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Reverse Heaven

Good gawd, where did this come from?
(Update, December 12, 2018: I felt I should state here that the following is not a "false review," it's definitely for real. I have no connection to those involved in the film, I'm just an average joe who happened upon this flick in a store..."

Here it is, November 10, 2018 and each Tuesday is becoming a more difficult experience hunting down new releases on DVD and Blu-ray. Best Buy, Target, and Barnes & Noble have diminished their selections drastically. While some boutique labels for hard media are thriving online (Vinegar Syndrome, Severin, Code Red / Scorpion, et al along with sites that cater to them), it seems that -- and I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M SAYING THIS -- Walmart is the last resource for finding, in-store, the latest in lesser-known titles and sub-lables that are actually released by the likes of Lionsgate and Sony. You know the ones, like 4Digital, Vertical, E-One, Momentum, SP, etc. So I was carefully scanning the aisle for the latest, and there was.... HEAVEN & HELL.

I had a hunch I should grab it, but then hesitated. So I wrote down the title along with seven others to research when I got home. Hmmm. On Amazon, it was only available for download, and no comments. On IMDb, a rating of 7.7 from seven votes, no comments from users nor external. The one discovery was that the original title was REVERSE HEAVEN, with a nifty photo of the poster art for that.

I started watching it. Oh! Old-style film stock with added print damage, lines, speckling, little jumps here and there like missing frames. Did not expect that, and I thought this should get interesting. What I DID notice was there was some kind of miscommunication between the filmmakers and SP Releasing / Echo Bridge Entertainment. The logline on the back of the cover has the main character named Nash, when in the film he's called Chase. The sergeant is listed as Kuluhan, where on IMDb she's listed as Coolahan. Burt Ward is top-billed after Cher Lyn, but he's only in three scenes. Hey, wait... who's Chase? I can't find the actor listed anywhere. Getting a bit of a headache here. But back to the film...

My head was spinning from back and forth scenes of sheer inanity (yes, I said inanity as in inane, not insanity, though that would apply too) to scenes of sheer brilliance. Some entirely in a master shot, then right to astounding camera acrobatics as in the insane drive-through-the-train-tunnel sequence. A score that sounded orchestral... was this actually a grand score recorded for THIS film? Was this taking place now? The 1970s? F-bomb after F-bomb, a surprising restraint from gratuitous nudity (which I expected a ton of after all the craziness started -- well, it started from the get go, actually). As I said, my head was spinning.

I nearly got to the end and then realized, I wasn't really sure what was actually going on! To get a semblance of it, I figured an alcoholic detective with a death wish clashes with a couple of co-workers, and once he gets partnered up with a 1970s-hippie-chick-porn-star-looking Kuluhan / Coolahan, he can't hold back from constantly sexually harrassing her (which just kind of annoys her) yet wanting her to really like him. Chases ensue involving a classic '70s car that seems immune to bullets, and leaves trails of fire. Hallucinatory moments with ethereal images and voices, in visuals that are suddenly absent of the "film damage" present elsewhere in the whole film. An energy battle of good versus evil. Wait! That WAS Charles Dierkop as a bank robber (you'll know who he is once you see him). Oh, and I had to "rewind" when a scene of klansmen assaulting churchgoers happened, it's like the kitchen sink was being thrown in. Wow! Gotta take a breath here.

Honestly, if I tried to tell you a direct description of the story, you'd still not realize the complete outrageousness and guts all involved had to have to put this thing together. After I ejected the DVD from my Blu-ray player, I immediately came back to IMDb and started writing this rambling review as words, images, sounds, and good & evil energies started spilling out of my brain. When nearing the end of writing this, I even went back and changed my rating from 8 to 9 because I just realized how impressed I was by being so befuddled and bedazzled by this wondrous creation. I'm going to need to give myself an extensive session of self-Reiki tonight.

Oh, and as for the names? Turns out Chase is listed ind the end credits as Chase Nash for the actor, his character is listed as "Psychic Detective." Cher Lyn's character is listed as Kuluhan after all. So, turns out the back cover on the DVD was not wrong: Nash is Chase Nash after all (they just don't clear that up in the logline), Kuluhan IS Kuluhan, but the fact that Chase's name is mysteriously not listed on IMDb nor on the cover of the release is mysterious indeeeeeeed.

Yep, it's an amazing experience. Time for more cheesecake now.

Freddie Mercury: The Video Collection

An ultimate music video compilation, on a grand scale!
This compilation of Freddie Mercury's "solo" efforts is a true celebration! Songs and music videos on GRAND scale, from the exquisite performances with Montserrrat to the daring and notorious "Living On My Own," anyone who truly appreciates the joy an artist shares with people will never tire of this DVD. The commercial muck that MTV/VH1 tried to pass off as music videos was crime, and it's more a crime that the videos on this DVD were largely ignored in the United States. These are what music videos are all about: sound and vision...and care. Freddie had a lot to do with the concept of each video, and never once do they overpower the music itself. Rather, the concepts accent the music. This is evident in the detail that went into recreations of past Queen and solo video sets to put together "The Great Pretender" (both video versions included), and the sets and costumes for masses of extras in every production.

As director David Mallet said, this was "Freddie being Freddie" and wow, Freddie was a wealth of ideas and talent. I found myself feeling very touched by the end of viewing this collection, and when the personal moments during "In My Defence" and the extended version of "The Great Pretender" were shown, I couldn't help but get a bit teary-eyed. Just seeing the faces on the extras in "Time" were priceless--these people loved Freddie immensely and I'll bet an experience they'll cherish forever.

"Living On My Own" was, as the CBS record company claimed, banned from US television due to the "perceived promiscuity"--I saw right through that load of bull immediately. Why is it okay that so many rock videos are saturated with "fantasy lesbian" sequences but showing the sheer joyous fun of "Living On My Own" is not? Because showing moustached and bearded men dancing together, many in leather, is somehow threatening (still) to people, or actually, straight men to whom the media feels we must make feel comfortable about what they watch. It's a fact a party (which this music video was) with a gay atmosphere is more honest and liberated than what you see on those advertisements for "wild party girls" college events...here, friends and fellow Queen members show what having a good time is all about!

Though most likely lip-synced, the live performances with Montserrat show the true appreciation the world has had for Freddie Mercury. Seeing all those people cheering and the performers obvious delight in participating is overwhelming to see and hear.

As director Mallet also said, "Freddie was one of the really great originals of the second half of the 20th century. There was nobody like Freddie. There was no-one even a bit like Freddie. There was just nobody like him at all." Bravo!!!!! Even if you weren't a big fan of Freddie Mercury or even Queen, this compilation will have a positive effect on you. I've never seen anything quite like this!


The kind of discovery that "won't go quietly" and feeds one's love of films.
I like to put it this way: "It's a Mongillo!" You see, the great thing about "a Mongillo," or as the film credits would read "A Mongillo Conspiracy," is that you can't pin his work down. His works are never the same type of thing and no matter the genre, you can't predict the outcome (meaning, you can't guess how the film will end). And as always, great music to suit the creation. That's why I'm rating DIANE a 10. Sure, indie projects may not have the slickness of big budget studio productions, but the rough edges actually give the film a more raw feeling that draw me in. You don't have to be a product of Big Hollywood to rate a 10. I was fully entertained and invested in the story. I cared about where the direction could possibly go. For me that's a sign of a successful project.

The film opens with what appears to be a sultry lounge performance by Diane that would have made the management of The Slow Club proud (you know the place, it's a Lynchian thing). It's a nice song, yet something doesn't feel right. Just a tad uncomfortable. "I won't go quietly," she sings. The colors are deep and warm. Then BAM. It's like someone goes to the window, opens the curtains, and you get a blast of light when you're not fully awake yet. The instant saturated visuals jolt you into sitting up and demanding your full attention. Get as comfortable as you can, because you can't shade your eyes for the next hour and 20 minutes. I liked that. Once again, I know I'm going to be surprised. Because, well, "It's a Mongillo!"

Disabled war vet Steve (Jason Alan Smith) pretty much keeps to himself, tinkering with and fixing gadgets like generators for extra money. At first he appears the quiet introspective type, sometimes not so easy to befriend. We learn he's been through enough and seen enough during his tour of duty, leaving him not so social. So, what to do when he finds the dead body of a local singer named DIANE (Carlee Avers) in his back yard? First thing Steve does is take a picture of her with his phone (now there's a thing I'd never thought I'd ever say in my life "take a picture with his phone," that seemed so sci-fi when I was young). I didn't think anything of that, figuring he'd taken the picture to show the cops exactly how he found her. But this is a film, and you know that this action will be an important factor to the story. Throughout the film Steve experiences nightmares and hallucinations -- or are they? -- while other characters add to the mystery. A bully of a neighbor and his equally jerky friend, along with a two mean-spirited detectives not only make Steve's life more inconvenient, but also help to bring more clues to solving what happened to Diane.

Detective Phillips and Bernard (Margaret Rose Champagne and Dick Boland) sure do seem harsh to Steve, but then I thought back to an incident nearly 30 years ago where I was dragged into an investigation (of a stolen VCR!) and had two detectives sneering and talking the way Phillips and Bernard were. It was all for naught of course, they just figured because I looked like a hippie and they had nothing else to go on, by interrogating me they looked like they were busy guys. I actually sat and laughed while they threw a manila folder on the table marked "Todd -- Robbery" and it was obviously overstuffed with blank typing paper. But they were so dramatic. So trust me, the way these detectives go at it in DIANE is not an exaggeration.

I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions, particularly when one of the detectives said Steve must be pretty cozy with his life, inheriting his house and getting disability checks. Steve simply stated how it took the loss of his parents and the use of his leg to be that cozy. Smooth! And despite Steve's lack of positivity, Jason Smith delivers the lines and tone just right. We learn quite a lot more about Diane as well, toying with our perceptions of what and who you expect her to be.

I've been asked is it "theatre-worthy" and worthy of my really high rating though it has a low budget. Just because a film may have budget limitations, that doesn't mean the film will look strongly flawed nor does it mean it won't have an engaging story. Of course each person will vary in opinion. Just this past year alone I was amazed at how another director/writer/actor Daniel Falicki managed to come up with some deep philosophical work and ideas within his micro-budgeted films ACCIDENTAL EXORCIST and THE LAST VAMPYRE. And I mean very micro-budgeted, but the films held my rapt attention. DIANE grabbed my interest; I wanted to know who this woman was and just what the hell was going on with Steve. All the little parts do add up nicely. If I were Steve, I would not have done what he does at the end but that just says something about ME and my own sense of survival. So again, I was pleased to see they went with something I had not expected. Of course they did, because "It's a Mongillo!"

Bat Pussy

In a post-2016-election world, you need to see this to forget about everything else.
NOW ON BLU-RAY as of October 2017! Read on...

What? 9 out of 10 for what is possibly the worst film -- make that worst PORNO film -- ever made? Even if a film is mind-numbingly bad, if the entertainment level is high then the film deserves a high rating despite it lacking any decent writing / technical aspects. I didn't give it a 10 because while it IS hysterically bad and SO entertaining, there are indeed some spots where you feel like you want to hit the fast-forward button on your remote (if your'e watching it on VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray). And not during the dialogue, THAT'S something you want to savor every bitchy moment of. It's the lackluster, almost cringe- inducing sexual moments that you might either get bored with or repulsed by, take your pick.

And everything you've heard is right: There are no credits, we're just supposed to accept what we're given. Buddy, who appears to be drunk for real. Sam, a plus-size gal with a visually distracting bee-hive hairdo and constant scowl. And Bat Pussy, who apparently hasn't had a bite of nutrition in months and has something against sex & pornography.

When Bat Pussy detects that Buddy & Sam are taking photos of their... lovemaking, if you will... her nether regions begin to twitch (well, she tells us it does, you don't see that), and in her headquarters (the handwritten sign says it is) she dons her truly sad Bat Pussy outfit and exits what is really an outhouse and heads out on her hoppity-hop. Down the side of a highway, with cars zooming by with what we can only imagine are confused passengers. After stopping off to save a gal from an attacker (Bat Pussy beats him with her hoppity-hop), she goes directly to Buddy & Sam's apartment. And for some reason has sex with them, instead of stopping them from their pornographic endeavors.

Long takes, looks to the camera, vocal directions from off-camera, and at one point Buddy calling Bat Pussy "Bat Woman" and Sam correcting him, correcting him, Buddy & Sam constantly insulting each other but saying "I Love You" while gnawing on each others genitals (yes, gnawing... seems they never learned oral sex techniques nor actual penetration)... the list goes on. It's priceless. I've lost count how many times I've seen this, and love to be with "Bat Pussy virgins" who are seeing it for the first time so I can see the looks on their faces.

And what makes the world even a BETTER place, is that as of October 2017, AGFA (American Genre Film Archive) in cooperation with the good folks at Something Weird have... restored (?) Bat Pussy and given us some extra treats. Here's what you get this time (instead of the tiring Baby Bubbles second feature on the Something Weird DVD-R): New 2K scan from the only surviving 16mm theatrical print! Commentary track with Lisa Petrucci and Tim Lewis of Something Weird, Crime-smut trailers and shorts from the Something Weird vault, Liner notes by Lisa Petrucci and Mike McCarthy, "the savior of BAT PUSSY," Bonus movie: ROBOT LOVE SLAVES, scanned in 2K from an original theatrical print, and double-sided cover art with illustration by Johnny Ryan (though I prefer the "original" art from the Something Weird release. Sorry AGFA, but the new art is not as cool).

The world can rejoice!

I've been a Disciple Of Bat Pussy for decades, and now she hoppity-hops into our hearts in high definition!

I still can't get that music by Neal Hefti (obviously borrowed without permission) out of my head, I think I'll put that CD of his back in and give it a listen.

I've made nearly 700 bizarre YouTube videos in my life, but damned if I'm not envious that I had not come up with BAT PUSSY (well, I was 10 at the time it was made, so I'm saying I wish I'd have come up with it later, or in an alternate universe).

Accidental Exorcist

Thought provoking and gruesomely entertaining, but what's with the visual censorship?
Dan Falicki's Accidental Exorcist is a thinking man's horror... or rather, more of a drama considering the extensive scenes of Falicki's character taking the time to ponder life and discuss it with the person he's about to exorcise. I found it to be very entertaining and a breath of fetid fresh air since so many low budget horror films are just a dime a dozen these days. Accidental Exorcist was such a nice surprise, and better yet, I got it on Blu-ray.

One BIG problem for me, though: Censorship. The climactic scene, in which Falicki is quite naked, is blurred over his mid region so you won't see his pubic area. Give me a break. This is an unrated film, quite excessively gooey in it's practical gore effects, and his genitals are not right up in the camera lens -- and seen in only a few brief flashes so that even if it wasn't blurred you wouldn't be staring at it. However, since it IS blurred, it takes you right out of the movie. You have this crazy climactic scene and you're too distracted by the blur on your screen, as if you're watching something censored like on basic television. Considering many R-rated features do have full frontal male nudity prominently displayed and are sold in retail stores, why would a small film like this be censored?

THE ANSWER: I contacted its production company and was told "that blurring you note was imposed on us due to the objection of a major cable PPV provider," and by not wanting to pay the exorbitant fee to have a rating, the powers that be do "have a say in what you see ultimately and if you don't comply when caught in the trap, then your movie doesn't get seen, real simple."

If this was somehow imposed by PPV providers to make heterosexual males less uncomfortable, or ANYone less uncomfortable, that's sad. You can bet they wouldn't be objecting if it were naked females. Sure, I can sort of understand if they had to cave for for the PPV version, but they should have left the DVD uncensored.

I'd still recommend Accidental Exorcist for those looking for a cerebral, thought provoking (albeit gory) film, just be warned that it's a bit distracting when visual tampering occurs near the end. It IS still a great film to discover!

The Witch Who Came from the Sea

The cover art really does have a LOT to do with the film, just not literally
NOTE: The 2018 Blu-ray / DVD release from Arrow Video is the FULL uncut 88-minute version of the film!

There have been many posts about what this film is about, so I'm going to concentrate on the controversy surrounding the cover art. So many complain that it's misleading art, but it has everything to do with the film and its story, it's just not a LITERAL depiction.Those that keep damning the cover art for this film don't seem to know what's really behind it. Yes, it's a borrowed painting, but altered for the film's mythos; you can clearly see it's Millie Perkins' face, and the decapitated head she is holding is in the image of her father. Granted, this was not the original artwork for the film, it was used much later and it helped gain attention and viewers. However, it at least does have enough symbolism to still be associated with the story. What the cover art does is capture the essence of the film. People should realize the importance of this, art is not always literal.

In Arrow Video's 2016 set American HORROR PROJECT Vol. 1 which includes the full 88-minute cut of The Witch Who Came From the Sea, there is a book that explains a lot about the actions and thoughts of the character Molly which relates a LOT to the cover art that so many bitch about not having anything to do with the film (but it DOES!).

In one scene Molly and a man are looking at the Botticelli painting The Birth Of Venus. Venus was born in the sea and her father was a god. He was castrated, and his sperm was dropped into the ocean. "The sea was knocked up, Venus was the kid," he said. The Arrow booklet's article states "As her eyes dart over the image you can see her brain forming the same analogies we are." Molly loved her father despite his incestuous actions and she felt he was like a god, since he was a sea captain. She also then seeks out "perfect" looking men and the castrations and killings begin.

The painting on box cover is a representation of all of this -- what kind of cover did people really want? A viewer's job is to read (like the back of the box) and educate yourself before just snatching up a video and expecting a literal interpretation of what you see on the front of a DVD / Blu-ray / VHS box. Especially these days where info can be retrieved about anything on your phone, it's easy to find out for sure what you're getting into.

I love this film, there's so much more going on psychologically than what you see on the surface (another problem people are experiencing with the film The Witch, not researching a little before heading into something that they weren't really going to be into in the first place). The Witch Who Came From The Sea is much smarter than many people realize, and I for one love the cover art.

Bravo to Arrow Video for restoring it to the full cut (the Subversive and Cult Epoch DVD releases were just the R-rated 83- minute cut). The commentary in this newer release has been ported over from the DVD, but Arrow edited the commentary to fit the longer running time. I'm so happy they put so much care and respect into films like this!

Um Pistoleiro Chamado Papaco

Had more potential had it not held back so much and not used too much editing trickery.
Here's the main thing: If Papaco was being touted as a bisexual western, then by golly GO FOR IT instead of only giving vague tidbits of said male bisexuality and holding back too much. And if you play around too much with editing to disguise the use of body doubles, it gets tedious.

