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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. It’s a rough week in horror, fright fans. Though there are a few chills and thrills in this week’s batch, I can’t say it’s the strongest.

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

The Boo Tube: TWILIGHT ZONE Season Three Episodes 1-6 (1961)
Retro-review: THE FINAL TERROR (1983)
Short Cuts: THE CONVICT Short Film (2014)
Advance Review: THE HANOVER HOUSE (2014)
Advance Review: THE UNWANTED (2013)
And finally…Robert Boocheck’s HORRIFIC!

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


Episodes 1-6
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. Image Entertainment is also releasing THE TWILIGHT ZONE ESSENTIAL EPISODES, covering all of the best episodes of the series including “Time Enough at Last,” “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” “To Serve Man,” “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and more! You can pick up the this collection by clicking this link here!

Now, let’s start off with THE TWILIGHT ZONE Season Three…

Episode 3.1: Two
Directed by Montgomery Pittman
Written by Montgomery Pittman
Starring Charles Bronson, Elizabeth Montgomery

This simple but effective tale of the end of the world is made more so by the fantastic performances by Charles Bronson (who plays a battle-weary soldier) and Elizabeth Montgomery (who plays a scrappy soldier from the opposite side). When the two seem to be the only people left alive at the end of the battle to end all battles, they must overcome their differences or be the last person on earth. This mostly silent episode is a lot of fun to watch unfold and though there are lines, I kind of wish that there wouldn’t have been and the audience would have been forced to understand the story simply through the actions of Bronson and Montgomery. Seeing these two actors in their youth is a real treat, and indicative of the star power in the making these two possessed at the time.

Episode 3.2: The Arrival
Directed by Boris Sagal
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Harold J. Stone, Noah Keen, Fredd Wayne, Bing Russell

I liked this really creepy ghost story of a different kind. While there are no sheet-wearing or chain-rattling spooks to be seen, this episode deals with haunts of a different kind. Set up expertly like a chess set, it is quite obvious when Serling begins moving the pieces around in the story, but strong performances from the entire cast make it all convincing. Ending on an ominous and dreadful note, this is one of the more expertly paced whodunits of this season. Loaded with flight jargon, the sense of mystery isn’t lost from the beginning to the end of this episode.

Episode 3.3: The Shelter
Directed by Lamont Johnson
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Larry Gates, Peggy Stewart, Sandy Kenyon, Mary Gregory, Joseph Bernard, Moira Turner, Jo Helton, Jack Albertson

This episode exemplifies what’s good and bad about THE TWILIGHT ZONE, as it often broaches subject matter that is challenging to the status quo (especially in the time it was made) and does so in a creative manner, yet is bolted in reality enough so as to relate it to real world events. But sometimes, especially in episodes written by Serling, some episodes can get a little preachy. Thus is the case with this episode, which swirls around a bomb shelter built by one family in a seemingly friendly neighborhood. When a threat from the stars causes a worldwide panic, one family with enough forward thinking to have built a bomb shelter becomes a target for the rest of the neighborhood as the friendly faces fall and the neighbors begin to turn on one another. Yes, it’s a fantastic example of how inhuman we all can be under stress and had this episode ended about two minutes earlier, it would have been best. Instead, Serling has the cast pound it home with looks to the camera as if indicting “YOU!”, the viewer, which proved to be too much for me.

Episode 3.4: The Passersby
Directed by Elliot Silverstein
Written by Rod Serling
Starring James Gregory, Joanne Linville, Warren Kemmerling, Austin Green, Rex Holman

I loved this haunting episode, which again is filled with indictment towards the war and gives new meaning to the term walking wounded. Joanne Linville plays a Southern plantation owner mourning the loss of her husband in the Civil War. When a soldier (James Gregory) passes and asks for food and shelter, she obliges, but isn’t ready for the lesson she’s is to get about holding grudges and letting go. All of this drama plays out as soldiers slowly walk by along a lonely road back from the war. Watching the battered soldiers, burned and missing arms and legs, as they walk past the plantation is a horrific sight. One scene in particular has one soldier in silhouette the entire time, making it all the more frightening. The late in the game appearance by Abraham Lincoln is a little much, but this episode is pretty spot on throughout without the usual preachiness.

