Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week, be on the look out for masked killers, zombies, vampires, witches, ghosts, bears, and uncategorizable monstrosities! But first, there’s this!
I reviewed THE DIVINE TRAGEDIES a while back and found it to be a whole helluva lot of fun (see for yourself in my review here). The film’s got a new trailer with a few quotes from a very familiar Bug, so I thought I’d share. When a release date is set up, I’ll definitely let folks know when and where you can see this one as it really is one of the cooler horror films of the year. Until then, you’ll have settle for this new trailer below!
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Book Creeport: GOSPEL OF THE FLESH Novel (2013)
Retro-review: MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970)
Retro-review: HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002)
BLOOD CREEK WOODSMAN (2012)
A CRY FROM WITHIN (2014)
THE WALKING DECEASED (2015)
Advance Review: DANNY’S DOOMSDAY (2014)
And finally…Adam Schindler’s KILLING FLOOR: UNCOVERED!
Available for purchase here!
GOSPEL OF THE FLESH Novel (2013)Written by Edgar Dear
Find out more about this book on Facebook here!
Reviewed by BottleImp
In general I’m not a huge fan of the zombie/classical literature mashup subgenre that was kicked off by the success of PRIDE & PREDJUDICE & ZOMBIES. I found that book (and the others that followed in its wake) to be pointless, inane and possessing all the subtlety of a Troma film. So when I was sent a teaser for GOSPEL OF THE FLESH, my insides initially shriveled at the prospect of reading what I had assumed would be yet another in the line of unimaginative mashups, this time transforming Jesus Christ into a kung fu-dealing zombie annihilator. But praise the lord, GOSPEL OF THE FLESH takes the road less traveled in the subgenre—a high road filled with subtlety and complexity, and above all, true horror.
The titular Gospel is the crux of this story: a crumbling manuscript discovered in the basement of a college museum is thought to be a lost Gospel of the Bible. The discoverer of the text is contacted by an enigmatic agency who claim to be seeking proof of a disturbing truth behind the stories of Jesus that are the canon of Christianity—a truth that the Vatican has done its utmost to suppress.
GOSPEL OF THE FLESH is narrated by the discoverer’s son as he listens to his father recount the story from his hospital bed; his (mostly incredulous) narration is interspersed with excerpts from the Gospel itself. This fragmented way of storytelling enhances the mystery of the Gospel, as the reader is given tantalizing clues and glimpses at this unfamiliar take on a very familiar story, beginning with John the Baptist preaching a strange sermon in the wilderness, warning against a disease of the body that cannot be healed.
The power of this book lies in its serious take on what could have been a ridiculous premise. Edgar Dear never winks at the reader, never plants his tongue in his cheek and never cheapens the writing with gratuitous anachronisms. This is not some over-the-top, DAWN OF THE DEAD-style gorefest—if anything, GOSPEL OF THE FLESH is more akin to the understated moodiness of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. One comes away from this story with a true feeling of creeping dread and unease rather than out and out horror, and that’s due to the subtle way that Dear weaves the zombie tropes into the stories of Jesus.
If I have one criticism of this book, it’s that GOSPEL OF THE FLESH is frustratingly short. I felt like there could have been much more leading up to the Gospel’s final revelation—but on the other hand, additional detail could have easily destroyed the fragile web of hints and insinuations that gives the book so much of its mood. So I guess if a book leaves you at the end wanting more, the author has done his job right. GOSPEL OF THE FLESH is a welcome touch of elegance in a mass of crude zombie fiction, and well worth reading for anyone who appreciates the subtle side of horror.
When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.
Retro-review: Available now from MVD Visual/ARROW Video!
MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970)aka BURN, WITCH, BURN, WITCHES ARE TORTURED TO DEATH
Directed by Michael Armstrong
Written by Michael Armstrong and Adrian Hoven
Starring Herbert Lom, Udo Kier, Olivera Vuco, Reggie Nalder, Herbert Fux
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
UK’s ARROW Films are now available for America! Woo hoo! And MARK OF THE DEVIL, one of the coolest, most graphic and evil witchfinder films is available through a partnership between ARROW and MVD Visual.
The subject of witch hunts and witchfinding always fascinated me in that it not only shows how susceptible people can be to superstition, but also how absolute power corrupts absolutely. That was the lesson I learned from THE CONQUEROR WORM aka WITCHFINDER GENERAL, it’s the lesson THE DEVILS taught us, and for the most part, it’s what MARK OF THE DEVIL passes on to the viewer as well. While my favorite of the bunch will always be Vincent Price’s turn as Matthew Hopkins, I also feel that WITCHFINDER GENERAL is the most entertaining of the bunch. One thing is for sure: watching any of these films, it is all too apparent that torture porn is definitely not something new. And while the term seems to be the standard response to any film these days that involves screaming women and sharp instruments, I think it’s worth noting that these types of films had been made for decades before the SAW franchise was even thought about.
MARK OF THE DEVIL opens with what has become the standard of witch hunt films: a scene of torture. Having been accused of witchery, a group of women are burned, stretched on the rack, whipped and stabbed as a means to make them confess their sins. SALEM’S LOT’s Reggie Nalder plays the local Witchfinder, who seems to take way too much joy in his job. When a famous Witchfinder played by Herbert Lom makes his way through town, Nalder is threatened and put out of a job, resulting in a clash of Witchfinders. At the same time the Witchfinder’s apprentice, played by an especially young Udo Kier, falls for a local gypsy girl, Olivera Vuco, and betrays his master when she is accused of witchcraft.
The story is very operatic, with sweeping music (which is all too repetitive) and lush landscapes of the Austrian countryside. The romance between Kier and the breathtaking Vuco is amped to laughable levels, with many a moment focused on Kier longingly fixing his dreamy eyes on Vuco’s many curves and batting lashes.
The film is a devilish one, though. The scenes of torture are especially brutal. While Matthew Reeves’ WITCHFINDER GENERAL seemed to focus much more on character and Ken Russell’s THE DEVILS on eroticism, this one seems to be more interested in multiple and varied scenes of torture. Both man and woman alike are put through all forms of acts which explore the amount of pain a person can take, utilizing much of the Witchfinder’s trickery, such as a knife which retracts into the handle to indicate guilt.
The cast in this film is what makes it worth checking out. Kier and Vuco carry the film, but I was most impressed with Reggie Nalder’s turn as the rival Witchhunter. His rat-like face filled with burn scars makes for an amazing villain; it’s no wonder he was chosen as the Nosferatu in SALEM’S LOT. While he only hissed in that film, here he shows a broad range of emotion as his job is made obsolete by the arrival of Lom. Lom is strong here, but ultimately is overshadowed by the attractive young couple and the villainy of Nalder.
One of the gimmicks that went along with this film is that all audience members were given a barf bag just in case they couldn’t take the intensity of this film. It’s safe to say the barf bag packaged with this DVD was left unopened, and I can’t see any modern day ghoul needing it. Despite the amount of torture that goes on, this is a relatively bloodless film, relying more on the screams of the victims rather than copious amount of gore to unsettle.
If you’re a fan of witchery and the persecution of it in film, MARK OF THE DEVIL is going to be a must for completists like me. It’s more intense than WITCHFINDER GENERAL (which is the superior of all Witchfinder films) and less uncomfortably erotic than THE DEVILS, but the stellar cast saves it from being just one of the earliest installments of torture porn.
Special features on this include a commentary by Michael Armstrong, a doc called “Mark of the Times” which talks about the abundance of witch-hunting films that were released in the late 60’s and 70’s, another doc called “Hallmark of the Devil” which talks about the American release of the film. “Mark of the Devil: Then and Now” looks at locations the film was made; brief interviews with Udo Kier, Michael Holm, Herbert Fux, Gaby Fuchs, Ingeborg Schoner, and Herbert Lon himself are included, as well as some outtakes, trailers, and stills gallery. If you’re a fan of the film, this BluRay release from Arrow has it all.
Retro-review: New this week as a BluRay Box Set: HALLOWEEN: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION available from Scream Factory and Anchor Bay Entertainment!
HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002)aka HALLOWEEN 8, HALL8WEEN, HALLOWEEN H2K, HALLOWEEN: HOMECOMING, HALLOWEEN: EVIL NEVER DIES, HALLOWEEN: MICHAEL MYERS.COM
Directed by Rick Rosenthal
Written by Larry Brand & Sean Hood
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Busta Rhymes, Bianca Kajlich, Katee Sackhoff, Sean Patrick Thomas, Daisy McCrackin, Luke Kirby, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Ryan Merriman, Tyra Banks, Billy Kay, Gus Lynch, Lorena Gale, & Brad Loree as Michael Myers,
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
If movies had bones, this installment wouldn’t have a genuine bone in it. And if you’re looking for a real reason the slasher film died in the 90s after a lengthy lifespan during the eighties, you can see HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION as a clear example of it. Studios realized that these franchises can make a lot of money, so this film obviously was produced by committee and not by anything remotely creative. One look at the SCREAM-esque cookie cutter ensemble cover of HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION and you know this is not going to be a memorable installment.
The premise of HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION is all over the place. It starts out pretty much mopping up the mess that the series was left in after HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER (reviewed here), which had Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode lopping off Michael Myers’ head with an axe in the final moments. After a quick song and dance about Myers uncharacteristically putting his mask on a guard and it was actually the guard’s head that was whacked off, Myers tracks down Laurie in a mental institution where he offs her unremarkably in the first five minutes. Not only is this opener a lame way for such an important character in this series to go, but it also makes no sense as Laurie rigs a crane on top of the asylum to trap Myers before foolishly trying to reach out to him and take off his mask. Worse yet, Myers sits still and lets her make the attempt before nabbing her himself and turning the tables. Strode plants a kiss on Myers’ masked face and falls to her death. So once that loose end is awkwardly cut free, we move into the real plot of the film. For me, I would have loved to have just seen Myers chasing Laurie around the asylum for the whole film. This would have been familiar territory, as director Rick Rosenthal directed the second HALLOWEEN that basically was a long chase scene through a hospital. Apparently, Rosenthal and the myriad of studio help didn’t want to repeat themselves or make anything like any of the previous installments, so instead they went with a reality show motif.
The thing is, by the time 2002 came around, the reality show angle was not really anything revolutionary. It was safe. It was what older folks thoughts younger kids wanted. This film is filled with things older folks think is hip, cool, and in, which is one of its biggest faults. Because the SCREAM series was still running its course, everyone is horror movie savvy, offering up a snarky remark anytime something happens because everyone says something cool or funny in times of peril, right? The film centers around an inane concept of a pair of producers who come up with a reality show to put a group of kids with cameras in the Myers home and broadcast it on the interwebs. There are no characters in this film, just clichés; the scummy anarchist, the straightlaced black guy who likes to cook, the quirky wannabe starlet, the virginal final girl, the horny guy, and of course, since LL Cool J was such a major part of the last film, to appeal to the “urban” audience, Busta Rhymes gets top billing. This is a shame, because there are some decent actors in this film. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’s Katee Sackhoff is front and center as the quirky friend, though for some reason, with the lipstick she wears she looks like she has a mouth that could swallow your cranium (a thought more frightening than all scares in this movie combined). Sean Patrick Thomas (SAVE THE LAST DANCE) is a decent actor, and Thomas Ian Nicholas was ok in AMERICAN PIE. Even final girl Sara (Bianca Kajlich) does a decent job with what she’s got. But most of the cast are relegated to clichéd dialog and clichéd actions; for example, since Thomas’ character is first seen cooking, every time he is on screen, his every line has to be about cooking and how if only Michael would have more protein in his diet, he never would have been a murderer. Everyone has a theory in this film as to what set Michael off, which is an ongoing theme of the film. The characters do nothing but hypothesize as to why Michael Myers did what he did as they wander around the house, which is fine and dandy, but the film never even makes an attempt to answer. In fact, it makes things unnecessarily confusing by having Busta and Tyra Banks’ characters plant all kinds of horror movie props around the house to suggest an abusive childhood (something the first 7 in this series never even touched upon…until Rob Zombie’s films, that is). So you don’t know what to think about the weird things found in the film, whether they are props planted by an egotistical rapper and a supermodel or not.
Busta Rhymes is unbearable to watch in this film, from the way he over-enunciates his lines to the way he obviously negotiated not to go out like a punk. If this film had an ounce of insight, it would have had Michael rip his arms off as soon as Busta busts out some lame looking and ill-choreographed (ill as in horrible, not ill as in good) kung fu moves on Michael. Alas, like LL, Busta survives to take on other slashers just as lamely. I also noticed that Busta likes to talk really close into everyone’s face in this film, especially when he’s talking with women, which had to be uncomfortable for the cast working with him.
Since BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was popular, they threw in uninspired found footage. Things get meta right off the bat a la SCREAM, because that’s what all movies did, and since everyone was starting to get into that newfangled internet, it is prominently featured in this film as well. You know what is not a part of HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION? Anything that made the original HALLOWEEN so good. There’s no mood set. No tension. The score even goes all electronic instead of sticking with the effective synth Carpenter tune, which is only used during the credits. Any form of pacing is tossed out the window, as a kill has to happen every five minutes whether it fits into the story or not, and everything wraps up with Michael falling victim in a way that only makes him look weak and the cast weaker for being afraid of him.
Special features include alternate endings as bad as, if not worse than, the original one, and needless deleted scenes. There’s also a web cam special, storyboards, set tours, an interview with Jamie Lee who is a sport for being in the film, but obviously knows the film is shit, trailers, and a featurette on how the head cams work!
Those ad wizards who were spanking around the idea that the next FRIDAY THE 13TH should have been found footage should look no further than this film to see why that’s a dumb idea. I’m not saying risks shouldn’t be taken, but swiping motifs from popular films of the moment has never resulted in anything entertaining. This marks the beginning of the end of all things good and worthwhile in this HALLOWEEN Complete Collection, with only Rob Zombie’s reworkings left to check out. So while HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION was one of the worst of the entire series, it still has nothing on the wrong detours Zombie took the franchise. But that, my friends, is a Halloween review for another day.
HALLOWEEN II (1981)
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982)
HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988)
HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1989)
HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS/HALLOWEEN 666 (1995)
HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER (1998)
Available for purchase here!
BLOOD CREEK WOODSMAN (2013)Directed by Joe Sherlock
Written by John Bowker
Starring Daren Ackerman, Annie Bardonski, Jeremiah Benjamin, William Bivens, Amanda Bounds, Dave Bowers, Tyler David, Darla Doom, Ward Frederick, Jamie Gurrad, Jake Hueni, Bryn Kristi, Brent Mahoney, Michelle Mahoney, Sophia Maria, Morgan Mayhem, Maren McGuire, Rob Merickel, Madeline Morgan, Bob Olin, Mike Potter, Joe Scott, Tom Stedham, Robert L. Sumner, Liana Williams, & Adam Paris
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I reviewed Joe Sherlock’s DRIFTER a while back ( click here for that review), and while I gave the film props for having a solid story and do-it-yourself gumption, I got flack for pointing out that some of the full-figured ladies appeared in the buff throughout the film, and how it was a bit off-putting at times. Watching BLOOD CREEK WOODSMAN, it seems to be Sherlock’s thing to make sure that the larger-chested of the fairer sex be represented in various states of undress through the films he makes, which is fine and dandy. But to put it bluntly, the nudity in these films really isn’t what I come to horror for and any film that functions simply to get every woman shirtless any time she is on screen doesn’t impress me.
That said, as with DRIFTER, the main strength of BLOOD CREEK WOODSMAN lies in its story. John Bowker (who appeared in DRIFTER) shares Sherlock’s gift for narrative, leading the viewer on a blood-soaked rampage and a mystery involving just who is under that Jason in F13Part2 baghead doing all of that rampaging. While we are given clues, we are also given some fun red herrings along the way, which makes this jaunt through the backwoods move at a brisk and intriguing pace.
Also as with DRIFTER, Sherlock and Bowker seem to be making films with their buddies and wives in the roles. The acting is again pretty amateurish, with a lot of really cardboard deliveries of most of the lines. Again, women seem to be cast on cup size and as to whether or not they will take their clothes off, not because of their acting talents. It’s a way to cast your film, but don’t be surprised if Oscar doesn’t come knocking at your door.
I wasn’t too surprised by who the Blood Creek Woodsman turned out to be, and to tell you the truth, DRIFTER does have a much stronger story than this one. Having experienced a ton of DIY horror, Sherlock is very talented at assembling a diverse cast and whittling a fun story out of them. Still, many who prefer the big budget stuff wouldn’t even give this one a chance, and that’s too bad, as some of my most fond memories from my childhood come from guffawing with my friends over low fi horror films. If you’re a glutton for these type of micro-dimers, BLOOD CREEK WOODSMAN’s got plenty of gore, boobs, and mystery to keep you entertained.
New this week on DVD and digital download from Breaking Glass Pictures!
A CRY FROM WITHIN (2014)Directed by Zach Miller, Deborah Twiss
Written by Deborah Twiss
Starring Eric Roberts, Cathy Moriarty, Deborah Twiss, James McCaffrey, Sydney McCann, Matthew McCann, Tom Pelphrey, Robert Vaughn, Pat Patterson, Journey Gonzalez, Angelique Marion Berry, Sibyl Santiago, Judi Beecher, Harris Doran, Jack William Marshall
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Man, this is one odd pickle of a movie, and I’m pretty sure it’s not the good kind of odd, though in some ways, I prefer this type of odd to bland and everyday. Still, this was a weird one.
Eric Roberts and Deborah Twiss star as Jonathan and Cecile, parents of two children and somewhat successful in their careers. After Cecile loses her baby, they decide to move from the city to a quieter life in the country. When their family car breaks down outside of an old house in the middle of nowhere, they see it as fate when the woman at the home, Alice (Cathy Moriarty), allows them inside and offers to rent it out to them. Alice fails to mention that her ailing mother is upstairs and that ghostly noises are occurring throughout the home. Cecile and Jonathan don’t notice it at first either, but their young daughter does. Soon the family begins to unravel as Cecile becomes a horndog wanting another baby, Jonathan becomes more distracted, and the kids begin to see and hear all kinds of things around the home. Thinking their family is in danger from the ghostly activity, they seek out Alice, her drooling mother, and a weird priest who won’t take no for an answer to get rid of the spirits from the home.
By that description, this is your typical haunted house flick. A family moves into a new home, finds out its haunted, and then is tormented until they have to leave or the spirits are forced out. But this isn’t your typical haunted house flick. First off, because of some jarring juxtapositions between Alice and her mother and Jonathan and Cecile’s family drama, this film fails to have a firm footing, establishing when and where the action is taking place. Even screentime is shared between the two stories until they intersect about a half hour in, and not much is given as to how they are going to relate to one another. For a second I thought they were taking places at different times, but that turned out to be inaccurate. Because of this ambiguity in the first moments of the film, it failed to really give me a full understanding of what was happening, and that’s not a good way to start off your film. It feels as if the filmmakers wanted to make two full movies and couldn’t decide which one to do, so they jammed both together.
On top of that, Eric Roberts is just plain weird in this film. He’s so well coiffed, tan, and trendy. He doesn’t look at all like a loving father of two and down to earth husband. He looks like…well, he looks like Eric Roberts and is about as distant as it comes in terms of genuinely relating to the rest of the family, which makes the whole family under threat thing kind of hard to believe.
Add on some clichéd haunted house stuff mixed with Deborah Twiss (who not only stars, but also had a hand in directing) acting overly horny for the entire film, and this is just a weird story altogether. And while a final sort of exorcism is an all too common way to end a film like this, the true ending is pretty unique, albeit unbelievable. So if you’re looking for a truly unconventional haunted house film, A CRY FROM WITHIN really is it. I just can’t say it’s particularly good, but it truly is something I haven’t seen before, and coming from someone who has rented out space with many a haunted house film, that’s tough for me to say.
New this week in select theaters, On Demand, and digital download from ARC Entertainment!
THE WALKING DECEASED (2015)aka WALKING WITH THE DEAD
Directed by Scott Dow
Written by Tim Ogletree
Starring Tim Ogletree, Joey Oglesby, Dave Sheridan, Sophia Taylor Ali, Danielle Garcia, Troy Ogletree, Andrew Pozza, Mason Dakota Galyon, Jacqui Holland, Martha Prentiss, Trenton Rostedt
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
When I look back on AIRPLANE, I am often blown away at how the film took a popular trend in cinema (the airport disaster movie) and made it better by a) having a gripping yet ludicrous story, and b) packing every second of the film with comedy, and most importantly c) packing it with comedy that worked. It was a smart film and a good one because while it made fun, it was smart with the comedy. The proof is that more people these days know about AIRPLANE than the movies it spoofed. THE WALKING DECEASED tries to be for zombie movies what AIRPLANE did for airplane disaster flicks, but just doesn’t achieve a b or c as in order to do so.
The story is an amalgamation of every popular zombie movie in recent memory. Dave Sheridan, known best as the shirtless, mulleted kung fu guy in GHOST WORLD, plays Sheriff Lincoln, who wakes up 29 days after the zombie apocalypse to meet Green Bay (Tim Ogletree) and Chicago (Joey Oglesby), who are making their way across the country with two con girls, Brooklyn (Sophia Taylor Ali) and Harlem (Danielle Garcia), who are doing the same. Toss in a conscious zombie in a red hoodie named Romeo (Troy Ogletree), a dirty hillbilly named Darnell (Andrew Pozza) and a foul-mouthed kid, Chris (Mason Dakota Galyon), and you’ve got all the bases covered as far as popular zombie lore. There is even an appearance by two Englishmen who are dead ringers for Shaun and Ed from SHAUN OF THE DEAD, which is about as far back in time as this film goes to “pay homage” to the “greats” in zombie movies.
Like the SCARY MOVIE franchise and its ilk, THE WALKING DECEASED makes the mistake of thinking that merely aping a popular movie or even worse and lazier, simply mentioning it, is clever enough to be entertaining. Having characters from ZOMBIEWORLD, WARM BODIES, and THE WALKING DEAD just show up in the same world isn’t the funny part, and I think a cleverer comedy might have been able to really distinguish the differences and similarities between the popular stories and make it entertaining. Instead everyone just acts like the characters who were played by better actors in the other films, and there’s not much depth past that. So the luster of seeing these zombie worlds collide is much less interesting as the initial meet up moves into the main story, which all leads to a farm house where two elderly people and their daughter are living without the knowledge of the undead apocalypse occurring.
Credit where credit is due: there are moments throughout that made me laugh in THE WALKING DECEASED. The ongoing joke that the Sheriff is brain damaged and calls his son “CARRRRRLLL!” instead of Chris is pretty funny. Darnell shoots ineffectual arrows that sort of just flick into the zombies without piercing their dead skin. There are other bits here and there that keep the pace moving and will most likely entertain enough to get to the end of the film. This film is going for the knee-slapping-til-it-hurts variety of AIRPLANE spoofitude, and while it is laughable at parts, it never really achieves much more entertaining if you’re stoned or drunk.
And while THE WALKING DECEASED does a decent job of making the puzzle piece chunks of each of the movies spoofed fit together in a rather jumbled but sensible way, the end result doesn’t blend together so well. It’s worth a look for folks still fascinated with the zombie trend because there really isn’t any spoof out there at the moment doing it, but while it did make me laugh a few times, THE WALKING DECEASED just isn’t as smart as the zombie movies it parodies. Simply name-dropping movies and imitating them shallowly isn’t good comedy. It’s easy comedy, and this film takes the easy route way too often.
New this week in select theaters, digital download, and DVD/BluRay from Anchor Bay!
MUCK (2015)Directed by Steve Wolsh
Written by Steve Wolsh
Starring Jaclyn Swedberg, Kane Hodder, Lauren Francesca, Stephanie Danielson, Gia Skova, Lachlan Buchanan, Leila Knight, Bryce Draper, Victoria Sophia, Laura Jacobs, Audra Van Hees, Matt Perfetuo, Puja Mohindra, Mike Perfetuo, Grant Alan Ouzts, Ashley Green Elizabeth, Josh Diogo, Peter Hart
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I think there are going to be a lot of folks panning MUCK, as it does feel like it’s going for appeal below the belt most of the time. Every woman in this film is either a beauty queen or a Playboy model. Most of the ladies appear naked or partially nude, and most aren’t given much character past what kind of skimpy outfit they are wearing and how fast it can be ripped off. But to be fair, Steve Wolsh decorates the film with just as vapid guys as well, all with chiseled abs and no qualms about getting their shirts ripped off whenever necessary and, most of the time, whenever unnecessary. For those who are turned off by gratuitous nudity paired with ultra-violence, just quit reading this review and skip to the next one. But if you don’t mind a little blood and mud on your boobs, MUCK is an odd but undeniably watchable little film.
MUCK opens as if it were the ending of a film that was never made. Five ridiculously good looking kids are dirty, beaten, and worn out, stumbling out of the woods and looking for some type of safety. While not a lot of info is given, it’s revealed that they went into the woods with seven and came out with five. Something horrible happened in the swamp, and these five are the survivors. As they make their way to an abandoned house, it’s made clear that something or someone is inside. That someone/something is a bald albino with an axe (Kane Hodder), and while these five do the brainiest thing they can come up with, split up to investigate, the albino does what he does best and hacks away at torsos and bathes in their blood. Meanwhile, another group of kids are called to come rescue the current group of good-lookings in peril and arrive just in time to be ambushed by more albinos with edged weapons.
From start to finish MUCK has high octane action, making it absolutely impossible to tear yourself away. If you’re craving Red Bull-infused thrills and uber-violence on an EVIL DEAD II level, this film delivers. Blood, brains, and gutty grue are splattered all over the place in this film. There are slight pauses for witty banter, but for the most part these freaky albinos are attacking these kids with utter brutality. And while the amount of abuse our pretty heroes take starts to get comical and cartoony as the film goes on, it still is made to keep those who hunger for gory action placated.
That said, it is a little unbelievable that the film is cast completely with supermodels. Sure they are fun to look at all greased up and covered in slime, but it gets to be pretty unbelievable that every person in writer/director Steve Wolsh’s universe is some kind of underwear model. I mean, even the monsters have rock hard abs. In a Frank Miller/Zack Snyder 300 sense, it makes for some funny escapist thrills, but the vapid way these kids look and live (most of them seem like all they do is drink in bars and party, looking only to get laid even after they realize they are in peril) make it hard to root for them to make it out of the swamp to survive. The only noble guy who runs off to find help even gets to be a perv, as he takes time to peep into a stripping woman’s window on his way back to rescue his girlfriend and friends. Wolsh’s portrayal of women is somewhat off-putting as well, as every one of them stops what they are doing to pose and undress any time they pass a mirror. One girl stops to change her bra and panties numerous times in a bar bathroom, which just seals the deal that this film belly flops into a pool of gratuity.
There are some serious editing problems with the film as well, as scenes cut to other extended scenes (like the bar bathroom bra and panties bonanza) and then back again as if no time as passed at all. But despite a difficulty to let the viewer get to know and like the cast, some choppy edits, and a penchant to ogle at abs and boobs covered in mud and blood, this is a tasty piece of eye candy in the shape of a horror film, and I have to admit I had a lot of fun watching MUCK despite these setbacks. The cast is easy on the eyes, and the blood and gore are just as gratuitous. About as subtle as stripper in church, don’t expect your brain to be stimulated, but other areas (specifically your guts and below) are bound to be rumbled when you wade through MUCK.
New today in select theaters from Vega Baby! Releasing!
GHOUL (2015)Directed by Petr Jákl
Written by Petr Bok & Petr Jákl (screenplay & story)
Starring Jennifer Armour, Paul S. Tracey, Jeremy Isabella, Debra Garza, Alina Golovlyova
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While found footage films might make your eyes roll so fast they pop out of your skull, I urge you to chase those orbs down and pop them back in because just because there’s a lot of found footagers out there doesn’t mean some of them can’t still be good. Take GHOUL for instance.
A documentary film crew go to the Ukraine to investigate cannibalism in the 20th Century. The film gives us a little history lesson about the famine of 1932 in the region where many people were so hungry they had to resort to eating the flesh of the dead. One ghoulish story talks about a mother having to choose between her sons to decide which one would live and which one would be eaten. The crew; consisting of a plucky female host, her boyfriend who is also the cocky director, the jumpy cameraman, a super model-esque translator, an elderly gentleman who knows the area, and a creepy gypsy psychic, head out deep into the Ukrainian countryside to talk to one of the last remaining survivors of the famine, but soon they find themselves trapped in an abandoned house with all sorts of weirdness going on around them. Only the psychic has answers, but the crew doesn’t want to believe her—that the spirit of the first Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo inhabits the house and wants to dine on their souls.
While much of this film is setup for the freaky events that occur in the last forty minutes, what sets GHOUL apart from the rest of the found footagers is that the setup itself is quite fascinating. While the characters are pretty cut and paste, I found myself enrapt in the mystery and uncanny nature of the history of the famine as well as the grueling details that occurred during it. Add some weird mysticism and some even weirder occurrences caught on tape and this film doesn’t suffer from the lull most found footagers have for most of its runtime.
No cheats are really done here such as added soundtracks, but there are multiple cameras at work here and with the way things turn out, there’s no real reason for the ghostly ghoul himself to edit these cameras at differing angles together to make one seamless movie. But because everything else is done so well, I kind of have no problem overlooking all of that.
The final moments of this film are utterly terrifying as the crew find themselves in a series of tunnels under the rundown house they’ve been trapped in. After experiencing odd behavior the crew don’t remember doing and seeing all sorts of weird shit, I still wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the final moments of this film and found myself glued to the screen as the camera panned around frantically. GHOUL may be a found footager, but don’t hold that against it as it is a really cool mystery as well as a pretty chilling treat that just happens to use the found footage format to tell a compelling tale. And even though some of the characters are rather cookie-cutter, GHOUL had me wrapped around it’s ghoulish little finger from start to finish.
New this week in select theaters and On Demand from Freestyle Releasing!
ZOMBEAVERS (2014)Directed by Jordan Rubin
Written by Al Kaplan, Jordan Rubin, Jon Kaplan
Starring Rachel Melvin, Cortney Palm, Lexi Atkins, Hutch Dano, Peter Gilroy, Jake Weary, Brent Briscoe, Phyllis Katz, Rex Linn, Chad Anderson, Bill Burr, Jordan Rubin, Robert R. Shafer
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I can’t help myself. I have to say it.
I loved every DAM minute of ZOMBEAVERS!
Sure, there are going to be some of you who like your horror drop dead serious who will turn your noses up to this type of farce which more often than not goes for the lowest common denominator, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with this goofy little film. In terms of comedy, it is very broad. There is potty humor galore. Beaver jokes are lobbed in our faces like dodge balls at a fat kid in gym. Crude humor is the flavor, but when done well, as this film does, I don’t mind it at all. I can’t count the times I laughed out loud at this bawdy and rowdy comedy.
In the opening scene, a pair of dimwit truckers accidentally lose a tin of radioactive waste, which bounces from the truck, into the river, through the rapids, and sloshes all over a beaver dam, which according to all of the horror movie science books always results in radioactive monsters. The film follows a trio of cute girls (Rachel Melvin, Cortney Palm, and Lexi Atkins) that they attempt to have a girl-cation at a country cabin away from their boyfriends. While they are mildly annoyed that their boyfriends have followed them up there, the real problem comes when radioactive undead and unkillable beavers show up on their cabin doorstep.
What this film has going for it is that it has a talented cast. All three girls not only look damn scrum-dilly-icious, but shockingly show some personality here. I stress this because more often than not, looks almost always come before talent in these types of films, so seeing some sort of personality and spunk in the main three characters (especially Cortney Palm, who blesses us with a topless scene to boot) is refreshing. On top of that, they are funny as hell, with some of the best lines coming from the opening moments when it’s just the girls. Add three douchebag boyfriends, a horndog hunter, and some nosey neighbors and you have a lot of people for these cannibalistic critters to gnaw on. Again, none of these additional characters are talentless and forgetful fodder either, with Hutch Dano and Jake Weary doing their best macho asshole routines (Dano being the most hilariously douchey of the two) and sketch comedy actor Peter Gilroy offering up some of the most crass but most gut-burstingly funny moments in the film.
Things go from ridiculous to “you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me” pretty quickly with ZOMBEAVERS, as the critters somehow know how to cut phone lines and think strategically with their attacks. Still, there’s an overall sense of fun that permeates every moment of this film, making it much more fun than any of the Asylum amalgam monsters we’ve seen in the past. The effects are actually pretty outstanding, from the white-eyed beavers themselves to the ”transformations” those infected with a beaver bite undergo. While some are puppets and some CG, it’s all incorporated much better than what we are used to on SyFy.
So sure, if you’re one to be too scared to laugh at your horror and dive into a pool of goof in your films, ZOMBEAVERS is not for you. But if you do have a sense of humor, it’s bound to be stimulated with this film. Not too high on scares, but ZOMBEAVERS makes up for it with wit, off color comedy, and gore.
New this week in limited theaters and on VOD March 20th from Drafthouse Films!
SPRING (2015)Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead
Written by Justin Benson
Starring Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Vanessa Bednar, Jeremy Gardner, Shane Brady, Francesco Carnelutti, Vinny Curran, Augie Duke, Holly Hawkins
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead blew me away with RESOLUTION last year. In an interview I did with them, they told me their next project was going to be a cross between romance and horror, focusing on the horror of that ambiguous and downright terrifying time when someone loves someone else, but is uncertain about what the other feels. Add in a breakup where little is explained, and it feels ripe for material to be seen through an insidious lens. Knowing that these filmmakers have a truly unique take on the world, I couldn’t wait to see what they could produce given this interesting premise. Then again, many a filmmaker has blown my socks off with their first film only to succumb to that dreaded sophomore slump as they produce a follow-up that just doesn’t deliver the right goods that came with the first one. Either it’s the filmmakers’ first experience with bigger studios, or third party involvement by the studios who just want the filmmaker to repeat what has been done before, or the filmmaker giving into fan pressure to deliver what’s been done before, it’s more common than not to have the second film from a talented director suck balls.
I say all of this because while I was hoping for the best from SPRING, I had a fear of approaching this film. Turns out my fears were all for naught and Benson and Moorhead have overcome the sophomore slump and delivered a truly unique film experience that rivals RESOLUTION in creativity and originality, wrapped in a delicious fantasy/horror coating. The story follows Evan (the EVIL DEAD remake’s long-haired hipster Lou Taylor Pucci) as he deals with the death of his mother rather badly. Getting drunk with his best bud Tommy (THE BATTERY’s actor/director/writer Jeremy Gardner), he starts a fight in a bar with a punk who is beating on his girl and gets targeted by both the police and the man he assaulted. Evan skips town and goes to walk the earth in Europe, ending up in Italy, where he meets the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on, Louise (the gorgeous Nadia Hilker). After some flirtation between the two, they begin a relationship that begins hot and heavy, but just when Evan thinks it can’t get any better, Louise tells him she needs to end the relationship without a reason given.
This is the fodder for many a love story, where the boy must take on whatever hurdle in between him and the girl of his dreams. But it also happens in real life, and it’s not so romantical. I know this because it’s happened to me too many times I can count and on a visceral level, I was pulled into this film simply because I’ve been in Evan’s shoes before. And to this day, there are some relationships that ended that I have no idea why. Well, in this story, that great unknown is given tentacles and claws, as peppered through this romance we are privy to Louise going through some kind of odd transformation behind Evan’s back. Too starry eyed, Evan doesn’t see or just doesn’t want to see the flaws that Louise has, and even when he does find out, it is hard for Evan to be too creeped out as he is madly in love with her.
I don’t want to delve too much more into the plot, because I think a lot of the appeal of SPRING is the fact that it is such an unconventional love story with rich horror elements. In many ways, it is like Disney’s LITTLE MERMAID if it were told by the human dude who falls in love with the fish lady and the shock and conflict he must go through once he finds out that the girl of his dreams is actually the gill of his dreams (sorry, couldn’t help myself). The fact that Moorhead and Benson are able to craft such a realistic romance and pepper in these monstrous transformations and attacks, all the while still managing to make the viewer still want these two people to be together despite these tremendous odds, is a testament to their immense talent as storytellers. We are right there with this couple from first glance to the end, and in that time, we get to know them fully and realistically, and a lot of that has to do with the fantastic direction and writing of this film.
The rest lays on the shoulders of Hilker and Pucci, both of who are engaging and fantastic actors. Pucci’s character could so easily be unlikable. He drinks too much. Fights too much. Really doesn’t have a lot of places to go with his life and doesn’t seem like he has the character to change the lot he finds himself in. Still, as Evan, Pucci manages to convince us that he’s an all-around good guy who deserves a break like this awesome girl he meets. Sure seeing him watch his mother die in the opening scene is one way to get the viewer to feel for the guy, but Pucci’s line delivery is infectious and convincing—teetering between overconfidence and no confidence at all, and enough is known about the character to root for him because of his flaws. Same goes for Hilker, who is a literal monster here, but because we see her struggle to hide her monstrous side from Evan and because we see how genuinely painful it is for her to undergo these transformations, you can’t help but feel sorry for her situation.
