Review

AICN HORROR looks at AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR! LEGENDARY! SON OF GHOSTMAN! WITHOUT WARNING! MONKEY BOY! CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO! ALL DARK PLACES! THE DEN! MONSTERS TV Series! LITTLE GIRL LOST! & PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE!

Published at: Aug. 8, 2014, 1:50 p.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 time around this demented carousel of carnage we have a romantic horror host, a surreal clown nightmare, a flesh-eating disease, a homeless simian, chat room chills, a soul-hopping demon, a horrific rock opera, more MONSTERS episodes, Palance vs an alien, and Dolph vs. the Geico Gecko!

But before we dive into the reviews, I wanted to post a reminder for those in the Chicago area to be sure to head out to Flashback Weekend this weekend (August 8-10th) for Chicago’s premiere horror convention. No self-respecting horror fan should miss this amazing gathering of horror celebrities, dealers, and fans. You can check out the full schedule here, but the one thing no one will want to miss is that Robert Englund will be donning his full Freddy Krueger makeup for one last time TODAY at the Con! The whole thing is happening at the usual spot: Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare, 5440 N River Road, Chicago IL. I’ll be tooling about the festival all weekend. Hope to see you there!

On with the horror reviews!


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

The Boo Tube: MONSTERS Season 3 Episodes 1-6 (1991)
Retro-review: PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974)
Retro-review: WITHOUT WARNING (1980)
Send in the Clowns: ALL DARK PLACES (2012)
MONKEY BOY (2009)
SON OF GHOSTMAN (2013)
LEGENDARY (2013)
CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO (2014)
THE DEN (2013)
AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR (2014)
And finally…Jeff Farrell’s LITTLE GIRL LOST!


The Boo Tube: Collected DVD Box Set new this week from eOne Entertainment!

MONSTERS: THE COMPLETE SERIES Box Set

Season Three: Episodes 1-6 (1991)
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, at 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 3.1: Stressed Environment
Directed by Jeffrey Wolf
Written by Benjamin Carr
Starring Carol Lynley, Victor Raider-Wexler, Scott Weir, Kathleen McCall


Benjamin Carr, who later wrote HEAD OF THE FAMILY and CURSE OF THE PUPPET MASTER for Full Moon, writes this really fun episode about a scientific experiment gone wrong. A colony of rats have been placed in a stressed environment filled with pesticides, rat traps, and other methods of death which has forced the vermin to evolve at a faster rate than usual. The result is primitive rat warriors with tools sharpened with their teeth and claws and horrible attitudes. This one is made fun with some stop motion and puppet rats and a decent script which hits all the right science gone wrong notes rapidly due to the twenty minute constraints of the episode. “Stressed Environment” is one of the more fun episodes of the week.

Episode 3.2: Murray’s Monster
Directed by Scott Alexander
Written by Scott Alexander
Starring Joe Flaherty, Miriam Flynn, Teresa Ganzel, Marvin Kaplan


Scott Alexander, who wrote THE PEOPLE VS LARRY FLINT, MAN ON THE MOON, and ED WOOD, probably isn’t including this episode on his resume. While the comedic cast is impressive with SCTV’s Joe Flaherty, CHRISTMAS VACATION’s Miriam Flynn, THE TOY’s Teresa Ganzel, and ALICE’s Marvin Kaplan, this one is a dud from the get go. Flaherty plays a burnt out shrink who is more in enamored with his secretary (Ganzel) than his wife (Flynn). When a new client arrives, he exhibits the ability to change into a giant ape creature. Rudimentary pop psychology is abundant, making this one feel all the more dumb, and with the poorly written comedy, this feels more like one of the last skits of the night on an episode of SNL than anything else. It’s certainly not scary and certainly not one of the better episodes of MONSTERS.

Episode 3.3: Bug House
Directed by Kenny Myers
Written by Josef Anderson, Lisa Tuttle (story)
Starring Karen Sillas, Robert Kerbeck, Juliette Kurth


Kenny Myers, who provided makeup effects for everything from SCREAMERS to JOHN CARTER, directs this episode written by horror auteur Lisa Tuttle, and this one is full of creepiness of a quality that I don’t often associate with the MONSTERS series. While the series is a lot of fun, most of the time, aside from the horror FX, the stories are a bit weak. This one puts story first and really unfolds a suspenseful and twisted tale of a woman who is concerned when she visits her pregnant sister who has not only taken residence in her father’s house, but also begun a relationship with a strange man. Age-old sibling rivalry begins and the man seems all for bedding both sisters. But what of the strange chirping and crunching in the walls? And why is her sister’s pregnant belly moving like that? The answers are unnerving, and with some fantastic gross-out effects involving all kinds of bugs and larvae. This episode will definitely get under your skin.

Episode 3.4: Cellmates
Directed by Stephen Tolkin
Written by David Odell
Starring Maxwell Caulfield, Ferdy Mayne, David Sage, Geno Silva


Stephen Tolkin, who wrote the shitty 1990 CAPTAIN AMERICA movie, directs this episode which was written by David Odell, who wrote SUPERGIRL and MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (but on the plus side also wrote THE DARK CRYSTAL). GREASE 2’s Maxwell Caulfield is tossed into a jail cell next to BARRY LYNDON’s Ferdy Mayne. While Caulfield looks like the more dangerous one, if there’s one thing the MONSTERS series has taught us, it’s that appearances can be deceiving. This bizarre episode ranks high on the wackadoodle scale as the old man turns into a milky white ooze and melts away in the moonlight, only to return later in the episode to haunt Caulfield. Lots of slimy effects go on here, but not a whole lot of sense or explanation, and while it’s fun seeing people melt into piles of goo, there really is no point to this insane episode.

Episode 3.5: Outpost
Directed by T.K. Hudson
Written by Michael Reaves
Starring Juliet Mills, Tony Fields


Michael Reaves, who wrote a lot of cartoons like BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and GARGOYLES, does a decently tragic sci fi story of a man who was genetically designed to work on an alien planet’s environment and finds himself very, very lonely. When another scientist is sent to check on him, there’s a lot of melodrama going on and this episode takes its time to grab you, but it ends up being a pretty strong story. The monster makeup isn’t the best as Tony Field’s monster makeup looks like a combination between the Draak’s from ENEMY MINE and the giant turd creature Bill Paxton turns into at the end of WEIRD SCIENCE. The lumpy facial appliances, though they look sad, are hard to feel empathy towards, making a lot of the melodrama fall flat. Still, this is another one with a strong story, and in terms of MONSTERS episodes, that’s a rarity.

Episode 3.6: The Hole
Directed by David Severeid
Written by Haskell Barkin, Wayne Berwick & Gerry Conway (story)
Starring Ahmad Rashad, Antone Pagan, Glenn Kubota, Mitchell McCormack, Guy Helson, Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini


This episode has quite the hybrid of writers behind it with Haskell Barkin who wrote a lot of Hanna-Barbera cartoons like LAFF-OLYMPICS and JABBER JAW, Wayne Berwick who directed THE MICROWAVE MASSACRE, and Gerry Conway, who not only wrote FIRE & ICE but also created Marvel Comics’ THE PUNISHER. This episode also sports an eclectic cast of sports announcer Ahmad Rashad, STRIPES’ Antone Pagan, and boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Macini making a cameo as a tale about Viet Nam tunnel rats becomes a desperate chase for survival again scores of tunnel zombies bursting from the walls. While no Oscars will be handed out for this episode, it does take advantage of an original environment which is already claustrophobically scary and makes it more so by adding earth-boring monsters. Add a bit of heavy-handed commentary about America’s involvement in Viet Nam and this is an episode more entertaining than most.

Previous MONSTERS Episode Reviews!
Season 1: Episodes 1.1-1.6, 1.7-1.12, 1.13-1.18, 1.19-1.22, 1.23-1.24
Season 2: Episodes 2.1-2.5, 2.6-2.10, 2.11-2.17, 2.18-2.24

Look for more MONSTERS Episodes in two weeks!



New on BluRay from The Shout Factory!

PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974)

Directed and written by Brian DePalma
Starring William Finley, Paul Williams, Jessica Harper, & Gerrit Graham
Retro-review by Ambush Bug


I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of musicals, but when one is good, I have to admit it. Brian DePalma took beats from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, FAUST, THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, and THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO and married them in a BIG LOV- style marriage and put it to music and somehow it worked. PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE is probably my favorite of DePalma’s films. It’s pretty much a flawless mishmash of classic horror set to music.

Winslow is a struggling musician trying to make it big, so he goes to hit music producer Swan with his opera. Swan likes the music, but not Winslow, so he gets the nebbish bard arrested and in a daring escape Winslow suffers an accident in a record press scarring his face and driving the musician mad with revenge. Now Winslow haunts Swan’s rock music hall, dubbed The Paradise, and longs to see his music sung by the beautiful Phoenix and will murder anyone who gets in the way of making her a star. The story proves to be a relentless Faustian tragedy that surprisingly resonated with me deeply. It’s one of those stories that’s been told before, but with this director and with this cast, and especially with these songs, it all works so well.

How many musicals have you seen where the story is shit but the music is good, or vice versa? Here both are absolutely phenomenal. The soundtrack is written by Swan himself, Paul Williams, and the music proves to be both melodically haunting and lyrically tragic. Sure some of it proves to be a product of its disco era time, but most of the songs are surprisingly beautiful, my favorite being Williams’ shiver-inducing “The Phantom’s Theme”, which you can hear below (though at times the vocals remind me of SOUTH PARK’s Trey Parker). Check it out.



The cast is fantastic. Winslow is played by William Finley (who also appeared in DePalma’s haunting SISTERS) and though he’s not very likable as the whiney musician done wrong, he is absolutely fantastic behind the bird-shaped mask of the Phantom. Though his kills are supposed to be comedic, his performance is seething with such intensity and seriousness that it still comes off frightening even when he’s killing someone angrily with a plunger.

