Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. I won’t lie to you. This was a rough week in horror, but at least there are some tried and true classics in this week’s lot. And then there is FURY ROAD, which may not be straight up horror, but is filled with wondrous moments of thrills and chills.
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
The Book Creeport: NECROSAURUS REX Novel (2015)
Retro-review: THE PREMATURE BURIAL (1962)
Retro-review: THE EVIL EYE/THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1963)
Retro-review: SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY (1970)
Retro-review: STIGMATA (1999)
Short Cuts: HEIR Short Film (2015)
CAMP MASSACRE (2013)
ON TENDER HOOKS (2013)
EVIL BONG 420 (2015)
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)
Advance Review: SCREAM MACHINE (2015)
And finally…John Pata’s PITY!
The Book Creeport: You can check out this book here!
NECROSAURUS REX Novel (2015)Written by Nicholas Day
Illustrated by Jim Agpalza (Cover)
Published by Bizarro Pulp Press
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty
So I turned a few pages of NECROSAURUS REX and immediately started wondering how a unicorns-and-rainbows guy like me, fresh off a review of THE NIGHT'S NEON FANGS, got saddled with yet another wicked tale of death and dismemberment. When I mentioned this during my recent conversation with the director of SHARKNADO, he promised to alleviate my macabre run with a copy of next month's ARCHIE comic. The only caveat? Archie fights man-eating sharks and trailer-toppling tornadoes, so the curse, it appears, will live on. Perhaps that makes me the best candidate for the job, as opposed to a hardened veteran of the genre. I have to imagine it's much easier to frighten a scaredy cat like me than some twisted mister, and Nicholas Day has delivered what he advertised, right in the insert, as a "fucked up book." Boy, he wasn't kidding.
To better determine if NECROSAURUS REX is or isn't the right book for you, I will tell you that you'll have to endure kidnapping, rape, and a tortured woman shitting out a baby in a dirty bathtub before you get to any of the actual dinosaur stuff. If you're wondering why someone would give birth through their anus as opposed to their vagina, it has to do with the fire extinguisher her captors used to...well, you get the idea. This is the kind of imagery you can expect from Day, who colors his pages with some of the most grotesque prose imaginable. What kept me from bailing and moving on to something a bit more uplifting, aside from my love for dinosaurs, is the author's gift for storytelling. Instead of just spamming fatalities, or playing the gross-out game to elicit some kind of knee-jerk response, Day carefully weaves a compelling story around real characters who are surprisingly developed considering how short the book is. That's probably because (spoiler alert) most of them are assholes and I'm sure we can all readily identify with assholes.
At its core, NECROSAURUS REX is a part-horror, part-science fiction tale of revenge with a lead character not unlike the straw-slurping halfwit from DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW. Our protagonist is labeled "retarded" several times throughout the book, but once he gets blessed with dino-might, thanks to a chimp-tested time machine, he gets his blood-soaked revenge. It's also a rebuke of technology and the selfish twits who misuse it, with frequent references to JURASSIC PARK. Discovering how a reptilian janitor can create the universe and why his favorite superhero is a T-Rex in a cape is part of what makes this book such a fun (albeit brisk) read. I will say the gory undertones and runaway hard-ons, in a delightfully unexpected way, go a long way in giving this book its own unique charm. How can something so violent and terrifying qualify as charming? I guess it's not that far removed from watching my kid play with her little rubber dinosaur, who subsists on a steady diet of gun-toting army men (but doesn't give birth through its ass).
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.
Retro-review: New on Bluray from Kino Lorber!
THE PREMATURE BURIAL (1962)Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Charles Beaumont (screenplay), Ray Russell(screenplay), from a story by Edgar Allan Poe
Starring Ray Milland, Hazel Court, Richard Ney, Heather Angel, Alan Napier, John Dierkes, Dick Miller, Clive Halliday, Brendan Dillon
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
While I preferred his role as Dr. Xavier from last week’s X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES (reviewed here), THE PREMATURE BURIAL is another rock solid genre performance by Ray Milland. In a tale that encapsulates Edgar Allan Poe’s fear of being buried alive, Milland captures the paranoia and insanity of someone who lives to avoid their own death above all else.
Milland plays Guy Carrell, an artist preoccupied with the notion that he may one day fall ill and be buried alive. His father was cursed with sudden catatonia, which can be easily mistaken for death, and was buried alive, so this fear is not altogether ludicrous, but still it wears heavy on Guy as he formulates elaborate mechanisms in order to ensure that his own death will not be mistaken. Rigging up all sorts of alerts in a mock tomb that will aid in alerting the living that he is among them if buried alive, Guy is driving away his former gal Emily Gault (Hazel Court) who returns to marry him if only he can kick the obsession with his own demise. Paralyzed by the phobia and nightmares that his preventions will not come to pass, Guy is suddenly faced with his worst fears come to life and finds himself in a coffin alive and trapped.
Milland does a fantastic job of bringing to life a phobia which in less capable hands would be pretty laughable. Seeing him go from one elaborate setup to another as a means to avoid his own burial reaches monumentally unbelievable status, but Milland delivers the lines with the same dignity that Corman’s other go-to Poe collaborator Vincent Price often possessed. The effectiveness of this entire film rests on Milland’s shoulders, and his believable delivery makes it all hit home.
That said, this is a pretty predictable story. With all of the preparation for the burial, it doesn’t take a genius to predict that Guy is going to be buried alive despite his exhaustive preventative measures. Still, Corman crafts a nice little whodunit around this premise, making the intrigue come from the “why” rather than the obvious “how.” And though the clues are there from the beginning, a lot is left out of the mystery in order for there to be one, which is a somewhat lazy way to craft a conundrum.
Still, there are some patented Corman dream sequences that are creatively colored and warped. These sequences where Guy’s attempts to alert the world of his mistaken demise are somewhat comical, but also made horrific through Corman’s lens. THE PREMATURE BURIAL is not my favorite Poe adaptation by Corman as I lean more towards the Price-starring ones, but still, it packs quite a punch and Milland is more than a capable replacement for Price in this film.
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Kino Lorber!
THE EVIL EYE/THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1963)aka OBSESSION DIABOLIQUE, INCUBUS
Directed by Mario Bava
Written by Mario Bava, Enzo Corbucci, Ennio De Concini, Eliana De Sabata, Mino Guerrini, Franco Prosperi
Starring Letícia Román, John Saxon, Valentina Cortese, Titti Tomaino, Luigi Bonos, Milo Quesada, Robert Buchanan, Marta Melocco, Gustavo De Nardo, Giovanni Di Benedetto, Virginia Doro, Dante DiPaolo
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
One of the biggest surprises of this week’s batch was this early thriller from master fear-meister Mario Bava. Though this one doesn’t pack the pitch black tone of BLACK SUNDAY (reviewed here) or the influential kills of BAY OF BLOOD (reviewed here), THE EVIL EYE aka THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is one entertaining film from beginning to end.
The blonde Barbara Steele-esque Letícia Román stars as Nora, a young free-wheeling woman on vacation in Italy. We see she has a penchant to read murder mysteries when we are introduced to her in the opening moments of a fantastically choreographed sequence on an airplane. Not knowing much about the new culture, but wide eyed and curious, Nora witnesses what seems to be a murder and passes out on her first night in town. Waking in the hospital, she is thought to be an alcohol addict and a lunatic when she shares her stories of a murder as no body was found. But after befriending a lonely woman near the site of the murder, she is invited to stay at her home and housesit. But the small Italian home seems to be haunted with shadowy figures lurking outside, and the murder Nora witnessed may be tied to a serial killer who kills people by the first letter of the victim’s last name. Befriended by an Italian doctor Marcello (played by BLACK CHRISTMAS/A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’s John Saxon), the two try to crack the case and solve the mystery before Nora becomes the murderer’s next victim.
This is as much a romance as it is a thriller, as Roman is falling for Saxon while on this magical mystery tour of Italy. The two do share a chemistry that is not to be denied here, though anyone could fall for Roman’s big emotive eyes and genuinely innocent demeanor. She’s a girl finding herself, and though little is known about her before this adventure, she is immediately likable through Bava’s lens. Latter scenes, such as her elaborate trap to make sure no one sneaks up on her in the apartment by threading a maze of string around the apartment, highlights a goofier side of her which makes it all the more intense when she is placed in danger of the madman lurking in the shadows.
Bava’s direction and gift for setting up absolutely spine-tingling scenes is present throughout the film in its entirety. The day scenes soak in the beauty of Italy and highlight why one would want to vacation and live there, but the night scenes are what really stand out. Bava deftly uses noir themes in his imagery through long shadows across city streets, stone buildings, and through shaded windows. Bava also uses silence and the sound of footsteps or a lone voice in the darkness to make those hairs on the back of one’s neck rise. While there have been other films dealing with far more deadly measures, THE EVIL EYE showcases Bava’s talent for subtle terrors that we don’t often associate with the filmmaker because of his more in your face works.
This is a film you can watch with your sweetie who doesn’t like horror and still be entertained by. THE EVIL EYE feels like a bridge between the shadow-laden noir mysteries of old and the rising Giallo phenomenon of the time with its focus on witnessed terror and the punishment for doing so. Uncategorizable and fitting in many different genres, THE EVIL EYE will make you laugh, cry, and shudder in its runtime, something you can’t often say about most horror films.
Retro-review: New on BluRay from Severin!
SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY (1971)Directed by Jesús Franco
Written by Jesús Franco
Starring Soledad Miranda, Fred Williams, Paul Muller, Howard Vernon, Ewa Strömberg, Horst Tappert
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While the story leaves a lot to be desired, if you’re into Jesus “Jess” Franco’s films, this is definitely one of his best.
Fred Williams plays Dr. Johnson, a brilliant geneticist who experiments on human embryos illegally in order to find cures for disease. When a board of directors shuts down his program and calls it inhumane, Dr. Johnson falls into a deep depression and no matter what his smoking hot wife, Mrs. Johnson (Soledad Miranda) does, she can’t get him out of his funk. When Dr. Johnson takes his own life, Mrs. Johnson tracks down the board of directors who shut down her husband’s work and murders then in seductive and sadistic ways.
This is a pretty standard revenge movie with a woman scorned and striking back against her scorners. The fact that Mrs. Johnson decides to sleep with each of them (or at the very least kiss them passionately) before she kills them is the truly odd thing about the film. I don’t know about you and to each his own, but if a group of people lead a loved one to suicide, sleeping with them wouldn’t be my mode of revenge. Then again, she is using sexuality as a lure and a weapon, so it is an effective method.
The truly odd thing about the film is the ending or lack thereof one. Mrs. Johnson simply kills everyone and then drives her car off of a not so steep incline towards the ocean and dies. The inspector investigating the murders dismisses the murders as justifiable and basically says she has a right to have murdered the physicians. Yes, this places a sort of Shakespearian epilog soliloquy by the investigator, but the film, for as seductive and visually stimulating as it is, simply ends with not a lot of pomp.
But like most of Franco’s films, this is a visual feast of color and creative representations of Soledad Miranda’s curvy form. As with VAMPIROS LESBOS (reviewed last week), this one has an absolutely amazing score, again by Sigi Schwab & Manfred Hübler as seductive bongos, moans, and trippy rhythms that make the film absolutely unique. This special edition comes with a CD containing the score for VAMPIROS LESBOS, SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY, and THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA which made me most excited about this special edition as it provides so many creative and one of a kind sounds to write to. This edition also comes with interviews with Jess Franco himself, one of his frequent stars Paul Muller, Amy Brown who is a Soledad Miranda historian, and Franco historian Steven Thrower.
BEWARE: Boobs! NSFW!
Retro-review: New this week on Bluray from Shout Factory!
STIGMATA (1999)Directed by Rupert Wainwright
Written by Tom Lazarus & Rick Ramage
Starring Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Pryce, Nia Long, Thomas Kopache, Enrico Colantoni, Dick Latessa, Portia de Rossi, Patrick Muldoon, Ann Cusack, Shaun Duke
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Every now and then, some producers think enough time has passed for a new version of THE EXORCIST to be made and attempt to shock us and creep us out by mixing religious iconography with blasphemous context. While many have tried, few have succeeded in even coming close to the intensity of that one of a kind film (same goes for giant shark films). STIGMATA succeeds in star power only as everything else seems simply by the numbers.
Not for lack of trying through, director Rupert Wainwright tries to switch things up by making his possessed girl into a possessed woman, haunted by the evil souls and slowly receiving the wounds Christ received while on the crucifix. Plucky Patricia Arquette plays Frankie, a wonky hairstylist who dresses fashionably but most likely is a little too old to pull it off (then again, I’ve seen older do worse). She cuts hair by day, parties and hooks up with guys at night and basically lives a free-wheelin’ and carefree lifestyle. When she receives a crucifix from her mother who is vacationing in Sao Paolo, Brazil she begins to have painful seizures resulting in deep holes in her wrists and feet, whip slashes across her back, slices across her forehead which occur from an unknown and unseen weapon. Not a religious person herself, Frankie is taken aback when Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) shows up claiming she is enduring the tortures Jesus experienced before he died. From there on out, it’s pretty much THE EXORCIST until the lackadaisical ending.
Arquette and Byrne do a decent job here in the leads. Arquette contorts and really puts a ton of physical effort into her role of being trounced around by evil forces. Seeing her fighting back and bloody only reminded me of a far superior role as Alabama Whitman in TRUE ROMANCE, but there’s a spunkiness about her that she seems to bring to every role she is in and she does it well here, making her a sympathetic lead. Byrne’s Father Kiernan is simply stone-faced and sour most of the time. Granted, the script doesn’t really give him much to do other than the same old conflict between the church and the good of the people debate we’ve seen a ton of through the years. Byrne is reserved and trying to soothe Frankie most of the time which isn’t the most electric of scenes.
The message here is god good, church bad which really isn’t a heady theme to explore and BRAZIL’s Jonathan Pryce and JUST SHOOT ME’s Enrico Colantoni don’t really do much to make the church likable as the staunch control freak padres who simply want to have Father Kiernan debunk, collect data, and move on to the next case instead of paying attention to the woman in need. There’s a sort of icky undertone of a relationship between Kiernan and Frankie that makes things more complicated and less appealing than it should; mainly because of the unbalance of power here as Frankie is a desperate woman in need and Kiernan seems to be the only one possessing the power to help. Tossing in an attraction between the two makes it all feel weird and reeks of Hollywood intervention.
Arquette speaks in a creepy voice, Wainwright makes quick edits and sends pigeons flying as if it were a John Woo shootout. It always rains in the city this takes place in and everything is constantly wet. There are some decent effects, but everything is edited like a music video, so there’s an unsettling strobe effect to this film that may either have been intentional or just indicative of the time it was made. STIGMATA is not a particularly bad film, it’s just that if you set out to make a film about a woman possessed and you’re going up against one of the most terrifying movies of all time, you should go out of your way to make it different instead of following the same story beat for beat and only making minimal changes.
Currently touring festivals from Fatal Pictures!
HEIR Short Film (2015)Directed by Richard Powell
Written by Richard Powell
Starring Bill Oberst Jr., Robert Nolan, Stacy Campbell, Justin Major, Jane Pokou, Ken Austen, Mateo D'Avino
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Chock full of ambiguity and metaphor about sexual abuse, HEIR is unlike any short film I’ve seen in quite a long time. The short only runs about 14 minutes long, but in that time, I was utterly creeped out and fascinated all at once.
From the guys who brought you FAMILIAR (reviewed here), HEIR opens with a father spending quality time with his son and wife. Interacting with a mysterious person online and agreeing to a meeting, Robert Nolan plays Gordon, the father, who seems reluctant but forced to take his son on a trip to visit this online friend. Immediately, the friend Denis (Bill Oberst Jr.) gives off a vibe that lets you know things just aren’t right. As the meeting continues to get uncomfortable, Gordon seems to have second thoughts about bringing his son there to meet Denis, but by then it seems like it is too late.
I won’t reveal any more, but things get kind of Freudian, kind of Lovecraftian, and definitely uncomfortable. Things are left unexplained in regards to what kind of monster Denis and Gordon really are, but the effects are amazing in that it highlights both the otherworldly aspects of the two men as well as the all too familiar stickiness of manhood. This is a film that will make you cringe, both from the bizarre effects and mystery goop and from the powerful performances by Oberst and Nolan. Both actors bring their all here with Nolan, offering up a rare sympathetic role while Oberst amps up the creep to deafening levels. HEIR channels something primal, and is relentless in shoving every disgusting nuance and detail of it in our faces. With FAMILIAR and now HEIR, writer/director Richard Powell has proven he can get to the point and make you squirm. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with a feature length film, as these two films left me breathless at their complexity in tone and sophistication in its horror produced.
So I couldn’t find a trailer for this film, but here is the hardest working man in horror, Bill Oberst Jr., to talk a bit about HEIR back when they were gathering Kickstarter funds to complete the film. And when HEIR is released for all to see, I’ll make sure to post at the bottom of the column in the “And finally…” spot!
New on DVD from MVD Home Video!
CAMP MASSACRE (2013)Directed by Daniel Emery Taylor, Jim O'Rear
Written by Daniel Emery Taylor
Starring Daniel Emery Taylor, Jim O'Rear, G. Larry Butler, James Hampton, Scott Tepperman, and John Dugan
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I’m not above lowbrow humor, and feel that anyone who feels they are needs to take life a little less seriously. CAMP MASSACRE is filled with the type of humor most would call lowbrow humor. I’m talking about poop and fart jokes, mind in the gutter, fat guys falling down, fat guys stepping in poo, and all forms of sexual innuendo and just blatant sex jokes. If that’s not your bag of donuts, then you know now to scroll on down and skip this review.
Now, those that are still here are the ones who don’t really find the above qualities to be dealbreakers, and because of that I think CAMP MASSACRE is going to be the type of film that has the potential to entertain. Sure, there are some definite rough indie edges that are evident. Writer/director Daniel Emery Taylor and director Jim O'Rear have tried their best here with non-actors and possibly some amateur actors to fill this story about a serial killer at a fat camp with a lot of chubbies for the killer to take out. Still, there are some fun moments of goofiness and some especially gory kills that will keep you entertained if you’re willing to look past the indie glow over the whole thing.
The most problematic thing about CAMP MASSACRE is the run time, which is a little over two hours. If the filmmakers would trim some of the fat off CAMP MASSACRE, I think it would be a much more tolerable experience. While the film is filled with humorous moments, not all of them need to be there, and if an editor would take a machete to this film and trim about forty-five minutes of navel gazing, it would be a much stronger film.
That said, the quality gore, fun tone and premise, and the simple fact that it has fat guys falling down and trying to do action qualifies CAMP MASSACRE as entertaining to me. While some time on the treadmill is needed, especially around the mid-section of the film, there’s more than a thin promise in making CAMP MASSACRE something worth checking out.
New this week on DVD/Blu from MVD Visual!
ON TENDER HOOKS (2013)Directed by Kate Shenton
Written by Kate Shenton
Starring Kate Shenton, Tam Smith, Charlyne Chiappone, Ana Laco, Håvve Fjell, Damien Lloyd-Davies
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The last film I watched this week for AICN HORROR was ON TENDER HOOKS. I did so mainly because I wasn’t looking forward to sitting and watching a documentary about piercing skin with thick hooks and suspending folks by their flesh. It just didn’t seem like something that would appeal to me, though I respect the folks who actually do it.
The thing is, though, once I did sit and watch it, I couldn’t help but be wrapped up and engrossed with this film mostly due to some very smart decisions by documentarian Kate Shenton. The doc focuses mainly on the culture of suspension, where a person’s flesh is pierced by large fishing hooks and then lifted a few feet off the ground via an elaborate pulley system. The experience has been described by some as exhilarating and transcendental, and the film does a decent job of trying to look at this not just from the perspective of the curious observer, but not so much ingrained in the culture as to not have a clear perspective of what is going on.
Shenton interviews a specific team of suspenders, most of which are tattooed and pierced and live a life somewhat away from the norm in the first place. Suspension is an extreme act and not something someone off the street decides to do on a whim. The film is as much a cross-section of that type of counterculture as it is a film about being hung by hooks, and it does a decent job of looking past the obvious shock value of the culture and actually getting to know these folks as they have become experts at this act, guiding and teaching others to do it.
The most interesting moments of the film happen at the very end as the filmmaker herself, who had not experienced suspension, is put to the hooks and lifted off the ground. While the film felt much more voyeuristic or a fetishization of suspension before these final moments, the decision to end with her own suspension was a powerful way to end this documentary. Without this grueling scene of Shenton shaking, crying, and in the end feeling pride and exhilaration having achieved it, the film wouldn’t have packed as powerful punch as it did.
Yes, this is weird and definitely not something I’d like to try, but suspension has been highlighted in horror films such as STRANGELAND and the HELLRAISER series, so it definitely is an aspect of the genre I can appreciate and respect. ON TENDER HOOKS put a face to this bizarre act and highlighted a culture that I hadn’t experienced before in cinema. While mainly those participating seemed to enjoy being the center of attention being suspended in such a manner, the film does try to show the more spiritual side of things. I think I would have liked to have seen more research done on the history of this act, but still, the up close and personal ending to ON TENDER HOOKS is something I won’t soon forget. And while I left this film until the end of my batch of films this week to watch, it’s one of the best ones I experienced this week.
New on DVD from Full Moon!
EVIL BONG 420 (2015)Directed by Charles Band
Written by Charles Band (story), Kent Roudebush (screenplay)
Starring Sonny Carl Davis, John Patrick Jordan, Robin Sydney, Amy Paffrath, Mindy Robinson, Chance A. Rearden, Sam Aotaki, Rorie Moon, David DeCoteau, David Del Valle, Caleb Hurst, Orson Chaplin, Circus Szalewski, K. Harrison Sweeney, Tian Wang, Jinhee Joung, Ciarra Carter, Lorenzo Phillips Jr., Tanya Tate, Janice Griffith, Ela Darling, Nina Elle, John Karyus as the Gingerdead Man’s mouth, Bobby Ramos as The Gingerdead Man’s voice, & Michelle Mais as Eebee the Evil Bong
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Have you ever noticed that in terms of humor regarding pot, whatever is said about it is immediately fascinating and hilarious to anyone who partake in the wacky weed? Now, I know part of that is because they are most likely stoned, but even when dead sober, all you have to do is mention marijuana and folks in the know find everything hi-LAR-ious.
While I don’t currently smoke weed, I’ve been known to partake back in the day when I had more hair and less responsibility. Any attempts recently have left me paranoid and with a horrific headache, so I tend to shy away from the stuff, but I’ve experienced the effects and understand the fascination. Now, I didn’t see EVIL BONG parts one through four hundred and nineteen, so I can’t speak for the entire EVIL BONG series, but with a threadbare plot with downright obnoxious, sexist, and even racist jokes tossed in for good measure, I think you’re going to have to be pretty stoned to enjoy EVIL BONG 420.
Basically, the film is a showcase for boobs and weed with the occasional bad puppet thrown in to murder someone. The premise is that Rabbit (a reoccurring character in the Evil Bong Universe played by Sonny Carl Davis) is opening a topless bowling alley where the special of the day is a bag of weed in a patron’s bowling shoes. High-jinks ensue.
The attention here is scattered. We bop back and forth between the Evil Bong’s homeworld, where Rabbit seems to have escaped from where everyone is high, happy, and free, and the real world inside the bowling alley. This film also has appearances by Ooga Booga (a killer Zuni fetish doll from the film coincidentally titled OOGA BOOGA) and the Gingerdead Man (once voiced by Gary Busey in THE GINGERDEAD MAN films, but now done by whoever was in the studio that day). A quick check on IMDB shows that Gingerdead and Eebee the Evil Bong teamed up in a film together, but I missed that clash of the titans film. Here they trade one liners and bad puns with one another for most of the film until they cross back over into the real world and attack the bowling alley. Not much blood is spilt, but everyone gets high at the end, so I guess it’s not all that bad.
Charles Band was a master at making something pretty monumental for nothing and, back in Full Moon and Empire’s heyday, was pretty ingenious at stretching the dollar to make some quality frightfests, but these EVIL BONG films just don’t cut it. Running only 50 minutes long, EVIL BONG feels like a half-assed attempt where everyone just got high in the middle of the writing, filming, and acting phases and just gave up the ghost. Not all horror has to be terrifying, but this one is just painful to watch sober. Or maybe I’m just not the target audience for this one. I’m sure simply because there is weed smoked and toked in this film, some folks will find is entertaining. But for the rest of you, it’s going to feel like a waste of time.
Currently roaring through theaters!
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)Directed by George Miller
Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris
Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, John Howard, Richard Carter, Iota, Angus Sampson, Jennifer Hagan, Megan Gale, Melissa Jaffer, Quentin Kenihan, Chris Patton, Coco Jack Gillies, Stephen Dunlevy, Richard Norton
Find out more about the film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
People talk too much: in comic books, in movies, on TV, and in real life. Most people these days will choose to use one hundred one words when five will suffice and often carry more resonance. To prove this point I give you George Miller’s MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, a film that had I not had my breath knocked out of me by the intensity and power of the action in the first five minutes, I might have thought to try to count the words used in this film. Sure, there are soliloquies later in the film, but for the first few minutes of the movie (after a very brief narration at the start) there’s hardly a word spoken--and if there’s one thing everyone knows, it’s that it’s the quiet ones that are the most dangerous. While this is bombastic in style and epic in scope, dialog-wise, this is a downright quiet film, and that’s what impressed me most about MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.
The only reason I am covering MAD MAX: FURY ROAD here in AICN HORROR is because I kind of lambasted the original MAD MAX a few weeks back after watching the re-release of the film on Bluray from Shout Factory (you can find that review here). I found the original, aside from a pretty balls-out opening and a few other moments, to be somewhat of a snoozer compared to the inspired ROAD WARRIOR and the Hollywood-glitzed BEYOND THUNDERDOME. While the film felt necessary in that it established the world and the origin story of Max, it definitely isn’t indicative of the films that followed.
That said, all of the films that preceded feel like a running start for the full-on madness that is FURY ROAD. By now you’ve probably read one jizzing review after another filled with zeal about this film, and I can’t say I disagree with them. The film does set a new standard in filmmaking that I believe will resonate in the way future action films will be made. All I plan to do in this review is articulate why I feel this way as clearly as possible, as most of you have already seen it and formed your own opinions by now.
I do think George Miller, at 70 years old, created a film with more vitality and life than films made by directors three times his younger. The opening of this film alone lets you know this is no ordinary action film. With a tiny bit of dialog from Max, we know everything there is to know: the world is broken, Max is broken, and while there are attempts to fix both in this film, the most important thing in this new world and for Max is survival by any means necessary. It’s a mad, mad world and Max is just there to bear witness to it. Max is us in this film. Not surprisingly from the title of the film, he is our central focus, but really, Max is nothing but a participant here in the action. Like us, if we follow moviegoer protocol, he is mostly silent through this film. It almost feels unnatural when Max has dialog, and I think if there are weak moments in this film, it’s when Max actually speaks. This isn’t meant as a jibe against Tom Hardy, as he gives a fantastic performance with just a cold stare, a grunt or a nod, wide eyes or a slightly agape mouth at the insanity in front of him. In many ways, this could be a silent film of old as Hardy is forced to show us his frustrations, his confusion, his emotion rather than just tell us in a writer room-evident discourse.
Charlize Theron’s Furiosa makes Max feel like a chatterbox. She barely utters a word until about the twenty minute mark, though again, her presence is commanding and unforgettable. While much of this goes to some amazing costume design with her Native American-esque greasepaint, short hair, and mechanical arm, Theron emotes so much with those big blue eyes showing that there’s a lot going on in that shaved head of hers that she’s processing and working out. Even before her plot is revealed it’s evident she carries a heavy burden, and while she does get some time to explain things, much of what is necessary to be communicated comes in one word phrases as this is a story that simply drives forward and doesn’t have time to sit and talk.
And that’s what I love most about the performances and the film itself. I love David Mamet. I love Tarantino. I even can appreciate Kevin Smith occasionally. But somewhere along the Hollywood path, it feels like instead of dazzling the audience with sights and sounds, it became more hip and trendy to screech the action to a halt and talk a bit. The most blatant example of this is Tarantino’s DEATHPROOF, which has the leading ladies stop, get out of their car, and squat in the middle of a road to chat for fifteen minutes. It’s gratuitous. It makes it crystal clear that this isn’t a character, but a writer at a computer too in love with his words. It’s not real. FURY ROAD spits on all of that, and as outlandish as it looks and feels at times, never do the characters act (or more accurately, react) as if it wasn’t real and absolutely dangerous. That’s why FURY ROAD is so effective.
It’s not just the pace of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD that is so nuts. The way the film is edited and laced together revs you up to an intensity that few films are capable of. There’s a specific series of actions towards the end of the film as Furiosa, Max, the brides, and Nux are all battling their own adversaries that is spliced together in such a nuanced and masterful way—never losing me as the viewer, but conveying the absolute chaos orchestra of mayhem going on that made my jaw drop. I couldn’t believe how well this final sequence played out.
Much has been said about the insanity of the world Mad Max travels through and yes there are some absolutely insane moments in the film. The costumes are original and outstanding. The machinery is a gearhead’s wet dream. There are tiny details a plenty here that defy logic; like the people walking through the swamps on stilts, the line of obese wet nurses, the smiley faces painted onto Nux’s goiters, and the fact that there’s a random bucket of breast milk hanging from the truck. But instead of insanity, I feel that this is a lived in world George Miller has formulated. Yes, there’s a lot of crazy shit going on, but much of it is a culmination of what was established before in the three films before it. Everything from the designs of the war boys, which is reminiscent of one of the characters from THUNDERDOME to the inclusion of Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe who also played Toecutter in the original Mad Max. I was half expecting Bruce Spence to show up as the lanky pilot from ROAD WARRIOR and THUNDERDOME to show up, but no dice. This is a thoroughly thought out world and with FURY ROAD, we are just seeing the edges of it.
I have to mention my absolute favorite aspect of the film, and most likely it was many others as well, as it was lead off the talk in my group who went to see it. Immortan Joe’s travel theme music truck blew my mind in ways I never thought possible. The spastic guitarist pulling along the drum section is so outrageous that I laughed until I cried every time I saw it. This little crazy detail is proof that Miller is a genius and possessor of a mind I am both fascinated with and a little afraid of. I mean it; I want a whole movie on the origin and further adventures of that single truck rocking it’s noggin off through the wasteland! Junkie XL provided the score of the film which included all of the drum whallops and screeching quitar rifs. As much as the editing amped up the fervor at play in the film, this composer’s music provided the necessary fuel to push it over the edge.
And here’s hoping Miller is capable and gets the funding to make another film as there are so many places in the Wasteland I want to see through Max’s eyes. There will be those who bask the film for not beating out PITCH PERFECT 2 in the box office, but that fact only cements what I already knew; that box office numbers rarely mean quality. There certainly are no box office scores in Miller’s post apocalyptic world. It doesn’t need them. It simply is a place where action starts but never stops. It’s a place where my heart started beating fast in the first seconds and kept it going long after the film. It’s a place that kept me up the night after I saw it, still reeling from all of the amazing and fun imagery I witnessed.
I could probably write a thousand more words about this film. I absolutely loved it and honestly, I think I could miss all of the rest of the films of this summer and be completely happy having seen MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. I’ll be heading to my theater to see MAD MAX: FURY ROAD again soon. And I hope others will too, as this is the type of cinema we simply need more of.
Advance Review: Currently touring fests from Deadly Indie Entertainment!
SCREAM MACHINE (2015)Directed by Scarlet Fry
Written by Scarlet Fry, Paul C. Hemmes
Starring Tara Carlton, Brian Carr, Brutus Carr, Ramon Castillo, Tracy Ellegard, Scarlet Fry, David C. Hayes, Paul C. Hemmes, Lloyd Kaufman, Stephen Kessen, Sam Meier, A.J. Nada, Dean Nesland, Randy Robinson, Josiah Spargo, Tom Szczepanski, Gage A. Underhill, Kim Wagner-Hemmes, Sandra E Williams, Dineta Williams-Trigg
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Here’s another DIY horror film that will most likely turn off lovers of films in the FURY ROAD range, but if you’re like me who find these films endearing and full of a love of the genre, you might actually enjoy it.
Tying these short films together, all made by the same writer/director Scarlet Fry, is a story of an ebola outbreak that has wiped out most of the world’s population, with the only folks left being a plague mask-wearing Dr. Fry and his assistant Dr. Headley Graves, a talking severed head on a platter. Now, the logic of this is a little off as I don’t really know who these two are addressing if the rest of the world has succumbed to a plague, but the wraparound segments in these anthology films are usually the weakest aspects of them.
Here’s a quick rundown of the shorts featured:
“Sledgehammer” is a story of revenge that had potential, but went for the gross-out punchline instead. A pitcher with a wicked arm kills his catcher in a baseball practice auditioning for the major leagues. After he is discovered and pitches a perfect game, he is stalked by a team mascot with a bat with the pitcher’s name on it. Again, the potential is there, but the rushed, gory punchline and obvious culprit makes this one pretty forgettable.
“Cannibal Penpals” is pretty gross from start to finish, as a man hides his crush on an incarcerated Jeffrey Dahmer from his wife and acts out Dahmer’s murders with a man he meets in a mens’ room. This one is filled with all kinds of disgusting fluids, and while the man-crush didn’t disturb me, crude effects and necrophilia did. There’s an undeniable John Waters feel to this one that makes it both endearing and off-putting (something Waters’ films did effortlessly). Still, it’s much more effective than the first film.
“April Fool’s Party” is another pretty obvious film about four junkies who torment their friend on April Fool’s Day. While the lead up to the punchline of this one left me wanting, the actual zinger at the end is pretty callous and gross in terms of how low humanity can sink when addicted to drugs. As a statement short, this one at least packs a punch in the end.
“Septic Shock” is a revenge tale that is oddly edited and goes on a bit too long. A woman betrays her husband with his doctor and tosses him into a septic tank in the backyard to die. Too much time is spent in this one focusing on the man reaching for the top of the septic tank and sliding back into the ooze. While there are wafts of the film SEPTIC MAN (reviewed here) in this one, it just doesn’t deliver on the grossness or the tension.
“The Deadly Indie Drive-In” is a pretty good one, and it’s nice that they saved this one for the end as it wraps things up on a high note. The story focuses on a man and a woman at a drive-in. As the man goes to get food, the movie starts compelling the woman to kill the man when he returns. Some nicely placed gore and a flip-you-on-your-ass ending makes this one worth a look-see.
I’m not apologizing for this film, just preparing the readers of these reviews when I say that this is indie horror through and through. Most likely done with money straight from the pockets of the filmmakers, it’s evident SCREAM MACHINE is made by folks in love with the genre. The gore is actually pretty well done, though the acting and creativity of story leaves a lot to be desired. If you support indie filmmaking, and you should since that’s where most of the best horror filmmakers started, then SCREAM MACHINE is one worth getting behind.
And finally…here’s a short film I took a look at a few weeks back in the Short Cuts spot here on AICN HORROR, and it’s finally being released online. It’s a simple tale of a man waiting outside of someone’s home, but it really is effective in ratcheting up the tension. If you like what you see, you can buy the DVD/BluRay here which has some behind the scenes added bonus features. Check it out for yourself; here’s John Pata’s PITY!
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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