Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Sure everyone is going to be seeing STAR WARS this weekend, but just in case you decide to see more than one movie this weekend, here are a few new horror films to consider. On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: COUNT DRACULA (1970)
Retro-review: THE CAR (1977)
Retro-review: THE DUNGEONMASTER (1984)
Retro-review: ZOMBIE HIGH (1987)
HONKY HOLOCAUST (2014)
THE LAST HOUSE (2015)
KNOCK KNOCK (2015)
HE NEVER DIED (2015)
And finally…Star Wars Horrors: SHAN WARS/LEGO STAR WARS: INFECTION/JAR/HARDWARE WARS!
Retro-review: New on BluRay from Severin!
COUNT DRACULA (1970)aka THE NIGHTS OF DRACULA, DRACULA ‘71
Directed by Jesús Franco
Written by Erich Kröhnke (story) ,Augusto Finocchi, Jesús Franco, Harry Alan Towers (screenplay), from the novel by Bram Stoker
Starring Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski, Herbert Lom, Maria Rohm, Fred Williams, Soledad Miranda, Paul Muller, Jack Taylor
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
One of the things I feel the Hammer films did better than most takes on Dracula is that it expanded on the classic stories of Dracula, Frankenstein, and the other monsters rather than just repeat the same old story. COUNT DRACULA, which is not a Hammer film, simply retells the Bram Stoker classic, but I have to give it props for telling it in a straightforward fashion.
By now we all know the tale. Jonathan (Fred Williams) ventures to Transylvania to meet with a Count Dracula (played by go-to and one of the best Counts, Christopher Lee). Once at the castle Jonathan falls victim to the Count, who wishes to relocate to London where Jonathan’s fiancee Mina (Maria Rohm) and her friend Lucy (Franco’s go-to girl Soledad Miranda from VAMPIROS LESBOS, SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY, and many more Franco flicks) reside. Jonathan is deemed insane from his stay in Dracula’s castle, as he talked of men turning into bats and vampire seductresses, and committed to an asylum under the watchful eye of Dr. Van Helsing (Herbert Lom). Also at the hospital is Renfield (Klaus Kinski), another businessman driven mad when dealing with the Count. Now in London, Dracula has now set his sights upon Lucy and Mina. He also seems to have an elaborate collection of stuffed animals for some reason.
It took me a while to get into COUNT DRACULA, but I actually appreciate the straightforward way Franco decided to play this classic story. Even in Francis Fold Coppola’s version of the story things get muddy once the story gets to Carfax Abbey. Is Dracula after Lucy or Mina or even Jonathan or Renfield or the swank new castle property? Dracula’s motives are never really consistent, depending on how the filmmaker takes it. In this film everything happens in an asylum directly across from Carfax Abbey, and the way the locale is whittled down and simplified really does tie the story together in a way few other Dracula films have done before. Committing Jonathan to Van Helsing’s care really does pull the entire cast together and gives them all purpose to be there.
Franco still has difficulty with pacing, as he often does in his films, and while it’s fun to see the film hit all the familiar beats of the novel and the adaptations, it takes its sweet time to get there. Franco has a tendency to soak in the sights his films take place in, and here, the drab European countryside isn’t the most interesting of locales, so those who get bored easily with film will definitely find themselves losing interest at times.
It’s a good thing the cast is downright amazing. Lom plays Van Helsing in a subdued and direct manner. He is a man that studies the darker sciences, but still deals with things in a commanding and direct manner. Kinski, who is notorious for being difficult, gives a lot of meat to the Renfield character, a character who usually doesn’t get that much attention in the story. Here he is crucial, as he is proof that Jonathan isn’t as crazy as he seems as their uncanny stories about the Count match up.
