Directed by: Mark Young
Run time: 91 minutes
The Lowdown: So, here's something that doesn't happen all too often, but you can probably relate.
Have you ever watched the trailer for a new movie and immediately felt kind of meh, as in, ‘I've seen that done a few dozen times before.’
Undaunted, you still take a chance and actually watch the movie, and suddenly, you’re like, ‘Whoa! This is a hell of a lot better than I expected.’
That’s Feral in a nutshell.
Proving that it’s never wise to discount a horror movie until you’ve actually watched it, writer-director Mark Young’s tale – a group of young 20-something campers venture out in the woods only to encounter a savage creature that’s part-human and all rage – surprises at every turn with unexpected twists and a depth of character development rarely found within the genre.
In fact, once you get past the early set-up and introduction of the main players, the majority of whom are strong female archetypes, Feral rockets along with purpose, above-average practical effects and a keen eye for subtle details that consistently elevate a story you’ve seen countless times before.
Scout Taylor-Compton, the millennial-age scream queen of Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Halloween II, surpasses expectations. And genre veteran Lew Temple provides steady support as a reclusive mountain man mourning the loss of his family who likely knows a lot more than he’s letting on.
It’s not often that BVB completely makes a boneheaded assumption and misjudges a fright flick, in this case what should have been a garden-variety rage-virus thriller, but boy howdy, it is refreshing to be proven wrong and wind up so thoroughly delighted and surprised.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Considerable.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Them wild ‘n crazy feral kids.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Saved by the Bell: The Complete Collection (Shout! Factory, 2,790 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Bayside High fans, rejoice! The complete adventures of Zack, Slater, Kelly, Jessie, Lisa and Screech are finally available in one boxed set.
Chances are, if you grew up in the 1990’s, Saved by the Bell was appointment viewing every Saturday morning. And, now, you can revisit every misunderstanding, every wacky adventure, every heartbreak and make-out sesh that defined your early teen years.
The special-edition set from Shout! Factory includes all 118 episodes from Saved by the Bell, Saved by the Bell: The College Years and Good Morning, Miss Bliss, along with two feature-length films and a bonus disc of additional materials.
Blood Fest (Cinedigm, 90 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Color me old, but I had no idea what or who Rooster Teeth Productions was prior to pressing play on Blood Fest, but now I’m game to see what else the Austin-based production company has created.
Blood Fest is the latest horror film to try and capitalize on the Extreme Haunts trend, but unlike other, similar efforts, it actually succeeds in delivering an equal measure of gore and laughs (right up until a third-act twist I predicted early on).
Dax (Robbie Kay) is just like every horror-loving high school student, except he has a dark secret: He watched his mom get slaughtered by a masked madman who broke into his home on Halloween night when he was a young boy.
Years later, Dax is all about hardcore scares, and he can barely resist the pull of Blood Fest, an annual festival celebrating blood and guts that is located deep in a forest.
Dax’s dad (Tate Donovan), who killed the intruder who butchered his wife, is an expert on the traumatizing nature of horror imagery and its negative impact on young, pliable minds. He strictly forbids Dax from attending with his friends.
Guess who doesn’t listen?
Dax calls a gal pal, Ashley (Barbara Dunkelman), who just landed her most high-profile acting gig to date as Topless Girl No. 4, to see about securing tickets for him and his two best friends, which includes Krill (Jacob Batalon, Spider-Man: Homecoming), the chubby, virginal comic relief.
The humor flies fast and furious early on. Ashley refuses to watch Se7en because she’s never seen the first six. Dax meets his horror idol, Roger Hinckley (Chris Doubek), aka The Arborist (the deranged killer in a fictional slasher franchise that’s actually quite clever), and Hinckley is a total dick (I’m looking at you Doug Bradley!).
As they begin to explore Blood Fest, which is divided into various genre-specific zones – summer camp, zombie town, Hodderton High, vampire lair, etc., the festival organizer holds center stage, preaching to the masses.
Horror, he says, has become too commonplace in a world where kids go to school with a lunchbox featuring Freddy Krueger or color in a book dedicated to Cthulhu. It’s time for something dangerous. It’s time for horror and reality to collide.
It’s here that Blood Fest really takes off. The festival is actually the organizer’s personal snuff camp. Surveillance cameras capture every inch of the festival grounds. And all of the scary paid actors are actually real, whether serial psychopaths, zombies or vampires, hired to hunt and kill and eat all of the attendees.
The only way for Dax and his friends to survive is for him to use his knowledge of how horror movies operate to outwit all of the different zones, until they find an exit.
Zombietown is pretty cool. One of the best bits is when Ashley’s director becomes the first to get taken down by a horde of undead. “He’s gone! He’s gone!” she cries. “He was going to direct a rom-com and I was going to be the rom!”
Krill gets separated and ends up at a campfire populated by hot vampire succubi. Dax reunites with Hinckley and together they square off against a real-life version of The Arborist, which gives Hinckley a chance to say his catch-phrase from the franchise: You’re about to get pruned, punk!
Blood Fest is a surprising blast, right up until its climax. Like I said, there’s a twist, which anybody who has ever seen a horror movie will immediately deduce, and the film wobbles instead of sticking its landing, but it’s not enough to ruin your overall enjoyment.
Tales from the Hood 2 (Universal, 111 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Who knew that an unexpected sequel to a 23-year-old horror anthology would feel like a welcome blast of fetid air.
Tales from the Hood 2, the sequel to 1995’s original, of the same name, once again introduces viewers to a trio of terrible tales, each designed to showcase and spotlight issues within the African-American community (and often, issues with white people who denounce, denigrate or otherwise discredit black culture).
The tales are presented by Portifoy Simms (Keith David, replacing Clarence Williams III in the role), who is called in by a wealthy white entrepreneur who wants his new sentient android to learn cultural appropriations from a trusted source.
If there’s a reason to immediately go out and find Tales from the Hood 2, it’s the first short story, which is both shocking and hilarious.
As Simms says, the first tale is about black lives matter, which is also known as, making sure the right person gets punished.
In the tale, a white cheerleader and her young black female friend visit the Museum of Negrosity, which curates and archives pieces of black Americana folk art that the museum’s curator tells the girls represent a symbol of how white society has continued to enslave black residents after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Included in the collection are a sea of Golliwog dolls. For the uninitiated, the golliwog was a black character created by a white writer in the late 19th century to appear in children’s books. The character later became popular as a toy rag doll, and also appeared in various marketing and advertising promotions.
True story: For years, my mother collected folk art and she herself owned a number of golliwog dolls, so I literally grew up in a house where I saw them every day.
Immediately, the white girl cheerleader wants to buy a golliwog. The curator tells her no. The girl pouts: “All the rappers say (the ‘N’ word) and I can’t even own a cute little black doll.”
The museum curator goes one step further, telling the white girl that such dolls hold the pain of 100 years of torment, and that they shouldn’t be coveted.
The cheerleader and her friend leave, disappointed, but then they return later that same night with the black girl’s white boyfriend, and promptly break into the museum.
And here’s where shit just gets crazy.
Upon entering the museum and turning on lights, the young black woman sees an old whipping post, which was an object used by plantation owners to tie slaves to in order to be whipped and punished. The black girl and her white boyfriend start roleplaying with the whipping post, at which point it topples over, smashing the glass case holding dozens of golliwog dolls.
Guess which one is missing? Ding, ding, ding. The doll that the cheerleader wanted to buy.
At this point, Tales from the Hood 2 simply goes Ozzy Osbourne, as in the crazy train leaves the station and promptly flies off the rails. I don’t want to spoil the ending as it simply needs to be experienced first-hand without any knowledge of what’s to come.
It’s an amazing, brazen display of both ambition and audacity, but it’s also a powerful statement and indictment of current race relations in the U.S.
And, for that alone, Tales from the Hood 2 is not to be missed.
Death Race: Beyond Anarchy – Unrated & Unhinged (Universal, 111 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): How many times can one studio make the same movie?
If you’re Universal Pictures, and you own the rights to Roger Corman’s original 1975 exploitation classic, Death Race 2000, the answer is over and over and over.
Ten years after the remake starring Jason Statham, this endurable franchise has now birthed its fourth follow-up, Death Race: Beyond Anarchy, which follows on the heels of Death Race 2 (2010), Death Race: Inferno (2013) and Death Race 2050 (2017).
Why do I care? Here’s the problem: It’s the same fucking movie. They just keep recycling the same damn plot, and they will continue to do so, as long as people keep paying to buy each new disc.
The only consistent change has been the lead actor. Way back 43 years ago, it was David Carradine, the epitome of cool; then Statham, the king of kick-ass; then Luke Goss, a second-tier action hero at best; then Manu Bennett, who at least looks the part; and now, in 2018, we get Zach McGowan (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).
BVB says enough!
Molly (Artsploitation Films, 91 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): Molly, the new post-apocalyptic mash-up, looks and acts like it wants to be Turbo Kid, which is not a bad thing at all. BVB loves Turbo Kid.
The problem is with Molly’s execution, which suffers throughout from slow pacing and a dearth of exposition to properly educate viewers as to what came before it to explain how the world suddenly got so fucked up. That said, Molly is a film with its heart firmly in the right place. It’s creative enough to make the most of its DIY-cum-Mad Max-era set designs into something believable. And there’s a nice little twist at the very end.
Fans of this genre may be enthralled; me, I wanted something a little meatier and nastier.
Afraid (Well Go USA, 125 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Alanna Masterson (The Walking Dead) headlines the new found-footage thriller, Afraid, and for many folks, that’s likely enough to get them to watch.
The problem with Jason Goldberg’s film, though, is that it relies on a twist that’s so poorly disguised and so clearly telegraphed that it makes the effort of watching the overly-long thriller almost interminable.
In short, Afraid presents itself as an expose of cyber-stalking where an online troll creates a listing for a vacation cabin, which he then tricks out with hidden cameras everywhere, before soliciting renters, one of whom turns out to be Masterson’s boyfriend, George (George Byrne).
As soon as they arrive for a weekend getaway, problems become apparent. Masterson’s character is preparing to leave for a school far away from her boyfriend lives. He isn’t happy. They argue, make up, have sex. All of which is captured by the hidden cameras and shown to the viewer.
Then, the troll starts hacking her phone, which viewers also get to see. It turns out Masterson’s character has some side dick that George doesn’t know about, which the troll immediately starts using to create issues for the squabbling lovebirds.
Here’s the thing: Most found-footage movies, at least, take the opportunity to explain to the viewer how and why they are suddenly seeing images that otherwise had been lost, ie this footage was recovered by police following a grisly home invasion, etc.
There’s no such disclaimer in Afraid, nor is there any attempt by Goldberg or writer Nick Kreiss to explain how the viewer is watching the events unfold. Not to mention, things happen at the speed it takes glaciers to melt, as in super slooooooooowly.
I wish there was more to recommend here that just Masterson’s name value, but honestly, that’s about it, and even then I don’t know that it’s enough to justify losing two hours of your life watching fictional humans make poor decisions again and again.
The First Purge
Leave No Trace
The 12th Man
Three Identical Strangers
Confessions of a Young American Housewife/Sin in the Suburbs/Warm Nights Hot Pleasures