Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. We’ve got a whole new crop of horror films ripe for the shuckin’ but first, as always, before that…there’s this!
I got so busy with last month’s countdown that I didn’t announce the winners of THE BARRENS Contest we had towards the top of October. The film is available on DVD and BluRay now and I reviewed the film and interviewed the director Darren Lynn Bousman here! Congratulations to David Gerald and Vasilis Heropoulos for winning the contest. They’ll be getting their copy of THE BARRENS in the mail very soon! Look for more contests coming up on AICN HORROR. I promise not to let you wait so long next time to announce the winners.
If you’re in the Chicago area this weekend, be sure to come enjoy the DAYS OF THE DEAD Horror Convention which takes place in at the Chicago-Schaumburg-Marriott, 50 N Martingale Road, Schaumburg, IL Friday through Sunday (November 16th-18th)! You can pick up tickets for the convention here! I’ll be moderating a panel for the upcoming film THE COLLECTION, the sequel to THE COLLECTOR, with director Marcus Dunstan, writer Patrick Melton, and stars Emma Fitzpatrick & Josh Stewart. The panel will go on at noon tomorrow (Saturday, November 17th). Join me and the folks behind the film to celebrate all things horror at the convention and find out more about THE COLLECTION at its website here! Hope to see you there! Below is the trailer for the film.
Though many on the internet loathed the film, I found MORITURIS to be not a horrible bit of torture porn when I reviewed it last year. Turns out the film has now been banned in its home country of Italy, which if anything, assures that more people will become interested in it. Find out when and where you can see MORITURIS (as long as you’re not in Italy, that is) on its website here.
The new film ANIMOSITY looks to be pretty promising. Here’s the plot synopsis; Animosity is a movie about a newlywed couple who moves into a house in the middle of the Pennsylvania woods, which has supernatural properties that lead to a secret far more sinister than they could have imagined. Find out more about ANIMOSITY on its Facebook page here, follow them on Twitter @animosityfilm and look here for more updates on the film closer to its release in 2013.
Check out the teaser trailer below!
Now let’s check out some horror films, shall we?
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-Review: Stephen King’s SLEEPWALKERS (1992)
Short Cuts: OUT THERE (2012)
ATTACK OF THE JURASSIC SHARK (2012)
Rudyard Kipling’s MARK OF THE BEAST (2012)
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (2012)
IT’S IN THE BLOOD (2012)
THE PACT (2012)
Advance Look: MANIAC (2012)
And finally…Rafael De Leon Jr.’s WAFFLE!
Retro-review: Available now on BluRay from Image Entertainment!
Stephen King’s SLEEPWALKERS (1992)Directed by Mick Garris
Written by Stephen King
Starring Brian Krause, Mädchen Amick, Alice Krige, Jim Haynie, Cindy Pickett, Ron Perlman, Lyman Ward, Dan Martin, Glenn Shadix, Monty Bane, John Landis, Joe Dante, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper, Mark Hamill
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
One of the weirder King outings, this one boasted to be the first ever King story written directly for the screen and though it does carry with is a lot of King-isms, I can’t qualify this one as one of King’s strongest efforts.
The story is wrapped around the ancient obscure monster tale of the Sleepwalker, a changeling with mystical abilities and a vulnerability to cats. Now, after this film and CAT’S EYE, I have a hard time figuring out if King loves cats or hates them as both of the films have their fair share of cat torture, but also cast the furry felines as heroes as well. In SLEEPWALKERS, the creatures in question are made weak from the scratch of a cat and find themselves trapped in their house as kitties litter their lawn outside just waiting to pounce. Being a cat lover myself, it’s hard to see the animal torture at the hands of the titular monsters, but it is good to see them come out on top in the end.
