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Logo by Kristian Horn
What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column looking at what’s new this week in horror. But before we do, check these bits of news out…

The new film 7500 looks pretty damn cool. It hits theaters in August with a kick ass cast. Go here to check out the “In Flight Experience” which showed me just enough about the film to put it high on my radar. Though it premiered here on AICN earlier in the week, I felt the preview was worth reposting since it brings back warm memories of Lithgow’s awesome TWILIGHT ZONE performance.

I reviewed the graphic novel HARBOR MOON a while back in AICN COMICS (check out my review here). The makers of that book put together a trailer for the comic. Check it out!

Speaking of comics, those following the monthly issues of THE WALKING DEAD might want to take a gander at this teaser to the upcoming storyline as Rick and the survivors discover they are not as alone as they think. This teaser sent a shiver down my spine. Check it out!

Finally, why follow Sundance when Troma’s got their own festival in the works? Always a supporter of all things occurring in Tromaville, the company is taking entries for their 2012 TromaDance Film Festival. There’s no entry fee, so don’t be scared to enter your film into the running. Hopefully, I’ll be able to cover more of TromaDance in the coming weeks! Find out more about the festival here!

And now let’s talk about some horror films!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-Review: THE DEVIL WITHIN HER (1971)
KILL LIST (2011)
And finally…Victor Garcia’s EL CICLO Short Film!

New on DVD from Scorpion Releasing & Katarina’s Nightmare Theater!


Directed by Peter Sasdy
Written by Stanley Price (screenplay), Nato De Angeles (original story)
Starring Joan Collins, Eileen Atkins, Ralph Bates, Donald Pleasence, Caroline Munro, George Claydon
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

The moral of this little horror nugget from the seventies seems to be never piss off a midget--otherwise, they will be sure to curse you with a demon baby. That’s about all of the logic that applies to THE DEVIL WITHIN HER aka I DON’T WANT TO LIVE aka IT LIVES WITHIN HER aka SHARON’S BABY (despite the fact that no one in this film is named Sharon). Directed by Peter Sasdy (who directed last week’s NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT and most notably TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA), this film seems owe a lot to ROSEMARY’S BABY and IT’S ALIVE, but still ends up being pretty memorable and worth seeking out.

Joan Collins plays Lucy, an ex-showgirl who is now married to a well-to-do man and leads a well to-do-life. Lucy still keeps in touch with her showgirl roots, though, through her pal played by scream queen Caroline Monro. The message of this film seems to be that one can never escape one’s past. Though this may take a rather snooty stance on women who dance for a living, it doesn’t seem very shy in taking this stance. Almost everyone in the cast either recognizes Lucy’s floozy days as the good old days or the bad old days.

But Lucy isn’t completely innocent here. She’s slept with her former manager at the strip club just before her marriage to her husband. Plus, during her last show, Hercules, her height-impaired assistant played with sweaty glee by George Claydon, makes advances toward her. When she spurns him, he curses her and her first born child. Sure enough, nine months after the wedding, the stork delivers a little bundle and though the title suggests the devil is inside her, he is actually shitting himself in a crib most of the film—outside of her.

Though elements of this story could be found in IT’S ALIVE, THE EXORCIST, ROSEMARY’S BABY and many others, this film stands out for its strong performances by its cast. Donald Pleasance offers a subtle performance as a doctor who wants to work with a nun in order to combat the baby. A young Joan Collins shows a lot of sensitivity here (not her particular strong suit given the bitchy performances that made her famous in her later career).

The film is also pretty ballsy with some intense moments of gore, particularly the beheading of one cast member and simply for casting a baby as a monster and following through with it until the end. Dealing with all forms of postpartum depression and the horrors of pregnancy and infants, THE DEVIL WITHIN HER continues to keep things serious despite the fact that it’s basically about a super-strong killer demon baby.

Advance Review!


Directed by Jason Horton
Written by Jason Horton
Starring Glenn Plummer, Lee Perkins, Linda Bella, Edward Hendershott, Claudia Perea, Blaine Cade, Gladys Otero
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Though the narrative gets kind of murky sometimes, this low fi found footage-ish horror yarn about monsters inhabiting a wooded area outside of Hollywood is at times a lot of fun. The film starts out as your standard monster flick, with a hideous bird beast chasing a topless bimbo through the woods. At this point, I was hoping that the filmmakers were making this film cheesy on purpose and it turns out I was right. The bimbo is part of a movie crew filming a low budget film in the woods. The director says cut and we see the director and crew and the movie really begins. Then a behind the scenes crew starts filming the people making the movie being made and this is where MONSTERS IN THE WOODS starts to get a little confusing.

