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. Here’s another gaggle of horror films for your perusal from the past, the present, and the future!

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

The Boo Tube: THE TWILIGHT ZONE: Season Three Episodes 25-31 (1962)
Retro-review: TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972)
COLLAR (2014)
Advance Review: CLUB LINGERIE (2014)
Advance Review from TADFF 2014: SUBURBAN GOTHIC (2014)
Advance Review from TADFF 2014: HELLMOUTH (2014)
And finally…Mike Diva’s THRESHER!

The Book Creeport: Available from Titan Books


By Mark Salisbury
Published by Titan Books
Reviewed by Dr. Loomis

Titan Books continues to cement itself as one of our most important and accomplished curators of pop culture with ALIEN – THE ARCHIVE: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE CLASSIC MOVIES, a lavishly produced coffee table-style book that covers every inch of the production of ALIEN, ALIENS, ALIEN3 and ALIEN RESURRECTION.

Considering the lengthy time period this franchise covers (from 1979 to 1997), and the huge amount of coverage they've garnered in the genre press, there's a good chance that ardent fans will have seen a chunk of this material already. However, having it all collected together and presented with such reverence counts for quite a bit, and Mark Salisbury has done an excellent job conducting new interviews with key players (including a new franchise-spanning conversation with Ripley herself, Sigourney Weaver) to give the entire package a fresh spin.

While the love and appreciation fans feel towards entries in the series may vary from film to film, no one can argue against the idea that each movie delivered its own unique visual feast, and the visuals are truly the standout of this book. The book's immense size gives the set photos, schematics, storyboards and production art plenty of room to breathe, and there is an abundance of such material to behold. A few highlights include pictures of the gigantic "space jockey" being constructed on the set of ALIEN; conceptual art of the wooden planet from an early draft of ALIEN3; and James Cameron's original drawings of the Queen from ALIENS.

The art doesn't entirely steal the show. There are some great anecdotal tidbits sprinkled liberally throughout, such as Ridley Scott's vision of the Nostromo as "a cross between a tramp ship and a cathedral," or Weaver's assertion that "I feel like Ripley is not at rest" when discussing the possible future of the franchise.

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE is quadrilogy-centric; PROMETHEUS and the ALIEN VS PREDATOR movies do not elbow their way in (although you should really check out PROMETHEUS: THE ART OF THE FILM, also by Salisbury and Titan Books, no matter how you feel about that particular film). This is an immense and wonderful treasure trove of a book, the kind that will demand repeat visits in the years to come. If you're a fan of any or all of these films, this one is a no-brainer.

“Dr. Loomis” is Blu Gilliand, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the fright-filled pages of DARK SCRIBE, DARK DISCOVERIES, SHROUD MAGAZINE, and Horror World, among others. He also runs his own blog, October Country, devoted to horror and crime fiction. Feel free to stalk him on Twitter (@BluGilliand) at your own risk.

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


Episodes 25-31
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. 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 80s series (1985-1989)! You can pick up the collection by clicking this link here!

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

Episode 3.25: The Fugitive
Directed by Richard L. Bare
Written by Charles Beaumont
Starring Susan Gordon, J. Pat O'Malley, Nancy Kulp, Wesley Lau, Russ Bender

This one was a rather lackluster episode about an alien in hiding who enjoys playing with kids on Earth. Nowadays the whole thing would feel a little creepy, but in the age it was made, it just feels a bit too cookie cutter to me. This one tries to pluck the heartstrings of the audience by highlighting the relationship between the downtrodden girl and the plucky old man, but it just doesn’t achieve the feeling or emotion other episodes were able to capture.

Episode 3.26: Little Girl Lost
Directed by Paul Stewart
Written by Richard Matheson
Starring Charles Aidman, Robert Sampson, Sarah Marshall, Tracy Stratford

This is a fantastic mystery about a parent’s worst nightmare as a mother and father awaken to find their daughter disappeared. While the parents can hear their daughter’s cries for help, they cannot see her. Some metaphysics is peppered in as a physicist friend of the family is called in for help, but it’s Beaumont’s trippy story that makes this one shine. This episode features some trippy dream sequences of the other dimension that the girl finds herself in. It also has got to be the inspiration for POLTERGEIST’s Carol Anne abduction and conversation her family has with her, as it sounds beat for beat like that famous sequence. Those who haven’t seen this episode would swear this one was copying off of the more famous POLTERGEIST film, but it just shows how influential this series was.

