Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Sorry for the delay in last week’s column, but here it is in all its glory! It’s kind of a rough week, but there are a few diamonds in there. On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Book Creeport: IN THE DARKNESS, THAT’S WHERE I’LL KNOW YOU Novel (2015)
Retro-review: JACK THE RIPPER (1976)
Retro-review: Hauntings 4 Pack: SALEM WITCH TRIALS (2002)
ALBERT FISH: IN SIN HE FOUND SALVATION (2007)
OUTPOST DOOM (2009)
From Asia with Lust Double Feature Vol1: CAMP (2014)/HITCH-HIKE (2014)
PAIN IS BEAUTIFUL (2015)
Advance Review: VOICES FROM THE GRAVE (2014)
Advance Review: VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH (2015)
And finally…51 Deep’s LANDLINE!
Book Creeport: Available here!
IN THE DARKNESS, THAT’S WHERE I’LL KNOW YOU (THE BLACK ROOM parts 1-4) Novel (2015)Written by Luke Smitherd
Read and reviewed by BottleImp
Science fiction, drama, humor, horror, and yes—even romance—are expertly blended in the novel IN THE DARKNESS, THAT’S WHERE I’LL KNOW YOU, written by Luke Smitherd. Originally published in four parts as THE BLACK ROOM in 2013, the complete story is now available on amazon.com and should be required reading for fans of any of the genres listed above (or simply those who love a good page-turner).
The reader is thrust immediately into the mystery that is the heart of the story, as Charlie Wilkes wakes up not in his own room, but in a black void whose only feature is a large “screen” that shows him a glimpse of the outside world. It’s not long before Charlie realizes that this screen is showing him the view through someone else’s eyes, and that for all intents and purposes, Charlie is trapped inside someone else’s head. That someone is a young woman named Minnie, and when Charlie attempts to communicate with her, it just reinforces the thoughts that Minnie had been having for weeks: she’s losing her mind. In a bid to prove that he’s a real person and not simply a delusion, Charlie convinces Minnie to go seek out proof of Charlie’s existence. And, believe it or not, that’s when things get really weird.
I’m not going to give away any more of the plot because that would deprive new readers of the sheer excitement that comes with reading this novel. Smitherd (whose books THE STONE MAN and A HEAD FULL OF KNIVES I’ve previously reviewed for this column, and who’s become one of my favorite new authors) excels at avoiding the obvious and cliché in his work. Every time I thought I knew where the story was headed, IN THE DARKNESS, THAT’S WHERE I’LL KNOW YOU takes a deft turn down an unexpected and intriguing new path. What begins as a “Twilight Zone”-esque tale of the unexplained is carefully crafted into a character-rich drama, an exploration of what it is that draws us together as souls seeking to connect with other souls. This gentle theme, reminiscent of the best works of Ray Bradbury, lulls the reader into a warm sense of comfort before Smitherd drives the story into the blackness of shocking horror.
None of these shifts in tone are arbitrary; IN THE DARKNESS, THAT’S WHERE I’LL KNOW YOU is shaped with an exquisite precision that culminates in a climax that leaves the reader exhausted from the dizzying thrill of emotions. As I said earlier, the novel is focused on the characters, and Smitherd makes Charlie and Minnie (along with the other people that are drawn into the story) real—they’re not perfect cardboard cutouts or hackneyed “types” that so often pop up in genre fiction; you believe that these people really exist and could live right next door to you. And so you care about them, and that makes their experiences within and without the Black Room incredibly intense and engrossing.
If you missed this book in its original serialized format, now you’ve been given another chance to read one of the best books in the sci-fi/horror genres—or any genre, as a matter of fact—that I’ve had the pleasure of reading in recent memory. Luke Smitherd is an up-and-coming author that readers should keep their eyes on, and IN THE DARKNESS, THAT’S WHERE I’LL KNOW YOU is this young author at his best.
When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.
Retro-review: New on BluRay from Full Moon Films!
JACK THE RIPPER (1976)Directed by Jess Franco
Written by Jess Franco
Starring Klaus Kinski, Josephine Chaplin, Andreas Mannkopff, Herbert Fux, Lina Romay, Hans Gaugler, Nikola Weisse, Ursula von Wiese, Francine Custer, Olga Gebhard, Angelika Arndts, Peter Nüsch, Esther Studer, Regine Elsener, Lorli Bucher
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
While it might not be historically accurate, with Klaus Kinski playing the most nefarious serial killer in all of history, Jack the Ripper, you know at least the film’s going to be a hoot. And it is.
Jess Franco’s turn with the Jack the Ripper case from the very beginning points the finger at Kinski’s Dr. Dennis Orloff who is slinking in the shadows during the opening credits. After killing a prostitute, he tosses her in a boat and brings her to his botanical garden where he performs heinous acts of sex and violence to the body, using it for parts and then leaving the remains for his somewhat dim-witted woman-servant to get rid of. While some of the details of the case are used, Franco seems to play things fast and loose with the actual facts in the name of making a fun story and coming to a resolution (which leads to Scotland Yard actually solving the case instead of the killer eluding capture as history professes). While some of the prostitutes get some screen time before they are offed, only Inspector Selby (Andreas Mannkopff) gets to take center stage when Kinski isn’t as the man dedicated to solve the case. Through some dumb luck and some very rudimentary detective work (relying on a blind man’s testimony and a pretty crude sketch artist), the case is solved, but most of the film focuses on Orloff’s stalking, capture, killing, and dry humping his victims.
Kinski is at his most charming and his most brave in this film and it really does highlight the skill the legendary difficult actor possesses at his craft. In one scene, he’s charming his patients and rubbing elbows with socialites. The next he’s slicing a prostitute’s breasts off and grinding his pelvis into their corpses. This is one of Kinski’s more creepy performances and it’s pretty amazing to see how crazy he goes with the character. The switch between rutting madman and put-together doctor is subtle, but it’s made to best effect in the final scene when he is caught in the act. It’s a truly amazing sequence and an equally mesmerizing performance.
Still don’t look for Alan Moore’s FROM HELL level of historical accuracy here. Writer/director Franco makes up pretty much everything but the murders themselves and even suggests that they’ve been going on much earlier than history reports. Seeing Orloff work with his accomplice (who is equally insane) is a twisted and complex relationship. It’s all made up, but as a piece of fiction and a character study, it is a rather fascinating viewpoint.
You’ll find tons of gratuitous nudity and gore in this one, much like Franco’s other films. The scenes where Kinski slices off the breasts of his victims are the most grueling. But it’s the way Kinski portrays this drooling, humping madman that gives this entire movie a sleaze factor that can’t be denied. JACK THE RIPPER has its rough edges, but the grimy grindhouse sleaze of both Franco’s vision and Kinski’s performance makes it very watchable.
Available on as part of the HAUNTINGS 4 Films from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment!
SALEM WITCH TRIALS (2002)Directed by Joseph Sargent
Written by Mara Nation
Starring Kirstie Alley, Henry Czerny, Gloria Reuben, Jay O. Sanders, Kristin Booth, Katie Boland, Alan Bates, Rebecca De Mornay, Peter Ustinov, Shirley MacLaine, Shannon Lawson, Colin Fox, Camille Wainwright, David Hemblen, Susan Coyne, Nadia Litz, Dixie Seatle, Zachary Bennett, Bradley Reid, Tannis Burnett, Sophie Bennett, Elana Shilling, Amy Stewart, Mairon Bennett, Nancy Beatty, Tabitha Lupien, Megan Bower, Jackie Laidlaw, Nicky Guadagni, David Christo, Cara Pifko, Hannah Lochner, Linda Prystawska, Arlene Mazerolle, Irene Poole, Adrian Hough, Lindsay Collins, Julian Richings, Chris Benson, Heinar Pillar, Philip Sheperd, Oliver Becker, Bill Lake
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Look at that cast up there! There’re a lot of talented folks in this film which aired only once before falling into obscurity. That is, until now, as it is available on a four disk compilation of films about true life hauntings and strange occurrences which aired on TV. While some of them have been slightly enjoyable (THE HAUNTING OF FOX HOLLOW FARM and HAUNTING OF WINCHESTER HOUSE) others are not-so-much (GRAVE SECRETS: THE LEGACY OF HILLTOP DRIVE). The final film in the bunch is SALEM WITCH TRIALS.
And while the cast of SALEM WITCH TRIALS is pretty impressive; ranging from TV stars Kirstie Alley to character actors such as Henry Czerny, Jay O. Sanders, and Julian Richings, to major stars like Rebecca De Mornay, Shirley MacLaine, Peter Ustinov, and Alan Bates. The film tries to stay pretty close to the historical accounts of the witch frenzy of the late 1600’s, pointing the finger at a group of children caught dancing in the woods and how their accusations that a witch made them do it lead to one of the most horrific trials in American history. But while Arthur Miller wrote THE CRUCIBLE as a response to the McCarthyism going on in America 300 years later, SALEM WITCH TRIALS tries to stick more to the truth and less about writing a compelling allegory. And while today, the witch trials happen on CNN and FOX NEWS and the word “witch” has been replaced with words like “liberal” or “conservative,” the film and the themes at play in it are as timely now as it was back then. It also shows that, sadly, we have not evolved very much in the last 500 years.
With a cast like this, one would think that this would be a film worth seeing, but unfortunately, this being a TV film paced as a miniseries, it really does drag its heels the majority of the time. Aside from the trial itself and maybe a few of these accusations that recklessly get lobbed back and forth among the kids resulting in horrible fates for anyone who cross them, this film is dulls-ville. Watching Kirstie Alley attempt an English accent is almost as painful to endure as the trials the witches went through themselves. Others in the film overact to the point of hilarity, especially Henry Czerny, who seems to be going for some kind of over-acting achievement award and using every over-enunciation and pious outrage-filled discourse to build his case.
There are some decent scenes here with solid acting from Alan Bates, Shirley MacLaine, and the like. There are some decent scenes where folks are seemingly overcome by the power of the witches and experience hallucinations that were fun. The theme of the destructive power of hearsay, how gullible people are, and how society is a judgmental thing (no matter what the affiliation) are prevalent throughout the film, but more times than not, I was over-longed and over-acted to death by this film. And while SALEM SWITCH TRIALS may be more accurate than THE CRUCIBLE, that doesn’t make it more entertaining.
Available on DVD from John Borowski’s website here!
ALBERT FISH: IN SIN HE FOUND SALVATION (2007)Directed by John Borowski
Written by John Borowski
Starring Oto Brezina, Joe Coleman, Bob Dunsworth, Harvey Fisher, Derek Gaspar, Nathan Hall, Cooney Horvath, Tony Jay, Katherine Ramsland, Donna Rawlins, Garrett Shriver, Kasey Skinner, Ronni Trankel
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
John Borowski has made a living chronicling the lives of serial killers in such films as CARL PANZRAM: THE SPIRIT OF HATRED and H.H.HOLMES: AMERICA’S FIRST SERIAL KILLER and delving into society’s fascination with serial killers in SERIAL KILLER CULTURE. One of his earliest and best documentaries of this kind is ALBERT FISH: IN SIN HE FOUND SALVATION.
The film depicts Fish’s life from a relatively early age in the late 1800’s as Fish was just learning to tap into his more primal and deviant desires. It seems that Fish had a long history of abuse, torture, and murder long before his case was revealed to authorities, but as a sign of the times, it was much easier for Fish to move around, change aliases, and cover his tracks. The story not only delves into Fish’s fascination with bondage, S&M, and other dark fetishes, but also how he related these acts to a bit too literal takes on verses from the Bible. Literally taking the body of Christ sacrament to heart, Fish eventually upped the ante to cannibalism and justified it as a holy communion of sorts. Sharing personal confessional notes Fish sent to victims and authorities and his own memoirs, the documentary does a thorough job of getting into the ugly truth behind Fish’s dark side.
I must profess that before seeing this film, I only had a rudimentary knowledge of Fish’s exploits, so I found this documentary to be pretty informative. Those who already know about the serial killer might not feel the same, but I found every minute to be fascinating. Borowski delves into the pathos of Fish from multiple angles; historically, fetishistic, religious, and even societal, as Fish’s more deviant activities may not have festered to the point it had if society were not more accepting of homosexuality or those who like a little bit of a twist in their sexual preferences. I find it interesting to look at these serial killers in this sense as society’s acceptance of what is right often forces them to push down urges. Had Fish lived in a society more open to him having homosexual thoughts, would he have become the madman we know him as today? In no way am I saying being gay leads to homicidal and deviant acts, but I don’t think I’m reaching in relating how the repression of basic urges and desires often does lead one down a dark path. Borowski touches upon this theory and many others as the cause of Fish’s psychosis.
With candid testimony from FBI profilers, historians, and serial killer collection owners, Borowski paints a colorful portrait of a very twisted man. While some of the dramatizations are over the top (seeing Fish interact with Jesus is a bit much), others, such as the simple cooking of a steak and close up on someone eating it while Fish accounts his acts of cannibalism in shocking detail make for some absolutely riveting material. ALBERT FISH: IN SIN HE FOUND SALVATION does a great job of asking interesting questions as what makes a serial killer and compiles them in an entertaining way as to save the most gruesome stuff (like the needles in the stomach and groin self-mutilation) for last. Paced in a fast and informative way, this doc pulls back the curtain of the most horrible men in American history.
Available from Dead Lantern Pictures!
OUTPOST DOOM (2009)Directed by Mathew Kister
Written by Mathew Kister
Starring Jeremy Cech, Rhyann Crooks, Steve Eaton, Jeff Gustafson, Braden Johnson, Mathew Kister, Carlin Mackie, Deejay Scharton, Jeff Schmidt, Tina Schmidt, Madison Vetter
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Low fi goodness and campy horror abounds in OUTPOST DOOM, a film I happened upon one Flashback Weekend many moons ago here in Chicago and sadly only got to check it out recently. But it’s good to know the film was definitely worth the wait.
A pair of convicts make their way through the night with a powerful storm pouring down on their heads. But that’s not all that is dangerous out in the dark, so they hole up in a barn and find themselves trapped with a group of survivors. Facing maze-like twists and turns in the barn and even weirder monstrosities outside trying to break in, the group find trusting one another is harder than expected.
Filmed in black and white (which is weird because the trailer below is in color), OUTPOST DOOM is a fun throwback to monster movies of old. There is a nice sense of paranoia that makes things feel more reminiscent of John Carpenter’s THE THING, but for the most part—from the campy music, to the shoddy FX, OUTPOST DOOM is a film lovers of old monster movies will die for.
No Academy Awards were handed out for this film, as the acting is pretty cardboard. Most likely, this is a film made by a bunch of friends over many weekends thread together with love of the genre and a strong indie spirit. Still, there’s an understanding of how to make a spooky story and a genius way the rudimentary effects are handled that gives this film an appeal that cannot be denied. I especially like the tendrils of the monster outside which appear to be made of inflatable rubber and are quite spooky in black and white. Seeing these tentacles reach into the farm windows and doors and pick off the survivors one by one is fun every time it occurs.
OUTPOST DOOM has an anything-goes sort of demeanor that makes it instantly likable. It delivers on scares and atmosphere, so it makes the rough acting a little more digestible. While the script is a bit obtuse, it still delivers quite a few fun twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting. OUTPOST DOOM makes much with very little and is the epitome of watchable, entertaining indie horror.
New from Troma!
From Asia With Lust Vol1: CAMP (2014)/HITCH-HIKE (2014)Directed by Ainosuke Shibata
Written by Ainosuke Shibata
Starring Miyuki Yokoyama
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I won’t be spending too much time on this double disk which is rather sleazily titled “From Asia with Lust” and featuring two recent “rapesploitation” films from Ainosuke Shibata. While I can tolerate all kinds of senseless violence, gore, and frights galore, films which hang their story on raping and torturing women really isn’t my thing. While I can sit through films like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and its ilk from the seventies since it was a rather extreme cinematic insecure over-compensation to the women’s lib movement that was going on at the time. Seeing these types of films now only makes me wonder why films like these are still made.
From a simple artistic standpoint, there’s not a lot going on here in terms of story, character, acting, or theme. In CAMP, two sisters find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere. When they happen upon an abandoned campground, they find a group of five men holing up there who are attempting to get over their sexually violent tendencies by secluding themselves. Needless to say, the arrival to these two young and perky ladies does not do well for the deviants’ treatment. The film depicts some pretty heinous scenes of rape and abuse as each of the five men seems to have their own dark fetish when it comes to assaulting women. The tables are turned when one of the girls escapes and finds another woman in the woods who trains the survivor (in an all too quick montage) in the arts of retribution by crossbow and bow and arrow. Sure the scenes of revenge might tell some message about the empowerment of the victim, but the rapists’ comeuppance is rather quick, while the earlier rape of the two girls lingers on and on; showing where this film’s interests lay.
