BLISS (2019)

A TALE AS OLD AS GRIME

A brilliant painter facing the worst creative block of her life turns to anything she can to complete her masterpiece, spiraling into a hallucinatory hellscape of drugs, sex, and murder in the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles.

A brilliant painter facing the worst creative block of her life turns to anything she can to complete her masterpiece, spiraling into a hallucinatory hellscape of drugs, sex, and murder in the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles.

Release date: September 27, 2019 (USA)

Director: Joe Begos

Screenplay: Joe Begos

Music composed by: Steve Moore

Producers: Joe Begos, Audrey Wasilewski, Graham Skipper, Josh Ethier, Lyle Kanouse, Caroline Metz


CHRISTIAN'S TAKE

Bliss is a blood-soaked genre cocktail: The Transfiguration infused with Climax’s unhinged phantasmagoria and the grindhouse madness of Maniac. 

Narratively, the movie is spartan, an 80-minute Argento blur, but it’s effective as surreal sensory overload. Bliss takes some time before fully tipping into insanity, but once it does, the fallout earns Bliss a place among the gore-drenched indie works of Fargeat, Tjahjanto, and Cosmatos.

Hallucination or horror, it’s all the same nightmare for Dezzy. Dora Madison’s performance rides the line between fiery naturalistic attitude and wide-eyed delirium reminiscent of Isabelle Adjani in Possession. Artistic passion and drug-fueled self-destruction melts the screen in Bliss’ frenetic orgy of blood, grime, and grungy punk aesthetic.

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JEREMIAH'S TAKE

Joe Begos paints a sordid hollywood tale from an eclectic palette of grime, scuzz, sweat, blood and tears. It's a violent, deliriously frantic indulgence in drug fueled viscera, and a wholely unapologetic exercise in style over substance. Not to say that Begos only delivers on aesthetic; there's also the narrative framework of a very familiar story to structure the whole thing; one which centers on themes prominently found in Abel Ferrara's own work — namely addiction, and the pressure to perform creatively at the behest of detached stakeholders. But Bliss is first and foremost an onslaught of sensorial jubilation. A 90 minute punk-fueled masturbatory session for the eyes and ears only ever disrupted by it's juvenile script. Had that aspect been given the same care and treatment as the rest of the film, Bliss would be perfect.

It'll have to settle for close to, in my eyes.

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DAVID'S TAKE

Holy FUCKING shit. This very well could be my movie of the year. Mandy, Devil’s Candy, and The Transfiguration thrown into a DMT laced Begos blender. Fuck me up, suck me dry, hail Lilith and all of that.


BLISS IS AVAILABLE NOW ON VOD

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3 FROM HELL (2019)

NOBODY PUTS BABY IN A CORNER

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Written and Directed by Rob Zombie

111 Minutes


JEREMIAH'S TAKE

With the exception of maybe 31, and House of 1000 Corpses, this might be the messiest and most aimless of Zombie's films, but—depending on what you're looking to derive from them—it may also be the most fun. If you enjoyed the road trip aspect of Devil's Rejects, the nihilistic antics of the firefly clan, and all the poetry of their banter, then you'll likely find enjoyment here.

Turning it way up on her manic, scatter-brained, unpredictable performance, Sheri Moon breaks the dial. You're either going to love Baby's excessive personality, or be cringed into total blackout. Bill Mosley is calm, cool, and collected as always, but still just as mad, just as nonsensical as anyone else in the troupe, waxing the most ridiculous bit of evil pontification ever heard (he made me laugh every time). And Richard Brake as Coltrane (compadre to Mosley's Otis) is as vile and juvenile as the rest of 'em. Unfortunately for us, he doesn't quite fill the personality hole left by Sid Haig's absence -- which is understandable. Captain Spaulding had a distinct personality that counterbalanced the rest of the fireflies. He was the dirty old sociopathic grandpa everyone loved, leaving some big shoes for Brake to fill (and not just because he played a clown).

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Story wise, we open with the incarceration of the three bullet-riddled maniacs (who've somehow managed to survive the twenty plus rounds of ammo blasted at them at the close of Devil's Rejects). Eventually they recover, and through a sequence of events not shown on screen, Otis and Coltrane escape (but not without first murdering a couple inmates on the way out). Meanwhile, Baby loses her marbles in solitary, dreams of cat operas, and flirts constantly with her assigned CO. Things only escalate from here when her escaped brother and his escaped pal stage a ransom in hopes of getting Baby released. This leads to a brutal encounter with law enforcement (and their families), an uncomfortably hilarious meetup with an unfunny clown, and eventually a fateful road trip to Mexico.

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The rest is standard fair Zombie-isms, affecting every aspect of production. Lots of grindhouse inspired low-fi footage, abrupt cuts, blurry freeze frames and sliding transitions to pepper the presentation. It's all familiar ground, but thanks to its dick-in-the-wind plot and heavy leaning on comedy, 3 from Hell feels uncharacteristically breezy. I dug it though.


DAVID'S TAKE

If you haven’t enjoyed anything Rob has put out post ‘Devil’s Rejects’ it’s safe to say ‘3 From Hell’ won’t change your mind. At this point you either enjoy Zombie’s hellbilly horror or you loathe it. ‘3 From Hell’ plays out like an alt take on the fate of the Firefly gang that you would catch at a midnight grindhouse drive-in. It’s a mean spirited dark comedy with every RZ staple present: 70’s aesthetic, brutal violence, tits galore, stylish slo-mo, and a lot of mother fucking mother fuckers.


I fucking dug it. #FreeTheThree

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HELLARIOUS (2019)

In the case of Jason Tostevin's Hellarious — a telling title in this regard — it's an anthology compromised of horror films which feature primarily, a dark sense of humor.

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THE VELOCIPASTOR

Thou shalt have fun

After losing his parents, a priest travels to China, where he inherits a mysterious ability that allows him to turn into a dinosaur. Although he is horrified by the new power, a hooker convinces him to use it to fight crime.

After losing his parents, a priest travels to China, where he inherits a mysterious ability that allows him to turn into a dinosaur. Although he is horrified by the new power, a hooker convinces him to use it to fight crime.

Director: Brendan Steere

Screenplay: Brendan Steere

Cinematography: Jesse Gouldsbury

Producers: Brendan Steere, Brandon Taylor, Jesse Gouldsbury

1 Hour 15 Minutes


Review by Jeremiah

Nothing here should work. Nothing. Which makes the fact that is mostly does, even more mind bending than it otherwise would be. The Velocipastor is so low budget, and so aware of this fact, that it uses place holder text for what should be impressive (or given the budget here, unimpressive) visual fx sequences. A car explodes, and there's no fire. No lighting. Hell, no car. Just a reminder that all those things should be there (via placeholder text), and that you're an idiot for actually expecting them to be.

This is about as good as it gets, from a special effects perspective.

This is about as good as it gets, from a special effects perspective.

Very little in the film is played straight (thank god), but the few things that are, work simultaneously as a narrative counterbalance and tonal juxtaposition. Mainly, the relationship between the titular pastor Doug and his rescued hooker companion Carol. There's great chemistry between the two, which adds fuel to a budding romance and social justice proposition, so when they hook up for some fiery over-the-clothes dry humping, or take on a Chinese ninja clan (LOL) in the film's climax, you can't help but cheer them on.

"Only through the elimination of violence can we achieve world peace."

"Only through the elimination of violence can we achieve world peace."

Everything else is basically a gag on a gag always delivered rambunctiously, mostly landing, and usually referencing some other movie that Director Brendan Steere is likely a fan of — my favorite being the shameless wink-and-nod to 1987's sweatiest silliest Kung Fu film, Miami Connection. And just like that hilarious bit of B grade cinema, Velocipastor is concerned with having a good time first, making sense second. It's a priority that makes this an absolutely easy recommendation to anyone who's movie-watching priorities align the same.

