Hellcat’s Revenge (2017)

Long-term readers will remember our Len Kabasinski fandom – he’s one of the stars of low-budget genre filmmaking, and definitely a friend of the site. Bear in mind, though, that we’ve had problems with a few of his movies, and I didn’t exactly love his last one, “Angel of Reckoning”. So, with all that out of the way, I reckon Len has made his best movie to date with “Hellcat’s Revenge”, a tight, fun, sleazy throwback to the biker movie era – with a bit of “Sons of Anarchy” thrown in, I presume (never seen it).

A cold open where we see a woman chased round some empty streets by a few bikers handily illustrates one of the chief problems with low-budget movies – the lack of a closed set. I was all “hey, why doesn’t she get help from that car that’s slowly driving past?” until I realised it was just a car on the street where they were filming and I shouldn’t worry about it. But, this is the only example that springs to mind, which is completely understandable when you’re trying to film on an empty street, at night, in the rain, and need to get your shot quickly.

Anyway. She’s accused of stealing by the extra-sleazy Repo (Mark Kosobucki, one of the main behind-the-scenes guys) and killed, then we discover that she’s the head of the Hellcats, one of this town’s two biker gangs – the others are the Vipers, led by Snake (Kabasinski himself) with Repo one of his main lieutenants. The plot becomes Kat (Lisa Neeld, former Playboy playmate) taking over the Hellcats and trying to figure out who killed her friend and why. There’s a friendly-ish detente with the Vipers, as Kat and Snake have some unspecified history together, so it’s not just all-out war.

I know how difficult it is to find actors when you’ve got no money and never enough time to film, but Kabasinski has done really well here. Along with trusting himself with a larger role (he’s great), he got some great supporting performances from regular Frederick Williams as local mechanic Frank; Adele Crotty, who is presumably a friend of Len’s as she only appears in his movies, as Viper lieutenant Stone; Kosobucki, who you genuinely believe is a wrong ‘un; and Donna Hamblin as tattooist and local gossip merchant Rosie.

When you see a drug deal about to go down, I’d honestly be more impressed if, just once, a movie had one where everyone shook hands, paid for their product and walked away smiling. That would be unusual. But no. Still, it’s a classic scene, and Kabasinski shoots it well. There’s one other classic scene template I wanted to talk about – the strip club. After hoping those ladies were paid well to disrobe, I noticed that Snake really doesn’t seem into it, as a character, and Repo was looking at his phone the entire time a couple of nude women were grinding on him. Was this just the blasé attitude of powerful men or do they realise, it’s 2017 and this sort of thing, while expected of us as the bosses of a biker gang, really ought to be consigned to the history books? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a quiet beer and just talk to these women, find out about them rather than just see their boobs close up?

Or maybe that’s just me. I don’t know. But I feel it’s a reasonable read of the several strip club scenes, and would be an interesting idea for some future biker movie. The reason I even brought this up is it’s Len’s best script, by miles. Often, it seems like he had a title before he had a script – for instance, “Swamp Zombies” pretty much writes itself – but here it feels like something that came out of his fandom and interests, where he tried to give things a little subtext along with delivering on the violence and nudity.

There’s a great denouement in a disused building, some interesting dialogue and a decent final scene. It’s not all perfect (obviously), as some of the fight scenes could either use more skilled performers or slightly tighter editing, but there’s a heck of a lot to like here, and I wouldn’t be opposed to a sequel.

“Hellcat’s Revenge” is just about to have its public world premiere, so if you’re in the area, go along and say hello for me. If not, then KillerWolf Films is a hive of industry at the moment so I’m sure a digital or DVD release will be coming soon.

Rating: thumbs up

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Angel Of Reckoning (2016)

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It’s a warm welcome back for Len Kabasinski, friend of the site and low budget filmmaker extraordinaire. He’s been entertaining us since “Swamp Zombies”, and we recently did a great interview with him. Full disclosure: I got this DVD by taking part in the crowdfunding campaign for Len’s latest movie, should you demand rigorous lack of bias from your low-budget reviewers.

