Welcome to the darker side of AICN! M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. None of the films we are checking out this week broke the bank or any box office records. None of them would know what an Oscar performance is if it creeped up and bit them. But all of them have a passion for horror behind them and while this wasn’t the best week of horror, I still had a fun time watching these do-it-yourself, shot on video, low fi horrors. Maybe you will too if you take a chance on one of them.
But first, there’s this…
A buddy of mine and a fine writer to boot named Pat Shand and his writing partner Amy Granfors are entering the final days of their Kickstarter Campaign for a new all-ages monster adventure comic called CLONSTERS. The book is described as ADVENTURE TIME meets AAAHH!!! REAL MONSTERS and features fun art by Vanessa Cardinali.
There’s not enough gateway horror for kids these days and its never too early to start your little tyke on a path to all things ghoulish, so check out the CLONSTERS Kickstarter page by clicking this link and the pitch video below. If you like what you see, toss a few bucks their way as they inch their way towards attaining their goal!
Best of luck, Pat, Amy, and Vanessa!
Another buddy of mine, Alan Robert of the rock band Life of Agony and writer of such horror comics as WIRE HANGERS, CRAWL TO ME, and KILLOGY, has a new project coming out called THE BEAUTY OF HORROR 2: GHOULIANA’S CREEPATORIUM – ANOTHER GOREGEOUS COLORING BOOK. The book is the sequel to the #1 best-selling horror coloring book released last year from IDW featuring hauntingly beautiful designs by Robert himself.
This sequel book drops Septemper 12th. Find out more about this project by clicking here<./a> and check out the brand new trailer below!
I also wanted to give out an open call to advertisers interested in helping to keep this column running. Any inquiries should contact me here!
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: WILLARD (1971)
Retro-review: GHOULIES (1984)
Retro-review: VAMPYRE (1990)
CLOWN KILL (2016)
DEVIL’S DOMAIN (2016)
AMERICAN MUMMY (2014)
BREAKDOWN LANE (2017)
THE SURVIVALIST (2015)
And finally…Light’s Out: Nature Study!
Retro-review: New on DVD/BluRay from The Shout Factory!
WILLARD (1971)aka THE RATMAN’S NOTEBOOKS, REVOLUTION OF THE RATS
Directed by Daniel Mann
Written by Gilbert Ralston (screenplay),Stephen Gilbert (novel)
Starring Bruce Davison, Elsa Lanchester, Sondra Locke, Michael Dante, Jody Gilbert, William Hansen, John Myhers, J. Pat O'Malley, Almira Sessions, Joan Shawlee, Pauline Drake, Helen Spring, Alan Baxter, Sherry Presnell, Ernest Borgnine
Retro-reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Ahhh, the classic story of a boy and his rats. WILLARD is another one of those films that really resonated with me as a shy and reserved child who found more solace in the animal world than he did with the rest of it. With me, it was my cat and dog, so when I see Willard (Bruce Davidson) talking out his problems and finding friends in a gaggle of rats, it didn’t seem that weird to me. Still, if you don’t like rats, despite how Willard frames it, WILLARD is going to make you squirm. Having moved to a city that is literally teeming with rats and encountering them on a daily basis walking the streets of Chicago, I admit, rats freak me the hell out. So this film definitely made me squirm a time or two.
Willard (Davidson) is a quiet young man, living with his overbearing mother (Elsa Lanchester) and working at a dead end position in his deceased father’s company under the thumb of his grandstanding boss (Ernest Borgnine). With the weight of the world on his shoulders, who’s to blame Willard for finding some friends of the furry kind hanging out in the back yard of his father’s mansion. Though his mother wants him to kill the rats, Willard ends up naming them and befriending them. Two of the rats, Socrates and Ben are especially special and seem to help Willard win confidence in himself and learn to control the others. But when one of the rats is killed, Willard bears his teeth and sics the rats on all of his enemies.
While there was an abundance of animals run amok films in the seventies, WILLARD put a face on it. It wasn’t Mother Nature or pollution compelling these animals to attack. This was a more personal tale and the film is much more relatable because of that. While some might be annoyed with Bruce Davidson’s pathetic portrayal of Willard, he came off to me as a sympathetic character—one who you hope can overcome life’s problems, get the girl, and become happy. But of course, if that were to happen, this wouldn’t be a horror movie.
And while it does take its sweet time to bear its teeth, WILLARD is a pretty effective little horror movie as Willard becomes more desperate as the film goes on. Losing his mother, losing his job, losing his house, and losing his favorite rat, it isn’t a surprise that Willard cracks. While it takes its time building up the reason’s for Willard’s break, the film does do a good job of showing the rats moving in unison, following the guidance of their human master, and learning to attack. Anyone with a rat phobia will definitely be skeeved out not only at the mere sight of the rats, but the proximity Davidson puts himself into near scores and scores of the little critters. Once unleashed on his enemies, seeing the rats leaping on them (more accurately being tossed onto them from off camera) and gnawing them to death definitely delivers on the chills.
While I sort of loved the remake made a few years ago, the original WILLARD is the kind of twisted modern fable that engaged me all the way through. Davidson is fantastic as the rat boy and there are some equally great scenes with Borgnine and Lanchester. Sandra Locke plays Willard’s human love interest, of sorts, but really doesn’t have a lot to do other than look petite and pretty, unfortunately. The film does have a bit of a wicked sense of humor with Locke’s character giving Willard a cat for companionship and Willard being mistaken as a giant rat when he unleashes the rats in a home, but by the end of this one, it becomes a tragic and rather powerful tale of an underdog-er…rat pushed to the limit and there’s a bit of catharsis seeing the little guy get his revenge. This may be one of the cases where the modern version with Crispin Glover might have improved on a concept rather than just copying it, still Davidson’s take definitely holds up.
This BluRay rerelease offers up a new interview with Davidson as well as some trailers and TV sports. Rather light on extras, but it is still a powerful little film.
Retro-review: New in the Empire Pictures BluRay Box Set Collection from Full Moon Entertainment!
GHOULIES (1984)aka BEASTIES
Directed by Luca Bercovici
Written by Luca Bercovici, Jefery Levy
Starring Lisa Pelikan, Peter Liapis, Michael Des Barres, Jack Nance, Peter Risch, Tamara De Treaux, Scott Thomson, Ralph Seymour, Mariska Hargitay, Keith Joe Dick, David Dayan, Victoria Catlin, Charene Cathleen, Bobbie Bresee
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Empire Pictures made some amazing films in the 80’s. The precursor to Full Moon Entertainment stretched their budgets and put varied and extremely creative images on screen. These mini-epics tackle horror, sci fi and beyond and now they’ve collected them all in one huge, badass box set. I’m going to be covering each film in this collection over the next few weeks, but if you’re a film collector, you’re going to want to grab this set as soon as possible as there are only 600 of them. Check out this sizzle reel featuring some of the iconic films collected in this Box Set.
After the success of GREMLINS in 1984, the chic thing to do in horror was to come up with a wee beastie to terrorize folks en masse. While CRITTERS were unleashing the rolling interstellar thunder shortly thereafter in 1986, GHOULIES went full-on occult and Empire seemed to shit out this film to cash in on the mini monster craze without really taking the time to add in things like characters and an original story, or even decent effects. Still, if you’re looking for a horror film that is indicative of the 80s, GHOULIES is it.
The film opens with a ritual gone wrong. A baby is to be sacrificed by hooded cultists. Everything is theatrical with smoke machines, cartoonish lights, and of course, the hint of the devil himself coming out to say hi. But when the sacrifice is interrupted by the baby’s momma, the child gets away while the mother ends up on the wrong end of the sacrificial dagger. Twenty years or so later, that baby is all grown up, named Jonathan (played by Peter Liapis), and returns to the house of his birth which was left to him and his fiancée Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan). Though the house is in rough shape, something compels Jonathan to restore it, put on a goofy robe, and hold an incantation which first unleashes little ghouls, followed by two midgets in medieval garb, and finally, the priest himself risen from the grave (played by Michael Des Barres--no relation to El de Barge…I think). While all of this occultism is going on, Jonathan and Rebecca find the time to par-tay like its 1999, inviting their friends over to drink, be merry, and break-dance. Shit goes wrong when the little monsters meet the 80s dance video rejects.
Made at a time when MTV was taking over the nation, this film is bathed in drug, dance, and music culture. Of course, with the budget as low as this one was, none of the music, dances, or language was ever hip, but still this one tries. I hate to assume, but something tells me that writer/director wasn’t totally familiar with the MTV and all the culture that went with it. From the horrid white guy dancing to the awful soundtrack to one of the most painful attempts at break-dancing I’ve ever had to endure, this feels like a movie an old guy makes when he thinks he is making something hip. None of the pop culturisms really work here and only add to the cheesiness of this entire film.
The script isn’t much better, populating this story with characters like Toad Boy, who speaks in a weird voice and then wonders why he doesn’t get laid, and a lothario named Dick (but you can call him Dick) who somehow gets girls to swoon over him. Jonathan and Rebecca are the only characters with weight here. Lisa Pelikan seems to have the acting chops, but isn’t given much to do but react to Jonathan’s transformation from preppy to cultist (which practically occurs overnight here). It’s cool to see ERASERHEAD’s Jack Nance in a role as the gatekeeper of the casa de Ghoulies, but he is onscreen so little that he really doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. In fact, it’s kind of weird that he appears and disappears so much in this film without much of a reference about where he is most of the time while the party is going on.
The puppets themselves are fun and really are the only reason why folks should check this film out. Yes, they are rudimentary and have very little articulation other than moving eyes and mouths. Still, some creepy design work went into these little Muppet rejects and while they don’t move much, they still are able to unleash the horror when need be. There are also some fun scenes of random horror like when the priest turns into a seductress and makes out with a dude only to wrap him up with her tongue (something we had seen before in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3, but still it makes for a rather weird scene). Another memorable moment involves a life-sized clown doll that appears and reappears throughout the story (though, again, this was swiped from POLTERGEIST).
Knockoffs are hard to review. Most of the time, it angers me that someone merely lifted a few effective scenes from here and there and tries to pawn it off as an original piece of work. Still, enough time has passed since this one was made that I feel it’s become somewhat of a classic in terms of bad cinema. GHOULIES is a film to laugh at and while I bet those making it felt differently, it’s not a film to be taken seriously. Still, if you’re in the right goofy mood, the puppets are ghoulishly fun and there are some fun scenes with the clown. The evil sorcerer midgets are a bit much, as was the zombie priest’s over the top acting. I also hate the ending, which basically negates everything that happened in the movie and sets things back to status quo. Flawed beyond belief, GHOULIES is bad cinema that you can’t help but have fun with.
This is as good as it gets, sadly, as next up is GHOULIES II, which, if I remember correctly, isn’t much better.
Retro-review: New on DVD from Camp Motion Pictures!
VAMPYRE (1990)aka VAMPYRES…WHEN LIFE IS NOT ENOUGH
Directed by Bruce G. Hallenbeck
Written by Bruce G. Hallenbeck
Starring Randy Scott Rolzer, Cathy Seyler, John Brent, Marilyn Semerad, Greg Boggis, John Gilson, James Flynn, Joan Kosby, Rene Balsam, Felicia Benson-Kraft, Lorrie Daniels, Kathy Keenan, Jennifer Keenan, Joe Phillips, Davin Lageroos, Dale Keenan, Susan Hallenbeck, Melanie Van Allen, Jaime Albin, Deborah Vallet, Emily Keenan, Luke Boggia, Beth Boggia, Michael F. Hard, Carl Dietz, Bruce G. Hallenbeck, Phil Charles, Chris Litynsky, Elizabeth Carstens, Karen Schlomy, Dave Flood
Retro-reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
This DIY film from the era of shot on video low budgeters is an ambitious little bite to the neck. VAMPYRE is not for anyone interested in big budget films like Coppola’s BRAN STOKER’S DRACULA, but it does try to do something different with the vampire subgenre, so that’s appreciated.
We are introduced to VAMPYRE’s lead character David Gray as a young boy whose family is killed by a group of vampires. Even as a kid, David has a penchant for tracking and killing vamps and seems immune to their charms. After vanquishing a few vamps, we flash forward to Gray as a man (Randy Scott Rolzer) returning to his home town in New England which seems to be overrun by vampires.
While a lot of the same old tropes are here with vampires hating crosses, being staked in the heart, and dressing in old timey garb and living a decadent lifestyle, what impressed me about this low budget film is that it didn’t simply tell the old Bram Stoker chestnut over again. Instead it focuses on David Gray, a vampire hunter who, despite wanting to live a quiet life, can’t help but be drawn to the toothy bastards. And while the title may suggest there’s just one of them, this film is full of a lot of vamps for Gray to stake.
Still, if you take away the performances that come off as if the actors are reading their lines by gunpoint and that the fangs look like the actors wore toothpicks in their mouths, there is a lot that went into this film in terms of making it feel like a period piece. I’m sure I’m taking it easy on this one, as it is a really low fi flick that most would never give a chance to, but I kind of liked this VAMPYRE. Go in with rock bottom expectations and this one might surprise you. I know it’s not a glowing recommendation, but it’s an honest one.
New on DVD from Artsploitation Films!
VAMPYRES (2015)Directed by Víctor Matellano
Written by José Ramón Larraz (story & screenplay), Víctor Matellano (screenplay)
Starring Marta Flich, Almudena León, Alina Nastase, Fele Martínez, Verónica Polo, Anthony Rotsa, Víctor Vidal, Christian Stamm, Lone Fleming, Caroline Munro, Elvira Moliterno, Luis Hacha, Remedios Darkin, Antonio Mayans, May Heatherly, Conrado San Martín, Hilda Fuchs
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Retro-reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
VAMPYRES (2015) is a remake of the José Ramón Larraz lesbian vampire film of the same name from 1974. I haven’t seen that one yet, so I can’t compare the two, but this one feels a lot like the artsy vampire flicks of the sixties and seventies by Jean Rollin. Not a particularly bad style of horror film to emulate and remake, but this one seems to be a bit more on the T&A and artsy imagery and a bit less about a cohesive and compelling story.
A pair of sister vampirettes haunt a forest that seems to attract a lot of travelers, including a trio of campers. Fortunately, this provides lots of blood and bodies for the vamps to feast upon.
First and foremost, this is a good looking film. The women are beautiful. The contrast between the blood on pale skin and dry bone is transfixing. The effects of the vamps floating and flying through the air is convincing and scary. And there are quite a few bloody bits where the vamps bathe in the blood and nibble their victims to death. The scenes of vamp attacks are actually quite scary and effective.
The problem is that it seems like most of the cast, who speak English in the film, don’t know English all that well, which makes their performances feel wooden and uncharismatic. And while everything looks good, the story is kind of all over the place with flashbacks, flash-forwards, dream sequences, hallucinations, illusions, and simply bad storytelling. VAMPYRE is like a fever dream that looks great, but the grounding is nonexistent and nothing really feels like it is really happening in the world of the film. This leaves one with the feeling that nothing that happens is of consequence as when many of the characters simply appear in the film only to be stripped naked and killed soon after.
The boobs and blood are not a bad thing, but some substantial story makes it all go down so much easier and VAMPYRES simply doesn’t seem interested in delivering on the latter.
New this week on DVD from MVD Visual/Wild Eye Releasing!
CLOWN KILL (2016)aka LOCK IN
Directed by Mark J. Howard
Written by Mark J. Howard
Starring Roy Basnett, Jessica Cunningham, Stephen Greenhalgh, James Thompson, Tim Paley, Jeff Downs, Rachel Dargie, Simon Entwistle, Holly Chadwick
Find out more about this film here, @clownkillthemovie , and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
I’m not one to turn down a clowny horror film, but CLOWN KILL is a rough entry in a subgenre of horror filled with a whole lot of rough ones.
Six months ago, Jenny (Jessica Cunningham) is raped by a clown who roofies her at a Halloween party. Never finding the rapist, Jenny tries to put the horrifying experience behind her. With her boss coming down on her for falling behind at work and the custodian creepily following her around the office with lust in his one good eye, Jenny is not too happy having to stay late at work to meet a deadline. Things go from stressful to terrifying pretty quickly as the clown returns and stalks Jenny throughout the empty office building. Drugged and alone, Jenny desperately tries to survive the night with a killer clown ready to jump out at her from any corridor.
The premise of this one is not so bad. It actually gives Jenny a reason to fear clowns rather than just a simple phobia given that one assaulted her a few months prior. The problem is that none of the characters are decently developed and any who are—are quickly dispatched of by the clown. It doesn’t help that the shoddy sound makes it difficult to understand what anyone is saying and the uninspired direction and editing cancels out a lot of moments that might have been rather scary.
File CLOWN KILL under missed opportunity as I think there as a glimmer of a decent story here and a cool twist that keeps you on your toes towards the end. But the kills, character work, sound, and directing are pretty uninspired and end up undercutting any potential this one might have possessed.
New in select theaters this week, On Demand on May 30th, and BluRay on July 17th from Cleopatra Films (find out more here)!
DEVIL’S DOMAIN (2016)Directed by Jared Cohn
Written by Jared Cohn
Starring Michael Madsen, Madi Vodane, Linda Bella, Zack Kozlow, Kelly Erin Decker, Brenna Tucker, Desanka Julia Ilic, Ciara Muller, Jordan Matayoshi, Stephanie Strehlow, Molly Nolan, Chloe Wick, Sharifa Oliver, Dave Huber, Andy Rappos, Shawn C. Phillips, Michael Blaine, Gabriel Carli-Jones, Gabrielle Avery, Angie Stevenson, Alphonse John Teems Iii, Christopher Kingry, Samm Allen, Michael Haddad, John Davis Walker, Tyler Conklin, Jeremy Wojchihosky, Ava Kujik
Find out more about this film here, @DevilsDomainMovie, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
The age-old Faustian tale of selling souls for fame and fortune makes up the framework for DEVIL’S DOMAIN, which tries to pepper in modern online bullying into the mix. And while there are some impressive effects-work to see in this one, an overlong runtime, some horrifyingly bad edits, and some rough performances make this one hard to recommend.
We are introduced to Lisa (Madi Vodane) as she is vomiting into the camera after binging on snack foods she keeps under her bed. Lisa is a troubled teenager, struggling with sexual feelings about her best friend Rhonda and dealing with online and in person bullying from her peers at school. When she is secretly filmed binging, purging, and then masturbating and the video is shared to the entire school, Lisa is pushed over the edge and ready to kill herself. But a woman named Destiny (Linda Bella) pings her online, tempting Lisa to meet with her. Destiny seems to understand Lisa and knows exactly what she wants. It turns out Destiny is actually the devil him—herself and she’s willing to give Lisa her deepest desires for the simple price of her soul.
Let’s start positively here. The full body devil suit Linda Bella wears in demon form is downright awesome. It’s both scary and sexy, yet filled with little details that make it an all around professional looking costume/effect. Youngster Mai Vodane also gives a likable performance as the troubled Lisa and I’m sure the young actress will go on to be in movies much better than this one.
The problem is that the rest of the film is just poorly made. The story is meandering and repetitive. There are too many kids picking on Lisa and seeing Destiny creep up on them and kill them in an ill-fitting devil mask loses its luster when it occurs for the umpteenth time. This is undercut with Destiny tempting Lisa by exacting revenge on a few other bullies, so there’s almost a whole hour dedicated to wiping out too many bullies for the film to properly deal with an introduction to the problem and its resolution in any manner that doesn’t feel rushed. Add on to that some extremely shoddy edits which undercut effects and key plot points and key scenes, and you have one mess of a movie.
