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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. A new year, a new batch of horror films. Let’s get on with them!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: THE GORE GORE GIRLS (1972)
Retro-review: C.H.U.D. II: BUD THE CHUD (1989)
Retro-review: WAXWORK II: LOST IN TIME (1992)
Retro-review: SLIME CITY MASSACRE (2010)
THE COOK (2013)
THE SNARE (2017)
LET’S BE EVIL (2016)
Morgan Spurlock’s RATS (2016)
And finally…Gabriel Olsen’s THE BRIDGE PARTNER!

Retro-review: Recently released on BluRay with THE HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS FEAST Collection from Arrow Films/MVD Visual!


Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Written by Alan J. Dachman
Starring Frank Kress, Amy Farrell, Hadda Lubin, Henny Youngman
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

The amazing Arrow Films and MVD Visual have put together the ultimate collection of films and specials focusing on the true Godfather of Gruesome, Herschell Gordon Lewis. I totally missed the news that Lewis passed away this past September and hearing the news really hit me this week as I had a chance to chat with Lewis a few years ago and found him to be an absolutely charming and fascinating man. Here’s another one of his best films from this awesome collection.

Like THE WIZARD OF GORE, THE GORE GORE GIRLS is filled with stomach-churning segments of bodily harm and decimation. Again, Lewis shows his interest in the ugliness of the human spectacle as he tells the story of a series of murders, all of the victims go-go dancers, and a detective who is dedicated to finding out who and why.

Thematically, the story is strong, but man is this film a tough pill to swallow. The acting is the pits and the writing is ham-fisted with numerous characters having to explain their motives and motivation in lengthy discourse. Even after the crime is solved and the murderer is unmasked, the detective has to over explain again the reasoning behind it all.

Still, there are moments of goodness to be had with THE GORE GORE GIRLS. Henny Youngman makes an appearance, again most likely highlighting Lewis’ spectacle theme by focusing on a stand up comic. Youngman being quite popular at the time, this was probably a big draw. The death of the murderer who falls from a two story window and then is run over by a passing car is hilarious and almost ends the film on a redeeming note, if not for the forced explanation towards the end.

If you’re looking for over the top gore and lots of it, this flick is going to satiate that gore jones. But beware: though thematically sound, this is rough stuff to sit through as the acting and clumsy writing are bound to put off some. By far not my favorite of Lewis’ gore films, but still, this is one for you gore fiends out there. Somewhere Lewis is looking down and smiling that this collection was made and more people can be nauseated and offended by his legacy. I can’t wait to revisit the films in this collection. Look for more reviews of Lewis’ films featured in THE HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS FEAST in upcoming columns of AICN HORROR!

Other films in this collection reviewed here on AICN HORROR!

Retro-review: New on BlyRay from Vestron Classics/Lionsgate Home Entertainment!

C.H.U.D. II: BUD THE CHUD (1989)

Directed by David Irving
Written by Ed Naha (as M. Kane Jeeves)
Starring Brian Robbins, Bill Calvert, Tricia Leigh Fisher, Robert Vaughn, Larry Cedar, Bianca Jagger, Larry Linville, Judd Omen, Jack Riley, Sandra Kerns, Norman Fell (!!!),June Lockhart, Rich Hall, Robert Symonds, Priscilla Pointer, Jo Ann Dearing, Jamie Lynn Grenham, Clive Revill, James F. Dean, Gregory Phelan, Tony Edwards, Zachariah Sage Kerns, Robert Englund, & Gerrit Graham as Bud the C.H.U.D.!
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

C.H.U.D. was not a great movie. It was an extremely flawed movie with some very cool bits including some nicely orchestrated scenes of monster attacks and a veritable who’s who of up and coming superstars in film and TV. You can check out my review of the film here. A sequel to a flawed movie doesn’t seem like the best way to go, but this was the eighties and with the popularity of sequels in the slasher franchise as well as the big budget box office balls of the sequels to ALIENS and THE FLY II, everyone was trying to cash in on horror with a watered down sequel to a horror film. Cue C.H.U.D. II: BUD THE CHUD.

The C.H.U.D. experiments are finally discontinued despite the support of warmonger Colonel Masters (Robert Vaughn) who has been trying to use the C.H.U.D. procedure to make the perfect super soldier. The final infected body is set for destruction, but is accidentally activated when two bumbling high schoolers Steve and Kevin (respectively, the human large mouth bass and Vinnie Barbarino substitute from HEAD OF THE CLASS Brian Robbins and his nebbish friend Bill Calvert) misplace their science class’ cadaver and swipe a ripe cadaver from the local military hospital (that cadaver being the set to be destroyed C.H.U.D. named Bud (Garrit Graham)). With the military on their heels and Bud biting and infecting everyone who crosses his path, it seems it’s up to Steve and Kevin to save the day for some reason.

I am under the firm belief that no one sets out to make a bad movie. It just sort of happens. Be it the awful casting (in this case the use of horrible actors intermingled with some fun ones like Norman Fell, Larry Cedar, Larry Linville, Rich Hall, June Lockhart, & Jack Riley) or horrible story (which this film definitely has) or lack of budget or a simple misunderstanding of the source material (in this case the already mentioned flawed original film), there are many factors that can go into a film that can lead it down the path of suck (which this film surely doth tread). In this case, I think the filmmakers saw RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and tried to squeeze that plot into a C.H.U.D. film. While the writing isn’t up to snuff, it seems like the filmmakers were trying to capture the lightning in a bottle that ROTLD possessed (something even the sequels of that film were unable to tap into as well). There are the same attempts at gallows humor. The same attempt to have a young and hip cast fighting the undead. And the same attempt to mix that humor with horror. The only difference is that while RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD did all of that really nicely, C.H.U.D. II: BUD THE CHUD does the exact opposite resulting in an unfunny, unscary, unhip mess of a movie.

leads are utterly horrible with Brian Robbins half the time acting witty when the writing doesn’t allow him to and the other half trying not to swallow the rest of the cast and crew with his enormous mouth. Apart from some gnarly dentures the C.H.U.D.’s wear and some slime covered mannequins during the climax of the film, there is little to no effects to speak of. Graham as Bud is another misstep as the comic actor plays everything cartoonishly. I kept imagining another actor in this role and wondered if it was just Graham’s desperate attempts at comedy that left such a bad taste in my mouth.

I really do struggle to find positive things to say about this film. I will say that Robert Vaughan is the best part of the film. Seeing his overzealous actions taking glee in the horror Bud is unleashing while all the while half-assedly attempting to stop him is truly fun. I also kind of liked it that a poodle was responsible for much of the carnage (though it happen off screen, unfortunately). Finally, while the entire film leading up to the climax is awful, the goofiness of the impromptu science and the school swimming pool used as a way to defeat the C.H.U.D.’s was actually kind of decent (though I immediately flashed back to the climax of IT FOLLOWS at the pool which was equally as ludicrously realized). In the end, C.H.U.D. II: BUD THE CHUD failed to live up to any intention of goodness, if it even tried to be, which I hope it did. This BluRay (which most likely is recommended to the guy who needs everything, and I mean, EVERYTHING) comes with very little bells and whistles. Still, if you’re a C.H.U.D. completist, and I guess I can call myself that now since I have both, you’re going to want to grab this for the spot next to the original C.H.U.D. on your shelf.

Retro-review: New on BlyRay from Vestron Classics/Lionsgate Home Entertainment!


Directed by Anthony Hickox
Written by Anthony Hickox
Starring Zach Galligan, Monika Schnarre, Martin Kemp, Bruce Campbell, Alexander Godunov, Maxwell Caulfield, Michael Viela, Michael Des Barres, Bob Keen, Emile Gladstone, Jim Metzler, Sophie Ward, John Mappin, Harrison Young, Marina Sirtis, Stephen Painter, Billy Kane, Joe Baker, Juliet Mills, Drew Barrymore, John Ireland, Patrick Macnee, David Carradine, George 'Buck' Flower, James D.R. Hickox, Robert Kass, Buckley Norris, Jonathan Breznihar, Mark Courier, John O'Leary, Erin Breznikar, Elisha Shapiro, Stefanos Miltsakakis, Erin Gourlay, Alex Butler, Shanna Lynn, Kate Murtagh, Anthony Hickox, Yolanda Jilot, Caron Bernstein, Dorian Langdon, Rick Kleber, Laurie Rose, Godzilla as himself, & Paul Jones as the Hand!
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

The original WAXWORK (reviewed here) was an entertaining romp with some fun actors involved, a nice tongue in cheek temperament, and some fantastic gory effects all in an homage to the old HOUSE OF WAX films. If only the sequel would have continued in that vein. Unfortunately, WAXWORK feels like a melted down version of other popular films of the time rather than a continuation from the first film, which is too bad.

After the events of the first film, Mark and Sarah (Zach Galligan and Monika Schnarre who replaced the excellent Deborah Foreman from the original) make their way from the burning down waxworks to their homes. Unbeknownst to them, they are followed by a severed hand from the waxwork and that hand kills Sarah’s father (the iconic George “Buck” Flower). Sarah is accused of the crime and set to be convicted, but Mark has a plan after uncovering an amulet that can open portals in time. Their plan is to find some kind of relic of the past to help clear Sarah’s name, but they end up getting lost in different eras and acting out scenes from Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN, ALIEN, and a generic 80’s fantasy film.

The problem with WAXWORK II is that it doesn’t really happen inside a waxwork, so the thing that distinguished the original from so many other films (that being a group finding themselves sucked into different wax displays and fighting the monsters in them) isn’t there. In its place, Mark and Sarah find themselves jumping around in time not unlike another time jumping film that was popular during this film’s creation, the BACK TO THE FUTURE series. There is still portal jumping, it’s just that the piece of the puzzle that made the film unique with the displays is tossed and instead it feels like a QUANTUM LEAP/BACK TO THE FUTURE ripoff. And while the original did a fantastic job of recreating stories and warping them into something different and unique (I’m thinking of the vampire scene and the Marquis de Sade scenes, but also even the short werewolf scene), this one out and out rips off past incarnations of these monsters such as Frankenstein and the Xenomorph from ALIEN without any flourish or flair. So we get a lame outer space scene with a plastic Alien that is beyond the budget of what the film had (and it shows) and a lame Frankenstein interlude that is played for laughs rather than scares. The whole movie feels as if it is going too hard for the laughs and forgets its horror movie roots as if writer/director Hickox was using this as a means to get out of the horror movie industry and into something bigger and mainstream. The film even has a rap song attached to it, as every horror film did back in the day to capture the “urban market” which is about as lame as it gets.

Sarah’s character is completely different as well. Gone is the virginal girl with a secret kinky side that the Marquis de Sade exploited so well in the first film. In this one, she’s simply a damsel in distress and while she quite easily forgets Mark every time she shows up in a new scenario (which isn’t a good sign for the future of their relationship), the most interesting thing about her character is lost between films.

That said, there are a few great moments in this film. Most of them are played for laughs, but they work such as the Bruce Campbell scenes where his character, bound to a rack and suffering from an open chest wound exposing all of his ribs keeps getting dropped face first on the floor. Later, as Mark battles his captors, a bag of salt is accidentally tossed onto the wound causing more pain for Campbell to wince at. Once again, no matter how small the role, Campbell is the highlight. Another nod to EVIL DEAD II comes in the form of a battle between Sarah and the severed hand. While they are fun, it is quite obvious this film was directly lifting from Campbell’s fight with his own hand in Raimi’s film. Maybe it was meant to be homage, but it feels like an out and out steal.

Thank the lords that this sequel is attached to the original WAXWORK film in this double disk as it definitely doesn’t deserve its own special edition. It just doesn’t hold a candle to the fun that the original achieved.

Retro-review: New this week on a double feature BluRay from Camp Motion Pictures!


Directed by Greg Lamberson
Written by Greg Lamberson
Starring Jennifer Bihl, Kealan Patrick Burke, Debbie Rochon, Robert C. Sabin, Brooke Lewis, Mary Bogle, Roy Frumkes, & Lee Perkins
Find out more about this film here!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

They say you can’t go home again, but writer/director Greg Lamberson doesn’t seem to know this. Lamberson is the creative madman who brought us the gory cult classic SLIME CITY waaaaaay back in 1988. Recently, Lamberson revisited Slime City and put modern twist to it. SLIME CITY 1988 ( which I reviewed here
) was a gory and surprisingly metaphorical story about addiction. In SLIME CITY MASSACRE, Lamberson continues to explore this topic with amplified gore and even more insightful metaphor.

A dirty bomb is dropped in New York City, turning it into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Now folks are desperate for food, shelter, and safety. One couple attempts to make it through the apocalypse and happen upon another couple, in hopes to survive by sharing food and amenities. Soon the quartet happen upon a secret room untouched by the dirty bomb which fans of the original film will recognize. In the room are bottles of elixir and what looks to be some kind of yogurt paste. Hungry, the couples dig in, but soon they realize that something is off. They act more impulsively and savagely and their bodies begin to lose their consistency. As slime begins to ooze from their pores, the survivors realize that in order to stop from becoming a puddle of slime, they must kill.

The science behind this film is wack-a-doodle, so if you like your horror sci fi on the realistic side, this may not be the film for you. But SLIME CITY MASSACRE excels at being inventive with its gore and expanding on the themes of addiction. Some of the effects are inspired. One man has bottles shoved into his eyes and when he leans forward, ooze and blood pour out the tops. One of the survivors decomposes into a puddle of ooze in a bathtub and urges her husband to kill in order for her to get her consistency back. The effects work is over the top, more reminiscent of early Troma, but still toe-curlingly gory.

The themes of addiction to both drugs and cults are also touched upon as the origins of the slime concoction are explained and the couples struggle to overcome their addiction to the elixir. In both cases, Lamberson shows that more than just a gorefest is going on with SLIME CITY MASSACRE. With more than impressive scenes of practical effects and a pretty sophisticated handling of complex themes, SLIME CITY MASSACRE proves to be a thinking man’s gross-out horror film. It’s a whole lot of fun, too.

New from MVD Visual as a part of the AMERICAN FREAKSHOW Collection!


Directed by Matthew Broomfield
Written by Matthew Broomfield, Frank Walsh, Eric Broomfield, Jon Cobb, Roger Hammer III, Barry Silver, The Enigma
Starring Nicole Alexander, Eric Broomfield, Carrie Brown, Elisha Caplan, Jon Cobb, Mike Dombrowski, The Enigma, Roger Hammer III, Nick Lerman, Jay Mozzilla, Rob Newman, Ju-Yeon Ryu, Han Salzman, Barry Silver, John Red Stuart, The Enigma, Joe Tiberino, Frank Walsh


Directed by Matthew Broomfield
Starring Albert Cadabra, Eric Broomfield
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

This double disk collection features a look inside of the world of the modern sideshow. One of the films features a DIY/low low budget fictional effort starring all kinds of carnies and sideshow performers. The other is a documentary showing how that very unusual lifestyle helped save one man from the brink of death. While I wouldn’t call either of these films full on horror films, they do fall into the category of the cinema of the weird and fits in nicely with the odd shit that is usually discussed here at AICN HORROR.

