• Jungle Trap / Run Coyote Run (AGFA/Bleeding Skull) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: AGFA/Bleeding Skull
    Released on: March 16th, 2021.
    Director: James Bryan
    Cast: Renee Harmon, Frank Neuhaus, Heidi Ahn, Tim de Haas, Valeria Smith, Rhonda Collier
    Year: 1990/1987
    Purchase From Amazon

    Jungle Trap / Run Coyote Run – Movie Review:

    In 1990, James Bryan and his frequent partner in crime - the late, great Renee Harmon – collaborated on Jungle Trap. It would be the last time that they worked together (having previously released on an unsuspecting public films like Lady Street Fighter, Hell Riders and The Executioner Part II) and for reasons covered in more detail later in this review, it wouldn’t actually get released until 2016 when the people at Bleeding Skull got word of it and worked with Bryan to get it properly finished and released on DVD. Now, a few years later, Bleeding Skull has teamed up with AGFA to bring one of their out of print release of the film back into circulation, this time double featured with an earlier Bryan/Harmon picture, Run Coyote Run.

    Jungle Trap:

    Chris Carpenter (Harmon, who also wrote the script) is a journalist that previously took part in an expedition into the Amazon to find the Mali tribe where a woman named Jean was killed. Wanting to get her career back on track and set things right, Chris wants to head back into the jungle but has trepidations about working with Josh Carpenter (Frank Neuhaus), the man in charge and her former husband. She knows from firsthand experience that he isn’t the most trustworthy guy around, but with few alternatives, she signs on despite the fact that she’s almost instantly butting heads with his pretty assistant, Betsy (Heidi Ahn).

    As to the Mail Tribe itself, they’re not too keen on westerners, what with the fact that they local government kicked them off of their land and turned it into The Palace Hotel. That hotel didn’t last so long, however, as shortly after it opened, strange things started happening there. As the group makes their way deep into the jungles of someone’s backyard, it becomes immediately apparent just how dangerous this journey will be when their guide is murdered by a cultist with ties to the Mali tribe. When they finally do make it deep into the heart of the Amazon, they meet Jobe Ortega (Tim de Haas) who winds up serving as their new guide. They make their way to the hotel and learn that is wasn’t quite destroyed the way that the rumors led everyone to believe, but that it is populated by… ghosts who may or may not be controlled by the Mali tribespeople hungry for revenge.

    Shot on tape for peanuts and featuring loads of wonderfully goofy stock footage inserts, Jungle Trap was, like all great Renee Harmon productions, cast almost entirely with students from her acting class (most of who would appear in her films for free so that they’d have something to serve as a demo reel once the project was finished). As such, the performances in these films can sometimes be a little less than polished, but it’s this rough and tumble attitude that makes her movies and Bryan collaborations in particular so enjoyable. These guys knew that they didn’t have enough money to really pull this off but they did it anyway and while the movie may be a mess, it’s a beautiful mess, one that fans of the lowest of the low budget SOV aesthetic will likely find quite enjoyable. The effects are hokey, the acting is bad and the jungle is, quite literally, a backyard set, but that does not stop Harmon, and subsequently the other cast members, from giving their all and treating this like they’re working on the most important film ever made. And maybe of them, they genuinely were – you have to love that about movies like this.

    This isn’t as exploitative as some of their other work together. More gore would have been welcome, for example, but we get plenty of deranged looking tribespeople, a few shrunken heads, stock footage inserts of a snake, one of the weirdest train rides you’ll ever see and quite a bit more. It’s a fascinating artifact, one that almost never saw the light of day. Bleeding Skull’s work putting the final film together and creating an original score for the movie (done entirely with vintage synthesizers) is admirable, as this never feels like anything other than a legitimate SOV oddity. It’s a pretty wonderful final effort from the Bryan/Harmon team and a fittingly bizarre bit of closure to this amazing chapter in B-movie history.

    Run Coyote Run:

    Released in 1987 as a kinda-sorta sequel to Lady Street Fighter, Run Coyote Run, once again written by Harmon and directed by Bryan, introduces us to Anne Wellington (Harmon). Ann just so happens to be the sister of Linda Wellington, the character that Harmon played in Lady Street Fighter, but more importantly than that, she’s as psychic Interpol agent.

    Anne really wants to find out who killed her sister, and so she sets out to do just that, all while various shady FBI agents and hired killers try to take her out of the picture all together. See, there’s an audio cassette out there that could lay all of this to rest and get some very important people into some seriously hot water. It’s important that this tape not fall into the wrong hands.

    Or something like that. This movie uses pretty much the same ‘story’ as Lady Street Fighter, and also uses a whole lot of footage from Lady Street Fighter. And Hell Riders. And Frozen Scream. And The Executioner Part II. None of it matches and none of that matters. There’s a fight scene that starts in a bedroom and then somehow winds up taking place in a warehouse. Harmon looks about twenty-years older in some scenes than in others. A stock footage explosion rocks your world. There are some fun murders in here and weird musical choices. The movie also features a weird cult and foley effects that may have been recorded during a pre-school free play session. Frank Neuhaus plays a too cool for school assassin priest who frequently struts about with a big cross around his neck and a sleeveless black shirt.

    It might not make a damn lick of sense, but it is pretty fun to watch and at least try to figure it all out.

    Jungle Trap / Run Coyote Run – Blu-ray Review:

    AGFA brings Jungle Trap to region Free flu-ray transferred from the original 3/4” master tapes in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed in its proper 1.33.1 aspect ratio and taking up 17.5GBS of space. It looks as good as it probably can, given that it was shot on tape. Expect this to basically look like a VHS and you won’t be too disappointed. The image is fuzzy and detail is soft but it’s all perfectly watchable. Run Coyote Run is also presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.33.1. Again, taken from the original 3/4” master and given 18.6GBs of space, quality is on par with the feature attraction. It’s obvious that the elements were less than perfect here, but they aren’t going to get any better! It’s also a perfectly watchable presentation. You can’t realistically go into movies like this expecting pristine quality but AGFA/Bleeding Skull have done a fine job with what they had to work with in this regard.

    Both features get 16-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks. Optional subtitles are provided for both movies in English only. Again, the source material is less than ideal here and there are some scenes where the dialogue is a bit flat and sometimes a little hard to make out. The subtitles do come in handy here. Either way, for the most part the audio is fine given that, like the video presentation, it was sourced from older tape elements. Worth noting is that the score for Jungle Trap really does sound great.

    The main extra for Jungle Trap is a commentary track with director James Bryan, star Heidi Ahn and the Bleeding Skull! Team - Zach Carlson, Annie Choi and Joe Ziemba. It starts as a fairly scene specific talk, where they not how Harmon supplied the footage of the military installation and subway sequences that are used early in the film. From there, Bryan and Ahn talk about how Harmon was the mastermind behind the film and how she wanted to do something original with the money that she'd inherited from her mother's passing. It was Harmon's idea to create a jungle in urban California, how Harman and Bryan met and started to collaborate, making their films together on very low budgets, making deals with different labs for the processing, buying other peoples' footage when they didn't make their lab payments and the whole patchwork nature of the production. As the track progresses, they discuss Harmon's attempts to get the movie out, her putting out a press release in 1994 saying that the movie was done when it definitely wasn't and how the Bleeding Skull team came along to get the film properly finished through a Kickstarter campaign. They cover how this film crosses over into the unfinished Horror Con film (see below), how Choi and Ziemba created the score and sound effects for the movie, how they went ahead and made a 'jungle' for the movie, shooting most of the jungle scenes in a backyard and having to make sure that the pool didn't make it into various shots, details on some of the different cast and crew members that work their way into the movie, the influence of different German film's on Harmon's work and her attempts to act like Sophia Loren, differences between shooting on film versus shooting on video and plenty more.

    The disc also includes It Wasn't My Fault: The Making Of Jungle Trap, a featurette that runs just under twelve-minutes. Here Byran shows off some ephemera related to a few of his older films before then going on to talk about how he got into filmmaking, making porno features to get his foot in the door, how he met Renee Harmon through the sound lab that he used and how they started working together. He also talks about cashing in on the home video market by making cheap knockoffs and sequels like The Revenge Of Lady Street Fighter and how Harmon turned that movie into Run Coyote Run, noting that that particular film is a 'pure, unadulterated Renee Harmon movie.' This led into doing Jungle Trap with her using some of the students from her acting classes. Actor Frank Neuhaus, who played Josh Carpenter in the movie, also shows up here and shares some memories of working on the film with Harmon. Heidi Ahn, who played Betsy, also shows up and talks about what it was like having Harmon as an acting coach. As it wraps up, Bryan talks about the effects in the film, cutting the film and just handing the rough cut over to Harmon who was never able to get it released. He then talks about his feelings on the version of the film that we have here on this disc, the resurrected version of the movie!

    Additionally, look for a selection of Jungle Trap outtakes running four-minutes. Here we learn a bit more about a wonky romantic subplot, we see Harmon's character hang out and listen to the radio while lights flicker on and off, and a fair bit more lunacy in the 'jungle' itself.

    Also sure to be of interested to fans of James Bryan is the inclusions of the surviving footage from a 35mm film Bryan tried to make in 1989 called Horror Con. This material is presented in 1080p high definition and is scanned in 2k from the original 35mm camera negative. Bryan originally collaborated with Tom Sanderson, who had previously worked on some of Renee Harmon's films. Although the project was never completed, the twenty-seven-minutes of footage included here is interesting to see. There's no audio for it so it's presented silent and most of what we get is establishing shots and the like, all captured on location around the hotel. Some of it is poorly focused, some of it looks quite good. We see a few people clearly at the hotel for an actual horror convention and dressed for the event, we get a look inside the dealers’ room, we see some panels being held and get to witness some sword fighting as well! Towards the end a band called Cone Of Silence shows up and performs on stage while costumed fans wander about in front of them, eventually some of them dance. Then we get some odd exterior footage shots of a guy in bed and last but certainly not least, shots of a heavily made-up woman scouring into the camera.

    Menus and chapter selection are also provided. This disc comes packaged with some nice reversible cover artwork.

    Jungle Trap / Run Coyote Run - The Final Word:

    If you’re into James Bryan’s films or Renee Harmon’s work, then you should consider this release of Jungle Trap and Run Coyote Run essential. Granted, these aren’t films for all tastes – not everyone gets off on patchwork job, micro-budgeted SOV genre pictures, and sometimes people want their films to make sense – but there’s a lot to enjoy here. Both films are deliriously entertaining and there’s a great selection of extra features that document their history and provide some very welcome information on these cinematic enigmas.

    Click on the images below for full sized Jungle Trap / Run Coyote Run Blu-ray screen caps!