Welcome to the darker side of AICN! M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Here’s another ten films recently released and ready for consumption. Have at ‘em!
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: HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959)
Retro-review: MADHOUSE (1981)
Retro-review: RETRO PUPPET MASTER (1999)
FOREST OF THE VAMPIRE (2016)
PRESIDENT’S DAY (2016)
GUTBOY: A BAD TIME STORY (2015)
DEEP IN THE WOOD (2015)
47 METERS DOWN (formerly IN THE DEEP, 2016)
Advance Review: BONEJANGLES (2016)
And finally…Light’s Out: Man in the Middle!
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Kino Lorber!
HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959)Directed by Terence Fisher
Written by Peter Bryan (screenplay), (based on the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Starring Peter Cushing, André Morell, Christopher Lee, Marla Landi, David Oxley, Francis De Wolff, Miles Malleson, Ewen Solon, John Le Mesurier, Helen Goss, Sam Kydd, Michael Hawkins, Judi Moyens, Michael Mulcaster, David Birks, Elizabeth Gott, Ian Hewitson
Retro-reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Terence Fisher brings one of Sherlock Holmes’ most popular tales to vivid life in the electrifying and exquisite HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES. Again it pairs Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing together and again the two are mesmerizing to watch.
The family of the Baskervilles have been cursed for decades to die in the moors outside of their castle and each death is marked with the howl of a hound from Hell itself. When the last Baskerville Sir Henry Baskerville (Christopher Lee) attains the property, the family doctor goes to the most prolific detective in the world, Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing) and his trusty assistant Dr. Watson (Andre Morell) to find out if the curse is real and if there is any way to save the last Baskerville from succumbing to it.
Filled with amazingly decadent sets inside castles and inns as well as vast bubbling and fog-filled moors, HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES is a movie worth absorbing for the sheer gothic mood as on a Hammer film can deliver. Fisher takes advantage of the stages and sets to their maximum capacity to elevate the danger within and without the walls of Baskerville manor as Holms’ case takes him all over the English countryside. Fisher’s film never feels cramped or confined to one set for too long and for its time, HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES is quite an expansive tale.
But the real reason this is a must see for horror fans is that it once again pairs Christopher Lee with his longtime friend Peter Cushing. As usual, Lee takes a backseat to the more over the top Cushing, playing the straight man in Henry Baskerville not really believing in all of this Hell Hound curse business. I could say Cushing is at his best playing Holmes, but then again he is as iconic here as he is as Dr. Frankenstein or Van Helsing in his other Hammer forays. The man IS Holmes here and while Basil Rathbone is often accredited with the most iconic performance, Cushing does the role with such vigor and wit that I would have loved to see more cases cracked by him. Cushing delivers sharp and biting dialog at a rapid rate, making the entire film feel as if it is dancing on a razor’s edge with Lee’s Baskerville and Andre Morell’s Watson always playing backup.
The mystery itself is rather silly by the end, but these performances make it all feel so much fun that I have to look past the fact that the hound is simply a dog wearing a scary mask. The plot is thicker than that, but there’s a Scooby Doo quality to the story itself that makes me chuckle every time I see or read it. Still, this is a Hammer Holmes film starring two of horrorrdom’s most prolific stars. It’s a can’t miss as both actors are on the top of their game here, with Cushing simply crushing it as the master sleuth himself.
Retro-review: New on BluRay from Arrow Video/MVD Visual!
MADHOUSE (1981)aka THERE WAS A LITTLE GIRL, FLESH & THE BEAST, AND WHEN SHE WAS BAD, SCARED TO DEATH
Directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis
Written by Ovidio G. Assonitis, Stephen Blakely, Roberto Gandus, Peter Shepherd
Starring Trish Everly, Michael MacRae, Dennis Robertson, Morgan Most, Allison Biggers, Edith Ivey, Richard Baker, Don Devendorf, Jerry Fujikawa, Doug Dillingham, Joe Camp, Janie Baker, Huxsie Scott,
Retro-reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
While much of the territory tread in the especially wicked little slasher called MADHOUSE is well worn by now, it is impressive that this film was one of the first of many 80’s slashers to identify and form the clichés we all know and love about this favored horror subgenre.
Julia (Trish Everly) is a sweet and wholesome teacher at a school for deaf kids, but she has a haunting past. Her sadistic twin sister Mary (Allison Biggers) has been confined to a mental hospital since she was a child. As kids, Mary used to torture Julia, but Julia has put that behind her as she nears her birthday. After visiting her sister in the hospital and talking with her sweet friend of the family (Dennis Robertson), Julia finds Mary more twisted as ever and flees. But Mary escapes and follows Julia home, tracking down all of Julia’s friends to attend a twisted birthday party. Oh and also, Mary has a trained Rotweiller that she has somehow kept healthy and murdery all of these years…
It’s tough to tell which came first as MADHOUSE and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME came out in the same year and almost have the exact same premise. Both films culminate around a twisted birthday party attended by the corpses of all of the final girl’s friends and both rack up quite a body count in some pretty creative ways. Still, there is a rough edge to MADHOUSE with the opening dream sequence where a little girl smashes her mother’s face in with a rock and the question as to whether Mary exists at all and if Julia is the one killing everyone that makes MADHOUSE more than a simple imitation. Sure it sort of follows the tropes that were established in the FRIDAY THE 13TH and HALLOWEEN series, but with the setting of a large apartment complex with lots of hallways and rooms, it manages to distinguish itself in the subgenre quite nicely.
The addition of an attack dog, which inexplicably survived Mary’s ten years of incarceration fairly well, is a nice touch and there is a lengthy scene after the killer reveal where the killer toys with a woman that is utterly effective. Still, once the killer is revealed, all mystery around Julie and Mary’s past is tossed out the window. The villain is of the moustache twirling variety who sings nursery rhymes and acts like a child suddenly for no reason at all other than to highlight the level of crazy going on. It’s as if the filmmakers not only wanted to pattern their film after F13 and HALLOWEEN, but also the dinner scene in TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, yet it fails to accomplish that level of intensity simply due to the over the top performance of the killer. Still, MDHOUSE has some gritty kills along with some truly scary setups to those kills making it one of the more effective early slasher films of the eighties. It’s well worth a watch.
Special features include: a brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues Podcast crew (a podcast I listen to regularly and you should too if you like slasher films), brand new interviews with cast and crew, alternate opening titles, theatrical trailer, newly transferred in HD, and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach. All and all this is a wonderful little package celebrating one of the first of many horror slashers to assault us in the eighties!
Retro-review: New on DVD from Full Moon Films!
RETRO PUPPET MASTER (1999)aka PUPPET MASTER 7
Directed by David DeCoteau
Written by Neal Marshall Stevens (screenplay), Charles Band (original story)
Starring Greg Sestero, Brigitta Dau, Stephen Blackehart, Jack Donner, Guy Rolfe, Robert Radoveanu, Vitalie Bantas, Sando Teodor, George Calin, Juliano Doman, Vlad Dulea, Dan Fintescu, Serban Celea, Elvira Deatcu, Claudiu Trandafir, Marcel Cobzariu, Viorel Manole, Mihai Verbintschi, Adrian Ciobanu, Razvan Popa, Aurelian Popa, Cristian Irimia, Ion Bechet, John R. Ellis
Retro-reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
As much as I loved the original PUPPET MASTER and some of its sequels, I do feel that the franchise, at least in the hands of Full Moon, has definitely run its course. While RETRO PUPPET MASTER was not the last of the series—as there have been eleven installments and it’s still going, this seventh installment definitely is a good indication that they are running out of ideas.
Told in flashback as Tulon the Puppet Master (Guy Rolfe) and creator of the evil puppets reminisces over the broken puppet head of a doll named Cyclops, the bulk of the story takes place in Paris around the time of WWII as a young Tulon (Greg Sestero) attempts to make a living as a puppet maker and entertainer, but gets sucked into a diabolical plot involving Nazis, mummies, and beings swiped directly from DARK CITY. The action culminates on a train as Tulon unleashes the puppets on fedora and trench coat wearing agents who create nightmares, stop time, and cause sleep and death by the touch.
Never a company to be above swiping ideas and making low budget knockoffs of them, RETRO PUPPET MASTER owes all of the new elements of the story to Alex Proyas’ DARK CITY. This is basically the Strangers from DARK CITY versus puppets and while that might be a fun concept to explore, way too much time is spent with young Tulon falling in love with a debutante. And had acting and not a pretty boy face been the basis of hiring Greg Sestero as the young Tulon, maybe that aspect of the story—aka the bulk of the story, would have been interesting, but Sestero has a blank Blue Steel look on him for most of the film and most of his lines are dubbed horrifically. Making matters worse, the voice dub is extremely high and lispy, making every time Sestero opens his mouth pretty comedic.
As always, the gold here is when the puppets are on screen. This may have just been an excuse for the film to come up with new designs for all of your favorite evil puppets, but the redesigns are pretty good. The puppet work and effects are pretty awesome as well as by this time, the film series really gets how to make the articulation and movement look realistic and sometimes even scary. Still, most likely, this is a film made to sell some new redesigns of the PUPPET MASTER figures. Hell, if it worked for Lucas…
RETRO PUPPET MASTER is decent in a sense that it still seems that the folks behind it were trying to expand the mythos. Yes, there’s much repetition and the pacing of the film skids to a halt more times than my first time driving a stick shift, but it still features some great puppeteering fun. With this new BluRay edition comes special features—a new director’s commentary with director David DeCoteau & actor Greg Sestero, 2 hours of rare behind-the-scenes footage with optional director’s commentary, original Videozone, and scores of Full Moon trailers.
New this week On Demand from Wild Eye Releasing!
TSUNAMBEE (2015)aka THE WRATH COMETH
Directed by Milko Davis
Written by Milko Davis
Starring Stacy Pederson, Ruselis Perry, Shale Le Page, Maria DeCoste, Thea Saccoliti, Charlie Aligaen, Jeff Pederson, Jordan Chesnut, Aaron Goodman, WonDrae Hart, Jon Kunsch, Walter Anaruk, Jerell Klaver, Kim Green, Cherith Steininger, Michelle Mras, Chris Mortenson, Dani Payne, Melanie Mahaffey, Tearra Dillion, Ramin Delsouz, Ashley Skok
Find out more about this film @tsunambee and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
An odd Christian message emerges from this low budget CG nature run amok film in the tradition of SHARKNADO.
Even in a subgenre filled with AVALANCHE SHARKS and LAVALANTULAS, TSUNAMBEE still stands out as an odd outlier. The film begins in Nigeria where a group of explorers stumble upon a group of hives hanging from the trees. Cut a few years into the future and a rookie cop shoots down an unarmed assailant in a dark alley. Cut to a few more years later and that now more experienced cop and the brother of the slain kid are forced to team up to battle an onslaught of giant killer bees that turn their victims into venom filled zombies.
While films like this, which seem to show up as a Saturday night feature on Sci Fi, usually have terribly bad effects, I will give this one credit that the effects are better than average. Apparently, flying bees are easier to render than sharks, dinosaurs, and bigfoots—maybe it’s because of the fact that they aren’t expected to move their mouths or emote or anything. But at least the bees look decent, though they never really seem to be in the same space as the actors.
With all of these films, they try to inject a human sided story and most of the time it doesn’t really work. In this one, not only do we get one preachy pro-Christian exposition after another from the born again cop and one of the religious God-fearing survivors, but there is also a non-stop argument between a black gangbanger and the cop about his brother being shot down. I don’t know about you, but I go to my giant monsters running amok stories to see giant monsters running amok, not to have a half of the time filled with bible quotes and the other half filled with a dissertation about the pros and cons of Black/Blue Lives Matter. Worse yet, the people mouthing these endless diatribes have gone to the shout-everything school of acting. The gangbanger has a range of emotion of angry to REALLY BUSTA RHYMES ANGRY and everyone else’s character is so one dimensional that that could avoid any trouble with the bees just by disappearing by standing sideways.
Plus there’s just no sense to the title of this film. This is just a swarm of giant bees, not a giant wave of them. With the religious theme maybe BEEPOCALYPSE or SWARMAGEDDON—ooo, I like that one and trademarking it, might have been more appropriate. Or if they were going to go with the social justice route BEE HIVES MATTER? Either way, even for these types of films, which are always bottom of the barrel, TSUNAMBEE is pretty low on the totem pole.
New this week on DVD from MVD Visual!
FOREST OF THE VAMPIRE (2016)Directed by John R. Hand
Written by John R. Hand
Starring Destiny Baldwin, Joe De Luca, April Hand, Gary Kent, Stevie Marceaux, Caitlyn Moore, Ian Pala, Kasey Sherwood, Starla Snowdon, & Paul Camp as Baal the Vampire!
Find out more about this film here, @forestofthevampire, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
A pinch of Jean Rollin and maybe a bit of Timothy Leary tries really hard to make this low budget vampire film more than it really is and ends up being only somewhat successful.
A quartet of kids decide to go on a hiking trip in the woods only to stumble into the territory of a vampire who holds dominion over his victims through the power of an ancient amulet.
While the acting is pretty sophomoric and the story could use some punching up, filmmaker John R. Hand actually has a decent eye when it comes to lingering on dreamlike and coming up like classic grindhousey shots such as the opening kill which centers in on the victim’s eye with the screen drenched in red set to trippy music. There are actually quite a few shots in FOREST OF THE VAMPIRE that impressed me from a cinematography level. The unconventional way this film transcends into a spiritual realm where the heroine must face off against the vampire in a force of wills that reminded me more of a DOCTOR STRANGE comic book than a low budget vamp flick is actually quite creative and impressive on a visual level. There are also scenes of female vampires trance-like walking through the woods that reminded me of the classic Jean Rollin vampire films of old, which were also very much style over substance as well.
And that’s the biggest problem with FOREST OF THE VAMPIRE. While the visuals are better than average, the story and acting simply is not. Most of the actors feel like they are either over-acting or simply reading instructions on how to plug in a toaster and there are inexplicable oddities about the story such as why the vampires can walk around in daylight (most likely because things got extremely muddy in the nighttime and the camera simply could pick the actors up better, I assume). The characters simply go along with the flow and really aren’t taken aback too much with the fact that vampires exist (much less a vampire who sort of looks like Soupy Sales) and even late in the game revelations from the lead gal fail to really land with any impact both because it isn’t communicated well through the acting and because the story doesn’t accentuate it.
Still the final moments suggest that Hand has an eye for impressive visuals, so I’m anticipating what the filmmaker has to offer next. The credits threaten a sequel to FOREST OF THE VAMPIRE. Here’s hoping this one punches up the acting and gives a little more clarity to the tale it is telling.
New this week On Demand from Brain Damage Film/Midnight Releasing!
PRESIDENT’S DAY (2016)Directed by David Zuckerman
Written by David Zuckerman, Benjamin Goodwin, Jud Zumwalt
Starring Brittany Faith Rosoff, Monica Ricketts, Jud Zumwalt, David Zuckerman, Erik Myers, Chelsea Taylor Leech, Dax Hill, Cassie Kunz, Benjamin Goodwin, Elliot Shahbas, Rick Steadman as George Washington/Andrew Jackson, Bram Rees-Davies as William H. Harrison, Joseph Zeigler as Thomas Jefferson, David Zody as John Adams, Rob Bebenek as Teddy Roosevelt, Barrett Cooper as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Matt Eisenberg as Richard Nixon/John Tyler, Don Schlossman as William H. Taft, Bruce Ryan as Linden B. Johnson, Matthew Broussard as John F. Kennedy, Mike Ostroski as James K. Polk, Jordan Leach as Abraham Lincoln/Andrew Jackson, Josh Nasar as Franklin Pierce, Joe Coffey as Christopher Columbus, & Michael Minto as John Wilkes Booth!
Find out more about this film here, @presidentsdayfilm, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
If you’re looking for some kind of biting social commentary on the absurdity of politics and society’s mental breakdown by making everything political, PRESIDENT’S DAY is going to come up lacking. But if you’re looking for a low budgeter with a wonky sense of humor and a lot of self referentialism, this is a slasher in the woods story that fits the bill.
A group of pretty clichés make their way to a cabin in the woods to party. Present are the jock, the rebel, the nerd, the black guy, the goth girl, the virgin, and the slut. For no particular reason other than it being President’s Day weekend, the corpses of a bunch of dead presidents rise from the grave to kill these kids. Why? Because horror.
Don’t go looking for sense to all of this madness. Just go along for the ride and maybe you’ll be as entertained as I was with this film. A lot of the jokes fall flat, but once the president’s show up, I must admit a lot of fun and a whole lot of terrible political puns are had by all. Always one to enjoy a bit of “dad humor,” PRESIDENT’S DAY is full of it with Teddy Roosevelt leading a hunting party, FDR stuck in a bathtub, Abe Lincoln swinging an axe, and James K. Polk fighting to be remembered for all of his achievements and being depressed that no one remembers him. Of course, if you’re looking to kill some presidents, the kids know what to do; resurrect the master at killing presidents, John Wilkes Booth. And that they do!
There’s nothing really new or original about this film. It relies on the fact that you’ve seen a ton of these slasher films and if you haven’t, I doubt this one will work. But if you like bad puns, historical humor, and a lot of sight gags, then this one is the goofy slasher spoof you’re going to want to see. This one is pretty PG rated in terms of gore and nudity, though James K. Polk (who not only got a cool They Might Be Giants song named for him) gets laid—Good on ya, James!
If you’re in the mood for goofy, forgettable horror, check PRESIDENT’S DAY out. I laughed quite a bit at and with it.
New this week on Troma Now!
GUTBOY: A BAD TIME STORY (2015)Directed by Nick Grant
Written by Nick Grant
Starring Will Cooper, Megan Daniels, Dan Fenaughty, Misty Foster, Anthony Herrera, David Homyk, Nick Reed, Pearl Rhein, and Marybeth Schroeder
Find out more about this film here, @gutboy, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
A deft sense of humor and some pretty fancy string work brings this dark, but funny fairy tale to life. Don’t expect anything too highbrow, but GUTBOY will entertain if you give into its undeniable charm.
When a boy fishing and minding his own business is approached by a traveling swindler, the swindler literally swipes the skin off his back. Wallowing in his sorrows and skinless, Gutboy catches a skinless mermaid on the end of his fishing pole. By doing this, he attains a wish and instead of wishing for his skin back, he wishes for the love of the daughter o the sheriff. This begins the adventure of the Gutboy and how he fell in love with the perfect girl.
Filled with catchy songs and wonky moving puppets, GUTBOY is one of those films you have to be in the right mood for. It’s not for those without a sense of humor, but if you like the off-kilter mad-cappery that shows up on Adult Swim, GUTBOY falls right around the same level on the laugh-o-meter. Expect some graphic gore as skin is ripped off of the bodies of these puppets as if they are shedding their clothing. Still, there’s an innocence to this film that exudes from every scene. Sure there are scenes of sex, violence, and just plain wrong-ness, but the characters seem to think they are in some kind of Disney tale, which only adds to the charm.
One of the cooler aspects of GUTBOY is the way they incorporate real actors into the story. Called Golden Giants, these scenes where the puppets and giants interact, wrestle, and get trashed in a cellar full of wine are a lot of fun. And GUTBOY feels like a film made with fun in mind. Sure it’s an adult kind of fun, there are swears, innuendo, and outright twisted moments, but the time and energy put into making and operating these puppets is a lost art and I’m glad this film shows that you can still make something from it. I’d recommend this one to grown up folks who loved THUNDERBIRDS as a kid and celebrated the TEAM AMERICA film. GUTBOY: A BAD TIME STORY was made with these viewers in mind.
New this week On Demand from Uncork’d Entertainment and on DVD September 27th!
DEEP IN THE WOOD (2015)aka IN FONDO AL BOSCO
Directed by Stefano Lodovichi
Written by Isabella Aguilar, Stefano Lodovichi, Davide Orsini
Starring Filippo Nigro, Camilla Filippi, Giovanni Vettorazzo, Teo Achille Caprio, Stefano Pietro Detassis, Maria Vittoria Barrella, Roberto Gudese, Luca Filippi, Andrea Brunello, Uber. Beatrice, Alessandro Corabi, Luca Di Giovanni, Ermanno De Biagi, Antonella Arseni, Gaetano di Vaio, Roberta Barbiero, Rocco Rampino, Claudio Colavecchia, Simon Pliger
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Recently, I was helping out with some yardwork and accidentally knocked down what I thought was a thicket of sticks at the top of an outside doorway. Turns out that it was a small nest of baby sparrows and my heart broke when the nest plopped down and the terrified little baby birds cheeped for their mother who was screeching a tree away. My instinct was to pick up the nest and birds and return them to their spot in the doorway arch in hopes to save the birds, but some part of me remembered that if a human touches the nest of a bird, the mother will know and will not return to care for the babies. So I grabbed some gloves and gently picked up the nest and babies, setting them above harm’s way in a nearby tree and hoped the mother bird would return to them. A few hours later, I saw that she did and a weight that I had accidentally killed a quartet of birds was lifted. While I watched DEEP IN THE WOOD, translated literally from IN FONDO AL BOSCO which explains the awkward use of wordery, I thought of this occurrence as it deals with similar themes about a mother whose baby disappears one night only to have the child return years later. The mother doesn’t recognize the boy and thinks it is not her son, wondering who had her son all of these years in the interim.
Set in Italy, DEEP IN THE WOOD follows the disappearance of a boy named Tommi who wandered into the woods during a Krampus festival scared of the demon monsters running around the parade. With his mother Linda (Camilla Filippi) at home asleep and his father Pietro (Giovanni Vettorazzo) enjoying the festivities with a little too much to drink, Tommi disappears. Pietro is accused of murdering the boy and both parents take the disappearance hard with Linda attempting suicide. But five years later, a young boy is found by Detective Manuel Conci (Filippo Nigro) working the missing boy case and he believes he finds Tommi alive and well. At first Linda and Pietro are ecstatic to have their boy back. But while Pietro’s excitement sustains, Linda becomes overcome with a horrible feeling that this boy is not Tommi.
What makes this film so compelling is the depth and the murkiness of the mystery. So many questions arise and they are all compelling ones. What happened to Tommi that night? If this is Tommi five years later, where did he go? If it isn’t Tommi, who is he? All of these questions play out masterfully as we are thrown into this dark situation with extremely flawed people simply trying to survive an absolute nightmare. Once this scenario is presented, I was engrossed in finding out the answers. And when they come, while there is a lot of convolution and chance happening all at once, I felt this film set up the mystery and sprinkled in the answers throughout masterfully.
These details are peppered in extremely well and going into too many of them will spoil this film and I don’t want to do that. What this film does so well is dole out the info with an extremely conservative hand, leaving you with these tortured souls to help untangle the mystery. Vettorazzo is amazing as Pietro who so much wants to believe Tommi is his son and is unwilling to believe otherwise. Equally effective is Filippi as Linda the mother whose heavy heart is conveyed with so much passion. This is a film that has so much emotional heft riding on the answers to the mystery that someone is going to be heartbroken no matter what, which makes it all more dramatic and tension filled as the film goes on.
I don’t want to reveal anything more about this film other than the fact that it resonated with me. The film is a dark descent into many different madnesses and it definitely isn’t for those looking for a happy ending with all bows tied tightly. DEEP IN THE WOOD is a rather morose tale. It’s a mystery box wrapped in the darkest of wrapping paper that takes time and emotional energy to unwrap. For me, despite the resolution worked and if you don’t mind being dragged into the mire of desperation and loss, I think it’s a mystery that’ll work for you as well.
New this week in theaters!
47 METERS DOWN (2016)aka IN THE DEEP
Directed by Johannes Roberts
Written by Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Starring Matthew Modine, Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Santiago Segura, Yani Gellman, Chris J. Johnson
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Being terrified of sharks, the advancement of CG animation has only made shark films more frightening for me. Still, there has to be a good movie around it. Last year, THE SHALLOWS (reviewed here) did a fantastic job of curling my toes and forcing me to watch through my shaking fingers. Just around the time I got over the thrills of THE SHALLOWS, I found out there would be another shark horror film released later in the summer called IN THE DEEP, pitting pop princess Mandy Moore against the world’s deadliest predator of the deep. Well, someone realized that they might have a hit on their hands and while I received a screener for this and reviewed the DVD last year, it looks like the film’s been retooled, renamed, and given a theatrical release under the new title 47 METERS DOWN, which was the original title. But that’s ok, THE SHALLOWS was called IN THE DEEP at one point as well. Spacing it out a year later and plopping 47 METERS DOWN in roughly the same time of year seems to be the strategy to make this one a hit. Is it? Read on.
47 METERS DOWN is a one locale film where most of the action takes place in an isolated location for pretty much the entire film. Like OPEN WATER and FROZEN, 47 METERS DOWN isolates the main characters in order to show what a big dangerous world we live in to those who are so caught up in themselves to notice it. Moore plays Lisa, a recently heartbroken gal who follows her best pal Kate (Claire Holt) to Mexico on a vacation and into a shark cage boating trip where they can experience first hand these deadly predators in their natural environment. Petrified of this idea, Lisa wants no part of it, but is convinced to face her fears as the wench to the cage they are in breaks and sends them plummeting to the bottom of the ocean with sharks circling them.
This is a petrifying situation that most audience members would never, ever do. Simply by immersing these two into this horrific situation and the events leading to their descent into the darkness of the ocean was enough to make me check to see if I needed a new pair of underoos a few times in this film. The premise itself is terrifying and this film does a decent job of not only showing the danger of the situation but also of the speed and deadliness of the sharks circling the cage.
The problem is that in order to spice up the action component of the film, these girls are forced to leave the cage over and over and over again to a point that stretches beyond most folks suspension of disbelief. OK, maybe the gals have to leave the cage once or twice in order to find the new pulley to lift them up or to get the new breathing equipment send down to help them survive. But the girls spend more time outside of the cage than they do in. And that’s the main problem of this film—they feel like they have to have action in order to keep the film interesting, but in doing so, things like character moments are glossed over. Sure one can establish character through action, but when the action is fucking stupid, like say, leaving a secure cage and swimming around in shark infested waters, then you don’t feel for the characters; you just think they’re stupid as fuck for doing what they are doing. I lost count of the amount of times Lisa and Kate left the cage in order to do something, when the natural survival instinct of anyone with a brain would be to sit tight in the safe space.
That said, the shark attacks are absolutely terrifying. As things get dire, air gets depleted, and yes, the gals continue to leave and return to the cage so many times you think it has a revolving door, the sharks (surprise, surprise) get wary of their caged prey and start attacking. Filmed in utter darkness with a simple flashlight, these attacks are the stuff of my absolute worst nightmare. Later in the film, as the possibility of rescue occurs, even more shark attacks made me cower in fear as the sharks launch themselves at our fearless girls as they try to get to the surface and to safety. The final moments of this film are filled with sheer terror and gave me some of the biggest jumps I’ve experienced since…THE SHALLOWS.
And then there’s a false ending that sort of trumps all of those scares…
Sigh…it’s a shame they didn’t stick with the action filled ending. The one they went with is interesting and TWILIGHT ZONE-y (though not supernatural), but definitely deflated the balloon for me. Instead of the edgy ending jagged with gnarly fear, 47 METERS DOWN ends with a more uplifting end that feels tacked on rather than thought all the way through. It all makes sense and does have a charm to it, but still, the final moments ended up frustrating me more than anything else and leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth rather than the feeling of satisfaction that a film successfully scared the crap out of me.
Moore and Holt are fine here in the leads, despite the script pointing them in bone-headed directions. Modine only has a slight cameo, but it’s good to see him working again. 47 METERS DOWN will make you jump is you have a deathly fear of sharks as I do, but the story itself is riddled with head-slapping decisions and an ending that felt toothless.
Coming soon: Released in July from Wild Eye Releasing!
BONEJANGLES (2016)Directed by Brett DeJager
Written by Keith Melcher
Starring Reggie Bannister, Elissa Dowling, Wade Everett, Julia Cavanaugh, Kelly Misek Jr., Jamie Scott Gordon, Christopher Hunt, Lawrence Wayne Curry, Brett DeJager, Devin Toft, Connor Quinn, Hannah Richter, Katie Walgrave, Allen Regimbal, Sam Hanson, Tracy Mailloux, Scott Wessels, Brandon Scott Jacobson, Nadine Purvis Schmidt, Ben Gersch
Find out more about this film @bonejanglesmovie, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
So much fun is to be had with BONEJANGLES, a sick and twisted slasher/monster spoof that treads on clichés, yet feels fresh and new.
A supernatural serial killer by the name of Bonejangles is incapacitated after annihilating an entire police force. Now the four remaining cops must transfer the unconscious killer to a town called Argento to transfer him to a maximum security facility. What could go wrong? Well, Argento could be the site of an ancient witch’s curse where the dead walk on the very same night Bonejangles is being transferred. That’s what could go wrong.
So in one corner, you have an undead killing machine instructed by his pops (Reggie Bannister) to punish those who have sex and another corner with a succubus who cursed an entire town with zombies every year with a bunch of bumbling cops stuck in the middle. It could be the set up for a painful farce of a film, but it isn’t as the humor is quite biting and outrageous. Reminiscent of the over the top comedic antics of Broken Lizard, the people behind BONEJANGLES knows their horror territory well and milks it for maximum comedic effect. Odd little vignettes become instant classics such as when a creepy townsperson explains in great and dramatic detail about the curse in a mock gravelly voice or when some campers are forced to decide whether to listen to the hippie sing songs on his guitar or have a forest orgy. And after seeing this film, your eyes will be forever scarred by the Juice Lad! The one liners and quips come at rapid fire and this film never loses its wit and attitude even during the most horrific moments.
BONEJANGLES also delivers on the blood and gore one would expect from a horror comedy. Heads, arms, legs, and all kinds of parts are tossed all over the place with reckless abandon in slasher sprees and zombie carnage. Not settling for overpowering just the funny bone, BONEJANGLES goes for the gut with ultra-sloppy gore as well.
BONEJANGLES is a film that starts out a bit slow, as it attempts (somewhat unsuccessfully) to come off as a legitimate slasher film and while the comedy rears its head early, the film really gets its pace going in the second act as the cops enter Argento. There is a fun personal story with one of the cops who happens to be from Argento that makes for a bit of an emotional core to the film, but even that is mostly for comedic effect. While we are all waiting for a new FRIDAY THE 13TH, Bonejangles is a fitting substitute as an undead killing machine with high morals and it’s a lot of fun seeing him go toe to toe with zombies—something we most likely will never see with Jason in F13. Add in a shit ton of gore and some truly monumental nudity (my hat’s off to you, Ms. Hannah Richter) and this is one horror comedy that has it all.
BONEJANGLES comes out in July and if you like effective comedy with your gore, this one’s a can’t miss.
And finally…how about another radio play? On this episode of Light’s Out, Arch Obler brings us a tale called “Man in the Middle!” Now turn the lights low and wait for the words—“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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