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

    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)

    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)

    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)

    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)

    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)

    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)

    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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    “DIGGING UP THE MARROW” (Blu-ray Review)

    With most films, especially in the horror genre, it’s always best to go in with as little knowledge as possible as to what’s coming as to prevent entering with unfair expectations. After all, as reviewers, we have an obligation to approach all projects for review with an open mind and as little baggage as possible; we’re champions of cinema, and should always be looking to raise it upon our shoulders than push it under our feet. Yet with some films, such as DIGGING UP THE MARROW, the film is so tied into the filmmaker’s DNA that the overall viewing experience will, somehow, someway, be tampered by one’s take on director/star Adam Green. If you’re a fan, or indifferent, or unknowing of Green’s past work, MARROW will work on many levels, and from this writer’s review some weeks back, the film is both a narrative and technical success for Green and Co. But if you’re actively not a fan of Green, MARROW won’t do much to change that, as Green or Green’s properties are referenced in almost every scene in this film.

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    “R100” (FANTASTICA Blu-ray Review)

    There are some movies that within the first five minutes, you’re either 100% in or 100% out. And while Hitoshi Matsumoto’s R100 might initially appear like that kind of movie, the incredibly insane, fantastic and hysterically self-aware places the film prove any savvy viewer would be dead wrong. An cinematic genetic cross between John Waters and Neveldine/Taylor, Drafthouse Films has brought R100 to Blu-ray, allowing any daring viewers can take a trip down R100’s bizarre highway of S&M madness in excellent high definition.

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    “THE WALKING DECEASED” (Film Review)

    At this point, most horror fans have become jaded to the concept of the “horror spoof,” despite becoming jaded with most everything else in the landscape of contemporary horror. And, to be fair, one can’t blame them much: horror fans will frequently avoid spoofs like the plague due to weak and uninspired gags in the marketing, and even sometimes see these parodies as a sign of disrespect to the genre as the filmmakers don’t “understand” what makes horror work. But, as with any film this writer has covered, I approached THE WALKING DECEASED with an open mind, and in doing so, I discovered that not only was DECEASED respectful of its source material, but also genuinely funny.

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    “REBOUND” (Film Review)

    When it comes to independent filmmaking, the dynamic between the familiar and the fresh is always an important one to observe. In this sense, a film can be aware of the subversion it has made to specific expectations or genre tropes, but only after it has become cognizant that the audience should be familiar with the story or subject matter. It’s an odd narrative tug-o-war, yet one seemingly necessary for a majority of genre films, especially ones such as Megan Freels Johnston’s REBOUND.

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