AICN HORROR looks at HELL BABY! THE DEMENTED! AMERICAN SASQUATCH HUNTERS! EXHUMED! INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN! COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES! SOFT FOR DIGGING! BLACK SABBATH! Plus THE ILLUSTRATED STEPHEN KING MOVIE TRIVIA BOOK!
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. I got a whole bushel and a peck of horrors for you all today, but as always, before that…there’s this!
First up is the trailer for the new film THE BANSHEE CHAPTER starring Katia Winder (Showtime's DEXTER), Michael McMillian (HBO's TRUE BLOOD) and Ted Levin (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS). Here’s the official synopsis: THE BANSHEE CHAPTER centers on a young, female journalist (Winter) who follows the mysterious trail of a missing friend (McMillian) that had been experimenting with mind-altering chemicals developed in secret government drug tests. Levine plays the role of a rogue counter-culture novelist with a penchant for substance abuse and firearms who leads the journalist into the mystery of dangerous chemical research. A fast-paced blend of fact and fiction, the film is based on real documents, actual test subject testimony, and uncovered secrets about covert programs run by the CIA. And the trippy trailer is below!
THE BANSHEE CHAPTER will be available on VOD in December 2013 and in theaters on January 2014 through XLrator Media.
Next up is BUTCHER BOYS, written by the co-creator of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE Kim Henkel, directed by Duane Graves & Justin Meeks (who birthed one of my favorite films of the last ten years, THE WILDMAN OF THE NAVIDAD). The film stars Ali Faulkner, Johnny Walters, Derek Lee Nixon, Tory Tompkins, Gregory Kelly.
The synopsis reads as follows: BUTCHER BOYS is a gut-wrenching, non-stop roller coaster ride through the hellish underbelly of inner-city America. A birthday celebration at an upscale restaurant sets in motion events that bring a group of friends face to face with the macabre world of cannibals The Butcher Boys. The Butcher Boys are international predators who deal in human ¬flesh - dead or alive.
Check out the exclusive images from the film on the left and right. With a pedigree of talent like this behind this film, I am looking forward to seeing this one when it is released from Phase 4 Films on Video On Demand and in select theaters on September 6th!
Premiering at the UK’s FrightFest 2013 next month is STALLED, what looks to be an awesome zombie comedy where a janitor is stuck in a bathroom stall during the coincidental meeting of Christmas and the zombie apocalypse. This trailer looks all sorts of fun. Check it out!
And speaking of the UK, new in the UK this week on DVD and BluRay from Second Sight is THE POSSESSION, directed by Andrzej Zulawski and starring Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill. I haven’t been able to check out the film, but if you’re in the UK, you can!
Finally, get ready for Flashback Weekend, Chicagoans! The Midwest horrorfest of the summer comes back to the Rosemont area at the Crowne Plaza near O’Hare Airport and the Muvico Theaters next weekend (August 9-11th)!. I never miss this amazing festival and look forward to checking out all of the booths, the guests (George Romero, Danny Glover, ROCKY HORROR’s Patricia Quinn, Charles Band, cast reunions for DAWN OF THE DEAD and PET SEMETARY, and many more), and the special screenings (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, HATCHET 3, TRANCERS 1.5, PET SEMETARY, and YOU’RE NEXT!!!). Get tickets and much more info on the convention and all of the fixins by clicking on this link here!
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Dr. Loomis’ Book Review: THE ILLUSTRATED STEPHEN KING MOVIE TRIVIA BOOK (2013)
Retro-Review: BLACK SABBATH (1963)
Retro-review: INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (1977)
AMERICAN SASQUATCH HUNTERS: BIGFOOT IN AMERICA (2013)
SOFT FOR DIGGING (2001)
THE DEMENTED (2013)
COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES (2012)
Advance Review: HELL BABY (2013)
And finally…HORROR BIZARRE’s RIPPEROLOGIST!
Dr. Loomis’ Book Review!
THE ILLUSTRATED STEPHEN KING MOVIE TRIVIA BOOKWritten by Brian James Freeman, Hans Ake Lilja, Mick Garris, and Kevin Quigley
Illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne
Published by Cemetary Dance
Reviewed by Dr. Loomis
If one were to lay out the parallels between Stephen King's body of written work and the extensive filmography it has produced, it would go something like this:
From King's bibliography you can pull a handful of masterpieces (THE SHINING and BAG OF BONES, for example); a high volume of really good books (CUJO, CHRISTINE, JOYLAND, etc.); and some efforts best forgotten by all involved (ROSE MADDER, THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON being highest - or, perhaps, lowest - on my list). The cinematic efforts related to King's work follow similar paths. There's the great (SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, STAND BY ME, and MISERY, among others); the good (THE MIST, PET SEMETARY, etc.); and the abysmal (DREAMCATCHER, THINNER, THE MANGLER, THE LANGOLIERS, LAWNMOWER MAN, should I go on?).
THE ILLUSTRATED STEPHEN KING MOVIE TRIVIA BOOK is not here to judge these movies. It is not here to judge the source material. It is, however, here to judge how well you know these movies and television adaptations. And it is, in many instances, a harsh and unforgiving judge.
Oh, it throws a few softballs your way. "What is Carrie's special power?" You may roll your eyes at this, and toss off an answer without even looking at the provided list of options. But that swagger will be long gone by the time you stumble into the chapter about NEEDFUL THINGS and are confronted with "What type of sandwich does Alan order on the day he proposes to Polly?"
There's minutae, and then there's a question about a sandwich. That's how deep authors Brian James Freeman, Hans Ake Lilja and Kevin Quigley are willing and able to go. These guys are all King experts in their own right (Freeman is a major player at Cemetery Dance, publisher of this book and many limited editions of King’s books; Lilja runs one of the best King-related destinations on the Internet, Lilja's Library (liljas-library.com); and Quigley likewise runs an amazing King website, Charnel House (charnelhousesk.com), and they've pulled no punches in assembling these questions.
The three are joined in their efforts by artist Glenn Chadbourne, whose black-and-white illustrations punctuate the book with ghoulish interpretations of scenes from the films. In many instances, the illustrations are better than anything presented in the movie being discussed.<br
And, in case you are wondering: yes, THE ILLUSTRATED STEPHEN KING MOVIE TRIVIA BOOK realizes that changes may be made when adapting a book or short story for the screen - character names may be different, locations switched, what have you. It does not care. It will ask questions that it knows you will get wrong because you're thinking of the book instead of the movie, and then it will taunt you for not knowing the difference.
So, if you're in the mood to test your trivia mettle against three bona fide Stephen King savants, here's your chance. They will break you down, and when they're done - to quote Carrie's movie mom - "They're all gonna laugh at you."
THE ILLUSTRATED STEPHEN KING MOVIE TRIVIA BOOK is available now from Cemetery Dance
“Dr. Loomis” is Blu Gilliand, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the fright-filled pages of DARK SCRIBE, DARK DISCOVERIES, SHROUD MAGAZINE, FEARnet.com and Horror World, among others. He also runs his own blog, October Country, devoted to horror and crime fiction. Feel free to stalk him on Twitter (@BluGilliand) at your own risk.
Retro-review: New on BluRay from Kino Lorber/Redemption (Find this film on Netflix here)
BLACK SABBATH (1963)aka THE THREE FACES OF FEAR
Directed by Mario Bava
Written by Alberto Bevilacqua, Mario Bava, Marcello Fondato, F.G. Snyder (The Telephone), Ivan Chekhov (The Drop of Water), Aleksei Tolstoy (The Wurdalak)
Starring Boris Karloff, Michèle Mercier, Lidia Alfonsi, Mark Damon, Susy Andersen, Massimo Righi, Rika Dialina, Glauco Onorato, Jacqueline Pierreux, Milly Monti
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Filled with imagery both terrifying and hokey, there’s a little bit of everything in Mario Bava’s classic trilogy of terrors. Hosted by Boris Karloff himself, the film is oftentimes kooky and oftentimes bone-chilling, but is bound to leave an impact on anyone who watches it.
One of the things that surprises me about Kino Lorber/Redemption’s latest BluRay release is that it is in Italian only. I know parts of it have been dubbed in both languages, but it perplexes me why they didn’t have an English version of this film added to the disk as well for completists. I seem to remember watching the English version in an all night movie marathon one time, and it seemed to be much more effective. I know complaining about subtitles is poo pooed, but still, so much of Bava’s film relies on what is played out in the image that having to read the bottom of the scream lessened the effect of the film for me. Surprisingly, I haven’t had this happen in other subtitled films and am a huge supporter of foreign scares, but for BLACK SABBATH in particular, I feel it hurts the film.
