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Kibakichi (2004)



Starring Ryuji Harada, Shimizu Kentaro, Nozomi Ando

Directed by Tomo Haraguchi

Kibakichi is like a sandwich where the bread tastes better than the stuff in between. By that, I mean Kibakichi opens with a rousing swordfight and concludes with a wildly over-the-top battle sequence but everything in between isn’t nearly as satisfying.

The first thing you have to understand going into a film like Kibakichi is that it’s based around “Yokai,” an element of Japanese folklore that most Western audiences aren’t all that familiar with, if at all. Yokai are monstrous spirits that come in a variety of different guises. Being so fantastical in nature, many Yokai look comical in appearance, while others are just ferociously monstrous. Yokai films have been popular in Japan since the 1960’s and are currently seeing a resurgence. Yokai are so distinctly Japanese in nature and the films tend to be more than a little on the weird side, and that’s probably why they’ve never done well in the West like the giant monster movies have.

Kibakichi leaves out most of the outlandish Yokai stuff, but due to the budgetary restraints, some of the Yokai seen in the film look like the kind of creatures you’d have seen if Sid & Marty Krofft had made The Dark Crystal. Well, maybe not that fake looking, but they’re obviously people in monster costumes. Still, the only monster costume that really matters is the title character’s and it’s a knockout.

Kibakichi is a samurai Yokai werewolf. His human exterior shows no signs of his true werewolf form save for a mouth full of fangs and a wild hair style that looks like a hybrid of Tina Turner and the Feral Kid from The Road Warrior. With his mushroom hat, patchwork poncho, and stone-faced demeanor, Kibakichi himself is like a cross between a traditional samurai and a spaghetti western cowboy. That’s also probably the best way to describe the film too, only you’d also have to add the movie Nightbreed to the formula.

After a dizzying sword fight where he disposes of some bandits that made the grave mistake of trying to rob him, Kibakichi makes his way to a small gambling village that’s secretly a haven for Yokai.

Humans and Yokai once peacefully co-existed with one another, but you know how humans can be. Man declared war on the monsters and nearly succeeded in wiping them all out. The remaining Yokai have now taken on a human disguise and tend to live in close knit communities away from the humans. Despite all that has happened, some Yokai still seek peace and long to one day again live alongside the humans.

The majority of the movie takes place in this gambling village where some Yokai spider women (Easily the worst effects in the movie as they really do look like something Sid & Marty Krofft would have come up with) keeping killing off particular patrons. The motives for why they are doing so are rather interesting; it just takes forever to get around to it.

Most of the time spent in this village involves Kibakichi being introduced to far too many Yokai, most of whom are hard to distinguish between in their human forms. And every conversation usually ends up repeating the same theme of the Yokai either wanting to live in peace with the mortals and believe the town’s leader Onzio will help them achieve this or not trusting the humans and thinking Onzio is a fool. Personally, I found most of this section to be listless, repetitive, and even a bit confusing at times. I didn’t know who most of these Yokai were, didn’t care, and I really don’t understand why so much time went into introducing us to so many minor characters only to seem them quickly killed off during the climax.

My least favorite character of all is the human girl that was found abandoned and raised by a kindly, old Yokai couple. She’s introduced late, her character really warrants more depth and explanation than is given, and she continues my least favorite Japanese cinema tradition of the Japanese female that seems to be in a perpetual state of depression for no particular reason. This character is yet another one of those sad sack girls that does an awful lot of staring with mournful eyes, only occasionally giving us what seems to be a forced smile. I am just so tired of this damn stereotype. If Japanese cinema is to be believed, then all Japanese females fall into one of two categories: excessively giddy and hyper or needlessly downtrodden and sullen.

However, there are some good moments that break the monotony of the middle section. The human villains are introduced as they introduce Western gunfire as a means by which to finally eradicate the Yokai once and for all, and you really have to love the fact that even in a fantasy film set in 17th century Japan they still found a way to have people dressed up in black leather Matrix-wear. While virtually indistinguishable and more a case of style over substance, this leather clad quartet is still suitably slick and villainous for the proceedings.

We also get some insight into Kibakichi himself, something the movie provides very little of, preferring to keep the character as enigmatic as possible. The only other surviving member of his clan inexplicably shows up long enough to blame him for the slaughter of their village, vow vengeance, and then disappear altogether from the film. I understand there’s a sequel already that deals with her character pursuing Kibakichi, but I still have to question the purpose of introducing a character like this without it resulting in anything substantial other than a flashback where we learn how Kibakichi’s own longing for kinship with the humans inadvertently led to his own race nearly being extinguished. This is supposed to explain why he has such a love/hate relationship with the humans but the character is such a lone wolf (No pun intended) as it is that it really doesn’t add much to him. You, me, and everyone else watching this are just waiting impatiently for him to finally turn into his werewolf form and start kicking ass.

Fortunately, we get all that and more when the film finally pays off big time in the rip-roaring finale when the human villains show up guns a blazing to annihilate the Yokai village. And finally, after much delay, Kibakichi puts down his sword and bares his claws, transforming into one of the best looking werewolves I’ve seen in a long time. It’s clearly the actor in a suit under a lot of make-up but, man oh man, does it look outstanding. It puts the CGI lycanthropes we’ve been seeing in so many Hollywood werewolf films of late to shame. The last fifteen minutes of the film sees Kibakichi going from defending the village through swordplay to unleashing his true form and laying waste to the bad guys with plenty of blood-spraying geysers. At times it almost resembles a Rambo movie what with him being shot at and escaping from the explosions caused by the anachronistic hand grenades being thrown at him. He ends up running, tumbling, leaping through the air, charging across rooftops, and laying waste to the bad guys with much gusto. He even finds time for a brief superhuman wrestling match with a traitorous Yokai cyclops.

If the whole movie had the energy and imagination of the finale then Kibakichi would probably get the same kind of recognition that the films of Ryuhei Kitamura have received. As it is, it’s a nifty cross breeding of various genres that opens strong and closes dynamic, but requires some patience in between.

2 ½ 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 3.25 (12 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 4.05 (19 votes)
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