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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Due to an unexpected overdose of turkey legs and mashed taters, there wasn’t an AICN HORROR column last Friday. Extremely sorry for those who have come to expect your weekly dose of horror and came up lacking last week. But I’m making up for that this week with two whole columns full of horror stuffs old, new, and in between. This column is filled with some especially unique horrors and ends with a song I can’t stop singing. Let’s get right to it!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Advance Review: DEMON (2012)
Advance Review: MY AMITYVILLE HORROR (2012)
And finally…Stuckey & Murray (featuring Lil’ Duvall) A SONG FOR THE WALKING DEAD!

Retro-review: Rereleased this week from Kino Lorber/Redemption!

SCHIZO (1976)

Directed by Peter Walker
Written by David McGillivray & Murray Smith
Starring Lynne Frederick, John Leyton, Stephanie Beacham, John Fraser, Jack Watson
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

I must admit, my only experience with director Peter Walker was with his excellent schlocker FRIGHTMARE. I’d known he’d made more films, but just haven’t gotten around to seeing them yet. So I was really excited when I heard Redemption was rereleasing four of Peter Walker’s films on BluRay. I’m going to cover all four of these films in the next few weeks, starting this week with probably Walker’s most notable of works SCHIZO.

Comparisons to Hitchcock’s PSYCHO are inevitable, though I believe it’s unfair to think it’s some kind of knockoff. There is a shower scene and the killer is left unidentified until the final moments, but aside from those two details, that’s where the similarities stop.

The focus here is on Samantha, a celebrity figure skater (played by the wide eyed Lynne Frederick) who is marrying Alan (pop singer John Leyton) a well to do English chap. Everything seems to be pristine but for a weirdo named William Haskin (the grave faced Jack Waston) who is lurking around. We see at the beginning that William has recently been released from prison and plans on showing up to the wedding unannounced when he sees the wedding announcement in the paper. Packing up his favorite creepy trench coat and a rusty machete, it appears William intention is not to catch the garter at the reception. But everything is not as it seems here. And that’s what I love about Walker’s films, or at least the two I have now seen.

As with FRIGHTMAARE, there’s more going on that we are let on. Sure this looks like a typical stalk and slash film, but as the story goes on its pretty evident that this is something different. I won’t reveal the twists here or Samantha’s connections with William, but the history is dark and pretty darn twisted.

Walker plays things pretty straight forward here, spicing things up with some Giallo style killings and some fancy flashbacks. I especially liked the tension built in a car scene as a killer hides out in the backseat of an unsuspecting driver. Walker keeps the camera tight here, amping the tension all the more.

I have to mention an especially weird séance scene as Samantha looks for help from every avenue to give her answers about her stalker. The scene seems somewhat out of place in this film, suggesting a supernatural element in an otherwise grounded psychological thriller. Still is makes for a fun and spooky scene.

Those with some knowledge of rudimentary psychology will probably be able to piece together the mystery before the end, but Walker does a great job of making it all entertaining until then. SCHIZO is a strong dose of schlock and mystery with a sometimes laughable/sometimes creepy Jack Waston and some twists that may be foretold with today’s twist savvy audience, but back then, most likely surprised its audience quite a bit.

Warning, there’s a side boob or two in this trailer! NSFW!


Directed by Julian Grant
Written by Julian Grant
Starring Brian Shaw, Kathleen Lawlor, Angela Zagone, Alden Moore, & Graham Jenkins
Available through Chemical Burn Entertainment
Reviewer: Ambush Bug

This week I’m cracking open Chemical Burn’s four disk set called ZOMBIE HORROR FRIGHT FEST which features THE DEFILED, MELVIN, FAST ZOMBIES WITH GUNS, and WOODS OF TERROR; all zombie films which approach the subgenre in a fresh and unique way. The first film to be dissected is THE DEFILED.

I meant to catch this film when it played at the Chicago International Film Festival a while back. Missed it then, but I’m glad I had a chance to see it now that it’s being released through Chemical Burn Entertainment. I have to come right out at say that this is not a film for everyone. But if you like zombie films and especially like new and ballsy takes on the genre, this is a film you’ll want to put this zeek on your radar.

THE DEFILED is a wordless epic journey of one zombie who may not be like any zombie you’ve ever seen before on screen. Well, maybe he’s a bit like Bub from DAY OF THE DEAD or the gas station attendant from LAND OF THE DEAD, but instead of looking at the broad scope of the zombie apocalypse, director/writer Julian Grant follows this one soulful zombie as he wanders the earth in search of food, a place to call his own, and love.

As I said above, once it’s realized that this is not your typical zombie film, some folks are going to loathe THE DEFILED. Zombie fans are tough to please and straying from the tome either Romero (if you’re a walker) or even Boyle (if you’re a runner) have put into place is risky. Here Grant plays with the notion that some of one’s soul survives once the dead rise. The main zombie (played by Brian Shaw who looks a lot like the first zombie Barbara encounters in the graveyard in NOTLD) is a family man. He’s got a mate and two adoptive kids. He enforces rules. Though he doesn’t need to drink, he’s known to drink alcohol when he finds it. He has doggy-style sex with his zombie wife. He hunts for food for his family when they need it and mourns when he suffers loss. Brian Shaw does a fantastic job of bringing emotion to the blood stained face and by the end of this film, you actually care about this zombie and want him to shamble on forever.

When events separate our main zombie from his family, he presses on down the trail with a baby zombie in tow and crosses paths with a live woman in need of a protector. This mismatched family battles monsters of both the undead and living kind. Grant isn’t afraid to get gory and uncomfortable when he has to. Filmed in Gary, Indiana and Southern Chicago, THE DEFILED is filmed in black and white, taking full advantage of the dilapidated buildings and overgrown landscape one might see traveling along the Dan Ryan Expressway onto the Indiana Toll Road.

If you lack patience or the open-mindedness that zombies can come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments, you’re you might want to look elsewhere. But THE DEFILED is an artsy and ballsy little zeek that definitely offers something the genre hasn’t seen before.

New on Video On Demand from Phase 4 Films!


Directed by Derek Lindeman
Written by Derek Lindeman & Faith Brody
Starring Jensen Bucher, Jake Matthews, Derek Lindeman, Nick Troy, Gabriela Herbas, Brian Gallagher, Al Snow, Corbin Bernsen, Gilbert Gottfried and Brian O'Halloran
Find out more about this film here and here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Though there are a lot of low budget crapfests out there giving indie cinema, specifically indie horror cinema, a bad name, sometimes, as in the case of MISS DECEMBER, low budget doesn’t necessarily mean low quality. Though more comedy than horror, MISS DECEMBER has a nice black soul and is definitely worth checking out for those in the mood for a little humor in the shade of pitch.

The highlight of the film is definitely its lead actress Jensen Bucher. She plays Ari, an artist alterna-girl making ends meet as a waitress in a greasy spoon diner. Bucher’s attitude and altogether hatred towards her customer and life in general could easily make her annoying and unappealing, but somehow, with small glimpses past her acidic exterior, she pulls it off and I couldn’t help but buy into her plight and root for her to come out on top. Even when she’s making huge mistakes like considering getting back together with her abusive boyfriend, she is still likable and the actress has a plucky star quality about her that makes me feel like big things are in store for her in the future.

The story itself is basically TWO BROKE GIRLS meet a serial killer except there’s just one broke girl in this case. Ari has to put up with annoying customers who don’t buy anything but coffee and tip in pocket change and an overprotective boss who tries a bit too hard to mother the rebellious star. It’s a typical scenario and when you throw a serial killer into the mix, it makes for a nice premise for a horror film. Someone is going around killing girls once a month. The media has dubbed him the Calendar Girl Killer and Ari thinks she’s next on the list. The fun part is that this is the most exciting thing to happen to her in ages and she’s twisted enough to love that she is the next target.

The film has a nice little mystery setup where we have to guess which of the three men in Ari’s life is the killer. All seem suspicious and at least up until the halfway point in the story, it could be any of them. Or none at all. The humor is not the fall over chortling variety, but the endearing heartfelt type of comedy that is much harder to pull off. The blood is not that gratuitous nor are the scares, but the story is strong enough to not need all of that to entertain.

The various cameos are fun to watch. Corbin Bernsen is always good and Gilbert Gotfried’s cameo is pretty funny. Even wrestler Al Snow appears against type as a psychologist analyzing the serial killer. But it’s the lead actress, Jensen Bucher who carries this film. She makes this relatively bloodless and scare-less, light horror comedy something to seek out. At its core it’s a romantic comedy, but there’s some decently structured kills and a nice black sense of humor in MISS DECEMBER, mostly coming from the lead actress.

New on Video On Demand!


