Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. We’ve got more new horrors; indie, mainstream, good, and not so much this week. But before that, there’s this…
Always wanting to fill my readers in on indie films covered here and where they can see them, the online screening site Justin TV will be screening THE KILLING OF JACOB MARR (reviewed here) for free on April 13th at 10PM (EST) celebrating the Friday the 13th Holiday. It’s free for all! Find out more about this event here!
Another indie goodie I reviewed a while back, GUT (reviewed here), will be screening its world premiere at the 60°N Os International Film Festival this April. Watch the brand new trailer for GUT below. It’s pretty damn cool.
And now, on with the horrors!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 (1985)
CORMAN’S WORLD (2011)
THE GRUESOME DEATH OF TOMMY PISTOL (2010)
CAMEL SPIDERS (2012)
UBALDO TERZANI HORROR SHOW (2010)
THE CORRIDOR (2011)
And finally…Chris Heck’s PLAGUE DREAMS!
New on Bluray!
THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 (1985)Directed by Wes Craven
Written by Wes Craven
Starring Tamara Stafford, Kevin Spirtas, John Bloom, Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Robert Houston
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
In the intro of Wes Craven’s follow up to his highly successful and critically acclaimed THE HILLS HAVE EYES, they mentioned that “The hills still had eyes!” which I think would have been a much cooler title. Not sure why I started out this review with that, but for some reason that’s the first thing that entered my head as I sat down to write. I guess that’s better than leading off with the acknowledgement that THE HILLS HAVE THIGHS is a pretty hilarious name for a porno that I didn’t not not not see on Skinemax a while back.
I guess my interest in rejiggering the name of the film speaks to how much I want to like THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2. It does have a lot of things going for it. Returning to the project is writer/director Wes Craven, who had just finished A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET a year earlier. Robert Houston and Janus Blythe, as well as Michael Berryman returned to the cast. Henry Manfredini lends his fluttering keyboard fingers for the score. Hell, it even worked out so that clips of the original were able to be used in this sequel. Despite all of that, though, is not great. I don’t want to call THHE2 a complete dud, but for many reasons, the film just doesn’t stack up to the original despite all of the returning factors.
Gone is Craven’s multi-textural dissection of the modern nuclear family that was so prevalent in the first film. In part two, it’s a group of motorbike riders who get stranded in the middle of the desert after taking a shortcut through a dangerous nuclear test site. Anyone who saw the first film knows that this is a no-no as two of the surviving killers from the first film, Michael Berryman’s gaunt skinhead Pluto and John Bloom’s Neanderthal-like Reaper, stalk and kill the bikers in a fashion that was tried and true even at the time of this film’s release. This film seemed much more like a cash grab (something I’d be more willing to accept from Craven now, than back then when he actually had some horrific themes he wanted to explore and the gumption to do it effectively and riskily). Though THE HILLS HAVE EYES wasn’t getting any acting awards, years later, Craven didn’t get is cast to try so hard here either. The menace of the original family is kind of reduced to Pluto calling Beast (another returning character from part one, this one, a dog) a snot-licker before being knocked off a cliff to his death and the Reaper just growling and body slamming folks to death.
The film also is heavily reliant on flashbacks. Many of the most effective scenes from the first film are shown again through dreams and flashbacks from Bobby (Robert Huston who was a survivor from the first film) and Ruby (the young female from the family of killers who now is older and domesticated, played again by Janus Blythe). Hell, even the dog Beast has his own flashback sequence! When the pooch begins to have the squiggly screen, it’s become the point of parody.
In many ways, this feels like a Wes Craven directed FRIDAY THE 13TH film as he goes through the motions that were well mapped out in those films by the time this one came out. It doesn’t help that Henry Manfredini’s score is almost identical to his fantastic FRIDAY THE 13TH scores minus the “Kill-kill-kill-ma-ma-ma!” echoes. The star, Kevin Spirtas even shows up in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 7 A NEW BLOOD a few years later.
Though it is a by the numbers slasher film, Craven does bring his trap making game as there are all kinds of pullies, spiked traps, sand pits, and the like made by both the biker kids and the killers themselves as they wage war on one another. Most are overly elaborate, but as with Nancy’s traps for Freddy in the original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and the matchstick exploding trailer and makeshift tripwire survival traps of THE HILLS HAVE EYES, they are at least interesting to look at. Depalma gets a lot of both awe and flack for his overly complex set pieces, but Craven did his fair share of Rube Goldbergian monstrosities in his earlier films himself that is worth noting.
If anything, this is a nice snippet of what horror was like in 1985. Everyone was trying to invest their own slasher franchise and with Craven branching out from NIGHTMARE, it seems he was placing his chips in an older property. Lacking in the deft themes and a lot of the grittiness of the original, THE HILLS HAVED EYES PART 2 remains entertaining as an oft times laughably bad horror schlocker.
Maybe if only they called it THE HILLS STILL HAVE EYES, it might have been better…
New on DVD/BluRay!
CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL (2011)Directed by Alex Stapleton
Written by Alex Stapleton
Starring Roger Corman, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Peter Bogdonavich, Paul Bartel, Paul W.S. Anderson, David Carradine, Julie Corman, Allan Arkush, Joe Dante, Jonathan Demme, Robert De Niro, Bruce Dern, Pam Grier, Ron Howard, Gale Anne Hurd, Dick Miller, Irvin Kershner, Eli Roth, John Sayles, William Shatner, Mary Woronov
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
One can’t help but marvel at Roger Corman’s achievements. Having made hundreds of films through the years, Corman should at least be praised for the amount of energy he possesses, despite the fact that quite a few of those films were on the low end of the quality scale. I’m a fan of the man’s work myself, celebrating the filmmaker’s ingenuity and willingness to get a movie made no matter what the obstacle. In many ways, Corman was horror’s first and best indie filmmaker, and being a supporter of all things indie, I can’t help but give the guy props.
CORMAN’S WORLD is a sort of love letter to Corman, his films, and his millions of fans. Director/writer Alex Stapleton does a fantastic job of documenting the filmmaker’s early years, plotting out the back-story of a very likable, albeit stubborn and driven man. My favorite bits of this film were these scenes documenting the early years through hundreds of stills, clips from some of his most schlockiest of works, and interviews with people who were there (including Corman himself). Somehow Stapleton even got Jack Nicholson to appear in the film (Nicholson even offers an extremely poignant ode to the director who gave him his first shot; I was surprised how moved I was when Jack breaks down and cries about the man).
Testimonies and interviews with actors, directors, friends, and family offer a who’s who for fans of the genre. Everyone from Ron Howard to Mary Woronov to Pam Grier offer interesting stories about working with the man. It’s a testament to Corman’s character that so many people would show up for this documentary to talk about the man.
Unfortunately, Corman continues to make films, most of them direct to video or direct to ScyFy schlockers. The difference between these new films and Corman’s classics mainly is that these days Corman’s films know they are not very good and even wink at the audience acknowledging how bad they are, while back then, they were actually trying to be good films. For some reason, despite the low budget, that genuine quality made them all the more watchable and the lack of that aspect makes the newer ones all the less.
That said, CORMAN’S WORLD smartly focuses mainly on the Corman classics. It’s a fine documentary that will bring a smile to the face of any fan of genre films. Filled with stars and stories, I don’t think there’s a better way to honor this man’s contribution to cinema than this film.
New this week on DVD/BluRay!
CAMEL SPIDERS (2012)Directed by Jim Wynorski
Written by Jim Wynorski and J. Brad Wilke
Starring Brian Krause, C. Thomas Howell, Melissa Brasselle, Diana Terranova, GiGi Erneta
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Speaking of recent badly produced Corman films, I present to you CAMEL SPIDERS. Now, though I’ve seen worse films, I still can’t whole heartedly recommend this one. Exhibiting the usual characteristics of a modern Corman work, this future ScyFy movie of the week is a tissue paper plotted, shoestring budgeted, heavily CGI-ed, D-list starred schlocker. The plot, for what its worth, focuses on the giant spiders that made headlines when American soldiers toured Iraq a while back. Though they didn’t grow to the mammoth proportions of this film, they are the stuff of nightmares.
So I guess, someone heard about this story, saw EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS and said, “I can do something worse than that!” While EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS was actually a whole lot of fun because it went so far over the top with its effects and goofy scenarios, CAMEL SPIDERS tosses creativity out the window and just has someone killed every three minutes with little of no attention paid to character or plot. Whole groups of people are introduced simply to be taken out moments later by the leaping spiders spurting copious amounts of CGI blood from their attacks. Practical effects aren’t even attempted in this film (ironic given that so much advertising goes out for ScyFy’s addictingly fun FACE OFF reality show).
Brian Krause does a decent job as a military man escorting a comrade fallen in battle back home from Iraq. C. Thomas Howell reminds us of his existence in a role as a small town sheriff and does a decent job of hamming it up. The rest of the cast do their jobs decently by screaming at spiders that will be added in post. No one is trying for Oscars here.
For some reason everyone gathers at an old factory and of course, blowing up the factory results in the destruction of the entire infestation for some reason, but by that time, I kind of already checked out. Who knows how much Corman puts into these new films of his, but having just seen CORMAN’S WORLD listing some great horror films such as PIRHANA, HUMANOIDS OF THE DEEP, DEATHRACE 2000, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, and many others you should be seeking out instead of CAMEL SPIDERS.
Available on DVD this week!
THE GRUESOME DEATH OF TOMMY PISTOL (2012)Directed by Aramis Sartorio
Written by Aramis Sartorio
Starring Mia Tyler, Aramis Sartorio, Caleb Emerson, Kimberly Kane, John Karyus, Vincent Cusimano
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Gross out comedy is not for everyone, but if it’s your bag, you’ll most likely find a lot to like about THE GRUESOME DEATH OF TOMMY PISTOL. Though the comedy is quite broad and downright goofy most of the time, I did find myself laughing quite a bit at writer/director/star Aramis Sartorio’s gory opus.
The story goes like this; Tommy is a typical slacker who says his mind and often gets fired for it when he does so at his job. After losing his most recent job, he returns home to a disappointed wife and child. After they leave him, vowing only to return when he starts to think of his family, future, and stability, Tommy slips further into depression. Six months later and he still has no job, life, or prospects. He shifts through a dirty house, pops a microwave hotdog in the microwave, and falls asleep while pumping his penis growing pump while watching porn. The rest of the film follows Tommy’s feverish and disturbed dreams of stardom and fame in the entertainment industry.
Though these three vignette dreams all share the same theme; the ugly side of the entertainment world, they do so at different stages of Tommy’s dream of stardom. Story one follows Tommy recruited fresh off the bus with stars in his eyes by some shady filmmakers into making an underground snuff film. Story two follows Tommy a few years later and a bit wiser as he desperately tries to sneak onto the set of Arnold Swartzeneggar’s newest workout video to get a job as his assistant. The third and final story finds Tommy directing porn and finding his cast riddled with STDs that turn them into zombies.
I admire the way this film handled Tommy’s character through all of these stages of his life. Though the treatment is somewhat riddled with cliché, it’s the acknowledgement of these clichés that make them so funny. The filmmaker is also willing to go places, both gory and self-effacing that few are willing to go. Bodily fluids are squirted, slipped on, and licked. Girls are tortured, ridiculed, and cheese grated. Hell, any film where the star skins Arnold Swartzeneggar and then wears his skin around trying to fool people he’s the Governator is a winner in my book.
The acting, at times, is pretty amateur and the film looks like the cast was made up of the filmmaker’s family and friends, but despite all that, it’s still a decently made film. The effects are quite good, relying on goofy gore to carry the film most of the time. Though broad and full of goof, if you have a sense of humor and a gag reflex, I’ll bet both will be tickled by THE GRUESOME DEATH OF TOMMY PISTOL.
New on DVD/BluRay on April 24th from RaroVideo!
UBALDO TERZANI HORROR SHOW (2010)Directed by Gabriele Albanesi
Written by Gabriele Albanesi
Starring Giuseppe Soleri, Paolo Sassanelli, Laura Gigante, Antonino Iuorio, Ripli Zsuzsanna, Francesco Mastrorilli, Stefano Fregni, Vera Dragone, Massimo Triggiani
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This interesting Italian surprise takes pages from Hitchcock, Bava, Argento, and even Stephen King by placing a novel writer at odds with a filmmaker with disastrous results. It’s highbrow versus lowbrow here as Giuseppe Soleri plays Alessio Rinaldi, a young up and coming Italian horror moviemaker whose agent tells him to seek out a novelist to give him new ideas for story. Though Alessio is against this at first, he reads the work of horror novelist Ubaldo Terzani (Paolo Sassanelli) and concludes that he may learn something from the horror scribe.
UBALDO TERZANI HORROR SHOW serves as a great allegory of the differences and struggles between prose and film. Alessio is cast as a doltish newb, sheepish and gullible and fully susceptible to the manipulations of the older, more sophisticated, and more diabolical Ubaldo. Though Alessio goes to Ubaldo for a partnership in making a new horror film, he quickly falls into the role of student as the twisted Ubaldo manipulates him emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Things reach a boiling point and it’s quite clear that only one of the two men are going to walk away from this.
The film is well acted and the script is nicely written (at least the translation of it was since this is an Italian film I saw with English subtitles). The gore is low budget is surprisingly effective and the twists and turns the plot takes is refreshing and unpredictable. Though there are many films out there about making a film, this one does a great job of telling that story in a dark and diabolical manner. UBALDO TERZANI HORROR SHOW owes a lot of its mood to the classics in Italian giallo horror. This is a pitch black loss of innocence story with teeth and if you’re into foreign horror, this is one gory thriller worth checking out.
THE CORRIDOR (2011)Directed by Evan Kelly
Written by Josh MacDonald
Starring Matthew Amyotte, Nigel Bennett, Stephen Chambers, David Patrick Flemming, James Gilbert, Glen Matthews
Find out when and where to see this film on THE CORRIDOR website!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Note: I posted this review a while back, but with the release of THE CORRIDOR this week in theaters today, I figured it’d be a good thing to repost it for those who might have missed my advance review.
There are a lot of films out there over the last ten years dissecting what it means to be a man in this day and age. From buddy comedies like STEPBROTHERS to dramatic feats of cinema like FIGHT CLUB, modern man has been cast as nothing more than a grown up child—gorging themselves on life’s treasures and throwing tantrums and acting out when life serves up lemons. THE CORRIDOR looks at similar themes as a quintet of college friends get together ten years after one of them has a mental breakdown. For much of the movie, the film focuses on the initial event and the power of the relationships these men share despite the fact that they haven’t seen each other in years. Then for the latter half of the film, the focus is on completely and utterly annihilating those relationships. Though it’s obviously filmed on the budgetary low, it’s this attention to the rise and fall of this relationship between these men that makes THE CORRIDOR one of the most terrifying new films of the year.
A trip to a cabin in the woods seems like a good idea for these five guys. It’s a chance to shoot the shit, play football, watch football, ride snow mobiles, complain about the wife and kids, and pound brewskis. Director Evan Kelly is patient with tossing out the weirdness right off the bat and instead focuses on the strengths and insecurities of these guys, but not in a way that makes it obvious that these insecurities will be played upon later in the film. And these guys are a pretty likable bunch, making it easy to forget this is a horror film, but when the crew stumbles across a strange energy field in the middle of the woods, the viewer is quickly reminded that this is a horror film.
The horrifying last portion of THE CORRIDOR mixes modern pop psychology with the darkest of humor as these men are reduced to monsters tearing each other apart. The film not only scares but makes you think about the fragility and maybe the futility of male relations by showing man at its most animalistic. Not the feel good film of the year, for sure, but THE CORRIDOR definitely is a small indie film that packs a wallop with an ending that is both heartfelt and melancholy all at once.
And finally…here’s a surreal and terrifying little short from writer/director Chris Heck. Filmed in black and white for extra ookiness. Enjoy PLAGUE DREAMS!
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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