Sunday, February 21, 2016

Whale God (1962) review


Katsu Shintaro (Kishu), Hongo Kojiro (Shaki), Fujimura Shiho (Ei), Enami Kyoko (Toyo), Fujiwara Reiko (Okoma), Takano Michiko (Yuki), Yosuke Takemura (Kasuke), Shimura Takashi (Village Elder)

Directed by Tanaka Tokuzo

The Short Version: Hongo Kojiro is Shaki, a young whaler hellbent on spearing a gigantic baleen that has wrecked havoc on his village for decades. Also vying for the pleasure of lancing the Kujira Gami (Whale God) is a brutish harpooner played by Katsu Shintaro. An early SPX drama from Daiei, Japan's answer to MOBY DICK (1956) is based on an award-winning novel from 1961 and features some extravagant special effects. Spirited performances, abundant testosterone, gallons of spurting whale blood and a doom-laden score by the one and only Ifukube Akira are among the highlights. Possibly a hard sell for strict monster movie lovers, fans of the actors and Japanese theatrics will either have a whale with this quasi-monster epic or go down with the ship.

After decades of being terrorized by a gigantic whale, the elder of Wadaura, a coastal village in Kyushu, promises his daughter and all his land to the first man to slay the beast and bring him its snout tied to a rope. Losing his grandfather, his father and his brother Shatsu to the great Right Whale over the years, Shaki vows to kill it. Another whaler, a cruel drifter named Kishu, proclaims that he will be the one to bring down the devil whale. One bound by vengeance, the other by riches, the stage is set for a clash between both man and beast.

Daiei Studios had enjoyed international recognition in the 1950s with award-winning pictures such as Kurosawa's RASHOMON (1950), but it was the company's 1960s output that is easily their most popular. Wedged in between Art House films, tense samurai epics and entertaining monster movies are a few pictures that combined all three of those styles; WHALE GOD is one such production.

Based on Uno Koichiro's novel from 1961, the inspiration is clearly Melville's 'Moby-Dick' novel from 1851; itself turned into a movie (for the third time) several years earlier in 1956. This Nipponese equivalent has shades of its source, but is distinctly Japanese in flavor. 'Kujira Gami' won the 46th Annual Akutagawa literary prize that same year in '61. Before you could say "Call me Ishmael", Daiei secured film rights for a reported one million yen. Unlike Melville, whose career sank after 'Moby-Dick', Koichiro became a popular and prolific author, finding fame as a mystery writer and, to an even greater degree, for his erotic works--many of which were made into movies by Nikkatsu Studios.

Shindo Kaneto's script adaptation of Koichiro's novel contains fleeting expressions of social class (Shaki's girlfriend born of a poor family; Toyo's enriched upbringing) and religion (the Christian iconography; the whale as a devil or supernatural entity) found in the Melville source, entrenching them within Japanese culture; such as when it revels in ancient village customs that occasionally clash with the encroaching modernism of the Meiji Era the story takes place in. The borderline insanity of Ahab is retained, if spread out among the villagers both frightened and hellbent on destroying the accursed whale. Still, the focal point is on the two male leads and the level of masculinity between them is as massive as the devil whale itself.

The 1956 version of MOBY DICK had Gregory Peck and Richard Basehart. In the case of this movie, we have Hongo Kojiro and Katsu Shintaro. The script takes Captain Ahab and splits him between both these actors. To a lesser extent, Hongo is also the film's Ishmael. Whereas Melville's character was the lone survivor of the seafaring vessel the Pequod, the interpretation in Tokuzo's movie is the last surviving male member of his clan. His obsession with the sea beast mirrors that of Ahab's, but isn't limited to vengeance.

Nearly half-crazed with revenge, Shaki's vendetta takes on a strange romanticism by the time he comes face to face with the mighty whale. This adoration reaches levels you'd likely never see anywhere else but in a Japanese drama. It's akin to the samurai spirit where this respect, this honor between combatants, supersedes any enmity. He's not even interested in obtaining the Elder's wealth nor his beautiful daughter Toyo; only the slaughter of the whale holds his attention. He already has a lover, Ei, a young lady from a poor family; lending the film some social relevance and soap opera-ish entanglements. Without giving things away, a detail from Melville's book involving Ishmael and a coffin has a decidedly Japanese twist placed on it during the spirituality-fused finale.

