Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its sixth year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days. That said, there were more on this list that DID have a theatrical run than in previous years which means the horror genre does seem to be on the upswing. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video On Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay or digital download.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2015 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column five years ago!) and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth nothing or missed being on the list by a little bit for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
THE MIND’S EYE (2015)Directed by Joe Begos
Written by Joe Begos
Starring Graham Skipper, Lauren Ashley Carter, John Speredakos, Larry Fessenden, Noah Segan, Matt Mercer, Michael A. LoCicero, Jeremy Gardner, Patrick M. Walsh, Brian Morvant, Josh Ethier, Susan T. Travers, Chuck Doherty, Jesse Dufault, Graham Reznick
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Joe Begos burst onto the scene a short while ago with ALMOST HUMAN (reviewed here) an ode to John Carpenter which modernized Carpenter’s style, subject matter (specifically THE THING and maybe a bit of STARMAN), and even swiped the font for the title credits. Some felt this homage was a bit too on the nose, while others felt it was the emergence of a fresh new voice in horror. This year, Begos is making waves once again with another film that lifts quite a bit from films like David Cronenberg’s SCANNERS, Brian De Palma’s THE FURY, and maybe a bit of FIRESTARTER and THE DEAD ZONE tossed in there, but still offers up enough fun to make it much more than just parts from previous genre films.
The film follows the troubled life of Zach Connors (played by the almost-too-much-looking-like-Elijah-Wood-that-it’s-scary Graham Skipper—who starred in Begos last film) who is picked up by the police as he wanders through a small town, much like John Rambo in FIRST BLOOD. After a run-in with he cops where Zach displays telekinetic powers, Zach is put on the radar of Dr. Slovak (John Speredakos), who runs a clinic that specializes in treating people with psychic powers. In this clinic is Rachel (the always amazing and beautiful Lauren Ashley Carter from DARLING and POD), Zach’s missing girlfriend who also has powers of her own. Agreeing to return to the clinic with Slovak, Zach uncovers the doctor’s true intentions, which is stealing spinal fluid from the psychokinetic patients for selfish means. After a bold escape from the clinic, Zach and Rachel must face a psychokinetic-powered-up Slovak and his thuggish guards in order to regain their freedom.
Because there have been iconic horror movies made from this subject matter, comparisons are going to be many to those films I listed above in the first paragraph. And while they are valid comparisons, instead of accusing a lift, I feel Begos did a fantastic job of diluting what made those films about psychic phenomena so effective and was able to put together a really fun action and intrigue flick with a whole lot of gore and a ton of genre actors be sloshed with it. No horror fan should be disappointed as this film does a lot of the things SCANNERS did and while I give Cronenberg credit for the masterpiece that is SCANNERS, I found this film just as fun. Yes, there is a slo-mo exploding head, but man, does it come at a time in this film that fits perfectly with the intensity of the action going on. There’s a lot of really soppy, gooey gore in this film and I applaud Begos for going for broke with the wet stuff in this hard edged actioner. While the scope is pretty small, and most likely the budget was as well, money was spent on effects and they are definitely worth every penny.
The other appeal to this film is that it stars some of the most loved faces in indie horror at the moment. Lauren Ashley Carter doesn’t have as much to do here as she did in POD and DARLING, but what she does is great, providing the heart of the film with Rachel’s relationship with Zach. Graham Skipper is damn great here as the lead and John Speredakos fills the shoes of the villain comfortably with a lot of growling menace. But the smaller roles are filled out with folks of equal talent such as the Godfather of modern horror Larry Fessenden as Zach’s Dad, THE BATTERY’s Jeremy Gardner as a jittery guard, CONTRACTED’s Matt Mercer as a fellow patient in the clinic, THE DEAD GIRL and STARRY EYES’ Noah Segan as a guard with powers of his own, and I especially enjoyed the down to earth snark from ALMOST HUMAN’s Michael A. LoCicero as another guard at the facility. All of these familiar faces showing up in one movie makes this a genre fan’s treat.
THE MIND’S EYE also offers up a synth score and special sound effects that take this film to another level of cool. The sound effects used to exemplify when powers are being used is very cool as is the Carpenter-esque synth music played throughout, once again calling back to the 80’s. Sound is important here as most of the time, the camera is being focused on two guys grunting at one another as they try to fight each other with mind power. This could come off as goofy as hell, but with some finessed usage of sound effects, music, and editing, these scenes of mind battle come off as exciting rather than laughable.
One thing I noticed is that there’s an awful lot of spitting in THE MIND’S EYE. Unless Begos is going for a specific gimmick or inside joke, I’d advise the filmmaker to watch the amount of saliva being hacked forth from mostly all of his actors. Loogeys are spat in faces in defiance and down at fallen opponents by almost everyone in the cast and it got to be quite fun to predict who is spitting at who as this film proceeded. That said, THE MIND’S EYE is yet another example of how filmmaker Begos is able to make big time horror on a low budget. Someone give this guy more money. If ALMOST HUMAN and THE MIND’S EYE are any indication, Begos is bound for greatness in the world of horror.
#22 – THE MIND’S EYE
#23 – DARLING
#24 – SUN CHOKE
#25 – THE HALLOWS
#26 – OVER YOUR DEAD BODY
#27 – SUMMER CAMP
#28 – EMELIE
#29 – BASKIN
#30 – I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
#31 – SOUTHBOUND
2015 #1 – THE CANAL
2014 #1 – PROXY
2013 #1 - MANIAC
2012 #1 – THE WOMAN
2011 #1 – THE LAST CIRCUS
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.
A quick plug for my own work. I have a new comic book coming out this December called THE JUNGLE BOOK HOLIDAY SPECIAL: BAGHEERA’S SECRET. It’s a one shot reteaming my original JUNGLE BOOK artist Carlos Granda and myself (the same team who created PIROUETTE) and it is available to order now via Previews order# OCT162113. I’m getting pages of this book by the day and this book looks absolutely amazing so far. Fans of jungle adventure are going to love it! Please support me by telling your local comic book store to order tons of issues of this comic! Much appreciated, folks.
Look for Johnny Destructo, Stephen Andrade, Christian DiBari, and my own ramblings about random horror films on CultPop/PoptardsGo and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday (or so…)!