Episode 3.5: A Game of Pool
Directed by Buzz Kulik
Written by George Clayton Johnson
Starring Jack Klugman, Jonathan Winters

Two titans go head to head at billiard,s and while this episode takes place during the span of one game, the stakes are as high as you can get. Jack Klugman plays the best pool player alive, but is frustrated at never living up to the legend of a deceased champion pool player he never was able to play, played by Jonathan Winters. After saying he would give anything to play the dead champ, Winters shows up in a puff of smoke to take him on in exchange for his soul. Having grown up with a pool table in my house, I was riveted by every second of this episode. Now, I don’t know if this would be as exciting to non-pool players, but I’ll bet the rock-solid performances by Winters and Klugman would win over even those who hate the game. This episode is as suspenseful as it is well acted, with both actors going toe to toe like heavyweight boxers down to that last ball. But this is an episode about the weight a champion must carry--a point driven home like the most confident of bank shots by both amazing actors.

Episode 3.6: The Mirror
Directed by Don Medford
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Peter Falk, Vladimir Sokoloff, Will Kuluva, Tony Carbone, Arthur Batanides

Serling lays it on pretty thick again with the political pontifications in this episode, but thankfully the talented Peter Falk makes it all digestible with a fascinating performance as a Castro-like dictator who rises to power quickly and feels the burden that accompanies such a rise. A special mirror is passed on to Falk from the previous dictator, and with it a curse to see anyone who means to do him harm. As Falk gazes into the mirror, his paranoia rises as he sees members of his own cabinet who helped overthrow the previous dictator back-stabbing him one by one. In turn, Falk kills them all until there is no one left. While focusing on such an obvious character from the news means this episode is almost immediately dated, the message about how much pressure comes with power is an ageless one. While most political ventures into the TWILIGHT ZONE make me groan, the performances and the simple message make this one worthwhile.

And so begins coverage of the third and final TWILIGHT ZONE season in this massive series retrospective. In two weeks we continue into the third season. See you next week with more MONSTERS episodes!

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, 2.13-2.18, 2.19-2.24, 2.25-2.29
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 Andrew Davis
Written by Jon George, Neill D. Hicks, Ronald Shusett
Starring John Friedrich, Adrian Zmed, Ernest Harden Jr., Lewis Smith, Rachel Ward, Daryl Hannah, Akosua Busia, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Metcalf, Cindy Harrell, Irene Sanders, Richard Jacobs, Donna Pinder, Jim Youngs, Lori Butler, Anthony Maccario
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

THE FINAL TERROR is one of those films I happened upon on late night cable one night and found myself searching for its name and where I could re-see it ever since. The film is not the best, I have to say up front, but in terms of the right movie happening at the right time for a person, this one was it for me. There was something about who was in this film, how the story unfolded, and the type of film it was trying to be that made it all work for me.

If you’ve seen THE BURNING (reviewed here) or FRIDAY THE 13TH (either the original or surprisingly the remake—reviewed here) or any other slasher film set in the woods, you know the story by now. A bunch of youthful types go out into the woods, away from civilization, and out for a good time. Of course, deep in the woods something is hiding and waiting to pick them off one by one. As in the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake, one of the motivators of this particular group of forest rangers is marijuana, as the woods are the perfect place for hillfolk to grow some primo weed. While the drugs = death angle isn’t anything new, I do think the way it takes front and center in this movie is worth noting. The fact that the F13 remake lifted this detail shows that the whole “Jason as a vengeful pot grower” angle wasn’t as original as the producers thought.

For the longest time, I mistook this film with THE BURNING as both films are similar in that they have a hell of a cast before they were anyone. In fact, the only reason THE FINAL TERROR was released was because Adrian Zmed became a big deal after GREASE 2 (and then faded back into obscurity) and Daryl Hannah made a big splash with SPLASH and BLADE RUNNER. Seeing $$$, the producers quickly blew the dust off the film and released it.

But those weren’t the only standouts in this cast. ANIMAL HOUSE’s Mark Metcalf plays the boss, and while he isn’t as authoritarian as Neidermeyer, he still calls the shots here. Joey Pants, aka Joe Pantoliano, plays Eggar; even though he has a small role, it’s a crucial one. Pantaliano shows he can steal the show whenever he appears. Any scene with Eggar is awesome, and Pantoliano really makes every one of Eggar’s moves equally pitiful and creepy. Rachel Ward also shows up but ultimately does little more than scream. John Friedrich is really great here as the gung-ho, mushroom-ingesting forest ranger who sadistically picks on Eggar throughout the film.

While THE FINAL TERROR does take a lot from other films (THE BURNING had been out for a while, and so had a few FRIDAY THE 13THs), it does have an original style to it. The way the killer itself moves about the woods is fantastic. Covered in moss and leaves, the killer blends into the environment and there are quite a few awesome scenes of the wildlife, followed by the killer emerging in plain sight, but you totally miss it because of the camouflage. There’s a scene towards the end of the film where the killer emerges from a giant toppled-down tree that is absolutely beautifully filmed and horrifying.

Director Andrew Davis soaks in the scenery well here with tons and tons of shots of the wildlife, the giant trees, and expansive bubbling rivers. Allowing the killer to become one with the environment makes this film reminiscent of the original HALLOWEEN, where The Shape is often in the background without anyone noticing but the shrewd-eyed audience. By doing this, I found myself scanning the wildlife shots for more hidden shots of the killer laying in wait.

The fact that this film has a relatively low body count and that this film ends on a note that suggests more horrors may be coming as the survivors are stranded in the middle of nowhere give this film a bit more resonance than your normal slasher flick. Maybe it’s because the slasher conventions weren’t as etched in stone at the point of THE FINAL TERROR’s making, but it definitely strays from the path in the latter half of the film.

BluRay extras talk with the editor Allan Holzman, who gives some insight as to the problems with the initial edit of the film and what he did to tweak the film to make it more effective. Much has been said about the day for night scenes, but I feel that this quality and the fact that the night scenes are so dark is what makes this film all the more effective. The fact that nothing feels safe and clean gives a sense of lurking danger in all dark areas of this film. Other special features include a fun interview with Adrian Zmed and Lewis Smith, who look back and laugh at their roles in the film.

While THE FINAL TERROR isn’t the best of kids in the woods horrors, it does a lot right and I found the likable and talented cast, plus some shots of gorgeous scenery and a creepy killer, make this one stand above most woodland slasher flicks of its time.

Touring festivals soon! Find out when and where here!

THE CONVICT Short Film (2014)

Directed by Mark Battle
Written by Mark Battle
Starring Dean Temple, Michael Anthony Coppola, Kim Gordon, Wayne Shore
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Not really a horror film, per se, THE CONVICT is filled with a ton of suspense crammed into its brisk 22 minute runtime. The short, directed and written by Mark Battle, is currently touring festivals and while some festival films are definitely worth checking out, others can be complete snoozers, so some shorts of this length definitely make the fests much more watchable for me.

THE CONVICT opens with a smash and while it’s a slow pace, the film never ceases to have a forward momentum from start to finish. Dean Temple plays the titular character that is driven towards his loved ones after breaking out of jail. Nothing seems to be able to stop this man from reaching his goal, and Temple does a great job of injecting both a sense of menace and an air of sympathy to him. Armed with whatever he comes by, Temple makes this character somewhat of a haunted soul with his shivering stance and hollow, yet soulful eyes.

While the end of this short is more likely going to have you grabbing for a tissue rather than hiding your eyes in fear, some solid scenes of tension and suspense make the whole thing worthwhile. In the short runtime, Battle is able to flesh out a character and his simple story, which is what makes THE CONVICT a short you shouldn’t miss when it comes to a festival near you.

New this week on DVD from Midnight Releasing!


Directed by Dylan Bank
Written by Ken Del Vecchio & Rachael Robbins
Starring Eric Roberts, Charles Durning, Robert Loggia, Dustin Diamond, Robert Bogue, Rachael Robbins, Kim Allen, Ken Del Vecchio, Suzi Lorraine, Nina Transfeld, Angela Little, Michael Riveram, Thea Vidale, Kirk Ponton, Frank Giglio
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Have you ever watched a movie and just felt sorry for all of the actors involved? This is exactly how I felt while watching this attempt at coolness, humor, sexiness, and horror. But while the attempt was made by all, it manages to fail at achieving all four.

I’m not sure how the supporting cast became involved in this film. Maybe someone owns naked pictures of some of these guys, but seeing the likes of the late great Charles Durning and simply great Robert Loggia show up in this film is painful, especially in the way they do. Loggia shows up just long enough to be killed, and Durning’s footage doesn’t even seem to be from the same movie. It’s as if the producers bought some editing room floor footage of Durning and spliced it into the film for shits and gigs. I’m used to seeing Eric Roberts in bad films, but this one had to make even him wince. And then there’s Dustin Diamond, aka Screech from SAVED BY THE BELL. While I can appreciate Diamond trying to be funny here, fails miserably as he plays an FBI agent who utilizes his psychic powers by groping an overweight black woman. It’s as uncomfortable as it sounds to watch.

The acting from leads Robert Bogue and co-writer Rachel Robbins is awful. The story follows a judge and an attorney who act out their carnal instincts outside of the courtroom. Those behaviors include tons of sex and tons of murder. The pair randomly pick people to off while groping each other like an R-rated Gomez and Morticia Addams. This is supposed to be funny in a blackly humorous sort of way, but no matter what shade the humor this film is going for, it fails on every level.

Completely gratuitous and utterly tasteless, I usually don’t mind this sort of thing if there is even the slightest ounce of genuineness to the film. Unfortunately, even the copious amount of sex between this courtroom Bonnie and Clyde is dull as hell. There are attempts at shock that simply fail. Nothing about this film is original and dissected and examined, you can probably name the exact movie each scene is torn from.

I have a tolerance for low budgeters and a sympathy for films without budget, but films done without soul are complete turnoffs to me. Avoid SCAVENGER KILLERS at all costs. There’s no soul to speak of here.

New this week on DVD from Brain Damaged Films!


Directed by Dale Trott
Written by S.C. Farrow, Kim Standring Jacobs, Dale Trott
Starring Damien E. Lipp, Susie Kazda, Katrina Gow, Joshua Dean Williams, Dean Kirkright, James Mason, Aston Elliot, Peter Flaherty, Michael Edward Williams, Nick J. Sheppard
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

After a teenage party, a group of kids get into a car with an inebriated driver and end up crashing. The wreck damaged the lives of all inside the car, but one of the survivors begins having visions of a dark masked menace while watching old horror movies, which spells trouble for the rest of the survivors of the crash.

Playing out like an Australian I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER meets FINAL DESTINATION, KILLERVISION feels like it’s already well worn down from the get go. The use of old horror films is a fun motif exchanged with the usual visions of doom these death averted tales are filled with, but aside from the fun snippets from the mock films being played on the television, I failed to find anything else original in this one.

While the performances by the cast were decent, none of them seem to get along at all, making me wonder why they seem to hang out with one another in the first place. I get it that a wreck of this magnitude can cause rifts in relationships, but everyone seems like they utterly hate one another in this film.

KILLERVISION isn’t without its moments. There’s a resonant scene involving the lead and his mother that is somewhat heartbreaking and impactful. But for the most part, it’s a guy watching a horror film and then seeing his friends show up and dying horribly, followed by the same thing happening in real life. That very scene happens over and over in this film, yet for some reason, the lead continues to watch horror films. If that were to happen to me, I’d switch genres or maybe not watch movies at all for a while, but then again, there wouldn’t be much of a movie in that, would there?

I was bored with KILLERVISION more than anything else. The plot is not particularly bad, just done to death.

Currently touring festivals and released on DVD this week from Virgil Films!


Directed by Jack Thomas Smith
Written by Jack Thomas Smith
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

When making a found footage film, you‘ve got to have a good, logical mind behind the movie keeping track of things to make it all feel like it’s something that has been taped in the first person and then follow those rules all the way to the end to be technically successful. Any time an orchestra appears out of nowhere for a sudden “BAMP!” synth scare or when all of a sudden the viewer is wondering who is filming or who is holding the camera, those are moments that break the suspension of disbelief and therefore burst that believability bubble that is already straining due to an oversaturation of found footage films out there.

I start off talking about this because INFLICTION is successful in the technical category. Say what you will about the creativity or originality of the film, but technically, it could happen if some police detective had the hours to edit the multiple cameras the pair of killers used together to make once cohesive story. So if you’re looking for a soundly built and savvy production, INFLICTION delivers that.

INFLICTION follows a pair of individuals in desperate need of therapy focusing mainly on their feelings of abandonment and abuse inflicted upon them as children who are a part of the social services system. Again, the filmmakers obviously know a thing or two about this system and all of its faults (working in social services in my day job, I’m speaking from some experience here), as it’s accurately portrayed and as the two killers work their way from the jaded judge to their former case worker to their adoptive family to their real family on this videotaped massacre.

So technically, everything is there. The knowhow of the subject matter and the logic of the film itself being a found footager are all technically sound. What the film lacks is a solid edit. Clocking in at an hour forty, a good twenty minutes of ranting and raving could be snipped and this might have been a much more interesting movie. While it may be interesting subject matter to the filmmaker and those involved, I found myself bored to death as the two killers pontificate about their shitty childhood in the system and their shitty parental situation. By the end of the film, when all guilty parties are lined up for slaughter, I was hoping at some point, the camera battery would finally die and it could just end.

It’s not that this is a badly acted film. It’s just that an hour forty of people ranting and raging “POOR ME!” at the top of their lungs does not make for very compelling cinema. With no one left to feel bad for as the killers make their way to their shitty real parents in the final half hour, my interest had already left the building.

The film begins in a compelling manner and the first kill is definitely effective, but anything past that becomes repetitive and boring. INFLICTION may cross all the I’s and dot all the T’s, but that doesn’t necessarily make it good.

New this week on DVD from Brain Damage Films!


Directed by David A. Holcombe
Written by David A. Holcombe, Rory Leahy, Nick Reise
Starring Margaret Grace, Jill Oliver, Derek Ryan, Shelley Nixon, Kyle Greer
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

A shy and lonely hairdresser named Arianna (Margaret Grace) dials a phone sex line on a whim and finds herself having a relationship with the female operator on the other line, which is but one wrong move in a series of bad decisions she makes throughout the film. Soon everyone who does her wrong like her pushy boss or her creepy neighbor ends up murdered. Plus she keeps getting flowers and notes from the phone sex operator. But who is killing these guys? Is it the phone sex operator? Or the creepy detective hanging around? Or the cross-dressing friend? Or maybe it’s Arianna herself? That’s the mystery here, and it’s a good one.

Originally titled YELLOW, CITY OF LUST (which really doesn’t make any sense for a title) is dripping with giallo elements involving sexuality, voyeurism, mysterious murder, and creeps in the shadows. In fact, giallo is “yellow” in Italian and not only does this film check off all of the marks in terms of what it means to be a giallo film, filmmaker David A. Holcombe bathes the entire film in a dingy yellow tint, much like the yellowed pages of the pulpy novels the original giallos were based off of. The world Arianna walks around in is a dismal place that looks like the interior of a gas station bathroom, making everything seem filthy to touch and seedy to experience.

