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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Welcome to the darker side of AICN! Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This week brings us another batch of indie horror as well as some classics fro yesteryear. But before that, here are a few bits you might find interesting!

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THE HUDSON HORROR SHOW #13 takes place in the South Hills Cinema 8 in Poughkeepsie on Saturday, May 14th, 2016! They’ve just announced their lineup and it’s anther great batch of classics; DOLEMITE, JAWS 2, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, and NIGHTBREED all off of vintage 35mm film! There’ll be two mystery films added the roster as well.

You can find out more about tickets, vendors, and everything else by checking out the website here! Below is the trailer for the show with all the details!

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: MASTER OF THE WORLD (1961)
Retro-review: THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA (1976)
Advance Review: WE GO ON (2015)
And finally…”Light’s Out: Cat Wife!”

Retro-review: New this week in the Vincent Price Collection III from the Shout Factory!


Directed by William Witney
Written by Richard Matheson (screenplay), Jules Verne (novels)
Starring Vincent Price, Charles Bronson, Henry Hull, Mary Webster, David Frankham, Richard Harrison, Vito Scotti, Wally Campo
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

While there’s a lot of hokiness and a little of out of place slapstick, MASTER OF THE WORLD succeeds mostly because of Vincent Price’s conviction and a megalomaniacal theme that is darker than the film allows.

When a group of adventurers (Charles Bronson, Henry Hull, Mary Webster, David Frankham) decided to investigate the seismic activity from a nearby mountain, they uncover a giant war dirigible called the Albatros and it’s menacing captain Robur (Price) who has designs to make peace on earth by holding the world hostage and threatening to unleash hell from above down upon any country who denies him his rightful place as Master of the World!

Price is amazing here as Robur. This was a part Price was born to play in his grandiose and over the top manner. Similar to his pious Matthew Hopkins role from WITCHFINDER GENERAL, Price sells his over the top concept of using a war machine to bring peace as he leans over the ship’s wheel and pontificates about his goals. This is one of Price’s more evil roles as he tortures his hostages by dangling them from the ship by a rope when they don’t follow his orders, though when he thinks they have perished, he seems actually concerned for them. It’s this kind of complexity of character that Price is able to pull off like no other.

Offsetting this dire world-conquering tone, though, is a quirky cook who breaks the fourth wall like he’s a parrot telephone on THE FLINTSTONES. When the ship is under attack, the action cuts to this cook in his kitchen crying when his dishes are falling and breaking. While there’s nothing entirely adult going on (this is simply a high flying adventure tale by one of the kings of unique adventure Jules Verne), it kind of kills the heft of the scene when these cuts occur. It’s also kind of unintentionally funny as Robur makes his hostages wear little sailor spandex outfits with blue stripes, deputizing them on his crew. There’s also quite a bit of stock footage peppered in of attempts at air flight and a bizarre battle in Africa where a horse riding cavalry take on a bunch of natives riding camels and ostriches. The difference in stock is apparent and makes the high stakes war works at play feel somewhat trite.

Still Price makes this film worth seeking out and it’s got a very young Charles Bronson who is slightly miscast as the rugged hero as the role requires some nuance that the actor simply isn’t best suited for. Bronson is fun though as the Han Solo Alpha Male of the group. While the tone of the film is all over the place, this wonky little film is less horror as it features one of horrors best actors doing what he does best. The scenes of the miniature flying battle balloon is actually quite amazingly realized as well. As fun as this movie is, I really enjoyed the supplementary material on this disk, specifically a full feature length interview with Richard Matheson on his life, career, and works that I found to be utterly fascinating.

Retro-review: New this week as a BluRay Collection from Arrow Films/MVD Visual!


Directed by Matt Cimber
Written by Robert Thom
Starring Millie Perkins, Lonny Chapman, Vanessa Brown, Peggy Feury, Jean Pierre Camps, Mark Livingston, Rick Jason, Stafford Morgan, Richard Kennedy, George 'Buck' Flower, Roberta Collins, Stan Ross, Lynne Guthrie, Gene Rutherford, Jim Sims, John F. Goff, Verkina Flower
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

This psychologically twisted pretzel of a movie is a perverse and effective descent into madness tale of abuse and murder.

THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA stars THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK’s Millie Perkins as Molly, a seemingly free-wheelin’ 70’s liberated lady who works in a bar by night, drinking and doing too many drugs and hooking up with whomever guy she meets. By day, Molly works off her hangovers by watching her two nephews while her sister works as a seamstress, telling them wild tales of adventure, usually involving her father, a sailor who was lost at sea. At least that’s what Molly tells them, but as the story goes on, the audience is made privy to what actually happened to Molly and her sister’s father. It turns out pappy wasn’t a very nice sailor, and the sexual and physical abuse Molly endured as a kid is starting to seep into her adult life. As Molly’s fantasy of a magical childhood begin to crumble, she suffers a psychotic break and the men she hooks up with end up lacking a pulse.

While the title may suggest a supernatural film, THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA is anything but. This is a deeply effective psychological horror film that very realistically shows one woman’s psyche slowly fracturing. Molly has buried her abuse deeply in fantasy, but as her nephews grow up and ask questions about their grandfather, it opens old wounds. Molly is able to contain her psychosis in front of her nephews, but when she is propositioned sexually, the abuse comes back. This is a fascinating study of how abuse can fester when buried and while the budget is low, the understanding of abuse and how it affects an adult (especially in the sexually free days of the 70’s).

There is a lot of hokiness going on in this film. Some of the scenes run on a little too long such as the scene where Molly seduces two football players and ties them to a bed before killing them. There is a police procedural aspect of the film that really doesn’t feel very convincing. And the ending is wrapped up a bit too neat and tidy with a lot of coincidences happening at once. But while much of the acting is stilted and the story gets a little too convenient in the end, Millie Perkins is amazing in the lead role. She is fragile one minute and downright terrifying the next. Just a fantastic performance.

THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA is as much a cautionary tale of the promiscuity of the 70’s as it is a fascinating example of dark and hidden secrets uncovered. But instead of a stalker slashing coeds having sex, the killer could be the person one is most intimate with and you don’t even know it until its too late. The scenes of Molly’s abuse are tough to take as the flashbacks get pretty graphic, but this only gives reason for the horrors Molly unleashes. This is an unapologetic film that will take you on a psychological rollercoaster whether you are prepared for it or not.

New o DVD from MVD Visual and Tomcat Films!


Directed by Stephen Folker
Written by Stephen Folker
Starring Dave Juehring, Trena Penson, Glenn Harston, Thomas Ely Sage, Tristan Coppola, Jim Nieciecki, Robert Kemp, Linden Clayborne, Amelia Atkinson, Stephen Folker, Erik Schaffer, & Ric James as the Field Freak!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Calling FIELD FREAK a low budgeter is kind. This attempt at making a family friendly Bigfoot flick has a few bright moments, but the amateur acting and rudimentary effects really makes this one a hard pill to swallow.

The Bear family move to a summer home in a country town so Papa Bear, known as Charles in the film and played by Dave Juehring, can finish his latest book. But almost immediately, the family begins to be tormented by a giant bipedal beast in the woods. As the attacks on the house become more brazen, the exterminator insists that it’s the work of angry beavers. But the one legged root beer salesman (Glenn Hartson) knows it’s a Field Freak aka a Bigfoot and this one has his sights set on mating with Mama Bear!

I must admit, FIELD FREAK has some genuinely funny moments during its runtime. A lot of it comes from the lead Dave Juehring who has some fun comedic timing as a hapless dad trying to by macho. There are a few scenes; such as the one where he tries to show his son how to throw rocks and when he drinks his sorrows away when his wife leaves him for not being able to protect her that were actually quite fun. There is a quaintness to this film that is pretty undeniable, as if it was made for shits and giggles with good intentions in mind.

But good intentions don’t always make for good cinema and FIELD FREAK is pretty rudimentary cinema. First off, once again, a dime store gorilla suit is used for the monster itself, which is always disappointing. Lines from mostly everyone are stilted and cardboard-like. The directing is flat and the action scenes, trying to keep the gorilla suit from being seen full on, are choppy and hard to understand. Still, for DIY film freaks, this isn’t the worst I’ve seen. I like the idea that the middle aged woman is the object of Bigfoot’s eye, at least when he isn’t ripping the legs off of people. This is a harmless, yet hapless, low fi film, so go in with expectations set to ground level.

New this week on DVD from Scorpio Releasing/MVD Visual!


