Exploring: The Films of Maria Konstantynova

Who?

The one and only “Evil Woman Creeping from Dark” available on Shutterstock for indie filmmakers of the direct-to-video realms to clip-art into orb-tedium.

Image credit: Dmytro Konstantynov, by way of Felipe M. Guerra.

Courtesy of the investigative entertainment journalism of Felipe M. Guerra, with his article “When the Overuse of Stock Photos Creates an Unexpected ‘Star System’: Familiar faces keep appearing on cheap movie covers,” we’ve come to know the “Evil Woman Creeping from Dark” photo, seen above, is Ukrainian model Maria Konstantynova. We also know that she’s not an actress, she’s never appeared in a horror movie, and she’s not a professional model. But she is the wife of Dmytro Konstantynov, a photographer working with stock images, posting his wares on Shutterstock since 2007.

So, against our better judgement, we’re taking it upon ourselves — and curse you, Felipe, may the evil woman of the dark haunt your dreams — we’re going to review all of these German/Euro-released movies that feature Maria Konstantynova on the cover. Now, Felipe gave a “special thanks” to his filmmaker friend René Wiesner, whose own Facebook post regarding stock photos on DVD covers inspired the writing of Felipe’s article.

Well, we’re sending you a very special curse, René. You’ve been warned. As if I don’t have enough crap movies to review. . . . Oh, well. Let’s unpack ’em (alphabetically).

Absentia (2011)

Remember Mike Flanagan and his box office hit, Oculus (2013)? Well, he made his writing and directing bones with star Katie Parker, later of Doctor Sleep (2019), in this Euro-clip artfest. However, unlike most of the films on this list featuring Maria Konstantynova on the cover: this is a well-made, Lovecraftian-styled horror of shadows and inferring and little-to-no shock scares.

A widowed woman (Courtney Bell) and her drug-addicted sister (Parker) discover the link between a mysterious subway tunnel to a series of disappearances — including that of her own husband: after seven years, he’s “Dead in Absentia.” Sure, it’s not as great as Oculus, but Flanagan’s class and style — on a meager $75,000 budget, mind you — is shining through, leaving you knowing he’s moving on to something bigger.

A highly-suggested watch on Tubi.

Clowntown (2016)

As with the recent, pretty decent Clown Fear (2020): The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the retro-model, here, getting a coat of colorful, facial grease paint, sans any skin masks. Okay, maybe Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes is the mold. Okay, well, maybe these guys grew up with Rob Zombie’s take on the material, aka House of a 1000 Corpses. Anyway, the “guys” in this case are Ohio filmmaker Tom Nagel directing his brother Brian in their feature film debut (next up for the duo was 2018’s The Toybox).

Ugh. Without the prattle of the plethora of other “killer clown” movies, this is a lesson in pure boredom and predictability — rife with awful acting and cheap gore — as a group of friends are stranded in the ubiquitous, deserted small town populated by a gang of psychopaths dressed as clowns.

See it under the Tubi Big Top!

The Hillside Stranglings, aka The Hillside Strangler (2004)

In the never-ending quest to squeeze every last Euro out of a U.S.-made TV movie in the overseas marketplace: there’s Maria Konstantynova giving new life to a film that deserves not.

Sure, the tutelage of C. Thomas Howell (The Outsiders) and Nicholas Turturro (brother of John and of the currently on-the-air U.S. TV series Chicago P.D) starring as Bianchi and Buono led me to rent The Hillside Strangler (2004). However, regardless of its claims of being “a more accurate portrayal,” in the shadow of the stellar quality of Crenna’s 1989 TV movie The Case of the Hillside Strangers, this direct-to-video leftoverture left me feeling that this Howell-fronted version worked as a fictional piece — not an accrate serial killer biography — plotted around two (dark) historical figures.

So, yeah, don’t be duped by the “Producers of Ed Gein and Bundy” tagline: those films are just as low-budget and dopey-pathetic in their aftermarket tedium. The “Palisades Tartan Extreme” banner that’s not on the U.S. version? Uh, well, the U.S. version isn’t “extreme” in the least, so we’re guessing the overseas cut offers graphic, U.S.-delete scenes? Whatever, eh, it’s still better than most of the U.S. junk Maria’s shilling within the Deutschland borders.

Watch it on Amazon. Yikes, there’s a lot of C.Thomas Howell flicks on Tubi, just not this one. C.Tom’s okay, so make a day of it!

Horror Cuts: Bitches, Satans and Hellraisers (2012)

What “Doctor Death” is presenting here is four overseas, never-issued-in-the-U.S. horror films in a one-pack: Ugly Bitches (could be Crazy Bitches from 2014), Prince of Darkness (we think it’s Amir El Zalam from 2002), Walking the Dead (2010), and Frankenstein (your guess is as good as ours).

It’s not listed on the IMDb, but we found a DVD copy on Amazon, if you dare. But wait . . . the run time is only one hour seventeen minutes? So, it’s none of the films, noted above . . . but four short films cobbled on one DVD. Perhaps one of our German readers can clue us in as to what’s under the Maria Konstantynova cover.

If you find it on streaming platforms, let us know.

The Levenger Tapes (2013)

If the word “tape” doesn’t give it away: we’re dealing with another witch of the Blair variety. As with the later, Roadkill, below: we have three college kids (Johanna Brady of U.S. TV’s Quantico and Lili Mirojnick of Cloverfield, if you care) heading out into the woods — to look for a fabled cemetery — near one of the friend’s parents’ mountain home. Of course, the cameras are rolling, but instead of witch: they run into criminals-on-the-run . . . and vanish.

The always-welcomed Chris Mulkey (going way back to The Killing of Randy Webster and Act of Love) — who always deserves better than direct-to-video drek — is the detective watching the tapes to solve the boring mystery. And is it ever boring. Oh, is it ever.

You can fight the Zzzzzzzz on Tubi or as a PPV on You Tube to avoid the spot-load.

A Night in the Woods (2011)

Ugh, more “found footage” triffle? Yep, this British version of The Blair Witch Project tells the tale of Brody, his gal Kerry, and bud Leo as they go-a-campin’ in the haunted sticks of the legendary Wistman’s Woods outside the village of Dartmoor. Love triangles ensue as the wood’s ancient evil — yes, a witch — shows up to add to the terror.

Four Stars, you say?

Well, I must have watched the wrong movie: this is amateurish and boring with bad-everything. Even more so than the previous Blair-inspired snooze-fest. Oh, our fair Maria, Queen of the Crawling Dark, you deserve a better clip-art’in than this ultra low-budget British horror mess.

Watch it on Tubi, mate!

Night Thirst (20??)

Hey, your guess is as good as ours.

Night Thirst is obviously an alternate, Euro-overseas title to another film that doesn’t populate on the IMDb, Letterboxd, or Amazon. Google searches take us back to . . . well, Felipe M. Guerra’s original article that started this streaming torture chamber to hell in the first place.

Eh, it’s all par for the digital greens when chintzy studio shingles pack their wares by way of stock photo-manipulating art departments failing to list actors on the cover to make our research, easier. Again, we defer to our German readers (and as it turns out, French readers) to clear it up. If you find the film on DVD or streaming, let us know.


Update: November 7, 2021: From the “We Again Bow to Felipe M. Guerra’s Research Department“: Turns out the title of this film is NightThirst, aka NighThrist, — stylized as one word with the “T” capitalized. No wonder we couldn’t track it down. . . . So, as Felipe pointed out: “NightThrist is a movie released, here [France], an SOV production where most of the budget must have been used to buy Maria’s stock photo!” While released in France in 2002, it was released in the U.S. in 2004 . . . and by the way: You know the “shot-on-video” genre is our B&S jam: it’s why it has its own category at the site.

So, anyway: Felipe sends us the IMDb link. We open the link. We scream in glee and bounce off the walls and run outside and swing off the girders of the Monongahela’s Smithfield Street Bridge — it’s a Mark and John Polonia and Brett Piper co-production, who shoot their films in our home state (and throughout the Northeastern U.S., mostly in New Hampshire). Yes!

If you know our site, you know how we roll down the Polonia-Piper confluence: We did a “Drive-In Friday: Brett Piper Night” of his films. As for the Polonia Brothers? Forget about it! We’ve done Empire of the Apes (2013), Amityville Death House (2015), Amityville Exorcism (2017), Revolt of the Empire of the Apes (2017), Amityville Island (2020), Camp Blood 8 (2020), Return to Splatter Farm (2020), Shark Encounters of the Third Kind (2020), and Jurassic Shark 2: Aquapocalypse (2021).

