Monochrome: The Chromism (2019)

Isaac Ward is the first “hue” in a world that has only been black and white, learning that he is filled with color after being shot. As he begins to turn multiple colors, he is not alone, and as society begins to reel from this new development, they start to capture these unexplainable colors and war seems ready to break out at any moment as the result.

Written and directed by Kodi Zene*, consider this film a somewhat post-apocalyptic Pleasantville. This is but the first of many films planned in this series, along with comic books and merchandise.

This film has a really solid and striking visual look, as the colors and Hues themselves break the black and white pallette that this film creates. I’m excited to see where this story can go with a richer budget and more time. It’s definitely worth a watch.

You can learn more at the official pageMonochrome: The Chromism is available on demand from Tempest Studios.

*Zene also shot and co-scored this movie.

J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius (2019)

As a young teen — with parent bought subscriptions to the National Lampoon and Spy — I was obsessed with all manner of strange religions and aberrant behavior, which starts as simply as Scientology and builds into lifelong obsessions with groups like the Jack Chick, Unarius UFO groups, the Process Church, the book Illuminatus! and, of course, J.R. “Bob” Dobbs. Sadly, as everything good has been destroyed, even indulging in fringe conspiracy groups just gets sad these days. I was hoping that this documentary would show me a glimmer of hope and how slack could prevail against an increasingly darker world.

Originally called Slacking Towards Bethlehem: J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius, director Sandy K. Boone (this is his first film, yet he has produced several) explores this kind of sort of a church that took some smart, nerdy and even weird folks to examine the various ways that conspiracy and religion were crashing toward one another — which is where we are today — and then do nothing but make fun of it.

With a vast mythology that explains how Jehovah 1 gave salesman J.R. “Bob” Dobbs the secrets of the universe sometimes in the 50’s while containing references to Lovecraft and the ability to poke fun at other religions and exlaim that greed is good, the Subgenius ideals were pretty strong to my young mind. It didn’t hurt that adherents included de Mark Mothersbaugh, Mojo Nixon,Paul Reubens, Negativland, David Byrne, R. Crumb, Penn Jillette, Nick Offerman and Richard Linklater.

This movie does a decent job of setting up the path of this group and shows how that pre-internet, it was amazing to find people who shared the same values and interests that you did. Personal connections, while harder to come by, seemed to mean more.

Where my sadness with this film comes in — and this is for me only, perhaps — is that it really presented no answers as to how Bob fits in with our Q-Anon world of today. But perhaps that’s just slack in action, the idea of inaction and meaning nothing meaning everything. Here I was hoping for an explanation of everything, when the truth is that answer is that there is no answer. Things just are.

J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius is available on demand. We were sent a screener to watch and review, but that has no impact on our opinion of the film. Want to learn more about the Church of the Subgenius? They have an official site ready to indoctrinate you.

World War Four (2019)

You know, if 2020 has anything left to throw at us, well, World War Three and Four is probably next, right? I mean, after murderhornets.

So what if a war was going to happen? This story explores exactly that, as a series of escalating conflicts throughout Korea and the Middle East lead to more and more fighting, with all the countries of the world ready to destroy one another — which is, you know, what a world war is all about.

Written and directed by New Zealand’s A.K. Strom, who also made End of All Things, this is a tense film that juxtaposes the big moves of military units around the world along with the impact of combat on a military family.

The budget on this is low, obviously, but it really takes advantage of great editing and quite a stock footage budget. If you think all of the military action in this looks real, that’s because it is.

You can get this on demand and on DVD from Midnight Releasing.

DISCLAIMER: We were sent this movie to review, but that does not impact our review.

The Deeper You Dig (2019)

I’ve had some bad luck of late with picking out movies to watch with my in-laws. The first, Officer Downe, started with male on female oral pleasure and that got a hard pass from the room. This was going to be the follow-up and they might have felt even stronger about how this one made them feel.*

As for me, I have mixed feelings about the film.

It looks gorgeous, unlike anything else I’ve seen out of horror this year. And I honestly feel like it’s pacing and tone owe more to strange 70’s American drive-in folkish stuff like Let’s Scare Jessica to Death and Dark August. It’s a simple tale — a mother comes to terms with the loss of her daughter while meeting the man who caused her death — but it’s told in an incredibly interesting way.

But there are great stretches where it lost me. And yet, it always got me back.

Written, directed by and starring filmmaking family the Adams Family (Tobey Poser, John Adams and Zelda Adams), this is all about a tarot card reader named Ivy, whose teenage daughter Echo is accidentally killed bt a new neighbor. However, Echo refuses to pass away quietly and starts to become part of the man’s every waking moment, slowly taking over him and reaching out to her mother from the other side.

There are moments of shocking violence in this film, as well as scenes of the other side that are the parts that lost me. I’d like the clown makeup scene explained to me. It all feels more silly than earnest and took me completely of the film, but the end of the story won me over. It’s wildly uneven, but so filled with promise that I think that it’s totally worth you taking the time to watch it. It’s certainly better than the next direct to streaming or meant for the multiplex film you’ll suffer through.

The Arrow Video release of this film also comes with The Hatred, another of the Adams Family’s films, as well as an exclusive, in-depth interview with the filmmakers, music videos, trailers and more. I’m used to Arrow putting out releases of past favorites, so it’s nice to see them tackle a recent release.

You can also watch this on Shudder. I’m interested in seeing what others think of this movie. Also — thanks to Arrow for sending this our way.

*The B of B&S About Movies, Becca, wanted me to provide her review of this movie, which is short and to the point: “It was stupid.”

Yes (2019)

Yes seems metatextual right from the beginning, as it explores how Jeremiah Rosenhaft (Nolan Gould of TV’s Modern Family) and Patrick Nolan (Tim Realbuto, who wrote and presented this as an off-Broadway play) have each come to escape from their lives with acting. Jeremiah moves past their sessions to become a major star who started in sitcoms, which seems how Gould’s career is going. And sadly, Nolan has been destroyed by failure, scandal and an almost made it past.

Directed by Rob Margolies, who also brought us Immortal, this is a look at just what it takes to escape from the world and become an actor, told through the intriguing visual trick of having everything else fall away once the acting begins.

While this isn’t the typical film we feature on our site, we can definitely recognize the value of this film. The two characters really are lost souls, but only one of them will emerge from their relationship with the tools that will allow them to survive, yet be forever haunted by the time they spent together.

Yes is available on demand. We were sent a copy for review but that does not impact our opinion.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 13: Exorcism at 60,000 Feet (2019)

Day 13: Open Soar: This one should focus on flying or aviation somehow.

“Please keep your tray tables — and crucifixes — in the upright position at all times!”
— from the smartly-written Shout! Factory press kit.

So, did you hear the one about the priest, a rabbi, and an airline pilot captain who boarded a transatlantic airliner — and banned together to fight off a demonic possession pandemic? Did you hear the one about the movie that meshed ’70s disaster flicks with ’70 demon possession flicks? Did you hear the one about the priest who was dumb enough to fly an excised body back to Vietnam?

“I want these motherf*ckin’ demons off this motherf*uckin’ plane!”

No, sorry, Mr. Jackson. That’s not the punch line. Well, maybe just a little bit, Sam. But make no mistake which ’70s disaster classic this horror parody has taken to task. But where’s Captain Mike Brady of SST Death Flight to save the day?

How can this film not excite you the way it excited me!?

I haven’t even spun the trailer, let alone watched the film, and the cast on this has me drooling. We’ve got Robert Miano (280 credits strong, his work dates to William Shatner’s T.J Hooker, along with roles in Donnie Brasco, Girls Trip, and Open House with Adrienne Barbeau), Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Pumpkinhead, Near Dark), Bill Mosley (The Devil’s Rejects, Dead Air), Bai Ling (Dumplings), Kelli Maroney (!) (Night of the Comet), the always welcomed Kevin J. O’Connor (The Mummy, TV’s Chicago P.D.), the always very funny Matthew Moy (TV’s Scrubs, iCarly, and as Han Lee in 2 Broke Girls), and of course, the divine Ms. Barbeau (The Fog, Swamp Thing). Come on, now! They even got Johnny Roastbeef (Johnny Williams) from Goodfellas on board!

Dare I write a rip-off script called Demonjacked?

Never has there been a movie more self-aware in its scripting, with its actors going into full scene-chew, with over-the-top acting courtesy of the horror movie alumni-elite of Barbeau, Henriksen, and Mosely — all that’s missing from the cast is Bruce Campbell. So, if you go into this disaster-demon flick hybrid expecting Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 — with an airliner switched out for a woodsy cabin, then you’re in for a great ride in the demon skies. If this was made with a bigger budget and thirty years earlier — with Kurt Russell hamming it up — we have Big Trouble in Little China on a plane. Yes, this movie is that crazy — a hammed-up, FUBAR’d version of the 1973 CBS-TV movie classic The Horror at 37,000 Feet.

And if you’re experiencing Re-Animator déjà vu during the opening title card sequence, that’s because Richard Band (From Beyond) composed the HBO Tales from the Crypt-inspired soundtrack and, to that end: there’s a bit ‘o each of those in the frames. If David Gale, aka Dr. Carl Hill of Re-Animator, aka Dr. Anthony Blakely of Ed Hunt’s whack job The Brain, were still with us, he’d be in Robert Miano’s role as Father Romero. And yeah, if you’re a fan of The Brain, then you’ll have no qualms boarding Flight 666. Just make sure you’re not forgetting your Zucker Brothers brand (Airplane!, Kentucky Fried Movie) luggage and you packed your DVD of that Twilight Zone episode in the bags.

Co-writers Robert Rhine and Daniel Benton have been around the business for a while, with Rhine getting his start as an actor in Hardbodies 2 (1986); Benton’s been scribin’ since the late ’70s with TV episodes of Sledge Hammer! and Police Woman. Director Chad Ferrin got his start with Troma Studios and has made a dozen direct-to-video features, most notably, the totally nuts Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! (2006); here he’s given us a film that looks great; the production values are high, and the cinematography is well-lit and cleanly shot.

Sure, you can stream this at Amazon Prime, but a free-with-ads stream is available on the European F Share TV platform. You can pick up the extras-packed DVDs and Blus direct from the fine folks at Shout Factory.

Hey, by the way, don’t forget to read our Airport: Watch the Series featurette!

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.

Fulci for Fake (2019)

For all we know of the movies of Lucio Fulci, how much do we really know about the man himself? What drove him to make films of such stunning cruelty? And what is meant in this film when they discuss that each film formed a mosaic made up of the tragedies of his life?

The conceit of this film is that an actor (Nicola Nocella) is getting ready to play the Godfather of Gore in a biographical movie, yet he must research the life of the man as well as his work. We never see the actual film that gets made, but is that even the point? We do get to learn plenty of stories of the director and attempt to get a richer image of who he was and how his life shaped and was shaped by his art.

Driven by new interviews with composer Fabio Frizzi, cinematographer Sergio Salvati, former actor and assistant Michele Soavi (an incredibly important artist in his own right) and Fulci’s daughters Antonella and Camilla Fulci, we discover how many of the stories of Fulci’s legendary hatred of actors and misanthropy are true. But a better image emerges as we learn of a man who hid his deepest emotions within his increasingly obtuse films. And we cannot forget that after a thirty-year career, the main films that he’s known for all emerged in a five year or less burst of body fluids.

Written and directed by Simone Scafidi (Eva Bruan), this is a movie that may not have much new for Fulci hardcores, but would form a nice starting point for neophytes to understand why these movies inspire such devotion. The interviews are the best part of the story, obviously, but if you have 2008’s Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered, you already have around four hours of folks talking about him.

There is one moment of absolute truth in here, as the actor is meditating on the fact that producers wouldn’t even give Fulci a movie to make for the last five years of his life — other than his “rival” Argento, who was going to hire him to make The Wax Mask — and yet today, whatever movies he would have made would still be making money as limited edition reissues, bought by people like, well me. After all, I got this movie in a set with Demonia and Aenigma. I’m the kind of person who would buy a $50 version of Manhattan Baby. I am the exact audience for this.

That said, you can see how Camilla’s condition — she was in a riding incident soon after her mother’s death and further diseases weakened her (she has since died) — informs the reasons behind The New York Ripper‘s rampage, taking what would be a pornography of violence in a lesser artist’s hands and more of a vacant stare at an unfeeling void, shot at the dead center of the end of the world.

While the actor framing device never really works, the interviews and idea shine. The whole blu ray is worth it just for the extras, which include interviews with the director and crew, longer cuts of the interviews from the film, home movie and camcorder footage of Fulci scouting locations and even working on set and audio recordings of the director working with Michael Romagnoli on his memoirs.

I really don’t think that there can ever be a definitive Fulci biopic. Instead, we should look to his films — this effort makes quite the case for The Beyond, which I wholeheartedly agree is filled with messages — and wish that he had lived long enough to know that his name is spoken in the same hushed tones reserved for the greats.

You can learn more on the official Facebook page and order this film from Severin.

The Luring (2019)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally reviewed this movie back on June 10, 2020. After that ran, the director of the movie reached out and felt that our take on the film “…seems vindictive. Like I did something to you or something. I don’t mind anyone disliking my film but this is different because you just cut and pasted the synopsis and then made a snide remark, like you’re trying to be… vindictive.” We take our thoughts on film seriously and respect the work of filmmakers, so we promised to watch this again. Seeing as how Wild Eye sent us the DVD, this gave us another opportunity to watch this and take one more look.

Garrett lost an important memory at his tenth birthday party and hopes to get it back when he visits his family’s vacation home. His doctors call it dissociative amnesia, but perhaps he doesn’t want to learn what he’s really done. While his girlfriend wants this trip to bring them closer, there’s a chance that this could be the end of them both.

Let me lead with the good. Garrett (Rick Irwin) and Claire (Michaela Sprague) seem like a real couple, one that you wouldn’t want to invite to your party because all they do is fight. You feel for her way more than him, which leads us to the bad.

I don’t feel that every movie needs a trustworthy narrator or a heroic protagonist, but Garrett is such a jerk from moment one that when the major reveal happens, it’s not so much horrifying or shocking as much as it elicits a “Yeah, I can see him doing that.”

There’s also a mystery woman who has lured Garrett back here, a red balloon (to the director’s credit, he claims that he took the idea from The Red Balloon and not Stephen King) and an end scene that stuck with me because it seems like it came out of another film.

A nanny notices the boy she is watching is holding the red balloon. The kid, named Doug, states that he was given the balloon by a man, but there’s no one around. The nanny takes the balloon and Doug goes wild, yelling that the man told her she would do that. He then starts yelling, What time is it, what time is it, what time is it?” According to IMDB: “Another hidden message. The frustrated Nanny yells “It’s 2:13! it’s 2:13! it’s 2:13!” Her life will never be the same. Pure evil doesn’t take pity on her or on Doug. Some say the man was the devil because 2:13 when added up is 6. The Nanny yells that time three times which is 666.”

I have no idea what this has to do with the rest of the film, because the kid ends up getting hit by a car like he wandered in off the set of Pet Semetary.

So, in summation, it feels like there’s some talent here. I still didn’t like the movie — it feels disjointed and there’s a moment where a stilt-walking clown shows up to menace Claire for seemingly no reason. But hey — I haven’t put the time and energy into making this. It wasn’t my passion project. All I have is an opinion and you may watch it and fall in love with it.

Movies are great that way.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime. Please do and let me know whatyou think. Thanks to Wild Eye for sending it.

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 Cannon 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.

The Devil to Pay (2019)

There are parts of America that may as well be another country or even another world. In this film, originally known as Reckoning, we learn that the Appalachian mountains are isolated and quite frankly terrifying, with the community in the film operating in its own very unique set of rules.

When Lemon’s husband dies, she must fight to keep his farm working and repay his debt to the oldest family on the mountain. Their cold-hearted matriarch is ready to destroy a decade-old truce and even hurt Lemon’s son to get what she wants.

Lane and Ruckus Skye have worked together to create movies like the upcoming Becky and the short The 7 Sevens. This is the first of their films that I’ve seen and it certainly sets a mood. A grim one, but quite a mood.

Danielle Deadwyler, who appeared on HBO’s Watchmen series, is really solid in this, putting you directly into her struggles and getting you on the side of her character.

Uncork’d Entertainment and Dark Star Pictures will release this on October 2 in drive-ins and then on-demand four days later. They sent us this review copy, which has no impact on our thoughts.