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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. We are celebrating another Friday the 13th here at AICN HORROR, which means we are looking at another installment in the greatest horror franchise ever! Plus there are more horrors to be had if you dare venture below!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973)
TEETH & BLOOD (2015)
DARK HAUL (2014)
JINN (2014)
WOLFCOP (2014)
And finally… Christopher Di Nunzio’s HER HEART STILL BEATS!

Get the FRIDAY THE 13TH The Complete Collection BluRay here!


Directed by Tom McLoughlin
Written by Tom McLoughlin
Starring Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Kerry Noonan, Renée Jones, Tom Fridley, Darcy DeMoss, Vincent Guastaferro, Tony Goldwyn, Nancy McLoughlin, Ron Palillo, Alan Blumenfeld, Matthew Faison, Ann Ryerson, Whitney Rydbeck, Courtney Vickery, Bob Larkin, Michael Swan, Mike Nomad, Wallace Merck, Roger Rose, Cynthia Kania, Thomas Nowell, Justin Nowell, & C.J. Graham as Jason Voorhees!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

One of my favorite FRIDAY THE 13THs is PART 6: JASON LIVES, and while it isn’t the perfect film, it does have a lot of moments that bring a smile to my face every time I see them. With Freddy tearing up the box office, the folks behind the franchise decided it was high time to stop dillydallying about playing “Who’s wearing the hockey mask?” as they did with PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING and return to what was familiar. Bringing Tom McLoughlin on board, he knew how to inject the right amount of morbid fun to bring our favorite backwoods machete murderer back in style.

PART 6 opens with Tommy Jarvis (RETURN FO THE LIVING DEAD’s Thom Matthews) going to a small cemetery in the newly named town of Forest Green (formerly known as Crystal Lake) to make certain that Jason’s body is completely destroyed in order to bury his own demons for good. Upon digging up the grave, Tommy flips out and stabs Jason’s corpse with a large iron fencepost, but as Tommy goes to get the gasoline to reduce the corpse to ashes, a double bolt of lightning shoots down into the pole, reanimating Jason for an all new killing spree. This new Jason is much more powerful than before, and part of the fun of PART 6 is seeing Jason discover how powerful he has become. There are some hilariously human moments here that don’t make fun of Jason, but they do highlight some still human aspects of the man monster as he tilts his head to the side like a dog trying to understand why an RV is bouncing up and down when the people inside are sexing it up. He gives the same confused look to an arm he accidentally rips right from the body of one victim as if by accident. These moments are played for comedy, but also show a side of Jason that hadn’t been seen before.

Realizing he’s fucked up, Tommy heads to the sheriff’s office to get them in on the action. Of course, they don’t believe him, but the sheriff’s rebellious daughter Megan (played by the 80s hot Jennifer Cooke) is more than happy to bust him out and help him in his quest. I always thought John Shepherd from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING played things a little too cardboard as Tommy Jarvis, the boy who took down Jason. Seeing Thom Matthews in the role gives the Tommy character much more mania, but he’s also likable at times. Still, Matthews plays Tommy as a driven character who may be distracted by Megan’s mooseknuckle jeans for a short time, but once he sees Jason he cares about nothing but revenge.

I know it’s devilish to say this, but what makes this film fun is that it seems like McLoughlin had a blast making the kills unique and entertaining. Jason tears folks apart, using unconventional instruments of murder to enact his vengeance. Some of the most iconic scenes in the series come from this episode--specifically the scene where Jason is standing in the middle of the road with a spear and the entire RV scene ending with Jason standing atop a flaming RV proud as a peacock of his kill. This was a film to go see in the theater and laugh out loud every time Jason takes a life.

Another first for the film is that there are actual kids involved here. Most of the time, the counselors are setting up camp, but with the inclusion of the kids, the danger is upped a notch or three. And while I would like to think Jason (who himself is kind of a grown up man-child) wouldn’t murder kids, there are subtle hints here and there that make it feel like he might have gone there given the time. For instance, Jason slowly walks up to little girl while she is praying for him to go away in the cabin, but is distracted when the police show up to the camp. We never will know if Jason would have done what he does best, but it sure seems that when he bursts through the same cabin wall after doing away with the entire police force, he intends to do some serious harm to the little kiddies. It would have made for a much darker movie, but McLoughlin only suggests the danger rather than shoving it in our faces.

