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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. There’s a lot of good stuff this week with prison spirits, thirsty apocalyptic survivors, junkie ghosts, an Australian madman, buried miners, a slasher sequel, a doppelganger, Jesus freaks, masked home invaders, lesbian killers, and a bigfoot with a couple of digits missing!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

WOLF CREEK 2 (2013)
ENEMY (2013)
BENEATH (2013)
TORMENT (2013)
Advance Review: THE WELL (2014)
And finally…Dream Seeker Productions’ DANIEL!

New this week on DVD and Digital Download from Bloody Earth Films!


Directed by Sam Qualiana
Written by Sam Qualiana
Starring Andrew Elias, Sam Qualiana, Lynn Lowry, Bill Brown, Debbie Rochon, Kim Piazza, Alain Alvarez, Alexander S. McBryde, Daniel Arrasjid, Simeon Qualiana, and Tim O'Hearn as Six Fingers!
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Reviewed by Ambush Bug

One of these days, someone’s going to find Bigfoot and on that day, it’ll most likely look more like this film than any well-polished evidence we see in high budget/highly produced films like BLAIR WITCH. THE LEGEND OF SIX FINGERS wants to be BLAIR WITCH PROJECT desperately, but its low budget bogs it down quite a bit. That said, as far as found footagers go, this film feels more authentic than most of this subgenre.

The film focuses on two film students who are investigating the disappearance of pets and small animals in an area outside of town. The two investigators are likable enough. One (Neil, played by Andrew Elias) is a nerdy enthusiast in front of the camera, the other (Drew, played by writer/director Sam Qualiana) the doubting rebel behind it. We come to find, as the two get lost in the forest and are herded by a giant six-fingered Sasquatch-like beast, that the two have been best friends since kindergarten, which is why Drew follows the misguided Neil on this trip. As they get lost in the woods after capturing Six Fingers on tape, it seems more and more likely that they aren’t going to survive this trip.

Critics of the shaky cam are going to have a lot to criticize here. This is found footage at its most problematic in places, as much of the film is spinning around or facing the ground. As a means to be “more authentic”, it seems the filmmakers don’t mind making things pretty dull in the first 45 minutes, where some brief glimpses of the creature and some shaking branches spice things up every now and then. The problem is that the costume isn’t very convincing when shot dead on, and I think the film would have benefited with a “less is more” approach in terms of Six Fingers’ screentime.

That said, Elias and Qualiana are likable and cope decently with the obviously tight budget. This is a fun film, most likely made by ambitious filmmakers in their backyard or while on a camping trip. The appearance of scream queen Debbie Rochon classes things up a bit. Independent horror fans will eat this up, while those of you who pooh-pooh this type of DIY thing will not have your feelings changed by this one. THE LEGEND OF SIX FINGERS is not the most convincing found footage film, but it is proof that our fascination with Bigfoot and all of his cousins is still alive and well in cinema.

New on DVD and On Demand from Wild Eye Releasing!


Directed by Peter Grendle
Written by Peter Grendle
Starring Heather Wilder, Lauren Myers, Kevin Wester, Davin Ruggles, Kaitlyn Barlow, Rachel Corona, Laina Grendle, Bailey Key, Annette Johnson, Leon Garcia
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Clocking in at just a bit over an hour is BLOOD SOAKED, a simple but effective piece of grindhouse grit about a blossoming romance between two college girls and how that romance is interrupted by a pair of psychotic, Nazi, zombie-making sisters who look and act like they fell out of a Rob Zombie movie.

The film basically follows a wide-eyed and innocent Piper (Heather Wilder) on her first days away from home in her freshman year of college. She immediately befriends Amy (Lauren Myers), labeled a lesbian by her peers, and in fact begins what looks to be a romantic fling with the spunky lass. But this romance is cut short as a “just us girls” road trip turns hellish when they run into Katie ( Hayley Derryberry, who was in the refreshingly fun RABID LOVE—reviewed here) and her sister Sadie (Laina Grendle), the daughters of a Nazi scientist who experimented with the dead in order to make a zombie army. Katie and Sadie have continued their father’s work, capturing people on the side of the road, killing them brutally, and then resurrecting them as their zombie playthings. When they run into Piper and Amy, the rest of the film is a long chase and capture and escape and chase and capture sequence until the very final minutes of the movie.

There’s a lot of energy to this film which alternates between color and black and white throughout, but finally settles for the last 45 minutes on black and white for everything. While I think this might have started out as a stylistic choice, the shots back to the normal life Piper and Amy are trying to get to are filmed in b&w as well in the latter half, so the theme of the past life being vividly colored while the rest is less so seems to be one not pursued until the end. Still, this is an arduous trek Piper finds herself trapped on. In the final hour of the film, I was reminded of the long torturous sequences of pursuit in a blank landscape seen in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and the disturbing THE BUNNY GAME (reviewed here).

This isn’t to say that this is torture porn. It’s not, as much as it is an extended chase sequence with few lines shy of screams from the woman who is being pursued. While I never became bored with the pursuit itself and was quite invested in the well-being of the character, I did become aware of the amount of time reserved for this pursuit and was wondering how it was all going to end and if that ending would be worth the long and loud wait.

In the end, with the somewhat ballsy way writer/director Peter Grendle decides to wrap things up, it did feel like it was worth it. Given some strong performances, some fun grindhouse sleaze, and some fantastic music in the score itself and the catchy tunes it used in specific scenes (I especially love the yodeling song which played over the credits), BLOOD SOAKED made a simple concept watchable and somewhat enjoyable, if you’re into the whole Nazi zombie, screaming girl running through the desert sort of thing.

New this week On Demand and DVD from Revolver Entertainment!


Directed by Sean J. Vincent
Written by Sean J. Vincent
Starring Jenny Gayner, Sean J. Vincent, Thea Knight, Dan Peters, Paul Cooper, Tim Parker, Charlie Cameron, Simon Naylor
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

THE ADDICTED is a film that kind of doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a ghost story? Is it a slasher tale? Is it a found footager or a mockumentary? Is it a revenge film? And by the end of the film, I found myself asking, do I really care?

It’s not that THE ADDICTED is bad, necessarily. The acting is better than most low budgeters. And the story, while all over the place, deals with themes that are deeper than most. The theme of drug addiction and how that can bend and shred the mind, making your best friend into your worst enemy, is something definitely worth delving into (a theme explored expertly in RESOLUTION, by the way). But this film feels somewhat unfocused in that it tries to disorient the viewer by trying to be too many things at once.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some effective moments in THE ADDICTED. The film sets up some great moments of tension and has quite a few solid scares, showing that writer/director Sean J. Vincent seems to know what he’s doing in terms of making a suspenseful movie.

That said, Vincent relies way too much on scenes we’ve seen in scores of other movies. Specifically, the tried and true and downright tired “REC grab by the legs and pull away from the camera” shot is used over and over and over and over again in THE ADDICTED. If there’s a shot I’d love to see stricken from all horror movies from here on out, it would be that one.

THE ADDICTED tells a story of a group of kids going to a reportedly haunted rehab clinic and spending a horror-filled night running away from what looks like ghosts of former patients. There are some fun scenes of trippy madness which play into the drug-infused dementia of those suffering from withdrawal, but the film relies too much on clichés and muddies up the plot with all kinds of misdirections, making the experience something more uncomfortable than enjoyable--kind of like withdrawal itself.

The Addicted - Release Trailer from Sean J Vincent on Vimeo.

Available now for digital download from here!


Directed by Michael Hall
Written by Michael Hall & Robert J. Huntley
Starring Bradley Creanzo, Sam Albertsen, Paul Basile, Kathy Biehl, Steve Buja, Ryan Curtis, Shane Dorman, Jeff Foley, Bec Fordyce, Vincent Guagenti, Megan Krache, Chrissy Laboy, Lauren Maslanik, Martin Poryles, Alexander Kollar as the Killer
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

With a title like KIDS GET DEAD 2: THE KIDS GET DEADER, it’s pretty obvious that this film doesn’t take itself too seriously. Now, being a low budgeter, I was wondering if this film would be clever in title alone, failing to deliver the goods in terms of snark and wit in the film itself. But this sequel to KIDS GO INTO THE WOODS…KIDS GET DEAD (reviewed here) actually turned out to be more fun than it should have been.

Set up as an actual movie played on a late night horror hostess show, this one in particular called Midnight Movie Mania hosted by the plucky and perky Peaches McNeil, IEDS GET DEAD 2: KIDS GET DEADER actually sticks pretty close to its own continuity established in the first film. While at its core it’s a typical stalk and slash flick (this one set at a party in a house in the burbs rather than a wooded campground area), the film attempts to get meta and this attempt is appreciated, although not completely realized.

As much as the first KIDS GET DEAD movie was a love letter to FRIDAY THE 13Th, KIDS GET DEADER is an ode to FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II, paying homage to the classic slasher opus by recreating specific iconic shots from the film while adding all sorts of homages to films such as a really well-edited shower kill a la PSYCHO that shows that Michael Hall may have more talent than he lets on with this farce.

The self-referential stuff like the conversations about sequels vs. remakes is somewhat stale and already done to death in the SCREAM films, so when they show up here, I definitely let out a groan or three. Still, the fact that characters are reading the novelization of the film while the murders are taking place is dipping a toe into Charlie Kaufman territory, and this attempt redeems any of the lame SCREAM talk that occurs in tandem with it.

I actually grew to like the commercial bookend segments with Peaches McNeil as our horror hostess. McNeil has a pluckiness about her that reminds me of Rhonda Sheer in those old USA Up All Night shows. Full of sexual innuendo and bad puns, Peaches entertains continuously while commenting about what just occurred in the film. Cool stuff that adds another fun element to the film.

Still, despite some meta commentary, KIDS GET DEADER is a fun romp with goofy takes on age-old clichés. Never does this film take itself seriously from the pre-made next sequel tie-in—called KIDS GET DEAD 3: KIDS GET DEADEST in 3D (of course) to the punk theme song with a hook that repeats “Boobs & Blood” over and over again followed by the occasional “Fuck yeah!”, KIDS GET DEADER is more fun than it should be and delivers the aforementioned boobs and blood aplenty.

BEWARE: This trailer has tons of boobs and blood and more boobs and more bloods! NSFW!

New this week On Demand (Find out when and where you can see it here)!


Directed by Andrew P. Jones
Written by Andrew P. Jones
Starring Jeffrey Johnson, Linara Washington, Charley Koontz, John Zderko, Bill Lithgow, Dee Wallace, Peter Mayer
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

This little ghost-hunting goodie is going to be entertaining for those who love those types of shows where you follow experts in the paranormal around in the dark looking for things that go bump in the night. But unlike those shows which rarely produce any evidence, in THE HAUNTING OF CELLBLOCK 11 the ghosts get real.

I’m a fan of those ghostbusting shows like GHOST HUNTERS, and what I liked about THE HAUNTING OF CELLBLOCK 11 was the way it portrayed the team as real people. We get a little peek behind the scenes as Dee Wallace makes a cameo as the producer of the show who is sick of the investigations resulting in nothing and insists that either the team turn in a memorable brush with the paranormal or they can pack their bags. Desperate but determined, the team has a haunted prison case plopped into their laps and before they know it, there are some real happenings paranormalling about.

What I liked about this film is the way it follows the blueprint of a regular ghost hunter show, with the opening explaining the sordid history of the prison, then on to the interviews, then the set up of the equipment, and finally on to the investigation itself. For much of the film, it feels like a real investigation. When the ghosts do show up, there’s a backstory there and the haunts are even more effective because of them. Though there is a bit of reliance on CG, especially with the overused stretched-out mouth routine that’s common in so many of these types of ghost films for some reason, the film does take advantage of its ghostly set with plenty of spooky corners and open cells to hold all sorts of spooks and specters.

Having worked on a ghost-hunting show right after I graduated college, I have a special place in my heart for these types of shows and the horror movies that use them as a backdrop. THE HAUNTING OF CELLBLOCK 11 is effective in that it builds a great backstory and resolves it in a satisfying manner. While the budget is low and the acting is a bit choppy at times, THE HAUNTING OF CELLBLOCK 11 is a ghost-hunting procedural that hits some of the right notes in terms of scares and atmosphere.

New this week BluRay/DVD 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 binds and toys with his final victim in a sort of underground lair 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.

New this week on digital download and DVD/BluRay!

ENEMY (2013)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Written by José Saramago (based on the novel by), Javier Gullón
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini, Joshua Peace, Tim Post
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

The film that blew me away this week the most was ENEMY, a subtle yet effective thriller that creeps up on you like a predator in the night and waits until the last second to pounce. I’ve heard mixed reactions to the film, which was based on the novel THE DOUBLE by José Saramago. The film is definitely not for the literal-minded, but even for those who won’t enjoy the surreal elements, the mixture of atmosphere and acting caliber is not to be beat.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam, a reserved college professor teaching history who seems about as enthused about teaching as we see his students are in attending his class. Adam recites the same speeches over and over about totalitarianism and its roots in both ancient and modern society. In a teacher’s lounge, a fellow teacher asks Adam if he watches movies and guides him to watch a particular movie, “Where There's a Will There's a Way.” Out of boredom, Adam rents the film and sees an extra that looks exactly like him in the film. Doing a bit of IMDB and internet research, Adam finds Anthony (also played by Gyllenhaal), an actor who looks exactly like him. The rest of the film follows Adam as he seeks out Anthony and the reasons behind the fact that he has an exact double walking around. Adam and Anthony both have significant others; for Adam, it’s a passionless relationship with Mary (INGLORIOUS BASTERDS’ Mélanie Laurent), and for Anthony, a pregnant wife in Helen (THE MOTH DIARIES/ANTIVIRAL’s Sarah Gadon). And both have no real idea why they have a doppelganger…well, maybe that’s not entirely true.

To talk about ENEMY in too much detail would give too much away. I will say that it is a film that needs to be paid attention to in order to get the full effect. Director Denis Villeneuve peppers in little clues throughout the entire film--sometimes obvious ones, at other times more subliminal and in the periphery. But if you’re willing to pay close attention, this will be a satisfying film for you.

But if you aren’t the type to pay close attention to the film you’re watching, the film ends on a genuine “WHAT THE HOLY FUCK DID I JUST SEE!” moment that will most likely infuriate the viewer to no end and leave some folks scratching their heads until it bleeds. But if you pay attention to the themes and look at the symbolism of the double, the reoccurring spider imagery, and even the names of the characters, the clues did fall into place for me, although the ending did throw me a bit.

Whether you’re pissed off by the outcome or not, you’re bound to be impressed with Jake Gyllenhaal, who ups the ante here in the dual role of Adam and Anthony. He incorporates subtle yet distinguishable features in both roles, making it pretty obvious which is which even when they aren’t identified. Sure, wardrobe helped as Anthony is much hipper than the dour Adam, but less subtle things like posture and stance make the two roles feel like they are two actors in the same room. Laurent and Gadon are fantastic as well; both play love interests unsatisfied, yet loyal to their lovers. Their reactions to the possibility that their lover has been switched are distinct and fascinating to see unfold.

Like the spiders which appear everywhere in this film, the dangers of this movie will creep up on you if you let it. Is this a comment on totalitarianism? It would appear so, as everything from paintings in the periphery to Adam’s lectures themselves convey the subject matter. Is it a doppelganger movie? Or do the final minutes suggest instead it’s a monster takeover film told in the most intimate of ways? Like all great pieces of art, this film is completely open to any and all interpretations as Villeneuve doesn’t provide any easy answers.

I will say that watching the bonus feature behind the scenes footage helped in my understanding of the film itself. Seeing it in BluRay format may have added to this experience, as I was immediately able to access some kind of logical explanation to the gorgeous piece of cinema I had just seen. But even if the true meaning behind the film is left for debate, the powerful dual performance by Gyllenhaal and the engrossing way Villeneuve has fleshed out the alien yet familiar blocky, modern landscapes in ENEMY make the film satisfying for those who love ambiguity and aren’t afraid of being overwhelmed with dark unknowns as the credits roll.

New this week On Demand and in select theaters July 25th from IFC Midnight!

BENEATH (2013)

Directed by Ben Ketai
Written by Patrick Doody, Chris Valenziano
Starring Lauren Gores, Joey Kern, Jeff Fahey, Brent Briscoe, Kurt Caceres, Eric Etebari, Jason Masek, Kelly Noonan, Rene Rivera, David Shackelford, Mark L. Young
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Much like THE ADDICTED above, BENEATH attempts to be a couple of things in one movie, and while THE ADDICTED wasn’t completely successful at achieving that multi-faceted goal, BENEATH is able to be more than one specific type of film with much greater success.

It’s a tale of a group of miners, one of which is, of course, on his last dig before retirement named George (Jeff Fahey), which gets trapped deep in a mine after a cave-in reveals a hidden corridor not known to exist by the crew. Along for the ride is Samantha (Lauren Gores), an environmental lawyer and daughter of George who is brought along on a lark to show her what her dear old dad has been up to for the last 30 years providing for the family. Also in the group is CABIN FEVER actor Joey Kern as Randy, Samantha’s old steady. Rounding out the cast is good ol’ timer Mundy (Brent Briscoe from A SIMPLE PLAN), who is the foreman to this crew of diggers. When the cave falls and the miners become trapped, it’s unclear if this becomes a descent into madness tale as the miners succumb to paranoia and may be suffering from the intake of noxious fumes or a ghost story as the opening of the hidden cave has ties to miners who were trapped in the cave long ago and might still be haunted by their unsettled spirits.

While BENEATH is abundant in the cliché department, the strength lies in the actors involved. Fahey is always fantastic, and despite the fact that he’s got Danny Glover’s retirement luck, he still brings an authentic grit to the role like few others can. Lauren Gores is a new face for me, but she is great here too, shying away from being a screaming clichéd woman and exuding enough toughness, yet still showing that this trip is terrifying her and she is completely out of her element. Kern, who was amazing in SASQUATCH GANG as the shirtless idiot named Shirts, offers up a strong performance and exudes a lot of Matthew McConaughey charm as the noble hero of the bunch, and Briscoe is always fun to watch mosey around with his Southern drawl and downhome disposition. All of these character actors do a fantastic job of basically making a cave-in movie feel real and original, though we’ve seen this kind of “trapped in the rubble”-type film before.

What works best in this film is the way Ketai holds the info close to his vest. There’s no real clear distinction as to what kind of horror movie this is, and it’s kind of refreshing to have a film keep me guessing in the way it does. Sure this might infuriate some who like their horror spelled out for them, but I loved wondering what it was that was tormenting the miners. Was it ghosts? Monsters a la THE DESCENT? Or their own fucked up minds? I never got tired of asking these questions and was steeped in so much of the unknown that I didn’t mind that a distinct answer isn’t really given.

BENEATH (not to be confused with the excellent monster fish film of the same name by Larry Fessenden, reviewed here) reminded me most of THE SHINING, believe it or not. Not to set it up against one of the great horror films of all time, but the film, with its dark corridors and unpredictable imagery, keeps you guessing as to what is real and what is not. Filled with intense action, horrific moments, and a strong cast, BENEATH is a film that will definitely make you gasp for air.

New On Demand and available on DVD July 15th from Vertical Entertainment!

TORMENT (2013)

Directed by Jordan Barker
Written by Michael Foster, Thomas Pound
Starring Robin Dunne, Katharine Isabelle, Peter DaCunha, Stephen McHattie, Bill Colgate, Amy Forsyth, Adrienne Wilson
Find out more about this film here on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

One of the scarier films I’ve seen over the last few years was THE STRANGERS, which mixed atmosphere with moody music and pitted genuinely scary and ambiguous villains against a couple I ended up liking and rooting for. For years a sequel to THE STRANGERS has been promised, but though there have been some good films following that sort of format like YOU’RE NEXT, THE PURGE, and the lesser known HOME SWEET HOME, a sequel has yet to come. Director Jordan Barker and writers Michael Foster and Thomas Pound most definitely have seen THE STRANGERS--it’s evident throughout TORMENT--but short of another THE STRANGERS film coming along, this is a worthy substitute in a pinch.

CRUEL INTENTIONS 2’s Robin Dunne plays Cory, a single dad who recently got remarried to Sarah (Katharine Isabelle from AMERICAN MARY), which makes his son Liam (Peter DaCunha) pretty upset since he thinks she’s trying to replace his dead mommy. Thinking a vacation is just what this new family needs, Cory takes Sarah and Liam to a vacation home in the woods only to find someone has been squatting in their home. After calling the local sheriff (played by the always awesome Stephen McHattie), the family try to settle into their invaded home, but unbeknownst to them, the squatters are still inside…and they’ve chopped off the heads of Liam’s stuffed animals and are wearing them as masks!

If you’re creeped out by the setup, you should be. This is some scary shit, and in the same subtle manner THE STRANGERS tricked you into accepting the lead characters despite their faults, TORMENT does the same. Sarah is annoyed that Liam is not giving her a chance and so is Cory, but beyond that, they are a loving family worth rooting for, made likable in the first half hour of the film in which everything is completely focused on them. So when the intruders do show their stuffed animal-masked faces, we cringe in terror along with them.

This investment is mainly due to some really charismatic performances from Dunne and Isabelle, two very fine actors who should be in more films. Isabelle is always great as the lead here. She is able to be downright scorching hot at times, yet somewhat innocent. Despite the fact that she might be pigeonholed into being the next high profile scream queen, Isabelle is able to be attractive and spunky all at once. She is gentle and open sometimes, yet convincing when she fights back and not afraid to get her hands and everything else dirty in the process. Robin Dunne is equally likable as Cory, exuding truly charming moments between himself and his son and showing that despite his playful attitude, he takes his family very seriously.

The theme of this entire film is family, and there’s a muddy little logic going on as these intruders seem to have some kind of agenda in breaking into this household. Unlike the seemingly random act of violence that takes place in THE STRANGERS, the quartet of masked monsters seem to want to prove that Cory’s family don’t actually love one another. As depicted in an excruciating scene where Cory is forced to tell his son he doesn’t love him, these tormentors are guided by some kind of twisted logic that doesn’t really makes sense when you first see the film, but if you stick with the film through the credits, there is a logical thread to all of the weird interactions between what looks to be the father of the family and Cory.

No, the masks of these intruders are not as scary as the porcelain and sock masks from THE STRANGERS, and that film does handle the silences as well as the moments of creepy music in a far superior way than TORMENT. Still, the creepy stuffed animal masks are downright scary at times. Director Jordan Barker has constructed some very subtle nighttime terror scenes that seem ripped from a scared child’s worst nightmares, specifically where the shadows of legs are seen lit through the light under the doorway in one particularly effective sequence.

A lot of the same buttons that were pressed in me while watching THE STRANGERS were poked again while watching TORMENT. And shy of another THE STRANGERS film being released, TORMENT definitely does the trick. Some clever twists towards the end make it even more appealing and will possibly make you want to rewatch it, as that’s how I felt by the time the credits roll. Yes, TORMENT would most likely not have been made if not for THE STRANGERS, but it’s different enough to not be a complete knockoff and the acting, atmosphere, and some pants-shittingly horrifying stuffed animal masks elevate the film even more.

New this week in select theaters and On Demand from Drafthouse Films!


Directed by Katrin Gebbe
Written by Katrin Gebbe
Starring Julius Feldmeier, Sascha Alexander Gersak, Annika Kuhl, Swantje Kohlhof, Til-Niklas Theinert, Daniel Michel, Nadine Boske, Christian Bergmann, Uwe Dag Berlin, Hartmut Lange, Christoph Jacobi, Katinka Auberger, Ina Effenberger, Enno Hesse, Leoni Schulz
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Comparing itself to MARTYRS in the advertising makes this film tough for me. MARTYRS, when I finally did see it, was a transcendent experience for me, taking me by the shirt collar to hells I had never thought imaginable, and to compare a film to it is a mighty steep boast in my book. While NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN is a grueling film to endure, I can’t say it lives up to the hype. My recommendation is to ignore the comparison to MARTYRS, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it a whole lot more without trying to compare the two completely different films.

Tore (Julius Feldmeier) is a Hamburg runaway who has taken up with a group that calls themselves Jesus Freaks, as they believe in following the word of Jesus without a lot of the pomp and ceremony of the Catholic church. The film opens with Tore being baptized and accepted into the Freaks and by the look on his face, Tore takes great pleasure in being a part of this group and finding acceptance among its ranks. When he happens across a broken down car and a distraught family, Tore prays over the engine and it starts up in a seemingly miraculous manner. The family patriarch, Benno (Sascha Alexander Gersak), takes an interest in Tore, especially when he talks about his commitment and belief in Jesus. When Tore suffers a seizure (an occurrence in which Tore claims he is being touched by Jesus), Benno saves him from being trampled in a club and brings him to his home. As Tore regains his strength, he finds himself drawn to Benno’s family, first out of thanks and then out of faith that Jesus has sent him to save this family that proves to me more distraught than they first let on. Soon, Tore must undergo physical and mental tortures, mostly orchestrated by Benno, which test his belief in Jesus.

Though I’m not the biggest fan of religious themed films, I must admit that seeing a film where the religious are not cast as evil monsters (a la HOLY GHOST PEOPLE and THE SACRAMENT) is somewhat refreshing to see. While my own faith is often a murky and undecipherable area of my life, it’s interesting for me to see people so devout that they would undergo all types of hells in the name of faith and Julius Feldmeier pulls off his blind faith in Jesus perfectly and authentically here. Feldmeier’s performance here is what sells this role--the awkward yet genuine way he walks, holding his arms stiff and behind him reflect a repressed, yet earnest man, eager to reach out and give everything to help those in need. At the beginning of this film, Tore is asked who he thinks he is and he responds “Jesus.” In many ways, that is exactly the role Feldmeier plays in this film as the trials he faces at the hands of Benno are often as cruel as the final days of Jesus himself.

And while it doesn’t go to the gory depths MARTYRS does, NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN is a very uncomfortable and unnerving journey of a film. More like a Lars Von Trier flick than anything else, writer/director Katrin Gebbe is patient, leaving much of the film without dialog and focusing mainly on this wide-eyed cherub of a man viewing the horrors of the world through forgiving eyes. While some might think in the way I’m describing this film, the metaphor that Tore is Jesus is laying things on a bit thick, the film is much more subtle than that, at least for the bulk of the film. The sacrifices Tore makes increase in intensity by the end, and those who don’t like to watch the innocent suffer will definitely want to turn away from this one.

Still, there’s a power to this film that resonates well past the end. There’s a glimmer of hope underneath all of the horror that Tore experiences as even at the end, his beliefs are strong and uncompromising. I can’t say I had a good time watching NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN. It is quite a downer of a movie. But the film does pack a potent punch, and never flinches or pulls back in terms of raw horror. This is not your typical horror film and in many ways, the comparisons to the film MARTYRS are in the name alone rather than anything else.

At the beginning I tried to distinguish this film from MARTYRS, yet I couldn’t help but compare it throughout this review, so I guess there is something alike between to these two movies. If anything, while MARTYRS takes us to a place too dark to return, it still feels like a movie. NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN is steeped in reality and because of it, the horrors that are inflicted upon Tore are all the more disturbing.

Advance Review: Currently playing festivals! Recently premiered at LA Film Festival!

THE WELL (2014)

Directed by Tom Hammock
Written by Jacob Forman & Thomas S. Hammock
Starring Haley Lu Richardson, Booboo Stewart, Max Charles, Nicole Fox, Michael Welch, Jon Gries, Michael Massee, Rena Owen, Leo Lee, Barbara Crampton, Michael McCartney, Jacqueline Emerson
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

So many post-apocalyptic tales have been made since it’s pretty easy to stake out a desert shoot, find some abandoned buildings, and cover your actors in dirt. I’m not saying a desert shoot is less difficult, but I guess it’s a statement on how the world is today that there are so many barren, desolate, and run-down places that make it perfect to shoot as if society has collapsed. Because of the abundant amount of fall of civilization cinema out there, it takes something pretty special to distinguish itself from the rest. THE WELL is one of those special post-apocalyptic films.

After the fall of the world, the sun has dried up all of the water, leaving the survivors desperate for any form of water. There are those who try to harvest their own water from hidden wells and those who scavenge and steal the water from those who are trying to keep these wells secret. The center of attention for this particular story is well-guarded by a young woman named Kendal (Haley Lu Richardson), Dean an invalid (Booboo Stewart, who was seen recently in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURES PAST as Warpath), and a young boy named Alby (Max Charles). Siphoning and rationing their supplies and water, the three have survived these harsh conditions but find the roaming barbaric nomads getting ever-closer to discovering their well. This gang is lead by NAPOLEON DYNAMITE’s John Gries as Carson and his red-haired daughter Brooke (the beautiful Nicole Fox), and their methods are deadly and ruthless. ONCE WERE WARRIORS’ Rena Owen, RE-ANIMATOR’s Barbara Crampton, THE CROW’s Michael Massee, and TWILIGHT’s Michael Welch all show up in smaller yet crucial roles and show how well-cast this small film really is.

Apart from the strong cast, THE WELL sets up the basic conflict capably as well. Making man’s greatest necessity so hard to find and setting the tale in the middle of a sandy wasteland will make you reach for a drink a few times while watching this film. Writer/director Tom Hammock and writer Jacob Forman take full advantage of the environment, allowing the camera to pan across the sparse overgrowth of desert plants and dusty coverings of just about everything else. This is a beautiful-looking film despite the barren surroundings, and Hammock’s camera soaks it all in and allows the viewer to be enveloped by the sharp winds and arid temperatures.

The action in the well is top notch as well. Nothing superhuman happens. Kendal is a spunky girl but a fallible hero, and no one seems safe from being wiped out by either the elements or the nomads. The strong performances from the cast only intensify the danger, and newcomer Haley Lu Richardson is bound for bigger and better things as she is able to carry this film capably on her slender shoulders. THE WELL is not a high octane, in your face end-of-the-worlder like THE ROAD WARRIOR, but it offers up a more serene, yet no less brutal look at the times after society falls.

And finally…here’s a short film from Dream Seekers Productions called DANIEL. Having corresponded with the filmmaker, Peter Dukes, I found out he challenged himself to tell a complete story in a minimal amount of time (3 minutes). You be the judge on how successful he was. I think it’s a pretty fun stab at demonic horror.

DANIEL stars Dominic Pace, Varda Appleton, Peter Le Bas, J.P. Giuliotti and Jake Ryan Scott.


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. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.

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