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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Let’s get right down to the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: FAUST (1926)
Retro-review: NEON MANIACS (1986)
Retro-review: TROLL (1986)
Retro-review: WHITE OF THE EYE (1987)
Retro-review: CANNIBAL CAMPOUT (1988)
DEEP DARK (2015)
Advance Review: THE BLACK TAPE (2014)
Advance Review: BALLET OF BLOOD (2015)
And finally…Power Records’ “A Story of Frankenstein” Recorded Comic Book (1975)!

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Kino Lorber!

FAUST (1926)

Directed by F.W. Murnau
Written by Gerhart Hauptmann, Hans Kyser, from a play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Starring Gösta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn, Frida Richard, William Dieterle, Yvette Guilbert, Hanna Ralph, Werner Fuetterer, Hans Brausewetter, Lothar Müthel
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

The age old tale of the deal with the devil is presented in its earliest cinematic forms as Kino Lorber releases a Bluray of F.W. Murnau’s silent masterpiece FAUST.

Everyone knows the story of FAUST. The devil Mephisto challenges an angel that if he can corrupt the soul of one human, the Earth shall be his realm. The angel accepts the challenges and picks the saintly Faust as Mephisto’s contestant. Showing Faust a world under his own control and taking the elderly man to his youthful days, Mephisto seduces Faust into signing away his soul. But is this a pact that will last forever or can Faust redeem himself and thus, save the world from being possessed by the devil?

F.W. Murnau’s silent film is simplistic in story. Though over an hour and a half long, the film moves surprisingly quick as Mephisto guides Faust through what life would be like if he signs away his soul. But maybe the pace of the film was so brief because of Murnau’s creative and vivid filmmaking talent which is on full display pretty much during the entire runtime of FAUST.

While NOSFERATU is the Murnau film most often talked about, Murnau is visually on fire from beginning to end of this movie. Model horses of Apocalypse, photo-overlays of spectral images, play with the foreground and background in terms of activity and light; FAUST is a sophisticated and ingenious film for the time it was made in terms of special effects and tricks of the camera. There’s not a scene in this film that doesn’t involve some kind of camera magic be it the elaborate costumes of the devil and the angel, gorgeous painted background, or simply well designed shots playing with the blacks, whites, and grays. This film is a visual feast and should serve as an inspiration to anyone who wants to pick up a camera and make magic on film. Murnau’s genius in making the impossible possible with so very little technology available puts today’s films that are often too reliant on digital effects to shame.

This Bluray contains all sorts of whistles and bells including; the restored German version (with optional English subtitles) and the previous U.S. release version, a piano score by Perez de Azpeitia, adapted from the original 1926 orchestral arrangement, orchestral score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, plus the score by Timothy Brock, performed by the Olympia Chamber Orchestra which accompanied the American release of the film, a making of documentary entitled "The Language of Shadows: Faust,” and never released screen test footage. If you’re a fan of music, silent film, and the original tale, this is one BluRay you’re going to want to sign your soul away for.

Retro-review: New on DVD from Kino Lorber/Code Red!


Directed by Joseph Mangine
Written by Mark Patrick Carducci
Starring Clyde Hayes, Leilani Sarelle, Donna Locke, Victor Brandt, David Muir, Marta Kober, P.R. Paul, Jeff Tyler, Amber Denyse Austin, James Acheson, Chuck Hemingway, Bo Sabato, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, John Lafayette, Gene Bicknell, Katherine Heard, Frank X. Baleno, Trish Doolan, Teri Ralston, Dick Frattali, Cynthia Sprink, and our Neon Maniacs; Joseph Shirley as Ape, Barry Buchanan & Scott McKenna as Archer, Douglas Markell & James H. Smith as Axe, Mark Twogood as Decapitator, Andrew Divoff as Doc, Robert E. Veilliux as Hangman/Juice, Scott Guetzkow as Juice, Chuck Cohen as Mohawk, Zac Baldwin as Punk Biker, Solly Marx as Punk Biker/Samurai, Doyle McCurley & Mario Valdez as Samurai, Jerome L. Dennae, Kathy Hooker & Chuck Secor as the Scavengers, Daniel Burrell & Joel-Steven Hammond as Slasher, and Allan Aperlo as Soldier!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

NEON MANIACS is in no way a good film. It’s actually a shoddily produced, horribly acted, narratively ridiculous movie. I also find it to be fascinating as all get out.