When I first saw Um Pistoleiro Chamado Papaco, I was pleasantly entertained by this Brazilian film. It had everything going for it. I was also intrigued by the fact that many adult films from Brazil contained all persuasions of sex: heterosexual, bisexual, and gay male (not so much on the lesbian angle). The fact that they contained a bisexual element was interesting enough, but the ones I had seen were borderline bizarre (among them being two vampire- related ones and the other just some sort of plot but it all seemed like it was made by a crew that had liquored up quite a bit!).

Papaco was different than those in being it is a western. Other reviewers have elaborated on the plot, so I'll not add more to that. My focus, which other viewers / reviewers have left out, is the fact that the initial "gay" scene is all implied, no nudity, just body motion. The second "gay" scene, while graphic orally, then blocks the view of the gent's lower front while he was receiving from the man behind him, and you never saw that actual act explicitly. Those were the only two scenes of that kind in the film, though Papaco is described as a bisexual. All the other scenes are heterosexual sex and full on views of everything from every angle.

The other issue no one seems to talk about is that there seemed to be a body double for actor Fernando Benini in all scenes, except for one which I'll get to in a moment. You never see his face and full frontal in any sex scene, they keep cutting to the close-ups of the genitals and then to his face, but never both at once. It was difficult to tell the difference between his body and the double's, but to never show all at once was suspicious. In the scene where he's with five women at once, they are always blocking his face with their bodies when showing everyone on camera together. Now, there is ONE scene where I am 100% certain it IS Fernando doing the real thing. At the scene with the blonde woman (at about the 55-minute mark), there is the usual cutting back and forth between his face and her servicing him. However, at nearly the 58-minute mark where you see a member being maneuvered behind the woman, the camera pulls back to show both actors in full view. When the man turns his head, it is indeed Fernando. Even a few "adjusment" motions with his hand when he pulls her up into a different position seemed genuine, however the rest of the scene is the usual cutting back and forth as if a body double was once again used. This process of constant cutting back and forth just becomes too noticeable with each subsequent sex scene.

Some might say, what's the big deal! I can see that argument. But having seen a tremendous amount of films including adult films, when obvious edits are used, it catches my attention. Have you seen THE BEAST IN SPACE? They didn't even try to hide the fact that the body doubles' bodies didn't even come close to resembling the main actors. At least they did in Papaco. However, hiding most of the visuals in the gay scenes (really, they went to an extent, so just go all the way) and SO many edits to disguise Benini's body (they wouldn't even show him full frontal when the little man pointed a gun to Benini's rear end and Benini purposefully got off the bed in a manner as so that you wouldn't see his genitals), it gets distracting.

Yes, I was entertained. Um Pistoleiro Chamado Papaco was fun, even quite arousing. It just came short (no pun intended) of being a really great adult film had they not tried to hold back so much. See it to have the experience of seeing it, but I for one pine for the possibility of what it COULD have been.

Where Joey Lives

All-male adult film nostalgia at its best, excellent display of traditional masculinity.
*CONTAINS SPOILERS* (If that's possible for an adult film that's 99% sex!)

A "blast" from the past, 1970-style! WHERE JOEY LIVES is a perfect example of traditional masculinity: real, everyday-looking men with beards and moustaches. No "Ken dolls," no manscaped buffed boring models going through the motions. Those looking for an escape from cutie-boy twinkfests or over-buffed hunkfests will appreciate what's on display here.

From a time when adult films involved a storyline, no matter how loose, in order to integrate sexual encounters. This story starts off with a "tour" of an empty mansion, with brief ghostly appearances of the cast from scenes that will appear throughout the film. Joey is the man who narrates all this, and appears at one point talking to the camera. He recalls past parties and sexual encounters between men that happened there.

There are three main sexual segments, the first two being duos and the third a trio. The first encounter really takes you back to that period of time, as the two men that meet at a party are wearing plaid suits! However, their physical look is timeless, both bearded. The second segment involves two men as well, one bearded and one moustached. There seems to be a step-by-step setup to the first two segments, as they both progress in the same manner, down to each physical act and editing. I'm not complaining, though. It may be basic but not poorly done nor boring. The third segment involves moustached Joey himself, first being lead up a staircase by a mysterious naked bearded man to be involved in a threesome with another bearded man (this one having a hippie-like quality that was common for the late-1960s/early 1970s).

A rarity that you just don't see in modern adult films of any kind is genuine affection. All three segments in WHERE JOEY LIVES contain a lot of kissing and affectionate foreplay, even before the clothes come off. For the romantics, this is a very welcome thing.

Joey himself turns out to be one of the "ghosts" apparently, but that doesn't really spoil anything -- I seriously doubt that you'd be watching this film for the esoteric content. A particular music piece is heard throughout the entire film as well, A LOT. Since there is not much natural sound, if you don't care for the music you can always turn the volume down and supply your own music! The copies I've seen of WHERE JOEY LIVES on VHS (even legitimate copies) were mysteriously missing any opening and closing credits. Just a sudden start and end. I've never been able to find a cast and crew listing anywhere. However, Joey is none other than porn director Joe Gage. He rarely acted in any adult films other than MORNING, NOON AND NIGHT and would appear in the background in orgy sequences in most Gage productions. He is also known as Tim Kincaid and starred in Quadroon around that time. Kincaid has also directed b-movies such as Robot Holocaust, Breeders, and Bad Girls Dormitory.

Nowdays, younger generations have been brought up to believe that body hair (particularly on men) is bad, and if you decide to keep any, it should be trimmed down or shaved off entirely. Where JOEY LIVES is a great nostalgic trip back to 1970, with a natural masculinity that's very appealing. Regular builds, no tribal tattoos, no piercings. To me that's a lot more exciting because it's real and accessible. With the thousands upon thousands of adult films released over the decades, this is one that never disappoints and can be enjoyed over repeated viewings.

Hopefully someday someone will find a print that's complete -- Since Joe Gage is still out there working on projects, maybe he can help. Otherwise, good luck hunting down copies of this enjoyable film! It's worth the endeavor. So far it's only been on VHS and that's out of print.

Welcome to Earth

It's like you're right there at the party!
Aliens have been on Earth for a year, and will reveal themselves to the world at a special summit in Sri Lanka that will be broadcast worldwide. Parties are everywhere that day, and this film is about one particular group of friends in Connecticut that get together, talk about what could be ahead for the world, and of course their own personal issues surface especially in the relationship department. This of course is where you realize "Welcome To Earth" is more of a metaphorical title and not just relating to the backdrop of the alien situation.

Welcome To Earth is one of those nifty little indie projects that definitely has its own identity. While very low budget (shot over six days with two cameras), it's no lazy affair and it's refreshingly unpretentious. It shows you can make a great story without big stars, big sets, or big special effects. With good dialog and good acting, keeping it simple is a plus.

All aspects of personalities and insecurities are represented here, and unlike director Mongillo's previous film The Wind where relationships are made worse and even destroyed due to the consequences of actions, in Welcome To Earth you find that they face issues and each other and see that there's hope for them and chances to better themselves. Of course throughout the film you feel like you want to slap some of these people, and then realize, wow! I KNOW people like this, have witnessed and experienced times like these at parties as well, and you find yourself listening more carefully to see how they will work things through. The dialog is that good, and the natural delivery of the actors keeps things realistic and always interesting. One scene in particular with the two sisters Jill and Rachel in a kitchen is extremely powerful and very impressive.

While some viewers might complain about this being "another indie film with a hand-held cam," this might help you understand the way it was shot: I think that it makes the viewer feel as if you are there at the party, partaking in the drinks and "smokes" and standing right there with the characters. A review on Film Threat also had an interesting point, that the shaky cam movements, zooms, and "dizzying close-ups help create a situation where our drunken individuals cannot escape from conflict." It helps make subsequent viewings more meaningful and enjoyable when thinking of it in these aspects.

Michael Mongillo has delivered three award-winning films so far that are unique and fascinating in their own right -- The Wind (2001), which was unfairly criticized by some viewers online due to the fault of MTI Video's interference in the marketing. It's actually a great psychological drama (Really, folks, check it out with an open mind and you'll see what I mean)... Welcome To Earth (2005), as reviewed here... and Being Michael Madsen (2007) which is very clever and very funny. They're all projects that are labors of love and reflect the joys of indie film making.

The DVD has two interesting and informative commentaries, as well as production stills. A worthwhile purchase for your money, and it helps support the future of indie projects!


Fascinating, tight little thriller ... why are so many viewers confused by this film?
There are so many people confused by Artefacts ... frankly, I'm confused why everyone is so confused! If you just pay attention, and give the attention this film requires, you'll understand plenty. Just because it has an open ending, that doesn't mean answers weren't given.

Kate is a career gal that seems to have things going for her, except for a failed relationship. All of a sudden her employee and friends start turning up dead, killed by doppelgangers. Even the news reports mention a strange metallic artifact (spelled artefact in the film, due to its Belgian production I assume) that has been found inside each victim. Kate finds that her own doppelganger is hunting her down, and the implant is possibly a tracking device for the doppelgangers to find each victim. The arrival of each doppelganger is preceded by a clicking, ticking sound as well. Through investigation on the internet she finds a big clue to what is going on around the world, and she is just another pawn in the whole thing.

