small town

Almost Friends (2017)

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A man reflects on his life as he comes face to face with some new challenges, including a possible shot at love, in this dramedy from filmmaker Jake Goldberger.

Charlie Brenner was an aspiring chef who was on his way to make it big when he made a mistake. No longer having the passion to live his dreams, Charlie finds a job as an assistant manager in his hometown’s movie theater and is living life only when he is with his best friend Ben, who is awaiting the results of his bar exam. Charlie lives with his mother, stepfather, and little brother. He also has eyes for Amber, a young woman who works at the local coffee house he always goes to, but is afraid to ask her out.

Amber has a bit of a complicated life herself. Her roommate Jack is somewhat of a deadbeat. She has a boyfriend, Brad, who is a track star. However, Amber has dreams when she plans to move to New York. Things go from bad to worse for Charlie when his father returns to town, with potentially ulterior motives. As Charlie and Amber begin to bond, the complications in their lives may prevent them from even becoming real friends, much less a romance. Will these two be able to overcome their life obstacles and at least become friends?

For his third film, filmmaker Jake Goldberger brings what can be said to be real issues in a small town in terms of his characters having big dreams and being able to overcome their personal issues to attain those goals. While the primary focus is on an unmotivated young man who slowly begins to see the light, he finds himself in a series of constant ruts, while there are a few subplots involving other characters with the same notion in mind.

Freddie Highmore once again shows why he is truly a great talent, this time as Charlie, an aspiring chef who only uses his skills at home and not in some fancy restaurant. That’s because an incident resulted in Charlie feeling like he lost everything, yet he still has his family and friends, notably best buddy Ben, played by Haley Joel Osment, and Heather, played by Rita Volk. While Ben is there as Charlie’s confidant and at times the only reason why he even goes out anymore, Heather is a reliable friend too and is part of the film’s major subplot which involves a possible relationship with Jack, the deadbeat roommate of lead female character Amber.

Odeya Rush’s Amber may seem like a character who has it all but like Charlie, she has her own set of complicated matters, thus making it easy at first for these two to get along quite well. While Amber’s relationship with Brad seems to look good, there is something under the surface that could jeopardize that part of her life as it not so much Charlie, but something else. Highmore and Rush have some pretty good chemistry together and it helps drive the film and in a way, the two attempt to help each other get through their personal issues. Jake Abel’s Jack seems like a moocher until Charlie helps him get a job at the movie theater and it is there that Jack begins to aspire to get quite a few things: an actual relationship with Heather and the big candy bar in a crane game machine in the theater.

Marg Helgenberger helps bring Charlie to a grounded effect as his mother with Chris Meloni playing Charlie’s returning dad, who seems to be shady while attempting to help Charlie with his issues as well. It is like Charlie’s dad somewhat means well but he isn’t going to get the award for “father of the year”.

Almost Friends is a pretty good look at dreams and what people will go through to achieve those dreams, even if it means overcoming the odds in their personal lives. Some great performances from the young cast really drive this film as one to check out.

WFG RATING: B+

Gravitas Ventures presents a Let It Play/Animus Films production. Director: Jake Goldberger. Producers: Tony Lee, Jim Young, and Alex A. Ginzburg. Cinematography: Jeremy Mackie. Editing: Julie Garces.

Cast: Freddie Highmore, Odeya Rush, Haley Joel Osment, Marg Helgenberger, Christopher Meloni, Jake Abel, Rita Volk, Taylor John Smith.

The film will be coming to theaters, On Demand, and Digital HD on November 17.

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Second Nature (2017)

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Gender reversal takes on a whole new level in this hilarious comedy from debut filmmaker Michael Cross.

Since they were children, Amanda Maxwell and Bret Johnson have always had a rivalry. Amanda works for Bret, who is the owner of a real estate company in the small town of Louisburg. When the town’s mayor is killed in a car accident, a special election is to be held. Bret puts his name in the running and Amanda finds the opportunity to run against him in an effort to help her grandmother, who lives out in the farmland neighboring town.

When Amanda’s grandmother gives her a mirror she buried as part of a time capsule, little does Amanda realize how much it will change her life. When she confronts Bret that night when he decides as part of his campaign to put strip clubs in town, she wishes men would be like women and Bret wishes women would be like men. Suddenly, the mirror works its magic and both Amanda and Bret find themselves in a world where gender roles are reversed except for the two of them. They have seven days to decide what to do or remain in this “flipped” world forever.

The ”body-switching” subgenre of comedy films has been done to death, especially with films like Freaky Friday, Like Father Like Son, and even as recent as The Change-Up. However, this debut film from Michael Cross takes the subgenre to a whole new level as it is not the two central characters who feel the body swap, but everyone else in their lives who feel the switch from a gender reversal like no other.

Collette Wolfe and Sam Huntington bring their comic flair to the film as the central characters, “frenemies” Amanda and Bret. Don’t expect any romance between these two because they really can’t stand each other at first. Amanda is a more level-headed believer of helping those out in need while Bret is the womanizing type who only cares about pleasing his gender regardless of the opposition. However, in the midst of their little adventure, both Amanda and Bret learn a thing or two that ultimately changes their lives in a more positive manner.

The funny bits truly come in the gender reversal world, renamed Ellensburg, where we see mailman Dex, played by Riley Shanahan, turning into a scorned man of sorts when he thinks Amanda, his love interest, is seeing someone else and is worried that if she becomes the new Mayor, loads of men will swarm her. We see the women solely as cops and construction workers, which is fine considering in today’s society, we are in an equal environment while the men are the househusband types or in the case of one of Bret and Amanda’s co-workers, fixing up the office and all. However, the breakout character is Amanda’s grandmother, played hilariously by Carolyn Cox, as she goes from farmhouse wallflower in the real world to a foul-mouthed, gun-toting, crazy in the reversal world.

Second Nature is truly a fun comedy that takes gender reversal and “body-switching” to a new level with great performances by the cast. If you like “body-swapping” movies, then you should see this one.

WFG RATING: B+

Cross Films present a Mirror Images Ltd. Production. Director: Michael Cross. Producers: Nicholas Gyeney, Michael Cross, and Susan LaSalle. Writers: Michael Cross, J.C. Ford, and Edi Zanidache. Cinematography: Michael Boydstun. Editing: Carol Sangster.

Cast: Collette Wolfe, Sam Huntington, Carollani Sandberg, Carolyn Cox, Riley Shanahan, Amber Wolfe, Kay LaVergne Jaz, Angela DiMarco, Angela Andrews.


The film will be released on DVD, Blu-Ray, and VOD platforms on September 19.

Bonejangles (2017)

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A meshing of intentional comedy and some classic horror clichés make up this latest thriller from director Brett DeJager.

A small town has been rocked by the murders committed by the unstoppable killer known as Bonejangles, who is disfigured and wears a skull mask. In a last-ditch effort to stop the killer, the miniscule police force learns of his location and in the midst lose another member of their force. However, using a specialized taser gun, the police force, made up of rookies Doug and Randy, and veteran Lisa, finally have stopped Bonejangles.

The trio of cops, along with another rookie, Larumba, are to transport Bonejangles to meet with another transport unit in the small town of Argento. Argento is Doug’s childhood home and ten years ago, he left town and is wary of returning due to his past. However, when Doug learns today is April 18, the town falls under a curse, where zombies take over the town for a night of carnage, forcing an upcoming wedding party to stay in the local recreation center. Randy finds himself kidnapped by the one responsible for the curse, Doug and Lisa get to the rec center where Doug learns the bride is his old sweetheart Sally, who is marrying the arrogant bully and supposed town hero Clint. However, trouble is brewing when Bonejangles himself is released!

Director Brett DeJager and writer Keith Melcher brings nearly everything but the kitchen sink in this intentional comedy-horror film that overdrives some of the conventions seen in horror films as well as brings some overdosing of hilarity that actually runs smoothly within its 78-minute running time.

The film combines many subplots that looks to have influences from the likes of The Purge with slashers like Friday the 13th and yet while some fans will be turned off by its intentional comedy, it’s actually quite fun because once you notice the convention, you wonder how it will be executed. In the titular role is actually writer Melcher himself, who brings a bit of Jason Voorhees and Leatherface mixed in with Mortal Kombat character Shao Kahn with his intricate look, picking off everyone in sight from unsuspecting campers (big surprise) to the zombies that plague the town. Phantasm series star Reggie Bannister comes in flashbacks as the killer’s father, who comes off a bit like Drayton Sawyer in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 when he tells his son to protect the “wee winkie”, which you can guess what that indicates.

Kelly Misek Jr.’s Doug is the typical former high school nerd who must somehow become a hero but finds himself scared yet still holds a flame for high school sweetheart Sally, played by Julia Cavanaugh. Devin Toft’s Clint has to be the most annoying stereotypical redneck this side of the woods, taking all the credit for the town’s heroics even when it was from bullying Doug as seen in a flashback. Elissa Donovan plays Rowena, the town’s succubus whose curse comes once a year, causing zombies to plague the town of Argento, which if you haven’t guessed by now, is named after famed Italian horror filmmaker Dario Argento.  Look out for a cameo from the director himself as a camping victim of our titular killer.

Bonejangles may not be everyone’s cup of team, but it’s such a fun ride that meshes typical horror conventions with intentional comedy that this is one killer I would love to see in a follow up.

WFG RATING: B

Wild Eye Releasing presents a Labyrinth Films/Mystery Library Production. Director: Brett DeJager. Producers: Zeke Hanson and Brett DeJager. Writer: Keith Melcher. Cinematography: Shaun O’Connell. Editing: Shaun O’Connell, Noelle Hanson.

Cast: Kelly Misek Jr., Julia Cavanaugh, Jamie Scott Gordon, Hannah Richter, Lawrence Wayne Curry, Devin Toft, Elissa Downing, Keith Melcher, Reggie Bannister.

Besetment (2017)

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2017, Uncork’d Entertainment/Barbed Wire Films

Director:
Brad Douglas
Producer:
Brad Douglas
Writer:
Brad Douglas
Cinematography:
Chuck Greenwood
Editing:
Greg James

Cast:
Abby Wathen (Amanda Millard)
Marlyn Mason (Mildred Colvin)
Michael Meyer (Billy Colvin)
Max Gutfreund (Brad)
Greg James (Sheriff Joe Palin)
Hannah Barefoot (Deputy Julie Nelson)
Lindsae Klein (Amanda’s Mother)
Sonya Davis (Brittany)
Douglas Rowe (Pastor Ben Hastings)

A young woman’s new job turns into a nightmare in this indie horror film from filmmaker Brad Douglas.

Amanda Millard is a struggling young woman. She has been trying hard to find a job so she can avoid her alcoholic mother, who has the tendency to berate her on a daily basis. When a major opportunity arises eighty miles away, she decides to give it a chance. The journey takes her to work as a position as an assistant at a motel in a very small town.

There, she meets the elderly Mildred Colvin, the owner of the hotel. She accepts the job but when her car dies in the middle of the night, she is startled but saved by Billy, Mildred’s son. After a night of drinking, Amanda passes out and wakes up the next day. However, when Amanda meets Brad, the town’s local chef, she slowly discovers that her new boss may not be exactly whom she seems to be. To make matters worse, after passing out and discovering something very shocking, Amanda soon learns she about to find herself in the biggest fight of her life.

Indie filmmaker Brad Douglas crafted a very disturbing tale of one young woman’s fight for survival that smoothly runs at 74 minutes. The film truly takes a three-act method where the first act involves our heroine, Amanda, having to struggle with her alcoholic mother’s berating and getting the opportunity to get a job. The second act involves the Colvins, a mother and son duo who operate the motel in town, which suspiciously doesn’t seem to have any customers and their involvement with Amanda and the mother’s going to extremes. The third and final act takes quite a page that meshes both what to expect in a horror film with a dash of something seen in a Lifetime movie.

No matter if one will like or dislike that notion, it is the performances of the cast that truly makes the film watchable and make one want more. One can only feel for lead actress Abby Wathen, whose central character of Amanda already endures quite a lot only to have to amp up that endurance when she is held captive by her new boss. The struggles she must go through in a day where people may have Saw or Hostel come to mind thankfully does not go to that level of extreme, but to see how everything is played out in two pivotal flashbacks just show nothing but sympathy for her.

One can perhaps think of the film Misery where the antagonist starts out as sweet but soon has those sinister motives and veteran actress Marlyn Mason truly delivers in the nice elderly lady turned crazed motherly figure of Mildred. Michael Meyer’s Billy brings to the mind the kind of son who doesn’t agree with his mother’s dastardly deeds, but is forced to obey Mommy. And in one flashback, that obedience is taken to a level that may bring to mind the stereotypes of a small town like the one depicted here, but still proves to be very disturbing nonetheless.

Besetment is quite a harrowing yet very disturbing horror film that shows the struggle of one young woman, all driven with great performances, especially from Marlyn Mason as the crazed owner of the hotel. If you like indie horror, add this one to your list.

WFG RATING: B+

Uncork’d Entertainment will premiere this film on VOD platforms on June 6th with a DVD release date of September 5th locked down.

Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back (1995)

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1995, The Movie Store

Director:
Phillip Rhee
Producers:
Phillip Rhee
Peter E. Strauss
Writers:
Paul Levine (original characters)
Barry Gray (screenplay)
Deborah Scott (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Jerry Watson
Editing:
Bert Lovitt

Cast:
Phillip Rhee (Tommy Lee)
Christopher McDonald (Sheriff Jack Banning)
Gina Gershon (Margo Preston)
Mark Rolston (Donnie Hansen)
Peter Simmons (Owen Tucker)
Cristina Lawson (Karen Banning)
Dee Wallace (Georgia)
Michael Bailey Smith (Tiny)
Justin Brentley (Luther Phelps Jr.)
Andra R. Ward (Rev. Luther Phelps)
Kitao Sakurai (Justin Banning)
Cole S. McKay (Bo)
R. Lee Ermey (Preacher Brian)

Tommy Lee faces a new enemy in this solo outing third installment which also marks the directorial debut of Phillip Rhee.

The small town of Liberty, Mississippi have been heartbroken when the local Reverend, Luther Phelps, has been killed at the hands of a neo-Aryan hate group. The Aryan Nation have planned to take over land located on the outskirts of Liberty and the town are debating whether to sell it to their leader, Preacher Bryan. This coincides with the arrival of Tommy Lee, a martial arts instructor who is in town visiting his sister Karen and brother-in-law Jack, Liberty’s sheriff.

When the night of his arrival, Tommy finds his sister, nephew Justin, and Rev. Phelps’ son harassed by some masked members of the Aryan Nation, Tommy unleashes his martial arts skills to fend them off. The next day, at Jack’s request, Tommy dresses up as a clown for the local carnival. When Margo, a local schoolteacher, finds her former student Owen has joined the Aryans, her attempt to talk him out of it forces her to be harassed. Tommy comes to her rescue only to be mad at him for his actions. However, after a blind date is set up between the two, Margo warms up to Tommy. When Margo successfully convinces town hall not to sell the land to the Aryans, a war is imminent and Tommy finds himself in the middle of everything, having to use his martial arts skills as well as help from his brother-in-law to end the hate once and for all.

After two outings with Eric Roberts as his trusted friend Alex Grady, martial artist Phillip Rhee takes his character of Tommy Lee in a solo adventure. The topic of the film is racism, with Barry Gray and Deborah Scott’s screenplay being set in the Southern town of Liberty, Mississippi. Rhee also makes his directorial debut on the film and does quite well as a director. While he no longer has the likes of Roberts (who declined to return to the series), Rhee proves himself to be the breakout of the first two installments so it’s natural for him to go solo especially with a sensitive topic such as racism, one he tackled in the original film from rival turned ally Travis, the late Chris Penn’s character.

Replacing Roberts as Rhee’s most trusted ally is Christopher McDonald, who churns out a dramatic performance as Tommy’s brother-in-law, the local sheriff. While he feels like he can’t do much at first considering the situation in mind, he is pushed to the limit when his wife (Tommy’s sister) is harassed on two separate occasions and supplies more firepower with Rhee handling the martial arts fights. Bloodfight actress Cristina Lawson provides good support as Tommy’s sister.

Gina Gershon proves herself to play Tommy’s love interest quite well as a schoolteacher who also opposes the Aryan Nation, who’s preaching leader is an uncredited R. Lee Ermey but the real puppet master is the maniacal Donnie Hansen, played by Rush Hour’s Mark Rolston, who pulls it off nicely as the main villain of the film. There is a bit of a subplot involving an 18-year old kid played by Peter Simmons who joins the Aryans but soon questions both their motives and the consequences of their actions that meshes well into the film.

Simon Rhee, Phillip’s brother, once again handles the film action choreography and showcases little brother’s skills in Taekwondo and Hapkido. As mentioned, in a fight during a carnival, Tommy dresses up as a clown and confronts one thug he fought earlier in the film by calling himself, “Homey the Killer Clown” before dishing out punishment. The finale is a literal explosive battleground that engages Tommy to face Hansen one on one in a showdown.

Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back has our hero fight racism with Tommy having the best line that makes a valid point: “Don’t forget…your blood is red like mine”. Some great fights and the subject matter drive the film for a good directorial debut for Phillip Rhee.

WFG RATING: B+

DVD

Get Ready for an “American Exorcism” in May

Get ready for an American Exorcism when Uncork’d Entertainment and Thriller Films releases this horror film on VOD platforms on May 2.

Damon Richter thought he left the world of possessions, exorcisms, and evil behind until an old friend arrives with frightening information about his estranged daughter knowing that only his otherworldly skills can save her.

Michael Filipowich, Braxton Davis, and Jessica Morris star in the film, which was written and directed by Tripp Weathers.

The film is set for a VOD release on May 2 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

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Antonie Fuqua remakes the classic 1960 western based on one of Akira Kurosawa’s greatest epics and with an eclectic cast, this is one team that works wonders in the Old West.

Bartholomew Bogue has taken over Rose Creek, a small town near a gold mine. Anyone who stands in Bogue’s way is in danger of being killed and that’s what happens to Matthew Cullen, who had planned to lead a charge to stop Bogue. Cullen’s grieving widow Emma has grown tired of Bogue and decides to do something about it. She decides to hire anyone capable of stopping Bogue. She finds warrant officer Sam Chisholm and gambler Josh Faraday.

Chisholm and Faraday separate to find more recruits. Faraday finds the sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux and the Asian-born knife wielder Billy Rocks. Chisholm finds fugitive Vasquez and offers him to help in exchange for letting him go free when the mission is over. The group reunites and come across elder tracker Jack Horne and a Comanche warrior, Red Harvest. When the seven head to Rose Creek, they make their names known as they are able to defeat some of Bogue’s men. When Bogue gets wind of what has transpired, Bogue launches a massive attack on the town, causing these seven unlikely heroes to lead an attack that can save the town and possibly get them killed.

In 1954, Akira Kurosawa brought out one of his most well-known epic films, Seven Samurai and six years later, that film was remade in Hollywood as the classic western that starred Yul Brynner as the leader of the seven unlikely heroes in charge with protecting a town from a notorious bandit gang. Five and half decades later, Antoine Fuqua brings his own spin on the Western story and does something one would never imagine and that is to bring diversity amongst the titular “Magnificent Seven”.

In an era where African-Americans would have been completely disgraced, Denzel Washington’s introduction as leader Sam Chisholm shows him walking into a saloon. He gets the look from everyone but surprisingly, race is not the issue. It is because he is walking into potentially dangerous territory and Washington rightfully leads the charge and makes one hell of a leader and finds a worthy well, “second in command” in the form of Chris Pratt, who brings a lot of comic relief in the role of gambler Faraday as does Vincent D’Onofrio at times in his role of tracker Horne.

Ethan Hawke does quite well as Robichaux, who suffers from PTSD after his experiences in the Civil War while Korean actor Lee Byung-Hun proves ample support as Robichaux’s trusted partner Billy Rocks, who is quite an expert with knives. Rounding out the seven is Canadian-born Martin Sensmeier, who gets his biggest role to date in the role of Comanche warrior Red Harvest, whose intro scene is a bit cringeworthy when he gives a gift to pledge his loyalty to Chisholm. Peter Sarsgaard makes a pretty good villain in the notorious Bogue while Haley Bennett proves herself to play an against-type role of this genre as the tough Emma Cullen, who wants to not only protect the town, but have revenge on her mind when her husband, played in a cameo by White Collar star Matt Bomer, is killed in the film’s opening scene.

There are plenty of shootouts, close quarters knife action, and even archery and axe throwing in the film with the final act being the film’s piece de resistance. The action scenes alone are such enjoyment for action and Western fans but it is the finale that is truly epic and determines the fates of virtually everyone involved.

The Magnificent Seven 2016 is truly a fun and wild ride with an excellent use of diversity in the cast who all work well together with their characters having one goal in mind, no matter the cost. Definitely worth checking out.

WFG RATING: A

Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures and Columbia Pictures present a Village Roadshow Pictures production.  Director: Antoine Fuqua. Producers: Roger Birnbaum and Todd Black. Writers: Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk; based on the film “Seven Samurai” written by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Ogami. Cinematography: Mauro Fiore. Editing: John Refoua.

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-Hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer, Jonathan Joss, Can Gigandet.

 

Abattoir (2016)

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From the director of three installments of the Saw franchise comes this tale of a small town that is not like any other and a reporter who must go there to uncover the murder of her sister’s family.

Julia Talben is a reporter for a local newspaper who longs to become an investigative reporter despite reservations from detective Declan Grady. However, one fateful night, Julia has learned her sister, along with her sister’s family, have been brutally murdered by the seemingly nice Richard Renshaw for no reason. When Julia learns the room where the murders took place has been inconspicuously taken, she turns to Renshaw for clues. When Renshaw mentions the name “New English”, Julia, who remembered her mother was there, decides to head over there despite more reservations from Grady.

Upon her arrival to the small town, she is warned by the town’s sheriff McDermott, to leave town. However, she refuses to leave and ends up in her family’s house, now owned by Allie, who told Julia her mother died of cancer thirty years ago. Grady also arrives in the town to help Julia and the duo stays with Allie. Meanwhile, Julia learns that a local preacher, Jebediah Crone, has been known to sacrifice children who were “pledged” by their parents, the local townsfolk. To make matters worse, Crone is discovered to be the buyer of the room where Julia’s sister was killed because he plans to build a house made up of rooms where murders took place. Will Julia and Grady be able to stop Crone or will an even darker secret lead to something more horrific?

Darren Lynn Bousman is truly a pretty good horror filmmaker with a reputation that began with Repo! The Genetic Opera but broke through when he directed the second through fourth installments of the famous Saw horror film series. With his latest film, with the script by Christopher Monette, the film starts out as a murder mystery that delves into a morbid tale that brings films like The Village to mind yet with something even more sinister in the midst. It must be noted that the title of film is referred to as a “slaughterhouse”, but this is not meant as a literal meaning but rather a metaphorical meaning.

The cast does quite well in their roles. As investigative reporter Julia, Jessica Lowndes brings a stern attitude to her role as a woman who longs to become a crime reporter rather than dealing with real estate and finally lives her dream when the crime involves the brutal murders of her sister and family. Her chemistry with Joe Anderson’s detective Grady is questionable at times, only because the audience isn’t quite sure what their relationship is. Are they married? Boyfriend-girlfriend? Friends with benefits? That part is uncertain, but it is clear that they both respect each other yet at times can’t stand one another.

However, one of the film’s saving graces is Dayton Callie, who plays the insane preacher Jebediah Crone. Callie brings Crone as someone who may not look insane, but his foremanner oozes insanity with him basically controlling the town under his “spell” and his idea of creating a house made up of rooms where murders occur. As for Michael Paré, the legendary actor makes the most of his extended cameo in the pivotal role of Julia’s sister’s murderer Renshaw, who brings the clues that lead Julia to the evil village.

There’s something about Lin Shaye (the pun being intentional as she appeared in the 1998 comedy There’s Something About Mary) that makes her performances in horror films great even if the overall film is not so good all the time. She makes any role work well and while she is perhaps known for the iconic role of paranormal expert Elise Rainier in the Insidious films, shows a bit of a crazy side in the form of Allie, the local woman who lets Julia stay with her and holds a dark secret of her own yet she does it with such grace and wit that it brings a bit of much needed wittiness to a morbid setting.

Abattoir is a pretty decent horror film that may have raise questions, but is a well-shot meshing of crime investigation thriller and small town horror film, thanks in part to the driven performances of Dayton Callie and Lin Shaye alongside Jessica Lowndes as the stern reporter who will do what it takes to solve her sister’s murder. Morbid but not as bloody as one might think.

WFG RATING: B

Momentum Pictures presents a Dark Web Productions film in association with Les Enfants Terribl, Luminary Entertainment, Pacific Bridge Pictures and Radical Studios. Director: Darren Lynn Bousman. Producers: Jesse Berger and Brent C. Johnson. Writer: Christopher Monette; based on the graphic novel by Darren Lynn Bousman. Cinematography: Michael Fimognari. Editing: Brian J. Smith.

Cast: Jessica Lowndes, Joe Anderson, Dayton Callie, Lin Shaye, John McConnell, Bryan Batt, Michael Paré, J. LaRose, Jackie Tuttle, Jay Hughley, Aiden Flowers, Carol Sutton.

 

TRAILER: Don’t Kill It

Dolph Lundgren turns demon hunter in the trailer for this upcoming action-horror from director Mike Mendez.

An ancient evil is unleashed in a small Alaskan town leaving a trail of death and destruction as it passes from host to host. The only hope of survival lies with grizzled demon hunter Jebediah Woodley (Lundgren) who has faced this terror before. Together with a reluctant FBI agent he has to figure out how to destroy a demon with the ability to possess its killer.

Kristina KlebeBilly SlaughterMiles Doleac, and Tony Bentley co-star in the film. The film is scheduled to debut this weekend at Austin’s Fantastic Fest.

H/T: Bloody Disgusting

The Toxic Avenger (1984)

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Formerly known as a company known for their teen comedies and indie style features, New York-based Troma Inc. truly breaks out with their trademark style of horror and comedy with their iconic classic about a monster hero.

In the small New Jersey town of Tromaville, Melvin Ferd is a 98-pound nerd who works at the Tromaville Health Club as the janitor. He is the victim of constant torment by two bully couples, Bozo and Julie and Wanda and Slug. The bullies spend their nights playing deadly hit-and-run games. One day, Julie decides to hatch a plan to make Melvin’s life extremely miserable. The prank involves Melvin wearing a pink tutu and kissing a sheep. When Melvin is laughed at by everyone in the gym, he runs upstairs and jumps out of the window.

Unbeknownst to Melvin and everyone involved, a truck with barrels of toxic chemical waste happened to be parked in front of the gym. Melvin lands in one of the barrels and is seriously injured. Set ablaze, Melvin runs back home and is miraculously alive. However, he soon undergoes a transformation into a 7-foot mutated monster. However, on the night of his transformation, Melvin saves a police officer from three local goons. Melvin soon learns his mutations not only has given him superhuman strength, but he only has the ability to stop evil. After another incident, he saves a young blind woman named Sara, who becomes his girlfriend. His deeds soon hail him as a “monster hero” but the corrupt mayor of Tromaville isn’t having any of it and wants the monster hero gone at any cost.

The New York-based independent film giants Troma Inc. became well known after the release of this film, which has put them on the map. Originally a company who churned out some strange comedies as well as teen comedies, which would mark the debuts of Hollywood actors such as Kevin Costner (Sizzle Beach USA in 1974) and Vincent D’Onofrio (The First Turn On in 1982) as well as famed director Oliver Stone (The Battle of Love’s Return in 1971), Troma decided to try something different, and not only did they take the risk of combining horror and comedy, they ran with it full speed ahead and never looked back since.

The film is such a fun blend of horror film, superhero film, love story, and raucous comedy. Mitch Cohen is great to watch as the titular Toxic Avenger, who is not named that but rather “Monster Hero”. The name “Toxic Avenger” was officially named during post-production. While he is a superhero and a deformed one at that (not revealing his true face until halfway through the film), the horror portions come in the ways he dispatches the bad guys. This involves smacking one goon’s nose off, pulling off a dangerous riff of the Three Stooges eye gouge, dismembering, disembowelments, and even turning one evil goon into a “human milkshake”.

The chemistry between Cohen and Andree Maranda as blind girl Sara brings a sense of humanity for the Toxic Avenger. Having been a weakling who was always ridiculed and could never find a girl, Sara accepts Melvin for who he is, even when he reveals the truth to her about who he has become. And it is their love story that drives Melvin to even become more of a hero both inside and out. A montage of their relationship is quite cute compared to the rest of the film, which is filled with madness and violence.

There are some comic bits in the film, notably in the sense of bullies Bozo and Slug, played by Gary Schneider and Robert Prichard. Schneider plays Bozo as someone who stresses out constantly over everything from having a little bit of fat to having to deal with Melvin. The confrontation between the mutated Melvin and Bozo, who is driving a stolen car, actually brings some nice action but also comedy with Bozo’s reactions providing some laughs. As for Robert Prichard’s Slug, he is seen more of a foil to Bozo but does his own pranking when he puts a small snake down an aerobic instructor’s shirt after the instructor tells his class to “do exactly what he’s doing”.

Whereas mentioned before that Oliver Stone, Kevin Costner and Vincent D’Onofrio made their debuts in Troma films, this film has the distinction of marking the film debuts of Academy Award-winning actress Marisa Tomei, who plays an extra at the health club while veteran villain actor Patrick Kilpatrick plays a thug in the second action sequence for the Toxic Avenger as well as re-appearing in a small scene where Melvin is confronted by six goons at once with guns pointing at him.

The film would go on to spawn three sequels, a cartoon series, a musical, two comic book series, and a novelization by Kaufman and Adam Jahnke. Even an American rock band named themselves after this iconic indie character.

The Toxic Avenger is the iconic Troma film, the one that starts the trademark style of the New York-based company’s films. A true independent cult classic that should not be missed.

WFG RATING: A+

A Troma Inc. Production. Directors: Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz. Producers: Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman. Writer: Joe Ritter; story by Lloyd Kaufman. Cinematography: James London. Editing: Richard W. Haines.

Cast: Andree Maranda, Mitch Cohen, Pat Ryan Jr., Jennifer Prichard, Cindy Manion, Gary Schneider, Robert Prichard, Mark Torgl, Dick Martinsen, David N. Weiss.