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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Let’s leap right into the horror reviews with both feet, shall we?

But first, for those of you across the pond, you get to enjoy the release of PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL to DVD from Second Sight UK. The film looks really cool, but I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet.

Below is the trailer and you can find out more about how to get your grubby hands on it here!

Now, for realsy, on with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

JUG FACE (2013)
SAVAGED (2013)
Advance Review: THE SACRAMENT (2013)
And finally…Todd E. Freeman’s M IS FOR MARRIAGE!

Retro-review: New on BluRay from The Shout Factory!


Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
Written by Olaf Pooley (screenplay), Bernard Taylor (novel)
Starring Malcolm Stoddard, Cyd Hayman, Angela Pleasence, Patrick Barr, Wilhelmina Green, Angela Deamer, Lee Gregory, Piers Eady
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

As I chug through this four pack from The Scream Factory, glomming four dissimilar horror films together in one cheaply priced pack, I am now half way through and I’ve yet to find one I can actually recommend. The four films include THE OUTING, THE GODSEND, THE VAGRANT, and WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? Last week, I checked out THE OUTING (full review here) and was not impressed. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be watching them all.

Children are creepy; with their big eyes and lack of ability to do complex stuff and their reliance on adults for simple things like food, shelter, and protection from larger animals. Sure we hold children near and dear to our hearts, but what happens if this kid is just downright evil? That’s a question posed but never really answered in the killer kid schlocker THE GODSEND. Based on a novel by Bernard Taylor, judging from the film, I wonder what was left out as the movie is one insubstantial event linked after another by a creepy albino kid who stares a lot.

Though I had fun watching THE GODSEND, the alarming way the a family of four flits through their lives and adopting this obviously devil-spawned kid made me think that they actually deserved the horrors that befall them. When a freaky eyed pregnant stranger (played by Angela Pleasence, who looks scarily too much like her father Donald) shows up on their doorstep looking for shelter in the rain, the parents of a large family kindly take them in. She goes into labor and then disappears the next morning, leaving the child behind for the family to adopt. Soon their own kids start dying, mostly due to the fact that the parents leave their children alone entirely too much, and the culprit seems to be this innocent looking girl (at least to anyone with half a brain, which doesn’t include the idiot parents).

It takes five of their kids dying for them to get savvy to their adopted kids murderous tendencies and while the viewer is supposed to feel for this family, I couldn’t feel anything but frustration because they are the stupidest parents this side of the Octo-mom. Seeing the death of children is always horrific, but when it happens with such wanton stupidity and milked for the most dramatic effect by some very hammy actors, it’s hard to shed anything but barbs of sarcasm for the characters.

THE GODSEND is one of those films that is made to shock and appall, but does neither because they fail to make the characters investment worthy. Sure no one wants horrible things to happen to characters in films. You want to root for the good guys to survive and triumph, but when they are as stupid as the parents are in this film, it’s almost impossible to do so, leaving this film to be hollow and forgettable because of the shallow attempts at melodrama and poor execution.

Hopefully the next two films are good, because so far (considering this film and THE OUTING), half of this 4 pack are ripe rotten stinkers.

Sorry, I could only find the French trailer of the film below.

New this week on BluRay/DVD!


Directed by Carl Bessai
Written by Andrew C. Erin, Sheldon Roper, David Sanderson
Starring Sharon Hinnendael, Kaniehtiio Horn, C.C. Sheffield, Chelsey Reist, Victor Webster, Robert Moloney, Ryan Kennedy, Keegan Connor Tracy, Olivia Cheng
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

The original EMBRACE OF THE VAMPIRE is known best for two things, and that’s Alyssa Milano’s breasts which were bared in the film for the first time. Other than that, and maybe the Charlotte Lewis nudity as well, the film was a lame attempt at making soft core porn and adding vampires to the mix. Shuffling to a future time slot on Skinemax is the remake of EMBRACE OF THE VAMPIRE and for the most part, the film is better than it should be and is one of those rare instances where the remake is better than the original.

Now, I’m not going to tout EMBRACE 2013 as a great film. For the most part, it’s a hot babe tempted by the urge to drink blood in between the lesbianism, heterosexual sex, and shower scenes. But there are some effective scenes here and most of them are due to a cast that is way more talented than the script.

Sharon Hinnendael plays Charlotte, the new girl on campus, there on a scholarship for fencing, interested in literary studies and working in a coffee shop and playing the role of the sheltered outcast. While she makes quite a splash on her first day, raising the eyebrows of her fencing coach and her professors, during a night of hazing by the rest of the girls on the fencing team Charlotte is forced to drink alcohol for the first time and it seems that’s all that was necessary to awaken a curse than has been passed down through generations. Experiencing nightmares involving fangs, loosened teeth, and gallons of blood, Charlotte seems to be turning into something she only sees in her lectures at school, a vampire (or something like a vampire, at least).

What works are the dream sequences. There’s an especially grueling one as Charlotte’s teeth fall out and she vomits blood that really hit me on a visceral level that I wasn’t prepared for. Another scene on a camping trip is well done as a vampire descends on a group of teens in the woods. The problem is that the romance and teen angst is hyped up to 11 here, and makes for some eye rolling at the way the cast is whispering their lines and overacting to make up for the bad dialog.

EMBRACE OF THE VAMPIRE is TWILIGHT with a bit more bite. Though there’s a lot of focus on the angst and a lot of scenes of our young heroine pondering the heap of responsibilities she is facing upon arriving to college, the gratuitous nudity and gore makes up for it, making me think that, had TWILIGHT gone this route, it might not be so despised by horror fans (then again, it would have alienated the tweens who flocked to it). As is, this is your better than average romanticized vampire flick that may sustain your interest when it pops up on cable soon.

Available this week on DVD from MVD Home Video!

JUG FACE (2013)

Directed by Chad Crawford Kinkle
Written by Chad Crawford Kinkle
Starring Sean Bridgers, Lauren Ashley Carter, Larry Fessenden, Katie Groshong, Alex Maizus, Daniel Manche, Sean Young
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Now playing in select theaters across the country is JUG FACE, and if you’re a fan of this column, you’re definitely going to know this is my type of horror as it is produced by THE WOMAN director Lucky McKee, stars two of that film’s stars, and even has a soundtrack by the same musician, Sean Spillane. Though this is an entirely different film in tone and story, one can’t help but feel the magic captured in THE WOMAN in this new film JUG FACE.

The story is an unconventional one focusing on a community of hillbillies in the woods of Tennessee. Led by patriarch Sustin (Larry Fessenden, the mastermind behind the excellent teleplay series TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE), the family worship a creature that lives in a shallow pit. In order to appease this beast, a sacrifice must be made, and when the potter of family Dewai (played by THE WOMAN’s Sean Bridgers) receives a vision, a ceramic jug with the face of the sacrifice is made. This is a ritual that seemingly has gone on for ages, and it is viewed as an honor for those chosen to be put to death at its edge, but the wide-eyed Ada (THE WOMAN’s Lauren Ashley Carter) finds out she is to be the next sacrifice and hides the jug before anyone can see. That’s not the only secret she has, as she has had an incestuous relationship with her brother Jessaby (Daniel Manche) under the nose of her protective mother (played by Sean Young). Hiding the pot and the unborn incest baby in her belly, Ada causes a series of events that topple the delicate peace treaty the hillbilly family has with the beast in the pit.

Oozing with everything from hillbilly culture to Chthulhuian cultism, director Chad Crawford Kinkle plays out an intricate plot of love, betrayal, and a pit monster. The talented actors who make up the cast make everything engaging. Every one of the actors gives it their all, and Carter shows star chops carrying most of the film with her petite frame but powerful performance. Sean Bridgers, who was so good at being bad in THE WOMAN, is equally talented here as the slightly delayed psychic link to the beast in the pit, and Fessenden and Young play overprotective parents and religious zealots, making them dislikable and likable all at once. Every character is developed well, which made the story easy to dice into.

There are plenty of horrific scenes as the sacrifices are bloody and many. As people are bled out into the pit, others are left as piles of guts and gore after the beast attacks. Though some of the effects shots are definitely of the lower budget caliber, it still makes for some creepy scenes of ghostly specters and creepy monsters.

Some will be disappointed, as the beast in the pit is not revealed, most likely due to budgetary constraints. Also, the film seems to loose steam in the last act as the emotional whirlwind that goes on in the first hour seems to die down and the final scenes are spent dealing with the revelations and ramifications of Ada and Dewai’s actions.

The film also ends oddly, and though I was thoroughly entertained by the performances, I was left a bit nonplussed by the end with the story resolving in an abrupt manner. Still, the drama and intensity of the script as spouted by the talented cast make up for the cut short final moments.

JUG FACE in no way is tied to THE WOMAN, though it does seem to have a lot of the folks in front of and behind the camera involved in it. Still, I couldn’t help but feel as if these two films are linked in some way as they both deal with unconventional and ugly family rules, mores, and customs and how those things can become twisted manacles around the ankles of those who have the unfortunate luck of being born into it. JUG FACE has some fantastic acting and offers up an interesting view on the hillbilly culture. It’s also quite bloody to appease my appetite for that type of thing. Though not as controversial as THE WOMAN, it does get pretty intense towards the end, and if you’re a fan of McKee and Ketchum’s film, you’re bound to find things to like with JUG FACE as well.

Available now from Raven Banner!

SAVAGED (2013)

Directed by Michael S. Ojeda
Written by Michael S. Ojeda
Starring Amanda Adrienne, Tom Ardavany, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Brionne Davis, Ed Fletcher, Jason Gurvitz, Dan Kiefer, Daniel Knight, John Charles Meyer, Kyle Morris, Rodney Rowland
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

The classic revenge tale is taken down the warpath as a group of rednecks who like hunting and killing Native Americans fuck with the wrong squaw and end up on the buried end of the totem pole in SAVAGED.

Though most films of this sort go too far when it comes to the horrors of rape and murder such as LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and I FART IN YOUR MOUTH (I made that last one up), SAVAGED shows the despicable scene and moves on pretty quickly to the revenge portion, making the film a bit more digestible than most films of its kind. Amanda Adrienne plays Zoe, a deaf white girl who happens across a hunting party that run down and kills a Native American man. Not wanting to leave a witness, the group kidnaps the girl, rapes her in a cabin, and then buries her in the desert. But soon, Zoe rises from the grave possessed by a vengeful Native American spirit bent on taking out the killers one by one in gruesome, albeit clichéd Native American manners.

Adrienne is fantastic as Zoe here, conveying the pain and anger of not only her own victimization but the persecution of an entire oppressed race. When she fights back against the hunters the fire is clear in her eyes and the actress proves to be more than formidable in the spunk and fighting department. The gruesome manner by which the killers are relieved of their lives is noteworthy as guts are pulled out, arrows are slung and thwacked into multiple orifices, and scalps are…well, scalped. This may be cliché, but the vengeance is done in such a brutal and deserving manner (since all of the killers are pretty skeezy), I didn’t mind it very much, but if one was Native American one might take a bit of offence to it. Then again, this anti-hero is fighting back against centuries of oppression and victimization, so I doubt they would mind too much.

The only criticism I have for SAVAGED is that it does follow the revenge film path a bit too closely. Hell, if Zoe were dressed in black leather, this would be an effective CROW sequel. With a cast of skuzzy rapist/murderers on the chopping block, this film is easy to predict. But though it’s a well tread path taken by everyone from Charles Bronson to Brandon Lee, the brutal effects and solid performances make SAVAGED a revenge flick worth checking out.

New on BluRay/DVD this week!


Directed by Jeff Renfroe
Written by Jeff Renfroe, Svet Rouskov, Patrick Tarr, Pascal Trottier
Starring Kevin Zegers, Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton, Charlotte Sullivan, Dru Viergever, Atticus Dean Mitchell, John Tench, Lisa Berry, Lucius Hoyos, Kimberly-Sue Murray, Michael Mando, John Healy
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

A strong cast elevates what is really a lackluster and uninspired film in THE COLONY. This is a post-apocalyptic tale you have seen before done better in films like THE ROAD, THE DIVIDE (reviewed here), and even THE DAY (reviewed here), but the presence of some key actors makes it all digestible.

Kevin Zegers, Lawrence Fishburne and Bill Paxton are bringing their A-game to this film. Zegers usually plays the wide-eyed newb, but here he gets to share some hefty conflict with both Fishburne (the leader of a colony of survivors hunkered down in a bunker after the world is covered by ice and snow) and Paxton (a voice of dissent in the group who prefers killing anyone who shows signs of sickness out of fear of contagion) and the young actor surprisingly holds his own. Fishburne is good here, but this isn’t a role he is well accustomed to, with his performance as the wise and strong leader of the group. Paxton’s part is not given a lot to do other than disagree with the way of things. His motivation is left off camera as to where his germophobia comes from, which ultimately leaves the character somewhat one note.

The big conflict here happens as Zegers and Fishburne leave the colony to search for survivors in other areas. Happening upon a massive compound, the search party first thinks it’s abandoned, but in the deep bowels of the facility, society has turned sour and cannibalism is resorted to in order to survive. The monstrous man-eaters pursue Zegers and Fishburne across the icy landscape as they inadvertently lead them to their own colony, where Paxton has taken up shop in their absence.

Though menacing, the cannibals in this film are mindless monsters reminiscent of everything from THE HILLS HAVE EYES to THE ROAD to WRONG TURN to just about every other post-apocalyptic film. Though the image of them crossing the blustery tundra is a striking one, the film just lacks that claustrophobic oomph that films like THE THING and…well, THE THING did so well. Because of this, the action seems to be sequestered to three designated areas, all three projected well in advance: the 2nd facility, the bridge, and finally the first colony. Sure it makes for a direct action film, but one that feels as if it is adhering to formula rather than coming up with anything original.

I didn’t hate THE COLONY, as I very much like all of the actors involved. Rather, I feel the story and especially the action was uninspired and not worthy of the caliber of acting that showed up to make the film. In the end, THE COLONY is a good time, but you’re likely to forget about it soon after the credits roll.

Now available on BluRay/DVD and digital download here!


Directed by Michael Harring
Written by Kirsten Barber
Starring Maya Lawson, Erin Jorgensen, Kirsten Barber, Roger Hamel, Tyler Bromley
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Quirky is the best way to describe LAUREN IS MISSING, an indie gem that is touring the festival circuit at the moment and hopefully will find its way into your eye sockets some time soon. With a small yet talented cast, this film is bound to freak some people out and charm others. I felt a little of both after watching it.

Kristen Barber wrote the story and plays Lauren, a roommate of Mia (the film’s actual star, played by the tragically plucky Maya Lawson). Mia arrives at the apartment after an extended trip to find the place in disarray and Lauren nowhere to be found. After multiple attempts to contact her, Mis gives up and finds a new roommate Millie so she doesn’t get evicted. She also finds a job at a taxidermy shop and notices a blind man outside of her apartment who seems to be staring in at her from the sidewalk. Soon, Mia (Erin Jorgensen) begins to think something is amiss with her flaky roommate Lauren’s disappearance, but by then, it’s too late.

LAUREN IS MISSING is one of those films which takes you on a journey through the perspective of one person. And this person is slightly off kilter. As it is explained at the beginning when Mia attempts to get her old job back at the video store, Mia is one of those cracked eggs. She’s seen as toxic at the store, and they are happy as clams to keep her off of the schedule indefinitely. We also see Mia doing some pretty peculiar things, like firing at those who pass by her window with a toy gun and refrigerating the squirrel she hit on her scooter. So, right off the bat, this is one of those films that feels like you can’t trust what’s going on because the protagonist is nuts.

Michael Harring directs from Barber’s engaging script and was able to keep me enthralled in Mia’s antics through the entire film. Though not a lot is accomplished, Harring allows the camera to just follow Mia on her journeys, and she is a fascinating little sprite to follow. I especially like the alone time Harring’s camera focuses on, showing Mia’s loneliness and attempts to connect despite her disconnection with everything around her. As she developed a friendship with Millie, I began to suspect that Millie even existed at all. Maybe I’ve just seen too many films to trust them any more, but while everything is not explained by the end, you’re going to get a sense that you’ve lived in the crazy skin of Mia and that crazy isn’t all bad, but it usually ends badly.

Filled with little moments of fun that make you feel like you are looking in on someone’s diary (like the scene where Mia and Millie look through Lauren’s diary she left behind), LAUREN IS MISSING doesn’t really get horrific until the final moments as it skews into a surreal lullaby, but the trip to the end is one filled with plenty of precious moments spent with a fascinating, yet batshit, protagonist.

Coming soon; recently played at the Chicago International Film Festival!


Directed by Ti West
Written by Ti West
Starring AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, Gene Jones, Kate Lyn Sheil, Kentucker Audley
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I had a chance to check out Ti West’s new film THE SACRAMENT which played this weekend at the Chicago International Film Festival. The director continues to impress me with his patient hand at storytelling as well as his decisions to not repeat himself. THE SACRAMENT is very unlike his previous films in tone, subject matter and style and by far his biggest budget yet, all of which makes for the director’s best film to date.

The story follows a VICE reporter Sam (AJ Bowen) and his cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg) who during an interview with Patrick, a photographer (Kentucker Audley) find out that his drug-addicted sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz) had gone missing and that he had received a letter from her recently telling him that she is ok and living in a religious commune called Eden Parish. Smelling a good story, Sam and Jake follow Patrick who is invited to visit the commune which is at an undisclosed location and can only be reached by helicopter. All of this is setup which occurs in the first ten minutes of the film, the rest follows the gonzo reporters as they try to figure out what the appeal of the commune is to the bright faced people they meet upon arrival and soon uncover that not everything is cheery at Eden Parish.

I don’t want to reveal too much more of the plot mainly because it is a very simple one as the original goal to get Caroline home from the parish changes rapidly to everyone and doing anything just to get out alive. This being a horror film, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that the commune is not on the up and up. The beauty of this film is in the way West doles out the suspicious activity in tiny, growing beats first with some strange things happening here and there and ending in a full scale Armageddon. The fears that Caroline is in a cult is there throughout with West spending the better part of the first half of the film trying to convince us otherwise.

One might think that the film would be boring with most of the action happening in the last 40 minutes, but because of compelling performances all around, even the quiet bits are utterly engrossing. AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg are two actors I never try to miss. They are fantastic genre stars in their own right, but paired together as they were in A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE and YOU’RE NEXT and you’re bound to find gold. Here the two actors offer up somewhat restrained performances—more restrained than I expected, I have to admit. Bowen is especially likable in this film as Sam, who has a pregnant wife at home about to give birth. This is a detail that makes you root for him to get out of this alive all the more. Swanberg’s Jake is equally likable and seems to have an almost Zen mellowness about him. While I was disappointed there was less snark and witty banter between these two character actors, I understand why West might have not wanted that in this film as it might have steered the film from its serious tone. There does seem to be a friendship between the two characters in the film, but it feels like the characters were there to do a job and were doing it with no time for smart remarks. My disappointment was only momentary though as their performances were strong throughout.

The standout role though goes to Gene Jones who most will remember from the “Friendo” scene in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. Jones plays the commune leader dubbed Father by the parishioners. Every second of the time he is on camera he commands the scene. The film builds to an interview between Sam and Father which is held in front of every member of the commune. During these moments, Father is probably the most terrifying character you’re going to see in a film this year. His kind Southern drawl and tendency to quote the bible to give reason to everything is both convincing and menacing all at once. Bowen and Jones are amazing in this scene with the role of manipulator and manipulated changing hands throughout. Bowen shows range he hasn’t before in this scene and Jones’ verse-coated threats are mesmerizing.

Shot in a faux documentary style, West does toss in some editing cheats here and there in order to tell the story he wants. If you are to believe that this footage has been edited and processed in some kind of tell-all documentary format, the cuts are understandable, but the film is not presented in that manner at the beginning. Had this started with the opening credits to the VICE HBO specials, it would have been more believable. But I doubt the more candid behind the scenes stuff at the beginning would have made the cut in a real doc. West also uses a score in this film which supports the faux documentary feel, but again, the opening hour was presented more as a found footage film and the score just doesn’t fit. The music during the scenes of tension and suspense were appropriate in a cinematically shot film, but here it raised more questions for me about the format and had me looking for a keyboardist and a cellist playing in the Eden Parrish pasture.

Those bits aside, the final moments of the film are as shocking and horrifying as you’re going to get. West’s slow buildup only works if the payoff is worth it and as all hell breaks loose in the final moments, I found that the wait was most definitely worth it. Like West’s previous films, this isn’t a film that’s going to give you a jump scare every five minutes. What THE SACRAMENT does is invite you in and gets you comfortable before it shows its claws and because of that, it left an undeniable mark on my psyche that I will be haunting by brain for days to come. It’s a fantastic film with performances that will be seen as classics some day and a tone that will trap you unsuspectingly.

Sorry, no trailer yet for this one yet.

And finally…here’s another contestants for the M slot in the new ABC’S OF DEATH 2 from CELL COUNT’s Todd E. Freeman’s M IS FOR MARRIAGE. Enjoy!

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 4. Mark’s written comics such as THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DEATHSPORT GAMES, NANNY & HANK (soon to be a feature film from Uptown 6 Films), Zenescope’sGRIMM FAIRY TALES Vol.13 & UNLEASHED: WEREWOLVES – THE HUNGER and a chapter in Black Mask Studios’OCCUPY COMICS. FAMOUS MONSTERS’ LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (co-written with Martin Fisher) will be available soon in trade. Mark also wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK and its follow up THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.

Find out what are BLACK MASK STUDIOS and OCCUPY COMICS here and on Facebook here!

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