She then meets up with a man named Carl Francken who reveals just enough for us to know some of the "why" of the situation but only just a tidbit to keep us in the dark and still trying to figure things out. In a way this would have made a great X-Files episode, much of the atmosphere and story fit that well. I'm also very much reminded of the wonderful 2008 feature "The Broken" with Lena Headey (which equally baffled many U.S. viewers but, if paid close attention to, gave more answers to its mystery than Artefacts does). There is also an "experiment/game" element that reminded me of the 2005 film "Experiment." However, Artefacts is a story and film of its own, and I feel holds up well.

These days, particularly in U.S. audiences, people want easy answers and wrapped up solutions in their movies. If they have to think while watching a film or try to think some more after the credits roll, they get angry. I've read some very severely hateful things in comments online about Artefacts, The Broken, Session 9, and a good example -- the 2001 film The Wind, where people just didn't get it. They were upset that they had to think, figure things out, and put the puzzle together. They weren't easily handed blood and boobs on a platter; just angry that they had to do a little work as well as sit back and watch.

Artefacts, to me as well as some open-minded friends, turned out to be a tense well-made, well-acted thriller, and smartly made on a low budget (only $100,000) with an intriguing premise and execution. I love to view it with friends as a double-feature with The Broken, as each has its own strange world to absorb and mess with your head. Some folks may say it's a European thing, but I sure welcome a viewing challenge and for me it paid off quite well. Oh, it's just plain creepy too...

Being Michael Madsen

"Michael has been perfecting that persona of 'badboy' since he was 12."
Before Being Michael Madsen was making rounds in the festival circuit, two young gals came into the store where I work asking for ANY DVD that starred Madsen. "He's just the coolest, hottest guy ever!" they gushed. I informed them that I knew of a film called Being Michael Madsen that would be released some day, and their eyes just lit up, making sure they wrote that title down. I still smile when I think of that, now having seen the film when it was screened at the Dances With Films festival in June of 2009 in Los Angeles. I can now say I agree with those gals, and while this film seems to be about Michael it's obvious everyone else is getting their share of the fun. He has some good competition with his sister Virginia here as well. Michael is so cool you want him to be your pal, though you might get the feeling he still could punch you. But you'd appreciate that he did.

Director/writer Michael Mongillo has done something I've always wished would happen: turn the tables on the paparazzi and/or tabloid reporters and have THEIR lives invaded and exposed, showing the skeletons in their closets. And while Being Michael Madsen turns out to be a mockumentary, there are still times when you forget about the faux part of it since actual facts about Madsen's life are intermixed with fiction. Whether or not you feel that completely works, there's no doubt you'll be hooked and go along with the ride. The full audience at the screening seemed to be willing and had a lot of fun. It's very apparent that when you have people putting together a film and enjoying doing that instead of it being just a "process" for them, something good will result.

The film sets up a scenario that a well-known tabloid's reporter/paparazzo Billy Dant wrote an article that Madsen killed a film extra (though no body was ever found), then gives us a background to Madsen's life and career, to then bring us back to the Dant situation. He then hires a three-person documentary crew to follow Dant and basically make his life hell. It was nice to see Mongillo regulars like Davis Mikaels (The Wind) as the camera guy, you just knew anything he was going to say in the rest of the film was going to make you laugh. Throughout all this we get interviews with Madsen's sister Virginia (who is absolutely amazing and very, VERY funny in her "seriousness") as well as friends Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, and Harry Dean Stanton (who got the entire theatre laughing by simply uttering the word "bullsh*t"). Of course the documentary crew has its own inner conflicts, so things get mighty out of control very quickly.

Re-enactments of past situations were wonderfully performed in stiff, schlocky form, and I never imagined that a scene of a woman undressing could be so hysterically funny instead of erotic. That scene alone brought in some hearty laughs, along with Billy Dant getting bonked in the head with a boom mic.

Those that go in thinking this film is a real documentary will not be disappointed after realizing what's really going on, and those that already know the joke will still get a kick out of all the fun. The cast is having a great time (you can bet Paige Davis was having a grand time of it), and while some may say this is not a perfect film, its sheer entertainment makes it worth getting high marks. Some may say it's not a mass audience pleaser because of it poking fun at a particular part of the Hollywood scene, however that's not the case here since there's something for everyone. Fans of the Madsens, film insiders and officionados, and word of mouth can especially make this one a winner as well. Sit back with some snacks and enjoy! Be sure to stick through the credits for some surprises.

Michael Madsen says in the film: "There's one thing I can't live with: a flat-out lie." *WINK - WINK* !!

Nightmare Man

"There's Nothing New Out There"....just more frogs.
Remember the episode of Seinfeld, where while standing in line to see a film "Rochelle, Rochelle" Elaine says guys will sit through anything for an hour and a half just to see breasts? That seems to be the case for the positive reviews of this flick from young teen guys that can't get their hands on Girls Gone Wild videos and manage to buy DVDs like Nightmare Man, gushing mainly about the hot chicks, the boobs, possible girl-on-girl, etc. but not much about the quality of the movie. For them, they're easily distracted by the nudity so they don't care about the rest and can also claim they're watching a "legitimate movie" in case they're questioned by parents about what they're watching. I'm not against nudity in films, I love naked people! But when it's just a tool to distract the viewer from the lack of scares, humor, or PLOT, it's a cheap shot.

Oh, the plot: a woman with a mental problem eats pills as often as Tic Tacs and claims to be chased by the Nightmare Man ("That mask is HORRIBLE" she keeps exclaiming, and she's right -- it's just a terrible cheap mask that induces laughter instead of fear out of the viewer). She meets up with two horny young couples in a luxury "cabin" in the woods where the gals find numerous ways to be seen undressed. Killer shows up. There ya have it.

I went in with a very open mind, and found myself losing hope within the first 10 minutes. Nothing scary yet, and we're treated to the camera moving up Ellen's naked body in the shower (notice they never do that when a guy is in the shower?), and the Nightmare Man ripping open Ellen's top shortly after...I just knew where this was going. Even by hearing bad things about a film you can't really know for sure until you see it yourself. Well, thank goodness this DVD was part of a set (bought all eight 2007 After Dark Horrorfest titles together for a special sale price at Best Buy), because there is no way that the current $19.98 retail price (nor any future lower prices) can justify purchasing this. I've known plenty of friends who've walked out on this one when it was showing in theatres in their area as part of the Horrorfest, and I can fully understand why.

About 20 years after There's Nothing Out There, you'd think writer/director Rolfe Kanfsky would have improved on his craft. Most of the budget on that first flick went on the then state-of-the-art opening credits, leaving the rest of the film to naked girls and no scares nor great laughs (as it was intended to be somewhat of a parody). All these years later, Nightmare Man had nice opening credits, and the rest the same old thing of girls naked or wearing nothing much and no scares at all. The really sad thing is this was intended to be a serious horror film, not even a parody. In Kanefsky's statements he says he's very proud of this "flick." But he just really didn't try to give us anything original nor different. You've seen this type of film dozens of times before, and there's an obvious lack of an attempt to make the presentation look decent. Bad lighting, extreme acting, lazy dialogue and plot -- man, did that first chase through the woods go on forever, with so many chances for Ellen to get caught. Actually, she was caught a few times and too easily got away again and again. Low-grade effects included Ellen cutting her wrist with a knife, with blood ALREADY there on her wrist and looking like thick orange-red paint. The color was NOT set wrong on my TV. All in all, just nothing new here, no surprises. It's as if Kanefsky figured his loyal fan base would blindly praise and support anything he makes. Apparently they do, as someone keeps funding these projects and the DVDs keep coming.

Easily the worst of the 2007 After Dark Horrorfest along with Lake Dead. As Ellen kept annoyingly screaming, "Where are my pills? Where are my PILLS??" I felt I needed some pills too from this viewing experience...but was just left with the sound of frogs croaking, a Kanefsky trademark. One can't help but feel insulted from that.

The Deaths of Ian Stone

Familiar territory? Maybe so, but it's still its own story and sheer entertainment done right...
THE DEATHS OF IAN STONE is a very ambitious flick indeed. It doesn't waste its time getting right to the action and as it moves along like a speeding train it reaches out and scoops up the exposition and keeps its pace going. It has an interesting story, the film looks great, and doesn't waste time with unnecessary filler to appease those that feel horror/sci-fi/fantasy films HAVE to contain gratuitous elements.

Basically, Ian Stone keeps waking up at the same time each day and as he starts to remember more from each previous time, he's consistently hunted by mysterious creatures that are intent on killing him again and again.

Some criticize the film for its familiarity (Groundhog Day, Dark City, Matrix, et al) while others mention the familiarities as basic influences as a positive. I find the latter to be the case -- any film that can be inspired by other films (this one did not really steal) and can hold on its own is worthy of standing on its own too. If anything, the "Matrix" comparisons like the attire are silly -- I found that aspect reminded me more of the graphic novel/series "Ranxerox" from Metal Hurlant magazine, which is a cooler source.

Plot holes? Who really cares when the story moves right along and you are at least 90% aware of what's going on at some point. I find that The Matrix had holes as big and wide as the Grand Canyon and wasted time with filler and visuals, while Deaths Of Ian first and foremost gave us a story. The creatures involved would make a great graphic novel series, and the effects accentuated the story without overrunning it or trying to be the biggest part. Great visuals blending creature suits and CGI as well instead of bad CGI for actors to just pretend to be afraid of. Of course I had some reservations as to why the creatures just didn't take care of some deeds and get things over with, but gradually bits were explained here and there (mainly by the female villain) that eased us into why and how without doing the "now I'll explain it all to you" scenario. That was a big plus in my book.

