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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. On the menu this week are a pair of driller killers, stalked beauties, two footages worth finding, bird flu, supernatural heroes, toilet undead, cheating husbands, and Billy Zane killing zombies! Another day at the office for AICN HORROR!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: TWILIGHT ZONE Season One Episodes 25-30 (1960)
Retro-review: FRIGHTMARE (1974)
Retro-review: SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982)
LOW (2011)
STALLED (2013)
Advance Review: TREACHERY (2013)
Advance Review: AFFLICTED (2013)
And finally…Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Y CONTROL!

Retro-review: Collecting the entire series in a new Collector’s Box Set on DVD from Image Entertainment!


Episodes 25-30
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

With the release of the Complete Season Collector’s Box Set of TWILIGHT ZONE on DVD from Image Entertainment a few months ago, I’ve been celebrating by checking out each episode and tossing out my two cents on a semi-weekly basis. Now that I’m also looking back at the MONSTERS TV series which was just released in a swanky box set, I’ll be switching back and forth between the two series on a bi-weekly basis to cover both over the next few months. Having covered the last two seasons of TZ a while back, I’ve decided to go back to the beginning. Season One was where Serling was honing his talent as a storyteller, amassing a collection of talented writers, directors, and stars, and the series was just beginning to show the signs of being one of the most influential horror/sci fi series of all time. Let’s proceed into THE TWILIGHT ZONE Season One…

Episode 1.25: People Are Alike All Over
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Written by Rod Serling, based on the short story "Brothers Beyond the Void" by Paul Fairman
Starring Roddy McDowall, Paul Comi, Susan Oliver

Though there’s a foreboding sense of uncalm throughout this entire episode, mainly due to Roddy McDowell’s fantastically paranoid performance as an astronaut who is fearful of going outside of his spaceship for fear of what is out there banging on the hull. And while you know something bad is going to happen, you can’t help but hope for the best for the wide-eyed scientist. But if everything turned out hunky-dorey then is wouldn’t be a TWILIGHT ZONE episode, now, would it? The ending is one of the more memorable ones which offers a look at our own society through the lens of an alien culture. The final moments, are horrific and simple, which is pretty much what all of the best TZ episodes embody for me.

Episode 1.26: Execution
Directed by David Orrick McDearmon
Written by Rod Serling, based on the short story "Execution" by George Clayton Johnson
Starring Albert Salmi, Russell Johnson, Richard Karlan, Than Wyenn, John Lormer

Albert Salmi is amazing, as always, as an outlaw who is snagged out of time just before he is hanged in the Old West. But while he hoots and hollers at his new found freedom, he finds the future (1960) to be not the respite that he first figured. This episode has a wonderful sense of poetic justice as it proves that you just can’t outrun fate, even with a time machine. But it’s Salmi’s performance that makes this episode shine. His unkempt and uncouth demeanor makes you root for the scallywag, while loathing him at the same time.

Episode 1.27: The Big Tall Wish
Directed by Ron Winston
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Ivan Dixon, Steven Perry, Kim Hamilton, Walter Burke, Henry Scott

Serling was a boxer in his day and with the amount of episodes that centered on boxing, it was probably pretty evident. While this one is technically good and there are some memorable scenes in the ring, especially in terms of how time slows down and speeds up in time of battle (later exemplified in RAGING BULL and done to utter excess in 300), this episode is especially schmaltzy and the performance by the little kid, Steven Perry is somewhat painful to watch as he makes a wish that his favorite boxer, a washed up has-been well-played by Ivan Dixon, survives the odds of a big match. Often times the presence of a little kid in a story is grating due to amateur acting and this one is a prime example of that. Still, it’s a well intentioned attempt at heart, but filled with schmaltz just the same.

Episode 1.28: A Nice Place To Visit
Directed by John Brahm
Written by Charles Beaumont
Starring Larry Blyden, Sebastian Cabot

I loved the way this one played out as Larry Blyden plays a lowlife crook who is shot and killed after a heist only to find the afterlife to be pretty much heaven at first. The welcome sight of Sebastian Cabot’s hearty and robust presence as what appears to be an angel is even more misleading. But what I love about this episode is that everyone knows what’s happening except for Blyden who is too busy swimming in the rewards to understand that he’s actually in a place all together different. Both Blyden and Cabot are great here in an episode that is predictable, but still literally a helluva fun ride.

