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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. Yep, two columns in two days. Again, I’m trying to catch up on a lot of horror released this month. Here’s another batch for those who love horror old, new, indie, and mainstream!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: NIGHTMARE (1981)
Retro-review: WENDIGO (2001)
Retro-review: THE JAIL: THE WOMEN’S HELL (2006)
Short Cuts: HADES (2015)
CLINGER (2015)
IN THE DARK (2015)
JULIA (2014)
Advance Review: THE HEXECUTIONERS (2015)
And finally…Christopher Di Nunzio’s UNDER THE DARK WING!

Retro-review: New on 35th Anniversary DVD from Kino Lorber!


Directed by Romano Scavolini
Written by Romano Scavolini
Starring Baird Stafford, Sharon Smith, C.J. Cooke, Mik Cribben, Danny Ronan, John L. Watkins, Bill Milling, Scott Praetorius, William Kirksey, Christina Keefe, Tammy Patterson, Kim Patterson, Kathleen Ferguson, William Paul, Tommy Bouvier
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

What this film lacks in strong acting, NIGHTMARE makes up in spades with gory and psychological horror that really smacks you in the face.

George Tatum (Baird Stafford) is one sick puppy. He’s plagued with dreams of decapitations and blood spurting everywhere. Given an experimental drug in a mental facility, George takes a turn for the worse, skips town and heads to Florida where he begins a bloody killing spree and terrorizes a specific family including what could be one of the shittiest little kids in the history of cinema.

There is an intensity to this film that cannot be denied. The level of violence and the amount of blood unleashed during the dream and reality kill scenes are at a level akin to the original MANIAC (which makes sense as Tom Savini directed the effects shots in this film). Blood is spattered everywhere. Heads are lopped off, not with one clean swipe like we see in modern FRIDAY THE 13TH films, but only after multiple blows with axes. Necks spurt gallons of blood and whistle after being slit. People don’t die cleanly here and it’s this attention to detail that makes them feel so viscerally potent. This film is not about making the killer cool. It highlights the horror of bloody murder.

Obvious lifts from HALLOWEEN are taken as Tatum stalks the family he’s targeted, calls them, and walks around their house in an old man mask before deciding to make his final attack. There is a bit of depth to Tatum’s character as he does attempt to call and warn the family to leave in his saner moments, warning them that he has urges to kill. This flipside to his murderous persona really makes this killer more realistic than your typical masked maniac. Still, the acting is pretty flat from the rest of the cast and much too much time is spent between the stalking moments and focusing on the banal annoying stuff like latchkey kid CJ (C.J. Cooke) who is obviously acting out because he wants his mother’s attention. His mother can’t be bothered as she is interested in her new boyfriend and it’s this psychological attention to character that really elevates this one despite the bad performances.

So if you like tons of blood and gore along with rich psychological depth, NIGHTMARE is going to be for you; as long as the amateur acting doesn’t turn you away. The film’s ending is abrupt and attempts to be a shocker, but unfortunately so much banal and mediocre stuff happens in between the kills that the impact really doesn’t do anything. Gun nuts will go wild at the ending featuring a child brandishing a couple of firearms to take on the stalker himself, but the multiple revelations about Tatum and whether or not he really committed the murders he dreams of proves to be an unnecessary mystery, especially when it takes away from the much more compelling twist at the end that you might miss if you blink. NIGHTMARE is a flawed gorefest that pays more attention to psychology that it should. In doing so, it elevates the film slightly above the schlocker category and makes it pretty entertaining if you were a fan of in your face gore from the 80’s.

Retro-review: New 4 disk BluRay Collection from The Shout Factory!

WENDIGO (2001)

Directed by Larry Fessenden
Written by Larry Fessenden
Starring Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber, Erik Per Sullivan, Erik Per Sullivan, John Speredakos, Christopher Wynkoop, Lloyd Oxendine, Brian Delate, Daniel Sherman, Jennifer Wiltsie, Maxx Stratton, Richard Stratton, Dash Stratton, & James Godwin as the Wendigo!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Larry Fessenden is horror’s working man mad genius and it’s fantastic that The Shout Factory is honoring his work with this four disk collection. He may not be a household name, but I’ll bet you’d recognize him if you caught his small roles in JUGFACE, YOU’RE NEXT, or this year’s POD and LATE PHASES. He also coordinates, acts and directs his own amazing radio plays called Tales From Beyond the Pale and is an accomplished writer and director of many a horror film. I’ll be covering all four films in this collection, but I figured I’d start with one I haven’t seen before. WENDIGO.

George (Jake Weber) is the moody patriarch in his family, when he hits a deer and skids into a snow drift, the difference between himself and the manly men who were hunting the deer are evident. Challenging his manhood in front of his family, Jake attempts to be strong but against the emasculating country boys, he is made to feel insignificant in front of his wife Kim (Patricia Clarkson) and son Miles (MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE’s Erik Per Sullivan). The hunter continues to torment George and his family, shooting through windows of his home and eventually escalating to more violent behavior. Meanwhile, Miles is having visions of a monster in the woods known as the Wendigo.

WENDIGO is a much more psychological tale than the name suggests. Going in I was expecting a variation of the Bigfoot mythos with some cannibalism tossed in. Turns out this film is an amazing little dissection of the challenges a father has as alpha male in his family, even when he isn’t the alpha male in the world he lives in. We all are different people behind closed doors and this film exemplifies that in a very authentic way through Weber’s nuanced performance. The movie will frustrate those who want a man in suit monster roaming the woods and lopping off heads. There is a monster here, but it’s more on a metaphorical realm and only seen by a few people in the film. This is a more psychological piece, looking inward on what it means to be a man and the differences between city vs. country mentalities. The contrast is made through the eyes of young Miles who is trying to piece together the complex themes of being an adult with flawed parents and the weird townsfolk they run into as his only models. Fessenden really does a great job of piecing together moments of Miles simply taking in everything with wide eyes and an innocent mind.

What really impressed me about this film, above the psychological depth, was the fantastically creative editing Fessenden does throughout. Be it a creative game of war with cards or simply montages of Native American photos and paintings, Fessenden conveys a dark and ominous mood that increases in intensity the whole way through. Relying on disturbing imagery and quick clips, the film really does ratchet up the tension pretty tightly be the end which is both tragic and poignant.

Less of a creature feature and more of a brain tickler, WENDIGO is entertaining nevertheless. Again, if you want monsters, there are plenty of films out there that deliver that sort of thing. This one dissects masculinity, violence, and what it means to be a man and drapes it all with Native American mythology. The film does have a monster in it. There are some bloody kills and some really great performances. WENDIGO is thinking man’s horror and there’s nothing wrong with that. Watching it made me long to watch the rest of the films in this collection, but those are for another week.

Retro-review: New on DVD from Intervision!


Directed by Bruno Mattei (as Vincent Dawn)
Written by Antonio Tentori & Bruno Mattei (story/screenplay) and Giovanni Paolucci (screenplay)
Starring Yvette Yzon, Dyane Craystan, Amelie Pontailler, Jim Gaines, Love Gutierrez, Joana Lee, Cristina Castro, Xeah Atillano, David Brass, Mike Monty, Bobby Benitez, Jenny Aguilla, Vanessa Bolabas, Odette Khan
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Just before Bruno Mattei started his last two films; ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING and ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD, there was THE JAIL: THE WOMEN’S HELL, a prison exploitation film done way past the time when this sort of thing was trendy. Seeing the cover art and reading up on it, I would have thought the film would have been twenty years old when folks didn’t know better, but nope—this one is only eight years old and a sure indicator that misogyny is still alive and well.

If you’ve ever seen a women in prison film, you know this one’s premise already. The film begins with a trio of ladies being shipped to a women’s prison named “The House of Lost Souls.” Alliances are made and broken, rapes are performed, multiple showers are taken, some unfortunate inmates are whipped to death, and of course, some try to escape. Mattei goes through every cliché as if he is grocery shopping and checking them off a list. Still, I have to give props to Mattei for sticking to his guns and making a modern women’s prison sexploitation in such an unashamed manner. Not three minutes go by without some kind of nudity and the sex is abundant from start to finish. For women’s prison films, it isn’t bad, as the films were a product of their time. The only disturbing thing is that this is a modern film and not one made during the sexploitation era. Still, if you didn’t know it, the film really could be mistaken for being made in the seventies or eighties when these films were more abundant. There are quite a few moments that are bound to make anyone wince as one woman is tossed into a river cage with rats while another is tied to a bed and a snake is unleashed upon her. Later in the film things get really torture porny, which is guess is more reflective of the time this film was made, as a group of prisoners escape and one by one they are caught in traps laid by Nipples and tongues are slices off, knives are stabbed into orifices, and of course, more rapes are committed. I could be kind and say that this is a film that feels as if Mattei is paying homage to those women’s prison films, but I think that’s giving the late sleaze director too much credit. But if sexploitation is your thing, this one delivers lots and lots of it.

