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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Let’s get right on with the scary!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

COME & GET ME (2011)
VAMP U (2013)
SMILEY (2012)
And finally…Patrick Rea’s COPY!

New on DVD this week and order on Netflix here!


Directed by Sam Qualiana
Written by Sam Qualiana
Starring Andrew Elias, Michael O'Hear, Sam Qualiana, Jackey Hall, Bob Bozek, John Renna
Find out more about this film on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Right off the bat, the one thing you need to know is that SNOW SHARK: ANCIENT SNOW BEAST is a very low budget movie. Though some nice CGI were integrated into the film in post, it definitely looks and feels like something shot and made on a micro-budget. That said, if you’re willing to look past that, it ain’t all that bad.

Following the trail blazed by the original JAWS, SNOW SHARK is about a group of people on the hunt for an elusive predator who cuts through snow like it was surf and attacks anyone who crosses its path. Multiple scenes are set up simply to show how deadly this predator is with unsuspecting snow angels getting followed by a shark’s fin cutting through the snow and then chomped by powerful jaws. All of the factors are there: the noble lawman, the jittery scientist, and the surly hunter. It’s just that, in this film, there are more than just three of them so that we can get the maximum amount of onscreen chomping time possible.

One of the problems with SNOW SHARK is that there are an awful lot of characters involved and not a lot for them to do aside from bicker with one another. And the cast does that. A lot. I understand this was most likely because there needed to be some kind of drama in order to fill in the gaps between snow sharkings, but with the actors mostly being non-actors, it made the in between scenes somewhat tough to get through.

The fact that there were so many parts also might have to do with the low budget as well as it feels people just wanted a line or two just to get to say they were in a movie, which kind of endears me to low budget films like this.

Amateur acting aside, this film has a load of fun with their shark and makes sure lots of blood is spattered and spewn all over the fresh white snow. Guts and innards fly in all directions, and it definitely satisfied my hunger for gore--and then some.

SNOW SHARK may be on the budgetary low, but there is a lot of fun to be had if you look past the miniscule budget. With an obvious love for JAWS oozing out of its pores, those with an open mind will be able to agree with this film’s admiration for that inspirational film and find themselves attracted to it.

New this week on DVD from Bloody Earth Films !

COME & GET ME (2011)

Directed by Chris Sun
Written by Chris Sun
Starring Christian Radford, Shaun Trainer, Alexis Fernandez, Kelsie Mcdonald, Christopher Price, Allira Jaques, Sarah Jane Blair, Jess Taylor, Chris Thomas
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

This is just an ugly little movie. If the goal of COME & GET ME was to make me feel queasy at the amount of mistreatment that occurs in this film toward women, then it succeeded in spades. But though this film may want to pay homage to such rape-sploitation films as I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, it feels as if the attention to the violence is somewhat misguided.

Now, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT are both pretty vicious films, but what makes those films somewhat bearable is that the women in peril in those films get a chance to redeem themselves in iconic, thrilling, and thematically satisfying ways. I’m not condoning the violence towards the women depicted in those films, but I do think that giving the women an opportunity to dole it out in return is what makes those films digestible, despite the despicable acts portrayed.

In COME & GET ME, there’s none of that creativity when it comes to the redemption of the victims. Here it is just utter brutality towards a group of women who happen to make the wrong call to the wrong group of guys. Sure, this may ring as more realistic and less poetic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more entertaining.

The film focuses on three Australian blokes: a sensitive one, a mongoloidal walking penis, and the sociopathic leader. We see them attack and kill one woman they pass on the street, and then the sensitive one gets a call from a former high school crush. Though he forces his rapist-murdering friends to treat this girl nice, things of course go sour as they often do with rapist-murderers, and the trio is running through the woods looking to rape and murder the group of women.

The main thing that bothered me with this film is the lack of effort put into the script. I lost count of the amount of times the single words “Bitch!” or “Slag!” or “Cunt!” was used. Sure, there are times when a single exclamation is appropriate and necessary, but when the latter 40 minutes of the film consist mainly of these three words shouted over and over, it gets ponderous.

COME & GET ME is the type of film that is unflinching in its brutality. It offers up an ugly look at some ugly-thinking men who just happen to be pretty ugly, coincidentally. But whereas other films in this subgenre attempt at least to include some story, theme, and nuance into the mix, this one settles on sticking to the violence, which ultimately makes it less interesting.

New this week on DVD from Screen Media Films and order on Netflix here!


Directed by Li Sheng Lin
Written by Li Sheng Lin
Starring Barbie Hsu, Guo Tao, Lin Xue, Shi Zhaoqi, Xiong Xinxin, Ding Jiali
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I loved this little Chinese ode to B movies. Sure it’s got a goofy little kid who loves a giant crocodile, but how is that any different than keeping two little fairies in a cage singing to a giant monster? In CROCZILLA aka MILLION DOLLAR CROCODILE, at least this film knows it is a goofy B movie, and that’s the reason I liked it so much.

When a crocodile farmer goes out of business, a local mob boss decides it’s a good idea to snag up his crop to make a profit out of. The prize possession of the farmer is a gigantic 36 foot crocodile named Amao, and it takes quite a few tranq darts just to subdue the gigantic monster. But the tranqs don’t last long, and soon we’ve got a croc run amok!

There’s nothing original about this story, but director Li Sheng Lin injects just the right amount of goofy humor (with accompanying goofy music) and just the right amount of effects and thrills to make it all entertaining. As the original LAKE PLACID did a few years ago, CROCZILLA knows that the audience has come to see a giant croc, and that’s what the story delivers for most of the film. There’s an especially effective scene where the croc-loving kid and an Olive Oyl-type annoying woman are bound upside down as bait for the croc that is actually quite thrilling in the way it is all set up, and this is just one of the numerous well-directed scenes of croc tension.

The fact that the effects are so good separates this film from the rest of the SyFy crap flicks we’re used to. This croc looks and moves realistically. The CG effects are nicely integrated into the panel, and the practical effects are pretty nifty as well. Amao is a scary beast and these effects amplify it to the highest intensity.

I have definitely seen worse croc horror films with much worse special effects. Though the title CROCZILLA isn’t the type that instills a lot of confidence and there is an annoying kid who likes to scream “AMAO! AMAO!” over and over, some clever direction and a damn convincing croc make CROCZILLA one of the better B movies I’ve seen in a while.

New this week on Video on Demand and digital download (iTunes)!

VAMP U (2013)

Directed by Matt Jespersen, Maclain Nelson
Written by Matt Jespersen, Maclain Nelson
Starring Adam Johnson, Julie Gonzalo, Gary Cole, Maclain Nelson, Alexis Knapp, Matt Mattson
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

There are a few vampire comedies that I actually like. LOVE AT FIRST BITE, ONCE BITTEN…I’m probably blanking on a few. But more often than not, when someone wants to splice horror with vamps, one ends up with DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT rather than anything worthwhile. That’s why I wasn’t really looking forward to checking out VAMP U, but after seeing it, I’d definitely lump this one in with the former films I mentioned rather than the latter.

Now, I wouldn’t call this film a guffaw a minute, but there were a few times the comedy worked on me and if I were a vamp and drinking a blood milkshake…well, I’d probably have spit out my blood milkshake a few times while watching this film.

The comedy mainly comes from the blasé way the actors deliver their lines and how nonchalant they are about the fact that their girlfriends are being turned into vampires. It’s as if these guys are so jaded from oversaturation of pop culture vampires that it’s not really a surprise that they exist. The would-be student vamp hunters played by Matt Mattson and Maclain Nelson were hilarious throughout this film, though they weren’t the stars of the film. Seeing these two bumble through Van Helsing territory had me chuckling throughout.

The main story is your typical Dracula love story as a vampire named Wayne Gretzky (no relation to the hockey star, and played by Adam Johnson) loses his ability to grow fangs after his love is lost to him. Getting by as a popular college professor with a lot of firsthand knowledge of specific stories in history, Wayne confides in his only confidant, Arthur Levine (played by the always fun Gary Cole). When a new student shows up looking a lot like his lost love, the fangs pop out and Wayne is having urges he hasn’t had in quite some time.

While the ending is a bit heavy-handed, the tone of the film keeps it light and snarky throughout. Now, I don’t guarantee a lot of gore and blood in this film, though there is some. And I don’t guarantee a lot of scares…because there aren’t. But I do think that the humor in VAMP U drives a stake into the heart of your funny bone about 75% of the time, and with shitty parody films like A HAUNTED HOUSE and SCARY MOVIE 345 striking out over and over every time they step to the plate, when it comes to horror comedies, I think 75% ain’t half bad. I was surprised at how funny this film is, and I think you might too.

New this week on DVD and order on Netflix here!

SMILEY (2011)

Directed by Michael Gallagher
Written by Michael Gallagher and Glasgow Phillips
Starring Caitlin Gerard, Melanie Papalia, Shane Dawson, Toby Turner, Roger Bart, & Keith David
Find out more about this film here! Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Seems trying to cash in on a new serial killer franchise will never go out of style. The problem is, the formula is so over-done that by following it, one automatically shoots oneself in the foot. That’s pretty much the case with SMILEY.

There isn’t anything particularly bad about SMILEY. It’s got your typical goody goody final girl being tormented by a killer who offs her friends in an orderly fashion until the final moments, where she comes face to face with him. There are some kills peppered about this story, one occurring about every 7 to 10 minutes. And the killer has a trademark look, here a Smiley face emoticon carved into his otherwise empty face.

The main problem with SMILEY is that by being so up to the minute with technology, it is almost assured that it will be out of touch and obsolete by the time the film is made and seen by the public. Seeing the chatrooms and old timey cell phones (I say “old timey” facetiously, since the phones used aren’t iPhones) used by the characters is bound to date this film and make it seem like a relic despite the fact that it was only made last year.

On top of that, the film assumes the viewers are complete morons as one character is constantly explaining what a chatroom is, what a computer hacker is, and even goes so far as to explain to us what a big, big word like “hypothesis” means! A lot of time is spent in this film explaining things that most take for granted in these tech savvy times--that is, when Smiley isn’t killing kids.

A techno CANDYMAN, Smiley appears to members in a chatroom after someone types “I did it for the lulz!” three times. Yes, I know, seems dumb--just as dumb as Bloody Mary and Candyman, I guess. Still, director/writer Michael Gallagher is able to throw in a few decent jump scares along the way. Sure most are predictable, but there are some capably orchestrated scenes of our final girl encountering this fiend on the interwebbies.

The two female leads, Caitlin Gerard and Melanie Papalia are actually pretty good here and very likable and it wouldn’t surprise me if they showed up in bigger movies some time soon. But this film isn’t really going to further their careers any. With most of the rest of the hipster cast busy wearing their wool hats in the summertime over their Fall Out Boy haircuts, these two actresses stand out like sore thumbs. What makes it worse is that Roger Bart & Keith David seem to just want to fart through their roles and really offer nothing to the script save for playing stock characters to cut to when exposition is necessary.

In the end, I doubt SMILEY is the start of a franchise it desperately wants to be. With a couple of decent kills and a pair of strong leads, that still wasn’t enough to make the smiley-faced murderer stand out. With an ambiguous ending which really doesn’t answer anything and even betrays its own logic for the sake of shock, SMILEY left me with more of a  than a .

New on DVD this week from Anchor Bay and order on Netflix here!


Directed by Douglas Schulze
Written by Douglas Schulze & Josh Wagner
Starring Allen Maldonado, Sid Haig, Lauren Mae Shafer, Courtney Gains, Taylor Piedmonte, David G.B. Brown, Jana Thompson, Gavin Grazer
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

So you don’t have to look it up, the mimesis in the title of this film refers to “life imitating art”, an interesting subject, and this film touches on this weighty theme throughout. In this day and age where films are labeled as the cause of tragedies and bad decisions made by flawed human beings, the scenario that plays out in MIMESIS: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD doesn’t really seem that crazy.

Opening in a horror convention, a wizened director played by the incomparable Sid Haig talks about art reflecting life and vice versa. In the audience, a pair of con-goers, one an avid fan and another too cool for school, comment on Haig’s commentary. After the con, a group of them find themselves groggy, only to wake up in a vaguely familiar scenario: the cemetery and farmhouse from the Romero classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. As the events play out and zombies gather outside, the group wonder if the dead have risen or is something even more twisted happening.

As with SCREAM and CABIN IN THE WOODS, which goes pretty meta with horror movie tropes, MIMESIS is actually a pretty smart little film. Though some of the acting isn’t top tier, the film makes up for it with a solid idea of “what if someone went to painful measures to recreate all of the factors to make a real life horror movie”. The result has the group questioning what is real and what is horror movie makeup as they seem to be cast as characters from the movie and are being picked off in a way very similar to the Romero film.

As the how and why come to light, this turns out to be a pretty interesting and original take on both the zombie genre and the horror genre as a whole and how it influences society. While the final moments start looking a lot like the closing bits of SCREAM, there is enough potential in this concept to be done with other classic horror films as suggested in the final moments.

There’s some thinkin’ that went into MIMESIS: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, something more horror needs to do, I feel. It’s not just a zombie movie or a serial killer film. It’s got a few more layers than that and a smart horror film is worth checking out in my book.

Out now in select theaters, Cable Video On Demand, and digital platforms from IFC Midnight order on Netflix here!


Directed by David Guy Levy
Written by Steffen Schlachtenhaufen
Starring Brittany Snow, Jeffrey Combs, Jonny Coyne, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Enver Gjokaj, Sasha Grey, John Heard, Logan Miller
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While basically this is yet another version of the SAW franchise set to the game Would You Rather?, where participants are forced to choose to do one of two suggested horrible or heinous acts, this new film from IFC Midnight (a company who usually offers up some of the more top tier horror these days) is actually a decent little morality tale.

The key component which makes this film work is the actors involved. Lead Brittany Snow (PROM NIGHT remake, PITCH PERFECT) is a talented actress and does a good job carrying the moral core of this film as the noble sister to a dying brother, which makes her desperate enough to accept millionaire Lambrick’s (Jeffrey Combs) offer to play a game over dinner. Seven others accept the invitation too, and soon they find themselves at the heart of a twisted game with Combs playing the twisted ringmaster. DOLLHOUSE’s Enver Gjokaj plays another one of the participants, as does veteran actor and HOME ALONE dad John Heard.

Though the challenges aren’t that original or shocking, what makes this film interesting are the characters established and how Combs pushes them to choose who they inflict torture on in the group. Forced at gunpoint, the participants must either hurt themselves or others, and while the challenges get a bit repetitive as the same one goes around the table, the choices the characters make is where the intrigue lies.

Ultimately this is a game of dare with desperate participants, and with reality shows going the way they have been going it wouldn’t surprise me if something like this film would appear on network television some time. But it does make for an interesting character study as each of the player’s morals and strength of will are challenged.

Though the ending is abrupt as all get out, the trip there is a decent one full of nice bits of acting, Jeffrey Combs chewing the scenery as the host, and some interesting moral conundrums. WOULD YOU RATHER? surprised me, and though there are whiffs of torture porn, the moral challenges make it an interesting trip.

And finally…here’s a quirky little scare from the director of NAILBITER, Patrick Rea, teaching us: if your copy machine tells you something…you’d better listen. Enjoy!

Copy from Patrick Rea on Vimeo.

See ya next week, folks!

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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