Movie News

AICN HORROR looks at BARRONWOOD! SERIAL KILLER CULTURE! FRACTIONAL! FORGETTING THE GIRL! ABOUT A ZOMBIE! 2 LITTLE MONSTERS! MONSTERS TV Series! LOCK IN! DONE IN Short! BLOOD COUSINS! NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM! & HOUSE OF GOOD & EVIL!

Published at: April 4, 2014, 1:26 a.m. CST by ambush bug

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

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week, I’ve got another dozen fright films for you--some based on real life, others from the darkest crevices of the psyche. Here we go with the horror reviews!

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

Retro-review: MONSTERS TV Series Collected Box Set: Season One – Episodes 7-12 (1989)
Short Cuts: DONE IN Short Film (2014)
SERIAL KILLER CULTURE (2014)
NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM (2010)
LOCK IN (2014)
FRACTIONAL (2011)
BLOOD COUSINS (2012)
2 LITTLE MONSTERS (2012)
ABOUT A ZOMBIE (aka PORTRAIT OF A ZOMBIE, 2012)
FORGETTING THE GIRL (2012)
HOUSE OF GOOD & EVIL (2013)
Advance Review: BARRONWOOD (2013)
And finally…LIGHTS OUT: LITTLE OLD LADY!


Retro-review: Collected DVD Box Set new this week from eOne Entertainment!

MONSTERS: THE COMPLETE SERIES Box Set

Series One: Episodes 7-12 (1989)
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug


Ahhh, MONSTERS. It’s one of those TV series that warms my heart. Back in the late 80’s, when practical effects were king, Mitchell Gallin and Richard P. Rubinstein, the producers of TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE TV series, decided to put together a show which highlighted a different story about a different monster every week. In my region, the show was broadcast late at night, and it was a thrill to be able to stay up late and watch it. Now, given the amount of years since I’ve watched it, I’m bound to be disappointed at the way some of them present upon reviewing. But still, this was a fun series deserving of this look back, episode by episode, of this quaint little shock series. I’m currently looking back on the TWILIGHT ZONE series as well, so for the time being, I’ll be flipping between TZ and MONSTERS every week looking back on TV horrors of yesteryear episode by episode!

Episode 1.7: The Legacy
Directed by Jeffrey Wolf
Written by Robert Bloch (story), John Harrison (teleplay)
Starring David Brisbin, Lara Harris, Mary Ann Gibson, Kevin Jeffries, Kevin Cutts


A man obsessed with a makeup artist who is not identified as Lon Chaney but might as well be purchases the Man of a Thousand Faces’ home and finds his mythical makeup kit. Though his girlfriend urges him to leave the home and drop his obsession, the finding of the kit pushes the man over the edge. This is a fun little homage to the black and white days of Chaney, and some nice-looking makeup effects are used which look very much like Quasimodo, the London Vampire, and others. But this episode skids off the rails when it downright rips off THE SHINING by having the woman find a typewriter with nothing but a single phrase typed on it, and while those who love those black and white films of the past will find something that endears them to this film, it’s not going to impress with its limp ending.

Episode 1.8: Sleeping Dragon
Directed by Mark Rezyka
Written by Michael Reaves
Starring Kin Shriner, Russell Johnson, Beth Toussaint, Wayne Toth


A mystical and mysterious object is unearthed and a scientist, the actual Professor from GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (Russell Johnson), and his 80’s hair sporting hottie daughter decide to chuck all caution and try to break into it to see what makes it tick. As the name may suggest, there’s a monster sleeping inside the object, and it’s a literal dragon--but because of budget, this dragon would more likely slay you with laughter than anything else. It’s fun to see this man-in-suit take on these three scientific adventurers, but the monster looks downright lovable. I don’t know for sure, but it might actually be one of the actual costumes used in the short lived DINOSAURS series from the 80’s, as the face looked oddly familiar. Some heavy shadows and quick editing try to make this one scary, but the big-eyed dino just didn’t do it for me.

Episode 1.9: Pool Sharks
Directed by Alan Kingsberg
Written by Alan Kingsberg
Starring Tom Mason, Irving Metzman, Rebecca Kyler Downs, Page Johnson


Though a bit slow, this story about a pool hall vampire who hustles her prey in with her looks and steals their hearts and souls by having them invite her to play a game is a bit of a stretch, but it makes for some fun billiards action. The pool hall is a good as any place to have a battle between the forces of good and evil and though there are some pretty hokey moments, the ending is a lot of fun and unexpected. The vamp herself isn’t the best actress, but APOCALYPSE NOW’s Tom Mason makes up for it as a hustler with an eye for vengeance.

Episode 1.10: Pillow Talk
Directed by Carl Stine
Written by David Odell
Starring Ruth de Sosa, John Diehl, Mary Woronov


I loved this quirky episode about a man (MIAMI VICE’s John Diehl) who is bound to bring women back to his apartment to feed his flesh-eating bed who finally meets his match when he tries to lure in a woman with a similar problem (played by Mary Woronov). This one has a darkly comic wit that some of the other episodes reviewed this week lacked and definitely delivered on a different kind of monster. As if it was lifted right from Patton Oswalt’s DEATH BED: THE BED WHO EATS skit, this one is a load of laughs, especially the ending which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but still is a whole lotta fun.

Episode 1.11: Rouse Him Not
Directed by Mark Shostrom
Written by Michel Parry, Manly Wade Wellman (story)
Starring Alex Cord, Terrence Evans, Laraine Newman


Though there’s definitely talent in this episode with SNL’s Laraine Newman playing a painter who leases a home, not knowing that there’s a bubbling pool to the beyond in her basement and AIRWOLF’s Alex Cord’s turn as a silver sword carrying protector with intimate knowledge of the beasts bobbing around in said pool. But everything from the action to the suspense falls pretty flat here. There is supposed to be ties to some kind of witchcraft and there is a slimy monster that appears, but neither is fully realized as the witchcraft angle is quickly glossed over and the beast is only seen in shadow and quick cuts. The ending is especially odd as it refers to the former owner of the sword as if it were to mean something, but is just left dangling there before the credits begin rolling. This one is one of many episodes that I feel might have run a bit too long and the full story is on the editing room dustbin somewhere never to be seen. As is, this one is a snoozer of an episode.

Episode 1.12: Fool’s Gold
Directed by Greg Cannom
Written by Michael Reaves
Starring Jeff Conaway, Mary Cadorette, T.J. Castronovo, Debbie Lee Carrington, Greg Safel


The final episode of MONSTERS we’re looking at this week is directed by make-up artist extraordinaire Greg Cannom who has worked on everything from NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 to ALIEN3 to THE WATCHMEN to TITANIC. Here he takes on the legend of the troll and the way the wee beastie lures the greedy in with golden treasure. This is an especially girthy tale that really feels like it covers much more ground than your average episode of MONSTERS. We get some backstory into the mythos of trolls, there are some nice scenes of action as first a trio of tunnelers, including GREASE’s Jeff Conway, who discover the cave full of gold, then decide to raid it, and then find themselves trapped in a cave in battling the troll. While the troll is difficult to make out, the acting and action make up for it, keeping this episode rolling at a brisk pace right up until the somewhat intense ending. Next to the evil bed episode earlier in this column, this was my favorite episode of the week.

Previous MONSTERS Episode Reviews!
Season 1: Episodes 1.1-1.6

Look for more MONSTERS Episodes in two weeks!



Advance Review: In festivals soon!

DONE IN (2014)

Directed by Adam Stephen Kelly
Written by Adam Stephen Kelly
Starring Guy Henry, Gordon Styles
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


The less revealed about this diabolical little short the better for those lucky enough to catch this one at your nearest festival. It’s a short by AICN’s very own BritGeek Adam Stephen Kelly, and it appears BritGeek has been holding out on us in terms of his talent at writing and directing. I don’t know Kelly personally (it might surprise you that the folks at AICN are not all living in one basement together), but I do know after seeing this short little ditty I’d love to see more of Kelly’s work.

The story, short as it is, is a simple monolog from a man writing a note at a desk in a quiet home. The mood is dire, yet the scene is rather homey, though dimly lit. As the story goes on it’s evident that there is going to be a big reveal at the end, and I don’t think I’m ruining it by saying that there is one. Still, I’ll keep mum about it and let you look for this one and experience it yourself.

The final moments play out like the opener to a much broader and darker story, leaving you wanting to see more, which all good short films should do. DONE IN is touring fests, having been a selection at Cannes. You can find out when and where you can experience this dastardly little treat on its Facebook page here.


New this week on DVD !

SERIAL KILLER CULTURE (2014)

Directed by John Borowski
Written by John Borowski
Starring Matthew Aaron, John Borowski, Joe Coleman, Hart D. Fisher, Steve Giannangelo, Sam Hane, Joe Hiles, Rick Staton, David Van Gough
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Though some might find it morbid or in poor taste, there’s no denying that serial killers seem to fascinate today’s society. Maybe it’s purely voyeuristic, or maybe it’s acknowledging the dark side in ourselves by seeing how far other people are willing to go, or maybe it’s because of the media’s tendency to iconize, idolize, and emulate these monsters in man’s clothing. Of course, if the stories didn’t prove to be so popular, the media wouldn’t cover it.

All of these arguments as to the whys behind man’s fascination with the killers of other men are addressed in SERIAL KILLER CULTURE, a new documentary from John Borowski, a filmmaker who has made a career on documenting the true stories of some of the world’s most notorious of serial killers.

I met Borowski last year at Chicago’s Fantastic Fest, and talking with him briefly about this project and his previous documentaries on H.H. Holmes, Albert Fish, and Carl Panzram (I reviewed CARL PANZRAM: THE SPIRIT OF HATRED & VENGEANCE here and plan on reviewing H.H. HOLMES soon), one can tell the man not only knows his subject matter but also feels passionately about the darker side of man. What impressed me most about Borowski’s films is the fact that they don’t fetishize, demonize, or judge. He’s a documentarian through and through, preferring to have the subjects tell the tale rather than guide opinion. This can be said, too, about SERIAL KILLER CULTURE, which focuses on a wide variety of viewpoints from an even wider variety of people who have immersed themselves in one way or another in the world of serial killers.

The doc covers a lot of ground, from avid collectors of serial killer art to rock bands who write all of their song lyrics about serial killers and their crimes; from artists who respond to killings in their own unique style to collectors who put their findings on display for all to see. I admire Borowski for covering so much in so little time (the film clocks in at just under two hours), yet it never feels like he breezes past anything. Borowski gives each player in this doc center stage for a brief moment to state their personal beliefs on society’s fascination with serial killers, and their own reasons for immersing themselves. And I found each of the stories fascinating and could go on about each of the people interviewed, but instead I’ll just name as many as I can and leave it for you to seek out and experience yourselves.

Borowski mainly focuses on collectors of memorabilia, but some of the most fascinating segments focused on the peculiar niche of serial killer music. Metal bands like Macabre and Sparzanza’s rock, and the almost folksy punk acoustics of The Famous Crawlspace Brothers choose to center on songs about society’s madmen and their crimes. What interested me most was the way the film looks at these bands historically and compares them to minstrels and jesters, who often wrote songs in times of old about murders and devious acts. The doc delves into the world of comic books as well, with Hart D. Fisher, who published the controversial THE UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF JEFFREY DAHMER comic shortly after his capture and seems to wear the fact that society has cast him as a deviant for daring to publish such a book with pride.

There are also numerous collectors examined like Matthew Aaron, who is trying to keep the penny museums alive with his own collection of notorious memorabilia. Aaron trades his own artwork with serial killers for his extensive collection, which in itself is an ethical wicket, as oftentimes these collectors (not specifically Aaron, but many of them) send serial killers art materials in exchange for their artwork, and the incarcerated murderers respond possibly as a means to create, but more likely to feed egos and sustain notoriety. The film leads off with an extremely personal look into the mind of Rick Staton, a mega-collector who became infamous for being John Wayne Gacy’s art dealer, for lack of a better term, who developed a morally grey relationship with the serial killer in order to attain some of his artwork. Staton also admits to his fascination with Gacy, and then talks of his distancing from the subject matter once his son was born.

Other collectors, such as author Steve Giannangelo and artist Joe Coleman, elucidate on how these relationships are beneficial to the collectors, but how these relationships can often give someone the unique perspective that these serial killers are actually human beings with human emotions, though their acts might make you have their doubts. Coleman’s personal story of a hidden set of photographs he found in his father’s room as a kid is one of the most chilling segments of the documentary.

Joe Coleman also goes into his artwork, for which he immerses himself in information in order to channel the serial killer’s side of the story in his intricately surreal and haunting artwork. The work of two other artists David Van Gough, whose artwork delves into the deep symbolism of the Manson Murders and graphic artist Sam Hane, who does serial killer-inspired artwork collages in mixed media, are showcased at length showing both the artist’s talents and their intentions behind their artwork. Hearing these artists talk about their own work was a highlight for me, and just as fascinating as the horrific minds that inspired the artwork to begin with. Finally, director Borowski turns the camera onto himself, allowing us a peek into his own psyche and why he has formed a career on documenting and retelling the stories of horrible men and their acts in his films.

All of these viewpoints are raw and uncensored. The film pulls no punches in terms of asking hard questions about ethics, and it’s interesting to see how each collector/enthusiast justifies their fascination with the subject matter. References to the entire rogues’ gallery of villains such as Gacy, Dahmer, Manson, Speck, Ramirez, Fish, Bundy, HH Holmes and many others not only give detailed accounts of the crimes, but the memorabilia and artwork many of them have left behind. No matter what it is, there’s going to be someone out there collecting it. And while some of the collectors and artists featured in this documentary seem a bit too fascinated by the culture, it’s undeniable that we all are pulled into the phenomenon from time to time.

SERIAL KILLER CULTURE is an unrelenting film you won’t be able to look away from. In terms of sheer volume of memorabilia and artwork featured and the broad range of personalities showcased, it’s a film that will definitely satiate that bloodlust for those in need of a serial killer fix while delving into themes and territories that might just make you squirm a little.




New this week on DVD from Troma!

NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM (2010)

Directed by Marc Rohnstock
Written by Marc Rohnstock
Starring Thomas Sender, Manoush, Timo Fuchs, Mario Zimmerschitt, Alexander Andreszka, Tanja Karius, Saskia Neumüller, Mike Weishaupt, Denissa Schmidt, Toni Reckert, Patrick Bender
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Though they try, NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM is feather-light on story and as far as acting is concerned—forget about it! But that’s not what this film is about. This film from the ever-offensive and uber violent German Underground Horror scene is what it is and what it is—is a blood splattered gore fest that sets out to offend, nauseate, and make you want a shower after a viewing. And while I am usually attracted to more of a cerebral experience in my horror films, I have to admit; sometimes I just want to see gore and violence. And this film has it in gobs.

The story, as it is, follows not a group of teenagers out for a romp in the woods (though this film has a group doing that) and not a group of old friends out to blow off some steam (and this film has that too). It doesn’t even follow a newly wed couple out to rekindle their romance in a secluded locale (though again, this movie has that too). While those characters exist in the film, the movie itself follows a voiceless madman with a burned face who relentlessly stalks, kills, and abducts people over and over (including the teens, the old friends, and the newlyweds) and brings them back to a robed man in complete black-face who sacrifices his prisoners to appease a horned devil. Apparently, the mute man-brute and the hooded man are trying to bridge the gap between the devil’s dimension and their own which is basically just an excuse to kill a lot of people in gory ways.

And double-damn if this one isn’t gory as hell. NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM is a splatter-fiend’s wet dream with intestines torn out, faces mutilated, arms and legs chopped off, hearts torn out of bodies, and people parts ground into hamburger. This film revels in the excess of showing every drop of blood spilled and every slice and dice in close-ups that will make you want to view this film with goggles and a facemask. The thing about German Underground horror films like this one and NECROMANTIK (reviewed here) that is so effective is that the gore is so realistic looking, there is that sick feeling that there is a possibility that what you’re watching is some kind of snuff film. NECRONOS is mot likely not one, but with the level of sadism and the quality of the effects involved, you’re going to find yourself wondering if this is actually happening.

And while I definitely can’t say NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM is a good film, it is an effective slice of gore that will most definitely churn some stomachs. It’s the type of horror film that is not for everyone, but if you need a fix for tasteless grue and gore, NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM is going to do the trick.




New this week on Video On Demand!

LOCK IN (2014)

Directed by Mark J. Howard
Written by Mark J. Howard
Starring Roy Basnett, Jessica Cunningham, Stephen Greenhalgh, James Thompson, Tim Paley, Jeff Downs, Rachel Dargie, Simon Entwistle, Holly Chadwick
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Clowns are pretty polarizing. Some can feel the shit trickle upon sight of a clown. Others bust a gut in laughter. It’s pretty weird the effect clowns have on some people. In the UK, there has been a rash of creepy clowning going on in the streets—people dressed up as clowns terrorizing the populace, scaring people, and even going around town trying to break into homes. Who knows why, but I have to admit, in the right light and in the proper setting, a clown can be a scary, scary thing.

And that’s what LOCK IN has going for it. It’s a low budgeter, one of those films that could most likely be done by some of you reading, but the thing is writer/director Mark Howard has gone out and actually made a film starring a scary clown terrorizing the late shift workers in an office. There are scenes as the clown slinks his way around the corridors, somehow avoiding all cameras, and terrorizing those within that are lit ominously and somewhat effective in their execution. Those scenes are the saving grace for LOCK IN, though.

The script for the film feels pretty flimsy, as it simply is exactly what I described in the last paragraph: a clown roams around an office building and kills people. Now, simplicity is one thing, but without a punchy script it’s not going to fly, and I think the script for LOCK IN should have had some other eyes on it and maybe another run-through or two to make the clown a) funny and b) more menacing. Most of the “jokes” plop straight from the clown’s lips and hit the floor with a splat, and though a slinking clown in a corridor is creepy, the actual kills are rather flat as well. A solid run in the editing room may have done wonders for the latter, as some of the scenes linger way too long to be effective.

But still, I have to give this film points for having a pretty creepy clown doing pretty creepy things. LOCK IN is not the most substantial or tense of films due to script and editing, but those who quiver at the sight of clowns will most likely feel some of those same chills here.




New this week on DVD & digital download!

FRACTIONAL (2011)

Directed by Malcolm Deegan
Written by Malcolm Deegan
Starring Desmond Daly, Peter O'Toole, Donna Bradley, Paul Byrne, Paula Gahan,
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


While FRACTIONAL opens with a man bound to a chair with a number of tools of torture on a table beside him, my first notions that this was going to be another torture porn film were surprisingly and refreshingly wrong. The hint that there are horrible tortures only a heartbeat away is the fuel that drives FRACTIONAL and the reason it is far and above different from the same old torture stuff we all are sick of at this point.

