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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. It’s funny. There aren’t too many genres as permeated with sequels as horror. You don’t see THE NOTEBOOK 3-D or GONE WITH THE WIND 5: A NEW BEGINNING. For some reason though, horror is full of them. Maybe because it’s that urge to get scared again and again, though after repeated attempts, it’s never quite as scary as the first startle. For some reason there was a ton of sequels released this week, so that’s what we’re focusing on. Some of these sequels show how to do one right, while others are the kind that give sequels a bad name. Scroll down to see which was which. But first, here’s a few bits of news for you all to enjoy.

Some film festivals of note: the Everybody Dies Film Festival takes place today and tomorrow (October 21-22) in Orange County, California featuring a whole slew of horror shorts and features. Tomorrow, Creative Loafing Presents Reel Terror Film Festival takes place at the CL Space in Ybor City, Tampa Bay, FL, which again has a great lineup of films short and feature length showing. I reviewed a ton of the films and shorts featured at these festivals in yesterday’s special AICN HORROR column, so be sure to click here to see that!

Also I hope to be checking out CASSADAGA very soon (we premiered the trailer for the film last week), but it’ll be making its premiere at the Screamfest in LA on Saturday, Oct 22.

Be sure to check out Menton3’s amazing new comic MONOCYTE #1 from IDW Publishing. You can find my review of this awesome new book here. I also reviewed Alan Robert of Life of Agony’s book CRAWL TO ME #4 here which is an equally awesome comic book. Finally, my own comic, FAMOUS MONSTERS PRESENTS LUNA #1 was reviewed favorably by my fellow @$$Hole reviewer BottleImp here.

So let’s get started with the sequel coverage!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)
And finally…RAVEN’S HOLLOW!

In select theaters soon! Premiering at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival tomorrow!


Directed by Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Matthew Kennedy, & Connor Sweeney
Written by Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Matthew Kennedy, Steven Kostanski, Connor Sweeney & Astron-6
Starring Adam Brooks, Mackenzie Murdock, Matthew Kennedy, Connor Sweeney
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I’ve been waiting to check out this film since…well, since I began this column. When I first got wind of FATHER’S DAY its was after watching this trailer below:

Father's Day Trailer 2011 - by FilmBookdotCom

After being both amused and grossed out by that over the top treat, I saw this “That’s just damn wrong!” trailer narrated by a child:

So after numerous attempts to be able to check out this film before anyone, I was finally able to check it out this week, a few short days before it premieres at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

So what do I know about this film? Well, I know the folks at Astron-6 first made FATHER’S DAY as a short comedy horror film, a sort of demo reel. That was the original trailer above. Then after Troma got involved, it became a full fledged movie. Or at least that’s the story I heard. Nevertheless, parts of that first clip are in the final version of FATHER’S DAY, but not all. Still, even though the first trailer of this film isn’t really for the final cut, most of the batshit premise remains: a man named Chris Fuchman is a sick man. He rapes and kills fathers. A one eyed man named Ahab has dedicated his life to tracking him down.  He has been unsuccessful. This is their epic story.

FATHER’S DAY is over the top, tasteless, senseless, and completely hilarious. Though at times the tone is a bit too serious (especially the opening scene which starts off on an especially sadistic foot given the tone of the rest of the film), most of FATHER’S DAY never takes itself too seriously. Though the humor if often of the goofball and ludicrous variety featuring everything from toxic berries to incest to a talking jacket to a Jesus tiger puppet with glowing eyes to maple syrup (it all sort of makes sense in the film…sort of), but most of the comedy is a homerun and had me rolling every time.

Then again, there is some seriously fucked up gore going on with Fuchman injecting drugs into his penis then slicing it with a razor. And don’t forget the multiple father rape scenes, which, depending on one’s stance on father rape, is either heinous or hilarious. For the most part the scenes of comedy and gore work well together, though there are times when the juxtaposition is a little jarring. This isn’t your usual over the top gore and broad humor often seen in Troma films; this is a level of depravity rarely achieved in cinema. Only towards the end of this film does the humor, story, and tone venture into the more familiar Troma territory of expansive action, broad acting, and somewhat amateur special effects. But FATHER’S DAY has so much going for it throughout the first hour twenty, I’m willing to forgive the film for it.

FATHER’S DAY was a team effort from the folks at Astron-6 with multiple writers and directors, most of them acting in the thing as well. But despite the hodge-podgy way this film was put together, it all works. Filmed with grindhousey glee with hairs in the camera, scratchmarks on the film, and jittery edits, FATHER’S DAY is a modern masterpiece of bad taste. There’s a lot of care put into this gross-out guffaw-fest, with fantastic comedic performances by the entire cast (Adam Brooks is especially great as Ahab), gore that will make you wince, a trip to hell with moments of true terror, and comedy that will make you laugh out loud and maybe feel a tiny bit dirty in doing so. FATHER’S DAY joins the holy trinity of grossout greats I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this year with the unbelievably insane THE TAINT and the short n’ gory ROID RAGE. From the nauseating beginning to the bombastic and bloody end, FATHER’S DAY should not be missed.

New this week on BluRay/DVD!


Directed by Kevin Gates & Michael Bartlett
Written by Kevin Gates
Starring Alix Wilton Regan, Philip Brodie & Vicky Aracio
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I was a fan of the original ZOMBIE DIARIES. I thought it was everything Romero’s DIARY OF THE DEAD tried to be and failed. Using the hand-held zombie apocalypse motif, the makers of the original ZOMBIE DIARIES attempted to tell an expansive story from multiple angles and for the most part succeeded, though things did get a bit convoluted toward the end.

With ZOMBIE DIARIES 2, the series continues to follow the more militaristic side of the war between the living and the dead. The film starts with a pretty effective scene as a family, not knowing about the zombies, celebrate a birthday of a young girl during a power outage. When the father hears something going on outside, we know what it is, but the family doesn’t. What plays out is a pretty horrific scene with a nice payoff—a great intro into this world of ZOMBIE DIARIES.

Cut to a group of UK military types who are trying to deal with the plague themselves. With no contact with the world, the soldiers rely on rank and training (and of course firepower) to get them through the shambling masses. Unlike like the soldiers in DAY OF THE DEAD, these soldiers represent the good guys here rather than the gun-happy monsters from Romero’s film. It’s the regular civilians that folks need to worry about as they rampage across the decimated land, killing and raping survivors (there’s even a disturbing zombie rape scene). Showing the humans in this light is not new, but the stance that it’s the soldiers that are the noble warriors while the civilians are the true monstrosities is a viewpoint I haven’t really seen before. This is an almost pro-military, patriotic film—sort of a SAVING PRIVATE RYAN of zombie films, though the scope is much smaller. Hell, one of the soldiers is even a teacher back home, like Tom Hanks was in PRIVATE RYAN.

The motif that this is a found footage film with a military cameraman documenting everything wears a bit thin. There’s some acknowledgment by the rest of the cast that the camera is on, but for the most part, once the zombies get in close, other than continuing to film so there’s a movie, there really is no reason for the cameraman to continue rolling. That said, ZOMBIE DIARIES 2, like its predecessor, is your higher quality zombie film. The gore is top notch. There are quite a few scenes with true scares. And of course, it’s a nice homage to the original DEAD trilogy with an adherence to Romero’s rules of zombie.

New this week on BluRay/DVD!


Directed by Joe Nimziki
Written by Gary Brandner (novel), Joe Nimziki & James Robert Johnston
Starring Lindsey Shaw, Landon Liboiron, Ivana Milicevic, Erin Agostino, Kristian Hodko, Sean Mercado, Niels Schneider
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

The eighth film of the HOWLING series is mean to be a jolt of adrenaline to the HOWLING franchise. Plain and simple, THE HOWLING: REBORN is a film made by adults who think they know what kids want. There are ample amounts of screen time dedicated to texting and awkward interactions between teens who look like twenty-somethings. The thing is, the film also wants to ape SCREAM by having the kids in the film self aware, knowing about werewolves, and even filming themselves so they have a death-scene they can share to the masses. Though Kevin Williamson was onto something in the 1990’s when SCREAM was made, twenty years later, using this motif to reinvigorate another franchise is downright offensive.

The film starts out promisingly enough as a young woman is attacked by a werewolf. We aren’t shown the attack or told it’s a werewolf, but this is a HOWLING movie, so what else are we supposed to think is doing the attack? Cut forward to a pimply faced teen with a crush on a classmate. There’s an awful lot of TWILIGHT-ing going on with Will (played by Landon Liboiron) angsting over the cute girl in school Eliana (played by Lindsey Shaw). When Will gets scratched in an attack at a party, he starts exhibiting wolfy powers. Soon he thinks he’s a werewolf and is afraid he’s going to turn Eliana into a wolf too. The narrative tries to play with the viewer here, making us guess who is the big bad wolf with red herrings tossed asunder, but in the end, the obvious choice is the best bet. Will fights his urges to kill the ones he loves and ends up in a standoff in a school during a nighttime graduation (who graduates high school at night?).

There are plot holes you could hula-hoop with. There are characters too annoying for words—Will’s friend is of course a horror buff and knows everything there is to know about werewolves. The acting is on par with your usual SyFy endeavor. The effects are equally unimpressive with the director most of the time relying on rapid fire cuts in order to cover up how awkward the werewolves look when they move, plus the mother werewolf looks like an evil poodle in close-ups. Wrap it all up with a pretentious voice-over by Will at the end talking about the new generation taking over the world as some kind of allegory about the youth of the world rising up to the authoritative adults keepin’ them down and you have a stinking wolf turd of a film.

That said, I do have to give this film some props because they have obviously seen the original classic by Joe Dante. The end sequence as the werewolf epidemic spans the globe is met with the same amount of apathy Dee Wallace Stone’s on air transformation in the original ending was met with. So props for the filmmakers for at least taking a bit of inspiration from the original. That said, the film is trying to pander/appeal to the SCREAM/TWILIGHT crowd, two crowds who I wouldn’t categorize as folks who would check out a film called THE HOWLING.

New this week on BluRay/DVD!


Directed by Víctor García
Written by Gary Tunnicliffe (based on original characters created by Clive Barker)
Starring Steven Brand, Nick Eversman, Tracey Fairaway, Sebastien Roberts, Devon Sorvari, Sanny Van Heteren, Daniel Buran, Jay Gillespie, Stephan Smith Collins
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

This is the ninth film of the HELLRAISER series, and like THE HOWLING, each time a new number is added to the end of these films, it seems to get poopier and poopier. Having experienced HELLRAISER in theaters when it was first released, I “saw the future of horror, and his name was Clive Barker” as the ads for the series promoted, it hurts me more to see the series fall into the crapper. But like a dog who is fooled when you mock toss a ball, I keep coming back again and again, hoping that some filmmakers will come along and capture that magic Clive did with the first and arguably second films of this franchise.

Seems I’m going to be waiting a bit longer, though, because HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS neither raises hell nor reveals much.

Because found footage is the bees knees these days, the film starts out with a pair of rambunctious rich kids taking a road trip to Mexico. Of course, they have to film it all because, that’s what you do in these types of horror films. The kids accidentally kill a prostitute and soon they find themselves in the possession of a golden puzzle box. After one of them fiddles with the trinket, the doors to hell are opened, the Cenobites are let loose, and soon one of the guys is in search of blood and skin while the other is bound to get him said grue.

Though HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS seems to follow the same template laid out meticulously and artistically by Barker in the first film, it does so haphazardly. It’s kind of like a McDonald’s fry cook trying to follow a Wolfgang Puck recipe. Sure the ingredients are all there, but it just doesn’t taste the same. Here we’ve got the Cenobites, the box, the scraggly bum, the chains, the torture, the gong, the blue light. It’s just done so with less artistic attention and power. Even Pinhead, who is no longer played by Doug Bradley, but Stephan Smith Collins, lacks presence here. Collins’ makeup is great, but he lacks the “don’t fuck with me” confidence, pomposity, and even humanity that Bradley exuded with every poetic line. Bradley was the one thing that kind of classed up the rest of the HELLRAISER sequels. At least we could count on a good performance by him. Without Bradley, the appearance of the Cenobites lacks any punch at all.

There are quite a few nice gore sequences. A new Pinhead-like Cenobite whose design is somewhat inspired is introduced while the Chatterer and the Twins return to sing back-up. But the gorgeous depravity and the perverse sweetness of the first two HELLRAISER films are non-existent in this by the numbers sequel. It seems originally the makers of the film INSIDE were supposed to be helming a new HELLRAISER film which was supposed to revitalize the series. This is most definitely not that movie.

In theaters today!


Directed by Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost
Written by Christopher B. Landon
Starring Lauren Bittner, Brian Boland, Jessica Tyler Brown, Chloe Cserngey, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Katie Featherston, & Sprague Grayden
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

After the credits for PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 rolled I turned to AICN Chicago Editor Capone and said, “It always gets me”--it being the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films. Yes, there are those who loathe the films for being repetitious and exercises in patience. Yes, most of the endings of the film series are somewhat lackluster. But I’ll be damned if I don’t jump almost out of my theater seat every time I watch the films. Having seen every PARANORMAL ACTIVITY in theaters, I have to say this is a film definitely best viewed with an audience. The wave of utter dread and silence (a feat worth note for theaters these days) that sweeps over the crowd every time night falls and the rolling camera scenes begins is something that makes the experience somewhat fulfilling. Sitting in a crowded theater, I thought my experience watching PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 would be hell with rowdy and obnoxious idiots ruining all sense of tension and anticipation. But it’s a testament to the film that every time the lights went out in the film, you could have heard a pin drop.

By now, everyone knows the structure of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Set up a bunch of cameras. Have them film the stars while they are sleeping. Silence. Time passes. Then some scary shit happens. Wash, rinse, repeat for three films now. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 continues this trend by having a concerned step dad set up three cameras around the house to capture strange things on camera after seeing something they cannot explain on film occur after an earthquake. Having seen the previous films, we know it’s a demon/ghost thingee haunting this family. The narrative leaps back in time 18 years to follow Katie and Kristi as children. Throughout the first two films, both Katie and Kristi refer back to their youth as either something they blocked out or something they fear. Here we see where the nightmares began.

Though repetitious, PA3 introduces some interesting elements to the mix. One, the film elaborates on the theme of witchcraft that was only touched upon in the first two. This opens a new door for the series to travel through for the inevitable sequel (most likely to be released next year). Also, filmmakers Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost (who delivered another caught on video thrill ride with CATFISH last year), make some smart technical decisions placing a camera on a rotating fan which pans back and forth across the room, setting up for some absolutely terrifying sequences and adding a bit of motion to the static cams and steadiness to the shaky hand helds relied on in the first two. It’s this type of ingenuity that keeps this series interesting as it proceeds from one film to the next. Finally, though I hate false jump scares, the filmmakers set up one false scare that is absolutely pants-shittingly good. It’s hilarious and expertly put together.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 is more of the same. This could mean more stuff that annoys you if the first two films got on your last nerve. But for me, I found it to be another fun installment in a series that continues to provides real scares and shocks that keep me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Though most franchises like SAW seem to fall off the cliff into a big lake of ridiculousness trying to justify the need for a sequel, at least PARANORMAL ACTIVITY seems to have a narrative mapped out and a formula that continues to work. For a horror fan who loves being scared PARANORMAL ACTIVITY gets me every time and got me again this year.

And finally…here’s a special Halloween treat from Colin Clarke called RAVEN’S HOLLOW. This gorgeous and devious little animation was an Official Selection at the 2011 Mile High Horror Film Festival, 2011 Gen Con Film Festival, 2011 Dark Carnival Film Festival, 2011 Buffalo Screams Horror Film Festival, 2011 Tri-Cities International Fantastic Film Festival, and was First Place Winner at the 2011 On the Waterfront Film Festival. The film also was shown as part of the Halloween edition of Rue Morgue & Unstable Ground's Little Terrors Short Film Event in Toronto, Ontario. For more info on this short, be sure to check out the website here! Enjoy RAVEN’S HOLLOW!

Raven's Hollow from Colin Clarke on Vimeo.

See ya, next week, folks!

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Mark is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and will be releasing FAMOUS MONSTERS first ever comic book miniseries LUNA in October (co-written by Martin Fisher with art by Tim Rees) You can pre-order it here! Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!

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