Thursday, February 28, 2019

Review: Painkillers

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet
Directed by Roxy Shih
Kew Media Group / Title Media / Lone Suspect
83 minutes, 2019
How deep is your emotional pain? Does it turn into something physical? While this theme was used in David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1979), here it takes a deeper, yet also bloody turn.
Adam Huss
In the prologue, Misha Barton has “Drew Barrymore” cameo, shared with the great Maria Olsen who steals the scene, of course. After that we get introduced to the main characters, and their issues. After a tragic loss, surgeon John (Adam Huss) has to not only readjust to life with his wife, Chloe (Madeline Zima), but he now finds he is in constant physical pain. Apparently, the only temporary cure for this agony is to drink fresh blood. No, he’s not a vampire in the classic sense, and why blood affects him this way is never really addressed, but it is taken on face value. I’m okay with that, as it’s a genre film.
The other two main characters are John’s boss at the hospital, Gail (Debra Wilson, of “MADtv”), and Herb (Grant Bowler), who is in a similar situation as John but has nefarious ends in mind (not hard to figure that out within one minute of his introduction).
Madeline Zima
There are two positions that the film posits: first, will John reset his moral compass to obtain the fresh blood needed to ease his pain. As his body shakes in agony, he becomes distant from Chloe, who is also dealing with the same tragedy as John that started the whole blood thing, but she feels like she’s doing it on her own. This second, human emotional touch is different than most genre films, in that it lets the drama be more inclusive to those around the main character, something you don’t see very often.
There is some blood and squeamish knife cuttings here and there, but generally, this is more a dramatic story of a man and his family/friends struggling with some of the same issues in both direct and indirect ways. Because of this the pacing is a bit slow, but the tension definitely builds as the film rolls on.
One of the smart side-topics is the whole “Dexter” vigilante motif, when discussing the sources of the elixir of life. I can see a bunch of friends getting together after a viewing and having a “what would you do?” conversation about actions taken by the characters, perhaps over a game of Scruples.
Debra Wilson
The acting is top notch, with all the leads turning in solid performances, though Bowler’s character is too easy to read too early in the story, even if the means and motivations are not yet present.
I would be tempted call this more of a thriller than horror, even with the blood drinking, as it’s easy to substitute the cravings for blood to other addictions, especially in the medical field, and there is some play with that in the story. Again, this is a smart move.
Despite the high angst level throughout, there is a feeling of trying to balance a life or lives with a new normal. Taiwanese director Roxy Shih shows compassion for her characters, though I found the ending a bit unrealistic (no spoiler alerts). For only a second feature, she has done an admirable job.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Review: Brutal

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet

Written and directed by Takashi Hirose
Unearthed Films / MVD Visual
67 minutes, 2018

Unearthed Films, it seems, is the (pall) bearer of brutality to the human flesh. It is run by Stephen Biro, who bought out the rights to the original Japanese underground Guinea Pig tapes and proceeded to not only then release them, but to start his own torturous series, appropriately under the banner of American Guinea Pig. And along the way, with those and other releases such as this one, has made a name for himself and his company as purveyors of the odd, the perverse, and the brutal.

Which brings us to this new film, fittingly titled Brutal, from the shores of, again, Japan. In the first chapter, we are quickly introduced to Man (the single-named Butch), as he slashes and beats a series of women who he keeps asking, “Do you understand?” Of course, they are too scared for their lives, which end quickly and painfully.

Meanwhile, across town, Woman (singer Ayano [Ôami]) is also stabbing her way through the hearts and peni of men who try to pick her up on the street in the second chapter. Her question is “Am I okay?” I’ll let that mull in for a moment.
The third chapter is, of course, their meeting. Rather than it being cutesy like the violent rom-com Psychos in Love (1987), a different approach is taken. Will it end with them pairing? Or perhaps more like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1989)? Fear not for I will not give spoilers.

Just how brutal is it? Well, I guess that depends on your violence barometer. It certainly is more than most mainstream films, even ones dealing with malevolence, but it is also not as much as some of the other Japanese films, such as Takashi Miike’s Audition (1999) or the Guinea Pig titles.

