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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.

Wizardworld has unleashed itself upon Chicago this weekend and I’m reviewing a few of the films playing at the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival below. Those in the area might want to get to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont for the comic book and entertainment world fun. Capone wrote up a sweet piece on the lineup of the Film Festival (which will be taking place at the Carmike Movico right across the street from the convention center) here! No self respecting fan of horror and comics should miss it! Click here for tickets!

Speaking of movie premieres, I ran a contest for a showing of a fun indie horror comedy called KILLER PARTY earlier in the week at the Logan Theater at 2646 N Milwaukee Ave this Saturday at 3:00pm. There are still seats left, so email me here with a subject line “I want to go to a KILLER PARTY!” about passes to get into this showing. The film looks to be a lot of fun and it’s freakin’ FREE! No reason not to check it out!

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

The Boo Tube: FIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD Youtube Series (Episodes 1 & 2, 2016)
Retro-review: MICROWAVE MASSACRE (1983)
Retro-review: FROM BEYOND (1986)
Retro-review: SESSION 9 (2001)
And finally…Kevin Forte’s THE SIN REAPERS: CIARA Parts 1-3!

Available exclusively on Youtube Red!

FIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: EXPERIMENT 88 YouTube Series Episodes 1 & 2 (2016)

Directed by Kevin Abrams, Chris Hall, Tony E. Venezuela
Written by Chris Hall, Tony E. Venezuela
Starring Brandon Bowen, Yousef Erakat, Rahat Hossain, Shanna Malcolm, Tré Melvin, Raya Moab, Dennis Roady, Brittani Taylor
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

The YouTube reality series FIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD takes YouTube celebrities and puts them in a secluded locale, in this case an abandoned hospital and has them achieve various tasks. The catch is that the halls are teeming with actors done up like zombies and apart from having a real zombie apocalypse, this is the closest one can come to the real thing.

I was able to check out the pilot and second episode of FIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and found the premise to be pretty fun. Now, the reality of it all is that the actors know there is no zombie apocalypse and that most of these folks celebrity status are in question as anyone can start up their own YouTube channel and sit in front of their computer talking about themselves. I guess views count, but still, it’s going to come at no surprise to anyone that these contestants aren’t the best team players and are just out for themselves to survive.

But pitting a bunch of vapid folks against one another does have an entertainment value and I must admit, the first few episodes had me rooting for some to make it to the safe zone alive and some to end up a steaming pile of zombie shit. The zombie makeup is pretty decent and they certainly act like zombies. I even like the bloody demises of the characters as they get trapped, one by one, when straying from the group or getting caught in the maze of hospital hallways. While the whole thing is quite goofy as the contestants seem to really want to make an impression, acting as if this is a real life catastrophe, the first few episodes told me that this series is harmless and bloody brainless fare to waste an afternoon on binge-watching. It’s not required watching, but decently put together and fun nevertheless.

Check out the first episode of FIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in its entirety below!

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay/DVD from MVD Visual/Arrow Releasing!


Directed by Wayne Berwick
Written by Thomas Singer (screenplay), Craig Muckler (story)
Starring Jackie Vernon, Loren Schein, Al Troupe, Claire Ginsberg, Lou Ann Webber, Anna Marlowe, Cindy Gant, Sarah Alt, Karen Marshall, Phil De Carlo, Aaron Koslow, Ed Thomas, John Harmon, Norman Friedman, Debra Draper Berwick, Malvina Ackerman, Alex Mann, Elaine Barker, & Marla Simon as the Knothole Girl!
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Good god, this movie is awful. Filled with horrific one-liners and lame attempts at sights gags, MICROWAVE MASSACRE is the ultimate in lowbrow entertainment. This is a film that one endures, not watches.

A pouty and doughy construction worker Donald (Jackie Vernon) is fed up with his nagging wife and her awful attempts at exotic cooking, so he ends up killing her, chopping her into little pieces, and cooking her parts in the microwave. Turns out, the food ain’t half bad and he ends up sharing the meal with his co-workers. Somehow, Donald ends up being a sexual magnet for all types of women, but the only way he can have sex with them is to kill them first, then have sex with them, and then eventually microwave them and eat them. Meanwhile, Donald continues to argue with his wife’s head in the freezer. This goes on and on until SPOILER the microwave sets off Donald’s pacemaker and he dies END SPOILER.

The humor is seriously painful to watch here. The effects are rudimentary. The directing is remedial. The acting is horrendous. And the story is non-existent. There is a lot of nudity, so I guess this film has that going for it. Coming from an age where all you needed was a catchy title and a video camera to make a movie and have it distributed in millions of VHS tape rental stores across the country, I’m sure the filmmakers of this movie made a bundle with this terrible movie riffing off of that fancy new kitchen gadget, the microwave.

This BluRay looks better than the film deserves and has a commentary track by the writer responsible for the film, as well as a picture gallery of the various posters associated with the film. There’s no reason to seek out this film other than to torture yourself, but I’m sure collectors will have to have it.

NSFW: Beware this trailer is full of boobs!

Showing tonight with Barbara Crampton in attendance at Chicago WizardWorld’s Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival (Find this film on Netflix here)!


Directed by Stuart Gordon
Written by H.P. Lovecraft (short story), Brian Yuna, Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon (screenplay)
Starring Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree, Jeffrey Combs, Ted Sorel, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Bunny Summers
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Before I knew any better, I used to think this was a direct sequel to RE-ANIMATOR. To my twelve year old mind, seeing the same characters pittering around with twisted science, it only made sense that these two films were connected. Not knowing who or what an H.P. Lovecraft was, I simply didn’t know better.

All growed up and sophisticated-like, I understand that while this isn’t a sequel it does seem to occur in the same world as Lovecraft’s other works, and though the cast are playing different characters, I can appreciate that some of the crew from RE-ANIMATOR returned for another Stuart Gordon gross-out science gone wild yarn.

In FROM BEYOND, a Dr. Pretorius constructs a machine that allows us to bridge the gap between dimensions. It is a dimension that exists just a skocsh off into our periphery, but once opened, as always, this portal is tough to close and much worse, those who look through this window to another dimension find themselves altered mentally and physically. Some decently heady stuff, and Stuart Gordon, who made RE-ANIMATOR such a classic with its tightrope walk between humor and horror, doesn’t really want to make folks laugh as much with FROM BEYOND. Still, it’s a film that will make you squirm quite a bit.

The squirming, for the most part, comes in the way the look into the other dimension effects people. First, inhibitions are loosened as the pineal gland in the brain becomes enlarged. This makes for some pretty amazing body horror scenes with Jeffrey Combs’ Dr. Tillinghast turning into a brain-eating monster with a pineal gland bursting through his forehead like a third eye. On a much more appealing note, we get to see more Barbara Crampton boobage, which I am always up for, as she dresses in S&M gear and tries to seduce both Combs and Ken (DAWN OF THE DEAD) Foree. The cast, two of which worked with Gordon before on RE-ANIMATOR, seem to be having a blast doing these off the wall things, and though the black slapstick humor such as the reanimated cat sequence and the “giving head” sequence is never quite achieved, the film does has a crazy sense of anything goes that is worth admiring.

The effects of FROM BEYOND are extremely ambitious and successful about 85% of the time. Though some of the monster effects are obviously latex sculpts and KY jelly, some of the effects such as the exposed pineal gland and the floating otherworldly monsters are actually quite amazing.

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from the Shout Factory!

SESSION 9 (2001)

Directed by Brad Anderson
Written by Brad Anderson, Stephen Gevedon
Starring Peter Mullan, David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle. Josh Lucas, Brendan Sexton III, Charley Broderick, Lonnie Farmer, Larry Fessenden, Jurian Hughes, Sheila Stasack, Sean Daly
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

SESSION 9 is one of the most underappreciated horror films in the last twenty years. Instead of relying on jump scares and false frights, it focuses on creating an excruciating level of tension and terror using atmosphere, sound, and solid performances from a pitch perfect cast.

A group of building rehabbers take an assignment in a decrepit and abandoned mental institution to clean the asbestos and attempt to make it manageable to possibly reopen. Gordon (BRAVEHEART’s Peter Mullan) is the leader of this motley crew of working men which consist of his snarky right hand man Phil (David Caruso), white trash opportunist Hank (Josh Lucas), failed law student Mike (Stephen Gevedon), and Gordon’s young mulletted nephew Jeff (Brendan Sexton III). While the size of the job and the scope of the building are awe-inspiring, the group is taken aback most by the remnants of the former tenants of the institution. While they are supposed to be working overtime to finish the massive job in one week, each gets caught up in aspects of the building’s horrifying history and it begins to bring out the worst in all of them.

There’s a complexity to this story that only comes from putting together this fantastic cast and letting them develop their characters into fully thought out people. Each of these guys are motivated by some kind of dark sin; greed, betrayal, guilt, ignorance, and each of their fates are sealed not only by the horrific things going on at the hospital, but also their own transgressions. This is a script that not only fleshes out the characters, but uses these characters to make the story itself feel meaningful and directed by character, not outside events. So when someone dies, not only does it serve a purpose for the story, but it also realizes this characters fate to a satisfying, and horrific conclusion. This type of storytelling, sadly, isn’t in enough horror films, but SESSION 9 sets the standard and is a film that should be studied on how to integrate character and story together seamlessly.

The sounds and music of SESSION 9 are equally amazing. Sometimes backwards music, sometimes simply the twinkling of light bulbs banging against the wall in the wind, all of these sounds, set against the haunting façade of the building and the labyrinthine hallways filled with twisted medical equipment, make for an absolutely palpable sense of horror that never lets up for a moment. The fact that you really don’t see much horror for the bulk of this film is truly a testament to the sound and setting, as together they make it feel like something horrific is going on even when something isn’t. The way this film slowly peels away the psyches of these men is excruciating, but that power comes from the unseen, not the jump scare or the big reveal.

All that and the single best “Fuck you!” in film history.

In the end, SESSION 9 is a terrifying psychological horror film, showcasing the insanity and chaos in all of us. It shows through these five working men that anyone, even your average everyday working Joe, can go mad given the right place and time.

Special features are sparse, but there’s an alternate ending and deleted scenes centering on cut scenes of a homeless woman who lives in the institution that was deleted because it confused audiences. Plus there’s another Horror’s Hallowed Grounds, a making of featurette, a featurette focusing mainly on the Danvers State Mental Hospital where the movie was filmed and a few storyboard to screen moments.

New this week on DVD/Blu-Ray and VOD (Find out how to get it here)!


Directed by Christopher Phelps, Maxim Van Scoy
Written by Ryan Scott Fitzgerald, Christopher Phelps, Stephen Phelps
Starring Wray Villanova, Laura Hajek, Nathan Andrew Wright, Melody Kology, Charles Gaskins, Oscar Allen, Paul Joseph Gagnon, Matthew Howk, Jeff Hayes, Adam Robillard, Dana Curran, Garrett Shore, Caiti Lattimer, Jonathan Phelps, Ryan Scott Fitzgerald, Kevin P. McCullough, Richard Phelps
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

This little bit of retro-perfection isn’t necessarily breaking new ground as much as it is paying homage to one of my favorite type of 80’s films—the slasher. LAKE NOWHERE does so in a manner that is both fun and inclusive to anyone who has a special place in their black hearts for this subgenre.

After a trio of trailers, one for a film I hope eventually is made called HARVEST MAN which is a Lovecraftian story about a farmer and his evil crops that look plentiful at first only to turn out to have a deadly intent, semi-short film (it’s about 35 minutes after the three trailers) LAKE NOWHERE depicts your typical cabin in the woods scenario. The difference is that this film has both a fun and goofy tone, but also a wicked sweet tooth for the red stuff. A creature from the lake rises once the waters are disturbed to maim, dismember, and kill anyone who dares trespass.

LAKE NOWHERE manages to have a tone not even Sam Raimi could reproduce after making EVIL DEAD II into ARMY OF DARKNESS. It’s definitely self-aware, but the characters are playing it straight despite their hammy portrayals. But when the bodies start piling up, it really does become a trilling little slasher flick. There’s an especially intense scene (again reminiscent of the tarot card sequence in original EVIL DEAD) where the editing is amazing as the kids play a fast-paced game of War while the slasher stalks a young woman who is taking a shower, the cutting of this particular scene shows a lot of skill and knowhow in terms of how to build tension and make a scene pop. While this is a short film, the filmmakers took their time making this film and adding quite a few tense, but quiet moments.

Labeling LAKE NOWHERE a comedy is not entirely accurate. It’s more of a romp of a slasher film that basically gets everything right in terms of being creepy, gory, and most importantly, FUN! You just can’t say that about many slasher films, and there are quite a few trying and failing to have this kind of retro feel to it. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’re definitely going to want to check out LAKE NOWHERE and I can’t wait to see what these filmmakers have up their sleeves next!

New this week on DVD from Brain Damage Films!


Directed by Chase Smith
Written by Chase Smith
Starring Tenille Houston, Becca Beton, Libby Blanton, Chase Smith, Christina Klein, Jason Vail, Paul Barlow Jr., April Hollingsworth, John Emil D'Angelo, Kelly Lamor Wilson, Stephanie Davis, Lance Paul, Livi Fenech, Austin Freeman, Michael Howell, Niki Edwards, Robyn Hensley, Leslie Kimbell, Chelsea Howard, Chance Kelley, Michael Maponga, Joshua D. Safran, Giana Alexis Cambria, Chad Sanborn, Allen O'Reilly, Alex-Michael Petty, Windolph Kelly, Shelby Tsuhlares, Jessica Schmahl, Rebecca Thomason, Andrea Joe, Niki Edwards, Brooks Robinson, Nick Heeter, Michael Steigler
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Structuring your film after one of the best horror anthologies of all time (CREEPSHOW), is a daunting task, but this one does it with balls, boobs, and blood. If only the scares were there too…

CREATURE FEATURE starts with a monster under the bed short that actually has a bit of bite and a twist I didn’t see coming in this very familiar scenario. This was a positive sign for the film, starting out on such a strong note. And that strength in story carried over into the second story about a babysitter who is haunted by a life-size clown statue that takes up space in a house she is servicing. While the statue is obviously a real person standing still, there is still a level of creepiness that resonates through this entire segment. The problem is that this level of creep-itude just doesn’t sustain for the rest of the film.

Using the bookends of a trio of partygoers who run into another trio of hot gals who try to out scare one another with spooky stories is enough to keep the structure of this anthology afloat. While the bookends aren’t the best, as they often qualify stories that aren’t so scary as spooky and good, it functions enough to tie these short stories together. The problem is that after the initial clown in the house story, the scares become somewhat redundant and unfortunately ineffectual.

Story three isn’t really a story as much as it is an attempt to tie a knife fingered Spring Heeled Jack with the missing folks from the fated colony of Roanoke. Story four has a pumpkin smasher get his comeuppance from a scarecrow with a scythe. While the Spring Heeled Jack story has some promise, there really isn’t a narrative at play in the third installment to make it so we actually care about the characters being sacrificed. Seeing the origin story of Spring Heeled Jack aka Jack the Ripper is ok, but there really isn’t any conflict or story present to have him do anything in. The problem with the fourth story is that we already had a stalking clown story, so having a stalking scarecrow story feels pretty redundant at this stage and worse yet, the segment just isn’t scary.

Story five is another Spring Heeled Jack story with him taking on a torturer about to kill a young girl strapped to a table. This one at least has a beginning, middle, and end, so it qualifies as an actual story. It’s more torture porn-ish than suspenseful, but at least this one has a competent narrative. Story six is a story where a child sex predator turns out to be something much more predatory when a group of kids are dared to go inside of his house on Halloween night. While this one seems to be one of the more thought out stories, the amateur werewolf transformation and effects just make it feel rather hokey. Plus again, it’s just not a suspenseful story, so this segment itself comes off as rather lame.

The last segment ties the whole thing together as all of the monsters from all of the tales end up attacking out trio of kids out to party. It’s not a terrible way to end the film, but it still lacks suspense and intrigue to make us care about these kids in peril.

CREATURE FEATURE provides a copious amount of rudimentary special effects and boobs which will placate some. But those looking for real scares and imaginative stories might want to look elsewhere. It’s ambitious to pay homage to CREEPSHOW, but this one just doesn’t have the chops story and scare-wise to propel it into CREEPSHOW’s league, though that’s a place it would love to reside in.

New this week on BluRay from Artsploitation Films!


Directed by Joseph Sims-Dennett
Written by Joseph Sims-Dennett, Josh Zammit
Starring Lindsay Farris, Stephanie King, Brendan Cowell, John Jarratt, Benedict Hardie, Tom O'Sullivan, Roger Ward, Gabriel Dunn, Joseph Sims-Dennett, Louisa Mignone
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Being vague can sometimes be a powerful tool in horror. Some of the best horror is indescribable and kept that way through light, shadow, and clever camera work. Vague stories with somewhat inconclusive resolutions don’t bother me either as sometimes, the horrors in your head are much worse than anything someone else can come up with. While films that utilize this storytelling technique are often quite powerful, the amount of vague-itude can only be so much or you are in danger of losing the audience. Unfortunately, despite being a rather effective little horror film throughout, the ambiguity of OBSERVANCE ends up shooting itself in the foot in the end.

A man named Parker (Lindsay Farris) who recently lost his son and has an estranged relationship with his wife because of it, takes a private investigating job to keep his mind off of things. He is to simply watch a woman (Stephanie King) in an apartment from across the street and report in to an unknown contact behind a phone. This sounds like an easy case, but as Parker begins witnessing strange things through the telephoto lens of his camera and in the apartment he is occupying, he begins to realize this case is anything but easy.

I’ll keep the description vague, but this is a vague movie anyway, so I don’t think I’ll be giving much away by saying there’s more to this movie than it seems. It starts out as a REAR WINDOW type scenario, but eventually turns into a psychological breakdown of one man on the edge. For shits and giggles, it also adds a supernatural element of sorts…I think. For the most part, this blending of the supernatural occurrences, the paranoia of being watched, and some surreal dreams of Parker’s boy being overwhelmed by a vast and dangerous landscape, makes for a pretty potent mix of terror and tension. There are definitely quite a few scenes in OBSERVANCE that made me both jump and squirm—one in particular, a MAMA short film-like scene where a contorting woman shape comes running after Parker in a hallway. The filmmakers know how to make a scene creepy by paying close attention not only to the dank atmosphere of the rundown apartment Parker resides in, but also the use of sound, intense close-ups, excellent makeup effects, and a very strong performance by Farris himself. For the bulk of the movie, OBSERVANCE is a potent and nerve-shredding thriller.

The problem is that, while I guess all the answers are shown by the end of this film, it ends with a sense of “what the fuck just happened.” The way things play out, this is definitely a story about the breakdown of a fragile mind, but then again, there are supernatural elements that are simply touched upon (such as the sudden locking of doors in order to keep people inside the apartment and the semi mystical guidance Parker is receiving via phone and dreams) and never really explained. I’m not one to need all of the explanations, but the supernatural aspects of this film are simply too vague to matter and end up being a semi-clever way of keeping people in the apartment when it becomes necessary to the plot. For me, that’s a huge turn off and it left me with a sour taste in my mouth once the credits rolled.

Had the filmmakers gone a bit further or a bit less with the supernatural angle, I might have liked this film a little more. Unfortunately, a tension-filled movie about a man going slowly insane while watching a woman who may be doing the same ended up being kind of jumbled in the end and I was left with too many questions to leave me satisfied. For a good portion of the film, OBSERVACE had me. But the resolution just wasn’t enough for me and unfortunately, it made the whole thing feel rather pointless. I’ll still recommend this film for those who love the feeling of the edge of ones seat—this film accomplishes that feeling masterfully, but don’t expect to have those tensions resolved in a satisfying manner.

Showing this week at Chicago WizardWorld’s Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival from IFC Midnight!


Directed by Danny Perez
Written by Danny Perez
Starring Natasha Lyonne, Chloë Sevigny, Meg Tilly, Mark Webber, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, Emmanuel Kabongo, Neville Edwards, Morgan Bedard, Corey Pascall, Lili Francks, Marie-Josee Dionne, Jessica Greco
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

I don’t know what to think of this film. In some ways it’s a fascinating train wreck of a movie and in others it’s just a train wreck. Whatever it is, ANTIBIRTH is a weird look at irresponsible people doing irresponsible things and not really caring about the ramifications.

Lou (Natasha Lyonne) is thirty-something party girl who doesn’t really keep track of the amount of drugs and men she puts into her body. Going from blackout drunk to hung-over and back again, she works as a cleaning lady for a hotel simply to maintain the lifestyle that was sort of chic during her twenties, but now is just simply sad. The film opens with Lou and her equally drug addicted girlfriend Sadie (Chloë Sevigny) partying with a bunch of folks in an alley before a stumbling Lou is guided away by one of the druggies, seemingly for some unsatisfying sex by a dumpster. But this is no ordinary roofie-rape as Lou wakes up feeling awful and almost immediately fears that she is pregnant from the strange encounter. With her belly swelling at an extraordinary rate and showing symptoms of pregnancy in its later terms in mere days, Lou sets out to figure out what the hell is going on as she attempts to remember events of the blackout which involves experimental government drug testing, trippy psychedelics, and horrifying creatures called Funzone Apes, which are the bargain basement alternatives to Chuck E. Cheese.

If you don’t understand the above paragraph, don’t worry, Meg Tilly crawls out from whatever rock she’s been hiding under to explain everything. And that’s the most important thing I took from this film—that it let me know where Meg Tilly and Natasha Lyonne has been in recent years. The performances are pretty fun in ANTBIRTH as Lyonne moves through life in an aloof and reckless manner that will infuriate some (I was a more than a little disgusted by her behavior to be honest) and give others relief that their lives aren’t as bad. Lyonne plays this party girl character well and I’m a fan of her offbeat choice in films, but much of this performance feels a little too on the nose and while I don’t want to make accusations, this feels less of an act and more like she is just playing an amplified version of herself. Still, there’s a sadness behind this character that sometimes has a chance to shine through in certain parts of the narrative, specifically when she allows herself to collapse and sleep rather than simply fuck, snort, and drink herself into oblivion.

ANTIBIRTH is trying to be a grittier and gaudier version of THE HANGOVER where Lou is trying to piece the events of her blackout together while dealing with the ramifications of what happened. The problem is that Lou is a pretty disgusting character living a horrific lifestyle, so it’s hard to sympathize with someone who smokes like a chimney and drinks beer like she has a hole in her neck while being pregnant. Sure she is using this to cope with the horrors her body is going through—and these horrors are abundant, not only with the typical pregnancy stuff, but scaling skin, blistered feet, undulating belly, and psychedelic flashbacks are also detailed in an extremely gross fashion. Because this is such an ugly life Lou leads, it’s hard to care about a bit of it she can’t remember, especially when it involves a being impregnated by someone or something she doesn’t even know.

The ending of ANTIBIRTH is where the train cars start to pile up. Culminating in a trippy confrontation between all parties involved; including government agents, a hysterical Tilly trying to be Lou’s midwife, and Lou undulating on the floor giving birth to…something so ludicrous that you have to see to believe, ANTIBIRTH is a film I have to admire, but I don’t necessarily have to like. The film’s ending is pretty insane, but also quite inane, which is a good way to describe the film as a whole. While I can’t quite recommend it, as it doesn’t achieve what it ultimately sets out to achieve (that is, tell a sympathetic story with a very unsympathetic character), ANTIBIRTH is one of those beautiful disasters that seems to be made by someone living outside of our own morality and reality. This makes the whole mess interesting, for sure, but not necessarily good.

Showing this week at Chicago WizardWorld’s Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival from IFC Midnight!


Directed by Billy O'Brien
Written by Christopher Hyde, Billy O'Brien, from the novel by Dan Wells
Starring Christopher Lloyd, Laura Fraser, Max Records, Karl Geary, Tony Papenfuss, Bruce Bohne, Matt Roy, William Todd-Jones, James Gaulke, Michael Paul Levin, Tim Russell, Dee Noah, Dane Stauffer, Elizabeth Belfiori, Christina Baldwin
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Mixing deep psychological conflict with a supernatural entity is not an easy task, but I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER does so in a memorable and masterful sort of way.

Max Records plays John Wayne Cleaver, son of the local mortician April (BREAKING BAD’s Laura Fraser) and budding serial killer. At least, that’s what John thinks he is as he has all of the symptoms that lead to becoming a someone who murders others without remorse; bed-wetting, fire-setting, animal-torturing, and a morbid curiosity for gruesome and otherwise unsettling subject matter. John sees a counselor Dr. Neblin (Karl Geary) and the two have an open relationship where John talks about his feelings, or lack thereof. Being an outsider, though, has its benefits, as John sees things that others don’t and when people start dying in his small town at a rapid rate, John begins to suspect the kindly old man next door (Christopher Lloyd) of the wrong doings. But is the old guy a serial killer or something far worse? Hint: he’s far worse.

What makes I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER such a compelling story is that as a straight up psychological thriller, this is a top notch story as it is fascinating to see the world through John’s eyes. Actor Records does a great job of emoting that cold, vacant but pained look of someone who is trying his hardest to not be what he, in his mind, is destined to be. Seeing John interact with bullies and his outcast friend in school is fascinating; a captivating scene occurs at the school dance when a bully approaches him and John turns the tables and scares thee shit out of him simply by telling him what he is thinking about at that particular moment. The family drama is never over the top, but simply states the facts as well as Fraser makes what could be a clichéd role as a single mom struggling to make ends meet and make things nice for her troubled son into something much more textured and nuanced. The first half of this film, though somewhat reminiscent of DEXTER-THE TEENAGE YEARS, really does captivate.

But the latter half, where we see that something rather bizarre is occurring in John’s world and it has to do with the old guy next door turning into some kind of slime creature and eating the hearts of people in the city. Using what he knows in his “training” to become a serial killer, John is able to counter Lloyd’s elderly monster character at every turn. This dangerous cat and mouse game is thrilling given what we have learned about John in the first half and compounded when the supernatural elements are introduced. Even the ending, which is simple and rather straight-forward, has a sort of sweetness to it, despite the fact that it involves a pile of bodies and a horrifying, black and slimy creature.

I am fascinated by the way I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER unfolds. Filmed in a grainy, 70’s style manner, I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER has a wonderful handling of the intricacies and turmoil of being a flawed human being in ones teenage years. The film takes place at a moment where John could fall either way—serial killer or normal person, and handles that delicate balance gracefully and effectively. It’s a story that is unique as it also is able to juggle both emotional drama and supernatural danger with an even hand. There aren’t many films out there that are able to do this, but I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, with it’s fantastic cast and simple, but nuanced story achieves it eloquently.

And finally…a while back I played SIN REAPERS Part One for you from Kevin Forte. The story talks about a pair of Reapers who are set to avenge a young girl named Ciara who has been abused and murdered. Parts One through three have been released since that initial episode, and while the final one is due out at the end of the month, I’ll present you all with these first three parts and share the last one later! For more information about SIN REAPERS: CIARA you can visit the website here ! Enjoy SIN REAPERS: CIARA Part One!

And Part Two!

And Part Three!

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

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!

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