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Backwoods Bloodbath (UK DVD)

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Backwoods BloodbathReviewed by Gareth Jones

Starring Scott Ash, Ryan Buth, Seth Chilsen, Jesse L. Cyr

Directed by Donn Kennedy

Distributed by MVM Entertainment


Some movies really ought to come with a bespoke display cabinet in retail stores, surrounded in yellow tape with an official looking gentleman standing next to them repeatedly stating, “Move along, folks – nothing to see here” and exercising lightning-fast restraining moves on anyone that attempts to breach the fluorescent perimeter. It’s for their own good.

Backwoods Bloodbath is one of those movies.

I’m going to keep all of this extremely brief; not only because if you’re reading this site, you’ll be more than accustomed to this kind of fare, but also because I don’t wish to allow this movie to steal more of my precious lifespan than is absolutely necessary.

Now, you’ve seen it all before. A group of Annoying City Teenagers(tm) head out to a cabin in the woods in memory of their recently deceased chum. While there, they obnoxiously piss off some locals and eventually find themselves right in the middle of the local legend’s hunting season. Said legend is the “Black Hodag”, a creature that hunts and kills people and can apparently run on all fours, although we never see it do so.

The Hodag itself is essentially a bloke with long hair in a trenchcoat, wearing spiky gloves and what looks like a tribal African mask with some horns glued on it. He goes hell for leather running after people while wielding home-made machetes, axes, etc. As a villain it’s not completely terrible, being reminiscent of Derek Mears’ turn as Jason Voorhees, but the visual design is pretty shitty for what is really supposed to be a monster, not just some wacko.

In fact, everything about the production design is just…shitty. We have poor lighting (both too little and too much), horrendous audio (including that low-budget favourite of background noise suddenly varying in volume and type in-between shots), bottom of the barrel “acting” (one character’s reaction to seeing the Hodag is just so amazingly laughable I had to rewind and watch it again), editing that occasionally makes you say “what?” out loud (imagine a fade-out for an upcoming sex scene…then WHAM, the screen is FILLED with a head-on shot of a SINGLE BREAST), and…I could go on and on.

In what appears to be an attempt to make the film seem ultra gory, most of the guts look like someone having an entire vat of raspberry jelly dumped on them. That and some red-coloured ultra slime. There are a few moments of impressive low budget gore, but most of the time it falls over due to a silly amount of excess.

“>

So, what’s good about it? Anything? Well, the script is actually pretty decent. It skirts the boundaries of horror and comedy quite often with a few decent lines and the inclusion of one character who simply wants to listen to the football game while his friends disappear around him. There are also a couple of twists and turns along the way, but the delivery of the material on screen pretty much destroys any hope that Backwoods Bloodbath has on paper. Director Donn Kennedy seems to want the film to remain a serious horror flick while letting the humour run steadily throughout, but it simply isn’t scary whatsoever. Perhaps if it had been treated as a self-assured send up of the genre, it may have been slightly more successful.

Special features on this DVD release come in the form of a selection of trailers for other low-budget offerings. Most look pretty terrible, too.

There it is in a nutshell. Backwoods Bloodbath offers nothing new nor relatively entertaining. (I wouldn’t even recommend picking it up to laugh at how bad it is…it doesn’t even work on that level either.) Imagine that gentleman standing at the display. Imagine how much it’ll hurt when he breaks your wrist without even flinching as you reach to inspect the DVD case.

Just don’t do it.

Special Features

  • Trailers
  • Film

    1 out of 5

    Special Features

    1/2 out of 5

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    Basket Case Blu-ray Review – Find Out What’s In Arrow’s Basket On This Definitive Release

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    Starring Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Lloyd Pace

    Directed by Frank Henenlotter

    Distributed by Arrow Video


    Director Frank Henenlotter doesn’t boast a lengthy filmography but he is the rare director whose work is instantly recognizable and nearly every one of his pictures is a veritable cult classic. His decision to reject the studio system in favor of remaining in the dingy alleyways of independent cinema may have something to do with that limited output, but the films he has delivered are wildly original and patently weird – and it all began with a freak in a basket. Even Henenlotter must be astounded that he went from maximizing a $35,000 budget to film his debut, Basket Case (1982), to thirty-something years later seeing it lovingly restored in 4K by the Museum of Modern Art (and, boy, what a job they have done). Henenlotter’s films are pitch black comedic Cronenberg, taking body horror into the gutter and always ensuring his audience festers down there with it.

    Duane Bradley (Kevin VanHentenryck) is an affable guy with boyish charm who has just arrived on the seedy streets of New York City with a wad of cash and a large wicker basket. His friendly nature and apparent naiveté belie the fact he has come to the city with a singular purpose – one with deadly intentions. Duane checks into a shitty room at Hotel Broslin and gets to work on his first task: tracking down a Dr. Needleman (Lloyd Pace). He succeeds and quickly heads downtown to meet the doctor, at first offering up his real name before deciding to use a pseudonym (Duane isn’t terribly bright). After blowing the doc’s mind with his body-length scar, Duane returns later that night, basket in tow, to pay the old “family friend” a visit and to answer the question on everyone’s lips: “What’s in the basket?”

    The answer is Belial, Duane’s detached and deformed Siamese twin. Belial may be no larger than a basketball with T-Rex arms but what he lacks in stature he makes up for with brute physical strength and a savage bloodlust. Dr. Needleman is quickly torn to pieces and the duo begins to hunt down their next target. You see, Duane and Belial had a strong connection when they were younger and attached, one that included a psychic link that only Belial is now able to control, but after their father demanded an ad hoc team of doctors forcibly separate the two they’ve made it their mission to kill everyone involved in the surgery. Duane is committed to helping his brother complete their task, but he’s also trying to live a normal life – something Belial doesn’t understand. When Duane meets Sharon (Terri Susan Smith), suddenly his dynamic with Belial begins to shift, and when Belial gets angry it usually means one thing: someone is going to die.

    Rex Reed famously called Basket Case “the sickest movie ever made!” and although sicker pictures had been produced before this (clearly Rex never ventured into Italian cannibal territory) he isn’t too far off the mark. It isn’t just about the buckets of blood Henenlotter spills here but the locations, too. Viewers will feel like a freshly steamed street vendor hot dog that’s been dropped into the gutter and kicked around for 90 minutes by the time the credits begin rolling. The squalor of early ‘80s NYC permeates the screen and forces audiences into a sticky, unsavory world. Henenlotter brings viewers to the underside of his “backyard” in a cinéma vérité style reminiscent of Abel Ferrara.

    But also, there is a lot of gore. And grue. The bloodletting seen here reminded me of low-budget schlock like Blood Feast, where the filmmakers try to cover up cheaply done effects using lots of little bits – intended to be flesh, bone, skin, etc. – and the result is like chunky blood red mashed potatoes. It just looks sick. Belial kills with impunity and a complete disregard for suffering, often leaving his victims mutilated beyond recognition.

    Henenlotter brings Belial to life via a handful of mediums. There is a puppet, a head appliance that is able to have a physical person bring facial life to Belial, and then there is the stop-motion animation, which is always a joy to see on screen no matter how crudely it may be rendered. The craftsmanship just oozes off the screen; you can’t not love it. Nearly every scene with Belial in attack mode strains belief that this thing could do much more than gnaw at some ankles but, hey, that’s the magic of movies.

    One thing that is surprising: pathos. Duane and Belial have the closest bond siblings ever could, literally attached at the hip, and the flashback sequence treats their relationship and eventual removal with a degree of respect and heartbreak that, frankly, made the film feel much more tragic. I’m not saying viewers will be moved to tears but it’s a testament to Henenlotter that in the middle of all this death and dismemberment is a touching reminder of how these two came to be killers. Basket Case doesn’t hit the insane heights of my favorite Henenlotter picture, Brain Damage, but it does offer up a bit more heart alongside so much head-ripping.

    Although Basket Case has been issued on Blu-ray a couple of times, this is the debut of MoMA’s 4K restoration and, just as you might suspect, it smokes every previous release. It would be easy to forget this no-budget feature was shot on 16mm because the clean-up of dirt and debris, as well as the finessing of film grain, has left the 1.33:1 1080p picture looking immaculate. Colors appear lifelike and rich, striking new life into the glitz of Times Square and the ever-present flow of blood. Black levels are excellent; deeply dark and never hazy. Soft shots abound, inherent to the source, but many close-ups and the handful of 35mm blow-up shows included in this transfer offer up strong definition and minute details. I can’t imagine the film could or will look any better, ever – and really, it shouldn’t. Clean as this picture is, it still retains enough grit and roughness to maintain its grindhouse aesthetic.

    An English LPCM 1.0 mono track delivers the audio, which is free from hissing and other deficiencies, offering a finessed and simple delivery of the lo-fi soundfield. Gus Russo’s score bounces between moody keyboard synth cues and upbeat jazzy tunes that come into play when Duane has his big date. Scoring is minimal but effective when present. Also, expect to hear lots and lots and lots of screaming. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

    Two audio commentary tracks have been included; the first, an all-new track featuring Fran Henenlotter and Kevin Van Hentenryck; the second, a legacy track with Henenlotter, producer Edgar Ievins, actress Beverly Bonner, and filmmaker Scooter McRae.

    “Basket Case 3 ½: An Interview with Duane Bradley” is a fun short by Henenlotter in which he and a film crew head out to meet Bradley (Van Hentenryck) and interview him about life with Belial in present day, with an appearance by his diminutive double (naturally).

    “Me & the Bradley Boys” is a new interview with Kevin Van Hentenryck, reflecting back on working with Henenlotter and making a cult classic.

    “A Brief Interview with director Frank Henenlotter” is a weird, goofy thing that captures the director’s sense of humor, whether he’s in it or not.

    “Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins” is a sit-down with twin actresses Florence and Maryellen Shultz, who play the nurses in the film.

    “Blood, Basket and Beyond” is a new interview with co-star Beverly Bonner, who has apparently taken her character outside the film world and into theater.

    “The Latvian Connection” features interviews with a few of the film’s key personnel who share a heritage.

    “Belial Goes to the Drive-In” is a great new interview with legendary film critic Joe Bob Briggs, who was a key figure in helping the film gain traction upon release.

    “Basket Case at MoMA” is a lengthy Q&A from the film’s 2017 premiere.

    “What’s in the Basket?” is a feature-length documentary that covers all three films in the series. This was previously seen on the Second Sight U.K. trilogy set, which is still available.

    “In Search of the Hotel Broslin” has Henenlotter and his guest, R.A. “The Rugged Man”, searching out the remaining locations from the film, occasionally getting shut down along the way.

    “Basket Case Outtakes” is a reel of quick, cut clips along with brief text descriptions.

    “The Frission of Fission” is a video essay by Travis Crawford on freaks and twins in cinema, with emphasis placed on Basket Case.

    Image galleries are included for Promotional Stills, Behind the Scenes, Ephemera, Advertisements, and Home Video Releases.

    A promo gallery contains trailers, a TV spot, and radio spots.

    The Slash of the Knife (1972) is a mock PSA short film made by Henenlotter and starring many familiar faces from Basket Case, about the dangers of the uncircumcised in America. It is available with optional commentary by Henenlotter and Mike Bencivenga. Outtakes and an image gallery for the short are also included.

    Belial’s Dream is an animated short inspired by Basket Case. A featurette, “Making Belial’s Dream” is also included.

    The package also includes a booklet with writings on the film, as well as reversible cover art and a basket-themed slipcover. All in all, a stellar release from Arrow Video.

    Special Features:

    • Brand new 4K restoration from the original 16mm negative by MoMA
    • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
    • Original Uncompressed Mono Audio
    • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
    • Brand new audio commentary with writer/director Frank Henenlotter and star Kevin Van Hentenryck
    • Basket Case 3-1/2: An Interview with Duane Bradley – Frank Henenlotter revisits Duane Bradley decades after the events of the original Basket Case
    • Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins – a brand new interview with Florence and Maryellen Schultz, the twin nurses from Basket Case
    • Brand new making-of featurette containing new interviews with producer Edgar Ievins, casting person/actress Ilze Balodis, associate producer/effects artist Ugis Nigals and Belial performer Kika Nigals
    • Blood, BASKET and Beyond – a brand new interview with actress Beverly Bonner
    • Belial Goes to the Drive-In – a brand new interview with film critic Joe Bob Briggs
    • Outtakes Featurette
    • In Search of the Hotel Broslin – archive location featurette
    • Slash of the Knife (1972) – short film by Frank Henenlotter
    • Belial’s Dream (2017, 5 mins) – brand new Basket Case-inspired animated short by filmmaker Robert Morgan
    • Behind-the-scenes of Belial’s Dream
    • Trailers, TV Spots and Radio Spots
    • Extensive Still Galleries
    • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck
    • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Michael Gingold
    • Basket Case
    • Special Features
    4.3

    Summary

    Basket Case might be a dingy and gruesome slice of subterranean cinema but this excellent release from Arrow, touting the stunning 4K restoration by MoMA and packed with hours of awesome bonus features, is the kind of treatment Criterion usually provides. Highly recommended.

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    Us and Them Review – Fantastic Acting Bolsters a Tense Standoff

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    Starring Jack Roth, Andrew Tiernan, Tim Bentinck, Sophie Colquhoun

    Written by Joe Martin

    Directed by Joe Martin


    The age old debate of “Is this movie actually horror?” has been around for decades and will probably carry on for the rest of eternity. As Kristy Puchko recently tweeted, “Just because you think it’s also art doesn’t mean it’s not horror. It just means your definition of “horror” is too damn narrow.” Horror should be able to cast a wide net, just as films in the comedy and drama genres are able to. Where that goes awry is when a film simply doesn’t know its own identity, as is the case with Joe Martin’s feature-length directorial debut Us and Them.

    The film follows Danny (Roth), a young man struggling in his lower class status and bristling with untapped rage at the 1% who use the downtrodden as footstools for their enterprises. Hatching a plan with his pals Tommy and Sean to break into the home of a wealthy banker, that scheme quickly becomes unraveled as thread after thread beings unraveling from the original tapestry. Determined but without a Plan B, Danny attempts to use the opportunity to drive home a message to the masses via social media to show that the 99% need to rise up against the 1% and create, as he says, some consistency. But as tensions arise within Danny, Tommy, and Sean, it’s questionable whether or not the night will end in triumphant rebellion or sadistic revenge.

    Clocking in at a lean 83 minutes, Us and Them doesn’t waste any time getting straight to the point. Within the first few minutes, we’re already deep mix and ready to watch Danny take on the “man”, to see him wage war against the establishment. But as the film goes on, his mission begins to feel empty as his lack of a plan is mirrored by the misdirection of his anger towards a family that, for all intents and purposes, might be snobbish but haven’t been shown to hurt anyone personally.

    This resulting conflict then raises questions about the greater fight that Danny has decided to undertake and champion. Who is the real villain of this story? Who is the hero? Who are we even supposed to care one bit about? While Danny spouts on and on about the injustices of the world, his tortuous methods are cruel and manipulative, undermining his own self-righteousness.

    Us and Them practically screams its Ritchie, Tarantino, and de Palma influences. From split screen scenes to “hip” and “cool” licensed background music, Martin clearly wants to be seen in the same realm. The problem is that his script leaps around with reckless abandon in an attempt to overly explain the simple story instead of finding ways to break it into new and exciting territory.

    Despite these issues, it must be said that the performances are fantastic across the board. Roth shines as Danny, torn by his own personal griefs that can easily draw sympathy, while Bentinck’s almost frothing, slobbering disdain splashes across the screen. Even with only a few lines each, both Colquhoun as Phillipa and Carolyn Backhouse, who plays her mother, Margaret, revel in their terror. And while I have my critiques about the violence Danny inflicts, I cannot deny that it is brutal and makes for a squeamish experience. Martin milks every drop of the family’s fear to great effect.

    While Us and Them comes at a time when financial inequality is undeniably an issue, the film loses its purpose just as it fails to cement itself as a heist thriller, a horror home invasion, or even a black comedy. Its unwillingness to embrace any, or even all, of these genres makes it a lacking film experience.

    • Us and Them
    2.5

    Summary

    Us and Them is anchored by stellar performances, Roth especially, but it can’t decide what it wants to be or whom it wants to champion.

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    SockMonster Short Film Review – The Day The Laundry Fought Back

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    Starring Briana Evigan, Derek Mears, Soso Bianchi

    Directed by Wesley Alley


    While some might detest the prospect of doing laundry, I personally find it quite therapeutic – the act of separating the whites from the colors, the perfect amount of detergent to spruce up that awkwardly funky favorite shirt of yours, and then there’s the dryer…a beast all its own. Too long a cycle will have your garments shrunken down to the point where they could become a fashion accessory for a chihuahua – too short will have them wet, wrinkled and limp to the touch, kind of like grandma tucked away in the basement – okay, forget that last part. But what if one day, your laundry had just enough of your shit and decided to strike back in blinding semblance?

    Enter Wesley Alley’s short film, SockMonster – produced by Darren Lynn Bousman, this 4 minute front-row seat to “laundrycide” if you will stars Briana Evigan as a grieving woman who looks longingly into the tumbling cylinder of her cellar dryer, almost as if something of hers has gone missing. Crouched on a cold-slab cement floor, she awaits for the door to open as soon as the appliance has run its course…and the results are less than spring-fresh. Alley’s direction coupled with the horror know-how of Bousman all add up to a seriously fun few minutes, and toss in the towering, menacing form of one Derek Mears, and you’ve got yourself an insanely concocted quickie that only has one glaring negative – it’s too damn short! Overall, I can’t recommend this one enough to those wanting a little blood with their bleach…just make sure to use the appropriate amount of stain-lifter, or that shit will NEVER come out.

    • Film
    4.0

    Summary

    Hate doing the wash? Well, maybe for one hot minute did you think about how much your wash hates you right back?

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