Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Don’t forget to check AICN every day for my countdown to the best of the best in horror covered in this very column every Friday on AICN HORROR.
Let’s get on with the reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: HOUSE OF WAX (1953)/MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933)
Retro-review: TWILIGHT ZONE SEASON FIVE: Episodes 15-21 (1963-64)
EYES OF THE WOODS (2009)
BEAST: A MONSTER AMONG MEN (2012)
DARIO ARGENTO’S DRACULA 3D (2013)
Advance Review: TERROR VORTEX (2013)
Advance Review: PROXY (2013)
And finally…Troy H. King’s THE LUCKY BREAK!
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay/3D BluRay from Warner Bros Entertainment!
HOUSE OF WAX (1953)Directed by André De Toth
Written by Crane Wilbur, Charles Belden
Starring Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, Paul Picerni, Roy Roberts, Angela Clarke, Paul Cavanagh, Dabbs Greer, Charles Bronson as Igor
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
This BluRay release is interesting in that it packages HOUSE OF WAX with the film it was remade from THE MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM. Knowing the uproar remakes cause on the internet these days, I wonder if there was talk about raped childhoods on the radio or whatever the 50’s equivalent of the internet was when word came that THE MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM was being remade. In many ways, it’s kind of reassuring that remakes are not entirely a 00’s thing.
Nevertheless, if you’re going to remake a film, if you get Vincent Price to act in it, it’s going to be pretty damn good. HOUSE OF WAX was one of Price’s first horror films, setting the tone for him to play his more iconic roles. Here he plays Professor Henry Jerrod, once a gifted sculptor, but crippled in a fire which happens in the opening moments of the film. Flash forward, and Jerrod is back at it with the wax sculptures, but only in a supervisory role as his hands have been severely scarred and he is bound to a wheelchair. With his trusty man-servant Igor (played by a very young Charles Bronson), he attempts to rebuild the wax figures which burned in the fire and prepare for the world to see the grand reopening of his museum. The problem is, people are coming up missing as the opening approaches, and the realistic sculptures of the museum seem a little too realistic.
What plays out is a gruesome plot, made only more gruesome by the way Price plays the role. Price brings an intensity to Jerrod, but also a helplessness to it. Knowing the roles Price took after this film, it’s easy to assume he is the killer roaming the streets, but I imagine back then, most were fooled that Price really was the helpless cripple he poses to be and the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA-esque unmasking of Price’s real burn-scarred face was most likely something that brought audiences to its feet.
I can appreciate the charm of this film. Price is phenomenal as always and the rest of the cast brings a lot of goodness to the table too. But the film does play as quite obvious in terms of mystery and most modern, twist-savvy folks will see the ending coming very early.
Still some memorable effects shots, particularly Price’s burn makeup and the gruesome tone the wax mannequins exude make this one of the more effective early horrors. Though revolutionary in its day for its 3D technology, the obvious 3D-isms of having stuff thrown into the camera for a shock effect makes this film more of an entertaining curiosity. Still, it’s a classic and should be appreciated as such and it’s never been presented so clearly or in 3D like this before, so it’s well worth your while if you have the tech to support it.
But wait, there’s more waxy fun on this BluRay!
Also on this disk!
MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933)Directed by Michael Curtiz
Written by Don Mullaly, Carl Erickson, Charles Belden
Starring Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell, Frank McHugh, Allen Vincent, Gavin Gordon, Edwin Maxwell, Holmes Herbert, Claude King, Arthur Edmund Carewe, Matthew Betz, Thomas E. Jackson, DeWitt Jennings, Monica Bannister
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Having never seen MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM, I had no idea how almost identical the film really is to its 1953 predecessor. For the most part, in terms of story beats, HOUSE OF WAX is pretty faithful to this film, though one might argue that the 3D remake is superior in terms of acting and style. Still, if you’re a fan of HOUSE OF WAX (not the Paris Hilton remake, the 1953 version), it’s more than likely you’re going to like MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM.
Starting out almost identically, Lionel Atwill plays Ivan Igor, a talented sculptor who has a disagreement with the owner of the wax museum he works at and ends up being crippled when the scuffle ends in flames and his life’s work melting into a puddle of waxy goo. Later, Igor reopens the museum, but the wax figures are extremely lifelike; too lifelike.
The difference between the two films is the perspective the story is being told, Fay Wray plays Charlotte Duncan, a go-getter roving reporter who’s all sass. Here it’s her unflinching drive which puts the mystery of the folks going missing and the coincidental opening of the wax museum together. Much more a product of its age with the HIS GIRL FRIDAY speak that’s become reminiscent of films of that era, one might understand it when André De Toth set out to remake it with HOUSE OF WAX into a more timeless movie. Wray is great to watch here, but the obtuse story will definitely cause folks to laugh at how quaint the talk is.
But this film gets the effects right and I might argue that it’s even more effective in that the wax mannequins have a much creepier tone here and while Price nails his performance as the mad wax sculptor, Atwill is no schlub. He brings an air of superiority to the role that makes it completely different than Price’s more sympathetic character and in turn makes it an entirely different film all together.
Watching MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM and HOUSE OF WAX back to back was a real treat in seeing two ways to tell the same story and though I’m not a fan of remakes, I would recommend any filmmaker set to remake a classic to watch these two films to see how it can be done right.
Retro-Review: New on DVD from Image Entertainment!
TWILIGHT ZONE SEASON 5 Episodes 15-21Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Continuing my coverage of the fifth season of TWILIGHT ZONE, I reviewed the first seven episodes here and the second set of seven episodes here. 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 15: THE LONG MORROW
Directed by Robert Florey
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Robert Lansing, Mariette Hartley, George Macready, Edward Binns
Set in the distant future. 1988, to be exact. THE LONG MORROW is a depressing little tale about love, promises and fate as Robert Lansing plays an astronaut chosen to go on a mission to deep space who meets the woman of his dreams (Mariette Hartley) a week before he leaves. Though he promises to come back, he knows when he returns he’ll have aged 60 years. Bitter and cruel irony abounds in this episode that’ll most likely make your heart break. Still, for some reason, Lansing’s character is somewhat of a mystery as to why he would take such a mission in the first place and toss his life away. Either way, this is one of the more morose tales of the series.
Episode 16: THE SELF IMPROVEMENT OF SALVADORE ROSS
Directed by Don Seigel
Written by Jerry McNeely, based on a story by Henry Slesar
Starring Don Gordon, Gail Kobe, Vaughn Taylor, Douglas Dumbrille, Doug Lambert, J. Pat O'Malley
Starring Don Gordon, best known for roles in films like PAPILLON, LETHAL WEAPON, and OMEN III THE FINAL CONFICT, this episode is a clever and somber tale where the bad guy actually wins (albeit momentarily). Though Salvatore’s power to exchange aspects of his self with others in order to improve himself for a gal he wants rather than loves is never really explained (not that explanations are necessary in the Twilight Zone), still I felt some reasoning for this power would have made it a fuller experience. But there is a lot of smart writing going on in this one, even though the ending is a bitter pill to swallow.
Episode 17: NUMBER TWELVE LOOKS JUST LIKE YOU
Directed by Abner Biberman
Written by John Tomerlin
Starring Collin Wilcox, Suzy Parker, Richard Long, Pam Austin
For some reason, any episode of TWILIGHT ZONE or OUTER LIMITS that looks into the future and it’s already occurred in the present instantly gives the story a lot of charm to me. It’s also kind of depressing where we are at as a society as we never seem to live up to the dreams the sci fi thinkers of yesteryear dreamed up in terms of technology. Still this episode is rather spot on in terms of society’s obsession with being beautiful. NUMBER 12 LOOKS JUST LIKE YOU follows one young girl who refuses to conform to a society build on conformity, right down to everyone looking exactly like one another. As Suzy Parker approaches maturity and the time to undergo a process to shed her individuality, she fights tooth and nail to maintain it. With cool concepts like Instant Smile, a beverage that immediately brightens your day (Starbucks anyone?) and the creepy optimistic performances by Collin Wilcox, this is one of those episodes which plays more true when watching it today.
Episode 18: BLACK LEATHER JACKETS
Directed by Joseph M. Newman
Written by Earl Hamner, Jr.
Starring Denver Pyle, Shelley Fabares, Michael Forest, Lee Kinsolving, Irene Hervey, Michael Conrad
The TWILIGHT ZONE’s answer to “What’s up with all of those hep cats in those leather jackets?” that became all the rage in the late fifty’s/early sixties of course is that they’re aliens. This one rings more goofy, like a B-movie, rather than the quality storytelling often associated with TZ. Still the concept of a talking eyeball as the mastermind is a fun one and you’re bound to enjoy this episode for the cheesy aspects more than the story or performances.
Episode 19: NIGHT CALL
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Written by Richard Matheson
Starring Gladys Cooper, Nora Marlowe, Martine Bartlett
Though the ending left me flat, Richard Matheson’s tale of a woman haunted by mysterious calls in the night is one of the more chilling ones I’ve seen this season. For some reason, stories involving bizarre phone calls get me. Maybe it’s just runoff from one of my favorite horror films BLACK CHRISTMAS. But ultimately, despite Gladys Cooper’s fantastic performance as the frightened little biddy, I was surprised how underwhelmed I was by the ending. Maybe the mid-portion scenes where she was getting the calls were so effective, the ending failed to live up to the rest. Either way, I felt some chills down my spine with this one more so than most of the TZ episodes.
Episode 20: FROM AGNES – WITH LOVE
Directed by Richard Donner
Written by Bernard C. Schoenfeld
Starring Wally Cox, Raymond Bailey, Ralph Taeger, Sue Randall, Nan Peterson
Though there’s not really a lot of indication that he would go on to direct one of my favorite films of all time, SUPERMAN, Richard Donner delivers a quirky tale of a super-computer who falls in love with its creator. The tone of this one is light and the concept of technology is cartoony, but you’ll laugh more than cringe at this one, especially Wally Cox’s portrayal of the nerdy scientist who is just trying to get laid. The design of Agnes the computer is pretty hilarious as well as responses are printed out on large letter boards. This is one of those episodes that doesn’t feel like it quite belongs with the rest of the TZ entries, but a refreshing and comical detour.
Episode 21: SPUR OF THE MOMENT
Directed by Elliot Silverstein
Written by Richard Matheson
Starring Diana Hyland, Marsha Hunt, Philip Ober, Roger Davis
Another Matheson yarn shows why the man is a legend as the opening images of a woman on a white horse being pursued through the countryside by a screaming woman on a black horse is the stuff ripped straight from someone’s most pants-shittingly scary nightmare. There’s a palpable sense of real terror to this episode that makes it one of the most effective and psychologically complex ones I’ve ever seen. Though most TZ episodes aren’t ones that effect me when I see them as years of horror watching has left me somewhat jaded, the stuff that occurs in this one hit me harder than most. I can only imagine the nightmares SPUR OF THE MOMENT caused when it hit the airwaves all of those years ago.
Come back next week, when I’ll be reviewing another disk in the TWILIGHT ZONE SEASON FIVE Collection!
New on DVD from Find this film on Netflix MVD Entertainment!
EYES OF THE WOODS (2009)Directed by Darrin Reed, F. Miguel Valenti, Mark Villalobos
Written by Michael R. Ferraro, Oren Kamara
Starring Elizabeth O'Brick, Lira Kellerman, Johnny Moreno, Alissa Koenig, Eric M. Wolfson, Ed Pope, Jim W. Miller, Susan Ledgerwood. Walter Phelan as the Creature!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I’d file EYES OF THE WOODS under the category of pleasant surprise. In no way is the film perfect. In fact it’s got a lot of flaws in terms of editing and acting especially, but I found myself surprisingly entertained by this campers trapped in the woods tale, more so than disappointed by the film’s shortcomings.
The film starts out in the past, as a group of pilgrim types take on what looks to be a witch and a demon. After doing away with the demon, it retaliates and tears them to ribbons in a glorious fashion that harkens back to the gloriously goofy and gory fun of Raimi’s EVIL DEAD II and Jackson’s DEAD ALIVE as the demon rips through people as if they were tissue thin; punching through chests and tearing off limbs with reckless abandon.
These fantastically fun scenes of gore and grue set the tone for the rest of the film as it journeys to the present day as a group of campers get lost in the same forest the demon lived in the past. Though the opening is quite action packed with a boppy tone; things slow down exponentially in the present as a group of campers get lost and find themselves running from the same demon. Some rough acting and forced comedy make these scenes more difficult to swallow as we get to know the complexities of the group. But once the blood starts to flow again, the tone gets pretty fun. There are some disturbing scenes as a corpse is thrown on the campfire to scare the campers and a blood covered naked woman walks through the woods in a daze. These scenes feel much more dire and serious in tone for a film which opens with such successful campy gore.
It’s no wonder this film is so disjointed as it did have three directors behind it. The film feels like all three might have had different ideas as to how they wanted the film to play out and didn’t really consult one another about their portion. Scattered bits of comedy and goofy gore are matched with dire scenes involving the captive native woman and a flashback dream sequence scattered throughout which left me scratching my head. Still, there are some amazing effects going on in this indie flick and some really well choreographed scenes of goofy gore. Had the film been consistent in that tone, it would have been much more successful, but as is, EYES OF THE WOODS a disjointed curiosity with some decent bits.
Available now for digital download and on DVD here!
SLINK (2013)aka VIRGIN LEATHERS
Directed by Jared Masters
Written by Jared Masters
Starring Art Roberts, Julia Faye West, Danika Galindo, Paul Tirado, Dawna Lee Heising, Anthony Del Negro, Jade Bryce
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Indie seems to be the flavor of the week this time around, but though this one feels like it might have been done on the cheap, the idea behind it is strong and for the most part, SLINK, though somewhat predictable, plays out pretty masterfully.
The story begins with a young girl cleaning a tanning bed, her creepy boss getting a little too close when he’s passing on the “complex” instructions of tanning bed maintenance. Though he pleads with the owner of the salon (his overly plastic surgeried wife and overly tanned wife) to spare her, she is killed with a hammer. And then the opening credits roll.
Basically this is one of those MOTEL HELL type films where a downhome business makes it’s business off of the flesh of young women, but instead of Farmer Vincent’s fritters, the youthful flesh is made into fashionable handbags, the likes of which Paris, Brittany, and Christina tote to the fashionable affairs TML eats up like puddin’. When two sisters’ uncle passes away, they venture into the small town to collect his things and find themselves the next target for the tanning bed/flesh handbag business.
SLINK is a pretty tight little thriller with some nice twists along the way in terms of script. The film goes to some dark places as young children are abducted to handle the tight stitching of the handbags and gruesome skinnings are shown in graphic detail. I have to give the film credit for having a very corroded moral core and going to those dank places most horror films are afraid to go. The effects are pretty great and the directing itself does a really good job of maintaining its black tone throughout.
The acting in SLINK ranges from amateur to bad to decent, depending on which person the camera is being focused on at the moment. Though the evil tanning salon wenches are overly botoxed and siliconed, it fits the tone of the lifestyle the film is lampooning. This is a film about looks over everything else; a comment on the shallow lifestyle we live in, so the gratuitous nudity and NIP/TUCK wet dream actresses serve more of a purpose than just window dressing.
Though the film ends abruptly as if the camera ran out of film, the ride to the end of SLINK was pretty damn great and I look forward to seeing what writer director Jared Masters has in store for horror audiences in the future as SLINK is a confident and capable little indie horror gem.
New on DVD from Brain Damage Films!
BEAST: A MONSTER AMONG MEN (2012)aka A MONSTER AMONG MEN
Directed by Mike Lenzini
Written by Mike Lenzini, Darren Flores,
Starring T.J. Lavin, Blake Farris, Darren Flores, Eric Waltzer, Mike Lenzini, Brandon Feranda, Tara Lynn, Ravyn Jade, Christopher Styles as the Bigfoot
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
***THIS IS SORT OF A SPOILER LADEN REVIEW***
As most of you know, I’m a huge fan of Sasquatch horror, having posts a few columns in the past featuring some of the best and worst horror of the Sasquatchonian kind. Though I feel saying this is a Sasquatch film is kind of a spoiler, I feel it’s important for those of you like me, who love them some Bigfoot films, to be alerted that our hairy friend is a part of this film.
But for the most part BEAST: A MONSTER AMONG MEN is a story about people tearing themselves into pieces. Five guys decide to get together for a mancation in the middle of the woods with beer, machismo, and testosterone on the menu. Though the group are all familiar with one another, there are definite rifts between the group and Bill, the guy who panned this trip (who also happens to be the writer and director of this film, Mike Lenzini) is trying to do a George Costanza worlds collide scenario where different groups of friends are bunched together with disastrous results as the hard headed friend Mike (Blake Farris) has a beef with the outsider of the group Ely (T.J. Levin) from the get go. When they get to their woodland destination, Ely walks off from the group and Bill goes after him only to turn up dead when Mike and the rest of the group go looking for the both of them. Soon Mike and the rest of the guys get lost in the woods, happen upon a couple of other campers, and get picked off one by one by some unseen threat in the woods.
What works in this film is the scenario set up by writer/director Linzini. The story wanders opens with an ominous text and image montage as we see the after effects of some kind of attack in the woods set to words saying that blood was found from numerous victims throughout the forest. It ends with the statement that the bodies were never found. Setting the film up this way casts a dark veil over the entire story. We know the people we are focusing on will eventually die, but we don’t know how and by whose hands. This sets the film up as more of a mystery with the viewer piecing it all together.
Though a lot of the acting is rough in BEAST: A MONSTER AMONG MEN, there are some standouts. Blake Ferris has a Russell Crowe quality that works really well as the bully of the group. For the most part, Ferris is the driving force of the film, carrying the story on his big shoulders and though his morals are misguided, bullying the rest of the crew to follow him on this journey into the woods. T.J. Levin, is also pretty good as Ely, the loner who is implicated in the murders simply because he’s the outcast. The rest of the cast aren’t as convincing, but when Levin and Ferris are interacting with them, it kicks things up a notch professionally. I’d love to see what these two actors are doing next as they are the standouts of this film.
As I said, revealing that this is a Bigfoot film is a big spoiler and I hate to do it. The big payoff scene is really well played as we discover the elusive man-ape finally shows his anvil like fists in the final moments. Still, as Bigfoot films are most definitely a miss in the hit and miss categories, BEAST: A MONSTER AMONG MEN is effective in that it is a mature and capable dissection of male interactions and tropes set in the universe where a Bigfoot is beating the shit out of people who happen into his land. Though the perfect Bigfoot film is still yet to be made, this is an entertaining one using Bigfoot as a sidenote to an effective examination of male relationships and faults.
New this week on demand from IFC Midnight!
DARIO ARGENTO’S DRACULA 3-D (2013)Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento, Enrique Cerezo, Stefano Piani, Antonio Tentori
Starring Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini, Asia Argento, Unax Ugalde, Miriam Giovanelli, Rutger Hauer
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Wow, what a misstep of a film. I really am searching for something positive to say about Dario Argento’s take on the classic vampire tale, but aside from some beautiful women who are more than comfortable bearing all for the bloodsucker and Argento’s camera, I can’t find the words to do so.
Ultimately, when making a remake, you have to justify why you are doing so. Maybe you are taking a classic concept and giving it a modern take. Maybe the film is a lost treasure and someone is trying to shed light onto it. Whatever the reason, these days, if you want to make a positive impact, the reason better be damn good. But Argento’s take on Bram Stoker’s classic is as uninspired and unnecessary as they come. Argento follows the classic story to the beat for the most part, but fails to bring any type of life and more importantly reason for being to the film.
The main problem here is that the entire cast doesn’t really seem to want to be there. Marta Gastini is Lucy and does a decent job in the role, but just didn’t stand out to me as a particularly strong character or someone who would be friends with Asia Argento’s Lucy, who lacks the feisty innocence required for the role. Because of Asia’s age and dark demeanor, she would have made a better Tania, Dracula’s first wife of sorts, who has a surprisingly larger role in this film. The role of Tania is played by the voluptuous and oft nekkid Miriam Giovanelli, and if there’s a character that is most interesting it is her. Poppa Argento seems most interested in her as well as she gets a few subplots here that amps her up as almost a Goddess Hera character as she is pissed that her horny husband is out gallivanting with other chicks. If the film offers anything new, it’s the beefing up of Tania’s importance to the plot. Hell, it’s basically her story as she’s in the very first scene and is a threat throughout the film.
Rutger Hauer plays Van Helsing and honestly looks and gives a performance that screams jetlag more than anything else. He lazily lumbers from one scene to the next out of breath and seemingly forgetting the script as he looks around dumbfounded for most of his screen time. Making matters worse, Thomas Kretschmann plays the count and lacks the presence to really command the role. The actor is not particularly bad, just kind of a Liam Neeson blank slate of a man who doesn’t have that demeanor to really convince me that he’s this all-powerful evil entity. Dracula should own every scene he’s in. He’s the star of the damn movie, fer chrissakes, but unfortunately, Kretschmann just doesn’t seem to have what it takes to pull it off here.
Or maybe it’s just Argento’s surprisingly flat direction here. The film really feels to be made by someone who is too tired or bored to get out of there chair and move the camera around. Static shots, uninspired placement, shoddy editing; I understand working with a 3D camera is said to be cumbersome, but this film feels as if the people behind the camera were asleep most of the time.
And speaking of 3D shots, after films like AVATAR and every other big time Hollywood release, if you’re going 3D, go big or go home. Here I wish Argento would have dropped the 3D gimmickry because that’s all it really is as he resorts to the comin’ at ya tricks that are honestly better in films like FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 than here. And given the fact that most of the scenes lack the depth and look like they were shot on sets, the reasoning for adding a third dimension fails me.
There are scenes that play as laughably bad as the film opens up with a lovemaking sequence that is on the level of bad of Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM. It doesn’t get much better as computer generated owls and especially a bizarre sequence involving Dracula turning into a giant praying mantis that are horribly rendered and defy any real reason. The scene with the mantis is especially head-scratch inducing as the scene just kind of exists because there hadn’t been a computer effect in about fifteen minutes. This mantis scene shows how off base Argento’s desires were do some new things with the story, but adding a giant praying mantis isn’t something anyone was clamoring for.
I really am flummoxed as to how bad this film is. It’s not even one of those “so bad it’s good” films. It’s one of those so bad it’s bad films that actually hurts the viewer in how much of a miss it is by all involved.
I’m sure Argento has some fantastically horrific films in him to come and maybe he had to shat out this one in order to get to them. But man, this was bad. This is a film that will have you flex those apology muscles to the max if you’re a fan of Argento’s work as I am. I’d recommend it to those who love bad cinema and relishing in those missteps filmmakers often take. In the end, Argento made a film that adds nothing to the fine line of adaptations of Stoker’s classic novel (aside from that mantis scene, of course), and being unnecessary and uninspired is the biggest sin DARIO ARGENTO’S DRACULA 3D commits.
Advance Review: Find out more about this film here!
TERROR VORTEX (2013)Directed by Christian Ackerman
Written by Christian Ackerman, Danielle Ackerman, Greg Burch, Timothy Kolberg, Tyler Wittenberg
Starring Christian Ackerman, Danielle Ackerman, Scott Ranf, Tyler Wittenberg, Jesse Head, Cheyenne Adamson, Janet R. Bierer, Jay Carlson, Johanna Ciampa, David Dupuis, Mateo Mblem
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Fans of JACOB’S LADDER and especially the cult classic BRAIN DEAD with Bill Pullman, Bill Paxton, and Bud Cort will want to seek out TERROR VORTEX when it plays in festivals near you this Halloween season. Much like those films, this one relies on an extended descent into madness as it’s driving narrative.
Though we don’t know it at first, there are a lot of indications that all is not what it seems when a police detective begins his investigation into the whereabouts of his missing wife and its ties to a bizarre medical research facility. What transpires is a swirl down the rabbit hole as twisted imagery is strobed into our brainpans at a rapid rate, making us question early on what is real, what is a dream, and what the hell is going on.
The highlight of the film for me were all of these strange flashes, bizarre imagery, and surreal layering of realities. I was totally mesmerized by the way the story continuously twists and turns what we think is real and shocked at the cool flashes and disturbing sounds experienced.
Though there are some rough acting bits here and there, for the most part, this is a really well made film for such a low budget. It’s tensely paced and the directing especially shows a lot of promise. For the most part, this is a film which mid fucks you for about an hour and a half, and while that may leave some feeling a bit raw, the twists and turns I experienced as I plummeted through the TERROR VORTEX was well worth the trip and I’ll bet if you’re not bothered by horror done on the cheap, you’ll like it too.
Advance Review: Currently touring festivals!
PROXY (2013)Directed by Zack Parker
Written by Zack Parker & Kevin Donner
Starring Alexia Rasmussen, Joe Swanberg, Alexa Havins, Kristina Klebe
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While I am posting my best of the best in horror list this month, because it hasn’t been released yet, you’re not going to find PROXY on it. But rest assured, next year this film is going to be towards the top of the list as it was truly one of the most mesmerizing and horrific films I’ve seen all year this year and any year.
There’s something about a pregnant woman that instinctively makes people defensive. We want to protect them from harm. We criticize sharply when we see someone smoking or drinking around them or, god forbid, seeing them do it. It’s one of the few precious images that is almost universally wholesome and promising as a pregnant woman is a symbol that like goes on and there’s a future ahead for humanity. Maybe that’s why horror films that involve pregnant women are so effective. Think of films like ROSEMARY’S BABY or more recently the found footage shocker DELIVERY and you automatically get a chill because it involves the endangerment of the mother and her child.
PROXY is a raw and unflinching look at the twisted side of mother hood. The places this film go are going to be too dark for some, but I found the horrific depths of the characters involved too terrifyingly fascinating turn away even though every muscle of my body was telling me otherwise. In the opening moments of this film, there is a scene so utterly brutal, it’s going to be a deal breaker to some. But all that opening sequence does is prepare the strong for the harrowing experience this film is.
With it’s unconventional plot and complex themes at play, PROXY is a ingeniously smart film tacking an intricate disease known as Munchhausen by Proxy which involves a darker take on motherhood. Those who know the condition understand how horrific it can be and motherly martyrdom, while often the subject of comedy in cinema with a nebbish mother seemingly enjoying the attention she gets from friends in the sewing circle, but it’s never been portrayed in film in such a manner that is so nerve-shatteringly real and terrifying.
Zack Parker blew me away with the ROSHOMON style tale of abuse and neglect SCALENE last year and proves that he is filmmaker of spectacular talent. As I pondered this film long after seeing it, I couldn’t help but notice the PSYCHO-esque aspects to the score. Giving it more thought, this very much is a much more psychologically perverse and finely crafted version of PSYCHO. There’s even a horrific scene in a bathroom. As I realized this connection, I understood that even beyond the visceral shivers this film induces, there’s so much going on thematically as well in terms of comments on motherhood, society’s obsession with celebrity, and relationships as well.
Acted superbly by the entire cast, aside from the always great Joe Swanberg who delivers a smoldering and subtle performance here, I was unfamiliar with the rest of the players in this dark tale. But this is a star making film for all involved especially the ghostly tragic Alexia Rasmussen who fleshes out a character more haunting than any movie monster you can think of. The other two actresses Alexa Havens plays the seemingly perfect housewife to perfection and the gruff and tough Kristina Klebe adds layer upon layer of soul to her role. These four characters and the incredibly knotted way their lives are all intertwined is pure genius from a writing standpoint all the way down to the performances.
PROXY is one of those films that leaves a deep scar after viewing. It’s not the Hollywood horror with jump-scares, CGI, and Don Music head slams on the keyboard for audience reaction. It’s a film that will grab you and shake you and leave you devastated, but done so in a manner that feels all too real and all the more tragic. PROXY pulls no punches and is some brave and bold horror that some might not be prepared for, but I hope to see much more of from director Zack Parker, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors working today.
I couldn’t recommend this film more if my life depended on it. Just superb filmmaking from start to finish.
And finally…in the tradition of THE TWILIGHT ZONE and OUTER LIMITS comes this well-paced little ditty from Troy H. King called THE LUCKY BREAK.
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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