Category Archives: Film

“WHEN THE STARLIGHT ENDS”— A Love Story and a Dark Comedy

“When the Starlight Ends”

A Love Story and a Dark Comedy

Amos Lassen

“When the Starlight Ends” is a surreal dark comedy written and directed by Adam Sigal. It follows a struggling writer, Jacob, who is despondent (Sam Heughan) and deeply depressed after losing the love of his life. He has to face the decisions that he made that compelled her to leave. We see this through a series of metaphorical vignettes that give insight into their failed relationship. Now Jacob has decided to rewrite his own life the way he wishes it would have gone. There is not much more I can say about the film without giving spoiler. This is a sweet and sincere move but it is no great shakes— it is a simply a sweet diversion and there is nothing wrong with that. Every film cannot win awards.

This is the story of love, struggles and relationships and the search for a perfect ending. We meet Sam when Cassandra (Arabella Oz) left him six weeks prior. Cassandra was his muse and his reason for love. Now she haunts him through his keyboard as he writes and rewrites his story while always looking for a fairytale ending. With each draft he writes, he is forced to relive the time they spent together (some real, some imagined). He agonizes over the decisions he made……………

“A Taste of Phobia”— A Horror Anthology

“A Taste of Phobia”

A Horror Anthology

Amos Lassen

Artsploitation has acquired the U.S. and Canadian rights to EuroObscura’s “A Taste of Phobia”, a horror anthology created by 14 international directors. It is scheduled for DVD and VOD release in May 2018.

The film delves into some of the weirdest and wildest phobias, each with its own bloody twist. Those included here are caetophobia (fear of hairs), henophobia (fear of young virgin girls), coprophobia (fear of feces), mysophobia (fear of contamination and germs), mazeophobia (fear of being lost), astrophobia (fear of celestial objects), mageirocophobia (fear of cooking) and oneirophobia (fear of dreams). Here are 90 minutes of people traumatized, institutionalized and dying from their fears.

“A Taste of Phobia” showcases the talents of directors known for making a bloody good splash such as James Quinn (The Law of Sodom), Sam Mason Bell (The Making Of), Jason Impey (Home Made), Alessandro Redaelli (P.O.E. 3), Chris Milewski (Welcome to the World, Dear Child), Alessandro Giordani (L’insonne: Ouverture) and Domiziano Cristopharo (Virus: Extreme Contamination, Dark Waves).

Here is a complete list of directors who participated:

Jackson Batchelor (UK)

Sam Mason Bell (England)

Domiziano Cristopharo (Italy)

Michael J. Epstein (USA)

Dustin Ferguson (USA)

Alessandro Giordani (Italy)

Jason Impey (UK)

Sunny King (Nigeria)

Chris Milewski (USA)

Davide Pesca (Italy)

Alessandro Redaelli (Italy)

Poison Rouge (Italy)

Rob Ulitski (UK)

Lorenzo Zanonin & Alessandro Sisti (Italy)

Many viewers will be surprised to learn about the strange and terrifying kind of phobias that exist in the world.

“KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE”— A Fun Film in a Blu-ray Special Edition

“Killer Klowns from Outer Space”

A Fun Film in a Blu-ray Special Edition

Amos Lassen

Before watching “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” let me share two important thoughts. The title really says it all and there are no surprises or great thought necessary to enjoy the film “Klowns” is quite simply a showreel for the Chiodo Brothers and their particular and crazy kind of filmmaking and outlandish special effects. The film is simply fun and that is what you must remember and all you need to know. Killer klowns arrive on Earth and set up a huge circus tent in the middle of the woods. Farmer Gene Green (Royal Dano) thinks that a comet has crashed and goes to investigate but ends up being kidnapped by a huge clown-like monster. Soon more and more strange things start happening around town and it is up to young lovers Mike (Grant Kramer) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder), local sheriff Dave Hanson (John Allen Nelson) and ice cream salesmen the Terenzi brothers to get to the bottom of things and try to stop the murderous klowns before the whole town is gone.

