Wednesday, June 12, 2019

BYRON WILHELM von BELGERSTEIN REVIEW: Us (2019)

Blood Brothers is proud to announce that we have struck a questionable deal with the eclectic and controversial director Byron Wilhelm von Belgerstein to be our guest reviewer for a short time here on the site as he preps for filming of his new film The Last Mutation of Christ.

If you would like to help Mr. von Belgerstein out with his latest "passion" project, please check out the Kickstarter for his new film at the link below.


You can also follow him on Twitter for some fantastic ramblings on all things film and all things von Belgerstein.



Without further ado, please enjoy his soon to be iconic review of Jordan Peele's modern horror classic, Us. Thank you.


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch (2019)


Directors: Wong Jing, Jason Kwan
Notable Cast: Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Louis Koo Tin-Lok, Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Sabrina Qiu Lu-Fan, Willie Wai Kar-Hung, Jason Wong Chung-Fung, Simon Yam, Du Jiang, Candice Yu On-On

One of the most beautiful and baffling things about Hong Kong and more recently Mainland Chinese cinema is their ability to embrace the thematic franchise. A franchise doesn’t need to inherently share characters or plot lines and for the longest time, HK has done it best – expressly in their action franchises. When the first Chasing the Dragon film became a relative success, thanks mostly to a unique performance by Donnie Yen as the villain and Andy Lau to parallel his story, it wasn’t all that shocking that its sequel would be a thematic one. Instead of a drug kingpin in the '70s, Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch tells the ‘based on a true story’ of a '90s kidnapping mogul and the undercover cop set to unravel his massive money-making schemes. Once again, the film is powered on the sheer skill of two brilliant actors, Tony Leung and Louis “I’m in every film” Koo, and the combination of its cast with another easy to consume slab of crime entertainment does have its merits. Wild Wild Bunch is infectiously enjoyable in a way that betrays its obvious mainstream pandering and occasionally overzealous style. Partner that with the scene devouring performances and Wild Wild Bunch is borderline criminal in its entertaining qualities.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)


Director: Michael Dougherty

Notable Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler, Vera Varmiga, Bradley Whitford, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi, Charles Dance, Sally Hawkins, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson, David Strathairn, Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah.


Despite my own extreme excitement for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the film was a wild card. Considering the fall out of audiences after Godzilla 2014 with complaints about “too many people, not enough Godzilla” and the surprise success of Kong: Skull Island, who knew how Warner and Legendary would react to the mixed messages for their follow up in their shared kaiju universe – now deemed the ‘Global Reboot’ series on Toho’s Godzilla website. Intriguingly enough, the studios tripled down on catering to the already established Godzilla fans out there. Not just by adding three more iconic kaiju to the film – Rodan, Mothra, and Monster Zero itself, King Ghidorah, but Michael Dougherty and company deliver probably the biggest and boldest love letter to the 65 years of Godzilla…for better or worse. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is massive. Incredibly massive. It’s also messy. Incredibly messy. However, for all of its flaws, King of the Monsters owns that it’s Godzilla’s Greatest Hits and punches through it with an insane amount of fan service and key moments that will have fans celebrating their own love.

Brightburn (2019)

Director: David Yarovesky


Notable Cast: Jackson A. Dunn, Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, Steve Agee, Becky Wahlstrom, Emmie Hunter, Stephen Blackehart, Gregory Alan Williams, Michael Rooker



Deconstructing superhero films is not necessarily a new thing, even in this day and age where the big-budget superhero flick dominates the box office with relative ease. Films like Super and Chronicle were easily breaking down the tropes into strange – and very effective – films for a while now. It was only a matter of time where someone decided they needed to make a superhero slasher film. This is where we get Brightburn, spurred on by producer James Gunn through his brother and cousin who wrote the film, which features some decent talent to attempt at tackling this premise. It’s one hell of a premise too. The high concept is readily on display in the film, where a young boy discovers he has the powers of Superman and then decides he needs to use them to destroy/take over the world. It’s almost too good of a premise, really. Thus explaining why the film has some issues taking full advantage of it as both deconstruction and a mainstream release.

Yakuza Law (1969)

Director: Teruo Ishii

Notable Cast: Ryutaro Otomo, Bunta Sugawara, Minoru Oki, Hiroshi Miyauchi, Teruo Yoshida, Renji Ishibashi, Keiko Fujita, Yukie Kagawa, Hisaya Ito, Ichiro Sugai, Yoshiko Fujito

Like most of the of the cult directors from Japan at the time, Teruo Ishii cut his teeth in secondary genre films before getting its big break with the Abashiri Prison series of which he directed the numerical equivalent of a ‘shit ton’ before punching out and doing what he would be known for best – wild and artistic exploitation films. Over the last year, Arrow Video dropped two brilliant new Blu Rays of two of his classics, The Horrors of Malformed Men and Orgies of Edo, for fans to enjoy. To complete the set though, their latest release is for his other anthology film, Yakuza Law. While both of the previously mentioned films will appease fans of exploitation with nightmarish imagery, intense violence, and plenty of erotic elements, Yakuza Law represents a slightly different version of Ishii. Coming out in 1969, this film feels like a bridge between his earlier career in action films and that of his more artistic exploitation era. It’s an anthology of three yakuza stories, all told in a different time period, but the film’s intention to showcase the awful lows of how man treats one another gives the film that intense exploitative violence too. It’s a strangely effective combination that proves to be both perplexing and provocative. A bold combination that will definitely appeal to fans of the Arrow Video distribution line.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Life Finds a Way (2019)

Director: Hirobumi Watanabe

Notable Cast: Hirobumi Watanabe, Takahori Kurosaki, Misao Hirayama, Riko Hisatsugu, Akitada Iso, Tomio Tsukui

Previously, indie filmmaking meistro Hirobumi Watanabe delivered the strong but all too familiar Party 'Round the Globe back in 2017, which being his forth feature film, whilst it did impress me overall, was starting to feel as if Watanabe was too comfortably sank down into his own cinematic world of sorts. With this fifth and newest offering, Life Finds a Way, Hirobumi Watanabe delivers his funniest effort yet via the sharply written metafiction that deconstructs the entirety of his being as an artist and personality in general.

As in his previous works, we see Hirobumi, playing himself here this time around, partaking in the mundane day to day activities that anyone can quickly relate to, although it is a decidedly hilarious focus on his laziness that bounds said regularity together. He takes plenty of jabs at himself in this film and having followed his career since the Mudship days and having a personal relationship of sorts with him through online conversations over the years, it's great just how much of it draws from reality and specific moments during his career thus far, albeit and for comedic effect, many things are exaggerated.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Grand Duel (1972)


Director: Giancarlo Santi
Notable Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Alberto Dentice, Jess Hahn, Horst Frank, Marc Mazza, Klaus Grunberg, Antonio Casale, Dominique Darel

When you have a name like Lee Van Cleef attached to a film, there’s a solid chance that the film will be entertaining. Partner him up in a spaghetti western and you know you’re going to have a decent time. In a film like The Grand Duel, which in itself is a rather mediocre affair, Van Cleef devours the scenery with a nuanced and intense persona that immediately makes the film watchable, no matter how mundane the plotting is or how the tone of the film can shift. This is the experience an audience is going to have with The Grand Duel. Compared to the many, many other spaghetti westerns that Van Cleef starred in, this one does certainly falter in quality and engagement with its audience. Even with its issues, western fans will want to partake in the film for a handful of reasons and that’s on top of this latest chock-full Blu Ray release from Arrow Video.  

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Red Peony Gambler (1968)


Director: Kosaku Yamashita
Notable Cast: Junko Fuji (Sumiko Fuji), Ken Takakura, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Kyosuke Machida,
Also known as: Lady Yakuza: The Red Peony Gambler

After finishing up the Raizo Ichikawa era of the Sleepy Eyes of Death franchise, it was time for us to look for a new series of action films to cover. Looking through emails and messages, one series stood out as both highly requested and intriguing, The Red Peony Gambler series. It wasn’t my intent to leap from one massive franchise to the next (this one features 8 films) but the idea of a ninkyo eiga or chivalrous yakuza film, based on a woman gambler from the classic era perked my interest. There were a lot of ways for the franchise to take this concept. With this first entry, simply titled The Red Peony Gambler, the series kicks off in a strong way, utilizing its layered characters and gender-focused thematic weight in some surprising ways. It delivers a thoughtful ninkyo eiga where heroism is never quite what it seems and a string of seemingly untethered events tie together. It’s a sharply written and well-executed film that easily ignites the franchise. Just judging by the first entry, no wonder this series was highly requested for coverage.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019)


Director: Chad Stahelski
Notable Cast: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Mark Dacascos, Laurence Fishburne, Asia Kate Dillon, Halle Berry, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston, Jason Mantzoukas, Yayan Ruhian, Cecep Arif Rahman

There is a delight in knowing that the John Wick franchise exists. Each film, in its own way, exists as a love letter to classic worldwide action cinema. From the 70s style revenge plot of the original to the excess of style reminiscent of Seijun Suzuki’s later yakuza films of the second, each film wears its influences proudly on its sleeves while introducing a “new” audience in the US to what great action cinema looks like. The third entry of this series, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, is perhaps the weakest overall in terms of narrative, but it’s also one that gives the audience what it wants the most: a gauntlet of non-stop action, dark comedic moments, and bold characters. Chapter 3 struggles occasionally to stand on its own. Yet the sheer intensity of its wild pacing and punchy action set pieces are more than enough to keep fans hooting and hollering for more. John Wick is back and he’s ready to slap a horse into kicking his audience in the face.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Hammered in the Neck: Hammer's Dracula Franchise Part III



There is a beauty, style, and look to classic Hammer horror films that only that studio contains. There are only a handful of times in the history of cinema that a studio has defined themselves so steadfast, even when they experiment, one can immediately tell who made it by the style and tone. Hammer is one of those. For this latest franchise article, we were asked to cover some of the major Hammer studio releases and it seemed only fitting to start with the one that most people recognize: Dracula. Spanning multiple decades, the Dracula series is often times as iconic as the original Universal series and it certainly helped solidify both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as genre cornerstones. Truthfully, it was a pleasure to be asked to go back and watch this franchise once again and write this series of articles. Not that my words do it much justice, but even if I can inspire one to revisit the films, then I will have done my duty.

Due to the length of this franchise, it only made sense to split it up into multiple articles to prevent having one massive piece that people will tire of reading by the time they reach the third or fourth film. Since there are nine entries, it made sense to evenly split the articles into three films each. For this third and final part of the article, we will be covering the seventh, eighth, and ninth entries into the series.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Kung Fu League (2018)


Director: Jeff Lau
Notable Cast: Vincent Zhao, Andy On, Danny Chan, Dennis To, Ashin, Madina Memet, Jay Chou

Kung Fu League is one of those concepts that immediately makes martial arts cinema fans excited. Not only is it a film where they were going to, somehow, get four of the most iconic kung fu folk heroes to team up, but they managed to grab some iconic actors to star (or reprise) these characters – even if it isn’t the most famous stars from the roles. Still, the time travel concept of getting them to team up is just stupid enough to work.  There are some incredible stupid Chinese films that pull of ridiculous concepts, so the prospect that Kung Fu League would work was not out necessarily out of the realm of possibility.