Top billed Katsu Shintaro is Kishu, the other Ahab of this tale, and ostensibly the film's human antagonist. A socially inept drifter, his ogreish personality takes him further away from Melville's one-legged revenger in comparison to the torment of Hongo's character. Katsu plays Kishu as borderline evil, boasting of his abilities in between maiming some of the fishermen who challenge his dominance; even proclaiming himself to be a murderer at one point.

In arguably the most dramatic thread in the picture, Kishu rapes Ei, the girlfriend of Shaki. She never tells him this (till much later) and even upon going into labor he never questions who the father is. He takes the child as his own and after their marriage and the kids baptism, Shaki shows off the boy to Kishu, who seems noticeably uncomfortable--and with good reason. It's at this point in the movie that Katsu's character undergoes a change, ambiguous as it is.

Both Shaki and Kishu are determined to be the first to deliver the fatal blow to the title baleen whale. The former out of retribution for decades of familial loss; and the latter for the prizes that come with the kill. However, as despicable as Kishu is, the script, in a surprising twist, affords him some redemption born out of the scene described above.

In Melville's novel, Ahab's mania spells doom for both him and his crew; In WHALE GOD, this psychosis is shared by most everybody in the coastal village, but primary focus is given to Shaki while Ahab's fate is handed over to Kishu; yet his death comes not from self-indulgence but self-sacrifice. Despite his animalistic personality, Kishu is afforded the absolution denied Ahab.

Hongo Kojiro had only a few films to his credit, including a star turn in the previous years spectacular BUDDHA. That picture also featured Katsu Shintaro in a less than noble role. Naturally, Japanese movie fans outside of Japan know Hongo from his Gamera gigs and Katsu from over two dozen ZATOICHI productions. Hongo suffices as the tormented and determined son, but Katsu makes the better impression here, at least in terms of his range. He'd played a vile blind masseur in 1960s THE BLIND MENACE, and a duplicitous usurper in the aforementioned BUDDHA (1961). His most famous role as a kindly blind masseur/yakuza in THE TALE OF ZATOICHI debuted in April of '62, three months prior to WHALE GOD's theatrical premiere in July of that year.

The climactic man vs. whale is impressive and a testament to the special effects crew of Toru Matoba, Tsutomu Komatsubara, Hideyoshi Ono, and Takesaburo Watanabe. Painted backdrops, mattes, miniatures and animated seagulls heralding the arrival of the whale's seasonal tyranny enhance the drama. Daiei was still a few years away from making a huge splash in the arena of FX dominated cinema with GAMERA (1965), although the cloud of GODZILLA (1954) looms large over WHALE GOD and doesn't go unnoticed. One area that recalls Honda's iconic monster movie is in its music.

Ifukube Akira's incredible score reverberates the apocalyptic landscape from his work on the original GODZILLA (1954). His choice of music certainly makes the creature god-like; sort of a cross between the radioactive menace and the islander-worshiped Mothra. There's a beauty in Ifukube's sonic doom that evokes the death the protagonists desire to embrace. Ifukube would again compose a beautiful score for Tokuzo's similarly structured SPX horror drama, THE SNOW WOMAN in 1968.

Setsuo Kobayashi gives director Tokuzo's movie a unique look with his stark B/W photography, creating a dank atmosphere nearly bereft of any sunlight that's especially beneficial during the whale sequences. Elsewhere, the nighttime scenes look coated in charcoal black, highlighting beads of sweat and water on the cast members. The massive amount of doom and gloom contrasts the sprawling sense of adventure of Huston's adaptation. Aside from what's discussed above, cultural differences account for the divide in tone, although both share their pseudo-monster movie trappings. 

As for the 'Kujira Gami', an expensive life-size scale model was built by ape specialist, Ohashi Fuminori (HALF HUMAN [1955]). Much like the 90 footer built for John Huston's '56 version, the large model proved problematic for shooting in the water. Additionally, monster maker Ryosaku Takayama designed an 18ft miniature whale that the filmmakers got a lot of mileage out of.

The whale effects range in quality, but mostly they are comparable to Huston's epic interpretation; especially during the show-stopping finale, a violent symphony of man against mammal. It goes on a bit too long with Katsu, then Hongo, ferociously stabbing the whale's hide, covering themselves in geysers of blood; the unsettled waves wiping away the gore from their bare bodies as they're once more cloaked in crimson.

The director and his crew made a strong dramatic feature although some of the editing is a bit wobbly. The passage of time is confusing what with the film's timeline jumping around on a few occasions. There's also an editing mistake during the finale. When Kishu goes after the whale first, there's a brief, misplaced shot of both him and Shaki atop the beast (represented by models of the actors; see insert). Incidentally, the trailer features shots that are absent in the movie of the two actors stabbing away at the monster whale together.

WHALE GOD is one of Daiei's more peculiar productions. More of a drama than a monster movie, fans of that genre probably won't find much in terms of re-watch value here outside of curiosity for the title beast's presence. The Jidaigeki crowd, fans of the two main actors, and those wishing to see a Nippon spin on Melville's novel will benefit the most from this unusual movie. If you're only familiar with the director's samurai endeavors, you might be surprised at his versatility in the FX/Fantasy genre; of which WHALE GOD is considered one of his finest works.

This review is representative of the Kadokawa R2 DVD. Specs and Extras: Anamorphic 2.35:1; original trailer; photo gallery; commentary; no English options.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Snow Woman (1968) review


Fujimura Shiho (Yuki), Ishihama Akira (Yosaku), Hasegawa Machiko (Okugata), Naito Taketoshi (Governor Mino Gonnokami), Suga Fujio (Land Steward Jito-dono), Shimizu Masao (Jiun), Suzuki Mizuho (Gyokei), Hara Sen (Shaman), Hanabu Tatsuo (Shigetomo)

Directed by Tanaka Tokuzo

The Short Version: An absolutely stunning cinematic interpretation of the 'Snow Woman' folktale previously popularized in condensed format by Kobayashi in KWAIDAN (1964) is brought to the screen from chambara helmer, Tanaka Tokuzo. Daiei was nearing bankruptcy, but you wouldn't know it from the meticulous set design and impressive special effects on display. Equal parts horror and formulaic jidaigeki, Tanaka's direction is operatic overload, highlighted by Kurokawa Shunji's lighting effects. Aside from the technical pluses, viewers will be drawn into the picture by an engrossing performance from Fujimura Shiho as the title cold-hearted woman. The melancholic nature of Lafcadio Hearn's source material is matched by the somber beats of Ifukube Akira. Among the best of the Nippon Gothics, THE SNOW WOMAN is deathly cold to the touch, but warm in its heart and soul.

Master sculptor Shigetomo and his young, devoted disciple Yosaku are on a mountain trip to find the perfect tree to sculpt a Bodhisattva statue for the Kokubun-ji Temple. Caught in a massive snow storm, the two men take shelter in an abandoned cabin. Later that night, they are visited by a ghostly woman. Extracting the life essence of Shigetomo, the vampiric snow woman turns to the younger acolyte. Entranced by his innocence, the creature will let him live so long as he never repeats what he has seen; should he do so, she will appear and kill him immediately. Months pass and Spring has come. Yosaku is in the process of building his master's prized statue when a strange woman comes into his life....

There is so much to admire in Tanaka Tokuzo's ice-cold tale of dramatic horror, a re-telling of 'The Woman of the Snow' segment in Masaki Kobayashi's classic horror movie, KWAIDAN (1964). With origins dating back to the 1300s, the haunted Snow Woman (Yuki Onna) has many variations in both looks and legends. The version that is the most popular is the one written by, ironically enough, a European named Lafcadio Hearn. Also known under a Japanese name, Koizumi Yakumo, Hearn found fame for his writings on Japanese folklore, making the country his home during the last 14 years of his life. His writings remain influential in Japanese popular culture. This famous story gets expanded in a substantial way by Tanaka Tokuzo, formerly an AD of Kurosawa and Mizoguchi, and a director whose name will be familiar to fans of film series' like ZATOICHI and SLEEPY EYES OF DEATH.