Another achievement in casting brilliance is placing musician Paul Williams (probably best known for songs like “Just an Old Fashioned Love Song”, “Rainbow Connection”, and “Rainy Days & Mondays”, but I’ll always know him as Little Enos from the SMOKEY & THE BANDIT films) into the role of Swan. He’s literally the Devil in this film, asking for contracts signed in blood. His smug and smarmy demeanor makes him one of horror’s truly memorable and original villains.

Rounding out the cast is Phoenix played by Jessica Harper (best known for her starring role in SUSPIRIA), who is absolutely gorgeous and is surprisingly good at singing (although it is obvious she isn’t a pro at flexing the golden pipes). The way the three of these characters dance around with one another is operatic. Swan seduces Phoenix. Swan seduces Winslow. Winslow seduces Phoenix. Phoenix seduces the crowd. In the hands of bigger name actors, this wouldn’t have been so effective, but here, Finley is the born loser turned seething monster, Harper is the hollow-eyed muse, and Williams is the devilish imp gleefully manipulating them both.

Many of the tricks one has come to expect from a DePalma film are front and center in PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. There’s an over-attention to mechanics and the construction of intricately played out scenes. There’s the split screen communicating the sequence of events occurring all at once. There’s the operatic ending which takes much time to construct and all but moments to destroy. If you’re a DePalma fan, this is pretty much the perfect example of what he can do right. I have a friend who hates DePalma and even he admitted after seeing PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE that it was a good film.

I have nothing but praise to toss towards PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. It’s one of those films I can watch over and over. Though THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW has developed a massive cult following, this is the horror musical that deserves it. If you’ve seen PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, you know what I mean. If not, I’m jealous that you get to experience its brilliance for the first time.




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

WITHOUT WARNING (1980)

aka ALIEN ENCOUNTERS, ALIEN SHOCK, IT CAME WITHOUT WARNING, THE WARNING (make up your mind, willya?)
Directed by Greydon Clark
Written by Lyn Freeman, Daniel Grodnik, Ben Nett, Bennett Tramer, Steve Mathis
Starring Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Tarah Nutter, Christopher S. Nelson, Cameron Mitchell, Neville Brand, Sue Ane Langdon, Ralph Meeker, Larry Storch, Lynn Theel, David Caruso, Darby Hinton, Mark Ness, & Kevin Peter Hall as the Alien
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug


Goofy as all get out, the impressive cast actually both helps and hurts WITHOUT WARNING in the end.

The story of WITHOUT WARNING is basically PREDATOR set in a small American town filled with old drunks and camping college kids. Though the alien’s motivations aren’t as clearly stated in PREDATOR, you get the gist of it as numerous cast members go right out and tell the viewer throughout the film about the alien’s hunting preoccupation. The story is one long arduous trek, as a group of campers run into an alien (right after it makes short work of a pair of hunters—played by Cameron Mitchell and MALIBU EXPRESS’ Darby Hinton and a cub scout coach—played by Larry Storch!). The survivors of that encounter make their way to a bar where we meet a loony war vet (Martin Landau) and a gruff outdoorsman (Jack Palance). Landau goes nuts and tries to kill the kids while Palance attempts to save them. Oh and in the last ten minutes, you get to see the alien.

The cast for this film is pretty amazing. Seeing Jack Palance wrestle with Martin Landau is something you don’t see every day. Add Mitchell, Storch, Hinton, David Caruso, and Ralph Meeker to the mix and you can play a game trying to pick out all of the familiar faces you’ll see. Tarah Nutter plays one of the campers with most of the screen time and does a great job of it, but her ass-length hair makes her resemble Cousin It when it isn’t in large braided pony tails. While the story is pretty simplistic and downright moronic at times, the cast does it’s best to elevate it to another level. Still, seeing Palance running towards the alien to do battle screaming “ALIEN! ALIEN!” over and over is something you can’t help but laugh at.

It’s a shame the alien isn’t seen fully until the end because it does look great. Kevin Peter Hall who played the Predator in PREDATOR 2 and the lovable Harry in HARRY & THE HENDERSONS plays another hunter alien here and while he isn’t given much to do but fling floppy Frisbee leeches at people. Still seeing the height of the alien in the distance and his simple stiff stature makes for an unnerving image. The most impressive thing about WITHOUT WARNING is the quality of the effects. Well, some of them. Rick Baker designed the simplistic, yet effective look of the bulb headed alien. He’s scary and really impressive looking with a pale complexion and hollow eyes. The one thing you’re going to take away from this film is a genuinely scary look of the alien’s head.

Now, the rest of the effects…not so great. While it is the ever-talented Greg Cannom’s work, it definitely isn’t his best. The Eggo waffles with teeth the alien flings at its prey are hilariously weird looking mid-fling. They’re floppy and stick to the victims loosely. Now, when the camera zooms in on the things; tentacley amoebas with pointed teeth, they get a little cooler, but for the most part, the alien’s weaponry will cause more chuckles than chills. There’s also a good amount of gore involved as all of those killed by the alien are strung up and found in a shed presented for all to see in later sequences.

One of the things that stands out in WITHOUT WARNING is the unconventional way the story unfolds. Most of the people are killed early and those who survive the first half hour end up being around for most of the film. Unlike most films which whittle their number down to one, this one sticks with its cast and allows them to evolve a bit more than your typical slasher. And while they don’t show the alien much, the Palance and Landau characters make it all more interesting. Greydon Clark seemed to have the foresight to know that really these two actors hamming it up in goofy, cartoony roles would be the highlight of the film.

Special features include an interview with the two camper leads Tarah Nutter & Christopher S. Nelson looking back on the film. I always love the pieces as aged actors look back on their younger selves in the roles. There’s also an interview with Greg Cannom talking about the effects as well as one with producer Daniel Grodnik about the story leading up to filming. All in all, WITHOUT WARNING is a whole lot of fun and it looks better than ever, as is a Shout Factory staple. It’s goofy sci fi with tons of character actors bouncing off of one another. Don’t go in expecting to have your mind blown and I’ll bet you’ll have fun with it.




Send in the Clowns: Bug celebrates the release of his 4-issue miniseries comic book PIROUETTE by checking out some clownie horrors!

ALL DARK PLACES (2012)

Available on Netflix here!
Directed by Nicholas Reiner
Written by Nicholas Reiner
Starring Joshua Burrow, Stephanie Fieger, Daniel Brennan, Tim Douglas, Dylan Mars Loff, and Liam Seide as The Clown!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


I’m continuing my coverage of clown/circus related horror films and reminding folks about my own circus horror comic book PIROUETTE, which hits stands in September (Previews item code JUL14 0937 and issue #2 item code AUG14 1131). Today’s clownie horror is ALL DARK PLACES, a surprisingly effective little bit of cerebral carnage focusing on how bad parenting can be more harmful than a painted face any old day.

The marriage between Jamie (Stephanie Fieger) and her estranged husband Christian (Joshua Burrow) has been strained due to Christian’s drug use and childish lifestyle of following his dream to be a musician. Thinking of her child’s well being, she is concerned about how Christian’s irresponsibility affects their child Dylan (Dylan Mars Loff), but she still loves Christian. Giving the relationship one last try, Jamie hopes this time Christian will make right on his promises and the family can be whole. Overjoyed, Christian plans to get a solid job and start up his old band. Skeptical, Jamie is supportive, but knows where Christian’s pursuit of rock fame has led him before. Oh, and Dylan talks with a scary clown in his closet every night.

Writer/director Nicholas Reiner does a great job of making all of this melodrama digestible and not annoying. This film could easily slide into the realm of Lifetime movies of the week, but some edgy decisions with the script and an effectively creepy clown make it all feel suspenseful and a cut above those made for TV flicks. As both Jamie and Christian make terrible choices as parents, it seems Dylan is all but sure to be headed down this dark path with this weird clown in his closet. Reiner’s dialog, especially between the Clown (played sleazily by Liam Seide) and Dylan, has a whiff of sentimentality as the two of them seem to have a genuine friendship, but the sweaty clown also makes no bones about being dangerous and evil as well. What plays out is a metaphor on how bad parenting can really fuck a kid up more than anything.

There is a bit of ambiguity to this film, as both Jamie and Christian begin to see the clown in Dylan’s closet as well. It seems that when Dylan was younger, right before Jamie first left Christian, Christian perceived the actions of a party clown to be perverse and beat him up in front of Dylan. This left an undeniable mark on the relationship and seemingly, that clown haunts the while family to this day. Is this a ghost story? A story about the ghost of a killer clown? Or something more metaphysical and metaphorical about how sins of the past can never really go away? Director/writer Reiner provides no easy answers to any of these questions.

There’s no doubt not everyone should have children, and that seems to be the point Reiner is trying to make here as both parents make horrible decisions such as taking acid in order to pep up their sex life and having loud sex with their kid in the very next room. Yes, Christian is a narcissistic drug addict, but Jamie isn’t showing much good judgment by taking him back time and again. ALL DARK PLACES is a strong relational drama, using a scary clown as a metaphor for all of the family’s problems. It’s a film that gives shape to dysfunction and does a fantastic job of covering it in face paint and bright clothing and making it effectively scary. This isn’t a huge budgeter or flashy horror film, but ALL DARK PLACES does pack a strong metaphorical punch.



Here’s the creepy clown of the week!

Previous Send in the Clowns Posts!

THE LAST CIRCUS
THE FUNHOUSE
SPLASH AREA: NIGHT OF THE FREAKS/CLOWN HUNT
STITCHES
VULGAR
DOLL-BOY/ALL HALLOW’S EVE
THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL
MR. SARDONICUS
CLOWNHOUSE
FEAR OF CLOWNS I & II
CIRCUS OF THE DEAD
BITTER HARVEST
100 TEARS/KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE

And don’t forget to tell your comic store to order Ambush Bug’s new comic PIROUETTE #1 (July Previews item code JUL14 0937) and the new issue #2 available to order in August Previews (item code AUG14 1131) from Black Mask Studios!

Support your old pal Ambush Bug by checking out his new comic book!





New this week on DVD from Chemical Burn Entertainment!

MONKEY BOY (2009)

Directed by Antonio Monti
Written by Antonio Monti, Chiara Parodi, & Davide Zagnoli (screenplay)
Starring Giampiero Bartolini, Gianni Fantoni, Giovanna Gardelli, & Andrea Melli as the Monkey Boy!
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES reignited my fascination for monkeys amok films, which I must admit I’ve always had a soft spot for ever since I saw MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (the original) as a kid. While MONKEY BOY is on a much smaller scale than both of those films, it does tell a tale of brutality and survival through the lens of a fairy tale.

The film opens eloquently as we are treated to a story about a princess, a king, and a magic mirror. After an elaborate animated opening sequence, we see an old woman preparing a meal for a shadowed figure in her basement. She prepares the meal, taps the bowl with her metal bracelet, and drops it off on the floor of the basement. A hairy simian-like hand grabs the meal and begins scooping the mush towards its mouth, but a pair of burglars attack the old woman and accidentally unlock the basement door, unleashing a creature part-human, part-ape into the world. After making short work of the burglars, Monkey Boy wanders the countryside, encountering all sorts of seedy individuals along the way. Hopping from car to car and trying to stay out of sight, Monkey Boy encounters a prostitute being beaten up by a john. When the ape attacks the woman and seemingly attempts to rape her, the john (a connected mob type) calls in reinforcements to track the ape-man down. It all culminates in a standoff between hoods and the Monkey Boy in a farmhouse.

The thing that distinguishes MONKEY BOY from most films is that it treats the material as if it were a real life fairy tale. While the fairy tale at the beginning obviously has to do with the rest of the story, it’s not an exact retelling which will infuriate some, but make others to think a bit before understanding the connections. Monkey Boy’s story is an epic one and the narrative flips and flops unpredictably through time, revealing how the old woman came to be the caretaker of Monkey Boy and how he was conceived. Through all of these odd twists and turns, the film never lost me and ended up impressing me at the surprisingly sophisticated way in which the whole thing unfolds.

Though the makeup and performance as Monkey Boy are not revolutionary in how they were achieved, they are extremely well done. Monkey Boy himself looks very distinct and unlike other renditions of man-apes in other films, yet it’s totally recognizable that this is the missing link between man and ape. And while playing monkeys has been done before in everything from GORILLAS IN THE MIST to KING KONG, Andrea Melli’s performance under all of the Monkey Boy makeup fantastically walks the line between beast and man.

Though the budget for this film is low, the production values are higher than the norm and it seems filmmaker Antonio Monti knew where to put the money and how to use it wisely. With a convincing monkey suit, absorbingly simplistic animation, and a strong narrative, MONKEY BOY proves to be a tragic adult fable worth investing in.




Now available here on digital download and DVD!

SON OF GHOSTMAN (2013)

Directed by Kurt Larson
Written by Kurt Larson
Starring Devin Ordoyne, Angela Gulner, Kurt Larson, Marlon Correa, Matthew Boehm, Sara Tomko, Joe Lorenzo, Daniel McCann
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


And now for something a little different.

At first some might look at SON OF GHOSTMAN and wonder why it is showing up in this week’s AICN HORROR column. It’s basically a low budget rom com about a lovable loser who has just been fired and dumped who meets a young woman and the two fall in love with one another. Sure there are the usual speedbumps that occur in these types of films where the relationship has complications, coincidences occur just at the right time, and misunderstandings abound. But the reason why this film shows up here is that at its heart, SON OF GHOSTMAN is a love song to all of those late night horror host shows we all grew up on as a kid.

For most horror fanatics, you mention names like Elvira, Svengoolie, Zacherle the Cool Ghoul, Vampira, Dr. E. Nick Witty, and Sir Graves Ghastly, and you feel a warm rush come over you like taking a shot of good bourbon. For me, growing up in central Ohio, we had Dr. Creep and Fritz the Night Owl. Through their witty and ghoulish banter, I was introduced to so many B to Z grade films and I loved every second of them. That’s how our main character Denny (Devin Ordoyne) feels about the Ghostman, a local horror movie host who, like Peter Vincent in FRIGHT NIGHT, has seen better days. With Ghostman losing in the ratings to an up and coming douchebag horror host and former high school rival Rick (Kurt Larson) who dons the persona of Count Dracool, Denny is prompted one night on a drunken bender to don the Ghostman makeup and film himself as Son of Ghostman. When a local kid Zack (Matthew Boehm) sees his drunken tape, he sees something in Denny’s goofiness that is appealing, much like the Ghostman before him. With no other options to pursue, Denny teams with Zack and his failed actor buddy Carlo (Marlon Correa) to produce a local access rival to Count Dracool’s show. Meanwhile, Denny meets Claire (the lovely Angela Gulner) who just happens to be Zack’s sister. Complications arise as Son of Ghostman’s rise in popularity conflicts with Denny’s secret identity and to top it all off, Zack is set to go to college, but Denny doesn’t want to lose his top writer for the show. Cue typical rom com complications.

Though there is a fun scene of bloody gore of two men in werewolf masks devouring a clown, if you’re looking for frights and scares, SON OF GHOSTMAN isn’t going to provide you with any. It’s a love story, both about one’s love of a childhood idol and one of a more romantic nature. In many ways, it’s a story of how Denny the man boy with no prospects becomes a man. There are not a lot of bells and whistles to this film and its low budget is pretty obvious, but there’s a heart present from frame one that you can’t deny. Ordoyne is likable in the lead, as is the rest of the cast (even the Jason Sudekis-esque douchebag Count Dracool is fun). So while this story is a bit by the numbers in terms of rom coms, it definitely had the charm to make me stick with it until the end.

Like those old horror movie theaters hosted by those campy horror movie hosts, SON OF GHOSTMAN is not put together with the most expensive of material. But those horror host shows oozed with a love of the genre which made watching them so much fun. That same fun is communicated deftly in SON OF GHOSTMAN, and if you’re looking for a change of pace—a chance to warm the heart instead of rip it out and eat it--SON OF GHOSTMAN will most likely do the trick.




New on DVD from Lionsgate!

LEGENDARY (2013)

aka LEGENDARY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON
Directed by Eric Styles
Written by Andy Briggs
Starring Scott Adkins, Dolph Lundgren, Yi Huang, Nathan Lee, James Lance, Lydia Leonard, Le Geng, Murray Clive Walker, Viktor Sobtchak, Tom Austen, David Thomas Jenkins
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


LEGENDARY is better than your typical SyFy monster movie fare…but not by much.

I guess the cast (or the main two characters, Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren) elevate LEGENDARY to above middling as the two do add a lot to the film. Adkins and Lundgren play Travis and Harker, respectively, former monster hunter partners who have split up after an especially perilous encounter with a giant-sized Russian bear. Hearing about a possible new and enormous reptile rampaging through a remote Chinese village, Travis loads up his team of altruistic investigators who want to find these cryptids for scientific research. Getting wind of the same reptilian cryptid, Harker loads up his team of hunters who basically just want the beast as a trophy and heads out to the same location.

So we’ve got two teams after the same beast for different reasons with a history of not getting along with one another. Sounds like it could be the makings of a fun dumb action monster movie. Well, instead of all that director Eric Styles and writer Andy Briggs toss in not one but two badly written romance plots--between Travis and someone from Harker’s team and a lesser plot about a budding romance between the financier of the excursion and someone on Travis’ team. So much time is spent on developing these two relationships that it seems like the filmmakers had forgotten about the reptile all together. Still, it pops up every now and then, putting one of the four people in peril just long enough for them to be saved by the other and hold each other in an embrace that speaks multitudes of sappy love poems.

I could ignore the tedious romance scenes if the monster were actually scary, but instead, the beastie looks exactly like a giant Geico gecko. Big head and emoting eyes and all, the monster looks more like it wants to sell the team insurance than eat them. Sure, it may be anatomically accurate and I wasn’t expecting Godzilla, but still at least try to make it scary. It doesn’t help that the choices in how the camera captures the monster have it look like it’s small in the frame as well. Instead of ominous worm’s eye view shots or shots placing the monster next to objects that would highlight the beast’s supposed immense size, the camera simply catches the creature sitting on a rock or wandering through a cave. And while the CG is much better than the usual shark/lizard hybrid monster that pops up on SyFy, it still looks pretty rudimentary, especially when it shares scenes with people.

Yes, there’s a culminating fight between Dolph and Adkins, but it ends quickly and really isn’t that exciting. The promise of two teams of different philosophies butting heads is a plentiful one, but it’s never really milked for what it could have been in this story. Instead we get a big gecko swimming and running after people with insurance premiums in its eyes. LEGENDARY is watchable and brainless, but it certainly doesn’t live up to its name.




In select theaters and now on iTunes RLJ Entertainment!

CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO (2014)

CABIN FEVER 3
Directed by Kaare Andrews
Written by Jake Wade Wall (screenplay)
Starring Sean Astin, Currie Graham, Ryan Donowho, Brando Eaton, Jillian Murray, Mitch Ryan, Solly Duran, Lydia Hearst, Claudette Lali, Juan 'Papo' Bancalari,
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


While I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of CABIN FEVER, I will say I enjoyed it for what it was. The film delivered in the gore department and even had quite a bit of the blackest of humor. Throw in some well-placed shudders of utter paranoia and disgust in terms of twinging those germophobic gag reflexes and you have a film that leaves a mark.

While I missed the Ti West-directed middle chapter (and from what I heard, I actually didn’t miss much), I was pretty excited going into this third installment in the CABIN FEVER series mainly because of the inclusion of Kaare Andrews. Knowing Andrews from his work in comics and the decent little plane horror flick ALTITUDE, I was intrigued to see how Andrews’ comic book sensibilities would play out with a decent budget and talented cast.

And this film has both. While it isn’t blockbuster status, CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO does have fun with the flesh-eating virus concept by moving the locale from a cabin in the woods to a tropical retreat, following a group of lifelong friends going on one last huzzah before one of their own (Marcus, played by Mitch Ryan) gets married. Along on the trip is Marcus’ wild child brother Josh (played by the son of Trinity on DEXTER Brando Eaton), his noble best friend Dobbs (the James Franco-esque Ryan Donowho), and hottie tomboy Penny (Jillian Murray). Going off on a yacht to an uncharted island, the crew find sandy beaches, lapping waves, and scores of dead fish floating under the surface of the water. Writing the dead fish off to sharks, the crew continues to party, but unknowingly become infected with a virus of the worst kind. At the same time, at the other end of the uncharted isle, in a locked down facility, a man named Porter (Sean Astin) is being held against his will by scientists who claim that his resistance to infection from the disease may be the key to stopping a global outbreak.

The thing Andrews does with this film is that it ups the ante from a secluded shack in the middle of nowhere to a virus of massive proportions. While the film doesn’t go full on CONTAGION on us, it does raise the stakes and makes the dangers of spreading this disease much more potent. The fact that it has already infected the fish surrounding the isle suggests that no matter how much the scientists try to contain the virus, it’s already too late. But while this is a bigger film, Andrews is able to maintain that intimacy that made CABIN FEVER effective in the first place. As with the original, when characters touch, breathe, sneeze, cough, or merely walk by each other, there’s a palpable sense of danger in the air. Given that half of the film the kids don’t know they are infected and go about sharing bottles of beer and swapping saliva and other body fluids makes it all the more ooky.

But it’s not just the tone of the film that makes it an effective bout of germophobia. The over the top gore is going to please a lot of AICN HORROR readers. For the most part, everything is practical and things get increasingly messy as the movie goes on. The opening sequence (which I’ll get to later) is filled with all sorts of rotted away body parts covered in slime, blood, and ooze. While the opening scenes are the aftermath of the last outbreak and the infected are already dead, later in the film we see the outbreak on the living and it gets even more over the top as body parts are ripped off, melted away, and simply slide off by themselves. Sequences like an infected girl fight on the beach and a cunnilingus scene like no other ever put to film are two of many sequences that would have my guts heave if I wasn’t laughing out loud so hard.

While Andrews does a lot right here, there is an over-reliance on the old slo mo shots. While it’s awesome over the title sequence as Astin’s Porter is captured by infection suit-wearing agents with machine guns, the technique is used again and again later in the film with less of an effect with each use. On top of that, the narrative itself gets a bit muddy at the end. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense; it’s just that there’s a lot going on that feels gratuitous like the bloody girl fight and the extraneous ending that goes on a little too long. The ending itself makes it feel as if it was answering questions I never really cared to ask and felt kind of lackluster as soon as the survivors leave the island.

Still, CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO does what a good sequel should. It maintains the tone of the original while upping the ante and creatively running with some of the themes present in the first film. The gore is excellent, as is the acting. And with some scenes that are bound to go down as classics (I’m still squirming at the cunnilingus scene), there’s a lot of CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO worth catching.




New this week on DVD from IFC Midnight!

THE DEN (2013)

Directed by Zach Donohue
Written by Zach Donohue & Lauren Thompson
Starring Melanie Papalia, David Schlachtenhaufen, Matt Riedy, Adam Shapiro, Victoria Hanlin, Matt Lasky, Jeff Rubino, Rikin Vasani, Butch Anderson, Brian Bell
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Man, what a mixed up mess of a movie. The below review is going to be the epitome of a mixed review as there were parts of THE DEN that I really loved, but then again there were bonehead decisions where the film shoots itself in its own foot. In the end, I still don’t know if the parts I liked outweighed the parts I didn’t, but maybe I’ll get to that decision by the end of this review.

THE DEN is a found footage film like few others, utilizing Skype/Facetime chat as its first person POV and told completely from the confines of a computer screen. The film focuses on Elizabeth (Melanie Papalia), a tech-addicted woman of the modern age. She has convinced a group of beneficiaries to award her a grant to basically surf chatrooms in order to come up with trends and statistics to show they might find this mode of communication a beneficial advancement to modern communication. Excited as can be that she gets the grant for basically doing something she was already addicted to, Elizabeth sets out to work hard at clicking from one chatroom attendee to another striking up banal conversations with complete strangers. What could go wrong?

Well, a lot, actually. As Elizabeth scrolls through guys asking to see her tits and showing their penises, she comes across a still photo of a young girl. The image continues to pop up until it transitions to what looks like a murder. Notifying the police, Elizabeth is told that it is most likely a prank. That’s what her tech buddy boy toy tells her and it’s what her actual boyfriend attests to as well. Soon, whomever killed the girl in the photo begins tracking Elizabeth down and abducting and assaulting her closest friends, so instead of logging off, Elizabeth continues to click through the chatrooms—her addiction now to find this killer which results in her uncovering something much bigger than she ever imagined.

Problem one with THE DEN is that while Melanie Papalia is an extremely beautiful and likable actress with her adorable big brown eyes and girl next door demeanor, she is a horrible fucking person to everyone around her. She neglects her loving boyfriend in favor of her studies, flirts with a tech guy and leads him on as long as she has something that can help her and then pushes him away rudely and aggressively, and she prefers to interact with strangers in a chatroom instead of her pregnant sister, best friend next door, or anyone else. The thing is, and while I don’t want to speak for all women because I know they aren’t all like this, there is a large proportion of women today that are so tech-addicted that Elizabeth is absolutely believable despite her callous and rude nature. Seeing women and men with their noses down in their iPhones while eating at a table with others, walking across the crosswalk, working out at the gym, riding a public transit system, riding a bike, and other inappropriate times instead of interacting with the real world around them makes the amount of time Elizabeth has her face in front of a computer screen believable, but definitely not likable.

But I can take watching a movie with an unlikable protagonist. I was fine with it in another IFC Midnight film, CONTRACTED (reviewed here), and scores of other films. My main problem with THE DEN is that it feels like it ends at about the one hour mark, but instead of rolling credits, the story goes into a direction that really blows everything you know out of the water. While I don’t want to spoil too much, the decisions to open up the story into a much broader arena may keep in tune with the theme of the film, but it really does betray the intimate thriller that plays out in the first hour. I liked the first hour of this film following Elizabeth’s addictive tendencies and seeing them work against her, but while there is a bit poeticism in seeing a camera bolted to her head a la THE BUTCHER, as soon as the story no longer occurs on Elizabeth’s computer screen, the film ceased to be engaging for me.

Ending on a note more reminiscent of HOSTEL than anything else, THE DEN is filled with moments of great suspense, great acting, and an original take on the first person POV subgenre. And then the hour mark occurs and everything goes downhill from there. This one is worth checking out, but I found myself getting more and more frustrated with THE DEN the longer I was logged on to it.




New this week On Demand and in select theaters from IFC Midnight on September 12th!

AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR (2014)

aka HOME
Directed by Nicholas McCarthy
Written by Nicholas McCarthy
Starring Naya Rivera, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ashley Rickards, Wyatt Russell, Arshad Aslam, Rob Brownstein, Tara Buck, Laura Kai Chen, Assaf Cohen, Nick Eversman, Kent Faulcon, Ava Acres,
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Yes, I reviewed this last week in my Fantasia Fest recap. But this is a film worth reposting, especially since it’s available this week On Demand.

Filmmaker Nicholas McCarthy caught my attention last year with his horrific ghost story of indescribable terror, THE PACT (reviewed here). He returns with his sophomore effort, AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR, I’m happy to say he’s got another winner of a horror film on his hands.

Playing with both timeline and narrative structure, McCarthy offers up a somewhat complex tale of ghosts and demons with a little bit of witchcraft tossed in for good measure. The story is an unconventional one, but tells the tale of a demon with a singular purpose: find the one body that is right for him to take over completely. Throughout the story, this demon takes residence in a few people and as the tale spans different locales and times, the demon’s goal is the one thing tying it all together.

Three women are tragically linked to the demon’s designs. The opening scene has a young girl talked into selling her soul to a witch doctor by her boyfriend. We then trip forward in time to meet a pair of sisters, Vera and Leigh (GLEE’s Naya Rivera &, Catalina Sandino Moreno, respectively). Leigh is a real estate agent trying to sell a house with a dark past and Vera is an aimless artist who fears being alone all her life. When Leigh starts seeing the girl from the beginning of the film (Ashley Rickards from MTV’s AWKWARD) wandering around the empty house, she is led face to face with the demon--but Leigh is not who the demon wants.

The story is much more complex that your typical demon possession yarn. The demon possession is the common touchpoint of the film, and it’s established well and early, so no matter when or where the story goes, it’s easy to understand by following the demon’s burned footprints. McCarthy does a great job of making the leaps in time and place easy to follow, allowing the strength of the female leads to carry us along the way wherever they take us.

Lately, there seems to be a substitution of scares for Don Music head slams onto a keyboard. These sudden sharts of music are effective in unnerving the viewer, but these are empty scares filling space left for actual scary things to occur. There are plenty of music whammies in AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR, but what separates this film from the usual vacant fodder is that the musical punches are accompanied by equally frightening visuals. There are no false scares in AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR, just creepily set up scenes and visuals (accompanied by the music bump) that are the stuff of pure, uncut nightmare.

AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR is an unconventionally told version of a common tale, but with some fantastic performances by the female leads, some absolutely horrific shocks, one scary-ass demon, and a handling of suspense that is more potent than any I’ve seen in recent horror films, this is one horror film that is anything but common.




And finally…time for me to make like J.J. Jackson and introduce the premiere of a new music video!

Ahem…here’s a new music video/horror short film from GHOSTLIGHT director Jeff Farrell, who does double duty as a filmmaker and a musician. Off his new album "Color in the Black", which is available now on CD Baby and iTunes, let’s all snap our fingers and swoon to LITTLE GIRL LOST!




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. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.

Be sure to tell your comic shop to order his new comic PIROUETTE from July’s Diamond Previews (item code JUL14 0937) today!




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