The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)

Susanna Fogel wrote and directed this film. She also was the writer of Booksmart, which is a movie I recommend you check out.

It’s all about Audrey Stockman (Mila Kunis), who is dumped by her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) via text. Her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) convinces her to burn all of his stuff, but she soon learns that he was a spy. Now, she’s thrust into the world of espionage.

This is a fun movie, filled with everything I love from spy movies. I really liked Ivanna Sakhno, who played Nadejda, a gymnastic hitwoman. There’s a great fight between her and McKinnon that was a blast.

There are also some great cameos, like Gillian Anderson as the spy boss Wendy and McKinnon’s parents, played by Jane Curtin and Paul Reiser. Working in Edward Snowden was also pretty fun, too.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime, where it offers a bubbly and goofy break to the hardcore spy action that we’ve been watching this month.

 

Rootwood (2020)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the woods . . .

Just down the road from Burkittsville, on the outskirts of the New Jersey Pine Barrons, two college students—grungy fanboy William and the purple-haired, retro-hippie geek girl Jessica—host “The Spooky Hour,” a podcast about paranormal phenomena and urban legends. One of their fans is Laura Benott, a Hollywood film producer who thinks they’re perfect for her pet project: a documentary about the curse of The Wooden Devil, a mysterious creature who haunts the Rootwood Forest on the outskirts of Los Angeles—and is responsible for the disappearances of dozens of campers and curiosity seekers.

And our Shaggy and Thelma see dollar signs and fame. So you know what that means: buy extra Scooby Snacks, call Daphne (in this context: the Kardashian- fashionista, Erin), and load in The Mystery Machine (in this context: a film equipment-stocked camper). We’re going to hunt for some mythical, legendary witches and devils of The Blair Witch Project (1999) and The Last Broadcast (1998) variety. (And don’t come a knockin’ for any ghouls from The Evil Dead, not in these woods.)

So who is our Satanic agent of Pan in this Blair Witch-inspired, found footage-cum-mockumentary hybrid tucked inside a traditional narrative film: a forest ranger who pledged his soul to protect the woods—and became The Wooden Devil. (All expositional, natch.)

As is the case with most found footage romps and mock-documentary chronicles, there’s a lengthy (30 minute) set up—much of it in handheld or ear-perched POV shots—of “character development” until we get to the first sense of the “horror” of The Wooden Devil: a paint-peeled image of a devil on a remote, graffiti-scrawled water tank and a blood-stained noose found in the knothole of a tree. Eventually, Erin starts ranting about seeing some “bat creature thing” off camera and Will and Jess—stumbling around in the dark with POV cameras rolling—find the ubiquitous stone circle with a symbol made of twigs at its center. And that damned noose keeps showing up in the most unlikely places.

Rootwood is a film that takes its time; it rolls out like an old, low-budget Drive-In horror film of the ‘60s and ‘70s (watch for twisty ending: for all is not as it seems). This is a film that dispatches with the CGI-painted shock-scares of today’s modern horror and goes for the well-shot in-camera effects (courtesy of lush cinematography from Thomas Rist, he of the German-language documentary Let It Bleed: 40 Years of the Rolling Stones) with everything just on the peripheral, in the shadows. In today’s big-budget, major-studio horror landscape, it’s a nice change of pace to see filmmakers take the mystery-suspense route. The well-scored music and crisp sound effects by Klaus Pfreundner and Tim Heinrich, respectively, add to the slow-building foreboding.

Director Marcel Walz received recognition for previous project: a 2016 re-imagining of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s 1963 cult classic, Blood Feast. Screenwriter Mario von Czapiewski made his debut with the 2012 German-produced/language feature Cannibal Diner. Felissa Rose (Laura Benott, the film producer) got her start in the business in her early teens as “Angela” in 80s cult favorite, Sleepaway Camp. And you horror hounds have seen scream queen Elissa Dowling (Jennifer) around on several low-budget films of the SyFy Channel variety; we previously reviewed her 2015 film, We Are Still Here.

To say Rose and Dowling are the hardest working ladies in show business is an understatement: Rose has a mindboggling 30 films in various states of production; Dowling’s working on 17 films of her own. Sara French (Erin the fashionista), in thirteen short years, has already appeared in 75 low-budget direct-to-DVD films. Professional ex-hockey player Tyler Gallant is relatively new to the acting game and shows a lot of promise in front of the camera; I can see him appearing on episodes of two of my favorite TV series: Blue Bloods and Law and Order: SVU, sometime soon.

On a release rollout since 2018, Rootwood will be available on demand and DVD in the U.S on April 7 from High Octane Pictures. You can learn more at the film’s official Facebook page and High Octane’s catalog at their Facebook page. Some of the High Octane catalog we recently reviewed at B&S About Movies includes The Alpha Test, American Hunt, A Wakefield Project, and Jurassic Thunder.

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 About Movies.

Disclaimer: This movie was sent to us by its PR department. As always: you know that has nothing to do with our feelings on the movie.

REPOST: The VelociPastor (2018)

NOTE: We were sent a DVD of this and felt that it’s a movie worth having our readers check out again, now that it’s streaming for free on plenty of platforms. If you want to know more, we also did a review with director Brendan Steere

After a devastating family tragedy, Father Jones loses his faith and moves to China, as you do. A dying woman gives him a dragon tooth and soon, he learns that he can transform into a raptor. At first, he’s horrified by his newfound superpower, but a local prostitute convinces him to use his newfound gift to fight ninjas.

If you don’t want to watch this movie after that first paragraph, you may want to rethink coming to our site. This is a $35,000 epic begging for you to devour it.

When he comes back to America, he saves a prostitute named Carol (Alyssa Kempinski) from some muggers by tearing them apart. They make love, which goes against his vow of celibacy. And then, when her pimp confesses that he’s the one who killed our hero’s parents, well, all bets are off. The VelociPastor has a new mission from God and it involves killing lots of people, including a rogue sect of ninja Knights Templar.

I completely expected to hate this movie, seeing it as SyFy or Troma level dreck. To me surprise, it’s cunningly in on the joke and understands exactly the kind of movie that it is. Throw in an utterly bonkers overly edited lovemaking sequence and you have a movie I’ll be telling people about for the next few weeks.

The funniest part of the film — there are many — was when the church brings in an exorcist, played by animator/musician/toy designer/renaissance man Voltaire. Look — any movie where ninjas battle prostitutes and priests is going to be anything but boring. Pretty cool for a movie that came out of a trailer from 2011!

The VelociPastor is available on DVD and blu ray from Wild Eye Releasing. You can also watch it on Amazon Prime, Tubi and Vudu.

DISCLAIMER: We were sent a copy of this on DVD by Wild Eye Releasing, which was really nice of them. And even though they threw a sticker in, it still has no bearing on our review.

Dead Sound (2018)

Four best friends from boarding school — rich kids, of course, the kind you most want to die — are headed to Block Island for the kind of graduation party that only exists in movies. But oh no — they miss the last ferry and get the trip from hell thanks to a crew that has no intention of letting them live, much less make the party.

Jeff Kober, who was in the remake of The Hills Have Eyes 2, as well as Tank GirlThe First Power and the TV series Kindred: The Embraced plays the main villain. Matty Cardarople, who plays Keith the video store guy on Stranger Things, and Brett Azar, who was a T-800 in the Terminator: Dark Fate, also show up.

It also has the based on a true story tag, so…you knew I had to watch it.

Dead Sound is available on demand and on DVD March 3 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

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

Kill Ben Lyk (2018)

Three Ben Lyk’s have been murdered in London, so Scotland Yard puts all of the people with that name together until it can figure out why. Yes, a masked killer with a strange mask is wiping them all out. And that would be a bad thing for anyone but one of the Ben Lyks (Eugene  Simon, Lancel Lannister from Game of Thrones), a YouTuber looking for a chance at the celebrity that he’s always dreamt of.

This is the first feature from director Erwan Marinopoulos, who has an assured style and opens the film with quite a bang. Literally.

I really like how Scroobius Pip shows up in this movie. I’ve meditated on his lyrics for the song “Thou Shall Always Kill” for years, so it was fun to see him in this.

So what happens when every Ben Lyk is in the same spot — including a former Falklands hero and a female Ben? Well, all Hell breaks loose and hijinks ensue. Plus, the design of the villain is just plain awesome.

This film will be released sometime in 2020. You can learn more at the official Facebook page.

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

Covenant (2018)

Ian Parker is a former army lieutenant who learns of the death of his mother, who he’s cut out of her life. Her past is filled with strange behavior and as a result, he’s lived a life cut off from humanity, crashing through bad relationships and struggling through life. Now, he’s returned home to learn the secrets of his mother and why she died.

The pact that Ian’s mother made with demons not only makes him in their debt, but his young son as well. He must battle six demonic bounty hunters if he has any hope to lead a normal life.

If you like gruff dudes being snarky and demons swearing as they spit black blood, then this is the film for you. It’s the only demonic possession movie I’ve ever seen that has a dramatic monologue about a cat after the lead characters kill one of the fallen angels, so it has that going for it.

Covenant is available on demand and on DVD from High Octane Pictures.

DISCLAIMER: This was sent to us by the movie’s PR company.

Knife + Heart (2018)

Knife + Heart is a true anomaly when it comes to giallo. It’s from France, a country more given to the fantastique film than the giallo — though there are movies like The Night CallerWithout Apparent Motive and The Night Under the Throat. And its victims aren’t gorgeous women, but the actors of the gay porn industry, changing the psychosexual dynamics of the form.

Instead of featuring the sounds of a band like Goblin or a score by the likes of Morricone or Orlandi, Knife + Heart has music by Anthony Gonzalez of M83 who is director Yann Gonzalez’s brother.

A young man is killed by a masked man whose very sex conceals his murder weapon to open the film. Then, we meet Anne (Vanessa Paradis), an adult film director who has recently been abandoned by her girlfriend and editor Lois. The man killed in the opening was the star of several of her films; now she must find an actor to take his place. That leads her to Nans, who despite identifying as a straight man agrees to be in her movie.

The new film — Homocidal — will be her version of the murders, which continue targeting members of her cast. The police either can’t — or won’t — help. But the movie gets finished and as the group celebrates its completion with a picnic, the killer strikes again, just as Anne pretty much assaults Lois in an attempt to get her back.

The true killer is a man whose father caught him making love to another man. He killed his lover and castrated his son, who was also burned in a fire before being brought back from the dead by a blind crow — the fact that this movie isn’t called Call of the Blind Crow speaks to its non-Italian origins — and seeing one of Anne’s movies brought his memories back.

This being a giallo, there’s also a bird expert with a disfigured hand that looks like he has, quite literally, chicken fingers. Plus, the entire end of the movie is explained via voiceover. The fact that so much of this movie is given to style over substance means that it lives up to the movies that inspired it.

While the murders are in your face, the sex is nearly hidden from view. And Anne is an intriguing protagonist — drunken and bitter instead of the normal virginal giallo and slasher ingenues that save the day. She instead brings the killer closer with each scene that she directs.

You can watch this on Shudder.

Atomic Apocalypse (2018)

Originally called Black Flowers, this post-apocalyptic film follows Kate, her injured husband Sam and their daughter Suzi after the end of the world as they look for a hidden storehouse of supplies. Kate soon finds herself cut off from her family and must battle her way back to them, but things are complicated by Sam’s injuries, Suzi falling for a loner and all of the marauding maniacs that roam the post-Armageddon wastelands.

This film was directed by Martin Gooch, who also made The Gatehouse. It’s basically a mother/daughter story of them finding how people are dealing with the End Times, whether that’s starting a cult, eating people or just having an endless party of drugs and music until death takes everyone.

Atomic Apocalypse is available on DVD and on demand from High Octane Pictures.

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

The Amityville Murders (2018)

This movie realizes how to get my heart. By casting Diane Franklin in the role of Louise DeFeo and having Burt Young show up in an early cameo, it makes a link to the scumtastic Amityville II: The Possession. A discussion of backmasked records and an Ouija-board aided trip to the Red Room to start the film? Well, it’s already better than most of the non-connected Amityville films already.

It’s written and directed by Daniel Farrands, who I have taken to task over movies like The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson. Perhaps my Amityville standards have been lowered by a week of watching every single movie in the series one after the other after the other.

The relationship between Dawn and Butch DeFeo is still the central theme of this film, but unlike the aforementioned second film, the incest angle isn’t hammered home quite so strongly. However, the brutal nature of the father, Ronnie (Paul Ben-Victor, who you’ll recognize as a character actor from so many films), is really on center display here.

I will say that the DeFeo house is way nicer than it’s ever appeared before. In previous films, it’s been shown as being large, but always in such disrepair. Maybe if I knew that this home on Ocean Avenue was so nice, I’d understand why people stuck around when blood came running down the walls.

Lääkekoe (Medicated) (2018)

A mental patient is forced into a fight for world domination after taking part in a weird medical experiment, yet he’s unsure if it’s all really happening or is just the result of his sick imagination in a no-budget effort that combines cosmic horror, B-movie science fiction elements, out there Finnish humor and 80’s action.

Directed by Tapio Kauma & Ville Väisänen, with digital FX by Ville Väisänen, all of whom also appear in the movie. I kind of love that by writing this site, I get movies like this sent to me, which are labors of love that people but their hearts and lives into.

You can learn more at the official Facebook page or watch the entire movie here: