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

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Before we dive into the horror reviews, here are a few interesting newsbits to chew on…

So there’s an indiegogo project underway for a mockumentary focused on the life of the Toxic Avenger called TOXIC TUTU. The film is currently seeking funding to finish up the film. Here’s the gist of the flick…

Long before theaters were littered with superhero films, Troma Entertainment introduced viewers to New Jersey's first superhuman hero: The Toxic Avenger! The 1984 B-movie has gone on to become a beloved cult classic - but its star, Mark Torgl, has rarely been heard from in the 30+ years since.. until now. TOXIC TUTU is a mockumentary that pays tribute to The Toxic Avenger and its legacy. The almost-true story follows Mark Torgl - who played the 98-pound weakling Melvin Junko the "Mop Boy" - on a two-year journey to monster and horror conventions. For the first time ever, the actor candidly discusses his experiences on the set of the cult-classic film, including his exposure to toxic waste, and the true purpose of his recent public appearances. TOXIC TUTU also documents Torgl's long-awaited reunion with Lloyd Kaufman, President of Troma Entertainment and creator of The Toxic Avenger. Guest appearances include Survivor reality TV icon Jonny FairPlay, pro wrestling superstars Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Jimmy Valiant, indie horror staple Shawn C. Phillips (Ghost Shark), kung-fu great Mel Novak (Bruce Lee's Game of Death) and The Toxic Avenger cast members D.J. Calvitto and Sarabel Levinson.

Below is the trailer for the film. If you like what you see, you can support the film by following this link!

Toxic Tutu Trailer 4-15-15 from Joe Nardelli on Vimeo.

I’ll be checking out NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE soon here in AICN HORROR, but until then, I wanted to share the awesome tentacle-tacular new poster and a teaser clip from the film. Here’s the official synopsis:

Teenage friends out for beach week get unexpectedly detoured to a creepy motel where a deadly STD virus now runs rampant, turning those infected into the living dead. From Director Jonathan Straiton and Producer Ron Bonk comes NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE starring Rebecca C. Kasek, Trey Harrison, Wayne W Johnson, Toni Ann Gambale, Michael Merchant, John Walsh, Tarrence Taylor, Nicola Fiore, Janet Mayson, Kirk LaSalle, Billy Garberina and Wes Reid with Brinke Stevens.

Here’s the clip. Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here

Looking for something new and awesome to listen to at work?

How about CULT LABS RADIO, which plays nothing but cult movie and TV soundtracks?

This is perfect for horror fans who are looking for an alternative to the everyday radio humdrum. The radio station just went live this week and you can check CULT LABS RADIO out here! Plus you can find out more about CULT LABS RADIO here including how to win prizes for listening!

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: X: THE MAN WITH X-RAY EYES (1963)
Retro-review: VAMPYROS LESBOS (1971)
Short Cuts Short Film Review: BITE RADIUS (2015)
INFINI (2015)
Advance Review: VOLUMES OF BLOOD (2015)
And finally…Los Angeles Police Department’s “Insecurity!”

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Kino Lorber!


aka X, MISTER X, DR. X
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Robert Dillon (screenplay), Ray Russell(screenplay & story)
Starring Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Don Rickles, Harold J Stone, John Hoyt, Dick Miller
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

X: THE MAN WITH X-RAY EYES has always been one of my favorites. I often speak of those old horror films I would watch as a kid lying on my belly in the living room on Saturday afternoons. This was one of the ones that I vividly and fondly remember.

Brilliant scientist Dr. James Xavier (Ray Milland) is experimenting on monkeys (dawwwww, poor monkey!) by placing drops in its eyes and testing to see if the little monchichi can see through things. When the experiment turns out to be a success, Xavier rushes to test upon himself as he is eager to see what it is that there is to see. At first Xavier is amazed by the new spectrum he sees, but his desire to see more and the effects of the treatments impair his judgment, leading to the death of his fellow scientist and Xavier going on the lam. Ending up on the boardwalk as a sideshow act with Don Rickles as his opportunistic carnival barker, Xavier makes money by wearing a blindfold and looking through the pockets of audience members, but Xavier’s inherent need to work in medicine prompts him to open up a clinic where he diagnoses people for free donations. Still juicing his eyes, eventually Xavier is driven mad as he begins to see things that no man was meant to see.

While the Frankenstein story has run its course with my interests, I love mad science movies. THE TINGLER, THE BRAIN THE WOULDN’T DIE, even, to an extent, more modern films like the HUMAN CENTIPEDE films always strike an interest in me because whatever plays with Goldblum’s First Rule of Science, “scientists (are) so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should”, always ends in some delicious horror. Man’s desire to be something else or take things to the next level is fun to see given some horrific looking test tubes, a lab coat smeared with blood, and a bunsen burner or two. In X, the film takes one particular aspect of science, optometry, and tosses it right into Lake Crazy. And with some amazing visuals, a somewhat creative script, and compelling performances by Ray Milland and Don Rickles, this film is entertaining from beginning to end.

If the film lacks something it’s motivation for Milland’s character. He simply wants to see beyond what man can see, but really isn’t given much reason for these desires. Sure it was a product of the time as this was a film more about the visuals and the story. The rainbow focus of the Technicolor is dazzling as Corman makes the audience privy to what Xavier is experiencing. It is an intoxicating effect that at first is rather dazzling, but as Xavier’s mind frays and the longer the audience sees what Xavier sees, the effect definitely has a much more unsettling feeling. The hypnotizing array of colors that swirl on the periphery of the screen makes things beautiful, gaudy, and eventually grotesque as Xavier sees further and further.

