Short Film Review: A Black Heart In White Hell (2015)

Arthouse, Extreme Horror, Horror, Short Film Review

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”A Black Heart In White Hell” is the brand new short film from restless indie horror director Dustin Mills and Crumpleshack Films.  If you aren’t aware of Dustin’s work yet then you’re missing out on one of the most exciting and hard working independent filmmakers working today, whose body of work is of a consistent level of high quality and refreshingly original.  ”A Black Heart In White Hell” sees Dustin in full experimental mode, dragging the viewer into hell with the films victim and – if you dare stick around – forcing us to endure her plight with her.

”Not Sorry” are the words The Woman (Reagan Root) writes on the mirror before she takes her own life in the bath tub, assuming that she’s leaving this world unpunished for crimes we later learn she committed.  However – when she wakes up in a white room, a series of events unfold which force her to face the consequences of her sins.  What ensues is a bloody nightmare involving monsters and tormenting imagery as she’s punished in some gross, unsettling ways.

There were 2 movies which sprung to mind when watching ”A Black Heart In White Hell”: ”Eraserhead (1977)” and ”Begotten (1990)”.  My comparison is not based on the content contained within either of those movies, as they’re both completely different; what I’m getting at is they both share an ability to evoke a strong visceral reaction and psychologically pummel your senses at the same time.  ”A Black Heart In White Hell”, like those 2 movies, unsettled me through imagery, sound and it’s own original content.  I guess another comparison to those movies you could make is that it’s like nothing else out there, but that’s always been the case with Mills’ work anyway.  However, Lynch and Merhige’s movies are ugly experiences which suffer from too much self-indulgence.  ”A Black Heart In White Hell” is a visually stunning spectacle to look at, with an interesting story and additional fun factor.  Sure, it’s gross and distressing, but it’s also highly enjoyable and oozing with immediate rewatch value.

The film contains absolutely no dialogue, but the story is cohesive:  The nightmares of the lead and her crimes appearing on a television screen give us all of the information we need to understand what’s going on and why she’s being punished.  Credit must be given to Reagan Root for being able to portray a convincing character through actions, expression and body language alone.  She’d still be a joy to watch even if she wasn’t always naked.  The supporting cast consist of Dave Parker (with the awesome Youtube channel), Brandon Salkil and Jeremy Ryan, who serve as a reminder of why her soul is being ripped apart.

”A Black Heart In White Hell” is Mills’ best work to date and continues to showcase the evolution of a boundary pushing auteur making a name for himself in the world of underground cinema.  You can pick this up along with Dustin’s other movies over at Dustin Mills Productions, or stream it on VOD for pocket change.  Not only would you be supporting indie film by checking it out; you’d be treating yourself to some unique, original horror.

Writer & Director: Dustin Mills

Starring: Reagan Root, Dave Parker, Brandon Salkil, Jeremy Ryan

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 30 min

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Movie Review: ReGOREgitated Sacrifice (2008)

Extreme Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews

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Lucifer Valentine’s ”Vomit Gore” is a series I have no interest in seeing. The only reason I watched this was because a friend told me the Soska Sisters were in it and I had to see for myself.  There is no record of it on their IMDB pages – which is understandable as no aspiring filmmakers with career ambition would want to associate themselves with what is essentially a fetish porn film.  And yes, Jen and Sylvia Soska were present.

The plot?  Well, much like the mind that created it, the plot was lost before it even began.  It’s an incoherent, hallucinogenic nightmare of sorts; where pissing, puking, sex and gore all enter the same blender to concoct a nuclear cocktail sure to kill a few brain cells and make most people physically sick.  But if I had to hazard an interpreted guess, it’s about the nightmares of a young woman as she enters Hell.

So, is this where I call ”ReGOREgitated Sacrifice” a pointless piece of trash not worth your time unless you’re a complete sicko?  Not quite.  Many have already and even though it’s not something I enjoyed, per se, dismissing it without acknowledging its merits would be dishonest of me.  It contained so many moments that left me questioning my own sanity for watching it that it deserves credit.  Furthermore, the gore effects are masterful; I’d go as far to say they’re the best I’ve ever seen.  Or the worst -depending on how you view it. They’re so well done they’re sickening: it’s not something I would describe as fun, like say, FX from a splatter movie – but they have to be commended.

The film also contains a strange, hypnotic aura throughout; it’s arthouse for the scathouse and it’s very successful in its bid to be as unsettling as possible. It’s an unrelenting assault on the senses which challenges the viewer with every segment.  I don’t consider this to be a good movie by any means, but Lucifer Valentine possesses a lot of talent and achieves exactly what he sets out to do.  I have no doubt in my mind that he has a potential good film in him somewhere, but whether he decides makes it is up to him.

Kudos to Lucifer Valentine for creating something so balls-to-the-wall and courageous; this trilogy has encouraged stalkers and death threats sent his way.  The gore is a triumph of FX and there’s plenty of insanity and WTF? moments worth noting – even applauding.  However, it has too much shameless piss/puke pornography within it for my taste.  4/10

Written & Directed By:

Lucifer Valentine

Starring:

Ameara Lavey, Lucifer Valentine, The Soska Sisters

Genre:

Extreme Horror

Running Time:

65 min

Movie Review: American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts & Gore (2015)

Extreme Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews

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The original Japanese ”Guinea Pig” series is regarded as a landmark achievement of extreme cinema, famously receiving notoriety after Charlie Sheen reported Flowers of Flesh & Blood (1985) to the FBI in 1991 because he was convinced that it was a real snuff film.  This led to an investigation, with the creators going on trial and having to prove that the atrocities being committed on screen were indeed fake.  Suffice to say, the film is now regarded as a cult classic as a result; if Federal authorities get involved, then your movie has achieved its goal.

”American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts & Gore” is the modern American reboot of the series, directed by first timer Stephen Biro, founder of Unearthed Films, a company which specializes in distributing movies made with the intention of making viewers physically sick.  From the moment I heard about this movie, I was intrigued:  These type of films aren’t usually my cup of tea by any means, but the hype surrounding ”Bouquet of Guts & Gore” was too great to ignore.  Deemed by many reviewers as the most unpleasant experience they have ever had to endure – in the good way, not the Adam Sandler way – I just had to check it out to see if it would break my threshold.  Unfortunately, it didn’t make me vomit; I’m the type of guy who can watch human beings getting butchered and not flinch, then go ball my eyes out watching ”Marley & Me.” However, ”Bouquet of Guts & Gore” impressed me as a visual spectacle: I was in awe at the gore FX, as opposed to sickened like many people will be. However, I was entertained for the duration, even though it’s not a movie anybody in their right mind would describe as ”entertaining.”  Thankfully, I’m not in my right mind.

Essentially, ”Bouquet of Guts & Gore” is the abduction, drugging, dismemberment and disembowelment of 2 females while a film crew record the vile acts.  It’s a faux snuff film with not much in the way of story or character development.  Shot on 16mm, it’s looks grainy and homemade; and is so unrelentingly cruel and mean spirited it’s sure to test the metal of most viewers.  There’s an audience for this type of film and anybody who watches it knows what they’re getting themselves into.  Enter at your own risk, because the butchering that takes place on screen is as authentic looking as you’re likely to see, outside of… you know… actual murder.

For me, the lack of attachment to the victims made it difficult to sympathize with their plight.  It’s very rare a film will make me feel sick or disturbed, so in those regards, ”Bouquet of Guts & Gore” didn’t succeed.  However, it will make a lot of viewers feel rotten to their core and in desperate need of a shower afterwards.  For gore lovers like me, they’ll sit and marvel at the FX courtesy of Marcus Koch, who, in my opinion, is the absolute best FX artist working in horror right now.

The score is another highlight of the film which will give viewers feelings of unease.  Orchestrated by Jimmy Screamerclaus, the weirdo genius behind psychotic fever dream ”Where The Dead Go To Die (2013)”, the ominous doomscape is sure to creep into the nerves of many a viewer and remain with them long after, when they replay the heinous acts they just witnessed over again in their head.

”American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts & Gore” isn’t a movie I recommend, due to its content.  It was made for a particular group of horror fan; the ones who openly bask in the nasty pleasures of the abyss.  If you’re a fan of extreme, transgressive cinema of this nature then you’ve probably seen it already – or will soon.  However, for a guy like me, who isn’t a fan of pseudo snuff films usually, I wasn’t bored for a minute and it’s definitely a stand out little nasty I won’t forget anytime soon.  I can’t say I was blown away by it – minus the outstanding gore – but I was entertained for 72 minutes and I have no doubt it’ll be regarded as a classic of its kind, much like its predecessors.  Stephen Biro is a successful Jack of All Trades, and he can add director to his list of talents.  Overall, this is a movie that will offend people and undoubtedly get banned in many countries, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do and deserves plaudits.  7/10.

Fun fact: Biro named the victims after his ex-wives.  I thought that was funny.

Written & Directed By:

Stephen Biro

Starring:

Eight The Chosen One, Scott Gabbey, Jim Van Bebber

Genre:

Horror

Running Time:

73 min

Movie Review: American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire (2015)

Extreme Horror, Horror, Horror Comedy, Movie Reviews

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American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire is the deranged brainchild of Flood Reed, who, according to his IMDB profile, is a circus performer and subconscious drifter who likes to appear in the nightmares of children and the occasional LSD-induced hallucination.  However, when he’s not scaring kids and enhancing trips, he sometimes acts in, writes and directs movies. One such movie is the topic of this review: a demented dose of backwoods debauchery that’s already received critical acclaim by winning Rue Morgue Magazines, ”Goriest Scene of the Year Award” and being nominate for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Editing at the 8th Annual Shockfest Film Festival.

A fitting way to describe American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire would be Deliverance (1972) meets Jack Ketchum’s Offspring (2009), although comparing it these films is only a brief indication of what to expect here. American Backwoods is a lethal concoction of hillbilly horror, cannibal caper and creature feature, infused with black humour and copious amounts of violent carnage to create one of the most gleefully gruesome movies you’re likely to see this year.

The story follows a group of 4 guys who set out for one last hurrah at a strip club before college life separates them for the foreseeable future.  They’re a fun bunch of miscreants who just want to see some boobs and find some loose women to engage in sexual acts with; very similar to groups of friends we’ve seen in countless other horror flicks.  Along the way they encounter a creepy professor, an unpleasant gas station attendant and a homosexual police officer who doesn’t appear to be who he says he is. After deeming their vehicle unfit to drive, the police officer calls a mechanic who takes them to his trailer – and prepares them for the hunt.

Up until they reach the trailer American Backwoods is an offbeat bro-comedy that wouldn’t seem out of place as a Harold & Kumar sequel. The strip club is their White Castle and on their journey they meet some oddball characters.  Kudos have to be given for leading the viewer into a false sense of security; just as we start to think it might be a lighthearted romp, it does a complete 180 and drags us by the teeth into the abyss.  Once it gets going it’s an unrelenting nightmare of inescapable danger at every turn – involving rapist yokels, cannibalistic cave dwellers and a mystical beast. With so many ingredients in the pot, it risks becoming a convoluted mess: I’m happy to report that it makes for a tasty treat, effortlessly shifting gears with unforced, natural ease.

More often than not, low budget independent horror suffers from the same pitfalls: bad acting, below par production values, paper thin characters, etc. In American Backwoods every actor is solid and convincing in their roles, with the majority of characters being given ample amounts of screen time to make an impression and flex their chops. Most of the characters are given enough of a backstory that they actually come across as people and not just bodies to be slaughtered.  Furthermore, the movie looks great: visually it’s clear to see what’s going on, and at times, it’s reminiscent of an Oliver Stone movie.  As for the gore, well that’s just outstanding: there’s one gag in particularly that’ll make you think twice about receiving oral sex in a trailer again anytime soon.  Let it be a warning to you hillbilly rapists out there.

All in all, American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire is a violent, visceral treat that takes a well-trodden formula and gives it some extra layers. This is a must see for those who like their horror unapologetic and sleazy, while creating some laughs at the expense of heinous acts without ever losing its horrific edge.  Excellent acting, a good script, an ambitious story and interesting characters provide a solid foundation for the mayhem to spray blood and spill guts all over, making it an unhinged, filthy little gem waiting to be discovered.  8/10

Pre-order American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire from Amazon HERE.  It will also be released on VOD at the beginning of June.  You can also keep track of it on Facebook and Twitter.

Written & Directed By:

Flood Reed

Starring:

Dayo Okeniyi, Shawn Thomas, Tyler Rice, Jeremy Isabella

Genre:

Horror

Running Time:

104 min

Movie Review: Collar (2014)

Extreme Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews

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Ryan Nicholson has always been a director whose work I’ve been familiar with, but not until last night have I ever been brave enough to watch it. Recently I’ve come to the realization that extreme horror is something I can handle, and even enjoy.  Therefore I decided to go into Collar with a brave face and a strong stomach and I’m happy to report I came out unscathed. Despite my brain telling me otherwise, it turns out I’m not squeamish at all and I’ve really developed a fondness for horrors most brutal offerings, provided they’re not boring.  I’m happy to report Collar was a success.

From what I understand, Collar was somewhat a departure for Ryan into darker territory.  The lighthearted comedic aspects of back alley abortions and bowling alley rapes in his previous efforts were all for a good camp laugh; I’m of the view that no subject is taboo enough to laugh at, therefore I look forward to seeing Hanger (2009) and Gutterballs (2008) when they arrive in my mailbox.  Collar is a mean spirited, brutal affair indeed, but I’d be lying if I didn’t told you I didn’t chuckle at the cannibalism.  I have a twisted sense of humour.

Collar stars Nick Principle as Massive – the homeless Satanic serial killer with a hunger for human flesh and a penis that doesn’t take the word, ”no” or the gut wrenching cries of its victims for an answer.  Massive is an intimidating villain carried by force alone: no spoken words are needed to convey his evil intent.  By far the strongest character of the movie, Collar has a villain it can be proud of, and one that is sure to send a few chills down a spine or two.  That being said, the supporting cast are fairly unmemorable in comparison, despite all putting in a solid effort.

The plot to Collar is thin, but effective: a deranged homeless killer who was abused as a child kidnaps, rapes and tortures unsuspecting victims from the streets.  One night, after receiving a call, Dana – a female cop, sets out to investigate the situation, only to be taken hostage, strapped to a collar and subject to the abuse of Massive.  While this is going on, the heinous acts committed by the Satanic rapscallion are being filmed by 2 sleazeballs who profit from capturing peoples misery on their smartphones.

As to be expected from a filmmaker with Nicholson’s reputation and amazing F/X skills, the gore is plentiful and it looks incredible; he’s a supremely talented man who’s worked on some huge movies and TV shows, so Collar is above most indie productions for the gruesome stuff. As sickening as you might find it at times, it’s hard not to view Collar and marvel at the effects work.  Here we’re treated to disembowelment’s, child birth and bodies being broken in half with back breakers (the wrestling move) – and much more.  Collar’s depravity, sleaze and violence ensures that it’s never boring for a second, unlike other movies of the ilk.

Collar is a nasty movie that doesn’t shy away from pulling punches.  In fact, it punches you so hard you might feel it in your gut afterwards.  The supporting characters and thin plot aren’t particularly strong, but with a short running time and constant supply of carnage, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. This is filthier than a dubstep bassline drop at a mud wrestling match between 2 STD riddled hookers with heroin addictions.  6/10

Written & Directed By:

Ryan Nicholson

Starring:

Nick Principe, Aidan Dee, Mihola Terzic

Genre:

Horror

Running Time:

89 min