Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Let’s get right into it!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET COLLECTION Retro-review: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)
Retro-Review: SCANNERS (1981)
Short Cuts short film review: WITCHFINDER (2013)
IT CAME FROM YESTERDAY (2011)
DEAD BALL (2011)
WOOCHI: THE DEMON SLAYER (2009)
And finally…Dokken’s DREAM WARRIORS!
Retro-review: New on BluRay (Covering all seven films of the collection: Part 3 of 7, Find this film on Netflix here!)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)Directed by Chuck Russell
Written by Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell
Starring Robert Englund, Heahter Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Jennifer Rubin, Craig Wasson, Lawrence Fishburne, John Saxton
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
The third installment of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is the film most tout as the best in the series. I get it. It is a pretty awesome film which never really lets up on the action from start to the very final scene. I’ll get to the positives of this film in a second, but first I want to focus on why I feel this film ultimately hurt the NIGHTMARE series more than helped it.
Sure, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 propelled Freddy into superstardom, but in doing so it also was the first step to making the character a shell of the devious fucker he once was. I guess that’s the price you pay for popularity. Unlike the grungy sexually-themed second installment, which literally maps out Freddy’s seduction of one teen in body, mind, and soul, part 3 doesn’t even reference the fact that Freddy was a child molester and killer. Casting the film with twenty-somethings playing teens somehow helped make it ok for Freddy to be doing what he is doing and more digestible for a mass audience. A true ballsy NIGHTMARE film that doesn’t exist (yet) would have Freddy take on actual kids, but I doubt anyone would green light that.
This film has some pretty strong religious themes. It was this installment where we find out that Freddy is the son of a nun, trapped in an insane asylum over the breakout who was raped by the 100 lunatics who lived there and had a child as a result of the rape. This, again, defangs the monster by giving him a tragic backstory. How can one not feel for someone who was raped, and did little Freddy ever have a chance? Hell, at the end of this one, Freddy’s body is given a proper burial and blessed with holy water and a cross, which might as well have abolished all of his sins as the child murderer aspect takes a backseat in this series to the less cringe-worthy “bastard son of a hundred maniacs” title.
Moreso than any of the other NIGHTMARE films so far, Freddy is out of the shadows and into the bright lights, which again takes away from the boogeyman mystique of the character. I challenge you to find one well-lit shot where Freddy’s face is completely unobscured in NIGHTMARE 1. It just isn’t there, and Freddy is scarier because of it. Bringing Freddy into full light and giving him Schwarzeneggerian one-liners after every kill was fresh in this film, but it set the precedent for all films that followed. And as we all know, while the first three are fun, the rest get worse and worse as we go along.
Finally, the film defies its own logic by having Freddy zip in and out of the dream realm whenever he pleases. Towards the end of the film, as Craig Wasson’s Dr. Neil Gordon and John Saxton’s Sheriff Thompson attempt to bury Freddy’s remains in a proper burial, Freddy effortlessly makes his way into the real world to fight them in a pretty awesome Harryhausen-esque skeleton sequence. Sure it makes for a cool scene, but it betrays the rules mapped out in part one and two where Freddy is trapped in the dream world and must either be dragged out by the dreamer or possess the dreamer’s body in order to make it into the real world. Later installments of the series even support this notion that Freddy is trying to make it back into the real world, but for some reason, that’s overlooked here.
Don’t get me wrong, of all of the NIGHTMARE films, Part 3 is probably my favorite. Director Chuck Russell made THE BLOB, THE MASK, and ERASER after DREAM WARRIORS, and as I said before, he never lets up from start to finish with cool scenes of action and scares. This time around, instead of nightmares and framing someone for murder (which happens in the first two films), the focus is on the outbreak of teen suicide. Honing in on one particular group of teens, we move from Elm Street to a mental hospital where the last children of Elm Street are staying and all experiencing nightmares starring the same scarred madman.
More so than any before it, NIGHTMARE 3 has expansive scenes that are creative beyond compare. Scenes like the Freddy snake scene, the naked nurse scene, the syringe fingers scene—so many cool death sequences, and the lines—well, the lines are pretty classic as well. “Welcome to prime time, bitch!”, “What a rush!”, “Sorry kid, I don’t believe in fairy tales!” That’s some great stuff and with writers like Frank Darabont, Wes Craven, and Chuck Russell behind those lines, it’s no wonder they worked so well.
While it may have been the final nail in Freddy’s coffin in terms of being scary, it made for one hell of a rollercoaster ride. If anything, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS represents the NIGHTMARE series at its apex. It was still scary in parts (that opening sequence still sends shivers down my spine when Kristen is running with the little girl and Freddy comes running up behind her), it expanded to make the dream sequences bigger and more creative (with the puppeteering scene being my favorite of the bunch), and it brought things to a logical close. We’ll see the slow decline start with part 4 in next week’s column.
Retro-Review: New this week in the UK from Second Sight (Find this film on Netflix here)!
SCANNERS (1981)Directed by David Cronenberg
Written by David Cronenberg
Starring Michael Ironside, Jennifer O'Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane, Robert A. Silverman, Mavor Moore, Adam Ludwig
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though SCANNERS is best known for one key scene that occurs in the first few minutes of the film...
...there is a lot to like about the movie. SCANNERS itself plays like a modern day X-Men of sorts, as it is revealed that there is a certain percentage of the population with advanced mental powers called Scanners and a secret war being fought behind the scenes and right under the general populace’s noses. On one side is the government, conspiring to use the Scanners for their own means and exploit them. On the other is an underground movement lead by the Scanners to liberate those who are exploited and fight back against those who wish to harm them. In the middle is a scanner named Cameron (Stephen Lack), who is just beginning to understand his powers. Cameron’s journey in this film shows him the ugly sides of both warring fractions. It’s a journey that ends with an epic confrontation between two powerful minds where only one will survive.
All dramatic prose aside, Cronenberg does a fantastic job here telling more of a down-to-earth mental mutant story. Unlike the body horror he explored in films such as THE BROOD, SHIVERS, and RABID, which dealt with primarily the spreading of diseases, with SCANNERS it feels more like sci fi genetics, though (SPOILER) it’s revealed that the scanner gene is being created via a drug called Ephemerol and experimented on unborn children by a secret organization (END SPOILER). Still, the conspiracies and body manipulation are at the forefront of the godfather of body horror films.
The entire film is well acted, with Patrick McGoohan playing Dr. Ruth but looking nothing like the aged sex therapist (joking!). Here, McGoohan is the Professor Xavier-type guy, working to teach the scanners to use their powers—at least, that is what we are led to believe. After Cameron escapes the facility, he comes into confrontation with another powerful Scanner and the real reason to check out this film in the first place.
Yes, the real reason to check out SCANNERS is to see Michael Ironside play the evil Revok, the top dog of Scanners. Seeing him manipulate and psychically fuck up everyone in his path is a sight to behold. Ironside always does psycho well. In many ways, he’s genre films’ own Jack Nicholson, always seeming to be barely containing an atomic bomb-load of rage and evil. As Revok, he’s especially badass. He even drills a hole in the middle of his own head to release the pressure out of his powerful brainpan.
The final confrontation between Revok and Cameron is pretty amazing, as their powers literally blow each other to pieces. This expansive climax is pretty huge, but the technology of the age doesn’t seem to live up to the ideas Cronenberg is trying to accomplish here. I hate to say it, but there are parts of the film which are pretty ridiculous as the psychics contort and shake to signify the use of their powers. Watching two people standing and having epileptic seizures isn’t the most exciting thing in the world and may cause, for some, unintentional laughs.
Ironside and the shimmies aside, SCANNERS is a fantastic film for effects. Sure the exploding head from the above clip is impressive, but the final confrontation has all that and more with people bursting into flames, veins inflating and bursting out of arms and skulls, and eyes popping under the pressure--all of which are not exaggerated and look and feel extremely real, making it all the more wince-inducing to watch.
SCANNERS is an extremely fun film--much more than just an exploding head scene. If anything, it makes me wonder what a Cronenberg helmed X-MEN movie would be like. Though it would be a seemingly odd choice, I think the master of body horror could really amplify the curious nature of genetics gone awry. He sure does it with SCANNERS.
The Second Sight release is Region 2, but those in the UK can enjoy interviews with the stars, producers, and special effects team behind SCANNERS. Sorry, no interview with Cronenberg. Here’s hoping over here in the States we can get The Scream Factory to release a cool BluRay version of the film over here soon. Second Sight is also releasing SCANNERS 2 & 3, which were both Cronenbergless and thus not nearly as good as the original.
Short Cuts Short Film Review: Currently touring festivals (having its world premiere at PANIC FEST on April 20th in Kansas City, MO)!
WITCHFINDER Short Film (2013)Directed by Colin Clarke
Written by Colin Clarke
Starring Dave Juehring, Valerie Meachum, Travis Worthey, Nicole Kilmer, and Chloe Konieczki
Find out more on the Facebook page Reviewed by Ambush Bug
A good short film shouldn’t feel like a short film at all. Between the opening and closing credits there should be enough story, or at least a satisfying enough arc from start to finish, to make it all feel complete. WITCHFINDER is such a short film.
The story is a simple one, telling the tale of a witchfinder who captures and tortures a witch into confessing her sins. The scene is reminiscent of BLACK SUNDAY and WITCHFINDER GENERAL, as the garb of the Witchfinder (played by David Juehring) is almost exactly like Vincent Price’s costume from the famous witch-hunting film. Also, an iron mask, made famous in BLACK SUNDAY, is the preferred method of torture.
After a long day of burning and torturing witches, the witch hunter goes home to his wife and kid, but soon he finds that his work has followed him home and all hell breaks loose at the casa de witchfinder.
Though the story is pretty straightforward, writer/director Colin Clarke tells it solidly, making the opening torture sequence effective and grueling. But his talent really shines with the way he sets up the latter half of the film as the witchhunter is haunted by the spirit of the witch he just got rid of. There are scenes that genuinely sent chills down my spine, implementing some nice camera trickery and simple special effects.
Premiering next week at Panic Fest in Kansas City, MO, WITCHFINDER is a short you won’t want to miss. Being a huge fan of witchhunting films, though it swipes from some of the most famous of witchcraft films, it does so with a lot of talent and doesn’t forget to stop and scare the dickens out of you.
New this week on DVD from Screen Media Films!
INFECTED (2013)Directed by Glenn Ciano
Written by Glenn Ciano
Starring Michael Madsen, William Forsythe, Christy Romano, Johnny Cicco, David Gere, Kristi Lynn, Tom DeNucci, Michael Nicolosi
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Michael Madsen and William Forsythe gotta eat, I guess, as the pair team up to take on the undead in this low budgeter. The disease which makes the dead turn into reanimated flesh chompers is an offshoot of Lyme disease, and as Madsen and Forsyth lead a father and son hunting excursion into the woods, their score turns out to be infected and after they cook up some venison on the fire and chow down, they end up being infected too.
I don’t want to rip too hard on this film. It goes by the numbers just about every zombie film released in the last thirty years have laid out well. There’s the arc where someone is bitten and hides the bite. There’s the arc where the loved one who wouldn’t harm a fly ends up a blood thirsty beast. There’s the showdown where all sorts of bullets and zombie parts fly. And, of course, there’s the scene where someone tries to make sense of it all at the end of the world. Hell, there’s even an armored car here which is built to take back the world from the shambling undead.
All of it is done capably; it’s just that after scores and scores of zombie films, it’s all been done before and INFECTED feels more like a highlight reel of plots from more famous zombie films than a movie itself.
The appearances of Forsythe and Madsen class up the cast, as the rest of them are unknowns, and the two actors really seem to try to squeeze some drama and emotion out of the script, but there’s just nothing new to work with here and it ended up just leaving me bored.
INFECTED gives its all throughout, but proves to be utterly indistinguishable from the rest of the horde of zombie films out there.
New this week on DVD from Chemical Burn!
BLOODLINE (2011)Directed by Edo Tagliavini
Written by Mario Calamita, Virgilio Olivari, Edo Tagliavini, Taiyo Yamanuchi
Starring Francesca Faiella, Virgilio Olivari, Marco Benevento, Alessandra Aulicino, Monica Citarda, Valentina Del Rio, Roberta Fossile, Francesco Malcom, Francesco Mastrorilli, Elena Ravaioli, Paolo Ricci, Fabio Rizzuto, Bruno Valente
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I knew nothing about BLOODLINE going into it. Sometimes I get screeners without even a cover to read and prepare myself. Sometimes this indicates that it’s going to be a chore to sit through this film. And then sometimes, just sometimes, I am pleasantly surprised. Such is the case with BLOODLINE, one of those toss everything against the wall and see what sticks kind of films which combines the supernatural with a serial killer and places the whole thing on the set of a soft core porno film.
Filmed in Italy and set in what I believe to be the seventies, this film follows a pair of reporters assigned to document the behind-the-scenes antics of one of the first gonzo adult film crews who reenact supposed real life scenarios where all of a sudden people randomly start having sex. The reporters Sandra (Francesca Faiella) and Marco (Marco Benevento) are curious about the genre, with Marco filling Sandra in on all of the seedy details and history of the porn industry. Marco seems to have a fascination with this type of film and is obviously drawn to it, while for Sandra there is a much more personal reason why she is there. Turns out, years before, Sandra lost her sister to a serial killer in the exact same place the porno is being shot. By working on this documentary she is trying to overcome her own personal demons, but in a horror movie, it’s very rarely that these demons don’t come back for some haunting. The serial killer, named The Surgeon because he operates on his victims while they are still alive, is still alive and kicking (or so it seems) and soon Sandra and Marco find themselves fighting for their lives.