THE UNHOLY SIDESHOW aka FREAKSHOW APOCALYPSE is a low fi spectacle of a film that has big ideas and a broad scope (maybe too broad) and stars many sideshow attractions doing their sideshow thing. Among them is the always entertaining The Enigma, a performer adorned head to toe with tattooed puzzle pieces, piercings, and modified horns under the skin of his forehead. The story is of epic proportions as a troupe of carnival performers are recruited by a secret society of magicians, mystics, and vampires to take on hordes of the undead which have been unleashed upon the earth. So it’s freaks vs. zombies in this one and while the gore is fun and the human oddity performances such as sword swallowing, fire breathing, flesh piercing, contortion, and magic tricks involving lots of gore. The story screeches to a halt numerous times in order to highlight these tricks and performances, but I didn’t mind because these were the most interesting bits of the film. The story actually drags ass pretty heavily when the performances are not going on, so these acts of human extremism are the reasons I’d recommend this film as it does highlight them in a fun manner. So while the acting is low quality, the attention to pacing is poor, and the sound is downright rough, THE UNHOLY SIDESHOW succeeds in showcasing these performances in a clear manner. Being interested in that type of culture (I wrote a comic book about it called PIROUETTE – the trade of it will be available in the Spring, BTW), I found myself intrigued by this film simply for the glimpses at these performances. So while the story is inspired, the execution is a tough pill to swallow outside of the performance bits.

A CLOWN’S RECOVERY is a different film all together documenting the life of Eric Broomfeld also known as Jelly Boy the Clown who sustained burns over most of his body after an apartment fire. Broomfeld was uninsured and struggled financially, as well as physically and mentally after the incident. But this is not a doom and gloom documentary. It’s a tale of survival against the odds as Broomfeld recovered and returned to the circus more invigorated and lively than ever before. To this day, he performs feats of body extremism such as the “human blockhead” trick as well as twisted magic tricks involving lots of blood and gore. Pieces of the film are animated, others are set to awesome indie rock music. All of the film pulls back the curtain and really highlights how the sideshow industry is not just a business, it’s comprised of folks who think of each other as family. Despite the gruff and odd exterior, this is a fantastic film about how people without homes can ban together to make one for themselves and how when one of them is hurt, they circle the wagons to care for him. Again, this offers yet another look at carnie life, but unlike THE UNFOLY SIDESHOW, it does so in a more uplifting and less fictionally narrative form. Often horrifyingly mesmerizing, but brutally honest and sometimes downright heartwarming, A CLOWN’S RECOVERY is a truly unique doc.

The 2-disk collections also comes with a tour and featurette focusing on the Pennyland Amusement Park where many of the characters featured in this film reside. While this isn’t a film set for many, I know there are a few freaks out there, like me, who can’t get enough of carnie life. It’s a fun little subgenre that doesn’t get enough attention. And while the production values are rough, there is a whole lot of talent and creative ideas at large in these sideshows and on this AMERICAN FREAKSHOW 2-disk collection!

New this week On Demand from Brain Damage Films!

THE COOK (2013)

Directed by Joshua Miller
Written by Joshua Miller
Starring Jeremy Castaldo, Amber Tranum, Ashley Elizabeth Pierce, Josh Emanuel, Kitt Bender, Libby Chancellor, Cyrus Crane, Corey Douglas, Mathew Fasano, Jamie Lee Fife, Samantha Fugate, Samantha Green, Randy Holmun, Joshua Miller, Micah Miller, Stephen Miller, Susan Miller, Krista Nagle, Samantha Neal, Cassandra Pickens, Spencer Pogue, Trey Sweeten, Adam Michael Wright, Kylie Wright, & Wade Blevins as The Cook!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

An iconic character is good to have in a horror film, but that’s not all of it if you want a successful, and in this case, complete movie. Had more attention been taken with the story of THE COOK (specifically resolutions to multiple plot points), it would have made for a much more fulfilling watch.

After the death of his sister in an abandoned park, a TV star returns to his home to put together a benefit party in her honor at the same location which happens to be near the hideaway of a meth cook who murders anyone who gets too close to his lab.

Had THE COOK simply been a rampage movie where we follow the title character as he massacres one person after another for an hour twenty, I wouldn’t mind the fact that the story wasn’t really nuanced or detailed and would have sat back and enjoyed the mindless carnage. But writer/director Joshua Miller decided to fill the entire first half of the film with this story of a TV star returning home to have a party for his dead sister, his search for love, and the unrequited love one of his longtime friends has for him. The script develops a love triangle between the TV star, his longtime friend, and a new girl he meets at the party. But once the Cook begins his rampage, all of that relationship stuff is tossed aside and some or all of the members of this triangle are simply murdered with no resolution to any of this. Now, this being a horror film, I wasn’t looking for a heart wrenching romance story, but if it is introduced into the narrative, some kind of resolution should be put in there too. Otherwise, all of that relationship talk is just filler and that’s what it feels like the first half of this movie is.

Though he simply looks like a member of the JACKASS squad or a bass player for an LA metal band, The Cook (Wade Blevins) does get a lot of very cool kills in this film. Though he says very little, his linear rampage killing everyone in sight is fun for the last half hour of the movie. Miller also has both a gift for fun and flourishing lines like “If you buy from him, you’re lookin’ to see God. And ain’t nobody come back from seein’ God.” and using staccato editing to unleash a truly psychedelic experience as the Cook’s mixtures kick in. This is a visual feats of a film, especially during the trippy moments. I just wish THE COOK had a stronger story to match the visuals.

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

THE SNARE (2017)

Directed by C.A Cooper
Written by C.A Cooper
Starring Eaoifa Forward, Dan Paton, Rachel Warren, Stuart Nurse
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Three twenty-somethings find themselves trapped on the top floor of an abandoned condo building without food, water, or contact to the outside world. One of them, Alice (Eaoifa Forward) is a victim of abuse, finds herself closer than ever to the edge of her sanity as all three begin withering away.

