Movie News

AICN HORROR looks at THE DEMON’S ROOK! BELA KISS: PROLOGUE! SATURN 3! NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS! TRAIL OF BLOOD! KNIGHTRIDERS! ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE! & More!

Published at: Dec. 6, 2013, 9:36 a.m. CST

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

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Look out for chupacabra, zombies, demons of all sorts, killer robots, and serial killers ahead. You’ve been warned!

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

Retro-review: TWILIGHT ZONE Collector’s Box Set: Season 4, Episodes 5-8 (1963)
Retro-review: THE WHIP & THE BODY (1963)
Retro-review: SATURN 3 (1980)
Retro-review: KNIGHTRIDERS (1981)
Retro-review: NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984)
Short Cuts: NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS (2013)
DEMON (2013)
ARMY OF THE DAMNED (2013)
TRAIL OF BLOOD (2013)
ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE (2006)
BELA KISS: PROLOGUE (2013)
Advance Review: THE DEMON’S ROOK (2013)
And finally…Jen Moss’ MY BROTHER’S KEEPER (OR HOW NOT TO SURVIVE THE APOCALYPSE)!


Retro-review: Collecting the entire series in a new Collector’s Box Set on DVD from Image Entertainment!

TWILIGHT ZONE SEASON FOUR (1963)

Episodes 5-8
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug


So I kind of never finished my review of Seasons 4 & 5 of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, but it just so happens that Image Entertainment is releasing the entire TWILIGHT ZONE series in a sweet box set and because I’m obsessive compulsive like that, I’ll be continuing my coverage of all of the episodes, continuing my series of reviews I started a few weeks ago. So let’s take a trip back into THE TWILIGHT ZONE!

SEASON 4 of THE TWILIGHT ZONE is a bit of an anomaly of a season. Not only does the series mysteriously drop the THE in the title, but it also extended itself to hour long format. This makes for some extended viewing that sometimes took its toll on my patience. While some of the TWILIGHT ZONE stories would be great with a little wiggle room to go into more detail and get to know these characters more, other hour-longs feel extremely drawn out with either redundancies occurring throughout or scenes put in simply to extend the running time. Personally, I love the quick in/quick out feel of the half hour episodes. Here are four more episodes from disk two of Season Four from the box set.

Episode 4.5: Mute
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Written by Richard Matheson
Starring Ann Jillian, Frank Overton, Barbara Baxley, Irene Dailey, Oscar Beregi


In concept, Richard Matheson’s “Mute” is one of those stories which one might think would be inspiration for some of Stephen King’s work such as CARRIE or FIRESTARTER, and even David Cronenberg’s SCANNERS or THE DEAD ZONE (another King psychic film) with his exploration into the world of experimental telepathy. No reason for how the group of scientists mastered the art of speaking with their minds is given; rather, an experiment raising a child solely through telepathy is explored. It’s a cool concept, but one that feels somewhat over-saccharinated with a love conquers all theme. Still, there are some fun performances here by Frank Overton and Barbara Baxley as a couple suffering from a loss of a child and finding salvation in the form of an apparently mute orphan girl. The girl is played by a young Ann Jillian, and she acts the hell out of this episode. It’s a strong concept and one worthy of exploration, but an episode that feels somewhat off-kilter by today’s standards due to the fact that Baxley feels a bit too overwrought by grief and desperate to replace her dead daughter with a new one. Rewarding her with the child in the end just doesn’t feel like the right decision, but it does wrap everything up in a pretty little bow.

Episode 4.6: Death Ship
Directed by Don Medford
Written by Richard Matheson
Starring Jack Klugman, Ross Martin, Frederick Beir


This episode suffers from the repetitive trait I described in the opening paragraph. While it remains a compelling concept, the fact that too much time is spent having the astronauts play the same scene numerous times makes for some tedious watching. This story about a space ship with three astronauts including THE ODD COUPLE’s Jack Klugman landing on a distant planet only to see their own ship crashed yards away is a creepy one mainly because of the performances by Klugman, Ross Martin, & Frederick Beir. The fact that this tale takes place all the way in the futuristic time of 1997 makes this dour episode all the more dour, as it is indicative of the high hopes we had for space travel at the time, and the fact that we haven’t been able to live up to those hopes is a shame. Still, the quirky molded full-body seats are super fun.

Episode 4.7: Jess-Belle
Directed by Buzz Kulik
Written by Earl Hamner, Jr.
Starring James Best, Anne Francis, Laura Devon, Jeanette Nolan


This episode is one of the more compelling hourlongs of the series, mainly because of the stunning beauty of Anne Francis in the lead role of Jess-Belle in this story of a young country girl who will do anything to win the heart of a boy and what happens when a local witch takes her up on that offer. The inclusion of a real leopard in the scenes make this episode all the more cool, and strong performances all around make this episode feel more like a true fairy tale or tall tale rather than one found in the TWILIGHT ZONE. You also have some line dancing, theme music telling the story in between the commercial breaks, and the ravishing beauty of Anne Francis. Hommina squared!

Episode 4.8: Miniature
Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Written by Charles Beaumont
Starring Robert Duvall, Barbara Barrie, Pert Kelton, Lennie Weinrib


Starring a very young but already balding Robert Duvall, who plays Charley Parkes, an introverted man who has difficulty fitting in with the world and his search to find a place he does fit into. When the place he usually has lunch is closed for the day, his usual schedule is thrown off and he ventures into a museum exhibit where a miniature house is displayed. Inside the tiny fabrication is what looks to be a miniature live woman playing a piano. Charley is immediately taken with the little lass and soon becomes obsessed with watching her little life play out for display. This is one of Duvall’s first roles, and while the actor has been known for his tough and gruff characters, he shows a gentle naiveté here that is astonishing. While most of the TZs of this season felt overlong, I was wishing this one would go on longer just to see Duvall shine as this quiet little man lost in a sea of people who force him to go in every direction other than his own. This is definitely my favorite episode of the week, as it offers up a side of an actor rarely seen as well as a story that plucks all the right heartstrings. A simply fantastic episode.

Previous TWILIGHT ZONE Episode Reviews!
Season 4: Episodes 4.1-4.5
Season 5: Episodes 5.1-5.7, Episodes 5.8-5.14, Episodes 5.15-5.21, Episodes 5.22-5.28, & Episodes 5.29-5.36

Look for more TWILIGHT ZONE Episodes Next Week!


Retro-review: New on BluRay from Kino Lorber!

THE WHIP AND THE BODY (1963)

LA FRUSTA E IL CORPO, THE WAY OF THE BODY, THE WHIP & THE FLESH, THE BODY & THE WHIP, SON OF SATAN, NIGHT IS THE PHANTOM
Directed by Mario Bava
Written by Ernesto Gastaldi, Ugo Guerra, Luciano Martino
Starring Daliah Lavi, Christopher Lee, Tony Kendall, Ida Galli, Harriet Medin, Gustavo De Nardo, Luciano Pigozzi, Jacques Herlin
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug


Though Hammer was just getting started relatively around the same time (CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN being released in 1957 and DRACULA in 1958) THE WHIP AND THE BODY feels like it fits right in with the Hammer horror films showing that, though the template was being carved by Hammer at the time, the cinematic tropes we often associate with the films were being developed in Italy as well by a true master of horror, Mario Bava.

Obviously, playing off of Christoher Lee’s popularity as the Count, Lee is in full Dracula mode without the fangs as Kurt, a former lover of Navenka (Daliah Lavi) who returns to take up his S&M ways with the woman, though she is now married to his younger brother, Christian (Tony Kendall). Christian naively chooses to turn a blind eye to Navenka’s obvious fascination/repulsion to Kurt’s return and when Kurt ends up dead, they all fear his ghost is still haunting the castle and continuing his whipping ways.

The story is an interesting metaphor about hidden desires and secrets of the past. Everyone has a few skeletons in their closet, and this film plays with the fear of them returning very well. I have to admit, the ooky feeling I got while watching it had a lot to do with how Christian was being so chickenshit about his wife’s obvious love for his brother and how she secretly enjoyed being tortured by him. I don’t judge anyone for their sexual eccentricities, but the fact that Christian is played as such a mush was rather annoying.

Bava is in full-on Hammer mode here with gothic castles, elaborately decorated interiors, heaving bosoms, and swelling music reminiscent of the best Hammer films, all of it done with a bit more of an edge to the sexuality factor. Lee is equally amazing as Kurt and really seems to enjoy whipping the shit out of Navenka, and the ending is a winner with all sorts of depravity going on, reminding you that, just in case you forgot, this isn’t one of those safe Hammer films for the masses.

Extras for this one include a commentary by Tim Lucas (author of MARIO BAVA: ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK), Italian & French translations, and trailers for many of Bava’s films. Bava’s THE WHIP AND THE BODY is just naughty enough to make you squirm, but never really goes into the edge of some type of early rendition of torture porn as other filmmakers like Jess Franco often liked to do. There are some genuinely scary scenes involving bumps in the night, ghostly hands from the darkness, and Lee chewing up the scenery sans fangs. If you’re looking for Hammer horror with a bit more oompf, THE WHIP AND THE BODY might just be what you’re looking for.




Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!

SATURN 3 (1980)

Directed by Stanley Donen, John Barry
Written by Martin Amis (screenplay), John Barry (story)
Starring Farrah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas, Harvey Keitel
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug


A weird mix of 2001, ALIEN, and STAR WARS, SATURN 3 will forever be a standout in sci fi to me because it was on the cover of STARLOG magazine. Though seeing the thing move in the film was rather under-whelming, the image of Hector, the silver-plated robot with the weird articulated arm for a head, was the stuff of both cool dreams and pants-shitting nightmares for me as a kid. While I didn’t see it in theaters when it was released in 1980 (I was 8 years old and already a STAR WARS fanatic, but my parents couldn’t justify me seeing an R rated sci fi flick despite the fact that I had seen THE EXORCIST with my parents in the same year), I do remember seeing an edited version of the film on TV and thinking it was pretty cool.

Watching SATURN 3 all these years later, I have to say that time has not been kind to the astronauts residing on Saturn’s moon. Though some of the production values are still pretty high for the time, with some especially Kubrickian all white and serene shots of space silence, one can’t help but be knocked back by how hacky the film feels. From the opening shot ripped straight from STAR WARS as a giant spaceship flies right over the camera to the shoddy helmets that in no way seem like they connect to the astronaut suits and withstand the vacuum of space, everything feels like a knock-off of something better in this film.

The story follows a mysterious astronaut dressed in all black as he makes off with a canister from a space station after killing the original owner by launching him into space through a screen which slices him into chunks. The stranger in black lands on the serene moon of Saturn where Adam (Kirk Douglas) and Alex (Farrah Fawcett) reside in a hydroponics lab which is trying to do research to see if the moon would sustain life to accommodate the earth’s overpopulation problem. The mysterious astronaut unmasks himself to reveal a Captain Benson (Harvey Keitel), and his stolen cargo is actually a canister of synthetic human brains to be used as the central nervous system for a complex robot for the station. Dubbing the robot Hector, the bot is able to aid the scientists with their research, kill the dog, and pluck a splinter out of Alex’s eye. Soon the robot goes a bit nuts, as does Benson as everyone seems to want Alex to themselves (and who would blame them?).

At the time of this film, Farrah Fawcett’s famous poster was on the wall of every teen to forty year old. She was America’s darling and a rising superstar, so of course this film would be all about her. As I stated above, everyone wants to break them off a piece of Fawcett here. The much older Adam (Douglas) has been shagging her while doing his research. Benson immediately has eyes for her and doesn’t understand when she denies his gruff advances at wanting to be with her. Benson’s form of flirtation makes Ron Burgundy look like Don Juan. And soon enough, Hector wants to get his roboty penis into the mix as his brain waves are patterned after Benson’s. Hell, even the dog keeps barking for Fawcett’s attention. And the filmmakers took full advantage of Fawcett’s inclusion by putting her in all sorts of undress and revealing outfits throughout the film.

Despite this being a vehicle for a starlet on the rise, it was also a very problematic set to be on as the original director John Barry was ousted out of his chair when he couldn’t get along with Kirk Douglas, clearing the way for producer Stanley Donen to direct. Donen had problems as well with Keitel, as he went round and round with the actor’s tendency to slip in a Brooklyn accent. Donen had so many issues that Keitel’s accent was dubbed over in post by British actor Roy Dotrice (this is talked about in an interview with Dotrice in the extras, one of two interviews in the extras—the other being one with special effects artist Colin Chilvers). While watching this film, I did feel there was something off with Keitel’s voice, and having done a bit of research afterwards it all makes sense.

All in all, there are some effective TERMINATOR-esque scenes of the skeletal robot charging after its intended prey. The articulated arm head continues to be disturbing, and some of the carnage the robot wreaks is pretty gruesome. The rest of the cast, especially Keitel, are especially robotic. Fawcett sighs and gasps and shakes her hair for the camera, but her character is dumb as a moon rock. Douglas’ age is evident in this film, and when the scene requires action I was more frightened for the actor’s hip than his character’s life.

There’s not a lot of extras with this one--just some commentary by the SATURN 3 fan page guru and film critic David Bradle--but there are some cool deleted scenes only seen in the TV version of the film. Still, SATURN 3’s assets are that Fawcett has never looked better as she does here, one creepy ass robot, and the weird fun of watching Harvey Keitel speaking with a British accent. Though the sci-fi isn’t revolutionary, SATURN 3 falls more into the cheesy sci fi horror genre rather than more seriously scary sci fi jaunts like ALIEN.




Retro-review: New on BluRay from The Shout Factory!

KNIGHTRIDERS (1981)

Directed by George A. Romero
Written by George A. Romero
Starring Ed Harris, Gary Lahti, Tom Savini, Amy Ingersoll, Patricia Tallman, Christine Forrest, Warner Shook, Brother Blue, Cynthia Adler, John Amplas, Don Berry, Amanda Davies, Martin Ferrero, Ken Foree
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug


George A. Romero’s answer to EASY RIDER comes to play at the Renaissance Fair in his modern take on Arthurian legend, KNIGHTRIDERS. I know I will take some flack for admitting this, but I always felt that the unrated cut of DAWN OF THE DEAD (which clocks in at a little over 2 hours) always felt a bit too overlong, and while the boredom stints at the mall were necessary in communicating how comfortable the survivors were beginning to feel in their new environment, a nip here and a snip there would have made it all the more entertaining for me. I mention this because I really feel the 2 hour twenty minute runtime of KNIGHTRIDERS could benefit from a trip to the barber itself.

Ed Harris plays King William or Billy, the leader of a ramshackle band of Renaissance folk. Unlike any Renaissance Fair I’ve been to, this one seems to be accepting of modern technology, specifically motorized carriages and more specifically motorcycles. So instead of noble steeds, the knights ride around on souped-up Harleys performing jousting challenges and feats of accuracy with swords, spears, maces, and other weapons. The story follows Billy as he struggles with the popular definition of motorcycle commercialism and how that somehow conflicts with the freewheelin’ way of life he chooses for his “Roundtable” of “noblemen”. While that is the central conflict of the film, other lesser conflicts seem to arise between his “Guinevere” Linet (Amy Ingersoll) and Alan (the Lancelot, in this story played by Gary Lahti). There’s also a bit of conflict Billy has with Morgan (played by Tom Savini in his best performance ever in a film), who plays this version’s Black Knight. Billy is also trailed by a mysterious Native American biker who he sees as his personal demon/spirit guide of sorts…I think.

Let’s just say Billy’s got a lot of issues.

The problem is that I think that, despite the length of the film, KNIGHTRIDERS lacks focus, and one of those conflicts would have made for a pretty fascinating film. Instead, Romero chooses to toss it all at Billy and by the end of the film, you really feel for the guy, not only because he is a heavy-hearted fellow, but also because he’s batting away one conflict after another in his country and western song of a life. When Billy breaks down and cries towards the end of the film, you feel the burden he carries as the leader and it’s a testament to Harris as an actor that despite a somewhat convoluted and unfocused script we still feel for him.

While Savini is not the main character, I understand why Romero chooses to follow him for an extended stint in the middle of the film. Savini is charismatic as hell here as the Black Knight Morgan. His flirtation with celebrity and his arc is the most concise and rewarding as far as story satisfaction is concerned. The fact is that Savini is a stuntman as well as an SFX guy and a hell of a good actor here; it’s surprising that his acting career isn’t bigger, as most of the time I see him in cameos in modern films.

The rest of the cast is filled out with some fantastic Romero go-tos. DAWN OF THE DEAD’s Ken Foree plays Little John (yes, I know Romero is kind of mixing stories here since Little John is a Robin Hood character). Patricia Tallman (who shows up later as the lead in Savini’s remake of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD) plays a naïve groupie of Alan’s who is heartbroken when his true feelings about Linet come out. Shrewd eyes will also pick out Werner Shook, who also later appears in CREEPSHOW, DAY OF THE DEAD’s Anthony Dileo Jr. as a corn salesman and Joseph Pilato (DOTD’s Rhodes) playing a disgruntled jewelry merchant. Stephen King also shows up in a cameo as a wiseacre member of the audience.

KNIGHTRIDERS for the most part feels like an “anything goes” production, as a lot of the action is just well-coordinated motorcycle stunts and other things captured while the extras are having fun in the sun. Romero was going through a marriage at the time of making this film, which might be the reason it’s so narratively scattered. Still, the strong cast seems to keep it all together. While this film definitely didn’t make me want to don my chainmail and rev up my Harley, by the time the ending comes around, you can’t help but feel like you’ve lived this life with the rest of these carnie-like Ren Fair workers.

In the end, KNIGHTRIDERS is enjoyable because of the fun idea of mixing swords and cyclery, but the meandering attention span and direction really makes you thankful the abrupt ending occurs when it does. Harris, who wasn’t quite a star yet when this film came around, shows the ability to carry a film despite its faults. This one’s got new interviews with Harris, Savini, and Romero looking back on the film, all of which feel both nostalgic and somewhat apologetic for the film.




Retro-review: New on BluRay from The Shout Factory!

NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984)

aka TEENAGE MUTANT HORROR COMET ZOMBIES
Directed by Thom Eberhardt
Written by Thom Eberhardt
Starring Robert Beltran, Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Sharon Farrell, Mary Wornov, Geoffrey Lewis
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug


NIGHT OF THE COMET was one of those films I saw probably 500 times as a kid. I caught it every time it was on cable as a kid for multiple reasons. One, it’s a pretty harmless but fun take on zombies and the post-apocalypse, and two, I was in absolute love with actress Kelli Maroney who plays Sam, the last cheerleader of the apocalypse.

The story opens ominously as an unidentified narrator tells of a mighty comet that makes its way into our solar system. It’s a comet which wiped out the dinosaurs and now it’s back for sloppy seconds. This opening is the stuff of 50’s and 60’s sci fi cheddar, but dammit if director/writer Thom Eberhardt (who also did such horror masterpieces as CAPTAIN RON and GROSS ANATOMY) doesn’t sell it as if it’s epic goldness. The camera zooms in to an unsuspecting 1984 Earth preparing to party like it’s 1999 while watching the comet pass over the planet. Everyone but Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart), who is busy schtupping her boyfriend in a movie theater and her little sister Sam (Kelli Maroney) who storms off after a fight with her stepmother and hides out in a shack for the night. Both girls miss out on the light show and awaken the next day to find a bunch of clothes on the ground covered in red dust, the sky lit up orange, and a whole lot of nothing going on in the always-crowded streets of LA. Soon they realize they may very well be the last girls on earth and you know what that means…!

SHOPPING SPREE!!!

Yes, NIGHT OF THE COMET features an extended shopping sequence set to a cover band version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. This sequence is basically what the whole film is all about, as the two girls flit their way through the empty streets, running and shooting zombies and stopping in between for the occasional clothes-changing scene montage set to bad pop music. The film in many ways is a girl power statement. Sure it’s stretching the theme a bit, but the fact is that most of the action happens as Reggie and Sam use the talents their military father taught them to fire machine guns, set up traps for zombie survivors, and live life on the run in an apocalyptic wasteland.

The tone of the film is light as a feather, relying heavily on a style that seems to be the mantra of most WB shows like SMALLVILLE, VAMPIRE DIARIES, and whatever crap they put out these days, which is everyone is talking pure snark. Cultural references run rampant and melodrama is the sandwich du jour. The fact is that the girls are most distressed that they may not ever have a real date with a real life boy again instead of, you know, grieving the death of everyone they know and running from zombies out to eat them. But I guess an LA girl’s got to have their priorities, and the script will definitely make you titter a time or two.

NIGHT OF THE COMET couldn’t be more Eighties if it tried. With the lead actresses sporting locks that are teased and puffed out to maximum density and the styles of clothing making you wonder what the hell people were thinking, the film really feels like one of those time capsules which, sadly, accurately depicts the era it is from. While the story is pretty much a solid apocalypse tale, what makes NIGHT OF THE COMET is the fact that it is able to identify and communicate its era so well.

It’s not all fluff here, though, as the zombies are rather nicely played here as sunken-eyed berserkers out to grope and fondle out heroines. One scene in particular has a bunch of rejects from REPO MAN led by a dweeb wearing an ascot and a robe with the name Willy on it interrupt a particularly boppy shopping spree which is filled with memorable dialog. Mary Woronov plays a scientist who wants to leave anyone outside of their secret science facility to rot, which adds a bit of heft and another form of menace for our hairsprayed vixens to deal with as well.

Which leads me to Kelli Maroney…now, you have to understand where I was coming from as a kid in the Eighties growing up in middle Ohio. Back then, the poofed-out teased hair was hot as all get out and Maroney sold it with that tiny little cheerleading outfit and hair resembling a blonde atom bomb explosion. As a boy coming of age right around the time NIGHT OF THE COMET was released, I have to admit the bathroom scene where Maroney prances around in her skivvies was a scene oft-rewound to at the Casa de Miller. Maroney’s cheerful optimism and tough go-getter attitude also makes the character as endearing as they come, as her opening scene has her slapping it out with her stepmom only to be slugged on her ass. I’m usually the type that goes for brunettes, but dammit if that spunky little blonde firecracker didn’t tick all of the right boxes for me.

Extras include interviews and commentary by Maroney, Stewart, and Woronov, plus one by make up effects guy David B. Miller. If you’re too young to remember the 80’s and want to see what it was like, check out NIGHT OF THE COMET for some retro cheesy fun. Though it is a light snack of a film, there are some moments that you can’t help but laugh at, some pretty creepy zombies and, of course…Kelli Maroney…sigh…




New this week on Digital Download, DVD, and select theaters from Fighting Owl Films!

NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS (2013)

Directed by Thomas Smith
Written by Thomas Smith
Starring Khristian Fulmer, Erin Lilley, Soren Odom, Brendon Cooke, Nathan O'Neil Smith, Chloe Dykes, Lucas Curley, Talaine Lyle
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


For those of you who don’t know, the Krampus is the Bizarro Santa. While Santa rewards the good little kiddies with gifts, the Krampus steals those who were naughty. It’s a wonder the Krampus hasn’t been commercially sucked dry in this cynical day and age, but I guess it’s never too late for that to happen and I might end up kicking myself for saying that if a slew of Krampus-themed films show up in our stockings next year.

This year, though, we have a pretty fantastic short called NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS to get our Krampus fill. The story is set in the same universe as Fighting Owl’s first film THE NIGHT SHIFT is set, where an undead man named Rue Morgan (Khristian Fulmer) must defend his cemetery against evil forces from beyond the grave and ones outside of the graveyard threatening the dead. Morgan is a noble and good-hearted hero and one to look up to, uncharacteristic for this current era of flawed heroes. At his side is his limbless skeleton sidekick, Herb (voiced by Soren Odom), which he carries around C-3PO style in a backpack on his adventures, and an HR person answering to a higher power named Claire (Erin Lilley) who may just have the hots for our hero. Claire gives Rue a rare assignment outside of the cemetery when a rash of child abductions point to the paranormal as their cause.

What this short gets right is the Krampus stuff. The costume (all practical effects) looks fantastic, and definitely did its job in causing a chill down my spine. The scene where the Krampus abducts the naughty from their homes is something that will awaken childhood fears in some. Director Thomas Smith does a great job of allowing us to see through the eyes of the wide-eyed kids as they approach the Krampus thinking that he’s there to deliver presents only ending up in the bottom of his bag. Smith gives the film a dire tone, as if none of these kids are safe, which definitely makes the stakes higher.

At the same time, the horror here has a safe fable quality, as there isn’t a lot of blood and no one but the bad guys really get hurt. The Krampus is terrifying, but the old timey, serial style feel of the film and the hero make it all a little easier to swallow. Smith juggles this tone well, making the interactions between Rue and Claire as well as the more comedic breaks with Herb who has to stay in the car as a lookout, even out the more serious fears of child abduction.

All in all, Smithy once again delivers an old timey-style tale with genuine scares with NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS and while this one was a short, I’m looking forward to the next time we see Rue Morgan and Co. in action against the great unknowns of the world.




New on Digital Download and Video On Demand from Brain Damage Films!

DEMON (2013)

Directed by Rob Walker
Written by Bernie Felix Jr.
Starring Jasmine Waltz, Michael Placenia, Bill Houskeeper, Joel D. Wynkoop
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


I’m going to come right out and say that I can’t recommend DEMON here, mainly because there are a lot of problems with the film. The story follows a female federal officer as she investigates a rash of attacks in the swamplands of Florida. All signs point to a chupacabra-style creature, and being a lover of all of those paranormal/cryptozoological reality shows, I have to say my interests were piqued at the concept of a federal investigation on the creature.

What transpires is your typical monster on the loose tale, only seen through a very roughly realized lens. Everything from slipshod editing to horrific sound quality really makes watching DEMON a difficult task to undertake. While I’m willing to forgive some rough edges in horror films, the fact that 90% of the film’s lines are being drowned out by bird, airplane, and traffic sounds makes trying to understand what’s going on very difficult. Toss in some very rough editing where some scenes linger on too long while others seem to be sliced too short makes it all the more tough to sift through.

The filmmakers do have enough smarts to realize when their monster isn’t going to make it if seen clearly on camera, and for the most part only half second-long glimpses of the creature are used interspersed with scenes of blood spattering and wildlife. In doing so, it actually does bring a bit of tension to these attacks and make them more horrifying as the audience is forced to put together the pieces that aren’t shown to us. The monster itself is kind of interesting looking, as it is jet black-skinned and all teeth and claws. It’s just too bad that it’s either a person in a suit or a rubber monster, but it was difficult to tell as it wasn’t on screen long enough.

This is definitely a backyard produced production and it shows in every way. While the lead actress Jasmine Waltz does a competent job at being a tough as nails fed, her co-stars range from amateur to awful. Top it all off with some music that an 80’s hair metal cover band wouldn’t touch and you’ve got one stinkin’ and steamin’ DEMON on your hands.




New this week on Video On Demand from Screen Media Films!

ARMY OF THE DAMNED (2013)

aka THE CELLAR DOOR
Directed by Tom DeNucci
Written by Tom DeNucci
Starring Sully Erna, Tony Todd, Michael Berryman, Jackie Moore, Jasmin St. Claire, David Chokachi, Joey Fatone, Madeline Merritt, Maria Kanellis, Nick Principe, Sean Leser, Billy 'V' Vigeant, Julie Ann Dawson, David Gere, Tom Paolino
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


ARMY OF THE DAMNED is one of those low budget horror films that really work due to a boppy script and some smart decisions by the filmmakers. People shouldn’t go into this one expecting world-changing horrors, but when it comes to a fun little possessed monster people in a house flick, this is a good one.

Director Tom DeNucci was responsible for SELF STORAGE, a film that I didn’t particularly like when I reviewed it a while back, but after seeing his latest effort ARMY OF THE DAMNED, I can’t help but be impressed at the leaps and bounds the writer/director accomplished between this one and his previous film. If DeNucci continues to evolve at this rapid a rate as a director and writer, I think he’s going to go far.

What impressed me the most about ARMY OF THE DAMNED is the simplicity of the whole thing. A pair of police officers investigates a domestic call to find a dark house with a family sitting at a table, all of them dead. Soon, the police officers end up dead and a second unit is called in, only to find the first officers dead and then walking around as possessed husks with black eyes. Those who fell in that skirmish rise and the ranks of the possessed demon dead multiply. By the time the feds make their way to the house, there’s a whole scad of demon people sewing their own parts together and sticking things like sledgehammers and hacksaws into their flesh for weaponry. The only people left to take on the dead are a small town sheriff (Godsmack’s Sully Erna), a reporter and her cameraman (played by Joey Fatone, yes, that Joey Fatone), and a drunk party dude who just happened to be in the back of the cop car when the frantic 911 call was made (played by the actor behind LAID TO REST’s ChromeSkull himself, Nick Principe). This unlikely group of heroes are all there is between the demons in the house and the rest of the world.

The cast here is an odd combination, but somehow it works. Fatone adds some comedy, but I was most surprised by Principe’s pretty great comic timing and personality as the noble miscreant from the back of the cop car who has a crisis of conscience and decides to fight alongside the cops who arrested him against these monsters. Erna is also pretty capable as an actor, and does a pretty strong job here as the lead. Cameos from THE HILLS HAVE EYES’ Michael Berryman as a retired cop who lives next door to the hell house and Tony CANDYMAN Todd who plays a no nonsense fed make the cast even stronger.

I also like it that there’s not a lot of explanation behind the demonic monstrosities going on in the house, though there does seem to be a plan here and the story definitely seems to be headed in a specific direction rather than making it up as they go along. This feels like the first chapter in a much grander, tale and I for one would love to see DeNucci and the cast of ARMY OF THE DAMNED return to widen the scope and show us what a bigger budget and more time to evolve creatively can give us.




New this week on DVD from Lionsgate Home Video!

JOE DANTE PRESENTS TRAIL OF BLOOD (2011)

aka MIND GAME
Directed by Joseph Guerrieri, Justin Guerrieri
Written by Joseph Guerrieri, Justin Guerrieri
Starring Robert Picardo, Tim Barraco, Trevor Torseth, Kandis Erickson, Mackenzie Mason, Maggie VandenBerghe, Ray Campbell, Dustin Fitzsimons, Shaun Ausmus, Danny Vasquez, Kateland Carr
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Kids go into the woods. Kids meet a pair of serial killers. A whole lot of blood starts flowing. You’d think that by now, these kids would know not to do that.

While the premise is about as generic as they come, TRAIL OF BLOOD, which has Joe Dante’s name attached to it as a presenter (producer?), sort of redeems itself with some strong performances and a decent script. The story focuses mainly on Jim (Tim Barraco), who has recently signed up to join the Marines and is going on this trip as kind of a last huzzah. When they happen upon a pair of dead bodies and soon after some shifty scuzzy folks unnamed identified as The Marine (Trevor Torseth, who looks uncannily like a young Marc Singer circa BEASTMASTER) and the seemingly mute Baby (Maggie VandenBerghe). At first the creeps try to pin the murders on the kids, but their true colors come to light because Jim tries to pass himself off as a Marine before he’s served. The story soon turns into the Marine making it his personal quest to harden Jim up and be man enough to be a Marine.

I was reminded of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING with the whole “goin’ off to war” motif, and there’s a sort of 70’s macho vibe to this story as well as seen in those outdoorsy type films like DELIVERANCE and the like dissecting what it is to be a real man in this so-called civilized society. Writers/directors/brothers(?) Joseph Guerrieri & Justin Guerrieri fill this one with a conflict and dialog that is much more complex than your typical kids in the woods horror film and have the guts to really go the whole nine yards by the end of this one and make it a bloody inescapable mess for all involved.

The film’s also got the ever-talented Robert Picardo (GREMLINS 2, STAR TREK: VOYAGER) in it as a shifty federal agent looking for the killers in the woods. Though it’s always fun to see the actor on screen, the scenes with Picardo and his partner trouncing around in the woods are the weakest in the film as the pair only seem to have a function in the last act.

TRAIL OF BLOOD isn’t going to be blazing new trails in the world of horror, but it does do a lot of what’s gone before right. The conflict between the hardened marine and the newbie is a fun and new dynamic to explore and the bloodbath that ensues in their wake is intriguing to see. While I groaned a bit when I realized what this film was at first, the story and performances of TRAIL OF BLOOD won me over.




New on BluRay/DVD (Find this film on Netflix here)!

ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE (2006)

Directed by Jonathan Levine
Written by Jacob Forman
Starring Amber Heard, Anson Mount, Whitney Able, Michael Welch, Edwin Hodge, Aaron Himelstein, Luke Grimes, Melissa Price, Adam Powell,
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


This film kind of infuriated me. Basically, it’s about a girl who is the apple of everyone’s eye and occasionally leads them on, then gets angry when the guys hit on her, only to do what every hot high school girl does and direct her attentions toward an older guy.

There’s more to ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, but the above is a decent summation as DRIVE ANGRY’s Amber Heard leads a cast of up-and-coming good-looking teen stars along by their cocks. Having heard quite a bit about this film over the years and years it’s been shelved, I think the time gestating hasn’t been kind to it, since the expectations on the film have become somewhat gargantuan. I will give credit where credit is due; it does have a hell of a cast. Shrewd eyes will pick out TWILIGHT’s Michael Welch, HELL ON WHEELS front man Anson Mount, MONSTERS star Whitney Able and Aaron Himelstein, who played young Austin Powers in GOLDMEMBER. All of the actors involved here are great--much more talented than most films of this kind.

The story begins as director Jonathan Levine’s camera lingers across Mandy’s body as she slo mo walks through the hallways of her school cut against a montage of all students (boys and girls) looking her up and down with either lust, admiration, or jealousy. Levine wants us to fall in love with this girl, and Heard is definitely beautiful, but he forgets to give her much of a character throughout the film. I originally thought this was a conscious move and going to lead to a major revelation that Mandy is a succubus or a witch or something supernatural was going to come into play causing of all of this admiration, but there’s no such payoff. Just like all the boys and some of the girls in ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, we are supposed to love Mandy simply because she is has perfect hair and a thin waist. Because of this the film feels shallow, or maybe that’s the statement Levine is going for in that teenager culture, for the most part, is shallow. But for some reason, I don’t want to give this film that much credit.

I will give it to this film in that it has some great shots of the scenery and of the kids having fun. Sure they look very music video-y, but for the most part, Levine’s camera soaks up these young good-lookings and their environment well. At the same time, there are also some inventive kills, which are always fun to see. I also like that the victims here take a while to die, which adds another factor of danger to the mix, as the killer wounds the victims to be used as bait for later kills.

In the end, ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE is your typical teen slasher film, only filmed with a slightly more talented and more stylized hand than most of the films in this subgenre of horror. It doesn’t make it necessarily bad, just kind of morally twisted and vapid, especially how it all turns out. Had the film given Mandy a bit of depth to deserve all of this lusting, I’d have been along for the ride. I guess there are girls like this out there, who just flit along due to their good looks, but to make a film that emulates that rather than criticize it seems somewhat off base.




Available this week on iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, X-box, PlayStation and Vudu and on Video on Demand!

BELA KISS: PROLOGUE (2013)

Directed by Lucien Foerstner
Written by Lucien Foerstner
Starring Kristina Klebe, Fabian Stumm, Julia Horvath, Rudolf Martin, Ben Bela Bohm
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Part docudrama/part heist-gone-pear-shaped thriller, BELA KISS: PROLOGUE is a somewhat uneven, yet intriguing little bit of horror released by horror website Shock Til You Drop.

Bela Kiss was a serial killer in Budapest, Hungary around the turn of the century who killed and drained at least 26 women of their blood and kept them in alcohol-filled barrels marked gasoline behind his farm. Known as one of the most notorious serial killers in history, the killer was not apprehended and believed to have been killed in the first World War. But according to BELA KISS: PROLOGUE, that’s not the end of the story. Cut to the present and a bunch of good looking twenty-somethings who have robbed a European bank go to a peculiar hotel to hide out there while the cops are looking for them. Antsy and eager to get out of Dodge, the quintet of robbers have their own problems getting along as Julia (Kristina Klebe from HALLOWEEN, BREAD CRUMBS, ZONE OF THE DEAD) seems to have a relationship with two of the men: the good-hearted Felix (Ben Bela Bohm from ANGELS & DEMONS) and the more bloodthirsty Peter (Angus McGruther). Meanwhile, the other two robbers can’t seem to stop having sex with one another enough to care about the rest of them. The waiting game gets somewhat hard, as the hotel seems to be filled with weird characters doing even weirder things.

The best parts of BELA KISS: PROLOGUE have to do with the stylish past sequences depicting the life of Bela Kiss. Slo mo sequences, CG brushes with a cloaked skeletal death, and all kinds of blood and carnage. NCIS & SWORDFISH’s Rudolf Martin plays Bela as a cold and meticulous killer, and though he doesn’t say much in these stylish flashbacks, he does have a penetratingly demonic sense about him in these scenes. I also think Klebe is good as the conflicted Julia, who is trying to decide between two men and find out keys to her own past. She has a likable ruggedness about her that reminds me of Dee Wallace circa THE HOWLING and CUJO.

The problems with this film is that while there are a lot of compelling shots going on (I especially like the slo mo sequence as a killer is chasing one of the robbers through the woods, which really did capture a sense of pursuit like few other films have) the film really has some huge contrivances late in the game that seem to happen merely by coincidence. While I am fine with the way the film pans out, the way it got there was somewhat overly convoluted and contrived. The scenes of carnage are well done, but start feeling a whole lot like HOSTEL and other torture porn type films by the end, which seems to, thankfully, be a genre that is finally petering out.

That said, I really did like the way a lot of these sequences looked. Lucien Foerstner excels in setting up some nice scenes of sheer torture and horror and making them look almost beautiful in the slo mo and stylish way they are filmed. With a name like BELA KISS: PROLOGUE, it seems that more films are set to come. I wish the film would have focused on making this story as compelling as the way it looks. I would have been more interested in what came after the prologue had the story been more narratively sound.




Advance Review: Currently touring fests!

THE DEMON’S ROOK (2013)

Directed by James Sizemore
Written by James Sizemore and Akom Tidwell
Starring James Sizemore, Ashleigh Jo Sizemore, Josh Gould, Melanie Richardson, John Chatham, Sadé Smith, Dustin Dorough
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


THE DEMON’S ROOK is a throwback SFX jamboree gorefest made as if it were back in the day and age before anything like CG was even invented. The skill and artistry put into the effects and costumes in this film are absolutely astounding--so good that it makes me look past some of the film’s more rough edges.

The story follows a young boy named Roscoe, who has a special imaginary friend and a real life friend in Eva, a young lass from the farm next to his. The two kids play all sorts of games in the summer, but Roscoe’s nights are filled with nightmares and temptations in the form of his invisible friend. One night, Roscoe is called out into the forest and falls into a hole and emerges years later fully grown. Behind him emerge three demon creatures who wreak havoc on anyone who crosses their path. When Roscoe (now played by writer/director James Sizemore) returns looking like the lead singer for a jam band with a thick beard and hair down to his back, he seeks out the now fully grown Eva (Ashleigh Jo Sizemore) and sets up to do battle with the three demons let loose on the world with powers he learned during his time spent in the demons’ infernal realm.

Combining elements of fantasy and horror, THE DEMON’S ROOK feels like a world that Sizemore has put a lot of time and effort into developing. The demons have their own language, which sounds pretty real, and though most of the background actors are amateur, the Sizemores do a pretty great job speaking in this demonic dialect. Sizemore has created a whole mythology here that is quite impressive in its scope.

The story itself is pretty simplistic once Roscoe emerges from the hole in the woods, as the trio of demons encounter a group of people and make them tear each other to shreds then move on to the next group of people, who in turn tear themselves to shreds too. While the same actions seem to be happening over and over in the film, what makes these scenes stand out from one another is the stellar effects that occur during these sequences.

The effects are some of the best I’ve seen in a low budget film in a long time. Completely practical, some of the full body make-up rivals those seen in films like NIGHTBREED, and I’m sure this film sees that one as an inspiration. The demons and their zombie minions are each fantastically rendered, and if you’re a fan of SyFy’s FACE OFF and are frustrated that some of the coolest designs never show up in horror films anymore because lazy filmmakers would rather have them be rendered by a computer, THE DEMON’S ROOK is a fresh breath of latex. On top of the costume designs, there are some amazing kills here as zombies bite and tear through flesh in ways you haven’t experienced since the golden days of Savini and Romero. Sizemore is a gorehound, and his camera soaks up every bloody drop spilled and splattered throughout this film--and there’s a lot to absorb.

As far as faults for the film, I’ve already mentioned the rather light story. There are elements of fantasy quests and even a little STAR WARS use of a Force-like power going on, which are fun nods to those films, though rather breezy. The most noticeable flaw in the film is the use of lighting, as normal daylight and indoor lighting seem to be used which doesn’t do any favors for the outlandish costumes. Occasionally neon and flood lights are used with some smoke billowing around, and that’s all well and good. But if this were more dramatically and maybe theatrically lit, the creatures would be all the more terrifying. As is, the creatures seem somewhat out of place in their naturally lit surroundings.

Despite all of that, if you’re a fan of real effects made by real people, THE DEMON’S ROOK is something you have to experience. James Sizemore brings big ideas with him, and the effects represent every one of those expectations perfectly. With a beefier script and a few more things for the leads as well as the monsters to do rather than run into one person after the next and then mutilate them, THE DEMON’S ROOK would have been more of a solid film. Still, the creativity injected into this world Sizemore came up with and the creatures mauling everything in their path make this a monster mash to marvel at!




And finally…writer/director Jen Moss brings us some biting comedy about how to survive and how not to survive during the apocalypse. Watch the short below and take notes. Here’s MY BROTHER’S KEEPER (OR HOW NOT TO SURVIVE THE APOCALYPSE)!



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 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.


Find out what are BLACK MASK STUDIOS and OCCUPY COMICS here and on Facebook here!


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