Welcome to the darker side of AICN! Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Before we head into this week’s reviews, I wanted to let folks know about my own new website MLMillerWrites.com, which will serve as both an archive for my thousands of horror movie reviews as well as updates on my own upcoming comic book projects. I’m just beginning the archive, but it will be a one stop shop for all of my reviews all categorized and lumped in one place. So zip over to MLMillerWrites.com and let me know what you think of it!
Friend of AICN HORROR and writer/artist behind CRAWL TO ME and WIRE HANGERS Alan Robert has a new book coming out this Halloween. It’s a coloring book called THE BEAUTY OF HORROR, and it looks amazing! The book is coming out this October, so it gives you plenty of time to sharpen those black and red colors.
You can find out more information about THE BEAUTY OF HORROR here!
AICN HORROR has a new sponsor: Things From Another World—also known as TFAW!
TFAW carries everything from comics to toys and any kind of collectible in between. Show your support for AICN HORROR and TFAW and click the pic above. You just might find something you can’t live without, such as Cullen Bunn’s excellent southern gothic horror tale from Dark Horse Comics!
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: I SAW WHAT YOU DID (1965)
Retro-review: YOU’LL LIKE MY MOTHER (1972)
Retro-review: THE PREMONITION (1976)
MANSON’S LOST GIRLS (2016)
CRUSH THE SKULL (2015)
THE WITCH (2015)
Advance Review: HANK BOYD IS DEAD (2015)
Advance Review: I AM ALONE (2015)
And finally…Horror Bizarre’s DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF PARTY!
Retro-review: New this week on Bluray/DVD from The Shout Factory!
I SAW WHAT YOU DID (1965)aka I SAW WHAT YOU DID AND I KNOW WHO YOU ARE
Directed by William Castle
Written by William P. McGivern (screenplay), Ursula Curtiss (novel)
Starring Joan Crawford, John Ireland, Leif Erickson, Sara Lane, Andi Garrett, Sharyl Locke, Patricia Breslin, John Archer, Joyce Meadows, Tom Hatten, Douglas Evans, Barbara Wilkin, Glen Vernon, Sara Anderson, Janet Hamill, John Crowther
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
William Castle’s infectious enthusiasm for cinema runs rampant in this saccharinated sweet tale of terror, as a pair of teenie-boppers and their little sister prank phone call the wrong person and end up getting caught up in a web of lies, cheating, and murder.
Castle is channeling his inner Hitchcock in I SAW WHAT YOU DID, as he not only throws a trio of innocents into the middle of a complex plot, but also wedges in a murder in a shower that is cut pretty close to the famous one from PSYCHO. It’s a case of mistaken identity and bad teen judgment taken to comical lengths of drama and despair. Joan Crawford, who has only a small part but is top billed, leads the overacting pack as a jealous mistress who gets murderous when she thinks the prank callers are younger mistresses of her boytoy (John Ireland) who recently murdered his wife in the shower and receives the prank call stating “I saw what you did and I know who you are.” Many contrivances toss the pranksters and the murderer/cheaters together, but it’s not the story that’s infectious here.
The ludicrous script is by William P. McGivern and the imaginative direction is from Castle, who always seems to be filming with one tightly squinted wink at the audience. The fun opener where the screen is broken up into two open eye shapes with the two teenage callers talking with one another and the ditzy conversation the two teens have makes this film hard to take seriously, yet also hard to hate. And while the shower scene is especially brutal, the rest of the film fails to live up to the danger we are supposed to believe is percolating for the prepubescents. If you’re a fan of Castle you know not to take things too seriously, and this film surely doesn’t do that with any of its subject matter. Cartoony and harmless, I SAW WHAT YOU DID is going to be hard to watch without a smile on your face.
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!
YOU’LL LIKE MY MOTHER (1972)Directed by Lamont Johnson
Written by Jo Heims, Naomi A. Hintze (novel)
Starring Patty Duke, Rosemary Murphy, Richard Thomas, Sian Barbara Allen, Dennis Rucker, Jamie Neumann
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Another psycho mom movie pits a TV icon against the elements outside and a horrific matriarch inside. While the weather outside is chilly, that seems to be the only thing truly chilling about YOU’LL LIKE MY MOTHER.
When her husband dies in the Vietnam War, Francesa Kinsolving (Patty Duke) travels to snow country even though she is nine months pregnant to meet her late husband’s mother for the first time. But when she arrives, Mrs. Kinsolving (Rosemary Murphy) greets her very coldly, though she doesn’t want her to leave due to the weather. Forced to stay the night, of course, Francesca goes into labor. The baby is pronounced dead, but later is found very much alive with Francesca attempting to muster the energy to break out of the house and get away from the overbearing mother.
This film weebles and wobbles but just won’t end. Mrs. Kinsolving is cold and then allows Francesca to stay. She shows remorse for the dead baby and then she doesn’t. She doesn’t like Francesca, but doesn’t seem to want her to leave. Rosemary Murphy’s performance really doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense from one moment to the next as she tries to play both the aggressor and the persecuted. Duke does a decent job trying to make heads or tails of the situation, but the story doesn’t seem to want to let us know whether it’s a truly evil stepmother or someone who simply doesn’t know how to ask people to stay.
Lending some creep is John Boy himself, Richard Thomas, whose wide-eyed stare is kind of off-setting, but for the most part I didn’t really like YOU’LL LIKE MY MOTHER. Bloodless, drifting, and not very scary, I doubt fans of this column will like it either.
Retro-review: New this week as a BluRay Collection from Arrow Films/MVD Visual!
THE PREMONITION (1976)Directed by Robert Allen Schnitzer
Written by Anthony Mahon, Robert Allen Schnitzer, Louis Pastore
Starring Sharon Farrell, Edward Bell, Danielle Brisebois, Ellen Barber, Richard Lynch, Chitra Neogy, Jeff Corey, Margaret Graham, Rosemary McNamara, Thomas Williams, Stanley W. William, Roy White
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
THE AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT VOLUME ONE is one of the coolest collections of obscure, old school horror you’re going to find. I’ve reviewed the trippy psychological horror THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA and the macabre and loony MALATASTA’S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD in previous posts. This time I take a look at the final film in this collection, THE PREMONITION.
More of a psychological thriller/stolen kid drama, THE PREMONITION incorporates some elements that immediately intrigued me--namely psychic phenomena, cop procedural, and the carnival as a carnie named Andrea (Ellen Barber) and her clown boyfriend Jude (Richard Lynch) attempt to find the daughter Andrea put up for adoption years ago. When movie coincidence brings her daughter Janie (Danielle Brisebois) and foster mother Sheri (Sharon Farrell) to the carnival, Andrea and Jude hatch a plan to kidnap the little girl and bring her home. Though the plan goes awry, Janie goes missing and Sheri begins receiving psychic flashes predicting where her daughter might be.
This is definitely a slow burner, but that doesn’t mean THE PREMONITION doesn’t have its moments. The film peppers in equal parts fun and macabre scenes that both drip with beauty such as Jude waking up and stretching dramatically for a full day of clowning and Andrea playing the haunting theme song of the film on a piano by a lake in a vivid red dress. The scenes of psychic phenomena are equally unique, as the film goes surreal with paintings that cry blood and twisted dreams of Andrea covered in blood and running toward the camera in attack. Though I wish the budget of this film would have allowed for a little more of the surreal carnival and psychic wonder, what does occur are some of the best parts of THE PREMONITION.
That said, Sharon Farrell’s hysterical mother performance is extremely grating, as are the hysterical attacks Andrea (Barber) has when missing her daughter. The problem is that you don’t see someone breaking down in such a convincing and real fashion these days in movies. Usually, the woman is full of rage or quietly buries their faces in someone’s shoulder. They don’t snot and scream for the bulk of the film. This is a much more realistic response, so it’s not like it’s invalid, but while most folks in modern film overcome tragedy at a rapid pace, this film wallows in it for an excruciatingly long time.
This attention to despair makes the film feel even longer and add in some psychobabble-heavy discourse from the “magical thinking” psychoanalyst Indian doctor, and you have more heavy handedness and over-attention to emotion than you’d find in twenty horror films. The carny coolness and surreal dream imagery will help keep your eyes open for most of the film, but it might be hard for most to get though THE PREMONITION—especially since the climax swings wildly for the cheap seats in terms of trying to tug the heartstrings. The final moments didn’t really work for me, though. Still, this is another odd little number I’m happy I got to check out because of this brilliant collection.
New this week on DVD/BluRay from Lifetime/Lionsgate Home Entertainment!
MANSON’S LOST GIRLS (2016)aka MANSON’S GIRLS
Directed by Leslie Libman
Written by Stephen Kronish, Matthew Tabak
Starring Mackenzie Mauzy, Eden Brolin, Grace Victoria Cox, Greer Grammer, Christian Madsen, Isabel Shill, Garrett Coffey, Morgan Krantz, Jeff Ward, John F. Goff, Stephen Sullivan, Chad Lindberg, Christopher Redman, Don Luce, Chad T. Wood, Tess Gordon, Stella Gordon, Jesse Bean, Kari Coleman, Megan Easton, Diana Irvine, LeJon, Roman Mitichyan, Sarah Molasky, Jhemma Ziegler
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
By now, the story of the Manson family is pretty well known as it has been retold in scores of news specials, films, and documentaries. Every time Charles Manson or one of his core followers are up for parole, there’s a new special featuring the horrific acts of this group of misguided and over-medicated hippies. Lifetime decided to get into the Manson retelling game not long ago and put out MANSON’S LOST GIRLS. Not known for their horror and gore and misfiring badly with their LIZZY BORDEN remake, one might expect Lifetime to be ill-fitted with the grit and gristle to tell us something new about this well-documented tale. One might be right.
The film focuses mainly on Linda Kasabian, one of the last recruits into Charlie’s Family. Kasabian found herself endeared to the family and their free-living lifestyle, but like most cults, after a blissful honeymoon period, Charlie (Jeff Ward) and his lot began demanding things from Kasabian and began pushing her to commit crimes and even murder. This is the point where Kasabian left the family, went to the police, and helped build the case against Manson and the family for their crimes. For the most part, Kasabian (played by Mackenzie Mauzy) plays the wide eyes and open ears of this film, showing how easy it was to be sucked into the Family and how their horrific crimes took their toll and forced her to turn to the police.
The problem is that this tale has been told over and over. Kasabian has been the central character in most of the Manson films, as she seems to be the innocent one swayed by Charlie’s charisma and I guess that’s the easiest tale to tell. I would think a more compelling story POV to use would be someone fully enmeshed in the Family like Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme, who seemed to be as into the killings as Charlie was, at least in this version. In most versions, Squeaky is the one who introduces the new women to the Family and begins upping the ante as Charles’ surrogate mother of the group. Shifting the POV of the story immediately changes things, and while all of the Manson films seem to want to look at Manson from the outside, I think a different POV would have made this film more unique. As is, it feels like I’ve seen this film way too many times for it to stand out.
Films like HELTER SKELTER, its modern remake, and Jim Van Bebber’s THE MANSON FAMILY have given us memorable performances by Steve Railsback, Jeremy Davies, and Marcelo Games as Charles Manson, each with their own subtle nuances. Unfortunately, the Manson we get in MANSON’S LOST GIRLS is hardly around and when he is, Jeff Ward plays Manson with extremely broad strokes, simply opening his eyes wide to show how charismatic he is. Ward’s Manson feels more like an insecure bully and doesn’t really give us anything other than wispy hair, stubble, and rock hard abs to convince us why he may have had so much power over the Family. Better performances come from Mackenzie Mauzy, who plays the wide-eyed Kasabian, and Grace Victoria Cox’s batshit crazy Squeaky Fromme (hence the reason I’d like to see a Squeaky POV film).
Much of MANSON’S LOST GIRLS focuses on the girl power freedom the females of the Family experienced robbing and conning the rich in order to buy drugs and keep Charlie happy. There is also a lot of emphasis on the hippie free love going on, as there are multiple scenes of declothings showing off hairy hippie bodies sliding on top of one another. Add in a never-ending compilation of every clichéd 60s song ham-fisted to signify something that’s going on on screen and MANSON’S LOST GIRLS really does nothing but sugar coat a story that really doesn’t need to be sugar coated--or retold, for that matter.
New this week on BluRay/DVD from The Shout Factory/IFC Midnight!
DEMENTIA (2015)Directed by Mike Testin
Written by Meredith Berg
Starring Gene Jones, Kristina Klebe, Hassie Harrison, Peter Cilella, Richard Riehle, Steve Agee, Julian Bane, Molly McQueen, Morgan Peter Brown, Ruben Pla, Marc Senter, Graham Skipper
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Strong performances lay ahead in Mike Testin’s DEMENTIA, but the story itself and some huge late in the game technical problems make this one a hard one to recommend.
After suffering a stroke, Vietnam vet George (Gene Jones) is diagnosed with dementia and his son Jerry (Peter Cilella) and granddaughter Shelby (Hassie Harrison), who live out of town, feel ill-prepared to take care of him. When a nurse named Michelle (Kristina Klebe) pops in to check up on George, her knowledge of ways to care for patients with dementia impresses his family enough to immediately invite her into the home to take care of him. Almost immediately Michelle starts showing abusive tendencies, but when George tries to tell his family about the abuse, Michelle blames it on his dementia (like the name of the movie) and it’s up to George to remember his combat skills (and some dark secrets from his past) to take on the nutty nurse.
The main problem with this film is that if Jerry and his daughter had taken five minutes to check up on Nurse Michelle, they would have found out crucial information that would have stopped the entire conflict of this film. Anyone else would run a check on someone taking care of a loved one, so to hang an entire movie on neglecting that detail makes the whole thing fall apart afterward. There are ways around this, but it just doesn’t feel like the filmmakers wanted to think this film through all the way to make it work, or maybe they just didn’t care. Most of the story is told in this lazy kind of manner, with the story culminating in a bizarre manner in which characters’ true colors across the board show them in a not so great light. I understand they might have been trying to tell a story with grey characters rather than true black and white, but bucking convention and tossing out logic are two completely different things.
But there’s a bigger problem with this film rather than the hole-ridden beginning and the muddy ending. Through the entire film, the music is pretty intense and wants to sell some moments as more shocking as they truly are with the volume reaches. But in both the DVD and BluRay versions of this film I checked out, the final five minutes of this film has a musical score that is so loud, you can’t even understand what the actors are saying to one another. That would have been ok if the film focused mainly on action, but this is the point in the film where Michelle reveals her motivation, George drops a bombshell about his past, and Shelby makes a crucial decision regarding all of the info dropped. Because one cannot make out exactly what the dialog actually is, this massive info dump at the end wraps everything up in a messy and unfortunate manner. Now, I think even if I would have heard the dialog at the end of the film, I would have been disappointed that the story needs both hero and villain a chance to drop some heavy discourse in order to wrap things up.
Despite the clumsy story and sound gaffes, Gene Jones is really good here, as he is in every role I’ve seen him in (that being Ty West’s THE SACRAMENT and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN). Here Jones conveys an old man’s stubbornness with vulnerability in ways that one rarely sees. Kristina Klebe is very good here as Michelle the psycho nurse. While it isn’t the depthy performance she gave in PROXY (reviewed here), she still is strong in this role. But two good roles don’t make a movie, and there’s too much wrong with DEMENTIA to recommend it. Fans of Jones will want to check it out and there are some solid chills (warning to cat lovers, though, as you’ll be pissed at the way George’s cat ends up), but the story just didn’t follow through with the performances the strong cast offered.
New in select theaters, on DVD and On Demand from Breaking Glass Pictures!
CRUSH THE SKULL (2015)Directed by Viet Nguyen
Written by Chris Dinh, Viet Nguyen
Starring Chris Dinh, Katie Savoy, Chris Riedell, Lauren Reeder, Tim Chiou, Walter Michael Bost, Lincoln Hoppe, Devyn Stokdyk, Katrina Nelson
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
CRUSH THE SKULL is a fantastic mix of horror and comedy, but while most films of this type either embrace one genre or the other wholly and pepper in the other with discretion, this one goes balls deep with the yucks and the laughs.
Ollie and Blair (Chris Dinh and Katie Savoy) are a loving couple who happen to also be a pair of master burglars who muck up a job, ending in Ollie being imprisoned. In order to release him Blair strikes a deal with a local crime lord, leaving them in huge debt, so they pair up with Blair’s bumbling brother Connor (Chris Riedell) and his even bumblier sidekick Riley (Tim Chiou) to break into a house secluded in the hills. What they don’t know is that the house is home to a sadistic serial killer (Walter Michael Bost) and once in, they find themselves trapped in the maze-like hallways and rooms the killer uses to torment his victims.
What stands out first and foremost is that this is a film with a lead that is of Asian descent, which is something we absolutely never see in horror. Usually the Asian guy is the stoner, the kung fu expert, or the computer whiz, but he’s never the guy who calls the shots and gets the girl. So it’s refreshing to see this flip of the stereotype even though if this were a fair world, it shouldn’t be such a treat to see. Filmmaker Viet Nguyen and his cowriter Chris Dinh, who also stars in this film, do a fantastic job of keeping the pace of CRUSH THE SKULL at a breakneck pace. If you’re not jumping you’re laughing, and while I have to say they commit the gravest of sins and go the CGI blood route (which absolutely never looks good), the jumps and chuckles are doled out a plenty.
I laughed quite a bit at CRUSH THE SKULL. It’s a witty film and the cast does a fantastic job of making you care for their safety as well as laugh with and at them. You can also expect to find quite a few unexpected twists and turns by the time this one is through. While it definitely was filmed in a budgetary valley, some great comic timing and quite a few surprising story developments will most definitely make you surprised at how good CRUSH THE SKULL really is. Take a chance on this low fi goodie. Aside from the CG blood, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
New this week on BluRay/DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment!
THE WITCH (2015)Directed by Robert Eggers
Written by Robert Eggers
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson, Sarah Stephens, Julian Richings, Wahab Chaudhry as Black Phillip, and Bathsheba Garnett as the Witch!
Find out more about this film here, on Facebook here, and @TheWitchMovie
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The key to understanding the inner logic of THE WITCH: you have to look at the title itself. Not that this is a difficult film to understand, but if you consider the title “THE WITCH: A NEW ENGLAND FOLKLORE,” it’s much easier to go with the flow with this film and understand the type of story the filmmaker was trying to tell. I say this because in the theater where I saw THE WITCH, there were a few people scratching their heads. Now I know a lot of times pre-screenings of films aren’t always a good indicator as to the type of audience that will be seeking out THE WITCH, but I think it does indicate that there is a difference between horror movie goers—especially ones who only see horror in theatrical releases. THE WITCH is not your typical theatrically released horror; I wish it were typical. I think horror wouldn’t get the stigmatism that is usually gets if there were more movies like THE WITCH, but alas, it’s simply not what you usually see in theaters.
You’re not going to find jump scares or cats jumping through windows or Don Music piano bangs in THE WITCH. THE WITCH is a rock solid story of William (Ralph Ineson), a simple New England farmer who has uprooted his family from a settlement to take off on his own and have a fresh start on a new plot of land. His spirited daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is becoming a young woman, and his God-fearing wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) seems to want her daughter to leave the home as she seems to be somewhat threatened by her daughter’s blossoming. Meanwhile, William’s oldest son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) is beginning to notice his sister’s blooming sexuality as well and while the two are close, this for interests and frightens him. While watching her mother’s infant child, Thomasin is dismayed when the baby disappears right from under her nose. When Caleb goes off alone to look for the baby and returns feverish and with wild stories of a witch in the woods, Katherine believes Thomasin to be the cause of it all and that her daughter is bringing the pall of the Devil’s business onto their home.
THE WITCH, at its heart, is a cautionary tale to be told by God-fearing people to warn their children about evils outside of the comfort zone of the church and home. While there isn’t a bookend to this tale with a camp leader telling a group of children a story around a campfire, that’s exactly what this film is. While many witch stories either illustrate the evil of man and how the threat of womanhood can be stamped down in the name of God (see THE CRUCIBLE or WITCHFINDER GENERAL) or go supernatural and show that there really is an evil presence that goes against the word of God (see CRY OF THE BANSHEE or any other cautionary possession film from ROSEMARY’S BABY to THE LAST EXORCISM), THE WITCH is the first film I can remember to illustrate both sides of the witch argument in an equally compelling and succinct fashion. For much of the film, there is a heavy dose of paranoia and persecution as Katherine’s fanatical belief in God and a series of unfortunate events lead to her claiming her own daughter has been possessed by the Devil. On the other hand, there does seem to be a malevolent presence in the woods, and we actually see an old crone who takes the form of many different creatures or uses them as familiars as the story goes on. Embracing both the psychological view as well as the supernatural view is sophisticated storytelling, and THE WITCH balances on this fence between the two quite deftly. At any time, this film could go either way (a more real world based tale of hysteria or a supernatural tale of real evil forces unleashed) and I would have been ok with it.
Eventually THE WITCH shows its hand and we find out what type of film this is, but by then I was chilled to my very core. The culmination of horrific scenes set upon the backdrop of the undisturbed forest crescendos to a deafening volume by the end. The horrific imagery that plays out in this film is iconic and bizarre. While witchcraft has been shown in films in many forms, writer/director Robert Eggers manages to fill this film with horrific sights and sounds I have never seen before, and while it is patient to get to the horror, every moment is filled with such a heavy dread that you are compelled to never look away, even during the most terrifying of sequences.
The cast of THE WITCH is phenomenal. As Thomsin, Anya Taylor-Joy is the heart and soul of this film. She is still a young girl, but her body is evolving and she is not fully aware of the threat that contains. She shifts from child to adult with an ease and sophistication here that many actresses of her age only dream of possessing. Ralph Ineson’s William is fantastic as the cavernous-voiced patriarch of the family who portrays a prideful man who is trying to keep it together, even after it seems he has made the gravest of mistakes for leaving the colony in the first place. Though she plays more of the stereotypical hysterical woman, Kate Dickie still gives her all as Katherine and this paranoia she exudes is terrifying to see grow. But it is little Harvey Scrimshaw who shines here as Caleb. The scene where he feels as if he is seeing God himself is the most mesmerizing performance I’ve seen from a young actor ever. This little guy has the talent and soul that I haven’t seen in a young actor since River Phoenix and I hope there will be so much more of him to see in future films, as his performance is both crucial and harrowing here as he takes on both the supernatural and the paranoid with a furrowed brow and a look of determination that is convincing despite his age.
Eggers is a true find in horror, and I hope he sticks with this genre. Everything from the look of the outfits to the home to the music which was made with instruments of the times shows the type of patience and expertise with the craft of suspense that the horror genre is lacking in. Every second and every inch of this film feels absolutely authentic. I hate to throw around the “K” word, but there are quiet yet earth-shattering moments that mesmerize that reminded me of Stanley Kubrick, or at the very least Jonathan Glazer’s UNDER THE SKIN. In this film he got scintillating performances from both children and animals, so he should get a medal just for that. I know films released in theaters in February are rarely up for Oscar, but this is a film I would love to see get that type of attention. It surely deserves it.
I really feel sorry for those who are going to criticize THE WITCH for being boring or slow. The film takes its time to map out a complex dissection of the typical American family and all of the faults that go along with that concept. The characters are beyond compelling, and Eggers keeps the characters evolving non-stop from beginning to end, so the static shots contained resonance to me and not a whiff of tedium. While I commend the House that Jason Blum built and all of the horrors he has unleashed through the years, films like INSIDIOUS/CONJURING/PARANORMAL ACTIVITY/SINISTER have become so interchangeable that it’s hard to tell one plot from the other. It’s also conditioned modern audiences to expect a jump scare every five minutes and pandered to the waning capacity for patience in modern audiences. Instead of giving into that, THE WITCH plays with that lack of patience and stretches the anticipation, which will unease you if you’re that type of conditioned moviegoer. And unease is a good thing to feel in a horror movie. That’s what horror is. And THE WITCH is what good horror is. I can only hope people seek out THE WITCH so hopefully, we can see more horror like it rather than the interchangeable crap we’ve been inundated with for the last decade.
Coming soon: Find out more about this film on on its website here!
HANK BOYD IS DEAD (2015)Directed by Sean Melia
Written by Sean Melia
Starring Stefanie E. Frame, David Christopher Wells, Liv Rooth, Michael Hogan, Carole Monferdini, Arthur Aulisi, Jo Young, Ron Rivera, Annie Chadwick, Kam Metcalf, J. Dixon Byrne, Neil Magnuson
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
While it lacks the perversity at play in SPIDER BABY or the gore of TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, the family in HANK BOYD IS DEAD is as twisted as either horror family. Though shot on the budgetary low, imaginative filmmaking, decent performances, and a strong story makes this one a film to look out for.
Hank Boyd is dead. We know that because that’s what the title told us, but while many will not mourn his passing as he was outed as a pervert and a murderer, his family still wants to hold a get-together to honor him. Not knowing she is going to be working at the Boyd house when her caterer co-worker picks her up for work, Sarah (Stefanie E. Frame) is shocked that the wake she is working is for her childhood friend Hank Boyd. But even more shocking is Hank’s family, who have a laundry list of peculiarities and perversities hidden under their pleasant exterior. Now Sarah is trapped in the house and unable to get out, finding one horrifying secret after another in the house’s many rooms and corridors.
Though the crazy family schtick has been used before, filmmaker Sean Melia does some fun things to keep your attention, such as incorporating all kinds of old home movie footage that may be sweet, but paired with the depraved family and dire situation, they take on a more twisted tone. Melia even occasionally incorporates the action in the old movies with the dialog or action in the film, which makes for a nice touch. The acting is coming from a bunch of people you and I don’t know, but they do a solid job, offering performances that make the creepy characters stand out rather than the distracting cardboard acting one normally sees in low budgeters.
And while things kind of wrap up predictably, HANK BOYD IS DEAD makes for some terrifically twisted family viewing. Look out for this one when it’s released later in the year.
Coming soon: Find out when and where on the film’s website here!
I AM ALONE (2015)Directed by Robert A. Palmer
Written by Robert A. Palmer, Michael A. Weiss
Starring Gunner Wright, Gareth David-Lloyd, Katy Bodenhamer Marshal Hilton, Rory Zacher, Robert Allyn, Dave Frank
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Those sick of zombie films and found footage films look out! I AM ALONE is both a zombie film AND a found footage film. Thankfully, though, it’s a pretty decent example of both.
Reality TV survivalist Jacob Fitts (Gareth David-Lloyd) makes a living of immersing himself in harsh environments for seven days and having it all captured on a camera embedded to his helmet and backpack to show up later on syndicated cable. Jacob has prepared for everything…except a viral outbreak which turns everyone into zombies. Bitten and alone in the mountains, Jacob must press on in order to rendezvous with his producer and director at a cabin at the edge of the mountains. But little does he know that civilization is crumbling all around, and his crew are battling for their lives against the undead as well.
While I too am tired of zombies, I’m not so jaded as to write the subgenre off so quickly. I know that among the undead rough, there are some diamonds worth checking out and I AM ALONE works because it pairs found footage with zombies in a fashion that I have never seen before by using the MAN VS. WILD format. Jacob starts off trying to be the enthusiastic educator of all things woodsy, but after he is bitten, the cool exterior melts away and actor Gareth David-Lloyd does a great job of conveying desperation and quickly waning hope. Gunner Wright, who plays Jacob’s producer Mason, also does a good job as he must watch footage of his bitten friend in order to try to find out how the outbreak occurred, spreads, and how it might be stopped as Jacob seems to be turning into a zombie much slower than all around him. All in all, it’s an investigative format that is addictive to watch unfold.
There are some cheats in I AM ALONE--most importantly the use of music where no music should occur if this were really being filmed in the here and now. While Mason is watching footage compiled of Jacob’s plight, it’s doubtful that the military scientist took the time to add a symphony orchestra score to the reel. There are also a few camera views that are sketchy as best and out of the blue at worst. The film also lacks a solid resolution, though the climax leading up to it is extremely intense. I wish, though, some answers were given instead of a sort of lead in to a sequel that may or may not occur. Still, with those cheats and iffy resolution, a compelling story is told, some gruesome effects are used, and some really intense performances are made. I AM ALONE may not sound original in the subgenre boxes it ticks off, but it resonates on a level that makes it feel fresh and hard to look away from.
And finally…here’s another mad short from the Norwegian lunatics at Horror Bizarre--a short filmmaking house that seems to churn out one amazing horror short after another. This one is an homage to the old Amicus film, DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORROR. It’s called DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF PARTY and is bound to make you giggle and gasp. Be sure to watch this one until the end, as it has some surprises after the credits, and check out some of Horror Bizarre’s other shorts here!
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 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller and on his new website collecting posts for AICN HORROR as well as all of the most recent updates on his various comic book projects on MLMillerWrites.com.
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