AICN HORROR looks at ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY! SEPARATION! HOME SWEET HOME! TIED! NINE MILES DOWN! HOUSE OF BAD! LUSTER! THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE! A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Remake!
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. I’ve got a couple of clips to share before getting into the reviews this week. And here they are!
I also have an exclusive clip from the excellent thriller GUT (reviewed here), which will finally hit DVD on May 28th! I loved this movie; a slow broiler that really gets under your skin. Check out the exclusive AICN HORROR clip below!
A while back I posted the short film THE BEAST at the bottom of the column. The bit starred Bill Oberst Jr. and was a pretty cool little werewolf short. Well, now it seems that the short is going to get the MAMA treatment and be expanded into a feature film of the same name by Dream Seekers Productions. So congrats and best of luck to Dream Seekers Productions! Below is the original short, if you missed it the first time!
In one of the first AICN HORROR columns, I covered WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (reviewed here), a fantastically creepy film centering on a cannibal family from Mexico. Well, it’s being remade and while some remakes make me want to pull what little hair I have left on my head out, everything I’ve seen from Jim Mickle’s new English version of WE ARE WHAT WE ARE has been looking pretty good. The film premieres at Cannes and stars Kelly McGillis, Odeya Rush and Ambyr Childers. Check out this clip below and let me know what you think.
TREASURE CHEST OF HORRORS II was just released last week on DVD, but it turns out that the director of HATE CRIME (reviewed here) and MY PURE JOY (reviewed here) is whipping up another TREASURE CHEST OF HORRORS, this one aptly titled TREASURE CHEST OF HORRORS III. Check out the trailer below!
Finally, check out this freaky ass trailer for THE HAUNTING OF HELENA, coming soon from Bloody Disgusting Selects. It seems to be about the tooth fairy, but this doesn’t look like anything like The Rock flick. Look for my review of the film soon and everyone will be able to see it in select theaters June 21 and on VOD June 18. Check out the trailer below and get ready for some gruesome toothy horror!
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)
It Came From My Shelf: THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982)
NINE MILES DOWN (2009)
HOME SWEET HOME (2013)
ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY (2013)
Advance Review: HOUSE OF BAD (2013)
Advance Review: SEPARATION (2013)
And finally…51 Deep’s PARTY HOUSE MASSACRE!
Retro-review: Available on DVD/BluRay (Find this film on Netflix here)!
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)Directed by Samuel Bayer
Written by Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer
Starring Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Clancy Brown, Connie Britton, Lia D. Mortensen
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
It’s easy to hate on the remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and dismiss it as sucking and that’s that. But if I did that, I wouldn’t be doing my job, would I? More appropriate a term for the remake would be unnecessary, I believe. As I completed my coverage of the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Collection BluRay set over the last few weeks, I felt the urge to complete the coverage by looking at a few of the films outside of the collection this week and next. While I’ll leave FREDDY VS JASON for another time, the remake was ripe for the picking, so here goes.
As with most of the current remakes, I don’t go in wanting to hate it. I grew up with Freddy and knew sooner or later Robert Englund would have to pass the fedora to another, and upon hearing that Jackie Earl Haley was donning the glove in this newest version, I was at least happy with the choice of replacement. For the most part, Haley is the tang of delicious flavor in this turd sandwich of a film. Though his monotone delivery wasn’t really scary as Freddy, he did do a few things that amped up the creep, mostly involving his interactions with future dragon tattoo wearer Rooney Mara, who plays this version’s Nancy. Licking and leaning in uncomfortably close, Haley made Freddy more lecherous than Englund ever did. But where Haley really excels are the moments out of the makeup, and these scenes where he is interacting with the kids before his death are probably the creepiest in the film.
That said, the decisions made in designing Freddy’s new look were mostly bad, with the only things working being the things carried over from Englund’s incarnation. The facial makeup is especially problematic as it attempts to be almost too real. Jackie Earl Haley is a weird lookin’ dude anyway. One would think less would be more in his case, yet for some reason the makeup guys make his mouth portion so thick it looks unnatural and bulky, making the entire thing difficult to emote through and seem more like a cheap Halloween mask. The makeup also separates and melts the eyes, making it hard for the actor to emote through them too. Searing away the mouth and eyes pretty much kills any makeup in terms of being able to emote or seem real. Compared to the original, which moved like a second skin and formed to Englund’s lips and eyebrows, the remake’s makeup fails to make us see Freddy as a twisted person and more like a creep in a mask.