Japan can be an odd country when it comes to ways of approaching the subject of the feminine, including in cinema. For example, they obviously idolize the female form (sometimes in very creepy ways, i.e., schoolgirls), and yet there is a certain lack of respect as far as power dynamics goes. Intentional or not, that does creep its way into this film, as well. For example, both Man and Woman are strong, give in to their primal urges, and are killer with a blade (both figuratively and literally). However, in the first chapter, we see Man brutalize a number of women in detail, and ”lovingly” show how he cleans up after. For the Woman’s chapter, we are given more of a montage of her work. Sure the number of victims is larger, but it goes so fast that the personalization is gone, making the women targets more vulnerable and the men quick though painful kills in most cases.

There is no back story for these two serial killers, though there is a hint of motivation by the end of this short work. But even that is a big question of how they got into their situations that led to their anger. But the biggest issue for me is the ending, which I believe I understood what is implied, but the how is where I start scratching my head.
The film itself is shot in a choppy manner with lots of video noise (not found footage style, though) and a heavy guitar sound backing it up. The actual music, however, is very rap based, which shows up in the extras as three music videos. The other extras are a 1:06 “Behind the Scenes” which condenses all three weeks of the shoot into essentially 22 seconds each, some Unearthed trailers, and chapters. Considering the film is in Japanese, I am not considering the captions as extras as much as necessities.

For a first feature length release – albeit shorter than most - Hirose rises to the occasion and brings what he promises, a film that is what its name claims. I’m still trying to figure out, however, the meaning of the second couple in the film who seem extraneous.



Friday, February 22, 2019

Review: Demon Squad

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet

Demon Squad (aka Night Hunters; Full Moon Inc.)
Directed by Thomas Smith
Fighting Owl Films / MVD Entertainment
97 minutes, 2019
In a new world of who can top whom with gross violence and vivisections, sometimes someone has to step up and say, “Hey, here’s some good entertainment that’s based on the story, rather than being gory.” Thomas Smith has been that voice for a while now, thanks to his direction with films like The Night Shift (2011). One might call them PG-13, but more on that later.
Khristian Fulmer, Erin Liley
We are introduced to Nick Moon (Khristian Fulmer), a hard-hitting PI (Paranormal Investigator) modeled in the Sam Spade mode of the Noir detective stories. He’s got a smirk a mile long, an odd hat, and can throw an incantation or two for the viewers entertainment and his prey’s detriment. His assistant/Girl Friday is empath Daisy O’Reilly (Erin Liley), who gets to see as much action as does Nick – and rightfully so, as she’s an interesting character in her own right; note that Liley co-wrote the film with hubby Smith.
Into their squalid office comes vivacious femme fatale Lilah Fontaine (Leah Christine Johnson), a rich man’s daughter who hires Moon to find her missing dad. Of course, if you read mystery novels, you know there’s more than meets the eye-candy with Lilah.
The world our three main characters inhabit is a normalized mixture of human and demon, though most of the time it’s easy to tell who is which (which is who?) by the make-up. Some demons look like the blood suckers on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” television shows, others like aliens on early “Star Trek” episodes, but most have some variation of horns. But mostly, they seem to like to hang out at demon bars and drink.
Leah Christine Johnson
While searching for Lilah’s dad, Moon and company get involved in the search for a mystical power source for a knife of unimaginable power in the right/wrong hands. Of course, every demon and religious order is trying to get a hold of it for whatever means, be it to use it to evil ends or to nullify that from happening. Naturally, all plots merge into a single point in the story.
Considering the size of the body count, there is almost no blood, though there is some violence in the fisticuffs and paranormal happenings (some involving portals!). Now, I belong to a lot of horror groups on social media, and invariably someone asks for a good starter horror film for someone in their youth (tweens or early teens, I am going to assume). I’ve seen someone suggest films like The Exorcist, which is way too adult. I would, however, recommend this one. There is a bit of occasional cussin’ here and there, but nothing compared to many cable shows. And the violence is definitely there – remember this is a genre film – on a scale that is equivalent to shows like SVU. In fact, this would make a great cable program, or on the CW channel, that I would watch. I’ve said this before about earlier Smith films, and stand by that.
The visuals as quite nice, without there being jump cuts. Brown tones seem to prevail, and a bit of steam punk paraphernalia is certainly present in Moon’s arsenal. Fulmer and Liley have been shown to have a nice platonic chemistry together in earlier Smith films, and continue to do so here. There is a bit of ham that shows up in the acting style here and there, but that is common in Noir films (e.g., Nicholson in 1974’s Chinatown).
What’s also enjoyable is the level of a-wink-and-a-nod humor that runs throughout the story. There are a lot of humorous lines of which Liley gets the bulk, but there is also that moment when Fulmer turns to the camera and knowingly smirks that’s bound to raise some smiles if you didn’t blink at that moment and miss it. It is little things like that which help keep the pace. Other than a couple of dialog heavy moments that may use some editing in my humble opinion, the dialog and action balance each other nicely to keep the story flowing.
Who would have thought of Mobile, Alabama, as a center of normalized demon inhabitation, rather than religious fanatics attacking them in the name of Jeebus? An aspect I like about Smith’s filmmaking is that we get to see quite a few back alleyways of the city, but it never gives the impression of being a run-down town, like Scorsese did with New York in 1974’s Taxi Driver.
While the demons are not scary in the Evil Dead or Italian horror kind of way, they are still interesting as villains, and the make-up tends to be cartoonish rather than frightful, but not in any negative way; rather it’s kinda cool. The make-up is appliance-based, but there are also numerous digital effects as well.
To sum up and paraphrase, for me a large part of what makes this film so much fun is that it’s story based rather than the plot revolving around wounds. While viscera are all well and good, it’s nice to follow a plot that is interesting in its own self. And Fulmer and Liley certainly are up for the task of presenting us that story.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Review: Clownado

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet

Written, directed and edited by Todd Sheets
Extreme Entertainment / FilmCore / Mem Ferda
100 minutes, 2019

A mash-up – given the right manic proportions – can be a fun ride. For example, the original Sharknado (2013) is a mash-up of disaster films like Twister (1996) and Jaws (1975). Well, now classic b-film director (truly meant in the most admirable way ) Todd Sheets has smashed-up the mash-up by combining Sharknado with the recent clown mania that has culminated in the remake of IT (2018; as of this writing, IT Part II has not been released yet).

John O'Hara (top), Bobby Westrick, Sierra Stodden,
Dilynn \"Fawn Harvey, Antwoine Steele
There are actually many film tropes used throughout Clownado that the aficionado of the genre are able to easily check off, but here is the thing: Sheets takes those – okay, let’s use the term clichés – and turns them on their heads by de-cliché-ing them and making them his own. Here is an example of what I mean: usually, when you get a group thrown together it’s usually overaged teenagers, such as the jock, the virgin, the whore, and the shy guy. Here, Sheets gives us the trucker, Hunter Fidelis (Bobby Westrick), the innocent Rachel (Sierra Stodden), the stripper with a good heart Bambi (Dilynn Fawn Harvey, a Sheets regular), and an African-American Elvis Impersonator (Antwoine Steele, also part of Sheets’ ensemble), roaming through Dixie Country. Why are they together and on the run? Well, that’s where the plot takes us.
Savanna (Rachel Lagen) is trying to rob and escape the evil clutches of her abusive husband, Big Ronnie (John O’Hara), who owns a run-down traveling circus. Of course this idea goes bad (as the bon mot states, “Make a plan, God laughs”), and she knows he is going to kill her. What else to do? Get the gypsy woman, Autumn Moonspell (infamous amputee ex-porn star Jeanne Silver) to place a curse. Through this action, Ronnie and his clown henchmen become demonized, able to use tornados to travel after her and our quadrant of heroes, who are eventually joined by tornado hunters Chris (Jeremy Todd) and Molly (Millie Milan, both also frequent Sheets flyers).

Rachel Lagen
Taking place all in one night, the story is one continuous chase and capture, filled with lots of blood and gore and a very nice body count when all is added up. Not only is the viscera not shied away from (i.e., off-camera), but it’s usually shown in close-up. Note that the kills are mostly SFX by Buckets of Blood Productions, which are not ”clinical” but are still rather quite juicy and filled with internal organs. Of course, with the inclusion of tornados and some of the splatter, there is a bit of digi-work added as well.
The acting is way over the top, as it should be in this kind of spectacle, but it should especially be noted about the performance of O’Hara, who plays Big Ronnie as a cross somewhere between James Cagney in White Heat (1949) and a shrill Margaret Hamilton in “I’ll get you my pretty!” mode, with lots (and lots) of teeth gnashing. He steals just about every scene he’s in.

The big cameo is from Scream Queen extraordinaire, Linnea Quigley, who plays the really nasty owner of the strip club that employs Bambi. In a geekizoid homage fashion, she is Spider, the same character from Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama (1988).

One of the things I really like about Sheets’ films is that he is not limited by a particular body type. Not everyone is a model who is size 0, or plastic surgery’d to the point where chests are practically immobile from overpacking. There is also lots of upper female nudity and cleavage to keep some viewers happy. As for the men, there are no Zac Efron wannabes who look like they fell out of a boy band catalog. Rather, Sheets’ cast is filled with people who look like those you might actually meet on line at the bank, eating at the table next to yours, or fighting a gaggle of giggling killer clowns from cyclone space.

This is actually a beautifully shot film overall, and Sheets gets some great angles and frame-work (especially when he combines the two), and the story never drags. There are some questionable actions taken by the characters to add time to the story, but these nasty clowns are entertaining as hell, and the fodder characters are fun as well and keep the viewer interested. When any main character is killed here, you may find yourself saying, “Oh, maaaaaan!” That’s a sign of viewer commitment, which is a positive squarely on the shoulders of the writer/director.

Right now, Clownado is playing on the Film Fest circuit; if you get the chance to check it out there, go for it. Distribution on a power label is bound to follow, and you could add this to your Todd Sheets collection. I will add it to mine.



Friday, February 15, 2019

Reviews: Bram Stoker’s Shadowbuilder; HP Lovecraft’s The Unnameable

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet

These two reviews are together because both were based on the literature of master writers who are as vibrant today as they were in their own time around the turn of the 20 Century. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a must read, and HP Lovecraft’s tales of the Old Ones and Cthulhu resonate today. However, these films are based on lesser known works, which I believe make them compelling. Are they loyal to the source work? Of course not, much like depictions Dracula and the films about the octopus-headed evil god. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy, right?

Bram Stoker’s Shadowbuilder (aka Shadow Builder)
Directed by Jamie Dixon
Applecreek Communications / Hammerhead Productions /
Imperial Entertainment / Moonstone Entertainment / MVD Rewind Collection
101 minutes, 1998 / 2018

“The Shadow Builder,” on which this is kind-of-based, is from Under the Sunset, Bram Stoker’s first collection of short stories (HERE) that was published in 1881.  In the original, the titular character could be envisioned as a sorrowful “Death” (sans scythe), who comes for a family when it’s their time (yes, I’ve read it). Like many tales of its period, where authors were paid by the number of words, it’s filled with imagery and adjectives more than narrative story, e.g., “The lonely Man’s heart grows heavier and heavier as he waits and watches, whilst the weary time passes and the countless days and nights come and go.”

And then there is this film, in which nearly everything changes or is given a more structured plotline than the original. A coven led by an evil priest resurrects the Shadowbuilder [SB] through a sacrifice and blood ritual. Rather than morose, it/he is an malevolent being with no foreboding or sadness, but rather is a creature who is after a young boy, Chris (Kevin Zegers) who is pure of heart and may become a Saint one day (yes, you read that correctly).

Andrew Jackson
In some ways, the SB (Andrew Jackson) is a cross between a vampire and a platonic incubus, in that as it passes through a victim, it sucks the energy right out of the person, leaving what looks like a burned out husk, which sometimes comes back to life (reminiscent of 1985’s Lifeforce, sans Mathilda May, but I digress…) for nefarious reasons. Also, being more demon than Death Proper, he is harmed by light, and must remain in the darkness.
On the side of light is a warrior priest, Father Vassey (Michael Rooker, of Guardians of the Universe fame, though for us genre fans, he will always be the titular mass murderer of 1989’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), Chris’ mom Jenny (Leslie Hope), and her boyfriend, Sherriff Sam (Shawn Thompson). Also in a quirky extended cameo role is the great Tony Todd as a nutzoid Rasta dude with an eyepatch named Covey who, of course, is an important lynchpin to the storyline.

Michael Rooker
As time goes on, the influence of the Demon on the town (filmed in Paris, Ontario) is one of violence and mayhem, and the folks go on rampages with axes and stripping on crosses for the gratuitous nudity. There is some nonsense of course, where the SB needs a certain amount of souls for a solar eclipse to gain full power, and he’s one shy… like he couldn’t just go over to anyone in the town who have gone nuts and just grabbed one, and the opportunities are ripe with fodder. To me that’s the big hole in the plot.
I really liked the religious aspects of the film, which both assures and questions religious fervour at the same time; whether God actually does intervene or is a “stand-back” kinda guy. On one hand is mentioned “an eye for an eye,” and then someone smarmily calls the end of the world “The Book of Rationalization.” It is smart to swing both ways like that, even though it’s pretty obvious they stand by God of Creation and certainly Jesus: while it does get only a little bit heavy handed in that way, it does not interfere with the story, so I’m okay with it, being the non-religious person that I am.

There’s lots of jump scares that work, some nice blood effects, a ton of digital effects that are reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and a large body count that help boost the payload of enjoyment.

The Blu-ray has many extras, most of which are new for this re-release: The first one up is the “Making of the Shadowbuilder” featurette (32:22), which presents the director, writer Michael Stokes and its actors Jackson and Todd. There is also a “Shadowbuilder: Visual Effects” featurette (13:26) and also a look at “Shadowbuilder: Kevin Zegers” piece (5:00); it is pretty obvious they were all recorded at the same time and then edited into different groups. Luckily, all three are entertaining, especially the effects one as the director describes how he helped create a digital layering technique that was used in a ton of mainstream features, such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1990).

Tony Todd
Then of course, there’s the full-length audio commentary by the director, Jamie Dixon. This is actually a nicely paced talk that reflects and rebounds off what the viewer is seeing on the screen. Dixon doesn’t just ramble on about technical aspects, it’s directly tied to the images present on the screen. This style is very informative yet low pressure for the viewer.  

Some other cool odds and end extras include a reversible, two-sided cover artwork, the trailer for the original release as well as other coming attractions, a poster folded into the clamshell case, and some subtitles that didn’t really work well off my Blu-ray player.

Like I said, some of the plotline is questionable, and other than the barest of connection to the original short story, but it’s a fun ride.

H.P. Lovecraft’s The Unnamable (aka The Unnamable)
Directed by Jean-Paul Ouellette
Unearthed Films / Yankee Classic Pictures / Unleased Classics / MVD Visual
76 minutes, 1988 / 2018

The original short story on which this film is very loosely based was first published in Weird Tales in July 1925 (HERE). While both take the longer route to get to a point or anywhere near a plot, Stoker’s style was languid, while Lovecraft uses his writing editing the same way film does, with sharpness and snippets to express excitement, such as this nameable description of the unnameable: “It was everywhere — a gelatin — a slime; a vapor; — yet it had shapes, a thousand shapes of horror beyond all memory. There were eyes — and a blemish. It was the pit — the maelstrom — the ultimate abomination. Carter, it was the unnameable!” (Yes, I’ve read it, too.)

This is director Jean-Paul Ouellette’s first film, and he takes the initial tale and uses it as the starting point (after the obligatory prologue where we get some of the back story of Alyda Winthrop (Katrin Alexandre), aka the named Unnameable.

Mark Parra, Charles Klausmeyer, Mark Kinsey Stephenson
The focus of the story is two intertwining groups of overaged Miskatonic University (if it’s Lovecraft, it must be there; a guerilla-style UCLA stood in for the locale) students, mostly freshmen/-women, in New England. These are people who will wind up in the spooky house where the Unnamable lives. The first is the trio of snooty and egocentric hyper-intelligent (a Sherlock Holmes meets Sheldon Cooper type, though I supposed he’s symbolically an ersatz Lovecraft) Folklorist and writer Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson), always-in-a-suit-and-tie Howard (Charles King aka Charles Klausmeyer) and obnoxious show-off Joel (Mark Parra, who is now a noted Martial Arts expert).

Laura Albert
The second group is jocks Bruce (Eban Ham, who wears a sweater around his neck) and John (Blane Wheatley), who are creepy in trying to seduce Tanya (Alexandra Durrell) and Wendy (cult fave Laura Albert in her first film; she will become a top stunt women in film, but those in the know may always think of her as Mrs. Van Houten in 1989’s Dr. Caligari).  
Of course, as time rolls on, physical contact with the titular creature will be inevitable, leading to some really nice bloodwork effects and a decent body count. The creature also looks pretty good, and it takes quite a while before one gets to see it in whole (other than a quick flash that you’ll need to hit the pause button to catch.

The acting is a bit on the wooden side, but it’s somewhat forgivable as for most of the players, this is their first roles. As I stated near the top, it’s also the director’s first feature, so there is the learning curve of getting good performances from the cast. No, my big issue is something that is endemic in movies of this period, and that is the walking around the house (in this case; in others, it could be the woods) with a flashlight or candle for extended periods. Yes, I have discussed this before in other reviews, but in this film, if combined, it must take up a good third of the entire running time. Then there is door being locked in a house full of windows. Furniture goes out windows, breaking glass. This might be a good time to mention that there is a very dark, subtle humor that runs throughout.

An interesting aspect of the film that is totally dated is the whole subplot of jocks trying to get laid at all means possible, including trying to get the ladies drunk and forced embracing. Or, as is also true here and oft the case in horror cinema, the hot girl is all, “Hello, I just met you an hour ago: let’s fuck!” These two scenarios made my skin crawl more than the beastie, honestly. And yet, I liked the film, as ridiculous and full of holes as it may be, it is definitely a piece of its time.

Eban Ham
Among the extras are separate interviews done in split screens by Jay Kay of the Horror Happens Radio podcast with actors Charles Klausmeyer and Mark Kinsey Stephenson who are friends beyond the film (78:13), Eben Ham (30:55), Laura Albert (46:16), Mark Parra (33:36),and make-up artists R. Christopher Biggs and Camille Calvet (60:03); surprisingly though, none with the director. Kay does a great job in hitting the fine points of asking the right probing questions, and still manages to touch on the marketing buzzwords of the product (i.e., this Blu-ray and its sequel).
A full audio commentary with Albert, Ham, Klausmeyer, Stephenson, Biggs and Calvet in included. As you might guess by the sheer number of people contributing to this aural annotation, it’s kind of a mess with some information, and a lot of talking over each other, sadly.  Stick to the Jay Kay interviews for real info. To add to the extras, there’s a photo gallery and various trailers, including for this film.

There is a sequel by the same director, The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1992) that has two of the same main male leads, which I have not seen yet. Time will tell.




Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Review: Pumpkin Man – The Ultimate Edition

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet

Pumpkin Man: The Ultimate Edition (aka Night of the Pumpkin)
Written and directed by Bill Zebub
Bill Zebub Productions / MVD Entertainment
90 minutes, 2010 / 2019                                               

It’s rare to find someone who is so auteur that they end up creating a subgenre all their own. Director Bill Zebub is one of them. I don’t know if he came into the indie biz out of sarcasm/greed (as he describes in one of his earliest films, Assmonster), but his prolific output has proven that he’s up for the task, if the viewer is up for whatever comes their way.

Sure, that sounds like an insult, but that is not how it is meant, at all. I have a lot of respect for Zebub and his empire of films with titles like Jesus: The Total Douchebag, or Santa Claus: Serial Rapist. They tend to be obnoxiously silly, shot with a devil-may-care attitude (such as the boom mic and its shadow peeking out the top of the frame), and oft times head scratch-worthy, but they will entertain for certain if you’re willing. I am.

There are some constants in Bill’s films, such as:
·       Bill himself being one of the main characters (though here he takes more of a second billing – pun not intended – for the first time I’ve seen), and he will probably wear a Viking hat at some point
·       some scenes will be shot in the woods of New Jersey
·       Christianity will be questioned
·       the acting will vary all over the map; and
·       there will be a lot of nudity and blood.

Shoshana McCallum, Chelsea O'Toole, Pumpkin Dude, Kellyn Lindsay
This film was originally released in 2010 as Night of the Pumpkin, but is now getting a rerelease under a new title and reediting, and lots of extras, which I will delve into later. We meet a bunch of friends (and frenemies) who are meeting for a gathering (a fun conversation ensues between whether it’s a party or a get-together). The three main leads are Jen (Shoshana McCallum), religious fanatic Elizabeth (Chelsea O’Toole) and intellectual atheist Elyse (lovely Kellyn Lindsay). Oh, and Bill (Zebub) is Jen’s annoying boyfriend.

A mysterious Pumpkin Man that has vines that can move independently to snare people has been showing up and killing. There is some talk of a legend, but I’m still unclear about the origin of the creature. Nevertheless, it’s pretty cool looking for a micro-budget film. It chases our crew (and additional body count fodder) into each other’s houses and, as I indicated, the New Jersey woods (perhaps related to the New Jersey Devil?). It’s obviously a guy in a bulky costume, but I’ve seen a whole lot worse that cost a whole lot more. Zebub, who created the mask, did a decent job of the Pumpkin Man that makes it easily identifiable when compared to imitations (in the film, not real life… duh).

As with other four or five Zebub films I’ve seen, this is silly stuff that ends up being bigger than itself, becoming something so over the top that it becomes enjoyable. Yeah, he seems to be fixated on rapes and evil stuff like that, even when it’s Jesus, Santa or a big invisible pumpkin in this case, and I’m still not comfortable with it. At least in films like Ms. 45 (1981) and I Spit on Your Grave/Day of the Woman (1978), there is some revenge and comeuppance. Here it’s just for gratuitous viewing, and that drives me a bit nuts (I once got into an argument with the screenwriter of Street Trash over the unnecessary rape scene when the film first came out in 1987).

There are quite a few extras on the newly released Ultimate Edition, starting with a 49:27 minute “Blooper Reel,” which is really more of a Behind the Shooting Scenes collection. It’s interesting to see how Zebub sets up his shots. At 8:10 is “Cast Interview” where Zebub questions mostly O’Toole and Lindsay on the beach during the last day of shooting (for the opening credits).

From 2008 is the “Director and Slideshow” (22:44) which is really interesting as Zebub fills in just about every plot hole including origins and omissions. The first 8 minutes is the talking, and the rest is the slideshow over death metal music. “Director (New Speech)” is 8:25 and Zebub discusses his own disappointment of the initial release and what led up to the reediting the newest “Ultimate” one. Again, a good monologue. The “Deleted Scenes” is short and sweet at 3:53; this was understandably taken out, but there are a couple of really funny lines in there worth viewing. The last are a batch of Zebub trailers: definitely watch these.

Zebub is self-depreciating about his own films, but I like to think of them as earnest, and the fun the cast seems to be having emanates through the action onscreen, which translates into fun. Again, if you’re one of those who expect blockbuster film-level budget action, you are so lost here, but if you’re like me and can respect the work and effort of the entire project, well, uncap a beer and prepare yourself to a worthwhile experience in WTF World.