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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

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, 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 and let me know what you think of it!

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On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: THE OBLONG BOX (1969)
Retro-review: THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977)
Retro-review: MANHUNTER (1986)
Advance Review: MASSACRE COUNTY (2015)
And finally…Suit of Light’s “Break Open the Head!”

Retro-review: Available on BluRay from Kino Lorber/Scorpion Releasing!


Directed by Gordon Hessler
Written by Lawrence Huntington (screenplay), Christopher Wicking(additional dialogue), based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe
Starring Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Rupert Davies, Uta Levka, Sally Geeson, Alister Williamson, Peter Arne, Hilary Heath, Maxwell Shaw, Carl Rigg, Harry Baird, Godfrey James, James Mellor, John Barrie, Ivor Dean, Danny Daniels, Michael Balfour, Hira Talfrey, John Wentworth, Betty Woolfe
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Man, Edgar Allen Poe sure was obsessed with being buried alive. So many stories and thus there have been so many adaptations revolving around the concept of the horrors of being buried prematurely. But while the concept has been well explored, the difference in directors and their explorations of the subject somehow makes it feel fresh—even if Vincent Price has starred in most of them. THE OBLONG BOX is yet another that has all of the qualities of a great Poe adaptation; a premature burial, a phenomenal director, and of course, Vincent Price.

Price plays Julian Markham, a rich entrepreneur whose many trips to Africa have awarded him riches due to their suffering. But on their last trip to the Dark Continent. Julian’s brother Edward (Alister Williamson) falls victim to a tribal curse leaving him mad and disfigured. The curse was intended for Julian, but Edward suffers immensely and eventually appears to be dead. But while Julian sends grave robbers to steal a body that looks like Edward in order to save his family’s reputation, other grave robbers end up being surprised out of their knickers when they find out that Edward is not dead. Aided by the noble Dr, Newharrtt (Christopher Lee), Edward copes with his disfigured face, his fractured mind, and his lust for vengeance against his brother Julian.

Right from the start, director Gordon Hessler (who also directed CRY OF THE BANSHEE, SCREAM & SCREAM AGAIN, MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, and later the ninja epic PRAY FOR DEATH) sets his work apart from the usual distanced and staged look one finds in typical Hammer and Amicus films of the era by loosening the camerawork up a bit and giving us first person POV’s and extreme close-ups. I’m used to seeing Price and the actors around him grandly stepping amidst an elaborately decorated set in a gloomy castle. The castle is still elaborate, but taking the camera off the tripod adds an air of danger to this film that isn’t there in those earlier Hammer films which feel firmly attached to their tripods. These details may be old hat in this age, but especially the POV shots of Edward stalking and killing his victims feel especially revolutionary for the time. The extreme close-ups also add a level of tension and a too-close-for-comfort feel to the horror; specifically when we zoom into the face or eyes of someone experiencing absolute terror (as this film does numerous times, including its dramatic ending shot). Hessler does a fantastic job of placing the viewer right up in there with the terrors the characters are feeling or the oddity that is conveyed in the witch doctor rituals, which are somewhat clichéd, but effective nevertheless.

Price is, as always, a highlight of any film he is in. Here he is a much more diabolical character in Julian, but he also shows a quivering weakness that you usually don’t see from him in his more commanding performances. Alister Williamson is equally commanding behind a velvet hood reminiscent of the Masque of Red Death in some ways as the cursed Edward. Christopher Lee has a smaller role, but as always, his presence is commanding and is made more important through the way her delivers his lines as a cautious doctor pulled into this web of murder and lies woven between Edward and Julian.

One problem with THE OBLONG BOX is that the face of Edward, which is hyped up to be absolutely abhorrent and left unseen through most of the film, does not live up to the hype when it is finally revealed in the final moments. It’s just some goopy mess on the cheek of the actor afflicted with the curse, but people react to it as if he’s got the Elephant Man’s mush under that red hood. This is the only disappointment though in an extremely effective little tale of guilt, revenge and bloody murder. Price and Hessler are at the top of their game here and those looking for a loose Poe adaptation with actual chills and scares should look no further than THE OBLONG BOX.

