• Song Of Solomon (Unearthed Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Unearthed Films
    Released on: August 14th, 2018.
    Director: Stephen Biro
    Cast: Gene Palubicki, James Van Bebber, Jessica Cameron, Andy Winton, David McMahon, Maureen Pelamati
    Year: 2017
    Purchase From Amazon

    Song Of Solomon - Movie Review:

    Writer/director Stephen Biro’s Song Of Solomon (which began life as the fourth entry in the
    American Guinea Pig series) opens with a scene wherein a young woman named Mary (Jessica Cameron) witnesses the suicide of her father (played by writer/director Stephen Biro). It’s not pretty – he slices open his throat and pulls his tongue out – but before he does that, he rambles at her a fair bit. The camera pans around to the side of her bed and we notice some sickly black liquid running down the side of her white sheets.

    From here, things get even worse for Mary. Her mother Susan (Maureen Pelamati) has noticed strange behavior and called in a doctor to check her out. While questioning Mary about her sleepwalking and other strange habits, he initially thinks this is caused by the trauma she’s undergone… until her eyes change completely. From here we cut to the secluded residence of Roman Catholic priest Father Blake (Jim Van Bebber), a recluse more interested in tending to his parish than in politics. When he gets an unexpected visit from The Ordinary (Andy Winton, who appeared in the earlier American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock), a high-ranking church official, asking him to perform an exorcism he is, at least initially, not interested – until he’s told of its importance and handed one of the three sacred golden Bibles of Antioch. Blake travels to Mary’s home and begins the ceremony with some help from assistant Father Lawson (Scott Gabbey from American Guinea Pig: Bouquet Of Guts And Gore) but it does not end well.

    From there, Father Corbin (Gene Palubicki) and later Father Powell (David E. McMahon) are sent in to complete the exorcism, but there’s much more to this than either man of the cloth could have ever realized.

    More than just a gore film (though it is still very much a gore film, Song Of Solomon starts off like a fairly standard clone of The Exorcist but, after the first half hour or so, takes things in its own interesting and twisted direction. It’s clear that Biro has done a lot of research here, not just on actual Roman Catholic exorcism rites (he’s publicly stated that he used De Exorcismus Et Supplicationibus Quirbusdam as a source), but on the Book Of Revelation as well, and on other, somewhat more esoteric, aspects of Christian faith and ideology. While you hardly have to be a Bible scholar to appreciate the film, there are interesting layers to this that make it more interesting than it would be otherwise, had it simply been a well-made atrocity exhibition. There’s a bit more depth to the story than you’ll probably expect, and it all leads up to an ending that is not only appropriately shocking but also quite fitting – it even ties into film’s title in an interesting way.

    Performances are not perfect, but the good outweighs the bad. Jessica Cameron really stands out here – she’s clearly completely committed to the part and does a really good job in the lead. She’s subtle when the movie calls for it and over the top when the need arises. It’s interesting to watch her work with the script and dialogue, twisting it and delivering it in a pretty convincing fashion. She was also clearly subjected to a lot of makeup and effects work but doesn’t let that do the work for her. Van Bebber, who shares top billing with Cameron, seems a little sleepy in his earliest moments but definitely goes all in when the time calls for it. Once he starts the exorcism proper, he’s strong in the role. Gene Palubicki (who also had a part in Bloodshock) steals a scene or two as Corbin, one of the film’s more interesting characters. He’s a pretty intense actor and does not hold back here, approaching scenery chewing territory a few times but never, thankfully, taking things there. This guy could potentially carry a film as a lead if given the opportunity. Palubicki, a musician who has performed with Angelcorpse and Perdition Temple, also contributes to the soundtrack. David E. McMahon is okay in his part as well, not amazing, but okay – to be fair, without spoiling things his part is… different. Definitely trickier than any sort of priestly role you can think of from other exorcism pictures. Maureen Pelamati, another Bloodshock carry over, feels miscast here. We’re never convinced she’s all that scared about her daughter’s plight and while there’s a reason for that, while she’s going through it and dealing with all of this, it would have made more sense had she at least put on the illusion – though that could be the way that the character was written.

    The practical effects – and they do appear to be completely practical – are excellent. Marcus Koch and Toe Tag Pictures’ Jerami Cruise really earned their paychecks on this one, producing some disgustingly realistic looking work that takes the obscenity inherent in some of what we see play out on screen to the next level. Overall production values are good for a movie that was made on a modest budget. The score works and the cinematography is solid. Special mention should also be made of the costuming, as the priests in the movie look like they’re wearing actual proper robes and not cheap Halloween store costumes.

    Song Of Solomon - Blu-ray Review:

    The movie was shot digitally on 4k and as such, there’s no print damage or grain to note. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition picture is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and while it was shot on a modest budget, the quality is quite good. Color reproduction is excellent and black levels are nice and deep. It looks like the digital production that it is but we can’t fault the image for that. Skin tones look just fine and while there’s a bit of judder in some of the panning shots, overall the picture is quite stable. Detail is also pretty strong, most noticeably in close up shots but also in medium and long-distance shots as well. There aren’t any obvious compression issues to complain about nor any odd filtering. All in all, the picture quality here is pretty solid.

    Audio chores are handled by a PCM 2.0 Stereo track. There are a few lines where Cameron’s growled dialogue is a little tough to decipher but at the same time, if it were crystal clear she wouldn’t sound possessed so we won’t say that’s a strike against the mix, more of an observation. Otherwise, no complaints. The instrumental score used in the picture sounds quite good as do the sound effects. The track is properly balanced and free of any hiss or distortion. There are no alternate language options or subtitles of any kind provided.

    Extra features are plentiful, starting with an audio commentary featuring writer/director Stephen Biro and SFX artists Marcus Koch and Jerami Cruise. The effects guys start off by talking about how it was the first time that they had collaborated before then offering up some pretty detailed specifics about what went into the different effects set pieces that are featured in the picture. It’s a reasonably technical track, where they talk about the difficulty of controlling blood spray, what the location they used for the shoot was like (and what was good and bad about working there), setting up an effects shop nearby the main set, and difficulty of working in Florida heat, where the ‘Golden Bible Of Antioch’ came from, how the lizard the shows up early in the movie looks like CGI but is in fact an actual lizard that showed up during the shoot and how impressed they were with the cast. They talk about who did what on the shoot, with Marcus doing most of Cameron’s body work because he lived out in Los Angeles with her, how they made silicone eyes for Van Bebber to rip out, recycling black goop to be re-used later on the shoot, how there’s a mistake in the movie by not showing a certain character unsheathing a knife and how much fun it was to make Cameron puke her own guts up and then eat them (“She was actually gagging… which was awesome!”).

    A second commentary teams Biro up with actress Jessica Cameron, joined by her dog (who she found on the set and named Solomon). Biro talks about playing the part in the opening scene and how he hates acting, how the movie was shot mostly in sequence, shooting on location in Crystal River, Florida, grabbing certain wardrobe requirements from Wal-Mart, the trickiness of the contacts that Cameron’s character required (apparently they were huge) and how appreciative they both are of the support that they had from fans and friends. They also talk about how they had hoped Cameron would be seeing the film for the first time while doing the commentary (that didn’t work out), how so many exorcism films don’t bother to read up on the reality of what happens during an exorcism and how important it was to Biro to showcase that (and how he hopes viewers will give the movie repeat watches), their admiration for what the effects team brought to the movie, shooting close-up shots after the fact in Biro’s apartment and matching them to the rest of the footage and plenty more. This track is a lot more anecdotal than the other track but it covers plenty of different ground making it worth listening to.

    From there, jump into four interviews, the first with actress Jessica Cameron running twenty-one minutes in length. She talks here about working with Biro, her thoughts on the specific details he brought to the project and how involved he was in getting the ‘exorcism’ aspect of the production right. She shares her thoughts on the script, what it was like working with Cruise and Koch (she describes them as ‘geniuses and masters of their craft’), how uncomfortable it was to be tied to a bed for as long as she was, her thoughts on pretty much all of her co-stars, what the different crew members brought to the production, and the joys of having to vomit in character.

    Up next is an interview with writer/director Stephen Biro that lasts for twenty-four-minutes. He talks about how this picture was a passion project, how his Christian faith played a huge part in getting this project off the ground, and why the movie is such a personal project for him. He gives some information about how the movie was supposed to be the fourth film in the American Guinea Pig series, how the AGP banner tends to push viewers away, and how with this picture they hoped to get more horror fans than they were able to reach with some of the earlier entries in the line. From there he goes on to talk about what it was like working with some of the cast on the picture, how he got into directing, his relationship with Marcus Koch and the importance that plays to the series, how he tried to bring something different to the genre with this movie, and of course, working with Van Bebber and Cameron as well as the other principal actors in the film. He also covers cooking! Like Cameron’s piece, it’s in-depth, sincere and interesting. Oh, and as Biro notes, pay attention to the dialogue in the film. It’s a lot more theologically layered than it might at first seem.

    After that, we get an interview with special effects artist Marcus Koch where he starts off the twenty-eight-minute piece by talking about how he got to know Biro when he walked into the video store that he used to run. He talks about how they bonded over the selection that Biro had of crazy, rare films, while enjoying a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, how things went ‘legit’ with the birth of Unearthed Films, and how eventually they started working together. From here, the talks about law suits, drama and the release of 100 Tears (which features a clown with a really giant terrifying cleaver in it!), and then collaborating on American Guinea Pig series. There’s talk here about reaction both good and bad to the first movie, what both he and Biro are able to bring to the films and how it works well together, how Biro’s personal interest in theology and religion had a huge effect on the way that Song Of Solomon played out, how he worked with Cruise on the effects work and how Biro pushed them to take things as far as they could, and how the shoot was ‘fun Hell’ and how great the cast was, including how he was unsure of Cameron at first and how she won him over even after they’d had their differences.

    The last interview is with director of photography Chris Hilleke who starts his thirty-five-minute segment by talking about how stressful the shoot was due to how much work there was to be done on any given day. He then talks about the level of the effects required for the film and how that affected his job behind the camera, how everyone behind the scenes was able to work together, his favorite scene in the film, what the cast were able to bring to their respective parts, how unpredictable things can be on a shoot and what can go wrong, what he learned from working alongside Biro, the importance of continuity in the film and how tricky that can be when working on a floor covered in fake blood, his thoughts on the pacing of the film and how important Gabbey and Van Bebber are to kicking the door down to ramp up the pacing, and how happy he is with the way that they movie turned out.

    Also included is a Behind The Scenes featurette that runs just over seventy-minutes in length. It’s a ridiculously in-depth piece that starts off demonstrating some effects tests with Cameron showing off how impressively flexible she is! From there we see Cameron getting her head cast, and from there we see the effects team working on creating a bunch of different props and prosthetics that, if we were to describe them in too much detail, would be spoilery. After we see some of the pre-production stuff we head onto the set where the cast and crew prep to actually shoot the film. You get the impression that everyone was having a pretty good time here, even Van Bebber is cracking jokes at times, we see the crew deal with some issues that arose (a good example being a problem with Cameron’s eyes that came up during the shoot), what goes into worm wrangling, how they created the big finale that we see in the film and lots more. This is pretty much ALL effects related but it’s quite interesting, shot fly-on-the-wall style with some informal narration here and there from Cruise. If nothing else, it proves that Cameron was a trooper! But more so, it shows just how intense the effects work required to get this feature made really was.

    Eight-minutes’ worth of outtakes are included as well. Here we basically see how the cast and crew got along, witness a few actor flubs, effects mishaps, and the ins and outs of having to puke up your own guts innards.

    Additionally, the disc includes a selection of trailers for a few other Unearthed Films properties, menus and chapter selection.

    Song Of Solomon - The Final Word:

    Song Of Solomon is a solid slice of extreme indie horror, a picture that offers up a strong story and interesting characters alongside the requisite scenes of shocking gore and horror. Unearthed Films has done a nice job bringing the movie to Blu-ray in a fine presentation and on a disc stacked with extras.

    Click on the images below for full sized Song Of Solomon Blu-ray review screen captures!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      I really want to see this.