New Releases for Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Directed by: Justin Dix
Run time: 93 minutes
The Lowdown: There have been some fantastic monster mashups mixing Nazis with various supernatural creatures, and there have been some truly terrible films that deserved to suffer a quick discount bin death.
Blood Vessel, the latest release from The Horror Collective, continues the company’s streak of solid genre releases, even if it ultimately fails to meet the Must-See gold standard.
Blood Vessel is set in 1945 at the end of World War II. A lifeboat populated with a mishmash of soldiers, scientists, POWs and a lone female nurse is adrift at sea.
In the darkness of an infinite ocean, they somehow float up on a Nazi trawler, which is completely deserted, which in a horror movie means Do Not Board, unless you’re on a life raft with no food and no other hope of survival.
Once aboard, and after suffering a casualty just trying to get aboard, the group splits up (another terrible idea) with two soldiers and a cook make their way to the captain’s deck where they discover mutilated corpses, the ship’s wheel locked in place and blood splattered everywhere.
The main issues I had with Blood Vessel both involve creative choices by sophomore director Justin Dix and first-time screenwriter Jordan Prosser.
Blood Vessel is way too dark to allow viewers to feel the appropriate claustrophobia that should come with being on a deserted ghost ship. I get that it’s 1945 and technology was not on their side, but still, there are ways to brighten a frame so the people watching your movie can actually see what’s happening.
Secondly, Blood Vessel takes too long to get the good stuff.
Yes, there are vampires, but don’t expect to really see them until the third act, and even then, while very nicely created and practically crafted by the VFX crew, you expect more from an immortal blood sucker that made even the Nazis show deference and servitude towards.
That said, here’s what works: The special effects, as mentioned, are great. The old-school Man-Bat style design for the main bad Vlad is perfect. And the last half-hour rocks along nicely with some decent twists, some effective human drama and some nice carnage.
Blood Vessel is more than worthy of a rental. I just wish it was great enough to say go out and buy.
The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Yes. Gore – Yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Nazis and vampires.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
Attraction 2: Invasion
Ghost: 30th Anniversary Edition
Clueless: 25th Anniversary Edition
Airplane! 40th Anniversary Edition
Now on Video-on-Demand:
The Whistlers (Magnolia Home Entertainment, 97 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): I love expertly calibrated, intelligently designed crime capers.
The twists, the betrayals, the unexpected allegiances.
And while The Whistlers has an awesome set-up – it introduces an entire subset of thieves who speak in a completely new language, features a beautiful femme fatale in Catrinel Marlon as the ravishing Gilda and inhabits an exotic locale, the Spanish island of La Gomera, that’s not often used in this type of thriller – there’s something missing in Romanian-born writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu’s feature.
The Whistlers doesn’t hook viewers the way you might expect. It feels cold and distant when it should be sucking you deeper into its central mystery.
Genre fans might find enough to keep them occupied, but I was left wanting and waiting for more.
A Deadly Legend (Gravitas Ventures, 97 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Despite its clunky title and its Love Boat-sized raft of former A-list cameos (Corbin Bernsen, Judd Hirsch and Lori Petty), A Deadly Legend still had potential to be an unexpected delight, that proverbial needle in a stack of needles that screams, “Watch me! I’m so bad I’m good.”
But this C-grade mishmash of supernatural hokum launches out of the gate with the most generic of all ghost story tropes, the creepy girl in white on the side of the road, and never looks back.
In fact, creepy girl appears so often, so early on – in court, in the local Chachkies store – that you can’t help but chuckle.
Before long, Hirsch is dead and Petty is doing her ‘Lori Petty’ thing like she just walked onto the set of Tank Girl. There are seances that go poorly, a killer lake that claims victims and a lot of hullabaloo about immortality and mystical gate portals.
I honestly just fast-forwarded to the climax just because I couldn’t help myself and was rewarded with a cosmic battle between druids in heavy robes and red-eyed possessed demon people. None of it made much sense, but at least I can report that if you stick with A Deadly Legend long enough, you just might feel as if you discovered something the rest of the world was unwilling to see.
Not to be Overlooked:
Circus of the Dead (Epic Pictures/Dread, 102 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): For years, I allowed my natural aversion to clown horror to color my viewing choices.
But then, something surprising happened – a slew of truly scary, creatively ambitious genre flicks about clowns started hitting the home media market.
From Terrifier to Gags the Clown, Wrinkles the Clown to 8-Ball Clown, hell, even Joker, it was clear to me that I had misjudged the clown horror subgenre.
Sadly, I cannot report here that Circus of the Dead deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those previously released gold-star titles.
Circus of the Dead isn’t a bad movie, per se. And for many horror fans, the film’s sheer brutality will be more than enough to fuel solid word of mouth.
And maybe that’s why it turned me off.
Circus of the Dead is mean-spirited to its core, but in a way that makes you constantly stop and question how this ragtag band of greasepaint hooligans keeps getting away with literal murder. In broad daylight. Or at a heavily trafficked convenience store.
Hell, the clowns live in the clown car equivalent of the Tardis. Their tow-along cavernous trailer/dressing room has hidden kill rooms and is adorned with human body parts turned into bizarre art projects.
Don’t those smell, I found myself wondering.
Doesn’t anyone else from the circus ever enter the clown’s personal space? How in the hell wouldn’t somebody hear a victim screaming or smell a decapitated limb that’s rotting on the floor?
Circus of the Dead is not a movie about limits. It’s a drive-in-ready slice of nihilistic carnage that prominently features the lead clown, Papa Corn, skull-fucking a severed head.
And how you feel about that last sentence pretty much tells you whether Circus of the Dead will be a ‘Hell Yes’ or a hard pass.