The Taste of Betel Nut (2017)

A polyamorous male couple decides to test the limits of the restrictive society that they live in when they become romantically involved with a young woman. Yes, this is the winner of the SIFF 2018 China Stars Award for Best Film and not usually the kind of film we feature on our site.

That said, it’s well-made and interestingly shot, starting off almost as a series of non-sequiturs.

Li Qi works at a dolphin show and his friend Ren Yu runs a mobile karaoke that is popular because he looks like screen actor Leslie Cheung. A young woman Bai Ling hooks up with both of them, but soon, an event rocks all of them to their very souls.

This movie is mostly dialogue-free, so if you’re concerned about the foreign language barrier, there really is none. The movie is known as Bing Lang Xue in its original language.

It’s the second film of Hu Jia, who also directed Dance With Me.

The Taste of Betel Nut is available on demand and DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment.

DISCLAIMER: This movie was sent to us by its PR department.

Box Officer Failures Week: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

One day when I was shopping at Walmart, my wife noticed a Valerian t-shirt. She said, “I have no idea what this is, put it looks like something you’ll be into.” I was already primed for this movie, which came and went in no time at all. I’m glad I bought that shirt — I’m wearing it now and it’s inordinately soft and comfortable, thanks for asking — but I’m not so sure about the movie itself.

This was written and directed by Luc Besson, who famously brought the world The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita and Léon: The Professional and perhaps not so famously The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, a movie that this resembles not only because it is based on a comic book that few Americans know, but because it so deliriously cares so little about not making any sense whatsoever.

Valerian has been a comic book that ran in France from 1967 to 2010. One of its artists, Jean-Claude Mézières, worked with Besson on The Fifth Element and asked him. “Why are you doing this shitty film? Why you don’t do Valerian?”

It would take years for the technology to catch up to the point where all the many races of the comic could be depicted on the big screen. Besson was worried about the challenge, continually rewriting his script, which follows much of the sixth volume of the series, Ambassador of the Shadows.

The beginning of the film sets you up for magic, as it details how the International Space Station grew to meet more alien races and how the human race changed to adapt, with Rutger Hauer acting as the face of humanity. It’s totally awesome and packed with imagination and probably the last part of the movie that isn’t non-stop action.

Now that space station is called Alpha and its explored by the United Human Federation. Two of the best agents are Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline. This movie is about their adventures to save the alternate planet Müi after Valerian gets a telepathic message from the now-deceased Princess Lihö-Minaa.

What follows is a delirious odyssey, dealing with the deceptive Commander Arün Filitt (Clive Owen), meeting a shapeshifting entertainer named Bubble (Rhianna) and getting to the bottom of the end of planet Müi.

I want to love this movie — I mean Herbie Hancock plays a military leader and John Goodman is the voice of a gangster alien — but man, it’s all over the place. It’s confusing enough figuring out where you are in the movie when suddenly people are in more than one place at the same time and it’s playing tricks of people appearing and disappearing, as well as alternate worlds and duplicitous leaders. It’s as if you’re suddenly dropped into a sequel of a franchise you’ve never watched before — because that’s exactly what is happening.

This would work if everyone knew the story of Valerian, but nope. They don’t.

Besson is still holding out hope for a sequel, despite this movie costing $400 million and only making $225 million back. That’s the perils of big time moviemaking.

But man — I don’t hate it, the more I think about it. It’s audacious, with two hundred different alien species appearing and so many major set pieces that it took seven soundstages to film it all. Besson is a maniac — he wrote a detailed six hundred-page about the aliens and the worlds they’d be filming that the actors had to read before they appeared in the movie.

My biggest problem with the movie is Valerian himself. Dane DeHaan seems to be channeling Keanu Reeves and not in a good way. He comes off as perhaps the most unlikeable character and you never get any true sense why Laureline would have any interest in him whatsoever.

