Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. I’ve got two advance reviews of some films you definitely want to put on your radar, as well as some quirky trips to yesteryear, if you’re more into trips to the past. And speaking of time travel, one of the best sci fi movies of the year comes out this week and shouldn’t be missed, as well as some other spooky films that you can check out in one way or another. With variety like that, it must be another one of your typical AICN HORROR columns. Enjoy the reviews below!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: KIDNAPPED COED (1976)
Retro-review: GHOST WARRIOR (1984)
Retro-review: THE GUARDIAN (1990)
THE ABANDONED (2015)
Advance Review: TAG (2015)
Advance Review: DARK (2015)
And finally…Buffy Prescott’s “The Nothing!”
Retro-review: New on a double feature Bluray from Severin Films!
KIDNAPPED COED (1976)aka DATE WITH A KIDNAPPER, HOUSE OF TERROR, THE KIDNAPPER, THE KIDNAPPED LOVER, THE KIDNAP LOVER, TROUBLE
Directed by Frederick R. Friedel
Written by Frederick R. Friedel
Starring Jack Canon, Leslie Rivers, Gladys Lavitan, Larry Lambeth, Jim Blankinship, Charles Elledge, Susan McRae, Bob Martin, Clonnie Baxter Strawn, Skip Lundby, Elizabeth Allan Burger, Helen Kaye, Frederick R. Friedel, Larry Drake
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Having reviewed AXE a while back, which occupies the other feature in this double feature BluRay from Severin, I was looking forward to checking out Frederick R. Friedel’s second film, KIDNAPPED COED, as I felt AXE really had a lot of style going for it that suggested bigger and better things for the follow-up. Turns out I was right as KIDNAPPED COED is one surprisingly fun and unpredictable little flick.
As with AXE, this one stars Jack Cannon as Eddie Matlock, a tough guy who decides to kidnap the daughter of a millionaire named Sondra (Leslie Rivers) in order to send money to his ailing mother. But it seems that everywhere Eddie and his captive go, there’s someone crazier or more evil out to make their lives hell.
While there are plenty of films that center around kidnapping, this one shies away from being completely exploitative. Steeped in Grindhouse atmosphere and story twists, you’d be lucky to find one redeemable soul in the whole film. I loved the way Eddie and Sondra’s journey is plagued with one horrible person after another, be it a pair of killers who have just killed the owners of the hotel Eddie and Sondra go to or a psycho farmer who peeps on Eddie and Sondra having sex and then freaks out and chases him with a pitchfork. At every turn, there are evil people looking to make this odd couple’s life worse. The storytelling actually reminded me of Tarantino’s work, specifically PULP FICTION as the viewer not only follows Eddie and Sondra, but we also are dropped into the middle of someone else’s story that happens to be happening at the same time as this one. Remember how fun and unpredictable it was when Butch and Marsellus Wallace end up in Maynard and Zed’s pawn shop? KIDNAPPED COED has that type of flavor to it and it wouldn’t surprise me if Tarantino didn’t see this film and some of it rubbed off on him in order to put PULP FICTION together.
Jack Cannon is a true badass and does a fantastic job as Eddie, a likable loser who tries to do a simple kidnapping and takes a lot of lumps along the way. Leslie Rivers is mousey and quiet, but also sells it being batshit enough to fall for her kidnapper. And the rest of the freaks and weirdoes along the way are convincingly freaky and weird as well.
I can’t wait to watch BLOODY BROTHERS, which combines both AXE and KIDNAPPED COED into one film. It’s a shame Frederick R. Freidel only made three films in his career. These two films were immensely entertaining and wonderfully shot with long tracking shots of Southern life paired with ultra violence. Discover Freidel’s work with this BluRay double feature. He’s a filmmaker that deserves to be seen by more people. Look for my review of BLOODY BROTHERS soon in a future column.
Retro-review: New on a double feature BluRay from The Shout Factory!
