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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Two columns in one week! Yay horror! For those who missed the last one, here’s the link from Tuesday’s AICN HORROR column.

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: EVILS OF THE NIGHT (1985)
THE SQUAD (2012)
EXISTS (2014)
V/H/S VIRAL (2014)
And finally…Marc Roussel’s THE LAST HALLOWEEN!

Retro-review: New on BluRay as part of THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION II from Shout Factory


Directed by Ubaldo Ragona & Sidney Salkow
Written by Richard Matheson (screenplay & novel), William F. Leicester, Furio M. Monetti, & Ubaldo Ragona (screenplay)
Starring Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Umberto Raho, Christi Courtland
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Just like Will Smith’s I AM LEGEND (without all of that annoying Will Smith-ness) is THE LAST MAN ON EARTH starring horror icon Vincent Price. Though heavy on narration by Price, this film is somewhat similar to Will Smith’s mostly solo adventure in that it spends a lot of time illustrating just how alone the titular character of Morgan truly is.

Price does a fantastic job of portraying a man who is trying to stay busy in order to retain his sanity. He’s a man on a mission to end the vampire plagued streets of the world one creature at a time, checking city blocks off of a map in his boarded up house. Price does a fantastic job, rarely uttering a line save for the narration, yet conveying his frustration crystal clearly. This is one of Price’s most sympathetic roles. There are no puffy shirts or Medieval speechery here—just a lone man wandering the streets trying to keep hold of his humanity against unbelievable odds.

Having read and viewed Richard Matheson’s masterpiece in its various forms through the years, it’s a testament to Matheson’s story that it still holds up today. Though the “vampires” in THE LAST MAN ON EARTH move more like zombies, the film utilizes much of the vampire mythos for its story with nods to the vamps’ aversions to garlic, crosses, and their own reflections. At times, the horror of this story is a mirror image of its time and might not shock the jaded audiences of today, but I can’t believe anyone won’t get chills when Morgan confronts his undead wife. It’s Price’s performance that makes this version of Matheson’s tale so special. Though I didn’t hate Smith’s modern update, I definitely prefer Price’s performance in THE LAST MAN ON EARTH and can’t help but picture him every time I re-read the Matheson classic.


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


Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
Written by Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O'Herlihy, Michael Currie, Ralph Strait, Jadeen Barbor, Brad Schacter, Garn Stephens, Nancy Kyes, Jonathan Terry, Al Berry
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

I was one of the many folks disappointed that Michael Myers was not to star in the third installment of the HALLOWEEN series. As a kid, there was no cooler slasher than Myers and as the posters of HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH went up in theaters and the trailer was being played on TV (there was no internet back then, you know), my anticipation grew and grew. So while I will admit, I do think that HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH is an entertaining film, there will always be that disappointing stigma attached to it as I will always remember the moment sitting in the theater, way too young to be there, of being disappointed when I realized the Shape would not show up on screen.

Through the years, my appreciation for the third installment grew though for numerous reasons. Firstly, it’s a pretty awesome story about a small town factory making masks made from dust from Stonehenge that will cause some kind of Armageddon once Halloween arrives. Playing into the toy gimmick fads of the 80’s where every kid had to have that specific toy; be it a GI JOE toy or a Cabbage Patch Kid and parents would tear each others’ eyes out to please their children by getting one, HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH actually spoke to the rise in consumerism just as much as DAWN OF THE DEAD. Making the masks a must have toy for the world may be insane to think of now, but back then it was a totally believable concept that there were dastardly notions behind these seemingly harmless toys.

On top of that, it is a ballsy move to switch gears of the HALLOWEEN franchise like this. Sure they wanted to make HALLOWEEN into more of a feature highlighting different stories rather than the story of a masked killer who likes to linger in the shadows. Still, with the rise of Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, the appeal of making Michael into a franchisable character was there, so it’s no surprise they didn’t continue to make one and done films with the HALLOWEEN banner and just returned to what worked. Still, I admire those behind the film series for daring to do something different. It is a concept that ultimately failed, but still, it took guts to attempt it.

Another plus for me was the lovely Miss Stacey Nelkin whose doe eyes and innocent, yet seductive demeanor in this film kicked my pre-adolescent hormones into overdrive. Nelkin, like everyone else in this film, suffers from a somewhat goofy script (especially pairing her up romantically with a man twice her age), but man, that tiny, curvy cutie did it for me back in the day. Speaking of inappropriate, another aspect of awesome this film sports is the undeniable sexual charisma of Tom Adkins who once again (as he does in Carpenter’s THE FOG) beds just about anyone no matter what the age difference or how many flaws his characters have. Here, he’s an alcoholic doctor with two kids he neglects and a nagging ex wife, yet he still manages to dibble and dabble with just about every female in this film and somehow still be looked at as the hero. Mr. Adkins, I salute you.

As I mentioned earlier, the plot’s got hole’s the size of Jack O’ Lantern eyes all throughout the script. I won’t go to the trouble to list them all, but it would make for a good drinking game to spot the flub or idiotic moment. The biggest and most ludicrous moment was that Adkins can cut the all of the broadcast channels on television by calling one telephone number. Sure it proves to be a desperate move, but had the broadcasters just cut the third channel, the ending would have been completely different. Other instances like somehow Adkins’ character knows how to work the computer system of a high tech facility (we know it’s high tech because it’s got consoles the size of washing machines with plenty of beeping and flashing buttons that light out of sequence) and how Adkins and Nelkin can hide behind a moving rack of masks and somehow not be seen by the factory workers. These moments of inane logic permeate this film, especially the end. But by then, you’ve been inundated by some awesomely gruesome effects with exploding heads, bugs erupting from faces, crushed skulls, and so much gory fun and cheap scares, you don’t really care about the logic behind it all.

So while flawed, there’s a lot to like about HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH. Some think the film is the best in the series. I am not one of them, but I understand that the film does have some fantastically big ideas in it and maybe someone with a Halloween sack-load of creativity might someday return to the flawed story and update it (I know it’s sacrilege to suggest that, but sometimes a good remake can come from a flawed film—i.e. MANIAC). This blu is pretty light on extras. Just a making of featurette called STAND ALONE, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds visits the locales where the film was made, and a few trailers and stills. Still, this is the best this film has ever looked and if you’re a fan of SEASON OF THE WITCH, this is something of a must have, despite the fact that it is Shape-less.


Retro-review: New this week on DVD from Gorgon Video!


Directed by Mardi Rustam
Written by Mardi Rustam, Philip Dennis Connors
Starring Neville Brand, Aldo Ray, Tina Louise, John Carradine, Julie Newmar, Karrie Emerson, Bridget Holloman, David Hawk, G.T. Taylor, Keith Fisher, Tony O'Dell, Kelly Parsons, Dawn Wildsmith, Amber Lynn, Jerry Butler
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Well, this was a movie alright. It wasn’t a particularly good movie. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty effing awful. But in a MST3K sort of way, it is mildly entertaining, but sitting alone and watching this film is definitely not the way to go with EVILS OF THE NIGHT. If you’re swilling drinks with friends and looking for a movie to rip to shreds though, it’ll do the trick.

The plot is threadbare. Basically, alien vampires in tight fitting spacesuits land on earth and abduct young people because their blood is strongest. They enlist a pair of bumbling garage workers in ski masks to abduct kids and then synthesize their blood. Basically the movie serves as a means to showcase young bouncy ladies in and out of dress and running from monsters. I lost count at the amount of nude scenes this one sports and while titillating, I grew bored of the nudity after I realized that’s all there is to this film.

What the film has going for it is a really weird cast. GILLIGAN’S ISLAND’s Ginger Tina Louise and BATMAN’s Catwoman Julie Newmar play higher ranking aliens (which means they don’t get naked) along with John Carradine (who thankfully keeps his clothes on as well). HEAD OF THE CLASS alum Tony O’Dell and pornstar Amber Lynn show up in lesser roles (which means they get naked). Aldo Ray and Neville Brand play the dimwitted garage worker abductors and are arguably the most entertaining parts of the film only because they are bumbling idiots.

If you’re looking for a film to mock and are planning a shitty movie marathon, EVILS OF THE NIGHT is the perfect film to choose. And while there are folks out there who love bad movies (I’m one of them), this may prove hard for even them to feel affection towards.

New this week on DVD from Pollygrind & Wild Eye Releasing!


Directed by Frank S Petrilli
Written by Jason Chester, Vincent Kulish, Frank S Petrilli
Starring Becky Byers, Kim Kleemichen, Vincent Kulish, J. Wright Chester, Theresa Davis, Tom Petrone, Bob Waters
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I don’t want anyone to get me wrong here. PLAY HOOKY is a pretty amateur DIY movie using the found footage motif mainly as an excuse not to need things like edits, special effects, or even a budget. The film looks to be made with as much as it took to rent a hand held camera and mix a gallon of fake blood. The acting is below par by the standards of most of even the most indie of films and the story is rather stagnant and plodding as most of it, the viewer is forced to sift though the fidgety lens of a shaky cam. Those who hate found footage and all of its trappings are going to hate this film as well.

That said, there is a bit of low fi charm at play in PLAY HOOKY, which knows it’s got no budget and tries to make the best of it. A group of kids (some of which look to be high school age, while others look to be well into their thirties) decide to ditch school and go to an abandoned warehouse building in order to party and have fun. After about 40 minutes of set up as the kids creep ever closer to entering into this spooky multi-leveled and multi-roomed building with only a few cameras, some alcohol, and some weed to entertain themselves. Upon entering the building, something seems off and some of the cast actually feel it. Soon they find themselves on the run from some kind of monster who is picking them off one by one.

