Review

AICN HORROR looks at THE LAST BUCK HUNT! CHIMERES! THE SACRAMENT! PIECES OF TALENT! STRANGE FACTORIES! LEVIATHAN! CAM2CAM! VARSITY BLOOD! CONSIDER US EVEN! MONSTERS TV Series! ROSEMARY’S BABY (2014)! SUCCUBUS! & JERSEY SHORE MASSACRE!

Published at: Aug. 22, 2014, 10 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. Ahead there be sea monsters, surreal clowns, cheerleader killers, Guido executioners, evil babies, possible vampires, holy horrors, monsters in the wilderness, tied up women, an artsy obsessive, and more MONSTERS TV Series episodes!

On with the horror reviews!

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

The Boo Tube: MONSTERS Season 3 Episodes 7-12 (1990)
Retro-review: LEVIATHAN (1989)
Short Cuts: CONSIDER US EVEN (2014)
Send in the Clowns: STRANGE FACTORIES (2013)
JERSEY SHORE MASSACRE (2014)
VARSITY BLOOD (2013)
CAM2CAM (2014)
ROSEMARY’S BABY (2014)
PIECES OF TALENT (2014)
CHIMERES (2013)
THE SACRAMENT (2013)
Advance Review: THE LAST BUCK HUNT (2014)
And finally…Kim Sønderholm’s SUCCUBUS!


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

MONSTERS: THE COMPLETE SERIES Box Set

Season Three: Episodes 7-12 (1990)
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 3.7: Small Blessings
Directed by Roger Nygard
Written by Peg Haller, Bob Schneider
Starring Julie Brown, Kevin Nealon, Peggy Rea, David Spade


Roger Nygard, who directed the TREKKIES documentaries, helmed this episode which feels like an SNL skit that goes on more than a bit too long. It doesn’t help that it features early appearances by future SNL stars Kevin Nealon and David Spade, who basically play themselves, with Spade showing even when he’s supposed to be scary, he can’t be taken seriously. Julie Brown, not the wubba-wubba-wubba one, stars as a run-down mom exhausted from taking care of her newborn kid who just happens to be a toothy monster baby reminiscent of the tot from IT’S ALIVE. Antics galore go on with the baby getting loose from his steel cage and possibly eating the dogs in the neighborhood. This one ends on a surprisingly touching note, but it feels like it takes way too long to get there. And while there are some very funny people in there, I only found myself chuckling a few times at Nealon’s optimistic dad role, but mainly because I find the comedian to be hilarious.

Episode 3.8: Shave and a Haircut, Two Bites
Directed by John Strysik
Written by Dan Simmons
Starring Wil Wheaton, Matt LeBlanc, John O'Leary, Al Mancini


This is another episode where we see actors prior to being stars, as Matt LeBlanc and Wil Wheaton star in this LOST BOYS-esque story about a pair of teens who believe the barber shop next door is a front for a vampire lair. And while they aren’t quite correct, they are onto something. This is one of the better episodes as not only does it have the “before they were famous” fun to it, it’s also got an inexplicable poster for shaving cream with Nic Cage’s face on it and a big slimy monster at the end. While there are familiar elements to this one, the talent of LeBlanc and Wheaton carries this one and elevates what could be a goofy story to watchable standards.

Episode 3.9: The Young and the Headless
Directed by Tom Abrams
Written by Peg Haller & Bob Schneider (teleplay), W.C. Morrow (story)
Starring Karen Valentine, George Reinholt, John Schiappa


This story is as dumb as can be. Poorly acted. Schmaltzily envisioned. The whole thing is set up like a hokey soap opera, but it’s not clever enough to make it funny or interesting. This episode follows a pair of surgeons who are happy as clams with their unethical operations which render headless animals into their mindless slaves. When the female doctor’s long lost husband returns to her after being shot down in the jungle, she fights her sexual urges to ride his muscular form—even though she is really in love with the doctor. Taking care of the problem means lopping off the oblivious husband’s head and turning him into a manservant, but how long can the grieving widow hold back from wanting to scrog with his headless body? Turns out, not long at all. This one is painful to watch, made even more painful by a shoddy green screen dance scene that made me feel embarrassed for all involved.

Episode 3.10: The Waiting Game
Directed by Bruno Spandello
Written by John Fox
Starring Doug McKeon, Stephen Burleigh, Carrington Garland, Leo Garcia


MISCHIEF’s Doug McKeon stars in this excellent episode where a pair of military men sign into their post guarding a nuclear substation just in time for the nuclear war. Their only communication with the outside world is another underground military outpost, but they are lured from their post by something that survived the nuclear holocaust. This is a jam-packed episode that feels much longer than the usual 20 minute installment, and makes great use of pacing and time to build a suspenseful and surprisingly scary viewing experience. While the last minute reveal is kind of hokey, it makes this one feel more at home in the MONSTERS series, though up to the reveal it feels more like a decent episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

Episode 3.11: Sin-Sop
Directed by P.J. Pesce
Written by Alan Bogue (story), Doug Wallace (teleplay)
Starring Richard Borg, Christine Dunford, Christopher Shaw, Charlotte Booker, Robert Valenzi


This is another good episode centering on a holy roller who boasts that he has a machine which cleanses paying customers of their sins. An investigative journalist isn’t buying it and poses as a patron only to realize that this machine, powered by the preserved body of a serial killer who is imbued with the power to suck away actual sins, actually works. When a current serial killer interrupts the meeting, he himself is sucked into the mess. This one is directed by P.J. Pesce, who directed the third FROM DUSK TIL DAWN and one of the LOST BOYS sequels, as well as a few episodes of the TREMORS TV Series. The creative ideas of the story make up for the touch and go acting, and the finale is a goodie. This is all made creepier by the waxy visage of the mulleted sin-eater who lies emotionless with his eyes open on a slab. Cool and creepy stuff abounds in this one.

