Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Happy Halloween! Rounding out the final week of October, I have another nice batch of horror for you all to sink your teeth into. So after checking out these reviews, howzabout you all let me know what Halloween movies you plan on watching this festive holiday evening?
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
The Boo Tube: IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES (1973)
Retro-review: SQUIRM (1976)
Retro-review: NIGHTBREED: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (1990)
AFTER SCHOOL MASSACRE (2014)
GRACE: THE POSSESSION (2014)
DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2014)
CHILD OF GOD (2013)
And finally…CTHULHU’S PIZZA KITCHEN!
The Boo Tube: New this week on DVD from Film Chest Media Group!
IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES (1973)Directed by Fred Warshofsky
Written by Fred Warshofsky
Starring Rod Serling, Josef Blumrich, Duncan A. Lunan, Art Ford, Dr. Sidney Fox, Dr. Leslie Orgel, Dr. Fernando Cabieses
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
The TV film that inspired the classic Leonard Nimoy series is available this week for the first time. While every other channel seems to have a documentary special on one thing supernatural or another, back in the day all there was was IN SEARCH OF. The series investigated all sorts of bizarre goings on from UFOs to the infamous Loch Ness Monster episode. While Nimoy’s voice will always be associated with the series, it’s another distinctive voice that narrates this exploration into the weird: Rod Serling.
IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES explores various theories that aliens have walked among us and have been influential parts of our culture since the dawn of man, looking at ancient structures that defy explanation and required technology not indicative of that available at the time to construct. Across the world ancient structures such as Stonehenge, the pyramids of the Inca and Aztecs, and Nordic ruins are all hypothesized to be landmarks made by creatures not of this earth. The film is made up of interviews with a bevy of bespectacled scientific types in their labs supporting the theories of alien intervention in the past, all narrated by the monotone yet charming voice of Serling.
The biggest sin of this film is that it tries to cover too much for one film and ends up not giving enough time to anything. We cut from Easter Island to Aztec ruins to the crystal skulls with little or no transition and while all of these things are fascinating, we never really dig too deeply. While Serling offers some proper heft to all of the ancient mysteries, this feels like the cliff’s notes version of these mysteries.
Still, if you are a fan of ANCIENT ALIENS and shows of that kind, you’re going to want to have this film in your collection. While it might be brief and dry at points, there is an awful lot of fun conspiracy and alien hypotheses being tossed out there in ANCIENT MYSTERIES. The film, made for TV, serves as a precursor to the deeper delvings into the dark unknowns in the IN SEARCH OF series, shows how this fascination with the otherworldly isn’t just a current phenomenon.
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Shout Factory!
SQUIRM (1976)Directed by Jeff Lieberman
Written by Jeff Lieberman
Starring Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcy, R.A. Dow, Jean Sullivan, Peter MacLean, Fran Higgins, William Newman, Carl Dagenhart
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Back when I was a kid, I wanted desperately to go to the late night drive in movies (this was the early eighties when there were a few of these national treasures around still, though their numbers were ever-decreasing). I would love to look through the newspapers and cut out the cool posters for films like MOTEL HELL, CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, and THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN, giving them to my mom and dad in hopes that they would take me. Alas, like Ralphie and his Red Rider BB Gun I was denied with the mantra that I wasn’t old enough. Ironically, a short while later during the rise of video stores, I was able to watch whatever the hell I wanted, proving an inconsistency in my parent’s logic and that they were just not interested in going to the movies, but were totally fine with me watching it. One such film I snipped from the paper and pleaded to see was SQUIRM. The poster on the left stuck with me and I having often gone nightcrawling with my brother, collecting worms for upcoming fishing trips, I had a familiarity with the slimy critters and thought a film where they run amok and eat people was about the coolest idea ever!
But cool ideas sometimes don’t lead to cool executions which is pretty much the case with the “so bad it’s good” aspect of SQUIRM, a film that was deemed worthy of the MST3K treatment during its hayday and rightly so. While the acting is laughably awful and the story pretty threadbare, I think the film does tap into some of those primal fears we have of all things squishy and gross.
