Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to this weekend’s Bruce Campbell’s Film Festival in Chicago which is going on during their yearly WizardWorld Chicago Convention just North of town in Rosemont at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center!
The good news is that I’ve seen quite a few of the cool films that are playing at the horror festival and as a sort of sneak preview for the event, I figured I’d throw some of my reviews of the films together in one column. So below are five very cool horror films playing the fest. They range from high concept to lowbrow and unabashedly indie to pretty top tier production, so there’s a little for everything to enjoy.
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980)
Advance Review: SUN CHOKE (2015)
Advance Review: BUNNY THE KILLER THING (2015)
Advance Review: DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III (2015)
Advance Review: SOME KIND OF HATE (2015)
Playing at the fest on Sunday with an introduction by Eli Roth! Plus a cannibal breakfast will be served!
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980)Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Written by Gianfranco Clerici
Starring Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi, Salvatore Basile, Carl Gabriel Yorke
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Man, this was a tough film to sit though. I knew I was going to be in for something pretty sick when I finally found the time to sit down and watch CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. I know this film has been touted as one of the most horrific films of all time and it does live up to that title. Filled with animal mutilation, rape, murder, dismemberment, torture, sex, and of course,cannibalism, once you’ve seen CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, I guarantee you’ll never forget it.
The thing that really hit me about CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is that, aside from all of the disgusting elements attached to this film, it is a damn smart film that deftly examines American culture and the role of media. The story starts out with a quartet of filmmakers getting ready to leave for Amazonia. We are then informed that the four were never seen again. Professor Harold Monroe (played by stern-faced Robert Kerman) decides to take a crew of mercenaries to Amazonia to find out what happened to them. After a lengthy travelogue featuring some pretty grisly scenes of real animal killing and some rituals that look all too real involving rape, torture, and murder, Monroe finds the film crew’s film canisters and takes them back to the US to review. While the media is pressuring Monroe to release the tapes, Monroe has an uneasy feeling about doing so. As the film is processed, he uncovers horrors unimaginable.
Ruggero Deodato directs a grisly and stark film, filled with effects both real and made up. Using real natives as actors, the director was able to get savage performances from a culture who probably had never seen a camera before. To come in and film a horror film in the middle of what might as well be an alien culture takes balls. The effects used in this film will make you think twice as to whether or not this is real or not; part of the mystique of the film lies in not knowing the authenticity of what’s going on. In one scene you have an actual beheading of a monkey; in the next, a horrific murder of a person. The effects are so real, you won’t be able to tell the difference between what’s Hollywood magic and what’s downright murder. But that’s kind of the point Deodato and writer Gianfranco Clerici were going for, I believe. What I love about this film is that it misleads you at first. One is led to think this is going to be a film about four innocents killed by evil savages, but as the tapes are processed and we see the filmmakers manipulate the “savages” into performing for their film and going to any lengths including murder, rape, and desecration of villages and culture for the sake of cinema, you really see that the film crew are the real monsters here. Though Ruggero Deodato was accused of making a snuff film due to the all too realistic effects used in the film, the real horror lies in the devilish fascination in the eyes of the camera crew as they manipulate what we as the viewer see and violate the culture they are visiting, while playing the objective reporter.
Not exactly a found footage film, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is about a found footage film and goes where most of the new films are afraid to go by asking: does the public really want to see these tapes? Timely indeed—though CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST was made in a much simpler time, the themes of the film resonate all the way to today’s headlines. I couldn’t help but think about Osama Bin Laden’s death and the debate as to whether or not the photos of his body should be released while watching this film. And though many won’t be able to stomach all of the horror that this film has throughout its running time, it is an important film worthy of debate and much thought. Sitting through CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST was quite a chore, especially the grotesque rape scenes and the unsettlingly realistic final horrific moments of the film crew, but I was unsettled more by what CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST had to say about us as a bloodthirsty society than all of the blood and guts.
Playing the fest at 4:30pm on Sunday!
SUN CHOKE (2015)Directed by Ben Cresciman
Written by Ben Cresciman
Starring Sarah Hagan, Barbara Crampton, Sara Malakul Lane, Evan Jones, Joe Nieves, William Nicol, Annie Read
Find out more info on this movie at Lodger Films!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Last year, my favorite horror film of the year was PROXY, a complex tale of madness by inches from various points of view. So to say that SUN CHOKE reminded me of PROXY, to me, is the ultimate compliment for the film as it gave me the same feelings of dread, fascination, and complete unease that PROXY did one year ago.
FREAKS AND GEEKS nerd girl Sarah Hagan plays Janie, a sheltered and fragile young girl who, as we open the film, is undergoing one psychological test after another by what seems to be her mother Irma (RE-ANIMATOR’s Barbara Crampton). But the more time we spend with Janie and her “mother,” the more twisted things become as the tests and punishments Janie endures get more intense. We are made privy to a few snippets of why Irma is so focused on studying and testing Janie’s stability as we see Janie getting restrained by multiple people after being discovered covered in blood, but for the most part, all fingers point to Irma as the big bad of the film. Things get kind of complicated when Irma decides to let Janie out into public and do things on her own. It is at this point of the film when we see that Janie isn’t the timid victim she seems like in the first half of this film. Revealing anything more would not be fair to this nightmarish view into a very unwell mind.
When done well, psychological horror can hit you harder than a million gallons of blood and gore. This is the case with SUN CHOKE which from the beginning had me by the throat and never let go. Seeing Crampton’s Irma put an electrified dog collar on Janie and force her to do Yoga to calm her nerves is absolutely riveting. Janie’s thinly sliced sanity chipping away at the slightest breeze is entrancing as well. Crampton is electric here and proves that this beautiful actress may have some of her best performances in front of her—she certainly commands every scene she is in here.
But it’s Sarah Hagan that is the real surprise here. She has an alien beauty to her than makes it hard to look away from her, even when she is doing the most despicable things. It seems as if she hasn’t aged since her stint as Millie Ketner on FREAKS AND GEEKS with her plain long brown hair and even plainer face that seems like it’s never worn makeup in her life. Seeing this delicate wallflower suddenly sprout thorns is gloriously engrossing to witness.
Director/writer Ben Cresciman tells an intimate tale of madness here. The film is soft and fragile one minute—pointed and harsh the next. It’ a film that defies expectations and is as dangerous as it is beautiful. Unfolding like an origami flower made of sandpaper, SUN CHOKE pulls you in and squeezes relentlessly until the twisted ending that will leave creases in your brain that will be impossible to smooth out.
Playing at the fest at midnight on Saturday!
BUNNY THE KILLER THING (2015)Directed by Joonas Makkonen
Written by Joonas Makkonen (screenplay & story), Miika J. Norvanto(story)
Starring Enni Ojutkangas, Veera W. Vilo, Gareth Lawrence, Roope Olenius, Joonas Makkonen, Marcus Massey, Katja Jaskari, Jari Manninen, Olli Saarenpää, Ari Savonen, Miika J. Norvanto, Maria Kunnari, Henry Saari, Marika Pekkarinen, Juho Jaakkonen, Marko Moilanen, Vincent Tsang, Juha-Matti Halonen, Orwi Imanuel Ameh, Ari Karhunen, Erno Michelsson, Harri Korkiakoski, Hiski Hämäläinen, Harri Marttinen, Alisa Kyllönen, Simo Räsänen, Orwi Manny Ameh, Simo Räsänen, & Matti Kiviniemi as Bunny the Killer Thing!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Art snobs beware, BUNNY THE KILLER THING will take that upturned nose of yours and fuck it raw. But if you don’t mind guttural, potty humor to the maximum, this is going to be one hell of an experience you’re going to want to seek out asap.
Reminiscent of another over the top, overseas gorefest DEAD DNOW and especially it’s gory sequel ( reviewed here), BUNNY THE KILLER THING starts out running at full blast as a man and a woman are abducted by men in ski masks and taken to a shady operating room to be experimented on. Injected with a needle full of white fluid seemingly taken from a harmless widdle bunny, the man undergoes a rapid transformation into a giant man-shaped bunny with an enormous penis with the sole purpose to fuck things to death. Screaming “PUSSY!” at the top of its lungs, this creature goes on a rampage after a group of camping kids who have picked up a bumbling trio of kidnappers on the side of the road. Agreeing to party the night away, the kids and kidnappers have no idea a giant man-rabbit with a raging hard-on is barreling towards them and fucking anything that moves. Who will live? Who will die? Who will survive an encounter with the two foot long penis of Bunny the Killer Thing?
Don’t take a minute of this film seriously and you’re bound to have a blast. If you’re the type who is going to cringe, be offended, and point of how politically incorrect this film is, please just move on to the next film and keep your accusatory digit to yourself. The film is masochistic. It is horrifying. It involves a giant rabbit man raping and killing everything in his path be it man, woman, or beast. And while films set to a serious tone deeply disturb me when it deals with subjects like rape, torture, animal cruelty, and death, when these subjects are dealt with such a level of cartoonish and manic lunacy as it does here, I can’t help but be impressed at the no fucks given attitude on display. Playing on stereotypes, clichés, and many other non-PC tropes, this movie will offend and if it does, then it seems like it is doing just what it set out to do. BUNNY THE KILLER THING seems proud of being inappropriate and dammit if it isn’t refreshing to see this type of brazen wrong-ness displayed for all to see whether they like it or not.
Wall to wall gore and unbridled mayhem occurs from minute one to minute last. There’s a story—it’s not the most original, but it’s there. Each character has some nice moments and an arc that brings them out the other end of this film a different person. And it’s because we kind of care about the kid who masturbates a lot and wants to lose his virginity or the Chinese kidnapper who is falling for the drunk college kid or the thinly veiled gay relationship between one of the kidnappers and one of the party animal kids that makes it all the more fun and horrific when they come into contact with this monstrous walking erection. Like DEAD SNOW, the mayhem is grounded by the offbeat and somewhat goofy, but likable characters, so it’s a film that resonates despite its oddity.
Again, this is not a film to be taken seriously. From start to finish, this is a whirlwind of a gore and wrong that’ll leave you gasping for breath by the time the credits roll. So wrong. So much fun. I loved every minute of it, but if you don’t mind an excessive amount of bodily fluids, double and triple entendre, and a healthy amount of slapstick violence that makes EVIL DEAD II look like GHANDI, BUNNY THE KILLER THING is going to entertain your freaking taint off!
BEWARE: There’s nothing in this trailer that is appropriate enough to be watched at work!
Playing the fest at midnight Friday night! Newly available for digital download on iTunes and on their website here!
DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III (2015)Directed by Tomm Jacobsen, Michael Rousselet, Jon Salmon
Written by Alec Owen (screenplay), Jon Salmon, Michael E. Peter, Ben Gigli, Timothy Ciancio, Michael Rousselet, Tomm Jacobsen, Joey Scoma, Mike James, & Brian Firenzi (Wrtiers)
Starring Alec Owen, Patton Oswalt, Paul Prado, Brian Firenzi, Kelsey Gunn, Joey Scoma, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Ben Gigli, Jimmy Wong, Greg Sestero, Jon Salmon, Michael Rousselet, Mike James, Maria Del Carmen, Nina Hartley, Nick Kocher, Brian McElhaney, Andrew W.K., K.C. Katsaros, Brandon White, Donan Whelan, Erik Sandoval, Skyler Rousselet, Chelsea St. John, Larry King, Rocky Collins, Jon Worley, Matt Hargreaves, Ian Ahern, Benji Dolly, Desmond Dolly, Katie Matthews, Thomas Ridgewell, Clayton LaDue, Tomm Jacobsen, Jon M. Brence, Katie Johnson
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Filling itself from the rooter to the tooter with lowbrow fun, though sometimes surprising at how sophisticated the humor turns out, DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III is some of the dumbest fun you’re going to have while watching a horror film this year.
Having survived the past two DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE’s (you didn’t miss anything, there are no actual DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE movies before this one) , dude bro Brock (one of the screenwriters of the film Alec Owen) has been left pretty traumatized. After recapping his harrowing journey to his therapist, he finds that his luck has run out and ends up being murdered by what looks to be the seemingly resurrected “Motherface,” a serial killer who terrorized the jocks and preps of Frat Row in the first two non-existent films. Brock’s twin brother Brent (also played by Owen) never understood why his brother was into the whole frat thing and was more of a loner, but hearing of his brother’s death, he sets out to solve who murdered him and put an end to this Dude Bro Party Massacre business once and for all. Entering as a pledge to the fraternity, he meets his Dude Bro brethren and heads out on an innocent party weekend with the dudes, all the while trying to glean who the killer is. Luckily (or unluckily depending on how you look at it), Motherface has followed them into the woods and she’s ready to kill again!
The humor in DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III is pretty much the WET, HOT, AMERICAN SUMMER variety as it chooses to barrage us with one inane moment after the next at rapid fire. While everyone is taking things drastically serious within the narrative, there isn’t a serious line muttered by the cast. By having everyone in the film not really playing along that there’s a farce going on around them, there’s never that annoying moment we see in the SCARY MOVIE films where the character steps out of the movie and makes a meta-comment that falls flat. In DBPM3, like many characters in the horror films we love and cherish, they have no idea they are in a horror movie, let alone a farce of a horror movie. So this makes it all the more fun and drives the point home that everyone in this film is an idiot that they are oblivious to the creeping horror picking them off one by one, mainly because it’s happened to them in two unmade movies before.
I wasn’t expecting to be scared by this film and I wasn’t. That’s not what this film is supposed to be. Though there are some shockingly gory moments (and the gore effects are actually top notch all the way through except for maybe a intentionally fake looking severed head or two), these effects are so outrageous that they will inspire gasps of laughter more than anything else.
The scores of cameos in this film are another treat. While the main actors all seem to be a part of the same comedy troupe, genre greats like Patton Oswalt, pornstar Nina Hartley, Larry King, and of course, party-rocker Andrew W.K. show up just long enough to make you wonder why the hell they are there. In all cases, these cameos aren’t slumming it. They seem to be giving it their all to support this film
I thought DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III was a low-fi, high-guffaw masterpiece, but I’m sure there will be some who won’t. Humor being the most subjective of qualities, I’m certain there will be those sticks in the mud that will write this one off for it’s non-stop inanity. But I loved this film for that same reason. If hearing the dude-bro’s sing “Nobody Is Gonna Die” as they drive a camper to a desolate location in the middle of the woods makes you smile, this might be the type of film for you. This film turned out to have my kind of gross-out and go for broke sensibilities that I love and respect. If you can laugh at the absurdity of horror while poking fun at a subculture of men who deserve to be laughed at, then I’m sure you’re the right type of audience for DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III.
playing at the fest at 3:00pm on Saturday! Coming soon to select theaters and On Demand on September 18th!
SOME KIND OF HATE (2015)Directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer
Written by Brian DeLeeuw & Adam Egypt Mortimer (screenplay)
Starring Ronen Rubinstein, Grace Phipps, Spencer Breslin, Lexi Atkins, Sierra McCormick, Brando Eaton, Justin Prentice, Maestro Harrell, Michael Polish, Noah Segan, Andrew Bryniarski, Jisaura Cardinale, Audrey Ellis Fox, Jasper Polish, Matt Beene
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Teen angst is always a good well to draw the stuff of horror from and SOME KIND OF HATE channels that angst in an often spooky, often gory manner.
Lincoln (Ronen Rubinstein) is an outsider at school and ripe for bullying, but when he retaliates and stabs a school bully in the face with a fork, Lincoln is toted off to a camp in the middle of the desert to take care of his delinquent ways. But while new age counselors Jack (NORTHFORK director Michael Polish) and his assistant Krauss (Noah Segan) tout that the camp is supposed to help make Lincoln a stronger person, Lincoln soon finds that this safe haven has bullies too (DARK SUMMER’s Maestro Harrell and DEXTER’s Brando Eaton). What none of them know is that the hatred and rage built up inside of Lincoln has woken the spirit of Moira (Sierra McCormick) a girl whose death has been covered up and kept secret and seeing that the camp is still rife with abuse and misdeeds, Moira goes on a rampage to take care of those who victimize those who enter the camp.
What I loved about SOME KIND OF HATE was that it doesn’t really reveal itself to be a ghost story until late in the film. For the first portion, this is a film about the horrifying and damaging potential of bullying. The film does a fantastic job of capturing the teenage angst and drama without making it feel preachy; like something ripped from an after school special. The twist that this becomes about a vengeful spirit fits into the narrative, but it definitely is a twist I didn’t see coming, not knowing anything about the film before going in. Once this film tips it’s supernatural hat, it continues to tell a compelling story only through a different lens. While late in the game twists can be seen as a gimmick, this one feels organic within the story and doesn’t derail the momentum one bit. This has everything to do with director/writer Adam Egypt Mortimer’s balance of when to be stylistic with his imagery and when to play things on a more substantial level. There are scenes in this film that really capture the sense of isolation one feels as a teenager and whether it can be categorized as a tense drama or a supernatural thriller doesn’t matter because it all looks great and the script supports it however you see it.
But this isn’t all about crying in your pillow because daddy never loved me. This is a creatively gory film that spurts blood in every direction and pulls no punches. There are more than a few scenes where the violence and gore in this film are so intense and personal that it made me wince. Because Moira’s weapon of choice is a box cutter (as she is a cutter herself), the slices she makes to herself and transfers to her victims will definitely make your toes curl. Those who get riled at the sight of blood have a lot to get excited with this movie.
There are a few missteps near the end of the film as some characters seem to rush through transitions rather briskly in order to bring the story to a close, but for the most part this is a top tier film from start to finish. Adding to the strengths of this film are the relative unknowns playing the parts. Rubenstein is great as Lincon, not overacting, but still able to carry most of the heavy scenes. His love interest Kaitlin (VAMPIRE DIARIES’ Grace Phipps) is gorgeous and talented as all get out. Phipps is going to be a big star soon as her performance here as a rebellious ex-cheerleader will grab you by the throat. And NORTHFORK director Michael Polish really surprised me by channeling David Cronenberg from his creepy NIGHTBREED performance as the lead counselor and delivers a chillingly cold turn. With superb acting, tons of blood spatter, and a creative and tactile way to tell a ghost story, SOME KIND OF HATE is a film that is both gripping and gorgeous to look at.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 14 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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