Of course, Kung Fu League is also a film directed by Jeff Lau. Yes, that Jeff Lau that continually gives us some of the stupidest and most gimmicky films the last couple of decades. Just a couple years ago he directed Soccer Killer which went viral for its spoof of various superheroes playing the titular sport. If you haven’t seen that, I highly suggest trying to find that clip. It’s baffling.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and the Wild: Adam Green

*The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and the Wild is a series of articles that will focus on one particular person, for example, directors, actors, producers, etc., that have had a strong career in genre, cult, and arthouse cinema. In these articles, our writers are asked to choose four films from their filmography. They will choose one of their favorites (the good,) one of their least favorites (the bad,) their choice for the oddest film (the weird,) and a fourth film which will be their ‘wild card’ pick. These articles are meant to be a way of discussing the work of these directors in perhaps a new and fun way for our readers - and our writers. Please keep an open mind, discuss, share, and send in your own suggestions for directors for us to cover.

The online community loves to debate the list of “new masters of horror” time and time again, citing new films, bold voices, or box office success in the genre. One of the more interesting talents that are brought up in these discussions is Adam Green. He erupted on the scene with his slasher throwback horror comedy, Hatchet, and has developed a plethora of unique films in a variety of roles. For this entry into The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and the Wild, my focus will be on Adam Green and is strangely diverse and intriguing filmography as a director – and I’m sure my choices for each category will surprise fans.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Asako I & II (2018)


Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Notable Cast: Masahiro Higashide, Erika Karata, Koji Seto, Rio Yamashita, Sairi Itoh

Ryusuke Hamaguchi is continually proving himself to be one of the finest directors anywhere out there, and that is coming from someone who has unfortunately still yet to see his universally acclaimed Happy Hour. His latest offering, Asako I & II, where it stands at this point in the year, is my absolute favorite film experience thus far. Yes, it premiered in 2018 in many parts of the world, but its U.S release is this year, kicking off at the Metrograph this month (May), courtesy of Grasshopper Films.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Savage (2019)

Director: Cui Siwei
Notable Cast: Chang Chen, Liao Fan, Ni Ni, Guangjie Li, Huang Jue

The harsh tundra of Mount Baekdu in China is the backdrop for one of 2019's biggest surprises thus far, the taut, relentless crime thriller that is Savage.

Wang Kanghao (Chang Chen) is a detective who has been posted to work at a smaller town in the mountainous region, which has been in a swift economic decline since the banning of logging in their local forestry went into effect some years prior to his arrival. Instead of tending to the possible minute local disputes as one would imagine goes on in a town of its size, Wang instead finds himself thrust quickly into a deadly situation as a trio of outlaws rob a passing truck full of gold bars. What ensues is a blood-soaked, frostbitten descent into hell.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Avengers: Endgame (2019)


Directors: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
Notable Cast: Everybody?

The Marvel box office juggernaut is something to be impressed by, even if you believe the films are mainstream cinematic trash. Just this year, Captain Marvel surpassed all of the Batman films in total box office revenue and that was only a couple of months prior to the release of the focus of this review, Avengers: Endgame. It wasn’t hard to believe that Endgame would be the biggest film in the world and the possibility of setting records was almost a given considering the strength of the franchise and manner that the first half of this two-part film, Avengers: Infinity War, left audiences on the edge. What is surprising is that Endgame surpasses the expectations of quality as a film, taking what was not only presented in its predecessor as a foundation, but maximizing the build of the last 11 years as a franchise to power its action and – more importantly – its emotional core. It’s so effective in wrapping up its long-gestating character arcs and plotting that it’s tempting to say the film is in the running for one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Time will tell if it stays there but as the credits roll, the energetic heft of the film lingers and that’s a testament to its quality.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Curse of La Llorona (2019)


Director: Michael Chaves
Notable Cast: Linda Cardellini, Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez, Marisol Ramirez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tony Amendola

The Conjuring Universe has so much potential as a wide-reaching horror franchise. A lot of the potential can already be seen as the series expands past the Warrens with this year’s (first) Conjuring-Verse film, The Curse of La Llorona. The expansion of the franchise into time frames and places outside of the main characters adds a lot of value to what this franchise has to offer horror fans. Last year’s The Nun was problematic for a lot of reasons, but what it did do right was that the main story itself was in its own unique time and place. The Curse of La Llorona takes it a few steps further by tackling another supernatural story based on “real-world” and only loosely tying it to events in The Conjuring franchise, but allowing it to exist on its own. While the concept is great, the execution of the first film to embrace it results in more of a mixed bag honestly.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Scared Stiff (1987)


Director: Richard Friedman
Notable Cast: Mary Page Keller, Josh Segal, Andrew Stevens, David Ramsey, Bill Hindman, Jackie Davis, Nicole Fortier

Scared Stiff was always one of those films that my friends and colleagues would reference, but no one I knew had actually seen it. If they had, they certainly didn’t make a lot of noise about it. This made it one of those films that I was very excited to finally partake in, particularly when it was announced that it would get the Arrow treatment. While the film certainly earns its place as a cult horror film for a variety of reasons, particularly with the ambitiously wild third act, Scared Stiff is not nearly the film that I expected. Between the story and the growing insanity of the what is presented onscreen as the film plays on, Scared Stiff does take a long time to set up its relatively straight forward premise and it never quite finds the proper balance between seriousness and humor.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Blood Splatter: The Silence (2019) / Mercy Black (2019)


THE SILENCE (2019)

Director: John R. Leonetti
Notable Cast: Stanley Tucci, Kiernan Shipka, Miranda Otto, Kate Trotter, John Corbett, Kyle Breitkopf, Dempsey Bryk, Bill MacLellan

Sensory deprivation horror seems to the ‘it’ thing right now. Sure, there has been a lot of success lately in that sub-sub-genre of horror with accolades going to A Quiet Place and Bird Box drumming up a bit of online excitement (and poorly thought out viral videos) which seemingly overlook the low-key brilliance of Flanagan’s Hush, but there is always a balance to things. This is where The Silence comes in. This is on the other end of the spectrum. The bad end. Directed by the gentleman that gave us the underwhelming Annabelle, The Silence takes the silent slant of A Quiet Place and mixes it with the monster mayhem of Bats. Conceptionally, that’s a great combination if I’ve ever heard one. Partner that with a semi-impressive cast – who doesn’t love Stanley Tucci? – and The Silence should have been a shoo-in for one of the more entertaining horror films of the year.

Hellboy (2019)


Director: Neil Marshall
Notable Cast: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Thomas Haden Church, Penelope Mitchell, Sophie Okonedo, Brian Gleeson, Alistair Petrie, Stephen Graham

For those who were fans of Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy films, the choice for producers to reboot the franchise instead of allowing him to finish his trilogy was one that left a sour taste in the mouth. Most of the behind the scenes shenanigans of the industry are left in the shadows though so no one really knows the why we ended up with a new Hellboy. It is what it is and I went into Hellboy 2019 with an open mind. There was a lot to be hopeful for in this reboot, at least on paper, when it was announced and yet the film remained a wild card for the year. Actually, a wild card is a decent term to use when referencing this version of Hellboy. On one hand, there are things that do work for the film and when those things are working the film is a riot. That's Hellboy's normal hand Unfortunately, the other hand is Hellboy's massive right hand and that is the majority of the film and the best way to describe that is underwhelming. Combine the two together and you get a film that’s a pure wild card piece of cinema. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (2019)


Director: Yuen Woo Ping
Notable Cast: Max Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, Dave Bautista, Kevin Cheng, Chrissie Chau, Yan Liu, Xing Yu, Brian Thomas Burrell

Let’s be honest here. I’m a sucker for the Ip Man movies. I know that, despite their popularity, that there are people out there that do not buy into them and that’s just fine. I’m someone that simply loves the blend of modern elements in what could easily be old school kung fu films. In particular, the “villain” of Ip Man 3 is one of the highlights of the series. Played by the now A-list Chinese megastar Max Zhang, he stole that film in a lot of ways and his final three-part one-on-one fight with Donnie Yen is phenomenal. Turns out I wasn’t the only person that thought he was great because now he has his own spin-off film, Master Z: Ip Man Legacy. Fortunately, this first – of probably many – spin-offs is a great continuation of the series that has the same blend of modern and old but does it with a sense of style that director Yuen Woo Ping brings to the table. It’s not going to be knocking off socks with its reliance on traditional kung fu tropes and the occasionally muddy script, but it’s going to highly entertain and keep the story and character moving forward. Master Z is a blissful modern martial arts flick with enough heart to power its bigger than life action.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire (1971)


Director: Riccardo Freda (Willy Pareto)
Notable Cast: Luigi Pistilli, Dagmar Lassander, Anton Diffring, Arther O’Sullivan, Werner Pochath, Dominique Boschero, Renato Romano, Sergio Doria, Ruth Durley, Valentina Cortese

Since I’ve started digging into giallo films with more purpose over the last handful of years, Arrow Video has been a cornerstone for finding some of the best that the genre has to offer in great releases. Whether it’s classics like Bird with the Crystal Plumage, fringe films like The Fifth Cord, or exploitative ones in the ilk of Strip Nude for Your Killer, more often than not when Arrow releases a giallo it’s worth seeing. In the case of their latest release, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire, its significance falls more in being one of the last films directed by Riccardo Freda more than anything. Although the director was hardly pigeonholed into any one particular genre, his early work to spur the Italian film industry cannot be understated. However, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire is not necessarily a great film compared to many of its giallo brethren. If anything, the film tends to play things a bit too loose with its narrative and would rather kick in intense spurts of blood rather than build a tense tonality or sharp pacing. For some giallo fans, this is still a welcome addition to the genre. For others, the film might be a bit too sporadic to rise to the upper echelons of the genre.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

L Storm (2018)


Director: David Lam
Notable Cast: Louis Koo, Julian Cheung, Kevin Cheng, Stephy Tang, Adam Pak, Patrick Tam, Michael Tse, Louis Cheung, Janelle Sing Kwan, Baby John Choi Hon-Yik, Liu Kai-Chi, Lo Hoi-Pang, Helena Law Lan, Evergreen Mak Cheung-Ching

As the fourth entry of the series hits theaters and a fifth entry that is looming in the distance, it was probably about time that I go around to seeing L Storm, the third entry into this ICAC focused action thriller franchise. It’s a bit of a chore, truthfully. This series has never been a favorite of mine and my less than lukewarm reviews for both predecessors, Z Storm and S Storm, have certainly kept my expectations low for the rest of the series. Fortunately, this third entry is easily the best one thus far, but once again it’s the massively problematic execution of a rather fun idea that hampers the film from being all that impressive and drags it down to mediocre levels.

Terra Formars (2016)


Director: Takashi Miike
Notable Cast: Hideaki Ito, Emi Takei, Tomohisa Yamada, Kane Kosugi, Rinko Kikuchi, Masaya Kato, Eiko Koike, Mariko Shinoda, Ken’ichi Takito, Rina Ohta, Rila Fukushima, Shun Oguri, Ken Aoki

Although I am not personally familiar with the source material for Terra Formars, it was the kind of manga that stirred a lot of fandom. It spawned a lot of different media around its ideas and it was only a matter of time before it received some kind of live action feature film adaptation. What made this live action version so tempting though was not the strange concepts or science fiction/horror/action elements it could utilize as both entertainment and thematic messaging, it was that Takashi Miike was helming the project. After multiple successful adaptations of manga and anime series to live action, including the wildly fun Ace Attorney, the combination could prove too enticing for its own good. Slather the film in some big names from Japan and it would see like the film could make a pretty big splash.

Pet Sematary (2019)


Directors: Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
Notable Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jeté Laurence, Hugo Lavoie, Lucas Lavoie, Obssa Ahmed, Alyssa Brooke Levine

Before leaping into 2019’s latest entry into the Stephen King renaissance, it’s perhaps best to start by laying the groundwork and context towards how I feel about the original Pet Sematary material. The book is terrifying, dark, and heavy, although it is hardly perfect (that’s blasphemy, I know,) it’s also a powerful story that is ripe for cinematic elements. The first Pet Sematary film from 1989 is even further away from perfection, utilizing some great atmosphere and terrifying imagery to power through a script that is massively problematic and muddled with needless subplots. The reason it’s necessary to know this is because this newest version of Pet Sematary certainly assumes its audience has either a) see the previous film b) read the book or c) both. In many ways, it plays on the expectations of the audience by playing up or down certain elements to get the audience to feel or move in a certain way. Like a lot of things in the Pet Sematary universe, this plays out as a blessing and a curse. Like its dual source material, this film struggles to find perfect balance of scares to narrative theme and ultimately stumbles further into a middle of the road approach than expected. Pet Sematary is still a thoughtful and often dark decent into the meaning (or meaninglessness?) of death with some impactful moments, but it just doesn’t reach the heights that it might have in the end.

Long Time No Sea (2018)

Director: Heather Tsui

Notable Cast: Zhong Jia-jin, Shang He-huang, Feng Yi-li, Ou Lu, Zhang Ling

Taiwan Film Festival UK 2019:

On the furthermost island of Taiwan, you'll find the land of Orchid Island, home to the people of the Tao tribe, that date back some 800 years ago. A rich culture that has seemed to wear itself away overtime with the locals, especially the youth. The focus is on a young boy who lives with his grandmother, his mother and father both off in the mainland of Taiwan for work, divorced, and leaving him solely with his grandmother. He yearns for his father to return home and that lack of a father figure gives him a sort of aimless feeling day to day as he skips school and tries to keep himself occupied.

A new teacher comes in from the city and begins to develop a relationship with the lonely young boy as the two's backstories begin to unfold to one another. In addition to them, a local radio DJ enters the teacher's life and begins to make him rethink his failing relationship his girlfriend who stayed back in the city. At the school, the principal comes forth with a plan to host a dance ceremony that showcases traditional Tao dancing. Eager to find purpose, the newest teacher undergoes the task.


Right from the from the first scene, the preset fear of the film looking like a travelogue ad for Orchid Island was put to ease when the visually stunning cinematography revealed itself. I went into this one blind aside from a brief plot synopsis. These type of movies usually withhold the glossy fake sheen of such products. Thank goodness great thought and care went into every technical aspect here. It is a beautiful movie and really honors the long lived legacy of a proud people and their home.

The acting is spot on as well. The award worthy newcomer Zhong Jia-jin gives a central perfomance so sincere that he demands future attention and is bound to make a great impression on the industry. Shang He-huang gives a fantastic turn in as the teacher who forms a familial bond between himself and the boy, creating a genuine chemistry between the two performers. Unfortunately, although they do a fine job with what they are given, none of the female characters have enough time to truly shine or be fully developed for that matter, which brings out the beginning of the film's drawbacks.


While the film has a ton of technical finesse and the performances are all believable, the writing falters thus ultimately hindering a potentially great piece of cinema. The narrative is quite rushed, with larger character beats happening so early on, you aren't able to begin to be immersed into the world or feel engaged with the characters until much later on in the runtime. The cliches and coincidences come in fast and hard too. What are the odds that the love interest would repeatedly find herself in the presence of the teacher, considering her odd job occupations seem to shift conveniently in accordance with his geographical location. Slim. I'd say extremely slim. Oh and she happens to be a full-time radio DJ  and the person to come in and help teach traditional dance to the students. It isn't spoiling anything as the smell of it coming is given off from miles away.

Overall, I truly find myself glad to have had the opportunity to see this film and do not regret it. Hopefully next time around, director Heather Tsui will have a more fleshed out script. She really got a lot out of a weaker screenplay. Fortunately so much heart went into this production that it shows on-screen nearly every second. A great celebration of a ultural heritage and beautiful nod to the Tao people.

Written by Josh Parmer

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Blood Splatter: Escape Room / Rust Creek (2019)


ESCAPE ROOM (2019)

Director: Adam Robitel
Notable Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, Nik Dodani, Kenneth Fok, Yorick van Wageningen

After the cult status that The Taking of Deborah Logan reached quickly within horror circles, director Adam Robitel almost immediately became a name to watch. When his second film, the fourth Insidious feature, became a box office hit, it seemed as though Robitel was not some kind of one trick pony. He had style, a knack for creating tension, and horror fans were willing to stand by his work. His latest film, Escape Room, looked to be Sony’s next bid for a yearly horror franchise in terms of both mainstream appeal and fantastic gimmick. With Robitel at the helm, there was a great chance that they might be able to pull it off even if the concept seems a bit eye-rolling on the surface.

If anything, Escape Room not only makes a strong statement for a new yearly horror franchise with its Cube inspired puzzle meets trap solving exercises and its fantastic use of an ensemble cast, but it allows Robitel and company make a highly entertaining film to stand on its own. Most of this is due to the impressive use of sets and the director’s knack for creating tension and suspenseful thrills out of some of the most asinine scripting elements. While the overall world building, about a secret organization that has seemingly brought together six strangers to survive increasingly strange and outlandish Escape Rooms, is fairly ungrounded and occasionally formulaic for horror fans to experience, the execution brings it back home to sell the entire thing. There are multiple set pieces that are instantly memorable and Escape Room makes use of the concept impressively well. In particular, there is an ‘upside-down room’ sequence that is both fascinating to watch as the characters attempt to survive the traps and solve the puzzles, but it’s shot in a way that’s wholly disorienting and fascinatingly well-paced. Throw in some rather stock, but fun characters to watch as they try to navigate their own past assumptions about everything and one another and we have a highly entertaining horror film runs with its strengths.

Considering the decent box office and threaded plotting for a sequel, Escape Room is primed for the franchise it was obviously crafted to kick off. Although the film leans towards fringe horror than anything, since it shies away form showing the violence and instead focuses on the fun visuals and thrills of its pacing, this is a franchise that I am more than willing to follow. Particularly if Robitel stays on board to direct. It sounds like both are going to be happening, so you know that I will be in the theater next year when it comes out.