The film opens with a man lingering around under the Golden Gate Bridge and finding a deck of trading cards with pictures of each of the Neon Maniacs on them. Out of the shadows come the maniacs who quickly do away with the man. We then are introduced to a group of kids out for a night of partying. After all of the teens but one are massacred by the maniacs, all of the maniacs begin to relentlessly stalk the survivor Natalie (Leilani Sarelle). With the help of a ghoulish film geek and a mod Huey Lewis wannabe named Steven (Clyde Hayes, one of two FRIDAY THE 13th series alum in the film, the other being Marta Kober as Natalie’s friend Lorraine), Natalie must use any means necessary to survive. And that means squirt guns, because despite the fact that they seem to be sprouting from under a bridge, water seems to destroy the maniacs.

Where do these maniacs come from? Who are they? Why are they allergic to water? Why do some maniacs look different from one scene to the next? According to the behind the scenes featurette talking with those responsible for the production, the answer to all of these questions is “Don’t know/don’t care.” As the producers filmed this turd over the course of a few years and things like continuity and having things make sense were not really important. They only wanted to put a cheap horror film on the shelves, who cares if it makes any sense? But because of this, NEON MANIACS is so broad that it allows the viewer to answer these questions themselves. No motivation or cause of the maniacs are provided. It’s one of those films that if someone with a lick of creativity could ever get a hold of it, they could make a pretty kick ass remake because details are so vague. The blueprints of something cool are there.

As a kid, I became fascinated with the Neon Maniacs themselves. Looking like zombified versions of the Village People, these characters are distinctly different from one another (even though different people played the same character through the course of filming the movie). Some of them seemed to play homage to what was popular in horror at the time; slashers, robot maniacs, ape men, while others seemed to represent archtypes of different types of comic book characters and even nationalities. Again, no details are given about these guys other than distinct appearances and their allergy to water (they don’t even have their own lines). But the characters were vividly different from one another and the lack of personality allowed me to project by own back-story to the relentless killers.

The thing that reeled me in as a kid was definitely the box art and the difference in the maniacs themselves. There’s a sense of nostalgia I have with this film that is solely due to its lack of detail. I didn’t know the producers didn’t really give a fuck. With all of the remakes out there that prove to be unnecessary or unable to top what was done before, my advice is to shoot for the bottom of the barrel and make it better. Any attempt to do something with this film would be better than the movie itself. Most likely, anyone interested in NEON MANIACS are those like me who remember the box from the video store. Anyone else will shirk nostalgia and realize it for the piece of shit cinema it is. Still, I can’t look away.

Retro-review: New this week as part of a Double Feature Bluray from The Shout Factory!

TROLL (1986)

Directed by John Carl Buechler
Written by Ed Naha
Starring Michael Moriarty, Shelley Hack, Noah Hathaway, Jenny Beck, Sonny Bono, Brad Hall, Anne Lockhart, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gary Sandy, June Lockhart, Barbara Sciorilli, and Phil Fondacaro as Torok the Troll!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

There’s a lot of endearing qualities about TROLL, and that doesn’t even include the spastic “Rat burgers!!!!!” moment!

