An Independent Thriller Film With the Right Formula
Happy October everyone! Slick Dungeon here and I thought I would kick off this month with a review of an independent film from DarkCoast.
This is a crime thriller about a married couple who have to defend themselves against a home invasion. The film was written by Walker Whited and Sean McCane, with Whited also performing directing duties. It stars Michelle Rose as an ex-Army Sergeant named Heather and Kurt Yue as an average husband with a troubled history named Mark. There is also a nice turn as bad guy Moody played by Michael Aaron Milligan.
There will be some mild spoilers below but you should still be able to enjoy the film if you read on because I will not give away too much. You have been warned.
A couple facing financial hardships and a tragic past are surprised when an intruder breaks into their home. Mark and Heather are not sure what to do when the intruder offers them a large sum of money if they let him go. Acting in self defense, Heather kills the intruder. The natural impulse would be to call the police but Mark realizes that there must be something valuable in their house. The couple agree to spend an hour looking for it before contacting the authorities. This kicks off a night full of intense surprises, an emotional roller coaster, and a ton of action.
The film is overall very satisfying and while it uses the basic formula of Die Hard it does so with enough twists and flourishes that it works. And let’s be honest, that formula works for a reason and is still entertaining to watch. Michelle Rose and Kurt Yue both put in phenomenal performances here and I found them both extremely engaging in their respective parts. Michael Aaron Milligan has a tendency to take his villain role a little too far at times but it’s still a great menacing performance.
The action is rather intense and for once, I mostly did not find myself wondering why in the world the characters would make those choices. Heather is smart and a woman of action. Mark is no soldier but he does things that would make sense given the situation. The bad guys do a few things that might be questionable but then again if the bad guys never made a mistake, the heroes would have no chance right?
The climax of the film is utterly intense and by the time we get there, it feels like Heather and Mark are in real danger and it’s definitely not certain that either will survive. They are a likeable couple with their own flaws and are easily relatable to the audience. These are three dimensional characters which is nice to see in an action film that essentially takes place in a single evening and at a single location.
For a low budget, independent film, this one hits all the right marks and makes for an exciting viewing experience. There are a lot of action films and thrillers you could watch but sometimes it’s nice to see something that was truly independent and this qualifies. Instead of re-watching Die Hard for the millionth time, give this one a try. It’s well worth your time and I definitely recommend it.
By Night’s End will be available on October 6th on the following digital platforms — Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, FlixFling, Google Play, Vudu and AT&T.
Do yourself a favor and make that a movie night and give this one a try.
Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here with a spoiler free review of the number one film on Netflix as of today 7/16. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen it because I am not giving anything away but I’ll let you know if this movie is worth your time.
The movie stars Charlize Theron as the leader of a small band of mercenaries who are extremely proficient killers and intelligent warriors.
It’s best if you go into the film not knowing much more than that. For that reason I am going to only tell you a few things about why you should watch this. There is good reason for this movie to be trending number one right now. It’s an intelligent film, the action makes sense in every battle scene and the actors all put in top notch performances.
While there are certainly elements that might be considered silly by some, if you can get past basically one thing, this is an incredible ride. There will undoubtedly be sequels to this and I am all in for them. The fight sequences are near perfect. Unlike a lot of action films, I never once found myself wondering why a team would go in that way or why they would make the choices they do. Theron, as always, puts in an outstanding turn as the lead character. But to me the actor to watch in this is Kiki Lane who plays a character named Nile. She proves as soon as she is on screen that she belongs with the more well known performers.
There’s no way this will get any Oscar nods because at essence it’s a genre film, but it should.
I don’t usually say this, but I don’t even recommend you read the Netflix description of the film. Just click watch. As long as you can handle some bloody action scenes, this movie is absolutely worth your time. If you don’t know much going in, the whole movie will surprise you. If you do read the description, I think it still will.
The only weak part I see in the film is toward the latter half and it more has to do with what the antagonist is doing, which in my opinion is something we’ve seen too often. But even with that, the film plays out to a satisfying conclusion and it absolutely left me wanting more.
Luckily for me there is a graphic novel that is the source material so I intend to seek that out to get more. It’s by comics legend Greg Rucka and the fact that the source and the screenplay are both written by him I am sure is why this film is so intelligent.
So what are you doing still reading this? Go watch the movie! Let me know what you thought about it in the comments.
Slick Dungeon here, coming at you hard and fast with a martial arts action film review. DarkCoast pictures reached out to me with a screener copy of Blood Hunters Rise of the Hybrids in exchange for an honest opinion about the film. I’ll give you a bit of the plot summary and then tell you about the good, the bad and the kicks in the face.
Blood Hunters Rise of the Hybrids is a low budget, independent martial arts film by Vincent Soberano who also stars in the movie as the character Bolo. The movie also stars Sarah Chang as Gabriela and Mayling Ng as Maya.
I think at this point in the world, a lot of us are trying to make the most out of video streaming because no one wants to go out into a crowd anymore and some people are not allowed to. So what do you do to keep busy? Watch movies. Lots of movies and shows. You’ve watched The Witcher, you caught up on The Boys, and you have watched The Baby Yoda show on loop for the last ten days and it’s time to look for something else. Maybe something you haven’t seen before.
Well, like it or hate it, I can tell you, you haven’t seen Blood Hunters Rise of the Hybrids before. Personally, I am in favor of any film these days that can claim to be independent. If there’s a good story and plenty of entertainment to be had, so much the better. This movie gets some of that right but not all of it.
The story goes like this. There’s a race of alien creatures called the Aswang. They are sort of a cross between vampires and werewolves but they pretty much look human. They are extremely fast and very strong. The really cool thing about them is that they are based on Filipino folklore that Soberano grew up with. I love the idea of monsters that don’t get enough exposure getting some air time.
Anyway, these Aswang are trying to dominate the human race. There was a human trying to stop them named Naga. When he gets the chance to stop the queen of the Aswang, Maya, he instead injects himself with her blood and becomes one of these creatures. Meanwhile there is a group of humans who are basically mercenaries trying to stop Naga and Maya. These people also inject themselves with the Aswang blood to give themselves strength and power but they are on the side of humanity. Confused yet? I was a bit too. I think one thing the movie suffers from is not giving enough time for the origins of the Aswang to play out, instead opting for exposition on their background.
The film also cuts back and forth between what seems to have happened before and the action going on now. It’s not always clear who is doing what or why.
There’s really cool artwork that the film uses to transition scenes with. Sort of like Sin City did. While I love the artwork, which if I understand correctly, Soberano also made, the transitions can get a bit distracting here. It wasn’t completely off putting and it certainly doesn’t ruin the film but it does seem like it happens just a little too often.
The story centers on Gabriela who has a husband and child that were seemingly murdered by Naga. She’s out on a quest for vengeance and she kicks serious butt.
She goes after the creatures as hard as she can. We even learn that her family was basically the first victims of these attacks. Other than that, her motivations are not always real clear.
The film does the wise thing by not overdoing the blood and gore factor. We mostly see dead bodies covered in blood after the fact, but there’s no silly decapitations or anything like that. I feel like that makes the violence the creatures do more impactful.
I would go on with summarizing the story but it’s a little disjointed. The main thing to know is that there are bad, strong monsters that want to kill humans. And there is a group of humans that want to kill the monsters. That’s enough for me though. You know why?
The freaking action scenes are phenomenal.
This movie reminded me of some of the Kung Fu movies I grew up watching on late night television or early morning Sundays. The point is the fighting above all else. That being said, there are still some things I found a little silly.
At one point Gabriela fires a slingshot into a stack of boxes near a car. The whole thing blows up. I’m all for unnecessary explosions but, uh one sling shot? Really? And later she uses the same thing to sling shot a dart at someone so, uh did the whole thing actually blow up with one single dart? I mean cool explosion though…
There’s one character who basically has fake fangs in his mouth. It made it pretty hard to understand his dialogue and even after watching more than once, I am still not sure what that guy was saying. Still, his martial arts game is strong so all good.
These creatures can’t be killed by anything other than a special type of blade. The “Slayers” as they are called, the mercenary group that want to stop the Aswang, sneak up on the enemy base and eliminate a bunch of the guards around them, using guns. Why wouldn’t these creatures post guards that were Aswang instead?! Also, after they are in the building, and about to go after Maya and Naga and the big bads, one of the Slayers says, “blades out, this is the Aswang lair.” Maybe you should have mentioned that outside bro? I mean cause, you are already inside so, good thing there was no one in that hallway I guess?
All that aside, the best part of this movie happens from when the dude says to get the blades out.
The sword battles and one on one match ups are phenomenal. Personally, I am kind of sick of martial arts action that relies on wires and shaky camera editing to make things look cool, rather than just letting the camera stay back and allowing us to see human skill. This movie absolutely does not make that mistake. The fighting is great, the action is framed well for the most part and there are cool moves from both good and bad guys. There’s a little touch of special effects given to the Aswang to make them seem other than human but it in no way takes away from the fight scenes. And from my point of view, since most of the movie is an extended fight scene, that makes this movie worth a watch.
The match up between Gabriela and Maya was particularly enjoyable to me. You can tell how carefully these fight scenes were choreographed and that the actors are skilled martial artists in their own right.
The end gets a little messy again with a surprise betrayal and some characters that we weren’t all that attached to losing fights and it becomes a bit confusing. The very end leaves us on a cliff hanger setting up for a sequel. For my part I hope that Soberano and crew do more films together. I just hope that next time he keeps the action fast but slows down on the set up. I would like to see less exposition and more character growth. But the same amount of kicks in the face. Actually, more kicks in the face. I can always use more kicks in the face. Wait, that sounded wrong. Anyway, yeah Soberano is talented and should make more independent films and I hope he will. I’ll be there for the action, just maybe not entirely for the story.
Blood Hunters Rise of the Hybrids will be streaming on March 17th (Amazon, Vimeo on Demand, FlixFling, Vudu, FANDANGO)
Some might say that I am locked up in this dungeon where all I do is read bad books and watch bad films. That’s not technically true as there are no locks on any doors here. There are just creatures as strange as Owlbears and as dangerous as zombies crawling around everywhere, making leaving a bit hard to do. But I have never felt as caged as I did while watching Locked Up.
First a clarification. There is a series on Netflix called Locked Up. I have never watched it so I am not sure if it has anything to do with this film or not. What I am reviewing is the film, not the series.
I think this was perhaps the most uncomfortable viewing experience I have ever had. Here’s a summary of the plot. An American teenager in Southeast Asia gets into a fight, in more or less self defense, bashes a girl’s skull with a pipe and ends up in what is supposed to be a reform school. The place is actually a prison and the women there are forced to do hard labor, be used as sex objects and fight each other, sometimes to the death. The teenager who is sent there has to win a fight in order to be released from the prison. That’s the whole plot, not much more I can expand on here. But I’ll get into the cringe for ya, cause believe me, you don’t want to watch this.
I’m going to start off with the normal things that I point out in a bad film. In a lot of them, these things can make a film so bad it’s good. In this one it just adds to the whole uncomfortable viewing experience.
The acting in this film could not have been more wooden if the actors were made out of popsicle sticks. The performances are so bad, it makes you want to reach through the screen and ask these women, “Are you ok? What life choices lead you here?” It’s really such bad acting that I can’t even consider it funny.
The score for this whole film is supposed to be ominous, in a creepy buildup to the climactic last fight but the pacing of the film is so slow that all it did was make my eyelids droop. I seriously nearly fell asleep several times trying to watch this.
The concept of this movie was not original but they could have had a creative take on it, considering the location they were shooting and the shift from these types of films usually being male led. They blew that chance by about twenty miles.
The fight choreography in this film is pretty much non-existent. The women who are supposed to be portrayed as deadly are often shown in a gym punching a bag. You can see that there is no power in the punches. And the actual fights move really slow. Maybe not quite Undercover Grandpa slow, but you watch and just think, maybe she could have ducked in the five seconds it took for that blow to hit her.