Which leaves Christopher Lee, who by this time was quite comfortable playing Dracula. In fact, Lee played the Count four times in 1970 alone in ONE MORE TIME, SCARS OF DRACULA, and TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA. Here he plays Dracula subtly differently, more proud and more of a commanding character. Lee forcefully gives a fantastic monologue about the history of the Dracula line and how stern a mettle they are made of. Yes, he also gives the “children of the night” speech, which is again pretty amazing. Also differentiating this role from others, Dracula is portrayed with a moustache much like old renditions of Vlad the Impaler you see in paintings from the era. Also, this version of Dracula gets younger as he drinks the blood, which makes it somewhat different than his Hammer portrayals.
Those with patience and an appreciation for the work of Lee, Kinski, and Lom will definitely want to check out this film. There are definitely better told tales than this COUNT DRACULA, but in its simplicity, there is something great about Franco’s version.
I was only able to find the German trailer, but you’ll get the gist of it.
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!
THE CAR (1977)aka DEATHMOBILE, WHEELS
Directed by Elliot Silverstein
Written by Dennis Shryack, Michael Butler, Lane Slate
Starring James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, Ronny Cox, Don Keefer, R.G. Armstrong, John Rubinstein, Elizabeth Thompson, Melody Thomas Scott, Roy Jenson, Kim Richards, Kyle Richards, Kate Murtagh, Robert Phillips, Doris Dowling, Henry O'Brien, Eddie Little Sky, Lee McLaughlin, Read Morgan
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Usually, if you’re going to rip off a filmmaker you settle for one of their films to lift from. THE CAR is notable for not lifting from just one but two of Steven Spielberg’s most iconic films at the time this film was made. Still, there’s a lot of goofy fun to be had if you take this one for a ride.
James Brolin (who is looking more like Christian Bale than Josh Brolin in this one) plays lawman Wade Parent, single father of two and seemingly the only one capable of taking on a demonic black car that is running down random people in his small Southwestern American town. As the investigation intensifies and the flattened bodies begin piling up, the car begins targeting Parent, which leads to a death chase across the desert where anyone caught in the path of the car gets bunted into the air or under its wheels.
The similarities to JAWS are obvious. Even the car’s deep, blaring horn sounds kind of like the cellos from the JAWS soundtrack. Like a rolling shark, the car randomly picks people off in the first half, leaving a trail of dust just as a shark leaves a wake behind its fins. There is a marching band scene that is structured almost beat for beat just like the beach attack sequence in JAWS that made me both smile and wince at how much director Elliot Silverstein lifted from the blockbuster film. The way the car focuses on Brolin in the second half also reflects the way the shark unnaturally focuses on Schneider, Shaw, and Dreyfuss in JAWS after the random attacks in the first half of the film. This focus and extended chase through the desert is also reflective of Spielberg’s DUEL. In both films, the driver is unseen and representative of a pure evil. THE CAR takes it one step further and even has a fiery demon sort of appear in an explosion in the final moments.
Fiery explosions and high octane chases aside, THE CAR is rather goofy. Predating CHRISTINE, THE CAR also follows that template of the soon-to-be-smooshed victim running in the middle of the road so the car can easily run them down rather than maybe running to a place where the car can’t maneuver. But even then, the car bursts through houses blaring its horn and announcing its arrival. Things kind of get interesting when one woman taunts the car from the safety of the cemetery, again making it seem like demonic forces are involved that cannot walk on hallowed ground, but none of the supernatural is explained or delved into much. Brolin plays a down to earth and no-nonsense protagonist here, so he doesn’t even entertain the notion that the car is possessed by the devil. Because there is no crisis of faith in the film from Brolin’s POV, the detail that the car is the devil kind of falls flat.
I had fun picking out the similarities between THE CAR and other films of this era, and it was enough to keep me entertained all the way through. Taking the shark out of the water and giving it metal siding and wheels is fun, but it also points out the flaws in both this film and JAWS, as the motivation of the car itself is called into question as it switches its M.O. in the latter half. Still, this is dumb fun and if you remember watching this film on TV as I do, you’ll get a kick out of the nostalgia jolt this film will give you.
Retro-review: New this week as a double feature BluRay from The Shout Factory!
THE DUNGEONMASTER (1984)aka RAGE WAR
Directed by David Allen, Charles Band, John Carl Buechler, Steven Ford, Peter Manoogian, Ted Nicolaou, Rosemarie Turko
Written by Charles Band (original story), Allen Actor, David Allen, Charles Band, John Carl Buechler, Jeffrey Byron, Peter Manoogian, Ted Nicolaou, Rosemarie Turko (screenplay)
Starring Jeffrey Byron, Richard Moll, Leslie Wing, Gina Calabrese, R.J. Miller, Don Moss
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Man, this film started out promising as hell as a man in futuristic garb wakes from a dream to see a siren in a see through dress tempting him to follow her. Of course, he follows and the stunning woman (Gina Calbrese) drops what little clothes she has and waits for her hero to take her. Just then some monsters burst in and snag the woman away from the guy, startling him out of what seems to be a dream/computer program he has been developing. This opening sequence was both titillating and action-packed. Too bad the rest of THE DUNGEONMASTER couldn’t have followed suit.
THE DUNGEONMASTER, also inexplicably known as RAGE WAR, is a clumsily put together mess about a computer programmer named Paul (Jeffrey Byron, aka the guy who was in the opening dream sequence aka the star of METALSTORM: THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED SYN) who is sucked into a computer program which takes the form of the wizard Mestema (NIGHT COURT’s Richard Moll) and puts Paul through a series of challenges in order to save the life of Paul’s real life girlfriend, who is also sucked into the game.
The film is broken up into different segments where Paul must overcome some kind of obstacle. In one segment he has an animated dragon battle with the wizard, in another he matches wits with a troll named RatSpit and his zombies, in another he battles a giant monkey-faced rock statue reminiscent of the Achilles statue from JASON & THE ARGONAUTS, and in still another he is thrown into the middle of a WASP concert (it is kind of cool that WASP makes a cameo in this film). It doesn’t matter what the challenge, though: be it tussling with Jack the Ripper or throwing rocks at a post-apocalyptic demon, they’re all pretty lame in both direction and in terms of the lame effects used in each challenge. This looks to be one of John Carl Buechler’s earlier works, and his inexperience shows in this one as the effects are really weak throughout.
There really isn’t much of a story here. Paul beats each challenge with his wrist laser, then moves on to the next one. Any throughway story is simply connected through the appearance of Paul, his girlfriend, and the wizard, but very little by way of an intriguing plot is going on here. DUNGEONMASTER has nothing to do with Dungeons and Dragons, though it seems to want to try to be an epic fantasy. The poster art of the film is the best part of this movie; it’s just too bad the movie inside just doesn’t match that caliber the box art suggests.
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!
ZOMBIE HIGH (1987)aka THE SCHOOL THAT ATE MY BRAIN
Directed by Ron Link
Written by Tim Doyle, Aziz Ghazal, Elizabeth Passarelli
Starring Virginia Madsen, Sherilyn Fenn, James Wilder, Paul Feig, Clare Carey, Scott Coffey, Richard Cox, Kay E. Kuter, Paul Williams, Henry Sutton, Walter Addison, Christopher Peters, Christopher Crews, John Sack
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Other than seeing a young Virginia Madsen and Sherilyn Fenn in one of their first horror films, there’s really not a lot worth seeing at ZOMBIE HIGH.
Madsen plays Andrea, a new transfer to a prep school (though she and most of the cast who are supposed to be high schoolers look like they are in their late 20s). Leaving her boyfriend behind, Andrea is ready for new challenges at the school, meeting her new roommate Suzi and crushing on her professor Philo (Richard Cox), but what she doesn’t notice is that her classmates at the prep school are beginning to look and act like mindless zombies. A secret cabal of elderly graduates of the esteemed school are sucking the life energies from the student body in order to stay young and extend their lives, and Andrea and her friends are next on the menu.
The main problem with ZOMBIE HIGH is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It kind of wants to be a comedy, but none of the actors are particularly funny or able to tell a joke. It kind of wants to be scary, but even though it attempts to have a STEPFORD WIVES/INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS paranoia vibe it fails at succeeding at it, mainly because Madsen is young and just doesn’t have the chops yet to really act anything but adorable.
Much of the cast went on to do bigger and better things. Madsen and Fenn are both super young here, but still too old to play high school age. But a few of the main cast went on to do decent acting; for Cox it was soap opera work, for James Wilder who plays Madsen’s boyfriend is was roles in MODELS INC and MELROSE PLACE, and for the not so funny comic relief Paul Feig, well, he is currently castrating next summer’s GHOSTBUSTERS from his directors chair. So it’s not that the cast isn’t talented; it’s just that they’re all in the nascent stages of their careers and the script for this film just isn’t that good.
In the end, ZOMBIE HIGH just reeks of being lame. It tries to tell a tale about the horrors of conformity, but just does so clumsily and without much effect. The final moments pretty much plop out like an unenthusiastic shit as a horrible Beastie Boys rip-off song is played and fries the circuits of the zombified students of the entire school since the music is too hip for them to take. It’s supposed to be a big joke ending, but like much of ZOMBIE HIGH, it’s just plan remedial.
New on digital download and On Demand from Ungovernable Films and Troma!
HONKY HOLOCAUST (2014)Directed by Paul M McAlarney
Written by Paul M McAlarney
Starring, LaNecia Edmonds, Lucas Fleming, Krisoula Varoudakis, Leigh Nicole, Constantine Taylor, Blake Rickerson, Nick Caliendo
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Two wrongs don’t always necessarily make a right, but that’s not what HONKY HOLOCAUST wants to say. Being a white male, I have to be sensitive about how I talk about racism in America. I understand my white privilege and acknowledge that me being of the fairer complexion has given me opportunities others have not. But the eye for an eye mentality that one race, any race—even whitey--should suffer because of things that happened in the past seems rather archaic and counterproductive. Enough ranting because I know there are those who won't agree with me, specifically the folks behind HONKEY HOLOCAUST.
In this film, Manson actually did begin a race war in the name of the famous Beatles song. Then the madman took his family to a bunker and hid away for forty years. Meanwhile, African Americans won the race war and white people or albies as they are called are segregated to poverty stricken parts of town, not allowed to eat in the same place as African Americans, and basically suffer every other inhumanity African Americans faced before the Civil Rights Act was passed. So the Manson Family, including his virginal daughter (Maria Natapov) emerge from the bunker and are shocked at how the race war turned out. This ignites a shootout between the Manson Family and the African American mob with Manson’s daughter caught in the middle.
Yeah, this film is nuts and gory as all get out. But what bothered me is that it feels like the message the filmmakers are trying to make is that instead of striving for peace between races, the only solution is to flip the coin and make the other side suffer just as much as the first. When Manson’s daughter breaks off from the group, she is lost in the African American side of town, gets beaten up, chased through the streets, and then raped. After that ordeal, she still decides to side with this group against her Manson Nazi family. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Nazi’s are sympathetic here. But logic would just have Lil’ Miss Manson giving up on the entire world, not side with her rapists. This is just a mess of a low budget movie that really doesn’t know what stance it wants to take and only succeeds in showing how ugly all people can be. Aside from some pretty heinous gore that looks pretty good, there’s really not a lot going for this film.
HONKY HOLOCAUST views like wish fulfillment for very angry people. Any sensible and forward thinking person should skip it.
New on DVD/BluRay from Wild Eye Releasing!
THE LAST HOUSE (2015)Directed by Sean Cain
Written by Wes Laurie
Starring Lauren Walsh, Jason Mewes, Ezra Buzzington, Joanna Angel, Monique Parent, Jack Forcinito, Ricardo Gray, Timothy Muskatell, Tommy Pistol, Felissa Rose
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
An escort named Love (Lauren Walsh) agrees to go on one last job before she quits the biz and marries one of her favorite johns Ned (Jason Mewes), but this is no ordinary job as Love meets a man named Hate (Ezra Buzzington) and his two cronies, whose perverse appetites are more than Love bargained for.
The filmmaker Sean Cain tries to do something artsy by playing with time, cutting back and forth between the past and present and showing bits and pieces of story in order to spice things up. Unfortunately, the film isn’t able to cover up its sleazy roots as it seems to hinge most of its story on the life of selling a woman’s body for profit. This film focuses mainly on the three prostitutes and how they end up in a house of horrors, going to extreme lengths to show the sexual acts each of the three murderers have in mind for the girls before they try to kill them. While Buzzington and Monique Parent aren’t terrible here and do a decent job as the psychopaths, the third (played by actor Timothy Muskatell) is terrible as he comes off as a special needs case and is about as threatening as a stiff wind.
While there is very little nudity (save for the obligatory strip club scene), every woman is in some type of stripper gear on and the main focus is on the disgusting behaviors of the murderers. These are stomach-churning scenes that really are too tasteless to be entertaining, such as one scene where a man fingerbangs and then fucks a melon and another where one woman pukes in another woman’s face. These scenes just rang as shock value sleaze rather than something horrifying. If you haven’t noticed, I didn’t really enjoy this film. It’s fetishized behavior that is supposed to shock, but the acting and script just isn’t up to par with what they’re selling. In the end, Mewes is ok as the straight guy trying to rescue his gal from this house of horrors and Buzzington and Walsh give decent turns, but the overreliance on unappealing and untitillating sleaze and the late in the game spiritualism that really comes out of nowhere make THE LAST HOUSE one messy film worth skipping.
New this week in select theaters and On Demand from Gravitas Pictures!
ANGUISH (2015)Directed by Sonny Mallhi
Written by Sonny Mallhi
Starring Ryan Simpkins, Annika Marks, Karina Logue, Cliff Chamberlain, Amberley Gridley, Ryan O'Nan, Paulina Olszynski, Anthony Corrado
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The one thing I appreciate about the film IT FOLLOWS is that it kind of gave a goose to the teen horror industry and challenged it to up the ante and become a bit more intense than what we’ve had to deal with over the last few years of tame flicks like OUIJA and ANNABELLE. ANGUISH feels as if it is some kind of descendant of IT FOLLOWS. It’s different in subject matter but not in tone, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
ANGUISH follows Tess (Ryan Simpkins), a young girl whose history of mental illness seems to have made her susceptible to possession by a young dead girl named Lucy (Amberley Gridley) after she finds a shrine to the dead teen along the side of the road. Tess begins adopting the dead teen’s mannerisms and is compelled to reach out to Lucy’s mom, Sarah (Karina Logue), who owns the local book store. Plagued by hallucinations of horror and conflicted feelings from Lucy herself, as she too is a troubled teen with mental illness, Tess finds herself possessed by the spirit with only her real mom Jessica (Annika Marks) and Lucy’s mom Sarah able to help her.
What I liked about this film is that it links mental illness to possession. There is still a very palpable supernatural element to this tale, but it takes a more realistic slant as it hypothesizes that those with mental illness are more open to evil spirits. I like this concept, as it doesn’t rule out either possibility: that this is a true possession by an evil spirit or just an elaborate hallucination by a troubled kid. It also felt rather real that instead of calling a priest, Sarah and Jessica try to confront the spirit themselves. This is a no-no usually, but it makes things more believable in this age where the church is less important for some and home fixes are much more common these days in financially hardened families. Having the two single parents team up to take on this spirit felt real to the story that was playing out.
That said, things get pretty supernatural by the end with dramatic lights, thunderous sounds, and Tess fighting back against Jessica and Sarah in the name of Lucy. I have to say, this is where the story kind of lost me. Once it decided that this was something supernatural and not just about one mentally unstable kid, I felt that things unfolded rather predictably despite the lack of a bound teen and a Christ-compelling priest. I liked the balance between the psychology and parapsychology that occurs through most of the film, so when it finally decides to take a leap into the realm of the supernatural, I felt I didn’t want that decision made for me.
ANGUISH is a well constructed film. The cast of newcomers, especially Ryan Simkins, are all great. I just felt that if it would have left things ambiguous it would have been a much stronger piece of cinema. The film opens and closes with a tagline suggesting that this story is true. With mental illness a very real thing and demonic possession a very debated thing in terms of substantial evidence, calling it true in the end makes it kind of feel like a cheat. Still, ANGUISH is a capable little possession flick that steps away from the well-tread path of its predecessors.
New on DVD/BluRay from Lionsgate Home Entertainment!
KNOCK KNOCK (2015)Directed by Eli Roth
Written by Eli Roth, Nicolás López, Guillermo Amoedo (screenplay), Anthony Overman & Michael Ronald Ross (story)
Starring Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas, Aaron Burns, Ignacia Allamand, Dan Baily, Megan Baily, Colleen Camp
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Violence doesn’t always have to have a purpose. Violence can be pointless at times, and that seems to be what Eli Roth is trying to do here in this throwback homage to the Colleen Camp/Sondra Locke film DEATH GAME (Locke and Camp also produced this film). Seeing violence on screen is often exciting and thrilling, but it can also be uncomfortable and disconcerting. If it is the latter, that doesn’t always mean it’s something entertaining to watch--and that’s the main problem with KNOCK KNOCK.
Evan Webber (Keanu Reeves) is a happy family man and devoted husband. On Father’s Day, Evan is forced to skip out on the family’s trip to the beach and stay home to work on an architectural project. He never expected to have a pair of young girls knock on his door and ask for shelter from the pouring rain outside. Being the good guy that he is, Evan lets Genesis (Roth mainstay Lorenza Izzo from GREEN INFERNO) and Bel (Ana de Armas) in. Immediately the pair begin flirting with Evan, upping the ante until he finally cracks and ends up sleeping with them. But this little fling isn’t over when morning breaks. The girls turn on Evan, binding him, torturing him, and threatening to ruin his stable, predictable life.
KNOCK KNOCK is SOMETHING WILD without the laughs and charisma of Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith. Seeing Keanu strapped to a chair, raped, tortured, and emotionally wrecked throughout this film was simply uncomfortable to watch. Critics of Roth will definitely have a point when they aren’t surprised to see a victim bound to a chair and tortured in one of his films, but in this case it’s even more uncomfortable seeing an A-list actor undergoing said torture. No it’s not as bloody as HOSTEL or anything like that, but the emotional torture is just as intense. This is the anti-date movie of the year as its point is that every man, no matter how committed, has a breaking point in terms of commitment. I don’t know if this is a movie Roth made to get out of the doghouse for cheating on his significant other or what, but subject matter like this is just kind of grueling to watch. Being an artist and an appreciator of art, I also had a tough time seeing these psychotic pixies destroy artwork simply for kicks. Just as with a committed relationship, the two psycho girls give no fucks about anything but themselves. And the real problem here is that there is no closure or redemptive arc for Evan. His life is simply destroyed and the credits roll. It’s the lack of any type of penance for these two twits that really leaves the viewer in a place of wanting with no resolution to be found.
I don’t mind feeling uncomfortable with a film, bBut I don’t necessarily like feeling that way. When I see couples cheat on one another or an animal hurt simply to up the body count in a film, it bothers me. But I often say that films are supposed to cause some reaction and because of that, KNOCK KNOCK is successful in doing so. Those who read this column regularly know that I work as a therapist for teens and seeing Keanu feel helpless as these two hyperactive girls destroy his place hit me in a palpable manner because I’ve been in one of those situations more than once before. Again, the way Roth orchestrates this is effective, but it’s just not comfortable.
The effectiveness of KNOCK KNOCK is often in spite of Keanu Reeves’ performance which occasionally has moments of greatness here, but really doesn’t deliver in the role of being the loving father in the opening moments. These moments where Keanu gets rowdy with the kids and frisky with his wife ring as fake and unconvincing and really don’t lay the best foundation for the rest of the film to be based upon. Reeves is stronger when he says less and lets his face and body emote, such as with the scene where he plays musical chairs with the two girls, moving from one chair to another and to another part of the room every time the two get close to him. Reeves is much more of a physical actor and when he tries to emote something other than anger or cool, it just highlights the areas that need some work. Izzo and de Armas are convincing and obviously gorgeous, and offer up convincing performances as the two psychos.
I’m not a Roth hater. I’ve found the writer/director/producer’s fascination with international and cult horror films to be refreshing in a genre whose filmmakers are often in it for the money or for quick exposure so they can move on to bigger films in other genres. Roth is a decent filmmaker, and I can usually find one or two really powerful things going on that I like about all his films. With KNOCK KNOCK I was disturbed and moved, so I guess in a way the film is successful in what it set out to do. It just wasn’t a film that I had a good time watching, and if you’re looking to be entertained, I don’t think KNOCK KNOCK is that type of film.
New this week in select theaters from Vertical Entertainment!
HE NEVER DIED (2015)Directed by Jason Krawczyk
Written by Jason Krawczyk
Starring Booboo Stewart, Henry Rollins, Steven Ogg, Jordan Todosey, James Cade, Michael Cram, Dan Petronijevic, Kate Greenhouse, Walter Alza, Karl Campbell, Elias Edraki
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
HE NEVER DIED is a low budget supernatural JOHN WICK, a film I only recently saw, but actually lived up to the hype I was hearing about it. Henry Rollins plays Jack who, like Wick, is a man not to be trifled with, though tons and tons of thugs seem to think otherwise. Also like JOHN WICK, HE NEVER DIED hits the ground running and never lets up right until the end, making this a stellar blending of action and horror.
Jack is not human. That is evident from second one, as he wakes from a dream of screaming monsters and shows visible scars on his back that look like there used to be wings there. Are they demon wings? Angel wings? I won’t reveal anything, but Jack also has a hunger for human meat that he has been able to sustain by keeping his contact with others at a minimum. When a girl shows up in his life claiming to be his daughter, she unwittingly opens the door for Jack to interact with the world, and when people interact with Jack (sinners in particular), people get fucked up, killed, and eaten.
There’s a cool metaphor for drug addiction here, as Rollins plays his character like someone right on the edge of falling back into his cannibalistic ways. He occupies his time by playing bingo in a church and going to the same diner every day—any place he has deemed sinner free. Rollins even gives a powerful speech to the big bad towards the end where he laments being pulled back into his addiction that is so real and rage-fueled. The metaphor is not subtle, but it is well done in this film.
And Rollins himself is amazing in this lead role. While his acting experience has been limited lately, he commands every scene he is in and really does play the star well. His deliveries is part Frank Castle Punisher and almost part Rain Man, as he bluntly states nothing but facts and attempts to have no emotional connection with anyone around him. Jack is not one to lie, and being the creature that he is, the truth about his history and what he is proves to be pretty unbelievable to those around him--that is, until someone levels a handgun to his forehead and blasts away only to find Jack angrily staring back at them. Jack feels the pain; he just doesn’t die. Getting gunned down, stabbed, or sliced only pisses him off, and you don’t want to be on the receiving end of Jack’s wrath.
HE NEVER DIED is a fantastic supernatural vengeance story in the same fury-filled vein of THE CROW, DEATH WISH, and yes, JOHN WICK. This is an absurdly funny film, mostly because of Rollin’s fantastic line delivery, yet is filled with so much action it can’t not entertain. Seek out HE NEVER DIED--it’s not your typical action movie and not your typical horror film. It’s just plain good.
And finally…I admit it, I’m stoked to see STAR WARS. I can be a fan of horror and a fan of STAR WARS too, right? So to help celebrate STAR WARS, here are some bits and pieces inspired by the franchise…as seen through a horror lens, of course…
First off, SHAN WARS tells us you should know better than to see STAR WARS without your friends…
Not even your toys are safe in LEGO STAR WARS: THE INFECTION!
The name says it all…JAR!
And what compilation of horrors would be complete without HARDWARE WARS? Seeing this takes me back to being a kid when the world was as bonkers for STAR WARS as it is today!
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.
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!