Ain't It Cool News (


Logo by Kristian Horn
What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. While the holiday is over, it’s always Halloween around these here parts. Here’s another batch of horror reviews to chew on!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

The Boo Tube: THE TWILIGHT ZONE: Season Three Episodes 19-24 (1962)
HANGAR 10 (2014)
And finally…Theater 13’s THE ALCHEMIST OF MONTENEGRO!

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


Episodes 19-24
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

With the release of the Complete Season Collector’s Box Set of TWILIGHT ZONE on DVD from Image Entertainment a few months ago, I’ve been celebrating by checking out each episode and tossing out my two cents on a semi-weekly basis. Now that I’m also looking back at the MONSTERS TV series, which was just released in a swanky box set, I’ll be switching back and forth between the two series on a bi-weekly basis to cover both over the next few months. Image Entertainment is also releasing THE TWILIGHT ZONE: 5th DIMENSION Limited Edition Box Set, which includes the complete TZ episodes from the first series (1959-1964) and the 80’s series (1985-1989)! You can pick up the this collection by clicking this link here!

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

Episode 3.19: The Hunt
Directed by Harold Schuster
Written by Earl Hamner, Jr.
Starring Arthur Hunnicutt, Jeanette Nolan

This episode’s a touching one for the animal lovers out there. An old timer (Arthur Hunnicutt) goes a-coon huntin’ with his favorite hound and ends up gettin’ himself kilt right an’ proper. Of course, he doesn’t know that until he puts two and two together when no one acknowledges him upon his return home. This is a warm-hearted episode about a man and his dog with a lot of down-home charm injected into its short runtime. The script by Earl Hamner Jr. is warmly sentimental (teetering on the cliff of being too sweet, but never falling over it) and Hunnicutt delivers the words with genuine country time flair. An all around swell episode, if’n ya ask me.

Episode 3.20: Showdown with Rance McGrew
Directed by Christian Nyby
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Larry Blyden, Arch Johnson, Robert Cornthwaite

This goofy episode is rather lame in the comedic department and not scary either, making it a rather forgettable 22 minutes. Sure the ending has that ironic TZ twist, but even that doesn’t save this one from being about 9 gallons short of a ten gallon hat of entertainment. Larry Blyden plays the titular Rance McGrew, a TV cowboy who just doesn’t do the real cowboys of the Old West justice. So when he is transported back to that time, he doesn’t really fare very well. This one serves as a comment on the multitude of cowboy shows that were on television at the time this aired, and probably had a bit more bite back then. I can respect the episode as a modern day TROPIC THUNDER of sorts. Ironically, this episode finishes up with a commercial for GUNSMOKE attached after the end credits.

Episode 3.21: Kick the Can
Directed by Lamont Johnson
Written by George Clayton Johnson
Starring Ernest Truex, Russell Collins, John Marley

While I prefer the modern remake of this one from TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, “Kick the Can” has always been near and dear to me as it harnesses some of the childhood wonder that often abounds in these TZ episodes while pretty much summing up one of the most prevalent themes of the entire series: going back and reliving your life at your prime. Serling seemed to have an affinity for these types of tales and while he didn’t write this one, it was selected for this series and more than any other it catches that melancholy one feels when looking at the age they are now and dreaming of an age from the past. In this one, all it takes is a leap of faith to reclaim that lost youth…that and a simple childhood game of kick the can. Though it doesn’t strum all of the heartstrings as the remake does, it plucks out a tune that will definitely make you smile with tears in your eyes.

Episode 3.22: A Piano in the House
Directed by David Greene
Written by Earl Hamner, Jr.
Starring Barry Morse, Joan Hackett, Don Durant, Cyril Delevanti, Muriel Landers

Barry Morse gives an amazing performance as a well-to-do man whose abominable treatment of others hides a very small and insecure man. All it takes is for him to purchase an old player piano which plays magic tunes that unearths one’s true thoughts. Turning the piano onto his much younger wife and the guests at a dinner party fills Morse with devilish glee, but things go differently when the power is pointed towards him. Morse is amazing in this role as a truly evil man. His receding hairline and bulbous forehead makes him look all the more scary as he laughs with glee at his friends being manipulated by this piano. Morse plays one of the best TZ villains ever without having to don any crazy alien makeup. His performance alone makes him a monster in man’s form. This is a fantastic film showcasing Morse’s talent with a demonic twist at the end.

Episode 3.23: The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank
Directed by Montgomery Pittman
Written by Montgomery Pittman
Starring James Best, Sherry Jackson, Lance Fuller, Ezelle Poule, Edgar Buchanan, Dub Taylor, Vicki Barnes, Jim Houghton, Pat Hector

Roscoe P. Coltrane and Killer Shrew hunter James Best (check out my interview with Mr. Best here) plays Jeff Myrtlebank, a simple country man who dies from pneumonia only to wake up at his own funeral, which of course spooks the whole town. Attempting to resume his normal life after he’s been reported dead proves to be more difficult for Jeff than he can imagine, as the town grows more and more suspicious of him the longer he lives. Best really shines in this role, even though it ends on a rather odd note which leaves things rather open for interpretation: are the townsfolks’ fears true, or is Jeff Myrtlebank just a shrewd man taking advantage of an odd situation? No answers here, but it’s still a fun tale.

Episode 3.24: To Serve Man
Directed by Richard L. Bare
Written by Rod Serling, based on a story by Damon Knight
Starring Lloyd Bochner, Susan Cummings, Richard Kiel, Joseph Ruskin

One of the most famous episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE is also one of this week’s best episodes. The late great Richard Keil stars as a large foreheaded soul-patch wearing giant who represents an alien race called a Kanamit who seemingly comes to Earth to help the race, addressing the United Nations and then the world offering to end famine, war, and death. Instead of focusing on the ways in which the arrival of the aliens affects the human race, it instead chooses to follow a code-breaking team trying to crack the alien language. I won’t reveal the twist, but it’s one of the most famous endings in the series for a reason as it is both creative and utterly horrifying. As with many TZ episodes, this one has a rather cynical viewpoint of the way the world is run and the state of mankind, but it holds a twisted mirror to human suspicions, hopes, and gullibility.

See you next week with more MONSTERS Season Three episodes!

Previous TWILIGHT ZONE Episode Reviews!
Season 1: Episodes 1.1-1.6, 1.7-1.12, 1.13-1.18, 1.19-1.24, 1.25-1.30, 1.31-1.36
Season 2: Episodes 2.1-2.6, 2.7-2.12, 2.13-2.18, 2.19-2.24, 2.25-2.29
Season 3: Episodes 3.1-3.6, 3.7-3.12, 3.13-3.18
Season 4: Episodes 4.1-4.5, 4.5-4.8, 4.9-4.13, 4.14-4.18
Season 5: Episodes 5.1-5.7, 5.8-5.14, 5.15-5.21, 5.22-5.28, 5.29-5.36
Season 1 (1985): Episodes 1.1-1.3

Look for more TWILIGHT ZONE Episode Reviews soon!

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


Directed by Dwight H. Little
Written by Dhani Lipsius, Benjamin Ruffner, Alan B. McElroy, & Larry Rattner
Starring Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, Michael Pataki, Beau Starr, Kathleen Kinmont, Sasha Jenson, Gene Ross, Carmen Filpi, Raymond O'Connor, & George P. Wilbur as Michael Myers
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Cashing in rather late in the game on the slasher craze of the 80s, HALLOWEEN 4 brought back the Shape, though it was this installment where the name “the Shape” was kind of dropped in preference to Michael Myers, which kind of rolls off the tongue. But while big bucks were being shoveled at films about Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, who can blame the studios for bringing back the one who started the craze in the first place?

There’s a whole lot to love in this HALLOWEEN installment. Michael survived the explosion at the end of HALLOWEEN II with burns all over his body, which is understandable, since he did walk out of the explosion and collapse inches from the quivering Laurie Strode at the end of that film. Inexplicably, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) survived as well, which is a little less believable since he was at the heart of the blast, but oh well, it gives us the chance to hear Loomis rant and rave about Michael some more and in this film Loomis appears to be drunk the entire time, so that’s something fun to see. We are also introduced to little Jamie (Danielle Harris), who serves as a replacement for Laurie Strode as I’m sure it wasn’t within budget to bring back Jamie Lee Curtis for this one or, more likely, Curtis wasn’t interested in returning no matter what the price (a paycheck Ms. Activia Yogurt didn’t mind cashing for HALLOWEEN: H20, but we’ll get to that one further down the line). Little Jamie is cute as a button as Laurie Strode’s orphaned daughter (no mention of who her father was) and Michael’s niece. As Michael is being transferred from one medical facility to another, he overhears mention of the existence of his niece and after ten years of catatonia, he springs to life in a daring ambulance escape. What commences is Michael doing his best great white shark routine towards Jamie for the rest of the film, killing anyone in his path.

While this installment is pretty by the numbers, director Dwight Little and the slew of writers involved in writing this sequel keep things interesting by filling it with interesting characters, decent actors, and some fun sequences that amp up the HALLOWEEN hijinks to a town-wide level. Haddonfield is not the oblivious town of the first two films, scoffing at Loomis when he goes on one of his Michael tirades. It’s a town with a curse and deep wounds filled with people who had a cousin or a daughter killed by Myers, so the first notion that he may be on his way back to the town is met with a lynch mob mentality with truckers swilling drinks and riding in the back of pickup trucks with shotguns blasting anyone wearing a Shatner mask. This film takes full advantage of the town in ways the first two never did, evolving the threat level to monumental proportions.

At the same time, the film is another trapped in a house with a monster flick as Jamie and her protective stepsister Rachel (Ellie Cornell, who deserves credit for supplying the spunky fighting back nature that Jamie Lee started in the first film) are taken to the sheriff’s house, which is pretty fortified save for that pesky attic window. The cast is also filled with fun players such as DAZED & CONFUSED’s Sasha Jenson as an opportunistic boyfriend and the nummy-nummy Kathleen Kinmont as the sheriff’s slutty daughter, but most are just fodder to be mowed down on Michael’s path to vengeance.

Danielle Harris has established herself as a scream queen these days, but she really does show a lot of talent in this film, having to run the gauntlet over rooftops, through dark streets, and in an abandoned school in order for her to elude her monstrous uncle. George P. Wilbur has the privilege of donning the famous mask, and for the most part he does a great job with it, although I feel he plays the Shape a little too stiff and too many times I found it less than menacing to see Wilbur’s hunched shoulders. So while there are scenes where Wilbur does look rather ominous (the scenes in the gas station come to mind as the most effective in the film), there are other scenes where it feels like the stuntman is rather nervous and sheepish to don the mask. The mask itself looks rather cheap. In the context of the film, it is a store-bought mask (or store-stolen mask—Michael left his wallet in his other set of overalls and lifts the mask from a drugstore), but still it is less effective than the masks from the first two installments and looks almost too clean and processed.

The story itself is exciting, eliciting themes from previous episodes like having Jamie wear a clown costume just like Michael did as a kid (an ominous prelude to the wonderfully wicked ending). But where director Little falters is mimicking the scenes of the Shape in the background. There are attempts, but there are also stumbles having Michael walk into the scene in the background rather than just being there as a presence, watching, and waiting to strike as he did in the first two segments.

The aforementioned ending is one of the most powerful of the series. The way things come full circle has a poetic slant to it, and it’s great seeing Loomis wig out and try to blast away at the new threat that appears in the final moments. I won’t ruin it for the newbs, but I always get chills when this film nears its conclusion. This Blu is light on extras, but the quality of the film can’t be beat, and the film definitely is stronger than most of the horror franchises that were coming out at the time. HALLOWEEN didn’t really start its decline in quality until the next installment, which we will delve into in a future column.


New on DVD from MVD Visual!


Directed by Billy Hayes (Franky & the Ant), Theo Stefanski (Doppelganger), Cuyle Carvin (Amused), Timothy Zwica (The Nest)
Written by Billy Hayes (Franky & the Ant), Theo Stefanski (Doppelganger), Cuyle Carvin (Amused), Timothy Zwica (The Nest)
Starring Bo Keister, Scott Geiter, Rachel Faulkner (Hillbilly Horror Show)
Anthony Pavelich, Emmanuel Todorov, Christine Woods (Franky & the Ant)
Elise Rovinsky, Ryan G. Metzger, Angela Relucio (Amused)
Jamie Newell, Scott Lynch-Giddings, Adam Shalzi, Adrian DiGiovanni, Molly Bina, Kevin Barry, Jennifer Scott (The Nest)
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While the intro, in between bits, and finale are simply a dude doing hillbilly schtick, a dude doing a mumbling KING OF THE HILL schtick, and a hot chick walking around half-dressed, the collection of horror shorts in this anthology are pretty amazing. And while aside from Muldoon’s amazing regular Saturday Afternoon Shorts column here on AICN there really isn’t a place to find short films since they seem to be made by all sorts of different people, lately, I’ve been seeing more of these “anthologies” which serve as great showcases for some awesome shorts. Here’s what this one has to offer.

First up at bat is “Franky & the Ant,” a PULP FICTION-esque story of two hitmen gabbing it up casually on their way to a hit that is anything but run of the mill. This is a short but sweet little slice of Tarantino with a decent surprise twist at the end. And while this one doesn’t really break new ground in terms of story innovation, it’s capably acted and directed and has a pretty acidic little ending that gives it some oomph.

Now “Doppelganger” by Theo Stefanski is where this anthology kicks into gear and lets the viewer know that this is a collection of shorts meant to be taken seriously. It’s a simple story of a skeleton that wakes up in a cave, goes for a walk and meets another skeleton, but damn if it isn’t dramatic and well made as hell. This ode to Ray Harryhausen is a stop motion masterpiece that gives a pretty dark message about the destructive nature of man, even when everything is shredded down to its bare bones. This is a fantastically realized short that is heavy on impressive visuals.

Starting out with a quote from Stephen King is a mighty lofty thing to do, but that’s how “Amused” begins. The silent story follows one woman as she stumbles upon what looks to be a bizarre laughing zombie eating someone in her home. As the zombie gives chase, the woman must fight tooth and nail to survive. While the ending is somewhat predictable, it still has a nice little ironic twist and the whole short moves at a pretty exciting, albeit brisk, pace. There are some fun moments of tension making this one a pretty worthwhile bit of mini-cinema.

They saved the best for last with “The Nest”, although I think a better name for this suspenseful and patient yarn would be “The Hive”, as the monster du jour are a swarm of crow-sized bees producing honey that drives the county wild when it is served at a roadside diner. Written and directed by Tim Zwica, who also did the impressive CG effects, this one harkens back to everything from TCM to BLOOD DINER to MOTEL HELL, but still manages to be a whole lot of fun. The tornado of flesh-eating bees that swirl around their victims leaving nothing but bones and the whole things looks fantastic. As far as shorts go, this one has the look and feel of a full length film and plays better than most of them. This one has a fun cast, including MOTIVATIONAL GROWTH star Adrian DiGiovanni, and makes me want to look out for what else writer/director/CG man Tim Zwica has to offer next.

Clocking in at a brisk 60 minutes, THE HILLBILLY HORROR SHOW VOL.1 is an impressive anthology and while the in between bits with hillbilly humor are full of groaners, there’s not a bad short in the bunch. Here’s hoping these guys keep their eyes peeled for more quality horrors in short form and release a second volume soon.

New this week on DVD from Brain Damage Films!


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 the V/H/S and 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, or 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 in the 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 if 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.

New on DVD from Revolver Entertainment!


Directed by Eoin Macken
Written by Eoin Macken
Starring Karl Argue, Kellie Blaise, Siobhan Cullen, Vanessa Emme, Brian Fortune, Liam Alex Heffron, Natalia Kostrzewa, Patrick Moynan, Emmett J Scanlan, Tereza Srbová, Sean Stewart
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Those of you who get a bit queasy at the whole shaky cam motif will want to steer clear of THE INSIDE, the newest in a never-ending onslaught of found footage films. This one has glimmers of excellence throughout, but there are some major faults that can’t help but knock the whole thing off the rails.

Five girls are getting together for a night on the town. They get all gussied up, start drinking and smoking, and head out on the town. Let the high pitched shrieks of acknowledgement and group hugs begin. Of course, all of this is skipped past in the footage, found by a man in a pawn shop who is watching the film with the viewer as it plays out. In the footage, the party commences and steers towards an abandoned building which is where the whole movie starts getting darker and, at the same time, all the less believable. Soon the party girls are met by one of their boyfriends and then later by a gang of thugs who crash the party and try to rape, murder, and loot these five women. But the gang is not the only thing rumbling in this building. There seem to be ghostly and otherworldly things going on as well, and the girls pass the camera from one to another as they flee from blood-covered monsters

The ludicrosity (made up that word specifically for this movie) begins as there is no reason for these girls to go to this abandoned building. When girls get together to party, they don’t hit the dark spooky building in the dark alley. They hit the clubs or the martini bars or the wine bars or the strip clubs. So the premise of this film is ridiculous as there is no reason the people in the situation should be in the situation they find themselves in. I’m not one to say “the girls were looking to be mugged”, but what do you expect to find other than demons, gangs, and monsters when you enter a dark and dingy building drunk in the middle of the night?

But that’s not the only boneheaded move made in this film. After the guy who is watching the footage finishes seeing the girls being accosted, raped, murdered, and chased by monsters and gangs in a building, does he go to the authorities? No, he decides to go into the same building and get lost in the building and then get chased by monsters, which is exactly what happened to the girls. What was this idiot expecting? Why immediately run into the building without coming in prepared with firepower and backup? No sense whatsoever can be made of this.

That said, THE INSIDE juggles filming styles pretty effectively, switching from a traditionally shot narrative film to a found footager in a believable manner. There are also some really scary scenes, as the monster stalks those lost in the building as it appears around corners covered in slime and blood and moving at an unnerving, staccato pace. The scares are there in THE INSIDE; the problem is that you have to put up with bonehead moves and the shakiest camera work I’ve ever had to endure in a found footager to get to them.

New this week on DVD from Midnight Releasing!


Directed by David Blyth
Written by David Blyth
Starring Yoson An, Rebekah Palmer, Fiaona Feng, Geeling Ching, Cathryn Wu, David Lin, Charles Chan, Ian Mune
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Man, I’ve been to some boring weddings, but this one takes the cake. I’m all for low fi films, but GHOST BRIDE had me fighting for consciousness from beginning to end.

The premise is solid. There is something about the real life horror of going against tradition that can be an effective hook and this one has that. A Chinese man named Jason in love with an Australian woman struggles with his mother, who wants him to marry a Chinese woman and will go to great lengths to get what she wants. Attempting to arrange his marriage to a Chinese bride, the mother enlists the help of a local medicine woman who uses ancient Chinese magic to bind a lost spirit to Jason. Now cursed with a Chinese bride, Jason fights temptation to be with his true love.

Steeped in traditional antiquity and romantic sappiness, this film by David Blyth just doesn’t cut the cake when it comes to scares or emotional peaks and valleys. Everyone is kind of moving around in a David Lynch-esque malaise as they fart out uninspired dialog. The plot, which could have made for an interesting short segment in an anthology, is drawn out paper-thin and the film is made with no sense of suspense whatsoever.

I hate to be so negative on GHOST BRIDE. On the upside, the film is often beautifully shot, capturing some traditional and unique Chinese backgrounds and décor very well. But this romance-centric horror film neither chilled my spine nor captured my heart, and while some of it can be blamed on the low budget, I think most of the blame goes to an uninspired script and an equally uninspired delivery.

New this week on DVD, On Demand, and digital download from Uncork'd Entertainment!


Directed by Drew Rosas, Nick Sommer
Written by Drew Rosas, Nick Sommer
Starring Marshall Caswell, Erin Hammond, Nick Sommer, Max Williamson, Mathew Dunlop, Al Bardin, Suziey Block
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

There is horror that can be taken seriously and then there is horror that is simply fun. BILLY CLUB falls into the latter category as it is undeniably a big, dumb film. But I’d have to add fun to the end of that qualification because I had a hell of a good time with this movie.

After a dunking machine prank gone wrong, young Billy sought revenge on his tormentors by shoving a baseball bat down his coach’s throat and killing two of his teammates, but he was captured and institutionalized before he could get to the rest of the team. Fifteen years later, the surviving teammates get together to swill some brews, reminisce, and remember their lost coach and teammates. But Billy crashes the reunion and through baseball themed means, he plans on striking the rest of the team out one by one…for good.

This film feels like it was made in the 80s during the slasher craze, put into a time capsule, and released as is. What I love about it is that it isn’t trying to be meta. It’s not trying to be smart. It’s just trying to be fun, and it achieves that at every level for me. From goofy ways to kill people with baseball equipment to ridiculous subplots about homosexuality to an insane sequence proving you should never ever do drugs and ride a four wheeler, the fun in BILLY CLUB is infectious.

Naming faults in this film isn’t really playing fair ball. The performances are goofy, but they’re supposed to be. The story is ridiculous, but it’s supposed to be. The kills are outstandingly over the top, one more outrageous than the next, but that’s the way these slasher movies are supposed to play out. The effects themselves are pretty outstanding as faces are batted in with Billy’s spiked baseball bat, plus there’s a climax scene set in the middle of a swamp that hits a homerun at how absolutely offbeat it plays out.

Yes there’s an overuse of baseball clichés, but what do you expect from a slasher film with a baseball-themed killer? BILLY CLUB is a remnant from a time when every other film wasn’t a shaky found footage cam, but from a time when everyone was trying to make the next Jason or Freddy sensation. Had BILLY CLUB been around in those days, he would have given them a run for their money. Brainless but brilliant, BILLY CLUB swings for the cheap seats and connects.

Available here on DVD and stunning VHS!


Directed by Joël Rabijns, Yves Sondermeier
Written by Shana Lazou, Yves Sondermeier, & Joël Rabijns
Starring Pascal Maetens, Karel Vingerhoets, Céline Verbeeck, Jérémie Petrus, Andreas Perschewski, Sofie Hoflack, Koen Blauwblomme, Korneel Cornelis, Gert Jochems
Find out more about this film on its website here on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

And the AICN HORROR batshit crazy award of the week goes to THE MIRACLE OF LIFE, a film that will most likely disgust and turn off people immediately after I describe it in the next paragraph.

While working her quads in a meathead gym, the mannish and musclebound Marianne (Pascal Maetens) gives birth, but while the baby is tossed out with the bathwater, Marianne keeps the placenta, names it Luke, and raises it as if it were a normal boy. And despite the fact that he is a shapeless blob, Luke is a pretty normal boy following a Christian lifestyle and wondering about his real father who was lost at war—at least that’s what mommy Marianne tells him. Following Luke into his teens, we see him beginning to develop sexual urges and going through puberty as he longs to find normalcy and a date with the most popular girl in school. Of course, being a deflated sac of umbilical fluids, that is a rather difficult thing to do.

This film goes to some tasteless and disturbing places. Sometimes it feels like something right out of a Troma film. But at other times it’s grossly serious. One second Marianne is bragging about the giant muscular arm she works out vigorously (leaving the other arm to be normal sized), then the next someone is shooting up the maternity ward in a hospital. There’s a teacher who blames his life’s failures on a stuffed bird and then some cannibalism right out of the blue. This is one warped and demented slice of cinema that is not for the easily offended or the queasy.

Still, there’s a brilliance to all of this depravity. Luke’s monotone delivery is disturbing coming from his sliver of a mouth just above his undulating sac-like body, aAnd every so often there’s a moment that is downright poetic as Luke leaves a slime trail behind him as he tries to make it in life. There’s nothing typical about a minute of this film and for those who appreciate that kind of weirdness, you have a new film to emulate. But be warned, this is a grungy and perverse film, somehow made moreso by the Belgian actors speaking English dialog and the grimy lens the film seems to be filmed with.

If you’re still reading this review and the above hasn’t turned you off to the point of finding a puke bucket, MIRACLE OF LIFE might just be the film for you. It’s definitely high on the meter in terms of odd, gore, gruesomeness, and morbidity. Reminiscent of BASKET CASE and other perverse body horror by Frank Hennenlotter by way of Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM, MIRACLE OF LIFE definitely takes the cake in terms of cinema of the weird and though not many will be able to stomach it, it may just be a cult classic in the making.

New this week on DVD from IFC Midnight!

HANGAR 10 (2014)

Directed by Daniel Simpson
Written by Adam Preston, Daniel Simpson
Starring Robert Curtis, Abbie Salt, Danny Shayler
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I’m going to mention this is a found footager right off the bat because for some folks, that’s the deal breaker as there are way too many of these types of films being made today. But out of all of those found footage films made, there has to be one or two that are actually worth watching, right? Well, if you’re not one to run screaming from found footagers, HANGAR 10 is one you might want to give a look-see as it does a lot right.

The story follows a trio of metal detector enthusiasts (is that really a thing?) in search of Saxon gold in the middle of the Rendlesham Forest. Right off the bat, the trio let us know that there are rumors of paranormal and UFO activity in the forest, so even those who wander into this film unaware that it’s a sci fi/horror film, you’re going to get a good idea of what it’s about right from the get go. Soon things start getting weird. Lights in the sky appear, abnormal thunderstorms light up the sky, and bizarre-looking flying craft begin to swoop and streak overhead. The trio soon realize they are in the middle of a full-blown alien encounter and this little treasure hunt becomes a fight for their own lives.

What works here is that the effects are pretty amazing throughout. The activity these three capture on their camera is pretty jaw-dropping, and while it gets a tad overly CG in the end, up to the big finale, the unidentified flying thingamajiggers are pretty outstandingly realized as they zip above the hikers and hover over them, casting brightly colored beams at them and acting…well…otherworldly. These moments as the three hikers encounter these shapes in the sky feel downright authentic, as if it were something captured by accident on film. The performances as well are great, as this blows all three of the hikers’ minds and each react in their own different ways. Some are in denial. Others are in full-on Fox Mulder mode. It’s fun watching the extreme reactions these three have to proof of these UFOs’ existence.

What doesn’t work is the drama injected in here to give this a more human tale. There is no way in hell these three people would be on a hike together. Why would you go on a trip with your girlfriend and bring her ex-boyfriend along? And if you were the girl, why would you bring both your current and ex-boyfriends on the trip thinking it would be a good idea? The fact that there are spaceships flying around in the sky is more believable than any scenario where these three would go camping together. This type of drama for drama’s sake is something that seems to be happening more often lately in these found footage and regular horror films. When I go on trips, I go with my friends. I don’t go with a bunch of people I don’t like and argue the whole time. That’s a family vacation. A vacation with friends is supposed to be fun and often is, but for some reason, modern filmmakers seem to want to throw all of these maladjusted people in a secluded area and try to pass it off as believable. Stop it. It isn’t believable. It’s stupid.

So despite the idiotic contrivance that these three people are camping together, the technical aspects, the CG, and the acting are actually pretty darn good. Everything culminates in a huge climax that I won’t reveal here, but the size and scope of it is pretty impressive. HANGAR 10 does a lot right, and if you’re willing to look past the tacked-on drama for drama’s sake, you might find it as entertaining as I did.

Available now on digital download here!


Directed by Chris Ethridge
Written by Jayson Palmer
Starring Robert Pralgo, Nicholas Brendon, Amber Chaney, Tiffany Shepis, Mike Stanley, Catherine Taber, Matt Kabus, William J. Harrison, April Bogenschutz, Tomi Lavinder, Ray Lloyd, Antonio Madison, Adam Drescher, Jens Rasmussen
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

The director/writer team of the engaging Stephen King adaptation SURVIVOR TYPE short film (reviewed here) returns for a full-length mystery serial killer yarn that makes up for its low budget with some suspenseful moments, an engaging cast of genre actors, and a few effective surprises in ATTACK OF THE MORNINGSIDE MONSTER.

While the title may make you think this is another low budget SyFy monster movie flick, THE ATTACK OF THE MORNINGSIDE MONSTER is actually a pretty taught police procedural as a madman in a ceremonial mask is stalking and killing criminals in a small town. More like THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN than TWO HEADED SHARK ATTACK, ATTACK OF THE MORNINGSIDE MONSTER is a nice little mystery yarn that isn’t afraid to let you get to know the characters involved before putting them into jeopardy.

Robert Pralgo plays Sheriff Tom Haulk, an easygoing sheriff who bets on the football game with his deputy (Tiffany Shepis), loves his wife, and goes fishing and drinking with his childhood friend Mark (Nicholas Brendan). Mark’s wife is dying of cancer, and there’s a heap of this movie that allows us into Mark’s sad life, showing the tragic day to day things Mark must do to help his ailing wife who he loves so much. These scenes are interspersed between low level JUSTIFIED/LOW WINTER SUN style street drug thuggery as a trio of dealers attempt to outwit one another and the law. Mark gets busted trying to buy his wife marijuana to ease her suffering. This is just the beginning of what turns out to be a crisis of conscience for Sheriff Haulk as he must decide between his friendship, which he holds dear, and the law, which he chooses to uphold. Oh, and there’s a freak wearing a ceremonial mask knocking off one creep drug dealer after another.

The film turns into a whodunit as there are a ton of suspects lined up for the viewer to pick from. Director Ethridge and writer Palmer leave just enough black holes in the plot so the killer could be anyone in the film, slowly revealing more and more about the killer and his MO as the body count rises. This is done with a patient and deft hand, with events seemingly not involved with the murder case actually proving to be vital tidbits for a larger mystery. This film snuck up on me and proved to be much more engaging than I expected. Ethridge and Palmer are great at making you care about the fates of these characters before putting them into dire circumstances, and a film I wasn’t excited about watching all of a sudden gained my full investment in the way this film shows its cards slowly.

There are some juicy scenes of gore and quite a bit of great and layered mysterious layers in ATTACK OF THE MORNINGSIDE MONSTER. It’s a film that will take you by surprise with its talented cast and clever story.

New this week on DVD/BluRay/digital download from Disney!


Directed by Robert Stromberg
Written by Linda Woolverton, Charles Perrault (based on the story "La Belle au bois dormant" by)
Starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites, Kenneth Cranham, Hannah New, Isobelle Molloy, Michael Higgins, Ella Purnell
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

What the hell’s a Disney movie doing in a horror movie column, Buuuuuuuuuug?!?!?!?

I can hear it now. I’m sure there are those racing for the TBs just to rip me a new one for covering this film on AICN HORROR. But here’s the thing. Disney movies scared the shit out of me as a kid. Sure, watching these films now and after I’ve been jaded by all of these horror films I’ve sat through it’s hard to muster up a quiver, but as a kid, the witch in SNOW WHITE and especially Maleficent from SLEEPING BEAUTY were just as horrific as any vampire or reanimated corpse. So while reviewing MALEFICENT may be seen as a bit of a stretch for this column, since we often look back on horrors from yesteryear, this one fits in quite snugly here.

Going the Darth Vader/WICKED route, MALEFICENT allows us to see the person behind the monstrous façade. We first see Maleficent as a gentle forest fairy, flapping through the woods, greeting the wildlife and fantastic beasts that inhabit the area, and falling in love with a wandering peasant boy. Incorporating elements from BEOWULF, this peasant boy who wins her heart grows up to be an opportunistic servant of an ailing king and betrays Meleficent in order to win the crown, thus sparking a rivalry between Maleficent and the King (played as an adult in a rare weak performance by Sharlto Copley) where she curses his first born to fall into a deep sleep on her sixteenth birthday. Only love’s true kiss can wake this sleeping beauty, but that’s where this film and the classic cartoon and story veer in differing directions.

Personally, I’m not a fan of demystifying villains by making them sympathetic. Sometimes evil is just evil and there are times when I don’t really want to know about Michael Myers’ trailer trash parents or Darth Vader’s annoying childhood nickname. For me, all this does is deter the power those monsters struck me with the first time I saw them. And while the transformative road this fresh-faced sprite takes to become the angular and plasticized Angelina Jolie may be a bit more interesting, it still kind of makes her rancor and ire a bit petty. But this film was made as a vehicle for Jolie, and the makeup does do a fantastic job of making her look the part. Jolie chews up the scenery with her larger-than-life mouth and lips puckered and smiling. You can tell she had fun with the role.

The film is overly CG-ed, and it shows. Oftentimes, it feels like nothing is real since Jolie’s face itself is altered to have higher than normal cheekbones and flapping wings. I’m sure this film dazzled kids, but the pro-feminist stance of it all kind of shoots itself in the foot here by turning the fairy tale we all know on its ear. Here, Maleficent is rewritten from being the villain to being the victim and the hero here. And while her victorious stances may make bra-burners light up their Bics in glee, she still was fooled pretty hard by the king, and the path of vengeance is almost as distasteful as the king’s desire for power. So while it may be trying to come off as a crowd-pleaser, Maleficent has to take a very dark journey, enslaving human-crow hybrids and forest creatures in order to achieve her happiness. Is that really the kind of message feminists should root for?

Wonky philosophy aside, this is a pretty gorgeous movie. With some dazzling CG, an interesting story that knocks the legs out from any power the villain once had, and a stunning and spot-on performance by Jolie, MALEFICENT is fluffy like popcorn. Just don’t think too hard about what it’s trying to tell you and I think you’ll be alright.

New this week in select theaters from Drafthouse Films!


Directed by Sion Sono
Written by Sion Sono
Starring Jun Kunimura, Fumi Nikaidô, Shin'ichi Tsutsumi, Hiroki Hasegawa, Gen Hoshino, Tomochika, Itsuji Itao, Hiroyuki Onoue, Tak Sakaguchi, Tetsu Watanabe, Tasuku Nagaoka, Megumi Kagurazaka, Tarô Suwa
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Bursting at the seams with creativity and manic madness, Sion Sono’s latest descent, WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? is a frantic love song to cinema, following dreams, and fulfilling destinies. It’s a film that is downright infectious from the opening minutes of a cute little Japanese girl singing a song about toothpaste to the blood drenched finale that would leave Tarantino and John Woo bowing down like Wayne and Garth repeating “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”

The story is multi-layered and stars a shit-ton of characters all banging into one another in a plot that always threatens to go veering off the rails but never really does. This is a story of epic scope, spanning decades and following real changes in characters. It also delves into themes of how one act of violence can leave lifelong scars.

Without getting too much into the plot, I’ll give you the basic characters involved. Muto (Jun Kunimura) a Yakuza mob boss is in love with movies and is even more in love with his daughter Michiko (played by the adorable Nanoka Hara as a child and as an adult by the dazzling Fumi Nikaidô), who is the world’s darling after singing and dancing in a national toothpaste ad. In a botched hit on Muto’s family, Muto’s wife proves to be more than a group of hitmen can handle, murdering most of them and running those that fled through the streets. On the other side of town in one of the few classically run theaters, Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa) vows to be a big time film director and with his team of camera men and his action star who he claims will be the next Bruce Lee, Hirata makes a wish to the cinema gods that they all will become famous one day. Cut to ten years later and things aren’t great for any of the group. Hirata and his crew are making low budget films and still dreaming big. Michiko is a rebellious teen trying to start a career as an actress and Muto is still the target of rival Yakuza gangs. After a series of bizarre and fantastical events, Muto hires Hirata to make a film in 24 hours starring his daughter that takes place during a real life battle to end all battles between the warring yakuza clans.

If the above plot sounds complex to you, you’re right on the money. It is complex, but it’s also extremely entertaining as Sono never loses focus or drops the ball in juggling all of these plots. There are multiple love stories, complex rivalries, and sophisticated battles all choreographed and moved around meticulously towards a climax that is bloodier than I’ve seen in many a moon. And while this film is about dreaming big and the spectacle of making movies, it never forgets to slow things down for an intimate exchange between mismatched pairings in touching and heartwarming or heart-wrenching moments.

Sono does seem to love his cinema. This is his thirty-first film and it feels like the work of an elder filmmaker looking back at his rambunctious and starry-eyed youth with a bit of a sly smile. The whole tone of the film is dark, but there’s a sense of optimism here that can’t be denied as the story follows this filmmaker who dreams to make a movie and finally getting that wish fulfilled.

If there is a standout performance in this film it is the gorgeous and spunky Fumi Nikaidô who’s giant brown eyes and adorable smile are absolutely stunning. Her performance here is a star making role as the mobster’s daughter who tries to act tough, but has a center that longs for acceptance and love. Plus she’s pretty fucking awesome with a sword!

Those of you who haven’t experienced a Sion Sono film are in for a treat if WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? is your first experience with the filmmaker. It’s by far his greatest achievement which shows that the filmmaker can make a Tarantino-esque/Guy Ritchie-ish film that oozes excitement and cool, yet still injects it with more poetry and power than either of those filmmakers can muster. Drenched in deep dark blood during the climax, this is a fantastic journey that deserves to be seen by anyone who calls themselves an appreciator of cinema. Highly recommended.

And finally…Here’s an 8 minute suspense filled Gothic parable from Theater 13 described as; An alchemist races against the plague to find the key to immortality, but will it be enough to save him? Check out THE ALCHEMIST OF MONTENEGRO and if you like what you see, you can find out more about this film here!

The Alchemist of Montenegro - A Gothic Parable from Chris Heck on Vimeo.

See ya next week, folks!

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.

Be sure to tell your comic shop to order his new comic PIROUETTE (out now!) from Black Mask Studios!

Find out what are BLACK MASK STUDIOS and OCCUPY COMICS here and on Facebook here!

Interested in illustrated films, fringe cinema, and other oddities?
Check out Halo-8 and challenge everything!

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!

Find more AICN HORROR including an archive of previous columns on AICN HORROR’s Facebook page!

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus