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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. And here’s another batch of films to satiate you appetite for terror!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953)
Retro-review: THE PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES (1955)
WRECKER (2015)
THE VISIT (2015)
And finally… Matthew Forte’s LOVE ETERNAL!

Retro-review: New on BluRay as part of the SPECIAL EFFECTS COLLECTION from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment!


Directed by Eugène Lourié
Written by Lou Morheim, Fred Freiberger (screenplay), from the story “The Fog Horn” by Ray Bradbury
Starring Paul Hubschmid, Paula Raymond, Cecil Kellaway, Kenneth Tobey, Donald Woods, Lee Van Cleef, Steve Brodie, Ross Elliott, Jack Pennick, Ray Hyke, Paula Hill, Frank Ferguson, King Donovan
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Plunging a bit deeper than THE PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES (though I’m not sure about the League to Fathom conversion scale), THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS is a stop motion masterpiece that actually turns out to be a bit more disturbing than most mad monster parties that Ray Harryhausen took part in.

The biggest problem with this film is in the title. The Beast doesn’t really come from beneath the sea, as the title suggests. It is unleashed when a giant chunk of ice falls free on an Arctic expedition and then sort of dog-paddles its way to New York, where it topples a lighthouse, tears through some buildings, and then checks out a roller coaster. As the military gather and pontificate on how to destroy the beast, it turns out that bacteria from the monster’s wounds actually prove to be fatal to any who come in contact with it. As if being a giant stompy monster isn’t enough, now all you have to do is get a whiff of it and you’ll die.

Before getting into the stop motion stuff, the body horror-esque nature of the bacteria from the monster is actually what impressed me the most about this film. This kicks the threat up a notch, and though it isn’t really the centerpiece of the action, it distinguishes this film from the rest of the giant rampaging monster films by having it be a biological weapon by simply walking around. All of these films symbolize a foreign threat rampaging on American soil, but this may be the first one involving biological weaponry. I have to say, seeing the destruction and the people evacuating New York City was very reminiscent of 9-11 (and GODZILLA 1998, but it’s best we just forget about that film) as people scurry through the streets and the military moves in to contain the threat.

But it’s the stop motion that is the most impressive here. While seeing the beast wander around just out of view in the arctic snow is tensely actualized, the truly amazing scene is when the beast emerges from the sea in the dark and attacks a lighthouse. This scene is inspired by Bradbury’s story “The Fog Horn”, and it truly is a terrifying scene. Darkly lit and mostly in silhouette, this attack on the edge of the ocean is my favorite scene of the film. But that’s just one scene of many rampaging monster attacks. While it’s kind of funny that the gigantic beast seems to lose the military and is off their radar until the final and epic rollercoaster scene, the final scene itself is dramatic and actually quite sad, as the beast battles scientists sporting radioactive missiles as a flaming rollercoaster surrounds it. All of these scenes had me on the seat’s edge.

THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS is by far my favorite of this Special Effects Collection, which celebrates stop-motion monsters. The film is thrilling from beginning to end and while it does end abruptly, the memorable scenes of monster mayhem surely make up for it.

Other Reviews from Warner Brothers Special Effects Collection

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Kino Lorber!


Directed by Dan Milner
Written by Lou Rusoff (screenplay), Dorys Lukather (original story)
Starring Kent Taylor, Cathy Downs, Michael Whalen, Helene Stanton, Phillip Pine, Rodney Bell, Vivi Janiss, Michael Garth, Pierce Lyden,
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Wading far into the shallow end of the gene pool in terms of sea monster movies, THE PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES is a man in suit monster flick with traces of mad science and international intrigue.

A man-sized dragon-like monster is rising from the depths and attacking divers and boaters along the coast. This has something to do with the experiments of Dr. King (Michael Whalen). Apparently radioactive rocks from King’s lab have created the monster, and the deaths spark the interest of the government, and even international spies who are trying to steal King’s designs. Meanwhile, one of those interested in Dr. King’s research has interests in his daughter as well.

