Welcome to the darker side of AICN! M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. So I guess the Rake is the new Bigfoot as we have two Rake films in this week’s column. Those who don’t know what a Rake is, don’t feel bad. I don’t think anyone else knows what the hell it is either. Looks like bad Photoshop to me, but this trail cam photo has made its way from one end of the internet to another. Maybe this is the beginning of a string of Rake films. Who knows?
I’ve also included some films not about the Rake. Cause, you know, variety.
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: FEMALE VAMPIRE (1973)
Retro-review: THE GATE (1987)
THE RAKING (2017)
GHOSTS OF DARKNESS (2017)
THE LESSON (2015)
THE DARK BELOW (2015)
GALAXY OF HORRORS (2017)
DEVIL IN THE DARK (2017)
CAPTURE KILL RELEASE (2016)
EYES OF MY MOTHER (2016)
And finally…THE RAKE (short film)
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Screenbound Pictures Maison Rouge!
Jesus Franco’s FEMALE VAMPIRE (1973)aka EROTIKILL, THE BARE BREASTED COUNTESS, EROTIC KILL, INSATIABLE LUST, JACULA, LOVES OF IRINA, SICARIUS: THE MIDNIGHT PARTY, THE BLACK COUNTESS, THE LAST THRILL, YACULA
Directed by Jesus Franco
Written by Jesus Franco & Gérard Brisseau
Starring Lina Romay, Jack Taylor, Alice Arno, Monica Swinn, Jesus Franco, Luis Barboo, Jean-Pierre Bouyxou,
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Films like FEMALE VAMPIRE kind of amaze me. I mean, obviously it’s meant to titillate since 90% of the film focuses on a naked woman squirming around with either a man or a woman or both. It’s not hardcore porn, but it’s definitely focused on those who like to watch soft core with small doses of horror dolluped in so that there’s some kind of story.
Countess Irina Karlstein (Lina Romay, director Jesus Franco’s wife) emerges from the fog and walks all but naked if not for a cloak toward the camera, staring directly at the viewer. As the camera pans up and down her body, zooming in on the naughty bits and pieces, even going so far as to zoom in on her 70’s mega-bush, right off the bat, you know this is not a film that’s going to be going for substance.
The story is thread-thin basically leading Irina from one person to the next, her sexual desire leading the way. Though most porn ends with a moneys hot, this film’s sexual encounters end with Irina biting her sexual victims. The most intriguing (albeit painful) aspect of this is that Irina gives oral a new name by choosing to bite both man and woman in their bathing suit areas instead of the vampire’s usual target, the neck.
The story tries to cast Irina as a sympathetic character, out of control with sexual desire which always ends with shedding blood. This is an intriguing premise and an emotional backing that could make for interesting cinema. But Franco isn’t really interested in all of that as the bulk of the film has Irina nakedly walking, nakedly talking, nakedly interacting with a man, nakedly interacting with a woman, nakedly interacting with a bed pillow and a bedpost, then finally nakedly interacting with a bathtub full of blood. Any attempt to convey emotion is missed as well by Romay who only gives a Blue Steel look to the camera and rarely utters a word (other than a whispery narration).
Franco is filming everything soft and romantic. This is a beautiful looking film. And Romay is gorgeous, but there’s not a lot of substance to be had. There are definitely a few moments of entertainment throughout as the hood ornament on Irina’s car is a bat with moving wings and Irina’s transformation into a bat has her flapping her cloak a few times, then a cut to a flying bat. Not much by blood, save a little on the lips and the aforementioned bath, can be found here. In the end, FEMALE VAMPIRE is a gorgeous looking film focusing on a gorgeous looking woman. Just don’t look for much by way of story.
This trailer contains what the French call les boobies!
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Vestron Video Classics/Lionsgate Home Entertainment!
THE GATE (1987)Directed by Tibor Takács
Written by Michael Nankin
Starring Stephen Dorff, Christa Denton, Louis Tripp, Kelly Rowan, Jennifer Irwin, Deborah Grover, Scot Denton, Ingrid Veninger, Sean Fagan, Linda Goranson, Andrew Gunn, & Carl Kraines as the Workman!
Retro-reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Long before he tried to ice-skate uphill and puffed on E-Cigarettes, little Stevie Dorff battled interdimensional demons in THE GATE and it was one of my most favorite films as a kid. I was right around the same age as Dorff when this film came out (I guess, that makes me about the same age as him now, which is weird to me). And to me, more than EXPLORERS and GOONIES, this film exemplified my life to a tee as a kid in the 80’s. So while this review will most likely be bukkake-ed with nostalgia, bear with me, I will try to give this one a critical look as well.
Dorff plays Glen, a starry eyed young boy who loves launching model rockets and playing with his older sister Al (Christa Denton) and his buddy Terry (Louis Tripp). But his sis is starting to get older and notice boys, so she doesn’t have time to play with Glen and Terry recently lost his mother to Cancer, so times are a little tough. When a tree is uprooted in a storm, a giant hole in the ground appears and Terry and Glen believe it is the portal to hell, just like the portal to hell described in Terry’s metal albums. The thing is, a series of events occur that actually does open a portal to Hell and all sorts of demons, monsters, and spooky happenings start seeping out and terrorizing Glen, Terry, and Al when their parents go out of town for the weekend.
With THE GATE, Tibor Takács was able to harness my own, and most likely a lot of readers’, childhood as a kid growing up in the 80’s and loving horror. The film takes all of the conventions. The make believe games kids play. The “Light as a Feather” levitation spells at sleepovers. The metal albums with faux devil lyrics. All of these things that, as a kid, I thought was cool is checked off as if Takács was going down a to do list. The film really does hold a childish sense of fun that definitely strums the chords of nostalgia, but also offers up a childish energy and glee that is rarely captured in films.
After establishing this feel through this lens, Takács unleashes a gauntlet of horrors that aren’t necessarily bloody (though there are a few gory bits such as Demon Terry getting stabbed in the eye with a screwdriver and Glen stabbing his own hand with a shard of glass), but definitely disturbing. From the stop motion big bad, to miniaturized Minions in monster suits, to foam hands reaching out from under the bed, to the zombie Workman crashing through walls, Takács unloads more monsters in this film than ten other monster movies. The fun is that he puts them in plain view and at a rapid pace. So while this film starts slow with a little boyhood angst about losing his favorite pet, by the forty minute mark, the pace speeds up to a sprint and never really stops until the end.
While some of the humor is dated and the pace is a bit off in the first half hour or so, THE GATE makes up for it with it’s bombastic final half. If you were a kid of the eighties you know about THE GATE and most likely loved it like it did. Having rewatched it, parts haven’t aged well, but that childish glee Takács harnesses in this film is unprecedented and still holds up rather well. This is a fun horror film that you could show your kids and while some part may still induce a night terror or two, they’ll most likely love the hell out of it. This is one of those time-machine movies that instantly takes be back to a simpler age and I love THE GATE for having that kind of power.
This presentation of THE GATE on BluRay from Vestron Video Classics includes; an audio commentary by director Tibor Takacs, writer Michael Nankin, and effects designer Randall William Cook, there’s another audio commentary with Cook, and other special effects artists Craig Reardon, Frank Carere, and matte photographer Bill Taylor, an interview with composers Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson, a featurette entitled “The Gate Unlocked” featuring Takacs and Cook, “Minion Maker” talks with effects man Craig Reardon, “From Hell It Came” interviews co-producer Andras Hamori, “The Workman Speaks!” talks with Workman actor Carl Kraines, “Made in Canada” chats with cast and crew about the experience of making the film up North, another effects featurette called “From Hell: The Creatures & Demons of The Gate” talks with Cook and Reardon again, one more featurette “The Gatekeepers” talks with Takacs and Nankin again, there’s a vintage Making of featurette, teaser, theatrical, and TV trailers, and all kinds of stills to be seen in this everything but the kitchen sink collection of all things THE GATE!
New this week On Demand from Brain Damage Films!
SLEDGEHAMMER (2017)Directed by Joshua Miller
Written by Joshua Miller
Starring Stephen Miller, Samantha Green, Jeremy Castaldo, Eddy Karch, Baba Ogundipe, Trey Sweeten, Jamie Lee Fife, Brianna Todd, Sabrina Landreth, Jacque Cabrera, Matthew Miller, David Hallford, Roy Hoover, Adam Vermmillion, Jamie McDaniel, Jonathan Elmore
Find out more about this film here, @SledgehammerZW, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Right off the bat, SLEDGEHAMMER is not a good movie. It’s one of those films that seems to be made simply because the filmmakers had some extra time and wanted to toss something together for shits and giggles. Then again, the film might be so highbrow that I just didn’t get the joke…
But I doubt it.
That said, visually and on a non-sensical level, SLEDGEHAMMER can be a lot of fun if watched with nary a care for things like story, quality, and common sense.
Yolner (Stephen Miller) is an unlucky schlub, proven one morning when he wakes up late for work, runs out of gas, misses the bus, gets a call from his girlfriend wanting to break up, is late for work, and is dosed with drugs by his co-workers causing him to finally freak out, grab a sledgehammer and go on a murder spree of epic proportions. Having emulated Thor as a child, Yolner spends the rest of the film in a state of mayhem, smashing things with his mighty hammer. Meanwhile, Yolner’s girlfriend (Samantha Green) is trying to move on by going on a date with a douchenut, not knowing that Yolner and his mighty hammer is set on a collision course with her to crash the date and get his girl back.
Basically, this film is one sequence after another of Yolner chasing down and smashing people. Sometimes they are co-workers. Sometimes they are cultist-hippies. Sometimes they are cheerleaders. But all of the time, they get smashed with a giant hammer. That’s how simple the plot is, and while everything is low budget (even the gore just looks like pounds of meat) and the acting is pretty robotic, the film itself manages to entertain visually. This is a kinetic film, filled with all kinds of psychedelic trippery from inside of Yolner’s head. There’s even one sequence where Yolner hops on a bicycle and chases down three biker dudes to pummel them and the chase is pretty amazing as the guys riding them are downright skilled in their bicycle flipping skills. Toss in some random boobs and some genuinely funny characters saying genuinely funny things, and this random stream of consciousness style film is reminiscent of Linklater’s SLACKER, only with a psychopath with a big hammer smashing heads in.
