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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week we take a look at a couple of films you probably haven’t seen or heard of. Indie horror gets a bad rap sometimes, but every Wes Craven or John Carpenter or George A. Romero started somewhere. These indie films of today could be the cult classics of tomorrow. But before we dive into the indie side of the blood pool, here are a few tidbits you might find interesting.

When an indie film covered here in AICN HORROR makes it big, I like to celebrate it. A while back I reviewed the thriller SCALENE and gave it a hearty recommendation. Well it looks like this excellent film took top prize at the Dances With Films on June 4, winning the Grand Jury Award for Best Feature. Check out pics from the event here. Congratulations to the folks behind SCALENE. It definitely is a film worth checking out!

We’ve been following the developments of this project for a while now and this new trailer shows that it looks like it’s headed in the right direction. Check out this teaser trailer to Foresight Features’ MONSTER BRAWL!!!

I’ve got another teaser for you, this time from my friend Director Daniel Crosier, who is in the process of making a mockumentary called ISOLATION MAN about a superhero named the Exquisite Vanishteer who has the power to make things vanish, but not reappear. EV has made the entire west coast disappear and as the US armed forces move in to eliminate him, he is interviewed by a camera crew. The film probably teeters closer to comedy than horror, but it looks to be a lot of fun. Check it out!

And now get ready for some indie goodness!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

THE TAINT (2010)
DAWNING (2009)
Zeek of the Week: HIGHWAY 91 (2011)
And finally…ZOMBIE GO BOOM: Aluminum or Wooden Baseball Bat?

THE TAINT (2010)

Directed by Drew Bolduc & Dan Nelson
Written by Drew Bolduc
Starring Drew Bolduc, Colleen Walsh, Cody Crenshaw, & Kenneth Hall
Find out more info on this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything like THE TAINT. The taint referred to in the title is not that unmentionable area between this and that down below. It refers to a chemical that was released into the water supply and now, at a growing rate, all of the water is tainted. The effects of the taint cause men to have raging erections and become mindless zombie-like creatures that like to chase women and bash their heads in with rocks.

Misogynistic? Of course.

Tasteless? Totally.

But despite all of that, THE TAINT is most likely a film experience I will never forget. It throws any sense of decency and taste out the window. No fluid is unspewed, unsplattered or unrecognized. Effects are so over the top, they’re orbital. And the acting is so purposely bad, it’s gut-busting.

Drew Bolduc writes, directs, and stars as Phil O’Ginny a mulletted douchebag who changes sunglasses according to the manner of action he is doing and attempts to make his way through this mad tainted world. He meets Misandra, a young survivor with a shotgun (Colleen Walsh), who has her own insane story of how she stayed alive through the madness that is equal parts insanely funny and gross. Soon, with society going down the tubes, they run across O’Ginny’s high school gym teacher who leads a gang of rapists with ridiculous names like Alligator Fuckhouse and equally ridiculous costumes. As Phil and Misandra make their way through a gauntlet of human rapists and tainted monsters, they find the man behind the madness, the masked screaming man, Ludas, who has his own tale of depravity. It all culminates with Phil draping the American flag over his shoulder and going on a spree shooting the tainted’s penises off with uncanny accuracy to the tune of some epic rockin’ music.

Not a beat of this film is played seriously. It’s crude and disgusting from scene one to end. But it’s also probably one of the most inanely funny films I’ve seen this year. THE TAINT also sports some impressive special effects as heads are sliced, crushed, minced, beaten, and blown apart in various ways. On top of all of that, this film sets the bar high for most penises blown off by a handgun ever on celluloid. So there’s that.

Utterly crude and rude, if you’re looking for an unapologetic gross out film, you need to look no further than THE TAINT. The level of disgust this film achieves is truly epic. You’ve got to have a pretty iron constitution to stomach a lot of the stuff that goes on in THE TAINT, but I guarantee if you like gore, you’ll laugh so hard you’ll piss and shit yourself at the gross-out glory of THE TAINT.

Beware this trailer has boobies!


Directed by Bennie Woodell
Written by Bennie Woodell
Starring Brad Fowler, Liz Davis, & Katie Lanigan
Find out more info on this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Though not so much a horror movie as it is more of a crime drama with gore and horrific elements, THE SAD CAFÉ is nevertheless an intense and impressive offering from writer / director Bennie Woodell. I first met Mr. Woodell at a Fangoria Weekend of Horrors a few years ago. At the time, he was selling one of his first films, FAST ZOMBIES WITH GUNS. And though the film was very low budget, how could I not support a film with a name like that. I still get a grin on my face thinking about that little indie zombie flick and it made me take notice when Mr. Woodell contacted me about his latest film. THE SAD CAFÉ is an ode to Japanese crime dramas where a flawed hero is trying to do some good for once. Honor is a key element to the plot and the lines between good and evil are blurred when emotion barges its way into the mix. Woodell seems to understand this subgenre fully and conveys all of these themes and more in his latest film.

THE SAD CAFÉ is about a hitman and a waitress. Two people who are unlikely to fall in love, but they do anyway. Brad Fowler plays Jack, a man bound to his job as a hitman, yet yearning for a simpler, happier life. Of course in this business, just when you think you’re out…YOU’RE PULLED BACK INNNNN!!!!! Sorry, channeling my inner Pacino there. When Jack meets Rose, he wants to do the right thing, but debts and obligations don’t allow him the happier life.

THE SAD CAFÉ is a morality tale where the rules are hazy and grey—much like the best crime dramas like HEAT or THE DEPARTED. Bennie Woodell not only offers up a compelling story of love and crime, he also has quite a few memorable moments of technical uniqueness. Though this film was filmed on the cheap, it has big budget themes and impressive camera work that makes it feel much more mainstream than it is. It’s also got some crackling moments of gore and action involving gunplay, torture, and heartbreak. Seeing the leaps and bounds Woodell has made as a director and writer in the last few years makes me anticipate what he has in store for us next.

Available on VOD / DVD / BluRay on 6/28/11!

DAWNING (2009)

Directed by Gregg Holtgrewe
Written by Gregg Holtgrewe & Matthew Wilkins
Starring David Coral, Jonas Goslow, Christine Kellogg-Darrin, Daniel Jay Salmen, & Najarra Townsend
Find out more info on this film here and more on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

DAWNING is one of those horror films I love to see. It’s a low budgeteer relies on smart writing in order to amp up scares and not necessarily make it obvious that the film was done on the cheap. While there is actually one location this film is shot in, it’s never obvious or restricting. In that, DAWNING is a successful indie horror film, done for cheap but in a way that never broadcasts it.

DAWNING centers around a brother and sister, Chris and Aurora, as they return to their family home after an extended period of time away. The family has its demons. Father is a recovering alcoholic and mother seems to have left the family for an extended period of time. The vacation at the cabin in the woods starts out pleasant, but it is filled with tension. No one of the family wants to talk about the difficulties they’ve inflicted upon each other to spoil the pleasantries, but when the family dog is found dead, emotions flare and the demons just below the surface start to show themselves. Soon a stranger shows up to the home telling the family that there is something evil in the woods and that no one will survive the night.

Director Gregg Holtgrewe does a great job of building tension in DAWNING. Though some of the actors fall a bit short in delivering the performances required for such a focused character piece, the story does flow pretty well and by the time the stranger shows up, I did care for the family enough to hope they came out alive. Though this film is admirable in that it worked well within its budgetary restraints, I found the ending of DAWNING to be frustrating. Though I won’t reveal it here, the lack of resolution or clear definition of the threat out in the woods in the end, though creative, left me wanting a bit more. That said, filmmakers who attempt to make films way out of their budgetary restraints (ahem, I’m talking to you SyFy filmmakers of DINOSHARK and the like) could learn a lot from what Holtgrewe does with so little in DAWNING. A dark woods and some patience proves to be a while lot more intense than a badly CGI-ed shark any old day.


Directed by Jim O’Rear
Written by Jim O’Rear & Bryan Wilson
Starring Jim O’Rear, Bryan Wilson, Danielle Harris, Robert Englund, William Forsythe, Tony Todd, Cerina Vincent, Tom Savini, Ernie Hudson, & many more!
Find out more info on this film here and more on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Watching UNDERGROUND ENTERTAINMENT: THE MOVIE is like meandering through a horror convention with all of your favorite horror stars and the geeks that love to watch them. Jim O’Rear and Bryan Wilson started a low fi cable access show in the late eighties that may not have known it at the time, but influenced quite a bit of modern culture. At least that’s what this film would like you to believe. Shot documentary / best of style, UNDERGROUND ENTERTAINMENT: THE MOVIE is a retrospective on the years the wily television show made madness happen on the air and pushed the boundaries of good taste and what was allowed to be seen and heard on cable during a time when the FCC was lobbing fines like Frisbees at anyone even thinking of using four letter words.

The reason why this film is here in AICN HORROR is that it features a truly impressive cast of stars giving testimonials on their appearances on the show and what they thought about it. Most of the interviews are brief snippets captured at horror cons, but the compilation of them all is a who’s who in horror and extremely fun to watch. Seeing the likes of Danielle Harris, Robert Englund, Lloyd Kaufman, Tony Todd, Tom Savini, William Forsythe, Doug Bradley, Cerina Vincent, and Ernie Hudson testify that the TV show invented everything in pop culture proved to be entertaining from beginning to end.

Interspersed between the bits are snippets of old shows, interviews with former directors and station managers, and an in depth talk with Bryan and Jim themselves. Though most of the claims in this film are less than accurate, it is fun to see some of lunacy that occurred on this show focusing on genre films, comics, and toys. Seeing the childlike glee the two hosts had pushing the envelope and just having fun talking about stuff they love like old films, obscure music, banned toys, and fringe entertainment will make even the most jaded fanboy giggle.

Plus, as an added bonus that I’m sure the filmmakers don’t know, at the 146.00 minute mark of the film, there’s a small cameo by AICN’s own Capone standing in the background as Tom Savini and Tony Todd wrestle with one another in front of the camera at a convention (I don’t think he knows this either, but I assure you, it’s there!)

Bryan and Jim are all of us. It’s evident in this film. They love comics and movies and toys and music. They go to conventions and geek out like the rest of us do. And they had a whole lot of fun making the UNDERGROUND ENTERTAINMENT TV show. All of this is evident in this film; a well made gourmet of geek culture through the eyes of two guys proud to be a part of it.


HIGHWAY 91 (2011)

Directed by Sonny Fernandez
Written by Sonny Fernandez
Starring Cody Tergesen, Liz Dockter, Sonny Fernandez, Kim Haarman, Aaron Swenson, & Justin Kavlie
Find out more info on this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Sonny Fernandez turns in another low budget opus in HIGHWAY 91 that once again never fails to amaze me at the ambition and ingenuity the writer/director/musical scorer/special effects artist/actor exudes in every scene. Yes, the film looks like it was filmed in the backyard and surrounding woods of the filmmakers’ neighborhood. Yes, the actors look to be a gathering of a bunch of friends just doing this for shits and giggles. Yes, the special effects look like they were made with aluminum foil and plaster from a special needs class. But dammit if I don’t find every one of Sonny Fernandez’ films to be utterly endearing in every way.

HIGHWAY 91 is an epic zombie film focusing on a trio of likable characters making the best of the zombie apocalypse. What I like about the recent wave of zombie films is that they aren’t outbreak films. They’re survivor films. How many times have you seen the initial outbreak and the hysteria and panic everyone goes through as the dead walk? I’m glad the new trend is for folks to work on surviving the zombie plague rather than panicking upon first sight of it. I like it that from the beginning, these three unlikely heroes; the noble bow & arrow wielder (Cody Tergesen), as the snarky jokester with a sledgehammer (Sonny Fernandez himself), and jaded punk girl with blades (Liz Dockter). Fernandez spends enough time allowing these three interact in fun and exciting ways to make them worth following. They spend all day fighting zombies and hiking the countryside and try to sleep at night in the woods dreaming of their past lives and what they miss from them. When the trio happen upon a couple with stories of a rumored safe haven at the end of Highway 91, they group up and decide to take the path north to Canada. Along the way, they meet a camp of buried undead, a group of thugs taking advantage of the weak, a serial killer, and a religious compound holding what might be the cure for the zombie apocalypse.

If HIGHWAY 91 sounds ambitious, it is. There’s enough story in this film for three movies, but Fernandez crams it all into one. As always, the highlight of Fernandez’ films is his script. This ambitious trek has dialog both clever and fun that flow naturally from the amateur cast. Though taking heavy portions from Kirkman’s THE WALKING DEAD comic book series about the ongoing adventures of a group of survivors during the zombie apocalypse, HIGHWAY 91 is a low budget masterpiece and proof that a good script can make one look past shortcomings such as low fi effects, amateur acting, and sketchy editing. Having seen and reviewed three of Fernandez’s films here on AICN HORROR, I’m convinced the guy’s got talent. One of these days he’ll get a budget and some backing and I’m sure this guy will take off. In the meantime, the guy is churning out backyard horror like no other with a dedication to the genre and an ear for good dialog. There’s more passion in any of Fernandez’s films toward the genre of horror than most Hollywood horror films you’ll see this year. HIGHWAY 91 is rough around the edges, but at its core it relishes in pure horror.

And finally…here’s another episode of the zombie reality show, ZOMBIE GO BOOM. This time they settle the age-old debate: which is better for killing zombies…aluminum or wooden bat? Find out below…

Find out more on ZOMBIE GO BOOM on their Facebook page!

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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