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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Nazi sadists, medieval computers, lobotomies, slo mo bats, wiccans, vengeful spirits, pirate shenanigans, a pianist in peril, Twilight Zone episodes, and a raccoon who will suck your d**k for a dolla! All of that and more is ahead on AICN HORROR!

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: TWILIGHT ZONE Season Two Episodes 13-18 (1960)
Retro-review: NOSFERATU: THE VAMPYRE (1979)
Retro-review: EVILSPEAK (1981)
Advance Review: BLOODY SIN (2011)

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


Episodes 13-18
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. Let’s proceed on with THE TWILIGHT ZONE Season Two…

Episode 2.13: Back There
Directed by David Orrick McDearmon
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Russell Johnson, John Lasell, Bartlett Robinson, Paul Hartmann

This episode felt kind of like a throwaway. It’s always fun to see GILLIGAN’S ISLAND’s Russell Johnson play a scientific type. Here he plays a physicist who refuses to debate about time travel since he refuses to accept the concept exists. Of course, this being the Twilight Zone, he gets whisked back in time to a point where he can make a difference in the way history plays out. The fact that it involves the assassination of Lincoln makes it interesting. The fact that Johnson happens to run into John Wilkes Booth on the night of his assassination is more than a bit contrived. Good acting doesn’t always save a goofy story, as is the case here with this episode.

Episode 2.14: The Whole Truth
Directed by James Sheldon
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Jack Carson, Loring Smith, Arte Johnson, Jack Ging, Patrick Westwood, Nan Peterson

“The Whole Truth” is another sitcom-looking episode shot on what looks like video, giving it a much less professional quality. This one seems to be the precursor to Jim Carrey’s LIAR LIAR, as a shady used car salesman is sold a haunted car that makes its owner always tell the truth. Jack Carson is awesome as the dealer who can’t believe the words coming from his mouth as he can’t swindle his costumers as he is used to doing. This is a more comic episode that is made better by Carson’s performance, but the final punch line somewhat deflates the balloon as it brings in current events of the time and makes a comment on politics that just feels kind of hamfisted in there for the episode to be clever.

Episode 2.15: The Invaders
Directed by Douglas Heyes
Written by Richard Matheson
Starring Agnes Moorehead

This was one of the best episodes of the week, mainly due to Matheson’s imaginative script, which resembles his short story “Prey” which was adapted in TRILOGY OF TERROR. In this one, Agnes Moorehead plays a simple woman living in a country home whose life is upended when a small spaceship crashes through her roof. A pair of tiny aliens attack her with lasers, and the woman fights for her life against the tiny critters who pick up knives and slice at her ankles and hands. The final twist is effective, but the entire episode is effective because of the lack of dialog. Moorehead silently battles the creatures, and the lack of lines makes her peril all the more primitive and dire. Director Douglas Hayes makes sure the atmosphere is dark and moody with heavy blacks and tiny slivers of light from torches and a fireplace. Tiny touches like little laser burns and slices from the blades make this episode one of the more visceral and gorier outings of the Zone. Still, it’s the desperate twenty minute long battle between a woman and tiny monsters that make this one of the best episodes of the second season.

Episode 2.16: A Penny For Your Thoughts
Directed by James Sheldon
Written by George Clayton Johnson
Starring Dick York, Dan Tobin, June Dayton, Hayden Rorke, Harry Jackson

It’s always fun seeing Dick York do his thing. Here he plays the likable loser to a tee, as a bank teller who suddenly gets the power to read minds. I like the way that instead of things taking a dastardly turn, the tone remains light and downright positive. This doesn’t stop the episode to take a rather misogynistic turn, as York tries to read the mind of one woman and simply can’t hear anything going on up there. Still, this is a fun episode, fantastically acted. And we even get a cameo by Hayden Rourke (Dr. Bellows from I DREAM OF JEANNIE), which I always looked at as the flip side of the coin of York’s BEWITCHED. This is a finely written, albeit over-saccharinated, episode.

Episode 2.17: Twenty-Two
Directed by Jack Smight
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Barbara Nichols, Jonathan Harris, Fredd Wayne, Arline Sax

Even though this is another one of those soap opera-esque looking episodes, it is one of the more terrifying ones. A woman wakes from her hospital bed and dreamily finds herself walking through the basement of the hospital ending up in the morgue with a nurse letting her know “We have room for one more…” Barbara Nichols plays the frantic patient fantastically, and the hyper-reality of the way this episode is filmed actually is a benefit to the effectiveness of this episode, whereas it has been a deterrent in the past. By skewing the perspective slightly, everything in this nightmare within a dream-like episode is a bit off, and it makes you wonder what is real and what is a dream. It doesn’t help that the woman’s doctor is the leering Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith from LOST IN SPACE). This one ends like a sledgehammer to a pane glass window and turns out to be one of the most terrifying episodes of the week.

Episode 2.18: The Odyssey of Flight 33
Directed by Justus Addiss
Written by Rod Serling, with technical advice from Robert Serling
Starring John Anderson, Paul Comi, Sandy Kenyon, Harp McGuire, Nancy Rennick, Beverly Brown, Betty Garde

I can’t help it. I’ve always hated this episode, which mainly consists of four guys in a cockpit of an airplane looking out of the windows below and commenting on the weird shit they are seeing. Sure this might have worked as a radio play, but in this instance it just feels cheap when they never really show the horrifying and fantastical things they are seeing. Sure there’s a stop motion dinosaur which is pretty fun and an arial shot of the 1929 World’s Fair, but most of the episode is simply a fight crew looking out windows and being befuddled at the fact that it appears the jet has been sucked through time to the past. The always powerful John Anderson does lend some weight to this sittin’ and gawkin’ episode, but still this one always infuriated me. The ending to this one, though, is a chilling one.

Previous TWILIGHT ZONE Episode Reviews!
Season 1: Episodes 1.1-1.6, 1.7-1.12, 1.13-1.18, 1.19-1.24, 1.25-1.30, 1.31-1.36
Season 2: Episodes 2.1-2.6, 2.7-2.12
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 The Shout Factory!


Directed by Werner Herzog
Written by Werner Herzog
Starring Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz, Roland Topor, Walter Ladengast, Carsten Bodinus, Martje Grohmann,
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

I wish I could say that I liked Werner Herzog’s remake of F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU: A SYMPHONY OF HORROR, which I recently reviewed. Herzog seemed to be going for the Gus Van Sant PSYCHO route with this one, remaking most of the key scenes from the original as a form of homage to the film. Like Van Sant’s travesty, though, with the availability of the original, a remake of this kind isn’t really necessary. It’s a noble effort, and many of the same scenes are effective in NOSFERATU: THE VAMPYRE; it’s just that I guess I prefer to see the original rather than this one.

The film follows the same narrative as the original, though by the time this film was made the rights to Bram Stoker’s story become public domain, so unlike Murnau’s film, Herzog was able to use the appropriate names, so no Count Orlock in this one. Here it’s Dracula as it was originally intended to be.

Though we all know the story by now, I’ll give it a brief rundown. A realtor named Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz) leaves his beloved Lucy (played by the hauntingly beautiful Isabelle Adjani) home while he goes off to Transylvania to meet Count Dracula (Klaus Kinski) and discuss a move from his gothic castle to Harker’s home town of Wismar. Though the villagers warn him, Jonathan goes to Dracula’s castle and is bitten by the Count after having a dinner with him and staying the night. Noticing that Lucy looks identical to a lost love of the Count, he sets forth to move to Wismar, travels across the ocean, and arrives as a pestilence of rats. The film culminates in a showdown of sorts as Lucy lures the Count to her bed and allows him to drink from her until dawn, but as the sun comes up, Dracula dies immediately.

The story, like many of the shots, are a beat for beat remake of the original. There are differences along the way, most of which bloat the film, such as scenes of slo mo flying bats, extended shots of the admittedly beautiful lands of Germany, and extended snippets of the gypsy culture which is given quite a bit more attention in this one than the original film. Herzog also changes up the ending a bit as **SPOILER** Dracula doesn’t dissipate as he does in the original, but writhe and squirm on the floor. Also, Lucy dies and Jonathan becomes a vampire himself, seemingly inheriting the motivation of Dracula, framing Van Helsing for Lucy’s murder, and riding a horse across the desert--I guess to spread the vampire plague.***END SPOILER*** I’m not sure why these changes were made. Maybe by the time he got to the end of the film, Herzog got sick of paying homage and wanted to do something more original, but I’d much rather see what happens next that see the remake that happens prior to the last few minutes of this one.

Herzog is a brilliant filmmaker. I’m a huge fan of his work. But this film really dragged on and on for me. Repeated shots of slo mo bats, droning landscape shots, and longing looks into each others eyes made it feel like everyone and every beat of this film was walking through molasses. Having known the story prior to watching this one, I very much had the words “get on with it already!” in my head at numerous times while watching this film.

Still, NOSFERATU: THE VAMPYRE is gorgeous at times, haunting in others such as the truly disturbing shots of real mummified corpses that played during the opening credits. The film still embraces the themes of lost love and the spread of a plague by foreigners, and Kinski is decent as the Count, though he’s no Max Schreck and looks a little too much like Clint Howard (who appears in the next review) with his rounded bald head and doesn’t embody the imposing and horrifying nature from Schreck’s performance. If anything, Kinski makes the Count look and feel more pitiful, which might have been his intention.

