If you’re gonna call your movie American Scumbags, you’ve put yourself in a position where you’ve got to live up (or should that be down?) to that name. Fortunately, Denver underground filmmaker Dakota Bailey — who not only wrote and directed the 2016 production he put that title on, but stars in it under the pseudonym of Dakota Ray — seems to know of which he speaks, and has his finger firmly on the pulse of the world of sleazoids and sickos. In other words, he’s our kind of guy.

Filmed — okay, shot on cam — for the princely sum of $1,000 and recently made available for streaming on Amazon Prime (don’t ask me about its availability on Blu-ray or DVD, I honestly have no idea), this thing feels pretty grimy and follows the lives of three pretty grimy figures whose stories are interlinked in ways obvious and less so : psycho con Billy (played by Darrien Fawkes), drug lord Chester (Fred Epstein), and low-rent dealer/hit man Johnny (Bailey/Ray). None of ’em are likable, all of ’em are disreputable as shit, and the unprofessionalism of the performers is a real asset in each of their cases, as they come off as being seriously fucking real people. Just not the kind of “real people” you’d ever want to know — which is rather the point here.

That being said, if drive-in/grindhouse revivalism isn’t your bag (in which case, what are you doing reading this site?), you might not find a whole lot to latch onto in this flick. There are no “heroes” to be found, there are no empathetic moments for everyone to relate to, and there damn sure isn’t going to be anything like a “happy ending” for anybody. But so what? If you’ve ever known an “American scumbag” yourself — even at a safe remove — you’re going to recognize this film’s over-arching great strength right from the outset, that being its rock-solid authenticity.

There’s some really solid work turned in by the supporting cast here, as well — I’m going to give a special nod to Bianca Valentino for her turn as Angel (you can probably guess her occupation) — and perhaps the most impressive thing about Bailey’s entire dime-store opus is the fact that no one here appears to think they’re “slumming it,” despite the fact that the characters they play are doing nothing but. There’s a violent undercurrent to these peoples’ lives — even when there’s no overt violence taking place on the screen — and while the Tarantino comparisons are probably going to be inevitable, there’s no stylish sheen to any of this. It’s the real, raw deal — right from the streets and into your living room.

So, yeah, consider me impressed — Bailey has an intuitive understanding of how to best use his lack of resources to his advantage, his cast is way better than it probably has any right to be, his cinematography is suitably gritty, his story is a no-bullshit account of underworld life, and his editing ties the whole thing together seamlessly. This is a movie I could easily see myself checking out again and again over the years, precisely because it offers a privileged glimpse into a world I’m damn glad I have nothing to do with.

That doesn’t mean I don’t mind visiting it, though.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the world of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar per month. At that price you’ve got nothing to lose, and your support also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site, so please give it a look, won’t you?

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As a general rule, when a movie’s IMDB summary is scant on details, you know something’s up. I mean, whoever makes a film can go in there and write whatever blurb about it they want, and yet writer/director Benjamin Rider — the guy behind 2018 UK production Suburban Coffin — submitted only a cryptic, one-sentence description of the fruits of his labor (and 2,000 pounds of his money). Verbatim, it reads : “The devil, disguised as an insurance salesman, appears in the suburbs of London.”

Which, fair enough, is what this flick is about — but surely that can’t be all it’s about, can it?

Actually, uhhhmmm — yeah, it can. Clocking in at just over an hour, this is nevertheless a bit of a slow burn, and probably features a few too many characters for its own good. Alasdair Melrose turns in pretty solid work as Old Scratch himself, and of course temptation is the name of his game — but those tempted (and otherwise) aren’t exactly the most compelling characters, nor are the performers tasked with bringing them to some semblance of “life” apparently up to the task, so my message to the likes of Angie Adler, Lily Smith, and Lucas Sokolowski (who cuts an absurd figure as Diabolos), is : don’t quit your day jobs just yet. Harsh, I know, but I gotta call ’em like I see ’em.

To that end, Rider himself isn’t exactly ready for prime time at this stage of his career, either : a number of the scenes in this film are awash in weird lighting that obscures the proceedings (perhaps for the best), his eye for shot composition borders one the non-existent, and there are weird things going on with the sound that sometimes distract and/or detract from the general goings-on, which frankly need all the help they can get to remain interesting.

The news isn’t all bad, though — I guess. The emptiness of the suburban setting really does come through more by default than anything else — when all you’re doing is pointing, shooting, and hoping for the best it’s pretty hard to screw up capturing the character of a locale to at least a cursory extent — and the pacing improves a bit toward the end, but I defy you to remain actively interested all the way up to that point. It’s not an impossible task, but it is a difficult one, and given that it doesn’t pay anything, I’d have to advise that it’s really not worth the attempt on your part.

So, that’s me being the stereotypical “negative Nellie,” I suppose, but what can you do? I take no particular pleasure or pride in trashing obvious labors of love such as this, and I give Rider credit for getting his extremely modest little number all the way to Amazon Prime’s streaming service (I couldn’t tell you whether or not it’s seen a Blu-ray or DVD release), but beyond that I really can’t think of anything to fill in on the “plus” side of Suburban Coffin‘s ledger. Better luck next time to all involved, but it’s not like that “next time” is anything I’ll be looking forward to based on the evidence offered up here.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar per month. At that price you’ve literally got nothing to lose, and your support also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site, Do give it a look, won’t you?

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Coming our way from the UK in 2018 and “boasting” a production budget of 30,000 pounds, writer/director Keith R. Robinson’s Sniper Corpse (now available for streaming on Amazon Prime under the closely-related title of Corpse Sniper — I honestly couldn’t tell you if it’s seen a Blu-ray or DVD release) has precisely one chance to make it : put succinctly, it absolutely needs to punch above its weight class.

Certainly, for a flick with no money it attempts to tell a pretty ambitious story : recently-widowed Diane Keely (played with something very much akin to actual professionalism by Eleri Jones — keep your eye out for her in future), whose husband was killed in action, goes searching for his purportedly “missing” remains  — and some answers — all the way into the heart of darkness, that “darkness” being embodied by one Dr. Craybrick (Tony Eccles, who delivers a solid performance himself), who’s the mad genius behind a military program that re-animates the dead for purposes of conscripting them back into service. We’ve established that the acting is well above standard for this sort of thing, then — shout-out to Kit Smith as Braddock in this regard as well — but what about anything and everything else?

Okay, I’ll level with you : there’s some very dodgy CGI on offer here, but when Robinson and his EFX crew go the practical route, the results are actually fairly impressive, and the same is true in regards to this flick’s moody, atmospheric cinematography, as well as its front-of-the-camera production values in general. Nothing’s perfect — there’s literally no way it could be — but more or less everything that you do see exceeds what you expect to see, and for a “micro-budget” production, that’s likely the highest form of praise one can bestow upon it.

Robinson, in other words, has earned the right to take a bow here, as is true for his talented cast and crew, including both performers who bring the so-called “Dark Soldier” to life, body actor (is that an actual term?) Jordan Murphy and voice actor Howy Bratherton.

Which isn’t to say that it doesn’t suffer from some glaringly obvious flaws — again, this scenario was more or less inevitable. You can only do what you can do with what you’ve got, of course, and while Robinson and company appear to have gone all-out in terms of putting together a reasonably competent visual spectacle, the script lets the side down pretty frequently, with glaring plot holes (why are British soldiers fighting in Riga, Latvia in the first place?) and a tired anti-drug premise giving the proceedings a decidedly dated feel to them.

But, honestly, as far as gripes go, that’s about all I’ve got, and it really ain’t much — so maybe shutting up is the wise course of action at this point, which is something I’ve heard from my family and friends on too many occasions to count. If you come into this thing expecting a masterpiece of some sort, then you’re bound to walk away from it with your head shaking somewhat vigorously, but if you’re willing to give Sniper Corpse a chance to impress you — both for what it is as well as how much more it is than it could be (does that even make sense? I sure hope so) — then it’s sure to do so.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. At that price you’ve got nothing to lose, and your support also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site. Give it a look, won’t you?

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Nigel Bach has a lot to answer for.

I’ve talked about his Bad Ben series of films quite a bit on this site, of course, but leaving out their relative merits (or lack thereof) for a moment here, the simple fact is that their (relative) success has inspired a small legion of wannabe-filmmakers armed with nothing but their iPhones and, I suppose, a dream. One of them is Jeff Profitt, and the fruit of his labors is the just-released-to-Amazon-streaming Something Crashed In The Woods. Don’t let the title fool you, though — nothing “crashes in the woods” here (at least as far as we can see), but at about the ten-minute mark your interest level in the film itself will crash mightily, and never recover.

Profitt himself is the sole “actor” in the film, and he plays an unnamed dude who buys his dream “fixer-upper” cabin and intends to vlog the entire remodeling experience because, I guess, there are people out there interested in that sort of shit. On a walk through the woods one day he chances across some weird burn marks on the ground and on some trees, and decides, hey, I’ll come back at night and see what might have caused these because he apparently can’t figure stuff like that out during daylight hours. So he does just that and sees some weird lights and — sees them some more on successive evenings. Not that you can tell one instance from another here, nor does it matter.

Events “ramp up,” at least nominally, but they never threaten to actually become interesting, and Profitt himself has so little camera presence that he probably couldn’t carry a YouTube remodeling show, much less a movie about a YouTube remodeling show gone off the rails — and, it’s implied, beyond the stars. So there’s your rundown.

I could go on and on, sure — the lack of suspense, the amateurish “camera” work (even by “found footage” non-standards), the risible acting, the lack of coherence underpinning the entire project — they all deserve some attention, I suppose, but dwelling on them would just be cruel. To Profitt, sure, who’s probably a perfectly nice guy, but even more crucially to you, dear reader, who has better things to do with your time than read a laundry-list of faults about a sub-amateur movie production that has literally nothing going for it. At least, I hope you do.

And, in future, I hope that Profitt does, as well. I’m all for people with no resources not letting that stop them from making art, but the key word there is art. I don’t think Something Crashed In The Woods rises to the level of earning that title, and I have the broadest definition of “art” you can possibly imagine. This is just some dude with a camera phone, a threadbare idea for a story, and a few days and nights to kill. Props to him for getting it all the way to Amazon, I suppose — it’s more than a lot of backyard filmmakers manage to achieve — but just because it’s there doesn’t mean it should be. I’m gonna cut this short right now so as not to repeat myself — something Profitt does a hell of a lot of in the film — but one more “avoid at all costs” admonition is the least I can do for you good people. In fact, I consider it a public service.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Joining up costs as little as a dollar per month, so seriously — what have you got to lose? I promise you great value for your money, and needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), I’d be very grateful to have your support.

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Once upon a time, a rag-tag group of ambitious filmmakers headed out to rural Pennsylvania with an amateur cast, a camera, no money, and a dream. The end result, George A. Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, achieved cinematic immortality not only for itself, but for almost all of those involved in its production.

Fast-forward to 2016 (although it wouldn’t achieve release until two years later, and via Amazon Prime streaming at that) and Nicholas Pontoski crowd-funded a $15K production budget, grabbed some friends, and hoped history might — just might — repeat itself. The end result, Within The Woods Of Undead County, is having a tough time standing out in the streaming queue shuffle. but is actually probably worth your time to check out — provided your expectations are held in check.

We’re talking about fairly standard-issue stuff here, at least in terms of Pontoski and co-screenwriter Justin Stephens’ script, in that we’ve got a quartet of disparate characters — Jocelyn (played by Gabriella Harry), Ashm (Matt Motyl), Kelly (Angela McCormick), and Matt (Cory Handelong) — who have escaped to the sticks in hopes of out-running a zombie plague, only to find there are no “safe spaces” when the shit hits the fan. They’ve gotta learn to trust each other in order to survive, characters may or may not have hidden agendas and motivations, those with skill sets that would lend themselves more ready to survivalist situations are forced to both help and, ultimately, rely on those who don’t, etc. You really do know the drill here, people.

That being said — Pontoski manages to punch above his weight class nicely in terms of practical effects, shot composition, use of natural lighting (or lack thereof), overall production values, and he even manages to coax some slightly-above-average-for-these-sorts-of-things performances out of an obviously (though not painfully) unprofessional cast. If you’re not a seasoned veteran of homemade horror you might find the whole thing to be far below your standards, but shit — if  you’re not “a seasoned veteran of homemade horror,” you’re probably not even reading this site in the first place, am I right?

I am, of course, but I would say that. In point of fact, though, this film is probably of interest only to those who are fans of seeing how filmmakers do a lot with a little, but viewed strictly from that perspective, it’s a flick that’s actually reasonably impressive, difficult as that may be to believe at first glance. It’s absolutely as “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” as it sounds, sure, but there’s a hell of a lot of heart on display here, right down to paying keen attention to the smallest of small details — barring a few fuck-ups that, frankly, detract so little from the overall production that bringing them up would make me sound like an asshole (or should that be “an even bigger asshole”?), so I’ll leave them be.

There’s even a twist or two you may not see coming, for those who appreciate such things (that would be, I’m thinking, most people), and all in all, by the time the end credits roll, you’d have to have one hard heart to say that Within The Woods Of Undead County is anything other than a well-executed, if far-less-than-revolutionary, labor of love that Pontoski and his cohorts have plenty of reason to be at least modestly proud of — assuming, ya know, “modest pride” is even a real thing.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Joining up costs as little as a dollar a month, so seriously — what have you got to lose? Needless to say, I’d be very gratified to have your support, and I can promise you great value for your money.

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And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack. And you may find yourself in another part of the world. And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile. And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife.

Or, you may find yourself browsing through the recent horror offerings on Amazon Prime and giving Texas-based writer/director Joseph Mazzaferro’s Dybbuk Box : True Story Of Chris Chambers a go simply because any movie that’s so sloppy as to omit an obvious “The” from its title is bound to at least be an interesting mess — and then, and only then, will you ask yourself “Well — how did I get here”?

That’s because this movie, in truth, isn’t interesting, occasional fuck-ups aside, such as our protagonist, Chris Chambers (played by — shit, you already know. The film’s only other “character,” Sarah Bently, “stars” as herself, as well) bitching about how no one on the “dark web,” where he purchases the purportedly “cursed” box in question, takes anything other than BitCoin before scoring it for $12,000 in cash. Those kind of brain farts are few and far between, though, and not enough to keep your attention between the lame dialogue, risible acting, shoestring production values (usually not something with criticize a film for around these parts), dull-as-dry-toast setting (get used to Chris’ apartment — it’s all you see), and stupid story.

Speaking of which — dude doesn’t believe the stuff he’s heard and read about Dybbuk boxes, buys one, records everything that happens after he gets it (and plenty before), his life goes right to hell, there’s your plot.

Could I say more? Sure. Do you need to know any more, though? Beyond “avoid this at all costs,” absolutely not.

I take no pleasure in slagging home-made efforts like this, but come on — if you’re gonna whip up a “mockumentary” that purports to show a true story — sorry that should just be “true story” — put forth at least a little bit of effort in making the illusion convincing. It needn’t be much — we all know the drill. But play along. Humor us. Show that you give even half a flying fuck about meeting the non-existent expectations of your living-room-sized audience. Otherwise don’t bother. Mow the lawn. Wash the dishes. Spend some time with the wife, the kids, your friends, anybody. Hell, do anything other than make a movie. Watch the flagpole rust. Time how long it takes your toenails to grow. It doesn’t matter.

And neither does this movie. It wouldn’t know how to if it tried. Which is really the crux of the problem here.

It doesn’t try. At all. No one involved with it does. And, as a result, you shouldn’t try to watch it. I mean, that’s only fair, right? Speaking of watching the flagpole rust or timing how long it takes your toenails to grow — you’d be far better served, and more entertained, engaging in either of those “activities” than you will be by Dybbuk Box : True Story Of Chris Chambers. If a worse film is made in 2019, then it’ll have proven to be one lousy year indeed.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of movies, comics, television, literature, and politics. What I lack in knowledge, I make up for in attitude, and joining only costs a buck a month, so seriously — you’ve got nothing to lose. The beatings will continue until you sign up.

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Okay, so in truth I wasn’t aware that Nigel Bach had cranked out a sixth film in this, the most unlikely “franchise” series in cinematic history, and I usually pride myself on being on top of these sorts of things, but hey — when I learned that Bad Ben : The Way In had shambled its way from Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey all the way to Amazon Prime back on May 1st, I can’t honestly say that I was surprised or anything.

And, really, why should Bach stop? When he sub-titled one of his films “The Final Chapter,” it looked like maybe he was going to retire this admittedly played-out concept, but let’s be honest : these things cost no money to produce, he doesn’t necessarily “need” anything other than his iPhone to make them (although he’s expanded the cast a couple of time in the past, it’s not like anyone actually expects him to hire actors on even a semi-regular basis), and a new “production” can probably be completed in, like, and afternoon. Or an evening.

I’m not sure how much cash they make, but seriously — even if it’s only a few thousand bucks (not an unreasonable assumption), that still represents a very nice return on investment when that “investment” amounts to nothing but time. And not even much of that.

All of which is to say, yeah, these are pretty lousy movies, but if you came up with this idea, and it paid off even modestly, then you’d keep coming back to the well, too, even if only for beer money.

But dammit, just because Bach can (and likely will) keep this up until the end of time, that doesn’t mean I have to like his flicks. I’ve been marginally impressed, all things considered, with a couple of them in the past — check back through my old reviews if you don’t believe me — but this latest one represents the possible nadir of the franchise, a dull and un-inspired “found footage” romp that sees Bach’s Tom Riley character returning to the house he supposedly “left” (that being his own “real-life” residence) in order to rid it of its evil spirits (say it with me) “once and for all” before new owners take possession of the place. Things “don’t go as expected” — which is to say that they go precisely as expected — and Tom ends up in a battle for his very soul against nine separate demons that are all, ya know, him. Hey, look — it is what it is.

And you and I both know what that is, and yet here I am, once again, not only having watched the film, but having taken the time to review it. So I can piss and moan all I want, but who do I think I’m fooling? Bach has me beat. He’ll make another of these — and another — and probably another after that — and I’ll be back. I’ll moan and groan, sure, but does it even matter? He wins by getting me to press “play” on my screen. That’s literally all it takes. Bach may be the biggest grifter in horror, but there are plenty of willing “marks” just like me, and he damn well knows it. Who says you have to be a talented filmmaker to be a cinematic genius?

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of movies, comics, television, literature, and politics. My small-but-loyal legion over there seems to like the stuff I’m coming up with, and since I recently lowered the minimum tier price to a dollar a month, come on — what have you got to lose? Join up and help out yet out one more grovelling critic, will ya?

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