Directed by Richard Griffin
Written by Michael Varrati
Starring Anna Rizzo, Michael Thurber, Jamie Lyn Bagley, Jamie Dufault, Sean Leser, Monica Saviolakis, Kevin Michael Strauss, Tiffany Lee Ferris, Ryan Nunes, Samantha Acampora, Laura Minadeo, Andrew Morais, Rich Tretheway, Andrew Andrade, Aaron Andrade as the Devil!
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Gah! Killer Nuns!

One of the more satisfying things to experience from doing this here AICN HORROR column is watching a low budget director evolve and grow over a span of a few films. It’s interesting to me to see a director or a writer learn from past mistakes and improve upon them. Thus is the case with MURDER UNIVERSITY, FRANKENSTEIN’S HUNGRY DEAD, THE SINS OF DRACULA, EXHUMED, and THE DISCO EXORCIST director Richard Griffin. In his new film, he seems to be intent on making an 80’s throwback religious horror film in FLESH FOR THE INFERNO and is pretty successful in doing so.
When a trio of nuns confront a catholic priest about his infidelities with young alter boys in the church, he lashes back and walls them into the basement Amontillado-style. The nuns make a deal with Satan to make the priest pay, no matter how long it takes. Jutt to present day and a group of kids are assigned to refurbish the rundown church find themselves trapped inside with the trio of nuns happy to unleash unholy vengeance upon them.

While some of the rough edges that occurred in his previous films (such as cardboard characterization and clumsy introductions of said characters by describing them with one single trait to distinguish them from one another), FLESH FOR THE INFERNO does a lot of fun stuff with old school horror effects and low fi ingenuity. Floating possessed, accompanied with some low budget, but effective gross-out horror makes this film a lot of fun to sit through. While the acting leaves a lot to be desired, there are some fun lines and comedic deliveries making this nuns amok flick worthwhile. If you squint a little at FLESH FOR THE INFERNO, you almost feel as if this is one of those old school horror flicks you happen upon at your local video store, which for me, is the highest compliment I can give a film of this type.

New this week in select theaters from Uncork’d Entertainment!


Directed by Phil Wurtzel
Written by Phil Wurtzel
Starring Cary Elwes, Shelby Young, Michael Welch, Alexandria DeBerry, Scott T. Whitesell, Nancy Lynette Parker, Lauren Rys Martin, Patrick Floch, Jordan Burgess, Penelope Alex, Philip David Black, Bethany Edlund
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

A HAUNTING IN CAWDOR has some atmosphere, decent acting, and a slightly metaphysical concept. They just forgot one thing…to make it scary.

A group of troubled young adults are assigned to a work release detention camp to learn life skills, deal with their issues that brought them there, and maybe graduate from the program with a new chance at life. That’s what highly strung counselor Lawrence O’Neal (Cary Elwes) would like to see happen. But when the traumatized Vivian Miller (Shelby Young) arrives, she immediately begins hallucinating that she is seeing spirits and having nightmares. Are these spirits real or is it all in Vivian’s head? As the camp puts together a play of MACBETH, the tragic Shakespearian tale hits a little close to home for Vivian. When bodies start piling up, all eyes go toward the crazy girl? But something more evil seems to be happening.

A HAUNTING IN CAWDOR would have felt right at home in the mid-nineties when every horror film was following the SCREAM template; setting up a disturbed heroine and a bunch of young attractive suspects and having the big Scooby Doo reveal at the end as to who the real killer is. This film feels like a throwback, but because those films were derivative in the first place to eighties slashers, those nostalgic pangs just don’t ring true here. The mystery is threadbare. There’s some kind of supernatural stuff going on, but little is explained. But the worst offense of them all is that it’s not a bit scary. Making the killer just some dude in a hoodie and keeping things relatively blood free, A HAUNTING IN CAWDOR shoots high but just doesn’t have the momentum to get very far. It’s a story told many times before that doesn’t even follow its own logic by the end. File this one right there with the rest of the A HAUNTING IN… films, which never really proved to be effective in terms of story or scares.

New this week On Demand from Marvista Digital Entertainment!


Directed by Sean Cain
Written by Jake Helgren
Starring Jessica Lee Keller, Lindsey Sporrer, Greg Evigan, Leslie Easterbrook, Dillon Cavitt, Evan Miller, Sarah Joy Byington, Heath Allyn, Mark Hanson, Craig Nigh, Sam Stinson, David Lee Hess
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

TERROR BIRDS is much like the typical ScyFy CG fests that they seem to specialize in. The difference between this film and the rest of those types of films is that TERROR BIRDS is surprisingly fun.

When a birdwatcher wanders into a fenced in habitat housing gigantic velociraptor-like birds with an appetite for human flesh, his daughter tracks him on GPS and brings a bunch of friends with her as bird food.

I had a blast with this film and I know I shouldn’t have, but I did. The way the terror birds spastically run after their prey, tucking their flightless wings under them and running like a steroid induced chicken ticked me every time. While the CG is not the best, I have definitely seen worse. Maybe it’s because this one occurs on land and not at sea with CG splashes making no ripples in the water. Whatever it was, the effects, along with the semi-self-aware story and the talented cast—including familiar faces like POLICE ACADEMY’s Leslie Easterbrook as a bird expert and BJ & THE BEAR’s Greg Evigan, but also fresh young talent like Jessica Lee Keller, Lindsey Sporrer, and Sarah Joy Byington, made for an entertaining monster romp.

TERROR BIRDS is not to be taken too seriously. But this giant monster chickens run amok film is popcorn fun that is a cluck above the usual ScyFy style monster films.

New this week on DVD from Midnight Releasing!


Directed by Patrick Kennelly
Written by Sigrid Gilmer, Patrick Kennelly
Starring Bethany Orr, Mary Loveless, Wes McGee, Kristin Minter, Jill Jacobson, Sheresade Poblet, Dana L. Wilson, Robert Maffia, Jules Bruff, Juan Riedinger, Saif Xnaydra, Braeden Baade, Allen Rueckert, Phoebe Neidhardt, Doug Locke
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I can watch the goriest film with all kinds of eviscerations, decapitations, and guttings, and not even flinch. But there’s something about watching people eat that makes my stomach churn. Maybe there’s a disconnect between the glossy and bright red effects. Maybe it’s the sickly grey look of food once it is minced in ones mandibles. I don’t know. But seeing someone chomp and slurp food is something I would rather not watch. So, as you would expect, EXCESS FLESH, which focuses on both eating disorders and unhealthy friendships, was a film that was hard for me to get through.

I don’t want to say that this film was bad. It’s a film that looks good and is slickly made. The acting is fantastic and the two leads Bethany Orr (who plays Jill) and Mary Loveless (as Jennifer) are spectacular in their roles that take them to the depths of sanity. Both actresses go to places that make them look like monsters and they are unafraid of going there.

The main problem is that this film is almost too good at making these two women so disgusting that I had trouble finding redeeming qualities in either of them. The outgoing Jennifer is absolutely horrible to her reclusive roommate Jill, which makes you want to root for Jill. But when Jill turns and chains Jennifer to a wall because she won’t spend time with her, things get dark and soon no one is without sin. What transpires is filled with partially eaten, rotting, and sometimes regurgitated food coupled with many, many extreme close-ups of eating which, as you read above, is something that nauseated me to my core.

EXCESS FLESH is a garbage slicked slide into insanity. It will churn stomachs. It will slime its way past limits of good taste. It is also extremely well made and despite the fact that it made my stomach gurgle a few times, it is effectively adept at causing feelings of utter disgust. You’ve been warned.

New this week on DVD and On Demand!


Directed by Dan Riesser
Written by Andrew Genser, Dan Riesser
Starring John Bobek, Tarah DeSpain, Jeramy Blackford, Joseph Allen Cavin, Huntington Daly, Thad Bateman, Justin Giddings, Michael Lee Kimel, Theresa Tilly, Sarah Simmons Turner, Gabe Wood, and Kurt Carley as the Bigfoot!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

STOMPING GROUND really waits until the final act to qualify itself as a horror film, but that doesn’t mean the trip there isn’t entertaining.

Before I jump into the review, here’s a special clip from the film!

The story focuses on a common predicament among couples—that is, going to your significant other’s home town to meet family, friends, and really, find out what type of person your significant other was growing up. We often aren’t the same people we were after leaving home, experiencing new things and growing as people and while home stays the change, the old adage that you can’t go home again is often true. That’s the conflict new couple Ben (John Bobek) and Annie (Tarah DeSpain) find themselves in when Ben accompanies Annie back to her home town over a holiday break. Unfolding like a rom com, Ben finds out a few things about his girlfriend he didn’t know and Annie starts to think about things she hasn’t thought about since leaving. All of it leads to conflict which plays out in a secluded forest as Annie brings Ben along to take part in a pastime she used to take part in with her best friend/ex boyfriend Paul (Jeramy Blackford) and another childhood pal Jed (Justin Giddings); that pastime being Sasquatch hunting. When the group gets lost and the Squatch gets close, Ben and Annie come to a turning point in their relationship.

Now, I’m not one for rom coms, but writer/director Dan Riesser and writer Andrew Genser really did a great job of capturing the uncomfortable feeling one has when finding out that your significant other actually had a life before meeting you. Sure it’s a selfish thing, but when you’re dating a girl, you don’t want to know your girl was a heavy drinking wild child and you certainly don’t want to meet any of her exes. Sure, SCOTT PILGRIM made it all seem trendy and cool, but really, it just leads to discomfort. And this story, played out by these talented actors does a great job of making this feel real, but not forgetting to add the comedic elements. The comedy, though, doesn’t necessarily come from any sitcom antics, but from the familiarity of the situation and the brutal honesty the two leads convey to one another.

But I could see those attracted to this film for its rom-com-aliciousness be somewhat put off by the late in the game switcheroo to horror in the final act. Sure the threat of a Bigfoot is always there from pretty much the beginning, but while this film warmed my heart for most of the time, it startled me at how full on horror it gets. Personally, I liked this surprise turn of events, but I bet not everyone will.

For me, STOMPING GROUND is a highly successful relational drama with some Bigfoot horror sprinkled in for good measure. I must admit that it is a bit uneven as the switch to horror comes a bit late in the game, but the quality of the relationship stuff from writing to acting to directing made me stick with it all the way and it only built my investment in getting out of this Squatchy situation alive. Successful in warming the heart and chilling the bones, STOMPING GROUND was a whole lot of fun to watch.

Advance Review: Currently touring festivals! Premiered this week at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose!

WE GO ON (2015)

Directed by Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton
Written by Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton
Starring Clark Freeman, Annette O'Toole, John Glover, Laura Heisler, Peter Lucas, Jay Dunn, Justin Carpenter, Dig Wayne, Cassidy Freeman, Edwin Garcia II, Logan Kishi, Nicholas Popov
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

This spooky little number comes from the same team that brought us YELLOWBRICK ROAD a while back (reviewed here) and its evidence that the eerie feel of that film was no fluke. WE GO ON shares a plot with another recent thriller about the afterlife (THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING, reviewed here), but still manages to sheathe the viewer in an utter sense of creepiness.

Miles (the very Channing Tatum-esque Clark Freeman) is petrified of dying. So much that he decides to give $10,000 to the first person who can show him a ghost, an angel, a spirit, or any kind of proof of life after death. While his mother (Annette O’Toole) worries that his life is becoming more and more apart from the real world, she supports him thinking that this will be the only way to cure him. She also wants to look out for Miles and keep him from being taken advantage of by conmen looking to make a chunk of change. After being fooled and almost fooled by a few people, Miles finally answers a peculiar call that guarantees proof of an afterlife. But once Miles meets with this person, his life is changed forever.

What I liked about this film was that it really tells a broad scoped tale of wanting to believe in something. Freeman is convincing as Miles, terrified of pretty much everything, and the gauntlet he runs is nicely realized as he investigates a scientist (played by O’Toole’s co-star on SMALLVILLE John Glover), a medium, and billionaire, all promising the answers he is looking for. Each give him a piece of the puzzle, yet fail to convince him completely. This desperate pursuit is convincing and moving, mostly because Freeman does a great job and the story offers up various methods with which he can find these answers.

I also liked the interesting choice to have Miles’ mother (O’Toole) along for most of the movie. This could have very easily slipped into comically being about a man-boy and his protective mother, but the relationship between the two actors really works well here; again, a testament to the acting and story not going the easy route.

There are also quite a few effective scares throughout that don’t overly rely on CG and are more of the well-timed scare variety. I appreciated this as most of the time, modern ghost stories resort to a special effects extravaganza that just goes against the subtlety of the way the spirit world and this world intermingle in the rest of the film. Once Miles experiences the paranormal, he is haunted and this takes the film in a whole new direction. WE GO ON is a spooky tale with a strong emotional core. It’s a smaller scale film which succeeds on levels big budget horrors only dream of because it relies on a sensible story and a lot of character to carry it.

And finally…howzabout another old timey radio horror show? This week’s feature from the “Light’s Out” radio series is called “The Cat Wife” and it’s one of my favorites! Hopefully it’ll be one of yours!

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 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Mark 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!

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