Michael Moriarty plays, I shit you not, Harry Potter Sr., patriarch of the Potter family who are moving into a new apartment building filled with eccentric characters; a wannabe actress and her boyfriend (Julia Louise Dreyfus and Brad Hall fresh off of SNL), a exercise freak (Gary Sandy), a little professor (Phil Fondacaro, who also plays the title character), a swingin’ bachelor (Sonny Bono), and a sorceress (LOST IN SPACE’s June Lockhart). Early in the film, Potter’s daughter Wendy Ann (Jenny Beck) is abducted and replaced by a troll. Only his son, also named Harry Potter (THE NEVER ENDING STORY’s Noah Hathaway) notices though. As the troll changes everyone in the building into creatures of myth, young Harry befriends the sorceress and tries to save his family.

This film is a lot of fun and seems to have a well intentioned aim for a younger audience. That doesn’t mean that it’s not something adults can enjoy. It’s just that the film is basically told as if it were an Amblin film where the only people with a clue are the kids, with the adults are either stumbling into trouble/death or completely naïve as to what is going on right under their noses. While the film lacks a lot of the story and production know-how as those kiddie films, the spirit is there and while there are some somewhat grisly moments, the overall feel of the film is simply fun.

Adding to that fun is the excellent practical effects work and puppetry of director John Carl Buechler. Yes, many of the monsters of the film are puppets with limited movement, but Buechler shines with his highly emotive face and costume for the Troll itself. Plus there’s a singing mushroom that is all kinds of squeaky cute. Buechler doesn’t abandon his roots in horror for the fantasy though as the transformation scenes as the tenants become monsters are green and gory.

And while TROLL 2 gets a lot of flack for being the worst film ever made, the original is not without its WTF moments. Most notably is Michael Moriarty who is obviously not giving a shit about how he looks or acts in this film. He enters the scene wearing a goofy hat, which for a while, was a Moriarty trademark in every movie he showed up in. But only Crispin Glover’s dance in FRIDAY THE 13TH THE FINAL CHAPTER compares to Moriarty’s interpretive dance moves he busts out with in this film. Add an awkward scene where Wendy Anne asks Phil Fondacaro (a little person) if he’s an elf and then invites him to dinner where her family talks about his height challenges. The film actually gets kind of poignant and touching as Fondacaro explains what it is like to be a little person. I don’t remember seeing a film give this much time to give time to bring some understanding to the life of a little person and it definitely highlights a depth of performance I didn’t know the actor had in him.

The eclectic cast is what really makes this one fun, especially the appearance of Julia Louise Dreyfus who prances around almost naked as a woodland nymph.

I’ll be covering TROLL 2 in a future column as it accompanies this film in the two pack. Also included is BEST WORST MOVIE, a doc on TROLL 2 that I’ll also give a look see to. While John Carl Buechler may not have achieved the magic that was in those Amblin films of old, he gave a noble effort. Quirky and simply weird performances and some great effects make this something rather spectacular.

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!


Directed by Donald Cammell
Written by China Kong , Donald Cammell, Andrew Klavan, Laurence Klavan
Starring David Keith, Cathy Moriarty, Alan Rosenberg, Art Evans, Michael Greene, Danielle Smith, Alberta Watson, William G. Schilling, David Chow, Marc Hayashi, Mimi Lieber, Pamela Guest, Bob Zache, Danko Gurovich, China Kong, Jim Wirries, Katie Waring
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

This is more of a thriller than anything else, but WHITE OF THE EYE’s adoration of the gloved killer GIallo film is prevalent throughout and while many wouldn’t associate it with the Italian murder/mystery movement at the time, I feel that it is a worthy and potent homage to that genre of film. It’s also bugnuts crazy.

While a killer roams the wealthy desert communities in Globe, Arizona, a housewife named Joan (Cathy Moriarty) begins to have suspicions that her acoustic sound expert husband Paul (David Keith) may be the killer. As she reconnects with the man she dumped to be with Paul (Alan Rosenberg), Joan falls deeper and deeper into the sights of the killer.

