Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. There are quite a few big budget films out there this year in theaters worth noting (SINISTER, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, SILENT HILL: REVELATION – which I will review in tomorrow’s AICN HORROR column), but the below films are being released on either a smaller scale or through Video On Demand and deserve an audience as well. So enjoy this extra Halloween horrors column and return tomorrow for a whole ‘nother batch of films for review.
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
BIGFOOT: THE LOST COAST TAPES (2012)
DUST UP (2012)
SLEEP TIGHT (2011)
THE AMERICAN SCREAM (2012)
And finally…Halloween Lights Gangnam Style!
In select theaters through Oct & Nov – San Diego this Friday! Available on Video On Demand November 2nd!
BIGFOOT: THE LOST COAST TAPES (2012)Directed by Corey Grant
Written by Bryan O'Cain and Brian Kelsey
Starring Drew Rausch, Ashley Wood, Rich McDonald, Frank Ashmore and Noah Weisberg
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Having seen my fair share of bigfoot films for review in this column, it’s difficult to come up with a new premise for the subgenre that pulls one in. Though BIGFOOT: THE LOST COAST TAPES has its rough edges, I do have to give it credit for coming up with a winning premise, and sometimes that’s just enough to get a recommendation out of me.
Starting out with what I liked about this film, I really dug the way things were set up from the beginning. A non-believing and disgraced news reporter, recovering from a mental breakdown, wants to reclaim fame by uncovering a hoax concerning a dead bigfoot in a cooler. After seeking out the hilljack who claims to have the body, he forces the camera crew and host to wear blindfolds, give up cell phones, and pay $75,000 in order to get footage of the bigfoot corpse. But the hilljack has a flair for the dramatic. He puts off the reveal and prefers to tell stories about the inhabitants of the woods around him and then react to noises in the woods, much to the ire of the impatient camera crew. Though I’ve seen many bigfoot films, this premise felt fresh. It also seemed plausible that, if a bigfoot was found, one would be extra careful in keeping it safe from other bigfoot and, more importantly, the press. Approaching the film from this angle was a decision I liked.
I also loved the ending, which takes somewhat of an unexpected turn. Though the poster suggests that there may be another threat in the woods other than bigfoot, I wasn’t sure what that meant. The ending does make sense in the continuity of the story and once again distinguishes this film from the slew of other bigfoot films that go the typical monster in the woods route. I won’t reveal it here, but the ending worked for me.
My problems with the film have to do with the choices of actors in this film. While the lead actor gets a pass since he is the personification of the douche anchorman looking for a money shot to get him back into the big time, some of the other actors, the sound guy in particular, felt like they were reciting lines and setting up lines for others in the crew rather than the “reality” dialog usually found in these found footage style films. Though the film feels over-scripted at times, there are also nice beats of tension. I especially liked the overly dramatic woodsman who keeps procrastinating on revealing the corpse of the bigfoot.
If you’re a fan of found footage films and the bigfoot genre, you’re going to not want to miss this one. It has all of the same pitfalls most found footage films have, namely there is no reason the camera should keep rolling or fall into the exact perfect spot to capture what needs to be captured to make it an actual story that makes sense. Still, despite all of that, I thought there was a lot to like about this new offering in the bigfoot genre, and being a fan and a believer, I’m glad for this new cinematic Sasquatchonian renaissance that’s been happening as of late.
Available now on Video On Demand and in select theaters this weekend!
GUT (2011)Directed by Elias
Written by Anna Ganster & Elias
Starring Jason Vail, Nicholas Wilder, Sarah Schoofs, & Angie Bullaro
Find out more about the film here on Facebook
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This subtle film will definitely creep up on you. GUT is about a pair of childhood friends and the strain that friendship must face upon growing up. Tom is kind of sleepwalking through life and is in need of a change. His equally adolescent adult friend Dan is concerned that the freewheeling friend he once new is becoming too much like an adult. Dan tries everything to get Tom to continue his extended adolescence, but Tom’s wife and child force him to go in the other direction. Still, Tom is unhappy. When Dan shows Tom a digital film he received in the mail depicting what looks like a woman being killed by a man with a large knife, both Dan and Tom are fascinated by this film and both of their lives begin to unravel because of this unhealthy fixation.
On the one hand, GUT is a powerful and sublime film that relies on patience and slow builds to be effective. You’ll need a healthy dose of patience to get to the good stuff in this film--not a knock. This low budgeter is worth getting behind because of the deft use of silence and patience, letting the characters unfold without a lot of forced dialog. Most filmmakers lack this much restraint, and you end up caring more about these characters because of it.
On the other hand, I found the resolution in this film to be somewhat misleading. I found myself wanting it to go into another, craftier direction than what actually transpires. I guess the way the two main characters fixate on the film somewhat unhealthily lead me to believe that more was going on under the surface and that possibly these two characters had more to do with the murder on tape than they were letting on. As is, GUT is a nice straight up thriller, but I couldn’t help but want a little more substance in the resolution.
