Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Happy, happy Friday the 13th, everyone! This week’s batch is filled with surprises that may not look good at first, but actually do a fantastic job with creeping under your skin.
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
AICN HORROR Celebrates F13 with FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989)
Retro-review: TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970)
The History Channel’s BREAKING HISTORY: BIGFOOT CAPTURED (2015)
THE FUNHOUSE MASSACRE (2015)
8 Films To Die For: BASTARD (2015)
And finally… Corina Seaburn and Samuel Farmer’s FRIDAY THE 13TH: EXTRACTION Fan Film!
Get the FRIDAY THE 13TH The Complete Collection BluRay here!
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989)aka ASHES TO ASHES
Directed by Rob Hedden
Written by Rob Hedden
Starring Jensen Daggett, Scott Reeves, Todd Caldecott, Tiffany Paulsen, Barbara Bingham, Peter Mark Richman, Alex Diakun, Warren Munson, Fred Henderson, Gordon Currie, Saffron Henderson, Martin Cummins, Vincent Craig Dupree, Sharlene Martin, Kelly Hu, Tim Mirkovich, and Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
So we are getting into the darker days of the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise. These are the desperate times where the studio kind of bucks the sense that they want to tell an ongoing story (one of the main reasons I loved the first six films, since they fit together so well) and instead try to break the norm and simply toss new challenges and scenarios for Jason to face. In installments 7, 8, 9, and 10 of this series, you can literally picture the writers room where someone pitches a producer an “out of the box” pitch and the producer taps his chin and then finally says, “Brilliant! Let’s do it!”, only seeing potential dollar signs and not taking into account what the fans really want to see. It’s because of this desperation that I dislike these four films the most in the franchise. Still, there is lots to talk about (some good, but mostly bad) when it comes to FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 8: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN.
Right off the bat, the change from previous FRIDAY THE 13TH films is evident. We don’t get the classic Manfredini score that has accompanied so many of the more effective F13 films. Instead we get an ominous radio DJ saying ominous things as we look at every set piece that will come into play when Jason finally gets to New York. Songwriter Fred Mollin’s “Darkest Side of the Night” instead is played. It’s a horrific 80’s tune that sets the stage for the crap to come. The entire film panders to the MTV crowd, without the actual, you know, catchy music. It’s even got a cute rocker chick JJ (one of the more interesting kids on the boat who dies too soon and played by Saffron Henderson) who rocks out with a guitar in the bowels of the ship before Jason smashes her face with said guitar. This paired with the changing of the classic “Kill-kill-kill-ma-ma-ma” sound effect to simply “Jason-jason-jason” is another unnecessary change that really takes away a lot of the creepiness. No now, instead of the voice of his mother, Jason inexplicably hears his name over and over. On an unrelated note, this was later used to comedic effect in ZOOLANDER every time Hansel’s name was mentioned (“Hansel, he’s so hot right now. Hansel”).
But that’s just the beginning of the changes director Rob Hedden had in mind for this film. And that’s ultimately why this film doesn’t work. It feels like Hedden wanted to make his mark by changing important factors in order to tell a new story. Sure, it sounds good, but when you change things that make the character the character, then it’s just not the character anymore. Many of the horrible tropes associated with the series are exploited to the nth degree here; most notably Jason’s power of teleportation. Sure there’s the usual Jason bopping around the ship killing kids as other cast members interact with one another, but in this film, Jason out and out teleports. There are scenes where Jason is at the bottom of the ladder and the next second he’s at the top of it killing someone. Jason doesn’t even walk in this film! He simply stands there and then appears close to the victim as he or she runs away. Hedden seems to think this makes Jason more threatening, but while supernatural forces brought Jason back to life, Jason is always more effective as a ground level force to be reckoned with. It’s just laughable the way Jason is everywhere here, much more obvious than previous films and once again nuance is not welcome in this film’s dojo.
The story revolves around typical virginal final girl Rennie (Jensen Daggett) who is dealing with a repressed memory of almost drowning as a child and possibly encountering the ghost of Jason in Crystal Lake. It’s a concept that’s already been dealt with in Part 3 with Kris remembering a possible rape at the hands of Jason and again in Part 7 as Tina who flashes back to see both her father and Jason as she develops her psychic powers. Flashbacks are a constant in this series as Pamela Voorhees was haunted by flashbacks of her son’s death in the original, so at least this film stays true to form, while not being very original to boot.