Directed by Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro
Written by Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro
Starring Rafael Tombini, Álvaro Rosa Costa, Ricardo Seffner, Amanda Lerias, Luciana Verch, Leandro Lefa, Tatiana Paganella, Marcos Guarani, Felipe Longhi, Isidoro B. Guggiana
Find out more about this film here and here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

This Western horror art house mash-up from Brazil may be guilty of swiping bits and pieces from other films such as GATES OF HELL, EL TOPO, SIX-STRING SAMURAI, and even Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER series, but it does so in such a way that feels pretty darn entertaining. While King’s DARK TOWER remains in production limbo, this is a nice alternative, at least for the time being.

Rafael Tombini plays a black clad police officer in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies lurk and lumber around. But don’t really go for eating brains, they just kind of linger in the background. The real threat is The Dark Rider, a demonic force of some sort which leaps from one host to another throughout the film. As the story moves forward, the Officer meets a pair of gutsy minors, an umbrella carrying Zen master, a Nazi helmet wearing jerk, and a pregnant lady. But these folks are mere speed bumps along the Officer’s road of revenge to track down the Dark Rider and his gang of weirdoes.

Despite the tone of the film feeling as if it were from Stephen King’s DARK TOWER series, BEYOND THE GRAVE is an extremely inventive film. Like Jodorowsky, writer/director Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro fills his story will all sorts of colorful characters; each with an interesting story behind them, some elaborated on in the narrative, others left for us to wonder what made them so weird. I especially liked the demonic Yanni who plays a single harmonica note which induces ear bleeding convulsions in whoever the tune is directed to. There is no real grounding for what this power is or how it came to be, it’s just another colorful character in this post-apocalyptic bizarro world.

Even the corpses have their own little stories. One has eaten so much it has been stuck in a bathtub. The other wanders around aimlessly because it has no eyes. Little details like these flesh out the film and make it all the more enjoyable to watch. With a simplistic tale like this revenge story, it makes the story pop by having all of these eccentric souls pop in and out of the story.

At times poetic. At times stoic. At times completely energized. BEYOND THE GRAVE is a unique experience in the theater of the weird. Fans of Fulci, King, Jodorowsky, and film/books/comics like that will most likely have a ball with this one as it pays homage to some classically cool films while blazing new trails with interesting stories as well.

New this week from Midnight Releasing/Brain Damage Films!


Directed by: Liam Owen, Brian Skiba
Written by Michael Z. Gordon
Starring: Justin Henry, Aja Pollock, Ray Rosales, Marissa Joy Davis, Jose Rosete
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Though it qualifies as a found footage style film, the use of multiple cameras and different styles of storytelling breaks some of the rules that limited the subgenre. While some of the footage looped together makes sense since the faux filmmakers doing the filming are intending on making a documentary out of the footage, still the invisible powers that be that thread this multiple angle, multiple media film together is one of those blaring holes that some may find easy to ignore, while others will have trouble buying it from the onset.

SLAUGHTER CREEK is about a documentary filmmaker, his ex girlfriend who handles sound, and a fellow filmmaker friend who works the camera most of the time. The director’s intent is to make a documentary about the porn industry, but after meeting a young fresh faced newb to the industry, the focus shifts to her. From the get-go, the director’s intents are cloudy. He seems to have already formed an opinion about porn and how horrible the industry is, worse yet, he seems to have become smitten with this fresh new face, Alyssa, and intent on saving her from destroying her innocence by entering the world of porn. When Alyssa goes missing, the documentary shifts once again to tracking her down.

The aforementioned holes in the premise in terms of the found footage genre aside, SLAUGHTER CREEK is an impressive little film. For the most part, the film is decently acted with the dialog rumored to be unscripted throughout, making the film all the more impressive. The director, at times, is overdramatic, but that’s part of his character, as is the snippy attitude of his ex-girlfriend who doesn’t like him getting close to the porn actresses he interviews, especially Alyssa.

I did like the way this film evolved as a metaphor for documentary filmmaking where a director may have one intent in mind upon putting the project together, but the unpredictability of the real life aspect of the project often makes the final cut much different from those initial intentions. Though the director is terribly unobjective, it makes for an interesting piece on how unobjective the filming of a documentary always is. While trying to capture the truth, once a camera focuses on one thing over another, a stance is immediately formed. With SLAUGHTER CREEK, the intent is just spelled out more by the melodramatic director.

What doesn’t work is the present day interview scenes, which have low quality sound as well as acting as the survivor of the ordeal is interviewed by two cops. These scenes are pretty bad. But the rest of the film, the faux documentary footage and the impromptu dialog make SLAUGHTER CREEK one of the more interesting low budget found footagers I’ve seen in a while.

New this week from Midnight Releasing/Brain Damage Films!


Directed by Tim Cowles
Written by Tim Cowles
Starring Eleanor James, Emily Eaves, Jason Impey, Michael Gamarano, Ina Maria Brekke, Lucie Howard, Mike Prince, Ree Sinclair, Chloe Farnworth
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Maybe it’s because there is a scene where a woman is being stalked while jogging or maybe it’s because it’s simply that this is a stalker film, but for some reason, I couldn’t help but think of the 80’s Canadian slasher HE KNOWS YOUR ALONE while watching BACKSLASHER. I haven’t seen that film in ages, I do think that BACKSLASHER pales in comparison though, and that film wasn’t really that good in the film place..

The main problem with BACKSLASHER is that its main character is utterly unlikable. Eleanor James plays Becca, an utterly shallow woman, a blogger and internet personality whose lifestyle revolves around giggling with her supermodel friends as they make wardrobe changes, looking at herself in the mirror, and getting as many Facebook followers as she can.

You know, life’s important things…

When this is the person we’re supposed to relate to, it makes it very, very hard to do so.

It’d be different if this film were about the dangers of living such a life. And it sort of is as a stalker begins killing everyone on Becca’s Facebook friend’s list. But the problem is that not only is Becca a shallow person, she turns out to be so self centered that she betrays friends and leads on her male suitors when it best suits her. In making her so utterly deplorable, it makes it easy to root for the killer to get to her. But for some reason, I don’t think that was the intent of the filmmakers in that they try to make her sympathetic in the end. But it didn’t work for me.

So if you like the stalk and slash, that’s all here in BACKSLASHER, but if you’re looking for a character to invest in and in kind find some way to give a shit about this story…well, then you’re looking in the wrong place.

Advance Review: Touring Festivals, recently played NYC Horror Film Fest!

DEMON (2012)

Directed by Mark Duffield
Written by Mark Duffield
Starring Clare Langford, Andrew Mullan, Gabrielle Curtis, Tom Hall, Christopher Ettridge, Jackie Haliday, Ryan Wichert
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

One of the things about the old Hammer films that was so appealing was the fact that it seemed to always have a theme that even the highest level of aristocracy was not immune to the horrors of the world. The films did a fantastic job of showing how the upper crust lived in gothic castles with candlelit hallways and elegantly decorated furnishings and how all of that could come crashing down when a werewolf or a vampire or some form of witchery bears tooth. Was it a comment of how fragile life is at the top of the food chain? Or a cautionary tale of how treacherous anything under everything but the highest of high class is? Depends on how you look at it, I guess.

I bring this up because DEMON, more than anything is a throwback film. But instead of being an homage to Grindhouse which the term throwback often refers, it’s to the time when Hammer was the first name in horror. Here, Lorcan (Andrew Mullan) a well to do man comes to a private hospital because of a rare blood disorder. Turns out the man is a son of an incubus; a demon who impregnates a woman in the night. The progeny of that unholy copulation rarely lives to adulthood, but when it does, it becomes a demon itself when it falls in love for the first time. When Amy (Clare Langford) a young nurse at the hospital who lives a simple life of servitude gains the eye of Lorcan, the hummingbirds of love begin to flutter their wings as does the bat-like wings of Lorcan’s demonic alter ego. As their love grows stronger, so does the demon inside of him and soon he has trouble finding his human side at all.

One of the problems I had with DEMON was that it explains too much in the beginning. Sure it’s interesting to know the demonic rules listed in the last paragraph beforehand, but to have it explained right off the bat, it basically takes away any mystery the film may have. Without the preface at the beginning, there would be that mystery that would help creating some kind of investment in terms of trying to figure out what is wrong with Lorcan. As is, we know exactly what he is afflicted with before he bares fangs and wings and therefore the lead up to that carries less of an impact.

On the plus side, this is an extremely well made and well acted film. Lack of mystery aside, Langford and Mullan do a great job of making the lead characters interesting despite the fact that they have a cold and proper exterior. Also though filmed on a low budget, you could swear this was a multi million dollar film with a great use of location and costuming. Filmmaker Mark Duffield sets most of the locations indoors and decorates the sets authentically, while keeping the camerawork close on the exteriors; therefore he’s able to make this feel as if it takes place at the turn of the 20th century England. It’s this type of eye for creative filmmaking on a budget that I wish more low budget filmmakers would take note on. Additionally, the effects in this film are top tier. The demon effects—from the bat-wings to the burning effect that happens when Lorcan is in direct sunlight, all look fantastic.

There’s enough going for DEMON for me to forgive it for being blatant about the explanation in the beginning rather than letting us find out about the monster ourselves as the story goes on. I enjoyed the old timey Hammer aristocratic feel DEMON was able to convey and admire the director’s ability to show much while spending little.

Advance Review: Currently touring festivals and recently played at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival!


Directed by Eric Walter
Written by Eric Walter
Starring Daniel Lutz, Laura DiDio, Neme Alperstein, Susan Bartell, Ronald DeFeo, Ben Foti, George Lutz, Kathy Lutz
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

We all know the story of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and we all know that it is based on a true experience with bizarre phenomena in the very house featured in the film. I wasn’t impressed with the recent big budget remake with Ryan Reynolds and was even less moved by the cheapy found footager THE AMITYVILLE HAUNTING (reviewed here). But when I heard that an actual documentary was touring the festival circuit about one of the surviving members of the family from the real events that inspired the films, I was more than a little interested.

MY AMITYVILLE HAUNTING follows one Daniel Lutz, a deeply troubled man who, as a boy lived with the Lutz family in the creepy house where all sorts of twisted haunting allegedly happened. Or so he says. From the first time we meet Daniel one can tell he has a flair for the dramatic. Alternating between scenes of Daniel posed sitting at a table looking through photographs and putting out a cigarette in an ashtray full of butts to scenes of Daniel playing soulfully on his electric guitar, it became clear to me that the “real” story I thought I was about to see, was in fact, “Daniel’s story.”

Now, I am not saying I don’t believe strange occurrences happened in that house all those years ago, but this documentary isn’t going to convince you one way or another because the focus is dead set on Daniel at all times. And the only thing Daniel makes abundantly clear in this film is that he loves the spotlight. The rest is a little fuzzy.

Having worked with deeply troubled individuals throughout my day job as a therapist (for a span of four years, I worked at a lockdown psychiatric hospital with damaged souls more than eager to reach out and tell their story at any given time), though I imagine Daniel would swear up and down that his story is unique, I have interacted with people like Daniel before. Daniel makes for a compelling storyteller; engaging in eye contact, pausing dramatically to puff a cigarette, then occasionally moving to a well practiced look off into the distance. But when his stories are challenged or questioned, he threatens violence toward anyone who wishes to poke this defensive bubble he has erected around him. Which made for, I imagine, a pretty frightening shoot for writer/director/documentarian Eric Walter. Numerous times, Daniel is filmed threatening Walter for daring questioning his claims of abuse, black magic, psychic powers, and other deviant behavior from his adoptive father George Lutz, citing that it was George, not the house that was the root of the haunting. Again, this is compelling stuff, but when one asks, “can you prove this?” and the only response is “I don’t need to prove this, I know this” or “You and I are going to have words when the camera stops rolling”, it doesn’t go far to give his story validity and only makes it easier to believe this is bullshit.

I imagine even writing that last paragraph, challenging the validity of some of his claims puts me on some kind of “punch in the nostrils” list Daniel may be keeping in his back pocket. But if he is not able to deal with questions about his story, why agree to make this documentary in the first place? For the duration of this film, I was waiting for someone not to cater to Daniel’s claims and actually show the guts to talk with him through his often macho, often melodramatic stories. It is undeniable that Daniel has suffered greatly as a human being and as a fellow soul on this big blue marble; my heart goes out to him. But as a viewer, this documentary became more of a frustrating experience once I realized that the only story we were going to hear here is from a guy who bullies his way into making people not question his perceptions. We are to sit back, listen and not question, and sorry if that makes me a little less sympathetic to one who acts like that, especially when he wants to be the subject of a documentary. And while Daniel’s claims of horror are downright bone chilling, the fact that in one conversation towards the end of the film he contradicts his own story a few times in a row, makes one think this might not be exactly how things truly went down, and rather a cry for help and attention from a man who has had an undeniably difficult life and continues to have problems today.

MY AMITYVILLE HORROR was an utterly fascinating documentary. There are numerous scenes that made me uncomfortable, a few that made me suspicious, a few that wrenched my heart during the few times we do get to see beyond Daniel’s gruff, bully-like exterior, and even a few that scared me, but none of those feelings were more powerful than the fear I felt that the subject of this documentary could explode at any moment on his documentarians.

P.S. Please don’t punch me in the nostrils, Daniel.

And finally…here’s something truly special, Stuckey & Murray featuring Lil’ Duvall with A SONG FOR THE WALKING DEAD! Watch it with a loved one…

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over eleven years & AICN HORROR for two. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be available on iTunes and soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK last year from Zenescope Entertainment & look for his exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81 released August-December 2012. Mark will be writing GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES to be released in February-June 2013. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.

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