Movie Review – Sin (2016)

Sin
Directed by Nico B.
Courtesy of Cult Epics
Release Date: September 13, 2016

sin

I knew I wanted to watch SIN the minute I laid eyes on the cover art. The image on the cover depicts a nude woman in flames who is trying to open a door, presumably to something like a coffin. I took this metaphorically, as we as human beings are all burning with flames of desire to sin, with only death as our escape. I love the imagery the artwork conveys; it is both poetic and beautiful.

The same can be said for the film. SIN is magnificent, and it’s probably not like anything you’ve seen before. Surreal and daring, it is a vivid and controversial homage to the black-and-white silent films from almost a century ago.

If you are not familiar with SIN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Cult Epics:

From the Director of PIG and BETTIE PAGE DARK ANGEL comes the erotic, surreal, controversial film SIN. Three episodes, staged in the 1920-1940s, where each story tells the duality of a female protagonist; the belly/frolic dancer (with Angelita Franco of Tinto Brass Kick the Cock), the sculpture model versus the nun (with Caroline Pierce), the legless aristocrat and the nurse (with Dahlia Dark).

Inspired by early 19th century vintage erotica and surrealistic filmmaking, Nico B’s exploration and discovery of the subliminal curse of destiny we call SIN. Super 8 silent film with a soundtrack by Claude Debussy. BD/DVD Combo Limited Edition features original Artwork and Booklet with Storyboards by artist Brian M. Viveros.

As mentioned in the description, SIN is actually three films in one. Although there’s no overarching plot, the all-encompassing concept of “sin” is presented in some of its rawest forms with this trilogy of shorts. And although the movie is not long (clocking in around 30 minutes in length), it still packs a punch.

SIN is shot very well and looks just like old, vintage erotica from the turn of the century. I am impressed with how well director Nico B. is able to capture the atmosphere and feel of that era. The pictures quality is grainy, yes, but even the sets and costumes look very much like something from that time period.

The acting is very good, with the cast giving performances much like those of the silent-era actors. Again, this is impressive, as I wasn’t sure the execution of the concept would turn out well. I’m happy to report it blows my expectations away.

Of the three segments in SIN, I have to say the first one (the belly dancer) is probably my favorite. It had, to me, the most authentic feel of a vintage film, but the basis for its plot is interesting as well. Not to mention, the background music seemed to fit perfectly, as if it were composed specifically for that piece.

SIN is a huge win for me, and I highly recommend it. In addition to excellent, eye-catching cover art, the two-disc set comes with a slick booklet that shows original storyboard drawings from the second segment. SIN is available now, so snatch up your copy soon before they’re all gone!

Special Features:
• New HD Transfer (from original Super 8 film)
• Nude Color Outtakes (HD)
• SIN Teasers (HD)
• Bonus: Super 8 short films by Nico B (HD)
• Booklet with original storyboard drawings by Brian M. Viveros (2005)

MSB

Movie Review – Meat (2016)

Meat
Directed by Victor Nieuwenhuijs & Maartje Seyferth
Courtesy of Artsploitation Films
Release Date: September 22, 2016

meat

I have to be honest: I’ve never been a fan of experimental films. I’ve only seen a handful, but I did not enjoy any of them. For me to appreciate a film, I need fleshed out characters, a (semi)-solid storyline, and at least some sense of closure at the end. Most experimental films have plots that jump around, characters that are “off” for no reason, and the story leaves the viewer hanging at the finish.

As such, I’m having a hard time deciphering my feelings about MEAT, a recent release from Artsploitation Films. While not solidly experimental in classification, the movie has many of the traits associated with these kind of films. If I’m basing my review on entertainment value alone, I suppose I’d have to say it’s decent, but not fantastic; it kept my attention, but only because I was struggling to figure out what was happening and why. In the end, I guess I have to say watch this one for yourself and draw your own conclusion as to whether or not it merits accolades.

If you are not familiar with MEAT, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Artsploitation Films:

This surreal erotic thriller is set in a flesh-filled and violence-prone butcher shop. A large, lustful butcher, used to living out his sexual fantasies in the shop, becomes interested in Roxy, his young female apprentice. The girl, documenting everything with a video camera, enthusiastically gets involved with him. But when the butcher is murdered and a police inspector, who looks exactly like the dead butcher, investigates the crime, the story takes on a dreamlike quality. A visually explicit, beguiling tale – think Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, meets Gaspar Noé’s Carne by way of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Delicatessen.

From a production standpoint, MEAT looks pretty good. The sets are great, the acting is very good, and the attention to detail is superb. The cinematography is interesting, and has some great and unusual camera angles. And there’s a nice dose of absurdity to the events that unfold (I particularly enjoyed how everybody was using the meat locker as a hook-up spot for sex).

But I never could figure out who the characters were or why they were acting in the manner shown onscreen. For example, we are introduced to a woman who appears to be the butcher’s wife or girlfriend. But then, she starts having sex with other men. This is never explained, and I was left assuming she was a prostitute. But later in the film, after the butcher has died, she is mournful, like a wife missing her husband. I was completely lost.

Also confusing in MEAT was the fact that the butcher and the detective investigating his murder were both played by the same actor. This caused some MAJOR confusion towards the end of the film, when the detective shaves his head to match that of the deceased butcher. As the movie concluded, I couldn’t figure out if the events were happening in real time or if they were a surrealistic fever dream. While the credits rolled, my frustration grew.

Perhaps I need to watch the film again…maybe I missed something the first time around. I don’t know. But for now I’ll just say it is an ok movie. I will probably revisit it again soon, but I don’t know for sure. MEAT is available now.

MSB

TV Show Review – Dexter: The Complete Series Blu-ray

Dexter: The Complete Series
Courtesy of Showtime Entertainment & CBS Home Entertainment
Release Date: October 4, 2016

dexter_completeepikpack

Last year, I had the distinct pleasure of reviewing DEXTER: THE COMPLETE SERIES on DVD (click here to read that review). I loved the show, and thoroughly enjoyed its intelligence and wit. Now, the fine folks at Showtime and CBS have released the complete set in HD on Blu-ray; and I have to say, it is nothing short of magnificent.

If you are not familiar with DEXTER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Showtime Entertainment and CBS Home Entertainment:

The pulse-pounding Showtime original starring Golden Globe winner Michael C. Hall, DEXTER: THE COMPLETE SERIES BLU-RAY, arrives this fall in new shelf-friendly packaging, just in time for the holidays.

Named one of the best-written series of all time by the Writers Guild of America, DEXTER follows Dexter Morgan (Hall), the antihero with his own twisted sense of justice as he spends his days solving crimes and nights committing them. The acclaimed series features a stellar ensemble cast including Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, Erik King, C.S. Lee, Lauren Velez, David Zayas, Geoff Pierson, Desmond Harrington, Aimee Garcia, and James Remar.

DEXTER: THE COMPLETE SERIES BLU-RAY includes all eight seasons on Blu-ray with a trove of special features including over four hours of behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews, featurettes, and promos, as well as two documentaries, “The Evolution of Dexter Morgan” and “The Code,” which dive into the progression of the series. The collection also includes “Rubin Museum of Art Special Presentation: An on-stage conversation with Michael C. Hall and psychologist Kevin Dutton (“The Wisdom of Psychopaths”), who discuss the world of psychopaths. Through a one-hour conversation with Hall, Dutton discusses his findings as well as Hall’s role as television’s favorite Killer.

When half a million people rate a show and give it 8.8 out of 10 stars (see the IMDB page via the link above), that tells you something: it’s a GREAT show. I am impressed with the following it still has, despite the fact it ended three years ago.

Watching DEXTER again really rekindled my passion for the show. But seeing it in HD this time gave it even more impact. The picture quality is excellent, and it allowed me to experience each gruesome crime scene with vibrant realism. Likewise, the sound has been amped up as well. My surround sound made better use of it this time around.

As I mentioned before, the acting is top-notch, with Michael C. Hall portraying the titular character. Nobody could have played Dexter better, and I’m glad Hall was awarded for his hard work in bringing the character to life. He is complimented by some major talent that includes Jennifer Carpenter, who plays his sister Debra; David Zayas as Sergeant Batista; the incomparable James Remar as Harry Morgan, Dexter’s adopted dad; and Julie Benz, who plays love interest Rita. The entire cast meshes well and is a major credit to the series’ success.

And, as I boasted about last year, the special effects are still a triumph. Most of the time, the gore is not the focal point; it is a means to an end to help emphasize the story. But sometimes the camera lingers on certain things for a while, and…well, let’s just say it’s probably best not to eat while watching the show. I love the effort spent on the effects, particularly now that they can be enjoyed in HD.

DEXTER is still a major win for me, and I highly recommend snagging it on Blu-ray while you can. The convenient packaging helps minimize shelf space, which is a huge asset for me. And the artwork, although simple, is eye-catching as well. If you’re a fan of horror, dark humor, or just good television, do yourself a favor and pick up this Blu-ray set soon. It is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – Masks (2016)

Masks
Directed by Andreas Marschall
Courtesy of Reel Gore Releasing & CAV Distribution
Release Date: September 13, 2016

masks

When I first saw the cover art for MASKS, I knew I wanted to watch it. The imagery gave me a distinct Dario Argento vibe, which automatically made it a “must see”. And then I read the synopsis. My mouth immediately started watering, and I could swear I heard the theme song to SUSPIRIA playing in the distance somewhere. Needless to say, I was foaming at the mouth to watch this film

And let me tell you: the movie is worth every bit of anticipation I devoted to it. Director Andreas Marschall does a stunning job of presenting this slasher/mystery, and horror fans will definitely want to get their hands on this one soon; it is a perfect film to watch for Halloween!

If you are not familiar with MASKS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Reel Gore Releasing and CAV Distribution:

In her quest for fame, drama student Stella gets caught in the grip of a mysterious and deadly stage school.