This film makes the mistake of many a monster movie: it thinks the audience is at all interested in the budding romance between the spy and the scientist’s daughter and focuses most of its time on this rather than, you know, the phantom from 10,000 fathoms. Too much time is spent on boring moments between the young lovers back and forthing, and it really slows this movie to a crawl numerous times.

But most likely, the reason anything but the monster is focused on is due to the fact that the costume and the effects are pretty substandard. I really feel sorry for the diver who drew the short straw and had to wear the ill-fitting monster suit. Barely able to move, much less be menacing, the monster is less scary and more awkward than anything else. It’s understandable why the film doesn’t want to show much of this homemade Halloween costume gone horribly wrong.

There are some decent details in the film. The bodies of the victims aren’t just mauled by the beast; they are rendered radioactive and burned to a crisp because of the beast’s radioactivity. There’s also a cool moment where poison is put inside the tank of one of the divers that was actually pretty cool. Still, the suit kills all attempts at taking this film seriously. Never going more than ten feet from the shore, the Phantom never really reaches the depths the title suggests, both figuratively and metaphorically. Still, if you’re looking for a throwback to no budget horror from the Fifties, this one is soaking in retro (yet unintentional) laughs.

New this week on DVD from XLRator and on iTunes!

WRECKER (2015)

Directed by Micheal Bafaro
Written by Micheal Bafaro
Starring Anna Hutchison, Andrea Whitburn, Jennifer Koenig, Don Knodel, Michael Dickson, Kurtis Maguire, Lori Watt
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While I know the bulk of the moviegoing public has a very poor memory and a low tolerance for revisiting anything made before the turn of the century, I really would rather recommend DUEL any day of the week before I would tell someone they should check out WRECKER.

Two fun-loving gals make their way across country on a road trip and decide to take a shortcut through a road called “Devil’s Pass.” On this road, they run into a wrecker that torments them by trying to run them off the road and run them over.

WRECKER is DUEL with two girls in a fast car rather than Dennis Weaver in a clunker. The film really doesn’t make any attempt to explain who or what is behind the wheel of the evil truck, but I can’t fault the movie for that since DUEL didn’t do it either. The problem is that WRECKER doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, and simply does a low budget version of a film that was already low budget to begin with. In doing so, WRECKER feels rather offensive, as if it were trying to do something new and innovative for those who don’t know enough about film to know a better film exists with the same plot.

But you know, I’m not terribly mad at the film--just kind of bored. WRECKER feels as if no one really looked at the film after completing it. Right from the get go, the film opens on a bizarre and pointless shot of two people who break down on a highway only to cut to our two main girls going down the same road. It’s this style of lazy filmmaking that permeates this film. Most likely a lot of the shots that required the truck to ram the car or vehicles actually falling off cliffs (you know, stuff that makes for tension and action) are just beyond the budget necessary. But instead of being creative with these shots, the filmmakers decide to simply forget about them and ask the audience to forget about them as well. This makes for some pretty dull viewing.

Pair that with some rough acting and you’ve got a pretty difficult film to keep your eyes open through. I was able to withstand the tedium, but it’s doubtful many will. WRECKER attempts to reinvent the wheel without the proper tools to do so or the ingenuity and energy to even fake it.

New this week in select theaters and On Demand from Uncork’d Entertainment!


Directed by Francesco Picone
Written by Francesco Picone
Starring Aaron Stielstra, Michael Segal, Marius Bizau, Désirée Giorgetti, Claudio Camilli, David White, Ally McClelland, Roberta Sparta
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the Uwe Boll-produced ANGER OF THE DEAD. It’s a capable zombie film, but in a world where the number of zombie films surpasses the number of actual shambling cadavers in a zombie apocalypse, you have to be more than capable to stand out.

ANGER OF THE DEAD begins suspensefully. A woman receives a call from her husband telling her to stay indoors no matter what as her child opens the door and accidentally lets in a zombie. This is a fantastic intercutting of scenes with real tension and a sense of dread. It’s too bad the rest of the film couldn’t have maintained this level of suspense.

ANGER OF THE DEAD’s worst crime is being typical. It follows two stories: one about the mother desperately wandering the landscape after the tragic events in the opening, the other following an escapee from a test facility run by sadistic madmen. The two stories tap one another occasionally (just not occasionally enough), but mainly they are flimsy excuses to have a bunch of people roaming around and running into zombies. Because this film’s characters aren’t really compelling or fleshed out, aside from the mother from the beginning, it’s really hard to care about any of them. Because of this, the film tends to plod on and on with forced drama that doesn’t really work and the occasional zombie chomp.

Obviously,this film is patterned after THE WALKING DEAD. If you can’t tell from the rip-off poster, the opening sequence is pretty much a clip for clip title sequence matching the music and imagery from the opening title sequence from TWD. Such blatant rip-offs are hard to forgive, especially when they come out of the gates with it. When you can’t even begin your film with originality it’s kind of hard to take the film seriously, and I struggled with doing so all the way through.

Also, while the facial appliances for the zombies are well done, that seems to be all that was within the budget here as none of the bodies of the zombies are paid attention to. Some are spattered with blood, but you just can’t have a decomposed face and then have perfect flesh all over your arms and legs. It just doesn’t sell your zombie.

ANGER OF THE DEAD seems to fall in line with previous Boll-produced zombie films like EATERS, ZOMBIE MASSACRE and ZOMBIE MASSACRE II (not HOUSE OF THE DEAD, tho). All of these films seem to kind of function in the same universe and occasionally share characters. That’s kind of fun to see, but aside from some interconnectivity, they really are simple and uninspired zombie films that just don’t bring anything new to the table, which is the film’s greatest sin and why ANGER OF THE DEAD just doesn’t stand out from the zombie herd.

New this week on BluRay/DVD from RLJ Entertainment!


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 pus 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.

New this week on BluRay/DVD from The Shout Factory!


Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Kikumi Yamagishi
Starring Ko Shibasaki, Ebizô Ichikawa, Hitomi Katayama, Nakanishi Miho, Hideaki Ito, Maiko, Toshie Negishi, Hiroshi Katsuno, Miho Nakanishi, Ikkô Furuya
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Life imitates art imitates life in Takashi Miike’s newest venture into the macabre, which I found to be stimulating on an artistic and narrative level.

Ko Shibasaki plays Miyuki, an actress in a Kabuki play who gets her husband Kosuke (Ebizô Ichikawa) a role in the same play. In the play, Kosuke’s character begins to lose respect for Miyuki’s character after she has a child and becomes interested in the young daughter of a nobleman, played by a younger actress (Hitomi Katayama). In their lives outside of the play, Miyuki wants to get pregnant, but is having trouble doing so. When she realizes Kosuke is having an affair with the younger actress from the play, Miyuki begins having trouble separating from her role in the play and her role in her real life relationship. Things get somewhat supernatural, as the doll used as the baby in the play begins moving on its own, and wounds Miyuki inflicts upon herself begin to show up on the young actress. The lines between the play and real life begin to merge as Kosuke finds himself trapped in his role as well and unable to escape. Shit gets weird.

While it’s not as straightforward terrifying as AUDITION or as bug nutz as GOZU or THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, OVER YOUR DEAD BODY is a complex exploration of relationships that sort of over-complicates itself by flipping locales between the real world of the film and the play the characters are acting in. It’s not a difficult film to follow, but it doesn’t explain all that is going on and may lose those who take things more on a literal level. The overall tone of the film reminds me most of David Lynch’s films as everyone spoke slowly, zombie-like, as if in some kind of dream-like trance and limply acting out the dialog. I teetered on being bored with this film during these listless lines, but thankfully Miike keeps things moving by switching locales, which in the end might have been the saving grace of what would have otherwise been a pretty boring cautionary tale against infidelity.

What stood out the most for me was the set design of thekKabuki play within the movie. Set on a rotating stage, the play is supervised by rows of shadowed desks filled with directors and overseers. While not much is said by this shadow cabinet of onlookers, they most definitely are pulling the strings and are people of power here, and the way Miike represents them, cast against the vivid and ornate backdrops of the play, is utterly chilling.

This being a MIike film, there’s also quite a bit of the standard gory and chilling imagery. While some, like the long black-haired pale GRUDGE-like woman Miyuki, has become standard what has come to be called J-horror, there are also some much more visceral and nauseating terrors to behold, which actually proved to be effective in intensifying my nightmares, thankyewverymuch Mr. Miike. With OVER YOUR DEAD BODY, Miike definitely adds to the beautiful yet terrifying imagery he has compiled in films such as ICHI THE KILLER, GOZU, and AUDITION.

While the first part of OVER YOUR DEAD BODY very much reads as melodrama, Miike makes up for it in the last 30 minutes as things get ghostly, creepy, and very, very bloody. The late in the game twist really shook me, and most likely will do the same for you if you are patient and willing to stick with this one. The droning dialog and flipping realities may be too much for some to take, but those with an appreciation for creative narratives and artistic symbology definitely have a lot to chew on here.

OVER YOUR DEAD BODY is not Miike’s best, but it again shows us that he is a versatile and unique director like few others who isn’t afraid to take the viewer into the realms of uncomfortable, the unusual, and the grotesque. Here he seems to be making a statement about relationships, self-fulfilling prophesies, and revenge. Pretty simple concepts, but in Miike’s hands, it becomes the fodder for nightmares not long forgotten. OVER YOUR DEAD BODY is artsy horror, but delivers riveting moments and terrifying and beautiful visuals.

New this week on BluRay/DVD from Universal Home Entertainment!

THE VISIT (2015)

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Samuel Stricklen, Patch Darragh, Jorge Cordova
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I’ve often talked about this phobia with friends and associates, but old people scare the shit out of me. Maybe it has something to do with the fear of my own mortality or some deep-seated trauma from my youth, but I just get creeped the hell out by oldies. M. Night Shyamalan’s latest attempt to regain the faith moviegoers once had with him is THE VISIT, which is a step in the right direction, though it will definitely feel like a desperate attempt to cash in on the fading found footage subgenre by a director in need of a hit by the filmmaker’s critics.

Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are set to visit their grandparents’ house, a locale that they have never been to before. Their mother (played by the usually comedic but surprisingly dramatic Kathryn Hahn here) left home as a teen and has severed ties to her parents for reasons we aren’t made aware of at first, so this will be the first time the kids have come into contact with their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) and Becca, a budding film director herself, has decided, of course, to document the entire trip. At first Nana and Pop Pop seem to be your typical yet somewhat absent-minded old folks, busying themselves with chopping wood and cooking all sorts of goodies in the kitchen. But the kids come to realize that something seriously off-kilter is happening when darkness falls, and it seems to get weirder as the week-long trip proceeds.

Save for some establishing shots of nature that suggest a little more skill than the teen director should have and more than a few instances where the camera falls or is dropped in the exact specific place to capture some kind of action, Shyamalan at least makes a capable found footage film that feels somewhat authentic. The fact that a lot of the actors involved are played by actors we’ve all seen before in other films kills the mystique of the believability that this is footage found, but this being a major release, I guess that is an inevitability.

Believability is crucial in found footage films, as we as the audience are supposed to be pulled a little closer into the action on screen with the first person POV, and that’s one of the issues I had with THE VISIT. While the child actors playing the leads would be decent in any Spielberg monster action adventure for the entire family, I found the attempts to make them cute and clever to be sometimes annoying and other times intolerably grating. Tyler is a wannabe rapper and performs three freestyle raps throughout the film. The little white kid even has a Ralphie-like lisp and decides to say pop singers’ names instead of curse in the film. Becca uses vocabulary words that indicate that she is intelligent beyond her years and has an extensive knowledge of filmmaking terms. Isn’t that adorbs? Not really. Again, in a theatrically made film this would be forgivable. I have accepted that Spielberg kids are simply mini-adults barking lines and doing deeds that no kid would really do. Place that same aesthetic in a film that is supposed to look and feel real and it makes the kids feel even more alien. Shyamalan often uses kids in this way. It’s a common way he portrays kids in his films, but it doesn’t make them any more authentic feeling. The overly scripted JUNO-speak remarks just seem out of place in a format that is supposed to feel immediate and unrehearsed, and really took me out of the film from the get go.

One thing that is prevalent in Shyamalan’s films is the cyclical and somewhat poetic way problems are dealt with. Done decently in SIGNS with the dying woman’s premonition for Mel Gibson which comes back to factor in to the film in the end and rather clunkily in LADY IN THE WATER, here there is a serendipitous nature in which the weaknesses of both children in the film factor into how things pan out in the climax. While it’s done with some finesse here, it still is quite blatant when these weaknesses are introduced that there will be a scene later where the kids will have to deal with these phobias and sure enough, during the climax, factors fall into place where both kids have to deal with their fears in order to survive.

Criticisms aside, I did jump quite a bit during this film, and there are some really well set up moments of tension throughout the film. In terms of scares, at least for this oldie-phobic viewer, THE VISIT delivered in most of the instances. Shyamalan touches upon pretty much all of the creepy and gross things associated with growing older and losing control of one’s body, including old person nudity, absent-mindedness, and loss of control of one’s bowels. There are a few scenes in THE VISIT where I actually couldn’t believe they went there in terms of gross-out and dynamic scares, and I found myself pleasantly surprised at the teeth this film bared.

I also laughed quite a bit at this film, as its gallows humor really does hit the mark more often than not. So while the kids may not talk or act like real life kids, the scares in THE VISIT often work, and Mr. Shyamalan delivers something not as effective as his first three films, but possibly slightly more effective than THE VILLAGE (which I found to have some merit, though that is not a popular opinion). If you’re creeped out by getting older and all of the problems that have to do with it and aren’t yet tired of first person POV-filmed horror, THE VISIT isn’t great, but it’s potent enough to deliver more thrills than I expected.

New this week on BluRay/DVD from Universal Home Entertainment!


Directed by Eli Roth
Written by Eli Roth & Guillermo Amoedo
Starring Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Magda Apanowicz, Ignacia Allamand, Daryl Sabara, Nicolás Martínez, Sky Ferreira, Eusebio Arenas, Richard Burgi, Matías López, Ramón Llao as the Headhunter, and Antonieta Pari as the Elder!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

It was interesting to me reading the talkbacks after Capone’s review of THE GREEN INFERNO the other day. The talkbacks lit up with a lot of Eli Roth hate and a lot of ire towards cannibal films in general. Now, I understand why folks might not like cannibal films. Some people have a tolerance for those types of films (I’m one of those who is pretty fascinated with this subgenre of horror) and others hear the premise or even the notion of cannibalism and immediately start up the negative responses. I understand that cannibalism is a taboo subject and there is also a form of prejudice going on with these types of films, but still, even the worst kind of subject matter can become fascinating in the hands of a decent filmmaker.

The same thing seems to be true for Eli Roth who is a friend of the site, but personally, I’ve never had any personal interaction with the man (living in Chicago prevents me from going to Austin events with the rest of the AICN folks, so those ties between Roth and the site don’t really apply to me). Still, I don’t hate the director like a lot of you seem to do. In fact, I think a lot of the hate towards Roth comes from the fact that his films sort of ushered in a dark time for horror known as the torture porn era. While the HOSTEL films were very influential, I think the hatred is kind of misplaced as those films were definite throwbacks to a lot of schlocky Italian horror films, and blaming Roth for the inundation of tasteless torture porn films after he made a debatably successful and iconic film utilizing the core elements of torture porn seems wrong to me. Roth’s HOSTEL films weren’t perfect, but they did something different in an era of horror that was stuck in a self-referential meta loop through the Nineties and just aping and remaking tons of J-horror films. For me, this return to gore in Roth’s films was welcome, though I feel that there have been a ton of films after HOSTEL I and II that are simply vile and despicable. I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but I feel some props should be given to Roth for sparking a subgenre of horror that lasted throughout the Oughts.

Going a bit deeper, maybe Roth’s HOSTEL and the torture porn films that came after which for the most part highlight a person strapped into a chair and feeling helpless while being taken apart piece by piece was a response to the helplessness the world felt after 9-11 as viewers sat in horror watching the towers fall. Maybe it is that feeling that filmmakers were able to tap into at the time with torture porn, and as society began to cope with and move on from those events, they grew more and more disdainful towards those feelings, and thus have the same disdain towards those types of films and their poster boy, Eli Roth. I eventually want to get to THE GREEN INFERNO, but I had to get that little rant off my chest before going into the film.

THE GREEN INFERNO is a film that again owes a lot to Eli Roth’s love of classic Italian horror. For the most part with a little modern tweaking to make it more timely, the film follows the template of so many cannibal films before it. Basically, the entire point of the film is to get a bunch of “civilized” folks to the middle of the jungle so they can be captured, tortured, and eaten by the natives. THE GREEN INFERNO goes a little deeper into the lives of its well-intentioned cast of characters. Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is a wide-eyed freshman looking for some kind of cause to latch onto and attracted to campus rabble-rouser Alejandro (Ariel Levy), who organizes protests like health care for janitors and the like. Disgusted by a class that goes into gory detail about vaginal mutilation in tribes across the world, Justine latches onto the latest cause Alejandro and his protesters have chosen: saving a native tribe in the Amazon which are in danger of extinction as government officials are destroying the rainforest and any tribal camp that gets in their way. Justine convinces her father, a United Nations official (Roth regular Richard Burgi), that the trip to the Amazon will be safe, but as soon as they land it is apparent that everything is not on the up and up. Tossing themselves in between construction workers and militia and the trees they plan to destroy, Justine and the protesters end up attaining their goal to raise awareness by live tweeting and filming this event, but their victory is short-lived, as their plane crashes just as they take off and they end up in the clutches of the very tribe they came to protect. Things pretty much go downhill from there.

The thing that should be noted here is that this is probably the best produced, best acted, and best effects in any cannibal film ever made. For that alone, I have to give this film a positive nod as I am a fan of these cannibal films, but will admit that most are shittily put together and acted. Roth does a great job of soaking in the vibrant green landscape the film is named after. In contrast, the clay-covered natives’ red skin gives them an alien feel which immediately suggests danger. It’s this simple color palette that makes this film beautiful to look at. Even the gore, which there is plenty of, is represented in vivid Italian film crimson, again a standard in these films. Roth definitely shows he can capture imagery in a grander scope here, something a lot of horror filmmakers often have difficulty with as horror is so often an intimate experience.

All of the cast do a good job here at being scared out of their minds, and the indigenous tribes that filmed with the crew do a great job as well. Izzo is definitely the highlight here, as she is expected to endure the most and go through the most complete arc, coming into this job as a wide-eyed virginal noob and ending up much wiser to the gray-shaded world around her. Izzo’s wide eyes were most likely the thing that got her the part, as she is taking in everything for the first time with fascination and innocence. The rest of the cast is decent as well, with Levy’s Alejandro providing some nice beats as a completely arrogant asshole and some more sincere moments from Aaron Burns as Jonah, the stereotypical fat kid with a crush on Justine. Comedic beats are provided pretty much solely by SPY KIDS’ Daryl Sabara, and he is pretty funny as the cocky weed smoker. The other two performances of note are Ramón Llao as the Headhunter and Antonieta Pari as the Elder, but while these performances are good, most of the scares comes from the costume design making them look like paint-covered monsters.

This film is definitely a devious one in tone and theme. It’s not the deepest theme, but one that I never get sick of, that being the hypocrisy of man. Having literal babes in the woods go save the “poor” savages has been a common misconception for hundreds of years. Religious groups have just been replaced by social justicers who often naively pontificate just to hear their gums flap. Again, this isn’t a new theme (hell, it was the prevalent theme of the last RAMBO film), but it still is a powerful one to see these folks eat crow while they are being eaten themselves.

My criticism in this film does lie in the fact that Roth repeats himself here in theme and basic story structure. Once again, a group of tourists go where they are not supposed to and are captured and tortured for an extended length of the film. The change in locale makes it feel somewhat different, but take a longer step back and it’s not that much different than HOSTEL. Also, apart from the social justice angle, the film really serves as a greatest hits version of every other cannibal film you’ve likely seen from Italian horror cinema.

Still, there is something to be said about being the latest, best-looking, and most highly produced cannibal film you’re ever likely to see. The gore is very gratuitous, but while it will gross out teens that have never watched a cannibal film before and consider the height of horror to be the INSIDIOUS movies, it really doesn’t go any farther than most other gorefests readers of this column would likely see. THE GREEN INFERNO is a well-made cannibal film. There’s even a guide to the history of the cannibal film towards the end of the credits. If you don’t like Roth or this subgenre of horror, it’s not going to do anything to convince you otherwise. But if you’re a fan of either or both, I think you’ll be impressed at the quality of Roth’s homage to a type of horror film he obviously cares quite a bit about.

New this week on BluRay/DVD from Dark Sky Films!


Directed by Jason Lei Howden
Written by Jason Lei Howden
Starring Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell, Delaney Tabron, Stephen Ure, Colin Moy, Jodie Rimmer, Nick Hoskins-Smith, Nick Hoskins-Smith, Erroll Shand, Kate Elliott, Aaron McGregor, Andrew Laing, Tim Foley, Cameron Rhodes
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Did you used to draw disturbing shit on the front of your Trapper Keeper? Did you grow your hair long in high school? Did you used to (and maybe still do) listen to metal and rebel against the poofy pop the rest of the world called music? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, DEATHGASM is the film for you.

BLOOD PUNCH’s Milo Cawthorne stars as Brodie, a metalhead outcast at his school forced to live with his bible-thumping uncle and try to fit in as the new kid at school. Brodie befriends some outcasts, including the very Buddy Revell-esque rocker Zakk (James Blake), and start their own death metal band, much to the disdain of his uncle. When Zakk gets word that his favorite rocker Rikki Daggers (Stephen Ure) lives in their same town, they decide to break into his house and check it out. Unbeknownst to them, Daggers has made a deal with a devil cult and is in possession of sheet music that can open a portal to hell. In order to keep the music hidden, he gives Brodie and Zakk the music and the metalheads accidentally open a gateway to hell, unleashing the netherworld upon their quiet, boring suburb. Meanwhile, Brodie is trying to win the hand of out-of-his-league preppie gal Medina (Kimberley Crossman), his asshole cousin’s girlfriend.

From beginning to end, this film is simply fun. Filled with death metal and gore, this film is a love letter to those who live outside of the norm and ever felt out of place in high school (which I’m assuming many of the readers of this column have felt a time or two). While at times the film becomes rather predictable in terms of the outcast first finding friends, then finding purpose, then finally getting the girl, it’s the details that make it all so much fun.

The devil is really in the details here, as this film is filled with memorable moments. Sure some moments involving the animation may have been swiped from SCOTT PILGRIM, but it’s still fun seeing the letters come alive when the band debates on what to name themselves. Brodie occasionally flashes to delusions of a hard rock reality full of swords, battleaxes, and babes in metal bikinis on the top of a mountain. Simply having a scene where Brodie and Zakk battle demons with his uncle’s sex toys is absolutely amazing. Everything is done with a wink to the viewer and a nod to those days of barely paying attention in class while doodling in your notebook.

And while this film is dripping with those nostalgic feelings, it’s also sopping wet with blood and gore as well. DEATHGASM is bathed in a level of grue only achieved in such gore classics as EVIL DEAD 2 and DEAD ALIVE. But while it’s gratuitous and sometimes downright shocking as to the level of violence and gore that is going on, it also never fails to be funny all the way through. Heads are split and lopped off, intestines are slit and dropped, all forms of weaponry including the power of rock are used to splatter blood in all directions in the latter portion of this one, and it’s all frikkin’ glorious!

After seeing his inspired performance in BLOOD PUNCH and his role as Brodie here, this has been a stellar year for Milo Cawthorne, and while the actor isn’t what one would usually think of as a lead, he carries this film really well. Like a metalhead version of Peter Parker, it is fun seeing Brodie fail and succeed in this film. The rest of the cast, especially the ultra-tough James Blake and gorgeous Kimberly Crossman, do an amazing job of fleshing out the rest of this film.

DEATHGASM may not be for everyone, but in a perfect world it should be. Rockin’ down the street with its hair flowing and its balls out, this film is proud to be a metal armored gorefest and should be celebrated by all. I laughed quite a bit at the outrageous gore and funny little moments of these outcasts finding each other and taking on the hordes of hell. It’s the kind of horror film that makes you proud to be a fan of the genre, and definitely worth your while to seek it out.

New this week in select screenings and available for digital download on iTunes here and Google Play!


Directed by Andy Schroeder
Written by Andy Schroeder & Steven Sacco
Starring Amy Ciupek, Daniel Noonan, Steven Sacco, Jared Bashant, Julie Burns, Allison Cwiertniewski, Chris Cwiertniewski
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

This low budget take on ghost-busting is intriguing and creative fun from start to finish and proof that big ideas are all that is needed to make a movie worth checking out.

DISTILLER is the story of ghost hunter Matthew Moon (Steven Sacco, who also helped write the film), who uses a distinct brand of ghost catching techniques. Literally using spirits (liquors), Moon travels the world trapping ghosts in bottles of booze. Unwilling to keep these bottled spirits, Moon amassed quite a collection of these bottles before succumbing to the toll his ghosthunting techniques took on him. When Matthew’s niece Blue (Amy Ciupek) inherits his home, she also inherits the collection of captured spirit booze bottles in the basement. Not knowing the diabolical contents of the bottles, Blue holds a Fourth of July party and the booze is cracked open, unintentionally releasing the monstrous spirits to run rampant.

The most impressive aspect of DISTILLER is the fantastically creative ideas at play. Incorporating spirits with real evil spirits is a fun play on words, but even more creative details are utilized in the catching of the ghost. This is a well thought out process and a lot of fun to see unfold. Also, the variety of ghosts themselves is fun to see as dog spirits, spider monsters, gremlins, and all sorts of orbs and vapors haunt the party after the booze is cracked open. Seeing them all run amok at the party is a lot of fun.

Another highlight is the quality of the low fi effects. Old school melting effects, projected effects, puppetry, and all kinds of cool practical effects work are used in making each ghost distinct and cool. For me, seeing the Black Schuck ghost was the best, as it is a transparent dog with additional effects over-layed onto the image to make the whole thing look utterly original. This film is filled with all sorts of ingenious effects work like this and proof that you don’t need billion dollar CG to make things look good.

Being a low budgeter, there are the usual production issues. While the camerawork and directing are pretty solid, the sound is off a bit and sometimes feels as if the film was dubbed. The acting isn’t bad per se, but the actors definitely have an amateur feel to their performances, as if this were a team effort by a bunch of friends banding together to have fun and make a movie. Ciupek, Daniel Noonan (who plays Blue’s brother), and Sacco do good jobs in the lead roles, but once the party starts it’s pretty amateur hour.

I also had some issues with the film’s ending as it kind of wraps up on a sudden note. Imagine the scene in GHOSTBUSTERS where Peck lets loose all the ghosts and they run amok in New York without the final showdown with Gozer at the tower. That’s kind of how this film wraps up and it definitely left me wanting for a more fulfilling final act. That said, DISTILLER is filled with all sorts of great ideas, cool and spooky moments, and fun effects. It’s a fun low budgeter and definitely has me interested in what director Andy Schroeder has up his sleeve next.

And finally…here’s a romancy, yet action filled low budget vampire flick focusing on the love between Dracula and his main squeeze Mina. Enjoy Matthew Forte’s LOVE ETERNAL!

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!

Find more AICN HORROR including an archive of previous columns on AICN HORROR’s Facebook page!

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