What makes this film special is that the level of gore is pretty high here. Not only do we experience the operations The Surgeon performs on his victims with an unblinking lens, but we also see these same victims fight back and tear each other apart once they realize they are being stalked. Whoever is doing the hurting, the weaponry used and the blood spilled is varied and copious, and pretty darn creative as well (there’s an especially gruesome scene where someone shoves a spiked rake into someone’s face that’ll definitely make you squirm).
To add more insanity to the mix, there are some spooky supernatural goings on as well as Sandra sees the ghost of her sister guiding her into and out of dangerous situations. And then it turns out that this film has zombies, too, as The Surgeon uses a tranq gun that turns those he shoots into the walking dead. Add a film director who becomes fascinated with the real life drama that is unfolding and wanting to capture these kills and ghosts on film, and you have a pretty twisted little film. Combining these details might make for an overcrowded film since we already have a vicious serial killer running around, but director Edo Tagliavini does a good job jumping between the terrors natural and supernatural and somehow makes it all work.
In many ways, this film feels like an old Bava or Argento film. There’s the voyeuristic way the film is seen through mostly handheld camera. At the center of the film is a mystery, as the killer may or may not be the same as the one who killed Sandra’s sister. Though rough around the edges, BLOODLINE is a decent first offering from this first-time director. Ending in an extremely gory climax, BLOODLINE turned out to be surprisingly heavy in theme, generous with the bloodletting, and ultimately entertaining to sit through.
New on DVD!
IT CAME FROM YESTERDAY (2011)Directed by Jeff Waltrowski
Written by Jeff Waltrowski
Starring Jeff Waltrowski, Nathan Hollabaugh, Nayli Russo, Joel Ripka
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Like the recent HP Lovecraft adaptations (WHISPERER IN THE DARKNESS reviewed here and CALL OF CTHULHU reviewed here), which seem to encapsulate an era when all sorts of high stakes adventure, horror, and intrigue would fascinate anyone with a quarter and a free afternoon to go to the matinee, IT CAME FROM YESTERDAY does the same. Though it’s before my time, I do remember many a day and late night laying on my belly on the living room watching those old black and white films and loving the hell out of them, and I’ll bet the makers of IT CAME FROM YESTERDAY did the same.
Filmed in luscious black and white, IT CAME FROM YESTERDAY feels like an authentic product of the adventure serial films of the 40’s and 50’s. For the most part, this film could fool some folks that it was made in that era with its fair share of dynamic heroes, moustache-twirling villains, and goofy monster costumes. The entire film is acted over the top, but more of an homage than a spoof on films of that era.
The story follows Professor Jack (Jeff Waltrowski, who also wrote and directed this film) and his team of adventurers called the Electric Club, which includes Penny Precious, Flyboy and his sidekick Buddy. While Professor Jack is used to taking on all forms of evil, this mission comes from a place closer to his past--hence the title of the film, IT CAME FROM YESTERDAY. Jack finds that his past has come back to haunt him as he battles his arch-nemesis Percepto, who sports a cyber eye, and the hooded mystery man Thorn, who seems to have something to do with Jack’s past. Is it a story full of contrivances, twists, and turns? Hellz yes it is, and this film isn’t ashamed to admit its old school ways.
What impressed me the most with this film is how genuine the film seems. It would be very easy to make this into a farce of these types of serial movies, but director Waltrowski never goes there. Instead, the film and the actors playing in it take it all seriously, which makes it all the more fun.
Like SKY CAPTAIN & THE WORLD OF TOMORROW, much of IT CAME FROM YESTERDAY was filmed in front of a green screen with most of the environments and some of the characters themselves solely existing on a computer screen. But though high technology is used in creating the environments and some of the special effects (there’s an especially thrilling airplane sequence and some nasty looking CG bugs that will definitely make your skin crawl), everything is treated as if it was an actual by-product of the Silver Age of cinema. If you’re a fan of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW, and THE ROCKETEER, IT CAME FROM YESTERDAY is going to be right up your retro-alley.
New this week on DVD & BluRay from Sushi Typhoon (Find this film on Netflix here)!
DEADBALL (2011)aka DEDDOBORU
Directed by Yudai Yamaguchi
Written by Yudai Yamaguchi, Keita Tokaji
Starring Tak Sakaguchi, Kai Atô, Bobby, Mickey Curtis, Erina, Junichi Gamou, Miho Harita, Mari Hoshino, Akio Iwahara, Takatsugu Iwama
Find out more about this film on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
One of the goofiest Japanese horror films I’ve seen in quite a while is DEADBALL which mixes cartoon antics with gallons of blood and bales of gore seamlessly. While some might place this film on the same category as KUNG FU HUSTLE and SHAOLIN SOCCER given that it is a comedy revolving around a sport and filled with slapstick humor, the sheer amount of grue spilt in this film makes it much more comfortable on the shelf next to EVIL DEAD 2 and RIKI-O: THE STORY OF RICKY.
DEADBALL opens with a father and his two sons playing pitch and catch on a baseball diamond. When Jubeh winds up for a pitch by craning his leg all the way to his forehead, his father is pretty impressed. When he releases the ball with such speed and fury that it blows a hole into his father’s head, his father is pretty dead. And thus starts the tragic tale of baseball prodigy Jubeh, who vows to never play baseball again after that horrible day. But years later, when Jubeh (played by Tak Sakaguchi) is sent to a demented juvenile prison and forced to play baseball on a team full of outcasts, all of his fears and powers at the plate come back to him. This is basically a sports movie where the awesome player vows never to play, but of course is forced to suit up for his own honor…with a shit ton of blood and gore sloped on for good measure.
The effects, while mostly CG are pretty impressive in their creativity. One player has a ball wedged into his eye socket for the entire movie. Another receives a pitch that splits the ball in half and slices the batter’s nose off. Normal physics don’t apply in this dojo—I mean this ball field. Instead, anything and everything goes in this gory game.
You’re not going to find deep feelings or solid acting here. That’s just not what this type of movie is. But you will find someone punching his arm into a phone only to have it come out the other side and hit the person on the other line repeatedly in the face. You will see someone reach into the back of someone’s skull, shove his fingers through both nose holes, and stab them back into both eyes of an opponent. And you will see multiple rectal body exams that defy all logic and good taste.
No body fluid, orifice, and part is left unused and unassaulted in DEADBALL. So if you ever wondered what would happen if you put the brain of Tex Avery and H.G. Lewis into a blender and then had that brain frappe make a movie, DEADBALL would most likely be the result. Fun, gory stuff, that’s what this movie was.
New this week on DVD & BluRay from Shout Factory!
WOOCHI: THE DEMON SLAYER (2009)Directed by Dong-Hoon Choi
Written by Dong-Hoon Choi
Starring Gang Dong-Won, Kim Yoon-Suk, Lim Soo-Jung, Yoo Hae-Jin
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Available for the first time on BluRay is the South Korean supernatural hero fable WOOCHI: THE DEMON SLAYER. With superheroes permeating theaters, it’s just natural that a big budget wire fu fable like WOOCHI would come along, though this film is far from the first of its kind. Heroes and villains with spectacular powers over the elements, gravity, and physical prowess have been a staple of Asian cinema for decades. In WOOCHI, modern technology mixes with fable and old school wire fu to make something absolutely unique and fun.
Beginning 500 years ago, WOOCHI begins with a fable about a den of monsters and a hero who must play a magic flute to keep them captive. The spell is interrupted and broken, resulting in the freeing of these monsters, but with the aid of Woochi (Gang Dong Won) and his faithful sidekick, who happens to be a dog in human form, the monsters are imprisoned after an expansive kung fu sequence using all forms of magical powers and, of course, wire fu agility. The problem is, Woochi was imprisoned in a magic scroll as well. After 500 years, we are in the present day and so are the monsters, so Woochi is set free from the scroll for some more monster rump-kicking.
WOOCHI is full of fun “man out of time” humor as Woochi and his sidekick experience modern technology for the first time. Though this concept has been milked dry in everything from ENCINO MAN to CAPTAIN AMERICA, somehow this fish-out-of-water story continues to be fun. This is mainly due to the excellent special effects and martial artistry.
Though the modern times battles between the monsters and the Demon Slayer are impressive as Woochi and the monsters leap through a busy freeway (much more electric than a similar scene we saw in MATRIX II) and the final confrontation between the lead monster and Woochi occurs on the set of a movie within the movie, I was blown away by the initial battle that occurs in the first half hour. Reminiscent of the battle between the witch and Michelle Yeoh in CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON, this battle shows floating warriors, walks up and down walls, and vicious chop-sockery.
Though some of the humor ranks pretty high on the groaner scale, there is a sense of fun with this monsters vs. martial arts flick. The big blowout showdown at the end is bloated, and the film runs a bit long, but for the fantasy-filled action sequences and martial arts mayhem, this is a film that will definitely please.
And finally…well, let’s end this column how we started. Rev up your devil horns and let’s start rockin’ with Dokken and their song from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 entitled DREAM WARRIORS, of course! You know you love it!
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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