Retro-review: New this week in a new Killer Dames Collection Vol.1 from MVD Visual/Arrow Video!


Directed by Emilio Miraglia
Written by Fabio Pittorru, Massimo Felisatti, Emilio Miraglia
Starring Anthony Steffen, Marina Malfatti, Enzo Tarascio, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Umberto Raho, Roberto Maldera, Joan C. Davis, Erika Blanc, Ettore Bevilacqua, Brizio Montinaro, Maria Teresa Tofano, Paola Natale
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

This cool Killer Dames Box Set from Arrow collects two ghoulish tales of gals coming back to haunt and murder set to the Giallo format we all know and love. I’ll be covering THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES (love that title) in an upcoming column. This time around, though, it’s time to check out THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE.

Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen) suffered greatly when his red-haired wife Evelyn died. His shrink tells him to go out and get laid, but that only leads him to want to torture women with whips and chains. So when another ginger-haired beauty named Gladys (Marina Malfatti) crosses his path, he immediately falls in love with her and brings her to his estate to marry him. But almost as soon as Alan and Gladys move back into his castle, they both begin having visions of a skull faced ghost haunting the grounds. Alan thinks the ghost of his dead wife is back from the grave to punish him, but it’s possible something a little more insidious is going on.

THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE is goofy fun. From the odd S&M scenes where Alan tortures redheads simply because he doesn’t want to fall in love with them to the over-complicated plot that pushes Alan to the brink of sanity; this is one of those Giallo films with shady folks in the shadows lurk and plot while the main character feels like he is going mad. While usually in these types of Giallo films it’s a leading lady who is the witness to a murder and thought insane for believing a conspiracy is afoot, this one focuses on a man—though Steffan plays things equally hysterical here. There’s also the laughable ending where the villain must explain every detail of the complex plot that always makes me chuckle. While this is clichéd now, it’s quite quaint to watch in this film as there is no way this film could not have come to a resolution without a long monologue by a moustache twirling bad guy.

That said, the visions Alan experiences are actually quite terrifying—specifically the scenes of what appears to be Evelyn’s skeletal corpse rising from the tomb. These scenes are done really well, utilizing some shocking imagery and effects with fantastically dramatic lighting. As goofy as the plot gets, these scenes of terror do the trick and make this film scarier than most Giallo classics. This cult classic is extremely dark in tone and though it does fall into conventional Giallo goofiness, there’s something a bit more macabre about THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE than most of the films contemporaries. This disk comes with an interview with one of the fated redheads Erika Blanc, another with critic Stephan Thrower about the film as well as a commentary by Troy Howarth.

Retro-review: New on BluRay from Kino Lorber/Scorpion Releasing!


Directed by Kevin Connor
Written by Edgar Rice Burroughs (original story), Patrick Tilley (screenplay)
Starring Patrick Wayne, Doug McClure, Sarah Douglas, Dana Gillespie, Thorley Walters, Shane Rimmer, Tony Britton, John Hallam, David Prowse, Milton Reid, Kiran Shah, Richard LeParmentier, Jimmy Ray, Tony McHale
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Picking up a short time after THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (reviewed here), THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT begins with a rescue crew sent to retrieve Doug McClure’s character Bowen Tyler who tossed a message in a bottle that he was lost in the land that time forgot at the end of that movie. Turns out the message was found and Tyler’s life-long friend Ben McBride (Patrick Wayne) leads a new mission to try to find him. MOTEL HELL (reviewed here) and THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS (reviewed here) director Kevin Connor returns along with McClure to bring another film full of high adventure and human monsters.

Ben brings along plucky scientist Norfolk (Thorley Walters), comic relief pilot Hogan (Shane Rimmer), and raven-haired reporter Charly (Sarah Douglas, who would go on to play Ursa in SUPERMAN II) on an aircraft which quickly crash lands in the land without watches (or any other modern amenities, for that matter). Quickly they run into the buxom and fur bikini-ed Ajor (Dana Gillespie), the sole survivor of her tribe who has clues to Tyler’s whereabouts. The group sets out to rescue Tyler, but runs into ferocious cavemen, ruthless samurai guardsmen, and creatures thought long extinct along the way.

What I love about Kevin Connor’s films is that he jam packs all sorts of ideas into one film which give his films the sense that it is overflowing with creativity. In MOTEL HELL, it was a pig head wearing cannibal with a country smile and a garden full of people buried to their necks. In THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS, its killer crabs, evil soup, and samurai ghosts. Here, Connor springboards off of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT and tosses in stop-motion dinosaurs, alien looking samurai, and green mystics who worship volcanoes. If this odd crew of explorers aren’t battling pterodactyls, they are duking it out on the edge of a volcano. The whole thing feels like a roller coaster and therefore is a whole bunch of fun.

The typical action-movie clichés abound here as the brawny hero doesn’t like the leading heroine at first, that is, until she lets her braided hair down and falls into his arms. This clichéd back and forth between the two of them gets rather tired, especially when you know they’ll end up smooching at the end.

But Connor doesn’t let you dwell on the schmaltzy stuff for long and throws a stegosaurus or arrow shooting madmen at you and soon you forget the usual stuff and just bask in the serial adventure fun this film oozes from every frame. The monster effects are decently done (some of them are puppets, while others are stop motion) and the various costumes are elaborate and vividly colored. Much of the film is done on a movie set, so there is a STAR TREK quality to the seemingly natural sets. But they make up for it by doing some vast exterior shots full of explosions. As an added bonus, shrewd eyes will be able to pick out a young David Prowse who went on the play Darth Vader! In the end, THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT was a damn fun film that goes broad with the acting, but does a fine job with the thrills.

Retro-review: New this week on a BluRay Collector’s Edition from The Shout Factory!


Directed by Michael Mann
Written by Thomas Harris (novel), Michael Mann (screenplay)
Starring William Petersen, Kim Greist, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Dennis Farina, Tom Noonan, Stephen Lang, David Seaman, Benjamin Hendrickson, Michael Talbott, Dan Butler, Michele Shay, Robin Moseley, Paul Perri, Patricia Charbonneau, Bill Cwikowski, Alex Neil, Norman Snow, Jim Zubiena, Frankie Faison, David Allen Brooks, Elisabeth Ryall, David Meeks, Bill Smitrovich, Peter Maloney, Chris Elliott
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

The classic detective vs. serial killer flick MANHUNTER has been rereleased in a glorious 30 year anniversary edition from the Shout Factory with all the trimmins. But even bare bones, MANHUNTER is one amazing achievement in cinema.

Michael Mann does a fantastic job of bringing Thomas Harris’ story to life following the tragic life of Will Graham (William Petersen) who has the ability to get into the heads of the killers he tracks down. Graham’s latest case hits close to home when his boss, Jack Craford (this time played by longtime Mann collaborator Dennis Farina) shows him photos of entire families slain by a serial killer who wishes to be seen by his victims for who he truly is. But returning to profiling means Graham has to revisit his most traumatic case and come face to face with Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox), a cannibal who he put away years ago. Every moment is crucial as the next full moon will shine over another dead family at the hands of Francis Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan), the murderer the media has dubbed The Tooth Fairy.

Everything about this film is electric. From Petersen’s overly intense portrayal of Graham to Cox’s subdued and much more unsettling version of Lecter (misspelled as Lecktor in this film for some reason). Mann had been developing his style on MIAMI VICE and much of the dramatic lighting and unique way of capturing a world always in danger of falling off the edge into the ocean is transferred to this film. At times the film is beautiful in its scenes of violence and the potential of it (such as the sleeping tiger Joan Allen caresses) and other times its crudely banal in the way the film’s final moments are depicted. This is a film so serious that it could have easily been considered over the top and melodramatic, but the intensity and power from everyone involve prevents it from becoming so. As a detective yarn, it all works because like Graham as he works the puzzle pieces of this investigation through his head, the audience, for much of the film, is along for the ride, trying to solve it as well.

If there’s a criticism I have for MANHUNTER it’s that there are bits and pieces of the film that are edited in an almost alien manner; specifically the ending where Graham and Dollarhyde have their final showdown to Iron Butterfly’s “In A Gadda Da Vida, Baby.” The never-ending song punctuates the action well, but weird edits when Dollarhyde takes on the ascending police force and his final shootout with Graham are choppy and simply odd. I don’t know if this was a directing choice or a mishap in the editing room, a rushed final production or simply lost footage, but these final moments always stuck in my craw as downright off.

Because I hadn’t seen it before, I watched the directors cut of MANHUNTER this time around. On the surface, I didn’t really notice a lot of differences with the versions I’ve seen in the past, but it does look like there are a few details which didn’t stand out when I first saw MANHUNTER many moons ago. These details mainly come in the form of bits and pieces of script that were edited out, but these bits suggest a bigger universe and elements which come to light in future films featuring Hannibal Lecter such as mentions of two survivors from Lecter’s rampages—one is in an infirmary and the other (who we later find out to be Mason Verger) is in an asylum. There are also more tidbits about Lecter’s capture and more on Will’s method of placing himself in the role of the killer.

One of the more fascinating scenes is another one that only appears in the director’s cut which takes place after Graham takes care of Dollarhyde. Will ends up on the doorstep of the house of Dollarhyde’s intended next victim. It appears he is there just to reassure himself that they are safe, but the line, “I just wanted to see you.” echoes Dollarhyde himself and takes on a more sinister tone if one is to believe Graham is still in the mind of the killer—so far in that he may have been drawn to their doorstep to kill them. That’s not what happens, but seeing the way Graham is portrayed in the TV series, it makes it all the more plausible that Graham may have been drawn there for less than heroic motivations.

MANHUNTER exists as somewhat of a product of its time with boppy pop music songs and electric lighting that highlights a surreal otherworldly feel to the dark world Graham and his serial killers exist in. It’s a fantastic film and should be given more credit as it basically has the same story structure as SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, yet that’s the one that gets all the recognition. Seeing it again and knowing the different permutations this story has been through over the last 30 years make me respect this film all the more as both a unique crime noir thriller and a trailblazing piece of serial killer investigation nailbiter.

This BluRay release contains both the director’s cut and the theatrical versions with audio commentary from Mann during the director’s cut, new interviews with Petersen, Allen, Noonan, Cox, DOP Dante Spinotti, and the composers behind the iconic music of the film. MANHUNTER is a film that should occupy everyone’s shelves and it’s never looked as good as it does in this edition.

New this week on DVD from Brain Damage Films!


Directed by Paolo Bertola
Written by Paolo Bertola
Starring Gino Barzacchi, Gabriel Cash, Riccardo Serventi Longhi, Crisula Stafida
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Scraping the bottom of the barrel in ScyFy-esque crap, ARACHNICIDE really does hit a new low in terms of this type of low budget monster movie mayhem. The story is thread-bare as a group of mercs are sent into the den of a drug lord who is using an experimental procedure to stimulate the growth in their products. Predicting the authorities raiding his compound, the moustache-twirling bad guy imbues the local spiders with this procedure and the mercs are forced to take on an infinite number of spiders the size of Chryslers.

Where to start in the criticism of this film? Let’s begin with a positive. Though it adopts every first person shooter game cliché, when the spiders do show up in ARACHNICIDE, the scenes of marcs versus spider action is decently done. Sure those scenes are repetitious and feel overly animated, but when the action finally comes, this film delivers in a somewhat appetizing way.

That said, there is very little else worth praising in ARACHNICIDE. The film is horribly dubbed, filled with non-actors, written only to get us to the aforementioned scene of merc v. spider carnage, and delivers nary a scare or thrill. I paid close attention to when the actual spiders show up, and it takes 53 minutes of stock footage, throwaway scenes of military banter from faceless commandos, typical scenes of communications rooms with people staring at screens, helicopter arguments on the way to the mission, long shots of scenery; basically anything to kill time and make this a feature length film. So much time is wasted; it really is astonishing how long they can prolong the horrid monotony until the eight-leggers show up. And even when they do, the repetitious scenes of people shooting spiders with machine guns gets tiresome pretty quickly.

ARACHNICIDE is barely a movie and not worth serious filmgoers time. It’s got merc on bug action, but even that wears thin by the time it finally happens. Skip this one.

New this week on DVD from Midnight Releasing!


Directed by Maurizio del Piccolo, Roberto del Piccolo
Written by Roberto del Piccolo
Starring Julian Boote, Peter Cosgrove, Holli Dillon, Lisa Holsappel-Marrs, Emanuele Ignomirelli, Paola Masciadri, Federico Rossi, Sean James Sutton
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

EVVIL SOULS has the sparks of something really evil within it. There really is an evil core to this film that is pretty terrifying. This comes out in poetically terrifying lines of dialog and snippets of horrifying acts. The problem is that the film itself has difficulty piecing those dark moments together and overcrowds it with too many subgenres of horror.

The film follows a group of children who have grown up and lead very different lives. Some have become successful. Some have kids of their own. And some have matured to live a much more darker and dangerous lifestyle. Now one of them has decided to reunite them all, bind them with chains and torture them.

EVIL SOULS has a palpable dark tone and incorporates elements from the possession, torture porn, ghosts of the past, serial killer, and even Nazi subgenres of horror—and that ultimately, is what is the main problem is with this film. It’s just too crowded with weird elements and I don’t think all of them really fit well together. By cramming so much, there’s a sort of disconnect, as if the filmmakers were so into the subject matter that they just didn’t have enough distance to see if it was entertaining or made a lot of sense.

It’s too bad as there are some extremely delicate and intricate details added to this film such as a haunting cello-laden score and creative masks and facial paint that would be right at home in the era when MTV was making videos. Unfortunately EVIL SOULS gets bogged down with its own convoluted storyline which doesn’t fully commit to one subgenre or another and ends up being a hodge-podge of a film that is difficult to understand and enjoy. There’s talent behind the camera here, but it’s just not clearly presented.

New this week in select theaters, On Demand, Amazon, and iTunes from Magnet Releasing!


Directed by David Farr
Written by David Farr
Starring Clémence Poésy, David Morrissey, Stephen Campbell Moore, Laura Birn, Deborah Findlay
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Strong performances make THE ONES BELOW a thriller worth looking into, but the story seems not-so vaguely familiar.

Clémence Poésy plays Kate, a mother to be who has reluctant feelings about becoming one though her husband Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) tries to be supportive despite her feelings against it. As her delivery date approaches, the apartment below is rented to a new couple who are expecting a child as well. Though odd, Kate is drawn to Jon and Theresa (THE WALKING DEAD’s David Morrissey and Laura Birn), but after a tragic accident, Kate’s fascination becomes paranoia as she believes the people downstairs want to steal her newborn child.

Borrowing elements of the hysterical pregnant women theme done most successfully in ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE ONES BELOW stands out mainly because of the stellar cast. Poesy is excellent as the complex Kate, who has issues with her own mother causing doubts that she will be a good one to the baby growing in her belly. This film works mainly because of Poesy’s performance as the main conflict is that she is fighting for a baby she doesn’t even know if she wants for sure. When the threat comes, though, she does slip into protective mother mode, but by that time, her reluctance to accept motherhood has driven wedges in her own relationship, so when she voices her suspicions, it’s difficult for her husband to believe. Both Morrissey and Bim are great here too. Bim is equal parts naive and cunning as the story proceeds and we find out more about her relationship with her husband. Morrissey, as he did with his role as the Governor on THE WALKING DEAD, does a great job of embodying threat and power in very subtle yet controlling lines and movements.

These performances make a pretty typical story feel much better than it really is. In many ways, this follows the same pattern of ROSEMARY’S BABY as the world around Kate begins to close and no one seems to want to listen to her, writing her paranoia off on pregnant hysteria and spiked hormones. Towards the end of the film, there are some shocking turns that are bound to cause a start in viewers who have become invested in the characters. These late developments deliver in shock value, but doesn’t change much. If you’re looking for feminist themes, this is definitely a film that highlights the difficulty of a woman being heard. Even those closest to her won’t believe her and writes her off as mentally deficient when she attests something is wrong. I don’t always buy into feminist theory, but with this film, the shoe fits.

All in all, it is fun to see the Governor in a more subtle, yet still powerful and dangerous role. The film is capably made and has a whopper of an ending, but it definitely follows the same path made by ROSEMARY’S BABY before it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that while it’s well acted and Morrissey and Poesy are good, the story of THE ONES BELOW feels very familiar.

Coming soon from One Eyed Films!


Directed by André de Campos Mello, Marcos DeBrito
Written by Marcos DeBrito
Starring Leonardo Miggiorin, Paulo Vespúcio, Francisco Gaspar, Rafael Raposo, Marcela Moura, Larissa Queiroz, Fernando de Paula, Bia Gallo, Beto Brito, Olivia de Brito, Lincoln Shedd
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Being a appreciator of the often terrifying subgenre of horror involving clowns, I found a lot to like about this comedy of errors and horrors from Brazil.

MASSACRE COUNTY begins with a bloody clown chained to a chair in a police office. It’s evident something heinous went down, but unclear exactly what. The police officer wants the bloody-spattered clown to confess to the murder of a group of kids, but the clown attests that he is innocent. We then jutt back into time and see the whole weekend play out with the story intermittently checking back with the clown in cuffs still professing his innocence, though the story unfolding suggests otherwise as the group of kids who set out to have a sex and booze filled weekend at a private condo soon meet up with a chainsaw wielding, pig-head wearing monster and his shotgun blasting gal pal. The clowns show up later, but they are not as innocent as the clown in cuffs says.

At the beginning of MASSACRE COUNTY one of the guys in this gaggle of soon-to-be dead kids asks the other if he has seen THE DEVIL’S REJECTS. And while the kid pissing next to him hasn’t, the filmmakers behind this film sure did as a lot of the grit and gristle of THE DEVIL’S REJECTS and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE before it shows up in MASSACRE COUNTY. A hitchhiker is picked up. A group of kids battle a chainsaw wielding maniac who wears the flesh on the dead on his face. And an interrogation occurs with a smug character who knows more than he is letting on. Add the clown paint and a heaping amount of gore and MASSACRE COUNTY feels an awful lot like Rob Zombie’s sole perfect movie.

That said, as homage goes, MASSACRE COUNTY pays homage to THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, TCM, and other grindhouse greats in a pretty solid fashion. Yes, a lot of it is a bit too on the nose in terms of specific details, but those behind this film at least do a decent job of crafting a scenario where there are layers of evil and alliances between these different layers are made in an interesting fashion as the story goes on. Seeing two plots from two different bad guys go down at the same time (one more twisted than the other, mind you) is the kind of plot-play that I like to see in films and while there are a lot of familiar going on, the way the story unfolds at least tries to be something a bit different.

The ultimate no-no aka CG blood is used occasionally in this film. This never, ever looks good and doesn’t here. But the level of carnage, the twisted plot, and the sheer depravity of the characters make this a satisfying, albeit dark, dank and familiar little gore fest. Sure the kids are annoying as they focus mainly on sex, dancing, and hooking up, but some twisted clowns (one of which has double jointed fingers which make him all the freakier) and some skin-mask wearing maniacs make MASSACRE COUNTY a foreign gem to look out for.

Currently playing at the Chicago Critics’ Film Festival (will be released later this year in September from The Shout Factory)!


Directed by Christophe Gans
Written by Christophe Gans & Sandra Vo-Anh (screenplay), based on the original book by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
Starring Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux, André Dussollier, Eduardo Noriega, Myriam Charleins, Audrey Lamy, Sara Giraudeau, Jonathan Demurger, Nicolas Gob, Louka Meliava, Yvonne Catterfeld, Dejan Bucin, Wolfgang Menardi, Mickey Hardt, Arthur Doppler, Elisabeth Bogdan, Marie Gruber, Gotthard Lange, Max Volkert Martens, Richard Sammel, Nora Huetz
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF and SILENT HILL director Christophe Gans offers up an absolutely gorgeous fairy tale that is a beauty to see unfold. Because of Disney, we all know this tale as old as time, but it has never looked so breathtaking.

When a rich merchant (André Dussollier) loses his fortune, he must sell his estate and move his family to a simple home on the French countryside. His children are devastated by the loss, refuse to get used to living the simple life, and resent their father for putting them in this place—all but Belle (SKYFALL’s Lea Seydoux) who makes the best of what they have and appreciates the little things in life. When the merchant becomes lost and happens upon an abandoned castle, he encounters a vast fortune and attempts to make off with it, not knowing that the castle is occupied by a monster in the shadows. Capturing the merchant, the monster makes a deal with him that he may see his family one last time before returning to his castle, but once Belle gets wind of this, she decides to protect her father from his doom and go to the castle in his stead. At the castle, she meets this Beast (voiced by Vincent Cassel) who is actually a cursed prince himself and the two begin to for a relationship of sorts. But as money hungry bandits make their way to the castle, the budding romance between Belle and her Beast is set for tragedy.

First and foremost, this is one eye-popping, jaw-dropping visual extravaganza of a film. Every scene has so much detail, you’ll find yourself scanning the entire area of the screen to soak in all of the sumptuous colors, intricate details, and gorgeous sights. Gans artistic eye was shown in SILENT HILL as he made the video game world come to life with dark streets and harrowing monstrosities. Here, he focuses on the labyrinthine forest filled with mazes of vines, bushes, trees, and undergrowth; all richly alive. The countryside is stunning as every scene feels like a masterpiece painting.

Once in the castle, again, this film is alive with detail as the Beast’s castle is aged and dusty, but every corner is elegant and stunning. As Belle makes her way through the castle, she literally brings it back to life and every room dazzles with ornate floors and interiors. Again, everything looks like a painting and the work done on this film by the cinematographers and decorators (both virtual and real) should be commended. It’s absolutely breathtaking to behold.

The rest of the CG is pretty good as well. The Beast himself looks monstrous, yet still regal. The scenes where he monsters out are truly thrilling and there are scenes of slo mo action where the Beast pounces for attack that are filled with cool. But occasionally, the Beast and his pack of little hound-monkey creatures which serve as comic relief much like the candle, clock, and tea kettle did in Disney’s animated version, have an animated quality about them that makes them feel just a bit outside of the world the rest of the film was made. It’s close and there are some great moments with this CG, but it’s just not as perfect as the scenery and décor.

Seydoux is breathtaking as Belle. She exemplifies the princess aesthetic and looks the part. She also is able to pull off the stubborn part of her character that allows her the grit to stand up to the monstrous beast. Though he is mostly CG, Cassel does some great voice work here, putting a growl in his voice when necessary, but softening it for the quieter scenes. But even during these scenes, there is a little animal snarl in everything he says.

This is a fantastic tale told by a director who knows how to make every scene worth pausing and soaking in. While this isn’t exactly horror, there are some extremely thrilling moments in this film as the Beast defends his castle with monstrous giant sculptures come to life and writhing vines. This is a big and brassy film that isn’t afraid to have dire consequences, yet it’s the type of film I would have loved to have seen as a kid. Sure there’s a tiny bit of nudity in the form of a butt crack, but that’s nothing. It’s much better and more feels at stake than with the characters in a saccharinated Disney cartoon come to life flick. It’s a shame that since this film is in French, it’ll be delegated to the art house theaters, but Gans’ BEAUTY & THE BEAST will be available later this year through The Shout Factory.

And finally…here’s a freaky sci-fi wasteland-esque music video from the band Suit of Lights. If you want to learn more about this band and its music, check out its website here. Now sit back and tap your toe in some toxic sludge and listen to the catchy and groovy “Break Open the Head” from Suit of Lights!

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

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