THE SNARE is a pretty effective little haunted house film with less emphasis of things going bump in the night and more to do with the way solitude peels back one’s humanity. The two girls and a guy scenario is joked about by the sole guy in the group as a wet dream, but once the threesome is truly are trapped in this small condo with no way out, sexual politics is but one area explored in a most bestial fashion. It is explained that the two girls (Alice and Lizzy – played by Rachel Warren) have been longtime friends, but even before they were trapped, Dan Paton’s Carl character is pretty unlikable and it’s hard imagining anyone wanting to spend time with the crude and sleazy dude. Once the doors are locked, hallucinations and bad dreams begin, mainly from Alice’s perspective and these scenes are pretty effective as shot through a washed out lens.

There is very little joy at all in this drab little movie, even before they become trapped, so there’s no real indication that this is meant to be a fun trip at all. In fact, despite it being implied that Alice is a victim of incest and rape in the opening moments, there’s no indication that Lizzy knows about this, so even if this is meant to be a fun trip, it feels more like a rescue from Alice’s perspective. The film’s resolution is also extremely dark and dour as the trapped three are forced to succumb to their worst traits before being able to leave. This leads to a final scene that is effectively chilling, especially in terms of what we know about Alice’s past.

This is definitely not the feel good film of the year, but it is well acted, and the feeling of dread and despair is thick with THE SNARE. If you’re looking for a film with slowly opening doors and a ghost in the basement, this isn’t it. But THE SNARE is potent at bringing the psychological terror and leaving you with a hole in your heart.

New on DVD/BluRay from IFC Midnight and The Shout Factory!

LET’S BE EVIL (2016)

Directed by Martin Owen
Written by Elizabeth Morris, Martin Owen, Jonathan Willis
Starring Kara Tointon, Jamie Bernadette, Isabelle Allen, Elizabeth Morris, Elliot James Langridge, Helene Wilson, Paul Casar, Brooke Johnston, Martin Owen, Jonathan Willis, Sophie Willis, Jules Brown, Natasha Moore, Shirley Clemmet
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

LET’S BE EVIL tries to do something different with the found footage first person motif and while the latter half of the story falls into convention, it definitely stands above the herd in terms of something different for the found footage subgenre. As with previous found footage reviews, I have a sort of criteria I use to review found footagers as believability is one of the things that I find crucial in whether or not the film is worth checking out. Here’s how LET’S BE EVIL stacks up.

What’s the premise?
Set in the near future, three camp counselors of sorts are invited to watch over and supervise a learning center for a group of gifted children who are constantly hooked up to computers. The counselors are to watch over the kids, who spend the entirety of their days learning things about the universe, deciphering codes, and figuring out equations that will help form their minds to their ultimate potential. But one of the counselors, Jenny (played by the Jean Grey-eque Elizabeth Morris) wonders whether having the kids hooked up to computers all of the time is good for them (imagine that?). After connecting with one of the children, Cassandra (Isabelle Allen), it appears the rest of the kids are having fun at night by teasing and bullying Jenny which spirals into something much more dangerous. Everyone wears Augmented Reality Glasses which allows the viewer to watch this film through the first person POV switching between the three counselors.

Are the actors believably acting like they aren’t acting?
The acting is above par and really does elevate this film to a more sophisticated level by humanizing the tech we are seeing play out on the screen. The counselors are as amazed at the technology and the education of the children as we the viewer are, so we are walked through the process through their eyes. Because this is all new, the wide-eyed wonder the counselors experience that turns to terror when things go bad are made more personal because the three leads (Morris, Kara Tointon, and Elliot James Langridge) do such a great job of creating distinguished and likable characters who are slowly realizing that they are being toyed with by these kids.

Does is seem like this footage was actually found and not untouched by additional production (which means there is no omniscient editor making multiple edits or an invisible orchestra providing music)?

Because we are sort of experiencing this film live, controlled by the internal computer of the facility, I didn’t mind the edits between the three counselors POV’s. This would be annoying had this been a modern setting and would have had me wondering who edited this all together, but the futuristic setting made me forget all of that and just go with the flow. Everything else seems to happen in frame, making the whole film feel more authentic and real despite the futuristic setting. There are instances of clicks, beeps, percussion, and rises and falls of ambient sound which sometimes can be written off as flaws in the viewer we are looking through, but definitely become more evident towards the end and aren’t really necessary.

Is there a valid reason the camera isn’t dropped and they just get the hell out of there?
Since the counselors are wearing the Augmented Reality Glasses and use them to communicate with one another across the expansive facility, there is less of a reason to toss the camera down and run. In many ways, the glasses serve as a way for the counselors can communicate with one another which becomes crucial when things become more dire.

Is the lead in too long and the payoff too short?
Not really. This is a really well paced film. It gives the viewer a chance to soak in all of the future stuff before it begins tossing in the main conflict which is the kids sort of rebelling against their counselors. Once that starts, the film begins to fall into your conventional run around and screaming mode that often occurs with found footagers as things pop out of nowhere and one if forced to view things from someone else’s POV, which induces tension, but has been done a million times in found footage films’ frantic climaxes. So while LET’S BE EVIL starts out distinguishing itself from other films of its type with the future setting, once the ball drops, things start feeling very familiar. At the same time, the imagery is manipulated by the kids, so it makes you doubt everything you see and hear.

Is there an up-nose BLAIR WITCH confessional or a REC-drag away from the camera?
Nope and I’m hoping all of these movies would evolve past these horrible clichés that contribute to many people scoffing at the subgenre.

Does anything actually happen?
There is a definite killer kid vibe going on here where the kids are no more than mindless monsters moving en masse around the facility trying to murder the three counselors. Seen before in THE BROOD, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, BLOODY BIRTHDAY. and THE CHILDREN, this always is creepy and proves to be successfully so here as well. That said, the climax and ending of LET’S BE EVIL is convoluted and really doesn’t summarize up what is going on in a satisfying package. So while this definitely isn’t one of those films where there is a lot of walking around in the woods with a glimpse of something before the credits, as with many found footage films, this one is going to leave you with a not finished feeling in your gut.

Does the film add anything to the subgenre and is this one worth watching?
The futuristic setting is something new for the found footage genre and it frees up some of the logistics that bog down the genre such as “how was this footage found?”, ‘”why are they still filming?”, and “how was this all edited together?” While LET’S PLAY EVIL’s ending might leave a lot to be desired, it definitely proves that found footage isn’t something that just can be set in the here and now and thus also proves that it is a subgenre that might very well be around for a while given that it crossed over into sci fi so seamlessly.

New on DVD/BluRay from Artsploitation Films!


Directed by Rodrigo Gasparini, Dante Vescio
Written by Guilherme Aranha, Rafael Baliú, M.M. Izidoro
Starring Pedro Caetano, Pedro Carvalho, Mariana Cortines, Felipe Frazão, Diego Goullart, Ivo Müller, Sidney Santiago, Clara Verdier
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

The Portuguese horror film THE DEVIL LIVES HERE lifts elements from EVIL DEAD, CANDYMAN, and HELLRAISER to create a moody and diabolical little horror tale.

A quartet of kids gather at an old mansion in the countryside that used to be owned by a rich Honey Baron and has a horrible secret past. The slaves of the plantation used to practice voodoo and put a curse on the Honey Baron and his offspring that still haunts the home to this day. When the kids decide to play around with the site where one of the sacrifices was made, they awaken the curse and end up paying for it dearly.

THE DEVIL LIVES HERE Is a harrowing little ghost story reminiscent of CANDYMAN in the subject matter, specifically the fact that honey and millions of bees and ants are involved in the torture and killing of the slaves of the sadistic Honey Baron. But the way the spirits of both those the Honey Baron killed and the Honey Baron himself is reminiscent of another Clive Barker work, HELLRAISER as the kids unleash the terror from the basement and find themselves trapped in the house. Like HELLRAISER, the film utilizes both human terror in the form of the modern descendant of the slaves taking over the home and punishing the kids for trespassing, not knowing that the ghosts of the past walk the dark hallways, which also include a creepy trapdoor basement not unlike the one found in the cabin in EVIL DEAD. While a lot of this has been seen before in other classic films, everything feels new with the solid acting, cool design of the beekeeper outfits, dark atmosphere, and a solid dire tone.

While this is a haunted house, you won’t see a grudge girl or ghostly apparitions, these horrors feel unique and more akin of demons unleashed than your typical haunted house flick you see from Blumhouse. This film is grungier and grittier. The kills are bloody. This is no FRIDAY THE 13TH film where someone is stabbed and immediately falls dead. In this film, the knife wound is twisted and victims last a long time with scant hopes of getting out of the house that grow dimmer by the minute.

Everything from the lighting to the way the narrative jumps through different areas of the house to tell different aspects of this complex story shows that filmmakers Rodrigo Gasparini & Dante Vescio know what they are doing behind the camera. THE DEVIL LIVES HERE feels like a gnarly grindhouse flick unearthed and shown today. It’s got solid scares and a nuanced diabolical story of family secrets, sins, and horrors.

In theaters now!


Directed by Adam Wingard
Written by Simon Barrett
Starring James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Let’s just get this out of the way and say that I loved the original BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. While I didn’t buy into it being a nationally released snuff film, I was captivated by the first person point of view and impressed by both the ad campaign convincing the more gullible of audiences as well as captivating the horror world with a solid mythology and an exemplary execution of a found footage film that investigated all of that mythology and more. BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is a once in a lifetime experience and there’s no way it’ll ever happen again, so the expectations for a revisiting to the franchise in this self-aware day and age is bound to disappoint those fooled and roped into the original’s tendrils.

I don’t envy Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. They were posed with an impossible task of revisiting a mythos that was proven a hoax and while the brave audiences are able to admit that the original grabbed them by the short and curlies, the rest of the naysayers who mock the original because it actually struck a nerve in them are bound to criticize them for daring attempt to try to fool us again with a revisit. So no matter how good or bad this film was, many who were fooled or simply scared out of the theater and never finished the original are going to rip this film a new one. What I do know is that having done this big budgeter, I am happy because, most likely, Wingard and Barrett will be given the opportunity to make something more in their own style at their own speed (more akin to their excellent THE GUEST and YOU’RE NEXT) having produced a more mainstream film with BLAIR WITCH.

What Wingard and Barret do is try to incorporate the key elements of the BLAIR WITCH mythos into a new version of the film, made specifically towards modern ADHD audiences. In many ways, Wingard and Barrett attempted to make the BLAIR WITCH version of ALIENS out of a much more suspenseful original mythos as James Cameron did with Ridley Scott’s intimate space opus. While Wingard and Barrett weren’t as successful at this tweaking of the source material (mainly because the characters simply weren’t as compelling as those in the first BLAIR WITCH), they do a lot right since much of the carefully orchestrated first person POV jump scares worked on making me almost toss my popcorn into the lap of the person beside of me. While some might say this is an easy scare, I have to admit, this forced perspective to a jump scare gets me almost every time and it did here with BLAIR WITCH on multiple occasions.

BLAIR WITCH focuses on James (James Allen McCune) brother to the original film’s Heather Donahue who discovers a video on Youtube claiming to find the fabled house Heather found in the final moments of BLAIR WITCH. You see, while the footage was found from the first one, the house never was, so James gathers his gal pal Lisa (Callie Hernandez) who wants to film this excursion for her grad school class (of course), his best buddy Peter (Brandon Scott, remember in the nineties when every rom-com leading man had to have a wisecracking black best friend? That’s this guy in this film), and Peter’s girlfriend Ashley (Corbin Reid) – a techie who helps James with a drone camera, and all of them set off for James to find closure for his lost sister. The drone is but one new thing the film brings to the table to hopefully combat getting lost in the woods. GPS, more modern cameras, and motion sensor cameras are all used, though not much reason is given as to how these four twenty-somethings were able to afford to put all of this high tech equipment together. The group of investigators are later joined by skeevy locals Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry) who were the ones who found the tape and will show them where they found it, only if they let them tag along. As the six kids venture into the woods, things start getting structurally familiar as they get lost and then get disappeared one by one until they finally find the elusive house of Rustin Parr, a serial killer who kidnapped kids who claimed he was instructed to do so by a witch in the woods, which is the same house Heather found Michael standing in the corner in the first film. Much like the end of the original, the final act takes place inside this house as those who are left attempt to escape for their lives with a supernatural force following them through the labyrinthine halls and floors of the building.

As I said before, BLAIR WITCH does a decent job of setting up the situation in a way that most would have thought BOOK OF SHADOWS (the first BLAIR WITCH sequel) would have done. It’s not the most original way to get folks back into the woods, but it works. The filmmakers also do a good job of peppering the mythology of the Blair With into casual conversation. While I enjoyed the slow burn investigation of the original, where we get this information through interviews with locals and Heather’s discourse, here it flows a bit more freely and doesn’t feel like an info dump. I understand why they did it this way. This is a search and rescue mission (like ALIENS) rather than a search for new information (a la the original crew of the Nostromo in ALIEN). So there’s no interest in getting a taste of the local flavor. While this is understandable in BLAIR WITCH not to have these interviews, it definitely plops you into the middle of the woods as fast as possible. In the first, the buildup to the final scene is excruciating (which I like, but others can’t stand) and these interviews and sidebars about the mythology ratcheting up the tension. Remember the scene with the old woman who looks like a witch herself in the original? There’s nothing like that here and some old timer telling the kids to keep out of the woods, while cliché, is needed in this film.

The biggest flaw of BLAIR WITCH is that the cast simply isn’t up to par with the original trio of Heather, Mike, and Josh. Say what you will about how over-dramatic Heahter was, her hysterical trek though the woods and into the house put us firmly in her head. It was because she acted so convincingly that some believed the film to be real. Yes, she was annoying, but dammit if her frantic screaming as she ran through he hallways of the house didn’t work amazingly to ratchet up the tension to the breaking point. The actors here, while decent, just aren’t on that level. The actor playing James is especially unconvincing as the driven brother searching for his sister. I never bought it because the actor simply doesn’t have the chops to go there emotionally in this. The character of Lisa, who is a friend of James and cares for him, seems to only have investment in continuing to film this for her documentary, a motivation that worked with Heather because she was kind of a bitch, but doesn’t with this character because we are supposed to like this virginal horror character.

Meanwhile, the film seems to want us to hate these guys as the film goes on as they do some of the most bone-headed things you’re going to see in a film this year. There is a scene where Ashley, though her ankle is seriously injured, climbs a tree to get the crashed drone, which at this point would be useless as a) it is dark out so they wouldn’t be able to see anything with the drone, and b) by this time in the story, the drone is pointless as the rest of the campers are dispersed because something is stalking them in the woods and going out in the open and climbing a tree is the last thing I would want to do when a mythological woodland creature is after me.

The way BLAIR WITCH is set up, it is supposed to play with horror tropes and what we expect from the first film. I get the multiple times Peter goes to gather wood as being something that works the first time and…doesn’t the second. This is where Wingard and Barret shine as they have seen all the horror films and play with those expectations in a fun way here. As with the original, the campers awaken to find totems hanging around their tent, but this event occurs twice, each time with a different meaning to the story. This is smart writing that I appreciated. I also appreciated the use of time loops here as the party is broken up and some of them have been wandering around in the woods for weeks, while others only a day or two. This also explains why the cabin, which was said to have burned down after Parr was captured, is found intact in the woods. I think slowing down the film with some science explanation would have bogged the momentum to a halt, so the way it is incorporated into the story feels just right, especially since the cast is frantic at that moment.

Yes we see glimpses of the Blair Witch here, but while the image is quite shocking, she looks way too similar to the gangly monster occupying the top floor of the building in [REC] and [REC]2 (and QUARANTINE, for that matter), and given that pretty much everyone who dies is dragged away from the camera, this feels too on the nose and I expect more from this filmmaking team of Wingard and Barrett. The film also lifts from both THE DESCENT and the indie gem CRAWL OR DIE (reviewed here) by having one of the cast burrow through a tiny cave to find salvation. Again, it’s nice to see an expansion from the original into different territory, but felt too familiar for my tastes. Audiences who have seen less horror films than I might not feel the same though. I left BLAIR WITCH with a rather meh feeling though as despite Wingard and Barrets efforts to add to the mythology, the cast just wasn’t convincing, bone-headed moves were made to forward the story, and some of the scenes which were supposed to be most effective felt lifted from other films. The jump scares got me, so if you’re looking for a film that’ll startle you (either falsely or with actual shocking material), this one has it, but in terms of solid, visceral scares and a feeling of utter dread, this BLAIR WITCH fails to stack up to the original.

New in select theaters, On Demand, and on Netflix, iTunes, and other digital outlets!

RATS (2016)

Directed by Morgan Spurlock
Written by Morgan Spurlock & Jeremy Chilnick, based on the book by Robert Sullivan
Starring Ed Sheehan, Bobby Corrigan, Dr. Michael Blum, and a shit ton of frikkin’ gross rats!
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Documentarian Morgan Spurlock eats a rat a day for a month and charts the effects to his energy level and vital signs in this shocking exploration of what rat consummation does to human biology…

No, that’s not what RATS is about but wouldn’t it be awesome if it was?

RATS is Spurlock’s latest documentary exploring the infestation of rats in the world’s most highly congested areas. Spanning the world from New York to New Orleans to Mumbai to Cambodia/Viet Nam to England and back to Westchester to India, Spurlock shows us many aspects of rats and how they have adapted and survived throughout the centuries. Spurlock looks at how different cultures respond to rat infestation; from acceptance to extermination, from scientific research to consumption.

Where Spurlock’s documentarian genius kicks in is the way he bops around the countries telling a story of a creature who evolves to fight against all forms of ways to get rid of it almost as fast as we come up with it. At the same time, he cleverly tells us how many of them we have among us, then goes into how many diseases and parasites these rats carry, and then shows us various way the human population deals with them; from making money for rat carcasses to using rats as food! After seeing the wriggly worm parasites through a microscope, I dare anyone not to wince at the Vietnamese dining on them half a world away and telling the cameraman that they taste just like chicken.

Adding some personality to the mix, the film isn’t as much narrated as it is bookended with a talk with an actual exterminator who has been doing the job for many years. Dramatically lit in a warehouse, slouching in an easy chair and lighting a stogie, this wizened exterminator looks and talks ominously like Quint from JAWS about the danger of the common rat and how it will most likely survive us all. Along this journey, we also see those who survive by selling rats, putting their lives at risk of contamination themselves for profit. Spurlock looks at government funded programs and compares them to the small time exterminator in New York without judgment, but also showing how each factor in the war against rats feel about one another (clue: they don’t think to kindly of each other). Meanwhile, a world away, other methods of extermination such as the grueling hunt of the rats by rat terriers which root out rats and tear them apart right in front of your eyes is shown. Each method succeeds in one thing; killing rats, but the fact is there are always more of them.

More of a cross representation of how we deal with rats, where the film falls a bit short is the fact that there really is no answer to the rat problem. But maybe that’s the point since despite all of the efforts people have tried through the years, these rats persist and continue to be a problem. Also, since I’m talking about criticism of the film, I kept on waiting for Pizza Rat to show up, but he never did. Sad face emoticon.

Living in a large city myself, I have developed a huge fear of rats since I see them almost on a daily basis. There is something primal that occurs in me when I see a rat and I can’t help but wince. Anything that can cause that reaction in me fascinates me (I would think that is obvious given my commitment to this AICN HORROR column) and therefore any film that attempts to delve into the subject of rats, be it fictional or documentary, has my interest. RATS is a fantastic look at how we try to live with these scurrying creatures across the globe. Spurlock doles out the information about these horrifying creatures as if he’s telling the most terrifying of horror tales and adds to the terror with all kinds of rat-like squeaks and chitters in the score.

The most skin-clawliest, creepiest, and delightfully queasy movie you’re bound to see in a long time is RATS. It’s more of a horror movie than many because it is real. This film made me itch, squirm, wince, get nauseous, and scream in terror more so than any cinematic horror I’ve seen in ages. It’s one of the best horror films of the year. Seek it out if you dare because the scares in this film are in the streets, right outside your doorway, and maybe already in the house!

And finally…here’s a fantastic little film that starts out innocent enough, but ends up being one of the most suspenseful little shorts I’ve seen in quite a while. It stars DONNIE DARKO’s Beth Grant (Sparkle Motion!!!), Sharon Lawrence, and Robert Forster and is directed by Gabriel Olson based off of a short story by Peter S. Beagle. This slow burner really does have a great attention to building tension and is fantastically acted with an ending that will leave you on your seats edge. Find out more about this short film here. Check out THE BRIDGE PARTNER. You’re going to love it!

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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