Watch it for yourself, below:

Blu-ray notes - (Wild Eye Releasing)

Special features include:

  • COMMENTARY TRACK

  • GAG REEL

  • TEXAS FRIGHTMARE CAST AND CREW Q&A

  • NYC Q&A

  • CLOSED CAPTION

  • TRAILERA

Video quality is solid, rendering the low budget video about as good as one would expect; details are sharp during day scenes, with colors coming across somewhat subdued (rare exceptions in certain sequences). No macroblocking to speak of. There is also no odd judder or stutter issues as a result of the transition to physical media.

Audio is flat and uneven. Stereo separation is weak. While sometimes distorting at the loudest points in the presentation, dialogue remains clear enough when it counts. Likely a fault of the recording process than it is any mastering to the Blu-ray format. Again, this is a low budget affair.

Highlights of the disc are the special features, especially the insightful Q&A sessions with cast and crew. The genesis of the film in particular, was funny to discover while watching them.

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HOUSE (1986)

Evil Dead 2 starter kit

A Vietnam vet turned horror novelist returns to his boyhood home to find that it has been invaded by ghosts and ghouls.

A Vietnam vet turned horror novelist returns to his boyhood home to find that it has been invaded by ghosts and ghouls.

Director: Steve Miner

Film series: House

Screenplay: Ethan Wiley

Music composed by: Harry Manfredini, Buddy Feyne

1 Hour 33 Minutes


REVIEW BY JEREMIAH

I remember the VHS boxart probably more than almost any other film (Dead Alive perhaps being the only one to imprint harder), and I also remember how devastated I was after finally renting it too. What should have been a terrifying ghost story, turned out to be a silly, goreless, slapstick nightmare. And at the time, I wanted—what I thought were anyway—edgy horror films.

Anyway that was then, this is now. And today, silly, goreless, slapstick nightmares—I'm totally cool with. So it pretty much follows that on my second go round, I had a much better time—a really good time in fact, with House. Coming across as something of a precursor to the master class of Evil Dead 2, there was just enough in the way of comically-driven horror to tickle the same funny bone. One-sided battles with a zombie swordfish (like those mountable Big Mouth Billy Bass toys), fist fights with a zombie soldier, being manhandled by a closet demon (which totally looked like the offspring of a tree branch and drain scum), and hilarious encounters with a bloated deadite-looking girlfriend, ultimately ending in dismemberment.

It kind of runs wild tonally, and the flashback segments don't really work for me, but if you're looking for some cinematic skylarking in the horror genre, perhaps something generally inoffensive, give this a (re)visit.

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10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983)

It's for jacking off! Isn't it?!?

An outraged police detective (Charles Bronson) and his rookie partner (Andrew Stevens) skirt the law to catch a killer of women.

An outraged police detective (Charles Bronson) and his rookie partner (Andrew Stevens) skirt the law to catch a killer of women.

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Initial DVD release: February 4, 2003

Box office: 7.176 million USD (US)

Screenplay: J. Lee Thompson, William Roberts

1 Hour 43 Minutes


REVIEW BY JEREMIAH

10 to Midnight is by far, my absolute favorite Bronson flick. The perfect blend of grit, sleaze, shocking violence, and sheer audacity -- it tickled me in all the ways trash cinema should tickle me.

Bronson is calm and collected, coming into his role as Leo Kessler stoic and completely composed—he only seems like a hard ass on the surface (likely cause he's old and tired), but there are moments which expose the soft underbelly of a police dad that cares. Moments which help breathe life into, and humanize the zero-pulse detective.

So when there's flinch and disruption to his cool demeanor, when things really hit the fan, when he's pushed to the tipping point (mainly by Gene Davis), you can't help but—not only be shocked that he's actually alive—but root for the guy as well (wait till you get to the interrogation scene; it's the perfect example of this).