Episode 3.27: Person or Persons Unknown
Directed by John Brahm
Written by Charles Beaumont
Starring Richard Long, Frank Silvera, Shirley Ballard, Betty Harford, Ed Glover

Another snoozer of an episode of a man who wakes up from a long night of partying to find that no one remembers him. While Richard Long does a good job of playing a desperate man trying to make sense of the world he wakes up in, this one feels like it is just a little too unimaginative than your regular TZ episode. The double twist ending is a nice effort, but ultimately falls flat as well.

Episode 3.28: The Little People
Directed by William Claxton
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Claude Akins, Joe Maross

I loved this sci fi exploration of how absolute power corrupts absolutely as a pair of astronauts land on a deserted planet inhabited by tiny people. Joe Maross plays an astronaut who lets the worship of these tiny terrestrials go right to his head and, despite Claude Akins’ pleadings, he just can’t seem to get over being worshipped like a god. This one moves along at an even pace, culminating in a twist that, while you could see it coming, it was still pleasing to see unfold.

Episode 3.29: Four O’Clock
Directed by Lamont Johnson
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Theodore Bikel, Phyllis Love, Moyna McGill, Linden Chiles, Pete the Parrot

Serling is often pretty obvious with his political satire, and this one is about as in your face as they come about a man obsessed with outing all sorts of people to the authorities as communists, deviants, and anyone else he considers evil. While the modern world of the internet makes this story a little more relevant today, it all wraps up a bit too nicely with an ending that makes very little sense whatsoever. Still, Theodore Bikel plays a paranoid sociopath with sweaty and smarmy glee.

Episode 3.30: Hocus Pocus & Frisby
Directed by Lamont Johnson
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Andy Devine, Milton Selzer, Larry Breitman, Clem Bevans, Howard McNear, Dabbs Greer

While this one is on the goofier side, Andy Devine is a lovable liar who makes his living telling tall tales to anyone who will listen. But when a race of aliens believes his fibs, they abduct him and hope to use the immense knowledge, experience, and abilities to educate their society. Some goofy luck allows Devine to escape the alien’s clutches, but there’s a lesson to be learned here about a certain boy who cried wolf. This one has a down-home charm mostly due to Devine’s lovable performance.

Episode 3.31: The Trade-Ins
Directed by Elliot Silverstein
Written by Rod Serling
Starring Joseph Schildkraut, Alma Platt, Noah Keen, Theodore Marcuse

One of my favorite all time episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. This one always brings a tear to my eye as an elderly couple are given a chance at a new life together by having their minds transferred into 22 year old clones. The problem is that the couple doesn’t have enough money for both of them to have the process. The struggle to gain this money as well as the ending is enough to melt even the coldest of hearts. More so than most TZ episodes, this one feels like a complete movie and while I was thoroughly entertained by this episode, I would have sworn this was one of the Season Four hourlongs as it really is a full and exquisitely pleasing episode. This is one of the best episodes you’re bound to find and proof that TZ not only can be clever, shocking, and nightmarish, but it can also be sentimental as well.

See you next week for the very last batch of ‘60s era TWILIGHT ZONE 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, 3.19-3.24
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 TALES FROM THE CRYPT/VAULT OF HORROR Double Feature BluRay from The Shout Factory!


Directed by Freddie Francis
Written by Milton Subotsky (screenplay, from comic book stories in TALES FROM THE CRYPT and THE VAULT OF HORROR by writers Johnny Craig, Al Feldstein, & William M. Gaines)
Starring Sir Ralph Richardson as the Crypt Keeper
Segment One “And All Through the House” - Joan Collins, Martin Boddey, Chloe Franks, Oliver MacGreevy
Segment Two “Reflection of Death” - Ian Hendry, Susan Denny, Angela Grant
Segment Three “Poetic Justice” - Peter Cushing, Robin Phillips, David Markham, Robert Hutton
Segment Four “Wish You Were Here” - Richard Greene, Barbara Murray, Roy Dotrice
Segment Five “Blind Alleys” - Nigel Patrick, Patrick Magee
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

While it’s not the strongest of anthologies, there is something dark and diabolical about this film. Maybe it’s the grimy and low fi effects or the extreme angles and claustrophobic closeness director Freddie Francis chooses to film this film with. Either way, it’s an effective little film. Though there’s no puppet Crypt Keeper cackling and cracking bad puns and the wraparound story is rather weak, the stories themselves are downright scary.

The first story is one those familiar with the HBO series will remember. “…And All Through the House” stars a pretty smoking hot Joan Collins as a moneygrubbing wife who offs her husband on the same night a lunatic in a Santa costume decides to come knocking. While Collins inexplicably kind of forgets about the killer she sees outside and begins to clean up the murder scene, there are some fun thrills as Santa finds his way inside. The ending is a classic, and one that is downright haunting since the killer Santa does indeed look like a lunatic.

Story two is “Reflections of Death”, about a man leaving his wife for another woman only to get into a car crash as he makes his getaway. It’s a pretty simple story, but made ultra creepy with some first person POV and some extreme and up close shots of the crash, all of which add to a nice little twist ending that, while rather goofy, does deliver quite a shock.

Like most of these shorts, everything in the third installment “Poetic Justice” drives towards a shockeroo ending. This one is a damn fine and gory one, but it’s Peter Cushing’s gentle turn as a toymaker that really makes this installment special and really sparks the investment. The story is a rather cruel one as Cushing’s neighbors simply don’t want him in the neighborhood and do everything they can to get him out. Of course, this comes back to haunt them.

There’s a lot to like about segment four, “Wish You Were Here.” This twist on the “The Monkey’s Paw” tale is a little too on the nose for my tastes, but it does offer up some fun imagery as a skull-faced motorcycle rider shows up to torment a man in financial trouble. When the man crashes his car and dies, his wife wishes for his return, but as with “The Monkey’s Paw,” this wish comes with a curse--one that is much more tactile and gory than the original tale, making it all the more devious and memorable. Still this one will leave you writhing and screaming, much like the characters in this segment.

The final tale, called “Blind Alleys”, stars Nigel Patrick as a rigid new headmaster at a hospital for the blind and Patrick Magee as a blind spokesman for the patients there. This one feels more nuanced than the other episodes, reminiscent of WWII and other atrocities that happen to the downtrodden. While the elaborate method the blind men take in getting revenge on their harsh caretaker is a bit farfetched given their disabilities, the scheme they hatch is pretty original and devious. The ending of this one definitely has a dark tone, and the wall of razors is realized rather well as the razors make one tiny cut after another and Nigel Patrick’s performance and Francis’ tight direction make you feel every slice.

Sir Ralph Richardson is no KNB effects-made Crypt Keeper puppet, but he’s ominous enough a host for this anthology. It’s pretty obvious what all of the people who end up in the crypt are there for, so the “twist” ending really isn’t a shocker, but the morbid installments and effectively creepy twists more than make up for it. TALES FROM THE CRYPT is paired with VAULT OF HORROR in this Shout Factory Double Feature BluRay. Next week, I’ll be checking out VAULT OF HORROR.

New collection of four films THE KILLER 4 PACK available this week from SGL Movie Store!


Directed by Massimiliano Cerchi
Written by Massimiliano Cerchi & John Polonia
Starring Dean Paul, Molinee Dawn, Sean Wing, Melissa Brown, Mike Paulie, Heidi Harrison, Nick Armas, Mack Hail
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been checking out four low budget films that can be found collected in one disk called THE KILLER 4 PACK from SGL Movie Store. The films lean more on the DIY side and while I wasn’t really excited to crack this one open, the first offering I checked out last week called EL DIA DE LOS MUERTOS proved to be much better than I had expected, while the second film JEZEBETH unfortunately was pretty hard to get through. Here’s how the third film in the collection, CARNAGE: THE LEGEND OF QUILTFACE, fared.

From the man who brought you HELLINGER and HOLY TERROR, Massimiliano Cerchi sharts forth another attempt at low budget terror with CARNAGE: THE LEGEND OF QUILTFACE. And while most of the low budget trappings Cerchi fell into with those two films are prevalent here as well, there’s something about this film that is somewhat fun in a so-bad-it’s-a-teensey-bit-good way. The story is as thin as a fashion model, putting a handful of college kids out on a photo shoot in the desert, which happens to be haunted by an inbred serial killer legend called Quiltface. He is called this because he either has a face made up of other people’s faces or he wears a mask of other people’s faces. It doesn’t matter because either way, it just looks like a really bad mask.

The story is linked together by having Quiltface kill off each cast member one by one until none are left. The cast is absolutely awful at delivering the clichéd lines in a monotone and flat manner that makes you want them dead. The cast also can’t run four steps without falling over, making it pretty simple for Quiltface to catch up to them and slice them with his machete.

CARNAGE: THE LEGEND OF QUILTFACE is pretty much a ripoff of every slasher film out there. TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and THE HILLS HAVE EYES are heavily borrowed from as the film is mostly set in desert, highlighting the non-actor cast as they run around and fall over along the dusty terrain. This outdoor setting doesn’t stop Cerchi from having his trademark five minute long love scene of a woman riding a man which was featured prominently in both HELLINGER and HOLY TERROR multiple times in each film. That said, I at least found CARNAGE: THE LEGEND OF QUILTFACE to be a skosh more watchable than his earlier films.

New on DVD from MVD Visual!

COLLAR (2014)

Directed by Ryan Nicholson
Written by Ryan Nicholson
Starring Nick Principe, Aidan Dee, Mihola Terzic, Ronald Patrick Thompson, Frederic Levasseur, Mackenzie Murdock, Tony Cipriano, Momona Komagata, Roger Dunkley II
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Some films, while I can’t help but be shocked and nauseated by the content of, I do have to admire for “going there” without seemingly a care in the world. Ballsiness in terms of gratuity is admirable, even though it’s not my cup of tea. COLLAR is one such film.

The story follows a homeless man named Massive (played by CHROMESKULL/LAID TO REST actor Nick Principe) who wanders the streets abducting anyone who happens down his alley, murdering, raping, and desecrating them with upside down crosses he etches into their flesh. One cop happens upon Massive’s hovel and ends up being captured and tortured by the monster.

As I said above, there is a lot of gore, rape, and violence in this film. Even with my high tolerance for violence, I was taken aback by the places this one goes. But again, while films like this aren’t necessarily for me, I can appreciate them for realizing terrors some may not even want to think about. Nick Principe does a fantastic job of portraying this homeless and obviously deeply insane man, giving him all sorts of bizarre ticks and motions. While he is wordless, he conveys a sort of sadness in his eyes and while he does despicable things, one can tell through flashbacks and the looks on his face that he is not in control of himself.

That said, this was not a very enjoyable movie to watch. I’m not saying that rape should never be shown in films, but the amount of rape that occurs goes into the realm of gratuity here. The rape in I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE was lengthy, but it highlighted the horror of it all. Here, multiple people are raped and the camera lingers a bit too long for my comfort level. There’s a fine line between making a point about violence and just getting off on seeing this horrible act happening for an extended period of time, and I think this film crosses that line.

That said, I’m interested in seeing what director/writer Ryan Nicholson has up next as this film is nuanced in terms of Massive’s character. A lot of that has to do with the surprisingly effective performance by Principe, who also displays more talent than I expected having done work behind a chrome mask in his most prominent of films. COLLAR is sure to offend some and will most likely be too much to take; still, there are sparks of promise here that I’d love to see developed in future films.

New on DVD and digital download from RLJ Entertainment!


Directed by Justin Steeley
Written by Justin Steeley
Starring Christopher Copeland, Hannah Wallace, Jeff Causey, Justin Steeley, Alex Ballew, Stan Copeland
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Seems I’m reviewing a new Bigfoot film a week these days. And while they are not as abundant as entries into the zombie or found footage subgenre, there does seem to be an upswing in Squatchploitation films recently. That said, it’s still pretty difficult to find a good one. HUNTING THE LEGEND makes an attempt to put its best and biggest foot forward ahead of the herd, but still falls back on some trappings of the found footage genre.

This is your typical “three kids go out to find *blank* in the woods” film, and while there are some nice moments of Bigfoot hunting, the drama set up here is done performed at its most convincing. The three actors involved here are young and may have great careers in film, but they are less than convincing here as the lead (Christopher Copeland) is supposed to be filled with rage after his father was supposedly killed by a Bigfoot while hunting years ago. His friends (Hannah Wallace & Jeff Causey) are also not very convincing at trying to be sympathetic and morally support their friend by helping him out. The drama feels forced, and while this isn’t the first film to rely heavily on character stuff to fill out the first 30-40 minutes while the monster is not on camera, the lack of experience and conviction in these actors’ performances really makes this time drag.

There are also a lot of things BLAIR WITCH-y about this film, as it is mainly three kids walking around the woods looking for a monster. Again, it’s hard to get away from that comparison, but while BLAIR WITCH can get away with it because it was one of the first, this far down the line, new stuff needs to happen to make it worth seeing.

That said, there are a few elements that were added that I really liked in HUNTING THE LEGEND, one of which was the whole illegal gun buying scene, which was fascinating in that I know these underground deals are made all over the place and this one was really convincing. Seeing an arsenal of weaponry stored in a backyard bunker was a nice fleshing out of this cinematic universe the film takes place in. The same amount of detail goes towards the loner who has a shack in the woods who seemingly has a kinship with the Bigfeets, or at least knows how not to piss them off.

I also liked the aspect of adding a dog to the mix, as it does seem like a logical asset to a hunting expedition. While I don’t enjoy putting animals in peril, I think this adds a new aspect of investment I normally wouldn’t have had for the story. All in all, utilizing some new hunting techniques and showing some shady preparation in terms of an arsenal to take on the beast adds enough originality to make this one worth a watch. I also liked the revenge aspect, as most of these found footagers just want to be made to prove the existence of the creature in question. This one has more intent, and there is no doubt from the get go that Bigfoot exists, though the acting sometimes fails to convey all of that. Because of all of this, HUNTING THE LEGEND is better than average in its ideas, but has flaws in the execution.

New this week on DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment!


Directed by Roze
Written by Roze
Starring Gabrielle Stone, Greg Bronson, Annalise Cavender, Elisabeth Cavender, Ian Cavender, Olivia Cavender, Kameron Cochrane, Sylvie Cohen, Michael Cortez, Quincy Cowans, Madelynn Eldredge, Cesar Garcia, Machelle Glassburn, Mario Guzman, Rob Hartz
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Aspects of SPEAK NO EVIL have been done before. The film borrows from evil child films like HERE COMES THE DEVIL, THE BROOD, BLOODY BIRTHDAY, THE CHILDREN, COME OUT AND PLAY, WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? and VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, as well as checks all of the boxes in terms of possession films (which all seem to take pages from THE EXORCIST). Still, with some grungy but effective performances by the cast and a cool visual eye, I ended up enjoying SPEAK NO EVIL as a unique amalgamation of familiar parts.

Gabrielle Stone (daughter of Dee Wallace) plays Anna, a single mother trying to get by with a drunk and domineering ex and a daughter who resents her named Joey (Olivia Cavendar). While hooking up with a boy toy fling, Joey goes missing. Distraught, Anna is frustrated with the way the police respond to her report as they label Joey a runaway. But after the rest of the kids in the small town go missing, the police realize something much more nefarious is afoot. A countywide search goes on to no avail, but then, inexplicably, the children return home seemingly unharmed and carrying the unconscious body of Joey. But the kids have been changed, and soon they turn on their parents. And unlike the rest of the kids, Joey’s tongue was cut out. The reasons behind all of this is an age-old evil, and it turns Anna and the town’s life upside down.

This is a possessed children film where the kids go nuts and kill their parents. Unlike most, though, it broadens the scope and gives the child rebellion a cause—namely, demon possession. It’s an age-old fear that our children will one day kill us. While we are always encouraged to go forth and procreate and everyone wants their child to be more successful than themselves, the self-centered fear that our offspring will someday overcome us is somewhere in all of us. It’s the signifier that we are no longer useful and we have to give way to the next generation to accomplish what we have not, and who wants to label themselves a loser? That’s the underlying theme in all of these killer kids films, and it’s one that SPEAK NO EVIL illustrates in a horrific fashion with these bloody-faced children running around, screaming guttural garblings, and acting like rabid rottweilers. The scenes where the kids overtake the town are disturbing as all get out and orchestrated in a tense and effective manner.

That said, the director, who goes by the name Roze, relies way too much on extreme close-ups and handheld cameras, making a lot of the action going on difficult to understand. Though this isn’t a found footage film, I found myself getting frustrated wondering what is going on in the entire space instead of the tiny spot the director focuses his camera on. This leads to some oft-confusing bits of action and much whipping around of the camera which only succeeds in taking me out of the film rather than engaging me. Had the director provided both establishing shots and the close-ups, things would have been communicated in a much clearer manner. The lack of variety in the shots is a detriment to an otherwise engaging film.

Gabrielle Stone is really good here as the lead. She has a gritty feel to her, and before I even realized she was the daughter of Dee Wallace, I noticed the similarity between the two actresses. Much like Wallace’s heartwrenching turn as the flawed but protective mother in CUJO, Stone is both believable and convincing as a character with depth. And while some of the camerawork was distracting, there is a lot of nice horror going on in SPEAK NO EVIL. The gory climax, multiple twists, and convincing performances made me overlook some of the more annoying technical flubs with this film.

New On Demand from Dark Sky Films/recently played at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival!


Directed by Adrián García Bogliano
Written by Eric Stolze
Starring Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest, Tina Louise, Rutanya Alda, Caitlin O'Heaney, Erin Cummings, Tom Noonan, Larry Fessenden, Al Sapienza, Bernardo Cubria, Karen Lynn Gorney, Karron Graves, Haythem Noor, Kareem Savinon, Charles Techman
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Horror films with old people are hit and miss with me. When it is horror about growing old, it really strikes an uncomfortable chord in me as I have officially become middle-aged. So when those types of films, as with the recent Alzheimer’s horror film THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN, are done well, it hits me like a Mack truck. Then there are the films about old age that I prefer, that of seeing the elderly as the underdog and showing that despite age, there’s still some fire in the old heart still. LATE PHASES is such a film and it is a magnificent one at that.

COLD SWEAT and HERE COMES THE DEVIL director Adrian Garcia Bogliano makes his English language film debut with LATE PHASES, the story of a blind Vietnam War vet named Ambrose (STAKE LAND’s Nick Damici) who moves into a retirement community the day before a vicious attack by a giant animal takes the lives of two of his neighbors and his own seeing eye dog. Ambrose encounters the monster, but of course, can’t identify it, but we see that it is not a coyote or a bear, but a werewolf. Having survived the encounter and in a race against time before the next full moon appears, Ambrose investigates the mystery, scouring the retirement community to see if his outlandish suspicions are true—that it’s a werewolf that is massacring these people.

An old dude vs. a werewolf sounds ripe with comic potential, but Bogliano plays everything dead seriously. As Ambrose uses his other senses to snoop around the community, his son (played by Ethan Embry) begins to think his old man is losing it. After the explosive first few moments where Ambrose encounters the werewolf, the film slows down, but maintains an intensity that grows and grows until the moon is full again during the climax of this film. Bogliano paces this film remarkably, interspersing quiet and patient moments of Ambrose interacting with a list of suspects with more drama between a distant father and a son who is attempting to connect with him. Dealing with the guilt one feels about leaving one’s parent in a retirement home or under assisted care, Bogliano fills this film, not only with mystery and moments of sheer horror, but heart as well. This film made me tear up at the end and if you had a complex relationship with your own father, you may find yourself doing so as well.

This film is nothing without the phenomenal performance of Nick Damici. I was one of the few who was underwhelmed by his performance in STAKE LAND, but here as Ambrose, you’d think Damici was channeling the ghost of Charles Bronson with his restrained, yet powerful performance as our central character. Ambrose is a soldier whose scars ran deep into his soul as he grew older and was a tough father and husband to his family. A man who measures his words carefully and succinctly, Damici’s Ambrose is a wonderfully rich character you can’t help but root for despite his gruffness.

This being a werewolf film, there’s always the question as to whether the transformation scene and the werewolf effects are good or not. For the most part, they are, as Bogliano chooses to go practical effects all the way. The transformation scene isn’t completely original, but it is fantastically done. There may be one scene where the werewolf is seen on a surveillance camera where the suit looks a bit ridiculous, but otherwise, Bogliano keeps things close—highlighting the articulated jaw and long strands of hair. The wolves here are immense and menacing, more reminiscent of THE HOWLING. But while THE HOWLING kept a lot of the wolves in the dark, this making them look scarier, Bogliano has them lit a bit more and that might have been the only mistake this movie makes.

It’s tough to find a good werewolf film. Sure films like DOG SOLDIERS and GINGER SNAPS make the short list in terms of more recent and successful films in this genre. LATE PHASES can now be added to that list as it really is one of the good ones. Reminiscent mostly to STEPHEN KING’S SILVER BULLET, LATE PHASES is a remarkably acted, practically effected, and toughly told werewolf film like few others. Damici is amazing and I hope this leads to bigger roles for him and the supporting cast from Embry to Larry Fessenden and Tom Noonan hit all the right buttons as well. In terms of werewolf films this year, LATE PHASES is leader of the pack!

Advance Review: Coming soon from Frolic Pictures!


Directed by Jared Masters
Written by Jared Masters, Bouvier, John Van Harlingen
Starring Bouvier, Jacqueline Guzman Cereceres, Andy Dick, Mindy Robinson, Nicole Alexandra Shipley, Dawna Lee Heising, Richie Lillard, Maria Olsen, Sydney Raye Smith, Lauren Taler, Art Roberts, Jennifo Box, Domiziano Arcangeli, Jessica Knopf, Geo Sargent
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I’ll come right out and say CLUB LINGERIE is not going to be for everyone. It’s a murder mystery set in a nightclub where the waitresses and staff prance around in lingerie while the patrons ogle their goods. The acting is pretty amateurish, as is the script, the directing, and pretty much everything about the film. Still, if you’re a fan of John Waters’ earlier films like me, which shined a light on an oddball culture of misfits and weirdoes, you might see some of that same kind of charm at work here in CLUB LINGERIE.

But it’s buried deep. The film really feels like it goes rather long, and while there is a substantial kill count, there’s not a lot of blood or gore happening. For the most part, it’s just shapely older ladies and svelte younger ones walking around in lingerie. Oh, and Andy Dick shows up for some reason.

Like Divine in John Waters’ films, CLUB LINGERIE features cult film actress Bouvier, who tries her best to remember her lines and deliver them but occasionally has some difficulty with both. Still, there’s a rough-edged coolness about how director Jared Masters just keeps the film rolling through obvious gaffes, uncomfortable pauses, and bloopers. It’s just kind of fun seeing through the veil of cinematic polish.

Maybe I’m being too kind. Maybe I just have a fondness for those raunchy and rough early John Waters films, but there is something appealing about the weird world CLUB LINGERIE features. I’ll repeat: the film is not going to be for everyone, but neither is the culture it highlights. Still, it looks like the cast and crew had a blast making this film, and that’s what the filmmaker was successful in showing.

Advance Review: Currently touring fests/recently played at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival!


Directed by Richard Bates Jr.
Written by Richard Bates Jr. & Mark Bruner
Starring Matthew Gray Gubler, Kat Dennings, Ray Wise, Barbara Niven, Muse Watson, Sally Kirkland, Mel Rodriguez, Jeffrey Combs, John Waters, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Jack Plotnick, Ray Santiago, Shanola Hampton, Mackenzie Phillips, Jessica Camacho
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

A problematic last act makes Richard Bates Jr.’s follow up to his excellent first film EXCISION (reviewed here) not as successful. Still, there are a lot of redeeming qualities bopping around this horrific take on life in the suburbs.

It’s kind of easy to make fun of suburban life. There’s a feeling one gets after moving away from home and having to return to the cookie cutter lifestyle we all think we have outgrown that cannot be denied. It’s cool to make fun of that, but also kind of boring to do so as it’s been done before in films like DONNIE DARKO, THE BURBS, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, HEATHERS, and Bates’ first film, EXCISION. This “cooler than thou” mentality runs rampant in SUBURNBAN GOTHIC, a story of a business school grad who lives the slacker/hipster lifestyle being forced to move back in with his parents due to financial difficulties and finding age-old hells reawakened in doing so. This film feels like it would be a great double feature with the more recent “move back home to hell” film HOUSEBOUND (reviewed here).

The man-child is named Raymond here (played by Matthew Gray Gubler) and while the story posts him as an unlikable light, he is the glue which holds this film together. Gubler’s comic timing is impeccable. His quick retorts seem like something a kid who thinks he is better than everyone around him would say, and having his over-saccharinated and possibly over-medicated mother (Barbara Niven) and his domineering and bigoted father (Ray Wise) as parents he has good reason to hate the burbs. Raymond is rather sympathetic, as he seems to be haunted by childhood nightmares as soon as he steps foot into his old home. But these nightmares begin to take shape when some landscapers uncover a small coffin with a skeleton in it in the backyard. Raymond meets a sassy bartender (Kat Dennings, who basically plays her snarky self the whole time—would it kill her to be genuine for once?) and sets out to solve the mystery before the ghostly happenings do bad things to him, his ascot, and his tight pants.

Another shining gem in this film is Ray Wise, who is always awesome, but his oblivious bigotry is delivered in such a manner that he had me rolling from beginning to end. Seeing the way Wise seethes with disappointment about his non-athletic son makes for some of the most entertaining bits in the film.

As you see, I haven’t really mentioned the supernatural elements here. While many films try to juggle the comedy and horror evenly, this one doesn’t really give an even service to the horror department. The effects are rather rudimentary and while there are some GHOSTBUSTER-y/BEETLEJUICE-ian fantastic elements at play here, there’s not enough to make it stand out. This is one of the main reasons why the final act falls apart, since the budget didn’t seem to be in it for major fantastic elements playing out and the ones that did weren’t really anything that we haven’t seen before. These elements just weren’t strong enough to support the ending of the film when people have to stop joking and move the plot to some kind of resolution.

Looked at as a comedy with slight horror sprinkles, this film is much more successful than if looked at as horror comedy. This is vastly different than the potent blend of comedy and horror that EXCISION was. I guess it’s not fair to compare the two films, but EXCISION just seemed to be much more substantial than this follow-up. Gubler and Wise’s performances make this film worth checking out, but SUBURBAN GOTHIC kind of falls apart if you go beyond that.

Advance Review: Currently touring fests/recently played at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival!


Directed by John Geddes
Written by Tony Burgess
Starring Stephen McHattie, Siobhan Murphy, Boyd Banks, Julian Richings, Mark Gibson, Ari Millen, Tony Burgess, Adam Seybold, Kate Fenton, Bruce McDonald, Jason David Brown
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Foresight Films seems to be on quite a roll with PONTYPOOL’s Tony Burgess leading the way as their go to innovative screenwriter. The last Burgess written film I checked out was SEPTIC MAN (reviewed here), which was a bit off putting in subject matter, but I found the story to be a compelling one about survival through insurmountable odds. That seems to be a theme Burgess likes to deal with as his latest film HELLMOUTH puts his PONTYPOOL star Stephen McHattie on a quest which seems to be torn from Greek myth to venture into the underworld and recover his lost love and purpose in life.

McHattie seems to be playing Burgess’ alter ego here against the world as Charlie Baker, an undertaker as a cemetery who is only a week from retirement when he is hit with the news that he is being given a special assignment by his superiors to extend his responsibilities by two more years. Complaining of the equivalent of Joe’s “brain cloud” from JOE VS THE VOLCANO, McHattie is crushed by this news and then angered at this new predicament. Things start to slide in terms of what is real and what isn’t after this as a sultry femme fatale (Siobhan Murphy) gives Charlie something to fight for when she is abducted and taken into the underworld. With the underworld being his business and finding a new vigor after meeting the mysterious woman, Charlie fights all types of beasts and monsters in order to find her, bring her back home, and live happily ever after. This being a horror movie, of course, it is unlikely this will happen.

Filmed almost entirely in front of a green screen, HELLMOUTH is the horror equivalent to SIN CITY without the star power. Sure GAME OF THRONES’ Julian Ritchings makes an appearance as a creep, but for the most part, this is a completely computer generated film with McHattie and the other actors walking around reacting to ping pong balls in front of a green screen. That said, the computer effects are damn nice. Maybe not HOBBIT quality, but definitely miles better than ScyFy monster of the week crap. As McHattie makes his descent into hell, the landscapes and monsters grow more and more visually remarkable—sometimes gorgeous and sometimes the stuff of a surrealistic nightmare. Props to the CG department as they really did their jobs well here.

PONTYPOOL was a remarkable movie in that it has a rather offbeat story structure and HELLMOUTH is weird in that regard as well. Slowing the momentum down in the story after a pretty bombastic beginning, a police officer sits Charlie down and tells him three stories. While these stories were interesting, this fifteen minutes of the film really seems somewhat out of place and I feel there might have been a better way for the story to convey this information. As is, it feels like an extended info dump with stunning visuals. It’s not so much as a deal breaker for this film, but it is a speed bump that comes close to veering this film off course.

And while I found the ending to be rather profound, it does make you wonder what all of this struggle to hell and back was all for. I get it that this is a modern and ghoulish retelling of the myth of Orpheus, but things get rather obtuse in the final moments which might lose some viewers. Still, HELLMOUTH features McHattie starring in the hero’s role and seeing an upper-middle aged man in such a role in this day and age is rare. McHattie is fantastic here and the film really highlights both his range and depth of talent. HELLMOUTH may not be as powerful as PONTYPOOL, but it still is a stunning feat in visuals and proof that if done with an artistic touch, CG can be effective in horror.

And finally…here’s a nifty little interdimensional horror short about a man locked in a room seemingly alone by Mike Diva. It’s got some nice classical opera going for it, some shocking sounds and visuals and a terrifying monster. Check out THRESHER!

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