The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater
3 star(s), 111 minutes, Amazon Prime
A throwback to the days when movie fans would spend hours wandering the local Blockbuster looking for a title they had never seen before, “The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater” owes a debt of gratitude to every direct-to-VHS title from the 1980s that proudly featured a strong female character running circles around her clueless male colleagues and adversaries.
Written by Lorrisa Julianus, who plays dominatrix Ava Moriarty, and directed by her husband, C.J. Julianus, “Mistress Maneater” is a solid first feature that spotlights ample room for creative growth. It’s a beguiling film that manages to artfully dance around its more provocative elements (although a little more focus on Moriarty’s BDSM proclivities would have been welcome) and recovers quickly whenever the script hits a lull. While the acting is a little uneven, there are moments throughout that ring true, none more so than when Ava finishes up with a client and stands in a hotel hallway, shedding her thigh-high boots, before getting into a packed elevator full of judgmental stares. If you've ever been to FetishCon, Tampa Bay's annual ode to debauchery, that happens at least 50 times a day.
“The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater” isn’t a perfect movie, but it deserves to be championed because it’s clear that Lorrisa and C.J. both have talent, and I’m excited to see what they do next.
3 star(s), 101 minutes, Streaming
“Kindred” is the perfect throwback to the good old days of gothic Hammer Horror. Director/co-writer Joe Marcantonio’s thriller focuses on a mixed-race couple, Charlotte (Tamara Lawrence) and Ben (Edward Holcroft), who plan to leave the United Kingdom for a fresh start in Australia, much to the chagrin of Ben’s overbearing aristocratic mother, Margaret (Fiona Shaw) and her stepson, Thomas, whom Ben refuses to recognize as family. When Charlotte experiences an unimaginable tragedy shortly after learning she’s pregnant, Margaret and Thomas essentially take over her life. Marcantonio expertly leans into the disparity between Margaret’s wealth and Charlotte’s working-class immigrant roots, and allows his audience to feel the despair and fear slowly ratchet within Charlotte as she realizes her new caregivers may be helping her to lose touch with reality.
3 star(s), 87 minutes, Streaming
Sylas Dall’s ambitious debut, “They Reach,” feels like a long-lost Amblin Entertainment release. Set in 1979, this period creature feature is part “Gremlins,” part “Stand by Me,” and owes a debt to cult classics like “The Gate.” Not every creative decision works, but Dall’s young cast is impressive and who doesn’t love a good campfire story about the (very real) monsters under the bed?
1 star(s), 94 minutes, Streaming
A group of high school classmates reunite years later for a camping trip. Following a night of hard partying, the group wakes up to discover that one of their high school teachers has strapped each of them into a suicide vest laden with explosives. Each vest has a counter, and some counters have more time than others. Only one person can survive, which means the assortment of stereotypical characters must either bargain with or just kill one another to essentially steal everyone else’s time before they too explode. Trust me, this synopsis is way better than the actual movie, which wastes almost an hour without any of the annoying characters blowing up.
2 star(s), 97 minutes, Streaming
Writing/directing duo Jeff Kerr and Ray Spivey’s first feature, “Writer’s Block,” has a made-for-TV feel. What I mean, basically, is that their story could easily be the premise of an hour-long detective serial, instead of a 90-plus-minute movie. Author Skip Larson (Craig Nigh) is still living off the high of a successful first novel, while his personal life falls apart due to alcohol. Then he receives an invitation from acclaimed novelist, Chester Everett McGraw (Mike Gassaway), who wants Skip to move onto his spacious secluded ranch property and help Chester finish a sequel to one of his most famous books. The cool thing about “Writer’s Block” is that it perfectly captures the tribulations that struggling wordsmiths encounter when inspiration is fleeting. The redundant thing about “Writer’s Block” is that the movie is basically the umpteenth variation of “The Most Dangerous Game,” with Chester essentially conning Skip and others before him so that he can steal their work, kill them and get all the credit.
1 star(s), 91 minutes, Streaming
It makes sense why “Spell” is just a huge mess of a movie that fails spectacularly on every level. It was written by Kurt Wimmer, who mangled the recent remakes of both “Total Recall” and “Point Break,” and who hasn’t been attached to a good guilty pleasure since 2006’s wacky mindfuck “Ultraviolet.” But the problems with “Spell” go beyond Wimmer’s lethargic script. This is a movie about a high-profile black attorney, Marquis (Omari Hardwick, “Power”), who is rich enough to own his own plane, who grew up in rural Appalachia and was raised by an estranged father who practiced homegrown hoodoo. Instead of focusing on Marquis’ conflicted relationship with magic, and introducing viewers to a rarely seen world through his eyes, “Spell” just embraces every tired trope imaginable. Instead of explaining anything to its audience, “Spell” just trots out hoodoo dolls, bizarre incantations and a bunch of blood moon ritual mumbo jumbo without providing any context.
2.5 star(s), 71 minutes, Streaming
This Spanish thriller, originally released in 2017 in Germany, follows a young woman with an overly private boyfriend whom she suspects is cheating on her. The reality is much worse. It’s bloody, brutal and briskly paced at barely more than an hour long, but “Compulsion” feels overly familiar and lacks a defining moment to distinguish itself within the serial killer/women in peril genres.
Welcome to the Circle
2 star(s), 93 minutes, Streaming and Blu-Ray
Movies about cults often tend to be fantastic (see “Martha Marcy May Marlene”) or interminable (see “The Other Lamb”). “Welcome to the Circle,” at least, introduces some unexpected elements (parallel dimensions, creepy mannequin people), but it never gets batshit crazy enough to truly capture your attention.
Also Available as of Nov. 3
The True Adventures of Wolfboy This PG-13 coming-of-age tale about acceptance and accepting when you look totally different than everybody else is now streaming.
Cold Light of Day: Limited Edition This British cult favorite about serial killer Dennis Nilsen is new to Blu-Ray from Arrow Video.
Daughters of Darkness: Limited Edition 4K Ultra HD his classic 1971 gothic vampire erotica is now available from cult distributor Blue Underground in a deluxe, three-disc 4K Ultra HD upgrade.
The Last Starfighter: Remastered One of the best science fiction films from the 1980’s is now on Blu-Ray from Arrow Video.
Lake Michigan Monster It’s true, we love Ryland Brickson Cole Tews’s irreverent and hysterical ode to monster movies from the 1950s, and now you too can own it courtesy of Arrow Video.
John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at Blood Violence and Babes.com, on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes or on Twitter @BVB_reviews.