Category Archives: Thriller

Saint-Narcisse (2020) | Bruce LaBruce’s transgressive love letter to 1970s psychosexual thrillers

Since making his debut with 1991’s No Skin Off My Ass, Toronto filmmaker Bruce LaBruce has challenged audiences with his startling, sexually explicit films whose subject matter has included amputee sex, hardcore porn, gang-rape, castration and racially-motivated violence. Following 2013’s Gerontophilia, however, LaBruce changed direction, eschewing the extreme for a more meditative approach to his ongoing fascination with sexual taboos.

With Saint-Narcisse, he has crafted his most accomplished piece of transgressive cinema to date. Nominated for the Queer Lion award at Venice Film Festival, this anarchic love letter to 1970s psychosexual thrillers looks certain to mark a turning point for queer cinema’s former enfant terrible. But never fear; he still has a few shocks in store – this time, its twincest. 

Félix-Antoine Duval stars as 22-year-old Dominic, a sexually-adventurous young man in love with his reflection but doesn’t really know himself fully. Finding some unopened letters in his grandmothers’ closet, he discovers a family secret: his mother Beatrice (Tania Kontoyanni) didn’t die in childbirth. Determined to uncover the truth, Dominic heads to the parish town of Saint-Narcisse, north of Montreal, where he is shocked to find a tombstone inscribed with his name and date of death in a local graveyard.

Finally tracking down his mother (who the locals have labelled a witch), he discovers she’s a lesbian who was excommunicated by the church and was led to believe Dominic was stillborn. Now she lives in exile in a cabin in the woods with Irene (Alexandra Petrachuk), her late lover’s daughter. But Dominic also learns he has a twin. Sequestered in a remote monastery since birth, Daniel is being raised and groomed by a priest, Father Andrew (Andreas Apergis), who believes he is the reincarnation of Saint Sebastian. 

Whether dressed in leathers and sporting stubble or naked and shaved, Duval has the look of the divine about him, and his sex scenes (with himself) are both erotic and very tender indeed. It takes a good hour before the twins meet, but LaBruce uses that time to develop the narrative and his characters fully. Setting the film in 1972 also allows him to explore critical issues, such as children being taken away from their mothers (who happen to be lesbian or even just unmarried) and priests preying on the young men in their care.

I won’t reveal what happens, but LaBruce comes up trumps with a scene involving a St Andrew’s Cross, communion wafers, a wedding dress and some Caravaggio-inspired lighting that will stay with you long after the ending.

Kudos go to Andreas Apergis (who appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past and the US version of Being Human) as the film’s villain, the depraved Father Andrew. If his scary eyes don’t creep you out, his toe licking of the equally scary-eyed Saint Sebastian statue will. Oh, and that scene with the (very fit) monks skinny-dipping is gloriously gratuitous.

Saint-Narcisse will be released theatrically in the UK on 22 April
with a DVD and digital release from Peccadillo Pictures on 2 May 2022

The Batman (2022) | The Dark Knight just got a whole lot darker

I have seen every incarnation of Batman on the big and small screen ever since I became a fan of the 1960s Adam West/Burt Ward TV series as a kid. I have enjoyed them all – some more so than others (psst! I’d rather watch those overblown Joel Schumacher ones than sit through the dire Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ever again). After Christopher Nolan’s incredible, seemingly unmatchable, Dark Knight trilogy, however, I was wondering why Batman should be resurrected yet again? But of course, there’s money to be made – and there’s a whole new generation of fans waiting in the ‘bat’ wings.

Now I’m a HUGE fan of the original Planet of the Apes films and absolutely loved the recent reboots. So when I read that producer Dylan Clark was on board, as well as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves, I suspected that The Batman would be something to look forward to. And it is!

In his second year as Gotham’s masked avenger, Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is still finding his way as The Batman when he comes up against terrorist serial killer the Riddler (Paul Dano), who is striking fear in the city’s corrupt political elite as he takes them out one by one. But what is his real agenda and what does it have to do with Bruce’s murdered parents?

© 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/™ & © DC Comics.

Having shown his acting chops in Robert Eggers’ psychological horror The Lighthouse (2019) and Christopher Nolan’s spy film Tenet (2020), I knew that Pattinson would do the character justice. He does, though his impassive presence might be read as bland by some critics. Then there’s his hairstyle when he’s out of costume.

I just wanted to get a pair of scissors and trim those bangs. Oh, and is it just me or does he look like he’s channelling Crispin Glover in the 2003 Willard remake when he’s playing Bruce? As for the suit, I thought it fantastic – especially the pointy ears that I’m certain pay homage to the ones seen in Columbia’s 1940s serials.

© 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley/™ & © DC Comics.

The supporting cast assembled here is amazing and The Batman is an ensemble piece that works brilliantly. Paul Dano is downright disturbing as the Riddler, while Peter Sarsgaard, John Turturro and Rupert Penry-Jones are all decidedly nasty in their roles; but it’s Colin Farrell as rising mobster Oswald Cobblepot (AKA Penguin) that steals the show. Having gone into the press screening blind, I had no idea it was Farrell behind the prosthetics and fat suit. He’s terrific – no wonder he’s in line for a stand-alone film.

Zoë Kravitz also impresses as cat-burglar Selina Kyle, and I just loved how she and the writers have made her Catwoman such a sympathetic, heroic character. Then there are some familiar faces in Jeffrey Wright as Batman’s ally James Gordon and Andy Serkis as Alfred, while twins Charlie and Max Carver supply the much-needed eye candy as a couple of bouncer types.

© 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/™ & © DC Comics.

If you have never seen or read a Batman film, comic, TV show or cartoon, then you will certainly miss a lot of what makes this new entry so special – while lifelong fans will get a huge buzz. It’s a wild dark noir ride that might be a tad too long for some (near on three hours), but well worth returning to the cinema for.

Oh and so too are the film’s locations, including Liverpool’s St George’s Hall (standing in for Gotham City Hall), County Sessions House, the Royal Liver Building, the Walker Art Gallery, the Wellington Memorial Statue and much more, plus Glasgow’s Necropolis Cemetery, and Two Temple Place in London. I see a walking tour in the making.

CHECK OUT THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE: https://www.thebatmanmovie.net/

A Tale of Two Sisters | Kim Jee-woon’s stylish and scary 2003 chiller on Blu-ray

Director Kim Jee-woon’s stylish and scary 2003 thriller, A Tale of Two Sisters, is one of the key films of the Korean New Wave. Now it’s getting a Blu-ray release from Arrow that comes with a host of extras that you should only view once you have watched the gripping chiller.

Inspired by the popular Korean folktale, Janghwa Hongryeon jeon, the twisted mystery centres on young Su-mi (Im Soo-jung), who returns home with her father (Kim Kap-soo) and her younger sister, Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young), after a stay in a mental facility. But the reason for her hospitalisation only becomes clear when she encounters the ghost of her dead mother, and engages in a battle of wills with her cold-hearted, self-medicating, stepmother (Yum Jung-ah).

Exquisitely photographed, with wonderful performances all around (especially the glacial Yum Jung-ah as the wicked step mum), A Tale of Two Sisters, is a slow burner but it’s never boring as every scene counts. It also deserves multiple viewings, so you can fully appreciate Jee-woon’s assured direction, visuals and storytelling.

Here’s what you also get…

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original DTS-HD MA 5.1 and uncompressed stereo audio
• Optional English subtitles
• Brand-new Audio commentary by Korean Cinema historian Pierce Conran & critic James Marsh
• Audio commentary by writer/director Kim Jee-woon, lighting cameraman Oh Seung-chul and cinematographer Lee Mo-gae
• Audio commentary by writer/director Kim Jee-woon and cast members Im Soo-jung and Moon Geun-young
• Always on the Move: The Dynamic Camera and Spaces of Master Stylist Kim Jee-woon, a brand-new visual essay by Korean Cinema historian Pierce Conran
• Spirits of the Peninsula: Folklore in Korean Cinema, a brand-new visual essay by cultural historian Shawn Morrisey
• Imaginary Beasts: Memory, Trauma & the Uncanny in A Tale of Two Sisters, a brand-new visual essay by genre historian and critic Kat Ellinger
• Behind the Scenes, an archival featurette shot during filming
– Outtakes, archival footage from the set
• Production Design, an archival featurette about the intricate look of the sets
• Music Score, an archival featurette
• CGI, an archival featurette
• Creating the Poster, an archival featurette about the iconic original poster
• Cast Interviews, archival interviews with Kim Kab-su (Father), Yeom Jung-a (Stepmother), Im Soo-jung (Su-mi), and Moon Geun-young (Su-yeon)
• Deleted scenes with director’s commentary
• Director’s analysis, an archival featurette in which Kim Jee-woon discusses the complexity and ambiguities contained within the film and why they were important to him.
• Director’s thoughts on horror, an archival featurette in which Kim Jee-woon discusses his feelings about the horror genre.
• Psychiatrist’s Perspective, an archival featurette exploring the psychological reality behind the story of the film
• Theatrical Trailer
• Stills galleries
• Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Sister Hyde
• Illustrated booklet featuring new writing by critics Stacie Ponder and Anya Stanley, plus a new translation of the original Korean folktale that inspired the film.

Lake Mungo | Australia’s answer to Paranormal Activity gets a deluxe Blu-ray release from Second Sight

Lake Mungo is one of those films where the chills come gradually rather than in short sharp shocks, just like the similarly-themed Paranormal Activity. Released back in 2008, director Joel Anderson’s documentary-style thriller has become something of a must-see, and now its set to garnered new fans with Second Sight’s deluxe Blu-ray box-set featuring new interviews with cast and crew; filmmaker fans Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, and director Rob Savage; a brand new commentary, video essays and archive material.

In the small rural town of Ararat, southwest Victoria, 16-year-old Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker) drowns while swimming with her family at a local dam. After her body is recovered and she is laid to rest, her family start to experience strange happenings in their home and become convinced that Alice has returned as a ghost. They then seek out the help of a radio psychic (Steve Jodrell), who discovers Alice kept secrets about her personal life from her family before she died. Alice’s brother Matthew (Martin Sharpe) then sets up a camera to capture his sister’s ghostly presence – and the results are quite unsettling…

Filmed in the vein of the Kiwi-made TV paranormal crime show Sensing Murder, Lake Mungo is made up of a series of interviews with Alice’s family and friends, interspersed with some arty location shots: mainly the starry night sky and a sunset-drenched countryside. The cast’s deadpan delivery of the dialogue is eerie to watch (particularly Alice’s dad David, who looks like he is going to break down and cry but never does), while the plot twists are surprising (particularly Matthew’s big admission).

But there are some rather odd moments (the mother’s obsession with breaking into her neighbour’s houses for instance feels absurd). With this in mind, I expected the film to turn on its head at one point and become a parody of the genre, in the same vein as the Australian mockumentary Angry Boys. But it doesn’t. Instead Lake Mungo takes itself deadly seriously and – despite some of the ideas being a little stretched-out – becomes one of those genuinely unsettling chillers that will have you watching the shadows in your own home long after the credits have ended. One shocking moment for me – personally – was seeing my old university tutor playing the psychic.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• Archive audio commentary by Producer David Rapsey and DoP John Brawley
• New audio commentary by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Emma Westwood
Captured Spirits: an interview with DoP John Brawley
Ghost in the Machine: an interview with Producer David Rapsey
A Cop and a Friend: an interview with Actors Carole Patullo & James Lawson
Kindred Spirits: Filmmakers Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead on Lake Mungo
Hosting Spirits: Filmmaker Rob Savage on Lake Mungo
Simulacra and Spirits: a video essay by film writer Josh Nelson
Autopsy of a Family Home: a video essay by filmmaker Joseph Wallace
• Deleted scenes

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Rigid slipcase
• Perfect-bound booklet with new essays by Sarah Appleton, Simon Fitzjohn, Rich Johnson, Mary Beth McAndrews and Shellie McMurdo, interview with actor James Lawson by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas plus rare behind-the-scenes photos
• Three collectors’ art cards

The Hands of Orlac | The thrilling 1924 silent classic shudders onto Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes director Robert Wiene’s silent horror The Hands of Orlac (Orlac’s Hände), starring Conrad Veidt, on Blu-ray as part of The Masters of Cinema Series.

Veidt plays Paul Orlac, a concert pianist whose hands are amputated after a train crash. Shocked to learn they have been replaced with the hands of a recently executed murderer named Vasseur, Orlac obsesses over the idea that he too will turn violent.

When Orlac’s wealthy father is murdered and fingerprints match the dead man’s hands, Orlac fears seem manifest. However, Orlac’s nightmare reaches new heights of terror when a man claiming to be Vasseur threatens to blackmail him.

Blending grand Guignol shudders with German Expressionism visuals, this 1924 Austrian adaptation of Maurice Renard’s 1920 thriller novel, Les Mains d’Orlac, reunited the director and star of Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari (1920).

Featuring a wonderfully modernist set design, expressive performances and tightly executed scenes, this a silent cinema gem. And near-on a century from its release, many of the tropes conceived here continues to be used in many a film and TV thriller.

With his cadaverous looks and masterfully mannered characterisation, Veidt (who plays his playing his Orlac in a permanent state of fright) proves himself one of the true original Masters of Terror, while Wiene directs each scene like grand theatrical tableaux du dance.

There’s also excellent support from Alexandra Sorina (as Paul’s wife) who stilted movements reveal her character’s inner turmoil. While more mystery thriller with psychological overtones than straight-out horror, the film does boast a couple of very human monsters – most tellingly Paul’s horrid, unlovingly father, whose creepy house resembles a mausoleum.

Kudos to Johannes Kaltizke’s excellent avant-garde music score – which greatly reminded me of Les Baxter’s suite in the 1970 Vincent Price TV special, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe. Among the excellent highlights is an alternate 110-minute presentation of the film from 2008 with alternate takes and a music score by Paul Mercer.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a restoration of the original film elements by Film Archiv Austria
• LPCM 2.0 audio
• Original German-language intertitles with optional English subtitles
• Audio commentary with Stephen Jones and Kim Newman
• Video essay by David Cairns and Fiona Watson (30min)
• FW Murnau Foundation alternate presentation [SD, 110 minutes]
• Scene comparisons highlighting some of the differences between the two versions of the film
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Philip Kemp, and Tim Lucas

Death Has Blue Eyes | Nico Mastorakis’ wacky 1970’s paranormal sex comedy action thriller on Blu-ray

There’s a whole lot of love over at Arrow for the crazy cine-verse of Greek film-maker Nico Mastorakis, as they have so far released his 1975 infamous ‘video nasty’ exploitation debut Island of Death (twice), Death Has Blue Eyes (1976), Blood Tide (1982), The Zero Boys and The Wind (both 1986), Bloodstone (1988) and 1990’s Hired to Kill.

I’ve seen and reviewed Island of Death and The Wind, and now have finally caught up with Death Has Blue Eyes, which was released back in April (2021) on Blu-ray in a new HD master in both widescreen and full-frame versions.

Be prepared as this is a wacky, messy but wholly entertaining cocktail of conspiracy thrills, psychic chills and action spills (with a bit of a 1970s sex comedy vibe thrown in).

International gigolo-cum-racing driver Ches (Chris Nomikos) and his dodgy Vietnam vet mate Bob (Peter Winter) meet up in Athens where they encounter the wealthy but mysterious Geraldine Steinwetz (Jessica Dublin) and her psychic daughter Christine (Maria Aliferi).

All the lads want to do is have sex (with a penchant for threesomes – oo-er!!!), but they soon find themselves in the middle of an international conspiracy – and nothing is what it seems, especially Geraldine, who has a secret agenda.

While Island of Death was released first, this was in fact Mastorakis’ debut feature – and it’s one to watch with a gang of fellow exploitation film fans, while Graham Humphreys’ colourful poster artwork really captures the essence of Mastorakis’ lurid conspiracy thriller.

But what really thrilled me was checking out Jessica Dublin’s credits. She so steals the show here and should be better known as she’s been in so many cult faves – including Visconti’s The Damned, Mastorakis’ Island of Death, Kostas Karayiannis’ The Devil’s Men and was Mrs Junko in Troma’s Toxic Avenger sequels.

Mastorakis made his last feature in 1990, before turning his hand to TV sitcoms, but he’s recently scored renewed success as the writer of the award-winning 2018 documentary, Mykonos, the Soul of an Island.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Brand new restoration from the original camera negative approved by the director
  • High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
  • Two versions of the film: the widescreen 1.85:1 version and the full-frame 1.33:1 version
  • Original mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Exclusive new interview featurette with Nico Mastorakis
  • Exclusive new interview with actress Maria Aliferi
  • Dancing with Death: tracks from the original soundtrack
  • Original theatrical trailers
  • Image gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Julian Grainger

Pulse | ‘It traps you in your house…then pulls the plug’ – the 1980s sci-fi shocker on Blu-ray

Now, what would you do if you discovered a serial killer intelligence was moving from house to house in your neighbourhood via the electrical grid? Well, that’s the premise of this 1988 American sci-fi. And, you what, it’s not a bad little shocker.

Chid star/singer and future reality TV/game show celeb Joey Lawrence plays David, a Colorado kid forced to spend quality time in the Californian burbs with his divorced dad Bill (Cliff De Young) and step-mum (Roxanne Hart). Arriving the day after a neighbour seeming went into murder/suicide mode after wrecking his house, David becomes convinced that something in the wires was the real cause. He’s soon in ‘why don’t you believe me’ territory with his dad, who blames scary-eyed builder Holger (Charles Tyner) for filling his kid’s head with such nonsense. Of course, it takes a couple of bizarre accidents involving David and Ellen before Bill finally realises he must find a way to pull the plug before its too late.

I never caught this on its original release, but it holds up rather well after all these years. Sitting firmly in the kid-in-peril genre, it boasts a winning turn from Joey Lawrence (making his second feature). Excepting those scenes he shares with his real-life kid brother Matthew (whose little Stevie delights in describing the recent murder in gruesome detail), Joey Lawrence dominates the proceedings as the young boy pining for some fatherly affection. And his domestic drama plays out quite nicely alongside the sinister goings-on which starts out with the family’s lawn dying off and ends in a blaze of pyrotechnics as father and son join forces to take the pulse down (along with the family home).

The special effects of the pulse are quite effective, there are some great set pieces and the music is composed by Jay Ferguson (who went on to composed the theme song for the US version of The Office). But my favourite scene is the ending, which I suspect is a subtle dig at suburban American ideals.

Pulse is now out on Blu-ray in the UK from Eureka Entertainment.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
• LPCM 2.0 audio and optional English SDH
• Audio commentary by author and film historian Amanda Reyes
Tuning in to Tech Horror: video essay by writer and film historian Lee Gambin
• Collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by author Craig Ian Mann

Five Graves to Cairo | Billy Wilder’s World War II spy thriller on Blu-ray

The only survivor in his unit after a battle with Rommel’s soldiers in North Africa, British Corporal Bramble (Franchot Tone) staggers through the desert until arriving at the largely deserted Empress of Britain hotel, staffed only by owner Farid (Akim Tamiroff) and his French employee Mouche (Anne Baxter).

While Bramble hopes to hide there, the hotel doesn’t remain deserted for long – Rommel (a scene-stealing Erich von Stroheim) and his men arrive and take over the building as new headquarters. Bramble assumes the identity of a recently killed waiter… only to discover that the waiter was also serving as a German spy, a role Bramble now has to adopt for his own survival. And while Mouche knows Bramble’s true identity, she has her own reasons for not wanting to aid in his plot.

Filled with duplicity and danger at every turn, Five Graves to Cairo (1943) was Billy Wilder’s second Hollywood film and an underrated early gem from the filmmaker, who would strike gold with his next project, Double Indemnity.

The underrated World World II spy thriller also demonstrated that Wilder and screenwriter Charles Brackett – who would collaborate on 13 films, winning screenplay Oscars for The Lost Weekend and Sunset Boulevard – were already working at the peak of their powers, delivering an espionage yarn that never lets up on the suspense.

Five Graves to Cairo is out now on Blu-ray as part of Eureka Entertainment’s The Masters of Cinemas Series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a brand new 4K restoration
• Uncompressed LPCM audio (original mono presentation)
• Audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
• Billy Wilder on Five Graves to Cairo
Five Graves to Cairo episode of Lux Radio Theatre (1943), starring Franchot Tone and Anne Baxter
• Theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic Richard Combs; and an archival article from 1944 about Wilder and Charles Brackett

 

Double Face | Riccardo Freda’s 1969 Euro thriller with a pyscho-delic bent

When his wealthy lesbian wife Helen (Margaret Lee) dies in a car crash, businessman John Alexander (Klaus Kinski) finds himself under a police investigation when they discover the car had been tampered with. But when he discovers a recently-shot pornographic movie which appears to feature Helen, her suspects she staged her own death and begins his own investigation. Can he get to the bottom of the mystery before police lock him in handcuffs?

In the post-war years, the proliferation of transnational European co-productions gave rise to a cross-pollination of film genres, with the same films sold in different markets as belonging to different movements. Among these, director Riccardo Freda’s Double Face from 1969 was marketed in West Germany as an Edgar Wallace ‘Krimi’, while in Italy it was sold as a Giallo.

It’s certainly a visually-atmospheric Giallo with a terrific score from Nora Orlandi (who also sings), and Kinski does give an uncharacteristically subtle performance. But it’s a bit too subtle at times. He moves from one gorgeously-lit scene to another just staring  – but then so does the audience.

The Arrow Video Blu-ray (originally released June 2019) includes the following special edition contents…

• 2K restoration of the full-length Italian version of the film from the original 35mm camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Uncompressed mono 1.0 LPCM audio
• Original English and Italian soundtracks, titles and credits
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles
• Audio commentary by author and critic Tim Lucas
• Interview with composer Nora Orlandi (This was my favourite extra, – Nora and her scores so deserve renewed appreciation)
The Many Faces of Nora Orlandi, a new appreciation of the varied career of the film’s composer by musician and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon (this guy really knows his stuff)
The Terrifying Dr Freda, Video essay on Riccardo Freda’s gialli by author and critic Amy Simmons (very informative and well worth checking out)
• Extensive image gallery from the collection of Christian Ostermeier, including the original German pressbook and lobby cards, and the complete Italian cineromanzo adaptation
• Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Neill Mitchell

Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway | This virtual reality mystery thriller is totally bonkers!

Are you ready for Miguel Llansó’s dystopian mashup of Afro-futurism, Cold War paranoia and 1960s/1970s exploitation cinema?

In 2035, the megalopolis of Tallinn is managed by a computer programme called Psychobook. Agents Palmer Eldritch (Agustín Mateo) and D.T. Gagano (Daniel Tadesse) are tasked with protecting it from any and all threats. But when a virus called ‘Soviet Union’ is detected, they set out to destroy it. On entering the system, however, the agents fall into a trap which leaves Gagano in a coma and stuck in the virtual world of Betta Ethiopia, where he is considered the true heir to the throne.

With the help of hologram Jiminy (Aris Rozentals), Gagano tackles the challenge of becoming the new Emperor, encountering kung-fu fighting monks, an Irish-accented Stalin, a coke-snorting Batman, and a Jesus Christ-like figure along the way. But as his kick-boxing girlfriend (Gerda-Annette Allikas) tends to him in the real world, Gagano struggles to discover just how to use a truth-seeking substance that will set him free…

Shot in Ethiopia, Latvia, Estonia and Spain, this bonkers, brain-boiling (crowd-funded) adventure is hugely inventive featuring a virtual reality world that looks like it’s been modelled on one of Eddie Romero’s Filipino horrors of the 1970s. Director Miguel Llansó’s underground James Bond meets The Matrix satire also pays homage to 1960s Euro-thrillers with its purposely out-of-synch dialogue, while the film’s computer technology is so 1990s (the Macintosh classic makes an appearance). Then there are those crazy characters wearing paper masks of famous Hollywood actors – including Robert Redford (I think – as it might also be James Franciscus or Peter Graves). But kudos go to Ethiopian actor Daniel Tadesse, who gives a stand-out performance in this, his fourth collaboration with Llansó. He so should have his own TV series….

Time to get in the pizza slices (there’s quite a few consumed) and switch on Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway which is available now on Arrow Video Channel (Apple TV and Amazon Prime)

Check out this mind-blowing 10-minute mega-loop trailer…

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