Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Here’s another heaping helping of horror for you. There are a lot of good ones this week to partake in…and the usual stinkers, too. On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: YONGARY, MONSTER FROM THE DEEP (1967)
Retro-review: THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS (1982)
MADE IN MOSJOEN Pilot Season Youtube Series (2015)
SILENT RETREAT (2016)
KILL GAME (2015)
CONTRACTED PHASE 2 (2015)
SINISTER 2 (2015)
And finally…Cameron McCasland’s TAILYPO!
New on BluRay from Kino Lorber!
YONGARY, MONSTER FROM THE DEEP (1967)aka GREAT MONSTER YONGARY
Directed by Ki-duk Kim
Written by Ki-duk Kim (screenplay), Yun-sung Seo
Starring Yeong-il Oh, Jeong-im Nam, Sun-jae Lee, Moon Kang, Kwang Ho Lee, & Cho Kyoung-min as Yongary, Monster of the Deep!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Behold the most fearsome monster ever to walk the earth…and his name is Gary…Yongary, that is!
Playing out like Godzilla’s special needs cousin from Korea is YONGARY, MONSTER OF THE DEEP, which starts out with a space shuttle mission gone wrong which results in the awakening of a legendary monster. As the monster ravages Seoul, a scientist, his best gal, and an annoying 8-year old named Icho seem to be the only ones capable of stopping Yongary from his rampage.
YONGARY, MONSTER FROM THE DEEP is a pretty awful film. The man in suit monster looks exactly like Godzilla but has glowing bugged out eyes, a glued on rhino horn that shines, and a vicious underbite. While the zipper to the suit is covered up, the strings are not as they are visible guiding along the monsters’ tail, as well as the helicopters and fighter jets that attack him. And while the cardboard sets are a standard in these rampaging monster films, they lack a lot of the detail that the Toho flicks possessed (though I will admit the bridges Yongary smashes are pretty well done). The special effects department seem to take the easy road through this entire film. The space scenes look very much like panels painted blue and specked with glitter…because they are blue painted panels with glitter specked onto them.
But what really makes YONGARY bad is the script, which moves as a clip that cannot be explained by scientific explanation or common sense. Conclusions are leaped to immediately, as the top scientists immediately understand that the monster is from legend itself. The lead astronaut is called off of his honeymoon and sent immediately to space. The astronaut’s wife and that annoying little Icho shit are allowed in the control room. In fact, Icho is allowed to have the run of the facility, stealing portable lasers and seemingly being the only one with the capability to stop Yongary. Plus in the final moments, the bizarre rainbow of emotions felt by the entire group who pile into a helicopter to take on the murderous beast is beyond inane as they celebrate and are saddened, only to be happy again by the beast’s passing all in the span of about twenty seconds. This confusing cornucopia of emotion is paired with the disturbing image of a dead Yongary laying in a river with what looks to be blood gushing from his butthole. I shit you not, Yongary dies in a pool of his own vital juices leaking out of his ass.
The film also seems to want to be popular with the youngsters, as Yongary’s rampage is intercut with scenes from a nightclub filled with spastically dancing teens oblivious to the rampaging monster outside. This is obviously added in by unhip directors attempting to capture what the kids today feel is hip. In a later scene, Yongary inexplicably joins the mosh pit and busts out in dance when Icho (that little shit) shines a ray at him.
Icho himself is the real killer in YONGARY. The little shit is practically in every scene, and seems to be the only one with the know-how to stop the monster. He also likes to pull pranks like shining a ray at people that makes them itch. I’m pretty sure that means he is bathing people in radioactive rays and is shaving years off the latter half of his loved ones’ lives. Was it bad that I was wishing Yongary would be picking bits of this giggling, bow tie-wearing piece of shit-bastard from between his toes by the end of this film?