Despite the change in hair color from red to blonde, I have fewer qualms about Cara Delevingne’s acting. You may remember her as The Enchantress from Suicide Squad. She’s also in Her Smell and Paper Towns.

There’s also a Jessica Rabbit cameo, played by Sand Van Roy, an actress who has accused Besson of sexual assault. Delevingne has also discussed how Harvey Weinstein tried the same with her.

Film School Africa (2017)

What would make someone who has a quickly growing career in the film industry give up everything to go live in Africa? Ask Katie Taylor, a Hollywood casting director who left a lucrative career to teach filmmaking to an impoverished South African community. Soon, she realizes that her students use their films as a means of self-expression and as art-therapy. The moral? The power of story and film can transcend culture and color.

I love the idea that movies can truly come from anywhere. We have the technology to make it happen. We just need the people ready to help others use it and create something special with it.

The best part of this movie is that it really is about the students and how they explain that while once art was only reserved for the rich, now they have the tools to tell their stories to audiences all over the world.

Film School Africa is available on demand from Global Digital Releasing. You can learn more on the official site.

DISCLAIMER: We were sent this movie by its PR team.

Let the Corpses Tan (2017)

With Amer and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, the married co-directing couple Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani announced to the world that they were a new force, bringing back the look and feel of the giallo for a new century.

Based on the novel Laissez Bronzer les Cadavres, this film expands their narrative point of view to take in the crime and Western genres, or as we know them, the polizichetti and spaghetti western.

A thug named Rhino and his gang of malcontents are on their way to the island getaway of Madame Luce with 250 kilograms of gold bullion — about $1.3 million dollars worth. That said, they’re also in the same place as a bohemian writer, his muse and many, many jealous lovers and ex-lovers, as well as the cops that are ready to engage in an all-day gun battle with the criminals.

Throughout the film, there are flashbacks to the performances of a younger Luce where she is tied up, painted with gold, whipped and licked by worshippers when she isn’t urinating on an anthill that looks exactly like the house where all of this violence is taking place. It might not make sense to the non-giallo initiated, but to some, it’s going to be high art.

The soundtrack is also a reference to the past, featuring Morricone’s songs from Face to FaceThe Fifth Cord and Who Saw Her Die?, as well as Christophe’s song from Road to Salina and music from Matalo!, Zombie Holocaust and Death Walks On High Heels.

While the films mines the past, it does so to find its own footing. I’m intrigued to see what Cattet and Forzani do next.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

Amityville: The Awakening (2017)

Ready for a headache?

Amityville: The Awakening is both a direct sequel to The Amityville Horror and a metafilm that takes places in our world, so it recognizes the 1979 film, its 2005 remake and the sequels from 1982 to 1996 as fiction.

Much like Radio, you don’t have to choose between the strawberry or apple pie. You can have both.

Once upon a time, this movie was originally going to be made as Amityville: The Lost Tapes by  Dimension Films and Blumhouse Productions. Casey La Scala (whose Amityville 1974 is in pre-production) and Daniel Farrands (oh no — the director of The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and The Amityville Murders) were to write the script, which was about a female news intern leading a team of journalists, priests and paranormal experts into the house at 112 Ocean Avenue.

Franck Khalfoun (the remake of ManiacP2 and eventually, the film that you’re reading about) was going to direct the movie before delay after delay struck the production. Khalfoun is a go-getter, though, and emerged with a new story and screenplay.

Originally scheduled for January of 2015, the movie kept getting pushed back further and further. Perhaps the Weinstein controversy had something to do with that, as soon Dimension was no longer involved. Well, at least in the U.S., where Harvey Weinstein’s executive producer credit was removed.

Test screeners came and went, a summer 2017 date was bandied about and then that faded away too. Finally, the film played in select theaters — ten of them, to be exact, making $724 — and then appeared for free on Google Play.

This is probably the best Amityville movie I’ve seen since the 1990’s Canadian made-for-video sequels. I wish this was great praise, but if you’ve seen the other films in this — well, saga is too nice of a word — then you know that it’s kind of a left-handed compliment.

