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Hellhole (Blu-ray/DVD)

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Hellhole

HellholeStarring Ray Sharkey, Jusy Landers, Mary Woronov, Marjoe Gortner

Directed by Pierre De Moro

Distributed by Scream Factory


The sleaze factor is off the charts for Scream Factory’s release of Hellhole (1985), a movie that lives beneath whatever scum could be scraped from the bottom of a barrel. This is a gloriously riotous film, stocked with ludicrous moments of depravity and nudity. So much nudity. The women in prison (WIP) subgenre works best when the pictures within its wheelhouse know what they are and fully play up their strengths. Viewers expect brutal wardens, madcap science, frequent catfights, constant torment, and an unyielding torrent of bare breasts. Hellhole delivers in spades while also adding to the mix a trump card in the form of Silk (Ray Sharkey), one of the main antagonists and unquestionably the main provider of split sides. Imagine an extra from William Friedkin’s Cruising (1980) wandered onto this film’s set and stepped into the role of a loudmouth, flamboyant killer. Add in cult icon Mary Woronov, dozens of Playmate of the Month rejects, questionable lobotomy techniques, and a lead actress with the mental capacity of a hamster and, friend, you’ve got yourself one helluva hedonistic good time.

For reasons never made entirely clear (something about money and documents… like it really matters), hitman Silk has been hired by some shady men in suits to kill Susan (Judy Landers) and her mother (Lynn Borden). He succeeds with the latter but the former runs off. When Silk confronts her on the second story of a nearby house under construction, she falls and gets knocked out. Susan later awakens in a mental hospital with amnesia, unsure of how she wound up there or the events that transpired prior to her fall. Silk’s employers want her dead, amnesia or not, and they conscript the killer into joining the hospital’s ranks, posing as an orderly. As if that doesn’t put Susan in a bad enough position, the hospital where she’s staying is notorious for violence, sexual assault, and the “hellhole” – a building on the grounds where Dr. Fletcher (Mary Woronov) and her assistant Dr. Dane (Marjoe Gortner) conduct experiments on unlucky patients. They say those who go in never come out.

The only aid for Susan comes in the form of Ron (Richard Cox), a milquetoast hospital employee who wants to put an end to Fletcher’s shenanigans. His battles are tough to win, though. A call put in to the investigatory board yields a surprise visit, but Fletcher, ever the champion of her own game, manages to obfuscate the truth while also appearing effortlessly charming. Caught between both Fletcher and Silk, Susan is going to have to grow a brain and figure out just how the hell to get out of this place or else she’s going to wind up another lobotomized zombie in Fletcher’s hidden hellhole.

Director Pierre De Moro opens the tap on a keg of crazy and just lets it ooze out all over this film. It can maybe be understandable that Susan looks like she just stepped out of a Whitesnake music video, considering the style of the times and all, but virtually every other patient at the hospital looks like a stripper doing side work as an actress. One of the ladies Fletcher takes back to her private spa has such stark tan lines you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s a tanning bed installed somewhere on the premises. Not only are these women gorgeous but they act like they’re pumped full of testosterone; they are always ready for a fight or a fuck, both of which are done frequently. It’s apparently not uncommon to find a couple women squirreled away in one of the hospital’s hot tubs or mud baths, railing away lines of coke while making out in the buck. This hospital doesn’t accept male patients, does it?

Here to take this grimy grindhouse film up another notch is Silk, the stylin’ and profilin’ hitman with a savvy fashion sense and a thick “New Yawk” accent. Good thing he’s also a terrible hitman – he passes up numerous opportunities to easily kill Susan – because if he were any good at his job we wouldn’t get to spend so much time with him. Watch as Silk casually goes from sexual predator to physical abuser when his mud bath soiree with two patients – one of which is played by Edy Williams, the sex hungry co-star of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) – turns violent. Sex and violence are closely linked in this film, with the appearance of one not far behind the other. Silk is king in a film of caricature characters; it really seems like he showed up for the wrong movie and the producers decided to just use him anyway. In a perfect world he’d have gotten a spinoff feature.

Hellhole is filthy fun; a trashy slice of exploitation that knows exactly what it is – and what you, the viewer, wants – delivering across the board. Scrutinizing any portion of the story will yield plot inconsistencies aplenty, so it’s best to just ignore logic and just roll with the eye candy. I like to think the film is so self-aware of how terrible it is that the filmmakers decided to simply stuff enough T&A and violence into every scene so viewers would forget there should be some semblance of a plot. I mean, what exactly is it Fletcher is trying to do? She’s trying to perfect chemical lobotomies for what purpose, exactly? I could ask a hundred and one questions about illogical decisions, but I would be asking them about a film that doesn’t seem to care either way. You want slimeball entertainment? Here it is. Revel.

A note displayed at the start of the film explains the original negative is thought lost, so the only option left for Scream Factory was to use an interpositive, which was missing scenes, and a release print that contained those missing scenes. As a result, the quality can shift considerably during scenes. Think of it like watching something in HD with SD inserts. Despite this, the 1.85:1 1080p image looks better than the caveat would lead viewers to expect, inserts aside. Detail is evident and occasionally strong, but there are many scenes that have a softer appearance, too. Grain is moderate and filmic. Colors look natural, but don’t expect much of a pop. This is a dark, grimy picture. Cigarette burns and emulsion scratches appear sporadically, though they also add a nice touch of “grindhouse” aesthetic to the film. Black levels are often hazy, never truly pitch black. In my opinion, this isn’t a film that should look too polished. Sleazy movies should look like they’re playing on a screen in some dingy little theater, and for that reason I’m going to say this transfer – deficiencies and all – is perfectly acceptable.

There isn’t much in the way of dynamics for the English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track. Despite the use of multiple prints, the dialogue and effects generally sound consistent and clear. There are no issues to report. Subtitles are available in English.

“Interview with Mary Woronov” – The actress, still hip & eclectic as ever, offers up some very candid recollections of her time making this film. Gotta say, for a lady in her seventies she still looks great.

A theatrical trailer (HD) and a DVD copy of the film are also included.

Special Features:

  • New Interview with Actress Mary Woronov
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

  • Hellhole
  • Special Features
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User Rating 3 (10 votes)
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Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?

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Starring Rachel Nichols Laura Harring

Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas


While the directing duo of the cringe-inducing and original 2007 French grand guignol thriller Inside have gone on to refurbishments of their own—Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo recently helmed a retread of Leatherface’s origin story—their flick now has an American stamp on it with the release of the remake, also titled Inside.

A cheerless Christmas eve sets the stage for heavily-pregnant widow Sarah’s (Rachel Nichols) oncoming ordeal. It’s a frigid and snowy night. She’s got a huge house to herself, following the accidental and violent death of her husband. She wants to sell the home that was meant to hold a family, to forget the nascent memories it once held. But she’s got to ride it out until the baby is born. While Sarah is lonesome, she won’t be alone. She’s got her genial gay neighbor nearby, and her mum is going to come and stay with her for a few days. Oh, and there will be an unexpected visitor too.

When a shadowy, seemingly stranded stranger (Laura Harring) knocks on the door pleading to be let inside, Sarah instinctively balks. She even calls the cops. But the woman leaves and all seems well. Crisis averted. Sarah puts the housekeys in the mailbox outside for Mom, and goes to bed. Big mistake.

Mystery Lady shows up at Sarah’s bedside armed with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case full of sharp-and-pointies (sorry, ’07 fans… those implements do not include a pair of scissors). The horror unfolds and the expected yet lively game of gory cat-and-mouse ensues. Then the tete-a-tete becomes a body-count chiller featuring one shocking moment after another.

Nichols is fantastic in the role, giving it her all. When the original Inside came out eleven years ago, she was starring in another French-helmed horror, P2—also set on Christmas eve—and she stole the show. She does the same here but with a less-intense adversary. Harring’s killer character, unlike her European counterpart, has a lot to say—which takes away from her initially mysterious manner as the minutes tick off. Still, the girl-on-girl action is a welcome change from the usual gender dynamic one sees in these things. Both deserve kudos for their performances.

While Inside isn’t a died-in-the-wool “Hollywood” remake (Miguel Ángel Vivas directs, while [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró wrote it) it feels like one. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end). However, Inside is still a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it.

  • Inside (Remake)
3.0

Summary

Inside is a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end).

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What If Tina Fey Wrote Jennifer’s Body? My Friend’s Exorcism Book Review

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“Rummaging in one of his duffel bags, [the exorcist] pulled out and athletic cup and slid it down the front of his pants. ‘First place they go for,’ he explained. He then adjusted himself and picked up a well-worn Bible. ‘Let’s do the Lord’s work.'”

It was about a year ago now (it seems) that I first saw the cover of “My Best Friend’s Exorcism.” If you haven’t seen it for yourself in all of its glory, make sure to click the image over to the right for a more in-depth look. Awesome, right? Got to love all the VHS details such as the “Horror” and “Be Kind Rewind” stickers. Classic. Utter classic.

Now I’m fully aware that one should not judge a book by its cover. Literally. But still the moment I saw this work of delicious art crop up in the inbox I had to read the book asap. Well, it turns out asap was about a year later, but all the same, I’ve now had a peek at the inside of the book as well as the outside. Does the content inside match the content outside?

Let’s find out…

For those who might not know, “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” (henceforth referred to as MBFE) tells the tale of two best friends named Abby and Grethen. One night the two, and a few of there other friends, drop a bit of acid for the first time. While the drug never kicks in (no worries, there’s no lame twist-ending to be had here) poor Gretchen still wanders off into the woods and gets possessed like a motherf*cker in some creepy abandoned building. From there, things go from bad to worse until an unlikely exorcist is called in and things go off the wicked walls in all the best ways possible.

Now, to review. First of all, let it be know that MBFE is more of a teen romance (between two friends) than a straight tale of terror. Think of it as “What if Tina Fey wrote Jennifer’s Body?” and that will give you a good hint at what the book holds in store for you. Not that that’s a bad thing. Still, you should be aware that the first 2/3 of the book is almost exclusively teenagers not getting along, bitch about losing touch, who is sleeping with who, and yada, yada, yada for pages on end. Dramarama for days. Mostly.

That said, not only is the teen drama bearable (and truthfully quite sweet in spots), Hendrix keeps the horror in the spotlight just enough that I never lost faith the book was heading somewhere truly balls to the wall. And it does. Oh, boy does it. From the time the unholy shite hits the fan in the last third, to the time the last word is read, the book is filled with horror moments that will make even the most jaded fright-fiction fan gag, grimace, or stand up and cheer!

You just have to get through all the angst first…

But speaking of angst, let me get a bit of extremely personal business out of the way real quick. Can I trust you with this info? Sure I can. MBFE made is cry like a baby. Not kidding. There have been very few times in my life that I have literally burst out crying. I’ve had some sad shite happen in my days, and I have seen some sad-ass movies, but nothing has made me cry out of the f*cking blue like MBFE. I’m not going to go into details about the final 10 pages of the book, but it tore my poor horror-heart a new one. It was bad. Like snot and hyperventilating type shite. Again, not kidding. Thank the lord I wasn’t in public is all I can say. I would have arrested and thrown in the booby-hatch.

MBFE goes along like a slightly horror-centric version of Mean Girls and Heathers for most of its page count. If you’re a straight horror fan, you’ll be at odds with whether you should bother finishing it or not. You will. Trust me. But listen to me now and know that once our heroine goes into the dark, dank bedroom of the school’s resident bitch to find out why she hasn’t been in school the past few days/weeks, the horror hits like holy hell. And it only gets worse (RE: better) from there.

In the end, MBFE is a book ever horror fan should own – if only for the cover. I dug the hell out of the book (eventually) and I’m sure the majority of you guys will too. But even for those hard-hearts out there that just can’t stand to read about things like uncompromising love, and hellfire-forged friendship, you still need to own the book. You still owe it to yourself to give it a try. If you don’t care for it, that’s cool, just display in on your bookshelf in all it’s VHS glory. It will make you look cool.

  • My Best Friend's Exorcism - Book Review
3.5

Summary

Grady Hendrix’s “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” is a killer mixture of Mean Girls, Heathers, and The Exorcist. Just think of it as “What if Tina Fey wrote Jennifer’s Body” and you’ll have a good indication of what lies in store for you within the amazing VHS-inspired cover art.

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Knock Knock Review – This Throwback To The VHS Era Packs A Fun Punch

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Starring Kerry Tartack, Sisi Berry, Chuk Hell

Directed by Toby Canto


I remember the glory days of my youth back in the early to mid-80’s, renting every friggin horror flick on VHS and keeping the cassettes well past the return dates, eventually blacklisting my name from damn near all of the movie shops in my hometown. For the sole reason of wanting to hop back in the time-machine, I’ll never turn down the opportunity to check out a film that promises to ship you back to the days of all of that cheesy-neon attire and overblown hairdos.

Director Toby Canto was generous enough to offer his latest film up onto the sacrificial stone, and it’s called Knock Knock – about a WAY past his prime pugilist named Sam (Tartack) who is unwillingly thrust into a throwdown with a bloodsucker who happens to reside in the same apartment – damn noisy neighbors! His only birthday wish is to spend his 60th go-round safely hold up in his domicile, away from pesky residents alike. Well, that plan goes to shit when his kooky neighbor (Berry) comes by and pitches the idea of throwing hands with the newest tenant: a real creature of the night (Lucas Ayoub).

Sam initially nixes the idea wholeheartedly, but when more of his quirky neighbors show up to his place to substantiate the vampiric-claims, Sam finds himself lacing up the leather for one more round…or two, depending on if he can still take a beating. Filled with more than a handful of goofy instances, this near-hour presentation won’t blow the doors off of the horror/com vehicle, but should more than suffice in the short-term until the next spooky-laugher comes slithering out of its hole.

  • Film
3.0

Summary

Historians alike, this movie’s for those who want a reminder of how loopy those VHS days were, and the best part is you don’t have to rewind a freakin’ thing.

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