Keen eyes will see WELCOME BACK KOTTER’s Horshack, Ron Palillo, as Tommy’s partner in crime who doesn’t have the heart for graverobbing, and GHOST’s Tony Goldwyn can be seen on the business end of Jason’s spear at one point in the film. Another notable kill is scream queen Darcy DeMoss’s face being shoved through the metal siding of an RV, which could never happen in a million years, but is cool nevertheless.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 6 is just tops for me. It highlights that these movies can be fun and feels much more on point than most of the other films of the later series. While C.J. Graham’s Jason is a little too stiff and robotic at times, it makes for some really fun scenes as Jason realizes his power. Sure it shows Jason during the day and there is way too much showing of Jason altogether in this one, but the talented cast, the boppy story, and the fantastically fun kills make this one of the best of the series in my book.

Extras on this BluRay in the Complete Collection Set include three behind the scenes featurettes which go into McLoughlin’s decisions to make this an homage to old Universal films (he states that this movie could be filmed in black and white and it would play right along with those old monster flicks), plus it catches up with some of the stars of the film. The true highlight is an animated storyboarded sequence for the unfilmed final scene with Jason’s father as he visits his grave and realizes his boy’s body is not buried there. Part of me wishes that they would have gone this route with the series, though not a lot of detail about Mr. Voorhees is provided to suggest as to whether this would have been a cool development or not. Deleted scenes don’t show much more than a couple of seconds here and there more of gore, and what bothers me most is that the disk doesn’t include Alice Cooper’s “He’s Back, The Man Behind the Mask” video. The accompanying music video was a must for all films of the late 80s, as MTV had become an all-important tentpole of youth culture at the time and once heard, you won’t be able to get it out of your head all day. “He’s Back, The Man Behind the Mask” is a fantastic little rock ode to Jason and while the video is all kinds of cheese, it still gets me all excited and takes me back to the weeks leading into me seeing this film in theaters when it first came out. Though it’s not on the Bluray, I included it here for those too young to remember its sheer awesomeness.

And here’s the trailer for the film which made me scream with joy the first time I saw it as a kid!

Links to previous FRIDAY THE 13TH Coverage!
FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)/FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 (1982) Review

Retro-review: New this week on a BluRay Double Feature from The Shout Factory!


Directed by Bob Kelljan
Written by Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig, Maurice Jules (screenplay), Joan Torres & Raymond Koenig (story)
Starring William Marshall, Don Mitchell, Pam Grier, Michael Conrad, Richard Lawson, Lynne Moody, Janee Michelle, Barbara Rhoades, Bernie Hamilton, Arnold Williams, Van Kirksey, Eric Mason
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Last week, I took a look at BLACULA , which introduced us to one of the coolest version of the vampire you’re ever going to see. This week, I’m checking out the second feature on the disk where we find out what happened to the Dark Prince of Darkness after the first film in SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM.

I am just in love with this character, his story, and the coolness that oozes from both of these Blacula films. While it could have been done for full-on camp effect, the filmmakers instead decided to make a straight up horror film that just happened to have an African American cast. That doesn’t mean that issues about blackness in America at the time are not dealt with in these films; it’s just that the film doesn’t get bogged down in politics for too long and just delivers in scares and cool moments, as any good horror film should.

When Willis (Richard Lawson), the spoiled and evil son of a voodoo queen, is shunned and not given power over the voodoo tribe after her passing, he resurrects Blacula (William Marshall, who returns from the first film) hoping to make him his servant and wrench the power from Lisa (Pam Grier), who is the rightful successor of the voodoo queen. But Blacula is no one’s slave, and soon he’s making vampires and taking on the cops and anyone else who gets in his way. When Blacula finds out Lisa can bring him everlasting peace by reversing the curse he was given by Dracula all of those years ago, he seeks her out to persuade her to use her powers to do away with the curse for good.

