The Assignment

starstar
“(Gender) Identity crisis”

I’m a big fan of any film with an outrageous premise, and this one certainly delivers. Mob hitman Frank Kitchen (Rodriguez) carries out his latest job with no qualms, killing a debtor. What he doesn’t realize is, the victim’s sister is a talented but EXTREMELY twisted surgeon, Dr. Rachel Jane (Weaver). She vows to take revenge on Frank by removing what she feels matters most to him: his masculinity. Kitchen is knocked out, kidnapped, and wakes up in a seedy hotel room, to find herself in possession of a couple of things she didn’t have before, and missing something she used to have. But gender reassignment does not make the (wo)man, and an extremely pissed-off Frank vows revenge of her own, both on Jane and Honest John Hartunian (LaPaglia), the former employer who betrayed Kitchen.

Said director Hill, “Is it lurid? Yes. Is it lowbrow? Well, maybe. Is it offensive? No. I’m just trying to honor the B movies that we grew up with.” Maybe he needed to take that actual step and actually be offensive. For I guarantee you, something like Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS clearly did not give a damn about anyone who took offense at the concept, and was all the better for it. The only time this succeeds in provoking similar feelings of “What is this and why am I watching it?”, is when we get to see Rodriguez come out of the shower as male Frank, sporting a prosthetic penis.

The issue here is not the concept: if you have an issue with it, the solution is simple enough. Don’t watch. It’s fiction. It’s not intended to be an accurate portrayal of gender reassignment surgery, any more than Face Off was a documentary about facial reconstruction. I’m more amused by the reactions of people who can’t distinguish reality from cinema, asking questions like “Why is gender reassignment being depicted as a cruel punishment?” The answer is blindingly obvious: because it results in someone trapped in a body that’s the wrong sex for them. I would have thought the trans community might empathize with that. Apparently not.

No, the problem is… It’s not actually a very good film. It’s told mostly in flashback, Dr. Jane telling her story in a straitjacket to a psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Galen (Shalhoub), and this helps leads to a muddled and confusing structure, when a straightforward linear narrative would likely have served the story better. The action scenes are also almost perfunctory: I’d have expected a lot better from the man who gave us an all-time classic in The Warriors. Mind you, that was a long time ago [though the script which formed the basis for this, also dates back to the seventies], and he hasn’t done anything of note since – pauses to check Wikipedia – uh… Last Man Standing, maybe? That was 1996. I saw it in a Dublin cinema, and fell asleep. Though that might have been the Guinness.

It may also have been a misstep (cisstep?) to have Rodriguez play both halves of Kitchen. She’s fine on the female side, delivering her usual tough attitude, entirely befitting the project’s original title, Tomboy. But she’s less than convincing as an “actual” man, looking more like Captain Jack Sparrow after a metrosexual makeover. I did like Weaver, delivering a mix of coolness and taut insanity that is interesting and unsettling to watch. However, the negatives outweigh the positives, and we’re left with a film that’s difficult to defend, purely on an artistic level. It is, however, the first time I’ve ever been uncertain whether a film should be included here, due to uncertainty over the “heroine” part of “action heroine”…

Dir: Walter Hill
Star: Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Anthony LaPaglia

Deeper: The Retribution of Beth

starstarstarstarhalf
“Don’t do porn.”

Investigative journalist Mark (Anderson) is not too happy about his latest investigative assignment: going on a ride-along with Steve (Francis), the sleazy owner of porn company “XBus”. He picks up girls on the street and supposedly, talks them into getting naked for his website, Girls Gone Wild-style. But Steve’s latest predatory mission doesn’t go as planned, after picking up the very lovely Beth (Sam) and her friend Sam (Gatien). For Beth pulls a gun, hijacks the limo, and drives the two men into the forests on the outskirts of town, clearly with savage vengeance on her mind for an incident in her – and Steve’s – past. Not quite the story Mark anticipated getting.

I read one review which complained about the moral ambiguity here, but I felt this was actually the movie’s strong suit. Not that there’s necessary much ambiguity for me: it’s entirely possible to have no issues with pornography, while simultaneously frowning upon drugging girls in order to rape them. Seems fair enough to me. It is true that in this case, we don’t discover the truth about Beth’s mission until relatively late on, which goes against the grain in this kind of film. We usually start off with the crime, which creates sympathy for the vengeful heroine, and puts the audience in her corner. Here, Beth is a rather more ambivalent creature, particularly as her mission goes outside its parameters i.e. Steve, to encompass innocent bystanders like Mark.

