Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. It doesn’t matter if it’s not October. Halloween comes weekly here at AICN HORROR. Here’s another batch of horror goodies for your trick of treat bags!
And don’t forget to check out my rundown of the horrors to come at the Bruce Campbell’s Horror Film Fest at Wizard World Chicago this weekend and then listen to the CANNIBAL HORRORCAST we posted this week for IT FOLLOWS and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET! On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS (1967)
Retro-review: LA GRANDE BOUFFE (1973)
Retro-review: CANNIBAL TERROR (1981)
Retro-review: NOMADS (1986)
Retro-review: CATACOMBS (1988)
Retro-review: THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS (1997)
Advance Review: …IN THE DARK (2015)
And finally…ESCAPE Radio Play: BLOODBATH!
Retro-review: New on BluRay from Kino Lorber!
HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS (1967)aka HOUSE OF 1000 PLEASURES
Directed by Jeremy Summers, Hans Billian (as Manfred Koeler)
Written by María del Carmen Martínez Román (Spanish version), Harry Alan Towers (English version, as Peter Welbeck)
Starring Vincent Price, Martha Hyer, George Nader, Ann Smyrner, Wolfgang Kieling, Sancho Gracia, Maria Rohm, Luis Rivera, José Jaspe, Juan Olaguivel, Herbert Fux, Yelena Samarina, Diane Bond
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
While this film just barely fits the bill as a horror thriller and comes off as missing the mark completely as the sleazefest it suggests from its posters, the appearance of Vincent Price elevates HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS to watchable status.
Vincent Price plays Felix Manderville, a magician who hypnotizes young women in his show and later compels them to become a part of a sex slave brothel in Paris. But when the wrong girl goes missing, vacationer Stephen Armstrong (George Nader) begins an investigation to get to the bottom of the abductions which leads him to the House of 1,000 Dolls, a brothel where any and all perversities can come true for a price.
Sounds like some sordid and devious shit, huh? Well, HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS is about as tame as you can get. While some of the stuff like seeing a girl in a nightie shackled up in manacles might have been risqué in 1967 when this film was released, it’s downright quaint in this day and age. Though it’s not my cup of tea, anyone looking for S&M or even T&A in this film are going to leave sorely disappointed at the PG stuff on display here. For the most part the horrors happen off-screen, and all we as the audience get to experience is the aftermath and the commentary on how horrific it is within the walls of the House of 1,000 Dolls. But we never really get to see any of these horrors that are spoken of in hushed whispers and furtive glances; instead, this plays out as a detective story with Stephen tracking down the clues in order to bring the police to Manderville’s doorstep. It’s not a bad cat and mouse sleuther, but it definitely doesn’t deliver on what it advertises.
The saving grace for even the worst of Vincent Price films is that Vincent Price gives it his all in pretty much everything he does. His role of Felix Manderville is part vaudevillian and part diabolical genius and Price, as usual, treats the whole thing like Shakespeare. Price, though, is not in great portions of this film and it seems almost like this movie is two movies squished into one with scenes of Price playing a scoundrel eluding the cops and mesmerizing women sprinkled into a narrative about a man looking for a missing girl. The ending of the film is the best part, and feels like the only thing worth seeing as it is straight out of a Hammer horror with Price dramatically meeting an end.
While uneven and often misleading, HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS does have Price in it, so it has that going for it. Utilizing the scenes with Price and bringing the film to an exciting conclusion saves this film and almost makes it worth seeing, but the rest of the film is tame and rather boring. Sleaze fans will be disappointed, as will lovers of tightly woven detective films. Still, Price fans have another undusted and flawed gem to discover.
BEWARE: This trailer is not in English, it’s *gasp* in German!
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Arrow Video/MVD Visual!
LA GRANDE BOUFFE (1973)THE BIG FEAST, THE GREAT FEED, BLOW OUT
Directed by Marco Ferreri
Written by Marco Ferreri & Rafael Azcona (scenario & adaptation), Francis Blanche (dialog)
Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret, Ugo Tognazzi, Andréa Ferréol, Solange Blondeau, Florence Giorgetti, Michèle Alexandre, Monique Chaumette, Henri Piccoli, Maurice Dorléac, Simon Tchao, Louis Navarre, Bernard Menez, Cordelia Piccoli
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
My god, what a movie! While it may be a stretch to call LA GRANDE BOUFFE a straight up horror film, it definitely falls in line with the cinema of the grotesque and therefore is welcome here at AICN HORROR.
More so now than ever before, we live in a culture of excess with fast food restaurants on every corner, and sometimes two sushi places or burrito joints right next door to one another. We disgustingly snap photos of our food to brag about how much, where, and when we are eating to post to social media, and then we fill ourselves until we are about to burst, only to wonder where we should make reservations to have our next meal. Face it: we are a society of dogs eating simply because there is something in front of us until we burst. So maybe everyone should take a look at LA GRANDE BOUFFE, a film made in 1973 but just as relevant today as it was then.
Four upper class men gather together in a mansion to eat themselves to death. While doing so, they hire three prostitutes and garner the eye of a local schoolteacher who turns out to be just as depraved as the men. Surrounding themselves with decadent bric-a-brac and talking about preparing one dish after another, the men eat and eat and eat in hopes to leave this world doing what they all love to do: eat. Lots of sex and gorging on food, sometimes at the same time, occurs in the film as one member of the quartet dies after another.
Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, for the most part I was disgusted by this film to the point of nausea. Director/co-writer Marco Ferreri zooms right in on the disgusting maws of these human garbage disposals as they flap their lips around anything edible as if it were their last meal. Long shots of teeth ripping through meats and slurping down puddings made me happy I didn’t eat a big meal upon watching this. Bodily fluids and excess foods are mixed and focused on in disgusting amounts here--sometimes you can’t tell one from the next. The behavior of these four men, all talented actors, is going to be something that tests folks’ patience as they attempt to pontificate philosophy in between filling their snouts and having sex with any female that comes near them. Ferreri highlights the worst in humanity here in an amazing fashion, but I warn you, this is not for the squeamish and the director fills this film with sights and sounds you’ll never be able to unsee or unhear.
If watching people eat and noticing how close we all really are to ravenous animals is a notion that makes you sick, avoid this movie at all cost. The foodies may enjoy it as it celebrates their methodology of excess and fascination with not only the consumption, but also the presentation. This is a gaudy yet gorgeous film that mocks the decadent lifestyle while highlighting it, a quality of the film that will elude those caught up in the phenomenon of excess. Still, it holds a warped mirror to modern society, which all good horror movies do. So while there is a relatively low body count, the deaths that do occur are disgusting and memorable. LA GRANDE BOUFFE is one of the most original and terrific horrors I’ve seen in quite a while, making me disgusted while making me think. If you can stomach a man farting himself to death while playing a piano, then LA GRANDE BOUFFE might be the right type of wrong for you.
BEWARE: This trailer is in French and is definitely NSFW!
Retro-review: New on a double feature BlyRay from Severin Films!
CANNIBAL TERROR (1981)aka TERROR CANNIBALE
Directed by Alain Deruelle (as A.W. Steeve), Olivier Mathot & Julio Pérez Tabernero (uncredited)
Written by Julio Pérez Tabernero, H.L. Rostaine, Jesús Franco (uncredited)
Starring Silvia Solar, Gérard Lemaire, Pamela Stanford, Olivier Mathot, Bertrand Altmann, Stan Hamilton, Antoine Fontaine, Antonio Mayans, Michel Laury, Annabelle, Mariam Camacho
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
While most of the Italian cannibal films run together for me, at least CANNIBAL TERROR tries to spice up the story, which makes it a bit more watchable than most of its kind.
This movie feels like it could have been written by Tarantino, as it involves a bunch of bumbling hoods screwing up a kidnapping and then finding themselves trapped in the middle of the jungle with cannibalistic tribes surrounding them. When their car breaks down they take shelter with an elderly man and his spicy wife, but when one of the hoods rapes the wife, the cannibals who have an understanding with the elderly man take vengeance on the bumbling kidnappers.
The twisting and turning plot with characters at various levels of bad is a staple of Tarantino films, and if you like those types of films about crimes gone wrong due to the weakness of men, then you’re bound to find something appealing here. While the film doesn’t go to the depths CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST does with depictions of animal deaths, it does manage to toss in some sleaze with the gratuitous rape of a woman bound to a tree intermingled with a love scene between two other bandits. I don’t know if both scenes are meant to titillate or if the director is trying to fuck with the mind of the viewer by mixing a rape with a consensual copulation, but it is a juxtaposition of imagery that left me feeling completely off kilter. Still, I don’t know if this was an intentional mindfuck the director was going for or a happy accident, as this film is not really that smart and I might be giving it more credit than it deserves.
The gore here is pretty great, with tons of gratuitous shots of cannibals chomping on what looks to be sausage made out to look like human guts. There are multiple scenes of these gorgings, and while it is a familiar scene in these films, these were done effectively. Shots of the actor’s severed head (obviously with his body buried underneath to give the effect of a real head) are pretty well done, though the camera almost catches the heads blinking every now and then.
Still, CANNIBAL TERROR is oftentimes laughably bad, as the tribesmen seem to be either Italian or tan Americans and look nothing like natives. No effort really was made at authenticity in regards to the native culture to give the natives a uniform look other than swaddling little diapers, as their makeup differs from one native to the next and makes no sense. Most of them look like someone just went to town on their faces while sleeping at a party with a sharpie. Still, for its dumb do it yourself fun that sometimes stumbles on a poignant message here and there, you could do much worse in terms of cannibal films than CANNIBAL TERROR.
BEWARE: This trailer is definitely not safe for work viewing!
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!
NOMADS (1986)Directed by John McTiernan
Written by John McTiernan, Barry Stern
Starring Lesley-Anne Down, Pierce Brosnan, Anna Maria Monticelli, Adam Ant, Mary Woronov, Héctor Mercado, Josie Cotton, Frank Doubleday, Jeannie Elias, J. Jay Saunders, Alan Autry, Frances Bay
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
I know there are a lot of folks who kind of dig this “Pierce Brosnan runs from punk rock demon ghosts” flick, but NOMADS bored me to tears when I first saw it and did so again rewatching it recently.
Leslie-Ann Down is Dr. Eileen Flax, an overworked doctor who is attacked by a delirious man who arrives in her ER and whispers something into her ear before biting her and then dying. That man was Jean Charles Pommier (Pierce Brosnan), a noted French anthropologist, who after studying a specific myth of demon folk in Alaska finds himself haunted by leather-clad biker demons when he returns to his LA home with his wife. We know this because Eileen has been re-experiencing the last days of Pommier’s life through flashbacks ever since she was attacked. When she too begins seeing these biker demons, the viewer experiences a twofold story following Pommier through Eileen’s mind and then Eileen attempting to uncover the truth as to whether the demons are real or if she’s going nuts.
Directed by the legendary John McTiernan (DIE HARD, PREDATOR), I was hoping to be blown away by this film upon rewatching it, tossing aside my initial blah attitude I previously had for the film upon first seeing it on VHS in the 80s. Unfortunately, the plot is still a dragger as the dual storyline becomes rather redundant after a while when we realize the demons are real. It feels as if the story was really supposed to be following Leslie-Ann Down’s character through the whole thing, but to cash in on the REMINGTON STEELE popularity of the time, they tried to bulk up the bits with Pierce Brosnan to take advantage of it, so what you get is a film that is more interested in the flashbacks than the present story.
It doesn’t help that Brosnan’s French accent is absolutely horrible in this film. Switching in and out of the accent, Brosnan really doesn’t seem like he wants to be in this film at all. Most of the time he is simply running down the street after someone with his shirt open. Once the demons do show their faces, they are just regular punks. I understand McTiernan might have been wanting to go the realistic approach and not go all out with demon makeup, but relying on the terror to come from people decked out in leather shows how sheltered this film really is. I interact with folks that look like the antagonists in this film every day and know just because they are wearing spikes and leather, it doesn’t equate that they are evil. And while there are a few murders, most of the misdeeds these demons do are vandalism and riding their loud cars and bikes through the streets. Ooooooh, those pesky demons! Here, it seems that this film is counting on the viewer to think of bikers and punks to be the epitome of evil. Since I don’t, the scares fell absolutely flat for me.
The film remains as gritty and dark as it did back in the Eighties when it was released. Most of the time you can’t even distinguish the faces of these demon bikers enough to recognize that glam rocker Adam Ant and genre queen Mary Woronov are among their ranks. With a misguided story, monsters that really aren’t that threatening or scary, and a phoned in performance by Brosnan, I once again found it really hard to find anything to like about NOMADS.
Retro-review: New on BluRay double feature from The Shout Factory!
CATACOMBS (1988)aka CURSE IV: THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE
Directed by David Schmoeller
Written by David Schmoeller (as Giovanni Dimarco) , R. Barker Price
Starring Timothy Van Patten, Ian Abercrombie, Jeremy West, Laura Schaefer, Vernon Dobtcheff, Feodor Chaliapin Jr., Brett Porter, Michael Pasby, Mapi Galán, Nicola Morelli, Julian Jenkins, Ted Rusoff, Leslie Thomas, Giordano Falzoni, G. Ferretti
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
There’s nothing like defacing religious iconography to get the blood pumpin’. CATACOMBS may be a low budgeter, but it is a film from the time of Empire Pictures, and those films really knew how to stretch a buck!
They don’t make ‘em like CATACOMBS any more. It’s a horror film set in a monastery where an order of monks imprison an ancient demon in their catacombs, only to be set free to seek vengeance on the modern day monks. This being Empire, there has to be some damsels in distress, so there’s a female news reporter and a cute country girl there to keep the eye candy sweet. When the demon is unleashed, the subtle battles for power within the monastery are amplified to an all-out monk war for power. It’s up to a young monk (CLASS OF 1999’s Tim Van Patten) to team up with the lady reporter to save the day.
While the story is rather ridiculous and something that feels like it would be comfortable occupying page space in an EC comic, the eye for effects and the commitment of the actors who are going for the gold in every scene for everything to be taken seriously is what makes CATACOMBS a winner. While Tim Van Patten has been in much better films, he’s great here as the noble young monk, and there is much scene chewing by Ian Abercrombie, Jeremy West, and Vernon Dobtcheff, who tout the way of the good book with conviction. Finally the demon itself takes the form of Brett Porter, and is not guilty of gnawing on the scenery but still remains pretty scary in his old age and demoned up makeup.
What I found to be the most unsettling is the use of religious iconography throughout as either a means of killing or just in a way that would make the more religious of folk cringe. I’m used to things like crosses being made into weapons, but CATACOMBS takes it a tad further by having Jesus Christ (played by Michael Pasby) himself step off the cross in a scene and kill a guy. The fact that this film has the balls to do that impressed me to no end and it makes for one of the creepier scenes put together by writer/director David Schmoeller.
While everything devolves into a typical big earth-shaking (i.e. camera shaking) standoff between good and evil in the bowels of the catacombs and there are tons of goofy moments such as the tendency for the possessed to do air punches at people causing damaging blows to its victims across the room, CATACOMBS’ more quiet moments utilizing the religious iconography really got under my skin in a way most Empire films didn’t, so I have to give it to this film for achieving that. Paired on this BluRay double feature with the much less effective feature CELLAR DWELLER (reviewed here), if you’re a fan of those old Empire films, this is the one to seek out.
Retro-review: New on BluRay from Full Moon Entertainment!
THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS (1997)aka SUBSPECIES: IN THE TWILIGHT – THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS
Directed by Ted Nicolaou
Written by Ted Nicolaou
Starring Jonathon Morris, David Gunn, Kirsten Cerre, Starr Andreeff, Ilinca Goia, Constantin Barbulescu, Mihai Dinvale, Dan Condurache, Mihai Niculescu, Petre Moraru, Rodica Lupu, Floriela Grappini, Diana Lupan, Maria Dimitrache-Caraman
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
The creator of the SUBSPECIES series, Ted Nicolaou, didn’t seem to feel he said enough about vampires, apparently, and decided to give a new take on an old monster. Unfortunately, THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS pales in the shadow of those old and cool vampire flicks.
THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS opens up with some potential. A girl is running from a crinkle browed vampire, attempting to leave a gothic castle, but is caught just at the doorway and bitten in the neck by the toothy monster. Then out of nowhere, another vampire shows up with a sword and beheads the vampire, sending his head flying. This type of opening establishes a couple of things; that director Nicolaou is still using a lot of the cool vampire iconography from the SUBSPECIES series such as the vampires travelling through moving shadows and the monstrous and Nosferatu-esque look of the vampires, and that this seems to be SUBSPECIES: THE NEXT GENERATION of some sort. Too bad the rest of the film doesn’t have the momentum and fun of those first few moments.
After the action packed opener, we are treated to a lot of pretty-boy vampire angst and weakly executed romance through bloodsucker-red tinted glasses. Zachary (David Gunn) is our sword swinging vampire with a bleeding heart for the love of Rebecca (Rodica Lupu), but this love for a human puts him in direct conflict with Ash, the king of vamps (a foppish Jonathon Morris). There’s a lot of gazing at the moonlight and longing for love. There’s a lot of decadent parties held by Ash and his vampire council. Finally, Ash and Zachary meet in an opera house and have an on stage battle that is about as ill-choreographed as they come.
Nicolaou is swinging for the cheap seats here in terms of an ambitious story with multiple characters and grand conflicts. Unfortunately, none of the actors have the charisma to pull off the heavy emotional stuff Nicolaou sets up here. On top of that, the script feels waaaaay overcrowded with needless conflicts. Nicolaou tries to set up subplots and subterranean-plots here, but when your cast is really hard to distinguish from one another because they are all so bland, it really makes everything just pointless to follow. This is just a crowded and convoluted tale of long haired vamps longing and crying and eventually swinging swords.
I hate to be harsh, because this seemed like Nicolaou was trying to recapture that magic of the SUBSPECIES series which really was something kind of special. But instead of focusing on the cool stuff that he was carrying over from that series like the powers of the vamps, he does it all in the first five to ten minutes and then tosses it all aside in favor of the romantical vamp stuff which was just plain lame. Seek out the SUBSPECIES series instead of cracking open THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS.
New this week in select theaters and On Demand from IFC Midnight!
EJECTA (2014)Directed by Chad Archibald & Matt Wiele
Written by Tony Burgess
Starring Julian Richings, Lisa Houle, Adam Seybold, Mark Gibson, Justin Darmanin, Ry Barrett, Ari Millen, Cat Hostick, Tony Burgess
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
EJECTA is not your typical alien visitation/abduction story, but one wouldn’t expect your typical anything from PONTYPOOL writer Tony Burgess. And while EJECTA isn’t the perfect film, there’s a lot here that will make you think and jump out of your chair.
The ambitious story is split into two parts. In one portion a young reporter, Joe Sullivan (Adam Seybold), seeks out famed alien abductee and enthusiast William Cassidy (Julian Richings) on the night of a mass ejection, aka a solar storm which is supposed to create chaos with technology and the atmosphere on a worldwide scale. The other part of this story takes place after Joe and William meet, as we find William strapped to a chair against his will and forced to explain the bizarre occurrences he experienced with Joe the night of the ejections to a pushy government operative named Dr. Tobin (Lisa Houle, who also appeared in PONTYPOOL) who isn’t above using methods of torture to get William to talk. As the runtime goes on, both stories advance as we find out that the solar ejections coincided with a visitation of some sort by something alien.
The unconventional structure of EJECTA works to its benefit, as I feel both stories on their own might not be interesting enough to carry the weight of one film. Story one with Joe and William is made in the found footage format, with Joe filming his interview with William and catching the lights in the sky and the crash of an alien spacecraft on film, as well as the alien’s attack upon their home later in the night. While occasionally difficult to follow, I found these scenes to pack the kinetic punch needed to make the more tedious segments of Dr. Tobin torturing and grilling William for information in the chair easier to get through. It’s not that the segments between Tobin and William are bad, but they tend to get repetitious as William isn’t talking and Tobin is forced to use one empty-handed threat tactic after another in hopes of getting information. These torture sequences simply serve to fill out the runtime and serve as wraparound segments for the found footage parts of the film.
There are quite a few fantastic images of alien spacecraft flying through the air, crashing to the ground, and then aliens running after Joe and William through the woods. These scenes are absolutely electric and serve to be the best parts of the film. There are some cool sequences of weirdness during the interrogation scenes as well, but a lot of them feel like weirdness for weird’s sake and are not bothered to be explained. One sequence towards the end has a character blowing their brains out with a revolver over and over with little result, as despite the massive hole in the head death doesn’t seem to follow. This is a cool image, but little to no explanation is offered for it. This is but one of many instances when weird shit happens for no reason in this film.
I would recommend this film to folks who are interested in alien abduction films, as it does offer a lot of bizarre imagery and hyperkinetic action sequences of alien mayhem. William Richings is a truly unique actor, and it’s nice to see a film feature him so prominently in a starring role. For that alone I support EJECTA. But while there’s a lot of alien nonsense going on, the odd structure, the fun performances from the cast, and the tension-filled chase and sighting scenes make for a truly unique alien flick.
New this week on BluRay/DVD and digital download from Artsploitation Films!
CUB (2014)aka WELP
Directed by Jonas Govaerts
Written by Jonas Govaerts, Roel Mondelaers
Starring Maurice Luijten, Evelien Bosmans, Titus De Voogdt, Stef Aerts, Jan Hammenecker, Gill Eeckelaert, Noa Tambwe Kabati, Ricko Otto, Louis Lemmens, Thomas De Smet, Pieter De Brabandere, Jessie Tweepenninckx, Isah De Zutter, Hauke Geirnaert, Ebe Meynckens, Ymanol Perset, Nabil Missoumi, Jean-Michel Balthazar
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Sometimes when you mix different colors it all turns out looking grey and colorless. But sometimes, when the right elements are blended, something brilliant is made and that’s what CUB turns out to be. By snagging little bits of ideas from here and there, CUB ends up being something wholly original and entertaining from start to finish.
CUB is an excellent Belgium film focusing on a young and troubled boy named Sam (Maurice Luijten) who just doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the scouts in his cub scout pack. He also annoys the hell out of his scout leaders as his inquisitive nature leads him astray from the carefully made plans of the counselors to make out in the woods and goof off while the scouts are busy doing foresty shit. When Sam begins seeing a boy just about his age creeping around their campground (Gill Eeckelaert), the counselors write it off to his overactive imagination and a result of a campfire story they tell the scouts about a wolf-boy named Kai in the woods. But this feral child exists and uses Rube Goldbergian traps and his jungle prowess in order to hunt and kill anyone who enters the woods. With his scout leaders and peers not believing him about the boy-monster in the woods, it’s up to Sam to save the day. But is he sane enough to do it?
This film is brimming with ideas that feel innovative and cool. While the concept of the feral child has been done before in modern fables such as THE JUNGLE BOOK and LORD OF THE FLIES, it feels fresh here setting it against a woodland horror backdrop. Placing kids in harms way is something Spielberg cut his teeth on in Amblin, and to a point, this film has an Amblin feel to it as these kids seem to really be in danger. But there’s a point in this film where the stakes are raised and kids do die which makes the horror feel all the more palpable and real as you just don’t see that type of horror in American films. The death toll is surprisingly high here as Sam’s battle against the Cub and his even more evil Master up the ante of the hunt and take it from the thick forest to their expansive bunker under the woodland floor. The action in CUB is as intense as the horror comes from how brutal the action beats climax to. This is no slasher film where the killer stabs someone and they fall dead immediately, in this film, the horrors last long and it takes much longer for people to die, which makes it much more impactful and real.
But on top of the brutal action and violence prominently on display in CUB, the filmmakers litter the film with all sorts of nods and homages to the source material and influences. The whole film takes place in Castleroque, a nod to Stephen King’s Castle Rock; a locale of choice for many of his stories. The counselors in the film are named Baloo and Akela, two of Mowgli’s animal advisors from Kipling’s THE JUNGLE BOOK (a story I am quite familiar with having written my own trilogy of comic book miniseries based on the tale). Baloo’s dog in the film is named Zoltan after ZOLTAN THE HOUND OF DRACULA (reviewed here), which shows that this filmmaker’s roots run deep in horror. These little nods to other works could come off as lame attempts to refer to better material, but here it works in that the movie is just as formidable and fun without it, but made more so because it is letting us know where the inspiration for the film lays.
CUB is a brutal piece of cinema and highlights a true force of nature in terms of filmmaking by director/writer Jonas Govaerts and his co-writer Roel Mondelaers. From start to finish, this is a film that moves at a rapid and dangerous pace. And though there is never a dull moment, CUB is also dripping with character as we really feel for Sam and his evolution from picked on outcast to savior and beyond. Young Maurice Luijten reminds me of the grit and toughness you saw in a young River Phoenix and offers up a powerful performance here as Sam. Most of the time when kids act tough in films, it’s done so to be cute and done for laughs. Here, Sam is in a fight for his life and though his stature is small, he gives his everything to survive and attempt to save his cub-mates and counselors. This is the level of danger you just don’t see in mainstream films.
I loved every minute of CUB. It’s a brutal and intense tale that proves that with a little creativity, age old horror tropes like “the killer in the woods” tale can still be interesting if someone puts their brains to it. It’s too bad someone can’t put this type of storytelling and quality into a FRIDAY THE 13TH film as this film pretty much encapsulates a “young Jason in the woods” motif. If the producers of the F13 series had a brain in their heads they would recruit Govaerts and Mondelaers now to do decent turn with Mr. Voorhees.
I can’t recommend CUB enough to fans of horror. It’s the kind of film that doesn’t come around often and though it’s not in English (a turn off to some viewers, but not myself), it’s one of the best horror films you’re bound to discover this year. Overstuffed with cool moments, breakneck action, and tons of the red stuff, CUB is a film that will knock you on your ass no matter how prepared you think you are.
Advance Review: Coming soon and prepping to tour festivals!
…IN THE DARK (2015)Directed by David Spaltro
Written by David Spaltro
Starring Grace Folsom, Lynn Justinger, Fiona Horrigan, Catherine Cobb Ryan, Aaron Mathias, Jesse R. Tendler, Nikki Scheidt, Hayden Wall, Kayla Leasure, William Maloney
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Right from the opening scene that will chill you to your core, …IN THE DARK is a deft use of suspense and darkness that takes full advantage of being small scare and uses its lighter budget to make the viewer rely on their own horrific imaginations.
Young Bethany (Grace Folsom) is an aspiring art student, but lately she has been experiencing bizarre phenomenon in her basement studio. When these occurrences become more frequent, Bethany’s terrified mother (Catherine Cobb Ryan) contacts Lois Kearne (Fiona Horrigan), a respected paranormal investigator to get to the bottom of the problem. Accompanied by skeptic researcher Veronica (Lynn Justinger), Lois finds that Bethany has not been tormented by ghosts, but by a demon hungering for her soul.
The possession story is one that has often been used in horror, but rarely does it work. Too many times, comparisons to THE EXORCIST bogs down any attempt at compelling the demons with the power of Christ and everything pales in comparison to that iconic film. So …IN THE DARK smartly doesn’t even try. Instead, it focuses on the X-FILES motif by having a believer and a skeptic investigate this case. In doing so, it successfully dissolves any comparisons to THE EXORCIST and becomes something original. Paired with some potently terrifying scenes of hauntings and pitch darkness, …IN THE DARK comes across as something we haven’t seen before (a feat very few exorcism flicks have accomplished).
On the critical side, when things do happen in the light, the budgetary limits become apparent, but this occurs late in the film and by that time, I was too engrossed in the fates of the characters to care about such things. With compelling performances and a story that really hooks, …IN THE DARK is not your typical exorcism movie and worth a look see.
And finally…let’s end this column with a little bit of what we began with, the always amazing Vincent Price and the dangers of the jungle! Turn down the lights and hunker down close to the speaker on your computer to listen to this episode of ESCAPE starring Vincent Price entitled BLOODBATH!
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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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!