Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. We’ve got another crop of new horror films ready to be harvested, but before we get to that…there’s this!
Indie writer/director Zachary Paul has started a petition to bring Michael Myers back to his roots in this online petition he put together. I’m not the biggest fan of the newest remakes, but HALLOWEEN remains one of the most influential films I’ve ever seen. To sign the online petition and find out about Paul’s unique vision for the HALLOWEEN franchise, follow this link here! Best of luck, Zachary! We need more fans of the original series like you out there being proactive about their passion!
Here’s a reminder from the guys behind the new CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU project. They are inching closer to their goal, but need support through Kickstarter. The screenplay for CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU has made it to the second round of the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and the guys definitely have the enthusiasm to put together something special. Below is a pair of videos the guys made to help promote the film! Enjoy first a birthday message from Howard himself!
And then one of the director’s 5 year old niece explains Cthulhu! This you’ve gotta see!
William Wilson passed on this article he wrote about Don Glut’s unmade projects including an anthology he wrote for H.G. Lewis titled CASTLE OF GORE and the unrealized American ULTRAMAN project (with some amazing pre-production art). Follow the link here to read all about it!
Always on the lookout for a good film festival, those across the pond should check out the GRIMM UP NORTH FEST in Manchester, England on October 4th-7th 2012. The fest will be featuring COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES, SOME GUY WHO KILLS PEOPLE, SINISTER, NIGHTBREED: THE CABAL CUT, HATE CRIME, RITES OF SPRING and tons of others. Find out more about special guests, a full schedule, and other details here!
Finally, the EVERYONE DIES HORROR FILM FESTIVAL is celebrating its second year in Orange County, CA. Friday, October 12 and Saturday, October 13 at the Brea Plaza Cinemas in Brea, California, the festival will showcase more psycho-slashers, killer mutant chickens and a gore-soaked musical starring Tim Burton as an 18th century vampire hunter! The weekend will be presided over by the festival’s super-sexy, blood-thirsty mistress of ceremony, Machete Betty. If you’re in the area, be sure to check it out! Find out all of the pertinent info about the lineup of films, how to get tickets, and more here!
I hereby say, “On with the reviews!”
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: CHILLERS (1987)
100 GHOST STREET: THE RETURN OF RICHARD SPECK (2012)
MOMMY’S LITTLE MONSTER (2012)
MUNGER ROAD (2011)
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (2010)
Advance Review: MODUS ANOMALI (2012)
And finally…John Keefer’s SIX PACK!
Available now on DVD/BluRay from Troma, of course!
CHILLERS(1987)Directed by Daniel Boyd
Written by Daniel Boyd
Starring Jesse Emery, Marjorie Fitzsimmons, Laurie Pennington, Jim Wolfe, David Wohl, Gary Brown, Jesse Johnson, Thom Delventhal, Bradford Boll, Kimberly Harbour, Michael Martin
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
80’s schlock at its finest, CHILLERS serves as an anthology loosely woven together by the fact that all of the stories are told by folks waiting at a bus stop. Not the most ingenious way of bookending the film, but it does force the group of non-actors to be in one place and since this was the age before iPhones, they had to resort to old fashioned storytelling for entertainment.
Archaic, I know, but that was the 80’s for ya.
I wouldn’t necessarily call CHILLERS good and I wouldn’t necessarily label the film as scary. It is a nice snippet of what horror was like in the 80’s, though. Sure, you had your big budget horror such as THE FLY, ALIENS, and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, but there was something gritty about the low budgeters at the time and CHILLERS definitely embodies all of that.
Poorly shot, poorly lit, and horrid sound which sometimes sounds like the score is being played in the room through a boom box as it often blocks out dialog, CHILLERS doesn’t even have good acting to rely on.
Still, I’m a sucker for anthologies and while many of them feel like reject episodes of the TV series MONSTERS or TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, they do provide some unintentional laughs. A woman is haunted by a ghostly swimmer. A woman lusts after a TV reporter only to find out he’s a vampire. And my favorite, a group of boys take a Cub Scout trip to the woods from hell. These are the shocks in store for you if you if you dare venture into CHILLERS.
The dust was blown off of this schlocktaculistic 80’s flick by Troma, who has done some cool things lately by rereleasing old forgotten films and sponsoring indie horror seemingly inspired by Troma’s over the top nature. CHILLERS is definitely a hot mess, but it tries so hard to be scary that it’s almost endearing.
New on DVD from the Asylum!
100 GHOST STREET: THE RETURN OF RICHARD SPECK (2012)Directed by N/A
Written by N/A
Starring Jennifer Robyn Jacobs, Jim Shipley, Tony Besson, Jackie Moore, Hayley Derryberry, Adam LaFramboise, Mike Holley
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
OK, I hate it when someone calls a moratorium on something, but I have officially had it with the scene where someone falls and is dragged off feet first and screaming into the darkness. It worked awesomely in [REC] and since QUARANTINE, it was made an iconic moment which was truly harrowing.
Since then, though, I don’t know how many repeats, rip-offs, and downright copycat scenes I’ve seen in recent no budget found footage films. It’s old. It’s tired. It’s not scary any more. But the makers of 100 GHOST STREET: THE RETURN OF RICHARD SPECK don’t think so, because they use that moment about four times in this film.
If this were the least of the film’s offenses, I’d almost forgive it, but there is nary an original scene present in the entire movie. There’s even a woman standing in the corner a la BLAIR WITCH at one point and a scene ripped straight from THE ENTITY (you know the one) for the sole excuse of showing a bit of T&A.
By now, we’re all familiar with the plot; a group of paranormal investigators stake out a house that was once the scene of real life killer Richard Speck’s grisly murders. Immediately, people are killed, go missing, doors move, cameras go out, and weird shit happens, but our clueless investigators press on without even realizing it. Christ, since this film is played through first person POV or monitors set up through the house, you’d think someone would rewind the tape and see something.
But no, they don’t do that.
Instead we get rehashed thrills used in literally hundreds of other found footage films. On top of that, there are no likable characters in this one at all as two male producers force a woman up in an attic which has a trail of blood leading up to it, then watch on camera as she is murdered. The guys try to act frightened and guilty for losing their crew, attempting to tease some kind of empathy for them, but since they sent a woman to her doom, I couldn’t wait for the last crew member to bite it.
This steaming turd of a found footager is so bad no one has assigned their name to it as director or writer. I wouldn’t either. 100 GHOST STREET: THE RETURN OF RICHARD SPECK is the reason why folks are sick of found footage films.
New on DVD from Indican Pictures!
MOMMY’S LITTLE MONSTER (2012)Directed by Ryan Rossell & Marshall Uzzle
Written by Ryan Rossell, Matt Terzian, & Marshall Uzzle
Starring Matt Terzian, Geoffrey Lewis, Karen Black, Jack Gwaltney, Richard Blackbear Angulo, Troy Bailey, Jennifer Marlowe, Anson Scoville
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Good god this film was plodding. I’m sorry. I’m usually pretty positive when it comes to horror, but bad melodrama masked as horror I just can’t take. The cover of this one suggests a film about an evil child, right?
Wrong. This is about a schlub named Taylor (Matt Terzian) who committed himself in an institution after his mother’s death, then is released under the custody of his uncle (character actor Geoffrey Lewis) only to find that he’s still pretty fucked in the brain pan. Haunted by his dead abusive mother (Karen Black) and annoyed by his drunken neighbor (Jennifer Marlowe), will our loon bird make it in the really real world? Will his uncle overcome his gambling habit? Will his drunken neighbor be able to put down the booze long enough to be reunited with her estranged husband and daughter? Will I give a heaping shit? At least one of these answers will be dealt with in this review.
Though it’s always a treat to see actors like Geoffrey Lewis and Karen Black on screen, they do little here to save the movie. Lewis provides unnecessary drama in a complicated plot regarding a Native American Indian burial ground excavation and a gambling debt which somehow has ties to Taylor’s release. Black’s role is more meaty as the verbally abusive mother who both smothers him and berates him into having no confidence at all, leaving Taylor a twitching time bomb just waiting to ‘splode all over the place.
I love descent into madness stories, but this one was so distracted by amping up the melodrama of the tertiary characters that it forgot to make the main story interesting. The narrative meanders between Lewis and Marlowe’s characters making this one feel more like a Lifetime movie than the horror that is advertised on the cover of the DVD. MOMMY’S LITTLE MONSTER is a dud, attempting to touch the soul with shallow rhetoric and poetry coming from it’s overly empathetic narrator, but ending up too weighed down by the drama to even think of living up to what it is advertized as.
Boo, this film!
Available on DVD now!
HIDDEN (2011)Directed by Antoine Thomas
Written by Alan & Alana Smythy (screenplay), Mariano Biano & Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni (story)
Starring Sean Clement, Simonetta Solder, Jordan Hayes, Jason Blicker, Bjanka Murgel, Devon Bostick, Alessia Agrosì, Allan Kolman, Dawn Ford
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I was looking forward to seeing HIDDEN. Not knowing much about it, I was taken aback by the cool cover art, and after reading the blurb about a scientific experiment gone horribly wrong as a mad scientist working on addiction brings those addictions to life I did feel it was an original premise that had potential to be something damn cool.
After seeing it, I will give the film credit for filling the cast with some capable actors and trying to do something different. Ultimately, this is a team of investigators wandering around an abandoned hospital and it isn’t found footage (which is a plus). The way the film followed through on the hokey science reminded me a bit of Vincent Price’s study of fear in THE TINGLER. Shot in 3D, the film has the best of intentions and works on several levels.
Dealing with science’s battle with addiction is an interesting hook to hang this film on. Bringing addictions to life is an innovative idea, one ripe with potential. But I don’t think the filmmakers were able to succeed in achieving that potential as the little addictions running around the abandoned hospital are basically ghosts, appearing here and there, haunting the investigators, and killing them. The filmmakers do take advantage of the dank hospital, forcing the cast to venture through all of its corridors and tunnels and crawlspaces and emanating a nice moody feel to the whole thing.
As I said, the acting is pretty good as talent seemed to be the qualifier rather than the usual “looks good in tight clothing” standard most of these flicks ask for. The story asks for some meaty emotion to be delved into regarding addiction, as well as one of the investigators’ ties to the mad scientist. For a ghost story, the characters here feel developed and dense.
What this film is lacking is originality and real scares. The digital animation is too cartoony to be frightening. A swarm of a rare insect is the carrier of this addiction cure and there are plenty of “comin’ at cha!” scenes reminding you that this is a 3D movie (something that does nothing for me since I was watching it on a 2D flatscreen). The ghostly children haunting the corridors are spooky, but the burned out eyes and mouths are repeated too many times to cause any real chills.
Though my hopes were high, HIDDEN didn’t really live up to expectations. Despite some fun hokey horror science, decent casting, and a nice mood set at the hospital, this one just didn’t deliver the scares.
New on DVD this week!
MUNGER ROAD (2011)Directed by Nicholas Smith
Written by Nicholas Smith
Starring Bruce Davison, Randall Batinkoff, Trevor Morgan, Brooke Peoples, Hallock Beals, Lauren Storm, Art Fox, Maggie Henry, Bill J. Stevens
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Part found footager, part ghost story, part serial killer myth, part supernatural police procedural, MUNGER ROAD is one of those films that takes bits and pieces from many different subgenres of horror, but does so in a pretty seamless and fantastically executed manner. Most definitely low budget, MUNGER ROAD isn’t afraid to tell an expensive story and knows how to make it all work despite its shallow pockets.
MUNGER ROAD focuses on a specific road in Illinois which is said to be haunted. The story goes that if you go to a specific stop at a railroad crossing, turn out your car’s lights, and put the car in neutral, the car will be pushed across the tracks by the ghosts of children who were killed on the road long ago. Anyone who grew up in a small town has heard stories like this. Growing up in a small Ohio town, my high school buddies and me would drive out to Greely Chapel Road, which was said to be haunted. Though we never had any paranormal experiences, we had fun going out in the dark and getting scared with one another. MUNGER ROAD feeds off of that fear one has in high school, driver’s license still hot off the press and hormones raging, as a carful of teens drive off into the dark night.
