Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. We’ve got all sorts of monstrosities and madmen in this week’s batch of movie picks. So let’s get right to it!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: THE DEVIL BAT (1940)
Retro-review: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)
TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE Season 2: STRANGER/DEAD MAN’S SHOES (2013)
BLOODY HOMECOMING (2012)
ROOM 237 (2012)
THE FACILITY (2012)
DARK TOUCH (2013)
Advance Review: REVELATION TRAIL (2013)
And finally…Daniel Thron’s SPOILER!
Retro-review: New on BluRay from Kino Lorber/Redemption!
THE DEVIL BAT (1940)aka KILLER BATS
Directed by Jean Yarbrough
Written by John T. Neville, George Bricker
Starring Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren, Dave O'Brien, Guy Usher, Yolande Donlan, Donald Kerr, Edmund Mortimer, Gene O'Donnell, Alan Baldwin, John Ellis, Arthur Q. Bryan, Hal Price, John Davidson
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
THE DEVIL BAT makes sure you associate everything batty to the film as an obvious means to cash in on Bela Lugosi’s star making performance in DRACULA. Today’s equivalent would be if Christian Bale would decide to play the Count after being the Dark Knight in three films. While THE DEVIL BAT fails to live up to the quality set with Tod Browning’s classic, the film is sure to entertain, though some of the laughs may be at the film’s expense.
Lugosi is great as Dr. Carruthers, the smirking mad scientist who is known as a gentle town physician by day, but has a darker side when the night falls. Turns out he’s been railroaded by a make-up company who cashed in big on one of his medical breakthroughs and the doctor has come up with an intricate plan of revenge. While most would just try to get a good lawyer, Carruthers develops a serum that attracts bats to attack. He’s also developed a method of making really large bats. Put two and two together and you get a giant killer bat with a appetite for corporate asshole!
The fun to be had here is at the expense of Lugosi’s hammy performance as the doctor who does everything but wink at the camera every time he interacts with one of his soon to be corporate victims. His tag line, saying a definite “Good bye” after someone wishes him a “Good evening.” feels a lot like Anthony Hopkins hammy take on Hannibal in HANNIBAL—in the same way relying on past creepy performances to give intensity rather than supplying new and layered ones. Lugosi seemed to love playing evil, as often seen in many of his performances and while his turn as Dracula was iconic, I feel when the actor played evil characters, they are often one note. Here Lugosi is evil and he knows it, making everyone around him being fooled that he’s a gentle doctor look like idiots for not guessing it sooner.
The effects here are signs of the times in this era of filmmaking. Stock footage of real bats are barely matched up with the other cuts in scene and the bats used in the lab are obviously made of rubber and someone’s toupee. Still, I can’t help but marvel at how unbelievably awful/awesome the flying rubber bat effects are. Seeing the giant model smack into the faces of the actors of the film during the attacks might have caused screams back in the day, but you’re definitely going to work your chortle bones during these scenes.
THE DEVIL BAT is good old classic horror. It’s doubtful you’ll be scared by the film, but you will definitely be entertained. Those of you who grew up watching these types of black and white horror films on late night television are going to love seeing this new version of the film. The BluRay is light on extras, but the film itself is well preserved and presented. Those of you looking for one of Lugosi’s best performances may want to venture elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a good time, THE DEVIL BAT has got what you need.
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from The Shout! Factory!
PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)Directed by John Carpenter
Written by John Carpenter
Starring Donald Pleasence, Lisa Blount, Jameson Parker, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun, Susan Blanchard, Anne Marie Howard, Ann Yen, Ken Wright, Dirk Blocker, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, Peter Jason, Robert Grasmere, Thom Bray, Alice Cooper
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
John Carpenter’s horizontal hokey-pokey of physics and religion is out on BluRay this week. PRINCE OF DARKNESS was one of those films that I appreciate as the years go on. I remember being somewhat disappointed with it by the end because, dammit if I didn’t want to see what the giant demon other-world lord looked like and dammit if that jerkface Carpenter didn’t show me. There are a lot of films like that, leaving one’s imagination of what the monster looks like to take over where the budget or the imagination of the filmmaker leaves off. As I grow older, I don’t mind it. I understand nothing could live up to what we think is lurking in the shadows of the mirror world this film pokes a hole into, but still as a kid, that shit drove me nuts.
Lack of big monster reveal aside, there is a lot of horror to experience in PRINCE OF DARKNESS. From the hordes of homeless zombies gathered outside the church, to the laughing madman with his throat torn out yet still singing Amazing Grace, to the guy who dissolves into bugs, to the chick with her face all pustuled-up after disgesting some funky green goo; Carpenter piles on the horrific imagery a plenty here. But anyone can heap on one creepy image after another, crafting an environment and tone that burrows deep and festers in the soul is a much more difficult accomplishment. And Carpenter does that too.
What PRINCE OF DARKNESS is successful at is building the suspense to a pitch that could shatter granite. From the very beginning, Carpenter cranks up the tension inch by inch. With very little time to laugh or joke around, the film is deathly serious in tone whereas even the comedy relief of the film (BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA’s Dennis Dun) is much more subdued, pausing the terror rather than relieving it. The performances by the rest of the cast are top tier as well with the cast divided by personal philosophy. HALLOWEEN’s Donald Pleasence plays the frantic embodiment of dire warnings again, this time as a priest with knowledge about the phenomenon spiraling from the discovery of a secret container once owned by a Catholic priest. On the flip side of the coin is Victor Wong (also from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA); a physics teacher who is approaching the phenomena around the container from a scientific point of view. Seeing these two elder actors attacking the menace of a portal opening up between this dimension and a darker, more evil realm is the main conflict of the film, though ultimately, both are proven to be useless.
Carpenter forages through new-ish territory; a territory I guess one might say he revisits in IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS almost exactly ten years later, though ITMOM is much more of an on the nose take on Lovecraft's Cthulhu, but still other-dimensional beings are involved with both films. Before this film, Carpenter, for the most part, dealt with more earthbound horrors, though his scope had been expanding from his original HALLOWEEN roots widening with sci fi themes in STARMAN and THE THING and bounding adventures with BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. PRINCE OF DARKNESS was supposed to be Carpenter going back to his dark roots, but the depths he goes with this film seem to be some of the deepest he had ever gone. There’s a sadistic side to this film that really hadn’t been seen since HALLOWEEN as pigeons are crucified, people are skewered, and the evil is shown at its most ugly in terms of the blistered monster one of the scientists becomes who looks impregnated by the green ooze that seeps from the ancient canister. Had someone only known Carpenter for his work on BIG TROUBLE or STARMAN, they would have been in for quite a shock.
Dealing with blasphemous takes on religion and all sorts of filthy creatures (and people), PRINCE OF DARKNESS is one of those films that hits you on a guttural level. Seeing Alice Cooper lead an army of hobos to stand vigil outside of the church, entranced and zombe-like, makes for some haunting imagery. But Carpenter plays with a lot of religious themes throughout, making this one of his more heady horror trips.
Still, after all of that intellectual debate about the pros and cons of physics vs religion, the film boils down to Carpenter’s standard method of storytelling; that of a standoff where a group of people are trapped in one location with something outside trying to get in. Here, in the physical world, the hobo army blocks the scientists from escape, while at the same time, the group finds themselves fighting to survive and block off whatever lies in the realm on the other side of the mirror. Even though the standoff is more metaphysical, it’s still a bunch of people trapped in a church getting killed or converted to the dark side one by one until very few are left.
The eclectic cast of multi-cultural actors is refreshing to see, as is Carpenter’s unconventional way of ending this film. Again, it made me pull my hair out as a kid when I had to know and see it all, but after revisiting, the ambiguous way the film ends feels right given the amorphous shape of the horror to begin with. PRINCE OF DARKNESS is one of those dour films that leaves a stain on you after watching. From the bleak message from the future giving foreboding clues to things to come to the close ups to the ants on a homeless woman’s face, this film is going to make you squirm by going big and little all at once.
Light on special features, the new BluRay does have commentary by Carpenter, plus a new interview and a tour of the sites PRINCE OF DARKNESS was filmed on. Still, the true draw is the film itself, which, though draped in darkness, is the clearest it’s ever been seen.
New this week on CD or digital download here!
TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE Season Two (2013)Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
A while back I covered the first season of TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE, a radio show-style anthology series from the mad mind of JUGFACE/YOU’RE NEXT star and BENEATH/HABIT director Larry Fessenden. Fessenden has gathered another cadre of talent to bring this new season to life, and I’m going to sit down with each of them to give you the what’s what about them all over the next few weeks.
