Monday, February 22, 2021

Shogun's Joy of Torture (1968)


Director: Teruo Ishii

Notable Cast: Teruo Yoshida, Masumi Tachibana, Fumio Watanabe, Reiko Mikasa, Miki Obana, Yukie Kagawa, Shinichiro Hayashi, Asao Koike, Kichijiro Ueda, Tamaki Sawa

 

One of the best things about many of the recent Arrow Video acquisitions is their intentions to dig up some of the missing cult classics from the King of Cult, Teruo Ishii. They’ve already released a handful of his filmography, an insane amount of films for those who want to attempt counting them, and their latest, Shogun’s Joy of Torture, brings back one of his most sought-after and acclaimed titles from his pinky violence era. Like many of the other films released by Arrow, this 1968 exploitation flick is an omnibus of three stories centered around the titular theme - old-school torture elements from Japan’s history. It’s not one of his best, but for those looking for a slab of interestingly made provocative cinema, it’s hard to go wrong with this one. 

 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A Writer's Odyssey (2021)


Director: Lu Yang

Notable Cast: Lei Jiayin, Yang Mi, Dong Zijian, Yu Hewei, Guo Jingfei

 

After a double-fisted punch of modern wuxia excellence with Brotherhood of Blades and its prequel, Lu Yang was a directorial name to watch. All eyes were on his third film as questions arose whether or not his style and balance between classic and modern influences would translate beyond the world he helped craft in the previously mentioned martial arts actioners. When the initial trailer dropped for his latest, A Writer’s Odyssey, a plethora of questions were left in its wake. With a dual narrative where ambitiously over-the-top fantasy action set pieces collided with a classic kidnapping thriller plot, the film looked almost too disjointed - even in the marketing. We all know that trailers are specifically meant to make a film look good and A Writer’s Odyssey, partnered with its odd title, felt a bit too egregious even for the vulgar auteur in me. 

 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Swordsman (2021)


Director: Choi Jae-hoon

Notable Cast:Jang Hyuk, Kim Hyeon-soo, Joe Taslim, Jeong Man-sik

 

Far be it for me not to admit that, dammit, I love a blind swordsman flick. Whether it’s the couple of dozen Zatoichi films, the oft-overlooked Crimson Bat series, or standalone films like The Sword of Swords, if a film has a swordsman who happens to lose (or mostly lose) their eyesight, you can count me in. For the latest addition to this long-standing trope of martial arts cinema, the blandly titled The Swordsman, South Korea takes a swing at the trope with a fairly unique balance of modern revenge, historical placement, and classic chanbara foundations. The results, even within the formula, are highly enjoyable and the film’s attempts to ride a fine line between serious and camp are commendable throughout. It’s a slash-tastic time if one is willing to loosen up and run with the tried-and-true tropes that The Swordsman is drawing. 

 

Monday, February 8, 2021

A Nightmare Wakes (2021)


Director: Nora Unkel

Notable Cast: Alix Wilton Regan, Giullian Gioiello, Claire Glassford, Philippe Bowgen, Lee Garrett

 

While film and television adaptions of Frankenstein continually find their way to release every year, there is also a quite common trend in trying to adapt the life of Mary Shelley into the film landscape. At this point I must have seen half a dozen films that are inspired or directly attempt this approach and the latest, coming straight through your internet via Shudder, is A Nightmare Wakes. The life of Shelley and the writing of her iconic novel makes for a fascinating story in their own right, but there are only so many times one can see a ‘new angle’ on the material before it grows stale – just as the various versions of Frankenstein can cover enough ground. With A Nightmare Wakes, director Nora Unkel attempts to craft a psychological thriller around Shelley’s life during the writing of her novel.

 

Friday, February 5, 2021

Hunted (2021)


Director: Vincent Paronnaud

Notable Cast: Lucie Debay, Arieh Worthalter, Claran O’Brien

 

The cycle of recycling continues. It’s a general rule of thumb that trends and style will eventually come back into the rotation, through a modern lens mostly, but it’s only a matter of time before something buried resurfaces. Color me surprised though when Hunted, the latest Shudder Exclusive to drop on the now illustrious horror streaming service, was proudly replicating the style and tone of the French New Extreme of the early 00s. A loose retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, Hunted strips all of the fairy and fantasy of the story and replaces it with grit, grime, and just a touch of influence from Last House on the Left. It’s an often uncomfortable watch, intentionally so, but fans of that dark and violent style will definitely howl with delight at what Hunted is offering. 

 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Psycho Goreman (2020)


Directed by Steven Kostanski

Notable cast Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre, Matthew Ninaber, Adam Brooks

 

The Japanese tokusatsu genre has existed in some form or another for the better part of 75 years. Birthed out of films like Godzilla, they refer mostly to a style of special effects and codified in characters with international (if a bit niche) appeal like Jet Jaguar and Ultraman. The genre exploded with worldwide (emphasis on wide) popularity when producer Hiram Saban took the superhero series Super Sentai and inserted new western-shot footage in the non-costumed scenes and rebranded it Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It’s nearly impossible to overstate the effect of this series on a specific generation of children born in the 80s and 90s with its ludicrous, over the top acting, silly but elaborate monster costumes, and bombastic, pyrotechnic filled fights. This is the energy that Steven Kostanski wants to capture with Psycho Goreman. A thoroughly hard “R” sci-fi/horror comedy, this movie hits on every cylinder it’s trying to with style, humor and panache to spare.

 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Synchronic (2020)


Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead

Notable Cast: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Katie Aselton, Ally Ioannides, Ramiz Monsef

 

Benson and Moorhead have certainly made their mark on genre cinema in the last ten years. Multiple films that bridged fantasy, horror, and science fiction with thoughtful drama, humor, and artfulness have all been met with critical and audience praise. Their approach to high brow angles on classic B-grade concepts makes for provocative and impressive filmmaking and their latest, Synchronic, only solidifies the pattern of their abilities as directors and writers. Dark, heartfelt, and character-driven, the science fiction thrills of the film inspires thought as much as it entertains. It’s an especially effective balance and the combination of skills provides a film that is lifted above what might have been a lost plot in less talented hands. Synchronic is anything but lost in time. It’s timely and timeless.

 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Southland Tales (2006)


Director: Richard Kelly

Notable Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Justin Timberlake, Mandy Moore, Miranda Richardson, Wallace Shawn, Nora Dunn, John Larroquette, Jon Lovitz, Janeane Garofalo, Will Sasso, Zelda Rubinstein

 

When Donnie Darko miraculously found its audience on home video after an abysmal initial release, it put director and writer Richard Kelly on the map. His street cred skyrocketed as a bold voice in early 00s cinema and producers seemed incredibly willing to give him a blank check for his next film, Southland Tales. Even with its relatively low budget of $17 million budget, the film found disaster in the box office and in the reviews from critics and audiences. It was quickly relegated to the cinematic consciousness as a bold and utter failure and has been relatively buried despite its small but dedicated cult fanbase. 

 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Marksman (2021)


Director: Robert Lorenz

Notable Cast: Liam Neeson, Jacob Perez, Juan Pablo Raba, Katheryn Winnick

 

Let’s be honest here, Blood Brothers has certainly enjoyed the Liam Neeson action thriller boom post Taken. Whether it’s the stylish run with director Collet-Serra or his strange penchant for awesome snowbound films, The Grey and Cold Pursuit in particular, his choices as a leading actor lately have been fun even if predictable and formulaic. This is perhaps the reason that The Marksman seems a little off the mark. After finding huge box office success with 2020’s Honest Thief, a film that is quite charming in how it leans into Neeson’s strengths, The Marksman is a substantial regression. It’s an antiquated style of film that feels more concerned with satiating its audience demographic than telling a well-rounded story. The Marksman is a Cannon film without the fun and entertainment and it’s incredibly problematic.

 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Joint Security Area (2000)


Director: Park Chan-wook

Notable Cast: Lee Yeong-ae, Lee Byung-hun, Song Kang-ho, Kim Tae-woo, Shin Ha-kyun, Herbert Ulrich, Christoph Hofrichter

 

Park Chan-wook has become synonymous with the bright streak of artistic talent coming out of South Korea since the mid-90s. Even though Bong Joon-ho is the one that might be a more household name since he swept his Oscars last year, it was Park Chan-wook that was previously the name to know when it came bold cinema from the market. What makes the director’s career so interesting is that he has increasingly moved further from the mainstream with his films, despite attempts to break out in the international market with English language films like Stoker. And while his third film, Joint Security Area, might be one of his most mainstream ones, it’s a flick that doesn’t shy away from the style and themes that made Park Chan-wook such an iconic artist. With its most recent Blu Ray release, it was only the perfect time to revisit the dark military thriller to see if the film holds up.

 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Castle Freak (2020)


Directed by: Tate Steinsiek

Notable cast: Clair Catherine, Kika Magalhães, Jake Horowitz. Genti Kame

 

*Editor's Note: Blood Brothers and its writers do not condone nor support the atocities that Cinestate allowed and promoted under their banner in the treatment of their staff. Their predatory actions are disturbing. We asked the author of this article to review the film on its own merits to fulfill requests we had from readers to cover this film. However, this film is produced by Cinestate and all of our readers should be aware of their actions. Here is a link to the original article from The Daily Beast concerning this issue: THE DAILY BEAST CINESTATE ARTICLE.  Thank you. 


There are few names in horror that stand as tall as Stuart Gordon. Even if you don’t know his name, his unimpeachable legacy, including most famously Re-Animator, left a mark on the genre I hold so dearly as one of the few who successfully managed to film any adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s work, much less to any acclaim critically or by the masses. One of his most oddball films, which he infamously took on after seeing a concept poster in the Full Moon offices and was loosely inspired by the Lovecraft story The Outsider - deep emphasis on “loosely,” and the infamous edict by producer Charles Band that it contains “a castle, a freak, and a low budget.” Released to little fanfare, and being a controversial at best cult classic, Castle Freak in many ways is exactly the kind of film that is ripe for a remake. And remade it has been.

 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Horrible Imaginings Film Festival: Smiley Face Killers (2020)


Directed by: Tim Hunter

Notable cast: Ronen Rubinstein, Mia Serafino, Amadeus Serafini, Crispin Glover

 

From the nineties through the early aughts there were a series of drownings of young men throughout the Midwest, and upon noticing a pattern of smiley face graffiti accompanying these tragic deaths, a few law enforcement experts, including two detectives, put forward a theory that these were serial murders. This has been shot down and ridiculed by the crime-fighting community writ large, but the basic idea of this inspired this thriller from director Tim Hunter and the mind of writer Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero, American Psycho). If you’re familiar with Ellis’ work, broadly, a good portion of this movie feels very in line with his vision of the world. Young, upper-middle-class men and their many social struggles. His characters are, almost by definition, hard to relate to, which makes for a tough sell in what is ostensibly a slasher movie or, at the very least, a film styled as one.

 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Podcast: Ring in the New Year! (January 2021) [Ring Franchise Part III]


Hear Matt and Sean defend a film with a 7% Rotten Tomatoes score! Cower beneath the exploding hair of a spin-off! And then listen to them... wait, is that a magic well in Matt's backyard? Matt and Sean spent New Years watching cursed video tapes, and now, almost seven days later, it's time to discuss the final four Ring movies (for now) in what Matt lovingly calls “The Sadako Phase." Let's 'Ring in the New Year' with our third episode capping off the well of Sadako films. 









Max Cloud (2020)


Director: Martin Owen

Notable Cast: Scott Adkins, Franz Drameh, John Hannah, Lashana Lynch, Elliot James Langridge, Isabelle Allen, Sally Collett, Sam Hazeldine, Tommy Flanagan, Jason Maza, Andi Osho

Also known as: The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud

 

It only makes sense that there would be a boom of video game movies in the aftermath of two very successful Jumanji sequels. Of course, by ‘video game movies,’ I mean movies that inherently involve deconstructing video game tropes and are not directly based on video game IP. And by that, I mean films that feel more like Jumanji 2 and 3, but aren’t Gamer, an underrated gem of a film that deserves a bit more credit, but I digress. This is where Max Cloud presses starts and joins the fray. In essence, this little can do low-budget film takes the same basic idea as the last couple of Jumanji films and then gives it a decidedly fun intergalactic beat-em-up spin. Quite frankly, if it wasn’t for the Scott Adkins casting, I’m not sure this would have made my list to watch. Yet the pleasant surprise of the film being a delightfully entertaining experience was a bonus and for those looking for a fun way to burn 90 minutes, look no further than Max Cloud and his rowdy band of intergalactic ass-kickers.

 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefe Collection - The Naked Zoo (1970) and Mako: Jaws of Death (1976)


Although I don’t claim to be a particular fan of the microbudget horror, fantasy, and science fiction films of this era – as I am most certainly reminded regularly from my reviews on Herschell Gordon Lewis’ films here on the site, part of me was excited to dig into this latest box set dedicated to the strange works of director William Grefe. All of these films were new to me and each disc of the set will be covered in a series of articles here on the site – which reviews the films on each disc. So, hop in your swamp boat with me, buckle in, and let’s take a dive into the works of Grefe in this gorgeous new release from Arrow Video, He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefe Collection!

Here is disc three: The Naked Zoo and Mako: Jaws of Death.






Tuesday, December 29, 2020

NFF Presents For Your Lists Only: We Wish You A Scary Christmas - Top 2020 Horror (December 2020)


Matt and Sean run down the best horror and horror adjacent movies of the year! Of course, arguments ensue because it's the holidays and family must fight. Hear Matt butcher a Crypt Keeper voice! Will Sean try to give Matt a stroke with one of his choices? Not to mention, they debate if the year 2020 is actually the best horror film of the year. Tune in!






Sunday, December 20, 2020

Pitch Black (2000)


Director: David Twohy

Notable Cast: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Claudia Black, Rhiana Griffith, John Moore, Simon Burke

 

Vin Diesel’s career has certainly had its ups and downs and, quite frankly, most of his key franchises feel like roller coasters of quality as they careen around attempting to find their footing. One of those happens to be the Riddick series which saw itself soar so high, the sun melted its wings, and it quickly crashed to the ground to become a passion project series for the divisive actor. It’s origins in Pitch Black, the little-film-that-could, are still impressive though. It’s a tight, ambitious, and effective piece of science fiction horror that still holds up. The latest 4K release of the film, courtesy of our friends at Arrow Video, is a welcome upgrade to the previous Blu Ray in my collection that sports not only a slew of the various original and new features, but a gorgeous transfer that maximizes one of the key aspects of its visual style.

 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

NFF Presents Good, Bad, Weird, Wild: Here Comes Santa Claus...RUN! [Bad Santa Films] (December 2020)


Some Santas have rosy red cheeks and big bellies that jiggle like jelly… others shoot innocent people on garbage day and play curling (the devil’s sport). Guess which ones Sean and Matt are discussing?

Do you wanna hear Matt and Sean agree for once? How about if we both choose a film for the 'bad' category that has a die-hard cult following? Is curling really Satan's sport? What are the origins of holiday horror? To find out, you have to tune in! Check out our episode on Bad Santas!








Thursday, December 10, 2020

No Franchise Fatigue: Leo Getz An NFF Holiday Special! (December 2020) [Lethal Weapon]


Matt and Sean spend the twelve days of Christmas talking about the action classic franchise, Lethal Weapon. Topics include Richard Donner, Mel Gibson doing some Tom Cruise running, sharks on boats, Matt has an existential crisis trying to research Lethal Weapon 4, and Sean attempts to explain who the actor is that plays a random thug in an armored car. 







Monday, December 7, 2020

The Deeper You Dig (2019)


Directors: John Adams, Toby Poser

Notable Cast: John Adams, Toby Poser, Zelda Adams, Shawn Wilson, Joan Poser

 

One of the great problems to have when attending a film festival is that often a person can burn themselves out watching new films. As I said, a great problem. During my time at the Telluride Horror Show in 2019, I was privy to see The Deeper You Dig, an ambitious little indie horror flick made on a shoestring budget by, in essence, one family. Between the burnout and the lack of sleep, I didn’t feel fully comfortable at the time doing a full review for the film. Fortunately, the wait to see it again wasn’t long. Our good friends over at Arrow Video picked up the film for distribution and with the snazzy new Blu Ray in tow, I was ready to dig deeper into The Deeper You Dig.

 

Yea, I’m glad I waited to review this with fresh eyes.