Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Well, I’m back from SDCC and I made it out relatively in one piece. This week I catch up on some recent DVD/BluRay releases, but be prepared with some very cool interviews and a presentation of my Horror panel at the con very soon. In the meantime, here are some news bits before the reviews!
First up is the premiere of a one sheet for the new thriller ARMISTICE starring Joseph Morgan (Klaus on the CW’s Vampire Diaries and upcoming spin-off series The Originals, also The Immortals), Matt Ryan, William Troughton and directed by Luke Massey. Here’s the official synopsis of the film; In the role of Royal Marine, A.J. Budd, Joseph Morgan stars in this brutal psychological and supernatural thriller, in which he finds himself trapped in the Warhouse. Imprisoned, he is forced to fight for his life against grotesque, inhuman opponents. He must kill every day or die himself. His one glimmer of hope comes in the form of a diary, left by a former occupant of the house, WWI Lieutenant Edward Sterling, played by Matt Ryan. Click on the image to the right to see the one sheet and look for the film to be released later in the year by XLrator Media.
Next, if you’re looking for a good film to support, have I got the film for you. The madmen at ASTRON-6 (who brought you FATHER’S DAY last year) are hard at work to put together their next film THE EDITOR which is described as; Once revered as the greatest editor of all time, an editing accident reduced him to a ridiculed amputee. When his co-workers are murdered one after another, the editor is the prime suspect! Has he lost control of his psycho-sexual subconscious like a modern day Dr. Jekyll or Wolfman? Not even he knows for sure! Below is the pitch for the film. The filmmakers wanted me to pass along that they hope people understand that they aren't paying themselves a penny for any job and all the money raised will go on the screen! The film has three days left to support and just a short amount of funds to go to make their goal, so let’s help them out if you can!
Finally, we’ve got a clip from the new film APARTMENT 1303 3D starring Mischa Barton, Rebecca De Mornay, Julianne Michelle, and Corey Sevier and written/directed by Michael Taverna. Here’s the official synopsis; Having grown up under the controlling grip of her fame-hungry mother (Rebecca De Mornay), Janet Slate (Julianne Michelle) jumps at the opportunity to move into what looks to be a great high-rise apartment in downtown Detroit. Yet some deals are too good to be true as one night her boyfriend Mark (Corey Sevier) finds her in the middle of the street - having fallen from the balcony thirteen stories above. When her sister Lara (Mischa Barton) tries to investigate the mystery of what happened, she moves into the same apartment and encounters the odd neighbors in the building, including an eerie nine-year old girl who seems to somehow know the real reason for Janet’s fall. Lara soon realizes that her sister’s death might spell the same fate for her unless she can overcome the strange events that are terrorizing the inhabitants in Apartment 1303. The film is available now in theaters and cable/internet, and Video On Demand. Below is the clip from the film and further down is the trailer. Look for a review of this film on AICN HORROR soon!
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: KIDNAPPED (1974)
DETENTION OF THE DEAD (2012)
SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY (2012)
VANISHING WAVES (2012)
FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY (2013)
And finally…HORROR BIZARRE: INFOMERCIAL!
Retro-review: New on BluRay from (Kino Lorber/Redemption (Find this film on Netflix here)
KIDNAPPED (1974)aka RABID DOGS
Directed by Mario Bava
Written by Cesare Frugoni, Alessandro Parenzo
Starring Riccardo Cucciolla, Don Backy, Lea Lander, Maurice Poli, George Eastman, Maria Fabbri, Erika Dario
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Bava’s nerve shredding crime masterpiece is finally available on BluRay. I’ve written quite a bit through the years about Bava’s gift for atmosphere and tension. But in this action crime tale, Bava shows skills he only hints at in other films making KIDNAPPED one of Bava’s finest works.
The story is basically a heist gone awry film as the robbery itself takes place over the opening credits. Three seedy individuals; Doc (Maurice Poli), Blade (Don Backy), and 32 (George Eastman who also played the title character in Joe D’Amato’s depraved ANTHROPOPHAGUS—reviewed here) have a standoff with police in a parking garage that ends with the trio taking a woman hostage after killing her friend. Soon after they switch cars and find a father (Riccardo Cucciolla) and his ailing son, the three kidnappers find themselves with three hostages. The rest of the film takes place mainly inside of the car as the tight quarters begin to wear on all of those involved, culminating in a bloody shootout in the end which not many survive.
The claustrophobic atmosphere is what really makes this film an edge of your seater. Sure situations of this kind might feel a bit cliché by today’s standards, but Bava’s tight direction makes it all feel crackling and fresh. There are scenes in this film that are just brilliant as Bava shows the action going on in the background, while still keeping characters in the foreground in focus. While you’re focusing on the background action, something happens in the foreground to alert you that the person has been in the scene the whole time. I’m not doing it justice with this description, but this is a compositionally minded filmmaker’s dream of a movie.
The fact that Bava can keep us all entertained while basically keeping all of the action inside the car for most of the film is a testament to both his skill as a filmmaker and the fascinating performances by the cast. The entire cast to a fantastic job of ratcheting up the tension and being forced to spend so much time in such a close space with these people makes you really feel as if you are a part of the action. The fact that the camera catches the sweaty hair sticking to the characters’ foreheads or a single droplet of blood on a switchblade makes you appreciate every painstaking detail Bava put into this work of art.
One of the finest examples of heist cinema, KIDNAPPED is a must for lovers of all things tension. The film has a dire feel to it from the get go as you aren’t given one second to catch your breath from the initial heist to the final scene which will definitely take you by surprise. I give KIDNAPPED my highest recommendation. It’s not only an example of why Bava is a master of horror, but of all kinds of filmmaking as well.
Available now on Video On Demand, in select theaters today, and on BluRay/DVD August 26th! (Find this film on Netflix here)
STRANDED (2013)aka THE ARK
Directed by Roger Christian
Written by Christian Piers Betley, Roger Christian
Starring Christian Slater, Brendan Fehr, Amy Matysio, Michael Therriault
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though categorizing a film as a B movie these days makes one think of most of the sub par crap ScyFy puts out on a regular basis, I don’t necessarily mean to give this film the kiss of death by calling it just that. I’m being kind to call STRANDED derivative as it borrows heavily from tons of other sci fi films, especially ALIEN. Basically, the entire first portion of this film follows Scott’s influential sci fi monster movie to the beat. But though the set up is familiar, which basically is four astronauts stuck in a space station with a monster on the loose, there are some details added to make it sort of worth my time and yours.
First, say what you will about Christian Slater, but the guy’s consistent. Here, he’s basically Christian Slater in a jumpsuit (maybe the same one from BROKEN ARROW, I’m not completely sure). He’s the captain of this monster haunted ship and does a solid job throughout. Slater has always been a curious actor to me as he has had some absolutely iconic roles and to look at him, the guy hasn’t aged a day in twenty years. Still, he’s knocked down to this B movie level, but performs his heart out here and makes it all watchable.
The second plus this film has going for it is that there are some fun little details which stand it apart from ALIEN in its ilk. Most distinctly, the fact that the ship the crew is stuck on has a carbon monoxide leak and one of the symptoms of said leak are hallucinations and paranoia, so when the crew starts attesting that they are seeing monsters, the ones who don’t attribute this behavior to carbon monoxide poisoning. This makes for some interesting conflicts of interest where two astronauts (one of which just gave birth to an alien) believe there is a monster on board, while the other two don’t and think they’re crazy. The story is even told, up to a point, indicating that all of this might very well be a hallucination as the story interweaves dreams and nightmares with the narrative. Though it’s obvious later on that something real and monstrous is on board, in the opening 45 minutes, it’s questionable and I like the sense of unease this film exudes.
The practical effects used in the film are pretty good too. Lots of goo and slime is used in the transformation scenes and it’s pretty obvious that the baby monster the woman has is a dummy. Still, I admire the fact that this film went the practical route, which makes it feel like a low budget film from the mid eighties which was when sci fi was last in style.
If you’re looking for that B movie charm of say Klaus Kinski’s CREATURE, DEEP STAR SIX, or the recently reviewed LIFEFORCE (reviewed here), you might be surprised by STRANDED, directed by BATTLEFIELD EARTH’s Roger Christian. Yes, Christian’s resume may cause a chortle, but STRANDED is a step in the right direction in terms of low budget sci fi with its impressive effects and solid performances by the cast as well as enough nods to classics while adding some original flavor. For me, STRANDED was better than I expected.
In select theaters and on Video On Demand now, available on DVD August 20th! (Find this film on Netflix here)
EVIDENCE (2013)Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
Written by John Swetnam
Starring Stephen Moyer, Radha Mitchell, Nolan Gerard Funk, Alisha Seaton, Verity Branco, Torrey DeVitto, Dale Dickey, Harry Lennix, Caitlin Stasey, Svetlana Metkina, Barak Hardley
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I have to give it to director Olatunde Osunsanmi. He shoots for the moon when it comes to trying to tell a different kind of story. With THE FOURTH KIND, he attempted to integrate real and reenacted footage together, sometimes side by side in a split screen, in order to tell a different kind of story about alien abduction and encounters. The result were not perfect, but I had to admire the guy for trying something out of the ordinary.
Osunsanmi is at it again with EVIDENCE, his latest thriller which focuses on multiple cameras found at a crime scene and the forensics team assigned to figure out what exactly was going on. The expansive opening shot is pretty amazing as the camera swoops and pans three-dimensionally through a still image of the burning crime scene as investigators document charred corpses, smoking buildings, and sheer carnage. This introductory shot was a unique way to let us know that we are going to be a part of this investigative process, watching with the team (made of TRUE BLOOD’s Stephen Moyer and SILENT HILL’s Radha Mitchell) as the pieces fall together.
The secondary story is pieced together from the found footage at the scene of the crime. Though the found footage genre is often steeped with contrivance, at least the time watching the banal activities leading up to the horrors to come are explained as trying to gather any piece of evidence to solve the crime. In this story, we follow a pair of wannabe stars and one of their boyfriends as they try to have a vacation in Las Vegas. Along for the ride is bus driver (DOLLHOUSE’s Harry Lennix) and a widow on the run (IRON MAN 3’s Dale Dickey), among others. When the bus breaks down in the middle of a ghost town, they find themselves stalked by a killer with a blowtorch.
I mentioned contrivance in the last paragraph and that’s the major fault of this entire film. Way too much is relied on dominoes falling just right so that the mystery unfolding on the video matches the uncovering of information by the investigators, so much so that it is impossible for all of this to happen in the sequence it did. By the time the final reel spins, I checked out in trying to have this mystery make sense with all of the happy accidents going on. Once again, Osunsanmi shoots for the moon by trying to tell a tale that he wants to make our socks shoot skyward upon the revelation, but because so much explanation and re-situation of facts and events is required in order for it all to make sense of it all, the final product feels like much ado about nothing. I won’t reveal the big ending, but while the clues may be all there, the reasons for the crime, as well as the logic behind finding out info in the sequence we and the investigative team do turn out to be more work than I’m willing to swallow.
In the end, EVIDENCE is a decent use of 3-D camera tricks, but had the work been put into the script rather than trying to backtrack plot pieces together so they fit perfectly, EVIDENCE would have been a much more engaging film. The motivations to do the crime and the capability of the criminals involved is suspect, reminding me more of the indigestible contrivances one might see in a SAW film. Despite strong performances from Moyer and Mitchell, the director and writer’s need to be clever and make things overly complex makes EVIDENCE shoot itself in the foot in the end.
Available now on DVD/BluRay (Find this film on Netflix here!)
DETENTION OF THE DEAD (2012)Directed by Alex Craig Mann
Written by Rob Rinow & Alex Craig Mann
Starring Jacob Zachar, Alexa Nikolas, Christa B. Allen, Jayson Blair, Justin Chon, Max Adler
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Everyone is trying to cash in on the zom-com ride which recently was given a goose with ZOMBIELAND and was feebly attempted to be aped in WARM BODIES. Though personally, these films which make light of the zombie apocalypse take the bite out of zombie movies as a whole, there are some that are successful in straddling the line between making you scream one minute and laugh the next. For the most part, DETENTION OF THE DEAD is one of those films.
Boiled down to basics, this is BREAKFAST CLUB with zombies with a bunch of teen stereotypes (the nerd, the jock, the cheerleader, the goth outcast, another jock, and the newest and most annoying stereotype: the Asian druggie) locked in a room together and forced to not only survive the living dead outsides, but also come out of the experience of being trapped in a room with people they normally wouldn’t be caught dead with one another in the same space, but with the dead shambling around outside, they’re forced to. In the end, it’s a movie…about life, and living with one another despite differences.
Now, in order for this film to be effective, it has to a) be a good zombie movie, b) be funny, and most importantly, c) be a good riff on THE BREAKFAST CLUB. DETENTION OF THE DEAD does a decent job with a and b, but completely falls apart when they try to get serious and have the kids come to the revelations the kids came to in the original film. The scene where the nerd admits that he bought the gun to kill himself is painfully hard to watch mostly because unlike BREAKFAST CLUB, it doesn’t set the tone to be serious at all. In an attempt to make the film weightier, it actually sidetracked a decent farce. Numerous other times when drama is tried to be square-peg-round-holed into the film result in equally awkward moments. Maybe it was the actors being way too funny in the first portion of the film, but I think that would only make us care for them more. No, this feels more like a scripting blunder with the filmmakers realizing that they had to inject some heft in the back end of this film at the last minute. The result is an uneven film.
What works though, surprisingly, is the comedy. I laughed quite a bit here both at the interactions between the stereotypical teens as well as the over the top gore. There are some fun twists along the way as well as a rat monster shows up as they make their way through the air shafts. One of the teacher’s heads is kept around and played with sadistically. I also loved the way cast members keep returning after they’ve been devoured by the zombies and can’t seem to die. These over the top moments make this a really fun film to experience. The acting is also pretty good as these kids have been seen elsewhere such as TV shows like GLEE, so we aren’t scraping the bottom of the barrel as with other films of this type. This makes everyone all the more relatable and fun to watch.
Despite the feeble attempts as seriousness in the film, DETENTION OF THE DEAD is a fun spoof of THE BREAKFAST CLUB. The film’s one offense was not knowing which way to go with it, so they tried it both and wasn’t very successful. Had they gone full on spoof, I think this would have worked better as a film. Or had the drama been more evenly sprinkled, I think it even had the potential to work. By trying to cram it all in, it messed this up from being a truly great film. Still, there’s enough laughs and gore for me to give it a positive nod and recommend it to all of you to give it a try for a few solid laughs.
New this week on Video On Demand. Limited theatrical release August 9th!
SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY (2012)aka SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE
Directed by Spencer Parsons
Written by Spencer Parsons, Jonny Mars, Jory Balsimo, Aaron Leggett, Jason Wehling
Starring Ashley Rae Spillers, Jonny Mars, Josephine Decker, Adam Tate, Paul Gordon, Sean Ryan, Heather Kafka, Hamlet as himself
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Come this Halloween when I start to compile my list for the best horror films of the year, SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY is sure to be among them. Stemming from all sorts of horror conventions and current trends, this film by Spencer Parsons is fresh, funny, and most importantly scary. Just as CABIN IN THE WOODS played with pastiches of the horror genre, SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY takes all that we love about horror and turns it on its ear, proving that there is a reason these trends became what they are in horror and proof positive that given a fresh set of eyes and a talented set of folks, even the most tried and true stories can still be effective.
What I love most about this story is that it unapologetically is a SCOOBY DOO remake. No it’s not Matthew Lillard and a CGI Scoob aping across the screen in sanitized and boring action. SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY is a rated R version of the SCOOBY DOO movie I as an adult who love horror have longed to see. It takes the current trend of following a band of ghost hunters, but zigs and zags all over the place, making your expectations its bitch in the process.
The performances by the four cast members--Ashley Rae Spillers (Nancy who is this film’s version of Velma), Jonny Mars (Floyd, our Shaggy), Josephine Decker (Gwen, who’s a lot like Daphne),and Adam Tate (Chad, who is our Fred), are what makes this film a standout. Each of the team embodies the Scooby Doo cartoon, yet makes them more personable. The attraction between Chad and Gwen is there, but there’s also some complications as we find out Gwen cheated on Chad once and Chad resents it. It’s the fact that these characters really seem to have lived a life off screen and that we are just privy to a snippet of it here that makes them all the more believable.
Like Scooby and the crew, Nancy, Gwen, Floyd, Chad, and their faithful dog Hamlet set out to find ghosts, but soon found that ghosts don’t exist. Their detective work has uncovered a lot of Old Man Jenkinses who try to scare folks away in order to set up moonshine stills, child porn rings, and drug cartels. And they would have gotten away with it, too, if not for those meddling kids. When the team’s funding goes dry, they take a job at an abandoned school house with a horrible history of violence and soon they begin to question that they might have actually found an actual haunted house. SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY plays on everything we know and love about those old SCOOBY DOO cartoons and makes them real and horrific.
The humor in this film is so, so good. It’s not gut busting humor nor is it grossout humor. It’s not particularly goofy either, but more of a subtle sense of fun that one might find in THE OFFICE or A WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER. No one in the film is trying to be funny. The humor comes from the situations that arise and the matter of fact way it’s processed and approached by this talented cast. There are some fantastic moments of comic timing that I won’t ruin in this review, but will definitely cause you to laugh out loud. There are also subtle performances that are sure to stand out, particularly by the monotone police officer (played by Paul Gordon) as he takes the team on a tour of the abandoned house, pointing out “We found a leg over here.” as if he were reading instructions on how to program his television.
Most horror comedies are either heavy on horror and light on humor or vice versa. This one has heaping helpings of both as the tone of the film shifts and shifts again as soon as the real terror is revealed. Though some might find this shift in tone rattling, I loved how things get dire with a quickness and the level of intensity slowly builds from movement or shadows in the background and then comes smashing to the forefront by the end of the film. There is a level of energy to this film that I have seen in few other films this year, and though CABIN IN THE WOODS dealt with a lot of SCOOBY DOO themes, that film falls more under parody while SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY is undeniably a full fledged horror film. There were moments that made me genuinely jump and other instances of gore that will cause stomachs to churn.
Do what you can to see SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY. You’ll laugh. You’ll jump. You’ll whisper “Cool” under your breath. It’s playing at the LA Film Festival this weekend and if you’re in the area and love horror, this is the one you don’t want to miss. It is original in its comedic voice, talented performances by the cast, and sheer ballsiness to be an unabashed hard R episode of SCOOBY DOO, and like a cat plopping a mangled rat into your lap, is damn proud to gross you out and cause you a start. Don’t miss this film. It’s one of the best I’ve seen so far this year.
New this week on DVD/BluRay (Find this film on Netflix here)
VANISHING WAVES (2012)aka AURORA
Directed by Kristina Buozyte
Written by Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper
Starring Jurga Jutaite, Marius Jampolskis, Brice Fournier, Sharunas Bartas, Frédéric Andrau, Arnoldas Eisimantas
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This is a great time for sci fi fans. Films like ELYSIUM, PACIFIC RIM, and LOOPER are pushing the limits of what we want in our big budget science fiction, while smaller films such as ANTIVIRAL (reviewed here), MOON, ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY (reviewed here), BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (reviewed here) and now VANISHING WAVES prove that you don’t have to have a multi-million dollar budget to make a film that glimpses into the future.
As you might assume by clicking the trailer below, VANISHING WAVES is more of an experience than a film. Sure there is a narrative, characters, arcs, and big developments, but as a visual spectacle, the film is a fantastic achievement. From CG insects to decadent tables full of odd food stuffs to a house that looks like it was frozen in time, mid-explosion to an orgy of undulating human flesh, the dream-like imagery in VANISHING WAVES is something that will inspire and haunt all at once.
The story follows Lukas (Marius Jampolskis), a volunteer in a study to push the limits of man’s perception. Shades of ALTERED STATES and COMA are littered throughout this film, but still, the narrative remains wholly original. By donning a helmet of electrodes, Lukas is able to enter a dream state and attempt to link with another human mind (that of coma victim Aurora played by the stunning Jurga Jutaite). Because the procedure is risky and the human mind is so susceptible to stimuli, patients in a coma are used as the conduit and connector in this realm. As Lukas is placed in a sensory deprivation chamber, he begins to become addicted to the world he transcends to and the girl he finds in this dreamscape.
The true conflict in this film involves matters of the heart with both Lukas and Aurora fighting their ties with the real world while struggling to maintain a relationship in this fantastic dream realm. So at it’s heart, it’s a complex study of human relationships and how what we dream often gets in the way of relationships in reality. The metaphor is richly and thoroughly explored with a delicate hand by writer/director Kristina Buozyte and writer Bruno Samper who slow down the narrative to allow us to understand why Lukas and Aurora fall in love, as well as why they love to be in this refuge from the real world. Quiet and gorgeous moments of a black sunset along a beach are juxtaposed with tight detailed shots of alien creatures and landscapes, all of which rich in enchantment and imagination.
Just when you think things are going hunky-dorey for our dreamy couple, the nightmares begin as Aurora is haunted by trappings of her past life while Lukas is overcome with grief and frustration over his separation from reality. The ugly side of human nature is highlighted just as well as moments of sheer terror and nightmare are explored in this dream realm, peeling back the psychological layers and allowing metaphor and vivid/horrifying imagery to reveal deep character traits rather than clunky exposition or explanation.
The music of VANISHING WAVES is jaw dropping as well, as everything from full barreled symphonies to simple clicks and beats are used to articulate when words are not necessary. For the most part, there are a lot of silent moments in this film, but because of the use of sights and sounds, those silences speak volumes.
The film itself is acted to perfection by the two stars of the film. Jurga Jutaite has a Bond Girl super model quality, though retains a down to earth feel while Marius Jampolskis feels like Lithuania’s answer to Sam Rockwell. One thing that I found somewhat distracting though was the very distinct moles both actors have on their faces. While it adds to the reality of it all in highlighting the imperfections of the actors, I couldn’t help but stare at the blemishes occasionally and mutter “moley, moley, moley” in my best Austin Powers voice. But hey, that’s me. I’m an immature shit.
Despite the abundance of moles, VANISHING WAVES is one of those films you will never forget. Filled with pristine and surreal imagery reminiscent of both Kubrick and Lynch and filled with the steady and patient camera work of Mallick or Von Trier, VANISHING WAVES may be a bit artsy for some, but I couldn’t divert my eyes from it for a single frame. Experience the beautiful trailer below for a taste of what I mean.
In select theaters and VOD today! (Find this film on Netflix here!)
FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY (2013)aka ARMY OF FRANKENSTEIN
Directed by Richard Raaphorst
Written by Chris W. Mitchell, Richard Raaphorst, Miguel Tejada-Flores, inspired by the works of Mary Shelley
Starring Karel Roden, Alexander Mercury, Joshua Sasse, Robert Gwilym, Luke Newberry, Hon Ping Tang, Andrei Zayats, Mark Stevenson, Cristina Catalina, Jan de Lukowicz, Zdenek Barinka
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Let me start off by stating the obvious, FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY is set during the final days of World War II as a Russian troop make their way through Europe battling Nazis. During this excursion, one Russian soldier is documenting the whole thing via a hand help video camera. Now I believe, though hand held cameras of this sort did exist at the time, it was not able to capture color footage with sound. Maybe I’m completely incorrect, but I don’t think the technology to actually film the events that occur in this film actually exist. Still, this is a found footage film in color with sound set during World War II, so if that bothers you to the point where you dismiss the film, then so be it. I was able to accept this technological inconsistency and was able to press on despite it and if you’re able to suspend your disbelief as well, you might come out the other end of FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY enjoying the experience.
Had the filmmakers gone the route of WAR OF THE WORLDS: THE TRUE STORY (which I reviewed here a few weeks ago) and filmed the movie in more of a film stock more authentic to the era, I think the feeling of ingenuity would have been less so. Sure, black and white movies have to be SCHINDLER’S LIST or THE ARTIST to be taken seriously these days, but I feel I would have bought into the premise of the film a little better had the extra mile been taken with this found footage film. But again, that’s not the route taken by the filmmakers and I’ll just have to move past it.
The story basically follows a group of Russian soldiers as they stumble into a facility which serves as Victor Frankenstein’s lab. Vic’s been busy working for the Nazis and the troop soon finds out exactly what his experiments have spawned. As the cameraman and the rest of the troop try to make it out of the facility to survive, the camera captures some pretty impressive monsters along the way and that’s where FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY shines.
There is a low of practical ingenuity and elbow great put into the monster effects of FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY. Sporting names like Burned Match Man and Mosquito, the monstrosities that lurk the halls of Frankenstein’s lab are the stuff of techno-flesh nightmare. Seeing the way body parts have been grafted with weaponized mechanics is something to behold and each of the monsters seem to have a lot of attention paid to them. Being practical effects, it adds an extra layer of horror as these characters interact with the environment and actors around them in a manner CG just can’t replicate.
That said, FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY feels a whole lot more like a funhouse ride spook house rather than a story as basically the entire last half of the movie consists of monsters lunging out of the darkness growling from their mouth-holes and revving chainsaw grafted limbs at passing soldiers and into the lens of the camera. This action is repeated over and over again, with just the type of monster changed. The hand held aspect simply amps this funhouse feel, which is good for the “comin’ at ‘cha” cheap thrill, but doesn’t do much else than that initial jolt. Repeated numerous times and the effect lessens with every burst.
The use of the word fuck, though not necessarily something that wasn’t voiced during World War II, shows up at an alarming rate in this film coming from the Russian soldiers. I don’t know why, but the dialect felt less authentic as the “fucks” seem to have an edge of modern street to it when uttered by the soldiers. There was something about the amount and tone of the usage that didn’t set well with me.
Karel Roden of HELLBOY and A LONELY PLACE TO DIE plays Viktor Frankenstein and does so with an over the top glee. Roden is fun to watch as he revels in Frankenstein’s medical madness, splicing body and machine together with whatever he can find handy. I love the circular kettles with human legs following him around. It shows that the makers of this film were not taking things too seriously. I think it’s that added humor and almost wink toward the viewer that makes me forgive FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY for its faults and appreciate it for the carnival fun ride that it is. Those expecting heavy, straight faced horror will find themselves left wanting, but FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY is good for quite a few laughs and thrills as well as some phenomenal practical effects and full body prosthetics.
And finally…Here’s another installment of HORROR BIZARRE. This time, we’ve got an infomercial from a carpentry teacher called INFOMERCIAL. It’s kooky. It’s weird. It’s Norwegian. 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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