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AICN HORROR does a quadruple shot of Danny Trejo in DEAD IN TOMBSTONE, RISE OF THE ZOMBIES, ZOMBIE HUNTER, & MACHETE KILLS!

Published at: Oct. 10, 2013, 7:16 a.m. CST

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

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. So it’s beginning to look a lot like October is Trejo month, as the gruff actor has three genre films being released this month. As you all know, MACHETE KILLS will be unleashed this week, but less of you might know that Trejo’s superhero-esque western DEAD IN TOMBSTONE and his testosterone-charged zombie film ZOMBIE HUNTER are set to be released on BluRay/DVD this week. For shits and gigs, I also tossed in a review of Trejo’s other zombie film released earlier in the year, RISE OF THE ZOMBIES. But before we jump into the reviews, I wanted to share a little something about the more sensitive side of Mr. Trejo..



On with the horror reviews!

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

RISE OF THE ZOMBIES (2012)
ZOMBIE HUNTER (2013)
DEAD IN TOMBSTONE (2013)
MACHETE KILLS (2013)
And finally…The Danny Trejo Death Reel!


Available on DVD from The Asylum!

RISE OF THE ZOMBIES (2012)

Directed by Nick Lyon
Written by Keith Allan, Delondra Williams
Starring Mariel Hemingway, Ethan Suplee, LeVar Burton, Danny Trejo, French Stewart
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Originally premiering on SyFy when I caught it, The Asylum released RISE OF THE ZOMBIES earlier in the year, and it’s a surprisingly well done little zeek. Though it’s not on par with Romero’s earlier yarns, RISE OF THE ZOMBIES keeps the pace rolling and the zombies creepy enough to be entertaining from start to fin.

The film opens with a massacre as a pregnant woman attempts to escape a zombie horde. We then flip to French Stewart in a lab talking about possible causes and cures for the disease and we are introduced to a DAY OF THE DEAD scenario where a bunch of scientists are trapped on Alcatraz with some military types. Of course, the brash militants lead by Danny Trejo and MY NAME IS EARL’s Ethan Suplee aren’t getting along with Levar Burton and Mariel Hemingway, much like the relationships in Romero’s classic. This film doesn’t really delve into the conflict that much, as there really is no time to do so.

The main portion of the film is a non-stop chase as Hemingway and Suplee attempt to make their way to French Stewart’s research lab to see if he’s found a cure, and director Nick Lyon makes sure that trip is full of zombie action. It turns out that action is pretty well done, as not only the zombie menace but the various environments are taken into consideration to cause our heroes all kinds of trouble.

The cast is actually pretty impressive. Though there’s not a real A-lister in the bunch of them, the melding of B-listers actually makes things rather interesting as there are some deaths early on that will surprise you since you’d imagine they’d be hanging around until the climax.

There are also some scenes that go to some dark places involving a pregnant mother who sacrifices herself for her child and the heroes racing against time to chop off an infected limb after it’s been bitten that I haven’t seen done before, as the virus is actually seen beginning to course through the body. Seeing this happen makes the danger all the more tense.

RISE OF THE ZOMBIES actually feels like an extended pilot for a WALKING DEAD-style series. There seems to be an awful lot of set up for it, at least. And with a cast like this, you know? I might have tuned in. By far, this is the best Asylum film you’re going to see.

While RISE OF THE ZOMBIES can’t be considered a top tier zombie film, it’s better than most. The film does maintain its action until the very end with some stylized shots and some cool set pieces. The effects are actually pretty great, especially the zombie designs. With a cast of decent actors, I think those willing to take a chance with RISE OF THE ZOMBIES will be surprised at how cool it actually plays. I know I was.




New this week on BluRay/DVD!

ZOMBIE HUNTER (2013)

Directed by K. King
Written by K. King, Kurt Knight
Starring Martin Copping, Danny Trejo, Clare Niederpruem, Terry Guthrie, Michael Monasterio, Jade Regier, Marianne Smith, Jake Suazo, Jason K. Wixom, Jeff Kirkham
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Trejo once again battles zombies, but while RISE OF THE ZOMBIES seemed to be focused on solid action, the makers of ZOMBIE HUNTER go the more stylized route with less than positive results.

Trejo himself is given a bit more of a character in ZOMBIE HUNTER than in RISE OF THE ZOMBIES, as he is more of a gung ho militant in that film. Here he plays Jesús, a preacher who brandishes an axe to fight the undead. And though he is not the titular Zombie Hunter of this film, Trejo serves as a guiding force or Ben Kenobi of the group. Of course, we all know what happened to Ben...

The film actually centers on a man named Hunter (Martin Copping) who makes his way across the post-apocalandscape like Mad Max and happens upon a group of survivors. Copping is decent in the role, as all it takes is for him to grumble and scowl a lot, though most of those grumbles and scowls just don’t feel convincing.

The story itself feels somewhat lackluster, as if it were a rejected treatment to a RESIDENT EVIL film, which even has a giant toothy beast rampaging around. The beast in particular has a sort of Ray Harryhausen feel to it, which is somewhat fun, but cast against the realistic scenery, the effects stand out like a sore thumb. There are some fun zombie designs with the zombie clown being the highlight as he laughs maniacally even while being chainsawed in half.

The problem with ZOMBIE HUNTER is the hyper-stylization that makes it view as if it were some parts 80s video game and some parts SCOTT PILGRIM in its alteration of color shades during scenes of violence and the added effect of blood constantly being splashed across the lens. And it’s often purple blood for no real reason, which makes it all the more cartoony. This frantic, video game-style editing might be appealing to some, but for me I got a McG vibe where way too much is happening with way too little occurring.

But I have to give the film props on the ultra-gore and hyper-violence. It is a balls in your face film with little to offer in terms of symbolism or thematic resonance, and any time it does try to get introspective, the acting holds it back. ZOMBIE HUNTER is a big dumb zombie film for those who don’t like to think much while watching their violence and gore.




New this week on BluRay/DVD!

DEAD IN TOMBSTONE (2013)

Directed by Roel Reiné
Written by Brendan Cowles, Shane Kuhn
Starring Danny Trejo, Mickey Rourke, Anthony Michael Hall, Dina Meyer, Richard Dillane, Colin Mace, Emil Hostina, Ovidiu Niculescu, Ronan Summers, Edward Akrout, Radu Andrei Micu
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


While this type of superhero film may be gone as more sophisticated storytelling, characters, and filmmakers are being attracted to comic book adaptations these days, there’s something to be said about the straight up fun revenge flick that DEAD IN TOMBSTONE is.

This J. O’Barr’s THE CROW in the Old West-style story follows Guerrero (Trejo), a gruff outlaw who leads a group of the same shooting and looting up the untamed frontier. After thwarting the hanging of his partner Red (played by the surprisingly gruff and effective Anthony Michael Hall), Red hornswaggles him after the outlaws take over a mining town and pocket all of their newly mined gold. Red and the gang blow away Guerrero and send him to hell, where Lucifer (the aptly cast Mickey Rourke, who chews up the role like taffy) makes a deal with him to send him back for revenge as long as he sends the souls who sent him there back to the deep fiery South in return.

So while this film takes on a typical CROW-like scenario where a shot down character returns for vengeance, it’s the performances that make this one stand out as something special. Unlike ZOMBIE HUNTER and RISE OF THE ZOMBIES, Trejo is the star front and center of this one, and while one might say that the simplicity of the “Machete” role is what makes the character work, it’s great to see Trejo deal with a role of more substantial flavor. Though his face is tough as nails, Trejo as Guerrero communicates a sense of deep sadness and regret he rarely gets to show in other roles and proves that he could definitely handle the weight.

As I said before, I was surprised at how effective Anthony Michael Hall is as Red here. While in previous roles, in order to shrug his nerdy cinematic beginnings, the actor seemed to take roles and act tough, though failing to make it feel genuine, here Hall is convincing as the grizzled baddie with no compunction to blow away friend and foe alike for money and power. Rounding out the cast is Rourke’s Lucifer which is somewhat hammy, but still a lot of fun to watch, and Dina Meyer as the tough wife of a slain gunman out for revenge herself.

Though the story is pretty predictable, as it could go one of two ways--Guerrero guns down all six bad guys and is redeemed or he doesn’t and he’s damned (you guess which way it turns out)--director Roel Reiné keeps things moving at a rapid and exciting pace. While DEAD IN TOMBSTONE is not a comic book film, per se, it definitely has its comic book roots with its electric editing and fantastic action sets. There’s even some nice kills as Guerrero enacts his vengeance.

I am not going to say this is one of those action films that will revolutionize the genre, but it is a very capable and infectiously fun hoot of an Old West shoot ‘em up. Trejo is great in this one providing heart, grit, and surprisingly laughs throughout, and director Roel Reiné seems destined for something bigger after this one. Looking for comic book fun? DEAD IN TOMBSTONE’s got it.




In theaters tomorrow!

MACHETE KILLS (2013)

Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Written by Kyle Ward, Robert Rodriguez, Marcel Rodriguez
Starring Danny Trejo, Alexa Vega, Mel Gibson, Carlos Estevez, Michelle Rodriguez, Lady Gaga, Amber Heard, Demian Bichir, Sofía Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Vanessa Hudgens, Marko Zaror, Tom Savini
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


While I wouldn’t categorize MACHETE KILLS as horror, it does fall comfortably into the grindhouse genre, and I’m more than willing to cast the lens a bit wide to review this one for AICN HORROR.

Let’s just say that if you liked MACHETE, you’ll most likely feel the same about MACHETE KILLS. And who doesn’t like MACHETE, really? One can’t help but root for this film as its star Danny Trejo is one of those stars who oozes charisma, but is probably one of the most unlikely of superstars to burst in recent memory. Having made a living of being Tough Guy #2 in almost every action movie and being killed by everyone from Steven Segal to the Predator, how can you not root for Trejo to make it big as the hero?

And while I felt in MACHETE Rodriguez was trying a bit too hard to make us believe Trejo as an action star with the running joke that every woman who crosses his path has to sleep with him, Trejo wears the clothes of the hero well in this one and definitely feels more comfortable in the role. There is, though, a scene late in the movie where Machete dons an astronaut suit that is pretty damn hilarious as Machete in Space is something that is too good to pass up, and hopefully the studios agree and Rodriguez gets a trilogy out of this series. With the film opening with a preview for the third film, you can’t argue with Rodriguez’s masterful way of titillating viewers into wanting more of his films with old school movie flimmage and flammage.

From Rodriguez’s perspective, he does offer up a wildly exciting film with MACHETE KILLS. There are loads of laughs, tons of surprises and plenty of geeky nods to things like STAR WARS and other nerd standbys that one can’t help but have fun. Much like Austin Powers, Machete is spoofing the Bond franchise, but still manages to have some weight to it despite its light tone. What concerns me is that Rodriquez seems to be a highly talented director who prefers to make these Grindhousey, action packed popcorn flicks. It’s not that I mind it, but I wonder if we’ll ever see a drama from Rodriguez and better yet, I wonder if I’d like it.

But as long as he keeps making films like MACHETE KILLS which goes just meta enough to be interesting without being annoying, I guess I don’t mind if Rodriguez doesn’t want to go too deep. He is one of the most successful action directors of the day with SIN CITY, DESPERADO, SPY KIDS, and now the MACHETE films under his belt. Filling the movie with stars that if they were in their right mind probably shouldn’t be there, MACHETE KILLS has an even more expansive cast than the first film. Even guest appearances by Lady Gaga are fun to see play out as the Chameleon and his/her various forms he/she takes in the film is one of the highlights.

Charlie Sheen…I mean, Carlos Estevez…is surprisingly good as well as the President. Honestly, the guy hasn’t looked this good in years, and Mel Gibson steals the show as Voz, an arms dealer who has a hilarious love of STAR WARS. Both actors may have tiptoed to the edge of Hollywood obscurity with their off-screen antics, but do a phenomenal job here in their respective roles.

While many have been praising Demian Bichir’s role as the personality changing bad/good guy Mendez, I found the stereotypical, inaccurate, and comic booky use of the multiple personality disorder motif somewhat tired, but I will agree with other critics that Marko Zaror is an actor I want to see more of. His speed and stature is something that seems fit for big screen action, and hopefully this is the start of a long career. As the cloned henchman Zaror, the actor of the same name provides some of the coolest fight scenes in the film.

I loved MACHETE KILLS and hope for a huge success for the film this weekend, if only for that meaning that we will be seeing the teased third film in the franchise. Rodriguez made the hero all the more likable, packed the film with more action, gore, and funny, and made a sequel just as good if not better than the first one. I hope he gets to prove he can top it with a third.




And finally…I leave you with the Danny Trejo Death Reel, because nobody dies badly as good as Danny Trejo…



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 4. Mark’s written comics such as THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DEATHSPORT GAMES, NANNY & HANK (soon to be a feature film from Uptown 6 Films), Zenescope’sGRIMM FAIRY TALES Vol.13 & UNLEASHED: WEREWOLVES – THE HUNGER and a chapter in Black Mask Studios’OCCUPY COMICS. FAMOUS MONSTERS’ LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (co-written with Martin Fisher) will be available soon in trade. Mark also wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK and its follow up THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.


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