Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week I’ve got a nice eclectic mix for you all to enjoy; a little sci fi, a little anarchy, some solid scares, a western, and more lions than you can shake a bloody stump at! On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Book Creeport: THE NIGHT’S NEON FANGS Novel (2015)
The Boo Tube: METAL HURLANT CHRONICLES Season One, Episodes 1-6 (2014)
Retro-review: LONG WEEKEND (1978)
Retro-review: THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 (1999)
CRAZY MURDER (2014)
FROM THE DARK (2014)
THE BABADOOK (2014)
Advance Review: RED ON YELLA, KILL A FELLA (2015)
And finally…Colin Clarke’s SLIT!
Book Creeport: Available on Amazon here!
THE NIGHT’S NEON FANGS Novel (2015)Written by David W. Barbee
Illustrated by Jim Agpalza (Cover)
Published by Eraserhead Press
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty
When I received a review copy of THE NIGHT'S NEON FANGS, I left it on my kitchen table with the intention of going back to it later in the day. When I did, it was face down with a dish towel over top of it. I later learned that its cover scared the shit out of my 12-year-old daughter, which in and of itself is a glowing endorsement for a horror story. Honestly, if you're trying to weave spooky yarns and youngsters are like “Meh, whatever,” then clearly you're doing something wrong. Author David W. Barbee, known for A TOWN CALLED SUCKHOLE and the criminally-underrated THUNDERPUSSY, is clearly doing something right.
The kids these days are calling this style of storytelling “bizarro fiction,” but I'm not crazy about that label, particularly for a writer as skilled as Barbee. A lot of books I've consumed that meet the qualifications for that handle are like a Prince Jurgen von Anhalt painting, in that creators grab gallons of absurdity and simply splatter it across the page, hoping you'll feel compelled to enjoy it, for fear of not being hip to the genre. Not here. This is real work by a bona fide talent and what I admire about his narrative is the ability to use the absurd and make it not-absurd. What would happen if Horace Pinker of SHOCKER fame turned into a werewolf and started biting people? It's not the fact that an electric werewolf (read: neon fangs) exists that makes this book a winner, it's the way Barbee uses that premise to construct a taut character study that is unsettling -- but often times hilarious.
While the book carries its NEON title, it's actually comprised of four novellas, featuring a re-imagining of Noah's Ark with a much different (better?) ending, a western tale with a bird that is mean as shit and hence named Mean-As-Shit, and a resurrected Batcop who must avenge his batty family who were cut down via bat-i-cide. It would be a fool's errand to try to get too many bizarro miles out of each story and Barbee is mature enough as a writer to know when to say when. Not just in his use of descriptive prose, but in his story arc, as well. Sorry, no “Jason Voorhees is dead. NO HE'S NOT! Okay now he is. OH SHIT HE'S BACK!” That establishes a manageable pace for each novella and it helped busy bodies like me who not only get buried under a ton of books each month, but who also write for a living and stare a screen all day. Being able to digest THE NIGHT'S NEON FANGS in individual parts doesn't enhance the experience, but is definitely an unintended bonus for the weary-eyed reader.
Part of the credit belongs to Eraserhead Press, which serves as a conduit for gifted writers who don't want to pen the same old crap you find on most shelves. From UNICORN BATTLE SQUAD to WORM JOB and of course, this latest gem from Barbee, it's a hidden trove of entertaining fiction that in this day and age, does what a lot of books can't: out-weird what's happening on the six o'clock news. If you're going to start somewhere, you can't do much better than THE NIGHT'S NEON FANGS.
Web heads who can’t get enough of Mr. Pasty’s word vomit are encouraged to watch him operate as Nostradumbass over at MMaMania.com here. Love, hate and Mafia Wars requests should be directed here.
The Boo Tube: New this week on DVD/BluRay from The Shout Factory!
METAL HURLANT CHRONICLES Season One, Episodes 1-6 (2014)aka HEAVY METAL
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I was not familiar with this series before I got wind of this BluRay collection of the first two (and only two) seasons of METAL HURLANT CHRONICLES which is known in the states as HEAVY METAL. I thought the 80’s cartoon was fun, but knowing that it was being adapted for television made me cringe since much of what makes HEAVY METAL fun is the R rated-ness of it all. The gore, the boobs, the sex, the boobs, the ultra-violence, and the boobs is really what drew me towards the book as a budding teenager and sneaking peeks at it in the magazine stores. While the magazine also sports some amazing stories, these baser qualities are what you think of when you hear HEAVY METAL. What this series does, since it can’t show boobs (though I did hear some swears and there is a great amount of cleavage in this series), is shine the spotlight on the story; which as I grow older and wiser, I have come to appreciate all the more. I’m reviewing all six episodes of season one this week and will follow up with a review of season two next week.
Based on graphic novel short by Jim Alexander & Richard Corben
Directed by Guillame Lubrano
Starring Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, Matt Mullins, Darren Shahlavi
I understand why they began this series with “King’s Crown.” It’s kind of big and epic with large scale, 300 style, slo-mo gladiatorial matches between warriors in the rain. Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White get to show off their weapon and kung fu chop-sockery and they are fun to watch. Still, the story is pretty one note and out of all six of the episodes I checked out this week, this one is the most vapid of the bunch, despite its twist ending. I do think that production-wise, this sets the bar high as it all looks very good, even the heavily CG-ed scenes of the floating palace with which the gladiator games are being held in order to find a new king at the top of his physical prime. The twist at the end makes this one feel more like a weaker, albeit well intentioned shot at something more akin to a Rod Serling series. While it’s not as jaw-dropping as any of the reveals in TWILIGHT ZONE, it’s much better than the lame twists often seen in NIGHT GALLERY.
Based on graphic novel short by Dan Wickline & Mark Vigouroux
Directed by Guillaume Lubrano
Starring James Marsters & Michelle Ryan
This low scale and quiet little number is well acted and paced rather expertly. While I could see the ending coming from a mile away, it still played out well as Marsters plays a neighbor accused of perving over the neighbors daughter. When the daughter wakes up in his bomb shelter and he tells her that there’s been a nuclear war above and they are trapped together, it’s just a little too hinky to believe. Yes, there’s a twist. You will predict it. Still, the acidic way it all turns out makes it all worthwhile. And as with the first episode, the twist makes this feel very TWILIGTH ZONE-y, which is a compliment. And while it’s not very shocking, it still makes for a great minimalist story about obsession and paranoia.
”Red Light/Cold Hard Facts”
Based on graphic novel short by Geoff Johns & Christian Gossett (Red Light)/R.A. Jones & Matt Cossin(Cold Hard Facts)
Directed by Guillaume Lubrano
Starring David Belle, Cyrille Diabate, Jean-Michel Martial (Red Light)/Jean-Yves Berteloot, Guy Amram, Patrice Delmont (Cold Hard Facts)
Two shorts make up this episode. The first, “Red Light” is written by comic book writer sensation Geoff Johns who tells a tale about a man in some kind of crimson prison fighting to get out. After an arduous escape, he finds freedom to be just as hard as captivity. This one has a fun twist, but also has a great voice which is almost entirely inner monologue. The second feature is a one-liner kind of story that has a fun and dramatic build and ends with a twist that is pretty out there but brought a smile to my face. I don’t want to reveal everything, but the last minute punch-line is a doozy.
”Three on a Match”
Based on graphic novel short by R.A. Jones & Ryan Sook
Directed by Guillaume Lubrano
Starring Craig Fairbrass, Dominique Pinon, Eriq Ebouaney, Yasmine Lafitte, Andy Chase, Nathan Rippy, Frank Delhaye, Greg Justin Costecalde
French physical actor Dominique Pinon who was amazing in DELECATESSEN and was one of the cooler parts of ALIEN: RESURRECTION stars as an unlucky engineer on a battleship who is hurled into space. This episode doesn’t say much for the tendencies of man to be more selfish than altruistic, but it does have an extended sex scene that I found to be pretty shocking given that this was aired on TV. The twist is rather lame, but seeing these cutthroat space rangers stab each other in the back proves to be a lot of fun.
”Master of Destiny”
Based on graphic novel short by Adi Granov & Alejandro Jodorowsky
Directed by Guillaume Lubrano
Starring Joe Flanigan, Kelly Brook, Charlie Dupont, Lygie Duvivier, Lidia Aviles
With a ridiculous premise and some gratuitous slo-mo sex and violence, this is one of the more breezy episodes of the short season. Sure some of the alien designs are better than most, but despite this one being written by Alejandro Jodorowski, the ending tries to be more poetic than it really is. The story involves two space pirates destined to die on the same day and their vow to live it up until they perish. Maybe it was the flash over substance style of directing that went on here. Or the blah performances. Lots of cleavage is bared here, but little else makes this one worth checking out.
”Pledge of Anya”
Based on graphic novel short by Julien Blondel & Jermone Opena
Directed by Guillaume Lubrano
Starring Rutger Hauer, Grégory Basso, Puiu Mitea, Ion Bechet, Gabriel-Mircea Velicu, Marilena Botis, Michaël Troude, Andrei Tatar
While the series is in danger of repeating itself, as the twist ending is much like the celebrity cameo that occurred in the “Cold Hard Facts” episode, the buildup in “Pledge of Anya” is done really well. Dramatic and full of spectacular shots, the episode is slightly predictable, but that doesn’t take away from it looking pretty damn badass. It doesn’t hurt that Rutger Hauer adds some of his patented awesomeness to the episode as a priest who sends his finest warrior and first born son on a trip through time to kill a dragon. The identity of this dragon is not revealed until the final moment of the story, and because of some swells in music, I almost missed it. Still, the whole thing is amazing looking and seeing a medieval swordsman take on army gunmen is a juxtaposition that is too cool to be denied.
Overall, I was impressed with this series. I wasn’t expecting much, but was rather surprised at the quality of both the effects and the stories that played out. While the acting often left much to be desired, the rest of the production was pretty top tier and much better than usual ScyFy Channel fare. Special features include commentary and behind the scenes bits about each episode. I can’t wait to delve into the second season of the series next time.
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Synapse Films!
LONG WEEKEND (1978)Directed by Colin Eggleston
Written by Everett De Roche
Starring John Hargreaves, Briony Behets
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Man vs. nature is the theme that predominates LONG WEEKEND, a subtle Australian shocker that really made an impact with me upon viewing. Though I am a fan of nature gone wild films, I had never heard of this one and was pleasantly surprised at how effective a pro-environmental statement the film was without feeling like I was being preached at.
LONG WEEKEND begins as Peter (John Hargreaves) picks up a package and jets his convertible along the highway to pick up his wife Marcia (Briony Behets) to go on a planned hiking vacation. Tossing cigarette butts out the window and utterly disrespecting the environment around them, the two barely say two words to each other as they begin their trip. When they do interact, their words are barbed and vicious. This is clearly a couple on the outs and we soon learn that Peter is the optimist here, trying his best to make do with his situation and hopefully repair the marriage, while Marcia doesn’t want anything to do with him. The two are pretty despicable and as the camera zooms in on the meager destruction they cause to the environment as they argue; driving through forested areas, tossing out cigarettes which cause small brush fires, and not appreciating the beauty around them, they are oblivious to it all. Soon horrifying screams are heard from the distance and porpoises and whales begin washing up on the beach. As the couple’s hatred for one another intensified, the environment around them begins to act aggressively towards them; sealing off all ways to get back to civilization and forcing the two to either work out their differences or become swallowed up by the forest around them.
This is a gritty flick, not afraid to use some pretty harrowing imagery of dead animals to prove its point. I’m hoping no animals were killed in making this film, but it does depict some rather ghoulish dead animal carcasses that is not for the squeamish. The real horrors though come from the performances of Hargreaves and Behets. They are the only two people in this film and their bitter hatred for one another is fascination to see unfold. Behets is especially deplorable as she flips from affectionate to fork-tongued in a second’s time. This makes Hargreaves sympathetic for a short while, but soon, you start hating him for being so gullible and wanting the work things out with this harpy. By the end, you want to see the forest swallow them whole; which is exactly what happens.
With minimal effects, but a heightened sense of mood by really embracing the stark atmosphere of the dense forest and the haunting screams from nature itself, LONG WEEKEND is one of those lost gems that I loved uncovering. While films like it have been made (it’s reminiscent of everything from DAY OF THE ANIMALS to the abysmal THE HAPPENING), the performances and the way the entire thing is produced makes it one of the more effective and terrifying films in its “man vs. nature” subgenre. Highly recommended for those who want to see nature get even or for those who just like watching shitty people get what’s coming to them.
Retro-review: New this week in a BluRay CARRIE/THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 Double Feature from Shout Factory!
THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 (1999)aka CARRIE 2: SAY YOU’RE SORRY
Directed by Katt Shea
Written by Stephen King (characters), Rafael Moreu
Starring Emily Bergl, Jason London, Dylan Bruno, J. Smith-Cameron, Amy Irving, Zachery Ty Bryan, John Doe, Gordon Clapp, Rachel Blanchard, Charlotte Ayanna, Justin Urich, Mena Suvari, Eli Craig, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Clint Jordan, Steven Ford, Kate Skinner, Rus Blackwell
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
It really does seem to be that the folks behind this sequel to CARRIE which occurred close to twenty years after the original that they were going for something both dedicated to the mythology of DePalma’s classic while trying to move into different areas. I commend them for that, but that doesn’t really make THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 a worthwhile sequel.
THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 opens with another lunatic mother, painting the inside of her house sloppily with red paint. She even slaps her kid Rachel in the face with the brush, which I thought was just plain rude. Soon, mom gets carted away to the funny farm (named Arkham for no particular reason) and we flash forward a few years to see Rachel (Emily Bergl) all grown up and living with her foster family (lead by character actor John Doe). Rachel is your typical outcast, much like Carrie in the original, and seems to move things when she gets upset as well. Gaining the interest of popular footballer Jesse (Jason London), which raises the ire of his ex girlfriend/cheerleader/popular gal Tracy (Charlotte Ayanna). After Rachel’s best friend Lisa (Mena Suvari) leaps from the school building onto the cars in the student parking lot, Rachel’s telekinetic powers seem to be manifesting rapidly. Turns out the asshole jocks of the school are being asshole jocks and taking part in an asshole jock contest to see how many girls they can bag during the school year. Lisa was one of them. Meanwhile, Rachel and Jesse are getting close to one another and as the party of the year looms closer, it looks like some embarrassment pie is going to be served at it with Rachel getting the first slice. Things get telekinetic.
The main problem with THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 is that it is riddled with high school clichés. Everything from the contest to see how many girls the jocks will bang to the focus on the jock lifestyle has been seen in more movies and after school specials than I can count, so seeing it all play out here is tedious to say the least. Anyone who has seen CARRIE knows the ups and down of the story and the sequel here doesn’t veer too far from that well worn path. Sure, I guess in order to tell the tale of the budding romance between Rachel and Jesse, corners can be cut with well known clichés, but it makes the whole thing all the less interesting. We know everything is going to culminate with the party and that Rachel is set for a meltdown, so there’s not really a moment in the film where the filmmaker tries to play with expectations. All it would have taken was a twist here and there and this would have been something worthwhile, but while director Katt Shea delivers a decent looking movie, the story itself is just a rehash.
What frustrated me most is that there is potential here. Amy Irving comes back to appear in this film for chrissakes. Not only is this pivotal character from the original given barely enough screen time to matter, she is offed in a way that is so anti-climactic its offensive. Here’s me playing screenwriter for this sequel; Amy Irving’s Sue Snell character finally decides to have a child and as a means to make amends for past sins she calls the child Carrie, but in doing so, this awakens the spirit of Carrie and the mother must cope with her past sins, quell the angered spirit, and save her daughter. Compelling, right? Well, I don’t expect an Oscar, but in the five seconds it took me to shart out that premise, you’ve got to admit its scores more interesting than just a simple rehash of the original.
What’s really sad is that the actors involved here are pretty good. Everyone in front of the screen are giving their all, so it’s nice to see that the little effort in the scripting phase was made up for with the young cast. Emily Bergl is compelling as Rachel and though her final moments show she’s no Sissy Spacek, she’s likable enough. Plus the big effects spectacular at the end is nicely gore-ridden, so at least you can say the final moments aren’t boring.
Still, THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 is a wasted endeavor. Glaring plot holes like all of the trouble to investigate the connection between Rachel and Carrie is just left dangling in the telekinetic breeze and the early CG laden final seconds are just plain ridiculous. There’s some fun gore and decent performances despite the paltry script of THE RAGE: CARRIE 2, but only Stephen King completists are going to want to seek this one out. Extras include deleted scenes and an alternate ending which doesn’t make a lick of sense as the ghost of Rachel spits a cobra at Jason London. Da fug? This Bluray release is paired with the first remake of CARRIE, which I’ll be sloshing through next week.
New on DVD from Brain Damaged Films!
CRAZY MURDER (2014)Directed by Doug Gerber, Caleb Pennypacker
Written by Doug Gerber, Caleb Pennypacker
Starring Kevin Kenny, Mark Hunt, Ariela Arnon
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I can appreciate a film without liking it. CRAZY MURDER is the perfect example of this. In many ways, it’s a bold and powerful statement on really heavy themes involving isolationalism, the state of today’s society, and the plight of an unwell mind unattended to. It’s also probably the most disgusting movie of the year.
CRAZY MURDER is a film about a homeless man who wanders around the streets of New York, eating out of garbage cans, sleeping in alleys, and basically trying to stay alive in a world that wants nothing to do with him. The film follows him around like a fly on his stinky, matted head as he wanders the streets. He is clearly insane; evidenced not only by the inane ramblings he is shown muttering but also in the excessive amount of shit and vomit he smears on himself. Like I said, this is a very gross film.
There’s very much a stream of consciousness style of story format going on here. Filmmakers Doug Gerber & Caleb Pennypacker simply follow the homeless man (played both convincingly insane and undeniably bold by Kevin Kenny) as he does one disgusting thing after another. Every so often, the man becomes enraged and goes on random killing sprees, but the crowd around him has turned such a blind eye to him that they don’t notice, or more accurately don’t want to notice his existence and the horribly things he does. It’s not until the last ten minutes that anything resembling a story occurs as the homeless man happens across a woman working outside of a comedy club who he takes a fancy to. He attempts to reach out to her and interact with her, but this uncomfortable scene only highlights how disassociated the man has become with reality. Offering her a fresh turd as a gift (yes, you read that right), the woman flees in horror and this only leads to even more horrifying things in the final moments.
Sadly, I have worked with lost souls such as this in my day job as a licensed therapist. While I haven’t worked with the homeless population in years, I still couldn’t help but feel for this disgusting derelict knowing that on the right medication and with the right treatment, he could be a fully functioning part of society. But I know not everyone will see this like that. On a surface level, this is a celebration of bodily fluids as the nameless homeless man smears his own feces on his face, re-eats his own regurgitation, and in a scene that utterly shook me to the core, wipes these various fluids on park benches, public phones, doorknobs, and anywhere else he can touch. The filmmakers linger on these scenes or an uncomfortable amount of time and while some may think it’s to the point of gratuity, I also think they are making sure that the point is being made that these people exist. And worse yet, ignoring them is not going to get rid of them. In fact, it only makes the situation worse.
So while I found the scenes where the homeless man has moments of lucidity and we are able to understand his rants to be kind of entertaining, the bodily fluid stuff was almost too much to take for me (and given that I have worked with feces smearers before, I think those who shudder at the idea of HUMAN CENTIPEDE should stay far, far away from this one). There is a scene where the homeless man steals a bunch of knives, taping them to his hands and one sticking out of his mouth that is both insanely hilarious and utterly disconcerting all at once as he goes about a killing spree of horrific proportions. But the scant plot and disgusting moments far outweigh the thematic heft of the film. The filmmakers were pretty brave to put something like this together. Here’s hoping their next film is a little less immersive and less poop smeared so more people aren’t as turned off so much as to miss the point.
New this week on BluRay/DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment!
ECHOES (2014)Directed by Nils Timm
Written by Nils Timm
Starring Kate French, Steven Brand, Caroline Whitney Smith, Ivory Dortch, Steve Hanks, Kevin Brewerton
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Visually arresting, ECHOES greatest flaw is that its lack of scares and pizzazz.
Anna (Kate French) is a struggling writer who is sleeping with her editor Paul (Steven Brand). Plagued with sleep paralysis, Anna wakes up at night trapped in her own body with no way to shake herself back to reality. When Paul gives her another rejection for a draft of her book, he tries to make it up to Anna by taking him her to a glass house in the middle of Joshua Tree, California. But when Paul is called back to the city to work, Anna decides to stay and work on her novel uninterrupted by the city. Anna’s writing refuge is interrupted when some kind of ghostly spirit begins haunting her dreams and soon terrorizing her days and nights in the secluded house. Investigating further, Anna finds that Paul has not been completely on the up and up with her and that the sins of the past rarely stay buried.
This is a typical and clichéd ghost story. It’s the type of story made in Hollywood, written by Hollywood writers, and produced by Hollywood producers. It’s the type of story where we are supposed to feel something for the lead character, despite her making horrible decisions every step of the way and worse yet lacks the real world awareness to know that these decisions are wrong. The whole thing is misguided in this sense and because the foundation is built upon such a shallow surface, it leads to a film that fails to grab you in any way, shape, or form. I didn’t care if the supermodel looking writer is in danger because she’s dumb enough to sleep with her boss with a secret glass summer home in the desert and expect something good to come out of it. I can’t relate to characters like this and I don’t really know any horror fans that can.
Throw in some clichéd ghost imagery, a pretty predictable story, and more predictable ending in which the heroine doesn’t really learn or change only the bad guy is taken care of and you’ve got a misguided snoozer here. Yes, the desert scenes look amazing. Yes, writer/director does some fun things with object appearing in the background that is rather effective at times. Yes, this is a well filmed and good looking film starring good looking people doing things we see good looking people do in TV commercials depicting extravagant lifestyles. But in horror, the key thing is for the audience to relate to the people in peril. If you can do that, no matter how crazy or out there the situation, you’ve got them hooked. ECHOES is too busy looking pretty to be bothered with that type of effort which is ultimately the reason why it doesn’t work.
New this week on DVD/BluRay from RLJ Entertainment!
ROADSIDE (2013)Directed by Eric England
Written by Eric England
Starring Ace Marrero, Katie Stegeman, Jack E. Curenton, Alan Pietruszewski, Lionel D. Carson, Marshall Yates
Find out more about this film on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Sopping wet with Hitchcockian influences, Eric England sets up a dire scenario for a pair of travelers who happen to cross paths with a madman with a gun on the side of the road. Though I’m sure this film didn’t cost a lot to make as it takes place mostly in one location at the side of a road in a woodland area, ROADSIDE stands out for its deft talent in ratcheting up the tension.
It takes a lot of skill to pull off a one locale film. There’s got to be enough going on so that the audience doesn’t get bored. That means good performances from the cast, a script that keeps you guessing or keeps you enthralled, and maybe some camera work that spices things up. ROADSIDE has all three for the most part.
The actors involved here, Ace Marrero and Katie Stegeman do a good job with the material they are given as Dan and Mindy, a couple expecting a child, but having marital problems of their own. Since the film literally hinges on these two performances and they have 90% of the screentime, they’d better be able to carry the film and for the most part, they do. Though setting up the situation where these two people cannot call or leave for help may be seen as contrived, it works here, mainly because of the actors’ performances.
Where the film is sort of lacking is the script as it gets a bit repetitious towards the end. At times, it felt like there were some opportunities not really taken and some ambiguous decisions made, especially when the gunman allows Dan to approach the car’s driver side numerous times. I couldn’t really see the reason the gunman would allow this and it just felt kind of weird that Mindy never leapt over to the driver side and attempted to drive out of there. There’s another scene where the gunman approaches the vehicle and neither of his hostages see him which didn’t really make sense either.
Still the story is a strong and tension laden one, so I was able to look past that given the white-knuckle first hour of the film. ROADSIDE owes a lot to the master of suspense (even the opening credit sequence mirrors NORTH BY NORTHWEST) and does a good job of conveying some nice, solid doses of terror and danger. While those wanting explanations an everything tidied up in a bow in the end might be left disappointed, those who appreciate suspense will be pleasantly surprised with ROADSIDE.
New on DVD/BluRay from Well Go USA Entertainment!
KILLERS (2014)Directed by Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto
Written by Takuji Ushiyama (original story), Takuji Ushiyama, Timo Tjahjanto (screenplay)
Starring Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya, Ray Sahetapy, Ersya Aurelia, Tensui Sakai, Epy Kusnandar, Mei Kurokawa, Tara Basro, Denden, Dimas Argoebie, Steve Jean, Yuki Konoe, Roy Marten
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The Mo Brothers, who brought us the twisted Indonesian take on THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE known as MACABRE (reviewed here) and the best segment in V/H/S 2 ( “Safe Haven”, reviewed here) are back with an engrossing mix of I SAW THE DEVIL (reviewed here) and OLDBOY called KILLERS.
A Tokyo serial killer named Nomura (Kazuki Kitamura) films and posts his murders on Youtube, which triggers a fascination for an investigative reporter in Jakarta named Bayu (Oka Antara) who stumbles upon the video online. The two begin a twisted relationship as Nomura encourages Bayu to act on his homicidal impulses. What plays out is a two tiered story that merges at the top as Bayu’s obsession with a crime boss’ takedown becomes the focus for his murderous ways. Meanwhile, Nomura struggles with giving up his murderous ways when he meets a nice girl in a flower shoppe.
It seems simple, but this is one powerfully complex story. It’s really two stories in one and what makes this film so compelling is that either story would make a great film. Seeing them both play out at once and they way they intersect is sheer genius. The Mo Brothers have proven themselves in the way they have developed intense action and gory sequences in their previous films, but in this film, they have really developed their storytelling sense of character as both Bayu and Nomura are fascinating characters. Much like the cat and mouse game that played out in I SAW THE DEVIL between a bent cop and a serial killer, the way Nomura tempts Bayu is seductive and fascinating to behold. The fact that Bayu is himself a family man, with a lot at stake only makes this descent into homicidal urges all the more harrowing to experience.
There are moments in this film so ripe with tension that I found myself on the edge of my chair at times. While Bayu does some horrible things, actor Oka Antara makes him utterly sympathetic, which is a testament to the actor’s skill. On the flip side of the coin, Kitamura’s Nomura is as cool and deadly as ice in his every move. Both characters are given a chance to shine and are placed in situations that grab you by the throat and won’t let go (namely, Bayu’s hotel chase scene and Nomura’s club scene). Sure, we all know this film will culminate with these two killers meeting, but even when this does occur, things are unexpected and vibrant.
While I feel the sense for resolution makes things wrap up a bit too quickly in the final moments, this is a two hour opus and after being immersed in the electric experiences of these two characters the whole time, which is another reason I felt negatively about the ending. Still seeing Nomura’s twisted take that everyone has a killer inside of them play out makes for one of the most compelling serial killer films of the year. While I’m sure KILLERS is going to be another one to go through the Hollywood remake machine (like the upcoming I SAW THE DEVIL and the travesty that was OLD BOY), purists will want to seek out this thoroughly original and utterly engrossing dive into the mind filled with the desire to kill.
New this week on DVD/BluRay from Dark Sky Films!
FROM THE DARK (2014)Directed by Conor McMahon
Written by Conor McMahon
Starring Niamh Algar, Stephen Cromwell, Gerry O'Brien, Ged Murray as the Creature!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While the cover are is rather lackluster and the title is about as unoriginal as they come, everything else about FROM THE DARK is absolutely awesome.
The film opens on a dank and wet day in the Irish countryside. A weary farmer is slowly digging a hole in the ground one small square of mud at a time during an opening credits sequence that seems to be as arduous a job as any I’ve seen. As night falls, the farmer unearths something peculiar; a pointed stake-like object, and soon after he finds a tomb of sorts and unleashes a long buried monster. Meanwhile, down the road, a young couple by the names of Mark and Sarah (Niamh Algar & Stephen Cromwell) make their way across the countryside on a road trip. Of course, the car breaks down or there wouldn’t be a movie and as Mark heads up the road to investigate the farmhouse up ahead, Sarah is left at the car to guard their things and flag down any motorist who might pass. Little do they know, in the shadows around them lurks something evil and sensitive to light. Sarah and Mark find themselves trapped in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a bloodthirsty monster circling them in the shadows.
While this is most definitely a vampire movie, it never goes so far as to use the word vampire during its entire runtime. Filmmaker Conor McMahon (who did last year’s fantastic killer clown flick STITCHES, reviewed & interviewed here) sticks pretty close to vampire lore without being in your face about it. Yes, it seems this creature is susceptible to a stake through the heart, as the opening sequence shows when the stake is removed from the tomb and yes, the creature walks in a manner just like Max Schreck did in his portrayal of Count Orlock in NOSFERATU, but that’s where the vamp lore ends. The film really hinges on the concept that this creature is sensitive to light, which veers a bit from the vamp’s sensitivity to sunlight, but still it makes for a pretty compelling way to pit two frightened humans against a mythic monster. Because of this simple, yet effective concept, FROM THE DARK turned out to be an amazing and surprisingly refreshing little vampire flick.
Part of the reason why this film works is because the two protagonists (Niamh Algar & Stephen Cromwell) are so likable. Both are somewhat witty but not annoyingly so and you generally believe the two are in love with one another despite Mark’s reluctance to commit to Sarah and get married. Because I found these two so appealing, when they are tossed into the dangerous path of the monster, it makes the tension all the more real. Embracing that tension and sending it crawling down our spines, director McMahon amps the fear factor here to 11, doing some fantastic things with obscured things in the background in this film, making those dark corners and out of focus areas deadly and forcing you to scan every inch of the screen for the creature who is stalking the couple.
There are some bonehead moves made by the couple along the way in this film and there will be times in FROM THE DARK where you will be screaming at the screen, “Don’t do that you idiot!” as the couple chooses to venture out into the dark instead of doing the smart thing and just waiting in the light until morning, but you make that scream because McMahon has done his job right in giving you a likable couple to root for and a monster that is definitely worth shuddering at. FROM THE DARK is not a giant epic film by a long shot, but it makes a lot of smart decisions in terms of setting up some fantastically tense scenes and sparking some of our basest fears of things that slither around in the dark just out of view.
New this week on DVD/BluRay from IFC Midnight!
THE BABADOOK (2014)Directed by Jennifer Kent
Written by Jennifer Kent
Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Tim Purcell, Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, Hayley McElhinney, Cathy Adamek, Benjamin Winspear, Barbara West, Craig Behenna, Terence Crawford
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
THE BABADOOK delivers the childlike thrills promised to us with MAMA and never kept. While that film devolved into an overly CG-ed mess, THE BABADOOK keeps things nice and uncomfortably close and is a better film for it about childhood fears and how it effects the parents almost as much as the children.
Essie Davis plays a worn down mother named Amelia who lost her husband the day her only child Samuel (Noah Wiseman) was born. Now a rambunctious child of 10, Samuel brings weapons to school, spastically keeps his mother awake all night, and seems to be having serious ADHD problems. All of this wears heavily on the beleaguered orderly who tries to be a good mother despite it all and keeps her chin up, hoping some day to find Mr. Right to make her life a little easier. After a particularly spastic day of being kicked out of school and terrorizing his cousins, Samuel finds a pop-up book called MR. BABADOOK and asks his mom to read it to him for bedtime. But upon reading this mysterious book causes all sorts of trouble beginning with nightmares and developing into outright paranoia and suspicion that the monster in the gloomy little book might actually be real and this means bad things for Amelia and Samuel.
If this were a major blockbuster big time Hollywood production, the Babadook would most definitely be real and there would be CG chases through endless corridors and dreamscapes with some kind of magic totem scaring it away right at the last moment before the credits. But THE BABADOOK is not a major blockbuster big time Hollywood production and because of that, it is more unclear as to whether the Babadook is real or the product of an unwell and worn down mind. Writer/director Jennifer Kent does a fantastic job of leaving things deliciously ambiguous, never really explaining who wrote the seemingly haunted children’s book or what the Babadook really is. In doing so, she has crafted a story that can be absorbed and enjoyed on a multitude of levels. It is as much a monster on the loose story as it is a ghost story as it is a story of a descent into madness. It’s actually all of that and a little more and a little less depending on which way you want to look at it, making it enjoyable on many viewings (and I plan on watching this one and rewatching it considering each angle). Because of this, more so than your run of the mill horror film, the film proves to be an utterly rich experience, making it a film you want to talk about immediately after viewing it.
Samuel is indeed a handful and hats off to little Noah Wiseman for being such a spastic little shit. As a person who works with this type of kid every day at my day job as a licensed therapist in a residential home for boys and girls, I know how exhausting a child such as this can be. Seeing Wiseman writhe around like he’s got ten monkeys under his skin is entertaining until you see the toll it takes on Amelia and Essie Davis offers up a ballsy and convincing role of a mother trying her best against insurmountable odds. Seeing her come apart at the seams is both believable and terrifying since she has shown the viewer how much she really loves her child. Davis’ performance is the stuff you rarely see in horror; a motherly character much like Dee Wallace’s role in CUJO who struggles to do what is right in the face of danger and trying to keep her wits to her despite it all.
The effects in THE BABADOOK are equally amazing. Not overly done, never gratuitous—just some glimpses in the shadows, a faint movement in the background, or a subtle pile of clothes hanging in a hallway. Keeping to the less is more motto, director Kent had me pulling my knees up to my chin in during the climax of this film, fearing for the lives of all involved and hoping that the shadowy Babadook doesn’t show his face.
And as this film reaches its quiet resolution and bizarre closure, I found myself wanting to see this film again (something that rarely happens these days with horror films). If you’re looking for one of the most effective horror films of the year, THE BABADOOK is definitely one of them. It’s not your typical horror film and it’s a film that somewhat transcends the genre in terms of acting punch and directorial and story power. Those looking for a cookie cutter thrills can seek out cinematic sharts like ANNABELLE. But if you want to see real terror, THE BABADOOK delivers!
Advance Review: Currently touring festivals and recently played at the 2015 Dallas International Film Festival!
RED ON YELLA, KILL A FELLA (2015)Directed by Duane Graves and Justin Meeks
Written by Duane Graves and Justin Meeks
Starring Justin Meeks, Paul McCarthy-Boyington, Greg Kelly, Bridger Zadina, Deon Lucas, Larry Grant Harbin, Arianne Margot, Luce Rains, Timothy McKinney, Karrie Cox, Pepe Serna, Edwin Neal, Bill Johnson, Sonny Carl Davis and Michael Berryman
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
They don’t make Westerns like this anymore. This is no YOUNG GUNS or any other Hollywood polished films with big name actors roughing it on horseback and posting shots of their quick-draw on Instagram. RED ON YELLA, KILL A FELLA is a gritty, rough and tumble Western reminiscent of the spaghetti Westerns of old with a thick layer of grime and gore slathered on top of it.
Co-writer/co-director Justin Meeks plays Claude 'Sweet Tooth' Barbee, an outlaw of the tallest order. With knowledge of a hidden stash of gold coins, Barbee and his gang of miscreants make their way to the Texas Mexico border and leave a path of bodies in their wake. The law is on their tail and while Barbee doesn’t fancy the nickname of “Sweet Tooth” (given to him because he tends to hit the local candy stores as he passes through town), he dislikes the fact that his men are dropping like flies every night even more. As they get closer to the hidden treasure, his men are mysteriously killed with a yellowish tint to their eyes, a greenish pallor to their skins, and a weird red and yellow mark left on their corpses. Blazing down the trail and getting ever closer to his prize, paranoia and the law get the better of Barbee in this twisted and dark outlaw tale.
Though more of a pitch dark Western than an actual horror film, RED ON YELLA, KILL A FELLA manages to toss in quite a few nods to both genres while never betraying the essentials needed in an outlaw Western story. Like many other outlaws in the Old West, Barbee’s greed is his biggest fault. Meeks and Graves’ tale tells of Barbee’s epic journey across Texas taking on seemingly supernatural and real world threats every step of the way. This is an expansive tale, running almost two hours long, but I was riveted the entire way through. Akin to APOCALYPSE NOW in story, where the horrors intensify the closer Barbee gets to his goal, it’s fantastic to see these two filmmakers evolve and use a broader canvas to paint their films on. I first took notice of the two filmmakers with their fantastic first effort THE WILDMAN OF THE NAVIDAD (reviewed here) and their follow-up, THE BUTCHER BOYS (reviewed here) was hit and miss, their grindhouse style is something truly unique in today’s cinema. Here’s hoping more will take notice of these two talented creators with this film.
And while there are a few rough edges acting wise, I was blown away at Justin Meeks’ portrayal of lead character Barbee. Meeks is a natural in front of the camera, offering up an authentic grunginess and wear and tear to the role. He’s not your typical leading man, but his presence is undeniable and a lot of the reason why this film works so well rests on his shoulders. The supporting cast is great as well as the wily Paul McCarthy-Boyington and the man-mountain Gregory Kelly play both despicable, yet honorable outlaws in the Barbee Gang. Cameos by TCM’s Hitch-hiker Edwin Neal, TCM 2’s Leatherface Bill Johnson, HILLS HAVE EYES’ Michael Berryman, and SILVERADO’s Pepe Serna flesh out the obstacles along Barbee’s trail to find his hidden gold.
The film takes some dark turns throughout with all sorts of evil deeds performed by this gang. One minute you’re going to be rooting for them to make it. The other, you’ll be hoping they meet a most grisly end. And things get really gnarly as their bodies and minds give out on the gang along the way. Some well placed practical effects along the way make for some grueling scenes of frontier hardship. Gaping gun wounds and other gore remind us that Meeks and Graves are accomplished horror filmmakers, but this is a solid Western through and through.
If you hear Western and you think of John Wayne or Clint Eastwood or even Emilio Estevez riding in slo-mo to some Bon Jovi song, this might not be the type of film you’re used to. This one doesn’t have any big stars but it doesn’t need them. This is an ambitious tale that somehow tells an expansive story on what looks to be a meager budget. Graves and Meeks are a talents pair of gentlemen who are making films that show their appreciation for late 60’s and 70’s style filmmaking. I’m a huge fan of their work because they seem to be working pretty much outside of the system and their films are clean of the usual studio polish we see too much of in genre films these days. RED ON YELLA KILL A FELLA is one of those fantastic genre mash-ups that work because it feels authentic and real. The scallywags who populate this universe are ugly folks and this isn’t a story for the frail at heart. But if you’re looking for a bloody drenched Western with a pitch black tone, RED ON YELLA, KILL A FELLA is the one for you.
Sorry no trailer yet, but when one’s available and when this one is ripe to be let loose to the masses, I’ll be reposting this review and letting you all know to be on the lookout for it.
And finally…here’s an erotic horror short in the vein of the old Italian giallo films starring Lillian Lamour, Miranda Cox, Aley Kreinz and Travis Worthey. The film is directed and written by Colin Clarke and really does a fine job at paying homage to those old thrillers. Clarke was the man behind shorts such as WITCH FINDER and RAVEN’S HOLLOW, two shorts that have appeared in this “And finally…” section before. You can find out more about SLIT on its Facebook page here!
BEWARE: There be boobies ahead!
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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