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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week I’ve got looks at swooping lizards, talking dolls, erotic night terrors, zombies vs. geezers, jungle monsters, space pirates, a whodunnit, chainsaw cannibals and sex obsessed teens!

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: TWILIGHT ZONE SEASON FIVE Episodes 1-7 (1963-64)
Retro-review: NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT (1970)
Retro-Review: Q: THE WINGED SERPENT (1982)
And finally…MELISSA!

Retro-Review: New on DVD this week from Image Entertainment!


Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Episode 5.1: IN PRAISE OF PIP
Directed by Joseph M. Newman
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Jack Klugman, Bill Mumy, Connie Gilchrist, Russell Horton, S. John Launer, Bob Diamond
Reminiscent of JACOB’S LADDER, Rod Serling tells another heartwrenching tale of war and how it affects those at home in a dual tale about a man who is wounded on the warzone and a man back home shot in a shady business deal. The connection between the two men is obvious since both involve a kid named Pip (played by LOST IN SPACE’s Bill Mumy), but it’s Jack Klugman’s powerful performance as a man who would sacrifice anything to see his son one last time that steals the show. Klugman is amazing in this one and I pity those who don’t have enough soul to shed at least one tear by the time this one is over. One of the more powerful TWILIGHT ZONEs I’ve ever seen, this one shows how Serling himself was affected by his stint in the Army and his complex viewpoints on war itself which he explores many times in the TWILIGHT ZONE series.

Episode 5.2: STEEL
Directed by Don Weis
Written by Richard Matheson
Starring Lee Marvin, Joe Mantell
One of my favorites of this week’s batch; STEEL features one of my favorite actors ever to grace the screen, Lee Marvin. Here Marvin oozes tough and heart as a former prize fighter who is forced to step in the boxing ring acting like a robot. You see, in the future, the barbaric sport of boxing is outlawed and machines do all the fighting. But Marvin’s robot malfunctions before the match and he’s forced to step into the robot’s shoes. It’s thrilling and heartbreaking stuff and makes crap like REAL STEEL look like a sock-armed slapfight by comparison.

Episode 5.3: NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET
Directed by Richard Donner
Written by Richard Matheson
Starring William Shatner, Christine White, Asa Maynor, Ed Kemmer
For many reasons, this will be the crowd pleaser of the bunch as it’s always fun to see William Shatner in his youth. And Shatner is really good here as a flight passenger who swears he sees a man on the wing of the plane he’s flying in. Sure John Lithgow and George Miller knocked their version out of the park, but though the baggy costumed gremlin is pretty laughable, a young Richard Donner puts together a damn tense little story here. I hadn’t seen this one in ages and it’s always a treat seeing this episode; one of the most famous in all of the show’s history for good reason.

Directed by John Rich
Written by Rod Serling based on a story by Milton D. Rosenthal
Starring Richard Erdman, Doris Singleton, Herbie Faye
I remember seeing the remake version of this in the late eightes TWILIGHT ZONE series and having my mind blown to bits by it. That episode had a woman lead wishing for more time to do things and getting the extreme of that wish. Though I haven’t seen that episode since it was aired, I still prefer it to this episode of time standing still mainly because Richard Erdman is so damn effective at playing a character more annoying than an earring made of a gnat on a short string. Though I’m not familiar with the actor’s work, I’m sure he’s played more likable roles I’m not aware of, but in this episode he does a fantastic job of being the worst person you could think of to want to spend the end of eternity with. Seeing the cast act frozen and watching Erdman pull pranks with his newfound power to stop time is fun, still, he’s annoying as all get out.

Directed by Joseph M. Newman
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Mickey Rooney
Mickey Rooney offers up a one man show as an angered jockey shamed, defeated and beating himself up in his hotel room. Sure the melodrama is thick, but Rooney is able to carry the entire half hour episode by himself; a chore most actors wouldn’t be able to do. The twist ending is comical, especially Rooney’s reaction to the change of events, but still this was one of the more impressive entries in this season, more for the fact that it highlights the broad range of stories the show is able to feature and the watchability of one talented actor.

Episode 5.6: LIVNG DOLL
Directed by Richard C. Sarafian
Written by Jerry Sohl
Starring Telly Savalas, Mary LaRoche, Tracy Stratford, and featuring the voice of June Foray
A lot of people find this episode to be creepy as they come and maybe if I hadn’t seen the NIGHT GALLERY episode THE DOLL before hand, I’d think so too. It basically follows the same story as THE DOLL with a father being tormented by his child’s new doll, but the grungy face and wicked eyes of THE DOLL is a million and three times scarier than Talky Tina. Still, this episode has Telly Savalas as a grumpy dad, so it has its merits.

Episode 5.7: OLD MAN IN THE CAVE
Directed by Alan Crosland, Jr.
Written by Rod Serling based on a short story by Henry Slesar
Starring John Anderson, James Coburn, John Marley
Rounding out this first septet of episodes in Season Five is a cautionary tale about war and faith. As a group of militaristic survivalists (lead by James Coburn) arrive in a small town after the world has ended, they plant the seed of doubt in their belief in the words coming from an old man in a cave outside of the small burg. John Anderson plays the wise townsman who knows the secret of the man in the cave and how important he is to the town, even if the townsfolk don’t. The end is predictable knowing how these TWILIGHT ZONEs often end with a twist, but this continues the trend of Serling’s tendency to have a lot to say about war and how it can easily corrupt the humanity we all hold precious.

I’ll have another grouping of TWILIGHT ZONE Episodes to review next week from both seasons four and five since these two collections were released so close together.

Retro-review: New on DVD & BluRay from Kino Lorber/Redemption (Find this film on Netflix here)


Directed by Jesus Franco
Written by Jesus Franco & Josyane Gibert
Starring Diana Lorys, Paul Muller, Jack Taylor, Colette Giacobine, Andrés Monales, Soledad Miranda
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

If you saw the last two films I reviewed by Jesus (Jess) Franco, THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF (reviewed here) and A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD (reviewed here), and said to yourself “Those films are great and all, but I’m looking for a Franco film that is much more obtuse and opaque”, then NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT might be for you. The rest of the world, just steer clear of this one.

While in THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF and A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD Franco was able to show that he had the chops when it comes to a decently structured story, creepy atmosphere, and solid scares, critics of Franco for being somewhat of a pervy schlock-meister have more of a point when you look at NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT, as it is filled almost from beginning to end with naked women in some kind of duress.

The film focuses on Franco’s ORLOF starlet Diana Lorys, who spends most of this film partially or all the way naked. She is plagued by nightmares of death and murder, giving her a reason to moan and sob uncontrollably through the whole thing. I am still astonished at how much Lorys looks like Eva Mendes, and seeing her running around in the buff is definitely not something awful. I just wish there was a story to wrap around all of this sex and nudity.

Franco tries here to make things artsy with inner monologues and existential pinings by the depressed and haunted lead. Those around her who she feels most comfortable with, her lover (the gorgeous blonde and equally always nude Colette Giacobine) and her shrink, appear to be supportive, but there are sinister happenings that show that the nightmares may be the machinations from a devious party. Still, all of this backstabbing and plotting takes second chair to keeping these ladies undressed, showing them undressing, or having their clothes ripped off of them.

Having seen some of Franco’s earlier works, I know it was within his capabilities to make a thriller focusing on a woman plagued by nightmares. In NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT, we get hints of this, but for the most part, this is T&A with a lot of people trying their damndest to make it feel like art.

Retro-review: New this week on DVD & BluRay from Kino Lorber/Redemption (Find this film on Netflix here)


Directed by Mario Bava
Written by Mario di Nardo
Starring William Berger, Ira von Fürstenberg, Maurice Poli, Edwige Fenech, Howard Ross, Helena Ronee, Teodoro Corrà, Ely Galleani, Edith Meloni, Mauro Bosco
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

One cannot watch this film today and not think about AUSTIN POWERS, as Mario Argento’s swingin’ version of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE touches all clichés when it comes to happenin’ party films of the late sixties and early seventies. Less giallo and more straight up mystery, today’s audiences might find FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON more entertaining than it originally intended to be.

The story focuses on a secluded island owned by a billionaire playboy. It opens on a shagadelic party where turtlenecked men lounge on couches of all shapes and sizes watching a big-haired girl shimmy and shake to the electro funk music of the age. Sipping from their martini glasses and snifters, Bava’s camera zooms in and out at rapid speed making sure we know that this is the place to be. The group is made up of people that never would hang out together; it’s almost an exact game of CLUE with everything from a Ms. Peacock to a Professor Plum represented. The shindig is put together to celebrate a new formula the professor has come up with as the others vulture around looking to profit from it, but basically that’s just an excuse to get these people together in one place so a mysterious party member can begin picking them off one by one.

When the murders begin, it’s almost comical as the surviving members of the party begin hanging the bodies up in the meat locker for lack of anything better to do with them. It’s both macabre and hilarious all at once as the bodies start to pile up and the corpses swing to the synth rhythms by the meathooks. The tone is dark, but with the styles of both the filmmaking and the fashions and trends of the age fully represented, once can’t help but laugh. There’s even a rotating fuzzy bed and shag carpeting all over the place.

The mystery itself is pretty ludicrous, as is the explanation of it. There are all kinds of contrivances going on, but this film was so damn fun to watch, I couldn’t help but forgive it for its narrative weaknesses.

In the end, FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON (arguable one of the coolest titles for a film ever) is a precious snippet of the fashions, trends, and lifestyle of a decadent bygone era. Looking at it through that lens, one can’t help but have fun. Though not the strongest mystery, there’s enough mojo in FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON to keep one highly watchable from start to finish.

Retro-review: (Find this film on Netflix here)


Directed by Larry Cohen
Written by Larry Cohen
Starring David Carradine, Michael Moriarty, Candy Clark, Richard Roundtree, James Dixon, Malachy McCourt, Fred J. Scollay, Peter Hock, Ron Cey, Mary Louise Weller
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

While I’m a fan of stop motion and usually light up when I see the herky jerky movements of an obvious model of a giant monster holding an even more obvious model of a human being, when the effects are this bad, it makes me rethink my admiration a bit. Q: THE WINGED SERPENT has some decent moments, but that doesn’t make up for an utterly boring film.

And Q shouldn’t be boring with a cast such as this. Michael Moriarty plays a down and out con man who happens upon the nest of a giant winged serpent that is terrorizing New York. Most of the film for some reason focuses on Moriarty’s character, and while the actor is as charismatic as he always is scatting blues on the piano, mulling over his drink at a bar, and losing his woman, the title of the film is Q: THE WINGED SERPENT, not M: THE DRUNK LOSER. James Carradine and Richard Rountree also make appearances as cops investigating a string of murders and sightings of a giant lizard in the sky swooping down and picking up its human prey, but both feel sandwiched into the movie for their names rather than stuff for them to actually do.

The concept is awesome, and I can understand not showing the monster in the first portions of the film. That’s a given in these monster movies, but the problem is, while having a giant claw snatch a bathing beauty from a rooftop and blood spatter dripping onto the crowd walking the sidewalks and streets below are cool concepts, the feasibility of a giant lizard flying through New York not being noticed by the authorities is pretty low. Even in the early Eighties when this was filmed, there were cameras and even if there was, say, a camera shortage, I believe people had the ability to look up. This is explained away a bit in that the creature knows to have the sun to its back as he swoops in on his prey. That helps for the prey, but not for everyone else, and for the beast to go unnoticed, especially if it’s camping out in one of the tall buildings, is a bit of a stretch.

So while the bulk of this film is filler with Moriarty playing a sad sack and screaming “Woe is me!”, the set up of a big confrontation between the NYPD and the giant serpent is immense with little or no payoff to be seen. Even when the monster is shown, the director knew to make the cuts quick because the stop motion model looked so bad.

If anything, Q would make for an amazing remake since technology has caught up to the expansiveness of the idea and I don’t think there are going to be many purists out there angry because a big budget Q is being revisited. As is, Q is the perfect example of big ideas without the budget or tech to back it. The performances are great, but those looking for a giant serpent movie are going to be bored to death.

Available now on Video On Demand (Find this film on Netflix here)


Directed by Terence Daw
Written by Terence Daw
Starring Billy Zane, Christina Cole, Natalie Mendoza, Joel Torre, Louise Barnes, Colin Moss, Gerald Zarcilla
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Though it could have gone the route of the found footage motif, I’m glad SURVIVING EVIL aka EVIL ISLAND went a more traditional way to tell their story of jungle horror. Being a fan of this type of scarefest, I found myself pleasantly surprised by this clichéd but well done tropic terror.

This is an odd little jungle nugget of a movie, just shy of great because of some boneheaded moves in the script. Instances of characters suggesting they all split up, ignoring obvious signs of something being off, and other things that normal people with two brain cells to rub together wouldn’t do in this situation if it existed in the real world makes SURVIVING EVIL a film that shoots itself in the foot narratively.

The monster du jour is the Pilipino legend of the Aswang, a sort of jungle vampire monkey creature that shifts its shape and cannot go underground for some reason. They also appear to be afraid of fire and bright light. So while the rules of the game are somewhat murky here, the actual beasts are quite creepy looking, all teeth and blood covered—looking a lot like a life-size Zuni fetish doll from TRILOGY OF TERROR.

The performances here are fun as well, with Billy Zane chewing up the scenery literally as a survivalist who knows what to eat and where to sleep as the star of a jungle survival show, the type one sees on Discovery and channels like that. Zane, though he seems horribly underused in Hollywood, has that corny yet commanding presence that few actors possess; perfect for this type of role. Also along for the ride is Natalie Mendoza, who played the spunky spelunkerer Juno in THE DESCENT; here she takes on similar beasties above ground, but has a softer character with less to work with this time around. Mendoza is another face I was sure I’d see more of after THE DESCENT, but for some reason she hasn’t been around (though some research shows that Mendoza has been performing in the Broadway version of SPIDER-MAN for the last few years, which explains her cinematic absence). The rest of the cast is not as well known, but equally capable of handling the chores the script requires.

Ultimately predictable and at times head-slappingly clichéd, still I had fun with SURVIVING EVIL, more for the strong performances from the cast and an original monster than the flawed script.

New this week on DVD/BluRay!


Directed by Matthias Hoene
Written by James Moran & Lucas Roche
Starring Georgia King, Lee Asquith-Coe, Michelle Ryan, Alan Ford, Harry Treadaway, Honor Blackman, Richard Briers, Tony Gardner, Dominic Burns
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I’ve said this before about found footage films. I’m not sick of the amount of found footage films out there...I’m sick of watching bad ones. As long as the film offers me something new and exciting, I’m in. I’m the same way with zombie films. Though many write off all new zombie films at first glance because of the amount of zombie films shambling about the new releases today, those same people might be missing out on the next great zombie film.

Case in point: COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES.

A pair of construction workers stumble across a tomb while digging the foundation for a new building and upon opening it up in hopes of finding treasure, instead they stumble upon a bunch of trapped living corpses. Plain, simple, BAM. This set-up happens in the first two minutes, which gives the rest of the runtime the chance to just have fun with the zombie apocalypse.

And it does, in spades. The thing about zombie films is that it is not about the zombies themselves. They don’t have personality. They aren’t characters. They are just fodder for interesting people to go up against. If that group of survivors are interesting, well-developed characters, then all the better a movie it is. In COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES, the group of survivors in question is a group of East End, working class London folk known affectionately to the world as Cockneys: a group known to be tough, no-nonsense sort of folks who may not be the most civilized bunch, but are generally good people. Basically, if you’re looking for the equivalent in my home town of Chicago, we’re talking about Southside White Sox fans.

Pitting this type of group against the living dead offers up a lot of fun opportunities, and this film takes those opportunities and runs with them. Basically, this is a Guy Richie film with zombies. LOCK, STOCK & TWO SMOKING ZOMBIES, if you will. When a group of amateur criminals try to save their elderly grandparents’ retirement community by robbing a bank, everything goes pear-shaped when zombies come in and muck up the works. Expect a lot of colorful language. Expect a lot of tough guy posturing. Expect a lot of zombies, and you’re bound to be pleased.

Some might say that this film has already been made with SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Comparisons are bound to happen, but while SHAUN focused more on one man-child’s journey into manhood via hilarious zombie tomfoolery, this film doesn’t go as deep. SHAUN, despite its hijinx, had some deathly serious moments. In COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES, the tone is lighter and the laughs are not as sophisticated. Still, the laughs are there. There are some downright hilarious scenes as zombie football fans of different teams meet each other in the street and we find out that team spirit beats zombie appetite every time. There’s a baby scene that is so wrong, but so hilariously right in the way it is played out. Plus a character with a metal plate in his head proves to be difficult to kill once he becomes a zombie. Over and over, this film had me laughing out loud at the inventive and downright genius comedic scenarios constructed.

But the true highlight of the film are the elderly folks taking on the zombie masses. From a low speed chase as a man in a walker runs as fast as he can (which isn’t fast at all) from a slow zombie to the scene where a zombie gnaws on a wooden leg, this film is filled with fantastic old person vs. zombie action. Leading the grey-haired pack is tough guy actor Alan Ford (SNATCH’s Brick Top), who takes on the zombies with a sneer and machine gun.

There is a lot to enjoy about COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES. Though not very deep thematically, it makes up for it with laugh out loud moments aplenty. There’s nary a groaner (despite the zombies, of course) when it comes to the comedy. The cast of young actors are talented in acting dim-witted, and the elderly thespians show that they can kick zombie ass just as well as the young folks. Before you dismiss this as “just another zombie movie”, take a moment. Out of all the zombie films made today, there’s got to be a good one every now and then. COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES is one of those good ones.

New this week on DVD (Find this film on Netflix here)


Directed by Travis Zariwny
Written by Travis Zariwny
Starring Roark Critchlow, Sean Patrick Flanery, Jeremy London, Jennifer Jalene, John Lee Ames, Jamie Strange, Brett Curtze, Louise Linton, Tyler Poelle, J.J. Nolan, Russell Richardson
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Usually my credo with sci fi is “Go big or go home.” Any attempt to do sci fi on a small budget with small ideas usually come off as…how do I describe it…well, I guess original STAR TREK episodes set to today’s standards, meaning that it feels pretty primitive and uninspired compared to the spectacle and technology present in today’s modern-looking blockbusters. The original STAR TREK holds up due to strong storytelling, but for the most part, if you see those types of effects in a modern film, the storytelling, most likely, will not be up to snuff and you get something replaying on SyFy on a Saturday afternoon rather than a film worth investing in. Now, that’s not saying that a low budget, small idea sci fi can’t be made (MOON is a great example of this, relying on character not spectacle), but again, successes are usually exceptions to the rule.

Supporting that rule that small sci fi equals shoddy results is SCAVENGERS, an ambitious but flawed endeavor from writer/director Travis Zariwny. The story revolves around a group of space pirates called Scavengers who scour the cosmos, picking at the wreckage left over from an ages-long conflict. Though not a part of the battle themselves, the crew accumulates and then sells anything they can forage from these wrecked and decimated floating graveyards. On a semi-routine voyage, meaning that it’s full of danger and mishaps, the crew happens upon a device called the Chaos Generator, which may be the most powerful weapon in the universe. Now this ragtag little crew of reject scavengers are wanted by all sorts of armies, enemy scavenger crews, and basically everyone else in the galaxies.

In terms of concept, this isn’t a bad one; high flying pirates in space sounds like a whiz bang good time to me. I also like some of the lines these characters have and the terminology they use. Some of the names of these swarthy types like Breathtaker and Twelve (who is called that because he has managed to accidentally kill himself 12 times and is cloned into a new body over and again) are fun in concept as well. Idea wise, this feels like the layout for a series one might find on SyFy on any given Tuesday about fifteen years ago.

Unfortunately, the acting aside from a few characters is the pits. And that’s surprising, coming from the likes of Sean Patrick Flanery whose accent switches from Cockney to Southern to maybe Creole (?) to mumbles and back again throughout the whole film as he plays the one-dimensional “I’m evil and I love it” bad guy of the show. His performance alone makes everything else look Oscar-bound in comparison, as the talented actor tries too damn hard to be intense and ends up being just cartoony. Jason London also unearths himself from wherever he’s been to play a dirty pirate on a lost planet and is better than Flanery, but not by much. Other actors with less of a resume deliver pretty awful dialog with very low energy or skill. The exceptions here are Roark Critchlow, who plays the lead good pirate in possession of the Chaos Generator, and Doc (played by the bright-eyed beauty Jamie Strange). Both of these character actors do a great job with what they’ve got here.

All of the promising ideas in the world aren’t going to glimmer if they are shat out by capable actors going for a paycheck and other actors with not enough experience to deliver the lines with confidence. Everyone is acting in that kind of intense manner that is often found in shallower sci fi films where everything is a dire situation and all gruff and bravado-laden and yelly. The effects are almost cartoonish as well, though there is a nice practical scene where a guy explodes that is well done. SCAVENGERS is not without some fun initial ideas, but fails in the execution at almost every step of the way implementing them.

Available on Video On Demand today and in select theaters October 11th (Find this film on Netflix here)!


Directed by Jonathan Levine
Written by Jacob Forman
Starring Amber Heard, Anson Mount, Whitney Able, Michael Welch, Edwin Hodge, Aaron Himelstein, Luke Grimes, Melissa Price, Adam Powell,
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

This film kind of infuriated me. Basically, it’s about a girl who is the apple of everyone’s eye and occasionally leads them on, then gets angry when the guys hit on her, only to do what every hot high school girl does and direct her attentions toward an older guy.

There’s more to ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, but the above is a decent summation as DRIVE ANGRY’s Amber Heard leads a cast of up-and-coming good-looking teen stars along by their cocks. Having heard quite a bit about this film over the years and years it’s been shelved, I think the time gestating hasn’t been kind to it, since the expectations on the film have become somewhat gargantuan. I will give credit where credit is due; it does have a hell of a cast. Shrewd eyes will pick out TWILIGHT’s Michael Welch, HELL ON WHEELS frontman Anson Mount, MONSTERS star Whitney Able and Aaron Himelstein, who played young Austin Powers in GOLDMEMBER. All of the actors involved here are great--much more talented than most films of this kind.

The story begins as director Jonathan Levine’s camera lingers across Mandy’s body as she slo mo walks through the hallways of her school cut against a montage of all students (boys and girls) looking her up and down with either lust, admiration, or jealousy. Levine wants us to fall in love with this girl, and Heard is definitely beautiful, but he forgets to give her much of a character throughout the film. I originally thought this was a conscious move and going to lead to a major revelation that Mandy is a succubus or a witch or something supernatural was going to come into play causing of all of this admiration, but there’s no such payoff. Just like all the boys and some of the girls in ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, we are supposed to love Mandy simply because she is has perfect hair and a thin waist. Because of this the film feels shallow, or maybe that’s the statement Levine is going for in that teenager culture, for the most part, is shallow. But for some reason, I don’t want to give this film that much credit.

I will give it to this film in that it has some great shots of the scenery and of the kids having fun. Sure they look very music video-y, but for the most part, Levine’s camera soaks up these young good-lookings and their environment well. At the same time, there are also some inventive kills, which are always fun to see. I also like that the victims here take a while to die, which adds another factor of danger to the mix, as the killer wounds the victims to be used as bait for later kills.

In the end, ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE is your typical teen slasher film, only filmed with a slightly more talented and more stylized hand than most of the films in this subgenre of horror. It doesn’t make it necessarily bad, just kind of morally twisted and vapid, especially how it all turns out. Had the film given Mandy a bit of depth to deserve all of this lusting, I’d have been along for the ride. I guess there are girls like this out there, who just flit along due to their good looks, but to make a film that emulates that rather than criticize it seems somewhat off base.

In select theaters today!


Directed by Duane Graves & Justin Meeks
Written by Kim Henkel, Jonathan Swift
Starring Ali Faulkner, Edwin Neal, Marilyn Burns, Derek Lee Nixon, Johnny Walter, Gregory Kelly, Karrie Cox, Sonny Carl Davis, Phillip Wolf, Justin Meeks, Tory Tompkins, John Dugan, Bill Johnson, Bill Wise, Jack Lee, Nikki Donley, Matt Hensarling
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Wow, this is one bizarre little monkey of a film. There are those who are going to loathe this one as it definitely reminds me of Henkel’s last and only directoral film TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION which is fascinating in the way the film jumps the rails and belly flops right smack dab in the middle of crazytown in the latter half. Still, I couldn’t look away from this joyous train wreck of a movie. I can only compare it to the feeling you get when you are running down a steep hill and all of a sudden you feel like if you don’t keep moving your legs, you’re going to fall ass over shoulders, but somehow you maintain your balance until you hit level ground. Now imagine if that run were an hour and a half long and you’ll have a good idea of what watching this movie is like.

BUTCHER BOYS literally hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until the credits roll. After a very brief intro where, we find out the brother and sister pairing in the backseat of a car (Sissy and Mikey, played by Ali Faulkner and Phillip Wolf, respectively) are hanging out with their friend Kenny (Matt Hensarling) and his danger-seeking whore of a girlfriend Barbie (Tory Tompkins), we cut to the chase and get to the point of this film, which is incidentally, the chase. Though the beginning getting-to-know-you time is brief, we get a clear indication that Sissy and Mikey don’t like Barbie, Barbie is using Kenny to get a rise out of him by flirting with other guys, and Kenny gives no shits because Barbie is hot. When they hit a dog running across a street, they gain the attention of a gang of guys dressed like they just tumbled out of WEST SIDE STORY and the chase is immediately on. The rest of the film follows the four kids as they run for their lives from these madmen and stumble into a building that houses a secret society of cannibals, fetishists, and madmen.

What interested me most about this film is that Henkel originally wanted this one to be a part of the TEXAS CHAINSAW universe, but the rights didn’t belong to him, so the headstrong Texan wrote the damn movie anyway and changed the details ever so slightly to avoid legal action. So while we don’t have a chainsaw wielding man-baby wearing the flesh of his victims on his face, we do have a drooling berserker of a gang member brandishing a chainsaw and a howling man-baby-monster chained to the wall who looks and acts a whole hell of a lot like Leatherface’s more ape like cousin. The structure of the film is exactly the same as the original TCM and TCM:TNG which has the extra-long chase scene ending with a woman bound to a chair forced to have a meal with a bunch of lunatics that makes ALICE IN WONDERLANDS Tea Party look like…well, a tea party. While the structure is the same and a lot of the characters feel interchangeable with past TCM characters (there’s even a slick and charming hitchhiker type reminiscent of Viggo Mortensen’s Tex from CHAINSAW III, which Henkel was not involved in), there are two things which set this film apart from those past TCM films…

…and that’s Duane Graves and Justin Meeks. The directing team behind one of my favorite films in the last ten years WILDMAN OF THE NAVIDAD (reviewed here) really do a fantastic job of being the glue that keeps this loony bin bundled. While the story is familiar, Meeks and Graves surprisingly handle the action in a manner that is both kinetic and unnerving as they follow final girl Ali Faulkner around and put her through holy hell. There are scenes of nerve-shredding tension and some expertly times actual scares (no cat jumping into frame or joke scares in this one), proving that the pair who made the sublimely discomforting world of the Navidad and all of the wild men in it ooze into the back of our brains is capable of so much more than just creeping scares. The pace of this film makes you feel too frantic to care if you’ve been down these trails before in other films. Meeks and Graves keep it all running smoothly and frantically from beginning to end.

Other fun oddities of this film include cameos by TCM alum; Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Bill Johnson, John Dugan, Bill Wise, Ed Guinn, Terri McMinn, Perry Lorenz, and James Bargsley. The film itself was filmed on some of the locations filmed in previous CHAINSAW movies and the story is based on Jonathan Swift’s story of cannibalism “A Modest Proposal”. Gore galore is sloshed around a plenty, including a chick who remains alive despite the fact that her skull cap has been removed and her brain is being shredded by a cheese grader.

I can’t stress enough the level of nuts this film bores down into. Remember how your jaw dropped when you saw Matthew McConaughey screaming and slicing his chest open with a straight razor in TCM: TNG? Shit’s reached that level of nuts by the time the final act of BUTCHER BOYS plays out. See this film for the oddity that it is. Having revisited Henkel’s TCM: TNG and loathing it the first time around for the derivations the film took from the film series as a whole; I respect it now for the level of loony it plunges into. That same level of respect is there for BUTCHER BOYS too. It’s bound to frustrate some who prefer a sense of sanity to balance out the madness, but there’s nothing by a mile released this weekend or any other weekend this year that is as certifiably batshit as BUTCHER BOYS.

And finally…I have an amazing short film called MELISSA! from writer/director Michael Sykora and Ravavilad Films. It’s a really well-made ode to old time monster movies like FRANKENSTEIN about a deformed monster who befriends a boy. It toured fests last year and was just recently released online. Check out this awesome short with gore, chills, laughs, and heart…

Melissa! from Ravavilad! 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 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s 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 from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.

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