Sunday, February 27, 2022

JUNGLE TRAP (1990) + RUN COYOTE RUN (1987) (101 Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: 101 Films
Region Code: B
Rating: Cert. 15 
Duration: (Jungle Run) 72 Minutes, (Run Coyote Run) 72 Minutes 
Audio: (Jungle Trap) English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles (Run Coyote Run), English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080i HD Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: James Bryan
Cast: Renee Harmon, Frank Neuhaus, Heidi Ahn, Tim de Haas, Valeria Smith, Rhonda Collier, Glen Sarabian, Timothy De Haas, Bill Luce

Here we have a pair of doomed/lost SOV oddities from director James Bryan (Don't Go In The Woods) and producer-writer-actress Renee Harmon (Lady Street Fighter), both are obscure slices of scrappy SOV mayhem that should appeal to no-budget trash cinema fans and lovers of the unlovable. First up is the jungle misadventure Jungle Trap, this being the last of the Bryan/Harmon team-ups, wherein 
anthropologist Josh Carpenter (Frank Neuhaus, Hell Riders) and his estranged journalist wife Chris (Renee Harmon, Frozen Scream) lead a team into the jungles to steal a golden skull relic from a headhunting tribe. The ramshackle team consists Chris's much younger lover Betsy (Heidi Ahn), photographer Mark (Glen Sarabian), and lab technicians Rita (Rhonda Collier, Night of Terror) and Janice (Valerie Smith), plus a will-work-for-cheap jungle guide named Jobe (Timothy De Haas) and a goofy bush pilot (Bill Luce, Frozen Scream).

We get a scene of the team arriving and taking up residence in a doomed resort hotel called The Palace Hotel that was shut down after the Mali attacked during it's construction, and weirdly, when they arrive the hotel seems to be in full operation, overseen by manager Madame Trudea (Betty Bena) and the elderly porter porter Obie (Jan Vanderberg, Night of Terror), both of whom seem a bit off from the start. While they never really get around to doing much jungle trekking the adventurers are plagued by the spirits of headhunting ghosts - that's right folks, it's The Shining by way of a Jungle Jim flick! The inexperienced cast gives it their all for this no-budget production but they can only do so much, but fear not, in a weird way that perhaps only lovers of shot-on-trash might experience, it works in so much as I admired the spirit that everyone puts into it, they're very earnest about it and I think that elevates it a notch, not much, but a notch.

While the footage was shot in 1990, the movie never found distribution and never saw release, it remained unedited, unscored, and unseen for 20 years until the deep-diving trash lovers at Bleeding Skull and AGFA got ahold of the original 3/4" elements in 2016 and reconstructed the movie under the director James Bryan. They even recorded an era appropriate cheesy synth-score that feels authentic. The results are god awful in the best way, a mind-numbing SOV dirge that showcases the ingenuity of no-budget filmmakers who did a lot with very (very) little, including building a plane cockpit out of what looks to be a few slabs of plywood and drunken ingenuity, and shooting the film on a makeshift soundstage full of tree trimmings to replicate the deep jungle location, and of course plenty of prerequisite stock footage of wildlife and jungle scenery.  

Like many of the Renee Harmon flicks the movie was cast largely with her own film school students, her and Bryan  definitely knew how to stretch a buck, but this doomed jungle jive is stretched a bit thinner than usual with it's jungle locations and supernatural vibe, and the seams are bursting at the stress of trying to pull it off. There's a reason this never found a distributor willing to give it release, but you have got to love the folks at Bleeding Skull and AGFA for having the gumption to finish this hot-mess and give it a deluxe HD release, to the delight of junky SOV enthusiasts the world around I am sure. 

The second flick is Run Coyote Run (1987), another semi-lost project from Renee Harmon and James Bryan, which was conceived as a sequel of sort to Lady Street Fighter, not to be confused with the other sequel Revenge of Lady Street Fighter (1990). This sequel stars Harmon as the twin sister of the character from Lady Street Fighter was compiled from over a decade of footage the filmmakers shot, and is a narrative-strained patchwork of SOV/stock footage that keeps things more slightly reality based than Jungle Trap but still manages to squeeze an assortment of nutty exploitative elements like psychic cops, axe-murdering cult members, and some bonkers fist fights that defy the laws of physics, which almost make-up for how brain-numbingly rough it is. It's worth a watch just t see how writer/star Harmon seems to age and de-age from one seen to the next. 

Audio/Video: Both films arrives on Blu-ray from 101 Films upscaling the 3/4" master tapes to 1080i HD framed in the original 1.33:1 full frame presentation. It's a shoddy looking image due to the source limitations, a murky, ill-defined experience that is pretty much ding VHS quality, but if you're familiar with the SOV format/sub-genre there aren't any surprises here, completely watchable, but VHS quality. Audio is also sourced from a 3/4" tape source and it has it's share of limitations but overall it's not an issue, but those those subtitles were appreciated! 

Extras begin with a Jungle Trap Audio Commentary track with director James Bryan, star Heidi Ahn, and the Bleeding Skull! team. A very interesting listen as James Bryan and  Heidi Ahn remember the shoot, Harmon's acting students, and how the film was funded after Harmon's mother's death, sourcing stock footage, recreating the jungle and plenty more. The Bleeding Skull team get into how Run Coyote Run was discovered in a car trunk, and creating the new synth score. Up next is the 18-min  It Wasn't My Fault: The Making of Jungle Trap with director James Bryan which begins with him going through some storage bins and displaying ephemera like a one-sheet for Lady Street Fighter, a press book for Don't Go In The Woods, and the prono films Teenage Throat. He also get into how he came to work with Harmon, how these films are pure Harmon in their execution, and how certain effects were achieved. We also get a bit of actors  Actor Frank Neuhaus and Heidi Ahn who share their memories of the making of the film. 

Also included are 4-min of Outtakes from Jungle Trap, and 27-min of surviving footage from Bryan's uncompleted film Horror Con (1989) scanned in 2K from 35mm. The images look great but have no audio,  the footage seems to mostly be footage of a horror con at hotel. 

The single-disc release arrives in a clear Scanavo keepcase with a reversible sleeve of artwork, both options are branded with 101 Films and AGFA icons on the front and spines of the wrap, with only the a-side featuring the UK ratings logo. This release also includes a limited edition slipcover with one of the artwork options, minus the ratings logo. 

Special Features:
- Jungle Trap transferred from the original 3/4” master tapes
- Jungle Trap Audio Commentary track with director James Bryan, star Heidi Ahn, and the Bleeding Skull! team
- It Wasn't My Fault: The Making of Jungle Trap (18 min) 
- Jungle Trap Outtakes (4 min) 
- Horror Con (1989): surviving footage from James Bryan’s unfinished horror movie scanned in 2K from the 35mm camera negative (28 min) 
- Bonus Movie: Run Coyote Run (1987), transferred from the original 3/4” master tapes
- Limited Edition O-ring

These relics from the 80's SOV era are always interesting if not exactly good in the traditional sense, while these failed to deliver the mind-melting SOV thrills of stuff like Things (1989) or The Soultangler (1987) I think that if you're a fan of the other stuff from James Bryan (Don't Go In The Woods) and Renee Harmon (Lady Street Fighter) or are a straight-up trash cinema junkie you'll probably love 'em. To all others who may not even know what SOV (Shot On Video) flicks are, I would caution you to temper you're expectations and know what you're getting yourself into. Regardless, 101 Films have done a terrific job bringing these to Blu-ray in the UK, and I love that these strange and wonderful video oddities still have a dedicated audience, much less boutique labels that are game to deliver deluxe editions for the deep-diving fans who crave them.  

Screenshots from the 101 Films Blu-ray: