Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Let’s get right into the reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: PHANTASM II (1988)
Short Cuts Short Film Review: KLAGGER (2010)
Advance Review: BLOOD FOR IRINA (2013)
Advance Review: THE AZTEC BOX (2013)
6 SOULS (2013)
THE ABC’S OF DEATH (2012)
And finally…LIGHTS OUT: THE DARK!
Retro-Review: New this week on DVD/BluRay from The Shout Factory (find it on Netflix here!
PHANTASM II (1988)Directed by Don Coscarelli
Written by Don Coscarelli
Starring James Le Gros, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm, Raula Irvine, Kenneth Tigar
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
I light a tightly written story as much as the next guy. But there are times when story doesn’t really matter and if there’s just a bunch of cool shit going on, I’m willing to forgive a narrative that doesn’t really make a whole helluva lot of sense. Now, I’m not saying that PHANTASM II is a nonsensical story. I am saying, though, that it is clear that Don Coscarelli was much more concerned about packing his sequel to his 1979 classic to the brim with cool shit than having it all make sense. And I’m the type of madcap bastard that can accept that.
PHANTASM II starts just where the original PHANTASM left off, with Mike being pulled through the mirror having just filled his pants upon seeing the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) in his bedroom. As Reggie (Reggie Bannister) strums his hippie guitar downstairs, the Tall Man prepares to steal his soul and shrink his carcass down to one of his Jawa hooded dwarf minions. Though Reggie is able to rescue Mike, their adventure has only begun.
There’s something about films that start right where the previous installment left off that I love. I loved it when they interconnected the FRIDAY THE 13TH and HALLOWEEN films instead of making them one to ten years later. It makes it feel as if, if I wanted to, I could play all of these films back to back and they’d make one huge movie. I’m a geek like that. I love those things. Don Coscarelli seems to like that too as he has done it a few times in his PHANTASM series.
In this installment, Mike is played by James LeGros before he was known by moviegoers as James LeGros, that guy from that movie. LeGros is definitely the most talented of the actors in this film, but that’s not saying much. Reggie Bannister does a decent job of trying to be Bruce Campbell by spouting macho Ash-isms here at there, but it just doesn’t feel as authentic. Angus Scrimm’s visage is great as the lanky Tall Man and he’s able to bellow out the imposing lines he’s given. As for the rest of the cast, there’s not a lot of Oscars going to be doled out. But then again, that’s not the type of movie PHANTASM II is.
PHANTASM II is the type of film that constantly tries to one up itself every five minutes as to how much cool shit it can throw at you. From hunchback demons, to flying silver spheres of death, to face biting dwarves, to four barreled shotguns and ten foot chainsaws; this film throws the cool like few other films I’ve seen and not one of them feels lame or misses its mark. It’s almost as if in the almost ten year interim between the original and the sequel, Coscarelli did nothing but focus on a sequel and wrote down the best and coolest ideas possible to add to this film.
PHANTASM II is a highlight reel for the best of the best of practical special effects. No CGI was used during this film and you can tell by the sheer imagination and craftsmanship put into each effects piece. When the gold orb bores through the undertaker’s back and comes out his mouth. Amazing. When the Tall Man is embalmed with acid and I burns out of his neck and face. Fantastic. When the priest gets drilled in the head by the silver sphere. Holy shit ballz! Good, good stuff. From start to finish, this feels like an FX man’s dream and considering this was the day and age when FX guys were gods, this is a fantastic film to feature what these gods could do. Damn I wish modern films would do this sort of thing more often instead of relying on animated looking CGI.
The effects is the subject of one of two documentaries provided with this special BluRay release, showing behind the scenes footage of how it all was put together and the stories that go along with them. I found these docs as fascinating as the film. Having seen PHANTASM II numerous times in the theater and on VHS, I knew the story, but it was great to revisit this treasure chest of cool again. This is a must own BluRay for those who appreciate how horror films were made before the computers took over the world.
Short Cuts Short Film Review!
KLAGGER (2010)Directed by Casey Crow
Written by Casey Crow
Starring Matthew Aycock, Matt Willis
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Currently touring festivals is the moody short horror film, KLAGGER. Shot in a single locale, using only a pair of actors, writer/director Casey Crow is able to heap in a lot of scares in the ten minute run time.
The best part about this short is the amount of story it tells in so little time. And the thing is, it doesn’t tell you anything. Through visual cues, some sound bytes, and a creepy abandoned factory that screams a story without even showing any creepy goings on, the viewer is taken through a nice little story of a dead factory worker, a live inspector looking to tear down the building, and a the ghost haunting the place.
Crow shows a lot of patience in the opening moments as the inspector sniffs around the joint, only hinting that something weird is going on with moving shadows and whispers. And when the Klagger himself shows his charred face, it is a shocking sequence of events, doled out for some great moments of fright and tension.
KLAGGER is a great example of tight, compact scares. It’s short horror done right.
BLOOD FOR IRINA (2013)Directed by Chris Alexander
Written by Chris Alexander
Starring Shauna Henry, Carrie Gemmell, David Goodfellow, Andre Becker, Jason Tannis
Find out more about this film on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Reminiscent Jean Rollin’s art house she-vampire films such as LIVING DEAD GIRL and REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE, those who prefer their vampires on the more artsy fartsy side will have a lot to like with BLOOD FOR IRINA. But if you prefer action oriented or twinkling style vamps, you’re going to be bored to tears by this one.
Personally, I fall in-between these two camps. I can appreciate the Rollin-esque take, making every nuance overly meaningful and melodramatic, but I like me some blood sucker action as well. So there were times during BLOOD FOR IRINA when I felt it did run on a bit long.
That said, I do feel that Chris Alexander is a talented guy and though his camera feels as if it needs a shot of Red Bull as it lingers on trash heaps, neon street lights, and the star vamp as she saunters out of her hotel room at night to prey upon the homeless and lonely, he does focus his lens on some really nice imagery throughout this hour long flick.
With some engrossing music playing throughout paired with some interesting sound effects, BLOOD FOR IRINA would fill any open minded blood sucker fan’s ears and eyes as it also offers a lot of fantastic imagery in its short screen time. I also liked the dank feel to the vampire lifestyle as Irina is definitely not leading the glamorous life of a vampire many films would lead you to believe. She lives more like a leech, leaving her hotel only to feed and coming back and vomiting up the blood. The story doesn’t delve too much into the vamp mythos, but this almost feels like a film about a woman who thinks she is a vampire rather than one who is one at the way her body rejects drinking the blood.
All in all, if you don’t mind wordless, art house films with a horror slant, BLOOD FOR IRINA is going to be something to seek out. It’s currently playing festivals. But be forewarned, if you lack the patience, this film could be quite an ordeal.
THE AZTEC BOX (2013)aka THE FIND
Directed by Serge Bronstein
Written by Serge Bronstein
Starring Suziey Block, Ted Ferguson, Nick Uzarski, Hans Hernke, Silvio Fama, John Poindexter, Steven Richards, Shawn Jun, Lore Jac-Rey
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Yes, it’s another found footage film. Get over it. It seems they are here to stay and I am more tired of people griping about them than watching them, if you want me to be honest. Found footagers always reel me in. I’m a sucker for them and THE AZTEC BOX isn’t a bad one.
A couple of college students rent a new home and happen to be taking a class on reality television. Filming everything they do as a school project (hell, it’s as good of a reason as any in these types of films), they catch some strange goings on at their new flat. This culminates with the four roomies happening upon an Aztec box buried in their back yard. Things go from bad to worse as it is obvious there is nothing good in this sealed crate they have unearthed.
Though there are obvious swipes from PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, I felt THE AZTEC BOX succeeds in answering the question most ask while watching a found footage film. That being; “Why the hell are they still filming?” Though the cast is pretty clueless most of the time and most normal people would have been out of there after the first night of weirdness, the reason for the cameras to keep rolling is at least justified with the school assignment angle.
The budget here is pretty limited, but I have to give it to the filmmakers for making do with what they had. The box itself is actually pretty ominous looking with a metal skull on the lid and plenty of creepy crawling bugs walking across and around the etchings on the sides. The acting at times isn’t bad either with the standout being ENTRANCE’s Suziey Block as one of the roomies. Other’s acting abilities are not really up to par though, especially the teachers who seem like actual college professors rather than actors.
Though by now, there is a well tread formula to these found footage films, that being the first forty minutes there is hardly any weirdness going on, instead the focus being on getting to know the small cast in peril, leaving the final moments being the only time when shit actually goes down, THE AZTEC BOX at least has an original premise regarding an Aztec curse. Having seen a ton of these found footagers recently, this isn’t the one that’s going to convert those who already hate the genre, but if you’re like me, and aren’t as annoyed with found footage films, you’ll find it worth sitting through.
New this week on DVD (find it on Netflix here)!
EATERS (2010)Directed by Luca Boni & Marco Ristori
Written by Marco Ristori & Germano Tarricone
Starring: Alex Lucchesi, Rosella Elmi, Gugielmo Favilla, Elisa Faretti, Ricardo Floris, Fabiano Lioi, Claudio Marmugi
Find out more about EATERS here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Reminiscent of machismo oozing zombie flicks like the original DAY OF THE DEAD and the recent LA HORDE, EATERS is a man’s man’s kind of zombie film.
The film begins with a series of quick newscasts depicting a world going to shit. Governments fall. People riot in the streets. A chemical weapon is released with terrorist groups lining up to take credit. The Pope blows his brains out so he won’t come back as a zombie. It’s madness and depicted in a frantic and furious pace. Then the story really begins, following a pair of mercenaries, Igor and Allen, who work with a Doc Frankenstein type named Dr. Gyno, as they forage across the countryside in search of the man who is taking credit for all of the zombies (who calls himself the Plague Spreader) and maybe for some of the last women on earth, if they’re lucky. On their way, they run into neo Nazis, a decimated countryside, a midget version of Hitler, and zombies, zombies, zombies.
The thing I like most about EATERS is that it’s not another outbreak movie. The zombie apocalypse is over and done with by the time this film starts. I can understand why folks roll their eyes at zombie films these days, because, for the most part, they’re all about the initial outbreak. They aren’t about what happens next. It’s all about patient zero and the initial spread of the plague. EATERS has seen all of those movies and decides to pick up right after all of those films end, which right off the bat gives it a leg up on most zombie films for ingenuity. Instead of stomping on civilization’s sandcastle for the umpteenth time in cinematic history, EATERS focuses on rebuilding said structure.
Though not a perfect film (the acting is hit and miss and the effects are unconvincing in parts), there’s a lot of fun to be had with EATERS. The two main characters Igor (Alex Lucchesi) and Allen (Guglielmo Favilla) are gruff and tough, providing an action buddy cop movie feel to the whole thing. If zombie films are to stick around with the frequency they’ve been released in recent years, they have to move past showing us the initial outbreak. Though the market is saturated with zombie films, EATERS is one that stands out for using a different take on the genre.
Available now on Video On Demand (find it on Netflix here)!
6 SOULS (2009)aka SHELTER
Directed by Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Written by Michael Cooney
Starring Julianne Moore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jeffrey DeMunn, Frances Conroy, Nathan Corddry, Brooklynn Proulx, Brian Anthony Wilson, Joyce Feurring, Steven Rishard
Find out more about this film on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
You know, I was all ready to hate this film. Usually horror films with stars of this caliber are duds, but it was the psychological themes mixed with backwoods hill magic played with in 6 SOULS that actually got me into it. Now, this isn’t a perfect film, but it’s more entertaining than I expected.
The strong cast helps. It’s always great to see Julianne Moore in genre style roles like this. I actually liked her performance as Clarice Starling in HANNIBAL and there are shades of that performance here as she plays a psychologist Cara Harding, whose claim to fame is that she debunks multiple personality cases. When her psychologist father (THE WALKING DEAD’s Jeffrey DeMunn) calls her in for a case at his psych hospital, he provides a case that challenges her steadfast theory that multiple personality disorder is a sham across the board. That case is a mystery patient David, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is always pretty deadly looking and does so well here as a person suffering from numerous alters which begin to seep into Cara’s home life.
The part I liked the most about Moore’s character was the fact that she is a person who is so fragile that she is clinging to her theories and beliefs. When those theories are challenged, she doesn’t know what to do with herself. The film opens with Cara supporting her theories in court which leads to a man being executed. She deals with this by running to the nearest bar and getting shit faced post haste by downing shots of Tequila. I liked it that in the opening moments we see that this is a woman who wants to desperately to believe that she is accurate in her theories, but deep down has her doubts. Of course, this story brings those doubts to the surface and slaps her in the face with them.
I also loved the backwoods mysticism going on here. Turns out, David is actually a vessel for multiple souls, some of which aren’t too nice. While MPD has been used many times in films, this one takes a cool turn midway as Cara’s investigations into David’s alters take him to a backwoods community lead by a witch. There are some nice creative touches added here involving earth magic that felt icky and real.
Though it appears witches are the new vampires these days and I’m sure this film, which seems to have been made some time ago, was released now because of that trend, 6 SOULS has enough psychological and hillbilly magical factors to make it better than average. This is mainly due to the talented cast. There are some moment that inspire groan as Cara stumbles across a film which was made long ago, but feels as if it has modern day production values and also reveals crucial info at just the right and convenient dramatic time. Still, there’s a lot worse out there you could see than 6 SOULS.
Available on Video on Demand and in theaters today!
THE ABC’S OF DEATH (2012)Directed & written by Bruno Forzani, Helene Cattet, Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, Adrian Bogliano, Jason Eisner, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Xavier Gens, Lee Hardcastle, Noboru Iguchi, Thomas Malling, Jorge Michel Grau, Anders Morgenthaler, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Jbanjong Pisanthanakun, Simon Rumley, Marcel Sarmiento, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalondo, Jake West, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard, Yudai Yamaguchi
Produced by Ant Timpson & Tim League
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
As I watched THE ABC’S OF DEATH, it felt as if I were taking a guided tour of some of my favorite horror filmmakers in the last few years. Every one of these installments were pretty amazing and though the range of this collection varies a lot, the quality never wavers. I’m going to go letter by letter through this anthology to let you know why this ambitious project is one of the best horror anthologies ever made.
“A is for Apocalypse” by Nacho (TIMECRIMES, EXTRATERRESTRIAL) Vigalondo This quickie is one of those stories we enter midstream as a bedridden husband is surprised by his wife with a knife and other household tools just in time for the apocalypse. This one has a wicked sense of humor and is surprisingly gory with a nice little homage to FRIDAY THE 13TH THE FINAL CHAPTER in the effects department. Though it won’t blow your doors off and is somewhat predictable, it is a nice way to introduce this series of shorts which are often devilishly funny despite the dark story content.
“B is for Babysitter” by Adrian Garcia (HERE COMES THE DEVIL) Bogliano This is another devious one centering on a young couple who just want to make the beast with two backs, but are being distracted by the child they are supposed to be babysitting. Funny that Bogliano’s hit film HERE COMES THE DEVIL starts out with that exact same theme of parents neglecting children because of their desires for one another. Again, with the cautionary tale the babysitters tell the little girl in order to get her to sleep, this one is easy to predict, still the ride’s a lot of fun.
“C is for Cycle” by Ernesto Diaz (MANDRILL) Espinoza Reminiscent of Vigalondo’s TIMECRIMES, a man finds a wormhole in his backyard and ends up battling himself to see who gets to be in this time period. This one is paced s that you only get bits and pieces of the story and it comes at you out of sequence, which makes the whole thing feel like a mystery unfolding on celluloid. Though I’m not a fan of time travel films, this one keeps things nice and tight, so it doesn’t unravel or make you scratch your head too much along the way.
“D is for Dogfight” by Marcel (DEADGIRL) Sarmiento Awesome! This is definitely one of my favorites if not the best of the bunch. Filmed entirely in slo mo, so you can feel every punch, chomp, and even subtle eye movement, you’re going to find yourself wondering how the hell they made this film with the up close and personal feel of the brutality going on. But have no fear, animal lovers, this man vs dog boxing match isn’t exactly what it seems. Still in so little time, this is the most fully satisfying of the bunch when it comes to story, though you will leave yourself scratching you head and asking one question; What the hell’s up with that baby?
“E is for Exterminate” by May herself Angela (ROMAN) Bettis After the dog-punching extravaganza, the theme of man vs animal, or in this case, insect, continues as a lonely man takes on an especially deadly looking spider in his apartment. I love the “spider’s eye” POV in this almost entirely wordless film. This one’s got some fantastic effects, a great payoff and has me wishing Bettis would direct more, since the only other thing she’s done was the haunting ROMAN which feels like a male version of her role in Lucky McKee’s MAY. Plus its got a soundtrack that makes it all feel fun.
“F is for Fart” by Noboru (DEAD SUSHI) Iguchi Ever wonder if Japanese schoolgirls ever fart? Me neither, but regardless if the question has ever been asked before Noboru Iguchi answers that very question with a vengeance. When is caught letting one loose, it unleashes a series of events that trigger the end of the world. It’s immature. It’s guttural. And I laughed my ass off the whole way through to the trippy ending. Never have the words, “So stinky!” been more gut-jigglingly hilarious!
“G is for Gravity” by Andrew (THE REEF) Traucki This one is very short and given my knowledge and appreciation for Traucki’s work with animals gone wild in his films BLACK WATER, THE REEF, and his upcoming THE JUNGLE, I was waiting for something toothy to attack this first person POV shot film of an eager surfer going for a ride on the waves. But Traucki plays with those expectations smartly and this one definitely leaves you with that “how the hell did they film that” feeling, so I appreciate this simple little story from a technical level and from my knowledge of what the director is capable of standpoint. I especially love the final moments of this one in which an upright surfboard becomes a floating headstone on a rocky ocean. Fantastic imagery.
“H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion” by Thomas (NORWEGIAN NINJA) Malling This one schmelds a Tex Avery cartoon with those with a furry fetish and sets it during World War II. It’s Allies vs Nazi’s with all sorts of cartoonish antics, naked fox people, and complex contraptions one would expect from this Pepe LePew cartoon of lust and horror. I have to say, though my tastes don’t really go for chicks with fur, the fox in this one is pretty hot and I don’t blame the bulldog soldier for going so gaga over her. Fun, gross-out, and extremely imaginative, this cartoon brought to life is COOL WORLD with modern CGI and a shot of 1000 volts of pure energy.
“I is for Ingrown” by Jorge Michel (WE ARE WHAT WE ARE) Grau The tone shifts to deathly serious in this little short about a syringe that looks to be full of motor oil and a woman in a bathtub. Jutting between midrange and close up shots, this one tells both a story beneath the story in one violent and desperate act. Is this an homage to PSYCHO? Maybe bits of it. But for the most part this is a tragic tale of two people in bitter conflict. Powerful stuff, yet it feels out of place as most of the other shorts have a tongue in cheek aspect to it.
“J is for Jidai-Geki (Samurai Movie)” by Yudai (VERSUS, YAKUZA WEAPON) Yamaguchi The tongue goes right back into the cheek with this riff on samurai films. Goofy facial gestures and poses seem out of place in the stoic genre of the samurai, but here it makes for a damn funny little ditty with some really great practical effects used. I really liked the sense of humor of this one.
“K is for Klutz” by Anders (PRINCESS) Morgenthaler This is a cartoon about a woman in a public restroom and a piece of poop that just won’t flush. Now if that offends, then skip to the next one, but I found this one to be damn funny from start to end. The animation is pretty simple, but a struggle between one woman and a piece of poo has never been more entertaining, in my book. Though the logistics of the ending may be debatable, it still leaves a lasting impression.
“L is for Libido” by Timo (MACABRE) Tjahjanto Falling firmly into the realm of “that’s just plain wrong” is Timo Tjahjanto’s twisted contest of will as a man is strapped to a chair and forced to masturbate to various things. The winner gets to move onto the next round. The loser dies like a native in CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Now, in my neck of the woods, he who lasts longest is the champ. But apparently, that’s not the case here as the winner is the one who arrives with the delivery first. As the stakes rise, so does the level of perversity in this short that is not for the squeamish or delicate of disposition.
“M is for Miscarriage” by Ti (THE INNKEEPERS) West Most likely the shortest of all of the entries, Ti West’s offering is no less impactful as the title says it all. Your girlfriend most likely will not like this one, but it does have a wicked sense of humor in the few moments it has to make its mark.
“N is for Nuptuals” by Jbanjong (ALONE) Pisanthanakun This one might have a bit too much sitcom humor for my tastes. Still it’s cute and fun, albeit predictable as a man buys a bird for his girlfriend in hopes to make a memorable way to propose to her. Of course, this is a horror short, so things go very, very wrong.
“O is for Orgasm” by Bruno Forzani & Helene Cattet (co-directors of AMER) Though artsy, this one by far is one of the more beautiful entries in the film as we are taken on a visual slideshow of the myriad of images one might see while having an orgasm. Though basically a montage of bizarre and suggestive imagery, the placement of said images culminates effectively. I haven’t seen AMER, but after seeing this gorgeous short, I feel like I have to. I don’t know if this qualifies as horror, but it is damn good.
“P is for Pressure” by Simon (RED, WHITE, & BLUE) Rumley I’ve become fascinated at Simon Rumley’s unapologetic and unflinching looks at the more horrific side of sex. As he did with LITTLE DEATHS (another anthology I reviewed here last year), he is unafraid to show how our deepest desires are often our darkest as this short depicts the lengths a single mom will go to provide for her daughter. Striking and powerful filmmaking and storytelling here.
“Q is for Quack” by Adam (YOU’RE NEXT, A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE) Wingard Another one of my favorites simply because of the self referential treatment of the content as director Adam Windard and writer Simon Barrett ponder and complain about what they are going to do for their segment which unfortunately deals with the letter Q. This is a funny and bitingly satirical take on this anthology project as well as a nice break from the higher production levels of other installments. The sense of humor in this one is one of the best of the bunch.
“R is for Removed” by Srdjan (A SERBIAN FILM) Spasojevic Somber and grotesque. That pretty much sums up this short about a man in a hospital whose skin is used to make movies. This feels like a statement about the artist’s sacrifice and how it is manipulated by producers and the like and Spasojevic makes it all feel like it’s boring under your fingernail and festering with a sterile, yet grimy feel to each and every shot. Again, placed in between the more jovial segments, this is one of those that feels out of place, but still, it’s a short that packs a punch both viscerally and thematically.
“S is for Speed” by Jake (DOGHOUSE) West This one starts fast as a woman holds another gal at gunpoint, trying to elude a demon from capture. There’s a lot of retro cool going on here with some grindhouse post-apocalypticism front and center. I appreciated this one for the high octane attitude and in your face style. Plus you’ve got to appreciate the flame thrower sequence. Nice stuff.
“T is for Toilet” by Lee (DONE IN 60 SECONDS, WITH CLAY) Hardcastle Claymation is a lost art form with everything going digital, so I have to give it up to Lee Hardcastle and his tale of a fear that is quite common in little boys; that of the fear of the toilet. This manic and electrifying nightmare in clay is not going to cure anyone of this phobia and it may actually cause new ones. The ending sequence is goddamn amazing in every black sense of the word and the amount of blood and gore Hardcastle is able to put into this little snippet is something to look at in awe.
“U is for Unearthed” by Ben (KILL LIST) Wheatley Ever wonder what it’s like to be a vampire? Well, Ben Wheatley takes us on a first person POV ride that will slap some sense in those who feel it’s a glamorous life. Full of camera trickery, this one was lively and one of the technical highlights of the bunch for me. The final scene with the veins…damn, that’s the good stuff. Though I thought KILL LIST was decent, it did feel a bit cumbersome at times. This frantic little short is anything but and makes me think that there are a lot of great ideas to come from Wheatley.
“V is for Vagitus (The Cry of a Newborn Baby)” by Kaare (ALTITUDE) Andrews Downright amazing stuff from comic book writer/artist and director Kaare Andrews. His comic book knowhow shows through in this future setting where having a child is against the law enforced by an army of robots and highly armed police officers. The focus is on one officer who deeply longs to have a child and a family who breaks the law by having one. Much robot machine gunning and head ‘sploding occurs in this sci fi superhero yarn that also stars BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW’s weirdo scientist Michael Rogers as, you guessed it, another weirdo scientist type. Really vibrant stuff. Somebody give Andrews a big budget to work with. This shit was awesome!
“W is for WTF!” by Jon (METALOCALYPSE) Schnepp In another installment where the director doesn’t really know what he wants to do for this anthology, Adult Swim maniac Jon Schnepp goes over one bad idea after another with his producer, each of them so bad they are awesome. I’d pay to see any of these, especially “W is for Walrus”. Schnepp will make you fear clown zombies in this trippy-ass segment too. Oh hell yes he will.
“X is for XXL” by Xavier (THE DIVIDE) Gens This one blew my mind. Gory as hell and packed with a message for our fat-phobic culture, one overweight woman decides to take weight loss into her own hands. This one starts at a crawl, but revs up the pace to such a frantic level by the end, it feels as if your nerves are shredding. This is harrowing stuff that churns the stomach and pokes at your mind. Gens never fails to impress me and here he keeps up his winning streak.
“Y is for Young Buck” by Jason (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN) Eisner This short was the closest I came to vomiting in my three years writing and watching horror films for this column. To me, that’s a fucking compliment. Eisner has delivered one of the creepiest depictions of the school janitor ever put to film. With its 80’s synth montage score and the super slo mo, you get to experience every perverse gesture and nuance. This one will make you cringe and laugh so hard at how awfully wrong it is. And oh my god, the ending…just wow. So good. I need a barf bag. But it hurts so good.
“Z is for Zetsu Metsu (Extinction)” by Yoshihiro (VAMPIRE GIRL VS FRANKENSTEIN GIRL, HELLDRIVER) Nishimura The final segment is a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds which appears to be somewhat of a political statement about US/Japanese relations, which really wasn’t as interesting as the vivid and perverse imagery littered throughout. You will see a woman with a giant penis with a sword coming out of the end fight another woman with a cloak made of flies. You will see a swastika turn into various other things. You will see men with small penises eat sushi. And amidst it all, there’s an homage to Kubrick’s DR. STRANGELOVE. Frantic and manic, this is a bizarre way to end this anthology, but it does end it on a lively note.
All in all, THE ABC’S OF DEATH is an indication that horror is in capable hands as all of these directors delivered imaginative and powerful shorts. There seemed to be a prevalent feeling of tongue and cheekiness involved with most of the installments, making the ones more serious in tone stand out as odd additions, but the producers scattered the serious ones about capably enough like a DJ peppering in a slow jam every once and a while amidst all of the fast paced dance music. Though it requires over two hours of watching, every minute is worth it and though I know this project took its toll to put together, I’d love to see a second horror themed alphabet someday. As is, even the weaker installments of THE ABC’S OF DEATH are better than most full length horror films out there.
Still, I’m left with the question…what the hell’s up with that baby?
And finally…this week we have another old timey radio treat. LIGHTS OUT brings us THE DARK, a spooky tale of crazy ladies and creepy places. Turn out the lights, light a candle, and curl up next to someone you trust as you listen to…THE DARK!
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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