Corman was a genius, making a full length feature out of an ad you see in the back of comic books. He basically revolved an entire story around an obscured camera effect and some cheap contact lenses, but with Milland’s off the wall performance and an ending which really does pack quite a punch, the film leaves a mark. For years the film has been rumored to be remade, but thankfully we haven’t been subjected to that yet. Still, the thought of seeing further than man can and should see seems to somehow find its way into Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY as we go on a journey to the end of the universe that has a lot of the same dizzying effects that appear in its nascent stages in this film.

Light on extras, though there is a pretty nifty prologue sequence included which gives a rundown of the importance of man’s five senses, X: THE MAN WITH X-RAY EYES is a must for lovers of mad science and trippy visuals. Seeing Ray Milland dance is worth the price alone, but add on a fantastic performance by Don Rickles and a haunting ending, and it’s a must. Sure the concept is goofy, but things are taken to a rather nightmarish level and again, it’s Milland’s performance that sells this and makes the torment he goes through all the more palpable.

Retro-review: New this week on Special Edition BluRay from Severin Films!


Directed by Jesús Franco (as Franco Manera)
Written by Jaime Chávarri, Jesús Franco, Anne Settimó, based on the novel by Bram Stoker
Starring Soledad Miranda, Ewa Strömberg, Dennis Price, Paul Muller, Heidrun Kussin, José Martínez Blanco, Michael Berling, Andrea Montchal, Jesús Franco
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

The lesbian vampire films of old are a rather interesting subgenre of horror. While they usually adhere to the ages-old story of Carmilla or Dracula, the real point is that lesbianism is a monstrous thing, causing wreck and ruin to those who choose to take that path. VAMPIROS LESBOS is a symphony of sights and sounds, but I couldn’t help but be bothered by the bass-ackwards philosophy behind it all.

The film opens with a woman named Linda (Ewa Strömberg) becoming utterly enthralled by a woman in lingerie and a red scarf doing a performance that suggests vampirism and eroticism. The woman on the stage, known as the Countess Carody (played by Jess Franco’s main gal Soledad Miranda), haunts Linda’s dreams after the performance, so much that she tells her psychologist about it, who gives her the advice to find another lover…”a better lover.” So it’s off on a girl-cation to an island off of Istanbul (not Constantinople!) where Linda runs into Countess Carody. The two immediately hit it off, frolicking in the surf nude, sunbathing in the nude (as this film plays it fast and loose with the vampire rules), and later making smooches in the Countess’ castle. But Linda soon finds that the Countess is a creature of the night…and a lesbian! So Linda must come to terms with her own sexuality and decide whether or not to be a lesbian with her vampire friend or hetero with her oblivious boyfriend.

As much as this film may want to try to celebrate the free-wheelin’ lifestyles of lesbians, making the lesbians cinematic monsters who dine on the blood of the living doesn’t really do them any favors. So sure, there are copious amounts of lesbianism in this one, but it’s done more as titillation for Franco’s lingering camera than a bold feminist statement. The eroticism of girl on girl action is highlighted here as Franco closes in on heaving bosoms, slo mo kisses, and quivering 70s bush. He makes it all look nice and sensual, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that the lesbians in this film are monsters and Linda needs to be rescued by her hetero boyfriend from making a monstrous decision to dive into this world of blood-sucking lesbianism.

Political correctness aside, this is a gorgeous film as the use of reds alone in this movie is absolutely mouthwatering. Always signifying the Countess and blood, the use of red scarves, red carpets, red tassels, or ornate red décor is stunning and proof that while Franco’s eye is definitely on the female form in this one, it also is very much paying attention to the symbolic use of red as a symbol for eroticism, danger, and threat.

More stunning than the colors and the gorgeous atmosphere of the beaches of Istanbul is the groundbreaking soundtrack by Sigi Schwab and Manfred Hubler, who mix radio transmissions with all sorts of drums and musical instruments to give the entire film an otherworldly and sensual feel. The seductive rhythms are rather pronounced and somewhat overused in the film, but they are absolutely unique and make viewing this film a one of a kind experience. Additional features on this gorgeous limited edition Bluray from Severin include an interview with director Jess Franco, one with historian Amy Brown that focuses on the enchanting Soledad Miranda, and one with Jess Franco historian/author Stephen Thrower. Also included in this two disc set is an alternate opening sequence and LAS VAMPIRAS, a drastically edited cut of the film released as a Spanish Language VHS without all of that offensive nudity and lesbianism. The whole thing gives this gorgeous yet somewhat misguided film its due by presenting it in the most beautiful form possible.

BEWARE: In this trailer there be lesbian vampire boobs (and it’s in German)! NSFW!

Retro-review: New this week from Arrow Video/MVD Visual!


Directed by Walerian Borowczyk
Written by Walerian Borowczyk (screenplay), Robert Louis Stevenson (novel)
Starring Udo Kier, Marina Pierro, Patrick Magee, Gérard Zalcberg, Howard Vernon, Clément Harari, Jean Mylonas, Eugene Braun Munk, Louis Colla, Catherine Coste, Rita Maiden, Michèle Maze, Agnès Daems, Magali Noaro, Dominique Andersen
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

An icky eroticism makes THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL & MISS OSBOURNE much more unique than most of the renditions of Robert Louis Stephenson’s classic tale.

Following Stephenson’s story to the beat up to a point in this film makes giving a synopsis feel somewhat redundant here, but I guess I have to give the review some kind of context. Dr. Jekyll (Udo Kier) is an esteemed physician known for his breakthrough work, but Jekyll takes time from his experiments to host a dinner party with the upper crust to celebrate his upcoming nuptials with Miss Fanny (heh) Osbourne (Marina Pierro). The two seem deeply in love without a care in the world, but elsewhere in the city a shadowy man is sexually assaulting anyone within his reach. After an attempt to abduct a young girl is thwarted, the local police are on the case which includes the Sherlock Holmes-ish General (Patrick Magee) who is in attendance at the party. As soon as all of the guests arrive and dinner is finished, one of the young girls is sexually assaulted in her room causing the group to lock the doors and seek out who is this deviant in their midst. Turns out Dr. Jekyll has a dark side after all, and the real twist of the film happens when Miss Osbourne finds out about it.

This is a locked room mystery where we (the audience) are made privy to who the culprit is early on (and anyone with even the most rudimentary literary experience should know). Still, it’s fun to see the General and his merry men made up of war heroes, priests, and police try to crack the case. But while the story of Jekyll and Hyde is well known, writer/director Walerian Borowczyk tosses in some curveballs that make this tale different from the others. For one thing, he has two actors playing Jekyll and Hyde. Most of the time, the draw to this type of film is seeing the lead actor go from put-together everyman to raging beast creature with some simple practical effects. Casting an entirely different person as Hyde (in this case it’s Gérard Zalcberg from FACELESS), that Hollywood movie magic aspect is stripped away. Jekyll undergoes a complete transformation, and tossing out what is expected proved to be just enough to make this transformation unique. Still, Borowczyk resorts to camera trickery to simulate the transformation, cutting away momentarily for Keir to be replaced by Zalcberg or having one slip away off screen and then be replaced by the other. Sure some of the fun is taken out of the tale making the transformation so distinct, but both Kier and Zalcberg are so otherworldly-looking that their performances make you forget about makeup trickery. And while sloshing around violently in a bathtub filled with the Jekyll Juice is a bit sillier than the normal syringe method that usually causes the transformation, it makes for a transformation sequence that hasn’t been done to death before.

But where this film really becomes distinct is the way he incorporates the character of Miss Osbourne (Marina Pierro, who is scorching hot in this film). This is a film about perversion. Hyde is every sexual impulse Jekyll has suppressed through the years unearthed and running rampant. Hyde rapes men and women alike with what is described as a barbed and enlarged penis as his weapon (one of his victims dies from the wounds after being sexually assaulted by Hyde). Introducing the seemingly pure Miss Osbourne and then revealing that she too has a darker side makes this much more of a love story than I was expecting. It’s about a monster finding another monster just as fucked up as he is and being happy. This is where the story takes a turn from the original material, but because the perversity is handled with such an unflinching and convicted hand by Borowczyk, it becomes a truly fascinating diversion from the original tome.

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE is an icky little film. There’s rape, there’s death, and there’s all sorts of perversity going on. But it approaches the same old material in a manner that hadn’t been done before and because of this, it is a rather engrossing rendition. Arrow’s rerelease of this film on Bluray for the first time is filled with fun extras including commentaries by Kier, Borowczyk, Pierro, and other cast and crew. The featurette “Eyes that Listen” focuses on Borowczyk and his close work with composer Bernard Parmegiani, and various other shorts and featured essays on the film and the filmmaker. If another rendition of Jekyll and Hyde causes you to yawn, I challenge you to check out THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL & MISS OBSOURNE. It’s an altogether different version that is not the most comfortable to watch at times, but it still is the most unique version of the tale I’ve seen in quite a while.

BEWARE: There’s no Hydin’ the nudity in this trailer below! NSFW!

Currently touring fests! Playing at CUFF (Chicago Underground Film Festival) 2015 on Saturday May 16th in Chicago!


Directed by Spencer Parsons
Written by Spencer Parsons
Starring Trevor Dawkins, Sophie Traub, Callie Stephens
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Spencer Parsons impressed the hell out of me with SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY (reviewed here) a while back, which turned out to be a bloody and clever modern Scooby-Doo tale. Now he’s back with a 30 minute short film that shows both a positive evolution as a storyteller and an immense leap forward in terms of creativity. It’s called BITE RADIUS and it is incredibly and uncomfortably awesome.

Trevor Dawkins plays Peyton, a slacker who wakes from a drinking/drug binge not remembering much from the night before. Upon waking up, he calls for the girl he hooked up with the night before, Kelsey (Callie Stephens), but can’t find her in his apartment. Oblivious to the bloodstains on his floor and walls, Peyton doesn’t notice the girl’s dead body in his tub until he takes a shit. Ignoring the pop song playing over and over on the girl’s phone, Peyton calls his best fuck buddy Nicole (Sophie Traub) to figure out what to do with the body.

Simple premise, but put through the spectrum of today’s jaded, selfish, and apathetic youth, this story becomes both fascinating and a sad slice of life story. Seeing Nicole ask for a photo with the body is funny, but at the same time horrific at how callous she is. Seeing the half-assed way Peyton tries to dispose of the body, only giving up halfway through, is even more grotesque. BITE RADIUS is a more sophisticated horror than it sounds. The horror in BITE RADIUS is less about the dead body in the tub than the way these two people really don’t give a shit about anyone or anything. Knowing that there is a whole culture of people that has become so desensitized that death doesn’t really matter is what makes this short so smart and so effective.

