Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. But before we dive into this week’s reviews, there’s this!
A while back I showed MADAME BOLDUC from director Frederic Lefebvre in our “And finally…” section at the bottom of every AICN HORROR column. Well, Mr. Lefebvre is at it again with a new short film called HOME SWEET HOME, a 10 minute movie that mixes the horror of Alzheimer's Disease with the aesthetic of monster movies. It’s said to be a classic genre movie with practical creature effects. Lefebvre has set up an IndieGoGo page to gather some funding for the project and if you’re a fan of indie horror, shell some shekels this way and support the film. They have less than 60 days to raise $3,000, which is totally attainable with your help. Best of luck and can’t wait to see HOME SWEET HOME!
The home invasion/found footage film HATE CRIME gets a gaggle of new posters this week. Check them out on the right and left. I reviewed the film a while back and it definitely is an effective and wicked look at a heinous act. Here’s the film’s official synopsis: A Jewish family, just arrived in a new neighborhood, are recording their youngest son's birthday celebrations on video when their home is suddenly invaded by a bunch of crystal-meth-crazed neo-Nazi lunatics… Still no word when this one is going to be released wide, but find out more about HATE CRIME here.
Finally, friend of AICN HORROR, William Wilson has another one of his amazing stories of films that didn’t quite make it to the big screen. This one is an epic, years-in-the-making journey as I tracked down information on an intriguing early 80s unmade monster flick called THE MINING CAMP ENCOUNTER. Sadly, the writer-producer passed away nearly 10 years ago, but his widow had a wealth of information on the project (which is what ultimately brought them together). This is a great story about indie filmmaking with some wild twists and turns (including a crazy, wealthy Arab sheik). Read part one of this fascinating Never Got Made Files: THE MINING CAMP ENCOUNTER here! And thanks, William, for the cool article!
On with the scary!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: WHITE ZOMBIE (1932)
Retro-review: PIRANHA (1978)
NIGHT OF THE TENTACLES (2012)
CHERNOBYL DIARIES (2012)
CHERRY TREE LANE (2010)
EDDIE THE SLEEPWALKING CANNIBAL (2012)
And finally…ZOOCHOSIS: CASE 1 – ALIENS!
Retro-review: New this week on DVD/BluRay from Kino Lorber!
WHITE ZOMBIE (1932)Directed by Victor Halperin
Written by Garnett Weston from a novel by William Seabrook
Starring Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, Joseph Cawthorn, Robert Frazer, John Harron
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Believe it or not, I’d never seen WHITE ZOMBIE before this week. Being an avid zombie fan and watching just about everything I can get my hands on if it has zombies in it, one would think I’d have seen it by now. Thank the dark ones that Kino Lorber released this amazing remastering of Victor Halperin’s classic tale of a zombie wrangler, a couple in love, and a jealous letch who would do anything to break them apart.
Center stage is the paralyzing glare of Bela Lugosi as Murder Legendre, a master of the dark arts who commands an army of Haitian zombies who spends a whole hell of a lot of time staring directly into the camera, unblinking and creepy as all get out. The ghostly Madge Bellamy plays the fair maiden Madeleine, who is to wed Neil, played by the dashing John Harron, but Robert Frazer’s Charles Beaumont is also in love with her, so he approaches Murder for a solution. Knowing the secrets of creating zombies and controlling them, Murder of course has his methods to bring Charles’ dark desires to life, but of course there’s a price to pay for dealing with the devilish zombie king.
The story itself is pretty simple, but effective nevertheless. A tale of unrequited love and what one would do to attain it is age old, but done extremely well here, mainly because of the colorful performances from Lugosi and Frazer, who by far have the meatiest roles of the film. Bellamy is enchanting, but somewhat zombie-like even before she has been turned, and Harron is simply your typical every-hero. But the two baddies of the film are the ones that make it all worthwhile.
Director Victor Halperin makes the whole thing look absolutely amazing. From the gothic castles to the haunted moors, this film is everything a horror film should long to be. Long black shadows stretch across the frame and all sorts of gothic architecture such as stairwells, high arched ceilings and windows, and beautiful furniture make it all feel as if there are dire deeds going on even without the presence of the actors.
Long shots of the jagged countryside, gloomy pathways, foreboding crypts, and dark forests, all set to the chorus of croaking frogs, makes this the perfect setting for horror as well. Just an amazingly atmospheric film, this one is.
With Romero basically reinventing the zombie as we know it today with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, it’s interesting the Haitian zombie hasn’t caught on as well. If you’re sick of the typical zombie yarn, WHITE ZOMBIE is definitely something of a completely different flavor. The zombies themselves are rigid and creepy, but there’s no focus on eating brains and blowing the walking corpses’ brains out. Here the zombies are simply mindless drones who follow each other like lemmings off a cliff if fooled right.
WHITE ZOMBIE is a zombie of a different flavor than the zombie flicks that I’m used to, and I’m liking this kind of variety a lot.
Retro-review: New on BluRay in the UK from Second Sight Films!
PIRANHA (1978)Directed by Joe Dante
Written by John Sayles, Richard Robinson
Starring Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Barbara Steele, Dick Miller, Belinda Belaski, Paul Bartel
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
One of my favorite aspects of this weekly column thinger I do every week is the chance to revisit some of my old film favorites when they are rereleased or available for the first time on BluRay. This week, PIRANHA is being rereleased on Blu from Second Sight for the folks overseas, and having sat through Joe Dante’s JAWS riff, I have to say it was a hell of a good time.
Now, little fish with spikey teeth are not as cute as Gremlins or terrifying as the wolves from THE HOLWING (reviewed here), but still this film manages to capture both the fun that was prevalent in GREMLINS and a few of the scares from Dante’s werewolf opus. When a spunky reporter infiltrates a secret government marine biology facility, she accidentally lets loose a swarm of piranha, genetically enhanced and super-famished. As the piranha make their way through the river system towards a summer camp run by the legendary Paul Bartel and a cheesy resort owned by the uber-legendary Dick Miller, the reporter and her drunken Brawny Man make their way via log raft, police car, and jeep across woods and water to spread the word of the little critters. Of course, this wouldn’t be a horror movie if the two heroes made it there on time and got everyone out of the water.
What makes PIRANHA so much fun is how dated and just plain wrong this film is. There’s no reason a research facility containing smart super-piranha would be located in the backwoods of middle America. The hero is a drunk who sips liquor from a canteen for the entire movie, and I was especially rocked at how the daughter of the hero brings him his canteen full of liquor to revive him after surviving a piranha attack. And let’s not forget the ever-so-insightful way to kill all of the piranha in the end is to pollute the entire river system, which not only kills all of the piranha, but most likely everything else in the ecosystem. Still, despite these lame-brained decisions, written by none other than John Sayles, the film entertains in every minute.
Sure, this is a JAWS knockoff. For the most part, it follows every beat of the film from the skinny-dipping opener to the park refusing to close despite knowledge of a threat in the water. But Joe Dante spices things up with some fantastic effects shots of the fish attacking and some cool shots of the aftereffects of the chomping monsters meeting with human flesh.
As with GREMLINS, THE HOWLING, and pretty much all Dante’s films, there are also nice peekings of the director’s talents when they were just beginning to blossom in this film, injecting the goofy script with all sorts of gags (most of them actually work), gratuitous nudity, and of course snippets of old cartoons interspersed throughout.
Along with Miller and Bartel, you also get appearances by the late great Kevin McCarthy and the sensuous Barbara Steele in key roles. There’s a lot of campy, gory fun to be had with PIRANHA, which even though it was a rip off, was still a damn fine flick.
New on DVD from MVD Visual
NIGHT OF THE TENTACLES (2012)Directed by Dustin Mills
Written by Dustin Mills
Starring Brandon Salkil, Nicole Gerity, Jackie McKown, Eugene Flynn, Dustin Mills
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
From the cracked brainpan that brought you PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE (reviewed here) and ZOMBIE A-HOLE (reviewed here) comes a new twisted tale of perversity and horror. NIGHT OF THE TENTACLES may be low budget, but within its screentime it packs a boatload of fun, gore, funny gore, and gory fun.
Dave (Brandon Salkil) is a pretty miserable loser. He lives alone with his dog, he puts his graphic design skills to use by drawing tentacle rape anime as a profession, and his only form of pleasure is listening to his pregnant downstairs neighbor masturbate every time she gets home from work. After suffering from a heart attack while pleasuring himself, Dave feels as if his life is truly going to end as shittily as the rest of his life has been up to this point.
Yes, NIGHT OF THE TENTACLES is a Faustian yarn about how Dave gets a second chance at life and is given a new heart by the horned one. The only hitch is that Dave must feed his new heart, which lives in a box on his coffee table, two humans a week in order to keep it pumping. The heart itself is actually a vampire-like tentacle creature which drains the blood from its victims via barbed appendages. So as if Dave’s life didn’t suck before he almost died, now he’s got a heart that sucks worse.
I had a genuine good time with NIGHT OF THE TENTACLES as it pulled no punches in the depths it will take the viewer when it comes to humor centering on sex and gore. The film doesn’t balk when it comes to portraying Dave as pathetic and continues to keep it real by telling a pretty bawdy tale. But beneath all the sex and blood, writer-director Dustin Mills (who also plays the voice of the blood sucking tentacle heart) injects just enough personality and charm to make me root for Dave to win. No pun intended, there’s a lot of heart in this story and it takes a lot of skill to make one care about a loser who masturbates while listening to his downstairs neighbor on a daily basis.
NIGHT OF THE TENTACLES is a definite low budgeter, so don’t go expecting big production values here. But the lead Brandon Salkil does a decent job of carrying the film, despite the fact that he knows he looks slightly like Jesse Eisenberg and tries to ape him for most of the film. The gore is top notch, if not primitive, and there are a ton of laughs, tender and bloody, to be had. I also admire the balls the filmmaker had to end it on the dour note and the final moments made me like this film all the more.
Available on DVD!
CHERNOBYL DIARIES (2012)Directed by Bradley Parker
Written by Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke
Starring Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Dimitri Diatchenko, Olivia Dudley, Devin Kelley, Jesse McCartney, Nathan Phillips, Jonathan Sadowski
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
When THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES hit last year, I remember there being quite a hatred for it. Having seen the DESTINATION TRUTH episode where Josh Gates and his crew went to the city of Pripyat and had some truly horrifying experiences there and knowing that the setting was pretty damn haunting alone, I looked forward to seeing the film in theaters, but it came and went so quickly, I missed it and just recently had a chance to catch up to it on DVD.
The film follows a sextet of tourists who are taken on an “extreme tourism” tour into Pripyat, a city which was given no time to evacuate from the catastrophe at Chernobyl and to this day is highly radioactive. Sounds like a great place to explore, right?
Yes, this team of not so bright young actors make their way through the city encountering radioactive dogs, bears, and cannibal mutants galore once their guide is killed, their van breaks down, and night falls. Not really recognizing that the radiation will most likely have disastrous effects on them, the crew try to make their way out of the city, but find themselves trapped at every turn.
One of the problems with CHERNOBYL DIARIES is that I think it was marketed as a found footage film, but it most assuredly is not. There are a few instances where some recorded footage is used, but for the most part, this is a straight up, cinematically cut film. Still, the camera work is handheld and jiggly often, making this a sort of found footage film with cuts, eliciting the same kind of discomfort the first person POV shot film is known for without having to stick to all of the rules that bog the subgenre down. Because of this, I can understand why folks were underwhelmed at the sheer amount of time the camera pans away or moves uncontrollably simply in reaction to something without truly showing exactly what it is. Snippets of horror are fine. Quick cuts are fine. But if you’re constantly straining to see what it is you’re supposed to be so pants-shittingly scared of, well…something’s wrong.
As is, I was surprised that I was somewhat invested in this story, mainly because of the admittedly spooky atmosphere of the abandoned city and my own hopes for something scary to happen. When the radiation kicks in, there are some nice little bits and pieces of horror that come off as pretty effective, but by that time, it was too late and the story was almost over. CHERNOBYL DIARIES seemed to be an attempt to move beyond the found footage genre, mutating into something like it, but not. In the end, though there are moments of decent scares, I’ll stick to rewatching that creepy-ass episode of DESTINATION TRUTH.
New this week on DVD!
CHERRY TREE LANE (2010)Directed by Paul Andrew Williams
Written by Paul Andrew Williams
Starring Rachel Blake, Tom Butcher, Jumayn Hunter, Ashley Chin, Sonny Muslim
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
A while back, home invasion films were all the rage, seemingly giving found footage and zombie flicks a run for their money at top monster in horror films these days. Can’t wait for that found footage zombie home invasion film. Now, that’s something that would impress me. CHERRY TREE LANE was made in 2010, right at the height of all of the found footage hoopla, and it’s just making its way to DVD.
The film starts banally enough with a couple having a civil argument over dinner. Both are definitely unhappy, and though it is subtle, there are barbs to the words they shoot back and forth to one another over wine and food. A knock at the door brings the violence to the forefront as a trio of thugs show up, first snatching the couple’s credit cards, then waiting for their son to come home for reasons at first unspecified. The entire length of the film is one long scene of horror, as the trio completely ransack and upturn the couple’s house and invade their most intimate secrets as well as their personal belongings.
Writer-director Paul Andrew Williams keeps the camera tight, only showing snippets of violence and relying mainly on close-ups on the bound couple as they hear the horrors going on. Williams deals with sound in a horrifying manner in this film as we, the viewer, reside in the heads of the captive, worried and fearful of what’s going on just around that familiar corner of one’s home. When the invaders’ intentions are revealed, it’s all the more harrowing as it is more petty and shows how monstrous these pre-adults really are.
The ending of the film is going to cause shock, ire, and discussion more than anything else. The break-in and the assault we’ve seen before in other home invasion films, but the intriguing question raised in the end is one that will most likely cause folks who like things wrapped in a bow to shout out foul, but those who don’t need the answers will find it the perfect launching point for a discussion starting with the four words “What would you do…?”
CHERRY TREE LANE is a pretty effective little horror flick, filmed modestly, but capably and performed well by the sympathetic bound couple and the truly wicked people binding them.
Available on DVD here!
EDDIE THE SLEEPWALKING CANNIBAL (2012)Directed by Boris Rodriguez
Written by Boris Rodriguez, Jonathan Rannells, Alex Epstein
Starring Thure Lindhardt, Georgina Reilly, Dylan Smith, Alain Goulem, Paul Braunstein, Stephen McHattie, Peter Michael Dillon, Alexis Maitland
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
It’s been said that there is nothing more frightening to an artist than a blank canvas. That moment when every possibility one can imagine or, worse yet, no ideas are there for the artist to choose from. It is in this moment that the creative soul is challenged and sometimes threatened. It’s no doubt that inspiration or lack thereof has been the basis of many a horror film.
Much like Roger Corman’s A BUCKET OF BLOOD (reviewed here), starring Dick Miller as a would-be sculptor who gains fame from murdering people and making them into modern art sculptures, EDDIE THE SLEEPWALKING CANNIBAL does the same for modern painters. Lars (Thure Lindhardt) is a famous modern painter who has seen better days. Lacking inspiration, he takes a job at a Canadian university as an art teacher and in turn volunteers to look after the local mute Eddie, who has a tendency to go sleepwalking and may stop for a midnight snack along the way. After finding a few bunnies and the neighbor’s dog partially devoured, Lars runs afoul of a neighbor. Sensing his new friend’s frustration, Eddie starts eating those who get on Lars’ nerves. In turn, after finding the bodies, Lars finds himself overcome by inspiration causing him to paint the best paintings in his career. But this feeling is fleeting and Lars finds himself finding new folks for Eddie to eat as inspiration. Thus plays out the playful and poetic tale of murder, art, and ever-elusive inspiration.
Director Boris Rodriguez keeps things simple and pretty straightforward, focusing mainly on Lars and Eddie’s complex relationship and how far Lars will go to make his art. Exemplifying the tortured artist well is Thure Lindhardt, who compliments the silent Eddie (Dylan Smith) well. The pairing is fun to watch, with the circumstances playing out with tongue in cheek, but still there is a dire feeling to the whole thing. Rodriguez juggles the tone well, amping up the horror while playing his characters as straight as can be.
Scanning across the gorgeous Canadian wilderness and topped with a melodically pleasing classical score, EDDIE THE SLEEPWALKING CANNIBAL may have a goofy name, but the story takes its gore and art seriously while commenting on how dog eat dog, or maybe that’s Eddie eat dog, the world of art truly is.
And finally…here’s something you don’t see every day. A little horror focusing on brides, babies, and aliens. Surreal? Bizzare? Obtusely metaphorical? Sure. But I kind of liked the bizarre bridal rampage. Shot creatively and with a whole lot of tongue-in-cheekiness here’s ZOOCHOSIS: CASE 1 – ALIENS from Machinima!
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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