Thursday, June 30, 2011

DVD Review: The Defiled (2010)


Label: Chemical Burn Entertainment
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 100 mins
Video: Widescreen
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo
Director: Julian Grant
Cast: Brian Shaw, Kathleen Lawlor, Angela Zagone
Tagline: We Are All Dead Meat

Zombie films... like the undead hordes themselves there's a lot of 'em out there, thousands of titles and hundreds more appear every year, big budget, low budget and no-budget undead films are released in great numbers every year with few displaying any distinguishing characteristics of note. While their numbers are legion it's a genre that's not exactly brimming with original ideas, most are variations on the pre-Romero voodoo zombies or the contaminated undead by way of Trioxin or whatnot, the infected or the supernaturally possessed. Not that I'm complaining just saying there's not a lot new under the sun, y'know?

Then came along a screener of director Julian Grant's micro-budgeted zombie epic THE DEFILED from Chemical Burn Entertainment, a film short on funds but rich in concept. At first glance I was not expecting much, the synopsis sounded like  pretentious arthouse baloney but I gave it a spin and I gotta say I really dug this film. It takes place in post apocalyptic world where a virus is mutating people into mindless cannibals, high functioning zombies with a taste for human flesh. Wait, that's not original at all, right? Well, the film follows the exploits of an infected man named Yar (Brian Shaw). He's just trying to survive the apocalypse as best he can, coping with being infected, all the while trying provide for his infected family; a son, daughter and wife who's swollen with child. Through circumstances he's left to care for his newborn while on the run from roving bands of the uninfected who seem to be clearing the area of the infected.

Yar is fighting his urges to consume human flesh, you see him crave it but he limits himself to bird eggs and animal flesh which he chews into soft bits and feeds to his newborn. His goodness is not just limited to abstaining from the eating of human flesh either, he's a compassionate man, and rescues an uninfected woman named Janice from other less friendly flesh-starved infected. She joins him for the remainder of his journey, apparently indebted by his kind act and we are along for the ride till it comes to it's bitter conclusion, that's all I'm giving away. I think this is a film that deserves some serious attention. It's an audacious premise, sure it's a bit arty but not film school pretentious arty. In the year 2011 for someone to not only attempt a nearly silent, non-verbal, black and white zombie film from the perspective of the infected, but to actually pull it off is pretty ballsy. It's an eerie flick with atmosphere to spare that's enhanced by David Findley's haunting score. What really sold the film for me was the outstanding mimed performance from Brian Shaw as Yar, what he is able to convey through pained facial expressions and soulful eyes is pretty spectacular, he's the Marcel Marceau of the zombie-set, the film's entire narrative is expressed wordlessly with only non-verbal grunts and physical action, great stuff.

There's blood, goo and guts and it has a decidedly NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD feel to it, it's not a gorefest but it's effective. The film's only drawback for me was what I felt to be an excessive run time of 100 minutes. There are a few scenes that languor a bit, they're not ruinous, and may actually enhance the creepy dream like quality of the film, but some judicious editing could easily have excised 10-15 minutes here without detracting from the film.

DVD: THE DEFILED is presented in anamorphic widescreen in blue-tinted black and white with Dolby Digital stereo audio, no subtitle options. There is a brief red/orange tinted color sequence during the "birthing", but other than that it's blue-ish black and white. The films is low-budget but looks decent, it's eerie and harkens back to George A. Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and Herek Harvey's CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962), films that definitely were inspirations for the filmmakers. The film lacks definition though, it's pretty soft throughout. The stereo audio adequately resolves the film's non-verbal grunting, effects and David Findley's evocative score.

Special features include an audio commentary with the director Julian Grant and actors Kathleen Lawlor and Brian Shaw, it's casual and informative. There's also Home Movie (1:22) which seems to be an on-camera make-up tests, an anamorphic widescreen Trailer (1:40) plus a Slide Slow consisting of 17 promo stills from the film set to the filmscore.