BITE RADIUS is a short that will definitely sit with you long after watching. It’s long enough to get to know these two youngsters and despite their insensitivity, the actors make them pretty likable. The resolution is just as ridiculous and horrific as the actions of these two kids become more callous towards the end. The short is a horrific portrait of today’s culture and proves to be downright hilarious at the same time, a feat that is not easily accomplished, but Parsons has what it takes to pull it off.

Sorry, no trailer for this one yet--you’ll have to take my word on it! When the film is available for all to see online, I’ll definitely be posting it here on AICN HORROR.

New this week on DVD from Virgil Films!


Directed by Eric Courtney
Written by Martin Robinson
Starring Aislinn Ní Uallacháin, Dillon White, Paddy C. Courtney, Elaine Hearty, Anna Davis, Brian Fortune
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Mockumentaries and found footagers used to cause people to get nauseous in theaters due to the shaky hand held cam movement. These days, the nausea comes more from the fatigue due to the inundation of these types of films to the direct to video market (and the few that have eked into theaters) over the last few years. That said, there occasionally is a found footager that is worth checking out and AN IRISH EXORCISM is one of them.

An Irish lass by the name of Lorraine (Aislinn Ní Uallacháin) is doing a grad school study on modern exorcisms in the Catholic church. She gathers up her boyfriend Cathal (Dillon White) to act as cameraman and tries to interview Father Byrne (Brian Fortune from GAME OF THRONES) a priest who actively takes part in exorcisms. Though he is reluctant to allow Lorraine any information, she is able to corner one desperate woman who has come to the Father for help. The woman’s daughter Lisa (Anna Davis) acts as if she is possessed and she agrees to have Lorraine film the exorcism, much to the ire of Father Byrne. But while Father Byrne deals with the possessions, Lorraine uncovers dark secrets by wandering around the family home which may be the key to what really is ailing poor wee Lisa.

Structurally, this is a rock solid found footager. No unexplainable edits, not specific camera falls which capture just the right action at just the right angle, no music from nowhere, no multiple camera shots when there is only supposed to be one camera rolling; for the most part, the whole thing stands up as actual footage filmed which does a lot to make the whole thing believable. The acting as well feels unrehearsed and natural, which is a testament to the cast as acting like you aren’t acting is often the goal of all actors, but it really takes some talent to do so in a found footager and some of the best films in this subgenre have actors who do a terrific job of convincing the viewer that they aren’t actors at all.

AN IRISH EXORCISM does overlap a bit with films like THE LAST EXORCISM at times. The secrets Lorraine uncovers felt somewhat familiar, though they are effectively uncomfortable and creepy. The inner mythology of evil spirits tracking down souls filled with despair makes it all work, but still, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the bizarre secrets from THE LAST EXORCISM when these secrets are revealed.

That said, there is nothing wrong with AN IRISH EXORSICM. It’s got strong performances, quite a few bizarre and scary moments, and a few scenes that really sent chills up and down my spine. The film does a convincing job of making everything feel like it is happening in the real world by keeping to the found footage format without any cheats. The only thing wrong with AN IRISH EXORCISM is that it is yet another found footage film. If you can look past that, you might enjoy it as much as I did.

New On Demand and on DVD June 9th from Uncork’d Entertainment!


Directed by Karen Lam
Written by Karen Lam
Starring Kat de Lieva, Richard Harmon, Mayumi Yoshida, David Lewis, Kelvin Redvers, John Shaw, Nelson Leis, Dejan Loyola, Madison Smith, Anthony Shim, Natalie Grace, Ella Kosor, Lucy Harvey
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I’m a big fan of metaphor, but it feels as if I’m kind of in the minority in this society which seems to be growing more literal by the moment, so I’m the type of moviegoer that EVANGELINE is aiming for as on the surface it tells the story of a woman surviving an assault and then going on a killing spree, but there is also another layer to this film that feels and looks like it belongs in an R.E.M. Tarsem video. I’m ok with this, but I’ll bet the scenes that happen inside of the brain of the victimized girl will be a bit too much for some viewers.

Evangeline is a wide-eyed schoolgirl when we first meet her on her first day of college. She reveals she’s a preacher’s daughter and definitely looks sheltered and frail--that is, until she dons some goth gear and goes out to party with her new roommates, showing that she’s got quite a wild side. Meeting a group of popular boys seems like this new life she is making is going to be A-OK, but when her roommates leave for the weekend and Evangeline is left alone and hung over, she decides to go on a date with one of the popular boys (the annoyingly creepy Richard Harmon from PERCY JACKSON). The date becomes violent when more douchebag frat boys show up and they decide to beat the shit out of her and leave her for dead in the woods. Whether Evangeline dies or not is up for debate, and that’s where this film gets kind of CROW-like, if Shelly were to raise from the dead instead of Eric Draven. Trapped in a stone room in her mind, Evangeline watches her body move on auto-pilot until she is faced with possible assault again. But in this metaphysical place, a darkness begins to enter the secluded room, taking over Evangeline and unleashing bloody vengeance upon any man who dares cross her path.

As I said earlier, there’s a Tarsem music video style to this film that sometimes teeters on the edge of pretension. There were moments where I almost could hear Michael Stipe gearing up to wail out “That’s me in the cornerrrrrr!” as Evangeline struggles to get out of her head and into her life (I know mixing R.E.M. with Billy Ocean is wrong, but if loving Billy Ocean songs is wrong, I don’t wanna be right). These scenes are filmed rather beautifully, though, with the dark corners of Evangeline’s mind room representing those dark recesses of her psyche. There are also some fantastic sounds used in these sequences that amp the creep quite a bit.

Still, I’m not a huge fan of the rape/revenge subgenre of horror. While I can recognize it as a sometimes effective and engaging statement in films like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and MS. 45, that type of violence just never entertained me. Well acted and often quite gorgeously filmed, EVANGELINE ventures into less of a reality-laden experience and more into a philosophical and heady nightmare. Because of this distinction, it’s something unique in the rape/revenge subgenre and might be worth your time if you can stomach the violence and don’t mind the metaphor.

New this week on Bluray/DVD from IFC Midnight!


Directed by The Vicious Brothers (Colin Minihan & Stuart Ortiz)
Written by Colin Minihan & Stuart Ortiz
Starring Brittany Allen, Freddie Stroma, Melanie Papalia, Jesse Moss, Anja Savcic, Sean Rogerson, Emily Perkins, Mike Kovac, Ian Brown, Fred Keating, Gil Bellows, Michael Ironside
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

There’s a lot I liked about EXTRATERRESTRIAL, the new film from the makers of the funhouse ride film GRAVE ENCOUNTERS and its sequel, the Vicious Brothers. Like their previous films, EXTRATERRESTRIAL moves at a pace akin to a carnival ride, tossing everything but the kitchen sink at you. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t have the script to back up its dazzling effects and jaw-dropping visuals.

Unlike the GRAVE ENCOUNTERS films, this one is shot cinematically, and for the most part, the Vicious Brothers do a deft job of shooting the film without the need of a shaky handheld cam, which they relied on in the last two films. The story follows a group of kids who go to a secluded cabin belonging to the mother of one of the kids. After some drama which honestly only serves to extend the runtime to a full hour and a half, a large ball of fire crashes in the forest outside of the cabin. When they investigate, the kids find a crashed UFO and footprints leading into the woods. What transpires is pretty much everything you’ve seen in every UFO movie you’ve ever seen.

Every urban myth, every reenacted encounter from a million and one documentary shows on the subject of aliens and their visits/abductions/sightings. Everything. As with GRAVE ENCOUNTERS which used the kitchen sink approach to some success as things jumped out at you over and over as seen through night vision on a handheld cam, this film does the same with scenes lifted from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THRID KIND, E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, SIGNS, especially FIRE IN THE SKY, DARK SKIES, EXPLORERS, SUPER 8, and any other alien visitor film you can think of. If you’re a sucker for that sort of film, I’m pretty sure you’re going to find yourself taken in by this film as well as it apes key scenes from those films very well.

That said, if you’re looking for something new, EXTRATERRESTRIAL offers up very little. The film borrows from FIRE IN THE SKY generously, and if you saw the horrific abduction sequence of that film, you’re going to be non-plussed at the way the climax of this film plays out. And while there is a pretty hilarious scene inside of the alien craft involving the clichéd probing we always hear about, the rest of the stuff feels as if it were made from stock footage of FIRE IN THE SKY.

That said, EXTRATERRESTRIAL, which was made on a pretty conservative budget, looks fantastic and feels like a film made with millions rather than thousands of dollars. The expansive spaceship sequences are pretty creative and awe-inspiring, as are the lanky grey aliens lurking about. In terms of stretching ones’ dollar, this film could give a few lessons to much shittier looking films with a much bigger budget.

What the film doesn’t have is a strong script. The interactions between the kids, especially the ones involving highly emotional moments, are painful to witness. Though it might seem to want to come off as some kind of parody of melodrama, it ends up being not that clever and just being downright badly written. Any emotionally hard-hitting beats that are supposed to be occurring are laughably bad, partly due to the delivery of the cast but mostly due to the lack of emotional depth and substance in the script itself. Still, some fun moments with Michael Ironside as a pot farmer/conspiracy theorist and Gil Bellows as a teen antics-weary cop elevate the acting a skosh. Unfortunately, those two actors don’t have the emotional moments in question to deal with. As is, from a sights and sounds aspect, EXTRATERRESTRIAL is fun—kind of like going through a slideshow of other alien movies at a rapid pace, but the melodramatic script does everything it can to mess up any fun to be had.

New on DVD, BluRay, digital download from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment!


Directed by Tom Harper
Written by Jon Croker & Susan Hill
Starring Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irvine, Phoebe Fox, Merryn Pearse, Mary Roscoe, Amelia Crouch, Amelia Pidgeon, Casper Allpress, Pip Pearce, Leilah de Meza, Jude Wright, Alfie Simmons, Oaklee Pendergast, Jeremy Irvine, Adrian Rawlins, Thomas Arnold
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While it was rich in gothic moments, I really had a hard time recalling anything about the original THE WOMAN IN BLACK other than that winding road to the house surrounded by swamps on either side. I think there was a ghostly lady and a lot of jump scares and old dolls, but other than that, the whole thing just didn’t impact me much at all. After seeing the sequel, I almost immediately had the same reaction, which is never a good sign for a movie.

Phoebe Fox plays Eve Parkins, a strong-willed woman who is assigned to supervise a group of children who have been evacuated from London during the bombings of WWII. Taking solace in the same manor the first film took place in, Eve begins to notice strange things happening. Soon the children are beginning to drop like flies and it’s up to Eve to uncover the truth of the sordid history of the house and come to terms with the ghosts of her own past.

Saying that the point of THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: THE ANGEL OF DEATH is to cause quick jump scares and starts is kind of ridiculous, as that’s the point of most horror films. The creepy thing from nowhere accompanied by a Don Music head-slam on the keyboard has sadly become what horror is to Hollywood studio horror, which often skips worthwhile scares with impact or mood that creeps and unsettles. This film is filled with music clangs and jump scares which end up doing their job simply because of the noise rather than an overall sense of unease. I will give the film props in that it does continue to have the same type of atmosphere established in the first one as it again relies on spooky images of dirty toys, the gloomy house, the dark hallways, and the winding road surrounded by swamplands, but for the most part the real scares come from the keyboard.

And because of the overabundance of hollow scares and music clangs, the overly complex plot of Eve getting her resolution for past sins and how it all matters to the woman in black gets overshadowed and in the end, the CG ghosts and WWII battle scenes just make this more cluttered and loud that it should be. The bombastic finale really makes it hard to care about anything and by that time, already I didn’t care much about it.

There are a few compelling scenes where the darkness and the atmosphere is compelling, but the reliance on CG and the cluttered story is the main detriment to WOMAN IN BLACK 2. Atmosphere was often one of the best qualities of the Hammer films of old which had a staged feel to them, but still remained effective. But Hollywood conventions and lame jump scares just leaves this ghost story lacking a soul. Here’s hoping the House of Hammer can bring some new and genuine scares rather than this kind of hollow retread.

New this week on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment!


Directed by Chad Archibald
Written by Cody Calahan, Chad Archibald
Starring Michelle Mylett, Caroline Korycki, Gemma Bird Matheson, Sydney Kondruss, Clare Bastable, Samuel Borstein, Katie Nicole Evans, JoAnn Nordstrom, Kelly-Marie Murtha, & Ry Barrett as The Drownsman!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

A silly non ending almost ruins what otherwise is a pretty inventive slasher film in THE DROWNSMAN.

Starting right off the bat with action, THE DROWNSMAN starts out with what feels like the ending of a movie that hasn’t been made. A final girl seems to be fighting back against a bizarre man who seems to use drowning as a method to kill his victims. After seemingly defeating the dripping man-monster in a bathtub, the victim is shocked when the Drownsman disappears into the tub of water. Years later, Madison (SyFy’s ASCENSION star Michelle Mylett) is haunted by dreams of being drowned by the same man and has an irrational fear of water, which gets in the way of the more important things in life such as attending her best friend’s wedding. Scheduling an intervention, the angry bride Hannah (Caroline Korycki) forces Madison to confront her fear of water by having her friend Cathryn (the Mena Suvari-esque Clare Bastable) contact the spirit haunting Madison and cast it out. But the incantation that was only meant to be a ruse only half-works, as it calls the spirit and allows it access into the real world. Now Madison and all of her friends seem to be threatened by a long-dead serial killer and fall victim to water-based deaths one by one.

THE DROWNSMAN is 55 minutes of a solid movie. There’s a fun aspect of a killer who can reach out of any type of water and drown you in even a small puddle of water. The film utilizes variations of this water death motif well as the Drownsman’s victims die in the shower, in the hair salon, and in the washing machine. Water being an important part of our daily lives, I think in terms of modes of death, there is a limitless number of possibilities here and this film only scratches the surface with some fun and inventive kills. This is a must for slasher films, and this feels somewhat like a throwback to the late 80s when everyone was trying to make up their own new iconic slasher.

The problem is that this film really doesn’t know where it wants to go. It’s a collection of fun kills, but as far as a resolution or even a method to combat the Drownsman, this film really has no clue. In one scene, Madison takes on the Drownsman with flares which somehow causes the sopping slasher harm. Now, I’m no scientist, but I think that fire and flares really isn’t the evil opposite of water. Water actually puts fires out, so there’s no real reason for the Drownsman to have any issue with this method of defense. But he does indeed. And while death by road flare might be something to wrap up the Drownsman in PART 5 when the ideas have run their course, it’s not really a strong way to end the first film.

The actresses involved are talented enough. Everyone looks beautiful wet and dry in the world of the Drownsman, so relatability to these characters is low, and we really don’t get to know what makes the Drownsman the Drownsman: how he got his powers and why he does the things he does (there’s brief glimpses of reasons from newspaper clippings, though). It feels as if the filmmakers were so sure they would have a chance to elaborate on this in a sequel that they didn’t want to reveal it all in this first film, but the problem is that they forgot to make the first film worthy of a sequel and because of that, this film really feels like half a movie. THE DROWNSMAN looks good and has some inventive kills, but what makes an iconic character worth revisiting is the strength of that first film. Unfortunately, the lack of resolution or effort in the last few moments of this film makes me wonder why I should care enough to want to see a sequel.

New this week On Demand and select theaters from XLRator!


Directed by Bradley King
Written by Bradley King, B.P. Cooper
Starring Danielle Panabaker, Matt O'Leary, George Finn, John Rhys-Davies, Amin Joseph, Jason Spisak, Sharon Maughan, David Figlioli, Judith Drake
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While I am not a huge fan of time travel films, when done right, there is an undeniable appeal to them. TIME LAPSE is a tense and taut thriller featuring aspects of time travel that don’t get so heady that it’s difficult to follow and even when it does, it all still makes sense.

THE FLASH’s Danielle Panabaker plays Callie, one of three roommates who take care of collecting rent for their apartment complex. Her artist boyfriend Finn (Matt O'Leary, who played the young version of Matthew McConaughey in FRAILTY) and his best bud Jasper (George Finn) live with her, and the three seem to coexist pretty well. Finn tends to throw his all into his paintings and ignore Callie while Jasper lives a lifestyle on the edge, drinking, popping pills, and betting too much. But for the most part, the three seem to have an ideal situation going on. When one of their tenants (identified as John Rhys-Davies only in photographs) fails to pay rent, they go in to investigate to find a charred body in his storage space and a giant machine that seems to take photographs 24 hours into the future. Jasper immediately sees this as a moneymaking opportunity and convinces his roommates to follow his lead to riches, but Jasper’s winning streak raises the hackles of his loan shark who comes to investigate how Jasper is able to pick the winning races, and the pressure of getting the photos that come out 24 hours in advance becomes increasingly steep as the photos suggest even more evil misdeeds 24 hours into the future. Will this window into the future strain the three-way friendship to the breaking point, or will the trio be able to break the temptation to follow what the photographs tell them no matter what dark image the future holds?

TIME LAPSE, for the most part, unfolds like a Hitchcockian origami sculpture. While the threat seems light at the beginning, with each photo revealed, the intensity is kicked up a notch and reaches excruciatingly uncomfortable levels of complexity by the end. For the most part, co-writer/director Bradley King and writer B.P. Cooper are able to keep everything pretty grounded, establishing a set of rules the trio need to follow without making things so complex they lose the viewer. As things do get more complex and the trio are scrambling to make sure they are in the right places at the right time in fear of not getting it right and ending up charred and dead like the original owner of the machine, the logic starts to fray as well. But while this could be attributed to an abstract construct getting away from the writer in the scripting stage, it feels more natural as the mental states of the characters in the story become exhausted and frazzled to the point of relying on rigid rules they have set up in the story, so the inconsistencies or the head-scratching moments are more representative of the state of mind of the characters and not a plot hole in the story.

The three main actors are pretty phenomenal here. George Finn plays the likable troublemaker to a tee in Jasper. We root for him but can see his faults, and when things start going sideways a lot of the tension and action lies on his shoulders, which he carries capably. I haven’t seen this actor in anything, but if I had a camera that looked into the future, I’d predict bigger and better things for him. Matt O'Leary is amazing as the intense and distracted artist Finn. He’s very much the voice of reason here, and the only one looking at things in a rational and heady manner. If Jasper is all impulse, he is the opposite and in the realm of the story is crucial. O’Leary, too, offers up a star-making performance here undergoing a broad range of emotions and requirements in the story. The most challenging role, though, is Danielle Panabaker’s, and she does a fantastic job of playing an increasingly unlikable character. By the end of this film, you will end up disliking her quite a bit as the pressures of this machine weigh on her, but just because she plays an unlikable character doesn’t mean she is bad. Here, Panabaker’s Callie is the axis everything teeters on. I don’t want to reveal any more, but her shift from likable to unlikable is crucial in this meticulously calculated story.

Smartly constructed and snappily acted, there is a lot to like about TIME LAPSE. It’s not overly complex at the beginning and is able to lead you down a path of madness in a calculated and fascinating manner. Those who like their sci fi in small doses will definitely be in for this one, and it’s a true treasure find for those who live on thrillers dripping with suspense and tension.

New On Demand and in select theaters from Vertical Entertainment!

INFINI (2015)

Directed by Shane Abbess
Written by Shane Abbess & Brian Cachia
Starring Daniel MacPherson, Grace Huang, Luke Hemsworth, Bren Foster, Luke Ford, Dwaine Stevenson, Louisa Mignone, Tess Haubrich, Harry Pavlidis, Kevin Copeland, Andy Rodoreda, Richard Huggett, Paul Winchester, Brendan Clearkin, Matt Minto, Belinda Gosbee
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

INFINI is a rock-solid sci fi flick the likes of which they don’t make anymore. It doesn’t have giant CG aliens or epic space battles, just big ideas and how they interact with the human condition which makes it one of the most truly unique and most sci fi of all of the sci fi films you’re bound to see this year.

In the future, there is a mode of interstellar space travel called “slipstreaming” which is a crude teleportation method that works by activating a device called an “apex” which looks like a metal bug implanted onto the backs of soldiers who need to be across the universe in moments. When an alien virus outbreak occurs in the furthest colony in the solar system named Infini, a group of soldiers are sent to disable the base and take out any of the infected, who are still conscious but controlled by some kind of aggressive urge to kill everything in their path. But this isn’t really a story about zombie space viruses, it’s about one soldier’s struggle to survive and return across the universe to his home, his wife, and his unborn child. After his team is destroyed and most of the rescue team is infected, this soldier by the name of Wit (played by popular Australian TV actor Daniel MacPherson) is on a desperate run for survival from the violent infected people he was there to save; all the while, the virus is evolving into…something.

What INFINI lacks in Hollywood sci fi glam and glitz it makes up doubly in ideas. The idea that space travel isn’t as easy as we have been lead to believe in STAR TREK is cool enough, as the “slipstreaming” often leads to brain damage and often death, so every time you jump could be your last. The virus itself is left ambiguous as well. As I said, this isn’t about brain eating zombies, it’s about a viral strain that evolves throughout the film and as Wit attempts to survive, so is the virus. Place both of these factors into the same story and odds for survival lessen greatly, which doesn’t bode well for Wit.

So without the big effects, it’s up to strong performances and intense ground level action to drive the film, and this film has both. The international cast includes one of the Hemsworth brood (seems like there are more Hemsworths out there than Culkins), who plays one of the soldiers. But the film rests on MacPherson’s shoulders, and he does a fantastic job at playing both the emotional core of a man fighting to save his humanity and the heavy action hero role as he takes his fair share of hard knocks and still keeps on ticking.

There’s a gritty brutality to the violence here that you just don’t see in most clean and CG-ed sci fis anymore, which again makes this entire film stand apart from most. This is a story of man dealing with his own hard evolution versus the evolution of something entirely alien. This is one of those films that will surprise you. Co-writer/director Shane Abbess films the hell out of this thing, giving it a unique look, sometimes bathing the interior of the ship with blues and reds while other times just sinking it into grimy/rusty tones. INFINI is something truly special and is a breath of fresh air, reminding us all what real sci fi is all about. Highly recommended for lovers of real sci fi.

Advance Review: Coming soon later in 2015!


Directed by Jakob Bilinski, Nathan Thomas Milliner, John Kenneth Muir, P.J. Starks and Lee Vervoort
Written by P.J. Starks, Todd Martin and Nathan Thomas Milliner
Starring Jason Crowe, Roni Jonah, Alexandria Hendrick, Garret Smith, Louisa Torres, Jim O'Rear, Todd Reynolds, Jordan Phillips, Elissa Grant, Louisa Torres, Kristine Renee Farley, Kevin Roach
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

This new anthology is from the Midwestern low budget filmmakers behind such indie gems as THREE TEARS ON BLOODSTAINED FLESH (Jakob Bilinski), HALLOW’S EVE: SLAUGHTER ON 2ND STREET (P.J. Starks), A WISH FOR THE DEAD (Nathan Thomas Milliner), NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE, & BLUE (John Kenneth Muir), & GUN TOWN (Lee Vervoort). Pooling their collective talents seems to be the a good thing as this anthology was one of the more spunky and inventive collections of shorts I’ve seen in quite a while.

VOLUMES OF BLOOD opens with your typical slasher scenario which gets turned on its head and segues into the main story of four horror fans trying to one up each other with a story of a modern urban legend, all set in a library. The library thing serves as a great way to limit the parameters of each storyteller’s tale, but it also most likely saved money by having the entire thing take place in one locale. This type of smart corner-cutting is part of the charm of indie films, but also the type of limitation that can really get the juices flowing in creative types up for the challenge, and these filmmakers and the storytellers who swap their tales in the story seem to be up to the task.

Of all of the tales, one of the least inventive is the first tale that revolves around an energy drink delivered by Lucen Ferr (Jim O’Rear), which of course doesn’t really deliver exactly what was advertised to a weary student. The story gets nice and gory, but is rather predictable, with the name of the mysterious energy drink provider giving the punch line away early on. But the story is regaled as lame by the storytellers, which sort of makes up for it’s lack of inventiveness.

The second feature is by far the scariest, as a mysterious book simply cannot be shelved. Filmed in moody black and white, there are all kinds of scares to be had as the filmmakers pay close attention to the foreground and background action, which highlights a stalking ghost. This one builds tension by the second, and though it’s another quickie, every minute builds upon the next until the end. Simple stage makeup makes this ghost look more fearful than most big budget spooks.

Third up is a story of a girl who promises to meet her boyfriend by midnight, but falls asleep in the library instead and encounters a monster. With some dramatic lighting and an awesome synth score, this one reminded me a lot of some of Carpenter’s earliest works. The acting here is a lot of fun, and though the boyfriend is utterly douchebag-erific, he tempts his girlfriend to come to his mom’s basement after studying with the line perfect set-up for a pregnancy scare.” The line had me rolling, and this is one potent little shocker.

After that comes the short about a grieving girlfriend whose ex killed himself soon after she broke up with him. After finding a book on Satanism, she decides to attempt to talk with deceased with horrific results as a devil-faced madman stalks her through the rows of books. This one again had strong acting and some nice twists in the end.

The final segment gets meta as we pull the camera back a skosh to reveal an obnoxious filmmaker who brags about his awards and berates his spiteful crew. Soon bodies start piling up, and while this one lacks some of the scares, it ends the film with some really nice gore and a wink and a nod to the audience that hits all the right notes. In the end, this anthology highlighted the ingenuity of all involved in front of and behind the camera of low budget films. As with most anthologies, some of the shorts are stronger than others, but placed together, VOLUMES OF BLOOD is a strong reminder that sometimes the biggest scares can be made with meager budgets.

And finally…let me don my J.J. Jackson pants and introduce a music video from director Adam Mason and the music of Los Angeles Police Department (not the police force, the band). This one’s called “Insecurity” and it’s got stabbings, drownings, and crucifixions. Sounds like something right up AICN HORROR’s alley! Snap your fingers and tap your toes to this bloody and violent, yet infectiously catchy tune!

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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