The story itself centers on a mother, Mary Brady (Alice Krige) and son Charles (Brain Krause) who move into a small town after leaving their former residence suddenly and with a withered husk of a young woman rotting in the closet. The school is all a flutter as the dreamboat Charles sets his sights on virginal Tanya (Mädchen Amick from TWIN PEAKS). Basically, in order for the Brady’s to survive, they have to suck the soul from a virgin from time to time. Oh and the mom and son team also like to turn into goopy fleshy cat monsters and screw a lot. The incestual nature of the mother and son is not glossed over at all as their first scene shows them interacting as mom and son at first, then they start to make out, a pretty ballsy move in my opinion and one that may have ooked out quite a few moviegoers thinking they were going to see some safe King horror like CUJO, CREEPSHOW, or CAT’S EYE. That detail alone, makes SLEEPWALKERS one of the more creepy King tales.
Unfortunately, Mick Garris (who directed quite a few King stories), has a pretty no-frills and uninteresting directing style as the story lazily lolls through the motions of a nonsensical tale with scenes put in merely as showcases for the then fresh and new CGI which looks pretty awful in retrospect. For no reason as all, Charles challenges a police officer who of course brings along a cat with him in his police car (WTF?) to a drag race along the back roads of the town. The scene feels like a centerpiece for the film because so much CGI is used from Charles morphing into different cat-like forms to him making the car itself invisible. For some reason, Charles spends a lot of time morphing his car from one form to another throughout the film as well.
The story ends up being pretty simple. The Bradys need a virgin soul to survive. Tanya is a virgin. The Bradys take time out from grinding scruglies to try to suck it out of her. Everything else is either a tribute to other King stories as everything from CHRISTINE to CAT’S EYE is referenced or padding to show off CGI. Characters move through shifts and changes nonsensically, particularly Charles who at first seems to really care about Tanya, then turns into a horn dog beastie intent on raping her in a graveyard with no real in between cause or motive for such action.
I will say that the incest angle played in SLEEPWALKERS makes for a truly queasy feel to the entire film. There’s even a scene of the two in bed in full Sleepwalker form that looks more like Newt Gingrich rolling around in bed with himself than anything else. A scene you can’t unsee once witnessed.
For what its worth, SLEEPWALKERS has a few fun cameos from King himself, Clive Barker, Joe Dante, Tobe Hooper, John Landis, and Mark Hamill, but these are mere cameos and their inclusion is less clever and feels more like an afterthought. On the plus side, there’s some creepy incest from creepy actress Alice Krige, Madchen Amick is cute as a button, and SLEEPWALKERS does serve as a showcase of how much CGI has developed in the last 20 years. Aside from that, SLEEPWALKERS is for the King completist, but even those will attest that it’s not the strongest of King’s works.
Short Cuts: Short film playing festivals!
OUT THERE Short Film (2012)Directed by Randal Plunkett
Written by Randal Plunkett
Starring Conor Marren, Emma Eliza Regan and Johnny Carey
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though short filmmaking is often an underappreciated medium, I wanted to try to give a little love towards these short scares on a weekly basis here on AICN HORROR with this short cuts section. Though most become available on YouTube eventually, most can only be seen in film festivals. I’d love it if this light shedding I’m doing here would lead to more exposure, because some of these shorts are extremely well done and downright, damn scary.
Take OUT THERE for instance. Yes it’s a zombie story, but instead of wasting time with initial outbreak retreads we’ve seen a million times or the overused subplot of someone being bitten and just waiting for them to turn, Randal Plunkett focuses on one particular scene with one particular couple. Plunkett takes his time showing idyllic scenes of a romantic picnic in the park as seen through hazy recollections of a man wandering through a forest with a head wound trying to get his bearings.
The horror happens fast towards the end of this one, with the final moments shocking hard with an iconic and terrifying scare. OUT THERE is proof that zombies are still damn scary by shedding all of the unnecessaries and focusing on developing treasured moments lost amidst apocalyptic confusion.
Just the right length, OUT THERE is a short film worth seeking out if it’s playing at a fest near you. If and when it becomes available online, I’ll most definitely post in our And finally… section at the bottom of every column.
Available on VOD this month from Phase 4 Films!
ATTACK OF THE JURASSIC SHARK (2012)Directed by Brett Kelly
Written by David A Lloyd & Trevor Payer
Starring Emanuelle Carriere, Christine Emes, Celine Filion, Angela Parent, Duncan Milloy, Phil Dukarsky, Kyle Martellacci, Joshua Gilbert Crosby, Kevin Preece, Jurgen Vollrath, Sarah Mosher, Kala Gray
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Soooooo, what can I say good about this film.
Well, it was only a little over an hour long.
I’m all for low budget films, but the ones I really dig are the ones that realize their budgetary limitations and make the best of it. The best ones don’t try to do amateur CGI because everyone knows if you’re going CGI, you best go big or go home. Today’s audiences are not going to be scared of a shark that looks like a cartoon.
The shark in THE ATTACK OF THE JURASSIC SHARK is such a cartoon. Nothing by way of movement, texture, or even ripples in the water are present. And at times, the shark attack itself defies logic as an image is merely cut from one scene and pasted into the shark’s open mouth. Amazing how bad the effects are here.
This film is an exercise in how not to make a low budget flick. Because the shark in this film comes from shoddy animation and stock imagery of sharks, most of the action happens off screen and we are instead forced to follow non-actors spouting out lines as if they are in the middle of a bowel movement. The plot, as if it mattered, follows a group of art thieves who bone-headedly drop a priceless painting into a lake as they make their get away.
Luckily, there is a group of ladies who are at the same lake just sunning around and giggling like ladies often do in films like this. Though they are there to titillate, a story between the relationship of these ladies is attempted, but this is quickly tossed aside so we can get more amateur shark animation.
Having a deep seeded fear of sharks myself, I often find something to jump at in even the worst ScyFy shark riff. With THE ATTACK OF THE JURASSIC SHARK, it almost cured me of that phobia in making the shark laughably bad in every scene it’s in.
Available now on DVD!
Rudyard Kipling’s MARK OF THE BEAST (2012)Directed by Jonathan Gorman & Thomas Edward Seymour
Written by Sheri Lynn & Thomas Edward Seymour (screenplay), Rudyard Kipling (original story)
Starring Ellen Muth, Debbie Rochon, Margaret Rose Champagne, Sheri Lynn, Thomas Edward Seymour, Phil Hall, Matt Ford, Dick Boland, Isaiah Entsua –Mensah, Mark Bovino
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Regular readers of this column know my interest in Rudyard Kipling is high what with my comic book THE JUNGLE BOOK going into its second miniseries in February of next year. So you can imagine my surprise when this little indie fell next in my cue to be reviewed. MARK OF THE BEAST is a Kipling story I have not read before but a story many would recognize.
The story is basically about respecting all gods, and not just your own, as a group of well to do middle-agers have a party at a cottage in the woods. Before dinner, the host decides to lead a prayer to bless the food, which some feel is kind of weird. In this day and age of religion being almost as sinful as to some as sin itself is to church goers, this is a timely story and addressing an issue some might feel uncomfortable with. As the party goes on, we find out that a group of lepers live in the woods and worship a monkey god, much to everyone’s entertainment. One of the partygoers gets drunk and desecrates an alter to the monkey god and ends up being cursed.
As the story unfolds, it becomes pretty moralistic, as Kipling stories often do. Some of the other partygoers kidnap a leper and take him to the cabin in hopes that he can lift the curse. In order to force the leper to lift the curse, they torture the faceless, voiceless creature into doing so, making us question, who is exactly the monster here?
The acting here, save for scream queen Debbie Rochon, is pretty cardboard here with lines delivered as if the actors are reading their own obituaries. What saves MARK OF THE BEAST is the phenomenal effects by way of the leper itself. Full of tumors and leaking pustules, the leper is all sorts of gross and pretty painful to look at. Its fingers have fallen off and it is littered with blisters and sores and just gives off an altogether ooky feeling just by looking at it. Every time the creature is on the screen, it caused a feeling of unease with me and to me, that means it’s effective as all hells.
Those looking for deft delivery of lines and acting may feel MARK OF THE BEAST falls short, but for me this is a winner because of Kipling’s fascinating theme of all religions deserving of respect and of course the fucking awesome monster of the film which may or may not be the biggest threat here.
Available now on DVD here!
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (2012)Directed by Craig Griffith
Written by Craig Griffith
Starring Paul McCarthy, Jonathan Rhodes, Michael Langridge, Roz Povey
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
There’s nothing more frightening to an artist than a blank canvas. If you know this, you’re going to empathize with the lead character, unnamed in the film, played by Paul McCarthy (not the Beatle) and you’re the target audience for this tormented artist madness roller coaster called THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.
When the artist receives a mysterious package in the mail containing a mirror, he finds himself battling artist block and seeking darker corners of his own psyche in search of inspiration. Once a great painter, the artist’s well seems to have gone dry until he begins having dark visions after looking through the mirror. Soon the imagery comes, but they come from a place the artist never knew existed in him and that place is pretty scary.
Filmed in a cold and distant manner, writer/director Craig Griffith relies on strong performances to carry the film. McCarthy goes through a pretty sizable transformation from the beginning to end in this film and for the most part is able to contain and convey a lot of emotional depth as his descent down the rabbit hole goes deeper and darker. As the pressure to come up with something original and of quality grows, McCarthy’s sanity frays even more, resulting in flashbacks, flash forwards, and delusions all seemingly due to the haunting mirror set in the corner of the room that he keeps returning to.
McCarthy’s descent is told in snippets of hellish imagery, but for the most part, the true horror comes from watching McCarthy fall deeper into isolation and insanity. This descent is convincing in Griffith’s patience in keeping the camera on his subject (McCarthy) and allowing the mood wash over the viewer and soak in the strong performance. Nothing seems forced and it makes the fall all the more believable. And more importantly, this is a story that doesn’t feel the need to use too many special effects in order to tell a good, solid scary story. All of the senses of fright and creep come from the performances here, not from special effects or CGI.
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is a dark, dark story about the similarities between artistic genius and madness and how all it takes is push one way to have dire results. Not the most chipper of stories, but it does depict the frustrations and torment of an inspirationally challenged artist extremely well.
Available now on VOD & iTunes!
IT’S IN THE BLOOD (2012)Directed by Scooter Downey
Written by Scooter Downey & Sean Elliot
Starring Lance Henriksen, Sean Elliot, Rose Sirna, Jimmy Gonzales, Andrew Varenhorst
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Always a fan of man vs wild stories, this one has a nice father and son element to it as well, as Sean Elliot plays October, a tormented young man who returns to his boyhood home to find his father Russell (the ever crusty and ever awesome Lance Henricksen) as crotchety as ever. When both October and Russell become lost in the woods after a hunting trip goes sour, they find that they are not alone and haunted by sins of the past and monsters in the here and now too.
The standout here is the strength of the performances from Elliot and Henricksen. I’ve seen Henricksen make cameos here and there in films, but like a B-List Christopher Walken, he usually does the same schtick which made him a cult favorite. In this story, Henricksen has much more character to chew on and seems to chomp down on the character with reckless abandon as a well intentioned, but maladjusted father who doesn’t really know how to father too well. October is an extremely damaged young man, fighting the urge to return home, but also fighting the urge to leave for good. Numerous times, he could leave his wounded father, but doesn’t.
In the end, there is a solid heart to this film about the complex nature between fathers and sons who can’t really express how they feel to one another. As an unseen monster closes in on them in the woods, they are forced to overcome their issues with one another to survive. In the end, it makes for a pretty sweet tale, but don’t worry things get pretty gnarly in the woods making it more of a battle of wits between man and beast than a Lifetime movie about the strength of family.
The monster itself is unique in design and cleverly ambiguous, making it all the more scary. Seen out of focus or off center and in the distance, it is clear that it isn’t human, but that’s about it. As the monster does come into focus, it doesn’t lose its menace. Director Scooter Downey pulls every trick in the book not to show the monster outright. This might have been because of budget or it might have been to up the ambiguity of it, either way, it ends up being a smart decision and makes for a more creepier film.
With a pair of strong performances in Elliot and Henricksen and some clever camerawork making the monster on their tale all the more horrific, IT’S IN THE BLOOD turned out to be a pretty effective little wilderness horror film. The monster itself is pretty unconventional, but what really stands out is the fact that I found myself caring about these two well thought out characters and that made the scenes all the more effective and dire.
New this week on BluRay & DVD!
THE PACT (2012)Directed by Nicholas McCarthy
Written by Nicholas McCarthy
Starring Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien, Agnes Bruckner, Mark Steger, Haley Hudson, Kathleen Rose Perkins
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though I wasn’t expecting much going into THE PACT, by the five minute mark I found myself leaping from my chair in fear at what was going on. There were a few leaps in logic in the making of this one, but filled with moments of pure creep and terror, THE PACT is a film I’m recommending for those who love all things scary. An old fashioned ghost story, more along the lines of THE OTHERS and INSIDIOUS than PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, THE PACT is a ghost story worth getting behind.
Originally a short film, director Nicholas McCarthy has expanded on the concept without making it seem stretched too thin. The story follows a pair of sisters whose mother has recently passed away. The mother leaves the sisters a house and a horrible secret. When the first sister (Kathleen Rose Perkins) comes to the home, she soon disappears after a freaky interaction with her child over Skype. Then Annie the other sister (a loner motorcyclist played by Caity Lotz) arrives, she finds an empty house full of mystery. After a night of sheer horror that will surely make you jump out of your skin in fear, she realizes that otherworldly things are going on. Things get even creepier when a secret room is found with holes drilled in the walls giving someone or something a secret viewing room for everything that transpired in the house.
Great performances all around help make THE PACT easy to get caught up in. Caity Lotz is great and gruff as Annie the tough sister who is scared shitless, but perseveres against the forces of the unknown. Casper Van Dien even gives a good turn as the chiseled yet unshaven cop who somewhat believes the story of the distraught woman. And Haley Hudson has a nice smaller role as a creepy medium.
A creepy house, an otherworldly presence, a dark closet, and secret rooms all contribute to the thrills that pile atop one another in THE PACT. McCarthy takes his time unfolding this intricate plot of betrayal and secrets between mothers and daughters. McCarthy uses forced camera angles, trick photography and sincerely frightening imagery to scare the pants off of you in this little film. One of the aspects that is most rewarding is that the action rarely goes outside of this creepy abode, keeping this a tight thriller that never overshoots or shows the rough edges of a film made for this budget.
McCarthy got me more than once in this film, which hits hard in its action and isn’t afraid to get in your face with the scares. I don’t want to ruin too much of the terrors within THE PACT, but I will say you will be scared. The name of the film leaves a lot to be desired and I think many will overlook this one because of it. Another detriment is that people are wandering in and out of a crime scene investigated by the police with no worry. This plot hole is only a minor distraction from a truly great horror film.
THE PACT is not to be missed.
Advance Look: Currently touring festivals, recently played at the Chicago International Film Festival!
MANIAC (2012)Directed by Franck Khalfoun
Written by Alexandre Aja, Grégory Levasseur, C.A. Rosenberg (screenplay), Joe Spinell (original screenplay)
Starring Elijah Wood, Liane Balaban, America Olivo, Nora Arnezeder, Morgane Slemp, Genevieve Alexandra, Sammi Rotibi, Megan Duffy, Jan Broberg, Steffinnie Phrommany
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
WARNING, IF YOU”VE SEEN THE ORIGINAL MANIAC, THERE MIGHT BE A SPOILER OR TWO IN THIS REVIEW, IF NOT, PROCEED.
Though I am not a fan of all of these remakes these days, when one is good, I feel the need to commend it, even if it means a bunch more shitty remakes are down the pike. I’ve always treasured the original MANIAC as a perfect little shot of sleaze with its focus on greasy, sweaty, overweight Joe Spinell, who one would believe to be a homicidal maniac. When I heard Elijah Wood was cast in the remake, at first I was angry film miscast a Hollywood pretty boy in hopes of attracting a demographic. Then I remembered that Wood is anything but your typical Hollywood actor. Just look at his unconventional role in the TV series Wilfred or more importantly his role as Kevin the emotionless maniac in SIN CITY and you can see why he was chosen for the role.
Wood plays Frank Zito, the owner and sole employee of a mannequin restoration shop and yes, that job is as creepy as it sounds. Frank spends most of his days reworking mannequins and talking with them. At night, Frank has creepier activities as he stalks and murders beautiful women, saving their scalps to be stapled to a special set of mannequins he has in the back room of his shop where he lives. When Frank meets Anna (Nora Arnezeder), a photographer with an interest in using Frank’s mannequins, he tries hard to keep his psychotic tendencies at bay.
Compared to the original, which isn’t really fair, but inevitable, this new MANIAC keeps a lot of the details the same and adds quite a few which really add to the story rather than detract to it. The main deviation is the fact that 90% of this film is shot through Wood’s POV with Frank only appearing in reflection and during some of the key kills where Frank seemingly leaves is body while doing the evil deeds. This makes for a pretty unnerving and otherworldly experience that some might feel uncomfortable with. We literally sit in the seat of the killer in this film, stalking victims, and even killing them. As if they were our own eyes, we see Frank stalk, scalp, and kill these people, an effect that has been done in plenty of films before, but never at this level of intimacy.
The other thing that impressed me was Wood’s convincing performance. As I said above, I knew he could play a psycho, but looking at his big Frodo eyes, one can’t help but be brought back to the Shire, making these evil deeds all the more shocking to see. It’s the baggage the actor carrying with him that that adds, not detracts to this performance and makes it all the more effective.
One thing that most fans of the original MANIAC were concerned about was the fact that there would be no way a modern filmmaker would go down the gory avenues the original did. Well, turns out director Franck Khalfoun didn’t get that memo as this is one of the goriest major film releases I’ve seen in years as scalps are sliced off, stabbings are doled out in the dozens, and the final scene, which I won’t reveal here, is as gory as the original albeit slightly different. Though a lot of the gore is digital, most of it is top notch and seamless. I’d be curious what Tom Savini has to say about this because this serves as an excellent homage to his work on the original slasher opus (minus the shotgun scene, which was a bit over the top in the original and I’m glad they left it out here).
Those leery of remakes can rejoice that this is definitely a good one. There’s a beat in the final scenes that moves a bit quickly for my tastes, but it is necessary in order to keep the film moving along. I guess it says something about me that I was both disgusted and intrigued in slipping into the shoes of Wood’s Frank Zito. Wood is amazing here and pulls no punches. His Frank Zito is as much his own as Joe Spinell’s was in the first MANIAC. Though it may be a tough pill to swallow for the queasy among you, MANIAC is an excellent film with the original taken seriously and respectfully. I’ll keep you posted when this film slithers off the festival circuit and will be available for everyone.
And finally…Here’s Rafael De Leon Jr. creepy and effective little story of mad science fair science in the gory treat, WAFFLE! Enjoy!
See ya next week, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over eleven years & AICN HORROR for two. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be available on iTunes and soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK last year from Zenescope Entertainment & look for his exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81 released August-December 2012. Mark will be writing GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES to be released in February-June 2013. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
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