Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. I’ve got another gaggle of horror films for you guys this week, but before that…there’s this!
Though I’m stuck in Chicago, Torontoans (is that a term?) have something to look forward to at the beginning of March. On Friday, March 2nd, 2012, FRIGHT NIGHTS AT THE PROJECTION BOOTH will present a rare theatrical showing of the director’s cut of BATTLE ROYALE along with the world premiere of the new short film FAMILIAR from Fatal Pictures. I reviewed FAMILIAR not too long ago here. Find out more about this very cool event here.
Friend of AICN HORROR Bill Oberst Jr. will be playing the role of Honest Abe in an until now unknown chapter of American history--the zombie apocalypse! The poster of this one made me laugh out loud. ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS ZOMBIES will be released May 22nd and you’d better believe I’ll be tuning in. Find out more info on this film here!
And now, let’s check out some spooky movies!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: HUMONGOUS (1982)
Advance Review: IRON DOORS (2011)
METAL SHIFTERS (2011)
YAKUZA WEAPON (2011)
THE DEAD (2011)
And finally…Aleksander Nordaas’ IN CHAMBERS (Short Film)
New on DVD from Scorpion Releasing & Katarina’s Nightmare Theater!
HUMONGOUS (1982)aka DOG ISLAND
Directed by Paul Lynch
Written by William Gray
Starring Janet Julian, David Wallace, John Wildman, Janit Baldwin, Joy Boushel, Layne Coleman, Shay Garner, Page Fletcher, John McFadyen, Garry Robbins, Mary Sullivan
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
On the one hand, HUMONGOUS is your typical 80’s slasher flick. It’s got an unseen killer with a dastardly origin stalking clueless and hormone driven youths through a forest. Nothing we haven’t seen in a FRIDAY THE 13TH film dozens of times. Then again, despite the fact that what plays out in HUMONGOUS is highly formulaic, it follows this formula in a skillful manner that proves to be pretty horrific for its time and upon revisiting it now.
HUMONGOUS (aka DOG ISLAND, named after the secluded island these horrific events occur upon) is about the product of a nasty rape that resulted in the birth of a child. Like other films such as MOTHER’S DAY, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and THE BEAST WITHIN, rape is given monstrous form in HUMONGOUS. In a metaphorical sense, the monsters in these films represent the stigma attached to a rape. Though all rapes don’t result in pregnancy, there is the nightmare that follows the heinous crime. In horror movies, this nightmare is given the form of a beast. The beast in HUMONGOUS is just that: a seven foot tall madman that grew up away from society on an island populated only by a rape survivor and a pack of wild dogs. Of course the child is maladjusted. Of course he’s violent. Having to compete with wild hounds for food makes one quite surly, I’d imagine.
Much of the movie is dedicated to the uneasy connection between the youngsters which basically serve as fodder for our madman. Though the story of two warring brothers is somewhat interesting, this plot thread is only touched upon and the film quickly falls into convention with the virginal good final girl being the only one left to take on the monster.
The rape scene at the beginning of this film is horrific, but director Paul Lynch (who also directed PROM NIGHT) chooses to focus on the terror of it, amping it to its maximum fright potential without lingering uncomfortably on it as with other films such as I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. Lynch opens the film with a haunting montage of still photographs set to elevator-style jazz music. Having just witnessed a brutal rape and then being inundated with these saccharinated photos of a woman who through the photos grows older and more secluded on the island is a memorable and haunting way of opening the film. Lynch is guilty of aping POV shots seen in BLACK CHRISTMAS, HALLOWEEN, and FRIDAY THE 13TH, but impresses me with moody lighting, especially in the scenes with the disfigured monster in them, only seen in silhouette in front of a bright light source.
The monster, played by Garry Robbins, is imposing in stature, but also in the manner by which he moans and groans. The sounds coming from the humongous creature are ones of pain and remorse. It almost sounds like a crying man-baby crashing around and killing all of these youngsters and later feeling pain from their retalliation.
HUMONGOUS shouldn’t be on the top of anyone’s must see list, but if you’re looking for old slasher conventions done right, it’s sure to please. The film stars David Wallace (best known for MAZES AND MONSTERS and MORTUARY) with T&A provided by Joy Boushel (who was the bar whore who Goldblum beds in THE FLY), plus there’s 70’s “Nancy Drew” star Janet Julian as the final girl. The acting is actually pretty good and the brutality of the rape continues on throughout the film in the form of this man-monster smashing every person in its path. Though the stars pull a page right from the ending of FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2 as the final girl tries to confuse the monster by posing at its mother, HUMONGOUS has enough chills and unnerving thrills to entertain if you’re in the mood for something slasher-y.
New on DVD!
IRON DOORS in 3D(2010)Directed by Stephen Manuel
Written by Peter Arneson
Starring Axel Wedekind & Rungano Nyoni
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This little film surprised me. Though the “in 3D” thing kind of threw me since there’s not a lot of this film that screams three dimensions save for the final scene, but that’s besides the point. Part CUBE, part SAW, IRON DOORS follows a man who wakes up sealed in a square room with a cabinet, a blowtorch, a dead rat, and a closed vault door. Confused and thirsty, the man tries to figure out why he’s there and who’s doing this to him.
The fun in this film lies in the mystery, which isn’t really revealed until the last few seconds of the film. Not knowing what type of film this was definitely amped my interest as to what lay behind the vault doors, but actor Axel Wedekind does a good job sustaining interest throughout the entire film. At times, he isn’t able to act to the level the story demands, but for the most part, he gives a believable everyman performance.
There’s an awful lot dedicated in this film to urination and imbibing in disgusting things. Some of it plays out like an episode of FEAR FACTOR as our hero must chomp on maggots and drink urine in order to survive the ordeal. The attention given to these acts of intake is definitely gratuitous, and though it does play as effective the first time, it becomes somewhat tedious after multiple observings.
But I have to give credit to writer Peter Arneson, who fills the story with pretty believable dialog, and director Stephen Manuel who keeps things moving despite the fact that the entire film basically takes place in one square room. The revelation in the end was pretty satisfying (though I won’t reveal it here), and though some might be able to predict it, it still leaves an impact. With a stronger lead, I think this could have been a stellar film. Though the film does suffer from lack of things to do by the third act and the acting is not top notch, IRON DOORS in 3D entertained.
New on DVD/BluRay!
METAL SHIFTERS (2011)aka IRON INVADER
Directed by Paul Ziller
Written by Paul Ziller and Gary Hawes
Starring Kavan Smith, Colby Johannson, Nicole de Boer, Merritt Patterson, Jesse Moss, Donnelly Rhodes
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Not sure why this film changed its name from IRON INVADER to METAL SHIFTERS, not that either is an extremely accurate description of the events that occur in the movie, but at least the first accurately suggests that there is in fact only one invader. This is another SyFy movie, and mentioning that fact should already give you an idea of what to expect: not so good acting, amateur effects, and by the numbers story. For the most part, that’s what this film is in a nutshell, but for some reason, it held my attention all the way through unlike other SyFy endeavors.
The story follows a handful of small townies who just happen to be in the wrong place at the right time as a meteor from space falls to earth after crashing with an abandoned Russian satellite as it cut through the atmosphere. At the same time, an old junk man is hobbling around his yard making a seventeen foot tall iron golem…like you do in small towns, I guess. Sure as you can say Go Bots, the meteor merges with the giant metal monster and it’s all of a sudden a TRANSFORMERS movie without the annoying LeBouf or humping dogs or racist robots.
In that sense, I actually prefer this goofy little movie to Bay’s overblown suckfests because it remains focused and dedicated to being a monster on a rampage film. Sure, the seams are obvious in the effects. The CGI is not good, though better than usual since it is inanimate objects being animated. Sure the acting is soap opera level, but at least these guys are giving it their all, which is less than I can say for John Turturro in the Bay-formers films.
If you’re looking for a decent way to toss away a couple of hours on a lazy afternoon, METAL SHIFTERS isn’t a bad way of doing it. The cover art wants you to think it’s like TRANSFORMERS, but just by being honest to what it is, I think it surpasses those films.
New on BluRay/DVD!
YAKUZA WEAPON (2011)Directed by Tak Sakaguchi & Yudai Yamaguchi
Written by Tak Sakaguchi & Yudai Yamaguchi
Starring Tak Sakaguchi, Shingo Tsurumi, Mei Kurokawa, Takashi Nakanishi, Akihiko Sai, Arata Yamanaka
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I’m relatively new to Asian Extreme Gorror. I’ve checked out TOKYO GORE POLICE and loved the most recent HELLDRIVER, but I can’t say I’m an aficionado like my fellow AICN Editor Scott Green, who does his AICN ANIME reviews excellently every week. YAKUZA WEAPON is adapted from a manga book, I believe, but as far as movies go, it’s a damn entertaining one.
Tak Sakaguchi plays Shozo Iwaki, the brash son of a Yakuza ganglord who is the victim of a coup by a rival gangster, Kurawaki. In the opening moments, we see that Shozo is a bit of an ass, showboating around and bragging about his Yakuza status and powerful father. After his father is killed and he is wounded badly by Kurawaki, Shozo is rebuilt with a gatling gun weaponized hand and a missile-launching knee. Fully loaded and cockier than ever, Shozo sets out to revenge his father’s death.
Though I know Shozo is supposed to be a brash and cocky character, writer/director/actor Tak Sakaguchi exudes Jersey Shore levels of smarm that makes it extremely hard to identify with and care for. It is possible some of this is lost in the translation from one culture to another, but Sakaguchi’s attempts at being cool are anything but. Because of that, it’s hard to become invested in this story since it centers on such a douche-tard.
That said, one can’t help but marvel at the creative perversity of the over the top effects in this one. On top of the gatling gun arm and knee missile, Shozo takes glee in decimating his opponents in an almost half hour long climax battle with a multitude of zombie ninja warriors. By the time the master warrior shows up with his cyborg weapon girl strapped to his back, you’ve experienced enough action for ten movies combined. The final battle as Shozo fights the weaponized woman being shot by the warrior is absolutely insane. The cyborg woman’s toes turn into machine guns. Her vagina turns into an RPG. And while fucking the woman weapon, her head slides down to reveal a cannon.
Having seen and loved VERSUS, I imagined YAKUZA WEAPON to be chock filled with mayhem and the latter half is. But unlike VERSUS, which is a rollercoaster ride through a deranged action addict’s mind, YAKUZA WEAPON doesn’t have the main character to invest in.
Still, those final fight scenes are absolutely badass and worth checking out.
New next week on DVD/BluRay!
THE DEAD (2011)Directed by Howard J. Ford & Jon Ford
Written by Howard J. Ford & Jon Ford
Starring Rob Freeman, Prince David Osei, & David Dontoh
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Writing a column subtitled “Zombies & Sharks”, I have found that there is a literal shit ton of zombie films out there. Just when you think that no new permutation of zombie film can be made, another rears its ugly, undead head. Now, a lot of these films are crap. OK, I admit. Most of them are. But when one is made with such attention to theme, atmosphere, and respect for not only Romero’s laws but the laws of African voodooism, I have to stand up, take notice, and make sure as many people check out the film as possible.
The Ford Brothers have done a very simple thing with THE DEAD. Like Gareth Edwards’ MONSTERS, most of the atmosphere is already there in this film. The arid deserts, the dusty ramshackle towns, the dirt roads, the grassy prairies, the pitch black darkness of the nights—it’s all already there, a part of the landscape, and all the Fords have to do is turn on the camera to get it all. The film serves as an amazing travelogue of Africa. First and foremost, you can tell that this is a step above most zeeks in that the landscape the film takes place on is exotic and new. This is not film about a group of people trapped in a house with arms breaking through the windows; in this film, there are no walls that can hold back the dead. They are everywhere and seemingly unstoppable.
Don’t get me wrong. These zombies can be killed. All of Romero’s rules apply. A shot to the head and they’re down. It’s the sheer number of the undead that strikes fear. Like Romero’s film, the waves of undead are the real threat. Sure, one or two can be taken out, but when they are coming at you en masse, it’s not only dangerous, it’s damn scary. There will be some “fast moving zombies” fans who will scoff at the shambling Romeroian dead depicted here, but numerous times throughout the film, the dangers of these zombies is exemplified as the stars feel they have the situation well in hand and the tide turns in a heartbeat. I believe in this day and age, it’s more challenging to make slow zombies scary. Sure something running after you is frightening, but unstoppable creatures that move in your direction no matter what is much more akin to the metaphor of the inevitability of death I believe Romero intended. It’s a testament to the skill of the Ford Brothers as directors that they make these encounters with the slow moving dead absolutely frightening over and over in THE DEAD.
Star Rob Freeman does a lot with very little talking in his role as Lt. Brian Murphy. In fact, there’s not much talking at all in much of this film. I interviewed Freeman this week, and I think you’ll come to admire his performance after hearing the arduous ordeal he went through to make this film when you read the interview next week. Freeman does a fantastic job as a grizzled war vet who just wants to get out of the country, but can’t seem to find any place that isn’t riddled with brain munchers. There are numerous scenes of Murphy silently moving through the desert and jungle, attempting to evade the zombies rather than wantonly kill them. I love the way Murphy tries only to kill the zombies closest to him or ones he can use in some way. It’s a respect for the dead that few zombie movies have. This is a warrior with a code of honor; the closest thing to a Rambo meets zombies we’ll probably ever see.
Again, like Romero’s films, the Ford Brothers imbue this film with multiple layers, making the film easy for metaphorical dissection. Is it a statement about AIDS? Famine? World relations? Apartheid? The answer: yes, to all of them in one way or another. Setting this film in Africa, there’s going to be comparisons and allusions to all sorts of hot topic issues, but the best thing about this film is that it doesn’t take a stance on any of them. In the end, the Ford Brothers made a zombie movie and it can be enjoyed on that level. If you want to read more into it, the context is there, but not preached or beaten into you—much like Romero’s early, more subtle work, as well.
The film is filled with extremely powerful moments such as a scene where a bitten woman tries to give her uninfected baby to Murphy. Another scene where Murphy has to put down a bitten friend is handled deftly as well, as is a scene where the local police patrol the streets looking for survivors and shooting the bitten point blank with callousness. That said, I have to admit that as the film went on, it did become a bit repetitive in that the scenes seem to be set up to amp scares rather than the scares coming internally from the story.
Repetition aside, THE DEAD is not just a good zombie movie, it’s the best zombie film of the year and better than any I’ve seen in ages. Fans of Romero will love this film, and I think fans of Snyder fast zombies will be surprised at it as well. Just when you thought that you’ve seen it all, with THE DEAD the Ford Brothers go and make a zombie film that is as fresh as a zombie is rotten.
Check out my interview with the Ford Brothers from last fall and look for my interview with star Rob Freeman next week!
And finally…from the makers of the upcoming dark fantasy film THALE comes Aleksander Nordaas’ IN CHAMBERS, a gorgeously filmed, terrifying little nightmare. 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 has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment. He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and has just released FAMOUS MONSTERS first ever comic book miniseries LUNA (co-written by Martin Fisher with art by Tim Rees) You can order it here! Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!
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