Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News


Logo by Kristian Horn
What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Hopefully you all got what you wanted this year for Christmas and if you wished for a horror column this week, guess what?

You got one! It’s a Christmas Miracle! There’s no reindeer, eggnog, or jolly old elves, but I do have some zombies, some Giallo nods, a gaggle of ghosts, a load of lunatics, a bale of white trash, and a vengeance-toting vigilante!

But first, are you looking for some last minute gifts for that ghoul or monster in your life this holiday season? Well, check out FRIGHT RAGS for all kinds of horror apparel and goodies!

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: NIGHTMARE CITY (1980)
INSIDIOUS 2 (2013)
Advance Review: THE HAUNTED TRAILER (2012)
Advance Review: NIGHTMARE BOX (2014)
Advance Review: VENDETTA (2013)
And finally… Tom Etlinger’s THE BRUTE KILLER!

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Raro Video!


Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Written by Antonio Cesare Corti, Luis María Delgado, Piero Regnoli
Starring Hugo Stiglitz, Laura Trotter, Mel Ferrer, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Francisco Rabal, Sonia Viviani, Eduardo Fajardo, Stefania D'Amario, Ugo Bologna, Sara Franchetti, Manuel Zarzo, Tom Felleghy
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Now don’t quote me on this, but while some might believe that 28 DAYS LATER or even RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is the first fast zombie film, I believe that honor goes to NIGHTMARE CITY. Up until that film, I think most of the zombies were of the slow shambling variety most commonly seen in Romero’s films. Even in most of the Italian zombie films of the seventies, the zombies moved at a slow crawl.

But when an airplane full of scientists going to investigate a radioactive leak lands at an Italian airport, the scientists go mad and burst out with all forms of weaponry attacking all in their path. That’s how NIGHTMARE CITY opens; literally hitting the ground running straight from the beginning. The rest of the film follows a roving reporter Dean Miller played by Hugo Stiglitz (Tarantino used the same name in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS for his Nazi ass-kicker), as he tries to track down his wife and get them both to safety as the rampaging infected undead spread the outbreak to everyone they kill.

The rampaging zombies are treated like the shark in JAWS as the government doesn’t want to alert the public for fear of a panic so any attempts by Miller to broadcast the ever-growing outbreak. But that’s not really what this film is all about. Basically, this is about a bunch of zombie/infectoids running around, stabbing and killing everyone in their path, and of course, tearing the shirts off of every other woman on screen in the mêlée. Sure there are plot points where basically all of those in the know try to call their families to safety, but really it’s about the rampaging, the killing, the stabbing, and the boobies.

The mud-splattered makeup of the infected is not really that effective. It just looks like…well mud splattered on someone’s face. But while this look isn’t the most convincing, the other effects as the zombies stab, slice, and crush their victims are pretty visceral and well executed. The gory demises met by the populace show that the FX guys know their stuff, I just wish the extra effort could go toward the zombies themselves. Still, the frantic and maniac actions that they do make them scary enough, mud on the face or not.

If you’re looking for old school gore, one of the first fast zombie movies, and HUGO MUTHER LOVIN’ STIGLITZ, then NIGHTMARE CITY is going to be something you can’t turn down. This is a film that revels in excessive boobs, gore, action, and zombies with very little time spent on all of that emotional stuff that often bogs modern films of this kind down. But frankly, I’d rather see filmmakers do gore and action well and ignore the drama that they obviously can’t do rather than give a half-assed attempt at something they have no interest in doing. Umberto Lenzi offers up a film that moves at a breakneck pace from start to finish in NIGHTMARE CITY.

New this week on DVD from Level 33 Entertainment!


Directed by John Murlowski
Written by John Murlowski
Starring Travis Wester, John Amos, Jason Mewes, Shelley Long, June Lockhart, Vanessa Lee Evigan, A.J. Buckley, K.C. Clyde, Kim Collins, Emmalee Wilson, Brendan Michael Coughlin, Kristi Culbert, John de Lancie, A.J. Draven, Melora Hardin, Gildart Jackson, Ryan H. Jackson, Hollier Harrison, Hulk Hogan
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Mixing zombie with things seems to be the way to go these days. Zombie and romance. Zombie and military. Zombie and sharks…

Well, much like you, the folks behind ZOMBIE HAMLET seem to be sick of zombie iterations. So instead of making a film mixing Shakespeare and the undead, they made a film about the making of a film about the mixing of Shakespeare and the undead.

The story follows Osric (Travis Wester), a struggling director out to make a version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet set during Civil War times. With a spunky producer and an idiot cameraman, Osric compromises his personal aspirations of making a blockbuster and decides to go for the cash grab and make a zombie version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet set during Civil War times. Though it had zombie in the title, I’d shy away from calling this one a horror film. More accurately, ZOMBIE HAMLET is a comedic mocku-drama about the making of a comedic horror film. And while in most cases, this far removed from reality can often make one’s head spin and one’s fast-forward finger ache, ZOMBIE HAMLET somehow managed to charm me.

This is mainly due to the genuinely good acting from the main cast. Wester has some great comedic timing and is able to show both a likable and comedic side as the director who has good intentions despite how horrible the making of the film seems to be. His partner in crime, Kate the producer (Vanessa Lee Evigan) is equally likable as both of them struggle to complete what looks to be a travesty of film in the making. Adding the bumbling and unskilled Lester (Brendan Michael Coughlin) to the filmmaking trio and this is a talented group of comedic actors at the heart of all of these little cameos and bit parts played by more well knowns. But while CHEERS’ Shelly Long, COMING TO AMERICA’s John Amos, and LOST IN SPACE’s June Lockheart play fun roles as goofy characters bumping into one another in this farce about filmmaking, these three are the ones who make it worth seeing.

Jason Mewes plays a more sizable role here as an action star slumming it for indie cred by playing in this no budget film. Having not seen him in much of anything but Kevin Smith films, I was surprised that he did as good a job as he did in this one.

The joke of this whole film is that it IS a low budget film about the making of a low budget film that at first intended to be a higher budget film. And the joke works most of the time, with only the latter portion of the film devolving into sitcom like antics. ZOMBIE HAMLET is not going to scare you; nor will it impress with gross out effects or high action. But it does serve as a pretty effective little comedy about the struggles filmmakers often go through to see their dreams realized.

New on DVD & Digital Download from IFC Midnight


Directed by Peter Strickland
Written by Peter Strickland
Starring Toby Jones, Susanna Cappellaro, Antonio Mancino, Eugenia Caruso, Cosimo Fusco, Jozef Cseres, Chiara D'Anna, Katalin Ladik, Salvatore Li Causi, Antonio Mancino Fatma Mohamed, Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg, Tonia Sotiropoulou and Pál Tóth
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I had heard a lot about BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO as to how it was sort of a dud of a film. I can understand why folks came to that conclusion with the film, as it is a very slow moving movie. At the same time, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the film in terms of pulling the curtain back on an element of film which rarely gets the spotlight—sound design.

Toby Jones plays a sound man brought over from America in order to be the sound man for a film made by an Italian horror director. This is a fish out of water story, as the meek and timid Jones makes his way through a culture he is unfamiliar with and is working in a genre which he really doesn’t like. I know it’s hard for the readers of this column to conceive of someone who dislikes horror, but they’re out there and Jones plays one to a T here as he winces and shakes at the thought of being a part of the Italian director’s gory and macabre film.

Across the board, the acting in this film is top notch. Given a film to star in (though granted Jones is often the star in all films he appears in, whether he gets top billing or not), Jones shines as Gilderoy, the technician who undergoes a transformation at the sights and sounds he witnesses in this foreign land. It’s interesting to see this metamorphosis play out, and as Jones’ dreams and the film playing in front of his sound booth play out, the final moments of this film are some of the most surreal and most effective in terms of seeing a man start out as one thing then bloom (or in this case wither) into something all together different. The other players here are fabulous, from Tonia Sotiropoulou as the talent hired to provide the screams and find a kindred spirit in Gilderoy to Antonio Mancino, who plays Santini, the overzealous director who demands that Gilderoy immerse himself in the horrors that are playing out.

But the most fascinating thing about BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO is the way writer/director Peter Strickland dances his camera along the sound equipment, the sound notes, and all of the other aspects of what it takes to bring all of those glorious noises to the big screen. Much like DePalma’s BLOW OUT, BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO allows you to appreciate the art of bringing sound to cinema. Seeing all of these scenes of sound recording and all of the work involved made me appreciate the job all the more. It’s a wonderful love letter to sound in all film, especially in the horror genre, in which sounds is key for so many scares.

The attention to how sound is brought to films beats out any quibble I might have with the pacing of this film. I do agree that the film lags in bits, but Jones’ fantastic performance as a man struggling with a crisis of conscience and the attention to the often underappreciated job of sound technician makes up for any and all of BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO’s faults.

New this week on DVD!


Directed by Anthony DiBlasi
Written by Bruce Wood, Scott Poiley
Starring Kelen Coleman, Kevin Alejandro, Louise Fletcher, Rus Blackwell, Lucas Beck, Lucius Baston, Amy LoCicero, Sarah Sculco, Rachel Durose, Avis-Marie Barnes, Hank Stone, Christina Bach, Carlos Navarro
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Smelting together a ghost story with a slasher yarn is not always the most seamless of mergers, but CASSADAGA does a decent job at it by making both the ghost and serial killer aspects interesting and equally dire for the main protagonist, but also seems to fall into the realm of convention by the end.

CASSADAGA is the name of a town where all of the action of this story takes place. Kelen Coleman (who plays Allison Pill’s roommate in HBO’s THE NEWSROOM) tries on the final girl outfit in this horror tale and she fills the bill nicely as a spunky deaf girl who you can’t help but root for. While the filmmakers go out of their way to let you know Coleman’s character is deaf, I’m not sure exactly how it all fits into the story other than giving her another hurdle to leap over, as if the ghosts and the serial killer wasn’t enough. Still, this character is a bit stronger than the usual damsel in distress, more likely to chug forward with her chin in the air than cower in the corner and that’s refreshing to see. The young actress is beautiful and though she may be overshadowed with the three dollar words and fast-speak on THE NEWSROOM, she is given room to show some real star power and carries the film nicely.

The other aspect I really liked about this film was the creativity and perversity that was put into the serial killer. The haunting opening moments depicts a young boy caught playing with dolls and wearing a dress and is immediately chastised by his mother ends in a gory and uncomfortable mess setting the tone for the disturbing film to follow. All grown up, the killer man-child’s behavior has only gotten worse as he saws the limbs off of his victims and replaces them with hinges and ties them to a large marionette cross, dancing them around his underground pit of horror. Sure it’s a bit over the top, but it makes for some imagery that’s tough to shake.

The problem with CASSADAGA is that it doesn’t really know when to quit. The creepy killer is enough to build an effective and horrifying slasher film around, but this film goes even further and adds the supernatural to the mix, which feels somewhat shoehorned in and much less developed than the other serial killer stuff. If there’s a weak link in CASSADAGA it’s the fact that while the killer is pretty unique, the ghosts are mundane and clichéd. Had this film gone full force with one or the other, I think it would have been more of a successful effort.

New this week on DVD!


Directed by Bryan Ortiz, Bryan Ramirez, Kerry Valderrama
Written by Evan Boston, Crystal Bratton, James Hartz, Scott Marcano, Bryan Ortiz, Kerry Valderrama
Starring Malcolm McDowell, Lou Diamond Phillips, John Glover, Robert Englund, David Mazouz, Lacey Chabert, Chris Mulkey, Mayra Leal
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Given warm feelings with the title SANITARIUM as one of my favorite Metallica songs, I had high hopes when popping this anthology into the old disk player and for the most part, I was pretty entertainment. Though the scares weren’t terribly original or cringe worthy, the strong cast makes SANITARIUM one of the more digestible anthologies of late.

Mr. Totes McGoats himself (Malcolm McDowell) plays the part of our Crypt Keeper in this anthology; a doctor who wanders through the long halls of the mental institution that houses patients with unique and “terrifying” stories. As with most movie mental institutions, knowledge in therapy and treatment in the psychiatric field seemed to be at a minimum for the writers of this series. Having worked in lockdown mental hospitals myself, it’s hard for me to see Hollywood’s version of mental health on screen, especially in horror films. One particular scene has McDowell doing a therapy session with a patient that had me slapping my forehead into unconsciousness at the way the doctor was talking with his patient, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be as maddening to anyone outside of the therapeutic field.

Therapeutic verbal inaccuracies aside, the stories are actually pretty good. The first stars John Glover (SMALLVILLE) as an eccentric artist who sculpts creepy dolls and begins to believe they are alive. The effectiveness here lies in Glover’s manic performance and the bizarre way the Gorey-esque dolls look. Dolls are a gimme in horror in terms of causing scares and this one delivers pretty potently. Though I saw the twist ending coming, it did add a bit of punch to what would be your normal dollmaker gone mad story.

Story two involves a little boy who is picked on at school, abused by his father (Chris Mulkey), and the center of concern for his young teacher (Lacey Chabert). Soon the boy begins to see a hooded figure staring at him from a distance, but as the abuse continues to intensify for the young boy, the closer the man-monster gets. But the monster isn’t what it seems, though the dark hood, lack of eyes, and multiple rows of shark-teeth tell you differently. This segment had a comic booky sense to it, but still was my favorite of the bunch mainly because of the monster design and expert use of it.

The last segment is almost a one-man play focusing solely on Lou Diamond Phillips as a man obsessed with the apocalypse; so much that he builds an elaborate bomb shelter for his family and himself, but when his family begin to see the edges fray, it’s Phillips who ends up being the bombastic one. While Phillips has chosen some pretty awful roles, this one shows that the actor still has what it takes in the drama department. His performance here is pretty heart-wrenching. Not many people can hold a person’s attention walking around a bomb shelter for a half hour, but Phillips makes every minute we’re in there fascinating.

As anthologies go, SANITARIUM is a pretty good one. If you’re able to look past the fact that the doctors really don’t talk the way they do here, the stories themselves are actually better than I was expecting.

New on DVD & Video On Demand!

INSIDIOUS 2 (2013)

Directed by James Wan
Written by James Wan & Leigh Whannell
Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Andrew Astor
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Though the first INSIDIOUS was not the perfect film, I will say that the first half is damn near perfect in tone, patience, and rock solid scares. Having just sat through a double feature of both INSIDIOUS and INSIDIOUS 2, I still think the first holds up in terms of chills and the second, while not as powerful in the story department, continues to do what the original did well and fixes a few of its missteps along the way.

INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 begins almost seconds after the original ends (a lost art in today’s horror sequels, but seems to be on the resurgence with the HATCHET and CHUCKY series paying close attention to continuity), after a brief flashback featuring a younger Josh (played by Patrick Wilson as an adult) meeting a younger version of Lin Shaye’s ghost whisperer Elise for the first time, having been plagued with night terrors. Just as the doll sequence in THE CONJURING sets the tone of the film perfectly, this one offers a nice sampling of the terrors to come. After we are smacked in the face with music and the big INSIDIOUS letters across the screen, we’re ready to pick up where we left off with the original.

As the last moments of INSIDIOUS suggest, this film focuses on the Lambert family once again who continue to experience paranormal phenomena around their house. Though the slightly off Josh is adamant that the terror has subsided and that both his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) and mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) need to ignore the weird stuff in order to take power away from them, the weirdness persists. But what we are aware of, is that Josh returned from the Further (a sort of in-between ghost world astral projectionists like Josh and his son go to in their sleep) somewhat different than when he went in.

What director/writer Wan and writer Leigh Whannel (who returns as Specs, one half of the comedy relief ghost hunting team from the original) do right is make this film feel like a real continuation from the original. While it takes half of the film for the family to accept the ghostly business in the first film, Renai and Lorraine immediately sense that the horror isn’t over. So there’s less of those dull moments where you know there’s something wrong even though the characters don’t. Renai even suspects something is off with Josh early on, which makes for some nice tension between the two talented actors.

Wan and Whannel’s true talent seem to be tapping into those childhood nightmare scenarios and this film is littered with them. All of those nights alone in your room that most of us have forgotten or replaced in our minds with info like online passwords and such never left these guys consciousness. It’s this “in tunement” with childhood fear that is ever-present as the beating heart of effective scares in this whole INSIDIOUS series. The scenes where a child sits up at night and looks into that dark corner or closet or the fear of walking through a quiet house past open doors and dark rooms are effectively paced and well executed here. In the INSIDIOUS movies, you have to pay close attention because the fear could be in any corner of the screen, making this one of those films that is definitely more fun to watch on the big screen. Though it’s a scene repeated over and over in this film, watching one of the characters venture through a creepy house tightened my spine every time.

While there are plenty of scenes that are sure to cause a start, I didn’t get that guttural sense of terror in the sequel as I did in the original with the fire-faced demon (who is not present in this film). There are some nice scares; one involving a room full of human forms covered in dirty sheets, and a definite level of subversive creep that makes the story a little more perverse as it involves abuse which turns out to be so horrible that it lives beyond death. But in adding that level of oddity, it takes away from those innocent childhood fears and dirties it in some way, making INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 less effective in tapping into those universal scares of childhood than the original.

Midway through, things get extremely expositiony as someone is constantly explaining, reexplaining, and then making sure we get it by explaining it one more time. There are some nicely paced paradoxes that come into play that tie both the first and second films together even tighter which I loved, but they shoot themselves in the foot by literally having characters saying “Oh, so that’s what that meant.” almost directly to the audience.

I also couldn’t help but get a bit overwhelmed by the way all of the houses the family and paranormal team went to looked like it was filmed in the same locale, just decorated differently. Every one of the homes has a long hallway beside a staircase to the right of the screen, with a side room at the bottom of the stairs. It even felt like the same house they used in THE CONJURING. Maybe this was coincidence, but it really felt similar and while the narrative does a decent job of differentiating the location of the story, I couldn’t help but notice either this was the same place done and redone to save cash or just locales too similar. Either way, I think the use of so many locations to tell this story was a bit extraneous and a tighter script might have dropped the importance of one of them, especially when alternative versions of the same locale are used for the scenes happening in conjunction with the real world and the Further.

Clunky midsection aside, INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 fixes the weak ending of the first one and it doesn’t feel like they ran out of money this time around, as the filmmakers admitted they did in the first. While the final moments with the Lamberts do feel like they wrap things up rather quickly, the end moments do leave you with that feeling that something is standing directly behind your shoulder and breathing heavy breaths through talon-like teeth.

I’m recommending INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 for trying to make a true sequel which is difficult to do these days with many producers still thinking making someone watch another film beforehand is too much to ask an audience. As long as the continuity continues to be this tight, I’m all for supporting this film series which has proven to be a cinematic bendy straw filled with childhood night terrors and haunted house shriekery.

New on Video on Demand & digital download from Tribeca Films (available on iTunes this week)!


Directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Written by Eddie Borey & Chris Borey
Starring Sharlto Copley, Thomas Kretschmann, Josie Ho, Joseph Morgan, Erin Richards, Max Wrottesley
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

A man (Sharlto Copley) wakes up in a pit filled with dead bodies confused and without a shred of memory as to how he got there or even who he is. That’s how OPEN GRAVE begins and its one of those films which hits the ground running and never really lets up until the credits start to role.

Copley is fantastic as a John Doe among a group of John and Jane Does who are all experiencing amnesia as well. Haunted by vague recollections of relationships and past skills, all of the cast is phenomenal at playing with the paranoia writers Eddie and Chris Borey and director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego toss at them from start to finish. As memories begin to come back, the group uncovers what looks to be a community of sorts surrounded by dead bodies bound to trees and fences. The group also has bruising akin to needle marks on all of their arms. These are the clues expertly laid out on the table in front of us for all of us, including the cast to dissect, deduce, and sleuth.

While there are homicidal axe-weilding madmen and corpses hanging from trees in this film, for the most part this is a tension filled mystery with a clock ticking to see who can solve the riddle and make it out alive. While it may be difficult for some to deal with all of the ambiguity in the opening 45 minutes, the strong characters make it all the more enjoyable and will most likely entice you to ride this wave to the end, despite not knowing what the hell is going on.

Most mysteries of this kind loses its steam once the answers begin to be unearthed, but OPEN GRAVE continues to ask questions and more importantly, makes me care about who survives once the questions are answered, so the tension continued even after the mystery is revealed. Lopez-Gallego and the Borleys are ever so patient in doling out answers and the expansive shot the film leaves us on ends it all an utterly gloomy note.

OPEN GRAVE is thriller/chiller tighter than a Marine’s bunk sheets with Copley once again proving to be a fantastic actor in that he causes us to identify and hate him intermittently throughout the narrative. Though uncharacteristically expansive in scope, OPEN GRAVE feels like a mystery that Hitchcock himself might have cooked up.

Advance Review!


Directed by Chuck Norfolk
Written by Chuck Norfolk & Steven Scott Norfolk & Tim Norfolk
Starring Ron Jeremy, Joe Grisaffi, Jeremy James Douglas Norton, Jacob Byrd, Steve Joseph, Lauren Leal, Roxy Vandiver
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Filled with the type of gross-out humor that would make Divine blush, THE HAUNTED TRAILER seems to be a direct descendant to those trailer trash masterpieces John Waters made his name with. Now, that doesn’t mean the film is good. It just means that this film plunges to levels of bad taste that earlier Waters’ works like PINK FLAMINGOS and MONDO TRASHO dove into back in the seventies.

THE HAUNTED TRAILER tells the tale of why we all didn’t die in 2012 as the Mayan Calendar predicted. Set in a single trailer in a seedy trailer park, the film follows the disgusting and downright foul exploits of one particular family of trailer trash. The patriarch, Momma (Joe Grisaffi, in drag and screaming most of the time) feels something is off when her two rambunctious man-children Elvis (Jake Byrd) and Aaron (Jeremy James Douglas Norton ) bring in an object that holds a terrible demon inside (played by porn actor Ron Jeremy). With horny little sister Prissy (Lauren Leal ) along for the ride, the family must face down the demon inside of their trailer in order to save the trailer park, the family, and even the world.

Though the setting is dire and the stakes are high, the budget is about as low as you can get. Effects made up of dime-store masks and dildos seem to be as far as the budget goes with green screen work from Jeremy rounding out the optical effects. The acting is also pretty tough to swallow as most of the time people are just screaming into the camera whatever seems to be on their mind at the time. Appreciators of big budget blockbusterizing are going to immediately snatch this film out of their player and stomp on it.

But if you’re the kind of viewer who loves John Waters’ films, specifically his cruder, more rough early work, you’re going to see the same sense of no-shits-given attitude at play here as no bodily fluid or orifice is left unaddressed in THE HAUNTED TRAILER. Trailer trash cinema is an acquired taste, but THE HAUNTED TRAILER and specifically the over the top and back again performance of Joe Grisaffi as Momma nails it dead center. If you like sleazy cinema or, heaven forbid, you came from this type of trashy environment, you’re going to feel right at home in this HAUNTED TRAILER.

Advance Review: Debuting next week on January 9 at the Laemmle's Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills (Find tickets here!)!


Directed by John Keeyes
Written by Jon Keeyes, Carl Kirshner
Starring Johanna Stanton, Nicholas Ball, Debbie Rochon, Matthew Tompkins, Hayden Tweedie, Katie Kensit, Sal Esen Reviewed by Ambush Bug

NIGHTMARE BOX opens up with a girl waking up in a room cluttered with all sorts of junk and antiques. The film tells us absolutely nothing about who the character is, why she is there, and even the character herself hasn’t a clue. Doing this is always somewhat risky because it asks the audience to trust the storyteller/director/actor and while in films like MEMENTO and OPEN GRAVE, we as the audience know actors like Sharlto Copley and Guy Pierce, an indie horror film made by filmmakers we most likely don’t know, starring actors we don’t know is something audiences most likely will find less than trustworthy. But somehow, someway, when we open on Jane Doe (Johanna Stanton) waking up in that cluttered room, I felt as if I wanted to know how the story unfolded and who this person was. Despite the fact that I didn’t know the actress or the filmmakers.

This is mainly due to two things; top rate production and solid acting. The room we as the viewers along with Jane Doe wake up in is intriguing in that it looks like the remnants from a garage sale mixed with back stage bricka-brak from an old carnival. Set completely in this room which is intricately detailed with layers of wall busted out and cabinets and drawers bound in golden chain, NIGHTMARE BOX plays like a finely detailed stage play where every intricate detail has a story all of its own and if we had the time to hear it, I’m sure it would be interesting as all get out. Circling the camera around to every nook and cranny of this room makes this both a claustrophobic torment and a creative dream come true as despite the confined space, the memories and details inside of the room are infinite.

Stanton herself carries the film as she slowly pieces together how she made it into this room, who she is, and what this room actually is. Is it heaven, hell, purgatory, or some actual room located in the real world? I’m not telling here, but Stanton is convincing as the clueless caged victim. Though I’ve never seen her before, she shows great range and spunk as she fights and charms the truth out of the various other characters that appear and disappear from the room.

NIGHTMARE BOX is a heady tale full of metaphor and twists. The story leads to a logical, yet metaphysical ending that makes sense if you watch it a second time. I loved the way writer/director Keeyes unfolds this tightly creased origami paper of a plot and we find out the sordid, yet tragic tale of how Jane ended up in this predicament. Lovers of all things mystery are going to want to seek this one out when it is released wide. Deftly and psychologically twisted, the answers inside NIGHTMARE BOX are not comfortable ones, but they are sickly entertaining nevertheless.

Advance Review: Available in the UK on DVD this week!


Directed by Stephen Reynolds
Written by Stephen Reynolds
Starring Danny Dyer, Roxanne McKee, Vincent Regan, Josef Altin, Bruce Payne, Simona Brhlikova, Emma Samms, Charlie Bond, Nick Nevern, Ricci Harnett, Ryan Oliva, Alistair Petrie
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Reminiscent of those gritty, no holds barred revenge films of the seventies that were made somewhat of a joke in the eighties, VENDETTA is a powerful uppercut of a movie filled with action and tension from minute one to the last.

VENDETTA’s plot moves like a great white shark, focused, deadly, and powerful as special ops soldier Jimmy Vickers (Danny Dyer) returns home to find his parents house burned down and his parents murdered by a gang of street thugs. As he picks off the men responsible one by one, the police and his former special ops unit are after him in a race to who gets to take him in first. Sounds like FIRST BLOOD. Sounds like THE CROW. Sounds like DEATH WISH. I know. It’s all of those. But what makes VENDETTA so good is that it acts as if none of those films ever existed and doesn’t give two shits that it might be reminiscent of revenge films of the past. It just does it effectively all the way through at every single beat and does it like a pro.

Dyer’s performance here is scorching as a man on a mission of vengeance. He has a heart, but much of it is dead now with his parents gone. The only shred of humanity he has left is his ex girlfriend Morgan (Roxanne McKee) and she doesn’t want to see him half the time. Dyer wears the pain on his face like a mask and though lesser actors would make this a one-note killing machine role, the utter dread the actor conveys emanates off the screen to the point where you yourself are feeling his rage.

Though Dyer does get rather creative with his kills of each man responsible for the murders, none of them reach comic book proportions. This is a man who is enjoying himself as he gives back vengeance. The murders are unflinching and dark, making this one not for the squeamish and making it right at home among the other horror films in this column. The murders are unleashed in a ludicrous way, but in a way that is utterly frightening. Shades of BOURNE IDENTITY come in as his unit begins to track him down and try to bring him in before the police, all the while Dyer is staying one step ahead of everyone.

The film end on a note that this is definitely not the last time we see Dyer’s Vickers character and I hope another VENDETTA is on its way. Dyer gives a star making performance here that ranks right up there with revenge film greats as Bronson, Eastwood, Brandon Lee, and Stallone. With a fantastic cast and action that’ll give you two black eyes, VENDETTA is THE revenge movie to see this year.

VENDETTA will be available in the US later this year and I’ll keep you posted when it’s available!

And finally…here’s a shortie but a goodie called THE BRUTE KILLER from writer/director Tom Etlinger described as A young man sets off on a hunting expedition to kill a brute, a monstrosity of an alien similar to the one that killed his mother. After injuring himself during the chase, his prey nurses him back to health, causing him to question the hatred that has driven him for so many years. A short fantasy film that explores the nature of hate, and the lasting effect it can have even after it's gone. 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!

Interested in illustrated films, fringe cinema, and other oddities?
Check out Halo-8 and challenge everything!

Find more AICN HORROR including an archive of previous columns on AICN HORROR’s Facebook page!

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus