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The Black Fables / Dark Swamp (Darkside Releasing) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • The Black Fables / Dark Swamp (Darkside Releasing) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Darkside Releasing
    Released on: September 27th, 2022.
    Director: Rodrigo Aragão, Petter Baiestorf, Joel Caetano, José Mojica Marins / Rodrigo Aragão
    Cast: José Mojica Marins, Walderrama Dos Santos, Kika Oliveira, André Lobo
    Year: 2015/2008
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Black Fables/Dark Swamp – Movie Review:

    Darkside Releasing offers up a double dose of reasonably modern horror pictures from the Brazilian indie horror scene with their release of The Black Fables and Dark Swamp.

    The Black Fables:

    First up is an anthology film from 2015 directed by Rodrigo Aragão, Petter Baiestorf, Joel Caetano and the late, great José Mojica Marins, better known as Coffin Joe. The stories are based on elements of Brazilian folk lore, and each is unique in its own way. The movie starts off with a quartet of boys, each dressed as a superhero, playing in the woods and, when it is time for them to take a break and rest a bit, entertain themselves by sharing frightening stories.

    In the first story, directed by Aragão, we learn how the insanely corrupt and ridiculously obsess mayor of the nearby city died on the toilet after refusing to fix the city’s sewer system. This leads to a citizen of the town trying to deal with a broken, leaking sewer that he can’t get the city to fix, only to turn into a zombie – it gets crazier from there. This segment goes for the gross out, more concerned with creating some pretty disgusting effects work than the story, but the effects are well done and some of the toilet humor (literally) is so absurd that it is amusing enough, even if it isn’t ever scary.

    Petter Baiestorf’s segment is the story of a small village lorded over by a brutish Colonel and his men. They abuse the locals and mistreat the women in town. It’s easy to dislike them. When strange things start happening in the village, it starts to look like a werewolf might be operating in the area, leading to a pretty great twist ending with some solid effects work. Granted, most will see the twist coming, it isn’t hard to figure it out, but it’s handled well and the werewolf effects featured in this short are legitimately great.

    The third story, directed by Marins, is a reasonably basic story of the exorcism of a teenage girl who becomes troubled after encountering a monster known as the Saci while out in the forest. The exorcist, played by Marins himself, of course, comes in to purge the girl of the evil she’s come into contact with – things go downhill from there. This one is pretty interesting for a few reasons. The effects work created to bring the Saci to life are freakishly weird and, for that reason, pretty great. On top of that, Marins brings his inimitable screen presence to the story and that helps things in a big way. He’s a lot of fun to watch as the exorcist.

    The fourth and final segment, directed by Caetano, takes place in a boarding school haunted by the ghost of a dead blonde woman. The ghost seems to specifically haunt the bathroom and when various students wind up dead, the woman in charge of the school buries their bodies on the grounds nearby. As the story plays out, the woman in charge turns out to be quite suspect and the story of how the dead blonde woman came to haunt the area comes into focus. This is probably the most unique and unpredictable of the stories in the movie, and it’s also the longest at over twenty minutes. The plot unfolds nicely and the acting is pretty good across the board. The effects work is, again, well done but the story doesn’t rely as heavily on those effects as the first three.

    Keep in mind that these movies are very low budget and while there’s a lot of legitimate talent on display here, it’s clear that the shorts were all shot on lower end digital video. As such, the movie doesn’t look as polished as it otherwise could have, but you’ve got to admire these guys for going out and getting a movie like this made in a country that isn’t always so receptive to horror movies and that doesn’t have the same resources available to indie filmmakers that other countries do.

    Make sure you watch it all the way through the end credits for some bonus Marins material.

    Dark Swamp:

    Also known as Mud Zombies, this 2008 movie is Rodrigo Aragão’s feature length directorial debut. Not surprisingly, the story revolves around a swamp. What used to be a gift to the local villagers, who would pull fish and other sources of food from it, has started to turn into something else with the poverty stricken villagers who live nearby lucky to pull even a grubby old crab out these days. Because of this, many of the villagers believe the swamp to be haunted.

    What first appears to just be superstition soon proves correct, when flesh eating zombies start rising out of the muck and feasting on the villagers. Their bites turn others into zombies themselves.

    In the middle of this mess is a man named Luis (Walderrama Dos Santos). He's in love with a girl named Rachel (Kika Oliveira) who is, in many ways, much tougher than Luis. She also seems fairly oblivious to his existence. When a zombie bites Rachel, Luis brings her to the village's medicine woman, Dona Benedita (André Lobo in drag under a lot of makeup), who tells them a story involving a wizard long ago that sends Luis on a quest into the swamp to get a globe fish that he hopes will help cure Rachel of her illness

    Dark Swamp doesn’t even try to bring anything new to the zombie movie, in fact, it lifts quite a bit from Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive with healthy doses of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead thrown in for good measure. Aragão’s clearly wearing his influences on his sleeve here. The makeup effects are pretty cool and the swamp setting makes for a sufficiently muddy, dreary location. He manages to capture some atmosphere from these locations and that goes a long way towards helping the movie. Unfortunately, in attempting to ape some of Raimi’s camerawork the movie sometimes looks way too spastic for its own good and at an hour and forty-four minutes, there are some pacing problems here (we could have done with five minutes of Benedita but instead get well over twenty).

    Still, as imperfect as the movie is it’s interesting to see Aragão’s early material and compare it to the more polished work we see in the first feature. Again, a miniscule budget and less than ideal camera technology hurts the production but the DIY spirit on display here is admirable and there’s a lot of impressive creativity to appreciate. The two leads have pretty solid chemistry together and when Benedita isn’t on screen bringing the pacing to a crawl, the movie is a pretty fun watch.

    The Black Fables/Dark Swamp – Blu-ray Review:

    The Black Fables/Dark Swamp comes to region free BD-R, sharing the same 25GB disc in MPEG-2 encoded 1080p high definition with the hour and forty-four minute The Black Fables using 12.3GBs and the ninety-three minute Dark Swamp using just under 11GBs of space. Not surprisingly, compression varies from scene to scene, looking decent enough in the better lit scenes but really struggling anytime there’s fog or smoke or fast moving action in some of the darker scenes. Detail varies from one scene to the next, sometimes looking quite strong, other times not so much. There’s noticeable interlacing on Dark Swamp as well. It’s probably safe to assume that a lot of the imperfections on display here are baked into the masters, just go in knowing that while both films are watchable enough that they aren’t reference quality presentations.

    Both films get Portuguese language Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks with optional subtitles in English that contain a few typos here and there. Levels bounce around a bit during both movies so keep the remote handy. Otherwise, the audio tracks are fine, offering clean, clear dialogue and decent score reproduction.

    Extras are slim, limited to a minute of undeniably cool werewolf FX test footage and trailers for each feature.

    The Black Fables/Dark Swamp – The Final Word:

    Both The Black Fables and Dark Swamp are worth checking out for fans of indie, low budget horror, both features overcoming obvious limitations with creativity and enthusiasm. The Blu-ray presentation isn’t going to blow anyone away but it’s great to see some of this lesser known Brazilian horror material making it out in English friendly editions.


    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Black Fables/Dark Swamp Blu-ray screen caps!

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