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New Releases for Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Entity: Collector’s Edition

Genre: Horror

Directed by: Sidney J. Furie

Run time: 125 minutes

Rating: R

Format: Blu-ray

The Lowdown: True story, when I first met my wife and she learned of my absolute, total love for all things horror-related, she laid down one ground rule – never, ever, under any circumstance was I to put on or otherwise try to make her watch The Entity.

Apparently, as a child, at a too-young age, she saw the 1982 supernatural thriller and was thoroughly traumatized.

And who could blame her – The Entity, more than any other supernatural/paranormal horror film released in the last 40 years, is fucking terrifying.

It’s like the R-rated bookend to Poltergeist, the other scariest supernatural/paranormal film of the past 40 years, which is fitting given that both movies debuted the same year.

It’s also downright criminal that The Entity is often overlooked or discounted when it comes to tallying the best horror movies ever made because, unlike your garden variety Paranormal Activity, people forget that The Entity was and is based on a true story, which was documented by Frank De Felitta, who also wrote the screenplay.

I mean, come on, this is a movie that details the story of a woman who was repeatedly raped by a spectral force in her own home, in front of her children at times, and no one believed her.

Sure, things that go bump in the night are frightening, but some thing that does the bump and grind against your body, against your will, to the point of physically marking you, and you can’t ever see it coming, and you have no idea when it might strike next – that’s enough to drive a person insane with fear and paranoia.

I’m glad to see Shout! Factory finally giving The Entity it’s due. It deserves the attention that a nice, high-definition restoration brings because it’s both an incredible story and a very well-made film that should not ever be forgotten by horror fans.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Barbara Hershey, classic hot.

Nudity – Brief. Gore – No.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – Um, the Entity? Duh.

Buy/Rent – Buy it.

Captive State (Universal, 110 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): Captive State received an unfair rap from critics.

The alien invasion/political spy thriller, from writer-director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), is a great example of how a genre film could easily transition straight into a recurring serial show on a streaming television platform like Netflix or Hulu.

Captive State imagines a world, not too far removed from our current socio-political crisis, where an alien invasion offers a respite from long-simmering issues like poverty and crime, but at a cost. All of the world’s leaders must agree to be completely subservient to the new alien master race, and naturally, the wealthiest percentile continues to profit by supporting the alien endeavor to colonize Earth deep underground.

There’s so many fascinating ideas at play, and so many characters to choose from to follow, whether John Goodman’s conflicted police investigator to the younger of two brothers whose parents were part of the early resistance to the alien onslaught.

What Captive State absolutely nails is the intricate plotting required for a super covert operation to destabilize the alien stronghold, and it’s during the film’s fantastic second act that this scheme plays out almost in real time. Wyatt masterfully ratchets the tension with each twist.

If you love seeing traditional genres be transformed with new ideas and approaches, I’m betting you’re going to wholly dig Captive State in much the same way. Regardless, it’s definitely deserving of a watch because the critical drubbing was wholly undeserved.

Also Available:

Frankenstein Created Woman: Collector’s Edition

I Am the Night

Magnum P.I.: Season One

The 27 Club

Can’t Stop the Music

Now on Video-on-Demand:

Clinton Road (Midnight Releasing, 77 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a new trend in horror, and it’s all about scary roads.

Almost a month to the day since two first-time filmmakers from Land O’ Lakes, Florida (Chuck and Karolina Morrongiello) released their instant cult-classic, Amityville: Mt. Misery Road, which explored the long-simmering urban legends surrounding a stretch of highway in Long Island, New York, which the movie tells us is considered to be one of the hottest haunting spots in the country, another pair of first-time filmmakers, albeit much more well-known, have debuted Clinton Road, which allegedly centers around a stretch of highway in New Jersey “considered one of the most haunted places in the United States.”

Clinton Road is generating buzz, in part, because it’s the feature directing debut of Richard Grieco (yes, that guy from 21 Jump Street) and former NYPD cop and celebrity security guard Steve Stanulis, and because it features a slew of unnecessary cameos from Ice-T and Vincent “Big Pussy” Pastore to Eric Roberts and Bo Dietl.

Ice-T and Pastore are barely in the film, except for the first 15 minutes, and just long enough for Ice-T to deliver a big speech, which basically culminates with, “Fuck that road,” after he says he once picked up a ghost hitchhiker there.

The actual plot of Clinton Road, which was written by Derek Ross Mackay, with revisions by Noel Ashman (that this script needed a revision is, in and of itself, pretty funny), is basic as basic gets.

A former couple, Tyler and Isabella, reunite to seek closure after Isabella’s sister goes missing somewhere off Clinton Road, and they decide to do so by hiring a supposed witch doctor to accompany them into the woods to try to summon her spirit.

The group also includes the witch doctor’s girlfriend, Tyler’s new girlfriend and their annoyingly arrogant friend Michael, who is played by former American Idol alum Ace Young.

As soon as this band of idiots reaches the woods, everybody decides to be on their best asshole behavior, which means the group immediately fights and separates into smaller groups, which if you’ve ever watched a horror movie in your life you know is bad news.

Clearly, none of these people have ever watched a horror movie.

Before long, the “ghosts” of dead children and some weird bald dude in goggles are stalking and haunting and hunting them. Main characters get killed. Lots of people run around in the dark, screaming, for what feels like hours. And, as viewers, we’re left with zero explanation of what the actual fuck is happening.

Unlike Amityville: Mt. Misery Road, which at least talked a lot about the urban legends that supposedly haunt its titular highway, even though it didn’t really show any of the alleged creatures, Clinton Road doesn’t even try to offer any evidence or proof to support its claim as one of the most haunted places in America.

In fact, I had to Google “Clinton Road” just to find out if there is any truth to the legend. Turns out there’s a Wikipedia page dedicated to the highway that is actually more interesting to read than Clinton Road is to watch.

I know it shouldn’t frustrate me to this degree, but as a film critic, when I receive an invitation to watch a new horror movie and the invitation makes the movie sound interesting and potentially scary, I should be able to actually trust such claims. I understand that publicists exist to drum up interest and support, but their efforts should not be steeped in false promises and mischaracterizations.

In short, don’t bullshit people just to make a buck.

Clinton Road is basically a vanity project, a lark, an excuse for some famous people to get a paycheck and an opportunity for a distributor to promote and profit solely based on an actor’s name recognition and the public’s willingness to be wholly deceived.

It’s not good, it’s not scary and it’s an absolute waste of time.

Hi-Death (Wild Eye Releasing, 99 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Ah, the horror anthology, a distinct genre that dates back decades.

The best anthologies, films like Trick ‘r Treat, Tales of Halloween or the V/H/S trilogy, hue to a central theme and feature a beginning and an end, and often, it’s those wrap-around segments that provide the context necessary to fully appreciate the whole.

Without that connective tissue, anthologies can become nothing more than a series of random fragments, lacking any emotional context to invest viewers.

Such is the case with Hi-Death, a new collection of horror shorts that opens on two young women visiting Los Angeles for the first time. One of them is handed a flyer for a horror experience called Hi-Death, with a QR code to scan with her phone.

As soon as the woman snaps a picture of the code, the film suddenly jumps to a different young woman trying to score drugs in New Jersey, who eventually winds up at a seedy motel where she apparently overdoses and is visited by Death and his minions.

Then Hi-Death jumps right back to the original two women, still walking the streets of downtown L.A., talking about the movie they just watched.

How did they watch the movie? Where did they watch the movie? Why would they watch a movie while sight-seeing?

None of these questions are answered, which is a big problem.

Without any clear set-up, or even a basic explanation of what’s happening, Hi-Death becomes nothing more than a string of amateur shorts absent any central theme. And while Hi-Death features some surprisingly good special effects makeup, that alone is simply not enough to make the viewing experience worthwhile.

Not to be Overlooked:

Rondo (Artsploitation Films, 88 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Writer-director Drew Barnhardt’s second feature, Rondo, is a curious thing.

On the one hand, it’s a pitch-black, decidedly nasty slice of old-school revenge, told in multiple acts, with an almost fetishistic penchant for blunt-force trauma to various character’s heads.

At the same time, Rondo is like a surreal satire, complete with a narrator who sounds like he was plucked straight from an episode of Dragnet or one of those “educational” videos shown in high school about the perils of drinking and driving.

Is it supposed to be funny? I have no idea. But it’s difficult not to assume such when one of the characters is a crazed military veteran who escapes from a VA hospital to avenge his son’s death and spews lines like, “Vietnam wasn’t my personal hell. It was paradise.”

More than anything, Rondo is an exercise in glorified violence for little more than the opportunity to show how many ways the human body can be obliterated.

How much you enjoy it depends entirely on your stomach for gratuitous carnage, over-the-top fight sequences, countless blood squibs and a deranged pregnant antagonist.

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