Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Got some more reviews of the horrific kind this week. But as always, before that…there’s this!
Let’s start off with a preview of the upcoming film THE LAUGHING MASK. It promises to be an old school, bare bones, horror film. No CGI, just good story and scares. Sounds good to me. I’m digging the low fi preview below. The film is in pre-production and I’ll be covering it very soon when they’ve finished here on AICN HORROR. Enjoy this creepy trailer…
I was able to check out an advance screener of SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE a while back and liked it so much I named it one of my favorite films in my recent Best of the Year columns this past October. Well, not XLrator Media will be releasing the film on VOD on February 7, 2013 and on DVD on March 12, 2013. Here’s the official synopsis of the film:Four professional ghost hunters, who travel in a vintage van accompanied by their canine companion (sound familiar?), get far more than they bargained for when they investigate an abandoned schoolhouse with a mysterious past.
The official trailer premiered online this week. Here it is!
Now let’s check out the reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
THE PETER WALKER COLLECTION: THE HOUSE OF THE WHIPCORD (1974)
Retro-Review: GODZILLA VS BIOLANTE (1992)
ZOMBIE HORROR FRIGHT FEST: MELVIN (2009)
FEVER NIGHT (2009)
X GAME (2010)
BIGFOOT COUNTY (2012)
Advance Review: THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH (2012)
And finally… Chris Cullari’s SLEEPOVER!
Retro-review: Rereleased this week from Kino Lorber/Redemption!
THE PETER WALKER COLLECTIONaka PHOTOGRAPHER’S MODELS, STAG MODEL SLAUGHTER
THE HOUSE OF THE WHIPCORD (1974)
Directed by Peter Walker
Written by David McGillivray & Pete Walker
Starring Barbara Markham, Patrick Barr, Ray Brooks, Ann Michelle, Sheila Keith, Dorothy Gordon, Robert Tayman, Ivor Salter, Karan David, Celia Quicke, Ron Smerczak, Tony Sympson, Judy Robinson, Jane Hayward, Celia Imrie
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
I must admit, my only experience with director Peter Walker was with his excellent schlocker FRIGHTMARE. I’d known he’d made more films, but just haven’t gotten around to seeing them yet. So I was really excited when I heard Redemption was rereleasing four of Peter Walker’s films on BluRay. So far I’ve taken looks at SCHIZO and DIE SCREAMING MARINNE.
THE HOUSE OF THE WHIPCORD is one of those films I’ve heard quite a bit about but know nothing of. I knew it was about S&M or maybe not. I did know Peter Walker directed it, so it was bound to be interesting, yet unafraid to go for the sleaze. After drudging through DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE last week, I felt that maybe I’d seen the best of the best from Walker with SCHIZO and FRIGHTMARE, but man, HOUSE OF THE WHIPCORD was just the kind of awesome to get me jazzed about Peter Walker again. Though the sleaze factor is on high, this little women in prison flick is fantastic mainly because of its cast and some simplistic, yet effective scenes that ooze creep and tension.
Starting out with the words, “This film is dedicated to those who are disturbed by today’s lax morals and who eagerly await the return of corporal and capital punishment…” made me wonder if this was a film taking itself uber-seriously or the exact opposite. The film opens with a woman running in the rain as if she’d just broken out of the Leatherface household and is rescued by a trucker.
Penny Irving plays Anne Marie, the cutest little French girl who was photographed naked as she was being arrested for indecent exposure. Though the photograph embarrasses her when it is presented at a party, Anne Marie's confidence rises when she meets Mark E Desade (Robert Tayman). Yes, that's Mark E. Desade...groan. Though the name itself should have been indication enough, Anne Marie decides to go on a trip with Mark to meet his parents. Little does she know, his parents live in an abandoned jail in the countryside where they punish loose women for their free thinking and free wheeling lifestyle. Brought to this castle-like prison under false pretense, Anne Marie soon realizes she has been duped for her indecency and even though the courts slapped her on her pretty little wrist for her crime, this court proves to be much harsher, promising to make her into a respectable young woman by the end of her stay or she will die trying.
What progresses is your typical "women in prison" film with all of the proper boxes ticked. Wicked warden, check. Time in solitary, check. Whips, chains and old school S&M, check. Prison break, check. Lazy guards who look like gym teachers, check. Shower scenes, check. It's all here. But for some reason, most likely because the lead actress is so adorably French and cute with the poo poo way she says everything, I found myself rooting for her through this endeavor and hoping that her best friend would eventually track her down and rescue her.
The prison itself is your typical old school penitentiary with barred cells, concrete brick walls, slab bunks, and of course a station in a church for whipping. Though these scenes may titillate some, I found them to be more horrifying than anything else. Because of the investment in the lead character, I was with her all the way. And as she attempts escape, Walker does a great job of leading and misleading us through it all resulting in an ending that is memorable and horrifying all at once.
HOUSE OF THE WHIPCORD is my favorite of this Walker collection so far. Maybe it's because I am finishing my own "women in prison" arc in the latest issues of GRIMM FAIRY TALES (issues #76-81 on sale now!) or maybe because Walker proves once again to be a master at mixing schlock, sleaze and suspense. Either way, if you don't mind some torture and boobies, sometimes mixed together in the same scene, HOUSE OF THE WHIPCORD is sure to please.
New this week on DVD!
GODZILLA VS BIOLANTE (1992)Directed by Kazuki Ohmori
Written by Kazuki Ohmori
Starring Kunihiko Mitamura, Yoshiko Tanaka, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Emi Kodaka, Masanobu Takashima, Turu Minegishi, Ryunosuke Kaneda, Koji Takahashi
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I can't say I've seen tons of GODZILLA movies, but I know the basic concept. Don't fuck with science, man! Because it will awaken a millennia old giant lizard monster that shoots radiation and make it trample all kinds of toy trains, cars, tanks, buildings, and airplanes. Though it's predictable every time, there's something simplistically awesome about GODZILLA films. Which is why they are so fun to watch.
Much like WWF Wrestling, there's a clear good guy and bad guy, and there's some acrobatics, a lot of growling, and a clear winner in the end after a much ballyhooed match up. This time, the grudge match is between the King of the Monsters himself (herself?) Godzilla and Biollante, a creature spawned from Godzilla's very own cells and grown from a petri dish by scientists. Intended as a weapon to equalize the arms race, of course, Biollante begins to rage out of control and only Godzilla and a little telekinetic girl can combat him. Biollante, which first appears as a giant rose blossom with "Feed me, Seymore" plantlings bursting out of it's sides, evolves throughout the film into a carnivorous giant Venus flytrap style creature. Spitting radioactive seeds at Godzilla and splashing around the ocean. I like the use of modern science in this Godzilla film. It's hokey science. But the use of gene splicing at least seems somewhat modern.
The thing that is the true test of any giant monster movie isn't the giant choreographed battles as men in giant rubber suits crumble buildings and stop tanks in forced slo mo, it is the moments inbetween the battles which make it so that the interest is maintained until the next battle. Here enough hokey science, rudimentary animated battle scenes, and some cheesy spy intrigue no more ingenious than a commercial for Stella Pale Ale is interlaced between big beastie battles, so while they pale in comparison to the battles, at least it's fun to giggle at the low fi spy work at play in between.
Godzilla is fantastic, once again. Aside from giving him a bit more mobile head that turns a little freer, this is the same "man in suit"that we've all grown accustomed to. Though looking more like a scalded and wet cat than a lizard with it's snub nose and tiny pointed ears, this Godzilla has evolved very little from the original film all those years ago and there's something about that that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
All in all, there's a lot of cheesy giant monstrosity fun to be had with GODZILLA VS BIOLLANTE. As with most GODZILLA films there is an ecological and anti-war message, nailed home by some narration at the end of the film by a little Japanese girl, but this film has a coupleof great big battles between the floral Biollante and Godzilla and then later the rematch when Biollante is in full bloom. Full of hokey drama, science and espionage, you're bound to have some big dumb fun with this movie.
