Archive for October 18, 2014

Before we get into the “meat” of discussing one of the most provocative micro-budgeters I’ve seen in some time, let’s take care of a little bit of housekeeping first : thanks to the fine folks over at  The Movie And Music Network , you, dear reader, are now able to watch any flick I review from their  site either completely free (with commercials), or at an extremely low cost (if you choose to watch it without commercials). Plus, the deal’s retroactive, so even though I already reviewed Hate Crime , which is available via their “terror channel” , a couple of weeks back, they still hooked me up with a link whereby you can check it out —  so, should you so desire, the link for that one is available right underneath the poster art reproduced above. . All in all not a bad deal, huh? These guys n’ gals are proving to be very “good peeps” to work with, indeed, so I humbly suggest you check out what they’ve got going on as they continue to build their online library.

And speaking of The Movie And Music Network, that’s where I came by today’s admittedly ugly, but also admittedly gripping, little number , director Michael Fredianelli’s 2009 shot-in-California-and-Arizona-but-supposedly-taking-place-in-Texas “modern exploitationer,” Blackface Killer — which, in true drive-in style, was also released under the alternate handle of The Minstrel Killer. I admit to not being terribly familiar with Fredianelli’s other work, but he’s obviously concocted a true labor of love (albeit a hateful one) here, as he basically hits every note in the exploitation playbook seamlessly and remorselessly, and furthermore manages to do so in a comfortable stride that never seems forced or phony. In short, this flick is the real deal — andapparently made for under $100,000, to boot.

Not that it’s for everyone, mind you : to call the subject matter “tasteless” would be an understatement in the extreme, given that our story here revolves around a racist cop named Tex Holland (played by the director himself, who also co-wrote the screenplay with David Brashear — is there anything this guy doesn’t do?) who’s struggling to come to terms with the fact that his wife, Carol (Vanessa Celso) cheated on him with a black guy at the very same time than he and “local yokel” sheriff Pike McGraw (Eric Andersen) have been tasked with finding a killer ( Michael Nose, listed in the credits only as “The Shape,” which is very plainly a nod to John Carpenter) who goes around in blackface, or “minstrel,” make-up,  and is, for reasons unknown, meting out  various forms of torture upon his seemingly random victims  that were,  sadly, fairly  commonplace back in the days of slavery .


If you’re looking for reasons as to exactly why he’s doing this — or even hope to eventually find out who this sick (and sickening) character is — well, you’re watching the wrong movie. Adhering strictly to the ethos of the grindhouse, things aren’t very well thought-through here, and the main goal is just to shock and appall in the most crass and efficient manner possible — which, of course, this movie does, and when the idea of a killer in blackface starts to lose some of its nauseating power, Fredianelli isn’t afraid to stir the pot by mixing in overtly un-PC discussions of racial issues, or to throw a spanner into the works by assigning Holland (okay, himself) a new partner, Tyrell Jones (Anthony Spears) who’s not only black, but also clearly the only semi-competent cop working the case, or even change to change things up altogether , as when,  in a lengthy digression,  Holland (again, say it with me, himself) ends up  at the mercy of a clan of inbred hillbilly cannibals.

Whew! That covers pretty much the entire checklist of items commonly found in sleazy regionally-lensed-and-distributed “B”-movies of years gone by, does it not? And that’s precisely  what Blackface Killer is aiming to do — throw everything plus the kitchen sink at you, and dare you to keep on watching. I can’t blame you if you choose to opt out somewhere along the way, but if you stick it out, you’ll be offered one less-than-healthy reminder after another of exactly why you love these types of films — and why you hate yourself for doing so.

Obviously, I’d have to be downright certifiable to give this flick anything other than an extremely guarded recommendation — but if, like me, you enjoy pushing the limits of how much you can stand to see, and are able to appreciate heart-felt homages to a style of movie-making that’s long since gone by the wayside, then  you can’t do much better than this. Also available on DVD (not that I can comment on the specifics of said release since I didn’t see it that way), Blackface Killer has beeen made freely available to readers of this site via our friends at The Movie And Music Network by following the link underneath the photo above, so please give it a go if you’re interested.. Which you certainly should be. Even if you shouldn’t be. And on that note, I’ll cut this off now before I  stop making sense altogether — or is it already too late for that?



At first glance — and second, and third, and fourth — it’s tempting to simply dismiss director/writer Michael A. Nickles’ 2012 indie horror Playback (now available, as per our rules for this month, on Netflix instant streaming) as another RinguThe Ring knock-off because — well, it is. That’s undeniable. But at least it has the fact that it’s an ambitious knock-off going for it, and that’s worth more than a little something around these parts.

Which isn’t to say that it’s necessarily a good one, mind you — but hey,  at least its chief flaw is in wanting to do more than it realistically can or should rather than in resting on its laurels and being satisfied with doing too little. Confused yet?  Fear not — so’s the movie.


Here’s what you need to know, summed up in the most succinct terms : a high school kid named Julian (Johnny Pacar) is doing a report for his journalism class, together with his girlfriend Riley (Ambyr Childers),  on an infamous family massacre in his hometown that saw an adopted son kill his parents and sister, but all is not as cut-and-dried as it appears : it turns out, you see, that the unhappy adoptee was, in reality, a direct descendant of the guy who made the very first motion picture (yes, even before Edison), and that great-grandpa believed he could capture a person’s soul with his magical new invention, the movie camera. There’s  a string of suspicious deaths involving the  people attached to his film that seems to bear this at-first-glance-outlandish view out, as well as some scuttlebutt about a curse in the family being passed down from generation to generation. Julian seems strangely immersed in the project, and has even taken to spending a fair amount of time out at the farmhouse where the crime took place — but if you think he’s taking too personal an interest in the matter, wait until you meet his buddy, Quinn (Toby Hemingway), who seems downright possessed by the old film and, frankly, ins’t looking so healthy these days.

Playback 2012 movie trailer impressions horror film trailer review cmaquest

Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that Quinn spends a bit too much time in front of screens in general. He works at a local TV station as a video archiver of some sort, and has a semi-lucrative side gig going hustling off hidden-camera footage he gets from teenage girls’ bedrooms, showers, locker rooms, etc. to a perverted middle-aged sheriff’s deputy (played by Christian Slater — who probably would have been a legend if he’d just had the decency to die young like James Dean and River Phoenix, but now finds himself stuck in second-fiddle roles like this one). To further complicate matters, our dirty-in-more-ways-than-one cop’s lieutenant (funny, I want aware that sheriff’s departments had lieutenants as a general rule — but then, I do try to keep my dealings with any and all law enforcement personnel to a minimum) just so happens to be Julian’s mom — and she’s been keeping one heck of a big secret about something else that happened when she was called to the scene of that family slaughter all those years ago.


Throw in the fact that said slaughter was also committed to film, and that watching it seems to have a strange effect on viewers, and yeah — like I said, there’s a lot going on here. It’s all reasonably interesting in and of itself, but when combined into one story, it really does seem like a thick stew with maybe a few too many ingredients. The various individual storylines are each fairly compelling, the acting is fairly solid all the way around for a low-budget flick of this nature, and unlike (too) many of the films we’ve looked at so far in this little “Netflix Halloween” round-up there’s a nice amount of blood and guts in this one and it’s uniformly well-realized, but Playback allows itself to be pulled in too many different directions without firmly committing itself to any of them. It’s far from dull and hey, that’s a good thing, but shedding a couple of extraneous sub-plots would’ve resulted in a tighter, more focused movie.

I applaud director Nickles for giving it his all — but he should’ve stopped there, rather than going for too much.