Ain't It Cool News (


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

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column.

Here’s a bit of cool horror news. I’m always a fan of the little theaters that support horror films, and the folks at The Williams Theater at 1 Williams Plaza, Rutherford, New Jersey are showing a triple feature of NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, FRIGHT NIGHT, and SHAUN OF THE DEAD on Saturday in hopes to raise awareness to save the theater from being closed. You can find out more about the whens and wheres here! If you’re close, you should support small business theater owners and check it out!

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

FELT (2014)
And finally…Ray Bradbury’s ”Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed!”

New this week on BluRay/DVD from The Shout Factory!


Directed by Ryan Bellgardt
Written by Ryan Bellgardt, Andrew Swanson, Josh McKamie
Starring John Ferguson, Jordan Farris, Christian Bellgardt, Lucas Ross, Rett Terrell, Raychelle McDonald
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Blending sci fi with classical horror, ARMY OF FRANKENSTEINS makes a little go a long way. While some of the acting is a bit stiff, the film is filled with fun ideas making this a film worth seeking out. While shooting on what seems to be mostly green screen backgrounds, director Ryan Bellgardt may not have made the most immersive of films, but he has cut corners and still made a pretty expansive one despite what looks to be a tight budget.

ARMY OF FRANKENSTEINS begins in the middle of the Civil War era as both battle-weary armies seem to be on their last legs. Out of a foggy battlefield rises a strange figure, walking stiffly yet possessing the power of ten men. Behind him are other large men exhibiting the same behaviors and upon coming into view, it is clear to the army (and anyone who has ever seen a Frankenstein film) that this is not just one, but an army, of Frankenstein monsters. Jump to the present and a young man named Alan Jones (Jordan Farris) is having difficulty with his girlfriend after catching her making out with her boss at the grocery store. This seemingly banal happenstance leads Alan to a laboratory straight out of a classic monster movie with a cantankerous old scientist (John Ferguson) and a child assistant named Igor (Christian Bellgardt). Unbeknownst to Alan, he’s a key to the past and a descendant of a Civil War hero, and when the scientist taps into the time stream Doc Emmett Brown-style he sends Alan and Igor back in time to the Civil War era we saw in the opening.

Influenced heavily by BACK TO THE FUTURE, Alan plays a likable normal man caught in an extraordinary situation filled with super science, lumbering undead monsters, and time travel. The story is overly dramatic to an operatic level, but has an old school sci fi appeal to it all. Sure the motivations get a little murky and the way everything fits gets a bit loose at times, but writer/director Ryan Bellgardt, along with his co writers Andrew Swanson and Josh McKamie, deliver a tale that would be at home in any old school science fiction comic book with all sorts of twists and turns for our time-lost star and his band of heroes.

The design of the monster itself is rather cliché. I understand why this version of the creature was used, but the Boris Karloff/Herman Munster-style design of Frankenstein’s monster, bolts and all, has been used so much it has lost its imposing feeling through the years. Still, seeing an army of them is amazingly fun, especially since they are all clones of the same creature. And while the tech to replicate the same character is a bit rudimentary here, it still rings as very fun.

The other highlight of this expansive tale is child actor Christian Bellgardt, who plays Igor. Usually when kids are involved in horror films, it’s a cringe-worthy experience as kids are often taboo to be harmed, or the opposite--used as chum to incite some kind of extreme emotional reaction. But here, Bellgardt is the most capable actor on this film and seems to have plopped straight out of an Amblin adventure. Not only is he given all of the scientific knowledge to play with, but he’s also given the most badass lines to play with. Here’s hoping this is the first of many roles for Bellgardt, who seems to be a natural as the youthful badass in the lab and on the battlefield.

A film like ARMY OF FRANKENSTEINS always impresses me in that it achieves so much on a low budget. It’s very much a love letter to those classic horror films of old, but also plays with time travel themes made popular in BACK TO THE FUTURE, all of which is done in a fun, Saturday morning matinee manner lost to most modern films.

New this week on DVD and On Demand from Uncork’d Entertainment!


Directed by Jeremy Wooding
Written by Alan Wightman
Starring Shaun Dooley, George Blagden, Tom Cotcher, Barrington De La Roche, Raffaello Degruttola, Jack Fox, Dave Fulton, George Webster, Corey Johnson, Tony Law, Eleanor Matsuura, Amber Jean Rowan, Kerry Shale, Anna Skellern, David Sterne, Joan Walker, Ben Warwick, & Ian Whyte as the Skinwalker!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

A genuine love for both horror and the classic western makes BLOOD MOON a fun low fi movie to give a look see to.

A small ghost town is the setting for a group of travelers weary from the trail and looking for solace, but outside are outlaws who recently massacred a bank in a neighboring town. Taking the group hostage, the outlaws soon learn that they’re not the only threat in the surrounding forest--a Native American skinwalker is howling at the blood moon above, and ready to tear into anyone it can get its six inch claws on.

Doing a mash up like this is often extremely difficult, as you almost have to make two movies in one, and if either is subpar, then the entire film is likely to fail. It’s evident that director Jeremy Wooding and writer Alan Wightman love Westerns. The film borrows heavily from spaghetti Westerns of old as a mysterious stranger wanders into town to help them against a despicable evil. There are all sorts of Old West dialecting going on as the outlaws and the simple folk word-battle it out with the wolf outside. People are challenged to draw, and the fastest gun in the West title is challenged. There is even a sheriff riding in on horseback to save the day. It’s all there in a sort of greatest hits form that pays homage to the Western, though it doesn’t really add anything new to the genre.

The horror aspects are decent here as well, as the monster looks really good. Big, hairy, and snarlin’, very little CG was used in giving this wolf form and while this makes the wolf a little less articulated than other werewolves we’ve seen, caught in the right light, he’s a fearsome beast. The gore is equally fun here too, as the filmmakers don’t shy away from digging those claws deep into the cast’s throats.

Yes, there is a prevalent low budget nature to BLOOD MOON. The cast is made of mostly unknowns or character actors you will recognize but don’t know the name of. Still, there’s an evident love of both horror and westerns here that can’t be denied, making this a fun little endeavor in both genres.

New this week on DVD/BluRay from Anchor Bay Entertainment!


Directed by Derick Martini
Written by Bret Easton Ellis & Derick Martini (screenplay), Michael Hornburg (novel)
Starring Bella Heathcote, Kevin Zegers, Helen Slater, Lucas Till, Penelope Mitchell, Zane Holtz, Mark L. Young, Tom Arnold, Martin Spanjers, Jacqueline Emerson, Kayla Servi, Steven Martini, Marcus Giamatti, Sherilyn Henderson, Jeff Staron, David Jason Perez, Joseph Daniels, Joel Michael Kramer, Caleb Penrod
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While this film has a bit more bite than I would have thought it would have, THE CURSE OF DOWNER’S GROVE doesn’t have much going for it in terms of safe “pretty people in peril” horror.

Bella Heathcote plays Chrissie, a smart but apathetic teenager who struggles with an annoying little brother, a mom who is dating a douchebag, and how she can finally get a date with the hunky repairman at the local garage named Bobby (Lucas Till). There is also a local curse where every year someone from the senior class dies, but Chrissie is not really worried about all of that. When Chrissie and her best friend Tracy (Penelope Mitchell) meet a bunch of dudes from the other side of town including Chuck (Kevin Zegers) and decide to attend a party thrown by them, Chuck attempts to rape Chrissie in an upstairs bathroom and she pokes his eye out. Ruining his football career, Chuck is overcome with vengeance and vows to make Chrissie and her friends pay.

Immediately, this film annoyed me as the monotone voiceover from Heathcote is enough to make you want to slice your own wrists. Overcome with first world problems, she just can’t take the boredom of living in the burbs. Sure things get real when she is almost raped and I started feeling for her, but beginning the film with someone mumbling out discourse about the curse of Downer’s Grove and how much she hates living there is not a good way to make you want to give a shit. If anything, it helps you hope bad things happen to her, which works for a slasher film from the 80s but not so much in a film where you are supposed to care about the lead character.

AMERICAN PSYCHO and RULES OF ATTRACTION writer Brett Easton Ellis co-wrote the screenplay of the film, and shades of those two films are present as Chuck sort of represents the sociopathic leads from both. The party scenes are especially RULES OF ATTRACTION-y, as Zegers and his flock of bros are seen doing lines and lines of coke before going out to date rape anyone they can corner. The problem is that while AMERICAN PSYCHO has a strong and compelling lead and RULES OF ATTRACTION had a lot going on in the story, THE CURSE OF DOWNERS GROVE does not have either. Heathcote’s plight is decent, but she places herself in one dangerous position after another, making you doubt the big brains the story keeps telling you she has. Since there needs to be a big violent climax, the cops and parents are conveniently absent and by the final act, every bad person has amped it up to comic book levels of extreme and the persecuted immediately are empowered with the guts they lacked for the entire film to have an extended fight scene with the jocks.

Add on an absolutely wooden performance by Lucas Till and you’ve got a pretty bad film on your hands. I will give it to this film: the final scenes go to a level of violence that I wasn’t expecting, especially since everything seemed to be playing it pretty safe for most of the film. Many people die, faces are smashed in, and shotguns go blazing. But the violent and over the top ending just doesn’t save the malaise-filled cast of THE CURSE OF DOWNERS GROVE.

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

RUN, HIDE, DIE (2012)

Directed by Collin Joseph Neal
Written by Alison Monda
Starring Alison Monda, Alicia Mendez, Ivey Bronwen, Tabitha Bastien, Keiko Green, Gail Harvey, Nathan Christopher Haase, Philip D. Clarke, Ronee Collins, Julianne Gabert, Samara Lerman, Bruce Newburn, Andy Dopieralski, Scott C. Brown, Thomas Brophy
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

RUN, HIDE, DIE starts off sooooooo well, but dammit if it doesn’t shit the bed by the time the real threat rears its ugly head.