The main problem with the remake is that it takes one unnecessary step after another, asking questions the audience already knows. It’d be like someone ending a JFK biopic with the revelation that he gets killed at the end. That’s common knowledge. There’s got to be a hook. Something else for the audience to hang their interest on. If your film hangs on the mystery of whether or not Freddy Krueger was wrongly killed by a lynch mob accusing him of pedophilia and homicide, then the big revelation was that, yep, he did do exactly what you thought he did. You kind of took the detour for no reason and it definitely felt as if I wasted my time.
Themes from the original film that are prevalent, though less subtle here--such as not trusting what your parents say and the relationship between parent and child being about as substantial as the ether dreams are made of--is slammed into our faces, almost as an afterthought in the latter half of the film as if someone actually finally watched the original and noticed it for the first time. Casting heavies such as Clancy Brown and Connie Britton as parents make it evident that these old folks are not to be trusted, so any attempts to hide it come off as obvious.
On top of that, the kills are neither shocking nor creative. Even scenes directly swiped from the original make less of an impact, with the exception of maybe a few moments when Katie Cassidy’s character is gutted while sleeping and tossed around the room a la Tina’s death in the original. The use of modern effects makes this scene work, but I still prefer the guttural screams and darkness that permeated the first. The scene where Freddy’s glove emerges from the bubble bath, expertly paced in Craven’s original, is shamefully rushed in this one, as if the filmmakers had no idea how to dole out a scene in increments in order to amp up scares.
What’s worse are the dreams themselves, which lack the creative punch of any of the original ELM STREET films. The disconcerting and awkward arms of Freddy in the alleyway, the sheep, the eels--all of the unexplained symbolism from the first is gone, as if the producers thought metaphor was too much for the viewers to understand these days. Everything is a literal dream within a dream where the dreamer thinks he/she is awake, but it turns out to be a dream.
Louder, more CGI filled, and edited at a manic pace, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET failed at almost every turn. Even though it rips on the originals for being too goofy and filled with bad one-liners, the remake gives this new Freddy some horribly bad attempts at humor as well. I will give the film credit for keeping Freddy more in shadows than the original; I fear this was done more to cover up the bad makeup than anything else. I know I don’t already have to tell you this, but if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and revisit the original instead.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD (1989)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 6: FREDDY’S DEAD – THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991)
WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994)
I’ll be back next week with one last trip to Elm Street with a look at NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY Documentary!
What the @#$% is It Came From My Shelf?!?!
Find this film on Netflix here!
THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982)Directed by Amy Holden Jones
Written by Rita Mae Brown
Starring Michele Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella, Debra Deliso, Andree Honore, Gina Smika, Jennifer Meyers, Joseph Alan Johnson, David Millbern, Jim Boyce, Pamela Roylance, Brinke Stevens, Rigg Kennedy, Jean Vargas, Anna Patton, Howard Purgason
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Written and directed by Amy Holden Jones and Rita Mae Brown as a feminist statement against the rising number of slasher films objectifying and debatably telling masochistic tales of violent male actions towards women, one might be surprised to find out that THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is actually one of the more perfect slasher films of its time. Though it spawned a few lesser quality sequels, the schlock status that comes to mind when this film is mentioned is definitely not warranted. I found myself pleasantly surprised with THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE after recently dusting it off and plopping it into my player.
The premise is tried and true by now. It’s the anniversary of a serial killer’s rampage, and a maniac has escaped from an institution the day before the female basketball team decide to have a slumber party. As the girlies strip to their skivvies, order pizza, and gossip about boys, the maniac descends onto the party, killing one by one until a scant few remain to fight back. The film is riddled with clichés that are joshed at and avoided in modern films, but what makes THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE so good is that it was made at a time when this was not cliché and serves as a projection of the joke slasher films became throughout the later eighties.
So when all the I’s and T’s are dotted and crossed in a predictable fashion, I couldn’t help but laugh with this film at it. The filmmakers seem to know they are making a statement about slashers rather than just making a bad slasher film. This is evident later in the film, as the actions in the film coincide almost perfectly with the slasher film playing out on the television they are watching. There are some scenes so expertly interspersed that an inattentive viewer might feel the slasher on the screen is the same.
The use of the false scare is used to death here. The film would be more aptly titled FALSE SCARE: THE MOVIE, as every cliché from a screeching cat to a hand from off camera is used to instill a start and then a laugh. It happens so often here, it’s almost forgivably hilarious every time it happens. Other clichés are utilized such as the boob flash followed immediately by the killing of said boobs. The film seems to constantly give reason for some girl to take off her top and show her nubblies at least once every ten minutes, with future scream queen Brinke Stevens doing what she does best in a very early role (though she is killed off rather quickly).
The gore is pretty impressive as the killer, who uses a portable drill which is about three feet long and positioned obviously to be a symbolic extension of the killer’s penis (it’s even cut in half in the final battle), gores holes through eyes, torsos, and just about anything else in his path. THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is also pretty hilarious, with genius bits of dialog that feel timely of the era the film was made. If you haven’t seen this film, I guarantee you’ll be surprised how well done it is.
New on DVD/BluRay (Find this film on Xbox Live here)!
LUSTER (2010)Directed by Adam Mason
Written by Adam Mason, Simon Boyes
Starring Andrew Howard, Tess Panzer, Matthew Rhys, Ian Duncan, Xander Berkeley, Billy Burke, Tommy Flanagan, Sarah Essex, Tara Summers, Holly Valance, Zelda Williams, Pollyanna Rose, Guy Burnet
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though I wouldn’t call the film completely original as the concept of multiple personalities competing over the same body has been done before in films like FIGHT CLUB and go back to before talkies with John Berrymoore’s portrayal of a personality-bisected madman in DR. JECKYLL & MR. HYDE, LUSTER does serve as a cool character piece highlighting some good acting and an entertaining plot.
Thomas Luster (Andrew Howard) is a meek businessman who seems to be losing control of his life. His business is hanging on by a thread, he’s having headaches and dizzy spells, and his wife seems likely to be having an affair with his annoying neighbor. Just when he thinks his life couldn’t get any worse, he starts realizing that at night, he becomes a totally different person. The bulk of the film focuses on Thomas’ battle with his other self, who goes simply by Luster and embodies Thomas’ more suppressed feelings of rage, ambition, and risk taking. It’s a well-tread path in films, but I don’t mind well-tread paths as long as they are good ones.
And for the most part, director/writer Adam Mason (along with co-writer Simon Boyes) is able to make it an entertaining path to take by interspersing interesting actors throughout the film. Xander Berkeley shows up as a nosy cop. The actor always gives a solid performance, and does so again here. BRAVEHEART’s Tommy Flanagan and TWILIGHT’s Billy Burke offer up similar quality roles as hoods who are intimidated by Luster’s sudden growth of backbone.
But this is Andrew Howard’s film all the way. The gruff-voiced actor shows a nice range here playing confident madman to nebbish pushover, both in believable ways. Howard shifts from Thomas to Luster with subtle looks in his eye and adjustments to posture that really impressed me.
The film gets pretty dark. My favorite scene involved Thomas chaining himself to a car in order to keep Luster from coming to and ruining his life even more. Though it is a rather predictable tale, LUSTER proved to make the trip worth viewing with some standout performances.
New on DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment (Find this film on Netflix here!)!
NINE MILES DOWN (2009)Directed by Anthony Waller
Written by Anthony Waller, Everett De Roche
Starring Adrian Paul, Kate Nauta, Amanda Douge, Anthony Waller
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I wasn't expecting much from this film that at first looks like it's going to be another throwaway monster film you might find on a Saturday afternoon playing on SyFy on any given weekend, but dammit if I wasn't blown away with this film which centers on an inspector's visit to a drilling location in the middle of the desert. Seems as scientists are mining the depths of the Earth for the last drop of oil, they actually dug so deep they excavated a hole into hell itself.
I know, right? Cool concept.
Well, in the right hands it could be cool. Then again, in the wrong hands it could be a hokey monster flick, but luckily Andrew Waller, who directed MUTE WITNESS and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS, is able to make this a taut descent into madness tale with a lot of stylized sequences of filmic insanity. Starring TV's Highlander Adrian Paul, NINE MILES DOWN shines brighter as the story unravels with gripping imagery and really disturbing scenes. Adiran Paul plays Thomas Jackman, investigating strange happenings at a drilling station in the Sahara desert. When he arrives the facility looks abandoned save for a plucky female scientist named J.C. (the beautiful Kate Nauta), who is not indicated on the record log to be working there. The scientists at the facility had a goal to drill deeper into the Earth's core than ever before, and instead of finding more oil, they opened up something else.
The best parts of this movie have to do with the chipping away of Jackman's psyche as he is clueless as to what he has stumbled into. As he had experienced loss himself recently, he's already damaged, but the isolation and the bizarre visions he experiences make matters far worse. Soon he's interacting with specters and mirages, fearing that an actual portal to Hell has been opened and doubting the existence of his own sanity. The imagery used in these instances are bone-chilling. From the wind against a window turning into dozens of tapping hands to the image of Jackman's dead wife dangling from a meat hook, this film is filled with original and disturbing imagery I haven't seen before.
The way Waller films this movie is impressive as well, as he amps up the speed of edits and motion later in the film, making everything hyper-real and dream-like. The viewer is literally riding on the shoulder of Jackman the entire time, so we are unaware if this descent is actually happening or if Jackman really is batshit. The whole thing is wrapped in a bloody and dark bow where there's no turning back and Jackman ends up in his own version of hell. I'll leave the details out of it, but this is a damn bleak film.
NINE MILES DOWN was a devilishly pleasant surprise. It's one of those films that never runs out of steam from start to finish and serves as a convincing trip through an unwell mind. With Adrian Paul's strong performance, it makes me wonder why he hasn't had meatier roles like this to show off his talents. With Waller's frantic directing and Paul's performance, this is a disturbing trek, but one I wholeheartedly recommend.
New on Video On Demand and digital download from IFC Midnight (Find this film on Netflix here!)!
TIED (2013)aka UNE HISTOIRE D’AMOUR
Directed by Hélène Fillières
Written by Hélène Fillières (screenplay), Régis Jauffret (novel)
Starring Benoît Poelvoorde, Laetitia Casta, Richard Bohringer, Reda Kateb, Hervé Sogne, Jean-François Stévenin, Philippe Nahon, Vicky Krieps
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
TIED is an intense little erotic thriller involving sex, deception, money, and power and how all of that gets kind of muddy when one or more of those aspects become all-important in a relationship. Though it might not be exactly horror, the way people treat each other in this film is most definitely the stuff of nightmares.
This French thriller released last week in limited theaters from IFC Midnight and available still on Video On Demand is not going to be the rom-com of the year. In fact, one can watch this film as a instructional on a surefire way to fuck up a relationship as it focuses on a man and woman whose personal issues of domination and submission have created a rift between them that at this point in their relationship is a distance not even Evil Knievel could motorbike across (sidebar: is that reference too dated? Oh well, if you don’t get it, look it up).
Laetitia Casta is sultry as all get out as The Young Woman, the submissive temptress who starts out being able to take the abuse from The Banker (Benoît Poelvoorde), which involves physical abuse, verbal terrorism, and lots of sexy leather. But as with most relationships that start out hot and fiery, the spark fades and soon, the Young Woman begins to have feelings for The Banker, who seemingly is unable to feel. In confronting The Banker, he seems to get off on being called pathetic, heartless, and miserable by The Young Woman, who is obviously in love with the sick bastard.
As one might expect from a French love story, things don’t end well. I can’t say I was surprised the way this film ended, as The Young Woman’s method of redemption is introduced plain as day fifteen minutes into the film and the story turned into when she will be using it rather than if. Still, director Hélène Fillières makes the trip to the end a fascinating one by letting the camera linger on these two fantastically flawed characters and makes the inevitable end almost bittersweet to witness in the elegance in which it plays out.
Again, amongst zombies, aliens, and cannibal serial killers, TIED might seem kind of out of place here, but the way these two people monstrously treated one another throughout this film scared me more than most other horrors I see on a weekly basis. If you’re looking for a little relational hell involving all forms of deviant behavior, or just for a reason to feel better about your own relationship compared to these two emotionally decayed individuals, TIED just might do the trick.
New on DVD from Screen Media Darkside (Find this film on Youtube rental here)!
HOME SWEET HOME (2013)Directed by David Morley
Written by David Morley
Starring Meghan Heffern, Adam MacDonald, Shaun Benson, Marty Adams
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though there have been many home invasion films lately with more to come, the outcome of these films are often pretty predictable, as there are only a few ways the film can end: the invader kills the family and gets away, signifying the death of the dream of the typical American way of life, or the invader is killed by the family, who more often than not are dysfunctional, yet find a way to survive and overcome the threat, possibly stating that nothing is stronger than family. And that's about it. One is a glass half full message of the strength of the American nuclear family, the other is the glass half empty note that there's no such thing anymore. And while these films are predictable, I usually find myself intrigued in some way to find out which side of the coin falls in any particular home invasion film. For the most part, which way it goes is telegraphed from the beginning, but in cases like HOME SWEET HOME, I was guessing up until the very last second of the film, making this one of the best home invasion films you're going to see this year.
What works is the way director David Morley (aka David Morley, who also directed the fantastic "THE FLY meets 28 DAYS LATER" flick MUTANTS a few years ago) sets up the tension. The first 15 minutes of this film are beyond tense, as a silent masked man breaks into a home and sets things up to make sure when the occupants come home he controls everything. Bolting the windows closed, manipulating furniture and doors, even petting the cat, the intruder isn't given motivation or back-story. He just shows up, faceless and wordless, knowing what he is about to do and staying one step ahead of everyone else, including the viewer. When the couple (played by Meghan Heffern, who looks a lot like a cuter Parker Posey, and Adam MacDonald, who plays the doltish husband to a tee) get home, they obliviously move about the house as if nothing is wrong. But we as the viewer have seen what they haven't. Like a true Hitchcockian classic, HOME SWEET HOME excels at tension to the nth degree.
The beauty of these tense moments is that the story smartly plays with the viewers’ expectations. We know the attack is coming, but Morley is painfully patient in bringing that attack forth for quite a long time. But never does a minute of this film pass that is not full of goose-pimpling tension. When the attack does occur, Morley continues his methodology by slowly pulling back the curtain to show why this invasion is happening. Just when you think you know how the film is going to end, the rug is pulled out from under you again.
Set with only four actors and a single locale, HOME SWEET HOME should be something all low budget filmmakers should look at and study in the ratcheting of tension, full use of a small location, and the painfully tense use of patience, punctuated with deliciously bombastic action. I was on the edge of my seat for this entire film, not knowing who was alive or dead and never given a moment to guess how it will end.
HOME SWEET HOME surprised the hell out of me and proves that no matter how many types of a film has been made, given a skilled director and a talented cast, a simple story like this one can leave a deep, red gash. Though it's much more gory than a Hitchcock film, those who love stories filled with suspense and tension will be very pleased upon viewing HOME SWEET HOME.
Newly available on Video on Demand and digital download from IFC Midnight!
ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY (2012)Directed by Eron Sheean
Written by Eron Sheean & Shane Danielsen
Starring Michael Eklund, Karoline Herfurth, Tómas Lemarquis, Rik Mayall
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Some of my favorite films of the last few years have been modern Frankenstein tales. I’m not talking bolt-necked reanimated corpses. I’m talking about scientists playing god and trying to conquer death. SPLICE, THE SKIN I LIVE IN (reviewed here), ANTIVIRAL (reviewed here)—films like these offer up imaginative new takes on Mary Shelley’s classic tale. Well, as of this week, I have another film to add to that list, ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY.
The story follows a brilliant, yet troubled geneticist, Dr. Geoff Burton (played by an actor who is quickly becoming my favorite actors working today, Michael Ecklund) who after the death of his son becomes obsessed with mapping human defects prenatally. His work has landed him a high profile position at a scientific facility in Dresden, Germany where his former intern and lover, Rebekka (the downright adorable Karoline Herfurth), has been doing research on her own involving cell replication. Upon arriving, Geoff also runs into creepy German alopecian Jarek (Tomas Lemarquis) who immediately rubs Geoff the wrong way and his instincts prove to be correct, as he is running some less than ethical experiments of his own. And dammit if that isn’t THE YOUNG ONES’ Rick Mayall as the head of the science at the institute in a surprisingly serious role. As Geoff finds out what his former intern is working on, the threads start pulling all of these experiments together to reveal that the death of Geoff’s son has inspired them all in one way or another.
What makes this film stand out from your typical science gone wrong flick, first and foremost is Michael Ecklund. The actor was one of the best parts of last year’s THE DIVIDE ( reviewed here) and in ERRORS, he shows that his acting in that film was no fluke. Here, the gaunt actor embodies a tormented soul; one wracked with guilt over the death of his son, which lead to the crumbling of his marriage and subsequently his life. We follow Geoff through his lonely existence; a walking dead person simply moving forward through the sheer force of his once brilliant past scientific achievements. Now disconnected from mostly everything around him, save an ex-wife who doesn’t want to pick up the phone, we see glimmers of life through his subtle attempts at humor and awkward way of interacting with others. Through Ecklund’s amazing performance, you feel every painstaking step this haunting story takes us on.
Thematically, the story not only evokes Shelley’s classic tale of man playing god, but also Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” as some clever foreshadowing has Geoff wear skull face paint to a party held by the science team. As he walks around the jubilant partygoers, they have no idea how dangerous this man wearing the visage of death truly is. Later in the film, this scene is repeated as Geoff makes his way through a crowded train station infected and infectious with the virus that killed his own son.
Though I don’t want to spoil any more, this is a story of science gone wrong—supporting the hypothesis that when human impulse interferes, it results in mucking everything up. The revelations at the end of this film will make your heart crack hard and though the film ends quietly, it’s just as nightmarish as the scenes of delirium early on such as Geoff’s head splitting open and lab rats pouring out. ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY is a masterpiece in horrific science and painful drama. Like Cronenberg’s THE FLY, within ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY is a one-two punch which wrenches the heart while churning your guts. Highly, highly recommended.
Advance Review: Premiering tomorrow at The Big Bear Horror Film Festival in Fullerton, Ca!
HOUSE OF BAD (2013)Directed by Jim Towns
Written by Jim Towns, Scott Frazelle
Starring Sadie Katz, Heather L. Tyler, Cheryl Sands, Jim Falkenstein, Lisamarie Costabile, Clint Jung, Julia Putnam
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Filmed on the budgetary low, HOUSE OF BAD does a fantastic job of telling a small story with big emotion and effective mood and tension. Director/writer Jim Towns (along with co-writer Scott Frazella) have put together a Twilight Zone-ish tale, but though some of the end results seem somewhat predictable, the story is one of those that grabs you and doesn’t let go.
Three sisters (two from the same mother and one from another, but all from the same father) decide to rip off a drug dealer and make their grand escape to start new lives. Sadie Katz plays Sirah, a gorgeous stripper who is looking for a way out of the business. She’s not the brightest bulb, but despite her lack of smarts, she shows heart that her sisters seem to lack. Heather L. Tyler plays Teig, newly out of prison and severely damaged by her sexually and physically abusive father who serves as the no-nonsense leader of this girl gang, with Lily being played by Cheryl Sands, the youngest of the three and most innocent, yet addicted to drugs. All of these three girls are running from something and see this stolen stash to be their ticket to new beginnings. In order to make a clean escape, the three hole up in their childhood home for a month with no contact with anyone in the outside world until the dust settles and they can make a clean getaway. Problem is, the childhood home holds memories and maybe even ghosts of their past sins and though their parents are long gone, the movie serves as testament to the statement “you just can’t outrun your past.”
As setups go, this isn’t the most original, but it is an extremely fun one. Plopping these three strong personalities together in a single location is fertile ground for character conflict, and forces the three very different girls to come to grips with one another. Forcing them to be in the place where they grew up proves to be equally challenging because all of them have very bad memories of the place. In this, the story is very tightly and expertly woven by Towns and Frazelle and serves as a great backdrop for our characters to stand out from.
And for the most part, the three lead actresses who take up about 90% of the screentime are able to stand out and shine well. Though none of these actresses are stars, all three seem to have the acting muscles to carry the heavy emotion required for this type of film. Though occasionally Heather L. Tyler’s tough act is difficult to swallow, she seems able to show that emotional depth of the defensive little girl playing tough well. All in all, Heather L. Tyler, Sadie Katz, and Cheryl Sands make it entertaining—a tough thing to do since they are on screen most of the film. It also helps that all three are gorgeous and naked from time to time!
The film begins to get creepy with bits of the supernatural seeping in slowly at first, then leaings to full-on possession towards the end. A lot of the imagery has been used in films such as THE GRUDGE, so I can’t call HOUSE OF BAD completely original in the scare department, but the scares it does utilize, though familiar, are effective nevertheless. Having its world premiere this weekend at The Big Bear Horror Film Festival in Fullerton, Ca, HOUSE OF BAD serves as a smarter version of a 70’s grindhouse bad girl flick. Some of the acting is over the top, but the filmmakers did a great job of making me care for these highly flawed women and root for them to make it out of this house of repressed memories in one piece.
SEPARATION (2013)Directed by Greg White
Written by Greg White
Starring Sarah Manninen, Peter Stebbings, Dmitry Chepovetsky, Al Sapienza, Rob deLeeuw, Barbara Gordon, Arcadia Kendal
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Seeing previews of a film occasionally helps a viewer determine whether or not a film is worth a damn and whether one wants to spend their hard-earned money on it. Then again, there's something to those happy little surprises one discovers without any prior knowledge of the film they are about the witness. I know had I not seen the tons and tons of trailers for EVIL DEAD, which ruined two key scenes of gore and shock in the film (the mirror cheek carving and the tongue slicing), I might have liked the film more, but having experienced those scenes, I didn't have the visceral reaction I'm sure the filmmakers were going for. Personally, these days I try to avoid trailers since they reveal too much of the film and I love to be surprised with what transpires. Case in point, my zero knowledge of the film SEPARATION before viewing it.
Though I won't reveal too much of the film, since I just wrote a hundred and fifty or so words about not spoiling a film in the previous paragraph, I will say that SEPARATION is a slow broiler, final act gut-puncher of a film. The plot rolls out with a patience few films have, and though it might cause those who need a cat jump scare or an explosion every five minutes in their horror film to yawn a little, I found sitting through the more banal moments paid off in the end.
The story focuses on a man and a woman (Liz, played wide-eyed by Sarah Mannenin and Jack, played by the Bond villain-esque Peter Stebbings), newly moving into a home, who appear to be going through some tough times. Given the name of the film, boldly stated with very little other credits at the beginning, one is lead to believe the separation in the title is talking about divorce. And for the most part, that's correct. This is a couple who are on the precipice of separating for good. But like most of the best horror films, there are layers to this title and how it deals with the movie as Liz is obviously struggling with her sanity, while Jack is struggling with putting up with her mood swings. Throughout most of the film, Jack is shown to be the saner voice, struggling with taking care of someone he loves, but knowing that, ultimately, he can't help her as she becomes more and more crazy. When a sleazy real estate agent and a suspicious neighbor begin visiting the house at all hours one night, compounded with Liz's increasingly prevalent dementia, it proves to be more stressful than the couple can take.
The highlight of this film is the top tier acting by the two leads. Peter Stebbings is fantastic as Jack torn between his sensible instincts, which are to leave this toxic situation, and his heart, which directs him to turn a blind eye to it. Though he has these arched eyebrows which scream "future bad guy", the actor shows a great range. Sarah Mannenin's Liz is equally good as she fluctuates between the dual role of wide-eyed victim and dementia-riddled hysteric. Because of these great performances, the viewer can't help but care for this couple in crisis as they try to keep their family intact. The film serves as a really interesting metaphor for how mental illness affects a family, set through the lens of a horror film.
Filled with moments of paranoia and hallucinogenic nightmares which make you question early on what's real and what isn't, SEPARATION borrows from such paranoia-riddled films as REPULSION, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and THE STRANGERS, while still being unique in and of itself. Director Greg White does a masterful job of conserving the scares, making them all the more potent when they do come. In the end, everything makes sense, though it might cause you to want to see the film again to see if it does so. Hopefully this review didn't spoil anything, since SEPARATION works best if you know nothing about it going in.
And finally…you know it was just one of those morbidly happy coincidences that this little short film shows up in my inbox the same time I decided to review SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE. How could I not play it for you all? From those guys you know and love, 51 Deep, here’s PARTY HOUSE MASSACRE!
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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