Friday, November 27, 2020

He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefe Collection - Sting of Death (1966) and Death Curse of Tartu (1966)

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, but 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 one: Sting of Death and Death Curse of Tartu.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Graveyards of Honor: Graveyard of Honor (1975) and Graveyard of Honor (2002)

Two of the most iconic genre directors to ever come out of Japan are Kinji Fukasaku and Takashi Miike. If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, you’ll notice that these are two are often discussed and that’s because of two reasons. Firstly, so much of their material is getting brand new English friendly releases from various distribution companies and we like to support these companies along with discussing cult icons. Secondly, they are incredible directors and deserve to have their lengthy careers discussed. For this review, both directors will be discussed because Arrow Video recently put out the Graveyards of Honor boxset that features Fukasaku’s 1970s original and Miike’s 00s remake. Both are classics in their own regard and hopefully, if you haven’t already purchased this set – then this double feature article will prompt a few people to pick it up. It’s a wildly nihilistic and extremely effective dual piece of cinematic genre bliss.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Burst City (1982)

Director: Gakuryu Ishii – under the name Sogo Ishii

Notable Cast: Michiro Endo, Kansai Eto, Shigeru Izumiya, Akaji Maro, Takanori Jinnai


After the release of the Shinya Tsukamoto set by Arrow Video earlier this year, the announcement of the upcoming Blu Ray release of the cult and underground Burst City was compelling. It’s a film I’ve heard referred to a handful of times as one of the most punk pieces of cinema to exist not to mention an early cornerstone of cyberpunk. Although this statement wholly rings true, the punk attitude of the film is also the reason why it’s a film that will only have its established cult audience and not reach individuals beyond that. It’s abrasive, in all the ways one might expect, but its inconsistency of tone and meandering narrative hardly work to drive the more compelling aspects. The energy can be infectious and the audacity of its rebel spirit to dutifully expressed in the style, but Burst City is not nearly the iconic underground work it’s often labeled as in cinema.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Lake Michigan Monster (2018)

Director: Ryland Brickson Cole Tews

Notable Cast: Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, Erick West, Beluah Peters, Daniel Long, Wayne Tews


Absurdist humor is one of those genres that has largely died out in feature-length film, particularly of the mainstream variety. Occasionally, one will seep through the cracks in indie cinema, but rarely does it find legs with a larger audience and garners a wide release – even on home video. Yet, Arrow Video have graced us with a wide Blu Ray release of Lake Michigan Monster, a film perpetually on the edge of falling from absurdist to pure horrifying surrealism. With style to spare, this little low budget creature feature has such an often perplexingly intense energy that it’s hard not to just join in on the sprint to whatever next level of insanity that the film is spiraling toward.


As with so much comedy that leans towards nonsense, Lake Michigan Monster is a film that can be hard to follow if an audience to dedicated to ‘Understanding’ what is going on in the film. It’s a film best taken like the tiny kayak that our protagonists utilize to wade out 6 feet into Lake Michigan to hunt the beast – a launching pad for a descent into madness on plans that have no logic.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

NFF Presents For Your Lists Only: Body Horror Month (October 2020)

Producer's Note: Life stuff, both on personal and national scales, has been in the way of editing the episodes as of recently.

A new series is tough, as I define music and the visual look of youtube versions for each new show and that process takes longer than you might think (thus us changing themes a couple of times already)... But! I need to catch up on releases because one episode into the new theme months was maybe not the best time for the world to fall apart. (Facepalm) so it's in that spirit that I'm kicking out Pilot Season, two "alpha" versions of two new shows... forgive the lack of music and zazz... but there will be better versions re-uploaded in the future. -- Sean

Nonetheless, here is the latest episode of NFF Presents - For Your Lists Only, part of the new Season 2 roster, and our hosts, Sean and Matt, tackle their top five 80s body horror practical effects. Enjoy. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Come Play (2020)

Director: Jacob Chase

Notable Cast: Azhy Robertson, Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr, Winslow Fegley, Jayden Marine, Gavin MacIver-Wright


One of the more perplexing things that has happened since the re-opening of theaters after the pandemic started was that the films that are getting released truly feel dumped onto screens. Most of the bigger titles have shifted out to 2021 or later and what’s left is a hodgepodge of various genre titles that have been given approximately zero real marketing. Studios and producers are terrified to spend any more money on these titles. This leaves some decent films high and dry to cling onto life in a theatrical setting that might be appropriately labeled as a cinematic graveyard.


Come Play falls squarely into this category. In the grand aspect of horror released in 2020, it lands firmly in the middle of the pack, but it’s a decent film that deserves better than the desolate wasteland of attention it has received thus far. Come Play is a Babadook’d spin on Lights Out, if one were to boil it down, but even in that simplistic comparison the film works. With some decent atmospheric scares, a fascinating monster design, and a sold dose of familial heart in its plot, Come Play is a horror flick that may not ultimately be one of the best of the year, but it does work.


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Honest Thief (2020)

Director: Mark Williams

Notable Cast: Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Donovan, Anthony Ramos, Robert Patrick


It wouldn’t be another year in film if there wasn’t at least one Liam Neeson anchored action thriller to hit theaters. Still, color me shocked that his latest, Honest Thief, was one of the larger films to make it to theaters after the pandemic has crippled the entire industry for most of the year. While so many action films are either postponed or relegated to VOD premieres, leave it to Liam Neeson and his grumbly charm to power through. Fortunately, this latest entry into the action portion of his career is just charming enough, just exciting enough, and just surprising enough to be one that will definitely appease his fanbase. Honest Thief lacks the pizzazz some of the other films of his tenure, particularly those directed by Collet-Serra, but it’s the kind of straightforward comfort food piece of film that hits all of the right spots when needed.


When a legendary thief, Tom (Neeson), meets the woman of his dreams (Walsh) he decides to give up his lifestyle, return the money and try to redeem himself. After his attempt to turn himself and $9 million dollars goes south from a greedy FBI agent (Courtney) who wants to stash the cash for himself, Tom will have to fight to clear his name, save his girlfriend, and cleanse himself of his sins.


Monday, November 2, 2020

Lucky (2020)

Director: Natasha Kermani

Notable Cast: Brea Grant, Dhruv Uday Singh, Kausar Mohammed, Kristina Klebe, Chase Williamson, Leith M. Burke, Jesse Merlin


When it comes to independent genre cinema, one simply can’t ignore the powerhouse ‘triple threat’ that is Brea Grant. Actress, writer, and director, she’s become such a dynamic and important voice that if you haven’t made note of her – do it now. For the focus of this review, Lucky, she serves as both the lead actress and writer, but what really sets this film aside is her teaming up with Natasha Kermani, the very artistic and stylish director of Imitation Girl. When it comes to bold, thoughtful post-genre cinema, the combination tantalizes. To have them work together on a film like Lucky is almost too good to be true. Yet, as the credits roll on the film during Shudderfest 2020, the combination proves as fascinating as expected. Lucky is a densely message heavy horror thriller, anchored by an incredibly nuanced performance from Brea Grant, that uses its artistic atmosphere, dream-like narrative, and pops of brutal violence to hammer home its themes.