While this monster wears a human face, when he does show himself, I have to give this one points for making the villain of this film something somewhat original and old school demented. There’s a perverse way the killer acts in this film reminiscent of the perversities of Leatherface rather than your typical stalk and slasher that I found to be somewhat refreshing in a crude sort of way. I also thought that the way this one was filmed felt somewhat unrehearsed, as if anyone could go at any time, which is was once again fun that I couldn’t predict how this was going to end from the get go.

That said, this is a rough film to endure and only the most staunch DIY enthusiast will be able to sit through the whole thing. The first 40 minutes is absolutely grueling to sit through and up until the final chase scene which is rather effective, the movie drags with unnecessary and unfunny back and forthings between the cast that will most likely have you reaching for the remote to stop the tape or at least fast forward it. PLAY HOOKY feels like a demo reel from someone proving a movie can be made in order to get some real money to do a real movie. Sure there is a bit of charm to it in terms of how little one can spend on developing a movie with no budget, but this one is only for the horror fan who must experience everything.

Advance review: Coming soon from Wild Eye Releasing and Reel Epic Entertainment!


Directed by Joseph Graham (“Edward”), Manuel Marín (“Merry Little Christmas”), Lee Matthews (“The Quiet” & “3:00”), and Brian Dorton (“The Deviant One”)
Written by Joseph Graham (“Edward”), Manuel Marín (“Merry Little Christmas”), Lee Matthews (“The Quiet” & “3:00”), and Brian Dorton (“The Deviant One”)
Starring Nick Frangione, Artem Mishin, Jan Cornet, Brian Dorton, Charlotte Armstrong, Jenni-Lea Finch, Brad Anderson, and Macarena Gómez
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

THE HORROR NETWORK isn’t really concerned about coming up with a catchy way to thread a few short films together such as adhering them to spelling out the alphabet or having them all be found footage or anything like that. When producers Brian Dorton and Douglas Conner chose 5 short films out of over 200 short films to make this horror anthology, they were looking for quality scares over some kind of connecting tissue. The result is one of the most successful anthologies I’ve watched in ages as all five of these shorts are abundant in quality scares and moments that will make your bones rattle. Below are a few thoughts on each installment.

“3:00”: The anthology starts out with a moody and chilling “call in the middle of the night” scenario as a woman receives a phone call at the same time every night. This one takes complete advantage of the dark atmosphere of a quiet house in the country at night, panning into and outside of the house to show how utterly alone this woman, assaulted by the deafening ring of a telephone truly is. The sound in this installment is intentionally shrill and made my ears ring and quake and while this one ties up pretty quickly, the note it leaves you on is terrifying to say the least.

“Edward”: Much more of a cerebral type of horror until the very end, “Edward” centers on a psychologist and his patient having what seems to be a typical session. Even though this installment is mostly conversation, the actors involved make it all easily digestible as the patient is on the defensive and then the attack the whole time. Cutting in an out and relying on some great close-ups, this installment feels as if we are eavesdropping in on a conversation we were not meant to hear. When things get action oriented, it definitely takes a turn for the bizarre and while these final scenes are brutal and shocking, the ominous lead in to the end makes it most compelling.

“The Quiet”: Another great one about a young deaf girl who gets bullied off of the bus early and does not receive a crucial text from her mother before leaving her phone on the bus. What transpires is a terrifying cat and mouse sequence as a man in a blue van pursues the deaf girl through the forest. Filled with moments of utter silence, as heard from the perspective of the deaf girl, this one makes good use of the quiet as well as forced perceptions we all might have in this dangerous age we live in. And while this one focuses a lot on the quiet, the moments that shook me the most were the bombastic bursts of sound that occur periodically throughout this short. Though somewhat predictable, this one is thrilling throughout.

“Merry Little Christmas”: This one is the best of the bunch, filled with all sorts of perverse and twisted imagery as seen through the eyes of an off-kilter child who witnessed violence as a child and now has a warped perspective of the world. Taking surreal imagery from a child, this installment brings these images to life in all of its twisted glory with visuals that are both awe-inspiring and utterly grotesque all at once. This Spanish speaking short is not easy to forget and Manuel Marín is a director/writer I will be on the lookout for after seeing how dark he can go here.

“The Deviant One”: The final short is a simple, yet perversely effective tale of bending morals and twisting beliefs. The way this one is set up, the ending is rather predictable and not as shocking as the filmmakers probably wanted to it to be, but that doesn’t make what comes before it any more chilling. Filmed in cold black and white, this one seems to be a statement about the hypocrisy of the church by interspersing bible quotes with acts of terror one person is inflicting upon another.

Every one of these installments are rock solid and producers Brian Dorton and Douglas Conner seem to have a good eye at spotting talent. Here’s hoping this HORROR NETWORK has more volumes and as long as the installments are as good as the ones used in this film, I’m looking forward to watching what else these producers can find as this is a strong batch of short film work that deserves to be seen.

New this week on DVD/BluRay from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment!


Directed by Valeri Milev
Written by Frank H. Woodward
Starring Anthony Ilott, Chris Jarvis, Aqueela Zoll, Sadie Katz, Rollo Skinner, Billy Ashworth, Harry Belcher, Joe Gaminara, Roxanne Pallett, Talitha Luke-Eardley, Luke Cousins, & Radoslav Parvanov as Three-Finger, Danko Jordanov as Sawtooth, and Asen Asenov as One Eye!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

It seems you just can’t keep a good family of inbred hillbillies down as this is the sixth installment of what looks to be a never ending kill count in the WRONG TURN series of films. Personally, while it had its moments, I wasn’t all too impressed at the first WRONG TURN, so I am a bit befuddled as to how it managed to shart out five sequels, but here we are at part 6, this one titled LAST RESORT, as it takes place in (you guessed it) a resort hotel in the middle of backwoods country.

Let’s not challenge the logic of why a hotel spa has been opened in the backwater woods of middle America. It doesn’t seem like a place where I would like to go on a vacay, but hey, I’m weird like that. Maybe I’m the one that’s off. The story centers on a group of kids who venture on a road trip to follow up on an inheritance one of them (Danny, played by Anthony Ilott) had discovered recently. Turns out Danny has inherited the hotel and the staff along with it. What they don’t know is that the staff are part of an age old hillbilly clan and that their accomplices are the three mutated hillbilly cannibals from the earlier WRONG TURN films; Sawtooth, Three-Finger, and One Eye. Gore abounds as the hicks whittle away the city folk one by one until Danny is faced with a decision whether to embrace his hillbilly roots are hack them off.

While the story leaves a lot to be desired, there are moments in WRONG TURN 6 that are actually fun to see play out such as a nicely edited scene splicing the Danny’s first hunting trip with one of the inbreds hunting a police officer. And while this film quickly turns into a contest as to how gory one kill is compared to the last one, the gore is pretty impressive. The elaborately staged murders enacted by the three hilljacks prove that there might still be some bite in this series, even though it seems to be a series that serves to highlight one gory scene after another.

One thing that is almost unforgivable is the horrible makeup of Sawtooth, One Eye, and Three-Finger. Looking more like Halloween masks than anything else, hopefully for the inevitable sequel, more time will be spent in making these masks less mask-like and more believable. That said, the horrors these three hillfucks let loose is rather impressive in a lowest common denominator sort of way.

Worth noting is the gorgeous Sadie Katz, who did such a great job in HOUSE OF BAD, reviewed here and offers up an especially ballsy turn as a sexually repressed pervert here. There is a level of perversity that makes this particular installment of WRONG TURN more deviant than the last one (which I reviewed here), so this is a turn in the right direction for the series in terms of a more interesting way to go. The film has no qualms of using the boobs and blood motif over and over and over again here. It’s inevitable that there will be a WRONG TURN 7. I’m sure it’s already being made, but here’s hoping it maintains the level of smarm and gore that permeates this sixth installment. It’s brainless cinema, but WRONG TURN 6 is a smutty and gory kind of brainless cinema which isn’t always a bad thing.

New this week on Bluray from Shout Factory!

THE SQUAD (2010)

Directed by Jaime Osorio Marquez
Written by Diego Vivanco & Jaime Osorio Marquez
Starring Juan Pablo Barragan, Juan David Restrepo, Andrés Castañeda, Mateo Stevel, Daniela Catz
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Genre mash-ups are tough to pull off. Most of the time one of the genres is stronger than the other, more researched, more fleshed out. The best type of genre mash-ups could be categorized in either category without debate. I guess I’m thinking about films like SE7EN which could be drama or mystery or even horror. ALIEN could be sci fi or horror. Though on a more independent scale, THE SQUAD is the same type of film; equal parts military story and horror with both areas equally effective. Though it doesn’t have the found footage motif, THE SQUAD could be best described as CASUALTIES OF WAR meets THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT as a squad of Colombian soldiers happen upon a decimated military base and a woman who the soldiers claim is a bruja (Spanish for witch).

Technically, the film is a masterpiece in making the most out of a singular location and a limited budget. Everything is shot along what looks to be an abandoned army base and the muddy terrain surrounding it. The film consists of only a handful of actors and though the locale doesn’t shift, the scares are all due to Jaime Osorio Marquez’s talented lenswork and a powerful script which intensifies as the story goes on. This film doesn’t let up until the very last horrifying moment which consists of a shriek which resonates long after the picture goes dark. Marquez does a fantastic job of translating a somber and dour mood with the claustrophobic locale and a dire situation.

Though I don’t recognize any of the names of the cast, I was really put aback at how talented all of them were. There are some pretty intense situations this group of soldiers are put into involving a witch they find walled up in the abandoned fort. In many ways, this is film reminded me of THE THING as the story we don’t see about the former residents of the military base intensifies the power of this woman who may or may not be tearing this troop apart with witchcraft. Even the final moments call into question whether the woman has otherworldly powers or if the Squad is overcome by the chaos of war itself.

THE SQUAD is a powerful film which, depending on how you view it is either an effective horror film using witchcraft as a metaphor for the real horrors of war. Fantastically acted and directed, THE SQUAD is definitely a film in need of an audience, so seek it out. Find out where you can catch this terrifying film here!

New this week on DVD/BluRay!


Directed by John Suits
Written by Dan Schaffer
Starring Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Eliza Dushku, Gina Gershon, Sasha Grey, Garret Dillahunt, Michael Imperioli, Billy Campbell
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While superhero films are all the rage these days, it seems some distance between the grim and gritty style of superhero films has occurred lately. Though BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE seems to be taking place entirely on rainy rooftops, the Marvel films seem intent on bringing the action into the light of day. Countering that move and maybe preempting DC’s stab at cinematic grim n’ grittiness is THE SCRIBBLER, a superhero-esque film that feels much more like THE CROW or DARK CITY than any spandex clad superhero we’ve seen in recent years.

The story tells the tale of Suki (Katie Cassidy) who is released from a mental hospital into a residential building which scrapes the sky and seems to be cursed in that many of its residents kill themselves by throwing themselves from the roof or perishing by even more diabolical means in the bizarre and never ending stairwells. The building is populated with eccentric characters such as a talking dog, a sleepwalking waif wearing bunny ears (Sasha Grey), a dark stairwell lurking paranoid (Michelle Trachtenberg), a motherly snake charmer (Gina Gershon), and a pathological liar schizophrenic (Garret Dillahunt) who comes into the possession of a treatment machine dubbed “The Siamese Burn” which apparently cures mental illness, but with a price. In search of some form of sanity, Suki decides to investigate the murders that have been occurring in the building and uses “The Siamese Burn” as a means to solve all of her problems. Turns out, this treatment opens up something powerful inside Suki called The Scribbler. Though Suki views this alternate personality as a curse at first, it just might be the only thing able to protect her from darkness that is descending on her from inside the building and outside as well.

Filled with colorful characters played by even more colorful character actors, THE SCRIBBLER would be a great double feature with THE CROW as it has the same dark tone, yet still flirts with the supernatural along with some kick ass rooftop brawling violence. While this gothic landscape is not something new to any viewers, it was refreshing to see it again and director John Suits adapts comic book writer/screenwriter Dan Schaffer’s graphic novel well. The twisted and dark landscape is also reminiscent of DARK CITY, which again, feels like a fast moving comic book adaptation.

The final act of THE SCRIBBLER is a bit convoluted, but the whole films serves as an origin story for THE SCRIBBLER hinting that there may be more to come and does a decent job of conveying that story. But what was most fun about this film was the offbeat actors having a hell of a lot of fun with the twisted characters they are playing. Seeing this as a showcase for some eccentric talent, I enjoyed this film, though some may say the age of the grim and gritty hero is over. I think there’s still room for this type of hero, especially when it is well realized as it is by this director and writer and well acted by this fun cast of misfit actors.

New this week on DVD in the UK and On Demand and digital download on iTunes, Amazon, and other platforms in the UK (coming soon to US distribution)!


Directed by Simeon Halligan
Written by Ian Fenton
Starring Pollyanna McIntosh, Lee Williams, Joanne Mitchell, James McCreadie, Dominic Kay
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I found WHITE SETTLERS to be much more interesting in theme than execution.

The film dissects what ownership really means. If a piece of land is in one’s ownership for ages, does that still give the people living on it a right to be there? Or should land, like everything else in this age of the almighty dolla, be bought and sold to the highest bidder, tossing tradition by the wayside in favor of profit? Questions like these are asked in this story of a young couple who buy a patch of land in the middle of Scotland only to find the original owners not so ready to give up their homestead.

The true standout here are the performances by THE WOMAN’s Pollyanna McIntosh and Lee Williams as the couple who are trying to start anew, moving from England to a farmhouse in the Scottish countryside. The land is the couple’s dreams come true until they find themselves invaded by men dressed in pig masks carrying knives and hatchets. What transpires is a game of cat and mouse in and around the house and through the thick Scottish forests surrounding the land.

While very violent and tense, I found the story of WHITE SETTLERS to be rather simple. Given the strong performances by McIntosh and Williams, I was hoping that there was a story here to match their skills. Unfortunately, this is a pretty straightforward chase tale that takes about fifteen minutes to build to and never lets up until the end. And while I can appreciate movies which base themselves on mostly action for the most of the runtime, when the action itself is rather run of the mill, it’s hard to get excited about it.