A group of gal pals throw together an impromptu girls’ weekend in a cabin in the woods. What’s the worst that could happen? Soon, a dark secret from the past comes back to haunt them and makes them reenact the screenplay from a film one of the party girls is reading for an audition. Much high-pitched screaming and cast members talking over one another ensues.

RUN, HIDE, DIE starts out really strong, with an assemblage of a bunch of likable and personable young actresses. One of them recently lost her husband and the rest gather with her to cheer her up. The first half of this film is infectiously appealing, as the girls talk like normal girls and quite a few of them are downright hilarious. Actress Alicia Mendez is the standout, as her performance as Indy is pretty much the highlight of the film with her often crass but always hilarious banter she provides to lighten up the situation every time things get too heavy. When I first started watching this film it felt a lot like the first moments of THE DESCENT, where the female cast felt genuine in their interactions with one another. When things were meant to be funny, they were hilarious. When things got serious, you actually felt the resonance. This is the exact way I felt about the first 45 minutes of this film, as these gals really were fun to hang around.

But as soon as the threat arises, things dissolve into some of the most grating and incomprehensible crap I’ve seen in quite a while. For about twenty solid minutes, every cast member in this film is screaming back and forth at one another and then just screaming at the top of their lungs. It made it hard to distinguish dialog. The shots were dark so you didn’t know who was who some of the time, and while the motivation for revenge is pretty clear, the methods with which the vengeance against these gals is unleashed is convoluted and straight up nonsensical. One of the gals is an actress, so the abductors swipe the horror script and have the girls read from it playing different roles. If someone dies in the script, that gal really dies. Not a bad hook for a story, but it comes so late in the game and there is absolutely no way the killers would have known the script ahead of time, so having them rely on scenes and direct the screaming girls as if they have read the script before is pretty unbelievable.

I haven’t been this disappointed in a film in a while. Though some of the actresses may have long careers with Mendez leading the pact as she shows great range at being likable, funny, and able to get serious when necessary, this movie is not the one that will rocket any of them to superstardom. Some films ends up being bad right out of the gate. But when films like RUN, HIDE, DIE come along with so much promise in the opening moments, it’s an even bigger disappointment when it shows it really has nothing apart from the personality of the cast to propel it. Bad, bad movie.

New this week on DVD/BluRay, on iTunes, & digital download from Anchor Bay Entertainment!

FELT (2014)

Directed by Jason Banker
Written by Jason Banker & Amy Everson
Starring Amy Everson, Kentucker Audley, Ryan Creighton, Elisabeth Ferrara, Roxanne Knouse, Brendan Miller, Alanna Reynolds, Tony Ruiz, Mark Skubala, Brandileigha Stracner
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Billed as a feminist psychological horror film, I feel labeling FELT as such is a bit of a detriment to the film, and to the feminist movement as well. I would hope the feminist movement doesn’t want people to believe that its ultimate goal is to castrate all males (or maybe it is), as that’s what this movie seems to imply if feminism is the lens we are supposed to view this film through, so I prefer to look at this film as a look into a deeply damaged mind and leave it at that.

Amy (Amy Everson) is a deeply troubled young woman. She has friends and family who care for her, but her off-kilter way of looking at the world and even more bizarre acts she performs when she is alone indicate that something is deeply off with her. She tends to say whatever crosses her mind, not really considering if it is appropriate for the conversation being held. In fact, she seems to go out of her way to make uncomfortable situations, get into arguments with strangers, and offend anyone she meets. On top of that, she likes to dress in skin-tight spandex and fabrics and wear false male genitalia and wander around with a wooden sword in the woods. She seems to be in love with her best friend Elizabeth (Elisabeth Ferrara), but when Elizabeth spurns her affections and is creeped out when Amy tries to share her spandex world with her, Amy latches on to Kenny (THE SACRAMENT’s Kentucker Audley). As the two form a relationship, Kenny seems to bring out the best in Amy and she seems to be able to contain her eccentric ways. But crazy can’t be caged long, and at the first sign of trouble in the relationship, Amy begins to slip back into her crazier ways.

As a psychological study, FELT is fascinating. The quiet moments where Amy dons her costumes and explores the woods with her dildo and sword are rather fascinating in a trainwreck/”what the hell is this loon going to do” sort of way. Director Jason Banker flashes to these scenes in between somewhat normal interactions with saner folk like Elizabeth and Kenny. The blossoming love story between Kenny and Amy is actually quite touching, as Kenny recognizes she is somewhat off and seems to want to help Amy be more stable. The quiet scenes between the two as Amy reveals parts of her past to him and shares her phallic and vaginal artwork with him is the most touching part of the film. In contrast to these scenes, we get the beautifully grotesque scenes of this secret life in costume. In this world Amy places herself in dangerous situations, literally walking naked in the woods and answering ads for naked photo shoots with seedy photographers. Again, Banker films these scenes as if we are talking a tightrope, anticipating the moment when the delicate balance of Amy’s world will drop out from under her.

If the film suffers from faults, it’s that the ending is pretty predictable. I guess if you want to go the feminist route, every male in this film has faults, the two prominent ones being Kenny who has not been completely honest with Amy in their relationship and another guy Amy meets on a dating site who is characterized as a guy who simply wants to get drunk and laid. In either case, these are not absolutely horrible sins and certainly don’t deserve the fate that befalls them. So when Amy invites Kenny to a walk in the woods to her “special place,” we pretty much know how it’s all going to end up. Banker does prolong the scene to boost anticipation, so it does make for some tense moments, but what we think is going to happen happens in a pretty graphic and horrific way, so aside from the act itself, there is little in the way of narrative shocks or surprises at the end.

Being a male, I don’t want to disregard this film for its attempts to make a feminist statement, but again, I feel having a mentally unstable woman as a protagonist really doesn’t lend credit to feminism, be the instability attributed to past male interactions or, more likely, chemical imbalance that could be rectified with therapy and medication. So again, I don’t want to think of this as so much of a feminist message but rather a portrait of a deeply flawed human being attempting to reach out and connect, but lacking the skills or the support to achieve it. In that, the film is beautiful, engaging, and quite fascinating to see unfold. It’s not for the squeamish as it has some very socially uncomfortable and sometimes gory scenes, but FELT is a really powerful film despite the philosophies that have unfortunately been adhered to it.

Available On Demand and iTunes!


Directed by Jake Wade Wall
Written by Jake Wade Wall
Starring Jake Wade Wall, Alex Fierz, James Carrington, Jodi Bianca Wise, Rick Fergunson, Helen Ferguson, B.C. Wall, Alexandria Fierz, Jack Glover, Avery Atchley, Savannah Atchley, Marilyn Baxter, Michaela Beach, Charlie Beatty, Dusty Trungale, Debra Bro, Haley Buckner, Daniel Gordon, Janice Spence, Corey Ramseur, Chock Woodruff, Arnold Krammer
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Utilizing the shockumentary format, which is the slightly more sophisticated and hotter older sister of the found footage subgenre of horror, DEVIL’S BACKBONE, TEXAS proves to be a flawed but spooky little thriller.

Mixing real life folklore with fiction, writer/director/star Jake Wade Wall goes on a journey to find out about his father Bert, a man he hardly knew who lived in a ranch in a region of Texas known as the Devil’s Backbone. The region has a rich and haunted history of Spanish explorers, Nazi POWs, and gateways to the afterlife. But Wall doesn’t believe all of that. He simply wants to find out more about his dead father and gathers a trio of friends and a cameraman, of course, to go with him on this journey.

I was moved by the concept of a son trying to understand why his father wasn’t there for him. It’s an emotional core that really comes across well in this story, so as far as the emotional hook, DEVIL’S BACKBONE, TEXAS is pretty successful as Wall convinced me that this was a deeply emotional journey for him. In doing so, half the work is done because nabbing that personal investment goes a long way to reel you in and most of the time, I’ll go wherever the story takes me if the emotional pull is there. In a few early scenes of Wall interviewing locals who knew his dad, this movie hooked me.

Things stay pretty believable for most of the film, as the paranormal stuff only happens in spurts. There’s a spooky trip to Bert’s cabin, which is filled with tension and mood as the cabin has been wrecked from top to bottom. Another trip to a farmhouse and the uncovering of a crate filled with clues is equally transfixing. Of course, this being a film, things have to culminate in a climax, and that’s where the film kind of lost me. There’s a turn of events that is definitely going to piss folks off right at the end, and after that a shit hitting the fan moment that is all too brief, but the way this film resolves is going to annoy a lot of people.

Another issue of the film is that, despite the fact that the movie is supposed to be somewhat of a documentary, it becomes found footage about halfway through as Jake and the Scooby crew investigate the Devil’s Backbone ranch. I understand that there isn’t any acknowledgement of the cameraman when the documentary footage was shot, but when things get real and the danger is imminent, the cameraman stays mum and none of the cast acknowledge him. It’s only the last moments, as Jake goes off on his own and asks the cameraman to accompany him, that it is even acknowledged and talked to. This may be a minute detail, but it’s the type of stuff that makes you question the format chosen and feels as if it wasn’t completely thought out.

Rules of found footage aside, the emotional core of DEVIL’S BACKBONE, TEXAS is a strong one. The film isn’t perfect, but it does deliver some solid scares, and the tension in the barn and cabin scenes are thick and creepy. While the ending may cause an eye roll or two, the trip there makes it almost worth it in the delivery of heart and scares.

New this week in select theaters and On Demand from IFC Midnight!


Directed by Josh Forbes
Written by Craig Walendziak
Starring Matt Mercer, Marianna Palka, Peter Cilella. Adam Robitel, Alice Macdonald, Anna Lore, Morgan Peter Brown, Elisha Yaffe, Charity Daw, Suzanne Voss, Yvette Soledad, Ossey James, Laurel Vail, Najarra Townsend, Caroline Williams
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Though I found the character to be pretty annoying in the original CONTRACTED, Matt Mercer’s Riley is much more likable than the lead from the original. CONTRACTED: PHASE II does what a good sequel should--captures the gory magic of the first film and ups the ante a few notches--but in doing so, it kind of betrays what it is trying to stand for.

