Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. We’ve got a little bit of everything in this week’s column. Zombies, sharks, vampires, killers in the woods. You name the horror cliché and we’ve got it this week. But before we dive into that…there’s this!
First up we have a teaser trailer for the new film FIEVRE, described as a fantasy film taking place in the world of lucid dreams. directed by Romain Basset written by Karim Chériguène. Trip the fuck out from watching this teaser trailer for FIEVRE!
Now on with the reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Book Review: MONSTER TOWN (2012)
Retro-Review: H.P. LOVECRAFT’S RE-ANIMATOR (1985)
Retro-Review: Jean Rollin’s TWO ORPHAN VAMPIRES (1997)
SHARK WEEK (2012)
ZOMBIE UNDEAD (2010)
MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE (2011)
PIRANHA 3DD (2012)
And finally…Patrick Rea’s NOW THAT YOU’RE DEAD!
MONSTER TOWN (Novel)Written by Garrett Vander Leun
Find out more about MONSTER TOWN here!
Reviewed by Dr. Loomis
MONSTER TOWN is author Garrett Vander Leun’s first book and, like a lot of rookies, his inexperience is evident at times. Shaky dialogue, clumsy prose, awkward transitions – these problems and more plague the book.
However, his enthusiasm for the story he’s telling is infectious. It’s that enthusiasm that kept me turning the pages even as I struggled with the execution. And while I’d have a hard time recommending this to mature readers of horror (or, for that matter, readers of mature horror), I can see where this would make a good gateway book for younger readers looking for a rousing monster story they can relate to.
The book tells the tale of Bobby Reardon, a young boy turning 13 in a town that is, literally, full of monsters. It’s a walled-off city that humans created years ago to contain the vampires, gnomes, werewolves and other creatures that once infiltrated “normal” society. Bobby is human, the only one in town, and Leun uses the character to turn the notion of an “outcast” upside-down. After all, how rough would it be to be the guy in a town full of outcasts that even the outcasts won’t accept?
For Bobby, it’s pretty rough. He’s constantly getting into fights he can rarely win. He’s got an enormous chip on his shoulder, and he’s fond of taking his frustrations out on his dad, a vampire who’s renounced his ways and lives a sort of neutered existence, drinking imitation blood provided by his human overseers and frequently forgetting to come in from the sun.
While it seems that humans and creatures have come to a sort of understanding – you stay in your place, I’ll stay in mine – that notion is shattered when a series of violent crimes spread across Monster Town. In comes Strother, the town sheriff, a macho guy looking for any excuse to rough up the citizens of his tiny little kingdom. He’s the ultimate bully, a guy who lives to inspire terror and will use anybody in his path to get his way. When he takes Bobby under his wing, promising to get the boy out of Monster Town, the youngster is all too eager to comply, until he has to learn the hard way that not all authority figures make promises they intend to keep.
I’m not sure if Leun was targeting a younger audience with this book, but that’s the audience I think will get the most enjoyment out of MONSTER TWON. It’s a fairly simple story about a boy coming into his own, learning along the way that things are never as simple and straightforward as we’d like them to be. It’s also about how kids sometimes learn that the truths their parents tell them aren’t always complete. There’s even a little bit in there about learning to overcome your differences and get along with others, something Bobby’s not quite adept at by the time the book ends (on something of a cliffhanger – it’s clear that Leun has more story to tell), but that he’s at least on the path to understanding.
Leun keeps the book moving at a brisk pace, and throws in plenty of action – big fights, a rather amusing car chase, and monsters by the handful. The most compelling creature is Arbo, a plant-based creature that reminded me a bit of Swamp Thing – a guy who draws his power from the plant life around him. Arbo is set up as Bobby’s main nemesis, and yet the two have to save each other time and time again, growing a grudging mutual admiration by the end.
I think younger readers will enjoy the monsters Leun has brought together, and will be able to see through some of the author’s missteps to enjoy the story. While I can’t quite recommend it to older, more experienced readers, I think it would be something that young readers just getting their feet wet in longer, more intense stories might enjoy.
Find out more about MONSTER TOWN here!
“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.
Retro-Review: New this week on BluRay!