The acting is surprisingly good, especially the director, Glenn Plummer, who many will remember from THE CROW, PREDATOR 2, and SPEED 2. Plummer’s commentary about Hollywood and the studio system ring especially authentic as he bitches about having to do reshoots because the producers wanted more T&A and gore. I’m paraphrasing, but he says something to the tune of “It’s really appealing to those young directors working to show their art, but that starving artist shit isn’t so appealing when I got bills to pay.” Plummer’s natural acting ability is a true highlight here.

I had fun with the rest of MONSTERS IN THE WOODS as well, but occasionally I felt the filmmakers were making things overly complex narrative-wise with the shifting POV from real movie to found footage style handheld cam and back again. Had a straight up film or a full blown found footager been made, I think the story would have flowed easier. As is, the narrative feels choppy with all of these shifting styles.

The monsters in the woods in MONSTERS IN THE WOODS are pretty fun. All practical effects were used, which when filmed correctly can be very effective. Occasionally, though, long shots of the monsters take some of the fright away from these beasties. There are some cool designs, but the visible legs of the creatures scream “man in suit” a bit too much. Problem is, if this were the movie within a movie it would have been fine, but the shifting realities of this film really conflict when the amateurish monsters show up, making one wonder throughout if this is the movie or the movie within the movie or something in between.

MONSTERS IN THE WOODS has a fun script and capable actors speaking it. I think they might have overthunk the story a bit, though, and the urge to follow a current trend in horror might have bogged down an otherwise fun concept.

New on DVD/BluRay from The Asylum!!


Directed by Christopher Ray
Written by Edward DeRuiter (story), H. Perry Horton (screenplay)
Starring Carmen Electra, Charlie O'Connell, Brooke Hogan, Gerald Webb, David Gallegos
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I shouldn’t have had so much fun with this film, but I couldn’t help myself. The concept of a two-headed shark with each head fighting one another for a meal is such an inane premise but somehow, some way, it just worked for me. Though I have criticized films like DINOSHARK, SHARKTOPUS, and MEGACROC VS DINOGATOR, the filmmaker of TWO-HEADED SHARK ATTACK seems to have learned from their mistakes of the past and improved upon the concept by 1) not taking itself too seriously, 2) not relying so much on CGI, and 3) returning to practical effects.

Though the actors themselves play things straight, the filmmakers know this is a ludicrous film. Little by way of depth of character is given to this cast. The only requirement seems to be that they look good in a bikini. There are way too many people on this boat even for a mini-yacht. The “nautical science” being taught to this ship full of bikini-clad students by Charlie O'Connell is stuff torn straight from a wiki article. The story serves only to set people up in the water just for them to be torn to shreds by the two-headed monster. I practically got dizzy from rolling my eyes at the lame humor and even lamer drama, but I don’t care and the filmmakers didn’t seem to either.

This film is about one shark head fighting another shark head for meals. Every time one of the kids is eaten, I couldn’t help but chuckle as they are torn to shreds by the greedy tooth machines. Though past SyFy-esque endeavors have championed their amateur CGI like a prize hen, director Christopher Ray cleverly covers a lot of the seams of this CGI with waves, bubbles, and splashes. The result is a shark that isn’t utterly, laughably cartooned in. Mixed with the use of practical effects for many of the close encounters with the sharks and you have a pretty effective shark horror film. Never do we get an explanation for the shark’s bi-cranial deformity. He just shows up and starts chomping. The explanation doesn’t matter and the filmmakers don’t try to bore us with any. They just fill this film with bikinis and sharks and sharks eating bikinis.

The final moments of the film throw all logic out the window. In the middle of the ocean, a woman tries to light a wet shirt on fire as a fuse to blow up a can of gasoline the shark has caught in one of its mouths. And for some reason, she doesn’t seem to understand that you can’t light wet stuff on fire. But she tries her hardest any old way.

Charlie O’Connell does his best here as the lead. There’s not much for him to do other than scream out orders, kiss Carmen Electra, and look constipated, but he does all three well. Carmen Electra is utterly useless and serves only to kill three minutes of screentime literally lounging on a boat in her bikini set to leftover BAYWATCH music. Brooke Hogan (daughter of the Hulkster) shows promise as an actress and even pulls off a daring (yet impossible) battle with the two headed fish. But again, none of this matters. With a name like TWO-HEADED SHARK ATTACK you aren’t expecting Oscar nods. Expect bloody shark fun and you’ll get it. Though this isn’t a great movie by a longshot, it’s definitely better than most stuff you expect to see on SyFy.

Advance Review: Recently played at the Slamdance Film Festival!


Directed by Derek Franson
Written by Derek Franson
Starring Victoria Bidewell, Tygh Runyan, Jane Sowerby, Philip Granger
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Wow, this descent into madness tale blew me away. Star Victoria Bidewell offers up a commanding role as Koffie, an ordinary girl with issues. She’s in her mid twenties, looking for love and recovering from a bad relationship. She decides to go for a change in her life and gets a tattoo, but as she begins to recede from interaction with society, she starts to form an unhealthy bond with her tattoo. Soon Koffie is having full blown conversations with the ink, which whispers back to her like a serpent and moves from one location on her body to another. COMFORTING SKIN is not necessarily a day in the park type of film experience, but it is a fascinating character study of a person whose life is falling to pieces.

Writer/director Derek Franson takes his time allowing the audience to pity Koffie as she watches her girlfriend get picked up by guys in the club then goes home only to be rejected by her roommate who would rather drone over his keyboard than form a relationship with her. The edges begin to fray as Koffie’s past is revealed, involving a lover who tries to be nice to her when they meet on the street, but is definitely afraid of her unpredictable nature. At first, Franson paints Koffie as a free spirit, someone the audience wants to root for, and that friend you know who just can’t get a break. But he subtly peels back the layers, indicating that all is not well with Koffie, even before she gets the tattoo.

The effects in this low budget film are fantastic. The blue feathered tattoo dances and glides across Koffie’s skin with ghostlike grace. Like a tempting snake, the ink teases and coaxes Koffie to become unburdened by doubt and give in to desires she keeps hidden. Bidewell offers up a bold performance, throwing her all into this role. Throughout most of the film, she’s pretty much naked, either writhing in pleasure her tattoo gives her or the pain it inflicts on her when she attempts to stand her ground. This is definitely an actress who isn’t afraid of anything and shows it in this nightmare life she acts out.

COMFORTING SKIN is a powerful journey through the maze of an unwell mind. The director shows great promise not only with his patience but his technical skill and ability to get his all from his actors. Franson dives full on into Cronenbergian body horror with his fetishistic portrayal of contact with flesh bordering between sensual and horrific, sometimes at the same time. Touring around the festival circuit right now, be on the look-out for COMFORTING SKIN. I’ll definitely be letting you know when it gets a wider release.

New on DVD/BluRay!


Directed by Sean Branney
Written by H.P. Lovecraft (story), Andrew Leman & Sean Branney (screenplay)Starring Matt Foyer, Barry Lynch, Daniel Kaemon, Matt Lagan, Joe Sofranko, Stephen Blackheart, David Pavao, & Autumn Wendel
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Those looking for Lovecraft done right should look no further than Sean Branney’s THE WHISPERER IN THE DARKNESS. I’ve read the story quite a few times, and though this story of otherworldly portals and demon bugs from other dimensions is not the most literal of Lovecraft’s work, I still don’t think that it’s been adapted perfectly. Until now. The filmmakers seem to not only possess the uncanny ability to translate Lovecraft’s words and themes with ease, but they also punch up the story with modern effects while giving it a timeless quality of the matinee serials.

It’s a simpler time, when men wore fedoras and suits everywhere and life was monochromatic. The film’s narrator Albert Wilmarth (played by Matt Foyer) is a scholar interested in having a philosophical debate about the existence of uncategorized beings not recognized by science. After receiving a summons from a townsperson in Vermont, he journeys to the man’s home only to encounter the very otherworldly beings he told himself didn’t exist.

Though this film is heavy on the talk, the strong performances and full embrace of the monster movies of the fifties make every second of this film intriguing and unblinkable. Filmed in stark blacks, faded whites, and amorphous greys, THE WHISPERER IN THE DARKNESS is a monster movie for folks who miss going to monster movie matinees. Branney adapts this tale of science proved wrong sharply with quick line exchanges and every eerie trick in the book made to amp up the old timey thrills.

Branney also incorporates modern CGI and practical effects to make this film experience seem as real as those old time movies were to you when you watched them as a child. The makers of this film’s love of Lovecraft is seen in every frame, and where most Lovecraftian films veer toward the more sensible or less bogged down by mythology, THE WHISPERER IN THE DARKNESS embraces the world of Lovecraft with all of its cryptic phrases and names.

The heroics are daring, as is the music. As Albert reluctantly is forced into defending the earth, I could see the masses of the fifties loving the hell out of a film like this, tossing their popcorn in the air and gripping their loved ones. I loved every moment of this Saturday afternoon serial brought to life in the modern age. The effects are top tier, with mask-wearing alien bug creatures called the Mi-Go working with human cults attempting to open a portal so that their world can overtake our own. THE WHISPERER IN THE DARKNESS is the first Lovecraftian film done completely right and I can’t wait to see more from this production company, which has also adapted THE CALL OF CTHULHU (a film I have yet to see, but after seeing this one, can’t wait to do so).

It’s about damn time they got Lovecraft right.

Opens in select US theaters today!

KILL LIST (2011)

Directed by Ben Wheatley
Written by Ben Wheatley & Amy Jump
Starring Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Harry Simpson, Michael Smiley, Emma Fryer
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I’ve been hearing about KILL LIST for quite some time and was very much looking forward to checking it out. I hate that feeling, because usually my expectations are not met when I anticipate the viewing of a film so much. But occasionally, as with KILL LIST, they are met and exceeded.

I’ve heard many folks say that in order to go into KILL LIST, it’s most effective to know nothing of the film before hand. I have to agree, since I avoided reading plot synopses and reviews, wanting to be surprised. I’m going to try to go spoiler free, but for the sake of this review, I have to talk about some details here.

That being said, I love the way KILL LIST plays out. I could easily see some folks lured into this movie thinking it’s one thing, then being totally shocked and appalled finding out that by the end of the movie it is an entirely different film. Throughout, though, the tone is dark, be it set in a quaint homestead where a couple fight and make up in a tumultuous relationship or in a dark cave system with two men running for their lives. There’s rarely a moment of levity and even when it does occur, as with a scene in a diner when two hitmen’s dinner is interrupted by religious singers, it plays out with a wicked black sense of humor.

KILL LIST begins slowly and unravels meticulously, centering on one man, Jay (played stone cold by Neil Maskell), who seems to be having a banal argument with his beautiful wife Shel (MyAnna Buring) about bills and working. When another couple comes over for dinner, the normalcy continues as both couples laugh over food and wine, get tipsy, argue, then make up. Again, nothing really out of the ordinary. Soon, though, it’s revealed that Jay and his partner Gal (MIchael Smiley) are hitmen. As the curtains are pulled back on their shady life of taking pay for busting skulls, we are witness to a whole new level of normal for Jay, who continues to walk around like a ticking time bomb and enacts his jobs with brutal force. When Jay and Gal take a job from a mysterious grey-haired gentleman with a list of kills for the two, things start getting…dire.

That’s all I’m saying. Though moving from inner home argument drama to hitman angst is enough of a shift, the shift into the realm of horror makes this film a must see for fans of all cinema, not just horrorphiles. KILL LIST is downright terrifying in parts and ends with an impactful blow to the stomach that leaves you reeling long after. It’s a film that curbstomps expectations, delving into dark and scary territories.

Director Ben Wheatley takes his sweet old time getting to the horror, but those patient enough to sit through some commanding performances from Maskell, Buring, and Simpson will definitely find the horrific payoff at the end shocking and satisfying. Though on a second watch shades of the horrors to come are scattered throughout the story, Wheatley makes the actors’ lives on screen so fascinating that you are bound to miss it on first showing.

I’ve already said too much, I’m sure. Just check out KILL LIST if it’s at a theater near you. It’s a harrowing film that is bores deep into your heart and leaves painful scars.

And finally…here’s EL CICLO, a grueling short from director Victor Garcia! But careful, this may not be safe for work! You’ve been warned.

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 has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment. He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and has just released FAMOUS MONSTERS first ever comic book miniseries LUNA (co-written by Martin Fisher with art by Tim Rees) You can order it here! Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!

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