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Shira the Vampire Samurai (DVD)



Shira the Vampire Samurai reviewReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Chona Jason, Adrian Zmed, James Lew, Laurence Dwonch, Joe Mercado

Directed by Simon & Jeff Centauri

NOTE: This is a review of a PAL DVD. The film has you to be released domestically.

The opening prologue sets the tone for the film to come. Feudal Japan: samurais are battling ninjas in the woods to protect a kimono-clad woman who flees. One of these ninjas finally catches up to the woman, reveals himself to be a vampire, and bites her on the neck. Why are they after this particular woman? Who are these others trying to protect her? We don’t know. Answers will come later. Confusion will remain constant.

Here’s what I do know for certain: That female we saw getting bit by a vampire ninja was Shira. She ends up being only half-vampire for reasons I only half understood. All being a half-vampire really seems to amount to is that she can move around in the sunlight for a limited period of time. Shira is then trained in the ways of the samurai and becomes the film’s title heroine in order to embark on an eternal quest to slash and slay the fanged forces of nocturnal evil.

Such an evil is the villainous Kristof, an all-powerful vampire who lurks in a vampire owned and operated strip club. He has been searching for Shira for centuries. Not her specifically, but one of her kind. There’s an ancient vampire prophecy about a female half-breed vampire who, if impregnated by a full-blooded vamp, will spawn a master race of vampiric daywalkers. The moment he first encounters Shira, who briefly goes undercover as one of his strippers, Kristof realizes that Shira is the half-breed he must knock up in his quest to become the supreme vampire overlord.

I won’t even begin to attempt to decipher the story any more than that. The plot is rendered virtually incomprehensible due to … incomprehensible really isn’t the correct word. I had a general idea what was going on, but the sheer number of characters, many of whom struck me as completely extraneous, and the baffling way in which the tale is constructed… Okay, maybe incomprehensible is the right word after all. At the very least it’s a jumbled plot that’s needlessly confusing at times.

I have to give props to the people behind Shira the Vampire Samurai just for the sheer ambition to make such a fight-a-riffic female Blade knock-off on what is clearly a low budget. The stunt work and fight choreography – often clunky and appearing overtly rehearsed – is still head and shoulders above what I’m used to seeing in such low budget movies of this variety. You certainly cannot complain about the film not having enough action because, aside from one stretch during the midsection, the film can’t seem to go five minutes without erupting into a kung fu battle or a sword fight. And they’re not short fights either. Most last several minutes at time; many involve multiple characters battling one another. Compared to last year’s similar yet infinitely worse Vampire Assassin, Shira the Vampire Samurai is quite inspired. It’s a shame it couldn’t maintain that inspiration throughout.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing behind these fight scenes except pure spectacle, and the fights eventually become repetitive to a fault; every fight scene ends up looking like the last one. It really does begin feeling like the same fight scenes are playing out over and over. I’d say the story comes to a stop every time one of these random fight scenes breaks out, but that would imply the story actually seemed to be going somewhere. Why should I care if this person lives or dies when I’m not even 100% sure of why they exist? By the time it got to the umpteenth extended battle sequence, I was just worn out. I remember looking at the DVD timer about 40 minutes in and just feeling numb. There’s even a Shira training montage that just goes on and on and on.

Another big problem is Shira herself. Shira has three personality modes: unhappy warrior, everyday surly, and in bed with her lover moping about how their relationship is doomed because she’s a vampire and he’s a mortal. Blade was surly and not overtly friendly yet still had charisma that made you root for him in battle. Shira isn’t especially likable and doesn’t give you much of a reason to root for her. At least Buffy and Blade appeared to have their hearts in winning the battle, sometimes even looking like they were having some fun slaying vamps. Even in battle Shira seems a bit bored and displays more of a “woe is me” demeanor. She’s like Louis from Interview with a Vampire dressed like Trinity from The Matrix pretending to be a female Blade.

Chona Jason (IMDB lists her biggest prior credits as episodes of Cinemax’s Erotic Confessions from a decade ago), who also co-produced the film, doesn’t come off very well as Shira because of her character’s perpetually dour personality, and quite frankly, there’s just nothing all that impressive about Shira as an action heroine. This is due in part to the sheer number of side characters aiding her in her quest – at least half a dozen allies – that suck up screen time better devoted to establishing Shira. Do you remember how a lot of people, including me, complained about how there was too much focus on the Nightstalkers in Blade: Trinity and that it took away from Blade himself? It’s even worse here because this movie is supposed to be about introducing us to this character.

Amongst the worst of the extraneous side characters is a wisecracking Black guy who delivers some of the most seriously groan-inducing lines I’ve ever heard come out of the mouth of a wisecracking Black sidekick. I know it’s not exactly the actor’s fault since he didn’t write these monumentally bad wisecracks, but he couldn’t die fast enough for my tastes.

I’m also not entirely sure what Shira’s boyfriend sees in her since she’s such a wet blanket. He also seems to be allergic to wearing shirts.

The real diamond in the rough found here is Shira’s samurai master, a walking, talking samurai movie cliché played so broadly to the point of being a riot to listen to. I wish he’d been the star of the film instead.

Remember Adrian Zmed, the blow-dried pretty boy that played Tom Hanks’ sidekick in Bachelor Party, William Shatner’s sidekick on “TJ Hooker,” and was host of TV’s “Dance Fever”? No? Then shame on you. Here he sports a goatee and hams it up considerably with a fake European accent as the evil Kristof. The sight of him at one point with a mouth full of fangs wearing full samurai armor was quite the spectacle. He even gets a great cheeseball death scene at film’s end although that’s really due to the not-so-special effects.

That finale, by the way, involves what I can only describe as “matrix ninjas” – ninjas whose attire looks like traditional ninja outfits made from Matrix-wear material complete with long black coats. This finale momentarily redeems the movie although the Enter the Dragon homage that comprises Shira’s climactic showdown with Kristof was a victim of this viewer just not having a reason to care.

The acting mostly ranges from laughably bad to just not good, the excessive number of supporting characters, the repetitive fight scenes that ultimately become tiresome, the needlessly muddled story – Shira the Vampire Samurai is almost like what I’d expect if Andy Sidaris produced a Blade knock-off but with fewer naked women, more buff guys, no gunplay, and a score that sounds like it came from a Mortal Kombat tribute album. By no means is this a good movie, but that isn’t to say it’s not without some entertainment value. It’s just that the majority of its entertainment value comes from its schlocky nature, and that sense of B-movie fun is constantly being undercut by repetitious action scenes, a wet drip of a title character, and a nothing story.

2 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 4.11 (18 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 (17 votes)
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