Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Why ZOMBIES & SHARKS? Well, those are the two things that I’ve had the most nightmares about. It’s the reason I rarely swim in the ocean. It’s the reason I have an escape plan from my apartment just in case of a zombie apocalypse. Now if you’ve ever had those fears or fears like them, inspired mainly by nights upon nights of watching films of the frightening kind, this is the place for you. Look for AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS every Friday for the foreseeable future, horror hounds, where we’ll be covering horror in all forms: retro, indie, mainstream, old and new.
This week we take a gander at the horrors of sound with retro-reviews of CRY OF THE BANSHEE and THE SHOUT, as well as an interview with the director of After Dark Original’s SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE, Steven C. Miller. Finally, we debut our Zeek of the Week which focuses on…what else? Zombie movies!!!!!
AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE CONTEST!
Next up I a few horror related comics you might be interested in from your favorite comic reviewers the @$$Holes at AICN COMICS…
Lyzard reviewed the horror prequel to LET ME IN!
KletusCasaday takes another look at SPAWN!
Mr Pasty stabs a stake into the vampire book, THE DESCENDENCY!
And it looks like Lyzard dug the old vampire miniseries NANNY & HANK written by little old me!
Be sure to check out these horror comics reviews from AICN COMICS!
Ok, ok, quit yer hollerin’! Here’s the banshee horror films for today!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Q&@ with SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE director Steven C. Miller
CRY OF THE BANSHEE (1970)
THE SHOUT (1978)
Zeek of the Week: DEATH OF THE DEAD (2011)
And finally…NIGHT OF THE LIVING BREAD!
Q&@ with SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE
Director Steven C. Miller
I’ve talked quite a few times with director Steven C. Miller. I first met him when he took part in the Horror Panel I hosted at the San Diego Comic Con a few years ago. That year we bonded over our mutual love of MOTEL HELL, a film he is slated to remake some time in the near future. Last year, he took part in my second horror panel at SDCC and announced he would be directing SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE for After Dark Originals. Well, SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE is slated to be released around the USA January 28th at select theaters as part of After Dark Originals yearly horror fest. I had a chance to catch up with Steven about SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE and his other projects. Here’s what he had to say…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Tell me a little bit about SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE.
STEVEN C. MILLER (SCM): SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE is monster film set in the present day involving a college professor and her students who unleash a Banshee. They now have to figure out how to stop the Banshee before all becoming her victims. It’s a fun throwback monster flick that tries to be as much a thriller that it does a horror film.
BUG: Unlike zombies and vampires, banshees seem to be an untapped source when it comes to horror films. Can you give those who might not know what a banshee is a quick refresher?
SCM: A Banshee was an Omen for Death. Banshees were said to appear for particular Irish families, though which families made it onto this list varied depending on who was telling the story.
The banshee can appear in a variety of guises. Most often she appears as an ugly, frightening hag, but she can also appear as a stunningly beautiful woman of any age that suits her. Those who heard her scream were marked for death. Our story is driven from these tales.
BUG: Seems the key element when it comes to banshees is sound. How did you incorporate this into your film?
SCM: Sound was HUGE part of the film for me. We had a very limited budget and days, so I didn’t want to focus too much on what we could see, instead I focused on what we didn’t see and the sounds that could scare us. I tried to really incorporate the Banshee sound in every frame of the movie, whether that was air conditions, faucets, or even radios. I felt like this gave the audience a sense of Banshee being everywhere and hopefully making it scarier for them.
BUG: Do we get to see what the banshee looks like in this film?
SCM: Most definitely.
BUG: What went into the design of the monster?
SCM: The Banshee was a big collaboration between myself and the practical make up fx master, Vincent Guistani. I looked back at some of my favorite monsters like CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and CRITTERS for inspiration. We did everything from casts to molds and created some really terrifying Banshee prosthetics.
BUG: How did you get involved with After Dark films?
SCM: It was through a few mutual friends and they had been fans of my first film AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION.
BUG: With Lauren Holly & Lance Henriksen, you've got a pretty great cast. Were you involved at all involved in the casting process?
SCM: I love Lauren and Lance. Great actors and legends in the field. I was involved but not heavily. Syfy and AfterDark had a pretty good idea who they wanted for the 2 leads and I was not opposed. Cant get much better for a monster movie than these two.
BUG: Any stories from the set you'd like to share?
SCM: We had a billion. One of the more interesting ones involves Lauren Holly and a painting. We shot most of the film in a giant mansion that has been around for a hundred years. A painting, that was about as old as the house, still hung in the main stairway of the home. Lauren snapped a picture of it and moments later I heard a SHREIK! Thinking the worst, I sprinted to Lauren. Her face was pale and she showed me the picture on her camera. I was in complete shock. The background of the snapped picture was not what the background of the painting was. The picture was a family portrait, but the picture the camera captured was the family with DEAD CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS in the background. It was pretty intense considering we were filming a Horror film and were experiencing some real life terror. I’m positive Lauren still has that photo.
BUG: The only other banshee film I remember is Vincent Price's CRY OF THE BANSHEE (Editor’s note: I review CRY OF THE BANSHEE later in this column). Have you seen the film? Do you reference that at all in your film?