Episode 1.29: Nightmare as a Child
Directed by Alvin Ganzer
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Janice Rule, Terry Burnham, Shepperd Strudwick

I suppose back in the day, this one might have been pretty chilling. It’s about a woman who runs into a little girl outside of her apartment one day. The girl says she is familiar with the woman, but the woman cannot recall how she knows her. Soon another man who claims to be part of the woman’s forgotten past arrives as well. All of it is a twisty little story of psychosis that probably been more effective had Serling not overwritten it and structured it to play out just like PSYCHO with the peculiarities playing out and the writer feeling like the audience is so dumb, the psychosis at play needs to be explained by a psychiatrist at the end. The over obvious ending really did sour the whole episode for me, but even without that annoying explanation scene, this was a predictable piece.

Episode 1.30: A Stop at Willoughby
Directed by Robert Parrish
Written by Rod Serling
Starring James Daly, Patricia Donohue, Howard Smith, Jason Wingreen

This sad tale of a man who is trying desperately to escape his humdrum job in business is one of the more memorable this week in the force of the power that plays out in its final moments. After a nervous breakdown of sorts at the office, James Daly dreams his train ride home takes him to a quaint little town called Willoughby. It’s an inviting little burg that is a refreshing change of pace from the desk job and his cold as ice wife back home. But every time the stop is announced, Daly hesitates before getting off and misses the stop. This is a tale of dreaming of getting away and how one can achieve that. The message is rather morose, but the ending of this one is going to knock you on your ass and shows that despite being made in a simpler time, shows like TZ could occasionally have that acidic and apathetic bite we normally would associate with TV or films that came years and years later.

Previous TWILIGHT ZONE Episode Reviews!
Season 1: Episodes 1.1-1.6, 1.7-1.12, 1.13-1.18, 1.19-1.24
Season 4: Episodes 4.1-4.5, 4.5-4.8, 4.9-4.13, 4.14-4.18
Season 5: Episodes 5.1-5.7, 5.8-5.14, 5.15-5.21, 5.22-5.28, 5.29-5.36

Look for more TWILIGHT ZONE Episode Reviews soon!

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Kino Lorber/Redemption!


Directed by Pete Walker
Written by David McGillivray (screenplay), Pete Walker (original story)
Starring Rupert Davies, Sheila Keith, Deborah Fairfax, Paul Greenwood, Kim Butcher, Fiona Curzon, Jon Yule, Trisha Mortimer, Victoria Fairbrother, Edward Kalinski
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

I’ve covered a lot of Pete Walker films here on AICN HORROR, but out of all of them, I find FRIGHTMARE the scariest and altogether ookiest of them all. The film has a lot of Pete Walker-isms which include women in peril, depravity from all characters involved, and a heaping dose of PSYCHO-esque psychosis. But what makes it stand out among the rest is the show stopping performance of Sheila Keith.

Keith is no stranger to Walker’s films. She played one of the wicked wardens in HOUSE OF THE WHIPCORD and was amazing as she took sadistic glee in torturing her lovely prisoners. Here she plays what looks to be a kindly old lady, but underneath than school marm exterior is a vicious killing machine. Keith seems to love every minute of it as she smiles in ecstasy as her drill bores into the faces and skulls of her victims. The way she switches between bloodthirsty killer to helpless mother figure is almost effortless and while there are times when she looks like she could be knocked over with a stiff wind, a little shift in the way the carries herself and a tilt of the head and she is your worst nightmare—or frightmare as the title exclaims.

The story revolves around a particularly twisted family made up of an elderly couple Mr. and Mrs. Yates (played by Keith and Rupert Davies) convicted to a mental institution for crimes too unsavory to imagine (they were cannibals). Just released and considered cured, the Yates’ daughter Jackie (Deborah Fairfax) covers up their release from her younger sister Debbie (Kim Butcher) who is shown early on to be getting caught up in the wrong kind of crowd as she has her boyfriend and his gang beat a bartender to death when he refuses to sell the underager a drink. Fairfax is lovely as Jackie as she tries to look out for her sister. And Butcher is definitely good at making us not like her as Debbie as her spoiled brat attitude makes you hope she ends up in the Yates’ stew post haste. When Debbie gets wind of her parents release, she sets out to get revenge on her sister for hiding the truth and finds a new kinship with her psychotic mother.

But out of all of the deviants involved here, I love Rupert Davies the best. He is a man so in love with his wife that he will break laws and even turn a blind eye to murder to protect his family. Though some may think this spineless for not standing up for himself, Davies has a bit of a dark side himself here that seems to want all of this despite his hesitation. All in all, this is one messed up family.

Walker does a fantastic job of orchestrating this psychotic family feud. Bodies start piling up. Meat is cooked and eaten. Drills are drilled and pitchforks are pitched. Walker also goes metaphorical in a dream sequence that turns out to be one of the most horrifying scenes in the film when Jackie dreams her mother is in the train car with her and offering her a wrapped slice of bloody meat. Simple, yet the look on Sheila Keith’s face and the silence that permeates the scene is enough to send a million shivers down your spine.

If you’re looking for the best of Pete Walker’s films, my vote goes whole heartedly towards FRIGHTMARE. While again, Walker takes a pause mid-movie a la PSYCHO’s epilogue to explain the particular psychosis the Yates family is exhibiting from an investigator, a psychiatrist, and a man familiar with the Yates’ case, it is still quirky enough to scare the hell out of you. But the real reason to see this is because of Keith who steals the show as one old lady you never want to cross.

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


Directed by Amy Holden Jones
Written by Rita Mae Brown
Starring Michele Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella, Debra Deliso, Andree Honore, Gina Smika, Jennifer Meyers, Joseph Alan Johnson, David Millbern, Jim Boyce, Pamela Roylance, Brinke Stevens, Rigg Kennedy, Jean Vargas, Anna Patton, Howard Purgason
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Written and directed by Amy Holden Jones and Rita Mae Brown as a feminist statement against the rising number of slasher films objectifying and debatably telling masochistic tales of violent male actions towards women, one might be surprised to find out that THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is actually one of the more perfect slasher films of its time. Though it spawned a few lesser quality sequels, the schlock status that comes to mind when this film is mentioned is definitely not warranted. I found myself pleasantly surprised with THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE after recently dusting it off and plopping it into my player.

The premise is tried and true by now. It’s the anniversary of a serial killer’s rampage, and a maniac has escaped from an institution the day before the female basketball team decide to have a slumber party. As the girlies strip to their skivvies, order pizza, and gossip about boys, the maniac descends onto the party, killing one by one until a scant few remain to fight back. The film is riddled with clichés that are joshed at and avoided in modern films, but what makes THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE so good is that it was made at a time when this was not cliché and serves as a projection of the joke slasher films became throughout the later eighties.

So when all the I’s and T’s are dotted and crossed in a predictable fashion, I couldn’t help but laugh with this film at it. The filmmakers seem to know they are making a statement about slashers rather than just making a bad slasher film. This is evident later in the film, as the actions in the film coincide almost perfectly with the slasher film playing out on the television they are watching. There are some scenes so expertly interspersed that an inattentive viewer might feel the slasher on the screen is the same.

SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE would be more aptly titled FALSE SCARE: THE MOVIE, as every cliché from a screeching cat to a hand from off camera is used to instill a start and then a laugh. It happens so often here, it’s almost forgivably hilarious every time it happens. Other clichés are utilized such as the boob flash followed immediately by the killing of said boobs. The film seems to constantly give reason for some girl to take off her top and show her nubblies at least once every ten minutes, with future scream queen Brinke Stevens doing what she does best in a very early role (though she is killed off rather quickly).

The gore is pretty impressive as the killer, who uses a portable drill which is about three feet long and positioned obviously to be a symbolic extension of the killer’s penis (it’s even cut in half in the final battle), gores holes through eyes, torsos, and just about anything else in his path. THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is also pretty hilarious, with genius bits of dialog that feel timely of the era the film was made. If you haven’t seen this film, I guarantee you’ll be surprised how well done it is.

In this new Blu by Shout Factory, SPM has a Making of featurette entitled SLEEPLESS NIGHTS, audio commentary by director Amy Holden Jones, actor Michael Villela, and Debra De Liso, plus of course, trailers. SLUMBER PARTY MASACRE deserves to be rewatched as it is definitely titillation, but there’s a whole lot more there too.

Beware, Office Workers! Below there be boobies!

New this week on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment!!


Directed by Jim Valdez
Written by Joel Souza (screenplay), Jim Valdez (story)
Starring Sharon Hinnendael, Nicole Zeoli, Christina Corigliano, Morissa O'Mara, Alana O'Mara, Robert Adamson, Brett Howell, Blake Baskin
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

The movie this week I really wasn’t looking forward to watching was MACHINE HEAD. For some reason the cover art and the trailer really left me cold. So I plopped the disk in, held my breath, and prepared for something pretty unspectacular.

The thing is, MACHINE HEAD is anything but unspectacular. In fact, it’s a pretty well orchestrated little stalk and slash about a trio of pretty girls trapped in a house with a crazy person stalking them. Sometimes the simplest of stories can be the most effective, I guess. The three leads Sharon Hinnendael, Nicole Zeoli, and the num-num-nummy Christina Corigliano are all decent actresses and they look pretty nice in bikinis (and out of them) as well. And it’s because of the talent of these three that sold me on the film and had me hoping they’d all survive the experience to party again in another pool some day.

Writer/director Jim Valdez and writer Joel Souza offer up a tight little thriller that will keep you twisting and turning until the end and the ending itself actually is somewhat of a fun surprise because I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. There are some well choreographed scenes building tension and some seriously brutal kills (some involving a shotgun which isn’t used enough in horror films, especially slasher films, but should be, in my opinion) to partake in with MACHINE HEAD.

Yes, this is a film where a bunch of pretty people are put in peril, but the pretties are actually quite skilled and the peril is of a particular blend that is both potent and powerful. Though it is very much a run-of-the-mill stalk n’ slash, MACHINE HEAD might surprise you that it’s a stalk n’ slash of particular quality. Surprisingly recommended.

New on DVD and Video On Demand from Brink Vision!

LOW (2011)

Directed by Ross Shepherd
Written by Ross Shepherd (story), Jamie Tighe (screenplay)
Starring David Keyes, Amy Comper, Darran Cockrill, Stewart Tighe, Amber Coombs
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Clocking in just a bit over an hour is LOW, a small but powerful film about a broken young woman with a secret walking in a secluded wooded area only to run into a broken older gentleman with an even bigger secret. Everything seems innocent until the two collide with writer/director Ross Shepherd filling the scene with lush green grassy fields, tweeting wildlife, and serene music. It all seems almost dreamlike with not a word spoken until the two characters meet after the first ten minutes of silence, but this meeting breaks the silence like a sledge hammer to a pane glass window.

What works here is that LOW unfolds almost like a stage play. It’s the powerful performance by David Keyes who has a Noah Taylor quality about him in his lanky and bizarre looks and posture. Keyes looks like a person who was most likely picked on in school and that seemed to have carried over in real life with the weight he seems to carry when we first see him. Keyes switches from harmless to maniacal in an instant here, revealing that he had just killed two people in a train station and those might not be the last people he will kill on this day.

Opposing him is the lovely Amy Comper whose soft looks remind me of a young Jennifer Connelly. From the first frame as she silently walks through the forest, she is the embodiment of melancholy. As she buries a mysterious box in the woods, we can tell whatever it is inside meant a lot to her and once the secret is revealed, my heart broke. Comper does a great job of playing a woman beaten down to the point of not caring anymore and only the stoniest of heart will not be rooting for her by the end to overcome this madman she happens upon.

As wits are matched throughout the rest of this film, there are some contrivances here and there that keeps these two unfortunate characters in this secluded place, but the final moments of this film reminded me of such quiet terrors as DEAD CALM and maybe even a bit of THE HITCHER, believe it or not. Like the title itself, LOW isn’t about big effects, big scares, or big thrills. It’s a small yet terrifying story of simple things like good and evil and how good people go bad and how bad happens to those who are good. It’s all a fascinating character dissection and well worth seeking out.

New this week on Video On Demand from Music Box Films!


Directed by Yorgos Noussias
Written by Claudio Bolivar, Christos Houliaras, Petros Nousias (story), Yorgos Noussias (story/screenplay)
Starring Andreas Kontopoulos, Argiris Thanasoulas, Meletis Georgiadis, Pepi Moschovakou, Ioanna Pappa, Hristos Biros, Eftyhia Yakoumi, Drosos Skotis, Thanos Tokakis, Apostolis Totsikas, and Billy Zane
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Wow. I mean, wow. I’m not sure what I watched when I saw EVIL IN THE TIME OF HEROES. And after taking a while to let the film soak in, I really don’t know if I loathe or love it. There are some films that really do defy explanation and EVIL IN THE TIME OF HEROES is one of those films that defy explanation. I’m kind of blown away at the sheer amount of imagination that went into the film and the places director Yorgos Noussias decides to take us to, but at the same time, I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking this is a film that is altogether good, much less one that makes a whole lot of sense.

But there’s some kind of beauty in the fact that Noussias seems to not really give a shit. With the sheer amount of zombie flicks out there, one thing is for certain, EVIL IN THE TIME OF HEROES, while a zombie flick, is a zombie flick unlike any you’re likely to ever see. The amount of crazy imagery, crazy actions, crazy twists, and just plain crazy going on here will make logically thinking folks’ heads explode, but most likely will entertain those who just like to ride the wave of imagination swelling from this film.

The film opens in Ancient Greece as a bunch of warriors relax in front of a bonfire. Soon they are attacked by zombies and once decimated, the story leaps to present day to a world horror fans are all too familiar with—one teeming with fast and snarling zombies. From the get go, the cartoonish music, playing over the credits and during the opening scenes doesn’t quite fit the tone of the film and continues to do so for the rest of the movie. Maybe its indicative to the culture and this being a Greek film, the local tunes just aren’t really indicative of a horror movie. Whatever the case, pretty much all of the movie in this film is off kilter, but again, it kind of sets a comedic tone and definite charm to it all.

While much of the attempts at straight up jokey humor falls pretty flat, Noussias makes up for it big time with a treasure cave full of insane imagery and action. Let me list a few things you will see in EVIL IN THE TIME OF HEROES;

Cars driving through a crowd of zombies, slo mo eggs flying through the air, an animated sequence detailing how human blood turns to zombie blood after a bite, an angry soldier unloads an entire machine gun clip into the face of one unlucky man, a cook with ninja like skills at culinary combat defeating scores of zombies with a boomerang, and a climax that takes place on a battlefield that spans space and time with characters exhibiting bizarre and unexplainable powers such as mind bullets, super jumping, and force blasts. I don’t know if this is a work of sheer genius or just a bunch of random shit a raving madman thought up in a fever dream in an Indian medicine tent, but I can’t deny that there is a lot of technical skill and imagination going on in this ADHD acid flashback of a flick.

Oh, and Billy Zane walking around in a robe, speaking Greek, and acting like Ben Kenobi slicing through scores of zombies with two hand-blades. Somehow all of this fits together to make a tiny bit of sense, but I think I had more fun with this one when I decided to turn off the part of my brain trying to figure shit out and just enjoy the rodeo.

In some ways, this might be a culture thing as this Greek film seems to have a lot of the same cultural charm that JUAN OF THE DEAD exhibited about Cuban lifestyle. On the other hand, I hope the Greek aren’t this insane. EVIL IN THE TIME OF HEROES is a blood splattered masterpiece of sheer lunacy and ends in a way unlike any zombie film you have ever seen and most likely will ever see. I honestly don’t know if this is a good thing or bad thing, but there is absolutely nothing out there like EVIL IN THE TIME OF HEROES!

New this week on DVD and BluRay!


Directed by Stephen Sommers
Written by Stephen Sommers (screenply), Dean R. Koontz (based on the novel)
Starring Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin, Leonor Varela, Willem Dafoe, Matthew Page, Casey Messer, Barney Lanning, Nico Tortorella, Kyle McKeever
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Stephen Sommers, who gave us DEEP RISING, THE MUMMY, VAN HELSING, and GI JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA, returns with ODD THOMAS, an adaptation of a series of Dean Koontz novels bearing the same name. While the film sports an impressive cast, the end result turns out to be an uneven little flick.

STAR TREK and FRIGHT NIGHT remake’s Anton Yelchin plays the titular character, and despite the fact that he is not the first person one would think of in terms of an action star, he does a surprisingly strong job with the material he is given. Thomas is somewhat of a supernatural trouble magnet, as he has a variety of powers which attract him to those in trouble as well as has that Haley Joel Osment sense to see dead people. He also has the power to see creatures known as Bodachs, otherworldly creatures that live in the periphery and are attracted to those who are about to die. When a Bodach is around, death follows and only Thomas can see them. When the small California town of Pico Mundo begins swarming with Bodachs, Thomas begins to get a bad feeling that something major is about to happen, and with his girl Stormy at his side, he sets out to find out what it is.

ODD THOMAS is a surprisingly smaller film than the over-the-top rollercoasters Sommers usually gets behind. At least at first, the film starts small with Odd chasing down a child killer at the behest of one of his recent victims to save the killer’s next intended victim. Sommers trades the usual grandiose set pieces we have come to expect from THE MUMMY series for the quaint small town flavor, but in doing so, Sommers also makes this mundane world a little too static and boring, as if the intensity sometimes seen in his films just can’t be matched in this suburban environment. Other directors are able to make the scene vivid no matter what the backdrop, but the plain environs highlight Sommers’ weakness of framing when a CG team isn’t present to spice things up.

The script, adapted by Sommers, is equally problematic, as characters who had just seen each other act as if they’ve been apart for an extended period of time, suggesting a sort of disjointed story--as if big chunks were cut that the viewer isn’t privy to. The script is also rather tedious, in that it reminds us that Odd Thomas is odd in just about every line of dialog in the first 40 or so minutes as one person or another can’t help but immediately notice how odd he is. We get that Odd is odd, not really because of what he does, but rather because it is beaten into us by every character, no matter what he does or doesn’t do.

That said, there are some pretty cool effects, mostly in terms of the Bodachs, who look like semi-see through insectoid people with backwards bending joints and mush faces. The final act of the film is also surprisingly effective and I give that to Yelchin, who despite the problematic script is a fantastic actor and able to convey a sense of sympathy and dynamism. In the final moments of this film, I have to admit, I was sucked in and enamored with the quirky Odd Thomas and hoping for further, better-written capers of the offbeat paranormal investigator in future films, as the ending suggests.

New this week on DVD!

STALLED (2013)

Directed by Christian James
Written by Dan Palmer
Starring Dan Palmer, Antonia Bernath, Tamaryn Payne, Mark Holden, Giles Alderson, Sarah Biggins, Victoria Broom, Victoria Eldon
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Because of the inundation of zombie films, it’s tough for a film about the living dead to get ahead of the herd. In order to do so the film either has to have a super star in the cast or come at the subgenre from an angle that hasn’t been tried before. Now, the zom-com has been tried before, but very few of these films are as successful at being entertaining as STALLED is.

For the most part, STALLED is a one man show as a night janitor is trapped in a ladies bathroom stall during the zombie apocalypse on Christmas Eve. That one man is writer Dan Palmer, who does a great job of doing all of he heavy acting lifting here as the timid and nebbish janitor who thinks quick on his feet and may have a bit of a selfish streak to him, but those are attributes that do well during a zombie apocalypse.

Played for laughs, the film doesn’t shy away from the gore. Heads are crushed in toilet bowls, brain matter splats onto the camera lens, hammers are embedded into foreheads, and fingers are lopped off by the handful. If you’re looking for a horror/comedy tone to compare it to, I’d liken STALLED to DEAD ALIVE, as the zombies are played for laughs despite the dark and dangerous circumstances the janitor has found himself in.

Filled with some solid humor, such as a sequence where the janitor trips on acid in the stall and dreams he and the zombies have a Michael Jackson style dance routine which begins with the janitor crowd surfing across the zombie horde to the tune of techno music, STALLED almost plays out as a “What if Charlie Chaplin was stuck in the zombie apocalypse?” scenario as the film plays as a series of funny bits laced together loosely, increasing in dire circumstances and power of the laugh as the film goes on. There are some genius bits of silent cinema at play here as the facial expressions and wacky Rube Goldbergian scenarios play out with the zombies falling victim most of the time.

Not all horror has to be super serious and dire. Sometimes it’s best to laugh in the worst scenarios and that’s exactly what STALLED does. STALLED takes a simple scenario and runs full blast with it. Honestly, there are probably only fifteen people in this film and most of them shuffle around as mindless zombies. Palmer as the janitor plays a version of the classic underdog who one can’t help but root for despite one bonehead decision after another. There’s a lot to love about STALLED; a quality indication that you don’t have to go big to get big laughs and make a good zombie movie.

New this week on DVD!


Directed by Christopher MacBride
Written by Christopher MacBride
Starring Aaron Poole, James Gilbert, Alan C. Peterson, Bruce Clayton, Julian Richings
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

My favorite film released this week has got to be THE CONSPIRACY. Though I am not so far gone as to believe that every event in history is connected and I don’t have a wall filled with clippings, thumbtacks, and strings, I will admit that there are some conspiracies that might actually have something to them. Now, personally, I don’t know what is made up and what is real in THE CONSPIRACY, but if half of the connections made in this film are true, the world is a scarier place than I thought.

And that’s the beauty of THE CONSPIRACY, more of a mockumentary than a true found footage film about a pair of documentarians played by Aaron Poole (from last year’s THE LAST WILL & TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH, reviewed here) & James Gilbert (from last year’s THE CORRIDOR, reviewed here) who choose to focus their lens on one conspiracy theorist as a means to understand why they believe what they believe, not necessarily if what they believe in is true. At least that’s the plan.

The story arc these two filmmakers take in this film fascinated me the most as the they are pulled in to a particular conspiracy theory believed by one theorist named Terrance (played by the convincingly paranoid Alan C. Peterson) to be the be all end all connection between most of the significant events in history. One of my favorite themes explored in some of the best mockumentaries is how the documentarian is often pulled into the subject matter and more times than not, this is realized way too late in the game. It’s a statement about how once a lens is directed at something, you no longer are an objective party. You have manipulated it and that there are no truly objective filmmakers out there no matter how unbiased they claim to be. Aaron (Poole) and Jim (Gilbert) start out wanting to study this loud and crazy man speaking whacko theories in the street, but after a believable series of events, Aaron cannot deny the pull of the stories Terrance is preaching and though Jim is much more cautious (because he has much more to lose as he has a wife and child at home), he ends up feeling the pull as well.

What THE CONSPIRACY does expertly well is pull the viewer in and hold them there with an ever tightening grip until the very end of the film. I found myself pulled into the conspiracy of a secret organization called the Tarsus Club which seemingly spans the globe in a world wide network of major players and while most likely a lot of this was made up to make this film work, it all seemed logistically possible the way it all played out. The film culminates as Aaron and Jim infiltrate a Tarsus club meeting which is some of the most tension filled moments I have seen this year.

With a plot that is magnetic, acting that is top tier, and a story masterfully written by director Christopher MacBride, THE CONSPIRACY had me by the throat in the final half hour and wouldn’t let go. Unlike most films I watch and quickly forget, THE CONSPIRACY is one I am watching again this weekend and most likely will do so again and again because of the sheer amount of tension is conveys and the expert way is doles out the story of how tempting the great unknown is and how more tempting it is for all of us to try to make sense of it all.

Advance Review: To be released in April!!


Directed by Travis Romero
Written by Travis Romero
Starring Michael Biehn, Matthew Ziff, Caitlin Keats, Jennifer Blanc, Richard Gunn, Tanya Newbould, Chris Meyer, Sarah Butler, Christian J. Meoli, Matthew Krause, Lorraine Ziff
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

The follow up to last year’s impressive debut from Blanc/Biehn Productions THE VICTIM (reviewed here). The production company, owned by Michael Biehn and his wife Jennifer Blanc seems to be set on making fun, down and gritty films as proven with their second film TREACHERY, which may not be exactly the perfect fit for a review here on AICN HORROR, at least at first.

TREACHERY is pretty much a drama about a very dysfunctional family. Biehn stars as Henry, the patriarch of the family, a self-described former drunk adulterer who proves that he is lying on both cases. Celebrating the wedding of family friends, Henry and his new wife Vanessa (Caitlin Keats) host a party at their home. Co-producer Jennifer Blanc is only in the film in a minor role a the soon to be bride, but soon takes her leave when the party is crashed by Henry’s son Nathan (Matthew Ziff) and his girlfriend Cecelia (I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVES Sarah Butler) back from college. After pleasantries are taken care of, Nathan drops the bomb that he is not going to grad school, but Celcelia has a bigger bomb to drop as she is pregnant with Henry’s baby. Tensions rise as the dysfunctional family are trapped in a house in the mountains with a raging thunderstorm outside keeping them all from leaving.

While TREACHERY doesn’t have a high body count or gobs of gore, it deals with horror on a much more personal level. And while the characters in this film don’t have pointed fangs and blood stained claws, don’t think that keeps them from being full fledged monsters to one another. There’s an emotional bite to this film that will most definitely upset a lot of those who watch as it goes to some uncomfortable places and since the family is trapped in one locale, the story forces them to face one another when the first instinct might be to run and never look back.

TREACHERY is a short film, just over an hour long and some of the initial scenes take a bit of time to get rolling, but besides those criticisms, I enjoyed Michael Biehn’s intense performance as he is the worm wriggling on the hook here once all of the dirty secrets come out. The resolution of the film is rather rushed, but TREACHERY is filled with horrors of a different kind and felt like a refreshing change of pace from the normal zombie and vamp fare I usually see writing this AICN HORROR column week after week.

Advance Review: In theaters and on Video On Demand April 4th!


Directed by Derek Lee, Clif Prowse
Written by Derek Lee, Clif Prowse
Starring Derek Lee, Clif Prowse, Baya Rehaz, Michael Gill, Jason Lee, Gary Redekop, Zach Gray, Edo Van Breeman, Benjamin Zeitoun
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Most found footage films play out like an intricately laid house of cards and the film itself provides the light breeze that cause the plausibility of it all to topple to the ground. But some strong storytelling, strong acting, amazing effects, and a solid premise, the foundation for AFFLICTED is set solid in stone, making the film one of the strongest found footagers you’re bound to find this year.

The story follows Derek Lee and Clif Prowse (playing themselves and also sharing the directing and writing chores for the film) as they plan to take a trip around the world, seeing sights and doing things the two lifelong friends have never done before. Derek has just been diagnosed with a brain tumor and though his health is of concern to his doctors, his family, and his friends, including Clif, he refuses to cancel the trip because of this horrible news. Honoring Derek’s wishes, Clif comes along to document and co-experience this trip with Derek, and also makes a promise to his family to look out for him and make sure he is ok. While Clif’s intentions are sincere and his friendship with Derek is strong, no one could prepare for what happens when Derek takes a woman home from a bar and is found some time later by Clif, attacked and bloody in his hotel room. Soon after, Derek begins to change, and what first started out to be a documentary about Derek living life to the fullest turns into a nightmare as we witness first hand Derek’s metamorphosis into…something inhuman.

Though CHRONICLE is the first film that came to mind when I saw this trailer, the film immediately separates itself from the found footage hit by taking a much darker and surprisingly heartfelt melancholy tone. As they reveal the reasons Derek is taking these chances and going on this trip, you immediately begin to root for these guys to survive and live their lives to the fullest. You feel for Derek, who does a fantastic job of making you care for him in very little screen time. Clif is equally if not more likable as the friend everyone wishes they could have, sacrificing everything to help and be there for his friend. The strong foundation of friendship is what holds this entire film together.

There is a lot of fun to be had in this film. Seeing Derek find out he has super strength and speed has been done before, but because the characters are so rich, it all feels fresh. When things go wrong, also, these are aspects we’ve seen in horror before, but there is a freshness to everything playing out on screen that makes it all feel like you’re seeing it for the first time (again because of the solid performances). The effects involving both the powers exhibited and the makeup of Derek’s transformation are amazing to behold. For the most part the CG is seamless and the practical stuff give the transformed Derek a look that is utterly unique. Derek’s movements in his transformed state are equally horrifying and amazing when the human aspect of him goes away and he is being driven by pure animal instinct.

With most found footage films, the key element which makes or breaks the film is coming up with a reason to keep recording all of this. Here, the reason for keeping the camera rolling is out of honor of a strong friendship and since this entire film is built around the friendship between Lee and Prowse the reason to continue to capture the events on film is believable. Because of this, you aren’t nagged with that feeling of why that is often plaguing films of this type. Having conquered that found footage challenge, you can sit back and just enjoy the events of the film unfold and it makes for a much more satisfying experience.

AFFLICTED is a film that will definitely have you wondering “How the hell did they pull that off?!?!” in terms of what is captured on camera. Given the developments in digital tech, I shouldn’t be surprised, but I think even the most jaded fanboy is going to be impressed at what the filmmakers are able to pull off with camera tricks, digital manipulation, and practical effects. AFFLICTED isn’t just another found footage film you find and immediately want to lose. It’s one of the strongest mainstream horror films released this year and deserves to be seen by all who love a good scare.

And finally…maybe I’m out of the loop, but I saw this video in a bar last week for the first time and I was blown away at how fucked up it was. Here’s the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with some crazy ass kids singing Y CONTROL!

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.

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

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