AICN HORROR looks at new horrors THE SHOCK LABYRINTH 3D! ASYLUM BLACKOUT! KNIFEPOINT! NAILBITER! MADISON COUNTY! Plus a look back at PLOT OF FEAR!!!
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week, we take a look at more new horrors, but before we do that…there’s this!
Monsterverse’s BELA LUGOSI TALES FROM THE GRAVE #2 came out this week. You can order a copy of the book here! The cover, painted by Rick Baker, is frikkin’ amazing. And the book turns out to be pretty amazing too filled with all sorts of horrific and spine tingling stories. Harry sure seems to think so too!
Roland Emmerich has a new film out later in the year simply called HELL. Here’s the official synopsis of the film. It was once the source of life, light and warmth. But now the sun has turned the entire world into baked and barren wasteland. Forests are scorched. Animal carcasses line the roads. Even the nights are dazzling bright. Marie (HANNAH HERZSPRUNG), her little sister Leonie (LISA VICARI) and Phillip (LARS EIDINGER) are heading for the mountains in a car with covered windows. Rumor has it there is still water there. Along the way they run into Tom (STIPE ERCEG), a first-rate mechanic that becomes indispensible. But can they trust him? Tension grows in the small group. As if things weren ́t bad enough, they are lured into an ambush. Their real battle for survival begins. Look for HELL on VOD - July 10 and DVD - August 21st and check out the poster for the film to the right.
Another film that has piqued my interest recently is FERAL CHILD from director Cindy Sanabria. Here’s the synopsis; Two anthropologists, in search of a lost tribe of cannibals. On the last day of their search, they come across a child who appears to be feral. Despite warning, they see this as an opportunity for further research and the anthropologists bring the young girl back with them to the United States. They soon realize that some things are better left alone. Sounds pretty cool to me. Being a huge fan of Lucky McKee’s THE WOMAN, FERAL CHILD seems right up my alley and I hope to be reviewing it soon on AICN HORROR. The film goes into production this month. Look for more coverage on this interesting project in a future column.
The makers of the film (director Eric England, producer Daniel F. Dunn, and actor/producer Ace Marrero) MADISON COUNTY (reviewed below) are at it again with ROADSIDE. The synopsis; It's a Hitchcokian Thriller about a pregnant couple that is stranded on the side of a snowy, mountain road, as they are held hostage by a gunman hidden in the woods. Their phones are working, their car is running...but they can't leave., seems interesting. To the left is the poster for the film which is currently in post production. Look for coverage of ROADSIDE in a future AICN HORROR column.
Finally from the in production department we have THROWBACK which has an equally intriguing plot; Two modern-day treasure hunters who go searching for the lost gold of a legendary outlaw in the remote jungles of Far North Queensland. But instead of riches, they find a different kind of legend: a ferocious Australian monster known as a Yowie, Australia's answer to Bigfoot, and a savage battle for survival ensues. Being a huge fan of Bigfoot films, I can’t wait to see this one. I’ll be following this one close and bringing you word about it in a future AICN HORROR column. Check out the teaser trailer released recently below.
And now, let’s start with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-Review: PLOT OF FEAR (1976)
MADISON COUNTY (2011)
ASYLUM BREAKOUT (2011)
SHOCK LABYRINTH (2011)
And finally…The Bunny The Bear’s “Lonely”!
New on DVD from Raro Video!
PLOT OF FEAR (1976)aka BLOODY PEANUTS, E TANTA PAURA
Directed by Paolo Cavara
Written by Paolo Cavara (story), Enrico Oldoini & Bernardino Zapponi
Starring Corinne Cléry, Michele Placido, Quinto Parmeggiani, Edoardo Faieta, Tom Skerritt, Eli Wallach
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Here’s another Giallo mystery thriller about a murderer who not only likes leaving pictures from a children’s book at the murder scene, but also loves scrapbooking the obituaries. PLOT OF FEAR also known as BLOODY PEANUTS for some reason, follows a conspiracy and an effort by a pair of detectives to uncover it. As with most Giallo films, PLOT OF FEAR’s strengths lie in its elaborate spectaclar death scenes.
The plot of PLOT OF FEAR is pretty elaborate involving multiple characters, conspiracy, backstabbing, and deception. I have to admit, I tuned out half way through and just enjoyed the murder scenes which come often and vary in creative value. Some are gory with bright reds indicative of these types of films. Others were incredibly complex, especially the scene where a man is chased into the middle of the street then hit by a car. All have the vibrant camera work and attention to gore that most films of this sort exude.
Performances range from shoddy to great with appearances by familiar faces Tom Skerritt and Eli Wallach in minor roles (though their voices seem to be dubbed). There is also a bevy of beautiful babes as the conspiracy involves a model and plenty of hookers. Though it’s doubtful, the methodology behind the killer’s motivations appear to be of the same style as we have seen in modern films such as SE7EN and its knockoffs. But what the film lacks in linear storytelling, it makes up in craziness. If anyone were to wander into this film halfway, they are sure to be confused as there is everything here from an angered tiger in a cage to animated porn watched by a group of upper class people and a chimpanzee.
Not the most logical film, but nevertheless entertaining, PLOT OF FEAR offers up a myriad of cool scenes seemingly only loosely threaded together by a plot of conspiracy and murder.
Here are the first few minutes of PLOT OF FEAR which highlight some gory goodness and some fantastic electro synth music.
Currently touring festivals such as Fantasia International Film Festival and Chicago Horror Film Festival
KNIFEPOINT (2011)Directed by Jed Strahm
Written by Jed Strahm
Starring Krista Braun, Katherine Randolph, Kym Jackson, Andy Mackenzie, Grant Reynolds, Scott Elrod, R.A. Mihailoff
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
KNIFEPOINT is a diabolical indie nightmare on film about a home invasion gone twisted as a barbwire fence. The film is as dark as it comes, following a pair of women with issues of their own as they are tormented by a group well organized heathens as they make their way through an apartment complex killing and looting each apartment one by one. The film definitely grabs a person by the throat and doesn’t let go, providing absolutely evil villains to root against, but as far as soul, this film is sorely lacking.
The hook to most of these people in peril films is the fact that you are supposed to care about these guys. Very little time in this film is dedicated to getting to know our damsels in distressed a pair of sisters Michele (Krista Braun) and Abby (Katherine Randolph). All we know is that there is resentment between the two sisters, one for being an invalid jealous of her sisters working legs the other of having to take care of her invalid sister. In some ways, I can appreciate the filmmakers confidence that this complex relationship is conveyed in such little screen time, but I feel, more attention to what motivates these two girls would have made me wince even more at the torment that is about to befall them.
The film wastes no time diving into the action. In the opening minutes we see a team of surly individuals meticulously kill off everyone in the complex, leaving the sisters as their last victims. The action is quick and brutal and I like the way the filmmakers hit the ground running and really never let up until the closing credits. The brutality of the actions is definitely hard to swallow with rape, murder, and dismemberment not above this swarthy crew of miscreants. Lead by Jess (Grant Reynolds) and his equally twisted sister Lorraine (Kym Jackson), this crew is not to be trifled with. Especially when former Leatherface R.A. Mihailoff is among them. Though Jess is organized, as with most evildoers, order is not really this teams forte and the diabolical actions, especially the ones of the out of her mind Lorraine, end up screwing up this perfectly planned out home invasion.
The acting performances are pretty great. Jess (Grant Reynolds) looks a little too much like Christian Bale here and seems to know it, but is able to convey a sense of danger to his prey and frustration towards his cronies. Kym Jackson shines here as the truly bugnuts sister who is not above swiping the penis blade from SE7EN to rape her victims and seems to get off on having her face smeared with blood. The rest of the crew is equally despicable and play the part well, with Andy Mackenzie’s Rizzo having the most disgusting line of the film; a response to being spit on by one of the sisters is “Tastes like you have a sinus infection.” *Gag-Barf!*
Though later in the column I’ll mention Walter Hill, I can’t help but sense a Walter Hill vibe—DESPERATE HOURS meets Capenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINT 13 comes to mind. There’s definitely a grindhouse sense of morality going on in this film. The grindhouse feel permeates this entire film from the stylized and inspired opening sequence to the final credits. I just wish I was given a chance to develop an investment in the victims, but as KNIFEPOINT plays out, it’s abundantly clear that the filmmakers’ fascination lay with the action and the villains.
New on DVD this week!
MADISON COUNTY (2011)Directed by Eric England
Written by Eric England
Starring Ace Marrero, Katie Stegeman, Joanna Sotomura, Natalie Scheetz, Nick Principe, Matt Mercer
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Isn’t it clear that city college kids have no business wandering off into the country is a bad idea? Obviously the kids in this film didn’t get the memo. MADISON COUNTY is one of many “stay out of backwoods Amerricuh!” films and follows the same formula of drawing good looking post teens into a desolate locale and having that locale rising up and biting them in the taint. Though not a bad film, it is very similar to tons like it that I have reviewed in this very column. But city folk vs the country livin’ has been the topic of debate for years and maybe the recent economic woes where the segregation of sophisticated living and the unwashed masses is the topic discussed just about everywhere is the reason for this cinematic inundation. Either way, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had been there and done that throughout most of this movie. That said, I think MADISON COUNTY is a good example of this genre with decent performances by the soon to be dead good lookings and a villain that is definitely scary.
In true Scooby Doo fashion, the college kids who’s reasons for this trip is to seek out the writer of a book which focuses on a legendary serial killer named Damian. Though most college kids do research through wiki these days, I guess there might be a few who want to actually do some legwork when it comes to getting a story. Unfortunately, that motivation and know-how doesn’t really convey as these kids don’t really piece together that they are in peril until it’s almost biting them in the ass. The kids are likable and all play the part well. The lasses are uber-cute and the dudes are hunkly.
Though one might not think so with the way the serial killer looks and just the fact that his name is Damian, the killer is actually quite good. It’s interesting the choices the filmmakers made with the character naming him after an iconic devil child from the early eighties and making him wear a pigs head, reminiscent of MOTEL HELL, and more recently Pygg from the BATMAN comics and the relentless film THE BUTCHER. Still, Damian stands out as truly terrifying here. This is mostly because the filmmakers smartly show the characters sneaking up on his prey. This anticipation of whether or not the victim will turn around and see the killer coming is nicely done numerous times in MADISON COUNTY and it never loses its effectiveness.
This GREEN ACRES with blood and a pig head isn’t blazing new trails, but it does walk confidently down those paths. Damian is truly scary, though the pig head look has been used before and the brutality of the kills will definitely satiate those looking for a decent slasher fix. MADISON COUNTY has definitely done its homework. The twist ending is interesting and the enigmatic, yet frightening portrayal and good performances from the cast all around saves this from being another tired “killer in the woods” retread.
Currently touring festivals such as the Chicago Fear Fest and the Texas Frightmare Weekend!
NAILBITER (2012)Directed by Patrick Rea
Written by Patrick Rea
Starring Erin McGrane, Meg Saricks, Sally Spurgeon, Joicie Appell, Emily Boresow, Michelle Davidson, Jason Coffman
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I absolutely loved this indie treat which takes elements of early Speilbergian “children in peril” films and then plunges deep into the deep end of horror. NAILBITER introduces us to a troubled family consisting of three girls and a mother. The family is not perfect. Mom is an alcoholic and trying to cope with her husband overseas in the military. The oldest daughter couldn’t be more disconnected from the rest of the family and shuns the affections of her two younger siblings who look up to her. But things are looking up as the family takes a trip to meet their father at the airport returning home from the war. Though there is a storm prediction in the forecast, the family sets out in the trusty SUV to pick up pop.
Everything from the way the kids interact with each other to the inspirational music feels like an Amblin film. There’s a down home family vibe that fills the entire first half hour and for the first half of the film, I was wondering if this was going to be one of those toothless scary movies where no one really dies or gets hurt and it ends with the family persevering despite insurmountable odds.
Then NAILBITER bore its teeth and chomps my expectations to little bite sized chunks. This Amblin family wanders into a full-fledged nightmare and despite the uplifting music in the beginning, no one is safe.
The pacing of this film written and directed by Patrick Rea is impeccable. It is one of those films that draws you in by seeming to be innocent and then attacks. As the storm turns into a tornado, the family is forced to take shelter in the basement of a seemingly abandoned home. Of course, it’s not so abandoned.
Not only is the premise and tone a winner, the monsters in NAILBITER are unique in their ambiguity. Though some might be frustrated by the lack of a concrete description of the beast (or beasts), I found the dialog to be truly horrific. Simple lines like “The storm effects all of them differently.” is enough information for me and all the more terrifying, though some may not be as satisfied by that clever and all encompassing line of dialog.
Though the effects aren’t the best, Rea smartly only shows glimpses of our monsters and amps up the threat immensely because of it. Rea has crafted a big budget looking film with blockbuster scares on a small scale. The attention to character is there and there are some fantastic emotional beats that really resonate. The ending, as well, is a powerhouse. Multiple endings and fades to black throw the viewer off guard into thinking the show is over and the lights will go up, but Rea plays on that by bringing the scares back or an emotional payoff to make this a completely satisfying fright fest. Currently travelling the festival circuit, if you have a chance to catch NAILBITER, do it. It’s a whole lot of fun, reminiscent of a lot of films the audience here at AICN hold near and dear.
New in limited theaters now and available on VOD through IFC Midnight!
ASYLUM BLACKOUT (2011)aka THE INCIDENT
Directed by Alexandre Courtès
Written by S. Craig Zahler & Jérôme Fansten
Starring Rupert Evans, Kenny Doughty, Joseph Kennedy, Dave Legeno, Marcus Garvey, Anna Skellern, Richard Brake
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though KNIFEPOINT reminded me of shades of some of the cooler Walter Hill films relying on gritty action, ASYLUM BLACKOUT is Walter Hill reincarnated (though I am aware the filmmaker isn’t dead). A struggling rock band pay their bills by working in the kitchen at an insane asylum. As the band struggles with egos, insecurity, and temptations to leave the music behind and find a real job, they serve food in a dank prison-like environment to the inmates of the asylum behind a protective glass shield. As fate would have it (and without it, there would be no story here) a storm knocks out the power in the asylum and the inmates take over. Trapped in the kitchen with vicious madmen trying to break in, the band must work together to survive.
It’s a premise that reeks of hardcore action and for the most part ASYLUM BLACKOUT has got it. Though one might expect Bruce Willis or maybe Jason Statham as the somber and quiet cook, the danger level is intensified because the everymen in peril are normal guys. An almost unrecognizable Rupert Evans who I last saw as the squeaky cleaner agent in HELLBOY leads the cast as George, a slacker-esque member of a band who is all about the mellow vibes and doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Evans is great in this role. He even shows his sensitive side by having brief interactions with some of the inmates as he spoons out the slop in line. Director Alexandre Courtès does a good job of fleshing out George’s character by showing his more altruistic side. George is a thinker, which helps him out later when the batshit hits the fan.
The asylum itself is an important character in this story. The stark blank walls and dim lighting makes the place nightmarish even before the lights go out, but it is all the more frightening when things go black. Having worked in mental health facilities before, little by way of Hollywood creativity was put into this asylum. I’ve seen places like this and they are scary. The dark landscape that is the asylum in this film feels all too real.
Alexandre Courtès does a great job with ratcheting up the tension as the story goes on. As the band members try to get away from the rampaging lunatics, the pace never slows and even when it does, as with a scene where George encounters one of the lunatics he thought he shared a bond with, these slower moments are all the more chilling—a scene involving a crazy shaving away the skin of an arm still gives me the shivers.
If there is a fault to ASYLUM BLACKOUT is that I feel the focus was almost too much on George and a lot of the other band members seemed underdeveloped. This lead to me shrugging when they fell into peril, but at the same time, the scenes where George makes his final confrontation with an inmate that has been creeping him out from day one is absolutely grueling to watch. The climax of this film most definitely resonates hard.
More of a gory adventure than a horror film, ASYLUM BLACKOUT is the type of smaller scale adventures that you don’t see too much of anymore. It isn’t afraid to pour on the red stuff, but never loses sight of its main character and pulls you along kicking and screaming as his life is turned absolutely insane when the lights go out.
New this week on DVD & BluRay!
SHOCK LABYRINTH 3D (2009)Directed by Takashi Shimizu
Written by Daisuke Hosaka
Starring Yûya Yagira, Ai Maeda, Misako Renbutsu, Ryo Katsuji, Erina Mizuno
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The director of THE GRUDGE, THE GRUDGE 2 and JU-ON, Takashi Shimizu, is at it again with creepy Japanese children running around long corridors and scaring the pants off viewers. I feel there is much more style than substance to his latest film THE SHOCK LABYRINTH 3D though. Not having a 3D television, I watched this one in 2D and maybe it was because I didn’t get that 3rd dimension that this film failed to grip me as Shimizu’s previous films have. The film isn’t without some truly harrowing moments and surreal imagery, but for some reason, the story failed to really grab a hold of me.
THE SHOCK LABYRINTH is about a group of kids whose friend disappears while they are wandering as a group through the halls of a carnival house of horrors. Ten years pass and the missing girl Yuki, Misako Renbutsu, shows up out of the blue in need of medical attention. As the now grown kids take Yuki to a hospital, they find themselves trapped in the same twisted funhouse where they lost Yuki ten years prior. What transpires is a swirling trip down the rabbit hole as mannequins move on their own, stuffed bunny rabbits float and birth humans, snow falls indoors and all sorts of madness ensues.
In terms of beautiful and haunting imagery, THE SHOCK LABYRINTH is chock full of it. There truly are gorgeously surreal images atop more gorgeously surreal images, one occurring after another and some happening in the same scenes together. There are some truly freaky scenes especially the moving mannequins and the creepy bunny. Shimizu does a great deal of spinning in this film, following never ending corridors and rotating up and down spiral staircases. This attention to movement while focusing on the optical illusion aspects conveys a sense of true unease, as if the ground itself is unstable and eliciting vertigo in the viewer. To look at, this film is right up there with the original GRUDGE in creepy imagery and overall sense of spookiness.
But really, that’s all THE SHOCK LABYRINTH is—a funhouse ride. Sure it’s cool to see these images one after another, but if you really aren’t invested in the characters, it’s just a Nine Inch Nails video and not a story. I can honestly say that as with the earlier film, PLOT OF FEAR, I really didn’t care about the story itself by the time this one ended and found myself much more into the amazingly bugnuts effects and mood shots. The story is not awful and neither are the performances for that matter. It’s just that the batty imagery seems to be the focus of the director and it shows in every narratively hollow, but undeniably creepy corridor of THE SHOCK LABYRINTH.
And finally…here’s me doing my most ghoulish Downtown Julie Brown impression as I introduce a new horror music video premiere from The Bunny The Bear called “Lonely” which was shot in my resident city of Chicago and produced by Victory Records. Find out more about The Bunny The Bear here! Tap your severed toes and bang your head till you decapitate yourself to this demented little ditty!
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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May 11, 2012, 8:17 a.m. CST
May 11, 2012, 8:41 a.m. CST
The ancient ones would be pleased. By the book slasher.
May 11, 2012, 11:10 a.m. CST
by Judge Briggs
To play these sort of movies all the time ... Unedited and in their entirety! Hopefully Netflix will continue to stock them up in their instant streaming availability option.
May 11, 2012, 11:14 a.m. CST
by Red Ned Lynch
...a better than average batch. And though I suspect Madison County might be the worst of the lot I have to say that the poster you included with your review gave me some warm and fuzzy memories of the very best/worst 70s drive-in horror.
May 11, 2012, 9:17 p.m. CST
by Mr. Giant
WAY too many fans of 80s slashers making more "intense" versions of 80s slashers. You can always tell these indie slashers because the whole movie is shot with shallow focus and handheld cameras because the Canon 5D was their entire budget.
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