enough care not to be seen as cheesy. Pretty much every scene where the blood flowed and the body dropped works in "City Of Lust". Practical effects are used and used the way you expect in a film that is paying tribute to both the classic giallo styles while telling a timeless nightmare of personal transition of a character. There are visual effects that do enhance the surreal into areas of German expressionism, and the avant garde concept direction. Colors, stylized camera angles and shadowing keep everything in specific territory so some people may not get into "City Of Lust". I loved it but these styles of storytelling hits my sweet spot in horror. A similar feel runs through "Alyce Kills" and I loved that film also. Sound effects and soundtrack are similar to classic horror films, creating a haunting, emotional atmosphere.
The sound effects offer short changes in attitude, raising the suspense of the film while the instrumental soundtrack creates a hypnotic pull. "City Of Lust" doesn't really give us anything new in these areas but the effects are used right, creating cool crescendos of emotional changes in the story. Thought went into how the sounds were used and when. This film could go either way with horror fans, those that get it get it and those that won't get won't get it. I found it to be a smart celebration of the elements of the giallo / arhouse horror styles, and gives us a nice bloody horror story with heart.