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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week be on the lookout for giant swimming lizards, suicidal group therapy, a recluse, a bridezilla, ghost noises, an outback killer, some horror camps, bad mothers, deadly games, a horror musical, and Bigfoot. On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: MONSTERS TV Series Collected Box Set: Season One – Episodes 13-18 (1989)
CONFINE (2013)
13 SINS (2014)
WOLF CREEK 2 (2013)
PROXY (2013)
Advance Review: THE LASHMAN (2013)
And finally… Jamie Tracey’s HOWLS!

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


Series One: Episodes 13-18 (1989)
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 the 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 1.13: Glim-Glim
Directed by Peter Stein
Written by F. Paul Wilson
Starring Mark Hofmaier, Brian Fitzpatrick, Jenna von Oÿ

The crudely made monster of this alien invasion/plague tale is the downfall of this episode, which stars little Jenna von Oÿ who later went on to star as Six in BLOSSOM. The story follows three survivors of an alien apocalypse, trapped in a basement and hiding from an alien living up above them. Apparently, the alien brought a plague with him to Earth which wiped out everyone but the three survivors, and while the two men fight in the basement, the little girl makes attempts to befriend the monster. Though we are supposed to be scared of the alien, it looks like a green Grimace from the old McDonalds commercials. When a friendly interaction between the girl and the alien is misinterpreted by the two other survivors, they open fire with handguns on the beast. And then the alien dies, which makes me wonder: why the hell didn’t they shoot the thing weeks ago? Both the threat of the alien and basic logic are weak in this episode.

Episode 1.14: Parents from Space
Directed by Gerald Cotts
Written by Peg Haller, Bob Schneider
Starring Frank Gorshin, Peggy Cass, Mary Griffin, Ann Hillary

This one’s a sweet tale about an abused child who is just looking for foster parents who will love her. Too bad the Riddler himself is her foster father. Frank Gorshin isn’t really allowed to let loose in this episode, but seeing the old Batman villain is always fun. The story involves an alien invasion that turns out to be beneficial to the abused girl, as they turn out to be nicer than her real foster parents. Not the strongest episode, but still, it’s got Gorshin in it, so it can’t be all that bad.

Episode 1.15: The Mother Instinct
Directed by Bette Gordon
Written by D. Emerson Smith
Starring Elizabeth Franz, Finn Carter, Tom Gilroy

This episode is equal parts awesome and laughable, as an old woman with a green thumb is pestered by her weak-willed daughter and her douchebag boyfriend to share her secrets for her exotic garden. Seems a juice from one of her plants grants people super strength, but the only thing that makes the plants grow are blood worms from the Amazon which have a mighty appetite. The story is pretty awesome as it involves the old lady protecting her garden, but what makes it all pretty hilarious is the Nicholas Cage-looking douchebag boyfriend who has a unibrow that is scarier than all of the MONSTERS episodes combined. Some nice effects and a fun story makes this episode one of the better episodes of the week.

Episode 1.16: Their Divided Self
Directed by Frank De Palma
Written by Michael Bishop
Starring David L. Lander, Keith MacKechnie, Karen Haber, Eyde Byrde, Rich Hall

This episode was painfully bad. From the cartoony sound effects to the unrelenting onslaught of puns from siamese twins who can’t seem to get along with one another. One of the twins is Squiggy from LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, and a counselor called in to help the twins is played by SNL’s Rich Hall. What the hell ever happened to him? Did he retire with all of that SNIGGLETS money? This one tries to be oddly funny and fails at all levels.

Episode 1.17: Taps
Directed by David Misch
Written by Larry Charles, David Misch
Starring Mary Jo Keenen, Neal Jones, Dan Frazer

Most likely Larry Charles (director/writer of SEINFELD, BORAT, RELIGULOUS) will not really want to be connected to this episode, but he wrote it just the same. And he paired with DUCKMAN & SNL writer/producer David Misch to produce a tale about a woman who kills her boyfriend in order to advance her career and tries to dispose of the body, with mixed results. This one is pretty gory for TV, and it’s got a wicked sense of humor. Though it’s kind of goofy in an EVIL DEAD 2 sort of way, “Taps” is one of the more successful episodes, ending on a pretty shocking and twisted note. Great episode with some great effects involving dismembered corpse parts running amok.

Episode 1.18: The Match Game
Directed by Michael Brandon
Written by David Chaskin, Christopher Orville (story)
Starring Byron Thames, Sasha Jenson, Tori Spelling, Ashley Laurence, Tom Woodruff Jr.

Take a pre-nose job Tori Spelling, a pre-HELLRAISER Ashley Laurence, a pre-DAZED & CONFUSED Sasha Jenson, and the guy who played a young Johnny Dangerously in JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY (Byron Thames) and you have a group of actors and actresses that are a level better than the usual crop that took up space in these MONSTERS episodes. The story itself is the best of the week, about four kids who spend the night in an old dark house playing a game called The Match Game where all of the kids take part in telling a part of a story until a lit match burns out, and then passes it on to the next one. When the tale they tell becomes real, they need more matches to finish the tale before the tale finishes them. This one is an imaginative and surprisingly well acted tale. Plus the zombie monster is amazing, as are some of the kills. Any episode where Tori Spelling gets her head squished into pulp is ok by me.

Previous MONSTERS Episode Reviews!
Season 1: Episodes 1.1-1.6, 1.7-1.12

Look for more MONSTERS Episodes in two weeks!

New this week in select theaters and on iTunes!


Directed by Mark L. Lester
Written by Rafael Jordan
Starring Brian Krause, Anne McDaniels, Steven Helmkamp, Candice Nunes, Berne Velasquez, Gildon Roland, Pulu Lightburn, Remo, Phillip Coc
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Question: Why is director Mark L. Lester, who helmed such fun and classic films as CLASS OF 1999, CLASS OF 1984, SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO, FIRESTARTER, ARMED & DANGEROUS and mother fuckin’ COMMANDO directing POSEIDON REX? Are times that tough? I guess everyone’s gotta eat and those films are not the best of the best in cinema, but they are downright Oscar caliber compared to this SyFy schlop.

I don’t want to be too hard on this film, though. It’s taken the typical formula we’ve seen in DINO-GATOR and ARMADILLO-SAURUS and SHARKNADO and WOMBATYPHOON and whatever unholy combo mix of the week that shows up consistently on SyFy every Saturday night and perfected it. Something triggers the escape of the monster of the week, it goes on a rampage and it’s up to a busty scientist and a middle aged former leading man to stop it. This interchangeable plot has worked before for this type of film, so why not do it again with a swimming Tyrannosaurus Rex?

Defying all scientific logic and only stretching the imagination a skosh, POSEIDON REX knows how to keep things moving as the beast is released almost immediately when undersea divers accidentally awaken it with a bomb while treasure hunting. Sole survivor of the dive Brian Krause (of SLEEPWALKERS fame--reviewed here) is rescued by a brilliant and busty bathing suit-wearing scientist (Anne McDaniels) and both are spewing the sad script they were given. Director Lester at least knows what the audience wants by alternating between the rampaging monster smashing another boatload of people and the busty scientist running towards the camera in her bathing suit. Poseidon Rex. Boobs. Poseidon Rex. Boobs. Boobs and then some shots of Poseidon Rex and boobs in the same scene. It’s a formula, I guess; just one not too mentally stimulating,

With the trainwreck-style fascination that came with SHARKNADO sweeping the nation, there seems to be a race to see who can come up with the next monster and element mixture to pick up the reigns. Sure the concept of a giant swimming Tyrannosaurus Rex might be frightening, but with the shoddy CG in this film and uninspired script and directing, it feels about as shocking as a kid playing with a dinosaur toy in the bathtub.

Sure, there’s a cheeseball goofiness that this film personifies. I can understand how it could be seen as good clean fun. It’s the same cheeseball goofiness that ran rampant in the 50’s atomic monster movies which had lizards with fins glued to their backs and men in ill-fitting monster suits (yesteryear’s equivalent to bad CGI), but for some reason, those films I can stomach and even make me a bit tingly with nostalgia. These new ones seem to be churned out just to satisfy the basest of needs, and though they might want to be throwbacks to those atomic age monster flicks, they just don’t have what it takes to even compare.

Available now on BluRay & DVD from R Squared Films!


Directed by Erik Kristopher Myers
Written by Erik Kristopher Myers
Starring Mike Baldwin, Will Haza, Ali Lukowski, Michelle Murad, Taylor Lee Hitaffer, Troy Russell, Frank B. Moorman, Jan-David Soutar, Mark J. Kilbane, George Stover, Leanna Chamish, Gavin Peretti, Brian St. August, Amy Freedman
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

This indie thriller may stumble a bit in terms of acting, but a rock solid script with all sorts of twists and turns makes up for it big time, making ROULETTE a low budgeter worth seeking out and Erik Kristopher Myers a filmmaker to watch out for.

The story opens on a support group filled with tragically broken people. When the group disbands for a break, three of them go off to a side room to commiserate, drink liquor, and pass around a handgun with one bullet taking turns pulling the trigger as they tell their tales. The three characters have lead extremely horrid lives and as the tales go on, it gets pretty evident that something else is occurring between this trio.

I’d rather leave the details of ROULETTE vague, as half of the fun of this film is finding out how the stories of these three tragic souls intersect, thread through each other thematically, and ultimately bring them to the place we find them in with the booze and one-bulleted gun. What I will say is that the story is an intricate one, but one that unfolds easily and while it does so in a logical manner, it surprised me more than once before the final credits rolled.

This is a film that is most definitely for the patient. Those who stick around will be treated to some really clever plays on words, plays on character, and plays on one’s perceptions of reality. Writer/director Myers fills this film with dialog and all of it feels pretty natural, even when the rough edges of amateur acting threaten to mess things up.

ROULETTE really shocked me by the time it was through. It’s an impressive early effort from a filmmaker who I hope continues to grow and evolve, gaining more experience and some more talented actors to work with on his next venture. As is, ROULETTE is a film that shocked and surprised me, holding my attention until the last second and making me replay scenes in my head to make sure they all fit. The film deals with everything from abortion to infidelity to AIDS to alcoholism, and a crate load of other baggage--enough for a hospital full of patients--and while this might feel like a lot of stuff to carry for the three leads, Myers’ tight script and tense directing makes it all work. If you’re looking for impressive storytelling, ROULETTE has it big time.

Available this week on DVD from Image Entertainment!


Directed by Harrison Smith
Written by Harrison Smith
Starring Eric Roberts, Danielle Harris, Felissa Rose, Brian Gallagher, Ashley Sumner, Nicole Cinaglia, Montana Marks, Joe Raffa, Christopher Weite, Kyle Patrick Brennan, Angel Anthony Marrero, Davy Raphaely
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Being a lifelong fan of FRIDAY THE 13TH and films of its ilk like THE BURNING, SLEEPAWAY CAMP, and THE FINAL TERROR, a film like CAMP DREAD aka DEAD TV is right up my alley. There’s something about a killer in the woods film that strums both the strings of nostalgia and gets my heart pumping. Maybe it was all of those nights camping as a kid and really buying into those campfire tales. I don’t know for sure. All I know is, I dug CAMP DREAD a hell of a lot.

While comparisons to BATTLE ROYALE, THE HUNGER GAMES, and especially SERIES 7: THE CONTENDERS are bound to be thrown at this film, CAMP DREAD manages to pay homage to campground terror along with the reality show competition angle, which makes it somewhat of a unique little flick. The story follows a blacklisted director (Eric Roberts) who sets out to remake one of his most popular films, a campground horror film with shades of both FRIDAY THE 13TH and SLEEPAWAY CAMP (coincidentally, this film also stars Felissa Rose, the girl-boy killer from that series). Roberts has gathered a bunch of miscreant twenty-somethings, all in trouble with the law in one way or another, and reveals to them that they are the stars of a new reality show where the last man standing gets a cool mill. When the group starts dropping like flies one by one before the competition even begins, the surviving camp members start taking matters in their own hands and things get really, really bloody.

Though they’ve been stars in some pretty ripe stinkers of late, both Eric Roberts and Danielle Harris offer up some great scene-chewing here. Harris is always great. The short but strong trooper of an actress packs some powerful acting skills, but more often than not she stars in the worst of films. Here she offers up some nice attitude as a cop in a small town near the camp that all the action takes place in. The role Roberts plays is sleazy and unlikable and though I’m sure he’s a great guy in real life, Roberts is more than believable as the director who is in it for a comeback, no matter how the bodies fall. The aforementioned Felissa Rose is surprisingly good here as well, as an actress turned counselor who really wants to reach out to these asshole kids.

And the kids are as assholian as they come. All are giving fine performances here as assholes, but are assholes just the same. And as a testament to the writing of this film, they aren’t your typical assholes, as it’s revealed all of them have pretty detailed and layered pasts. Even more atypical is that the cast isn’t your typical slasher film fare and are able to handle these more complex roles. I think you’ll be surprised at how good the acting is in this one.

CAMP DREAD is campfire horror done right. Like FRIDAY THE 13TH (and unlike most of its predecessors) it’s filled with likable assholes who meet their demise in an extremely gory fashion. MONSTERMAN’s Cleve Hall supplies the over the top and visceral gore which echoes back to Savini’s more tactile kills from the first F13 and THE BURNING. Though the twist is modern, there’s a lot of old school slasher goodness at play at CAMP DREAD!

New this week on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment!


Directed by Nicholas Humphries
Written by Ryan Copple, Peter Benson, Julia Benson
Starring Julia Benson, Peter Benson, Emilie Ullerup, Christine Chatelain, Kyle Cassie, Benjamin Ayres, Dave Collette, Aaron Douglas, Viv Leacock
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Husband and wife team of Julia and Michael Benson acted, produced and helped with the writing chores for DEATH DO US PART, a film that wants to be a lot of things and accomplishes some while almost gets there with others. The film seems to want to be self referential as well as hip and fresh, but there are a lot of conventions at play here and most of them have been played many, many times.

Still, what saves DEATH DO US PART is the pretty strong cast. Julia Benson is a beautiful actress and is quite talented in the lead role as Kennedy, a fractured woman, recovering from a breakdown and feeling like things are finally coming together as her wedding day approaches. Instead of your typical bachelor and bachelorette party, Kennedy and her soon to be husband Ryan (played by real life husband Peter Benson) combine their best friends and corral them together to have one big party in a cabin in the woods. Of course, setting anything in a cabin in the woods is bad news, and this secludes the six twenty/thirty somethings together in a remote area (where their cell phones don’t work, of course). As soon as the party arrives at the cabin, chinks in the perfect exterior of this sextet of good-lookings begin to become evident. Ryan is not the knight in shining armor Kennedy is making him out to be. Her sister (Christine Chatelain) seems to have it out for her. And Ryan’s cousin Derek (Benjamin Ayres) holds some dark secrets as well. Add naïve BFF (Emilie Ullerup) and man-child (Kyle Cassie) to the mix and there are going to be sparks. But this is no THE BIG CHILL, though it tries to be in terms of complex relationships. Bodies start piling up, and soon the chances for Kennedy’s white wedding turning into a red one become more and more likely.

Acting is a strong point in DEATH DO US PART. Julia Benson is talented (though many will remember her for her other voluptuous assets from SGU: STARGATE UNIVERSE), and while most cabin in the woods flicks involve annoying teens/twenty somethings, this one skews more mature which is kind of refreshing to see a different age group in peril. The other actors are pretty good as well, with Emilie Ullerup (who starred in A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE – reviewed here) and Christine Chatelain (from FINAL DESTINATION) leading the pack in acting chops.

But while the acting talent is there, the script seems a bit cliché, wanting to go heavy on the emotional horrors these people elicit from and do to each other, and light on the blood and guts. While I can appreciate it, the backstabbing and front stabbing that goes on just lacks impact, and while there is bloodshed in this one, it isn’t enough to save this from being sort of bland in the scares department.

That said, the opening scene where a catatonic bride in a full gown wandering through the woods is picked up by cops is a haunting and effective way to open a flick. And while the beautiful and talented ladies make it all fun to watch, the film lacks the emotional oompf to cut deep and the willingness to get gory to satisfy the gorehounds. Still, there are enough twists and turns to keep things entertaining until the end. Just don’t expect to be bowled over and you might find yourself surprised. It seems the Bensons have a few more flicks up their sleeves coming. Here’s hoping those next film efforts aren’t afraid to get themselves dirty, but still pack the acting chops in there seen in this one.

New on DVD and available On Demand from Screen Media Films!

CONFINE (2013)

Directed by Tobias Tobbell
Written by Tobias Tobbell
Starring Daisy Lowe, Eliza Bennett, Alfie Allen, Richard Wellings-Thomas, Adam Leese, Emily Corcoran
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

A former supermodel scarred in a tragic accident and now reclused up in an apartment by herself for years has her self-imposed exile from humanity shattered when a headstrong cat burglar chooses her apartment at random to hide out in until her getaway arrives. That’s the plot of CONFINE, a tensely paced character study of how two women form a twisted kind of bond despite the fact that one of them is holding a gun to the other’s head.

Despite having a scarred face and body, actress Daisy Lowe is still quite stunning as Pippa, the reclusive supermodel who functions quite fine from her tidy but cramped apartment, trading art and communicating with the outside world via cell phone, skype, and email. Eliza Bennett is equally good as the burglar Kayleigh, who breaks into her apartment after stealing some valuables in from another flat in the building. This happenstance of a meeting seems to play to both women’s advantage as Kayleigh is quite sadistic and likes to pick on and pick apart her new captive plaything and becomes especially enamored with Pippa once she finds out she was famous once. At the same time, Kayleigh’s arrival seems to be just the right motivator to prompt Pippa to want to be out of her apartment for the first time in years since an accident that scarred her. During this back and forth, the two form a twisted sort of bond together that is quite fascinating to see grow and evolve.

Adding to the mix is the royal asshole and recently castrated Theon Greyjoy on GAME OF THRONES Alfie Allen, who has a small but integral part in this cat and mouse game between Kayleigh and Pippa. But despite Allen’s presence (in which he again plays a bit of a whiny snit), this is the girls’ show as the two main characters match wits, finding things to like and loathe about one another.

CONFINE is one of those films that defies convention and keeps you guessing right up until the end. Will Kayleigh and Pippa kill each other or team up for a British version of THELMA & LOUISE? I won’t reveal the answer here, but the thrilling script, tight directing which takes place all in one location, and beautiful and talented duo of actresses make CONFINE one film fans of complex character and Hitchcockian tension will want to put on their “to watch” list.

Available now from Wold Wide Multi Media!


Directed by Xavier Berraondo
Written by Xavier Berraondo
Starring Ferran Albiol, Dafnis Balduz, Ferran Carvajal, Mercè Montalà, Miriam Planas, Clàudia Pons, Babeth Ripoll, Leyla Rodríguez
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

If I were to describe PSYCHOPHONY in a sentence it would be WHITE NOISE meets THE FOURTH KIND. Though found footage is the mode of storytelling going on here, the story often goes the cinematic approach to tell the main tale and to add more spice, actual video and audio footage is added when available. This story of a group of schizophrenic patients who are taken to a haunted house in order to see if there is a correlation between psychosis and paranormal activity is a true oddity and one that succeeded in unnerving me to the core.

I can’t say that I was completely sold on this film. It seemed to be quite a stretch trying to link mental disorder to the world of ghosts, but given the footage and recordings shown, though I was a non believer at the beginning of this movie, the events that unfold have me doubting myself.

Though the performances by the cast were decently done, I feel as if a lot of the drama unfolding was somewhat soap operatic. There was a lack of pop that I was hoping for given the truly scary scenes that begin to intensify through this story. I do have to give this film credit for not going the stereotypical route when it comes to depicting mental illness. The actors seem to have personalities beyond their illness, a layering of character not often found in cinematic portrayals.

Where PSYCHOPHONY succeeds is by interlacing the actual EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) caught during this actual occurrence. Whether or not these recordings are on the up and up, who is to say. The film says that the events occurring in this story were real, as were the recordings. If they are real, this is some compelling evidence and it’s worth checking out this film’s website to hear some of it. Either way, watching this film in the dark of my apartment was pants-shittingly terrifying every time the EVP played. I’m a sucker for ghost hunting shows. They are my guilty pleasure. And sitting through hours of those shows with only creaks and “What the hell was that?”s to call as evidence of the paranormal, I did find the creepy stuff going down in PSYCHOPHONY to be absolutely horrifying.

Whether you are a believer or not, despite some soap operatic performances, PSYCHOPHONY is downright scary when it uses its supposed real footage. Fans of TV ghost hunting shows should put this on their must watch list.

In theaters today and available on iTunes & On Demand now!

13 SINS (2014)

Directed by Daniel Stamm
Written by David Birke, Daniel Stamm (screenplay), Chookiat Sakveerakul, Eakasit Thairatana (original writers: 13: GAME OF DEATH)
Starring Mark Webber, Devon Graye, Tom Bower, Rutina Wesley, Ron Perlman, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Clyde Jones, Deneen Tyler,
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Part David Fincher’s THE GAME, part DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, part CHEAP THRILLS (reviewed here) with a skosh of conspiracy delved into in the recent THE CONSPIRACY (reviewed here) is a pretty accurate description of the ingredients that mix together to make up THE LAST EXORCISM director Daniel Stamm’s latest film. Though the film may borrow elements from other films, Stamm does an impressive job dropping the handheld camera techniques he did so well in THE LAST EXORCISM and transitioning into more conventional storytelling with 13 SINS.

13 SINS revolves around Elliot, a protagonist that is easy to admire for his big heart, but someone none of us want to be as his debt situation is almost as lousy as his living situation with a marriage about to occur, a very pregnant wife to be (TRUE BLOOD’s Rutina Wesley), a crotchety racist father who has just been evicted (the always great Tom Bower), and a younger brother who is developmentally delayed. Life seems stacked against Elliot, but actor Mark Webber makes him likable nevertheless and somewhat optimistic, although unrealistically so in the front he portrays to his loved ones. When a call out of the blue rings on his cell phone offering him $1000 just to kill a fly buzzing around his car, Weber laughs and thinks he’s being the butt of a joke. But when the money is transferred immediately to his bank account, he starts to realize that he has become a contestant in a game that goes back ages.

The fun to be had with 13 SINS is the bizarre tasks Elliot is assigned to do for insane amounts of money. Like the recent CHEAP THRILLS, today’s dire economy and desperate times is the problem posed that we can all relate to, and though we may not have the country song/laundry list of problems Elliot is faced with, the dire situation is made relatable due to Webber’s seemingly harmless and likable personage (something that worked so well in the FARGO pilot with Martin Freeman’s character). Because I felt for Elliot’s situation, even though he’s directed to do some despicable acts (take a corpse into a diner and order him a cup of coffee, burn a nativity scene), I understood the desperate place he is coming from and was willing to still root for him, knowing the end result. All of this is testament to Webber’s performance and Stamm’s talent in directing.

That said, the film has problems in its final act as the events become dire and the stakes become monumental. One character in particular makes a decision to end his life which works as a shocker, but just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense other than to propel the plot forward even more rapidly. Because of this last minute blunder, the intricately laid house of cards Stamm has constructed in the first two thirds of the film kind of falls apart as things need to be wrapped up in a tidy bow by the end. I haven’t seen the original Thai version of 13 SINS; maybe it’s the same ending. I don’t know. But this ending reeks of Hollywood exec intervention as it tries to end on a conventional route that the rest of the film never treads upon.

That said, for a good portion of the film, I was tensely anticipating every task and every move this movie offered. Stamm shows that his talent at more conventional storytelling is strong, which is probably why THE LAST EXORCISM is one of the stronger found footage films which often suffer from cliché and the restrictions the handheld genre makes for itself. Stamm seems like a director with potential who, if let loose on a project, would do some interesting things. 13 SINS is fun throughout in a game show, countdown sort of way. There are scenes that will grip you and twists that you won’t expect. It’s a worthy sophomore effort from Stamm. Here’s hoping that after this the Hollywood contrived ending department will lay off him a little in order to end the film with the same pace and balls he begins the film with.

New this week On Demand and in theaters May 16th from RLJ Entertainment!

WOLF CREEK 2 (2013)

Directed by Greg Mclean
Written by Greg Mclean, Aaron Sterns
Starring John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Shannon Ashlyn, Philippe Klaus, Gerard Kennedy, Annie Byron, Shane Connor, Ben Gerrard, Chloé Boreham
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I was as thrilled as the next guy when the original WOLF CREEK was released. It had a grittiness that seemed out of the ordinary among the squeaky clean SCREAM/I T KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER/FINAL DESTINATION style horror or the torture porn HOSTEL wannabes that inundated mainstream horror at the time. In John Jarratt’s gnarly outback hunter Mick Taylor, the film found a villain that was original and iconic enough to rival some of the bigger names in movie monsters like Freddy, Jason & Leatherface. While the original was an introduction of Taylor to the masses, it wasn’t necessarily about him as the bulk of the first portion of WOLF CREEK focused on the hiking tourists who make their way to the titular site of a crashed meteor in the middle of Australia. Though there was never an otherworldly presence presiding or paranormal activity actifying, the movie seemed to embody Australia as an untamed land, with Mick Taylor representing the meanest and most vicious part of that land. Still, Mick was the threat and the story was about the campers goal to survive.

WOLF CREEK 2, though, shifts its perspective. It’s a shift noticeable in the opening scene as we get a one off where Mick is pulled over by a pair of police officers. Demeaning him because of the way he looks and the state of his weathered truck, the police tickle the tiger, so to speak, and end up paying for getting that close to this animal in man’s skin. While this is a fun scene, reminding us just why Mick is such a fascinating big screen baddie, it definitely feels like a shift in tone from the original, in which the filmmakers realize that they have a hot commodity in the way Jarratt portrays the character. And like much in executively produced horror, excess is often king, meaning that for a sequel, we’re going to get a whole lot more of what made the first so appealing. This scared me, because the iconic slasher films of the Eighties died out in the Nineties because the slasher was moved front and center while the compelling story was given the cheap seats. While Mick was effective in the original, this shift to the antagonist’s POV while giving the story of his victims less screentime is a shift that I was afraid would hurt this film after witnessing the opening scene.

The good thing is, though, that despite this shift of perspective from the hikers to Mick in the sequel, it still is a pretty strong movie as Jarratt commands the screen every minute he occupies it. And he occupies it a lot. Jarratt has a swagger that feels genuine. It’s a sense of danger that he has lived hard and has the scars to prove it and isn’t afraid to pass on a few of those scars to anyone who crosses him. Because Jarratt embodies the character so much and does so with so much gusto and charisma, he proves to have the back muscles to carry this film much more so than he did in the previous film. Lesser slasher films had actors in the antagonist roles that sadly didn’t have the strength for such an arduous task, but Jarratt makes it all seem easy.

In many ways, Jarratt personifies Australia as a whole. He plays Mick Taylor as a mysterious and dangerous man who is all smiles at first, but willing to chew up outsiders who dare venture into this land hoping to pet a dingo and feed a kangaroo as a lark. Mick Taylor represents a country whose dialect is often mocked and mimicked around the world—a country that was colonized as a place for outcasts and one that still carries that resentment. In casting the campers that Mick terrorizes as German and British, this film almost feels like a “Fuck you” to the rest of the world and a stance on taking the country as a serious threat in terms of rugged terrain that most of the civilized world would never be able to handle. Mick’s final speech towards the end of the film to a British hiker seems to come from a deep and angry place, and Jarrat speaks those words with a power that will terrify and make you think twice about booking that walkabout you’ve always fantasized about.

But it’s not all about theme and undertone. In fact, this is an in your face film that acts as more of a stream of consciousness-like nightmare, with Mick Taylor being the only common thread. One survivor of Mick’s attack stumbles into another for salvation, only to meet their end as the story shifts to follow the next person who is now caught up in the violence. Mick is a shark, never resting and always moving forward; bound to catch up to his victims because this is his land, after all.

There is one particular scene that is somewhat over CGI-ed, but I’m glad since it involves a herd of kangaroo, and having sat through WAKE IN FRIGHT (reviewed here), I didn’t want to see another kangaroo hunt. But this scene is only a momentary speed bump in an otherwise gritty and continuous chase scene involving multiple victims across an expansive outback. Mick’s relentless hunt takes up most of this film, which occurred in the original, but on a much more expansive scope this time around. While most sequels tend to go bigger in the sequel, most also miss their mark and lack the impact of the original, but director Greg Mclean (who also did the original) seems able to handle the widening of scope well. There are moments that feel as if they were torn straight from the pages of a George Miller MAD MAX film, and Mclean is able to control it all deftly.

The latter half hour of the film does slow things down as Mick bounds and toys with his final victim in a sort of underground layer that is reminiscent of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. While again there’s a threat of skidding the entire train with all of the momentum off the rails, Jarrat’s performance, which sheds just enough light under the surface of Mick Taylor to keep things interesting, and Mclean’s tight directing and script keep everything running smoothly and ending on a residual but satisfying beat. I haven’t been this impressed with a sequel in a very long time. While shifting the tone and allowing us just enough of a peek into what’s under Mick’s hat, WOLF CREEK 2 and all of those behind and in front of the camera have made a wholly worthy and powerfully brutal follow up worth your time. It may not do well in terms of selling vacation tickets to visit Australia, but WOLF CREEK 2 is a powerful and effective horror show that cements John Jarratt’s Mick Taylor as one of the most terrifying movie villains to come along in a long time.

In select theaters and available on Video On Demand from IFC Midnight!

PROXY (2013)

Directed by Zack Parker
Written by Zack Parker & Kevin Donner
Starring Alexia Rasmussen, Joe Swanberg, Alexa Havins, Kristina Klebe
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

PROXY is truly one of the most mesmerizing and horrific films I’ve seen all year this year or any year, for that matter. There’s something about a pregnant woman that instinctively makes people defensive. We want to protect them from harm. We criticize sharply when we see someone smoking or drinking around them or, god forbid, seeing them do it. It’s one of the few precious images that is almost universally wholesome and promising, as a pregnant woman is a symbol that life goes on and there’s a future ahead for humanity. Maybe that’s why horror films that involve pregnant women are so effective. Think of films like ROSEMARY’S BABY, or more recently the found footage shocker DELIVERY, and you automatically get a chill because it involves the endangerment of the mother and her child.

PROXY is a raw and unflinching look at the twisted side of motherhood. The places this film goes are going to be too dark for some, but I found the horrific depths of the characters involved too terrifyingly fascinating to turn away, even though every muscle of my body was telling me otherwise. In the opening moments of this film, there is a scene so utterly brutal it’s going to be a deal-breaker to some. But all that opening sequence does is prepare the strong for the harrowing experience this film is.

With its unconventional plot and complex themes at play, PROXY is an ingeniously smart film tackling an intricate disease known as Munchhausen By Proxy, which involves a darker take on motherhood. Those who know the condition understand how horrific it can be and motherly martyrdom, while often the subject of comedy in cinema with a nebbish mother seemingly enjoying the attention she gets from friends in the sewing circle, but it’s never been portrayed in film in such a manner that is so nerve-shatteringly real and terrifying.

Zack Parker blew me away with the ROSHOMON-style tale of abuse and neglect SCALENE last year, and proves that he is filmmaker of spectacular talent. As I pondered this film long after seeing it, I couldn’t help but notice the PSYCHO-esque aspects to the score. Giving it more thought, this very much is a much more psychologically perverse and finely crafted version of PSYCHO. There’s even a horrific scene in a bathroom. As I realized this connection, I understood that even beyond the visceral shivers this film induces, there’s so much going on thematically as well in terms of comments on motherhood, society’s obsession with celebrity, and relationships as well.

Acted superbly by the entire cast, aside from the always great Joe Swanberg who delivers a smoldering and subtle performance here, I was unfamiliar with the rest of the players in this dark tale. But this is a star-making film for all involved, especially the ghostly tragic Alexia Rasmussen, who fleshes out a character more haunting than any movie monster you can think of. The other two actresses include Alexa Havens, who plays the seemingly perfect housewife to perfection, and the gruff and tough Kristina Klebe who adds layer upon layer of soul to her role. These four characters and the incredibly knotted way their lives are all intertwined is pure genius from a writing standpoint all the way down to the performances.

PROXY is one of those films that leaves a deep scar after viewing. It’s not the Hollywood horror with jump scares, CGI, and Don Music head slams on the keyboard for audience reaction. It’s a film that will grab you and shake you and leave you devastated, but done in a manner that feels all too real and all the more tragic. PROXY pulls no punches and is some brave and bold horror that some might not be prepared for, but I hope to see much more of from director Zack Parker, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors working today.

I couldn’t recommend this film more if my life depended on it. Just superb filmmaking from start to finish.

Advance Review: Currently touring festivals - World Premiere this Saturday at 7:00 pm at the Full Moon Horror Film Festival in Nashville, TN!


Directed by Cameron McCasland
Written by Cameron McCasland
Starring Stacey Dixon, Shawn C. Phillips, David Vaughn, Jeremy Jones, Kaylee Williams, Tim Emery, David Chattam, Larry Underwood, Todd Bush, Terry Gragg, Bob King, Lee Vervoort
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Appreciators of the time and effort put into DIY indie filmmaking will want to take a chance with this indie gem of a flick. Sure it might have been put together by a bunch of pals, but there’s an undeniable love of the genre that occurs throughout THE LASHMAN which makes it downright charming.

The film is your typical cabin in the woods flick, with a group of kids out for a good time who just happen to go to the wrong forest that is haunted by an ancient spirit. There is a little more effort put into the backstory and the relationships between the campers than your typical stalk n’ slash, giving this film a bit more girth than most, but for the most part, THE LASHMAN is a by the numbers throwback to FRIDAY THE 13TH-like horror.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, because even though we may have seen these characters and been in this locale before, it somehow feels kind of homey and fun to revisit these familiar surroundings. Director/writer/producer Cameron McCasland seems to have done his homework in regards to peppering in a local legend and then turning him loose on the dim bulb campers. He even included a Crazy Ralph-style guy who warns the campers of their impending doom. And there’s even a flashback sequence explaining how the Lashman (who uses a whip to trap and kill his victims) began haunting these here woods. Once the Lashman begins his lashing, the gore is pretty brutal and the pace does pick up quite a bit, though the Lashman does take his sweet time to make an appearance.

There are those who won’t give THE LASHMAN a second thought because it is far from the polished stuff we usually see in theaters with glitz, glamorous CW stars as the lead characters, and lens flares galore. But fans of horror are a supportive bunch, and if you’re in the mood for a decent stalk n’ slash, THE LASHMAN fits the bill as it has a lot of familiar elements and does a lot of those elements with passion and pizzazz.

And finally…a while back I reviewed HOWLS as part of my continued search for the perfect Bigfoot film. The director of HOWLS, Jamie Tracey, emailed me recently to let me know that the entire film has been put on Youtube and I linked to it below for all of you to 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.

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

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