If you’re a film snob, don’t bother with this one. It’s as low fi as it comes. But it does have a solid sense of humor that runs all the way until after the final credits with a final punch line that really works. It’s the type of nonsensical, trippy film you might want to play in the background at a party simply because it strobes crazy images from start to finish. SLEDGEHAMMER is not a great movie, but I did laugh a lot with it and if you’re in the mood for nonsense, you might to.
New this week on BluRay/DVD and On Demand from Speakeasy Pictures and on digital download at from iTunes here!
BLOODRUNNERS (2017)Directed by Dan Lantz
Written by Dan Lantz & Michael McFadden
Starring Ice-T, Michael McFadden, Chris James Boylan, Airen DeLaMater, Peter Patrikios, Julie Ek, John Groody, Jack Hoffman, Kerry McGann, Dan McGlaughlin, Kelly Buterbaugh, Danny Doherty, Tammy Jean, Tina Marie Connell, Jared Malcolm, Joe Barlam, Brian Gallagher, John Hashem, Benjamin Kanes, Matt Pfeiffer, Lance Channing, Joe Speakman, Fallon Maressa, Andie Hall, Mark Johnson
Find out more about this film here, @SpeakeasyPicturesLLC, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
So I can just picture the filmmakers behind this film watching BOARDWALK EMPIRE and saying to themselves, “You know what this needs? Vampires!” And while there are a lot of hokey things going on in BLOODRUNNERS, there’s also a surprisingly fun script, making it less painful a viewing experience than I’d imagined.
The year is 1933, during the heart of Prohibition. The only thing more corrupt than bootleggers are the corrupt cops that shake them down. When a new club opens up in town, dirty cop Jack Malone (Michael McFadden) tries to swindle the club’s proprietor Chesterfield (Ice-T), but what he doesn’t know is that Chesterfield is actually a vampire and it isn’t hooch he’s running out of his club—it’s blood. Caught in the middle are a pair of young lovers, Ana (Airen DeLaMater) the daughter of the local madam and Willie (Chris James Boylan) the janitor of Chesterfield’s bar. When a shakedown goes bad, the cops and vamps collide in all out war.
Seeing the less that promising cover of this DVD, I was less than eager to pop it in my player and check it out, but to my surprise, BLOODRUNNERS isn’t as bad as the uninspired poster would suggest. While the story swipes heavily from BOARDWALK EMPIRE and a little bit from FROM DUSK TIL DAWN and VAMP, it manages to actually have a boppy, clever, and downright funny script as the cops, thugs, and vamps all bust each others balls while battling it out. While a lot of the characters are swiped right from BOARDWALK EMPIRE (Ice-T might as well have called himself Chalky White), the lines the cast deliver feel fresh and fun.
The main problem here is with the editing as everything feels chunky and slow paced, even when the quips are flying. A tighter edit would make the action a bit more punchy and the dialog all the more crisp making for an overall better movie. As is, BLOODRUNNERS is more fun than I expected. Not great. But worth a look on a boring Sunday afternoon.
New this week On Demand from Brain Damage Films!
THE RAKING (2017)Directed by Bryan Brewer
Written by Bryan Brewer, Laura Greenman Heine
Starring Bryan Brewer, Cree Kelly, Allie Rivera, Thatcher Robinson, Marshal Hilton, Marisa Davila, Nick Gomez, Peyton McDavitt, Chandler Rylko, Brock Brenner, and Alan Maxson as the Rake!
Find out more about this film here, @TheRakingMovie, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Though it takes way too long meandering to get to the monster portion of the movie, THE RAKING delivers some fun monster moments despite of it.
A group of college kids are given a project to investigate urban legends and they choose to do it on The Rake, an albino creature with long rake-like claws and an allergy to light. Much raking ensues.
I don’t know about you, but when I was in college, the most exciting research project I did was when the fire alarm was pulled in the college library. Seems having a college assignment these days means go on a road trip with your friends to the middle of nowhere so you can get offed. Maybe this is some kind of comment on the current college systems, demanding more and resulting in very little, but it sure seems like a lot of movies are using this springboard to leap into whatever monster of the month they are being eaten by. Regardless, THE RAKING takes its time getting to the monster which is it’s biggest flaw. Horror seem to make one of two decisions; are we going to start out running and let the viewer catch up, or is there going to be a long lead in where we get to know the characters before we hurry to the monster stuff in the last act. Some films have a solid monster and a decent grip on action—so they might be the movies that start out with the ball rolling. On the other hand, some films have a cast that is worth investing in and have solid talent, so the gettin’ to know you time is not as painful because the viewer actually enjoys spending time with these characters. In this case, the filmmakers chose to go with the latter and we get an excruciatingly long couple of sequences where we meet the cast, they bicker and argue, they do stuff like flirt with bartenders and get drinks which add nothing to the plot, and basically waste runtime so that they can make a feature film length. The actors aren’t terrible, but they treat each other like shit so much that it just isn’t interesting to watch them. By the time the monster shows up, I was ready for all of them to be raked.
The Rake itself is a man in a suit and there’s a fun little mythology built around him in this film. Seems these albino critters are afraid of the light and the cast finds that out quickly, though some boneheaded moves put them in danger anyway. There is a bit of gore in this one that spices the last act up, but the road there is long and the characters you’re traveling with just aren’t fun. I wish they would have been a little more confident in their monster and made those parts longer as the more the gettin’ to know you part of the film went on, the less I wanted to get to know them. As is, the latter half of the movie is a lot of monster menacing fun, so fans of creature features are going to find a pot of gold at the end of this trip which lags in the first half.
New On Demand and digital download from Uncork’d Entertainment!
GHOSTS OF DARKNESS (2017)aka HOUSE OF SHADOWS, SOUL REAPER
Directed by David Ryan Keith
Written by David Ryan Keith
Starring Michael Koltes, Paul Flannery, Steve Weston, Lisa Livingstone, Lisa Cameron, Liam Matheson, Morgan Faith Keith, Cameron Mowat, Lindsay Cromar
Find out more about this film here, @GhostsOfDarknessMovie, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
The pairing of a skeptic and a believer isn’t a new concept, but it is a winning one in the horror genre, so while GHOSTS OF DARKNESS doesn’t get points for originality, it does earn a few back by being an all around fun and spooky time.
Psychic investigator Jonathan Blazer (Paul Flannery) and paranormal skeptic Jack Donovan (Michael Koltes) are both asked to spend three nights in a house that is rumored to be haunted. Their goal is to prove to the owners that, despite no one having spent more than three days in the house without either running out screaming or dying inside, the house isn’t haunted. If they do this, they will receive fifty thousand dollars. The pair decide to do it, but they find living together to be as dangerous as the demons and spirits lurking around the house.
Flannery and Koltes are fun here in this ODD COUPLE sitcomy scenario. The two riff off of each other well and while it lacks the sexual tension between Scully and Mulder, seeing this believer and skeptic argue with each other is pretty entertaining. When the ghosts do show up, they do so peripherally, and I love the way they appear in the background obscured as they frequently do in this movie, as the out of focus images of them make things much more scarier than if they were shown clearly. The design of these demons are a lot of fun as well with subtle disfigurements added in with CG to already fearsome faces.
The story gets a bit muddy towards the end, but despite that, this is a thrilling low budgeter filled with cool ghouls, great characters and a lot of attitude. This is a film that I’d love to see a sequel made for or a TV series, as Flannery and Koltes are a lot of fun to watch as they bicker and bumble their way through paranormal situations. Try this one out. It’s a fun one.
New this week on BluRay/DVD from The Shout Factory!
THE LESSON (2015)Directed by Ruth Platt
Written by Ruth Platt
Starring Robert Hands, Evan Bendall, Michaela Prchalová, Dolya Gavanski, Tom Cox, Rory Coltart, Michael Swatton, Charlotte Croft
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Though it attempts to redeem itself with some decent character moments, a dreamy soundtrack, and an appreciation of classical literature, THE LESSON doesn’t really offer up anything more than tired torture porn.
THE LESSON focuses on a group of delinquent kids who, when they aren’t destroying property, stealing, and causing general chaos, spend their school days acting out in class. Their teacher is especially tightly wound and after a particularly stressful school day, he snaps, kidnaps two of them, ties them to a chair and threatens to torture and kill them if they do no pass his special lesson. Grilling them in literature know-how, it’s up to one of the least delinquent of the bunch to pass the test or die.
The main problem with THE LESSON is that there really are no real characters worth rooting for. Fin (Evan Bendall) is sort of a sad sap who mopes around his apartment with his brutish older brother and lusts after his gorgeous girlfriend Tanja (Dolya Gavanski), dreaming of the day he can swipe her from his own brother--which really isn’t a very admirable character trait. Add this to the vandalism and delinquency shown in the first half of the film, and it’s really hard to feel sorry for him or his friends once they are strapped to the chair.
For torture porn, though, THE LESSON is pretty tame in terms of gore. Sure there’s a nail gun and a few knives brandished, but it’s nothing anyone who survived the age of horror when HOSTEL was king hasn’t seen before. On the plus side, there is a cool soundtrack to this one and some nice dream-like moments which suggests filmmaker Ruth Platt would probably make some decent music videos, but this THE LESSON is too much like torture porn and not really worth learning.
New this week in select theaters (find out when and where here) and available On Demand and on Bluray/DVD in May!
THE DARK BELOW (2015)Directed by Douglas Schulze
Written by Douglas Schulze, Jonathan D'Ambrosio
Starring Lauren Mae Shafer, David G.B. Brown, Veronica Cartwright, Zachary Levine, Seraphina Anne Zorn, Tiffany Burns
Find out more about this film @darkbelowmovie on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
“Love is cold.” are the only three words uttered in THE DARK BELOW and while occasionally, the pacing is a bit slow, the film itself isn’t hurt by the lack of dialog. Shot in stylistic slo mo’s and moody music, this thriller is definitely on the experimental side, but it is also a successful white-knuckle, nail-biter of a flick.
| THE DARK BELOW opens with a violent struggle between a man (David G.B. Brown) and a woman (Lauren Mae Shafer). After knocking her unconscious, the man takes the woman to the middle of a frozen lake, gives her a thermal swim suit and tosses her into a hole in the ice just as she regains consciousness. Trapped under the ice, the woman struggles to survive as the man toys with her above, knocking her back in every time she surfaces. Through flashbacks we learn these two are married and that it appears the man is a serial killer who drowns his victims. The film is the woman’s arduous struggle to get out of her icy grave and get away from the killer above.
THE DARK BELOW boils down its story to its simplest form, leaving it a tightly knit and powerfully potent little bit of cinema. Without dialog, the film relies heavily on the imagery filmmaker Douglas Schulze plays out on the screen and these images are absolutely horrific as the woman struggles time and again to survive in the frozen water. While the action does get a little repetitive and the excessive amount of slo mo ends up dragging the pace a bit, the danger of this film is highlighted amazingly through Shafer’s gutsy performance and never give up attitude. It’s horrifying to see her struggle as the icy waters begin freezing her exposed face and fingers. This film exemplifies frostbite like I’ve never seen before and will definitely make you grimace a time are two as her fingers and face begins to turn purple and black.
While the lack of frozen breath is noticeable, it’s a minor complaint about an amazing and simple film. A bigger complaint would be the motivation of the killer and while it suggests that the killer gets off on toying with the woman, it isn’t made clear why he gives her a chance to live with a wetsuit and oxygen supply. But again, this doesn’t deter from the movie that much as it takes you right along with this unlucky woman’s horrifying struggle leaving one with feelings of claustrophobia and dread the whole way through. Though there is no dialog, this story doesn’t really need it. THE DARK BELOW is a truly unique film worth diving into. Just make sure you watch it wrapped in a blanket because it’s going to chill you to the bone.
New this week On Demand and on BluRay/DVD on May 2nd from Raven Banner!
GALAXY OF HORRORS (2017)Directed by Todd Cobery (“Eden”), Richard Karpala ("Iris"), Ethan Shaftel ("Flesh Computer"), Dennis Cabella, Marcello Ercole, Fabio Prati ("Pathos"), Antonio Padovan ("Eveless"), Javier Chillon ("They Will All Die In Space"), Andrew Desmond ("Entity"), Benni Diez, Marinko Spahic ("Kingz"), Justin McConnell (wraparound)
Written by Todd Cobery (“Eden”), Richard Karpala ("Iris"), Ethan Shaftel ("Flesh Computer"), Dennis Cabella, Marcello Ercole, Fabio Prati ("Pathos"), Antonio Padovan, Dolores Diaz ("Eveless"), Javier Chillon ("They Will All Die In Space"), Jean Philippe Ferré, Andrew Desmond ("Entity"), Benni Diez, Marinko Spahic ("Kingz"), Justin McConnell (wraparound)
Starring Charles Hubbell (“Eden”), Michelle Colao, Luke Sorge (“Iris”), Rob Kerkovich, Elle Gabriel (“Flesh Computer”), Fabio Prati (“Pathos”), Greg Engbrecht, Vin Kridakorn (“Eveless”), Francesc Garrido, Julio Perillán, Ben Temple (“They Will All Die In Space”), Alias Hilsum (“Entity”), Olli Banjo, Mathis Landwehr, Claire Oelkers (“Kingz”), Melissa Williams, Adam Buller (wraparound)
Find out more about this film @galaxyofhorrors, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
While this is a collection of short films presented together in an anthology format, at least GALAXY OF HORRORS made an attempt to wrap them all together with a ninth story which makes this feel more like the anthologies of old. Either way, this is an extremely strong collection of little horrors with a sci fi slant.
The film begins with a man waking up in a cryotube and finding himself trapped. To help pass the time, the space ship’s computer decides to play entertainment for the screaming passenger (Adam Buller). The entertainment genre the computer has chosen is sci fi/horror and thus, the film begins.
Segment one is called “Eden,” a short that feels like it definitely be extended into a feature film as immediately it thrusts you into a world only slightly skewed from our own where America has undergone a second Civil War and a toxin has been released into the air to make all of the air unbreathable. As the President of the United States prepares to address the nation from his bunker, a group of rebels make their way though a tunnel system, past armed guards, and experimental zombie abominations in an attempt to assassinate him. It’s a pretty ballsy look into a scary future, filled with atmosphere and quite a few fun segments of terror in the strobe lit hallways. It’s social commentary, but it’s also scary and a powerful way to begin this anthology.
Next is “Iris,” a BLACK MIRROR-esque short about the next generation of Siri which not only responds to every questions, but listens and records everything you do, forming a stronger relationship with the user. When a man is paid to kill someone and do away with her body, he begins to have difficulties getting his Iris to work for him as she thinks it’s not the right thing to do. Like most sci fi, this one has a message about just how much power we are giving these little machines we carry around in our pockets and a little about our flawed human condition as well. This is a short and sweet one with some gruesome effects and a truly unnerving watching eyeball called Iris.
Up next is the Cronenbergian “Flesh Computer” where a man constructs exactly what the title suggests, a machine made of mounds of moist human flesh and technology. Though it is unclear what the computer does exactly at first, when the life of its owner is threatened by a pair of thugs, it begin to function in a defensive manner. This is a grimy and somewhat gross short that will definitely make you squirm. The machine itself is almost obscene looking and really is a surreal work of art in itself. This was one of the more disturbingly awesome shorts of the anthology simply because it has the balls to go into some disgusting territory.
“Pathos” reminded me a lot of BRAZIL and CITY OF LOST CHILDREN where people sign their lives away to be plugged into a utopian realm where they are inundated with positive thoughts and feelings. When the machine has a glitch, a man wakes up with the top of his noggin plugged into a large wire from the ceiling in the middle of a barren room. As the system tries to reboot, the man gets more and more freaked out. This is a claustrophobic little number with some surreal imagery. Filmed through a drab and filthy lens, this is a futuristic nightmare no one would want to be found in and exemplifies the fears one would experience there extremely well.
We wouldn’t survive long on a world without women and that’s what the super short film “Eveless” explores. Two scientists explore alternative options for humankind’s survival. The less revealed about this shortie the better as it is a grueling and wonderful little punch line of a short that is fantastic and suggesting an excruciatingly horrible ordeal these scientists go through. While this is one of the shorter films, it’s definitely is going to be one of the ones you’ll be talking about afterwards.
“They Will All Die In Space” is a fantastic little thriller. Filmed in black and white, it follows a pair of crewmen experiencing difficulties with the ship, so they wake up one of the scientists from cryosleep in order to fix it. As the scientist begins fixing things, he suspects something a little more devious going on with these two crewmen. I’ll leave it at that, but this is a great mystery with some fantastic moments of action and suspense. The black and white filming adds a lot of depth and darkness to this already bleak tale of outer space horror.
While there definitely is a GRAVITY feel to “Entity,” this short goes more into 2001 territory as an astronaut (Alias Hilsum) is hurtled out into open space when her ship explodes. Destined to run out of oxygen and drift forever, the astronaut finds herself in a realm beyond her imagination. This is a fantastic short done mostly in CG, but still shows that when it is used smartly, heavy CG can deliver an imaginative and compelling story.
The last segment is called “Kingz.” While it feels like it is occurring in the here and now, when a pair of hoods deliver a coke shipment to a seedy club to a menacing drug lord, they find out alien forces are at work. While not everything is explained, the alien effects are amazing and the tech and weaponry used are great too. There are also a few nicely choreographed fight scenes between the aliens and these hoods, who of course, know kung fu. This is a nice ballistic way to end up the anthology.
As a whole, GALAXY OF HORRORS is a fantastic example of horrific and amazing things coming in small packages. Give GALAXY OF HORRORS a chance. The future of horror and sci fi is within.
New this week On Demand and digital download from Momentum Pictures!
DEVIL IN THE DARK (2017)aka THE PLATEAU
Directed by Tim Brown
Written by Carey Dickson
Starring Dan Payne, Robin Dunne, Briana Buckmaster, Daniel Cudmore, Jett Klyne, Rebecca Reichert, Chris Ippolito, Peter Strand Rumpel, & Michael O'Brien as the Devil in the Dark!
Find out more about this film @ThePlateauMovie, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
I guess it’s the fact that I have a brother of my own and have both a deep respect and petrifying fear of the woods that makes DEVIL IN THE DARK a horror film that is right up my alley. The film combines a compelling tale of two very different brothers going out on a hunting trip together in a distinct and twisted forest, making for an amazing man vs. nature horror film.
Even as a kid, Adam (Robin Dunne) knew he didn’t have the same kind of kinship with his father that his brother Clint (Dan Payne) did. . Through flashbacks, we learn Adam was once lost in the woods and ran into some kind of horrifying creature, but Adam does not recall this, only Clint. Returning to his home town after moving to the city long ago, Adam seems to want to come to terms with the only family he has left and arrives for a hiking/hunting expedition with his brother. Adam is definitely not the outdoorsy type, but something is compelling him to return to the woods his father and brother used to hunt, so the two brothers head out into the wilderness to do a little deer hunting, but instead they find themselves stalked by the same creature that seems to have some kind of connection with Adam.
While the film is going to leave a lot of folks with more questions than answers, the ambiguity surrounding the monster, what it is, and why it wants Adam is what makes this film so much fun. Not all horror has to have answers spelled out to you by the end. This movie leaves it up to you to fill in these blanks and that mystery is what makes the movie feel all the more dangerous. The creature looks like a Rake, with its pale skin, claws, and talons, but is never identified as one, but it definitely looks like the same thing that was captured in the famous trail cam footage. Adding to the mystery of the film is the almost fairy tale like forest in which the brothers enter. With its twisted branches and rocky cliffs, this is truly a case of the environment being its own character in the film. And it’s a fascinating character at that as it provides all kind of challenges for our brothers.
Dunne and Payne are fantastic and engaging in DEVIL IN THE DARK. Their conflict is well fleshed out as well as their love for one another. There is more than sibling rivalry going on here. It’s about how families are made up of different people forced to live together and while some families get along despite differences, others don’t even try to understand them. There is an awful lot of emotional baggage between Adam and Clint and Dunne and Payne communicate it skillfully. The interplay between the two characters is the heart of the movie and as their situation grows more dire, it is satisfying to see these two brothers bonding and understanding each other in ways they never had before.
DEVIL IN THE DARK is high on atmosphere and dire mood. The lair of the monster is wonderful in its simplicity as it is simply a cave lined with deer horns, but with some moody lighting and forced camera angles, it makes for a claustrophobic nightmare realm. This one also has a powerful little ending that I didn’t see coming. All in all, DEVIL IN THE DARK surprised and thrilled me all the way through with its unique monster, strong acting, and fantastic British Colombia setting. Highly recommended for those who like their horror outdoorsy, ambiguous, and brotherly.
New On Demand from Midnight Releasing!
CAPTURE KILL RELEASE (2016)Directed by Nick McAnulty, Brian Allan Stewart
Written by Nick McAnulty
Starring Jennifer Fraser, Farhang Ghajar, Jon Gates, Rich Piatkowski, Christina Schimmel
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Some of the best horror films are much more than just horror films and CAPTURE KILL RELEASE definitely falls into that category. This is a film that is not only chilling and gory, but it is also a wonderful look at a dysfunctional relationship between two extremely flawed characters. Being a found footage film, CAPTURE KILL RELEASE is going to be a film many scoff at given the inundation of films made in this format we’ve seen recently, but recently I’ve come to accept found footage not as a fad, but a legitimate subgenre of horror, mainly because, at least for me, this sort of film can still grab me and great films such as this one can still be made—making the subgenre feel fresh as it was when BLAIR WITCH PROJECT first came out.
I have a certain criteria for found footage films that take the form of the below questionnaire that I will apply to CAPTURE KILL RELEASE, but this is a film, I believe fans of the subgenre and those who aren’t will both want to seek out.
What’s the premise?
A married couple, Jen and Farhang (Jennifer Fraser & Farhang Ghajar) have decided to plan a murder. The film goes through their process from planning stages, to prep work, to the stalking, to the actual execution. But as they get closer and closer to making the actual kill, one of them becomes reluctant to do it.
Are the actors believably acting like they aren’t acting?
The acting in this film is it’s strongest asset, besides the unpredictability of the story. Jennifer Fraser plays Jen as a deeply unhinged person who has attached herself to a pushover in Farhang (Farhang Ghajar). While the words coming from her mouth are utterly bone-chilling, she is utterly seducing and manipulative in the way she leads Farhang around in order to appease a bloodlust inside of her. Jenn is downright giddy in some scenes preparing for this kill and her charisma is intoxicating. One understands why someone like Farhang might fall for her and do whatever she wants to make her happy. On the other side of the spectrum is Farhang, who is equally strong and believable here. The fact that these two actors are able to be so comfortable with one another and as well as have such distinct personalities is what makes this film all the more convincing and engrossing. Without these two particular actors, I don’t think they would have been able to pull off this movie at all.
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)?
Yes, nothing in this film seems to be added. No music. No major edits other than turning on and off the camera. This is a film that tries to make it as believable as possible that this might be a film stumbled upon with the only things happening in the footage occurring within the universe of the story, making it all the more believable.
Is there a valid reason the camera isn’t dropped and they just get the hell out of there?
Most definitely. Jenn is addicted to making this footage to rewatch it later. She is obviously a very sick person and she wants to map out every single detail in front of the camera from a playful gathering of tools at home depot to stalking their intended victim and leading him into their home. Later, the main conflict between Jenn and Fahhang is the fact that Jenn must keep the camera rolling at all times and seems to love this recording more than the relationship itself.
Is the lead in too long and the payoff too short?
Quite the opposite. We hit the ground running with this film and actually have to catch up with Jenn’s manic excitement in plotting and planning this kill. This reason why this film is so good is because it keeps things interesting from beginning to end. A lot of that has to do with the amazing performances by Jenn and Farhang, but they are doing a lot of stuff to fill that time as well. I was entranced with this film from beginning to end wondering how far down the abyss it would go.
Is there an up-nose BLAIR WITCH confessional or a REC-drag away from the camera?
Nope, and I love this film for not succumbing to these tired clichés which need to be retired in the found footage subgenre.
Does anything actually happen?
A whole hell of a lot happens. While many found footagers seem to end abruptly with no real feeling of resolution, CAPTURE KILL RELEASE tells a complete story about a flawed relationship.
Does the film add anything to the subgenre and is this one worth watching?
CAPTURE KILL RELEASE is one of the best found footage films you’re going to find. It embraces the found footage blueprint, but never lets it hinder the story. The film uses the format in new and exciting ways by telling an intimate story of flawed romance, twisted morals, and the horror of love. One warning though; cat lovers might want to take a break at about the halfway point in this film as one kitty meets an untimely end. While I hate animal cruelty and usually don’t want to see it in my movies, this scene does serve a purpose and is the first indication that there are going to be problems with Jenn and Farhang’s plans. Playing out like a found footage version of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (with the way the killers plot their murders and the rules they live by) with less tongue and cheekiness of MAN BITES DOG and BEHIND THE MASK, CAPTURE KILL RELEASE is one film you don’t want to miss. Fans of found footage are going to love this, as will those who don’t like the format, as it has engaging characters you can’t help but like, despite their obvious flaws.
New this week on DVD from Magnet Releasing!
THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (2016)Directed by Nicolas Pesce
Written by Nicolas Pesce
Starring Kika Magalhaes, Diana Agostini, Will Brill, Olivia Bond, Joey Curtis-Green, Flora Diaz, Paul Nazak, Clara Wong
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Filmed in beautiful black and white, THE EYES OF MY MOTHER is an unconventional horror story split into three parts about a misguided woman seeking companionship in ways that are most uncanny. While there are elements of torture porn in this film, as there is a person in chains being broken by mistreatment, the focus is less on the torture and more about the formation of twisted relationships and the uglier side of family and love.
In chapters marked “Mother,” “Father,” and “Family,” THE EYES OF MY MOTHER follows a young girl Francisca (played by wide-eyed cutie Olivia Bond) as she grows into a young woman (played by the enchanting Kika Magalhaes) and how she forms her twisted outlook on love through various tragic events happening to her family. A character only seeking to be loved and to follow in her dear mother’s footsteps, Francisca is first seen taking advice from Mother (Diana Agostini) definitely seems like she has a few loose screws herself as she attempts to educate the young girl in surgery at a very young age. When a mysterious giggling stranger appears on her doorstep, he ends up attacking the house while Father (Paul Nazak) is away, but when he returns and incapacitates the stranger, he is given to Francisca as a sort of present to take care of in the barn, which she does with misguided tenderness. This is but the first domino to topple in Francisca’s psyche through these three chapters.
There’s a simplicity to this film that cannot be denied. The decision to go black and white with this really does set it apart and make it feel more resonant as it covers odd family relations, torture, and more twisted beliefs. Each frame seems to be meticulously plotted out by filmmaker Nicolas Pesce who, like many surreal painters, has an eye for making disgusting and off-putting things look beautiful. The subtle blending of the soft tones also help a lot, as Pesce’s lingering camera makes everything look like a moving and flowing painting during the scenes taking place outside. Inside, there are more harsher tones, reflecting the strong differentiation between the blacks and whites and the moral conflict of the twisted behavior going on behind the walls of the farmhouse and the barn. This all seems very intentionally mapped out by a filmmaker who pays attention to how the softness or harshness of shadow and tone can represent the action of that specific scene. Compare the gentle conversation in a field with a herd of cows and all of its grays to the extreme black and whites of the footage inside the barn with Francisca’s captive pet and you will see a master at work in Pesce’s film.
The acting is out of this world as well. Magalhaes is beautiful and doe-eyed as Francisca, a complex character doing horrible things through the understanding of a child’s view of the world. No matter what horrible acts she commits, I sympathized with her as she is truly a cracked human being. Agostini is the true standout as Mother here with her haunting, bone-like face to the cold delivery she gives as she teaches her daughter how to cut out an eye is truly chilling. Her performance is what many will remember from this film after the credits. And Will Brill’s performance as the giggling drifter is one that will cause many a nightmare as he descends upon the house.
THE EYES OF MY MOTHER serves as three interconnected shorts starring the same characters at different stages in their lives. Seeing this growth from one point in life to the next feels almost invasive as these moments are delicately and intimately played out. This is an odd film—taking narrative risks and offering extremely flawed characters as the centerpiece, but it’s a brave one to take the chances to do something different with a story. I didn’t want this film to end as this world is truly one of bizarre beauty and a somewhat simple, albeit bent look at life and love. Unfortunately for the lead character, the world isn’t so simple and that’s the biggest moral you’re going to take from this exquisite little horror.
And finally…how about one more story about The Rake? Here’s a short film simply titled THE RAKE by director Tony Delgadillo and writer Alexander Crews. This is a patient and potent little short that packs some nice scares and keeps that urban legend of the Rake rolling. Here’s THE RAKE!
See ya next week, folks!
Ambush Bug is M. 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.
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!