Thursday, October 26, 2017

"Bonehill Road" (2017) Review

Underground legend Todd Sheets (writer/director/editor) wears his influences on his sleeve. I like to picture him making a movie like a chef, standing in front of a big ol’ boiling pot, throwing comfort food ingredients in, and then, just as things boil, he throws some “special spices” into the mix and makes the soup wholly his own, tearing down the familiar and taking the participants for a ride they NEVER expected.  His new film, “Bonehill Road” is exactly like that!

Combining elements from the greatest werewolf films like: “The Howling”, “Ginger Snaps”, “An American Werewolf In London” and “Dog Soldiers” among others, “Bonehill Road” seems familiar, then the director throws some of that patented (or it should be!) Todd Sheets stank on the proceedings and conventions go out the smashed, blood spattered window.

Mother and daughter Emily and Eden (Eli DeGeer and Ana Plumberg) are fleeing a domestic violence situation and soon hit a strange animal on the highway. Growls, scratches and a chase ensues (Hey! I’m trying to keep this spoiler free, okay?) and the harried duo soon find themselves seeking refuge in a less than ideal place—think the dinner scene in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with more sick, sexual undertones. With the help of Tina (the uber talented Millie Milan), Lucy (indie horror bombshell  Dilynn Fawn Harvey) and Suzy (Linnea Quigley, who shows up long enough to school lesser “Scream Queens” on who the OG bad-ass REALLY is), our heroines soon find themselves up against not only a psychopathic Lothario (Douglas Epps), but also some hungry lycanthropes waiting outside.

Gritty, brutal and fast paced, “Bonehill Road” brings the miasma of shock cinema that we’ve come to expect from Sheets. At times artsy, atmospheric and blackly comic, Sheets never lets the viewer relax into any of these elements without  eventually reminding them that he has one foot firmly planted in gut-bucket, Fulci-esque gore. And that’s what we, as genre fans, love about him. He’s one of us, and he makes movies that he (and by association, we) wants to see.  Sheets keeps getting better with each film. I’m, by no means, familiar with all of his body of work, but from what I’ve seen, this guy has a passion for horror. And “Bonehill Road”, no matter what tangent it may veer off on temporarily is an abject horror film!

It features great performances, gritty story-telling, practical effects,  plenty of gore, some real terror inducing moments, and some World class werewolves. While there’s no high tax bracket Rick Baker style transformations, Harvey’s, in particular, looks genuinely painful, and the end product just shits all over the cuddly thing Dee Wallace became in the final act of “The Howling”. Kudos to GFS-FX and everyone involved in the creature creation!

All in all, and without giving too much away, one gets the feeling that “Bonehill Road” is exactly the film Todd Sheets set out to make. Brutal, unflinching, entertaining, frightening and metal-as-fuck, “Bonehill Road” is destined to become, much like it’s creator, a legend in indie cinema. The bar has been raised.

9/10—Scream King Tom

Saturday, February 18, 2017

"Blood Moon River" Review

Combining a "found footage" feel, with an old school "creature in the woods" mentality, "Blood Moon River", the new feature from HM&M Films ("Night of the Dolls", "House of Whores"), is quite a departure from the rapist clown antics we've come to expect from Tom Komisar and Daniel Murphy. Have these whackos gotten serious on us? Read on...

After opening with a super hot lesbian sex scene in a tent involving Crystal and Angie (Nikki Strange and Sara Ingram respectively), 6 twentysomethings, shooting a reality haunt show called "D' Bunkt", go off into a wooded area, notorious for strange disappearances, to shoot footage and look for a missing friend (the aforementioned Crystal). Strange noises interrupt the requisite partying and skinny dipping, and soon a run in with some local rednecks (played to brilliant perfection by Murphy, Komisar, and my pal, Cam Scott) adds to a thickening plot and a sense of impending dread. Things go from not-so-bad, to really-fucking-worse in the 56 or so minute running time, culminating in a twist of an ending that even the most jaded fan of fright flicks may not see coming.

 "We're not in Kansas anymore..."

The cast, including frequent HM&M co-conspirators like Strange, Lindsey McIntire and Eric Reaume, is heavy on the good looking: Stan Traylor, RJ Cecott, Naphatia Edwards, and the awesome Sydney Dean all combine to bring an excellent sense of chemistry and believability to the proceedings.  And in the "holy-shit-where-have-they-been-keeping-HER?" column is Cara McConnell, easily the hottest indie horror actress this reviewer has seen in a while, Yowza!

Nikki Strange needs a Motrin
Murphy, in particular, seems to be channeling Edwin Neal as "Skeeter", especially in a scene that is very reminiscent of the dinner table setpiece in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Lofty goals, but Komisar and Murphy manage to reach them more often than not with "Blood Moon River". It draws from a lot of obvious influences, but never ends up in danger of becoming a "Blair Witch" knock off (BMR has actual likeable characters, more action and lacks the crushing boredom elements of TBWP).
"Them's some purty words yer sayin' 'bout us"
Chilling, suspenseful and seriously entertaining, "Blood Moon River" shows what two knuckleheads can do when they doff the clown masks, pen a truly frightening story and couple it with elevated direction and an amazing ensemble cast, it's a triumph in micro budget film making. Hands down, HM&M's best film to date!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Women In Horror-April Burril

10 years ago, whilst thumbing through Fangoria Magazine (remember that?), I came across a full page ad for an indie horror film called "Chainsaw Sally". Being a sucker for punk/goth/sexy, I looked for, and eventually rented, the DVD. 

Indie horror, for me anyways, changed.

A long and fanatical relationship with Sally Diamon was started with that little low budget gem. And who knew that the woman who brought Chainsaw Sally to such vivid, bloody life would be such a sweetheart (her husband ain't bad either)?

Gorgeous, talented, and a complete bad-ass, April sliced and diced her way through two sanguine soaked seasons of “The Chainsaw Sally Show” and cemented her place in the pantheon of indie horror icons. Often copied but never equaled, the Sally character was the sexy, fem-powered, semi-cynical/semi-sweet shot in the arm the genre needed at the time. No “final girls” here, a violent, unhinged female protagonist broke the decades old rule of women in horror falling into two categories: the frightened cupcake or the avenging bitch-goddess. Combining over-the-top gore, in-jokes, nods to writer/director JimmyO’s favorites, and genuinely funny gags (for horror fans, I’m thinking “normals” might not laugh as hard), “The Chainsaw Sally Show” pushed the envelope of what a web-series could accomplish. Season 2 upped the ante, featuring a much darker tone and more focused stylized writing, and April transitioned like the seasoned performer she is, showing off a range only hinted at before.

Not resting on her laurels, in between all of the above, the amazing Ms. Burril also teamed up with genre legend Debbie Rochon for “The Good Sisters”, a superb little slice of erotic/occult nastiness that remains one of my all time favorites.

April seems to shine in everything she’s in, check out: “Silver Scream”, “Post Mortem, America 2021” or “The Hospital” and others if you don’t believe me!

I’ve met, interviewed, and basically bugged the shit out of April for most of her career thus far (I own a grand total of 14 items bearing her signature, I cherish my signed chainsaw!) and she’s always been gracious, friendly, funny, intelligent and charming as fuck. I think I may own the largest collection of Sally memorabilia in private hands! April, JimmyO and the fam are truly fans-making-films-for-fans-that-fans-will-love, more than earning the “First Family of Indie Horror” moniker I tagged them with years ago. Long may their particular freak flag fly, and here’s hoping for more Sally adventures to come!
See that sweet-ass one sheet poster up top there? I own one of those too, signed by everybody…

Monday, February 13, 2017

Women In Horror-Jen & Sylvia Soska

Okay...what can I say about the Twisted Twins that:
1) I haven't already said or...
2) Won't get me labeled a "kiss ass"?

You know what? Fuck it. It's fitting that I'm doing this blog the day before Valentine's Day, because I fucking adore these two!

Talented, gorgeous, irreverent, atypical, and entertaining as fuck, Jen and Sylvia hold a special place in countless people's hearts because they're genuine. They are always well aware of why they are where they are and, most importantly, who put them there, so they're incredibly gracious to each and every one of their fans. And they've continued to climb because they work harder than anyone else in the genre--building their brand, promoting their projects, and, in a unique twist, promoting everything they love, whether they had a hand in it or not. Not content to wait on a chance for a place at the table in the often male dominated world of indie horror, these ladies elbowed their way through, sat down, and screamed "let's eat motherfuckers!". Choosing diverse projects, and putting their own quasi-feminist stamp on things when needed, every project is met with greater success. Are they perfect? Is every film balls out fantastic?? No. But perfect is boring. There's a ton of adjectives that have been used to describe these two, "boring" ain't one of them!

With success, comes the inevitable critics. Do people talk shit?? Abso-fucking-lutely! Jen & Sylvia are remarkably adept at avoiding drama and not buying into the internet fueled genre wars. Bottom line? You hate 'em 'cause you ain't 'em! A two film deal with WWE and two seasons of a brilliant horror game show?? Yeah, *eyeroll* they got that because they're good looking! Happens all the time!

The Soskas: true originals, geek culture goddesses, inspiring females, dark angels of indie horror---kicking ass at an expert level--love 'em or hate 'em, they're here to stay and there ain't shit you can do to stop them! 

By the way, thanks to Canada for loaning them to us, it almost makes up for Nickelback...


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Women In Horror-Danielle Harris

Who knew that little Jamie Lloyd from "Halloween 4 & 5" would grow up to be such a beautiful and talented actress with more genre cred than 95% of so-called "Scream Queens"?

Well, if you didn't notice the gradual rise to "horror legend" status by the incredible Danielle Harris, you haven't been paying attention. Tiny, fierce, wildly attractive, and a natural in front of the camera, Harris' staggering body of horror work shows an increasing maturity and range that often elevates less-than-stellar productions simply because of her presence.

Some of my favorites? How about Zombie's "Halloween" (and her performance in his oft maligned "H2" was a benchmark in her career, in my humble opinion), "Stakeland" (another benchmark), she flat out owned "Hatchet 2 & 3", "Black Waters of Echo's Pond" and she turns up in small roles and cameos in all kinds of stuff, Hell, she even did a voice on "The Wild Thornberrys"!

She can do it all: the sultry sexpot, the determined "final girl", the girl next door, the introverted best friend, and the warrior goddess. Her death in "See No Evil 2" was the stuff of legend, so, when she does die, she dies awesomely! Lead role, supporting role, whatever--this lady has chops!

In person, (she does a lot of convention appearances) she's gracious, charming and truly seems to enjoy meeting her fans, even the creepy ones! And, even though you almost never see it onscreen, she possesses some amazing ink!

Danielle Harris--a strong, take-no-shit woman in horror, in a world full of killers, she's killing it every single time!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Women In Horror-Izzy Lee

Being an obsessive Lovecraft fan, I take notice when someone does a new film adaptation of one of his works.

In 2015, Izzy Lee's "Innsmouth" blew me away.

Smart, complex and stunningly original, "Innsmouth" was a quasi-feminist take on one of my favorite tales, and completely turned my impression of what one can do within the short film format upside down. Superbly directed in an almost noir-ish style, it was one of the most impressive shorts I've ever reviewed. Ever.

It wasn't really a surprise that, when researching Lee's body of work, that she is a veteran director of no less than 10 short films, often doing 2 or 3 a year. That type of work ethic is rare in the often thankless, no return world of independent horror films, so just the volume is commendable, but damn, if all of her output is as impressive, she is certainly honing her craft to a razor sharp edge!

As a fan, and a critic of sorts, of horror cinema, I simply cannot wait to see more of this woman's work, past or future. And am I the only one who thinks she needs to work her macabre magic on a feature?

Check out anything she does, or has done, out. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Women In Horror-Tiffany Shepis

Do I really need to explain why I love Tiffany Shepis?? 

There's too many individual reasons to list, so I'll just gush like a smitten fanboy for a few paragraphs, and, hopefully, the uninitiated will "get it" (and if you're reading this blog, and you're still uninitiated to the awesome that is Shepis--go stick your head in an oven) .

Her impressive body of genre work is equal only to her impressive body 


Films like, my personal faves, "Nightmare Man", "Nympha", "The Frankenstein Syndrome", "Wrath of the Crows" and "Model Hunger", even the wraparound segment of "Psycho Street", are the stuff of exquisite nightmares. Her amazing personality and genuine love for her fans is unrivaled--she is actually the first horror celebrity I ever met! Motor City Nightmares, April 2010, I spied the ridiculously attractive Ms. Shepis meeting fans at a table with Kane Hodder, I was so star struck by her smoky sexiness, that I only snapped out of my "sputtering compliments" coma when she started breaking my balls for not introducing her to my wife (she was breaking Kane's ass too), I loved it, she was so much like her many on-screen personas-ballsy, brash, and confident. 

I'm the fat guy in the Lamb of God shirt, but you knew that, right?

I'm happy to say I've lined up for Tiffany's brand of light hearted verbal abuse at many conventions since, and, as cliche as it sounds, she IS like fine wine, she only gets better with each passing year. She can easily out-sexy and act circles around a whole gang of 20 year old wanna-be "Scream Queens", she makes it look easy, and you fall a little more in love with her with each performance. I seriously think she just gets in front of the camera and acts like Tiffany Fucking Shepis, and nobody does it better!

Tiffany Shepis---Actress, True "Scream Queen", Genre Legend.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Laid To Rest" Review

"Laid to Rest", not to be confused with the flick featuring the guy with the chrome skull, is the impressive follow up to Jennifer Valdes' brilliant short film "Isabelle".

Jessie (Jessica Felice) is the forlorn, may-or-may-not-be-a-ghost at the center of the story. Pining to connect one last time with her love (Taylor August) before she can rest in peace, she wanders the cemetery looking for release. A relationship gone bad complicates things considerably when dealing with restless spirits, and the central characters in "Laid To Rest" are no exception. A superb job from the cast & crew makes all of this come across clearly in the relative short running time.

Moody, surreal, atmospheric sequences, juxtaposed with a smidgen of violence are what make this short such a compelling watch. Measured, subdued performances fit perfectly with the ethereal style and the excellent graveyard setting to give the short an almost gothic, Hammer-esque vibe. Felice, in particular, lends the film a solemn sense of dread with her yearning portrayal of unrequited love.

Valdes' certainly put some work in with this, her most recent project, and the film has a quality feel to it that leaves the viewer with a "damn, this shoulda been a feature" feeling. Great cinematography, a fitting soundtrack, and even direction make "Laid To Rest" a compelling example of competent, passionate film making.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Scream King Tom's Best Of 2016

 Yeah, so I'm a couple of days late. 2016 was a year that sucked much ass in terms of beloved celebrity deaths. Independent cinema, on the other hand, while output was down, quality was way up! I didn't review as much stuff as I have in recent years, but what I did watch was phenomenal! Here is the creme de la creme!

Scream King Tom's Best of 2016

Best Film (Feature)

"Harvest Lake"

Runner Up-"Witch Hunt"

Best Director (Feature)

Todd Sheets--"Dreaming Purple Neon"

Runner Up- Scott Schirmer--"Harvest Lake"

Best Film (Short or Anthology Segment)

"Laid To Rest"

Best Director (Short or Anthology Segment)

Jill Sixx Gevargizian-"The Stylist"

Best Actor (Feature)

Jason Crowe-"Harvest Lake"

Runner Up-Rick Chandler-"Witch Hunt"

Best Actress (Feature)

Tristan Risk-"Harvest Lake"

 Runner Up-Angelina Leigh--"Dangerous People"

Best Actor (Short or Anthology Segment)

Marv Blauvelt-"Maternal Instincts"

Best Actress (Short or Anthology Segment)

Najarra Townsend-"The Stylist"

  Best Supporting Actor (Feature)

Ricky Farr-"Dreaming Purple Neon"

Runner Up-Eliot Bayne--"Dark Cove"

Best Supporting Actress (Feature)

Brigid Macaulay-"Plank Face"

Runner Up-Lillith Astaroth--"Witch Hunt"

Best Boobs

"Plank Face"-Director--Scott Schirmer

Best Gore/Violence

"Dreaming Purple Neon"-Director--Todd Sheets