RUST CREEK (2019)

Director: Jen McGowan
Notable Cast: Hermione Corfield, Jay Paulson, Sean O’Bryan, Micah Hauptman, Jeremy Glazer, Daniel R. Hill, John Marshall Jones, Denise Dal Vera, Laura Guzman, Virginia Schneider

IFC Midnight did a great job of marketing Rust Creek when it first premiered, using the strong initial reviews of the film to spin a campaign that the film was the first great indie survival horror film of the year. In a way, they aren’t wrong. Rust Creek is a fantastic film. It has a great sense of grounded reality to some great performances, the tension is tight and effective, and the film loves to play with its audience in its narrative. However, calling it survival horror might be a stretch. Now before I get lambasted with people pulling the genre card on me, I keep a pretty open mind to what horror cinema can be interpreted as. While the film certainly uses some survival horror elements, particularly in the first act, it’s pretty light and definitely on the very outskirts of the genre. It’s just fair warning for those who might carry in the wrong expectations. If I was to label it anything, I would call Rust Creek a brilliant dark thriller.

With that bit of context out of the way, Rust Creek is able to dig its heels into its concept and deliver some truly intense and surprisingly thoughtful cinema. It very much starts off as though it’s going to be the survival horror that it was marketed as, when our young heroine finds herself lost in the backwoods and two crass and creepy guys try to take advantage of her. The resulting survival sequence, with her in the woods on the run from these two guys looking to make sure she stays lost, is of the usual variety. It’s impeccably well made though as it doubles down on the reality of the situation starts to build its characters through it. However, Rust Creek is not content in staying in the formula and starts to deviate quite a bit in the second half to some surprising results. It plays on the audiences’ expectations, layers in a bit of more traditional thriller elements, and never pulls away from the characters. To give too much more away would be detrimental to the experience, but the choices that director McGowan makes, the strong and nuanced performances, along with how the tension and pops of thrills unfold make it quite the impressive watch.

Although Rust Creek will probably still fly under the radar as the year goes on because it refuses to sell itself out to wild style or gimmicks, it should be one that genre fans should check out. It’s realism, performances, and strong detailed direction make it a sleeper hit in quality for the year. Rust Creek comes highly recommended.


Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, March 25, 2019

Us (2019)


Director: Jordan Peele
Notable Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anna Diop

Jordan Peele, quite frankly, came in and busted modern horror wide open in a lot of ways. His debut, the Academy Award winning socio-political satire horror film Get Out, was a massive surprise hit with critics, fans, and box office. Whether one likes the film as much as I did is almost irrelevant. The film was a cultural phenomenon. This leaves a big question mark for a follow up. Although Get Out was often referred to as a ‘social thriller’ or some other bullshit genre as more discerning fans refused to stake it as a horror film, it was very clear from the outset that his sophomore effort, Us, was going to be HORROR in all caps. Still, that question mark loomed over it. Could his second effort be as provocative while maintaining that sense of respect to the horror community and history that Peele so obviously feels? In many ways, it absolutely does. Us is able to spark a thoughtful and layered commentary. The film is loaded with symbolism and detailed nuance to some of its vague narrative elements. It’s also a film that emphatically embraces the horror genre. It’s brutal, intense, and quite suspenseful to boot. If anything, Peele must have seen the that looming question mark and decidedly brushed it aside, refusing to play that game. Us is another horror cinema statement and easily sets the benchmark for the year.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Til Madness do Us Part (2013)

Director: Wang Bing

Yunnan, located in the Southwestern region of China, is home to a large multi story complex that is the infrastructure of a mental institution, where we focus on just one of what appears to be many floors. Here, the many tenants seem to follow no law nor is there any sort of authoritative happenings going on in order to help guide these residents about on their daily livings. Instead, these poor souls are just set loose within the confines of the building, well the floor in which they reside, and are free to roam wherever and do whatever they see fit. Chaos runs amuck here, and Wang Bing's relentless following camera captures the sad reality of a system that cares not of its own subjects.

Til Madness do Us Part is a work that left me completely speechless when the credits finally began rolling after four heartbreaking and infuriating hours. I was set to do reviews spanning numerous works of Wang's, but after sitting through them, and this one in particular, I found myself exhausted and at a severe loss for words. His filmmaking and the realities in which he reveals in such a staggeringly raw manner, admittedly make it really hard to just start speaking about them afterwards.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Triple Threat (2019)


Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Notable Cast: Tony Jaa, Scott Adkins, Iko Uwais, Tiger Chen, Michael Jai White, Celina Jade, Michael Bisping, Jeeja Yanin, Ron Smoorenburg, Monica Mok

Hype can be a challenging thing for a film. As soon as Triple Threat was announced, the hype was already at maximum. Between the impressive ensemble cast, the director, and the general tone that immediately came with it, Triple Threat was immediately an action fan dream – particularly from the martial arts variety. Even with all of that riding along for the journey, including how long the film was taking to get a release in the US, Triple Threat is a massive action cinema treat. It looks hype in the eye, says “talk, talk, talk” and then knocks its lights out. The fact remains, even with some smaller issues that arise here and there, that Triple Threat delivers on its promises. It has bigger than life characters, a wildly efficient plot, and enough action to shake the foundations of cinema. It’s a film that certainly gears what it does towards its distinctive audience, for better or worse, but for someone like myself I could not have had a better time watching the film.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Hard Way (2019)


Director: Keoni Waxman
Notable Cast: Michael Jai White, Luke Goss, Randy Couture, Madalina Anea, Grant Campbell, George Remes, Ovidiu Niculescu, Andreea Diac, Michaela Holla

In a strange way, I felt a lot of hype for The Hard Way. Weird, huh? It’s a straight to home video (Netflix this time around!) action film with a very limited budget, a generic plot, and almost no marketing behind it. There are two things that intrigued me. Firstly, the cast is stellar for low budget action fans. Having Michael Jai White team up with Luke Goss is gold in terms of second tier action. Both of these guys deserve their own A-list franchises, but until that happens, we have to appreciate their screen stealing abilities in films like The Hard Way. Secondly, the film is directed by Keoni Waxman. If you look through some of my previous reviews for films from this director, you will see that I often give him the benefit of the doubt for making watchable films around all of the issues of having Steven Seagal as a lead. This is his first action film without Aikido Dracula in like a decade. That’s also exciting.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Unity of Heroes (2019)


Director: Lin Zhenzhao
Notable Cast: Vincent Zhao, Michael Tong, Wei Ni, Li Lubing, Li Bing-Yuan, Chen Chen

If I were being truthful to myself, I would say I was anxious going into The Unity of Heroes. The film felt like it was heavily reliant on nostalgia for fans of the Wong Fei-Hung films from the 90s, in particular the films of the Once Upon a Time in China series, and I wasn’t sure that was going to be enough to carry the film. Thus, I was cautious going in and just went in to have a fun time. This is how I would suggest anyone watching the film go into it. If you do, then you could very well find quite a bit of enjoyment. The Unity of Heroes is hardly a great film, but it’s one that wears its influences proudly on its sleeves and wants its audience to have a good time with the film more than anything. While it’s not a film full of substance or the layered thoughtfulness that made the Once Upon a Time in China films iconic, it does entertain and have fun with its story and characters. That’s worth something, right?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Greta (2019)


Director: Neil Jordan
Notable Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Isabelle Huppert, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea, Zawe Ashton

Greta is the kind of film that sneaks up on a person. Most mid-level films have been relegated to straight to streaming in a lot of ways, but this one certainly had just enough star power in to it garner that wide theatrical release. Still, it’s not like director Neil Jordan is a household name at this point and so it’s not that shocking to see that even with its wide release it struggled to find its footing and audience. Particularly when the film itself is a substantially mixed experience. However, despite its own issues, Greta is the kind of film that has a weird ace in its sleeve for the third act and it saves the film from being a wholly forgettable and formulaic experience.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Captain Marvel (2019)


Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Notable Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Lashana Lynch, Annette Bening, Gemma Chan, Clark Gregg, Lee Pace

It’s that time of year again. That’s right, it’s the first Marvel film to hit the big screen for the year (with two more on the way by the time July rolls around) and with it comes the usual banter about the substance and quality of the superhero genre takeover of the box office. This first film of 2019 belongs to Captain Marvel, a film that Disney and Marvel seemingly pushed forward as scrutiny from its dedicated fanbase began to criticize the juggernaut company for taking so long to produce a female lead superhero flick. It’s not often that the live action DC films beat Marvel to the punch, but in this case they did. Still, there was a lot of momentum going into Captain Marvel. Not only was this their first female lead film, but it was riding on the coat tails of a highlight year for the company. In 2018, both Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War came out blazing to massive box office numbers and incredible critic and fan praise. Hell, the former even won a couple of Oscars and was nominated for one in the best picture category. Ant-Man and the Wasp aside, which came and went with little in the way of punch and pizzazz, that’s some huge momentum going into Captain Marvel and it was going to have a lot to live up to in terms of quality and expectation.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Lady Detective Shadow (2019)


Director: Si Shu-bu
Notable Cast: Shang Ring, Qi Jing-bin, Zhang Pei-yue, Zhang Ren-bo, Qiu Yun-he

Like most cult cinephiles, I am a sucker for specific subgenres of film. One of which is wuxia films. Good, bad, weird, boring, if it’s a wuxia film I’m willing to take a swing at it with my time. This is how Lady Detective Shadow came into my viewing queue. Quite frankly, this is a film that somehow went under my radar for quite some time and now it’s getting a US release. Naturally, it needed to end up on my watch list. Now, for more discerning fans unlike myself, it’s probably best to go into Lady Detective Shadow with a grain of salt. The film is low budget, showing those concerns in a variety of ways as it attempts to coat itself in early 2000s style rather than taking time to lift its wuxia elements up. The film is also incredibly cheesy. However, keep in mind that it is a made for TV film. It’s still a fun film that attempts to take its audience into its world with a plethora of gimmicky characters, some silly humor, and anchors much of its success on its lead, titular character. It’s not a film that’s going to blow most of its audience away, but Lady Detective Shadow has its fair share of entertainment and wuxia fans may enjoy some of what it has to offer.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

So Dark the Night (1946)


Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Notable Cast: Steven Geray, Micheline Cheirel, Eugene Borden, Ann Codee, Egon Brecher, Helen Freeman, Brother Theordore, Gregory Gaye

When it comes to digging into cinema, I tend to overlook too many films prior to the 1960s. Mostly because there is so much to dig into that sometimes its hard to know where to start. For that, I usually depend on outside sources to guide my purchases. One of them being collector’s distribution labels like Arrow Academy. When it was announced they would be releasing a Blu Ray for Lewis’ crime noir film So Dark the Night, I was ecstatic. Lewis had his fair share of impressive films under his belt and this film has garnered quite the cult status over the years as an overlooked gem of both his career and the genre. With that in mind, it’s somewhat perplexing that it took time for this film to build its momentum. It certainly deserves the serious praise it receives for its unique blend of style and detail that is built into what might have been a lesser B-grade film. It’s not a reach to understand why, at the time, the film may have been overlooked, but with the always teaching hindsight and context So Dark the Night is the kind of film that absolutely deserves a Blu Ray release of this stature.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Fifth Cord (1971)


Director: Luigi Bazzoni
Notable Cast: Franco Nero, Silvia Monti, Pamela Tiffin, Wolfgang Preiss, Ira von Furstenberg, Edmund Purdom, Maurizio Bunuglia, Rossella Falk, Renato Romano

Arrow Video has become a destination home for classic giallo films to find a new life for collectors. This intention was a statement that the company made very early on when they started distributing titles. Whether it’s the wildly known classics, the schlocky exploitative films, or the artsy fringe films, when Arrow announces the release of a new giallo title, it’s reason enough to get excited. Most recently Arrow grabbed a handful of giallo fan favorites and their latest is the Luigi Bazzoni directed film, The Fifth Cord. Now, this is a film that I found to be, at least in the cinephile circles that I interact with, a very well-regarded film. Not one that is often brought up in conversation like some of the other classics, but one that certainly had earned the respect of the fans. The way that The Fifth Cord is regarded by fans might be the best way to describe the film too. Although the film has some fantastic elements to it, executed in a means that pulls the mundane murder mystery script well up into the upper echelons of the genre, it’s also a film that doesn’t necessarily make a huge splash in style that would garner the bigger audience of people referencing it. Still, even as the film plays things more grounded, it does it in such a fantastic manner that it’s a wonder it’s not referenced more as a cornerstone of the genre.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Furie (2019)


Director: Le-Van Kiet
Notable Cast: Veronica Ngo (Ngô Thanh Vân), Cat Vy, Phan Thanh Nhiên, Pham Anh Khoa, Trần Thanh Hoa 

Veronica Ngo’s (Ngô Thanh Vân) career has been a fascinating one to behold. Truthfully, the first time I really recognized her star power was after both The Rebel and Clash hit US markets, but she’s been doing fantastic work for quite some time. Unfortunately, despite her obvious talents, her big break never really came in the US. She has certainly been in some big films. It’s just too bad that most of the roles she gets are thankless cameos more than anything. Yes, I’m looking at my copy of Star Wars: The Last Jedi right now. However, there has been a lot of hype in the action cinema community for her latest vehicle, Furie. Some impressive trailers and a distinctly neon slathered John Wick meets Ong Bak look to the film did it a lot of favors. The film is even getting a limited theatrical run in the US, courtesy of our friends at Well Go USA, here shortly. If it’s coming to a city near you and you’re an action fan, buy your ticket now. Furie is a wild ride of brutal beat downs, neon-soaked grittiness, and good old-fashioned entertainment. It’s not a film that inherently tries anything new with its story or characters, but impressive execution in direction, fight choreography, and a truly fantastic performance from Veronica Ngo make it a surprisingly vicious and effective little action flick.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Hammered in the Neck: Hammer's Dracula Franchise Part II



There is a beauty, style, and look to classic Hammer horror films that only that studio contains. There are only a handful of times in the history of cinema that a studio has defined themselves so steadfast, even when they experiment, one can immediately tell who made it by the style and tone. Hammer is one of those. For this latest franchise article, we were asked to cover some of the major Hammer studio releases and it seemed only fitting to start with the one that most people recognize: Dracula. Spanning multiple decades, the Dracula series is often times as iconic as the original Universal series and it certainly helped solidify both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as genre cornerstones. Truthfully, it was a pleasure to be asked to go back and watch this franchise once again and write this series of articles. Not that my words do it much justice, but even if I can inspire one to revisit the films, then I will have done my duty.

Due to the length of this franchise, it only made sense to split it up into multiple articles to prevent having one massive piece that people will tire of reading by the time they reach the third or fourth film. Since there are nine entries, it made sense to evenly split the articles into three films each. For this second part of the article, we will be covering the fourth, fifth, and sixth entries into the series.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Into the Dark: Down (2019)


Director: Daniel Stamm
Notable Cast: Natalie Martinez, Matt Lauria, Arnie Pantoja, Christina Leone

After the release of The Last Exorcism I would have thought that Daniel Stamm would have been one of the big names on a short list to be horror’s next thing. However, sometimes that’s not how the industry works. It wasn’t until I was doing research for the latest episode of Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into the Dark series of films, Down, that his name popped up again. Looking through his IMDB credits shows that he’s been busy over the last few years working in a lot of horror television (something that I don’t nearly keep up with enough, truthfully) and so it’s somewhat fitting that Down would end up being the next film for him. Like most of the Into the Dark series, Down is incredibly fun and effective little low budget film. It maximizes its minimalist settings, plays on the viewers assumptions with some clever key moments, and keeps an impressive pacing as it goes. Once again, Stamm showcases he is quite the fantastic modern horror director and Down is just further evidence of such.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Wandering Earth (2019)


Director: Frant Gwo
Notable Cast: Qu Chuxiao, Li Guangjie, Ng Man-tat, Zhao Jinmai, Wu Jing, Arkady Sharogradsky, Mike Sui, Qu Jingjing, Zhang Yichi, Yang Haoyu, Li Hongchen, Yang Yi, Jiang Zhigang, Zhang Huan

Although I spend a large portion of my day either commenting or writing about various elements of cinema and the various stories that break out, I really wanted to go into China’s first big science fiction blockbuster, The Wandering Earth, as blind as possible. There was definitely a lot of talk about the film prior to its Lunar New Year premiere and the fact that it was even getting a minimal theatrical roll out in the US was inspiring. Still, I went in without seeing trailers and only snapping glances at a handful of posters and the cast. This experience was refreshing. To add to it, the theatrical showing I saw the weekend after the start of the Lunar New Year was a sold out showing, filled to the brim with an audience that was electrified to see the film. Perhaps it was the context of seeing the film in this way, but The Wandering Earth was, with all puns intended, an otherworldly blast. Pulling heavily from the Hollywood text book of thrilling big budget sci-fi blockbusters, The Wandering Earth might try to jam a bit too much into one film, but the focus on developing fun characters in a wild adventure plot cannot be understated. Often times the film is eye-rolling, potentially falling apart in front of the audience’s eyes like the setting of the film itself, but there is so much heart and entertainment to be had that it’s easy to forgive it its cinematic sins.