Crimson Quill’s Appraisal#64
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: October 8, 2006
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 87 minutes
Director: Fred Vogel
Producers: Jerami Cruise, Shelby Jackson, Tony Simonelli, Fred Vogel, Cristie Whiles
Screenplay: Shelby Jackson & Fred Vogel
Cinematography: Shane Sauer
Score: Scott Hull, Steve Moore
Editing: Bruce Hauver II
Special Effects: Jerami Cruise, Aaron LaBonte, Ben LaBonte
Studio: Toe Tag Pictures
Stars: Bethany Newell, Perry Tiberio, Jessica Kennedy, Meghan O’Halloran, Peter Schmidt, Billy D Martin, A C Earing, Fred Vogel, Shelby Jackson, Kathie McDermitt, Nathaniel DeMarco, Cristie Whiles and Jerami Cruise as Mateo Redsin
Suggested Audio Candy:
Black Sabbath Black Sabbath
I’ve never been one for sucking my own dick (although not through any lack of trying). Ego is one thing that I pay no great mind to as I don’t need the kind of validation that showboating provides. So, when I say that I consider myself better versed on horror than most, I’m not being conceited, purely stating fact. In a horror-based pub quiz I’d anticipate being a potent weapon for whichever team recruited me as, while my short-term memory is truly abysmal, useless information is something I retain pretty effortlessly. However, every now and then, a film or a filmmaker slips under my radar undetected. It’s not like it was back in the eighties. Nowadays, so many new independent movies and their makers emerge on the scene on a regular basis that it can be nigh-on impossible to keep up with the influx. The Redsin Tower and its similarly elusive director Fred Vogel are two such examples.
Only formally introduced to both recently, I felt compelled to let you fine people into a well-guarded secret which, if there’s any justice in the world whatsoever, won’t remain secret for much longer. I’ll start with the man himself. New Jersey-born entrepreneur Vogel started out in the directorial hot seat in 2001 with the first of his August Underground Trilogy. Since that rolling start his output has been fairly impressive with a résumé that also comprises Necrophagia: Sickcess, Murder Collection V.1, Maskhead, Sella Turcica and the film I am about to enlighten you about. Moreover, he is the founder of Toetag Pictures and a former professor of Special Make-Up Effects for none other than the great Tom Savini. So why is he not better known? Well, let’s just say that his films fit a particular niche. Imagine a light fluffy rom-com and then consider its absolute counter point and you shouldn’t be too far off. Should your stomach not be reinforced with cast iron, then there’s really no need to apply.
When you arrive late at the party as has been the case with me here, it is critical that you choose the correct point of entry. Should I have opted for one of his less accessible works, then I may well have been left cold and chose not to explore any further. So I perused his catalogue and lo-and-behold one film in particular hit me square between the eyes with the force of a 40lb splitting maul. That film was The Redsin Tower and I was instantly seduced by its poster artwork. Its tarot card stylings struck a chord and I knew that I couldn’t allow another sunset to pass without taking a closer inspection of this foreboding but persuasive construction first-hand. So I ventured forth, with trepidation I might add, without knowing so much as a thread from its plot (the best way to experience any movie).
I recalled the moment Vogel’s name came up in conversation and, as the words spilled forth from my host’s lips, his pupils dilated fully and a contented smile appeared at the edges of his maw. It was almost as though he knew full well that he had done precisely what he had set out to; the word had spread a little farther and, knowing that curiosity would get the better of me, he was aware that the sickness was spreading. The advice of a fellow enthusiast is something I endeavor to take very seriously indeed. A self-confessed cherry picker, one bad review won’t deter me from forming my own judgement but a recommendation is all the validation a film needs to warrant closer inspection. Armed with the green light from one so esteemed, I made my way back to my shadowy stronghold, poured a glass of Amaretto and dimmed the lights. The Redsin Tower was about to claim another soul.
Okay Grueheads, before we proceed any further, it is necessary to prove that you are worthy of the following expedition. Don’t blame me, I’m just looking out for your interests and making sure you possess the necessary minerals to undertake such a pilgrimage. Perhaps it’s all that talk of pub quizzes. Anyhoots, I have witnessed some pretty rare sights over the years and thus, have compiled a checklist with points awarded accordingly. I shall meet you on the other side for the grand tally up and we should know whether or not The Redsin Tower is for you. Without further ado, have you…
Been made privy to a spleen being removed from a floppy cadaver? (Hatchet 2) 5 points
Seen a throat played like a cello? (The Prowler) 5 points
Watched a man have the top of his head lopped off, then used as a makeshift cookie jar? (Cannibal Ferox) 5 points
Bared witness to eyes being pierced by shards of wood? (Zombie Flesh Eaters) 5 points
Waved goodbye to genitalia? (Cannibal Ferox) 5 points, (I Spit on Your Grave) 5 points, (Carver) 10 points and a further 50 points if you can name three more instances
Watched the second birth of a middle-aged man while he bites off his own umbilical cord? (Xtro) 10 points
Been exposed to a switch blade wielding gibbon? (Phenomena) 10 points
Gazed in astonishment as a hand is inserted via rectum before pulling the unfortunate human glove puppet inside-out through his own anus? (Society) 10 points
Whilst on the subject of rectal insertions, how about the good old anal probe? (Evil Aliens) 15 points
Played onlooker to a man and goat team-building session? (Island of Death) 20 points
Taken a peek into a fully loaded bed pan? (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom) 30 points
Got your grubby hands on an uncut copy of Murder Set Pieces? 30 points
Endured any film by Olaf Ittenbach? 40 points
Made it through a Nekromantik double-bill without vomiting? 50 points
Been hardcore enough to survive Anthropophagus 2000? 50 points
Recovered from the mental scarring of watching the 104 minute version of A Serbian Film? 75 points
If you score 200+ then you should possess a wrought-iron gut and have therefore qualified to take a tour through Vogel’s tower. Fret not if you fell a little short of the passing grade as it’s the gentlest introduction to this man’s work. Okay then hardcore Grueheads, shall we venture inside?
Slayer God Send Death
After some effective opening credits, accompanied by suitably ominous score, we meet Kim (Bethany Newell) who is in the process of giving her over-possessive and frankly unstable boyfriend Mitch (Perry Tiberio) one last sympathy fuck. No sooner has his cum face subsided than she hands back her engagement ring and leaves him to ponder where he went wrong. Kim needs a little cheering up so heads over to her Goth friend Becky (Jessica Kennedy) for some moral support and soon ends up talked into accompanying her and a few of her dope-smoking buddies for a night at The Redsin Tower. However, Mitch isn’t about to let her off the hook so easily and follows them there with a hatchet that he fully intends on using.
The first thing that jumps out are the performances and not for the reason we’re expecting. Whilst not exactly Oscar worthy, the acting is of a surprisingly decent quality given the shoestring budget and the screenplay from Fred and his wife Shelby Lyn Vogel is more than up to par. Our expectations, which have remained realistic until this point, are starting to creep towards optimism. Eventually, after an admirably patient build-up, we are placed inside this ominous construct and sure as shit wouldn’t want to be spending the night here. With any formalities now out-of-the-way, Vogel draws us deeper into the obelisk’s mainstay with hearts are now approaching full gallop.
As well primed as we consider ourselves to be, we still find ourselves glancing into each shadowy recess and anxiously surveying each microscopic reverberation. Our spines are becoming freeways of fear and our minds are doing a pretty good job of convincing us that we are condemned with the rest of them. The threat is double-pronged as, aside from our fractious hatchet man, there’s also a diabolical demon mincing around with particularly cruel intentions and a knack for possession. Once Vogel had his fun with us, he unleashes all manner of fire and brimstone upon our fun-seeking friends and, once the first droplet of hits the ground, the floodgates open and the red river runs.
If I were asked to form a direct comparison then the most precise would be The Evil Dead, albeit minus filter. Indeed, should this have been submitted for classification back in 1981 then Vogel would likely have been hauled to the gallows. In this day and age, that castigation would seem a touch harsh but I still wonder what the censors would make of this if it dropped into their laps. Clearly Vogel and crew are having a whole heap of fun and it shows in every demented frame, while his lens never shies away from showing the hard work and love that has gone into making this such a gore-drenched delight. Perhaps most magnanimous of all is Shane Sauer’s cinematography which assists no end in making the titular tower such a fearsome palace.
Which brings us to final judgement and it’s rather problematic attempting to sum up The Redsin Tower in a numeral as all fundamentals need to be taken into account. The overall score doesn’t fully reflect just how elated I was to be provided a preamble into Vogel’s marvelously contorted consciousness as we must take into account that this is a decidedly low-budget feature and lacking the spit and polish to elevate it to a higher plateau. That said, Vogel is squarely on my radar now and I will anticipate his future works with bated breath and frothing gums so, in that respect, it is very much job done.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: I have had to show inhuman restraint from fully embellishing my pages with the crimson carnage on offer here, not because censorship is an issue, but because is better to experience it for yourself. I’m not entirely sure of the exact purse available to Vogel but, whatever modest sum it may be, the FX is stellar and, with Jerami Cruise in the thick of it, that comes as no great surprise. Intestines are strewn about with gay abandon, skulls crushed, torsos torn asunder, hatchets rehomed, and all manner of spiteful sacrificial savagery to assist in leaving the tang of blood in our palates. Meanwhile, Vogel is just as magnanimous with regards to sins of the flesh although we may be tempted to toss a burlap sack over the head of these particular writhing vixens.
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2013 (Revised Edition 2016)