Back in early 2011, horror fan-site juggernaut Bloody Disgusting took a stand for independent and foreign genre lore by partnering with The Collective and AMC Theaters, establishing distribution company Bloody Disgusting Selects. Their purpose? To hand-pick often glanced over horror gems which get lost in the mainstream remake shuffle, and grant those deemed worthy of proper theatrical and Video On Demand releases exposure.
As an avid follower and member of “The Infected” (the site’s online community), Bloody Disgusting Selects seemed like a gleaming beacon of hope in the world of inventive, creative, and one-of-a-kind horror experiences. Selected by site staffers and genre enthusiast super fans sharing a common love for skin crawling madness, I made it my mission not to skip a single feature. Now, with their first ten tales of terror rated and reviewed, I thought I’d touch upon Bloody Disgusting’s foray into film distribution and determine the company’s future.
From worst to first, let’s take a gander…
Bloody Disgusting Selects 1-10
Quick Synopsis: “The Quintanilla family was found dead. Recorded evidence was discovered by the police. Production company acquires the confidential material and edits it into a Horror Movie.”
Director: Fernando Barreda Luna
Alas, the old first person camera gimmick: so hard to master and too easily exploited.
In the vein of Paranormal Activity, Luna both excites and disappoints with the camera work in Atrocious, never finding a steadily entertaining balance. While a spooky forest atmosphere sends chills and a lack of cheap in-your-face scares are respectably passed on, far too much time is spent watching absolutely nothing unfold.
Our pint-sized sibling investigators are either walking or running through a garden labyrinth seemingly the whole movie with little discovery, making silly banter and wasting precious time. Then, when all seems to be climaxing and action finally sets in, tension is cut as we’re again treated to bouts of heavy breathing and characters talking to themselves whilst running through dense foliage in a blurry confusing mess, only made more impossible to decipher by night-time darkness and poor shot set up.
Plot holes and flawed humanistic writing also detract from the overall experience of Atrocious, as characters exist in a mind-numbing realm where rational decision-making only kicks in when Luna determines. We watch a brother leave his unprotected sister to fend for herself while running deeper into a wooded area where ghastly discoveries had already been made. When he inevitably gets spooked and flees, minutes pass before he even thinks to search for directional markings made all over the maze that would guide anybody directly out. Talk about your reactionary thinking gone wrong?
Frustrating logic hinders many horror movies on a daily basis, and unfortunately Luna’s film cannot escape such a doomed fate.
Despite an intriguing yet obvious twist, Atrocious became stagnant and boring, containing footage that could have been cut even shorter than the hour and a half run time.
Bottom of the barrel horror in comparison to BD Selects other releases, Atrocious is yet another film that rides the coattails of a few successful found footage horror flicks in hopes of the same overnight success.
Final Rating: 4.5/10
Quick Synopsis: “1940: the entire population of Friar, New Hampshire walked up a winding mountain trail, leaving everything behind. 2008: the first official expedition into the wilderness attempts to solve the mystery of the lost citizens of Friar.”
Directors: Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton
I received a lot of flak for my disapproval of YellowBrickRoad, as angry fanboys/fangirls left witless comments on my blog exclaiming the story was simply too complex for my understanding, but these jabs were hardly correct.
Holland and Mitton created a psychological horror film with sinister undertones about self discovery and a slow descent into each character’s personal hell, but an out-of-place full circle ending kills what momentum our ambitious directors muster.
YellowBrickRoad carries an “I’m better than you” attitude as an egotistical air clouds deep storylines, making the whole experience a slow and arduous watch. Not to mention I saw easily the worst horror kill of 2011 when a character walks off a cliff to her death, looking more like editors went into iMovie and dragged her motionless body down off-screen with a swift mouse scroll.
Just because a screenplay is deemed complex doesn’t mean it’s pure genius. YellowBrickRoad fails to create enjoyable intellectual horror for the masses. Those in need for a good hack and slash will be lost along this winding trail, playing more like an artsy film school project. Not the best film to start with in the BD Selects catalogue.
Final Rating: 5/10
Quick Synopsis: “Outcast tells the tale of Petronella (a Scottish/Romany girl) and Fergal (her mysterious Irish traveller boyfriend). As their doomed relationship plays out, a Beast stalks the estate, killing locals, working its way towards our protagonists.”
