Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Now, I know most of you are all revved up for the true horror movie coming out this Friday December 13th…
…but before you all head out to see A MADEA CHRISTMAS tonight, I’ve got some other terrors for you to take a look at. Warning: ahead lie government conspiracies, Nazis, cartoon Santas, vampires, evil sororities, and more insanity!
Plus we continue our Friday the 13th celebration (as I’ve covered a FRIDAY THE 13TH film on every Friday the 13th since this column’s inception) with a look back at FRIDAY THE 13th PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER, plus a pair of F13 treats at the end!
Oh, and if you’re looking for something to get that ghoul or monster in your life this holiday season, check out FRIGHT RAGS for all kinds of horror apparel and goodies!
And so you’ve been warned, horror maniacs. Proceed with caution!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
HAPPY FRIDAY THE 13TH! FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984)
Book Review: THE BELL WITCH Novel (2013)
Retro-review: TWILIGHT ZONE Collector’s Box Set: Season 4, Episodes 9-13 (1963)
Retro-review: Scream Factory presents TV Terrors – THE INITIATION OF SARAH (1978)
INFINITE SANTA 8000 (2013)
THE SEASONING HOUSE (2012)
TRAP FOR CINDERELLA (2013)
HERE COMES THE DEVIL (2012)
And finally…FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW WAKE and WEDNESDAY THE 13TH!
Get the FRIDAY THE 13TH The Complete Collection BluRay here!
HAPPY FRIDAY THE 13TH!
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984)Directed by Joseph Zito
Written by Barney Cohen (screenplay), Bruce Hidemi Sakow (story)
Starring Kimberly Beck, Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover, Lawrence Monoson, Erich Anderson, Judie Aronson, Peter Barton, Barbara Howard, Clyde Hayes, Joan Freeman, Camilla More, Carey More, Lisa Freeman, Wayne Grace, Bonnie Hellman, Frankie Hill, Paul Lukather, Bruce Mahler, Antony Ponzini, & Ted White as Jason Voorhees
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
This one is up there towards the top, but some regard FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER as the best of the FRIDAY THE 13TH series. There’s a lot to like in MISSING IN ACTION/THE PROWLER/RED SCORPION/INVASION USA director Joseph Zito’s installment which, at the time, was supposed to put the nail in Jason Voorhees’ coffin for good. And while THE FINAL CHAPTER part is somewhat of a laughable subtitle given that many, many films were made after it, in many ways it thematically brought everything back full circle to the beginning and serves as a deeper film than most would give it credit.
Zito did a fantastic job with a couple of things with this installment. First and foremost, he got a likable and relatable cast together. Without a doubt, this is the most talented bunch of actors ever to be in one of these films. Sure, the original had Kevin Bacon, but this one has 8th wonder of the world Crispin Glover, Corey Feldman circa GOONIES, THE POWERS OF MATTHEW STAR’s Peter Barton, THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN’s Lawrence Monoson, and WEIRD SCIENCE’s Judie Aronson. Now, I’m not saying these are Oscar winners, but as far as people who are both recognizable and more importantly relatable, this is a great cast.
The true standouts in the cast are many for me. While his career might not be what it was, Corey Feldman can proudly add this performance as Tommy Jarvis as one of his most iconic, as the young boy who was finally able to do what no camper has done before—kill Jason. Feldman does a great job of showing the charm that made him so memorable and fun in GOONIES and STAND BY ME, especially amongst the rest of the older cast.
While the role has since become somewhat of a standby in horror films, Crispin Glover is amazingly weird in his role as the outsider of the group. Sure, Shelly does a great job of this in Part 2 and Ned is fun in Part One, but if you’re looking for true outcasts, Glover’s Jimmy owns it. His line delivery. That freaking dance number. The fact that he’s the only guy who actually gets laid in this film. Everything is so bonkers that you really do miss him when he is inevitably killed by Jason. While Kevin Bacon was great in Part One, I don’t think he offered up a performance that would make him a star. Glover does that in this film, as he is hilarious every time he is on screen.
Kimberly Beck’s Trish character is one of the spunkier final girls of the series. While she obviously has the hots for Jason hunter Erich Anderson, she embodies everything a final girl needs: that is a strong set of morals on right and wrong, the ability to say no to temptation, and the ability to unleash a holy vengeance upon Jason when cornered. The scene where Jason is on top of her and she is busting out with a flurry of fists and kicks is truly badass.
My favorite cast member, though, is Judie Aronson…le sigh… Lately, these retro-reviews have really brought back the memories of my discovery of women in cinema in my youth. Between last week’s NIGHT OF THE COMET review starring Kelli Maroney and a few weeks ago’s review of AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION with Diane Franklin, Aronson rounds out my most gorgeous women of 80’s horror trifecta. While Aronson’s part is small as the promiscuous and jealous Sam, her skinny-dipping scene is one for the ages. The fact that behind the scenes she was almost suffering from hypothermia out there in the cold after multiple takes and retakes ordered by Zito makes her all the more of a trooper for going full Monty in this film.
Speaking of nudity, while FRIDAY THE 13TH is notorious for its nudity, it really wasn’t until this film that it became a staple in the franchise. Sure, there was skinny-dipping Teri in part 2, but nudity was at a minimum up until this fourth installment, where the aforementioned Aronson strips three times for the camera and the Doublemint Twins Camilla & Carey More go for broke in the skinny-dipping scene as well. But while later installments have nudity just for nudity’s sake, at least Zito seems to be making a point with his multiple boob shots.