A plot thread left dangling in the original film, the desperate and in love RIley (Matt Mercer) ended up sleeping with Samantha (Najarra Townsend) while she was riddled with maggots and decomposing due to a virus she received during a one night stand. We catch up with Riley after the opening sequence begins with the closing scene of the original, as Samantha runs rampant through the streets as a full-on patient zero zombie, biting her mother and being mowed down by cops. Hearing the news of Samantha’s death and contagion, Riley does what any guy would probably do and goes to his doctor friend (his sister’s husband, played by Peter Cilella) to have a discreet screening of any and all diseases, not letting on that he recently slept with a zombie. Though his back is oozing pus, he keeps mum when the doctor calls him back and tells him he is clear. Meanwhile a plague is beginning to spread, causing folks to act like zombies. Riley continues to show the same signs Samantha had in the original--red eyes, body parts falling off, pale skin--but has clues as to who is behind this contagion and avoids being quarantined in order to root out the man responsible for the virus—all the while spreading the virus to anyone he comes in physical contact with.

I’m of mixed feelings about CONTRACTED PHASE II. The film definitely continues to deliver uncomfortable gore, compelling ethical arguments about the state of health care and a statement about how insular our interests are in terms of how we affect society. The gore is amazing here, as the film gives an intimate and up close look at Riley’s decomposing body. Blood, vomit, and puss are squirted and splattered about relentlessly, and some will find this movie nauseating because of it. It’s done with absolutely amazing effects, and those who appreciate practical effects have a lot to love here.

The film also is compelling in the fact that it really does act as a statement about how we take care of ourselves. I know I am as guilty as the next guy for not going to the doctor when I need to, often relying on quick fixes or age-old remedies instead of alerting a doctor about an ingrown toenail or a sore throat. The fact that this film stems from those common traits in the human condition make the danger much more understandable. The current health care debate also seems to be a part of all of this as well, as we would rather suffer than fill out scores of paperwork we don’t understand. Riley’s seeming disregard to the fact that he is spreading the disease wherever he goes also paints a pretty ugly picture of us and how much we care about our fellow man.

And that’s where my biggest problem with CONTRACTED PHASE II. The story seems to want it both ways: it wants an intimate story of getting sick and dealing with it yourself, but also wants to broaden the scope and focus on the man who created the virus and an apocalyptic terrorist plot. If the film would have had two protagonists—Riley and then another investigating the terrorist--I think it would have been more successful. Instead of that Riley is given a heroic cause to stop the eco-terrorist, which felt out of character for a guidance counselor and what we know about the character from the previous film. I understand the shortcut made here in order to make the film simpler to follow, but there’s a reckless nature to this film as Riley contaminates everyone he comes in contact with that made me really hate the character for not letting people much more qualified do their job of tracking down the killer.

Still, this is a gross-out fan’s dream as there are all kinds of absolutely nauseating moments of blood and grue. The film kind of crumbles when you look below its surface and examine the themes, but while it feels like it’s going all over the place narratively, CONTRACTED PHASE II at least delivers the yucks in abundance.

New this week on DVD/BluRay from Raven Banner/Anchor Bay Entertainment!


Directed by Ian Kessner
Written by Ian Kessner & Bo Ransdell
Starring Kendra Leigh Timmins, Sarah Fisher, Jesse Camacho, Elise Gatien, Justin Kelly, Stephan James, Eve Harlow, Alexander Calvert, Lanie McAuley, David Lipper, Robert Patrick, Michael Vincent Dagostino, Rick Rosenthal, & Mark Wiebe as Junior Joad!
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Take a retro-80’s slant and give it an unconventional flavor and something old feels like something brand new again. This is the case with LOST AFTER DARK.

Occurring smack dab in the middle of the 80’s, a group of kids steal a school bus and make their way to a cabin in the woods, but instead of this being a cabin in the woods story, the bus happens to break down on the edge of town, close to the old Joad house, which once housed a family of inbred cannibals. Turns out Junior Joad survived and once the kids make their way onto Joad property, Junior starts a killin’ one after another.

On the surface this is your typical stalk n’ slash. It’s a story about an inbred cannibal butcher chasing after kids in the woods. What makes this film cool is that it takes what we have come to expect about these types of films; from the final girl trope to the order by which folks get offed and turns everything on its head. Playing with our expectations of who will live and die, this film immediately lets the viewer know that those rules don’t apply here and while LOST AFTER DARK wants to make you think it could be sitting on the video shelf in any video store circa 1987, the sophisticated way it bucks convention makes it much more entertaining.

My only complaint about LOST AFTER DARK is that the killer is a little big generic. Junior Joad is just a big hairy guy with pointed teeth and while his wrath is brutal, there’s not a lot to set him apart from any other inbred hillbillies you might see in a WRONG TURN flick. As creative this film is with pecking order and other horror conventions, I wish it would have taken those same chances with the killer. Junior Joad (played capably by Mark Wiebe) is kind of scary, but nothing we haven’t seen before.

Still, this film takes all of the cool stuff from those 80’s slasher films and makes it all shiny and new again. It’s not purposefully laughing at the eighties. It simply takes place in the era and doesn’t make a big deal about it. Other films have attempted this and it makes for an obvious slideshow of a montage of 80’s pop references. Yes there is a Rubik’s Cube and a Star Wars reference. But most of the time, this film plays it straight and it makes the whole film a more fun, and more effective experience. Plus it’s got Robert Patrick as a disco loving, corvette driving, Nam’ flashbacking, hardass principal who makes every scene he is in riotously fun. For anyone who watched a horror film in the eighties and loved it, yet returned to that film recently and felt disappointed, I recommend LOST AFTER DARK. It takes all of the stuff that works and gives it a tweak and a twist, making it retro, but still scary cool.

New this week On Demand and on iTunes from Midnight Releasing!


Directed by Madellaine Paxson
Written by Eddie Guzelian
Starring Milo Cawthorne, Olivia Tennet, Ari Boyland, Fleur Saville, Adelaide Kane, Mike Ginn, Cohen Holloway, Amanda Reed
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Taking a strong idea and tossing it into a new genre is something that works on occasion. Take the premise of GROUNDHOG DAY and toss it in a dramatic future warzone and you’ve got the fun EDGE OF TOMORROW. Plunge it into blood and pitch black humor, and you’ve got BLOOD PUNCH.

BLOOD PUNCH is a film you would most likely find yourself scrolling past and possibly happening upon late night on cable some day and wondering why you haven’t heard about it before. At least that’s what folks who don’t read this column will do. You tasteful folks will be among the enlightened in discovering BLOOD PUNCH early as it is a quirky and devious little monster of a film. Milton (Milo Cawthorne) is sentenced to time in a rehab clinic at the same time Skyler (Olivia Tennet) enrolls in the clinic in order to recruit someone who can make a bunch of meth fast for her psychotic boyfriend Russell (Ari Boyland) who has all of the ingredients and the buyer, but none of the knowhow to put it all together. After Skyler sleeps with Milton and kind of falls for his innocent charm, she entices him to break out of rehab and make the meth so they can betray Russell and run off together with the loot. What could go wrong? Well, jet-setting to a cabin in the woods (which is never a good place to go in a horror film), the trio spill blood on what looks to be sacred ground causing them to awaken a circle of violence that curses the three of them to wake up on the same day over and over again. What transpires is each of the parties killing one another many, many times in gory and brutal ways. How can Milton, Skyler, and Russell break this chain of murder? They are going to go through a lot of bodies to find out.

So yes, GROUNDHOG DAY meets BREAKING BAD with a Native American curse thrown in and a wall full of edged weaponry and gun power. BLOOD PUNCH is violent and dark, but most importantly, the film is funny. It has a no-fucks-given attitude that a lot of Tarantino’s films possess, where people don’t act like they have one ounce of humanity. Instead they say a lot of cool things and do a lot of violence with not a lot of remorse. There are moments of callousness and moments of absolute terror and it’s got that level of violence that amps it up to cartoonish levels as the number of times the murders occur increase.

But the things is, if this were just a slideshow of one murder scene after another, it wouldn’t be much of a movie and wouldn’t be so interesting to me. The fact that all three of these characters that are a part of this circle of violence are played by likable and talented actors helps immensely. While Boyland’s Russell is a psychopath, he’s a likable psychopath and given some very funny lines to blurt out. Cawthorne’s Milton is sort of a pushover, but like Bill Murray in GROUNDHOG DAY, he remembers every day as he recur, so he’s learning not only how to piece this mystery together in order to solve the conundrum, but he’s becoming a stronger person because of it. And the femme fatale Olivia Tenet who plays Skyler is equa parts sassy and sweet and her struggle with following her brain or her heart is made evident with every little quirky nuance she uses.

At times, the script of BLOOD PUNCH can be a bit too pretentious for it’s own good as it knows it is a cool script a little too much. Some of the lines come off as a little bit too JUNO-esque, which means to say things are a bit more scripted. No one talks like this in real life. But Tarantino and Kevin Smith have made entire careers with movies featuring characters who don’t talk as if they were real people, so I can’t fault this film for it that much. As is, BLOOD PUNCH is a deadly humorous romp that isn’t afraid to shed blood or offend to make you laugh or wince. Those of you who like comedy of the blackest and bloodiest kind will definitely want t seek BLOOD PUNCH out.

New this week on DVD/BluRay from IFC Midnight and The Shout Factory!


Directed by John McNaughton
Written by Stephen Lancellotti
Starring Samantha Morton, Michael Shannon, Natasha Calis, Charlie Tahan, Peter Fonda, Leslie Lyles, Meadow Williams, Journey Smith, Nolan Lyons
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

The writer/director of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER offers up a subtle, yet terrifying serving of drama that definitely will echo in your brainpan long after the credits.

Stay at home dad Richard (Michael Shannon) and his physician wife Katherine (Samantha Morton) keep a close eye on their sickly son Andy (Charlie Tahan). Being sick for some time and wheelchair bound, Andy longs to go outside and play like normal kids. When an inquisitive new neighbor girl named Maryann (Natasha Calis) peeks into his window, Andy in immediately thrilled that he can make a new friend. Richard is happy too to see Andy’s spirits up, but Katherine sees Maryann as a threat. As Maryann persists on seeing Andy and asking questions Katherine does not want to answer about his condition, it becomes evident that something darker is happening beneath the surface of this fragile family.

The thing I loved about this film is that it kept me guessing. I had heard it was a horror movie, but the less than idyllic family setting seemed much more ripe for a thick drama piece than actual horrors. The subject of an overbearing and hypersensitive family is often good stuff to mold high drama around and I was wrapped up in the drama for pretty much the entire film. So much, that when the unusual and somewhat terrifying stuff begins to happen, it really does throw you for a loop. I won’t reveal the twist here, though I will say it snuck up on my and really upends this film from riveting drama to edge of your seat thriller in a bold and effective manner. The horrors run deep and very, very emotionally charged once the curtain is pulled back as to what is really going on in Andy’s home.

Samantha Morton is amazing here as the overbearing, overprotective, and very much god-complexing mother. Seeing her wrap her coils around everything Andy does is uncomfortably good and witnessing this fragile epoch she has built around her son crumble sends her over the edge in a manner you don’t normally see. While Shannon is always good in his controlled and subdued way, he shines here as well as the tormented person too wrapped up in this mess of a household to do anything about the horrors his wife have created. Seeing Shannon and Morton work together is an acting caliber you don’t normally see in horror films.

THE HARVEST is a harrowing and terrifying film. Not because of jump scares or synth bangs, but because it deals with real human emotions taken to extreme levels. Modern horrors should take note that this is the type of subtle and slow burning horror isn’t normally seen, but was quite prevalent in the more sophisticated horror films of the 70’s and 80’s. THE HARVEST is a top tier horror film that takes its time to reel you in before it wallops you on the head with the dark depths the film plunges into. Highly recommended.

New this week on DVD and On Demand from Dark Sky Films!


Directed by Juanra Fernández
Written by Juanra Fernández
Starring Ana Turpin, Ona Casamiquela, Luisa Gavasa, Jesús Caba, Sheila Ponce, Pep Anton Muñoz, Enrique Villén, Pablo Viña, Frederic Tomàs
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

PARA ELISA might sound rather familiar, but little tweaks and subtleties make it a rather twisted and distinct small scale horror film.

The setup is very familiar. A girl in search of quick cash calls a number posted on campus looking for a babysitter, but when the girl shows up, the job is a little more complex and a lot of horrific that she thought. In PARA ELISA, the girl is Ana (Ona Casamiquela), a wide-eyed beauty who is bothered by her philandering boyfriend Alex (Jesús Caba) and desperately wants to get out of town for a class trip with her friends to forget it all. But in order to do that she needs cash and since her mom said no to the cash flow, Ana seeks out money as a babysitter by answering an ad posted on her college campus. Once she arrives for an interview, she meets an elderly woman Diamantina (Luisa Gavasa); a name literally meaning diamond like in Spanish, but here this diamond has faded a bit as she is a former child piano prodigy who now spends her days taking care of her daughter Elisa and admiring her porcelain dolls. Ana is chastised for touching one of Diamantina’s dolls and is explained at how fragile they are. The rather extreme nature of Diamantina’s reaction should have warned Ana that everything was not on the up and up, but then there wouldn’t be a horror movie here. Ana is introduced to Elisa (Ana Turpin) and immediately begins backing out of the commitment to watch her as in horror, she realizes Elisa is not a little girl, but a full grown woman dressed like a little girl and playing with dolls that look like real babies. But by then its too late and Ana is already too far into the lion’s den. The rest of the film is Ana’s desperate attempt to escape the apartment with a bent Diamantina and a erratic Elisa who is prone to violent fits of rage when she doesn’t get her particular way.

Yes, this is HOUSE OF THE DEVIL meets THE BABY or SPIDER BABY or maybe more accurately, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, with a little bit of MISERY tossed in for good measure. But while the film does borrow heavily from these films, there are some pretty amazing little nuances this film uses in order to make it rather distinct. The use of creepy dolls is always a surefire way of causing the creep and while the porcelain ones are mildly sinister looking, the real horrors are Elisa’s dolls which look like real life mounted babies. These horrifying little creatures are often seen in the periphery of this film and definitely add levels of terror in the close quarters the film is set. These real life babies also signify how Elisa views Ana as her own little baby doll, as if she is sick of these lifeless little creatures and now wants a walking talking doll of her own to love and squish. Seeing the irrational child logic go on in Elisa’s head is truly terrifying, especially since Ana is the victim of it.

But while a lot of the torment Ana endures has been seen before, one scene in particular stands out in PARA ELISA that really made me love this film. It’s a simple scene where Alex is desperately searching for Ana, but in the wrong building. He knocks on a door and demands to see Ana, but when the man of the house greets Alex with a shotgun, he is immediately taken aback. Asking where Ana is, the man presents “his” Ana which is another girl entirely. After Alex leaves, the girl shudders in fear from the man with the shotgun, suggesting all kinds of horrors going on in that household and an entirely different horror film. As quick as this scene is, it suggests all kinds of levels of terror and this film is sort of filled with little terrifying moments like this.

The performances here are awesome. Turpin’s Elisa is the epitome of innocence one minute and an explosive powder keg the next. You can’t help but root for Casamiquela to get out of this apartment of horrors alive. Both actresses do a fantastic job and though, I’m sure it was the director’s idea to make them look very similar, that is really my main fault with the film as occasionally, not having ever seen either actress before, I occasionally got confused who was who. Still the struggle between Elisa and Ana is epic, though trapped in a very tiny locale, making it all the more claustrophobic and climaxing to a level of tension few films rarely see.

On the one hand, this is a pretty simplistic trapped in a small space thriller. But there are some levels to PARA ELISA that really bored under my skin. Be it references to Beethoven’s Für Elise in the title, the inundation of creepy dolls, names with subtle meanings, or throwaway scenes that really add to the tension, director/writer Juanra Fernández makes a really devious little film with sneaky terrors as well as overt ones.

New this week in select theaters (find out when and where here)!


Directed by Brian James O'Connell
Written by Dr. God, Ryan Mitts
Starring Fran Kranz, Pedro Pascal, Joey Kern, Joel Murray, Emma Fitzpatrick, Yvette Yates, Justin Ware, Marshall Givens, David F. Park, Sean Cowhig, Parvesh Cheena, Zabeth Russell
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

OFFICE SPACE with vampires is the best way of describing this pretty solid comedy with a lot of familiar and talented faces.

The humdrum, day to day grind of working in an office setting has been the subject of many a wonky comedy, most likely the most famous being OFFICE SPACE. And BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS owes a lot to Mike Judges’ film as much of the same laughs that were used there are morphed a bit and rehashed for this film. With OFFICE SPACE, I felt that the film was about three fourths of a good movie, falling apart at the end as most comedies do when the plot requires some type of resolution. I kind of feel the same way about BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS as the likable and funny cast doing the day to day was much more entertaining than what it eventually turns out to be in the last twenty minutes.

CABIN IN THE WOODS’ Fran Kranz stars as Evan, a middle-management pushover who is devout to his boss (Joel Murray), but not really respected by his slacker office worker underlings, one of which is his roommate and best buddy Tim (the always hilarious Joey Kern from CABIN IN THE WOODS and one of my favorites, THE SASQUATCH GANG). Evan also has a rocky relationship with HR worker Amanda (THE COLLECTION’s Emma Fitzpatrick). But none of that compares to the problems he has when a corporate shill Max (GAME OF THRONES’ Pedro Pascal) shows up to restructure the office paradigm and worse yet, turn them all into vampires!

The comedy here is pretty potent. Everything from one liner zingers tossed back and forth between the workers who sell boner pills to ongoing sight gags like the security guard who is constantly swigging Red Bull or the fact that the vampires explode in a bloody mess into the faces of those killing them works almost every time. I laughed quite a bit at the sight gags and the more subtle comedic beats this film doled out in mass quantities. The problem is that once everyone knows there are bloodsuckers around things get rather formulaic and the laughs begin to wane. This is a problem with many a comedy, and horror movie for that matter, as these films are front loaded with laughs only to kind of peter out by the end.

Still, Kranz and Kern are really good in BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS. Kranz plays the straight man well while still being able to pull off some Jason Bateman-esque one liners that give his character more bite than your usual schlub character. Kern is a hidden comedic gem in any comedy or horror he takes part in and again shines here as Kranz aloof and carefree buddy who really isn’t fazed by all of this vampire stuff. I definitely recommend BLOODSCKING BASTARDS as it hits its mark on just about all levels. Bringing things to a close is difficult in any movie where you’ve establishing interesting characters that you would like to continue to see develop. In BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS, I could have watched Kranz, Kern, and the crew go about their daily business and been fine with it. But the rules of story make it necessary for a challenge to arise and a resolution to be had. I can’t fault this movie much for having the same problems with resolution that many, many comedies and horror films have had in the past. There is a lot of goopy gore, though little scares in BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS. If you’re looking for a comparison, I’d say VAMP is a good one, and given that I loved VAMP to death, that’s about the highest recommendation I could give this film. BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS is a gory good time with top level comedy doused from head to toe with vampire innards.

And finally…here’s another radio play of intergalactic proportions from a true master of suspense, terror, and imagination, Ray Bradbury. From Bradbury 13, here’s a horrifying trip to Mars called “Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed!”

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.

Find out what are BLACK MASK STUDIOS and OCCUPY COMICS here and on Facebook here!

Interested in illustrated films, fringe cinema, and other oddities?
Check out Halo-8 and challenge everything!

Look for our bi-weekly rambling about random horror films on Poptards and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday!

Find more AICN HORROR including an archive of previous columns on AICN HORROR’s Facebook page!

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus