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New Releases for Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Car: Road to Revenge

Genre: Horror/Sequel

Directed by: G.J. Echternkamp

Run time: 89 minutes

Rating: Unrated

Format: DVD

The Lowdown: Sometimes, you just have to put your critic’s brain on pause to truly enjoy a so-bad-it’s-good B-movie.

And, trust me, The Car: Road to Revenge, which is apparently a very loose sequel to the obscure 1977 drive-in flick, The Car, is not a great movie, but it’s punctuated by moments of genre greatness that cannot be ignored.

First off, this is a movie about a killer car that doesn’t give two shits about telling its audience anything about the titular marauding vehicle. Here’s what you know: It self-operates, it’s like The Terminator of cars and it’s apparently possessed by the spirit of its last owner, Caddock (Jamie Bamber).

Speaking of Bamber, ever since Battlestar Galatica he’s basically become a direct-to-DVD stalwart of faded glory, a la Eric Roberts, Michael Paré and Judd Nelson. Seriously. He’s so wooden you worry about him anytime he’s near an open flame.

The Car: Road to Revenge is set in some cyberpunk dystopian future where all the bad guys dress like they’re heading over to a fetish party. There’s a rogue detective (Grant Bowler), a coquettish former flame (Kathleen Munroe), who’s also apparently a highly-trained fighter, and a handful of cartoonish henchmen and one smoking hot femme fatale (Nina Bergman), who loyally serve a creepy cult leader known only as The Night.

It takes a full 52 minutes, which is an eternity in a so-bad-it’s-good B-movie, for Munroe to even offer a thesis about the Car, which has already shown up mysteriously on multiple occasions to protect her from the bad guys trying in vain to recapture some encrypted data stored on a thumb drive. Don’t worry, though, no one believes her.

But, surprisingly, that’s about the point that The Car: Road to Revenge revs into overdrive and gets super silly, which is, thankfully, a compliment.

There’s a bizarre Cannonball Run-esque chase sequence that culminates in the coolest moment of the entire film. The Car is surrounded, staring down a gauntlet of bad guys, when it suddenly accelerates and launches airborne, performing a perfect barrel roll with three full flips, and cleanly decapitating two thugs sitting in a truck bed with a howitzer gun.

The Car is eventually defeated, BUT WAIT, then it’s discovered by an elderly mechanic (genre veteran Ronny Cox, who starred in the first film, providing the only discernible tie-in to the original) who talks to the Car like he knows it, and somehow completely restores the vehicle in a matter of hours. The Car repays him by running him over.

There’s a bunch more that happens, so much so that you eventually begin to consider the fact that The Car: Road to Revenge might never actually run out of gas, but it does, finally, with the second coolest sequence in the film, which comes after the Car has kidnapped Munroe and speeds out into the desert heading for a literal and metaphorical cliff.

If you love so-bad-they’re-good B-movies, BVB highly recommends that you ignore its flaws and drop into the driver’s seat and take The Car: Road to Revenge for a spin.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Nina Bergman is a smoking hot femme fatale assassin.

Nudity – No. Gore – Minimal, but good.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – The fucking Car, man.

Buy/Rent – Buy it.

8MM (Shout! Factory, 123 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Released in 1999, four years after Se7en (my second favorite film of all time), and hailing from the same twisted genius, Andrew Kevin Walker, I immediately fell in love with 8MM and its glorious descent into the madness of sexual-sadism and its exploration of extreme fantasies brought to life.

The funny thing is, though, now, 20 years later, I’ve actually stumbled on more disturbing material by accident than the bizarre case that unfolds after private investigator Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage, before the fall) is contracted by the wife of a dead billionaire who paid to commission a snuff film just because he could.

I know what that says about my own sordid progression in life (so don’t bother pointing it out), but at that time, in 1999, 8MM felt icky and wrong in all the right ways, whether it was the inevitable unmasking of the wicked Machine (Chris Bauer, way before True Blood) or the creepy idiosyncrasies that define sleaze director Dino Velvet (Peter Stormare).

Sadly, now, 8MM is just okay whereas Se7en remains the vaulted pinnacle that all serial killer flicks still aspire to eclipse. And time has exposed many of the cracks that come with any film by Joel Schumacher, who seemed to be seeking something dirty and raw to blast away the stench of his abysmal Batman & Robin.

Sure, Schumacher has some good hits to his credit, including D.C. Cab, The Lost Boys, Falling Down and Batman Forever, but one look at his IMDb profile and you realize that 8MM was his last decent film.

Make no mistake, there’s still a perverse glee to be found in watching a young Joaquin Phoenix and a manic James Gandolfini elevate small character roles to something memorable, just as there’s always the thrill that comes with any film that allows Cage to be his Cagiest, most bonkers best, but 8MM is no longer the dark, devious delight that I once believed it to be.

Also Available:

Willie Dynamite

The Purge: Season One

When Harry Met Sally: 30th Anniversary Edition


Now on Video-on-Demand:

The 6th Friend (The Asylum, 85 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Has there ever been a time that was the right time for a group of young women to all take acid together while partying at a secluded cabin in the woods?

Nope, not if you believe horror movies often emulate real life.

The 6th Friend, the wonderful new thriller from director Letia Clouston, opens with an array of uber-cool trippy visuals. Things get weird when Tyler, the creepy drug-dealing boyfriend of one of the girls, puts on a mask and then takes one of the friends back into a bedroom. An assault occurs.

But, wait – was it all a dream?

The 6th Friend time jumps forward to find the gaggle of girlfriends finally reconvening five years after that fateful party, at another secluded cabin in the woods. It turns out, someone did get killed during the acid-trip bloodbath, and each of the women has dealt with the aftermath in her own way.

Joey (Jamie Bernadette) has yet to forgive herself, and remains firmly fixed in grief and self-doubt. Melissa (Chantelle Albers) has capitalized on the tragedy to further her acting career. Heather (Dominique Swain) is still the same carefree, party girl. And Katie (Jessica Morris), Sahara (Tania Nolan) and Becca (Monique Rosario) are all putting up a front to suggest it’s fine.

When the group finally starts to talk about what happened, Joey threatens to leave. But Melissa confesses a secret – she has recently seen Tyler lurking outside of her window – and each of the other women slowly concurs, sharing their own sightings.

“We’ve all seen a dead rapist,” Heather says.

Everyone, except Joey, who refuses to be honest.

Later that night, things start to go bump in the night. Joey sees Tyler, which triggers a flashback.

It’s all too much for Katie, who says she’s leaving, but her car only gets so far down the mountain path before sputtering to a stall. Katie sets out on foot, but she winds up back at the cabin, gasping, three kitchen knives protruding from her back.

The truth is finally revealed. Five years earlier, the friends, all fucked up and tripping, broke into the back bedroom to find Tyler raping another girl. And, so, they attacked, stabbing Tyler up to 100 times with knives. Heather chimes in that she even stabbed his pee hole. He’s definitely deader than dead.

So, what the eff is actually happening?

Part of the fun of The 6th Friend is that Clouston and Bernadette, who wrote the script, keep viewers guessing. Are they watching a supernatural slasher? A ghost story? Or some crazy hybrid?

The 6th Friend chugs along, more than content not to ruin any of its third-act reveals until the best possible moments. There’s a healthy amount of blood, some solid kills and several above-average fight sequences. All before one final twist, the last piece of the puzzle, falls into place.

I know what you’re thinking – that there’s nothing new to bring to the slasher genre – but trust me when I say, The 6th Friend is that rare low-budget offering that successfully reinvents the wheel just enough to make you lean forward and actually pay attention all the way through to the end.

The Demonologist (Uncork’d Entertainment, 100 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): For some, the main selling point of The Demonologist, a slow-burn, wannabe-be riff on Constantine, will be star Brian Krause, a former teen heartthrob who broke out in the early 1990’s with Return to the Blue Lagoon and Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers.

For anyone who has actually seen Sleepwalkers, the main deterrent to watching The Demonologist, aside from its plodding script, will be Krause, some 27 years later, standing front and center once again in a dubious genre film that cares more for its bottom line returns than the fans whose word of mouth recommendation can help such a movie become an unlikely hit.

Terror Tales (High Octane Pictures, 100 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Terror Tales, the new horror anthology from writer-director Jimmy Lee Combs, starts off okay when a family on holiday is taken hostage by a madman.

The crazed assailant keeps Dad up front in the passenger seat while his wife and daughter are kept in a storage trailer, hooked up to some kind of sarin gas. The madman has gone to all of this trouble just to share three stories with the father.

I only made it through the first short story, By Proxy, which is so over-the-top ridiculous that it eventually becomes offensive in its lack of subtly.

The acting is across-the-board bad, and Combs’ script comes packed with brain-dumb statements like this: If I found out some fucked up bitch was keeping my kid sick, I’d cut her throat like an overpriced cable contract.

Okay, can someone please explain to me what the actual hell that even means?

Avoid at all costs.

Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel (Terror Films, 89 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): This follow-up to 2015’s Hell House LLC, which explored the deaths of more than a dozen people at a Halloween haunted house, turns its focus to the fictional Abaddon Hotel, which is based on the real, and purportedly really haunted, Shanley Hotel in upstate New York.

If Hell House LLC II already sounds familiar, that’s because this found-footage endeavor by writer-director Stephen Cognetti plays out exactly like every other found-footage fright flick that sends a crew to explore a supposedly haunted building.

The only difference is that at least a few of those other, former found-footage films were actually watchable and entertaining.

Lifechanger (Uncork’d Entertainment, 84 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Writer-director Justin McConnell’s fantastic and fully-realized Lifechanger is a genre game-changer.

For once, fans can delight in watching a horror-sci-fi hybrid that puts its monster in the leading role and tells its story from the creature’s point of view.

And what a story that McConnell has cooked up.

Lifechanger is about a shapeshifting being that only wants love – not just any love, but the love of “the only one who matters,” his soulmate, his it girl.

To realize that love, however, the creature must constantly and quickly change bodies, because bodies, as the creature’s voiceover explains, just don’t last like they used to. Bodies break down too quickly. They rupture, and burst.

In the first half hour alone, the creature absorbs multiple new hosts, including a super-hot curvy and naked party girl who goes on a killing spree before taking over the vessel of a homicide detective.

In this body, the creature finally makes his move, on Christmas eve, trying to win the heart of his beloved. Until, that is, the detective’s body begins to revolt.

Lifechanger is an unexpected blast of fresh air at a time when too many horror movies are playing it safe. The special effects are superb. The pace is energized. The script is above-average smart.

If you like creature features with a healthy dose of body horror, Lifechanger is a sure thing and a title that you should seek out immediately.

Not to be Overlooked:

New Releases for January 1, 2019

Night School

Bad Reputation

Eating Animals

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