SCM: Yes I have. I am a huge fan of Vincent Price. THE TINGLER is one of my all time favorites of his. We didn't do any references to that film, we mainly focused on the Irish folklore and tried to stay as true to that as possible.
BUG: What lessons did you learn on AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION that you brought with you in making SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE?
SCM: AT was a huge learning experience. It prepared me to deal with small budgets and few shooting days. After watching AT and seeing how people reacted to it, I was excited to learn from my mistakes and wanted to bring a richer story to BANSHEE that I felt was lacking in AT. Not being the writer on BANSHEE helped me to accomplish this and allowed me to tell a story from strictly a director’s point of view.
BUG: What's next for you? I know we've talked a bit about MOTEL HELL in an earlier AICN HORROR column. Are you still attached to that project?
SCM: Still attached and hoping for the best on that one. Its all up to MGM. My next project that recently was given the green light is a genre film titled APOCALYSPE UNDEAD. Not allowed to say too much, but I can guarantee balls to the wall action and intense gory goodness.
BUG: Anything else you'd like to share with us about SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE?
SCM: I think we covered everything. It’s really a fun film in the vein of CRITTERS and the original FRIGHT NIGHT. Expect some great moments and killer screams.
BUG: So how can folks see SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE?
SCM: You can find theater listings and the latest and greatest information on the film can be found at www.afterdarkoriginals.com.
BUG: Thanks so much Steven, for taking the time to talk about SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE. I can't wait to see it!
SCM: My pleasure! Love AICN and read it everyday!
BUG: Thanks, Steven! You can find out where you can see SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE on January 28th by following this link to After Dark Originals’ website.
CRY OF THE BANSHEE (1970)Directed by Gordon Hessler
Written by Tim Kelly & Christopher Wicking
Starring Vincent Price, Elizabeth Bergner, Essy Persson, Patrick Mower, Hillary Dwyer, Carl Rigg, & Andrew McCulloch
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though this film is far inferior to Vincent Price’s other witch opus, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, it still isn’t without its own charm. CRY OF THE BANSHEE’s biggest problem is that aside from a freaky howl ringing out occasionally to add tension, there really isn’t a banshee to speak of in this film. Sure CRY OF THE BANSHEE is filled with witches, voodoo, Satan worshipers, mad dogs, mad noblemen, and something that might possibly be a werewolf or a demon, but I honestly don’t think the word banshee is mentioned aside from the fantastically gothic animated title sequence (by Terry muther grabbin’ Gilliam!!!).
Price plays Lord Edward Whitman, a proud man obsessed with ridding his township of witches. CRY OF THE BANSHEE opens with a scene of a witch execution, as WITCHFINDER GENERAL does. But where WITCHFINDER GENERAL moves on to tell a fascinating story of a man and a woman torn apart by an egomaniacal madman, CRY OF THE BANSHEE tells a convoluted story of the destruction of a family by obsession. The main issue with CRY OF THE BANSHEE is that there really isn’t a person one can identify or root for. Price is the head of the family, but early on the viewer is privy to his obsession for killing witches. His actions cause his family to be cursed when he kills the children of a powerful witch named Oona. The witches aren’t ones to root for either, as Oona (played maniacally by Elizabeth Berger in a performance reminiscent of the old creepy lady in Raimi’s recent DRAG ME TO HELL) is pretty evil herself, killing off Whitman’s brood one by one and chanting about Satan whilst poking voodoo dolls with pins. Whitman’s family is not very likable either. Some terrorize the women of the town, forcing them to undress and if they don’t give into their advances they are accused of witchcraft. Others are such milksops that their inaction makes them equally dislikable. Sure some of them disapprove of Whitman’s obsession, but none take action against it. Without a real side to take, you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of wishing the entire cast would just take each other out and be done with it.
I hate to keep comparing this to WITCHFINDER GENERAL, but the fact that both star Vincent Price (who as usual brings it all to this performance, but there are moments where it doesn’t seem like even he knows how to react; the scene where he gets into a fight with his adoptive son and his co-star from WITCHFINDER Hillary Dwyer and then for some reason they all burst into laughter as if it were a blooper reel comes to mind) and both handle matters of witchcraft and persecution almost force me to lump the two together. CRY OF THE BANSHEE handles the matter of the witch hunts with a heavier hand and although WITCHFINDER GENERAL is a more brutal film in its content and storyline, CRY OF THE BANSHEE seems to be more in your face with the brutality with multiple rapes and torture of women on screen simply for the sake of showing a couple more boobies.
The one thing CRY OF THE BANSHEE has going for it is that it has one hell of an ending. It’s choreographed in an almost DePalma-esque meticulousness as events unfold into a truly horrific finale. Though far inferior to Price’s masterpiece WITCHFINDER GENERAL, the ending of CRY OF THE BANSHEE makes the film definitely worth a watch. I picked this film to look at this week because of the above interview with SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE director Steven C. Miller, but apart from the title, there’s nary a banshee to be seen here. Here’s hoping there’s more bansheeing in Miller’s film than with CRY OF THE BANSHEE.
