Dave Made A Maze (2017)

    Dave Made A Maze is the story of an artist named Dave (go figure) who is stuck in a serious rut of never finishing a single damn project he starts. When his girlfriend is away on a business trip, ol’ Davey decides to set that right by building an enclosed cardboard labyrinth in his living room…a structure that he quickly becomes lost in because you see D-man claims the maze is inexplicably much, much bigger on the inside than the out (like it’s an entire world unto itself style big). After some serious questions are raised regarding Dave’s sanity, his previously mentioned girlfriend along with his friends (whose number include a documentary film maker that decides to record the adventure) venture inside the construct only to find that Dave was telling the truth, and they are now trapped in an extremely hostile environment that must be traversed in order to escape. Oh, and they are chased by a cardboard headed Minotaur…and there are puppets…and…well, to tell more would spoil the fun!

    Let me tell ya right up front, “one of a kind” doesn’t even begin to describe this one! Now while the story of the struggling artist, anxious to make a big go at finally achieving something isn’t new, the way this film goes about it is damn near revolutionary especially in regards to where the film is set. The world of the maze and it’s inhabitants is constructed completely from cardboard and paper (thing intricate origami creatures and walls slapped together from refuse to create stunning backdrops) and is a setting totally unlike any other. Mix into that surreal landscape a ragtag group of smart-asses, pseudo-auteurs, and plain ol’ weirdos and you get something truly special; a kind of Goonies or Labyrinth for adults (actually the way I have described it to my friends is Jim Henson’s adaptation of House of Leaves) where imagination and belief in your friends can carry you through any trial…or get you violently killed…whichever way the karmic cookie crumbles I guess.

    If there is any negative to be found with Dave Made A Maze it’s that many questions as to how the labyrinth functions and the rules thereof are left ambiguous. We know that Dave began its creation, but there are larger, malevolent forces at play that he didn’t create, and their exact origin is purposefully cloudy. I personally eat that kind of shit up, but some of you may get all antsy about it.

    To sum it up; Dave Made A Maze is the greatest “gang of misfits on an adventure” ’80’s flick never made that will absolutely blow your mind with it’s handmade, off-kilter aesthetic. Absolutely do not miss this film!!!

    The Black Room (2016)

    Wanna know how to win my heart? Begin your film like The Black Room! Within the first seven minutes we are treated to a nubile woman grabbed in the hot n’ nasties by an invisible force (well her grandmother is too; but one digs it and the other doesn’t and I felt the same way), a mystical medallion with painted on eyeballs flying around willy nilly, and red demon hands grabbing the nubile woman mentioned nubiley above (where said grabbing continues) as she is covered in “ectoplasm” before dragging her into some sort of portal located in a black room in the basement of the house in which she resides. Oh, and all of this is accompanied by a score that is equal parts ’80’s fright flick and ’70’s cop show. Again, all of this is just the beginning my creeps…

    As we dive into the story proper, we are introduced to Paul and Jennifer; the Hemdales, a loverly couple that have just purchased their dream home…the same one from that intro up top ‘natch. Before long (and by that I mean within the next ten minutes and change) a handyman is dragged to hell by those damnable red hands and both husband and wife make their “O faces” at the behest of our saucy spirit. As the yarn unspools, Paul is besieged by animated lazer lightning™ that results in him becoming a vessel for the haunted horniness that dwells within the manse, and this leads to an orgy of backwards boobs (you’ll just have to see to believe), satanic ceremonies (complete with a groovy AF monster suit), wall F’n set to a guitar solo (again…seeing is believing), stereotypical goth girl (read: my type) demon sexery, and on and on before climaxing (literally) in a spectacularly over the top fashion.

    I’m not even sure where to begin with The Black Room…let’s see…howzabout, The Black Room is like the love (lust?) child of a ’90’s Skinemax flick and a Full Moon feature, and if that isn’t a compliment and an irresistible invitation to watch this damn thing, then I don’t know what is! Writer/Director Rolfe Kanefsky goes so far off the rails with this picture that it goes from being campy spooky fun into becoming some sort of surrealistic bodily fluid drenched creation that manages to spawn it’s own genre (albeit one replete with visual callbacks to films such as The Entity and Society).

    If there is a negative to be found with The Black Room it’s that its blatant lunacy and soft core thrillz und spillz© may not be for every viewer. Things are definitely not taken seriously, but the film never dives headlong into full on comedy territory (though it comes close with the scenery eating performance by Lukas Hassel which is worth the price of admission alone). Additionally, I could have done without the intrusive (though minimal) amount of low-grade CG effects in the picture during the big finale, especially since the movie already showcases some fun practical effects.

    As for the ol’ special features contained on this release, you get: a free wheelin’ commentary track featuring director Rolfe Kanefsky, actresses Natasha Henstridge and Augie Duke, and producer Esther Goodstein, a collection of deleted/extended scenes, a brief look (and I mean extremely brief) behind the scenes, a blooper reel, trailers, storyboards, and a stills slideshow. Basically all of the usual suspects.

    Listen, if you’re looking to feast those eerie eyeballs on a fright flick that has your full daily requirement of that unholy trinity that makes the horror biz so great; namely boobs, blood, and bad guys…then The Black Room will give you exactly what you’re looking for!

    Diamond Cartel (2017)

    What do you get when you combine the likes of action flick legends such as Bolo Yeung, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Olivier Gruner, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Tom “Tiny” Lister with “do any damn film for a buck” folks like Michael Madsen and Armand Assante sprinkled with sure to be forgotten legends like Karlygash Mukhamedzhanova? Well if Diamond Cartel is any indication not a hell of a lot. Also, Peter O’ Toole is in this (for like 2 seconds…but hey, he’s there)…what the fuuuuuu?!!

    Okay, here’s the skinny: One criminal decides to buy a super rare diamond from another criminal and a duo of (you guessed it) criminals (and former lovers) decide to steal it. There is also a love triangle you won’t care about, endless chatter, and some flashbacks. Eventually (and I do mean eventually) violence ensues.

    Before we get to the copious negatives let’s lay down a bit of positivity. One, the film is well shot, and looks like actual money was spent on it…and two, Armand Assante delivers a scenery chomping performance that never fails to entertain. And that’s about it…

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, for a picture billed as an action spectacle (and featuring a bevy of ass kickin’ actors) there sure isn’t a lot of activity on the screen, rather we are treated to confusing flashbacks, endless talk, and constipated glaring. Also, those folks mentioned above that you have actually heard of don’t appear in the flick very much. They just pop in here and there to give you a case of the “Hey! That’s what’s his face!” before they fade back off the screen and tear ass to the bank to make sure the check cleared. Additionally the dubbing in this film is side splittingly hilarious (even O’ Toole is dubbed to absolutely insane heights)…seriously, any random kung-fu flick from the 70’s had more on the ball in the looping department than Diamond Cartel (although I guess this may be considered a positive if you love non-stop laughter from an action film).

    As sparse as this thing is on pulse-pounding thrills, the extras may be even worse. You get a music video, a slide show of stills, and a trailer. Wow.

    So there you have it…if you dig any of the actors listed above you may want to give Diamond Cartel a quick peek (although I wouldn’t recommend it)…other than that give this one a pass.

    Charlotte (2017)

    Oh Charlotte, you get the party started wrong right from the god damned beginning, don’t you? The box for this sure to be a gem of a flick proclaims “The Doll Behind the Horror”…as if to conjure images of this story being the real deal as opposed to a certain other popular studio horror film about a demonic dolly. I’m sure I won’t be pleasantly surprised…

    The plot to ol’ C-dawg goes a lil’ somethin’ like this; a comely babysitter is left to her own devices after putting her charge down for the night. She basically eats a little run time watching Night of the Living Dead (the hallmark of any top-shelf production; using clips from public domain flicks) and assing on her phone. She dozes off (as do we), and when she awakens she realizes a baby doll (that looks absolutely nothing like the one on the box-art) has rendered her immobile (via some S&M style shit) and is forcing her to watch horror shorts on TV (a.k.a short films that have been available on YouTube for fucking years…god I hate this shit-cheap trend)…

    The first of these shorts involves twin sisters, one of whom is blind and wheelchair bound. Well, that sister decides she wants to be whole again, and uses some voodoo to switch places with her sibling. I  saw this like two (or possibly more) years ago online, and you probably did too…moving on…

    Next up is a story about a Hot Topic reject and her supposed house of horrors where women are imprisoned. There’s a twist…both in the film (which I won’t spoil in case you defy all logic and reason and decide to actually watch this fart of a flick) and in this review; namely, I hadn’t seen this one before.

    Next up shit gets meta as we have a story about a young kid being put to bed and his caretaker menaced by a supernatural evil (in this case a boogeyman made flesh). Guess what? I had seen this one too…ugh…

    Following that we get a piece about a dude that looks like an unholy combination of Roddy McDowall and Crispin Glover performing self-mutilation to summon a demon. I hadn’t seen this one, and it was kinda cool if very brief.

    Up next, a yarn about a guy that just can’t catch a break from some hellish Girl Scouts that just will not take no for an answer. This too was new to me (although parts of it seemed familiar), and like the segment earlier it was a fun (and in this case semi-cartoony) romp.

    A real charmer comes next featuring a bound man being interrogated through violence to confess to a crime he may or may not have committed. Of special note on this one, the sound quality is bad and there is a lot of yelling. In other words, it’s grating…extremely grating…

    Bringing up the rear we have tales concerning a little girl left home alone who receives a mysterious doll that exacts a mediocre revenge on her mother, a movie theater operated by werewolves for werewolves (you know…this one is just daffy enough to be awesome)…and then the wrap around craps out and the credits roll.

    So, the feature left me cold, let’s see if there are any bonus features to sweeten the pot. Nope. Nothing. Stellar.

    Yet another in the cheap as balls “repackage horror shorts previously available” subgenre (that seems to be getting an unfortunate amount of traction these days, Charlotte has few redeeming qualities save for a few above par offerings…but ultimately you have doubtless seen most everything this flick has to offer already…literally.

    Sorry folks, I couldn’t find a trailer for Charlotte

    Kung Fu Yoga (2017)

    Kung Fu Yoga gets off to an admittedly shaky start with an opening filled to the brim with last-gen video game cut scene style CG depicting a tale of a Tang Dynasty era monk that makes his way to India to stir some shit up on the battlefield. To say this footage is jarring (especially with the de-aged version of the film’s star Jackie Chan running around) is a T-rex sized understatement…but fortunately it only lasts a few minutes before the real flick gets underway…and what a flick it is!

    Kung Fu Yoga concerns the adventures of Jack Chan (yeah…whatever), a seemingly mild mannered college professor who teams up with an ambitious group of young folks to recover a lost Indian treasure. The trek takes them from the ice covered mountains of Kunlun, to the mega-city of Dubai, to huge caves in India where they utilize gadgets and kung-fu to overcome all obstacles and evil-doers in their way. The plot is as simple and uncomplicated as that, and in my opinion that is just the way a fists (and feet) a flyin’ film like this should be!

    Directed by Stanley Tong (the man that helmed legendary Chan pics such as Rumble in the Bronx and Supercop), Kung Fu Yoga is an action lovers dream as it’s filled to the top with spectacular car chases, set-pieces (the frozen cave sequence is a real stand out), martial-arts, globe spanning locales, laughs, a end credits dance number, and a lion in a god damned car (it makes sense in the narrative…well, as much sense as a lion being in a car can possibly make anyway). Taking cues from the Indiana Jones films (the archaeology/treasure hunting, outrageous situations, evil treasure hunters et. al), this film aims to please and surely does…it’s never dull, always in motion, colorful, and comic booky to the nith degree.

    While the film is a winner in and of its self, the visual and audio presentation is stellar as well with eye popping color and rich sound design adding to the sense of energy and fun. Also added to sweeten the pot are a handful of featurettes that detail the film’s production, showcase some bloopers, and the creation of the previously mentioned dance number. Rounding out the package is the film’s trailer.

    Kung Fu Yoga is a film that really stands with some of the best from Jackie Chan’s vast oeuvre; it’s lighthearted, action packed, and often jaw dropping in it’s spectacle; I strongly recommend this one for Chan fanatics and lovers of high adventure alike!

    Effects (1980)

    The story of Effects, such as it is, runs as follows: a group of coke addled movie makers are trying to create an ultra low budget slasher flick. There’s endless chatter, endless talk of snorting coke, endless horny-ing around. The best way I can describe it as a flick comprised only of padding with the actual plot thrown away. After 45 straight minutes of that we discover that the director of the faux flick is into making supposedly simulated snuff films (which begins to add up since we have seen him secretly recording his cast and crew having sex and befalling suspicious accidents…which he is editing into a secret feature with the help of the mystery men mentioned above and their hidden control room). And that is that. Oh, and for a film co-starring Tom Savini and named Effects, there aren’t very many SFX present in the picture.

    I would never go so far to call Effects a good film (hell, at times it’s hard to call it a film at all), but for some reason I found it completely watchable…and I still can’t quite figure out why. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s charmingly low-rent…it looks like it was made in an afternoon, on a lark, and they just went with whatever they had. Adding to the appeal is the outrageously dated wardrobe, lingo, film equipment and near constant talk of cocaine (seriously, take a drink anytime someone mentions coke and you’ll be in the hospital before the credits roll). Finally, the film showcases many folks that worked on flicks by the late, great George Romero including; Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead), Joe Pilato (Day of the Dead), and John Harrison (Tales From the Darkside: The Movie)…and his D.I.Y., blue collar aesthetic is all over the finished piece.

    As for the negatives, I think I covered them all above; the flick is ultra-low budget (which never means jack and/or shit to me, but I know some of you creeps have your limits), and that meandering plot won’t do much for those without patience…so, your mileage will definitely vary with this one.

    While the film is oddly fascinating, the extras included are just your plain, ol’ version of fascinating! First up you get a great documentary about the production of the film which really illustrates that this was a labor of love for those involved (and details how Romero influenced those involved). Following that we get a pair of short films and an archival commentary track featuring director/writer Dusty Nelson, producer/composer/star John Harrison, and producer/editor Pasquale Buba that expands a bit on the information presented in the previously mentioned documentary.

    Look, Effects is a strange-ass flick that does its own thing (whatever the fuck that is remains to be deciphered), but it’s one I feel you should give a chance (especially if you are a Romero fan); it’s “let’s put on a show” aesthetic is pretty damn infectious and will definitely carry you through the rough, rough waters of chit chat-y cocaine-y doldrums.

    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?

    You may also like

    More in Movies