The story takes place within an abandoned warehouse at an undisclosed location. The viewer is not privy to what’s the what in the opening moments, instead filmmaker Malcolm Deegan places the viewer in the same chair as the bound man as he isn’t really sure why he is in this predicament either. The man in the chair turns out to be a psychiatrist named John Hatchett (Desmond Daly) as revealed by one of his former patients and current captor David Crowe (Peter O'Toole—not that one…). Crowe seems to be a sadistic sort of man, one who has no hesitation to torturing a person for days on end. But instead of using the tools on the table beside the bound man, Crowe mentally dissects Hatchett over a period of five days. Over these five days, secrets and truths are revealed, forcing the viewer to challenge their perceptions as to who is the real sadist of the two.

FRACTIONAL is not a film you can just half-watch. In order to soak in the full effect and follow the story as it switches from the warehouse torture scene to the past, inching along the mystery and doling out important clues ever so sparingly. If you’re not the patient type, FRACTIONAL is going to be one of those films that’ll feel like torture, as it takes its sweet time in letting you know anything and even when it does, it doesn’t reveal it all at once. Though I can understand why this would be a maddening experience for some, I found myself intrigued by the story and finding out what would push Crowe to have such a rage-on for Hatchett.

The truth is revealed in the end, and it’s not the reveal I was expecting. I have to say the fact that the ending is so unconventional makes it all the more appealing to me. Still the standout feature of FRACTIONAL is the fact that there’s not a lot of blood shed or pain induced. At least not the physical kind. FRACTIONAL’s strength lies in how powerful it conveys the suggestion of torture and horror without really going there; making it sort of an anomaly in horror, and a refreshing anomaly at that.




Available now for digital download here!

BLOOD COUSINS (2012)

Directed by Regan Arevalos, Jess Castro, Larry Garza
Written by Regan Arevalos, Jess Castro, Larry Garza
Starring Joel Settles, Regan Arevalos, Larry Garza, Jess Castro, Rodney Garza, Roy Lopez Jr., Martina Griffin
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


While this might sound somewhat like a joke, BLOOD COUSINS can be best described as a Tex-Mex SWINGERS with a witch. While this is very much a horror film, BLOOD COUSINS is at its best when it simply follows the antics of its four latino stars, Joel Settles, Regan Arevalos, Larry Garza, & Jess Castro, who decide to go on a road trip from California to the Texas Rio Grande Valley to honor their dead grandmother. While there are moments of seriousness and moments of sheer terror, I reacted the most when it was just these four longtime friends (who happen to be cousins) bouncing off of one another with one liners, digs, putdowns, and practical jokery.

Settles, Arevalos, Garza, and Castro are a part of a comedy troupe called Comedia A Go-Go, and the comfort they exude around one another is infectious. This is definitely a guys’ film about a bunch of friends on a road trip. Now, I’ve seen many road trip films, and not nearly enough of them have what it takes to make me want to join them, but these guys are fun. One of my favorite ongoing jokes in the film is that these four Hispanic guys go on about their culture, but when a waitress asks them about their bill in Mexican, none of them know how to speak the language. It’s this type of self effacing humor that permeates this film and makes it accessible and fun for those of Hispanic origin and those who are not. Though they are rowdy and filthy-minded, these are also very good guys who set out to do a noble thing. Because of this they can be moronic and crude, and they still gained my support as they make their way to their grandmother’s grave and earned my sympathies when they take a solemn moment to honor her.

And because I liked these guys so much, it’s really hard to watch the latter twenty minutes of this film as they all are put into peril of the most serious order. The tone definitely switches in BLOOD COUSINS at the hour mark, as a curse from a bruja that is hinted at in the opening flashback scene comes back to haunt the four cousins in the present. And as potent as the laughs are in the first hour, the chills are just as effective as souls are stolen, minds are opened, and much blood is shed. The final moments of this film are horrifying, but even more so given how much I came to like these four gents in the first hour.

BLOOD COUSINS’ success or failure is going to hinge on whether or not you are able to hang with these four smart-assed guys. For me, it was a hell of a lot of fun going on this road trip with these guys. The film packs a powerful one-two punch of laughter and scares. I found the level of intensity in this one escalates to in the final moments are pretty potent. The comedy quartet of Settles, Arevalos, Garza, and Castro are fantastic, and I can’t wait to see what Comedia A Go-Go have in store for me next. BLOOD COUSINS is a story about families and curses, but it doesn’t forget to make you laugh along the way to lure you in so that the horror is all the more vicious by the end.




New this week on DVD from Indie Go Movies!

2 LITTLE MONSTERS (2012)

AKA LITTLE MONSTERS
Directed by David Schmoeller
Written by David Schmoeller
Starring Charles Cantrell, Ryan LeBoeuf, Christopher Boeres Hipp, Michael Brown, Patrick Sean Clark, Jeremy Cloe, Danny Countess, Shana Dahan, Deana Deatherage, Kynan Dias, Dee Drenta, Diana Eden, Tony Foresta, Clarence Gilyard Jr., Chaz Greco,
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


The bravest and ballsiest film of the week has got to be 2 LITTLE MONSTERS, which dares go into real horror territory and leaves the masked serial killers and zombies in its dust. Directed by CRAWLSPACE and TOURIST TRAP director David Schmoeller, this tense thriller is bound to cause discomfort in some of its viewers and is likely to spawn some heated debate after viewing.

The story follows Carl and James (played by Charles Cantrell and Ryan LeBoeuf respectively) who, as children, abducted and murdered a young boy from a mall. Adding to the shock, the two children seemed to do all of this on a lark with no planning or thought at all put into the crime. Those thinking this is the type of film which wallows in the crime itself should rest easy. The crime is shown tastefully in the beginning, and while it is ever-present in the film, the story moves ahead 8 years after the two children have turned 18 and are released as adults. The story centers on the controversy of allowing these two children, now grown adults, back into society. It’s a broadly scoped film—-one that takes multiple stances and offers up perspectives most won’t be comfortable with. Both sides of the coin (to the extreme) are illustrated, from nuts who want to hunt down the two boys to a ratings-crazy talk show host who puts a thousand dollar bounty on the murderers’ heads (who have since been given new identities and moved to a different area).

The perspective of the two murderers are central to the film, as one (James) seems to be terrified of reentering society and having anything he does misconstrued as a sign he will return to his murderous ways, while the other (Carl) doesn’t give a shit and starts blazing a murderous path back towards his former friend. But the two released murderers are not just black and white, and that’s where writer/director Schmoeller impressed me the most. Upon arriving at his new home, James immediately notices two girls (one of them a ten year old, which coincidentally is the same age he was when he committed the murder) and despite his fear of being judged, he finds himself attracted to reach out to them for friendship. While it appears innocent, there are moments to suggest that James might have darker things in mind. At the same time, while Carl is definitely walking down a dark path again upon leaving lock-up, he does try his hardest to get into art school and reach out to his mother, who hasn’t seen him since he was a small child. By painting these characters in three dimensions, Schmoeller adds even more layers of complexity to this film.

There are people who rush to judgment as soon as a crime against a child is committed, and while this is one of the most atrocious acts one can make, it is ignorant to think that the child alone is the victim. In Schmoeller’s brave film, he addresses that complex concept which some will simply have a hard time fathoming. While some of the acting is not top tier, everyone in the film, especially the actors playing the two now-adult murderers (Charles Cantrell and Ryan LeBoeuf),do a really good job of conveying this story, and Schmoeller, who blew my mind in the 80’s with TOURIST TRAP takes a much more subtle approach here with similar results. If you’re of an open mind and are willing to have the debate this film will most definitely incite, I recommend you check out 2 LITTLE MONSTERS--a true crime thriller that is carefully constructed and ventures down paths few films are brave enough to go.




New this week from Revolver Entertainment and One Eyed Films (Also available on iTunes)!

ABOUT A ZOMBIE (2012)

aka PORTRAIT OF A ZOMBIE
Directed by Bing Bailey
Written by Bing Bailey, Laura Morand Bailey
Starring Patrick Murphy, Geraldine McAlinden, Rory Mullen, Todd Fletcher, Paul O'Bryan, Sonya O'Donoghue, Steven Neeson, Ciaran Davies, Sara Eavan, Gerry Shanahan, Neill Fleming
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Formerly known as PORTRAIT OF A ZOMBIE, ABOUT A ZOMBIE is a mockumentary-esque film that most definitely stands high above the rest of the zombie movie herd. Reminiscent of HAROLD’S GOING STIFF (another mock doc following an elderly man who is suffering from early onset of zombie-ism – reviewed here), ABOUT A ZOMBIE is a mix of comedy, gore, drama, and action that works in ways few others have.
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The film centers on a dysfunctional film crew that sets out to film a documentary about a particularly bizarre circumstance that has arisen in Dublin, Ireland. A young man named Billy (Patrick Murphy) mysteriously became Patient Zero at work in a factory and has since become a mindless zombie, but that doesn’t stop his family from loving him. Keeping Billy straightjacketed and muzzled in the attic, Lizzy (Geraldine McAlinden) and her husband Danny (Rory Mullen) are optimistic about taking care of their son, yet they understand that their situation is unique. Much like films like MAN BITES DOG and BEHIND THE MASK where the documentary film crew becomes involved in the subject matter they are filming, the film crew (led by an ambitious and ethically misguided American director played by Todd Fletcher) becomes entangled in the drama as the family fights with neighbors and the local mob, which has become a sort of zombie elimination squad while struggling with keeping their undead son unharmed.

Using zombies as metaphors for this and that is not new, but it’s certainly done well here. It’s all very complex, and what impressed me the most about ABOUT A ZOMBIE is that it tackles a ton of real life issues fairly completely while never skidding off the rails. This is a broad scope film that focuses pretty clearly on one family’s struggle, but never forgets the rest of the world around it and how keeping a zombie alive in one’s house might affect the rest of the community. Everything from zombie rights in terms of marriage to vegans trying to convince zombies to stop eating meat is covered. Most of these issues are tackled with a tongue firmly in cheek and are effectively funny. On top of that, the rules the unethical documentary director is willing to bend in order to get his film muddy up the water even more.

There are also serious issues at play here. Metaphorically, this can be likened to a story about a family going to extreme lengths to protect a mentally handicapped or psychiatrically unsound family member by keeping them in their own home rather than putting them in an institution where the person could be cared for appropriately. This is best exemplified through the character of Billy’s mother Lizzy (Geraldine McAlinden), who steals the show here as it is absolutely heartbreaking to see the lengths to which she will go to keep her son safe and under her care. There are scenes here that will definitely raise emotions about the extreme sacrifices she makes to keep her family together.

But it’s not all metaphor, drama, and comedy. Not since Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD has there been so much gleeful zombie gorging and tearing of flesh. ABOUT A ZOMBIE doesn’t shy away from showing some absolutely stomach-turning moments, especially one that is bound to offend many which I will keep secret. Sure the Walkers in THE WALKING DEAD nom on intestines, but the zombies in ABOUT A ZOMBIE are more feral dog-like in their feasting habits, burying their faces in the gore, then staring at its next prey with a blood-gurgling snarl.

It’s a crapshoot when you put a zombie flick in the player these days. More often than not it’ll be an uninspired snooze, but occasionally, as with ABOUT A ZOMBIE, people with imagination and talent decide to make a zombie flick, and it’s almost worth sifting through the zombie trash to find it. By smartly thinking big while paying attention to the small emotional beats (and not forgetting to use copious amounts of gore), ABOUT A ZOMBIE is proof the zombie genre is still alive and kicking.




New this week on DVD/BluRay from RAM Releasing!

FORGETTING THE GIRL (2012)

Directed by Nate Taylor
Written by Peter Moore Smith
Starring Christopher Denham, Lindsay Beamish, Elizabeth Rice, Paul Sparks, Anna Camp, Phyllis Somerville, Joel de la Fuente
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Though it might be a bit of a stretch to call this film a straight up horror movie, it surely isn’t a stretch to brand FORGETTING THE GIRL as the favorite film I saw this week. The film, written as a short story by Peter Moore Smith and adapted to screen by the same author, is an electrifying dissection of a damaged man dealing with flawed logic and social handicaps in his own unhealthy way.

Christopher Denham is absolutely amazing in the starring role of Kevin Wolfe, a likable yet socially awkward professional photographer who makes it a point to ask out every girl he photographs. Occasionally, playing the odds, some of them even accept his offer for a date, but Kevin, being socially deficient, somehow scares them away with his intensity and tendency to take things a bit too fast (professing his love after one date, for example). In order to get over his rejections and failed attempts at connection, Kevin deals with this in sometimes healthy ways, like reading a book or taking up a new hobby, or sometimes unhealthy ways like obsessing about them, calling them relentlessly, and most often more severe deviant and malicious behavior towards his rejectors or anyone else who happens to be in his vicinity.

Just from this description, it’s pretty obvious that FORGETTING THE GIRL is not your typical horror film in that the terrors at play here are much more on a psychological level. Kevin is a deeply disturbed individual scarred by an event from his past that left deep emotional wounds. As Kevin’s failed relationships pile up and his deviant behavior expands and grows more dangerous, the film works its way to a climax that is both shocking and emotionally resonant long after the credits.

The highlight here, and the thing that sells this complex character piece, is actor Christopher Denham, who also appeared in SHUTTER ISLAND as an inmate. In this film, Denham plays a typical Norman Bates type character: seemingly harmless and downright charming one minute, bound to pounce on you the next. The emotional ride this actor is able to take the viewer on is mesmerizing, and definitely assures this actor is someone who will one day be a star to take note of. Denham’s confession to the viewer with a slideshow playing in the background is an amazing way to peel back the mask of normalcy Denham’s Kevin character wears to reveal a deeply troubled soul.

If you like your horror on the psychological side, FORGETTING THE GIRL is a surefire pleaser. Directed tightly and meticulously, acted superbly, thematically emotionally crippling, FORGETTING THE GIRL is a film not easily forgotten.




New this week on DVD and digital download from Phase 4 Films!

HOUSE OF GOOD & EVIL (2013)

Directed by David Mun
Written by Blu de Golyer
Starring Rachel Marie Lewis, Christian Oliver, Marietta Marich, Jordan Rhodes, Rob Neukirch, Bo Keister, Blu de Golyer
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


It’s interesting the way horror films have shied away from the “old dark haunted house” concept and instead have gravitated toward the “haunted mind” concept. Films like THE CONJURING, INSIDIOUS, SAFE HOUSE, and the like answer the question “why don’t they just move out of the house?” by having the haunts follow the hauntees even after the boxes are packed and unpacked. In the case of HOUSE OF GOOD AND EVIL, while we are not totally aware of the haunting in the opening moments, as the story proceeds, it’s safe to say those ghosts were there, and the change in locale only intensified the haunt.

The story follows Maggie (played by Rachel Marie Lewis) and Chris, her husband (Christian Oliver), who in the opening moments are seen in silhouette arguing in their apartment. As the argument intensifies, Chris pushes Maggie down, and the next scene shows Maggie (who is very pregnant) being rushed to the hospital by Chris. Shoot forward in time a bit, and we see Chris and Maggie sans baby and we can assume the worst has happened. Looking for a new start in a new home, the couple purchases a house in the country-—a split home with an elderly couple who live next door, but are never seen. Though moving in is going smoothly, Chris (a fireman by profession) is called into work to take care of a nearby forest fire, leaving Maggie all alone in a large house in the middle of nowhere by herself. Even before Chris leaves, Maggie begins experiencing weird happenings such as opening and closing doors, and though the realtor said the house has no phone, she keeps hearing a phone ringing and strange sounds of an argument in the other half of the home occupied by the unseen old couple. But after Chris leaves, these occurrences intensify and begin pushing Maggie to the limits of her sanity.

HOUSE OF GOOD AND EVIL has its fair share of creaking doors and spooky sounds blamed on the wind, but the horrors run deeper here. Writer Blu de Golyer and director David Mun have put together quite an intricate little horror story, more about the horrors of past sins than ghosts rattling chains. Still, as we experience the horrors that plague Maggie, they are well done and the film filled its content with real scares rather than the non-substantial fluff jump scares big budget films seem to be stuffed with.

While I had an inkling of what was happening by the time the ending came around, I still enjoyed the ride this film took me on. The bulk of the heavy lifting of this film lies on the back of actress Rachel Marie Lewis, who is at times enchanting and at other times utterly sympathetic. The strength of her performance here hopefully will lead to bigger and better things. HOUSE OF GOOD AND EVIL is deeper and more complex than most haunted abode flicks, and though all might not exactly be what it seems, I think it will definitely cause a rattle in your rafters if you check it out.




Advance Review: Currently touring fests!

BARRONWOOD (2013)

Directed by Jason Williams & Nathaniel Ross
Written by Jason Williams & Nathaniel Ross
Starring Sarah Pearson, Brian Green, Nathaniel Ross, Jason Williams, Cyn Dulay, Ryan Charles and Bruce Spielbauer
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


One of the bastard stepchildren of the found footage subgenre is the faux ghost hunting show gone wrong film. I’ve checked out quite a few of these films, and have to say that each of them tap into that thing that is missing from most ghost hunting shows on cable these days—-that is, something actually happens. I don’t know how many hours I’ve sat watching these ghost hunting shows hoping for the answer to “What the hell was that?” to actually be something paranormal, but alas, nary an answer or proof of the paranormal is shown. In the sense that something paranormal actually occurs (though it is fictional), these types of films, including BARRONWOOD, are satisfying.

BARRONWOOD is a low budgeter. I say this not to apologize for the film’s rough edges in terms of acting and pacing, but to warn those with little tolerance for low-fi films to move on. There are some positive blips in terms of acting throughout, as some stand out as pretty good, or at least they seem to be legitimately frightened at the surroundings. BARRONWOOD is at its best when it soaks in its haunted surroundings--the titular abandoned mental institution with a shady past. The build-up to the actual investigation is actually quite good as stories of abuse, neglect, and downright torture are recanted along with an interview with the owner of the property, a retired psychiatrist who used to work at the facility.

There are some problems with repetition during the investigation, as seemingly the same thing happens to numerous investigators one after another with the same reactions to the survivors. Also, the already tired use of the “drag away from the camera” scare used in the last moment of REC and imitated too many times to count in many, many films after, is used numerous times in this film as unseen forces drag investigators away from the viewer, off stage left or stage right.

But because of the low budget, the filmmakers rely on the ambience--which is genuinely spooky, as most abandoned hospitals are. So conveying an overall feeling of creep is pretty successful in BARRONWOOD, and despite some amateurish moments, it does succeed in having something ghostly actually happening, which gives it a leg up on most ghost hunting shows you see on TV these days.




And finally…Here’s a twisted little tale from yesteryear called THE LITTLE OLD LADY from the old radio series LIGHTS OUT! Enojoy!



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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