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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Let’s leap right into the horror!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: THEM! (1954)
Retro-review: TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES (1973)
Retro-review: NO TELLING (1991)
Retro-review: PUPPET MASTER 4 (1993)
WRECKER (2015)
8 Films to Die For: THE WICKED WITHIN (2015)
STUNG (2015)

Retro-review: New on BluRay as part of the SPECIAL EFFECTS COLLECTION from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment!

THEM! (1954)

Directed by Gordon Douglas
Written by Ted Sherdeman (screenplay), Russell S. Hughes(adaptation), George Worthing Yates (story)
Starring James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness, Onslow Stevens, Sean McClory, Chris Drake, Sandy Descher, Mary Alan Hokanson, Don Shelton, Fess Parker, Olin Howland
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Warner Brothers are putting out a BluRay collection of some of the coolest old school special effects you’re going to find and this week, I’m covering one of the best in the set: the giant ants on a rampage flick, THEM! When folks think of THEM!, I think immediately they think about giant fake-looking models of furry ants with floppy antennae clamping their pinchers around unsuspecting humans. THEM! does have a lot of that, but I found the film to be so much more upon revisiting it.

Police officer Ben Peterson (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION’s James Whitmore) doesn’t know what he’s getting into when he goes out to investigate bizarre happenings in the desert. He happens upon a little catatonic girl clutching a broken doll and her home, which has been ravaged by something huge. Little does he know that giant ants have attacked the little girl’s home, and that’s just the top of the anthill in terms of the giant ant mayhem unleashed in this film.

One of the things that surprised me about this film this time around was the fact that it is a fun mystery/police procedural flick disguised as a giant monster movie. Much of the first half of the film is the investigation into what exactly is tearing through these homes and destroying/killing everything in its path. Once the giant ants make their presence known, the film again follows a new mystery as to how the ants came to be in the first place as the police, the military, and the nation’s top scientists work together to track down the cause of these monster ants. While it’s simplistic in its investigation, it’s fun to see the group of antbusters track down leads in mental institutions (there’s an especially hilarious scene where an insane drunk repeats “Make me a Sergeant and give me the booze!” that is absolutely hilarious), through waterways, into desert tunnels, and around the local jail. In many ways this is much like the tale of the Indians and the Elephant, as the investigators find out little bits and pieces from different parties and put them all together to find out what caused these ants to grow so big. It was a blast seeing the remedial yet undeniably endearing sleuthing at play here.

And the cause of these monsters, of course, is atomic bombs, but the investigators go through a lot of other possibilities before coming to that conclusion, such as flying saucers and even natural evolution. The film’s message is fun seeing the context of the time it was made. Not only is it a statement about the dangers of the atomic bomb, but it also offers up a somewhat conflicting statement as the military, ultimately, are the ones who solve the problem and destroy the ants once and for all. One would think a film talking about the cons of the A-bomb would equally shame the military for creating and setting the thing off, but in this film the military are called upon to take care of the problem and they do. If this were a modern film, the military would be damned for creating the monsters, or at least they would not be made into the active heroes in the story. Sure there is the determined policeman, the hot scientist babe, and the old scientist offering the advice, but when it comes down to it, the military pull the trigger on the ants.

Politics aside, this film is an amazing example of ingenious special effects in its most rudimentary form. Some of the shots are of real ants. Others are giant animatronic ants in frame with the actors. Still others are superimposed into the scene. Filmmaker Gordon Douglas competently uses whatever means necessary to try to get you to believe ants can be the size of cars and in the scene with these actors. THEM! is something special in that it actually focuses on the mystery behind the giant monsters and slowly takes the viewer along to its eventual resolution. It’s as much a compelling mystery procedural as it is a giant monster thriller, and that’s what makes THEM! an amazing film.

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Arrow Films/MVD Visual!


Directed by Ulli Lommel
Written by Kurt Raab
Starring Kurt Raab, Jeff Roden, Margit Carstensen, Ingrid Caven, Wolfgang Schenck, Brigitte Mira, Rainer Hauer, Barbara Bertram, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Heinrich Giskes, Friedrich Karl Praetorius, Karl von Liebezeit, Walter Kaltheuner, El Hedi ben Salem, Rainer Will
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

While this film is as perverse as it comes, TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES is a compelling film about a very sick man and how easily people will rarely see horrors even when they are happening right under their noses.

The writer of TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES, Kurt Raab, plays Fritz Haarmann, a homosexual man who prefers to kill and eat the children he picks up on the streets and brings back to his apartment. Though the neighbor downstairs is suspicious, Kurt has everyone else fooled into thinking he is a kind, generous, and philanthropic soul who helps the unfortunate and gives back to the community. In the opening moments, Kurt’s apartment is raided by the police and he is taken to the station and threatened to be jailed (this story does take place in 1925 Germany, so homosexuality wasn’t really accepted at the time). But Kurt is given a chance to work for the police to patrol the train stations and bars, turning in other homosexuals and vagrants in order to save his own skin. Kurt accepts this role happily and quickly adapts it to his advantage, helping him get unsuspecting youth in his evil clutches and eventually his bed and belly. But Kurt’s confidence begins to grow and his crimes become more and more brazen, which only confirms his neighbor’s suspicions that he is a homicidal killer.

This is an extremely difficult movie for me to sit through. The callous and cold way Haarmann seduces the young boys he coerces back to his home is shown in its entirety, and the camera doesn’t blink or cut away often, so we are there when these kids are given alcohol, have sex with Kurt, and eventually get eaten by him. These scenes are really hard to watch, and I found myself disgusted and hating Kurt. The film does a fantastic job of painting Haarmann as a truly evil and manipulative man, addicted to sex and the thrill of getting away with his crimes. What makes this film all the more creepy is the fact that this is a true story and Haarmann existed and committed these crimes. Knowing this made watching this film all the more horrific.

So this isn’t a film for everyone. I don’t think it’s a film for me. But what I did find interesting about the film was the way it depicts Haarmann as charismatic and able to function in society and cover up his crimes pretty easily. The people around him are quick to come up with excuses for Haarmann’s suspicious behavior when he is questioned by the nosy neighbor. At the same time, it shows how confident Haarmann was as he brazenly steals women’s clothes from clotheslines, serves up the meat of his victims to his neighbors, tosses out the remains of his victims in the streets and, most disgustingly, uses his police ID to commandeer vagrants in broad daylight. While the subject matter is absolutely disgusting, it is compelling to see how easily a predator like that can live right under the noses of his neighbors. It also does a great job of showing how these types of acts wear on a person and eventually cause a breakdown, which is depicted effectively in this film as well.

Raab is pretty amazing here as Haarmann. He is equally creepy and charismatic with his shaved head and overcoat, which is most definitely an homage to Peter Lorre’s iconic performance from M. TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES is not a comfortable film, but it is a mesmerizing one. This new presentation from Arrow offers up a commentary by director Ulli Lommel moderated by Uwe Huber, a new interview with Lommel, as well as a new intro by the filmmaker. There’s also an interview with DP Jürgen Jürges and a new interview with actor Rainer Will. Basically, that’s a whole lot of people talking about a heinous but fascinating film.

Couldn’t find a trailer that would be suitable for any work environment, sorry.

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


Directed by Larry Fessenden
Written by Larry Fessenden
Starring Miriam Healy-Louie, Stephen Ramsey, David Van Tieghem, Richard Topol, Ashley Arcement, Robert Brady, Susan Doukas, Ward Burlingham, J.J. Clark, Stanley Taub, Francois Lampietti, John Van Couvering, David Leslie
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 disc 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 in 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. Last time I delved into WENDIGO. This time it’s Fessenden’s down to earth Frankenstein film, NO TELLING.

Lillian Gaines (Miriam Healy-Louie) thought she was going to have a romantic summer in the country with her husband Geoffrey (Stephen Ramsey), but it’s apparent when Geoffrey holes up in his makeshift lab that she was wrong. Geoffrey is using rats, bunnies, and any subjects he can get his hands on for his medical experiments and while Lillian disapproves, she supports her estranged husband. But when local scientist bohunk Alex Vine (David Van Tieghem) begins spending more time with Lillian, her support fades with her husband’s indifference--but Lillian has no idea how far Geoffrey will go with his experiments.

Much like WENDIGO, which dissected the insecurities of a man in a family setting, this film again shows a relationship in crisis, this time due to an imbalance between the relationship and one’s work. Also like WENDIGO, NO TELLING goes to an extreme in showing how horribly wrong a relationship can go if these issues are not addressed. In NO TELLING, Geoffrey senses that his relationship is going south, but instead of working on it he pushes his wife away in favor of work. But without his wife to balance him out, Geoffrey becomes a monster himself with the heinous lengths his experiments go to. The final scenes in this film involving Geoffrey’s experiment, while quite rudimentary when compared to Frankenstein’s experiments, still show a doctor out of control and without the moral compass to understand what is right and wrong. Fessenden once again focuses on the relationship here, and while WENDIGO was more of a metaphorical horror film, this one is much more rooted in the real world as the work Geoffrey is doing in his lab is quite monstrous.

Again with NO TELLING, this is a completely grounded and down to earth story. Everything is done in a bare basics sort of way which again attests to Fessenden’s scrappy filmmaking style. But it’s this sense of down home normalcy that really highlights and contrasts with the horrors of Geoffrey’s experiments. Seeing Geoffrey’s experiment take its first steps is a moment bathed in absolute horror and gave me a grotesque feeling few other films achieved. This is mainly due to the rudimentary but effective effects.

Those who dislike animals being harmed most likely won’t want to check this movie out, and while I usually hate films that introduce animals simply to kill them, this one does highlight the horrible lengths a man without conscience can go to if left unchecked. NO TELLING is another deeply compelling and viscerally horrifying film that seems to be put together with barebones ingenuity, but the heart and genius comes in the performances by the capable cast and the sensitive and creative eye of its director, Larry Fessenden.

New on Bluray from Full Moon Features!


Directed by Jeff Burr
Written by Todd Henschell, Jo Duffy, Steven E. Carr, Douglas Aarniokoski, & Keith S. Payson (screenplay), based on characters made by David Schmoeller
Starring Gordon Currie, Chandra West, Ash Adams, Teresa Hill, Guy Rolfe, Felton Perry, Stacie Randall, Michael Shamus Wiles, Dan Zukovic, Jake McKinnon
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

I can’t say I’m the biggest PUPPET MASTER fan, but I have seen my fair share of the films. I reviewed the original PUPPET MASTER a while back, and now Full Moon has released a BluRay of the fourth installment, so I guess I’m skipping ahead a few films here. As with any film series, by the time you get to the fourth you’ve pretty much run your course, but I have to give it to this series for trying new things and introducing new concepts throughout. Not all of them were great, but at least they were giving the effort.

PUPPET MASTER 4 (subtitled THE DEMON and WHEN BAD PUPPETS TURN GOOD, depending on what video cover and region you were in), opens on another plane ruled by an evil demon. This demon sends minions over to our realm in the form of Totem puppets that murderize anyone in their path and apparently are trying to take over the world or some shit like that. Cut to a brilliant scientist (well, as brilliant as this series gets) determined to come up with artificial intelligence that can think for itself. The scientist happens upon Toulon’s crate, which houses our familiar puppets: Pinhead, Hook, Jester, Six Gun, and Tunneller. Using a syringe that seems like it’s been swiped from the set of RE-ANIMATOR, the scientist wakes up the puppets and they awaken just in time to take on the demonic Totem. This time, the puppets are the good guys.

I understand that in between the original film and this one, it was revealed that Toulon was somewhat of a force for good during WWII, so it’s an interesting twist that these puppets that wrought so much havoc in the original are cast as the heroes in this one. Still, the introduction of the otherworld and the demonic Totems does give these murderous puppets even more evil nemeses to battle. In an interesting detail, the demon god sending over the Totem demons is a practical effects puppet as well, which is a fun nod to this film’s subject matter. The Totems themselves are rather cool, as they act very much like the Zuni fetish dolls from TALES OF TERROR meets a Gremlin fed after midnight with its ferociously spastic attacks.

Another fun aspect to the film is the stop motion effects that have become a standard of the PUPPET MASTER films. Any Harryhausen fan will appreciate the time, energy, and creativity in these effects shots, especially when they are mixed with real time practical puppetry. All in all, from an effects standpoint this film maintains a high level of quality.

Which is good, because the acting is pretty terrible and the plot is rather threadbare, with repeated attacks for the same monster and some nonsensical details that really shoot the entire tale down; one specific detail seems to be that these Totems are able to mail themselves to people, and having battled the Chicago mail system, this immediately ups my respect for the little bastards for getting to the right place, sealing the box, and of course remembering the stamp. PUPPET MASTER 4 is not a great film, but it is much better than your typical modern Full Moon attempt, which seems to be made in a haze of bong smoke. It’s a fun highlight for some cool practical and stop motion effects and adds enough twists to keep things interesting.

New this week on DVD from MVD Visual!


Directed by Dave Campfield
Written by Dave Campfield & Sean Steffen
Starring Dave Campfield, Paul Chomicki, Scott Aguilar, Andre Gower, Felissa Rose, Tiffany Shepis, Steph Barkley, Nicole Cinaglia, Debbie Rochon, Monique Dupree, Catherine Corcoran, Brinke Stevens, John J Thomassen, Vernon Wells, Sean Whalen, Shawn C. Phillips, Beverly Randolph, Michael Kean, JamieLee Ackerman, Maximo Gianfranco Sorrentino, Jack McGraw, Samantha Barrios, Deron Miller, Evan Seidlitz, Mike Johansen, Avi K. Garg, Jason Britt, Ken MacFarlane, Josephine Iannece, Scott Aguilar, Kyler Kasarda, Daniel Sullivan
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I’ve reviewed a couple of CAESAR & OTTO films in my time doing this here AICN HORROR column, and what I like about them is that it really seems like each time the quality of the filmmaking and the humor leaps forward in quality quite a bit. The latest, CAESAR & OTTO’S PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN, does so substantially.

For those not in the know, Caesar and Otto are bumbling half-brothers who tend to get into horrific and absurd situations. Putting it in classic Stooges terms, Caesar is the Moe, egotistical, narcissistic, and aggressive, while Otto is more like the lovable but bumblingly moronic Curly, oblivious yet optimistic and good-natured. In this installment, Caesar and Otto unintentionally thwart a rampaging serial killer that looks and acts a lot like Michael Myers (though when he’s unmasked he looks like Rob Zombie), but are in need of a place to live. When they are presented with a key to the city, Caesar & Otto are also given access to a Congressman’s summer home which comes with its own horny gardener, cold-hearted cook, warped neighbors, and a few restless spirits. As Halloween approaches, the horrors begin to pile up with Caesar and Otto trapped smack dab at the bottom of the dogpile.

The humor here is much more effective than in previous CAESAR & OTTO films. There are quite a few winks and nods to the camera in terms of popular horror trends, and some well-worn clichés that are used in clever ways. While I can’t say I laughed at all of the gags, I will say about 75% of the time I was chuckling through this movie. This is mainly due to the fun nature of the film, as both Caesar and Otto are likable enough despite their faults. The guest appearances by former scream queens like Brinke Stevens, Felissa Rose, and Debbie Rochon are all fun, and of course any film with Tiffany Shepis ranks a higher score on my test indicator (here she plays one of the psycho neighbors).

I won’t say that this film has the highest production values, because it doesn’t. This is fun low budget filmmaking filled with enough genre cameos and nods to the horror industry that it will make anyone who ever attended a horror convention laugh more than a few times. If you’re missing the type of non-threatening terrors that the ABBOT & COSTELLO monster mashups used to specialize in, CAESAR & OTTO’S PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN is a nice modern equivalent.

New this week on DVD and digital download from Uncork’d Entertainment!


Directed by Robert Conway
Written by Owen Conway (collaborating writer), Robert Conway (screenplay)
Starring Monica Engesser, Amelia Haberman, James Ray, Kevin Tye, Sean G P Anderson, Jeffrey Lamar, Owen Conway, Carrie Fee, Nathaniel Burns, Shawn Saavedra, and William 'Bill' Connor as the Krampus!
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Being a critic is harder than it looks. Sure, I could go down the list of movies I see on a weekly basis and say “This sucks”, “This is good”, and so on, but where’s the fun in that? What I’ve found in these six years reviewing all horrors of all sorts of qualities and vast quantities is that if you’re going to review a film, you have to break it down to its elements: story, character, acting, effects, scares, and overall effectiveness. Then consider the budget, the history of horror, its many subgenres, my own personal preferences, a dab of nostalgia, and form an opinion. It’s not an exact science, but it works for me. I started with this statement of purpose at the beginning of this KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING review because it really is a film that has distinct parts where there is definite talent, while the places where the film is lacking are pretty blaringly obvious, so this is a film that makes my job pretty easy.

Riding the current Krampus trend with a modestly budgeted Krampus film already released with A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY (reviewed here) and a big budgeted KRAMPUS on its way to theaters this holiday season, KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING does have the dubious distinction of being the Krampus movie with the lowest budget. That doesn’t always mean low quality, and I’ll give it to this film for trying really hard to cover up its meager fundings. The story follows a young girl who seems to have the power to summon the Krampus and unleash him onto anyone with the misfortune of rubbing her the wrong way. Only one social worker and her police officer pal have the minds open enough to consider the rash of deaths around the girl are supernatural in nature.

So this really isn’t a story about Krampus. Not the Krampus that is tied to Christmas and deemed the Anti-Santa, that is. But it is about a girl who calls a demon and has it do her bidding. And the main thing most will notice is that the demon called is horrifically rendered and not in a good, horrifying way, but more in a horrible way. The Krampus itself barely moves and simply growls and raises its arms and then people burst into flames; most likely that’s all the rudimentary computer program had the power to do. So this non-emotive and non-mobile Krampus isn’t scary or threatening in the least as it moves around with about the same mobility as Bald Bull in MIKE TYSON’S PUNCH OUT.

Despite the fact that the animated Krampus isn’t scary in the least, this film is actually capably written and decently directed. I’m not calling Robert Conway the next Steven Spielberg, but he does know how to capably put a scene together and almost make you forget that the monster in this film makes the Asylum film monsters look like JURASSIC PARK. On top of that the film’s writers and director, Robert and Owen Conway, inject some fun word interplay and actually seem to have done their homework on both police and social work procedurals. There is a relatively smart script here, and while the story is somewhat typical, relying on happenstance to propel it along, there are some surprisingly capable moments in terms of how this film looks and sounds.

But with a name like KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING, the people who are going to be attracted to this film will be wanting a capable and potent monster, and this film simply doesn’t deliver on that end. If only the filmmakers had saved a few more bucks to make the monster a little more effective, I think the film could have been something earning my recommendation. As is, while the basics are decent, the title monster’s shortcomings just kills all potential this film has.

New this week in select theaters, available On Demand and iTunes on November 10th from XLRator!

WRECKER (2015)

Directed by Micheal Bafaro
Written by Micheal Bafaro
Starring Anna Hutchison, Andrea Whitburn, Jennifer Koenig, Don Knodel, Michael Dickson, Kurtis Maguire, Lori Watt
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While I know the bulk of the moviegoing public has a very poor memory and a low tolerance for revisiting anything made before the turn of the century, I really would rather recommend DUEL any day of the week before I would tell someone they should check out WRECKER.

Two fun-loving gals make their way across country on a road trip and decide to take a shortcut through a road called “Devil’s Pass.” On this road, they run into a wrecker that torments them by trying to run them off the road and run them over.

WRECKER is DUEL with two girls in a fast car rather than Dennis Weaver in a clunker. The film really doesn’t make any attempt to explain who or what is behind the wheel of the evil truck, but I can’t fault the movie for that since DUEL didn’t do it either. The problem is that WRECKER doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, and simply does a low budget version of a film that was already low budget too begin with. In doing so, WRECKER feels rather offensive, as if it were trying to do something new and innovative for those who don’t know enough about film to know a better film exists with the same plot.

But you know, I’m not terribly mad at the film--just kind of bored. WRECKER feels as if no one really looked at the film after completing it. Right from the get go, the film opens on a bizarre and pointless shot of two people who break down on a highway only to cut to our two main girls going down the same road. It’s this style of lazy filmmaking that permeates this film. Most likely a lot of the shots that required the truck to ram the car or vehicles actually falling off cliffs (you know, stuff that makes for tension and action) are just beyond the budget necessary. But instead of being creative with these shots, the filmmakers decide to simply forget about them and ask the audience to forget about them as well. This makes for some pretty dull viewing.

Pair that with some rough acting and you’ve got a pretty difficult film to keep your eyes open through. I was able to withstand the tedium, but it’s doubtful many will. WRECKER attempts to reinvent the wheel without the proper tools to do so or the ingenuity and energy to even fake it.

Newly available for from the 2015 8 Films To Die For Series (you see this film On Demand and download this film on iTunes and Amazon)!


Directed by Jay Alaimo
Written by Stephen Wallis
Starring Sienna Guillory, Gianni Capaldi, Michele Hicks, Enzo Cilenti, Eric Roberts, Sonja Kinski, Heath Freeman, William MacNamara
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Smartly setting this film in one locale, THE WICKED WITHIN attempts to do something different with the possession genre; I’ll definitely give this film props for that. It doesn’t mean this is a good film, though, as the filmmakers seem to be a bit too ambitious for what the actors and the story of this film are able to offer.

Set up in a USUAL SUSPECTS sort of way, three people are being interviewed in a police office by a police psychiatrist (Eric Roberts, who seems to be all over the place, especially bad horror films, these days). The interviewees and Roberts hint that the reason they are there is because of a multiple murder, and the police are simply trying to put the pieces of the night before together. Turns out the night prior, a family gathered for a dinner to honor, celebrate, and heal from the death of a little girl who died a year prior. The parents are guilt-ridden and while the sister and her husband are supportive, the grandparent is accusatory. But when it appears the little girl is reaching out from beyond the grave, the family begins to tear each other apart, and then it turns out that Satan himself gets involved.

The problem with THE WICKED WITHIN is that the logistics are off. The night that the story plays out in just doesn’t pan out. Dinner is made and eaten, the family convene in the living room where the strange stuff happens. Immediately a psychic is called and immediately she comes over. Then she leaves. Then a priest is called and he immediately comes over. Then the psychic comes back again a short time later. And just as this film tries to cheat with time and space as if it were a stage play unfolding on one set (and that type of film usually intrigues me), it also plays out illogically as the film acts as if all of the characters are locked in this house and unable to leave. Personally, if one of my family members began to talk in tongues, I’d be out of there. I understand familial ties, but as it turns out everyone here hates each other, so I don’t buy that logic either. None of it stacks up, and the filmmakers make the film even more hard to follow by having it all take place in flashback.

While this film is capably acted and decently made, the leaps in logic required to buy it all are just too huge. The film also offers up some eye rollingly bad dialog, and while I give the film props for setting it against THE USUAL SUSPECTS’ template instead of simply aping THE EXORCIST again, that’s about all I’ll give THE WICKED WITHIN.

Other 2015 8 Films to Die For Reviews!

New this week on DVD/BluRay from IFC Midnight!

STUNG (2015)

Directed by Benni Diez
Written by Adam Aresty
Starring Matt O'Leary, Jessica Cook, Lance Henriksen, Clifton Collins Jr., Tony de Maeyer, David Masterson, Cecilia Pillado, Kathleen Renish, Eve Slatner
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

STUNG is a giant monster bug movie. It’s an awesome giant monster bug movie. But if you’re looking for anything new, you’d best buzz off to another giant monster bug movie.

TIME LAPSE’s Matt O’Leary stars as Paul, a witty bartender working for a catering service run by the gorgeous and talented Julia (Jessica Cook). Their latest job takes them to a secluded mansion in the middle of nowhere, where a bunch of socialites have gathered for hobnobbing and socializing. Among the rich partygoers are the Mayor (Lance Henricksen), the owner of the mansion (Eve Slatner), and her weird son Sydney (Cliffton Collins Jr.). Also swarming about the party are giant multicolored wasps which cause a quick metamorphosis in humans after stinging and turns the stung into human-sized wasps bent on stinging and creating more human-sized wasps. Pail, Julia, Sydney, and the Mayor are among the few survivors and are trying to get to safety by any means necessary with a swarm of giant wasps flying in and around the house.

So the science of the physical change from human to wasp and the short amount of time these wasp stings take to cause the change isn’t really delved into here. This is simply a film about surviving using anything and everything available. Luckily, Paul is a resourceful guy as he manages to stave off the attacks and try to work in some flirtation with his boss Julia, who acts as if he is below her. Instead of the science, which usually gets in the way of these films, this film tosses all of that aside for fun character interaction and a lot of wasp carnage, which makes STUNG a fun and breezy ride. You’re definitely going to tell yourself you’ve seen all of the beats this film takes before in everything from ALIENS to EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS to THEM!, but at least the character bits make the familiar ride fun.

And that’s what this film is. It’s a familiar ride on a long journey, but because you chose some talented and witty passengers to accompany you on that ride, the ride is much more fun that you would have imagined. Matt O’Leary is a star in the making. Both in this film and in TIME LAPSE, O’Leary offers up a quirky, smart, and fun personality that you can’t help but root for. While STUNG might not be the breakout hit he is looking for, it is bound to happen, as this guy has talent. Playing his love interest in this film, Jennifer Cook is strong and likeable as well. This makes it easy for me as the viewer to root for them and invest myself in the film. Tossing in genre faves Clifton Collins Jr. and Lance Henricksen only sweetens the pot and makes this giant wasp chase all the more fun.

The effects here are amazing as well. The CG is pretty fantastic, but it also mixes practical effects and gory details such as having parts of the people the wasps burst out from still clinging to the wasps. This makes for an effects extravaganza, never relying on one type of effect to deliver it all, but popping around from practical to digital capably and with an eye for entertainment. STUNG may be familiar in the way the story plays out, but that’s not always a bad thing. The effects and performances by the talented cast spice it up to be a fun monster movie you can enjoy without it weighing too heavily on you.

New this week on Bluray/DVD from The Shout Factory)!


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 Judge’s film, as many 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 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 few 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.

New this week on BluRay/DVD from RLJ Entertainment!


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 its 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 about 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 strength of this film are the relative unknowns playing the parts. Rubenstein is great as Lincoln, 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.

New on DVD/BluRay and On Demand from Dark Sky Films!


Directed by Isaac Ezban (segment "La cosa mas preciada"), Laurette Flores Bornn (segment "Tzompantli"), Jorge Michel Grau (segment "Muñecas"), Ulises Guzman (segment "Siete veces siete"), Edgar Nito (segment "Jaral de Berrios"), Lex Ortega (segment "Lo que importa es lo de adentro"), Gigi Saul Guerrero (segment "Día de los Muertos"), Aaron Soto (segment "Drena")
Written by Isaac Ezban (segment "La cosa mas preciada"), Laurette Flores Bornn (segment "Tzompantli"), Jorge Michel Grau (segment "Muñecas"), Alfredo Mendoza, Ulises Guzman (segment "Siete veces siete"), Edgar Nito (segment "Jaral de Berrios"), Lex Ortega (segment "Lo que importa es lo de adentro"), Paulo Riqué, Gigi Saul Guerrero (segment "Día de los Muertos"), Aaron Soto (segment "Drena")
Starring Sara Camacho, Rubén Zerecero (segment "La cosa más preciada"), Dulce Alexa, Claudia Goytia, Gilean Alducin Luciano, Anuar Zuñiga Naime (segment "Lo que importa es lo de adentro"), Emi Kamito, Karly Palmer, Mathias Retamal (segment "Día de los Muertos"), Lorena Gonzalez, Barbara Perrin Rivemar (segment "Drena"), Ramón Medína
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

What makes a good anthology is a good hook tying all of the stories together and the variety of those stories. MEXICO BARBARO, which translates to BARBAROUS MEXICO has both in spades. This is an amazing anthology highlighting the work of Mexico’s finest and most ghoulish directors, some of which have showed up in this here AICN HORROR column before. Tied together with animations of intense close ups of skin being cut, pierced, and otherwise mutilated, MEXICO BARBARO is a hard edged, nerve shredding, and utterly creative anthology like no other.

We start out with “Tzompantli” is by Laurette Flores Bornn, a fable of sorts about a reporter investigating organized crime and it’s ties to ancient customs. We get a little lesson on how brutal these criminals are as well as a fantastic tone-setter for the rest of the film. The imagery used in this one, be it skeleton dressed gang-bangers or a rack full of severed heads, is horrifying and completely in your face, which is pretty much how this entire film unfolds.

“Jaral de Barrios” is from Edgar Nito is another film that feels like a fable as a pair of robbers seek sanctuary in a ghost town with a satchel full of gold. This tale, set in the Old West, feels genuine in the look of the weathered town and the two occupants. Of course, it turns out that this ghost town has one actual ghost that is sensual one second and terrifying the next. This one has some very creative camera work and a fast pace that keeps you on your toes. I loved the iconic final scenes that highlight the serenity of the desert juxtaposed against some horrific violence.

The winner for the most fucked up story of the anthology goees to Aaron Soto, who lets loose "Drena" upon us. A young girl is visited in the night by a demon who asks her to perform a task; bring him blood from her sister’s vagina or else he will suck his soul out of the girl’s anus. When a demon offers that, you best get to performing the task! But what works in this short is not exactly what you see and hear, but what you don’t. Through some clever edits, some disgusting sounds, and the most bizarre imagery you’re bound to see, this is one short that will give you nightmares. Soto’s gift for suggesting the diabolical and disgusting without really putting all of the pieces together makes this segment one of the more memorable and soul-shaking ones of the bunch.

Isaac Ezban (who did the amazing THE INCIDENT, reviewed here) continues the weird with a story about a young couple off to lose their virginity in “Los cosa mas preciada” or “The Most Precious Thing.” It’s too bad they pick a cabin in the woods that is haunted by little demons who steal things. This installment gets graphic and disturbing and definitely goes to places that will make folks absolutely uncomfortable—something all good horror should do. The effects are great here as is Ezban’s skill at POV shots reminiscent of Raimi in his horror prime.

Lex Ortega (who has a film called ATROCIOUS coming out this year) directed "Lo que importa es lo de adentro" or “What Matters is What’s Inside” which is a cautionary tale about a little girl wary of a homeless man on the street. It is obvious the little girl is developmentally delayed and no one listens to her when she fears that she is the boogie man. Turns out she might be onto something and the homeless man ends up being much more than a simply vagrant. The content of this segment is going to make people squirm, mainly because of the tight close ups and disturbing sounds rather than what we do see.

WE ARE WHAT WE ARE director Jorge Michel Grau unleashes "Muñecas" or “Dolls,” which feels like a story we are coming into at the halfway point with a frightened woman hiding in a swamp being pursued by a giant man in a butcher’s outfit. But that’s just the tip of the weird as the lens pulls back to show bigger horrors at play. Grau, who did such an amazing job with setting a dire mood and really creating an amazingly rich universe in the original WE ARE WHAT WE ARE, makes another dark and disturbing corner just as detailed and extraordinary. The use of bizarre music and sounds only add to this twisted tale.

Ulises Guzman brings forth “Siete veces siete” or “Seven Times Seven,” a tale of revenge and horror by inches as a man abducts a dead body from a morgue and performs a ritual in the middle of the desert. This one is gorgeously shot, with some terrifying and surreal dream effects, paired with some gutsy practical effects as well. The story is rather simple, but Guzman takes his time in showing all his cards and while I kind of saw the end coming, the ride there was often beautiful and thrilling.

Finally, Gigi Saul Guerrero offers up “Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead,” which is beautifully filmed and offers up some titillation as a madame in a strip club preps her girls to get onto stage with some harsh words. The haunting Day of the Dead makeup really do make the girls look diabolical and this one definitely celebrates the seductive and deadly nature of the female form, but this one is a little too reminiscent of FROM DUSK TIL DAWN in terms of story for my tastes.

All in all, this is an amazing slideshow of the immense talent of all of the directors involved. Disturbing, gory, and fun, this anthology is one of the best and you need to check it out. MEXICO BARBARO shows us that talented and unique storytellers and horrific things lay just over the border.

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.

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!

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