Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Here’s some bits of news before the reviews!
Coming your way July 26, 2013 is Christian Slater and Brendan Fehr in STRANDED. The film is directed by Roger Christian and here’s the official synopsis: When the isolated U.S. military moon base is bombarded by a rogue meteor storm, Colonel Gerard Brauchman (Christian Slater) and his small crew are cut off from Earth with their life support failing. Before long, the crew discovers the meteors harbored alien spores…and they’re replicating. Now a vicious, shape-shifting predatory life form is loose inside the crippled facility, picking off victims one by one. Locked in a desperate fight for survival, Brauchman and the terrified remaining astronauts have one final mission…keep the creature from escaping the moon and finding a new food supply on Earth.
I’m willing to give this one a shot given that I always enjoy watching Slater do his thing. Below is the trailer for the film and to the right is the premiere of the poster art!
Another film making a theatrical run at the end of the month is the oddity known as AXE GIANT: THE WRATH OF PAUL BUNYAN about, you guessed it, a giant man with an axe and an ox for a pet wreaking havoc upon some campers and Dan Haggerty (yup, Grizzly Adams himself) and Jumpin’ Joe Estevez (I added the jumpin’ part). This one seems like it might be an odd old time at the movies and you can find out if the film is coming to your town by following the link here.
If it isn’t coming near you, the film will be released on DVD on June 18th! Here’s the trailer!
One of my favorite horror films set to be released later this year was THE BUTTERFLY ROOM (reviewed here). The film will be released in Italy on June 6th and I have the Italian poster over there just ready to be clicked and seen. And yes, that’s my quote over there on the poster. Betcha didn’t know I spoke Italian! I’ll be sure to let you all know when THE BUTTERFLY ROOM will be releasing here in the states, but here’s a teaser for the film.
I wrote about this at the top of last week’s column, but here’s a reminder. 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)
NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY (2010)
Retro-review: THE SINFUL NUNS OF ST. VALENTINE (1974)
Retro-review: ROLLING THUNDER (1977)
Retro-review: THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976)
Retro-review: THE EVICTORS (1979)
NO TELL MOTEL (2012)
DEAD MINE (2013)
Advance Review: V/H/S/2 (2013)
And finally…Peter Dukes’ LITTLE REAPER!
Find this film on Netflix here
NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY (2010)Directed by Daniel Farrands, Andrew Kasch
Written by Thommy Hutson
Starring Heather Langenkamp, Wes Craven, Robert Englund, Robert Shaye, and pretty much everyone involved in the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series except Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Over the last eight weeks, I’ve covered all of the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films (save for FREDDY VS JASON, which I’ll save for an upcoming Friday the 13th column) in commemoration of the release of the BluRay of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Collection. Links to those reviews will be provided at the end of this review, but as I neared the end of the series, I was hit with a ton of requests to check out NEVER SLEEP AGAIN, a comprehensive documentary looking back at every one of the films like I did, in great detail, but unlike I did, through the eyes of the actors, directors, writers, effects men, and producers. Having not seen this four hour film, I figured the time spent revisiting Elm Street would be best ended with a documentary of this kind.
And I’m damn glad I did, because not only did it cement some of my theories and rumorings I had and had heard about the film series, it also unearthed subtext and minute details that I hadn’t caught even after multiple viewings through the years. Directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch and writer Thommy Hutson do a fantastic job of making a dead serious documentary about a film series many don’t take very seriously, and in doing so offer up a fantastic cross-section of the trends in horror over the last thirty years.
Each movie is looked at in different chapters, some longer than others, with the first A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET obviously getting more screen time. But although I’ve heard, read, and seen a lot about that first film, I found later entries to be much more fascinating as the doc went on.
What really fascinated me were the NIGHTMARES that could have been. Peter Jackson’s version of Freddy addressing Freddy’s diminishing scary potential as the series went on by characterizing him as a withered shell of his former self. David Schow’s detail of a section of the dreamscape that even gave Freddy nightmares. All of these little sparks of cool that most likely would not have been as great as the films I’m seeing in my mind were delicious what ifs to digest for this viewer.
I also loved the ROSHOMON style the multiple interviews provided as the directors were sometimes convinced that their movie was fantastic (I especially felt this during the Renny Harlin sequence for NIGHTMARE 4), despite some of the more awful elements (and NIGHTMARE 4 had many). The attention to profit, as always, was front and center which to an artist appreciator like myself is painful to hear, but the realist in me knows it has to be a factor. Robert Shaye provided a lot of insight as far as the business of New Line and how the NIGHTMARE series was the company’s bread and butter through the eighties and into the nineties.
Though the film came out just before the new NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake, I’m hoping someday the filmmakers will make a supplementary portion for that film, but right now, they are busy finishing up the comprehensive documentary of the FRIDAY THE 13TH series, which I’m dying to check out. If the doc focusing on Jason is half as entertaining and insightful as NEVER SLEEP AGAIN, it’s going to be something no horror fan should be without.
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)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Remake (2010)
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Kino Lorber/Redemption (Find this film on Netflix here!)
THE SINFUL NUNS OF ST. VALENTINE (1974)aka LE SCOMUNICATE DI SAN VALENTINO
Directed by Sergio Grieco
Written by Sergio Grieco, Luigi Mordini, Max Vitali, (loosely based on a story by Victor Hugo)
Starring Françoise Prévost, Jenny Tamburi, Paolo Malco, Franco Ressel, Corrado Gaipa, Gino Rocchetti, Pier Giovanni Anchisi, Calisto Calisti, Aldina Martano, Bruna Beani, Teresa Rossi Passante
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though nunsploitation is not in my mind very horrific, mixing nuns with madness and the Inquisition seems much less softcore porn and much more in the wheelhouse of something I’m comfortable covering here at AICN HORROR. THE SINFUL NUNS OF ST. VALENTINE definitely has its moments of titillation, but the most intriguing bits happen in the minds of the decent cast and the madness contained within the convent walls.
The film starts with some sword-flickery between a handsome guy with a bowl haircut named Esteban (Paolo Malco) and two men in black. Though he beats the foes, Esteban is stabbed himself. He winds up in a convent where his love Lucita (Jenny Tamburi) lives and is set to join the convent soon. Though they want to be together, their feuding families are keeping them apart. So there’s a ROMEO AND JULIET vibe to the core of this film about two lovers from battling families. In order to succeed in creating a rift between these two, the convent tries its hardest to whip the sin out of Lucita after she is framed for the murder of a fellow nun, while the Mother Superior shows that she has a flipped wig under her habit and tries to seduce Esteban.
It’s all twisted and overly dramatic. There’s a lot of tearing of clothes, flogging, lesbian smooches, and dagger-tossing glances shot across stone walled rooms. There’s a little mystery tossed in as to who is the true murderer, but for the most part THE SINFUL NUNS OF ST. VALENTINE exists to engorge those who get off on seeing someone in a nuns habit unclothing and being degraded to drooling, frothing sexual beasts.
It’s these moments when the nuns go mad that are the most riveting of the film. Here the “actresses” wig out, scream into the camera, and tear at one another for sex, food, and murderous desire. These are disturbing scenes and pretty effective at casting the feel of unease.
I’m not going to go as far as say I was completely knocked down by the awesomeness that is THE SINFUL NUNS OF ST. VALENTINE, but seeing the nuns captured and tearing each other apart was in fact something pretty disturbing. These are the moments worth seeking this film out for, so one might say, while I understand the fetishistic appeal of seeing the nuns demystified and decloaked, I respect this flick for its twisted mind more.
Editor’s Note: I couldn’t find a trailer for this one, but you bet your sweet habit that it would have been unsafe to view at work if I had!
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Shout Factory (Find this film on Netflix here!)
ROLLING THUNDER (1977)Directed by John Flynn
Written by Paul Schrader, Heywood Gould
Starring William DeVane, Tommy Lee Jones, Dabney Coleman Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Probably best known nowadays for being touted by Quentin Tarantino as one of his favorite films (so much so, he named his production company after the flick), ROLLING THUNDER is one of those movies that if you see it for the first time now, you may recognize a whole lot of stuff that has been aped in modern day action movies, but if you saw it back then, it was all brand new shit. Sure it’s got similar themes to just about every revenge flick you can think of, but it is best known for being one of the first and best in the modern day man on a vengeance bender films, and it’s worth noting just for that.
“I wish we had something more exciting to shoot at.”
Now, I was 5 when this movie came out and although I saw quite a few revenge movies since then, I don’t think I had ever seen this film before now. The people behind this film practically developed the revenge flick all by themselves. Paul Schrader of TAXI DRIVER fame wrote it, and it’s very much a Schrader film in tone and pacing. Much like Scorsese’s Deniro/Foster flick, ROLLING THUNDER is a slow burn, never really igniting until the last few minutes of the movie. But this proved to make the movie all the more powerful because we get to know the main character well in that time spent with him, amping up the investment factor by the ending scene.
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m just going to sit here.”
Modern moviegoers may find these opening scenes a bit dull, but the mundane tone has a purpose here. Major Charles Rane (played coldly by William Devane) is a Vietnam vet returning home to a home that no longer feels that way. His son doesn’t remember him. The town treats him like a hero, but all he feels is guilt and pain for the things he did and had done to him over there. And to add insult to injury, his wife is getting married to another man. Rane takes it all in stride. But it’s not a quiet macho cool you often see in these types of films. Devane plays his character as callused and numb from the war. He doesn’t know how to interact with this world, as depicted in a chilling scene where he tries to make nice with his wife’s new boyfriend and only ends up creeping him the hell out by telling him a story of torture at the hands of the enemy.
“I don’t know how you do it.”
“You learn to love the rope…that’s how you beat them.”
But as with all revenge flicks, something bad has to happen to get the hero to care, or at the very least take action. In this case, Rane is awarded 2,555 silver dollars (one for every day as a POW) by the town, which catches the eye of a gang of thieves. As fast as you can say DEATH WISH, a group of no-goodniks break into Rane’s home (led by James Best, who would later be known to the world as Roscoe P. Coltrane in the DUKES OF HAZZARD TV show), shove his hand in a garbage disposal, then shoot his wife and kid.
“Charlie, why didn’t you tell him?”
“I’ll tell you why, lady--cause he’s one macho motherfucker.”
After a bit of time in the hospital, the second half of the film starts with Rane adjusting to his new hook hand. He tries to play it cool with the local authorities, but barely contains the simmering beast that he is more than happy to unleash on this gang. Finally, Rane has a purpose in this alien world he’s returned to.
“Why do I always get stuck with crazy men?”
“That’s the only kind that’s left.”
Teamed at first with a pretty young groupie played by Linda Haynes, Rane makes a beeline to Mexico where the gang hangs out. The second half of the film has Rane tempted by the pretty blonde to give up his life of violence, but Rane is what he is, and once again the temptation of normalcy is nothing compared to the overwhelming urge for bloodshed as indicated by the gory standoff at the end of the film.
“Charlie, I’m all you’ve got.”
And what a bloodbath it is. Imagine TAXI DRIVER except you’ve got two Travis Bickles blowing scum away instead of one. Not only do you get Devane going all Terminator walking from room to room blowing away punks with a shotgun, you get a damn frightening Tommy Lee Jones (in one of his first films) doing the same. Jones plays Johnny Vohden, another war vet and pal of Rane’s who is even more fucked up than Devane. Here, Jones seethes psycho without even saying a word. The wicked smile that crosses Jones’ face as he enters the whorehouse for the final scene compared to the painful looks of apathy on both Devane and Jones’ faces in the more mundane scenes is a clear indication that these guys love this shit and are simply using the death of innocents as an excuse to rain blood and bullets wherever and however they can, just like they did in Nam.
“What the heck are you doing?!?”
“I’m gonna kill a bunch of people.”
Like I said, watching this film now, one will notice similarities with everything from THE TERMINATOR to RAMBO to KILL BILL to DEATH WISH to anything starring Segal or Van Damme. The director, John Flynn, went on to direct OUT FOR JUSTICE with Steven Segal and Stallone’s LOCKUP. But those later films pale in comparison to the gritty feel and sick feeling this movie left in my gut after viewing it. Like TAXI DRIVER, this film offers a grim look at a person out of touch with the world. Unlike that film which offered next to no motivation or backstory for the main character prior to what happens in the film, ROLLING THUNDER offers real world heft, revealing the cause of that alienation to be the dual ugliness of both home and the war for returning veterans of the Vietnam War. Although this column is usually dedicated to horror and revenge flicks are in a genre all their own, ROLLING THUNDER brings up the same feelings of unease and disgust as your grossest of gross-out movies. It’s a hell of a movie with more depth than most of its kind.
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Shout Factory!
THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976)Directed by Charles B. Pierce
Written by Earl E. Smith
Starring Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Dawn Wells, Jimmy Clem, Jim Citty, Charles B. Pierce, Robert Aquino, Cindy Butler, Christine Ellsworth, Earl E. Smith, Steve Lyons, Vern Stierman, & Bud Davis as the Phantom Killer
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Man, I remember back in the early eighties when my Dad used to steal cable with a coat hanger and tin foil and my brother and I were petrified when the slightly snowy screened trailer of THE TOWN THE DREADED SUNDOWN played on our shitty little television. Both my brother and I bought into the warning that this was a true story, and though the town of Texarkana was miles and miles away from our home in middle Ohio, the movie nevertheless made my brother and I peek out our windows in the dark night in fear of who or what was lurking out there.
And that’s the beauty of the work of Charles B. Pierce. He may not have been the best filmmaker, but with this film, THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK (reviewed here), and to some extent THE EVICTORS which accompanies this BluRay release from Shout Factory (and is reviewed further down the column), Pierce was able to make you think in the back of your mind, “Man, this shit really happened.”
The special features state that healthy portions of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN were made up. Actor Andrew Prine admitted that the film didn’t really have an ending and he helped make up the final chase through the woods and over the train tracks. But enough of the events in this film were real to make one shiver a bit while watching the murders and attempted murders pile up.
One of the things that differentiates this film from other slasher films that followed was that the Phantom Killer, as he soon became referred to as, was not always successful in killing his victims. Instead, many of his victims lived after the attacks. While this doesn’t attest too much to the killer’s skill, it does make him stand out from most movie monsters.
The distinctive look of the Phantom Killer is probably the thing most remember from this film as it very much resembles the bag head mask Jason Voorhees wore in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 before he donned the iconic hockey garb. Personally, I think the amorphous mask which highlights the bulk of the head and the creepy as hell eyes underneath is eons scarier than any hockey mask, and it’s proven every time the Phantom Killer is on screen.
This is especially true in the scene involving Dawn Wells (TV’s Marianne from GILLIGAN’S ISLAND) as the killer first appears in a window emerging from the darkness, then bursts into her home and shoots her in the face. The scene goes on as Wells survives being shot and crawls through a cornfield in order to escape her attacker. This scene alone is the stuff of nightmares, played completely straight using all of the night sounds and pitch blackness an on location in a corn field setting can offer, and clearly the most effective in the film.
But while the scenes of attack are bone-shreddingly awesome (yes, even the goofy in concept but wickedly enacted trombone scene which I dare you not to shudder at), there are some painfully bad moments where the director feels he needs to lighten the mood of the film. Most of them come at his own expense since Pierce played Sparkplug, a dimwitted Barney Fife type who at one point dresses in drag and at the same time drags the film to a screeching halt in the process. Still, bad humor aside, there are a shit-ton of devilish moments of cat and mouse between the Phantom Killer and the down-home sheriff (Prine) and tough as nails lawman Ben Johnson, who delivers an astounding performance. Most films that scared me in my youth fail to do so upon revisiting it in my adult years. I felt this way with BOGGY CREEK, which lost its luster through the years. THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN didn’t do that, and it’s definitely worth seeking out in this new BluRay format.
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay as an added bonus film on THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN release from Shout Factory (Find this film on Netflix here!)
THE EVICTORS (1979)Directed by Charles B. Pierce
Written by Charles B. Pierce, Garry Rusoff, Paul Fisk
Starring Vic Morrow, Michael Parks, Jessica Harper, Sue Ane Langdon, Dennis Fimple, Bill Thurman
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though I prefer THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN and even BOGGY CREEK, there’s something about the line “Based on real events” that resonates when it comes from a Charles B. Pierce joint. The almost lackadaisical manner of filmmaking, capturing the laid back attitudes of the townsfolk the terror takes place in, is something that permeates not only this film but all of Pierce’s movies. But though the fact that this is based on a legend Pierce heard about in his home town and the townsfolksy way of telling the tale are similar between these three Pierce films, THE EVICTORS is very much the lesser of the three.
This is mainly due to an overly confusing plot which twists and turns and seems to purposefully try to lose the viewer. The film begins with a shootout at a home between the local lawmen and the hillbillies inside the residence. Seems the bank is trying to deliver an eviction notice, but the family inside don’t take to kindly to no lawyers, y’heah? We then skip forward through the years to present day as Ruth (Jessica Harper from PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE and SUSPIRIA) and Ben (Michael Parks from THE WILD SEED and FROM DUSK TIL DAWN,) a young couple searches for a house to start a family in. It’s the same one from the intro, only completely decrepit and run down. Though it’s a fixer upper, the couple feel up to the task and buy the home. Immediately things start getting freaky, as Ruth is often home alone with a freaky man with a pointy hat outside stalking her. Though she is terrified, the couple stay until she learns the secret of the house and realizes that they aren’t the first to be spooked upon moving into the abode.
The ambiance itself is interesting, mostly because the house definitely feels (and probably was) an abandoned ramshackle. Though Ruth attempts to fix things, everywhere she turns there is resistance. The problem with the film is that everything feels sort of half-assed, and even in the shadows, the threat seems somewhat lame. Without a sense of danger even in the dark, once light is shed on who these night creepers are and why they are doing what they’re doing is revealed, it’s even less interesting. Unlike BOGGY CREEK and DREADED SUNDOWN, THE EVICTORS’ horror is almost too pedestrian and less mythic. The first two dealt with paranoia surrounding the townsfolk, the latter merely a town secret.
Still, as a piece accompanying THE TOWN THE DREADED SUNDOWN, THE EVICTORS proves to be an interesting second feature. Pierce’s makeshift history making the events make sense seems to be almost too twisted to be true, but the opener attests that it is. The lesser of the movies, I can’t complain since this came as a bonus film with the THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN Bluray. You shouldn’t really seek it out otherwise.
Available on DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment (Find this film on Netflix here!)
NO TELL MOTEL (2012)Directed by Brett Donowho
Written by T.J. Cimfel
Starring Van Hansis, Chalie Howes, Johnny Hawkes, Andrew MacFarlane, Angel McCord, Rileigh Chalmers
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I’m not sure what I was expecting with NO TELL MOTEL, but I wasn’t planning on being as entertained as I was. The film really does a great job of inching out the details behind the strange happenings in an abandoned hotel some stranded teens happen upon.
Though the film starts with a little girl getting mowed down on a highway due to neglectful parents, we quickly are introduced to your typical group of teens on a road trip. And while the scenario of a group stumbling across terror interrupting their little vaycay is something I’ve seen a million times, the level of acting here is pretty decent as we find out that this group is being carted down the highway in a van of secrets, as everyone in this group has a secret sin he or she has that they don’t want the others to know. This dirty little secret motif occurs throughout the film with almost everyone involved, and while that didn’t exactly endear the group to me, it does make them fallible, more human, and thus more interesting.
This entire film is about secrets, as details of the secret life of the parents of the killed child in the beginning were not angels themselves and their evil ways was only the tip of the iceberg compared to the stuff they did after their daughter was hit by the car. Writer T.J. Cimfel adds some nice twists and turns in the third act, which I appreciated since usually this is the time when things start becoming interchangeable with a million and one other horror films. Here, with every revelation, things get more twisted and dire. While I don’t want to reveal it here, I will say the film goes to deep dark places I didn’t expect it to go. Images like a mother chained inches away from her helpless baby and forced to watch it die are ones I won’t soon forget.
I’m going to go ahead and call NO TELL MOTEL a keeper as it contains characters which are surprisingly rich in character, a twisty turny plot that you won’t be able to predict, and a dark black soul. The film shows both nasty supernatural ghostings and evil of the more human and living kind.
Take a chance with NO TELL MOTEL, and though you might groan on that first shot of the rowdy kids in a van barreling down the highway, I think you’ll be surprised at the turns up ahead.
New this week on DVD/BluRay, Video On Demand, & Digital Download from XLRator!
DEAD MINE (2012)Directed by Steven Sheil
Written by Ziad Semaan, Steven Sheil
Starring Ario Bayu, Sam Hazeldine, Les Loveday, Miki Mizuno, James Taenaka, Joe Taslim, Bang Tigor
Find out more about this film on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The previews and photos of this film made me think I was in for a fun little action yarn with horror elements. I couldn’t help but feel like I was going to see something on par with the Brendan Frasier THE MUMMY movies, which might not be high in scares, but were a fun little bag of popcorn’s worth of action, effects, and thrills.
Unfortunately, this isn’t that movie.
While I can’t really find anything necessarily wrong with the film itself, I didn’t really get charged by it in the way I was hoping.
Seeing the terra cotta warriors and ancient Japanese and Indonesian culture run amok in the preliminary pics I saw had me hoping this would be something rich with horrors of the Ancient Orient. Instead, this feels like THE OUTPOST Japanese style.
A pair of archaeologists trick a group of mercenaries into leading them deep into the Indonesian jungle with promises that they have the whereabouts of a sizable amount of gold. Turns out you should never trust an archaeologist, as what they are really after is a secret Japanese lab that dates all the way back to World War II filled with all sorts of experiments that have just been waiting to be rediscovered by lying archaeologists and gullible mercs.
The effects are decent, especially the facial applications on a Japanese guard who still roams the corridors of the bunker protecting what lies beneath from visitors. The zombie warriors wear ancient samurai armor, but for the most part are just typical zombies marching instead of shambling.
I think DEAD MINE would have been more successful as another THE OUTPOST sequel (a third film is on its way soon in that series) rather than something all too similar yet not as good. Even some decent actors including THE RAID: REDEMPTION’s Joe Taslim can’t save it, as aside from blasting his machine gun, he really isn’t given a lot to work with. I can’t recommend this one, but it was capably made--just not anything spectacular. More disappointing since some of the imagery would make for an interesting movie--just not this one.
New this week on DVD (Find this film on Netflix here)!
GUT (2013)Directed by Elias
Written by Anna Ganster & Elias
Starring Jason Vail, Nicholas Wilder, Sarah Schoofs, & Angie Bullaro
Find out more about the film here on Facebook
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This subtle film will definitely creep up on you.
GUT is about a pair of childhood friends and the strain that friendship must face upon growing up. Tom is kind of sleepwalking through life and is in need of a change. His equally adolescent adult friend Dan is concerned that the freewheeling friend he once new is becoming too much like an adult. Dan tries everything to get Tom to continued his extended adolescence, but Tom’s wife and child force him to go in the other direction. Still, Tom is unhappy. When Dan shows Tom a digital film he received in the mail depicting what looks like a woman being killed by a man with a large knife, both Dan and Tom are fascinated by this film and both of their lives begin to unravel because of this unhealthy fixation.
On the one hand, GUT is a powerful and sublime film that relies on patience and slow builds to be effective. You’ll need a healthy dose of patience to get to the good stuff in this film--not a knock. This low budgeter is worth getting behind because of the deft use of silence and patience, letting the character unfold without a lot of forced dialog. Most filmmakers lack this much restraint, and you end up caring more about these characters because of it.
On the other hand, I found the resolution in this film to be somewhat misleading. I found myself wanting it to go into another, craftier direction than what actually transpires. I guess the way the two main characters fixate on the film somewhat unhealthily lead me to believe that more was going on under the surface and that possibly these two characters had more to do with the murder on tape than they were letting on. As is, GUT is a nice straight up thriller, but I couldn’t help but want a little more substance in the resolution.
Advance Review: Available on Video On Demand June 6th & in theaters July 12th!
V/H/S/2 (2013)Directed by Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Edúardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, Jason Eisener
Written by Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, Jason Eisener, John Davies, Jamie Nash
Starring Adam Wingard, Lawrence Levine, L. C. Holt, Kelsy Abbott, Hannah Hughes
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
V/H/S hit last year and thrilled many. I was one of the ones who liked the film but also felt that the logistics of the film were a bit off, and some of the entries would never hold up on their own. All in all, I loved the first “I Like You!” sequence and really liked Ty West’s creepy nighttime invader story, but the rest left me with that “That’s it?” feeling upon completion, kind of like when I first lost my virginity.
Sequels can go either way. Either the filmmakers go for bigger and broader, thinking they can just redo the same old jokes and jolts and fool audiences that they are watching a different movie rather than a rehash, or they can go the other route and veer off into new territory and risk losing the audience they built in the first place.
A smarter route, and this seems to be the route this sequel took, listens to the critics of the first film and tries to make some improvements on the formula. Since the EIC of Bloody Disgusting itself is a part of the production of the V/H/S series, one would think that criticism of the original would be considered, and it really feels like that was the case. My first problem with the first film had to do with logistics of the concept. Why would someone go to the time to convert all of this footage taken by computer cameras, digital cameras, and security cams and convert them to VHS videotape? In this one it’s stated right from the beginning that the video tapes are a product of what looks to be some kind of underground snuff-type film ring for those looking for extreme viewing. As a private investigator tracks down a missing person who happens to have a collection of these tapes in his apartment, all I needed was that tidbit of explanation and I felt much better going on this ride. Sure it’s a tiny detail, but it really felt as if a plot hole was filled with that and the believability (in terms of the film world it takes place in) felt stronger.
The first tape viewed was the most difficult to swallow, given the sci fi aspect of it all. The whole short is viewed through an artificial eye which records what the patient sees. If we were using TV analogies, this segment is more TWILIGHT ZONE than the NIGHT GALLERY feel to the rest of the film. Still, this segment provides a lot of jump scares that I admittedly fell for every time. This is mostly because of the acting of the eyeball camera operator, who is actually the director of the segment as well YOU’RE NEXT’s Adam Wingard. Wingard is both believable in the role but also quite funny throughout, as I loved the way he retreats to the bathroom every time he gets scared. Every single time, which to me was freaking hilarious.
Segment two is especially interesting to me since it, I believe for the first time, gives a first hand account of the zombie apocalypse as seen though the eyes of the infected. The segment starts out as a biker sets up a camera to film some extreme biking, but after he stops to help a screaming woman, he finds himself bitten and soon transformed into a zombie. I have to give BLAIR WITCH PROJECT’s Eduardo Sanchez & Gregg Hale credit for coming up with a wholly original concept when it comes to zombies, since I didn’t think that was possible anymore. This segment is a hell of a bloody good time with all sorts of twists and turns you never thought you’d ever see.
The third segment is by far my favorite, by THE RAID’s Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto, which surprised me at the depth of the story as well as the levels of grue and perversity it attains in such a short time. This one is much more straight up found footage than the rest, but it feels absolutely fresh nevertheless as a documentary film crew convinces a cult leader to let them enter his sanctuary and film his cult during its day to day activities, which include praying, doing chores, and studying the four R’s (reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmatic, and ritual suicide!). When the shit hits the fan it comes in horseloads and this slow starter drenches every inch of the screen in layers and layers of blood and viscera. There are crazed cultists, exploding holymen, and giant demon babies running amok in this ADHD, speed injected, cranked to ten segment.
The next tape doesn’t really give you a chance to catch your breath as Jason Eisener throws us into the middle of an alien abduction slumber party. If HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN and Eisener’s ABC’S OF DEATH segment “Y is for Young Buck” didn’t make you think the filmmaker is cut from the maddest of stuff, this one will seal it. While it’s more subdued, Eisener’s use of sound and happenings in the background make this one worthwhile as some ornery youngsters film their sabotage of their sister’s date at their summer home while the parents are away, but when the camera gets placed on the dog’s head and aliens decide to attack, all of the tomfoolery stops and the joyous screams of terror begin, though I have to admit the dog in this film is the most calm pooch I’ve ever encountered as it never really acts like a dog most of the time and keeps a steady bead on the action going on. This fact brings you out of the story since it feels as if the camera is unrealistically pointed at stuff you need to know instead of stuff actually being caught on tape. With all of the alien blow horns and sirens going off, any real dog would be darting in circles, chasing its tail and shitting itself, but this pooch keeps the camera steady.
The film ends much more effectively than the last one, with some creepy sequences reminiscent of THE EXORCIST and EVIL DEAD. While I don’t think this series has really reached its fullest potential yet and the sheer number of found footage films is working against anything done in shaky style, V/H/S/2 is far superior to the first one. It’s gorier, bigger, and seems to be better threaded together. Though a little behind the backstory of the tapes is revealed, not enough is done so as to demystify the concept. As long as the makers of this series continue to find top tier talent in horror to shake the camera and make it feel as real as possible, I’ll be a fan of this series.
And finally…every Dad butts heads with his little girl as she becomes a woman. This is especially true in Peter Dukes’ LITTLE REAPER, as the grim reaper’s daughter causes all kinds of trouble for our hooded horror. Check out this quirky little short below!
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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