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New Releases for Tuesday, December 4, 2018


Genre: Horror

Directed by: Adolfo J. Kolmerer and William James

Run time: 121 minutes

Rating: Unrated

Format: Video-on-Demand

The Lowdown: If you ever wondered what Pulp Fiction might look like filtered through the prism of a self-proclaimed, “fucked up German fairy tale,” then it’s time to buckle up and say, Thank You, Satan Claus, because Snowflake has arrived.

Snowflake is bat-shit bonkers in the best possible way. It’s the story of two wannabe assassins, Javid (Reza Brojerdi) and Tan (Erkan Acar), who kill the wrong innocent bystanders during a diner massacre. That bloody act puts them on the radar of Eliana (Xenia Assenza), whose uber-wealthy parents were in the wrong place at the worst time, and who solicits her family bodyguard, Carson (David Masterson), to help her find a hired gun to kill Javid and Tan. Her request leads them to Carson’s father, Caleb (David Gant), a self-proclaimed god, whose followers have dwindled in number since he was exposed as not being a true messiah. Caleb directs Eliana and Carson to seek out Dariusz and his brother Bolek, two cranked-out cannibal hitmen with a penchant for culinary experimentation.

But, before Eliana’s thirst for revenge can be satiated with Javid and Tan’s execution, the two knuckleheads steal a car belonging to a dentist named Arend who is writing a screenplay about Javid and Tan, as well as all of the aforementioned characters, and that screenplay includes every detail, every word and action that viewers have already watched unfold on screen. It even includes the torture and interrogation efforts of Javid and Tan on Arend to make him confess as to why he wants them dead.

Did I mention that the dentist happens to share the same name as Snowflake’s screenwriter, Arend Remmers?

Could it possibly get any more meta than that? Yes, actually, it can.

Snowflake is a wonderful testament to creativity and a primer for any aspiring filmmaker hoping to make a dent in the world of genre cinema.

It’s fearless as fuck, which is exactly what people who love genre cinema expect, but even better, it delivers on its promise in spades, which sadly is something not enough films these days can claim.

Run, don’t walk, to find it now. You won’t be disappointed.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Oh yes.

Nudity – No. Gore – Yes.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – Don’t mind him, he’s just a dentist.

Buy/Rent – Buy it.

Slay Belles (Epic Pictures/Dread Central Presents, 77 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Slay Belles, the debut feature from former horror writer Spooky Dan Walker, is a fun flick to watch and enjoy.

It’s packed with hot babes with lots of cleavage (I could watch Hannah Wagner, aka Hannah Minx, all day long), some hysterical dialogue, an epic battle between Santa Claus and Krampus, a surprisingly sinister turn by Mrs. Claus and just enough blood and gore to keep hardcore fans satisfied.

Plus, who doesn’t want to watch Barry Bostwick going balls-out as Santa, or get an eyeful of what Krampus’ schlong might look like if exposed?

To that end, Slay Belles is a hoot and a riot, the perfect horror film to just turn off your brain and enjoy, and for that, I have to commend Walker.

Yes, there are issues. For some unknown reason, every time Krampus appears, the score changes to an untenable rave soundtrack that makes you long for the soothing numbness of MDMA. And a late third-act reveal, which serves to better explain why Krampus wants to sabotage Santa’s round-the-globe present delivery, doesn’t give enough detail to make the special effects truly “special.”

But these are quibbles that most viewers likely may not even notice.

Slay Belles is basically Spooky Dan testing out the director’s chair with training wheels. I, for one, am excited to see what he does next now that he’s hopefully realized he’s a natural behind the camera.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout 4K (Paramount, 147 minutes, PG-13, 4K Ultra HD): At this point, is there anyone who doubts that the Mission: Impossible franchise, regardless of how you feel about star Tom Cruise, is the best American action film series of all time?

If you are among the doubting minority, or you’ve never actually seen a Mission: Impossible film, then the sixth installment, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, which ranks as a highwater mark, not to mention the best of the entire series to date, should set you straight.

No other action franchise has improved with each installment, especially this deep – 22 years and counting – into its run. Hell, I can’t even think of another, comparable franchise, except maybe The Fast and the Furious franchise, but even that series has been marked by inconsistent outings, not to mention some truly ridiculous plotlines in the later installments.

Fallout, which nimbly crosses back and forth around the globe, and features a handful of insane action sequences, never falters even with its sprawling plot and various double-crosses. It’s exhilarating but never exhausting.

Accept the challenge. Join the Hunt (Ethan Hunt, that is). And buckle up because Fallout will leave you breathless.

The Nun (Warner Bros., 97 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): I guess if you keep swinging away, eventually you’re gonna get a hit.

That seems to be the mindset of the ever-expanding franchise universe spawned by James Wan’s The Conjuring, and truth be told, that approach is starting to pay off.

The Nun, the second stand-alone spin-off from the first two Conjuring films, is actually not bad, at least up until the inevitable batshit-crazy climatic deluge of computer-generated frights that seems to exist within each of these films, like the inevitable cadenza of pyrotechnics that concludes a fireworks display.

Still, for horror fans, we’ll take a pretty good R-rated mainstream scary movie over a PG-13 shitshow all day, every day.

At least The Nun is better than Annabelle, the first spin-off film, which actually found its footing with its own 2017 follow-up, Annabelle: Creation. Here’s hoping the second helping of The Nun, because you know it’s coming, continues to improve instead of taking a giant leap backwards in quality and style.

Elizabeth Harvest (Shout! Factory, 109 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): In 2000, the first trailer for What Lies Beneath, a star-studded thriller, basically gave away the entire film in just over two minutes.

The trailer for Elizabeth Harvest, the new men-playing-God thriller from IFC Midnight, almost – almost – does the same thing, but in record time. I think I got less than a minute into the trailer before I figured out the core plot twist and instantly stopped playing the trailer.

Have we learned nothing in the past 18 years? Do people seriously want to know every reveal and turn that a film is going to take before sitting down to watch it?

The problem with this stupid-as-eff practice is two-fold.

In the case of What Lies Beneath, which wasn’t a very good of-course-he-did-it, showing the entire film as a two-minute short essentially undercut the built-in audience of its two very-bankable stars, Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford, and effectively pissed off fence-sitters like me who might have plopped down money for a ticket depending on word-of-mouth.

With Elizabeth Harvest, which is actually a very good, 21st century take on The Bride of Frankenstein, knowing a key plot point before watching the movie thankfully doesn’t take away from your overall enjoyment of the film as a whole.

Elizabeth Harvest is packed with unexpected twists and punctuated by above-average acting. It’s intelligent and unnerving, how refreshing, and keeps your attention throughout.

Also Available:

The House that Never Dies: Reawakening

New Wave: Dare to Be Different

The Serpent’s Egg

Now on Video-on-Demand:

The Cabin (High Octane Pictures, 86 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – a couple on the verge of a breakup makes a date to travel to a remote cabin in the woods where they will encounter a violent and unbalanced threat and be forced to fight to survive.

I know, I know. The last thing you really want to watch, besides another tired-ass exorcism flick, is another tired-ass cabin in the woods slasher, amiright?

Thankfully, director Johan Bodell and screenwriter/co-star Erik Kammerland take what has become an over-tired trope and goose it with some much-needed intensity, above-average acting and enough surprises to keep you invested.

Death Kiss (Uncork’d Entertainment, 87 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Here’s the deal -- Death Kiss is not the best Charles Bronson vigilante flick ever made, but I’m betting more than a few casual viewers will believe they’re watching Bronson mow down a slew of bad guys without breaking a sweat.

That’s because the lead actor, Robert Bronzi, is a dead-ringer for Bronson, right down to his often-stiff line readings and frequent lack of any visible emotion.

Bronzi plays “The Stranger” (no, really, that's his name), a vigilante who relocates to a crime-ridden city and immediately sets about to clean up the streets single-handedly, the law be damned.

Seriously, Bronzi is a stone-cold killer whenever he isn’t leaving stacks of cash wrapped in brown paper in the mailbox of a young single mother. I’m pretty sure the woman is supposed to be his daughter, but that critical plot point is never fully explained.

Death Kiss doesn’t worry much at all about making sense. Instead, it just throws as many different action sequences at the audience as possible, along with some truly awful acting, courtesy of Daniel Baldwin, doing his best Alec Baldwin, and Richard Tyson (Two Moon Junction), who looks rough, as in Oh shit, that's the guy from Two Moon Junction? rough.

The Stranger is undeterred, regardless of how many bad guys he’s up against. At one point, he even picks up a car door to use as a shield in the middle of a gunfight.

At another point, Bronzi’s Stranger forces another young woman to kill her assailant, as if that will serve as some sort of cathartic release.

Bronzi basically plays Bronson as if he’s starring in The Terminator. He’s everywhere, seemingly all at once. Wherever bad dudes are, there he is.

If for nothing else, at least the script makes an effort, weak though it may be, to address the ridiculousness of his avenging angel.

“I’m on the run from some crazed maniac with a mustache!” one bad guy shouts at one point.

And, if nothing else, at least that recognition is enough to make you laugh.

Not to be Overlooked:

New Releases for November 27, 2018

The Critters Collection (Shout! Factory, 335 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): Depending on your age, there’s a good bet that you identify more strongly with one of three different mini-monster franchises spawned in the 1980’s.

For me, I’m a Gremlins guy through and through. The 1984 gold standard of practical effects and creature puppets remains one of the touchstones of my youth.

I’m also partial to the Ghoulies franchise, which debuted in 1984 after Gremlins as a legitimate cash-grab, before sparking three sequels, the best being Jim Wynorski’s Ghoulies IV, which featured smoking-hot Stacie Randall as a fetishized demoness.

Then there’s Critters, which arrived in 1986, and also sparked three sequels.

This impressive boxed set includes all four films, spanning 1986 to 1992, including Critters, Critters 2: The Main Course, Critters 3: You Are What They Eat and Critters 4.

The first film, directed by Stephen Herek (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) in his feature-length debut, featured the best cast – Dee Wallace, M. Emmet Walsh, Billy Zane and Lin Shaye – as well as solid creature design effects by Chiodo Brothers Productions, who would gain cult status two years later in 1988 with Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

Though I find Critters more in line for younger viewers, it’s funny now to rewatch the original and realize how much potential there actually was before the sequels became a series of diminishing returns.

Lucio Fulci’s Zombie – 3-Disc 40th Anniversary Limited Edition 4K Restoration (Blue Underground, 91 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): There’s little that hasn’t been said about Fulci’s 1979 classic, and it’s fair to say that most longtime horror fans likely own at least one version of the film on some type of home media.

In fact, distributor Blue Underground in October 2011 previously released Zombie: 2-Disc Ultimate Edition.

So, what’s new then to persuade diehard fans to fork out more money? Actually, quite a bit.

The new 40th anniversary set does overlap with the 2011 edition by offering a full disc of archival footage, interviews and mini-documentaries. But the new version also offers a brand-new commentary track recorded exclusively for this release featuring author Troy Howarth. There’s also a new video feature, When the Earth Spits Out the Dead, offering insight from author Stephen Thrower, a new video introduction by legendary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, a new compact disc of the film’s iconic score by Fabio Frizzi, a 22-page illustrated booklet and a new 3D lenticular slipcover with reversible vintage poster art on the other side.

Also Available:

Gosford Park

Outrage Coda

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