“Killer Klowns From Outer Space” knows exactly what it is and runs wild with it, never letting up with the stupidity but always with a knowing wink to let us know that it is laughing along with you. There is not a lot of gore –(a decapitation punch and a human glove puppet being the only gruesome moments) but that is fine since the klowns themselves are creepy with their monstrous faces providing most of the horror elements of the film. Their are deadly versions of seemingly innocent clown props such as custard pies full of acid and mutant popcorn that turns into miniature klown heads with very sharp teeth. The special effects are very special, not just with the klowns’ animatronic masks and costumes but also the interior of their circus tent looks fantastic, like a neon nightmare. The acting isn’t great by any means. John Vernon as a grumpy police officer who has it in for anyone younger than him, however, is quite good and he certainly adds to the youthful rebellion feel of the film, despite the fact that the town’s youngsters aren’t being that rebellious and he is just a cantankerous fool. Suzanne Snyder doesn’t seem to know what film she is in and her line delivery veers from wooden to totally theatrical without any sort of middle ground. This is not a film for subtleties but her lack of consistency is a little annoying.

The Chiodo brothers who bring this film to us revel in madness and maniacal glee and silliness for the sake of silliness.When Mike and his girlfriend Debbie warn the local police that a gang of homicidal alien-clowns have landed in the nearby area (in a spaceship shaped like a circus big-top, no less), the cops are naturally skeptical. Before long however, reports are coming in from other anxious residents detailing similar run-ins with the large-shoed assailants. There can no longer be any doubt that the Killer Klowns from Outer Space are here, and they are out to destroy.

Crescent Cove is a peaceful town and the only witnesses to the klown visitation is a pair of young lovers, Mike and Debbie who impulsively decide to investigate the glowing transport on their own. Inside, they discover a bizarre collection of circus-inspired machinery, along with bulbs of cotton candy filled with dissolving human remains. In their panic, the couple triggers the attention of the ship’s inhabitants, the Killer Klowns, a distorted band of painted ghouls who’ve come to Earth to collect bodies for feeding purposes and they are ready to storm Crescent Cove and collect a wealth of victims. The Klowns head off into the night, armed with weapons and tricks employed to subdue easily amused humans. Hoping to thwart a community calamity, Mike and Debbie attempt to enlist help from Sheriff Dave (John Allen Nelson) and his doubting, bullying partner Curtis (John Vernon) before the Klowns devour the town with their specialized hunting skills.

Inspired by B-movies of the 1950s, the filmmakers set out to construct their version of an alien invasion picture and they have chosen clowns as the source of their cinematic nightmare. It’s an unusual choice, though smartly played. The colorful performers have an exaggerated monster design that keeps the antagonists hulking and fanged and make for a credible screen threat despite the silliness of the concept. The creatures are genuinely unnerving at times, especially when the Chiodos wander away from their sense of humor for a few scare moments. “Killer Klowns” is not an exhaustive horror effort, but there’s enough darkness in the material to silence the nay-sayers. At times, the Chiodos bravely treat the Klown invasion seriously or at least as seriously as this movie gets with its popcorn shotguns, balloon animal trackers, and shadow puppet attacks.

“Killer Klowns” is colorful and smartly assembled, with every scene a reminder on how a little creativity can turn a painfully low budget into passable scale, with inventive usage of matte paintings, props, and visual effects helping to capture the moment, despite clear limitations. The performances are on the exaggerated side to carry the camp value of the movie, but it does not annoy.

“Killer Klowns from Outer Space” is filled with attack sequences involving balloon-based traps, acid pies, and deadly puppet shows. The invasion is the highlight of the effort as we watch the Klowns work their circus gear to snag human prey. The Chiodos keep the titular menace front and center for full inspection, backed by an imaginative production design that places special attention on the tent ship interior, which merges surreal circus ambiance with deathtraps and creating an unforgettable home base for the Klowns.

The real enjoyment in a film like this is that the movie never once takes itself seriously. Director Stephen Chiodo has made something that seems to have been completely forgotten about in the modern era of movie making and that is FUN. As we watch this film, we realize and know the actors are enjoying every moment they film and act in. Even if the plot makes absolutely no sense, we have fun watching it.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS include:

Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

Newly remastered stereo 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio options

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

Archive audio commentary with the Chiodo Brothers

Let the Show Begin! Anatomy of a Killer Theme Song an all-new interview with the original members of the American punk band, The Dickies

The Chiodos Walk Among Us: Adventures in Super 8 Filmmaking – all-new documentary highlighting the making of the Chiodo Brothers childhood films, from the giant monster epics made in their basement to their experiments in college

New HD transfers of the complete collection of the Chiodo Brothers 8mm and Super 8 films, including Land of Terror, Free Inside, Beast from the Egg, and more!

Tales of Tobacco an interview with star Grant Cramer

Debbie s Big Night an interview with star Suzanne Snyder

Bringing Life to These Things a tour of Chiodo Bros. Productions

The Making of Killer Klowns archive production featurette

Visual Effects with Gene Warren Jr. archive interview with co-writer/producer Charles Chiodo and visual effects supervisor Gene Warren Jr.

Kreating Klowns archive interview with Charles Chiodo and creature fabricator Dwight Roberts

Komposing Klowns archive interview with composer John Massari

Klown Auditions

Deleted Scenes with filmmaker s audio commentary

Bloopers

Image Galleries

Original Theatrical Trailer

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck

 “Klowns” has been newly restored by Arrow Video for this special edition.

“A PISTOL FOR RINGO” & “THE RETURN OF RINGO”— Two Films by Duccio Tessari

“A Pistol for Ringo” & “The Return of Ringo”

Two Films by Duccio Tessari

Amos Lassen

The original Ringo films introduced another iconic hero to the spaghetti western; a sharp shooter who was clean cut and very different to Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name.”

In “A Pistol For Ringo”, the hero Ringo (Giuliano Gemma) infiltrates a ranch of Mexican bandits to save a beautiful hostage (Nieves Navarro). In “The Return Of Ringo”, he is already a veteran of war and disguises himself as a Mexican in order to take revenge on outlaws who have stolen his property and taken his wife.

Both films were very successful when originally release and this was due to the skilled direction of Duccio Tessari. The Ringo films were influential on the Italian western and spawning numerous unofficial sequels because of their gripping set-pieces and unforgettable musical scoring by Ennio Morricone. Arrow Video now proudly presents both films in new restorations.

In “A Pistol For Ringo”, we have a band of Mexican bandits holding up a bank but during their escape they get holed up in a ranch where they take the inhabitants hostage to avoid capture. The desperate sheriff turns to gun slinging outlaw Ringo to help by infiltrating the gang and saving the day. Ringo is charismatic too with some great one liners. He has great boyish charm and a mean streak as well.

He was able to introduce playing hopscotch to kids before brutally killing two bastards in cold blood. We never know if we can trust this guy. First of all he demands 30% of the stolen cash from the town in order to rescue the ranch owners. Then he sells the gang out for 40% to help the defeat the town, and then vice versa again. He is as an anti-hero with wit and charm.

Director Duccio Tessari has a great sense of humor and uses it well. From the opening hopscotch killings, a bullet ricochet off a bell that kills a goon, some silly knife throwing scenes and of course the peculiar aspect that our antihero doesn’t drink whiskey, only milk all make for laughs. The quotable dialogue also has some laughs.

“The Return of Ringo” is a fun sequel and together the two films have made Giuliano Gemma a star in Italy. Gemma can even make a mediocre film watchable and he is great even in a loose retelling of the classic Greek epic Odyssey, with Ringo assuming the Ulysses role. He stars as Captain Montgomery “Ringo” Brown, who has returned from the Civil War, only to find that his town of Membres has been overrun by the Mexican Fuentes gang, led by Esteban (Fernando Sancho) and Paco (George Martin) Fuentes. To his horror, he also finds that his wife, Hallie, has been taken by Paco with the intent to marry her. I do not want to say much more but I wanted you to know what to expect

Here Gemma is dead-on intense and serious, a departure from the first film’s Ringo, who was a wisecracking, boyish (but still deadly) character. From the moment he finds out the fate of his town and wife, he’s pretty intense and focused and seems pretty dangerous from the get-go.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS include:

Brand new 2K restorations of both films from the original negative

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

Original Italian and English soundtracks

Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio

Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack

Audio commentaries for both films by Spaghetti Western experts C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke

They Called Him Ringo, an archival featurette with star Giuliano Gemma

A Western Greek Tragedy, an archival featurette with Lorella de Luca and camera operator Sergio D Offizi

Original trailers

Gallery of original promotional images

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

“PASTOR PAUL”— “The World’s First American Nollywood Film”

“PASTOR PAUL”

“The World’s First American Nollywood Film”

Amos Lassen

In his first film, director Jules David Bartkowski brings us “Pastor Paul” about a white tourist in West Africa who is possessed by a ghost after acting in a Nollywood movie.

Filmed in Ghana and Nigeria in 2013, “Pastor Paul” explores the remarkable confluence of New African Cinema; Christianity and Witchcraft and satirizes the classic imagery of the “white man in Africa.”

When Benjamin (Bartkowski), a white tourist travels to West Africa, he is cast in a micro-budget version of “Hamlet” and is possessed by a ghost anything can and does happen in the film that the director is also the writer and the star.

Benjamin is an inept, geeky mathematician who sets out on a mission to discover the hidden formulas in the rhythms of African drumming. It is then that he’s asked to act in a movie by Kubolor (Wanlov the Kubolor, one half of the Ghanaian hip-hop duo FOKN Bois), a famous Nollywood actor. Somewhat confused, Benjamin agrees. However, on the set he has seizures and speaks in tongues thus horrifying the crew yet accidentally giving the director exactly what he wanted. Benjamin returns to his research, seeking out drummers in remote villages but his possession reoccurs and he wakes up the next morning in an abandoned house where he faces whether or not he will be able he be able to rid himself of this strange spiritual malady in time for the movie premiere. 

Everyone on screen looks like they’re having a great time making the movie and this is passed on to the audience.

“THE SOULTANGLER”— Mind-Bending

“THE SOULTANGLER”

Mind-Bending

Amos Lassen 

Insane genius Dr. Anton Lupesky has developed a drug that allows users to inhabit corpses and transform into rabid maniacs. Reporter Kim Castle wants to stop the carnage and save our species from annihilation. This is outsider filmmaking is a dream-like wasteland filled with severed heads, evil beasties, and hooded slashers. Filmed in basements and garages, director Pat Bishow’s earnest devotion to storytelling in the spirit of H.P. Lovecraft elevates the film so that it is beyond kitsch. This is the first time the film is available on DVD and Blu ray.

The first 50 minutes may turn a lot of people off, but I was never bored and was laughing out loud more than I wasn’t. The awful acting from obvious friends and family of the director, the terrible editing, the hilariously bad music and the awful sound mixing all point to how not to make a movie, yet this is totally still entertaining

The final 40 minutes are truly amazing and the effects-work is excellent. There is plenty of violence and gore. The filming took place in a Long Island basement that’s crudely decorated like a mad scientist’s lab and as the mad doctor is pretending to look around the laboratory a zombie comes out of a meat locker, dripping goo and dragging fifteen foot long intestines. He attacks the hero, wrapping his intestines around his neck like a lasso chokes him.

Special features include: 

– Transferred from the original 1″ master tapes!

– Unseen 62 minute alternate director’s cut!

– Commentary track with director Pat Bishow!

– Behind the scenes footage!

– Trailers for THE SOULTANGLER and DEAD OF NIGHT TOWN!

– Music video for “Wow” by Hypnolovewheel!

– Liner notes by Bleeding Skull’s Zack Carlson!

– Reversible cover art!

“AN IDLE MIND IS THE DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND”— A Throwback to the 60s

“An Idle Mind is the Devil’s Playground”

A Throwback to the 60s

Amos Lassen

“An Idle Mind is the Devil’s Playground” is a throwback to the old Twilight Zone” programs of the1960s. It is the story of Sid Kottler, a retired theremin player who has been living alone in his over-sized home for the past 13 years. His severe case of anthropophobia does not allow him to have company or even any human discourse. Then one morning, he wakes up with an unforgettable character he recognizes from a very recent encounter of sorts and he senses that he may not be alone anymore. He just might play party host to an ensemble of friends.

Here is an example of a film that entertains and is well constructed with a fine cast that gives good performances set against a lovely soundtrack and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by these qualities in a small film. Because of the nature of the plot, I cannot share much with you for to do so would ruin the viewing experience.

We are reminded of the golden age of television by the style of the film. I would never have known of this film if Armand Petri and Together Magic Films. had not sent me notice of it and I must say I enjoyed every moment but since I cannot share more about the plot, I will just add a few shots from the film. You can see the film on Amazon and Amazon UK.

“REFERENCES” Finding the Right Date

“REFERENCES”

Finding the Right Date

Amos Lassen

While we may not want to admit it, we have all been on blind dates with various results. We are also all aware of how difficult a blind date can be. It would have been much easier if people auditioned for dates or sent in a resume or were interviewed

Michael Jason Allen is a former model and musician who is trying his luck at acting. While running a business where he spent a lot of time checking character references, he got the idea to have something of the same for dating purposes. This is the subject of “References.” Allen wrote, directed, produced and stars in a new kind of romantic comedy. There is a great looking cast of characters and while the story is a bit thin, the cinematography is beautiful.

The film opens, with Marla, an employment agency worker ,declining yet another dinner invitation from her concerned mom who is worried that her daughter does not get out enough. The when her Aunt Helen (Laura Durant) invites her to take over her mail store in Arizona, she grabs the chance to get out of the big city. It is there that she meets Jesse Collins (Michael Jason Allen) whose good looks, charm and humor and an invitation to dinner help to change her low spirits. helps let down her guard enough to accept an invitation to dinner. Marla learns that Jesse has quite a reputation around town but it did not take long before the two of them spend a lot of time together (This is presented in a clever montage of personal shots that end up to a kiss and a night of passion). However Marla has been hurt with bad relationships too many times and Jesse’s reputation as the town’s Casanova causes her to back down instead of being hurt once again.

Jesse feels something for Marla and makes a list of the women he has dated and tells her to check with them to find out how sincere he is. I wish we knew more abut Jesse and that his character was a bit more developed. Even with that, this is a fun film whose real star is the state of Arizona with its gorgeous scenery.

The film is on Amazon Prime US/UK.

“HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT’S INFERNO”— An Unfinished Masterpiece

“HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT’S INFERNO”

An Unfinished Masterpiece

Amos Lassen

In 1964, Henri-Georges Clouzot, the acclaimed director of thriller masterpieces “Les Diaboliques” and “Wages of Fear”, began work on his most ambitious film yet, “L’Enfer” (“Inferno”). The film is set in a beautiful lakeside resort in the Auvergne region of France and was to be a sun scorched elucidation on the dark depths of jealousy starring Romy Schneider as the harassed wife of a controlling hotel manager (Serge Reggiani). However, even with huge expectations, major studio backing and an unlimited budget, after three weeks the production, it all collapsed under the weight of arguments, technical complications and illness.

This new and award-winning documentary by Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea present the film’s incredible expressionistic original rushes, screen tests, and on-location footage, reconstructs Clouzot’s original vision, and shows what happened to the ill-fated endeavor through interviews, dramatizations of un-filmed scenes, and Clouzot’s own notes.

 This was an audaciously experimental film with a virtually unlimited budget that was stopped only three weeks into production. Working closely with Clouzot’s widow, Inès, Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea reconstruct Clouzot’s original vision, filling as well as explaining the gaps with new interviews, re-enactments and Clouzot’s own notes and storyboards and we get to see what the film might have been.

Shots from the narrative proper, in stark black-and-white, look typically gorgeous, the primary reason to see “Inferno” is Clouzot’s amazing experiments with superimposed imagery.

Clouzot’s perfectionism weighed on all involved. His actors were daunted by his demands, though they delivered extraordinary performances. Crewmembers complained of frequently being woken at 2 AM when the c director had another idea. The film was probably always doomed, but the story of it is romantic and addictive.

The documentary combines archive footage (mostly black and white) with modern interviews and some redone scenes in color. Clouzot’s script is built around the obsessive jealousy of Marcel, a middle-aged, chisel-featured man married to a much younger and beautiful flirtatious woman. The main goal of the filmmaker was to try to visually render feelings of anxiety and neurosis. If nothing else, from the many clips of never before seen footage the documentary shares, it appears he would’ve succeeded on that point remarkably well.

The footage of the film itself is brilliantly composed and framed and the standout sections are the hours of tests (shot in both black & white and color) for the delusions Marcel has during his struggle with his jealousy. Playing with light, water and “kinetic art”, Clouzot devised some stunning visual experiments and captured them on film.

SPECIAL FEATURES include:

* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

* Original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

* Optional English subtitles

* Lucy Mazdon on Henri-Georges Clouzot, the French cinema expert and academic talks at length about the films of Clouzot and the troubled production of Inferno

* They Saw Inferno, a featurette including unseen material, providing further insight into the production of Inferno

* Filmed Introduction by Serge Bromberg

* Interview with Serge Bromberg

* Stills gallery

* Original trailer

* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Ginette Vincendeau

“IT TAKES FROM WITHIN”— Isolation and Unease

“IT TAKES FROM WITHIN”

Isolation and Unease

Amos Lassen

Writer/director Lee Eubanks has created a menacing world of isolation and unease in his feature film debut “It Takes from Within”. The film is reminiscent of the art house films of the 1960s.

Set in a desolate town where an unnamed man and woman make preparations to attend a burial, the tension builds as the two experience increasingly disturbing incidents involving manifestations of dread and despair as the internment draws near. The coming together of expressive cinematography, brooding sound design, and minimal use of spoken dialogue makes the film feel like “a surreal, cryptic journey into the dark void between the reality and nightmare of our conflict with death.”

An intense argument separates the two, they find themselves isolated and in emotional turmoil. The film is made up of abstract, dream-like sequences. The film is a study of the human condition regarding loss, fear, and isolation. We can see this as a cinematic examination of our fears and anxieties regarding the human condition in conflict with the crisis of death. Instead of using a conventional narrative structure, “It Takes from Within” is largely made up of abstract, introspective scenes experienced from the point of view of the two unnamed leads (no names are provided for any cast member in the film). Nightmarish characters, environments, and scenes create a mood and atmosphere that is filled with loss, fear, and desolation. Director Eubanks uses avant-garde filmmaking techniques, conceptual imagery, and experimental sound design to deliver the theme that we see.

We first see a seemingly detached scene involving the entire cast, featuring a brooding score without any spoken dialogue and then this moves through several surreal images including a harsh spotlight of grass in the middle of a dark void, a young woman crawling on the ground while screaming and crying, and a bed where an elderly couple are violently tucked in and forcefully put to sleep. After this, the film floats between scenes, following the two leads (actor James Feagin and actress Kristin Duarte) as they each separately explore their deserted, harrowing surroundings in search of the funeral they are scheduled to attend.

Even though dialogue is infrequent, Eubanks uses it as a device to deliver mood rather than plot. Characters often communicate via cryptic and emotionally reserved words, lost and isolated even when speaking to each other. After a scene involving a poetic soliloquy delivered in solitude, the film continues without a word spoken for nearly thirty-five minutes. Characters and scenes develop abstractly and nonsensically as if this is all a dream.

The film’s minimalist aesthetics are simultaneously layered with detail and attention. Photographer Jason Crow beautiful and thoughtfully shot unique landscapes, dim interiors, and a stunning scene set in a noisy cafe filmed entirely in one continuous nine-minute shot.

The film seems to be meant for audiences who take pleasure in interpreting a film on their own terms, without distinct or easy-to-follow guidelines. It is a film that provides plenty of abstract material to explore and challenge. For those who are willing to take the dark and sometimes disturbing ride, it is quite a journey to experience. Gorgeously filmed in luminous black and white, the sequences do not make much sense, but the film’s point may become apparent to patient viewers.