Stella longs to be an actress. When she is accepted to a private school in Berlin, her dream seems to come true. But there is something wrong with the “Matteusz Gdula-Institute”. In the seventies, the school´s founder, Matteusz Gdula, practiced a learning style that promised to let students shine by driving them to their mental limits. In the end his method was banned, as mysterious deaths occurred during his lessons and Gdula committed suicide. At night, Stella hears eerie sounds in the corridors of the school. A fellow student disappears. Stella suspects that behind the closed door to the abandoned, forbidden wing of the school lurks a bloody secret.
A secret that kills the students…

First 3000 copies include: CD – Original Soundtrack, Collectible Blu-ray/DVD Slipcase and Sleeve, 24 Page Booklet.

From the look and feel of MASKS, I would swear Marschall studied under Argento. Marschall has an uncanny knack for capturing the mood and atmosphere Argento uses in some of his most classic films. I am not saying Marschall copied him, but rather learned from him. Marschall makes use of lighting, color, and even music to help elevate the tension in his scenes. The result is a first-rate horror flick that is worthy of praise and attention.

MASKS is shot very well, in a cinematic style that enhances every terrifying second of the movie. I like many of the camera angles the cinematography captures, and they help set eerie tones for several of the scenes.

Likewise, the acting is first-rate as well. I don’t think I’ve seen any of the cast members in prior roles, however I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in future films. Susen Ermich does a great job as the main, Stella. She is supported by a talented group that includes Magdalena Ritter and Julita Witt.

The suspense in MASKS is almost a physical element. I even jumped at a couple of the kills, as they happened without warning. This brings up the gore: it is excellent. The weapon of choice for the killings is a short fencing sword, and we get to see (in graphic detail) the way it pierces flesh on various parts of the body. These scenes are gruesome and excellent.

If I were forced to find a flaw with MASKS, I might have to comment on the length of the film. It clocks in at just shy of two hours (1 hour 52 minutes, I believe), but there are a couple of scenes that could have been cut down a bit. Personally, I think I good running time would have been 1 hour 40+ minutes or so. The additional time doesn’t really detract from the film, but this is just an observation.

There’s no denying MASKS is a powerhouse of a horror film, though, and every horror fan worth his or her salt will want to check this one out. It’s an interesting hybrid of giallo, mystery, and horror, so it’s got something for everyone. Be sure and snatch up the Blu-ray special edition, as it contains a CD with the soundtrack and a couple of other goodies. The film is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – Atroz (2016)

Atroz
Directed by Lex Ortega
Courtesy of Unearthed Films & MVD Distribution
Release Date: August 30, 2016

atroz

Unearthed Films has a reputation for offering some of the most difficult films to watch, and it is a well-deserved status. But this is not because their films are poor quality; quite the contrary. This company’s films are (for the most part) made well and have high production value. But the content and subject matters within their titles are what make them hard to finish in some cases. Brutal and graphic, many (I would wager most) Unearthed Films are not for the squeamish or faint-of-heart. But if you can stomach them, you’re in for a treat; with boatloads of gore and some of the hardest hardcore horror scenes in the business, Unearthed Films is truly a fore to be reckoned with.

ATROZ is a recent release that hails from Mexico, and let me tell you: some of the imagery in this film will linger in your brain like an unwelcome guest after the credits roll. I’ve only seen a handful of Unearthed titles, but this one has moved to the top of the list. If you’re any kind of fan of horror or gore, check this one out for sure.

If you are not familiar with ATROZ, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Unearthed Films and MVD Distribution:

Atroz/Atrocious is a film that portrays the story of two serial killers. After the pair are arrested for causing a traffic accident, the police confiscate some videotapes. These tapes contain brutal murders and tortures that show human wickedness, their background, paraphilia, and the psyche of these murderers.

ATROZ means ‘atrocious’, and the acts committed in this film are just that. The two psychopaths are beyond sick and what they force their victims to endure is difficult to watch.

ATROZ is shot very well, particularly when considering this is a ‘found-footage’ movie. Director Lex Ortega skillfully uses handheld camera shots along with security camera footage to weave a breathtaking journey of repulsiveness and mayhem. The result is an enthralling and effective horror flick you won’t soon forget.

The acting is very good, although I do not recognize a single name in the cast. The special effects are downright amazing, and I would swear the production team actually tortured people to accomplish some of what we see onscreen. But as mentioned, do not watch this one if you have a weak stomach, and certainly steer clear if you are eating. You’ll probably lose your lunch, literally!

A big part of what makes ATROZ so good is the soundtrack. The music is a perfect companion to the violence and savagery we see on the screen. But even more interesting is the fact you could very easily listen to it while zooming down the road in your car. It’s a fascinating score that haunts the atmosphere of the film and helps to immerse the viewer into each scene.

ATROZ is a big win for me, and every gore-hound should definitely pick it up. The Limited Collector’s Edition is a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack that includes a third disc containing the excellent soundtrack. This is available now, so make a note to get your copy soon.

Special Features include:

• CROWDFUNDING VIDEO
• BEHIND THE SCENES: MUSIC & SOUND DESIGN
• BEHIND THE SCENES: PRACTICAL FX
• BEHIND THE SCENES: PRODUCTION
• UNEARTHED TRAILERS
• BTS IMAGE GALLERY
• CD SOUNDTRACK

MS