Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Still trying to catch up on all of these horrors from October, I decided to do another column this week!
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: SON OF KONG (1933)
Retro-review: MARY, MARY, BLOODY MARY (1975)
LILY GRACE: A WITCH STORY (2015)
QUEEN OF BLOOD (2014)
8 Films To Die For: LUMBERJACK MAN (2015)
BOUND TO VENGEANCE (2015)
TALES OF HALLOWEEN (2015)
Advance Review: THE SIMILARS (2015)
And finally…TOMB OF DRACULA: TERROR IN THE SNOW!
Retro-review: New on BluRay as part of the SPECIAL EFFECTS COLLECTION from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment!
SON OF KONG (1933)Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack
Written by Ruth Rose
Starring Robert Armstrong, Helen Mack, Frank Reicher, John Marston, Victor Wong, Ed Brady
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
A bit less heavy and jovial, SON OF KONG still is more fun that a barrel full of monkeys and it’s got a monkey band too!
Guilt ridden and over his head with lawsuits for bringing King Kong to America and letting him rampage through New York in the first film, crusty seaman Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong, reprising his role from KING KONG) pairs up with a dame out of luck named Hilda (Helen Mack), an opportunistic businessman named Helstrom (John Marston) and the captain of the original ship that went to Skull Island (Frank Reicher) to return to the island for a fabled lost treasure. Instead they find the Son of Kong (dubbed Kiko by everyone but those in the script which is a truncated name of King and Kong), an albino gorilla who is saved by Carl and Hilda from quicksand and quickly befriends them. And they need a friend like Kiko because there are giant bears, dragons, and sea monsters all over the treacherous and tectonically unstable Skull Island.
While the film is definitely less abundant in character and story, it makes up for it with some amazing stop motion effects as Kiko battles all sorts of monsters. Obviously, the makers of this film realized some of the most interesting moments in King Kong revolved around Kong fighting stuff. So here they tossed everything but a prehistoric kitchen sink at him. Kiko lacks the stature of Kong as he is said to be just a young ape, he still is a formidable fighter, utilizing wrestling moves that would make the Rock jealous on a giant bear, a sea monster, and a dragon. There’s even a triceratops thrown in for good measure. These fight sequences are really fun to watch. Though they are bloodless, they are rather brutal as Kiko makes short work of all of them in a flurry of stop motion madness. Seeing the random ruffles of hair caused by the stop motion effect exudes a charm that just warms me inside, knowing that these filmmakers spend countless hours moving these creatures centimeter by centimeter in order to bring them to life.
One of the noticeable differences between Kiko and his pop is his lighter hair color and more distinctly, his large, human like eyes. Even early on, the filmmakers knew in order to make Kiko more likable, you have to give him big emotive eyes. This is one of the major aspects of the film that promotes the more cartoonish approach as Kiko feels more like something from the Island of Misfit Toys rather than Skull Island. Still, it highlights that the filmmakers were going for a broader audience that may not have been attracted to KING KONG because of its heavier themes of romance and loss.
But this film isn’t all wine and roses as tragedy is what brings the four adventurers together in the form of a circus fire and a mutinous ship. The film also ends on a particularly quick and sad note which I won’t reveal here, but at least King Kong got to see the world before his demise.
I loved every minute of SON OF KONG. It’s a film built for the lighthearted Saturday Matinee crowd with a cartoony monster, a simplistic search for treasure story, and lovable performances by Armstrong and Mack. It’s from a simpler time when all you have to do is save a dame from a monster in order to have them fall for you. The themes of showmanship and the importance of opportunity are still prevalent throughout the story as all ends well for most of our cast, yet the underlying realization that Skull Island and all its inhabitants are no more proves for a much more melancholy ending that matches the tear-jerker ending of the original.
Retro-review: New on DVD from Kino Lorber/Code Red!
MARY, MARY, BLOODY MARY (1975)aka MARY, BLOODY MARY
Directed by Juan López Moctezuma
Written by Don Henderson & Don Rico (story), Malcolm Marmorstein (screenplay)
Starring Cristina Ferrare, David Young, Helena Rojo, Arthur Hansel, Enrique Lucero, Susana Kamini, José Ángel Espinosa 'Ferrusquilla', Ramón Armengod, Carlos Riquelme, Roger Cudney, Jose Calderon, Reynaldo Rivera, Jorge Humberto Robles, & John Carradine as The Man!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
I remember seeing the video box of MARY, MARY, BLOODY MARY as a kid and not really being interested in the film as it simply showed a picture of Mary (Christina Ferrare) as a noblewoman. Having finally checked out the film, I’m pretty sure my 10 year old attention span would have persevered had I rented it and I would have turned it off. Looking at it now, it was a hard film to get through too.
Mary is a vampire. That is established early on as we see her attack a man and drain him. Yet, Mary is not a heartless monster. In fact, she’s looking for love. Being a ravishing beauty, she has more than enough people around to offer that up to her. Forming a reluctant relationship with Ben (David Young), she sets out to try to live a normal life with him (the normal restrictions of vampires such as an extreme reaction to sunlight, doesn’t seem to apply to her). But with a foreign beauty named Greta (Helena Rojo) lusting after her, Ben asking questions about her secret vamp life, the police trying to track down the murders Mary is leaving behind her during her travels through Mexico, and a man in black stalking her, the forces seem to be stacking up against her.
While the pacing of this film is bound to bore most, I will give it up to this film for trying hard to make Mary a sympathetic character worth rooting for. Despite the rough acting in many, many spots, Christina Ferrare does a pretty good job here as Mary and the story stacks enough problems onto her to make her worth investing in. Because she is trying to stave off her hunger in order to have a relationship with Ben, Mary becomes weak and like a ravenous animal whenever blood is presented to her, so you actually feel for her because her intentions are noble here. I can see why many call this one of the lesbian vampire films, as Mary does have a relationship with Greta. The temptation and pain Mary feels in her relationship with Ben can represent Mary’s pangs for the secret love of a woman, desires she cannot share with Ben. But in many ways, this is a much more progressive film, looking at these feelings more thematically than fetishistically displaying lesbian activity. Sure there are girls kissing girls here, but it’s much less exploitative than most films in the lesbian vamp genre which simply portrays lesbianism as monstrous.
Though thematically heavy, the actors around Mary though are pretty bad. The scenes with the police are especially bad, both in the writing of the police procedural tactics and the delivery of the lines. Seeing these two bumbling cops (one from America and one from Mexico) try to crack the case is often unintentionally hilarious. Even David Carradine, by this time a very old man, delivers some excruciatingly hokey dialog towards the end (“My veins are growing!”).
This is a decently gory film for its time, dousing the victims in the red stuff. And while the themes at play are interesting, the execution and dialog are downright awful. All in all, I was able to find some positive aspects to MARY, MARY, BLOODY MARY, but it’s got some very rough edges.
New this week on DVD from Midnight Releasing!
LILY GRACE: A WITCH STORY (2015)aka HER NAME IS LILY GRACE
Directed by Wes Miller
Written by James Palmer
Starring Scott Seegmiller, James Palmer, Greg Travis, Ross Crain, Sean Harrigan, Matthew Koenig, and Sonya Cooke as Lily Grace!
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While the story is rather simplistic, I have to recognize the distinctive look LILY GRACE: A WITCH STORY possesses. It’s not a perfect film, but the filmmaker has style for telling a gripping and unconventional story with loads of heavy atmosphere.
Scott Seegmiller plays Ronald, a depressed man who returns home to bury a father he never really knew. Inheriting a bizarre house full of odds and ends, Ronald discovers that towards the end of his life, his father was petrified by a witchy woman he identifies as Lily Grace (Sonya Cooke). Ronald begins hearing things and soon realizes that what he thought were the writings of a lunatic might actually have some validity to it as he encounters Grace as well. When a drifter named Jake (James Palmer, who also write the film) happens upon his property, Ronald is eager to take him in so as not to go crazy. But while the two men are as different as can be, they will need each other if they are to survive against the witch.
So two guys meet and build a trap to capture and kill a witch. That’s the story here and while that’s pretty much exactly what happens, along the way, there are a lot of interesting sights to be had. The film moves at a sort of meandering pace, focusing more on allowing us to get to know Ronald and Jake and this weird friendship they develop than the horrors, but the horrors eventually occur. Director Wes Miller opens this film oddly with voiceovers and close-ups. You’re tossed in, so intimately close to Ronald that it is somewhat jarring. We are inside his head for most of the film and through some strong dialog by writer Palmer you become invested in Ronald very early and easily. On top of that, when the witch does show up, Miller puts together some very tense and nerve shredding scenes of pure terror as the look and movements of the witch are pretty scary.
This is a quirky little film. Sometimes elegant in its character work, sometimes awkward in its transitions; LILY GRACE: A WITCH STORY is not going to be everyone, but if you are interested in unconventional horrors and storytelling, this one delivers its own odd stew of it in a heaping portion.
New this week on BluRay from Intervision!
QUEEN OF BLOOD (2014)Directed by Chris Alexander
Written by Chris Alexander
Starring Nivek Ogre, Shauna Henry, David Goodfellow, Carrie Gemmell
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I reviewed BLOOD FOR IRINA (reviewed here) a while back, recommending it for those horror fans who like their scares a bit artsier than the norm, as it was a film that was heavy on mood, light on dialog, and steeped in what some might describe as pretension. Still, the film was entertaining as a showcase of sights and sounds, choosing to use well-known imagery to convey a sense of feeling and experience rather than tell a conventional tale.
Chris Alexander’s follow up, QUEEN OF BLOOD, is a sequel of sorts as it continues the story of Irina the silent but violent she-vampire as she makes her way through wooded areas, devouring the blood of all of those who cross her path with her fingertips while looking as if she is in need of some coffee most of the time. This time around in her somber journey, Irina happens upon a pregnant woman and takes the child as her own vampiric brood.
Not only is this film a sequel in that it continues the story of a specific character from BLOOD FOR IRINA, but it also continues the style and mood that oozed from the original film. This is a slow paced film--one that soaks in the wooded environment, which is a shift from the more urban exteriors seen in the first film and much more interesting due to the shift in locale. Those with a heavy fast forward finger will be tempted to skip a few beats here and there, but those who prefer to soak it all in and enjoy this experience will find it rich indeed.
Alexander also elevates the material with gothic and haunting music, both classical and synth. In doing so he continues the feeling of the uncanny and macabre, which only makes it more of a horrific experience. The inundation of dripping blood and clanging chords make it all feel like it is stuff ripped from nightmare.
Though there is a lack of dialog, the performances are interesting, but not really the highlight to the film. The appearance of Nivek Ogre from Skinny Puppy as a vampire hunter spices things up and the actor (who also appeared in SCREAM PARK—reviewed above) no doubt has a presence about him and the theatrics that go with performing music live do him well here in this silent film.
At times, I must admit, I felt the words “Just get on with it!” forming in my mouth. I can appreciate artsy horror for what it is. The film is reminiscent of Jess Franco’s art house vampire films of old, and props to this film for not going the complete cliché route and having the vamp suck blood through her fingers (which is common among vamps of lore in some other cultures). While some can perceive this simply as a tale of a vampire who washes ashore on a river and kills a couple of people with her finger straw, then wanders off with a new baby from a murdered pregnant woman, I can appreciate the point of the steady slow pace and how effectively creepy it can be if doled out in the patient manner Alexander does in QUEEN OF BLOOD. The BluRay contains the BLOOD FOR IRINA film, interviews with director Alexander, and intro by Nivek Ogre, as well as a pair of alternate endings.
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)!
LUMBERJACK MAN (2015)Directed by Josh Bear
Written by Josh Bear & Bill Muehl (story), Ed Kuehnel & Matt Entin (screenplay)
Starring Michael Madsen, Ciara Flynn, Alex Dobrenko, Jarrett King, Adam Sessler, Chase Joliet, Hector Becerra, Jasmin Carina, Wray Crawford, Zach Guerrero, Angelina Morales, Tyler Mount, Brina Palencia, Amanda Moon Ray, Alyona Real, Christopher Sabat, Andy San Dimas, Arthur Simone, Jake Surca, Troy Yingst, Bronson Willard
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Holy wow is this film a boatload of fun!
Though Michael Madsen’s character Dr. Dr. Peter Shirtcliff explains it in obligatory exposition later in the film, LUMBERJACK MAN opens with a monster-sized man sprouting from a furnace, dusting off an arsenal of weapons, and then firing up the griddle to make a gargantuan stack of pancakes. Cut to a busload of victims on their way to Bible Camp on a collision course with the giant monster of a man who totes behind him a wheel barrel full of umbrella sized pancakes that need blood, not syrup to be moistened before consumed by the hungry Jack!
Not one minute of this film should be taken seriously. The ludicrous premise of a monster lumberjack stalking and killing kids in order to bloody up his giant stack of pancakes is made even funnier by the performances by the talented comedic cast. Every performance here is on point and while most are playing broad stereotypes we’ve seen from other movies, enough self referential wit and charm is exuded from all of them. Playing like a horror version of the religious parody film SAVED!, LUMBERJACK MAN takes a group of bible thumpers chaperoning a group of horny and rebellious Christian kids and tosses in a serial killer to murder them one by one. The story takes full advantage of the naïve chaperones attempting to communicate “on the real” with the kids through the overzealous Doug (Adam Sessler) who brandishes a marble jar for positive behavior and the behind clothed doors vixen Theresa (Andy San Dimas), who provides an over the top striptease after an obligatory shower sequence.
This movie is a complete horndog of a slasher film where the naïve cast are more than eager to shed their clothes once the sins of alcohol and drugs are introduced. There’s a specific scene late on where Madsen’s character explains that the only way to take on the Lumberjack Man is for our final girl Faith (the gorgeous Ciara Flynn) to take off her clothes and douse herself in maple syrup. It’s absolutely ridiculous, but the gratuitous amount of nudity and sex in this film is refreshing in the recent climate of safe horror comedies like FINAL GIRLS (a great film that could have been better had it added some nudity like the films it emulated). Yes, this film has a childish fondness for breasts and is eager at showing off the flapjacks of pretty much its entire female cast. And while our current PC works wants to make us feel bad for taking joy in such perversions, it’s refreshing as hell to see a film embrace the inner adolescent in all of us. There’s nothing wrong with a little nudity and LUMBERJACK MAN delivers it and then some.
The lead Flynn is an extremely charming and talented actress. Her comic timing is great and I look forward to seeing more of her (as if we didn’t see enough of her in this film). Madsen is amazing in this film as the Loomis character who delivers exposition and foreboding comments all the way through. “You don’t know what meatloaf is!” should be the man’s new catchphrase. Add in some male leads who honestly look baked in every scene they are in (both of the teens have a receding hairline), and this is a cast that is fun to watch as well as see massacred by a giant pancake maker.
Not one moment of this film should be taken seriously. Not only are the jokes great, but each and every kill is over the top as well. The creative murderings each top the next as some are beaten with pancakes, others dismembered by lumberjack equipment, while one sequence has the Lumberjack Man scrunch one of his victims into a little ball bent into different angles.
And while this is definitely a comedy first, the grossout moments are a plenty and the sheer amount of gore and nudity make it feel more at home in the sex and blood covered 80’s. But what makes it fun is the somewhat self-referential attitude paired with some absolutely outrageous moments of gratuity. If you like laughter, boobs, and gore with your horror, serve up a heaping helping of LUMBERJACK MAN and your appetite will be most definitely satiated.
THE WICKED WITHIN
New this week on BluRay from IFC Midnight and the Shout Factory!
BOUND TO VENGEANCE (2015)Directed by José Manuel Cravioto
Written by Rock Shaink Jr. & Keith Kjornes
Starring Tina Ivlev, Richard Tyson, Bianca Malinowski, Stephanie Charles, Amy Okuda, Dustin Quick, Nihan Gur, Vivan Dugré, Kristoffer Kjornes
Digital download: Netflix (not yet), iTunes here
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While I can acknowledge the power and impact of films like MS. 45, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and other rape/revenge films of old, I can’t say they are films I ever want to revisit. This is mainly because those films focused mainly on the act of rape itself, highlighting them in gory detail for an extended amount of screen time, and then almost by happenstance, try to make up for it by having the raped lash out violently against the rapist in the latter half. BOUND TO VENGEANCE kicks that template to the curb, and thus, makes for a more entertaining film entirely about the motivating power of revenge.
Eve (Tina Ivlev) is a wide eyed 21 year old girl in love with her boyfriend and full of dreams to travel the world. In the opening moments, we see her a playful day at a carnival, smiling and being beautiful for the camera, held by her boyfriend Ronnie (Kristoffer Kjornes). Cut to Eve, chained and beaten to a dingy bed. As her captor Phil (THREE O’CLOCK HIGH’s Richard Tyson) drops off some food, she smashes his head in with a brick and escapes. But when she discovers a box full of pictures of other girls, Eve decides not to make a run for it, but takes her captor captive and forces him to reveal the locations of the other girls so she can free them as well. This takes Eve and Phil on a quest of sorts to free all five of the captive girls, with the situation growing bloodier and more dire each time they arrive at their destination.
What I loved about this film is that it doesn’t creepily linger on the action of rape. There are tons of intense films about the subject if that’s what you’re looking for. But this film decides to smartly focus on the feelings of victimization and vengeance that occur after the rape has been committed. Eve’s motivations to go on this quest to free the girls is a complex one that is revealed later in the film, but we know horrific things have been done to her in the little information that is provided in the opening of the film. We don’t need to see every detail to understand that. Director José Manuel Cravioto and writers Rock Shaink Jr. & Keith Kjornes don’t want to make that type of film. Instead they focus on the complex feelings one might have afterwards and not only vengeance is delved into here as Eve makes her journey to each of the locations where the other girls are kept. Not all women will respond to this type of treatment in the same way and this movie highlights that expertly.
While she most likely was hired because of she is a dead ringer for Jennifer Lawrence, Tina Ivlev is a powerhouse here as Eve. She is tough when she needs to be, but never lets us forget that she has gone through hell and back. This is an actress to watch, one able to convey sophisticated and deep emotions that this film requires. Ivlev’s performance is what fuels this film and it is super charged. Seeing her fight back against Phil and the rest of his network of pervs will have you rooting for her all the way and as we uncover more information about Eve’s past, your heart breaks for her even more. Tyson is great here as Phil too. He’s a master manipulator even at gunpoint. The aggressive interactions between the two here is the bulk of the film with Phil being the devil on Eve’s shoulder giving her just enough information to keep her going and keep him alive.
This is a dark and dangerous film, but while the subject matter of rape is dealt with, it’s not done so in such a voyeuristic manner in BOUND TO VENGEANCE. Again, the filmmakers don’t censor themselves or cut corners in order to make a gentler film about the subject matter, instead that decide to focus on the horrific aftermath of the act rather than the deed itself. This choice makes BOUND TO VENGEANCE one of the best rape revenge films I’ve ever seen, basically telling the same story with much less of the exploitative stank that often gets associated with these types of film.
In select theaters, On Demand, and on iTunes here!
TALES OF HALLOWEEN (2015)Directed by David Parker (“Sweet Tooth”), Darren Lynn Bousman (“The Night Billy Raised Hell”), Adam Gierasch (“Trick”), Paul Solet (“The Weak & the Wicked), Axelle Carolyn (“Grim Grinning Ghost”), Lucky McKee (“Ding Dong”), Jonathan Skipp & Andrew Kasch (“This Means War”), Mike Mendez (“Friday the 31st”), Ryan Schifrin (“The Ransom of Rusty Rex”), Neil Marshall (“Bad Seed”)
Written by David Parker (“Sweet Tooth”), Clint Sears & Darren Lynn Bousman (“The Night Billy Raised Hell”), Adam Gierasch (“Trick”), Paul Solet (“The Weak & the Wicked), Axelle Carolyn (“Grim Grinning Ghost”), Lucky McKee (“Ding Dong”), Jonathan Skipp & Andrew Kasch (“This Means War”), Mike Mendez (“Friday the 31st”), Ryan Schifrin (“The Ransom of Rusty Rex”), Neil Marshall (“Bad Seed”)
Starring Adrienne Barbeau, Elissa Dowling, Greg Grunberg, Robert Rusler, Adam Pascal, Booboo Stewart, Adrianne Curry, Madison Iseman, Hunter Smit, Cameron Easton (“Sweet Tooth”), Barry Bostwick, Marcus Eckert, Barbara Crampton, Austin Falk, Natalie Castillo, Frank Dietz, Sage Stewart, Rebekah McKendry, Noel Jason Scott, Casey Ruggieri, Trent Haaga (“The Night Billy Raised Hell”), Tiffany Shepis, Sean Clark, Nicole Laino, John F. Beach, Graham Skipper, Alexandra Fritz, Boriana Williams, Rafael Jordan, Clayton Keller, Kennedy Fuselier (“Trick”), Grace Phipps, Keir Gilchrist, Ben Stillwell, Noah Segan, Katie Silverman, Daniel DiMaggio, A.J. Meyers, Jack Grazer, Andrew Panettiere (“The Weak & the Wicked), Alex Essoe, Lin Shaye, Lisa Marie, Mick Garris, Caroline Williams (“Grim Grinning Ghost”), Pollyanna McIntosh, Marc Senter, Lucas Armendariz, Lilly Von Woodenshoe (“Ding Dong”), James Duval, Dana Gould, Andy Merrill, Thomas Blake Jr. (“This Means War”), Amanda Moyer, Jennifer Wenger, Nick Principe (“Friday the 31st”), Sam Witwer, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Ben Woolf, John Landis (“The Ransom of Rusty Rex”), Kristina Klebe, Cerina Vincent, John Savage, Joe Dante, Clare Kramer, Pat Healy, Adam Green, Stuart Gordon, Shaked Berenson (“Bad Seed”)
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though the film as a whole buckles under its own weight, TALES OF HALLOWEEN is a fun cross-section of some of the best horror filmmakers in the biz. The main issue here is that there are just too many cooks in the kitchen and not enough time for any one of them to make anything of substance. There are some inspired ideas that may cause a start or at least get the spine a tingling, but there isn’t much depth to be found in this anthology.
The film starts off with promise as “Sweet Tooth” by David Parker (THE HILLS RUN RED and THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING) tells a cautionary tale about not offering up your candy to a monster known as Sweet Tooth who will eat your insides if he isn’t left a treat. Kind of like leaving cookies out for Santa at Christmas, this episode had a breezy feel to it and had some nice gory effects.
I liked the premise of “The Night Billy Raised Hell” by Darren Lynn Bousman (MOTHER’S DAY remake) which starts with a group of kids taunting a peer to prank the house of an old reclusive hermit, then turns into a night of debauchery and larceny as the kid and the hermit go out and wreak havoc. I would have liked this installment more if it didn’t have cartoonish wonky music and sound effects. This amped the hokiness of the segment and while it was played for laughs, I didn’t laugh that much. I did like the twist and horrifying final fate of the Billy which you’ll miss if you’re not paying attention. So the devious and unrelenting tone is appreciated.
“Trick” by Adam Gierasch (FERTILE GROUND and NIGHT OF THE DEMONS remake) is a story that is pitch black in humor and really becomes even more wicked in retrospect when you remember some of the dialog that is used. Centered around a pair of couples having a dinner party and serving treats to the kids as they knock on the door, this one will lure you in with what seems to be normal until it finally shows its cards. I really thought this one was one of the more diabolical segments of the entire film. Plus it’s got scream queen Tiffany Shepis, so it’s got that going for it.
I can appreciate what “The Weak & the Wicked” by Paul Solet (GRACE) was trying to do; which is basically setting a standoff between bullies and the picked upon in a Halloween night setting as if it were a Western, but in execution, the film turns out to be a long lead-in to a nonsensical punch line. All of the subtle nuances from GRACE don’t really come across here and it left me just wanting more.
Not even the always fun Lin Shaye and mega-talented STARRY EYES’ Alex Essoe from STARRY EYES can save “Grim Grinning Ghost” by Axelle Carolyn, the wife of director Neil Marshall, from being another extended lead in to a hollow jump scare. There is no story here aside from a woman running from a stranger down a dark road. The segment just sort of ends and the next segment began, leaving me with a confused feeling of not knowing if that was it or not. This was probably one of the weaker segments of the bunch because of the lack of any type of substantial story.
“Ding Dong” by Lucky McKee (THE WOMAN) was one of my favorites. In very little time, McKee establishes the bent pathos of the lead character, an abusive wife who wants a little one to call her own and take trick or treating (THE WOMAN’s Pollyanna McIntosh) and her sheepish husband (THE DIVINE TRAGEDIES’ Marc Senter). Not only are the performances amazing, the low fi visual effects of the woman when she gets mad are amazing. Turning red faced and sprouting arms from her back, the woman is just the right amount of weird and McKee really tells a tale of loss, sorrow, and horror in just a few moments. While brief, this is another wickedly bizarre story from a master filmmaker.
“This Means War” by splatterlunk writer Jonathan Skipp & Andrew Kasch (NEVER SLEEP AGAIN) is a story of dueling neighbors who try to out haunt one another with comedian Dana Gould on one end and DOOM GENERATION’s James Duval on the other. Again, this one is simplistic and brief, but the fun performances save it and make it more memorable than the story itself provides. It’s a fun riff on old school vs new fads, but feels like something we’ve seen before in too many sitcoms.
I actually quite liked director Mike Mendez’ “Friday the 31st”. Mendez did the energetic and fun BIG ASS SPIDER and continues to deliver big laughs and a dark humorous sensibility. This one starts out quite typically as a Jason Voorhees type character (played by LAID TO REST’s Nick Principe) stalks a final girl only to happen upon an alien abduction. Turning the tables on the killer, he is the one running in fear. This one has a lot of energy and a clever, yet simple spin on something we’ve seen many times before.
Next to Lucky McKee’s segment, my second favorite was “The Ransom of Rusty Rex” by Ryan Schifrin (ABOMINABLE) which boasts a cameo by John Landis and features Sam Witwer and Jose Pablo Cantillo as bumbling kidnappers who screw up and steal what they think is a young son of a millionaire, but turns out to be the late Ben Woolf (Meep from AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW) as a demon child who won’t go away. This one feels like a cross between the slapstickery seen in the HOME ALONE and BABY’S DAY OUT movies mixed with Edgar Allan Poe’s THE BLACK CAT. I laughed the most at this episode which highlights Witwer’s gift at humor quite a bit. Shifrin shows a lot of talent in both action and humor in this one.
The most potential missed award goes to the final segment, “Bad Seed” by Neil Marshall (DOG SOLDIERS and THE DESCENT), what could have been a modern amalgam of ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES and HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH just doesn’t get there as the budget just didn’t seem to match the scope of the story. It was more fun to spot to multitude of cameos in this segment than watching the segment itself and while Marshall dazzled with THE DESCENT and DOG SOLDIERS, here the jokes fall flat and the scares just don’t work. It just didn’t seem like Marshall was trying in this segment which unfolds pretty plainly and quickly, attempting clumsily to wrap all of the segments together in a failed attempt to make it like TRICK ‘R TREAT.
There are a lot of small details that just don’t work here. It feels like there should have been tighter reigns put on these stories as many of them repeat themselves with the same premises and endings, while most feel as if the directors weren’t giving it their all as many of the shorts don’t hold a candle to the feature films the directors have made before. I also feel as if there are just too many filmmakers (11 in total) and segments in this film. I would have preferred two films rather than one quickly done and pasted together clumsily with the filmmakers given more time to flesh out a story. Also, the transition between stories; those not narrated by Adrienne Barbeau, were often rocky. A simple name of the director and title of the segment could have rectified this, but all of the filmmakers and titles were inexplicably listed during the opening credits rather than before the segments themselves which makes more sense. All in all, there are some strong points to TALES OF HALLOWEEN (Schifrin’s “The Ransom of Rusty Rex,” Geirasch’s “Trick,” McKee’s “Ding, Dong,” and Mendez’s “Friday the 31st”), but everything feels like a rush job and rather sloppily put together.
Advance Review: Touring fests. Recently won Best Latin American Film at Stiges 2015!
THE SIMILARS (2015)aka LOS PERECIDOS
Directed by Isaac Ezban
Written by Isaac Ezban
Starring Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Luis Alberti, Carmen Beato, Fernando Becerril, Humberto Busto, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Alberto Estrella, Pablo Guisa Koestinger, María Elena Olivares, Catalina Salas, Santiago Torres
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Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Simply amazing! Eight people; a rambling homeless women, a man rushing to see his pregnant wife in the hospital, a spastic paranoid man, a pregnant woman, the ticket seller, the cleaning lady, and a mother with a very peculiar child, find themselves trapped in a bus station with a raging storm outside and no buses or taxis running anywhere. News reports on the radio state that the storm is freakishly occurring around the world and causing a worldwide panic. Outside, people are beginning to act irrationally and it seems to be seeping inside the bus station. The group think they are safe from the tempestuous happenings outside, but something truly odd and unusual is happening to them one by one, turning them against one another in a deathly manner.
The premise of THE SIMILARS is something that feels like it was ripped straight from an episode of the TWILIGHT ZONE and I can think of two episodes in particular that this film reminded me of, but telling you the names of them will reveal way too much than I want to about this absolutely riveting descent into oddity and madness. The choice to film in black and white also makes the film feel much more like a lost episode of that classic series rather than something fresh and new. Still, despite its similarity to one of my favorite TV series ever, it manages to feel both relevant and thrilling from start to finish thanks to director Isaac Ezban’s quirky yet unsettling way of filming this movie. The look of this film feels like a stage play, but much of the decisions to the simple set the actions take place in seem intentional to give the viewer a sense of unease. Diagonal squares in the ceiling and floors sandwich our actors into this space causing a sense of utter unease. Ezban’s camera swoops and twirls around this set as the action unfolds making every scene feel vibrant and tension filled.
Films like INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS are definitely going to come to mind as this film plays out. Every scene is steeped in paranoia and confusion as the madness begins to spread and those trapped in the bus station begin to form alliances and turn on one another in rapid succession. Without revealing too much, this is a film that at times feels rather ludicrous, but the performances are so good that you believe them. It makes you believe that, should the insanity that occurs in this film actually happen, you would probably react to this bizarre situation in the same way. It’s a film about lack of trust in your fellow man and how easily society can fall apart if something simply unexplainable happens.
Like TWILIGHT ZONE, THE SIMILARS is the type of science fiction that isn’t done anymore. It’s not laser swords and fantastic set pieces. It’s a sci fi that asks “What if?” and then sees how human nature reacts to the unnatural events unfolding. As a fan of TWILIGHT ZONE and old sci fi comics, I absolutely loved every tension-filled minute of this odd masterpiece of paranoia and horror. Ezban dazzled me last year with the movie ouroboros that was THE INCIDENT (reviewed here and inexplicably still not released yet). Here the writer/director proves that his first film wasn’t a fluke. Ezban is a fresh and talented new voice in cinema of the bizarre. His films seem to be both harkening back to sci fi stories of old, while reminding us why those stories were so good in the first place. All at once, THE SIMILARS is a throwback and a breath of fresh air in a genre that forgot that you don’t need a big budget to tackle big ideas.
And finally…here’s a cool recording of an audio comic book with the accompanying comic book, TOMB OF DRACULA. I always loved this series from the seventies and this was one of the coolest stories as Dracula and Rachel Van Helsing trapped together in a snowstorm. See and hear Dracula drink the blood of a goat! Enjoy DRACULA: TERROR IN THE SNOW!
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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