Movie News

AICN HORROR: A NIGHT IN THE WOODS! SIMON KILLER! DAY OF THE DEAD! BABYSITTER MASSACRE! A BAY OF BLOOD! HIDDEN IN THE WOODS! DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS! & More!

Published at: Sept. 20, 2013, 12:53 a.m. CST by ambush bug

Logo by Kristian Horn
What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Let’s get right on into the reviews!

Today on AICN HORROR
(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: TWILIGHT ZONE SEASON FIVE: Episodes 8-14 (1963-64)
Retro-review: DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1965)
Retro-review: A BAY OF BLOOD (1971)
Retro-review: DAY OF THE DEAD (1985)
TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE Season Two Episode Two: Like Father, Like Son (2013)
BABYSITTER MASSACRE (2013)
PARANORMAL ASYLUM (2013)
ABERRATION (2013)
HIDDEN IN THE WOODS (2012)
SIMON KILLER (2013)
Advance Review: A NIGHT IN THE WOODS (2011)
And finally… Don Theil & Chris Saphire’s take on EDGAR ALLAN POE’S THE RAVEN!


Retro-Review: New on DVD this week from Image Entertainment!

TWILIGHT ZONE SEASON 5 Episodes 8-14 (1963-64)

Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Last week, I reviewed the first seven episodes of TWILIGHT ZONE SEASON FIVE. I check out the next seven this week, but those of you who are wondering where the rest of my reviews are for SEASON FOUR (I reviewed the first five episodes here), I do plan on revisiting the rest of those episodes as well after I knock out this set.

Episode 8: UNCLE SIMON
Directed by Don Siegel
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Cedric Hardwicke, Constance Ford, Ian Wolfe
One of my favorite of the lesser known episodes, mainly because of the crisp dialog written by Serling himself. The story of an old man (Uncle Simon, played as crotchety as they come by Cedric Hardwicke) who verbally abuses his niece (played by Constance Ford) for twenty years and despises her so much that he makes sure to continue those beratings long after he is dead and gone. Saving some cash, Robbie the Robot (with a different headpiece) makes an unexpected appearance to make matters all TWILIGHT ZONE-y. Still, it is the razor-sharp back and forthings between Hardwicke and Ford that make this one stand out as one of the best.

Episode 9: PROBE 7-OVER AND OUT
Directed by Ted Post
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Richard Basehart, Antoinette Bower, Harold Gould
Though the story is going for something biblically epic, I wasn’t blown away by this tale of an astronaut crashed on a deserted planet whose only way of staying sane is the hope that there’s something out lingering in the bushes around his ship and the news reports from back on Earth signifying the end of the world there. It’s a somber tale that is a bit heavy-handed with the metaphor, even for a TWILIGHT ZONE episode, which sometimes can be pretty obvious when it comes to “hidden” meanings. Still, the ending of this one seemed forced and ultimately forgettable compared to other episodes.

Episode 10: THE SEVENTH IS MADE UP OF PHANTOMS
Directed by Alan Crosland, Jr.
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Ron Foster, Warren Oates, Randy Boone, Robert Bray
I loved this cross-time caper, as an Army Reserve tank squad are assigned to follow the same path Custer’s troops did right before the General’s last stand. It’s a story of both the nobility of those serving in the armed forces as well as a testament to following your heart against orders on high that might be otherwise. It’s well documented that Serling, when he served in the armed forces, often went off on his own and sometimes got lost while on patrol. Maybe, like the troops in this story, he was serving come kind of higher calling, or maybe this was just one of the cool stories he dreamed up while spending those nights by himself. Either way, both Ron Foster as the historian who believes he is following Custer’s path and especially Warren Oates as the doubting soldier do an amazing job of making all of the fantastical stuff which happens off-screen (most likely due to budgetary constraints) feel believable.

Episode 11: A SHORT DRINK FROM A CERTAIN FOUNTAIN
Directed by Bernard Girard
Written by Rod Serling, based on a story by Lou Holz
Starring Patrick O'Neal, Ruta Lee, Walter Brooke
Much like UNCLE SIMON, which I reviewed a few paragraphs ago, this one is filled with barbed wire lines of dialog between a couple who maybe once loved each other, but now have grown to despise each other for what they’ve become through the years. Though most of the best lines come from the pouty lips of Ruta Lee as a youthful woman who married someone 40 years her elder but is thinking twice now, the elderly Patrick O’Neal gets some good ones in there too. Still, O’Neal is able to add a lot of heart here as he seems to really want to make his wife happy and is willing to be the guinea pig for a youth serum to achieve that happiness. The results are pure twisted TWILIGHT ZONE and may be a bit predictable, but still no less fun.

Episode 12: NINETY YEARS WITHOUT SLUMBERING
Directed by Roger Kay
Written by Richard DeRoy, based on a story by George Clayton Johnson
Starring Ed Wynn, Carolyn Kearney, James Callahan, William Sargent
Another story about growing old (maybe Serling was having somewhat of a midlife crisis during this season), this one is as precious as a truckload of puppies as the Scarecrow himself, Ed Wynn, plays an elderly man who believes his lifespan will continue as long as he keeps a grandfather clock’s pendulum swinging. There’s an IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE tone to this one as it feels much more from the heart than the usual TZ episode; more likely to warm the heart than make it race.

Episode 13: RING-A-DING GIRL
Directed by Alan Crosland, Jr.
Written by Earl Hamner, Jr.
Starring Maggie McNamara, Mary Munday, David Macklin, Hank Patterson, Betty Lou Gerson
Though on the outside this story seems all lollipops and gumdrops, I was kind of struck by the ominous tone this one builds to by the end as a superstar from a small town returns to that home town in a seemingly innocent gesture, but as time goes on Maggie McNamara who plays the titular character really hits some nice emotional chords and though I believe I have seen this one before, it never struck me as so poignant as it did this time for me seeing it. It’s one of those endings that will hit you and then send chills, also known as one of the better episodes I had a chance to review this week.

Episode 14: YOU DRIVE
Directed by John Brahm
Written by Earl Hamner, Jr.
Starring Edward Andrews, Hellena Westcott, Kevin Hagen
The final review of this week’s assortment of TWILIGHT ZONE greats also wobbles in between tones of the comical (mainly because I’m used to seeing Edward Andrews play comedic roles such as Long Duk Dong’s adoptive father in SIXTEEN CANDLES, GREMLINS, and regular appearances on the DICK VAN DYKE SHOW) and the ominous. Though it is kind of goofy seeing a driverless car follow a man running through the streets, this feels like something Stephen King might have watched before scribing CHRISTINE. It’s a moralistic story, still made entertaining as all get out by Andrews as a driver who accidentally hits a paperboy and makes a run for it. Crimes never go unpunished in the Twilight Zone, so of course, he gets his due, as goofy as it is playing out.

Come back next week, when I’ll be reviewing another disk in the TWILIGHT ZONE SEASON FIVE Collection!


Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Hammer Films!

DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1965)

Directed by Terence Fisher
Written by Jimmy Sangster, Anthony Hinds, Bram Stoker
Starring Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell, Thorley Walters, Philip Latham, Walter Brown
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug


Low-necklined dresses, bright red blood, ornate sets, and gloomy castles: sounds like the recipe for a Hammer film, and DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS is one of the best. For the first time on BluRay, this film presents the master of darkness clearer, more vivid, and more exciting than he’s ever been before.

One of my biggest criticisms of vampire films, and Dracula films in particular, is that they adhere to Bram Stoker’s classic too much. I’d love to see some story involving the fascinating character of Count Dracula that doesn’t involve the reincarnation of his lost love. I understand immortality and being born again is an ongoing theme with vampirism and is intrinsically linked to the mythos, but surely there are other tales to tell with such a fascinating character. I can’t say that DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS veers too far from those narrative themes, but when it does zig from them, the film does so in interesting ways.

This story basically follows the same narrative structure, as a traveler with business that needs to be done at Dracula’s castle arrives at the place and is met with a night of terror. But instead of expanding upon that tale, bringing it back to England and having everything play out there, this story sticks with the castle itself, and instead of having one lonely soul crossing paths with the Count, four people arrive at the mysterious castle and most of the action takes place there. This simple shift in story locale and structure makes for a wholly different movie, and one that doesn’t feel like a tired retread of Stoker’s classic.

The performances in DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS are top notch. The travelers are all fun to follow, as one is leery of the castle and the dark unknowns it hides, while others are dismissive of obvious and ominous cues that appear in the form of a Lurch-like henchman, a bug eating Renfield type, and coffins galore. Dracula himself, played once again by Christopher Lee, is more of a hissing monster here than a suave nobleman. I love Lee’s more monstrous take on the vampire here, making Him much more of something to fear than lust for, as most modern renditions seem to prefer to go for. Harsh red lighting as well highlights the scares; a rudimentary method of fright exemplified in most campfire tales, but an effective one.

Though the way Drac is taken care of in this one is a little more lame than most, cornering the Count over a frozen moat of running water is a method of termination not often used in vampire films, so points for originality. Seeing Dracula’s frozen solid corpse at the end is a gripping image. Terence Fisher directed most of the best Hammer horror films, including THE HORROR OF DRACULA, which this film is a direct sequel to. Here he proves why he is the king of Hammer in building from the mythos, rather than homaging well-tread territories. This new BluRay features interviews with the stars, including Christopher Lee, plus a HAMMER STARS: CHRISTOPHER LEE featurette focusing mainly on the actor. BACK TO BLACK is new and focusing on the making of the sequel. Plus the usual trailers and stills, plus this set has collector cards with images from the film included as well. Altogether a fine-looking presentation of a fantastic vampire film.




Retro-Review: New on BluRay/DVD this week from Kino Lorber/Redemption !

A BAY OF BLOOD (1971)

aka TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE, BLOODBATH, CARNAGE, BLOODBATH BAY OF DEATH, CHAIN REACTION, AN ANTECEDENT, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT II, ECOLOGY OF A CRIME
Directed by Mario Bava
Written by Mario Bava, Franco Barberi, Filippo Ottoni, Dardano Sacchetti, Giuseppe Zaccariello
Starring Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Camaso, Anna Maria Rosati, Chris Avram, Leopoldo Trieste, Laura Betti, Brigitte Skay, Isa Miranda, Paola Montenero, Guido Boccaccini, Roberto Bonanni, Giovanni Nuvoletti
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Mario Bava’s influential tipping of the dominoes where one murder leads to the murder of that murderer and so on and so on and so on until there’s basically no one left to kill is as memorable as it is odd. Panned by some, applauded by others, A BAY OF BLOOD is definitely a movie that will leave an indelible mark upon viewing first or twenty-first.

The story follows the trail of an inheritance which passes hands numerous times throughout the film. An elderly lady is killed in an intricate, quiet, and complex scene at the very beginning, setting the murderous wheels in motion for the carnage to come. While this opening might be a great beginning to an intriguing whodunit, Bava pulls a double whammy by having the murderer’s face shown to be an elderly gentleman who then is murdered by a hand from the shadows brandishing a knife. Soon more players jump into the mix, some plotting to snag the will of the elderly lady for themselves, others just unlucky enough to stumble across the murder site. As the bodies pile up to a ridiculous height, the story culminates with a free-for-all as Bava plays it loose with the story and rather focuses his interest on how many people he can kill.

Now, a high body count for a body count’s sake is common these days as kill counts are often referred to during the slasher-filled horror outings of the Eighties, but put into context of the era this film was made in, this was quite disturbing. Jason Voorhees moves from one murder to the next in the FRIDAY THE 13TH series and the story usually moves along with little regard for the death that just was highlighted on screen, with only a pile of corpses referred back to in the final moments to remind us of the tally. This was common in slasher films. But when A BAY OF BLOOD was made, the slasher film wasn’t even really conceived of yet and for that fact, the film is something to be admired, though it was panned when it first was released for its senseless and remorseless violence.

A BAY OF BLOOD was so influential that scenes were lifted almost exactly from the film and remade in the FRIDAY THE 13TH films, particularly PART 2, which almost shot for shot lifts both the spear through the lovers kill and the machete across the face kill. But A BAY OF BLOOD features all sorts of memorable deaths on top of those two, making this one of the first to highlight not only the killing itself, but the variety in which the killings were committed. Various weapons are used throughout, all done with gory glee and bright red mayhem.

Though it can be acknowledged for its masterful use of suspense and grisly attention to depicting the violence, A BAY OF BLOOD is not the strongest of stories. Basically, the plot is moved along by the killings themselves, as if the cast is playing a morbid game of pass the baton. When the entire cast is killed and there’s no one left to murdify, Bava simply introduces more characters to kill, betray one another, and end up dead themselves. The nonsensical way the story plays out and the generous use of red herrings makes it almost feel as if there was no story at all and things were just barely threaded together by the kills alone.

I can’t leave this review without addressing the final kill of the movie and if you don’t want it spoiled, move on to the next review to save yourself.






OK…if anyone in the TB’s can help me here in regards to when the final two backstabbers are killed by the shotgun fired by one of the annoying kids, I’d love to know others’ take on this ending. Could it be that Bava is trying to highlight the neverending cycle of violence man seems to be enamored with? Is he saying crime never pays by having the final survivors of the film be children who have nary a care for the money everyone has been killing everyone else for? Or is this ending with children blowing away their parents with a shotgun merely there for a final shock, and nothing more? Having watched the film numerous times, I’m baffled and would love to hear what others think.

That being said, A BAY OF BLOOD is definitely a unique experience. It’s an oddity, really; something that definitely has a reserved spot in the pantheon of horror despite its narrative shortcomings and perverse attention to piling up the dead bodies. Without A BAY OF BLOOD, most likely, the stage wouldn’t have been set for all of those slasher films I loved as a kid. And for that, it’s definitely worth your time to pick up and enjoy.




Retro-review: The Shout Factory!

DAY OF THE DEAD (1985)

aka DAY OF THE LIVING DEAD
Directed by George Romero
Written by George Romero
Starring Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Jarlath Conroy, Anthony Dileo Jr., Richard Liberty, Sherman Howard, Gary Howard Klar, Ralph Marrero, John Amplas, Phillip G. Kellams, Taso N. Stavrakis, Greg Nicotero
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug


One of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite of Romero’s zombie horrors, is out on BluRay this week from the Shout! Factory. Though many folks have a soft spot for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD for its metacommentary on everything from economic class structure to racism and for the fact that it’s the one that started it all and others love DAWN OF THE DEAD for the cool effects, fantastic comment on the consumer culture we were living in, and the strong storyline, I always felt that DAY OF THE DEAD was the underappreciated stepchild of the original three.

And that’s too bad, because this one has everything one could ever ask for in terms of zombie films. It’s got conflicted survivors cooped up in one small and claustrophobic space bouncing and trouncing all over each other. It’s got a strong heroine and a fun cast of characters played by really cool actors. And it’s got some of the best practical special effects you’re ever going to see in a zombie film.

The story is set in a military bunker where a group of optimistic scientists searching for an understanding of the zombie plague are in a constant clash with another group of hardnosed and even harder-headed military types who just want to kill anything in their paths that takes more time than it takes to unholster their weapons to understand. Leading the scientists is tough girl Lori Cardille, who shifts from soft to ballz-packin’ gritty in a heartbeat. The way she plays the character, she maintains her femininity, but still communicates to the Neanderthals she has to cohabitate with that she is not to be fucked with. On the other team is Joe Pilato, who runs the military arm of this bunker like Napoleon on a bad day, screaming orders and wanting results and answers yesterday rather than waiting for the answer to come. Richard Liberty plays Doc Frankenstein, a slightly mad scientist who would rather explore the buried humanity in the zombies than kill them, while Gary Howard Klar plays the blunt object of the group whose sole purpose is to kick ass and take names. In between all of this metaphysical debate about the free thinking scientific mind vs. the literal and results-driven military is a zombie named Bub, a former soldier reanimated and rehabilitated by Frankenstein and able to do rudimentary tricks and even speak. Of course, when Romero does what he always does in these zombie films and tosses these extreme personalities together in a small space, sparks fly in all directions.

The thing that works best in DAY OF THE DEAD is the atmosphere. You can feel the wall closing in as the film progresses. Starting with wide open spaces as the scientists search for survivors on an abandoned Florida city street, we quickly move to the underground bunker and, in the final act, into the caves under the bunker which hold even more zombie terrors. Much like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, which has a downward spiral-type movement to it, this sense of retreat and then coming out the other side may make for some pretty gross digestion metaphors, but that seems to be the way Romero likes to structure his films, with the ending taking place back out in the open as if the characters have been through a world of shit and are now shat out to live it once again.

Moving away from the metaphor which could be associated to both Romero’s obligation to do a zombie follow up to the hugely successful DAWN OF THE DEAD by people in power or as a comment on the rise of importance and presence of the military in American culture in the mid Eighties, this film is also notable for its fantastic practical effects. From guts pouring out on the floor to half-dissected zombies on an operating table, this is the best of the best in effects. Tom Savini, who always delivers something special, outdoes himself in DAY OF THE DEAD with not only the usually fantastic zombie designs, but also zombie attack scenes which have never been topped since. The scenes where the military is torn apart by the zombie masses is unique and gory to the maximum degree. Joe Pilato’s death by being torn apart is something that works seamlessly and fills you with waves of terror upon seeing his body torn asunder. The scene where one of the military men’s heads is torn from his body and still moving boggles the mind. And even the scenes of zombies biting into the flesh as if biting into a turkey leg are so visceral and tactile that is sends shivers down my spine just typing this sentence out.

My criticisms of the film are minimal. The music, while sometimes fun, is way too synth-heavy. A sign of the times, yes, but more often than not misses the beat in terms of fitting the dire tone of the film. My only other criticism comes from Romero’s slow shift to giving the zombies a personality. While Bub is a great character and Sherman Howard does a fantastic job portraying him, this shift which is much more evident in Romero’s last three zombie films demystified the zombie in my eyes and is one of the key reasons Romero’s zombie films after this one were less effective, in my opinion. The threat of the zombie masses is scary enough, but give them their humanity back and somehow it muddies the waters and now this rotting mass in front of you may be actually reaching out for a hug rather than wanting to dine on your brains. To me, this is too tree-huggy a concept--that the zombies can somehow be saved or humanized--and maybe I just prefer the nihilistic approach to the shred of hope Romero offers.

These days, zombies are almost passé and you have to do something pretty original in order to get noticed. While some of Romero’s other works might be more well known, DAY OF THE DEAD seems like the sum of all of Romero’s experience working on these zombie films. The storytelling is much tighter than DAWN, and the acting is better. And the effects are far and away more fun and gory than either of the other two. The new BluRay edition features a really great, brand new documentary call WORLD’S END: THE LEGACY OF DAY OF THE DEAD by the folks at The Shout Factory which features more recent interviews with cast members such as Joe Pilato, Lori Cardille, and Sherman Howard, and crew from Romero himself to Savini and Greg Nicotero. This hour and a half long special is a great film in itself, uncovering not only secrets behind the film, but the legacy it leaves in regards to Romero’s films and zombie films in general. There’s also an exploration into the mines the film was shot in called UNDERGROUND: A LOOK INTO THE DAY OF THE DEAD MINES which completists will want to check out, and more behind the scenes effects footage of Savini’s epic effects, creation to implementation. This one is loaded to the gills with new stuff.




New this week on CD or digital download here!

TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE Season Two (2013)

Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


A while back I covered the first season of TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE, a radio show-style anthology series from the mad mind of JUGFACE/YOU’RE NEXT star and BENEATH/HABIT director Larry Fessenden. Fessenden has gathered another cadre of talent to bring this new season to life, and I’m going to sit down with each of them to give you the what’s what about them all over the next few weeks.

Episode 2.2: Like Father, Like Son
By Clay McLeod Chapman
Starring Larry Fessenden, Tobias Campbell, Bonnie Dennison, Joel Garland, Vincent D’Onofrio, Brenda Cooney, Owen Campbell


This Frankenstein-ian tale is a gritty and dire story that most likely will churn your stomach and make you twist with unease. It’s a somber tale about a scientist working on a formula which reanimates dead tissue and, wouldn’t you know it, on the night he is celebrating his breakthrough, he gets into a car accident resulting in the death of his son. You see where this one is going, right? Sure the concept is predictable, but what makes it so effective is the fantastic voicework from Fessenden as the distraught scientist and the other members of the cast, especially that of the reanimated son. The sloshy and sloppy way the monster speaks brings forth all sorts of imagery, which is what these radio plays are supposed to do. The final grueling scenes are gory and splattery and all sorts of wrong and I loved every second of it. With the use of sound effects and some slurred speech, in my mind this was a story that would have made H.G. Lewis proud in the way the grue is wallowed in. Another fine episode from one of the coolest radio series around.

Recorded in front of a live audience, all of these mini-radio plays are available for download and purchase on the TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE website.






New this week on DVD from MVD Entertainment!

BABYSITTER MASSACRE (2013)

Directed by Henrique Couto
Written by Henrique Couto
Starring Erin R. Ryan, Marylee Osborne, Haley Madison, Stephanie Coffey, Geoff Burkman, Tara Clark, Stephanie Michael
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


I shouldn’t recommend this film, with its ultra-gratuitous nudity and thin plot, held together by acting that ranges from amateur to passable, but I can’t help but admire BABYSITTER MASSACRE for the way it pays homage to classic stalk and slash schlockers of the 80s like SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, which is even referenced in the film.

Years ago, a group of girls formed a babysitters club, made to support and look out for one another since, you know, in movies babysitters usually die or get tormented and then die. Well, that didn’t really work out as someone stalked and killed one of their number, breaking up the club with one of the members getting blamed for getting scared and running off, leaving the victim to die. Now in their early twenties, the babysitters decide to get together for a slumber party, but someone in a white version of the Green Man costume and an army jacket is stalking and killing the babysitters’ club members one by one. But before each of them die, they of course have to get nekkid first.

The priorities for BABYSITTER MASSACRE are twofold: A. Get a girl alone and have her undress with the camera focusing mainly on their amble bosoms, and then B. kill them. Then repeat, repeat, repeat until it’s time to roll credits. And you know what? I kind of love the simplicity of that. It helps that the girls are cute alternagirls or girls next door. You know, the kind of girls you might actually see walking down the street and not the silicone-poisoned Barbies found in most horror films these days which immediately make them not relatable. Here, the girls are still pretty hot, but there’s a sense of reality to them, making the horror all the more effective.

Another bonus for me is that this film was made in Dayton, Ohio, a hop and a skip from my hometown of Lima, Ohio, so I have to give props for the filmmakers for making a pretty slick film, indie style. There’s a nice mystery that’s telegraphed pretty early. Some of the humor actually jives, and there’s plenty of bloody kills, so if you’re looking for a film that probably would have been a classic if it were released in 1987, this one is probably it.

But the focus here is on the boobs and blood and BABYSITTER MASSACRE has a’ plenty. With so many horror films trying so hard to be metaphors about this or that, it’s kind of fun to wear its intentions on its sleeve as this one does. Boobs, blood, blades, and just in case you might have missed it the first time around, more boobs; that’s pretty much what BABYSITTER MASSACRE is all about. And there’s nothing wrong with that.




New this week on DVD from Meridien Films!

PARANORMAL ASYLUM: THE REVENGE OF TYPHOID MARY (2013)

Directed by Nimrod Zalmanowitz
Written by Fred Edison, Gregory Scott Houghton
Starring Aaron Mathias, Nathan Spiteri, Grace Evans, Paul Bright, Boomer Tibbs
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Another found footager of sorts. This one shifts back and forth between cinematically filmed and handheld as we follow a pair of investigators checking out an asylum rumored to be haunted by the ghost of the legendary Typhoid Mary. Expect much shaky cams, testaments to the cameras, and gettin’ to know you time prior to an all-out assault to the senses in the latter moments.

The two leads do a decent job as the amateur filmmakers/investigators, though Aaron Mathias & Nathan Spiteri look like they stepped off a runway with their floppy hair and rugged features. Sure there are people in real life that look this way, but whenever a horror film is filled with really, really, really good looking people (using the Zoolander voice here) it does take something relatable away from the horror film. Still, these guys are not bad and Grace Evans evens out the group as the girlfriend whose mother is a psychic and ends up being the conduit for possession in a séance gone wrong. Evans is good here too, offering up a casual, girl next door tone to the mix.

One of the things that threw me is that for paranormal investigators, these guys are not very good at their jobs as spooky shit starts appearing pretty early in the film, but is dismissed as shadows, tricks of light, the wind, and just some crazy person. There’s even a scene of a headless ghost chasing one of the investigators along a railroad track that is actually spooky, but is not taken seriously until the latter portion of the film. Sure, there’s skepticism, and then there’s just bad investigation. Unfortunately, these guys fall into the latter category as most of the sightings and encounters are written off with rubbing eyes, faulty recording devices, and lame explanations.

The effects at times were pretty spooky, though I’m a sucker for handheld films, the jittery camera often peeling that layer between me and the action happening to paper thin depths. The aforementioned headless ghost being one of the more frightening images of the film, the ghost of Mary herself is pretty scary too. Occasionally, the images are sometimes jarringly cut and pasted into frame, making the CG look somewhat amateurish at times.

Shoddy investigatory powers and hit or miss CG aside, this isn’t a bad little film. I think it would have made for a much tighter hourlong short, as scenes seem to be stretched a bit past their limit. PARANORMAL ASYLUM: THE REVENGE OF TYPHOID MARY does have some nice atmosphere, and moments that’ll make you shudder.




New this week on DVD!

ABERRATION (2013)

Directed by Douglas Elford-Argent
Written by Gwendolyn Garver
Starring Peter James, Cal Thomas, Bobbi Jean Basche, Austin Kieler, Annie Hughes, Max Hauser, Chris Muntel, Daniel Koester, Matt Koester
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


A decent little mystery with some supernatural elements is what you’ll find if you decide to check out ABERRATION. Elements of THE SIXTH SENSE permeate this whodunit which may be advertised as more of a ghost story, but in reality is more of a teen mystery than anything else.

Centered around a strife-filled hockey team and the girl who’s got the coolest job in the world (that being a Zamboni driver), ABERRATION isn’t the most likely of settings for a thriller, which is one of its more interesting aspects. Someone is attacking and killing fans and players of the hockey team. There’s a mystery afoot, and all fingers point to the new star player. At the same time, Zamboni driver girl is seeing a little eyeless ghost boy shuddering in the corner of her eye and in reflective surfaces. What’s it all mean? Well, don’t worry, it all comes to light by the end.

Though this story is a bit watered down and feels more like a film one might find on Disney in regards to edge, blood, and overall tone, the mystery is solid here as are most of the performances. The fact that folks are dying may keep this film from being a total Disney GOOSEBUMPS episode, but the overall tone is something that feels very safe to be seen by teens. Not a bad thing, just an observation and something those who like their horror on the edgier side might want to take into consideration upon deciding ABERRATION is something they want to take a chance on.




New this week on DVD!

HIDDEN IN THE WOODS (2012)

aka EN LAS EFUERAS DE LA CIUDAD
Directed by Patricio Valladares
Written by Patricio Valladares, Andrea Cavaletto,
Starring Siboney Lo, Serge Francois, Carolina Escobar, Jose Hernandez, Daniel Antivilo, Domingo Guzman, Carlos Candia, Nicole Perez, Marcelo Valladares
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Recently picked up by Michael Biehn’s Blanc Biehn Productions for remake, the Chilean wilderness nightmare HIDDEN IN THE WOODS is as grindhouse as it is horrific from frame one to the last. Because the film shows both the heroes and villains doing horrible things, I found it very difficult to find anyone to root for.

That doesn’t mean HIDDEN IN THE WOODS is not an effective and harrowing horror film. It is, in every sense possible. Much more like films like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE that anything else, HIDDEN IN THE WOODS feels most like a revenge film than straight-up horror. The narrative follows the perilous lives of two young women, Ana (Siboney Lo) and Anny (Carolina Escobar), who are the victims of rape and incest by their lecherous, drug dealing father resulting in the birth of Ana’s child, who grows up feral in a barn. When the police come to investigate accusations that there is abuse in the house, the father goes nuts, kills two cops with a chainsaw and is arrested. Having grown up in seclusion, the girls and their feral son/brother go on the run from the police and the crooks who believe the kids know where their father has stashed their drugs. The merry chase culminates in a shack in the woods where the animalistic side of the three youngsters comes out en force with not a crevice or surface left unsplattered with gore and grue.

I will give HIDDEN IN THE WOODS this—it is a devious and unforgiving film. Brutal in both the depictions of rape and violence as well as gory as all get out, if you’re looking for some imagery that’ll make your soul curl, this film out to do it. The violence is hard and rough and pulls no punches, and one cannot leave this film without feeling something, be it satisfaction that justice is finally served for the kids or revulsion at the lengths at which they achieve it. As a straight up bare-knuckle bashing film of uberviolence and ultragore, HIDDEN IN THE WOODS excels.

But aside from that, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated at the way all of the characters were very shallow and simplified. By the entire cast of men, the two girls are looked at only as sexual objects with which to mount. No manner of restraint is taken, as every male who crosses these girls path must lay their hands on them. Every male in this film is a sweaty, panting penis just trying to get close to the two female leads. Ana and Anny do a decent job of screaming and fighting and crying and wallowing in lots of blood, but they aren’t given a lot to do other than be victims and then fight back. Still, they are the only ones who actually go through character arcs here, especially Anny who, unlike the older Ana who has a sense of both right and wrong and how to function in the real world, is haunted by childish nightmares and animalistic urges. Seeing Anny struggle with the beast within her and then let it overcome her was fascinating. Too bad every other character had to be so one dimensional in contrast to the sisters.

I’m conflicted with HIDDEN IN THE WOODS. I love the story of feral children forced to come to terms with the society just over the next hill while being stripped of all humanity by everyone who crosses their path. But at the same time, the simplification of the males in this film was extremely off-putting and makes the film much more shallow because of it. I was struck with the violence and horror of HIDDEN IN THE WOODS. As all good horror films do, it left me with a sense of unease. It wasn’t a fun film to experience, but it was an effective, albeit characterizationally flawed, horror film. I liked enough of this film to be very interested in what Biehn has in mind for the Americanization of the film and am hoping the character vacuum plaguing this film is corrected in this newer version (directed by the same director).






New on DVD this week from IFC Films!

SIMON KILLER (2012)

Directed by Antonio Campos
Written by Antonio Campos, Brady Corbet, Mati Diop
Starring Brady Corbet, Mati Diop, Lila Salet, Constance Rousseau, Solo
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Quickly becoming a master of subtle horror, Antonio Campos brings us SIMON KILLER, which at first might feel out of place in a column dedicated to masked serial killers, aliens, and zombies, but as the film goes on, Simon (played by Brady Corbet) turns out to be just as terrifying as any of them, if not more so because this guy feels so damn real.

We open on Simon talking about why he has journeyed from New York to France. Apparently he has just lost his girlfriend and he’s going abroad to “find himself”, something many do in their twenties when they are faced with reality for the first time having graduated school and wanting to eek just the last ounce of childhood out of them by refusing to settle in one place. It’s a romantic notion, and Simon won’t hesitate to tell any and all that fact since he describes himself as “having so much love to give”, yet as he bumbles and mumbles his way through life, freeloading off of one person after another; it definitely doesn’t seem accurate. After staying a week in France, he is out of money and now out of a place to go. Simon connects with a stripper/prostitute (the sultry Mati Diop); he cons her into letting him stay with her, and soon they develop a relationship. But Simon, though he says he wants to love, sabotages that at every turn and soon things get very dark, indicating that he most likely did the same thing in the relationship he was fleeing from in America.

What makes this film stand out is the lead actors. Brady Corbet, who offered up decent performances in MELANCHOLIA and MARTHA, MARCY, MAY, MARLENE, really has a chance to shine here as the maladjusted title character. The depths he goes to psychologically in his private moments with himself and then his intimate moments with the various women he encounters is pretty dark. Corbet does this low grunt/whine thing in times of great stress that is extremely unsettling, indicating that he is about to do something very, very bad. Mati Diop is amazing as Victoria, the jaded French stripper who slowly melts for Simon. It’s heartbreaking to watch her be fooled by Simon at the beginning and then to see her realization unfold that he is not the man she thought he was. Both performances elevate this pretty simplistic story to monumental levels of excellence.

Though this film is really a psychological drama, the dark places it goes as Simon convinces Victoria to blackmail her clients out of large sums of money makes it right at home among the evils that lurk in this AICN HORROR column on a weekly basis. It doesn’t have a high body count or copious amounts of blood, but it did inject a feeling of utter unease into me as I watched it, doing a fantastic job of exploring the actions and psyche of a truly twisted individual.

If we didn’t know this already with the creeping terror that permeated the last film he produced MARTHA, MARCY, MAY, MARLENE, Anotnio Campos seals it with SIMON KILLER. The director/writer has a way of quietly sneaking his characters under your skin, allowing you to bond with them, and then make you pay dearly for letting that person in. SIMON KILLER is a film that will definitely leave you feeling both horror and pity for the cast. It’s a tale of a twisted man with good intentions but no clue how to make those intentions come to life. I found SIMON KILLER to be a fascinating film and one you should not miss.






Advance Review: Available September 24th on Video On Demand and in select theaters October 4th from Tribeca!

A NIGHT IN THE WOODS (2011)

Directed by Richard Parry
Written by Richard Parry
Starring Anna Skellern, Scoot McNairy, Andrew Hawley
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


I’m not one of those people who hates THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. At the time, the film was pretty amazing; both a phenomenon in the theaters and the time leading up to its release. Sure, there are people who abhor the film, and I respect that. No film is going to please everyone, but for me, I bought into the mythos, I cared about the characters, and as soon as night fell in the film, I was on the edge of my seat. Now, those of you who hate THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT are not going to have a lot of good things to say about A NIGHT IN THE WOODS, mainly because it’s almost the same fucking movie.

Now, I’m not saying that A NIGHT IN THE WOODS is a bad movie, but almost beat for beat, this film follows the same template as BLAIR WITCH and the fact that it is so similar is really my only criticism of the film. There are people screaming in the woods looking for each other. There are long scenes of just walking around in the woods and along the English moors. There are noises and hints of witchcraft on the trees and lots and lots of moments of shaky handheld camera work, and there is the maddening aspect in that we never really see what is going on during this night in the woods; just the aftereffects and a lot of stuff happening off camera.

Those of you who read the last paragraph and felt their blood pressure rise, just move on. There are other films in this column for you. This isn’t one of them.

That said, there is a lot A NIGHT IN THE WOODS does right. As a character piece where three people are thrown into an extreme situation and are forced to confront and bounce off of and into each other, A NIGHT IN THE WOODS has a lot to offer. The actors in the film are great (Scoot McNairy being the only one I recognize, from MONSTERS). The relationship between Scoot’s Brody, Anna Skellern’s Kerry who plays his girlfriend and Andrew Hawley’s Leo is complex and twisted and all kinds of wrong. Not one of these characters are squeaky clean, but also, not one of them are all bad either. They feel like real people with real problems. Brody is the jealous type, and when Kerry’s cousin appears out of the blue to join them on a camping trip, he’s immediately suspicious. Kerry puts up with Brody’s addiction to using his camera to tape everything because she loves him, but there are complications here as well. And Leo…well, let’s just say all is not what it seems with Leo. Making these characters believable, flawed, and still likable, I wasn’t annoyed during the first 40-some minutes passed with just tomfoolery in front of the camera like the trio approaching a giant cow or walking through a pasture full of sheep. I could see some getting bored with this, but I was compelled by the characters and didn’t mind the lack of action, keeping my fingers crossed something would make up for it big time in the latter half.

And though we don’t get giant special effects or even a reveal as to what is in the woods just outside of the viewfinder of the camera, I didn’t mind because the mood and atmosphere worked. As the camera panned across the thick bushes and forest, I found myself tensing up, just anticipating what was going to happen. Again, it’s because the investment was set in those first 40 minutes that the scenes of shadow-chasing in the woods and screaming worked. Again, for some, the fact that there’s no big monster reveal at the end is going to infuriate, but I warned you about this earlier in the review.

Brody’s toxically addictive personality and the need for light provide a valid reason to keep the camera rolling in this found footager. Those reasons are much more believable than the old “we’ve got to document everything” motif. And there are some solid scares throughout, but more so than those instances, there’s a creeping dread that something horrible is going to happen. I didn’t really miss the monsters off screen since the real monsters are revealed to be the people we’ve been following for the last hour as we learn their dirty secrets along the way. So while this is a little bit too much like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, I found the likable cast and gripping character play enough to compel me to end up liking A NIGHT IN THE WOODS a whole helluva lot. I know there’ll be tons who disagree, but for those folks, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.




And finally…though it’s a tale that’s been told over and over again, it’s a testament to Poe’s skillful wordplay that makes so many filmmakers return to THE RAVEN for reinterpretation after reinterpretation, each finding something new or unique to highlight in their rendition. Here filmmaker Don Theil & Chris Saphire go seedy Hollywood noir with the story and make for a vivid, haunting, and altogether original version. I love the sounds the raven makes in this one. Creepy and fun all at once. Lock your chamber door and check out THE RAVEN!

Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven from RavenFilm on Vimeo.



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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