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Director Julian Grant and Actors Kathleen Lawlor and Brian Shaw.
- Home Movies (1:22)
- Trailer (1:40)

- Slide Show (17 Stills) (3:36)  

Verdict: Julian Grant's THE DEFILED is a haunting film, it sounds slightly absurd and novel and it's definitely not for everyone but any film that can breath new life into the land of the undead is well worth a watch to me. If you're looking for a zombie film with a  different spin on things this comes with a high recommend. 3 outta 5

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

DVD Review: Ninjas Vs Vampires


Label: Vicious Circle Films
Region Code: Region 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 89 mins
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo
Director: Justin Timpane
Cast: Jay Saunders, Daniel Ross, Cory Okouchi, Devon Marie Burt

I missed out on director Justin Timpane's previous film NINJAS VS. ZOMBIES (2008) but here we are with what I assume is a direct sequel, NINJAS VS. VAMPIRES, a schlocky action-horror-comedy genre mash-up that begins with a painfully awkward maneuver by Aaron (Jay Saunders) as he attempts to break out of the dreaded friend zone with his best friend Alex (Devon Marie Burt), it's painful to watch as she shoots him down, he's a brave man for trying. Luckily for him the failed bid is interrupted when a group of blood thirsty vampires attack. They're goners for sure till a mysterious groups of Ninjas rescue them, staking the vamps who go up in a blaze of flames, it's a very BLADE-like effect. The next day Alex doesn't seem to recall the prior nights events, she's been "glammered" TRUE BLOOD style but Aaron recalls everything, seems he's immune to the glammering,  and sets out to in search of the mysterious saviours which leads him to the Ninjas whom are led by comic shop proprietor Cole (Cory Okouch) and his band of vamp fighting LARP-ers which include a sorceress named Ann (Melissa McConnell), a wisecracking ass-kicker Kyle (Daniel Ross) and a vampire who fights for human kind Lily (Carla Okouchi). Aaron is initiated into he group and thus begins a fun good vs. evil romp pitting Ninjas against vampires.

The vampires are lead by the smug and smartly attired overlord Seth (Kurt Skarstedt) who along with his blood sucking clan are out to destroy all humans using the power of a mystical amulet. His fanged brood consists of his Major Domo (Paul Siebe), Seth's brother Manson (Daniel Mascarello) who dresses like Michelle Pfiefer's Catwoman and speaks like he's channeling Christian Bale's Batman, he one of those so evil he'll kill his own kind types, the cloaked-masked figure The Bishop (P.J. Megaw) who looks like G.I. JOE's Destro or Dr. Doom, and two MAD MAX looking barbarian vamps.  

This micro-budgeted film is a pretty good watch, it plays with vampire conventions and pokes fun at itself and the genre. There's a lot of camp here but it's all in cheesy good fun with tons of action, violence and comedy, it's a well assembled flick but it's hamstrung by some heavy CGI use which I think is the bane of the indie horror flicks these days but I found it tolerable. The film's 89 minute running time moves along at a good clip enhanced by some tight editing and a pretty kick-ass alt. rock/metal soundtrack. The story is a bit convoluted, the jokes are a bit much at times and there's too many characters but it the end it's all in good fun and plenty entertaining.

Highlights for me were actors Daniel Ross and Jay Sanders, very funny guys with some cheese-tastic one-liners, a MATRIX-style training montage, and the overall goofy tone of the film. I was definitely in the mood for a schlocky horror-comedy and that's what I got. The ending of the film sets up a possible sequel that would probably be titled NINJAS VS. MONSTERS - I'm totally game for that, would love to see it ion 2012!
DVD: The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen in Dolby Digital stereo with no subtitles. What we were sent for review is a typical Vicious Circle Films DVDR screener with no menu, no features and a reoccurring "Property of Breaking Glass Pictures" watermark. I can't comment on the features but they are listed below and seem plentiful. The audio and video quality of the screener are decent,  it looks shot on consumer grade digital video, the audio handles dialogue, effects and the heavy rock soundtrack quite well.

Special Features:
- Three Audio Commentaries - Cast - Producers - Director
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
- Bloopers
- Solarice Music Video "Again to Die" NINJAS VS. VAMPIRES Theme
- Exclusive Sneak Peek NINJAS VS. Comic Books
- Alternate Ending with Optional Commentary
- From Zombies to Vampires Featurette
- Theatrical Premier Featurette

Verdict: NINJAS VS. VAMPIRES is an entertaining flick with tons of action, swordplay, hand-to-hand combat and an over-the-top sense of humor that may not agree with everyone but I dug it. While the CGI doesn't ruin the film for me I would have loved some old school splatter but based on this I'll definitely check out Timpane's previous genre mash-up NINJAS VS. ZOMBI'S. It's a cheesy good time that lovers of schlock are sure to enjoy.
2.5 outta 5

NINJAS VS. VAMPIRE Screen Captures

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DVD Review: Mr. Skin presents Women in Prison Triple Feature (1983-1985)

Mr. Skin Presents
Panik House Entertainment [PH1012] 
Release Date: July 12th 2011

Celebrity skin legend Mr. Skin and Panik House Entertainment have teamed-up to bring you what is considered by many to be the Unholy Trinity of Women in Prison Films: CHAINED HEAD (1983), RED HEAT (1985) and JUNGLE WARRIORS (1984)! It's a triple-threat of 80's behind bars exploitation featuring Linda Blair (THE EXORCIST), Sybil Danning (HOWLING II) and John Vernon (CURTAINS) in three films guaranteed to slap, tickle and titillate those brave enough to bare witness to the depraved depictions of life behind bars 80's style. This triple feature is only available for a limited time so snatch it up while you can.   

Label: Panik House Entertainment
Region Code: All Regions NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 98 mins
Video: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digtal 2.0 Mono
Director: Paul Nicholas
Cast: Linda Blair, Sybil Danning, John Vernon, Henry Silva, Tamara Dobson
Tagline: What these women did to get into prison, is nothing compared to what they'll do to get out!

CHAINED HEAT is considered the ultimate Women in Prison film and I would have to agree, though my experience in the genre is actually quite virginal and relegated to the three films found on this set, so take that as you will. Linda Blair (THE EXORCIST) stars as Carol Henderson, a naive suburban teenager who is sentenced to 18 months in a women's prison for vehicular manslaughter. The "prison virgin" is in for a rather rude awakening to the realities of L.A. prison life. While being matriculated into the prison system Carol befriends a repeat offender meets named Val (Sharon Hughes, THE LAST HORROR FILM) and unfortunately also catches the attentions of the perverted Warden Backman (John Vernon, DIRTY HARRY) who always has an eye for fresh meat. Once settled in on her cell block she has an encounter with Ericka (Sybil Danning, THE HOWLING II), the leader of the white faction who along with Captain Taylor (Stella Stevens, THE MANITOU) are dealing cocaine within the prison walls.

Warden Backman is portrayed with delicious sliminess by the great John Vernon, the guy has a pimp office with a friggin' hot tub which he utilizes when making homemade porn with surveillance cameras. His current inmate playmate is the smokin' hot snitch named Debbie (Monique Gabrielle) whom he not only gives the double-secret penetration to but also enlists to sniff out who's selling the nose candy as it cuts into his own drug peddling activities, of course. Ericka finds out about the snitch and decides that the bitch has to go but this doesn't sit well with Duchess (Tamara Dobson, CLEOPATRA JONES), the empowered leader of the black faction, who fears that the heat will come down on the black inmates given that racial tensions are already at the breaking point. The shit going on on this prison is pretty epic; Captain Stella is smuggling girls outta the prison to pimp them out to L.A.'s sleazy elite, there's a shit ton of double crossing going on and the the coke-addled Warden rapes poor Carol when she comes to him for help, not knowing any better,  which leads to a scheme by which Val plans to seduce the Warden to get the videotape of him raping Carol and expose him to the authorities, but the hot tub seduction is interrupted by Captain Stella and the frightful red-haired guard Paula (Edy Williams, BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) who drown the Warden and then kill Val by beating her with a billy club. Captain Stella then turns on Ericka and pins the murders on her - I told you this is Shakespearean, well maybe not all that but it is pretty awesome. Carol discovers Val dying and with her last breath she reveals the identities of her killers which transforms Carol from naive rape-victim to vengeful bad ass.  The waring factions join forces and riot in an effort to get the VHS tape which now has the murder of the Warden, Val and Carol's rape which leads to a satisfying finale stuffed with violence, revenge and mayhem.

I've long heard of this film's legend and I gotta say it lives up to the hype on every level, it's a fantastic cavalcade of lesbians in prison stereotypes, tough chicks, sleazy jailers, rampant drug use, rape, revenge and the all important nude shower scenes. The performances from Blair, Danning, Stevens, Dobson and Vernon range from grimly dramatic to pure delicious campiness and it's makes for the perfect balance of sleaziness and good campy fun, it's a great watch and highly recommended.

DVD: According to DVD this marks the films first-time available uncut and remastered in it's original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and I gotta say it looks pretty great, no doubt helped by Mac Ahlberg's great cinematography. Transferred from a clean source print with very minimal print damage of any kind, it's quite hard to pinpoint any issues with the print and the film's grain structure is nicely intact, bonus, the colors are strong and black levels are good. The English language Dolby Digital mono suffices, it's clean and free of hiss, crackle and pop plus Joseph Conlan's droning score sounds pretty sweet. No subtitles are offered.

Special features include an video introduction from Mr.Skin recapping the film's sleazier skintilating highlights, an anamorphic theatrical trailer and video interviews with both Stella Stevens and Sybil Danning

DISC 1 Special Features:
- Introduction for film by the Legendary Mr. Skin
- Captain Taylor Unchained: Interview with Stella Stevens (11:14) 16:9
- Ericka in Heat: Interview with Sybil Danning (11:23) 16:9
- CHAINED HEAT Theatrical Trailer (2:08) 16:9

RED HEAT (1985)

Label: Panik House Entertainment Region Code: All Regions NTSC

Rating: Unrated
Duration: 94 mins
Video: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digtal 2.0 Mono
Director: Robert Collector
Cast: Linda Blair, Sylvia Kristel, Sue Kiel, William Ostrander
Tagline: Only one film could top the intensity of CHAINED HEAT. This is it!

Linda Blair returns to the women in prison sub genre just two years later with RED HEAT as red-headed American college student Christine Carlson who comes to West Germany to visit her fiance, Mike, a serviceman in the US Army stationed in Germany. After an argument over dinner Christine goes for a walk when she stumbles upon abduction of a suspected spy by the East German Staasi who in turn kidnap her as a CIA accomplice. She's interrogated and deprived of sleep until exhausted she breaks down and confesses to the accusations. She is sentenced to imprisoned in an East German prison where she encounters the East German version of Ericka from CHAINED HEAT, Sofia (Sylvia Kristel, EMMANUELLE), who is the sadistic lesbian-rapist lover of the warden Einbeck (Elizabeth Volkmann, VERONIKA VOSS). Her fiance Mike at first assumes she's left him following the argument but when her passport is discovered in the parking lot outside he realizes something terrible has happened. Not getting satisfaction through regular channels Mike enlists the help of his military buds and stages a daring prison bust to free Christine. Sounds exciting, huh? Well, it's not as great as it could have been, the prison break-out is pretty anti-climactic but like I said, it's a good watch it's just not CHAINED HEAT.

It lacks that proper balance of sleaziness and camp that made the former so much fun, I think we needed John Vernon here to alleviate some of the oppressive atmosphere. This is a very dark film, it's not easy to digest the sleazier WIP elements when they aren't offset by some campier shenanigans, at least in my experience.  

DVD: Presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen with English language Dolby Digital Mono, no subtitles offered. Not a bad looking print but it's a dark and grainy affair, the film seems a bit underlit. Not sure if the film was going for a dark look or if the production couldn't afford decent lighting, either way it's a drab film but it suits the film's grim tone. The Dolby Digital mono handles the dialogue, effects and Tangerine Dream's kind of bland score pretty well. Special features include a fullscreen trailer and a Mr. Skin introduction for the film.


