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Ambush Bug counts down the best horror films on AICN HORROR since last Halloween – Number 2!!!

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!


I actually saw the film quite a few months ago closer to when it premiered at Sundance, so technically, this is a film I covered this year, even though the review of the film was posted a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, EXCISION is one of the finest examples of gross-out humor/body horror/teen angst I’ve ever seen. Gorgeously filmed and wickedly portrayed by an all star cast, if you want something current, hip, and aimed at your gut, EXCISION delivers some of the best horror of the year.

Available this week on DVD/BluRay!


Directed by Richard Bates Jr.
Written by Richard Bates Jr.
Starring AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, Ariel Winter, Roger Bart, Jeremy Sumpter, John Waters, Malcolm McDowell, Marlee Matlin, Ray Wise
Find out more about this film here!

Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Oh my holy shit…after watching EXCISION and heading straight to my computer to type up a review of it, I am absolutely speechless at the all around horror tsunami/hurricane/tornado/act of god that was this film. This film hit me more than any other film that I’ve seen recently on so many levels. At times it’s hilarious. At times it’s morose. At times it’s graphically disgusting. And at times it’s utterly heartbreaking. It’s one of those films that is most definitely too intense for theaters, but once you’ve seen it, you’re going to wonder why you haven’t watched it sooner.

EXCISION centers on a young outcast named Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord from TV’s 90210) who is the center of ire for her disappointed mother (played by Traci Lords), misunderstood at school by her teachers and principal (Malcolm McDowell and Ray Wise), and loathed by her priest (John Waters). In her mother’s eyes, Pauline should be more like her “perfect” sister (Ariel Winter from TV’s MODERN FAMILY) who is suffering from chronic health problems and will never match up. In response, Pauline has given up trying to be the Barbie doll her mother wants. She slouches, has poor hygiene, and personifies that creepy ass kid in school no one wants to sit next too. Though attempts to reach out and make connections are made, Pauline is completely and utterly misunderstood and alone, so she embraces it and lashes out when the occasion arises.

What she also does is retreat into a dream like world filled with perfect and imperfect bodies lining the floor like a runway where she performs surgery and sexual acts while blissfully bathing in bright red blood. These sequences are filmed in a vivid dream-like manner where almost translucent whites are splattered with bright red plasma and juxtapose a sense of absolute beauty with the stuff of medical horror nightmare.

What distinguishes this film from the herd is it’s sense of humor. Pauline is basically Juno, but with bad hair and without the scripted JUNO-speak that made Juno so fucking annoying. She is smart and sassy, but not trying to be indie cool with one liners and pop cultural references. Pauline is an outcast through and through and McCord does an absolutely fantastic job of distinguishing her as one of the most fascinating characters I’ve seen in ages. With some bushy eyebrows, a pair of oversized teeth, and some shaggy hair in her face, she personifies the unloved puppy of the litter who can’t get a break. The way she closed mouthed smiles over her large teeth is altogether pathetic and creepy and the fantastic thing is that behind those bloodshot eyes, she knows and loves that she is having that effect on whoever catches her gaze.

The rest of the cast is pitch perfect. Traci Lords goes against type as an uptight mom who wants and tries so desperately to make her comely daughter be more like herself. You can see the frustration in her eyes and tone through every movement and line she clucks out. Even her attempts to understand Pauline are awkward and terse. Roger Bart (HOSTEL II) plays the flip side of the coin as Pauline’s father, who is quickly sliding into the apathetic role of the father whose nose is constantly buried into the paper. He still has a little fire left in him as he subtly challenges mother’s sniping, but seems to be to the tipping point where he’s given up hope. The rest of the cast is phenomenal as well with inspired cameos by Malcolm McDowell, John Waters, and Ray Wise.

And boy does this film veer off into pitch black territories. With a wicked sense of humor throughout, but not to the point of parody, I should have seen the powerful closing moments coming, but didn’t while watching. The turn of events that happen in the end of the film is going to turn off those wanting a happy ending, but Pauline isn’t that type of girl and this isn’t that type of movie. The leap from troubled teen to off the reservation is logical and plotted well. Still, I was literally knocked back in my chair at the final moments and I don’t think anyone can prepare themselves for what happens and the dark corners this one sends itself to.

Like Lucky McKee’s THE WOMAN and DONNIE DARKO, EXCISION has an odd and offbeat sense of satire about it regarding the disfunctions of the “typical” family. Like CARRIE and GINGER SNAPS, it delves deeply into the horror of females reaching puberty. This is one of those films that can be picked apart and examined on so many levels from its style to its themes to its performances and all of those parts are done so with absolute excellency. You can look for something more horrifyingly awesome out there today, but you’re not going to find anything that even compares to EXCISION.

If you’re looking for off the wall science, I recommend one of my favorite all time hokey horror films, THE BRAIN THE WOULDN’T DIE. This film is filled with all kinds of medical horror that could never feasibly be possible, but that’s what makes it fun. Seeing Virginia Leith’s head berating and sniping at the desperate Jason Evers as he attempts to find a new body for his beheaded love is often hilarious, but grossly unique. Plus it’s got a surprisingly gory climax as a beast in the back room makes its escape. It’s a lot of fun and worth checking out this Halloween.

The Countdown so far…

#15: V/H/S

See ya tomorrow, folks, with a special post-Halloween review!

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
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Readers Talkback
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  • Pretty disturbing film...crazy ending...definitely pick this one up! This list has been great, Ambush! Can't wait to see what number 1 is!

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 10:23 a.m. CST

    Fantastic Movie

    by Ryusei

    I wathced the entire movie with my mouth agape. I was mezmorized. You can find the Blu Ray at Best Buy and online really cheap. It's worth picking up and showing to all your friends. Also, Traci Lords is great in this movie.

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 10:39 a.m. CST

    I'm still hoping

    by poonhead

    Father's Day makes this list....

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 10:42 a.m. CST

    Great movie, but tough to watch

    by Collin Armstrong

    I had a tough time getting through this - *really* disturbing stuff. It's rare for a movie to freak me out like that, especially in a psychological sense - sure, Human Centipede is gross, but I don't really care about what's happening in it, either - with this, I was really sucked into the story's world and much more upset by what I was seeing because of that. Great low-budget filmmaking.

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 10:49 a.m. CST

    "Hurricane" of a film??

    by BeatsMe

    Your poor taste extends beyond horror films apparently.

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 11:10 a.m. CST


    by Jake

    This movie was ridiculous from the word "gross." It tries so hard to make you flinch that it doesn't have a real... what's the word? Oh, yeah... "Story." If you want to see a tough to watch, yet great movie, then pick up Martyrs. As it came out years ago, it would never make this list, but to say this is a "great" film or even a "hurricane" of one is a sad state of affairs for horror fans. As this is a Countdown, why the hell is Cabin in the Woods at #10?! Jesus... SEMI-SPOILER: Who didn't see the ending coming after 30 minutes of watching?

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 11:52 a.m. CST


    by Ryusei

    Martyrs has a story? It has a story for 15 minutes, then a bunch of nothing happens, then it ends. I kinda like the ending and I appreciated it for what it was, but let's not be absurd and say it has a story. Same thing with Frontiers. I bought it, and I've attempted on no less than 5 occaisions to get throught it. I fall asleep everytime. It's one of those movies that I'll have to drink lots of cofffee and force myself to watch in the morning just to finish it (exactly what I had to do with Van Helsing a few years back). At least Excision is compelling. And unless you are going into a movie trying to figure out the ending, you won't see it coming until the last 15 minutes of the show. Also, you're hoping that it doesn't happen, so it's even less apparent.

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 12:10 p.m. CST

    Darn, I was sure this was going to be your #1.

    by The Shropshire Slasher

    With the exception of one plot point, I thought this movie was pretty damn good.

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 12:16 p.m. CST

    Great movie! In my Top 5 if I were to make my own list.

    by thefreshestthing

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 12:17 p.m. CST

    RE: poonhead

    by thefreshestthing

    I'm with ya, but it ain't happening lol

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Not entirely convinved by the 9 ranked higher than Cabin in the Woods.

    by Bradly Durant

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 1:29 p.m. CST



    Sorry Ambush Bug but I think you have semi-terrible taste in movies but I'll check this out. I like watching horror movies occasionally and even though you pimp a lot of cheesy, low budget crap that I have no interest in seeing, this column is a lot better than having nothing horror related here at AICN. So thanks.

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 1:30 p.m. CST

    and Cabin in the Woods wasn't very good.


  • Oct. 30, 2012, 2:17 p.m. CST

    Definitely too intense for theatres?

    by Nervous Energy

    Quit perpetuating the idea that intense, harsh movies shouldn't be in cinemas. More original films like this need a chance to be seen in theatres. Don't dedicate 4 screens in a multiplex to the latest big budget garbage and let something awesome like Excision get no shot. Oh, and the character of Pauline is NOT "basically Juno" so don't believe that for a second. Anna Lynne McCord is great in the film and has a richer, more complex character than anything found in Juno.

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 2:41 p.m. CST

    comely = attractive

    by Olsen Twins_Fan

    you were looking for homely.

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 5:07 p.m. CST

    re: beatsme I think this review was first published a month ago

    by Adelai Niska

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 5:58 p.m. CST


    by Kabukiman

    Intensely boring. I guess I just wasn't enough of a loser in high school, because I just thought Pauline was an intensely unlikeable amalgam of Napoleon Dynamite and May. She's an antisocial, misanthropic asshole. Why would I ever care about her? There's nothing rich or complex about her.

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 6:36 p.m. CST

    Martyrs is not a good movie.

    by Kelly Grimes

    It's a confused smashing of five scripts presented as thoughtful and artsy. It's a shitty criticism of organized religion--a criticism you could hear more intelligently in a Louis CK sketch, but also hear as commonly in a Larry the Cable Guy bit. It's nothing new and the presentation is closer to the latter. It's a great beginning with a confused, ill-executed shifting of gears into nonsense. But, hey, nonsense is a great excuse for excessive, lifeless torture porn sequences. Stop saying it's a good movie. It was brutal, and a giant disappointment considering the hype.

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 6:50 p.m. CST


    by Ryusei

    I would say that the movie is compelling and has a nice pace. There are no intense sequences of actions. You say there's nothing complex or rich about her, but she's a very profound character. This isn't going to be a movie for everyone. I've seen the movie once, and I plan on showing it to a few friends, and then I'll probably never want to see it again. The problem with this film is that the main character is very ugly. She's not ugly cute or "butterface," she's ugly, and that makes it difficult to enjoy. This is the point of the movie, but with most horror films, we at least get to see attactive girls who play the main character on the screen.

  • Oct. 30, 2012, 9:52 p.m. CST

    Man, a lot of hate in the TBs today.

    by Ambush Bug

    Personally, I liked MARTYRS, but it is an intense film and not on the list because it was from a few years ago. I did publish this article a few weeks ago and reposted it unedited. Avoiding a word because of current events is pretty ignorant if you ask me. A hurricane is a devastating force of nature and that's how this movie hit me. Again, I'm not making light of what happened in New York, but to suggest I go in and reedit a word simply because of what's happening in the news is just not what I do. I don't get the hate for this film though. I found Pauline to be defensive and an alltogether despicable protagonist, but compared to a lot of the other people in the film, she's the one you are to most identify with. I also feel there are quite a few subtle instances where she is portrayed in a sympathetic light. It's not projected, but with simple eye flutters or a change in tone, there's a lot of depth going on, in my opinion. Again, I really don't get the hate being thrown around though in the list talkbacks. At the top of the page, I say this is my opinion and openly ask those in the TBs to make their own lists, but instead it's just the typical ugly talkback vomit. I guess I was asking too much for folks to actually make this a place to talk about your favorite horror films. It's much easier to rip apart others list that come up with one's own. Tomorrow's number one pick talkback is bound to be interesting. Whatever I choose will sure to incite unnecessary and unfortified talkback fervor.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 2:21 p.m. CST

    Whoa, what the hell...

    by Nervous Energy

    The problem with this film is that the main character is very ugly. She's not ugly cute or "butterface," she's ugly, and that makes it difficult to enjoy. This is the point of the movie, but with most horror films, we at least get to see attactive girls who play the main character on the screen.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 4:32 p.m. CST

    Sorry ryusei...

    by Kabukiman

    ...but the problem for me isn't that she's physically unattractive. The problem is that she has an ugly, unlikeable personality. She's cold, arrogant, condescending and treats everyone like shit. I didn't find her complex at all, to me she was pretty one-note, I didn't find anything about her character to be profound.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 11:12 p.m. CST

    Hey Ambush Bug...

    by Kabukiman

    ...why don't you cry about it?

  • Nov. 1, 2012, 12:04 a.m. CST

    I've enjoyed this column....BUUUTTTT

    by StrokerX

    This movie was pretty whack. It started off interesting but then nothing really happens. No plot to speak of at all. I also thought the ending was pretty outta left field and out of character.