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Friday, October 8, 2021

THE SECRET OF SINCHANEE (Film Review)

 


                           Starring: Laila Lockhart Kraner, Steven Grayhm, Rudy Reyes

                                                 Directed by: Steven Grayhm

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             I think we can all agree to an extent that even in the world of horror, it's not always about the blood & guts parameter being smashed, but the effective storytelling and pacing of a slow-burning chiller to give an audience the creeps. However, when one particular presentation opts to take TOO LONG in its creation & delivery, it can be detrimental to the overall product - so, without any further ado, I give you all The Secret Of Sinchanee

          Pulling double-duty (director/actor) for this one is Steven Grayhm, who plays the role of Will Stark, a tow-truck driver who at a young age suffered incomprehensible trauma as a child years ago, and sadness has come full-circle in present time with the recent passing of his father. This event brings Will back to his childhood home to close affairs, but the "otherworldly" aspect of the childhood tragedy seems to want to pry back into the mix, and couple that with a murder investigation of a mother/daughter duo, Will's certainly going to have a full dance card when it comes to trouble in his hometown. With a strong backstory involving Native Americans and the horrific treatment against them over the course of history, Grayhm lays out the best table-setting and decorates the surrounding area with delicate details - combined with some beautiful camera work and sullen atmosphere, the initial thought on this one was that I was in for something extraordinary.

         With also having written the film itself, Grayhm crafts what definitely should have come off as a timed-out spookfest with multiple angles of dread and uneasiness, and that would have fit nicely inside a tidy 90-minute presentation...but...At damn near two hours the movie drags along relentlessly and honestly wastes multitudes of time stretching too many focal points of psyche-damaging ordeals, paranormal incidents, criminal investigations, and the commentary of atrocities committed against Native Americans - not unforgivable by any means, but it honestly made this "secret" worth keeping locked up. Performances around in the film were adequate and moderately effective in the conveyance of the story, but at times some of the talents appeared to be lost in their labors - were they put off by the pacing as well? Overall, The Secret Of Sinchanee is one of those films with an important story to tell...I'm just not sure that this framework was the right composition to do so - possibly a one-time-watch if you love SERIOUSLY slow-burners.


FILM RATING: 2 out of 5

   

Thursday, September 9, 2021

CRUEL SUMMER (Film Review)

 


                             Starring: Ashlyn McCain, Bridgit Linda Froemming, H. Marie

                                                 Directed by: Scott Tepperman

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      Does anyone know of a possible chance that we can hop in that long-overdue time machine and jettison back to the heydays of slasher-dom -  I'm talking about the '80s, ya carnage-freaks! I'd love for nothing more than to abandon this era of whiny, entitled, gluten-free, mocha latte-drinking, safe-space residing snowflakes and live among the summer of the Reagan-era once and for all (not a political statement, by any means). The days of renting my cinematic slaughter on VHS seem so long ago and I'm just really homesick for a little mindless manhandling of the oversexed and chemically altered teen populous, and thanks to the demented minds of Los Bastardz Productions, these days have come back in grand style. Get ready, lovers of retro-slash filmmaking, because even though the calendar may say otherwise, we're still in the middle of a CRUEL SUMMER. 

   Directed by Scott Tepperman (who also wrote AND holds down the role of "Gunnar"), the film tells the tale of a group of college-pals who are setting up a little pre-grad bash, complete with an '80s murder-mystery theme at a remote lake house. We've got the atypical boozers, stoners, and people with a penchant for shedding some pesky clothing all wrapped up in a nice package, just waiting for their chance to get decimated by a crazed-killer who has decided to crash the festivities. You see what I'm flingin' at you all? Simplistic, barbaric and ultimately entertaining for those looking to get back to the glory days of party-time slashing - no muss, no fuss - just grade-A (well, maybe B) bloodshed. 

   Tepperman and his co-producing cohort Jim O'Rear waste no effort in delivering fun performances, and alongside a youthful cast of willingly wanton victims, CRUEL SUMMER is a movie that lets you shut off your brainpans for a spell, and frankly revel in the glory that is throw-back horror, constructed by those who have the same loyalty & respect for the genre that our collective has come to embrace for a long time now. The film is currently on the hunt for a distributor, but I have a good feeling that this little gem won't go unclaimed for long, and we here at Zombies & Toys will surely keep you all in the know as to its progression.


 FILM RATING: 3.5 severed heads out of 5

SLAXX (DVD review)

 


                                 Starring: Romane Denis, Brett Donahue, Sehar Bohjani

                                                   Directed by: Elza Kephart

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             Calling all fashion victims! If you're one of those "gotta have it" people when the latest togs hit the racks, and are endorsed by the high-favored types on TV, the movies, and social media, then director Elza Kephart's latest denim-gone-bad film SLAXX is definitely for you. 

     The premise of the film takes us inside the ultra-snooty, and insanely objectionable world of mall-retail clothing sales and the fictional Canadian Cotton Clothiers is no different. Their salespeople are confined to "ecosystems" that represent the particular section of the store they work in, and all are rigged up with the pseudo-FBI agent earpiece for communication purposes - nice touch, indeed. This entitled band of slack-slingers are being led by CEO Harold Landsgrove: a retail icon that's as close to a cult leader as you can get, and he's got the collective ear of his employees firmly entrenched in the notion that his product is entirely free of any negative stereotype that can be placed in the public eye. The only problem here is, that the horrors of sweatshop work and unsafe conditions for the souls that risk their lives to create these commodities is about to rear its ugly head...or its rear, for that matter. Turns out that the diamond in the clothiers' latest collection is a pair of denim jeans that will literally fit any body shape. therefore eliminating any misconceptions about body-shaming or the general angst of some people who can't shoe-horn their derrieres into a pair of pants - we're talking about the possession of a pair of pocketed pantaloons, people!

   First-night employee Libby is eager for the chance to make a difference at her new job, and she's now been chucked into the mix of a bevy of personalities - each one generally unpleasant but ultra-effective to the film's storyline. The store will soon be going into overnight "lockdown" to allow a social-media influencer to film her latest vlog about the new collection, and believe me when I tell you - the crimson will fly when the denim spirits get angered. The movie itself certainly isn't to be taken seriously, outside of the whole "ending child labor" statement of course, but this presentation is simply dumb-fun - nothing more, nothing less. Performances are humorous if not downright farcical, and you'll probably find yourself debating which commission-collecting douche will get offed next. The whole package adds up to a fun watch that should be taken as seriously as one of those runway shows. The film is now available on Blu-ray & DVD formats, as well as VOD & streaming services.


FILM RATING: 3 legs out of 5

               

                       

Sunday, September 5, 2021

GREAT WHITE (Blu-Ray review)

 


Starring: Katrina Bowden, Aaron Jakubenko, Tim Kano

Directed by: Martin Wilson

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Now look, I think we can all agree that there isn't a shark flick that can touch the immensity of 1975's classic about that smilin' son-of-a-bitch in the sea - now some may have come within a fathom or two, but in my useless estimation everything since has been a whimpering guppy in comparison. Do I sound the least bit protective and jaded of the original product? Good. Now that we've got that brutish bit of harebrained reasoning off the freeway, we can delve into this titanic bucket of chum...don't get any on ya!

The premise of GREAT WHITE is based around the floundering (I promise, no more fish puns) small seaplane business of retired marine-biologist Charlie (Jakubenko) and his girlfriend Kaz (Bowden). One of their last-ditch attempts to keep their livelihood churning comes in the booking of a quick-trip from a couple of lovebirds. Not too soon thereafter shit goes sideways (no spoilers here, folks), some seriously misguided decisions are made and the group finds themselves at the mercy of a very hungry shark. Stuck in a life-raft with a dwindling supply-status the small contingent of not-too-friendly acquaintances has to band together to outwit a predator that at times acts as if it's out-thinking them at every watery turn. The main issue that I had with this production was the pacing and seemingly never-ending dialogue that would make most anyone want to call it quits and hop in the big blue for the last bite. 

Performances were adequate enough for another killer-shark film, but some of the decisions made by the characters and criminally-offensive CGI handcuff the movie to the bottom of the boat and drag it WAAAY past the channel-markers. A solid positive here is how the film actually looks on Blu-format, with electric blue seas and golden shores of sand that even look more impressive if you've got a big ol' idiot-box to watch them on, but unfortunately it isn't a saving grace. The film will hit Blu-Ray & DVD formats this September 7th, but it's been doggy-paddling around for a spell on VOD streaming services - if you're not put off by sleepy talk, a digitally-enhanced marine carnivore and a never-ending sense that you should have just watched JAWS for the millionth time, then this one's DEFINITELY for you.

FILM RATING: 2 out of 5

Thursday, February 25, 2021

WRONG TURN (2021 - Film Review)

 


Starring: Charlotte Vega, Adain Bradley, Matthew Modine

Directed by: Mike P. Nelson

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While not EXACTLY a reboot, Director Mike P. Nelson's 2021 take on the Wrong Turn franchise takes a different path in its story and intently brings a new vision to what audiences will ultimately see as refreshing...PERHAPS?

We've spanned between the years 2003 and 2021, and with 6 films under its belt, the "hillbillies on the hunt" universe rears its toothless faces towards us and drags the collective back into the deep woods of Virginia. It almost seems as what we've come to know about these killer rednecks is swerved to a deceptive extent, and what looks like a threat may not be what its cracked up to be - messin' with your minds!! The film drops Jen (Vega) and her band of pals into the heavy green of the Appalachian Mountain region for a little hiking trip, and they stumble over a border leading into land inhabited by a group known as "The Foundation." We're not talking about a clan of uneducated, sister-humpin' stiffs that have a bunch of axes to grind, no, no, no - this is a well-structured (and long-tendered) population of hermits who have eschewed the normality of everyday life and its problems, and deal with injustices on their own terms. As the day grows longer and our tempestuous band of friends detours themselves in the confusing coppice, they begin to find themselves under attack - but for what reason, and who will step up to save them?

Nelson's direction in this fresh restart is exactly that: fresh - however the presentation does have some lagging points, which seemed to be smack dab in the middle of the film. An ABUNDANCE of f-bombs (which seemed to be the base of our young characters' vocabularies) grew extremely tiring after the first 30-40 are littered in a short span, and let's not forget their winning personalities! I guess it makes it comprehensibly more feasible to warrant someone's imminent demise when they come off like a petulant and confrontational whiner...and it was on full display with this gang. Matthew Modine shines as Jen's protective papa (I'm not willing to admit that he's getting older), and he aids in the flow of the story, even when bouts of stagnancy begin to set in. Some of the kills were admirable in their brutality and execution, while (thanks to some heavy censoring, I'm sure) others were sadly cut away from too quickly. 

Overall, this isn't your 2003 Wrong Turn, and aside from some MUCH-NEEDED lopping off from the movie's runtime, this one should satiate gorehounds and horror fans alike - Mr. Nelson has taken an otherwise dried up exhibit and infused it with the power of rejuvenation - this is a one-timer for sure as far as this corpse is concerned, but there is promise glowing on the horizon if there happens to be a chance of continuation.

The film is now available on Blu-ray and DVD format, as well as numerous streaming opportunities.

FILM REVIEW: 3 out of 5

Friday, February 19, 2021

DEAD AIR (Film Review)

 


Starring: Kevin Hicks, Vickie Hicks, Chris Xaver

Directed by: Kevin Hicks

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Well, here I am - back in the mix once again, and after a 3 week bout with the big Corona back in November and an even longer self-imposed sabbatical from the writing process I've returned to (hopefully) entertain you all with my mindless babblings and useless opinions about the genres I find to be most beloved. So settle in with the beverages of your choice, read my rants and let's all keep each other company in these crazy times!

Dead Air is the latest specimen on the slab, graciously offered up for review by Justin Cook PR, and it goes without saying that I was more than interested in dunking my peepers into this one. Starring Kevin Hicks (who also directed) and Vickie Hicks (writer), William is a man whom after the loss of his mother, begins the arduous task of cleaning out his parents' belongings, and when he comes across an antiquated ham radio, his curiosity is piqued and he fires it up. Once hooked up to the airwaves, he comes in contact with a mysterious woman named Eva who after claiming to be agoraphobic and paranoid to a debilitating extent, begins to warm up to William and the two spark up a most-unlikely "friendship" of sorts. Their connection is the air itself, and they use it as an appendage to reach out to one another, assisting in lessons of grief-management and basic companionship...but we all know that things won't exactly be rosy when the veil is lifted, now don't we?

Now, if you came to this film looking for a fright-a-minute fest with non-stop thrills and chills I'm sorry to say that you'll be extremely disappointed - however, if long stretches of mundane dialogue coupled with a stale sense of dread is your gig, this presentation is right up your alley. This isn't me taking a big ol' porcelain potshot at the movie itself, because the premise in its wholeness is intriguing, and if you thrive on the "who is behind the curtain" aspect of a product such as this then dive on in. Both Hicks' work on the microphone is stable and conveying to the story in an acceptable fashion, but unfortunately there isn't much left to go on once that's reached its peak. There are a few twists and turns in the plot that assist in keeping things somewhat fresh, but I'd bet solid money that the hardcore horror and thriller fans can see them coming from a mile away. 

Overall, I'm going to give this one nothing more than a "one-and-done" as I'd really hoped for something more productive in the story and resulting effects - Dead Air will have an audience that I'm fairly sure of...but how long will it take before the listeners turn the power button to the OFF-position?

The film is available TODAY (2/19) on digital and cable VOD platforms.

FILM RATING: 2 out of 5

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

TO YOUR LAST DEATH (Film Review)

 

Starring: Morena Baccarin, William Shatner, Bill Moseley

Directed by: Jason Axinn

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     Let me just preface this review with this simple declaration, and it may be one that ruffles the feathers of MANY a horror/sci-fi fan: I am NOT a fan of animated features - never have been, probably never will be. Now, this isn't me poo-pooing on the format or premise one bit, but there's always been something that I never felt like a fulfilling characteristic was achievable (to me, anyway) with an animated result.   However, when I was approached to check out director Jason Axinn's latest feature, To Your Last Death I was a bit intrigued simply due to the fact that I've seen and heard some pretty rave reviews about the product itself. What the hell, am I right? Devote a little time to some cartoonish violence and give my honest review - shouldn't be too difficult, so here we go!

  The film's premise itself is simple (yet ultimately deranged): four siblings who've lost touch with each other have been reunited by their power-hungry daddy (Ray Wise in a stellar performance), and dear old dad has got bloody revenge on his mind. He's convinced that his offspring are to blame for his lost bid at the Vice-Presidency and now he plans on making them pay. With "Jigsaw" inspired traps and enough vehemence this quartet of siblings are in for one hell of a family get-together. Oldest daughter Miriam (Dani Lennon) is no stranger to her demented daddy's sadistic games, and with the assistance of a mysterious woman known only as The Gamesmaster (Baccarin), she might just have a clear shot at making it out of this sick scenario with only minimal blood-loss...something tells me there aren't any Christmas cards being exchanged within this group.

  The visuals at times can seem a bit choppy and sedentary, but the violence and gore factor is what makes this beast growl - Axinn certainly didn't ease up on the gas pedal with this presentation, and the movie shines as a result. With plenty of strong voice performances, each character breathes life and acts as their own entity - we've even got the Captain himself, William Shatner handling narration during the film itself - a nice touch, indeed. If there were a negative to poke at it would be the idea that the ending does seem a bit road mapped - if you're following along during the runtime it can seem a bit anticlimactic once the inevitable occurs. However, no harm-no foul as this one should have the juice to appease even the pickiest of genre-aficionados - I mean, it impressed me and that's no easy task - make sure to give this one a look when it crosses your screen!

FILM RATING: 3.5 out of 5