Opening in select theaters this week! Available On Demand now and on DVD November 13th!
DUST UP (2012)Directed by Ward Roberts
Written by Ward Roberts
Starring Aaron Gaffey, Devin Barry, Amber Benson, Travis Betz, Jeremiah W. Birkett
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though it might be a bit out of place reviewed here on AICN HORROR, there is definitely horrific and pitch black humor throughout the insane dosey-do that is DUST UP. Following basically the same narrative as DRIVE, but seen through a completely cracked lens depicting an upside down world of hilariously unique characters, DUST UP is both derivative and one of a kind all at once.
Jack (Aaron Gaffey), a one eyed man, lives a life of solitude in the desert, only interacting with a fast talking Native American named Mo (Devin Barry) and trying to forget about his troubled past until Ella, a woman in need (BUFFY’s Amber Benson), seeks him out as a handyman. With her deadbeat husband (Travis Betz) off to parts unknown and high on meth and her baby hungry and crying, the one-eyed man feels obligated to help. A switch of scenes finds a dive bar run by the devilishly hilarious Buzz (Jeremiah W. Birkett), your typical belly-laughing, moustache-twirling bad guy equipped with a bunch of drugs, a load of guns, and a cadre of colorful goons such as the tattooed Mr. Lizard. Turns out Ella’s deadbeat husband gets his drugs from Buzz and owes him quite a bit of money, so he goes on the run, hiding out at Ella’s home, only to have the thugs follow. A standoff occurs as Jack and Mo are forced to become involved in a battle against Buzz and his goons. Sounds like your typical action romp and it is…and it isn’t.
DUST UP is definitely one of those throwback films trying to act as if it were unearthed during a simpler time. Though the soundtrack is very much in the here and now, DUST UP is relatively timeless in that its characters are simply fun to watch despite any era. The tendency to go the ultra-violent and gory route is plentiful and the result is often both stomach churning and laugh out loud funny. For example, Buzz forces his goons to continue to do drugs and party nonstop in the desert. After failing to liven the party up with drugs, Buzz suggests an orgy. Though they comply, it is by far the most unenthusiastic orgy ever put to film.
Filled with over the top performances, especially by the villain Buzz (Birkett) who seems to love every moment he gets to be a bad guy from holding a gun to a baby’s head to forcing his henchman to have sex with his girl when he has to leave and take care of business, DUST UP had me rolling from beginning to end. Gaffey plays the hero straight and somber and Barry’s Mo has an unflinching laidback coolness not seen since Pedro’s performance in NAPOLEON DYNMITE.
Reminiscent of everything from BILLY JACK to BLAZING SADDLES to PULP FICTION, there are all kinds of gloriously ghoulish and greatly gross turns that happen in the film from meth withdrawal to cannibalism to sodomy; no line is too brash to cross. So if you’re easily offended (first off, what the hellballs are you doin’ here?) you might want to go elsewhere, but if you’re looking for grossout humor, some greatly perverse comedic performances, and all forms of laugh of the “that’s just wrong” kind, DUST UP has all that and more!
Available on Video on Demand and in theaters this week in limited release as part of the Festival of New Spanish Cinema!
SLEEP TIGHT (2011)aka MIENTRAS DUERMES, FLATMATE
Directed by Jaume Balagueró
Written by Alberto Marini
Starring Luis Tosar, Marta Clara, Alberto San Juan, Pep Tosar,Petra Martínez, Iris Almeida
Find out more about this film here!Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Some directors do great action pictures. Others specialize in drama, but it takes an extremely talented director to do numerous genres well. Though thrillers may be inbred cousins with horror, in the three films I’ve seen from director Jaume Balagueró, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that we’ve got an extremely versatile director at work here. With [REC], Balagueró proved himself to be innovative and gutsy as he brought back the found footage trend and made it cool again. Though some might say [REC 2] was repetitive, I think it did the impossible in retaining what made the first film amazing and expanded on it in ways we all wished most sequels could. After showing us that he can do “in your face” horror well, Balagueró has decided to reel it back and go for the more subtle route and like [REC] and [REC 2], he’s made something special.
I know it’s cliché to call a film which relies strongly on suspense Hitchcockian, but that’s exactly what this film feels like. Once again set in an apartment building, this film’s horrors aren’t from demonic viruses or the living dead, but from a more human horror. Though he looks harmless, Cesar (Luis Tosar) is anything but. He’s a sociopath, unable to feel any joy in his life except when causing pain in others. From behind his concierge desk, he seems to be harmless with his cherubic bald head and bushy eyebrows, but like Norman Bates, he proves that it’s the quiet ones you have to look out for.
The film opens with Cesar waking up early, getting showered and dressed, and kissing what looks to be his wife goodbye before starting his job as the doorman of an apartment building. Soon Clara (Marta Clara) awakes, groggy, but ready for the day. As Cesar goes about his banal routine at the front desk, she gets ready as well. When she is pleasant to Cesar, but not familiar with him, things start to take a dark turn until you realize that Clara has no idea Cesar is sleeping in the same bed as her after chloroforming her in the night.
Every single woman’s nightmare is brought to light with SLEEP TIGHT as we follow Cesar as he stalks and watches Clara’s every move. Unlike the recent and tepidly bland Hammer film THE RESIDENT where Jeffrey Dean Morgan creeps on Hillary Swank from an intricate tunnel system through the walls, SLEEP TIGHT goes the simpler route and places this creeper under the bed where all good monsters hide. Cesar’s tendency to reside under Clara’s bed leads to some absolutely white knuckle moments of pure uncut tension as you can’t help but hope but root for Cesar to get caught. The fact that Balagueró is able to make us feel for this creepy bastard is alone a testament to his skill at a master manipulator behind the camera.
SLEEP TIGHT is expertly acted throughout with a stellar performance by Luis Tosar as the perverted peeper. His ability to churn a stomach, tingle a spine, and wrench the heart all at once exemplifies the actor’s range. Marta Clara does her job well as the object of Cesar’s desire, but the real standout female performance of the film is young Iris Almeida who plays the little girl in the building savvy to Cesar’s nighttime adventures. Some of the other actors I believe made appearances in the REC series. All around, this film is well done from the thespian perspective.
Numerous times in SLEEP TIGHT I felt my heart beating in my chest as Balagueró temps and teases with his camera, taking us to uncomfortable places with his perverse characters and forcing us to identify with them. As action packed as the original [REC] was, SLEEP TIGHT is tension filled and unrelenting. If you’re worried you wouldn’t be able to find horror on the more subtle side this Halloween, you can rest easy with SLEEP TIGHT.
Available in select theaters during October and November and will premiere on the Chiller network Sunday, October 28 at 8:00 PM ET!
THE AMERICAN SCREAM (2012)Directed by Michael Paul Stephenson
Starring Matthew Brodeur, Victor Bariteau, Manny Souza, Lori Souza, Richard Brodeur
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I’m sure we all know someone like the folks depicted in this fascinating new documentary, THE AMERICAN SCREAM. They are the eccentric folks down the way who go a little too all out for Christmas or Easter or, say, Halloween with the decorations and the costumes. Some call this crazy, others overly festive. Still, it makes for a fascinating subject for a documentary and director Michael Paul Stephenson takes full advantage of his colorful cast and their elaborately horrific Halloween yardscapes.
THE AMERICAN SCREAM is expertly plotted by the director. At first, the eccentricity of these Halloween Haunters is highlighted, light-heartedly focusing on their mad delusions to make their own homes into walk-through spookshows. But as we delve deeper, we see the people behind these eccentricities with all of their good and bad qualities on display. Three houses are focused on: Victor Bariteau and his family whose lives rotate around Victor’s obsession with home haunting and the elaborate and meticulous preparation to make his just perfect, Manny Souza whose recent heart attack has made him reassess why he does the home hauntings in the first place, and Matthew & Richard Brodeur, a truly eccentric adult father and son team who are clowns by day and amateur home haunters the rest of the time. Though looking at their back yards often looks more like a mess than anything else, the three houses become a Halloween paradise for one night in October.
What endeared me most about this little film is that is encapsulates the untapped joy I get as a person in love with the Halloween season. For some reason, this time of year gives me a little more pep in my step and a bit brighter twinkle in my eye. Though I don’t decorate my home to the nines, the subjects of this film convey that type of excitement, and Stephenson’s camera captures that childish excitement expertly.
But it’s not all candy corn and pumpkins. The darker side of this hobby is also illuminated as we see Victor pushing himself to the point of collapse to obsessively make up for missed Halloweens as a child. Manny’s heart attack forces him to take things easy and not get as obsessive as his neighbor Victor. And as Richard Brodeur gets older, it’s heartbreaking to see him bend over backwards to make the haunted house meet his son’s expectations, despite the fact that his aging body is holding him back. I especially had a hard time watching Victor push himself and his family to fill a hole they most likely never will fill as his family is denied a decent-sized home and other simple luxuries because of his obsession.
Just when you think this doc is going to leave you in the gutter with all of this real life stuff, Halloween comes and once again, Stephenson is able to push the emotional buttons as lines around the block show up to experience the scares and sights all of these home haunters worked hard to achieve.
Inciting a range of emotions one usually doesn’t get from your typical scary movie, this documentary is the perfect all ages film to watch with the whole family to celebrate the awesomeness that is Halloween. Though a few four letter words are dropped as the tension starts to rise as All Hallow’s Eve looms closer, the film oozes a deep love for all things October. Even those who don’t enjoy horror won’t be able to help but be endeared to the triumph and tragedy that THE AMERICAN SCREAM exudes from every frame.
And finally…speaking of decorating one’s house for Halloween, see how long you can watch this without running away in utter terror! Behold Halloween Lights Gangnam Style!
See ya tomorrow, 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!