The Scottish Play (2020)

In director and writer Keith Boynton’s The Scottish Play, Sydney (Tina Benko) decides to escape the big world of Hollywood by heading to New England and acting in a Shakespeare festival. She likes her leading man Hugh (Geraint Wyn Davies) and gets along with the director Adam (Peter Mark Kendall). And then she meets William Shakespeare himself (Will Brill), who reveals to her that the curse of Macbeth is all the fault of his ghost, as he was never happy with what he wrote. He’ll leave her production alone if she’s open to some rewrites, however.

If you told me that this would be a movie that I’d find fun, funny and charming before I saw it, I’d have called you a fool. But after watching it — actually I wouldn’t be that rude, but I wouldn’t expect to like this — I really fell for it. It’s a cute little concept, told well by a good cast and an interesting script.

I like the idea that someone from the outside — not knowing that the bard himself was writing the new version — would be upset that someone was messing with Macbeth. That’s the conflict that drives this film, as well as gives an actress the chance to meet the playwright that inspired so many stories of his own.

DEAF CROCODILE STREAMING AND BLU RAY COLLECTION: The Time-Bending Mysteries of Shahram Mokr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DISMEMBERCEMBER: A Wrestling Christmas Miracle (2020)

I was let down, as I believed that A Karate Christmas Miracle was a singular work of a hundred monkeys in a room with a hundred typewriters for a hundred years, but this is just the same story beats transposed into a different tale: Mario Del Vecchio is not a karate student this time, but instead Kace Gabriel, the son of legendary Olympic wrestler Ajax Gabriel (writer and producer, as well as father, Kenneth Del Vecchio), is such a good wrestler — a point hammered home by promo and video of the preteen dominating other kids — that he decides to retire and fulfill his life’s goal. That goal? Make a movie so funny that it wakes his best friend Charlie (Vaughn Harrison Oberhuber) from his coma.

All the players from A Karate Christmas Miracle are here, with Candy Fox, the babysitter from that film, now playing the mother Cassandra. Knowing how important this movie is to her son, she trusts her drunken brother Ronald (Scott Schwartz, who was once in a majorly awarded Christmas movie and oh yeah, also did adult) and two of the actors — Chuck (Buddy Matthews) and Kitty Kat (Julie McCullough, who is not as deranged as she was in Del Vecchio’s last film, which both makes me happy and sad) — steal the film and want some money and maybe have a bomb and there’s a Mexican standoff ended by the kid all while dad is in the Congo battling the forces of Communism or Socialism and a five-second Google search would have told you that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a nominally centralized constitutional republic but then we’d be robbed of that endless POV shot of an old transistor radio being brought to the diner table of the villains.

The so-proclaimed movie so funny it’ll take a kid out of a coma and get his mother to stop singing Christmas carols in her sad house is actually Del Veccchio’s 2016 film Hospital Arrest which explains how Martin Kove, Jimmie Walker, Michael Winslow, Todd Bridges and Gilbert Gottfried can all be in this movie and Mario Del Vecchio still has top billing. I mean, if my son’s home movies of him wrestling were in a film, I’d put him ahead of those guys too.

IMDB tells us that “The lead actor, Mario Del Vecchio, is a real-life outstanding youth wrestler, as well as a standout football player” so that means that the fact that we didn’t get A Football Christmas Miracle this year means that either the elder Del Vecchio has run out of money, COVID-19 robbed us of  last year’s Kenneth Del Vecchio Hoboken International Film Festival where he gives awards to actors and then films scenes for his next movie or he’s decided to go back into politics.

This movie is under 70 minutes long with most of that footage coming from that other movie and then you get eleven minutes of credits which are mostly holiday songs punctuated by Mario Del Vecchio straight-up wrecking kids on the mat, imposing his will on them and crushing their need to live. Do they know it’s Christmas?

You can watch this on Tubi.

American Pie Presents: Girls’ Rules (2020)

The ninth American Pie movie and the first with no Eugene Levy — finally too big for these movies — or any female nudity, American Pie Presents: Girls’ Rules invents the original film and has four girls — in case you missed the title — by the names of Annie (Madison Petis), Kayla (Piper Curda), Michelle (Natasha Behnam) and Stephanie Stifler (Madison Broadway) who all make a pact to get what they want.

What do that want? Annie wants to lose her virginity. Kayla wants to know that she’s the only woman for her boyfriend. Michelle wants to find a boy that can deal with her love of Presidents and sex toys. And the female Stifler is dominating her principal. They all kind of want the nice guy Grant (Darren Barnet).

Director Mike Elliott is a sequel master, producing The Terror Within II, Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight, Bloodfist IV: Die Trying, Bloodfist V: Human Target, Casper: A Spirited BeginningCasper Meets WendyAddams Family Reunion, Richie Rich’s Christmas Wish, Beethoven’s 5thAmerican Pie Presents: Band Camp, WarGames: The Dead Code, Beethoven’s Big Break, American Pie Presents: The Book of Love, Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball, Death Race 2, Blue Crush 2, Death Race 3: Inferno, The Little Rascals Save the Day, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power, Kindergarten Cop 2Honey 3: Dare to DanceBigger Fatter LiarBring It On: Worldwide #CheersmackBulletproof 2Honey: Rise Up and Dance, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell, Death Race: Beyond AnarchyThe Scorpion King: Book of SoulsGrand-Daddy Day CareUndercover Brother 2How High 2Unbroken: Path to RedemptionThe Prince & Me II: The Royal WeddingTimecop: The Berlin DecisionAu Pair IITurbulence II: Fear of FlyingThe New Addams FamilyCaged Heat 3000Caged Heat II: Stripped of FreedomMunchie Strikes BackIn the Heat of Passion II: UnfaithfulCarnosaur 2The UnbornPoint of Seduction: Body Chemistry IIIBody Chemistry II: The Voice of a Stranger and Blackbelt II.

After the success of American Pie Presents: The Book of Love, writer David H. Steinberg was hired to write American Pie Presents: East Great Falls, a movie about four new male students at East Great Falls High School who all want to date the same girl. In 2017, Blayne Weaver was hired to gender swap everything.

WATCH THE SERIES: The Purge Part 3

Somehow — and I don’t know legally how this has happened — there are several films that outright use the Purge as their plot. I understand how the parodies happen but there’s one movie that. just can’t figure out how no one was sued.

Then again, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “Universal, Platinum Dunes Productions and James DeMonaco have finally put an end to a four-year-old lawsuit that alleged the horror smash The Purge was ripped off from another writer. On Friday, the parties informed a California court that the case was being dropped after a settlement.

Douglas Jordan-Benel brought the lawsuit alleging the film — about an annual 12-hour period where all crime is legal — derived from his screenplay called Settler’s Day. As the plaintiff navigated one hurdle after another in litigating his copyright and breach of contract claims, The Purge spawned sequels and a TV series. Jordan-Benel stated in court papers that the plot of both works was “virtually identical” and in his complaint, the plaintiff focused on the submission of his script to the UTA talent agency, which also represents DeMonaco.”

After a four-year case, the article goes on to reveal certain documents suggested that DeMonaco’s script may have predated Jordan-Benel’s. Then, a huge fight broke out over whether there was any evidence tampering, which led to Jordan-Benel gaining great access to early versions of The Purge screenplay and emails. There was a settlement and the notice of the dismissal was unusually specific and favorable to DeMonaco, with the court stating, “In light of information produced in discovery demonstrating Defendant James DeMonaco’s independent creation of The Purge, Plaintiff has agreed to dismiss his lawsuit with prejudice, in exchange for a waiver by Defendants of any claim for an award of fees and costs.”

Here are the movies that came after and how they relate to the original films:

Meet the Blacks (2016): Directed by Deon Taylor, who wrote this with Nicole DeMasi, Meet the Blacks finds that family — led by Carl (Mike Epps) — getting out of Chicago after stealing some money from drug kingpin Key Flo (Charlie Murphy in his last role). Once settling in Beverly Hills, Mike and his wife Lorena (Zulay Henao) and kids Allie Black (Bresha Webb) and Carl Jr. (Alex Henderson) discover that they ended up in town at the absolute worst time. Yes, they’re here on the day of The Purge.

The best joke is that George Lopez is President El Bama, but hey, Paul Mooney is also a Klan member, plus Mike Tyson, Tyrin Turner and Perez Hilton are in this too. It’s not exactly great, but the fact that this movie just outright uses The Purge is pretty audacious. If the racial issues of the first few movies were too under the surface for you — they are not — this movie goes all out.

Not to be outdone, Taylor and most of the cast returned for The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2, which is literally Fright Night with Katt Williams as a pimp version of Jerry Dandrige. Maybe this was the movie that Herschell Walker was really watching?

Evil At the Door (2022): For almost a hundred years, The Locusts have treated their followers to one night — three hours — where they can do anything they want to a selected home and any of the people they find inside. The Locusts have selected the home of Daniel (Matt O’Neill, Candy Corn) and Jessica (Sunny Doench, Coffin). Complicating matters is that there may be a Locust who isn’t on the same side as everyone else, plus Jessica’s sister Liz (Andrea Sweeney Blanco) is hiding under the bed trying to escape.

Like a combination of The Strangers and The Purge, the film begins with John Doe (Bruce Davison, who has nearly 300 credits, but may be best known for being in X-Men as Senator Kelly; you may also recognize him from The Lords of Salem or The Crucible) invites the cult’s member to initiate the Night of the Locusts.

A family that barely gets along being surrounded by four cult members who can get away with anything that happens. Great set-up, right? Yes, it is. The execution — CGI stabbings instead of practical effects and costumes that look like the Wish version of Ghost from Call of Duty — take away the good will that the opening created.

Fans of TV’s Dynasty and The Colbys will, at least, be happy to see John James (Jeff Colby!) show up. His next movie is My Son Hunter, playing President Biden. It’s directed by Robert Davi and stars Gino Carano so…

Director, writer, producer, editor and one of the actors — he’s Truman — Kipp Tribble did more than just two or three things on this movie. I wish that he could have followed up on pieces he set in motion. That said, he’s figured out how to pull this movie together with a small crew and a low budget.

The Binge (2020): Directed by Jeremy Garelick and written by Jordan VanDina, The Binge is about a world where no one can drink or do drugs except for 12 hours, once a year, just like…yeah, you got it. This follows the adventures of Griffin (Skyler Gisondo), Hags (Dexter Darden) and Andrew (Eduardo Franco), three guys who have just turned eighteen and are now eligible to take part of America’s one part day of pleasure.

Griffin is in love with Lena (Grace Van Dien), whose father (Vince Vaughn) is the overprotective principal of their school. Of course he ends up being an old partier and everyone is happy, yet a 2020 drug movie has none of the wacky ramshackle charm of Cheech and Chong, its plot as manufactured as the scientifically grown weed. You know where the highs are coming from, but some of those old bags of comedic hash sometimes could give you the kind of laughs that stay with you for the rest of your life. This is not that strain.

The Binge 2: It’s A Wonderful Binge (2022): Hulu has bought another The Binge film and set it at Christmas and man, we hit the algorithm right on this week. Directed and written by Jordan VanDina, this year’s Binge comes during the holidays, which seems like when it should always be if you can only drink and do drugs for 12 hours a year.

Hags (Dexter Darden) is trying to stay sober so that he can propose to his girlfriend Sarah (Zainne Saleh) while his friend Andrew (Eduardo Franco) wants to use all those powders, pills, drinks and smokes to get through the time he has to spend with his family. All while Mayor Spengler (Kaitlin Olsen) is trying to get her town — and her daughter Kimmi (Marta Piekarz) to end The Binge just as her brother Kris (Nick Swardson) escapes from prison.

It’s nice to see Tim Meadows, Danny Trejo and Paul Scheer get some work, but this movie seems like a child who has just learned to swear or worse, a college kid who comes back home for Christmas obsessed with smoking grass. It tries — the animated part is kind of humorous — but I just know we’re going to get a third one. And you know me. I’m going to sit through it.

2025: Red White and Blue (2022): I get the urge to purge a The Purge ripoff from your system, but how can you make a parody that’s 2 hours and 15 minutes long?

In the year 2025, the 45th President of the United States of America — look, this is automatically the most horrifying film of the year just with the rest of this sentence — gets back in the White House, restarts the Purge, rebuilds the wall and gets ready to Make America Safe Again.

Bill Wilson (Grid Magraf), agent of FIRE (Forest and Immigration Raking Enforcement), is two weeks from returning, getting too old for this excrement and has just finished the bust of his life taking down a Mexican drug cartel. However, some dirty agents want the evidence and plan on using The Purge to get it from his house.

This is an equal opportunity movie, making fun of Biden as a pedophile, Trump as a man reduced to filming The Apprentice and urinating online for hits and liberals maybe even more devoted to murder than the right wing gun owners they argue against. There’s something for everyone to be offended by here, mostly that this takes so long and can get away with outright being a Purge movie despite it being made by anyone other than Blumhouse.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Am I missing any more Purge-inspired ripoffs? Let me know!

I mean, one can argue that The Purge was ripped off from “The Return of the Archons,” an episode of the classic Star Trek.

This is not a test.

This is your emergency broadcast system announcing the commencement of the Annual Purge sanctioned by the U.S. Government.Weapons of class 4 and lower have been authorized for use during the Purge. All other weapons are restricted. Government officials of ranking 10 have been granted immunity from the Purge and shall not be harmed. Commencing at the siren, any and all crime, including murder, will be legal for 12 continuous hours. Police, fire, and emergency medical services will be unavailable until tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. when The Purge concludes. Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn.

May God be with you all.

WILD EYE BLU RAY RELEASE: The Bloody Man (2020)

Directed by Daniel Benedict (Bunni), who co-wrote the script with Casi Clark (they also worked on a short called Fall of Grayskull), The Bloody Man is an attempt to bring back the warm and gushy feelings of 80s horror. It stars Tuesday Knight (Kristen Parker in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master) and Lisa Wilcox (Alice Johnson in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child) to help you make that connection.

After the death of his mother, Sam (David Daniel) is having issues with his family, his friends, the bullies at his school, and most of all, the horrific Bloody Man, the comic book character that sustains him through bullying. In fact, his mother (Wilcox) gave him a Bloody Man action figure the very day she died in a car accident.

He also has to deal with Kim (Knight), his new stepmother, who he believes is slowly becoming possessed by his comic book antihero, an event that brings together his fractured family.

Between lengthy comic book animatics and plotting that keeps reminding us that Sam is being bullied at home and in school more than several times, the film drags at times. The closing — where the Bloody Man begins to imitate others — has some good tension, but it takes around two hours (!) to get there. That said, it’s fun seeing all the 80s toys and AEW/ROH wrestler Brian Cage as a copyright skirting He-Man character in a brief cameo (probably pulled from the aforementioned Fall of Grayskull short).

The Hold Steady may have sung, “I’ve survived the 80’s one time already and I don’t recall it all that fondly,” but it seems that so many films want to live in the past — trust me, I get it, slashers after 1983 are really hard for me to hold in any regard — versus moving toward the future. And the more you make a teen horror film with synth and blue/red gel lighting — well, at least on the poster — the more you’re going to get compared to Stranger Things than The Monster Squad.

That said — I did like The Lost Boys reference by calling the brothers Sam and Michael. With some pruning toward how much is in here, this would be a fine feature. As it is now, it’s not bad, but it does drag a bit before redeeming itself with a fun conclusion.

The Bloody Man is available on digital and VOD platforms as well as on DVD and blu ray — which comes with director’s commentary, bloopers, behind the scenes, trailers and promo videos and collector’s edition packaging with illustrated slipcover and a folded poster. You can get those from MVD.

Thanks to Wild Eye for featuring our review on the back of the box!

THANKSGIVING TERROR: The Last Thanksgiving (2020)

My brother and I used to have a ritual where we’d go to K-Mart, the only place open around our small town, and buy a game on Thanksgiving day. But now, so much is open on the holiday, it’s not fun. It’s kind of rough on the people who miss out on their family. I think a lot about restaurants that stay open over the big turkey day and well, this movie has a diner that remains open only to be attacked by cannibals.

Directed and written by Erick Lorinc, this is a movie that revels in blood and gore, as the cannibals punish those that don’t celebrate that first Thanksgiving in the proper way, showing up like The Strangers and killing everyone in their way.

Much like how cranberries add to the seasonal meal, this film delivers that most perfect of slasher desserts: Linnea Quigley.

This holiday, don’t go shopping until at least the next morning. Stay out of bistros. And just hide out with your family. Maybe show them this.

You can watch this on Tubi.

MVD BLU RAY RELEASE: Cinematographer (2020)

A fascinating look at the art of filmmaking, including stories and clips from the making of some of the greatest films of the 70’s and 80’s, Cinematographer focuses on Donald M. Morgan (Se7enStarman), who has worked with Robert Zemeckis, John Carpenter and Joseph Sargent. It also has an appearance by Owen Roizman, the man who helped shoot The French ConnectionThe Exorcist and Tootsie.

For a film geek, this is a near-perfect movie to just sit back and savor. Directed by Dan Asma, I came out of this really interested in the life of Morgan, a man who overcame addiction to become someone so important to the way that we see movies. His personal stories are so great as well, including a brutal tale about Carpenter. It was really emotional to hear the way that he spoke of working with some of the greats of Hollywood, as well as others explaining how they felt about him.

You can get this movie from MVD.

SLASHER MONTH: Blade the Iron Cross (2020)

We’re back to the Axis universe of these movies and psychic war journalist Elisa (Tania Fox) builds a telepathic link to Blade and together, they fight to stop the Germans from developing a Nazi death ray.

Directed by John Lechago and written by Brockton McKinney and Neal Marshall Stevens, this continues the ESP angle of the last three films while also getting in some walking dead Nazis. It was filmed live on the web so you could watch it as it was created.

I liked this, but at this point I’ve seen every single film in the series, so I’m going to keep watching them. The Axis universe has led to some halfway decent stories and I may have said several times already that I prefer the puppets to be on the right side of the war.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Kratt (2020)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally was on the site on October 23, 2021. It’s on the site again because now you can find it on your choice of digital and cable platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, iNDemand and DISH, beginning October 11 from Red Water Entertainment.

Mia (Nora Merivoo) and Kevin (Harri Merivoo) — yes, the children of the director Rasmus Merivoo, but they do quite well — are staying with Grandma (Mari Lili) at her home in the country as their parents attend a retreat. Stuck without access to the web, the kids are entertained by their grandmother’s story of the kratt, a demonic creature that will do anything asked. And hey, if they find the instructions and decide to make their own, nothing will go wrong, right?

Rasmus Merivoo, the director and writer, said that “Kratt is a bloody story with no bad characters. A comedy that encourages you to worry less. A lesson on fear and what happens if you listen to it. A film for grownups and kids. A film not for the
faint-hearted, but part of a full-fledged life for the brave.”

Yep, pretty much.

I haven’t seen many — if any — films from Estonia, but hey this is pretty wild.

So what is a kratt? A part of Estonian folklore, the kratt is a creature made from hay or old household implements and then given life by giving three drops of blood to the devil. The flying demon must constantly be kept working, stealing and doing or it will turn on its master. The only way to stop a kratt is to give it an impossible task which will frustrate it to the point that it will burn itself up.

There are moments of sheer whimsy and fun here, as well as some moments that may not translate to American audiences all that well, but who cares? Don’t we watch foreign films to delight in the alien, the different and the strange?