Tuesday, August 21, 2018

THE SONG OF SOLOMON (2017) (Unearthed Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Unearthed Films
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 86 Minutes
Audio: English PCM 2.0 Stereo 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Stephen Biro
Cast: Gene Palubicki, James VanBebber, Jessica Cameron, Andy Winton, David McMahon, Betanya Grant, Maureen Pelamati, Stephen Biro

Troubled teen Mary (Jessica Cameron, To Jennifer) witnesses the suicide of her father (played by director Stephen Biro), he slices open his throat and pulls out his tongue out through the gaping wound in his neck, it's quite a cold-opener! The event further unleashes demonic forces already festering within the young woman, leaving her desperate mother Susan (Maureen Pelemanti, American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock) to seek help for her abhorrent daughter from a family psychologist. Right away this guy observes this is more than just a troubled teen with psychological issues, made especially clear to him when her eyes turn serpentine during the initial interview session. Knowing he's out of his league he sends the mom and her daughter to the clergy for more spiritual guidance.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking Catholic Church official called The Ordinary (Andy Wintonis, American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock) recruits a seasoned exorcist named Father Blake (Jim Van Bebber, The Manson Family) to join forces with a younger priest named Father Lawson (Scott Gabbey) to exorcise the teen of her demonic influence. This sets up these guys up as what would normally be the well familiar 'we need an old priest and young priest' trope but oh-man, this movie turns the tables on that real fast, as these holy men find themselves hopelessly on the wrong side of this exorcism, ending in blood soaked gore and blasphemy in short order! 

From here it's almost comical as The Ordinary sets about recruiting a series of new priest one after the other to confront the powerfully possessed girl, sending them into her bedroom (where ninety percent of the film takes place) in waves like an Exorcist D-Day, each one coming to a soul-damning and disgusting end in the hands of the over-powering demon whose unholy influence on the clergy proves to be diabolically strong. The film has overtones of The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby, which wasn't really a surprise as there are few exorcism/Antichrist movies that do not, those classic films pretty much set the standard for those sort of movies. However, director Stephen Biro, with the help of FX artists 
Marcus Koch and Jerami Cruise, push the envelope to the nth degree with the gore, something that sets this film apart from all the exorcism films before it.

The story is not all that new in regard to exorcism tropes with one notable exception, that of what the Catholic church is secretly up to behind the scenes, ensuring in their own diabolical way that the second coming arrives as planned, it's a nice touch, and I commend Biro for what seems to be quite a bit of research into exorcism, the theology here seems surprisingly in-depth, at least to  an admitted heathen like myself. That said, my main attraction to this film is the extreme gore, if your a fiend for Biro's particular brand of stomach-churning realistic gore you will not be disappointed, the scene of the possessed barfing up her own intestines and then scarfing them back down is unnerving stuff. While the film is not branded as one American Guinea Pig films it did begin as the fourth film in the series, the moniker was dropped in hopes of not scaring away folks who might otherwise check it out, and that might have been a smart decision. The brand is sort of whispered amongst horror fans the way that  The Faces of Death and Cannibal Holocaust (1980) were back in the day, a rite of passage for those brave enough to endure it.

I do think the acting is bit spotty in places, some scenes are played too low-key while others are a bit overwrought, but overall I think the tone is well-managed and most importantly the priests feel like real priests, especially Winton as a higher-up in the Church, he brings a certain weight and air of authority required, in a addition to an underlying duplicity. Special mention must be made for Jessica Cameron who goes all-out for the role of the possessed girl, going from tortured teen to wicked tongued demon in the same breath, offering a some subtlety and nuance to a physical performance that demands a lot and she delivers the demonic goods from start to finish. 

Audio/Video: The Song of Solomon (2017) arrives on Blu-ray from Unearthed Films in 1080p HD framed in 1.85:1 widescreen, as the film was shot on 4K digital there's none of the film-related imperfections to contend with. The image is nicely sharp and clear throughout, fine detail in the close-ups are rather impressive with deep, dark blacks and natural looking skin tones, the color grading here is warm and looks great throughout. The lone audio option is PCM stereo mix, everything sounds clean and well-balanced, no issues with distortion, and aside from some of the demonic growled delivery of the possessed everything is easily discernible.

Extras on the disc begin with two audio commentaries for the film, the first with director/writer Stephen Biro and star Jessica Cameron, the second with Biro and FX guys Marcus Koch and Jerami Cruise. We also get some behind-the-scenes footage which gives insight into the awesome gore-gags, a gallery, and interviews with star Jessica Cameron, Writer/Director Stephen Biro, Special Effects Artist Marcus Koch and Director of Photography Chris Hilleke. The disc is packed, but not as much as is advertised on the back of the Blu-ray sleeve, which implies interviews with actors Gene Palubicki and David McMahon, these are missing, perhaps these appear on the 3-disc limited collector's edition BD/DVD/CD of the film available from Unearthed. 

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with Stephen Biro ∧ Jessica Cameron
- Audio Commentary with Stephen Biro, Marcus Koch and Jerami Cruise
- Behind the Scenes/Making of (11 min) HD 
- Outtakes (9 min) HD 
- Photo Gallery (161 Images) HD 
- Video Interview with Actress Jessica Cameron (21 min) HD 
- Video Interview with Writer/Director Stephen Biro (24 min) HD 
- Video Interview with Special Effects Artist Marcus Koch (28 min) HD 
- Video Interview with Director of Photography Chris Hilleke (35 min) HD 
- Unearthed Films Trailers: American Guinea Pig: Bouquets of Guts & Gore (2 min), American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock (2 min), American Guinea Pig: Song of Solomon (2 min), American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice (1 min), Dreaming Purple Neon ( 1 min), Red Krokoil (1 min), Atroz (2 min), Francesca (2 min), 100 Tears (2 min), Where The Dead Go To Die (3 min)

When  The Song of Solomon (2017) arrived on my doorstep I knew it would be one of the goriest of all of the exorcism films just based on it being an Unearthed Films production, and it lived up to my expectations and then some, and on top of that it just happens to be the best looking and most story-driven of the Unearthed Films to date which only serves to enhance the shocking gore. A solid exorcism film and one Hell of a blood-soaked slice of unholy cinema, highly recommended not to just the dedicated gore-hounds, but to fans who enjoy extreme cinema of the exorcism/Antichrist variety. 


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