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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week we’re covering the past, the present and the future as we look back at THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR and have advance reviews of ALPS from the director of last years insane film DOGTOOTH and the ultra cool documentary SKULL WORLD. Plus we have the usual batch of new horrors to sink your eye teeth in. But before that…there’s this!

I reviewed DEAD TIME last time on AICN HORROR, but for those who are still curious about the film which is available next week on DVD from Brain Damage Films/Midnight Releasing we have a clip below to tingle your spine…

If you’re interested in something toothy this Sunday and happen to be in Manchester England you’re in luck. GRIMM UP NORTH is featuring a horror movie marathon on Sunday July 22 (this Sunday!) and this time it’s all about vampires! Lucky Manchester souls will be able to check out Guillermo Del Toro’s CHRONOS, Christopher Lee as DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, and a preview screening of THE HARSH LIGHT OF DAY!! Click here for how to get tickets and more about the event!

Are you as big of a fan of BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON as I am? Well if you are, you should check out director Scott Glosserman’s Kickstarter campaign to put together the funds to make a sequel to the film. There are only around 20 days left, so if you have the dough and want to see Leslie Vernon return for more murderous mayhem, follow this link and help support Glosserman’s bloody cause to bring BEFORE THE MASK: THE RETURN OF LESLIE VERNON to cinematic life!

Finally, I’ve got a teaser for a new film called MOTIVATIONAL GROWTH starring Jeffrey Combs and directed by Don Thacker. Here’s the official synopsis: Ian Folivor, depressed and reclusive, finds himself taking advice from a fungal growth after a failed suicide attempt. The Mold, a smooth talking chunk of aspergillus born from the filth collecting in Ian's neglected bathroom, works to win Ian's trust by helping him clean himself up, remodel his lifestyle, and attract the attention of a neighbor, Leah. Ian begins to receive strange messages from his broken TV that make him realize that The Mold may not be as helpful and well intentioned as it seems to be. Strange characters and even stranger events cast Ian's life a sharp relief in the shadow of an epic battle between good and evil that Ian is only partially aware of. Sounds like twisted good fun and this trailer is all kinds of awesome.

Enjoy the horror, folks!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR (1968)
Advance Review: SKULL WORLD
Advance Review: ALPS (2012)
And finally…Andy Dodd’s LULLABY!

Available on DVD/BluRay from Kino Lorber/Redemption


Directed by Vernon Sewell
Written by Peter Bryan
Starring Peter Cushing, Robert Flemyng, Wanda Ventham, Vanessa Howard, David Griffin, William Wilde
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Man, this is one of those films I would have loved when I was a kid, watching SHOCK THEATER on my belly on the living room floor on a rainy Saturday afternoon. THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR is a story of a mad scientist who has developed a process which turns his beloved into a giant moth like creature that sucks the blood out of its victims is one straight from the land of hokey. But though the premise is goofy as all get out, the film actually has a lot of redeeming qualities.

First and foremost, it stars Peter Cushing who no matter what the film, gives an air of dignity to the film. Throughout, most of the cast is doused in the prim and proper mannerisms of the English. Even an awkward scene where two young people are flirting is charming and of the straightest of lace. Cushing plays an incognito inspector investigating a bizarre series of murders. Not his most active of roles, most of the time, Cushing is glancing through windows, sitting in corners, and observing the events befalling the small English town. Not until the end of the film does Cushing spring into action against the giant moth-creature.

There’s also an inspired scene as Cushing watches a production of MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN that is a great wink to Cushing’s Hammer stint as Baron Von Frankenstein. The scene is played for laughs, but it’s Cushing’s attendance in the audience that causes the greatest of chortles.

The design of the monster is actually pretty effective with large sectioned off eyes and a movable mandible which is often covered in blood. The gore is not great; I liken it to the splattered bright blood of some of the best Hammer films. Though the monster is obviously a man in a suit, it still is pretty impressive, especially with the moody dark atmosphere director Vernon Sewell cloaks the film in.

The plot of the film is rather meandering as the pacing really drags in the beginning with lots and lots of discourse laden set up. The film goes out of its way to heap on the hokey science in order to make the presence of a man sized Death’s Head Moth believable, though the results are less so. Rough editing towards the end makes the finale of the film seem rushed, but I do have to say the shrill screech of the monster moth is rather terrifying and the final scene as the moth monster attacks a young man is actually well done and somewhat brutal.

THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR is your typical Saturday afternoon monster flick with hokey science, a solid performance by an extra stern cast, and a man in suit monster that indeed impresses. This would be an interesting double feature if paired with the Richard Gere helmed MOTHMAN PROPHECIES and then maybe MOTHRA as a triple feature.

Available now on DVD!


Directed by James Balsamo
Written by James Balsamo
Starring Carmine Capobianco, James Balsamo, Billy Walsh, Llyod Kaufman, Andrew W.K., Lynn Lowry
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Well, if you’re a fan of throat roaring hard rock, you’re going to love banging your head to this film. More so than anything else, I SPILL YOUR GUTS serves as a showcase for thrash death metal. With a meandering and uninspired plot and some extremely shoddy acting, those with a penchant to hold head-bang-itude over quality is definitely the target audience the filmmakers were going for.

A soldier is brought back from the war severely injured and is brought to a hospital to live out his final days. Another soldier caught in the same fracas comes out unscathed. Rubbing his luck in the comatose soldier’s face, the wounded soldier awakens and vows to take revenge on the now discharged grunt. Taking a page from HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MEYERS, the wounded grunt escapes from the hospital and goes on a killing spree, murdering folks in a varying fashion, depending on what kind of murderizing weapon is close at hand.

That very loose plot serves as an excuse to kill a person every three seconds while switching records to different thrash bands in the background. Every single scene has its own new song to kill to with scenes of poorly recorded dialog interspersed. The difference in sound from the actors and the music is jarring and annoying as I had to keep adjusting the volume to hear the mumbling non-actors that permeate this film, then turn the volume back down when the death metal starts.

I’m sure the makers of this film are fans of the style of music that relies on guttural roars and heavy guitar squeals, but I’m not. The thin plot and low rent acting didn’t help things (I can usually look past that), but in the end, it was the thrash music that makes me file I SPILL YOUR GUTS in the “Not for me.” pile.

Available now on DVD!


Directed by Michael Hall
Written by Michael Hall
Starring Leah Rudick, Andrew Waffenschmidt, Joseph Campellone, Carly Goodspeed, Meghan Miller, Eric Carpenter, Amanda Rising
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While I SPILL YOUR GUTS treads through the same slasher territory, I found KIDS GO TO THE WOODS…KIDS GET DEAD much more enjoyable in that it completely embraces the “Cabin in the Woods” style film genre. Though it offers very little to the mix, as least the film has some style and the acting isn’t as bad as one would expect from such a low budgeter.

Hosted as if it were a late night movie show by a curvy brunette, KIDS GO TO THE WOODS…KIDS GET DEAD does a decent job of maintaining my interest even though not a lot of killing occurs until the final half hour. This is a testament to the likable cast of newcomers who do their best with the uninspired script. There’s a lot of typical frolicking in the woods, going off alone to cut firewood, and of course sexing in the sticks, but the fact that this film sticks so close to convention makes it kind of a throwback and separates it apart from those self-referential and smug films of this kind we usually get today.

Don’t get me wrong, this is low budget, with no high caliber acting and a plot you can call from the get go, but there is a lot of nice gory scenes toward the end and the final rampage of the killer in the gasmask is actually quite well done.

As long as you’re not looking for anything new or innovative, KIDS GO TO THE WOODS…KIDS GET DEAD delivers exactly what the title implies, no more/no less.

New on DVD/BluRay!


Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Written by Nicolás Casariego and Jaime Marques
Starring Clive Owen, Carice van Houten, Daniel Brühl, Ella Purnell, Kerry Fox and Pilar López de Ayala
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I wanted to like INTRUDERS a whole lot more than I did. All of the right elements are present. You’ve got a fairy tale boogey man haunting the closets of youngsters and creeping out of the shadows, a two tier story that spans across the globe as two separate kids have paranormal encounters with said boogey man, ultimate badass actor Clive Owen, and a director who has worked with Guillermo Del Toro. It’s all there and there is a vibe that harkens back to films such as ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? and THE ORPHANAGE, but it never quite gets to that level of scary.

INTRUDERS begins with a child’s nightmare. A cloaked man crawls out of the rain and into the child’s room, filling him with fear and causing him to call his mother for protection. The locale switches from gloomy and gothic Italy to a sunnier place with an American family, but soon we find that the little girl of this family suffers from the same nightmares starring the same nightmare man. But is this figure real or just something out of the child’s vivid imagination? That’s what we as the readers do not know.

Turns out the answer, is both. And that’s where INTRUDERS flaw really lies in that it doesn’t know what kind of horror film it wants to be. It is a hellish waking nightmare a la PAN’S LABYRINTH or a deeply disturbing psychological thriller. The story weebles and wobbles toward both ends, but ends up falling down in the process (a reference that definitely shows my age, but if you get it, then you are officially awesome). Had director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo gone either route with the story, it would have been stronger either way. I liken this film to PAPER HOUSE the English film from the early nineties which traveled similar paths as a deeply disturbed girl creates a world of her own with all kinds of twisted rules and metaphors representative of her own reality. INTRUDERS tries to do this, but by incorporating the two tier story, makes itself overly complicated in the process. In the end, I found myself dazzled by the visuals, but feeling empty in regards to story.

From a production design angle, this is a gorgeous film as moody blacks and atmospheric browns permeate and rot at the edges of most scenes causing a genuine sense of dread and danger. The best scenes by far are the haunting dream sequences which feature a nightmarish cloaked monster. Although it is extremely close to the design of the killer ghost in Peter Jackson’s THE FRIGHTENERS, it is an effective monster in its own right.

Even stone faced Clive Owen’s stoic performance as a dad who won’t give up on his little girl doesn’t save this film from collapsing on itself in the final act. INTRUDERS doesn’t know if it wants to be INSUDIOUS or A BEAUTIFUL MIND and suffers from the waffling. Though it is a pretty looking thing, I found INTRUDERS to derail by the third act with a twist that I saw coming from halfway through.

Advance Review: Touring festivals soon!


Directed by Justin McConnell
Written by Justin McConnell
Starring Greg Sommer, Jason Pluscec, Shane Patterson
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Greg Sommer believes in three things; fun, rockin’ large, and making armor out of cardboard and then taking part in organized gladiatorial combat. Greg’s alter ego is Skull Man, a personality he created in high school which has evolved into somewhat of a cult status in his hometown in Canada. SKULL WORLD follows Greg around for three years as he lives his over the top lifestyle. Though some might laugh at the fact that Greg is leading the life of a typical man-child on often jokes about in the talkbacks of AICN; living in his mother’s basement, unmarried, and interested in hobby-dominated culture, director Justin McConnell pulls back the curtain further to reveal a truly unique, and surprisingly inspiring individual in Sommer.

Though the title might suggest that the main focus of this documentary is on the BRAVEHEART style battles Sommer and his cohorts began doing in the backyards their parents houses garbed in cardboard armor and brandishing elaborately crafted cardboard weaponry, McConnell actually is telling a story of a dreamer, an optimist who seeks to get the most out of life and encourages the same in others. Though the battles are brutal, McConnell deftly shows that Sommer has a huge commitment to making the entire event safe for all who attend. And most of all, have fun doing it. It isn’t about flexing muscles and hurting folks, Box Wars is about the thrill of the battle and the fun of creating stuff and then tearing it to shreds. The battle scenes are a lot of fun to watch as Greg and his buddies attempt to win the competition by tearing the armor off the bodies of the other warriors on the battlefield with their cardboard axes and swords or with their bare hands. But I had just as much fun watching Sommeer maintain his positivity at all times. The guy exudes so much positivity in this film that its downright infectious. He’s the guy at the party that doesn’t give a fuck in a good way and everyone loves him for it.

You can’t help but cheer on Sommer to succeed as he attempts to make a TV pilot centered around the Box Wars and his character of Skull Man. Though success may not happen anytime soon for the guy, it still seems that it’s not getting him down. And though this documentary doesn’t have much of a character arc as far as narrative drama goes as Sommer maintains his chipper disposition throughout the entire running time, it does serve to show in great detail a man with unflinchable optimism and an admirable outlook on life. There’s a hint of drama when Sommer has a phone conversation with his father who he hasn’t seen in years that I was hoping would come to some kind of resolution later in the film, but unfortunately this didn’t happen and the chance for a little dramatic payoff in the end as disapproving father accepts son didn’t come to pass. But this is real life and most of the time fairy tale happy endings don’t happen.

I wish the makers of this film luck and do the same to Sommer who definitely deserves some kind of success and notoriety for the dedication and positive spirit this documentary encapsulates. Though the doc doesn’t quite fit into the mold of the usual AICN HORROR fare, SKULL WORLD falls firmly into realm of the cinema of the weird, which has its own nook reserved here at AICN HORROR from time to time. Those looking for high energy battles and an individual who truly understands how to live life to the fullest despite difficult odds should definitely check this documentary out when it is released later this year. I had a lot of fun getting to know Sommer in this film and so will you.

Advance Review: In limited theaters this week!

ALPS (2012)

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Written by Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Starring Stavros Psyllakis, Aris Servetalis, Johnny Vekris, Ariane Labed, Aggeliki Papoulia
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I don’t know if ALPS really can be categorized as a horror movie, but this film, from the director of last year’s trip through madness DOGTOOTH, definitely is filled with dark themes, twisted characters, and unexpected happenings. The Alps that the title refers to is explained by the main protagonist in that no mountain is like the Alps, but the mountains of the Alps can be like any other mountain. This ingenious observation applies to the main theme of this film as a group of people serve as fill-ins for the deceased to people who recently lost a loved one. When someone dies suddenly, a member of the Alps is hired to step into their role and act out their lives in order for the grieving family to come to a healthy resolution. But death is a tricky subject and everyone reacts to it differently, and that’s what ALPS is all about.

Yes, it is a complex plot and the film itself is complex with all kinds of twisted mental states at play. One of the Alps forms bonds with grieving families and has a hard time breaking away from them even after the grieving is over. Another desperately wants to do well acting as the dead, yet finds herself lacking the discipline to do so. Another is falling in love with the woman he is working with, though she has hired him to be her dead husband. While another struggles to keep the Alps together as a team and acting professional. Each of these characters have a complex arc in the film. Each says something about acting itself and how important it is to all of us in our everyday lives, not just those in Hollywood. Everyone does an act throughout their daily lives, for the Alps, though, this is their job, filling in for other people. But in doing so, they are left confused as to who they were to begin with and how much worth their actual lives are having lived in the shoes of the recently deceased.

The grieving process is explored in depth here and director Yorgos Lanthimos seems to have matured as a director, leaving some of the more eccentric scenes which were threaded throughout DOGTOOTH behind. Still, there are a few awkward dance scenes, as well as a scene of extreme and surprising violence that makes this film more like DOGTOOTH when held next to one another. Here though the themes are more well explored. Death, acting, and the roles we play in our lives are all fodder for these lost souls who make up the Alps to explore and ultimately fail at.

Bookended by some genuinely beautifully choreographed flag dancing from one of the Alps, the film proves that Yorgos Lanthimos is a director I will always look out for. Often shocking, often heartbreaking, and always rich in theme and import, Yorgos Lanthimos incorporates inescapable whimsy with harsh reality in every second, right up to the heart breaking end. ALPS is in limited release today and should not be missed. It’s not your typical AICN HORROR recommendation, but the themes explored are pitch black and it will take you to places you most definitely not be comfortable with. And if that ain’t horror, I don’t know what is.

And finally…Here’s a short but somber tale called LULLABY directed by Andy Dodd. This isn’t a happy fairy tale, but it’s a well done one. The short is in contention for the Virgin Media Shorts competition and I think it deserves a place in it. Enjoy, LULLABY!

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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