Rennie is among the rest of her graduating class; the last class to graduate Crystal Lake High, I guess. Against the wishes of her asshole uncle (played by Peter Mark Richman), Rennie joins the rest of her class on a class trip by boat from Crystal Lake to New York. The story quickly revives Jason (again played by Kane Hodder) via an anchor dragging a power cable to recharge his body (hey, it worked for Part 6, why come up with something new?), so he hops the boat and begins killing everyone on board. Eventually, they get to New York…
And that’s where this film gets criticized the most. The first hour of this film takes place on a boat instead of New York as the title suggests. This was due to budget limitations with many of the “New York” scenes being filmed in Canada instead. The fact that this film doesn’t even deliver what the title suggests until the last half hour is one of the main reasons this film was panned. But the worst crime in my opinion is how bland this whole film really is. There just isn’t any punch to any of the characters here and any who do come off as interesting are killed off quickly. Even Hodder himself seems bored with what he’s doing here.
There are some quality kills in this installment. Everyone mentions the extended boxing scene between Julius (Vincent Craig Dupree) and Jason on top of the building (and it is a good one, as his head is punched clean off and rolls off the building and into a dumpster), but I prefer the death of the Admiral (Warren Munson) which is really nicely filmed as Jason creeps up behind him in slo mo and cuts his throat or the awesome death by strangulation scene (a first for Jason in this series) in the disco room as Jason holds Eva (a super young Kelly Hu) by the throat and then slams her down to the disco floor. Those deaths aside, there are some horribly lame deaths that occur either off camera or even lamer, in shadow, that do nothing but up the body count. And while this film has a high body count, it’s multiplied as the bulk of the kids without lines are gathered together in one room and then the room is flooded (again this happens off screen which makes their deaths left to be explained by the surviving cast).
The beats used for comedic effect really never registered for me. As Jason finally gets to New York, he sees a billboard of a hockey team with a giant hockey mask and tilts his head, acknowledging the resemblance. Not to get too nerdy, but I doubt Jason would have the insight to know what he looks like with the mask on. I always thought Jason wore the mask out of shame of his face, something he most likely was tormented with as a kid by the counselors and kids alike. Worse yet, the scene where Jason tilts his mask back and shows the street punks his face and scares them away is equally groan inducing for the same reason. Maybe Jason is owning up to his disfigured looks, but for someone who has always worn a bag or a hockey mask to hide his face, it just seems out of character to have him reveal himself so flippantly. Sure it makes for a good laugh, but it’s at the expense of the character.
Jason’s look for this film is somewhat different than what can arguably be his most impressive look from Part 7 by FX artist/director John Carl Buechler. Here, Jason is a slimy and wet mess with multiple shots of oozing slime coming out of his wounds and when Jason grips something. I actually kind of like this waterlogged effect, but once the mask comes off—whoa nelly is it horrifically bad. Underneath the hockey mask looks like something a high schooler whittled together with stuff he found in the kitchen. This is by far the worst looking Jason face reveal of the series.
The nonsensical ending of this film is one of the things that really made me mad when I first saw PART 8 and to this day, it still cheeses me off. For some reason, the sewers of New York are flooded with toxic sludge, as a sewage worker informs us and our two surviving cast members towards the end of the film. This pretty much goes hand in hand with the “let’s just do a bunch of random shit” mentality this film exudes. Why not have Jason fight crocodiles in the sewers too? But the exorcism of Jason’s spirit by the toxic waste is by far the stupidest thing about this already ridiculous movie. Yes, having Rennie haunted by the ghost of little boy Jason is ok, but having Jason somehow suddenly speak, vomit a gallon of water (something Hodder actually did on cue), and then melt away to the form of a little boy is just stupid to me. Since Rennie is injected with heroin when she is abducted by punks, one could write the whole idiotic sequence off to Rennie tripping balls, which is what I prefer to do.
Random tidbit time: The cook who comes out of the kitchen from the diner to take care of Jason in the final moments of this film is actually Ken Kerzinger who later played Jason in FREDDY VS JASON. Kind of a cool factoid that Hodder and Kerzinger got to have an albeit brief sparring match in this film.
In trying to do something new and different with PART 8, they forgot what made FRIDAY THE 13TH films good in the first place. While there are some quality kills here and Hodder is always fun as Jason with his simmering rage that he often exuded with the character, Hedden’s decisions to spice up what didn’t need spice are what ultimately kills the film. In the interviews in the supplementary material, Hedden blames budget for the problems with this film. But given the budget, we wouldn’t have gotten a better looking Jason, just Jason boxing in Madison Square Garden. So I guess we can thank god for small favors.
Ambush Bug on the IT’S ALWAYS FRIDAY THE 13TH Podcast!
ON LOCATION IN BLAIRSTOWN: THE MAKING OF FRIDAY THE 13TH Book Review
CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE 13TH Interview
CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE 13TH Doc (2013) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)/FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 (1982) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING (1985) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 6: JASON LIVES (1986) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 7: THE NEW BLOOD (1988) Review
Retro-review: New this week in Warner Brothers Horror Classics Volume 1 BluRay Box Set!
TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970)Directed by Peter Sasdy
Written by Anthony Hinds (screenplay as John Elder), Bram Stoker (based on the character created by)
Starring Christopher Lee, Geoffrey Keen, Gwen Watford, Linda Hayden, Peter Sallis, Anthony Higgins, Isla Blair, John Carson, Martin Jarvis, Ralph Bates, Roy Kinnear, Michael Ripper, Russell Hunter
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA doesn’t utilize Christopher Lee to his fullest potential, the film itself is all together entertaining.
Three wealthy socialites meet every week and look for sinful thrills together, but they are not prepared when a shamed nobleman introduces them to the find of a lifetime; the powdered blood and clothes of the most evil man alive, Count Dracula. Once resurrected, Dracula vows to destroy each of the men who performed the ritual and that includes wooing their daughters to his whims as well.
You would think Dracula would be thankful for being brought back to life, but I guess that’s what makes him the most evil man in history. And that’s what I love about Hammer’s treatment of Dracula. Sure he lures in the damsels with his blood red eyes, but in the end, the studio and Lee portrayed the Count as a monster, not the foppish romanticized version we often see in modern vamp flicks. In this film especially, Dracula is a beast in search for vengeance and Lee does it perfectly with a penetrating stare and his tall stature helping immensely. Sure, Drac seduces the daughters of the noblemen, but this takes the form of hypnosis, not affairs of the heart, so even in wooing, the Count is monstrous here.
And that’s kind of the problem with TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA. Lee doesn’t get a lot of screen time here and when he does, he sort of just stands, stares, and chomps into people. The lack of the flipside to Lee’s diabolical coin, Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, also helps in dehumanizing Lee. In the end, as far as Lee performances go, this one is the most monosyllabic and shallow. That doesn’t mean it’s not scary. The monstrous side is a nice differentiation between this film and the rest of Hammer’s vamp flicks, but being a creature bent on pure vengeance, it simplifies the character quite a bit.
Despite this fact, seeing the hypocritical noblemen chastise their daughters for talking with boys while philandering at the local whore house on the weekend is a fascinating dichotomy to see unfold. Seeing the noblemen’s secret deviances come back to haunt them in the form of Dracula provide the moralistic message here and there is a lot of fun to see the hypocrites get what’s coming to them as Dracula hypnotizes their daughters and then turns them into vampires themselves.
The film does a great job of tying this story in with previous installments of the Hammer horror series with footage of the ending of the previous film, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, opening the film up, with WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY’s Roy Kinnear witnessing Dracula’s defeat from afar and then collecting the blood and clothing of the Count afterwards. Again, what I love about the Hammer films is that they take the classic stories and add to them rather than just retell the same old Bram Stoker tale. While the same beats are replayed such as Drcula’s seduction of the ladies, the film feels much more like a continuation (the next chapter, if you will) of the never-ending tale of the monster Dracula. If anything, it shows the evolution of Dracula as he becomes more monstrous as he gets older, which is apparent in this film.
All in all, despite a more monstrous, yet less character driven performance by Lee (again, the script’s fault, not Lee’s), this is a fun vamp flick that delivers on some fangy deaths and another dramatic defeat of Dracula in the final moments. Not much by way of extras are offered in this version, but it does fit in nicely with the other films in this box set and is proof positive that Hammer, more often than not, did it right. One more film left in this collection, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, and I’ll be covering that one next time.
. FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED
Premiered this week on The History Channel!
BREAKING HISTORY: BIGFOOT CAPTURED (2015)Directed by Andy Awes and Ben Kruger
Written by Andy Awes and Ben Kruger
Starring Ben Kruger (narrator), Don Jeffrey Meldrum
Find out more about when to this “film” here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Longtime readers of AICN HORROR know that I have a love for Bigfoot films. Sure, you can debate on whether the creature exists or not (personally, I want to believe), but I’ve often said a good Bigfoot film is often as elusive as the beast itself. That said, people keep on trying to do it. Last Monday night, the History Channel has thrown its credibility into the toilet and aired BIGFOOT CAPTURED, which, if it shows up on a channel like the History Channel, it should be something we can take as factual. Never did I believe that Sasquatch was actually captured, but that didn’t stop me from watching this two hour special anyway and getting pissed when the title turned out to be a complete and utter falsehood.
When I heard about this special, I thought BIGFOOT CAPTURED would be about what would happen if it turns out that Bigfoot was captured and proven to be real. This was an interesting angle to approach the Bigfoot myth. How would it affect our beliefs, our society, our culture, the science world, and beyond? Asking these questions is infinitely more interesting as we are hypothesizing about how the human race would deal with the fact that something they never had proof of existing did, in fact, exist. You could look at this through the lens of aliens, or Nessie, or the Jersey Devil, but asking those questions and revolving it around Bigfoot, a beast many attest to actually exist, made the possibilities of this special seem endless in the right hypothetical and theoretical light.
But that’s not what BIGFOOT CAPTURED is. BIGFOOT CAPTURED is a mockumentary with interviews and factual reports from Bigfoot enthusiasts and noted Bigfoot researcher Professor Don Jeffrey Meldrum, paired with a lengthy dramatization of a group of people in the woods capturing the beast in a cage. The film opens with a disclaimer that “portions of this program have been dramatized,” but never does it relinquish that the dramatization is the bulk of the two hour special. So while Meldrum and his research team do a decent job of trying to provide scientific facts about the possibility of the existence of Bigfoot; that is not the focus. Again, I never thought a capture of the creature would be featured on a cable channel, but I did think that it would at least try to be as factual as possible. I mean, the History Channel has the entire history of the world to work with, but instead of keeping to the facts, now they’re just making up shit.
The real shame is that the filmmakers had an ok movie on their hands. Why not just try to sell it as that on a channel that showed movies instead of this sham? It certainly was more entertaining than anything the Asylum has put out in the last decade. The ending is rather interesting and the CG Bigfoot that rattles around in the makeshift cage is really well rendered. I am not saying this is award winning filmmaking, but I’ve definitely seen worse. But instead of just telling people what it is, the entire History Channel network’s credibility is flushed because of one horribly bad decision to air it as a fact-based program.
The History Channel has taken a lot of heat for airing the film as it should be. But what really frustrates me is that this also sullies the reputation of Dr. Meldrum, who wrote out a statement on Facebook addressing the fact that he had no idea what the final film was going to be;
To head off the flood of emails and phone calls, let me reiterate that as a guest interviewee, I had nothing to do with the overall plot or creative content of this production. I do my best assess the intentions of a production company when I am approached, an encourage them to build upon credible information, but occasionally their enthusiasm is feigned and assurances are worthless. It’s always a bit of a crap shoot in this business. Do you try to put the best effort forward and at least make a meaningful contribution in some way, or do you refuse to appear and have the entire production be without merit.
I haven't seen the program (I don't have cable) so I can't comment on particulars. From the teaser I got an inkling that there was some dramatic liberty taken creating a what-if scenario. I have no knowledge of a "capture" -- no indication of samples being tested, etc. Even in the drone sequence I am told they gave the impression we had a hit on a biped that we investigated looking for sign. A biped yes -- one of the production assistants. It was an exercise to demonstrate what the drone could and could not do. A useful exercise by my account.
Anyway -- take what you can from it, and have a chuckle over the remainder.
-Don Jeffrey Meldrum
While I have never seen Bigfoot myself, I want to believe and have to admit that this phenomena of people seeing a large hairy beast around the world has to have some kernel of truth. But because of shows like this, as if the believers weren’t looked at as kooks before, only damages the reputations of anyone putting hard time and money into getting to the truth.
On top of that, it once again shows the depths cable will go for sensational programming. Everyone wants to be HBO and AMC these days, but some channels should just stick with what they are good at. Animal Planet should air docs on animals, not mythical beasts like Mermaids. The only press these channels like Discovery and the History Channel get is bad when they pull stunts like this, yet they seem to be coming with greater frequency as if the producers don’t give a shit about how it destroys their credibility. There are those who believe this dramatized shit to be fact and are running around this week spreading this misinformation. Sure, those folks aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer, but is it their fault that they expect facts from a channel based on reporting historical documentaries?
And while the filmmakers didn’t really make a compelling film, I can’t hate them for making BIGFOOT CAPTURED. But I can hate a channel that compromises integrity and their duty to deliver the truth in their programming. But one look at any news station (be it leaning right or the left), and it is evident that ethical reporting and the truth is as mythical a concept as Bigfoot these days. It’s a shame and the real horror is that this is most likely only the beginning of these types of shows.
New this week on DVD and digital download from Osiris Entertainment!
BACKWATER (2013)Directed by Christopher Schrack
Written by Christopher Schrack
Starring Justin Tully, Liana Werner-Gray, Thomas Daniel, Andrew Roth
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A couple go out into the middle of the woods and run into: a) a bear, b) Bigfoot, c) rednecks, d) another kind of monster, or e) all of the above.
You’d think by now people would know, you just don’t go into the woods. Like the found footage film, this type of film is cheap to make. Just drive to the woods, toss a pair of young beautiful people into a tent, make noises outside of it, and instant scary movie. I’ve lost track of how many of these camping trips gone wrong films I’ve seen. If anything, it’s sealed the deal that I will never camp in the woods again.
The premise to BACKWATER is familiar. The first forty five minutes of BACKWATER is familiar. But the latter half is where things get mighty interesting and makes this film pretty recommendable as the story plays with expectations and flips the script numerous times to keep you guessing as to what is really happening on this seemingly innocent camping trip.
Those with little patience will surely become bored with this film as it not only treads familiar water in the first half, but it also does so in a very patience and downright slow manner. Personally, if the payoff is good (and in this film, it is quite good), then the wait doesn’t bother me. I like it that I was guessing just what type of film this was in the first half. I knew it was horror, but I didn’t know if it was a werewolf or a giant ant waiting to stalk and murderize these two actors.
BACKWATER has some solid acting throughout with two appealing stars in Justin Tully and Liana Werner-Gray. Tully has a young Tom Cruise likability and Werner-Gray is both adorable and distant at once. While some bonehead moves by the couple are going to make you smack your head in frustration, it all pays off in the end rather well. So while the initial premise of BACKWATER is very, very familiar, the path definitely holds some twists that took me by surprise and guaranteed that I won’t be camping any time soon.
New today in select theaters from Petri Entertainment & AMC Independent!
THE FUNHOUSE MASSACRE (2015)Directed by Andy Palmer
Written by Renee Dorian (story & characters), Ben Begley (story/screenplay)
Starring Robert Englund, Taryn Schubert, Scottie Thompson, Chasty Ballesteros, Courtney Gains, Ben Begley, Michael Eric Reid, Erick Chavarria, Robert Peters, Leigh Parker, Renee Dorian, Johanna McGinley, Matt Angel, Sterling Sulieman, and as our psychos; Candice De Visser as Dollface/Ms. Quinn, Jere Burns as Mental Manny, Clint Howard as the Taxidermist, E.E. Bell as Animal the Cannibal, Sebastian Siegel as Dr. Suave, Mars Crain as Rocco the Clown!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Maybe Warner Brothers should have been a little more patient and held onto that trailer they released for SUICIDE SQUAD this summer. Now they have to wait a whole year for the film to come out and it gives copycats a chance to throw a film together and distribute it first, which only lessens the impact of SUICIDE SQUAD when it eventually drops next year. Now, I guarantee THE FUNHOUSE MASSACRE isn’t even able to hold the jock strap of SUICIDE SQUAD, but they do have the dubious honor of claiming the “First” spot.
A bold escape from a mental institution puts six psychopaths onto the street. All of them have been locked up for life, but instead of dispersing and never seeing one another again, these social rejects stick together and head to a nearby funhouse which is using the murderers as inspiration for the various scares. Murdering the actors in the funhouse, the psychos take their places and begin killing the patrons.
OK, so this is a comic book movie. There is a villainous breakout. And a hijinky scheme hatched by a mastermind. There’s even a plucky psycho clown girl credited as Miss Quinn (Candice De Visser) who wears a costume much like Harley Quinn from the BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM video game. The rest of the psychos are knock-offs of other Batman villains such as Killer Croc (Mars Crain as a hulking clown bruiser), the Ventriloquist (Clint Howard, here known as the Taxidermist), and there’s even a madman mastermind like the Joker (JUSTIFIED’s Jere Burns). The only thing missing is a Bat Signal and a Caped Crusader. Unfortunately, this being comic booky, also means that this is a film made with broad strokes. Everyone is pretty one dimensional. Everyone is crazy for crazy’s sake and the group of “heroes” is not so fleshed out either. The lunatics motivations simply are to take over a funhouse (which they do pretty easily), kill a bunch of folks, and nothing much seems to be planned after that.
That’s not to say THE FUNHOUSE MASSACRE isn’t fun. It is filled with some really great comedic moments, many of them due to the comedic lines of Gerardo (Erick Chavarria) who dresses as Machete and attempts to act the part against these crazies. If more of the characters would have been forced to play the part of the costumes they were wearing (say, if someone was dressed as Batman), I think this one would have been much more funny than it was. There are some good times to be had here, but unfortunately there are just as many groaners—most of them coming from a bumbling Barney Fife like deputy.
With some impressive gore and a zany nod to comic books, THE FUNHOUSE MASSACRE isn’t all that bad. The Robert Englund cameo always spices things up and seeing the pointy eyes of Jere Burns hamming it up for the crowd is always fun. Playing things as if it were a comic book doesn’t mean dumbing things down anymore, as evidenced by the top box office earners of the last few years. This is a film with comic book characters made by people who obviously don’t read comics. THE FUNHOUSE MASSACRE is gory, zany, and out and out funny at times, but the lack of character and creativity is pretty evident.
New this week in select theaters and digital from RLJ Entertainment!
CONDEMNED (2015)Directed by Eli Morgan Gesner
Written by Eli Morgan Gesner
Starring Dylan Penn, Ronen Rubinstein, Genevieve Hudson-Price, Lydia Hearst, Honor Titus, Michael Drayer, Kea Ho, Michel Gill, Johnny Messner, Jon Abrahams, Anthony Chisholm, Michael DeMello, Perry Yung, Jordan Gelber, Tuffy Questell, Kevin Smith Kirkwood, Nick Damici
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While those who have seen REC or QUARANTINE are going to feel they’re watching something pretty familiar, CONDEMNED offers up enough character, grossness, and downright oddity to make it worth checking out.
Maya (Dylan Penn, daughter of Sean Penn and Robin Wright) is a poor little rich girl, slumming it in NY with her rocker boyfriend Dante (Ronen Rubenstein) and partying the night away with their friends Alexa (Genevieve Hudson-Price) and Loki (Honor Tutus) in their dilapidated apartment on the upper floor of a condemned building. While they group doesn’t pay for rent in the condemned building, they do have to put up with some of the craziest neighbors you’re ever bound to see; a Nazi gay couple, a giant Jewish man and his transvestite girlfriend, a trigger happy meth dealer, a pair of junkies, a paranoid shut in, and a lunatic named Shynola (Anthony Chisholm) who is building something in his apartment with mannequin parts. This eclectic cast of characters gets locked into the apartment complex as the drugs, the human sewage, and god knows what else get mixed together and make for the perfect toxic stew to make the tenants lose their minds and start attacking one another.
Yes, this sort of story has been told before. It’s sort of a mixture of STREET TRASH with Greg Lamberson’s SLIME CITY with the aforementioned REC/QUARANTINE bits tossed in. But just because this film is an amalgam of previous grossout tenement building flicks doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It’s actually filmed with an attractive indie sensibility with some awesome punk tunes on the soundtrack—which is fitting with the grunginess of this film. Like the Henenlotter and Ferrare films of the eighties, this film really seems to capture the attitude and sensibilities of New York with all of its lived in, grungy aspects. The film really does feel like it knows the city block this film was made on intimately and there’s a love for it, despite its eccentricities. There’s even a speech from one of the infected later in the film where the character goes off against Maya and her kind for moving in on daddy’s pension and turning all of the culturally nuanced neighborhoods with loads of character into a soulless and selfish landscape. If there’s a point to this film, it’s the difference between the tourists and the locals of New York.
But while the cultural message is pretty evident, this is a grossout film first and foremost. Every bodily fluid is shed, spat, or sprayed in all directions in CONDEMNED. It’s a truly gross film that really does make you want to take a shower afterwards. While most of the effects have been seen before as the infected become puss sore ridden monsters, I was slightly nauseated at the amount of gore unleashed here.
Penn is a decent actress and it’s great seeing longtime character actor Anthony Chisolm in such a character rich role. Plus the appearance of Nick Damici is a benefit to any old film. That said, the final half hour seems to have tossed out the script completely as the actors simply repeat themselves over and over as they are running from infected monster people. CONDEMNED is definitely a pretty person in peril film, but the layer of goopy grime over the entire film feels genuine and it really pulls no punches, making it much more potent a film to gross out to.
Newly available for from the 2015 8 Films To Die For Series (you can see this film On Demand and download this film on iTunes, on Amazon, and on DVD here!
BASTARD (2015)Directed by Powell Robinson, Patrick Robert Young
Written by Patrick Robert Young
Starring Rebekah Kennedy, Ellis Greer, Dan Creed, Will Tranfo, Tonya Kay, Burt Culver, Ryan Shoos, Bobby T., Brian Foyster, Austin Nimnicht, Emily Lopato, Kelly Hancock, Micah Fitzgerald, Nadine Arlyn, Powell Robinson, Scott Vance, Madison West, Patrick Robert Young
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
A healthy dose of Tarantino-esquely smug dialog and an utterly unpredictable story makes BASTARD one of the more surprising films I’ve seen in a while. There’s an undeniable charm and sense of energy to this one that pulls you in and then misleads you all over the place. For this horror fan, who has seen his fair share of conventionally constructed films, BASTARD feels like a fresh breath of demented air.
In the opening moments, we are introduced to two of our protagonists, Hannah (Ellis Greer) and West (Dan Creed), a Bonnie and Clyde type making their way across the country and killing anyone who rubs them the wrong way. We then meet Jake (Will Tranfo) and his meek girlfriend Betty (Rebekah Kennedy), who are gathering their things and leaving an abusive household. When the two couple’s paths cross, they decide to stick together; Jake and Betty out of a need for a ride, and West and Hannah out of boredom, but when the road killers’ gig to play music at a bar goes south, they are forced to spend the night in a bed and breakfast run by Rachael (Tonya Kay). Meanwhile, a suicidal/alcoholic transvestite cop Michael (Burt Culver) is given the boot by his lover and ends up staying at the bed and breakfast as well. As all parties converge to the large cabin in the woods, it’s obvious sparks are going to fly. But it’s not Hannah and West who are doing the killing. Is it the conflicted cop Michael? The intense B&B owner Rachael? Or the weird loner in the room down the hall? Or none of the above?
That’s about all I will reveal about the plot of BASTARD. It’s a complex film with a load of characters and that’s what sets it apart from most films. The colorful cast really does make things interesting. All have secrets and a dark side. All are likely suspects. And while the killer is revealed at the hour mark, there are loads more dark skeletons to unearth after that. This is a film with multiplying danger from all corners; a film where just when you think one threat is taken care of, there’s another lurking in the shadows and it makes for an intriguing film to witness.
The acting and script are especially good here as well. All involved are given some intense problems to deal with and each cast member is able to convey it in a capable way; with the standouts being Ellis Greer as Hannah and Rebekah Kennedy as Betty; two opposite personalities that are drawn together out of necessity. There is a scene where the Hannah is brushing Ellie’s hair that conveys so much about each character. It’s a quiet scene, but one that stands out as scenes like this; so rich and complex in character, don’t often happen in horror films.
This is an extremely fun stylistic film as well. Promising to be the first of many Big Bad Film productions; BASTARD is a ballsy and unique horror film, heavy on the queasy gore and even more unsettling subject matter. It’s a rock and roll style film that doesn’t care if a little blood gets in your face and while not all the smug lines work, there are a whole lot of them that made me smile and/or laugh out loud (“It makes me feel like a cat” is one of them that keeps making me laugh every time I think of it). Plus there’s a fight scene with a giant purple dildo set to classical music that should not be missed. BASTARD is an unpredictable and utterly enjoyable little nightmare and I’m expecting big things from this production company if they continue to make films like this one.
THE WICKED WITHIN
And finally…here’s another FRIDAY THE 13TH fan film. This one is pretty well produced. It’s directed Corina Seaburn and Samuel Farmer and titled FRIDAY THE 13TH: EXTRACTION! Enjoy!
Have a great horror holiday, 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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