Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. We’ve got the first of a seven part dissection of the new A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET BluRay, an influential sci fi gem, a twisted import, two descents into madness, and a pair of killer Easter Bunny films just in time for the holiday! But before we check out those…there’s this!
Talented artist Daniel Crosier and good friend of AICN HORROR has a Kickstarter campaign for his comic SHOW DEVILS which stars real life unique and freaky people The Enigma and Serana Rose in comic book adventures. It’s definitely one of those projects worth checking out, so support Daniel here on his Kickstarter page so that more people can check out SHOW DEVILS! Check out the trailer below!
Always THE place to see all of the best new horror films of the year, the TORONTO AFTER DARK HORROR FEST is having a call for submissions, so if you think your horror film’s the zom-bee’s knees, head on over to this website and submit your film for the 2013 festival this fall before the deadline of April 12th!
Readers of this column know I love all things Bigfoot, so of course, if a Kickstarter campaign is started for a new Bigfoot film, I’ve got to pass the word on to all of you. This one is a horror comedy called STOMPING GROUND. Here’s the official synopsis: STOMPING GROUND can best be described as a “scary relationship comedy about love and Bigfoot hunting.” It tells the story of Ben and Annie, a couple living in Chicago, on a weekend trip to Annie's small North Carolina hometown. At the local bar they run into Paul, an old friend of Annie's, and Ben learns something he never knew about his girlfriend: She believes in Bigfoot. In fact, she and her friends used to "hunt" for the creature when they were kids. Before Ben knows it, he's off on an impromptu Squatchin' trip deep in the Carolina backwoods. Amidst the Squatch calls, campfire stories and beers, Ben quickly realizes that Paul may have an ulterior motive in bringing Annie to the woods. And something else out here seems to be after her as well. Everyone but Ben thinks its Bigfoot. But it can't be, can it? After all, Bigfoot isn't real... Directed by Dan Riesser, STOMPING GROUND can be supported by clicking on this Kickstarter page! And check out the promo video here.
Another cool flick on the horizon is MK OUTLIER, which leans more towards sci fi, but still looks damn cool. Find out more about this really cool looking Australian flick here and look for more on this cool film here on AICN HORROR as the release date closes in!
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Book Review: THE VAMPIRE COMBAT MANUAL (2012)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET COLLECTION Retro-review Part 1: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
Retro-Review: FUTUREWORLD (1976)
DEAD IN FRANCE (2012)
BAD MEAT (2011)
PETER ROTTENTAIL (2004)
EASTER CASKET (2012)
And finally…Nick Gillespie’s THE FINAL BOY
THE VAMPIRE COMBAT MANUAL (2012)Writer: Roger Ma
Find out more about this film here
Reviewer: by Ambush Bug
If it ain’t zombies that’s going to take over the world, it’s vampires. Roger Ma knows this and you will too after you read THE VAMPIRE COMBAT MANUAL, the newest book in Ma’s fantastic series of books serving as a helpful how to survive guide should the world come to an end by infestation of supernatural creatures. Just as Ma did with zombies in THE ZOMBIE COMBAT MANUAL, he provides more than enough information for anyone to keep kicking despite the fact that the rest of the world hasn’t.
What makes this book so entertaining a read is how thorough Ma is with the survival information he doles out. Taking things absurdly serious, Ma considers every detail in terms of a vampire take over, but while zombies provide their own dangers and considerations, vamps have a whole new set of rules to abide by.
My favorite chapters are in the beginning as Ma debunks misconceptions of vampirism basing them on popular cultures’ (mostly movies) depiction of vamps. Accuracy depends on how cool the movie is, of course. Vamps don’t sparkle. But I do especially love the chapter called “Vampires Love Being Undead.”
Other chapters that made me giggle while informing me with crucial information were “Conditioning and Preparation” which dives to new depths teaching you “Psychological Preparation” as well as physical and martial arts training. Handy illustrations offer up surefire ways to avoid getting your neck pierced.
The thing about THE VAMPIRE COMBAT MANUAL that makes it most fun to read is that by following a lot of the techniques given in this book, you learn quite a bit about self help, physical and mental preparation, and self defense. The book is a serious tool in making one able to defend themselves and while it takes it to an absurd level in terms of what all this preparation could be used upon, I could see one following the rules laid out in this book and coming out a much more confident, healthier, and stronger person.
So whether you’re afraid of running into Vlad Tepes himself or just wanting to protect yourself from TWILIGHT fans in line at the theater to see THE HOST this weekend, you would do yourself some good to bone up on the techniques Ma lays out in THE VAMPIRE COMBAT MANUAL.
Retro-review: New on BluRay (Covering all seven films of the collection: Part 1 of 7)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET COLLECTION: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)Directed by Wes Craven
Written by Wes Craven
Starring Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Ronee Blakley, Charles Fleischer, Lin Shaye
Find this film on Netflix here! Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
It’s always difficult to review the classics. It’s not that there’s nothing to say about them, it’s just that there’s been so much said about them that I feel I’m not saying anything new about it. I guess what I can do is talk about the first time I saw A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and see where that trip back down memory lane takes me.
It was a Wednesday night and my mother was going to some kind of class reunion meeting or something, and in order to shut my brother and myself up for a few hours, my mother took us to the corner video store to rent this recently released movie on VHS called A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. At this point, my brother and I were no strangers to gore, having seen our fair share of FRIDAY THE 13THs, HALLOWEENs, and late night oldies on Night Owl Theater out of the Columbus station we could get in our small Ohio town. But all of those films didn’t really prepare us for this film.
Immediately, we were bombarded with the opening sequence which told us all we needed to know as a grumbling and heavy breathing man in the shadows constructs a heinous clawed glove in a filthy workshop near a furnace. While there was no dialog, this montage of construction and moans set the tone that this was the beginning of something special.
Soon after, we were treated to some pretty fantastic dream sequences which seemed to make sense and not make sense all at once, but as with dreams, you go with it. Why is there a sheep running down a hallway? Why does a short run down a hallway seem like an endless trek? Why do things pop out of nowhere? This was horror without a net. And while my brother and I were thrilled watching a hatchet wielding madman stalk some counselors, there were a set of rules which always held those films to a strict sense of reality. That sense was not present with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and because of that, at least in this first film, it made for amazing stuff for Wes Craven to play with.
Though a lot of the acting in this film is pretty awful (even the then-unknown Johnny Depp comes off as pretty cardboard), the performances were pretty memorable. But we look past that because Robert Englund’s nightmare boogey man is so damn good here and the dream sequences are the stuff of the darkest recesses of our imaginations. While later outings got bigger and more effects driven, Craven relied on (most likely due to budget) subtle horrors such as a bloody body bag with a moaning person in it, stretched out arms that extend past that of a normal human’s should, sliced off fingers, and a phone with a tongue that immediately became iconic.
Sitting on the couch with my brother, both of us with pillows up to our 12 and 10 year old chins to cover our eyes when necessary, we were scared shitless by Craven’s creation. It borrows heavily from Craven’s first foray into the dream realm with DEADLY BLESSING (the bathtub sequence is almost exactly the same up to a point), but it expands on the concept showing Craven coming into his own as a filmmaker and ideaman.
I don’t plan on explaining the first time I saw every movie in this newly released BluRay collection as I focus on one installment of the series after another over the next few weeks, but maybe this trip to yesteryear will prompt others to share the first time they saw A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. It was definitely a memorable experience for me and my brother on our feet cheering Nancy on as she battled Freddy in the closing moments. This BluRay is basically a rerelease of the Best Buy version, but still, rewatching this I was amazed at how clean and clear this transfer is. Next week we delve into the first sequel, FREDDY’s REVENGE. See you then.
Retro-Review: New this week on BluRay from the Shout Factory (Find this film on Netflix here)!
FUTUREWORLD (1976)Directed by Richard T. Heffron
Written by Mayo Simon, George Schenck
Starring Peter Fonda, Blythe Danner, Arthur Hill, Yul Brynner, John P. Ryan, Stuart Margolin
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though I haven’t seen WESTWORLD in quite a long time and can’t speak for it, I was amazed at how many sci fi concepts were used in this sequel to the robot hit from 1972. Shades of JURASSIC PARK, TERMINATOR, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and more rear their head in this film about a pair of journalists asked to come and report on the newly reopened Futureworld Amusement Park, where you are immersed into a past or future society. Of course, things go horribly, horribly wrong.
Again, I don’t know if these themes are prevalent in WESTWORLD since I haven’t seen it in so long, but I was most impressed with how the paranoia of robots making humans obsolete and replacing mankind was integrated into the story. Human extinction at the hands of machines is always great fodder to work with, and director Richard T. Heffron handles it well here. Some of the lessons are heavy handed here as sexbots seem to be all the rage in this world, with some saying “once you go robot, you never go back”, but still, I always like a good replicant story, and seeing Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner battling themselves was a lot of fun to see play out.
The film cheats a bit by indicating that Yul Brynner reprises his role as the robot gunman from WESTWORLD. He appears in a dream sequence which shows how freaky Danner’s character is as she imagines dancing and getting it on with the robot killer. Brynner appears for about two minutes here and his appearance doesn’t really add much to the plot.
I also really dug the interaction with one of the human repairmen (Stuart Margolin) here and his broken down robot assistant, which looks like a faceless Brynner from the first film. Margolin offers up some much-needed humanity here, as Fonda and Danner are far too full of snark toward each other to really care for either of them. His moments of solitude with his robot best friend are some of the cooler ones in this film.
All in all, FUTUREWORLD is a worthy follow-up to WESTWORLD, and most likely served as inspiration to some of your favorite sci fi films.
New this week on DVD from Midnight Releasing (Find this film on Netflix here)!
ANIMUS (2012)Directed by Quin Davis
Written by Quin Davis
Starring John Bernath, Megan Davis, Caitlin Singer, J.A. Cuffs Bratten, Brandon Lee Pittman, Tiffany Ann B., Trinidad Amaya, Joan Schumacher, Gregory Sweet
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though I’m getting a bit tired of the number of films I’ve seen following a band of ghost hunters in an abandoned hospital, ANIMUS proves that it still can be a pretty effective hook to hang a movie on. Though those who like to delve deep in theme and symbolism might say the inundation of abandoned building flicks might suggest a common theme of the turmoil of our current health care situation, I think it’s more accurate to point out that filming these types of films are cheap and in today’s sad times, you can’t throw a dirty syringe without hitting an abandoned hospital. Grab a camera and a few actors, and BAM! MOVIE!
That’s what you get here with ANIMUS, one of the better abandoned hospital films, following a group of better-than-average actors as they Scooby Doo around dark corridors of a former mental asylum until they stir up what looks to be either a ghost in physical form or a homeless madman left over from when the hospital was up and running. Whatever it is, the film kicks into high gear in the second half, making this film much more than just watchable.
What makes this film stand out is the brutal nature of the psycho killer himself. It takes a while for him to make his move, but once the leprous man-monster starts pummeling, it actually is quite scary. The actor in the full body makeup is pretty heinous, and I hesitate to say that because this guy either looks like that or the makeup is that good. Either way, when he starts barreling through the hallways ripping these investigators to pieces, it’s a sight to be seen.
Director Quin Davis also puts together some decent and horrific dream sequences with doctors and nurses with their faces sewn shut. Sure the scenes are swiped directly from SILENT HILL, which in turn first swiped the imagery from JACOB’S LADDER, but despite all of that, these scenes of medical hell work.
So while you might be very familiar with the premise of ANIMUS, it does what it does in an entertaining and pretty horrific manner. You aren’t going to find brand new themes here, but the film is of a better quality than most in this genre, which goes for the cheap in more instances than just location.
New this week on DVD (Find this film on Netflix here)!
BAD MEAT (2011)Directed by Lulu Jarmen
Written by Paul Gerstenberger
Starring Dave Franco, Elisabeth Harnois, Mark Pellegrino, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Tahj Mowry, Monique Ganderton, Joe Dinicol, Aaron Berg, Marcus Shultz, Samantha Hill, Aaron Merke
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
With a title like BAD MEAT, you know you’re in for a pretty gross time, but I don’t think I was prepared for what happened when I pressed play on this filthy little gem. Now, there are some films that make a ton of sense from start to finish. I like and respect those. Most of the time, I like to know where I’m going in a story and what to expect and following the well-tread path is commendable. Then there are films like BAD MEAT which seemingly have no real destination planned, and just throw one bugnuts concept at you after another and like EVIL DEAD II, MOTEL HELL, and others in that ilk, there’s a place for that in the annals of good horror as well.
I think those who like to know what type of movie they are watching will have difficulty with this film. If you don’t like being surprised and having something happen in the narrative that changes the tone and direction of the film drastically halfway through-—if you’re the type who got annoyed with FROM DUSK TIL DAWN because halfway in it turned into a vamp flick--then you will hate this film. Not to reveal too much, but what starts out as a teen prison camp-like film quickly turns into a mindless cannibal rampage, as a disgruntled cook taints the meat he serves the counselors at an abusive camp for reckless kids.
The results are pretty amazing, as the perverse counselors vomit their guts out only to rise mindless and hungry for kid brains. While up to the food poisoning scene, there was enough perverse sex, Nazi fetishism, voyeurism, and just plain torture and abuse for any old movie; adding the mindless vomiting cannibal angle takes it to a whole new level of gruesome. Still in fetish sex gear, two counselors barrel through the hallways after the clueless kids, while the kids have to deal with the fact that the they themselves are fucked up too as one likes to set fires, another is claustrophobic, and another likes to operate and take apart living and dead things.
The performances aren’t bad here, as Dave Franco (James Franco’s brother) headlines as one of the kids. Along with some nubile hotties and an appearance by BEING HUMAN/LOST’s Mark Pellegrino as the head counselor, the performances are disgestible. What isn’t digestible are the multiple scenes of vomiting which tickled my gag reflex a few times (for some reason I can put up with any type of gore except vomiting).
The film is bookended by a nonsensical piece of a person wrapped from head to toe in bandages. Though we don’t know who it is under there, we are given hints and the film seems to want to tell us who it is, but the ending comes rather abruptly and you never do find out, which will prove for some exasperated “Whatthefuck”s during the closing credits. Still, for the level of craziness and energy that oozes and spews from every scene, I have to give it up to this grossout bit of madness. I don’t know if this is supposed to be intentionally bad or is just bad, but BAD MEAT is the right side of crazy for me to get behind it.
New on DVD!
DEAD IN FRANCE (2012)Directed by Kris McManus
Written by Brian A. Levine, Kris McManus
Starring Celia Muir, Darren Bransford, Lee Cheney, Kate Loustau, Brian A. Levine, James Privett, Richard Raynesford, Tom Geoffrey
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Because this is an English film set in Europe, I think the first comparison one would adhere to DEAD IN FRANCE would be that of Guy Richie’s work, but while there is a lot of hitmanning and gun play in this little pretzeline gun heist flick, in terms of gore and humor, I’d say it has more akin to Peter Jackson’s BAD TASTE and DEAD ALIVE. Still, whether you choose to compare DEAD IN FRANCE with gangster films or horror, it fits in with either of them well and turns out to be a hidden treasure if you go in with an open mind and no expectations.
Slapstick humor is hard to play off, but somehow Kris McManus pulls it off. With a slightly sped up camera, we are taken through multiple scenes of one cool as fuck hitman (Brian A. Levine, who helped write this film with McManus) and a handful of bumbling wannabe gangsters. The film opens as a would-be French noir film as an English hitman allows a masked French hit to say his final words. Just before he pulls the trigger, the hitman decides to retire and tells the mark to walk forward to freedom. Of course, freedom in this sense is a cliff and as the mark’s body bounces comically down the side of the hill during the credits sequence, we understand what kind of pitch black comedy we are in store for.
Full of gory scenes of gunplay and some hilarious scenes of bumbled crime, DEAD IN FRANCE is definitely going to please fans of LOCK, STOCK, & TWO SMOKING BARRELS, SNATCH, and SEXY BEAST, but the amount of red stuff spilt in this film and the comedic way it is spilled will remind you more of the slapstick manner by which SHOOT EM UP and DRIVE ANGRY handled their humor and gore. Either way, fans of crime and gore are going to eat this one up.
The film highlights a few of its stars pretty well. Celia Muir plays a cleaning lady with an agenda to rip off rich clients. She’s quite gorgeous, and is allowed to sparkle well in this film in and out of her clothes. Darren Bransford plays her thug boyfriend and offers up some of the funniest scenes (especially one involving a fake shootout with a cat that had me rolling). And Kate Loustau does a great job as the hard as nails rival hitwoman who could kick any man or woman’s ass in this or most other films combined. Brian A. Levine lead the film as the retiring hitman who just can’t seem to achieve his aspirations to holster his gun for good because he is surrounded by so many idiots who deserve to be shot.
With a cast full of folks with great comedic timing and some fantastic slap-stickery going on throughout, this may lean more towards the gangster genre and will please any die hard guns and gangs fan. But what makes this film comfortable in this column set to the horror vibe is the sheer amount of blood and gore shed in DEAD IN FRANCE. Trust me, it’s not your typical film, but it’s a good one and well worth checking out.
AICN HORROR celebrates Easter with…
PETER ROTTENTAIL (2004)Directed by John Polonia, Mark Polonia
Written by John Oak Dalton, John Polonia
Starring Brice Kennedy, Dave Fife, John Polonia as Peter Rottentail!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
When I happened upon this disk gathering dust at a Horror Convention I went to last fall, I asked the dealer “How bad is this?”, to which he replied “pretty bad”, to which I replied “SOLD!”, knowing I needed something bunny-related for this year’s Easter AICN HORROR column. So it sat and sat and sat on my “To View” pile, and I almost forgot about it as Easter snuck up on us this year. But watch PETER ROTTENTAIL I did, and I survived the experience.
Turns out the guy who sold me this was pretty spot on. This is a pretty bad low budgeter. With an annoying killer rabbit whose laugh is about as grating as sand paper on my sphincter, Peter Rottentail is not one of the more ingenious of bunny serial killers, and there’ve been a few with BUNNYMAN (reviewed here) and let us not forget the torturous BUNNY GAME which came out last year and grossed me out to no end (see my review here).
With PETER ROTTENTAIL, the torture comes in pretty amateur filmmaking, bad acting, and an uninspired killer. A failed magician makes a deal with a HELLRAISER-like bum with mystical powers to pull off the best magic act ever, resulting in him going nuts at a kid’s party consisting of two kids and a parent. Years later, those kids are all grown up and still haunted by the murderous magician.
While the story isn’t the worst, the implementation of it is what is most painful. The zero budget doesn’t help either. I wish I could say something good about this film, but alas, I can’t really find the words.
If you are really desperate for some Easter mayhem, you might find a laugh or two from PETER ROTTENTAIL, but this low budgeter isn’t going to please many.
New on DVD this week, just in time for Easter!
EASTER CASKET (2013)Directed by Dustin Mills
Written by Dustin Mills
Starring Josh Eal, Erin R. Ryan, Brandon Salkil, Allison Fitzgerald
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
One thing you can always count on in a Dustin Mills film is that you’re going to see a lot of boobs. There’ll be a fucked up FEEBLES-like puppet or two. And the level of insanity is usually cranked to 14. Churning out films faster than I can watch them, Mills already has an impressive lineup of grossout comedy horror films under his belt with ZOMBIE A-HOLE (reviewed here), THE PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE (reviewed here), NIGHT OF THE TENTACLES (reviewed here), and most recently, and my most favorite BATH SALT ZOMBIES (reviewed here). Mills is at it again, this time taking on modern religion with EASTER CASKET, a film that drops this week just in time to watch after you find that last Easter egg in the back yard.
Though I must admit, some of the humor in EASTER CASKET is pretty lowbrow; all of the usual jokes are used from sexually repressed clergy to commenting on chocolate eggs looking like “little poops” as one nun puts it. But still, I found a lot to love about this low budget, do it yourself indie.
Mills continues his own special brand of lunacy, casting a hand puppet as the Easter Bunny, Peter Cottontail. But this time, Cottontail has an agenda to combat the Catholic Church who decides that the pagan rituals of coloring and hiding eggs, giving Easter Baskets, and adoring a magical bunny should be abolished in favor of focusing on the death and rebirth of Christ. Cottontail ain’t having it and strikes out on a holy Jihad, wiping out nuns and priests in sacrilegious fashions.
I found myself laughing out loud at the twists and turns on religious tropes. A knight from the Vatican is sent out by the all powerful Mega-Pope (a talking Oz-like head) who reports to the knight, Father Asher, that there’s a disturbance in the Christoshpere and arms him with a Hold Hand Grenade. There are multiple references to a dead nun’s pubic hair, stating that one would think it would be a “gnarly nun bush” but turns out it’s quite coiffed and the humor comes in the repetition of that line. One amazing computer animated sequence has Asher taking on a flock of flesh eating peeps with a broadsword. And the whole thing wraps up with a giant Easter Bunny puppet going Godzilla on a cardboard city and toy jet fighters.
If any of the above lunacy made you giggle in the slightest, then you are the right person for EASTER CASKET. It’s absurd, it’s tasteless, and Mills is becoming one of my favorite underground directors combining some pretty ingenious computer animation with real life comedy and of course boobs and blood. Some of the acting is a bit wooden and over the top, but it fits the low fi mood of the whole thing, so it only adds to the charm instead of degrades it. If you’re a fan of laughing when most folks are gasping and don’t mind low budget horror (remember, at one time, such cult favorites you drool over like THE HILLS HAVE EYES and EVIL DEAD were once considered this), I think EASTER CASKET and any of the offbeat horrors Dustin Mills has to offer is something you’re not going to want to miss.
And finally…here’s a pretty effective little shock and scare short from Nick Gillespie called THE FINAL BOY. With a lot of mood and style, this little number packs quite a punch in just a few minutes. Enjoy!
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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