Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week we have some retro-goodness with Fred Ward, three ultra-independent low, low, low budgeters, and a pair of creepy atmospheric chillers, plus a look ahead at some crazy Asian schoolgirl horror. But before we do that…there’s this!
First up, I’ve got news of a cool Kickstarter for EVIL JESTER PRESENTS that’s got a cast of talent that’d have any self respecting horror fan reaching for their wallets to chip in. The book features work from Jack Ketchum, Ramsey Campbell, Jonathan Maberry, Gary Braunbeck, William F. Nolan, and Joe McKinney. If interested, shoot over to their Kickstarter page to donate and check out the trailer below!
Billy The Kid premiered this trailer for AMERICAN ECSTASY, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to run it again as it looks to be quite a mash up of adult thrillers like BODY DOUBLE and straight up 80’s horror like VIDEODROME. Whatever it is, it’s definitely weird and something I’m dying to check out. Find out more information about the film here and below, once again, is the trailer for AMERICAN ECSTASY with a little intro by star Brattany Nola. Enjoy, but be warned, this trailer AIN’T SAFE FOR WORK!
Last week, I let you all know about how Patrick Shea’s NAILBITER (reviewed here) is going to be released by Lionsgate on DVD, Digital Download and Video on Demand May 28. Well, now, there’s a trailer for the film!
Here’s a clip from an upcoming Midnight Releasing film called ANIMUS which I’ll be reviewing next week on AICN HORROR. The film is released on DVD on March 26. Enjoy this creepy little clip and tune in next week for a full review!
Next is a trailer for the new film REVELATION TRAIL, a western horror film with a nice indie feel to it. Find out more about this film here, you can also check out the original webseries of the same name here, and be sure to keep watching this column for more on this undead spaghetti western mashup! This one looks like a lot of fun. Personally, I can’t wait to check it out!
Want another trailer? I got another trailer. This one’s for the upcoming horror film THE LOST TREE starring AMERICAN PIE’s Thomas Ian Nicholas, Lacey Chabert, Scott Grimes, and Michael Madsen. Find out more about this film by clicking here and enjoy the teaser trailer below!
I’ve got one more trailer for you. This one’s called GINGERCLOWN 3D and it looks to be something special. It’s got clowns, puppets, and amusement parks it’s set in the 80’s, and it’s got the voice work of Lance Henricksen, Brad Dourif, Sean Young, Michael Winslow, and mother-flippin Tim Curry! Interested now? Thought so. Find out more about this one here.
And now, on with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-Review: TIMERIDER: THE ADVENTURE OF LYLE SWAN (1982)
DEADLY DARES: TRUTH OR DARE IV (2011)
THE G-STRING HORROR (2012)
Advance Review: THE HOSPITAL (2012)
DARK FEED (2013)
And finally…51 Deep’s POOR ASTRONAUT!
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory (find it on Netflix here)!
TIMERIDER: THE ADVENTURE OF LYLE SWAN (1982)Directed by William Dear
Written by William Dear, Michael Nesmith
Starring Fred Ward, Belinda Bauer, Peter Coyote, Richard Masur, Tracey Walter, Ed Lauter, L.Q. Jones, Chris Mulkey
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though I would never consider this hokey sci fi yarn horror, per se, I would say it falls in the realm of genre film and I don’t mind opening the doors to sci fi here on AICN HORROR every once and a while.
Like Robert Bruce Banner before him, Lyle Swan (played by Fred muther-luvin Ward) accidentally rides his motorbike into the middle of a government time travel testing site and is shot back 100 years into the past. Soon Swan is cruising around the Old West on his sporty red motorbike and matching jumpsuit, much to the shock and dismay of the cowpokes who populate the time. Every time travel cliché is bonked and taken advantage of in this one. And though this film predates BACK TO THE FUTURE by three years (and especially BACK TO THE FUTURE III by eight years), it’s interesting how it uses the same material as fodder for laughs and thrills.
A lot of Western movie standbys starred in this film, like Peter Coyote going waaaay over the top as the lead bad guy who wants Swan’s motorized horse and his gang which includes THE THING’s Richard Masur and Bob the Goon himself Tracey Walter. Also look for appearances by 70’s go-to bad guy Ed Lauter as a priest, THE WILD BUNCH’s L.Q. Jones as a noble cowboy, and another cowpoke played by FIRST BLOOD’s Chris Mulkey.
But the real highlight for me is seeing Fred Ward do his thing on screen. The sullen and stoic actor seemed to flirt with movie greatness in films like SOUTHERN COMFORT, UNCOMMON VALOR, REMO WILLIAMS and later TREMORS, but for some reason doesn’t get the respect he deserves. To me, there’s no one tougher and, like Charles Bronson, he’s got that cold stare that speaks volumes. At the same time, Ward displays some great comic timing here as the man out of time trying to figure out this time travel business.
Though there’s little horror going on, one guy is blown straight out of his shoes leaving bloody stumps and another gets his nose shot off and lives with a bandage across the hole where his nose used to be, so those with a thirst for the red stuff might be somewhat satisfied. With a bitchin’ synth and electric guitar score and low fi effects, this film is the epitome of the kind of hokey sci fi that overcrowded the film market during the early eighties after the success of STAR WARS. But with a rock solid cast of classic cow-dudes, a hottie leading lady in Belinda Bauer whose eyes are gorgeously piercing, and of course the incomparable Fred Ward in the leading role, there’s a whole hell of a lot of retro-fun to be had with TIMERIDER!
Available on DVD!
DEADLY DARES: TRUTH OR DARE IV (2011)Directed by Tim Ritter
Written by Tim Ritter
Starring Casey Miracle, Jessica Cameron, Billy W. Blackwell, Heather Price, Claude Miles, Roni Jonah, Thomas Kindler, Mike Holman, Jerry Williams, Shawn C. Phillips
Find out more about on Tim Ritter’s website here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Looking at DEADLY DARES, the fourth installment of Tim Ritter’s TRUTH OR DARE series about a homicidal maniac addicted to the game of Truth or Dare, one might not think much of it. The production looks like it was shot on video, the directing and editing are not the crispiest and crunchiest, and the acting is nothing to shout about. But if one looks past all of that, you’ll find a pretty interesting and somewhat complex story going on.
Having done multiple movies of this type of budget (and when I mean this type, I mean no budget), Tim Ritter has become somewhat of a cult icon on the indie horror scene. I remember watching the first TRUTH OR DARE when I was a kid, renting it on video, and laughing my ass off with it as it tried to establish his masked serial killer Mike Strauber as the new Freddy or Jason back when everyone was trying to make a new Freddy or Jason. Now, I’m not going to say Ritter’s creation is as good as those horror icons, but he was a somewhat memorable character in a somewhat memorable movie.
The first TRUTH OR DARE was a balls-out crazy yarn about a madman on a killing spree killing anyone who crosses his path. Heads were ‘sploded. Chainsaws mowed down innocent pedestrians. Much blood was spilled. And it was a hell of a lot of laughs in a gross out sort of way. In many ways DEADLY DARES is the same thing with a whole bunch of violent shit going on set to the budget of nil.
Yes, the seams can be seen in this one, but what stood out to me was the story, which actually takes some interesting turns, amping up Stauber’s notoriety to cult-like status in the world of these films. There’s even a website dedicated to the man where users can log on and play deadly versions of truth or dare with one another. One sad sack who was just dumped by his girlfriend happens upon the site and gets caught up in it, leading him down a road of violence and murder.
By the end of the film, TRUTH OR DARE 4: DEADLY DARES kind of turns in on itself and flip flops so much it sort of stops making a whole lot of sense, but just when Ritter’s attempts at narrative trickery start to sputter, he treats us to a montage of violence of epic proportions showing how the website has effected other users across the world in spreading the deadly game to world wide proportions. Ritter seems to be a hard working man, churning out one of these films after another. Though it might not be up to everyone’s standards of good cinema, I have to admire the man’s drive and dedication to this TRUTH OR DARE series.
New this week on DVD!
THE G-STRING HORROR (2012)Directed by Charles Webb
Written by Ed Bowers, Genna Darling, Mike Gleason, Debra Lamb, Trevor O'Donnell, Natasha Talonz
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Indie horror number two this week is another one full of folks who will most likely never win an Academy Award, but still in the execution and idea department, THE G-STRING HORROR has a lot of positive qualities.
Setting itself up as more of a documentary than an actual film, the story focuses on a movie theater in San Francisco that was turned into a strip club. Set up like a regular episode of GHOST HUNTERS, we are given the facts behind the place’s construction as well as the rich history of paranormal activity that has been occurring there through the years. Through interviews with former employees we find out the sordid history of murder, accidental death, and suicide occurring within the theater and how some of those poor souls may have never left.
Filmmaker Charles Webb is certainly ambitious here, and not above William Castle levels of gimmicky promotion as the DVD cover and the warning before the film provides this disclaimer: “This motion picture is, itself, a conjuration and a talisman designed with the help of a shaman and a priest for the purpose of allowing a particular spirit stuck on this plane of existence to move on. Parts of the film may be disturbing to some audience members and may induce unpredictable paranormal states.” That warning alone is something pretty fun, and throughout the film warnings and alerts scroll across the bottom of the screen alerting us of paranormal things about to happen on the tape. The film becomes somewhat of a fun production of spooky shit actually happening (something you rarely see on the regular ghost hunting shows).
Unfortunately, the filmmakers decide to add a narrative to the mix which proves to be both badly acted and turning the whole thing into a no-budget horror film. It’s too bad, because the first half of the film is actually filled with haunting recreations and spooky stories of a stripper who took her own life, another who was murdered, and a maintenance man who dies of a heart attack in the basement and then is stuck to the floor when the septic tank overflows, literally searing the corpse to the floor with feces and leaving his shadow forever stained into the floor. I know, right? Pretty fucked up story, right there.
So while the last half falls completely apart, the first half makes up for it in mood and creepy stories. There are quite a few scenes mixing horror with strippers which might work some folks up, but didn’t do much for me. As is, THE G-STRING HORROR starts out teasing as a nice homage to ghost hunter shows, but ends like that “what did I just waste my time and money” feeling one often gets when leaving a strip club.
Advance Review: Touring festivals, recently played at the Dead Winter Horror Convention!
THE HOSPITAL (2012)Directed by Tommy Golden, Daniel Emery Taylor
Written by Jim O'Rear, Daniel Emery Taylor
Starring Jim O'Rear, Daniel Emery Taylor, John Dugan, April Monique Burril, Jason Crowe, Robyn Shute, Alicia M. Clark, Lauryn MacGregor, Megan Hunt
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Our third and last indie horror flick of the week is THE HOSPITAL, a sick and twisted ordeal which, like THE G-STRING HORROR, centers around a paranormal investigation show. This time around, a group of guys lure a handful of women into a supposedly haunted hospital telling them that they will be a part of a paranormal investigation show which will be seen by millions of viewers. In actuality, this is a trap and GHOST HUNTERS soon morphs into an especially tasteless installment of HOSTEL pretty hastily.
To give this film credit, it does have some unexpected turns from start to finish and is able to mislead pretty well throughout, making this a truly unpredictable ride.
On the other hand, this is an especially diabolical film with no woman in its large cast getting out without being stripped, raped, and killed—and sometimes not in that order. There are scenes of torture, abuse, rape, and murder a-plenty here, and though there is attention to story, it is clear the focus of the film is to show different girls in peril over and over and over again.
Had the torture inflicted in this film not been such the object of so many minutes in the film’s run time, I’d believe the filmmakers may have been trying to make a statement here about violence by going so far over the top. But sadly, I felt the film may be a little too much fascinated with the torture to know when enough is enough. It was very tough to sit through this film and it definitely caused a lot of unease, which a good horror movie should do, I guess.
But I like a point to my violence, and THE HOSPITAL doesn’t seem to have a lot of it besides racking up a kill count with some of the most depraved kills enacted upon anyone in cinematic history. If you have an iron stomach, you might be able to withstand this perverse little indie, but though there is some kind of retribution to the rapist killers in the end, it is definitely not what the camera seems to linger on.
New this week on DVD (find it on Netflix here)!
DARK FEED (2013)Directed by Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen
Written by Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen
Starring Evalena Marie, Michael Reed, Michael Scott Allen, Hardy Winburn, Jason Beaubien, Dayna Cousins, Andy Rudick, Bree Elrod, Rebecca Whitehurst, Jonathan Thomson, Victoria Nugent, Evan Sanderson, Jonathan Popp
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Climbing the ladder up a ways in terms of production value and budget, we reach DARK FEED, a moody little film within a film that is smartly written and creatively directed, though the acting proved to be hit or miss.
A film set in a creepy abandoned mental hospital proves to be great fodder for some absolutely haunting scenes in DARK FEED, which was written and directed by the Rasmussen Brothers. This pair was also behind JOHN CARPENTER’S THE WARD, but I haven’t seen that film, so I have very little to compare DARK FEED to. As is, this effort from the brothers is actually pretty creepy in tone, mostly due to some conservative CGI effects of creeping blackness and the way the directors take full advantage of the ominous environment.
While the cast and crew go through the normal motions of making a low budget film, there is something much more sinister going on than just the sleazy producer and even sleazier special effects guy. The hospital proves to be haunted, but the film smartly avoids the obvious by never really explaining what exactly this haunting actually is. Instead, much like the excellent SESSION 9, it focuses on slowly turning up the volume on the weird until it reaches deafening levels during the climax. This is a darkly shot movie. As the film goes on, scenes become dimmer and dimmer while CG blackness blobbing and creeping around the corners make up for the rest. As the cast and crew start to disappear and become overcome by this blackness, the film actually continues to dim. This was a nice way of communicating this cast and crew’s wide descent into madness tale.
Once things go crazy, it goes all out. One actor shaves every hair off of his body and wears the scalp of another cast member. Another staples her eyes closed. Another rips out her lip ring. As the hospital literally drives the cast and crew insane, it is fascinating the depths this film plunges into. The Rasmussens also do a great job with action, as the climax of this film proves to be pretty tense.
On the downside, not all of the actors in this film are great and some of the performances are hard to sit through. Had a greater amount of the budget gone into the cast, this would have been a damn fine film, but I found myself distracted by some of the more wooden performances, especially that of the actor playing the director of the false film.
That said, DARK FEED showed me that the Rasmussens definitely show promise, and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what this team has in store to scare us with next.
New this week on DVD from IFC Midnight (find it on Netflix here)!
HELLGATE (2012)Directed by John Penney
Written by John Penney
Starring Cary Elwes, William Hurt, Ploy Jindachote, Paula Taylor, Viyada Umarin
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While on a family trip to Thailand, Jeff (played by Cary Elwes) and his loving family are in a car accident resulting in Jeff being the only survivor. After waking up from a coma, Jeff begins seeing visions of ghosts haunting him. Seeking out help from his personal nurse (the gorgeous Ploy Jindachote), she guides him into a realm of mysticism as he comes to terms with his family’s death.
First off, this is not the scariest movie in the world. THE GRUDGE-type ghosts appear to Elwes, but by this point, creepy Japanese ghosts are as clichéd as zombies. Still, HELLGATE has its moments, as Jeff seeks out the advice from spiritual guide William Hurt, who is always good. His mellow yet stern demeanor acts as Jeff’s anchor in this ghostly realm as the specters he sees increase in frequency.
While the ghosts aren’t particularly scary, once Elwes takes his river boat into his own personal heart of darkness, the scares do go on the rise. Haunting the jungles surrounding the river they are travelling down are charred and scarred forms of razor-toothed and clawed demons just itching for Elwes to step into the shadows to tear him apart. These demons are pretty damn awful to look at and do make things much scarier. There are some moments toward the end that really got to me as the red thin arms kept reaching out to grab our hero.
The acting here is pretty good, Hurt leading the way as the weirdo spirit guide, all tattooed and toga-wearing. But Elwes does a decent job too, though emoting sadness has never been his strong suit.
On top of the strong acting, you do get to go on a slow boat ride through Thailand in HELLGATE. Writer/director John Penney takes his time to absorb in the scenery of the gorgeous jungles, so if anything, this is a fun little travelogue of a place I’ve never been.
Still, as far as an entertaining horror film, I don’t know if this is going to be the one to scare the pants off of you. HELLGATE has some great monsters in the third act with the red demons and things really get rolling, but the trip there felt like I’d been down this path before and I am afraid to say some might tune out before the third act because it doesn’t feel so fresh.
But if you do hang in there you get to see a fun performance by William Hurt and some cool demons, so there’s that. Worth a rent, HELLGATE doesn’t offer up too much by way of new material, but it does have its moments of awesome.
Available now on Video On Demand from XLRatorMedia!
THALE (2011)Directed by Aleksander Nordaas
Written by Aleksander Nordaas
Starring Silje Reinåmo, Erlend Nervold, Jon Sigve Skard, Morten Andresen, Roland Astrand
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
My favorite film of the week is THALE, a modern fable with bite, is finally available for the mass consumption and showing up on Video On Demand this week!
And for that, you should consider yourselves lucky, because THALE is a truly unique and amazing film that I can only describe as SPLASH meets THE WOMAN as a pair of forensic cleaners on a routine clean up of an old man’s death scene in a house at the edge of a forested area uncover a secret corridor leading to an underground bunker which houses a very peculiar woman.
There’s a feeling of awe and whimsy in the air of this film. Though grounded in reality, there’s a real soul—an outwardly positive sense of heart. Don’t get me wrong, horror fans, things get dire and bloody by the end of the film, but there are some scenes on genuine connection between the most unlikeliest of souls in THALE. The reason I compare this to SPLASH is mainly because of the way these two men react to this naked feral woman when they first see it. In an American film, I think the reaction may be more sexual and possibly go to a more dastardly route as two men are basically stuck in a bunker with a naked woman, but THALE never goes there. Neither men show any sexual desire for the woman, at least it’s not outright in stating or suggesting so. They are two good souls looking to help this woman who is obviously lost and confused, offering her food, clothing, and shelter until the proper authorities arrive. What occurs are some nice meetings of minds, quite literally, as Thale (pronounces Tal-luh, as the audio cassettes scattered around the bunker refer to the woman as) seems to have the ability to share her experiences and touch minds, among other powers. But the authorities aren’t the only group ascending on the bunker, the discovery of Thale has alerted those she was taken from, and this is where things get dire, as this group is less than civilized.
The film is filled with fantastic performances by Erlend Nervold, who plays Elvis, a jittery and queasy man definitely not cut out for this line of work as he is first presented as vomiting at the sight of the dead body of the old man. His co-worker Leo, played by the calm and jaded Jon Sigve Skard, is your typical gum chewing mortician type, but moves past that as his apathy is explained much more thoroughly as the story goes on. Both of the men are likable and rapport nice between one another as to what to do with this weird woman. The highlight of the film is the discovery of the woman herself, Thale, played by the mesmerizing Silje Reinåmo, who I predict will be a Bond girl at some point if she gets the right agent. Here she shows a broad range from fearful and innocent Bambi to ferocious wild child and does so naked the whole time, which is a feat in itself, I’m sure. In her eyes alone and with very little dialog, Reinåmo embodies the curious, devoted, and trapped animal.
As I said, things get dire, dangerous, and quite bloody towards the end of this one as forces natural and unnatural close in on the bunker. The discovery of what exactly Thale really is is something I haven’t seen in film in a long time. The use of CG later in the film is decently done, but occasionally a bit too animated, but that’s my only complaint in this wholly entertaining film and that’s not really what this film is about anyway. Filled with gorgeous Norwegian landscapes and iconic imagery such as a severed tail in a refrigerator, THALE is an unearthed treasure and should not be missed.
And finally…here’s one portrait of a sad, sad astronaut from John Keefer and the madmen at 51Deep. Enjoy the goofiness of POOR ASTRONAUT!
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 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s 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 from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
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