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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

SKYMAN (Film Review)

                               Starring: Michael Selle, Nicolette Sweeney, Faleolo Alailima

                                                 Directed by: Daniel Myrick


 The anticipation of what's going to happen can be worse than the actual event itself and in the case of director Daniel Myrick's extraterrestrial feature, Skyman, the audience will see what's coming a mile away...or 95 minutes away if you're counting.

  This "documented events" exhibit takes us inside the mind and world of Mr. Carl Merryweather (Selle), who at the tender age of 10 was the recipient of an alien encounter - people in town had a hard time believing him then and not much has changed almost 30 years later. He firmly believes that "Skyman" (aptly named) will return for him on his 40th birthday and whisk him away to another planet. First off, if your eyes are functioning and they are in the open position for any stretch of this film (which admittedly isn't an easy task), you KNOW what's on the horizon for Mr. Merryweather - no fakin', no makin' this up. Carl then enlists the aid of his sullen sister (Sweeney) and best bud Marcus (Alailima) to tag along to his "prepper" spot in the desert for the final days before his birthday and eventual visitation from his other-galaxy about a nice present to yourself!

 From the moment that adult Carl is introduced to the audience, it's as clear as crystal Pepsi that he's been a little slowed down due to his supposed experience as a child, and it's carried over into his adult life. He's still somewhat of a productive individual (outside of his dogged fixation on reconnecting with Skyman), and he even gets the daily chance to visit his elderly mother in the nursing home... who just happens to think that Carl is "slightly off the tracks" with all this UFO nonsense. Myrick does a good job of presenting his main character in such a light as to not exploit him as a kook or shamed castoff from the populace - he's just a man who still has that childhood wonderment towards an experience that might (or might not) have changed his life many moons ago. The down-side to this presentation is the length of time that's spent laying the story out for us - at times it's as if we the audience are just over Carl's shoulder as he goes about his daily doings, and it can get to be a bit monotonous over the course of 90 minutes.

 If you're looking for that elusive scare-a-minute film you're going to be highly disappointed - Skyman is a character study in its viewed format and the depths of a subculture that many dismiss as a joke. A deeply troubled man looking for answers in an unfulfilled life, or someone who truly knows what's out there and is simply waiting for his chance to hitch a ride and see it first-hand? The end-decision is yours, and while I normally can ring the bell and put a stamp on a film that I'd just as soon not want to revisit again, I'll honestly give this one another chance and see if my take on it moves in a more interstellar direction. The movie is available now at some drive-in theaters across the country and will be making its On-Demand debut on July 7th.

FILM RATING: 2.5 out of 5

Thursday, June 18, 2020

THE DEAD LANDS (Shudder Series Review)

                                    Starring: Te Hoke Tuhaka, Darneen Christian, Vicky Haughton

                                          Directed by: Glenn Standring


           The never-ending story of the resurrected dead travels everywhere and anywhere - that we all as horror fans know for a fact, and after checking out director Glenn Standring's The Dead Lands on SHUDDER, I can attest that even in the most primal and violent fashion, these zombie-fied warriors are nothing to sleep on.

  Set in the land of Aotearoa, we as the audience have the opportunity to witness the final battle of the greatest fighter in all the expansive territory that is covered - his name is Waka Nuku Rau (Tuhaka), and unfortunately his best wasn't that good on this day. He's killed in battle and is ready to make that final ascent into heavenly enclave - only problem is he is not wanted in the sacred afterlife, stonewalled at the entrance to eternal peace and forced to return to his battleground as a rejuvenated (albeit dead) protector of sorts. He's given another chance to rectify all his wrongdoing and see if his new direction will lead him into a more guaranteed position among the gods - trust me, this will not be an easy task, or one that he's looking forward to. Broken down into episodic fashion, the series was adapted from the 2014 film of the same name which was directed by Toa Fraser and serves itself well when taken in smaller bites.

   From the jump of the first episode we see just what Waka will be contending with after his transformation - an ultraviolent, almost unstoppable hyper-strength combatant who back in his mortal day might not have proven to be much of an issue. However, these grayed-out, black-blood spitting killers relent without provocation, and DAMN are they hard to take down! As Waka contends with this ferocious enemy, he's joined with Mehe (Christian), a villager who has made her way onto his land and is warning with the word of her ancestors about "the veil between light and dark that is breaking." She's begging for his help to protect her tribe and together they'll begin a journey of sorts that will spill more blood than is necessary and rack up bodies as high as they can be stacked. The only thing that is more spectacular than the performances and action is the backdrop itself - almost looking like a more demented and claustrophobic version of Avatar - I for one think Mr. Cameron would be proud. If there were a negative I could see it would be some of the pacing at times, but it's relatively small in comparison once the action ramps up, and the fight scenes are glorious (and gory) to witness.

  Overall, I can definitely recommend The Dead Lands to our fellow zombie-enthusiasts who want a different atmosphere to their viewing pleasure - it's a distinct perspective but one that absolutely should be given a chance to thrive - it's available now on the SHUDDER app so grab your loin-cloths (or a bath towel) and your cutting weaponry and enjoy the bloodshed!

 SERIES RATING: 3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

RELIC (Film Review)

                                  Starring: Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, Bella Heathcote

                                                  Directed by: Natalie Erika James


     The loss of a certain individual to a family can be a destructive entity all in itself - the person you've all come to know and love and rely on for emotional support is now gone. You're left with only memories to suffice your mind and ease your grieving soul, but what about the ones left behind who are slowly slipping away? Director Natalie Erika James' (who up to this point has only lensed short films) leaps into frightening waters with her first full-length feature, Relic. It serves as a heavy dramatic mood-sourer for a spell before wrenching its direction towards full-blown haunted house chiller - it's a bit creepy, a bit drawn out, and an ultimately saddening prospect that many of us have (or could possibly) face as time moves on.

  Using her own grandmother's battle against the crippling effects of dementia, James focuses her story solely on a three-generational span of women for this presentation. Edna (Nevin) is the eldest of the three, and the mother to Kay (Mortimer) and grandmother to Sam (Heathcote). Edna's been slowly spiraling downwards in her later years due to the disorder, and she's disappeared from her remote home in the woods, prompting a call from the local authorities to Kay & Sam to assist in the search. Upon arrival to her home, it's now concretely implied that Edna has begun to exhibit signs of the sickness - furniture in disarray, a plethora of notes stuck to the walls reminding her of the most mundane of everyday tasks - she's even left food out for the family pet that's been dead for years. Almost inexplicably one night, Edna returns to the house yet it's clear that outside of the relentless distress that her own mind has put her through that something else isn't right with the frail old woman. Sam and Kay opt to stay at Edna's home to look after her for a short stay and discuss where this latest episode will lead them in regards to her future care.

  It does take a while to ramp this presentation up, but all the building and formation of the story does pay off in the movie's latter stages, eventually jumping that gap from the teary Hallmark-styled exhibition to a dreary, look-over-your-shoulder fright-fest. We as the audience sit and wait in the home's dimly lit hallways and hold our breaths every time Edna is seen standing with her back to us, mumbling incoherently - is she possessed to an extent or has the malady taken full-hold of her psyche? It's the eventual regression of all three of our female leads is what works to hammer home the emotional worriment factor - you literally begin to feel their pain in the situation - it's palpable and practical to the story. If you're hinging your hopes on an all-out shrieker with Relic, you'll probably be disappointed but trust me - this is so much more than a horror film, and that's where this one excels as one of the better movies to run this kooky course known as 2020. It'll be available July 10th on VOD & digital platforms and shouldn't be missed.

FILM RATING: 4 out of 5

Sunday, June 7, 2020


                            Starring: Samuel Espinoza, Iliana Guibert, Sarah McGuire

                                                   Directed by: Patrick Rea


  Due to the fact that the first-ever horror movie I cut my teeth on at the tender age of six was The Exorcist (thanks for that, Mom), possession movies have held a close place to my heart. When director Patrick Rea contacted me about checking out his latest short film, Spiritual Practice I jumped at the opportunity with no reservations whatsoever (thanks for the offering, Patrick).

  This 10-minute quickie focuses on a priest (Espinoza) who has been thrust into the unwelcome territory of exorcising a demon from a woman that is chained to a bed, and it looks as if there's plenty more work to be completed in time, but I don't want to spill too many details for you all. From the short film's beginning, you get reeled in on a holy ride to cleanliness, which of course is next to Godliness...well, maybe not in this particular instance, but it's a nice trip to take even if the fiery flames of Hell are involved.

 Rea, whose previous feature-length haunts include Nailbiter and Arbor Demon is no stranger to the short-film method, and he masterfully creates something here that could potentially stretch out into something extensive in nature (if he chose to, of course). At this time it's currently unknown as to when this will be released to the public, but as soon as we're able to confirm the news we'll be sure to pass the info along to you all.

FILM SCORE: 3.5 out of 5

THE HAUNTED (Film Review)

                                  Starring: Sophie Stevens, Nick Bayly, Ray MacAllan

                                              Directed by: David Holroyd


  There's literally nothing worse (at least for a film reviewer) than amping yourself up for something that looks extremely promising, only to leave you as disappointed as a kid on Christmas Day with a lump of reindeer crap in his stocking. Director David Holroyd's The Haunted isn't that lump of crap by any means - it's just the bitter sting of a stale payoff that will resonate as long as this title is on my tongue...anyone got a Tic-Tac to spare?

 The film's premise is as paint-by-numbers as one could get: Emily (Stevens) is a woman looking to make a little extra green, so she takes on the position of overnight caretaker to Alzheimer's patient Arthur (Bayly) in his faraway abode. He's bedridden for the most part, at least alluded to by his day nurses, who are all too happy to zip through the details of his care with a bit of gruffness before departing for the night. Before long Emily's left to her own devices and begins to wander Arthur's spatial estate, cracking doors and snooping to her heart's content...and we're all along to watch what seems like an eternal build-up. The only problem is that this never-ending hike up what seems like a thousand stairs literally runs you into a brick wall once you reach the top. With an infinite gaggle of creaking floors & doors, complimented by some shoddy flashlight work, you'd swear that the next big scare is right around the darkened, abandoned hallway, right?

 Well, I've got some news that a few of you might find a bit disconcerting: the scares are as light as the plot here, and this is certainly not yours truly saying that this wasn't an enjoyable presentation to mire myself in for 75 minutes just crapped out far too early into its runtime, and on this highway, there wasn't a gas station for miles. The home itself acted as enough of a tactic in which to creep out the audience, yet what seemed like the perfect placement for some bladder-rattling instances were simply set-pieces that had an open mouth but nothing to say. When the conclusion to this production is finally latched onto, at first you'll be scratching your skulls till the dead skin comes off, but when you ACTUALLY grasp at what has taken place, you'll probably utter a pained sigh and ask the question "that was it?" I normally pride myself on being a precision dissector of un-worthy films, but I genuinely wrapped this movie up with a bit of sadness in my soul. "What could be worthwhile ends in a blink and a blur, and we as the wanters of potential find what is bereft in its entirety." You like that quote, do ya? I made it up while waiting for something to occur in The Haunted.

FILM RATING: 2 out of 5

Friday, June 5, 2020

ONE CUT OF THE DEAD (Blu-Ray Review)

                        Starring: Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Harumi Shuhama

                                               Directed by: Shin'ichiro Ueda


  First off, before I crank up this review I'd love to offer thanks to my friends at Katrina Wan P.R. for graciously offering up a gorgeous steelbook review copy of One Cut Of The Dead, which is on sale NOW. Okay, pleasantries aside I can admit that I'd waited for this film for a while, and when it was (erroneously, and a bit criminally) released to Amazon Prime back in 2018, and yours truly took the bait and watched a horrifically displayed boot-print of the film, and aside from its smaller-than-small presence and display I loved it nonetheless.

  So here we are in the disgustingly tainted year of 2020 and One Cut Of The Dead has rightfully found its way to the home theater market and while it's a little bit less of the slam-bang treasure that I remember, it's still a fun zombie flick that will sit on my shelf proudly and is more than worth a re-watch or two. The premise is simple with this one: a film crew shooting a low-budgeted horror movie gets overrun by hungry hordes of the undead - easy-peasy to follow, yet somewhere during the movie's runtime the luster comes off the shine and this relegates itself to just another horror/comedy production that has its share of hits and misses. Whereas the audience can conceivably be lulled to sleep during the first piece of the product, there's a slight ramping up of action as time moves on - fluid and seamless? Not by a long shot, but it's the direction and creative swerve of the plot is what hauls the movie out of the deep water and pulls it closer to shore.

  Director Shin'ichiro Ueda's approach to the movie seemed to be a bit wayward, and especially considering this was something of a micro-budgeted production there still remains some worthwhile laughs to this one - I however had hoped for some more gore and zombies that looked as if they didn't apply their own makeup. As far as the audio and visuals are concerned, I did notice sharper edges between the Blu and DVD copies of the film, and aside from some minor blemishing (hey, there wasn't much dough to fully treat the film so I won't complain), the movie does look decent but don't let it sway you from one purchase to another - you could easily watch either the Blu or DVD versions and be content. The steelbook however is a thing of beauty, with a smooth finish and taxicab yellow color bursting out all over - even a few blood droplets for you sickos! Extras included a go-pro version of the film, as well as a few short featurettes, topped off with a code in the steelbook for a free 30-day subscription to SHUDDER, which was a nice add-on. Overall, One Cut Of The Dead won't knock you out of your casket, but for the zombie aficionado in your life this tepid horror/com encased in a beautiful containment unit should make a nice gift for those who love to chow down on the living.

 FILM REVIEW: 2.5 out of 5

 STEELBOOK REVIEW: 4.5 out of 5

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

As good as Ded

Newly released on Amazon - DedKode - Ghost Imaging and DedKode - C2C!  Follow the adventures of zombie hacker DedKode for only $0.99 each eBook!   

Devon Collier is three things - he is the famous white hat "hacktivist" known as DedKode, he is foul-mouthed & opinionated and most recently, he is a cursed young man, killed and resurrected as a zombie with a will of his own. After discovering a menacing dark presence on the World Wide Web, DedKode and his team search for an answer to stop the force known as "SpookNet." Along their way, DedKode, James Palladino and the Kanapilly sisters help whomever they can from the supernatural dangers hiding behind technological trappings.

When DedKode meets Mari, a mysterious young woman with a love of butterflies, he becomes driven to help her discover who she is and perhaps more importantly - why she is a ghost and who murdered her??? HAS MATURE LANGUAGE & SITUATIONS. 

When two IT students uncover unnatural evidence of their friend’s unusual disappearance, DedKode and his team investigate a mysterious cam model named SisikaBC. She is sensual, alluring and everything anyone could ever desire. However, DedKode will discover that she may be more than just sexy but also deadly…and demonic. HAS MATURE LANGUAGE, VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL SITUATIONS. FOR MATURE READERS ONLY. PARENTAL DISCRETION IS ADVISED.