For a smaller-budgeted movie, the effects in SPRING are jaw-droppingly good. From subtle transformations to full on monster blowouts, every scene is not overly computer generated and rendered real enough to fool even the shrewdest and most critical CG eyes. The original look and “ailment” of Louise is sometimes horrific, and sometimes just beautiful in the surreal twisting and undulating of the flesh that goes on here.
The film takes a tiny stumble in the last act as it feels things are played a little too comical at times (the church scene comes to mind) and a bit drawn out and overly expository, as Benson and Moorehead make sure even the dullest of dullards in the audience are able to understand Louise’s condition and a possible cure. It didn’t bother me much, but it does slow the pace down a bit and pander to the audience to make sure all are following. That said, SPRING is a romantic tale that will warm even the blackest hearts of horror fanatics. With likable characters, engrossing story and conflict, and effects that feel effortless, SPRING is as unique as some of the monstrous forms Louise takes. It truly is a film unlike any other I’ve seen this year, and manages to be both romantic and disgusting all at once. Not for the squeamish, but something for the ghouls with a romantic edge, SPRING should not be missed.
Coming soon from Miso Film!
DANNY’S DOOMSDAY (2014)aka DANNYS DOMMEDAG
Directed by Martin Barnewitz
Written by Søren Grinderslev Hansen
Starring William Jøhnk Nielsen, Thomas Garvey, Peter Gantzler, Emilie Werner Semmelroth, Lars Mikkelsen, Camilla Bendix, Marco Ilsø, Rasmus Lind Rubin, Ida Emilie Just, Frederik Tingsø, Claus Flygare, Allan Hyde, Thomas L. Corneliussen, Mette Vibe Utzon, Jesper Theilgaard
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Spielberg is known for JAWS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and ET and the Indiana Jones series, but what I love him for is the fact that he made it ok to toss kids in peril and make you seriously feel frightened for them as a viewer. Maybe it’s because he captured a lot of that kiddie wonder, but the Amblin films like GOONIES, EXPLORERS, and the like really captured that spirit of being a kid and feeling as if there was a possibility that the creations and imaginings that rumbled in our minds could actually put us in danger. While many films might act like their kid stars are in peril, there’s a part of me while watching these types of films that seriously doubts any of the kids really will be harmed in any way. So I guess when a film comes along like LET THE RIGHT ONE IN/LET ME IN or RARE EXPORTS or even SUPER 8 or some other film where the danger of the children in the story really does feel real, I tend to fall in love with it, not because I want to see kids hurt, but because if captures that danger and fear we had as children of the unknown all so well.
DANNYS DOMMEDAG (translated to DANNY’S DOOMSDAY) is one of those films where the danger these kids face is most dire and definitely life threatening. When a boatsman offshore catches something large in his net, he ends up being the first victim in a full scale attack of fish monsters from the depths. Making things worse, these fish have giant teeth and legs that allow them to race out of the water, across land, and into yo’ face! But this isn’t just about monster fish invading a coastal town in Denmark. It’s also a tender story of two brothers; one, Danny (William Jøhnk Nielsen) a semi popular kid in school who is friends with the cool kids, the other (the younger named William played by Thomas Garvey) is a loner who is often beaten up and picked on by the same kids who Danny calls friends. The more intimate story of DANNY’S DOOMSDAY involves this complex relationship between these brothers and how they need to reconcile their differences in order to help each other survive this fishy apocalypse.
Having a younger brother myself, I can relate to the annoyance Danny feels about his brother who is much different than himself. Though I would have never let bullies beat up and lock my brother in a gym locker, Danny does and must deal with the resentment his brother feels towards him. This layered conflict between the two brothers makes the action feel all the more dangerous as you want these two brothers to survive in order to build and strengthen their sibling bonds. Seeing Danny acknowledge William’s youth and rebelliousness is a fantastic moment in this film as is William finally trusting Danny when he has failed to be there for him so often in the past. None of this has anything to do with the giant walking fish monsters, but it has everything to do with why this is such an effective story.
The monsters themselves are pretty awesome looking and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find any pics of them to show you. Basically they look like toothy carp on two legs with red frills and eyes around their heads. The design is amazing and the CG work in this film is too. While most likely director Martin Barnewitz keeps the monsters out of view for much of the film due to budgetary reasons, when you finally do see them clearly, they truly are a sight to be seen. Still, with some fun camera trickery, some great unearthly sounds, and some quick cuts, the danger of these monsters is ever present and even without seeing them clearly for much of the film, you are still effected by their presence.
If you’re looking for a kids in peril film with deep relational themes and monsters that really are scary, the Danish DANNY’S DOOMSDAY is going to fit the bill. Proving that some of the best films, especially horror films come from overseas, DANNY’S DOOMSDAY feels like Amblin and Spielberg from their glory years.
And finally…I’m not really into gaming, but I know you folks love ‘em. Here’s a mini film that sets up the new KILLING FLOOR: UNCOVERED game for PS4 from the folks behind one of my favorite devil baby films from the last year, DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN (reviewed here). For those of you who love shooting zombies (and who doesn’t, really?), here’s Adam Schindler’s hectic and tense KILLING FLOOR: UNCOVERED!
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 the PIROUETTE Trade Papberback written by Bug with art by Carlos Granda from Diamond Previews (item code FEB15 1090) today! It will be available on April 15, 2015 and you can also order the trade here
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Look for our bi-weekly rambling about random horror films on Poptards and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday!