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2009 – NR – 70 Min.
D: Motoharu Takauji
S: Nobody cares.
DVD courtesy of Switchblade Pictures (Section23 Films)
Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 2.0
Japanese with English subtitles
Extras: Trailers – Available on double feature DVD with DEMONIC HEROINE IN PERIL

Fans of Japanese lady wrestlers who also happen to have a vinyl fetish…Rejoice! Your day has come! This is an especially silly Zen Pictures release (and that’s really saying something) through Switchblade that focuses on the bad guys instead of the good guys. The Dark Mist is an evil organization seemingly run by alien pig-men and robots that uses women thrown out of regular society to fight its battles. They are trained at the Female Combatants Battle School, which apparently is a couple of rooms in an underground sewer somewhere, to hop around like they’re on bad acid while constantly making an unbearably annoying squeaking noise. The exact purpose of this organization is never made clear, but they are mostly concerned with taking out the local super-heroine that’s constantly thwarting their plans to squeak freely in the park. That heroine, Asterea, has made it her life’s mission to put an end to the Dark Mist forever. Fortunately for her, whenever she kicks one of those pig men or robots too many times, they explode. Poorly choreographed wrestle-fighting kills the left over female combatants. There’s an attempt at a story but it doesn’t matter. The point here is scene after scene of heels or fists dug into skin-tight outfits and twisted while the camera man tries to find the best ‘sexy’ angle he can. The whole thing is monotonous at best and even though I have been one of Switchblade pictures most outspoken champions I can only suggest that unless that first sentence describes you perfectly you’d be much better off skipping this one altogether. Female Combatants Battle School is sentenced to permanent detention. NEXT! - Michael Mackie

2010 – R – 99 Minutes
D: Joey Stewart
S: Marc Donato, Jascha Washington, Whitney Hoy, Lindsay Seidel
DVD Available from Lionsgate
Widescreen/5.1 Dolby Digital
Extras: commentary, Behind the Scene Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Trailers

A group of misfits decide to turn the table on their tormenters for one night of revenge in Joey Stewart’s THE FINAL. An entertaining movie for sure, but also character driven by clichés that if you find them too one dimensional, it may leave the viewer frustrated. We jump directly into the story just days before the big set up, so we are not given much in the way of plot driven devices. Our heroes, so to speak, are definitely outcasts picked on by the school bullies, whether the abusers are dumb stoner jocks or prissy bitchy princesses. They set up a mysterious massive party and invite all the cool kids and plan to film the entire thing for the internet while holding the entire group hostage. They then proceed to torture the kids one by one. When one of the misfit’s friends shows up uninvited, tables get turned, our heroes turn on each other and things don’t go quite as planned. Doesn’t help that there’s also a nosy ex-Vietnam vet who is half loony that lives just down the road (or in this case, across the field and woods). Overall, THE FINAL is professionally handled and directed. The sets and direction look good, lighting, cinematography, acting all better than I expected. The problem I had the most with was the writing. The premise is great and topical, but everyone is so who they are supposed to be that it becomes almost comical (I’m sure there are people out there that really do seem to live these clichés to the full extent). Even the misfits fall into that whole Columbine High School attitude with long drawn out speeches and ideas of what hell is truly like. You sympathize with them when they are picked on, you understand the feeling of total revenge, but it is hard to root for them as they actually start to torture and maim their classmates (for the record, I found none of it disturbing, so that wasn’t my issue here), especially when they have no sympathy for their own kind. Still, the movie is entertaining and holds interest. It will be interesting to see what director Joey Stewart does next with hopefully a better script and improved dialogue. He has a good eye with detail and building tension. Worthy of a rental or cable viewing, check it out. – Mark Engle<

2010 - R - 93 Min.
D: Adam Green
S: Emma Bell - Shawn Ashmore - Kevin Zegers - Kane Hodder
DVD Provided by Anchor Bay
Anamorphic Widescreen/Dolby Digital 5.1
Extras: Deleted Scenes - Trailers - Commentary - Featurettes

Three college-aged kids con their way onto the ski-lifts by paying the attendant a hundred bucks. Bad karma is already in the works in Adam Green's thriller FROZEN. Wanting to go up again, they beg their way onto the lift one more time just as the mountain is shutting down for the weekend a little early due to a bad storm coming in. After a minor distraction, the attendant lets his co-worker know there's three more coming down the mountain and to shut the lift off when he sees them hit the bottom of the slopes. Our three leads are half way up the mountain when three other people just finish their trip down. Not knowing our leads are up on the lift, power and lights shut down and won't be back up again until next Friday, five days later. Now for the positive part of the review. This is damn intense edge of your seat, frozen terror. The possible bad news is, if you don't invest in the three characters or don't like the set up, it will be a long 93 minutes for the viewer. I myself found all three characters multi-dimensional and likeable. Green and the actors manage to make a horror movie where there is no villain or monster. It's the upcoming dread of freezing to death and having absolutely no control with your situation. Mother nature takes a serious bite out of these people's lives. Sounds boring, but it isn't one bit. You've got the jump and broken bones, you've got sliced fingers, slipping and climbing, heights and some of the most ferocious looking NON CGI wolves. And if that isn't enough, you've got the psychological fear of death and how each character interacts with their own relationships. A horror movie based in reality and not in the supernatural or without a killer is a tough chore, but Green pulls it off in spades. After this movie, you couldn't catch me on a ski left ever...and I mean ever! I'll be in the lodge, drinking martinis and watching FROZEN on the big screen. Highly recommended. - Mark Engle

2009 – R – 97 Min.
D: Thanakorn Pongsuwan
S: Preeti Barameeanat – Khanutra Chuchuaysuwan
DVD Provided by Lionsagate Home Entertainment
Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1
Thai with English subtitles or English dubbed.
Extras: Making Of/Behind The Scenes – Trailer – Other Trailers

Fireball is the name of the game played in the film; a brutal cross between street basketball and Muay Thai death matches. Tai gets out of jail thanks to some well spent cash raised by his brother Tan. In the process, Tan sustains a life-threatening brain injury that requires a serious operation and it needs to happen soon. Tai takes on the identity of his twin brother and sets out to avenge him. This is where he’s introduced to Fireball. If he wants a shot at the psychopath that all but destroyed Tan, he’ll have to not just get in, but survive to the finals where he can meet his ultimate foe one on one. The whole shebang is run by nasty underworld types that are manipulating their own angles behind the scenes. For them it’s all about the money to be made and nothing more. Fireball is an unexpected throwback to American action cinema of the 80’s and early 90’s and bears more than a passing resemblance to something along the lines of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Lionheart. Yet another wildly over the top martial arts action film from Thailand. If you’re a fan, that should be enough to sell you. If not, this one isn’t likely to convert anybody. Fireball’s not bad and it very easily could have been worse. At first, the level of seriousness with which everything is treated could easily have dragged the whole project into the depths of campy-town. This is not the case. Because the filmmakers are unrelenting in this approach it eventually wins out. The massive amounts of tragedy contribute to this, you just want to know what becomes of all these sad and, in many cases, miserably unfortunate people. It’s a fine line between melodrama and overripe cheese but they pulled it off satisfactorily. There’s an abundance of hyper-cam/flash-editing techniques so if that sort of thing puts you off you’ll certainly have a rough time with this one. Many of the action scenes are exhilarating, if not a touch confusing, but whatever your thoughts on that style of action are, you still have the story itself to contend with. It’s average. Nothing terrible, nothing special, but at least it’s not silly. Worth investigating. - Michael Mackie

1982 – R – 98 minutes
D: Lewis Teague
S: Tom Skerritt – Patti Lupone – Michael Sarrazin – Yaphet Kotto
Paramount Home Video VHS

Tough as nails dramatic thriller features Skerritt as John D’Angelo, a man who is pushed to the breaking point after he and his loved ones are victimized, almost constantly, by the rampant criminal element in the neighborhood. This family suffers tremendous personal loss and John’s wife even begins to resent him for keeping them trapped there. He then organizes the People’s Neighborhood Patrol to take back the streets. The war is on. Every hero has a nemesis and D’Angelo’s is a vicious pimp that goes by the name Eldorado. Many controversial topics are addressed throughout the running time; race, economics, the legal system, drugs, moral questions about violence and more. Crime is presented as an ugly, brutal, unpleasant truth of existence and the real footage that opens the film drives the theme home with alarming clarity. You might not always agree with the choices this community hero makes, but you’ll likely not forget them either. Powerful film from the director of Alligator, Cujo, and numerous others succeeds at emotionally impacting the viewer and fits well into its genre alongside the likes of Walking Tall, Exterminator, Vigilante, Rolling Thunder, Death Wish, et al. Many memorable scenes make Fighting Back perhaps not the best of its kind, but certainly worthwhile nonetheless. Dog lovers should definitely beware. – Michael Mackie

2006 – N/R – 79 Minutes
D: Brian Singleton
S: Mark Singleton – Chris Anderson – Erin Brophy – Brandi Boulet
DVD Provided by Elite Entertainment
Extras: Commentary – 3 Featurettes – Outtakes – Short Film – Trailer

One set of friends drive out in the country to camp at Alferd Packer Lake for the night and plan on hooking up with another set of friends the following day at Camp Crystal (get it?). One by one they are picked off in gruesome fashion. The next day their friends show up to find that the original campers have all become flesh-eating zombies. Obvious a throwback to many gut-munching orgies from the 80’s what hampers this production is some truly awful acting and dreadful dialogue. It also doesn’t help matters when the first death scene doesn’t take place until the almost half way mark, leaving one extremely bored with discussions about anal sex and French Canadian jokes. Once the gore splatters, it’s hit and miss with some very amateurish F/X to some that are just okay (these have got to be the largest small intestines I’ve seen since the finale from Re-Animator). What could have been a decent premise sporting the proper atmosphere is also marred down by horrible pacing causing more tedium. Go camping instead of watching this clunker and pray Elite finds another Re-Animator like classic to release rather than more of the same old SOV projects. – Mark Engle

1993 – R – 97 Min.
D: Anthony Hickox
S: Mario Van Peebles, Bruce Payne, Patsy Kensit, Paula Marshall, Jennifer Rubin
HBO Home Entertainment DVD
Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Surround
Extras: Cast and crew Bios.

Detective Max Dire (Peebles) is going through a difficult time in his life. Working on the streets is getting to him, his marriage is falling apart, and his partner is in a coma after being shot. Dire soon sees his partner inexplicably rejuvenated and acting like ‘one of the bionic X-men’. Then, the seemingly invincible partner commits suicide before his eyes. That’s when Adam Garou (Payne) steps in. Garou (Get it?) invites Dire to an encounter group of sorts. This is where our hero learns of ‘The Pack’. A group of werewolves dispensing vigilante justice, a group that wants Max to join. He does so, very reluctantly, but Garou hides even more secrets and Max begins to wonder about the eventual price to be paid for the gift he has been given. Hickox directs with style and the events unfold with an atmosphere that can only be described as sensual. All the performers bring depth and believability to their roles. There really is no area in which Full Eclipse comes up short aside from the possible exception of an early scene in which a stunt double is clearly identifiable. Impressively moody film features a soundtrack reminiscent of John Carpenter and the F/X, courtesy of Alterian Studios, are first-rate. Even the inclusion of some fleeting CG during the climax is managed well. Entertaining and interesting, which is especially impressive when you consider the fact that you’re watching a made for cable horror film from the early 90’s. Well done. The DVD case carries an R rating though the disc itself offers what was previously referred to as the unrated version. – Michael Mackie

2009 - NR - 93 Minutes
D: Jon Keeyes
S: Udo Kier - Dominique Swain - David Carradine
DVD Screener Provided by New Films International
Fullscreen/Dolby Digital
Extras: Screener - None available at this time.

Single mother Dominique Swain witnesses the Picasso Killer (Kier) taking his next victim while going home from her late shift at the diner. Chased through the streets, she is somewhat rescued by a bumbling/nervous security guard (Carradine) who lets her into his building. After calling the police, two local detectives on an unrelated stake out are called in to handle the situation. Soon they are all trapped in the building as Udo kills them one at a time. Sometimes with a gun if the victim is not worthy of his art, otherwise a nice slice and dice if they inspire him (he's building paintings of nude woman via human skin in his basement). Udo seems to be having his usual bent fun and depending whether or not you are a fan of his work will make a big difference with your opinion overall. Carradine is completely wasted and everything is utterly predictable right down to the office people having an affair in order to have a few other people get killed just to keep the horror quotient high or the viewer awake. There's a few moments of decent gore effects, but not enough for the hounds. The plot is nothing new, the direction is adequate and some of the veteran actors should be embarrassed. It all adds up to a bad Jack The Ripper wannabe meets P2 without the psychological damage. I'm guessing the title FALL DOWN DEAD is the nickname it got after the box office tallies came back from the few countries it managed to get an actual theatrical release. - Mark Engle

1981 – R – 88 Min.
D: Jimmy Huston
S: Cecile Bagdadi – Timothy L. Raynor – Joel Rice
Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital Stereo
Extras: Commentary – Cast Interviews – Trailers

Final Exam is a lesser-known slasher that’s taken heat over the years even though it has a lot going for it. The setting is a secluded college as a semester comes to an end. There are very few people left finishing up whatever needs finishing up when a maniacal madman (Raynor) decides to drop in. Courtney (Bagdadi) remains unaware of what’s happening on campus until it’s too late. She’ll have to fight hard if she wants to escape the blade of the seemingly unstoppable psychopath that only wants her dead. Among the most repeated complaints about Final Exam is that the motivations of the killer are not explained. It seems some people are missing the point. The movie sets up this very idea, mostly through the semi-paranoid ranting of local bookworm Radish (Rice), and the fear comes from that; how random it all seems to be, how it could happen any place, in any town, maybe even your town. Another common gripe is how long it takes before a victim is claimed (aside from the opening). This is no body count movie. There’s story and characterization… Is that really such a bad thing? Yes, the acting is a little sub-par, but the entire cast operates on the same level and that helps. You don’t have a singular performance that’s either so impressive or so horrible that it unbalances the rest. When it comes time for the killer to let somebody know he’s there, he does it with style. These are some of the coolest reveals in stalk and slash history, always fun to watch. Final Exam is an easy recommendation for die-hard ‘golden age’ slasher fans, no question. If that’s not you, a rental is definitely the way to go. Better safe than sorry. The tagline says it all… “Some may pass the test… God help the rest!” - Michael Mackie

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