Friday, March 28, 2014

DVD Review: Everyone Must Die!

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2014
Images from the Internet

Everyone Must Die!
Directed by Steve Rudzinski
Dark Mullet Cinema
Central Keystone Productions
71 minutes, 2012

Quite truthfully, I’ve kind of been hesitating reviewing this. Lately, it just seems that watching films with two or more commentaries is too time consuming. However, I just reviewed another film called Scream Park [HERE] which co-starred Steve Rudzinski, who directed Everyone Must Die! (EMD), and it got me curious. There are also a number of cast members that overlapped these two films.

EMD! takes a new spin on “death comes in threes” as a mysterious serial (or series of serial) killer(s) strikes three small towns at a time, starting in Maine and making his way southwest to “now,” in West Virginia (so much for being almost heaven, eh?).

After a brutal opening (among first killed going to the lead of Scream Park, Wendy Wygant, with one of my fave make-up effects in the film), we are introduced to four friends in the first set piece who would never, ever, ever be seen together in real life, never mind out in the woods on a camping trip. The two guys are the annoying white rap star (Seth Joseph, stealing his scenes) who only speaks in bad rhymes (and dresses in florescent pale reds because his nom d’rap is MC Pink – pronounced Paahnk; he has a CD called Fear of a Pink Planet), a chubby OCD who over enunciates and is extremely exacting. The two women are the backwards baseball cap-wearing social justice feminist with the arm-ring tattoo, and the busty New Ager that is into pseudo-spirituality and tarot. It’s nice that Rudzinski is trying different characters than the standard, but this is really a stretch. What I am proud of Rudzinski, though, is that the couple formation is not what you’re expecting. From the start, though, it doesn’t bode too well for the characters.

After the butchering, the main storyline group (yes, there are two fun opening set pieces) we get to follow to slaughter is a party of seven, again, most non-standard types and yet somewhat familiar. Yes, there’s the football jock who is dumb and obsessed with one of the women in the group, but there is also the guy obsessed with eggs, another equally obsessed with golf (film co-writer Derek Rothermund), and one obsessed with being Student Body President (played by the director). The women include the sexy redhead (Nicole Beattie, looking incredibly different than she did as a goth punk in Scream Park), the rich racist, and the other one who is a grumpy goth whiner (Aleen Isley, who was also on the crew). This cast really works well together. They are also not your standard slim-jim model types, but actually look like human beings (even Beattie, who actually does model). It’s great when you get a troupe dynamic of some sort going.

The motive behind the killings is never given, thankfully, which of course makes a perfect opening for a sequel (or, dare I say it, franchise), which I am happy to see. My theory is that it is all part of a cult, since it’s pretty obvious the assassins are different people (much of the cast filling in for the black Kevlar covered killers).

There is a very strong sense of humor that runs throughout that is quite smart, often in throwaway lines, such as someone commenting that DJ Pink missed out on being the fourth Beastie Boy when he argued that partying was a privilege, not a right. Or, one character is excited about a new video game called Misdemeanor Petty Larceny, where you score points by doing things like kicking over garbage cans. Gotta love it! Even the end credits have a fun moment in the warnings. Oh, and make sure you stay until after the credits, it’s a hoot.

What is also nicely added is some of the wrap-around killings that had nothing to do with the main groups of middle-20s “teenagers” (or, as the director keeps calling them in the commentary, “kids”), but adds some nice kills, more nudity (the prerequisite shower scene), and a large round of laughs, additionally added to by the reading of Dan Christmas (any relation to the late [d. 2000] actor Eric Christmas?).

Despite some pretty badly choreographed fight scenes (even on the commentary they note that the golfer can’t swing a club), the gore is plentiful without being overdone, and the appliances (and even a couple of CGI shots) look good. There is one scene though, where the blood on a sink looks like barbeque sauce, but I’m going to generously give that to them for balance. We get a bit of amble boobage (both figuratively and literally) and lots of ways of meeting the Lord, though sharp items are a favored method. The acting is iffy and over the top at times, such as the news reporter, and the guy who’s sister is offed and seeks revenge who often acting with his eyebrows and body tics; amazingly he has the most credits of the cast on IMDB.

Among the many extras is a decent blooper reel, the film’s trailer, a couple of music videos (especially check out Seth Joseph’s turn as MC Pink), an 22-minute interview short with Rudzinski, Rothermund, and a bunch of the actors, and two commentary tracks, as stated above.

The first track offered (which was recorded second) features Rudzinski, Rothermund, and some of the actors from the interview short. I usually hold that more than two or three people on an audio track is just plain annoying as people talk over each other, it’s hard to distinguish who’s who, and the macho (of all genders) tends to come through, making it just a silly mess. But here they make constructive use of their time, telling filming anecdotes and, even among the kidding around, still manage to stay mostly on point and don’t step on each other, which I believe goes to showing more professionalism, and makes this an interesting and enjoyable track.

The second is just Rudzinski and Rothermund, and amazingly, just these two come across goofier than the troupe on the other, but there is still enough information (yes, we get it, it was hot out during the filming) to keep the information interesting and flowing. In total, between the film and extras, you’re about four hours in.

 EMD! Is essentially an extremely fun genre flick that is well written and takes chances on adding to the canon without stepping all over it. Rudzinski and Rothermund make a great team, and I hope they continue to work together because it’s envelope stretching time and a job well done. Watching this was definitely time well spent.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

DVD Review: Scream Park

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2014
Images from the Internet


Scream Park
Written and directed by Cary Hill
Wild Eye Releasing
85 minutes, 2012 / 2014

First-time feature director Cary Hill is obviously a genre fan. Filmed in Pittsburgh, there is a number of nods to George A. Romero and zombies, even though there are none in the film; however, the copyright-free Night of the Living Dead  is shown in a couple of scenes on a monitor screen.

Shot in the spooky Conneaut Lake Park (where scenes from the more mainstream The Road was also filmed in 2009), Hill gives it an ‘80s/’90s slasher feel to the level that one of the characters (the punk guy) actually uses a cassette (before it was cool again), and the manager wears those really big framed glasses that we all wore back then. I dunno, it feels like a time warp with cell phones being the flip kind. Wouldn’t be the first time someone thought of that, but that also doesn’t take away from it being cool.

At a run-down local amusement park – which reminds me of when we used to go to Crystal Beach (d. 1989), Ontario, not to be confused with Camp Crystal Lake – we meet a half-dozen or so co-workers who show various levels of enthusiasm for the job, as the park is on the brink of closure from lack of public interest. We see mostly empty rides and sideshow games with a number of vacant seats. This group is typical of film teens, expressed through high school jackets, though it’s obvious they are at least in their mid-twenties and even some receding hairlines (I’m thrown back to MADTv’s “Pretty White Kids with Problems”). While there is the goth (or punk) girl in a corset with tutu, the horny couple, and the good girl, among others, happily Hill manages to steer away from too heavy handed clich├ęs, such as the jock vs. the nerd. Bravo.

I promise I will try not to give away too much, but I do have to say, the one black guy (who isn’t part of the Pretty Kids group, though equally disgruntled) dies first by being hanged. Really? A black lynching? Things that make you go hmmm, indeed. In my own defense, it’s pretty clear he’s a character that is gonna get it quickly, so I hope I’m not giving away too much. Okay, I’m backing off on the spoilers now.

There are some subtle homages here and there, such as the orange-haired punk guy who is reminiscent of Linnea Quigley’s Trash character from Return of the Living Dead (1985), and one death is right out of The Toxic Avenger (1984). The lead character, Jennifer (Wendy Wygant), reminds me of a taller version of Jennifer Love Hewitt of I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), and another’s (the exceedingly cute and diminutive Alicia Marie Marcucci) hair style, shirt and plaid skirt is right out of Drew Barrymore’s in Scream (1996). Also like that film, there are two killers (they make that clear from the beginning as they both wear different masks). Perhaps these are coincidences, or subconscious leanings, but I’m willing to bet that it is an honorarium, more than anything else.  Then, of course, there is Pinhead himself, Doug Bradley, in a 4 minute cameo flashback as the amusement park owner, Mr. Hyde (first name Henry?).

This film follows along with the model of Carol Clover’s excellent 1992 analysis, Men, Women and Chainsaws of the women actually being braver and more intelligent than the men. If you haven’t read this book and you’re a genre fan, it’s well worth it.

One flub that annoyed me, and I am saying this with a genuine smile and without a hint of sarcasm, is one person (male) is inside a building and is fumbling with the keys to open the door to let the heroine in before the guy with the ax gets to her, when it is obviously the door has a lever turn-latch, not a key one.  Oh, and why does one of the killers, played by Kevin "Ogre" Ogilvie (AKA Nivek Ogre) from the industrial band Skinny Puppy have (a wavering) southern accent in Pittsburgh? I truly believe it’s important to embrace these kinds of questions with these films, because it means you pay attention to what is going on. Man, I love indie cinema! Hey ho, let’s go! Punk rawk!

While the ending had a nice touch, the theory was clear to me pretty early on.

There is only one topless scene, by the extremely bodacious, attractive, and oddly grayish-toothed Kailey Marie Harris (yes, there are two actors whose middle name is Marie). As for the gore, there’s lots of it, most of it quite effective, even though the fresh blood is bit too dark and heavy on the viscosity (looks like motor oil); the splatter looks much better. Scalpings, beheading, axes, knives, they all look good and the after effects are successful, thanks to Arvin Clay. And that’s what matters, right? Of course, right.

The editing is sharp, the color over-saturation works in the retro genre nod, and the day-for-night functions well. There are the usual first-film inconsistencies (one of the fun things to find for me), such as after someone pulls out a huge bag of raw french fries from under a sink and is then called away, when she comes back she pulls it out again. Shades of Vincent Price’s sweater in The Last Man on Earth (1964). Sure there are the occasional holes here and there, as is fitting the micro-budget and genre, but here’s a thought. If the place is named “Fright Land,” wouldn’t that have made as good a name for the film as Scream Park?

The commentary track by the director is interesting with anecdotes and techniques, but it is a revelation at 1:06 that made a whole shitload of sense to me that I hadn’t thought of before, so kudos for that, Cary. There is also an amusing bloopers reel which is more the cast letting off steam than errors, and as usual with Wild Eye releases, some great company trailers.

As a directorial debut, this has been pretty highly accepted, with rightfully a bunch of festival nods. If you’re a fan of the ‘80/’90s pre-torture porn slasher films, I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

DVD Review: Mad In Italy

Text © Richard Gary/Indie Horror Films, 2014
Images from the Internet


Mad in Italy
Written and directed by Paolo Fazzini     
E2=G Production
Elite Entertainment         
60 minutes, 2011 / 2013

Let me say right at the start, the title of the film is a brilliant pun.

Director Fazzini is not only a filmmaker, but also a historian of Italian giallo films, especially from the ‘80s, and even put out an interesting documentary about the genre, titled Hanging Shadows: Perspectives on Italian Horror Cinema (reviewed directly below this one, or at HERE)

Like any genre, there are subgenres that make up the pie chart of the whole. And where does this one fit in? Well, it’s definitely closer to some of the noir works of Mario Bava and Dario Argento’s Deep Red (1975), say, than anything by Fulci or Lamberto Bava. Fazzini is certainly helped here by renowned cinematographer Mirco Sgarzi, who shot some incredibly beautiful works such as House of Flesh Mannequins (2009), reviewed by me HERE. His style various from artsy to perfectly lit reality, creating moods along the way that fit the tale

For this “inspired by true events” story, we meet our protagonist/antagonist, Davide (Gianluca Testa), a laborer who is let go from his blue collar job thanks to a downturn in the Italian economy (a result of the US collapse around 2008 thanks to the unelected president, Little Georgie Bush). But money is not his only problem, as we come to see him for the schizophrenic sadist that he is.

We come to realize that he has kidnapped a rich industrialist’s daughter (the beautiful Eleonora Bolla), and is keeping her tied up in his rented home in as hillside village on Sicily. But this is more than just a kidnapping, as his mental disease starts getting the better of him. After all, the tagline for this film is Witness the birth of anew serial killer.” While there is a healthy number of cast members, this really is about Davide and “the girl” (as she is known). As people come looking for her, or those who become involved with the drugs he has come to help sell to make some cash, bodies begin to pile up in somewhat gruesome ways.

Cinema giallo was recognized by a number of genre-specific elements, such as the quick zoom (I believe Mario Bava created it and Argento perfected it), and something that is used abundantly and quite effectively here, which is using primary colors to saturate a scene indicating affect or emotion. For example, while the girl is crying, Davide’s head cradled on her lap, they are bathed in a pale blue light; when Davide is having a scary hallucination, the room from where the fear is generating is a sharp red.

Some of the best of the gore and effects happen during these freakouts, such as a woman with a distorted mouth (check out the photos in the extras for a clear view of it), or being in the woods with a group of people biting chunks out of his flesh. While there is more story tension than gore (which is why this is a noir rather than horror), it looks incredibly well done, and the blood has just the right color and viscosity.

The location is also part of the story, with abandoned stone buildings contrasted by wooded areas. One of my favorite shots is of a wooded area you think is isolated, is revealed in a pan to be just on the outskirts of town. The best part of the genre, with this included, is that there are some truly unexpected moments that took me by surprise, which is a nice – er – surprise.

The extras are a 15-minute interview with the director as he walks us through some of the locations (no sets were used), back-scene photos, and two music videos.

There are some long gaps between physical violence, but the malevolence runs throughout. Gorehounds may balk at the space between kills, but those who understand these things will know that the tension building is all part of the fun, and Fazzini shows he knows how to do just that.
Trailer not embedding, so find it HERE.