Taking copious amounts of pages from the Italian gloved murder Giallo films, WHITE OF THE EYE is a fantastically warped little mystery that throws some steamy torch song noir in for good measure. Moriarty is, as usual, sultry with her smoky voice and sideways glances that remind me of IT FOLLOWS star Maika Monroe in many ways. She is both tough and vulnerable here and while a lot of her actions in the latter part of the film don’t make a lot of sense, she is a woman in shock, so I give her and director Donald Cammell a pass for making it all look cool even though it’s crazy. David Keith is outstanding here as the morally conflicted, mentally unstable burly man who swoops in and snatches Joan away from her hum-drum world and seems like the perfect husband. Moriarty and Keith are absolutely fantastic here as textured and troubled characters.

Attention to the elaborately beautiful kills, a focus on witnessing murders and putting together clues, and lots of blood red spatter indicate director Donald Cammell most likely was a fan of Giallo. This complex story shows its characters in a sometimes black and white simplicity, all for Joan and Paul, who almost from the start seem to be doomed. While the film plays with the notion whether Paul might be innocent or guilty of the murders in the first few moments, it really doesn’t try to hide the truth very much. While the audience is not given a big reveal and unmasking of the killer, we see this through Joan’s eyes, which is almost as effective (Moriarty’s performance makes it more so). But I wonder if they would have played the mystery up more and had a few red herrings tossed in this would have been a more effective thriller.

Whether it keeps the identity of the killer secret or not, the film’s ending is pretty damn outstanding. The killer goes Travis Bickell on everyone and paints his face and makes a suicide bomber vest. Pair his bizarre Native American look with the killer’s tendency to do Tuvan Monk throat singing in the right acoustic areas, and the final moments of this film make for a visual and audio spectacular. What starts out as a murder mystery turns into a tale of twisted love and lunacy unhinged. I loved this unpredictable and deliciously sounding and looking little film. Moments feel like it belongs on Cinemax programming at 3AM as there is a heavy sultry tone, but the ass-backward craziness of the final moments make this something that will shock and entertain you.

Retro-review: New on a special DVD/VHS Combo pack from Camp Motion Pictures!


Directed by Tom Fisher, Jon McBride
Written by Jon McBride
Starring Jon McBride, Amy Chludzinski, Christopher A. Granger, Carrie Lindell, Nancy Sciarra, Ray Angelic, John Farrell & Richard Marcus as Rich the Cannibal, Gene Robbins as Gene the Cannibal, and Joseph Salheb as Joe the Cannibal!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

This BASEMENT Collection, which gathers lost shot on video films and puts them together into one collection is a rough set of films to get through. Sure I do have an appreciation for the low budgeters, but even I have limits. I’ve reviewed THE BASEMENT and CAPTIVES in previous AICN HORROR columns and this week, I’ll be enduring CANNIBAL CAMPOUT.

CANNIBAL CAMPOUT is basically TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE without the Texas or the Chainsaw or the iconic performances or the eye for stunning visuals and detail. It’s about four kids who go out for a campout to neck, party, have sex, and maybe get some camping done. They run into a trio of rednecks who immediately begin stalking them after they leave them in the road. When they catch up to the campers, the trio of cannibals (inventively named Rich, Gene, and Joe—he’s the one who wears a fighter helmet), they kill and cook them on a BBQ grill.

No subtle comments on the human condition or even nuanced performances depicting the duality of man are given here in CANNIBAL CAMPOUT. This is a straight up stalk ‘n slash with bad acting, bad effects, and bad directing. It’s a film that tries to emulate and even imitate TCM and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but never really has the skill or moxie to do it.

Most of the time, at least in these schlock fests, you can count on some blood or gore or both to make things interesting, but this one simply doesn’t deliver on that either. All you get are cardboard campers running from stereotypical rednecks through a forest. The trio of cannibals are based off of Leatherface, the Cook, and the Hitchhiker from TCM. It’s indicative of the 80’s as it is trying to make an iconic slasher in it’s air force helmet wearing killer, but forgets that it’s the story and texture of the early slasher films like HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH that built the foundation for which those iconic slashers were made. No such effort is made here as the story and characters simply follow the path made many times in campfire horrors before them.

While THE BASEMENT and CAPTIVES suffered from a lot of the same setbacks CANNIBAL CAMPOUT does (bad acting, slow pacing, and shoddy editing), at least they were going for something inventive in terms of story. CANNIBAL CAMPOUT simply cuts and pastes badly made scenes that rip off better slasher films with not an ounce of originality. Here’s hoping the last two films in this set; VIDEO VIOLENCE and VIDEO VIOLENCE II, at least have more redeeming qualities than this one.

Available on DVD, On Demand and iTunes!


Directed by Ben Samuels
Written by Mark Garbett, Ralph Glenn Howard
Starring Robert Englund, Diane Cary, Daniel Gadi, Justine Griffiths, Alanna Janell, Stuart Stone, Sean Derry, Joshua Elijah Reese, Neil Samuels, Bingo O'Malley, Cindy Jackson
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Robert Englund became a household name through his performance as Freddy Krueger in the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films, but that type of notoriety can often be a cage when it comes to getting other roles and continuing one’s career. KANTEMIR touches upon that topic as it places Englund in a situation that challenges him with a role he is trying not to be too overcome by.

Englund plays John, a washed up actor desperate for work and attempting to conquer alcoholism while reconnecting with his estranged daughter. He accepts an offer to act in a stage play called KANTEMIR and agrees to meet the director and the rest of the cast of the play in a gated and remote New England manor to read through the script and practice the play. Upon arrival, he meets the eclectic cast; a wide eyed innocent newb (Justine Griffiths), an ambitious director (Daniel Gadi), a drunk starlet (Alanna Janell), a motor-mouthed local wannabe actor (Stuart Stone, who looks way too much like Joey Lawrence), a mono-syllabic stuntman (Sean Derry), and his ex-wife co-lead (Diane Cary). Strange things begin to occur almost immediately as John finds out the script of the play seems to be reflecting the situations all of the actors have found themselves in and brought them to this production. Weirder yet, the actors are all beginning to act like their characters and even call each other by their character names rather than their own the longer they stay at the castle. Keeping the full script secret and only releasing bits at a time, the director has a secret and John seems to be the only one not being sucked into this play within a movie as the actors begin to tear each other apart, just like in the screenplay.

Mixing the real world within the movie with a fictional world within that real world within the movie can often lead to much head scratching, but director Ben Samuels and writers Mark Garbett & Ralph Glenn Howard keep everything simple and followable by having Robert Englund’s John be the eyes and ears of the viewer, noticing that the cast is acting like the characters in the play and trying to get through to them. By keeping the cast in a single gothic locale and having the timeline move quickly, it doesn’t leave the viewer or John much time to wonder what’s happening, but enough exposition is dropped here and there to keep the viewer from being lost. There may be a few too many heart to hearts between John and his estranged wife (Cary), but these seem to be necessary in order to allow even the most dim-skulled of viewers on board.

This is a film that highlights Englund’s rock solid acting skills and it does so amazingly. Englund is nuanced here in ways that surprised me, playing the broken hearted and defeated man in search for some kind of redemption. I couldn’t help but root for Englund’s character to pull through with the way he struggles through this entire film as he is in danger of falling completely into a very dark role. The meta-commentary here is that John is an actor once famous for his roles in horror films, but has since fallen on tough times. While I don’t know how much of this is true, Englund acts the shit out of this film showing he can still brandish edged weapons, do some stunt work on motorcycles and horses (though I’m sure parts were stuntmen), and even turn on the sexy when necessary. All the while, Englund plays this straight, serious, and with a burdened soul.

I loved this film for it’s rather ingenious plot as well as the fantastic performance by Englund. It’s a sure indication that despite the stigma attached to the NIGHTMARE films, Englund’s performance and acting skill are what carried the series. This isn’t an extravagant film, but one that relies on strong performances in order to get across the tension and thrills. KANTEMIR highlights the talents of one of horror’s best actors and here’s hoping this solid little dark fantasy will lead to more meatier roles for Englund to dive into.

Available On Demand and at!


Directed by Ursula Dabrowsky
Written by Ursula Dabrowsky
Starring Sarah Jeavons, Kerry Ann Reid, Andreas Sobik
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

A simple cat and mouse chase extended over the course of an entire film might have sounded crazy before FURY ROAD, but now it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. This low budget Australian abduction film is in no way the size and scope of George Miller’s adrenalin shot flick, but INNER DEMON does seem to emulate the non-stop forward momentum of it. This is a sneaky little film that does its best to creep up on your expectations and give them a good jolt.

Sam (Sarah Jeavons) is babysitting her little sister while her parents are out on the town. When her sister hears something under her bed, she alerts Sam of it and though it turns out to be nothing, that doesn’t mean that Sam and her sister are in the clear. Turns out a pair of roughnecks have their sights set on Sam and her sister and they have devious intentions in mind. But what the roughnecks don’t know is that so many devilish deeds do not go unpunished.

This is one of those films that takes a turn in the latter half hour and becomes a completely different movie. Personally I don’t mind these FROM DUSK TIL DAWN style flicks which mix and match genres as they sometimes can lead to say interesting things about both types of films it is trying to be. The crucial factor for both of these portions of the films to work is for both parts to feel genuine and INNER DEMON does this very well. The first half of the film is a tense, rapid-paced nightmare told from the perspective of the mouse frantically running from the dangerous cat with murder pointing from every fang and claw. This chase through the woods has been seen before in many films, but there’s a jagged and unconventional manner to these scenes that really does hit its mark. After Sam eludes her captors, the film literally stops dead in its tracks and becomes a claustrophobic thriller as Sam becomes trapped in a cupboard and is forced to witness horrific things go down. Still, this aspect lays in the real world and these scenes, which focus mainly on the film’s promising star Sarah Jeavons, will make you bite your nails to the nub.

Now, the latter part of this film is where it is bound to lose some as things get somewhat supernatural. Personally, this twisted things in a fun direction for me, but I’m sure there are those who will feel it is some sort of cheat as there weren’t any hints of a mystical element in the first hour of the film. This is where the budget also shows its cards as well as some basic CG and some play with lights and shadow make some of the scenes feel familiar. The film culminated to a satisfying end for me, but I will admit that the latter half hour of this film is the least compelling.

So if you don’t mind genre flips and are looking for some nice chase sequences, you’ll want to give INNER DEMON a try. For me, 66% of the film was astounding with the latter 33% only slightly less so. Jeavons is a true find and definitely has a Khaleesi feel to her as she balances the frail victim role with a cornered animal aspect in performance. I don’t want to lump it in with another Australian flick, but it does have a WOLF LAKE feel to it as it really does make the land and culture a part of the threat pretty successfully. All in all, INNER DEMON is a solid entry in abduction subgenre with points for some twists and solid performances by the very small cast.

New on DVD and digital download (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, from Uncork’d Entertainment!

DEEP DARK (2015)

Directed by Michael Medaglia
Written by Michael Medaglia
Starring Sean McGrath, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Monica Graves, Anne Sorce, David Loftus, Tabor Helton, Simos Kalivas, Cassandra Parigian, Mark A. Wooley, Michael Medaglia, Johanna Hart, & Denise Poirier as The Hole!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

There seems to be an abundance of films out right now about artists and writers looking for inspiration and finding dark things. There are two in this very column alone in KANTEMIR and BALLET OF BLOOD, and I recently reviewed another film about a comic book artist and the strength of creativity fighting back against those who would try to shut it down in BLOODY KNUCKLES. This isn’t a new concept. Corman did it way back in 1959 with A BUCKET OF BLOOD. And now we have another starving artist looking for fame and fortune in DEEP DARK; a twisted tale that is bound to make you squirm while still be somewhat inspired by the often dark places from which creativity sprouts from.

