Aliens, Cryptids, and Murder Aerobics! [New Blood Reviews]

Welcome, Blood Babes, to the first part of my final new column spotlighting the indie-horror scene! Complimenting its sister series New Blood Drops and New Blood News, let’s welcome — New Blood Reviews! As I’m sure y’all figured, “New Blood” is the common theme, because indie creators are the claret running through the horror genre’s veins, keeping it fresh and alive… Also, I wanted to subliminally coax you into watching John Carl Buechler’s cult classic, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. There are layers here, I try to be deep.

Here’s your new normal, Fright Fiends. Below, there are not only short reviews of indie content shot my way, but CREATOR RESPONSES on said reviews (if they so choose to share)! So often, their say isn’t considered when it comes to critiques like this, so I thought they should have a chance to say their piece. That said, let’s waste no more time and shed some blood!

It Came From Somewhere (Feature Film)

(Directed by Ashley Hefner, Steve Hermann; Starring Paige Bourne, Dominick Hannah, Beth Metcalf; 2022)

“When a flying saucer crashes on Earth and unleashes a deadly creature, it’s up to a group of teens and the saucer pilots to find it before it kills the entire town.”

If you remember, I covered this film’s production a few months back. Since then, it’s been released, and I was very excited to check it out, given that I’m a HUGE fan of 50s Sci-fi romps. I mean, I was practically raised by Them! The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Tarantula, The Thing From Another World, Earth vs. The Spider, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, Fiend Without a Face, the list goes on and on. Ashley Hefner and Steve Hermann’s It Came From Somewhere takes inspiration from the lower-budgeted side of the spectrum, so think more on the lines of Roger Corman’s The Day the World Ended and Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space… In fact, REALLY think about Plan 9, since this is practically a spiritual sequel, if not a literal one.

On my initial watch, I was impressed with how well the film was made, watching with unblinking eyes inches from the screen just like I used to as a kid. I don’t say this lightly, by the way. I watch a lot of indie films, so I’m used to a certain quality that comes with them. Not a complaint, just an observation. This flick understood the assignment and passed with flying colors out of space. It wanted to be a campy, cheap, Ed Wood-inspired film, and by golly, it did just that. From the hammy acting to the tin pan flying saucers to how the “Space-Clops” wore Converse shoes, the spirit of Wood is not only strong, but all-encompassing.

It’s hard for me to have any proper criticisms due to how those I came across just added to the experience. If pressed on the matter, I’d say I didn’t care for the direct references to Plan 9, ironically. A little too on the nose for my liking, but it didn’t ruin my viewing experience or anything. Also, the film’s only an hour long, which means you’ll still have an afternoon left after. Always nice!

If you ask me (which I’m assuming you are), it’s worth being part of a late-night double feature, preferably paired with The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, the pinnacle of 50s Sci-fi parody.

You can witness It Came From Somewhere digitally right here.

“Thanks for your review of It Came from Somewhere. We are quite proud of our attention to detail in the style that we used, and are happy that you agree that this film looks and feels as if it was a B movie made in the 1950s. The references to Plan 9 were intended to make you chuckle and might encourage some to find the time to give Plan 9 another watch. Thanks to positive feedback from you and others, we even have a sequel in the works. Keep an eye out for They Came Back from Somewhere in late 2023!”

Ann Myrna, Producer, Acrostar Films

Mothman (Feature Film)

(Directed by Joshua Brucker; Starring Liz Fletcher, Christopher Kuriata, Chaney Morrow; 2022)

“Amanda and her boyfriend Tim set out to shed light on the case surrounding her missing brother. After finding his lost archive, she uncovers a truth that leads her down a path to the horror her brother unwillingly encountered: Mothman.”

At long last, I’m getting around to this flick. It’s been over a year since I’ve talked about it, and it’s been released since then, so I have no excuse. That’s on me. Sorry, y’all! Let’s make up for lost time.

So, here’s the thing about doing a Mothman story that makes it different from other cryptid tales — there are no story beats to follow. What do I mean by this? Let me explain. Say inspiration hits and you want to make a movie about Bigfoot. You have a pretty good idea of where to start. Several campers travel deep into the woods, get lost, and then BOOM! The Virginia Wood Booger attacks! But how would you go about making a Loch Ness Monster flick? Simple! A group of truth seekers get on a boat, sail through the loch, only to come face-to-face with Nessie herself. Cue dinosaur shenanigans! Are we on the same page so far? Good. Now, tell me how you’d do a Mothman movie…

Not as easy, is it? That’s because the main things known about Mothman are its alleged connection to the Silver Bridge collapse, and how it looks to be part moth, part not-moth. This doesn’t give a storyteller much to go off of, does it? At the same time, however, it allows for a lot of creative freedom, freedom that Josh Bruckner does not squander in his feature film Mothman!

In mockumentary style, the film follows a couple investigating the disappearance of a family member, discovering a certain trans-dimensional lepidopteran fellow might be responsible for one or one hundred incidents across the years centralized around a small town. There are quite a few liberties taken with the myth, but given the incredible specificity of the details in said myth, there’s not a whole lot else a writer can do. Kudos to Bruckner for not going the “killer monster in the woods chasing people” route, which would’ve been so easy to take. That type of story just doesn’t really fit with the established lore of the Mothman (not that it ever stopped anybody before).

Well, bad news first, I don’t wanna linger any more than you do. I didn’t particularly dig the flick. It was just a bit too slow for my tastes. That says a lot because more than a few films I love are slow burns. It doesn’t pick up until around the halfway mark, and even then, it doesn’t quite carry what it has far enough before ending. It’s a shame because there are some genuinely interesting ideas I’d love to see expanded upon. The film’s heavy with the dialogue, and indulges in several “what’s that over there” sequences followed by the camera panning over the dark woods. Y’know, the usual angles with the found footage genre. Whether or not that bugs you is your prerogative.

The good news is there are several things I do like about it! The performances are done well and didn’t take me out of the film more than once or twice, which is important in a plot this gradual. More importantly, the Mothman himself looks fantastic, done completely with practical FX! You don’t get the best glimpse of him, but what you see is pretty gnarly. Another excellent decision by Bruckner, and it easily bumps the film up by a letter grade or so.

Overall, even though it takes a while to get the ball rolling, I’d still recommend this film if you’re in need of a cryptid cinema fix. The acting’s fine, the story’s interesting, but on the whole, it needed longer to pupate, and never quite comes out of the cocoon of its potential. Also, indie horror regular Angel Bradford shows up for a few minutes, because of course, she does.

You can watch Mothman digitally right here.

Murdercise (Feature Film)

(Directed by Angelica De Alba, Paul Ragsdale; Starring Kansas Bowling, Nina Lanee Kent, Jessa Flux; 2023)

“Phoebe is an obsessed fitness nerd who gets her big break on a sleazy workout video. After being ridiculed by her co-stars, Phoebe befriends a mafia princess wild child, who teaches her how to murder her way to the top.”

On occasion, a film is hurled my way that’s so fun, so creative, so full of heart, that I can’t help but love it. Teratomorph, The Flock, I Need You Dead, and Escalation are just a few. Joining the club is Angelica De Alba and Paul Ragsdale’s new feature Murdercise!

Inspired by the more outrageous slashers of the 80s, Murdercise is a ridiculous, bright, synth-filled treat that revels in all the sex and violence it’s replicating. There’s no taste here, those receptors have been burnt off by the hot, molten cheesiness filling this carnal calzone. I mean, you have a bunch of gorgeous, half-naked aerobic instructors (and a devilishly handsome director) “working out” every other minute, occasionally interrupted by a brutal murder. That’s about as sleazy as it gets.

Yet, despite this, the film doesn’t disrespect these characters by leaving them in the archetypes they’re saddled with. True, most of them are portrayed as petty assholes that spit more venom than a king cobra, but to be fair, that ire is aimed at a mean, condescending, Reagan-loving jerk, so I don’t blame them. For the most part, they get along with everyone else, and Phoebe (said jerk, played by Kansas Bowling) is the cause of her own misfortune due to how she demeans them. Everyone’s human and the film realizes this… except for Candy (Jessa Flux), who is a few shots short of a full bottle. Actually, everyone’s a little cray-cray now that I think about it. Regardless, I still stand by my statement.

The writing is just MWAH! Chef’s kiss! Absolutely tongue-in-cheek and often hilarious. From character reactions to ludicrous situations, the script is one of the tightest I’ve seen in an indie flick. Bowling kills it as Phoebe, the Reaganite turned slasher killer, maintaining sincerity in the role despite how overdramatic it tends to get. Nina Lanee Kent’s perfect as Isabella, the Mafia princess turned aerobic model, being as incredibly cool as she is badass. Drew Maverick steals the show as the consistently funny handyman, Chuck. I can attest to having personally laughed at least once whenever he popped up on screen. Honestly, the entire cast did great—Ginger Lynn, Krystal Shay, Bryan Hurd, Adriana Uchishiba, August Kyss, Bebe Bardot. Everyone’s having fun and they show it. It’s infectious.

There’s also a narrative twist I wasn’t expecting but thoroughly enjoyed. The tone is worth talking about as well, being surprisingly wholesome in some instances. It’s refreshing, almost like a “feel good” slasher romp. I dig it!

As I said, I love this film. It’s potentially my favorite indie flick of the year, and it’s something any lover of 80s-tinged slasher-horror should check out.

Murdercise is currently up for rental at New Village Video, and is coming to Blu-Ray on September 1st, 2023!

“Firstly, thank you so much for the awesome review! I’m so glad you loved it! I agree Nina Lanee Kent was perfect as the badass Isabella! And you are correct, we all had so much fun on set! The only thing I don’t agree on is Phoebe being a jerk! She’s just a red blooded American who hates communists! And how can you hate her after the chainsaw scene? I mean come on, really? She reminds me of myself!”

Paul Ragsdale, Director, Murdercise

Thank you to all the creators who shared their work with me, and a special thanks to those who responded back! Tune in next month for a new set of reviews, harvested fresh from the indie horror crop!

Until next time…

Ciao, friends!

Giallo Julian’s TwitterFacebookLetterboxd



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