You would think that after typing so many negative things to say about YONGARY, MONSTER OF THE DEEP I wouldn’t be giving it my recommendation, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I had a blast soaking on the cheesy carnage and hating on Icho. This film is a lot of things, but boring it’s not. Things that I wouldn’t forgive modern movies for get a pass here. Call it nostalgia. Call it embracing my inner child who just likes to see things destroyed and blown up. Whatever it is, YONGARY, MONSTER OF THE DEEP is filled with hokey fun and is perfect fodder to MST3K the hell out of. I’ll bet if you’re a longtime fan of horror in all of its incarnations, YONGARY, MONSTER OF THE DEEP is going to be a lot of fun for you too.
Retro-review: New on a double feature BluRay from The Shout Factory!
THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS (1982)Directed by Kevin Connor
Written by James Hardiman (novel), Robert Suhosky (screenplay)
Starring Edward Albert, Doug McClure, & Susan George
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Wow, this film takes the cake on batshit craziness.
Though it owes a lot to THE BURNT OFFERINGS (1976), AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979), and THE SHINING (1980) which were released a few years before it, THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS certainly gets points for originality. Sure there’s the usual haunted house scenario where shit starts flying off tables and lights flicker on and off while the male lead (played by Edward Albert, son of GREEN ACRES Eddie Albert) gets possessed and attacks his family, but the weird stuff that goes on in between makes this film one you might want to seek out for some unintentional laughs.
One might also want to seek out THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS because it features Susan George (who plays an American housewife possessed by a slutty Asian whore). You read that parenthetical bit right; the thing that really sets this apart is that it is about a haunted house in Kyoto, Japan. Much like a more recent hit, THE GRUDGE, it takes the hauntings international minus the croaking children. The house was the site of a terrible murder suicide as a husband finds his wife in bed with another man, then chops the both of them to bits with a samurai sword, then turns the sword on himself.
Flash forward 100 years and the three ghosts are still haunting the place. George’s character Laura, her husband Ted (Albert), and their daughter move in with the help of Ted’s friend Alex. Soon, the slutty ghost possesses Laura who begins having an affair with Alex while Ted is busy writing his novel. Fans of the modern haunted house drama will recognize a lot of the stuff going on as the ancient ghosts threaten the modern family. But just when you think this is going to be your typical haunted house film, it jumps right into the river of crazy headfirst and doesn’t come up for air.
Most of the craziest shit in the film happens to Laura and Ted’s daughter, who is haunted by a ghostly bowl of soup (Ted, possessed by one of the ghosts, later forces her to chug the piping hot bowl) and then is attacked by giant, evil, moaning crabs! If those events didn’t screw the kid up for life, just you wait until the film’s ending, which ensures that she’ll be needing heavy therapy for the rest of her life.
After a kickass, bloody samurai opening, the film slows to a crawl for about 45 minutes (though the multiple scenes of Susan George whoring around in the buff were pleasant to sit through), but the last half hour of this film rocks. THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS is one of those insane films that is meant for midnight screenings or just watching it with a group of buddies and multiple drinks and shots.
Though not as amazing as his simply classic MOTEL HELL, mad bastard director Kevin Connor continues to pump out the insanely fun ideas in THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS. Gory, fun, and so randomly insane you can’t help but love it, THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS is one haunted house film that, despite its similarities to others of its time, stands out as the loopiest.
Available for free on Youtube starting here!
MADE IN MOSJOEN Pilot Season Youtube Webseries (2015)Directed by Aleksander L. Nordaas
Written by Aleksander L. Nordaas
Starring Marit Thrana, Jørn Østvik, Johanne Fossheim, Kristian Winther
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Aleksander Nordaas follows up his haunting modern fable THALE (reviewed here) with MADE IN MOSJOEN, a free 20 episode Youtube series you can check out now and should because it’s filled from episode one to the last with ambitious, odd, and creative ideas and hilariously ludicrous moments.
A pair of bumbling criminal brothers, a pair of cops on a case, a maker of something called a fishgun and his daughter, a hopeless dance instructor, a man who thinks he is the son of Ethan Hawke and Johnny Drama, a jaded artist who sells his vomit, a precognitive child, and a black marketer who smells like flowers are just a few of the bizarre characters flopping around like a fish out of water in Nordaas’ layered story of life, death, and fish. The story is complex as these characters come in and out of each others’ lives in a world where things don’t exactly make sense, but they certainly are entertaining. There’s a countdown to a big show called Firstborn and a race against time to come up with an invention called a fishgun which incorporates, what else, a fish and a gun in a most devastating way. Meanwhile, people are being murdered in the shower and arrested for taking part in fictional behavior such as dancing in the rain and not drinking a beer they ordered in a bar.
MADE IN MOSJOEN is going to be too ludicrous for some. One minute it’s serious as hell. In another, the series is being self-aware that it is a cinematic creation talking about walking in slow motion and referring to the subtitles at the bottom of the frame. I can’t say that I understood all of it, but this is a series that entertained me to the core. Much like TWIN PEAKS, this film packs in the ludicrous stuff all around some pretty basic story elements and makes every step a fascinating one. Nordaas has developed an utterly unique world and is able to really go anywhere and imbue the script with all sorts of fun, touching, and even inspirational moments, all punctuated with irreverent and sometimes downright clever humor.
Though minimal, the effects of the fishgun and the monster eating people through the drain is pretty damn amazing, but the real highlight here is the script by Nordaas. He has a way of doling out info patiently that makes you feel you are being led by a hook. The way Nordaas refers to his own script through his characters is fun every time he does it, and the way he threads all of these weird lives together is simply brilliant.
If you take a chance with it, at first you’re going to be confused. Then you’re going to be more confused. Eventually, all of the bizarre pieces start fitting together like some sort of puzzle that didn’t fit together originally. Along the way, I think if your mind is open enough, you’ll be as entertained as I am. Each episode is about five minutes long, totaling almost two hours, so it’s not a long commitment to check out the entire thing. I loved MADE IN MOSJOEN for all of what I understood and all I didn’t. It’s a truly unique and utterly creative vision from Nordaas, and I’m hoping for more seasons of this series to come. You can support MADE IN MOSJOEN and ensure future seasons by checking out the website here and contributing to the cause. And you can view the first episode of MADE IN MOSJOEN below!
New this week on DVD from Midnight Releasing!
SUBURBANITE (2013)Directed by Andy Lohrenz
Written by Andy Lohrenz
Starring Frank Mosley, Joe Nemmers, Susana Gibb, Jodie Moore, Sean Teague, Max Hartman, Teanna McKay, Dylan Warters, Nicole Leigh, Adam Dietrich, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Rodriguez
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
If you’ve been watching the second season of FARGO, you’re going to find a lot of familiar elements in this thriller of horrific errors entitled SUBURBANITE.
Rolling out like a stage play, SUBURBANITE mostly takes place in one location--the garage of a suburban businessman named John (Joe Nemmers) who falls asleep at the wheel heading into the office and accidentally hits another man, Mack (Jodie Moore), who has just hired a hitman (Frank Mosley) to kill his wife. When John realizes he didn’t kill Mack as he believed, he finds himself in a moral dilemma as to whether kill Mack and bury the evidence or turn himself in and face the consequences, which may mean losing his family and home. Things get more complicated when the hitman finds out about the accident and plans on blackmailing John about the whole thing.
While I understand that people act irrationally in extreme situations, it’s hard not to feel like this whole thing could have been avoided had John done the right thing and called the cops after accidentally running down Mack. But then there wouldn’t be a movie and a conflict, so I understand why this decision was made, but still, that nagging detail was in the back of my head the entire time while watching this film. Still, this is something that could have been avoided on FARGO as all Kirsten Dunst’s character had to do was admit her mistake, so I can’t fault the film that much.
And aside from that fault, this film is most impressive as a one locale character piece focusing on getting to know two very different men. John loves his family and life. Mack hates the life he has and wants to hire someone to kill his wife. Both men are flawed in ways, but also, to the credit of actors Nemmers and Moore, are also very likable in their own way. The scenes where we get to know the two and see where the two different people meet in their own specific life philosophies were the most fascinating moments in this movie.
John flips and flops as to whether he wants to do away with Mack and hide him in the garden or take him to the hospital. An axe, a hammer, a gun, and the hitman become involved, insuring much violence of the graphic kind. Reminiscent of a smaller scale RESERVOIR DOGS as well as the aforementioned FARGO, SUBURBANITE is a solid little thriller that holds a lot of surprises and moral conundrums. It is extremely well acted and the pace is set to ensure much tension. If you’re looking for a small scale crime thriller, SUBURBANITE delivers.
New this week on DVD from Midnight Releasing!
SILENT RETREAT (2016)Directed by Ace Jordan
Written by Ace Jordan, Heather Smith, Taryn Stenberg
Starring Donny Boaz, Rebecca Summers, Danilo Di Julio, Eli Bildner, Devon Ogden, Aidan Flynn, Trista Robinson, Landon Ashworth, John Kerry, Circus-Szalewski
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While rather uneven in terms of scares and slightly overcrowded in terms of characters running around and bumping into one another, SILENT RETREAT succeeds in being an intriguing and unsettling psychological thriller.
A media group meets for a retreat in a cabin in the woods that used to be a psychiatric facility, and the ghosts of the past arise both metaphorically and slightly supernaturally.
SILENT RETREAT (not to be mistaken with the rehab retreat monster flick with the same name from last year – reviewed here) has a lot going for it. There’s a nice sophisticated form of restraint going on from writer/director Ace Jordan and writers Heather Smith and Taryn Stenberg. Once the horror starts poppin’ it really does pop, with a very visceral kill by bear trap as well as some great and moody atmosphere with the psych clinic in the middle of the woods and its sordid history. The problem is that the film takes way too much time to get to the scary stuff. These people work together, so the almost hour of getting to know you time of the film really does feel rather extraneous – which is too bad, because that leaves very little time at the end to get scary and burrow into you. The film is only mildly successful in doing that, mainly because it takes so much time to get there.
The acting is actually pretty good, and better than most flicks of this type. This isn’t a big budgeter by any means, but the actors are delivering performances that pretty much assure me that they will be recognizable soon, and it helps in making the long in the tooth bits more digestible. The strong lead Donny Boaz, snarky Eli Bildner, mouse-voiced Trista Robinson, and sultry Devon Ogden stand out as especially fun performances here.
Many who lack patience are going to bail on SILENT RETREAT before the good stuff starts (you know, the stuff people are looking for since this is supposed to be a horror film). When the bad stuff begins, it does pay off, but this film is too patient for its own good and deserved to be bulked up in the latter half rather than the first. As is, SILENT RETREAT has a nice mood, some creepy scenery, and a bloody good kill, but only if you have the patience to stick around for it.
New on Bluray (exclusively at Best Buy) and DVD from Cinedigm (you can also find it on iTunes here)!
KILL GAME (2015)aka PRANK’D
Directed by Robert Mearns
Written by Robert Mearns
Starring Pierson Fode, Joe Adler, Laura Ashley Samuels, Michael Galante, Mouzam Makkar, Sari Sanchez, Hilary Anderson, Tommy Beardmore, Patricia Urbonas Clark, Justin Nesbitt, Patrick Zielinski, Nathan Ross Murphy, Paul Cram, Lindsay Rootare, Ryan Kitley, Brendan Scannell, Pete Giovagnoli, Ryan Carr
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER meets PROM NIGHT story isn’t at all original, and even less well cobbled together, but it does have some gory kills and a talented young cast going for it.
A group of high school pranksters are brought back together five years after graduation when one of their group is murdered. The five realize that they may be the next targets because of a prank gone wrong five years ago that ended with someone dying. Now a masked killer is following them around and murdering them in creative ways. Who is the killer? Is it the nebbish waitress who was pranked into believing she had AIDS? Or the high school teacher they planted gay porn on? Or the nerd they caught and filmed masturbating in the bathroom? Or maybe the long lost twin brother of the guy who died five years ago?
That’s right. This film has a long lost twin brother in it who looks and acts exactly like the guy who was killed five years ago. It’s that type of movie where long lost twin brothers appear as a major plot point and the whole thing is played as straight as the day is long. Contrivances and coincidences abound in this clumsy and lazy story of vengeance and overly elaborate murder. Intricate and crazily complex plots are no stranger to horror. Look at any classic Giallo and you will see all kinds of goofy twists and turns, so I can’t fault the film for doing the same thing, can I? I guess while those classic goofy Giallos have charm, there’s a level of sophisticated storytelling that we have come to expect in modern storytelling. Sure this can be seen as a throwback to the Italian Giallo, but that doesn’t really permit me to excuse car alarms that work without the car battery, locked doors that suddenly come open at the exact last moment, and killers who seem to teleport all over the place and know every move their victims are going to make before they know it. Add all sorts of false endings, dream sequences, misdirections, and red herrings and you have one misleading film here.
The one thing this film has going for it is its abundant and potent kills throughout. The film gets uncomfortably visceral and gruesome with its murders. One woman has her blood drained and replaced with deer’s blood. Another has her guts liposuctioned out of her belly. Another’s hands are sliced off, and two people are lit on fire. The kills here are extremely brutal and gory, so at least this film isn’t shy in shedding the wet stuff. The look of the killer is also pretty shart-inducing, as the emotionless mask and grey wig prove to be an unsettling combo in a PSYCHO sort of way, especially when wielding cutlery.
KILL GAME is also pretty capably acted. All of the cast are extremely pretty people, but they are also above the normal acting level one usually sees in a slasher film. This and the gratuitous gore make KILL GAME watchable despite its unbelievable narrative gymnastics. KILL GAME is a movie you don’t want to think too much about. It’s an above average slasher with a lot of Giallo influences; unfortunately, that means you have to put up with a lot of inexplicable stuff to get through it.
New this week ion BluRay/DVD from IFC Midnight and The Shout Factory (also available on iTunes here!
CONTRACTED: PHASE II (2015)Directed by Josh Forbes
Written by Craig Walendziak
Starring Matt Mercer, Marianna Palka, Peter Cilella. Adam Robitel, Alice Macdonald, Anna Lore, Morgan Peter Brown, Elisha Yaffe, Charity Daw, Suzanne Voss, Yvette Soledad, Ossey James, Laurel Vail, Najarra Townsend, Caroline Williams
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though I found the character to be pretty annoying in the original CONTRACTED, Matt Mercer’s Riley is much more likable than the lead from the original. CONTRACTED: PHASE II does what a good sequel should--captures the gory magic of the first film and ups the ante a few notches--but in doing so, it kind of betrays what it is trying to stand for.
In a plot thread left dangling in the original film, the desperate and in love RIley (Matt Mercer) ended up sleeping with Samantha (Najarra Townsend) while she was riddled with maggots and decomposing due to a virus she received during a one night stand. We catch up with Riley after the opening sequence begins with the closing scene of the original, as Samantha runs rampant through the streets as a full-on patient zero zombie, biting her mother and being mowed down by cops. Hearing the news of Samantha’s death and contagion, Riley does what any guy would probably do and goes to his doctor friend (his sister’s husband, played by Peter Cilella) to have a discreet screening of any and all diseases, not letting on that he recently slept with a zombie. Though his back is oozing pus, he keeps mum when the doctor calls him back and tells him he is clear. Meanwhile a plague is beginning to spread, causing folks to act like zombies. Riley continues to show the same signs Samantha had in the original--red eyes, body parts falling off, pale skin--but has clues as to who is behind this contagion and avoids being quarantined in order to root out the man responsible for the virus—all the while spreading the virus to anyone he comes in physical contact with.
I’m of mixed feelings about CONTRACTED PHASE II. The film definitely continues to deliver uncomfortable gore, compelling ethical arguments about the state of health care and a statement about how insular our interests are in terms of how we affect society. The gore is amazing here, as the film gives an intimate and up close look at Riley’s decomposing body. Blood, vomit, and puss are squirted and splattered about relentlessly, and some will find this movie nauseating because of it. It’s done with absolutely amazing effects, and those who appreciate practical effects have a lot to love here.
The film also is compelling in the fact that it really does act as a statement about how we take care of ourselves. I know I am as guilty as the next guy for not going to the doctor when I need to, often relying on quick fixes or age-old remedies instead of alerting a doctor about an ingrown toenail or a sore throat. The fact that this film stems from those common traits in the human condition makes the danger much more understandable. The current health care debate also seems to be a part of all of this as well, as we would rather suffer than fill out scores of paperwork we don’t understand. Riley’s seeming disregard to the fact that he is spreading the disease wherever he goes also paints a pretty ugly picture of us and how much we care about our fellow man.
And that’s where my biggest problem is with CONTRACTED PHASE II. The story seems to want it both ways: it wants an intimate story of getting sick and dealing with it yourself, but also wants to broaden the scope and focus on the man who created the virus and an apocalyptic terrorist plot. If the film would have had two protagonists—Riley and then another investigating the terrorist--I think it would have been more successful. Instead of that Riley is given a heroic cause to stop the eco-terrorist, which felt out of character for a guidance counselor and what we know about the character from the previous film. I understand the shortcut made here in order to make the film simpler to follow, but there’s a reckless nature to this film as Riley contaminates everyone he comes in contact with that made me really hate the character for not letting people much more qualified do their job of tracking down the killer.
Still, this is a gross-out fan’s dream as there are all kinds of absolutely nauseating moments of blood and grue. The film kind of crumbles when you look below its surface and examine the themes, but while it feels like it’s going all over the place narratively, CONTRACTED PHASE II at least delivers the yucks in abundance.
New this week on BluRay/DVD from Universal Home Entertainment!
SINISTER 2 (2015)Directed by Ciarán Foy
Written by Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Starring James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan, Lea Coco, Tate Ellington, John Beasley, Lucas Jade Zumann, Jaden Klein, Laila Haley, Caden M. Fritz, Olivia Rainey, & Nicholas King as Bughuul!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I have come to realize that there are two different kinds of horror movies made for two different kinds of people and I guess I have to be ok with that, though everyone seems to lump both kinds all together into one blob they call horror. There are the films that really get under your skin and tap into ancient primal fears that still coil and writhe around back there in the animal portions of our brains, and then there are films that are made to simply activate these portions of fight or flight reflexes by jolting you with a blast of music and something sort of scary jumping out at you. The latter is a sort of drive-by scare that really doesn’t stick around too long and are usually forgotten within a few minutes because there’s no heft to it. The former sticks with you long after the film. Now, there are folks who prefer the drive-by scares because it’s easy to deal with by laughing it off and then checking your cell for new messages. Then there are horror fans that prefer their scares to run deep and be something meaningful. SINISTER 2 isn’t really a film for folks like those who frequent this column and myself. It’s for the drive-by scare fans who don’t want too much to deal with. And that’s…ok, I guess.
SINISTER 2 picks up a couple years after the original, with the unnamed Ex Deputy So & So (James Ransone) making his way across the country, burning down the residences where he believes Bughuul to be doing his devious deeds to the children by turning them on their families. For those who didn’t see the original, Bughuul is a demon who haunts families by showing them old movies of previous kills and driving them to eventually do the deed themselves. While we had Ethan Hawke playing a dad trying to uncover the mysteries in the original, the sequel relies on the lesser acting chops of Ransone as the lead. Also on the center stage is Courtney Collins (the lovely and talented Shannyn Sossamon), who is hiding out in one of Bughuul’s haunted homes with her twin kids Dylan and Zach (Robert Daniel Sloan & Dartanian Sloan, respectively). Already, Bughuul has been haunting the dreams of Dylan and sending the child ghosts of previous families to taunt him into watching these films in hopes of manipulating him to murder. But as Bughuul tightens his grip on the family, the real world horrors of the abusive dad (Lea Coco) intensify as he tracks Courtney and her family down. It’s up to Ex Deputy So & So to save the family from both the father and Bughuul.
I liked the original SINISTER, though I felt the mythology was a bit overly complex. Any film that requires an info dump multiple times throughout the narrative is simply overwritten, and both SINISTER and its sequel have multiple occasions where someone is introduced solely to explain something crucial and then discarded just as quickly as they surfaced. In the original, Deputy So & So and researcher Prof. Jonas (Vincent D'Onofrio) drive the info dump truck for Ethan Hawke’s Elliot Oswalt to pick up. Here, since D’Onofrio apparently had the sense not to come back for the sequel, Prof. Jonas’ research partner Dr. Stromberg (Tate Ellington) backs up the truck, explaining something about the history of the Boogieman, aka Bughuul, as well as referencing some bizarre HAM radio broadcasts with a piano and a little girl. Props to the filmmakers for incorporating this actual mysterious phenomenon into the narrative (though the film THE BANSHEE CHAPTER does a better job with the material), but while utilizing radio, music, and art into the mix as a way Bughuul can be summoned is a nice way of making him a danger even before the tech for home movies was invented, it also muddies up the water even more with complex steps to conjure the demon. Pair it with the goofy rule that the family leaving the home Bughuul haunts is what triggers the deaths, and the narrative just seems to have too much convolution going on for its own good.
Much of what made the original film effective is still there. Bughuul is still creepy, and the movies he shows the kid are too. These home movies look and sound like rejected Nine Inch Nails videos, but paired with industrial sounds and unsettling noises, the home movies are still the best parts of the film. This time around, though, they lack the bite of the previous ones (save for one of the earlier and more potent kills shown that actually has a rather large bite in it that I won’t reveal here). While I respect that they aren’t pushing Bughuul to the center stage and revealing his origin or giving him Freddy-like one-liners (which would be hard since he has no mouth), the reliance on the ghost kids tempting and taunting the twins kills the scares a bit. The kid actors are decent and the makeup of having their faces somewhat cracked like porcelain dolls are ok, but the more lines these kids were given, the less scary they were.
Ransone is just ok here. His big goofy eyes kind of make it hard to take him seriously, and the Barney Fife way of doing things make for decent comedic beats, but these mannerisms act as a detriment when he is required to be the hero. Sossamon is really good as the paranoid and protective mother, and really conveys the complexity of being stuck in a situation that she has no control over. The scenes where she is trying to protect her children but is powerless to do so are some of the more touching moments of the film, and most of that has to do with Sossamon’s big brown emotive eyes. While she slips in and out of her country accent throughout, Sossamon definitely delivers some much-needed heart to the film. Finally, the twin child actors playing Dylan and Zach are surprisingly good here, with both dealing with some heavy issues of abuse, bullying, and sibling rivalry.
Still, the BlumHouse method of “bang the keyboard as hard as you can” is what will really cause a jolt if you see this one in the theater. Over-scoring the film and shocking you with a blast of sound seems to be the recipe for horror for this franchise (which happens to be the same recipe for INSIDIOUS and THE CONJURING). It’s too bad the jump scare is so prominent here, because there is material in the story that can definitely get under your skin. The fact that Bughuul seems to rely on destroying families is pretty horrific (though I’m not sure why—or maybe I do know why—they made him look so much like Michael Jackson) and the home movies continue to have some punch to them. But instead of relying on these real terrors, banging the keyboard seems to be a requirement at the House that Blum built. Director Ciarán Foy gave us the pretty stellar little agoraphobia tale CITADEL a while back (I reviewed it and interviewed the man here), and this film shines when the more real world horrors of abuse are centered upon, but less so when things get all Bughuul-y.
If you’re the type of filmgoer who simply checks out horror films to have a quick, non-threatening scare and then quickly move on to wonder what you’re going to eat for dinner tomorrow, SINISTER 2 is going to deliver the goods. It’s a film franchise that seems to be torn in two directions as to how it wants to scare the viewer, peppering in some solid imagery and concepts with resonance, but just can’t help itself from banging the keyboard every chance it can get. Of all of the franchise horror films BlumHouse seems to be putting out, this one seems to have the best intentions of actually delivering something palpable, but it still gives in and delivers lowest common denominator scares any chance it can get, making it a hard film to take seriously.
New this week in select theaters and On Demand from Momentum Pictures!
INTRUDERS (2015)aka SHUT IN
Directed by Adam Schindler
Written by T.J. Cimfel, David White
Starring Beth Riesgraf, Jack Kesy, Martin Starr, Rory Culkin, Timothy T. McKinney, Joshua Mikel, Leticia Jimenez
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
It doesn’t matter what type of film it is. If it delivers something I haven’t seen before or is presented in a manner that feels fresh and new, it really doesn’t matter how many times the tale has been told before, I love that type of movie. Case in point: INTRUDERS (formerly known in the festival circuit as SHUT IN), a film that at face value might be dismissed as a typical home invasion tale, the type we’ve seen time and again in recent years. Upon closer inspection, it might look like YOU’RE NEXT, a film I quite enjoyed, but through closer inspection, the film is much more surprising than that film as well..
INTRUDERS follows the story of Anna (Beth Riesgaf), a shut in taking care of her ailing brother whose only contact with the outside world is Dan (Rory Culkin), who delivers her food to the home. When her brother dies, thinking Anna is at the funeral, a group of men break into her extravagant house hoping to make a big score. What they don’t realize is that Anna is home, and now they are trapped in the house with her. Cat and mouse play occurs, as Anna turns the tables and captures her assailants and it becomes pretty clear that Anna suffers from more than just agoraphobia.
What I enjoyed most about INTRUDERS is that it never fails to zig when you’re expecting a zag. Just when you think you’ve got everything figured out, this story written by T.J. Cimfel and David White pulls the rug right out from under you. The first portion of the film reveals Anna’s agoraphobia, but without making it obvious, the script leaves room for another level to be revealed. This sort of excavation of secrets continues all the way through the film as alliances between the attackers and the way people react to the predicament they are in propel the story naturally to a finish that was somewhat predictable and a tad cliché, but still entertaining to see.
What made this clever script work so well was the very talented cast. Riesgaf does a fantastic job as Anna, who shows just enough ticks and blinks to show there is something definitely off with her without being over the top. She looks completely harmless, then all of a sudden deadly, and the flip is totally believable. Culkin does well with the part he plays here, and it’s especially ironic given that his brother’s big claim to fame is the most famous home invasion film of all time. Martin Starr plays against type as one of the more aggro of the attackers, and his brutality really works here, surprisingly. Who knew FREAKS & GEEKS’ Bill had it in him? And the small cast is rounded out by a more sensitive turn by Joshua Mikel (who we last saw in the excellent LAST SHIFT) and a very charismatic and fleshed out performance by Jack Kesy.
This film gets pretty violent and bloody as the battle wages on between Anna and her intruders. Secrets reveals are equally uncomfortable to see unfold. As I said earlier, I sort of saw the ending coming, but the ride there was awesome. The only other unfortunate thing about INTRUDERS is that it bears the same name as two other films released recently, (the Clive Owen supernatural abduction flick and the Miranda Cosgrove teen thriller). This film, whether it’s called SHUT IN or INTRUDERS, is a far superior one to those two.
And finally…Cameron McCasland’s TAILYPO is a tale of backwoods hunting and monsters that has garnered some impressive awards in the festival circuit recently, and for good reason as this is a well-paced and fun mini-frightener based on the folklore tale of old. Plus the monster is extremely creepy and cool.
Check out the awesome poster on the right over there (just click on it for a bigger image). You can find out more information about TAILYPO and Cameron’s work by clicking here!
Enjoy Cameron McCasland’s TAILYPO!
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!