Thematically, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4 is the strongest of all of the F13 films. Zito peppers it in, but those panning the series as fluff simply aren’t looking hard enough. THE FINAL CHAPTER in many ways is a retelling of Jason’s origin with different people, with Tommy playing the outcast kid among adults who can’t take care of him and Tommy’s mother (Joan Freeman) giving subtle nods to Ms. Voorhees throughout. Numerous times the camera cuts to Freeman, who disapprovingly and protectively looks at the new campers arriving at the lake like a mother bear looking after her cubs when Tommy and his sister Trish interact with them. These are the same feelings of mistrust Ms. Voorhees most likely felt when the campers and camp counselors were interacting with her special boy Jason, bringing themes full circle in terms of this aspect of the story. It’s subtle, but it’s there, such as when Tommy’s mom pulls the shade down in his room when she notices he is spying on the campers making love in the cabin across the way through his window. In this sense, Zito and writer Barney Cohen seem to be putting in themes that later directors were too lazy to do and giving the story a bit more beef than most. While FRIDAY THE 13TH is about the creative kills, I love these subtle little themes that make the first four of the series stand out as the best of the bunch.
The interconnectability also makes this installment all the more enjoyable for those who had been following the series all the way up to this point. Technically, this story takes place between Sunday the 15th and Monday the 16th, since Part Three (Saturday the 14th) occurs immediately after Part 2, which happens on Jason’s birthday. The fact that one could sit down and see a story unfolding is a concept the later filmmakers forgot about as they began to want to have each stand on their own in the latter installments. And in many ways, that method of storytelling took away from what could have been a more compelling ongoing saga of our hockey-masked monster.
Sure, I’m taking things way too seriously, but someone has to as it seems many fans, non-fans, and, sadly, even the filmmakers and studios don’t seem to be doing so. The fact that rumors have the next installment being a found footage film and not even observing that it’s the 13th chapter of a film with 13 in the title is crazy to me.
THE FINAL CHAPTER does have some brutal kills, all supervised by FX guru Tom Savini, who returned to the film in order to kill Jason once and for all. Jason’s deformed makeup is truly an iconic extension of the earlier Savini makeup of Jason from the original, and the damage Jason endures such as the machete through the hand and to the head are wounds that resonate off the screen. Even the way Jason crucifies Glover’s Jimmy is iconic, and almost making a statement about the character for giving his all in such a small role. While a lot of the shots are off-camera kills, the ones that do occur are memorable.
Even the final moments of this film that center on the traumatized eyes of Tommy Jarvis as he hugs his sister Trish in the hospital are not only iconic, but indicative of what is to come as the next film features Tommy in an institution. It also hints at some of the worst ideas of the entire series, namely that Jason’s wrath is contagious and passed on from one person to the next with Tommy now infected with it. While the filmmakers behind THE FINAL FRIDAY completely dropped the ball by taking it too literally, the seeds were already planted in this installment for this development to occur.
If I were to recommend an F13 film to someone and not be embarrassed about it, it would be FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER. It does almost everything right, and while it’s not classical cinema, it possesses all of the best qualities of the FRIDAY THE 13TH series that justify the love for those like me who unabashedly love the series. It’s even got one of the coolest recaps ever at the beginning, using clips from the previous films, and is a chapter that seems to be taken seriously by all of those behind it, which can’t really be said for later offerings.
Check out this alternate ending yourself and see if it adds anything to the story for you. Personally, I kind of like the dream aspect of it, which makes it feel all the more like the first film, which ends with a dream sequence as well.
ON LOCATION IN BLAIRSTOWN: THE MAKING OF FRIDAY THE 13TH Book Review
CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE 13TH Interview
CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE 13TH Doc (2013) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)/FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 (1982) Review
THE BELL WITCH Novel (2013)Written by John F.D. Taff
Published by Books of the Dead Press
Reviewed by BottleImp
Nestled in the annals of American folklore between such supernatural tales as the Jersey Devil and the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow there lies the ghostly story of the Bell Witch. In 1817, the Bell family of Tennessee was supposedly subjected to the manifestations of a mysterious female spirit. Dubbed “the Bell Witch,” this invisible entity would upset teacups and sugar bowls, spill milk, slap and pinch the Bell children and (more benignly) hold conversations and even shake hands with the family and their visitors. General Andrew Jackson was purported to have visited the Bell home during this time to meet the so-called Witch and was frightened away by her powers. No firm explanation was ever given for the Witch’s origin, though many theories centered on the Bells’ youngest daughter Betsy. Though this tale was claimed to be based on true events, no documented evidence has ever come to light that would lend authenticity to this belief, and so the story of the Bell Witch took its place as a small piece of the tapestry of the American ghost story. Now author John F.D. Taff has taken this legend and written a story around the sparing “facts” of the occurrence, appropriately titled THE BELL WITCH. While Taff provides an interesting and unusual explanation for the cause of the Witch’s animosity towards the Bell family (and patriarch Jack Bell in particular), the entirety of his book fails to live up to the promise of horror given in the beginning of the novel.
The first few chapters of THE BELL WITCH are masterfully constructed, introducing the reader to the cast of characters, their home and the time in which they live (the Bell family are slave-owners—a not-so-small reminder that the events take place in a much less enlightened time in our nation’s history). These details are revealed succinctly all the while Taff crafts a deliberate buildup of tension and unease, alternating between the seemingly mundane (a lit candle seen at the upstairs window of the Bell house in the dead of night) and the jarringly shocking (as, later that night, the house’s chimney inexplicably explodes). This mounting horror escalates, culminating in a scene in Betsy’s bedroom that could have stepped straight out of THE EXORCIST. And then the Bell Witch makes herself known to the household…and the horror and tension, unfortunately, all but disappear.
The tone of the book from this point on becomes muddled, exchanging the early sense of dread for an odd mixture of fantasy, mystery and even humor. Aside from her poltergeist-like abilities of moving material objects, the Witch also has the strange gift of being able to teleport objects to the Bell house, as she demonstrates with a shower of fruit from the tropics. She can even see into the future, singing songs that haven’t been written yet, showing the Bells visions of their farmland’s 20th Century destiny, and informing Andrew Jackson of his legacy as the future President of the United States. Yes, the legendary meeting of the Witch and General Jackson is represented here, though once again any feeling of horror has been replaced by tones of gentle whimsy.
Taff’s version of the Bell Witch haunting reads more as a mystery story rather than a ghostly tale to tell around the campfire. Even the Witch herself questions the Bells about her origin. And though Taff throws out several red herrings to the reader—could the Witch have been summoned by one of the vengeful slaves? Or by Jack Bell’s jealous mistress? What does the animalistic figure glimpsed in the dark have to do with the manifestations?—none of these are developed beyond their initial introductions enough to actually trick the reader into following their false lines of thinking. Taff reveals the actual reason for the existence of the Witch near the end of the book, but by then the reader will have figured out the answer well before it is explicitly given.
Having sussed out the twist (and believe me, it’s not much of a twist, since it’s all but spelled out for the reader in the first few pages) early on, THE BELL WITCH becomes overlong and plagued with redundant scenes of the Witch holding the same conversations over and over again with the family members. To cap it all off, the end of the book comes with a message so blatantly delivered that it reads more as a moral. Upon finishing the novel I was reminded of nothing so much as some of the longer-winded “Twilight Zone” episodes that Rod Serling wrote, heavy on the moralizing and light on the frights. It’s too bad that THE BELL WITCH couldn’t have been a little more “Living Doll” and a little less “I Am the Night—Color Me Black.”
THE BELL WITCH would benefit greatly from some judicious editing. Parsing down this novel into a novella or even short-story length would go a long way in heightening the sense of tension and horror and doing away with some of the unnecessary melodrama. Ultimately, I can recommend THE BELL WITCH as a decent fantasy story with some interesting ideas and a few instances of intriguingly inventive and disturbing imagery. But as a horror novel, the book just doesn’t deliver the right amount of the essential campfire ghost-story scares.
When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.
Retro-review: Collecting the entire series in a new Collector’s Box Set on DVD from Image Entertainment!
TWILIGHT ZONE SEASON FOUR (1963)Episodes 9-13
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
So I kind of never finished my review of Seasons 4 & 5 of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, but it just so happens that Image Entertainment is releasing the entire TWILIGHT ZONE series in a sweet box set, and because I’m obsessive-compulsive like that, I’ll be continuing my coverage to all of the episodes, continuing my series of reviews I started a few weeks ago. Set let’s take a trip back into THE TWILIGHT ZONE!
SEASON 4 of THE TWILIGHT ZONE is a bit of an anomaly of a season. Not only does the series mysteriously drop the THE in the title, but it also extended itself to an hourlong format. This makes for some extended viewing that sometimes took its toll on my patience. While some of the TWILIGHT ZONE stories would be great with a little wiggle room to go into more detail and get to know these characters more, other hourlongs feel extremely drawn out with either redundancies occurring throughout or scenes put in simply to extend the running time. Personally, I love the quick-in/quick-out feel of the half hour episodes. Here are four more episodes from disk three of Season Four from the box set.
Episode 4.9: Printer’s Devil
Directed by Ralph Senensky
Written by Charles Beaumont
Starring Burgess Meredith, Robert Sterling, Patricia Crowley, Camille Franklin
Faustian tales are always fun, and this one is a good one because of Burgess Meredith. It seems Meredith was made for a show like TWILIGHT ZONE, as he played so many memorable parts in the series. This is one of Meredith’s lesser talked-about roles as a master printer who shows up on the doorstep of a desperate editor of an ailing newspaper with a promise for a dramatic turnaround. While it’s pretty obvious that this is the devil the editor is dealing with (the name is even in the title), Meredith chews up the scenery (and a gross-looking cigar) as he predicts the news before it happens, giving the newspaperman the scoop ahead of his competitors. While most Faustian tales are pretty predictable with how they end, this one takes some unexpected swerves, making it all the more entertaining.
Episode 4.10: No Time Like the Past
Directed by Justus Addiss
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Dana Andrews, Robert F. Simon, Patricia Breslin, Marjorie Bennett, Robert Cornthwaite
This episode is the perfect example of Serling Soapboxing we see on occasion in TWILIGHT ZONE. This is an especially preach-heavy episode where Serling, who writes this episode, has Dana Andrews play a rich scientist with intentions to go back in time to stop the Lusitania disaster, kill Hitler, and evacuate Hiroshima. When he fails to change the timestream, he retires to a small simple town in the past and again finds he is unable to change the past. If you can get through the minutes upon minutes of this dissertation against man’s tendency to start wars, there are some decent moments, mostly due to Andrews’ deliveries, but still, this is one of the harder episodes to sit through as Serling chooses to show all of his cards in regards to themes less obvious in more successful episodes..
Episode 4.11: The Parallel
Directed by Alan Crosland
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Steve Forrest, Jacqueline Scott, Frank Aletter, Philip Abbott, Shari Lee Bernath
While “No Time Like The Present” is Serling at his preachy worst, “The Parallel” is the writer at his best as an astronaut crosses over into a parallel dimension on a routine flight and finds himself returning to a home that is slightly off from the Earth he left. Though things wrap up rather tidily and confusingly, the slow realization that Steve Forrest has landed on a parallel world is pretty masterfully realized. The snippet at the end involving the other astronaut adds more intrigue and mystery to the mix. The one thing that bothered me in this episode is the little girl’s hair, which looks like it’s from an alien dimension itself. This episode is the perfect example of TWILIGHT ZONE doing sci fi right, and there needn’t be any monsters in rubber suits to do it.
Episode 4.12: I Dream of Genie
Directed by Robert Gist
Written by John Furia, Jr.
Starring Howard Morris, Patricia Barry, James Milhollin, Loring Smith, Jack Albertson
This episode is somewhat of an oddity as it is much more screwball comedy than any of the episodes I’ve seen. Howard Morris plays a nerdy accountant in love with the secretary of the office, and he’d give anything to have her. When he happens upon a magic lamp filled with a genie and a wish in the first five minutes of the show, he spends the rest of the hour hypothesizing as to what he wants to wish for. This episode is the epitome of stretching a very weak plot paper-thin. Sure Morris is a fine comedic actor, but the extended wishes he dreams up go on way too long. This episode would have had trouble filling a half hour, much less an hour’s length. There’s a fun altruistic end to this one which might have warmed my heart had I not already been bored to tears.
Episode 4.13: The New Exhibit
Directed by Jerry Sohl
Written by John Brahm
Starring Martin Balsam, Will Kuluva, Maggie Mahoney, William Mims
TWILIGHT ZONE go-to Martin Balsam stars in the best episode of the week, about a slightly obsessed caretaker of a wax museum who becomes full-on obsessed once the wax museum closes down and he decides to store the wax figures in his basement. Shades of Poe’s TELL-TALE HEART arise in this tale of a man whose passions become obsessions. This one is expertly paced and has a resolution that, while predictable, is wholly enjoyable, but it’s Balsam’s performance that sells it. His hound-dog eyes look like they are windows into a deeply sad soul. This episode is going to resonate with anyone who has a collection of something (be they comics or DVDs or stamps or whatever) and had to justify storing and collecting them in the first place to someone who isn’t a collector. This is definitely one of the better hourlongs of the season, with some truly chilling moments.
Season 4: Episodes 4.1-4.5 & 4.5-4.8
Season 5: Episodes 5.1-5.7, 5.8-5.14, 5.15-5.21, 5.22-5.28, & 5.29-5.36
Retro-review: New this week on DVD from The Scream Factory!
TV Terrors Double Feature: THE INITIATION OF SARAH (1978)Directed by Robert Day
Written by Tom Holland & Carol Saraceno (story), Don Ingalls, Carol Saraceno, & Kenette Gfeller
Starring Kay Lenz, Morgan Brittany, Morgan Fairchild, Robert Hays, Shelley Winters, Kathryn Crosby, Tony Bill, Tisa Farrow
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
MEAN GIRLS meets CARRIE is about as accurate description as I can come up with when talking about the made for TV schlocker THE INITIATION OF SARAH. While there were some really fantastic made for TV films (DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW, ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?), this isn’t one of them. Basically, this is CARRIE beat for beat, except instead of high school and the prom being the backdrop, the girls involved are a bit older and just starting college—too bad most of the actresses involved look like they are all in their thirties.
The story follows Sarah Goodwin (Kay Lenz) and her sister Patty, who both head out to college and try to get into their favorite sororities. Patty is the perfect candidate for the popular sorority on campus, but her shrewish sister Sarah is anything but. Morgan Fairchild plays Jennifer Lawrence (bwah!), the most popular girl in school who immediately takes a disliking to Sarah and sets out to make her college experience hell. While Patty is forced to shun her sister as she pledges for the sorority, Sarah is accepted into a rival sorority which has Shelley Winters as a house mother. The bad blood between the sororities goes back to when Winters was in college, and with Sarah’s induction, she feels the sorority has a chance of returning to greatness. Turns out Sarah’s got telekinetic powers and while Jennifer tries to make her life horrible, Sarah ends up mind jabbing her right and left.
Instead of a psycho mother, this telekinetic girl has a psycho house mother in Winters who is pretty hilarious as a weird witch. This film seems to have been made for people who didn’t have the dollars to churn out to see CARRIE in theaters, as Lenz does her best Spacek impression throughout. There’s even a scene where the sorority girls embarrass Sarah by tossing garbage and tomatoes at her when she shows up on a fake date. Of course, there’s also a big finale as Sarah masters her powers and takes vengeance on everyone.
Lacking in originality, THE INITIATION OF SARAH has star power going for it. It’s fun to pick out younger versions of well known actors like AIRPLANE’s Robert Hays, MIAMI VICE’s Michael Talbott, ZOMBIE’s Tisa Farrow, & ALL THE KING’S MEN’s Talia Balsam. Winters is batshit fun, and though she looks way to old for the role, Morgan Fairchild is still hot as is Morgan Brittany. Plus I always thought Kay Lenz’s mouth was the sexiest mouth in showbiz. But that’s just me. The retro-glitz of this film doesn’t cover up the fact that this is a pretty dark movie about the evils of bullying and how it can corrupt both the victim and the bully. If only the filmmakers wouldn’t have traced over the CARRIE blueprints line for line in terms of plot, THE INITIATION OF SARAH might have been a better flick given the talented cast.
This one is paired with ARE YOU ALONE IN THE HOUSE?, another made for TV film that I’ll be reviewing next week.
I love this retro ad for the Monday Night Movie, right after the 6 MILLION DOLLAR MAN!
New on digital download and Video on Demand from Midnight Releasing!
INFINITE SANTA 8000 (2013)Directed by Michael Neel
Written by Greg Ansin, Michael Neel
Starring Duane Bruce, Tara Henry, Michael Neel
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While the animation is crude and the story feels more like a combination of webseries episodes or 15 minute shorts interconnected by characters, INFINITE SANTA 8000 is something I wouldn’t be surprised to see on something like the old LIQUID TELEVISION show on MTV or the modern-day equivalent, ADULT SWIM. While fans of crisp, clean, and 3D animation might thumb their noses at this, fans of low budget animation might find this one worth a look-see.
The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the world is now only populated with mutants, monsters, creatures, and robots. Oh yeah--and Santa Claus, who is now half jolly old soul and half robot. Forced to fight in gladiatorial arena games for meat to eat, Santa has shacked up with a robot named Martha for companionship. But everyone from the Easter Bunny to the robot’s crone maker want Martha back, because she seems to have developed a soul from Santa’s tinkering in his workshop.
While INFINITE SANTA 8000 is a very bloody and gory film, I was surprised that it actually has a pretty pure and charming story. Animators Greg Ansin & Michael Neel do a good job of keeping Santa pretty pure. Sure, he slices mutants and monsters with reckless abandon for food, but he still has that Christmas cheer oozing out of every crevice. The filmmakers could have easily gone a perverted route with Santa’s relationship with his robot mate, but their relationship is pure as new fallen snow—hell, they even sleep in separate beds.
Filled with gory moments of gruesome glee, INFINITE SANTA 8000 isn’t going to be replacing HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS and A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS CAROL, but it does have some clever writing and a surprisingly big heart.
New on DVD from eOne Entertainment!
ABDUCTED (2013)Directed by Glen Scantlebury & Lucy Phillips
Written by Glen Scantlebury & Lucy Phillips
Starring Trevor Morgan, Tessa Ferrer, Ross Thomas, Jelly Howie, Aidan Park, Emily Graham-Handley, May Tunure
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
With a title like ABDUCTED, one might think this was a kidnapping film. Or maybe an alien film. Or maybe even an organ transplant film. Well, it turns out it’s all of that…or maybe none of that. Let me explain…
A loving and likable young couple find themselves darted and swept up by masked assailants. They wake up in a cell with their cell phones intact, but no idea why they’ve been taken or who has taken them. Soon they find that other couples have been abducted, and that the couple’s initial 911 call has become somewhat of a legend in the UFO community, whose members travel to the same place in hopes of being abducted as well. While theories both realistic and fantastical are tossed around, the masked jailers aren’t telling them anything, but they are installing machinery and taking out organs while the prisoners are tranquilized, and they’re taking their sweet time in doing it.
The positive of this film is definitely the cast. Trevor Morgan, who most will remember as a young kid in JURASSIC PARK III and THE PATRIOT, is strong here as Dave, the male portion of the first abducted couple. His soon to be wife Jessica (GREY’S ANATOMY’s Tessa Ferrer) is equally strong, and any time the two of them are on screen the film comes alive. These two characters love each other and are bound to survive this. Their spirit is perfectly captured when the both of them, days into their abduction, make a game out of trying to get a beetle to walk through a loop of rope. Despite the horrible conditions they find themselves in, this couple seem still able to have fun together and even though the conditions are awful, the fact that they are together gets them through it all.
While I found the lead couple intriguing and worthy of my rooting for them to make it through all of this, the story does kind of plod on and on with very little but the humdrum way of life these abductees have to live through. Their various attempts to escape are somewhat thrilling, but also repetitious by the end, and those of you who make it to the end will definitely be slapping your head as we never really find out who or what these Darth Vader wheezing things in hazmat suits really are.
Disappointing ending aside, the talent of the cast shines through it all in ABDUCTED. There are some cool effects of the machinery being grafted onto human bodies, and the torment going on does wear on you. Maybe the torment worked a little too much, as I was pretty unimpressed by the way it all resolved. Though it keeps things vague as all get-out from start to finish, ABDUCTED does have strong performances to make it all worthwhile.
New this week on DVD & digital download from Virgil Films!
7E (2013)aka THE GUIDING HAND
Directed by Teddy Schenk
Written by Teddy Schenk
Starring Brendan Sexton III, Florencia Lozano, James Russo, Armando Riesco, Antonella Lentini, Natasha Lyonne, John Savage
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This thriller is as black as pitch, but somewhat of an anomaly to be found here at AICN HORROR. While the tone fits right in, there really isn’t anything but psychological horror going on here, but for some reason, after watching the film, I felt it fits right in with some of the monster flicks that usually populate this space.
WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE and SESSION 9’s Brendan Sexton III plays Clyde, a smart aleck who can’t seem to hold a job and is troubled by the recent death of his best friend. Looking for work, Clyde is assigned to watch over Kate (the gorgeous Antonella Lentini) by a relative (John Savage). Kate recently suffered a nervous breakdown because she walked into her apartment to find her male roommate dead, and is doped up on pills. Clyde is assigned to feed her, make her get up, and try to recover. Though I’m doubting Clyde has any experience taking care of the mentally traumatized, he seems to do a good job of making her scrambled eggs and reminding her to take her medicine. The rest of the time, Clyde sits in a room and takes things way too seriously to the point where it seems his head will explode. There’s also a subplot involving the death of two women and some seedy characters slinking around the hallways of the apartment complex Kate lives in, including EXTREMITIES’ James Russo, who is always pretty creepy.
What impressed me the most about this film is Brendan Sexton III. If you would have told me that the nervous and jerky bully from WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE would be able to pull off the somewhat complex performance going on in 7E, I would have laughed, but Sexton does a great job here as a man who carries the world and then some on his shoulders. He seemed comfortable in front of the camera and grizzled from life here. His times of absolute turmoil as he begins to obsess about the reasons Sadie’s roommate committed suicide are damn powerful, and he’s able to pull it all off with ease. Seeing this film makes me want to see the actor in bigger and better roles.
7E is not a film for those looking for elaborate kills or high body counts, but there is a little mystery going on and a cast of extremely talented people propelling it along. Along with Sexton, Savage, Russo, and Lentini, Natasha Lyonne comes out from wherever she’s been hiding for a small part as a bartender friend of one of the girls who died. The role is small, but her appearance makes any film better. If you’re in the mood for a solid character piece with a nice little mystery, this is the one. While the tone is heavy as an anvil, the star power in this one is what sold me on 7E.
New this week on DVD and Digital Download from IFC Midnight (Find this film on Netflix here)!
SIGHTSEERS (2013)Directed by Ben Wheatley
Written by Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Amy Jump
Starring Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Eileen Davies
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I wasn’t one of the horde who loved KILL LIST to death when it came out a while back. Aside from a very tense tunnel scene, some nice mood, and fine acting, I felt that there were way too many similarities to THE WICKER MAN to have so much praise heaped onto it. I can acknowledge it was a well-made film, but didn’t really know what all of the hubbub was all about. Still, I can acknowledge that Ben Wheatley is a hell of a talented guy and was looking forward to seeing what he had up his sleeve next.
Now, I don’t think anyone would have been able to predict Wheatley would make a film like SIGHTSEERS as his follow-up to KILL LIST, but one thing is for sure: SIGHTSEERS proves that Wheatley has the chops to possibly do everything and everything. SIGHTSEERS shifts the dire tone we saw in KILL LIST to that of a pitch black comedy. The film opens with an elderly mother moaning over and over in protest that her daughter Tina (Alice Lowe, from Wheatley’s previous film) is about to leave on a holiday with her new boyfriend Chris (Steve Oram, who was also in KILL LIST). It’s a hilarious scene as Tina stands just out of her mother’s sight mocking her mother and silently showing us that the moans are driving her crazy. When Chris shows up it’s obvious mum doesn’t like him, and one of the more hilarious threads throughout the movie is the lengths Tina’s mom will go to in order to sabotage any chance that Tina will be taken away by this new boyfriend.
But the best part about Tina’s character is that she is ever the optimist. Even when Chris accidentally kills an obnoxious man by backing over him with his mobile home, Tina shows an unflappable half-full attitude. But when the bodies start piling up, Tina’s chipper mood is tested to its limits.
Lowe and Oram are fantastic as this couple who just want to get away from it all but seem destined to leave many, many bodies in their wake. At first the killings are accidental, but watching Tina become at first fascinated with Chris’ propensity for murder then overwhelmed by it all is an amazing character study amidst all of this humorous carnage. While Chris seems ok with it all, Tina is the one who shows the most depth as she tries to cope with being the cause of so many lights being snuffed out. Lowe is fabulous in this role, making us root for her despite the fact that Tina is obviously a pretty fucked up individual, becoming more and more messed up the longer she gets to know Chris’ dark side.
Though things get pretty serious in the third act, SIGHTSEERS maintains its black sense of gallows humor right up to the shocking ending, which I should have seen coming, but it still surprised the hell out of me. Ben Wheatley has proven here that not only can he set a dire tone, but he has the power to both make us uncomfortable and jiggle with laughter all at once. Though themes of modern witchcraft are carried over from KILL LIST, this is a completely different kind of movie, showing us that Wheatley is very much a force to be reckoned with, able to shock us, make us laugh, make us shiver, and most importantly keep us entertained all the way through. I highly recommend SIGHTSEERS for those who like their comedy devilishly black.
Available this week on Video On Demand!
ANTISOCIAL (2013)Directed by Cody Calahan
Written by Cody Calahan, Chad Archibald
Starring Michelle Mylette, Cody Thompson, Adam Christie, Ana Alic, Romaine Waite, Ryan Barrett
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
ANTISOCIAL got an advance review not long ago in this column, but it’s now available this week for all to see!
I’m old enough to remember when cell phones were a thing of the future, or at least something that was the size of a brick like Zack’s phone on SAVED BY THE BELL or connected to cars by a curly wire. So there’s a part of me that looks at the way people are so obsessed with their telephones and Facebook and internet today, and it makes me want to stand in my yard in black socks and flip flops yelling at the world to “get your nose out of the computer and live in the now!” Then again, when I forget my iPhone on my nightstand on my way into work, I’ll waste precious time and gas money to drive all the way back home to retrieve it because I can’t live without it. I have gone to work without a belt and lived with it. I’ve gone to work with two different colored socks and said screw it. Even showed up with two different shoes on one groggy, hangover-filled morning. But if I don’t have my phone, I can’t function, so I guess I’m guilty as the next guy for being addicted to the internet.
I go off on this little diatribe because at first glance, the cast of ANTISOCIAL should be annoying as shit to me. They constantly update pictures and comments and deep thoughts to a social media website called RedRoom and basically fill their entire time with browsing the website for updates and comments and things for them to update and comment on. But then I realize I spent the last month updating and counting down a list of horror, and online obsession isn’t something I’m unfamiliar with, so I’m just as bad as these kids.
Turns out, though, that the RedRoom has some nasty side effects after its latest update, and those on the site begin to act like amped-up zombies after a short while of usage. So while everyone is partying and updating their phones on one of the busiest cell phone times of the year (New Year’s Eve), a virus is spreading rapidly. ANTISOCIAL follows one group of kids getting ready for a New Year’s Eve bash, but finding themselves boarding up their home and doing the last thing they should be doing--that is, checking online for reasons why folks are going crazy.
ANTISOCIAL has a smart social message-style feel the early George Romero films had paired with a genuine feeling of paranoia I haven’t felt in a film since the 70’s version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. The film sets up an amazing premise and runs with it, taking full advantage of our addiction to everything online and exploiting it, and by the end of the film it made me a little leery about picking up my iPhone again (well, at least I thought about it for a tick before picking it back up). Writer/director Cody Calahan and writer Chad Archibald have some up with a new type of zombie for the online age, and it’s a pretty compelling one at that, as it plays with our own obsessions and twists it in monstrous ways. This type of smart handling of what’s going on right now is what innovative horror is all about.
While the premise is strong and so are the performances by the young cast, there are a few decisions along the way that will have you slapping your forehead raw. It’s hard to recommend a film for its strong premise when there is a scene where a girl has to use a power drill to operate on her own brain…
Let that sink in a bit. I know Rambo is bad and all and can stitch up a wound like no one’s business, but even he doesn’t have to grit (or the brains, for that matter) to do a self-brain operation, but somehow, this 100 lb. girl has the intestinal fortitude to do so. I also think the filmmakers could have come up with a different way to represent the zombies, as they sort of just resemble the frantic infected from 28 DAYS LATER. That said, there are little sparks of genius here as the infected post in real time video whatever they see in front of them online, which makes for some really creepy scenes.
So while there is a misstep here and there, I can’t help but praise ANTISOCIAL for its innovative premise, insightful view on this particular time for our culture, and of course the real-time eye thing. The film is fast-paced and begins with a bang and never really stops until the end, which feels more RESIDENT EVIL than anything else, but I loved it nevertheless. Here’s hoping the filmmakers have enough success with this ultra-modern take on a well-tread genre to make a sequel, as this film suggests. If only there was a way for the masses to see it.
Hey, I know. I’ll just post it online…right after I update my FB status.
All cuteness aside, this is a really fantastic film, and ANTISOCIAL can now be spread to the masses.
New this week on DVD/BluRay!
THE SEASONING HOUSE (2012)Directed by Paul Hyett
Written by Paul Hyett & Conal Palmer
Starring Rosie Day, Sean Pertwee, Kevin Howarth, Anna Walton, Jemma Powell
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
If you’re able to stomach the first half of THE SEASONING HOUSE, you’re going to be surprised at the levels of awesome the film climbs to in the latter half.
Set in the Balkans, a small town is ravaged by the military and the women are gathered together in a dingy brothel to service the soldiers and basically have a horribly shitty life. One such young lady is Angel (Rosie Day), a mute and deaf girl who works for the owner of the brothel Viktor (Kevin Howarth) to drug up the women with heroin so they don’t panic and comply to the insistent and less than gentle soldiers who frequent the place. Angel attempts to help these women who have been chained to the bed, bringing them drugs, water, food, and medical supplies when necessary. When the soldiers who killed her own family come to the brothel led by the evil Goran (Sam Pertwee), Angel decides to fight back.
It was very hard for me to write that description, probably because the first forty-five minutes of this film is pretty hard to take. There is rape. There is torture. There is pure and utter disregard for human beings in the filthiest of ways. The first 45 of this film is the dingy kind of stuff that make torture porn the four letter word it is today, and this film unblinkingly shows us all parts of it. It was right about the time when a soldier breaks a woman’s pelvis that I was getting ready to shut it off (even I have limits), but I’m glad that I didn’t because this story takes a turn at minute 45 that makes this one of the more effective horror films I’ve seen so far this year.
Traveling through the innards of the house through the ventilation ducts and crawlspaces, Angel is able to go where no full-sized man can ever go. She takes advantage of this as she sets out to kill the soldiers who are abducting the women, picking them off one by one in a game of cat and mouse that I haven’t seen play out more fascinatingly since DIE HARD. Angel wipes out all of Goran’s men seemingly with ease as she silently makes her way through the house and creeps up on the men for vengeance.
The thing is, this vengeance is gory and bloody and utterly horrific, but after having experienced the terrors that these men inflicted upon these women, dammit if it didn’t feel good to see this little girl take these macho men down one by one. The film turns into a hard R rated game of TOM & JERRY as the men twirl in circles trying to track down the silent tot, making the horrors of the first half almost as if writer/director Paul Hyett knew what he was doing in manipulating us into cheering her on in the last half. And yes, though manipulated I was, I can’t help but admire the filmmaker for dredging to those depths in order to guide me in that way.
The effects in THE SEASONING HOUSE show the kind of grue and carnage that few films have been able to do in such a realistic fashion. Angel slices through cheeks and faces in the most awkward of ways. Blood spurts all over the floors and walls, making walking impossible and grasping this little whirlwind with a knife even more impossible. It’s the jagged and unclean way the gore is handled in THE SEASONING HOUSE that makes it all the more effective.
The final moments of this film had me riveted to my TV screen. The intensity as Goran and his soldiers close in on Angel is the kind I rarely see in films these days. THE SEASONING HOUSE is not a film for the weak of will or the frail of stomach, but it is a powerful movie that is sure to cause a reaction in your gut and heart. The horrors we survive in the first half of the film are only director Paul Hyett’s way of setting us up for one of the more satisfying endings I’ve seen in a film in years. Perfectly realized, THE SEASONING HOUSE is one of those roller coasters that has you cursing yourself for ever getting on the ride, but ends with a feeling that makes you want to do it all over again for that feeling of satisfaction when the evils in this film get their comeuppance in the end.
New in select theaters and will also be available to watch on Cable VOD, SundanceNOW and other digital outlets (iTunes, Amazon Streaming, PS3 Playstation Unlimited, XBOX Zune, Google PLAY and YouTube) beginning December 13th from IFC Midnight
TRAP FOR CINDERELLA (2013)aka WRONG IDENTITY
Directed by Iain Softley
Written by Sébastien Japrisot (novel), Iain Softley (screenplay)
Starring Tuppence Middleton, Alexandra Roach, Kerry Fox, Frances de la Tour, Aneurin Barnard, Stanley Weber, Alex Jennings, Erich Redman
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Based on the novel Piège pour Cendrillon by Sébastien Japrisot, TRAP FOR CINDERELLA is a peculiar little thriller about mistaken identity and conspiracy involving a close-knit friendship between two childhood friends who grew up apart and reunite as young adults. While Mickey (Tuppence Middleton) has grown up to be a free-wheeling young hipster, Do (Alexandra Roach) is more reserved, but the two seem to hit it off greatly and form a friendship anew. Mickey’s mother Julia (SHALLOW GRAVE’s Kerry Fox) disapproves of her lifestyle and favors Do instead; as their parents were friends as well and there’s an ailing aunt in the picture set to croak and leave the estate to someone, everyone seems to be scampering around with their palms open.
But we don’t know that at the beginning, as we open viewing a nasty operation reconstructing a young woman who has been badly burned and damaged in a fire. Suffering from amnesia, the young woman is told she is Mickey and while she has snippets of memories, the question is, “Is this girl Mickey or Do, who just got complete reconstructive surgery to her face?” The mystery bops back and forth through the tale before the revelation at the end.
Now, first off, let’s toss out the craziness of this plot. Any doctor up to snuff would be able to access dental records and blood samples to tell the two young ladies apart, but even if the doctor is in on the conspiracy, the two actresses playing the parts are very different in body size and facial shape. These two obvious holes in the story make the whole thing a tough pill to swallow.
That said, the actresses are very good, and while the foundation of the mystery has holes in it, co-writer/director Iain Softley makes the guessing game as to who this girl really is into a pretty intriguing trip. CITADEL’s Aneurin Barnard is also quite good as Mickey’s old boyfriend, but this is the girls’ show and he has little to do here. How it all relates to Cinderella I’m not exactly sure, but there is a picture of a woman holding what looks to be a sparkling slipper in the opening moments. Aside from that and the fact that Julia is a pretty fiendish stepmother, I had trouble figuring out what this has to do with the fairy tale.
I liked the mystery at play in TRAP FOR CINDERELLA. It’s a solid thriller with a spectacular cast. Though the opening scenes are downright gruesome involving the hospital reconstruction scenes, the rest of the film is pretty bloodless. Still, there’s some nice twists and turns at play here and the mystery had me guessing until the end. Just don’t expect pumpkins at midnight and dancing mice and you might just enjoy TRAP FOR CINDERELLA.
New this week on Video on Demand and digital download and opening today in select theaters!
HERE COMES THE DEVIL (2012)Directed by Adrián García Bogliano
Written by Adrián García Bogliano
Starring Francisco Barreiro, Laura Caro, Alan Martinez, Michele Garcia, Giancarlo Ruiz
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Adrián García Bogliano, the filmmaker behind last year’s feast for the eyes and ears COLD SWEAT, is at it again with a much calmer and more mature take on horror in HERE COMES THE DEVIL. This time around he tackles subject matter that feels much more personal in tapping into the fear that anyone with loved ones can identify with. When Felix (WE ARE WHAT WE ARE’s Francisco Barriero) and Sol (popular Mexican singer Laura Caro) let their children play by a hill while they fool around in their car, their children go missing. A day later, the children are found…or are they?
As with COLD SWEAT, Bogliano once again makes a sexy horror film by playing around with the sex and death motif with an opening sex scene between two women, followed by the aforementioned incendiary scene between two parents in a car while their children are off playing; both scenes end badly with Bodliano playing around with guilt associated with sex. The fact that these parents are showing love for one another makes the disappearance all the more weighty in that they are guilt-ridden at neglecting to look after their kids, tearing into one another afterwards by blaming each other. The relationship between the parents is a complex one, as are most real-life relationships, and feels so much more real than what we are used to seeing in American films in that these are not perfect parents by a long shot. As Sol begins to suspect that her children aren’t telling her the whole truth as to what went on the night they went missing, Felix refuses to believe her, causing a rift between them even more.
The film definitely is dark and is going to turn off some folks with the perverse areas it goes into involving what went on that night in the cave. As this family begins to fall deeper and deeper into the abyss, it’s the patience Bogliano shows in the very slow-moving first half hour that makes your heart ache at every wrong turn the parents take. This is very much a horror film, but also serves as a pretty fantastic family drama. It is evident later in the film (and by the film’s title) that demonic possession factors in, both in a literal sense and in a poetic sense as Felix identifies himself as the devil when he confronts someone he suspects of assaulting his children that night. The layers are deep in this film, serving as a cautionary tale to watch over your children and a morality tale dealing with taking law into ones own hands.
Bogliano sets a dire mood with some fantastically timed shocks as well as doling out information with a tentative measure. What impressed me the most is the leap in maturity and sophistication from COLD SWEAT, which was a very in your face-style film, to HERE COMES THE DEVIL, which crawls beneath your skin meticulously. Much like ROSEMARY’S BABY, it’s the mood set and the amplification of emotion that causes the real shocks in HERE COMES THE DEVIL. I have to admit, I kind of saw the ending coming midway through, but that doesn’t make the ride there any less thrilling and impactful.
Though possession stories have been told time and time again, usually they turn out to be knockoffs of THE EXORCIST. HERE COMES THE DEVIL stands out by delving into the possession subgenre in such a multi-leveled manner, involving all shades of horror and perversion. I’ll be keeping you all in the loop as to when and where you’re going to be able to see HERE COMES THE DEVIL. It’s definitely not a Hollywood film in that it has the balls to take you to uncomfortable places both psychologically and emotionally.
And finally…screw FREDDY VS JASON, here’s a matchup worth paying attention to. Sure the premise might sound kind of fan fictiony, but since we aren’t getting new FRIDAY THE 13THs this year, I’ll take this for the time being. Check out this Addams Family/Jason Voorhees monster mash up, WEDNESDAY THE 13TH! If you like, check out their Facebook page here!
And proving that Jason Voorhees is a phenomena that isn’t exclusive to the USA is this French short film called FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW WAKE. With all the talk about a new found footage F13 coming, the scene in this film from the victim’s POV might be a preview of what we will be getting on Friday, March 15, 2015. Though it doesn’t have subtitles, this fan-made short which seems to be a direct spin-off of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES is directed by Kilian Fragu, Adam Benichou, and Guillaume Benichou is a solid little short (though they did misspell Voorhees in the credits). Plus it’s got Alice Cooper’s Love is a Loaded Gun in it, so it’s gotta be good!
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.
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