Calm down, R.D. Could you tell us the plot?

Well, we have to take into account the Polonia shingle was just starting out nineteen years ago and is only thirteen films into their insane 60-plus SOV-resume. As with the above Horror Cuts: our absolute sweet Maria is swilling another omnibus film of four tales: “Terror,” “Tag,” “Demon Forest,” and “Christmas in July” wrapped-around by a stranded tow-truck driver, “Van Roth” (our director Jon McBride of Cannibal Campout and Woodchipper Massacre; both 1988), who ends up at a remote county home to hear the tales.

Again, we say to the clip-art Art Department: Could you have at least put: “From the director of Cannibal Campout and Woodchipper Massacre” and “Featuring special effects by Brett Piper of Mysterious Planet” on the sleeve? How difficult and costly could adding that bit o’ 12-point courier font, be?

Sorry, streaming masochist: Amazon, FShare, Tubi, and You Tube come up dry. But why am I having a premonition I’ll find this in the cut-out $1.00 DVD bins at Big Lots or Dollar Tree . . . stay tuned.

Okay, were is my lithium to calm my Piper-Polonia OCD . . . oh, shite . . . another episode of compulsion!

Update: November 14, 2021: From the “Maria Konstantynova is the Gift that Keeps on Giving Department“: It turns out our good friends at Wild Eye Entertainment are “the chintzy shingle” (Sorry! The studio did most of the Polonia flicks, noted above) responsible for the NighThirst art. The studio created the art for a French movie they acquired, named Nightshot . . . and the producer felt our sweet Maria (are you nuts?) “did not fit his movie,” (yes she does!), so Wild Eye scrapped the art work. Around that same time, Wild Eye acquired Mark Polonia’s NighThrist for Amazon Digital and needed art, quickly — so the studio temporarily repurposed the rejected Nightshot art work. NighThrist was available on Amazon Digital for about six months. According to Wild Eye, Polonia Entertainment’s horror omnibus NighThrist will be re-released to streaming and DVD with proper artwork in the future.

As for the France-produced Night Shot, aka Nightshot (2018): Sure enough, there it is on the IMDb with 20 user (English) reviews. Knock yourself out. For when you disrespect Maria, your film shall not be reviewed, here. Figure it out for yourself, ye Shakespeare: to stream or not to stream, that is the question.

Thanks to the Wild Eye gang for being good sports. Now, back to the celluloid craptacular.

The Possession of Sophie Love (2013)

Ugh, more Brit direct-to-video junk. Why, Maria? Why do you hate me so?

British low-budget auteur Philip Gardiner has written 57 movies and directed 105 — most are direct-to-video documentaries (on Hitler, Nostradamus, a few on The Bible, and Knights Templar), but there’s some horror and sci-fi in there, with the direct-to-DVD streamer likes of Robot Planet and The Killing Floor.

So, we have Jimmy, interning to become a psychologist, interviewing the teen-but-locked-up-in-a-child’s-home Sophie for his video thesis project at college. Turns out, Sophie had a happy home life, but blacked out, woke up, and found her mum n’ dad — dead. Yeah . . . Sophie soon sprouts a few different voices as the pea soup flies. And in some video quarters: Sophie’s last name is Lee, not Love. So go figure.

There’s no streams on Tubi or Amazon, but yikes . . . the You Tube trailer looks bad, as in awful. So, do you really need to see this? Do ya, huh? Do ya? No, really. Do you?

Return of the Killer Shrews, aka Mega Rats (2012)

Ever wondered where the Syfy Channel got the inspiration for their Sharknado franchise and every other film preceded by “Mega” in the title? Well, you may have never seen 1959’s The Killer Shrews, but here’s the sequel to get you up to speed.

Fifty-three years after being attacked by killer shrews on a remote island, Captain Thorne Sherman (James Best returning from the 1959 original) is hired by a reality television crew to return to the island. Since Ken Curtis (Festus from U.S. TV’s long-running Gunsmoke) passed away in 1991, the always-welcomed Bruce Davison (of the rat-famed original, Willard — yuk, yuk) takes on the role of Sherman’s sidekick, Jerry Farrell. Upping the I-want-to-watch quotient is Best’s Dukes of Hazzard TV-castmates in John Schneider and Rick Hurst.

