Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Got a lot of stuff to cover this week, but as always, before we do that…there’s this!
Is that a fire-breathing dragon flyin’ around up there? Holy shit, NO! It’s a frikkin’ fire-breathing giant wasp! RUN!
DRAGON WASPS will be available on VOD on March 7, 2013 and on DVD on April 9, 2013 through XLrator Media. Here’s the official synopsis; A scientist enlists the help of the US Army to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father in the jungles of Belize. Caught in the crossfire between a brutal guerrilla army controlled by a mystical warlord, they are confronted by an even bigger terror… giant mutated wasps thirsty for blood. This sounds goofy as shit and I can’t wait to check it out!
Check out the trailer below with Parker Lewis himself Corin Nemic!
I’ve also got exclusive pics from the new film DITCH directed by Joe Hendrick and starring Bill Oberst Jr. (ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS ZOMBIES, RESOLUTION), the lovely Pandi Suicide from the Suicide Girls, Katy Foley, and Zach Silverman, with a special appearance by horror cult icon Lynn Lowry (CAT PEOPLE, THE CRAZIES). Here’s the official synopsis; Jenny Bilson, a high school senior, is the perfect student, a wonderful daughter to a veteran police detective and an all American Dream. But the one mistake she made, which she doesn't even know that she made is about to haunt her in a very violent way. Throwing a high school 'ditch party' will end up being one HELL of a mistake as the her past returns to exact revenge on Jenny and anyone else who might get in the way. Check out these creepy and gory pics on the right! And find out more about this film on its website here!
Now, on with the reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
IT FOLLOWS Novel (2012)
Retro-Review: THE PETER WALKER COLLECTION: THE COMEBACK (1978)
Retro-Review: THE ISLAND
Short Cuts Review: THE COLLECTIVE Vol.1
THE LIFE ZONE (2011)
DOOMSDAY BOOK (2012)
Advance Review: THE FROZEN (2012)
THE HAMILTONS (2006) / Advance Review: THE THOMPSONS (2012)
And finally…Joel Morgan’s DEATH SCENES!
IT FOLLOWS NovelWritten by Joe Bannerman
Find more info on this book here!
Reviewed by Dr. Loomis
Instead of a collection of polished short fiction, IT FOLLOWS reads more like the writer's early drafts — pages of half-formed, almost-there ideas that unfortunately never coalesce into finished pieces.
In the note that precedes the stories, author Joe Bannerman writes that he set out to create "airplane literature," a group of stories characterized mainly by cool imagery that sticks with readers after they've finished the book. I think this is a fundamental flaw that brings down a lot of writers, particularly writers of horror fiction. In my opinion, for horror fiction to be effective, you have to care about the people trapped in these nightmarish situations. I don't care how awesome you are at describing decapitations or other violent acts — if I don't give a damn about the person whose blood is being spilled, I'm not going to be moved or impressed. Good, solid characterization is what makes writers like Stephen King resonate; if King was only about the gross-out or the outrageous idea, it's doubtful he'd continue to as influential as he is today.
Bannerman sets up some fun premises in his stories, like the unexpected, unexplained attacks by a wave of brutal creatures in "Full Tank," or the mysterious little girl and her innocent sacrifice in "Poseidon Rising." His creativity is obvious, but the execution still needs a good bit of work. Characters are often colorless and bland, and Bannerman sometimes struggles in providing readers with enough context for the story to really gain traction. It's fine to drop us into the middle of a chaotic situation — some of my favorite stories use that technique — but there still needs to be some reason for us to care about the world he's destroying, or the people inhabiting it. That's where IT FOLLOWS falls short time and time again.
The collection's bright spot is a comedic zombie tale called "Does it Ever Get This Cold in Paris?" The story is a kind of prequel to the zombie apocalypse, dealing with two corpses biding their time in their coffins, waiting for the call to rise. One of them is the kind of annoying chatterbox that many people find themselves stuck next to in the office or on an airplane, and his neighbor suffers through an unending stream of questions and comments while trapped down below. Unfortunately the story doesn't completely pay off; everything that happens after the two are released from the underground feels rushed, as if Bannerman got them to that point and didn't really know where to go from there.
Bannerman's love and appreciation of the genre is clear, and I admire the attempts to shake things up by mixing elements of comedy, science fiction, heist movies and superheroes with his horror. Hopefully in the future he'll concentrate a little more on taking the cool ideas and imagery he generates and putting them on a more solid foundation of story and character.
“Dr. Loomis” is Blu Gilliand, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the fright-filled pages of DARK SCRIBE, DARK DISCOVERIES, SHROUD MAGAZINE and Horror World, among others. He also runs his own blog, October Country, devoted to horror and crime fiction. Feel free to stalk him on Twitter (@BluGilliand) at your own risk.
Retro-review: Rereleased this week from Kino Lorber/Redemption!
THE PETER WALKER COLLECTIONaka ENCORE, HALLUCINATIONS, THE DAY THE SCREAMING STOPPED
THE COMEBACK (1978)
Directed by Peter Walker
Written by Murray Smith & Michael Sloan
Starring Jack Jones, Pamela Stephenson, David Doyle, Bill Owen, Sheila Keith, Holly Palance, Peter Turner, Richard Johnson, Patrick Brock, June Chadwick
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
I must admit, before checking out this collection, my only experience with director Peter Walker was with his excellent schlocker FRIGHTMARE. I’d known he’d made more films, but just hadn’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, DIE SCREAMING MARINNE, and HOUSE OF THE WHIPCORD. Now, for the last of the collection, THE COMEBACK.
I really enjoyed this throwback thriller from the late seventies. THE COMEBACK follows a musician who left the spotlight when his wife didn’t want to share him with the world and his fans. Now that the wife is now an ex, Nick Cooper (Jack Jones) is free to get back in front of the microphone, much to the joy of his manager Webster (David Doyle, best known as Bosley from TV’s CHARLIE’S ANGELS) and his adoring fans. But it looks like there might be one fan taking things a bit too far as Nick is being haunted by ghostly noises and folks start dying gruesome deaths.
Though things get kind of muddled towards the end, this is a pretty tense little whodunit with a whole cast of shady individuals who may be the culprit behind the murders. Is it the effeminate assistant? The cross-dressing manager? The shady old couple who are just a little too helpful? The blonde worming her way into Nick’s life? The mystery thickens as Nick is at first oblivious to the murders, but soon made to think these horrific visions are all in his own mind.
Walker does a great job of snatching bits and pieces from other films in this film such as PSYCHO and a few Argento type murders in the Giallo style are committed. This is also a pretty gruesome film for its time as bodies are left out to rot over a period of time. Though the body count is not high here, Walker spices things up by continuing to cut back to the rapidly decomposing corpses in Nick’s summer home, threatening to be discovered and amping up the tension. There is also a great PSYCHO-esque moment toward the beginning when Nick’s ex is attacked by a person in an old lady costume that is pretty bone-chilling.
Filled with goofy moments that may have felt modern at the time, but are extremely dated now, THE COMEBACK is fun from start to finish. Though the repeated shots of a rotted corpse are unsettling, I think seeing Bosley in full hootchie mama makeup and listening to Jack Jones bellow out a Tom Jones-esque ballad is equally nerve-shredding. Jones looks a lot like a young Robert Redford here and though his acting skills don’t match his looks, he does a decent job of carrying the film.
In the end, the killer in THE COMEBACK is quite obvious, but the ride to the revelation is a whole lot of fun and a great way to end this look at Redemption’s Peter Walker Collection which by my count is 3 for 4 with DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE the only stinker of the bunch.
Retro-review: Rereleased this week from The Shout Factory!
THE ISLAND (1980)Directed by Michael Ritchie
Written by Peter Benchley
Starring Michael Caine, David Warner, Angela Punch McGregor, Frank Middlemass, Don Henderson, Dudley Sutton, Colin Jeavons, Zakes Mokae, Brad Sullivan
Retro-rviewed by Ambush Bug
Though it’s a poster I’d seen a million times and marveled at its iconic imagery, I had never seen THE ISLAND until this week. Turns out it is a fantastic survival movie with an even more impressive cast in Michael Caine and David Warner. The film serves as a sort of modern day TREASURE ISLAND as a man and his son happen upon an island inhabited with modern day pirates and forced to survive against horrify odds.
What I love about this film is that it not only serves as a man vs nature film with Michael Caine is a fish out of water battling raging waves, tropical storms, rugged terrain, and thick forests, it also is a depthy look at the complex relationship between father and son. Caine plays a part time father whose attempts at bonding with his son are often thinly veiled attempts to get good stories for the newspaper that Caine works for. Caine is at it again as he tries to track down the cause for a series of missing persons cases off the Florida coast while telling his son that he is taking him to Disney World. But the trip to the land of the Mouse is never taken as Caine and his son are kidnapped by pirates, forcing Caine to impregnate a wife of a pirate he killed as penance and influencing his son to betray his father and live a childhood dream of becoming a pirate.
There’s definitely a twisted PETER PAN vibe here as Caine’s son is tempted to the dark side of the pirate life, turning on his father, who in his eyes is not much of a man. The point of the story is somewhat archaic as Caine is forced to man-up in his son’s eyes and fight back against the pirates who has abducted and twisted his son. But Caine does a good job of acting as a ticking time bomb. Early on, he reveals he did his time in war, but those days were behind him. For the most part, he holds a quiet reserve, biding his time for the right moment to save his son.
I loved the pirates in this film. Inbred and toothless, looking more like something you’d see in the backwoods of West Virginia than on a tropical island, these guys are definitely crusty customers. Their actions are brutal and savage as reflected in the multiple scenes of attackery on ships that get too close to the island. One pirate even lights his own helmeted head on fire during a particular raid which seems brainless, but surely proves a point that these guys stick by the motto of “No fucks given.” The high seas adventuring is top tier here with gory battles on the decks of ships resulting in much swabbing of the red stuff needed. There’s even a hilarious scene with a guy who looks like Eric Estrada in a blue speedo kung fu battles some of the pirates on the ship, which was most definitely reflective of the time as I believe Bruce Lee was at the height of his popularity when this film was made. Though the kung fu is laughable, I believe this guy was supposed to be seen as both a badass and something laughable all at once. Mission accomplished on the latter.
There are goofy elements to THE ISLAND. Trapped on a muddy island, Caine still manages to keep his trousers white. Some of the toothless inbreds are downright laughable. And of course the kung fu scene. But for the most part, there’s a dark tone at play in this film brought home by a score by Ennio Morricone. From David Warner’s devilish tempting for Caine’s son to go to the dark piratey side to gory battles where guts are spilled from axe wounds, I found this to be a pitch black, but fun film from start to finish.
Available on DVD!
THE COLLECTIVE Vol.1Directed by Thomas Berdinski, Chris Jay, Eric Schneider, Robbin Pannet, James Mannan, Shannon Feaster, Cameron J. Scott, Jason Hoover, David Bonnell, Dakota Meyer, David Ponton, Jason Hoover
Written by Thomas Berdinski , J. Travis Grundon, Kristie Duncan, Eric Schneider, Robbin Pannet, James Mannan, Shannon Feaster, Cameron J. Scott, Jason Hoover, Amy Carmical, Bill Hardesty, Mitchell Thomas, David Bonnell, Dakota Meyer, David Ponton, Jason Hoover
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
At this year’s DAYS OF THE DEAD Con in Shaumberg, IL I happened upon a booth for THE COLLECTIVE, a project that I am really excited to highlight here. The folks from JABB Pictures have been making short films for a while, and in that time, they seem to have been influencing and getting to know other short filmmakers. One of the my complaints about short horror is that there isn’t any place you can see these films other than doing random searches on YouTube. Well, JABB Productions seems to have felt the same way and have made it simple to see a bunch of cool shorts in one place. I got my grubby mitts on all five volumes of THE COLLECTIVE, an ambitious project where ten filmmakers are given one particular theme to work with and then turned loose to make whatever 10 minute film they wanted. The results are pretty impressive and though this first volume is a bit rough around the edges, but it still packs a lot of creative indie spirit and some pretty effective scenes of fright and gore.
Here’s a quick rundown of the first volume which bears the theme of THE MEAT EATER!
The first short has a giant guy in a cheap fly suit fighting a giant Sasquatch with a little future kid and a serial killer teaming up to save the rest of the world. Directed and written by Thomas Berdinski who did THE ITALIAN ZOMBIE MOVIE PARTS 1 & 2 this is low fi gore and humor at its most fun. I loved the rudimentary effects as two giants battle above a city while a serial killer and a kid battle evil on the ground level. Just plain goofy fun.
Next is a comedic found footager called “The Monster of Green Cove” written by J. Travis Grundon & Kristie Duncan and directed by Chris Jay that turns black as night by the end with a twisted little shockeroo ending and some nice funny beats leading up to it.
“Whistling Past the Graveyard” about a serial killer named the Meat Eater, and examines the superstition of superstitious people. Written and directed by Eric Schneider this one is a little rough, but has some nice twists towards the end and a few fun lines to make things watchable.
The Meat Eater is the subject of a barroom tale between regulars about an unsatisfied housewife goes to a psychic to help rekindle some fire in her marriage. Though the sound and acting is a bit amateur, Robbin Pannet & James Mannan’s story has a wicked edge to it.
“Snow Angel” Written & directed by Shannon Feaster is close to my favorite of the bunch as it starts out Cohen-esque with a long scene of a car driving down a road from the driver’s POV. The rest of the film is an exercise in creep and patience as a person walking a mile towards the camera with a very atmospheric ending and some cool music accompanying it. Really well done little film.
Up next is a somber and religiously themed monologue set to images of a cloaked woman walking through a graveyard which ends with a Lovecraftian nightmare by Cameron J. Scott. A bit arty, but there’s a nice mood to this one and some cool low budget effects in the final moments.
Written by Jason Hoover, Amy Carmical, Bill Hardesty, & Mitchell Thomas and directed by Jason Hoover, their version of “The Meat Eater” is a good one as one man copes with being the sole survivor with a gigantic zombie roaming just outside his barricaded home. This is a tense thrill ride that proves zombies can still be scary. Low budget, but well done. Probably my favorite of the bunch and right up there with “Snow Angel”.
David Bonnell wrote and directed an angry little tale about a dumped dude, a devilish DJ, a philandering floozy, and a girl with a gun. Though it’s somewhat predictable and the acting is on the lower level, this is a pretty brutal little morality tale.
“Corn-Fed” by Dakota Meyer and David Ponton follows a big man with a big appetite for little girls. I was more disturbed by the banal and comfortable nature of the cannibal as the camera follows him through his routine than anything else, though the fingernail scene is a good one.
Jason Hoover’s “A Mark of Wholesome Meat” is a somewhat preachy, yet effective little film focusing on the mistreatment of animals in the meat manufacturing business. It’s definitely not for the weak of stomach as it splices a 50’s documentary about meat production with scenes of animal mistreatment.
For those of you who want to support that indie spirit out there, THE COLLECTIVE seems to be the place to go. I’m going to be diving into each of the five volumes over the next few weeks and the quality and creativity in these collections seem to grow with each volume. Highlighting some damn fine horrors from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and beyond, THE COLLECTIVE proves that indie horror is alive and well in the innards portion of America!
New this week from Midnight Releasing
NIGHT CLAWS (2012)Directed by David A. Prior
Written by David A. Prior & Fabio Soldani
Starring Frank Stallone, Leilani Sarelle, Sherrie Rose, Reb Brown, Ted Prior, Garrett Hines, Tara Kleinpeter, Tracy Miller, Alissa Koenig, Edward Saint Pe', Ryan Patrick Williams, Kara Riann Brown, David Campbell, Chelsea Rowland
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Always one to give any old Sasquatch film a chance, I often come up disappointed at most of the Bigfoot films out there. For some reason, short of campy fun like SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED and THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK and genuine awesome gems like THE WILDMAN OF THE NAVIDAD, there’s not a lot of quality Bigfoot films out there to check out, I’ve found. Sure lately there seems to be a resurgence of found footage Bigfoot films and those have turned out to be somewhat decent, but just when you thought there’s a chance for a good Bigfoot film to come along, someone makes a film like NIGHT CLAWS and we’re back to Saturday afternoon ScyFy fare once again.
I wish I could say that NIGHT CLAWS had something new to offer, but if you’ve seen one or two Bigfoot films, you’re going to find pretty much the same stuff in this film. A group of survivalists go out in the woods, run afoul of a group of gun toting mercs, and then Frank Stallone shows up for a brief cameo. Oh yeah, there’s also a Bigfoot running around slashing people with his long werewolf like claws. In fact, if the cast didn’t call this monster Bigfoot, I’d swear it was a werewolf film as the creature looks more wolfen than Sasquatchonian.
Most of the acting is pretty dull. There’s some forced drama between couples and a conspiracy that leads pretty much nowhere. Most of the Bigfoot attacks are shrouded in darkness so all you can see is the hint of movement and hear growls and screams. All in all, it’s kind of like most of the “real” Bigfoot films as the beast seems hard to capture on film here.
The Bigfoot suit is rather rudimentary and doesn’t seem to fit into the environment around him, which is sort of contradictory since the creature is supposed to be hard to see. Again, here, Bigfoot looks more like a werewolf than anything else. Toss in an ending straight out of HARRY & THE HENDERSONS and you’ve got a no frills, no thrills Bigfoot dud. On the plus side, there are some pretty decent gory effects and of course, Frank Stallone, but for the most part, you’re not missing anything if you skip this one.
New on DVD this week from Screen Media Films!
THE LIFE ZONE (2011)Directed by Rob Webber
Written by Ken Del Vecchio
Starring Robert Loggia, Lindsey Haun, Angela Little, Tara Buck, Nina Transfeld, Blanche Baker, Martin Cove, Charles Durning
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
FOR THE SAKE OF DISCUSSION, I’M GOING TO SPOIL PARTS OF THIS FILM. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
If I had to choose between starting a conversation about abortion and getting all of my teeth pulled without anesthetic, I’d have to think about it for a bit. Not that I sympathize or disagree with Pro-Lifers, it’s just that I feel I lack the important anatomy to really have my say in the matter. That said, I am not the type of person to dismiss a film just because it has a mindset that is contradictory to my own. I try to judge the film for its merits and whether or not I agree with the stance, if it’s a good film, I’ll say so.
Problem is, THE LIFE ZONE tries so hard to drive home its message of Pro-Life that it forgets to step off the soapbox for a minute and just tell an engaging story. The logic of the film is also off in that it casts the Pro-Lifers as kidnapping, psychologically torturing, demonic monsters.
The film begins as three women wake up in hospital style beds. Soon we find out that all three were set to have an abortion. They went to sleep and woke up in this locked facility where they are greeted by a cold-faced nurse and the directive that they are to stay in the facility until they come to term and have their babies despite their intention to get rid of the fetuses. During their stay they will be made comfortable and forced to watch infomercials and interviews focusing on the debate between Pro-Lifers and Pro-Choicers. At first, the women are shocked to be in the facility, but as the time passes, a few of them are swayed to keep their babies while another refuses to have anything to do with it.
The set up of this film is somewhat intriguing, but the problem is that the people arguing for Pro-Life are made out to be so damn controlling, cold and scary that it doesn’t put the argument they are trying to communicate into a good light. Not only that, but SPOILER the guy behind this whole abduction turns out to be the Devil himself (played by a grumbling Robert Loggia). I’m not sure what former New Jersey judge/State Senate runner/writer of this film Ken Del Vecchio is trying to say here, but he fails to understand that despite how rock-solid an argument you think you have, when you resort to kidnapping three women and forcing them to give birth against their will…that kind of makes the other guys the bad guys here. If the Devil is the one backing Pro-Life…well, then, maybe you’re backing the wrong team. But not in the misguided eyes of this film. Here, the women are the ones to be punished, manipulated, and reprogrammed simply because they chose to have an abortion.
From frame one it’s hard to even try to get into THE LIFE ZONE since the actresses vomit up both sides of the abortion argument as if they are reading directly from a pamphlet. The infomercial speak continues for most of the film with only grumbly Loggia, the brief cameos by Charles Durning and Cobra Kai instructor Martin Cove conveying any sort of acting talent. And don’t get me started as Ken Del Vecchio makes a cameo where, I shit you not, he discusses ad nauseum how to fight the abortion issue in court with another lawyer while sitting on a couch eating a plate full of deviled eggs!
Hey wait a goose-goosing minute! Aren’t those aborted chicken fetuses you’re smacking your lips on, Kenny?
If Del Vecchio and director Rob Webber would have turned out a decently directed and written movie, it wouldn’t have mattered if they were arguing the finer points of scrotum torture, I would have given a decent review to this film despite my close relationship with my ballsack. But instead of trying to make an entertaining movie, I think the makers of this film were more interested in spewing out one uninterrupted Pro-Life argument after another and squelch any Pro-Choice responses. In that they were successful in making a film where everyone talks as if they were reciting bullet points, too bad they forgot to make it entertaining, scary, or even morally sensible.
New this week on DVD!
DOOMSDAY BOOK (2012)Directed by Kim Jee-Woon & Yim Pil-Sung
Written by Kim Jee-Woon & Yim Pil-Sung
Starring Doona Bae, Joon-ho Bong, Ji-hee Jin, Kang-woo Kim, Jun-hee Ko, Hae-il Park, Seung-beom Ryu, Song Sae-Byok
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
One of the cooler sci-fi films to come from this year’s Fantastic Fest 2012 was DOOMSDAY BOOK. Kim Jee-Woon, director of the jaw-droppingly good I SAW THE DEVIL and Yim Pil-Sung director of HANSEL & GRETEL (which I haven’t seen) team up offer up a trio of stories focusing on the end of the world with DOOMSDAY BOOK. Though each installment has its strengths, as with most anthologies, some are more effective than others and the order with which the installments are laid out make this a very uneven, yet ultimately spellbinding filmic experience highlighting that there’s a whole lot of talent coming out of Korea these days.
The film starts off with a zombie/infection/plague/end of the world story. Though zombies are passé these days, writer/director Yim Pil-Sung makes this story appealing by focusing on small scale thrills and chills instead of trying to tell a massive, world spanning tale. The story focuses on a nebbish young lad who is getting ready for a blind date, but before he does that, his mother (who he lives with) orders him to clean up the house. Through a series of events that begins with throwing out the trash and ends with him eating an infected liver at dinner, he inadvertently causes a zombie apocalypse. Some interesting montage scenes spice things up as do extreme close ups of the infection sporing, reproducing, and infecting others. Though the ending (this is a movie about the end of the world, of course) is somewhat predictable, Yim managed to make the first part of the anthology thrilling and fun.
Installment two was my favorite of the three directed by Kim Jee-Woon. After seeing I SAW THE DEVIL last year, I knew the director was a name to watch, but after this installment—focusing on a robot living in a monastery that has come to accept the Buddhist faith and may be the next coming of Buddha himself, I’ll watch anything Kim Jee-Woon puts to film. The story is less of a horror story and more of a philosophical science fiction asking the question, “Can a machine become self aware and enlightened?” When a robot repair man is assigned to investigate the oddly behaving robot, he comes to a crisis of faith. The result is one of the most powerfully original and effective short stories I’ve ever seen. The robot, which looks as if it fell off the set of I, ROBOT, packs ten times the punch in its 30 minute runtime than the Will Smith vehicle did in two hours. Though I knew Kim was a master storyteller, here he proves he can offer up breathtaking imagery as well. Simply fantastic.
The film ends unevenly with a collaboration between Kim and Yim called “Happy Birthday” where a young girl copes with the impending end of the world via approaching meteor. This one is somewhat hokey and overly saccharinated. Too cutesy for my tastes and at times, it’s just downright weird and hard to make sense of. Apparently, there was to be a third director offering up the last chapter of this film, but when that one failed to be completed, Kim and Yim collaborated for the last story. After the showstopper middle act that is hard to beat, the third act proves to be trite in comparison.
Overall, the quality of all the stories in DOOMSDAY BOOK is high. Even the last segment is well filmed, acted, and executed. Though it peaked in the middle, overall this film by Kim and Yim is something that shouldn’t be missed.
Advance Reveiw: Available on DVD December 18th!
THE FROZEN (2012)Directed by Andrew Hyatt
Written by Andrew Hyatt
Starring Brit Morgan, Noah Segan, & Seth David Mitchell
Find out more info about this film here!Reviewed by superhero
I’ve never really understood camping. It’s never really been my favorite type of vacation activity. I’ve gone camping to be sure, I’ve thought it was fine…but I’m pretty much a city boy at heart. As much as I love the outdoors I still don’t find the prospect of crapping in the woods and sleeping in a tent to be all that desirable. I can pretty much say that after having seen THE FROZEN my desire to head out for a weekend of “roughing it” has pretty much decreased by a factor of ten.
THE FROZEN tells the story of a young couple who’ve decided to trek out into the great wild tundra in the middle of the winter for a weekend of getting away from it all. One half of the couple, the female half, isn’t exactly comfortable with the idea of spending a couple of days out in the middle of nowhere in the freezing cold but the male half has decided that it’d be good for them to spend some time together alone to take in everything that nature has to offer. Of course, as things often do in movies like these, something goes awry and due to some quite boneheaded moves on the boyfriend’s part said could find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the snow capped wilderness.
Yes, I know, we’ve all been here before and many of us horror fans have seen this sort of scenario played out in many, many other movies and I can say that THE FROZEN does take this scenario and give it a unique spin. We all know this sort of thing has been done before but THE FROZEN spins an interesting scenario that possibly hasn’t really been explored in the whole “lost in the wilderness” horror sub-genre. Yes, the idea is somewhat (but not wholly) original but unfortunately the film itself isn’t entirely successful in pulling off what it wants to pull off.
But I’ll get to that in a bit.
For right now I want to focus on the positive aspects of THE FROZEN. The main one being actress Brit Morgan. I have to say that it’s been a loooong time since I’ve seen a low budget horror movie actor deliver a performance as compelling as Morgan’s is in THE FROZEN. I gotta tell you…this woman can deliver the goods. From the opening scene I was very impressed with how incredibly natural Morgan was in front of the camera. Morgan really does what so few actors are capable of doing, especially in indie low-budget horror…she lets herself be. Morgan is in every scene in THE FROZEN and not once did I ever feel that she was phoning a performance in. She inhabited her character and went with whatever the script could throw at her. THE FROZEN is a movie that with the wrong actress in play could have very easily been a real train wreck. But with Brit Morgan in the lead this movie is elevated a bit from the somewhat below average thriller that it ends up being. Let me tell you now that Morgan effortlessly and powerfully goes through the whole gamut of emotions that a movie like this offers up and not once did I feel that she was out of her element. I really feel that someday with the right vehicle Morgan could be the kind of actress that could be up for a major award someday. I was that impressed with her. Make no mistake Morgan is the reason to watch this movie and she pretty much hefts this movie up on shoulders and holds it up high with her acting ability alone. As strong as Morgan’s performance is, however, it really can’t support the rest of the film as its flaws cause the movie to crumble around her.
The problem is that when you have one actor in a duo who is such a natural their ability tends to outshine anyone else whose skills may not be in their league. I don’t want to say too much to disparage male lead Seth David Mitchell. He’s OK in his role but there are just too many moments in the movie where he comes across with a sort of stiff almost David Duchovny type of delivery. As natural as Morgan seems to be in front of the camera, Mitchell just seems to be the opposite. His delivery is as equally dispassionate as Morgan’s is passionate. In my opinion Mitchell never really clicked in his role. If you have a movie that depends upon just two characters being the focus of the film then the two actors better be able to play well together. Unfortunately, Brit and Morgan don’t. She outplays him in almost every scene they have with each other. They really have no discernable chemistry together and I didn’t really buy them as a couple for one second. The lack of chemistry isn’t Mitchell’s fault but I do really feel the movie would have played better with another actor in the lead role.
But Mitchell isn’t to blame for THE FROZEN’s ultimate faults. I really do feel that THE FROZEN could have been a solid thriller but writer/director Andrew Hyatt is unable to really build up any tension during the course of the movie. Hyatt’s script depends too much on the one fact that being trapped out in the wilderness in the freezing cold would be a horrible thing. The tension during most of the body of the film never really builds up anywhere from there. Yes, there is a danger beyond the wilderness that is waiting for the two protagonists but it never really presents itself in any real concrete way until the end of the film. Much of the film is spent waiting for something to happen and when it does the incident isn’t presented as real in the context of the film. Yes, there are some small scares in THE FROZEN but they are of the quick, smash cut accompanied by booming sound variety. These moments are too far and few between in the film and once they happen once or twice it becomes a pattern that you find yourself waiting for which ends up diminishing any real tension that comes later in the film. So what we’re left with is a movie that uses the talent of its actress as a crutch and leaves the audience fidgety with impatience while waiting for events to materialize and unable to deliver on the promise of previous scares.
I don’t want to leave anyone with the feeling that Hyatt is a horrible writer/director. He’s not. There is a fair amount of competence behind the camera but it never fully blossoms into the film it wants to be. He certainly knows how to get the best out of his lead actress and his cinematographer (The film is beautifully shot by Maximilian Gutierrez) so Hyatt does have some strength as a director. In my opinion there’s room for growth for Hyatt beyond THE FROZEN. It’s just too bad that THE FROZEN really played less as a horror movie to me than as a showcase for Brit Morgan’s impressive acting abilities.
Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist, Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. Some of his work can be seen at www.kristianhorn.com and check out his blog at www.parttimefanboy.com. You can check also out his webcomics at www.babybadass.com and thediplomatics.com, which is currently in development.
THE HAMILTONS (2006)Directed by The Butcher Brothers
Written by Mitchell Altieri & Phil Flores
Starring Cory Knauf, Samuel Child, Joseph McKelheer, Mackenzie Firgens, Ryan Hartwig, Rebekah Hoyle, Brittany Daniel, Al Liner, Jena Hunt, Nicholas Fanella
Find out more about this film here!
THE THOMPSONS (2012)Advance Review: Available on Video on Demand now and in-stores on DVD & Blu-ray on January 1, 2013!
Directed by The Butcher Brothers
Written by Mitchell Altieri & Cory Knauf
Starring Cory Knauf, Samuel Child, Joseph McKelheer, Mackenzie Firgens, Ryan Hartwig, Elizabeth Henstridge, Sean Browne, Tom Holloway, Daniel O'Meara, Selina Giles
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Comparisons to the TWILIGHT Franchise I think are fair especially since the advertising itself does so, but The Butcher Brothers tale of vampires who travel around the country, changing their names, and trying to fit in is somewhat of a ballsier version of the popular tween series. But in using that association, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to win any fanfare from the more hardcore of horror fans.
THE HAMILTONS was released as part of the After Dark Horrorfest in 2009 and was easily the best of the bunch. The story introduced us to a family who looked wholesome and functional at the start, but soon the cracks began to show revealing that not only are there serious problems going on with this group, but they are also bloodsuckers.
The film is slow to reveal the vampirism at first, choosing to hint at something “off” with this parentless family being taken care of by their twenty-something oldest son David (played by Kip Purdue lookalike Samuel Child) who struggles with maintaining some semblance of order in this PARTY OF FIVE WITH TEETH while coping with his closeted homosexuality. The incestual twins, Wendell (Joseph McKelheer) and Darlene (Mackenzie Firgens) like to play with their food and themselves which usually is the reason why the family has to move around so much. Nicholas Finella plays Lenny, who spends much of the time in a cage in the basement, too untamed to be let loose. And then there’s the film’s narrator, Francis (played by Cory Knauf) who questions life, love, and the pursuit of blood. The strength of the first film lies in these interesting and slowly developed characters. Each react to being parentless differently, some with an overwhelming sense of responsibility, some with recklessness, and Francis with questions that may never be answered.
Once the fangs come out, the film kicks into gear as one kill spirals into another and soon people come knocking on the door looking for answers. Though not gratuitously gory, the film does have a dingy coating to it, especially since the Butcher Brothers aren’t afraid to shed quite a lot of blood. The basement of the house where most of the horrific events occur is especially TEXAS CHAINSAW-esque.
But what makes this film stand out is the fact that these vamps are more grounded in reality, reacting realistically to real life concerns and though Francis melodramatically fights with the hungry beast within him, it never reaches to TWILIGHT levels of pussy-footery and ends up being a pretty soulful and well made film with a tendency to spurt blood from time to time.
When I heard that there was going to be a sequel to the Butcher Brothers cult hit, my ears perked. I was especially interested in that not only the directors were returning, but also the entire cast of the first film. This is something that rarely occurs in this day and age, so it felt as if it were something somewhat special. Could lightning strike twice for this fangy family and the Butcher Brothers (who also did the impressive and out-there bikers/possession/alien invaders flick THE VIOLENT KIND)?
Well, I wish I could say yes. The story picks up where the last one leaves us as the family is now going by the name of the Thompsons and has relocated to Europe in hopes to avoid capture after a vampire attack caught on tape. One of the more annoying aspects of both films is that most of the rules and regulations that goes along with being a vamp don’t apply here. The superstitious stuff is tossed out the window. Vampires can be killed like anyone else and daylight doesn’t really hurt them all that much. Aside from a thirst for blood and a tendency to live a longer life, it appears there’s not much difference between these vampires and the rest of the world. As much as these traits separates itself from other fang flicks, it also makes me wonder why call it a vampire film at all if none of the rules apply. But they do, so I guess I have to deal with it…though I don’t like it so much.
What has carried over from the first film is the angst from Francis. Though he’s grown a bit and seems to have accepted his vampire nature, he does still question life’s bigger questions and wonders if there is a point to all of this sucking and running his family seems to be cursed with. Unlike the first film which gave each of the characters a strong conflict and ample screen time, the focus is mostly on Francis (which is interesting since the actor who plays Francis also co-wrote the film).
Problem is, Francis is the least interesting of this brood and I found myself wanting to catch up with the rest of the family. The twins are only in a few key scenes at the beginning and the end, and David’s struggles keeping the family together and inner conflict about his sexuality isn’t even addressed.
Instead, we are introduced to another family, the Ludlows, who live a somewhat comfortable lifestyle as the top species of the vamp food chain in Europe. Riley, the youngest daughter, has an affinity for Francis and this is the relationship that takes center stage here. I know focusing on a young couple in love despite insurmountable odds is attractive to producers who “think” they know what audiences want, but the problem is that those films are a dime a dozen and the theme is delved into quite prominently and shittily in the TWILIGHT franchise. Here, the family aspect which made THE HAMILTONS such a stand out, is addressed by Francis only sporadically, and is delegated to the back of the bus in favor of the story of two star crossed lovers.
While the Ludlows seem to be mirror images of the Hamiltons/Thomspons had their parents actually survived to raise them, this theme isn’t really delved into in a script which seemed to really lose steam towards the end of this film. The painful monologue which proved to be quite soulful in the original, meandered and mumbled to a stop by the closing credits, trying to bring it back to the point of the family, but by then it was too late. The film had strayed too far from the strong familial core of the original.
THE THOMPSONS is not a bad movie. The gore is pretty decent with some of the earlier scenes of fang-bearing by the Ludlow twins, as well as the attack on a pop star by the Thompson twins (hah! Look, an 80’s reference!) proving to be inspired. I liked that the AGGRESSION SCALE’s little Rambo kid, Ryan Hartwig, appears as the littlest Thompson in this one. But somewhere along the way THE THOMPSONS lost the familial attention that made the first film so special. If you’re looking for some fast thrills, there are a few of them in THE THOMPSONS, but THE HAMILTONS definitely has more meat on its bones.
And finally…those who have been following this space know that Bloody Cuts has been putting out some amazing short films. We’ve highlighted SUCKABLOOD and DEAD MAN’S LAKE here before. Now it’s time for their newest shortie, DEATH SCENES, written and directed by Joel Morgan. This is another fantastic and twisted gem, cutting right to the good stuff and ending with a memorable and wickedly clever beat. This is just another example of why Bloody Cuts is a filmmaking force to be reckoned with.
Enjoy DEATH SCENES!
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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