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Ambush Bug counts down the best horror films on AICN HORROR since last Halloween – Number 12!!!

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

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its second year in October! 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 film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. 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 quite a few films I’ve seen advance screenings of at festivals and other outlets, and I’ll try to update you when you can see these films.

As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year after October 1st (which happens to be the birthday of this little column two years ago!) 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!


NUMBER 12!

I was not as impressed as most others by JUAN OF THE DEAD when I reviewed it back in August, but I have to admit it was a damn good movie and one of the year’s best. Here’s my mixed, but ultimately positive review of the film.

JUAN DE LOS MUERTOS (2011)

aka JUAN OF THE DEAD
Directed by Alejandro Brugués
Written by Alejandro Brugués
Starring Alexis Díaz de Villegas, Jorge Molina, Andrea Duro, Andros Perugorría, Jazz Vilá, Eliecer Ramírez, Antonio Dechent
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Lauded much by critics across the cosmos as the coolest of cool, JUAN OF THE DEAD is finally available for the masses this week on DVD & BluRay. This happens to me a lot and I don’t mean to be divisive or contrary. I’m not one of those people who dislikes the thing that is popular, but I am one of those people who is often mislead by hype. Had I stumbled upon JUAN OF THE DEAD without hearing how awesome it was, I’m sure I would have fallen head over heels for it. But hearing folks hype it up to universal levels of coolness is the surefire route to disappointment for me.

I think part of the reason why my experience watching JUAN OF THE DEAD was less than jaw dropping was the overall theme of homophobia throughout the entire movie. As much as the film is filled with amazingly comedic takes on age old zombie lore and cinematic tradition, there is an uncomfortable amount of off color humor about homosexuals. Ranging from Juan’s friend calling those he dislikes derogatory terms for homosexuals to Juan’s own distaste towards his openly gay partners in crime, this film is rife with homophobia from beginning to end. On the one hand, this is a Cuban film, made in Cuba, by Cubans, and while I want to respect that Cuba may not be as culturally accepting toward homosexuals, it doesn’t make me any more comfortable sitting through a film which occasionally treats gays almost as bad as the zombies that are raging through the streets. There’s nothing overtly violent towards homosexuals in this film, but the disdain put upon them by using the term in a derogatory fashion as well as the way the homosexual characters are looked at by the title character is enough to make any open minded individual uncomfortable.

That said, I can recognize JUAN OF THE DEAD as a delightfully blackly comedic film, despite it’s cultural insensitivity. There are plenty of wonderful sight gags and goofy situations the opportunistic Juan and his ragtag band of misfits get themselves into. From trying to convince a senile old lady that her weirdly acting old husband is actually a zombie to making a final run for the border in a convertible through the zombie masses, there are stunning visuals that definitely deserve to be applauded. There’s a sequence that occurs underwater which makes reference to ZOMBIE 2 and the title of this very column involving a bunch of zombies and a shark. Juan starts a service dispatching the newly departed making the best of a bad situation and collecting a little pocket change to boot. In fact, unlike most zombie films, this is one of the most feel-good zombie films I’ve ever seen.

The cast is pretty good here as well with Alexis Díaz de Villegas (Juan) offering up charisma galore, despite the fact that it is highly unbelievable the lanky John Turturro-esque looking actor could be the gigolo the script casts him to be. That said, he does have a commanding presence and by the end of the film, I was rooting for him along with the crowd to make it through the zombie apocalypse.

As with SHAUN OF THE DEAD, which was rooted in the British culture it takes place in, so does JUAN OF THE DEAD serve as a travelogue of sorts for the sights, sounds, and the rich culture celebrating great pride in calling itself Cuban. Like SHAUN as well, JUAN takes a very serious turn towards the end and ends on a cool, but somber note that I won’t ruin here. But because the comedy has been occurring around the characters and not making fun of them, this turn of tone doesn’t feel alarming or out of place. It serves as a meaningful note to finish this story we have grown to care about and does so in a heartfelt manner.

I look forward to seeing what writer/director Alejandro Brugués has in store next. He certainly has an eye for an epic scope and I definitely can see the director becoming highly lauded by geek and normal movie goer alike. While some of the depictions of Cuban culture pushed my American cultural sensitivity to the limit while watching JUAN OF THE DEAD, I can understand why the geeks are going ga-ga over this one. At times, I found myself in awe of the coolness of it too with strong characters, fun performances, and fantastic scenes of action and gore. I can’t do a back flip over this one, but it definitely is one of the best zombie films to come along since SHAUN OF THE DEAD.





Want more zombies, but want something a bit more obscure? How about THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE? If you’ve seen all of the Romero and Fulchi zombie films, you might want to go a bit deeper and unearth this little gem by Jorge Grau. This time, the dead are awoken by a new experimental pesticide and terrorize a small town. I reviewed the film here and it’s definitely one of those little surprising films that creep up on you.

The Countdown so far…

#13: MIDNIGHT SON
#14: BLOOD JUNKIE
#15: V/H/S
#16: THE DIVIDE
#17: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3
#18: LITTLE DEATHS
#19: THE TALL MAN
#20: KILL LIST
#21: MOTHER’S DAY
#22: THE INNKEEPERS
#23: THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS
#24: THE PACT
#25: THE WRONG HOUSE
#26: SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE
#27: SPIRIT STALKERS
#28: THE MOTH DIARIES
#29: THE SLEEPER
#30: THE AGGRESSION SCALE
#31: SICK BOY



See ya tomorrow, folks, with number 11 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. 20, 2012, 1:55 p.m. CST

    You're right...

    by Vladimir I. Lenin

    ...this IS a good movie!

  • Oct. 20, 2012, 1:57 p.m. CST

    It's not Shaun of the Dead

    by Vladimir I. Lenin

    It's not as hilarious as Shaun, it's a bit more serious. Nevertheless, I like the sense of humor in this movie.

  • Oct. 20, 2012, 2:19 p.m. CST

    I enjoyed this, but like Bug was put off by the level of homophobia

    by Collin Armstrong

    Didn't ruin the film for me, but it did come as something of a surprise. I think Bug is right - it's doubtful homosexuality is as culturally accepted in Cuba as it is here, so it's more "OK" for them to discuss it in derogatory terms, but... that doesn't mean it's right, and it adds zero to the film. All that said, JUAN was one of the better zombie movies I've seen in the last few years. This is a genre that feels like it's running out of steam - it might benefit from falling off the map for a while - kind of like it did before 28 DAYS LATER (whether you consider it a zombie film or not) kicked off the current resurrection. Another recent-ish take on the subject matter I really enjoyed was the British series DEAD SET, from Charlie Brooker. Don't think there's been a US release, but if you can watch an import it's absolutely worth it. Hi-jacks the premise of the Big Brother TV show and stuffs it full of zombies. Great bits of commentary throughout on our cultural obsession with fame and the weird catharsis we get out of watching idiots self-destruct on TV.

  • Oct. 20, 2012, 2:42 p.m. CST

    Feel same when Christians are treated same?

    by CaptainAction

    Bother you when Jesus' name is used as a curse word on film? Bother you when Christians or Catholics are portrayed in films in a derogatory way or with disdain? Just sayin... Some groups are attacked and it's cool and sensitive to sympathize. Some groups not so much.

  • Oct. 20, 2012, 2:58 p.m. CST

    deacon_blues, re: Dead Set

    by FatherMcGruderKicksAssForTheLord

    IFC's showing it this coming week, one ep per night, and then showing it again in a block on Halloween night. I've been meaning to check it out for awhile, guess I finally will. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Oct. 20, 2012, 3:34 p.m. CST

    captainaction - point well taken

    by Collin Armstrong

    The only thing I'd say in response is that there's a longer history of - to use one of your examples - Christianity being persecuted *and* protected / praised. Homosexuality seems to predominately face persecution - there aren't nearly as many positive examples of homosexuality in the media as there are of people of Christian faith for example, which creates an imbalance - if most of what we see are negative stereotypes of a group, the stereotype threatens to become the norm. When Christians and Catholics are poked fun at or derided in films, TV, print, etc, there are just as many if not more positive examples of those kinds of faith and belief to counter-act the derision and offer people a different perspective. Not so for homosexuality. I'm ALL for equal opportunity offense, but to me, it doesn't feel as equal for all groups - if you portray homosexuality as negative, can you be sure you'll see a positive portrayal in response somewhere else? I don't think that is as much a given as it is for a lot of other faiths / beliefs / lifestyle choices, and that is at least where *my* sensitivity toward this topic comes from (that and a business partner of mine is gay, which has over the last few years opened my eyes a considerable amount to how that community is still struggling for acceptance).

  • Oct. 20, 2012, 3:35 p.m. CST

    captainaction go fuck yourself

    by where_are_quints_hobbit_set_reports

    seeing as christians and their bullshit bible are behind almost all the homophobia in the western world (not that muslims and other varieties of religious idiot aren't always working hard to catch up) I recommend you quit trying to play a nonexistent victim card. furthermore I recommend you fucking kill yourself in as slow and gruesome a method possible, and video it so it can be on next year's version of this countdown.

  • Oct. 20, 2012, 3:36 p.m. CST

    You make a good point captainaction

    by DrLektor

    And it should be unfair when the butt of the "joke" has done nothing wrong or is deserving of scorn. If for example the homosexual characters in Juan of the Dead were distinctly evil characters and behaving in what could be classed as a reprehensible manner so that their sexual orientation was a problem to the others in the context of a zombie apocalypse. Otherwise it's homophobic. If you'd care to list some examples of anti-Christian/Catholic movies I think you'd find everyone would probably agree with you, they're not deserving of hate in that case and the movie is doing them wrong. But in the case of a movie like Kevin Smith's Dogma, the hypocrisy of certain religious characters is made clear, he's not saying "this way of life is wrong" but instead "these guys are assholes" and in a sense, making people of the same faith ashamed to be associated with them. We always have to be aware of the difference between people and the way of life they represent, in movies as well as IRL. For a litmus test, try substituting race or skin colour for homosexuality in Juan of the Dead and see how well the humour sits then.

  • Oct. 20, 2012, 3:51 p.m. CST

    Fuck Jesus, but fuck homophobes even more

    by golden tribw

  • Oct. 20, 2012, 5:06 p.m. CST

    wow. daddylonghead sure bared his ass. wonder if hes a fag.

    by Arcadian

  • Oct. 20, 2012, 6:47 p.m. CST

    Homophobic characters don`t `make` homophobic movies.

    by higgledyhiggles

    It`s there discomfort that makes us look at our own prejudices. We`re supposed to identify with the `hero` but the hero is flawed as he is a bit of a bigot and so we feel at odds with supporting them and rightfully so. It`s been a while since I saw it but doesn`t his best friend turn out to be a bit of a closet homosexual and doesn`t he react badly but come around ? Just because it isn`t ham-fisted pc Disney racist bullshit doesn`t mean it`s wrong but then maybe that`s the american point of view. Or maybe I saw a different movie where they grow as characters. Then again all movies suffer from character stereotypes, it`s how we differentiate the charactes on screen. some are just written more overt than others.

  • Oct. 20, 2012, 8:46 p.m. CST

    So...

    by Kabukiman

    ...you didn't really like it but it was one of the year's best? Good thing you didn't go into what changed your mind about it...

  • Oct. 20, 2012, 9:55 p.m. CST

    @kabukiman

    by Ambush Bug

    Did you read the review? Maybe you should to see why I felt it deserved to be in the countdown.

  • Oct. 20, 2012, 9:58 p.m. CST

    @higgledygiggles

    by Ambush Bug

    Incorrect, sir. Juan's friend mockingly attests his love for him as he is about to die. Then calls him a fag for saying he cares about him. I agree if it were only Juan acting homophobic it would be simply a characteristic of the character and not the movie, but when multiple characters show disdain for homosexuals, it's more of a theme.

  • Oct. 21, 2012, 1:24 a.m. CST

    homophobia is still prevelant

    by Matt Szczerba

    i still hear people calling each other gay or saying that's gay or somehow using it as in insult. people like to pretend that we all love each other and are accepting, but when there aren't any homosexuals around then gay and fag gets tossed around quite a bit as insults. it's just the way it is and will always be. seeing it in a movie is just art imitating life the way it really is and not the way everyone pretends it is.

  • Oct. 21, 2012, 2:15 a.m. CST

    Brokeback Mountain II

    by Vladimir I. Lenin

    Gay Cowboys vs. Zombies Heath Ledger being both. Somebody should produce this! Some people here would like it.

  • Oct. 21, 2012, 7:10 a.m. CST

    I will watch this just for the fag jokes

    by animas

    anything to piss off politically correct douchebags. (and I'm very liberal) The word "homophobia" is more insulting than "faggot."

  • If you believe in it and it gives you strength and/or comfort, thats great, but don't act like its some sort of universal truth, when its just another story.

  • As a gay man, I'm pretty numb to hearing it in movies, but in real life it's always very scary. And since 99% of kids get their slang terms and insults from movies and the internet, there is a correlation.

  • Oct. 21, 2012, 4:18 p.m. CST

    Indeed.

    by Kabukiman

    You said you enjoyed the comedy and that you didn't "back flip" over it. That hardly explains why it would be just outside your TOP TEN list of HORROR movies.

  • Oct. 21, 2012, 4:20 p.m. CST

    Christianity is the best thing to happen to America.

    by Metroid_Fetish

    It makes all of the other crazies look sane in comparison. Keep on talking to your sky lizard or whatever the fuck it is you pray to. May Allah have mercy on your soul.

  • Oct. 29, 2012, 9:23 a.m. CST

    Christianity is a choice.

    by beastie

    Now. I'll admit, that I'm guilty at poking fun of Christians. It's hard not to, when you're a liberal growing up blocks away from Focus on the Family. It's wrong to discriminate against anyone, so I'm not completely innocent. But saying that about modern day western civilization Christian persecution, vs. homophobia is an inherently stupid comparison. Religion is a choice based on ones faith and ethics. Sexuality is a biological fact. Dumb fucking argument written by someone who obviously isn't very educated.