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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week I check out two of the greatest horror films of all time as well as a surreal circus classic and a campy santa slasher. But wait, I also check out some modern horrors focusing on exorcism, inbred cannibals, and murderers. And just when you thought I couldn’t possibly have any more in me, I highlight four independent horror films playing at this weekend’s Chicago Horror Film Festival!

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Chicago Horror Film Festival: CANNIBALS & CARPET FITTERS Short Film (2014)
Chicago Horror Film Festival: HOUSE OF THE WITCH DOCTOR (2014)
Chicago Horror Film Festival: THE REDWOOD MASSACRE (2014)
Chicago Horror Film Festival: DEAD GIRLS (2014)
Retro-review: THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (1974)
Retro-review: HALLOWEEN – The Complete Collection BluRay Box Set: HALLOWEEN (1979)
Retro-review: SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT (1984)
Send in the Clowns: SANTA SANGRE (1989)
And finally…KILLOGY HALLOWEEN SPECIAL Comic Book, Starring Doyle (ex-Misfits)!

Short film playing this weekend at The Chicago Horror Film Festival!


Directed by James Bushe
Written by Richard Lee O'Donnell
Starring Darren Sean Enright, Jenny Stokes, Shameer Seepersand, Darren Maffucci, Richard Lee O'Donnell
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

What I love about short films is that they cut to the chase and only show what’s essential. I don’t know how many horror films pad their runtime so as to make feature length when the film would have made for a perfect short film. While many use the short film as a sort of proof of concept in hopes to make it into something larger, some of the more memorable films I’ve seen over the years were short ones. While these films are difficult to find, if you’re at the right festival, you might catch some good ones like CANNIBALS & CARPET FITTERS.

The name says it all. A pair of carpet fitters shows up at a quaint home occupied by a seemingly harmless old lady only to find that she is housing a cannibal in her basement. While the opening minutes alert us to the old lady’s devious intentions, the fact that these two goofy carpet men are likable makes the whole thing feel pretty tense. And while I can’t say this is the most unpredictable of stories, it still is fun enough to warrant a recommendation.

There is a light and goofy tone throughout CANNIBALS & CARPET FITTERS, but while the characters are rather goofy and the antics somewhat slapstick, the gore is very down to earth and real. As usual in lower budgeted films, the money here was put into the effects and it shows. Gory eyeballs, hacked off fingers, and guts a-plenty decorate this old lady’s house of horrors and it all looks gruesomely awesome.

Clocking in at just a bit over 20 minutes, CANNIBALS & CARPET FITTERS doesn’t wear out its welcome. It jumps right in with the set up of the old lady and her cannibal and then tosses these two dolts into the mix pretty quickly. Across the board, the acting is fun and campy—it sort of has a fun DEAD ALIVE feel to it and maintains that level of fun up until the very end.

If you happen to be at a fest playing CANNIBALS & CARPET FITTERS, make sure you take the time to check it out. It doesn’t take a long commitment and the payoff is definitely worth while.

Playing this weekend at The Chicago Horror Film Festival! New on DVD and On Demand from Breaking Glass Pictures!


Directed by Devon Mikolas
Written by Devon Mikolas
Starring Bill Moseley, Leslie Easterbrook, Allan Kayser, Callie Stephens, Steffie Grote, Dyanne Thorne, Emily Bennett, Summer Bills, Susan Monts-Bologna, David Andreiw, Nick Bastounes, Howard Maurer, Danny Miller, David Willis, Jonathan Helvey
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Somewhere in this film is a halfway decent movie.

HOUSE OF THE WITCH DOCTOR deals with some interesting subject matter and has some interesting narrative twists that reminded me a little bit of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT in terms of the way the story unfolds. The problem is that from a directing standpoint, the camera lingers way too long in scenes and fails to really bring out any emotional depth in the performances that might actually be ok if not for the flat directing and uninspired dialog.

The story follows a group of kids who take a college trip that occurs one year after the tragic death of the boyfriend of one of young females, Leslie (Callie Stephens). The death is shown in the first moments of the film which indicates that a few bag-faced killers are the ones who did it, but when the death is talked about, the fact that it’s a murder isn’t even discussed. To try to get Leslie’s mind off of things, her friends decide to go on a trip to home to Leslie’s house where they meet her father Peter (Bill Moseley) and mother Irene (Leslie Easterbrook). Along the way, they run into a pair of ne’er-do-wells: Cliff (Allan Kayser, who was the kid on MAMA’S FAMILY) and Buzz (David Willis), fresh from prison and ready for some hell to raise. But what none of them were suspecting is that Peter is a doctor of sorts and has a special lab in the basement of the house that is off limits to the visiting kids (and the heathens who followed them home). Now, I won’t go into too many spoilers, but Peter’s research is somewhat odd and ends up being more twisted than anything the released criminals can ever think up (for a clue as to what is going on in Peter’s basement check out the title of the film).

The thing that really kicks the legs out from under this film is the reliance on too much of the down and dirty and not enough finesse. There are way too many scenes of rape and torture for my taste as Cliff and Buzz saunter around like walking penises, raping any women they encounter. And while Easterbrook and Moseley are always fun to watch, the dialog they are given and the flat directing of the film really doesn’t allow them to shine at all here. The camera often runs for way too long and stays static in uninteresting and distanced shots, making the dialog feel all the more awkward.

Add in an ending that feels out of left field for a gritty, more realistically violent type of film, and this is an oddball of a movie. While there are interesting elements galore, especially in terms of some of the story’s twists and a C-list cast giving it their all, HOUSE OF THE WITCH DOCTOR feels like a film that tries too hard to be something it’s not rather than highlight what it’s got.

Playing this weekend at The Chicago Horror Film Festival!


Directed by David Ryan Keith
Written by David Ryan Keith
Starring Mark Wood, Lisa Cameron, Lisa Livingstone, Rebecca Wilkie, Adam Coutts, Lee Hutcheon, Benjamin Selway
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While THE REDWOOD MASSACRE is pretty much a standard stalk and slasher, it does do the stalk and slash pretty well. The story centers on a group of kids who go into the woods for a camping trip to celebrate the anniversary of a mass murder of a family years before. Gruesome, yes, and not really cause for celebration, but the killer in the woods feels the same way as evidenced by the way he eviscerates them one by one.

The bad first—there is absolutely no reason for these kids to be together as most of them loathe one another. One of the campers used to date another and that camper brought his new girlfriend. There is not rational explanation this group would all be going to the same place and with everyone fighting with one another, it really makes all of the campers unlikable from the get go. I guess in this type of movie, which basically is a highlight reel of one gory Jason Voorhees like kill after another, we are supposed to root for the kids to die, but if you see any of the original slasher films, what made them stand out is that you actually rooted for the kids to live. Here, we want them to die, and thankfully, most of them do.

Now that the faulty set up has been discussed, I’ll get to the good. You can tell writer/director David Ryan Keith was mostly interested in the kills because they are the most interesting parts in the film. While the motivations of the killer range from pretty vague to nonsensical as he kills some on the spot while he chains up and tortures others for no real reason other than to do so, the kills themselves are actually pretty gruesome and horrifying. Gallons and gallons of thick goopy blood was used and the killer isn’t satisfied with whacking his victims ones and being done with it. Oh no. Here he’s got to hack and slash his way thought people over and over again, sending gobs of blood all over the place. The killer, who as I said is the Jason Voorhees type and even wears a bag over his face like Jason in F13Part2, is definity PO-ed, at something and his anger and rage is palpable in his gratuitous kills.

If you’re looking for a solid, straight up stalk and slash, THE REDWOOD MASSACRE definitely fits the bill and then some. Gorehounds will love it, and if you’re not the type to nitpick things like plot holes and lack of motivation, you’re bound to have a good time with this gory slasher yarn.

Playing this weekend at The Chicago Horror Film Festival and available on DVD from Brain Damage Films on November 11th!


Directed by Neal Fischer (segments "Theta Phis Never Die", "Wraparound"), Del Harvey (segments "Over My Dead Body", "Vengeance Is Mine")
Written by Neal Fischer & David Nevarez (segment "Theta Phis Never Die"), Del Harvey (segment "Over My Dead Body" & “Wraparaound”), Drake Linder & Del Lowry (segment "Vengeance Is Mine")
Starring Jessica Galang, Joseph Luis Caballero, Rebecca Mullins (segment “Wraparound”), Aubrey Joyce Tunnell, Nick Cardiff, Matty Robinson, Craig Sunderlin (segment "Over My Dead Body"), Mia Doran, Madalyn Mattsey, Ali Hadley, Sam Steveson, Andrew Jacob DeHart, Jax Turyna, Jennifer Lenius (segment "Theta Phis Never Die"), Brian Rooney, Kelsey Sante, Joette Waters, Marc Peurye, Ivan Vega (segment "Vengeance Is Mine")
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

There’s been an abundance of anthologies recently given the popularity of V/H/S and THE ABC’S OF DEATH films. It makes sense, given the current state of the world and how little money is flowing around for filmmakers and, more importantly, from investors, that it’s easier to fund a small scale story and project than something more large budget. Personally, some of the best horror I’ve experienced has been in short form be they short stories, short half hour TV shows such as THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and anthologies like CREEPSHOW and TALES FROM THE CRYPT. Though the budget is on a much smaller scale, DEAD GIRLS is definitely one anthology that packs the punch of a heavyweight.

As with all of the best anthologies, this one escalates from beginning to end in terms of quality and intensity. The first installment is a rather typical revenge from the grave-style film as a pushy boyfriend attempts to cover up the accidental death of his girlfriend only to find out that her clingy ways go beyond the grave. This is a capable and good looking segment, just somewhat by the numbers.

Segment two, entitled "Theta Phis Never Die" is a bit more stylized, and there’s definitely a lot by way of eye candy to enjoy as scantily clad sorority girls are hunted down by a pledge who is accidentally murdered. Again, it’s a revenge tale as all of these short films are, but this one has some fun camera tricks going for it as well as some genuinely funny situations as it appears there is only one college guy on campus and he gets to sleep with all of the sorority girls. Performances here are noticeably better than the first segment and the kills are much more fun and campy.

The final installment in DEAD GIRLS, called "Vengeance Is Mine", deals with a much heavier theme of rape and empowerment. While there are some dodgy moments in terms of acting, they saved the best for last here as this one goes into pitch black territory reminiscent of Abel Ferrara’s MS. 45 as the lead, a novice nun who is molested by a priest, wears a skimpy nun’s frock as she turns tricks and murders people on the street. As I said, this one is dark and gritty, but well done in an old school grindhouse sort of way.

The film has a twisted and moody wraparound segment about a woman being stalked by a man and led into a house that holds the spirits of persecuted women. Thematically this all matches up with the rest of the stories, which mix the supernatural with women who have been persecuted and decide to strike back at their aggressors. In a genre where the woman is often the object of persecution, this film tries to take a firm stance on that. It’s debatable whether or not it’s a good one as it does empower the women who were the victims, but there is still a lot of victimization that occurs as the impetus of each segment. I guess it is a chicken and the egg scenario that is worth discussing: does one have to be a victim in order to fully understand how to be empowered or not? I’m not sure of the answers are provided here, but the stories are solid and despite the low fi effects and qualities of DEAD GIRLS, it manages to entertain.

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Dark Sky Films!

THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (1974)

Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper
Starring Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Allen Danziger, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, John Dugan, Robert Courtin, William Creamer, Ed Guinn, John Larroquette, and Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

As a kid, I was introduced to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE through the collection of movie clips made into a movie called TERROR IN THE AISLES. That film acted as my first “Must See” list as it went through so many classic horror films at a rapid pace, offering up scenes from films I had seen interspersed with tons of ones I hadn’t. At the time, my brother and I would go to the video store, pleading with my mom to let us rent every film in the horror section. Every time we’d walk in, I’d approach the box marked THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, but something in me kept me from picking it up. I was an avid Fango reader as well at the time, and had read about how notorious the film was, so every time I approached the box, I was too frightened to pick it up. Finally, after we’d seen them all or everything else was rented, I decided to suck it up and check out this movie that was supposed to be so notorious.

And sure as shit, THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE managed to scare the crap out of me. Not only did it push the envelope as to what was real and what wasn’t, it was filled with so much of the macabre from start to finish that it really does feel like more of an ordeal than a film. Now there are those who don’t go to the cinema to feel that level of unease and for those people, there are tons of other safe and tidy films out there to watch. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE is dangerous and messy. The innocents are sweaty and real—some of them not even likable. And that’s even before we get to meet the Chainsaw family. There seems to be a layer of grime on the whole thing and just by viewing it, that grime gets on you and it takes a whole lot of scrubbing to get it off. Those were the feelings I felt after that first viewing, and it remains today as it is not a film I rewatch over and over, but it is one I appreciate and even fear.

One thing that stands out in this film is the ordeal Marilyn Burns survives in this film. I refer to the actress rather than Sally the character because I really feel that in this particular film, the struggle and torment the character survives is something so convincing and real that the emotion and torment we see her go through is real. As Sally, Burns is unafraid of appearing uncomposed or out of control. She is covered in filth and blood and while most of her lines are pleading with her captors to let her go, the vocabulary of horror she articulates in her screams is enough to fill a dictionary. The uncontrollable laughter Sally expresses upon driving away from Leatherface doing the Chainsaw Dance at the end is not only that sigh of relief the audience experienced having survived the film, but also the gibberish of someone close to the edge, if not already plunged over it, and Burns nails this so well it just feels real. Without Burns, this film is nothing. She’s the audience, getting chewed up and tormented by the sights and sounds of this film, and does it like no other actor I’ve ever seen.

The other thing that is a character of its own here are the sounds. Hooper gets into the makings of the odd variety of noises that appear in this film. Right from the very beginning with the bizarre cat’s meow bulb flash that flashes on the decomposed bodies makes for one of the most iconic and horrifying intros in film history. The fact that it only teases you with bits and pieces before revealing the nightmarish sculpture riding the tombstone exemplified how this film toys with you like a kitten with a mouse, digging its claws and fangs into you, but having too much fun to deliver the final blow to put it out of its misery.

The sense of family that is often the subject of the TCM films is interesting here. I always found it odd that there were no women in the Sawyer family. Maybe they were all products of abductees and that’s the reason why we don’t see any matriarchs. The fact that ambiguities like that exist in this film may be attributed to plot holes, but it’s definitely left things open for further entries to dissect. I always found the Hitchhiker to be the most interesting character since he is the runner of the team, both gathering body parts and luring folks to the house for slaughter. This is an interesting role and while Neal plays the babbling buffoon, his role is crucial here. But all of the family serves its purpose and plays characters more complex than most horror films. The Cook, who doesn’t have the stomach for no killin’, seems to be the one with the most amount of marbles, but the way he pokes and tortures Sally in the burlap sack, laughing in a rat-like manner, shows a cruel layer just below his seemingly harmless surface. And while the brute Leatherface could be just a simple mute monster (a type of killer we have seen over and over), here he is given almost a feminine role of cooking and cleaning, as well as a paranoid side as exemplified in the way he paces and has a mini-breakdown after killing those who dare enter the home. Gunnar Hansen communicates volumes with grunts and movements as if to say “Where the hell are all of these kids coming from, and what am I going to do with all of this extra meat?” The template for the killer inbred family has been copied over and over since TCM, but this is where it all started, and the reason it is something so many horror films revisit is because TCM did it to the best effect.

The 40th Anniversary edition is loaded with extras. Two collections of cut scenes (one with sound and another without) are offered. There's a documentary called TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE SHOCKING TRUTH focusing on the impact of TCM on the masses at the time and how the magic was attempted to be repeated in the lesser sequels. FLESH WOUNDS is segmented into seven parts which range from interviews with Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface), Edwin Neal (The Hitchhiker), and John Dugan (Grandpa) to the exploration of the original house all these years later. There's an especially touching moment when Dugan breaks down and cries when recollecting the hell Marilyn Burns went through to make her iconic role as Sally so memorable.

There's also a featurette with Terri McGinn called OFF THE HOOK which goes into depth what it is really like to be hung by a meat hook. There's another extended interview with John "Grandpa" Dugan talking about the makeup and whatnot. Editor J. Larry Carroll talks about piecing together the film after it was completed in CUTTING CHAINSAW. Horror's Hallowed Grounds tours the sites from the film, plus there's a tour of Leatherface's house by the man who knows it best, Gunnar Hansen. Plastic surgeon Dr. W.E. Barnes presents a step-by-step, albeit silent, photo montage of the making of Grandpa's makeup. The complicated history of who owned the rights of TCM (at one point the mob had the rights) is dealt with in THE BUSINESS OF CHAIN SAW, and bloopers, TV and radio spots, and a behind the scenes still gallery rounds out the bonuses you get with this special edition.

The box itself is quite nifty as the disk case slides out of the case much like Leatherface slides open the metal door in his iconic debut scene. Finally, this 40th Anniversary Edition sports commentaries old and new. I've listened to older commentaries from Tobe Hooper, Gunnar Hansen, and cinematographer Daniel Pearl. There's another older one with the victims, Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, and Paul A. Patain. New commentaries come from Tobe Hooper, cinematographer Daniel Pearl, editor J. Larry Carroll.and sound Ted Nicolaou. So needless to say, everything you've ever wanted to know about TCM can be found somewhere in this amazing 40th Anniversary Blu.

Retro-review: New this week as a BluRay Box Set HALLOWEEN: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION available from Scream Factory and Anchor Bay Entertainment!


Directed by John Carpenter
Written by John Carpenter & Debra Hill
Starring Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Kyes, P.J. Soles, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards, Brian Andrews, John Michael Graham, Nancy Stephens, Arthur Malet, Mickey Yablans, Brent Le Page, Adam Hollander, Robert Phalen, Sandy Johnson, and Tony Moran, Will Sandin & Nick Castle as Michael Myers
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Unlike TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, which I saw later in my teens, I was privy to see HALLOWEEN when it aired on TV as a very young kid. Sure I didn’t get to witness P.J. Soles’ tiny yet tantalizing tatas, and some of Loomis’ swears were truncated and altered. But for the most part, the film was aired as is on national television and still managed to be scary as all get out, which is a testament to the effectiveness of Carpenter’s classic boogeyman film.

While I haven’t had a chance to listen to the commentaries in this box set yet, I am interested in doing so just to see where Carpenter came up with the impetus of this film. Knowing that Bob Clark made BLACK CHRISTMAS years before and how that film shares so many similarities with HALLOWEEN, it would be interesting to me to see if he would be able to give credit to Clark’s film. Much like HALLOWEEN, BLACK CHRISTMAS uses first person POV to put the viewer in the role of the killer. He has the killer use the phone to terrorize the victims, and he keeps the killer in the periphery, out of focus, and off camera in order to amp up the chills of the great unknown taking out the rest of the cast.

But again, credit has to be given to Carpenter, who brought a lot to the slasher genre even if he wasn’t the first to do it. In the past I’ve heard interviews where Michael Myers is often compared to a great white shark, and if you think of HALLOWEEN and JAWS, you can see that both films, while rarely are thought of together, do seem to be cut from the same cloth. Both have an unrelenting and seemingly emotionless killer whose sole purpose seems to be to kill and move onto the next victim. The motivation behind Michael is later on given to him in sequels, but the initial film categorizes Michael as pure and primal evil, much more like the force of nature that is the shark in JAWS. To a lesser extent, the triad of Brody, Quint, and Hooper are represented in HALLOWEEN as well with Loomis definitely acting as the crazy, wizened, and risk-taking Quint and Laurie being the inexperienced noob who ends up being the dangling bait for the monster much like Roy Scheider’s Brody. I guess that leaves Dreyfus’ Hooper, who relied on science to form his opinions to be likened to HALLOWEEN’s Sheriff Brackett who sticks to the law and acts more as a foil to the batshit Loomis as Dreyfus acted for Shaw’s Quint, but that analogy isn’t as strong as the other two. Still, the fact that Loomis, Laurie, and to a lesser extent Sheriff Brackett interact with one another is very similar even though their screen time is less prominent together.

The simplicity of HALLOWEEN is what makes it all so perfect. We already talked about the ambiguity of motivation for Michael, but from start to finish this is a tale about every babysitter’s worst nightmare. But it is with that simple yet solid fear that this film allows itself to run rampant in terms of effective scares. Simple scenes of Michael in the shadows looking in a window, Michael following someone walking down a street, and other shots that make you want to scan the screen to see if he is out there in the dark somewhere just out of view, make the film almost a “Where’s Waldo?” sort of experience. Adding the now classic synth music only intensifies the viewing even more as it bores into you continuously without relenting and just the right moment.

While hand-held POV is all the rage these days in today’s found footage films to put the audience more into the film, Carpenter used it in a much more manipulative manner with HALLOWEEN. Here the only time this POV is used is during the killings where we are either riding in the head of the killer or sitting right behind his shoulder. With a view like this Carpenter forces you along for the ride, and while it’s become old hat to identify with the killer rather than the victims, placing the camera at such an angle is bound to make one feel uncomfortable as it almost recreates the experience of doing the foul deeds yourself. While this might not be something an audience member realizes is uncomfortable, putting the viewer in the role of a killer is definitely something that is going to leave a mark.

Nick Castle should be recognized here. Yes, the scares come from Carpenter’s peripheral use of Michael and the succinct placement of music, but Castle’s emotionless gait and robotic movements make it all the more memorable. The silent walking killer, much like the hulking brute and the inbred family, are modern movie archetypes that have appeared in innumerable films, but Castle cast the mold here. Paired with Loomis’ macabre description of Michael and Laurie’s reactions to him throughout, Michael is elevated from mute murderer to icon in the mere 90 minute run time.

But Donald Pleasance and Jamie Lee Curtis make up so much of why this film works as well. While Michael and the music take care of the dark unknowns, Pleasance’s driven insanity and desperation is carried on his tightly wound stance and delivery. Even though he isn’t an imposingly proportioned man, he delivers the lines with such determination and conviction that he still seems menacing and a monster all his own. Curtis also sets the template of final girl here, with believability in terms of innocence and purity, but being able to be scrappy enough to survive a night of terror. Having Laurie’s motherly instincts kick in as she has to protect the kids she is babysitting from the masked madman makes Laurie represent multiple aspects of woman from virgin to mother to protector. In all of these roles, Curtis delivers in spades.

The version of HALLOWEEN in this BluRay Complete Collection includes a rowdy audio commentary by Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis (which was on the old version), and another one which is all new with DOP Dean Cundey, editor Tommy Lee Wallace, and the Shape himself, Nick Castle. There's also THE NIGHT SHE CAME HOME, a featurette focusing on the females of HALLOWEEN, HALLOWEEN: A CUT ABOVE THE REST which focuses on how the film changed the genre, and a cool ON LOCATION featurette revisiting all of the sites the film was made.

As a bonus, the disk includes some of the TV footage not seen in the theatrical version involving Loomis pleading with the psychiatry board to move Michael to a maximum security facility and a bit after the break out as Loomis visits Michael's trashed room with the word "SISTER" scrawled into the wall. I remember seeing these scenes in the TV release of the film long ago and thinking I was crazy when they didn't show up when I saw the film later on video. These TV spots certify that I wasn't nuts. This disk also includes the usual radio and TV ads as well.

All in all, if you’re a HALLOWEEN fan, this is going to be a must add to your collection. I’ll be reviewing one HALLOWEEN film from this collection all through October and beyond, so you Holloween heads have something to look forward to!

Retro-review: New on BluRay from Anchor Bay Entertainment!


Directed by Charles E. Sellier, Jr.
Written by Michael Hickey, Paul Ciami (story)
Starring Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Linnea Quigley, Britt Leach, & Leo Geter
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Though it raised quite a stink when it was released in 1984 from house fraus disgusted by the perversion of a beloved children’s fable, there’s no way SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT would have achieved cult status if the powers that be would have just let this film fade into obscurity. As is, it’s not a very good film in terms of scares or acting, but SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT does have some quality kills and the focus of Billy’s psychosis is surprisingly deeper than one would think and since 2014 is the 30th Anniversary of the film, it’s definitely worth delving into despite the fact that we are gearing up to carve pumpkins rather than decorate the tree.

The first fifteen minutes of this film are what most people talk about. In those first scenes, we see a typical American family going to see their grandpa in a nursing home. Thought to be catatonic in his chair, the grandpa mystically comes to life as soon as little Billy’s parents leave to room in time to warn Billy that Christmas is the scariest time of the year and that he’d better watch out for Santa because he punishes naughty boys. Scared shitless and scarred already by grandpa’s words of wisdom, little Billy and his infant brother Ricky become the sole survivors of a carjacking gone wrong when a robber dressed as Santa shoots his father and then attempts to rape and then kills his mother as he hides in the bushes on the side of the road and witnesses the whole demented scene.

Had SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT maintained that level of intensity; I’d understand why folks got so uppity about the film. Instead we are treated to a by-the-numbers killing spree as a grown up Billy is forced to wear a Santa suit at the toy store he works at and has a nervous break when he sees a man and woman wrestling in the backroom at a Christmas party, reminding him of his mom and Santy Claus all those years ago. Up to the toy store section of this film, things are still pretty interesting, though cliché as the Mother Superior at the orphanage Billy ends up in beats the message of good vs. naughty into Billy at every chance she can get, resulting in a pretty fucked up kid. Still, all of this set up doesn’t payoff as Billy becomes a robot shouting “PUNISH” or “NAUGHTY” whenever he sees pretty much anyone in his path, naughty or not, for the rest of the movie.

At least the kills are kind of goofy fun. The most memorable being Linnea Quigley’s death by deer antler scene and a headless sled ride taking a quick second place. But the shift in tone from the downright disturbing opening scenes to the goofy killing spree is pretty abrupt, making this almost two different movies at once—one you can take seriously depicting how a childhood trauma can seriously fuck up a person, the other becomes the most unscary serial rampage put to film. I kind of wish things would have stayed as disturbing, because SNDN was on the right track there for about half of the film.

But both this film and it’s special needs stepchild of a sequel are filled with stupidly fun kills that make you forgive the tone which is all over the place and the acting which ranges from cardboard to cadaver. The filmmakers may have realized they were delving into some pretty dark material in the first half and tried to make up for it by filling the second half with goofy kills. Nevertheless, these kills are goofy as hell, sure to cause much eggnog nose-squirting if watched at a horror holiday party with the sound off in the background.

I’m going to try to cover a few of the other SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT sequels next year. I might have seen them as a kid, but they don’t necessarily stand out to me. If they’re anything like the sequel to the original which recaps the entire first film in the first 40 minutes, I don’t think I’m missing much by not recalling them. Still, if you’re looking for something ghoulish to play in the background at your Horror Holiday Party this year, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT has your whole night covered…


This 30th Anniversary Edition sports new commentary from writer Michael Hickey, composer Perry Botkin, editor Michael Spence, and producer Scott J. Schneid. There’s also an interview with director Charles E. Seller Jr. and Santa’s Stocking of Outrage which are letters protesting the film upon it’s controversial release in the 80’s. The film looks quite good, some might say better than it deserves.

Send in the Clowns: Bug celebrates the release of his 4-issue miniseries comic book PIROUETTE by checking out some clownie horrors!


Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky
Written by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Roberto Leoni, Claudio Argento
Starring Axel Jodorowsky, Blanca Guerra, Guy Stockwell, Thelma Tixou, Sabrina Dennison, Adan Jodorowsky, Faviola Elenka Tapia, Jesús Juárez, Sergio Bustamante, Gloria Contreras, S. Rodriguez, Zonia Rangel Mora
Available on BluRay from Mr. Bongo Films and on Netflix here!

Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Fitting ever so snugly in the subgenre of circus horror is Alejandro Jodorowski’s SANTA SANGRE, a story of a child born to the circus and how that life affects a person. I forgot how truly fucked up this movie was. I also forgot how much I loved it. Alejandro Jodorowsky’s epic SANTA SANGRE is all sorts of wrong and all sorts of right all at once. Filled with bizarre imagery and insane situations, this film is a closed-minded viewer’s nightmare and a delight for those who love the gorgeous cinema of the weird.

Litmus test: if you think the following scene is too weird, then SANTA SANGRE is not for you.

The story is epic in scope, opening in an asylum where a man acting like a bird (Axel Jodorowsky) is fed a raw fish by orderlies. The nurse notices a giant phoenix tattoo on his chest and we are taken via flashback to the inmate’s childhood. There, we see an elaborate circus full of glitz and grime as the man, now a child, is called Fenix (played marvelously by a young Adan Jodorowsky) and serves as a child musician in the circus under the wing of his knife-throwing father. His mother is across town, a part of a religious cult worshipping an armless goddess whose church is about to be decimated by the governor. Although by this time we’re already treated to fabulous circus imagery, things start getting dark immediately as little Fenix witnesses his mother catching his father flirting with a curvy tattooed lady and then sees them having sex. Immediately after, he witnesses the death of an elephant and then the death of his parents as his mother’s jealously and father’s infidelity ends with their demise. Flash forward back to the asylum, and a chance encounter with the tattooed woman causes Fenix to snap out of his daze and escape the asylum after he sees his armless mother outside the asylum gates. Soon, we come to find every woman Fenix comes into contact with ends up dead and all fingers (no pun intended) point to mother. But that’s not exactly what’s happening.

Though I don’t usually go into that much detail with plot synopsis, but summing this film up in one or two sentences is impossible. Its complex, it’s textured, and it’s full of Freudian phallic symbolism with arms being cut off and blood-leaking trunks. Jodorowsky is definitely not subtle with these metaphors, but there’s something about the on the nose-ness of them, especially the scene with the giant snake jutting out of Fenix’s pants when he is overcome with desire upon seeing a female bodybuilder, that made me laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it and marvel for the balls to film such a thing. There are all kinds of mommy issues explored here too, making me think that this would be a fantastic film to watch with PSYCHO as a double feature as many of the same themes parallel between the two films.

Jodorowsky’s propensity to use real life people with physical deformities appears here once again with little people, fat people, Down’s syndrome children, and all forms of freaky-looking clowns used to line the streets. It may be too much for some to see these unfortunate souls put on display like this, but Jodorowsky has a way of doing so without exploiting, especially with the tender scenes of the Down’s Syndrome children playing with one another innocently.

The story of the love of a boy and his mother is the central theme here. Jodorowsky keeps in tune with that by casting family in key roles here. The relationship between Fenix and his mother is a fascinating one, as Fenix literally becomes his mother’s hands and begins to lose himself in doing so. The ending is dark and pathologically complex, once again steeped in symbolism that is both in your face and ingeniously played out.

By far one of the more literal and narrative of Jodorowsky’s works, SANTA SANGRE is a true achievement in surreal filmmaking and a must for those who love fringe films. Gory at times, filled with vivid colors and actions performed by characters of all shapes and sizes, SANTA SANGRE is a movie experience few will be able to shake after viewing.

And here’s the creepy clown of the week!

Previous Send in the Clowns Posts!


And don’t forget to tell your comic store to order Ambush Bug’s new comic PIROUETTE #1 (July Previews item code JUL14 0937) and the new issue #2 available to order in August Previews (item code AUG14 1131) from Black Mask Studios!

Support your old pal Ambush Bug by checking out his new comic book!

New this week on DVD from MVD Visual!


Directed by Joaquin Montalvan
Written by Joaquin Montalvan & Eunice Font
Starring Paul E. Respass, Theresa Holly, Chris Shumway, & Stephen Feinberg
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Fartsy and artsy or utterly amateur? I don’t know and I don’t care. I found myself endeared to THE LEGEND OF THE HILLBILLY BUTCHER for its respect toward old school filmmaking. This isn't a film that has a computer-generated grindhouse effect thrown in during post. This was a film made with old school film stock, with a blurry lens and scratches in the print. Numerous times I felt I was watching one of John Waters’ early silent films like PINK FLAMINGOS, shedding light on a culture through a cracked and time worn camera lens.

The story starts out as an elderly man begins to tell his three grandchildren a bedtime story. But instead of telling the tale of a hopping bunny, he begins "The Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher". Even in this opening scene, I could tell I was watching the work of a gifted cinematographer. Grandpa is bathed in light and shadow diagonals, as are the kids, giving a foreboding feeling even before words pass their lips. Once we fade into the story, the washed out Instagram-style colors dominate making this movie feel as if it is something found already aged and lived in. We follow Carl Henry Jessup, a hermit like hillbilly who lives by a few simple rules: don't hunt on his land, don't fuck on his land, and don't trespass on his land. Those who do, end up in his stew...(man, I believe I just made up a tagline for this film).

There are some really nice gory bits and pieces throughout this one as Carl slices open bellies, fondles innards, and strings up long pig (aka human meat) for dinner. Coupled with the grimy filters and cameras this movie was filmed with, the gore takes on even a more sickly feel. As if that wasn't enough, writer/director Joaquin Montalvan adds a few creepy sequences of old timey Betty Boop music that makes things all the more perverse.

Where LOTHB falters is in its pacing. Scenes plod along at a pace what would make Terrence Malick scream "C'maahhnn, already!" There's not a whole lot of story going on--just one sequence where Carl carves up a trespasser after another, connected by some very slow dialog delivered in that robot like way often seen in Guy Madden and David Lynch films. That's not to say the film is sans plot; there's a theme of Carl being haunted by his parents and the guilt of his cannibalistic crimes, but the snails’ pace at which the film moves is going to turn some off more than the gore.

That said, the twisted imagery (one of the scenes has a victim wrapped in plastic haunting Carl in his moonshine laden dreams), the embrace of retro coolness by most of its cast (feeling like a z-grade flick unearthed from the 50's) and the gorgeously gritty manner in which THE LEGEND OF THE HILLBILLY BUTCHER was filmed makes me look past its shortcomings and recommend it to those looking for artsy, kitschy, grimy coolness.

New this week on iTunes and On Demand!


Directed by James Thomas
Written by Canyon Prince, Joseph Schnaudt, James Thomas
Starring Dave Finn, Canyon Prince, Robyn Buck, Tamara Carey, J Michael Briggs, Jessica Cameron, Aaron Rice, Shondale Seymour, Kurtis Bedford, Ben Begley, Philip Nathanael, Lewis Blanchard, Jason J. Lewis, David Maddox, Anjelia Pelay, William Echeverri
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Sometimes people are just assholes. There’s no rhyme or reason why. They’re just shits to the world and don’t really have a reason for it. That seems to be the case for the baddies in RUN LIKE HELL. When a pair of couples get their car jacked in the middle of a road trip, they find themselves in the midst of a family of cannibalistic inbreds who seem intent on torturing, killing, and eating them. Of course, instead of sitting around and letting that happen, the quartet do what the title of the movie tells them to do and RUN LIKE HELL.

I get what RUN LIKE HELL is trying to go for. It’s going for the adrenalin rush flick that hits the ground running and never lets up, and while it fails to deliver that on all counts, there are some pretty intense scenes of thrill, danger, and dire circumstances here. The latter half of the film in particular is one long chase scene with a lot of running and a lot of brutality. These hungry men after the group are pretty gnarly, and the level of intensity is definitely front and present for a good part of the film.

At the same time, none of the killers really have any distinguishable features or interesting traits. They’re just inbred and hungry and dirty. It’s interesting that this films should show up in the same column as THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE as it feels like that is the type of vibe the film is going for, but they fail to have a character like Leatherface or even the Hitchhiker to spice things up. Sure a couple of the family have their little peculiarities, but none of them stand out, and they all sort of blend together into one dirty, hairy blob as I try to recollect any of these distinguishable traits.

There are also a few pacing issues here. About the 30 minute mark is where the film skids to a halt, mainly because of some shoddy acting by a couple who appear to be friendly to the stranded quartet. While the first thirty minutes are sustained by some solid acting from Dave Finn and the film’s co-writer Canyon Prince who have a fun little rivalry in the first act of the film, any and all momentum built up to that point is killed by some bad acting and a lull in the story’s progression.

Thankfully, the film picks up soon after and continues to increase the pace until the end, living up to its active title. And while this isn’t a bad film as there are decent performances by the leads and some fun and shocking moments of gore and violence in the latter half, some bland villains and some pacing stumbles keep RUN LIKE HELL from winning the race.

RUN LIKE HELL PRE-RELEASE TRAILER from Two Guys and a Film on Vimeo.

Recently premiered in select theaters!


Directed by Andy Dodd
Written by Andy Dodd
Starring James Bryhan, Ella Childs, Natasha Clarke, Carol Cummings, Andy Dodd, Terri Dwyer, Luke Odenwalder, Bob Sanderson, Hannah Smart, Anthony Webster
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Making due with a modest budget and substituting it with an engrossing story and tight script this week is THE APOSTATE: CALL OF THE REVENANT. The story opens with a man (James Bryhan) waking up bleeding in a bathroom. He doesn’t know how he got in this situation or who he is, but he does know that he is losing blood fast. The film follows the long arduous trek across the floor, to the door, and out into an office where he finds the lifeless bodies of other people he doesn’t recognize. These are the puzzle pieces given to us in the opening scenes and through a series of flashbacks we are left to play investigator and put them together to make sense of it all. The film flashes between this opening scenario and the same man in an interrogation room trying to figure the series of events out. The truth is eventually arrived at, but it is definitely unexpected and well played.

What writer/director Andy Dodd does well is that he lets these opening excruciating moments unfold as we follow the man trying to muster enough energy to get himself up and orient himself with this strange environment he has woken up in. There is an air of the first SAW here as there is a foreboding sense of unease in these opening moments as the man wakes in the secluded and dingy bathroom. I admire Dodd’s patience and lead actor James Bryhan’s grueling performance as he winces and shakes struggling to understand what’s happening despite the wounds he has received. This is a struggle that lasts quite a while and I admired the persistence of Dodd’s camera to not cut away or clip Bryhan’s ordeal.

Things wrap up here in a rather formulaic way by the end. I wasn’t disappointed in the ending, though, as it does reach a pretty satisfying conclusion. The script here is fast-paced and tense as a female investigator puts the hot lights onto the man without a memory. As there are few places for this story to go, the ending it did arrive at was satisfactory.

THE APOSTATE: CALL OF THE REVENANT is an interesting story of revenge, murder, and mystery. The film does a great job of presenting a conundrum and gives the viewer a lot of space to try to figure it all out. With a mid-credit bump revelation that proved to be more of a headscratcher than anything else, this is definitely not a perfect whodunit, but THE APOSTATE: CALL OF THE REVENANT does a lot right, and most of what works is due to the capable direction and script of Dodd and the grueling performance of James Bryhan.

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


Directed by Marc Carreté
Written by Marc Carreté, Mike Hostench
Starring Lluís Marco, Clàudia Pons, Albert Baró, Marta Belmonte, Pepo Blasco, Roser Bundó, Ramon Canals, Marina Durán, Irene Montalà, Mireia Ros
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Coming up with an original exorcism tale is kind of like trying to make an original shark movie. No matter how good it is, the shark flick is going to be compared to JAWS and the exorcism flick is going to be compared to THE EXORCIST. While some exorcism films like THE LAST EXORCISM and THE EXORICISM OF EMILY ROSE relied on found footage and court procedurals to separate themselves from the Friedkin classic, they still had scenes that couldn’t help but feel like familiar territory. The REC films, which make the possessed more like infected zombies, were more successful in doing something original. Now we can add ASMODEXIA to the short list of films that actually take exorcism to another level, bringing something new and original to the small subgenre.

The film opens with a shocking birth scene from the past as it appears that a possessed woman is giving birth to a child. An exorcist Eloy Palma (played by Lluís Marco) chants and performs the rites of exorcism around the woman as she screams and contorts, both because of the birth and because it appears she is possessed. The opener is definitely a scenario we haven’t seen before, though devil babies seem to be all the rage these days with the ROSEMARY’S BABY remake (reviewed here), THE DEVIL INSIDE, and the excellent DELVIERY: THE BEAST WITHIN (reviewed here) out this year. To separate it from those films which deal with the fear of something evil growing inside oneself, this one cuts to the chase with the evil birth and then a flash forward to today, which is many years later in the narrative. Eloy is still at it in the exorcist game, and has recruited his granddaughter Alba (Clàudia Pons) to be his successor. The two travel by foot along the dirt roads of Spain to one household afflicted with possession after another. Cut in between these scenes of the wandering exorcist and his granddaughter are scenes of a woman in a mental institution named who seems to be possessed herself. News reports on the TV indicate the rise in exorcisms performed in Spain and around the world as the Mayan calendar ticks down to the Day of Revelation. The exorcist and his granddaughter exorcist in training appear to be on a collision course with the mental hospital and all signs point to this one ending with a massive exorcism which in the context of the film seems fitting, but it is definitely something we’ve seen before.

But then, just when this film feels like it’s going to venture down familiar and well tread territory, it veers left and continues to zig and zag all over the place in ways that makes it one of the most unique exorcist films you’re going to see this year. As you can tell by the description, ASMODEXIA is told on a pretty grand scope—much bigger than a little girl in her room battling it out with a priest as we’ve seen time and time again since THE EXORCIST. And while the budget is not massive, the film managed to pull off this sense of grandiosity and huge import rather perfectly. Utilizing techniques I can only relate to Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS, ASMODEXIA is able to make the events that are occurring in the film feel as if they are rippling around the world of the film and as the film ends, it only feels like it will expand upon that after the credits roll.

The performances throughout are pretty top notch. Lluís Marco carries the film as the weathered, yet still strong elder exorcist and Clàudia Pons is haunting as Alba who has been raised for one purpose only by her grandfather and even though there are a few scenes where Alba is tempted to engage with kids her age, she seems to carry a weight with her throughout that is well beyond her years. Alba is also kind of a badass in this film as she meets all of these hissing and spitting demons with a cold stare and an all business-like demeanor.

The scenes of possession and exorcism themselves feel fresh as well. While the makeup is pretty grungy and real, the film makes sure not to bind anyone to a bed (iconic exorcism imagery, but something that’s been referenced and lampooned to death causing me to cringe any time someone uses it these days) or rely on scenes we’ve seen before in other exorcism flicks. There’s a particularly effective scene where a man who was just in a car accident is possessed and brought into a diner that is definitely something this horror connoisseur has never seen before. And again, the way this film wraps up is something that really hasn’t been done in this genre.

While you might think you know what’s going on with this film, it’s pretty likely you don’t. Down is up. Right is left. Dogs are cats. Things definitely are going loopy as the time clock for the end of the world ticks away in this film. ASMODEXIA is not your typical exorcism flick which makes it all the more interesting. It’s the type of film that will make the heads spin of those who have become jaded with the exorcism subgenre.

And finally…friend of AICN HORROR and Life of Agony bassist/songwriter Alan Robert is also a pretty amazing comic book writer/artist with such fantastically creepy miniseries CRAWL TO ME and WIRE HANGERS (both of which are in the process of becoming feature films). Robert’s newest project is KILLOGY, which pits real life people against the supernatural. Find out more about KILLOGY here. Alan Robert’s KILLOGY HALLOWEEN SPECIAL, starring Doyle (ex-Misfits), hits comic book stands from IDW in October, and below is the teaser trailer for the book!

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.

Be sure to tell your comic shop to order his new comic PIROUETTE from Diamond Previews (item code JUL14 0937) and the new issue #2 available to order in Previews (item code AUG14 1131) from Black Mask Studios!!

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Look for our bi-weekly rambling about random horror films on Poptards and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday!

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