THE SHOUT (1978)Directed by Jerzy Skolimowski
Written by Robert Graves (story), Michael Austin (screenplay), & Jerzy Skolimowski (screenplay)
Starring Alan Bates, Susannah York, John Hurt, & Tim Curry
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though the antagonist in this film isn’t a banshee per se, his voice does cause death like the mythical beast. THE SHOUT is a somewhat artsy film, slowly paced with very little blood and gore, so it may be something fans of modern shocks and grue might want to pass by. But it is a film with an overwhelming sense of dread and discomfort and though the devilish Crossley (played perfectly by Alan Bates) has a shout that can shatter mountains and kill any living thing within close proximity, the real terror comes from the more realistic horrors he inflicts on the rest of the cast.
And the rest of the cast is fantastic too. John Hurt plays Anthony Fielding who is a…well he’s the kind of character John Hurt plays a lot. Nebbish, intelligent, somewhat gullible, yet somewhat brooding and distant. In THE SHOUT, he is a sound technician and spends his time collecting different sounds from around the English countryside he lives in. Well, that’s what he tells his wife Rachel (played by the recently departed Susannah York) at least, but occasionally he’s off diddling a fellow churchgoer. While on one of his walks, Anthony comes across a strange man (Crossley) and strikes up a conversation with him. The man tells Anthony of a power he learned from the aborigines giving him a voice that can kill instantly. Anthony is fascinated and invites Crossley to his home. From that point on, Anthony’s life goes completely pear-shaped.
Crossley takes over every aspect of Anthony’s life to an extent that is truly horrifying to watch. Yes the depictions of Bates belting out an unearthly sound that kills herds of sheep and causes mountainsides to crumble is pretty ominous, but the true terror of this thriller is the way Bates seduces away Rachel right out from under Anthony’s nose. Forced to be a cuckold, watching his wife be manhandled by the brutish Crossley, Anthony is driven to the point of madness.
Watching Crossley worm his way into Anthony’s life was pretty unsettling. Director Jerzy Skolimowski focuses on bizarrely bland and natural events, sounds, and surroundings to focus on, making this supernatural tale all the more jarring. This is a slowly paced movie, but I was riveted to this film to see how it would all pan out. I had never heard of THE SHOUT until I happened upon it on cable a few months ago. It really is an original tale of a relationship put through the most extreme stress by a horrific invader. Seeing Hurt’s Anthony hollowed out to be a shell of a man by Crossley is a tough thing to watch. Though the trailer below is a bit hokey, there’s nothing lame about this film. THE SHOUT is a harsh and horrific thriller that deserves a bigger audience.
Written by Bo Buckley
Starring Christina Rose, Jack Abele, & William Lee
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Does low budget equal bad cinema? I don’t think so. Even with a budget lower than low, if a film has heart, creative spirit, or just plain spunk, sometimes seeing it can be as much of a worthwhile experience as any old multi-billion dollar production. DEATH OF THE DEAD is a low budgeter, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a whole lot of fun. Part of DEATH OF THE DEAD’s charm is that it knows it’s not a blockbuster and never acts like it wants to be. The makers behind this film have seen a lot of blockbusters though and like you and me, they seem to take a lot of inspiration from them.
Part THE NEXT KARATE KID (you know, the one with Hilary Swank) and part…well, every zombie movie you’ve ever seen, DEATH OF THE DEAD is filled with that independent spirit I love to see in low budget horror films. Wanda is a geek. She’s picked on by her slutty cheerleader peers. She gets into pudding fights with bullies at school. She gets the snot kicked out of her at the karate tournament and then to add insult to injury, her opponent farts lengthily in her face.
Wait…wait…backdafucup. Pudding fight?
Yes this film has a slow mo pudding fight between two girls. How bad can it be?
Well, the production values in this film are pretty low. Effects…low. Acting…not great. But the thing that saves this film is the script and the humor. I found myself laughing quite a bit at this film. Sure, most of the film is chock full of lowbrow humor (I mentioned the fart in the face right? Her mouth was open even!!!) and it brandishes that humor with a swagger rarely seen. You’ve got to appreciate the balls this film has to go for the low laugh and stick with it for the entire film.
DEATH OF THE DEAD is memorable in that it delivers a lot of laughs and has the confidence to laugh at itself. The relationship between Wanda and her mentor may not be as poignant as Daniel San and Mr. Miagi (Wanda’s sensei tries to hit on her the whole time), but it is a fun horror story about a student and her instructor. It’s also filled with pretty hot babes. So there’s that. Though DEATH OF THE DEAD won’t win any awards, as low budget fare goes, this zombie karate mash-up waxes on much more than it waxes off.
See ya, next week, folks!
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Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the names to buy)!
MUSCLES & FIGHTS VOL.3 & MUSCLES & FRIGHTS VOL.1.
VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER #1 and #2(interview, interview, preview, & review).
VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #20 WITCHFINDER GENERAL(preview, review)
NANNY & HANK miniseries: #1, #2, #3, and #4 (interview, interview, interview, preview, & review, review, in stores now!)
Zenescope’s WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010
THE DEATHSPORT GAMES miniseries: #1, #2, #3, and #4 (review, in stores now!)