2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 10: The Devil’s Passenger (2018) and Window Dressing (2019)

Day 10: Plastique Vivant: Manniquins are creepy enough standing still, but what happens when they come to life? (Window Dressing)

I came to my gig as the (chief) grease bit scrubber and dumpster pad washer at the ol’ B&S Bar n’ Grill by way of my screenwriting endeavors, which born out of my acting endeavors (which born out of my radio jock days).

As result, I’ve been to more than my fair share of film festivals, not only for the shorts I worked on, but for the films of others — in support of my fellow thespin’ brethren. And as someone who’s worked in the short film realm, take it from me: most of them are arduous, not only to work on, but to watch. As an actor, nothing is more heartbreaking than to pour your soul into someone’s vision to make it the very best short film it can be — only to see that filmmaker’s industry “calling card” disintegrate into an utter failure. And that’s not even counting the shorts that, through sheer directorial ineptitude and an indifferently staffed and in disarray film school, are never finished. The whole angle of the short filmVerse is that, while you, the actor, do not get paid, “you’ll get a finished film/clips for your reel.” And, as goes my luck, the filmmakers that never “paid” me with a finished film or so much as a clip (even after begging), far outnumbers the ones that did “pay” me. And, very few of those were of a quality to use as demo reel material.

Anyway, I digress . . . bottom line: I’ve seen lots of short films. I’ve long since surpassed my Hollywood-mainstream film attendances with my affection for the new breed cultivated in film festivals: I love going to film festivals, seeing short films, and acting in short films: the camaraderie of the indie environs is pure electric. It’s oxygen. It’s life.

And — in the hands of a knowledgeable and skilled filmmaker, one who checks their ego at the door and respects their actors and crew and realizes that film is a “team” effort — the short film story format works and there are, in fact, filmmakers who do not make you dread film festivals, but look forward to them. There’s nothing more pleasing, more exhilarating than to see all of those years of college and university-level film school classes pay off in spades. I am of the camp that doesn’t want those budding filmmakers to suck at their chosen profession: I want to see them succeed.

And succeed they do, as is the case with my reviews for Colin West’s Pink Plastic Flamingos, Marko Slavanic’s Project Skyborn, and Sara Gorsky’s Cockpit: The Rules of Engagement. Then there’s my recent reviews for Ben Griffin’s stellar sci-fi-on-budget excitement that is Ji, Marc Cartwright’s We Die Alone, Megan Freels Johnson’s Dear Guest, Brando Benetton’s top notch college thesis project, Nightfire, Greece’s Vahagn Karapetyan’s Wicca Book, Travis White’s Why Haven’t They Fixed the Cameras Yet?, and Chun-Ku Lu’s 2018 work, This Life, I am a flower pot (yes, he of 1975’s The Black Dragon’s Revenge).

And as I went down a You Tube rabbit hole, I discovered another Frank Barrone-moment, you know, a “holy crap” moment, with writer and director Dave Bundtzen’s The Devil’s Passengers.

Bundtzen’s been bangin’ at the Final Draft and eyein’ the Canon Reds since the early ’90s across fifteen shorts, with thirteen of them as a screenwriter, and a seventeen-film mix as a producer of his own shorts and of others. So it’s no secret that Bundtzen is bringing an A-Game to the table. He possesses an expert concept of what a short film should be: short. His films are well-written and edited and fully-character arced in less than five minutes, exactly as a short film should.

Ack! Please don’t delve into a college thesis on the craft of screenwriting, and act structure, R.D.

Don’t worry; I’m pulling back the reins. But take my word for it: Bundtzen’s short film days are numbered. There’s a feature film on the horizon.

His latest short-fiction work, The Devil’s Passenger, concerns a woman (a very good Colleen Kelly, who reminds of Dakota Johnson; I actually thought, at first, it was Australian actress Amanda Woodhams from 2020’s Dark Sister) in a traffic jam that desperately tries to help another woman she sees in the back of a van hold — held by a hand that appears from the dark background of the vehicle.

And that brings us to Dave Bundtzen and Colleen Kelly’s newest film (and the Scarecrow Video Challenge part), along with the expertly creepy Elaine Partnow, in a tale about Danielle (Kelly), a young woman who responds to an innocent “Help Wanted” sign in the window of the Rose Time antique dress shop run by Clara (Partnow), a kindly, senior shop keep. Now, if you know your British Amicus horror anthologies, you know about those little, out-of-the-way shops and their affable clerks. Yeah, this isn’t going to end well for young Danielle. The “Amicus” vibe of Bundtzen’s pen is buoyed by Gavin V. Murray’s stellar cinematography that gives the proceedings a very-Argento vibe.

The Devil’s Passengers and Window Dressing are currently streaming on You Tube, along with Bundtzen’s early efforts Siri (2012) and Tap (2018), courtesy of Flix Horror’s You Tube Platform. And, what I really dig: Bundtzen supports other short-horror purveyors, as his nifty “Great Horror Short Films on You Tube” playlist attests. Watch ’em once, twice, watch three times. Just an awesome day of movie viewing to be had over at Flix Horror’s page.

Colleen Kelly made one foray into network television with an appearance on ABC-TV’s Castle. Here’s to hoping she makes a much deserved transition out of shorts and indies and into more network television (yeah, you know me well: Law & Order: SVU and Blue Bloods) and A-List feature films. In fact, if you’re a Felissa Rose (A Nun’s Curse, Rootwood) fan — and aren’t we all — you’ve also seen Kelly’s work alongside Rose in Clawed (2017).

You can learn more about Dave Bundtzen’s filmmaking endeavors at Flix Digital’s website and Facebook page.

Disclaimer: We were not sent screeners or received a review requests for either of these shorts. We discovered them on our own and truly enjoyed both works.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.

Song Lang (2018)

I always make the remark that we often get films that don’t fit into our normal genre, but you know, more and more, we’re expanding what we watch here.

Song Lang is a combination of an underworld and romantic story, set in 1980’s Saigon. It’s all about the friendship between the brutal debt collector Dung (Lien Binh Phat) and opera singer Linh Phung (V-pop star from 365daband, Isaac), whose struggling company performs Cai-Luong, a modern form of traditional Vietnamese folk opera.

Dung comes to collect the debts of the opera company, yet both men soon find that there may be more than just a friendship growing between them. This is an unexpected film that is written and directed by Leon Le. It premiered on the 100th year anniversary of Cai Luong performance arts, which is a form I had never heard of nor seen before this movie.

A tragic romance about two men set against the backdrop of Asian opera? And they say all we care about is Lucio Fulci movies.

Song Land is ready for a virtual theatrical release October 9 and will also show at Laemmle theaters ahead of an on demand and DVD release November 11.

Drive-In Friday: Documentaries About Directors Night

“Documentaries are boring. Who wants to watch a bunch of talking heads bragging about themselves?”
—Eric, purveyor of film quality and all things Sein(feld)suck.

And to a degree, I agree with my running-bud Eric: unless you have an interest in the subject matter at hand. As someone who’s spent his life in radio broadcasting and enamored with the craft of filmmaking, I’ve watched more than my fair share documentaries on the subjects of broadcasting and radio personalities, and film with its related actors and directors. And, even in person, those creative individuals can push self-aggrandizing into the new limits of boredom.

Don’t believe me?

The Snack Bar is Open! Free Dove Bars if you buy a hotdog. Darn freezer’s broke again!

Go to a party or any social gathering. Find yourself an actor or director. And I am not talking about running into a well-rounded, educated fellow like Werner Herzog with whom you can have a meaningful conversation about anything from soup to nuts. I am talking about the (always) one-the-way-up-and-after-one-film-they-think-they’re-Elvis types. But since this is in reference to film: Steven Spielberg. And actors are worse than directors. Christian Bale and Klaus Kinski earned the right to set-rant. You, Mr. DeMille and Ms. Desmond, do not.

Don’t believe me?

Watch The Disaster Artist, the (excellent) dramedy about the making of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. There’s a telling scene in the film where actor Greg Sestero confides his career frustrations to a fellow thespian—and all the other actor can do is drone on and on about how great his career is going. And as someone with lots of “under the tent” experience in holding areas, I’ve seen and heard it all, ad nauseam. Sestero tells it true.

And screenwriters? Well, I’ll spare you that paragraph, but here’s the equation: Director ego x Actor oneselfness = the greatest screenwriter in the world, aka “Listen to me, for I am the lord god of all scribes surveyed.”

And heaven forbid if you don’t like that up-and-coming Elvis-Spielberg’s latest entry to their no-one-has-ever-heard-of-or-seen oeuvre, aka a celluloid nobody and never will be: be prepared for the bowels of hell to rip open and for the lathes of heaven to crash into the fiery abyss and scorch to embers. Yeah, sometimes (almost always) the auteur is just another egomaniacal Billy Walsh (know your Entourage trivia) who blesses you with the distinct privilege of viewing their master(shite)piece—just because it received a set of “Official Selection” leaves from some obscure, off-the-circuit, emo-haughty film festival that won’t be in business next year and mainstream Hollywood doesn’t acknowledge because, well, Hollywood is already full up with more talented haughties than yourself. But thanks for asking! We’ll be looking for that star on the walk of fame, DeMille.

But even the established directors can be a handful, as evidenced in The Man You Love to Hate (1979), about the uncompromising director of silent films, Erich von Stroheim (acted in Sunset Boulevard). There’s Luchino Visconti (1999), about the iconic neorealist behind (the incredible, must watches) The Leopard, Death in Venice and Ludwig. There’s Felini: I’m a Born Liar (2002), Carl Th. Dreyer: My Métier (1995), about the director behind the seminal vampire flick, 1932’s Vampyr, and Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Film Maker’s Life (1971). And you can go on and on . . . with docs about Robert Altman, a couple regarding Woody Allen and Roman Polanksi, along with Orson Wells, Howard Hawks, Bergman, Kurosawa, Kurbick, and even producer Robert Evans. The documentary Easy Riders, Raging Bulls examines the industry and careers of ‘60s “bulls” Martin Scorsese, Dennis Hopper, Peter Bogdanovich, and Sam Peckinpah. And, speaking of Werner Herzog: Burden of Dreams (1982) follows the German (deserving of the noun spoken in the same sentence as his name) auteur as he deals with difficult actors, bad weather and getting a boat over a mountain during Fitzcarraldo.

But this is B&S About Movies . . . and you know us crazy, frolicking lads in the wilds of Allegheny County. We’ve got to go just a little bit deeper into the films—the realm of documentaries about directors. You may not know them. You may know them and hate them. But you know what: they don’t care. They, with a Kurt Vonnegut tenacity, just keep on creating. And that’s cool with me.

Image available across multiple sites; source unknown

Movie 1: The Insufferable Groo (2018)

At the time of the filming of this documentary by Scott Christopherson, Provo, Utah, resident Steven Groo’s resume encompassed 166 films—after its release, his resume grew to 200 films. A lesser documentarian would most likely—as so many internet warriors—slag Groo’s ultra-low-budget tales. Instead—what makes this film so lovely and tragic at the same time—is that Christopherson focuses on Groo’s determination to tell his stories. While Groo can be admittedly abrasive, his tenacity paid off with the patronages of actor Jack Black and director Jared Hess of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre fame. And Jack Black starred in Goo’s Unexpected Race (2018). In the end, you root for Groo.

You can watch The Insufferable Groo as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv. You can also watch Unexpected Race on the platform as well.

Movie 2: Neil Breen Movie Magic (2020)

When Tommy Wiseau’s name drops, the name of ultra-independent filmmaker Neil Breen follows. To say he’s a film cult icon is an understatement. Plug his name into You Tube and you’ll discover the rabid fandom of his works.

A licensed architect by trade, Breen self-financed, directed and starred in his debut feature, Double Down (2005). As of 2018, he’s made five films and is in pre-production on his sixth film.

Love ‘em. Hate ‘em. Say they suck, but courtesy of an underground fan base cultivated on You Tube, Breen’s films—in a Wiseauian twist—have been picked up by arthouse theatres and film festivals around the world.

You can watch Neil Breen Movie Magic on You Tube.

And, in a twist: Breen released his own documentary, Neil Breen’s 5 Film Retrospective, in May 2020, which is another must-watch for Breen fans. You can watch Breen’s insights on himself on You Tube, as well.


In lieu of the usual Drive-In advert or trailer, check out the fun article, “Typing at the Drive-In: Celebrating Correspondence,” by Leanne Ricchiuti at CivMix. It’s about the interesting repurposing of the Greenville Drive-In in Greenville, New York, with the QWERTY Typewriter and Letter Arts Festival held from Sept. 14-19. The Greenville is on Facebook.

The next feature starts in five minutes!

Movie 3: Will Work for Views: The Lo-Fi Life of Weird Paul (2019)

Say what you will about Pittsburgh You Tube star Weird Paul—but the dude has 34,000-plus subscribers. People love him. You can’t help but dig him and his unique brand of retro-‘80s video productions, which he’s been posting since signing onto You Tube on Feb 4, 2007. I’ve been a fan of Paul’s ever since. And so should you. He’d make Kurt Vonnegut proud.

You can watch Will Work for Views as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV.

Movie 4: Overnight (2003)

It amazes me that for as many people that have watched Boondock Saints—and quote the film, wear the t-shirts, and even have Boondock Saints “double gun” lamps on their end tables in their media room—have no knowledge of this documentary shot by writer-director Troy Duffy’s former friends.

You may have heard the stories about Duffy’s meteoric rise and even quicker fall, but here’s your chance to see it all up close and personal. Even if you aren’t a fan of documentaries or have not the need-to-know about what goes on behind a camera, you’ll be fascinated by this document that tells us the story of a (film and music) career that might have been. For bless the “Holy Fool.”

You can watch Overnight as a free with-ads-stream on TubiTv.

“Documentaries suck and are made by people who can’t make a real movie. I’d rather sit through a TBS Seinsuck marathon.”

Indeed, Eric. Indeed.

Like I always say: Friends and film, huh? But chicks and film is (always) worse. (A woman who digs Klaus Kinski and knows Paul Naschy’s works is out there, somewhere! I can hope.)

Again, in the eyes of the many: documentaries just aren’t their canister of celluloid. Yes, documentaries—if you’re not into the subject at hand—can be as pedestrian as a CBS-TV 48 Hours segment or as bone-dust dry as a PBS-TV chronicle. But that’s not the case with these four heartfelt, well-made documents of their equally talented, intriguing subjects—each who make Vonnegut proud.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Deany Bean is Dead (2018)

Deanna Locke (Allison Marie Volk, who also wrote and produced this) has lost her fiancee and is dealing with a boss who abuses her. She feels like no one loves her, so she ends up offing her boss and showing up at her ex’s engagement party with the body in the trunk in an effort to win him back. After all, her goal was originally to bury that boss in the yard. Whatever happens next, well…that’s up to the whims of destiny.

Of course, Maxine isn’t all that dead. And the podcasts in our heroine’s brain aren’t helping her at all. This is a surprising film filled with humor and some good emotion, too. Mikael Kreuzriegler shows skill as a director and Volk has delivered an interesting script.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Parts Unknown (2018)

After putting their bodies on the line for countless years, the Van Strasser family of professional wrestlers is looking for a brand new way to satisfy an impeccable bloodlust. And that way involves demons and quite possibly the end of the world.

This film is the sequel of sorts to 2016’s Witch Hunters and if you love pro wrestling, you’ll enjoy how crazy this all gets.

An entity known as The Holiness (voiced by Jake “The Snake” Roberts) is speaking to the father of the clan, leading him to greater heights of mayhem.

There’s plenty of violence on hand, with nipples being sliced off and devoured, as well as a razor blade dildo being used exactly how you always hoped that it wouldn’t.

There are more ideas than budget on screen here, but I walked away admiring director Richard Chandler for how much he tried to get out there. This is a movie that starts small and ends huge. It’s ridiculous, but that’s part of the charm.

Parts Unknown is available on demand and on DVD from Wild Eye Releasing, who were kind enough to send us a copy.

The Mentors: Kings of Sleaze Rockumentary (2018)

The Mentors started in Seattle but moved to Australia, where its three original members — Edon “El Duce” Hoke, Eric “Sickie Wifebeater” Carlson (guitar) and Steve “Dr. Heathen Scum” Broy — turned their garage punk metal into its own genre called rape rock. They were pretty much unknown until the PMRC hearings exposed America to the lyrics of their song “Golden Showers,” which features the line “Bend up and smell my anal vapor / Your face is my toilet paper.”

Depending on how seriously you took The Mentors, that pretty much determines how much they upset you.

This documentary covers their career — warts and, well, all warts really — including the claim that Courtney Love paid El Duce $50,000 to kill her husband Kurt Cobain, which led to Hoke telling this story on the Jerry Springer Show and in The National Enquirer and the movie Kurt & Courtney, even naming the person who did kill Cobain (who also shows up in this movie!). El Duce passed a lie detector test, despite the theory that Mentors pal Rev. Bud Green invented this story to sell to supermarket tabloids and get more publicity for the band. Further adding to conspiracy is that Duce died soon after, the victim of a train, murder or just suicide.

The Mentors wear their executioner hoods in honor of Mark of the Devil and Duce appeared in Du-beat-e-o and the the adult film Backstage Sluts alongside Motörhead, Korn and Limp Bizkit members, all telling their best groupie stories while porn stars act them out.

Obviously, while The Mentors still tour, their willingness to offend and pretty much be drunken and drugged manaics don’t really hit into today’s world. That said, at least they woule always keep their masks on.

While I was fascinated by this movie, if you are easily — or even not so easily — offended, perhaps you should skip this one.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Heavy Trip (2018)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to Paul Andolina for being part of our music week. Paul writes often on our site, most often about Nicolas Cage and pro wrestling movies. Now, he’s back to talk about Heavy Trip, a heavy metal movie from Finland. To read more of his work, check out his sites Wrestling with Film and Is the Dad Alive?

Leave it to the Finns to make one of the best movies about heavy metal that I’ve ever seen. Granted I haven’t seen a ton of films about heavy metal but I have been a metalhead for a long time. The store that I used to frequent and buy used metal cds no longer exists but this film certainly brought back the magic of discovering a new band.

Heavy Trip is about a group of guys who have a black metal band that mostly plays covers. They long for a gig but refuse to get one until they have written an original song. They play in a basement space below a reindeer slaughterhouse that is owned and operated by their guitarist Lotvonen’s dad. Rounding out the band is the ever shy Turo, the vocalist, Pasi, the living metal encyclopedia that is the bassist, and Jynnky, who has been dead twice, their drummer. After some failed original riff attempts, Lotvonen is inspired by a reindeer carcass caught in the processor, and the boys finally have their sound. They are really pleased with their song, Flooding Secretions. 

They happen to have a chance encounter with Frank Massegrav, the promoter of Northern Damnation, a huge metal festival in Norway, when he comes to the slaughterhouse to buy blood. He is accidentally doused in the blood and pissed, storms off but not before Jynnky chases down his truck and hands him their demo. Turo goes on to tell the local florist, Miia, about meeting Frank, and says that he has a gig in Norway. Things get totally out of hand when news of this spreads across their small town. Suddenly the band is no longer ridiculed and is openly praised by all the residents. Things end up going tits up at a local gig when it is revealed they don’t actually have a gig in Norway. 

This movie has some absolutely nutters scenes, including the band taking their promo shot by speed camera, a mental patient that turns violent when met by sudden movements who can only be calmed by metal, a fight with a wolverine, Turo puking on the town’s mayor while performing the first time in front of a live audience, and the entire third act of the film is bar none the greatest road trip segment put to film.

This movie is not only a great comedy but probably one of the funnest movies I’ve seen that involves metal in any capacity. I would highly encourage anyone who is a fan of metal to check it out. It’s irreverent, it’s heartfelt, and it is entirely metal. You can check it out on Amazon Prime.

Why Don’t You Just Die! (2018)

Andrei is a detective and the world’s most horrible father. He has brought together a group of people who all want revenge on him, including his angry daughter, a brutal criminal and a cheated cop. They all want revenge. So who is gonna get it?

Kirill Sokolov’s debut film calls to mind the cinematic styles of those he refers to as his favorite directors: Sergio Leone, Martin McDonagh, Park Chan-wook, Martin Scorsese, and, foremost amongst these greats, Quentin Tarantino.

Somehow, this movie takes a Russian spin on a Western action film, which gives it the signposts that will be able to guide audiences through it, but allows those looking for something unique their own avenues to travel throughout the film.

Matvey has a mission. His girlfriend feels that her father — the aforementioned Andrei — has shamed her. So he must kill the old man with a hammer. Easier said than done.

Andrei has a lot of fight in him. Matvey can take an inordinate amount of damage before dying. This “meet the parents” tale is filled with an overwhelming amount of violence, blood and gore. Which is a long way to say that this is awesome.

The Arrow release also includes four short films by the director: Could Be Worse, The Outcome, The Flame and Sisyphus is Happy. It also has the trailer, behind the scenes footage and even the storyboards used to make this.

I had no idea what to expect from this film and ended up really enjoying it. Consider this a recommendation for you to grab this for yourself. You can get it from Arrow Video, who was kind enough to send us a copy.

Wrestlemassacre (2018)

I’ve spent around half my life as a pro wrestler. So when a movie comes out about a man who takes his wrestling knowledge and becomes a killer comes around, I’m going to do what i can to find it and watch it and share it with you.

Randy (Bruiser Brody lookalike Richie “The Cuban Assassin” Acevedo) is a groundskeeper who is obsessed with being a pro wrestler like his father (who is played by Nikolai Volkoff). When he decides to try out at “Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant’s wrestling school, he gets treated like a green boy and goes off the deep end, wiping out anyone he can get his hands on and making a belt out of human faces to defend against all manner of scum.

This movie is packed with real wrestlers, like The Sandman and Tony Atlas as mob goons, Manny Fernandez as one of Randy’s lawn technician friends, NOAH Global Tag League co-winner Rene Dupree and more.

What I loved about this movie was that all of the fights have completely worked wrestling punches and holds, yet body parts fly through the air, blood gets sprayed non-stop and people still sell damage like a comedy match.

Sure, this is a digitally shot low budget movie, but it has plenty of charm and a completely out of nowhere ending that amused me way more than I thought possible. As the dirtsheets say, ****.

Our friend Paul Andolina watched this as well, so you can check out his thoughts on his site.

You can learn more at the official Facebook page. Wrestlemassacre is now available on DVD and on demand from Wild Eye Releasing.

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

Accommodations (2018)

Edie Somner (Kat Foster) is married with children yet on the edge of divorce and dealing with the ups and downs of her husband’s career when she decides to stop accommodating everyone else and bring some type of meaning to ger life. That’s the story behind the first movie from writer, director and producer Amy Miller Gross.

The need for Edie to get more out of her life may be lost on me, as I’ve never made $275,000 a year, much less run up a decorating bill like that. As a result, her issues — she never gets to write what she wants and gives up so much of her life to everyone else — is lost on me. Wake up at 3 AM and write about movies all night like I do, I guess.

I really shouldn’t put my mindset into this film. So how about this: there are some pretty funny moments in this film, including a scene where the AirBNB guests that the Somners have staying in their home are staging a large orgy when Edie comes home blasted on NYC’s finest cannabis and her husband does Molly with his potential new boss.

Larisa Oleynik (10 Things I Hate About YouThe Secret World of Alex MagicThe Baby-Sitters Club) is in this, as is Mark Linn-Baker (yes, Cousin Larry from Perfect Strangers).

If you know want to know what it was like to be rich and dealing with issues in New York before the tribulations of 2020, this movie has you covered.

Accommodations is now streaming Amazon, Fandango Now, GooglePlay, iTunes and MovieSpree.

DISCLAIMER: We were sent this movie by its PR company. That has no bearing on this review.