MILL CREEK DVD RELEASE: County Line (2017)

Alden Rockwell (Tom Wopat) used to be a sheriff but now he’s taking life easy. One day, he takes his friend played by Clint Thorne (Jeff Fahey), a sheriff in a neighboring county, out to lunch only to watch him get shot and killed. Sheriff Preston (Grant Goodeve) promises to investigate but as the case grows cold, Alden wonders if there’s some kind of conspiracy in his little town.

Directed by Shea Sizemore, who wrote it along with Jon Nappa and Jason White, this is a solid action film that seems like it would be something your grandfather would put on at 8 PM on a Sunday night.

Wopat plays a role outside what you may expect. His daughter is going off to war, his wife has just died and without them and his job, as well as the loss of his friend, he feels hopeless. Figuring out the conspiracy keeps him feeling normal and also leads him down to yes, an actual plot that he has to solve.

Fahey is always great and I kind of wish they’d not killed him off so soon. If you’re into this, there’s also a sequel, County Line: All In and a third movie coming out this year, County Line: No Fear, which adds Casper Van Dien, so you know I’ll watch that. Was Eric Roberts busy?

You can buy this from Deep Discount.


Deaf Crocodile Films — who released the amazing Solomon King on blu ray this year — has also released four feature films by acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Shahram Mokri on demand for U.S. audiences.  The four films will be available on Amazon, iTunes and Projectr and tell the stories of aerial killers, kite flyers, vampires and arsonists who disappear into time. You can also buy the blu ray box set from Deaf Crocodile, a partner label of Vinegar Syndrome.

Careless Crime (Jenayat-e Bi Deghat) (2020): Inspired by the Cinema Rex fire in 1978 that triggered the Iranian Revolution, this movie follows three different paths: arsonists planning the fire, the students at the cinema interacting with the employees of the theater and the characters on the screen of the movie that played that night. The crime that was committed that night was so horrible that it literally burns through the reality that unites these three storylines.

The night Cinema Rex burned — one of the biggest terrorist attacks in Iran for decades — The Deer was playing. Two women attempt to play that same film in the desert in another storyline as they come across soldiers who have discovered an unexploded munition from another conflict in the past.

The theme of carelessness is carried through by so many in this, as many of the terrorists believed that the audience would just rush out and be unharmed and their message would be heard. Yet the theater manager oversold tickets to the show and his greed is just as responsible for the deaths.

This is a movie that is historical beyond true crime while also telling of the world of film. It may get repetitive and a little long at two hours and twenty minutes, but wow, those last twenty minutes make up for it. You won’t just know about what happened. You will feel it.

Fish & Cat (Mahi Va Gorbeh) (2013): In the Caspian region, students have gathered for a kite-flying event during the winter solstice. Next to their camp is a small hut occupied by three cooks who work at a nearby restaurant, a place that serves human meat on the menu. Meanwhile, the space-time loop within this film both gives away the ending and also makes it seem suspenseful at the same time. And here’s one more thing that makes this break from the pack: The entire movie is one single 140-minute take.

Director Shahram Mokri said, “I like the paintings of Maurits Escher, where you can see a change in perspective in the same visual. In my film, I wanted to give a change in perspective of time in one single shot. So the idea for the film came from his paintings.”

Consider this an Iranian Texas Chainsaw Massacre, yet one where we don’t see the horror of cannibalism yet feel it even more, if that’s possible. What a wild film.

Ashkan, The Charmed Ring And Other Stories (Ashkan, Angoshtar-e Motebarek Va Dastan-haye Digar) (2008): Mokri’s first feature was a black and white comedy about fate that, yes, has the feel of Tarantino yet establishes the director’s own voice as it tells the tales of blind jewel thieves Shahrooz and Reza; Askhan, a man who can’t quite seem to commit suicide, some cops, some hitmen, a young couple who wants to run away to get married, the boy’s angry father, art dealers, two female morgue attendants and, oh yeah, a fish on the loose and a missing ring.

Beyond Tarantino, there are moments that feel like film noir and others that reference Jim Jarmusch. Remember when Crash or Magnolia or any of those post-Quentin movies where everyone’s connected seemed to be every other movie? Sure, this is like that, but it also has an episodic nature and fun edge that makes it stand out from also-rans like Eight Heads In a Duffle Bag.

I know that Mokri made shorts before this, but it’s pretty amazing that this was his first full-length movie.

Invasion (Hojoom)(2017): I can honestly say I’ve never seen another movie like this and it was absolutely astounding.

The sales copy for this describes it as “a science-fiction/detective/vampire story, with nods to stylized 1980s New Wave-era films like Liquid Sky” and yeah, that’s almost as close as I can come to figuring out how to explain it to you.

At some time somewhere in the future, teams of tattooed athletes play a never explained sport in a foreboding and dangerous stadium where a murder has already taken place. The police have been trying to reconstruct the crime over and over again, using the vampiric twin sister of the married man in his place. There’s also a way too long eclipse and a global pandemic happening all at the same time.