Sean McGrath plays Herman, a living cliché who lives in his mother’s basement, sans girlfriend or job, and making art (mobiles) that no one seems to be interested in. While he feels he is destined for greatness, his art does not reflect it, so he turns to his successful uncle for advice. Uncle Felix (John Nielsen) tells Herman that there was a point in his life that he was without inspiration and that in order to kick it, he had to hole up inside an empty apartment and work it out. Felix offers his nephew this very apartment to find his muse, but Herman is left inspiration-less upon moving into the shithole. That is, until a hole in the wall begins talking to him. Is it insanity? Inspiration? Or some other world manifestation of creativity? Herman doesn’t know what’s inside the hole other than it has a human voice (Denise Poirier) and pushes him to create amazing art. All Herman has to do is spend quality time with the hole and he can become the most important modern artist in the world. What could possibly go wrong?

A lot actually, because this film is filled with all kinds of “that’s just plain wrong” moments. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic testament to the desperation an artist often goes through, but the depths this film plunges to are going to lose some people. Let’s just say that the vaginal qualities of this hole are not lost in this story and the tasks Herman must do for the hole in order to become famous are rather grody. There is also a nice grimy feel to this film that reminded me of the films of Abel Ferrare and Frank Hennenlotter who captured the grimy nature of the New York 70’s and 80’s like few others in films like MS. 45, BASKET CASE, and DRILLER KILLER.

If there’s a weakness in this film it’s that the lead, Sean McGrath lacks the necessary charisma in moments in order to make you like him. There are plenty of moments where we pity Herman, but not enough chances for McGrath the actor or changes given to us by the writer/director for us to like the character. Pity is not enough. There has to be something other than desperation for the audience to cling to in order to believe he is worth coming through this story in one piece. This is where the film comes up lacking and it’s the reason why I wasn’t really invested in Herman surviving this whole ordeal.

Coming up with good ideas is difficult, be they painting, stories, or ways to review the million and oneth horror movie you’ve seen. DEEP DARK does a great and gory job of illustrating the heft of despair an artist goes through. If you’re an artist, these feelings are going hit a little too close to home. DEEP DARK has some pitch black humor, as well as some very twisted moments of pure desperation. While the main character isn’t the most likable, the film itself illustrates the abyss all artists must plunge into in order to be pure to their craft.

Advance Review: Recently played in L.A. at the Landmark Regent!


Directed by Ramone Menon
Written by Ramone Menon
Starring Elina Madison, Allen Marsh, Oto Brezina, Melanie Thompson, Parker Coppins, Viktoria Paje, Bryan Mordechai Jackson, Cassi Ellis, Douglas Olsson, Glen Ratcliffe
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Within the world of the film, THE BLACK TAPE was dropped off at a police department in an unmarked envelope. The footage played as the film is untouched or unedited by the police, but it appears that whoever made the tape fancies himself an amateur filmmaker. As the opening credits role crediting ME as the director, musician, editor, and murderer, you realize that this is not your typical found footage flick. The film cuts back and forth through time as the killer stalks, watches, and eventually kills a small suburban family one by one over the course of a month. With no clues to go by, the police are baffled and the remaining family is unhinged.

What I liked about THE BLACK TAPE is the fact that it isn’t really a found footage film. Though it is amateurishly made and rudely edited, this is a home movie of a killer. Yes, there is shaky, hand-held cam work, but for the most part, this is a film telling a story. It’s a confession tape that only shows its hand at the very end, but because it is so crudely done, it really does feel pretty authentic, which in turn makes it all the more effective.

So the usual unnatural edits or additional music you see in less effective found footagers isn’t here. There’s a score to this film, but it’s made by the killer. There are edits in this one, but the killer was doing the cutting both figuratively and literally. This covers all the usual bases that annoy me in regular found footagers and makes a more interesting view.

There are a few inconsistencies here. The killer seems to be acting alone, but there are some scenes which suggest there are two people involved as one person is holding a camera while another is doing the killing. If this were actual evidence, I would say the tape doesn’t tell the whole story but what the killer wanted us to see. Since this is a movie, it feels more like a blunder, but again, the amateur way it is put together gives it an authentic feel. It may seem like I’m giving this film more credit than it is worth, but there are some twists and turns that only the savvy will pick up on and the story is rather complex in the way this plays out. This leads me to believe that the folks behind THE BLACK TAPE knew what they were doing in making things kind of murky and misleading as to the identity of the killer/killers. THE BLACK TAPE does unnerve and it takes found footage to another level, which is essential because if I have to watch another run of the mill, by the numbers found footage film I’m likely to gouge my eyes out.

Advance Review: Currently touring fests (Find out when and where you can find it here!


Directed by Jared Masters
Written by Jared Masters
Starring Sydney Raye, Mindy Robinson, Jessica Knopf, Dallas Chandler, Dawna Lee Heising, Christopher Arias, Julia Faye West, Robert Evans, Jacqueline Marie Alberto, Kimberly Cohen, Laura Amelia, Marla Martinez, Shelise Hufstetler, Rubi Garcia, Georgie Borchardt
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I know longtime readers may be sick of my “low budget doesn’t necessarily mean low quality” speech, but I feel it’s something that needs to be repeated, especially at a place like AICN which specialized mostly in big budget films. I say this because despite rough edges, some solid ideas can be found in low fi films; such is the case for BALLET OF BLOOD.

A ballet dance school is attacked by a drugged up and demented former dancer with an UZI in the opening moments of BALLET OF BLOOD, a low fi throwback to films like SUSPIRIA and CURTAINS and even more modern films like BLACK SWAN. Still shaken by the massacre the dancers continue to practice and learn their craft, all the while berating each other and undergoing all forms of abuse from their teachers. But while that sort of drama is expected at any highly competitive dance school, there is something more insidious afoot, as a ballerina with a hobby of writing stories seems to have the power to bring her stories to life and she plans on writing about an even more diabolical attack on the school. As life begins to imitate art, no ballerina is safe.

Let’s get the rough stuff out of the way. First and foremost, the scope of this film is way too big for the abilities of all involved. There are just too many characters in BALLET OF BLOOD and the fact that most of them are non- or semi-amateur actors and actresses make it hard to distinguish one flat performance from another. There are way too many times where the actors struggle to spout their lines or even glance at the camera here and some more takes and a solid edit might be necessary in order to make this film a bit more watchable. There are also a lot of extraneous scenes in between the opening massacre and the final one. Multiple scenes of just two gals talking just go on and on and there are numerous party scenes which seem to simply be put in there to fill out feature length.

I wanted to get that harsh criticism out of the way first because there is a compelling story going on here. Having the real world of the movie play out a scenario in a story has been done before, but this mixture of life imitating art is a subject that has a lot of potential to plumb. The story of a seemingly “good girl” not necessarily writing a “nice story” is fun, especially with the meta-commentary that “nice stories” aren’t what the people want these days. There’s an extremely poetic sequence illustrating the mixture of the story, the real world (within the film), and the art of ballet that plays really well (especially with some nice Giallo colorful lighting added for effect). There is an appreciation for both the art of ballet as well as simply a nice vocabulary in which to articulate art at play all the way through this film that I appreciated a lot.

BALLET OF BLOOD doesn’t forget the baser needs of the horror audience as it supplies copious amounts of blood and boobs within its runtime. But while the story is rather complex and intriguing, I wish the filmmakers would have been a bit more choosey with who they cast and taken more time to get better takes. That said, if you’re an appreciator of the art of low budget horror, BALLET OF BLOOD delivers big ideas and intriguing scenes of bloody bodies in motion.

And finally…last week I was able to bring you a fun issue of Marvel’s TOMB OF DRACULA brought to you from Power Records as a record and comic from 1975. This one is simply called “A Story of Frankenstein”, though I am not completely sure what comic it is from. This is an awesome little story about Vincent, nephew of Baron Von Frankenstein! Enjoy!

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!

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

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