Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. In this special column, I’m highlighting the films playing at Grimm Fest 2012 in Manchester UK (Check out the schedule here!). The festival will be running all weekend long starting today and I had the honor of checking out quite a few films playing at the fest this year. Below are some of the cooler films premiering in the first half of the fest. Look for another column featuring another bushel and a peck of Grimm Fest 2012 films in a day or two.
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Advance Review: COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES (2012)
Advance Review: SOME GUY WHO KILLS PEOPLE (2011)
Advance Review: DEVOURED (2012)
Advance Review: THE WRONG HOUSE (2011)
Advance Review: GALLOW WALKER (2010)
COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES (2012)Directed by Matthias Hoene
Written by James Moran & Lucas Roche
Starring Georgia King, Lee Asquith-Coe, Michelle Ryan, Alan Ford, Harry Treadaway, Honor Blackman, Richard Briers, Tony Gardner, Dominic Burns
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I said this about found footage films. I’m not sick of the amount of found footage films out there...I’m sick of watching bad ones. As long as the film offers me something new and exciting, I’m in. I’m the same for zombie films. Though many write off all new zombie films at first glance because of the amount of zombie films shambling about the new releases today, those same people might be missing out on the next great zombie film.
Case in point; COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES.
A pair of construction workers stumble across a tomb while digging the foundation for a new building and upon opening it up in hopes to find treasure, instead they stumble upon a bunch of trapped living corpses. Plain, simple, BAM. This set-up happens in the first two minutes, which gives the rest of the runtime the chance to just have fun with the zombie apocalypse.
And it does, in spades. The thing about zombie films is that it is not about the zombies themselves. They don’t have personality. They aren’t characters. They are just fodder for interesting people to go up against. If that group of survivors are interesting well developed characters, then all the better a movie it is. In COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES, the group of survivors in question is a group of East End, working class London folk known affectionately to the world as Cockneys; a group known to be tough, no nonsense sort of folks who may not be the most civilized bunch, but are generally good people. Basically, if you’re looking for the equivalent in my home town of Chicago, we’re talking about Southside White Sox fans.
Pitting this type of group against the living dead offers up a lot of fun opportunities and this film takes those opportunities and runs with them. Basically, this is a Guy Richie film with zombies. LOCK, STOCK & TWO SMOKING ZOMBIES, if you will. When a group of amateur criminals try to save their elderly grandparent’s retirement community by robbing a bank, everything goes pear-shaped when zombies come in and muck up the works. Expect a lot of colorful language. Expect a lot of tough guy posturing. Expect a lot of zombies, and you’re bound to be pleased.
Some might criticize that this film has already been made with SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Comparisons are bound to happen, but while SHAUN focused more on one man-child’s journey into manhood via hilarious zombie tomfoolery, this film doesn’t go as deep. SHAUN, despite its hijinx, had some deathly serious moments. In COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES, the tone is lighter and the laughs are not as sophisticated. Still, the laughs are there. There are some downright hilarious scenes as zombie futbol fans of different teams meet each other in the street and we find out that team spirit beats zombie appetite every time. There’s a baby scene that is so wrong, but hilariously right in the way it is played out. Plus a character with a metal plate in his head proves to be difficult to kill once he becomes a zombie. Over and over, this film had me laughing out loud at the inventive and downright genius comedic scenarios constructed.
But the true highlight of the film are the elderly folks taking on the zombie masses. From a low speed chase as a man in a walker runs as fast as he can (which isn’t fast at all) from a slow zombie to the scene where a zombie gnaws on a wooden leg, this film is filled with fantastic old person vs zombie action. Leading the grey haired pack is tough guy actor Alan Ford (SNATCH’s Brick Top) who takes on the zombies with a sneer and machine gun.
There is a lot to enjoy from COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES. Though not very deep thematically, it makes up for it with laugh out loud moments a plenty. There’s nary a groaner (despite the zombies, of course) when it comes to the comedy. The cast of young actors are talented in acting dim-witted and the elderly thespians show that they can kick zombie ass just as well as the young folks. Before you dismiss this as “just another zombie movie”, take a moment. Out of all of the zombie films made today, there’s got to be a good one every now and then. COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES is one of those good ones.
SOME GUY WHO KILLS PEOPLE (2011)Directed by Jack Perez
Written by Ryan A. Levin
Starring Kevin Corrigan, Leo Fitzpatrick, Ariel Gade, Lucy Davis, Barry Bostwick, and Karen Black
Find out more about the film here and on Facebook
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Can’t believe I’m saying this but this is a pretty sweet little film. And I’m not tossing up the devil horns when I say sweet, I mean it is one of those films that is downright charming. Now, I know charming and horror rarely mix, but there’s a nice little beating heart to this film that was so refreshing that despite its flaws I have to recommend it to anyone looking for a horror film that breaks away from the norm.
SOME GUY WHO KILLS PEOPLE is a comedy horror that leans more into the comedy territory. But as I said above, it’s a light-hearted horror comedy centering on Ken Boyd, a man recently released from a mental institution (played by a restrained Kevin Corrigan) who is somehow connected to a series of murders going on in the city. As Ken’s childhood tormentors begin to drop like flies, he finds out that while he was away in the institution, his one-time fling had his baby. Now the child, played by plucky newcomer Ariel Gade, has decided to track down her father and start a relationship. Is Ken killing bullies from his past? And if he is, will his newfound responsibility for his daughter stop him from doing so? Those are the questions asked and answered in this offbeat little number.
Though there’s a lot of sentimental stuff going on, there’s also a whole lotta splatter. Blood by the buckets is shed here, but most of the gore is played for laughs. You’ll end up laughing more than wincing at the tone of the horror, though the comedy is closer to the chuckle variety than full on guffaw territory.
Appearances by ROCKY HORROR’s Barry Bostwick as a bumbling sheriff and Karen Black as an apathetic mom make this cast better than average. The appearance of THE OFFICE’s Lucy Davis is always welcome and she does well here with what little is given to her. SOME GUY WHO KILLS PEOPLE ended up surprising me in that it was gorier than expected given the tone, though less funny as I hoped. This film was produced by John Landis and the tone is reminiscent of his comedy horror mash ups like AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and INNOCENT BLOOD rather than VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN. As is, you’ll feel surprisingly saccharinated after experiencing SOME GUY WHO KILLS PEOPLE, and since you don’t often feel that way with horror films, it’s a welcome change.
DEVOURED (2012)Directed by Greg Olliver
Written by Marc Landau
Starring Marta Milans, Kara Jackson, Bruno Gunn, Tyler Hollinger
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
They say man is a social animal. Without contact with others, the mind tends to fray. There’s a theory about schizophrenia. It’s an obscure one, but one that I always thought was interesting. Without contact with others, the mind starts having conversations with itself. The voices a schizophrenic hears is actualyl one’s mind making up for the lack of social interaction. It’s a chicken and the egg situation as those suffering from schizophrenia are often outcasts to society. They don’t fit in. Is it the mental disorder that makes the person an outcast? Or is it the person who feels cast out and evolves to survive by making up voices to interact with?
As I watched DEVOURED, an urban nightmare, I was thinking about all of this. I watched Marta Milans play Lourdes, a cleaning lady in an upscale restaurant who lives alone in a large city, and saves every cent she makes to send home to her son in need of an operation. Though this film starts out slow, showing Lourdes banal day to day routines, we get to know her, care for her, and hope that she can find a way to solve this problem she faces. In taking this time, roughly half the film, to see Lourdes painfully hold back the tears as she talks to her son on the phone, put up with harassment at work, and go to extreme lengths to make the money she needs, we start to feel for her. Greg Olliver, from a quiet but powerful script from Marc Landau, directs with a solid stance, cementing the heft and reality of Lourdes situation.
In doing so, we feel all the more as things start getting creepy around the restaurant Lourdes spends so much time in. She starts seeing shapes moving in the trash bags she throws out, mysterious figures appear in the shadows, and doors lock and unlock, trapping her in closets then setting her free. Soon Lourdes believes that the restaurant is haunted. With no where to go and no one to help her, we feel the desperation as Lourdes tries to work even harder, despite the creepy conditions, so she can get to that ever closer dollar amount that means her reunification with her son.
The weight of this film is on the back of Marta Milans who plays Lourdes. Through simple facial gestures and blinks of her eye, we believe her dire situation and the nightmares she is experiencing. As Lourdes, she experiences a variety of emotions, all of them feeling real and reeling us in for s shattering conclusion where everything goes sideways and insane.
DEVOURED is a fantastic film of a city swallowing a lost soul whole. With a powerful performance by Marta Milans, some moody atmosphere, and some conservative, but powerful scares that crescendo to a deafening level by the end, DEVOURED is an urban horror tale that shouldn’t be missed.
THE WRONG HOUSE (2011)aka HOUSE HUNTING
Directed by Eric Hurt
Written by Eric Hurt
Starring Marc Singer, Art LaFleur, Hayley DuMond, Janey Gioiosa, Paul McGill, Rebekah Kennedy, Victoria Vance
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I reviewed this film a while back when it was called HOUSE HUNTING. Now with a brand new name, it looks like this little gem is going to see the light of day which is a good thing.
Ghost stories come and go, but it’s the rare one that really gets under my skin. Too many times, I tune out to stories with things going bump in the night. But the thrills and scares that occur in THE WRONG HOUSE dug in deep and festered there, making the viewing an altogether ooky experience.
Though the budget here is on the lower side, the scares are through the roof as two families happen upon an open house in the middle of the woods for sale. Both families are dealing with their own drama. Both consist of husband, wife, and teenage child. On the surface they are very similar. But when put into peril, the real faces of these families start to seep through. Soon, as things begin to get dire, the families begin to tear each other apart.
What I loved about this film were the subtle horrors going on that felt much more like dark nightmares. Much like a recent episode of FRINGE where the Fringe team find themselves stuck in a town and no matter what road they try to leave from, they wind up back in town again, when either family tries to leave through the road through the woods, they end up back at the house. As the day is wasted through numerous attempts, both families realize they aren’t going anywhere and decide to stay the night in the house. The mystery furthers when the seven cans of food the family eats as the days pass are replaced seemingly magically the next day. Though it appears the families are stuck in a loop, the only things changing are the constitutions of the families, which are slowly turning on one another.
THE WRONG HOUSE can be seen as a horrific statement about the gentle structure of the family or a comment on the cutthroat world of house hunting in a damaged economy. However you read it, it is filled with extremely effective chills played out by talented actors.
Oh yeah, did I fail to mention that the frikkin’ Beastmaster is in this film? That’s right. Marc Singer plays the father of one of the families with long time character actor Art LaFleur playing the other father. Just seeing Singer’s face made me smile and whisper “Good for him” as he delivers a commanding performance trying to keep his family from succumbing to this horrific loop of violence, scares, and family destruction. It was awesome seeing the Beastmaster again in a lead role and Singer delivers in spades here.
I was really pleasantly surprised with THE WRONG HOUSE. Though I’ve seen and heard tons of ghost stories in the past, this one proved to be both original and well made. Director Eric Hurt proves to be capable of real scares and a feeling of dread with a limited budget. I’m interested in seeing what the filmmaker has up his sleeve next. With a cast of folks you will definitely recognize, I think if you take a chance with THE WRONG HOUSE and order it on VOD now, you’ll be as shocked as I was. I highly recommend this atypical ghost story.
GALLOW WALKER (2010)Directed by Andrew Goth
Written by Andrew Goth & Joanne Reay
Starring Wesley Snipes, Riley Smith, Tanit Phoenix, Patrick Bergin, Kevin Howarth
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
You know, GALLOW WALKER is not a perfect film by a long shot, but there’s a part of me that’s just happy to see Wesley Snipes being badass Wesley on screen again that makes me love this film despite its flaws.
With the comic booky premise of a black cowboy gunman who is cursed to be haunted by the zombies of all of the people he has killed, GALLOW WALKER acts as an origin story of sorts. Obviously, this was meant to be a launching pad for some kind of weird western franchise as Wesley chews up the scenery with a six shooter that doesn’t miss, an overly complicated costume and facial hair look, and an extremely complex origin. The thing is, while most comic book movies focus on the origin for the first and maybe second acts, then move into the adventure aspect in the third, this film is all origin and forgets to have a movie wedged in there somewhere.
There are a lot of cool looking ideas at play here. I like the idea of a cursed gunman. I like the idea of zombies in the old West. I also like the way mysticism is incorporated into this weird world that seems like it’s happening on another planet rather than our own. This film has seen all of Jodorowsky’s SANTA SANGRE and EL TOPO. The makers of the film obviously share a fondness for Garth Ennis’ PREACHER and Joe R. Landsdale’s JONAH HEX comics. And they try really hard to make a new kind of hero which is derivative of it all.
But in taking so much inspiration from such influential comics/movies, this feels a bit like a knockoff of all of them. As the Gallow Walker named Amen (Snipes) shoots his way through Diamond Dallas Page and other zombies, the focus is mainly on the origin throughout, with references to a boyish gunman and a captured prostitute falling way back in the background and feels so inconsequential to a story more interested in the flashbacks.
That said, Wesley is pure Wesley here. If you loved him in BLADE as I did, there’s not a whole hell of a lot of difference here. All of his posturing and solemn conservatism of vocabulary is ever present throughout this performance, but instead of swords and shurikens, Wesley’s fighting with six shooters and bullwhips here. And he’s obviously having a lot of fun with it as he shoots holes through people and rips heads and spines from their bodies.
So despite writer/director Andrew Goth’s attempts to toss in elements of better Westerns, lack of focus on the present story and perseverance on the origin, the sheer presence of Wesley makes it all a lot of fun. There are some fantastic character and costume designs especially when it comes to skinless zombies, some of the set pieces, and some colorful names such as Scorpious, Slip Knot, Forty Bold, and my favorite, Kisscut. But ultimately, you’re going to want to see this because it’s Snipes being a badass and if you like Snipes being a badass there’s a lot of that in GALLOW WALKER to enjoy.
See ya next time, 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.
Interested in illustrated films, fringe cinema, and other oddities?
Check out Halo-8 and challenge everything!
Find more AICN HORROR including an archive of previous columns
on AICN HORROR’s Facebook page!