New on DVD!
ZOMBIE HORROR FRIGHT FEST:Directed by Henry Weintraub
Written by Henry Weintraub
Starring Patrick O'Driscoll, Leif Fuller, Lilly Maher, Yonatan Schultz, Ben Chinburg, Hudson Hongo, Lloyd Kaufman
Available through Chemical Burn Entertainment
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This week I’m cracking open Chemical Burn’s four disk set called ZOMBIE HORROR FRIGHT FEST which features THE DEFILED, MELVIN, FAST ZOMBIES WITH GUNS, and WOODS OF TERROR; all zombie films which approach the subgenre in a fresh and unique way. We’ve checked out THE DEFILED and FAST ZOMBIES WITH GUNS already. Now let’s check out MELVIN.
Credit for trying, this low budget zombie flick is just a bit too fragmented to work as the film leaps from one nerd, Norton (Patrick O'Driscoll) to another, Melvin (Leif Fuller), and for me this seemed to be one nerd too many. This is an ambitious film which shies away from a conventional plot, but instead leaps through time to tell the story of a bullying session gone wrong and a nerd wooing the sister of the first nerd. We get to see both cope with their tormentors in MELVIN and are told that Melvin is dead as his sister bonds with Norton. As both nerds seem to be on a collision course, there is a nice little love story being told here, but I think the filmmakers were aiming a little bit too high narratively with this one.
All of the pitfalls that go with low budget cinema are at play here. The acting is amateur. The editing and camerawork is decent, but pretty flat. The sound is pretty awful. On the plus side, the effects are pretty good, but that seems to be the case with a lot of indie cinema. Effects are always pretty messy and good. There’s an especially nicely done scene with a shovel to the throat that is obviously a shovel cut to fit over a neck, but still it looks good.
I’ve seen worse films, but this one just seemed to plod along more than most. I liked the idea of a picked on nerd coming back for redemption, but the addition of another nerd kind of muddles it up. The final scenes of zombie romance are decently done and while bits and pieces of MELVIN are watchable, the movie as a whole left me wanting more.
Out now on DVD!
FEVER NIGHT AKA BAND OF SATANIC OUTSIDERS (2009)Directed by Jordan Harris and Andrew Schrader
Written by Andrew Schrader and Jordan Harris
Starring Peter Tullio, Philip Marlatt, Melanie Rose Wilson, Michael Q. Schmidt, & Claudia Sandin as Lucifer
Find out more about this film here and on their site here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
What an odd little film.
From the name alone, FEVER NIGHT AKA BAND OF SATANTIC OUTSIDERS, I should have prepared for something off the beaten path, but I don’t think any could be prepared for this film.
A trio of twenty-somethings decide are on their way to do some harmless Satan worship in the woods. Like ya do. Who woulda thunk that they actually would have evoked a demon? That’s basically the premise of FEVER NIGHT, which focuses less on the actual Satan worship (the ritual is only glossed over during the opening credits) and more on the trio trying to get home afterwards and ending up on a downward spiral into dementia and madness.
This is a surprisingly funny movie. There is a level of comedy going on that I can only liken to EVIL DEAD 2, which often is acknowledged for its slapstick comedy, but less so for the subtle comedy going on that has to do with the acting. What makes this film so cool is the fact that it plays out sort of like an episode of THE KIDS IN THE HALL or THE STATE, as the actors are clearly either over-acting or under-acting to cardboard levels, so much that it is obvious these affects are intentional which is a quality often seen in skit comedy shows like the ones listed above. Usually I find this breaking of the fourth wall by having the actors acknowledging their awareness of the lack of inspiration of the lines they are delivering to be somewhat obnoxious, but here, most likely because the actors are pretty likable, I was able to take it. There are some definite goofy moments here as the three actors overreact to the weird happenings in the woods.
Just because I laughed a lot doesn’t mean that this film doesn’t take its scares seriously. There are some truly horrifying scenes having to do with one of the Satan worshippers stumbling across a nudie in a tent only to be caught by her father that starts out trite and ends up utterly unnerving. The film even opens up with one of the three worshippers being run over by a car, which had a powerful and visceral feel to it.
The final half hour of this film is an acid trippy swirl into non-reality as the final surviving worshipper falls inch by inch into the abyss of madness. While these scenes are effectively trippy, I did feel as if, after the first hour of oddball laughter and horrifying moments, it did slow the momentum of the film down to a crawl. It’s almost as if they finished most of the film and realized they needed another twenty minutes and decided to stretch this final sequence out for that time. While the imagery is somewhat transgressive and other-dimensional, I started to get bored with it, even though the last image of the film is downright scary. FEVER NIGHT is not for everyone, but if you like your laughs and scares unconventional, this weirdo little number is for you.
New this week on DVD from Danger After Dark!
X GAME (2010)Directed by Yohei Fukuda
Written by Yohei Fukuda
Starring Hirofumi Araki, Ayaka Kikuchi, Haruka Nakagawa, Masashi Mikami, Shota Chiyo, Meguru Kato, Kazuyuki Aijima, Shingi Tsurumi
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I believe it was Albert Einstein who came up with the following equation:
Asian girl + Long hair draped down over her face = SPOOKY!
Maybe it wasn’t Einstein, but damn if a lot of Asian filmmakers don’t study and apply this equation to a hell of a lot of films.
In X GAME, a creepy Asian girl who is bullied as a child, grows up and kidnaps her schoolyard tormentors all grown up. Though for the most part, the creepy Asian girl is not of the paranormal variety, but the image does prove to set an eerie and mysterious tone throughout the film.
Bullying seems to be a theme in this week’s column as it shows up in MELVIN and later on in PARANORMAN too. It is a horrible phenomenon, understandably explored as all seem to have experienced bullying in one form or another as a kid (and maybe even into adulthood). Here as a group of seemingly innocent people are abducted and forced to take part in a twisted game where childhood pranks are taken to deadly and bloody extremes.
On the one hand, X GAMES is quite gruesome as the film is basically a revenge film mixed with the video game survival aspects seen in HUNGER GAMES and BATTLE ROYALE. Some of the sequences are pretty effective such as the Finger Guillotine and Tumbtacks trick are used maniacally, but after a while, it was just one torture scene after the next done with a bit too much devilish glee for my tastes. The gratuitous scenes of branding, stabbing, and everything else, is not something that bothers me per se, as long as there’s point to it and it moves the story along. But here the torture seems to be all this film is about with some moralistic statement against bullying loosely threading it all together.
This little J-torture flick isn’t necessarily bad, just gratuitous and maybe guilty of not knowing when enough is enough. There’s some nice gore effects and some of the categories of the game itself are inspired. But clocking in at just shy of two hours, I think a tighter edit and less attention to showing every step of the twisted titular game might have made X GAME a little more enjoyable for me.
New next week on DVD, Video On Demand, & digital download!!
BIGFOOT COUNTY (2012)Directed by Stephon Stewart
Written by Stephon Stewart
Starring Stephon Stewart, Davee Youngblood, Shy Pilgreen, Sam Ayers, Don Scribner, and ??? as the Bigfoot!
Find out how to see this film on Tugg here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
One can’t watch BIGFOOT COUNTY, one of three higher profile Bigfoot films set to be coming out in the next year, without thinking of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. In many ways, it follows the same story structure with a trio of amateur filmmakers setting out to interview someone who had an encounter with Bigfoot and getting lost in a neverending forest inhabited by a mysterious beast. Some might discredit this film for basically being THE BLAIR SASQUATCH PROJECT.
But those detractors would be missing a damn fine film.
I’m not growing sick of found footage films. I am sick of watching bad ones. And this one most definitely is not a bad one. To start off, the acting in this film is pretty top tier as director/writer/cameraman/star Stephon Stewart plays himself, a driven and personable filmmaker who hears a 911 call about Bigfoot and is compelled to investigate it himself. Davee Youngblood plays Stephon’s brother David, who is a skeptic, but loves and supports his brother. Rounding out the trio is Shy Pilgreen, David’s plucky girlfriend who is equal parts endearing and annoying as she makes the trio late by sleeping in and packing her bags slowly. The three amateur filmmakers share enough time interacting with one another throughout the first 35 minutes of the film to allow for us to both get to know them and form a bond with them. In doing so, when they are put into peril, I found myself more invested once they get lost than I ever did with Josh, Heather and Mike in BLAIR WITCH.
Once the trio do get lost, things definitely get intense. The night scenes are pretty fantastically choreographed with some nice hand held camera work that catches snippets of action well without feeling staged or panned over too quickly. There are a few scenes in particular, as the campers hear noises in the woods followed by an encounter, that made me almost jump out of my seat.
The film takes a bizarre turn toward the end which I won’t reveal. It definitely amplifies the danger factor and ensures that Bigfoot isn’t the only danger in the woods, but it feels a bit heavy handed, especially since the camera recording the events is left behind for authorities to find.
That said, as far as Bigfoot films go, BIGFOOT COUNTRY is a sure indication that the quality of these films seems to be taking a turn for the better.
New on DVD/BluRay!
PARANORMAN (2012)Directed by Chris Butler & Sam Fell
Written by Chris Butler
Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Casey Affleck, Tucker Albrizzi, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Jodelle Ferland, Tempestt Bledsoe, John Goodman
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I can understand why PARANORMAN wasn’t a bigger hit than it was at the box office this summer. First off, with all of the superhero films dominating the box office, it’s hard for a film embracing all things spooky to get noticed. That said, I also understand why parents might have shied away from taking their kid to this film due to some pretty off color humor used throughout and its unencumbered way of embracing the horror genre. But that’s is the reason I liked this film so much.
I think there most likely are a lot of overprotective parents who would turn PARANORMAN off in the first couple of minutes seeing as it opens with an old timey black and white schlocker film about a zombie. Gallows humor permeates this entire film and though it is handled with kid gloves, the concept of death is something that parents are prone to shield their children from, most likely because they themselves have difficulty dealing with it. At the same time, horror fans are often somewhat filled with bravado, citing the lack of scares in a film, equaling that to its suckatude, and wanting the most extreme of horrors in order to incite a gag reflex or spine jolt. So the idea of watching a cartoon about a creepy kid may be something some hardcore horror fans would dismiss. Which leaves poor little PARANORMAN kind of out in the cold as far as who the target audience it is for,
PARANORMAN is about a kid like me and most likely a lot of the readers of this column. We grew up ghoulish, watching horror films long before you were legally allowed to, filling up our rooms with monster posters and reading FANGORIA and FAMOUS MONSTERS on our bellies on the living room floor while the rest of the family watches THE COSBY SHOW. No, none of us could see dead people as Norman does in PARANORMAN, but given the amount of horrifying shit we exposed ourselves to on a daily basis, it probably wouldn’t have been very shocking to us either.
Though extremely goofy, PARANORMAN has some black humor going on. People die. Dead bodies are danced with. Butts are sniffed. Bullies pick their noses. Zombies’ arms fall off. And witches curse whole towns. It’s a world that may be somewhat intense for younger kids, but as I kid, I would have eaten this shit up. If you’re one of those cool parents who wished there were less MADAGASCAR films and more NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS’s, then this is the film for you. The cool thing is there’s a nice little message about bullying that is pretty well done here, so the film isn’t completely without a moral core, but there are a few moments that I think would scare littler ghouls out there.
Similar to both THE SIXTH SENSE for it’s creepy dead people seeing kid and FRANKENWEENIE since it involves resurrection, PARANORMAN is a light and trite little film. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s just told on a smaller scale and doesn’t seem to want to reach to the epic proportions of most films. The computerized stop motion is fun to watch, though may be considered rudimentary to those used to Pixar seamlessness. And the humor is of the blackest kind. But if you think lines like, “Kill them in the head!” may be too intense for your tot. You might want to wait a couple of years. But I still think that PARANORMAN is going to strike a chord with those of us who grew up ghoulish and want to pass that on to one’s kids as well.
Advance Review: Touring festivals! Recently played at the Whistler Film Festival! Coming soon from Raven Banner!
THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH (2012)Directed by Rodrigo Gudino
Written by Marco Pecota
Starring Aaron Poole, Vanessa Redgrave, Julian Richings, Stephen Eric McIntyre, Charlotte Sullivan, Mitch Markowitz
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though the first half hour of THE LAST WILL & TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH may be a workout for those with an itchy fast forward finger, the slow build and bone-chilling payoff of the last forty minutes of this film make the wait very much worthwhile. I have to admit, I was losing interest when this unconventional film opened up with a lengthy narration from an elderly woman (Rosalind Leigh voiced by Vanessa Redgrave) talking about life, death, and everything in between and afterwards as the camera slowly pans and focuses on one still life shot of inanimate objects after another. But that is the beauty of this film. Like a subtle serpent slithering its way around one's neck, you don't know that you're in trouble until it's too late.
I don't think I can stress enough how slow this film is. I imagine this can be a true litmus test to see whether one has patience with a film and faith that it is going somewhere and one who needs a jump scare every three minutes like the producers think all audiences want and need. This film doesn't give a shit about any of that. It simply is a horrifying scene waiting to strike and once it does, it leave a huge mark.
Aaron Poole plays Leon and looks and sounds a lot like BREAKING BAD's Aaron Paul. He is returning to his childhood home after his mother died to find it turned into a museum of sorts. He finds that his mother, Rosalind, who was always a religious woman and not above using terribly abusive techniques to try to make Leon do the same, was also a part of a Cult that worships angels lead by a set of creepy twins played by gaunt actor Julian Richings. Throughout the film, this cult begins to make its presence known via a neighbor at the door who we never see, a creepy video tape which may have captured a miracle, and a creeping demon in the forest outside of the house.
Poole’s Leon is our eyes and ears here as he wanders through the creepy house. Much of this film is silent, with Poole the only person in frame. Being able to carry a film all by oneself is a tough thing to do, but Poole does it with ease, making all the right moves be they shuddering in terror, melancholically leafing through old memoirs of his mother, lovingly talking with his therapist girlfriend on the phone, or trying to understand the creepy things that are happening all around.
In most haunted house films, the obvious solution is to get the fuck out of the house. Here, that is not an option with a slinking demon cat creature outside and the house itself not really giving Leon a chance to decide he should leave in the abrupt and thunderous visual and aural assault that occurs in the final moments. Undeniably unnerving and relentlessly chilling, THE LAST WILL & TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH is one of my favorite films I've seen recently. It's one of those films that doesn't grab you in the beginning, but the skeleton rattling payoff in the last half hour makes the wait a worth while one.
This film is currently touring fests. If THE LAST WILL & TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH plays near you and you love slow build suspense, make sure to catch it. I'll make sure to let everyone know when it is available wide.
And finally…check out this little shortie from Chris Cullari. I loved this little twist on an age old tradition, plus the balls this one has to put kids in danger is impressive. Nice stuff. Enjoy…SLEEPOVER!
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.
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!