Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. We’ve got another slew of horrors old and new this week, but as usual, before that…there’s this!
First up is MISCHIEF NIGHT, which looks to be a pretty cool new film focusing on the night before Halloween starring Malcolm McDowell and Brooke Anne Smith from writer/director Travis Baker. Here’s the premise: a teenaged babysitter is stalked by a masked madman, but in an unusual turn of events when victim and victimizer come face to face, they begin to develop romantic feelings for each other. And here’s the trailer:
Though it doesn’t really qualify as horror, this video is cool as shit. In this day and age when truly innovative music videos have gone the way of the dodo, I will jump at the opportunity to share this one with you starring one of the actors from HOWLS (a film I reviewed in last week’s Bigfoot Column). Enjoy this new Baptized In Blood music video for the band’s single "Last Line Lady", which has just been released through Roadrunner Records!
Alright, let’s get on with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro Review: COUNTESS PERVERSE (1974)
Retro Review: Jean Rollin’s THE DEMONIACS (1974)
TERROR OF DRACULA (2012)
PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE (2010)
Advance Review: THE YEAR AFTER INFECTION (2012)
Advance Review: SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE (2012)
And finally…SLASH EM!
New on DVD/BluRay from Mondo Macabro!
COUNTESS PERVERSE (1974)aka LA COMTESS PERVERSE, THE PERVERSE COUNTESS, & LA CROQUEUSES
Directed by Jesus Franco
Written by Jesus Franco & Elisabeth Ledu de Nesle
Starring Alice Arno, Howard Vernon, Kali Hansa, Lina Romay, Tania Busselier, Robert Woods, Caroline Rivière
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Not that I don’t like watching naked women running around, but when I sit down for a film, I usually want a bit more depth. But with a title like COUNTESS PERVERSE, at least I can say that I got what the title suggests here. Though I can understand the appeal of this film to those who simply want to see women with jiggly jumblies frolicking through beaches and grasslands, ultimately I found this film to be a boring exercise in restraint for my fast forward finger.
COUNTESS PERVERSE is a derivation of Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” in which a group of people hunt the most dangerous game in the wild—-man. Here man is woman and that woman is naked. In fact, most of the women seem to have a strong aversion to clothing in this film and for most of the running time, the wardrobe department was given the week off. A gorgeous beauty washes up on the shore of Countess Ivanna and Count Rabor Zaroff’s island condo. They take the beauty in and soon she finds herself in the middle of a game of cat and mouse as rich socialites hunt down naked women for sport and then serve them as dinner at their posh parties.
As horrific as that sounds, the gore is at a bare minimum here and only suggested. The kills consist of arrows stuck into the armpit of the victims and the horrific dinners are prepared to look like steak or ham. It’s not nearly as bloodbathy as it all sounds.
Really, this is a film made to showcase naked women making love, naked women running from other naked women with bows and arrows, and naked women doing other things nakedly.
The premise alone suggested that this would be a perfect fit for an AICN HORROR column, but it falls more so into the category of the cinema of the weird. Jesus Franco offers up some nice atmosphere with some surreal architecture and the scenes all look good, as do the naked women, but scares and gore are at a minimum here. Only those who relish in classic weird cinema seem like the target audience for COUNTESS PERVERSE.
BEWARE: This trailer has boobs!
New on DVD/BluRay from Redemption Films!
Jean Rollin’s THE DEMONIACS (1974)aka CURSE OF THE LIVING DEAD, REVENGE OF THE VIRGINS, LES DEMONIAQUES
Directed by Jean Rollin
Written by Jean Rollin
Starring Joëlle Coeur, John Rico, Willy Braque, Paul Bisciglia, Lieva Lone, Patricia Hermenier, Louise Dhour, Mireille Dargent, Ben Zimet, Miletic Zivomir
Retro-Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Out of all of the Jean Rollin films I’ve looked at over the last three weeks, I think I liked THE DEMONIACS the most. While I felt THE RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE was somewhat pretentious and obtuse in its surreal visuals and stream of consciousness storytelling and REQUIEM FOR THE VAMPIRE was little more than a vacant mix of S&M and hokey horror, with THE DEMONIACS Rollin pays attention to both narrative and symbolism and handles both in a more cohesive/less heavy handed manner, resulting in a much more interesting experience.
Now, I don’t want to say that I wholeheartedly recommend THE DEMONIACS. Much of the stuff I found off-putting about the previous two films is there: extended scenes of the landscape set to moody or jazzy music, extended scenes of lovemaking which consist of people rolling on top of one another with their legs tightly squished together, and an excessive use of the woman solely as an object to strip, grope, and rape. All of this is present again in THE DEMONIACS, though here it’s shown with a more artistic hand.
Like Jodorowski, Rollin is dealing with a lot of archetypes here. He literally casts the devil as one of the players in this film about a pair of virgins known as the Demoniacs who wash up on shore to be raped and possibly killed by pirates then taken in by a clown and the devil who helps them enact revenge on their perpetrators. Characters are stripped down to the barest of roles with nary a personality or feeling. Most of the cast simply exist to represent things, as many artsy films tend to do. Sometimes this can be seen as genius, but occasionally I like some spice with my symbolism, and without names or personalities the roles are generally spice-free.
So you get characters that simply are like the devil, the clown, the exorcist—even the two nameless Demoniacs exist simply to be abused, deflowered, and defiled by the ugly pirates--which leaves the only actual characters the four pirates, who at least get a narrative vignette at the beginning describing them. Today, if a film’s only characters who are given flesh are the villains, it’s entitled masochistic or sadistic or soulless. Here it’s done for the sake of art, but I think it still can be described as the easy way out. It also tells me that Rollin was most interested in the evil defilers and not the story of redemption of the innocent wronged.
But at least in the story itself, the Demoniacs do get their cold-served revenge, and though it might be looked at as a clichéd revenge story, I think this tried and true route of storytelling actually makes this the stronger of Rollin’s tales.
Or maybe I’m just getting sick of the artsy shit and appreciate a straightly told tale.
That said, some of the cast is actually quite good. John Rico plays the evil pirate captain, who grimaces in the camera and overacts, but still has a grandly wrinkled face that I couldn’t get tired of looking at. The other performance that stands out in this film is Joëlle Coeur’s deadly Tina, the female seductress pirate who is pants-tighteningly hot in every scene she frolics around in.
In the end, a lot of the trappings that I got stuck in with Rollin’s previous work are at play in THE DEMONIACS, but because he toned down the pretention a bit and stuck to a very simple story structure, somehow this film worked out to be the best in the bunch for me. If you are curious about Rollin, I say check out THE DEMONIACS. By far it is the most approachable of the ones I’ve seen and if you can’t take it, you know to stay away from the rest.
LOOK OUT: This trailer has boobs too!
New on DVD!
TERROR OF DRACULA (2012)Directed by Anthony D.P. Mann
Written by Anthony D.P. Mann & Bill Bossert
Starring Matt Davis, Anthony D.P. Mann, Angella Scott, Terry Wade, Denise Wedge, Andrea Hiltz, Ilke Hincer, Dick Miller, Barry Yuen
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Faithful to a fault, low budget filmmaker Anthony D.P. Mann brings us another retelling of Bram Stoker’s classic vampire tale about a deathless count, an insurance man, a doctor, a pair of virgins, a trio of undead brides, and a lunatic in an asylum. Though told and retold numerous times, TERROR OF DRACULA is a standout in that it feels like a project all involved felt passionately about from top to bottom, start to finish. The result is a fun film that, though a bit dry at times, does seem to be more faithful to the original tome than most others using the book as inspiration.
Taking pages both from Murnau’s NOSFERATU, Coppola’s DRACULA, and even Bela Lugosi’s classic portrayal, TERROR OF DRACULA feels like the culmination of numerous influences created with a modest budget but an incalculable fondness for the material. I must admit that the adherence to the source material is admirable, but also shows how some of the cuts were somewhat necessary in terms of pacing. Extended monologues tend to drone on, especially when spoken by amateur but capable actors.
There is nothing bad about the acting per se; the performances are quite good—especially that of Matt Davis’ Jonathan Harker, Terry Wade’s Van Helsing, and especially the director/writer Anthony D.P. Mann’s take on Dracula himself are very well done, but the fact that the film is shot somewhat statically and straightforward makes the film seem more like something one would see on PBS rather than a movie screen.
Gore and action are not this film’s strong point. The use of CG blood is, as always, obvious and problematic. But the film makes up for that by including Stoker’s original words and scenes which hit like a thousand effects shots and action sequences. Bits and pieces which often are not included in most translations, such as a scene involving the abduction of a gypsy child, are included here. This adherence to the original story makes this adaptation all the more interesting.
There are those who snub their nose at films such as this with a modest budget, but as Anthony D.P. Mann explained on the intro of the DVD, this is a labor of love for those involved. Mann most definitely has made his dream real by adapting Bram Stoker’s original tale to the word. In doing so, the film may lack the punch most modern films have, but it does stand out for its authenticity. Filmed with the scratchy filter that has come to be the norm for grindhousey films, TERROR OF DRACULA feels like the lost film is claims to be. And though some of the moments drag and lack bounce, it’s always nice to see a new version of Stoker’s classic.
Classic vamp completists will want to check out TERROR OF DRACULA for its faithful adaptation, but fans of modern filmmaking will have difficulty digesting this one.
PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE (2010)Directed by Dustin Mills
Written by Dustin Mills
Starring Steve Rimpici, Jessica Daniels, Bart Flynn, Ethan Holey, Erica Kisseberth, Dustin Mills, Brandon Salkil
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Fans of MEET THE FEEBLES and TEAM AMERICA WORLD POLICE will want to line up for this one. Though it was released a few years ago, since I just watched it recently for the first time, I figured I’m not the only one who missed this little gem when it first came out.
THE PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE takes Jim Henson’s puppetry and casts it over the template of a B-grade monster movie. Though not all of the humor hits homeruns, PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE made me giggle with glee more than once during viewing. The film ignores the fact that these are puppets doing everything in this film which is what works best. Gore, acting, sex scenes, story—everything is taken seriously; it just so happens that puppets are doing it all. That’s where this mad little movie excels. It’s a horror movie that just happens to have puppets as the main characters.
The story is your typical HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL set up as a seemingly random selection of guests are sent an invitation to spend the night in a haunted mansion. The group is an eclectic bunch; a nebbish innocent, his girl friend, a punk rocker, a movie nerd—none of them know what they’re in for, but all want the million dollars promised to the one who survives the night in the mansion. Upon reaching their destination they encounter the more than slightly Nazi-esque Wolfgang Wagner, a mad scientist with devious motives. Soon the participants find themselves locked in a house of horrors filled with booby traps and monsters.
Of course, humor is a huge part of this story, but unlike MEET THE FEEBLES which seemed to relish in the fact that they were taking the Muppets to levels of perversity and leave it at that, there are some genuine moments of hilarity, most of which are supplied by Raimi, the weird movie nerd played by Dustin Mills (the director and writer of the film). There are a few scenes where Raimi scares himself while walking through the woods that are downright gut busting. Mills isn’t above going the potty humor route, though, with multiple gags about farting, puppet sex, and other low brow guffaws.
The film is really gory as well, mixing CG with real world puppetry successfully for the most part. The blood is shed in copious amounts once the monster is revealed and goes on his rampage and the CG used does so in a manner that is obvious, but hilarious. Mills seems to be able to use both practical and CG effects to their fullest potential.
Goofy as hell, THE PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE is bound to please those who like their horror served with a heaping helping of funny. Sure the concept of a monster movie shot in earnest using puppets is somewhat trite, but Mills executed the whole thing with a lot of ingenuity and skill. On the PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE website , it looks like they have a campaign to do another PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE. Given the skill and fun put into this first installment, I’d love to see another one.
WARNING: This trailer has felt boobies…
…err…boobies made of felt!
Advance Review: Currently touring festivals!
THE YEAR AFTER INFECTION (2012)Directed by Antonio E. Greco
Written by Antonio E. Greco
Starring Trinka, Stan Davis, James Eason, Nichole Fischer, Joe Hammerstone, Ben Bovee, Dennis Dashley, Christopher M. Johnson, Eric Warrington, Timothy Lantz, Rhonda Husak, Julian Thomas, Dereck Krebs, Clark Pearson, Elyse Bertani
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I’m a dedicated supporter of indie work, be it comics or film. And THE YEAR AFTER INFECTION is most definitely an indie film. Many have difficulty with films such as this because of amateur acting and clumsy editing and problematic pacing of story. All of those things are present in THE YEAR AFTER INFECTION, but still, if you’re a fan of zombie horror, you are more than likely going to find something about this indie film to admire.
Let’s get to the problematic stuff first here. THE YEAR AFTER INFECTION has a lot of pacing problems. Maybe it was because of the amateur acting, but a lot of this film drags like the zombies that star in it. There are huge chunks that I feel could really be clipped away to make a faster moving story. There are a lot of nice elements here, but there is also a lot of meandering between these moments. A snip and slice here and there in the editing room could make for a much more enjoyable movie.
Now, the amateur acting might have been what made this film seem too long. Though I understand it’s hard to get great actors for a low budget film, if you know the actors are not the best, again, editing can cover up a lot of that. Here, despite the fact that these aren’t the best of actors, a lot of time is spent on them and a lot is expected from them. Because of this, the lack of professional acting skill is evident.
That said, I think the stories at play in these four vignettes which are titled by the seasons that pass are pretty fun. One centers on a survivor whose only friend is a zombie. Another follows a group of survivors paddling down a river filled with zombie infested waters. Another features a clinic where experiments on the dead are being made to find a cure. Finally, the best story of the bunch features a loner who finds a young child holed up in a house and must confront his inner demons in order to properly care for him. All of these are winning concepts filled with nice ideas that are touched upon in these short installments. Antonio E. Greco’s stories should be commended for the fact that they are creative stories focusing on the zombie apocalypse, and though the execution is often problematic when it comes to acting and editing, the ideas themselves are strong.
I also have to admire this film for the fact that it chooses to shy away from an outbreak story. So many zombie films focus on the outbreak. It’s a tried and true way of amping up the scares and emotion, but it’s a story so often told that I tire of seeing zombie films because it feels as if that’s the only story people want to tell. Here the outbreak occurs and this is more about adjusting to these changes rather than being shocked by them initially. In many ways I understand, given the walking wounded feel of zombie films in relation to reactions of helplessness to 9-11, but maybe it’s a good sign that series like THE WALKING DEAD and like this film have shied away from the initial shock and focused on what to do next. Though it makes for equally harrowing stories, it also can be said that this is an optimistic way of looking at being a survivor rather than a helpless victim.
Cultural significance aside, the redeeming factor with THE YEAR AFTER INFECTION were the little moments of cool (the canoe riders come across a bridge filled with zombies who drop on the boats from above like kamikazes as they pass under them) or moments of fun (a doctor empties a bedpan filled with blood and bile onto a zombie’s head far below). The ending of this film shows that Antonio E. Greco has a lot of talent in the way he pulls the final moments of story together while giving a nod to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the zombie film that started it all. Though rough around the edges, THE YEAR AFTER INFECTION redeems itself though clever ideas and fun moments.
Advance Review: Premiering at the LA Film Festival on Sat Jun 16th 10:30pm and Tue, Jun 19th 10:00pm!!!
SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE (2012)Directed by Spencer Parsons
Written by Spencer Parsons, Jonny Mars, Jory Balsimo, Aaron Leggett, Jason Wehling
Starring Ashley Rae Spillers, Jonny Mars, Josephine Decker, Adam Tate, Paul Gordon, Sean Ryan, Heather Kafka, Hamlet as himself
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Come this Halloween when I start to compile my list for the best horror films of the year, SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE is sure to be among them. Stemming from all sorts of horror conventions and current trends, this film by Spencer Parsons is fresh, funny, and most importantly scary. Just as CABIN IN THE WOODS played with pastiches of the horror genre, SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE takes all that we love about horror and turns it on its ear, proving that there is a reason these trends became what they are in horror and proof positive that given a fresh set of eyes and a talented set of folks, even the most tried and true stories can still be effective.
What I love most about this story is that it unapologetically is a SCOOBY DOO remake. No it’s not Matthew Lillard and a CGI Scoob aping across the screen in sanitized and boring action. SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE is a rated R version of the SCOOBY DOO movie I as an adult who love horror have longed to see. It takes the current trend of following a band of ghost hunters, but zigs and zags all over the place, making your expectations its bitch in the process.
The performances by the four cast members--Ashley Rae Spillers (Nancy who is this film’s version of Velma), Jonny Mars (Floyd, our Shaggy), Josephine Decker (Gwen, who’s a lot like Daphne),and Adam Tate (Chad, who is our Fred), are what makes this film a standout. Each of the team embodies the Scooby Doo cartoon, yet makes them more personable. The attraction between Chad and Gwen is there, but there’s also some complications as we find out Gwen cheated on Chad once and Chad resents it. It’s the fact that these characters really seem to have lived a life off screen and that we are just privy to a snippet of it here that makes them all the more believable.
Like Scooby and the crew, Nancy, Gwen, Floyd, Chad, and their faithful dog Hamlet set out to find ghosts, but soon found that ghosts don’t exist. Their detective work has uncovered a lot of Old Man Jenkinses who try to scare folks away in order to set up moonshine stills, child porn rings, and drug cartels. And they would have gotten away with it, too, if not for those meddling kids. When the team’s funding goes dry, they take a job at an abandoned school house with a horrible history of violence and soon they begin to question that they might have actually found an actual haunted house. SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE plays on everything we know and love about those old SCOOBY DOO cartoons and makes them real and horrific.
The humor in this film is so, so good. It’s not gut busting humor nor is it grossout humor. It’s not particularly goofy either, but more of a subtle sense of fun that one might find in THE OFFICE or A WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER. No one in the film is trying to be funny. The humor comes from the situations that arise and the matter of fact way it’s processed and approached by this talented cast. There are some fantastic moments of comic timing that I won’t ruin in this review, but will definitely cause you to laugh out loud. There are also subtle performances that are sure to stand out, particularly by the monotone police officer (played by Paul Gordon) as he takes the team on a tour of the abandoned house, pointing out “We found a leg over here.” as if he were reading instructions on how to program his television.
Most horror comedies are either heavy on horror and light on humor or vice versa. This one has heaping helpings of both as the tone of the film shifts and shifts again as soon as the real terror is revealed. Though some might find this shift in tone rattling, I loved how things get dire with a quickness and the level of intensity slowly builds from movement or shadows in the background and then comes smashing to the forefront by the end of the film. There is a level of energy to this film that I have seen in few other films this year, and though CABIN IN THE WOODS dealt with a lot of SCOOBY DOO themes, that film falls more under parody while SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE is undeniably a full fledged horror film. There were moments that made me genuinely jump and other instances of gore that will cause stomachs to churn.
Do what you can to see SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE. You’ll laugh. You’ll jump. You’ll whisper “Cool” under your breath. It’s playing at the LA Film Festival this weekend and if you’re in the area and love horror, this is the one you don’t want to miss. It is original in its comedic voice, talented performances by the cast, and sheer ballsiness to be an unabashed hard R episode of SCOOBY DOO, and like a cat plopping a mangled rat into your lap, is damn proud to gross you out and cause you a start. Don’t miss this film. It’s one of the best I’ve seen so far this year.
And finally…we have a new horror-comedy animated web series pilot episode titled "Slash 'Em" for Mondo Media (the company that puts out HAPPY TREE FRIENDS). This pilot features voice actress Amber Nash (who voices Pam on ARCHER) and several artists/animators that worked on ARCHER as well like Adam Toews, Kim Feigenbaum, Rod Ben, Jennifer Montes. Enjoy SLASH ‘EM!
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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