THE RE-ANIMATOR (1985)Directed by Stuart Gordon
Written by Stuart Gordon, Dennis Paoli, William Norris (screenplay), H.P. Lovecraft (original story)
Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
What can I say about THE RE-ANIMATOR? I mean, how can I criticize the perfect horror film? In my eyes, THE RE-ANIMATOR is one of those horror films that hits all of its targets and whether it’s watching people discover the film for the first time or sitting through it for the umpteenth, I can’t help but be entertained.
H.P. Lovecraft’s ode to Marry Shelley is one of those horror classics that shouldn’t be missed in written or cinematic form. The tale of Herbert West; a medical student at the Miskatonic Hospital, who has developed a cure for death is one of those horrific cautionary tales that can’t help but be as relevant now as it was 27 years ago when it was first released. I guess the best was to review this film is to just elaborate on why it is just so fucking awesome.
THE RE-ANIMATOR is awesome because of the performances. Jeffrey Combs is the perfect casting for the twisted mad scientist, even early in his career, the actor has a gift for melodrama and though his actions are over the top, Combs as West is able to reel it in as not just another riff on Colin Clive to own the performance as his own. The range of emotions or lack thereof West has to go through in this film is pretty amazing and every note is played through Combs’ finely tuned lens as Shakespeare. Though not as outstanding, Bruce Abbott plays a great strait man in Dan Cain to Combs over-the-top West, but the true standout is the entrancing Barbara Crampton as Megan whose brave performance in the nude is the stuff of legend and was able to convey the disgust and fear that permeated this film and made it more than just a horror goofball comedy. Finally, rounding out the cast is David Gale as the beheaded Dr. Hill who must not only be menacing as a disembodied head, but also convey the creepiness of the big baddie of the film before he is beheaded. This is a film that could have easily veered off into parody, but because of these rock solid performances, it safely avoids doing so.
THE RE-ANIMATOR is awesome because of the gore. Apart from an amazing story and cast, revolutionary gores and gruesome sights both the 1985 audience never saw and effects that are still revolutionary today was performed in this film. Beheadings, dead and undead cats, crawling intestines with minds of their own, surgical saws burst through chests, and all sorts of grossness makes this a splatter fiend’s wet dream. Many gross out films come and go, but the fact that this is one of those perfect storms where the story is as strong as the gore effects makes it truly special.
Finally, THE RE-ANIMATOR is awesome because of the strength of the story. This film goes to operatic levels as both Herbert and Dan evolve from innocent scientific explorers to ethical line crossers depending on what situation arises at the time. The story evolves organically and meticulously as both West and Dan fall deeper into the darkness of playing god killing and re-animating the dead with less and less conscience involved. Though props should go toward H.P. Lovecraft for providing the structure of the story, Stuart Gordon, Dennis Paoli, William Norris would be applauded for adapting the film to make it timeless.
Enough kudos tossed. THE RE-ANIMATOR is simply awesome and this new BluRay shows it in a manner that makes it feel as if it were made yesterday. Though I don’t know about previous transfers, I can say that everything looks damn pretty despite the gore. Deleted scenes and commentaries from the cast and crew make this a must for any fan. But who I really envy are those of you who haven’t seen THE RE-ANIMATOR and get to enjoy it in this beautiful BluRay for the first time. Damn I’m envious.
Retro-Review: New this week on DVD/BluRay from Redemption!
TWO ORPHAN VAMPIRES (1997)
aka LES DUES ORPHELINES VAMPIRES
Directed by Jean Rollin
Written by Jean Rollin
Starring Alexandra Pic, Isabelle Teboul, Bernard Charnacé, Natalie Perrey
Retro-Reviewed by Ambush Bug
TWO ORPHAN VAMPIRES starts with a rock solid premise; one when I heard it, I was instantly intrigued. But upon execution, the filmmaker falls into old trappings and ultimately shoots himself in the foot despite the strong concept.
The narrative follows a pair of sisters who reside in an orphanage and desperately want to be adopted as do the nuns who look over them. They are also blind as bats, but it turns out that they can see once the sun goes down and at that time they also have a deep thirst for blood. Yes like most blind orphans I’ve run into, these blind orphans are also vampires. I love the idea that because they can’t see the sun, they are not affected by it in the daytime. I also love the concept that vampirism cures their blindness, if only for the amount of time the sun is down. These are damn cool concepts that I was dying to see play out.
Having just seen LIVING DEAD GIRL and loving it as my favorite Jean Rollin film, I was hoping that later in his filmmaking career, Rollin would have dropped some of the qualities I found to be tedious and obtuse in his earlier works such as REQUIEM FOR THE VAMPIRE and THE RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE. Unfortunately the excessive nudity and eroticism are centered on here rather than the gorgeous atmosphere of LIVING DEAD GIRL. Rollin would rather point his camera at two girls lusting after one another and other people lusting after the two girls than tell a solid story. Rollin’s camera lingers like an old man in a trench coat lingering a little too long in the bra section of a department store.
I like to look at pretty women as much as the next guy, but give me some substance along with it. Here the story is driven by how many times the two young vamps can strip off their clothes or entrance others to do so. The gore and violence which made LIVING DEAD GIRL so devilishly good are absent and instead the effects budget seems to have been spent on loose clothing which can be let loose to fall to the floor and plastic dime store vamp chompers.
I will say that the lighting and cinematography on display in this film is fantastic. It’s as if we are walking through a neon dream world at times, others a gothic nightmare. Depending on the mood of the scene at play, the lighting from outside and within reflect it perfectly. Also the music of TWO ORPHAN VAMPIRES is well done, especially an opening sequence using classic religious imagery in order to set the tone of the film. Had there been a bit of substance to some of these sights and sounds, this review would have been in an entirely different direction.
Having now seen five of Rollin’s erotic horror films, this is far from my favorite. Though the concept is a winner, Rollin shows that old habits die hard and TWO ORPHAN VAMPIRES is lesser because of it.
New on DVD from The Asylum!
SHARK WEEK (2012)Directed by Christopher Douglas Olen Ray
Written by H. Perry Horton
Starring Patrick Bergin, Yancy Butler, Josh Allen, Erin Coker
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
SAW meets JAWS would be describing this film kindly as another ScyFy level D-grader becomes available this week. Though occasionally these low budget action/horror films can be entertaining if the makers involved embrace the schlock, most fall victim to taking themselves way too seriously. That’s the main problem here as everyone involved is shooting for an Oscar, but no one involved really have what it takes to do so.
The film’s two main stars are actors you’ll recognize and are the best part of this film. Patrick Bergin of SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY and PATRIOT GAMES fame plays Tiberon, a washed out and angst ridden father of a boy who was murdered. Yancy Butler from WITCHBLADE still has her looks and plays Bergin’s wife who is equally filled with vengeance. Their performances are definitely on the campy side, but they seem to be having fun chewing up the island scenery and acting like Boris and Natashia toward their prisoners who are all connected in some way. The rest of the cast were definitely hired for their looks and whether they look good soaking wet and the acting shows it.
The premise is not very strong but could be quite interesting as Tiberon captures the eight strangers and forces them to take on one shark at a time, one more deadly the last. Those Discovery Channel shows which rank the deadly capabilities of each shark and countdown to number one seems to be all the research done to put this story together as fun factoids are dropped by Tiberon over a loud-speaker as the kids are forced to confront them.
The problem here is that there is a whole bunch of logic thrown out the window. One would think that the safest bet to survive this deadly shark onslaught would be to stay on land, but for one cockamamied reason or another, the kids end up back in the water just in time for another shark to be unleashed. Other leaps in logic are woven throughout such as one scene where a survivor slices open the belly of a dead shark in order get its to teeth to use as weapons. Huh? But if they don’t get in the water, I guess it wouldn’t be called SHARK WEEK, then would it?
I’m a sucker for shark films and usually jump at most of them once or twice, convinced I was a bucket of chum in a previous life, but the poorly cut action scenes and sparce use of gore and quick cut CGI shots of shark attacks didn’t even cause a quiver in me while watching SHARK WEEK. I hate to say it, but a more apropos name for the film would have been SHARK WEAK…
I know that was bad, but so was this stinker.
New on DVD!
ZOMBIE UNDEAD (2010)Directed by Rhys Davies
Written by Kris Tearse
Starring Ruth King, Kris Tearse, Barry Thomas, Christopher J. Herbert, Steven Dolton, Sandra Wildbore
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I can appreciate what director Rhys Davies is going for with ZOMBIE UNDEAD. Instead of the world spanning zombie epics which seem to be all the rage today, Davies keeps things on a smaller scale and the film is much more closer in tone to Romero’s original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD than anything else with its singular locale and focus on character rather than over the top gore or action. This is a nice move and despite it’s similarity to other more influential zombie lore, the tendency of recent zombie films to redundantly focus on outbreak or live well beyond their means by trying to illustrate a global outbreak makes ZOMBIE UNDEAD feel like a breath of fresh air in the graveyard glut that is recent zombie cinema.
That said, there is a lot of spit and polish needed for this film. Edits are sloppy with weird pauses in between lines and lingering cameras from time to time. On top of that a lot of the actors in this one are unable to reach the emotional complexity the script demands. And while the story does often go there in meaty material, the actors spouting out the lines are doing just that with not a whole lot of emotion conveyed.
Davies does show promise in his directing style as the ultra-slow moving zombies are made more deadly with quick cuts which make a zombie attack which appears can be avoided with a brisk run appear more deadly. Though other films are able to convey the danger of the slow moving zombie, here one has to be pretty dumb to actually fall prey to the zombies in this film as they move more sluggish here than I’ve seen in any other zeek film. Because of the turtle like pace of the zombies, it makes one feel more ire towards cast members who actually fall to the dead because they have to be pretty damn stupid or slow to do so.
But like I said, I have to give this one credit. Despite some editing and pacing problems, ZOMBIE UNDEAD boldly goes where other zombie films fear to tread as the cast confront inner demons as well as massive survivor guilt throughout. For some reason there is an overabundance of someone sitting out frozen in shock while letting another person be eaten by zombies and that gets redundant after it happens for the third or fourth time.
Still the fact that this is not just one of your typical zombie gross out fests or action heavy testosterone laden yawners makes ZOMBIE UNDEAD stand slightly higher than the rest of the zombie herd.
New on DVD/BluRay!
MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE (2011)Directed by Emily Hagins
Written by Emily Hagins
Starring Devin Bonnée, Tina Rodriguez, Lauren Lee, Elaine Hurt, Santiago Dietche, Tony Vespe, Patrick Delgado, Lauren Vunderink, John Gholson, Sam Eidson, Harry Knowles
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
How the hell can I fairly review this movie when the filmmaker is so young and I want to encourage her to continue to make film and improve on the craft she’s chosen? I guess, what I’ll do here is explain why this film just wasn’t for me and who the audience of MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE is probably intended for and who most likely would like it.
Now, I can acknowledge that it’s cool that the filmmaker is young and eager to take the world of filmmaking on, but I couldn’t help but feel as if I was watching an after school special while sitting through this. Not so slick editing, amateur acting, and that JUNO/”I’m too cool for this” attitude from a cast that most definitely is not, permeates this one from start to finish.
One of the things that this film often does is rip on TWILIGHT, but it breaks the cardinal rule; that being, if you’re going to make fun of something, you’d damn well better be able to back it up. But while the TWILIGHT films are often the butt of jokes because of it’s toothless nature, MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE is equally low on gore and vamping and high on teen melodrama. At it’s heart it is a love story. And at times it is very sweet, but don’t tear apart TWILIGHT if you share quite a few of the same qualities.
I can’t believe this film has me defending TWILIGHT.
The film stars a bunch of kids who do a decent job, but still need some time in the old acting school oven. Still deliveries and awkwardness like what to do with their hands once their lines are said happen with great frequency. It doesn’t help that Hagins camera often lingers past the time of cut, so the actors have no choice but squirm a bit.
On top of that, the teeth chosen for the vamps are so big that they make all of those wearing them in this film talk with a lisp.
I want to encourage both the filmmaker and the cast to continue to improve and evolve. There were a few inspired laughs and nudges those who have been to a con will most likely appreciate. Our own Harry Knowles makes an appearance as a panelist who is an expert on vampires which turns out to be fun. There are even a few moments of inspired gore, albeit most of it is CGI blood. But the hardcore audience that I live to serve here every Friday on AICN HORROR are going to find this one too tame to take.
God, I feel like I just kicked a puppy after writing this review…
MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE is a noble effort, a fun G-rated horror that the I.CARLY crowd would probably dig a whole heck-of-a-bunch, but not really the type of thing that you, my faithful horror-philes would be into.
New this week on DVD/BluRay!
PIRANHA 3DD (2012)Directed by John Gulager
Written by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, Joel Soisson, Pete Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg
Starring Danielle Panabaker, Matt Bush, Katrina Bowden, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, David Koechner, Chris Zylka, Adrian Martinez, Paul James Jordan, Meagan Tandy, David Hasselhoff, Christopher Lloyd, Paul Scheer, Gary Busey, Clu Gulager, Ving Rhames,
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
With a name like PIRANHA 3DD anyone going into this film expecting serious scares deserve to be disappointed. That’s just not what this new PIRANHA franchise is about. While the original PIRANHA might have been a JAWS knockoff right down to the poster it swiped and it might have been trying it’s hardest to play for serious scares, whether successful or not, these new PIRANHA films proudly sail the seas of cheese with over acting, forced melodrama, gore played for laughs, and lots and lots of boobs.
And that’s what you get with this new installment. The film unabashedly is about killer fish and wobbling breasts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I like a nice pair as much as the next guy. But even though sex and death are usually paired off to couples dance in most horror films, in order for it all to work, there has to be some soul to it. Unfortunately, apart from the rubber that made up the fish and the silicone that filled the chesticles, there’s not much else of substance at play in this film.
Soulless is a good term to describe this film. Despite the extremely colorful cast which pop in and out of frame with little rhyme or reason, the cast of youngsters the story leading up to a piranha attack at a water park are your typical group of good looking models and modettes who look fabulous in bikinis and are about as relatable as the fish which chomp on them. Not even the overzealous Christopher Lloyd who reprises his role from the original can inspire some life in these kids.
The rest of the celebrity guest stars seem to be shot at a different time as the rest of the young hip cast. The vignette with Ving Rhames and Paul THE LEAGUE Scheer is inspired as Ving reprises his role from part one as the legless Deputy Fallon and Sheer acts as his motivational coach returning Ving to the water which took his legs in the first installment. Ving’s line “Bring me my legs.” is inspired and by far the biggest laugh of the film. David Koechner from ANCHORMAN does a decent job playing the role Murray Hamilton made iconic in the original JAWS. Koechner owns the water park and, despite warnings from everyone, keeps the park open for the fish to feed.
The final guest star had me prepared to groan incessantly, but David Hasselhoff surprised me by having quite a few laughs at himself. Though he is riffing off of Shatner’s SNL schtick, he plays the washed up celeb who can’t believe he has sunk to the point of hosting a water park opening. Hasselhoff, of course, plays Hasselhoff and here he plays the role as if he was born to do so, hamming it up to the camera and making fun of his Baywatch days. I was pleasantly surprised at how good he was in this film.
Don’t look for a plausible story because there is none. Somehow the evil chompers make their way into a man made waterpark. Death ensues. There is copious amounts of gore in this one, but much of it is done via CGI. So much is relied on CGI that occasionally wide shots of the park appear bare without gore or a fish to be seen. Just people splashing around. The 3DD is never fully taken advantage of rather than doing the obvious “comin at’cha” moments when a fish or a harpoon or a dick or a pair of fake breasts come bounding toward the screen. Had some of that depth of field been used in the wider shots, this could have been something impressive. Instead the lowbrow 3D just adds to the cheapness of the film.
Though it’s definitely not something I hold in high regard, I did have some dumb fun with PIRANHA 3DD. Not because of the easy T&A, the young cast, the in your face lame 3D, and low thrill gore, but because of the fun comedic performances by the film’s guest stars. Who would have thought Hasselhoff would be the main selling point of this film, but there you have it.
And finally…though I’ve seen this at a few festivals, I still find it to be pretty fun. It’s a supernatural take on infidelity with a definite flavor of Hitchcockian suspense from NAILBITER director Patrick Rea. Enjoy NOW THAT YOU’RE DEAD!
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 late 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 March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.
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