Director: Colm McCarthy
Here’s where things began to pick up for me.
Outcast was fun and inventive, conjuring a mystical tale from Celtic voodoo and cultist beliefs which embodies Bloody Disgusting Selects‘ quest for fresh horror.
Colm and his brother Tom McCarthy‘s screenplay strays a tad into familiar genre territory and isn’t without some pretty glaring holes, but a rich magical back story lifts Outcast from the spell of being just another werewolf hunting horror film. Spectacular special effects work painted Scotland red as civilians get caught between two ferociously realistic werebeasts fighting for dominance, created with rather impressive CGI authenticity.
Some head scratching moments and slow pacing hamper the potency of this enchanting spell, but enough entertaining stand out moments make Outcast a watchable horror experience.
You’ll fear the beasties that lurk in Outcast‘s shadows, you’ll enjoy some more familiar casting faces, and you’ll even get a splash of enjoyable creativity…but a few missing ingredients prevent Outcast from being bumped to that next level of superb horror.
Final Rating: 6.5/10
Quick Synopsis: “Inside a quarantined apartment building a man must protect his pregnant wife from his new neighbors.”
Director: Nicolás Goldbart
My analysis of Phase 7 was all over the place after viewing number one, completely thrown for a loop based on previous trailers and news. Goldbart’s focus here is less on horrific end of days storytelling and more centric on lead character Coco’s (Daniel Hendler) evolution from slacker to hero, devoid of the action and intensity once imagined. Phase 7 dances the line of psychological horror with the absence of infected flesh eaters or evil government agencies, instead fearing homely neighbors once perceived as civilized.
The quarantined building operates like a Wild West town of sorts full of rogue gun slingers and salvagers intent on providing only for their own, playing to Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” nod. Supporting characters range from chaotic good (super survival mode but avoiding conflict) to chaotic evil (roaming the halls with a double-barreled shotgun), offering both friend and foe to Coco. But again, Phase 7 was missing that extra hint of excitement that we lose being zoned in on Coco’s transformation.
Minimal character existence limits Coco’s interactions with numerous personalities and puts a kibosh on any type of big fight scene promises, limiting variety on the whole. I would have loved some high pace action to rock the boat a little and propel Phase 7 into B-Movie goodness, but I respect Goldbart for properly making a man out of Coco and letting us watch his journey. But oh what could have been…
Final Rating: 6.5/10
Quick Synopsis: “In the middle of a snowy no man’s land, Charlotte picks up Max, a hitchhiker; they stop in a truck-stop restaurant, and when Max doesn’t come back from the bathroom, Charlotte starts looking for him in vain. She decides to return during the night but gets kidnapped by the bartender, La Spack, who turns out to be Max’s mother and needs to feed her kids, ‘The pack’, a bunch of blood lusting ghouls.”
Director: Frank Richard
French extremism horror films are always eager to go above and beyond the cusp of “appropriate,” like our American grindhouse so wonderfully depicts.
The Pack understands what fun can be created inside the horror genre while both grossing out and scripting a killer story. Much like Outcast, Richard’s screenplay is heavy-handed in folklore and mythology, which give our faceless creatures meaning and purpose.
Too many slashers now a days just create a villain with no purpose who slices through gorgeous actors while mounting a quantity over quality kill count. All well and good, but The Pack actually connects us to its demons by humanizing their motivations and sickly enough brings audience understanding.
Oh and don’t worry, Richard doesn’t skimp on stomach churning gore and hilariously colorful characters either, combining both in an all too entertaining shootout between rowdy bikers and cursed beings.
A much better watch for horror fans than The Pack‘s critical ratings suggest, Frank Richard strikes a terror nerve with his deranged French white trash family toting eyeless mud beasts. Fantastic monster design and amped up intensity add an enjoyable level to the fun horror flick, understanding what genre fans crave.
Just don’t expect the next Martyrs or High Tension and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Final Rating: 7/10
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Rammbock: Berlin Undead
Quick Synopsis: “Just when Michael arrives in Berlin to visit his ex-girlfriend Gabi, a terrible virus starts spreading across the city at a rapid pace…”
Director: Marvin Kren
Rammbock: Berlin Undead does something marvellous that other films neglect to do by. It flaunts a 59 minute running length and follows the idea of “tell your story and move on.”
How many times are we, the audience, forced to sit through puffy filler scenes just to bump a movie’s run time into hour and a half normality? Here, Kren creates a tight and concise story that only needs an hour for full exposure and ends when absolutely necessary, which avoids senselessly dragging on.
Time flew by as the characters defended themselves from zombies and Macguyver-ed their way through a populated apartment complex, never letting up due to the short delivery. But more impressive still is Kren’s ability to bury a tender love story which comes beautifully full circle under the mounting corpses and lets us horror nuts share romantic emotions unique to our beloved genre.
Short, sweet, and to the point: Rammbock: Berlin Undead capitalizes on minimalistic filmmaking coupled with a grand understanding of efficiency. In other words, a punctuated lovey dovey bloody mess. Come Valentines Day horror fans now have their own movie tradition to start!
Final Rating: 7.5/10
Quick Synopsis: “Lance Reed is forced by a psychotic stranger to confront his duplicitous past. Seeking retribution for a crime, the man forces Lance to reveal his inner most secrets by systematically removing his limbs.”
Director: Trent Haaga
Haaga’s directorial debut oozes every bit of Troma influenced campy hilarity absorbed from his time with the famed B-Movie production company, creating an original horror comedy knowing no boundaries. Detach yourself from reality as Lance (Will Keenan) is forced to re-live his drug filled and debaucherous past while visited by people whom he wronged and who seek a little deserved payback.
Rational thought should be found nowhere near Chop, as Keenan crafts a dimwitted and charismatic lead character, understanding the cheese-tastic nature B-Movie actors normally exude, and tailors such behaviors to Lance.
Timothy Muskatell play’s Lance’s abductor and deserves his own acting recognition as well, embodying a vivaciously delusional and twisted torturer who is exposed full force come Chop‘s finale.
It almost feels devilish watching Lance’s body be severed in numerous places as he struggles to remember the fateful incident which spurred his capture, but writer Adam Minarovich keeps a joking tone present which never lets his script slip into serious horror land so laugh away!
Sick, twisted, deranged, and wildly entertaining, Trent Haaga picked up all the right traits from Troma and forgot the bad, making a splatterific B-Movie worthy of the highest Troma distribution honor. Too bad Bloody Disgusting Selects beat them to it!
Final Rating: 7.5/10
Quick Synopsis: “When a successful country lawyer captures and attempts to “civilize” the last remaining member of a violent clan that has roamed the Northeast coast for decades, he puts the lives of his family in jeopardy.”
Director: Lucky McKee
Screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011, McKee’s torture film hybrid was said to be so offensive it sent one audience member into an irate rant which obstructed Q and A sessioning and eventually led to his removal (video here). So yes, I was instantaneously excited for “The Most Controversial Film At The Sundance Film Festival.”
From a horror point of view, The Woman was every bit disturbing as I could have expected, but for completely different reasons. Lucky doesn’t pointlessly degrade women in a perverted Saw type mannerism or shamelessly exploit actors for a horror film lacking any moral compass, as much larger themes are at play. McKee’s picture perfect family, The Cleeks, are seemingly straight from a Lifetime special, until each member peels back a mask hiding shocking dark secrets.
“The Woman” herself, played by Pollyanna McIntosh, serves more as a tool used to break each character down, debating supposed civility against our most basic animal instincts.
On the flip side, actor Sean Bridgers absolutely embodies the villainous role of Mr. Cleek to a sickening extent, exposing McKee’s fantastic script twist just as you think you’ve figured it all out. Bold performances and a strong script deserve brilliant recognition from the horror community.
The Woman is a very strong horror film, put together by an ingeniously savvy director dancing through dangerous territory to question so many aspects of the society we have created. No one deserves the Bloody Disgusting Selects bump more than Lucky McKee.
Final Rating: 7.5/10
Quick Synopsis: “A young man’s struggle to survive in the aftermath of a deadly undead outbreak during the American Civil War.”
Director: John Geddes
A period piece yes, but a character piece more so. Not the epic zombie vs. zombie or zombie vs. human Civil War such as the story teases, but instead an emotional film about how one lonely soldier deals with the arrival of undead foes and the loss of his family.
Geddes follows poor Edward Young, strongly portrayed by relative newcomer Mark Gibson, on his quest for answers and vengeance. A tad bit slow for the adrenaline junky, Exit Humanity represents intelligent and heartfelt horror through the eyes of one phenomenal character.
We’re not robbed of scenes featuring zombie slaughter and crooked villains as veteran genre actor Bill Moseley plays antagonist General Williams, but Edward’s self discovery about what humanity actually means demands screen time and trumps usual horror drivel.
Edward’s tumultuous struggle only strengthens Geddes’ zombie menace by offering a jaded protagonist amongst some wasted backdrops, but following our hero sets a heavy pit in our stomach as Geddes displays superior storytelling to accommodate brutal circumstances, all while altering a sacred piece of history.
Exit Humanity successfully displays the serious tone that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter so questionably used, achieving a believable realism while never making us wish for a tonal shift to utter silliness.
Plenty of brain munching and six-shooting makes Exit Humanity a passable flick, but hallowed storytelling by iconic voice Brian Cox separates schlock from impressive craftsmanship. Major studios could learn a thing or two from Exit Humanity‘s focus on a tightly knit story and respectable horror, all done on an independent budget mind you.
Final Rating: 7.5/10
Quick Synopsis: “When Syamoto’s teenage daughter is caught stealing, a generous middle-aged man helps resolve the situation. The man and his wife offer to have Syamoto’s troublesome daughter work at their fish store. Syamoto soon discovers the horrific truth of the seemingly perfect couple.“
Director: Shion Sono
Cold Fish exists as the “coup de grace” so far for Bloody Disgusting Selects.
At a marathon run time of 144 minutes, Sono achieves horror in a full circle transformation of lead character Mr. Syamoto (Mitsuru Fukikoshi), as he becomes corrupted by fiendish competitor Yukiko Murata (Denden). With a familiar story showcasing character development from timid doormat to full-blown psychopath, Cold Fish strikes a chilling nerve commentating on both big business monopolization and leaders possessing a God-like complex.
Kudos to actor Denden who embraces the role of evil genius with vibrant realism, showing signs of true psychosis as he manipulates Mr. Syamoto while literally slaying the competition. But more terrifying is the character of Mr. Syamoto himself, a once quiet and respectable man harboring a beast within which breaks out beyond control. Both clashing personalities work as a crazy team at first, offering a dramatic dynamic, culminating with a poetic nature as Mr. Syamoto completes his bloody metamorphosis.
Much like I Saw The Devil, Sono takes us on a wild and brutal ride by breaking down one unlucky character and telling a tale so sadistic and twisted, one wonders how our actors even remained sane during production.
Just like any good Japanese cinema, Cold Fish is a test of wits from the intimidating run time to ruthless gore vicious enough to send weaker stomachs away, but Sono grasps every single minute of ambitious yet disturbing psychological terror worth biting into.
Final Rating: 8/10
Ratings be damned, Bloody Disgusting Selects are admirably giving originality a fighting chance in today’s increasingly hard Hollywood market. Studios have begun passing on more “gamble” projects as of late, which writer Todd Farmer can attest to since his Ghost Rider 2 script got denied for being “too violent” and brutal.
I actually sat down one day and read Farmer’s script treatment. As an avid horror fan/gorehound, I had loads more fun imagining Ghost Rider’s written antics than watching inevitable safety play out in Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance, which made every single mistake found in the first.
Horror fans everywhere are screaming for a savior in today’s film world to give us something new, fresh, bold, unique, and all around fun. Bloody Disgusting heard those pleas for help and are trying their absolute hardest to quell such cries.
Bloody Disgusting Selects creation stands as THE best thing to happen to horror since…well…honestly I’m not even sure due my beloved genre running rampant with reboots and remakes. It was always a chore to get a copy of lesser known and underground titles overshadowed by the 27 millionth Friday the 13th film, but BDS can now provide that shining spotlight such films deserve.
To the guys at Bloody Disgusting, this is my very own plea: PLEASE NEVER STOP.