Less successful is the injection of a randomly passing hunter into the film, and it might have been interesting if Mark had turned out to have some kind of dark secret in his past as well. He’s just a bit too squeaky-clean e.g. devoted to his pregnant wife. That particular phone-call had me rolling my eyes at the excessive obviousness. I had, literally, to rewind the scene where Steve has his hands zip-tied behind him, and is somehow able to get them around his legs, and in front of him. Seriously: just put your hands behind your back, and you’ll see exactly how impossible that is. It was also rather too convenient how Beth never bother with her captives’ legs, even after their efforts to run away.

Overall though, this is well put together. It’s well-crafted to work within its limited resources, requiring little more than two locations – the car and the woods – and the four occupants of the limo. There’s a particularly interesting dynamic on the female side, contrasting the aggressive Beth, and the apparently much more passive Sam. Although, that does change over the course of the film and the view at the far end is radically different from that at the beginning. It benefits from some good performances too. Francis, for example, manages to make Steve a relatively sympathetic character, rather than being 100% douchebag. But it’s Harmon who is the glue that holds this film together, even as she becomes increasingly unhinged, and a serious danger to anyone who crosses her path.

Dir: Jeffrey Anderson
Star: Jessica Harmon, Matthew Kevin Anderson, Andrew Francis, Elise Gatien

Heroines of F.U.R.Y.

starstarhalf
“The world’s first microbudget superheroine wrestling soft-porn film.”

Given the cover, you might reasonably have expected one of the above, but if you saw the rest coming, you’re a better judge of cinematic dreck than I am. It’s hard to work out exactly who would form an overlap between the various potential audience sections here. And even someone not averse to any of the categories (I’d probably qualify) might well be turned off by the poor production values and overall shoddy quality of this.

The film is set in “Metro City”, which was my first surprise, because a lazy reading of the synopsis had me believing this was “Mexico City”. My bad. Turns out Omega is putting together a squad of super-powered heroines, having discovered that someone, somewhere appears to be abducting their colleagues. Nothing good can come of this, naturally. The main focus is Cosmic Girl (Lane), who has only gained her costume and secret identity relatively recently, so is still coming to terms with her situation. But she’s just one of a slew of caped crusaders, including – I’ll pause to take a deep breath, and copy-paste from my notes here – Lady Victory, Sunder, Spyder, Starlet, Dusk and Lilith.

Which wouldn’t necessarily be bad, if it had delivered something along the lines of the wonderful, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. But the actual tone becomes creepily apparent here almost immediately. In the first scene featuring Lady Victory, we’re treated to close-ups of her feet, cleavage, butt, crotch and cleavage again, before we get to see her face. Sadly, this turns out to be an accurate indication of the movie’s priorities, with the eye of the camera adopting a highly fetishistic approach to its subjects. That’s when the film isn’t toppling over entirely, such as the 10-minute sequence of Cosmic Girl masturbating on her bed, in full costume, which ends up coming – a word used advisedly – about the width of her gusset elastic from being hardcore porn.

Then there are the scenes in a wrestling ring. For it turns out, part of the point of the abductions is to put together a forced “fight club” for these “metahumans”, which is streamed online. The losers also have their powers stolen. Which is an idea with some potential. Or, rather, it might have, if anyone involved could actually fight, or give a credible illusion of fighting: this isn’t exactly Lucha Underground, shall we say. It turns out to be little more than a thinly-disguised excuse for some sub/dom play.

Look, I’m sure there’s a market for this kind of thing, and I’m certainly not one to judge it. But this is masquerading under the illusion of being a real film – it’s on sale at Walmart ‘n’ stuff – and that creates certain expectations, which the movie is woefully ill-equipped to meet. Admittedly, if you had the foresight to Google “Brookland Brothers”, the studio behind it, you would find yourself looking at a page of thoroughly NSFW links. However, the rest of us will probably be looking nervously over our shoulders for fear of a family member showing up, and wishing for an industrial-sized bottle of hand-sanitizer.

Dir: Tyler Benjamin
Star: Halsey Rae, Ashley Lane, Krisa Kouture, Christina Verdon

Lipstick

starstarstarhalf
“Model behaviour”

There are times when a film doesn’t deliver anything close to what the sleeve promises. This would be one of those times. However, in this case, while disappointed, I can’t claim it was an entire waste of my time. Or, at least, it wasn’t a waste of very much of my time, coming in at a brisk 70 minutes. Yokoyama plays Arina, a fashion model who has a burgeoning online profile. However, this is not without its dangers, in some questionably creepy admirers. When one of them shows up at a fashion shoot, she and her sister, Keiko, are rescued by a conveniently passing cop, Gotoda – much to their relief. As a token of gratitude, Arina gives him a tube of lipstick, but it soon turns out that the policeman is a far bigger threat than any fan.

It takes quite some time to get to anything even remotely resembling what’s shown on the cover. And by remotely, I mean: no machete, and the costume worn by the heroine is nowhere near as luridly exploitational, when she finally gets to have a roof-top confrontation with Gotoda. Nor does she have the word “BITCH” written in lipstick on her thigh, though her predator’s use of lipstick is hardly any less unpleasant. Until then, it’s more of a study in psychological torture: after she’s attacked and raped, Arina finds her own sister unwilling to believe it. And even after she has got past that, the film’s most chilling scene has the model agency’s (female) lawyer explaining to her in cold, logical terms, exactly why pursuing any kind of case against Gotoda is going to cause more problems than it would solve.

It’s this, along with the realization that this is not going to be a one-off incident, because the cop has longer-term plans, which finally pushes Arina to take matters into her own hands. I’d certainly prefer to have seen this aspect expanded upon at greater length, instead of the five minutes it seems to get here. It certainly doesn’t seem adequate payback for the hell through which she has gone over the previous hour. There’s a particular resonance if you’re aware of Yokoyama’s “regular job” as an adult video star, as one imagines most Japanese viewers would be. The shift to playing a “fashion model” here is slight, but significant: she more or less gets to be herself, just with (slightly) more clothes. And I’m fairly sure she has also dealt with her share of creepy fans at some point.

It’s certainly a cheap topic and approach, and the script doesn’t bring much that’s innovative or memorable. But given the obvious limitations of budget and scope, this is effective enough – providing you are definitely NOT expecting mayhem on any significant scale. Yokoyama’s performance is good enough for the job, and it manages to strike a decent balance between drama and exploitation.

Dir: Ainosuke Shibata
Star: Miyuki Yokoyama, Hiroaki Kawatsure, Mitsuki Koga

I Spit on Your Grave 3: Vengeance is Mine

starstarstarstarhalf
“Point made.”

Like much horror, the rape-revenge genre is one which overlaps with, rather than being wholly encompassed by, the action-heroine field. Some entries qualify: the awesome glory which is Ms. 45 being the most obvious example. But others appear to focus more on the rape than the revenge, and are far less interesting as a result. Such was the case for the first two entries in this series – and, indeed, the 1978 grindhouse classic which it rebooted. Here, however, in an interesting twist we bypass the assault entirely. This starts instead with the victim in the earlier movies (Butler) having adopted a new identity, that of Angela, and attending both one-on-one therapy as well as group sessions.

It’s at the latter she meets Marla (Landon), who shares Angela’s dislike for the whole touchy-feely aspect of recovery, and prefers a more… “hands-on” approach to working things out. When they discover that another member of the group is still being molested by her stepfather, it’s time to put their theory into practice. While apparently a success, at least initially, it turns out Marla has her own issues that still need to be dealt with. Additionally, the aftermath of their street justice is bringing the attention of the cops, in particular SVU Detective McDylan (Hogan). It’s kinda hard to explain why you’re in a bad part of town, fighting with a man in a back-alley, and carrying a knife, a Tazer and a can of lighter fluid.

I was sure I knew where this was going. Meeting someone called “Marla” at a support group, is such an obvious nod to Fight Club, I was certain she’d turn out to be a figment of Angela’s imagination, and there are fantasy sequences also pointing down that road. Happy to be proved wrong, and the film twists in some unexpected directions the rest of the way, right until the end. It’s most memorable feature, however, would be two absolutely – bold and capital letters please – BRUTAL sequences of Angela’s revenge. The first, in particular, is going to stick in my mind for a very long time, in part because it comes virtually out of nowhere. But once it begins, it delivers a one-two punch of almost unsurpassed magnitude: barely had the words “Holy sh…” begun to escape my lips, when it got ten times more savage.

It has to be said, having set the bar so staggeringly high in terms of carnage, I was left wondering how the movie could follow up. Truth is, it doesn’t, and that probably counts as a misstep, since it also distracts unnecessarily from what’s actually a solid performance from Butler. She gets to run the gamut from seductive to extremely scary, and is effective enough at both ends of the spectrum. Make no mistake, this is frequently vile and repellent; yet, it’s exactly how sexual assault should be depicted, because that’s what it is. Just be sure to find an unrated version, and if you’re male, you may want to watch from a spot where curling up into the foetal position is easily managed.

Dir: R.D. Braunstein
Star: Sarah Butler, Jennifer Landon, Doug McKeon, Gabriel Hogan

PMS Cop

starstar
“A not-so fair cop”

pmscopBeginning with a jokey caption stating “The producers of this movie are in no way admitting to the existence of PMS,” this is a rather uneven B-movie, which has a potentially interesting premise. Unfortunately, it then does not enough with the concept.

Mary (Hall) is a police officer with anger management issues. After beating up a rapist dressed as a clown. she’s ordered to undergo counseling. Her therapist puts her in contact with a pharmaceutical company testing a new drug, Corybantic, aimed at reducing the impact of PMS. After consulting with the leader of the project, Dr. Sokolov (Skinner), Mary starts taking the drug, and is injected with a chip to track her body’s response. But after witnessing her partner being gunned down during a convenience store robbery, it triggers a violent psychotic reaction. The drug company re-capture their test subject, only for her to break out of their restraints and go on a brutal rampage through the facility. Turns out the chip wasn’t just for telemetry either; it came from an abandoned Soviet project into mind-control.

There a number of ways this could have gone. Social satire, as hinted at in the opening caption, or perhaps a modern version of the Frankenstein story. Instead… Well, there’s not much more than Mary, or her “PMS Cop” alter-ego (played by a different actress, Means), roaming the drug company’s building, banging heads together. The gore is enthusiastic and nicely practical; I particularly enjoyed the silicone implants ripped out of one poor victim’s chest, then used as the means of death for another. You don’t see that every day. However, there simply isn’t enough going on with the story-line to sustain audience interest.

It also shifts notably in tone. Early, it’s almost jokey – for instance, the clown rapist ties up his victim with balloons. Yet the humour is abruptly switched off as soon as Mary begins the drug trial; you’re left feeling like the rest of the film is a comedy without jokes. You can certainly check off the movies director Blakey is inspired by. Robocop, The Terminator and possibly Lady Terminator. Not that there’s anything wrong with influences. It’s just that those are all significantly better movies, and Blakey doesn’t bring sufficient new or interesting to offset this disadvantage. In technical terms, the lighting could certainly also have been better, with too many scenes painfully under-lit, in what may have been a misguided attempt as “atmosphere.”

While I’ve seen and enjoyed B-movies which have skated by on even thinner premises, they’ve been able to take their concepts and do more with them. This instead feels like a 15-minute short, stretched into a feature. I suspect it’s one which would have been more effective at the shorter length.

Dir: Bryon Blakey
Star: Cindy Means, Heather Hall, Elaine Jenkins, Megan Dehart

Sumo Vixens

starstarstar
“Su’mo money, su’mo problems.”

sumovixensYes, it’s a thinly-disguised excuse to see topless women grappling with each other. It’s from the director of Big Tits Zombie and the charmingly-titled Sexual Parasite: Killer Pussy. The budget appears to have been several thousand yen, at least. But, you know what? I didn’t mind this. There’s a sense of self-awareness here that helps defuse (though certainly not eliminate) the creepier elements. When the heroine proclaims, “People have dirty thoughts about women’s sumo, but I believe there’s something more than that,” you want to believe her. Well, at least until the lesbian canoodling starts, anyway, and you realize

Said heroine is Ruriko Sakura (Eba), whose aunt used to be a woman’s sumo champion in her day, which gives Ruriko the idea of reviving the sport. To this end, she recruits former master Szenjirou Arakami (Arase), who has just been relesed from jail for pushing a car loaded with Yakuza into a river. The women they recruit are a motley bunch at best, but Komasa (Mizutani) appears to have strayed in from a pinky violence film, so has promise. However, the Domino Group, a Yakuza-run “agency” has their eye on Ruriko and owns loans held by Arakami. A challenge match is arranged against the Domino girls, and if they win, the loans will be forgiven. If they lose, Ruriko must become their exclusive talent.

It’s the little things that keep this memorable, like the quirky characters, such as the tattooed, green-haired and pierced sumo who spends literally the entire film huffing paint thinner from a plastic bag – even for her bout, she’s like “Here, hold this” to the referee. Or Komasa’s one-eyed nemesis and former partner in a lesbian strip show, Oryu (Kudou), who I’m fairly sure is another pulp cinema tribute. Nakano also slyly subverts some of the obvious sports movie cliches. I trust I’m not spoiling this for anyone, when I tell you plucky underdog Ruriko loses her climactic match in about 0.3 seconds. I think he also takes pot-shots at cable TV – the final match is broadcast there – and its fondness for staged reaction shots.

The action is, as you’d expect, entirely woeful and the camera angles are particularly predatory, tending to focus on specific body parts to the exclusion of, say, the women’s faces. Yet the makers are clearly aware of the idiocy on view, and certainly cannot be accused of taking themselves too seriously. Ruriko somehow manages to keep her clothes on, when all about her are losing theirs, and though she has a boyfriend, he doesn’t turn up until literally the final scene. She’s goal-oriented, committed and you could make the case she’s actually a better role-model of independent womanhood than many depictions in more mainstream works. At heart, though, this could only be fully appreciated by the 16-year-old male audience, for whom it was apparently made.

Dir: Takao Nakano
Star: Eba, Arase, Kei Mizutani, Shouku Kudou

Women on the Run

starstarstar
“Letting the Cat III out of the bag.”

womenChinese teenage martial-arts champ Li Siu-Yin (Guo) is seduced into a life of prostitution by her boyfriend, but eventually snaps and kills him. She escapes to Hong Kong, only to be arrested there, and given a stark choice: help ensnare crime boss King Kong (Kim) or be deported back to China. Unwillingly, she takes the former and goes back over the border with undercover cop Hung (Cheung), who is also having an affair with colleague David (Lai). However, it turns out that David is in cahoots with King Kong, and the pair end up in Canada and in jail. It’s a long way back from there, before the two can take their revenge on the men who betrayed them.

It appears my memories of this were conflated with another “Cat III” (the Hong Kong adults-only film classification) kung-fu film, the considerably more sleazy Escape From Brothel. Aside from some nekkid kung-fu and a couple of scenes of sexual violence, this is mostly mainstream. And it’s kinda hard to take the gang-rape sequence seriously when the perpetrators are set up as being Really Bad People by punting a clearly stuffed dog, as they make their way into the warehouse where our heroines are hiding out. Elements like these deflate entirely apparently serious attempts at drama; see also a flashback to an apparently kinder, gentler era of airport security when you could not just take your stun-gun onto a plane, you could apply it to other passengers without anyone rushing you with a drinks trolley. Ah, those were the days, eh? There are also bad subtitles which translate the line “smoke some weed” in English as, “get some sweet meat,” and a really nasty portrayal of Canadian law-enforcement, that left me wondering if the directors got a traffic ticket in Vancouver or something.

Fortunately, salvaging proceedings are some decent to solid action, as you’d expect from Yuen, who has a long track record of such things. Both Guo and Cheung are more than credible; the former, in particular, to an extent where it’s a surprise that she never appeared in anything of significance again. As a villain, Kim lets his feet in particular do his talking, and he makes for a formidable opponent, particularly at the end. There are a number of solid sequences before that, that let both leads show their skills – though I could perhaps have done without the comedic drug addiction, Liu doing her best kung-fu after a little H. I guess it’s a variant on Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master? All told, this is more or less your typical Cat III film, containing both the good and bad the classification implies. Action, exploitation, comedy, brutality and nonsensical aspects all rub shoulders, with the end product being… Well, while I could point out any number of other flaws, let’s accentuate the positive instead, and just say. this is certainly never dull.

Dir: David Lai and Corey Yuen
Star: Tamara Guo, Farini Cheung, David Lai, Kim Won-Jin

We Are Monsters

starstar
“Swedish grindhouse: Some assembly apparently required.”

wearemonstersThe rape-revenge genre is a problematic one. Done properly, it can be awesome, and pack a real wallop. See Ms. 45, or Thriller: A Cruel Picture for examples where the makers got it right. But there are an awful lot of mis-steps possible on the way. Unfortunately, this proves the point, mostly by being remarkably… Well, “bland” is probably appropriate, and is also damning criticism. For these kind of movies should be offensive, because rape is. If its depiction isn’t hard for the viewer to watch, you’re not doing it right. On that basis, the makers here definitely get it wrong.

Emma (Oldenburg) is on a business trip, in her role as a PR advisor, when she gets in the wrong taxi. She regains consciousness, tied up in a remote cabin. There, she’s at utterly at the mercy of savvy psychopath Jim (Ralph Beck), and his simpleton sidekick, Pete (Andersson). It soon becomes clear she is not their first victim. And also, that they have no compunction about disposing of their left-overs. That’s just the start of Emma’s descent into hell, which is a necessary component of the genre. To be followed by her turning the tables and subjecting her attackers to equal brutality, to the cheers of the audience. In theory, anyway.

The first off-putting element is, it’s supposedly set in America, yet clearly isn’t, with accents roughly as convincing as Inspector Clouseau [Emma, bizarrely, is supposedly Australian – one presumes that was the only accent Oldenburg could do!]. There’s no reason beyond crass commercialism, why its location couldn’t be the real one, of Sweden. Then we get to the downswing, and there’s no emotional impact at all. We’re given no reason to care about Emma, except that she’s the victim, nor any reason to hate Jim and Pete, save they’re the perpetrators. Now, we don’t need any more reason, but it’s appallingly lazy film-making to rely on such a simply dynamic. The series of attacks are shot in such a superficial way they’re frankly boring, when they should leave the viewer shaken and stirred.

There’s also a thread where Pete spends a lot of time watching slasher films. If there’s an intended moral there, it’s a remarkably hypocritical one, given the genre in which this firmly operates. Eventually, after an aborted escape attempt or two, the inevitable happens. The makers do at least get that right, with Emma inflicting some truly brutal revenge, including one scene I defy any man to watch without squirming. Yet, the ineffective nature of what has gone before robs the revenge of any significant impact, and it instead falls into the category of “too little, too late.” Having shallowly enjoyed the directors’ previous effort, the “spam in a cabin” film Wither, their attempt here to recapture the spirit of the grindhouse era was severely disappointing.

Dir: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund
Star: Hanna Oldenburg, Torbjörn Andersson, Ralf Beck, Niki Nordenskjöld

Hell Fire

starstarstarstar
“A bastard love-child of Bitch Slap and The Evil Dead.”

hellfire2This is unashamedly and unrepentantly B-movie fodder, pitting four prostitutes against the Antichrist and each other. If you’re expecting anything else from a sleeve like that, more fool you. But for something made on a budget likely measured in thousands rather than millions, it punches way above its financial weight, and barely pauses in its savagery and energetically bad taste.

The four hookers decide to rob their pimp, hearing whispers that he’s plotting a big deal. Finding no money present, they kidnap the man he’s meeting and take him to a remote cabin to extract whatever value they can. Unfortunately, they’ve bitten off more than expected, as they are now holding the literal son of Satan hostage. He (Green) isn’t quite up on his powers yet, but can move objects, read minds and also turn the women’s darkest secrets into physical, demonic form. Though he can’t read the mind of Rosetta (Beretta), it turns out she’s enthusiastically on his side, in exchange for the usual, “selling your soul” type stuff. Turns out Mr A.C. was negotiating with their pimp to go kill the currently unborn son of God, which would give Lucifer a huge leg-up in the imminent war between heaven and hell. Only Justine (Marshall) stands between the Antichrist, his new ally, and… Well, it’s unlikely to be good for mankind.

Green seems to be aiming for a Charles Manson vibe, and does a good job there, even as he spends much of the film tied to a chair. This leaves the floor literally open for the women, and it’s them – particularly Marshall and Beretta – who deliver carnage that’s brutal, heads right for the jugular and doesn’t stop chewing until it reaches bone. Beretta, in particular, exudes “Zero fucks given” and, with her Antipodean twang, has something of a younger, pissed-off Zoe Bell about her [though Beretta is Australian, rather than a Kiwi]. Although credit to everyone involved here, as they go full-throttle into their roles, and their enthusiasm helps paper over occasional moments of weakness, probably most notably in its audio work, often low-fi at best.

Additionally, there is some cheating here: the “rules” by which the Antichrist has to operate, e.g. he can’t kill the son of God directly, exist purely for the film’s purpose, not out of any theological basis. However, I can only admire the way Fratto and his cast have taken a concept, twisted it into an appropriate form for their tastes, and then run with it, far beyond what I expected going in. Sure, you undeniably need a fondness for low-budget horror, in order to appreciate this in the slightest. I do, and having sat through my share of tedious offerings in that genre, have to say this is one of the best such efforts I’ve seen in a long while. Rarely have the words “bloody good time” been more appropriate.

Dir: Marc Fratto
Star: Katelyn Marie Marshall, J. Scott Green, Selene Beretta, Jennice Carter