McIntosh is a powerful presence here. The scenes where she fights back against the invaders is visceral and the actress really gives her all in physicality (as seen in the aforementioned THE WOMAN). It’s too bad the story isn’t stronger to support her performance. Much of this film has been told before in other home invasion tales and what is original comes and leaves in seconds, not really allowing the viewer enough time to establish these stabs at individuality. There are quite a few thrilling moments and some nice scenes of uber-violence, but the film left me wanting. Leaving a lot of unanswered questions isn’t a make or break thing with me and movies, but with so few questions posed, you’d think one or two would be answered by the end. Instead, WHITE SETTLERS feels somewhat flimsy in terms of story as it runs and runs until it gets almost winded and then just sort of ends with no real satisfaction.

New this week in select theaters and On Demand this week from Lionsgate/Haxan!

EXISTS (2014)

Directed by Eduardo Sánchez
Written by Jamie Nash
Starring Samuel Davis, Dora Madison Burge, Roger Edwards, Samuel Davis, Chris Osborn & Brian Steele as the Sasquatch!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

As most of you know, I have a soft spot in my cold black heart for Bigfoot films. It is a genre made of very bad films, though sometimes a gem appears in the rough and surprises you. I’ve said before that a good Bigfoot film is about as tough to find as Bigfoot himself, but this year in particular, two films of the Squatchy kind have stood out as worth seeing. The first is Bobcat Goldthwait’s WILLOW CREEK (reviewed here) and the second being the subject of this review, EXISTS.

Eduardo Sanchez is no stranger to urban myth as he rose to stardom having directed the found footage urban legend sensation BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Sanchez impressed me more last year with LOVELY MOLLY which shed the found footage trappings and knocked me on my ass with some stunning visuals, bone-quaking moments, and an engrossing story. Sanchez returns to the found footage motif with EXISTS. I like the hook of this film, that being written out for us at the beginning; “There have been many Bigfoot sightings through the years, and experts agree that they have not been violent unless provoked.” Whether or not you believe in Bigfoot or the word of Bigfoot experts will depend on the viewer. The plot, though plays with a simple revenge story motif that is instantly engaging; following a group of campers who accidentally hit a Sasquatch in the opening moments, only to find themselves the target of another Sasquatch’s vengeance. For me, making an engaging plot is important in a film about a creature whose existence is debatable as it gives Bigfoot’s involvement an understandably vengeful slant.

The cast is likable as well, though there’s not a lot of time for us to get to know them as they almost instantly hit the Bigfoot (they don’t find a body, but capture a glimpse of it on tape) and then are running for their lives from it for the rest of the film. Still, the acting feels pretty natural; an essential element of a found footage film.

My biggest problem, and it’s one I admit to be a personal issue in terms of found footage films, is that the film takes the easy route too many times. Doing this column, I’ve seen more found footagers than I can count. For me, the ones that hold up are the ones that obey a certain set of guidelines. For it to be found footage there should be no music. Unless there is a cello section hiding behind a bush, there shouldn’t be cellos or synthesizer or whatever in the film. I find it to be a huge cheat if you can’t convey a mood by using the actors’ reactions, the natural sounds that are going on in the scene, and some crafty scene setups and builds. Sure in a regular film, a score is common, but for a film that is supposed to be the closest thing to real life as it can be, nothing takes me out of a found footager faster than hearing music where music shouldn’t be happening.

Secondly, the film is made through multiple cams, often time switching POV’s and camera types mid-scene. And while, yes it is possible the survivors of this film would be able to collect all of the cameras and splice them together in order to make a sensible movie, the likelihood of this happening is small. On top of that, there is no indication that this film was spliced together from the different cameras. It worked in BLAIR WITCH because there were only two cameras filming, so cutting between the two wasn’t as big a deal, but in this film we cut from a dashboard cam, to a phone cam, to a helmet cam, to a hand held cam all in one scene. Again, if we are supposed to be believing this film is happening in real time, the presence of an omniscient editor or an omniscient orchestra only works against all of that.

A simple blurb at the beginning of EXISTS stating, “The following is comprised of footage found and put together by a forensics team in order to make sense of the events that occurred leading to the deaths of five young campers in the Northwest forests of blah—blah—blah…” In taking that extra step, it makes things much more believable and for me, if you want to justify that your film is meant to be found footage and not some way to cheaply make a film, then simple steps like this should be made to make it more believable. Knowing that this is the same director who made a country believe three hikers were missing after looking for a witch, one would think that this is something within his wheelhouse.

My personal POV perspective peeves aside, I challenge anyone to find a better looking Bigfoot than the one who shows up in this film. Not only the way it looks, but the action involving Bigfoot in pursuit and its strength in action are all top notch here. There are some genuinely frightening moments in this film despite the fact that it breaks some rules of the found footage rulebook. And though it’s not a perfect found footage film, EXISTS is a really well done Bigfoot movie worth seeking out for believers and non believers alike.

New this week on BluRay & DVD and available On Demand from A24 Films!


Directed by Jeff Baena
Written by Jeff Baena
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser, Matthew Gray Gubler, Anna Kendrick, Garry Marshall
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Unfortunately, I know from experience that the number one thing people feel after someone close to them dies is regret. There’s always that nagging feeling that something was left unsaid or something should have been given more attention. You never know when the last moment you spend with a person will be, so you’re bound to take it for granted until you can’t have any more moments with that person. Under all of the zombie makeup and comical situations, that’s the serious and universal theme that hides beneath the surface of LIFE AFTER BETH, the first time directing effort from I HEART HUCKABEES writer Jeff Baena.

Because this film deals with some uncomfortable themes about death, I think there’s going to be a lot of people who don’t like this film. That said, if you have a ghoulish sense of humor and an appreciation for the cathartic act of letting go of a loved one, I think LIFE AFTER BETH has the makings of a true cult classic. Yes, at face value this can be seen as a rather goofy film about a boy who refuses to let his girlfriend (who he was already having difficulty with) die and then has to deal with the reality that she has come back as a zombie. But because of the comedic acting talents of all involved paired with the serious way the entire cast takes the material despite the crazy situations around it, LIFE AFTER BETH feels much more resonant that it should be.

Dane DeHaan, who has had some pretty big roles of late from CHRONICLE to AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 to A PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, shows much more here in this movie that I gave him credit for. For the most part, DeHaan’s Zach is the Winona Ryder character in both HEATHERS and, especially, BEETLEJUICE who mopes around in mourning of his girlfriend Beth’s (played by Aubrey Plaza) death, which occurs in the opening moments of the film. Dehaan plays the straight man here, mourning cartoonishly at the loss, but also exemplifying the melodramatic goth vibe often seen in teens (though both DeHaan and Plaza clearly look older than teenagers in this film). DeHaan sits silently during the family meal (with his family made up of Paul Reiser, Cheryl Hines, and his overly macho brother played by Matthew Gray Gubler) and leafs through his all-black wardrobe for the right black shirt to wear. Towards the beginning of the film, I was especially impressed with the scenes DeHaan shares with John C. Reilly, who plays Beth’s dad. After losing Beth, Zach instantly starts forming a bond with Beth’s dad which develops into bordering on stalking. DeHaan does this straight-faced and serious, never really overplaying the situation for comedic effect and hitting every note right along the way. This is a range I’d never seen in the actor before and it impressed me.

Plaza is equally good here as the resurrected Beth. When she does return to life, she’s not the Romero-style zombie. In fact, despite some minor memory loss (like that she wanted to break up with Zach right before she died) it’s hard determining if she’s alive or dead, so everyone is less freaked out and more relieved when she mysteriously shows up on her doorstep. Plaza obviously had fun in this film as she basically devolves into a monosyllabic “Hulk Smash!” state as the film goes on, only calmed by smooth jazz and sex with Zach. Much of the comedy in the latter half of this film is seeing Beth’s transformation unfold and having her normal girlfriend gripes like “You never took me flamenco dancing” devolve into caveman-esque screams of “FLAMINGO!”

Despite all of the serious themes of grief and loss, there’s a lot to laugh at here. There’s quite a bit of gore at play here, while still refraining from overuse. And while the scares are at a minimum, the emotional core of the film is going to hit a lot of people just right. Reminiscent of the Billy Connolly zom com FIDO from a few years back which dealt with some of the same themes in a funny way, LIFE AFTER BETH retains its dark tone, casting very human reactions to death against the ridiculous concept of the dead rising from their graves and not remembering that they died and attempting to assume their previous lives. It doesn’t hurt that some of the funniest people on the planet are saying all of these lines and reacting to these situations. Yes, there are some inconsistencies involving “the rules” of how the dead are getting up and walking around with embalming and burying corpses they way they are today, none of that is really taken into consideration here, but this film is not really about those kind of details. It’s about seeing a loved one just one more time and being able to say what you needed to say, all set with a darkly comedic tone. Seeing CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM’s Cheryl Hines and MAD ABOUT YOU’s Paul Riser react to zombies is priceless, as is seeing Jerry Marshall come back as a complaining zombie grandpa. With solid comedic performances, a consistently pitch black comedic tone, and a story that never makes fun of the genre, but has funny people react to it instead, LIFE AFTER BETH is a comedic horror film that will make you laugh while bringing up themes about loss that horror films rarely touch upon.

New this week On Demand & iTunes from Magnet Releasing (in select theaters November 21st)!

V/H/S VIRAL (2014)

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento ("Vicious Circles"), Gregg Bishop ("Dante the Great"), Nacho Vigalondo ("Parallel Monsters"), Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead ("Bonestorm"), Todd Lincoln ("Gorgeous Vortex")
Written by Gregg Bishop, T.J. Cimfel, Ed Dougherty, Todd Lincoln, Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson, Marcel Sarmiento, Nacho Vigalondo, David White
Starring Emmy Argo, Amanda Baker, Dan Caudill, Stephen Caudill, Greyson Chadwick, Carrie Keagan, Jessica Luza, Randy McDowell, Michael Aaron Milligan, Nathan Mobley, Matt Peevy, Blair Redford, Cory Rouse, Jessica Serfaty, Justin Welborn, Rim Basma, Lindsay Clift, Laura Eschmann, Jade Gotcher, Tiffany Hamill, Jeanine Harrington, Temple Hull, Jackson James, Anna Kazmi, Niousha Khosrowyar, Kasey Landoll, Chloe Nichols, Kelsey Richaud, Jayden Robison, Cheyenne Scarborough, Faith Tollefson, Mark Stephen Ward, Taylor West, Nick Blanco, Angela Garcia, Emilia Zoryan
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Having been a fan of the first two V/H/S anthologies, I was looking forward to this third installment which threatens to take the horrific first person POV segments viral and spread the madness world wide. And while this installment offers very little in terms of explanation behind the mysterious video tapes, it does provide three and a half (the half being the wraparound segment) stories of varying effectiveness.

The wraparound entitled “Vicious Circles” is a rather confusing chase sequence as a young couple find themselves involved in a cross town chase as an ice cream truck is being followed by police officers. While there are some interesting twists and turns, especially in the final moments of the sequence, Marcel Sarmiento (who did the memorable “Dogfight” sequence from the original ABCS OF DEATH anthology) seems to lose a couple of frames in between the other installments. Why do the cops disappear? How does the girlfriend get caught up in this mess? And what the hell is going on? None of these questions are really answered, making this time in between the other stories simply loud distractive filler rather than a really compelling story thread. A few more details and a bit more explanation would have made for a much more entertaining wraparound. And while the intimate and scary wraparounds in the first two films were some of the best scenes, this one is pretty forgettable.

The first installment by Gregg Bishop is called "Dante the Great" and filmed in handheld, but also cheats a bit by adding in some mockumentary footage as well. Betraying its own immediate sense of urgency style that often accompanies all found footage films, this one delves into the dark world of performance magic. While I found the story to be pretty compelling and a lot of the effects of Dante’s magic cloak are used in very creative ways, the use and misuse of the found footage motif in this one is distracting. Some of it is security cam footage, other computer screen cams, others are documentary style filmmaking, while others are cams on SWAT team vests. Incorporating all of those styles clutters and complicates things to an annoying degree, so while I love the tricks Dante did with his teleportation cloak and some of the scenes with the shadow monsters inside the folds of the cloak were really well done, this one clutters itself unnecessarily and fails because of it.

The best of the three stories is Nacho Vigalondo’s "Parallel Monsters" which delves a little bit into familiar territory as it involves the bending of time and space as Vigalondo did so amazingly with TIME CRIMES. Here an inventor opens a doorway to a parallel world which as first looks like a mirror image in his own world, but when he makes a deal with his other self to spend fifteen minutes in each other’s planes of existence, he realizes how different the worlds really are. This one goes into some dark and unexpected places and I loved every perverse moment of it. Vigalondo tosses out on bizarre twist after another. I want to be as vague as possible because the best part of this segment is how these twists appear so unexpectedly and unconventionally. Providing some of the most iconic images from this film, Vigalondo’s segment also surprisingly has a tie into his most recent film OPEN WINDOWS as an added extra treat.

RESOLUTION’s Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead do the impossible with "Bonestorm" and made me invested in the story of a group of skater punks out to cause chaos and film it all as they take their daredevil antics to Tijuana and run into some brujas and zombies. While I am not a huge fan of the skater culture, this short is vibrant and fun from start to finish as these kids turn into full fledged warriors as they have to fight to survive against monsters that can’t seem to be killed no matter how many times they shoot them, whack with their skateboards, or blow them up with fireworks. There are quite a few cheats here involving slo mo and stills done for effect of the violence, but I am willing to overlook it as this one oozes energy. Benson and Moorhead inject tons of humor, action, and gore into very little time seemingly with ease. Great segment.

For some reason, though it’s listed on IMDB and has promoted as such being included, Todd Lincoln’s "Gorgeous Vortex" wasn’t in the version of the film I saw. Not sure why, but because there are only three stories and the wraparound, V/H/S VIRAL does seem a lot more insubstantial than the previous two entries. And while this film doesn’t really come close to the intensity of the first two V/H/S films, there are still quite a few scares and chills making this one worth seeking out.

And finally…A while back I reviewed Marc Roussel’s THE LAST HALLOWEEN and found it to be the perfect little Halloween spookfest. Now the short is available online for all to see, so I’m posting it here to celebrate this festive holiday season! Enjoy THE LAST HALLOWEEN!

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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