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Strange Things Happen At Sundown (DVD)



Time hasn’t been particularly kind to the vampire subgenre. From their auspicious beginnings as Nosferatu and Dracula, vampires in film nowadays have two choices: Go the Goth route ala Interview with the Vampire and its bastardized sister Queen of the Dammed, or become an action figure and forego biting for fighting as seen in the Blade series and most recently in Underworld. I’d just about given up hope of my beloved vamps returning to their nasty, bloodsucking ways in film – save for a few choice shorts that have crossed my path like Blood Shot and An Evening with Ivan Gorsky – until I watched Strange Things Happen at Sundown, an Insane-O-Rama production directed by Marc Fratto in his feature film debut.

Fratto co-wrote Strange Things with Steve Gonzalez, and the two of them served as co-producers along with Frank Garfi and Brandi Metaxas. I can’t remember when I’ve been more entertained by a low-budget indie film, and I give a lot of credit to this quartet of filmmakers for assembling such an impressive team of crew members and actors, most of whom are making their first onscreen appearances. The most obvious description of Strange Things is that it’s a bit like The Sopranos meets From Dusk Till Dawn, but that would be selling it short. Sure, there are mob guys aplenty with names like Jimmy Fangs, Joey the Butcher, and Nicky the Tooth; but the story is much more complex than that. Although I have to admit that the discussion between Joey and Nicky about Nicky’s “disability” (he’s only able to lower one of his fangs) is one of the funniest things I’ve seen. That’s only one example of the world Fratto and Gonzalez have created for their vamps: Not only do they have to learn how to use their fangs, but they are also able to walk in daylight and are just about the sloppiest eaters I’ve ever seen. No exciting, sexual swoon awaits their victims either; they writhe in pain and agony for days before turning into vampires themselves unless their maker takes pity on them and kills them before the transformation. And I won’t even get into some of the fun things you can do with Holy Water. Even though we are presented with a lot of ideas and characters in a short time frame, they are all developed extremely well and are easily distinguishable.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. What exactly is Strange Things Happen at Sundown about? Well, a lot of things. It opens by introducing us to the aforementioned mobsters, who are pissed off because the band Jimmy (Joseph DeVito) Fangs manages has just fired him. But that’s quickly forgotten when Micky Balls’ crew comes by for a meeting, and Jimmy informs them that he’s taking over Micky’s drug business. Of course, Micky’s none too happy about that, so Jimmy and his crew begin chowing down on him and his boys, and we’re off to the races with plenty of red stuff flowing. Shortly thereafter, Jimmy begins to suspect that Marcel, one for his errand boys, has stolen about $100,000 from him. Not only is Jimmy worried about finding Marcel, but it’s starting to look like someone has it in for him as one by one his crew members are getting whacked. The first victim is Paulie Hands, whose nickname is quite appropriate considering masturbation appears to be his favorite activity. Paulie is killed by a mysterious female vampire (Masha Sapron, who also narrates the film) after she shows him a picture of someone and he refuses to tell her where that person is.

Just as we’re getting acquainted with Jimmy’s milieu, Fratto switches gears and shows us what’s up with Marcel (J. Scott Green). As an aside, if anyone decides to make another Crow film, they should definitely give Green a call; no one since Brandon Lee himself has been so well suited for the part. Anyway, Marcel and his girl friend Amy (Jocasta Bryan) are on the run and in need of a new getaway car. They come upon an ordinary couple, quickly kill and eat the husband, and keep the wife, Annabelle (Shannon Moore), as a hostage to snack on later. They all hit the road, and then it’s back to Jimmy Fangs for an update.

Jimmy’s getting worried. He decides to call in outside help to track down Marcel. Enter the Reaper, one of the oldest vamps in existence. He supplements his income by doing odd jobs for the mob – the kind of jobs that are too unpleasant for your typical vampire, so you can imagine how unpleasant they must be! As it turns out, The Reaper (Gonzalez himself in a black hooded robe) is one of the most henpecked husbands in cinematic history. Livia Llewellyn, as his controlling, neat-freak wife June, gives an over-the-top, ridiculously shrill performance; but in a movie like this, anything goes. The Reaper sets out after Marcel and Amy while our Narrator next goes after Nicky the Tooth to find out where her intended prey might be. Meanwhile, Annabelle, a born-again Christian, is trying to “save” poor Amy. Amy is another vamp who hasn’t yet learned how to use her fangs, and her efforts provide a running gag throughout the film. As you have probably surmised, there is a lot going on in Strange Things Happen at Sundown.

These interlocking plots might seem a bit cumbersome, but to their credit Fratto and Gonzalez have crafted a totally believable story with some unforgettable dialogue. When I first put in the DVD and realized Strange Things was over two hours long, I was a little worried; but after the first hour flew by, I knew I was watching something quite special. Don’t get me wrong; the film does have its flaws – there are way too many scenes of bloody half-naked women (and a few men) screaming and writhing on the floor – but for a first-time effort and considering their obvious budgetary constraints, it doesn’t get much better than this. It’s quite an accomplishment when, well after the mid-point of a film, the filmmakers are able to introduce two completely new yet integral characters. In this case, they are Cynthia and Christopher, whom Jimmy hires to protect himself from whoever is going around killing his men. Although their onscreen time is brief, these two characters are indeed memorable. There’s also a subplot involving Jimmy lacing marijuana with his blood in order to create an army of zombie-like slaves that could possibly have been eliminated in order to reduce the running time, but it fits so well with the overall theme of the film that I’m glad it was left in.

No review of Strange Things would be complete without a nod to the editor and cinematographer, both of whom just happen to be Marc Fratto. He also co-wrote the original music used in the film. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb when I say this guy has a bright future ahead. There is one scene in particular at the end of the film when the Narrator finally corners her quarry that is nothing short of spectacular. The atmosphere and lighting are far superior to many big budget Hollywood type movies that I’ve seen. In a lot of ways, this scene – and the film as a whole – has no business being as good as it is.

The DVD is loaded with extras including some amusing outtakes and four deleted scenes. I especially enjoyed the “Babysitter and Friends” deleted scene with Ethan and am glad it was included on the DVD so he can show off his performance to his friends. I listened to some of the commentary and can’t wait to revisit it when I have a bit more time. Fratto and his cohorts seem to have personalities that match their talents, so I’m sure I’m in for a treat.

If I’ve given the impression that Strange Things Happen at Sundown is in any way a comedy, let me correct that right now. Yes, it has some funny characters and moments, but it is as grim and gory as a film about vampires should be. The characters are brutal and uncaring. Marcel’s visit to his friend Smooth’s house contains scenes of depravity as crazed as anything found in House of 1000 Corpses, if not more so. Some of the acting, especially by the females for some reason, isn’t as sharp as it could be, but it’s so obvious that the filmmakers’ hearts are in the right place that it’s easily forgiven. My only real beef with the film is that the “ending after the ending” kills the mood of the true ending. I would have placed it after the credits in order to give the audience some time to digest and reflect on what has gone before. But that’s hardly enough to negate the impact of Strange Things Happen at Sundown. I recommend it wholeheartedly – not just to vampire lovers like myself but to lovers of film as a whole. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen the ambitions of a filmmaker surpassed by his end result. Hat’s off to Mr. Fratto!

Strange Things Happen at Sundown (2003)
(Brain Damage Films)
Directed by Marc Fratto
Starring J. Scott Green, Masha Sapron, Jocasta Bryan, Joseph DeVito, Joshua Nelson

Special Features
Director’s Commentary
Deleted Scenes
Music Video
Trailers for all Brain Damage films

4 out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review



Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith

I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5


Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

User Rating 3.5 (14 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters



Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)


The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

User Rating 4.1 (21 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror




Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods

The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.


  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom


In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

User Rating 3.95 (20 votes)
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