On top of that, despite the attempts at eroticism, the film is surprisingly PG when it comes to actually showing risqué or sexual scenes. It just lacks the bite when hell is filled with people who won’t even take off their bras and panties. Everything just feels like a censored version of hell instead of the freakiness this film tries to convey. I also felt actress Linda Bella really was out of her depth as the Devil/Destiny. Most likely, Bella is a model and it seems like English is not her first language. And that’s ok if not for the fact that she has so many lines and her line delivery is stiff and emotionless. This makes for some pretty unconvincing temptation scenes between Lisa and the Devil.
DEVIL’S DOMAN tries to be edgy, sensual, and horrifying, but the production and acting simply can’t live up to what they are going for. Despite the devilish subject matter and PG sensuality, the whole thing feels like a teenage horror story one might find on the Disney Channel. So the demon suit and Vodane were not half bad. Hell, even Michael Madsen doesn’t give a bad performance here. But everything else just fails to be a horrifying or sexy as it is trying to be.
New on DVD from MVD Visual/Girls & Corpses!
BODIES (2016)aka PARAMEDICS
Directed by Rodney Wilson
Written by Rodney Wilson
Starring Joe Bocian, Brian Landis Folkins, Jenice Marshall, Brit Cormack, Ashley Davis, Katelynn Derengowski, Greg Maloney
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Sponsored by the magazine GIRLS & CORPSES, that’s basically what BODIES is and though there isn’t much more than that to this film, it doesn’t do an awful job with the small budget it has.
Jenice Marshall plays Cindy, a young woman who hurts her ankle on a camping trip and calls for an ambulance not knowing that the closest paramedics to her are a pair of brothers (Joe Bocian & Brian Landis Folkins) who happen to be organ harvesters. Once in their lair, Cindy proves to be more than the two brothers can handle as she manipulates them into turning on one another.
The thing this film has going for it is that the film is abundant with both hot gals in partial or un-dress and some grueling effects. Though I haven’t read the magazine, GIRLS & CORPSES follows through on delivering just that in BODIES. There is also a decent script and the acting isn’t as bad as one might expect on such a low budgeter. I actually think the slow burn feel of this film where Cindy breaks down the brotherly bond between the two harvesters is done quite well.
That said, BODIES feels as if it is stretched out a bit to reach feature length and might’ve been a much better short film or portion of an anthology. While the performances and writing is decent, the film begins to get repetitive about halfway through and feels as if it’s worn out its welcome at the hour long mark. Still, I was impressed at the character development I saw from all three leads as they get to know one another. This is a gory film. It’s an uncomfortable film as there is a lot of blood, rape, and sexual manipulation involved. But under all of that, despite it’s longer than necessary runtime, the basics of this film are all there which makes up for some of the cruder bits that make up BODIES.
New on DVD from MVD Visual/Wild Eye Releasing!
AMERICAN MUMMY (2014)aka AZTEC BLOOD
Directed by Charles Pinion
Written by Charles Pinion, Greg Salman
Starring Suziey Block, Aidan Bristow, Aaron Burt, Esther Canata, Erin Condry, Jack Grimmett, Rudy Marquez, Peter Marr, Rigo Obezo, Jennifer June Ross, Greg Salman
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
It’s most likely they blew the dust and sand off of this mummy film because of the upcoming release of the Tom Cruise/Universal Monster Universe film THE MUMMY. Mummy films are kind of few and far between in horror these days. Whether or not the big budget mummy movie will be a splash at the box office will ultimately determine if mummies will be the new “it thing” in horror, but while AMERICAN MUMMY isn’t going to fire up that trend too much, it’s not a bad low budgeter with a decent twist on the old tale and a surprise or two in the cast.
A group of college kids looking for credit go on a surveying trip to New Mexico to check out a site of an ancient Aztec burial ground. Inside, they find the remains of a mummy all decked out in Aztec ornaments. As members of their group begin dying mysteriously, they begin to think it is because of an Aztec curse.
A couple of things are actually quite good in AMERICAN MUMMY. First off it stars Suziey Block from the excellent horror film ENTRANCE (reviewed here) and while she doesn’t get to stretch her acting muscles as much here, it is good to see her again. Secondly, this is a pretty gory film with lots of spattered blood and gruesome deaths by way of the uncovered cursed tomb. Third, I really like the look of the mummy itself, at least in its decayed form as it is simply a skull decorated and painted with ornate jewels. It makes for a pretty haunted image to refer back to every time something happens to the group. But above all of these little factors, I like that this film pays less attention to a gauze-wrapped monster limping after screaming kids and more to the curse surrounding entering sacred territory. Sure there is a mummy eventually, but the bulk of this film focuses on the supernatural and weird events happening once the tomb is uncovered.
Big budget mummy movies forget that these films are about an ancient curse more than simply big CG monsters. AMERICAN MUMMY is not a great film, but at least it remembers that fact. So while this low budgeter gets a bit slow in the middle and the cast aside from Block and a few exceptions are pretty bland, at least it remembers what mummy films are all about.
New this week On Demand and on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures!
BREAKDOWN LANE (2017)Directed by Bob Schultz, Robert Conway
Written by Bob Schultz, Robert Conway
Starring Whitney Moore, Aric Cushing, Nicole Zylstra, Travis Friesen, Shane Dean, William 'Bill' Connor, Owen Conway, Santiago Craig, Monica Engesser, Stephen Tyler Howell, Clint James, Avaah Blackwell, Gianna Frangella, Rob S. Gray, Eric Hale
Find out more about this film here, @BreakdownLane, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
BREAKDOWN LANE has an infectiously likable star, but doesn’t seem to know what to do with her. Still, I could watch actress Whitney Moore do just about anything and be entertained.
Moore plays Kirby Lane, a plucky young gal on her way to meet up with her boy toy when her SUV breaks down in the desert. And wouldn’t you know it, the zombie apocalypse seems to be happening as well, which just shats another crap on her day. Now Kirby has to make her way through moaning zombies and crusty survivors in order to get to civilization. Along the way, she meets some colorful and not so colorful characters.
BREAKDOWN LANE should be seen simply because Whitney Moore is a star in the making. With her floppy hair and beautiful form, she is definitely easy on the eyes, but it’s her snarky line delivery and lively spirit that makes all of the good looks feel like icing on the cake. Filmmakers Bob Schultz and Robert Conway know they have a star on their hands and smartly centers the camera on Moore for most of the film. I look forward to seeing Moore in future films as she is definitely a rising star full of potential.
The problem is that the rest of the movie around Moore is kind of a mess. The film is supposed to be taking place at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. Kirby doesn’t know the dead are rising and chewing on folks when she sets out on her trip. But through the course on one night, the story seems to fast forward to a world that has been overcome and adapted to the zombies. Moore falls asleep in her car and wakes up to bikers who have given up on society and now cook and eat the dead. Another man has figured out how to get the zombies to work with him and has gone insane because of it. I understand this world we live in would most likely go to hell in a hand basket pretty quickly if the dead start walking, but I don’t think things would go all ROAD WARRIOR over night and that’s what happens in this film. It’s actually kind of funny how OnStar still works, but people have resorted to cannibalism. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s funny.
BREAKDOWN LANE feels like a bunch of ideas loosely threaded together with a compelling lead actress and the same rockin’ guitar riff linking them together. It makes for an entertaining story, but not one that makes a lick of sense. I can’t wait to see Whitney Moore in more films as she is great here and the gore in this film isn’t half bad either, but the rest of the film feels like a hodgepodge of puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit together.
New this week in select theaters and On Demand from IFC Midnight!
THE SURVIVALIST (2015)Directed by Stephen Fingleton
Written by Stephen Fingleton
Starring Mia Goth, Martin McCann, Andrew Simpson, Olwen Fouere, Barry Ward, Kieri Kennedy, Hussina Raja, Michael Og Lane, Douglas Russell, Ryan McParland, Ciaran Flynn, Jeremy Martin, Sean Doupe, Caitlin Deeds, Logan Kerr, Aaron Goldring, Matthew Henry, Dexter Louca Godfrey, Aran Downey
Find out more about this film here, @thesurvivalistfilm, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Reminiscent of another apocalyptic tale, HERE ALONE (reviewed here) where one woman’s structured life after the zombie apocalypse is torn asunder when she encounters a pair of survivors, THE SURVIVALIST flips genders and follows a man living on his own after society collapses. There are no zombies in THE SURVIVALIST, but with the high amount of similarities between the two films, they would make for one hell of a double feature.
Martin McCann plays a nameless man living in the middle of a forest. The opening moments show him tending to his garden, recycling the forest around him in order to survive. There are hints as to what happened to the civilized world, but no real explanation is offered. All we need to know is that this man lives off the land and is doing a decent, though mundane and somewhat simple, life from it. Enter a woman named Kathryn (Olwen Fouere) and her daughter Milja (Mia Goth) who show up on the Survivalist’s land offering seeds for some food. When the Survivalist turns them down, Kathryn offers up sexy times with her daughter Milja as payment as it appears the Survivalist has been on his own without the companionship of a woman in quite some time. The Survivalist agrees and thus the loner enters a tentative pact with the mother and daughter, sex for sustenance. Though he keeps them at a distance, the Survivalist begins to trust Kathryn and Milja, but this is a dangerous world. With Milja and Kathryn thinking of their own survival and strangers lurking in the woods looking to pillage and plunder what the Survivalist has grown, our hermit finds that solitude is a hard thing to keep.
THE SURVIVALIST is a somber and humorless story of the age old message “No man is an island.” The lead’s need for interaction and loneliness is highlighted in the opening moments where he soullessly goes through his routine, not because he has a passion for life, but because it is just something to get him through to the next day. Sure, letting the two women into his well structured life is a mistake that he ends up paying for dearly, but it also shows that despite the sacrifices and hardships, this need to interact with others is one of man’s most base instincts. While he fights this urge, the title character cannot deny interacting with others, even though every instinct tells him to lock his door and ignore the wanderers’ pleas for help. This is a sensitive and humanist story about a harsh world that forces people to close up, yet there still is confirmation that an undeniable urge to connect exists in all of us. It’s a simple tale with little talking and a small cast, but still is communicates a powerful message.
McCann, Goth, and Fouere all three deliver powerful performances here. McCann reminds me of a younger and more gaunt Christian Bale—offering up an intensity that is understandable given the situation. Still he is likable as the lead despite his hesitance to trust and will to survive over everything else. Fouere is equally powerful and while it might seem wrong to offer up her daughter as an object, the angst she feels for doing this desperate act is palpable here, communicated with a furrowed brow and a blank stare. Goth is great here as well, flipping between innocent flower to animal with claws ready to unsheathe in a heartbeat. None of them trust one another and they are simply using each other for what they can get from the other, but still, they are able to show guarded humanity in their interactions that eventually grow into a powerful bond. Set in a world where the monster is man itself, this film relies on the powerful performances of guards being shifted and lowered ever so slightly. No bold emotional moves occur here, just logical character shifts and McCann, Goth, and Fouere do this masterfully.
THE SURVIVALIST is a somber tale with not even a moment of frivolity or joy in the whole film. It is what the title suggests. The characters don’t love or flourish or have fun. They simply survive to live another day. It’s a morose film and one that isn’t going to leave you with a happy feeling. But it is a powerful film of doing what needs to be done in order to see the next sunrise. Sober and unflinchingly stark, THE SURVIVALIST tells an allegory of the end of the world that is not too different to the guarded and self-centered world we live in today. This makes for some uncomfortable and joyless viewing, but also a powerful movie experience.
And finally…here’s another Light’s Out Radio Play from yesteryear. This one is called “Nature Study.” It’s a spooky little number. The sound is a bit garbled, but dammit if the image of the smiling corpses didn’t send a shiver down my spine. Bundle up in your covers and give it a listen! It…is…later than…you think!
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.
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