GHOST WARRIOR (1984)aka SWORDKILL
Directed by J. Larry Carroll
Written by Tim Curnen
Starring Hiroshi Fujioka, John Calvin, Janet Julian, Charles Lampkin, Frank Schuller, Bill Morey, Andy Wood, Robert Kino, Joan Foley, Peter Liapis, Mieko Kobayashi, Chris Caputo, Simmy Bow, William Jones, Phil Rubenstein
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
While it’s about as horror free as it comes, GHOST WARRIOR would have the potential for a lot of horror had the filmmakers wanted to go that route, but instead chose to follow a much safer and generic action movie path.
While battling an opposing clan, an ancient samurai (Hiroshi Fujioka) is killed and falls into an icy pond only to be discovered and thawed out by researchers in Los Angeles 400 years later. Once unthawed, this samurai awakens and confused about his surroundings, the noble samurai goes on a killing spree to escape the facility that holds him. A desperate search is put forth to recover the samurai while he runs into a tough LA gang, a sushi chef, and a hobo.
What frustrates me is the missed opportunity here to amp up the fear and tension of a man out of time trying to find a moment’s peace in the modern world. The escape from the research facility and the run through the city streets could have made for some palpable thrills, but because the filmmakers lacked that kind of vision, this becomes just your standard kung fu movie. Is this not a deadly character making his way through hallways and alleyways killing people with bladed weapons? How is this any different than Jason Voorhees or Micharl Myers? The posters suggest something much more sinister at work, but the film instead wants to communicate that the samurai, compared to the modern world is the civilized and noble one. Everyone other than the female scientist who empathizes with the samurai is a thug or some type of insensitive monster. Sure it’s a decent angle to take, holding age-old tradition in a higher light than today’s opportunistic world, but someone on the filmmaking team should have talked with the ad team because that’s not what the posters convey.
Apart from a decent performance from Fujioka, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a good actor in this one. Fukioka seems proficient with the sword and does some decent action moves (though all are highlighted with so much slo mo you’d think this one was directed by Zack Snyder’s father). The generic gang members here are especially horrible, dressed in post apocalyptic garb, though this film is supposed to be set in the present.
Paired on the same bluray with THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS (reviewed here), GHOST WARRIOR is scores less proficient in mixing Asian tradition with modern horror. While the samurai action is fun, the film just doesn’t know what it wants to be, lifting plot points from man out of time flicks like ICEMAN (which also was released in ’84) and even Captain America’s origin, even the culture shocks the samurai experiences aren’t really shocking due to the lack of drama. It’s a quaint little actioner with a rather generic message, but it definitely doesn’t work as a horror film.
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Shout Factory!
THE GUARDIAN (1990)Directed by William Friedkin
Written by Dan Greenburg (novel), Stephen Volk, William Friedkin, Dan Greenburg (screenplay)
Starring Jenny Seagrove, Dwier Brown, Carey Lowell, Brad Hall, Miguel Ferrer, Natalija Nogulich, Pamela Brull, Gary Swanson, Theresa Randle, Xander Berkeley, Ray Reinhardt
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
I think my disappointment in THE GUARDIAN lays in the fact that I can’t, for the life of me, believe that the man who scared every fluid out of me with THE EXORCIST, did a film that lacks so much in tension, drama, and scares.
Phil (Dwier Brown) and Kate (Carey Lowell) are new parents looking for a nanny and the nanny of their dreams just happens to come along in Camilla (Jenny Seagrove), an earthy caregiver with a natural and immediate connection to the new baby. But soon, weird things begin happening suggesting that Camilla isn’t all that she seems. First, Phil begins having fantasies about Camilla, which is understandable since she parades around naked often. Then as Camilla becomes more and more invested in the baby and Phil and Kate’s friends begin disappearing. In the last act, Phil and Kate finally catch up with the rest of the world and realize this investment in the baby is not healthy and that Camilla is a druid-priestess who worships trees and sacrifices babies to them.
