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Night Claws (2012)



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Night Claws (2012)Starring Reb Brown, Leilani Sarelle, Ted Prior, Sherrie Rose, Frank Stallone

Directed by David A. Prior

Remember A.I.P.?

Not the A.I.P. that first springs to mind. Not American International Pictures. Long after that legendary production company went away, another A.I.P. was born in the form of Action International Pictures. Think of them as the poor man’s Cannon Films. From 1987-1994 they produced and distributed a slew of low rent action and genre flicks, a few of which got tiny theatrical runs, but for the most part were designed to occupy space on the shelf of your local video store. Movies with titles such as Hell on the Battleground, In Gold We Trust, Sudden Thunder, Maximum Breakout, Future Zone (starring David Carradine), the notorious Christmas monster mash Elves, and one of the all-time great bad action flicks, Deadly Prey.

Action International’s output generally consisted of DIY cheapies with a certain degree of hokey charm to them shot somewhere in Alabama – you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the woods in the Mobile, Alabama, area double for Vietnam and South American jungles, but for all their shortcomings (of which there were many), you usually got a sense that the people making them were at least trying. It’s almost like there was sincerity to their badness missing from so many b-movies today, as strange as that statement may sound.

One of my personal favorite Action International releases was The Final Sanction, a film that could be best described as Robot Jox without the robots. No joke; the premise was almost identical to Robot Jox except it was just Ted Prior (star of most A.I.P. movies) as a dickish Rambo-type running around the woods in a one-on-one, winner-take-all duel to the death with an evil Commie played by Robert Z’Dar, whose weapon of choice appeared to be spring-loaded garden trowels that he hurled with deadly accuracy.

You probably won’t be surprised to know I have a special place on my shelf where sits a myriad of A.I.P. titles – all VHS since so few of their films have ever and probably will ever get released on DVD, let alone Blu-ray.

That stroll down memory lane brings us to Night Claws, the newest movie directed by David Prior and co-starring his brother, Ted, the multi-tasking brothers who pretty much spearheaded A.I.P. back in the day. Had Night Claws come out during the heyday of Action International, I can guarantee you a copy would occupy a slot alongside all the other A.I.P. movies I’ve collected over the years. I can also guarantee you it would probably stay on that shelf unwatched as a film I’d be happy to add to my collection for posterity’s sake but never revisit. It’s pretty lousy, I’m afraid.

Aside from being shot on digital, Night Claws looks, feels, and plays out almost exactly like an A.I.P. movie would released in, let’s say, 1991. Shot in Southern Alabama, practical effects and gore, and starring the likes of Reb Brown AKA Yor, the Hunter from the Future, Frank Stallone, and, of course, Ted Prior. Hell, the only thing missing that truly differentiates it from classic A.I.P. is the lack of an appearance by Joe Estevez or the late Cameron Mitchell. The entire production is so retro it feels more like an homage to those old A.I.P. films rather than a modern movie. Because of that there is some of that hokey charm, just not enough to salvage what is primarily a too often tedious mess.

This movie, whose plot boils down to people hunting after a savage Bigfoot that is on a murderous rampage for absolutely no particular reason in the woods outside of a small Southern town, culminates with a baffling third act plot twist built around the backstory of a character who up until the moment another character appears for the first time to reveal that backstory had almost no inkling of a backstory of any kind. And none of it has anything at all to do with Bigfoot.

Let me put it this way: Imagine if you were watching Predator 2 and the entire third act with Danny Glover and government agents hunting the Predator was jettisoned in favor of a non-Predator-related plot twist that introduces a brand new character seeking revenge against Gary Busey’s character for a past war crime never before even hinted at.

I was left wondering if this was intentionally scripted from the get-go or if they went this route because the production ran out of money and couldn’t afford to film a climactic battle with Sasquatch. I can’t imagine they wrapped things up this way merely as an excuse to shoehorn in a cameo appearance by Frank Stallone. Night Claws was barely getting by on Brownie Points up until that point; this just ends the movie in a most unsatisfactory manner.

I found it kind of hard to not get the sense that a good deal of Night Claws was being made up on the spot, which is kind of surprising for me to write given the amount of exposition piled on, particularly in the first forty-some-odd minutes.

Bigfoot makes very few appearances for a good chunk of the film after a pre-title attack sequence. Bigfoot’s kills continue to be fairly random and often consist of people getting blindsided by the charging Sasquatch. A lot of people disappear off the screen to the left or right depending on in which direction Bigfoot chose to bum rush them.

Now there are some impressively goofy kills, such as when Bigfoot gets a grip on a guy’s head with both claws and squeezes so tight the dude’s head literally flips its lid. Or the opening kill that sees Squatch dragging a young man out of a car window by the torso while his girlfriend desperately clings to his ankles to try and save him. She must have possessed an even stronger grip than Bigfoot because his feet suddenly rip off in her hands.

The Bigfoot costume is the kind that far too many movie-watchers today are quick to snicker at. Yeah, it’s obviously a guy in a Sasquatch suit. The face has personality and is cheesy in the best way possible as far as I’m concerned. I have no problems with the Squatch suit aside from wishing it had more to do and was being employed in a better slice of Sasquatchploitation.

On the human side of things, well, strong thespian performances have never been a hallmark of A.I.P., and this is no exception. Heck, Leilani Sarelle may as well be Meryl Streep compared to the rest of the cast. You may remember Miss Sarelle as Sharon Stone’s lesbian lover in Basic Instinct. Here she plays an anthropologist with some amazing connections. She actually claims at one point that with one phone call she could have the military combing the woods looking for Bigfoot. Bet that would have been a hell of a phone call to eavesdrop on.

She partners up with Reb Brown, the sheriff contending with Bigfoot’s body count. Brown’s never been that great of an actor, but he does have a likability that helps him get by and perfectly suits the “golly”, “shucks” small town persona his character exhibits. Sadly, we are denied the opportunity to hear any of those Space Mutiny girlie screams.

Sherrie Rose has a long list of credits to her name. I suppose she can add her insignificant role here as the sheriff’s deputy/sheriff’s girlfriend to that resume. It almost felt like they were setting up a potential love triangle between her and Sarelle over Sheriff Brown only for it to go nowhere when Rose’s deputy is all but written out of the movie mid-way.

And then there’s Ted Prior, the film’s only real saving grace, who absolutely steals the show as the world’s angriest camper. I quickly reached the point where any time the film shifted away from his camping trip, I wished it would hurry up and get back to him so I could witness how big of a prick he would be in his next scene. Prior’s character should have been named “Dick Bastard” because the guy he is playing is both a dick and a bastard – to his wife, to fellow campers, to the people organizing the camping trip, to homicidal Sasquatch hunters willing to kill every single human they happen upon in the woods, even to ol’ Bigfoot himself. He doesn’t want to go on this camping trip with his wife. He doesn’t want the lady coordinating the nature hike to tell him what to do. He doesn’t want to be around the other idiots on the trip. He doesn’t really want to be married anymore, but he also doesn’t want to even get the hint that his wife may potentially enjoy the company of another man. Pull a gun on him and he’ll call you a pussy. Engage him in fisticuffs and he won’t hesitate to fatally punch you in the throat. Why is this man such a hateful asshole? Who knows? Who cares? At least his scenes are fun.

Fun is something Night Claws just doesn’t deliver enough of to overcome all of its other shortcomings.

1 1/2 out of 5

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor



Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

  • Alive in New Light


IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell



Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law

Directed by John Law

I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.

The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.

The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.

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The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.

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Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions



Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

  • Before We Vanish


Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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