Episode 3.12: A New Woman
Directed by Brian Thomas Jones
Written by Edithe Swensen
Starring Linda Thorson, Tom McDermott, Dan Butler, Mason Adams


While this one has a fun cast with TV’s THE AVENGERS star Linda Thorson, Dan Butler who played Bulldog on FRASIER, and Mason Adams who many will recognize from Smuckers commercials (“With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good!”), it turns out to be a pretty predictable take on A CHRISTMAS CAROL as a greedy soon-to-be widow hungers for her dying husband’s riches only to be visited by horrific, disease-filled future days if the deed is actually performed. You can call how this one will end a mile away, but the cast helps elevate it to watchable status.

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
Season 3: Episodes 3.1-3.6

Look for more MONSTERS Episodes in two weeks!



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

LEVIATHAN (1989)

Directed by George P. Cosmatos
Written by David Webb Peoples & Jeb Stuart (screenplay), David Webb Peoples (story)
Starring Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson, Michael Carmine, Lisa Eilbacher, Hector Elizondo, Meg Foster, Eugene Lipinski
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug


Though it came out the same year as THE ABYSS, LEVIATHAN is more often confused with DEEPSTAR SIX, which came out relatively at the same time, since LEVIATHAN is basically a cheaper ALIEN set under water--not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that. But in this case, there is pretty much a beat for beat retelling here with a group of deep sea divers with Danny Gloveritis (that is, they are just three days away from resurfacing after a lengthy stay in the briny depths). Of course, events happen to make them miss that deadline as a virus of sorts is brought aboard from a downed Russian submarine which evolves everyone onboard into fish people. This has the makings of something painfully awful to watch, and it would be, but this film happens to have a stellar cast and a pretty solid director to help it out of the muck.

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART 2 director George P. Cosmatos keeps this film moving from start to finish by never really letting up. When the crew isn’t firing one-liners back and forth at one another (both playfully and not so much), the monster on board is attacking them. While it is pretty contrived, the film starts right out with a dangerous situation as one of the team begins to hyperventilate in the deep sea suits they are wearing. While this isn’t set in the distant future, this opening scene does serve its purpose to get the point across that the deep is a dangerous place where one miscalculation can be fatal, and it also establishes the type of tech used in order for these divers to do their duties. So while the opening is slightly clichéd, it does what it sets out to do and establishes a lot right away.

The cast is going to be the biggest draw here. Assembled is a dream cast of character actors from Peter (ROBOCOP) Weller to Daniel (HOME ALONE) Stern, from Ernie (GHOSTBUSTERS) Hudson to Richard (FIRST BLOOD) Crenna…wait, there’s more, from Meg (THEY LIVE) Foster to Hector (AMERICAN GIGOLO) Elizondo, and from Amanda (THE FLASH) Pays to Lisa (BEVERLY HILLS COP) Eilbacher—whew, now that’s a cast and a half. Seeing these guys bump into and bounce off of each other makes it all feel fun, despite the fact that there’s a giant fish monster absorbing them into his mass. While none of the performances in LEVIATHAN are award-worthy, the talent of each of the cast elevates what could be a hokey script to something truly effective. When the monster engulfs each of the team, the looks and screams of horror are much more convincing that your usual monster amok yarn, with each of the cast taking things seriously and never hamming it up.

Stan Winston created most of the effects, and if there’s one thing that is truly stellar in LEVIATHAN it’s the monstrous permutations that make this film feel more like JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING than ALIEN. The creature is accidentally brought on board, infecting one member and then absorbing the parts of others into it until it is one fishy-monster-beast. While the monster is never really seen until the final scene (which I’ll get into shortly), the effects such as a mouth exploding from one’s hand or slimy tentacles growing out of orifices hint at something monstrous and nightmarish.

When the monster is finally seen in the light of day, it is less than impressive. Sure it may have looked good in a dark studio, but filming it in broad daylight makes it look more comedic than anything else. While I can appreciate the puppetry and practical effects going on, I have to agree with Ernie Hudson, who in one of the special features entitled “Surviving LEVIATHAN” said the monster looked more like a skinned chicken than anything else.

****SPOILER****The ending of LEVIATHAN is one of the worst endings I’ve ever seen for multiple reasons. First and foremost, it is established that the monster only needs a part of itself to regenerate and blowing it to bits with a stick of dynamite only disperses the monster in the water all the more. Secondly, and much more in the realm of BULLSHIT! is the death of Ernie Hudson’s character who survives the entire film, escapes to the surface, only to be killed unceremoniously off panel one minute until the end. Hudson attests to his frustration with the last minute decision to kill him off and it calls for one of the most ridiculous WTF moments of the film.****END SPOILER****

Bullshit ending aside, LEVIATHAN is a lot of fun. With a stellar cast and exemplary effects for its time (up until the final reveal of the monster, that is), it feels less like an ALIENS rip-off and more like a well-acted homage to oldie monster movies. Special features are scant, but they include the aforementioned Ernie Hudson interview, another interview with Hector Elizondo, and a making of featurette called “LEVIATHAN: Monster Melting Pot” which talks about the production of the film quite a bit.




Gearing up to tour festivals soon!

CONSIDER US EVEN (2014)

Directed by William Grefe
Written by Beau Yotty
Starring Beau Yotty, Amanda Mulvey, Andree Martinez
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


There’s not a lot to this little 8-minute flick that’s getting ready to be touring fests soon, but what it lacks in length, it makes up in unpredictability and moments that will cause you to squirm.

CONSIDER US EVEN opens with two women tied back to back, blindfolded in a dark room. Circling them like a vulture above its prey is a man in a creepy baby mask. As he circles, the mental tortures become more physical ones, and that’s about all I can reveal about this short.

Though I kind of figured this one out before the ending, it does do a decent job of maintaining suspense. William Grefe keeps everything tight and close, making it all feel more uncomfortably intimate. CONSIDER US EVEN is a simple but effective little short where the filmmakers took advantage of the close quarters to mislead, discomfort, and play with our perceptions. Look for it soon at a horror festival near you.

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

STRANGE FACTORIES (2013)

Directed by John Harrigan
Written by John Harrigan
Starring Annalisa Astarita, Rachael Blyth, John Harrigan, Lucy Harrigan, Tereza Kamenicka, David Monard, Claire Louise Oliver, Mark Postgate, Claire Tregellas
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 STRANGE FACTORIES, an indie surrealist film with some particularly weird clowny characters.

Being a writer myself, I find myself fascinated with films/books about writers and their pursuit of the ever-elusive inspiration/ending/beginning of a story. Having experienced this feeling before in trying to come to the perfect ending, or having a great idea just on the tip of your brain is often times infuriating, sometimes inspirational, and other times nightmarish, depending on the situations surrounding the process of forming a story. In STRANGE FACTORIES, metaphor and surrealist exploration are used in order to tell a story of a writer in search of an elusive tale that he just can’t seem to finish.

Much of the fun in STRANGE FACTORIES comes from finishing the story being the actual goal of the film, with characters from the story, and the acting troupe set to play in it then becoming crucial elements of the writer’s quest. Though every film must reach an eventual conclusion, to name the struggle to find that ending is something refreshingly meta, while still being empathetic to how difficult this process often is. As the characters from the story/actors playing them experience nightmarish visions and the hum of a distant factory haunts the writer’s every move, it makes someone sitting through this film experience what it is like to have writer’s block and may even serve as inspirational enough to loosen the blockage itself.

So while the nightmarish visions are just that, which apropos to the placement of this review under the “Send in the Clowns” banner, includes many twisted takes on clowns and grimacing facades, this film not only frightens, but also inspires—neither of which are very easy to accomplish. The film’s runtime is over three hours, leaving long pauses in the storyline set to establishing shots of the bizarre yet natural landscape. My fast forward finger was getting a little twitchy there every now and then, but the story and thematic conflict were interesting enough to keep it from acting up.

Filmed in black and white, with long pauses between Shakespearian-esque soliloquies, STRANGE FACTORIES may not be for the more literal-minded of horror fans. But fans of the theatrical side of performances, the technical side of writing, and the appreciators of the surreal and offbeat will find a lot of things to appreciate with STRANGE FACTORIES.



And 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
ALL DARK PLACES
THE CLOWN AT MIDNIGHT

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 in select theaters, available next week on DVD & BluRay and On Demand from Attack Entertainment!

JERSEY SHORE MASSACRE (2014)

Directed by Paul Tarnopol
Written by Paul Tarnopol & Goldeneye (screenplay)
Starring Danielle Dallacco, Angelica Boccella, Giovanni Roselli, Chris Lazzaro, Nicole Rutigliano, Ashley Mitchell, Christina Scaglione, Brenton Duplessie, Brett Azar, John Michael Hastie, Leonarda Bosch, Shawn C. Phillips, Richard Christy, Sal Governale, Ron Jeremy
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


I’m not the target audience for this one. I never watched an episode of JERSEY SHORE on MTV, nor do I really understand the phenomenon of its popularity. It does seem that, like the HONEY BOO BOO show (which I also don’t watch or understand), many people watch these shows like they are a train wreck, to see wretched human beings doing wretched things with those in the spotlight believing they are watched because they are interesting or have some kind of star power. The lack of insight inthese reality shows is crucial here because if the cast ever realized how much of a joke they were, surely they wouldn’t act in such a way. So I guess this lack of insight is key here as to what makes all of these reality shows interesting to some. In terms of JERSEY SHORE MASSACRE, a film produced by JWOWW who apparently is one of the Jersey Shore-ites, that lack of insight pervades, so those who enjoy the series most likely will have some kind of interest in this as well.

The story follows a bunch of pancake make-upped THE NANNY impersonators who are edged out of their vacation beach home when the landlord (played by porn star Ron Jeremy) mistakes one group of prostitute-looking women for another group of prostitute-looking women. But one of them has an uncle with a vacation home in the Jersey woods, so they all scoot over there. They go into town to have troglodyte guidos roofie their drinks and then bring them back to their home to swap STDs. While there is some sort of final girl set up in the film to follow the slasher model, the true hero of the film in my mind is a hooded killer who murders them all one by one in painful ways.

