Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. We’ve got another batch of new horrors this week. Those of you complaining about there being no good horror films out there should check out this batch of new fright films. But before you do, check out these news bits of interest.
First up, it looks like there’s no end to the remakes, but this newest version of CHILDREN OF THE CORN looks promising. Plus it’s got Billy Drago as an evil cult leader! CHILDREN OF THE CORN: GENESIS is available on VOD on August 31 and on DVD August 30, 2011.
The trailer suggests a sort of X-FILES feel to this one. Check it out!
I’ll be reviewing A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE in a few weeks. In the meantime, check out this chilling serial killer yarn at the below locations:
August 19th – one week engagement
reRun Gastropub Theater in Brooklyn
Writer/producer Simon Barrett is scheduled to appear at the August 19th 7pm show.
August 19th – one week engagement
Ragtag Cinemas10 Hitt Street in Columbia, MO
August 22nd – 25th 10pm nightly
Alamo Drafthouse Village in Austin, TX
September 3rd – 7pm
Cinefamily in Los Angeles, CA
A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE will be released on VOD, BluRay, and DVD on September 6th, but be sure to seek it out in theaters if you can!
And now, on with the new horrors!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
THE LAST CIRCUS (2011)
And finally…SCARY CLOWN!
New on DVD & VHS from Intervision!
THINGS (1989)Directed by Andrew Jordan
Written by Andrew Jordan & Barry J. Gillis
Starring Barry J. Gillis, Amber Lynn, Doug Bunston, Bruce Roach, Patricia Sadler, Paul W. Paschul
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
THINGS is not for everyone. I’m going to come right out and say that. If you like your horror slickly produced and cast with top tier actors directed by cream of the crop directors, go right ahead and scroll down to the next review. But unlike most other genres, horror doesn’t have to have a big budget to be effective. In fact, in the right hands, the smaller the budget, the more frightening/creative/realistic the horror is. Now, THINGS may not be the most original or well thought out concept, but there’s something about this film that is both endearing and a little bit creepy that entices me to encourage those who like their horror with a little stank on it to seek this new Intervision release out.
THINGS is your typical cabin on the woods story where a pair of guys from the city visit their friend in the middle of the woods only to find that it is overrun by monstrous rat-spiders with steel teeth. Roughly edited into sections that don’t always make sense, the narrative ping-pongs back and forth between a news broadcast (hosted by porn star Amber Lynn) and the cabin story. Everything about this film reeks of amateurism from the sloppy editing to the roughly synched sound dub to the slack acting to the loose narrative. But behind all of that, there are some effects that are worth mentioning that are both as gross as they come and somewhat impressive given the apparent limited budget. It’s obvious all of the money of this piece went into the effects work. The rat-spiders are damn impressive, although obvious puppets and the numerous scenes of gore and torture show that the filmmakers at least knew how to make a person wince.
Again, this is a rough looking film, but one with a heart that is twisted and in deep, deep love with the genre. THINGS is the type of film you play at a Halloween party if you want to set the mood to low fi horror or something you might see playing on the video screen in a late night bar. I found it to be a lot of fun, but there will be some unable to look past THINGS’ micro-budget.
New on DVD this month from Chemical Burn Entertainment!
MUCKMAN (2009)Directed by Brett Piper
Written by Brett Piper & Mark Polonia
Starring Alison Whitney, Steve Diasparra, AJ Kahn, Danielle Donahue, Ken VanSant & The Muckman as himself
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I wasn’t expecting much when I fired MUCKMAN into my old DVD player, but dammit if this little riff on monster hunting shows didn’t entertain the hell out of me. Being a fan of those shows probably helped. The story isn’t breaking new ground, but the actors are capable enough and the monsters are fun, making MUCKMAN better than most stuff you’ll see on SyFy. I know, given the crap SyFy will air, that doesn’t sound much like a compliment, but is a good yet breezy way to waste a few hours if you’re in the mood for an old school monster flick.
The story follows a has-been monster tracker host in search of the elusive Muckman, a Bigfoot type monster rumored to be roaming the swamps of a small hick town. The host was humiliated on a live show when his up close encounter with the Muckman turned out to be a drunk camera assistant in a bad monster costume. Seeking to redeem himself, he sends out a new team of investigators to track the real Muckman. Initially this is supposed to be another hoax with a better monster costume, but the real muck monster shows up unexpectedly. The film boasts a cast of unknowns, but all of them do a pretty good job here with most of the comedy working well. The three lead actresses are really strong here, delivering convincing, albeit semi-dimensional performances from the script they were given.
Not really blazing too many new trails when it comes to Bigfoot-style movies, MUCKMAN does have a great man-in-suit monster and also boasts some cool stop motion effects toward the end. The film uses every old school, low budget effect from backwards filming to stop motion in order to offer up an old school romp that will definitely make you smile and remember monster movies from a simpler time.
Advance Review: MARIANNE (2011)Directed by Filip Tegstedt
Written by Filip Tegstedt
Starring Peter Stormare, Thomas Hedengran, Dylan M. Johansson, Tintin Anderzon, Viktoria Sätter, Sandra Larsson
Currently touring the festival circuit including the Oldenburg Festival in Germany, the Edmonton International Film Festival in Canada in September, the Lund Fantastisk Film Festival in Sweden, the Maryland International Festival in October, and the BUT Film Festival in Holland. Find out more about MARIANNE here and on the film’s Facebook page!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
MARIANNE is a moody and somber ghost story that takes its time with the scares, but delivers in full by the very end. Those who appreciate a slow burn in their films will get a lot out of MARIANNE, but if you’re looking for cheap jump scares and beautiful people doing stupid things just to advance the plot, this ain’t the place for it. MARIANNE is for the most part, a touching drama about the loss of a loved one and how that effects those who live on.
Director Filip Tegstedt’s attention is definitely on style for the most of this film. The narrative is pretty simple. A woman dies. Her husband and two daughters (one a teenager, one an infant) mourn her loss. The husband Krister (played by the somber Thomas Hedengran) is haunted by nightmares. When it is suggested he visit a therapist, played by Peter Stormare in a restrained role, the therapist thinks Krister is suffering from grief and anxiety over the loss. Turns out there might be a vengeful ghost at work here. Tegstedt holds back from showing too much of this ghost and cleverly peppers in some strange shadows, pale fingertips, and scratching sounds throughout the story. Much of the rest of the film are extended takes on landscapes and silent frames of people mourning their loss. Tegstedt doesn’t allow this to get boring though with fascinatingly melancholic imagery and a fittingly sorrowful soundtrack. Though occasionally I forgot I was watching a ghost story and thought I was watching a music video, the director does a great job of fleshing out these characters though scene and song.
Krister’s nightmarish encounters with the ghosts are enough to make this film one scary treat. But the scares are more along the lines of DON’T LOOK NOW ookiness than your usual modern fright flick. MARIANNE is a gorgeous and chilling throwback by a director with an eye for atmosphere and tone. The ghost scenes are absolutely horrifying and filmed with a real sense of dread and terror, as if you yourself are being woken in the night to experience these scares with our main character. This is definitely not the feel good ghost story of the year, but though it takes its time with them, MARIANNE delivers a lot of scares of the highest caliber.
From IFC Midnight: Available now on VOD until September 6th!
KIDNAPPED (2011)AKA Secuestrados
Directed by Miguel Angel Vivas
Written by Miguel Ángel Vivas & Javier García
Starring Ana Wagener, Fernando Cayo, Manuela Vellés, & Guillermo Barrientos
Find out when and where you can see this on IFC Midnight’s website
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The premise of KIDNAPPED is nothing new: a family moving into a new house is the victim of a home intrusion by masked assailants. The intruders ask for credit cards, cash, and any valuables the family may have. Soon the disorganization of the intruders proves to pale in comparison to the strength of the family. Well, that’s the way a Hollywood ending of this type of film would go. Apart from some moments of pitch black bleakness at the end of KIDNAPPED, reading a description of the film is not going to entice you to check it out.
The thing is, despite the fact that this story has been told before, KIDNAPPED is a film of immense technical skill. The film is comprised of only a few extended takes, some of which span ten to twenty minutes at a time. The amount of planning and hurdles to leap in order to pull off these takes is immense and all pays off in a seamlessly performed drama of a family in peril. One scene channels DePalma as a split screen follows Jamie, the father, driving in his car with one assailant to cash out his credit cards while the other side follows Isabel, the daughter, who is being stalked through the house by another. The action during both of these scenes are as intense as they come and you’ll find yourself wishing your eyes would go all Marty Feldman and be able to follow both sequences at once. The end of this scene in particular took my breath away in a technique I have seen before (RULES OF ATTRACTION come to mind), but was completely wrapped up in the scene nevertheless.
KIDNAPPED is most definitely an experience you’ll never forget. It’s a relentless journey down a rabbit hole of despair laced with razor blades along the sides. I found myself utterly shocked at the places director Miguel Angel Vivas go with this story and the masterful techniques he uses to take us there. This harrowing gauntlet of a film is available through Video ON Demand through IFC Midnight until September 6th! You’ll wonder how they did what they did and remember KIDNAPPED long after its over.
In select theaters today: THE LAST CIRCUS (2011)AKA Balada TristeDirected by Álex de la Iglesia
Written by Álex de la Iglesia
Starring Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, Carolina Bang, Sancho Gracia, Alejandro Tejerías, & Manuel Tallafé
Find out when and where you can see this on the film’s website and Facebook page!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I’ve seen a ton of films this year, but THE LAST CIRCUS is far my favorite film I’ve seen so far. Almost uncategorizable, the film skips from one genre to the next leaving the viewer wondering not only what is going to happen next, but what type of film this will be. In the end, the only way I can categorize it would be as an epic. THE LAST CIRCUS spans many years, many locales, and many characters, mixing a heart-wrenching drama about circus life with a dark comedy about clown culture, but soon becomes a most bizarre horror film and ends with a climax straight from a Burton-esque Batman film. Sound cool? Well, it is. Director Álex de la Iglesia juggles these genres as if he’d been trained in the circus himself, never settling on conventions of any of the genres for too long—just long enough to watch a sad clown stumble aimlessly through his twisted life.
In many ways, I would compare this film in theme to SHAKES THE CLOWN, Bobcat Goldthwait’s cult classic film about the seedy underbelly of clown culture. de la Iglesia goes to great lengths to explain the differences between the sad clown and the happy clown. Seems happy clowns are the stars, loving the spotlight, enjoying life and bringing smiles to children’s faces. Sad clowns have never experienced being a kid, therefore don’t understand them. Instead, the sad clown appears to be the butt of the jokes and spends most of his time making the happy clown look good. Though the story is vastly different, I couldn’t help but think of the dynamic between THE SIMPSONS’ Krusty the Clown and Sideshow Bob, though our sad clown, Javier (played by Carlos Areces who looks like a chubby Tom Lennon), doesn’t covet our happy clown Sergio’s (played by Antonio de la Torre who reminded me of a devilish Kevin Kline) stardom in the circus. Javier is completely content with being a sad clown and plays the role to perfection. But like Sideshow Bob, Javier does covet something owned by the happy clown: his girlfriend Natalia (played by the gorgeous and talented Carolina Bang), who stars as the circus’ main acrobat performer. Though he is abusive to Natalia, Sergio seems to have her heart, but when she befriends Javier, almost out of spite, she doesn’t know how unstable the sad clown really is. Soon, the two fall somewhat in love, but the relationship is much more complex than that, with Natalia metaphorically swinging from the trapeze from one clown to the other throughout the film.
On top of the intense emotions at play, THE LAST CIRCUS is a visual Old Town Buffet with expansive set pieces such as circus big tops, battlefields littered with military forces, rolling countrysides, dark forests, trippy dream sequences, carnival parks, night clubs with a Kojak theme, and a bell tower sequence that is as gothic and comic booky as they come. Did I forget to mention that the bulk of this film takes place in the 1970’s so everything is steeped in the styles and culture of that decade as well?
Carlos Areces is a new face for me, but one who plays a man who is clearly bent to perfection. He is a chunky man-child, experiencing the world through wide, sad eyes. He is utterly endearing in some scenes, horrifying in others. His descent from boy to clown to man to beast to tool of redemption may be over the top, but utterly believable given de la Iglesia’s lens and his completely brave performance. Carlos Areces, as well, turns in a powerful performance who is a happy clown who would be a murderer if he wasn’t able to make children laugh. His snake-like eyes glaring from beneath his clown make-up makes for truly one of the scariest performances by a clown ever on screen. The hatred between these two clowns boils molten right up until the very end of the film.
THE LAST CIRCUS is an epic masterpiece filled with insanity, violence, heartbreak, visuals both marvelous and nightmarish, and completely, utterly original in every sense of the word. You’ve never seen anything like THE LAST CIRCUS before, I promise you!
THE LAST CIRCUS opens in limited release today in theaters and will be available On Demand later this month.
And finally…while we’re on the subject of scary clowns, here’s another one. 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. Mark is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and will be releasing FAMOUS MONSTERS first ever comic book miniseries LUNA in October (co-written by Martin Fisher with art by Tim Rees) Order Code: AUG111067! Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!
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