I was also pleasantly surprised that the film didn't find the need to go the typical route of naked gals, lesbian subplots, and big gore to cover lack of true scares or attention spans (like Rolfe Kanefsky seems to rely on, just look at Nightmare Man or There's Nothing Out There...we get it Rolfe, you like naked gals. If that was taken out of his films you'd notice the obvious lack of thrills). THE DEATHS OF IAN STONE seems confident in itself that there is enough here to entertain everyone no matter what age or sex that enjoys this genre. Nothing gratuitous here, just straightforward entertainment with no filler.

While I'm not one for pretty-guy heroes, actor Mike Vogel proves his acting chops really well here and won me over. Instead of presenting his character Ian in an over-macho or show-offy manner, he presents a vulnerability that's quite refreshing in a male lead. It works well with the confusion and discovery his character is going through.

Hey, every film can have some flaws, but THE DEATHS OF IAN STONE will make you forget about them and sweep you right along with the fun. I WANTED to know what would happen next, and never looked at the clock to see how far along the film had gone on. This is sheer entertainment and well worth your time. One of the best I've ever seen offered by the After Dark Horrorfest series.


Daring, brutal, and undeserving of its negative fame.
First and foremost, Cruising is not a film about gay men in general. Friedkin explains this perfectly on the DVD -- it's a murder mystery of a cop going undercover that just happens to have a gay element in it. To those familiar with the 70s Italian giallos, Cruising is a "U.S. giallo" -- a successful combination of murder mystery, sex, alternative lifestyles and subcultures with that, and how getting into something too out of your element can affect you. Unlike the Italian giallos that often featured a gratuitous lesbian tease, Cruising gave us a masculine leather theme instead.

The controversy and protests surrounding Cruising were based on misinformation and unfairly gave the film a bad reputation, though lately many critics that originally panned it have since recanted their negative comments, finding more to appreciate about the film.

Two things factored into why people were uncomfortable with Cruising: First, the murder story was not the real reason. Frankly, they saw not effeminate stereotypes, but masculine gay men dancing, kissing, and experiencing S&M activities. When gay characters are weak and fey, many heterosexual men feel safe. They want non-threatening characters that will be kept in their place. The disclaimer that appeared before the film (that has thankfully been removed on the DVD) was to appease gay men that felt the film would be perceived as a representation of the whole gay community. If that's the case, then films like The Birdcage and TV's Will & Grace should have disclaimers as well that say not all gay men are effeminate finger-snappers that watch Desperate Housewives, are drag queens, nor are FABulous well-groomed clean-shaven cutie boys.

Second, the locations and activity in the bars was as it actually was (and still is to a degree) in many places. The characters and extras were "real" for this story -- bearded leathermen enjoying what they do, instead of buffed party circuit boys dancing to the latest diva tunes. To add to the darkness and mood of the story the bars were blasting with serious hard-driven songs by Willy DeVille, John Hiatt, Rough Trade, The Germs, The Cripples and others instead of loopy diva dance music. Some gay men as well as straight had a problem with this, thinking it was not a decent representation of what gay men "should" listen to. To date this is still one of the coolest soundtracks around, I cherish my vinyl LP copies of it.

Yes, this film was brutal. It will leave an impression on you. THAT'S A GOOD THING! It's what film is supposed to do. Amidst all this the journey of Al Pacino's "out of his element" slip into a different mindset was a great touch. It affected his whole being, his treatment of his girlfriend, his whole outlook. And it wasn't just because he got to dance with some leathermen, it was because the murder investigation he was doing was so horrifying. What, you were expecting a sweet ending? The only reasons Pacino distanced himself from this film was because footage was cut that he felt fleshed out his character better, and the protests during filming distressed him.

And think of it this way: if this were a film about lesbians, it would be hailed by hetero guys as an erotic masterpiece. But when it's about masculine gay men, it seems hard for some of them to handle it. This may sound cliché, but I know many straight guys that actually understood Cruising and have told me (on IMDb as well as in person) they thought it was quite a cool film.

After all these years, Cruising still packs a punch and does what it sets out to do: unnerve you. It's a taut thriller and a mindblower in its complexities. That's quite an achievement and while many films are forgotten, this one still seems to be well remembered no matter what. I for one love this film and think Friedkin and company deserve much praise for their effort.

The DVD released in 2007 can be considered a bit of a "director's cut" since Friedkin made some additions and changes. For a thorough article on the exact changes and where they occur, check out the magazine Video Watchdog #152, November 2009.

Dark Ride

"My whole situation reeks of cliché."
"My whole situation reeks of cliché." I knew I was in for trouble when that line was uttered early in the film.

I've been around for the start of this kind of genre way back in the 1970s. I've seen 'em all. Granted, it takes a lot for me to be scared, and basically it takes a bit of originality to do that these days. Call me jaded if you like. But when a film like Dark Ride comes along with no regard for originality or even any attempt to really be good, it just makes me angry. When I'm not impressed by a film, I usually just don't comment here. But when I feel insulted, I feel I have to speak up.

Expendable "college-age" pretty teens with problems sums up the cast, and as for the plot? There was not even an attempt to try something new. You've seen it dozens of times before, and even those other ones weren't that good. Teens with the typical cliché personalities go on the road to spring break, and stop by an old amusement park to stay the night at the dark ride there. Just happens to be the same night a psychopath from a mental institution shows up, seems he used to live in that dark ride years ago. Arguments, pot smoking, sex, look-at-my-boobs, and lots and lots of running around and around (like the cast of Scooby Doo trapped in a warehouse/castle/candy factory/etc.) The company that put together this film, My2Centences (though backed by Lions Gate), must have only put 2 cents into this project. Remember how the "ride" was supposed to have cars on tracks? Um, did anyone actually see any tracks when the teens were roaming around, going in all kinds of directions, rooms, etc? Though in the prologue the car seemed to have a direct route, some overhead shots showed fog trying to hide that there were really no tracks. Even though Bill warned a gal to watch out for the tracks (much later, at that), you could clearly see on the floor there weren't any, and while they went into other rooms there was no logic to the place, no real directional way that the tracks would be able to take a car around in them. There were plenty of shots of things hanging and dropping down, dummies popping up nowhere near where the ride would have been going....you get the idea. It was a set that was a bunch of walls, halls, and stairs that didn't have any use. Lots of fog too to make the set look more busy. While Jim (dufus guy) was in the basement trying to fix the power later, there was no reason electrically powered dummies and items would be there in the first place. Oh, yeah, actually just for the camera to show a close-up of to fill in time and "scares."

Surprises? None to speak of. When Bill ran off and was never seen again until the end, how could any viewer not be suspicious? Reminded me of Farley Granger disappearing early in The Prowler (1981) and even when a character in Scream 2 was just NOT there for 2/3 of the film and shows up again near the end.

Some that have praised Dark Ride (one person on here actually calling it a modern masterpiece!) go on about it being an homage to those 70s and 80s slasher flicks, including The Funhouse (which didn't scare me when I saw its initial run in theatres in 1981). Honoring other films that are supposed to be classics is one thing, but just taking elements from them to slop together a new film with no real care for its own personality is quite another. I could just imagine the folks responsible for Dark Ride saying "give the kids what they usually will go for: violence, gore, pot smoking, and boobs (well, usually ignoring what the gals would want to see nudity-wise). They'll easily be distracted by those things and probably won't notice there's not much else going for this." Frankly, I'm surprised I didn't hear the word DUDE throughout the film.

I like that the After Dark horrorfest opted for indie projects in 2006 (even if it was more economical), and some had real merit to them, particularly Unrest, Reincarnated, The Abandoned, and The Hamiltons (Penny Dreadful was fun enough, just padded though with extra victims). Dark Ride was the worst of the lot for me. I can forgive a film for being bad if they actually TRIED to do something creative, but Dark Ride was a clichéd, tired, and tedious disposable project. I have a suspicion that Lions Gate would have originally just released this as a DTV title, but since they were going to be involved releasing the After Dark titles, they forced Dark Ride into the bunch (notice how "A Lions Gate Film" was on the beginning of the credits, while basically the other After Dark titles didn't). They should not have touted that these films were too much or "too graphic" for most audiences -- if that were the case then these would all be NC-17. I don't listen to hype, and went into these films on my own, finding some worthy of being very creative and some just plain wastes of time (like The Gravedancers and Wicked Little Things being no more than "Sci-Fi Channel productions" that you'd watch on a Saturday night).

You win some, you lose some. Dark Ride showed that someone paid a lot of people to do a project that just doesn't show any kind of care was put into it: 'just get it done and chuck it out to the kids.'


A lesbian sex scene between a vampire and a werewolf? What the....??
Exhumed is a great little discovery. One of those gems that you can't believe is not getting better distribution. It goes to show that you can still make a fun movie without all the big stars or budget, and not have the trappings of what's "marketable."

BUT....creator Brian Clement showed he had to bow to guys' base interests by figuring out a way to get a gratuitous lesbian scene worked into the plot during Exhumed's third story installment "Last Rumble." Sorry, but even if he didn't mean for it to be erotic and just for a giggle, a vampire and werewolf (well, as only indicated on the face) in a scene like that just had me sitting there going "huh?" Two points taken away for that one....I was thoroughly impressed with this project until Clement showed he had to do the typical guy thing ... films that resort to that element show a lack of confidence for the project so that guys will have something to be distracted by and drool a bit. Sure, the other brief nude scene was not necessary -- some of these film makers need to realize though that ONLY aiming to please men with naked women shows they don't really care about a wider audience. Give 'em some boobs and lesbian sex, and they seem to forget about the film's shortcomings and yak about the nudity level on online reviews. Apparently these comments didn't set too well with some of the folks associated with this project, thus at the time of this update this review has "1 out of 6" folks finding this review helpful. Everyone I know that has read this found the comments informative and clear... so to the filmmakers of Exhumed: Hey, it's just criticism. No need to punish me!

Having said that, Exhumed is otherwise a nifty showcase for indie talent. The premise of three stories that overlap at one point, all involving an object that raises the dead is quite clever. Technically it's quite good despite some faulty audio levels, and it looks great for its micro-budget sets and locations. A lot of care went into the samurai segment "Shi No Mori" with the language, and the costumes and hairstyles for "Shadow Of Tomorrow" were impressive. The outrageousness level of "Last Rumble" reminded me of Garrett White's video project NECROPOLIS AWAKENED, and lessened the charm of the trilogy of stories a bit for me. But as a whole, Exhumed still entertained and is a reason I love ultra-indie productions. I do hope to see more like this and ones like THE DIVIDING HOUR.

If Mr. Clement sticks to creative stories and doesn't go the "Troma" route of breast fests and lesbians, then he has a good future in making movies.

Billy Elliot

Contains a gay stereotype that's so tired it's at home and in bed...
Sure, Billy Elliot can be considered an endearing drama, and you do want to root for Billy to succeed. The story of a boy going against the male-ego dominated society in Northern England and fulfilling his dream of becoming a dancer is charming indeed. BUT...a subplot involving Billy's gay friend is ridiculous. While so many on here have gone sugary over Billy Elliot's charms, I'm concentrating here on a major problem:

The writers in movie-world have this idea that all gay male characters (in this case, Billy's friend) HAVE to be cross-dressers and have a desire to be like women. That whole subplot was unnecessary and just takes a huge step backward for intelligence. They must be listening to too much Howard Stern. Yes, we know Billy is heterosexual, and in order to have him pursue his "non-masculine" dream of dancing and come off looking respectable, the actual gay character is portrayed as a stereotype, dressing up in his mother's clothes (shades of that character of Billy Crystal's in "Soap"). By the end of the film he shows up at Billy's big dance debut looking straight out of Queer Eye with an equally prissy black man, who has an expression on his face like he just dined on a very sour lemon. Face the facts, movie writers: the majority of cross-dressers are heterosexual, not gay. If you're going to establish that the young boy is going to be gay as an adult, show us other things instead of the usual tired stereotypes. If the character were a lesbian instead, you can bet she'd be "hot," talk like any other woman, and not have any butch mannerisms. I don't know who the writers keep learning what they know about gay culture from, but all the gay men I know are quite blue collar and definitely not FABulous. I'm really sick of filmmakers and TV folks who only know how to show things ONE way, instead of showing the truth or at least showing a variety.

If the ridiculous gay subplot were not in the film, I'd have highly recommended Billy Elliot to friends. Sorry though, I just get annoyed with his friend's portrayal as a cliché stereotype, so many points are taken off for that one. Think of it this way, any youngster that might have thoughts he/she might be gay and see this portrayal in the film, it would really screw up his idea of what being gay is.....

OK, now you folks can read all the other reviews of praise on IMDb, just understand how little things in a film like what I mentioned can hold back any true progress for some people overall.

The Wind

Strange and oddly compelling...a unique find
First of all, despite the low rating on this site, I saw something quite worthy in this film and will gladly defend it. And no, I'm not connected to the crew in any way...

I came across the DVD of The Wind by accident, and had this strong feeling that it wasn't going to be quite like the video packaging described. So I took a chance, and was pleasantly surprised by this strange, very different drama. I'm assuming the DVD marketing and summary were the work of MTI Home Video to hook a rental or sale (the tag line "Love comes in many forms" was changed to "Terror comes in many forms"). Sure, smaller films' rentals and sales depend strongly on grabbing a person's attention, especially if they've never heard of the film before (a similar case happened with the film THE ITEM). That's probably what is working against this release, as horror fans read the description of an "ancient wind" carrying with it "omens of the apocalypse." It's easy to think that that is what this film is all about, and will turn some college students in the story into crazy savages that go on a killing spree. Thus, at the time this review was submitted, is most likely the reason for the lower rating on IMDb. I can understand people becoming upset and thinking they were fooled by that summary , seeing the apocalyptic intro but then experiencing a dark drama. I can forgive the marketing choice since I enjoyed The Wind and thought it was a refreshing change of pace from major Hollywood offerings, it's just that if the intended audience was given the attention, more might voice a higher rating.

The "wind" in this film is basically just a metaphor for society, and is the story of four friends who make some bad choices and how their lives quickly turn into ones of desperate self-preservation. After going too far in 'teaching a lesson' to one of their own, a death occurs and each person tries to save his/her own standing. Manipulation between them becomes the norm, and by the end we see how self preservation becomes their main motivation over good judgment. Civilized to savage, basically. This is very apparent throughout by noticing that the use of a knife, branches as clubs, fists and kicking are instruments of violence instead of guns. These characters are, in a way, doing all the wrong things for the right reason just to stay on top of the situation since they've already taken things too far. While there are many implied violent images, it's interesting to see that there is an absence of cussing and nudity.

What works in favor of The Wind are the "unknown" actors. Bigger stars were originally intended, but I find it works better when you have lesser known, capable actors. This way you can get into the story without sometimes thinking "oh, that's Tom Cruise" for instance, instead of an actual tormented person dealing with an extraordinary situation. Even unusual conversations (like between Mic and Billy in a field, and Mic confronting Claire in her bedroom) hold up well and feel quite natural in the strange universe of Fairview...which has cozy homes,a forest, and wide open fields. I kept thinking of the calm landscapes concealing darker secrets in The Reflecting Skin, which director Michael Mongillo mentions as an inspiration in his commentary.

The Wind manages to get messages across without being heavy-handed about it.

Sure, if you look carefully you'll see many symbols and dialogue that other directors would just pound you over the head with. I even understood the infamous "kissing scene" between Claire, John, and Billy within the context of the story without being surprised it happened. I am still amazed at how some people (guys, mainly) who complain about two men kissing in a scene would obviously have NO problem if the scene were of two gals kissing instead. All is handled nicely here, and additional viewings will make things more clear without making you groan and say "oh man, how did I miss THAT...." Things sink in gradually and I appreciated that. Or you could listen to the DVD commentary as well for more things revealed!

For those of us that "got" the intentions of this film, The Wind is a breath of fresh air (no pun intended) in a time when most films are made in order to JUST make money and be heard knocking other films out of their "box office competition" standing when mentioned on Entertainment Tonight or CNN.

Years later, it's always the great little discoveries like The Wind that stay in my mind, not processed star-driven blockbusters.

Get past the marketing ploy from MTI Home Video, and you just might find this an engaging story indeed. I strongly recommend it to friends that seek out unusual films like this one.


A slice of life...and of a bull
For those that enjoy films that give us glimpses into people's lives and let us be passersby to their experiences, then Carnage is an absorbing feature. Liking this film doesn't make one snooty at all, some of us just don't always require direct plot nor overwhelmingly "beautiful" people to be entertained. Like the brilliant 2001 film Bug, it connects different people to one incident, and how their lives interconnect even if they don't realize it's happened.

In this case, it's the death of a bull after a bullfight. The bull is butchered and the different parts go out to people in different European countries. That part is really incidental, as the main concern is how these folks' lives interconnect and lives are lost, saved, secrets revealed, and friendships made. I confess I was slightly confused by some of the conversations and revelations, but that did not wreck the experience for me, it just meant I had to go back and view it again at some point to absorb the story better.

The actors in Carnage were quite refreshing to see, they seemed like real people instead of pristine mega-stars. I must disagree strongly with a reviewer here who kept insisting, for instance, that the naked people in the primal scream therapy scenes were all fat and not ones you'd want to see naked. Take a closer look at that scene, buddy. Different shapes and sizes. Look around you and you'll see 99% of people are not beautiful models, and to just have naked beautiful models in the pool would have made the entire scene unbelievable. These were intended to be REAL people, and frankly it's real people that I find to be more attractive instead of fit, shaved "hotties!" Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...I'm sure there are plenty who found the folks in the pool just fine -- Clovis Cornilla as Alexis and 'Mr. Beard' seemed quite masculine indeed, and the women were beautiful each in their own way. Those that criticise how these actors look should take a good look in the mirror at themselves and wake up.

My only discomfort with Carnage are the scenes of the bullfighting. I abhor any abuse of animals, and seeing the poor bulls being slowly killed to the delight of a crowd upset me. I don't know for certain if the bullfighting scenes were real in the manner that the bulls were actually harmed, but I have to understand the fact that this was considered a sport in Spain and I try to focus on the stories of the characters' lives.

It's quite alright if you don't find this film interesting enough. I agree it's an acquired taste. But hey, if there weren't all kinds of different films out there this world would be a boring place, and I enjoyed the lives I got to know in the realm of Carnage. It was an unsettling and beautiful place all at once in my eyes...

The Day the World Ended

No masterpiece, but still creepy fun...holds interest, and a mature cast
Yes, I'm giving a higher mark to this film. There are several things that make this an above-par effort. The story will hold your interest, the cast is mature and the acting is with enough conviction. It gives a nice B-movie feel without resorting to bad CGI effects for a creature.

The Day The World Ended has the classic cliché elements for a perfect B flick: a mysterious misunderstood child, a town with a secret, and an alien (or IS it?). While not a direct remake of the 1956 film of the same title, it utilizes the original film by showing segments on a TV seen within the story and showing that VHS video box cover as part of the child's interest in aliens. High production values combined with B movie flair work just enough to be passable entertainment for some, but if you enjoy the *wink-wink* of its intended fun, it comes out a winner. It has the look and feel of a decent X-Files episode with the more psychological horror elements of the newer Outer Limits. That's not bad at all, considering.

Younger audiences may not give this a chance as the cast (except for the child) is well over 40, but I welcomed that element gladly as the older classic sci-fi/horror films always used a mature cast as well. They cast who would work well with the story instead of who was young and hot at the moment. By casting the way they did, this film will hold up better in years to come. Choosing a teen-looking cast would obviously date it when those stars have faded from the spotlight. Randy Quaid and Nastassia Kinski both give convincing performances, and Stephen Toblowsky adds just enough humor to his role as the principal.

The creature itself is hit-or-miss: in some scenes it looks fine, in others it doesn't. But the fact that it was actually part person/puppet/mechanics helps a lot even if it's not entirely convincing, as these days too many films just use computer animation which becomes distracting like watching cheap animation mixed in with live action.

Yes, this is a B movie. But it's a fun one, just like the old classics of its genre but with a bit more cussing and violence. Don't let the R rating keep you back on that part, as it's not gratuitous and just in the right doses. As for the MPAA's warning of a "sex scene"...it's so brief, rather awkward, and basically humorous that it's not even worth fretting over. Otherwise, those looking for sex and breasts better look elsewhere, this film concentrates on the story and its stronger psychological horror.

Those who are collectors of -- and particularly of ones that are homages to -- old B films will be quite satisfied and not worry that the DVD has just the basics to offer, plus some inside views from Stan Winston and Shane Mahan on a commentary. Others just looking to pass the time might not find the price worth it. I personally think this one will be one that years from now will still entertain. It's good enough, smart enough, and doggone it -- just creepy enough that people might like it. I know I've enjoyed this one a heck of a lot more than the most recently hyped theatrical blockbuster yawners, so give this one a try with a big bowl of popcorn and enjoy! Don't have extreme expectations and you'll be fine!

Emanuelle in America

Hooray for 1970's hairy pseudo-hardcore!
Ah, that Joe D'Amato...you can't help but watch his films no matter how curiously interesting or just plain bad they are. If it weren't for the explicit versions, I think most folks would forget about them soon after viewing, unless just gawking at naked gals here and there in the guise of a "legitimate film" is your kind of thing. The BIG problem with Emanuelle In America is that it can't make up its mind if it wants to be mere exploitation or hardcore, as it bounces back and forth but never really completes those goals.

Li'l Miss Sexpot herself Laura Gemser is "Miss Emanuelle" who will travel anywhere and subject herself to any danger in order to get an ultimate story to further her journalistic endeavors (her sneaking around and snapping pics reminded me a lot of later Charlie's Angels adventures). She joins a harem of sorts and fondles women and watches bestiality, mingles with horny aristocrats, gets an expose of a women's pleasure resort (ah, finally a bunch of naked men in a movie), and shmoozes with bad men behind a snuff film ring. Yes, a film like this DOES need lots of sex to keep it going, but it's strange how much of it doesn't show up until much later.

When sex scenes start, they end abruptly like a bad tease. During the sex, lots of jumpcuts jar the viewer so that it's not easy to get any pleasure out of viewing it. When hardcore footage appears, it usually never "finishes" (okay, there's a lack of money shots). When there ARE money shots, the scene has zipped by so fast you wonder if you were supposed to get excited or think that folks finish sexual encounters within one minute or less. Sex scenes in films like this are usually intended to arouse, and these leave you somewhat confused.

Here is where I DEFEND something about this film: Those people who are only turned on by shaved, squeaky-looking pretty people in porn should not be so harsh to those of us who actually like a bit of body hair on men, or if women aren't so artistically trimmed. I have a feeling that most are bitching about the "hairy men" because of the bearded guy in the hut (in the Tarzan fantasy sequence). If anything, his hirsute appearance enhanced the energy of the too-brief scene, and I'm sure there are plenty of folks that appreciated a natural-looking man instead of plastic pretty boys. As for the women, it's funny how so many "reviewers" are calling the actresses unattractive -- seems there are too many men out there that have ridiculously high standards for women. I didn't find these women unattractive; if anything they seemed real and still even out of the league that most of the drooling heterosexual viewers would ever get in real life. You know the kind, guys with beer guts who wear hats and t-shirts that say "No Fat Chicks" and think that all women are inherently bisexual. I say HOORAY for '70s hairy porn, let's have more of it!

For me, instead of being creeped out by physically follicle-blessed men, I was creeped out by the sordid footage of the snuff films. Instead of a glimpse of one, we are subjected to several scenes of it, and it reminds me of those harsh slasher films that get women naked before they are dismembered. Are we supposed to be aroused by the nudity AND the physical violence at the same time? Otherwise, why so much of it in this film? I say fill out the other basic hardcore sex scenes more, and less of the poles and hooks being used as sexual torture. And to think David Cronenberg got his inspiration for "Videodrome" from this film.....eek!

So, take a look at Emanuelle In America so you can say you saw it, and if you got a kick out it, then it's actually okay. I saw it as a curiosity that had to be done and over with. It just really felt like a longgggg tease to me, so that I had to dig into my stash of hairy '70s porn afterwards to feel satiated!

Island of the Dead

Deceptive marketing, annoying rap music, and too many jump rope flashbacks!

Vaguely passable at best, once this film is over you start asking wayyy too many questions and realize you've been duped.

The distributor obviously had no faith in Island Of The Dead. They resorted to deceptive packaging to get thrill seekers drawn in. Yes, there's a big fly on the cover art that in a way tells you what's in the film. However, the summary on the back mentions an island where New York City buries its unclaimed dead, and that makes you assume you are going to see a zombie film. It's apparent by the following sentence (with an awful typo in the word predators) that there is more deception: "...he soon becomes hunted by the ravenous predator's that lie buried beneath the earth." Zombies? No, FLIES instead, that from one bite can make you rot from just minutes to hours, depending on the need of the plot.

Since the flies attacked unpredictably, it seems odd that the people trapped on the island would just wander outside instead of staying in. It's mind-numbingly dumb in one scene where the one inmate (Bruce Ramsay) insists on burying a guy who just died and brought on a new batch of flies. Not only do they chance walking through a roomful of flies inexplicably in non-attack mode (and Talisa Soto makes a comment straight out of The Birds), they take the body all the way to a burial site and are not scared that they could be attacked. What you have minus scenes like this and the artsy but aggravating flashbacks to girls doing jump rope is an X-Files episode, amounting to about a 45 minute episode without commercials. Malcom McDowell's attempt to blow up a building was a poor excuse to get an explosion in the film as well.

So, at one point Soto says the flies "wanted Rupert" (McDowell). If that's the case, they had plenty of opportunities anywhere in the film to bite him.

The flies were supposed to be intelligent and could wreck phone lines and truck engines, but took them 90 minutes of killing others for no apparent reason before getting their man. We then are lead to believe all is well at the end, but no explanation to if the problem of the flies was taken care of. The film just leaves you dissatisfied and feeling the writers only had some basic ideas, padded it with filler, and figured most viewers wouldn't care as long as they got some gore and get them bobbin' their heads to the "phat" beats of a rap song.

The actors do an adequate job considering the limited material, but someone DOES need to coach Mos Def on how to act like he's being attacked by flies -- he looked like he was trying to "bust a move" instead. It would also have been nice to make the throwaway characters less obvious -- the guard and the inmate with the tackle box face were just too obvious in their fate.

I found it ironic that the death-rock inmate, with all his tattoos and piercings was such a squeamish guy. That might have been on purpose, but with all the gaping holes in the plot and the need to use the F-word to convey seriousness, it just all came off as silly.

I knew things were in trouble as soon as that rap song first appeared out of place in a scene. We are then subjected to it later on and again over the end credits. Worse yet, it's a clichéd rap song, complete with the word "yo" a zillion times and lots of scratching right out of Hip Hop 101 class. I haven't heard this much gratuitous rap since the dreadful THE FEAR (1995).

The filmmakers must have felt that by sprinkling in rap to distract, it would cover the lack of thrills.

If you see Island Of The Dead for free, then give it a look to pass the time.

Here's a good question: Does a city like New York still actually bury its unclaimed dead? I thought cremation would save groundspace and health hazards, unless they need the grounds to bury films like this one.....

Hell Night

Tame by today's standards, but a quality production that holds interest
Okay, so if Hell Night was a shampoo, it would be a simple lather, rinse, repeat formula. Like many early 1980s horror films, its ingredients were college students partying. This time fraternity and sorority pledges must spend a night in an old mansion. Is the mansion haunted? At each sign of danger, the youths go TOWARDS the scary sounds into darker areas or upstairs and will either get chased around or killed, or both. Then start the process again. Hell Night is guilty of this over and over, but....

Riding the wave of slasher flicks post-Halloween, Hell Night at least holds its own with a talented cast, solid direction and a lot of care put into the production -- particularly the excellent lighting scheme. For a film that takes place entirely at night, everything LOOKS correct for night time. No "day for night" shots or false levels for flashlights or moonlight. People are probably not aware of all the work that really went into this production. Looks even greater on Blu-ray now.

Kudos too for opting for suspense and some character importance over the usual distractions of naked gals and gore. When films load up on bare breasts in particular, you know the film is distracting the male viewers more than anything else, trying to cover up the fact that the scares are lacking (Friday the 13th Part 2 is an example). This film allows everyone including the female viewers to enjoy and focus on the story rather than sitting and waiting for the next T & A moment. For reviewers to complain about lack of nudity (you know the type of guys that complain), there are plenty of other films to satisfy that need. Funny how when in some films you see a naked guy instead (like in Strange Behavior or Fear No Evil), the male viewers get all uncomfortable and look away (always fearing viewing that will cause others to accuse them of being gay), but never seem to think about how constant female nudity will annoy female viewers. Hell Night uses a very mild approach to sex and effectively conveys the scenes without being gratuitous or even too "cute." Even the cussing is very mild, with no "F" words. I wouldn't be surprised that if this exact film were made today, it would get a PG-13 (although a not-so-nice word was used to describe a female character that I haven't heard in a film other than Blazing Saddles! It begins with a "T" in case you're wondering).

During the usual wandering through the corridors and chase scenes, there is at least a sense of suspense since the characters and production are well above the usual standard fare. Compare this to other productions of its time and you don't seem to mind since the interest level is decent. Take a film from that time like The Prowler -- that was a film that had no sense of spookiness and spent so much time having characters just wander around endlessly.

For viewers seeing this film for the first time (especially if you have been weened on more slicker productions), Hell Night might seem quite bland by comparison. However, take into consideration the time it came from, and the fact that it didn't rely on gimmicks like breasts, extreme gore, or a "possible hits" soundtrack, it offers quite a lot of fun despite the appearance of usual slasher fare. I found myself interested in each character caring if anything happened to them, and found the almost late-1960s "Scooby Doo" mystery element a treat. You have to give credit to films from way back when, the danger situations had to be thought out better since teens in peril didn't have cell phones to call for help! Sure, there was a lot of crap passing themselves off as horror films, but Hell Night had some creativity to carry it through.

Sure, I've seen plenty of scarier films, but Hell Night offers just enough fun and those not being too picky will enjoy it as a mystery that holds up after all these years. Could be too that faces like Linda Blair and Vince Van Patten were noticeable faces in genre films and guest-filled shows like The Love Boat back then, and there's a fondness that I know I have for those fun times.

Like Hell Night or don't, but it definitely deserves its respected place in the history of thrillers.

Stille dage i Clichy

Silly Naked People Laughing A Lot
*Contains Possible Spoilers*

I consider myself quite well connected with the late 1960s, even being quite a Joan Baez fan in kindergarten! In the mid-seventies a relative gave me a big stack of old Evergreen Review magazines, and I started an interest in more counter-culture things from the '60s because of that, since I was just a child when much of it took place. One of the films Evergreen released in 1970 that they gave a lot of coverage to was Quiet Days In Clichy, showing tantalizing pics of the cast in naked moments. And in 2004 I finally got to see what the hubbub was about...

Mainly a curiosity of the late '60s and of interest mainly for those interested in the "art" cinema of that time, this film is really another of those where philosophy and intellectual conversations are padded with people having sex, showing even the intellectuals have a base interest just like everyone else. But since it centers around someone like Henry Miller, it's high art apparently. Certainly off to an interesting start, the film immediately gets one to think though that there is a promise of more like the hardcore footage shown right after the strange credit sequence. That might have been better actually, because instead we then mainly get characters meandering around Paris and Luxembourg, laughing a lot and wondering why they are never satisfied.

Here are some of the perplexing things for me:

--Joey complains that Nys could have left him a few francs after he first met her and gave her his money, but Joey actually INSISTED she take all of it to begin with.

--The guys keep yakking about how Colette's brains are in her genitals and that she just wants to have sex (a feeling they seem to have about women in general), but by watching this whole film it seems Joey and Carl spend all their time trying to get laid as well.

--The women are portrayed as a bit mentally off, except for Colette's mother (upon which Carl then just says how hot she was, which seemed like belittling her after she was kind to them).

--Joey is a writer, but we rarely see him even doing that, he just complains how he has no money and has nothing to eat, but can spend a lot of time walking around town and looking for sex.

--Suddenly while in Luxembourg, and somehow with money, they wind up pouring bottles of wine all over prostitutes and letting the bread they have to just wind up in the tub and going down the drain with the wine. If we're supposed to appreciate Joey and Carl's "bohemian lifestyle," it doesn't help that they just waste food and drink after always saying they never have it.

--Hoping there would be a resolve to the story, instead after a naked woman can't have sex with them because she was crying over the memory of her late husband, the others just sit there naked and laugh while the camera zooms in on their genitals. Huhhhh??? That's it?

I don't regret seeing this film after wondering for so many years what it was all about, and discovering more curiosities from that era. It's just that I think some people will find any reason to say it's poetic mainly because Henry Miller is involved -- if this were not based on him and just a film of its own, I doubt as many folks would be worshiping it. Had a film been made of a character based on Henry Miller washing dishes for an hour and a half, I'm sure these people would somehow come up with many a thesis on the amazing meanings of it.

But it all just comes down to silly naked people laughing, in my eyes...

Strange Behavior

"We're going to find the FAT ones!"
Definitely a film with its own personality, Strange Behavior can best be appreciated by those that remember when films didn't require fast editing to appease the short attention spans of MTV-weened young'ns. With lines like the one about the "fat ones" delivered by the great Charles Lane and a vision of a 1950s style small town set in the "present" (something director Michael Laughlin and writer Bill Condon again brought us in Strange Invaders), the film was a splendid hybrid of old fashioned Twilight Zone ambiance and the fun, then-fresh exuberance of New Wave music and sheer sense of FUN. To top off the great mix: a Tangerine Dream score.

Mad Scientists, teens partying (but in the pre-MTV, pre-home computer kind of ways), mysterious killings, and....strange behavior! Oh, and the kind of impromptu group dance that was a heck of a lot more fun than the big dance scene in Footloose! Where else would a sudden dance sequence just seem to fit into a film -- the way Strange Behavior smoothly incorporates old-style thrills with humor and wit, having a bunch of teens break out into dance to the song "Lightning Strikes" doesn't seem so unusual, especially since the theme of the party was 1960s TV characters! Disguising the location of New Zealand as an Illinois town was quite a treat as well.

The story could have easily been done a number of times: small midwestern town, teens used as behavioral science subjects, mysterious murders by different killers...but of course the collaboration of Laughlin and Condon assures us this is not going to be typical. the focus is not to scare you out of your wits, but to offer something more mysterious. Add to that a very great choice for the cast (including more seasoned actors the likes of Michael Murphy, Fiona Lewis, Louise Fletcher, Charles Lane and others, plus the ever-smoking Dey Young and Dan Shor bring a likable aspect as well without being pushy teens) and an eye for design, Strange Behavior rises far above the cookie-cutter horror (particularly slasher) films of that time, and even in the present. There are many master shots that go for lengthy takes, and those of us that care more for story and dialogue can savor what's going on. I wouldn't be surprised that younger audiences that are used to fast cuts and one-liners would find this film too slow (and then again youth that are smarter might embrace this as other films from over 20 years ago). The minimal bloodletting works just as well, and the needle-in-the-eye trick can still illicit a good squirm today just as it did in 1981.

It's great to see that Strange Behavior has influenced other films: Fiona Lewis' hairdo inspired the one Sean Young had in Blade Runner, and it's obvious the lackluster film Disturbing Behavior from 1998 was, to put it kindly, "inspired" by Strange Behavior. Joe Dante even wanted Fiona Lewis for Innerspace based on her being seen in this film.

Strange Behavior is a great reminder of how things were so much more based on literal creativity and storytelling. Nowadays, it's all about special effects done digitally and pushing soundtracks from bands or music styles no one's going to care about 10 years from now. Laughlin and Condon were smart enough to give us elements that remain to this day unique, memorable, and never wearing out their welcome. Sure, by today's standards the film may not seem so shocking, but having come from being a "teen" back in 1980, it was refreshing for its time and has well earned its cult status. Sure, even the songs in it are more cool than what's considered a hit these days!

Thank goodness Elite Entertainment has released the DVD in the film's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, which also gives that widescreen feel of the 1950s thrillers in which Strange Behavior resembles so well. It makes my life much more fulfilling knowing such gems as this one are being given the respect and care in their restoration. Ignore the lower IMDb rating that it has at this time (just over a 4), because I feel it's being given a low rating by those who are too familiar with recent "shockers." The general reviews by the press were quite good for Strange Behavior back when it was released, and I for one feel that I do know a bit more about what quality is since I've experienced these kinds of films and their evolution up through to today's more slicker productions. It's also why you're hearing more references to older TV shows and songs in today's advertisements: they just don't make 'em like they used to, and there's just more distinction and personality in things from way back when! Or at least, some of them, since this film definitely was different from anything else when IT was released. Long live Strange Behavior!

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