As the runtime goes on, there’s not a lot of suspects left in terms of the identity of the killer, so it’s pretty easy guessing who it is by the end. Still, Holcombe keeps things moving at a brisk pace. The story itself is rather simple, but the nuanced performance by Margaret Grace gives it much more depth with her shrewish demeanor contradicting the chaos she is involved with around her.

There are parts of this film that are pretty sexually charged, and there’s quite a bit of steamy eroticism going on, which is what you’d expect with a title like CITY OF LUST. But despite the weird name, a firm handle on the genre, some creepy murders, and some solid performances makes CITY OF LUST a subtle yet effective little schlocker.

New on DVD from Lionsgate!


Directed by Chris Stokes
Written by Chris Stokes
Starring Kristen Quintrall, Denyce Lawton, Christopher Jones, JoJo Wright, Rachel Sterling, Black Thomas, Dustin Harnish, Cameron Diskin, Braxton Davis, Rebecca Burchett, Ben Hardie, Dallas Lovato, Trevor Sambrano,
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I’ve seen trailers for this one for quite some time, but for some reason NO VACANCY aka THE HELPERS is just being released this week on DVD. This weird cross between THE DEVIL’S REJECTS and SAW feels like it showed up about ten years too late to the party as it involves a torture doled out with Rob Zombie-esque backwoods smiles and hospitality.

When are kids going to realize that a car trip to Vegas is a bad idea? With the price of gas going up and up, one would think buying a plane ticket would be much more attractive and there’s much less chance of one’s car breaking down and ending up on the wrong end of a rusty truck bumper. That’s what happens to this random group of kids who don’t think it’s peculiar when both of their back tires are blown in the middle of Nowhere, USA. Up the road a piece is a gas station/bar filled with a quartet of friendly locals who bend over backwards for the stranded twenty-somethings. They share drinks, food, music, and lap dances with the folks and even put them up for the night in the convenient motels behind the joint. Anyone with half a brain would look sideways at this type of courtesy, but these guys seem to give no never mind to it until they wake up locked in their rooms and trapped in various forms of death traps.

While the performances by the Helpers are all fun, they still seem like extras who fell off the truck on the way to Rob Zombie’s latest film. All the females talk in that bouncy Southern accent Sheri Moon Zombie faked in both HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and DEVIL’S REJECTS, and the guys all look and talk like Johnny Knoxville. The kills are somewhat inventive and capably wrought out, though it all seems very SAW-esque as every one of them require some kind of difficult Rube Goldbergian setup in order to kill the victims.

While things are capably done up until the last twenty minutes, it’s at that mark that things start going off the rails and diving into a big swampy gulch of contrivance. Had this whole thing been a random matter, I think I would have liked this film a whole lot more and it would have fit more into the WRONG TURN sort of setups that just sort of happen in a horror movie. The appearance of some sort of plan and set up from the get-go might be considered a spoiler, but it also is the film’s biggest weakness. Tying everything up in a rosy-posey bow will most definitely take you out of the film as fast as it did for me, and the rushed ending makes it all seem more like the camera ran out of film rather than any type of conclusion was met with.

That said, this film, which proudly boasts “From the director of YOU GOT SERVED!”, is not as bad as one would think. But in trying to add some kind of method to the madness, in the end NO VACANCY ends up shooting itself in the foot.

New this week on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures!


Directed by Joshua Zeman
Written by Joshua Zeman
Starring Joshua Zeman, Rachel Mills
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

The filmmaker behind the urban legend documentary CROPSEY ( reviewed here) is back with a more expansive look at urban legends in KILLER LEGENDS. While I found CROPSEY to be interesting, I thought it was a bit anticlimactic and somehow missed its mark to live up to the awesomely cut trailer for the film about a real life child-murderer who spawned a legend in the filmmaker’s home town. With KILLER LEGENDS, director Joshua Zeman widens the scope to other urban legends such as the killer clown (something I’m exploring in my Send in the Clowns posts this month), the candyman, the caller in the house, and the man with the hook. While these films have been examined and dissected and used to the nth degree in horror films such as HALLOWEEN, BLACK CHRISTMAS, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, IT, and other films like them, Zeman tries to get to the root of the legends, tracking down whether or not there really was a factual case that inspired these urban legends.

I found KILLER LEGENDS to be much more engrossing because less time was given for each 20 minute segment focusing on different legends. The most engrossing for me was the caller in the house legend, which Zeman and his co-investigator/girlfriend Rachel Mills track down to a series of murders in the 1940’s involving a babysitter who was raped and murdered while the kids slept in the other room. The account is chilling, and the facts are as terrifying as any Hollywood shocker. The killer clown segment was saved until last, and was equally interesting as reports of menacing clowns have shown up for the last fifty years in the Chicago area. Of course, John Wayne Gacy comes up, but the most interesting moments come when Zeman and Mills ride along with a performance clown who seems to get his kicks scaring people while driving his car in full clown getup.

There are times with KILLER LEGENDS where you’re going to want to grab some caffeine. It’s not because the material is uninteresting, but rather due to the monotone narration by Zeman. His droning voice is also one of the detriments to CROPSEY and here, I just wish some more inflection was used. I understand talking about real life murder needs to be done in all seriousness, but an hour and a half of it proves to be quite the snoozer. It’s also difficult taking Zeman and Mills seriously as they sit huddled together while interviewing various people throughout the film. It seems Zeman and Mills want to let the world know they are together, as they can’t seem to not be within snuggle range of one another throughout the film. Would it have killed them to sit next to each other instead of practically on top of each other during the interviews?

Those minor quibbles aside, the material is utterly fascinating. The way this film expertly presents the original stories that inspired these legends and how influential they were to modern horror cinema is going to interest a lot of horror fans. Jumping from one legend to the next in twenty minute segments, there’s not a lot of time to get bored as I did with CROPSEY, making KILLER LEGENDS a far superior documentary.

Advance Review: Currently touring festivals! Catch it at DetCon1 in Detroit MI on July 17 & the at Fright Night Film Festival in Louisville, KY on Aug 2!


Directed by Corey Norman
Written by Corey Norman & Haley Norman
Starring Brian Chamberlain, Casey Turner, Anne Bobby, Daniel Noel, Dave Shaffer, Shannon Campbell, Jenny Anastasoff, Erik Moody, Matthew Delamater
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While lo fi and done on the cheap, writer/director Corey Norman and co-writer Haley Norman deliver an exciting and nuanced ghost story. While much of the standard ghost clichés appear, some solid performances and a punchy and unpredictable script make it feel pretty darn fresh.

After hearing that his father had passed away, Robert (Brian Chamberlain) heads to his childhood home to confront his promiscuous mother (played by NIGHTBREED’s Anne Bobby) and bury his father. His wife Shannon (Casey Turner) accompanies and supports Robert in his time of need, and Robert needs it as all sorts of emotional turmoil rises as soon as his reunion with his mother begins. Leaving in a huff, Robert and Shannon accidentally run down a child in the middle of the road with their car. Running to the nearest place for help, the couple find themselves separated and haunted by personal demons of their pasts.

A haunted house which turns one’s personal nightmares against those who enter is not a new concept, but one done well in THE HANOVER HOUSE. Through some really effective edits and flashes of terror, what may seem absolutely yawn-inducing if edited poorly is made electric and vibrant. While Brian Chamberlain and Casey Turner may not be the typical-looking leading couple, they do a fantastic job here with some heavy dramatic lifting in terms of the horrors they have to re-experience upon entering the house. And the thing that makes these scares so effective is the fact that they are personal terrors rather than spooks in sheets rattling chains. While there are plenty of jump scares in this film, the authenticity of the ghosts and their connection with the main two characters makes the frights all the more effective.

THE HANOVER HOUSE is a strong haunted house horror entry. While the effects aren’t over the top or expansive, filmmakers Corey & Haley Norman deliver more personal chills, making it all feel more real and dangerous. With simple editing tricks and some blacke- out eyes most likely done in post, THE HANOVER HOUSE proves that small budgets don’t necessarily mean a lack in frights and sights.

Advance Review: Currently touring festivals (recently played Philadelphia Independent Film Festival and playing Dundead in Dundee, Scotland and Twisted Celluloid in Cork, Ireland soon!


Directed by Bret Wood
Written by Bret Wood & Sheridan Le Fanu
Starring Hannah Fierman, Christen Orr, William Katt, Jane Bass, Kylie Brown, Chris Burns, Neal R. Hazard, Elizabeth Hunter, Tracy Martin, Lynn Talley
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Using vampirism as a metaphor for lesbianism and other countercultures outside of what is often referred to as the “norm” is not uncommon in horror. There have been plenty of screen versions of the story of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s CARMILLA which have mixed same sex relations with creatures of the night, Hammer’s THE VAMPIRE LOVERS being probably the most popular. Carmilla has been the vampy antagonist in many films. Here all forms of metaphor are shucked away and in its place is a good old Southern gothic horror film about two lost souls coming together through adversity.

THE UNWANTED begins when a homeless woman named Carmilla (Christen Orr) shows up at the a farm house in search of information about her mother Millarca (Kylie Brown), who disappeared not long ago. The home is owned by a man named Troy (a scruffy looking William Katt) and his daughter Laura (V/H/S’ “I like you” monster Hannah Fierman), and though Troy turns Carmilla away at first, Laura finds herself drawn to the drifter. Soon Carmilla is staying with the two in the guest room and old skeletons come falling out of the closet. Seems Troy’s deceased wife Karen (Lynn Talley) had an affair with Millarca years ago, which ended suddenly. Troy is obviously keeping secrets from his daughter and Carmilla, but when Carmilla and Laura become close, these secrets begin to boil to the surface as Troy sees history repeating itself.

What I respect about THE UNWANTED is that while dropping all vampire traits of the story, it still possesses all of the power that often goes along with vamp flicks. There’s passion, lost loves, powerful forces at play, magnetism, forbidden desires, and all the usual fodder that shows up in most romanticized vampire movies. There’s even bloodletting of a different kind, in that Laura is a cutter and loves to have Carmilla drink from her wounds while they make love. Cementing this film in reality ups the ante for more tension and even more realistic scares as Troy begins to act violently once the structure of his small family is endangered once again. Bret Wood has constructed a rock solid story which talks about how family can often get in the way of relationships, be they same sex or otherwise. Never in Wood’s solid adaptation did I miss the mystical element of the vampire as the horrors that occur to these well thought out characters are so well realized.

THE UNWANTED has quite a few great performances. First and foremost, this is the best performance William Katt has given in years. He offers up a nice amount of menace as a once-burned man who will do anything to protect his daughter from suffering from the same fate. While the relationship between Fierman and Orr is intense and rather melodramatic, this is a relationship between young adults which often goes to those places, so this didn’t really bother me. It’s definitely more believable and less pain-inducing than the romance we’ve had pounded in our heads in a TWILIGHT film or TRUE BLOOD, mostly due to the powerful performances and the intensity of the story.

While I’m all for the kind of less romanticized version of the vampire film where the creatures of the night tear into humans like monsters, when done well, a more romantic take is ok too. In THE UNWANTED, the film takes what we know of vampires and sets that upon the canvas of a real life scandal, so while there are no bats or inhuman abs of steel, THE UNWANTED has a dark and painful soul that makes it engrossing to watch and made me unable to turn away in the highly suspenseful (and surprisingly violent) final moments. Seek out THE UNWANTED if you’re the type who likes unconventional horror. You’re bound to be pleased.

THE UNWANTED (2014) - Theatrical Trailer from Bret Wood on Vimeo.

And finally…here’s a tale of a simple farmer, some goats, and a monster! I loved the cartoony nature of this fun tribute to Looney Tunes and old-time monster movie scares. You’ve gotta love the whack-a-mole scene!

Enjoy Robert Boocheck’s HORRIFIC!


HORRIFIC from Robert Boocheck on Vimeo.

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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