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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This time on AICN HORROR, look out for toxic teens, killer STDs, super heroes, a horror theme park, killer hobos, devil kids, Nazi zombies, syndicated horror, and “There’s an Elder God in the hull of this plane!!!”

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: THE HORROR AT 37,000 FEET (1973)
Retro-review: MONSTERS TV Series Collected Box Set: Season One – Episodes 1-6 (1988)
20 FT BELOW (2014)
And finally…Jakob Bilinski’s LUCKY!

Retro-review: New this week on DVD from CBS Home Entertainment!

THE HORROR AT 37,000 FEET (1973)

Directed by David Lowell Rich
Written by Ronald Austin & James D. Buchanan (teleplay), V.X. Appleton (story)
Starring Chuck Connors, Buddy Ebsen, Tammy Grimes, Lynn Loring, Jane Merrow, France Nuyen, William Shatner, Roy Thinnes, Paul Winfield, Will Hutchins, Darleen Carr, Brenda Benet, Russell Johnson, H.M. Wynant, Mia Bendixsen
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

While not nearly as effective as TWILIGHT ZONE’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” also starring William Shatner, HORROR AT 37,000 FEET has its moments of hokey cool.

The best thing about this film is its cast. It basically seems like anyone from the CBS lot working in television at the time was invited to be in this film. Not only is the Shatner front and center as a drunk and disillusioned former priest, Chuck Connors plays the pilot, Russell Johnson (the Professor from GILLIGAN’S ISLAND) plays a flight engineer, Paul Winfield plays an uptight and proper doctor, and THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES’ Buddy Epsen plays a billionaire passenger who conveniently knows how to pilot a plane himself. Soap stars Jane Merrow, Tammy Grimes, Lynn Loring, and Roy Thinnes round out the cast of players stuck on an airplane high above the Atlantic that doesn’t seem to moving.

The story centers on the O’Neils, an architect (Thinnes) and his rich wife (Merrow) who have unearthed an ancient abbey of a church from England with plans to take it to America to be a part of a new church. As the ruins of the church are loaded into the plane’s cargo hold, strange bumps and movements are heard by the crewmen, but are shrugged off. As the rest of the passengers make their way into the jet across the ocean to America, each are given a bit of screen time to show how they are going to be contributing to the rocky journey. Ms. Pinder (Grimes) is part of a movement to protest the movement of the abbey and threatens the O’Neills ominously and periodically on the flight. Sure enough, when the temp drops in the cargo hold, it’s pretty evident that there’s something horribly wrong down there, but by then, the plane is above the middle of the ocean.

What this film does well is establish a creepy presence for the force in the cargo hold. While we never really see the monster in the box, we do see the effects it has on the plane, turning portions of it to glistening ice while causing other parts to ooze and moss over. There are some cool and simple effects, such as pounding on the side of the crate and the poor frozen dog flash-frozen in midleap. With some ominous actions and witchy preening about Old Gods from Grimes and some jaded drunk speak from Shatner hamming it up to the max here in a post-STAR TREK role, there’s enough suggestion here to make it all feel scary, even though very little is shown that actually is.

The ending of HORROR AT 37,000 FEET, which I won’t reveal, is over the top and hilarious. The acting here is over the top and the threat is rather goofy. Still, you’re definitely going to have a lot of fun looking back at these characters at a time when TV movies had a kitschy charm to them, and it had to have charm because they couldn’t cut it with the budget this one was made on. This film is also a hoot to watch, since flying has changed so much through the years. Seeing Epsen bust in to have a talk with the pilots or Shatner lighting a magazine on fire to make a torch signify a time of innocence in air travel we sadly will never return to in this post-9/11 world. You may not be scared, but you’ll have a hell of a fun time anyway with HORROR AT 37,000 FEET.

Couldn’t find a trailer, but here’s a clip of Shatner being Shatner in the film.

Retro-review: Collected DVD Box Set new this week from eOne Entertainment!


Series One: Episodes 1-6 (1988)
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Ahhh, MONSTERS. It’s one of those TV series that warms my heart. Back in the late 80’s when practical effects were king, Mitchell Gallin and Richard P. Rubinstein, the producers of TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE TV series, decided to put together a show which highlighted a different story about a different monster every week. In my region, the show was broadcast late at night, and it was a thrill to be able to stay up late and watch it. Now, given the amount of years since I’ve watched it, I’m bound to be disappointed at the way some of them present upon reviewing. But still, this was a fun series, deserving of this look back, episode by episode of this quaint little shock series. I’m currently looking back on TWILIGHT ZONE series as well, so for the time being, I’ll be flipping between TZ and MONSTERS every week looking back on TV horrors of yesteryear episode by episode!

Episode 1.1: The Feverman
Directed by Michael Gornick
Written by Benjamin Carr
Starring John C. Vennema, David McCallum, Abby Lewis, Patrick Garner

The series starts with a good one. Though it looks somewhat like a stage play set with only two locales--an entry way into a gothic mansion and a dingy basement--the filmmakers use these places up as we follow a simple story of a sick little girl and a father who would do anything to save her. Arriving with them at the mythical medicine man’s place, an accompanying doctor doesn’t believe in all of this until he sees the doctor wrestling with a gigantic, pustule-laden monster representing the girl’s fever. The effects of the monster suit are slick and gross, as the warty makeup is attached to a big fat guy whose jiggling rolls add to the disgusting effect. The story is about the burden of legacy and making a disbeliever a believer, and does a damn fine job of opening the series.

Episode 1.2: Holly’s House
Directed by Theodore Gershuny
Written by David Loucka , Jon Connolly, Theodore Gershuny
Starring Marilyn Jones, Perry Lang, Pamela Dean Kelly, Neil Smith, Michael J. Anderson

This is another good one which plays around with the motif of haunted dolls. Holly is the automated star of a children’s game show, and when her operator (Marilyn Jones) debates about leaving the show in order to start a family, things get rather awkward in a deadly sort of way. Oddly enough, the story deals with abortion, but it’s as veiled as it comes, since, you know, this is television. But for a second, there’s a debate about whether or not Jones is going to keep the baby. The decision to keep it means that Holly is “aborted,” but the doll doesn’t want that to happen and goes on a bit of a murderous rampage. As always, doll horror is creepy as all get out and the living doll here, and while the gore is at a minimum, with her wide eyes and short stature, it’s still creepy right up until the end.

Episode 1.3: New York Honey
Directed by Gerald Cotts (as Jerry Smith)
Written by Harvey Jacobs
Starring Lewis J. Stadlen, MacIntyre Dixon, Andrea Thompson, Elaine Bromka

This is the first one of the series that has a darkly comic tone. The stakes are still dire, but the humor shows off the glaring fact that this was a series that highlights effects over humor and sometimes story, as is the case here. When a man investigates a noisy neighbor, he finds that he is breeding a unique species of bees which makes an especially delicious honey. When the man tries to profit off of his neighbor, a woman appears who seems to have quite a kinship with the bees. The pic sort of reveals what happens and the human sized bee (made by Dick Smith) is pretty awesome, but the rest of this episode really isn’t.

Episode 1.4: The Vampire Hunter
Directed by Michael Gornick
Written by Edithe Swensen
Starring John Bolger, Page Hannah, Robert Lansing, Jack Koenig, Sylvia Short

“The Vampire Hunter” is a surprisingly typical vampire vs. vampire hunter tale with typical results. What does distinguish this one apart from the rest is the suggestion that age does in fact effect the vampire through the millennia, and the simple but effective makeup of the vamps face, covered by a “Silence of the Lambs”-style mask for the vamp’s vanity’s sake does the job. Not much more to say here about this one, other than the fact that it’s poetically written despite the fact that it’s predictable as hell.

Episode 1.5: My Zombie Lover
Directed by David Misch
Written by David Misch
Starring Tempestt Bledsoe, Steve Harper, Ed Wheeler, Marcella Lowery, Eugene Byrd

On one level this is a stinker of an episode with horrible acting and clunky dialog, despite the appearance of a young Tempest Bledsoe and Steve Harper. This one was seemingly purposefully filmed in a sitcom-like format, even with an annoying kid spouting one liners. But beyond all of that hokiness, this was somewhat of a revolutionary little take on zombies as subjects as zombie love, zombie rights, and a zombie’s struggle not to eat one’s loved ones are tackled, showing that there are some good ideas here. While the execution is worse than any sitcom antics you’re bound to see, some of the ideas are solid, making the otherwise unwatchable watchable.

Episode 1.6: Where’s the Rest of Me?
Directed by Richard Benner
Written by Richard Benner
Starring Meat Loaf, Franco Harris, Black-Eyed Susan, Drew Eliot, Frank Tarsia

Meat Loaf stars as a mad scientist who takes advantage of the overabundance of revolutionary bodies in a Caribbean island to use as test subjects in an organ transplant experiment. But when a passionate embrace causes a lab mishap, one of the corpses goes on a rampage to get his body parts back. The result is a nice “monster in the house” yarn with a great performance by the Loaf. As always, these episodes are short and sweet, but this episode maximizes its time pretty effectively, making it feel like a pretty fully realized story while others seem to be too simple or not elaborate enough to matter.

Look for more MONSTERS Episodes in two weeks!

New this week on DVD and Video On Demand from Vertical Entertainment!


Directed by Marc Clebanoff
Written by Frank Krueger
Starring Danny Trejo, Kinga Philipps, Frank Krueger, John Hennigan, Tiffany Adams, Kristoff St. John, Louis Mandylor, Michael Rene Walton, Darren Darnborough
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

20 FEET BELOW is one of those films with a cause, and while I wholeheartedly support the cause it chooses to highlight, I can’t recommend the film itself. The problem with the film isn’t so much as the message, but the messenger in the form of the film which is predictable, passably to painfully acted, and dull in parts.

The film opens with promise as a man wakes up in a dark room and hears a voice speaking from the shadows about the privileged and how they ignore the have-nots. Soon Danny Trejo emerges from the shadows as Angel, the leader of a gang of homeless people living in the sewers underneath New York, who decides to fight back and take over those who live above and ignore their plight. After some threatening words are spoken, what looks like a hundred men rush the bound man in the darkness and tear him to bits. This is a well thought out and executed scene, but what follows is less inspired.

After this entertaining opener, we follow a reporter who is filming a documentary about the homeless plight, so the perspective shifts from handheld POV to cinematically filmed off and on in this film as the reporter interviews homeless, police officers, and people caught in between. The film is filled with all kinds of characters that feel more like roles than characters, such as hobo who resorts to violence, understanding cop, peace loving hobo, cop with a grudge, crazy hobo, fresh eyed newbie cop, former cop now hobo. Every one of these “characters” can be summed up in sentence fragments like this and because of that, there’s little to latch onto in terms of character.

On top of that, the story is very comic booky as it all culminates operatically to a giant battle between all forces involved in the final act. A romance between the reporter and the cop turned hobo is not believable at all, and all of this film thinks smearing a bit of dirt on one’s face automatically makes them hobo-esque, despite the fact everyone has pearly white and straight as an arrow teeth. The lack of experience for some of the actors and the rather undynamic way 20 FEET BELOW is filmed makes it all feel more like an infomercial about the homeless situation rather than anything like a film. This is a low budgeter and definitely highlights a cause worth supporting, but despite a few fun moments with Trejo, as an entertaining film, 20 FEET BELOW just doesn’t cut it.

New this week on DVD from Image Entertainment!


Directed by Todd Burrows, Christopher Folino
Written by Christopher Folino
Starring Chase Williamson, Ashley Bell, Clancy Brown, Jake Busey, William Katt, Marina Squerciati, Clint Howard, Scott Rinker, David Sobolov, Larry Cedar
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

One of the main reasons I love independent comic books is that the stories actually matter. Sure, there are comics out there from DC and Marvel that say they matter, but in the end, everything has to wrap up according to status quo because a change to the comic book story doesn’t only effect the comics, but it also effects the TV deal, the lunchbox sales, the movie production, and so on. Nope, with indie books, it’s the story that matters, and you never know what kind of twisty turny kind of tale you’re going to find between those covers.

In my time going to conventions for fun and then reporting on them for AICN, I’ve noticed with the rise of films, there has also been a rise in comic books that read more like pitches for films than actual sequential action storytelling. They look like comics with panels and thought balloons and alleys between panels and word balloons, but the intent it just to get a proof of concept down on a piece of paper, illustrated for all to see, rather than to commit to a comic book universe. Those pieces are less likely to be ongoing and sometimes not likely to see past issue one. SPARKS: THE ORIGIN OF IAN SPARKS is an outlier in that waaaaaaaaay back on the year of 2008 we interviewed writer/co-director Christopher Folino and co-priducer William Katt about the initial plans for this project. First the comic and then the film, but there was a clear goal in mind and I respected that. Whether or not that would come to fruition was another thing, but it appears these guys have stuck to their guns and I smiled a bit and may have muttered “All right”, impressed by the team’s commitment to make this comic into a film.

And SPARKS: THE ORIGIN OF IAN SPARKS is an impressive little modestly budgeted flick. Those expecting over the top CG, big stars, and big budgets will not be impressed, but as far as a solidly told tale of heroism and villainy, SPARKS does the trick. I know when we think super herofilm these days we think blockbuster, but just because the budget is low, that doesn’t mean that the story quality is too. It seems like SPARKS is mainly influenced by Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN more than any other comic out there as it plays with legacy characters, in an expansive story that crosses generations, using the central character of Ian Sparks as its focus. It tells of the rise of superheroes in a simpler time and how as time passed, things got muddy and real.

No superhero film is complete without an origin and, as indicated in the title, this one is no different. Ian Sparks happened to be in the wrong car at the wrong time as a cop pursuing a bank robber crashed into Sparks’ parents’ car, pushing it into the path of an oncoming train. The train was hauling an experimental liquid which splashed all over Sparks as a child, saving his life and beginning his road to fighting crime. Driven with a need to fight wrongdoers like the ones who killed his parents, Sparks sets out to be a superhero, but his quest is sidetracked by a few things. One is the lovely Lady Heavenly (played by THE LAST EXORCISM’s Ashley Bell) and the other is a masked serial murderer, Matanza, who seems to be impossible to catch or kill.

SPARKS is a dark, dark, dark tale that goes places the big budget super hero films dare not go. Issues of heroism are explored, but seen through a lens as a contrast to real life horrors such as murder, rape, incest, prostitution, and all sorts of bad deeds. In that sense, SPARKS is above and beyond the black and white worlds shown in full color every other week at the Cineplex. It deals with issues of grey that usually are not touched in mainstream comics and for that, it’s definitely a film worth seeking out.

On top of that, it’s got a hell of a cast. Filmed most likely before they became the names that they are now, JOHN DIES AT THE END’s Chase Williamson and the aforementioned Ashley Bell are great in the roles, bringing an energy to the film that shows that they are stars in the making. The appearance of character actors Clancy Brown, William Katt, Clint Howard, and Jake Busey make it all the more cool as these more seasoned actors feel like they’re having a ball too. Filmmakers Christopher Folino and Todd Burrows make the film somewhat stylized in the violence depicted, but never over the top or fetishized like the Zach Snyder films. I was surprised at how much road is travelled in SPARKS and how fulfilling a film it really was, as SPARKS packs a punch few superhero films with ten times its budget possess. Seek out SPARKS, a smartly written and reasonably rendered depiction of heroes worth looking up for facing horrors that really are scary.

New this week on DVD from Wils Eye Releasing!


Directed by Cary Hill
Written by Cary Hill
Starring Nicole Beattie, Doug Bradley, Steve Rudzinski, Kailey Marie Harris, Dean Jacobs, Tyler Kale, Ian Lemmon, Alicia Marie Marcucci, Nivek Ogre, Kyle Riordan, Wendy Wygant, David “Scar” Carpenter
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

On the surface, this is a brainlessly typical slasher film—something that doesn’t really stand out from the million and one other slasher films out there. All the beats are there, front and present. Masked killer. Multiple weapons used in the kills as well as different modes of murder. Unique and secluded setting. Annoying set of partying kids set out to drink, have sex, and die including the nerdy kid, the punk tough guy, the virginal final girl, and the girl with the big boobs who dies right after she goes topless. Yes, SCREAM PARK is very run of the mill when you first look at it.

But the thing is, what makes SCREAM PARK so much fun is that it feels like something you might have rented at a mom and pop video store back in the 80’s where there were still mom and pop video stores around. SCREAM PARK feels like it would fit right up on those shelves between 3 ON A MEATHOOK and DOOM ASYLUM, just to the left of AMERICAN GOTHIC and right above HUMONGOUS, yet under CLOWNHOUSE.

Writer/director Cary Hill has probably seen all of those old slasher films and probably a million more, and he seems to have adopted the basics well in this film, which almost feels like a tribute to all of those old slasher films. Beat for beat, the film goes through the basics, secluding a group of kids at night and alone from each other, then picking them off one by one. Mixing a bit of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE with Tobe Hooper’s FUNHOUSE, Hill offers up a charming little throwback slasher film that made me smile as if I were seeing an old friend after a long absence.

The story follows the final night of Fright Land, a horror theme park (or SCREAM PARK) and a group of kids who work in the park and decide it’s a good excuse to party on down. There are two masked murderers, a Voorhees-esque mute wearing a burlap sack on his head and a TCM Hitchhiker-like spaz (played by Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy fame) who sometimes dons a plague doctor mask until it gets in the way of trying to rape and kill his victims. Both killers are pretty frightening, exemplifying the two types of killers you often got when you picked any slasher film at random—the Michael Myers/Leatherface/Jason type who are just big and bulky and don’t talk and the Freddy/Hitchhiker/Chop-Top type who are more frantic and filled with darkly humorous quips and rants.

Though the gore here is not over the top, there is a lot of blood spatter and the viciousness of the kills make up for the lack of spectacle one often associated with the slasher. And the story itself is rather clever despite itself, in that it doesn’t reveal its final card until the last second of the film, which made me leave it with a smile. Doug Bradley’s cameo is fun as the park owner, and the reason these killers are at the park is pretty clever. In the end, SCREAM PARK feels familiar, but it does the familiar really, really well.

New this week on DVD from XLRator Media!


Directed by Kieran Parker
Written by Rae Brunton
Starring Bryan Larkin, Iván Kamarás, Michael McKell, Velibor Topic, Laurence Possa, Ben Lambert, Alec Utgoff, Vince Docherty, Gareth Morrison, Leo Horsfield, Vivien Taylor
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While I have to tip my hat to DEAD SNOW as the current king of the schmelding of Nazis and zombies in modern cinema, OUTPOST deserves a little credit as well. While the filmmakers behind DEAD SNOW made themselves something really special in terms of style and personality, OUTPOST was a rock solid mix of military action with nightmarish horror. While OUTPOST 2: BLACK SUN tried to continue the terror, I felt that it went off track with its focus on the Manhattan Project and space/time subject matter crossed with a bit of HELLRAISER. The first sequel seemed to forget that it was the down and dirty action that made the original so special in the first place.

With OUTPOST 3: RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ, there’s a welcome return to form as high octane action is the tough framework on which this film is built. The story focuses on the Russian special ops military unit the Spetsnaz, which fought some of the bloodiest battles with the Germans in World War II. The film opens showing how badass these guys truly are as they set up to ambush a travelling squadron of Nazis alongside a road. While the ambush is successful, they are not prepared for the backup, which consists of dog-collared madmen who seem to be unaffected by bullets. Turns out these monsters on leashes are zombies and the Nazis are eying the Spetsnaz as their latest test subjects for their next batch. The surviving members of the Russian unit are taken to an underground facility (the titular Outpost, featured in all three films) and the rest of the film is the lead Russkie (Bryan Larkin) fighting tooth and nail to get out of the facility in one piece.

What I appreciated most about OUTPOST 3 is the non-stop action, which pretty much seems to be running well before the film opens and then beyond the credits. We are witness to a grueling gauntlet run by our lead character, who hopes to survive the experience and not end up a mindless zombie like his comrades. Though this is definitely a different group compared to the mercenary team lead by Ray Stevenson in the first film, OUTPOST 3 does return to the gritty, bullets and brawn-centric feel of that film. Numerous times in the film, it almost feels like a filthy cage match between the scrappy Russian and the snarling zombie soldier, but director Kieran Parker keeps things from getting repetitious and maintains a full sprint pace from start to finish. Parker also peppers in some appropriately dark humor, especially a repeating scene where Larkin happens upon a window with a growling zombie behind it.

If you’re looking for action with horror or horror with action, you’re going to be pleased with OUTPOST 3: RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ. Mixing the two genres is often very difficult, but the filmmakers in this series get it right more often than not. Though there are many films that I wish would be done with the subject matter, OUTPOST is a film series that I think still has a lot of life left in its Nazi zombie bones. Here’s hoping they continue to trend of mashing military with horror with the same thrilling results.

Looking for more OUTPOST stuff? Check out my reviews of OUTPOST and OUTPOST 2: BLACK SUN, plus my interview with OUTPOST 2: BLACK SUN director Steve Barker here!

New this week on DVD & BluRay!


Directed by Lloyd Kaufman
Written by Travis Campbell, Casey Clapp, Derek Dressler, Aaron Hamel, Lloyd Kaufman
Starring Asta Paredes, Catherine Corcoran, Vito Trigo, Clay von Carlowitz, Zac Amico, Mike Baez, Tara E. Miller, Lloyd Kaufman, Babette Bombshell, Debbie Rochon, Lemmy as The President, Narrated by Stan Lee
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Reviewing RETURN TO NUKE’EM HIGH VOL.1 is kind of like reviewing the upper half of the Mona Lisa or sniffing a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers with one nose hole. It doesn’t seem right to review just part of it, but since Troma has decided to release the film in two (maybe three?) parts, I guess I have to review it that way too.

Taking into account CLASS OF NUKE’EM HIGH and its two sequels, RETURN TO NUKE’EM HIGH is a return to form from Troma, a company which of late has been dusting off forgotten not-so classics like CHILLERS (reviewed here) and PIGS (reviewed here) and optioning indie films like THE TAINT (reviewed here), FATHER’S DAY (reviewed here),and BLOOD JUNKIE (reviewed here). In the interim, one would think the filmmakers at Troma would have been honing their craft, fine-tuning that moviemaking machine, and paving the way for a Troma film that highlights all of the goods and shies away from all of the bads that are often associated with Troma films.

Well, instead of doing that, RETURN TO NUKE’EM HIGH is undeniably a Troma film with a slightly higher budget, a firm grasp on what is tasteless and fun about horror, but still making the same mistakes in terms of excess.

Let’s start with the good. RETURN TO NUKE’EM HIGH is filled with grossout practical and impractical effects straight from the first scene, which involves two things that Troma has always been known for—sex and gore. From this opening scene as a radioactive worm creature takes part in a gory menage a trois ending in the complete disintegration of everyone involved (except the worm) a la practical melting effects which are so old school, yet so awesome. Other outrageous effects include a gigantic female monster penis, a wheelchair with teeth, and a duck rape scene that is utterly tasteless (ok, I lied, it tastes like duck). These effects are slightly more polished versions of stuff you would see in TOXIC AVENGER and CLASS OF NUKE’EM HIGH, crude, but fun as all get out.
,br> The music in this film is also something worth noting as it is both utterly punk but surprisingly catchy, like the song which simply repeats that “I will kill myself tomorrow” and the radioactive glee club’s renditions of classics (sung in acapella, of course). Seeing these harmonies come from punk rocked-up monsters is something that will definitely make you laugh. It did for me.

While some might rip on RETURN TO NUKE’EM HIGH for its amateur acting, I wasn’t really put off by it. That’s normal for Troma. What usually turns me off of Troma films is the excess. Troma films often start strong, but then devolve into what looks like a big fun party which is probably fun to take part in, but not that fun to watch. In this film, the story starts strong, following a new girl arriving at Nuke’Em High and the blossoming lesbian relationship between her and the tough girl in school. The story is surprisingly sweet and fun, especially with everyone turning into mutants around them. And though it all culminates in a gratuitously long sex scene, the film remains pretty focused until both girls pass out and experience what might be a dream of them turning into monsters and wiping out numerous classmates in a gory sequence. But again, the film basically ends with a party where a band plays on as various punk rock and alterna people dance around, drink, and have fun.

The final moments of the film before the ominous TO BE CONTINUED message suggest that the dream both girls experienced might actually be coming true. A weird place to end, but I guess it’s as good a place as any. While the film doesn’t slide off the rails as much as other Troma classics have, it threatens to. Here’s hoping volume two stays the course. The story is stronger than I expected as are the performances, especially by the two leads, Asta Paredes & Catherine Corcoran. Plus there are some hilarious scenes with Stan Lee as the narrator and a scene with Lemmy as the President of the United States that I replayed twice because it was so funny. RETURN TO NUKE’EM HIGH is a fun film, filled with something to offend almost everyone. And I wouldn’t expect anything less from Troma.

New this week on DVD & BluRay from IFC Midnight !


Directed by Eric England
Written by Eric England
Starring Najarra Townsend, Caroline Williams, Alice Macdonald, Katie Stegeman, Matt Mercer, Charley Koontz, Simon Barrett, Ruben Pla, Dave Holmes, Celia Finkelstein
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

If you’re the type who likes to identify with the main character of a film, you’re going to have a hard time identifying and even liking CONTRACTED, I think. The main character of CONTRACTED is not a likable person, and I don’t think we are supposed to really empathize with her given the horrible decisions she makes throughout this film. Najarra Townsend plays Samantha, a person with an extremely addictive personality, and having known those types of people, I know how unlikable they can be. That said, Townsend is amazing in this role as a person who is so empty inside she will fill it with whatever or whoever she can in order to feel something.

Townsend gives a bold performance here as Samantha, formerly addicted to drugs and in a somewhat new relationship with a woman named Nikki (Katie Stegeman). I mention this because lesbianism is another new thing Samantha has used to fill her life and unlike her girlfriend Nikki, she is unsure whether or not she really feels that way. When Nikki begins to sense her addictive nature, she pulls away, leaving Samantha alone one night at a party where, in need of some kind of companionship, she hooks up with a random guy named BJ (played by YOU’RE NEXT writer Simon Barrett). This one night stand is the beginning of the end for all forms of normalcy for Samantha as we follow her mental and physical breakdown for the rest of this film.

CONTRACTED is a pretty fascinating character study of someone we all hope we are not like, but I feel the more one sees of ourselves in Samantha, the more uncomfortable one is going to be watching this film. Samantha is a weak person, and Townsend plays that character mercilessly. She uses her friends. She takes advantage of those she cares about. When she learns she has contracted something from her one night stand, she ignores the symptoms and still goes to her job serving food. Ignoring the health of all of those around her, she serves meals to customers and continues to have physical and sexual contact with others. It’s this disregard for others and the selfishness of Samantha that is the true horror going on in CONTRACTED, and it’s done so in a manner that will make you hate her by the end of this film.

Not only does Samantha mentally disintegrate before us in CONTRACTED, but like THANATOMORPHOSE (reviewed here –another STD body horror film of sorts), the main character is literally falling apart in front of us. We see a relatively healthy woman become a maggot ridden monster with open sores and rotting features and the effects do not shy away from showing us a lot of the gore that’s happening to Samantha. So for the squeamish, you’re not going to want to get near CONTRACTED, but if gore’s your bag, it’ll be a pleaser.

I have to give CONTRACTED points for originality in terms of coming up in an original way to start a zombie virus. In the end, yes, CONTRACTED is a zombie movie, but it only follows one person as she slowly turns from the living to the dead. The opening scene where we see a mortician (Barrett) having sex with a cadaver and then going on to a party where he has sex with Samantha is definitely a bold and new idea in terms of Patient Zero. Within the runtime of this film, we see the ugliness of humanity, but within the flawed character of Samantha, I saw every wrong turn one can make in the case of contracting some kind of disease—from ignoring it, to trying to cover it up cosmetically, to finally throwing all caution to the wind and trying to pass the disease on so that one is not alone anymore. It’s not something you or I would admit to doing, but it does delve into those brave areas that makes you wonder how you would act if this were to happen to you. Because of that, CONTRACTED is a fascinating study of a weak and alone person. Sure it’s wrapped in body horror and zombies, but weakness and loneliness are real life terrors that petrify me, and this film examines that thoroughly and effectively.

New this week on DVD & BluRay from Magnet Releasing!


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 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 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 in the perverse areas it goes 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. It’s definitely not a Hollywood film in that it has the balls to take you to uncomfortable places both psychologically and emotionally.

Advance Review: Available on Video On Demand on March 25th!


Directed by Josh Anthony
Written by Josh Anthony, Michael Barbuto, Anne Taylor
Starring Michael Barbuto, Josh Anthony, Anne Taylor, Teddy Gilmore
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

To be fair to those who like things SPOILER FREE, I want to warn you that there a bit of a spoiler at the end of this review, so if you don’t want to know, read the first three paragraphs and move on.

Stating outright that this is another found footage film will most likely make some of you zone out for the rest of this review, but having seen my share of good and bad found footagers, I think HAPPY CAMP is among one of the better produced ones. Yes, the film follows a lot of the tropes done and done again in these types of films such as taking the slow, slow build approach, leaving most of the action for the latter fifteen minutes of the film. The camera occasionally falls in just the right spot to catch a particularly interesting angle and some specific action or all of the action seems to occur right in the path of the multiple cameras posted for surveillance. The camera needs to continue to be rolling, despite the obvious, approaching danger, when in real life, the camera would be dropped and you and everyone else would run away. All of these things happen in HAPPY CAMP.

Complaining about the found footager isn’t going to make it go away, though. They are cheap to make since it requires only a handful of actors and crew. Still, the handheld motif occasionally gets me, and I admit that there were a few times in HAPPY CAMP that I was pretty riveted to what was playing out on screen. So in that sense, despite the fact that it is a found footage film, it is a found footage film that did a decent job of placing me into the action firsthand and taking me for a first person POV ride through a dark and dangerous forest. These films hinging on acting being natural; HAPPY CAMP is fortunate enough to have a few decent actors in this one as well, with most of them at least feeling like they are real people despite the mysterious and dynamic events unfolding.

The story of HAPPY CAMP follows Michael (Michael Barbuto), whose brother was one of 627 people to go missing from the small logging town of Happy Camp. Details are sketchy, evidence is slim to none, and Michael doesn’t remember fuck all of the night his brother was taken. Was it aliens? Was it inbred hilljacks? Was it a hungry Sally Struthers? Michael has no clue, but he his nightmares about that night continue and a group of his friends decide to make a documentary following Michael back to Happy Camp to seek out the truth. The rest of the film is that journey.


Now, I have admitted in this column to be a sucker for Bigfoot films and while I don’t particularly think this is a huge spoiler, there may be some who think so. Simply by mentioning Bigfoot, I think you get where this search is going to lead our clueless documentarians. Clues that it is a sasquatch or something sasquatch related abducting these kids are littered throughout the first half of this film in children’s drawings of monstrous creatures and the huge statue of Bigfoot itself the film crew encounter upon entering the town of Happy Camp. Though I haven’t seen any indication in the adverts for HAPPY CAMP, I feel the need to mention that this is a flick about the search for Bigfoot.

So is this a Bigfoot film worth checking out? Well, I’ve seen some horrible Bigfoot films, and this one is definitely not one of those. The acting is decent, the handheld motif offers a slow build, and the payoff is not bad. The monster itself is CG and the weight of the monster isn’t really conveyed in the animation I saw, but there are some decently orchestrated scares in the final moments. All in all, as far as Bigfoot films go, it’s no WILDMAN OF THE NAVIDAD or NIGHT OF THE DEMON or even BOGGY CREEK, but HAPPY CAMP’s better than most in terms of acting, production, and use of suspense, making this an entertaining although typical found footage film..

And finally…here’s a fun twist on the serial killer vibe from director Jakob Bilinski and writer Todd Martin. Get ready for LUCKY! 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 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Mark’s written THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DEATHSPORT GAMES, NANNY & HANK (soon to be an Uptown 6 Films feature film), Zenescope’s GRIMM FAIRY TALES Vol.13, UNLEASHED: WEREWOLVES, and the critically acclaimed THE JUNGLE BOOK and its follow up THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES. FAMOUS MONSTERS’ LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (co-written with Martin Fisher) will be available soon in trade. Mark wrote/provided art for a chapter in Black Mask Studios’ OCCUPY COMICS. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.

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