While the original was good clean, snowy UHF-TV fun — with its coon hounds dressed in fur and fake fangs as giant shrews (a small insectivorous mammal resembling a mouse) — the CGI rats this go-around . . . well, just overlook it all and just enjoy James Best, once again, carrying a film.

You can watch it as a PPV on You Tube.

Roadkill (2011)

Are you a fan of Lake Placid 3, Resident Evil: Afterlife, and I Spit on Your Grave 3? Then you’ll enjoy seeing British actress Kacey Clarke (of the long-running British series Grange Hill and The Inbetweeners) in this Ireland-shot, 24th entry in the “Maneater Series” made by RHI Entertainment for the SyFy Channel. You say you want to see all of the films in the series? Their Wikipage has the full listing.

Actually, Roadkill is not all that bad and the $2 million spent on the film shows on screen, and Stephen Rea (the Brit rock flick, Still Crazy, V for Vendetta, an Oscar-nod for The Crying Game) shows up . . . but didn’t I see this all before with Stephen King’s Thinner?

Let me explain: Kacey and her three friends travel the Irish countryside in an R.V., they steal a small town’s cherish medallion, then hit an old woman; she unleashes a Roc: the mythical bird of the cover (clipped art from who knows where and pasted-in with our sweet Maria), that hunts them down one by one. See? Thinner, only without the weight loss.

Give it a try with a slice of Strawberry pie, on You Tube.

Oh, no! There’s more? Who is she?

Courtesy of Shutterstock by way of Felipe.

Felipe M. Guerra also tracked down the reuse of the above photo. So, curse him, again, as we’re going to review those movies — the celluloid masochists that we are — as well.

Felipe also managed to contact the photographer responsible for the image; this time the photographer didn’t want to comment on the photo’s use. It’s since been removed from Shutterstock’s image bank.

Oy. Let’s unpack this quintet of films.

My eyeballs are toast. My brains are fried.

Atomic Shark, aka Saltwater (2016)

Oy, those Digital Content Managers of the IMDb are on the ball: This chum-epic is listed twice: as the TV movie Saltwater and the direct-to-DVD Atomic Shark. Ah, but the casts are totally different in each film. But wait . . . why is U.S. TV actor David Faustino in both, but Jeff Fahey — who we came to see — only appears in the first one, originally known as Saltwater? The first is directed by A.B Stone (Lake Placid vs. Anaconda, if you care), the latter film is by Lisa Palencia (Isis Rising: Curse of the Lady Mummy).

Argh! What the hell is going on, here, besides this being another IMDb-film rife with fake cast and crew reviews rating their chum with “9s” and “10s” — as we apologize to our fellow German film lovers for its reissue in their Motherland.

Well, as for Saltwater, aka Atomic Shark: When a lifeguard catches wind of a “dangerous anomaly” off the coast of San Diego — a radioactive shark (complete in glowing-red CGI) that causes bathers burst into flames — she commissions a band of unlikely heroes (Fahey and Faustino) to assist her on a suicide mission to save the west coast from total destruction. Now, according to the IMDB’er users: that is only the plot to A.B Stone’s, and not the plot to Lisa Palencia’s chum-opus. And sorry, Lisa. A.B’s was more than I could take. I am not watching your ode to radioactive selachimorpha.

Look, Jeff Fahey and David Faustino are the ne’er-do-well heros, here, okay, so you decide. But be warned: it’s all cheap, poorly written, and overacted to the extreme. Did we learn nothing from Godzilla, folks? Quit atomic testing in the deep ocean waters.

Sorry, no streams, but the You Tube trailer . . . yikes. Why did you make me write about this, Maria? Why? Are you really that hot that I’ll endure bad films for you. Oh, hell yes, and a bag o’ chips.

How I am feeling right about now.

Angriff der Killerameisen, aka Attack of the Killer Ants (2019)

Ah, everything is new again in the overseas markets . . . as the U.S. Texas-made Invicta (Latin for “undefeated”), itself aka’in as Killer Ants in 2009 in some U.S. quarters, returns in Germany under a new title.

Our young couple of Cory and Evan return to their roots in rural Texas to start a family. When Evan accepts a position as an English professor at the local college, the real nightmare begins for him and his entomologist wife: a fire ant plague sweeps across the Longhorn state. The ants, natch, aren’t made by Mother Nature, but by a mad scientist who employs Cory — out for the usual, trope-revenge on the town that scoffed at his research.

Oy! The bad effects. And Bad Sound. And Bad Acting. And Bad plotting. And there’s no budget. But the CGI ants aren’t bad, well, er, they’re not as awful as the rest of this mess. But seriously: Is the German entertainment industry so hard up that, instead of making their own movies, they’re reduced to redressing crappy American streamers?

Aren’t you glad we put in the effort to find a copy on Tubi? Well, are yah? Are yah? No, really? Are you?

Yes. I should have. Too late now. Almost done watching them all.

Brutality, aka Frames of Fear 2 (2018)

Join your host, Festering Frank, as he “returns from the grave” to bring you five more terrifying tales of blood-soaked horror of gory graveyards, mutated mothers, psycho Santas, and killer couples.

Okay, then. Maybe if Maria Konstantynova starred in one of the vignettes?

Eh, you can find out for yourself on Tubi. Hey! We even found “Part 3”: Frames of Fear 3 (2021) on Tubi and Amazon! Nope, sorry. There’s no stream of the first one. That’s all on you to dig up. Watching “Part 2,” which I didn’t finish, was enough for me. Hey, I’m doin’ it all for you, Maria!

I feel sick.

The Hospital (2013)

Okay, so old St. Leopold’s Hospital has many urban legends surrounding it, but the residents of little ‘ol Bridgeport all agree on one thing: tortured souls roam its abandoned halls. Of course, the mystery proves too much for a pretty young student who decides to investigate the legend for her senior class project.

Okay.

Apparently, writer and director Daniel Emery Taylor’s first installment did okay, since he made a sequel in 2015 — and he stars in both as the creepy Stanley Creech who haunts the halls. And they’re both on one German DVD two-pack to enjoy — Boy, Howdy!

Sorry, we can’t find any streams on Tubi or Amazon, but You Tube offers it as a PPV. But I don’t know . . . Oy, that trailer . . . to each his own. Again, do yah? No, really. Do you?

Me: a celluloid martyr for the cause.

Martyrs (2015)

Did you see the well-received French-Canadian original from 2008?

Well, if you did, that film makes this CGI’d American remake mess from the Annabelle and The Conjuring franchises team, even worse.

Yeah, if you witnessed the hopeless, art film darkness of Alexandre Aja’s New French Extreme hit, High Tension (2003), or Ryûhei Kitamura‘s brutal (Am I the only one who liked it?), serial-killer trope-upending, No One Lives (2012), then this remake will really disappoint. Sure, it’s not all awful, but it pales (and the violence is U.S.-lightened, of course) to the original. It’s all just so unnecessary, you know, like the U.S. Ju-On remake and endless sequels and reboots.

Hey, you don’t believe me? Rotten Tomatoes has it at 9% — and that’s nine percents too many, in my opinion.

It’s about a young girl escaping from her kidnapper’s lair, then struggling to fit in at the orphanage where she is sent. There, she makes friends with another abused orphan. Together, they seek out revenge on those who victimized and abused them.

You can watch it on Tubi. But seriously: stream the original, instead.


As Felipe pointed out in his article: Wouldn’t it be great if a filmmaker decides to explore the already popular faces of these stock photo-starlets and put them in a real horror movie — and not just on the cover.

I’d pay to stream that movie.

Speaking of Jon McBride . . .
Coming late November 2021: a Jon McBride hootenanny!

* Thanks to Felipe M. Guerra and René Wiesner for tracking down the one-sheets and video box art used in this article. We tip our hats and bow, sirs.

About the Author: You can visit R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

2 thoughts on “Exploring: The Films of Maria Konstantynova

    • Hey, good to see you again, Widder! I appreciate your not only reading, but commenting. The positive feedback is nice to have.

      Yeah, it’s very difficult — within the web-based film review community — to come up with a unique approach to film reviews. When I read Filipe’s article (a director in his own right), I knew there was a job to be done: the films had to be reviewed — and that it would catch the eyes of those into the weird.

      All the best for the Holidays, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

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