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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Welcome to the darker side of AICN! Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column with another batch of horrors old and new. On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: VIDEO VIOLENCE 2 (1987)
Retro-review: JACK’S BACK (1988)
Retro-review: SONNY BOY (1989)
Retro-review: HABIT (1995)
Advance Review: DIRECTOR’S CUT (2016)
And finally…Light’s Out “The Dream”!

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


Directed by Gary P. Cohen
Written by Gary P. Cohen
Starring David Christopher, Mavis Harris, Neil Cerbone, Bill Bowers, Gary P. Cohen, Uke, Bart Sumner, Elizabeth Lee Miller, Gordon Ovsiew, Joey Forte, Debbie Forte, Wilbur, William Toddie, Barbara Brunnquell, Sue Kalitan, Tammy Bowen, Suzanne Schrenell, Chris McGarry, Robin Lilly, Robert Amico, Susan Speidel, Tim McKanic, Tom Straffi, Richard 'Dick' Haig, Carol Maloney, Art Neill, Jackie Neill, Lisa Cohen
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

VIDEO VIOLENCE 2 is the final film for me to review from Camp Motion Pictures VHS/DVD Combo set that looks back at the grimier shot on video films that littered the video store shelves in the 80’s. And while much of these films are going to be an ordeal for those who don’t remember having to go to the video store to rent movies, if you were around in that era, even though the production values are shit, it might serve as a nice warm wave of nostalgia.

The original VIDEO VIOLENCE took the form of a mystery, placing a video store owner and his wife in the middle of a small town secret and video tapes that used the gratuitous gore effects as entertainment. What I loved about the original is that, despite the gory effects and horrific production, the mystery was actually quite compelling and there was some solid story going on.

This isn’t really the case for VIDEO VIOLENCE 2, which instead simply shows one gory scene after another in a talk show style format that simply cuts to one short film filled with gore after another. Losing the mystery motif really highlights how gratuitous and tasteless the shorts actually are. This one has no moral center as the first one did and suffers for it.

Still VIDEO VIOLENCE 2 sports tons and tons of what people thing horror fans want; blood and boobs. Sure those things are fun, but most horror fans I know want a good story and, maybe to actually be scared every now and then. And while the number of areolas and pints of blood are many in this film, there’s nary a scare in its entirety. It’s simply one scene of someone being sliced up and killed after another and honestly, it’s pretty boring throughout.

Out of all of the films in this low budget, shot on video, DIY horror collection, the best is VIDEO VIOLENCE with THE BASEMENT and CAPTIVES are the ones to check out. They are the ones which actually spend as much time with story as they do mixing fake blood. If story isn’t important to you, the rest are ok examples of gratuitous practical makeup effects and little else.

Also reviewed from this Basement Collection!

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

JACK’S BACK (1988)

Directed by Rowdy Herrington
Written by Rowdy Herrington
Starring James Spader, Cynthia Gibb, Jim Haynie, Robert Picardo, Rod Loomis, Rex Ryon, Chris Mulkey, Wendell Wright, John Wesley, Bobby Hosea, Danitza Kingsley, Anne Betancourt, Diane Erickson, Sis Greenspon, Paul Du Pratt, Rana Ford, Shawne Rowe, Shawne Rowe, Kevin M. Glover, John Harrison, Pola Del Mar
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

While the film relies a bit too much on the belief that brat-pack bad boy James Spader is ultra-dreamy, JACK’S BACK is a thriller that actually has some pretty sharp teeth.

A serial killer is making his way through the LA night, recreating the Jack the Ripper murders to the very last detail. When a dedicated medical student (John played by James Spader) at a free clinic decides to check up on a patient, he finds the body of the patient and the murderer leaving the apartment. After giving pursuit, John is murdered by the new Ripper and the murders are pinned on him. Thinking that the murderer has been caught, the police try to wrap up the investigation, but when John’s twin brother Rick (also Spader) arrives in town to clear his brother’s name, the police start to think Rick is the actual murderer. Is Rick the murderer or is there someone else emulating the murders of the Ripper from 100 years ago.

This film from top to bottom is a James Spader vehicle. His wall-eyed puss is all over the advertisements and Spader’s sex appeal is highlighted throughout as he often walks around shirtless and sweaty or with his shirt opened and sweaty. While the other brat packers were busy making comedies, Spader did a lot of darker movies, from drug dealer in LESS THAN ZERO to the drug dealer in PRETTY IN PINK to the asshole in MANNEQUIN to the pervert with a camera in SEX, LIES & VIDEOTAPE. JACK’S BACK is another film that plays with Spader’s dark side and through the film gives away the identity of the killer way too early on only to switch gears later in the film and go with the long shot as the killer, it’s understandable that the cops in this film think Spader’s character is the killer. Playing twin brothers, which in itself if pretty ridiculous, Spader does a good job as the darker brother, yet feels rather disingenuous as the goody two shoes brother. There’s just something about the actor that works so much better when he plays things darker.

JACK’S BACK is a pretty standard thriller from the 80’s. There’s a lot of saxophone music and occasionally a screeching electric guitar as the badly dressed and frizzy haired cast run from one LA locale to another. The “twist” of having Spader be twins works, though it’s not completely evident that this is the case right off the bat as after one twin runs afoul of the killer, then the other one wakes up (shirtless and sweaty) in a bed, which to me read only as a dream. Instead, it was a sort of premonition that required quite a while for me to fully understand. This is mainly because the two are identical right down to the feathered hairstyle, besides a dastardly scar down his cheek. While Spader plays the two brothers differently, the twin detail is rather hokey and lends to the unbelievability of the film itself. Still, if you roll with it, it’s not the worst thriller from the eighties by far.

JACK’S BACK is a decent thriller. I wish it would have focused more on the Jack the Ripper murders than scenes with Spader without a shirt. Rather than reveal the red herring killer early on, I would have preferred to suspect Spader along with the police. I think it would have raised the bar in the danger factor for this film, not really trusting that the central figure (or his twin brother) is a killer. Then again, the film seems to want to try hard for us to like Spader a lot. This BluRay comes with a new commentary by director Rowdy Harrington as well as a new Making of featurette. If you are from the eighties, you probably have seen this one as it got much play on cable back then. This new Blu looks and sounds great, but it doesn’t make story more engaging or the plot any less ludicrous.

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

SONNY BOY (1989)

Directed by Robert Martin Carroll
Written by Graeme Whifler (original screenplay), Peter Desberg (additional dialogue)
Starring David Carradine, Paul L. Smith, Brad Dourif, Conrad Janis, Sydney Lassick, Savina Gersak, Alexandra Powers, Steve Carlisle, Steve Ingrassia, Stephen Lee Davis, Dalene Young, Robert Broyles, Jeff Bergquist, Christopher Bradley, Samantha Phillips, Ivan Naranjo, and Michael Boston as Sonny Boy!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

SONNY BOY is kind of what would happen if a movie focused solely on the Sawyer family in TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and didn’t bother to introduce some young people to happen upon their land. It’s also reminiscent of SPIDER BABY in that, again, it tries to pull back the curtain on an off-center way of life. Whatever odd movie you want to associate it with, SONNY BOY is definitely an odd duck and one you most likely won’t forget after watching.

Weasel (Brad Douriff) steals stuff for small town boss Slue (Paul L. Smith of DUNE, POPEYE, and CRIME WAVE fame). When Weasel steals a convertible, he doesn’t know that there’s a baby in back, and though Slue wants to toss it to the pigs, his transvestite wife Pearl (David Carradine) falls for the little babushka and decides to raise the tyke as Sonny Boy. While she protects him, Peal isn’t able to watch him all the time and Slue decides that if he can’t get rid of Sonny Boy, he’ll abuse and mistreat him until he grows up to be a killer. Slicing off Sonny Boy’s tongue for his seventh birthday and keeping him in a locked kennel all his life, Slue sics Sonny Boy on anyone he finds a threat until he escapes and the townspeople are alerted at Sonny Boy’s existence. Bad things happen to the worst family you’re likely to ever see on film.

To start things off, the trans-tolerant world we live in today will immediately take umbrage to the fact that this film, which is filled with oddity from the rooter to the tooter, treats transvestitism as if it were just another oddity associated to the family. The film takes the subject pretty seriously and Carradine actually does a fantastic job in the role of Pearl, giving his all in it. But pairing it with child abuse, cannibalism, murder, and all kinds of nefarious acts only seems to want to associate the tendency to wear women’s clothes with these other evil misdeeds. That said, seeing KILL BILL/KUNG FU/DEATHSPORT’s David Carradine in drag is an unsettling image. An especially odd detail is the tendency to film the back of Carradine, stretched into a dress so tight that the back can’t be completely zipped up.

On top of Carradine’s performance, the rest of the cast ain’t too shabby either. Paul L. Smith has never been more threatening as Slue, the crime lord who rules the small town with an iron fist. The way he flares his nostrils and breathes sighs of frustration and rage through them is hilarious and frightening all at once. While at times, these characters are cartoonish, Smith shows another side of Slue as he is often seen painting abstract paintings in between abusing his adopted son and extorting money from the town. The always awesome Brad Dourif doesn’t have a major role, but he is crucial to the plot and acts as the Hitchhiker or Chop Top in TCM terms here as the spastic Weasel who steals for Slue and dreams big dreams of big money. Also from ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST and from TV’s ALICE, Sydney Lassick is great here as the opportunistic and sweaty Charlie P., who with Dourif’s Weasel proves to be both a helper and a betrayer of Slue’s trust. Seeing these three actors chew up the scenery and bounce off of each other as some kind of dysfunctional family is sheer joy and reminiscent of the functionally insane way the Cook, the Hitch-hiker, and Leatherface interact as one unit of madness.

There are so many weird story choices in SONNY BOY that there’s some kind of genius or madness at play in the whole thing. From the weird birthday party where Slue, Weasel, and Pearl don masks, eat cake, and ritualistically slice out Sonny Boy’s tongue to the odd logic that Sonny Boy’s tongue can be replaced and he can gain speech miraculously years later. Even more eccentric is David Carradine’s song he plays during the opening credits entitled “Maybe it ain’t…

Once heard, this little ditty is horrifically earwormy and guaranteed to leave you humming whilst shaking your head hours later. Fun fact; it’s rumored that the opening lines of this song are on Carradine’s gravestone. SONNY BOY is a beautiful tragedy. A box office flop, but a surefire underground lost treasure that somehow crept under my radar until this BluRay release, which sports a new commentary from writer Graeme Whifler and a separate one from Robert Martin Carroll, both shedding light as to the off-kilter logic and bizarre conception of this amazingly unique film.

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

HABIT (1995)

Directed by Larry Fessenden
Written by Larry Fessenden
Starring Larry Fessenden, Meredith Snaider, Aaron Beall, Patricia Coleman, Heather Woodbury, Jesse Hartman
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

The final film in this Larry Fessenden Collection from The Shout Factory is his first film and the first time I took notice of the director’s name as a unique voice in horror. HABIT is a vampire tale, but one that focuses on the theme of addiction. This is a concept that has been explored before, but never in such a realistic and gritty way.

HABIT tells the tale of Sam (Larry Fessenden) who has seen better days as his life has become a country song cliché. His girlfriend left him. His father passed away. And he’s swirling into alcoholism, when along comes Anna (Meredith Snaider) who offers up a new drug to become addicted to; blood. Sam struggles to keep his wits and his humanity as he sinks faster and faster into addiction and vampirism.

Even without knowing this film was made in the mid-nineties, I would have guessed as much as HABIT feels as if it belongs right smack dab in the middle of Kevin Smith’s CLERKS and Edward Burns’ THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN as it has that East Coast indie flick vibe to it that was so popular in that era. Much of the conversation is casual and while the emotional stakes are high, the life and death aren’t so much so for the main characters that seem to not do much but wander around New York and get into deep conversations about stuff. I find films like this fascinating because to have a film focus mainly on dialog for the bulk of its runtime means that dialog is usually pretty compelling. Much of the film also soaks in the environment of 90’s New York with the strip clubs and seediness fading slightly, but still ever-present. Like Hennenlotter and Scorsese before him, Fessenden really captures the essence of New York here as he walks through it casually in this story.

While the stakes rise towards the end of this to operatic levels, much of this film is a conversational piece about one man grieving a lost relationship and a lost father. When Sam (Fessenden) meets Anna (Snaider), he is as low as can be and latches onto her as many rebounders often do. As much as this film highlights the debilitating effects of alcohol, it also shows that one can be a relationship addict as Sam becomes transfixed on his time with Anna and feels physically ill when she’s away. This is due to the fact that Anna is draining him slowly of blood while they make love, but on a deeper level, it describes how a one-sided relationship feels to the person who wants more from the relationship than their partner. The pacing of the film may move slow for some, but the hour we get to know Sam and Anna is fascinating as their relationship grows from strangers to dependants over the span of two short weeks.

The performances here are natural and feel real. Sam is an addict, but not just to alcohol and Fessenden brings surprising depth in this performance to the character. Fessenden is extremely young here and reminded me of Jack Nicholson as he is often aloof and unpredictable, seeming to seize life without really caring about how much damage it is doing to his own. This, of course, is his downfall, but it’s fascinating to see it all unfold in HABIT.

Anyone interested in a different kind of horror film should check out terror through the lens of Larry Fessenden. With his unique style of editing and storytelling, even concepts that have been explored before like addiction through vampirism prove to be unique and entertaining. Out of all of the films I checked out in this collection, HABIT is definitely one of the best. Hell, I like them all and I think you will to if you like a little thematic heft and creative editing in your horror.

Reviews of other films in the Larry Fessenden Collection!

Available now on iTunes!


Directed by Ajala Bandele
Written by Ajala Bandele, Tom Hatfield
Starring Ajala Bandele, Liz Fenning, Chris Hampton, Nils Jansson, Shanna Malcolm, Brendan McGowan, Sharon Mae Wang, Brittany Anne Woodford
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While the film needs some solid time in the editing room and has some pacing issues, OMG…WE’RE IN A HORROR MOVIE! is the horror spoof the SCARY MOVIE films wish they could be.

When a group of twenty-somethings roll triple sixes during their game night activities, they find themselves transported smack dab into the middle of a horror movie. Now the group must use what they know about horror films in order to survive. But this group seems to know so much about horror films that they seem to be tripping all over, and killing one another, in order to survive.

OMG…WE’RE IN A HORROR MOVIE! does a lot right. Right off the bat, it feels like a mighty step up from the horrific attempts at humor seen in horror spoofs like the SCARY MOVIE franchise where simply rambling off scene after scene of bad imitation and broad comments that simply state the obvious are supposed to pass as comedy. There are actual jokes with punch lines, ongoing gags, and scenes that point out the strengths and weaknesses of horror. The best type of comedy horror holds a warped mirror up to the horror world and, not meanly, but smartly makes fun of it, including horror fans to be in on the joke. Writers/directors Ajala Bandele & Tom Hatfield aren’t trying to make fun of the horror world and they’re definitely not out to insult horror fans intelligence like other horror spoofs. This is a horror film that relies on your knowledge of horror in order to get the joke and it works.

That said, the film is definitely more comedy than horror. The blood isn’t gratuitous and there’s not much to jump at. That’s perfectly fine. Not all horror comedies have to have the gross out factor of EVIL DEAD 2. That’s just not what that type of movie this is.

OMG…WE’RE IN A HORROR MOVIE! is clever and fun. The runtime is a bit lengthy and a strong edit might make this a better movie as horror comedies really shouldn’t be almost two hours long. Though I noticed the film’s length, it’s not a deal breaker for me. I just think some time with the editing shears might make the whole thing tighter. If you’re a horror fan and looking for something to laugh at without making you feel bad for being a horror fan, OMG…WE’RE IN A HORROR MOVIE! will surely do the trick.

New this week on DVD/BluRay from IFC Midnight and The Shout Factory!


Directed by Bruce McDonald
Written by Pascal Trottier
Starring Chloe Rose, Robert Patrick, Rossif Sutherland, Rachel Wilson, Luke Bilyk, Peter DaCunha, Victoria Obermayer, Emir Hirad Mokhtarieh, Nicholas Craig, Sydney Cross, Stephanie Fonceca, Adelaide Humphreys, Aliyah Jhirad, Devon Phillipson, Joe Silvaggio, Karlo William
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Beating you about the head and shoulder with metaphor that’s just a bit too obvious, HELLIONS’ tendency to play it loose with reality makes it hard to latch onto.

Dora (Chloe Rose) is a rebellious teen who skips school with her pot smoking boyfriend and just found out that she is pregnant. Choosing to stay in on Halloween night, she is tormented by what first seems like rambunctious kids, but when the head of her boyfriend is found in one of the weird little kids’ trick or treat bags, she realizes their brand of tricks are real and deadly. Now Dora must make her way through a dream-like world where down is left and up is right trying to make sense of it all and survive the night.

After directing PONTYPOOL, anything from Bruce McDonald is worth checking out in my book. The guy has a unique style of filmmaking that twists modern tropes and makes them feel brand new. He made zombies interesting and trippy again in PONTYPOOL and here he attempts to do the same thing with “babysitter alone in the house” flicks. The thing is, I think this time around, McDonald went a little too far into trippy dippy land and delivered a film that is all dressing and no meat. After a relatively grounded beginning, Dora falls into a dream-like realm at about the halfway point where the sky has a toxic film negative glow, pumpkins explode for no real reason, and wind storms break out indoors. Reality continues to chip away as the film goes on until nothing seems real at all. I felt like I was in for one of those “it was all a dream endings” but McDonald thankfully doesn’t do that. Instead, he goes to the opposite extreme and provides no explanation at all as to why the world has gone wonky around Dora once she finds out she is going to be a mommy. I don’t always need to know the reasons behind the horror, but when things get so insane and there’s no explanation or even a shred of reality to cling to, it succeeds at being a collection of disturbing imagery, but fails at being a compelling narrative.

Beyond the exploding pumpkins and screaming masked kids, this is a story about unwanted pregnancy and McDonald goes out of his way to explain that through metaphor so thick that even the most dense of viewers will pick it up. Earlier scenes where Dora sees blood seeping out of a pig statue and is transfixed with a model of a fetus when she first finds out about her pregnancy suggests that this is a rich commentary on not only unwanted pregnancy, but the struggles of a teenager not wanting to tell her parents about said pregnancy. Even the children’s constant assaults on Dora signify the struggles she is going through as to whether or not she should keep the baby or not. Had this film kept just one pinky toe firmly on the ground, I might have liked it more. But the fact that this film, like PONTYPOOL on a much lesser scale, ends ambiguously, with no explanation or no sense of what happened in the last 90 minutes, makes it all feel like a pointless endeavor.

Somewhere within all of the dense metaphor is a really decent horror movie. Chloe Rose has a Maika Monroe feel to her and she is quite charismatic here as the expecting teen. Robert Patrick shows up in another role where he plays a cop. The kids, while looking like they were swiped from the TRICK R’ TREAT set, really are creepy. And McDonald does imbue this film with some tense and disturbing imagery. The score is creepy at first, but the chanting kids become more grating and it ends up being extremely repetitious. But the main problem with HELLIONS is that too much time is spent making things look creepy and because of that, it hurts the story to most. I imagine those more literal minded will be infuriated by the ending that explains nothing and comes to no resolution. While ambiguity can be one of the most terrifying things, it also can kill a film if there is too much of it. I fear HELLIONS might have a bit too much ambiguity for its own good.

New this week on iTunes and available on DVD and On Demand February 1st!


Directed by Aaron Keeling, Austin Keeling
Written by Natalie Jones, Aaron Keeling, Austin Keeling
Starring Emily Goss, Taylor Bottles, Cathy Barnett, Jim Korinke, Natalie Pellegrini, Tisha Swart-Entwistle, Keagon Ellison, Daniel Shirley, Robert Jones, Jeannie Blau, Cayla Kunkel, Chelby Kunkel
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While films like the INSIDIOUS, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, and CONJURING films are trying their damndest to make the haunted house subgenre intolerable, films like THE HOUSE ON PINE STREET come along and make it all so interesting once again.

Expectant mother Jennifer (Emily Goss) doesn’t want to move away from her job and friends in Chicago, but her husband Luke (Taylor Bottles) has found a new job and home in Jennifer’s home town and they decide to move into a fixer-upper for a short while. Unhappy about being pregnant and missing her Chicago life, Jennifer becomes increasingly unsettled with her living situation despite Luke’s acceptance of the place. But it’s not just Jennifer’s longing for the city that is making her want to leave. The longer she stays there, the longer Jennifer feels there is a presence in the house. Doors open and close. Boxes move. And something dark is creeping in the corners. When Jennifer attempt to talk about this with her husband and friends, they think she is becoming mentally unstable due to pregnancy hormones, but the house seems to up the ante in terror every time Jennifer is alone in the house.

The scenario above is not entirely original. ROSEMARY’S BABY dealt with perceived hysteria in those who are pregnant long ago. More recently, I reviewed the yet-to-be-released, but still damn excellent THE SUBLET which dealt with a lot of the same themes and issues about a woman, left alone, and left to make the house with the pressure of a pregnancy looming over her head and taking the form of an evil presence. In THE HOUSE OF PINE STREET, this theme is concisely dealt with in controlled bursts. The theme is a strong one and dealt with in an adult and sophisticated manner paying close attention to the characters to get us invested and then unleashing spooky hell on us in slow, but ever increasing beats.

As the audience, we see the film through Jennifer’s eyes, but they are biased ones. She clearly doesn’t want to be in the home away from the big city, she doesn’t seem to like being pregnant, and the certainly doesn’t like being near her mom. With this much griping, you’d think the character of Jennifer would be unlikable as all get out, but like Mia Farrow in ROSEMARY’S BABY and Tianna Nori in THE SUBLET, we’re on Jennifer’s side because she represents something that is still held near and dear in this jaded and apathetic world; the pregnant woman. She represents the potential home that is being made in this film and is also that which we long to protect at all costs because she holds some thing innocent within her. Though she doesn’t necessarily like her situation, I was able to give her a pass because of her pregnancy and because I get to see the weird and spooky shit that happen along the way putting her in danger. It also helps that Emily Goss is likable despite her problems and we see that what is being labeled as hysteria is actually happening, or at least it’s perceived to be from the perspective of the viewer.

This movie got to me. It crept down my spine with the creaking doors, the creeping shadows, and items moving from one section of the room to another. Again, these are not entirely original images, but the way directors Aaron and Austin Keeling dole these frights out with excruciating patience affected me in a way many films of its like didn’t. THE HOUSE ON PINE STREET is high on mood, tension, and atmosphere. The acting is top tier with Goss offering up a nuanced and star-making performance and Taylor Bottles doing a great job of struggling with his love for his wife and the fear that she is going insane and could hurt the baby. This tale of building a new family in a new home is palpable and real here. THE HOUSE ON PINE STREETS hits all the right notes to be a familiar, yet expertly effective haunted abode film.

New this week in select theaters from Amplify and YouTube Red!


Directed by Matt Hullum
Written by Matt Hullum, Burnie Burns, Joshua Flanagan, Chris Demarais
Starring Burnie Burns, Gavin Free, Colton Dunn, Michael Jones, Alan Ritchson, Alexandria DeBerry, Jeremy St. James, Johnny Walter, Michaela J. Burton, Chris Demarais, Steve Shearer, Benjamin Scott, Irina Voronina
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Allow me the luxury of dipping my pinky toe into the sci fi pool here in AICN HORROR and point you in the direction of LASER TEAM, a potent mix of sci fi, comedy, and the superhero genre that should not be missed.

Adam (Alan Ritchson, WB’s attempt at AQUAMAN) has been trained all of his life by the government to take on an intergalactic threat that was received years ago from deep space. Using this message, Adam becomes the peak of human perfection to battle a menace from the stars and as the military moves in to receive their final message before the attack, a group of dolts accidentally intercept the message and the battle armor Adam was to receive. The four; a town sheriff who dropped the ball in the big game years ago, the town drunk, the town idiot, and the current high school football champion, bone-headedly put on pieces of the armor, not knowing that it seals permanently to them once on. Now Adam must train these idiots to be battle ready in four days because that’s when the threat from the stars arrives.

Heavy on comedy, this sci fi romp hits its target most of the time with the clever, yet rudimentary humor from comedy troupe Rooster Teeth. Relying heavily on the personalities of this quartet of dunderheads, LAZER TEAM feels more like a Three Stooges film of old. The humor is slapsticky and mostly comes from the inner bickerings of the group unfortunate enough to be trapped with the alien fighting armor stuck to them while the dire situation around them takes things seriously. This makes for some fun scenes of the four stumbling through training and attempting to be the heroes no one believes them to be.

There are lines in LAZER TEAM that had me roaring with laughter; most of them well timed comments on how idiotic the situation is that the team finds themselves in. Everything from the tightness of the battle suits they are wearing to the length of the “Hey” you receive from a girl indicating how much she wants to jump your bones is all the stuff huge belly laughs are made of.

The focus here is mainly on the comedy, though the effects and all that goes with sci fi films are utilized as well. What CG is used is done well and a cut above what one usually sees in low fi horror/sci fi graphics. The low budget really isn’t a factor here as the focus here is on the engaging comedic deliveries from the cast and the effects are used smartly and sparingly. The final moments of this film suggest more LAZER TEAM adventures in the future. I’m hoping there will be since this first outing for the team was full of fun and deserves to be seen by all who love light-hearted sci fi in the vein of GALAXY QUEST. Highly recommended.

Advance Review: Premiered on the opening night of the 2016 Slamdance Film Festival!


Directed by Adam Rifkin
Written by Penn Jillette
Starring Missi Pyle, Penn Jillette, Harry Hamlin, Hayes MacArthur, Lin Shaye, Gilbert Gottfried, Adam Rifkin, Marshall Bell, Nestor Carbonell, Bree Olson, Teller, Dean Cameron, Robert Belushi, Diana Terranova, Kirsty Hill, Shawn C. Phillips, Lexi Love, Bridey Elliott
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

There are some people who go to horror films to be entertained. That’s the mainstream horror crowd. But there is another area of horror that doesn’t necessarily offer up a good time, but it succeeds in giving you a feeling of utter discomfort. Now, the two sometimes overlap, but while some are put off by that, I often feel that these films that offer up these feelings of unease are the type of pure horror films that don’t come along often. DIRECTOR’S CUT is one of those films.

Standup comedian/magician Penn Gillette plays Herbert Blount, an obsessed fan of real life actress Missi Pyle (CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, BIG FISH, GALAXY QUEST) who is in the middle of filming a generic detective film about a serial killer imitating serial killers. Blount, who is independently wealthy, has bought his way onto the set and been given a producer credit in hopes to get closer to Missi. As Blount realizes the film isn’t doing justice to his beloved Missi, he decides to kidnap her and film the rest of the movie himself using rudimentary green screen and computer effects he has in his basement.

While this film wants to come off as a straight up comedy, Penn Gillette’s performance as Blount is absolutely horrifying. Everything from his permed hair to his wide eyes and cartoonish clothing makes him look more like a comic book super-villain than someone we should be feeling for as the narrator of this story. Watching him stalk, abduct, and manipulate Missi Pyle took me to an embarrassing place of absolute discomfort. I have to commend Gillette for giving a performance that gets under one’s skin and really makes you want to take a cleansing shower. Reminiscent of obsession-fueled films like PLAY MISTY FOR ME and KING OF COMEDY, DIRECTOR’S CUT has a dark side that will unnerve you.

But the problem is, I think the folks behind this might have wanted it to be a comedy and I don’t know if it necessarily works in that way. Because of Gillette’s absolutely unlikable performance, it made it hard to get invested in this film and the bits that are supposed to be funny aren’t funny at all because it is seen through the eyes of an absolute creep.

Mark Duplass’ turn as an absolute creep in CREEP (reviewed here) was one of my favorite horror films of the year as it really delved deep into how someone can be sucked in and manipulated by a commanding force. I wish DIRECTOR’S CUT was as powerful a movie, but I don’t think it is. It will unnerve. Gillette’s frantic and awkward performance will make you feel like worms are under your skin. His crude way of filmmaking is equally messed up. This is a tough movie to review and one I don’t know if I can recommend, but if you’re looking for uncomfortable experiences, DIRECTOR’S CUT has them in spades. Not necessarily funny, but horrifying in its intention and execution, DIRECTOR’S CUT is a true type of horror. Just not an entertaining type of horror.

And finally…here’s another horrific radio play from yesteryear. This episode of Light’s Out features Master of Macabre Boris Karloff from 1938 entitled “The Dream.” Sit back, turn down the lights and listen to Light’s Out: The Dream!

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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