Yahiro Fuji's script expands on the tale, adding an evil land steward named Jito, the sort of despicable antagonist you'd find in all your finer samurai movies. Thankfully, this development works in the film's favor. Loss, melancholy, and compassion are the prime emotional ingredients of Hearn's original story from 1905 and are adopted faithfully for this film version. Introducing a vile character to play off the portent of evil associated with the Yokai living among the humans creates an additional conflict for the audience to digest; and even at 79 minutes, the filmmakers give you plenty to chew on.

Remarkably, scripter Yahiro Fuji uses the oppressive Jito to great success, making the Snow Vampire an unlikely heroine; even after she has killed Yosaku's revered master, Shigetomo, at the film's outset. While the Yokai is simply adhering to its supernatural nature (when it's not showing signs of nobler human sensibilities), Jito is an unwavering, calculatingly evil savage.

Examples of Jito's less than refined mannerisms are displayed right after we see him onscreen for the first time, beating an old woman to death, later showing no remorse for the action. Not long after, Jito desires Yosaku's wife and devises an elaborate plot to take her away from him. What the corrupt Jito doesn't realize is the woman he wants is cold--so cold, she has the ability to chill a man to the bone.... literally.

It's at this point, after Yosaku is framed, that the script veers into other directions, testing Yosaku's mettle through a series of threats and mental tortures; and humanizing the Yokai, even giving her spiritual connotations at one point. The way the script explores the Yosaku character parallels the expositional flourishes afforded Yuki--her humanization, and her propensity for evil; or, depending on the situation, justice. The script gives its human villains some subtle nuances, too.

Part of Jito's plan to get rid of the virtuous Yosaku is by hiring a sculptor from the city named Gyokei to be in direct competition with him in building a Bodhisattva statue for the local temple. Unlike Yosaku, who is doing his work by himself, Gyokei is armed with a cadre of assistants. There's this dialog about people from the country not being as intellectually sound as those from the city. This talk proves retroactive later in the film once the temple priests view the two men's works of art. As a protagonist, Yosaku might not be much of a hero, but he's a man of principle; this doesn't go unnoticed by his wife, whom he doesn't realize is the Snow Woman who spared him five years earlier.

Realizing she must save her husband from arrest and imminent death, she learns the son of Governor Mino Gonnokami is gravely ill; none of the renowned physicians have been able to cure his ailment. Using her powers to save as opposed to kill, Yuki nearly dies from exhaustion saving the boy. This underscores the earlier statement regarding intellectualism versus an individual's resolve, their fortitude. Yosaku is able to do on his own what an entire team of artists failed to accomplish. Meanwhile, Yuki, despite her supernatural origins, risks her own life to save the life of a child; a sacrifice not shared by the previous previous doctors'. This won't be the only time Yuki is overcome by compassion. If you're familiar with the tale, you'll know what that is. Speaking of which.....

Yosaku is desperate to finish his statue but cannot complete the face. Upon seeing Yuki in a weakened state hugging their son, he sees the final touches of his artistry he needs in her teary-eyed visage. He sees the compassion his statue sorely lacks. This is the spiritual context mentioned above--the Yokai is evil, but Yosaku's righteousness and purity has melted away some of that icy interior. How ironic that something instinctively cold could possess the warmth required for something innately merciful. It is compassion, even more so than justice, that triumphs over evil, even if it, too, comes with a price.

Elsewhere, the writer adds an elder lady Shaman to remind you of the Yokai's vampiric nature in case you'd forgotten. Kind of an unnecessary character, her inclusion is a bit of foreshadowing, acting mainly as a momentary plot device for the familiar finale as per the source material.  

With all this praise for the director, the script, and the actors who bring the vision to life, there's something to be said of the exceptional special effects. There are none of the requisite in-camera tricks of the YOTSUYA KAIDAN variety. Opticals and other visual trickery bring the apparitional aspects to life. The snow effects combined with matte painting are very impressive. It's a shame director Tanaka didn't do more films in this genre.

The horror sequences with the Yuki Onna are elaborate in their design. Kurokawa Shunji uses lighting effects and shadow to create both an operatic mood and convey emotion--giving the audience an even more complicated version of the Snow Woman. Fujimura Shiho does a fabulous job, graduating with honors from the school of tragic monsters--alongside the likes of the Bride of Frankenstein and certain interpretations of the classic vampire.

You'd think Tanaka, who worked primarily in Chambara pictures, was an old hand at horror. His work here is comparable to the resume of celebrated genre filmmaker, Nobuo Nakagawa. Tanaka did at least one other horror-fantasy picture, the epic THE DEMON OF MOUNT OE (1960)--another collaboration with writer Yahiro Fuji and acting regulars Katsu Shintaro, Raizo Ichikawa, Hasegawa Kazuo and Kojiro Hongo.

Daiei was facing a number of setbacks at that time including mounting debt and the loss of one of their biggest stars, Raizo Ichikawa, to rectal cancer in 1969. The company had produced a number of notable, and expensive movies that garnered Japanese cinema a lot of attention on the international scene including titles like GATE OF HELL (1953), BUDDHA (1961), the DAIMAJIN trilogy and GAMERA series. Despite their decline, THE SNOW WOMAN is one of Daiei's most polished pictures before their dissolution in 1971.

For vintage Japanese horror, THE SNOW WOMAN (1968) is sturdy enough to be spoken of in the same breath as Nakagawa's version of THE GHOST OF YOTSUYA (1959) and Shindo's KURONEKO (1968), to name two classic examples. Engrossing from beginning to end, Tanaka Tokuzo and crew deliver a blizzard of intriguing themes and ideas that seek to do more than freeze your blood.

You can order the film (pre-order, shipping on February 23rd, 2016) here at SamuraiDVD.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

All Hallows' Eve 2 (2015) review


Andrea Monier (Girl in wraparound), Damien Monier (Trickster), Helen Rogers (Elizabeth), Tyler Rossell (Jack), Ron Basch (Jack), Emily Alatalo (Kate), Bob Jaffe (Abraham), Jared Mark Smith (Isaac), April Adamson (Andrea), Robert McLaughlin (Killer), Bill Oberst, Jr. (Sade), Griffin Gluck (Max), Christie Lynn Smith (Loraine), Michael Serrato (Mr. Tricker), Carrie Seim (Monica), Sergio Beron (Dale), Paula Carruega (Melina), Pilar Boyle (Alexia)

Directed by Jesse Baget, Bryon Norton, Antonio Padovan, Marc Roussel, Ryan Patch, Jay Holben, Jon and James Kondelik, Elias Benavidez, Mike Kochanskey, Andres Borghi

The Short Version: The terrifying Art the Clown is sorely missed in this second go-round of tricks and treats; instead, we get a standard slasher substitute that the credits refer to as Trickster, a far less scary, pumpkin mask-wearing killer with zero personality and a major flaw in how he/it fits into the plot. Damien Leone, director of the first ALL HALLOWS' EVE, returns as a producer and continues the anthology format; this time in the vein of THE ABC's OF DEATH with 8 (short) films to die for--all of which vary in quality. The first and last tales are stunning examples of horror and directors to watch for. Higher production values among many of the shorts means this sequel comes out more polished than the first time around. Even so, this 78 minutes (minus 12 minutes of end credits) of All Hallowed Horror is anchored by an incredibly weak wraparound that poorly repeats the one from the first film.

Alone on Halloween, a woman sees a mysterious figure watching her from the street below. Hearing a knock on her door, she finds an old VHS tape left outside her apartment. In an age of DVD and Bluray, she only has a VCR so she pops in the tape to view its contents. As the various stories unfold, the horror film-loving lady receives an unwanted guest later that night.

The first ALL HALLOWS' EVE (2013) was a nifty little experiment, stitching two previously made horror shorts with one new segment to formulate a full-length feature. This sequel does the same, amassing old and new shorts (one of which dates back as far as 2004!) with a newly shot wraparound; only this time, the approach is similar to THE ABCs OF DEATH (2013), with eight shorts, one of which was intended for ABCs OF DEATH 2 (2015). 

This idea of combining short films to make a feature isn't new, though; back in the 1970s, Shaw Brothers of Hong Kong had done the same thing; only in many cases, a film intended for theatrical release would be abandoned for whatever reason, finding an all-new purpose as part of an anthology instead. This happened with such films as FEARFUL INTERLUDE (1975) and their five film CRIMINALS series. It's a bit of economic genius when you think about it, although it doesn't guarantee a brilliant result.

Getting back to ALL HALLOWS' EVE 2, only three of the segments deal with Halloween; not counting the wraparound that simply, and quite lazily, copies the nerve-jangling, and far superior framing device of Damien Leone's original.

In the first AHE, Leone introduced a purely evil villain in the form of Art the Clown. Ostensibly a supernatural entity, Art was, in one way or another, a thematic link in each of the segments in the original movie. For this sequel, Art is abandoned (presumably Leone is using him in a full-length feature tailored for the character) and a new maniac, Trickster, is introduced. Aside from a second or two in between stories, he is only seen in the beginning and ending of AHE2. Compared to Art, Trickster has nothing up his sleeve and nothing to offer to make for an interesting antagonist. A totally weak villain, he is basically a Michael Myers clone wearing a pumpkin mask.

The stories run the gamut in quality as is the norm with anthologies; at least two are absolute crap, a couple average entries, and some truly impressive shorts. The acting is surprisingly good all around, as is the photography. As a whole, ALL HALLOWS' EVE 2 is weaker than its predecessor, but surpasses it in production values. Now about those stories....

The opening of the film presents us with an attractive lady all alone on Halloween tinkering with a Ouija Board seeking answers as to why a guy she's interested in isn't returning her calls. She's immediately interrupted by a noise outside and sees some weirdo wearing a pumpkin mask doing his best Michael Myers impression. She soon gets a knock on her door and not only finds a well-worn VHS tape on her doorstep, but the Michael Myers wannabe standing in the hallway doing that head tilt thing. Seemingly unfazed by this, she casually closes the door and pops the tape in a convenient VCR, ready to watch its contents on her LCD monitor television set.

This framing device dispenses with the babysitter and kids of part 1 to focus on a single woman; and unlike the original, the bits in between each story add nothing to the wraparound. Now, the point of the framer in ALL HALLOWS' EVE was that Art the Clown used the tape to make his way into our world. This sequel replicates that very thing, even though Trickster, as he's referred in the credits, is clearly seen in our reality before the woman ever gets a hold of the tape rendering the last few moments not only meaningless but pointless.


On Halloween Night, a babysitter and the boy she's watching carve a pumpkin with deadly results.

This first segment gets ALL HALLOWS' EVE 2 off to a delightfully morbid start with an 8 minute ghoulash about the dangers of pumpkin carving. Utilizing the urban legend of eating watermelon seeds as a foundation, the filmmakers substitute pumpkin seeds that equal the same disastrous results. The spirit of the holiday is beautifully captured in the short's brief running time. Playfully simplistic, its creativity recalls those 5-10 minute short films you used to see on the USA Network in the 80s used to flesh out a two hour timeslot. One of the best, and the goriest, of the eight segments.


Sometime in the near future, society has fallen into a dystopian nightmare. On Halloween Night, four trick 'r treaters have a sinister surprise in store for those who don't open their doors.

This is another good segment, a flashier version of a TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE (1983-1988) episode; not as enjoyable as the first, and lacking much in the way of a story even though it runs a little longer at 11 minutes. Some sort of apocalypse has taken place and kids, at least these four, still cling to tradition of going door to door for candy on Halloween... only these kids aren't what they appear to be. The main point of interest are some fantastic makeup effects adjoining a nice little punch at the end. Based on a comic book, this is the one short that fills like it's been edited from a longer piece.


A father and son travel deep within the woods one cold, winter night to leave an offering for something dwelling in the forest.... something not human.

The third short explains about as much as the previous entry; and at 7 minutes gets by on minimal tension created before the sort-of payoff. Some choice snowy photography enhance the scenario. Basically this father and son get together to drop off a bowel of fruit, a bird talon, and other items for a midnight rendezvous with whatever it is out in the wilderness. Unfortunately on this occasion, the father forgets one of the ingredients, the most important one. If you recall the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac then you'll know what's happening here. Hovering close to being an above-average entry, this award winning segment, while not showing much, offers a little more than expected.


Andrea goes to visit a friend and discovers she's been murdered and proceeds to hide from the killer who is still inside. Six weeks later the survivor is leaving work late one night and ends up on the elevator with the man she saw murder her best friend.

Arguably the best story of the eight and easily the most intense. Another festival winner, ALL HALLOWS' EVE 2 shows a bit of diversity with this 12 minute suspenser; a short film armed with a high caliber of quality from director Jay Holben. Claustrophobia is the theme, first within the confines of a closet then the main setting of an elevator. Props like a ringing cell phone are key to the terror quotient. The tone is psychological as opposed to supernatural of the preceding shorts.


Three boys go to a bizarre carnival where their attention is grabbed by an attraction called 'The Masochist'. Instead of throwing baseballs to knock down objects, you sling weapons of death to kill a bound and gagged individual.

Originally intended for ABCs OF DEATH 2 (2014/2015), this 3 minute waste of film is the absolute worst story of the bunch. Not putting the utterly bland framer into the equation, 'Masochist' is the first major bump in the road for ALL HALLOWS' EVE 2. The one saving grace is the acting of Bill Olberst, Jr. as the maniacal, rhyming carny beckoning the kids to hurl assorted weaponry at the title abuser tied up on a spinning wheel. Still, one gets the impression that this thoroughly weak segment might make for a better concept stretched out to feature length... akin to other carnival horrors, or something like CIRCUS OF THE DEAD (2015), which happens to star Bill Olberst, Jr.


A small boy with a vivid imagination, still mourning the loss of his military father, tries to convince his mother that a monster resides somewhere in his room.

Aside from the poor showing of the previous tale, 'A Boy's Life' is a major step up in quality, but feels woefully misplaced. Bearing a Spielbergian tone of child-like wonder, Elias Benavidez's mini-movie feels more like a dark episode of AMAZING STORIES (1985-1987) than a full-fledged horror short. Well acted and often touching, the patience of some horror fans will be strained by this story. Considering everything that's come before it (and the two after it) this tale is as alone in its thematics as the little boy in the story. At nearly 20 minutes (edited down from 23), it's the longest of the 8 segments. Again, the diverse styling is welcome, but this one barely qualifies as horror, never really venturing there till the last few seconds, culminating in an abrupt, tone-altering finish.


A neighborhood eccentric has an unusual preference for Halloween decorations.

It's difficult to discern which is worse, the 'Masochist' short or this atrocious 5 minutes of horror(ible). There's this John Wayne Gacy type killer who keeps victims tied up in metal dog kennels; even padlocking them, despite the fact they could easily stand up to escape. Elsewhere, the darkly humorous tone is upset by hinting Mr. Tricker might be doing other things with these young boys than torture and killing them. The narrative thrust is that this neighborhood psycho uses real corpses for his Halloween decor; nor does he let the light of day, out in the open, hinder him from getting into the haunted holiday spirit when an annoying neighbor shows up to admire his work.


Franco's ex-girlfriend, Alexia Thomas, committed suicide a year ago and tonight is her birthday. Already seeing another woman named Melina, Franco peruses Alexia's Facebook page, pondering whether to finally remove himself. Unfriending her, something sinister begins reaching out to him through social media.

Thankfully, ALL HALLOWS' EVE 2 ends its 8 tales on a disturbing high note, closing out with a superbly frightening 10 minute shocker. In this award winner from Spain, THE RING is an obvious influence. It would also appear the makers of the recent UNFRIENDED (2015) have essentially made a feature-length remake of Andre Borghi's short-film skin-crawler. The only negative of ALEXIA, which is no fault of the original filmmaker, is that the producers compiling the shorts couldn't be bothered with adding English subtitles (you can watch it subbed HERE)! This is a shame since ALEXIA is so well made, and manages to tell a story, via a simple Facebook conversation, within a ten minute time-frame. The imagery and grotesque makeup design sells the horror, augmented by nerve-shredding music found in all your finer vengeful ghost movies. Andre Borghi is certainly a talent to look out for.

ALL HALLOWS' EVE 2 (2015) succeeds in a lot of areas but is nearly paralyzed by a couple horrible shorts that are aided and abetted by an incredibly boring, soulless wraparound. The framing device is seemingly the only exclusive footage. It's unfortunate that the high quality of some of the shorts must carry the weight of a weak opening and even weaker ending--two points by which a film should grab you and leave you wanting more. Taking its strengths at face value, celebrating another ALL HALLOWS' EVE could become a holiday tradition.

This review is representative of the RLJ Entertainment DVD. Extras and Specs: 1.85:1/2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; 91 minutes. There are no extras.

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