Starring (Dark Ride) Jamie-Lynn DiScala, Patrick Renna, David Clayton Rogers, Alex Solowitz; (Wicked Little Things) Lori Heuring, Scout Taylor-Compton, Chloe Moretz, Geoffrey Lewis, Ben Cross; (Penny Dreadful) Rachel Miner, Mimi Rogers, Mickey Jones, Michael Berryman; (The Hamiltons) Cory Knauf, Samuel Child, Joseph McKelheer, Mackenzie Firgens; (Unrest) Corri English, Scot Davis, Joshua Alba, Jay Jablonski; (Reincarnation) Takako Fuji, Yasutoki Furuya, Atsushi Haruta, Hiroto Itô, Karina, Mantarô Koichi, Marika Matsumoto, Tomoko Mochizuki, Yuka; (The Gravedancers) Dominic Purcell, Clare Kramer, Josie Maran, Marcus Thomas, Tchéky Karyo, Megahn Perry
Directed by (Dark Ride) Craig Singer, (Wicked Little Things) J. S. Cardone, (Penny Dreadful) Richard Brandes, (The Hamiltons) The Butcher Brothers, (Unrest) Jason Todd Ipson, (Reincarnation) Takashi Shimizu, (The Gravedancers) Mike Mendez
”Each year there are movies produced that are never seen by the public. Their content is considered too graphic, too disturbing, and too shocking for general audiences.” So says the trailer for the 2006 After Dark Horrorfest, and for the most part it delivered on every little gory thing promised. The unfortunate truth is had it not been for the festival, we would have never have gotten the chance to see these little gems on the big screen. Otherwise these fine bits of filmmaking would no doubt be sentenced to direct-to-video hell where they would get lost among the shit that takes up most of the space there.
Good horror! Blood-hungry fans! Hot popcorn! It was a memorable few days indeed!
After a successful run (the After Dark Horrorfest cracked the Top Ten box office that week), the films that were “too shocking” have now found their way home sold separately and in a jam-packed, gore-soaked box set.
I’m going to do things a bit differently this time around. Rather than write new reviews for each film, I’m going to just link to their existing reviews so I can spend my time here giving you the skinny on the many bits of supplemental material that await.
There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s begin shall we?
Dark Ride film review
First up on the special features for Dark Ride is your standard making-of featurette entitled “Ticket to Ride”. Clocking in at a run time of about sixteen minutes, this is a brief yet informative chat with the filmmakers and cast about their experiences on set. Everyone involved seemed to be having a blast. If only Dark Ride were as much fun to watch. From here we’re treated to a five-minute musical montage type look at the film’s make-up effects, which were quite good. Personally I felt a bit cheated by a few of the film’s demises, but when Dark Ride did go for the proverbial throat, it did so with a great deal of ferocity so this look back is definitely warranted. This brings us to the deleted scenes. There’s about seventeen minutes of excised footage here including some extended and alternate takes. The good news? Along with some extra added exposition, we get some more violence! The opening death scene of the twins is shown off in truly gruesome fashion. It’s no wonder this scene was trimmed as heavily as it was. I don’t think the MPAA was too keen on seeing a screaming little girl getting her guts torn out. Me on the other hand… Things get rounded up nicely with a quick storyboard montage and a commentary featuring director Craig Singer and producer Chris M. Williams in which at least one of the filmmakers talks about the few instances in which he felt he’d missed the boat, especially pertaining to the rather flaccid ending. All in all this is a very good package for a very average film.
3 1/2 out of 5
Penny Dreadful film review
While watching this long dreary little film for a second time, I was kind of hoping there wouldn’t be much supplemental material to have to sit through. Thankfully, my prayers were answered. Other than an eight-minute cookie-cutter making-of, all we get here is a music video from the band Sanity for their song “Stay Away”. Unless you get Penny Dreadful as part of the box set, I’d take the band’s advice.
1 1/2 out of 5
Wicked Little Things film review
Here’s a bit of a shock. Despite being one of the better films of the After Dark Horrorfest, Wicked Little Things ends up getting one of the skimpiest DVD treatments. The only thing to be found is a commentary with director J. S. Cardone and actress Lori Heuring. There’s little to be learned other than what you’d expect — lots of technical discussion and also talk of being inspired by films like Village of the Damned. Supplemental wise, this is one boring little disc.
1 out of 5
The Hamiltons film review
Things aren’t faring too well for the saga of The Hamiltons family in terms of DVD extras. What we get here are about nine minutes of deleted scenes that really don’t add much to the film itself, a four-minute blooper reel, and a commentary with the very entertaining Butcher Brothers and actor Cory Knauf. Truth be told, I’m kind of disappointed. Don’t get me wrong; the commentary is brisk and engaging, but just like with the film itself, I found myself wanting more.
2 out of 5
Unrest film review
There’s no question Unrest was one of the creepiest films of the entire After Dark Horrorfest. Being that director Jason Todd Ipson was a med student himself, he brings a lot to the table in terms of a film with a vibe like this. In the seven-minute making-of there is a surprisingly good deal of ground covered, including his inspiration for Unrest, which he attributes to feeling the “strangest sensations” while walking around the endless corridors of his local VA Hospital in the wee hours of the morning. The autopsy and morgue scenes shiver with authenticity, and this is further explored in the feature commentary with Ipson and editor Mike Saenz. While not the most entertaining, this audio track is certainly the most interesting (and not just because Dread Central gets a quick shout-out along with Bloody Disgusting and Fangoria). The only trouble here is that’s all we get – a commentary and a brief featurette. Come on, guys, if the Dark Ride DVD can deliver the goods, can’t we get a little more from a DVD that’s home to a film that is better on every conceivable level? Sigh.
2 1/2 out of 5
Reincarnation film review
And what would any modern-day horror festival be without a little Far East flavor? Director Takashi Shimizu (best known for creating the Ju-On/Grudge franchise) kicks off the DVD features of his film Reincarnation with a brief introduction in which he seems almost apologetic for his movie being another non-linear creation. We stupid Americans! We need our entertainment spoon-fed to us, damnit! From here we get the lengthiest bit of supplemental material of the box set, an hour long making-of featurette. This exploration of the film covers the usual bases along with an in-depth look at the differences between Eastern and Western filmmaking coupled with a great deal of unsubtitled behind-the-scenes shots. From there we have a ten-minute interview with Shimizu not only about Reincarnation but why he has chosen horror and what has drawn him to the genre. Things are then rounded up with nearly 30 minutes of deleted scenes with commentary by Shimizu, star Yuka, and producer Taka Ichise. All in all, good stuff.
3 1/2 out of 5
The Gravedancers film review
It seems fitting that the highlight film (second only to Nacho Cerda’s The Abandoned, not included here because it was enjoying a theatrical run at the time of this box set’s release) of the After Dark Horrorfest gets the best damned DVD treatment of the bunch. However, before I get to the myriad of special features, I’d like to concentrate on one in particular, the commentary. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of speaking with or listening to director Mike Mendez can all attest to one thing – he’s a fan just like you and me. A genuine everyman! And as such he and composer Joseph Bishara have provided us horror hounds with a truly unique feature during the film’s commentary – a drinking game. For whatever reason, The Gravedancers ended up having an absurd number of lit lamps in almost every scene. I never noticed this before, but now that Mendez has gleefully pointed this factoid out, it’s almost impossible to ignore. The rules of the game are simple: See a lamp, take a drink. By the time the film’s over, trust me, you’ll be pretty lit yourself. Joy! The rest of the commentary is brisk and funny, but who cares when we have yet another reason to get shitfaced in the name of horror cinema? YAY!
After you’ve gotten your buzz on, and if you’re still able to focus on the DVD remote, it’s time to dive into the rest of the supplements. First up is the thirteen-minute making-of titled A Grave Undertaking. This behind-the-scenes featurette features interviews with various crew members and most of the principal cast. The Gravedancers was a six-year long labor of love, and everyone involved takes this opportunity to let us be privy to their good and not-so-good times. Great stuff. From there we move on to the original 2003 trailer for the film, which was used to raise money for the project. Clocking in at about three minutes, we get to see how an alternate cast and some cool effects helped to bring the idea to life even at such an early point in the film’s life. Next up are eleven minutes of deleted scenes. Nothing too exciting here, just a few moments that were trimmed either for pacing or budgetary issues. From here we get the disc’s second featurette, a twelve-minute look at the making of the movie’s ghosts. Without question, the specters of The Gravedancers are the true stars of the film. Once you see them, you will not forget them. Fan’s of William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus will be especially pleased by their look. Spooky shit, man! Things are then rounded up with a three-minute set of storyboard galleries. It should be noted that all of the above features (except for the latter) come with their own commentary (sans continued drinking game). Needed? No. Masturbatory? Maybe. Fun? You betcha!
4 1/2 out of 5
So there you have it. How you own all this madness is completely up to you. To purchase the box set, simply click on the link below. To pick and choose what you want, just click on the reviews that you’re interested in, and follow the links at the bottom of their respective pages.
Given the homogenized horror Hollywood has been doling out by the shitload, the After Dark Horrorfest is exactly the breath of fresh air our beloved genre needed! Here’s to the next one!
4 1/2 out of 5
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
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