The premise is a simple one. A giant hurricane rocks the coast of Georgia and some downed power lines excite and infuriate a few bushels of blood worms to the point that they attack an entire town. While a pair of would be investigators doof around trying to solve a missing persons case that the philandering sheriff has no interest in, the worms keep massing until they spill out of every crevice and cranny to attack a small Georgian town. The central drama encircles a young Southern belle by the name of Geri (Patricia Pearcy) who is the apple in the eye of the dim-witted worm farmer Roger (R.A. Dow) but dates that no-good city boy Mick (HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE actor and THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE director Don Scardino). As the two men battle it out for Geri’s affections, flesh eating worms are crawling ever slowly towards them.
The fun of this film lies in the fact that no one in this film realizes how bad they are. Pearcy aims for the moon with her Tennessee Williams-esque Southern drawl that comes across as absolutely cartoony. Scardino is supposed to be cast as a tough guy but is anything but (he even rips off his shirt at the end baring his pasty hairless chest). And Roger is given the best lines in the film after Mick is bitten by a worm and has to run crying to shore for some Bactine. He announces his love for Geri in a dramatic soliloquy which actually seems to work a bit until he is pushed overboard and has his face covered with flesh eating worms. Roger walks around the rest of the film with worms jutting out of his face and yells at Mick, “You gonna be da' worm face!” and tantrums that he can’t have Geri. It’s drama of the highest order, though delivered via the short bus.
But still, SQUIRM delivers some really great gross out effects and tons and tons of worms which I still can’t really understand how they did it. They literally fill an entire house with worms here (though most of them are obviously plastic) to the point where people are engulfed in giant worm waves. Director Jeff Lieberman intersperses cool close-ups of the bloodworms with their extended teeth and slimy alien faces to up the creep ante quite a bit. Alternating between these close-ups of real worms and the piles and piles of fakes really does the job in making it all skin-crawlingly effective.
And while the acting is idiotic at best, I love the final half hour of this film as Roger becomes a slithering worm himself trying to devour Mick and Geri and even taking a huge chomp out of Mick’s leg. Paired with the mounds of worms swirling and undulating around, the whole climax of the film is worth sitting through the over-enunciated Southern drawls and campy attempts at drama and humor in the first half.
BluRay features include a new interview with Jeff Lieberman, as well as an audio commentary track by the writer/director of the film, plus there are some interviews with effects man Bill Milling describing how he made all of those worms work as well as an interview with our ginger hero Don Scardino. Lieberman also takes viewers on a tour of the locations where the film was made. SQUIRM is a fantastic bad movie worth digging up and given this treatment by the Shout Factory, it’s the best this film has ever looked.
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!
NIGHTBREED: Director’s Cut (1990)CLIVE BARKER’S NIGHTBREED, NIGHTBREED: THE CABAL CUT
Directed by Clive Barker
Written by Clive Barker (based on the novel CABAL)
Starring Craig Sheffer, David Cronenberg, Anne Bobby, Charles Haid, Hugh Quarshie, Hugh Ross, Doug Bradley, Catherine Chevalier, Malcolm Smith, Bob Sessions, Oliver Parker, Debora Weston, Nicholas Vince, Simon Bamford, Kim Robertson, Nina Robertson, Christine McCorkindale, Tony Bluto, Vincent Keene, Bernard Henry, Richard Van Spall, David Young
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
When I first saw NIGHTBREED, I recognized its flaws, but I also reveled in its expansive and endearing themes, majestic presentation of sets and makeups, and quirky performances. For me, as I saw it in theaters (during its all too brief theatrical run), I felt like NIGHTBREED had the potential to be the STAR WARS of horror and to this day, I still think that it had the potential to be.
Still, when I watched and rewatched my video tape of the film back in the day, the way the latter half of the film is sheared, sliced, and diced was utterly distracting and I hoped for the day an uncensored version would be released. For years, I heard of THE CABAL CUT, a rumored fan made version of the film using bits and pieces of the edited footage and splicing it all together, but I never saw that film. Then a while back, I had a chance to meet and talk with my namesake Mark Alan Miller, who is the producer for Saraphim films and a close collaborator with Clive Barker. It was great having Mark on my San Diego Comic Con horror panel and talking with him afterwards, as he had so many stories about Barker and his work. One such story was that he was working on the release of the definitive director’s cut of Barker’s NIGHTBREED. Having missed it when it toured here in Chicago, I couldn’t wait to crack open the Shout Factory’s new BluRay release of this version of the film I never thought I’d ever see.
And having seen it, I have to say in every way possible, this new version makes my appreciation for Barker’s vision and the film itself even stronger. While I can’t account for all of the additional footage, I will go into detail of the stuff I noticed upon viewing. There’s more at the beginning in regards to Boone (Craig Scheffer) and Lori’s relationship, including a really unique love scene and a really bad extended scene of Lori (Anne Bobby) up on stage. The song Lori sings is so terrible, but still it has a goofy 80s charm that can’t be denied. The love scene is actually really well choreographed, where the bodies kind of echo and merge with one another that makes this scene ooze both in eroticism as well as monstrosity. These two scenes seem to be the bulk of the additions to the original footage and don’t really add much to the narrative.
The main changes come in the latter half of the film, as the police storm the underground city of monsters known as Midian. Not only do you get extended scenes with more monsters than before as Lori tours the corridors and caverns of the city, but the action is also much more fleshed out and brutal. More interesting to me was the arc involving the drunken priest Ashberry (Malcolm Smith), whose role is much more fleshed out here as well as his participation in the carnage at the end. But the most significant changes involve the climax, as Baphomet (the statuesque monster worshipped by all the Nightbreed) imbues Boone with the power of the Cabal. In the previous version, much of this scene was truncated, making it rather hard to understand with all of the splosions and monsters running about. Here it makes much more sense and with the additional footage at the end, it really feels like Barker set out to make this a series of films, as a sort of quest is set up with this new ending in a much clearer and more appealing fashion.
That said, there are a lot of the same problems at play here that occurred in the original. While Barker definitely has a mind that knows no bounds, this film really does have a shot on a stage quality and while Midian is expansive in scope, it still reads as a small scale play set to me, as do a lot of other parts of this film. Things feel really flat throughout, and while the climax is much easier to follow, the ending is still both ambiguous and convoluted as to what happens to all of these characters Barker spent so much time establishing. It felt almost like Barker was saving the good stuff for a sequel he was hoping to make but unfortunately never was made, and everything here is just the precursor to all that.
I know I may be stoned in the talkbacks for saying it, but out of all of the films that are being remade, I’d love to see an expansive remake of NIGHTBREED, produced by Barker and directed by someone who can handle a huge scope while delving into the intimate and nuanced themes of the outcast. With today’s practical and CG effects, I think this film could really live up to being the STAR WARS of horror. As is, it’s a really great looking film, but one hindered by the budgets and technology of the time (as well as some of the styles—holy crap Anne Bobby’s hair is monstrous, as is Scheffer’s mullet).
This new BluRay comes with a pair of behind the scenes featurettes looking back at the making of the film through the eyes of the cast as well as one focusing on the tons of practical effects at play throughout the entire film. There’s also a pretty awesome intro with Mark Alan Miller and Clive Barker telling the tale of how this version of the film came to be. On top of that, this film has never looked better. The dark scenes of the monsters are clearer and the sound is amazing. The way it looks, this is really a whole brand new film.
New this week on DVD and digital download from Brain Damage Films!
AFTER SCHOOL MASSACRE (2014)aka TEACHER’S DAY, BLOOD SCHOOL
Directed by Jared Lee Masters
Written by Jared Lee Masters
Starring Lindsay Lamb, Steve Crest, Nikole Howell, Mindy Robinson, Dawna Lee Heising, Yasmine Soofi, Courtney Rood, Lonnie Alcide Gardner, Danika Galindo, Simone Wasserman, Andrew Phillips, Julia Faye West, Kelly De Vries, Art Roberts, Sunny Vachher
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This throwback to old school low budget slasher films has a lot of moments that made me smile, but it’s also wrapped in a package that is very much indie and low fi. Not that that’s a bad thing, but there are some who won’t give AFTER SCHOOL MASSACRE a chance because of that fact.
And that’s a shame, because aside from the rather hokey motivation for this teacher turned mass murderer, there are some great moments of gleefully gory and carnage-laden scenes such as one scene where the killer, lacking anything else to kill his intended victim with, pulls up a mailbox and bashes his victim in the head with it, then of course skewers her with the pole. Moments like this had me out of my chair laughing at how outrageous it was.
The story itself is rather simplistic. A tightly strung teacher is let loose from his school because he interacted with a student via Facebook and snaps. While the leap is rather large from educator to madman, given the small scale of the film, it’s not anything too much to understand or follow. This is a horror film, and the killer needs a reason to kill. Getting fired seems to be a good enough reason for a rampage as any given this tough economy.
There’s quite a bit of self poking fun going on in AFTER SCHOOL MASSACRE in regards to the amount of education the students seem to lack and also some rather pointed stabs at the stupidity of pop culture with the ridiculous theme song, “Fruit on My Belly”. Writer/director Jared Lee Masters fills this one with hot babes in peril (something he also did with his previous film SLINK which I rather enjoyed when I reviewed it here). The film itself views like a modern homage to those old sleepover slashers like SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE and films of their ilk and serves as a worthy, yet rather rudimentary tribute. Still, there’s a really cool opening credits sequence and a lot of brutal gore to enjoy. AFTER SCHOOL MASSACRE isn’t going to change the face of horror, but it does do slumber party horror with a wink, a nod, and a slash to fans who like low fi horror.
New this week on DVD & On Demand from Revolver Entertainment!
SOULMATE (2013)Directed by Axelle Carolyn
Written by Axelle Carolyn
Starring Anna Walton, Tom Wisdom, Tanya Myers, Nick Brimble, Emma Cleasby, Guy Armitage, Rebecca Kiser
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
If you somehow stumbled into this column and prefer horror to be heavy on the romantical nature, then I think I have the film for you. SOULMATE isn’t really going to impress those who like their horror on the more hardcore side, but those who prefer their scares on the low end of the spectrum and immediately think of GHOST instead of THE HAUNTING are going to want to check this film out. That said, being the type of horror fan who prefers some scares with his ghost stories, this one fell short of greatness for me.
Opening with a failed suicide attempt as Audrey (Anna Walton) slits her wrists in a bathtub, we find out she is the sole survivor of a car crash that resulted in the death of her husband. Audrey decides to go to a cabin in the moors to think things through and get her head together, but finds that the house has a ghost haunting its dark corridors. But while at first Audrey is frightened of the spooky specter, she starts to form a bond with the ghost since everyone is writing off her sightings as symptoms of her unwell mind. Audrey and her friendly ghost Douglas (Tom Wisdom) sit and talk. He tells her what it’s like to be dead. She tells him her tragic history. And through it all, Audrey goes through a sort of catharsis conversing with the dead. But when she is ready to go back and rejoin her old life again, Douglas isn’t ready to let her go.
While there are some moments where this film has some bite, such as the opening suicide scene and some of the ghostly moments before Audrey and Douglas become besties, this film feels something that might be much more at home as a Lifetime film. While filmed in a manner that is much better than the type of films seen on that channel and the acting is better as well, the theme of a woman lost and looking for solace in a man she cannot have is something that feels at home on the channel that highlights films like THE GHOST INSIDE MY CHILD and I KILLED MY BFF.
Things do get much less lovey-dovey by the end, but by that time, SOULMATE kind of lost me. I think this is just a matter that this film proved to be a bit too tame for my taste in ghost stories. But if you’re looking for a film that won’t scare you too much, this might be the type of film you’re looking for. Aside from the opening suicide, there’s very little gore, but SOULMATE is well acted and soaks in the Welsh countryside very well.
New this week on DVD & digital download from Sony!
GRACE: THE POSSESSION (2014)aka GRACE
Directed by Jeff Chan
Written by Jeff Chan, Chris Pare, Peter Huang
Starring Alexia Fast, Joel David Moore, Lin Shaye, Alan Dale, Alexis Knapp, Brett Dier, Madeleine Arthur, Clarke Peters
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Sometimes a little nip here and a tiny tuck there is all it takes for something to feel new. To a point, that’s the case with GRACE: THE POSSESSION, the latest in the upsurge in possession and exorcism flicks that appear to be the new black these days.
The story centers on the titular Grace (the stunning Alexia Fast), a shy girl getting ready to leave her simple home and her bible-thumping grandmother (INSIDIOUS’ Lin Shaye) to enroll in college and live in the dorms. The opening moments follow Grace onto campus, finding her room and meeting her new roommate. From the looks of it in these first moments and from the title of the film, I expected your run of the mill possession flick following a few nightmarish moments where religious iconography is twisted and warped culminating in a lot of growling, spitting, a bit of bondage to a bed, and some priests screaming “THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELLS YOU!”
And that’s pretty much GRACE: THE POSSESSION in a nutshell. By the numbers, it tells what has become the typical possession story told and retold a million times since THE EXORCIST…except for one thing: the entire film is filmed in first person POV. And I don’t mean found footage, although some might mistake this film for one. The gimmick of GRACE: THE POSSESSION is that we see everything through the eyes of the possessed, so while found footagers try their hardest to find ways to justify keeping the cameras rolling, this one simply tells the tale as if you the viewer were seeing it with your own eyes. So there’s no shaky cams or flashing battery signs, just some very elaborate camera tricks to make you think and feel as if you’re the one growling, spitting, being tied to the bedposts and being compelled by screaming priests. And that was enough for me to make this film unique enough to earn my respect as it offers the same old story from a different perspective.
So while you may be able to predict every beat of this film, what will dazzle you are the special effects such as mirror tricks where it appears you are looking directly into the mirror without the camera being seen and a pretty spectacular finale taking place in a church with all sorts of floating crosses, demonic faces, sizzling holy water, and splintering church pews. I found myself trying to figure out how specific scenes were shot numerous times in this film and it made the whole thing kind of a fun game for me.
Don’t expect anything new to be offered in terms of story and you might just be as impressed with GRACE: THE POSSESSION as I was. Alexia Fast does a fine job in the lead role playing to the viewers’ sympathies, and it features smaller parts by GRANDMA’S BOY’s Joel David Moore as a young priest, Lin Shaye doing her best impression of Carrie’s mom here as the grandmother, and LOST’s Alan Dale playing the stone-faced head priest. But the real highlight is the way writer/director Jeff Chan works his movie magic by transporting us into this possessed mind. It’s a fun ride from a fresh perspective—like sitting in the same rollercoaster you’ve ridden in before, only in a different seat.
New this week on DVD from IFC Midnight!
BENEATH (2013)Directed by Ben Ketai
Written by Patrick Doody, Chris Valenziano
Starring Lauren Gores, Joey Kern, Jeff Fahey, Brent Briscoe, Kurt Caceres, Eric Etebari, Jason Masek, Kelly Noonan, Rene Rivera, David Shackelford, Mark L. Young
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Much like THE ADDICTED above, BENEATH attempts to be a couple of things in one movie, and while THE ADDICTED wasn’t completely successful at achieving that multi-faceted goal, BENEATH is able to be more than one specific type of film with much greater success.
It’s a tale of a group of miners, one of which is, of course, on his last dig before retirement named George (Jeff Fahey), which gets trapped deep in a mine after a cave-in reveals a hidden corridor not known to exist by the crew. Along for the ride is Samantha (Lauren Gores), an environmental lawyer and daughter of George, who is brought along on a lark to show her what her dear old dad has been up to for the last 30 years providing for the family. Also in the group is CABIN IN THE WOODS actor Joey Kern as Randy, Samantha’s old steady. Rounding out the cast is good ol’ timer Mundy (Brent Briscoe from A SIMPLE PLAN), who is the foreman to this crew of diggers. When the cave falls and the miners become trapped, it’s unclear if this becomes a descent into madness tale as the miners succumb to paranoia and may be suffering from the intake of noxious fumes or a ghost story as the opening of the hidden cave has ties to miners who were trapped in the cave long ago and might still be haunted by their unsettled spirits.
While BENEATH is abundant in the cliché department, the strength lies in the actors involved. Fahey is always fantastic, and despite the fact that he’s got Danny Glover’s retirement luck, he still brings an authentic grit to the role like few others can. Lauren Gores is a new face for me, but she is great here too, shying away from being a screaming clichéd woman and exuding enough toughness, yet still showing that this trip is terrifying her and she is completely out of her element. Kern, who was amazing in SASQUATCH GANG as the shirtless idiot named Shirts, offers up a strong performance and exudes a lot of Matthew McConaughey charm as the noble hero of the bunch, and Briscoe is always fun to watch mosey around with his Southern drawl and downhome disposition. All of these character actors do a fantastic job of basically making a cave-in movie feel real and original, though we’ve seen this kind of “trapped in the rubble” type film before.
What works best in this film is the way Ketai holds the info close to his vest. There’s no real clear indication as to what kind of horror movie this is, and it’s kind of refreshing to have a film keep me guessing in the way it does. Sure this might infuriate some who like their horror spelled out for them, but I loved wondering what it was that was tormenting the miners. Was it ghosts? Monsters a la THE DESCENT? Or their own fucked up minds? I never got tired of asking these questions and was steeped in so much of the unknown that I didn’t mind that a distinct answer isn’t really given.
BENEATH (not to be confused with the excellent monster fish film of the same name by Larry Fessenden, reviewed here) reminded me most of THE SHINING, believe it or not. Not to set it up against one of the great horror films of all time, but the film, with its dark corridors and unpredictable imagery, keeps you guessing as to what is real and what is not. Filled with intense action, horrific moments, and a strong cast, BENEATH is a film that will definitely make you gasp for air.
New this week BluRay & DVD from RAM Releasing!
MOEBIUS (2013)Directed by Ki-duk Kim
Written by Ki-duk Kim
Starring Jae-hyeon Jo, Eun-woo Lee, Young-ju Seo
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Wow, I was not prepared for this film and I think even if I do talk about the basic premise of the film here, you won’t be either. In MOEBIUS, the title refers to a life’s circular and repetitive pattern where an act of violence causes another and another, but those acts of violence towards others always have a way of finding their way back home. Those looking for straight-laced horror with predictable characters and events occurring should look elsewhere. MOEBIUS is as unconventional as it is engrossing.
Following the tragic cycle of violence occurring in one completely fucked up family, MOEBIUS is a film without dialog, suggesting that though the events that unfold here may be set in a foreign land to American viewers, the message it conveys in the actions reach beyond geographical and cultural borders. The story involves incest, patricide, matricide, rape, castration, domestic abuse, infidelity, and a myriad of other sins and crimes. Saying who does what to who would be venturing too much into spoiler territory, but just that laundry list of misdeeds should prepare you what you will encounter in this film.
From beginning to end, the film may prove to be too intense to viewers of the fairer sex, as every woman in this film is treated horribly. Then again, the men don’t get out unscathed either. This is an ugly movie, but a brutally honest one, deglamorizing violence and showing that the violence doesn’t stop with the act itself. The psychological scars heal much more slowly and, according to this film, crave some kind of retribution in order to be appeased. Across the board the acting is superb, with the actors conveying so much with simple glances, tear-filled stares, and resonant actions. Without a word, you know what these people are thinking as director/writer Ki-duk Kim communicates every move clearly and confidently.
MOEBIUS is not for the squeamish. I winced quite a few times in this film because unlike the Hollywood violence where one slash to the throat immediately kills and then there’s a cut to the next scene, this film lingers and accentuates every blow, conveying how much damage a strike from a loved one can really do. This film is a powerful piece of cinema, highlighting the ugliness in human beings and how one act causes ripples that can grow into tidal waves if left unnoticed or unaddressed. MOEBIUS is sophisticated and impactful cinema, speaking volumes with nary a phrase uttered from beginning to end.
New this week on DVD from Dark Sky Films!
LFO (2013)Directed by Antonio Tublén
Written by Antonio Tublén
Starring Patrik Karlson, Izabella Jo Tschig, Per Löfberg, Ahnna Rasch
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Full of quirk and dark comedy, LFO is a modern day tale of mad science as a lonely man attempts to reach out to others in his own crazy and off kilter way.
But beneath all of that electro quirk is a story of a man out of control striving to gain it by any means necessary. LFO is an amazing character study of one man named Robert (Patrik Karlson), who lost his wife and child in an accident just meant to kill his wife for cheating on him. Now Robert reaches out to his “friends” over his HAM radio, discussing life, death, and his discovery of a specific sound wave that may be able to control people’s minds. After first experimenting on himself, Robert moves onto his new neighbors, manipulating them in various perverse and bizarre ways. The film follows these experiments in stages as if this is a true scientific experiment, expanding and contracting after the latest stage succeeds or fails.
What I loved about LFO is that it very intimately sets up the story of a super villain developing his power to take over the world. I say that as a cliché, but Robert, from the very beginning, seems intent on changing the world. He has no life of his own aside from his radio friends and his experiments. Retreating to his lab, all he has is his work, which is altruistic in nature, but his ethics have been thrown out the window. I loved seeing Robert proceed with his plans, stumble, fail, and then recover and resume his plans throughout the course of this film. I got the same feeling when I watched Daniel Day Lewis in THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Along the way, we get to know this man who is capable of so much evil, but the viewpoint is so personal, you can’t help but feel for him despite his devious deeds.
Full of glorious electro moog music throughout, LFO is not going to be for everyone. The pace of the film is rather slow and people not really taken in by this mad scientist’s quirk are going to find this film quite difficult to sit through. But I was completely taken by the flat and monotone performance by Patrik as Robert and his descent into the depths of villainy.
New this week on DVD, BluRay, & digital download from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment!
DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2014)aka BEWARE THE NIGHT
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Written by Scott Derrickson & Paul Harris Boardman (screenplay), Ralph Sarchie & Lisa Collier Cool (based on the book by)
Starring Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Chris Coy, Dorian Missick, Sean Harris, Joel McHale, Mike Houston, Lulu Wilson, Olivia Horton, Scott Johnsen, Daniel Sauli, Antoinette LaVecchia, Aidan Gemme, Jenna Gavigan
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This year’s big budget exorcism flick didn’t really spin the heads of moviegoers, and I must admit I missed it in theaters myself. But while DELIVER US FROM EVIL tries its best to differentiate itself from other demon possessed films, it just can’t shed the trappings all possession flicks seem to fall into.
Based on real life events, Eric Bana plays tough guy NY cop Ralph Sarchie, who happens to have an uncanny sense when it comes to cracking the evilest of cases done by the most despicable of people. Ralph and his partner Butler (COMMUNITY’s Joel McHale, who bulked up for the role) notice a connection with a few of their current cases as the perps have a tendency to act animalistically and erratically, attacking loved ones and digging at the ground until their fingers bleed. Ralph also partners up with Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez), an unconventional priest who smokes and drinks, who notices Raph’s ability to sense when demons are around. The trail leads to three soldiers who uncovered a hidden cave in Afghanistan and brought back a curse when they returned home.
The cop drama meets the paranormal aspect of this film is the coolest part of it all. Seeing tough guy cops with their pistols drawn battling it out with drooling and biting man-demons is something you don’t often see in horror, which tends to be more intimate when it comes to possession flicks. Staging this possession over a broader scale definitely makes this all feel original and new, and director Scott Derrickson is capable of making the film seem like a genuine cop drama as well as inject the scenes that go bump in the night. Too often in these genre mishmashes only one aspect is strong with the other aspect seemingly jammed into there seemingly as an afterthought. Here, the film feels like a genuine police procedural even without the scratching demon people.
That said, there are some great little moments in DELIVER US FROM EVIL. As with most mass-released films, the formula here is a scare or thrill every five minutes, and DELIVER US FROM EVIL delivers that. The imagery is pretty creepy, too; from a rolling owl doll in the dark to the way one of the demons hops out of a window to escape, there is enough here to thrill as Derrickson chops and cuts through the action at a rapid fire pace.
There’s a lot of good character work here as well, as Bana and Ramirez do a great job at making their roles defy the clichés often associated with cops and priests. Bana is always fun to watch as he has that tough guy demeanor, but when his eyes go wide, he really is able to emote fear, and if a tough guy like that feels fear it must be something scary. Ramirez is a new face to me, but is really great as the wizened priest who guides Bana through the darkness. There’s a bit of a hokey Gandalf /Obi Wan vibe to him, a sort of mysticism that kind of makes his role rather goofy, and Ramirez doesn’t help with the dramatic and cartoony poses he takes against the evil, but still, he makes the role fun and different.
All of the above makes DELIVER US FROM EVIL sound pretty good, right? Well, that is, until the cliché-ridden climax of the film, I was thinking so too. But like most exorcism movies, DELIVER US FROM EVIL skids off the rails and to a crashing stop when Ralph and Mendoza finally trap the demon in a police station, handcuff him to a chair and perform an exorcism. At that point, everything is by the numbers and tired. Had just amount of energy been put into making this scene an amalgam of police procedural and supernatural, they might have had something with this movie. But by the final act, it seems the new idea bag was empty and they resorted to stuff we’ve seen a million times.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL is not a bad film. It has its share of jump scares, some quality gore shots, some gutsy action, and a cast that seems to be giving it their all. It’s too bad exorcism clichés abound in the latter moments. Unfortunately, the film falls just short of awesome because of the ending. Still, it delivers up until the end.
New this week on DVD, BluRay, & On Demand from Well Go USA Entertainment!
CHILD OF GOD (2013)Directed by James Franco
Written by James Franco & Vince Jolivette (screenplay), based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy
Starring Scott Haze, Tim Blake Nelson, Jim Parrack, Nina Ljeti, Brian Lally, James Franco
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Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Much hubbub was murmured in the talkbacks regarding what qualifies as a horror film and what doesn’t. Seems people feel more compelled to talk about whether or not the film fits to their standards of horror than about the film itself, which is too bad because you’re missing out on some good films if you’re so stingy with your qualifications. I mention this because, at first, when I popped CHILD OF GOD into my magic movie player, I wondered if this film was a horror film or not. I did that for most of the film until the climax, which comes somewhat out of the blue, but in my opinion, definitely qualifies this film to show up in this column for review.
Now James Franco is not the first person I’d think of in terms of horror, but for the most part, I felt his adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel CHILD OF GOD was a worthwhile, yet horrific endeavor into the mind of a madman. Following the life of a village idiot named Lester Ballard (Scott Haze), the film introduces this unpredictable man-child as he surfaces from a shed as his land is being auctioned off to the highest bidder. After his father died, Lester didn’t have the funds or the faculties to run the land he was born on and though he fights tooth and nail, he is kicked off his land and arrested for pointing a gun and threatening the auctioneers and the buyers. Taken into jail by the sheriff (OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU’s Tim Blake Nelson) and his deputy (TRUE BLOOD’s Jim Parrack), Lester is held for a short period of time then released. Roaming the backwoods of Tennessee, sleeping in rundown sheds, and occasionally swooping back to his old home to raid the chicken coop and menace the new owners, Lester is portrayed as a free spirit, misunderstood by all who cross his path. This misunderstanding also contributes to Lester’s deviant behavior as he happens upon a pair of corpses in a car running along side the road. Swiping the female and taking her back to the shack, Lester shows a sweeter side as he attempts to have a relationship with this dead woman. At this point in the film, things begin to swirl into a pit so dark, you feel pretty filthy just watching it.
Writer/director Franco pulls no punches here. He allows Haze to portray Lester as a modern caveman, snarling and growing like Frankenstein on the loose with the simplest of social graces. At least that’s what Franco and Haze want us to believe in the first moments of this film. But as Lester begins his descent into new dark depths, Franco and Haze do something pretty genius and show Lester at his most vulnerable and most human. While it’s deviant to have him steal a dead body, he does so because society shuns him and while not condoning his deviant behavior, we are given enough in Haze’s performance and Franco’s directing to actually feel sympathy for him. Of course, this can only last for so long as Lester descends further into madness. The latter half hour of this film is more intense and more horrific than most of the films I’ve seen this month (and I watch a lot of horror movies in a month, folks). I don’t want to give anything away, because seeing the floodgates of insanity fly open in this film is awe-inspiring—pushing limits and most likely testing the limits of what some folks will want to watch.
Those looking for THIS IS THE END James Franco or even FREAKS AND GEEKS Franco will be left in the dust here. This is a dark film, and Franco really does a great job of soaking in the Tennessee wilderness and this madman running amok in it. This is an intimate portrayal of a misunderstood and chaotic man set against insurmountable odds. It’s a metaphor of a movie that could be likened to the evolution of man to the impenetrable ascent or descent in the social class system. Or it could be just a story of a freak in the woods who likes to scrog dead ladies. Either way, it’s horror to me and well worth seeing for Scott Haze’s mesmerizing lead performance and Franco’s unconventional eye and method of storytelling.
And finally…if you’re hungry this Halloween, there’s a new restaurant in town that you might be interested in. Here’s a mock commercial for CTHULHU’S PIZZA KITCHEN! MMMMMMM! Love those tentacles!
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.
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