Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Why ZOMBIES & SHARKS? Well, those are the two things that I’ve had the most nightmares about. It’s the reason I rarely swim in the ocean. It’s the reason I have an escape plan from my apartment just in case of a zombie apocalypse. Now if you’ve ever had those fears or fears like them, inspired mainly by nights upon nights of watching films of the frightening kind, this is the place for you. So look for AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS every Friday for the foreseeable future, horror hounds, where we’ll be covering horror in all forms; retro, indie, mainstream, old and new.
Though the subgenre of horror called “found footage” has been around for a while, I’ve found that there are a slew of films warping the barriers between reality and fantasy coming out this year. With PARANORMAL ACTIVITY being the hit that it continues to be, who can blame Hollywood for tossing so many of these types of films at us? I’ve already reviewed 8213: GACY HOUSE, a little found footage gem set in the haunted abode of John Wayne Gacy, here in a past AICN HORROR column. At the bottom of this column I look at two films soon to be released this year, but I figured as a warm up, we’d check out a couple of found footage horrors of yesteryear.
I know a lot of folks hate this subgenre, but I often find myself enthralled with films of this sort. Maybe it’s the shaky hand held feel or the first person POV or the ominous feel of “is this shit for real?” It’s the reason I love all of those ScyFy shows like GHOST HUNTERS and DESTINATION TRUTH. This is just the tip of the iceberg for what’s to come this year in found footage, though, so expect another column featuring more in the future.
But before we start keepin’ it real, here are a few horror tidbits you might find interesting…
Chicago’s Portage Theater is hosting the world premiere of Chicago local filmmaker Bennie Woodell’s new film, THE SAD CAFÉ, this Sunday night at 7pm. Mr. Woodell directed FAST ZOMBIES WITH GUNS, THE CHAUFFEUR, and THE LONG NOVEMBER, three fun lo fi films. Woodell describes the film as his “ode to Hong Kong cinema, especially Wong Kar-Wai and John Woo.” I’m looking forward to seeing this film Sunday. Be sure to come out to the Portage and see it with me. Find out how to get tickets at the Portage Theater site here, and find out more about THE SAD CAFÉ and Mr. Woodell’s other films here.
Though I doubt I’ll be heading to Dallas any time soon, horror fans in the area might want to check out “The Pocket Sandwich Theater” which specializes in audience participation melodrama spoofs of stories such as Dracula, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Sweeney Todd, Phantom of the Opera, etc. all written by the co-founder Joe Dickenson. A fan of AICN HORROR, Kevin Fuld, wrote up a spoof of slasher films called CAMP DEAD, which ran in 2000 and will be running again later this year (Sep. 30th thru Nov. 11th). I know it’s a ways off, but you might want to mark your calendars. I’ve read the script and it looks to be a hilariously horrific time. Find out more about The Pocket Sandwich Theater here.
I know it’s a few weeks off, but Troma and Astron-6 released two more posters to their new FATHER’S DAY film (which I can’t wait to see and hopefully review by the time this Father’s Day rolls around). The one on the left was done by Akiko Stehrenberger, who has previously done posters for FUNNY GAMES, A SERIOUS MAN, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER, etc. while the one on the right is by The Dude Designs. Both are father-fucking awesome. Watch the preview here and see what I mean…
Now, let’s hit record on our video recorders, because we need to capture everything…EVERYTHING!!! Enjoy the found goodness.
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980)
THE TUNNEL (2011)
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980)Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Written by Gianfranco Clerici
Starring Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi, Salvatore Basile, Carl Gabriel Yorke
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Man, this was a tough film to sit though. I knew I was going to be in for something pretty sick when I finally found the time to sit down and watch CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. I know this film has been touted as one of the most horrific films of all time and it does live up to that title. Filled with animal mutilation, rape, murder, dismemberment, torture, sex, and of course,cannibalism, once you’ve seen CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, I guarantee you’ll never forget it.
The thing that really hit me about CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is that, aside from all of the disgusting elements attached to this film, it is a damn smart film that deftly examines American culture and the role of media. The story starts out with a quartet of filmmakers getting ready to leave for Amazonia. We are then informed that the four were never seen again. Professor Harold Monroe (played by stern-faced Robert Kerman) decides to take a crew of mercenaries to Amazonia to find out what happened to them. After a lengthy travelogue featuring some pretty grisly scenes of real animal killing and some rituals that look all too real involving rape, torture, and murder, Monroe finds the film crew’s film canisters and takes them back to the US to review. While the media is pressuring Monroe to release the tapes, Monroe has an uneasy feeling about doing so. As the film is processed, he uncovers horrors unimaginable.
Ruggero Deodato directs a grisly and stark film, filled with effects both real and made up. Using real natives as actors, the director was able to get savage performances from a culture who probably had never seen a camera before. To come in and film a horror film in the middle of what might as well be an alien culture takes balls. The effects used in this film will make you think twice as to whether or not this is real or not; part of the mystique of the film lies in not knowing the authenticity of what’s going on. In one scene you have an actual beheading of a monkey; in the next, a horrific murder of a person. The effects are so real, you won’t be able to tell the difference between what’s Hollywood magic and what’s downright murder. But that’s kind of the point Deodato and writer Gianfranco Clerici were going for, I believe.What I love about this film is that it misleads you at first. One is led to think this is going to be a film about four innocents killed by evil savages, but as the tapes are processed and we see the filmmakers manipulate the “savages” into performing for their film and going to any lengths including murder, rape, and desecration of villages and culture for the sake of cinema, you really see that the film crew are the real monsters here. Though Ruggero Deodato was accused of making a snuff film due to the all too realistic effects used in the film, the real horror lies in the devilish fascination in the eyes of the camera crew as they manipulate what we as the viewer see and violate the culture they are visiting, while playing the objective reporter.
Not exactly a found footage film, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is about a found footage film and goes where most of the new films are afraid to go by asking: does the public really want to see these tapes? Timely indeed—though CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST was made in a much simpler time, the themes of the film resonate all the way to today’s headlines. I couldn’t help but think about Osama Bin Laden’s death and the debate as to whether or not the photos of his body should be released while watching this film. And though many won’t be able to stomach all of the horror that this film has throughout its running time, it is an important film worthy of debate and much thought. Sitting through CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST was quite a chore, especially the grotesque rape scenes and the unsettlingly realistic final horrific moments of the film crew, but I was unsettled more by what CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST had to say about us as a bloodthirsty society than all of the blood and guts.
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THE TUNNEL (2011)Directed by Carlo Ledesma
Written by Enzo Tedeschi & Julian Harvey
Starring Bel Delia, Andy Rodoreda, Steve Davis, Luke Arnold, & Goran D. Kleut
Find out more about THE TUNNEL here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Part BLAIR WITCH PROJECT/part 60 MINUTES style interview, THE TUNNEL is an Australian viral film which has recently released news that it’s already premiering on 100+ million screens so far and has become something of a phenomenon this week. I have to say, after taking a gander at the film, it is a pretty outstanding film which takes full advantage of the hand-held camera/found footage phenomena. It seems these days, for these found footage films to make it, there needs to be an interesting take on the film and not just an ominous blurb at the beginning stating that the film was found somewhere. With the rise in reality television and audiences’ addiction to films becoming more real, it’s no wonder films like THE TUNNEL are popping up left and right.
What separates THE TUNNEL from the herd is that it is slickly produced and looks like an interview one might see on 60 MINUTES if found footage such as this was found. From start to finish, this feels like a documentary about a camera crew who ventures into the underground waterway beneath the city of Syndey, Australia. Everything from the title sequence to the narration by the survivors feels real, which just adds to the effectiveness of this film and makes the audience believe that this could have happened.
The actors in THE TUNNEL are fantastic. Bel Delia is a headstrong reporter, in search of the truth behind why the underground waterway wasn’t being used as a source for new, fresh water for a population in a drought crisis and the sudden upsurge in missing homeless people who used the waterway as shelters. Steve Davis (who looks a bit like Hugh Jackman with spikey blonde hair) plays the fun-loving cameraman who is faced with a deadly serious situation. The only problem with staging the film in the interview format is that the audience knows who survives and who doesn’t. This takes away from some of the tension, but the actors do a good job of conveying a sense of dread while leading the audience along the narrative as the found footage is interspersed between the interview clips.
I don’t want to give too much away with THE TUNNEL. I will say that it does use the limited vision of the camera and pitch dark surroundings to its maximum effect, though the ending might leave some a bit frustrated. I was sucked into the story and couldn’t wait to see if and how the reporting team would get out of the predicament they find themselves in, lost in the unending tunnels and stalked by something with deadly intentions. THE TUNNEL is a claustrophobic treat, taking full advantage of the limited range a single camera offers and giving the viewer just enough to tease and frighten without disappointing with the intrusion of some forced narrative or resolution. Though there are many out there to choose from, THE TUNNEL is a great example of presenting the found footage motif in an absolutely thrilling way.
Now available on Video On Demand, iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, Xbox Marketplace and in theaters starting June 10th!
TROLLHUNTER (2011)AKA TROLLJEGEREN
Directed by Andre Ovredal
Written by Andre Ovredal
Starring Otto Jespersen, Hans Morten Hansen, Thomas Alf Larsen, Robert Stoltenberg, Knut Naerum
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Out of all of the films made to look like found films in this week’s column, TROLLHUNTER is the one that is the most all-around fun. Though the concept is pretty out there--a group of students are trying to investigate a poacher and stumble onto a secret organization whose purpose is to control and dispose of trolls--everything is played straight. And that’s where the beauty of TROLLHUNTER lies.
Norwegian director/writer Andre Ovredal skates the fine line between satire and horror like a pro. Ovredal knows there are a lot of found footage films out there and smartly takes us through the motions seen in most of them. But while the other films are going out of their way to make their film realistic, Ovredal sets his filmed horror in the gorgeous Norwegian hills and valleys which look like something out of a fantasy film. The expansive forests and gigantic mountains look like they house all kinds of wondrous creatures and horrific mysteries. But in Ovredal’s film, those rocky hillsides and grassy canyons do.
Most of the charm that TROLLHUNTER exudes comes from the gruff troll hunter himself, Trolljegeren, played by straight-faced Otto Jesperson. Trolljegeren is all business, living a life of solitude, playing by his own set of rules that could mean life or death. Trolljegeren’s world is fascinating, from his extensive knowledge of troll culture and physiology to his RV which has an interior lined with troll tails to throw off his scent. The film Trolljegeren is in is deadly serious, which of course to the student filmmakers and us as viewers, is hilarious. His staunch delivery of lines concerning how to survive a troll attach and insane methods of troll hunting are what makes this film a true gem.
What I love about this film is that it plays like the best of satires, embracing all of the tropes of the found footage genre and making an original film despite of it. Much more like THIS IS SPINAL TAP and maybe a bit like one of my favorite found footage films, INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS, TROLLHUNTER never makes fun of the subject matter. Instead, it places its straight-faced lead into one insane scenario after another with a wide-eyed and disbelieving camera crew on his tail.
Though all of the films I have covered in this column are worth seeking out, TROLLHUNTER is unique in that it points out how silly the genre is while adding to it. Relatively bloodless, TROLLHUNTER is one of those films I would have loved to see as a kid; full of giant monsters, brave hunters, cool weapons, and even cooler scenes mixing all three. The effects are absolutely phenomenal. One would think this was a multi-million dollar film, but I imagine it cost a fraction of that. TROLLHUNTER proves that with some imagination and a whole lot of talent behind the camera, you don’t have to break the bank, just think outside the norm. Though I saw TROLLHUNTER on the small screen, I encourage folks to see this one in theaters. If and when it comes to my town, I am going to be first in line to see these giant monsters come to larger than life. I give this film my highest recommendation. Absolutely hilarious throughout (even right up to the last beat of the film) and utterly exciting in every way, there aren’t many films like TROLLHUNTER out there. Seek it out!
And finally…how about a reality based found footage short to finish things off? Here's THE PRANK. Enjoy!
See ya, next week, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!
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