And speaking of Davis, you couldn't ask for a better person to do the tipping. Playing the maniacal dick-in-the-wind Warren Stacy (a serial killer inspired by real life murderer Robert Speck), his unpredictability and energy make him the perfect counterbalance to Kessler. Its all very tortoise and the hare stuff, except with guns, knives, and a masturbation pump.

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CLASS OF 1984 (1982)

A cut-to-the-chase punk film that indulges in all the filthy nasty things which keep a parent up at night.

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THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

It's what you don't see that's scariest…

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ASSASSINAUT

It's a nutty bit of low budget sci-fi that aims to please with displeasure

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EL GIGANTE

They told me wrestling was fake…

EVIL HAS A NEW MASK!  After attempting to cross the US/Mexico border in search of a better life, Armando awakens in an unknown room, his body broken down and a Lucha Libre mask sewn into his neck.

EVIL HAS A NEW MASK!

After attempting to cross the US/Mexico border in search of a better life, Armando awakens in an unknown room, his body broken down and a Lucha Libre mask sewn into his neck.

Directors: Gigi Saul Guerrero, Luke Bramley

Screenplay: Shane McKenzie

Music composed by: Chase Horseman

Producer: Raynor Shima

14 Minutes

Where do I even begin? At the time of release I had heard very little of Gigi Saul Guerrero or the production company she co-founded, Luchagore Productions, before coming across "El Gigante" (and subsequently the novel it's based on "Muerte Con Carne"). I knew I was late to the party. After all, you can't have a crew this talented, producing work as polished and compelling as what's on their resume, and remain under the radar, right? Right. And since then, we've made it a point to never miss a single thing put out by the team, lest we risk once more being late to the bloody fiesta.

Anyway, as mentioned above, my introduction to Gigi's work comes by way of her short film, "El Gigante"; a horror story that takes place south of the border. The film opens with a desperate father (Armando) making his way towards the U.S. on foot in hopes of meeting up with the family he sent to cross ahead of him, with only the memories of their last moments together to keep him moving forward. Unfortunately, his trek through the unforgiving desert only serves to land him in a very disturbing situation. Not to give too much away, Armando will have to fight against much more than just harsh environmental conditions, rattle snakes and dehydration - as the hulking luchador appropriately named "El Gigante" stands between him and his freedom.

Family that slays together, stays together...

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Living up to the production company's namesake, 'El Gigante' is chock full of gore, blood, giblets - all of it wrapped within the grimey, stank-filled walls of the lucha libre arena. Not like much of anything we've seen before either (which considering what the horror genre encapsulates, is saying a lot), 'El Gigante' comes across as the bastard child born of a disgusting cross between Tobe Hooper's 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' and 'Lucha Underground'. Yet as violent and grotesque as it can get, there is a lot of beauty to be had in this 13 minute tale. Excellent use of colored lighting, intricately designed wardrobe and environments all come together to create an interesting juxtaposition that works well for the film (reminiscent of the work done in Gigi's other short, 'Dia de los Muertos'). Of course, bringing it all together are the believably psychotic pack of...well...you'll see, played jubilantly by their respective actors - most notable being Adelita Rockhill and Nisreen Slim as "Mama" and "Alma".

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Over far too quickly and ending JUST as it starts to hit a crescendo, 'El Gigante' has at the very least served to wet our appetites in anticipation of a possible feature film, adapting the rest of Shane McKenzie's novel. Hopefully, whatever other work Luchagore Productions puts out between then and now can tide us over, otherwise it'll be a long wait.

Check out the trailers below for both 'El Gigante' and the horror anthology 'Mexico Barbaro' which features Gigi Saul Guerrero's short 'Dia de los Muertos', and be sure to follow their work at the Luchagore Productions website and of course, on Twitter.

You can catch El Gigante on the Shudder video service:

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