HITCH-HIKE is slightly more interesting in terms of suspense and theme. The film focuses on a woman and a man driving to go on a fishing trip. Right away, the man establishes himself as an abusive dick to his wife; throwing food at her in the car, pouring beer on her, then groping her in public—all the while berating and emotionally abusing her. The tide turns when they pick up a hitchhiker who at first appears friendly, but turns out to be worse than the asshole husband. Again, the leading lady (a Japanese adult film star named Miyuki Yokoyama, who is also in CAMP) is simply the object of desire for every man in the film until she finally has enough and fights back against her captor. The story here at least takes some unexpected turns along the way and will keep you guessing; still the many scenes of rape and assault on the female star is going to be off putting for many and while CAMP takes things to a cartoonish level (mostly because of the bad acting), HITCH-HIKE is the more despicable of the two in terms the depths the violence and assault delve into.
Looking at these films through a cultural lens, I guess the theme of abuse and rape towards women could be reflecting the treatment of women in Japanese culture and while women’s lib has taken leaps and bounds here in the US, this might be a more topical response to changing times in that country in terms of women’s rights. I’m not experienced in the state of inequality of women’s rights in Japan, but they certainly are not treated as equals in these films. Some might argue that director/writer Ainosuke Shibata is paying homage to the Japanese “pink films” which often mixed sex, violence, and revenge, but that doesn’t make it any more tasteful to me. While I’ll save judgment on those who might be interested in these “rapesploitation” films, I will say that neither is strong in nuance, theme, atmosphere, or emotional power. Both CAMP and HITCH-HIKE prominently feature the overpowering of women in devious and despicable ways, which made for some mighty uncomfortable viewing for me.
Available now on DVD from the film’s website!
PAIN IS BEAUTIFUL (2015)Directed by Chris Staviski
Written by Chris Staviski & Lee Woodford
Starring Chris Staviski, Ivet Corvea, Elissa Dowling, Jessica Sonneborn, Mike Pfaff, Lynn Ayala, Brian McCulley, Tim Sullivan, DeeDee Bigelow, Paul Blatchley, Jeff Dylan Graham, Matthew Aidan, Derick Bates
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This twisted take on torture porn is strong in story, but still has the rough edges of a low budgeter in terms of acting and pacing. Still, PAIN IS BEAUTIFUL is not at painful to sit through than most of its ilk.
Co-writer/director Chris Staviski plays William, a tortured soul who cannot feel any pain. Because of this malady, he was the victim of much abuse from his father and as an adult, is covered in scars from head to toe. This leads William to have a rather reclusive lifestyle, but he still seeks answers for what it feels like to have pain, to feel love, or just to feel anything. When a co-worker (Elissa Dowling) shows interest in him, William sets out to find the true meaning of pleasure and pain by kidnapping and torturing random people he deems educated and articulate enough to describe the experience to him before they die. As William prepares to marry and be happy with his new love interest, the body count rises and William’s twisted sense of understanding grows darker and darker.
While the acting is not top notch here, the story and character development of William in PAIN IS BEAUTIFUL is. Staviski and his screenwriter Lee Woodford breaks up the story with interludes counting down the “Five Worst Things My Father Ever Did To Me” or video journalled blogs counting the number of scars on his body with a marker. These little bits really do enrich the film and delve into what it would be like to live a life feeling absolutely nothing. In doing so, this film really does paint a vivid picture of this madman and his bizarre sensibilities that force him to do these terrible things.
The story does lag a bit towards the end as it is rather predictable the way it comes to a resolution, still the strength of the character and the seedy depths with which PAIN IS BEAUTIFUL will go makes it interesting for those who have the stomach for torture in their horror. There will be those who tune out immediately since this is a film that basically revolves around one person torturing another strapped to a chair. Often films of this type are often pretty one note, but the rich way Staviski and Woodford flesh out the madman makes this a bit more endurable than most torture porn.
New this week on DVD from After Dark Originals and on iTunes here!
HOUSEKEEPING (2013)Directed by Jennifer Harrington
Written by Jennifer Harrington
Starring Adriana Solis, Blair Wojcik, Monica Percich, Carlos Foglia, Peter Schlechter
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Reminiscent of the film DEVOURED, where a Mexican cleaning lady is haunted by urban horror and paranoia, HOUSEKEEPING is a subtle and visually powerful look at how the horrors of isolation and everyday life can chip away at ones soul.
Apparently HOUSEKEEPING was made in 2013, but I’m just getting a hold of this entry in the After Dark Originals release this week, and boy was it a treat. Lucy (Adriana Solis) is a med student, struggling to keep up with classes, her internship, her troublesome brother, and her increasing debt. She also holds a lot of guilt about a childhood incident involving a fire set in a home where her housekeeper mother worked. Lucy was able to save her brother, but her mother perished in the fire. Overwrought with guilt, Lucy tries to cope with it all by isolating herself and enjoying peace and quiet when she can. When her brother gets into another mess and hopes his big sis can bail him out again, Lucy takes the only job available; a housekeeping position just like her mother used to have. Upon arriving at the lavish apartment, Lucy finds a note from the owner giving her specific duties to perform. Taking these details such as wearing a cleaning lady’s uniform and arriving and leaving at specific times as suggestions, Lucy is shocked when the notes she receives become more and more demanding and aggressive. Soon, in order to get the money she desperately needs, Lucy must do some awful things in order to accomplish all the chores assigned to her every day. The jobs begin to increase in intensity daily; such as cleaning up bloody sheets and mopping up blood spattered bathtubs, causing Lucy to get closer and closer to the brink.
What makes this film so amazing is that, apart from voiceovers from Lucy’s best friend, her brother, and the owner of the condo, Solis is the only person in this film. Having only one actor in a film might become tedious but director/writer Jennifer Harrington keeps things interesting by writing text on the screen and focusing on snapshot imagery rather than simply lingering on Lucy going about her day to day. In doing so, Harrington paints the screen with atmosphere filled with gloom and desperation. Lucy is walking through life with the weight of the world coming down around her and these scribbles over her form and still imagery capturing her at her weakest and most burnt out moments only heighten the magnitude of her situation.
The resolution of this descent into madness tale is as satisfying as the way the story ratchets up the stakes in the rest of the film before it. HOUSEKEEPING is about much more than one woman’s torment, but the way society’s pressures can smother a person without the right support system to fall back on. Seeing how dark and desperate Lucy’s torment is and how she is willing to accept and perform these tasks (no matter how horrible they are) make this one of the most compellingly wicked little films I’ve seen in quite a while. This is a slow burner and quite experimental in format, but the way everything plays out is truly macabre and unique. HOUSEKEEPING isn’t your run of the mill horror, but it’s great horror nonetheless.
Advance Review: Currently touring festivals!
VOICES FROM THE GRAVE (2014)Directed by Laurence Holloway, Richard Stoudt
Written by Richard Stoudt, Laurence Halloway, & Joe Evans (“All Hallows Eve”), Richard Stoudt, Laurence Holloway (“Invitation” based on the short story “Mark of the Loser” by Gary Brandner), Richard Stoudt & Laurence Halloway (“Repossessed”), Richard Stoudt & Darlene Stoudt (Wraparound)
Starring Chris Labadie, Michael Hanelin, David Nelson, Scarlett O'Neil, Maryam Cné, Michelle Green, Bobby Shook, Sean Ryan McBride, James Leatherman, Brandon Thomas, Sarah Masters, Corey Livingston Henderson, Scarlet Fry, David C. Hayes, Stephen Kessen, Jonathan Medina, Jessica Nelson, Andrew Presler, Danielle Schultz, Don Teply, Rose Urgitus
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Low budget seems to be the flavor of the week this week on AICN HORROR, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Laurence Holloway and Richard Stoudt wrote and directed this anthology which is thematically sound and filled with indie charm despite the fact that it didn’t cost a million dollars to make.
Thematically, all of these short stories deal with drunk driving in one way or another. This is an interesting theme to hang an anthology on, but while there might be a danger of becoming preachy using such subject matter, this one seems to focus more on the scares and twists rather than being a MADD commercial. The wraparound takes place in an old bookstore, with a guy looking for something different and horrific in the fiction section and finding a book called VOICES FROM THE GRAVE. Not the most creative of ways to begin a film, but it does the trick, threading one story into another as the man turns the pages.
Story one is called “All Hallows Eve” and is probably my least favorite of the three. The story focuses on a pair of brothers, one of which drinks too much at a party and is sent to drive home by the older brother, even though he asks his older bro to drive him. After a car accident that leaves one of the brothers dead, the other is haunted by his decision to not drive his younger, drunker brother home. One year later, on the Halloween, the living brother is haunted by his dead brother’s ghost. While there are some interesting thrills, this short was just a bit too straight forward. Smartly, it’s put at the beginning, leaving the best for the next two shorts.
”Invitation” is a moody ghost story about a businessman on his last night in town looking for a party and finding one, though it’s not the party he thinks it is. This one has a nice TWILIGHT ZONE style, with ghostly party members knowing something the businessman and us as the viewer don’t and not sharing it until the last frame. Fun effects and some spooky moments make this one of the better installments in this anthology.
The final installment, “Repossessed,” is CHRISTINE-esque in that a teen in need of a car who happens upon one at a price that’s too good to be true. The man selling the car is more than willing to give the teen the car, but doesn’t let him know that one of the added bells and whistles is that it has its very own ghost. This one feels a bit condensed, as if it would have made a decent feature length film, but it was truncated due to budget. Still there are a few nice scares in this one; specifically a picture of the car which, upon closer inspection, shows the ghost in the backseat.
VOICES FROM THE GRAVE might carry a “Don’t drink and drive” message, but that message doesn’t overpower it or make it unwatchable. With some clever narrative twists and turns, despite the low budget and some dodgy acting here and there, VOICES FROM THE GRAVE still makes for a twisted, fun time, ending on a note that successfully culminates all of the story elements into one clever and satisfying resolution.
Advance Review: Currently touring festivals!
VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH (2015)Directed by John Portanova
Written by John Portanova
Starring Bill Oberst Jr., Jason Vail, David Saucedo, D'Angelo Midili, Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, Connor Conrad as the Beast!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Always on the lookout for that elusive treasure known as a good Bigfoot film, VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH makes a lot of the right decisions and leads to one of the more entertaining films of the subgenre.
When I’m looking for a good Bigfoot film, I am looking for a few things; a situation I haven’t seen before involving Bigfoot, decent Bigfootin’ action, and most importantly, a good looking man-monster costume. VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH has all of that as it focuses on a father and son, recently having lost their mother, and trying to patch up their relationship and grieve in their own ways by starting over in a cabin in the middle of the woods. Though the son Michael (Miles Joris-Peyrafitte) wants to go to college, his father Roger (character actor Jason Vail) attests that he doesn’t have the money for that. Reluctantly coming with his father to the cabin, Michael finds the cabin in disarray with broken windows, doors, and furniture. Thinking nothing of it, Roger invites his drinking buddy Sergio (David Saucedo) and his wife’s brother Will (D'Angelo Midili) along for some mancationing; which consists of drinking and hunting of course. But what this group of manly men don’t know is that there is something else out there in the woods with them.
The aforementioned criteria for a good Bigfoot film are all met here. Writer/director John Portanova (who wrote a pretty cool ghost story with THE INVOKING and the not so hot alien low budgeter THE DEVICE) fills his directoral debut with a decent situation and some capable actors willing to go the extra mile to make the drama necessary and believable. Seeing the film highlight the differences and similarities between the father and son here is really fleshed out well and tossing in a family of angry Bigfeets as a threat, shoves the metaphor of the struggles between familial relations front and center. From a storytelling and thematic standpoint, this is a well crafted little movie.
While some of the initial sightings and attacks of the Bigfeets are somewhat tame and run of the mill, when the family of monsters go on full attack mode, the action really does become quite impressive. This film doesn’t settle for one Bigfoot, but brings a whole gaggle of Sasquatch in for the massacre. And more importantly, the costumes of the Bigfoot look really good. Utilizing the actors’ real faces around the eyes makes these creatures look very distinct and the gait of the beasts seem as if they’ve stepped right from the Patterson Gimlin film itself.
VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH is reminiscent of THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK at times during the final attack on the cabin and avoids that Saturday night ScyFy movie feel most Bigfoot films have these days. With some strong story elements, along with some fun Bigfootin’ action and a cool costume design, VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH is a Bigfoot film worth stomping about.
And finally…here’s a fun take on telephone horror with a twisted sense of humor. Described as a tale of a landline telephone, and the horrors it will bring when a man, waiting for a phone call, begins getting calls from someone else. Someone terrifying.
You won’t soon forget 51 Deep’s latest short, LANDLINE!
Look for another AICN HORROR column Friday!
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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Look for our bi-weekly rambling about random horror films on Poptards and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday!