Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. But before we get into that…there’s always this!
SANITARIUM is a new anthology starring Malcolm MacDowell directed by Bryan Ortiz, Bryan Ramirez, and Kerry Valderrama, featuring three stories focusing on three patients in a mental institution. It also stars Robert Englund, John Glover, Lou Diamond Phillips, Lacey Chabert, Chris Mulkey, and David Mazouz. Miami, FL ghouls will be able to check this out early on Friday, March 1st at 11:30pm – O Cinema – (90 NW 29th Street, Miami, FL 33127) and Saturday, March 2nd at 7:00pm – O Cinema – (90 NW 29th Street, Miami, FL 33127). Find out more information on this showing here. Check out the trailer below and hopefully, we’ll be covering this one closer to the wide release of the film!
Part 2 of William Wilson’s coverage of Never Got Made Files: THE MINING CAMP ENCOUNTER can be found by following this link. William interviews FX master Bart Mixon about his work on the film. He's known for his work on big budget stuff nowadays (like working with Rick Baker on the MEN IN BLACK series), but back in the early 1980s he was a Texas-based FX guy just trying to get his foot in the door. THE MINING CAMP ENCOUNTER was one of them. His FX breakdown and more sketches are included.
Want more from the Never Got Made Files? Sure you do! William Wilson’s got another offering, a three part series of interviews with C. Courtney Joyner, but only part one is really horror relevant. He discusses some great scripts he worked on here including a Rondo Hatton biopic, a pre-THE OFFSPRING Jeff Burr vampires-in-LA script and a killer worm script for Charles Band that got the greenlight right as the company collapsed. of Of course, you’re itching for more, so click here for just that!
On with the spooky!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
TERRORVISION (1986)/THE VIDEO DEAD (1987)
THE NEST (1988)
LAKE NOIR (2012)
LAKE PLACID 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER (2012)
BATH SALT ZOMBIES (2013)
SUSHI GIRL (2012)
And finally…Marc Roussel’s REMOTE!
Retro-review: New this week on DVD/BluRay from The Shout Factory (find TERRORVISION and THE VIDEO DEAD on Netflix)!
TERRORVISION (1986)/THE VIDEO DEAD (1987) Double FeatureTERRORVISION (1986)
Directed by Ted Nicolaou
Written by Ted Nicolaou
Starring Diane Franklin, Mary Woronov, Gerrit Graham, Chad Allen, Jon Gries, Bert Remsen, Alejandro Rey, Randi Brooks, Jennifer Richards,
THE VIDEO DEAD (1987)
Directed by Robert Scott
Written by Robert Scott
Starring Rocky Duvall, Michael St. Michaels, Roxanna Augesen, Sam David McClelland, Victoria Bastel
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
I guess the common theme with this double feature put out by the Shout Factory is deadly televisions, but watching both TERRORVISION and THE VIDEO DEAD the two films couldn’t be more different. TERRORVISION is pure camp played for mostly laughs while THE VIDEO DEAD is low budget filmmaking at its finest where the filmmakers just throw a bunch of shit they thought was cool together and filmed it. The other common thing, I guess, is that I loved both of them.
The typical eighties swinger family lead by genre mainstays Gerrit (PHANTOM OF PARADISE) Graham and Mary (ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL) Woronov decide it’s high time to get one of those newfangled satellite disks for cable. The kids Chad (OUR HOUSE) Allen and my grade school crush Diane (BETTER OFF DEAD) Franklin are thrilled to get all the new cool channels, though Franklin would rather be out banging her head with rocker boyfriend O.D. (John MONSTER SQUAD/FRIGHT NIGHT II Gries). Throw in foxy Randi Brooks as a sultry swinger and Jennifer Richards as an Elvira-esque horror movie host for some nice T&A and you’ve got yourself a pretty amazing cast more than willing to incite a few laughs.
Like a kid hopped up on Yoo Hoo and Snickers, this film frantically flits from one predicament to another as that new satellite seems to be the gateway for an interdimensional being to enter our world. Grandpa’s right! TV will eat your soul…and your face. Though the message is less than subtle, it does make an interesting comment about how television shifted from a piece of furniture to an essential part of our lives.
Hammy effects and even hammier acting permeate every minute of this weird little film that doesn’t really bother to make sense as long as it entertains the eyes and titillates the nethers. TERRORVISION will most likely do both.
Taking a much more heavy-handed approach is THE VIDEO DEAD. Even though they take the film dead seriously, it is equally funny in how bad it turned out. The film centers around a television which is accidentally delivered to a man’s house. When it turns on in the middle of the night (even when it is unplugged!!!!!), zombies pour out of it and soon the television ends up being in the possession of the house’s next owners: two hip teens who love to rock, aerobicize, and par-tay!
If you’re in the mood for low budget attempts at scares, this is the film you’ll want to pop into the old BluRay player. Filled with pretty decent practical effects, such as a zombie with an iron wedged into his head and another zombie who is cut in half, THE VIDEO DEAD is, at the very least, admirable for its effects shots.
On top of that, there are some amazingly fun sequences that are supposed to terrify, but end up being gut-burstingly hilarious such as a zombie bride chasing a kid through the woods with a chainsaw and a zombie encounter with a sweater-wearing poodle. The fact that the filmmakers were attempting to scare us is what makes this genuinely funny, but I have to admit, every scene as the chainsaw is passed from the kid to a zombie to the zombie bride is gold.
It’s an offense to acting to call it that with this film, as most of the players are non-actors. Lines are delivered like a two hour old and cold pizza and the pacing of the dialog is off due to shoddy editing. It’s doubtful that anyone involved with this film really did much before or after.
But still, THE VIDEO DEAD is a throwback to a time when it didn’t matter if a movie sucked or not, it still had some thrilling albeit hilarious moments. This is not one to take seriously, but watch it at a party with the sound off or with a group of friends to MS3K the hell out of it, and THE VIDEO DEAD can be a lot of fun to experience.
Retro-review: New this week on DVD/BluRay from The Shout Factory (find it on Netflix here)!
THE NEST (1988)Directed by Terence H. Winkless
Written by Eli Cantor (novel), Robert King
Starring Robert Lansing, Lisa Langlois, Franc Luz, Terri Treas, Stephen Davies, Diana Bellamy, Jack Collins, Nancy Morgan
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though there are definitely better films focusing on the ickyness of roaches and all of their legs and their skittery sound when they move across the floor and their feelers flippin’ all around and UGH!!!
I mean, really, all you have to do is show the little critters moving and crawling to get a serious ick factor from an audience. And THE NEST does that from frame one as a small island has a big roach problem. Of course, it’s fueled by some government experiments. And of course, the roaches have grown smart and deadly. It wouldn’t be a horror movie if that didn’t happen.
With horrible acting and even more bland directing, the thing THE NEST has going for it is the copious amount of bugs creeping around and an especially gory last half hour which will leave you scratching your head asking what kind of drugs the FX guys were on.
Heads explode and melt, faces are eaten off, bugs explode out of everywhere, and there’s a totem pole type creature made of goo and skulls that has to be seen to be believed. None of it looks real, but damn if it isn’t a hell of a lot of fun.
No Oscars were given and none were strived for with this film, but if you’re looking for ooky bug sequences and unbelievable gore sequences, THE NEST is definitely a bug you want to catch.
Retro-review: New this week on DVD/BluRay from The Shout Factory!
PRISON (1988)Directed by Renny Harlin
Written by Irwin Yablans (story), C. Courtney Joyner, Renny Harlin
Starring Lane Smith, Viggo Mortensen, Chelsea Field, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Tom Everett, Ivan Kane, André De Shields, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, Stephen E. Little, Hal Landon Jr., Kane Hodder
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
For most, PRISON is going to be one of those films that will make one wonder why they’ve never seen it before. With so much talent in front of and behind the camera, one would think this film would have seen the light of day on BluRay before now. Thank the Dark Ones for the awesome folks at The Shout Factory, who seem to be unearthing these amazing gems on a weekly basis these days.
PRISON is the first American film director Renny Harlin ever did, and a lot of the attention to thrilling and creative camerawork is present as we explore the haunted prison this film is set in. Bathed in all sorts of moody colors and positioned in all kinds of angles taking full advantage of the gothic architecture, Harlin makes this film as if it were a film noir classic. The crosshatched blacks and whites created by the prison bars really create a sense on containment in this film, and before even one character speaks, you already feel like you’re trapped inside with them.
On the acting front, this film again lucked out by having Viggo Mortensen in his first starring role as a new inmate at the prison. His LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3 co-star Tom Everett joins him as Rabbit, a fidgety inmate who talks of escape before even setting foot in the prison. Other inmates include real life convict/stuntman Stephen E. Little and the always amazing Tiny “Zeus” Lister. All involved seem to be giving their all with fully developed characters, and not a real prison cliché among them. Well, maybe Hal Landon Jr.’s mean prison guard is a little cliché, but Lane Smith’s gruff and fiery warden makes up for it as the main bad guy.
The film is also an FX masterpiece as numerous practical makeups were used to show some creative kills. One man is burned alive as the hole becomes an oven while another is pierced by prison bars coming through the walls, all under the talented eye of FX guru John Carl Beuchler, one of the true legends of practical FX.
The Shout Factory’s packaging is especially awesome as it offers up a very cool documentary talking with Harlin, Beuchler, some of the stars, Charles Band and others about the making of this, one of the last films Empire ever produced. PRISON is one of those films that causes a smile to those who have seen it and is a true treat to discover if you haven’t. This is definitely a BluRay you’re going to want to add to your collection.
New on DVD from Brain Damage Films!
LAKE NOIR (2011)Directed by Jeff Schneider
Written by Abel Martinez
Starring Mike G., Geno Romo, Michelle Damis, Marzell Sampson, Heather Wakehouse, Bob Olin
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Those who read this column know that I am pretty forgiving when it comes to low budget horrors and tend to focus on the stronger aspects of a film rather than linger on what I didn’t like. The problem with a film like LAKE NOIR is that it wants to be so interesting that you forget it’s a horror film. In order for that to happen, the rest of the film, the actors, their story, and plot, have to be interesting enough to make that distraction. If one is sitting there looking at their watch and counting the minutes before anything even resembling a horror film surfaces, there’s definitely something wrong.
Such is the case with LAKE NOIR, which is not completely original in its concept, that of there being a lake in the middle of nowhere haunted by a heartbroken ghost who likes to murderize anyone who dares enter the woods surrounding the waters. And while some may dismiss this film for being too similar to FRIDAY THE 13TH, the main reason most will find problems with LAKE NOIR is that it takes an hour and ten minutes for anything even remotely like a horror movie to show up.
In the meantime, we get four couples all in different stages of their relationship, something that could be interesting, and for a little while there’s a YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS vibe as the couples become somewhat threatened and jealous of one another, swap partners, and cause drama for themselves. But the actors doing the drama are just not able to do it. Sure they read their lines capably enough, but one monotonous scene after another of couples talking and doing cliché things like skinny dipping wore this reviewer down. Hell, it took a half hour for the gang to get together, shop for food and beer, and put up their tents, all of which are walked through in painstaking detail.
The final fifteen minutes have a giant man mountain of a monster who looks like a blue Big Pun walk out of a lake and kill people in an uninspired fashion. I did like the blue wrinkled and cracked makeup and contact lenses the monster wore, but by the time he rose from the depths, I had already checked out.
The filmmakers seemed to be wanting to focus on character and interaction in order to get us to care about these people, but this could have been done in much less time and in a much more dynamic way. As is, LAKE NOIR feels like a fifteen minute short monster from the lake movie stretched paper thin in order to meet an hour and a half run time.
New this week on DVD (find it on Netflix here)!
LAKE PLACID 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER (2012)Directed by Don Michael Paul
Written by David Reed, Mairin Reed
Starring Elisabeth Röhm, Yancy Butler, Paul Nicholls, Robert Englund, Poppy Lee Friar, Benedict Smith, Caroline Ford, Scarlett Byrne
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The latest installment of the LAKE PLACID series of killer croc on a rampage films hits DVD this week. Some might have already caught this film when it premiered on SyFy a while back, and the fact that it premiered on SyFy should indicate what type of film to expect. Expect bad acting, a few C to Z list stars, and some sloppy CGI and you’re going to get what you asked for with what the title promises to be the last of the LAKE PLACID franchise.
The fun and hammy tongue and cheekiness of the original LAKE PLACID which chomped its way into the hearts of moviegoers a few years ago has faded exponentially with each sequel. I think I might have seen 2 or 3, but neither really stands out as anything of interest. Part four opens seconds after the last one ends with Yancy Butler (who is looking kind of gym teachery these days) being the only survivor of the last croc onslaught. Accepting the croc problem, the lake has been fenced off a la JURASSIC PARK, but it seems anyone can get in past the gate if you know how to fool the guards and soon a bus full of partying kids accidentally get inside the infested area. Much croc chomping commences, of course.
The series of events which lead the bus into the croc zone is beyond ludicrous, but I guess it had to happen in order for the movie to move along, so I’m willing to forget it. The convenient way others slip past the guarded gates adds to the head-slap-itude of this film. The fact is that very few of the characters have any development save for turning from living, breathing human into croc shit.
Standing head and shoulders above the rest of the cast is Robert Englund, who is cast as a poacher. Not that he is particularly great in the role; it’s just that he seems to be the only one with acting chops and seems to be having fun with it. It’s also nice to see Englund go full circle back to battling a giant croc as he did in Tobe Hooper’s EATEN ALIVE all those years ago.
Though the current croc infestation is supposedly taken care of, we don’t really see it on screen as the main action is a rescue mission for the town sheriff to find her daughter. And even though the title indicates this will be the last time we will be seeing the sloppy CGI-rendered crocs chasing after screaming humans, the final moments have to include one last croc, of course. Let’s hope unless there is some real talent behind and in front of the lens and some proper CGI is used, this truly is the last LAKE PLACID we have to sit through. If you’re looking for real giant croc thrills, check out last week’s review of CROCZILLA, a much more entertaining big croc flick!
New this week on DVD from MVD Visual!
BATH SALT ZOMBIES (2013)Directed by Dustin Wayde Mills
Written by Dustin Wayde Mills
Starring Brandon Salkil, Josh Eal, Ethan Holey, Dave Parker, Jackie McKown
Find out more about these films here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Dustin Wayde Mills is starting to be a director who makes my eyebrows rise whenever I see his name on a project. The director of the twisted PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE (reviewed here), more twisted ZOMBIE A-HOLE (reviewed here), and pretzeline twisted NIGHT OF THE TENTACLES (reviewed here) has once again birthed a truly twisted creation ripped from the headlines. I’m talking about BATH SALT ZOMBIES.
If you’re a self-respecting horror fan, you paid attention to the horrific news reports from Florida a few months ago as a homeless man fell victim to a man hopped up on bath salts. Now, not that I condone such intake of horrific drugs or the heinous acts that those who did inflicted on others, but when rumorings of a zombie apocalypse hit the major airwaves, this horror fan paid close attention.
Now, I don’t want to oversell this film. It’s low budget and seems to have been hastily made in order to stay relevant to headlines, but dammit if Dustin Wayde Mills doesn’t make every minute of this film fun despite its low budget. From its beginning moments which mock REEFER MADNESS in a crudely animated short, to the grindhousey way the camera a la TRAFFIC follows the bath salts drug from the dealer, to the user, to the cops who bust them, Mills does a fantastic job of covering it all with vibrant colors, vivid camerawork, and an assault to all senses via a kick ass punk rock soundtrack.
My two favorite moments of this film take the viewer on a trip experiencing what it might be like to ingest bath salts. One follows one addict (NIGHT OF THE TENTACLES’ Brandon Salkil) through his own bleary eyes as he looks around the room, feelings of paranoia overcoming him. Mills does an amazing job of conveying the feeling of paranoia here and does it better than I’ve seen in many films attempting to do so. The final frantic moments of BATH SALT ZOMBIES are what most will talk about as animation and real life blend as Salkil takes on an entire team of police officers, tearing through them in slo mo gore that would make Zack Snyder cream his dungarees. Again, Mills disconnects the viewer from reality and takes us through every gruesome step of carnage by one man hopped up on bath salts. It’s a gory, gross, cartoonish sequence that amps the action to RIKKI-O proportions.
BATH SALT ZOMBIES is low budget, but it’s better than it should be. Filled with all sorts of gore, drug use, boobs, and violence, BATH SALT ZOMBIES is the kind of low budget film that deserves to be seen by fans of this column. Highly recommended.
New this week on BluRay/DVD from Magnet Releasing (find it on Netflix here)!
SUSHI GIRL (2012)Directed by Kern Saxton
Written by Destin Pfaff & Kern Saxton
Starring Tony Todd, Mark Hamill, James Duval, Noah Hathaway, Andy Mackenzie, Danny Trejo, Sonny Chiba, David Dastmalchian, Cortney Palm, Destin Pfaff, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Ted Stryker, Cyrus Alexander, David Reynolds
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though I wouldn’t categorize SUSHI GIRL as a horror film, it is drowning in genre elements and influences. To say Kern Saxton’s film is Tarantino-esque is an understatement as, if you squinted, you might think ol’ Quentin was the mastermind behind the whole thing from the stylized opening sequence set to “Diamonds Are Forever” sung over the credits as a woman disrobes, lays on a table, and has sushi placed on her for a group of gangsters to dine off of her, right down to the lettering of said credits. Though Tarantino has evolved to make period pieces and cowboy flicks, there’s a part of me that wishes he would go back and do another gangster movie. Well, apparently so does Kern Saxton, because SUSHI GIRL is oozing with Tarantinosity.
And that ain’t all bad.
Taking another page from Tarantino’s playbook, Saxton has cast a bunch of familiar faces in key roles in this film. The standout is Mark Hamill, who plays the effeminate Crow and looks like a wet Paul Williams by way of Peter Lorre. Hamill plays one of five thugs who get together as one of them is released from prison on good behavior after a botched jewel heist. Six years later, they meet at Tony Todd’s place, a Yakuza-themed restaurant with its own sushi girl with all the sushi fixins on her nethers. Also at the table is Noah Hathaway (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, Atreyu from THE NEVERENDING STORY) as the recently released con, Greg Araki fave/Keanu lookalike James Duval, and TRUE BLOOD’s Andy Mackenzie as a skuzzy biker dude. You’ll also recognize Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, and Danny Trejo as a rival heist team, and Sonny Chiba plays the sushi cook. All in all, this is a cast fans of Tarantino would die for and for the most part, they deliver.
Personally, it was a treat for me to see Mark Hamill shine here as he rarely gets to shine. Here he plays a character so unlike Luke that it makes me wish the actor would get more opportunities in meatier roles like this. His interactions with the rest of the group help make this less than a cliché gangster story and more of a character piece.
Though basically this is a story where gangsters torture a stoolie for info, Saxton is able to stretch this out into an enjoyable hour and a half. Even though the similarities to RESERVOIR DOGS are blatant and obvious, I was entertained from start to finish by this love letter to Tarantino and feel that he aped his style very well, right down to the musical choices.
This is a pretty relentless film with a whole lot of gore and torture, so I can’t call this Tarantino-lite. I don’t think Saxton is trying to fool anyone that he’s riffing on Tarantino and even though it’s obvious, SUSHI GIRL is the kind of film that will please those who miss films like RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION. Here’s hoping Saxton evolves past the point of homage. He certainly aped Tarantino’s style well and proved to get some great performances from some actors I didn’t think were capable.
Lively, fun, and twisted, SUSHI GIRL is the kind of film those who frequent AICN definitely fiend for.
And finally…here’s a time-twisted story about a man trying to travel back in time to prevent a murder. Directed by Marc Roussel, REMOTE is a whole lot of fun and definitely worth wasting a few minutes at work over. Enjoy REMOTE!
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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