I mean, this movie also has the one shot technique of FIsh & Cat while also looking like a grimy 70s science fiction horror movie — Thirst maybe? — along with way too much fog and the red-eyed, face-tattooed and androgynous female vampire Negar gliding through all of this. Did Ali kill her brother, his best friend Saman? What’s up with the way he poses in front of the mirror in the beginning? What’s up with all those no gender mixing warning signs? Were Saman and Negar the same person when it comes down to it or were they really just switching lives and souls? How can an Iranian film made in 2017 feel so much like Jean Rollin or Jess Franco?

And most importantly, why did it take me so long to find this? Absolutely essential.

Crystal Eyes (2017)

Mirada De Cristal feels like it was made in 1987, influenced by 1970 and filled with neon, sleaze and murderous intent. In other words, it was exactly what I was looking for. Directed by Argentina natives, co-directors and co-writers Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano, this takes place in Buenos Aires in 1985. As the fashion world mourns a year without supermodel Alexis Carpenter (Camila Pizzo), who died one night after a backstage rampage that saw her take the eye of a makeup girl named Barbara (Valeria Giorcelli), do tons of coke and then get burned alive on the catwalk after she douses the lights with champagne.

Now, fashion editor Lucia L’uccello (Silvia Montanari) must choose between two supermodels — Eva Lantier (Anahí Politi) and Irene del Lago (Erika Boveri) — to honor the lost Alexis on the cover of her magazine. However, the night before the shoot, the dress for the cover image disappears, soon to be followed by the deaths of anyone connected to the magazine and that night, all at the hands of a masked diva who wears a long leather coat and strikes poses as they kill, baby, kill.

This is a film that understands the giallo obsession with duality, frequently showing characters in matched costumes when two people appear on-screen at the same time. It also isn’t shy about its influences, with a Hitchcock book in a desk drawer, a setting borrowed from Blood and Black Lace, a set that echoes Suspiria, a blind man named Lucio and a black cat sharing the name Decker with the feline in Mas Negro Que La Noche. It’s also filled with smoke and neon, probably more than you’ve seen since Cinemax stopped showing smut after midnight on Fridays.

While this looks and feels like a giallo — hell, it even literally has a bird with crystal plumage kill someone — it doesn’t feel slavish to the genre but instead a celebration of it, as well as later entries like TenebreDressed to Kill and Delirium.

Geo-Disaster (2017)

Written and directed by Thunder Levin, the writer of Sharknado, this movie has a dark matter asteroid crash into Earth and then unleash earthquakes all over the planet. This being a disaster film, that means that the real story is all about Johanna (Natalie Pelletier) and her two stepdaughters. There aren’t any stars to throw at this environmental hell on earth, so we must make due with what we have. That means family drama, Johanna trying to find her husband Matt (Matthew Pohlkamp) and also convince his son Rick (Erich Riegelmann) that she’s not trying to replace his dead mom.

What we have are electrical storms, some more groundshaking quakes, tidal waves and volcanos. In fact, everything happens in this movie and I’m shocked there wasn’t a famine or a bird attack.

In case you wonder, “What does the title mean?” I have the answer. This was the “We have Geostorm at home” for The Asylum. It came out 17 days before that movie.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Geostorm (2017)

If you watch post 1970s disaster films, you usually are watching the movies of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich. Devlin started his career as an actor before getting into writing. His first big script was Universal Soldier, but he’s best known for working with Emmerich on the huge disaster alien film Independence Day — and it’s beyond inferior sequel — as well as Stargate and Godzilla.

Devlin made his debut as a director with this movie, one he also co-wrote with Paul Guyot and co-produced. Let me tell you right from the beginning: it does what so many disaster movies do. It has a ridiculous concept and throws actors at it.

It also tested so badly that executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer, writer Laeta Kalogridis and new director Danny Cannon had to come in to reshoot parts of it.

We all know — although many deny it — that we’ve destroyed our climate and in the next 10 years, our planet is going to be much harder to live on. This film has a science McGuffin called the Dutch Boy, a system of climate-controlling satellites, that can do magical thinsg like neutralize typhoons.

Yet because he brought Dutch Boy online without authorization, the U.S. government replaces its creator, Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) with his brother Max (Jim Sturgess), who is the lacky of Secretary of State Leonard Dekkom (Ed Harris).

So yes, we have our disgraced maverick hero.

Now for the big disaster.

The desert is freezing! Hong Kong is on fire! A computer virus is inside Dutch Boy! A geostorm is on the way!

This was inspired by Devlin’s daughter Hannah asking him if a machine could be made to fix the environment. That’s also why Jake’s daughter — and this film’s voice — is also named Hannah.

Thirteen years before, Devlin’s partner Emmerich has already made The Day After Tomorrow, a movie just as dumb as this one. The only difference is that one made money. Emmerich also made The Noah’s Ark Principle back in 1984 which is a very similar story to this.

PITTSBURGH MADE: Slaughter Drive (2017)

Doug Stevenson (director, writer and star Ben Dietels, who is also one of the hosts of Neon Brainiacs) feels like a failure but wants to keep filming and trying to make something that people want to see. He accidentally leaves his video camera in a park overnight and films an actual murder, which is probably the second worst thing that has happened to him that day, as he arrived back home to have to listen to his soon-to-be-ex-wife pounding it out with another man.

That said, he was hoping that reuniting with his old friends Todd (Vincent Bombara) and Chris (Chris Crighton) would mean having a fun summer and forgetting the cards that life has dealt. And then there’s that murder.

Slaughter Drive doesn’t shy away from gore, which is welcome, and has the same kind of love for 80s horror — most essentially shot on video slashers — that I do. It could use a little more focus near the end, but the fact that it comes together so well on the budget it has is a miracle. There are so many streaming horror movies that don’t have a fraction of this film’s originality or desire to be great. I never want Ben to stop making movies and trying new things.

SLASHER MONTH: Bonehill Road (2017)

Emily (Eli DeGeer) and Edith Stevens (Ana Rojas-Plumberg) go from one bad moment to another in this.

Terrified and alone, they are stranded in the woods, hunted by a werewolf. When they find shelter in a nearby home, things only get worse. They must work together to get out alive as a family of werewolves close in for the kill.

I kind of love the perils of these characters, where things just keep getting worse for them throughout the movie. Even finding three women inside the house of Coen Anders (Douglas Epps) — including Linnea Quigley — and having Edith’s father Rhett (Gary Kent) heading off to save them might not be enough to protect them.

Some people might be put off by the fact that this movie is advertised as a werewolf story and that’s only part of it. As for me, I was excited because I really had no idea where things were spinning out of control to next. It’s always a treat to watch one of Todd Sheets’ movies, because you know you’re getting some wild ideas, practical effects and a creative force who truly cares about entertaining his audience.

SLASHER MONTH: Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017)

Directed by Charles Band, who wrote this with Neal Marshall Stevens, Puppet Master: Axis Termination  has Blade, Tunneler, Jester, Six Shooter and Leech Woman teaming up with Dr. Ivan Ivanov (George Appleby), his clairvoyant daughter Elisa (Tania Fox) and sex magic priestess Georgina (Alynxia America) to battle the Axis, who have Doktor Gerde Ernst (Tonya Kay), the Elder God worshipping Sturmbahnfurher Steiner Krabke (Kevin Scott Allen), Freddy hyperdermic glove ripoff artist Oberheller Friede Steitze(Lilou Vos) and puppets Bombshell, Weremacht and Blitzkreig within their ranks.

It also kills off Danny and Beth, the good guys from Axis of Evil and Axis Rising about a minute in. Hope you weren’t didn’t like them all that much.

This also has a total Italian horror look as it’s packed with color gels. There’s also plenty of blood and gore, perhaps the most in this series for a long time.

It’s not the best movie you’ve seen, but it’s the third puppets against the Third Reich movie and the twelfth overall movie in the series, so the fact that it’s even halfway decent has to be some kind of small victory.

SLASHER MONTH: Killer Karaoke (2017)

One of the best nights of my life was singing in a karaoke bar somewhere in Osaka. I mean, they had the entire Ramones catalog. Not just one song. Everything. Yes, in Japan you’re in a small room with friends, but we may have as well been on a huge stage singing, smoking cigars and drinking kiwi juice.

Premika comes from Thailand and it’s about — you probably figured this out — a haunted karaoke booth that kills those who can’t sing well. As each person is killed, they become part of the room, a place filled with bad singers and Premika herself, a girl killed before her time, one who attacks with axes and toilets that spray bloody showers of gore.

Everyone that sings ends up confessing their lives through the song picked for them. We learn Premika’s sad life through her song, which shifts this movie from a ludicrous slasher to true emotional territory. I kinda love this movie just for having the balls to try and pull that off. I totally love it because they succeed in doing exactly that.

Who knew a movie called Killer Karaoke would address human trafficking, homophobia and trans identity without preaching and also within the same movie that has heads rolling and a giant swan show up.

You can watch this on Tubi.

SLASHER MONTH: Cult of Chucky (2017)

Four years after Curse of Chucky, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) has been torturing the head of Chucky and Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif) has been trapped in a mental ward after being framed for Chucky’s crimes. At this point, she thinks that she was the killer and Chucky doesn’t exist. As part of a therapy group, each is given a Good Guy doll and before you can even think it, multiple people are somehow possessed by Chucky.

This is the seventh film in the series but director and writer Don Mancini is completely unafraid to change it up, having Chucky find a voodoo spell online that allows him to start his own cult of followers that he can use to take out his chosen victims. It even leads directly into the Chucky TV series, as that takes place two weeks after the end of this story with the series having Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany Valentine, Alex Vincent also back as Andy Barclay, Christine Elise as Kyle (who comes back from Child’s Play 3 to appear at the end of this to torture the Chucky head) and Fiona Dourif as Nica.

I went into a week of these movies and had the idea that they were only good until the second film but this series has surprised me. I’d say it might be the most consistent slasher franchise of them all.