There are two problems with THE GUARDIAN. First and foremost is that the cast just isn’t really charismatic enough to make you give a shit. Sure Miguel Ferrer and Brad Hall are fun, but they are minor characters here. But Brown and Lowell are horrifically generic as the leads and Jenny Seagrove just doesn’t have the oomph that, say, Rebecca DeMornay has. Seagrove is beautiful, but apart from a British aloofness, there’s really not a lot ot latch onto here. Because I didn’t give two fig leaves about the parents and the monster of the movie is bland as well, it’s hard to muster up enough energy to care whether the tree witch gets the baby or not.
The second problem here is that the pacing and plot is just off here. The first portion of the film feels like it should have ended up on the cutting room floor. We already see Camilla do her thing with the baby in the first minutes, though for some reason she is masked in this sequence. Later, there looks to be some kind of mystery that seems to be teased at as to the identity of the evil nanny as the parents go through a series of interviews with potentials. But almost immediately, it is revealed that Camilla is the tree-witch. We also are given the opportunity to see the couple fall in love, get married, make love, and have the baby. All of this could have been snipped like the toddler’s umbilical cord as, really, the thing that is going to make us invest the most is the baby itself. And while the dreams Phil has of boning Camilla is most likely true to human condition, it feels like unneeded T&A in a movie that seems to want to be taken seriously. Add in three thugs who appear out of the blue and try to jump Camilla and the baby in the woods that feels shoehorned in because the film is so damn slow in the first half that it needed faceless characters to die and unnecessarily graphic effects in order to spice things up, and you have an extraneous first hour that really feels unnecessary.
This leaves about twenty minutes for the film to actually get into the druid magic and action and gruesome bits. The film feels like Friedken washed all character out of giant portions of THE OMEN and ROSEMARY’S BABY, gave it a light druidic paint job, and then tossed in a few graphic and gory kills when he realized that nothing else could save it. It’s too bad too because, though I have no kids of my own, I could imagine one of the scariest things would be to have your own child abducted or in danger. One would think this would be an easy hook to hang some scary shit too. Unfortunately, none of that shows up in THE GUARDIAN. Yes there are some scant but decent scenes where the tree witch has the tree tear people apart with roots and a decent Brad Hall wolf maul, but other than that, this bad nanny flick just doesn’t have it.
New this week in select theaters and On Demand from IFC Midnight!
THE ABANDONED (2015)aka THE CONFINES
Directed by Eytan Rockaway
Written by Ido Fluk, Eytan Rockaway
Starring Jason Patric, Louisa Krause, Mark Margolis, Ezra Knight, Brandon Kieffer, Carlos Velazquez, James Murtaugh
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Some great atmosphere and a good cast makes THE ABANDONED, which is bound to anger some with its ending, worth a view.
Louisa Krause plays Streak, a single mother on her first night as a night watchmen in an abandoned historical landmark. In the opening moments, we find out Streak is recovering from addiction and some kind of mental breakdown and that this is her last chance to make money for her little girl. Paired with a grumpy co-worker Cooper (Jason Patric) on the graveyard shift, Streak is intrigued by the buildings ornate interiors full of vast ballrooms and a myriad of hallways, rooms, and levels. Frustrated with Cooper’s gruff demeanor, Streak leaves the guard station and goes on patrol only to hear noises coming from a locked portion of the building. When she breaks through the door, she finds a dark secret of the building pertaining to the former resident’s of the facility. That’s not the only secret THE ABANDONED has though, but you won’t get that secret from me in this review.
There’s a lot to like about this film. The setting is extremely creepy and director Eytan Rockaway does a great job of soaking it all in and amping up the tension by filling it with darkness and forced perspectives. There are some great diagonals in the frames here as Streak ventures through this labyrinthine building that give the whole film an uneasiness that few films of its kind have done before. Rockaway does a great job with visual clues that really does establish where the characters are in the film, despite the vast setting. Because of this, it’s easy to know where each character is compared to the next without a lot of clumsy exposition. This is a subtle thing about the film, but one I appreciated as it would be easy to simply shoot the same rooms at different angles in order to make the place look vast. In THE ABANDONED, there’s a real sense of being lost and trapped in this expansive building, but given the attention to the surroundings and the unsettling use of diagonal lines in the shots, it really makes for a unique viewing experience.
Jason Patric is pretty awesome here as the gruff and assholish Cooper. Though he’s played this character before in THE LOSERS and YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS, he has a nice depth to his character her that suggests he is more than just an asshole. There is an arc here for him and in the end there is a kind of redemption to the whole thing. Louisa Krause’s Streak is extremely likable and while some may be frustrated by some of the boneheaded decisions she makes along the way (like breaking into the locked room in the first place), by the end of the film, you quickly get over it when all is revealed.
But still, this is going to be a love it or hate it film. Any inconsistencies or questions I had with this odd and dream-like narrative were answered by the end of the film. It’s just that this answer is going to frustrate some as it’s a method of storytelling that really comes out of the blue. It all makes sense and fits well together by the end, but trust me, some of you will be pissed. That said, there’s a lot of great stuff going on with this film and I was actually moved by the ending, as well as the performances by Patric and Krause. Mark Margolis is in here briefly as a homeless man who wants to come into the building out of the cold, but he doesn’t get a lot of memorable things to do here. Still, I think THE ABANDONED has enough going for it to warrant a positive recommendation from me as the directing and acting are both top tier.
New this week on select theaters and on Digital and available on BluRay/DVD and On Demand on February 2nd from Anchor Bay Entertainment!
MARTYRS (2015)Directed by Kevin Goetz, Michael Goetz
Written by Pascal Laugier (characters), Mark L. Smith(screenplay)
Starring Troian Bellisario, Bailey Noble, Caitlin Carmichael, Kate Burton, Toby Huss, Lexi DiBenedetto, Taylor John Smith, Diana Hopper, Blake Robbins, Peter Michael Goetz, Elyse Cole, Ever Prishkulnik, Rob Wood, Laurence Todd Rosenthal, & Melissa Tracy as the Monster!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Pascal Laugier’s MARTYRS is a film I’ve only seen a handful of times. Not because I didn’t like it, but because it was one of the most viscerally brutal and emotionally powerful movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a movie that should be experienced by anyone who dares consider themselves a horror fan as it blends elements of the thriller, the supernatural, the home invasion terror, and most heinously, gratuitous torture porn. If I were to make a list of most powerful horror films of the last twenty years, MARTYRS would be near the top.
Since American audiences seem to have an allergy to subtitles, I guess it was inevitable that someone would come along and remake the French made MARTYRS. The film’s unique plot structure and tendency to flip the script about every 30 minutes or so makes it not your typical film and one that might be a good reinterpretation in the right hands. In this case, those hands belong to brother Kevin and Michael Goetz (who had directed the decent Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler road trip to hell flick SCENIC ROUTE – reviewed here) and though the film lacks a lot of the punch that makes MARTYRS such a gut punch of a movie, it is not a completely disappointing remake.
Opening almost exactly the same way the original did, with a young Lucie escaping from a warehouse and running frantically down the street to freedom. After not being able to give any information to the police about her abductors, Lucie is placed in a foster home where she meets Anna, another foster kid who tries to befriend Lucie and help her through nights she believes she sees a monster coming into her room and attacking her. The narrative leaps forward ten years with Lucie (Troian Bellisario) believing she has finally found her abductors, runs siege on a family home and calls Anna (Bailey Noble) to meet her there to witness that her night terrors were real. The rest of the film gets labyrinthine and while up to this point, the two films are almost exactly the same, what follows once Anna and Lucie investigate the home veers from the original’s storyline where some characters live longer lives and other characters are completely omitted for the sake of playing up the relationship between Anna and Lucie.
I guess I can appreciate that MARTYRS (American style) didn’t turn out to be a beat for beat reenactment of the original. The changes mainly involves the focus on Anna and Lucie and gives this film a simpler plot to focus on rather than the pursuit of something a little more ethereal than the making of a martyr. This MARTYRS takes the form of a simple search and rescue style mission with only vague monologues about what the cult is actually searching for in their treatment of their captives. Yes, there is the explanation of what a martyr is, but while the original focused on the horrific treatment necessary to reach martyrdom, we get the cliff’s notes version here.