Much more interesting to me is the “Making of” featurette that comes with this Blu, as I’ve always found Herzog to be a fascinating character in his own right. Seeing him direct and work behind the scenes was much more interesting than the tedious film itself. As far as stories go, you don’t see one remade so often as Bram Stoker’s classic. Sure it’s a solid tale, but I have to admit I get sick of seeing the same story over and over. NOSFERATU: THE VAMPYRE tries something new in the end, but by then, it’s almost too late as it is all too similar to a more effective rendition of the story. Sure at the time it was nifty to see this film done in color and with sound, but give me the original any old day.

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


Directed by Eric Weston
Written by Joseph Garofalo (screenplay/story), Eric Weston (screenplay)
Starring Clint Howard, R.G. Armstrong, Joe Cortese, Claude Earl Jones, Don Stark, Charles Tyner, Hamilton Camp, Lynn Hancock, Haywood Nelson, Lenny Montana, Katherine Kelly Lang, Loren Lester, Lenny Montana, & Richard Moll
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

While he’s best known as Ron Howard’s brother, or maybe the guy who starts out the ridiculous double entendre segments in the AUSTIN POWERS movies or maybe you know him from his stab at serial killing in ICE CREAM MAN or maybe there are those who remember him from the old GENTLE BEN TV shows; to me, Clint Howard will always be engrained into my psyche as this…

That aside, witting and watching EVILSPEAK was the highlight of my movie-watching week last week as it exemplifies early 80’s horror so well. There’s a gritty, authentic feel to the film right from the beginning, which is reminiscent of the teen comedies that were hot at the time like PORKY’S (1982) and especially UP THE ACADEMY (1980) as some of the actors from that film show up here as well. EVILSPEAK was on the cusp of something big, as it appears to be one of the first in a line of great military academy films that came out in the early 80’s like TAPS (1981), AN OFFICER & A GENTLEMAN (1982), and LORDS OF DISCIPLINE (1983).

Now, don’t get me wrong. EVILSPEAK is a goofy film—it’s comically bad at times as Howard plays Stanley Coopersmith, a military school outcast and reject who was allowed into the academy simply because they aren’t that choosy anymore. Though Stanley lacks physical skill, he does have drive (too bad Gny. Sgt. Hartman wasn’t stationed there--he might have made him born again hard). Bullied by his peers, who include a young Don Stark who later became famous as Laura Prepon’s jew-fro’ed father on THAT 70’s SHOW, Stanley is an outcast among alpha males. When assigned the duty of cleaning out the basement of the academy’s church, he stumbles upon a secret room filled with arcane artifacts. Stanley is seduced by the mystique of the satanic relics and soon begins learning incantations with the help of his handy dandy computer (itself a relic compared to modern versions), his faithful puppy, and a lot of moxy. Soon the power Stanley unleashes is too much for him to contain, and all sorts of demonic forces wreak havoc on his persecuting peers, asshole teachers, and anyone unfortunate enough to cross Stanley’s path.

The brilliance of EVILSPEAK rests on both Clint Howard’s shoulders, who is fantastically (and almost too on the nose-ly) cast as Stanley, and the fact that it is such a product of its time. Seeing 1981’s perception of the way computers work is fascinating as the computer Stanley uses to create his incantations is actually given the power to mystically tap into the underworld. Years before the internet had been developed, this computer is able to answer any question by simply typing it into the computer and hitting return. This means one of two things: that either writer/director Eric Weston was extremely prolific in his understanding of the way computers would work in the future OR that the internet was invented by Satan. I prefer to believe the latter. Either way, in this tech savvy age, the way this film demonizes the computer says a lot about the way the advancement of technology was looked at in that time.

Across the board, the acting is a lot of fun. I’m not saying that this is Oscar caliber stuff, but there are a lot of great character actors involved in this film. Aside from Howard’s inspired and pathetic turn as Stanley, you get THE HOWLING’s RG Armstrong as a drunk janitor, THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES’ Charles Tyner as a Colonel, DARK NIGHT FO THE SCARECROW’s Claude Earl Jones, THE GODFATHER’s Luca Brasi himself Lenny Montana, and NIGHT COURT’s Richard Moll as Esteban, an evil Satan-worshipping monk who starts all of this mess.

On a side note, Don Stark, who plays the leader of Stanley’s bullying peers, looks a lot like Christian Bale in this film. Using that as a template, it’s safe to say what Bale is going to look like in the future (see the pic over there if you need a visual).

Aside from the strong performances and weird use of computers, EVILSPEAK is best known for its carnage-laden latter half. When Stanley is finally pushed over the edge, he goes on a furious rampage with a sword, flying around a church and lopping off heads. This effects-heavy ending is truly a sight to behold as it involves fire, real and fake pigs, swords, lopped-off heads, crushed skulls, torn out hearts, and rudimentary yet trippy animation. Everything and the kitchen sink is thrown into this finale in which it really does seem like the world is coming to an end.

If you’re looking for a not-so-standard tale about a geek done wrong, EVILSPEAK is the template from which all later geek revenge films were taken. Filled with tons of gore, Satanic iconography, a 2001-style freak out sequence, and Richard Moll as an evil asshole monk (who, by the way, had a quite fascinating career in horror in bit parts from everything from NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR to PULSE POUNDERS to HOUSE to CAVEMAN to METALSTORM before taking the role as Bull). The film can be seen as a flipside of the coin to CARRIE, as it reflects an outsider pushed to the edge and unleashing evil forces on the attackers.

While light on extras, this Blu contains some interesting interviews with Howard and some of the cast as well as a making of featurette that focuses on the effects. It doesn’t matter if you see EVILSPEAK as a bizarre commentary on the rise of the computer age, a nerd revenge tale, or a gorefest of gigantic proportions. The most important thing is that you see it.

New on BluRay/DVD from the Captain Z website!


Directed by Steve Rudzinski
Written by Steve Rudzinski, Zoltan Zilai
Starring Zoltan Zilai, Steve Rudzinski, Madison Siple, Aleen Isley, Seth Gontkovic, Ian Livingstone
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Chock full of indie goodness, CAPTAIN Z & THE TERROR OF LEVIATHAN is a fun DIY project made on the budgetary low, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s still a lot of fun.

The story focuses on an ancient amulet which houses a call to the fabled Leviathan, a beast from the briny deep. In 1714, a cadre of demons set out to raise the Leviathan, but Captain Zachariah Zicari (Zoltan Zilai) thwarts them by destroying the amulet and getting himself and the demons sucked into it. Jump to the future and on the site of the skirmish a museum is built to honor the pirate and his adventures. When a pair of redneck fishermen happen upon the amulet, the demons appear, as does Captain Z, and while the demons plan on releasing the Leviathan once again, Captain Z teams up with a scientist named Glen (writer/director Steve Rudzinski) and a ditzy beauty named Heather (the gorgeous Madison Siple) to battle the demons and save the day.

The best part about CAPTAIN Z & THE TERROR OF LEVIATHAN is the script. Filled with one liners and personality, there’s real bite to this story as told through these characters. Rudzinski is especially good when interacting with the ditzy Siple as her wisdom shines through her ignorance, though Rudzinski’s Glen is more than willing to show his doctorate and expertise trumping her dimwitted luck every time. While this might feel a bit misogynistic, this entire film seems to take the viewer back to the time of the low budget serial adventures where the stakes are dire and the heroism as thick as the machismo. The ravishing Siple plays the part of the heroine proud and keeps her spirits despite Glen’s constant putdowns.

I’m sure there’ll be some who won’t be into the low fi effects or the miniscule budget, but CAPTAIN Z & THE TERROR OF LEVIATHAN feels as if everyone involved had a blast making it. Sure the concept of a time-travelling pirate battling demons isn’t the type of tale that fills the pants and shivers the spine, but never once does this film try to be taken seriously, which is why it’s so fun.

If you’re a fan of DIY filmmaking with goofy gore effects and dashing capers filled with piratey glee, you’re bound to find a lot of fun to be had with CAPTAIN Z & THE TERROR OF LEVIATHAN.

New this week on DVD from Independent Entertainment!


Directed by Jerry Landi
Written by Jerry Landi
Starring Sal Amore, Scott Barile, Anthony Bisciello, Bob Connelly, Joseph Ferri, Cindy Guyer, Alfonzo Hollis, Gina Di Salvatore Longarzo, Robert Lil Bob McCall, Rosario Russo, Martin Vanihel


Directed by Jerry Landi
Written by Jerry Landi
Starring Sal Amore, Ken Champlin, Joseph Ferri, Kristen Landi, Erika Rethorn, Martin Vanihel
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

This week sees the release of the sequel to 2010’s KRACKOON entitled BLOODMARSH KRACKOON. Having missed KRACKOON the first time around, I was stoked to see that this disk also contains the original. Assuming I’d get lost in the intricate and nuanced story, I decided to review both films. I do have to commend the folks who put together this DVD, as otherwise I wouldn’t have seen the original. Not that the first film is required viewing, but it pleased the completist in me.

The Bronx area is riddled with crime. Drugs, extortion, and other seedy dealings go down on a daily basis. In one particular drug deal gone awry, a dealer swallows a condom full of crack in order to hide it from some thugs. The thugs whack the dealer and drop him off in the marshes. When the body is devoured by a raccoon, it gets to the crack in the dealer’s intestines and transforms into a Krackoon. Now the beast roams free through the Bronx, killing thugs and innocents alike.

Now, I doubt much research was made in regards to accuracy of the effects of crack when ingested by wildlife. That’s not really what this story is about. This is more of a monster run amok story, and while I must admit that it has a lot of indie rough edges--non actors, low fi effects, dodgy editing and sound--KRACKOON and its sequel BLOODMARSH KRACKOON both have a lot of heart and some definite moments that made me laugh out loud.

Sure the monster of these films looks to be hand puppets and wind up toys used for when we need to see the beasties walk, but scenes where a guy is hosing down a blood-splattered statue of Jesus with a garden hose or when a little girl is play marrying her Barbie and Jason Voorhees dolls are the right kind of wrongly humorous for me. Scenes like this are interspersed throughout the film, and it really makes the whole thing much easier to sit through. One can tell that there’s some nice comic talent behind this film, which has a stripper mom yelling at her kid to “ignore network news!”

There’s a nice amount of gore in these films. Most low budgeters know how to do practical work, and it’s almost the only place you’ll see it any more. Here, throats are torn out, intestines are digested, and all sorts of gross stuff happens at the talons and teeth of the krackoon and her offspring. So if you’re looking for a fun way to satisfy that craving for blood and guts, these flicks have them in spades.

The charm of KRACKOON and BLOODMARSH KRACKOON comes from the sense of community these films represent. It really feels like the people of the Bronx came together to make these films. If anything, this is as genuine a slice of Bronx life as you’re going to get with a lot of “Say hello to your mutha”’s and track suits galore. Seeing the accents, the traditions, and the mentality on display is something those outside of that culture might like in a voyeuristic/slice of another culture sense, and those inside the culture will feel right at home with.

It’s also cool seeing filmmaker Jerry Landi develop from the original film to the sequel. Landi definitely develops a lot in terms of cutting out the slow bits, offering up more of a story, and developing some of the characters in the sequel. There are also a lot better effects in the sequel, with a full body transformation into a man-sized raccoon towards the end and CG raccoons incorporated which are practically animated, but a lot of fun. A lot of the actors in part one show up in the sequel as well, which doesn’t usually occur in big budgeters. So for continuity’s sake, it’s nice to see. All in all, this is an indie double feature showing that what it lacks in professional filmmaking skill, it makes up in good old fun and heart. Don’t go expecting GODZILLA when you see KRACKOON and BLOODMARSH KRACKOON and you may just have some fun with it.

New this week on DVD, BluRay & digital download from RLJ Entertainment!


Directed by Kevin Carraway
Written by Matthew Robert Kelly
Starring Vinnie Jones, Christian Slater, Emily Tennant, Jake Croker, Aren Buchholz
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

The stinker of the week is definitely WAY OF THE WICKED. It’s a film that doesn’t really know what it is, what it’s about, or where it’s going. Is it a possession film? A paranormal film? A mutant on the loose film? Who knows, and with the dull as dirt delivery, I found myself not caring.

And it’s too bad, because this one has a pretty solid cast. I think Christian Slater deserves a better agent as I still think he has the charisma to be a leading man. Here, he makes an appearance at the beginning and factors into the last quarter of the film, but he doesn’t seem to have a lot to do other than playing a stereotypical priest expert on possession/paranormal. Slater is definitely underutilized here, and while this might pay off the mortgage or a new boat, it’s not the film that’s going to revitalize his career.

The saving grace of this film is Vinnie Jones, who is given some meat to his character and is able to show a little range, not as a head-butting man-monster as he is usually cast, but as a caring father. I was surprised by how believable Jones is in this role as the single father of a young daughter, and it at least shows Jones is capable of being something a bit depthier than a badass all of the time.

I haven’t really gotten into the story of WAY OF THE WICKED yet because honestly, it’s all rather a mess. It’s about a young boy with a weird receding hairline/faux-hawk thing going on with his hair who returns to a community targeting a young girl. Paranormal stuff happens, but it’s hazy whether it’s the boy or the girl that’s doing it. It’s all made clear by the end, but by that point, the droning scenes of people talking and talking had lost me. The fact that these powers are ill-defined doesn’t help me care, either. Just take my word for it and steer clear of this bland witch/paranormal outing.

New on DVD, digital download, and Video On Demand!


Directed by Jeremy Berg
Written by Jeremy Berg, Matt Medisch, John Portanova
Starring Brandon Anthony, Carson Holden, D'Angelo Midili, Trin Miller, Andi Norris, Rafael Siegel, Josh Truax
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

To call THE INVOKING a slow burn is an understatement. Though it’s not a found footage film, it sort of feels like one, as there is an awful lot of time spent on getting to know the cast before odd things start happening. Don’t get me wrong; when the spooky stuff comes, it is indeed spooky, but only folks with a great bit of patience are going to be able to get to the end of this one.

THE INVOKING follows four friends on a trip to an old house one of them has inherited. Sam (Trin Miller) is the inheritor, and she’s brought along her former boyfriend Mark (Brandon Anthony), a ghost hunting wallflower Roman (Josh Truax), and spunky alterna-girl Caitlin (Andi Norris) along for the ride. It might be simplistic to compare these four to those crazy kids who rode around with a dog in the Mystery Machine, but they do fit the archetypes. Equipped with ghost-hunting gear, the four head out to the spooky house to check out the digs. On the property, they meet Eric (D'Angelo Midili), a creepy groundskeeper who reveals he was a childhood friend of Sam’s and knows what happened to the original owners of the place. Sam has no recollection of her past, but upon arriving at the secluded farmhouse, she begins to have visions of her childhood--and they ain’t pretty.

The actors involved in this film are of a quality quite higher than one often finds in this type of film. Not only are they interesting to watch, but convincing in their roles, going through a range of emotions while on this creepy trek. The problem here is that while the problems these friends have are real and it does really feel like these characters have a story beyond the film they star in, one wonders why they hang out with one another, as they seem to hate each others’ guts throughout this entire film. Mark still holds a torch for Sam, but that doesn’t stop him from messing around with Caitlin. Roman has eyes for Caitlin, but lacks the balls to do anything about it and is pissed at Mark for messing with her. Sam only wants to be friends with Mark, but fails to see how much he cares for her. It’s all rather muddy, and if I were in the middle of this kind of web of drama, I’d probably choose to opt out of the Mystery Machine.

The story itself, once it gets started, is pretty spooky. It’s difficult to distinguish if Sam is seeing visions from her past trauma or if her friends are being possessed by these demons from her childhood. Either way, things get pretty horrifying as the distance between reality and illusion gets shorter.

The ending of THE INVOKING is sudden and brutal, but it does take an awfully long time getting there. Still, this one might be worth checking out simply for the strong performances by the actors. In the end, THE INVOKING is one ghost story that takes its time, but the time spent getting to know these characters didn’t feel like it was time wasted.

New on DVD from Level 33 Entertainment!


Directed by Anthony J. Rickert-Epstein
Written by Renae Geerlings, Tyler Mane
Starring Tyler Mane, Muse Watson, Derek Mears, Leslie Easterbrook, Renae Geerlings, Alex Saxon, Susan Angelo, Jelly Howie, Daniel Roebuck, Todd Farmer
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Tyler Mane is best known as Sabretooth from the X-MEN movie, or maybe as Michael Myers in Rob Zombie’s version of HALLOWEEN. But as I noticed in last year’s 247°F, Mane is not a bad actor in his own right, despite the fact that his best-known roles have him behind a mask and mute. Again, Mane proves he’s pretty decent in front of the camera in his latest film from his production company Mane Entertainment entitled COMPOUND FRACTURE.

Mane plays Michael Wilson, who returns to his childhood home to see his estranged family and mourn the death of his sister Chloe, who died at the hands of her abusive husband William (Derek Mears). With him, Mane brings his girlfriend Juliette (Renae Geerlings) and his nephew Brandon (Alex Saxon) who he has taken in after his sister’s death. But returning home isn’t a very warm experience as Gary, Michael’s father (Muse Watson), was an abuser and a paranoid at that. Secluding himself away in a compound with security cams out the wazoo protecting the compound from prying eyes and mystic totems protecting the house from dark spirits, Michael believes his father has finally gone off the deep end. But then evil spirits start to appear in the periphery, one of them taking the form of William and killing anyone who steps outside of the house.

To start off, the best part about this film is that it pits the guy who plays Michael Myers against the guy who most recently played Jason Voorhees in the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake. While the circumstances are different and the odds are definitely in Mears’ favor with him being a ghost and Mane playing a normal human being, it’s still fun seeing these two go toe to toe in a good old throat-grabbing, fist-punching, gut-kicking rumble. While me may never get a JASON VS MICHAEL movie, at least a film like this can come along and appease that fanfic dream by giving them plenty of space to spar in the latter half of this film.

The acting throughout is decent all around, with Mane being the best of the bunch. There’s a pretty intricate and emotional core to this film about abuse and how it trickles down through a family like an infection. Because of these heavy themes and Mears playing the embodiment of that abuse being the specter that lurks outside striking unexpectedly, this is a bit deeper than your usual ghost story. Kudos to Mears for going for something much more heady than your normal poltergeist flick.

This is a surprisingly strong outing that Mane co-wrote with his costar Renae Geerlings. COMPOUND FRACTURE has got a good amount of scares, some fun wrestling-style brawls between two titanic monster actors, and a thematic depth that is uncommon for this type of film. The film plays out like a weird mongrel of professional wrestling meets witchcraft, and astonishingly works due to Mane’s solid script and performance. I’m looking forward to seeing what other horrors Mane and Mane Entertainment have in store for us, as COMPOUND FRACTURE is a solid little horror film.

Playing May28th at The Silent Movie Theater in Hollywood (Get tickets here!) and available this week On Demand and digital download from Moderncine!


Directed by Brian Avenet-Bradley
Written by Brian Avenet-Bradley
Starring Gary Cairns, Brad Dourif, Nick Nicotera, Sienna Farall
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Though the budget is low, some solid acting, a great handling of tension and suspense, and a few gruesome scenes of an age-old brain surgery technique makes MALIGNANT a tension-filled thriller worth checking out.

The story follows Allex (Gary Cairns), who lost his wife in a drunk driving accident and now drowns his sorrows in booze every night after he sloughs into work. One night after blacking out and somehow making his way home, he finds a stitched-up wound on his chest. He is then visited by a man in a trenchcoat (Brad Dourif) revealing that Allex is going to be a part of an experiment to make himself a better person. If Allex drinks, the man in the trenchcoat murders someone he knows, but if he abstains, he will conquer his addiction and thus have a better life. Thinking this man is full of it and giving in to his own addictions, Allex drinks up and then receives a video of himself killing a woman he meets in a bar (an uncredited cameo by Jennifer Blanc-Biehn). Soon, Allex realizes that he has somehow become the puppet of the trenchcoated man who seems to want to help, only through extremely unethical methods.

I love mad science stories, and this one is steeped in it. Brad Dourif is always a welcome addition to any horror film, and though this was probably a film of a lesser budget than he is used to, he takes everything deathly serious here. Every scene he’s in overflows with Dourif’s trademark intensity, and though the science is a bit goofy, Dourif sells it, giving the mad scientist depth and even an ounce of sympathy since he is ultimately trying to help Allex overcome his addiction. Though the treatment is somewhat similar to the “Quitters Inc.” segment of CAT’S EYE, writer/director Brian Avenet-Bradley does a great job of making it all twisted and believable.

But the really effective aspect of MALIGNANT is the lobotomy scenes, which made my toes curl. The delicate and detailed way Dourif performs these lobotomies, all the while describing his technique in truly disturbing Dourif style, makes the whole sequence grueling to endure. The best parts of the film are these intimate scenes of Dourif with his little hammer and ice pick performing a procedure that is both archaic and fascinating.

Brian Avenet-Bradley has constructed a solid thriller here with a strong mystery, characters you can’t help but feel for, and a diabolical and bent villain in Dourif. MALIGNANT is one of those under the radar films that I love highlighting here on AICN HORROR, since it really does possess a lot of scenes that are going to get under your skin and burrow into your brain.

New this week on DVD & BluRay from Magnet Releasing!


Directed by Eugenio Mira
Written by Damien Chazelle
Starring Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Kerry Bishé, Tamsin Egerton, Allen Leech, Don McManus, Alex Winter, Dee Wallace, Jim Arnold, Jack Taylor, Beth Trollan
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Putting the class back into horror this week is GRAND PIANO, a tense thriller that would make Hitchcock stand up and cheer.

Elijah Wood (who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors given his performance here and in MANIAC last year) plays Tom Selznick, a concert pianist and former protégé to a master pianist who recently died and while living wrote a concerto that was deemed unplayable. Suffering from stage fright years prior, Selznick returns to a stage in a performance put together by his movie star wife Emma (ARGO’s Kerry Bishé) as a means to get him back on his feet and out of his shell. But as Selznick takes the stage in front of an audience filled with anticipation, he notices on the music sheet a note that says if he misses one note in his performance tonight, he is going to die. Through a series of logical yet methodical events, Selznick must fight for his life doing what he does best which is playing the piano.

This is another film that, if in the wrong hands, would be utterly ridiculous. But in the hands of director Eugenio Mira, who himself is a composer, it is about as perfect a white-knuckle thriller as you’re going to get. Mira not only makes this film a spotlight for the music, but he also uses his camera to swoop and loom around the stage and across the crowd as if you are riding the musical notes themselves. What could be a boring film with a fixed camera on a guy playing piano for an hour and a half is instead a rollercoaster ride of exhilarating sound, swirling in and out of an anxiety-riddled pianist’s psyche being pushed to its limits. This movie is filled with so many things to please lovers of all things film—everything from ever-crescendoing pacing, to rapid fire editing, to jaw-dropping scene to scene transitions (there’s one in particular where a man is slicing across a woman’s throat with a shard of glass which immediately cuts to a bow running across the strings of a cello that took my breath away).

Of course through the gigantic and emotive eyes of Elijah Wood, one can’t help but be enveloped by the waves of anxiety he conveys with his performance. Wood’s performance is utterly convincing as the anxious performer fearing another bout with stage fright. And while I can’t be sure, it seems like he was actually playing piano in many of the scenes.

It’s also worth mentioning that Bill S. Preston Esquire himself, Alex Winter, returns to the big screen here in a minor yet crucial and utterly chilling role. Having not seen Winter in quite a while, his age only makes him look all the more unique, and here’s hoping this means we’ll be seeing more of him in future films as he offers up an unconventional, yet solid performance here.

If there’s one criticism I had for GRAND PIANO, it’s that things get a bit over the top in the last fifteen minutes. I love films like Michael Mann’s COLLATERAL, which highlight the claustrophobia by trapping a person or two people in a tight and tense situation. But when Tom Cruise and Jamie Fox left the cab in that film, everything that made it awesome trickled away. While the transition is not as jarring here with GRAND PIANO, when John Cusack finally shows his face and he has his final confrontation with Wood above the stage, I found myself longing for more moments of sheer tension that occurred in the first hour with Wood playing the piano. Sure there needed to be a resolution, but this ending goes way over the top and almost took me out of the film.

Still, for the granite-solid first hour of edge-of-your-seat awesome, GRAND PIANO is a film lovers of nail-biting cinema will need a couple extra hands for.

Advance Review: Recently played at Cannes 2014!


Directed by Domiziano Cristopharo
Written by Domiziano Cristopharo (screenplay), Jay Disney (translation), Filippo Luciano Santaniello & Nancy de Lucia (story)
Starring Elda Alvigini, Daniel Baldock, Lorenzo Balducci, Andrea Beretta, Nancy de Lucia, Clio Evans, Simone Fucci, Roberta Gemma, Ari Levanael, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Antonella Salvucci, Mauro Stroppa, Guendalina Tambellini, Venantino Venantini, Dallas Walker
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

The oddest of the odd in films up for show this week on AICN HORROR and most likely any week has got to be BLOODY SIN; a film that is either the work of genius or a madman—or maybe a little of both. To say BLOODY SIN is a bad film is definitely discrediting the “so-bad-it’s-good” quality of the movie. The film it most reminds me of is Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM in that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, seems to come from the mind of a truly cracked individual, and bares in mind the question; how in the hell was this film made?

Let me go on record that I’m not a huge fan of Wiseau’s THE ROOM. While I can appreciate the cult classic like status that the film has gained, I just couldn’t get into it and felt more repulsed by the idolization Wiseau has received from this horrible film. I couldn’t feel more the opposite, though, about BLOODY SIN. Like THE ROOM, has its fair share of gratuitous sex, nonsensical scenes, tedious exposition, and a lurid air of the bizarre around the whole thing. But for some reason, with BLOODY SIN, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it.

Filmed in Italy with an Italian and German cast, BLOODY SIN’s first abnormality is that half of the cast is supposed to be from America, but all of them have thick Italian accents. Having seen this film, now I know how annoying it would feel like when an American blunders up a foreign accent. An American fashion team consisting of a photographer, manager, makeup artist, and busty model are sent to a gothic European castle for a shoot of some sort. Upon arrival, they meet a touchy-feely butler, a maid who seems to dislike anal sex, a silver haired Aryan (who we later find out is castrated), and his 100 year old mother who puts TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE’s Grandpa to shame in terms of agedness. Immediately, the modeling crew seem leery of this situation, but they decide to dine with the family and stay the night. But as night falls, people start falling as well…falling dead that is. And an ancient ritualistic cult seems to be returning to power with the modeling team dead in their sights for slaughter.

There are copious amounts of sex and violence in this film which does seem to be paying homage to the Italian gore fests of the past. Blood and gore are strewn about with reckless abandon. For the most part, aside from a suspension scene where ancient priests hang a sinner from hooks through the skin of his back for torture in the opening scene, this film seemed to be gearing up to be your typical stalk and slash film. But at the hour mark, things get perverse and twisted. The story goes in directions that flipped my shit and there are scenes I don’t want to ruin here that will definitely churn stomachs, offend many, and definitely elevate this film to a level of wrong that is almost legendary.

Don’t get me wrong. BLOODY SIN is a film that many will deem to be a horrendous film experience. The ending especially derails off the tracks completely and I’m not even sure what exactly happened. But there’s something twisted and fascinating about BLOODY SIN. From the weird page turn transitions between scenes, to the actual comic book panels that reenact some scenes that weren’t actually filmed or just used to highlight scenes for more of an impact, if you like the cinema that delves into the deepest, darkest levels of wrong-minded weird, BLOODY SIN is one film you should experience. A cult classic in the making or a utter disaster? I’m still debating.

BEWARE: Nazi boobs are ahead in this trailer!

And finally…it’s the return of HORROR BIZARRE! This time around, they bring us VOYEURS; a thriller about Samuel, a young psychic man who finds love and his life looks good. But a strangler is killing girls around town, which pushes Samuel towards a different approach to his psychic ability...

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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