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AICN HORROR looks at horrors from Fantastic Fest 2012 – DEAD SUSHI! HERE COMES THE DEVIL! DOOMSDAY BOOK! & COLD BLOODED! Plus a look back at Bava’s BLACK SUNDAY!!!

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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week we look at films playing at this year’s Fantastic Fest which is going on all this weekend and through next week. This will be one of three special columns focusing on some horror from outside the realm of normal. Fantastic Fest has another awesome crop of films this year and I’m hoping to cover quite a few, so enjoy these reviews looking into the future of horror and the land of weird. But for those who would rather look back than look forward, I’m also checking out a pair of Mario Bava’s best as well!

But before we do that…there’s this!

First, here’s an AICN EXCLUSIVE Trailer premiere of AFTER THE DAWN a film I’ll be reviewing next week on AICN HORROR, but I thought you guy’s would get a charge out of this sneak peek. If you’re interested in more, check out the website here and it’s going to be available on Netflix here. Tune in next week for more info and a review of the film, but until then, here’s the clip!

I got wind of this Israeli independent action horror film CANNON FODDER the other day. It’s trying to get funding through Indiegogo. From the teaser trailer below, it looks worthy of support. Check out the trailer and if you like what you see, support CANNON FODDER here!

Another Indiegogo campaign going on right now is one for the controversial Chinese-American serial killer film CHINK. Check out the relentless teaser trailer below and if you think it’s worth getting behind, support CHINK here!

And now, on with the reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: BLACK SUNDAY (1960)
And finally…Ben Franklin’s DEAD MAN’S LAKE!

Retro-review: Available this week on BluRay from Kino Lorber/Redemption!


Directed by Mario Bava
Written by Ennio De Concini & Mario Serandrei
Starring Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Though I love BAY OF BLOOD, I do recognize what most feel to be Mario Bava’s best film BLACK SUNDAY as a goodie. Released in 1960, the film serves as a stepping stone from Hammer’s lavish horror monster movies to the wave of Italian horror to come. BLACK SUNDAY is gorgeous and entrancing in many ways.

Though black and white, Bava takes full advantage of the limited color on hand by incorporating lavish backgrounds with dark surroundings. The landscape this film is made upon reeks of old school haunted house schlock with creaky doors, cobwebs strewn across corners, candlelit hallways and corridors. Though not Hammer, it’s shares a focus is on the upper crust, living the proper and prosperous life in old mansions with an aversion to the dirty world underneath them, full of mystery and monsters.

But unlike the Hammer films which usually relied on bright red splatter, BLACK SUNDAY is quite gory despite it’s more innocent black and white façade. In the first moments, there’s a gory torture scene as a vampire witch named Asa Vajada is bound to a post with chains and branded. To add insult to injury, a spiked mask of Satan is nailed to her face with a sledge hammer and gore spews out of the eye and mouth holes of the mask. Two hundred years later when a nobleman and a doctor happen upon Asa’s tomb and through a series of coincidences that only happen in this type of film (a bat on a string attacks the doctor who shoots at it, which hits the cross which is casting a shadow over Asa’s tomb, breaking it, and then the doctor accidentally drips a drop of his own blood on the dead vampire’s face and then to make matters worse, the doctor removes the mask nailed to her…whew, that’s a lot of coincidences), release the vampire from her slumber. Asa and her lover return to do good by the curse she put upon her tormentors 200 years ago. There’s a fantastic sequence where Asa’s corpse is reforming as goo and real scorpions are used to make it all the more gory. At the time this was made, the film had to be a schock to filmgoers who were used to fake blood and rubber monster suits.

The performances here are all fantastic, but the one everyone talks about is Barbara Steele who plays a double role of Asa and her modern day ancestor she is trying to take the place of. Steele’s eyes are hypnotizing and intense, sensual and dangerous all at once. Bava also takes full advantage of showing off Steele’s curves which are delicious and a plenty. It’s no wonder this is the role that propelled Steele into stardom.

Gothic horror with Italian gore and a breakout performance by Steele makes this first film by Bava still one of his best. This new BluRay edition has a commentary from Tim Lucas, a Bava documentarian, plus a load of trailers of some of Bava’s other greats. BLACK SUNDAY is the perfect storm of a film with splatter, atmosphere, and Steele.

Playing this week at Fantastic Fest 2012!


Directed by Jason Lapeyre
Written by Jason Lapeyre
Starring Zoie Palmer, Ryan Robbins, William MacDonald, Huse Madhavji, Thomas Mitchell, Sergio Di Zio
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Though it falls more under the action category than horror, COLD BLOODED does have a nice amount of gore and dismemberment throughout the film, so I felt it wasn’t completely out of line to cover it in this column.

After a jewel heist gone wrong (do any jewel heists ever go right?), Cordero (played by the charismatic Ryan Robbins from APOLLO 13) ends up beaten into a coma by the police and taken to the nearest hospital to recover. Frances (Zoie Palmer from DEVIL) is a cop who was lucky enough be on the night shift the night Cordero wakes out of his coma. Because the diamonds were never found and all of the other robbers are dead, Cordero is a popular guy with crooked cops and evil criminals alike. Striking an uneasy truth in an abandoned and locked off section of a hospital, Cordero and Frances have to work together to survive.

Now, nothing about this set up screams originality, I know, but the thing that makes COLD BLOODED work are the likable performances from the two stars. Robbins has a rogue-ish likability about him that makes you understand why Frances might set aside their differences and team up against a badder bad guy. Frances in turn has a vulnerability underneath a toughness that doesn’t come off like a woman trying to be a tough guy (as one often sees in this type of film), but as someone conflicted with what she believes in and what she is. These great performances immediately made me invested in these characters.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazingly subtle and stone cold coolness of William MacDonald as the lead thug who coldly enacts torture and murder without a flinch and has a stone look about him that makes you shiver with just a stare. Additional props goes to Sergio Di Zio as the twitchy thug who is not cut out for killing.

Though this is a small scale action film in a time when action often means explosions that level city blocks, multi-million dollar car chases, and expansive set pieces, I have to give it to this old school thriller that keeps the stakes small, but the charisma of its actors high. The gore is actually pretty gruesome in this one with one cast member losing a hand and having to carry it around with them with hopes of reattachment at a later date and the use of a surgical saw as a killing tool. This isn’t the type of film to highlight the gore, but the action does have teeth that leave marks in this one. Reminiscent of the type of action film one might find in the late 70’s and early 80’s, COLD BLOODED is a winner in my book.

Playing this week at Fantastic Fest 2012!


Directed by Adrián García Bogliano
Written by Adrián García Bogliano
Starring Francisco Barreiro, Laura Caro, Alan Martinez, Michele Garcia, Giancarlo Ruiz
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Adrián García Bogliano, the filmmaker behind last year’s feast for the eyes and ears, COLD SWEAT is at it again with a much calmer and mature take on horror in HERE COMES THE DEVIL. This time around he tackles subject matter that feels much more personal in tapping into the fear that anyone with loved ones can identify with. When Felix (WE ARE WHAT WE ARE’s Francisco Barriero) and Sol (popular Mexican singer Laura Caro) let their children play by a hill while they fool around in their car, their children go missing. A day later, the children are found…or are they?

As with COLD SWEAT, Bogliano once again makes a sexy horror film by playing around with the sex and death motif with an opening sex scene between two women, followed by the aforementioned incendiary scene between two parents in a car while their children are off playing, both scenes end badly with Bodliano playing around with guilt associated with sex. The fact that these parents are showing love for one another makes the disappearance all the more weighty in that they are guilt ridden at neglecting to look after their kids, tearing into one another afterwards by blaming each other. The relationship between the parents is a complex one, as are most real life relationships, and feels so much more real than what we are used to seeing in American films in that these are not perfect parents by a long shot. As Sol begins to suspect that her children aren’t telling her the whole truth as to what went on the night they went missing, Felix refuses to believe her causing a rift between them even more.

The film definitely is dark and is going to turn off some folks in the perverse areas it goes involving what went on that night in the cave. As this family begins to fall deeper and deeper into the abyss, it’s the patience Bogliano shows in the very slow moving first half hour that makes your heart ache at every wrong turn the parents take. This is very much a horror film, but also serves as a pretty fantastic family drama. It is evident later in the film (and by the film’s title) that demonic possession factors in; both in a literal sense and in a poetic sense as Felix identifies himself as the devil when he confronts someone he suspects of assaulting his children that night. The layers are deep in this film, serving as a cautionary tale to watch over your children and a morality tale dealing with taking law into ones own hands.

Bogliano sets a dire mood with some fantastically timed shocks as well as doling out information with a tentative measure. What impressed me the most is the leap in maturity and sophistication from COLD SWEAT which was a very “in your face” style film, to HERE COMES THE DEVIL which crawls beneath your skin meticulously. Much like ROSEMARY’S BABY, it’s the mood set and the amplification of emotion that causes the real shocks in HERE COMES THE DEVIL. I have to admit, I kind of saw the ending coming midway through, but that doesn’t make the ride there any less thrilling and impactful.

Though possession stories have been told time and time again, usually they turn out to be knockoffs of THE EXORCIST. HERE COMES THE DEVIL stands out by delving into the possession subgenre in such a multi-leveled manner, involving all shades of horror and perversion. I’ll be keeping you all in the loop as to when and where you’re going to be able to see HERE COMES THE DEVIL. It’s definitely not a Hollywood film in that it has the balls to take you to uncomfortable places both psychologically and emotionally.

Playing this week at Fantastic Fest 2012!


Directed by Noboru Iguchi
Written by Noboru Iguchi, Jun Tsugita, Makiko Iguchi
Starring Rina Takeda, Asami, Jiji Bû, Yasuhiko Fukuda, Shigeru Matsuzaki, Yui Murata, Kentarô Shimazu, Kanji Tsuda
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

“It’s an all out Sushi attack!”

To the horror of the hip and trendy, the sushi, long believed to be a tasty dish topped with tuna or some other delicate fishy treat, wrapped in seaweed, and based with rice, has become our worst nightmare. That’s right, watch out because in DEAD SUSHI that dish is deadly!

“I am reborn as tuna!”

DEAD SUSHI is as fun and goofy as it sounds. A former sushi chef strikes back against evil businessmen with an evil flying squid and a boatload of reanimated sushi rolls with fangs and an appetite for human flesh. Keiko is a lowly waitress, forced to make like Cinderella for her relentless sushi chef father and working her delicate fingers to the nub serving plates of sushi to arrogant businessmen. Who would expect that the waitress is hiding the abilities to roundhouse kick flying killer sushi out of mid-air? And that’s what this film does so well, it lobs the unexpected at you at rapid fire and never lets up until the very end.

“Bare skin cuts too easily!”

As you see from the lines from the film scattered through this review, the tone is of the wonkified sort. Anything goes. People burst out into song. Of course there’s a body sushi scene. Many close ups of people eating sushi. An egg sushi sings a happy little song and squirts acid. People turn into rice spitting zombies. And the restaurant hostess busts out with an excellent robot dance! Plus there’s lots and lots of kung fu and flying killer sushi. For the sheer amount of bugnuts stuff happening in this film, it is sure to be a crowd pleaser for the type who enjoy the slapsticky horror of an EVIL DEAD and thrill from the more offbeat horror films out of Japan lately such as FRANKENSTEIN GIRL VS VAMPIRE GIRL and especially the insane HELLDRIVER.

“The sushi are mating!”

The use of CGI blood and reliance on animation is fun, but a little more sophistication to the digital effects or maybe some better practical work and this decent film could have been elevated to instant classic. Instead of buckets of real blood splattering around, we’ve got pixels after pixels of the CGI red stuff, which is never good.

“I feel yummy all over!”

Keiko is played by martial artist Rina Takeda and her kung fu is strong here. There are a lot of fantastic choreographics going on here as Keiko must fight both sushi and monster alike. The young actress has a vibrancy about her that mesmerizes and really elevates what could be a cartoonish movie to a more sophisticated level just by her performance.




Playing this week at Fantastic Fest 2012!


Directed by Kim Jee-Woon & Yim Pil-Sung
Written by Kim Jee-Woon & Yim Pil-Sung
Starring Doona Bae, Joon-ho Bong, Ji-hee Jin, Kang-woo Kim, Jun-hee Ko, Hae-il Park, Seung-beom Ryu, Song Sae-Byok
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Kim Jee-Woon, director of the jaw-droppingly good I SAW THE DEVIL and Yim Pil-Sung director of HANSEL & GRETEL (which I haven’t seen) team up offer up a trio of stories focusing on the end of the world with DOOMSDAY BOOK. Though each installment has its strengths, as with most anthologies, some are more effective than others and the order with which the installments are laid out make this a very uneven, yet ultimately spellbinding filmic experience highlighting that there’s a whole lot of talent coming out of Korea these days.

The film starts off with a zombie/infection/plague/end of the world story. Though zombies are passé these days, writer/director Yim Pil-Sung makes this story appealing by focusing on small scale thrills and chills instead of trying to tell a massive, world spanning tale. The story focuses on a nebbish young lad who is getting ready for a blind date, but before he does that, his mother (who he lives with) orders him to clean up the house. Through a series of events that begins with throwing out the trash and ends with him eating an infected liver at dinner, he inadvertently causes a zombie apocalypse. Some interesting montage scenes spice things up as do extreme close ups of the infection sporing, reproducing, and infecting others. Though the ending (this is a movie about the end of the world, of course) is somewhat predictable, Yim managed to make the first part of the anthology thrilling and fun.

Installment two was my favorite of the three directed by Kim Jee-Woon. After seeing I SAW THE DEVIL last year, I knew the director was a name to watch, but after this installment—focusing on a robot living in a monastery that has come to accept the Buddhist faith and may be the next coming of Buddha himself, I’ll watch anything Kim Jee-Woon puts to film. The story is less of a horror story and more of a philosophical science fiction asking the question, “Can a machine become self aware and enlightened?” When a robot repair man is assigned to investigate the oddly behaving robot, he comes to a crisis of faith. The result is one of the most powerfully original and effective short stories I’ve ever seen. The robot, which looks as if it fell off the set of I, ROBOT, packs ten times the punch in its 30 minute runtime than the Will Smith vehicle did in two hours. Though I knew Kim was a master storyteller, here he proves he can offer up breathtaking imagery as well. Simply fantastic.

The film ends unevenly with a collaboration between Kim and Yim called “Happy Birthday” where a young girl copes with the impending end of the world via approaching meteor. This one is somewhat hokey and overly saccharinated. Too cutesy for my tastes and at times, it’s just downright weird and hard to make sense of. Apparently, there was to be a third director offering up the last chapter of this film, but when that one failed to be completed, Kim and Yim collaborated for the last story. After the showstopper middle act that is hard to beat, the third act proves to be trite in comparison.

Overall, the quality of all the stories in DOOMSDAY BOOK is high. Even the last segment is well filmed, acted, and executed. Though it peaked in the middle, overall this film by Kim and Yim is something that shouldn’t be missed.

And finally…here’s a backwoods horror story from Bloody Cuts, the makers of SUCKABLOOD and MAMA DIED! Though we should all know by now that going into the woods alone is a bad idea, this film seals the deal. Enjoy Ben Franklin’s DEAD MAN’S LAKE!

I’ll be back with more horrors from this year’s Fantastic Fest on Monday, 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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