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AICN HORROR looks at CHIMERES! CATCH OF THE DAY! BATTLE OF THE DAMNED! HOLY GHOST PEOPLE! RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE! THE INVOKING! VISITING HOURS! ANGRY NAZI ZOMBIES! DARKMAN! & CHASTITY BITES!

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

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week we have vampires, robots, zombies, religious freaks, Nazis, serial killers, anti-heroes, and Dolph muther-fuckin’ Lundgren.

AKA just your typical week here on AICN HORROR!


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

Retro-review: The Cinema of Jean Rollin – The Vampire Collection Box Set: THE RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE (1968)
Retro-review: Scream Factory Double Feature - VISITING HOURS (1982)
Retro-review: DARKMAN (1990)
ANGRY NAZI ZOMBIES (2012)
CHASTITY BITES (2013)
THE INVOKING (2013)
BATTLE OF THE DAMNED (2013)
HOLY GHOST PEOPLE (2013)
Advance Review: CATCH OF THE DAY (2013)
Advance Review: CHIMERES (2013)
And finally…Inner Sanctum: The Fog!


Retro-review: New DVD/BluRay Collection from Kino Lorber/Redemption Films!
The Cinema of Jean Rollin – The Vampire Collection Box Set

THE RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE (1968)

aka QUEEN OF THE VAMPIRES, LE VIOL DU VAMPIRE, VAMPIRE WOMEN
Directed by Jean Rollin
Written by Jean Rollin & Alain Yves Beaujour
Starring Solange Pradel, Bernard Letrou, Ariane Sapriel
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug


Kino Lorber/Redemption has put together the essential box set of four of Jean Rollin’s classic erotic vampire films. I’ve covered some of them before, but this box set warrants my return to the material. Over the next few weeks I’ll be covering all of the films: REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE, THE SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES, THE NUDE VAMPIRE, and this week’s film, THE RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE.

THE RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE is undeniably French in many ways. There are a lot of somber silences with extended pauses accompanied by staring off into the distance. There’s a whole lot of French girl boobage, which is never a bad thing. And, occasionally, there’s even a vampire or two. But what makes this film stand out is that it definitely veers from most other vampire stories of its time which were busy reimagining the tales of Dracula and Carmilla. This one involves the never-ending battle between scientific fact and folkloric fantasy.

The film opens with a trio of investigators checking out an old castle where four insane women live. Upon arrival, they find that the women believe themselves to be vampires, worshipping a vampire statue. Some of them are afraid of the sunlight, while others aren’t. Because of this inconsistent variation between the symptoms of the women, the lead investigator deduces that this is merely a psychological disorder and not actual vampirism, and sets out to cure them through radical shock therapy by tossing them in the sunlight and forcing them to leave their homes.

The film is separated into two acts, the first ending with the investigators’ theories shattered when one is killed and the other two are turned into vampires themselves. The basic symptoms of vampirism don’t seem to apply here, but what is prevalent is the thirst for blood. Soon a vampire queen arrives, reminiscent of Grace Jones’ turn of the tooth in VAMP, with a cadre of followers who traipse around a beach tormenting young girls and eventually turning them into vampires as well to join their beatnik ragtag group. As the two investigators search for the cure for vampirism, the queen and her minions set up a stage play with unconventional jazz musicians scat-scat-scooting in the background. The film ends with a cure being found, but not with the intended results.

I was able to admire the ingenuity of the story Rollins brings to this tale of the vampire. Too many vampire tales rely on Stoker or some age-old story such as the Bathory tale as framework. This one plays on the belief of being a vampire and how science would view it. First the disease is shunned and said to be a psychological disorder, until the investigators themselves come down with the ailment. Then the disease is treated as just that, and experiments are performed to cure it in a medical manner. There are no stakes or garlic to be seen here—just hard science, which is kind of cool to see. I also liked the change from non-believer to believer that happens here. Both are interesting concepts far above the normal vampiric lore being done at the time cinematically.

At the same time, this film is a tough pill to swallow with all of its French frilly speak and pretentious moods. The drama is amped to the nth degree, and many scenes seem more like clips from a surrealist film than an actual narrative. I have to admit, though understanding the plot, I found my attention waning as people droned on and on and I watched long scenes of beach landscapes and men in leotards dancing around women in see-through veils showing their nipples. Sure, French naked girls are titillating, but when served with an abundance of pretention one grows tired pretty quickly.

Though I found the content to be grating, I have to admit there are some great original ideas here, some of which are being explored today in more progressive vamp stories. I can admire this film for the creativity of plot, but you have to sift through all of the beatnik mumbo-jumbo to get it. THE RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE is not my favorite vampire movie, but it does show a lot of imagination.




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

VISITING HOURS (1982)

aka GET WELL SOON, THE FRIGHT, HORROR-HOSPITAL, PANIC IN THE HOSPITAL, TERROR IN THE HOSPITAL
Directed by Jean-Claude Lord
Written by Brian Taggert
Starring Michael Ironside, Lee Grant, Linda Purl, William Shatner, Lenore Zann, Harvey Atkin, Helen Hughes, Michael J. Reynolds, Kirsten Bishop, Deborah Kirshenbaum, Elizabeth Leigh-Milne, Maureen McRae
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug


This rather routine slasher film is made special due to some heavy feminist themes, a trio of strong female performances, and the efforts of one Michael Ironside who plays utterly terrifying psychopath Colt Hawker.

Lee Grant plays talk show host Deborah Ballin, whose outspoken segments focusing on defending women’s rights ruffles the feathers of some more archaic types. Deborah receives all kinds of threats because of her views. This attention comes to the joy of Deborah’s ratings-hungry boss Gary Baylor (William Shatner). But one writer in particular seems to be especially pointed and threatening, and the writer is career-threatening letter writer Colt Hawker. Ironside’s Hawker has a tendency to stalk and kill older ladies, photographing them and plastering the photos in the shape of a skull on his wall.

First and foremost, how cool of a name is Michael Ironside? I don’t know if this is a name he made up or what, but the name itself is pants-shittingly awesome. Add that to the simmering intensity that is pretty much every Ironside performance and you have the perfect movie badass. As Colt Hawker, Ironside is a raging monster, sweaty and intense like a great white shark torpedoing towards his prey with nothing stopping him. As the film flashes back to Hawker’s past in snippets we see just enough to understand why this man has become such a monster. The early attack on Lee Grant is especially creepy and reveals Hawker’s perverse nature by wearing all of her jewelry and earrings on his nose and mouth while waiting for her to arrive home. Little twisted details like this make Hawker truly terrifying.

Released within a year of HALLOWEEN 2, another film set in a hospital, VISITING HOURS gives more of a personal face to hospital terror. Ironside does his best to elevate this film beyond your typical slasher film with his performance, but unfortunately, the writing is not really that good. The typical twists and turns seen in a million other slasher films are used and used again, as Hawker zigs from his victim’s house to her room in the hospital and when he is unsuccessful at killing Lee Grant in the hospital, he zags to her nurse’s home for some stalking.

This film does maintain a girl power message throughout. Shatner doesn’t really get a lot to do, as it is Grant who makes her final stand against the killer in the end, continuing to support the feminist stance of this film as she alone must take on this raging beast who is trying to silence pro-feminine talk. B-movie actress and the voice of Rogue in the X-MEN cartoons Lenore Zann plays a sultry 80s gal with crimped hair and all sorts of 80s fashion travesty who is full of piss and vinegar after Hawker attacks her, and when Lee Grant is shut up in the hospital, Linda Purl plays her nurse who goes toe to toe with Hawker as well, in a tense but repetitious scene late in the film.

The not so subtle feminism vs. one barbaric and brutal man is the theme at play in VISITING HOURS, which plays as a capable yet typical slasher film. If anything, this is a prime example that supports the argument that slashers were pro-feminist rather than misogynistic. More personal and thematically rich than HALLOWEEN 2, VISITING HOURS is one hospital slasher that hits all of the right beats, though it is a familiar rhythm.

VISITING HOURS is paired with BAD DREAMS in this Scream Factory Double Feature. I’ll be covering BAD DREAMS next week.




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

DARKMAN (1990)

Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Sam Raimi (story/screenplay), Chuck Pfarrer, Ivan Raimi, Daniel Goldin, Joshua Goldin (screenplay)
Starring Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Colin Friels, Larry Drake, Nelson Mashita, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, Rafael H. Robledo, Dan Hicks, Ted Raimi, Dan Bell, Nicholas Worth, Aaron Lustig, Arsenio 'Sonny' Trinidad, Bruce Campbell
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Starring Liam Neeson, DARKMAN…ugh!...Can’t help myself…



Now that that’s out of the way, on with my review of DARKMAN.

Ahem.

Sam Raimi’s superhero tale before he got his mitts on SPIDER-MAN feels more like a try-out reel for a BATMAN film than anything else. The Danny Elfman score doesn’t help distinguish this film from BATMAN as it has all of the orchestral oompa’s that we have come to associate to all of Elfman’s replicant scores. While Raimi went out of his way to make DARKMAN different than your typical superhero, this film still follows what was already an oft drafted blueprint in this origin story of a comic book hero.

Still the movie is filled with Raimi charm and creativity with the camera. In DARKMAN, the camera piggy backs on bolts fired from a nail gun, balls thrown in a sideshow midway game, and atop fists punching out thugs. In double the frames per second, Raimi’s frantic action feels more like a Tex Avery cartoon with all sorts of goofy gallows humor and deadly Rube Goldbergian gadgetry depicting Darkman wreaking his vengeance upon those who scarred him and took away his happy life. While there may be the occasional rough looking green screen shot, Raimi makes up for it with these cartoonish super heroics that may feel out of line with the more realistic way super hero films are made today, but still was able to convey a sense of daring, charm, and danger.



As insane as that Pink Elephant scene was, it really is indicative of the beauty of DARKMAN which really does push all of the limits superhero films did at the time. Raimi’s sense of dark humor which was evident with his EVIL DEAD films was put on display front and center from the bizarre circumstances around the death of Neeson’s Payton Westlake to the creative ways he does in his foes. Raimi talks a lot about the Universal Monster influences to this super hero epic as well and there are definitely scenes that feel as if they are swiped right from films like PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE, and THE WOLF MAN as Payton Westlake not only is a scary anti-hero to follow, but a sympathetic one.

Liam Neeson was not the star he is today when DARKMAN was made. Up until recently, I always found the actor to be quite stiff, but with his new found status of making fun of his own serious demeanor, I couldn’t help but fall in love all over again in a new way with the manner of which Neeson portrays both Darkman the sympathetic character and Darkman the off-his-batshit-stained-nut madman.



Playing the big bad here is Larry (DR GIGGLES, DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW) Drake and his cold and ruthless portrayal of the crime boss is pretty amazing given that most actors of the era went over the top with villain roles in superhero films. While Drake’s Durand was surrounded by bumbling idiots (including Raimi’s brother Ted, EVIL DEAD II’s Dan Hicks, and SWAMP THING’s Nicholas Worth), he played things straight and deadly, even in goofy scenes where his henchman must decide which one is the real Durant when Darkman disguises himself in a Durant mask.

Sure there are parts of DARKMAN that are downright goofy as all get out, but the movie feels like a typical superhero movie from a time when cinema didn’t really respect super hero movies all that much. Soaked in melodrama and cartoony violence, DARKMAN is classed up by Neeson’s performance (as well as Drake and Frances McDormand’s damsel in distress role) and Raimi’s ever-hyperactive camera. While it pales in comparison to today’s cinematic adventures of our four color heroes on the big screen, DARKMAN still has a lot of charm after all of these years.




New on DVD from Revolver Entertainment!

ANGRY NAZI ZOMBIES (2012)

aka NAZI ZOMBIE DEATH TALES, NAZI ZOMBIE BATTLEGROUND, BATTLEFIELD DEATH TALES
Directed by James Eaves (Medal of Horror), Pat Higgins (Devils of the Blitz), Alan Ronald (Harriet's War)
Written by James Eaves (Medal of Horror), Pat Higgins (Devils of the Blitz), Alan Ronald (Harriet's War)
Starring Tina Barnes, Paul Kelleher, Cy Henty, David Wayman, Paul Kelleher, Tina Barnes, Paul Cousins, Diego da Cruz, Ellie Jeffreys, Liza Keast, Julian Lamoral-Roberts, Linda Large, Dave Lee
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


A little ingenuity goes a long way, as proven in three low budget but big-thinking tales of Nazis and zombies and angriness. What blew me away with ANGRY NAZI ZOMBIES aka NAZI ZOMBIE DEATH TALES aka NAZI ZOMBIE BATTLEGROUND aka BATTLEFIELD DEATH TALES is that it was obviously made with little money, but the writing and acting is surprisingly fantastic despite all of that, and the filmmakers didn’t let a little thing like a budgetary burden stop them from making great films.

The first of the trio of half-hour films is “Medal of Horror” by James Eaves, in which an old battle-weary major (Paul Kelleher) enlists a military clerk (David Wayman) to take part in a search and rescue mission to find his daughter behind Nazi enemy lines. The clerk had a relationship with the daughter and when he went to war, it was too much for the girl and she tried to kill herself, which of course pissed the old war horse off. Inexperienced and scared, the young soldier finds a secret barracks protected by a Nazi robot and Jezebel (Tina Barnes), a female Nazi straight out of ILSA THE WICKED WARDEN. This story is simplistic and somewhat comic booky, but has a resolution that elevates it to operatic status as the young soldier makes his way across a battlefield with what’s left of the general’s daughter. I loved this poetic little yarn, which made good on some fun-looking zombie soldiers and robots throughout. Some of the scenes involving things too big for the budget are realized with illustrations, which is an ingenious way to cut budgetary corners.

“Harriet’s War” is the best written of the bunch, telling the story of Harriet Price (Lara Lemon), WWII ghost hunter. When a couple go missing in a nearby wood, Price is ever-vigilant on solving the case and doesn’t bat an eye at the carnage her paranormal cases seem to come across. This story involves an especially haunting Nazi ghost which scars its victims with swastikas. The ghost is pretty damn scary, and the answers behind this case are equally horrifying. Writer director Alan Ronald injects droll humor into this otherwise chilling tale of Nazis beyond the grave. The design of the ghost Nazi, covered in swastika scars and wearing a bandana with swastikas for eyes over his own eyes, is original and effective, as are the rudimentary stop motion effects of the swastikas magically being cut into his victims.

The final installment by Pat Higgins is a monster-in-the-house tale called “Devils of the Blitz”, in which creatures called Spider-Devils are released on London during the Blitz of 1940. Framing this in a historical time makes this one all the more effective, as the filmmakers are clever with their monsters by using a toothy puppet which creeps around corners and gnaws on people. Some quick cuts and clever editing makes it look pretty effective, but still it’s pretty goofy as it is obviously a hand inside a rubber monster puppet doing the chomping. But the tone to this one is dire, as a bandaged survivor and a woman with a hammer seem to be the only ones able to stand up to the creepy Spider-Devils. While it ends peculiarly, as if it were just about to begin, what we get with “Devils of the Blitz” is some fun monster madness.

There are scenes in ANGRY NAZI ZOMBIES which feel like it was made in a backyard, but fantastic editing, sound, acting, effects, and CG make it all seem like it really is taking place in the early parts of World War II. I guarantee you will be surprised at what these savvy filmmakers did with this film, proving that you don’t need a high budget to make an effective film.




New on DVD from Grand Entertainment!

CHASTITY BITES (2013)

Directed by John V. Knowles
Written by Lotti Pharriss Knowles
Starring Allison Scagliotti, Francia Raisa, Louise Griffiths, Eduardo Rioseco, Chloë Crampton, Amy Okuda, Sarah Stouffer, Lindsey Morgan, Laura Niemi, Diana Chiritescu
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Any vampire film that strays from the well-tread Dracula’s lost love reincarnated path is interesting to me. That’s a motif used in Bram Stoker’s version, and it’s been beaten into the ground with rehash after remake after reimagining. So when I saw that CHASTITY BITES focuses more on the legend of Lady Bathory, I was all in from the beginning.

CHASTITY BITES starts out as if it were a typical stalk n’ slash with a couple making out and falling victim to a killer in the darkness who slices their throats. Cut to daytime as a Veronica Mars-type, Leah (Allison Scagliotti), and her virginal and shy friend Katherine (Francia Raisa), shuffle their way across the high school campus, highlighting the fact that they are not part of the in crowd and pretty happy with it. Though CHASTITY BITES relies on a lot of tried and true stereotypical high school tropes in regards to the way Leah is portrayed as the plucky Juno-esque character who always has something biting and snarky to say with a Josh Whedon-ish quickness every time her social status is challenged by the clichéd oblivious and popularity-distracted cheerleaders, the script does juggle these tropes well. So while you might recognize these characters from other films, it made it easier for me to relate to them, and there’s really no time to get to know much about them as the action starts almost immediately.

The elegant, glamorous and Kelly LeBrock-ian Liz Batho (Louise Griffiths) arrives in town not only with a secret for the hausfraus of the burb in terms of anti-aging makeup, but also to lead chastity groups at the local high school. Instead of thumping a bible, Liz plays to the high schoolers’ desire to be glamorous to sell membership, and it turns out it not only works on the bitchy cheerleaders, but also with Katherine who develops a girl crush on Liz. Unbeknownst to all, Liz Batho is a not-so-subtle nom de plume of Elizabeth Bathory, and her chastity group is nothing but a clever ruse to lure virgins in so she can drain their blood and retain her ageless beauty.

Though the film is not really about scares and gore, it does have a lot of fun with the vampire mythos. The characters are not necessarily vampires, although the youth-ified mothers hiss like ones; they are actually just old crones made young with regular application of virgin blood. The old age makeup is decent and not so bad that it is distracting, but that’s not the point of CHASTITY BITES, which would be received best by those who don’t mind a whole lot of snark and wit in the guise of comedy in their entertainment. Leah is the fountain from which this snark erupts most of the time, and Allison Scagliotti does a great job as the investigative and smart beyond her years teen, though it is a role we’ve seen before in everything from 90210’s Amanda to BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER to SMALLVILLE’s Chloe to the aforementioned Veronica Mars. If that type of character in those shows was like nails on a chalkboard for you, the role will most likely have the same effect on you here.

Still, I found Scagliotti to be effective and fun, as well as her plucky lesbian-curious sidekick Francia Raisa, who is both beautiful and talented as well. All around, the acting was better than average, as was the script which was full of amusing situations. The film was made on a tight budget and falters a bit toward the end, but the setup and most of the film played with the same tone that ran rampant in films like DONNIE DARKO and HEATHERS. CHASTITY BITES isn’t going to scare the pants off of you, but it will make you laugh a bit if you’re not looking for a gorefest. It’s a capable comedy about a different kind of vampire, filled with a bunch of actors who are quite talented. Those looking to laugh rather than quiver in fear will want to seek this horror comedy out.




New this week on DVD, digital download, and Video On Demand!

THE INVOKING (2013)

aka SADER RIDGE
Directed by Jeremy Berg
Written by Jeremy Berg, Matt Medisch, John Portanova
Starring Brandon Anthony, Carson Holden, D'Angelo Midili, Trin Miller, Andi Norris, Rafael Siegel, Josh Truax
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


To call THE INVOKING a slow burn is an understatement. Though it’s not a found footage film, it sort of feels like one, as there is an awful lot of time spent on getting to know the cast before odd things start happening. Don’t get me wrong; when the spooky stuff comes, it is indeed spooky, but only folks with a great bit of patience are going to be able to get to the end of this one.

THE INVOKING follows four friends on a trip to an old house one of them has inherited. Sam (Trin Miller) is the inheritor, and she’s brought along her former boyfriend Mark (Brandon Anthony), a ghost hunting wallflower Roman (Josh Truax), and spunky alterna-girl Caitlin (Andi Norris) along for the ride. It might be simplistic to compare these four to those crazy kids who rode around with a dog in the Mystery Machine, but they do fit the archetypes. Equipped with ghost-hunting gear, the four head out to the spooky house to check out the digs. On the property, they meet Eric (D'Angelo Midili), a creepy groundskeeper who reveals he was a childhood friend of Sam’s and knows what happened to the original owners of the place. Sam has no recollection of her past, but upon arriving at the secluded farmhouse, she begins to have visions of her childhood--and they ain’t pretty.

The actors involved in this film are of a quality quite higher than one often finds in this type of film. Not only are they interesting to watch, but convincing in their roles, going through a range of emotions while on this creepy trek. The problem here is that while the problems these friends have are real and it does really feel like these characters have a story beyond the film they star in, one wonders why they hang out with one another, as they seem to hate each others’ guts throughout this entire film. Mark still holds a torch for Sam, but that doesn’t stop him from messing around with Caitlin. Roman has eyes for Caitlin, but lacks the balls to do anything about it and is pissed at Mark for messing with her. Sam only wants to be friends with Mark, but fails to see how much he cares for her. It’s all rather muddy, and if I were in the middle of this kind of web of drama, I’d probably choose to opt out of the Mystery Machine.

The story itself, once it gets started, is pretty spooky. It’s difficult to distinguish if Sam is seeing visions from her past trauma or if her friends are being possessed by these demons from her childhood. Either way, things get pretty horrifying as the distance between reality and illusion gets shorter.

The ending of THE INVOKING is sudden and brutal, but it does take an awfully long time getting there. Still, this one might be worth checking out simply for the strong performances by the actors. In the end, THE INVOKING is one ghost story that takes its time, but the time spent getting to know these characters didn’t feel like it was time wasted.




New this week on BluRay & DVD!

BATTLE OF THE DAMNED (2013)

Directed by Christopher Hatton
Written by Christopher Hatton
Starring Dolph Lundgren, Melanie Zanetti, Matt Doran, David Field, Jen Sung, Lydia Look, Oda Maria, Jeff Pruitt, Kerry Wong, Esteban Cueto, Broadus Mattison, Tim Cooper
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


This film has robots and zombies and Dolph Lundgren.

And that’s the reason why you deserve to check it out. Now, I’m not saying this is Shakespeare (SURPRISE! It’s not!), but it does deliver on a good amount of robot action and zombie action and Dolph action, which is good enough for me.

Dolph Lundgren plays Max Gatling (That’s right-- MAX GATLING!), a gung ho grunt who takes no shit from no bucket of bolts or walking corpse. We are caught up pretty quick over the opening credits. The world was thrown into turmoil when a chemical leak caused an outbreak which made certain areas of the world uninhabitable. In the middle of one of those hot zones is the daughter of a corporate mogul, and Max Gatling and his crew of roughnecks are hired to rescue her. Meanwhile, a robot police force thought to be shut down are activated and roaming the same streets. It’s inevitable that these three forces are on a collision course.

Let’s face it: BATTLE OF THE DAMNED is a big dumb action movie. There are lots of guys shooting guns, zombies running after people, robot CGI, and ‘splosions galore. And though the plot isn’t the most brainy, it is damn fun. Writer/director Christopher Hatton does a decent job of getting Dolph—I mean, MAX GATLING--into this situation between the zombies and robots, and that’s really all I’m looking for. While it isn’t believable by a long shot, Hatton seems to have enough talent to at least logically set the pieces up before bashing them into one another.

That said, there are some really well-done moments of suspense and scare here, mostly occurring when a person is trying to get past something that looks like a lifeless corpse and turns out to be a zombie. There are also some fun moments between Dolph and a squadron of robots he learns how to command. Are these knee-slappers that’ll have you limping? No, but they’re fun breaks into tension that won’t make you groan too much.

Some quality action, decent CG robots, good-looking zombie makeup, and Dolph doing what Dolph does best, i.e. grunting out lines, shooting big guns, and kicking zombies in the face with those giant boots of his. Between shitty SyFy movie of the week action and A-grade material, BATTLE OF THE DAMNED falls comfortably in between.



New this week on Video On Demand, iTunes, and in limited theatrical release!

HOLY GHOST PEOPLE (2013)

Directed by Mitchell Altieri
Written by Kevin Artigue, Joe Egender, Mitchell Altieri, Phil Flores
Starring Emma Greenwell, Joe Egender, Brendan McCarthy, Cameron Richardson, Don Harvey, Roger Aaron Brown, James Lowe, Jason Benjamin, Jalen Camp, Jayne Entwistle, Buffy Charlet
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


I’ll take zombies, vampires, werewolves, serial killer and aliens from outer space any old day without even a shudder, but if you really want to scare me, bible thumpers are the ones that do it to me the most. For some reason, those on a holy crusade to “save my soul” feels more offensive to me than any torture porn or misogynistic act put to film. I guess that’s just me. From the Butcher Brothers, the directors/writers of THE THOMPSONS and its prequel THE HAMILTONS (reviewed here), comes HOLY GHOST PEOPLE; an excellent story about religion, fanaticism, and souls that are both lost and regrettably found.

TRUE BLOOD’s Emma Greenwell plays Charlotte, a barmaid in search of her missing sister who was last heard of going to a place called Sugar Mountain; a religious community in the hills outside of town. Brendan McCarthy (also from TRUE BLOOD) is Wayne an unlucky dolt who gets pulled into this mess when Charlotte hires him to retrieve her sister once she finds out he’s an ex-Marine and hard up for cash. Once the pair get to Sugar Mountain, they meet the Giovanni Ribisi-esque Joe Egender (a regular in The Butcher Brothers’ films such as THE HAMILTONS, THE VIOLENT KIND and THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY – not a Butcher Brothers film) who plays the evangelic Brother Billy who leads sermons with a charisma that is almost infectious. Egender really dazzles in this role, carrying with him both a divine air and a threatening presence as he shouts the word of the Lord while grasping snakes with both hands. As Charlotte gets closer to the truth about the whereabouts of her sister, Wayne, desperate and suffering from alcoholism, starts getting pulled into Brother Billy’s sermons.

The true standout in this film is Egender who is a star waiting to explode as evidenced by the nuanced performance as Brother Billy. This could have been a typical moustache twirling villain, but the smart script and subtle twists Egender adds makes him almost likable in a dastardly sort of way. The relationship he has with Charlotte becomes pretty vile, but at the same time, the one he forms with Wayne is downright brotherly, as he provides Wayne with something his life was lacking. This tangled triangle of drama and horror is the heart of this film and thought it’s twisted, it’s damn compelling to see.

Like Ti West’s THE SACRAMENT (reviewed here and set to be released soon on Video On Demand), HOLY GHOST PEOPLE examines the horror of faith and how the name of the Lord can be perverted when spoken by just the right twisted soul. It’s also about the poor fools sucked into these types of religions and how easily we all can be persuaded given the right desperate situation. This is a story about real horror because there are people like this out there and dammit if that doesn’t scare me.

HOLY GHOST PEOPLE is fantastically acted, patiently plotted, and deftly executed. The Butcher Brothers, who have been more in your face with some of their previous works such as THE VIOLENT KIND and THE HAMILTONS, really show a lot of growth and maturity as filmmakers with this film. Maybe that’s why they’ve chosen to drop the Butcher Brothers moniker and just be referred to by their real names; Mitchell Altieri & Phil Flores. Though they may have taken a bit of a misstep with their last film THE THOMPSONS (a sequel to THE HAMILTONS), they are definitely back on track and then some with this expertly realized glimpse into the life of scary ass religion and the people who pervert it.




Advance Review!

CATCH OF THE DAY (2013)

Directed by Michael Leavy
Written by Steven Della Salla, Jason Leavy, Michael Leavy
Starring Gilbrando Acevedo, Krista Ayne, Ed Heavey, Boomer Tibbs, Jason Leavy, Jackie Adragna, Chris Lazzaro, Isabelle Krysiak, Mike Leavy,
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


CATCH OF THE DAY is an ambitious low budget thriller/detective yarn about an honest cop, a smoking hot restaurant owner, a suspicious restaurant, and a menu that may be serving up long pig for dinner. For those of you out of the know, long pig is slang for human meat, and as a number of people go missing and the bodies start piling up, there’s only one thing a psychotic family-owned restaurant can do…serve ‘em up!

Gilbrando Acevedo plays Detective Sam Hynes, a noble cop who goes out of his way to help his fellow man as exemplified in the opening scenes when he offers some kind words to a fry cook who is being berated by his boss. It turns out this hulking fry cook is actually a man-monster used by a restaurant to gather human meat for the serving. Investigating a string of missing persons cases in the area, Hynes is led to a local pub on the outskirts of town that is famous for their delectable meats. The steamy waitress/ restaurant manager Georgia (Krista Ayne) is more than willing to lure Hynes in, as she figures if he’s close and half as good at detecting as he says he is, she can do away with him. She also wants to bang him. But will Hynes pry his head from Georgia’s cleavage long enough to realize what’s up?

CATCH OF THE DAY is a well-edited and directed little thriller that suffers from the usual bastion of all low budget cinema: namely, actors who don’t have the chops to pull off the material. Acevedo looks the part of the hero with his bulging biceps and handsome shaved noggin, but his delivery is pretty stiff. The rest of the actors aren’t the best, save for Ayne, who has the look and possibly the talent to go places. A fun appearance by Boomer Tibbs as the crotchety bartender of the cannibal restaurant makes things entertaining as well, as he chortles out lines as if he’s half in the bag. I’ve seen worse acting in higher budgeted films, for sure, but still, the stiffness of the actors definitely distracts from a pretty nice little thriller.

With a solid handling of story and camera, CATCH OF THE DAY is a surprisingly watchable film. While I ragged on some of the acting, I found myself looking past all that because the action and the threat of this cannibal diner is a potent one. CATCH OF THE DAY is a solid little thriller which never tries to expand past its budget and maintains a gritty edge to it because of it, reminiscent of the street-smart cop thrillers of the 70’s.




Advance Review: Touring festivals to be seen this week at Fantasporto 2014 International Film Festival in Orporto, Portugal and then at the Brussels International Fantasy Film Festival (BIFF) in April!

CHIMERES (2013)

Directed by Olivier Beguin
Written by Olivier Beguin & Colin Vettier
Starring Jasna Kohoutova, Yannick Rosset, Catriona Mac Coll, Paulo Dos Santos, Sarah Marcuse, Ivan Gonzalez
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Chimeres can be a mythical monster with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and a serpent for a tail. Or it also can be an organism with genetically distinct cells originating from two zygotes. I also could be a damn good twist on the vampire genre from Swiss filmmaker Olivier Beguin. We’re going to talk about the film since this is a horror column.

A loving couple, Livia and Alexandre (Jasna Kohoutova & Yannick Rosset) are on vacation in Romania (Livia’s home country) when Alexandre suffers a life threatening accident. Rushed to the hospital, Alexandre receives a blood transfusion which saves his life, but when they return to Switzerland, he begins having bizarre dreams which turn to hallucinations as the mirror reflects a demonic, blood-splattered, fanged monster every time Alexandre looks into it. Soon the urges for blood take over and when Livia cuts herself and gives him blood to prove Alexandre is wrong in his assumption that he’s become a creature of the night, Alexandre actually becomes one with pulsating veins, animal-like eyes, and pointed canines. With Alexandre’s suspicions confirmed, the real question is if his relationship with Livia can survive.

The heart of this film is a love story, but though it is sweet at times, this Swiss film is much more brutal and daring than any Americanized love story you’ll ever see. Kohoutova and Rosset make you believe these two characters are deeply in love and because of that, it made me follow them through all of the twists and turns this story has without so much as a question or doubt.

And this is a twisted story. What starts out as a VAMPIRE’S KISS without the quirk-style take, turns into an actual vampire tale once Alexandre gives into his bloodlust. And soon after that, this becomes somewhat of a revenge/vigilante style film which plays out as almost super hero-like by the action-oriented final scenes. The best thing about this film is the way its story morphs and changes genres and subgenres on a whim, yet that change is natural and believable given the love that holds these two souls together.

But it’s not all lovey-dovey as CHIMERES is not afraid to splatter gallons and gallons of blood in order to tell its tale. There are also some fantastically subtle vamp effects, specifically the teeth which are for some reason much more realistic than those I’m used to seeing in vampire films. Pair that with some amazing throat-ripping and shoulder-shredding bites and you’ve got one tactile and visceral vamp movie like few others.

There may be some who find the shift in tone in the final twenty minutes of this film to be somewhat jarring. But just as the story took a leap earlier from a man who thought he was a vampire to an actual vampire story, I was willing to accept the shift towards the end. That said, the ending is bombastic and in your face, fast-paced and thrilling, just as the first half hour was touching and haunting, and the second half hour horrific and heartbreaking. CHIMERES is a fantastic rollercoaster ride for the heart and soul. It’s a blood-spattered masterpiece with characters that you will want to see conquer impossible odds and will feel deeply when those odds ultimately overcome them.




And finally…here’s another Inner Sanctum Mystery Radio play from the 1940’s. Enjoy “The Fog.” Not to be mistaken with the John Carpenter film.



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


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