Filmmaker Nicholas Smith captures these initial scenes well as a group of likable teens venture out to prove the existence of the paranormal by filming their Munger Road trip. The scenes in the car were palpably scary as the intensity of the paranormal seems to occur, but the story doesn’t stop there. Cut to a pair of police officers (Bruce Davison and Randall Batinkoff) tracking down an escaped killer who committed crimes years prior with ties to Munger Road. So instead of settling on being a found footage film about ghosts, real world scares are tossed in as a flesh and blood killer is wandering the woods. Smith juggles these subgenres well, and a lot of that has to do with Davison and Batinkoff giving it their all in their performances as the wizened older cop and the eager younger one, respectively. Without these two performances, I could have seen this film collapsing under itself.
And the film almost does as things get a bit confusing toward the end of MUNGER ROAD. The film is definitely ballsy in scope. With a small budget, Smith aims high in concept and even goes so far as to slap a to be continued tag on the end of the film and leave you with somewhat of a cliffhanger. In this day and age of big budgeters not living past a single film, I admire Smith’s passion to make this into a series. I can only wish him well and hope he goes forth and makes one. He can definitely handle the material, and with the promise of another film being even more expansive than the already pretty epically scoped original, MUNGER ROAD could be an interesting franchise to look out for.
As a single movie, this confidence that there will be another film takes a bit away from the impact of the ending and makes this film feel more like the first episode of a TV series rather than a film; still, MUNGER ROAD has a lot of imagination and chutzpah to have me rooting for it.
New on DVD/BluRay from Magnolia!
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (2010)Directed by Panos Cosmatos
Written by Panos Cosmatos
Starring Eva Allan, Michael Rogers, Scott Hylands, Marilyn Norry, Rondel Reynoldson
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Consider my mind blown.
Imagine if Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY had an all night orgy with Lucas’ THX 1138, TRON, Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER, and Alex Proyas’ DARK CITY set to the music of Daft Punk by way of John Carpenter’s simplistic synth soundtrack and then you might just begin to fathom the mindfuck that is BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW an absolutely gorgeous film from the visionary mind of Panos Cosmatos.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is the first and hopefully not the last film by Cosmatos whose view of the future is seen through the lens of what one might think of the future if one were living in the late 70’s. Bathed in red and white lights, the story unfolds about a captive and sedated girl in a commune named Elena played by the entrancing Eva Allen who is tormented and tested by a twisted doctor named Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers, who looks like a 70’s mix of Christian Bale and a hairless John Glover) in a commune type scientific facility whose purpose is to quantify and make happiness possible for all to achieve. A broad goal, yes, but if you want joy, apparently someone has to undergo absolute torment and that’s what Nyle does to Elena, who seems to have some form of telepathic mind power to is trying to manipulate and tap into.
Rogers is the true standout performance here as his Nyle is one of the most menacing villains I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in ages. Through a calm, staccato voice and a simple facial twitch, he speaks volumes about his character. Seeing him interact with others sends shivers down the spine. This is a performance that should open lots of doors for him.
As with all of the most successful science fiction films, Cosmatos doesn’t linger on explaining the science of it all. This film is about two characters in bitter conflict—a quiet battle between the sluggish young girl and her voyeuristic captor. Through very little dialog is used; save some twisted phrases calmly muttered by Nyle, this battle for Elena’s freedom is palpable and ever present. Elena communicates by releasing a single tear or a bat of an eye. When she does speak, the effect shown is mesmerizing and one that hasn’t been seen in film at least by me.
Though some of the simplistic designs seem torn straight from the Kubrick rulebook and some of the more retro-futuristic looks make this feel like it was the lost sci fi film Michael Mann never directed, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW has a style of its own by combining so many influential styles seamlessly and perfectly. More than anything, this is a film that looks absolutely unique. There are no shots that don’t seem meticulously framed to amp up even the most diabolical subject matter to beautiful levels. Be it a scene of Nyle driving his sleek car through a never ending tunnel or Elena sleeping in her bed crying over a photo of her mother, every shot is a visual masterpiece.
Setting the mood even more to cool is the musical score by Sinoia Caves which relies heavily on simplistic synthesizers and soothing rhythms. Much like the blank walls of the commune, the music is gorgeous in its simplicity, setting a dire mood and echoing out of the screen and into your soul.
I have nothing negative to say about this film and can’t recommend BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW more. Much like DISTRICT 9, MOON, and LOOPER (which I recently saw and loved), it offers a fantastic vision of the future through a retro lens. This is one of my favorite films of the year and though I saw it on my flat screen, I’d kill to see it on the big screen. It is brutal and beautiful. Patient and jarring. Atmospheric and claustrophobic all at once and simply has to be seen to be believed. See BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW. I’ll expect a thanks in the mail soon after.
MODUS ANOMALI (2012)Directed by Joko Anwar
Written by Joko Anwar
Starring Rio Dewanto, Hannah Al Rashid, Aridh Tritama, Izzi Isman, Sadha Triyudha, Jose Gamo, Marsha Timothy, Surya Saputra
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Playing with an audience’s expectations is a dangerous thing, but it appears Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar doesn’t really care about all of that. Fool them too much and they’ll turn on you. I have noticed that modern audiences don’t like to have the wool pulled over their eyes. Weaned on predictable Hollywood cinema, when things do happen as planned or are not projected a mile in advance, some folks’ world gets flipped ass up and there are some who aren’t comfortable with that feeling. Personally, I go to films to see things I normally don’t see. To be surprised. To not know what’s coming around the corner. Because I’m like that, I enjoyed the hell out of MODUS ANOMALI.
A man wakes up buried in a shallow grave in the woods. He’s disoriented and alone and can’t remember his name, his life, or anything. Soon he realizes he’s not alone in the woods. In the distance he sees a man with a machete, causing him to run and hide. Approaching a cabin, he finds the body of a woman and a video camera. When it’s played, he sees the murder of the woman in the cabin and soon finds himself in a fight for his life.
Immediately, I was enthralled by this film because it is a typical man vs. nature film as one man struggles to survive, forcing him to live off of his know-how and the land around him. Anwar keeps things moving right from the beginning as his film’s star, Rio Dewanto, runs through trees and woodland growth, hiding behind rocks and diving into the dirt. It’s to the director’s testament that he is able to follow his actor through the woods for so long without things becoming tedious or repetitive.
Dewanto is fantastic as the man seeking truth and survival from an unknown menace. Most of the time he is communicating through simple facial expressions and the rigorous workout he is put through leaping through the woods. The turns this character takes throughout the film require much from this actor, and all along the way from start to finish Dewanto makes things absolutely believable.
The turn this film takes toward the end is the reason for my rant in the first paragraph. Though somewhat logistically murky, the ending does make sense. Halfway through I began to suspect something was amiss with this scenario, but loved the ride nevertheless. The director takes painstaking time to make it all work out meticulously. I didn’t, but I’m sure some might find the whole thing a bit contrived.
MODUS ANOMALI is a grueling film experience, one that will definitely make you wince at the brutal action and gore. It’s not one anyone can predict outright, but it leaves enough breadcrumbs for the audience to figure things out by the end. If you like run of the mill films you can predict from the beginning, you’re going to hate this film, but MODUS ANOMALI doesn’t follow the well worn path and instead through clever directing and a convincing lead performance provided unexpected thrills and winces at what is playing out on screen.
Currently playing festivals, I’ll keep you all up to date when MODUS ANOMALI will be available for all to see!
And finally…John Keefer of 51 Deep continues his short horror filmmaking with a story of morality warning us of the dangers of drinking and using the telephone. Loved this little bastard of a film. Enjoy…SIX PACK!
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 late 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 March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.
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