Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week we check out a quartet of new horrors that prove that all horror doesn’t have to be remakes or sequels to be good.
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
THE WILD HUNT (2009)
FERTILE GROUND (2010)
CYRUS: THE MIND OF A SERIAL KILLER (2010)
WE ARE THE NIGHT (2010)
Zeek of the Week: THE ZOMBIE COMBAT MANUAL Paperback
And finally…FORKLIFT DRIVER KLAUS!
New on BluRay & DVD!
THE WILD HUNT (2009)Directed by Alexandre Franchi
Written by Mark Anthony Krupa & Alexandre Franchi
Starring Ricky Mabe, Mark Anthony Krupa, Trevor Hayes, Kaneihtiio Horn, Nicolas Wright, Claudia Jurt, & Kent McQuaid
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This is one pitch black semi-comedy/semi-horror film. It’s hard to place it in a genre, but there are definitely elements at play such that it surely has a place here at AICN HORROR. A medieval reenactment camp is the setting for a drama between a young man and woman played by the equally talented Ricky Mabe (Erik) and Kaneihtiio Horn (who plays the object of the entire camp’s desire, Lyn, and rightly so). Needing some space, Lyn escapes to the camp and immerses herself in a culture of role-players who take living in the primitive society a little too seriously. Erik (a non-player) follows and is more than a little weirded out by it all, but Erik is familiar with the culture because his older brother Bjorn (played by writer Mark Anthony Krupa) has left home to live at the camp. Bjorn carries around a sledgehammer that he has dubbed Mjolnir and swaggers through the camp as the fearsome berserker. Tensions at the camp are already high between the Celts lead by Shaman Murtagh (Trevor Hayes) and the royalty of the camp, King Argyle, played by the hilariously assy Nicolas Wright. When Erik storms through camp in search of his girl and refusing to play, things get real real quick, and soon the camp turns into a really real war zone. Really.
As ridiculous as this case sounds, things are played pretty straight and aside from a couple of beats in the first half hour, the culture of medieval role play is not something that’s scoffed at. Reminiscent of the Tom Hanks made-for-TV film MAZES AND MONSTERS, about a young kid wrapped up too much in a Dungeons & Dragons-like roleplaying game that turns deadly, THE WILD HUNT was surprisingly chilling--especially the surreal ending as the camp in engulfed in flames and fury as the true colors of these gamers, both blood red and yellow, show themselves. The weekend warriors completely flip and start acting like real savages. Director Alexandre Franchi makes it all believable as the mob mentality takes over and in actions oft seen in some sporting events, the uglier side of nature proves to be closer to the surface than we’d all imagine.
I highly recommend this slow building film. Sure it’s easy to scoff at. Last year’s Paul Rudd comedy ROLE MODELS did a great job of that. But THE WILD HUNT takes shit seriously and turned out to be quite a chilling tale. With great performances by a cast of relative unknowns, this is one of those little movies that you’re bound to see late at night some time and wonder why you’ve never heard about it. Those who saw THOR in theaters and loved the tragedy and mythology will probably be pleased to see this more sophisticated take on medieval culture and how one can become consumed into a counter culture. This is a chilling modern fable wishing it was set in the Middle Ages.
Now available on DVD / BluRay! Part of the After Dark Originals series.
FERTILE GROUND (2010)Directed by Adam Gierasch
Written by Jace Anderson & Adam Gierasch
Starring Leisha Hailey, Gale Howard, Chelcie Ross, & JoNell Kennedy
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though not exactly like ROSEMARY’S BABY, FERTILE GROUND does share a lot of similarities. The central figure, Emily (played by the talented, girl next door beauty Liesha Hailey), is a somewhat meek housewife recovering from a traumatic miscarriage. Looking for a change of atmosphere, she moves with her husband (played capably by Gale Howard) to his ancestor’s home in the country. Almost immediately, bizarre stuff starts happening. Shapes move in the background. A handprint keeps appearing on a glass. Strange sounds come from the basement. Soon Emily is sure the house is haunted, but in true ROSEMARY’S BABY fashion, everyone thinks she’s nuts. A sudden revelation that Emily is pregnant doesn’t help matters as her fears are attributed to hormones.
Pregnancy horror is a fascinating subgenre to me. Being a man, the strange metamorphosis a woman’s body goes through never fails to intrigue me, especially since I will never go through the ordeal. The writing/directing team of husband and wife Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson do a fantastic job of amping up the chills and highlighting the “other-ness” of pregnancy. The feelings of solitude and alien thoughts of an organism growing inside are amped by Liesha Hailey’s fantastically restrained performance. Yes, it’s reminiscent of Mia Farrow’s Rosemary, but Gierasch take some nice lefts when rights are expected later in the story. There are also more than a few nice scares littered throughout.
Though not entirely original, FERTILE GROUND is another great installment in this year’s After Dark Originals series. It’s a jarring ghost story with real life terrors of pregnancy layered in. The stunning Liesha Hailey gives nods to Mia Farrow’s iconic role without being an outright ape of the performance and Anderson and Gierasch’s script goes in a completely different direction than expected in the final act. FERTILE GROUND scared me more than a few times and gets under your skin more so than your usual modern ghost story due to its pregnancy horror themes.
Available on BluRay / DVD on 6/28/11!
CYRUS: MIND OF A SERIAL KILLER (2010)Written & Directed by Mark Vadik
Starring Danielle Harris, Brian Krause, Lance Henriksen, Doug Jones, Tiffany Shepis, Rae Dawn Chong
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
CYRUS: MIND OF A SERIAL KILLER is a relentless descent into a monster’s psyche and offers an unflinching view of abduction, torture, rape, insanity, and murder through the eyes of a bona fide madman. A naïve and ambitious reporter (Danielle Harris, HALLOWEEN) seeks out the one story that will give her a big break and she thinks she’s found it when a man (Lance Henriksen) contacts her and tells her he has information about the County Line Cannibal. Intrigued, she sets out to the countryside to interview the crusty stranger, who knows a little too much about a serial killer with a taste for flesh and an affinity for hunting human prey.
CYRUS’ most impressive feature is that it is filled with enough genre actors for ten horror films. Seeing Harris and Henriksen share the same film (they also worked together in the illustrated film GODKILLER) is tops. Both have starred in enough horror films to be pros at this type of picture by now, but their performances (especially Henriksen’s gruff delivery in the role as narrator of this film) feel fresh and real. It was also cool seeing Doug Jones without being covered in makeup as a doctor talking about serial killers and scream queen Tiffany Shepis does a great job as Cyrus’ sleazy mom. Brian Krause (of CHARMED & SLEEPWALKERS fame) plays the title character and does a phenomenally creepy job at it. His subtle mannerisms flesh out this deeply disturbed man.
The creepiest part of CYRUS is that it is being played as fact. Though it’s filled with genre stars, the expert and witness testimony interspersed between Henriksen’s stories of Cyrus are chilling in that writer/director Mark Vadik makes it feel like you’re watching a documentary. Though the budget is modest and the script is a tad clunky in spots, the star power and mock authenticity in CYRUS makes it play as so much more. Those who adored the mock verite style of BEHIND THE MASK and MAN BITES DOG and scour the True Crime section of book stores will want to put CYRUS: MIND OF A KILLER on their list of flicks worth stalking.
Available on IFC Midnight’s VOD!
WE ARE THE NIGHT (2010)AKA WIR SIND DIE NACHT
Directed by Dennis Gansel
Written by Jan Berger, Dennis Gansel, Starring Karoline Herferth, Nina Hoss, Jennifer Ulrich, Anna Fischer, & Matt Riemelt
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The poster over there doesn’t do this film justice. It’s made out to look like SEX IN THE CITY except Sarah Jessica Parker’s pointy nose is substituted by pointy teeth instead. But this film from Germany is so much more than that. Yes, this film features four women lapping up life’s finer things, just like Parker and her coven, but these females lap up blood as well. WE ARE THE NIGHT (WIR SIND DIE NACHT) turns out to be a pretty thrilling bloodsucker film with some twists on vampirism that I haven’t seen before. Though not entirely original (the film borrows heavily from both TWILIGHT and THE LOST BOYS) it also has enough original scenes to make it worth a look see.
The film starts out with some haunting music (actually the entire soundtrack is fantastic) as a choir sings over what looks to be the aftermath of a massacre on a still-flying airplane. Three elegant female vamps—sultry leader Louise (Nina Hoss), vintage emo Charlotte (Jennifer Ulrich), and bubbly punk Nora (Anna Fischer) make their way through blood-empty bodies and dive out the emergency hatch before the plane crashes. Cut to Lena, a street punk pickpocket: her life is shit, her mom is fucking her juvie rep, and she lives in squalor. When Lena happens into a rave, she gains the attention of Louise and ends up bitten. When she wakes up and feels her skin burning in the sunlight, she realizes something is definitely wrong. Louise and the girls try to show Lena the ropes of living la vida loca—vampire stylee.
It’s the little details that make this film stand out. When Lena is bitten by Louise, it’s done in a mirror, so you can’t see the vampiress bite her, just the tooth marks going in. Other little aspects such as the extravagant lifestyle and the recklessness of the four vampires work well. Director Dennis Gansel tries to get a bit deep by saying that there aren’t very many vamps in the world and even less men because, according to Louise, all they want to do is fight and lord over women. This is a nice message, but since the four ladies only seem to spend their time spending the money of their victims and partying the night away at raves, it doesn’t make the fairer sex seem like they are anything more than shallow snits with not a care for anything but shoes, clothes, cars, and the next party. Making a statement that they’ve killed off the male vampires is a powerful one, but the follow-up seems to be a missed opportunity, since the deepest motivator of Louise is to find love (a love she thinks she’s found in Lena). Had Louise been a politician or some kind of influential figure, it would have driven the point home that the fairer sex is just that. But then we wouldn’t get montages of the ladies trying on clothes, racing cars, and partying the night away while downing shots of blood.
I don’t want to be too hard on this film. Like I said, there are a lot of great scary and inventive moments of vampirism throughout. I watched this film with someone familiar with TWILIGHT and though I wouldn’t have caught it because of my unfamiliarity with the films, she noticed that there are some direct swipes from the TWILIGHT films and books. That said, I found WE ARE THE NIGHT to be an elegant, yet a bit vacant and vapid, vampire flick with an explosive climax that really delivers as Lena and Louise have it out in a gravity defying melee of blood and violence. Not shy with the gore and scares, WE ARE THE NIGHT is better than most defanged vamp flicks that have been released lately and director Dennis Gansel has an eye for making scenes beautiful and horrific all at once.
ZEEK OF THE WEEK!
Published by Berkley Books
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
It’s coming. It’s not if it’s going to happen…it’s when. So my advice for you, faithful readers, is to be ready.
There are tons of books out there right now in regards to zombie fiction: cookbooks, military accounts, self help guides, zombies doing this, zombies doing that, how to books, revisionist zombie literature, zombie romance books. Though I’m mainly a comic book and movie guy, occasionally I like to read a book too. Take THE ZOMBIE COMBAT MANUAL, for instance. Roger Ma has written and produced not only an entertaining read but an essential one.
Ever wonder what’s the best weapon against a zombie at close range?
It’s in here.
What is the best diet and exercise for someone trying to survive the zombie apocalypse?
It’s in here.
How do you fight a zombie bare handed and get out without a bite?
It’s in here.
What do you do when you are in the middle of a zombie mob?
It’s in here.
Roger Ma gives detailed instructions and illustrations in a clear and concise manner with accounts both entertaining and informative utilizing the techniques explained in each chapter. Though this is a fun topic to read about, I honestly found the self defense and preparedness instructions to be riveting not only for entertainment value, but also as helpful tidbits to help one ready your home and life for dangerous circumstances involving the living, the dead, and the undead (even though the book clearly states that the methods and training from this book is not meant to instruct the reader in ways to combat the living).
I love the little nods Ma gives to zombie lore (he acknowledges Romero by stating that zombies do not run) and the differences between taking on the living and the dead (the training and diet are completely different if you are to prepare for undead combat than one would think). Ma has researched the hell out of this book and yes, it’s goofy, but it’s also a damn fun read. I like reading it on the plane and on the bus just to freak out those around me...and of course, to prepare for the inevitable.
And finally…I saw this short film a while back and while we’re on the subject of instructional material, I figured it’d be apropo. Here’s FORKLIFT DRIVER KLAUS!
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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