Episode 2.3: STRANGER
By Jeff Buhler
Starring Matthew Stephen Huffman, Helen McTernan, Jason Yachanin, Kate Lyn Sheil, John Speredakos, Brenda Cooney
I’ve said it before in this column; abduction stories send shivers down my spine like few other stories. Maybe I’ve been abducted before and it’s hitting a little too close to those repressed memories. Or maybe I’m just chicken shit. Either way, STRANGER by Jeff Buhler is a keeper of an alien abduction story that manages to be typical, yet frightening never the less. The story follows a group of campers who, after seeing some weird lights off in the forest, run into a strange man who tells them an even stranger story. The buildup to the big scares is slow, as we get to know the campers and get interested in the stranger’s tale, but the real highlight to this particular show is the use of otherworldly sounds and noises during the abduction sequences. Using all sorts of audio effects and strange musical instruments, this show assaults the eardrums with noises unfamiliar and accompanies with the screams, utterly terrifying. This is definitely one you’ll not want to listen to alone in the dark. I know I did and I’m regretting it.
Episode 2.4: DEAD MAN’S SHOES
By Ashley Thorpe & Glenn McQuaid
Starring Larry Fessenden, Michael Cerveris, Brenda Cooney, John Speredakos, Tobias Campbell
This one starts out as your typical haunted house yarn, but of course, having heard a bunch of these TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE episodes, there’s no such thing as typical. Here the story follows an out of work husband who tweaks his resume to get a job even though his ability to translate texts isn’t what the employer needs for the job. As things begin to get spooky, the man realizes he’s in over his head and that even the whitest of lies can have dire ramifications. As with STRANGER, this one is a slow build, but there’s a big scary payoff in the end involving a ghost and an ancient text. This one feels like old school fun with a bit of a modern twist.
Recorded in front of a live audience, all of these mini-radio plays are available for download and purchase on the TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE website.
New this week on DVD!
BLOODY HOMECOMING (2012)Directed by Brian C. Weed
Written by Jake Helgren
Starring Jim Tavare, Rae Latt, Lexi Giovagnoli, Grainne McDermott, Alex Dobrenko, Randi Lamey, Jesse Ferraro, Branden Roth, Taryn Cervarich, Elizabeth Bigger, Shaleen Cholera, Steve Earnest
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Films like BLOODY HOMECOMING were a dime a dozen in the eighties. Every holiday, kitchen utensil, and occupation involving a mask had a slasher film centered around it. Though serial killer films burnt themselves out by the time the nineties rolled around, they still are consistently made, mostly because they are cheap to do rather than coming up with, you know, original ideas. Still, sometimes if you do things right, you end up with a decent film. And that’s kind of what BLOODY HOMECOMING is.
Though this film is not an official remake of PROM NIGHT, it sure as hell feels more like it than the PROM NIGHT remake we got a few years ago. On the night of the homecoming dance, after an attempted rape, a star football player was burned alive accidentally when a group of kids locked him in a school closet with a lit candle and a whole bunch of super-dry drama club costumes. Three years later and the crew that deep fried the jock are seniors now and sure enough, they start dropping like bowling pins at the hands of a serial killer wearing a fireman’s outfit. Of course, by the end, after most of the kids have been perished in semi-creative ways, there’s a big reveal and a long super-villain monolog just in case the film wasn’t unbelievable enough, leaving just enough time for the final girl to put the kibosh on the baddie.
Though nothing about this film from start to finish is in any way original, the film has a few things going for it. First and foremost, the acting is decent with kids actually acting like kids I grew up with; having sex, doing drugs, and drinking alcohol. Secondly, the cast actually looks like high school kids instead of people who have flunked senior year for a decade. So while the story that they are following is a well tread path, at least it’s being done capably and by believable actors.
The third thing that works is some of the gore, which is actually pretty brutal. There are a number of scenes where the kills are much more gritty than what one would expect from this type of film. A scene where one of the cute young girls is killed just out of view and off stage of the dance that plays out really well. The killer slowly slits her throat and it pours out while the rest of the kids dance in the foreground. The brutality of the kills makes this one at least feel as if it has some kind of teeth; again something most modern slasher flicks don’t have since most are trying for that PG-13 rating.
Decent acting and good kills aside, the ending of this film was painful to experience. Like a slo mo Scooby Doo ending, when the killer’s mask comes off, the motif takes forever to explain and even then it doesn’t make a lot of sense since the identity of the killer is pretty idiotic. But the road that lame ending makes BLOODY HOMECOMING at least somewhat worth checking out.
New this week on DVD!
INBRED (2011)Directed by Alex Chandon
Written by Alex Chandon
Starring Jo Hartley, James Doherty, James Burrows, Seamus O’Neill, Terry Haywood, Nadine Rose Mulkerrin, Neil Leiper, Chris Waller
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
INBRED is as perverse and tasteless as a film can be. Anywhere else those would be harsh words against a film, but not here at AICN HORROR. Here I have to give it up to this twisted little gem for not being shy at doling out the gory stuff and being unafraid to go to dark corners that would make most feel utterly uncomfortable. Horror fans have had their fair share of inbred families terrorizing a group of innocents. To stand out, you’ve got to be something pretty special. In all of its twisted glory, INBRED stands loud and proud as the modern king of sick killer mutant family movies.
The story starts off innocently enough as a group of misguided youth are led by their social workers to play HOME MAKEOVER on an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere outside of Yorkshire, England. The film spends quite some time showing how well intentioned the social workers are and how shitty these youngsters’ attitudes are. Though it’s pretty hard to back this crew of misguided punks, once the bucktoothed locals show up and start terrorizing them it’s pretty easy to understand who to root for. The group must band together or play victim in a sick performance in front of an inbred audience expecting torture and blood where they are the main attraction.
The fun starts about halfway in as the film amps up the gore to hilarious levels. Heads are blown in half, bodies spin while the legs stand still after being blown away with a shotgun, and there’s a scene involving twin girls and a horse that is absolutely hilarious and perverse all at once. Though these victims are in serious danger, one can’t help but guffaw out loud at the over the top gore. Director/writer Alex Chandon slops in the grue like a child in a mud puddle, using computer effects in ways I haven’t seen before in modern horror, and the effects are seamless, pushing the envelope and showing things you didn’t think were possible.
Though not played for laughs, the absurdity of the level of horror that unfolds will definitely have gorehounds reeling in glee. On top of that, there’s a bit of commentary on modern audiences for those who like their horror on the headier side, as the inbred audience being performed for reflects the masses one might see in any typical movie theater. When the ringmaster prepares the audience for the special performance by asking them to put on their 3D glasses, one can’t help but think that there’s more to Chandon’s gore-fest that just blood and guts.
In the gory tradition of EVIL DEAD II and RE-ANIMATOR, two films that strike a horrific chord while sloshing around in their own bloody slop, INBRED is a worthy addition to this twisted little family. I highly recommend this film for those who love gore by the truckload.
New this week on DVD!
V/H/S/2 (2013)Directed by Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Edúardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, Jason Eisener
Written by Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, Jason Eisener, John Davies, Jamie Nash
Starring Adam Wingard, Lawrence Levine, L. C. Holt, Kelsy Abbott, Hannah Hughes
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
V/H/S hit last year and thrilled many. I was one of the ones who liked the film but also felt that the logistics of the film were a bit off and some of the entries would never hold up on their own. All in all, I loved the first “I Like You!” sequence and really liked Ty West’s creepy nighttime invader story, but the rest left me with that “That’s it?” feeling upon completion. Kind of when I first lost my virginity.
Sequels can go either way. Either the filmmakers go for bigger and broader, thinking they can just redo the same old jokes and jolts and fool audiences that they are watching a different movie rather than a rehash. Or they can go the other route and veer off into new territory and risk losing the audience they built in the first place.
A smarter route, and this seems to be the route this sequel took, listens to the critics of the first film and tries to make some improvements on the formula. Since the EIC of Bloody Disgusting itself is a part of the production of the V/H/S series, one would think that criticism of the original would be considered and it really feels like that was the case. My first problem with the first film had to do with logistics of the concept. Why would someone go to the time to convert all of this footage taken by computer cameras, digital cameras, and security cams and convert them to VHS videotape. In this one it’s stated right from the beginning that the video tapes are a product of what looks to be some kind of underground snuff type film ring for those looking for extreme viewing. As a private investigator tracks down a missing person who happens to have a collection of these tapes in his apartment, all I needed was that tidbit of explanation and I felt much better going on this ride. Sure it’s a tiny detail, but it really felt as if a plot hole was filled with that and the believability (in terms of the film world it takes place in) felt stronger.
The first tape viewed was the most difficult to swallow given the sci fi aspect of it all. The whole short is viewed through an artificial eye which records what the patient sees. If we were using TV analogies, this segment is more TWILIGHT ZONE than the NIGHT GALLERY feel to the rest of the film. Still this segment provides a lot of jump scares that I admittedly fell for every time. This is mostly because of the acting of the eyeball camera operator who is actually the director of the segment as well YOU’RE NEXT’s Adam Wingard. Wingard is both believable in the role, but is also quite funny throughout as I loved the way he retreats to the bathroom every time he gets scared. Every single time, which to me was freaking hilarious.
Segment two is especially interesting to me since it, I believe for the first time, gives a first hand account of the zombie apocalypse as seen though the eyes of the infected. The segment starts out as a biker sets up a camera to film some extreme biking, but after he stops to help a screaming woman, he finds himself bitten and soon transformed into a zombie. I have to give BLAIR WITCH PROJECT’s Eduardo Sanchez & Gregg Hale credit for coming up with a wholly original concept when it comes to zombies, since I didn’t think that was possible anymore. This segment is a hell of a bloody good time with all sorts of twists and turns you never thought you’d ever see.
The third segment is by far my favorite by THE RAID’s Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto which surprised me at the depth of the story as well as the levels of grue and perversity it attains in such a short time. This one is much more straight up found footage than the rest, but it feels absolutely fresh nevertheless as a documentary film crew convinces a cult leader to let them enter his sanctuary and film his cult during its day to day activities which include praying, doing chores, and studying the four R’s (reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmatic, and ritual suicide!). When the shit hits the fan it comes in horse loads and this slow starter drenches every inch of the screen in layers and layers of blood and viscera. There are crazed cultists, exploding holy men, and giant demon babies running amok in this ADHD, speed injected, cranked to ten of a little segment.
The next tape doesn’t really give you a chance to catch your breath as Jason Eisener throws us into the middle of an Alien Abduction Slumber Party. If HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN and Eisener’s ABC’S OF DEATH segment “Y is for Young Buck” didn’t make you think the filmmaker is cut from the maddest of stuff, this one will seal it. While it’s more subdued, Eisener’s use of sound and happenings in the background make this one worthwhile as some ornery youngsters film their sabotage of their sister’s date at their summer home, but when the camera gets placed on the dog’s head and aliens decide to attack, all of the tomfoolery stops and the joyous screams of terror begin. Though I have to admit, the dog in this film is the most calm pooch I’ve ever encountered as it never really acts like a dog most of the time and keeps a steady bead on the action going on. This fact brings you out of the story since it feels as if the camera is unrealistically pointed at stuff you need to know instead of stuff being actually being caught on tape. With all of the alien blow horns and sirens going off, any real dog would be darting in circles, chasing its tail and shitting itself, but this pooch keeps the camera steady.
The film ends much more effectively than the last one with some creepy sequences reminiscent of THE EXORCIST and EVIL DEAD. While I don’t think this series has really reached its fullest potential yet and the sheer number of found footage films working against anything done in shaky style, V/H/S/2 is far superior to the first one. It’s gorier, bigger, and seems to be better threaded together. Though a little behind the back-story of the tapes is revealed, not enough is done so to demystify the concept. As long as the makers of this series continue to find top tier talent in horror to shake the camera and make it feel as real as possible, I’ll be a fan of this series.
New this week on DVD from IFC Midnight!
ROOM 237 (2012)Directed by Rodney Ascher
Written by Rodney Ascher
Starring Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan, Jay Weidner
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Any student of film studies and criticism knows if you dig deep enough, one can assign any number of meanings to pretty much any film ever made. Given the right theory, mode of dissection, and gumption, one can relate SNAKES ON A PLANE to everything from Apartheid to the Occupy Movement to homophobia if you had the urge to do so and in most cases, if you write enough words, talk long enough, find the right audience, and stretch the limits of believability as far as you need it to go to prove your point, it’ll work. That said, a lot of bullshit can be shat out trying to find hidden meanings in things. Sometimes the stuff on the screen is what it is and that’s it. To quote Freud, and I’m paraphrasing, mind you, but “Sometimes a motherfuckin’ snake on a plane is just a mutherfuckin’ snake on a plane.”
That said, in reviewing horror, it’s fun to try to assign meaning to the monsters that play out in the genre we all know and love. I love looking for Jungian archetypes, Freudian symbols, Feminist and Socio-Political theories, and the like. And in some cases, as with films like ALIEN, THE DESCENT, and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, they are there and relevant, adding a layer to the film and making the film that much more of a rich experience to witness.
THE SHINING is most likely one of my favorite horror films of all time. Rich with horrific imagery, tense energy, and filmed in a manner that has that way of putting you completely on edge, there isn’t a horror film out there that affects me more thoroughly than THE SHINING does. It’s a compelling story about writer’s block, caged animalistic anger, and alcoholism and how that can tear apart one’s relationships and family. It is also a pretty amazing story about psychic powers, though the phenomenon is subtle and limited in Kibrick’s version of the story. All compelling aspects of the story, worth talking about. The maker of ROOM 237, Rodney Ascher seems to be compelled by this film as well, admitting to watching and rewatching the film over and over again trying to find all kinds of secret subliminal messages from Kubrick to his viewers. The findings of this obsession are debatable in their validity, but it does make for a fun road to venture down.
ROOM 237 is a fascinating documentary that explores many different avenues in regards to what Kubrick was trying to say in making THE SHINING. Multiple interviewees profess to seeing everything from a commentary on the Holocaust to Kubrick’s filming of a fake moon landing of Apollo 11 and they’ve slowed the film down frame by frame to show proof that when Nicholson’s face fades to the picture of him in the ballroom in the end, the hairline in one picture makes a Hitler moustache on the face of the other. Others, like Danny’s sweater and the shapes of the patterns on the floor representing NASA launching pads seem more obvious references. But no matter what, these theorists are dead set that their theory is accurate and what Kubrick was trying to say.
Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more focus to this documentary. Ascher seems to want to cover it all by covering every theory and providing proof in the frames of the film. The story juts around from one theory to the next in a manner that made me feel as if none of them were really explored in the amount of depth to make me a believer. I would have preferred if Ascher would have latched onto one theory and delved deep—the faked moon landing confession being the most intriguing to me, but instead we get a little of this and a little of that.
Ascher does keep the pace quick and does provide a lot of examples, which seen through the right lens and squint a little, may prove that the guy is onto something with all of these theories. If anything, this film is a testament to a film that is masterfully made by a genius filmmaker. Just the fact that someone is compelled to pick it apart frame by frame is a testament to this. Sure, you may believe that THE SHINGING to be a comment on the decimation of the Native Americans as the white man settled across the country or a statement on anti-Semitism or even an exploration of Greek mythology. Watching ROOM 237 will definitely support those and many other theories. Then again, it may just be an awesome horror movie.
New this week in select theaters and on Video On Demand from Tribeca!
THE FACILITY (2012)Directed by Ian Clark
Written by Ian Clark
Starring Aneurin Barnard, Oliver Coleman, Steve Evets, Skye Lourie, Alex Reid, Nia Roberts and Amit Shah
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though I’m not rolling in the dough now, there was a time when I would cruise the newspaper, looking for a quick buck. Though I’ve never taken part in one of these test subject scenarios where a research facility gives you a pill or does some kind of treatment for fast, there has been the occasion where I see one of those ads in the paper and say, “hmmm.” Well, after checking out THE FACILITY, I’m sure to wipe even the most feint consideration of taking part in such an experiment from my mind.
The basic premise in most horror films is to get a group of people together, present a threat, and watch them fall like dominoes. The big difference between those films most of the time is what is doing the killing; zombies, vampires, aliens, a serial killer, a blob, a walking vagina with buck teeth, the list goes on. In the facility, the terror is both man made and the man themselves as paranoia and a test drug is introduced to a secluded group of willing participants in a research study. Taking place in a facility in the middle of nowhere in the woods, the sterile environment is a creepy one to have a horror movie and writer/director Ian Clark amplifies that as the hours tick away after the initial administration of the drug is given. Once night falls and the power goes out in the place, all hell really breaks loose.
There are some really good performances in this one. Again, as he did in last year’s CITADEL as an agoraphobic father tormented by inner and outer demons, Aneurin Barnard does a fantastic job of playing the lead, who believes he is unaffected by the drug because he was the last to be given the dose. The other strong performance comes from the crusty old timer who has gone through numerous tests of this kind, Steve Evets is great as Morty; his blasé attitude towards everything is fantastic as well as his gruff stubbornness that kicks in once he is forced to fight to survive. The rest of the UK cast is strong as well, never missing a tick as the symptoms and the paranoia increase as the film goes on.
There’s some great icky effects going on in THE FACILITY as the patients begin to have a reaction to the drug. It’s not your typical vomiting up black stuff or disintegration we’ve seen a million times. Here giant pustules and blisters form about the face and the practical effects really make things look uncomfortable.
The ending was surprisingly poignant and sobering as you realize what’s been happening for the bulk of the film. It’s one of those films where you are so caught up in the onset of the symptoms and the chaos the patients endure when they are left on their own that you really don’t realize what’s really happening. It’s not one of those trick SIXTH SENSE endings, just one that has many layers with the final one not revealed until the very end and it’s a doozy. THE FACILITY is an effective and creepy medical horror film that definitely plays with the cast and the viewers’ paranoia and makes for a well crafted fright film because of it.
In select theaters today!
BLOODLINE (2013)Directed by Matt Thompson
Written by Matt Thompson
Starring Matt Thompson, Kimberly Alexander, Jesse Kristofferson, Gina Comparetto, Christopher Frontiero, Grainger Hines, Zahn McClarnon, Michael Reinero
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though it’s not big and flashy, BLOODLINE tells a pretty gripping tale of a man whose heritage catches up with him. While this may be like many other horror films, setting a group of kids up to fall like bowling pins in a cabin in the woods scenario, there are some conscious decisions by the filmmakers to make it a somewhat offbeat and original campfire tale.
Matt Thompson stars as Brett, an orphan who is about to take the plunge into becoming a Catholic priest, but before he does that, his friends (lead by Jesse Kristofferson, son of Kris) want to take him on a wild vacation involving booze, woman, and partying. You know, all the stuff he’s going to be missing out on once he starts his priesthood studies. After his bumbling friend Davy (Christopher Frontiero ) drops an old picture in Brett’s attic, a map is found which leads them to a secret cabin in the woods, owned by Brett’s dead parents. Too good to pass up, the crew grab some girls and some beer and head to see what’s up with the cabin. Let the Cabin in the Woods scenario begin.
Turns out Brett is from a long line of shaman mystics and the cabin is the site where many Native Americans were slaughtered and a curse was passed across the land. As the curse begins to spread throughout the partying kids, Brett and the surviving members of his group must fight for their lives to escape the perimeter of the curse before they succumb to it themselves.
What the film gets right is the actors chosen for the roles. All of them are talented and able to both make one laugh and carry a dramatic note. There are some really funny and natural lines early on that make this doomed crew of kids likable. The scenario of the curse also works well as it is played vague with subtle creepy effects rather than over the top ones. Through simple computer generated blacking out of the eyes, it is apparent who is cursed and the look succeeds in being creepy.
Any film that hinges on the happenstance finding of a map and then strict and complex rules followed to conquer a curse is going to feel a little contrived and I felt it here as well. A lot of this film was taken during the day, which I think is a bit of a disservice to the film as night shoots might have made for a creepier yarn. Still, BLOODLINE managed to win me over with the performances and simplistic take on terror.
New this week in select theaters, Video On Demand, SundanceNOW and other digital outlets (iTunes, Amazon Streaming, PS3 Playstation Unlimited, XBOX Zune, Google PLAY and YouTube) from IFC Midnight!
DARK TOUCH (2013)Directed by Marina de Van
Written by Marina de Van
Starring Missy Keating, Padraic Delaney, Robert Donnelly, Charlotte Flyvholm, Ella Hayes, Mark Huberman, Katie Kirby, Art Parkinson, Marcella Plunkett, Susie Power, Anabel Sweeney, Olga Wehrly
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
With CARRIE coming into theaters soon, it is no surprise why DARK TOUCH is being released at this time. And while I haven’t seen the newest version of Stephen King’s story of menstruation gone awry at prom, I am a big fan of the original film and while that film ventured into dark territories, DARK TOUCH goes even deeper and darker.
The story opens with a little girl named Niamh running frantically through the woods. Upon arriving at her neighbors’ house where Nat (Marcella Plunkett) and Lucas (Padraic Delaney) live with their own family, Niamh is covered in blood and hysterical. Soon after Niamh’s parents arrive and bring her back home with very little explanation. This sets the dire tone of this very dark film about abuse and the horrors that spawn from it.
After an unfortunate accident at Niamh’s house, she comes to live with her neighbors Nat and Lucas and immediately they realize that this might have been a mistake. While they are a caring couple, the bizarre behavior and odd goins on around the house intensify as her stay continues. Soon it’s evident that Niamh is a very sick little girl; a sick little girl with powers that she can barely control. Like Carrie, Niamh’s paranormal power to move things intensifies when her emotions are at their peak; often striking out at things Naimh is fearful of or angry towards. With the abuse Niamh has received at the hands of her parents, right and wrong is twisted in Niamh’s eyes as evidenced by the way her relationship grows between Niamh and her foster mother Nat, her social worker at school, and the girls and boys who are forced to accept the weird little girl into their school room and birthday party. These people aren’t necessarily all looking out for Niamh’s best interests; with her peers in school in particular sort of deserve all of the telekinetic ass kickings they receive and the actions of the inexperienced social worker who gets too close and the foster mother trying to replace her dead daughter with a new one are not on the up and up as well. In the end, while Niamh is some kind of monster birthed of horrible abuse, she is in good company as the people she points he powers towards have definitely earned it.
The entire cast of DARK TOUCH is good, but the true standout is Niamh herself played by Missy Keating. Keating very much could have gone the Wednesday Addams route and taken this role into an overly emo role. But instead Keating straddles the line at being a horrible destructive force one minute and someone to feel sorry for the next. The young actress is someone I’m sure we’ll be hearing about in the future.
DARK TOUCH is a very heavy film. If you’re looking for the some type of scare rollercoaster like THE CONJURING or INSIDIOUS, look elsewhere. But I have a tendency to love these types of films that takes their horror seriously. And director/writer Marina de Van has chosen a topic with which she handles with care, offering up some very uncomfortable and horribly intimate moments that will make you squirm. Simply going there in a day and age where the abuse of children is often treated as taboo or romanticized makes me want to give this film props for its efforts.
There are a few exciting set pieces as Niamh causes a building collapse in one scene and a house fire in another, both of these scenes are scary themselves, but there’s an added layer of terror since there are children involved. DARK TOUCH has somewhat of a downer of an ending that doesn’t live up to the heights and depths the film achieves during its running time, but the film itself is a downer and there are enough scenes of creep and horror to earn my recommendation.
REVELATION TRAIL (2013)Directed by John P. Gibson
Written by Blake Armstrong, John P. Gibson, Daniel Van Thomas
Starring Daniel Van Thomas,
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Mixing a setting in the past with horror is always a mixed bag. Most of the time, these types of films are avoided by the big studios who think that stories told in the past aren’t hip for today’s “in the moment” audience. That’s probably why much of the historical aspects of the zombie outbreaks through the ages were glossed over in WORLD WAR Z. But while seeing a group of modern day teens trapped in a warehouse with the undead outside is something that makes me groan louder than the zombies themselves, tossing those same zombies into the past and putting them in a times past tale? Automatically interesting to me.
Take REVELATION TRAIL which sets the zombie apocalypse during the pioneer days and embraces a lot of the tropes from Westerns in a death grip. A nameless preacher (Daniel Van Thomas) pairs up with a sheriff named Edwards(Daniel Britt) after the rest of their town is decimated by the undead and head out on a journey to find someplace safe from the scores of walking and running corpses roaming the untamed heartland. The pair end up at a fortressed station, run by a egomaniacal madman named Beard whose need for order is placed above all else, even the lives of the people he is supposed to be leading.
REVELATION TRAIL is an epic story that spans miles of prairie and forest. The preacher still tries to maintain his holy ways by blessing and burying each of the undead he lays to rest, while his partner in arms, Marshall Edwards pays no never mind to the preacher’s services and only needs someone to watch his back for him. Both Van Thomas and Britt do a fantastic job as our two heroes. Van Thomas soulful and dedicated to keeping the faith, despite the fact that his family were one of the first ones to succumb to the plague. Britt shines as the dusty cowboy who has seen and done it all and will tell many a tale by the campfire between equal shots of whiskey and spits of tobacco. With 95% of the film focusing on these two, the performances need to be solid and they are through and through.
While some of the production indicates that this film was done indie-style, I have to point out how strong this story and especially the script really is. Though it’s not as obvious as a Tarantino soliloquy, each of the three main characters; the preacher, Marshall Edwards, and Beard get their time to take center stage and tell a tale that relates to the horror at hand. Every time these guys go on one of their sidebars, especially the speech given by Beard about man’s need for leadership and Edwards story about a hanging he once witnessed, are powerful, well acted, and expertly executed.
REVELATION TRAIL is one of the few genre mash-ups that gets everything right. With an epic story, characters you’ll care for, all sorts of zombie threats, and a script that is sharp as a cactus quill laced with the zombie plague, REVELATION TRAIL is indie horror done right! Highly recommended for those of you who like a smart and soulful script along with their zombie chompers.
And finally…didn’t get enough zombies in this week’s column? Well, I’ve got a unique take on the genre here to go out on. This one focuses on after we’ve won the zombie apocalypse and how society maintains order after the apocalypse has subsided through the eyes of one coroner. This is a fantastic short that I think would make a great feature. Here’s Daniel Thron’s SPOILER! Enjoy…
See ya next week, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
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