AICN HORROR: New horrors LAKE MUNGO, THE COFFIN! THE TASK! THE FEED, & VICTIMS!!!
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. We’ve got another load of new horror for you this week, but before we do that, here are a few things you might be interested in.
RESOLUTION is a film I’ll be reviewing very soon, but check out this awesome trailer! Looks really cool!
Just in case you missed it, AICN HORROR posted some great interviews this week. I braved hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico to talk with Stephen Moyer, star of THE CALLER (plus a review of the film). Part two of that interview is up today as I caught up with the writer Serio Casci and director Matthew Parkhill of THE CALLER. I dissected what makes a good slasher film with Steven Mena, director/writer of MALEVOLENCE and BEREAVEMENT (plus a review of both films). Ghost hunting was the subject of the day when I caught up with The Vicious Brothers, writers/directors of GRAVE ENCOUNTERS (plus a review). And finally, I talked about hillbillies and gore with Alan Tudyk, star of TUCK & DALE VS EVIL (plus, you guessed it, a review of the film). Be sure to click on the links and check out these cool interviews and reviews after reading this column.
Now let’s get to the new horrors, shall we?
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
LAKE MUNGO (2007)
THE COFFIN (2011)
THE TASK (2010)
THE FEED (2011)
And finally…Alfred Hitchcock presents Ghost Stories for Young People!
New on DVD!
LAKE MUNGO (2007)Directed and written by Joel Anderson
Starring Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Talia Zucker, and Martin Sharpe
Find out more about the film on its website!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
One of the most frightening films you probably haven’t yet seen is LAKE MUNGO. Not necessarily a found footage film, although it is filmed in a documentarian style, this small but powerful film had me on the very edge of my sofa until the last seconds. Writer/director Joel Anderson patiently and skillfully guides us through a mystery about a young girl who drowns in a lake. As time passes, the grieving family experiences strange phenomena. This is an onion of a film, peeling away one terrifying layer after the next revealing one terrifying secret after another. More like a real life TWIN PEAKS or AMC’s THE KILLING case than anything else, LAKE MUNGO is one of those films that you may not have heard of, but will never forget once experienced.
I can’t say enough about the patience and restraint Anderson has in presenting this case. Too many of these types of films rely on the “comin’ at ya” effect, placing the viewer in the first person POV, then throwing shit right in your face. LAKE MUNGO doesn’t go for cheap thrills. Its effectiveness relies on the fact that the story it is telling is genuinely scary. The revelations throughout are actually shocking. There’s no misdirection or cheap thrills. Only a palpable sense of dread that intensifies all the way up until the end.
The performances by Alice Palmer’s family are spot on and seem undeniably real. Alice herself (played by Talie Zucker) is believable as a girl next door with unbelievable secrets. This is a film that truly challenges one’s senses and will have you asking yourself “is this real?” I can’t recommend this frightening little film more. It’s definitely one of my favorite films I’ve seen in quite some time and probably the most frightening mockumentary I’ve ever seen.
New on DVD this week from Breaking Glass Pictures!
THE COFFIN (2008)Directed and written by Ekachai Uekrongtham
Starring Karen Mok, Ananda Everingham, Florence Faivre and Andrew Lin
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This film, inspired by a true Thai ritual of meditating in a coffin in order to rid oneself of bad things, plays like an amalgamation of many films you’ve probably seen. The elevator pitch of this film would be THE GRUDGE meets FINAL DESTINATION as a man and a woman, both taking part in this ritual for different reasons, experience strange paranormal phenomena afterwards. THE COFFIN may not be entirely original, but it does have quite a few effectively frightening scenes.
After completing the ritual, the pair, Karen Mok and Ananda Everingham, start having horrible nightmares of being buried alive and other surreal sequences involving blood and a creepy GRUDGE-like girl. Turns out they have tempted fate, and even though Tony Todd isn’t around to explain it, you know that fate cannot be changed. THE COFFIN has fun with what it has to work with. The scares are pretty cool and director Ekachai Uekrongtham knows how to amp up the atmosphere. Occasionally I was holding back a yawn as some of the sequences went on a bit long, and given the premise you kind of know where this one is going. But I liked the ending and the decisions made by the characters in the film. It’s definitely better acted than the FINAL DESTINATION films and filmed with a much more talented eye for creepiness and setting. THE COFFIN borrows bits and pieces from other films, but does so in a very skillful manner.
New on DVD from After Dark Originals!
THE TASK (2010)Directed by Alex Orwell
Written by Kenny Yakkel
Starring Alexandra Staden, Victor McGuire, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Ashley Mulheron, Tom Payne, Texas Battle, and Adam Rayner
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I’ve liked all of the After Dark originals I’ve seen so far this year, HUSK being my favorite. The rest--PROWL, SECONDS APART, and FERTILE GROUND--all have a lot of redeeming qualities. I wish I could say that THE TASK follows suit, but in the end, the film just didn’t do it for me. Not that it is terribly acted or directed--the performances were decently played and the story guided capably. There just wasn’t that oomph present, as if everything was kind of done by the numbers.
The story revolves around an extreme TV Show (think Fear Factor) where five contestants are chosen to stay the night in a haunted prison. A group of techs and directors watch and guide the contestants through numerous challenges specifically designed for them. Contrived can’t begin to describe what goes on as the contestants band together to overcome the challenges; all the while it seems like a real ghost of the evil warden (are there any other kind?) is going around killing the crew. The kids themselves are pretty stereotypical, cast as if checking off a list: Smart Indian chick? Check. She’s super smart, by the way. Punk English girl? Check. She’s super spunky, by the way. Gay dude? Check. He’s super gay, by the way, thanks for asking. Nerdy dude? Check. He’s super—OK, you know what I mean.
Reality flips and flops here and those thinking they’re on a TV show aren’t and some who think they aren’t are. Things get really complex and muddy toward the end as the director throws logic out the window in order to go for the shockeroo ending. This is not unwatchable. It may be worth a view if it shows up on SyFy some lazy afternoon, but apart from the fact that one of the actor’s real names is Texas Battle (which I found amusing for some reason), I can’t recommend THE TASK.
THE FEED (2010)Directed by Steve Gibson
Written by Steve Gibson, Matt Edens, and Jon Nunan
Starring Seth Drick, Chip Facka, Brianna Healey, Jody Horn, Lloyd Kaufman, Melissa Mabus, Sam Nelsen, Andrew Shaffer, and Scott Stieler
Find out more about this film at Fist In Post Films and on the film’s website!Reviewed by Ambush Bug
If you’re a fan of GHOST HUNTERS (one of my guilty pleasures), you probably had the notion that if something really paranormal occurred on those shows, the “experts” on the show wouldn’t know the first thing of what to do about it. For the most part, it’s guys walking around claiming to be experts in something that can’t be explained. One of the things I like in this recent wave of “Ghost Hunter” style films is that it highlights how little these guys know and shows them as the bumbling geeks that they pretend not to be. In THE FEED, we have your typical band of Ghost Hunters: the leader, the cameramen, the tech guy, the chick, the medium, and we follow them as they investigate a haunted theater with a dark past. Though that dark past is literally projected early in the story, that doesn’t mean that THE FEED doesn’t have a lot of fun to offer.
What I liked about THE FEED is that this film plays it real. The crew scans around in the dark with night vision, there are technical difficulties right and left, and as soon as paranormal shit starts happening, they bumble around and into one another like ants in a shaken up ant farm. I loved it that right at the beginning, when something truly scary happens, the cameraman instantly wants to leave. To me, that seemed real. All the way until the end, as one lone guy is left panting, screaming, and running for his life, THE FEED is probably more on par with reality than the actual reality shows.
Another fun aspect of THE FEED is that they treat the film as if it were a real live broadcast with fake commercials and everything, my favorite being Lloyd Kaufman’s late night legal commercial. Though at times the actors aren’t on par with the requirements of the script, there’s a lot to like about THE FEED if you’re a fan of those ghost hunting shows. There are some genuinely frightening moments throughout. Though this found footage trend seems to be running its course, THE FEED proves that there’s still some fun to be had with the genre.
Advance Review: VICTIMS (2011)Directed by David Bryant
Written by David Bryant
Starring John Bocelli, Sarah Coyle, Andy Cresswell, Nina Millns, Sharon Lawrence, Bradley Cole, Leighton Wise, David Bryant, & Richard Stiles
Playing the following festivals: Maryland Film Festival, Dark Bridges FF and Raindance in the UK. Find out when and where to find this film on its website and on its Facebook page!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
VICTIMS is a simple premise: a man is abducted by masked assailants. He is accused of a heinous crime, yet says that his abductors have the wrong person. The abductors insist they have the right man. The story takes place in one location (the abandoned warehouse) and could just as easily be a stage play as it is a film. What transpires is a fascinating story that will leave you asking yourself more questions than you might be comfortable asking. Writer/director David Bryant takes the viewer on an often painful, often insightful journey into one man’s soul.
Though shot from a first person perspective on a hand held camera, I wouldn’t categorize VICTIMS as a found footage film. Those films often ring false or depict events that defy explanation. VICTIMS is a forced confessional done by abductors. The effectiveness of this film hinges on the believability of the performers. Here, the masked abductors display rage that you can almost taste toward this man they have handcuffed to a wall. In the same sense, the desperation of the man himself is palpable as well. Though abduction scenes are not new to film, rarely do we see one so brutally real.
Without giving too much away, later in the film, both sides of this story come to the surface. Bryant writes a script that delves into uncomfortable territory. This may be too much for some viewers, not because of any graphic nature but because of the convincing arguments both sides have on the issue of a child accused of a grown up crime. It’s a tricky subject and one presented in an intelligent and emotionally powerful manner. Bryant’s smart script and unflinching presentation doesn’t offer any answers with VICTIMS, but his film does raise questions that will definitely cause unease. Though there are no vampires or axe murderers in this one-locale film, the horror in VICTIMS comes from the effect it has on the viewer and questions it forces one to ask and worse than that, the answers you come up with yourself.
And finally…here’s a little treat from the past, Alfred Hitchcock presents Ghost Stories for Young People. Though the volume is low, here’s The Haunted and the Haunters! 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)! Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!
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Sept. 2, 2011, 10:07 a.m. CST
Not necessarily a found footage film... I wouldn’t categorize as a found footage film... What would you, then? Cause those look pretty found footage-y to me.
Sept. 2, 2011, 11:10 a.m. CST
One thing "Lake Mungo" has going for it is that it really does seem like a documentary. Sure, sometimes the acting isn't perfect. But in real documentaries, the interviewers and interviewees often act too rehearsed as well. With that said, only one scene made me feel uneasy. Without spoiling it, I'll just say the scene involves a camera phone and a glimpse into a certain character's future.
Sept. 2, 2011, 12:19 p.m. CST
Should be Lloyd Kaufman, obviously not a Troma Fan.
Sept. 2, 2011, 2:11 p.m. CST
Sept. 2, 2011, 2:53 p.m. CST
by Collin Armstrong
Enjoyed the column as always, Bug, but Lake Mungo (among several other titles covered) shouldn't be considered "new" - it's from '07, as you mention, and was part of one of the recent After Dark cycles (best of that bunch too, if memory serves). I loved Lake Mungo - a great example of constantly reversing audience expectations - at a certain point, the twists became a little exhausting, but I appreciated how they kept viewers guessing and how rigidly they adhered to the very dry documentary format the chose to emulate. Great example of how to make "found footage"-style horror feel fresh.
Sept. 2, 2011, 8:57 p.m. CST
... are these After Dark productions made by the UK for a US distributor or some-such? The Task - which really does suck sweaty pudenda - has an almost exclusively British cast, mostly playing Americans, though it's filmed in Russia. I've seen a couple more of these and never noticed but the only one I outright liked, Prowl, did have at least one Brit off the telly in a main role (playing American again), come to think of it. When trying to find out some info on this at IMDB I noticed someone saying The Task is a ripoff (to the extent that they thought it was a remake) of a Thai move called Ghost Game. The synopsis does suspiciously similar.
Sept. 2, 2011, 9:03 p.m. CST
... and Bruce Payne's in Prowl too. Another Brit. ...just looked it up - same deal as the Task - lots of UK Drama School graduates and the occasional face off the UK telly. Fascinating if you're me!
Sept. 2, 2011, 9:36 p.m. CST
I couldn't agree more with your assessment of "Lake Mungo". While the title is unappealing, I took a chance and watched the film and was floored by it. I don't think since "Blair Witch" (when I first saw it) has something of this nature so disturbed me; and I dine on a heavy diet of classic and modern horror so that counts for something! My only "WTH" was the relationship with the therapist. Not wanting to spoil anything, but I found the revelation to be a bit off... Then again I thought Mike throwing the map away in the aforementioned "Blair Witch" to be a big WTH moment but I got past it.
Sept. 2, 2011, 11:14 p.m. CST
I was hoping "The Coffin" was a movie of the Phil Hester comic book.
Sept. 3, 2011, 7:50 a.m. CST
Was a piece of Dungo
Sept. 3, 2011, 8:07 a.m. CST
Very little of the film is frightening, while quite of bit of the content is a mish mash of conflicting ideas, and convenient plot detours. I actually took a walk after seeing this, to try and piece the content together...I was not completely successful. The final shot appears to contradict what has come before it. Indeed, it is a hybrid of "found footage" and "mockumentary", best compared to the "Blair Witch" companion TV introduction, "Curse of the Blair Witch". I am a fan of the "found" genre, and I would love to see one final, excellent example close the door on cycle, at least for a while. The fall TV series "The River" - should be interesting. I encountered my own "found footage" experience, when my parents bought a 30s cottage from an old woman, long suffering from Alzheimer's. In the basement, were dozens of reels of family movies (16 mm mainly), to be thrown away. I kept them, and slowly started watching, in dated order. What unfolded, was the sad story of a childless couple, and how their lives depressingly progressed. The creepiest moment...last reel, the husband (assumed) is filming the wife, who is sitting on a sofa and crying. She waves the camera away, he doesn't budge. At that moment, I realized that I was projecting the film onto the blank wall, against which the sofa seen in the film, actually rested. I was in the same room, looking through a celluloid "time tunnel", directly at her....bizarre. We didn't know her, but we went to her funeral a few months later (her husband had long ago died).
Sept. 3, 2011, 5:18 p.m. CST
What... the... fuck... Your paragraph about the 16mm films found in the cottage basement is ten times more disturbing than all the found footage films I've ever seen put together. And I can't even put my finger on why... perhaps because it is ACTUAL found footage. That just sounds incredibly sad to sit through. And you wonder why he was filming her while she was crying. Any insight into that? I really hope you're not winding everyone up (and I apologize at the insinuation, but this is the TB's after all), because that's a pretty amazing story. It just sounds incredibly sad too. Like you said, you're looking through a window in time at a life far removed from your own and you wonder, where did it go wrong? What would someone seeing filmed bits of your life think... would it be sad? Would you seem fulfilled and content? What constitutes living life to the fullest, anyway? I guess that would make a good found footage film... it also might say more about life and people getting lost in the sea of time than something like 'Tree of Life'... although Roy Batty comes close! "All those... moments will be lost in time... like tears... in rain." Good stuff.
Sept. 4, 2011, 7:55 a.m. CST
Sept. 4, 2011, 2:10 p.m. CST
by El Cimarron
wow... just wow. i agree with sk229, your story sounds infinitely more interesting than those wanna be found footage movies, as well as incredibly sad. poor existence... that's all i gotta say... poor existence.
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