New Releases for Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Directed by: Dallas King
Run time: 95 minutes
The Lowdown: Kiss Kiss is the latest in a distinguished subgenre born from the drive-in theater days that prominently featured provocative action set either in a women’s prison or an underground catfighting/mixed-martial-arts competition.
While most of these movies focus almost entirely on titillation and wholly forget the fundamentals of basic Filmmaking 101, such as the need for a decent story, above-average acting and believable action sequences, there are a host of exceptional titles to be found, ranging from 1974’s Roger Corman-produced Caged Heat all the way to 2013’s brutally magnificent Raze.
Kiss Kiss wants to have it both ways, and largely succeeds, which is a pleasant surprise. It starts with a basic premise, a group of underpaid, underappreciated exotic dancers, sprinkles in some nice post-#MeToo female empowerment and then segues into a girl’s trip to a post wine resort and wild animal preserve.
Before long, Kiss Kiss takes an unexpected swerve when it’s revealed that the four friends have been roped into a secret government experiment to test out a new drug that can turn average people into blood-thirsty killers.
As the entrepreneur/architect behind the experiment states, if he can turn a bunch of strippers into hardcore killers, imagine what he can do with a group of trained soldiers.
What elevates Kiss Kiss above other, similarly themed exploitation flicks is the fight sequences, which are well-staged and unexpectedly intense. That and the film’s sly, subversive sense of humor.
If you dig hard-hitting, female-centric fighting, there’s a lot to recommend in Kiss Kiss based on its refreshing approach to exploitation cinema.
The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Yes. Gore – Fight violence.
Drug use – Yes.
Bad Guys/Killers – Your typical, garden-variety wealthy shmucks and military types who don't value human life.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
Princess Mononoke: Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory, 133 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): Director Hayao Miyazaki’s acclaimed animated feature gets the deluxe treatment from Shout! Factory with a gorgeous hardback slipcover, a 40-page retrospective packed with art and critical essays, a separate disc featuring the film’s soundtrack, which was previously unavailable, and a host of new special features.
Don’t Look (Wild Eye Releasing, 71 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand/DVD): Don’t Look, a retro-slasher promising a decidedly female-centric point of view, was written by Jessica Boucher and directed by its leading lady Luciana Faulhaber.
That’s awesome, and something to be championed, because horror needs more strong female voices both behind and in front of the camera.
But if you’re going to make a new slasher film that recalls classic slasher films, why not go all the way and do something decidedly original instead of the been there, seen that result that is Don’t Look?
From its generic box art featuring a hillbilly in a baby mask with a chainsaw down to its formulaic characters and wholly unoriginal setting at a remote cabin in the woods, Don’t Look promises a lot but delivers very little.
Valentine: The Dark Avenger (Shout! Factory, 97 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): This Indonesian import tries to cash in on the U.S. superhero craze with a surprisingly original story about two filmmakers who cast an aspiring actress who works as a waitress in a pseudo-documentary about vigilantism.
What the filmmakers don’t tell the woman, Srimaya (Estelle Linden), is that they actually want her to become a vigilante who thwarts crime while being filmed doing it.
Valentine: The Dark Avenger is fun and fast-paced. It won’t make you forget Marvel Studios any time soon, but it’s an interesting twist on the typical superhero origin story that makes for a solid viewing.
Happy Death Day 2 U
Fighting with My Family
The Big Clock
Now on Video-on-Demand:
High Moon (Distribution Solutions, 92 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Well, it’s official, I’ve seen it all.
The werewolf-western hybrid High Moon wants to be epic so, so badly. It wants to tell the kind of origin story that’s often reserved for the pages of a graphic novel. Worse, the film can’t make up it’s mind what it wants to be called. It was originally titled Howlers, but is now being released as High Moon, which is actually pretty clever.
High Moon opens in the 1800’s in a dusty western town where Colt (Chad Michael Collins) patrols as the resident werewolf-hunter. He runs into a gang of desperados that transform in front of him for a big fight, and boy howdy, this is some of the worst werewolf makeup I’ve ever seen. The main outlaw looks like Walton Goggins from Justified, if he had gone to Party City for his Halloween costume.
But here’s the thing, despite its piss-poor special effects, the kills in High Moon are pretty brutal and well-staged.
Anyway, Colt has a werewolf blade, or some shit, and he dispatches all the wolves and buries them, and then a ninja (I’m not making this up, I swear) appears and tells Colt that in order to maintain some kind of protective prophecy, he must kill Colt so that he can be resurrected if ever the need arises.
Next, we time jump to present day where Colt wakes up and bursts out of his coffin, only to be discovered by a female jogger who inexplicably takes Colt home to clean him up.
Guess who else woke up? That’s right, the entire gang of murderous werewolf outlaws, who start killing folks, which quickly gets the attention of the local sheriff (Matthew Tompkins), who alerts the town mayor (Sean Patrick Flanery, seriously slumming).
Up to this point, High Moon is actually not bad. It’s competently made, well-paced and mostly not dumb.
Unfortunately, the dumb is coming, and quickly. Once Colt starts spinning his tale of mystical prophecies and werewolves who can now walk in daylight, High Moon just collapses.
It tries really, really hard to sustain its epic ambitions, going so far as to set up a possible sequel, but I can’t imagine anyone green-lighting a follow-up to this thing unless it does mad bank from the discount bin of your local big-box retailer.
Saint Bernard (Severin Films, 97 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Saint Bernard, the second feature from special effects maestro Gabriel Bartalos, is an impossibly frustrating viewing experience.
Essentially the story of a strange child with a unique gift to hear music in all moments of waking life, who longs to be a conductor, who slowly loses his marbles, Saint Bernard seems to long to be considered in the same breath as balls-out-crazy cult classics like Street Trash, but it simply can’t shoulder the weight of those aspirations.
It’s painfully, agonizingly meticulous with a leaden pace that makes it feel like a four-hour march, through the snow, uphill, to certain death.
The crazy visual flourishes only serve to disorientate instead of drawing the viewer in deeper to an expected and accepted mind-fuck of surreal imagery.
There’s just no reason or rhythm to be found, and despite fast-forwarding ahead through great chunks of the so-called action, I still gave up well before the conclusion.
Shed of the Dead (Indican Pictures, 82 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I say blatant theft should still be cause for losing one or more digits.
Drew Cullingham’s Shed of the Dead, besides being another unnecessary zombie film that adds little to nothing new to the genre, lifts huge chunks of material from Shawn of the Dead, resulting in one of the most plagiarized excuses for shit filmmaking I’ve seen in quite a while.
The one – ONE – new aspect that Shed of the Dead adds to the equation is that its main character Trevor (Spencer Brown) is a total nerd Dungeons & Dragons aficionado, which results in some so-so fantasy sequences.
Otherwise, his best friend is a chubby schlub. Trevor himself is a lazy shit of an unemployed husband. And he even takes leisurely stroll down to the market, completely oblivious to the zombie shenanigans happening all around him.
Sound familiar? Of course it sounds familiar! It’s fucking Shawn of the Dead.
The best part of the film is its opening credits, which include animated caricatures of iconic actors from other, better zombie films, which includes…wait for it…a fucking animated Simon Pegg in a white shirt and tie and an animated Nick Frost.
Just shoot me now to stop the misery.