Label: Panik House Entertainment
Region Code: All Regions NTSC

Rating: Unrated
Duration: 95 mins
Video: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digtal 2.0 Mono
Director: Ernst R. Von Theumer
Cast: Sybil Danning, John Vernon, Paul L. Smith, Nina Van Pallandt, Marjoe Gortner, Kai Wulff 

Interestingly the third feature is not really a women in prison film at all. JUNGLE WARRIORS is in fact a jungle/action film with some minor WIP elements. That's kind of cheating but since it brings both Sybil Danning and John Vernon from CHAINED HEAT back together I'll allow it.

This time out five gorgeous American models along with pretentious art director Larry (Marjoe Gortner, THE FOOD OF THE GODS) and photographer Joanna (Nina Van Pallandt, THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER) charter a plane piloted by Ben (Kai Wulff, ASSASSINS) to fly them to some exotic jungle locations in South America for a sexy fashion photo shoot.
Enter the always entertaining John Vernon (ANIMAL HOUSE) whom appears as the American drug lord Mastranga who along with his second in command Spilotro (Alex Cord, THE DEAD ARE ALIVE) have arrived to trade 50 million in gold for cocaine with drug lord Cesar Santiago. Whiler scouting for some scenic locations the plane encroaches on the drug lord's compound and is shot down. After escaping the crash unscathed the group are left to fend off pythons, cayman and the drug lord's mercenaries who are in pursuit. When the soldiers of fortune catch-up to them the usually uppity Larry momentarily turns bad ass and takes out a few mercs until he is impaled by a nasty trap. After being captured the group are taken to Cesar Santiago (Paul L. Smith, PIECES, POPEYE) doing what he does best, being awesomely odd, his delivery is quite weird but always fun. He invites them to dinner were he introduces his half-sister Angel (Sybil Danning, CHAINED HEAT). During the uncomfortable meal things go awry and Ben is decapitated and the girls are imprisoned in a dungeon. Hanging by chains from the ceiling the girls  are interrogated by Angel who gives 'em the once over and a nice titty squeeze for good measure and then throws them to the typically savage mercenaries who squeeze, grope and rape the women though what we see onscreen is pretty tame. Later the models escape from the dungeon with the help of a sympathetic elderly woman, they arm themselves and make a break for it. Hot babes with guns in the jungle, it's not quite WIP but I'm not gonna complain, this is a fun watch. At about the same time Santiago double crosses Mastranga and everything goes south with the three armed-to-the-teeth factions engaging in an intense gun battle as the CIA moves in further complicating matters. The remainder of the film climaxes as an 80's jungle-action flick and in the end it's all a bit slightly goofy but still a pretty damn entertaining action flick. It's not on the same level as CHAINED HEAT but I prefer it's trashiness to RED HEAT's rather grim aesthetic. If you enjoyed Brian Trenchard-Smith's CUT AND RUN I think this will be a fun watch. Plenty of violence and a tiny smattering of the WIP tropes.

DVD: Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with English language Dolby Digital mono with no subtitles. Of the three films on this set it's the softest looking image of the bunch, but despite some lack of fine detail, heavy grain, truly poor black levels and some super-hazy cinematography it does come from a clean source print and is quite watchable. The special features include a 16x9 enhanced trailer and a Mr. Skin introduction for the film.  

DISC 2 Special Features:
- Introduction for each film by the Legendary Mr. Skin

- RED HEAT Theatrical Trailer (2:08) 4:3
- JUNGLE WARRIOR Theatrical Trailer (1:37) 16:9

Verdict: As my introduction to WIP films I think this was a great set that I would recommend to devotees of the subgenre as well as newbies like myself. Good sleazy slammer exploitation nastiness, chock full of nude babes, vile jailers and every other stereotype you could hope for with an exploitation flick. When it comes to WIP films I can tell that for my own enjoyment I need a certain amount cheesiness, camp, kitch or whatever you wanna call it to offset the the heinous rape scenarios.  

CHAINED HEAT 4 outta 5
RED HEAT 2.75 outta 5


RED HEAT Screen Caps