Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. I’ve got some great stuff for you all this week, but I wanted to apologize for not being able to cover NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY Documentary. I meant to check it out this week, but the massive doc proved to be too long for me to finish this week, but rest assured, I’ll be checking it out next week to complete my A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET coverage. Here are a few news bits, you might find interesting.
A bit of self promotion time; this week the first issue of WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER was released this week. I wrote the book which follows a werewolf hunter ruthlessly pursuing a vicious lycanthrope out to create a new pack. The three issue miniseries is a part of the UNLEASHED crossover event going through Zenescope Entertainment’s Grimm Universe, but it can be enjoyed as a stand alone miniseries as well. So if you love horror (and what are you doing here if you don’t) and want to support your old pal Ambush Bug, check out WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1 at all comic shops worth a damn now!
Here’s something fun for all of you zombies on the East Coast. Wholesale Halloween Costumes will be sponsoring the 2013 NYC Zombie Crawl on Sunday, June 2nd in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As part of their partnership with NYC Zombie Crawl ringleader Doug Sakmann and his production company Backseat Conceptions, Wholesale Halloween Costumes is offering a special discount code for NYC Zombies on all merchandise which will be delivered directly to consumers. To access the code, zombies can check out this website. Additionally, for advice on various zombie types, makeup and creative accessories, pub-crawlers can go here to get the scariest tips from the zombie experts. Sounds like a lot of fun!
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: COLD EYES OF FEAR (1971)
Retro-Review: THE BURNING (1981)
Retro-Review: DARK DEALER (1995)
DON’T LET THE RIVERBEAST GET YOU! (2012)
LAST KIND WORDS (2012)
ABC’S OF DEATH (2012)
Advance Review: ALYCE KILLS (2012)
Advance Review: SIGHTSEERS (2013)
Retro-review: New this week from Kino Lorber/Redemption (Find this film on Netflix here)!
COLD EYES OF FEAR (1971)aka GLI OCCHI FREDDI DELLA PAURA, DESPERATE MOMENTS
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari
Written by Leo Anchóriz, Tito Carpi, Enzo G. Castellari
Starring Giovanna Ralli, Frank Wolff, Fernando Rey, Julián Mateos, Leonardo Scavino
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Released the same year as the original STRAW DOGS, this might be one of the first home invasion films. For that alone, COLD EYES OF FEAR is worth seeking out.
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari, who directed the original THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS, COLD EYES OF FEAR is a pretty amazing film that flips and flops and zigs and zags your expectations until the very end. Even in the opening moments, Castellari is fucking with our heads as it opens with a woman about to be raped. But soon, the tide turns and it looks like this is all a game between two lovers. And then, she stabs him in the back with a knife. And then, the lights go up and the director yells cut and we realize that we’ve been watching a movie all along.
That’s a lot of mind-fuckery in the first five minutes of this film, but this opener does prepare the viewer to expect some narrative twists and turns before the end.
And sure enough, those twists happen, as a criminal with a gun who looks like a cross between Freddy Mercury and Rick Springfield shows up at the home of a well-to-do son of a judge and his Sofia Loren looking girlfriend (Giovanna Ralli). At first, the couple has no idea why the criminal has showed up to their place, but as the film goes on, it becomes apparent that he is not there by coincidence. This home has been chosen for a reason. But just when you think you have this film figured out, more twists and turns happen.
Though there are a lot of flip flops along COLD EYES OF FEAR’s narrative path, the film serves as a testament to Castellari’s skill as a filmmaker. Not once did the story lose me and though the rug was pulled out from under me a few times in this story, I felt as if everything sort of made sense in the end.
The mood of this film is set through an amazing score by Ennio Morricone and some trippy little dream sequences spice things up too. All in all, if you’re looking for a classic Italian thriller that will definitely keep you guessing, COLD EYES OF FEAR is the one you’re going to want to seek out. Highly recommended for lovers of Giallo, mystery, and 70’s action.
Retro-Review: New this week from The Shout Factory (Find this film on Netflix here!)
THE BURNING (1981)Directed by Tony Maylam
Written by Harvey Weinstein, Brad Grey, Tony Maylam (story), Peter Lawrence, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Starring Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, Larry Joshua, Jason Alexander, Ned Eisenberg, Carrick Glenn, Carolyn Houlihan, Fisher Stevens, Shelley Bruce, Sarah Chodoff, Bonnie Deroski, Holly Hunter, Kevi Kendall, J.R. McKechnie, George Parry, Ame Segull, & Lou David as Cropsy
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though it wasn’t the first summer camp horror film, THE BURNING is one of the best, especially in terms of effects. If you were one of those people who bought issue after issue of FANGORIA checking out the latest gore effects from gore greats such as KNB, John Carl Buechler, and the godfather of them all Tom Savini, then this film won’t be unknown to you, but you may have forgotten about it as I did. Tom Savini flexes his effects makeup muscles here with this film, which features Savini at his prime, after FRIDAY THE 13TH and MANIAC and released the same year as THE PROWLER.
From an effects standpoint, THE BURNING not only features burn makeup and stunts, but also some of the coolest and best orchestrated kills one might ever see. Savini proves that a serial killer doesn’t have to use a plethora of sharp instruments to be entertaining. Here, Cropsy, our serial killer and former camp handyman who falls victim to a camp counselors’ prank gone wrong uses hedge clippers as his weapon of choice over and over and over again. Except for the end, of course, when he uses a flamethrower. And his first practice kill with a switchblade and a prostitute. But those don’t count. It’s the hedge clipper action that is what makes THE BURNING stand out.
I do want to focus on one scene in particular and if you’ve seen the film, you know the one I’m talking about. The raft scene where Cropsy attacks a boat full of campers and kills them all in one fell swoop is the stuff of gorehound legend. Dare I say it, but not since PSYCHO has a murder sequence been so expertly edited and this BluRay reflects on this scene in numerous featurettes from the viewpoint of the director, actors, and Savini himself. Cut together to highlight the danger of the instrument, having real clippers whack into the wooden raft first, then switching to fake shears slicing into the victims and hacking them to bits, this scene happens quick, but it’s one you’ll want to visit and revisit to soak it all in. But not only is this scene edited well by using all sorts of camera trickery, Savini used all sorts of fake hands, heads, and bodies in order to make it all work. And it all ends beautifully as a single line of blood trails down the length of one of the corpse’s arms and into the river. Just an amazing scene. And here it is.
As you might have noticed, I’ve talked a lot about the effects and very little about the film itself. I do this mainly because the film is basically exactly like FRIDAY THE 13TH. Sure, there are little differences. Instead of the spark of the deaths being the death of a mentally disabled child due to careless campers, Cropsy is killed due to a prank gone wrong. And sure, there are scenes following Cropsy through his stay in the hospital and his release that we don’t see in F13, but when Cropsy heads back to the camp, it boils down to the same thing that happens to the counselors at Crystal Lake.
That said, this film was made by Harvey and Bob Weinstein. Yes, that Harvey and Bob Weinstein. And the media moguls claim that their story was written long before FRIDAY THE 13TH was made and who knows which came first.
The film also features some very recognizable faces in some very early roles. Sure, FRIDAY THE 13TH had Kevin Bacon, but THE BURNING had George Costanza! WITH HAIR! Jason Alexander is front and center as a smart mouthed counselor who is the provider of all things illegal. And you saw Fisher Stevens and Ned Eisenberg meet their ends in the raft scene. Shrewd eyes will also recognize Holly Hunter in with the rest of the bathing suit clad beauties. You’ll also see FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH nerd Brian Backer playing an even creepier nerd who likes to spy on the female counselors in the shower. Seeing these future stars fall prey to a serial killer makes this film all the more entertaining.
So while it isn’t the most original, there’s a whole lot to love about THE BURNING. If you love to see practical effects and wonder how they did that, this is the film for you. Filled with all kinds of featurettes, this is one of the coolest BluRays Shout Factory has ever released and deserves a sacred spot on your shelf.
Retro-review: New this week from Whacked Movies!
THE DARK DEALER (1995)Directed by Tom Alexander, Wynn Winberg
Written by Tom Alexander, Wynn Winberg
Starring Jeff English, Kevin Walker, Deborah Nunez, Zhanna Gurvich, Charles Carroll, Gene Mann, Mary Rivera, Jim Blumetti
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Readers of this column already know I love low budget horror. With all of its cheap effects and bad acting, I love seeing people give their all, though there’s little money to back it. I have an especially warm place in my cold dead heart for low budget retro films. These were the types of films I’d rent from video stores as a teenager and it didn’t matter to me what the marketing campaign was or the budget. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know the actors or the director or anything like that. I was just watching because I loved horror.
THE DARK DEALER is low budget, badly acted, poorly written, and badly directed. You’ll be able to call the “twists” from a mile away and might be dumbfounded at how anyone in this film thought it was a good idea.
As the special features said, THE DARK DEALER is an anthology put together from three short films, loosely thread together by scenes of a dark dealer who looks like a skinnier Penn Jillette dealing cards to three men who don’t look so hot. One of the stories follows a hitman who stumbles across a demon. Another follows a bluesman with a haunting voice. The third follows a dude with a mullet running from an orb birthed from some bad drugs.
Though I love low budget horror, I think I have a good handle on what you guys are going to like or not like and I definitely think you’re most likely going to find this film to be as unwatchable as I did. I struggled the whole time to give a fuck about anything about this film and though I do appreciate the fact that this is someone’s baby, there’s not a lot of good I can find to say about this one.
THE DARK DEALER does sport some pretty keen computer effects for its time. Though it’s rudimentary as all get out, seeing people freak out from drugs, morph into orbs of death, and fly through ghostly portals in this way is kitschy cool. And I have to give it up to the designers of the demon, which has cloven hooves and horns growing out of its head and provides the film with its most entertaining sequence as the demon rams the hitman in the ass over and over again, ending with him being carried off into hell stuck to the demon’s horns. For that first short film, the movie is worth checking out, but be prepared for some rough stuff if you dare watch THE DARK DEALER.
New this week on DVD from Brain Damage Films!
DON’T LET THE RIVERBEAST GET YOU! (2012)Directed by Charles Roxburgh
Written by Charles Roxburgh, Matt Farley
Starring Matt Farley, Kevin McGee, Sharon Scalzo, Elizabeth M. Peterson, Jim McHugh, Kyle Kochan, Bryan Fortin, Tiffany L'Heureux, Tom Scalzo,
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
As much as the last film annoyed me, DON’T LET THE RIVERBEAST GET YOU! is the type of self aware low budgeter I couldn’t help but love. The film’s budget was probably spent on constructing the cheap costume the Riverbeast wears which is basically a wetsuit, spikes glued to kitchen gloves, and a floppy ill-fitting monster mask, but what this film lacks in budget, it makes up in charm.
DON’T LET THE RIVERBEAST GET YOU is one of those films you read about where a hometown filmmaker recruits the local drama club, friends and family, and maybe even the local barber to make a film. The film aims for the cheap seats, which ironically is all the makers of this film could most likely afford, by trying its all to make you think you’re watching a legit motion picture. It never quite makes it, but I had a lot of fun watching those behind this film try.
A shamed school tutor is run out of town when his theories that a Riverbeast lives along the river bed outside of town wreck his relationship with his fiancée who left him at the alter and made him lose his job. After a time walking the earth and doing some soul searching, the tutor played by Matt Farley (he also co-wrote the film) returns to get the girl and maybe even prove the monster is real. And thus, the quest begins.
What saves this film is that it never for one moment takes itself seriously. Intentional corny lines are delivered in turd like plops. The non actors give their all highlighting their amateurism, yet the camera soaks it up like a prize winning performance. Jokes are told and retold. Farley seems to be the only one able to deliver a line capably, and even he does so with a Jimmy Stewart like humbleness. It doesn’t help that he talks as if he were living in the 1940’s with the amount of ”why I oughtta”’s he spouts.
Though this film reeks of amateur filmmaking, this is the type of film that knows its bad and wallows in it without a care in the world. It’s a fat guy in a speedo at the beach, knowing he’s pretty awful to look at, but not really giving a shit. There were scenes in this film such as the horrible subplot involving a vagabond guitarist meeting a vagabond dancer that is so horribly executed that I was fascinated as if I were passing a train wreck on the highway. And the fact that the film has a warning at the beginning, letting us know that for the sake of the faint of heart, the screen will flash red twice to warn us whenever the Riverbeast is seen, makes this the kind of film lovers of William Castle’s gimmick showmanship will appreciate. Don’t go expecting anything fantastic out of DON’T LET THE RIVERBEAST GET YOU and you just might be surprised at how intentionally bad it is.
New this week on DVD!
MOLD! (2009)Directed by Neil Meschino
Written by Dave Fogerson & Neil Meschino
Starring Edward X. Young, Ardis Campbell, Lawrence George, Rick Haymes, Mike Keller, James Murphy, Nick Russo, Chris Gentile, David Pringle
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Best described as THE STUFF meets STREET TRASH, MOLD! works well as a virus-style horror film as well as a spreading ooze film (a subgenre I’d love to examine one day in a special AICN HORROR column). The budget is low, but when it comes to a practical special effects showcase, MOLD! excels with honors. Though I’m quickly getting a bit tired of comedy horror these days with so many films relying on making fun of monsters instead of actually concentrating on making them scary, MOLD! feels like a low grade eighties throwback with a fun tone, hokey faux science gone wrong story, and great effects.
The story centers on Ronald Reagan’s battle against drugs during the eighties. Top scientists are looking for a way to combat the growing drug problem and one scientist in a top secret science facility bunker comes up with a mold that eats just about everything. The intention is to drop a vial of the mold spore into the air and it eats up the drug crop of third world countries. Of course, the effects on humans is not taken into consideration until the spore is accidentally made airborne through a series of wonky lab mishaps by some fo the most clumsy scientists I’ve ever seen. Soon the science team, along with an army Colonel and his devoted soldier, are trapped in the bunker with green mold forming on the walls, in the water system, and on the people themselves.
The story is definitely a throwback to films like THE BLOB, “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verill” sequence in CREEPSHOW, and the aforementioned STREET TRASH as the mold eats away at anything in its path and seems to be unstoppable. The story definitely lags after a goofy lab experiment gone wrong sequence at the beginning as the group is trapped in a room trying to figure out a cure for the spore as they get picked off and contaminated one by one. Thankfully, the ending of MOLD! goes over the top and back again with tons of gore and grossout moments of dismemberments, meltings, and oozings.
As I said above, the highlight here is the special effects. Everything from practical application, to dummies covered in green decay, to tons of slime, to stop motion is used to convey the different dangerous aspects of the funky fungi. My favorite being some nice stop motion animation of the spreading and growing mold. For the low budget of the film, it is downright admirable what the filmmakers were able to pull off.
There’s some decent acting going on here. The tone is mildly camp, but not overly so with over the top characters intermingling with folks playing it straight. There are a lot of goofy moments and moments of groan as most of the trapped Colenal’s dialog consists of action movie titles. But MOLD! redeems itself by the end with the gore-de-force, almost as if it is rewarding the viewer for enduring the tedious middle portion.
New this week on DVD!!
LAST KIND WORDS (2012)Directed by Kevin Barker
Written by Kevin Barker
Starring Brad Dourif, Sarah Steele, Alexia Fast, Spencer Daniels, Marianne Hagan, Clay Wilcox
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
LAST KIND WORDS was an interesting little ghost story that isn’t afraid to be sweet and wholesome. Two things you don’t often see in horror these days.
The film follows a young boy named Eli (Spencer Daniels) who moves with his family onto the property of a reclusive farmer (played by the always awesome Brad Dourif) when his father loses his job and the family is in need of refuge. Eli and his father work on Dourif’s farm, but when Eli isn’t being abused physically or mentally by his father, he dreams of living some other life. Upon arriving at the farm, Eli sees a beautiful girl named Amanda (Alexia Fast) walk out of the woods and is immediately entranced by her. Soon he finds out this girl is not all that she seems.
You don’t see a lot of ghost stories these days that aren’t filmed with in a shaky first person POV. For that, I have to appreciate LAST KIND WORDS for attempting to do something new, which is basically telling a ghost story the way it used to be told. That said, writer/director Kevin Barker kind of makes things overly complicated with layers of truth being told by different parties in the film ROSHOMON style, so the viewer never really knows who or what to believe until the very end.
There’s a history being played with here that is pretty fascinating, but because some of the actors involved aren’t really the most charismatic (mainly Spencer Daniels who looks a lot like Jesse Eisenberg, but acts pretty flatly), the story doesn’t ever really take root. Fast’s Amanda makes up for the void in charisma with down-home country charm and exquisite beauty. And Dourif is always good. Here he gets to be a bit more than just the town weirdo. He’s weird, but there’s a bit more depth to this role that the character actor usually gets and Dourif’s more than capable of performing it.
Though the ending of the film is both a downer and doesn’t really make a lot of sense (I won’t spoil it here), LAST KIND WORDS is one of those throwback ghost stories I can get behind. There are some very cool moments of the two young actors falling in love with one another and the soundtrack, made of folksy style strummings is pretty great. Though it ended with me scratching my head a bit as to Eli’s final decision, all that lead up to it was something wholly unique in the paranormal investigator heavy ghost genre that’s out there today.
Available on DVD/BluRay & digital download this week!
THE ABC’S OF DEATH (2012)Directed & written by Bruno Forzani, Helene Cattet, Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, Adrian Bogliano, Jason Eisner, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Xavier Gens, Lee Hardcastle, Noboru Iguchi, Thomas Malling, Jorge Michel Grau, Anders Morgenthaler, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Jbanjong Pisanthanakun, Simon Rumley, Marcel Sarmiento, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalondo, Jake West, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard, Yudai Yamaguchi
Produced by Ant Timpson & Tim League
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
As I watched THE ABC’S OF DEATH, it felt as if I were taking a guided tour of some of my favorite horror filmmakers in the last few years. Every one of these installments were pretty amazing and though the range of this collection varies a lot, the quality never wavers. I’m going to go letter by letter through this anthology to let you know why this ambitious project is one of the best horror anthologies ever made.
“A is for Apocalypse” by Nacho (TIMECRIMES, EXTRATERRESTRIAL) Vigalondo This quickie is one of those stories we enter midstream as a bedridden husband is surprised by his wife with a knife and other household tools just in time for the apocalypse. This one has a wicked sense of humor and is surprisingly gory with a nice little homage to FRIDAY THE 13TH THE FINAL CHAPTER in the effects department. Though it won’t blow your doors off and is somewhat predictable, it is a nice way to introduce this series of shorts which are often devilishly funny despite the dark story content.
“B is for Babysitter” by Adrian Garcia (HERE COMES THE DEVIL) Bogliano This is another devious one centering on a young couple who just want to make the beast with two backs, but are being distracted by the child they are supposed to be babysitting. Funny that Bogliano’s hit film HERE COMES THE DEVIL starts out with that exact same theme of parents neglecting children because of their desires for one another. Again, with the cautionary tale the babysitters tell the little girl in order to get her to sleep, this one is easy to predict, still the ride’s a lot of fun.
“C is for Cycle” by Ernesto Diaz (MANDRILL) Espinoza Reminiscent of Vigalondo’s TIMECRIMES, a man finds a wormhole in his backyard and ends up battling himself to see who gets to be in this time period. This one is paced s that you only get bits and pieces of the story and it comes at you out of sequence, which makes the whole thing feel like a mystery unfolding on celluloid. Though I’m not a fan of time travel films, this one keeps things nice and tight, so it doesn’t unravel or make you scratch your head too much along the way.
“D is for Dogfight” by Marcel (DEADGIRL) Sarmiento Awesome! This is definitely one of my favorites if not the best of the bunch. Filmed entirely in slo mo, so you can feel every punch, chomp, and even subtle eye movement, you’re going to find yourself wondering how the hell they made this film with the up close and personal feel of the brutality going on. But have no fear, animal lovers, this man vs dog boxing match isn’t exactly what it seems. Still in so little time, this is the most fully satisfying of the bunch when it comes to story, though you will leave yourself scratching you head and asking one question; What the hell’s up with that baby?
“E is for Exterminate” by May herself Angela (ROMAN) Bettis After the dog-punching extravaganza, the theme of man vs animal, or in this case, insect, continues as a lonely man takes on an especially deadly looking spider in his apartment. I love the “spider’s eye” POV in this almost entirely wordless film. This one’s got some fantastic effects, a great payoff and has me wishing Bettis would direct more, since the only other thing she’s done was the haunting ROMAN which feels like a male version of her role in Lucky McKee’s MAY. Plus its got a soundtrack that makes it all feel fun.
“F is for Fart” by Noboru (DEAD SUSHI) Iguchi Ever wonder if Japanese schoolgirls ever fart? Me neither, but regardless if the question has ever been asked before Noboru Iguchi answers that very question with a vengeance. When is caught letting one loose, it unleashes a series of events that trigger the end of the world. It’s immature. It’s guttural. And I laughed my ass off the whole way through to the trippy ending. Never have the words, “So stinky!” been more gut-jigglingly hilarious!
“G is for Gravity” by Andrew (THE REEF) Traucki This one is very short and given my knowledge and appreciation for Traucki’s work with animals gone wild in his films BLACK WATER, THE REEF, and his upcoming THE JUNGLE, I was waiting for something toothy to attack this first person POV shot film of an eager surfer going for a ride on the waves. But Traucki plays with those expectations smartly and this one definitely leaves you with that “how the hell did they film that” feeling, so I appreciate this simple little story from a technical level and from my knowledge of what the director is capable of standpoint. I especially love the final moments of this one in which an upright surfboard becomes a floating headstone on a rocky ocean. Fantastic imagery.
“H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion” by Thomas (NORWEGIAN NINJA) Malling This one schmelds a Tex Avery cartoon with those with a furry fetish and sets it during World War II. It’s Allies vs Nazi’s with all sorts of cartoonish antics, naked fox people, and complex contraptions one would expect from this Pepe LePew cartoon of lust and horror. I have to say, though my tastes don’t really go for chicks with fur, the fox in this one is pretty hot and I don’t blame the bulldog soldier for going so gaga over her. Fun, gross-out, and extremely imaginative, this cartoon brought to life is COOL WORLD with modern CGI and a shot of 1000 volts of pure energy.
“I is for Ingrown” by Jorge Michel (WE ARE WHAT WE ARE) Grau The tone shifts to deathly serious in this little short about a syringe that looks to be full of motor oil and a woman in a bathtub. Jutting between midrange and close up shots, this one tells both a story beneath the story in one violent and desperate act. Is this an homage to PSYCHO? Maybe bits of it. But for the most part this is a tragic tale of two people in bitter conflict. Powerful stuff, yet it feels out of place as most of the other shorts have a tongue in cheek aspect to it.
“J is for Jidai-Geki (Samurai Movie)” by Yudai (VERSUS, YAKUZA WEAPON) Yamaguchi The tongue goes right back into the cheek with this riff on samurai films. Goofy facial gestures and poses seem out of place in the stoic genre of the samurai, but here it makes for a damn funny little ditty with some really great practical effects used. I really liked the sense of humor of this one.
“K is for Klutz” by Anders (PRINCESS) Morgenthaler This is a cartoon about a woman in a public restroom and a piece of poop that just won’t flush. Now if that offends, then skip to the next one, but I found this one to be damn funny from start to end. The animation is pretty simple, but a struggle between one woman and a piece of poo has never been more entertaining, in my book. Though the logistics of the ending may be debatable, it still leaves a lasting impression.
“L is for Libido” by Timo (MACABRE) Tjahjanto Falling firmly into the realm of “that’s just plain wrong” is Timo Tjahjanto’s twisted contest of will as a man is strapped to a chair and forced to masturbate to various things. The winner gets to move onto the next round. The loser dies like a native in CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Now, in my neck of the woods, he who lasts longest is the champ. But apparently, that’s not the case here as the winner is the one who arrives with the delivery first. As the stakes rise, so does the level of perversity in this short that is not for the squeamish or delicate of disposition.
“M is for Miscarriage” by Ti (THE INNKEEPERS) West Most likely the shortest of all of the entries, Ti West’s offering is no less impactful as the title says it all. Your girlfriend most likely will not like this one, but it does have a wicked sense of humor in the few moments it has to make its mark.
“N is for Nuptuals” by Jbanjong (ALONE) Pisanthanakun This one might have a bit too much sitcom humor for my tastes. Still it’s cute and fun, albeit predictable as a man buys a bird for his girlfriend in hopes to make a memorable way to propose to her. Of course, this is a horror short, so things go very, very wrong.
“O is for Orgasm” by Bruno Forzani & Helene Cattet (co-directors of AMER) Though artsy, this one by far is one of the more beautiful entries in the film as we are taken on a visual slideshow of the myriad of images one might see while having an orgasm. Though basically a montage of bizarre and suggestive imagery, the placement of said images culminates effectively. I haven’t seen AMER, but after seeing this gorgeous short, I feel like I have to. I don’t know if this qualifies as horror, but it is damn good.
“P is for Pressure” by Simon (RED, WHITE, & BLUE) Rumley I’ve become fascinated at Simon Rumley’s unapologetic and unflinching looks at the more horrific side of sex. As he did with LITTLE DEATHS (another anthology I reviewed here last year), he is unafraid to show how our deepest desires are often our darkest as this short depicts the lengths a single mom will go to provide for her daughter. Striking and powerful filmmaking and storytelling here.
“Q is for Quack” by Adam (YOU’RE NEXT, A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE) Wingard Another one of my favorites simply because of the self referential treatment of the content as director Adam Windard and writer Simon Barrett ponder and complain about what they are going to do for their segment which unfortunately deals with the letter Q. This is a funny and bitingly satirical take on this anthology project as well as a nice break from the higher production levels of other installments. The sense of humor in this one is one of the best of the bunch.
“R is for Removed” by Srdjan (A SERBIAN FILM) Spasojevic Somber and grotesque. That pretty much sums up this short about a man in a hospital whose skin is used to make movies. This feels like a statement about the artist’s sacrifice and how it is manipulated by producers and the like and Spasojevic makes it all feel like it’s boring under your fingernail and festering with a sterile, yet grimy feel to each and every shot. Again, placed in between the more jovial segments, this is one of those that feels out of place, but still, it’s a short that packs a punch both viscerally and thematically.
“S is for Speed” by Jake (DOGHOUSE) West This one starts fast as a woman holds another gal at gunpoint, trying to elude a demon from capture. There’s a lot of retro cool going on here with some grindhouse post-apocalypticism front and center. I appreciated this one for the high octane attitude and in your face style. Plus you’ve got to appreciate the flame thrower sequence. Nice stuff.
“T is for Toilet” by Lee (DONE IN 60 SECONDS, WITH CLAY) Hardcastle Claymation is a lost art form with everything going digital, so I have to give it up to Lee Hardcastle and his tale of a fear that is quite common in little boys; that of the fear of the toilet. This manic and electrifying nightmare in clay is not going to cure anyone of this phobia and it may actually cause new ones. The ending sequence is goddamn amazing in every black sense of the word and the amount of blood and gore Hardcastle is able to put into this little snippet is something to look at in awe.
“U is for Unearthed” by Ben (KILL LIST) Wheatley Ever wonder what it’s like to be a vampire? Well, Ben Wheatley takes us on a first person POV ride that will slap some sense in those who feel it’s a glamorous life. Full of camera trickery, this one was lively and one of the technical highlights of the bunch for me. The final scene with the veins…damn, that’s the good stuff. Though I thought KILL LIST was decent, it did feel a bit cumbersome at times. This frantic little short is anything but and makes me think that there are a lot of great ideas to come from Wheatley.
“V is for Vagitus (The Cry of a Newborn Baby)” by Kaare (ALTITUDE) Andrews Downright amazing stuff from comic book writer/artist and director Kaare Andrews. His comic book knowhow shows through in this future setting where having a child is against the law enforced by an army of robots and highly armed police officers. The focus is on one officer who deeply longs to have a child and a family who breaks the law by having one. Much robot machine gunning and head ‘sploding occurs in this sci fi superhero yarn that also stars BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW’s weirdo scientist Michael Rogers as, you guessed it, another weirdo scientist type. Really vibrant stuff. Somebody give Andrews a big budget to work with. This shit was awesome!
“W is for WTF!” by Jon (METALOCALYPSE) Schnepp In another installment where the director doesn’t really know what he wants to do for this anthology, Adult Swim maniac Jon Schnepp goes over one bad idea after another with his producer, each of them so bad they are awesome. I’d pay to see any of these, especially “W is for Walrus”. Schnepp will make you fear clown zombies in this trippy-ass segment too. Oh hell yes he will.
“X is for XXL” by Xavier (THE DIVIDE) Gens This one blew my mind. Gory as hell and packed with a message for our fat-phobic culture, one overweight woman decides to take weight loss into her own hands. This one starts at a crawl, but revs up the pace to such a frantic level by the end, it feels as if your nerves are shredding. This is harrowing stuff that churns the stomach and pokes at your mind. Gens never fails to impress me and here he keeps up his winning streak.
“Y is for Young Buck” by Jason (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN) Eisner This short was the closest I came to vomiting in my three years writing and watching horror films for this column. To me, that’s a fucking compliment. Eisner has delivered one of the creepiest depictions of the school janitor ever put to film. With its 80’s synth montage score and the super slo mo, you get to experience every perverse gesture and nuance. This one will make you cringe and laugh so hard at how awfully wrong it is. And oh my god, the ending…just wow. So good. I need a barf bag. But it hurts so good.
“Z is for Zetsu Metsu (Extinction)” by Yoshihiro (VAMPIRE GIRL VS FRANKENSTEIN GIRL, HELLDRIVER) Nishimura The final segment is a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds which appears to be somewhat of a political statement about US/Japanese relations, which really wasn’t as interesting as the vivid and perverse imagery littered throughout. You will see a woman with a giant penis with a sword coming out of the end fight another woman with a cloak made of flies. You will see a swastika turn into various other things. You will see men with small penises eat sushi. And amidst it all, there’s an homage to Kubrick’s DR. STRANGELOVE. Frantic and manic, this is a bizarre way to end this anthology, but it does end it on a lively note.
All in all, THE ABC’S OF DEATH is an indication that horror is in capable hands as all of these directors delivered imaginative and powerful shorts. There seemed to be a prevalent feeling of tongue and cheekiness involved with most of the installments, making the ones more serious in tone stand out as odd additions, but the producers scattered the serious ones about capably enough like a DJ peppering in a slow jam every once and a while amidst all of the fast paced dance music. Though it requires over two hours of watching, every minute is worth it and though I know this project took its toll to put together, I’d love to see a second horror themed alphabet someday. As is, even the weaker installments of THE ABC’S OF DEATH are better than most full length horror films out there.
Still, I’m left with the question…what the hell’s up with that baby?
Advance Review: In limited theaters today & available on Video On Demand through Bloody Disgusting Selects and The Collective!
ALYCE KILLS (2011)aka ALYCE
Directed by Jay Lee
Written by Jay Lee
Starring Jade Dornfeld, Tamara Feldman, James Duval, Eddie Rouse, Larry Cedar, Yorgo Constantine, Megan Gallagher, Rena Owen, Tracey Walter, Bret Roberts, Max E. Williams, Whitney Anderson, Siri Baruc
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
What a devilish little movie! I wasn’t prepared for ALYCE KILLS and maybe it’s best that you aren’t since I was really blown away by the depths this movie plunges by the final act. It’s one of those films that starts out somewhat innocently, but ends in a place dark and seedy, forcing you to ask yourself, “How in the hell did I end up here?!?”
Alyce is played by Jade Dornfeld, a mousey and wide eyed girl in the big city who seemingly knows next to nothing about how the world works and how to connect to it in true ALICE IN WONDERLAND fashion. She is gorgeous, but unable to deal with the fact that men want to be with her and women are jealous of her because of her beauty. What Alyce would rather do is just hang out with her friend Caroll (Tamara Feldman) and maybe this attraction is a little more than friends, but since Carroll is unable to see Alyce’s obvious attraction towards her, since she is wrapped up in a tumultuous relationship with Vince (James Duval, who seems to be making a bit of a comeback with this film and SUSHI GIRL this year). When Caroll discovers Vince is cheating on her, Alyce and Caroll go out on a girl’s night out, getting shitfaced on drugs and alcohol, ending with a stumbling good time on Alyce’s roof. Though Caroll jokes with Alyce, saying they should have sex to get back at Vince, she is too obliterated to understand that this is exactly what the shy girl wants from her friend. Though it’s accidental, Alyce pushes Caroll off the roof which begins a downward spiral for Alyce.
What I love about this film is that if this wasn’t a horror movie column and the opening credits didn’t tell you this was a film produced by the excellent horror website Bloody Disgusting, you wouldn’t know it was a horror film. I love movies like that, that all of a sudden pull the rug out from under you and show their true dark colors. With ALYCE KILLS, this initial accidental death is the last straw keeping Alyce’s fragile sanity together. Turning to drugs and finally sharp instruments as a means to cope with her crumbling life, woe to any who have ever wronged Alyce in the past.
Though it starts out innocently with two girls out for a party, I think you’re going to be shocked at how gruesome this film gets. There’s a scene where Alyce disposes of a body that shows every gore filled detail and it’s not for the squeamish. And that might be my only problem with this film that it’s somewhat uneven and pokes the bubble of believability a bit in the latter half.
Alyce starts showing a tendency to tell others about her growing body count, but everyone thinks she’s just joking. It’s one of those things that happens in films that makes you say “C’mon, real people wouldn’t do that.” Yes, the public admissions of murder keep the tone light, but its coupled with scenes of absolute dread as Alyce mourns her friend’s death at her funeral and gropes her corpse in front of her friends and family. That scene in particular juxtaposes humor with very sick and serious actions that I admit, made me squirm quite a bit.
Still, this descent into batshit craziness was absolutely entertaining from the fun filled ending to the end which will make you spit your drink out laughing. The film has quite a few nods to ALICE IN WONDERLAND without being too obvious, but shrewd eyes will pick up references to the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar, and the Queen, all of which feel natural in the story without making one groan at the similarity. Jade Dornfeld is a true acting find and I can see her going to big, big places. Her innocent demeanor coupled with a Margot Kidder sort of sassiness works here, highlighting the actress’ broad range. ALYCE KILLS is a fantastic horror film in that it takes you to unexpected places and makes you wriggle and twist while on that dark journey. If you have a chance to see ALYCE KILLS, do it.
Advance Review: New in limited theaters and Video On Demand through IFC Midnight (Find this film on Netflix here)!
SIGHTSEERS (2013)Directed by Ben Wheatley
Written by Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Amy Jump
Starring Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Eileen Davies
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I wasn’t one of the horde who loved KILL LIST to death when it came out a while back. Aside from a very tense tunnel scene, some nice mood, and fine acting, I felt that there were way too many similarities to THE WICKER MAN to have so much praise heaped onto it. I can acknowledge it was a well made film, but didn’t really know what all of the hubbub was all about. Still, I can acknowledge that Ben Wheatley is a hell of a talented guy and was looking forward to seeing what he had up his sleeve next.
Now, I don’t think anyone would have been able to predict Wheatley would make a film like SIGHTSEERS as his follow-up to KILL LIST, but one thing is for sure, SIGHTSEERS proves that Wheatley has the chops to possibly do everything and everything. SIGHTSEERS shifts the dire tone we saw in KILL LIST to that of a pitch black comedy. The film opens with an elderly mother moaning over and over in protest that her daughter Tina (Alice Lowe from Wheatley’s previous film) is about to leave on a holiday with her new boyfriend Chris (Steve Oram who was also in KILL LIST). It’s a hilarious scene as Tina stands just out of her mother’s sight mocking her mother and silently showing us that the moans are driving her crazy. When Chris shows up, it’s obvious mum doesn’t like him and one of the more hilarious threads through the movie is the lengths Tina’s mom will go to sabotage any chance that Tina will be taken away by this new boyfriend.
But the best part about Tina’s character is that she is ever the optimist. Even when Chris accidentally kills an obnoxious man by backing over him with his mobile home, Tina shows an unflappable half-full attitude. But when the bodies start piling up, Tina’s chipper mood is tested to its limits.
Lowe and Oram are fantastic as this couple who just want to get away from it all, but seem destined to leave many, many bodies in their wake. At first, the killings are accidental, but watching Tina become at first fascinated with Chris’ propensity for murder then overwhelmed by it all is an amazing character study amidst all of this humorous carnage. While Chris seems ok with it all, Tina is the one who shows the most depth as she tries to cope with being the cause of so many lights being snuffed out. Lowe is fabulous in this role, making us root for her despite the fact that Tina is obviously a pretty fucked up individual, becoming more and more messed up the longer she gets to know Chris’ dark side.
Though things get pretty serious in the third act, SIGHTSEERS maintains its black sense of gallows humor right up to the shocking ending, which I should have seen coming, but still surprised the hell out of me. Ben Wheatley has proven here that not only can he set a dire tone, but he has the power to make us both uncomfortable and jiggle with laughter all at once. Though themes of modern witchcraft are carried over from KILL LIST, this is a completely different kind of movie, showing us that Wheatley is very much a force to be reckoned with able to shock us, make us laugh, make us shiver, and most importantly keep us entertained all the way through. I highly recommend SIGHTSEERS for those who like their comedy devilishly black.
And finally…here’s a fake horror trailer from YouTube’s Comedy Week called FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out starring Anna Camp! I’m sure we’ve all felt this way at one point or another. 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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