Though I am not sure why, the order of the short stories is switched from the American version I saw, which led with “A Drop of Water”, then “The Telephone” and finally “The Wurdulak”. The Italian version on this disk reorders things in terms of least scary to most by beginning with “The Telephone”, then “The Wurdalak”, and ending with the scariest of the bunch, “A Drop of Water”. Maybe the filmmakers thought Americans wouldn’t sit through the slower two films and felt the need to front-load the film with the best. Nevertheless, I prefer the Italian order since it feels more like a natural slow build of scares.
Broken up into three parts, the Italian version of this film doesn’t really tie into one another save the lead-in bits by Karloff, who revels in the terror like a pig in slop. Karloff only stars in one of the stories--“The Wurdalak”, a Tolstoy tale of vampiric undead. Karloff is great in this segment as a patriarch of a family who returns to the home as something less than living. The story is actually quite chilling, with Karloff making the most of his furry hooded robe and pale skin makeup. The colors are bright and vivid and the forests are dark and serpentine as Bava shows that he does atmosphere better than most. More so than any of the other segments, “The Wurdalak” feels much more akin to BLACK SUNDAY in mood and gothic ambiance.
The least effective short of the three is by far “The Telephone”, about a woman tormented by a caller she thinks is a spurned lover escaped from prison. There’s a lot of suspenseful moments in this one, especially a shot of two eyes peering in at the woman from behind a screen, but ultimately, this one just didn’t hit like the others. Interestingly, the Italian version has additional scenes not in the American one that adds a subplot of a lesbian lover, but even that didn’t spice this one up for me. Despite the shrill ring of the phone which is amped to deafening levels in the film, “The Telephone” left me cold.
The best of the three was “A Drop of Water”, about a nurse who comes to a home to look over a dead body. The thing that makes this little number so effective is the absolutely horrifying dummy used as the corpse of the dead woman. The piercing eyes and horrifying grin are something that will make lesser experienced viewers scream and will even twinge the nerves of some of us more jaded folk. I have to admit, every scene with this corpse got me, and I can’t watch this sequence in a dark room. The Serling-esque ending wraps it all up nicely, making this a perfect way to end the film (if you’re watching the Italian version, that is).
Bava went out of his way to toss out as many scares and gothic horrors as he could with BLACK SABBATH. Though the Italian version opens and closes with some goofy dialog from Boris Karloff that would make the Crypt Keeper blush, it makes for a fun way of wrapping a bow on it all. The behind the scenes look in the final moments really works well in letting us all know it’s just a movie, which after some of the scares in BLACK SABBATH, we may need some reassurance.
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!
THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (1977)Directed by William Sachs
Written by William Sachs
Starring Alex Rebar, Burr DeBenning, Myron Healey, Michael Alldredge, Ann Sweeny, Lisle Wilson, Cheryl Smith, Julie Drazen
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though it touts itself as the next big monster icon, THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN forgets that those classic monster movies had a few things like fantastic metaphor, great acting, and phenomenal stories to give them their iconic status. Sadly, THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN lacks power in all three categories, but makes up for it in old school schlocky charm.
On a routine mission to the rings of Saturn (you know, the kind of trips you take every now and again), a trio of astronauts are bombarded with powerful solar rays. Only one of the astronauts survives, but he’s horribly burned and scarred. Waking up in a hospital, the astronaut realizes he is melting like an ice cream cone in the summertime and goes on a bloody and goopy rampage, tearing anyone in his path to pieces.
Though the way to take out the melting man (which basically consists of waiting until he melts to nothingness, I guess) is less than iconic, effects man Rick Baker is what makes this film worth checking out. From decapitated heads that somehow float in water like a fishing bobber to the melting face and hands of the titular monster, the practical effects used in this film are astounding for the time it was made. Sure, the mask melting man actor Alex Rebar wears is a bit bulky and looks like a Halloween mask, but the slimy drippiness that the monster conveys (especially the tendency to leave body parts in his wake) is pretty amazing. If you’re a fan of practical effects, this film is most definitely going to be a treat.
Storywise not so much, as basically there’s no rhyme or reason for Melty to be going on this rampage. He’s just basically running around attacking people for no reason. But at the same time, everyone who sees him, even the chunky nurse who is supposed to treat him, screams and runs from this monstrous drippy man. I think the whole conflict of the film could have been solved had they all sat down and talked it out with Melty instructed to not be so grumpy at his new look and the staff in care of him to be a bit more professional in working with him, but hey, this is a monster on a rampage story, not THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES--though THE MIRROR HAS TWO DRIPPING FACES would be a pretty awesome film, in my opinion.
There’s a high level of cheese here and some really odd moments like the aforementioned chunky nurse wobbling in slo mo toward the camera and crashing through a glass door to get away from the monster. THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN is a great film to watch while drinking and goofing off with friends, but it’s not high art by a long shot. Still, the effects work elevates this film to the iconic status of the tag line and it’s worth checking out just for that.
New this week on DVD from Reality Entertainment!
AMERICAN SASQUATCH HUNTERS: BIGFOOT IN AMERICA (2013)Directed by J. Michael Long
Written by J. Michael Long
Starring Eric Altman, Tim Cassidy, David P. Dragosin, Stan Gordon, Steve Kulls, Dr. Jeff Meldrum, Rick Tullos, Billy Willard
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This is a Bigfoot documentary about people who hunt Bigfoot. Being a fan of all things Squatchy, I was looking forward to seeing it, but after watching it, I really didn’t feel like I learned anything new. Still, if you’re looking for a cross-section on those who hunt something that may or may not exist, there are worse docs out there.
The problem with AMERICAN SASQUATCH HUNTERS: BIGFOOT IN AMERICA is that I’m not sure what the audience is for this one. Most folks laugh off the notion of Sasquatch, while others attest to its existence. I guess those who don’t believe might want to check this out for a good mock, and there’s plenty to mock since a lot of these guys don’t feel too sophisticated.
If you’re a believer, none of the things described, reenacted, or stated in this doc is going to stand out as anything you haven’t seen before. Sure, it’s interesting when the hunters hypothesize that the Hairy Man has ties to other dimensions and alien cultures, but there’s no real evidence presented to attest to this. In the end, if you’re someone who wants to believe, the film will feel like it’s preaching to the choir.
What I found most interesting about the doc is the variety of believers out there. The experts interviewed for the film range from noted doctors to backwoods hunters with too much time on their hands and everyone in between. Because of this, it is interesting from a sociological standpoint to see such a variety of people believing in the same thing.
The reenactments itself are pretty horrible as, to spice things up, the film cuts to a man in a hairy suit trudging through the woods. This horrible drugstore costumed man doesn’t do any favors towards making this feel like a credible film. Still, if you’re a devourer of everything big and footy, AMERICAN SASQUATCH HUNTERS is going to be a must. Just don’t go expecting anything new.
Available on DVD & digital download here (Find this film on Netflix here)
SOFT FOR DIGGING (2001)Directed by J.T. Petty
Written by J.T. Petty
Starring Edmond Mercier, Sarah Ingerson, Andrew Hewitt
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though not necessarily new, SOFT FOR DIGGING was brought to me attention recently and since it was a new view to me, I figured it was worth sharing with everyone here. The film, by the director of the western monster film THE BURROWERS, is somewhat of a dream-like fable about an old man, a little girl, a cat, and a forest. How it all fits together is an often beautiful, often nightmarish masterpiece.
The story starts out pretty grounded, as an old man chases his lost cat through the woods and witnesses a man murdering a little girl in the woods. The rest of the tale follows the old man as he is haunted by this image and is compelled to investigate when the murderer and the little girl are not found by the authorities. Witness becomes the tormented as the old man is haunted by images of the little girl and other horrors as the old man’s desire for answers get the better of him.
With very few spoken words apart from “Murder!” and a few others lines sparingly sprinkled through the narrative, director J.T. Petty relies on the actors to emote and the camera to soak in the wooded scenery in order to fill the quiet moments. Actor Edmond Mercier, who plays the old man, does a fantastic job of doing so. Running around in his jammies most of the film, the old guy’s face is filled with concern and torment. Without a word, he’s able to speak volumes. The little girl Sarah Ingerson’s pudgy little face does so as well. Looking like the Blind Melon bee girl by way of the undead, the little angel is able to look incredibly innocent and devilishly nightmarish all at once.
Petty leads us through the last half of the film through a surreal nightmare as the old man investigates the orphanage with ties to the little girl. The director patiently builds up to the climax with imagery as banal as the old man biting a chocolate Santa bit by bit while getting up the nerve to leave the house and as horrifying as seeing images of ghostly little children standing in each of the windows of the orphanage. A simple shot of a little girl walking up a set of stairs is made the stuff of pants-filling horror in Petty’s hands, with a gift for matching static shots with quick—almost subliminal cuts and haunting music. The final bizarre confrontation between the old man, the little girl, and her attacker is pretty intense and a fitting and memorable end to a terribly entertaining fever dream.
SOFT FOR DIGGING is on the experimental side, so if you’re looking for big stars, scares every five minutes, and an ending filled with ‘splosions, look elsewhere. This film is more of a creeping nightmare that intensifies to a quick resolution that has you in its talons before you really realize it. SOFT FOR DIGGING is a film I won’t forget for its monk-like patience, effective editing, and simple yet powerful story.
New on DVD from Wild Eye Releasing!
EXHUMED (2011)Directed by Richard Griffin
Written by Guy Benoit
Starring Debbie Rochon, Evalena Marie, Sarah Nicklin, Jocelyn Padilla, Michael Reed, Nathaniel Sylva, Jonathan Thomson, Michael Thurber, Rich Tretheway
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
If there was a recipe for a film like EXHUMED, it would most likely read “take a heaping helping of SPIDER BABY and mix it with NEKROMANTIC in even portions, add a dollop of David Lynch, with just a pinch of Guy Maddin, and sprinkle lightly with a finger-full of John Waters.” Frappe, bake, and let sit for an hour and you’d have something a lot like EXHUMED, a surreal and macabre tale about a bunch of lunatics all residing under the same roof trying not to kill each other and failing miserably at it.
The film opens with static shots of a murder scene. There’s blood in the bathtub. Overturned furniture and signs of a struggle. The music (which is amazing in this film) lets one know that you’re going to feel unsettled while watching this film and for the most part, it’s right on the money.
Soon we’re introduced to the bossy Governess (scream queen Debbie Rochon), the protective Butler (Michael Thurber), the perverse man-child Lance, the fiery Rocki (Evalena Marie), and the bookish Laura (Sarah Nicklin). This is our weirdo family, and their interactions with one another are as dysfunctional as they are disturbing. There’s physical abuse from the Governess, talk of sex between the girls, dementia from the Butler who likes to have tea with the mannequins in the basement, and Lance likes to walk in on his sisters when they’re going to the bathroom. All in all, a pretty fucked up family. When a bo-hunk from the local college decides to move into the spare room, it throws the family in an uproar which ends up being the final straw that breaks this Addams Family sans laugh track’s back.
Comparisons to SPIDER BABY are going to be evident to anyone who has witnessed the classic dive into perversity. EXHUMED feels like a full on homage of the film, right down to being filmed in black and white and highlighting the twisted interactions between family members that keep this unit together. Writer Guy Benoit and director Richard Griffin do a fantastic job of giving each family member time to show their particular brand of bugnuts-ed-ness and how all of it contributes to the toppling of this happy house of cards.
There’s incest. There’s voyeurism. There’s necrophilia. There’s murder. There’s a whole lot of mannequins. And it’s all a whole lot of fun. Those who enjoy films on the more experimental side are going to have a ball with this one, while those less comfortable with the theatre of the weird will most likely want to check out early on. Me? I loved this family of crazies, especially the subtle performance from Michael Thurber, whose lunacy is the glue that holds the whole family together, at least for a little while. EXHUMED is a rare gem of a film for an acquired taste, but I think those of you who like their horror more subversive will dig it.
New on BluRay/DVD (Find this film on Netflix here)!
THE DEMENTED (2013)Directed by Christopher Roosevelt
Written by Christopher Roosevelt
Starring Kayla Ewell, Richard Kohnke, Ashlee Brian, Brittney Alger, Sarah Butler, Michael Welch
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I’ll never get sick of zombie films. Good zombie films. Ones that twist the subgenre and take it into places that they haven’t gone before. Ones that explore issues through zombies as metaphor. Ones that remember to scare and excite and give us that feeling that we all had the first time we watched Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or Boyle’s 28 DAYS LATER or even Snyder’s DAWN OF THE DEAD…hell, even LA HORDE.
Sadly, THE DEMENTED doesn’t have any of the above qualities.
A group of good looking twenty somethings trying to pass as teens are spending the weekend after graduation in a summer home. They’re up for fun, boozing, partyin’ and a little sex. You know, what all the hep kids are doin’ these days. Hell, these guys even bust out the slip and slide for a little summer fun, that’s how happenin’ these guys are. But wouldn’t you know it--just when the sun’s about the set and it’s time for some scruglies to be bumped, some terrorists decide to let off a dirty bomb in the city nearby causing all of the inhabitants to turn into mindless zombies. Soon these kids are bolting doors and windows and running for their lives from insane and twitchy infected zombie people.
I would be a little nicer to this film had it an ounce of originality, but everything here is derivative, from the way the infected attack to the way they glaze over in a daze when not active and not hearing stimuli like the nurses from SILENT HILL. There’s the scene where someone sacrifices themselves for the group. There’s the scene where the friend is infected and comes after his pals. There’s the scene where the kids must stay really quiet as they make their way through catatonic zombies. There’s the scene where the zombies sprint across a large lawn en masse. Pretty much every scene in this film is from a better zombie movie, which made me want to seek out those other movies instead of finish this one.
But finish it I did, and this film even manages to be annoying with its double ending for no particular reason. The action and horror is cut so quickly it’s hard to understand most of the time, the soundtrack reeks of daytime state fair anthem rock wannabes, and the actors were definitely cast on looks way before talent. VAMPIRE DIARIES star Kayla Ewell is pretty damn gorgeous, but she’s also gifted with the most annoying scream in all of horror. And she screams in this film. A lot. Sounds more like a hoarse yodel from a dying camel with its nuts in a vice.
I don’t know. I love horror films, but ones like this that don’t even try to come up with something original annoy the hell out of me. THE DEMENTED was too distracted by its quick edits, good looks, and shitty soundtracks to remember it needed to be a horror movie. This film brings nothing new to the table and therefore should be avoided like the zombie plague.
Released this week in theaters and VOD this Friday, August 2nd!
COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES (2012)Directed by Matthias Hoene
Written by James Moran & Lucas Roche
Starring Georgia King, Lee Asquith-Coe, Michelle Ryan, Alan Ford, Harry Treadaway, Honor Blackman, Richard Briers, Tony Gardner, Dominic Burns
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I’ve said this before about found footage films. I’m not sick of the amount of found footage films out there...I’m sick of watching bad ones. As long as the film offers me something new and exciting, I’m in. I’m the same way with zombie films. Though many write off all new zombie films at first glance because of the amount of zombie films shambling about the new releases today, those same people might be missing out on the next great zombie film.
Case in point: COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES.
A pair of construction workers stumble across a tomb while digging the foundation for a new building and upon opening it up in hopes of finding treasure, instead they stumble upon a bunch of trapped living corpses. Plain, simple, BAM. This set-up happens in the first two minutes, which gives the rest of the runtime the chance to just have fun with the zombie apocalypse.
And it does, in spades. The thing about zombie films is that it is not about the zombies themselves. They don’t have personality. They aren’t characters. They are just fodder for interesting people to go up against. If that group of survivors are interesting, well-developed characters, then all the better a movie it is. In COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES, the group of survivors in question is a group of East End, working class London folk known affectionately to the world as Cockneys: a group known to be tough, no-nonsense sort of folks who may not be the most civilized bunch, but are generally good people. Basically, if you’re looking for the equivalent in my home town of Chicago, we’re talking about Southside White Sox fans.
Pitting this type of group against the living dead offers up a lot of fun opportunities, and this film takes those opportunities and runs with them. Basically, this is a Guy Richie film with zombies. LOCK, STOCK & TWO SMOKING ZOMBIES, if you will. When a group of amateur criminals try to save their elderly grandparents’ retirement community by robbing a bank, everything goes pear-shaped when zombies come in and muck up the works. Expect a lot of colorful language. Expect a lot of tough guy posturing. Expect a lot of zombies, and you’re bound to be pleased.
Some might say that this film has already been made with SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Comparisons are bound to happen, but while SHAUN focused more on one man-child’s journey into manhood via hilarious zombie tomfoolery, this film doesn’t go as deep. SHAUN, despite its hijinx, had some deathly serious moments. In COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES, the tone is lighter and the laughs are not as sophisticated. Still, the laughs are there. There are some downright hilarious scenes as zombie futbol fans of different teams meet each other in the street and we find out that team spirit beats zombie appetite every time. There’s a baby scene that is so wrong, but so hilariously right in the way it is played out. Plus a character with a metal plate in his head proves to be difficult to kill once he becomes a zombie. Over and over, this film had me laughing out loud at the inventive and downright genius comedic scenarios constructed.
But the true highlight of the film are the elderly folks taking on the zombie masses. From a low speed chase as a man in a walker runs as fast as he can (which isn’t fast at all) from a slow zombie to the scene where a zombie gnaws on a wooden leg, this film is filled with fantastic old person vs. zombie action. Leading the grey haired pack is tough guy actor Alan Ford (SNATCH’s Brick Top), who takes on the zombies with a sneer and machine gun.
There is a lot to enjoy about COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES. Though not very deep thematically, it makes up for it with laugh out loud moments aplenty. There’s nary a groaner (despite the zombies, of course) when it comes to the comedy. The cast of young actors are talented in acting dim-witted, and the elderly thespians show that they can kick zombie ass just as well as the young folks. Before you dismiss this as “just another zombie movie”, take a moment. Out of all the zombie films made today, there’s got to be a good one every now and then. COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES is one of those good ones.
Advance Review: Now available on Ultra VOD as of July 25th and In Theaters and on Premium VOD September 6th!
HELL BABY (2013)Directed by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant
Written by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant
Starring Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Keegan-Michael Key, Michael Ian Black, Riki Lindhome, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
A loving couple moves into a fixer upper house only to find that the house is haunted by evil spirits that use the couple’s unborn baby as a conduit into the real world. That’s a set-up for quite a number of horror films, and rich fodder for a good old scary story. Add Adult Swim’s CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL actors Rob Corddry and Rob Huebel, THE LEAGUE’s Paul Scheer, and RENO 911’s Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon as actors, directors, and writers of the whole thing and what one would think was a scary movie all of a sudden turns into a SCARY MOVIE with some extremely talented comedians at the wheel.
”I am so sick of being startled!”
The thing that surprised me most about HELL BABY, though, is how many times I actually jumped in the film. There really is some scary stuff going on here, which makes HELL BABY not only a funny as hell film (which is pretty much a given looking at the talent behind it), but it’s also damn scary, and scary in a horror comedy is not an easy thing to pull off. Nevertheless, I jumped more than once throughout this film, mostly during the opening set up 45 minutes as scary shit occurs to Rob Corddry’s Jack and his lovely expecting wife Vanessa (played by IRON MAN’s Leslie Bibb). These opening scenes are effective not only to establish the couple as fun, wholesome, hopeful, and maybe a bit naïve, but also makes us care for them and eventually jump on occasion when the creepy shit goes down.
“Oh fuck you, lamp!”
The rest of the cast is astounding too, as writers/directors Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant act as chain-smoking priests sent from the Vatican to investigate ritualistic murders and meet stungun trigger-happy lawmen Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel, though they are clueless to understand that the center of the chaos is one of the twins in Bibb’s bloated belly. The comedic back and forthings between this cast make you want to spend hours more time with them just seeing them riff off of one another. What is captured on camera is utter hilarity at its finest.
”Perhaps we can continue this conversation in the living room, which...has less vomit in it.”
The true stand out performance in the film is MAD TV alum and RENO 911 Theoretical Criminal Keegan-Michael Key, who plays F'Resnel (pronounced as Pharell), who plays a transient who lives under Jack and Vanessa’s new home who lets himself in and helps himself to their food and accommodations without invite. Key’s line delivery and timing is fantastic here, providing some of the funniest lines of the film. I was unaware of this actor’s talent, but after seeing his performance in this film, I am definitely going to keep an eye out for this hilarious actor.
“This is like in the movies when crazy shit happens and no one leaves!”
Part farce, part horror, all comedy, HELL BABY is that rare breed of horror comedy that works. There’s no hesitation to use gross or disgusting imagery and effects. A lot of blood and grue is splattered about in between the opening and closing credits, and some of the jokes are way beyond tasteless, but I loved every second of HELL BABY from the spot on earnesty of Corddry’s oblivious performance to Michael Ian Black’s cameo as a therapist whose spandex shorts are waaaay too tight. HELL BABY is definitely not the movie I was expecting, but I shouldn’t have been surprised at the bizarre little monster birthed from these cracked comedic geniuses.
And finally…here’s our fourth HORROR BIZARRE short, this one entitled RIPPEROLOGIST, about a man who is an expert in--what else--Jack the Ripper. Yup, it’s another dive into the realm of Norwegian weird! 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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