 

After working in every genre under the sun, he’s turned to the grindhouse and the sleazy 70s revenge flick. Rachel (Jessica “Wife of Len” Kabasinski, making only her second significant appearance) is a soldier, coming home for a holiday. She meets a group of people who appear to be her family and friends, despite coming across a bit like they’re vague acquaintances; then goes home to her girlfriend Reagan (Lisa Neeld), although you could be forgiven for thinking they’re just roommates or sisters until she brings Rachel a glass of wine in the nude. Why didn’t you pick her up from the bus station? What sort of crappy girlfriend are you? There are hints that under Rachel’s calm exterior, dark things lurk, as she’s woken up in the middle of the night by uneasy dreams of her military past.

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The revenge element comes from Rachel’s niece Jamie (Khila Freeman). She has a boyfriend who looks nice and clean cut but is actually a cocaine fiend (check out the lines he snorts, they’re huge), and one evening he decides a good idea would be to film a sex tape. Jamie is sadly easily convinced, and when the boyfriend can’t afford his next fix, he gives the sex tape to his dealer James (Mark Kosebucki), who sells it to amateur pornographer Billy (Jawn Gross), who puts it up on a site I neglected to write down, but is something like “xxxtremeteen.com”.

 

Now, I was thinking about this. My neighbours could be porn stars, but I’d never know not only because I’m not into porn, but because there’s millions of sites out there with millions of videos. Is there enough of a market for sex tapes featuring completely ordinary people? Is this a thing that the jaded pornography consumer likes? Anyway, everyone immediately finds out that Jamie was in a porno, which causes her to kill herself.

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Rachel discovers this in a scene where she finds Jamie’s phone and the distraught messages on it. I felt for the poor girl’s pain, even if it was being projected on the screen in text-speak, and I bloody hate text speak. Anyway, it’s like a switch flips in Rachel’s head and she becomes the titular angel of reckoning, going undercover as a stripper, and working her way up the food chain, through low-level dealers to pornographers finally to Beverly (Donna Hamblin), the kingpin of the town. Lots of scenes where “Angel” (as she calls herself) is gyrating around in very little, as well as making friends with the much older Bobbi (Debbie Dutch), who shows her the stripping ropes.

 

The porn “studio” scene is a weird one, as underage girls are drugged and coerced into group sex with ugly guys – again, is there really a market for this stuff? It feels like a scene from the 70s, honestly, as today there seem to be no end of willing participants who don’t need to be lied to about the work they’re getting into. Although, it made me feel unclean, so grindhouse job done!

 

I’d like to lead off with a huge positive. Kabasinski is always willing to learn, and you can see that he has done. “Angel” is cleanly shot, lit well, the sound is fine and the effects are excellent. He’s a director who is, I think, ready for a decent budget and some proper actors – I’d love to see him with SyFy Channel money and stars. “Kabasinski keeps growing as a filmmaker”, if anyone would like a pull quote.

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The “er…” comes in the shape of the acting talent assembled, but I’m not going to criticise someone who had zero money for actors. Kabasinski herself is fine, as is Frederick Williams as Detective Trufont, who’s trying to track down the person killing all the town’s lowlifes (with an honourable mention to his partner, Dave Johnson as Detective Campbell, who does a lot with his little screen time). Jasmine St Claire, who appeared in a couple of Len’s movies way back when, is decent too in her few scenes, but everyone else is presumably a complete amateur and it shows. No biggie, if you’re reading reviews on this site you’ll have seen worse, and as long as you know what to expect it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. It makes it a bit difficult to figure out the motivation of some scenes, is all.

 

Now, I think there’s a negative, but I always thought the 70s grindhouse movies had the same negative, so it might just be Kabasinski aping that style. The editing is pretty bad, I think, with the first action scene taking way too long to come along, and some scenes just going on for ever. One example – at a wake, we see a woman pull up in her car, walk across the lawn, go into the house and put a bowl of food on a table, before wandering into the background. This entire thing could have been done in 1 second – we see a woman putting a bowl of food on a table at what’s obviously a wake – but instead goes on for 30.

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The running time is another one – the thing with grindhouse movies is they often came in at like 75 minutes, barely ever longer than 90. “Angel of Reckoning” is over 100 minutes, which I think is perhaps a bit too long – rather than have Rachel come back just to come back, it could have been for the funeral of her niece, cutting out that entire introductory section? But I’m not an armchair quarterback, so no-one cares about what I think the movie should have been, sorry.

 

This movie does have one of my favourite things in it, though – the scene where actors are watching one of the director’s older movies – in this case, “Skull Forest”. The cinema seems packed, too! So, kudos, and “Angel of Reckoning” wins an “ISCFC Self-Reference Award”!

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While Len gets the mood exactly right, and his technical abilities have come on in leaps and bounds, I can’t call this one a complete success. But, even a non-success from a guy like Len is better than 95% of the studio product currently out there, so I’d definitely recommend supporting independent filmmaking and giving this a try.

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle

 

PS – Len has the rights back to his older movies, and is offering them on his site at http://www.killerwolffilms.com/ for a low price. Read our old reviews and see if anything takes your fancy, but I’m sure you’ll find something decent among them.

Ninja: Prophecy Of Death (2011)

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While we’re waiting for the UK release of “Angel Of Reckoning”, we thought we’d cover one of Len Kabasinski’s earlier movies, 2011’s “Ninja: Prophecy Of Death”. If you’re at all interested in independent genre cinema, or just want more interesting stuff, you should definitely be checking Kabasinski out. Every entertainment penny that doesn’t go to “remake X” is a penny well spent, I reckon. Also, we’ll have a little interview with him soon, so look out for that.

 

It’s been interesting watching him evolve as a filmmaker. While I love “Swamp Zombies”, his first movie, it’s, to be polite, raw technically – he’s come on in leaps and bounds since then. It’s not always perfect (more on that later) but I think from here on out, the only thing holding him back is budget. His stories are strong, and he’s got a good sense of how to film and a desire to do something with the visuals. Imagine him with a top-level B-movie cast and a well-funded crew around him!

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“Ninja” is pure grindhouse-style fun. A mafia family is butchered by a group of ninja, but rather than kill the young girl, they take her with them. That upsets the head of the crew, credited as “The Lost One” (Renee Porada), but rather than listen to her rather sensible objections, they just chop the crap out of her and leave her for dead. She’s discovered by the rest of the gang, led by Angelo (Lanny “brother of Randy Savage” Poffo) and rather than kill her for revenge, Angelo works out a plan.

 

He hires a couple of badass trackers – Colt (Kabasinski) and Shale (Brian Anthony, Kabasinski regular) – and they team up with The Lost One to take down the ninja sect and rescue the girl. The head of the ninja (KK Ryder), who happens to be a little older and a little less human than she appears, has other plans though, and sees something special in the girl. She’s got two ninja lieutenants – unnamed, but played by Darian Caine (a veteran of the “erotic horror” genre) and Deanna Visalle (Kabasinski’s producer at the time, and obviously a good sport), so the battle lines are drawn and we’re on for a good time.

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There’s quite a bit of naked martial arts training in this, including during the opening credits, sort of a grindhouse James Bond. I would’ve assumed that martial arts in the nude would be a bit dodgy? Bits moving about, potentially getting caught on the various weapons being swung about. I appreciate this is a stupid thing to say about nude ladies in a low-budget horror movie. But the big set-piece fights are really well done – there’s a strong sense of knowing where everyone is, and who’s fighting who and why, which is a rare thing indeed for movies of this sort. My favourite bit is when Colt’s house is invaded by ninja, and rather than messing about with a sword just starts shooting at them (a nice reminder of the famous scene from “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”). And wow, are those ninjas cannon-fodder-esque! She must have hundreds of them knocking about, because our heroes go through them like knives through warm butter and there’s always plenty more.

 

My biggest complaint with this would be sound, which is incredibly indistinct in places, to the point quite a few lines go by unheard. Laying music on top of the poor-quality dialogue to make it even harder to hear was a strange choice – but according to IMDB, there were severe post-production delays which almost led to Kabasinski shelving the film permanently, and when you’ve got no money for reshoots or ADR, you take what you can get. It could have done with a bit of trimming in places, perhaps, as there’s at least one scene which starts with people who’d just been told “action!” but hadn’t started moving yet. And honestly, I’d have used dutch angles a little bit less, and perhaps gone easier on the super-jiggly handheld stuff – but this is small potatoes, and perhaps the headache I had yesterday made it feel worse than it was.

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But there’s no sense dwelling on these sort of problems. When you watch low-budget movies, you should adjust your expectations accordingly – Michael Bay’s sound and visuals are perfect, yet his movies are dull as hell. What I really enjoyed was the acting – Anthony, Kabasinski, Caine, Ryder and Porada were all really good, and helped sell the story. And, considering his entire acting career is this and “Curse Of The Wolf”, Poffo’s totally fine too. He has a good look for a gang boss, shame he never bothered carrying on with acting.

 

Lots of fun, made with real passion for the genre, and absolutely worth both your time and money.

 

Rating: thumbs up

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Wendigo: Bound By Blood (2010)

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Because I often mock low-budget filmmakers and actors for not caring, I want to tell a story about people who do care. The ancient Native American spirit of the Wendigo has possessed a woman, played by Deanna Visalle. She films a scene where, entirely naked, she runs through snowy woodland. Now, standard B-movie fare, in one sense; but Visalle is also the producer of this movie, and the director, Len Kabasinski, shot the scene on a 30 minute lunch break from his day job. Can you imagine any other director and producer making a movie in such circumstances? My hat is doffed to both of them.

 

As we’re close to the release of ISCFC favourite Len Kabasinski’s new movie “Angel of Reckoning”, we thought we’d catch up with the rest of his oeuvre and encourage you, dear reader, to drop a few dollars on it when it comes out (or buy the newly re-edited and remastered “Apocalypse Female Warriors”, which is great). Len’s a nationally-ranked martial artist and makes movies in whatever time he can find, but is differentiated from the mass of other low-budget filmmakers by a couple of things. First, he has a sense of humour; second, he seems absolutely willing to learn from his mistakes and constantly improve; and third, he obviously loves this stuff, and isn’t following trends.

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It’s nice that he’s willing to learn from his mistakes, because sad to say “Wendigo: Bound By Blood” has a fair few of them. It’s worth watching, but be prepared to lean your head to the side a bit, as the use of dutch angles is so prevalent I was beginning to wonder if the entire world was skewed and I was seeing it wrong. And, one of the main actresses appears to blow a line in the monologue which is repeated at the beginning and end of the movie – that what we saw was the best take indicates some tough decisions must have been made.

 

But never mind that for now. After the monologue explaining to us what the wendigo is, we meet a couple who are hiking through the woods, completely lost. The guy says at one point that they’ve been walking for two days, but they appear to have a tent and are able to make fire, so…did they just lose their food? The people from “Alive” went a lot longer before they started seeing their companions as giant floating burgers and legs of chicken. So, he’s about to carve his girlfriend up for dinner but the Wendigo possesses her and just straight up eats him. I think – my DVD had a pretty bad stutter in the first half of the movie and I feel like I missed a few things.

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The Wendigo doesn’t really play much of a part in the rest of proceedings – unless it possessed one of the main cast during a DVD stutter, which is entirely possible. The story we get, though, is an interesting one. A man and a woman are witnesses to some mob crime and have been brought to the snowy wastes by a couple of Feds to keep them safe; however, he’s secretly in the employ of the Mob and is leading a group of assassins, led by the Len himself (under the screen name Leon South)  to where they are. At the same time, the local Sheriff (Brian Anthony, a Kabasinski regular) is investigating one of the Wendigo’s kills, and falls into a partnership with a native Doctor, Angeni Stonechild (Cheyenne King). These three stories circle each other until they come together in a pretty badass final shootout in and around a cabin.

 

Firstly, it’s an interesting change of style for Kabasinski. He’s out in the snowy woods, and it’s a more deliberately paced style he’s gone for, usually being one of the few low-budget directors who fills his movies with incident. It looks great, apart from the dutch angles (which smarter film critics than me have already told him about, so I won’t bang on about it too much), and I like that he’s trying new things.

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The acting is really ropey in places, though. Anthony is fine, King tries her best (blown line notwithstanding) and, once again, “Leon South” is the strongest actor in one of his own movies. He reminded me of David Caruso from “CSI: Miami”, but as a psychotic assassin, and I enjoyed every bit of his performance. Everyone else, on the other hand…they’re about as good as you’d expect for a movie made on a shoestring budget by people snatching time wherever they could. I did like that the two witnesses hated each other, and there’s a few nice touches that make it through the acting haze. There’s some good martial arts too – Len is clearly a pro, and he tries his best to make his opponents look like a million bucks even when they’re, to put it mildly, not natural screen fighters.

 

Bear in mind this criticism is coming from someone deep in the hole of low-budget genre cinema, so you may see this and go “what the hell is he talking about?” If you can ignore the occasionally less-than-stellar special effects and non-acting, there’s a lot to enjoy here. The scene where we find the first body is really nicely shot, and the use of music has vastly improved over such work as “Curse Of The Wolf”. Plus, the writing is strong, even if I’m still not entirely sure what happened to the Wendigo.

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I appreciate times are hard for us all, but if you have some spare entertainment money, there are many worse ways to spend it than on some KillerWolf movies. Maybe don’t start here, give “Swamp Zombies” and “Apocalypse Female Warriors” a go first, and if you like them maybe move on to this.

 

Rating: thumbs up

Apocalypse Female Warriors (2009)

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If you’ve read many of our reviews here, you’ll know we’re big fans of Len Kabasinski, the micro-budget director who’s brought us many fun genre movies. We’ve even reviewed this before, under its original title, “Warriors of the Apocalypse”, so please read our initial review here.

 

Why are we reviewing it again? Well, Kabasinski decided the initial release wasn’t up to scratch (it does seem like the original post-production was quite troubled), so decided to re-edit and improve some of the special effects. If I’m reading the IMDB page right, it’s also a bit shorter than the original, clocking in at a splendidly trim 74 minutes.

 

No sense recapping what we’ve already written (as nothing significant or plot-dependent has been changed), so let’s talk technical stuff. Everything works a lot better! The fights snap along, and the editing is top-notch; while I haven’t done a strict comparison between the two, it feels like hundreds of changes were made. The special effects, although still definitely at the cheap end of things, look sharper, the blood looks more realistic and the explosions (which I liked before) also look a little improved.

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I want to give Len Kabasinski some praise. There aren’t a ton of filmmakers who’d be happy with someone coming in and re-editing their movie and tweaking the special effects, but that’s what he did with Chris Young (who joins Len on one of the DVD’s new commentary tracks). From the – admittedly little – I know about him, he seems a remarkably ego-free guy, who’s happy to learn from anyone and everyone.

 

Additional praise goes to inviting the Red Letter Media guys to do the other commentary track. Even though Mike, Rich and Jay are clearly fans, they’re also totally honest about all the technical shortcomings, and honest commentaries are a rare thing. Being a fan of Red Letter Media too, it was cool to hear them talk about it, and they gave plenty of insights into the making of micro-budget movies, as well as wandering down many conversational paths (how they’d probably fail to survive an apocalypse was a highlight). They’re funny guys and their commentary is well worth listening to (as is Len’s).

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One of the things about grindhouse and 80s / 90s shot-on-video stuff is that they were often pretty short. Donald Farmer’s early movies clocked in at under an hour, and the history of low-budget cinema is littered with 70-75 minute gems. Okay, it’s not all of them, or even most, but it’s not necessarily bad to have your movie come in at that length. I think a few low-budget moviemakers, perhaps worried about selling to TV and their 2 hour (with commercials) slots, have forgotten this, and we have been subjected to many “hey, the lead’s sister is trying to get to this place for some reason” subplots which go nowhere and add nothing. What I’m getting at in a roundabout way is that there are thousands of movies which could benefit from what Kabasinski has done with “Apocalypse Female Warriors”, and that’s trim all the fat. Exciting 75 minute movies are better than sort-of-okay 90 minute ones (although I liked the original version just fine, this is much improved).

 

It’s available where all good movies are sold, and I highly recommend it. Support low-budget filmmaking, because if you don’t then we’ll have nothing left to review.

 

Rating: thumbs up

Warriors Of The Apocalypse (2009)

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If I lived anywhere near Len Kabasinski, I wouldn’t be a film reviewer. I’d be volunteering on his movies or begging him to give me a job, because the amount of invention he can get out of non-professional casts and budgets that wouldn’t pay for a day of the average big Hollywood movie is a joy to behold.

According to the people at Killerwolf Films, this is being remastered and slightly recut this year, but the one thing I noticed is the increasing confidence in the use of special effects from his previous movie, “Fist Of The Vampire”; so I’m really looking forward to the new version. Heads explode and bullets fly about and things blow up, and it all looks good.

Luca (Darian Caine), Spring (Pamela Sutch), Vick (Amara Offhaus), and Carrie (Renee Porada) are trying to survive in a post- World War 3 wasteland, with zombies wandering about and all sorts of gangs of people who have made their own little societies. They’re trying to get to the last remaining city, as they’re tired of fighting and want to relax, have lives (and get drunk and laid, which I had a chuckle at).

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The bulk of the movie is them fighting their way towards the city, and on top of previously mentioned problems, there’s Rollins (Debbie D), the dictator of the city, sending out her goons (including chief goon Largent, played by Kabasinski himself) to stop the girls. It seems that, despite the city behind her looking huge, she doesn’t want any more people in it. For shame, Rollins! They do get the odd bit of help though, including the prisoner they rescue, Harris (Brian Anthony), who knows the back entrance to the city.

I love the little oddities in this movie. Early on, they blow up a building where they were previously held captive – only problem is, they light the gas trail while they’re still in the building, causing them to have to run for their lives (a cool visual, I suppose, but…) And in tribute to martial arts movies of yore, when there’s a 20-on-1 fight the 20 fight one at a time, to give the 1 a decent chance of survival. I love it! And my favourite crazy credit – “Assistant to Len Kabasinski – Everyone”.

But what I really liked is seeing the ways Killerwolf movies improve. Kabasinski is a good actor and I hope one day he headlines one of his own movies, but he’s coming along as a director as well. The use of special effects is much stronger here, and there’s the way the fight scenes are filmed – there’s lots of interesting use of angles to capture the impact of the big moves, and as he hires a lot of real martial artists the fights themselves look strong. The scene in the lift near the end is a little gem of editing too.

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I mean, if you look at it one way it could be seen like the typical micro-budget “people in the woods” movie we cover on here, and if you’re looking for stuff to mock, you’ll no doubt find a few things. But that’s definitely the wrong way to look at it! It’s fun, fast-paced and there’s a real love for genre movies and martial arts that shines through. I’d definitely recommend checking this out – available from a streaming service or DVD sales place near you now. And check out Killer Wolf Films for more information on what they’re up to now.

Rating: thumbs up

 

PS – this is, oddly, not the first film we’ve reviewed with this exact title. Check out our review of the 1985 “Warriors Of The Apocalypse”, one of the odder Filipino exploitation movies, here.

Fist Of The Vampire (2007)

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I’m not sure either of these people appear in the movie

It’s been a long time since we watched one of Len Kabasinski’s films, partly because I’m broke and couldn’t afford any new DVDs, and partly because the last one (Curse of the Wolf) was pretty ropey. But luckily there was a sale, and here we are!

The film starts in 1977, and a gang of vampires are munching on some unfortunate lady in an alley, when wandering into the scene is a businessman on his way home from work. Why was he in a filthy alleyway? Shortcut? Anyway, he escapes only to lead the vampires to his house, and his entire family is wiped out.

Right away, you have a choice. Very little effort is made to dress any of the scenes to look like 1977 – there are modern cars on the street, most of the clothes don’t look time-appropriate, main vampire Nicholas (pro wrestler Brian “Blue Meanie” Heffron) looks like he wandered out of a Limp Bizkit video…so you can dismiss it as yet another ultra-low-budget horror, turn it off and go about your day. Or you can let the small stuff slide, because this is clearly not a film designed to turn a quick buck for its creators, and have yourself a good time.

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I chose the latter (obviously) and got to enjoy the present day tale of DEA Agent Lee tracking down the gang thanks to their drug-dealing activities, and getting involved in the underground fight club they have going on. Lee’s first time on screen is him wiping out a house full of dealers, and it’s really well-done – everything’s timed well, the choreography of the fights is great, and it wouldn’t look out of place in a much bigger-budget film (well, they’d have to replace the rubbish-looking gunshot effects, but you know what I mean).

It’s easy to mock the efforts of films like this, because they’re made for basically no money and people are hired to act who can fight, rather than to fight who can act. But there’s a real sense here that he’s developing a style. There’s plenty of unusual effects – from a sort-of bullet time thing, to the final fight being so hard-hitting that the film appears to break; during a gun battle in a video store Len’s other films are on prominent display, and the drug dealers at the beginning are watching “Swamp Zombies”.

But…there are a few fun things to spot in this movie. Agent Lee moves to Pennsylvania to pursue Nicholas and his gang, and we see an attractive female neighbour bring him some brownies as a welcome to the neighbourhood sort of thing. The only other time we see her is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her moment as Lee is getting out of bed and she’s asleep next to him – you sly dog, you! We get a glance at the camera from a chap counting up drug money, and if you like you can wonder at just how high-class this apparently high-class underground fight club is by the clothing choices of the people who attend. And Agent Lee’s DEA handler does everything other than have a scene inside the DEA building – he’s in dirty phone booths and on park benches and does the poor guy not actually have an office? Government cutbacks? I do like the effect though of him always being on the move.

This is the first film where I wish Kabasinski had a bigger budget not because of the effects, but because of the scope of the movie. The vampire gang seem to keep on killing people who they shouldn’t be killing, almost by accident, and the story of them falling to pieces as a group could have been really compelling (although one could wonder why they’d suddenly started doing this after being fairly quiet for 30 years). Perhaps it’s the presence of another undercover cop in their midst?

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This is, I think, Kabasinski’s best film yet. The man is a workhorse – actor, writer, director, producer, fight co-ordinator, and location manager! He’s come along quite a lot as an actor, so I’d be interested in seeing him star in a movie in the future too.

You definitely have to look past the bargain-basement special effects and occasionally woeful acting, but once you do you’ll see a group of people who clearly are doing it out of love, and who are starting to develop a bit of style. It’s just a load of fun to watch and as far as underground fight-club-vampire-drug-dealer films go, it’s the best (a quote for a future DVD release, there).

Rating: thumbs up

EDIT: I was overly harsh to the initial set dressing in the flashback scene, and am happy to alter some of the wording after Len set me straight (see below).

Curse Of The Wolf (2006)

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We here at the ISCFC love Len Kabasinski. He’s a former nationally-ranked martial artist who’s moved into filmmaking, and his very low budget films have, despite their flaws, become favourites with us. We’ve already reviewed “Swamp Zombies” and now it’s time for this, his second film.

Dakota is a werewolf with a problem – the problem being she doesn’t really want to be a werewolf any more. She tries to escape her pack, but they are oddly determined to keep her around – eventually, though, she makes her escape, and starts a new life for herself working at a vet’s office. There, she has friends and access to the heavy-duty animal tranquiliser which allows her to control her transformations, and all seems well for 6 months…until the act of protecting her friend from some goth rapists sets a chain of events in motion that brings her old pack back into her life.

So far, so good, but it’s at this moment things go a little odd. While trying to escape the pack she runs into a nightclub, where the owner of the place and his assistants / bouncers take a shine to her, and then get involved in the fight between her and the other werewolves. Their motivation is a little unclear, although I admit I’m a bit sleep-deprived and probably missed that part – I discover from reading that they’re drug dealers, and they’re annoyed with the werewolves for killing one of their couriers. That this doesn’t come through on the screen is hopefully reflected by the tone of this paragraph! Once again, Kabasinski’s love of pro wrestling shows in his casting choices, with not only Brian “Blue Meanie” Heffron returning as the comic relief werewolf, but Lanny Poffo playing the nightclub owner.

Lanny Poffo! Old school wrestling fans will remember him as The Genius, who read bad poetry from a scroll every week; and even older-school wrestling fans will remember him as Leapin’ Lanny Poffo. He’s the brother of the vastly more famous Randy Savage, and up to this film had never acted before (and only did it afterwards once, in another Kabasinski film).

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It appears the technical side of Len Kabasinski has regressed since “Swamp Zombies”, if anything. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume there were some severe problems during filming, with sound recording (some of the dialogue is absolutely impossible to understand), some terrible day-for-night scenes (time restraints?) and a really properly dreadful cast. Pretty much top-to-bottom, they’re wooden and completely unbelievable – honourable exceptions being Darian Caine (as Ivy) and Len himself. I appreciate good actors cost, but I just think he got really unlucky with the people who he was able to get for this one – every now and again, you’ll luck onto someone like Monica Picirillo (from “Swamp Zombies”) but most of the time you’ll get a whole bunch of people who look like they don’t want to be there. The occasionally ropey gore effects are hidden by the fact that most scenes only use natural light, meaning every indoor scene is murky as hell.

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as “Swamp Zombies”, that’s for sure. It’s confusing, the sound and picture are poor, and the acting is amateurish at best. But it’s not all bad – Kabasinski is a student of martial arts and action cinema and is able to shoot his fights clearly, so you can see everything that’s going on, and he choreographs them well too. His love for making films is clearly apparent too, and I’d still take one of his over one of Michael Bay’s, any day.

I’ll see you all for his next film, “Fist Of The Vampire”, okay?

Rating: thumbs down (sorry)

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