Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. But before we get on with the new horrors, I thought you might find this interesting…
I talked with director Fred M. Andrews earlier in the week about his film CREATURE, the theatrical release controversy, and practical effects earlier in the week. You can find that interview, plus my review of the film here!
On with the reviews…
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Book Review: SCREAMPLAYS
Retro-review: BABA YAGA (1973)
Retro-review: BATTLE ROYALE (2000)
Advance Review: THE COMPLEX (2012)
SLAUGHTERED VOMIT DOLLS (2006)
RESURRECTION COUNTY (2008)
And finally…Neill Gorton’s MOTHER DIED!
SCREAMPLAYSEdited by Richard Chizmar & Martin H. Greenberg
Published by Cemetery Dance
Reveiwed by Dr. Loomis
“A screenplay is not meant to be published and read by the public.”
So says Dean Koontz in his introduction to SCREAMPLAYS, a collection of television and film scripts originally published in 1997 and now getting new life as a gorgeously illustrated and oversized limited edition from Cemetery Dance. Koontz goes on to say, “One is relieved of the need to refine the prose,” which kind of serves as a warning for anyone considering this as a purchase. You’ll see some of the finest talents in the genre listed in the table of contents – names like Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson, Richard Laymon and Stephen King – but what you’re getting from them may not be what you’re used to.
However, if you’re at all curious about how these writers translate their unique voices and ideas out of prose and into more visual media, or if you’re a fan of the inner workings of film and television, SCREAMPLAYS is a fantastic addition to your bookshelf.
What’s most interesting about these scripts is the way that the particular styles we’ve grown accustomed to from these writers is still evident, despite the fact that many of their usual tools are stripped away. For example, in Stephen King’s “General” (a segment from the anthology movie CAT’S EYE starring a young Drew Barrymore), the author is unable to indulge his usual character-building asides and detailed descriptions, yet most Constant Readers would be able to identify this as a King story within a few pages. Likewise, Joe R. Lansdale’s “Dead in the West” maintains his down-home sensibilities and sharply-written dialogue, resulting in a reading experience that’s as good as many of his novels and short stories.
What it comes down to is the reader: Do you have the patience for or the interest in reading something in script form? Not everyone does. Those that do will find SCREAMPLAYS to be an engaging read, a look at the work of some of the masters of horror from an entirely different and illuminating angle. They will also find themselves lost in another beautiful production by Cemetery Dance, which has sprinkled a fistful of moody, atmospheric artwork by Glenn Chadbourne throughout the book, and topped it off with an arresting cover by Les Edwards. Collectors, hardcore fans of the authors represented here, and aspiring screenwriters will all find something of value here. If they’re willing to give something different a chance, casual readers will find plenty of rewards, too.
SCREAMPLAYS is set for release later this summer.
"Dr. Loomis" is Blu Gilliand, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the fright-filled pages of DARK SCRIBE, DARK DISCOVERIES, SHROUD MAGAZINE, and Horror World, among others. He also runs his own blog, October Country devoted to horror and crime fiction. Feel free to stalk him on Twitter (@BluGilliand) at your own risk.
New on DVD & BlueRay from Blue Underground!
BABA YAGA (1973)aka BABA YAGA DEVIL WITCH, KISS ME KILL ME, BLACK MAGIC
Directed by Corrado Farina
Written by Corrado Farina, François de Lannurien (from the comics of Guido Crepax)
Starring Carroll Baker, Isabelle De Funès, George Eastman, Ely Galleani, Daniela Balzaretti, Mario Mattia Giorgetti
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Filling the quota for lesbian horror this week is BABA YAGA, a somewhat non-PC horror film that casts the villain as an older temptress (played by Carroll Baker) who sets her sights on a doe-eyed photographer (Isabelle De Funès). Adapted from a French erotic comic book by the same name, BABA YAGA refers to the witch of ancient fable, but instead of stirring a cauldron and riding a broom, this witch frequents art galleries and flirts with the upper crust.
Though sensuality is at the forefront of BABA YAGA, the film is rather tame compared to the Skinamax soft core porn of today. Baba Yaga (Baker) appears in Valentina’s (De Funes) life just as she is becoming popular in her photography. She is seen spurning the advances of Aldo (George Eastman) in the opening moments, leading to a traumatic encounter with Yaga when she barely avoids being run down in the street. Things turn erotic quickly as Yaga steals Valentina’s garter belt clip and starts showing up in her dreams. Soon, Valentina finds herself caught up in a downward spiral of eroticism mixed with perversions such as dolls in bondage and Nazi S&M.
Ultimately, the non-PC aspect of the film rears its head by casting the lesbian as a force threatening Valentina’s heterosexual lifestyle. But have no fear, that pesky lesbian witch is defeated when Aldo shows up to save the day and sweep Valentina up into heterosexual Nirvana.
Entertaining mainly due to the surreal dreams Valentina experiences throughout and the fantastic cinematography incorporating still images from the comic, BABA YAGA serves both as an ahead of its time player visually and a comment on the state of tolerance in the era it was made.
Beware, this trailer has boobs! NSFW!
New on DVD/BluRay!
BATTLE ROYALE (2000)Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Written by Koushun Takami (novel), Kenta Fukasaku (screenplay)
Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Tarô Yamamoto, Beat Takeshi Kitano, Chiaki Kuriyama
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Seeing release this week in many places for the first time is the Bluray for BATTLE ROYALE. In many ways, THE HUNGER GAMES wouldn’t be what it is today without this story of a class of students given weapons and told to take each other out in a tournament-style match. Rich with social commentary about overpopulation, violence in media, government’s role in the classroom, and the simple classroom struggle through the teenage years, BATTLE ROYALE is a film worth viewing and talking about for long after.
To start off, this film has never looked better. I watched some knockoff bootleg at a friend’s house long ago and the film looked like it was shot through a dirty sock. Here, the transfer is gorgeous and looks as if it were filmed yesterday. The disk comes with the director’s cut of the film (which I watched for the sake of this review), the original cut, BATTLE ROYALE II (which I have yet to see), and a disk of special features which I have yet to dive into as well. Though it had been a while since I last saw the film, I believe the main difference between the original and this director’s cut is the inclusion of much more backstory of the children and how they interacted with one another before they are recruited for this twisted game. In many ways, these scenes seem to serve as a means to show these kids at a more innocent time when they all got along. Watching the film, we know that this isn’t really the case as classroom bullying and gossiping that occurred before the match play out with deadly results once the kids have weapons in their hands, so while these new scenes do drive home the loss of innocence theme, it somewhat conflicts with the message that the schoolday lifestyle is warfare in itself.
This film was made in 2000 and though reality TV did exist at that time, it was nowhere near the height of popularity it is today. Though SERIES 7: THE CONTENDERS seemed like a direct response to BATTLE ROYALE when it followed random folks given weapons and told to kill one another as seen through the lens of a TV camera in 2001, those marveling at the crazy original concepts in THE HUNGER GAMES might want to check out this film made 12 years ago. It remains rife with bold statements about the state of the world.
That said, BATTLE ROYALE is also a damn fine action film. The film occasionally falls into repetitive arcs as these kids whittle their number down, but most of the kills remain both in tune with character established for this giant cast and highly creative during the action scenes themselves. Gory and shocking at times seeing these kids tear each other apart, this modern day LORD OF THE FLIES is something that won’t be forgotten once seen and with this new BluRay, it’s never looked better. Highest recommendation possible.
THE COMPLEX (2012)Directed by Sonny Fernandez
Written by Sonny Fernandez
Starring Cody Tergesen, Sam Ova, Justin Kavlie, Kim Haarman, Liz Doktor, & Sonny Fernandez
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Sonny Fernandez is a force in the independent horror world. Churning out films as if he were some kind of low budget horror machine, Fernandez doesn’t concern himself with things like budget. He just writes a hell of a script and makes it with his friends with whatever is handy. Though many will snub their noses at the low standards by which his films are made—the amateurish acting, bad lighting and choppy editing often are problems--I am always astonished by the level of quality Fernandez’s scripts possess. I’ve said this in quite a few reviews of Fernandez’ work: if someone gave Fernandez the budget to fit his big ideas, I think he would become a force to be reckoned with in horror. As is, he continues to impress and grow with each film he releases.
THE COMPLEX is Fernandez’ most ambitious film to date, about a man who wakes up in the corridor of a seemingly endless maze of doors, none of them being an exit. Is this hell? Is this a prison? No one in the complex knows, but all are referred to as numbers and have no recollection as to why they are there. As it is with human nature, each of the residents of this building have fallen into jobs: one becomes a sort of superintendent fixing things that are broken, another looks after the weaker ones in the group, another female number provides sexual pleasure to the mostly male cast, and yet another provides the mysterious drug ambrosia which causes those who take it to fantasize about someplace outside of the complex and forget their captive lifestyles. Though their history is a mystery to all of those in the complex, one man, who wakes up with his face bandaged, dares to question the order of things and he leads a group of revolutionaries to battle the beasts who roam the hallways and the architects of this twisted prison they are inhabiting.
In many ways, THE COMPLEX is Fernandez’ THE MATRIX with robot creatures striving to keep the peace against of group of rebels fighting for freedom from this dream-like prison. Filmed in mostly black and white, Fernandez covers up a lot of the amateur effects well with quick cuts and creative camera tricks. Fernandez does a great job of doling out a lot of info here at once, immersing the viewer in this world and then taking us on a hero’s journey to escape it. Though the story gets a bit heady at times (which proves to be a bit much for its amateur cast to convey), Fernandez does a great job of establishing rules and guidelines so that this alien world the film lives in is at least understood. That said, the script gets way too over-expositiony toward the end as we find out the origin of the complex and the revolutionaries’ options to escape it. Flaws aside, this is a thrilling script from a filmmaker who will do anything to bring his images to life.
The duct tape and paper mache creatures that have become a standard for a Sonny Fernandez joint are present and accounted for, still charmingly amateurish and a whole lot of fun to experience. Fernandez’ regular cast of pals are here as well, so if you thought Cody Tergesen was badass in THE LAST BATTLEGOROUND, he’s kung fu-ing here as well, and if you thought Liz Doktor was all kinds of gothy hot in HIGHWAY 91, she’s all kinds of hot again here too. If you’ve experienced a Sonny Fernandez film, you kind of know the level of quality filmmaking you’re going to get, but you can rest assured the script work continues to be the selling point of these films and is the main reason I am recommending THE COMPLEX for those who love indie horror.
New on DVD packaged in the VOMIT GORE TRILOGY!
SLAUGHTERED VOMIT DOLLS (2006)Directed by Lucifer Valentine
Written by Lucifer Valentine
Starring Ameara Lavey, Pig Lizzy, Maja Lee
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I had a tough time sitting through SLAUGHTERED VOMIT DOLLS. Though I should have been prepared by the title, the repeated scenes of regurgitation shown throughout this film is what ultimately made me watch this film through shuttered fingers. The writer/director Lucifer Valentine is a proud Satanist and creator of the subgenre of films he dubs “Vomit Gore”. But just because the film tickled my gag reflex doesn’t mean it is not without redeeming qualities.
On its own, SLAUGHTERED VOMIT DOLLS might be seen as a series of shallow scenes of torture, gory mutilation, and of course, vomiting. The narrative is extremely loose, switching from one scene to the next and linking them all in with repeated candid shots of its star Ameara Lavey stripping, falling over drunk, confessing to the camera about past abuse and Satan worship, and of course, suffering from bulimia. In many ways, this is a descent into madness tale as told with only the shadow of a narrative thread. For that, I admire Valentine’s bold choices in telling this story. As a series of random images, it does its job inciting disgust at the gore and sometimes beauty in the framing of simple shots of a woman sleeping or a little girl singing.
The gore in this film should be recognized as well. Though the material used is all about shocking you, the gore is especially well done in a manner that at times it made me wonder if it were actually happening. Some clever cuts make it look seamless and will definitely fool an untrained eye and make them wonder if the horror we are experiencing is real. Combined with surreal imagery of a little girl singing, religious chanting, disturbing confessionals, and of course, the barfing, SLAUGHTERED VOMIT DOLLS definitely does its job in causing unease for the viewer.
After watching this film, I checked out the “History of Vomit Gore” available in the special features of this disk. Without revealing too much, Valentine confesses the heartbreaking origins of this story and how it affected the director. His tale of his sister, who suffered from severe mental instability, is tough to be heard, but sheds some light on the imagery chosen for this film.
In many ways, SLAUGHTERED VOMIT DOLLS and the subsequent films that follow in the VOMIT GORE TRILOGY seemed to serve as a cathartic experience for Valentine. In that, I can acknowledge the message behind all of that blood and regurgitation. Though I found this film tough to watch, having done so, then hearing Valentine’s personal story, I can’t help but be fascinated by it all. I don’t think I’ll be rewatching SLAUGHTERED VOMIT DOLLS anytime soon, but it is a film experience I won’t be able to shake. This film is for those with a steel stomach. The way it festishizes such a reviled and taboo subject matter is the stuff of true horror, which is why I respect it fully despite being somewhat nauseous while thinking about it.
New this week on DVD!
RESURRECTION COUNTY (2008)Directed by Matt Zettell
Written by James Cotton (story), Matt Yeager (screenplay)
Starring Dayton Knoll, Adam Huss, Kathryn Michelle, Kem Dawson, Robert Miano, Matt Beeson, Rus Blackwell
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This isn’t the first time a bunch of townies vacation into the sticks to run afoul of the local hillfolk and most likely it won’t be the last. Though hillbillies and city folk have been feuding for years in cinema, there seems to be a rise in this type of film as of late. Maybe it has something to do with the political environment of today’s world as conservative and liberal values are going head to head in the news every night of the week. Not one to venture into politics that much, I try not to cast that barbed fishhook in fear of inciting a nonsensical political debate, but horror has always had its toe dangled into casting the monsters as those with conservative values, punishing the liberal minded folks who venture into their land.
RESURRECTION COUNTY isn’t anything that strays too much from previous redneck vs. preppie horror films, but it does follow the numbers in a capable and entertaining manner. For the most part, this is due to some good acting from the cast, in both country hick and city prick departments. Slow to unfold, director Matt Settell lets us get to know and like our vacationing young adults who like to ride ATV’s and work in coffee shops when not camping in the hills. We find out that half of our quartet is married, while the other half is expecting a child. Making the kids likable lends itself a lot to the investment here, and when the two guys mistakenly venture into the wrong property and end up accidentally killing one of the hillbillies, I actually was rooting for the kids to get out alive.
This being a horror film, of course, they all don’t, though RESURRECTION COUNTY surprised me by the order by which of the kids are offed first, bucking traditional slasher film rules from the get go. This makes for a more unconventional survival horror film and one I couldn’t predict. The villains in this film are downright despicable. Some are leering macho men, others silent skinheads, and the patriarch of the clan (Robert Miano) offers up a nice amount of simmering menace.
RESURRECTION COUNTY is not reinventing the moonshine still, but it does serve up a digestible shot of whiskey. Though the main townie looks a little bit too much like Corey Feldman, Dayton Knoll delivers a solid performance as the lead, with the rest of the cast following suit with strong plays. Though city folk still have a lot to learn when interacting with hill folk, RESURRECTION COUNTY proves that at least the experience can be entertaining.
New on DVD/BluRay!
SPLINTERED (2010)Directed by Simeon Halligan
Written by Simeon Halligan, Stephen Trimingham, Mat Archer
Starring Stephen Walters, Holly Weston, Sacha Dhawan, Sadie Pickering, Jonathan Readwin, Sol Heras, Colin Tierney
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Things are kept vague in regards to description of story when it comes to mostly everything I have read about SPLINTERED, a British horror film to be released on BluRay this week, and I’m glad they were. The film starts out as a typical camping kids horror film, then flirts with both the serial killer and werewolf genres. By the end, SPLINTERED offers up enough surprises to rise above your typical slasher or werewolf tale to be something of a mixture of both.
Sophie (Holly Weston) and a group of friends are going on a camping trip in the woods of North Wales. From the very beginning Sophie stands out as an outcast and as we slip in and out of her head throughout the first portions of this film, we see that she is haunted by experiences from her past as well as hallucinations occurring in the present. Though reports of a serial killer in the area are very real, Sophie begins to see hairy beasts roaming around her camp. With her fellow campers doubting her sanity and trying to drown her fears away with drugs and alcohol, Sophie finds herself fighting to be heard and taken seriously by them. Soon, Sophie is split off from the group and finds herself locked in a cell in an abandoned asylum in the middle of the forest. Some kind of beast is keeping her locked away, but is this the hairy werewolf boogeyman that haunts her dreams or something more human and real?
Well, turns out it’s a combination of both. Without giving too much away, SPLINTERED is an effective tale of madness, survival, and abuse. Though Sophie is a clearly troubled person with many symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, she is also experiencing a very real horror in this film. The balance between the past trauma, what is happening in Sophie’s head, and what’s happening in the here and now is well done by director Simeon Halligan, allotting equal time for each. Never are we questioning what reality we are in and the director keeps things well grounded throughout.
Props should be spun for actress Holly Weston, who is not only gorgeous, but talented as well. She looks a bit like an edgier Emily Blunt as her studded belt contrasts heavily with the outdoor environment suggesting she is more at home at a rave than in the woods. She is able to carry the complex shifts from inner emotional turmoil to real life terrors. Recognition should also be tossed the way of Stephen Walters, who plays the monster of this film. Walters gives it his all, slobbering and quivering in this intense performance embracing the role of a man who is barely keeping the animal within him at bay.
A lot of fun is to be had with SPLINTERED. It’s an accomplished serial killer film as well as a good monster in the woods tale with boatloads of psychological terror and angst heaped on for good measure. Having witnessed my fair share of werewolf and slasher films, SPLINTERED proved to be a refreshing, albeit weird, amalgamation of both.
And finally…Here’s a short from writer/director Neill Gorton called MOTHER DIED. It’s a truly impressive and horribly melancholy little number from a series of shorts from the UK called BLOODY CUTS, which specializes in low budget/high impact horror and succeeds marvelously with both in this short. Here’s MOTHER DIED…
See ya, next week, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in October 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released in March 2012.
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