Jennifer Jason Leigh is in this movie. In an Amityville movie! How does this happen? And she doesn’t get much to do other than be the grieving mother of a brain-dead son who she desperately wants to come back to life. Well, he does. And he can think Ron DeFeo for it. Actually, she does have one cool moment where she admits that she gave up on God and moved to the house hoping the demons there would bring her son back to her.

Cameron Monaghan plays the coma victim son, while Bella Thorne — who would hate that I would refer to her as a former Disney channel star, so let’s just say she was in Assassination Nation — plays the heroine, Belle.

Thomas Mann Jr. plays the geeky high school guy who knows just about everything there is to know about the house and the movies made about it. And hey — there’s Kurtwood Smith as a doctor for about, oh, two minutes.

It’s halfway decent, which makes it I guess the Return of the Jedi of Amityville films — the original being A New Home and Amityville II: The Possession being Empire. The rest of the films only wish they had Jar Jar in them.

Amityville Prison (2017)

Brian Cavallaro has mostly worked in reality TV and live sports and entertainment. But there’s no greater lure than making a movie that brings in some cash. Horror movies are usually the way that creators go. And hey — what’s a cheap title that people notice? Could it be…Amityville?

Originally called Against the Night, this found footage film would not have been playing on my TV if I hadn’t had the smart — or reckless — idea to watch every single Amityville film in one week.

A group of nine friends decide to stop playing flipcup and filming one another having sex, instead going to Philadelphia’s Holmesburg Prison to record paranormal activity. Those two towns are only 140 miles apart.

Of course, the friends are not prepared for what’s inside the prison because evil is way more frightening than spilling beer all over yourself or not getting to have access to your cell phone.

Frank Whaley, who was in Vacancy and Pulp Fiction (he’s Brett, one of the people accused of treating Marcellus Wallace like a female dog), is in this as the detective investigating why only one of the characters came back alive.

You can watch this under its original title, Against the Night, on Tubi.

Amityville: The Final Chapter (2017)

The hubris to call this Amityville: The Final Chapter when I know that I have four more days of Amityville week left is so galling to me that I wonder if I even have the resolve to finish this film.

Of course I do, gentle reader. A steady diet of modern streaming dreck, Jess Franco films and way too many Bruno Mattei films have given me the kind of iron resolve that once led fifteen year old men to enlist in the war effort and lie about their age. Except instead of punching German soldiers, I’m up in the middle of the night watching what feels like the hundredth Amityville movie I’ve seen.

Sure, there’s a book with the same title by John G. Jones, but this movie was originally entitled Sickle and has next to nothing to do with Amityville. If you’re aghast, you haven’t been watching Amityville films after 2005 or reading our site. For shame.

Geno McGahee directed this. Perhaps you’ve seen his work in movies like Satanic Meat Cleaver Massacre or The Haunting of La Llorona. Maybe you watch Tubi and go to Walmart and look for new horror movies nearly every day. Maybe…you’re me.

Michael Hart was just twelve-years-old when he was convicted of murdering his babysitter. All along, he has claimed that a tall monster with a top hat did it. Now, as he’s released from prison to work in his Uncle Bill’s garage, the murders have started again. Michael needs to clear his name before he gets arrested for the crimes that look to be coming from his hands.

Notice that I never used the words Amityville anywhere here. That’s because Amityville: The Final Chapter is a much more marketable title than Sickle. The truth, as they say, will set you free. And for me, freedom is buying movies that cost $3.74 at America’s superstore.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Amityville Exorcism (2017)

“The Church won’t allow you to exorcise that house.”

“God will!”

Oh no. Mark Polonia is back in Amityville and this time, the culprit is cursed wood from the 112 Ocean Avenue house being used to make another domicile. That’s right. The lumber itself is evil.

Look — it’s 7:30 AM on a Saturday and life seems bleak and meaningless, so I’m going to metaphorically kick myself in the soul and force watch this.

Polonia has added a new directing tick in this one: random bursts of footage that have nothing to do with the scene he’s filming, as well as screaming and quick Fulci zooms.

This one has it all, if by all you mean drunk dads, a demon who bought his The Masque of the Red Death outfit at the Spirit Store on November 1 so that he got the 50% discount, night for day, day for night, Jeff Kirkendall as a priest, a demon stalking a girl who just wants to go swimming in the middle of the day, said demon attack in the pool intercut with drunk dad weenie roasting, shots that go on way too long, shots that don’t stay on the screen long enough to inform us what is going on within them, conversations that never happen with both actors on screen at the same time and lighting that’s as consistent as the work history of my ex-girlfriends.

You can watch this on Tubi. Please don’t.

Nothing Man (2017)

Daniel Hall stars in this movie as Noam, a homeless amnesiac who has no idea if he’s been a good or bad person. His past is only a dream to him and when he gets close to it, he knows that it’s full of terrible things. Yet when his only friend is murdered, he sets out in search of the truth and to discover some form of justice. Now, he’s asking the hard questions. Now, he’s getting the truth he isn’t sure that he ever wanted to know.

Talk about the love of making film — the budget was so low for this movie that directors Stephen Gallacher and Jonathan Taylor Ashdown moved out of their homes and lived on set in a camper van.

It was co-written by Paul Butler, whose film Book of Monsters was recently released.

Think Memento on a smaller scale and you have an idea of what to expect. I’m interested to see what the creators come up with next, as this was a good effort.

Nothing Man is available on demand and on DVD from High Octane Pictures.

DISCLAIMER: This movie was sent to us by its PR team.

A Second Look: American Satan (2017)

Disguised as a slovenly-attired Hollywood Map to the Stars Tour Guide, Mr. Capricorn greets Hollywood’s two newest and soon-to-be rotted, Eve-bitten rock ‘n’ roll apples with a quote from the Holy Bible’s book of John 7:24: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

Mr. Capricorn’s lesson on the ignorance of relying more on your perceptions than your feelings falls upon the narcissistic heart and deaf ears of the religious-hating Johnny Faust. . . .

Satan gave rock ‘n’ roll to ya!

I am a rock ‘n’ roll film addict.

And when that rock-flick injects a hot-shot of Malcolm McDowell (rocker Reggie Wanker in Get Crazy; more contemporary: Halloween 2007 and Mozart in the Jungle) as the Prince of Darkness and a snort of Bill Duke (Predator; TV’s Black Lightning) as God’s right-hand angel: I do a “Johnny Squares” in a trailer behind the slaughterhouse where they shot Peter Swan’s Hotel Satan.

Someone tell the A.D to call Slash and Guns N’ Roses to the set for my funeral. I danced my last with Mr. Brownstone thanks to the McDowell and the Duke.

I’m no longer hurtin’ for a Drake Bell (Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh) kidnap-and-van-torch of his dickhead-character Damien Collins, the leader of Damien’s Inferno, who promotes a bogus-impromptu Metallica club date to fuck over the new band of Lilly, his bisexual, ex-bass player girlfriend that he raped (off camera). I’m no longer jonesing for a “Hard-R” lesbian motel-soirée of underage sex, nor do I have the shakes for a scene of naked, coke-fueled brothel-sex. No lesbian giving a racist-sexist redneck a well-deserved garnished-boot groin puncture is required. For I got my McDowell-Duke fix and it’s a very mellow vibe.

Now hold on there, Ragman. Stop back-spinning the Sammy Curr albums and stow the pocket-rocket. You’ll get a zipper injury.

While American Satan coke-dishes some horror elements, it’s not a horror flick. So don’t come-a-rockin’ because the Queen of the Damned and The Crow ain’t knockin’. Imagine Rockstar as a horror flick that’s heavier on the sex, features an extended Jennifer Aniston nipple shot, and goes light on the gore. There are no obligatory demon possessions or cliché demon transformations; there’s no backmask-conjurings; forget about the non-linear Heather Langencamp-cum-Jennifer Rubin dream-within-dream warriors questioning their sanity in this higher road morality tale. Malcolm McDowell’s smarmy-philosophizing Devil doesn’t go “Freddy Krueger” on any wee-rocker’s ass, either.

There’ s no Sal Viviano belting King Kobra and Lizzy Borden tunes as Black Roses crisscrosses the ‘80s countryside in the name of Satan. There’s no Jon Mikl Thor in a Spinal Tap-meets-Ed Wood Rock ‘N Roll Nightmare. Terry Chandler—in his requisite Killer Dwarf-patched denim vest—isn’t showing up with his copy of Sacrifyx’s The Dark Book to stop the demon-spew from The Gate (but he’d certainly vest-fly the Pentagram-red-and-black bars of The Relentless’ American Satan-logo).

“Schwing!” thrusts Garth Algar’s hips. “Denise Richards (as Ms. Faust) from my VHS tapes of Wild Things and Starship Troopers starring as a smokin’ hot rocker mom (who has her breast cancer “cured” by the Devil to “finalize his contract” with her rocker son) makes me feel like I watched a female-Bugs Bunny cartoon and climbed the rope in gym class.”

Oh, yeah, baby. This daddy’s rock-drug supplier of the week is Comcast, courtesy of a non-subscription promotional week of Showtime, which gave me my much-needed American Satan fix—and the faux-rock of the Relentless is a major score. Most faux-rocker actor-musician amalgamates—such as Tony Fields lip-synching to Fastway’s Dave King for Sammy Curr in Trick or Treat and Tracey Sebastian channeling Mott’s Nigel Benjamin as Billy “Eye” Harper in Rocktober Blood—dance a Mr. Brownstone along my veins.

While many musicians, such as David Bowie, transitioned successfully from microphone to camera in non-musician-character dramatic pieces, there are those cases of musicians acting as “musicians” where the results muster critical yawns—with Neil Diamond’s turn in The Jazz Singer (a film better than the critical bashes claim) as the worst-case example. Then there’s the Jim Carrey-Axl Rose Frankenstein that is Johnny Squares, leaving us wanting more Brownstone and less “make my day” and “do you feel lucky, punk” edicts. Then Johnny Squares O.D’d and the dirty spoon passed to Tom Cruise—in the ultimate faux-rock transformation—belting his own versions of Guns N’ Roses and Def Leppard tunes, leaving us salivating for an alt-reality Stacy Jaxx-Arsenal world tour.

Another one of my cinematic fascination-addictions is applauding the offspring of the writer-directors behind the celluloid milestones of my duplex-theatre youth who keep the shingle swinging over the front door of the family business.

Panos, the son of George G. Cosmatos (Cobra and Rambo: First Blood II), blew me away with his Nicolas Cage rock ‘n’ roll fever dream, Mandy (2018)—with the Cage laying waste to sinners with a Celtic Frost logo-inspired broadsword. Now Ash, the son of John G. Avildsen (Rocky and The Karate Kid), who incorporated his own film and music production company, Sumerian (Ash? Sumerian? Get me Bruce Campbell!), brings his label’s roster of progressive metal, metalcore, and deathcore to the fore with his rock ‘n’ roll letter: American Satan. (Ash also tosses in a score by Korn’s Jonathan Davis and places the Relentless in context with Deftones, the Pretty Reckless, Slaughter, and Skid Row on the soundtrack; Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach, who can act (Gilmore Girls; my ex-forced me to watch it, ugh) and would be welcomed on-screen—is not in the movie, despite what the IMDB tells you.)

In Todd Farmer’s action-packed morality tale, Drive Angry (2011), John Milton’s epic, philosophical poem, “Paradise Lost,” which pondered man’s use of free will and his place in heaven and hell—and, to a lesser extent, Stephen’s Benét’s moral-fable short story, “The Devil and Daniel Webster”—fueled his screenwriting vision. Taking Farmer’s literary cues, Ash Avildsen constructed his screenplay on the foundations of German literature’s finest moment: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s epic poem, Faust. And just as Goethe had his “proclivities,” so do his modern-day, cinematic namesakes.

On screen—holding his own against the McDowell and the Duke in his leading man debut—is Andy Beirsack (of the bands Black Veil Brides and Andy Black) as the aspiring rocker, Johnny Faust. A freshly-minted high-school diploma (contract) in hand, he leaves his Ohio-girlfriend, Gretchen (a Goethe-Faust character) for Los Angeles with fellow school-guitarist, Vic Lakota (Booboo Stewart from Twilight; he shines with his meandering, philosophical acid-tripping edict during a live TV interview), to hook up with drummer Dylan James (Sebastian Gregory of Australian TV’s longest-running daytime drama, Neighbours), and Leo Donovan (Benjamin Paul Bruce of metalcore stars Asking Alexandria), a U.K guitarist who they’ve written songs with through online networking.

American Satan and The Relentless merchandise is available at their official site. The film’s success has resulted in an upcoming TV spinoff film and subsequent series.

Taking a similar approach to the rock comedy Airheads, where the New York alt-metal band D-Generation served as the “sound” of the faux-Lone Rangers, Sumerians Records’ Palaye Royal—a Toronto trio with the Modern Rock hits “Get Higher” and “You’ll Be Fine,” featuring the vocals of Remington Leith—provide the “sound” of the Relentless.

Providing a dose of Jack Blackesque comic relief is Leo Donovan’s “manager,” the portly Ricky Rollins (John “Sam” Bradley from Game of Thrones). We’ve seen rock-flick managers like this before (and in real life) . . . and I always want to bean them with a Gibson SG and give them some backside drum stick action: a live-vicariously dork devoid of any music or business acumen, “in the biz” with the hopes—and a rat’s chance in hell—of getting any sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll sloppy seconds . . . or fourths.

When the singular-monikered “Hawk” (professional wrestler Bill Goldberg of Santa’s Slay) appears to Sam’s chagrin as the “new” tour manager and tells him, “You’re the band manager. I’m the road manager. You belong behind the desk,” then explains the services that portly Ricky can’t provide: “When the shit hits the fan, I’m the fan,” you kind of wish Goldberg would just get rid of Sam via a suplex pink slip and be done. Wait . . . What? What the hell? Sam is having a coke-binged, Fifty Shades of Grey ménage in a lesbian brothel’s Eyes Wide Shut-inspired V.I.P room? Cue Eddie Wilson; the rats are having a Rimbaud season in hell with the Cruisers.

Along the way, the Relentless fill out their roster with Lilly Mayflower (Jesse Sullivan; killing it in her feature film debut), a red herring L.A. lesbian-bassist who may or not be in league with the Devil. In a refreshing twist: Lilly—and not the ubiquitous male band member—is the one who creates career-controversy—and endures the hot-mom wrath of Lt. Tasha Yar from Star Trek:TNG (Denise Crosby)—for having underage sex with her teen daughter in a Topeka, Kansas motel room. (Am I spider-sensing The Wizard of Oz with Dorothy and her “band” following the Yellow Brick Road?)

. . . And down at the Daniel Johnson crossroads of Vineland Avenue and Burbank Boulevard, delineated by North Hollywood’s famous 32-foot neon clown at Clown Liquors, the burgeoning clown-rock god meets Mr. Capricorn, aka The Devil (McDowell), and the apple-bearing Gabriel, the Arc Angel (Duke), who both appear as an eclectic variety of “disguised,” philosophical-quoting characters during the band’s Homer-Iliad quest through the underbelly of Los Angeles. And in the land of Hollyweird, the world famous Rainbow Room Bar and Grill on the Sunset Strip serves as Mr. Capricorn’s Faustian Auerbachs Keller. (Now I’m spider-sensing a way-less-psychologically twisty Under the Silver Lake (2018).)

References to The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri are also morally-afoot as the band’s “Virgil” appears in the form of Akkadian Records’ (cue the Sumarian-Akkadian Empire hero-journey text, the “Epic of Gilgamesh”) owner Elias Collins (the awesome Mark Boone Junior from Sons of Anarchy and Batman Begins), a rock ‘n’ roll philosophizing, not-so-wise man that may not be who he seems to be. . . .

Being a rock star is the intersection of who you are and who you want to be. So, do you want to be a rock star?

  • How far will you go for that fame and fortune?
  • Will you surrender your free will and indulge in narcissism—even murder—to achieve it?
  • Are you ready for the consequences of the resulting fame and fortune?
  • Religion separates humanity. Music brings them together. Are you ready to join those masses—while tearing them away them from the rest of the world?
  • Are we real? Are you and I symbolic figments of our inner self?

Produced in part by Hit Parader magazine, the film features plot-appropriate title cards of musician published-insights regarding the “crossroads” of music and religion and the “influences” over their creativity—courtesy of Ozzy Osbourne, David Bowie, and Neil Young, Judas Priest’s Glenn Tipton, AC/DC’s Angus Young, Jimmy Page, and Carlos Santana.

A repetitive consumer-criticism of the film: the music . . . and not with Ash Avildsen’s intelligent scripting or the film’s crisp color palate (the V.I.P brothel scene and concert sequences are exquisite) by cinematographer Andrew Strahorn (of TV’s Lethal Weapon). And that critique isn’t a quality issue: it’s one’s personal taste issue.

Today’s alt-leaning metalcore practiced by the Black Veil Brides, Andy Black, the Crosses, and Palaye Royal (there are Deftones deriders out there as well) isn’t forever one—especially if raised on the sounds of Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow (Rainbow Rising appears on the Rainbow Bar’s wall) or the name-checked Led Zeppelin’s amplified-blues rock (. . . and Van Halen’s “Running with the Devil,” Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast,” the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” and Their Satanic Majesties Request, and the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, along with the music of the Gene Simmons-christened new “heavy-metal stars” in the form of rappers Jay-Z and Kayne West).

Comparing the Relentless (soundtrack; You Tube) to the output of the cool-to-hate grunge-metal hybrids Nickelback and Chevelle or that the film needs less “Marilyn Manson” and more “Metallica,” is harsh. I love pre-Cold Lake Celtic Frost (and pre-CF Hellhammer) and Morbid Angel just as much as the next “Ragman”—and nothing beats the sounds of my beloved ‘80s VHS-era heavy metal horror films—but those über-awesome bands are no longer contemporaneous in today’s youthful, analog-scoffing and digital-drunk epoch. Ash Avildsen didn’t make a retro-metal flick; he’s in the business of making films that make money. The digital celluloid has to rock with the times and not the yesterdays of the aged-out, demographically unwanted rocker.

Another critical misstep—result of the film’s unappreciated and misunderstood framework of Goethe’s Faust—is to rationalize the film as a steamier-version of a Lifetime cable flick crossed with a church-commissioned Alex Kendrick movie (writer-director of the actually commendable Flywheel and Facing the Giants) to “scare straight” Christian kids on the dangers of sex and drugs and that Satan and music go hand-in-hand. . . .

“Perception is not reality. It’s what you feel, not what you see,” says Gabriel, the Arc Angel, disguised as the homeless Reverend Jasper Williams. He tosses Johnny Faust an apple. . . .

Like Reverend Duke said: It’s all about perception.

American Satan is available on Amazon Prime, Hulu, Vudu, and other PPV streaming platforms.

Author’s Note: This review was previously posted on July 2, 2019, and was reposted for January 2020’s “Satan Week.”

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.