Special features include a pair of featurettes; one focusing on what it is like to act for Bruno Mattei with Yvette Yzon and Alvin Anson, the second talks with the screenwriter Antonio Tentori and producer Giovanni Paolucci discussing the film from initial idea to production.

Short Film currently available online until the end of the month here!

HADES (2015)

Directed by Kevin Kopacka
Written by Kevin Kopacka (script), Based on the short story "Statusbezogen" by H.k. DeWitt
Starring Anna Heidegger, Iman Rezai and Cris Kotzen
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Bathed in vibrant lights and a dream like atmosphere, HADES is a surreal trip through hell and relationships.

The film definitely is more on the experimental side, but it’s not done in a way that made me feel as if the filmmakers were trying to be overly heady, clever, or uppity. The story follows one woman as she tries to sort through the different emotions she is feeling as she attempts to get over a long term relationship. Pairing the emotional beats with surreal landscapes and nightmarish lighting and angles, this descent into darkness really does a great job of metaphorically delving into all of the emotions one feels with a broken heart. Dealing with a much more real horror that more people are likely to experience in their lives, this is the type of horror some might be uncomfortable with because of its more cerebral and spiritual angle. That said, it is beautifully filmed and sounds amazing with a score and music by the writer and director Kevin Kopacka.

HADES is playing for free until the end of the month. Find out how to watch it here! It’s a short for those who have seen the horrors of a broken heart and lived to tell the tale.

HADES Official Trailer II from Kevin Kopacka on Vimeo.

New on DVD and digital download including Google Play and Amazon Prime!


Directed by Ed Hunt
Written by Ed Hunt
Starring Sam Aotaki, Evan Bittencourt, Sebastien Charmant, Tyler Emerson Crim, Kriss Dozal, Andre Edwards, Nora Gray, Sam Johnson, Lola Klimenteva, Liliana Lev, Molly McIntyre, Elizabeth Peterson, Paul Stanko, & Eric Roberts as Dracula!
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

From the director of the killer kids film BLOODY BIRTHDAY, which is a pretty disturbing little film, comes HALLOWEEN HELL, a film with potential that is mired by it’s low budget.

Eric Roberts stars as Dracula, the host of a reality horror show which puts a group of people in a room with a demon statue made of lava from hell and collects money from the bloodthirsty pay per view watching public betting on who lives and who dies. Meanwhile, in the locked room, a demon from hell murders the contestants one by one.

Being a fan of indie and DIY horror, I can’t be too hard on HALLOWEEN HELL for its shortcomings. The acting is pretty horrible and the set seems like it was decorated from whatever was left over at a Halloween store the week after Halloween. The CG this film could afford is equally rough, even by ScyFy/Asylum standards, as heads are severed in an almost animated manner and CG blood is used (always a no no). The actors involved go for the gold, but just don’t have the ability or motivation to be convincing and the story is pretty repetitive and simple, that being one kid after another is killed in succession until a few are left to turn the tides.

Still, there are snippets of goodness in this film. It appears that the story is trying to say something about the bloodthirsty public and the callousness self centeredness of today’s youth. By putting the film on Pay Per View and having the death of these kids be a hit, it does say something about how much blood we as a society need to see.

That said, this is a rough film to get through. Even Eric Roberts, who isn’t always the best at picking films, really seems to be slumming it here and delivers some truly uninspired lines punctuating each of the kills. Still, there’s a lot of blood shed and the demonic makeup is actually pretty sweet. This is not a film I’d recommend to those who go for well produced and slick movies, but if you’re just looking for blood and demons (and a hammy performance by Roberts), HALLOWEEN HELL is a do it yourself horror film with the best of intentions.

New this week in select theaters!

CLINGER (2015)

Directed by Michael Steves
Written by Michael Steves, Gabi Chennisi Duncombe, & Bubba Fish
Starring Vincent Martella, Jennifer Laporte, Julia Aks, Shonna Major, Alicia Monet Caldwell, Taylor Clift, Leah Henley, Debbie Rochon, Paulie Lisa Wilcox, Deo Jr., Rebecca Gail, Jeffrey Bean, Sewell Whitney, Victoria Villarreal
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Initially, as I began watching CLINGER, I thought it was going to be a film made for the teenie bopper set, but this film really took me aback at how gory it was and the comedy had teeth as well.

Teen track star and chemistry whiz Fern (Jennifer Laporte) doesn’t know what she is getting into when she accepts an invitation for a date with Robert Klingher (Vincent Martella). While their relationship is passionate and sweet at first, Robert’s obsession with Fern becomes just a little too much for her. But just as she decides to break up with Robert, he is beheaded and dies in a freak declaration of love mishap. Now Fern is haunted by Robert’s ghost who promises to love her forever, but as Fern tries to move on, Robert begins to show a darker side to love.

This film begins as if it is a teen rom com one might find on the Disney Channel, that is, up until the bloody decapitation of Robert in the first fifteen minutes. And as the film goes on, I was really surprised at how much fun this film has with the gore, splattering it in every direction with reckless abandon. By the end of this film, body parts are flying and everything is drenched in blood. The pairing of the implied innocence of this film and the blood drenched mayhem that ensues made this film a true surprise to watch.

But on top of the surprising amount of gore and grue, this is a damn funny film to boot. The story has a lot of fun with double entendre as a character says something unintentionally sexual and then explains how innocent the statement really is. Sure this joke becomes less effective upon return usings, but it still caused me to laugh most of the time. There’s a devious and clever sense of humor here that feels much more genuine and perverse than your normal horror comedy.

On top of it all, this film deals with the dark theme of obsession and how love can go sour when one person becomes too obsessed with another. The film really delves into how selfish the person who becomes obsessed becomes and how it feels to be the object of one’s obsession. Actress Jennifer Laporte is great with her comic timing, but she also is quite capable of the dramatic beats to emote the hurt, the sorrow, and the complexity of loving a person, but not really being in love with them. Martella is equally convincing as he goes through quite a transformation from loving boyfriend to spiteful ex blinded by his own obsession. The fact that these two actors are taking this aspect of the film so seriously adds a level that I didn’t expect. I also have to give a nod to Alicia Monet Caldwell who plays Fern’s hardcore track coach who moonlights as a paranormal investigator. She gives a really funny performance here.

Fun, gory, yet emotional resonant, I think you’ll be as surprised by CLINGER as much as I was. With a talented cast, well timed jokes, and blood spraying everywhere, CLINGER is an unconventional and exciting film that doesn’t forget the serious themes it is depicting. Surprisingly and highly recommended.

New on digital download platforms iTunes, Amazon, Playstation, Vudu!

IN THE DARK (2015)

Directed by David Buchert (DUMMY and wraparound segments) & Chris St.Croix (THE KEEPER and TO BE LOVED segments)
Written by David Buchert (DUMMY and wraparound segments) & Chris St.Croix (THE KEEPER and TO BE LOVED segments)
Starring Olivia Bishop, Cooper Guy, William J. Harrison, Leslie Mills, Matt Rosenbaum, Gary Willis (DUMMY), Clay Brocker, Emily Byrd, Katie Groshong, Tristan Jackson, Adam Sanner, Jordan Stephens, Scott Aaker as the Monster (THE KEEPER), Justin Hand, Shellie Marie Shartzer, Raven Bryant , Chris Carson, Chris Cavolo, Shannon Beals, Vince Cusomato, Leah Fincher, Judy Jackson, Wendy Keeling, & Jayne Salters as the VCR (TO BE LOVED), Grace Kelly Mason & Natalie Ruffino (Wraparound)
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I reviewed two parts of this film, presented as two short films, a while back on AICN HORROR after seeing them at the Chicago Fear Fest a few years ago. The directors of each short paired up and directed two more segments and put them all together to make one of the better anthology films I’ve seen this year. Filled with all kinds of creative sights, sounds, and horrors, IN THE DARK is a compilation of short films showcasing the talents of some masters of horror, suspense, and gore!

The film opens and closes with a pair of deadly ladies coming off of a heist and hiding out in a hotel. In this dingy room is a bag of VHS tapes and a VCR. With nothing else to do but wait for their pickup man, they play the tapes, which is both a fun and retro way to bookend each of these films.

