Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. You can’t spell glory without gory, and we know that all too well here at AICN HORROR. So sit back and enjoy the reviews of some new holiday horrors plus some oldies but goodies!
First here are the naughty winners of this week’s A CADAVER CHRISTMAS DVD Giveaway!
Congratulations! Only myself and of course, Santa know the awful things you all did this year…so look for A CADAVER CHRISTMAS (reviewed below) in your stocking along with that lump of coal, you naughty bastards!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-Review: DEATH VALLEY (1982)
Retro-Review: SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT (1984) / SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 (1987)
Advance Review: THE WEATHER OUTSIDE (2012)
Advance Review: KNIFEPOINT (2011)
BLOODY CHRISTMAS (2012)
A CADAVER CHRISTMAS (2012)
And finally…Astron-6’s SON OF SANTA/REVENGE OF SANTA/KRIS MISS!
Retro-Review: Newly rereleased by The Shout Factory!
DEATH VALLEY (1982)Directed by Dick Richards
Written by Richard Rothstein
Starring Peter Billingsley, Catherine Hicks, Stephen McHattie, Edward Herrmann, Paul Le Mat,A. Wilford Brimley
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though this film doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas, it does have a familiar Christmas face in its cast. Released a year before A CHRISTMAS STORY, Ralphie himself Peter Billingsley plays Billy, caught in a divorce between his pop (THE LOST BOYS’ lead vamp Edward Herrmann) and cheating mom (CHILD’S PLAY mom Catherine Hicks). Leaving his pop in the big city, Billy travels with his mom and her new “friend” (Paul Le Mat) to Death Valley (like the name of the movie!) only to catch a serial killer (PONTYPOOL’s Stephen McHattie) in the act.
With a cast like this you’d think this was a winner of a film, but boy would you be wrong. From start to finish my eyes didn’t know whether to roll back to unconsciousness from boredom or roll in the sockets from the sheer mediocrity and ineptitude of the script. What plays out is a typical serial killer yarn where folks do the exact opposite of what one should do if faced with a situation in real life. Instead of driving off and getting the hell out of there, people investigate in the dark. Tension is set up and twists are introduced only to be hastily taken care of later. Billy finds and steals a pendant from an abandoned trailer and instead of causing any drama, director Dick Richards (which sounds like a pseudonym to me) rushes toward resolution just so we can get more time of static camerawork of an old pioneer town and the dismal Death Valley setting. Just piss-poor tension building and problem resolution from start to finish, with an ending that does the impossible by being ridiculous and lackluster all at once.
if you’re looking for gore, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for tension and mystery, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a better movie, look anywhere than this turd sandwich.
The one redeeming factor of the film is the fact that Peter Billingsley finally gets to shoot a real gun here, though it works about as well in this film as it does when he fires at Black Bart in his backyard in A CHRISTMAS STORY. Other than a fun drinking movie to make A CHRISTMAS STORY references to while the plot drudges along, DEATH VALLEY made me want to shoot my own eyes out by the time the film was through.
Retro-Review: Newly rereleased on DVD!
SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT/SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 Double FeatureSILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT (1984)
Directed by Charles E. Sellier, Jr.
Written by Michael Hickey, Paul Ciami (story)
Starring Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Linnea Quigley, Britt Leach, and Leo Geter
SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 (1987)
Directed by Lee Harry
Written by Lee Harry, Joseph H. Earle, & Dennis Patterson
Starring Eric Freeman, James L. Newman, Elizabeth Cayton, Jean Miller
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though it raised quite a stink when it was released in 1984 from house fraus disgusted by the perversion of a beloved children’s fable, there’s no way SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT would have achieved cult status if the powers that be would have just let this film fade into obscurity. As is, it’s not a very good film in terms of scares or acting, but SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT does have some quality kills and the focus of Billy’s psychosis is surprisingly deeper than one would think.
The first fifteen minutes of this film are what most people talk about. In those first scenes, we see a typical American family going to see their grandpa in a nursing home. Thought to be catatonic in his chair, the grandpa mystically comes to life as soon as little Billy’s parents leave to room in time to warn Billy that Christmas is the scariest time of the year and that he’d better watch out for Santa because he punishes naughty boys. Scared shitless and scarred already by grandpa’s words of wisdom, little Billy and his infant brother Ricky become the sole survivors of a carjacking gone wrong when a robber dressed as Santa shoots his father and then attempts to rape and then kills his mother as he hides in the bushes on the side of the road and witnesses the whole demented scene.
Had SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT maintained that level of intensity; I’d understand why folks got so uppity about the film. Instead we are treated to a by-the-numbers killing spree as a grown up Billy is forced to wear a Santa suit at the toy store he works at and has a nervous break when he sees a man and woman wrestling in the backroom at a Christmas party, reminding him of his mom and Santy Claus all those years ago. Up to the toy store section of this film, things are still pretty interesting, though cliché as the Mother Superior at the orphanage Billy ends up in beats the message of good vs. naughty into Billy at every chance she can get, resulting in a pretty fucked up kid. Still, all of this set up doesn’t payoff as Billy becomes a robot shouting “PUNISH” or “NAUGHTY” whenever he sees pretty much anyone in his path, naughty or not, for the rest of the movie.
At least the kills are kind of goofy fun. The most memorable being Linnea Quigley’s death by deer antler scene and a headless sled ride taking a quick second place. But the shift in tone from the downright disturbing opening scenes to the goofy killing spree is pretty abrupt, making this almost two different movies at once—one you can take seriously depicting how a childhood trauma can seriously fuck up a person, the other becomes the most unscary serial rampage put to film. I kind of wish things would have stayed as disturbing, because SNDN was on the right track there for about half of the film.
But both this film and it’s special needs stepchild of a sequel (which we are about to get into) are filled with stupidly fun kills that make you forgive the tone which is all over the place and the acting which ranges from cardboard to cadaver. The filmmakers may have realized they were delving into some pretty dark material in the first half and tried to make up for it by filling the second half with goofy kills. Nevertheless, these kills are goofy as hell, sure to cause much eggnog nose-squirting if watched at a horror holiday party with the sound off in the background.
Proving that you really don’t have to have any semblance of plot, creativity, or imagination to make a sequel, three years after SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT was released, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 appeared, which was astonishing…mainly because it took three years to shat out this turd. Now, some of my favorite parts of the latter FRIDAY THE 13TH films were the little recap/montages at the beginning. It was a great way to catch the viewer up with the story while providing some cheap thrills that cost the film nothing to make since someone else made it before them. But in SNDN 2, the first 40 minutes of the film is a fucking recap!!!
I shit you not, the first forty minutes of this film take place in a cell as a psychologist examines Billy’s kid brother Ricky on his way to death row for going on a killing spree himself. But before we get to Ricky’s killing spree, Ricky must describe in gratuitous details there is no way he could know every kill and every boob shot from the first film (of course shown through WAYNE’S WORLD diddle-diddle-doo flashback), even though Ricky wasn’t there for most of it.
Not only is the lack of actual story in SNDN 2 laughably bad, but the actor playing Ricky (Eric Freeman) seems to have taken his acting lessons from Macho Man Randy Savage as his bulbous eyes and steroid laced rants make it hard to not think of spittle filled rants into Mean Gene’s microphone. The way Freeman grunts “PUNISH” is laughably awful and by the final scenes of the film his dialog has devolved to Cro-Magnon belches one hears either in the most annoying gym in the world or the bathroom at a health code limbo-ing burrito place. Still, as with the original, there are some so-bad-it’s-good scenes of carnage as Ricky pummels a movie theater heckler, hooks a dude’s face up to jumper cables, and shoots a guy taking out his trash screaming “GARBAGE DAY!!!” So bad it’s hilarious, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 tries to be both scary and shocking and fails marvelously at both
I’m going to try to cover a few of the other SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT sequels next year. I might have seen them as a kid, but they don’t necessarily stand out to me. If they’re anything like the sequel to the original, I don’t think I’m missing much by not recalling them. Still, if you’re looking for something ghoulish to play in the background at your Horror Holiday Party this year, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT and its sequel have your whole night covered…
…WITH BLOOD! MWO-HAHAHA!!!
Advance Review: Currently touring festivals and recently world premiered at The Eugene International Film Festival!
THE WEATHER OUTSIDE (2012)Directed by Jason Freeman
Written by Jason Freeman
Starring Michael Prosser, Erin McGarry, Barry Wild, Ted Rooney, Haley Talbot, Tim Whitcomb, and Todd Robinson.
Find out more about this film here and here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This little indie oddity is currently touring the festival circuit, and in the spirit of the holidays, I thought it might be worthwhile to shed some light on it here despite the fact that it’s more of a thriller/drama than straight up horror. Still, THE WEATHER OUTSIDE plays as a darker version of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE as a down and out alcoholic makes a drunken deal with what may or may not be the Devil, resulting in the world forgetting he was ever born.
Though there’s no little kid mousing “Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings”, the point here that everyone’s life is precious is pretty prominent. Michael Prosser is not your typical leading man with a receding hairline and a spare tire in the midsection, but he does a good job of carrying this film as Max. You believe he is a sad sack, and even though Max is a very flawed person, you can’t help but root for him in the end as he scratches and crawls his way to getting his life back. Erin McGarry plays the prettiest homeless woman I’ve ever seen who crosses paths with Max and seems to take a liking to him, though Max is distracted with longing for his wife who doesn’t remember him and kids who do not exist anymore.
The story is very patient in getting to the point, and at times I felt it needed a nip and tuck there to keep the pace moving. But the biggest problem is that writer/director Jason Freeman fills the film with too many likable characters and sets them up in a scenario where someone is going to get hurt no matter if Max gets his family back or not.
The film does come to a satisfying close, albeit not the most uplifting one, with more than one heart broken yet a few mended as well. THE WEATHER OUTSIDE can be best described as a noir-filled Faustian character piece, and it isn’t a bad one at that. Filled with unconventional characters and a morally complex storyline, THE WEATHER OUTSIDE may be outside of the norm for those who frequent this column regularly, but its black tone makes it not completely out of whack to be reviewed here. If you’re looking for something a little different from shocks and gore, this is a worthy candidate.
Advance Review: Currently touring festivals such as Fantasia International Film Festival and Chicago Horror Film Festival
KNIFEPOINT (2011)Directed by Jed Strahm
Written by Jed Strahm
Starring Krista Braun, Katherine Randolph, Kym Jackson, Andy Mackenzie, Grant Reynolds, Scott Elrod, R.A. Mihailoff
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
KNIFEPOINT is a diabolical indie nightmare on film about a home invasion gone twisted as a barbwire fence. The film is as dark as it comes, following a pair of women with issues of their own as they are tormented by a group of well-organized heathens on Christmas Eve as they make their way through an apartment complex killing and looting each apartment one by one. The film definitely grabs a person by the throat and doesn’t let go, providing absolutely evil villains to root against, but as far as soul, this film is sorely lacking.
The hook to most of these “people in peril” films is the fact that you are supposed to care about these guys. Very little time in this film is dedicated to getting to know our damsels in distress, a pair of sisters--Michele (Krista Braun) and Abby (Katherine Randolph). All we know is that there is resentment between the two sisters, one for being an invalid jealous of her sister’s working legs, the other of having to take care of her invalid sister. In some ways, I can appreciate the filmmakers’ confidence that this complex relationship is conveyed in such little screen time, but I feel more attention to what motivates these two girls would have made me wince even more at the torment that is about to befall them.
The film wastes no time diving into the action. In the opening minutes we see a team of surly individuals meticulously kill off everyone in the complex, leaving the sisters as their last victims. The action is quick and brutal, and I like the way the filmmakers hit the ground running and really never let up until the closing credits. The brutality of the actions is definitely hard to swallow with rape, murder, and dismemberment not above this swarthy crew of miscreants. Lead by Jess (Grant Reynolds) and his equally twisted sister Lorraine (Kym Jackson), this crew is not to be trifled with--especially when former Leatherface R.A. Mihailoff is among them. Though Jess is organized, as with most evildoers, order is not really this team’s forte and the diabolical actions, especially the ones of the out of her mind Lorraine, end up screwing up this perfectly planned out home invasion.
The acting performances are pretty great. Jess (Grant Reynolds) looks a little too much like Christian Bale here and seems to know it, but is able to convey a sense of danger to his prey and frustration towards his cronies. Kym Jackson shines here as the truly bugnuts sister who is not above swiping the penis blade from SE7EN to rape her victims and seems to get off on having her face smeared with blood. The rest of the crew is equally despicable and play the part well, with Andy Mackenzie’s Rizzo having the most disgusting line of the film; a response to being spit on by one of the sisters is “Tastes like you have a sinus infection.” *Gag-Barf!*
Though later in the column I’ll mention Walter Hill, I can’t help but sense a Walter Hill vibe—DESPERATE HOURS meets Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINT 13 comes to mind. There’s definitely a grindhouse sense of morality going on in this film. The grindhouse feel permeates this entire film from the stylized and inspired opening sequence to the final credits. I just wish I was given a chance to develop an investment in the victims, but as KNIFEPOINT plays out, it’s abundantly clear that the filmmakers’ fascination lay with the action and the villains.
New on DVD!
BLOODY CHRISTMAS (2012)Directed by Michael Shershenovich
Written by Michael Shershenovich
Starring John William Young, Robert Youngren, Geretta Geretta, Vincent Notice, Bob Arensen, Nova Lox, Mary Arden, Lloyd Kaufman, Bob Socci
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Well, not all of the presents under the tree can be winners.
This low budget holiday horror film has the problem most low budgeters suffer from--mainly that despite what may be a compelling story, the acting is just not that good. It doesn’t matter if it’s Shakespeare writing the script, if it sounds like the cast is reading from the phone book, it’s going to have problems.
And the thing is, it shouldn’t be that way because at its core, this is a decent story from Michael Shershenovich about a down and out TV show Santa who would rather fantasize of going on a mass shooting spree than spend another Christmas alone and pretend to be a jolly old soul, and a demented priest who will teach people about the true meaning of Christmas if he has to kill it into you to do it. The story culminates in bringing these two twisted souls together and does so decently in terms of pacing and plot development.
It’s just too bad we get bad sound and even worse line delivery throughout. Not to say these guys are bad actors; most of them just don’t seem like actors and the ones that do don’t seem to be directed to emote very much.
The shooting spree fantasy sequence is decently done (though with recent world events, it may be hitting a little too close to home this holiday season) and the final battle between depressed Santa and crazy priest guy is fun, but all of the stuff in between was kind of painful to sit through.
New on DVD!
A CADAVER CHRISTMAS (2011)Directed by Joseph Zerull
Written by Joseph Zerull, Hanlon Smith-Dorsey, Daniel Rairden-Hale
Starring Daniel Rairden-Hale, Hanlon Smith-Dorsey, Yosh Hayashi, Ben Hopkins, Andrew Harvey, Jesseca Denney, Edward O’Ryan, Michael Kennedy
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Merry muther fuggin’ X-Mas, folks! This festive Christmas tale surprised me a lot in its straight up, pitch black tone and surprisingly good comic delivery. I’d place this film along the same lines of recent retro-themed grind house films as THE DISCO EXORCIST and FATHER’S DAY. It definitely uses the grindhouse filter with scratches on the film and hairs on the lens more effectively than the off and on usage of the effect when convenient in Tarantino/Rodriguez’s GRINDHOUSE. Even though my sweaty brow worked hard to remind me we were in the dog days of summer, A CADAVER CHRISTMAS did a great job of bringing in that Christmas cheer, albeit in a truly wicked style.
Everything seems hunky dory as a bartender and a regular are tipping back the shots and beers on Christmas Eve until the janitor, played by writer/actor Daniel Rairden-Hale, shows up covered in blood and asking for a stiff drink. As he downs the alcohol, he tells the two bar patrons about his night, which consists of witnessing the beginnings of a zombie holocaust at a local school science lab. The action brings a police officer and his perp to the bar, and soon the five unlikely zombie killing warriors must use their skills, though somewhat limited as they are, to fend off scores and scores of zombies.
Kind of acting as the reverse Bizzarro version of SHAUN OF THE DEAD which climaxed in a bar, this zom-com opens in one, but quickly distinguishes itself from SHAUN by moving the action mainly into a school.
What separates A CADAVER CHRISTMAS from the herd of zombie films on the shelves out there is that it is genuinely funny and not only incorporates many Christmas themes that have been relatively untouched in horror (sitting alone at a bar a Christmas time, for one), but the film also very effectively uses some age old Christmas songs such as O HOLY NIGHT in an absolutely genius manner which many with a propensity to thump bibles would most likely find offensive, but had me rolling nevertheless.
With some great comic performances by the cast and a fantastic usage of gore, music, and action, A CADAVER CHRISTMAS is a must for all of you who enjoy the ghoulish side of the holidays.
New on DVD!
OSOMBIE (2012)Directed by John Lyde
Written by Kurt Hale
Starring Corey Sevier, Eve Mauro, Jasen Wade, Danielle Chuchran, William Rubio, Paul D. Hunt, James Gaisford, Mike Black, Walter A. Carmona as Osombie!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
If you liked ZERO DARK THIRTY then you’ll love…
OK, you won’t love this film. I have to be honest.
Just in time to be released at the same time a vastly superior movie will be in theaters is OSOMBIE, which deals with similar material as a crew of covert ops types make their way behind enemy lines to take out an uber-terrorist. Except this time…Osama is a zombie!
Yes, this is another zombie movie, and yes, it is not a great film. But I found some stuff to like nevertheless in OSOMBIE. Those going in with expectations on high will most likely find them ground into the sand. But with horror, I tend to take the opposite route. That way I am often surprised by what transpires on the screen. Here a likable group of heroes make their way through the desert battling hordes of undead Taliban and American zombies alike, all the while trying to hunt down the grand prize of all zombie kills, Osama Bin Laden.
It’s easy to dismiss this film as just another zombie movie, but it isn’t that bad. The zombie effects are pretty top tier (though the annoying computer blood spatter is ever-present throughout). I even laughed a couple of times at the zombie carnage that ensues and some of the decently cool scenes of soldier versus zombie action such as a silhouetted action scene in a cave between a female soldier with a sword and a group of the undead that plays out surprisingly well.
The main problem is that too many times, the acting isn’t that good and some of the forced Tarantino-lite dialog is painfully obvious. Sure, sidebar conversations while killing zombies are fun, but when they happen one after another, I was finding myself yearning for some different schtick. Some cardboard deliveries, lots of unnecessary de-shirtery from the hunkly stars that make the volley ball scene in TOP GUN feel poignant and some downright painful jokes (from a character called Joker…hurm…) made my fast forward finger twitch incessantly to skip to the next zombie attack.
But I’ve seen worse zombie films, for sure. Think of this as G.I. JOE VS ZOMBIES and you might actually have a good time with it. Of course, the Osombie has all of one minute of screentime at the beginning and the end, but that might be the point of the whole film if one were to apply deeper meaning to this film that most likely would be over the head of all involved in its making. Maybe the point is that whether or not Bin Laden is dead, undead, or alive as some conspiracists think, the important thing is that the conflict goes on. But that’s me reading tea leaves in a shallow puddle, I fear. As is, look for some brainless zombie action and you’ll find it in OSOMBIE.
And finally…if you missed yesterday’s premiere of Astron-6’s BREAKING SANTA click here to see it in all of it’s insane glory! But if that’s not enough Astron-6 insanity for you, check out this trio of shorts that are just the right kind of wrong just for the holidays! Enjoy…
SON OF SANTA
REVENGE OF SANTA
And KRIS MISS!
Happy Holidays, 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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