As much as I like the first BLACULA, this one really feels like it’s getting to the meat of Blacula’s character as he is seeking out powers good and evil that can release him from this curse to live forever. Along the way, he will bite a fool or two, but really, Blacula hates what he is and wants nothing more than to be normal again. Seeing this side of Blacula is fantastic, but seeing these hopes dashed is where the real character comes in as Blacula accepts that he is and always will be a creature of the night. This is a character arc that makes SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM all the more substantial and fascinating.

Incorporating voodoo is a stroke of genius here, as it embraces a form of African American culture that is a very potent and still foreign and fascinating culture. Seeing Lisa use a voodoo doll and Willis enacting spells feels right at home in the world that was established in the original. Across the board this film is littered with fun performances, but Grier and Marshall are the highlight here. Seeing Grier’s vulnerability switch to strength highlights the actress’ chops, and Marshall was born to play the aristocratic but undeniably cool Blacula.

Some cool themes are also very much at play here in SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM, as Blacula makes quite a few comments on the state of the African American experience of the time. When approached by two thugs on the street who make fun of him for not taking the offers of their prostitute, Blacula chastises them for not learning from once being slaves themselves and enslaving their own people. Blacula himself is a slave to his curse and would do anything to get rid of it, though it seems he never will with the way this film heartbreakingly plays out. It’s a shame only one sequel to BLACULA was made, as I think this series was rich in social commentary and would have been a pretty damn fine horror franchise as well.

Director Bob Kelljan fills this film with moments of sheer terror. Reminiscent of NOSFERATU, heavy shadows and harsh lighting make some of these scenes of vampire attacks the stuff of pure nightmare. And while some of the styles are often as scary as the monsters themselves, SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM is definitely just as effective, if not more so, than the original. And while this one isn’t centered as much on singing songs and performances in clubs, it still has some fantastic animated bat sequences in the credits and in the story, as well as some scares that are bound to chill your bones.

New this week on DVD from RLJ Entertainment!

TEETH & BLOOD (2015)

Directed by Al Franklin, Pamela J. Richardson
Written by Amina Ali (collaborating writer), Al Franklin(story), Pamela J. Richardson & Glenn Plummer (collaborating writer)
Starring Glenn Plummer, Michelle Van Der Water, Sean Hutchinson, Danielle Vega, King Kedar, Frantz Turner, Marshal Hilton, Steffinnie Phrommany, Greg Eagles, Jacqui Holland, Marisha Shine, Keith Everett
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Man oh man, it really does pain me to be critical on low budgeters, but when films are as bad as TEETH & BLOOD it’s really tough not to. Tossing out any form of nuance and ripping off pretty much any and all vampire films before it is TEETH & BLOOD, which may be trying to be a modern day equivalent of BLACULA, but fails miserably.

There’s a part of me that wants to applaud this production, which obviously was a labor of love for someone. The problem is that sometimes films done on the budgetary low suffer by reaching a bit farther than it’s capable of, and this is where TEETH & BLOOD comes up short every time. The acting is really bad, aside from Glenn Plummer, who has appeared in quite a few films from high budgeters like SPEED to genre faves like the SAW series. Plummer at least carries his scenes decently, but that can’t be said for the rest of the cast, who either mumble out their words, scream their lines, or act in a cartoonish manner that would make Flava Flav blush.

The bare bones script borrows heavily from TRUE BLOOD, as vampires are a not-so-secret part of the culture. Synthetic blood and politics concerning blood availability is even discussed in a manner that makes TRUE BLOOD seem sophisticated. Add some lame effects and a story that believes its own braggadocio and you’ve got a vamp attempt that misses the throat by a mile.

If you’re looking for a goofy vampire film with an all black cast, look no further than the double feature I reviewed in the last review above. At least BLACULA and SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM attempted something new and had the acting chops to match those giant incisors the vamps were sporting. TEETH & BLOOD is a toothless attempt at vamping from beginning to end.

New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!

DARK HAUL (2014)

Directed by Daniel Wise
Written by Ben Crane
Starring Tom Sizemore, Rick Ravanello, Evalena Marie, Adrienne LaValley, Anthony Del Negro, Greg Nutcher, Steven A. Miller, Brett Lapeyrouse, Kerry McGann, Kevin Shea, Chris Dyer, and Ben Chester as the Jersey Devil!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

The Jersey Devil is the monster of the day in this SyFy feature that is a hair more interesting than most Asylum fare. Still, some pretty shitty CGI does its best to bog down a story that had some potential in DARK HAUL.

According to legend, the 13th son of the 13th son will be born both man and beast and when that happens, a sect of monks set out to trap and contain the monster, protecting humanity from its wrath. Supporting sightings of the Jersey Devil, this beast has escaped from time to time, but the beast’s sister Zib (the gorgeous redheaded Evalena Marie) is the only one with the power to tame the beast. That’s why modern monk mercs Knicks (Tom Sizemore) and Damon (Rick Ravanello) keep her close to the beast’s cage. Leading a group of heavily armed extras, Knicks and Damon are transporting the beast from one locale to another in hopes of stopping it for good, but Zib is doing everything in her power to save her brother and her own skin before they complete the journey.

Let’s focus on the good first. I really liked the way this film incorporated the various superpowers these two siblings have. Both heal quickly, but more importantly, Zib has a blue soothing power over her brother. On top of that, the beast has a hologram power that makes his foes thing what he wants them to think, so he often manipulates the situation where his guards think something is happening when it really isn’t. This power is used in some pretty impressive ways through this story, and it always feels pretty original when it does show it. Be it seeing your sister do a lapdance on you or manipulating someone into thinking there is no one in the room, the power the beast has over the faceless guards in this film is an aspect of the film that really feels creative.

But every time I wanted to praise this film for its creativity in an X-MEN-esque style power sequence, some absolutely horrible CGI shows up. The beast itself is so laughably bad that it really does hinder the film from being taken seriously. Had just a tiny bit more been spent on CG or (gasp) maybe some practical getups, I think this film would have been something to remember. But even though there are some cool ideas here and there, the shoddy Commodore-64 like animation makes it feel damn near remedial.

Sizemore is actually pretty fun here, and it’s good to see the actor back on his feet and chewing the scenery as a heavy again. Evalena Marie is ravishing, and from her looks alone she is bound to go far, but on top of that her acting is decent as well. Again, if some extra time would have been spent on the monster itself or had the director known how shitty it was going to look from the beginning and lessened the plain as day shots of the beast that look so god-awful, this might be a film I would recommend. Alas, in the end, DARK HAUL’s just a bad movie with some fun ideas and a few solid performances.

New on DVD, digital download, and On Demand from Lionsgate Home Entertainment!


Directed by Jason Cuadrado
Written by Jason Cuadrado & Wyatt Doyle (screemwriter), Jason Cuadrado (story)
Starring Corri English, Tyler Mane, Traci Lords, Van Hansis, Camillia Monet, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Tracy Perez
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Not many masked movie monsters get a chance to shine with their faces uncovered, but it appears that is a concept that is being challenged as of late. Robert Englund has given up the prosthetic route and is still pretty effective without it (check out the fun FEAR CLINIC and THE LAST SHOWING for proof of that), and former Jasons Derek Mears and Kane Hodder have both surprised the hell out of me with their performances in horror films without their trademarked hockey mask. Rob Zombie’s Michael Myers and X-MEN’s Sabretooth, Tyler Mane, is yet another movie monster getting the spotlight on his face, and his performance in DEVIL MAY CALL is the best part of this film.

Revolving around your stereotypical crisis call center, a blind crisis operator named Sam (Corri English) is showing new operator Jess (Van Hansis) the ropes to take over before she leaves to go back to school to get her Masters. This is not good news to John (Mane), who has become reliant on Sam’s voice to calm him down when he gets angry at the world. Throughout the film, we see snippets of John’s apartment where screams can be heard from the next room. Though we don’t see a lot of violence at this place, it’s suggested, and when John finds out Sam is leaving, he tracks down the call center and goes on a murderous rampage on the operators.

So, yeah, the story isn’t the most original or the most believable as anyone with a lick of therapeutic sense would have referred John to serious therapy long ago as his attachment to Sam’s soothing voice can only do so much. The fact that John could track down a center is another thing that stretches the believability here, as most of the centers have a pretty strict anonymity policy. Still, steps have to be skipped in order for John to go on a rampage, so I guess I can give this one a pass as it does pick up quite a bit once Mane to go on the prowl.

Mane himself is great here as John. He’s full of rage and anger, snarling and bashing through things, but never is it so over the top that it feels like a WWF show or some kind of superhuman tantrum. He’s just a big guy who can do a lot of damage. The addition of the glasses to John’s character even makes him more believable as the flawed man with a fractured mind.

This doesn’t save the film from some horribly awkward and downright bad performances from the rest of the cast. Traci Lords appears here as a middle aged cat lady whose every line must have something to do with some kind of cat-ism (this loses its luster almost immediately). Other characters are pretty clichéd as well, making the whole film perk up whenever Mane loafs into the frame. DEVIL MAY CALL is pretty by the numbers, but it does serve as another indication that Tyler Mane is much more than a monster-sized man. He’s also a pretty decent actor that I would like to see given more opportunities to show his talents.

New this week on DVD and digital download from Indican Pictures!


Directed by Andrew P. Jones
Written by Andrew P. Jones
Starring Jeffrey Johnson, Linara Washington, Charley Koontz, John Zderko, Bill Lithgow, Dee Wallace, Peter Mayer
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

This little ghost-hunting goodie is going to be entertaining for those who love those types of shows where you follow experts in the paranormal around in the dark looking for things that go bump in the night. But unlike those shows which rarely produce any evidence, in HAUNTING OF CELLBLOCK 11 the ghosts get real.

I’m a fan of those ghostbusting shows like GHOST HUNTERS, and what I liked about HAUNTING OF CELLBLOCK 11 was the way it portrayed the team as real people. We get a little peek behind the scenes as Dee Wallace makes a cameo as the producer of the show who is sick of the investigations resulting in nothing and insists that either the team turn in a memorable brush with the paranormal or they can pack their bags. Desperate but determined, the team has a haunted prison case plopped into their laps and before they know it, there are some real happenings paranormalling about.

What I liked about this film is the way it follows the blueprint of a regular ghost hunter show, with the opening explaining the sordid history of the prison, then on to the interviews, then the set up of the equipment, and finally on to the investigation itself. For much of the film, it feels like a real investigation. When the ghosts do show up, there’s a backstory there and the haunts are even more effective because of them. Though there is a bit of reliance on CG, especially with the overused stretched out mouth routine that’s common in so many of these types of ghost films for some reason, the film does take advantage of its ghostly set with plenty of spooky corners and open cells to hold all sorts of spooks and specters.

Having worked on a ghost-hunting show right after I graduated college, I have a special place in my heart for these types of shows and the horror movies that use them as a backdrop. HAUNTING OF CELLBLOCK 11 is effective in that it builds a great backstory and resolves it in a satisfying manner. While the budget is low and the acting is a bit choppy at times, HAUNTING OF CELLBLOCK 11 is a ghost-hunting procedural that hits some of the right notes in terms of scares and atmosphere.

New this week On Demand from Freestyle Digital Media!

JINN (2014)

Directed by Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad
Written by Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad
Starring Serinda Swan, Ray Park, Faran Tahir, William Atherton, Dominic Rains, Milica Govich, & Walter Phelan as the Jinn!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

According to the mythology mapped out in the opening moments of this film, in the beginning there was Man (beings of clay), Angels (beings of light), and Jinn (beings of fire). When the earth was given to Man, this pissed off the Jinn and they’ve been staging a war with the Angels for our place in God’s favor for centuries. This is a pretty epic way to open a story, and the ambition of the filmmakers behind JINN is its most admirable asset. This filmmaker spent a lot of money and had a broad vision for this film; it’s just that I think inexperience might have hindered this project, making it less successful than what was intended.

After a brief conflict between a man and a Jinn centuries ago, we skip to the present as a man and wife are haunted by visions of floating shadow men. When the dangers begin intensifying, they are guided to a church where they meet two holy men (Ray “Darth Maul” Park and William “This man has no penis!” Atherton) who provide us info dumps at all the right times to guide our heroes on their journey. Everything leads to an all out battle for the fate of the world against a powerful Jinn.

As I said, this film has moxy out the ears. There’s something about making a film that takes its inspiration from the Bible and other holy works that takes balls, and I think one day, director/writer Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad will be a force to be reckoned with behind the camera. The story shoots for the moon and often succeeds in playing out big expansive scenes.

But the film lacks focus. Is it a superhero-esque film? There are all kinds of superpowered elements at play with Jinn, angels, and magic weapons galore. Then again, does it want to be a fantasy action film? Because the elements at play really aren’t that scary, thought it really does try to be. There certainly are a lot of action elements like car chases and foot chases and all types of set pieces involving intrigue and suspense, but there are attempts at making this a horror film as the Jinn themselves are often portrayed in a pretty scary manner, first appearing in shadow then clouding up and flying all over the place. But the fast pace and attention to action rather than built suspense kills a lot of potential for solid scares. In the end, JINN tries to be all of these things and in attempting to tick off all of the boxes, it ends up hurting the film.

Trying to be too much and not really having the talent to match the vision is the main problem here. The effects here are absolutely astounding at times. Seeing the Jinn swirl around followed by a trail of clouds is rendered really well by the effects team. Effects are scattered throughout the film and really elevate this from unfocused to watchable, as this is imagery I haven’t seen before. As much as I want to see new talent in horror, I think horror filmmakers shouldn’t try to do too much too soon. This was too much story for the director/writer to handle. He does a decent job, but had the story been scaled back a bit, I think it would have been much stronger. Instead JINN tries really hard to be a big budget big leaguer, but it just doesn’t have what it takes to deliver.

Recently played in Chicago from Glass City Films and Cinedigm and available now on VHX and Vimeo on Demand!


Directed by John Klein
Written by Ben Kurstin
Starring Sara Gorsky, Cole Simon, Tanya Thai McBride
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

A while back at Chicago’s Fantastic Fest, I happened upon a booth with a simple flyer advertising a new film called CHRYSALIS. Intrigued by the comic book-esque illustration of a pair of survivors dressed for a harsh winter staring down what looks to be a decimated apocalyptical setting, I asked the representatives at the desk about it and my interest grew as they talked about the upcoming project. Fast forward six months and the film is complete and had its premiere two days ago in Chicago. This is yet another reason why these festivals are so cool. If not for that festival, I would have never known about CHRYSALIS and most likely would have missed out on a truly harrowing and genuinely heart-wrenching theatrical experience.

Retitled BATTLE APOCALYPSE, which sounds more like a MAD MAX ripoff rather than an end of the world character study, Josh (Cole Simon) and Penelope (Sara Gorsky) are a pair of survivors making their way across a seemingly decimated and uninhabited landscape with what seems to be a purpose, but ends up being simply to survive. The two are obviously very close, with Josh assuming the dominant role of leader and Penelope happily following Josh’s lead. But this is a caring relationship--one which doesn’t seem to be based solely on who’s leading who, but one sincerely formed out of a strong love for one another. In the opening moments, Josh narrates the distance they have crossed, the things (or lack thereof) they have seen, and their feelings about it all. We also see that the land is not only populated by packs of roaming and hungry dogs, but infected zombie-like creatures.

Unlike most zombie films, this isn’t a showcase of gore or the number of zombies or even identifying what other group the zombies are up against. BATTLE APOCALYPSE is much more like THE WALKING DEAD, as it is about survival and how close and even dependent these two people can become on each other in this dire situation. Penelope most definitely relies on Josh to be the protector, but later in the film, it’s evident that Penelope is equally important in this equation as she gives Josh purpose in that he exists as her protector. While this might make for a weak characterization of Penelope, actress Sara Gorsky does a fantastic job of giving her quirks and personality enough to make you understand why Josh would be so much in love with her. When another survivor Abira (Tanya Thai McBride) shows up, Penelope is immediately suspicious, not only because she is a stranger, but because she is seen as competition and seeing how Abira is pretty good at taking care of herself, Penelope is smart enough to realize that the burden would be less if Josh had a relationship with her. These deeply realized emotional conflicts make BATTLE APOCALYPSE much more emotionally depthy than your run of the mill zombie flick.

But it’s not all emotional resonance and deep feelings. BATTLE APOCALYPSE has some absolutely terrifying moments throughout the film as the zombies are used smartly, always a reminder of the threat that is just steps behind these survivors. There’s an especially excruciatingly scary series of events that happen towards the end of this film where the use of absolute darkness and flickering flashlights make my bones shake and rattle. The intensity of these final scenes where the survivors are running around in the dark with just a single beam of light between them and the advancing zombies achieves scares few zombie films are able to accomplish.

At this point, it takes something pretty special for me to be impressed with a zombie movie, but BATTLE APOCALYPSE absolutely blew me away. The level of acting, as well as the deft use of character by Ben Kurstin and the solid direction bu John Klein, make BATTLE APOCALYPSE much more than the typical zombie fare overpopulating the genre. By focusing on survival rather than gore and body count, they’ve successfully made a film that stands out and above the rest of its genre and deserves to be seen. Though it lacks star power and huge distribution, BATTLE APOCALYPSE is one of the strongest zombie films of the year.

See it. BATTLE APOCALYPSE is a film that reminds us why zombies can be so scary.

New this week on DVD and On Demand from Revolver Entertainment!


Directed by Mauricio Chernovetzky, Mark Devendorf
Written by Mauricio Chernovetzky & Mark Devendorf
Starring Eleanor Tomlinson, Stephen Rea, Katie Silverman, Erika Marozsán, Jules Willcox, Julia Pietrucha, Jacek Lenartowicz, Laszlo More
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

No high body count or gratuitous blood and gore is necessary for a good scary horror film. Take ANGELS OF DARKNESS, for example.

A young emo girl, Lara (Elanor Tomlinson), moves into a Hungarian castle in a town called Styria with her father (Stephen Rea) who is trying to renovate the castle’s many murals and architecture. While wandering around the grounds, she sees a young girl walking in the road and a car attempting to run her down. When Lara saves the girl, she begins a seemingly innocent romance with the waif, who is called Carmilla (played by Julia Pietrucha). Anyone familiar with the tale of Carmilla knows what comes next. Those who don’t only need to know that it involves witchcraft, vampirism, ghosts, and suicide.

A lot of this film dedicates its time to developing the relationship between Lara and Carmilla as the two girls titter and giggle behind her father’s back, sneaking out for a skinny dip and roaming the countryside trying to avoid the superstitious townsfolk who look about as fun as a hole in the ground. Those without patience might not want to stick around for this girlie stuff as it does seem to teeter on the edge of being too adolescent to be taken seriously, but what makes this work is the sophisticated and particularly adult way the material is handled. Lara is a cutter, listens to emo rock, and spends most of her time alone in her room. Seeing her having difficulties dealing with the death of her mother and her relationship with her father are never boring, as Tomlinson and Rea are doing great here in their respective roles, so even though a lot of this stuff is teen drama material, the top tier talent putting it on makes it all digestible. Toss in some townsfolk who like to unearth and behead corpses and things never get dull.

I have to mention the palette or lack thereof in this film, as ANGELS OF DARKNESS is a very moody little film. If the mopey music and gothic architecture doesn’t get you in the mood to gaze at the ground and ponder existence, then the lack of any kind of color will sour your day for sure. It doesn’t make for the most chipper of films, but it does convey the sense of palpable dread that Lara and her father feel.

In the last half hour this film really picks up, and while normally I’m not so forgiving of films that wait until near the end to turn up the pace, this one has enough strong performances to hold the slower moments. But in the end, when the shit hits the fan and Lara realizes just what Carmilla really is, it really does turn into a haunting little film. Those without the stomach for teen angst and drama might want to turn the other way, but ANGELS OF DARKNESSS deals with the concept of teen suicide in a pretty sophisticated manner, incorporating age-old mythological monsters and legends into the mix pretty seamlessly. And as kid-friendly as the first hour of this film is, it gets ultra-dark and somewhat gory by the end, which redeemed ANGELS OF DARKNESS in my book.

New this week on BluRay/DVD and digital download from RLJ Entertainment, Cine Coup, and Raven Banner!

WOLFCOP (2014)

Directed by Lowell Dean
Written by Lowell Dean
Starring Leo Fafard, Amy Matysio, Jonathan Cherry, Sarah Lind, Aidan Devine, Corinne Conley, Jesse Moss, James Whittingham, Ryland Alexander
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Much has been said by myself and others at this site leading up to the release of WOLFCOP. For me, every pic and clip I saw from the film looked altogether fun and cool, but you never know. Having not seen the film, I could have been the victim of a coolly edited trailer and precise pics and it wouldn’t be the first time I was fooled by an ad campaign that a movie was better than it actually was. When I had a chance to see WOLFCOP over the weekend, I approached with caution, having been burned before, but with hope that it would be as cool as it seemed.

I’m so happy to report that I wasn’t disappointed. WOLFCOP is not the scariest of films. It’s not the best acted or best directed, though those are pretty strong and evidence that writer/director Lowell Dean knows how to work within budgetary parameters as well as stretch the dollar in areas worth stretching. But what WOLFCOP is is fun, through and through.

Reminiscent of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, which not only has a title that is fun but is a film that delivers that fun, WOLFCOP backs the fun truck up and unloads. Beginning with a likable loser of a star in Lou (Leo Fafard), a down and out police deputy drunk more than he is sober and barely clinging to his job, the story follows Lou as he discovers the existence of a cult and falls victim to their witchy rituals, finding himself cursed with the mark of the beast and forced to get all wolfy as the moon grows full (which in this film seems to happen around 10:01PM). But though Lou’s wolfy state is monstrous, it’s only the tip of the iceberg in seedy and evil behavior that is spreading in his small town. It’s up to Wolfcop and his plucky fellow officer Tina (the beautiful Amy Matysio, who recently was seen in space with Christian Slater in the sci fi snoozer STRANDED) to take on the scores of baddies.

The cast of WOLFCOP, though made of relative unknowns, is solid. Leo Fafard is great as the drunken cop who seems to be fueled by alcohol. His sunken eyes and lackadaisical posture suggests a cop on his last leg. While not a lot of explanation went into why Lou has staggered down this path bathed in booze, his immediate reaction to and sudden acceptance of the curse is pretty fun to see. Stronger here is Matysio as Tina, Lou’s fellow police officer. She is the brains and experience on the unit, picking up the slack often left by Lou and surprised at his new lease on life once the curse takes hold.

But with this being a werewolf movie, let’s get down to what’s important—the effects. And the effects in WOLFCOP are spectacular. The spectacle of the transformation is always an important factor in every werewolf film. Here, they choose to go the route where Lou actually tears through his skin in order to transform. It’s a gory mess with lots of tearing flesh, oozing, pussing, and gore everywhere. The furry appendages actually burst through the skin as it melts away in clumps. It’s no AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, but it is memorable and somewhat different (especially with the shit CG werewolves we’ve been getting lately). The carnage Wolfcop lets loose is also impressive and limps are lopped off, claws slice through flesh like tissue paper, and in the most memorable scene, a man’s face is ripped off and he runs around as a screaming skull until he bleeds out. All of these effects appear to be pretty practical and well done.

If there’s a silver bullet weakening WOLFCOP it’s the rather generic villains who end up getting more interesting towards the end, but so much time is spent having Wolfcop getting used to his transformation (and then more time is dedicated to a gratuitous and hilarious lovemaking scene) that the villains feel rather cardboard in the end. I also think more time could have been dedicated to Wolfcop’s initial crawl into the bottle and why that is. But as I said before, the real focus here is the transformation into the wolf, so there’s not a lot of time left for these details.

But what we get is a whole lot of fun. From the goofy yet cool Wolfcopmobile to the outstanding effects to some pretty fancy character work from the leads, WOLFCOP is a film too fun to miss and should please folks who like a little humor injected into their classic horror tropes.

New this week on BluRay/DVD and digital download from Dark Sky Films!


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, those featuring 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, though 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 of 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, who hit all the right buttons as well. In terms of werewolf films this year, LATE PHASES is leader of the pack!

And finally…I reviewed HER HEART STILL BEATS in my Short Cuts section a while back and now it’s finally available for all to see online. It’s a modern day version of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Telltale Heart” and is a pretty fantastic one at that. You can read my full review of the short here and enjoy the whole thing below. Here’s Christopher Di Nunzio’s HER HEART STILL BEATS!

Her Heart Still Beats from Christopher Di Nunzio on Vimeo.

See ya next week, folks!

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

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