Cool as Hell (2013)

COOL-AS-HELL-POSTER3_jpg21-647x1024James Balsamo is back and brings with him his no-holds-barred style of guerrilla-filmmaking that reminds me a lot of the old school Troma flicks from Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz (you know, before they had budgets). COOL AS HELL marks Balsamo’s third feature length film and he’s showing no signs of slowing down (he’s already announced his next film, MYSTERY MEAT, set to drop later this year). The themes in COOL AS HELL are the same as his previous entries: Death metal, gore, laughs, and a frantic pace. Balsamo’s films may not be perfect but I always find myself having a really fun time with them.

COOL AS HELL follows Rich (Balsamo) and Benny (Dan E. Danger), two very experienced underachievers who live for comic books, attempting to pick up girls way outta their league in bars, and partying hard. One day Rich meets the woman of his dreams, Ashley (Lauren Adamkiewicz) but she’s already dating a total douche-nozzle named Sal (Frank Mullen). Sal is abusive and neglectful towards her, he’s a thug by trade, and he’s just a repulsive person to be around in general. One day Rich runs into a low level demon named Az (Billy Walsh) he was summoned to earth to scare someone, but Rich interrupts and the demon becomes enthralled to him. At first Rich doesn’t know what to do with Az, but soon it becomes apparent that Az is a party demon. So Az, Rich, and Benny start hanging around with Az showing them the finer points of partying like a complete maniac.

Unfortunately something followed Az through the portal and now there’s a soul-eating demon and loads of zombies to deal with. So Rich and Benny must decide real fast whether to abandon their party ways or to grow up and become feared Demon Slayers. We all know which road they take.

indie filmmaker James Balsamo
indie filmmaker James Balsamo

COOL AS HELL is just like Balsamo’s other films: It’s a super low/no budgeter with lots of amateur actors. By the very nature of COOL AS HELL, I should have hated it. Yet Balsamo again injects a high level of energy into all his scenes and really creates an entertaining, gory genre flick that never takes itself too serious but always delivers on the fun. My criticisms of this film are the same as in his previous movies. Some scenes could’ve been trimmed down to create a tighter final product and I find the (over)use of the blaring death metal music in all the gore scenes a little distracting. The music takes the focus off of the gore, and the problem with this is that Balsamo is a pretty damn talented f/x artist!! Balsamo, once again, wears a lot of hats in COOL AS HELL. He’s the lead actor, writer, director, producer. editor, and production designer. He’s a true indie horror filmmaker. We also get some fun genre cameos. Indie horror filmmaker Donald Farmer, Laurence R. Harvey from HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2, and horror f/x guru Tom Savini to name a few.

COOL AS HELL proves once again that James Balsamo is here to stay and that the indie horror scene is alive and thriving. COOL AS HELL is a fun, no-brainer genre flick that’s works best watching it with some buddies and some booze. Check this one out.

My Summary:

Director: James Balsamo (& writer)

Plot: 3 out of 5 stars

Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 2 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

Balsamo is Back and is Cool as Hell!!

James Balsamo is a busy man.  Balsamo has made two feature-length films in the last two years and it looks as though he has no intentions of slowing down!!  His first film, HACK JOB, was a horror anthology (my review) and covered just about every horror sub-genre you could think of (I think it also created some new genres along the way!!).  I SPILL YOUR GUTS (my review) was a more traditional narrative and really captured the heyday of the exploitation/grindhouse flick.  Now Balsamo is back with COOL AS HELL, a horror-comedy set for a December 1, 2012 release.  Check out the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 23, 2012

DIRECTOR OF HACK JOB AND I SPILL YOUR GUTS PRESENTS NEW FILM “COOL AS HELL”

NEW YORK, NY – Acid Bath Productions, the makers of “Hack Job” and “I Spill Your Guts”, has announced the official release date of December 01, 2012 for a brand new Horror Comedy, “Cool as Hell”. Directed by James Balsamo, this intense demon-centric masterpiece is bound to get you excited.

Rich and Benny are having trouble with the ladies, until they befriend a demon named Az. It’s a non-stop party until a soul hungry beast leaps through an open portal from the underworld and starts terrorizing the town. It’s up to Az and the boys to send the creature back to the depths where it came from, and look good, while doing it in “Cool As Hell”.

“Cool As Hell” features horror legend Tom Savini, Carmine Capobianco, 3 Inches Of Blood, Municipal Waste, and lead singer of Suffocation, Frank Mullen. The film stars James Balsamo, Billy Walsh, and Lauren Adamkiewicz. “Cool as Hell” is slated for a December release.

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Be sure to check out the official COOL AS HELL Facebook Page.

I Spill Your Guts (2012)

War. Revenge. The self-fueled cycle of the war machine creating killers and then not knowing what to do with them once they aren’t needed anymore. All these themes and more are explored in James Balsamo’s latest flick, I SPILL YOUR GUTS. Sure the name is a bit 42nd Street-ish … it’s supposed to be. This is the man that brought us HACK JOB (my review); a film full of gratuitous gore, topless Nazi chicks, and Gwar fighting off an invading space monster. Balsamo’s 2011 film was over-the-top and really fun, but can he stop on a dime and switch gears to make a more mature film that deals with more mature themes?

The flick begins in the war-torn desert where Joe (Billy Walsh) and Dennis (Balsamo himself) are in the military hospital. Dennis was gravely injured while trying to save Joe’s ass and the doctor doesn’t think he’s gonna make it through the night. So Joe, who gets my vote as being this year’s biggest doucherocket, antagonizes Dennis on his death bed and tells him that he’s gonna take the credit for being the hero; that he got his release papers and is gonna go party it up and have a great life; and even tells Dennis that he’s gonna tell everyone that Dennis was a whimpering pussy when under fire. I told ya he was a doucherocket!!

Joe (Billy Walsh) is a Grade A doucherocket!!

Joe’s words, though, do the unexpected and wake Dennis outta his comatose-like state and really piss him off. He then sets off on a trail of bloody revenge killing every and anyone who gets in his way (starting with the doctors and nurses in the military hospital). Somehow Dennis makes it back to New York (I guess either no one notices a horribly deformed soldier or he can breathe under the ocean!!). Dennis continues to slaughter anyone associated with Joe in very grizzly ways leaving the police baffled. Really? A tall, maimed, masked man walking the streets of New York with a bloody machete doesn’t stand out? Dennis leaves more DNA behind than I do after watching late night Cinemax movies!! Everything builds up to the expected stand-off and fight to the death between Dennis and Joe.

Dennis (Balsamo) & Joe (Walsh) in better times!!

Balsamo’s previous flick was an anthology film and the stories were well crafted and tightly shot. In I SPILL YOUR GUTS, Balsamo’s debut feature, the story and the pacing stumbles a bit. The main story of Dennis seeking revenge on Joe winds its way through a lot of side plots that never really go anywhere. The overall film could’ve benefited from another run through the editing room just to tighten everything up. Some characters come and go giving no explanation as to their role in the overall film, and other people seem to have accidentally wandered onto the set. The editing is also a little choppy in places and about half way through, the film almost felt as though the plot got derailed. Balsamo introduces some sub-plots that don’t go anywhere but eventually comes back to the main story at hand. Dennis’ motivations also seem to be a little confusing at times. It’s completely understandable why he wants to kill Joe — hell; I wanted to kill Joe. But Dennis is also a war hero who risked his life for his best friend but is now killing tons of innocent people. I guess we all have our off days!!

It may seem from the above comments and observations that I had a lot of problems with I SPILL YOUR GUTS. Yeah this film isn’t perfect, but ya know what? I found myself having a lot of fun with it. Balsamo puts a lot of energy into his films and you can tell that he’s a certified horror lover. His kills are very squishy and he just looks like he’s having a blast playing the killer. There’s a lot of little issues with this film, but there’s also a lot to enjoy about it as well. Balsamo seems to be a young filmmaker who’s finding his voice in the genre. He’s making over-the-top films with lots of gratuitous violence and gore, but it also turns out he has a lot to say. This is most definitely an anti-war flick that examines how the machine so easily cranks out killers but then has no way of dealing with them once they get outta control. It also asks the question of what to do once these trained killers are no longer needed in the battlefield. Balsamo has the skills and talent to pull off such films, he just needs a little more experience to fully find his own voice and style.

Kids; don’t fall asleep smoking!!

Example: the soundtrack is a barrage of hard core thrash and death metal. Personally I love this kind of music and in the right spots it can be very effective. The problem here, though, is that Balsamo plays this music really loud at the time of every kill. The music takes you out of the moment and kills (a-hem) the tension. But this is something that Balsamo will learn as he progresses and matures, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he will indeed progress as a filmmaker.

I SPILL YOUR GUTS definitely delivers on it’s promise to show a lot of gut spilling action. Balsamo’s not afraid to show all the nasty details of each gruesome death and he’s having a blast doing so. The energy in his film’s is infectious and ya just can’t help but have a good time. I SPILL YOUR GUTS isn’t a perfect film but it is a really fun flick made by a horror fan for horror fans. Balsamo just needs a little more experience to find his own voice, and I for one am looking forward to seeing his future films as he “finds his way.” Check this one out.

A little Giallo-inspired fun, perhaps??

My Summary:

Director: James Balsamo (& writer, star, producer, cinematographer, editor, & special makeup f/x artist)

Plot: 3 out of 5 stars

Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer