Into the Dark: Culture Shock (2019)

    Usually I start off with some raunchy humor or nonsense, but the flick I’m about to review; Culture Shock deals with the horrifying situation taking place right now for those seeking asylum in the United States (with a fright flick twist of course). So not a lot of laughs to be had there boils n’ ghouls…

    Marisol (Martha Higareda) wants a new life for her and her unborn baby, so she begins the harrowing trek across the border with several other immigrants. After surviving the threat of rape, and cold blooded murder courtesy of the local drug cartels, Marisol suddenly wakes up in an oddly picture perfect American town.

    Guided by a saccharine sweet (yet somehow sinister) woman (the legendary Barbara Crampton) the rot just below the pastel colored paradise soon begins to show, although those that made the journey with our heroine seem completely under the town’s surreal sway…until she finds the secret to break the spell, which results in rather unpleasant side-effects!

    Will Marisol be able to escape this American fever-dream (and it’s subsequent reality) with her identity (and newborn baby) safe and sound, or will she be assimilated into a culture that is no longer ready to welcome her differences?

    As you may guess, Director Gigi Saul Guerrero (along with Writers James Benson and Efrén Hernández) have created one hell of a hard hitting, relevant, and brilliantly surreal experience with Culture Shock. The film is filled with both a razor sharp wit as well as incredible tension and horror, and while definitely political in nature with a strong and incredibly moving message…it never forgets it’s a fright flick either. This is a delicate balancing act, and the filmmakers here pull it off like champs!

    Adding to the success is the cast assembled. Higareda is a strong heroine that makes her own way, but still remains sympathetic, as does Richard Cabral as the criminal Santo who while a hard-ass, definitely has a sense of valor as well. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Crampton and Creed Bratton (I can’t really describe his character without spoilers so…) make for rock solid villains and are entertaining as fuck to watch as they work their wicked ways.

    This was by far one of the strongest entries in the Into the Dark series; well acted, powerful, yet still full of the horror biz…Culture Shock is a winner boils n’ ghouls!

    FM (1978)

    Jeff Dugan (Michael Brandon) is a shit-hot program director who pushes L.A. radio station Q-SKY to the top of the L.A. market (while doin’ groovy crap like organizing a Save the Whales concert featuring Jimmy Buffet). Naturally that level of marine life, lost shakers of salt, and ratings catches the attention of Regis Lamar (Tom Tarpey), a corporate salesman for the station’s parent company, who gets the wild hair up his ass to force Dugan to sell ad space…specifically to the Army…which has the adverse effect of pissing our hero off and making him quit his job.

    The eccentric disc jockeys (whose members include characters played by talented folks like Eileen Brennan, Martin Mull, and Cleavon Little) won’t stand for that and lock themselves in the station taking over the airwaves with commercial free music. Long story short; the kids out in radio-land want to keep getting their non-stop tunage, and the cops want to end the uprising toot-fucking-sweet. Riots ensue, as does Linda Ronstadt (oh so very much Linda)…as is the natural order of things…

    Slight of story, long on musical performances, and comprised of a first rate cast; FM is a charming relic of it’s time (the late ’70’s to be precise) and comes off a bit like a rock n’ roll centered Altman flick with it’s plethora of characters and situational vignettes (though Director John A. Alonzo and Screenwriter Ezra Sacks aren’t quite up to that level). While entertaining enough as far as the acting and story go; the real draw here is the multitude of ’70’s rock music and a glimpse behind the curtain on how radio stations were run forty decades ago.

    On the downside; this flick runs a bit long at 104 minutes, and the fact that sequences run a bit long gives the whole affair a bit of uneven pace for sure; and while things never get boring I wonder if this film would have become more of a cult hit at a more streamlined, audience friendly ninety minutes.

    As for special features on this Blu-ray release from Arrow Video we get: interviews with Brandon and Sacks, an appreciation of the film’s soundtrack (and the era it was created in) courtesy of film and music critic Glenn Kenny, an isolated music and effects track, the film’s trailer, and image galleries.

    Worth it for the time-capsule journey to the late ’70’s alone, FM is also a solid (if slightly long) comedy-drama with a fantastic cast and vibe.

    The Loveless (1981)

    Vance (Willem Dafoe) and his (surprisingly peaceful) biker pals just want to relax on there way to a big race down Daytona way. They happen to stop off in a town along the route; a town with not much to do other than putz around with their bikes in the garage, listen to rock n’ roll, hit on chicks, and drink in the local watering hole.

    Of course that doesn’t go completely smooth, as the local rednecks think our heroes are commies, and are all too ready to whip some ass which will make exiting the town a damn sight harder than entering…

    The Loveless is a light on plot (that synopsis up top is pretty much all there is to this one), heavy on atmosphere flick that manages to entertain despite the lack of much happening. These dudes just hang out for the brunt of the film, but man do they have presence. Their movement and cool attitude makes the film watchable as hell, plus the inclusion of plenty of genuine ’50’s rock n’ roll tunes really helps sell the universe the picture inhabits. It also doesn’t hurt to have an actor of Dafoe’s caliber as your leather-clad leading man. It’s a radical departure from most biker flicks that focus on hard-livin’ and drinking…this one just focuses on these cats “being”…and it’s all the more engaging for it.

    This almost European style over substance approach would also spill over to Co-Writer/Director (along with Monty Montgomery) Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up film Near Dark; and it’s easy to picture Bill Paxton’s character in that flick hanging with Vance’s crew when he was still human.

    Adding to this Blu-ray release from Arrow Video are some nice bonus features which enhance the enjoyment of this excellent film including: an audio commentary featuring Montgomery which details the film’s production in an easy-going conversation, a series of interviews (featuring Actors Dafoe, Marin Kanter, Robert Gordon, Philip Kimbrough, and Lawrence Matarese, as well as additional chats with Producers Grafton Nunes and A. Kitman Ho, Production Designer Lilly Kilvert and director of Photography Doyle Smith, and Musician Eddy Dixon) discussing the various aspects that went into making the film, an image gallery, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

    If you are looking for a unique biker flick with effortless cool, I urge you to give The Loveless a shot; it’s an off-beat glimpse into the existence of leather wrapped hep cats livin’ the nomad life, and it’s captivating!

    Daniel XIII
    Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

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