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After Dark Horrorfest 2006 (DVD Box Set)

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After Dark Horrorfest DVD Box Set (click for larger image)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

Distributed by After Dark Films and Lionsgate Home Entertainment


”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?

After Dark Horrorfest DVD Box Set (click for larger image)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.

Special Features

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.

Special Features

1 1/2 out of 5

After Dark Horrorfest DVD Box Set (click for larger image) 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.

Special Features

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.

Special Features

2 out of 5

After Dark Horrorfest DVD Box Set (click for larger image)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.

Special Features

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.

Special Features

3 1/2 out of 5

After Dark Horrorfest DVD Box Set (click for larger image)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!

Special Features

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!

Overall (Including Films)

4 1/2 out of 5

For more news on the After Dark Horrorfest, click here. Discuss the After Dark Horrorfest in our forums!

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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

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)
3.5

Summary

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.

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User Rating 4 (3 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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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.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • 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
4.0

Summary

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.

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User Rating 3.9 (10 votes)
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The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

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Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

Directed by Alan Lougher


The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Ultimately chilling in nature!

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User Rating 3.31 (16 votes)
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