I can’t say the acting is awful because if the people behind this film wanted us to hate them hard enough to want them all to be killed, they succeeded at second one. Even the dolled up trixie/final girl with a heart of gold is hard to like. The men of this film are especially grotesque as they treat women like chewtoys, dress ridiculously, and act as if everything they do is the coolest thing in the world. I want to give the film the benefit of the doubt and hope the makers of this film knew how reprehensible this group of sub-humans is and hope that they are making fun of the Jersey Shore lifestyle, but I really don’t think that’s the case. I think they really do think they are acting cool here and should be taken seriously, which is scarier than any slasher in the woods.

While the acting is all over the place and likability of the characters is at a low, the film has one thing going for it: the effects. There are quite a few nice effects sequences here as the killer slashes through breast implants, lops off heads, and tears these idiots into pieces. While the first 45 minutes of this film follows bloodless scene after bloodless scene of these guidos grunting and trixies chirping, the payoff in the last half hour of seeing them massacred is rather fulfilling.

But unless you’re into the show, I doubt you’re going to get anything out of this. Had this show the insight and confidence to see these idiots as they are and made fun of the Jersey Shore culture before offing them, I would give this movie some credit. But JERSEY SHORE MASSACRE seems to want to be taken seriously despite the fact that the ass-clowns starring in it go out of their way to make us hate them all. Even as a slasher film, this is a slow walk with annoying people with a rush to kill them all in the final moments. And while the kills are well done, that’s not enough to save JERSEY SHORE MASSACRE from its own ridiculousness.




New this week in select theaters from RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment!

VARSITY BLOOD (2013)

Directed by Jake Helgren
Written by Jake Helgren
Starring Lexi Giovagnoli, Wesley Scott, Debbie Rochon, Natalie Peyton, Blair Jackson, Elyse Bigler, Melody Herron, Jesse Ferraro, Kiarra Hogan, Chris Hlozek, Payton Wood, Fabian Watkins, Elle LaMont, Manuel Chapa, Taylor Moessinger
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Another group of kids seclude themselves in a house in the countryside only to find themselves being picked off one by one. It’s the premise of so many films that, in order to stand out, you have to be pretty spectacular. Unfortunately, VARSITY BLOOD isn’t.

The story follows a group of cheerleaders and jocks who all get together and bicker and fight with one another for most of the film while a killer disguised as the school mascot who wears a totem pole-esque mask and a parka kills them with either an axe or a bow and arrow. That’s basically the plot, and basic is the one word I can use to describe this film, as it follows the slasher handbook as if it’s not allowed to color outside of the lines or break any rules established long before the first SCREAM came out. Like CABIN IN THE WOODS, another self-referential style success, SCREAM was an alert for horror that it needed to up its game. Because those films exist to plainly state the rules and still make them entertaining, run-of-the-mill slashers like VARSITY BLOOD seem even worse than they really are. In this story, there’s not a plot point or idea that hasn’t been done elsewhere much, much better.

On top of that, there is really not one likable character in the bunch. There’s so much vitriol between the cheerleaders about which jock they are sleeping with and between the jocks who are alpha-maleing it over the cheerleaders one would think a more elevated point was trying to be made here. But as is, I don’t want to give this movie that much credit, as it feels like the only interactions between these characters are put downs, threats, and other angry words. There’s no way this group would get together as they obviously all hate one another, and they do so good a job pouring on the hate that it made me hate them all too. As with JERSEY SHORE MASSACRE above, there is no insight as to how this internal bickering makes none of them likable. Instead, it’s just who’s sleeping with who, who’s posturing, and who’s threatening. So as with JERSEY SHORE MASSACRE, all you have to root for is the killer to off them all.

And with the killer being so generic, it’s even hard to do that. He does the typical Michael Myers walk after his victims, somehow catching them every time, and uses the same method of killing them over and over again with his axe and bow and arrow. When it’s Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger, it’s fun to root on the killer, as they are pretty well-realized characters with simple yet identifiable origins and we’ve had time to get to know them. Since we don’t really know who or what this killer is, we can’t identify with him and since all of the other characters he’s killing are preening idiot jocks and vapid cheerleaders, there’s no one to identify with here.

There are some decently bloody scenes, but nothing we haven’t seen in FRIDAY THE 13TH or a million other slashers. There’s a possible backstory for the killer as rumors fly rampantly as to who it is under the bug-eyed totem pole mask about a killer escaped from the mental institution, but we aren’t given any scenes with this guy prior, so you can’t even identify with him on a faceless Michael Myers level.

I think there could have been a lot of potential in this film. Making the jocks and cheerleaders so reprehensible that the killer is marked as some kind of hero would be an interesting way to go. But the filmmakers simply seem to want to make a typical rehashed stalk-n-slash flick without adding anything that even resembles something new, exciting, smart, or even vaguely interesting and as I said above, SCREAM and CABIN IN THE WOODS have made it even harder for such a film to be taken seriously.




New this week in select theaters and On Demand from IFC Midnight!

CAM2CAM (2014)

aka c2c, DARKNET
Directed by Joel Soisson
Written by Marie Gautier & Davy Sihali
Starring Sarah Bonrepaux, Tammin Sursok, Ben Wiggins, Jade Tailor, Russell Geoffrey Banks
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


It’s interesting that IFC has decided to distribute CAM2CAM so soon after they put out another computer stalker called THE DEN (I reviewed it not too long ago here), as both films address similar topics of online addiction and how that can become deadly since often times, in chatrooms, we don’t know who is on the other end of the modem we are talking with. But while THE DEN falls apart in the last half, mainly due to the restrictions it set up for itself by making itself a first person POV film (most of the film takes place through the camera ot a computer screen), the choice to film cinematically proves to make CAM2CAM far more superior in comparison.

The film starts out silently as a girl chats with an anonymous person online in a chatroom. When things get sexual and the person on the screen takes her clothes off (we never see her face), the person urges the girl to do so as well. But when she notices that the image on the screen, whose hands are in plain view, is not typing, arousal gives way to suspicion and the conversation gets violent. Soon a knock at her door makes it clear that the seemingly distant safety of playing around on the computer has somehow made her way to her home.

Riffing off of the age old horror film motif of sex=death, CAM2CAM takes this concept into modern technology as the chatroom serves as a temptation for the young female cast and once they take the bait and give in to their secret sexual desires, the trap is sprung and it ends up biting them in the real world. Equating sex and death is not new. Jason Voorhees pounded that lesson into our heads long ago. But I really liked the way director Joel Soisson brings it home and updates it to be equally relevant in the tech-addicted age we live in.

Apart from the fun and updated concept, Soisson keeps things moving at a pretty rapid pace from start to finish and has a deft handling of suspense. Exemplified fantastically in the beginning sequence, Soisson knows how to ratchet up the thrills and tease us, thinking the heroine in peril is ok, and then springing the trap. But Soisson didn’t just spend his wad in the opening sequence, as a few others; one in particular which happens in a market street, shows that this guy really knows how to make things Hitchcockian when he wants to.

On the surface, CAM2CAM is one of those sex thrillers you might have seen on Skinemax ten years ago, but there’s a lot of talent behind the camera here and in terms of story. The actresses in the film, especially the lead played by Sarah Bonrepaux, are hot as all get out which makes the film alluring and only heightens the sensuality of it all, but there’s depth here that I wasn’t expecting. CAM2CAM is a thriller that teases before it bites you, making it all the more alluring and fascinating to watch.




New this week on DVD/BluRay from Lionsgate!

ROSEMARY’S BABY (2014)

Directed by Agnieszka Holland
Written by Scott Abbot (screenplay), Ira Levin (based on the books ROSEMARY’S BABY and SON OF ROSEMARY)
Starring Zoe Saldana, Patrick J. Adams, Carole Bouquet, Christina Cole, Jason Isaacs, Olivier Rabourdin, François Civil, Rosemarie La Vaullée, Eva Lutz, Wojciech Pszoniak, Hiro Uchiyama, Joseph Malerba, Stany Coppet, Stefano Cassetti, Victoire Bélézy, Cyril Casmèze, Franck Vincent, Féodor Atkine, Oisin Stack, Frédéric Pierrot, Hamidreza Djavdan, Didier Sauvegrain, Jane Bertish, Tim Beckmann
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Out of all of the horror films I’ve seen, Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY is probably my most favorite as without a drop of blood spilled, it manages to terrify with superb acting and a deft hand at ratcheting up the tension with increasing pressure and accuracy as it clenches like a vise to one’s spine and never lets go until the very end. Some might say that comparing a remake to the original isn’t fair to the new film, and there may be cases where I tend to agree with that. Then again, if this film wanted to go on its own merits and not be compared to the 1968 horror classic, it shouldn’t have been called by the same name. You can’t pick and choose when to associate oneself with something, so while defenders of the NBC miniseries event might want to say this version is a completely different monster, they are still utilizing the name of a classic horror film in order to get recognition. You simply can’t have it both ways.

For the most part, ROSEMARY’S BABY 2014 which aired earlier in the summer on NBC and is being released this week on BluRay/DVD, follows the classic’s plotline beat for beat. In both, we meet Rosemary Woodhouse and her new husband Guy. They find themselves taken in or adopted by a pair of neighbors who begin as nosy neighbors and continue to become entwined in their lives until it appears that the two have devious designs for Rosemary and her unborn baby. In both, we experience this story through Rosemary’s eyes, seeing the strange and suspicious activities increase in the periphery which feeds a paranoia inside of Rosemary that convinces her that eventually, every aspect of her life has been overpowered by a witch conspiracy to take her baby from her and dub him the new Prince of Darkness. For the most part, even up to the end, which goes beyond the classic ending of the original by a skosh, there’s not a lot of new things happening with the remake.

Now, things aren’t exactly the same. Filling out a four-hour, two-part miniseries means that things breezed through in the original film can be elaborated on. There might be some cases where this might be interesting. But in the original, I feel it’s effective that we meet Rosemary and Guy as they are house-shopping and that all of the action takes place in the iconic apartment complex. In the remake, we get scenes of Guy at work (in this version he’s an English Lit teacher at a Paris college instead of an actor), we see the miscarriage of Rosemary’s first child, and we see scenes of why Guy and Rosemary are looking for a new place to stay in the first place. While these scenes are nice to see, they aren’t crucial to the plot and even if they are, these scenes could be taken care of, as they are in the original, with a simple turn of conversation rather than played out elaborately. In doing so, watching this remake makes you wish you could take a weed whacker to this film and cut off the excess and unnecessary scenes. I mean, do we really need a subplot where Guy used to have sex with Rosemary’s best friend? It’s stuff like this that only adds to the tedium I felt with this version.

And this film is tedious, especially sitting through all three and a half hours of it. The acting is not terrible. In fact, it is one of the film’s saving graces as Zoe Saldana is undeniably talented, making her very likable and relatable. Here she plays Rosemary as more of a fighter, which makes the scenes of her sanity chipping away all the more effective. The contrast between the strength and weaknesses as her paranoia develops is great, and Saldana makes every step pretty believable. Patrick J. Adams plays Guy, who is less effective here, mainly because of the boneheaded decisions of the filmmakers to make him do completely idiotic things. If he were as in love with Rosemary as he claims, he would tell her about the evil machinations going on. In the original John Cassavettes is fantastic as we see him having quiet discussions in the background with people and acting suspiciously. Since modern filmmakers think modern audiences are idiots, subtlety is tossed out the door and Guy becomes somewhat of a moustache-twirling baddie in order to justify Rosemary’s persecution and torment. Because there are scenes of Guy planning things early on, there’s no question as to whether or not he is in on the conspiracy, whereas it’s less overt in the original, and thus much more effective when the betrayal is made clear in the end.

And that’s the biggest problem with this remake. Instead of herbal hallucinations and Rosemary catching the ass-end of suspicious conversations which add to the paranoia, the witchcraft is much more in your face here as the dark arts possess people and compel them to kill themselves and others. Again, it’s the more direct, in yo’ face approach that makes it all the less effective than the subtle periphery stuff that occurs all around Rosemary in the original and isn’t outright screaming “WITCH!” the whole time. It doesn’t help that the camera lingers in scenes to show Jason Isaacs and Carole Bouquet (who play much younger and more glamorous versions of Margaux and Roman Castevet) share a knowing and devious glance to one another every time Rosemary leaves their company, something we were never privy to in the original since the original kept its point of view solely on the shoulders of Rosemary. By doing so, we become the character and feel the paranoia and wonder whether or not the world is out to get Rosemary’s baby. In the remake, it’s all but said from the very beginning of the film with Isaacs’ sideways glances and comments on the baby being a little prince and numerous scenes of people outright saying there’s witchcraft afoot.

Lack of subtlety, distrust that the viewer is going to get it, and a heavy hand filled with the obvious and overt make the remake of ROSEMARY’S BABY the cliff notes version of the original despite its length, as it chooses to explain itself and outright show its cards early on rather than go for an overwhelming sense of festering unease which accompanies the original. While the production values are gorgeous as it takes in all of the Parisian surroundings, that’s not enough to make it able to even hold the jock strap of the original. While I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by the film, I was hoping that someone making this film would understand why the original worked and transfer a little of that to the remake, but aside from attaining all of the broad story beats in exactly the same fashion (though at a much slower rate), there’s nothing about the remake that compares to the original. To think that there are people who will think of this film when the name ROSEMARY’S BABY is raised saddens me. It simply doesn’t compare.


"Rosemary's Baby" (NBC) Official Trailer by thesevensees



Available now for digital download and on DVD here!

PIECES OF TALENT (2014)

Directed by Joe Stauffer
Written by Joe Stauffer & David Long
Starring David Long, Kristi Ray, Taylor Kowalski, Barbara Weetman, Jon Stafford, Nate Panning, Joy Merrow, John Marchioni, Shaun O'Rourke
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


At face value, PIECES OF TALENT is your typical SAW-like stalker film with an obsessive killer who likes to videotape his kills falling for a woman and killing any obstacle between him and the woman he loves. PIECES OF TALENT’s story isn’t necessarily new or groundbreaking, but sometimes the simplest of stories make for the most interesting if shown through a particular lens. In this case, that particular lens means the stunning eye of director Joe Stauffer and the star-making performance by David Long who plays a serial killer and madman named…David Long.

, PIECES OF TALENT is one of the most breathtaking and awe-inspiring looking films I’ve seen in ages. The compositions set up in this film, somehow managing to capture the beauty in some very despicable, filthy, and diabolical scenes, took my breath away and director Joe Stauffer deserves credit where credit’s due for filling this entire film with all sorts of scenes that could be set up conventionally, but instead seem to be painstakingly set up to make the scene memorable and iconic, almost like a still-life painting. The picture on the left where one of David Long’s victims drops from exhaustion just before making it to an open highway and the killer lounges with the victim playfully is something born from a nightmare, but look at how amazing everything looks in that shot. The film is filled with these types of nightmarish snapshots, confusing the eye to see beauty where horror is taking place.

The elaborate torture and hunting experiments we witness throughout this film are made more so by the diabolical and devious performance by David Long. Though he hasn’t been in a lot of films, this is a film that, if seen by enough people, will make the actor a star. Long struts around like a psychotic version of The Dude, acting mellow and cracking wise even while murderizing folks. Even though his lines are said with a smile, Long’s surfer boy attitude seems to shine through and we can understand why Charlotte, the object of his desire, might actually be charmed by him. Though he’s far from the ideal human specimen, he exudes a confidence and oneness that makes you instantly like him even after we’ve seen him hack a person to bits with an axe on camera.

Kristi Ray, who plays Charlotte, does a great job here as well, showing both a soft and hardened side with equal believability, Ray conveys a life hard lived and is easy to follow as the protagonist and apple of David Long’s eye. While there are a lot of hard edges to this titty bar waitress, simple scenes of her serenely looking out over a calm lake give you the picture of a misplaced princess in a world of horror. But the spunkiness comes out again when Long shows his hand and again, its believable when she fights back against him with such fervor.

PIECES OF TALENT has tons of bloody scenes of torture and dismemberment. It’s not for the squeamish, as David Long’s camera rarely cuts away from any of the horrors he inflicts on his victims, but the result isn’t as stomach-churning as one would expect since the images captured through the camera are often as beautiful as they are horrific. The few snippets we get to see inside David’s mind are unpleasant and terrifying, making Long’s happy-go-lucky exterior all the more frightening. PIECES OF TALENT is the perfect storm of a film. Made from basic story elements that most will find familiar, I guarantee the way this film looks is like nothing you’ve experienced before. Highly recommended.




Available this week for digital download from Amazon.com and iTunes, and On Demand!

CHIMERES (2013)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

BEWARE: The trailer ahead has boobies!




New this week on DVD and BluRay from Magnet Releasing!

THE SACRAMENT (2013)

Directed by Ti West
Written by Ti West
Starring AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, Gene Jones, Kate Lyn Sheil, Kentucker Audley
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


Ti West continues to impress me as a director with his patient hand at storytelling as well as his decisions to not repeat himself. THE SACRAMENT is very much unlike his previous films in tone, subject matter and style and by far his biggest budget yet, all of which makes for the director’s best film to date.

The story follows a VICE reporter, Sam (AJ Bowen), and his cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg), who during an interview with Patrick, a photographer (Kentucker Audley), finds out that his drug-addicted sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz) has gone missing and he has received a letter from her recently telling him that she is ok and living in a religious commune called Eden Parish. Smelling a good story, Sam and Jake follow Patrick, who is invited to visit the commune which is at an undisclosed location and can only be reached by helicopter. All of this is setup which occurs in the first ten minutes of the film; the rest follows the gonzo reporters as they try to figure out what the appeal of the commune is to the bright-faced people they meet upon arrival and soon uncover that not everything is cheery at Eden Parish.

I don’t want to reveal too much more of the plot mainly because it is a very simple one as the original goal to get Caroline home from the parish changes rapidly to everyone doing anything just to get out alive. This being a horror film, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that the commune is not on the up and up. The beauty of this film is in the way West doles out the suspicious activity in tiny, growing beats first with some strange things happening here and there and ending in a full scale Armageddon. The fear that Caroline is in a cult is there throughout, with West spending the better part of the first half of the film trying to convince us otherwise.

One might think that the film would be boring with most of the action happening in the last 40 minutes, but because of compelling performances all around, even the quiet bits are utterly engrossing. AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg are two actors I never try to miss. They are fantastic genre stars in their own right, but paired together as they were in A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE and YOU’RE NEXT you’re bound to find gold. Here the two actors offer up somewhat restrained performances—more restrained than I expected, I have to admit. Bowen is especially likable in this film as Sam, who has a pregnant wife at home about to give birth. This is a detail that makes you root for him to get out of this alive all the more. Swanberg’s Jake is equally likable and seems to have an almost Zen mellowness about him. While I was disappointed there was less snark and witty banter between these two character actors, I understand why West might have not wanted that in this film as it might have steered the film from its serious tone. There does seem to be a friendship between the two characters in the film, but it feels like the characters were there to do a job and were doing it with no time for smart remarks. My disappointment was only momentary, though, as their performances were strong throughout.

The standout role, though, goes to Gene Jones, who most will remember from the “Friendo” scene in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. Jones plays the commune leader dubbed Father by the parishioners. Every second of the time he is on camera he commands the scene. The film builds to an interview between Sam and Father which is held in front of every member of the commune. During these moments, Father is probably the most terrifying character you’re going to see in a film this year. His kind Southern drawl and tendency to quote the bible to give reason to everything is both convincing and menacing all at once. Bowen and Jones are amazing in this scene, with the role of manipulator and manipulated changing hands throughout. Bowen shows range he hasn’t before in this scene and Jones’ verse-coated threats are mesmerizing.

Shot in a faux documentary style, West does toss in some editing cheats here and there in order to tell the story he wants. If you are to believe that this footage has been edited and processed in some kind of tell-all documentary format, the cuts are understandable, but the film is not presented in that manner at the beginning. Had this started with the opening credits to the VICE HBO specials, it would have been more believable, but I doubt the more candid behind the scenes stuff at the beginning would have made the cut in a real doc. West also uses a score in this film which supports the faux documentary feel, but again, the opening hour was presented more as a found footage film and the score just doesn’t fit. The music during the scenes of tension and suspense were appropriate in a cinematically shot film, but here it raised more questions for me about the format and had me looking for a keyboardist and a cellist playing in the Eden Parrish pasture.

Those bits aside, the final moments of the film are as shocking and horrifying as you’re going to get. West’s slow buildup only works if the payoff is worth it, and as all hell breaks loose in the final moments, I found that the wait was most definitely worth it. Like West’s previous films, this isn’t a film that’s going to give you a jump scare every five minutes. What THE SACRAMENT does is invite you in and gets you comfortable before it shows its claws and because of that, it left an undeniable mark on my psyche that will be haunting by brain for days to come. It’s a fantastic film with performances that will be seen as classics some day and a tone that will trap you unsuspectingly.




Advance Review: Currently touring fests; next up is Twain Harte Film Festival, in Northern California on August 30th and August 31st and then the Somerville Theatre in Boston on October 19th!

THE LAST BUCK HUNT (2014)

Directed by Becky Sayers, Nicholas Sayers
Written by Becky Sayers
Starring Zack Gold, Cathan Bordyn, Briana Chicha, Scott C. Brown, Jon Lee, Dave Shecter, Nicholas Sayers, Andrew Tribolini, & Danny Bauer as the Creature!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


As a kid, I grew up in a central Ohio hunting family. I was taken out on hunting trips at a very young age and watched my father and grandfather as they walked around the forest in search of deer, squirrel, rabbit, whatever was in season, enjoying the jovial nature of men out in the wild contrasted against the seriousness of the hunt and taking the life of something that was living just a few seconds prior. I never really had the makings of a hunter. I always felt for the animals that were killed, but going on those trips were some of the most fun experiences of my childhood. I take this trip down memory lane because while there is a serious tone to THE LAST BUCK HUNT at times, most of the time, the film revels in the fun of the outdoors and how much fun it can be. It also is a fun statement as to the asinine nature of most reality shows you see on television.

THE LAST BUCK HUNT is a behind the scenes-style film following prize buck hunter Kenny Wayne (Zack Gold) as he searches for an elusive buck who has been known to attack hunters and townsfolk who wander into the a particular wooded area in the Northwest. Dripping with machismo and bravado, it’s pretty easy to see that Kenny is an idiot. A bona fide daddy’s boy, he attempts to live up to his father’s legendary huntsman prowess and while he does talk the talk, he walks the walk a little more clumsily. Behind the scenes, his cameraman Steve (Cathan Bordyn) and sound gal Alex (Briana Chicha) mock and are often mortified by Kenny’s unprofessional and bone-headed tactics, such as accidentally shooting a faun instead of a prize buck and losing himself in the woods over and over again. When word gets out that there’s a giant killer buck out there, Kenny thinks this is his chance to hit the big time and gathers his crew to film himself bagging the vicious buck in his syndicated television show “What the Buck?” But instead of a killer buck, Kenny and his crew encounter something much more dangerous in the woods.

While portions of this film are played out on a handheld, this isn’t a found footage film. It’s more of a mockumentary THIS IS SPINAL TAP sort of thing where the dramatic moments play out on cameras in and out of frame. In mixing this up from the beginning, the film doesn’t really have to jump through the hoops set up in most found footage films. The POV can shift. Questions like “Why is the cameraman filming this instead of running to safety?” don’t have to be asked, and you don’t have to see the tried and true scene taking place in front of a meticulously placed yet accidentally dropped skewed camera angle. So instead of my inner critic being preoccupied with trying to poke holes in the suspension of disbelief which is so important in found footage films, I can just sit back and watch the film play out and enjoy it for the cinema that it is, which is rather refreshing.

And as it played out, there’s a lot to love about this movie. Zack Gold’s Kenny Wayne is oftentimes hilarious as the overzealous hunter out to prove himself, as are the antics of the crew who are bored to tears and nonplussed at their boss’ bravado. Seeing the crew play out scenes of PREDATOR in the wilderness is something I would do were I to be stuck in such a situation, and it’s a hilarious scene to see unfold. And while some of the humor is dark as pitch, there’s a gentle and light-hearted tone to the whole thing as Kenny’s efforts to be the best there is happens to be downright charming in his own stupid way, aAs are the plight of the crew and their dreams of getting the hell out of this production and move on to better things once this last hunting trip is over. All of the humor is well timed and capably acted, making the cast and their struggle all the more relatable.

In the latter half, as it becomes more apparent as to what it is the hunters are actually hunting, my interest intensified. Fans of AICN HORROR know I have an affinity for a certain type of wilderness monster and while I won’t reveal it here, I’m sure you can guess what it is. The monster itself looks much more convincing than I would assume for such a modestly budgeted film, but it appears that the money was saved for the creature’s look and it was money well spent. Funny, well acted, and downright outrageous at times, THE LAST BUCK HUNT makes fun of hunters, but also somehow manages to give it some proper recognition and respect in the end. Seeing the goofy and serious scenes play out in an equally effective manner makes me recommend the big beating heart present in every scene of THE LAST BUCK HUNT wholeheartedly.




And finally…we have a short film from actor/director Kim Sønderholm. This 18 minute short was featured in the anthology film SINISTER VISIONS (reviewed here) and this week it was made available for all to see, so I’m posting it here.

The film is in English, yet produced in Denmark, hence the Danish subtitles, and I love the practical effects involving the creature makeup by Anders Lerche under his company Far Out Effects.

Find out more about SUCCUBUS and Kim Sønderholm here and enjoy, SUCCUBUS!




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 and the new issue #2 available to order in August Previews (item code AUG14 1131) from Black Mask Studios!!




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