First up is THE KEEPER by Chris St. Croix is the second short which is a more intense action piece. THE KEEPER centers on a group of swarthy ne’er-do-wells holed up in a mansion. St. Croix quickly establishes that these guys are not to be trifled with and it feels as if the gang wandered from the set of the original CROW movie. When an unarmed elderly man shows up in the mansion, most want to murderize him, but the leader is impressed by the stranger’s guts and decides to hear him out. Unbeknownst to them, the man is not what he seems, and with him is something far darker. Through the labyrinthine hallways of the mansion, the gang is hunted by an unimaginable force of nature. I have to give props to this film for the clever use of practical effects. There is a fantastic creature in this one with full armatures and everything. Though the story gets a bit lofty in the end and starts to feel like a comic book with its clear definition of good and evil, some clever camera work and the aforementioned practical effects make this a worthwhile short and an interesting coin flip compared to the more subtle THE DUMMY short before it.

DUMMY is a riveting short that ratchets up the terror to epic proportions by the end with stunning visuals, tense moments, and a truly disturbing ending. Ventriloquist dummies in general are pants-shittingly horrifying, but this Dummy acts as the fastest acting laxative I’ve ever seen. Creepy as all get out, the image alone of our killer, who adopts the face of a dummy from the past, does things to my shiver reflex that I didn’t think was possible. The design alone is terrifying, but director David Buchert knows how to make it all the more terrifying with crisp edits and angles. The story follows a chubby kid, picked on by bullies and traumatized to the point that he can only speak through a ventriloquist dummy to his psychologist and mother. When a pair of bullies catch up to him in a forest by the sea, disaster strikes. Years later, when the kids are all grown up, they are haunted by what happened in the woods that day when a masked intruder dressed like the little boy’s dummy comes a knocking on their door. Every second counts in this 25 minute thriller as our masked monster torments the former bullies. And the ending, even though it might be somewhat predictable, still packs a wallop with the final beat, which comes from nowhere but makes complete sense.

The new segment added to the mix is TO BE LOVED, an off kilter trip through a cartoonish and lunatic laden world where a nebbish man forms a relationship with his talking VCR who promises to give him the perfect woman. Reminiscent of Henenlotter films like BASKET CASE and BRAIN DAMAGE, TO BE LOVED is madcap and filled with wall to wall gore. Directed with an old school Raimi style fervor, this is one awesome segment to go out on with an ending that will have you laughing and wincing all at once.

The wraparound ends serendipitously and explosively with nods to all of the shorts we’ve seen so far. All four segments work well together in a way few anthologies achieve. Each one adds something fun to the mix be it the hardcore gruffness of THE KEEPER, the deep down bone shaking chills of DUMMY, or the ultra-gore mayhem of TO BE LOVED. IN THE DARK is definitely an anthology worth getting into. Each segment is fun, exciting and terrifying in their own unique way. Here’s hoping these two filmmakers pair up again for another anthology.

New this week in select theaters!

JULIA (2014)

Directed by Matthew A. Brown
Written by Matthew A. Brown
Starring Ashley C. Williams, Tahyna Tozzi, Jack Noseworthy, Joel de la Fuente, Cary Woodworth, Darren Lipari, Ryan Cooper, Brad Koed, Sean Kleier, Bridget Megan Clark, Kumiko Konishi, Chris Cardona, James Henry B.
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Shades of Abel Ferrara’s MS. 45 ( reviewed here) are ever present in this metropolitan gothic tale of revenge from director/writer Matthew A. Brown.

The film opens with the inciting offense as a young nurse named Julia (THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE’s unfortunate middle actor Ashley C. Williams) who works in a plastic surgery clinic is invited on a date with a young rich man, but quickly the date goes south as she wakes up bruised and bloody wrapped in a comforter and left for the tide to take her out to sea. Making her way home, Julia attempts to cope with the fact that she has been assaulted on her own instead of going to the authorities, attempting to wash it all away with alcohol in a local pub. Overhearing some women in the bar talking about a psychologist who uses a radical technique of healing from sexual assault, Julia becomes enwrapped in the methods of Dr. Sgundud (Jack Noseworthy, BTW where the hell has be been?) which empowers the victim and gives Julia a strong urge for the dish best served cold.

JULIA is an emotionally powerful film. Its effectiveness rests solely on the big beautiful eyes of Ashley C. Williams, who plays the nebbish young weakling who begins to burn with rage, though her emotionless face doesn’t show it. Like Zoe Lund in MS. 45, Williams says it all with her eyes; hiding them behind thick glasses and downward glances avoiding eye contact. As Julia becomes more and more obsessed with revenge on her assailants—an act that Sgundud forbids, things take a pitch dark turn in this one as victim becomes predator towards anything with a penis. The transformation is subtle, but Williams is definitely undergoes a metamorphosis through this runtime—one that highlights the young actresses talent.

There is some utterly wince-inducing scenes of violence and gore in this one as acts of violence towards both men and women are played out ruthlessly. There is one scene in particular that looks so real that being a man, it hurts for me to think about it. But the scene in particular is shown in the most dramatic of effects, highlighting the eroticism and the horror all at once. The twisted ending is also a gore de force that will leave those of you who like your horror on the bloody side cheering.

This tale of female empowerment and combat against male aggression could have been unbearably preachy, but Matthew A. Brown does a great job of burying this message in a compelling story and a character you become invested in from the get go. In doing so, while JULIA is a revenge story—the type of story that is often criticized for being overly simplistic and comprised of base elements of storytelling, but it’s a revenge story with depth and power like few others in the revenge subgenre of horror.

New this week on select theaters, On Demand, and iTunes!


Directed by S. Craig Zahler
Written by S. Craig Zahler
Starring Patrick Wilson, Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, David Arquette, Kathryn Morris, Sid Haig, Sean Young, Michael Paré, Zahn McClarnon, Jamie Hector, Geno Segers, Jay Tavare, Jamie Hector, James Tolkan
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While BONE TOMAHAWK could use a few minutes or two trimmed from a few scenes, it’s still a unique and pretty excellent mix of Western and horror with a cast to die for.

When his wife is captured by natives, Arthur O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson) a cowboy, sets out to find her, despite the fact that he has a broken leg. Accompanying him on this quest is Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), his noble Second Deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), and gentleman gunslinger John Brooder (Matthew Fox). The four cowboys head out to uncharted territory to face a primitive tribe of natives who eat human flesh.

A cannibal Western is territory that’s been sort of charted before in a serious way in RAVENOUS and a less so manner in CANNIBAL: THE MUSICAL, but neither of them have felt as much like a genuine Western as BONE TOMAHAWK. From start to finish, this one feels as if it follows a conventional Western path, with a group of cowboys heading out to undiscovered country to save a damsel from monsters. There’s a knightly quest aspect of this as well, but for the bulk of this film this is simply four very different cowboys trying to get along with one another on horseback.

Now that alone isn’t really that interesting, but considering this is Kurt fucking Russell in a Western, accompanied by not too shabby actors Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox, with Richard Jenkins added much needed comic relief as well as more heart than I was expecting, and this all of a sudden becomes a character piece like few others with four fantastic actors bouncing off of one another in a most entertaining way. Simply seeing these four brave the elements with only a horse, some rations, and a whole lot of firepower is going to be cause alone for people to want to see this movie and this film delivers everyone I expected as all four give their all making us care for them and root for them through this ordeal. Wilson in particular is great as the wounded cowboy who won’t quit until he finds his wife and Fox is amazing as the cold blooded killer of the group whose only soft spot seems to be for his own horse. Russell is as amazing and gruff as one would expect, but Jenkins surprised me as he really is the beating heart of this film, providing innocent, though dim-witted observation and naïve loyalty to his sheriff. All in all, this is a quartet of leads that I would follow anywhere.

Once the four get to where they are going, this film veers from being a typical Western in many ways. First and foremost, things get extremely bloody and gory. I was taken aback at the ruthless level of violence this film delivers as the four men bite and scratch for their lives against these savages, described as Troglodytes, who eat human flesh. But cannibalism isn’t their only sin. These creatures are more primate than human, adorned with jewelry stuck into their windpipes to make a roaring sound and some of them even have tusks. These are not your typical feather wearing noble Native American warriors. These are primitive creatures straight out of a horror film and their wrath is horrifically vicious. What little glimpses we see of their culture is pretty monstrous to behold.

The shift from Western to horror film is not as jarring or trite as something like FROM DUSK TIL DAWN. We are told early on that these natives are monsters, so when they do finally arrive, we sort of know what we are getting. I loved how each of the actors, none of them known for hardcore horror films (sure Russell did THE THING, but that was twenty years ago, and I certainly don’t count Wilson’s INSIDIOUS turn as this level of hardcore), are fully committed here in delivering a solid Western that just happens to end in an utterly horrific manner. The final scenes of this film will make gorehounds cheer and others who are less appreciative of the red stuff wince like hell. Still, even with the monsters they fight and the horrors they endure, the four stars are cowboys all the way through.

This is a unique film that straddles two genres (that of the Western and the horror story) and does so with utter respect for both. While it might be a little long in the tooth for some (the film clocks in just a bit over two hours), I wished I could have spent even more time with these amazing actors fighting monsters with six guns and cowboy hats. Russell is amazing and again plays the ultimate cowboy badass. Fox, Wilson, and especially Jenkins are all stellar every second they are on screen. If you’re a Western fan and don’t mind some gruesome gore and some truly horrific monsters, BONE TOMAHAWK is going to be for you. For horror fans, this is probably as perfect a Western horror film you’re going to get. I savored every bloody, gritty minute of this film. Highly, highly recommended.

Advance Review: Premiering at LA’s Screamfest and will soon be playing at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2015!


Directed by Jesse Thomas Cook
Written by Tony Burgess
Starring Liv Collins, Sarah Power, Wil Burd, Ari Millen, Barry Flatman, Walter Borden, Boyd Banks, Tony Burgess, Jason David Brown, Matt Griffin
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

MONSTER BRAWL and SEPTIC MAN director Jesse Thomas Cook and Tony Burgess the writer of PONTYPOOL, SEPTIC MAN, EJECTA, and HELLMOUTH have teamed up again for their most successful collaboration to date in THE HEXECUTIONERS. Wonky title, I know, but a pretty awesome movie.

When the government passes a bill making assisted suicide legal, mercy killing becomes big business. When her first case proves to be quite a traumatic one, newbie Malison (THE DOOR’s Liv Collins) is paired up with the experienced professional Olivia (iLIVED’s Sarah Power) to take on a special case involving a millionaire, a mansion, a manservant, a dozen ghosts, and a Tibetan death curse.

While I loved PONTYPOOL, I felt that writer Tony Burgess just didn’t deliver as effectively with the trio of films he did after SEPTIC MAN, EJECTA, and HELLMOUTH—the latter delivering some of the same themes as this film, but THE HEXECUTIONERS is a definitely step in the right direction and the first film since PONTYPOOL I would wholeheartedly recommend to fans of that film. A lot of this has to do with the very talented and very beautiful leads Liv Collins as the naïve Malison and Sarah Power as wizened Olivia. The pairing of these two opposite characters and the performances these two actresses give are really great. Collins is fantastic playing the newb here with wide eyes and the way her character clings to Olivia as a mentor is fascinating to see. Her transformation during this film as she sees and experiences quite a lot through the course of the film is convincing every step of the way. Sarah Power is not only drop dead gorgeous, but fun as the wise elder death-dealer. She commands every scene she is in, while still showing a softer side in caring for her less experienced partner. Because both of these characters are so well realized, I found myself buying into every decision they make and caring for them as they deal with the truly weird shit that they are confronting at this mansion.

And there is some truly fucked up shit going on here as the millionaire paying for the suicide is described as being unable to die. This misshapen man, old and bedridden, is creepy as all get out, as is his gaunt and monosyllabic manservant Edgar (Wil Burde). There is a level of uncanny weirdness this film goes to in the latter half that really is quite original and creative. One of the things I look for in horror is things I haven’t seen before, and there are sights and sounds in this film I can truly say I’ve never seen and will definitely not forget. While it skids the momentum of the film to a halt, the slo mo final ritual is gorgeously filmed with portions in black and white while others in vivid colors. The use of sound during this final sequence when all hell breaks loose is equally astounding. Again, you’ve never seen anything like the final moments of this film.

This is a morbid film; dealing with those who dole out death to those who can’t kill themselves. But with some charismatic leads, a compelling story, and a really vivid way of telling the tale through use of color, sounds, and simply original imagery, THE HEXECUTIONERS is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Gorgeous at times, funny and endearing often, and thoroughly twisted as all get out, this is a visual and tonal monster of a movie with dark and tickling tendrils.

And finally…here’s a moody mix of the diabolical and tough talking bob action from writer/director Christopher Di Nunzio. Check out UNDER THE DARK WING and if you like what you see follow them on Facebook here!

Under The Dark Wing from Christopher Di Nunzio on Vimeo.

See ya next week, folks!

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

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