Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. That’s right, guys and ghouls. We’re going there.
There’s no time like Valentine’s Day to get perverse and that’s just the kind of films we have to offer up today in this extra special Horrors of Love column. So if you’re looking for touchy feely, check out some other post. This time around, we’re going off the deep end into dark perversions no sensible person would dare leap into. Now, with some of these, I sat through them just so you don’t have to. Others were surprisingly cool.
It is safe to assume that a lot of the shit below is not safe for work, so don’t come crying to me if Trudy from Accounting fills her granny panties when she looks over your cubicle wall. You’ve been warned…
So sit back, grab a barf bag, and get ready to scream, “Aww, man, that shit’s just wrong!” because that’s what we have up ahead as AICN HORROR celebrates LOVE horror-stylee!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
MAD LOVE (1935)
TROMEO & JULIET (1996)
THE SICK & TWISTED HORROR OF JOANNA ANGEL (2005)
GRIMM LOVE (2006)
Advance Review: A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE (2012)
And finally…EVIL HEAD!
MAD LOVE (1935)Directed by Karl Freund
Written by Maurice Renard (novel), Florence Crewe-Jones (translation and adaptation: novel "The Hands of Orlac"), Guy Endore (adaptation), P.J. Wolfson, John L. Balderston, Leon Wolfson, Edgar Allan Woolf, Gladys Von Ettinghausen, Leon Gordon (screenplay)
Starring Peter Lorre, Frances Drake, Colin Clive, Ted Healy, Sara Haden, Edward Brophy, Henry Kolker, Keye Luke, May Beatty
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
So let’s start somewhat tamely.
MAD LOVE is probably one of my favorite films starring Peter Lorre. The man exuded creep no matter what role he played, and here he’s in full on creep mode, lusting after a young actress named Yvonne Orlac (played to wide-eyed and brow-arching perfection by Frances Drake). Lorre plays Doctor Gogol, a well-to-do surgeon who has mastered science, but cannot master the intricacies of love. When Yvonne spurns his advances after a show, letting the doctor know that she is very much married (to a pianist named Stephen Orlac, played by Victor Frankenstein himself, Colin Clive), Gogol is heartbroken, but settles on buying a wax figure replica of Yvonne which he worships from his mansion. Fate seems to fortune Gogol as Orlac gets into a train wreck, smashing his pianist hands. He takes full advantage of Yvonne’s desperation and awards the favor of operating on her husband, but torments her with guilt and pressure to be with him instead of her husband.
This may seem overly emo to you, but with the bug-eyed presence of Lorre carrying most of the weight of the film, it can’t help but get under the viewer’s skin. Lorre not only looks like a cross between Uncle Fester and Doctor Evil here, but also dons a fedora, goggles, a painful looking neckbrace, and mechanical gloves to impersonate a thought-deceased knife thrower to further torment the Orlacs. Seeing Lorre orchestrate this evil is the highlight of the film, punctuated by his maniacal laughing and musings after he does these deeds.
Karl Freund offers up a fantastic use of montage as Orlac gets used to his new hands, as well as the operation sequences and Gogol’s own psychosis brought to life on film. It is rumored that Orson Welles’ CITIZEN KANE was heavily influenced by both the dramatic camerawork and the use of shadow in MAD LOVE, both of which are exquisite. Shades of Alex Proyas’ DARK CITY are also recognized, especially the design of the Strangers lifted directly from Lorre’s costumes in the film.
The cast is top notch, with Colin Clive offering up a subdued performance, and May Beatty has fun with the role of Gogol’s housekeeper who never is seen without her parrot on her shoulder and liquor slurring her speech. You can’t really go wrong with MAD LOVE: Memorable performances, an amazing villain, and creep oozing from every scene. It shows the more twisted side of love, which is what this column today is all about.
NEKROMANTIK (1987)Directed by Jorg Buttgereit
Written by Jorg Buttgereit & Franz Rodenkirchen
Starring Bernd Daktari Lorenz, Beatrice Manowski, & Harald Lundt
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
When I was in college in the late nineties, we had a night where my roommates and I would try to get the most fucked up films possible. When NEKROMANTIK came up on cue, we realized we had reached the pinnacle of perversion. This is one of those films that is not for everyone. It could be seen as art. Then again, it could be seen as shit. Much like the way THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE is received today, I’d be interested to see what would have happened had Jorg Buttergereit released this film today. The fervor would have probably been comparable.
Rob and Betty have a pretty gross hobby. Rob (played by Bernd Daktari) is on a street cleaning crew which disposes of dead bodies. Upon returning to his home, we find that Rob has been bringing his work home with him, much to his girlfriend Betty’s glee. Both fantasize about the parts Rob ferrets away into his uniform at work and brings home. One day, the opportunity arises for Rob to get his hands on a dead body. Upon bringing it home, his girlfriend and he make love with the corpse. Soon, Rob realizes his girlfriend prefers the corpse over him and his life begins to fall apart.
Thematically, this film could be seen as a realization of the inadequacies of a male in a relationship, fearing that the woman can get along with him. A more nihilist approach could be read into the themes of necrophilia throughout the film as well. Though stomach-churning, the film is not guilty of being one-dimensional. That said, NEKROMANTIK does ring as pretty pretentious, as a gratuitous amount of time is spent on trying to gross out the viewer with slo mo lovemaking scenes as the couple play with the decomposed body parts and the real life killing of a rabbit on film. Though I’m sure Buttergereit wanted to drive the point home that he is being artsy-fartsy by juxtaposing a classical piano score alongside these acts of depravity, the sheer fascination the director seems to have with his cast rolling around in the slime defeats the purpose.
All in all, NEKROMANTIK is only for the most hardcore of horrorphiles. It is bound to incite a night on the couch if you bring this one home to watch with your sweetie. That said, for such a limited budget, the effects are surprisingly effective. For the longest time, my roommate tried to convince me that he read somewhere that real body parts were used in this film. A little internet research disproves that theory, but most of the effects (especially the lucky corpse) are pretty realistic. The “climax” of the film embodies every sense of the word and I’ll leave the brave souls still reading left to check that out. It’s a memorable image, though tasteless to say the least.
A sequel to NEKROMANTIK was directed, again by Buttergereit, coincidentally called NEKROMANTIK 2: RETURN OF THE LOVING DEAD. Most likely, this will be covered in next year’s Twisted Love Horrors AICN HORROR column.
TROMEO & JULIET (1997)Directed by Lloyd Kaufman & James Gunn
Written by Lloyd Kaufman, James Gunn, Jason Green, William Shakespeare
Starring Jane Jensen, Will Keenan, Valentine Miele, William Beckwith, Steve Gibbons, Sean Gunn, Debbie Rochon, & Lemmy from Motorhead as the Narrator
From Troma, of course!!!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
You can’t have a special column without Troma, especially when it comes to love. Though Troma’s version of love might not exactly coincide with the general populace, you can always count on Troma for three things: a lack of taste, lots of boobs, and gore. If that’s the type of thing that you look for in films, you’ve probably already checked out quite a few of Lloyd Kaufman’s gems.
For the lovers of literature in the house, I present TROMEO & JULIET--a loose translation of Shakespeare’s classic about star-crossed lovers. The acting? Not so good. The directing? Pretty straightforward and uneventful. The story? Well, it’s Shakespeare, so it has that going for it.
All in all, this isn’t a great movie. It’s tedious in spots with lame jokes and even lamer dialog. Then again, there are some real nuggets of gold sprinkled throughout that redeem the film mainly because of the tireless quality that Troma possesses that they know that the stuff they are doing is shit and they roll around in it unabashedly. No one here is shooting for an Oscar. They’re just having fun, which is why Troma films are so undeniably bad yet infectiously good.
I mean, how can you not love a film narrated by Lemmy from Motorhead? Or be fascinated by the forced lesbian scene and gratuitous T&A? Or laugh your ass off when one character gets his brains knocked out of his head when he falls into a fire hydrant, only to try to shove them back in and fix himself seconds later? TROMEO & JULIET has all of this and more.
As usual, Troma films follow the plot right up until the last act, then kind of pour out over the edges into what looks to be a full on party with little to do with sense or plot. Because this film is structured after the bard’s famous work, the ending of this film feels a bit more contained than the usual Troma ending blowout. That said, you can tell that a lot of fun was had making this film, and fans of the original tale will not be able to hold back a smile seeing these freaks, miscreants, and deviants reciting these famous lines. Monty Que’s recitation alone, set to uncontrollable farting, had me rolling.
Those with a loose interpretation of what is entertainment will definitely find a lot of fun in TROMEO & JULIET. It’s not high art. It’s Troma. And I love every depraved minute of it.
THE SICK & TWISTED HORROR OF JOANNA ANGEL (2008)THE XXXORCIST
Directed and Written by Doug Sakmann
Starring Joanna Angel, Tommy Pistol, Kylee Kross, Spyder Jones, and Andy Straub
Directed and Written by Doug Sakmann
Starring Joanna Angel, Tommy Pistol
Find out more about these films here!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
I have to state this fact outright. This is soft core porn, but as far as the sex goes, it’s nothing you wouldn’t find on Skinemax at midnight on any given day. We’re all grown-ups here. We’ve all seen it. So let’s just acknowledge that yes, this is a review of soft-core gore porn on AICN and move on, shall we?
Not that I’m an aficionado or anything, but I’ve seen my fair share of smut. None this gory, but aside from alternating angles, POV’s and close-ups/pull back shots, you don’t really look for stunning cinematography in these things. I don’t want to chastise the porn industry, but basically, if the picture is clear enough to see the beautiful bodies slapping together, the job is done.
What we have here is gory horror porn. I’m not sure who this is for, because honestly, I was pretty grossed out by it. I compartmentalize much of my life, and that includes sex too. Sure, I love to see a gory horror film as much as the next fiend. But mix it with something that’s supposed to arouse something other than my jones for gore and things get a little ooky for me.
Fortunately, Joanna Angel not only mixes horror with porn, but she also adds a large helping of comedy to the mix, making it all much more digestible. If this were played straight, I’d have a much harder time with it. But as is, though I didn’t find these two short films arousing, they did end up tickling my funny bone.
Angel and her writer/director Doug Sakmann are paying homage to the genre they seem to love dearly by spoofing them and refilming them fitting them to porn standards. A lot of the humor is very broad in the form of making the characters’ names sound more porn-y; Dr. Hubert Breast is the lead in RE-PENETRATOR while Regan McFeel (Angel) and Father Merkin (Tommy Pistol) round out the cast of THE XXXORCIST.
My favorite of the two shorts featured was THE XXXORCIST, a truncated version of the Blatty/Friedkin classic focusing mainly on the exorcism scene itself. This was much more of a full story which had three different endings: sad, happy, and fucked up. Though the humor supplied its share of clunkers, I couldn’t help but laugh at Father Merkin claiming that he will have to “fuck the hell out of you[Angel]!” Dildos substitute for crucifixes in key scenes, as I’m sure you can guess. The mother becomes involved in a logical manner only found in porn. But all in all, it is a lot of fun seeing them try to mold a porn around the classic tale.
RE-PENETRATOR is much more of just a single scene in which Pistol plays Dr. Hubert Breast reviving a zombie with his green serum, then of course having sex with it. Though gory, this is more of a straight up sex scene than anything else and was light on the humor that redeemed THE XXXORCIST.
Though I’m not sure who exactly this type of film is for, I’m sure there’s an audience for it somewhere. If you like barf & guts, blood & grue with your sex, I’m not here to judge. I think, though, that THE SICK & TWISTED HORROR OF JOANNA ANGEL is right up your demented alley.
Well, it isn’t.
GRIMM LOVE (2006)aka BUTTERFLY: A GRIMM LOVE STORY
Directed by Martin Weisz
Written by T.S. Faull
Starring Keri Russell, Thomas Kretschmann and Thomas Huber
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
GRIMM LOVE is a dark and dour film that really does push the envelope, but I believe that the characters are presented in such a stark manner that the filmmaker makes it very hard for the viewer to care about them. A part of Fangoria’s Fright Fest series from a few years ago, I admit I checked this one out because it had “love” in the title. Turns out it is a twisted kind of love story about two people who meet each other over the internet and end up finding a connection.
This film is just like YOU’VE GOT MAIL except instead of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan flirting online with one another, you have a man who wants to be a cannibal flirting online with a man who wants to be eaten. Oh, and Randy Neuman doesn’t sing a snappy song for the soundtrack here, either.
Maybe a Randy Neuman song might have helped GRIMM LOVE, though, because the mood was so dank throughout that I felt depressed after the credits rolled. Sure it is a disgusting subject, but the film is set in such a downer of a world where no one smiles, the streets are filled with puddles, horses are shot and dogs run away on a regular basis. OK, I’m exaggerating about the horses and dogs, but man, does this film need a Red Bull and some Paxil.
The plot is pretty plodding as Kerri Russell plays Katie, who is doing a research about this well documented case. The film itself is inspired by the real story of the "Cannibal of Rotenburg", Armin Meiwes. Meiwes met a man over the internet and agreed to eat him. After his arrest, a whole subculture of fetishists were brought to life focusing on biting and eating human flesh for sexual pleasure. Dark stuff, I know. And it makes for one of the most unfunny films of the year.
Surprisingly, Kerri Russell does a decent job all gothed out as a woman slowly reliving the two mens’ final days of normal life. She visits their homes and workplaces and researches their internet history, reading their transcriptions back and forth to one another, all with a sick fascination. This ain’t no FELICITY episode I’ve ever seen. Anyone looking for the further adventures of that curly haired cutie should look far, far from here. That said, Russell has very little to do here but wander around wide-eyed and inquisitive and react to the horrific things she encounters in her investigation. She doesn’t even interact with folks, other than a brief dinner with friends who discuss her weird fascination with the case in the beginning. Her story is not important here as her reaction to a mysterious tape showing the act of cannibalism between the two men is somewhat over the top given her fascination with the act up to that point. There basically is no resolution to Russell’s character or the film. It just ends with the act that’s been described throughout the film. Because everything is so bleak, it is hard to relate in any way but disgust as Thomas Kretschmann (playing Oliver the biter) sinks his teeth into Thomas Huber (playing Simon the bitee) in the last act.
There is no surprise or shock--just events playing out exactly the way things were explained with our emotional connection to this story (Russell’s character) not making sense along the way. Director Martin Weisz gave us the remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES, which itself was bleak and dire. The theme continues in this film. It plays out much more like a documentary, stating cold facts rather than trying to entertain or offer up identifiable characters. Things get graphic toward the end, but the first hour of this film is filled with so many monotonous lingering shots and depressing situations featuring the leads that it’s hard to maintain interest for that long. The final moments are intense, but by that time, I was just looking forward to the whole thing ending.
A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE (2012)Directed by Casey Walker
Written by Trevor Martin & Christopher Bond
Starring Kristopher Turner, Crystal Lowe, Kristen Hager, Shawn Roberts, Stephen McHattie, Emilie Ullerup, & Robert Maillet
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
After all of that heavy horror, let’s go out on a lighter note with this little zombie rom-com. A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE is a wacky film about how little things like getting bitten by a zombie plague-infected mosquito can ruin a wedding.
Unlike horror comedies, this is a comedy with horrific elements. That said, the horrific elements aren’t that horrifying either. What it is is funny. Most comedies load up their first forty-five minutes with their best material and then coast on through the last half of the film. I was surprised that this film did the opposite. Though the start is somewhat slow and the comedy is a bit forced in the first moments as each character establishes who they are and why they are there, the latter half of this film really gets rolling as the four youngsters accept the fact that their friend is a zombie and they’re…ok with it.
The film centers on nebbish everyman Steve (Kristopher Turner) and his bridezilla to be, Tina (Crystal Lowe). Both play their parts convincingly, but for the most part, the viewers might find themselves wondering why this good guy is putting up with this annoying, shallow whiner of a fianceé. Luckily, the final forty-five minutes let us in on why Steve loves Tina. I found myself rooting for this couple to survive by the end because through all of her faults, Tina is willing to overlook the fact that her husband is a brain-muncher and still marry him.
On top of the two leads, the cast has some talented folks at work. SyFy’s BEING HUMAN’s Kristen Hager shows that she has a lot of potential as Steve’s sister Sarah; a lot of the film’s laughs come from her douchebag husband Craig (muscle-bound Shawn Roberts). Fans of SyFy’s SANCTUARY will also recognize Emilie Ullerup as one half of the zombie hunters. PONTYPOOL’s Stephen McHattie plays the other half as Max, a zombie-hunting killing machine. His role is small in this film, as most of it is dedicated to the two couples dealing with Steve’s sudden coming down with zombie-itis, but the gruff character actor does do his best Woody Harrelson from ZOMBIELAND impression here, and for the most part it plays well off of the kids who are not taking this zombie apocalypse thing as seriously as he wants them to.
One thing really got me in this film, and maybe it’s just a personal thing. I’m not a fan of drool and there’s a lot of it in A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE. I can watch blood and guts all day and night, but the multiple scenes of Steve drooling every time the word “Brains!” is said made my stomach flip. That said, it is a funny running joke throughout the film--one of many.
The ending, though abrupt, is a winner, going out on a high note and leaving the viewer wanting more. I was surprised at how much I liked A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE. It’s a low budgeter, but one with a lot of heart and some great comedic moments. Definitely worth seeking out when it gets distributed. Look here on AICN HORROR for news as to when and where that will happen.
And finally… A little research showed that the makers of RE-PENETRATOR and THE XXXORCIST will be bringing us EVIL HEAD some time later this year.
So, you know…
…there’s that to look forward to.
Here’s the trailer.
I’m going to go take a shower now…
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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