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  • “CIRCUS OF THE DEAD” (Film Review)

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    A weathered mannequin bust sits atop a vanity table dressed in a police cap and mustache evocative of Adolf Hitler. “Doo Wacka Doo”, a benevolent song from the 1940’s, plays with the scratch-crackle only vinyl records make.  We see a hand dip into a retro can of white cream, painting the face of a woman not fully in view.  With the swirl of an antique Barber chair the disturbingly beautiful masterpiece is finally revealed. A dead woman is seated; head cocked to the side. Her face made up with white clown makeup; a blue color on the tip of her nose.  In her hands a beautiful glass display showcases her crudely extracted heart.

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  • “FIRE CITY: THE INTERPRETER OF SIGNS” (Film Review)

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    To some filmmakers, a low budget is a terrifying thing, constantly ticking away as time and resources quickly work against your grand vision for a story. To others, however, a low budget can be something of a blessing in disguise, allowing ambitious ideas to work within a contained environment. In either case, a low budget warrants resourcefulness from a filmmaker, and in that case, a healthy imagination is always beneficial to roll with the financial and circumstantial punches. And in the case of Tom Woodruff Jr.’s FIRE CITY: THE INTERPRETER OF SIGNS, that imagination is on full display, allowing the Stan Winston alumnus to make a truly vibrant and intriguing story of monsters and men without peeling at the seams of its budget.

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  • “BATES MOTEL: Season 3, Episode 5” (TV Review)

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    While this writer had his doubts here and there, there’s no denying that BATES MOTEL is in a full upswing in their third season, taking a patient yet effective approach of tying together the obligatory White Pine Bay drama to that of the Bates family. Yet over the course of the fifth episode, entitled “The Deal,” the show hits on two essential themes that will likely usher in the horror of the show sooner rather than later. The first theme would be that of growth, with Dylan and Norma both taking large steps in improving their social and emotional standings, at least to a certain point. The second theme would be that of descent, with both Romero and Norman finding themselves on a downward slide into utter desperation. And in the middle lay those on either side of the fence, whether it be Emma, Caleb, Bob Paris, or Chick Hogan.

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  • FANTASTICA Review Round-Up: Arrow Video’s UK Blu Slate!

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    Whether it’s blaxploitation revenge flicks, scathing satire, sci-fi madness or spaghetti westerns, Arrow’s recent Region B Blu-ray slate has it all for fans of ’70s and ’60s cinematic fare. Offering top-tier special features, excellent video transfers and their trademark original mono soundtracks, Arrow is bringing cutting edge and cult classic cinema to high definition, and FANTASTICA recently had the chance to go through ’em all!

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  • “THE ROOMMATES” / “A WOMAN FOR ALL MEN” (Blu-ray Review)

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    Producer/director and eventual distributor Arthur Marks is widely recognized as one of the true innovators of the American exploitation film, having helmed such lurid, brash 70’s classics as DETROIT 9000, J.D’s REVENGE, THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS and MONKEY HU$TLE but his roots lay in network television. Years before Marks made his, er, mark at the drive-in, he was one of the major creative forces behind iconic early TV drama PERRY MASON and it’s that small screen sensibility that is vital to both appreciating and understanding the pair of fantastic and virtually forgotten cult gems found on the revived Gorgon Video’s Marks-centric Blu-ray: 1972’s THE ROOMMATES and 1974’s A WOMAN FOR ALL MEN, both films making their home video premieres here.

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  • “HOOKED UP” (Film Review)

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    If patterns in the studio and independent level are any indications, it seems that found footage is finally descending from the horror zeitgeist. Yet in doing so, many assorted stragglers in the subgenre are finally rising to the surface and, oddly enough, many of these found footage titles are the ones that never quite fit into the genre’s expectations. And luckily for HOOKED UP, the found footage aspect is merely just a conduit for a genuinely tight and terrifying horror tale, and any expectations one might have for HOOKED UP (and the various familiar horror elements) are effortlessly turned on their head.

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  • “CHEATIN'” (FANTASTICA Film Review)

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    Wild sex, bloody violence and some seriously insane twists populate Bill Plympton’s CHEATIN’, but of course, without it, would it really be a Bill Plympton film? Yet while CHEATIN’ carries all the signature aspects of Plympton’s adult and absurd previous work, the film has a bit more substance between the whimsical and wicked moments throughout. And with Plympton’s signature style of animation, the element of voyeurism has never been as immersive, offering a tangible universe that is as bizarre as it is familiar.

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  • “BATES MOTEL: Season 3, Episode 4” (TV Review)

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    After a strong pair of Norman-centric episodes and one weak Norma-and-Romero-centric episode, BATES MOTEL once again kept it’s stride going into its fourth week with a fairly Dylan-centric episode that definitely played to the character’s strength. While everyone does have a chance to shine in this episode, named “Unbreak-able”, there’s much progress made on a narrative and emotional level with Dylan this episode that the oft-brooding character essentially steals the show and offers just the right amount of credible vulnerability. And in doing so, we also get a better insight into Caleb, a character once set up as an underlying antagonist but is now revealing himself to be nothing more than a time capsule of Norma’s maturation.

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  • “SALEM: Season 2, Episode 1” (TV Review)

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    To say that the first season of WGN America’s SALEM pushed boundaries with what could be done on a non-premium cable channel is certainly an understatement. Graphic nudity, insane violence and some top tier practical SFX paired with the living and breathing environment of SALEM made the show a simultaneously provocative and compelling horror series, and with each subsequent episode, the show seemed to raise the bar a little higher in terms of storytelling and controversial content. However, in the second season premiere of SALEM, entitled “Cry Havoc”, that bar is cleared and then some, offering some of the most shocking and intriguing moments on the series to date.

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  • “THE BARBER” (Film Review)

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    Following the demise of the slasher film, torture porn and home invasion horror, serial killer thrillers looked to be next on the chopping block as human-based horror fell out of vogue. After all, successive entries in the genre weren’t necessarily reinventing the wheel, as many of these films shared same stalking and killing scenes beat by beat. But among the monotony of the serial killer subgenre, there’d be one or two diamonds in the rough, bolstered by exceptional performances and an inventive approach that at least played with the audience expectations. Luckily, Basel Owies’ THE BARBER is one of those films, a descent into darkness with some refreshing surprises and suspense along the way.

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  • “BATES MOTEL: Season 3, Episode 3” (TV Review)

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    For a series based on one of the most terrifying schizophrenic killers in cinema history, I really shouldn’t expect the same duality from the narrative quality of BATES MOTEL. However, if the third episode of the third season, “Persuasion,” is any indication, that just might be the case. While I lamented the direction of the seasonal arc in the last episode, with the show once again returning to the “big town with dirty secrets” storyline that’s as tiresome as it is familiar, the third episode gets back on track with the inter-family tension between Norman and Norma seen in the first episode, and finally brings us to a super eerie place for the first time this season.

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