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Wishmaster Collection (Blu-ray)

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Wishmaster CollectionStarring Andrew Divoff, Tammy Lauren, John Novak, Holly Fields

Directed by Robert Kurtzman, Jack Sholder, Chris Angel

Distributed by Vestron Video/Lionsgate


Pop quiz: how many films are there in the Puppet Master (1989) series? How about The Howling (1981)? Did you know Witchcraft (1988) has spawned thirteen sequels? Horror has plenty of series that somehow managed to remain on life support; a few still going, while others saw producers (grudgingly, I’m sure) pull the plug. Did anyone want any of the sequels that followed Pumpkinhead (1988)? How many readers even know a third and fourth installment exist? This is likely the scenario many will find themselves in when staring down Lionsgate’s latest Vestron Video Collection title, the Wishmaster collection, which features all four of the demonic Djinn’s outings. If you enjoyed the first film but never got around to seeing the others, don’t let the prospect of three sequels excite you. Just like the Species (1995) franchise, these films make a hasty plunge into the subterranean depths of swill right after the first entry.

Everyone has fantasized about how they would fulfill their dreams if a genie popped out of the proverbial lamp and offered up three wishes, but few stop to consider the genie’s true intentions. In director Robert Kurtzman’s Wishmaster (1997), that consideration is the focus of a story by screenwriter Peter Atkins. The “genie” in this case is from an ancient race, known as djinn, which are trapped in a void between the worlds of light and darkness. When a person summons the djinn they are given three wishes, though upon fulfilled of the third all of the djinn trapped in limbo will be released upon the world. In 1100s Persia, an emperor has woken the djinn (Andrew Divoff) and used two of his wishes, the latter of which has been violently twisted to inspire a quick follow-up. Before the prophecy-fulfilling third wish can be made, a sorcerer traps the djinn within a fire opal.

Present day. A dockworker (Joe Pilato), who is drunk, is lowering an ancient statue belonging to art dealer Raymond Beaumont’s (Robert England) from a ship when it slips and crushes Beaumont’s assistant (Ted Raimi). The statue breaks, revealing the fire opal hidden within, which one of the workers steals and later pawns. The gemstone eventually makes its way into the hands of Alexandra (Tammy Lauren), an appraiser for Regal Auctioneers. Her inspection wakes the djinn but she has to leave before finishing, handing the job over to her co-worker, Josh (Tony Crane), who soon after releases the djinn and, in a gruesome scene, winds up a dead mess. Alexandra is determined find out why Josh died, so she does some sleuthing and uncovers the history of the fire opal and the djinn, learning of the three wish prophecy as well as the djinn’s acquisition of power via taking souls.

The djinn has now fully reformed and made use of a “new” face (off a dead body, still Andrew Divoff) and he ventures out in public to grant wishes and steal souls. And, boy, does he have way too much fun doing it. Watch as he revels in the agony of a shopkeeper (Reggie Bannister) after killing the man with cancer per a hobo’s (Buck Flower) wishes. Alexandra and the djinn, now going by “Nathaniel Demerest”, finally meet and the rules of this “game” are explained. Alexandra makes her first wish – to know what the djinn is – and soon realizes how her words can be manipulated, as she is transported into the fire opal and the world in which he has lived for the past few millennia. She quickly uses her second wish to escape. The djinn figures the best way to force Alexandra into making her third wish is by threatening her family, specifically her sister, Shannon (Wendy Benson), who is attending a big soiree at Beaumont’s estate. Alexandra has to play by the djinn’s code if she wants to have any chance of coming out on top.

What Wishmaster lacks in directorial finesse it makes up for with top-notch FX work, a script full of fun barbs, and a compelling villain as played by Divoff. As the third and fourth sequels clearly prove, Divoff is the heart of this series; find no more proof than the fact he is able to make the second film watchable despite a horrid premise and an equally-appalling script. Anyone who has followed Divoff’s career knows he is a chameleon, able to play persons of any nationality with an appropriate accent to match. As the djinn, he conjures up a throaty, gravelly tone that is like the Middle Eastern cousin of Candyman. Combined with devilish charm and acerbic wit, his djinn crafts a persona that is captivating and entirely creepy. It is a real testament to Divoff’s abilities that the djinn often seems more malevolent when in human form than when his true form is revealed.

Being that the film is directed by a notable special effects artist expect to see all sorts of magnificent practical FX work on display. Both the opening and closing of the film feature an orgy of violence that has so many mutilated moving parts you’ll have to pause just to catch all the gory details. The djinn’s rebirth is one of a few standouts, featuring the creepiest wriggling humanoid character since Rev. Kane’s nubby appearance in Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986).

Wishmaster has been called “The Expendables of Horror” and while it might not be exactly that in the terms you think – everyone’s favorite icons slashing it up together on screen – the recognizable faces (and voice) include Angus Scrimm, Kane Hodder, Robert Englund, Tony Todd, Reggie Bannister, Ted Raimi, and a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cameo by Tom Savini (edit: I have been informed IMDb is full of lies and this is not Savini, just a lookalike). I remember being stoked on seeing all those faces in the theater, and seeing them again now, all these years later, is still a minor thrill. It’s comfortable, like hanging out with old friends.

Since the first film was a minor hit, a sequel was soon commissioned. Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies (1999), directed by Jack Sholder, is a terrible, dumb movie. This much is indisputable. But again, it does feature a sly performance from Divoff, who makes a strong case for arguing this series might have enjoyed a better life had he stuck around. After an opening art heist, wherein both the fire opal is revealed and Corey Haim is killed, the djinn is once again reborn in gnarly fashion to prey upon the souls of the weak. Why does he have the same face after the last film explained he needed fresh skin to grow one? Because Divoff owns this role, that’s why. Police arrive on the scene and immediately arrest the man they suspect committed the robbery and killed a guard: the djinn, once again posing as “Nathaniel Demerest”. The djinn thrives in prison, granting wishes to one prisoner after another – each with horrify fulfillment – stockpiling a couple hundred souls in the process.

Morgana (Holly Fields), the one surviving robber who managed to escape the opening heist, turns to Gregory (Paul Johannson), a former lover who banished himself to the Friend Zone by becoming a priest, for assistance to defeat the djinn. This mainly involves checking a lot of hilariously dated web pages. Nathaniel, meanwhile, has acquired nearly every soul in the prison but he’s still short several hundred, so he and his new Russian bestie, Osip (Oleg Vidov), walk out the front door in search of more victims. Eventually the djinn strikes it soul-rich after setting up shop in a casino (wishes galore!) but Morgana, repentant as ever for her actions in the opening, confronts the djinn and tries to reset his evil deeds in order to free her own soul.

There is a scene in this movie where a prisoner tells the djinn that he wishes his lawyer would “go fuck himself”, at which point the prisoner is immediately called in for a meeting with his lawyer. You already know where this is going but, rather than imply the act by hearing screams/etc. from behind a closed door, Sholder allows us to watch as the lawyer’s lower half twists around 180 degrees and thrusts as the lawyer clings to the edge of the table like a life preserver. Divoff is still devilish as ever but you could have replaced him with Rob Schneider and this script wouldn’t have known the difference.

The latter sequels in this series are so terrible their summary will be brief (unlike the films, which are an endurance test even at 90 minutes). In Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell (2001) yet another beautiful babe, Diana (A.J. Cook), unlocks the djinn (although how it wound up inside another ancient relic post-Wishmaster 2 is never explained) and he wreaks havoc – this time on a college campus! How original, although I will admit to being somewhat partial to bad horror movies set on a sprawling college campus. I cannot explain why. At least this time the djinn follows his own rules and claims a fresh face for his own, taking on the persona of Prof. Barash (Jason Connery – yes, Sean’s son). And thanks to a lower budget, he spends even more of the film in human form than before. Though, to be fair, his djinn form (played by John Novak) looks like the store brand version of Divoff’s so this isn’t such a bad thing. Just look at those friggin’ earlobes! If I met the djinn and he gave me three wishes, I would use two of them to erase these films from existence.

Wishmaster 4: Why Are You Back For More?… ok, it’s actually Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled (2002) gets a modicum of credit for trying to do some things differently. The djinn is back again – who cares how it happened? – and this time he spends 90% of the running time inhabiting the body of Steven (Michael Trucco), a lawyer who is arbitrating a settlement for Lisa (Tara Spencer-Nairn) and her crippled alcoholic husband, Sam (Jason Thompson). Steve is able to trick plenty of people into making wishes and stealing their souls, including Lisa, but he’s practically over the moon when she actually makes that third wish! Time for a djinn party! Except her wish had something to do with love, and human love must be earned, and blah, blah, blah now the djinn is ambivalent about whether or not to free his djinn buddies and take over the world or just hang back here, love Lisa, and be Steve for all of eternity. I wish I could have been Steve, who died at the beginning of this movie and thus did not have to endure it.

I have written in my notes “HOLY SHIT I’m only 45 min. into this” which should probably be taken as a sign this is a rough road. I’m going to give director Chris Angel (no, not that one) some kudos for trying to shake up the djinn routine a touch but the ambitions never quite take off and the end result is still another by-the-numbers genie slaughterfest – and we have so few of those in horror that if it’s already gotten to the point of being routine you know someone screwed up.

Do yourself a favor and stick to the first two films, recognize the steep drop in quality, and then just file this set away and pretend no further entries were made. As a completist I’m glad Lionsgate decided to toss every film in this set – and at around $10/each this collection is a decent value – because I can’t say I would have ever purchased them solo.

Wishmaster features a 1.78:1 1080p image that appears to be an outdated master. Definition and fine detail look average, with the best moments coming via close-ups and brightly lit scenes. Colors look a bit wan, lacking in rich saturation. Film grain looks natural and mostly fine, though it does get a bit clumpy at times. This is not a bad image by any means but a bit more spit-and-polish might have really spruced things up a bit.

Wishmaster 2 is framed at 1.85:1, with a 1080p 24/fps picture that is emblematic of direct-to-video ‘90s titles. This serviceable image is very similar to the first; in fact, all of the above statements would apply here, too.

Wishmaster 3 and Wishmaster 4 are virtually identical in appearance, and not so dissimilar from the first two films, with each sporting a 1.85:1 1080p 24/fps image that only bests the earlier pictures in terms of fine detail and a more refined grain structure. Otherwise, expect a similar DTV aesthetic as seen in the second film. None of the films features a striking video presentation, though none of them are a bust, either.

English DTS-HD MA is the codec of choice here, but the channel options are all over the place. Wishmaster says it features a 5.1 surround sound track but it in fact only has a 2.0 stereo track available. Manfredini’s score is very typical of his work and it does the job well enough without getting too cheesy. Dialogue is balanced and sounds great. Wishmaster 2 gets an actual 5.1 surround sound track, although the additional channels don’t exactly take advantage of their existence. There is some terrible ADR during the casino scenes. Wishmaster 3 goes back to 2.0 stereo, while Wishmaster 4 ends things with a 5.1 surround sound track, both of which have their own share of faults that mainly includes lacking impact and sounding “boxy” at times. All four films feature subtitles in English and Spanish.

DISC ONE: Wishmaster

There are two audio commentary tracks available – with Director Robert Kurtzman and Screenwriter Peter Atkins; and, with Director Robert Kurtzman and Stars Andrew Divoff & Tammy Lauren. Additionally, there is also an option to view the film with isolated score selections and an audio interview with Composer Harry Manfredini.

“Out of the Bottle – Interview with Director Robert Kurtzman and Co-Producer David Tripet”.

“The Magic Words – Interview with Screenwriter Peter Atkins”.

“The Djinn & Alexandra – Interview with Stars Andrew Divoff & Tammy Lauren”.

“Captured Visions – Interview with Director of Photography Jacques Haitkin”.

“Wish List – Interview with Actors Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, and Ted Raimi”.

A teaser trailer, the film’s theatrical trailer, a handful of TV spots, some radio spots, a “Vintage Making-Of Featurette” and “Vintage EPK”, “Behind-the-Scenes Footage Compilation”, storyboard gallery and a still gallery are also included.

DISC TWO: Wishmaster 2

There is an audio commentary track with director Jack Sholder, along with a trailer and still gallery.

DISC THREE: Wishmaster 3/Wishmaster 4

“Wishmaster 3” Bonus Features:

Audio commentary with director Chris Angel and Cast Members John Novak, Jason Connery, and Louisette Geiss.

“Behind-the-Scenes” and a trailer.

“Wishmaster 4” Bonus Features:

There are two audio commentary tracks: one with director Chris Angel and Cast Members Michael Trucco & Jason Thompson, the second with director Chris Angel and Actor John Novak.

“Wishmasterpiece Theater featurette”, done in the style of “Masterpiece Theater” this is actually pretty funny.

A trailer is also included.

Special Features:

Wishmaster (1997) Special Features:

    Audio Commentaries:

    • Director Robert Kurtzman and screenwriter Peter Atkins
    • Director Robert Kurtzman and stars Andrew Divoff and Tammy Lauren
  • Isolated Score Selections/Audio Interview with composer Harry Manfredini
      Featurettes:

    • “Out of the Bottle” – Interviews with director Robert Kurtzman and co-producer David Tripet
    • “The Magic Words” – An Interview with screenwriter Peter Atkins
    • “The Djinn and Alexandra” – Interviews with stars Andrew Divoff and Tammy Lauren
    • “Captured Visions” – An Interview with director of photography Jacques Haitkin
    • “Wish List” – Interviews with actors Kane Hodder and Ted Raimi
  • Vintage Featurette: “Making of Wishmaster”
  • Trailers, Spots, Galleries: Teaser & Theatrical Trailers, TV & Radio Spots, Storyboard & Still Galleries
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage Compilation

Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies (1999) Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary with writer/director Jack Sholder
  • Trailer
  • Still Gallery

Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell (2001) Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary with director Chris Angel and cast members John Novak, Jason Connery, and Louisette Geiss
  • Vintage Featurette: “Making of Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell”
  • Trailer

Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled (2002) Special Features:

    Audio Commentaries:

    • Director Chris Angel and cast members Michael Trucco and Jason Thompson
    • Director Chris Angel and actor John Novak
  • Featurette: “Wishmasterpiece Theatre”
  • Trailer

BUY IT NOW!

  • Wishmaster
  • Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies
  • Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell
  • Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled
  • Special Features
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User Rating 3.67 (6 votes)
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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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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
3.5

Summary

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.

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User Rating 3.5 (14 votes)
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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 4.1 (21 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 3.95 (20 votes)
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