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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Let’s get right to the reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: THE WIZARD OF GORE (1970/THE GORE GORE GIRLS (1972)
RAGE (2010)
AREA 407 (2012)
And finally…John Keefer’s SCARY TIMES!

New this week on BluRay/DVD!


Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Written by Allen Kahn
Starring Ray Sager, Judy Cler, Wayne Ratay
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Written by Alan J. Dachman
Starring Frank Kress, Amy Farrell, Hadda Lubin, Henny Youngman
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

New this week on DVD/BluRay is a pair of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ classics. As a kid, I remember going through the horror section of my local video store, watching every horror film I could get my little hands on. BLOOD FEAST was one of them I remember distinctly because of the over the top gore. Unfortunately, these two H.G. Lewis classics were not on the shelf and honestly, this is the first time I had a chance to see these two. Out of both films, THE WIZARD OF GORE wins hands down as the better film, but both feature what has come to be Lewis’ signature: gals and gore and do it well.

THE WIZARD OF GORE plays perfectly into Lewis’ penchant for theatrics. The spectacle of the ritual is evident in his earlier films, but here, Lewis’ monster is literally performing on stage--when Montag the Magnificent calls an audience member on stage to perform in his magic show, the person rarely makes it back to their seat. Touching upon everything from aspects of the Grand Guignol to Vegas show hypnosis to talk show television, Lewis explores the world of spectacle pretty superbly as the spectator becomes part of the experience and the lines between reality and stage theatrics blur.

Of course, as with many of Lewis’ films, the cast Lewis gets for his films never seem to live up the his story. Acting-wise, THE WIZARD OF GORE is pretty bad with people seemingly reading lines in between snores.

What THE WIZARD OF GORE does do well is the gore. Much of the bright red stuff flows freely in this film. Bodies are dissected, bisected, picked and pulled apart and defiled in numerous ways that serve as a disgusting echo of classic magic tricks. Lewis’ focus on this gore is unflinching as Montag takes apart one victim after another in gory fashion.

Like THE WIZARD OF GORE, THE GORE GORE GIRLS is filled with stomach-churning segments of bodily harm and decimation. Again, Lewis shows his interest in the ugliness of the human spectacle as he tells the story of a series of murders, all of the victims go-go dancers, and a detective who is dedicated to finding out who and why.

Again, thematically, the story is strong, but man is this film a tough pill to swallow. The acting is the pits and the writing is ham-fisted with numerous characters having to explain their motives and motivation in lengthy discourse. Even after the crime is solved and the murderer is unmasked, the detective has to overexplain again the reasoning behind it all.

Still, there are moments of goodness to be had with THE GORE GORE GIRLS. Henny Youngman makes an appearance, again most likely highlighting Lewis’ spectacle theme by focusing on a stand up comic. Youngman being quite popular at the time, this was probably a big draw. The death of the murderer who falls from a two story window and then is run over by a passing car is hilarious and almost ends the film on a redeeming note, if not for the forced explanation towards the end.

If you’re looking for over the top gore and lots of it, this double feature is going to satiate that gore jones. But beware: though thematically sound, this is rough stuff to sit through as the acting and clumsy writing are bound to put off some. By far not my two most favorite of Lewis’ gore films, but still, this double feature is a must have for gore fiends.

New on DVD this week from Brain Damage Films !


Directed by David B. Stewart III
Written by David B. Stewart III
Starring Thomas Reilly, Elissa Mullen, Christopher Connolly, John Wiedemoyer, John Martineau, Steve Brown
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Though the budget is low, I have to give props to OPERATION: NAZI ZOMBIES for trying to do something different. While most other zombie films put their focus and money into the zombies themselves and staging their outbreaks in the here and now, OPERATION NAZI ZOMBIES at least put some effort in making this a period piece style film. And while this is no SCHINDLER’S LIST, at least the attention to making this more than your run of the mill zombie venture should be recognized.

Much like the legendary Sonny Fernandez, who does everything from writing to directing to acting to special effects, David B. Stewart seems to play the role of multitasker here as well. Personally, I love productions like this because one can see that it is driven by a dedicated soul, doing a little bit of everything to make his dream happen. The end result is not perfect, but everyone involved seem to be giving it their all and a deep love of horror exudes from every frame.

The story focuses on an intricate plot as a Special Forces unit is assigned to take out a secret government experiment gone wrong (do any secret government experiments go right?). It’s hard to believe the facility can go wrong using Nazi science to make indestructible soldiers. Soon we have a Nazi zombie outbreak on our hands. Every war and zombie movie cliché is touched upon, from the noble sergeant to the dramatic showdown between soldier and undead. Though it doesn’t break new ground, it is somewhat fun seeing this film give its all to bat in the big leagues despite the fact that all they can afford is a whiffle ball bat.

With some nice attention to gore and story, OPERATION: NAZI ZOMBIES gets points for trying harder than most no-brainer zombie fodder on the shelves today.

New on DVD this week!

RAGE (2010)

Directed by Christopher R. Witherspoon
Written by Christopher R. Witherspoon
Starring Rick Crawford, Christopher R. Witherspoon, Audrey Walker, M.L. Maltz, Jo Black Jacob, Anna Lodej, Richard Topping, Spencer Comway
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

An indie love letter to Stephen Spielberg’s DUEL, I couldn’t help but enjoy the shit out of RAGE. Though the plot is fairly simple--a man is relentlessly tormented by a motorcyclist in a dark helmet for seemingly no apparent reason, pushing him to the brink of madness--the action is surprisingly good for a smaller budgeteer and the story itself proves to have enough twists to make this homage a little more substantial.

One of the things writer/director/actor Christopher R. Witherspoon does effectively with this story is that he keeps things simple. Though the intensity of the rider’s pursuit is high, Witherspoon is able to work within his budget and still keep things dangerous. As our hero, played by Rick Crawford, evolves from level-headed loverboy to trod-upon victim to vengeance-filled avenger, this evolution takes a logical albeit extreme path. And though the lengths our rider is willing to go are dark, Witherspoon keeps all of his reckless and despicable acts believable until things reach a level of tension that really grabs a hold of you. The climax of this film goes to places I wasn’t prepared for, really boring under the skin and holding back very little. You’re going to be surprised how dark this one goes.

Crawford’s performance is a bit stiff at times, but he is able to deliver the emotional moments necessary for us to follow him throughout and give a care. He’s even a little more even-keeled than I would be at first, given the torment the driver puts him through. The rest of the cast is convincing as well, with the rider acting as the powerful silent menace as if he leapt right out of Spielberg’s minimalist trucker pursuit film from the seventies.

When the film literally talks about DUEL, it gets a bit too obvious for my tastes, but this is just a small misstep in what is otherwise an effective tale of road rage for the modern age. I’m extremely interested in what Christopher R. Witherspoon has in store for the masses next as this, his first film, is a winner that pulls no punches.

New on DVD!


Directed by CJ Goodman
Written by CJ Goodman
Starring Kristen Kakos, Ben Euphrat, Rob Medsger, Kimberly Ridgeway, Whitney Moses
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

This is not a horror film. It’s not scary. And really, it’s not meant to be. As the title suggests, PARANORMAL PARODY is a farcical take on the popular PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movie series--more accurately, the first one. And while the film is hit or miss when it comes to bringing the funny, I think this low budgeter should be recognized for sticking to the format laid out by the original film.

The premise of PARANORMAL PARODY sounds pretty familiar. Ben and Kristen are your typical young couple. Well, that’s not the case. For years, Kristen has been haunted by vague memories of childhood trauma. When paranormal things begin to happen in the home, Ben decides to buy a video camera and tape it all in order to find the answers. Though Ben is goofy and Kristen is rather mysterious, this couple plays it pretty straight in the opening moments as the film follows the original’s storyline pretty closely. As the story goes on, running jokes start to appear. Ben is continuously called an asshat and obsesses about using a Ouija Ball to contact the spirits of the house. Kristen’s obvious lesbian interests begin to pop up here as videos and pictures of her wilder days begin to pop up out of the blue. Soon, a demonic force makes its presence known as seen through videotapes Ben records throughout the night.

PARANORMAL PARODY’s strength lies in the fact that almost shot for shot, scene for scene, it is a remake of the original PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Sure, jokes appear here and there. Instead of standing still at the edge of the bed, Kristen dances in her sleep over Ben while he’s snoozing as the timer speeds by in the bottom corner signifying a substantial passage of time. Instead of sitting on a chair on the porch in the middle of the freezing night, Kristen is riding a hobby horse, which is funny because the couple doesn’t own a hobby horse. Though the film is filled with gaffes which replace the shocks of the original film, it sticks almost to a fault to the story structure, which as least shows that the filmmakers were dedicated and serious about their subject matter.

The jokes hit the target about 60% of the time. Most of the biggest laughs come at Ben’s expense as he obliviously overlooks his wife’s lesbianism and is forced to watch the psychic invited into the home overtly flirt with his wife in front of him. There are a couple of great lines from Ben, who accurately observes that they never leave the house and that’s not normal--something that points out some of the more ludicrous facts about the original film. Plus there’s a screaming refrigerator, which is actually kind of scary. Then again, there are some definite clunker jokes here that come at obvious times, such as farting in the bed and having the demon walking down the hall then taking a whiz in the toilet. The story at least peppers in some wholehearted guffaws in between these clunkers to dilute the lameness.

PARANORMAL PARODY is not going to split your side, but there are some bright moments of clever observations about the first film and some genuinely funny moments at the expense of its main characters. Though not as good as SCARY MOVIE 1 or the batshit crazy SCARY MOVIE 2, it is definitely better than other horror parodies. It’s not to be taken seriously, but then again it’s a parody so that’s the point.

New this week on VOD from Phase 4 Films!


Directed by Michael Emanuel, Igor Meglic, Bob Badway
Written by Michael Emanuel & Bob Badway
Starring Corbin Bleu, Bill Oberst Jr., Domiziano Arcangeli, Christopher Darga, Alexandra Choi, Elizabeth DiPrinzio, Shannon Bobo, Charles Rahi Chun, Andrew Caldwell, Shawn Caulin Young, Nicole Moore
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I was really surprised with this often spooky, often twisted, often wickedly funny little anthology. I didn’t expect much, but each installment surprised me more than the last with some nice little stories and performances coupled with some great practical effects work. For the most part, SCARY OR DIE is a very successful horror anthology and worth checking out.

Wrapped around the premise of the FUNNY OR DIE website, which highlights short comedy films and rates them, SCARY OR DIE opens with a decayed hand clicking through videos. Sure, as far as creativity is concerned, this hook isn’t really burning any barns, but who cares about the wraparound segments in these anthologies, really?

“The Crossing” stars Bill Oberst Jr., whose name has come up a few times here on AICN HORROR. Oberst’s performance here is damn good as a white trash hick who self-appoints himself to protect the American border from Mexican immigrants. Though some might find the subject matter a bit tough to deal with, this first short is a nice cautionary tale with some fun twists and a fucking fantastic zombie rising sequence.

“Re-Membered” is a very cool short about hitmen and demonics. It’s got a TELLTALE HEART flavor to it as a cop pulls over a hitman with a body in the trunk. No one told either of them that the body had sold his soul to the devil. This is a tautly shot film by Bob Badway  which sports some nice narrative leaps and relies on some uncomfortably close scenes to crank up the tension.

Igor Meglic’s “Taejung's Lament” (written by MIchael Emanuel) is a gorgeously shot story highlighting the gaudier side of LA as a wandering man happens upon a prostitute in danger, but finds that things are not what they seem. Starring Charles Rahi Chun, this film has a nice international flavor with its non-traditional for American horror Asian leading man. I found this story to be pretty clever despite the sudden twist at the end, which kind of threw things off for me.

“Clowned” seems to be the short film that this entire anthology was built around, and it is a great one. A drug dealer is bitten by a clown when he tries to kick it out of his niece’s party and we find out that like werewolves, the bite carries a curse. Part super hero origin, part horror story, part farce, “Clowned” is by far the most realized of the stories in SCARY OR DIE and utilizes some absolutely fantastic practical effects. Director Michael Emanuel has both a wicked sense of humor and a nice eye for all things scary as he makes the clowns in this story, despite the ridiculous premise, scary as hell.

Finally, a dark poem dripping with voodoo vengeance offers up a nice spooky epilogue for our anthology and ties the whole darn thing together. I admired the voice in this itty bitty short which reflects the dire tone filled with vengeance, yet accurately speaking Cajun voodooisms and melancholy loss.

SCARY OR DIE is definitely an anthology worth checking out. Reminiscent of old school films like CREEPSHOW with its practical effects and unflinchingly wicked tales, this is one indie film worth seeing by as many folks as possible. If you’re a fan of TALES FROM THE CRYPT and CREEPSHOW, you’re going to want to click on SCARY OR DIE. It surprised and scared the hell out of me.

In limited theatrical release and IFC Midnight VOD now!

AREA 407 (2011)

Directed by Dale Fabrigar & Everette Wallin
Written by Robert Shepyer
Starring Abigail Schrader, Samantha Lester, James Lyons, Melanie Lyons, Brendan Patrick Connor, Ken Garcia, Samantha Sloyan, Everette Wallin, Jude Gerard Prest
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I’m not ashamed to admit that I love found footage films. Sure they are easy to make, but dammit if putting me in the first person role doesn’t transfer me into the movie, and I’ve been known to be pretty forgiving when it comes to the pitfalls filmmakers tend to fall into when making a found footager. When done well, in films such as REC and its sequel, I am on the edge of my damn seat. But I’ve found that even when done not so well, the film still has its moments that cause a start. Now that you know this about me, I hope it gives you a frame of reference on how I feel about AREA 407, a new film in limited release and available on VOD this week.

A tween with a video camera keeps the tape rolling during a flight. Though the kid is told numerous times to turn off the camera, she clicks it back on as soon as the stewardess’ back is turned. The night flight is occurring on New Year’s Eve and just after midnight, the plane experiences turbulence and the girl’s camera records a plane crash in real time. Once on the ground, the survivors think they are lucky until mysterious noises come from the darkness around them. Soon, through the limited view of a shaky hand held cam, we witness the survivors of the crash being picked off by some kind of creature in the dark.

One of the things I base my opinion on a found footage film is how realistic it is, meaning: do they have a good reason to continue filming? In REC the main character was a news reporter, so it makes sense that the camera would continue to roll. In THE LAST EXORCISM the film kept rolling because the camera crew was in the middle of filming a documentary, so it makes sense that the camera continued to capture images, though at times that reasoning was stretched thin. In AREA 407, the reason why the camera continues to roll is because there is a light on the camera, providing illumination for the group in the dark landscape they have fallen into. Not as sophisticated as the above examples, but a solid reason nevertheless.

Despite being somewhat believable in keeping the camera rolling, AREA 407’s main fault lies in the fact that the kid with the camera is actually pretty damn obnoxious. Though the camera is passed on to her less obnoxious sister later in the film, the squealing little girl is going to make you wish for her to be next on the kill list, believe me.

The monsters remain out of sight for most of the film, though snippets are provided throughout and those with any moviegoing geek experience are going to be able to piece together what they are pretty quick. The acting here, despite the obnoxious teen, is decent with some solid performances all around. Though the effects are pretty low fi, most of the time we are only treated to snippets of them, so if it’s bad CGI, at least they had the sense to keep its appearance to a minimum.

I’ve seen plenty better found footage films, but AREA 407 isn’t the worst. I was invested during the plane crash, which was a very effective scene, but as it became evident what the monster was, the scares began to come less frequently. If you’re a found footage freak like me, you’ll have to see AREA 407, but don’t expect too much or your bound to be disappointed.

And finally…check out this pilot called SCARY TIMES, a wicked mix of comedy and horror from the twisted mind of John Keefer and 51 Deep Productions. The first story, THE HAND MAN, has got shades of the recent ATM film (which I reviewed here), but for some reason, I like this one better. The second one, THE MOONING, just needs to be seen to be believed. Enjoy SCARY TIMES!!!

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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