Movie News

AICN HORROR: New horrors RABIES! EL MONSTRO DEL MAR! INSIGHT! BENEATH THE DARKNESS! THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS! And a review of THE WOMAN Novel!!!

Published at: March 2, 2012, 7:38 a.m. CST

Logo by Kristian Horn
What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Here comes come more new horrors, plus please welcome Dr. Loomis to AICN HORROR. He’ll be covering choice horror books worthy of your attention. But before we get to those…there’s this!


I absolutely loved, INBRED (I reviewed it a while back here). It looks like the film has got a brand new trailer. Check out the madness below and find out more about the film here and here!




Australian found footageer THE TUNNEL was somewhat of a phenomenon last summer (I reviewed it here.). Looks like a sequel is coming soon. The press release gives a bit about the plot; “Currently in development, THE TUNNEL: DEAD END will pick up the story years later as Tangles’ sister is determined to answer once and for all what happened to her brother in the gloomy underground tunnels.” Funded by fans, info about this new production can be found here at the 135K Project. Best of luck to the filmmakers and look for more coverage of this film in future AICN HORROR columns.


Man, I love me some horror marathons and it looks like the Hudson Horror Show V - 35mm Film Festival on May 19th in Poughkeepsie, NY is going to be a doozy. Check out the new trailer below and find out more info about this event here!






And now on with the new horrors…

Today on AICN HORROR
(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Book Review: THE WOMAN
EL MONSTRO DEL MAR (2010)
INSIGHT (2011)
BENEATH THE DARKNESS (2011)
RABIES (2010)
THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS (2011)
And finally…INNER SANCTUM MYSTERIES: THE CORPSE IN THE TAXI Parts 1&2!


THE WOMAN

A novel by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee
Published by Cemetery Dance
Reviewed by Dr. Loomis


By now, regular Ain’t It Cool readers should be more than familiar with the basic story of The Woman thanks to this site's ongoing coverage of the Lucky McKee film (here, here, and here). For the record, the story (a collaboration between McKee and Jack Ketchum; the two hashed out the plot together, with McKee then handling the screenplay while Ketchum worked on the prose version) revolves around Christopher Cleek, an attorney who appears to be the very model of a family man, breadwinner and productive citizen, but who has some very cold and deep currents swirling beneath that surface layer of civility. While out hunting one day, Cleek spots a strange woman who appears to be living in a seaside cave near his home. He decides to capture her and bring her into his home, where he feels he can somehow mold her - or, perhaps, break her - in his own image.

That his family - wife Belle, son Brian, daughters Peg and Darlene ("Darlin'") - go along with this says plenty about the family dynamic at work here. Cleek wields a quiet power over his brood, imposing limits that none of them are willing to push very hard against. The breadth of that power is slowly revealed throughout the book as Ketchum lets the revelations of Cleek's past acts unfold, and it quickly becomes easy to understand how an entire family can take in stride the fact that dad has brought a feral, barely human woman into their home and chained her up in the fruit cellar.

Cleek is a chiller of a character, the kind of sociopath that wears the mask of sanity so well that few would be able to detect just how insane he really is. There are striking parallels between Cleek and the prey he's captured - both are prone to violent reactions, only his reactions are cold and calculating while hers are swifter, more animalistic. It's that very dichotomy that draws Cleek to this "project." Cleek is very aware of what kind of animal he is and how hard he's worked to tame himself, a point Ketchum gets across beautifully with this haunting bit of writing: "He laughed. He thought the laugh came out fine. It usually did." In the woman he sees a challenge, the opportunity to take someone like himself and see if he can tame her, too.

Even as he works to mold the woman, it's clear that he's already molded his own son in his image. Brian is more than curious about the woman in the fruit cellar, and becomes angry and defiant when he's not allowed full access to his dad's project. Peg, on the other hand, sees this as her father finally crossing the line; surprising, seeing as how he's evidently crossed more than a few lines with her in the past. Belle is approaching her limit as well, although it's unclear whether it is disgust or jealousy that drives her to this conclusion.

The Woman works just fine as a standalone novel, but it should be noted that it is a follow-up to Ketchum's earlier novels Off Season and Offspring. Those books are masterpieces of gore, bloody tales of a tribe of cannibals roaming the wide swath of wilderness from Canada to Maine. The woman Cleek captures is the last survivor of that tribe, wounded and vulnerable due to the events depicted in those books. If Cleek had encountered her at full strength, it's doubtful the initial outcome would have been the same.

The Woman is a powerful read, one that I finished in one sitting. It's being released in a beautiful hardcover edition by Cemetery Dance which also contains a bonus novella, The Cow, which picks up approximately one year after the events of The Woman. To discuss it at all is to give away too much of how The Woman ends, but suffice to say it's a satisfying extension of the story. Ketchum's prose is a breeze to read but it packs a mighty punch, and he and McKee seem to have found solid common ground to work from. Here’s hoping they work together on more projects in the future.

"Dr. Loomis" is Blu Gilliand, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the fright-filled pages of Dark Scribe, Dark Discoveries, Shroud Magazine, and Horror World, among others. He also runs his own blog, October Country devoted to horror and crime fiction. Feel free to stalk him on Twitter (@BluGilliand) at your own risk.


New on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures!

EL MONSTRO DEL MAR (2010)

Directed by Stuart Simpson
Written by Stuart Simpson
Starring Norman Yemm, Nelli Scarlet, Kyrie Capri, Karli Madden, Kate Watts, Scott Brennan, Steven Stagg, David Gannon
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Retro-goth chicks and tentacle monsters. If those two things don’t float your Titanic, maybe this one ain’t for you. Being a lover of goth chicks, I found myself getting into EL MONSTRO DEL MAR despite its faults. The story of three fun loving bad girls who get nasty when a squid-like monster crashes their party isn’t the densest of plots, but it will titillate and entertain those who like their horror on the trashy side.

Our trio of vixens look like they stepped straight from Meyer’s classic FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL KILL with retro clothing and attitude galore. These bad girls establish that they are not to be taken for softies in the opening minutes as they murder two numbskulls who attempt to help them out with some roadside assistance. Though it does establish their bad girl status, it does make it difficult to care about these dolls that kick the ass of or cuss out anyone who gets in the way of their free-wheelin’ lifestyle. Sure the attitude is fun to watch, but most of the successful films of this sort show a less brazen and more likable side for the viewer to identify with. Because these girls are all attitude all the time, I found the constant bravado to be a bit distancing (coincidentally similar to the ultra-machismo male action films exude and take a lot of flack for).

The effects in EL MONSTRO DEL MAR are low fi but imaginative. One might be able to tell that these tentacles are just sock puppets with teeth, but Stuart Simpson pulls them off making the monster seem massive and deadly without being as laughable as the 50’s and 60’s style monster flicks this film lauds. The over the top gore is straight from the grind house and not chinsy on the red stuff. Much of the appeal of this film lies in the filmmakers’ appreciation to everything from Meyer’s and John Water’s best films to the Atomic Age beach monster movies of old.

EL MOSNTRO DEL MAR homages some great cinema with style. So despite some cardboard line deliveries and performances and lack of depth of character, the film never fails to entertain. Especially if your tastes go toward the more gritty, tattooed stylings of its bad girl leads.






New on DVD/BluRay!

INSIGHT (2011)

Directed by Richard Gabai
Written by Aaron Ginsburg & Wade McIntyre
Starring Sean Patrick Flanery, Natalie Zea, Angeline-Rose Troy, Adam Baldwin, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Veronica Cartwright, Christopher Lloyd, Juliet Landau, Max Perlich, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Matt Knudsen, Rick Overton, Daniel Roebuck
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Though I would categorize this film as leaning more toward the thriller genre than straight up horror, strong performances and a plot that shows a lot of balls toward the end of the film, INSIGHT is something that might even surprise the hardest of horror fans.

The story follows Kaitlyn (played impressively by JUSTIFIED’s Natalie Zea), an ER nurse who accidentally is in contact with a patient when she receives a shock from the defibrillator paddles sending her into cardiac arrest. After waking up in the ER, Kaitlyn starts seeing visions and reliving the last moments of her patient’s life. As the patient was stabbed numerous times and her perpetrator was not caught, Kaitlyn attempts to talk with Detective Rafferty (BOONDOCK SAINTS’ Sean Patrick Flanery) and help him in solving the case, but Rafferty and pretty much everyone in her life has his doubts about Kaitlyn’s sanity. As Kaitlyn continues to remember details of the patient’s murder, she desperately tries to get those around her to believe her.

I love the way this film toys with the viewer’s expectations. What begins as a typical psychic phenomenon detective flick blossoms into so much more in the latter half of the film. The plot is serpentine, twisty and deceptive, with a powerful bite at the very end that I didn’t expect.

The cast is also pretty impressive. Zea and Flanery are strong here, but the film also stars a Adam Baldwin as an unethical therapist, Christopher Lloyd as a nosey neighbor, a sincere performance by Veronica Cartwright as Kaitlyn’s mom, and even LOST’s Daniel Roebuck shows up to offer his signature nervous charm. Though none of these actors are necessarily A-list draws, they are fantastic character actors and bring their all to this film.

INSIGHT will definitely surprise you at the dark depths it will take you by the closing credits. It’s not a shiny big budgeter, but a slow building thriller with a hell of a hook. I recommend INSIGHT for those who like their horror on the more subtle side.






New on DVD/BluRay!

BENEATH THE DARKNESS (2011)

Directed by Martin Guigui
Written by Bruce Wilkinson
Starring Dennis Quaid, Tony Oller, Aimee Teegarden, Stephen Lunsford, Devon Werkheiser, Brett Cullen, Dahlia Waingort, Wilbur Penn, Amber Bartlett
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


BENEATH THE DARKNESS is yet another SCREAM-esque film that tries to be a whole lot more, but sadly fails to do so. The film follows the misadventures of a cast of good-looking twenty somethings playing teenagers whose hijinks put them in the sites of the town mortician. There’s definitely a Scooby Doo vibe going on here and had the film been playing for camp and laughs, it may have been more entertaining. Unfortunately they play it safe.

Though Dennis Quaid’s grumpy face is front and center on the posters, the film focuses mainly on the kids who end up breaking in to the mortician’s house seeing that the reclusive, yet friendly undertaker does in fact have some dark secrets. Respected in the community, Quiad is at his best when he attempts to hold back the madman who dances with his dead wife in the moonlight and interacts with the small town police which of course he’s grown up with. Though the film never really attempts to make us wonder if Quaid’s character is a madman or not, Quaid’s performance in these scenes of covering up his madness are by far the best.

Then again, seeing Quaid attempt to act bugnuts made me feel the most uncomfortable while watching. And not in a good way. With respect to the actor, I’m going to blame the script and direction for not really being able to guide Quaid through the dark corners necessary to pull off the role of town loonie. Then again, there are scenes where Quaid is genuinely hamming it up to BATMAN & ROBIN levels of camp which ring more as annoying than anything else.

The soundtrack seems to be made up of some songs sang by Quaid and his band which may explain his appearance in this SCREAM knock off. But some gritty blues songs won’t save this one. I appreciate the filmmakers attempts to inject a bit of depth by having the school kids studying Poe and darker Shakespearian themes in class, mirroring some of the dark matters they are about to encounter, but the hammy performance by Quaid and the lack of gore and new ideas here makes me long for Quaid’s next performance rather than recommend this one.






New on DVD/BluRay!

RABIES (2010)

AKA KALEVET
Directed by Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado
Written by Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado
Starring Henry David, Liat Harlev, Ania Bukstein, Ran Danker, Danny Geva, Lior Ashkenazi, Menashe Noy, Ofer Shechter, Yael Grobglas, Efrat Boimold
Find out more about this film on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


I absolutely loved this film from Israel. Every second was either shocking or hilarious or absurd and sometimes all three at once. I flip through tons of films throughout the week, but having seen RABIES last week, it’s one that will stick with me for a while. RABIES is the complex tale of a handful of people set in the middle of the woods. A brother and sister, a quartet of travelers, a pair of cops, a killer in the woods, a park ranger, and a dog all have their own stories going on in this amazing tale of wilderness horror. How writers/directors Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado weave these stories together is the stuff of genius reminding me of the complex plotting one might find in a Tarantino or Soderbergh flick with the gore and “that’s just wrong”-ness of an Eli Roth film.

This Israeli story starts out in the middle of the action as a young girl is trapped in a metal pit pleading with someone to help her get out. We soon find that they are brother and sister. The story unfolds naturally as characters bump into one another while wandering in the endless woods. Some are there to kill. Some are there to help. Some are not sure why they are there. Though with a title like RABIES, thoughts of a zombie film come to mind, and I was bracing myself for that type of flick, early on you realize this is a story of how rabid and mindless people can be in the face of danger and while the players bounce into one another like a Scooby Doo chase scene with dire consequences, in RABIES everything unfolds making some kind of sense, despite the actions of the cast.

The plot twists are abundant. The script is punchy and never forgets to be fun, until things get deadly, and even then it’s kind of got an undeniable gallows humor going on. The violence is both over the top, but grounded in reality, shunning the typical slasher motifs for more visceral sequences of terror (there’s a scene with a broken jaw that is absolutely grueling to watch). RABIES is an absolutely fantastic film showing that once again, some of the best horror comes from outside of American borders. It’s a film that not only horror lovers can enjoy, but lovers of well made cinema can like as well. Though the content is pretty diabolical for your typical movie-goer, one can’t help but marvel at the way this film was constructed and the talent behind the actors who plat it all out. Don’t miss RABIES.






In select theaters today!

THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS (2011)

Directed by Justin Kurzel
Written by Justin Kurzel & Shaun Grant
Starring Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris, Bob Adriaens, Frank Cwiertniak, Matthew Howard, Marcus Howard, Anthony Groves, Richard Green, Aaron Viergever, Beau Gosling, Brendan Rock
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Opening in select theaters this week is THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS. I missed this film when it played at the Chicago International Film Festival last year, but I am glad I had a chance to check it out recently. The film recounts the true life murders that happened in and around the town of Snowtown, South Australia during the 1990’s and follows a young boy named James (Lucas Pittaway) as he is pulled into a murder spree by his mother’s boyfriend John Bunting (played by Daniel Henshall). The story is a relentless tale of how one disturbed mind can influence others into doing awful things.

In many ways, THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS reminded me of GUMMO, as the film depicts the bleak life of the white trash kids and their families. The film is definitely a slow mover, taking its time to flesh out James, his relationship with his brothers and mother, and finally his complex interactions with Bunting. This film took a lot of flack by the unflinching scenes of child abuse and molestation that happens in the first moments. These scenes are extremely difficult to experience, but the power of these actions influence the rest of the story that plays out serving as the starting point for a discussion that leads to the devious acts Bunting and his cohorts perform later in the film. Having heard discussions like the one that takes place between the family and friends of the children after the perpetrator is identified, it is easy to see that all it takes is one step further to incite a lynch mob. Bunting takes that step and continues down that dark path for the rest of the film.

Animal lovers will also have a lot of difficulty with this one. The closing credits say that no living animal was harmed in this film and I believe it. But that doesn’t mean that the suggested violence toward the family dog and the violence performed on the dead kangaroos here are not stomach churning to animal lovers like myself.

Though the acts against the children are often believed to be even more heinous than animal abuse, the film handles these acts of violence in a manner that does not feel exploitative or gratuitous. Other than forcing the children to pose for pictures in their underwear, the abuse is not seen on camera. Nevertheless, the stark way the sequence is filmed and the confused and somewhat frightened faces of the boys serve as the stuff of nightmares I don’t want to revisit.

Because the film begins with such a gut punch, it’s hard not to identify with Bunting’s rage. But the complexity of this film lies in the old adage, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Bunting’s manipulative power over the children is just as horrific as the abuse performed by the molester in the beginning. First he works his way in as the protective father figure, then pushes them into submission by berating them and finally methodically manipulates them to help him on his murder spree. Bunting’s grooming is vividly shown through the placid eyes of James. As charismatic a performance Henshall’s Bunting is as the murderer, Pittaway’s performance as James serves as the heartbroken soul of the film. Desperately in search of a positive father figure, you see James happiness as he bonds with Bunting, and see his confusion and heartbreak to see where that admiration takes him. This is a painful character journey through emotions many may not be comfortable experiencing, but nevertheless powerful.

THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS is an intense film. It may be too much for some, but I found myself riveted in the final moments. Kurzel uses single warped chords and tribal rhythms to amp up the tension, bringing a feeling of sheer unease. Though the subject matter is about as gruesome as they come, I was surprised at how little is actually shown as far as violence. Though in many occasions, not showing the violence is a cop out, it couldn’t be further from the truth here. The horrors that happen off screen, just around the corner, or between the scenes are merely suggested here, making the film all the more harrowing. Many will find this subject matter simply too much to sit through, not because of what happens on screen, but through the unblinking eye of the film’s star, Lucas Pittaway, as we are reminded of the horror he is experiencing. THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS is a hard pill to swallow, but if you’re looking for real life horror, this is about as real as it gets.






And finally…here’s part one of one of my favorite INNER SANCTUM Radio plays. Here’s THE CORPSE IN THE TAXI parts one and two! Enjoy!









See ya, next week, folks!

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in October 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released in March 2012.


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Readers Talkback

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  • March 2, 2012, 9:04 a.m. CST

    First?

    by DonLogan

    Snowtown was awesome. The guy who played the psycho turns out an excellent performance.

  • March 2, 2012, 9:04 a.m. CST

    Daniel Henshaw

    by DonLogan

    that's the fella

  • March 2, 2012, 9:17 a.m. CST

    Initially read that as Snowman Murders, hoo-ha!!

    by steve lee

  • March 2, 2012, 12:28 p.m. CST

    If this said horror event is being held in Poughkeepsie ...

    by Judge Briggs

    Perhaps we can find out more about the release date of the mythic movie, 'The Poughkeepsie Tapes?'

  • March 2, 2012, 4:01 p.m. CST

    Great column today, guys -- thanks so much!

    by captaincosmos

    Ambush - I'm intrigued by Snowtown Murders. Will definitely try and check it out. Also - thanks so much for posting the Inner Sanctum episode! Love the old radio serials. I discovered the Internet Archive site a while ago and it has tons of these old shows that are now public domain. My two daughters and I have listened to several episodes of "Suspense Theater," but I had forgotten about "Inner Sanctum." Just checked the site, and sure enough -- they've got a bunch of Inner Sanctum eps, as well! I'll be listening to one of these with the girls next. And Dr. Loomis -- greatly appreciated the review of the novel "The Woman." Been meaning to read a Ketchum book for a while now and this may be the one. That being said -- for my first Ketchum, is there another of his you'd suggest I start with first? Anyway -- thanks so much, gentlemen! Much appreciated. Keep up the great work! CC

  • March 2, 2012, 11:42 p.m. CST

    Ketchum books

    by Blu Gilliand

    captaincosmos, THE WOMAN works great as a standalone, but for the whole story of "the woman" you should start with OFF SEASON and then OFF SPRING. Apart from those I'd recommend RED and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, which is based on a true story and is all the more unsettling because of it. Loomis