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Ambush Bug counts down the best horror films on AICN HORROR since last Halloween – Number 17!!!

Logo by Kristian Horn
What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers in search of worthwhile horror, I decided to compile a list counting down to my favorite horror covered in AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS since October 1 of last year. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days that aren’t toothless remakes or watered down sequels. Theaters aren’t where the horror is at these days, I’m afraid. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video on Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay. I’ve also compiled a few films I’ve seen advance screenings of at festivals and I’ll try to update you when you can see these films when I can.

As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year and worked and reworked a list until I had 31. No real method to my madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween toward my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion for those who can’t get enough horror that has something to do with the film I chose that day.

So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how right or wrong I am, and come up with your own list…let’s go!


Yes, the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY relies on cheap scares and a formula which by this time is well worn, but it gets me every time and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t include last year’s installment in the countdown of the best since last October. Below is my review of the film I wrote when I saw a premiere of it in October.

In theaters today!


Directed by Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost
Written by Christopher B. Landon
Starring Lauren Bittner, Brian Boland, Jessica Tyler Brown, Chloe Cserngey, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Katie Featherston, & Sprague Grayden
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

After the credits for PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 rolled I turned to AICN Chicago Editor Capone and said, “It always gets me”--it being the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films. Yes, there are those who loathe the films for being repetitious and exercises in patience. Yes, most of the endings of the film series are somewhat lackluster. But I’ll be damned if I don’t jump almost out of my theater seat every time I watch the films. Having seen every PARANORMAL ACTIVITY in theaters, I have to say this is a film definitely best viewed with an audience. The wave of utter dread and silence (a feat worth note for theaters these days) that sweeps over the crowd every time night falls and the rolling camera scenes begins is something that makes the experience somewhat fulfilling. Sitting in a crowded theater, I thought my experience watching PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 would be hell with rowdy and obnoxious idiots ruining all sense of tension and anticipation. But it’s a testament to the film that every time the lights went out in the film, you could have heard a pin drop.

By now, everyone knows the structure of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Set up a bunch of cameras. Have them film the stars while they are sleeping. Silence. Time passes. Then some scary shit happens. Wash, rinse, repeat for three films now. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 continues this trend by having a concerned step dad set up three cameras around the house to capture strange things on camera after seeing something they cannot explain on film occur after an earthquake. Having seen the previous films, we know it’s a demon/ghost thingee haunting this family. The narrative leaps back in time 18 years to follow Katie and Kristi as children. Throughout the first two films, both Katie and Kristi refer back to their youth as either something they blocked out or something they fear. Here we see where the nightmares began.

Though repetitious, PA3 introduces some interesting elements to the mix. One, the film elaborates on the theme of witchcraft that was only touched upon in the first two. This opens a new door for the series to travel through for the inevitable sequel (most likely to be released next year). Also, filmmakers Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost (who delivered another caught on video thrill ride with CATFISH last year), make some smart technical decisions placing a camera on a rotating fan which pans back and forth across the room, setting up for some absolutely terrifying sequences and adding a bit of motion to the static cams and steadiness to the shaky hand helds relied on in the first two. It’s this type of ingenuity that keeps this series interesting as it proceeds from one film to the next. Finally, though I hate false jump scares, the filmmakers set up one false scare that is absolutely pants-shittingly good. It’s hilarious and expertly put together.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 is more of the same. This could mean more stuff that annoys you if the first two films got on your last nerve. But for me, I found it to be another fun installment in a series that continues to provides real scares and shocks that keep me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Though most franchises like SAW seem to fall off the cliff into a big lake of ridiculousness trying to justify the need for a sequel, at least PARANORMAL ACTIVITY seems to have a narrative mapped out and a formula that continues to work. For a horror fan who loves being scared PARANORMAL ACTIVITY gets me every time and got me again this year.

Though fans of modern horror might now bat an eye to THE HAUNTING, it is a damn fine film, filled with what were state of the art special effects at the time and fantastic performances by a cast forced to stay the night in a haunted house. Pairing this with any PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movie might be blasphemy to film scholars, but it’s an interesting pair to hold side by side regarding the haunted house genre. While our modern fascination with found footage may be overwhelming, it’s good to know a creepy haunted house will always be prime ground for good horror.

The Countdown so far…


See ya tomorrow, folks, with number 16 of the best of the best covered in AICN HORROR since last year!

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.

Find more AICN HORROR including an archive of previous columns
on AICN HORROR’s Facebook page!

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 15, 2012, 12:02 p.m. CST


    by txubill

  • Oct. 15, 2012, 12:02 p.m. CST

    I got nuttin.

    by txubill

  • Oct. 15, 2012, 12:17 p.m. CST

    me neither

    by Righteous Brother

    apart from - I never realised there were 20 horror films of note in the last year.

  • Oct. 15, 2012, 12:20 p.m. CST

    Love these movies, and feel no shame about it

    by Collin Armstrong

    When the first PA was building buzz, we actually drove 2 hrs to see it during one of its college town screenings, a few weeks before its national release. The trip was a lot of fun, and I guess it has framed the series a certain way in my mind - the films certainly haven't been getting any better, but I'm still always jazzed for a new one. Seems like an unpopular opinion in terms of the series, but I actually liked two quite a bit - more than three (which I felt delved too heavily into the lore behind what was happening - probably inevitable when you try and stretch a concept that's already pretty thin to begin with). Anyway, I was impressed with how part two spun an effective second installment out of almost nothing - I mean, what was there for the filmmakers to build off of from part one? One line about Katie's sister? But they ran with it and did a nice job of setting up some of the events in part three, and four appears to be a direct sequel. Looking forward to seeing it...

  • Oct. 15, 2012, 1:19 p.m. CST


    by ghoulstock

    i've said it before and i'll say it again: i don't get why fans of the series seem to like 3 more than 2. i personally think 3 is weak and rushed, whereas I thought 2 did a really good job expanding on the first film, and have some real good scares--the scene where ALL of the cabinet doors fly open at once being one of them.

  • Oct. 15, 2012, 4:49 p.m. CST

    Saw the first one and was bored out of my freakn mind!

    by Adam Jones

    Couldn't understand how others in the theater were screaming or shocked when a stupid door closed with no one there. Ohhhhhh. Or when a bed sheet gets pulled off the bed and no one was there. Ohhhhh. really? it was the lamest thing ever. In my top 3 movies of all time that were the worst, "The Happening" is the worst, followed by this "Paranormal Activity" crap, and ending with "Indiana Jones in the Crystal Wheelchair". Wish Hollywood would stop with this easy money garb and actually invest in someone to make a great Horror movie. Damn, I sound like an old fart. /sigh

  • Oct. 15, 2012, 7:19 p.m. CST

    My problem with PA3

    by aceldama

    They completely gloss over the house fire and everything that caused it. In the earlier movies, this fire was talked about multiple times and was made out to be a key event in their past, and it isn't mentioned at all. I had really hoped that PA4 was going to address this, but since it doesn't take place in the past, it probably won't even be brought up. (To make it even more frustrating, they filmed the house fire scene, but didn't include it. It's in one of the trailers) Beyond that, as hokey as they are, I do like most found footage films -- Check out Trollhunter for some fun time. Not really scary, but a good movie -- even if they do use cheap, startle devices to make you jump. But the dropping kitchen furniture in PA3 and especially the exploding kitchen in PA2 worked on me.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 1:23 p.m. CST

    Absolutely love THE HAUNTING...

    by REMcycle absolute classic!! The PA films, not so much... Still loving the list, Ambush!