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. So 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.
I’ve got a couple of new horrors for this week’s mix, but before we get started, here are a few tidbits fans of horror might want to check out…
Monsterverse Entertainment’s BELA LUGOSI'S TALES FROM THE GRAVE #2 hits the comic book stands in July. This is a fantastic horror anthology filled with the industries top terror talent. In this issue, you can expect a special appearance from a familiar AICN face in one of the feature stories "CLAWS OF THE WEREWOLF." Story by Sam F. Park. Retro-cool art by James Groman.. The issue is available for pre-order on its Facebook page. You can also order from Diamond Previews here. Check out the preview page from the issue over to the right, then check out BELA LUGOSI'S TALES FROM THE GRAVE #2 on May 25th.
There’s been a lot of Chicago Music Box Theater horror fun lately. Tomorrow, if you didn’t enter Capone’s MOTHER’S DAY Contest (for shame if you didn’t), you can stand in line to get into the showing of Darren Lynn Bousman’s reinvention of the classic Troma film. The show starts at 11:59, just in time for the real Mother’s Day. Look for a special AICN HORROR: Make & Remake side by side comparison of both MOTHER’S DAYs in next week’s column. More info about the event can be found here.
OK, on with the show. Here are a handful of new-ish horrors for you to chew on and chuckle at, you sick bastards!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS DINOSHARK (2010)
THE NIGHT SHIFT (2010)
NATIONAL THEATER LIVE PRESENTS DANNY BOYLE’S FRANKENSTEIN (2011)
And finally…”She Blinded Me With Science!”
New on DVD: In stores June 21st!
ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS DINOSHARK (2010)Directed by Kevin O’Neil
Written by Francis Doel & Guy Prevost
Starring Eric Balfour, Iva Hasperger, Aaron Diaz, Humberto Busto
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
You know what to expect when you see the ScyFy seal of approval on the cover of a DVD. Shitty acting and even shittier CGI. There are loads of both in DINOSHARK, ScyFy’s latest water monster opus, a genre which seems to have a new installment by the week. This time we begin with a massive chunk of iceberg breaking off due to global warming and unleashing a frozen baby Dinoshark which swims away grows into a giant Dinoshark. And if you look really closely in this initial scene, you’ll see Al Gore shedding a sad, little tear.
I wish DONOSHARK was that clever.
But no, DINOSHARK is as by the numbers as it gets. A pirate and a beautiful scientist (both ridiculously good-looking) must do what the army, the coast guard, and a water volleyball team cannot; eliminate the Dinoshark which eats everything set in it’s path. We know this because the film sets up one scenario for the Dinoshark to eat things in the water after another. Dinoshark eats a wet-jetter. Dinoshark eats a boater. Dinoshark eats a para-sailer. There’s a bazooka scene. There are a lot of chicks in bikinis. There’s an emu. There are more chicks taking off their shirts and walking around in bikinis. Anyone who has seen SHARKTOPUS or MEGASHARK or MEGASHARK VS MONSTERPUSS or whatever knows the routine by now.
The special effects in this one are pretty bad. And speaking of pieces of the set, Eric Balfour (straight from his Oscar nominated role in SKYLINE) shows his acting range by adjusting the guard on his goatee trimmer a notch closer and plays the same pirate role he does in ScyFy’s HAVEN series. Even better than the special effects that keep Balfour’s hair extra moussey throughout all of this aquatic action, are the Commodore 64 rendered CGI effects. I mean, come on, can they at least TRY to make the monster blend into the rest of the scene? Some of the effects underwater are passable, but everything else, from the animated fin making no wake as it cuts across a calm ocean to the worst looking fake crocodile ever put to film, is just amateur hour. Can someone toss a little of that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA cash towards some of these movies to get them some better computers?
There’s a part of me that wants to enjoy these ScyFy films as no-brainer fun. But I just can’t find myself the power to like these turds. I think the studios that churn out these films could make something halfway decent, but it just doesn’t seem like they are trying and that pisses me off. The thing that really pisses me off is that Roger Corman puts his name on these “films”. I know CORMAN’S GOTTA EAT, but damn. Seeing the director of such campy, but still awesome classics as HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, PIRANHA, and DEATHRACE 2000 attached to stuff like this is embarrassing.
Released later 2011!
THE NIGHT SHIFT (2010)Directed by Thomas Smith
Written by Thomas Smith
Starring Khristian Fulmer, Erin Lilly, Soren Odom, Jordan Woodall
Find out more here at Fighting Owl Films!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Fans of recent spoofs THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA and ALIEN TRESPASS may want to seek out THE NIGHT SHIFT. Though this film plays things a bit straighter than those two homages to 50’s monster films, THE NIGHT SHIFT has the same embracement of its low budget and love for the genre. The characters in THE NIGHT SHIFT also have that kind of 50’s innocent mentality where our hero Rue Morgan, an undead graveyard caretaker, only wants a date with his boss, Claire, but with the undead rising and causing all sorts of trouble, it’s hard for that to happen.
I couldn’t help but think of other films like DEAD ALIVE which THE NIGHT SHIFT seems to strive to be despite its more modest budget. Or even CEMETARY MAN, which basically has the same premise, but takes itself much more seriously than this one. This isn’t a bad film. Quite the opposite. It actually is pretty charming in the way it approaches the characters in such an innocent manner without making fun of them. The acting is decent, though it seems everyone knows what kind of movie they are in. And though the effects aren’t the best, it matches the 50’s movie tone pretty well.
Where THE NIGHT SHIFT falters is that the version I saw clocks in at around 2 hours, which is way too long. This film is in post production, so I’m sure a lot of fat will be trimmed. I found myself looking at my watch a few times toward the end wondering when things would wrap up. I think an hour in the editing room with a machete and some good whiskey would do this film right. There’s a good film in here, despite the similarities to other films. It’s in good company with THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA and ALIEN TRESPASS, two films that jokingly poke at the goofiness of horror without putting it down. THE NIGHT SHIFT does the same in a charming and fun way. I was rooting for Rue Morgan and his skeleton sidekick Herb to save the day and get the girl. And though hardcore horror fans may scoff, I think there’s room for all kinds of takes on horror in this genre. THE NIGHT SHIFT is for those who can laugh at how silly this little horror genre can be.
In limited release now!
Available on DVD/BluRay May 15th!
RUBBER (2010)Directed by Quentin Bupieux
Written by Quentin Dupieux
Starring Stephen Spinella, Roxanne Mesquida, Jack Plotnick, & Wings Hauser
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I had heard a lot about RUBBER prior to seeing it. I explained it to friends, who scoffed at the bizarre premise with mild to little interest, but to me, I simply had to see this film. I don’t know if it was the high expectations or what, but while I can acknowledge that there’s a lot going on with RUBBER that I liked, it is not the perfectly awesome film a lot of folks are squawking about.
I have to give it to filmmaker Quentin Dupieux. Starting out RUBBER the way he does and rolling with that theme throughout the film is a ballsy and fun move that for some reason reminded me of ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES, though I haven’t seen that film in ages (Note to self: seek out ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES for review.). It too had an inanimate object going on a killing spree and while this film takes things to a SCANNERS-like extreme rather than simply pummeling the actors with tomatoes, the ludicrousness remains.
Yes, this is a film about a tire that goes on a killing spree by telekinetically exploding people’s heads and falling in love with a cute French girl. But it’s also a fun dissection of film and an exploration of the age old term, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around, does it make a sound?” It’s a pretty fun dissection of movie theater audiences as a whole, for that matter. From the get go, in a crazy opening sequence focusing on a set of chairs standing on a desert road, you know you’re in for an unconventional film. As a sheriff drives his car through a maze of chairs, knocking each over one by one, I couldn’t help but giggle at how absurd it was. Even during the monologue given by the sheriff, I was somehow entranced at the subject matter, “Every film has that moment where something happens for no reason other than to make the film have a story.” It’s a concept of story that is often used but never really explored. Dupieux tries to explore this theme here and does so in a somewhat successful manner, but as the story goes on, the concept gets rather tedious. Dupieux tries to have it both ways; making the movie work by itself and having a running commentary on how story works by casting a real audience watching the story and commenting on it throughout. A fun concept, especially with Wings Hauser present for added star power, kind of like cutting out the middle man and going right to the MST3K route from the get go or having the MUPPETS’ Statler and Waldorf give a running play by play for the whole film. But it’s an idea that kind of wears out its welcome by the halfway point. Though when your star is a circular piece of rubber, I guess something is needed for added comedic depth.
In the end, for me, I think RUBBER would have been a better short film. The repetition and slow progression of our hero tire’s quest got pretty monotonous after about an hour. Sure there were some really great scenes; the part where the tire sees his wheely brethren being tossed into a fire at a junkyard was pretty well done and yes it’s cool to see heads get all ‘splody. But I felt the filmmaker had to resort to the same tricks a few times too many and though the tire’s slow rolling journey was intrinsic to what it was, had the film picked up the pace and burned rubber on occasion, I think it would have been a more enjoyable film. There will be those that think RUBBER is a pretentious film which, in the first reel, the filmmakers explain away any responsibility they might have as a storyteller. I can see that. Explaining that some things just don’t make sense from the get-go is a bit of a cop out, but for me, it also adds to the offbeat charm of RUBBER. I’m of two minds about RUBBER. The part of me that loves the offbeat has to give it props, but my more sensible side realizes that by the end of the film, the tire’s tread had become well worn.
NATIONAL THEATER LIVE PRESENTS DANNY BOYLE’S FRANKENSTEIN (2011)Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Nick Dear, based on the novel by Mary Shelley
Starring Johnny Lee Miller, Benedict Cumberbatch, & Naomie Harris
Showing at the Music Box Theater, Chicago IL one last time tomorrow at 2pm.
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I reviewed this film last week and after seeing it a second time this week, what I said still stands. But given the fact that the two stars switch the lead roles of Master and Monster from one performance to the next, I went back to Chicago’s Music Box this week and watched Danny Boyle’s production again with Johnny Lee Miller playing the role of the Creature and Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor. In last week’s review, I commented on how it would be hard to beat Cumberbatch’s inspired performance as Frankenstein’s Monster. Here’s what I thought of my second sitting through DANNY BOYLE’S FRANKENSTEIN.
For the most part, my review from last week’s column remains the same. This is by far the most entertaining and most fleshed out version of Mary Shelley’s classic ever in my book. Everything from stage production, to the script, to the direction, to the effects were top notch. Check out last week’s review for a full review of everything else.
What I wanted to focus on here was the performance of Johnny Lee Miller as the Creature and Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor Frankenstein. Last week, I said that Cumberbatch’s Creature was going to be hard to beat. After sitting through the play again, I have to say that I probably preferred Cumberbatch’s Creature over Miller’s performance of the same role, but that doesn’t mean Miller’s Creature is anything to sneeze at.
While Cumberbatch moved his monster performance around as if he were a palsied stroke victim (he says he based his performance on studies he made in stroke units in hospitals in the pre-movie teaser), Miller excels at making the Creature more like a large child. Miller may drool and spit a bit more than Cumberbatch’s Creature, but he also displays a lot of the childish effortlessness one often sees in newborns and toddlers. The difference here is subtle. Both actors to a fantastic job and honestly it’s hard to pick the one that works better, but to me, Cumberbatch’s facial and head shape as well as his lanky frame represent the monster in a more horrific way than the more chiseled good looks of Miller in the role wearing fright makeup. On the flip side, Cumberbatch is quite good as Victor, but again, Miller looks more the part of the dashing mad scientist. In the end, I think I preferred the performance I saw last week over this week’s with Miller as Creature and Cumberbatch as Victor.
Either way, despite who is playing who, be it Cumberbatch as the Creature or vice versa, anyone able to check out this excellent performance should consider themselves lucky. There’s one more showing at the Music Box Theater in Chicago, Ilinois tomorrow (May 7th) at 2:00, then it moves on to the next town. If DANNY BOYLE’S FRANKENSTEIN comes near your town, you should make a point to go see this truly iconic take on a classic tale.
And finally…I’m in the mood for more Frankenstein. Here’s Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science” set to Hammer’s Frankenstein films…Enjoy!
See ya, next week, folks!
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 covers to purchase)!
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