The fine fiends at Wild Eye Releasing have plenty of horror biz spills and chills available right now, and they sent me a ton o’ titles to slap revoltin’ reviews upon (part one of this fearsome feature can be found right here)!
First title we will examine is Human Zoo!
Roll up and check out the latest reality TV diversion; a sinister show where contestants are jammed in a teeny tiny cell and filmed as they inevitably lose their shit. Now the idea is there will be a “winner” to these unsavory shenanigans with a prize of a cool mil’ waiting for whoever keeps their sanity the longest… which will just about cover the therapy bills they’ll acquire trying to cope with the fallout of what they will endure on this show…
Human Zoo takes us through the creation of that aforementioned TV program from it’s casting to it’s implementation and puts our quirky and/or snarky characters through the wringer. In concept it’s a fun enough premise, and the actors chosen are definitely game for the goings-on, and the personalities of their roles run the gamut from affable to depressed to complete pain in the ass… though of course when push comes to shove they all become fractured… but the characters are where this flick hits a bit of a hurdle.
You see, their are a whole hell of a lot of individuals in this flick, and while it’s admirable that writer/director John E Seymore (along with co-writer John D. Crawford) tackle so many different characters it increases the length of this flick to a rather unwieldy one hour and forty eight minute runtime that ends up getting stalled here and there. If a few characters could have been jettisoned it would have made the pacing a bit smoother.
On a positive note, the filmmakers mentioned up yonder really thought the concept of the show out fully which adds a nice bit of world building as we follow our leads from trying out for the show, filming confessionals, and of course engaging in the horrors of their voluntary isolation (and the psychological torture it brings).
As for extras on this DVD you get… the film’s trailer, and nothing else.
Seemingly made super relevant given the current state of the world (as of this writing Covid-19 continues to rage across the U.S. of A. confining us primarily to our homes indefinitely), Human Zoo is a solid lil’ psychological thriller with a solid premise that provides an interesting watch even though it suffers from trying to do too much with it’s multitude of characters.
Next up is Bundy Reborn:
After Daddy Dearest (Bill Moseley, he of the chopped top himself) puts a murder on his sister; David O’Hara (Matthan Harris, who also wrote and directed this here putrid picture) gets a wild hair up his ass to create a family of his own, no matter the methods he has to employ… such as raping women and getting them pregnant. A real charmer ol’ Dave is, eh?
Anyway, David meets Melissa Daniels (Lindsay Hightower) with whom he also does his classic maneuver… but she escapes his clutches and decides to keep the kid. This of course creates a reason for Deadly Dave to make the scene and claim what he feels is rightly his. Horror biz ensues, baby!
Writer/Director Harris presents some pretty damn interesting material in Bundy Reborn (originally titled The Inflicted), and manages to create a rather well-rounded character in O’Hara, who… and really I can’t believe I’m typing this, manages to generate tinges of sympathy no matter the horrible depths to which he sinks to achieve la famiglia of his wet dreams.
And while the creation of who David is and the world he inhabits is offered up in great detail, more time could have been spent on the twisted relationship of Dave and Melissa; what’s there is solid, but it could have been developed just a bit further so we truly get the full force of the punch to the taint that is their co-existence.
It also should be noted that horror legends the late, great Sid Haig and Doug Bradley make appearances here as well.
As for special features on this DVD, we get a nice selection of material including: a behind-the-scenes featurette, a blooper reel, a selection of deleted scenes, a look at the film’s showing at the FantaFestival, interviews with actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice and soundtrack composer Marco Werba, a look at Harris on set, a Q&A sesh from Texas Frightmare, and the film’s trailer.
A well made, and often disturbing, dip into the daily comings and goings of your friendly neighborhood psycho, Bundy Reborn is one to give a wicked whirl… just expect to shower with a wire brush after you watch it!
Next we examine The Luring:
Ol’ Garrett (Rick Irwin) had a bit of a sour time as a youth; you see G-dawg bore witness to some sinister shit that took place in the wood decor heavy vacation home his parents owned. In the interest of jogging his memory and doubtless unleashing a floodgate of unrelenting madness, Garrett grabs his gal pal Claire (Michaela Sprague), heads to the cabin, and promptly begins to become unhinged; seeing visions and turning into one hell of a major douche to all around him.
Soon Garrett is puttin’ the hornies on town hottie Jennifer (Molly Fahey) to go along with some new memories of that dread day; a date that involved a birthday party and being an arse to an autistic boy (Matan Barr)… not to mention a mysterious red balloon. Seems like things are on a downward spiral for our hero… a spiral that continues when he meets a stranger (Daniel Martin Berkey) with a connection to that creepy cabana!
To be honest cats n’ creeps, I was very pleasantly surprised by The Luring. Yours cruelly expected some sort of predictable cabin-in-the-woods, trope laden, slash-fest, but instead was presented by a great slow burn mystery that manages to keep the audience guessing and the tension, uneasiness, and dread mounting!
Writer/Director Christopher Wells plays things incredibly smart here; doling out hints and fragments of information over the course of the narrative without ever tipping his hand too soon. Add to that the fantastic performances by Irwin and Sprague, atmospheric score (courtesy of composer Al Creedon), and surrealist flourishes and you’ve got something very special with The Luring!
Next under the monstrous microscope is Door in the Woods:
Redd (David Rees Snell) and his wife Evelyn (Jennifer Pierce Mathus) have gone and transplanted their asses to a new town, which goes over like a fart in church with their son Kane (John-Michael Fisher) who begins lashing out. As one naturally would do, she calls in local psychic Uriah (a fantastic performance from Castle Rock‘s CJ Jones) to see if the family’s luck will change (on top of the Kane sitch, Redd isn’t getting enough work to support the family)… but his main bit of advice warns against opening a doorway.
Being the highly intelligent people they are, Redd and Evelyn find a door, covered in chains, standing upright in the woods… which they drag home to use as a closet door. Cheap bastards.
Once the door is installed in the house strange shit begins going down, and ol’ Uriah tells them to ditch the door damn quick! but alas, they can’t as the portal refuses to be loosened from it’s moors… and best of all, that eerie entrance once was part of a house where kids kept pullin’ disappearing acts. It appears that things won’t be comin’ up Kane in the very near future…
Door In The Woods is great lil fright flick that takes it’s ludicrous conceit and surrounds it with damn good acting, a beautiful color palette, and some creative uses of a limited budget to produce a film that would be right at home n the occult-heavy oeuvre of ’70s-lensed horror biz. Let me break this shit on down a bit further…
Now obviously, you’d have to be the dumbest mother fucker on the entire Earth to find a door that looks as downright evil as the one our leads find in those woods, and think to yourself “Hmm, with countless hours of toil and materials, this will be the centerpiece of our upstairs hall.”, but they do and I’ll be damned if we don’t just go right the fuck along with it.
The reason for this is that Snell and Mathus are incredible actors that are so personable and real that you want nothing bad to happen to them, and that always makes for an effective terror tale let me tell ya!
As good as the characters are, the world they inhabit is realized equally well, with the environs and landscape surrounding the dated ranch house the family inhabits realized in the holy trinity of ’70s color design; muted orange and blue, along with rich brown… this is mirrored in the wooded scenes where things are coded green and brown, with splashes of yellow to indicate something wild… and the door as found in nature is a sickly pale blue that makes it look like the flesh of a corpse. This use of color also extends to the brilliant white outfit of Uriah, and the natural sunlight he often appears in (near angelic), and the deep red of his opposite number; the newly painted door. Fuck yeah art degree, you didn’t let ol’ XIII down after all!
Additionally, writer/director Billy Chase Goforth weaves a great mythology around the door and it’s preternatural prowess, and uses the limited budget at his disposal to realize as much supernatural shenanigans as possible (mostly ghostly children and phantom limbs reaching from the darkness), but at the end of the day this is a more a piece about a family dealing with things they don’t understand on a personal level rather than an over-the-top effects showcase.
Door In The Woods is an arty n’ arcane journey into paranormal pandemonium, family drama, and urban legend and isn’t to be missed by horror hounds who dig on fare such as The Babadook, Poltergeist, or Hereditary!
Now let’s take a look at Impact Event:
Ed (Vernon Wells… he of The Road Warrior and Commando fame) is an astrophysicist with a nasty feeling that an approaching asteroid is about to smash into Earth, and the usual gang of preppers are , well… preparing and two such fellers are the amazingly named Justice Outlaw (Richard Grieco, TV’s Booker baby!) and Billy who’s bomb shelter is in an old fun-house… good thing too, as the asteroid actually does collide with our planet!
Eventually Raymond (The Hills Have Eyes‘ Micheal Berryman) and David (Barry Jay Minoff) discover some real sinister skinny; namely that prisoners from a local penitentiary have gone full cannibal, and they are on their way to Billy’s place… and they got themselves a real meat tooth for those inside!
The concept of what boils down to “Night of the Living Dead in a Dark Ride instead of a farmhouse” should have been a non-stop thrill ride (literally and figuratively)… and at times it truly is. I’ll elaborate…
While the film is poorly paced (I’ll get back to that in a hot second), it does have some great things going for it. The concept mentioned up yonder is a solid one, and though not fully exploited, remains interesting. Adding to that, there are some fun performances here as well including Jed Rowen as a hulkin’ dude who paints his face like a clown for absolutely no reason (this is a positive in my beastly book, as you cats n’ creeps know I like things ridiculous), Tasha Tacosa as Cassie, a tough ass woman who is no mood for bullshit (you know what, she does the clown bag too… okay movie, high fuckin’ five), and Minoff as their personable host (and man my dude looks like Rick Baker) and of course guest stars Berryman, Grieco, and Wells deliver in their cameos.
I also dug on the ’80s style radiation blasted environment… all HazMat suits, blister-covered victims, and tinted lenses… not to mention it’s accompanying theme song that’s equal parts Ming’s Theme from the Flash Gordon soundtrack and absolutely ball-shaking funky bass riffs… I oft-times imagine my theme song would be similar…
Additionally the third act is a fine time indeed as our clown faced heroes stalk n’ slay those convict cannibals with wild abandon through the Halloween hootenanny that is the fun-house set.
Now for the negative, this film is just a touch too long. A lot of talk takes place prior to the asteroid hitting Earth, and there’s some more jawin’ directly after. If this picture had just thrown up some text that read “After the asteroid apocalypse… ” and began in progress, this would have flowed better and made the whole film a surreal experience.
As for bonus materials on this DVD, ya get a music video, and a trailer so there!
Overall a good time with some fun as hell visuals, good performances, and a great score; Impact Event satisfies, but it could have made more of a lasting “impact” if it was trimmed of some fat.
Moving on, we have Rust:
Heather (Corey Taylor… an actress, not the dude from Slipknot… although that would have been one for the ages) and her gal pal Morgan (Taylor Kilgore) tool around the desert eatin’ Slim Jims (maybe they’re Twizzlers… the desert lens-tint makes it hard to tell) while not-quite Personal Jesus fills the air… as one does.
Anyway, they are on their way to meet a friend and explore an abandoned Dark Ride where murder biz had gone down for realsies years prior. Naturally a murderous madman, Travis (Morlon Greenwood) by name, still wanders the abandoned abode of the arcane and puts some death upon most of her comrades… but Heather manages to survive.
Flash the fuck forward and Heather and a cadre of cops re-enter the Haunt to put an end to the evil of it’s resident maniac and save Morgan… yeah, I don’t like those odds either…
Look, it’s obvious writer/director Joe Lujan absolutely digs on slasher flicks, and I can truly tell his heart was definitely well and truly into making this film, as were those of the rest of the cast and crew, but there were some hits and misses with Rust that ultimately caused it to be a bit of a miss for me (but not with you lot as there are two more of these fright flicks).
For positives, I dig the mythology Lujan crafted here, with it’s madman stalking an abandoned funhouse… I mean it has been done before, but the approach gains some points with a final girl surrogate returning to the scene of the crime.
And now for the other side of the coin…
I swear to your asses there was a guest cinematographer for certain scenes on this thing, and it was none other than Inch High Private Eye… large sections of his are filmed from like waist-height or lower… it’s a baffling choice and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it… at least not for large chunks of runtime.
Speaking of runtime, this film is an edited together version of two shorter takes on the material (both of which are included as special features along with a small collection of interviews with Lujan), but still runs a tad long at over an hour and forty minutes. For my monstrous money, under ninety minutes for a slasher is the solid gold sweet spot for pacing.
Also, lead actress Taylor wears this bizarre, obvious wig that is a complete distraction… not sure what was going on there either.
If you like slashers, you may get a kick out of Rust, it ain’t the worst thing out there, and it ain’t the best… it just is.
That’s it for now, keep your eerie eyeballs open for the last part of this series very soon!