Which I can understand, in part, because not everyone will be able to endure the horrific scenes in the original film. While an entire coat of flesh is peeled from a body in the original, only about a square foot of the back is done here, which is grueling to watch, but definitely less so than the original. While a captive is found, this one is the age of Lucie when she was abducted. While it lacks the visceral impact of the original where we see someone who has endured torture since Lucie escaped, having someone the same age as when Lucie was abducted sells the point in a cleaner, more stomach-able manner. In many ways, MARTYRS 2015 is the prep course – MARTYRS 101, if you will, that makes sure you have what it takes to endure Advanced MARTYRS (the original). If that’s what you want in horror, then this film might satisfy. But those who know MARTYRS and have seen MARTYRS are definitely going to be left wanting.
What works is that the young actresses involved (both Bellisario and Noble, and the younger versions of them, Ever Prishkulnik and Elyse Cole) are very talented and able to sell the strong relationship between the two girls. While the focus on this relationship lessens the visceral impact of the film, it definitely gives you something to relate to (not that the original didn’t do this in much less time). Looking at this film on its own, it definitely has some solid moments of mystery and gore that elevates it a skosh above your typical modern Hollywood horror film. Background players Kate Burton dies a decent job as the Hillary Clinton-esque cult leader and it’s nice to see CARNIVALE’s Toby Huss in a non-comedic role.
I’ve seen reports that the filmmakers attest that this is not supposed to be taken as a remake, but a reimagining. I can understand why they would want to differentiate the two, but honestly, that’s a copout. If they decided to re-imagine something, why not just make an original film? Apart from the gore and shock, the original MARTYRS is an utterly intense ordeal to sit through. Saddling a remake (or reimagining or whatever the hell you want to call it) with the title of a notorious film like MARTYRS and not delivering something that equals in intensity either shows that not enough brains or balls were available in its making. Most films I don’t return to because they aren’t worth my time. Others (like MARTYRS 2008, South Korea’s THE BUTCHER 2007, A SERBIAN FILM) I don’t return to because they harness something that disturbs to my core so much that I don’t think I want to experience it ever again. Unfortunately, MARTYRS 2015 is the former.
New this week in select theaters, On Demand, Amazon, and iTunes from Magnet Releasing!
SYNCHRONICITY (2015)Directed by Jacob Gentry
Written by Jacob Gentry and Alex Orr
Starring Chad McKnight, Brianne Davis, AJ Bowen, Scott Poythress, Michael Ironside, Claire Bronson, Ashley Drayton
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Last year, the film that absolutely blew me away was PREDESTINATION, the Sperig Brothers’ tale of time loops and teleportation. This year’s time travel film with a four dollar word title is SYNCHRONICITY and while it is a less bombastic tale of time twisting, it is equally if not more emotionally effective and entertaining from start to finish and back again.
The film centers on Jim (Chad McKnight) a brilliant scientist who just may have cracked the mystery of time travel. Jim, along with his team made up of Chuck (the always spectacular AJ Bowen) and Matty (Scott Poythress) just need the money to purchase uranium in order to skip through time. That’s where billionaire Klaus Meisner (Michael Ironside) comes in and with him enters Abby (Brianne Davis), his smart and spunky mistress who immediately takes a liking to Jim. The relationship between Jim and Abby figures in significantly with the day the experiment is performed as Jim and his team open a wormhole to another time and possibly another reality.
There is always a threat with any sci fi film to be so up its ass with the science that the film simply has no real emotional core. Not to raise too many hackles, but often I feel STAR TREK is guilty of focusing too much on the science and not enough on the heart of it all. The STAR WARS prequels is another fine example of science without soul with more focus on midchlorians and intergalactic trading than the emotional bits that pull the viewer in. SYNCHRONICITY never forgets that if you really want to grab the viewer by the shirt collar, you have to have them care about the characters. This isn’t a film about time travel as much as it is about the complex feelings that are involved in a relationship. The beauty of it is that because the film takes place only over the span of a few days, it utilizes time travel to show these relational peaks and valleys at a much speedier manner than a normal relationship would unfold. One can say that every movie about relationships do this, but this being a story with time travel makes it much more obvious and fun to see unfold.
Never once in this film did I feel like I was lost or drowned in the science mire. I’m not a physicist, but I know what love is, and that’s what this film relies on in order to keep your eyes from glazing over. The science is explained in a clear way. The narrative, which loops around and back on top of itself like a snake eating its tail never lost me once, mainly because of the fantastic characters and the actors playing them, but also because of the intricately placed discourse throughout the film that catches you up be it a scene with Jim, Chuck, and Maddy theorizing, Jim explaining the whole thing in layman’s terms to Klaus, or through eloquent rephrasing from Abby. Never once did this feel like a boring info dump. This is a tough thing to do and is a mistake many films make. This is all due to the clever and on target scripting from director Jacob Gentry and his co-writer Alex Orr.
Bringing these talented writers words to life is a cast that isn’t in your face with star power, but formidable nevertheless. McKnight is great as the fallible hero and not the one you would think of to nab such a hottie as Abby, but both the script and McKnight sell it and make it all believable. Bowen and Poythress are great but their roles are mainly there for comic relief with Bowen’s Chuck being Jim’s Jiminy Cricket and best buddy looking out for him and Poythress’ Matty being the Asberger’s-esque counterpart that represents Jim’s science mind. Michael Ironside is given a meatier role than he usually gets lately unfortunately as Klaus which was really nice to see. And Brianne Davis is a true find, dangerous, sexy, and brilliant all wrapped into one perfect femme fatale character though unafraid to show a more delicate side. I hope to see more of her in future films as she’s a star in the making.
I’ve heard comparisons to PRIMER and I see where people would make them, but I was much more invested in this film due to the talented cast and almost origami-esque way the story unfolds and folds over and under itself. This is the type of film I want more people to see so I can talk about it with them. Simply put, SYNCHRONICITY is a fantastic film for sci fi lovers, but won’t leave those who aren’t all about science in the dust.
TAG (2015)Directed by Sion Sono
Written by Sion Sono, based on the original story by Yûsuke Yamada
Starring Reina Triendl, Mariko Shinoda, Erina Mano, Yuki Sakurai, Aki Hiraoka, Ami Tomite, Takumi Saitô
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The director of such offbeat and terrifying films as COLD FISH, WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL?, TOKYO TRIBE, and SUICIDE CLUB, Sion Sono cannonballs into the world of the surreal through one girl’s arduous race through reality in TAG, a cinematic video game that will infuriate the literal minded and fascinate those who aren’t bothered by such things as straight forward narrative and things making sense all the time.
The film opens with a young girl named Mitsuko (Reina Triendl), writing in her journal and being the only survivor of a demon wind which slices through her school bus and decapitates her entire class and including the bus itself, a group of bicycle riders, and some joggers. Mitsuko then finds herself walking in a wasteland filled with girls sliced in two until she wanders into a school which seems to be oblivious to the fact that they all just died. After skipping class with three other classmates, Mitsuko and her crew end up returning to school only to find her teachers going on a killing spree, murdering her entire class once again. Again, Mitsuko survives only to go into another scenario where her life and those around her is in peril. Mistuko also changes her identity (and is played by different actresses) throughout the rest of the film until she reaches what seems to be the final level of this surreal world flipping game and meets the maker of the game. Lost? Doesn’t make sense? Well, that’s kind of what this film is all about…I think.
Sion Sono is known for some pretty whacked out filmmaking through the years. COLD FISH was absolutely engrossing in the way its characters interacted with one another in an abusive and unempathetic fashion until the ultra gory climax. WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? is an amazing tour de force of bullets, show business, and yes, love. TOKYO TRIBE is an engrossing exploration of gang war and separatism through the lens of a music video with every character rapping their dialog. Sono is not one to play it safe and he doesn’t here as he exemplifies the video game format of living, dying, and living again, everything manipulated by the game controller and our willingness to play by a set of rules. In TAG, he seems to be encouraging us to play by our own rules and rewrite the game that is our lives in order to achieve our fullest potential.
While being somewhat of an empowerment tale, there is a fair share of fetishism of women in this one as the cast is basically all female and adorned in schoolgirl costumes with short skirts and white panties. The tagline that “you high school girls are getting obnoxious…so we had to reduce your numbers” is not the most feminist statement in the world, though it might be the message the MATRIX-like controllers who are running this game go by, this doesn’t necessarily seem like the actual theme of the movie, which feels more girl power than what that tagline suggests.
Now, there are those that will write TAG off as a bunch of nonsense, and if you simply want a linear story, you should probably look elsewhere. I will attest that the film is top heavy in terms of interesting scenes and amazing sights to see. The longer this film goes, the less effective it seems to be and while Sono usually ends with a bang, this one kind of chooses to go out in a quieter fashion.
One thing that won’t be debated is the strength of the opening moments of this film. The amazing sequence with the demon wind should be required punishment viewing via a CLOCKWORK ORANGE-style movie chair for M. Night Shyamalan who shit the bed so hard with tepid gusts of air flick THE HAPPENING (or THE CRAPPENING, as I like to call it). Vivid in imagery and paced at a breakneck tempo, Sono’s TAG proves to be a outrageously fun and wildly creative thrill ride that I found to be surprisingly inspirational and joyously unpredictable.
DARK (2015)Directed by Nick Basile
Written by Elias (screenplay), Nick Basile & Elias (story)
Starring Whitney Able, Alexandra Breckenridge, Michael Eklund, Brendan Sexton III, Benny Ash, Redman, Steel Burkhardt, Kristopher Thompson-Bolden, Rose Wartell, James Dinonno, Anita Valentini
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
DARK is a film that relies on what is not seen to be terrifying and it is quite proficient in doing that, mainly because of its talented star, Whitney Able (who most will remember from Gareth Edwards’ MONSTERS) and some clever directing from Nick Basile.
Set around the blackout of New York in the summer of 2003, DARK focuses on Kate (Able) as she struggles with her relationship with her girlfriend Leah (Alexandra Breckenridge) and attempts to live in the big city with all of the thrills and threats that come from it. When the lights go out, Kate’s mental state begins to slip and continues to chip away as the city around her seems to close in on her.
DARK is an intense psychological thriller that doles out the chills with patience. Much of this film is preparation for the horrors that come, but while some may criticize this film for the slower moments that make up the first hour, I was coaxed into trusting this film and was right there in the dark with Kate as reality begins to fall away. Reminiscent of slow burners like the recent ENTRANCE and the classic LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR and sharing the overwhelming madness that encompasses REPULSION, DARK exemplifies the fear of being alone and vulnerable in the city, specifically for women. Watching Kate drunkenly walk down the street after she refuses to be walked home by a nice guy she meets in a bar (the always awesome Michael Eklund) was chilling as she seems to brazenly put herself in situations that endanger her well being. Kate is not right in the head, that is evident, but because we spend so much time for her, I felt sorry for her character and almost protective of her in the latter half when the lights go out.
Whitney Able is bold and brave in this film, unafraid of showing herself in a light that is not too flattering. Much of the time is spent by herself and one can understand why she is as nuts as she is given her seclusion. She goes through a ton of emotions in this one and is utterly convincing as an unstable and disturbed soul.
Again, this will be an excruciating film to sit through for those who need slam-wham-bang action at every beat. This is a character study and a descent into madness, filled with moments of real despair and utter tragedy. There are some absolutely bone-chilling moments in the latter portion of this film if you stick with this film. I was pulled into DARK and if you have the patience, I think you will too.
And finally…here’s a cool video for Buffy Prescott’s new song “The Nothing” which pays homage to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT by recreating key scenes throughout the video. The scenes are duplicated pretty well and I have to admit, the song it damn catchy. Check out Buffy Prescott’s “The Nothing” from MGM Distribution’s ‘PreMature’ LP below!
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!