The climax is a let down even for the low expectations that build for this film. The death match fight lasts for under two minutes, is mostly pulling hair and kind of grappling around. But then to win the fight the main character pulls a move she never learned in the film or anything and it’s suddenly over. Then they escape. Yay!
There’s lots of scenes where the main character gets more and more tortured but then of course there’s a montage of her getting stronger before her big fight. It was incredibly dull to watch and I could never get behind the character enough to care. Plus all the exercises they show her doing are exercises you would expect any average, fit person to be able to do. Except for the one where she holds dumbells fully extended for two minutes. They don’t show her do that for two full minutes, but that’s damned hard.
There is an uncle that the main character has and he is sort of an advocate for her but pretty much ruins the whole part with the terrible acting. Also, the uncle seems to be like, yeah ok, she can have 2 years punishment here, I’m not even going to approach the American consulate which would be the sensible thing to do.
Now for the seriously cringe-worthy. I didn’t clock this exactly but my estimate is that about 70% of the film involves nudity. Now, I get films having nudity and I don’t think that automatically makes it bad, and in the right film, done in the right way, there’s not anything wrong with it. But in the context of this film. hooo boy, this is hard to watch.
For starters, the main character has a guardian, which I at least, take to mean she is under age. To clarify before I go on, all of the actors in this film were adults at the time of filming. But early on, the main character is told to disrobe and we get the complete view. This happens frequently and it is just as uncomfortable every time. It just made me imagine that sexual predators probably love this movie, and seriously made me hate the film. Like, I hate this movie with a passion. DO NOT WATCH THIS.
In addition to the plain nudity, there are instances of sexual violence. While these are as poorly acted as the rest of the film, these scenes are even harder to watch. It’s both ridiculous and head spinning. I just can’t even describe how despicably exploitative this film is, Honestly, I don’t know how anyone could have gotten away with not only making but releasing this film. The whole thing was such a bad idea,
Usually, I go on a bit longer in my reviews but for this one, I don’t want to give it any more attention than it rightly deserves. What it pretty much deserves is a warning label that you should stay as far away from it as you can get.
After this one, I need something with a bit of potential for fun. So, I am going to hop back onto the Troma train and give a watch to Space Zombie Bingo. Not sure who’s going to be calling the numbers but I’ve got my card, my markers and paid my entry fee. See you next time.
It’s not easy living in a dungeon alone, watching the worst films known to humanity and Undercover Grandpa is not helping the situation at all.
When the phrase Netflix and chill first became popular, the emphasis was definitely on the chill. Why? There was a time, before Narcos, Stranger Things and Black Mirror where most of what was on Netflix was absolute garbage. Now people get tied up in the Netflix and forget to chill at all. But fret not, those who want to chill once again, Undercover Grandpa is garbage on an unparalleled level. Trust me on this.
This film is about a random teenager who is about to go out on a date. He first has to drive his crazy grandpa back to his nursing home before he can get to said date. Unfortunately for the teenager, his date gets kidnapped by an on the run foreign dictator who has faked his own death. Fortunately for the teenager, his grandpa is not crazy, and really is a special forces guy who can totally take on the foreign dictator with the help of his very retired army buddies.
In the end, Grandpa beats the bad guys and teenager gets the girl and all the retired army buddies got to have their one last exciting mission. Assuming there is no sequel. Which is a very strong assumption.
The star of the film is James Caan who makes a career destroying performance that is about as far away from The Godfather as you can get. In the setup of the film Grandpa talks to the family about how he knew Colonel Sanders when he was just a private. The jokes get worse from there. Also, as a side note, according to Biography.com “Colonel Harland Sanders was born on September 9, 1890, in Henryville, Indiana. At the age of 40, Sanders was running a popular Kentucky service station that also served food—so popular, in fact, that the governor of Kentucky designated him a Kentucky colonel.” This means James Caan (best known in my circle of associates as the dad from Elf) served in World War I if he knew this guy.
I know this was just supposed to illustrate how “crazy” grandpa was but if you are going to make up fake crazy, make up believable fake crazy ok?
For reasons that are unexplained, this foreign dictator has been captured and taken to the United States. He’s a stand in for any generic dictator. And the dialogue they give this guy is so terrible. He yells at his henchmen for what felt like two minutes because he didn’t know the word troubles. My question during the whole thing was why these guys are even speaking in English in the first place? They are hiding from Americans, not trying to be them.
That’s not the only plot hole. For starters, the girlfriend is captured (I’m not using any specific character names because they were too vague and general to remember) for seeing that the dictator guy is alive. Why they don’t do the sensible bad guy thing and shoot her is beyond me.
The grandpa is also a secret agent and his special forces guys can get the job done. This film gives you the unique opportunity to see how low James Caan, Lou Gossett Jr., Paul Sorvino and Jessica Walter can sink. The answer? All the way to the bottom.
I kind of forget which guy was which but there is one grandpa who has a super old room sized computer that can hack into the 911 phone system, one who is a weapons expert with weapons that are surely not only illegal to own, but have literally no chance of still being operational (and some that certainly would be operational), and one who is a camouflage expert who seems to think dressing in a bad tree costume is what constitutes a disguise.
This old team, the “Devil’s Scum” were the best special forces around. And they get to move into action again because Grandpa, teenager, and teenager’s geeky tech sidekick (who is really barely worth mentioning) are able to figure out where the girl is being held.
At first they are excited to get together and do this. Then less than two minutes later, they don’t want to do this. Then they are convinced again to do it. How do they finally get convinced they should do it? Teenager goes on a rant about how his generation has it so good only because of men like his grandpa. The teenager speech sounds like a speech that a grandpa found on a facebook ad, I kid you not. It’s delivered with no conviction yet seems to convince all these guys to go into action.
Lucky for these guys, all of the action is at a very sluggish pace and lots of guys who are in their twenties or thirties never move as fast as any of these guys who are in their seventies. Even the one with the walker is faster than them.
In a series of ridiculously dumb plans, each grandpa gets captured by the bad guys until James Caan, the original grandpa has to come to try to rescue them. At long last, teenager and his tech sidekick come in to help. There’s a battle (I guess that’s what you call it?) and the good guys win.
But here’s the ridiculous. The grandpa with the walker is wearing this fishing vest with all the pockets filled with some kind of devices that have wires running out. He is not wearing any gloves and is using his metal walker. The bad guys ask this grandpa what is up with the vest. He tells them that they are spare batteries for his pacemaker. The idiot bad guys believe him of course. Then at the end of the fight, the grandpa lifts up his walker and electricity comes out of the ends of the walker and zaps four henchmen to the ground and they go unconscious. Let me just point out that’s not how pacemakers, walkers or electricity works.
The climax of the film is this battle. The teenager gets the girl. Then grandpa collapses and has a heart attack. All of us in the audience know he is faking it. It could not have been more clear to anyone with a pulse. But of course the teenager believes he has lost grandpa.
How can I describe the funeral scene? Okay so, not to spoil anything but if you have ever seen, I don’t know, a superhero movie where one of the heroes is dead and there are other people there and you can’t help but cry a little yourself because you liked that character so much… Yeah, this is not that. The teenager does what I would normally call an ugly cry. But it’s clear he is fake crying so it’s not an actual ugly cry. It’s perhaps the most bizarre crying performance I have ever seen. Is it a fake ugly cry? An ugly fake cry? Crying fakely ugly? I have no idea. But I thought about it for a long time.
Then to only the teenager’s surprise grandpa shows up again, lets teenager know he is not dead and that he will be off cavorting with the double agent lady in Florida. But teenager shouldn’t tell his mother about it. Grandpa also hints that he might be up for another mission if called upon.
To which I say – Please dear God no, isn’t it enough that there is a sequel to the Trolls movie coming???
I am going to end the review there but come back next week when I will review another Netflix dud, Locked Up.
Shoot, I forgot to mention the grandpa walking in the pond in a scuba suit. Ah well, maybe next time.