Welcome to the darker side of AICN! Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column.
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On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: THE DUNWICH HORROR (1970)
Retro-review: DESTROYER (1988)
Retro-review: BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (1989)
Retro-review: VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1995)
VHS MASSACRE (2015)
FLIGHT 7500 (2014)
13 CAMERAS (2015)
Advance Review: SOMEBODY’S DARLING (2016)
And finally…J. Spencer’s END OF THE ROAD!
Retro-review: New on a BluRay double feature from The Shout Factory!
THE DUNWICH HORROR (1970)aka TERROR IN DUNWICH, VOODOO CHILD
Directed by Daniel Haller
Written by Curtis Hanson, Henry Rosenbaum, Ronald Silkosky, (screenplay), H.P. Lovecraft (short story)
Starring Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell, Ed Begley, Lloyd Bochner, Sam Jaffe, Joanne Moore Jordan, Donna Baccala, Talia Shire, Michael Fox, Jason Wingreen, Barboura Morris, Beach Dickerson, Jack Pierce
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Some fun but rudimentary effects and a few over the top performances make this H.P. Lovecraft adaptation one of the more interesting, albeit not the most faithful, adaptations. Still, the additions the filmmakers made in this film make for a somewhat more straightforward story, specifically the inclusion of a certain damsel in distress played by the virginal Sandra Dee.
Grad student Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee) and her mentor Dr. Henry Armitage (Ed Begley) are about to put the most valuable book in the library back in its case when an eccentric named Wilbur Whateley (Dean Stockwell) asks to see the book. Nancy allows him to do so and seems entranced by the fuzzy haired bohemian. When Armitage doesn’t allow Whateley to view the book any further, Whateley steals the book and drugs Nancy when she visits his home. It’s all a plot to appease ancient gods and quell the appetite of Whateley’s monstrous brother, who lurks behind the locked door of the Whateley mansion.
Despite the fact that it deviates quite a bit from the original story, I kind of love everything about this version THE DUNWICH HORROR. A lot of that has to do with Stockwell’s performance as the certifiably insane Wilbur. While his character is killed off early in the original story, using him as the central monster was a good move because Stockwell commits wholly to this role. Be he reciting spells in the old tongue, freaking out when his plans are sidetracked, or simply gazing penetratingly through his bushy afro, thick eyebrows, and obvious fake moustache, Stockwell does so with an intensity that screams both hammy and batshit crazy.
At the time, the attraction here, if you ask Corman, was to see the virginal Sandra Dee in see-through robes and undulating seductively on a stone slab with a tentacle monster hovering above her. Sure that’s fine and dandy, and I can understand from an entertainment news aspect, but really, Dee has a rather generic performance here as she is usually swooning under the influence of Wilbur’s spiked tea.
More impressive are the effects, and I’m not talking about Stockwell’s moustache. With the use of choppy editing, negative imagery, a bit of animation, some sweet sound work, and a good looking tentacle monster, this movie achieves very much with very little (and this being produced by Roger Corman, I’m not surprised). The monster itself if actually quite terrifying, as are the flashbacks Nancy experiences with aboriginal beings groping and attacking her. This is an unconventional and surprisingly lurid little film that really succeeded in getting under my skin. And while Lovecraft might have been put off by the changes to his story, the effects and Stockwell’s performance make THE DUNWICH HORROR one of Lovecraft’s more successful adaptations.
Retro-review: New this week on a double feature BluRay from The Shout Family!
DESTROYER (1988)aka SHADOW OF DEATH, THE EDISON EFFECT
Directed by Robert Kirk
Written by Peter Garrity, Rex Hauck, Mark W. Rosenbaum
Starring Deborah Foreman, Clayton Rohner, Lyle Alzado, Anthony Perkins, Tobias Anderson, Lannie Garrett, Jim Turner, Pat Mahoney, David Kristin, Vanessa Townsell, Bernie Welch, Robert Himber, Eric Meyer, Kurt Hubler
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
While DESTROYER shares a similarity with the openings to quite a few horror films in the 80s and 90s, specifically SHOCKER, THE HORROR SHOW, GUILTY AS CHARGED, and PRISON, this film--which attempted to start Lyle Alzado’s acting career--really doesn’t have the charge those other electrocuted serial killer yarns possess.
Ivan Moser (short-fused Raiders football player Lyle Alzado) is a bad man. We know this because he laughs creepily while squeezing a doll head and watching a “Wheel of Fortune”-like show in his jail cell just before he is led down death row to the electric chair. But Moser proves too tough for simple volts of electricity, and the feedback causes a blackout and riot at the prison. Six months later, a film crew shoots a low budget women in prison film in the closed prison from a script by David Harris (go-to geeky hero of the 80s Clayton Rohner). David’s girlfriend Susan (Deborah Foreman from VALLEY GIRL and APRIL FOOL’S DAY) plays a stand-in for the leading lady, and begins having strange visions as the shoot continues. Turns out Moser didn’t die in the electrocution and is instead caught between the land of the living and the dead--and he loves to laugh and beat the shit out of people.
This was a weird one. Alzado is pretty terrifying as Moser, mainly because he seems like he is having way too good a time beating the shit out of the stunt people playing the lead characters. The latter half of this film is a brutal chase between Moser, David, and Susan, with Moser unleashing clotheslines, body slams, and every mean wrestling move in the book. Added creepiness such as Moser eating the hair of one victim made me appreciate the extra effort Alzado put in to try to make his madman somewhat iconic.
That said, it seems Alzado is the only one who really cared to show up and do their job on this film. The writing is lazy, and not just because the exact same premise was used in other better made films, though only PRISON was released before DESTROYER, while SHOCKER and THE HORROR SHOW appeared a year later. Still, the film is littered with lame attempts at humor from the guy who played Randy of the Redwoods on MTV (because he was the hip comedian of the day—before Pauly Shore, that is) and a phoned in performance by Anthony Perkins as the director. The story relies much on coincidence and little on anything that makes a lick of sense, mainly because the rules of this world that spat Moser back into the land of the living aren’t really well thought out, so when David and Susan frantically fight Moser, we don’t really know how one lame impromptu undead slasher combat tactic works and how another doesn’t.
This leads to the usual dream ending followed by the usual “The end…or is it?” finale. Basically, every cliché from a Freddy or Jason movie are crammed in here in hopes of starting another successful horror franchise, but aside from the brutality of Alzado’s performance there really isn’t anything worth checking out in DESTROYER.
Retro-review: New this week on a special edition BluRay from Arrow Film/MVD Visual!
BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (1989)aka RE-ANIMATOR 2
Directed by Brian Yuzna
Written by Rick Fry, Woody Keith, Brian Yuzna (screenplay), H.P. Lovecraft (characters)
Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, David Gale, Kathleen Kinmont, Claude Earl Jones, Fabiana Udenio, Mel Stewart, Irene Cagen, Michael Strasser, Mary Sheldon
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR accomplishes the impossible by being a sequel worthy of one of the most influential horror films of the 80s. Extending themes and taking the main characters in new and exciting directions, Brian Yunza fills this film with moments that are goofy, gory, and fascinating!
To me, it doesn’t get much better than RE-ANIMATOR. It gives a low, deep hug to classic horror films while exemplifying the Golden Years of gore effects. It’s got a tongue-in-cheek tone and definitely serves up a lot of laughs, yet it doesn’t skimp on character, has some dire moments of danger, is rich with emotion, and succeeds in being downright chilling and unflinchingly perverse in parts. It’s a film that succeeds in being many types of movies in one, but never shies away from being a true blue horror film.
Surprisingly, BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR possesses a lot of these same qualities as the film picks up just a short time after the Miskatonic Massacre (which is what the events that occurred during the gory climax of RE-ANIMATOR are referred to as in the structure of the film), with the bent but determined Dr. Herbert West (the incomparable Jeffrey Combs) and his sleeve-hearted partner in crime Dr. Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) in Central America acting as medics on a battlefield, with West taking advantage of the abundance of spare parts to experiment on. But this only occurs for a short time, as West and Cain whisk themselves back to Miskatonic to begin their unholy experiments on the dead anew. This time, West isn’t satisfied with simply bringing the dead back to life. This time, he wants to create life and he is able to convince Cain to tag along with the carrot that he can bring the heart of his beloved Megan back to life in a brand new body. All he needs is the spare parts to do it. Meanwhile, pervert doctor turned disembodied head Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale) is found in a circus carnival and brought back to life by the hapless Dr. Graves (Mel Stewart). With all of these mad doctors around, there’s bound to be a lot of trouble brewing.
First things first: Yuzna nails the tone established by Stuart Gordon perfectly in this sequel. While there are beats that feel rehashed, such as Dr. Graves testing the reagent formula on a bat, just as West tested on Megan’s cat in the first film. But for the most part, BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR is a true sequel in that it doesn’t try to imitate what went before; it simply continues the story. The reanimated corpses from the first film are back in this one, and in tow is the husband of one of the formerly deceased cadavers that West and Hill re-awoke in the finale. The events of the first film aren’t forgotten, but West and Cain were able to cover up their involvement pretty thoroughly, allowing them back into their former jobs as residents in Miskatonic Hospital. Everything evolves organically in this story from the previous one, and while I would say the climax in this film doesn’t really stack up to the original’s, it does do a good job culminating all of the plot points of the film in an exciting and fantastically gory manner.
One of the highlights of this film is Kathleen Kinmont’s role of Gloria, a bed-ridden woman on the brink of death who proves to be the perfect head for West’s patchwork gal. While her role doesn’t call for much when she is sick, once re-animated in full puzzle piece getup, Kinmont is simply amazing as the tragic and monstrous Bride. The final scenes of this movie are utterly gory and sometimes ludicrous, but anything involving Kinmont in the final act is gold. Seeing her feel rejection and horror at what she has become is truly heartbreaking, and while the prosthetics are impressive, it’s Kinmont’s soulful performance that makes it shine.
The effects here by a score of artists including KNB Effects, Screaming Mad George, and John Carl Buechler are sublime. RE-ANIMATOR was the grand-daddy of effects, so they went all out with the sequel in hopes to top what was done in the first. Again, it’s just shy of usurping the original, but some of the effects such as the sometimes stop motion, sometimes practical effect of the eyeball finger critter and all of the other monstrosities West cobbles together with spare parts are amazing. Pair that with the full body prosthetics of the Bride and you’ve got an effects extravaganza of mammoth proportions, all of them inspired and grotesque with just a touch of whimsical play to show that this film has a sense of humor as well.
As usual, Arrow went all out with this double disc BluRay rerelease. Included as special features are brand new presentations of both the unrated and R-rated versions of the film (I recommend the unrated for ultra-gore), a new commentary track by Brian Yuzna, more commentaries by Yuzna, star Jeffrey Combs, visual effects supervisor Tom Rainone and the effects team including John Buechler, Mike Deak, Bob Kurtzman, Howard Berger and Screaming Mad George, a separate commentary from stars Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott, a new featurette called “Brian Yuzna Remembers Bride of Re-animator” which is self-explanatory, another called “Splatter Masters: The Special Effects Artists of Bride of Re-Animator” talking with the effects team, plus the classic featurette “Getting Ahead in Horror,” and some deleted scenes tossed in for good measure. If you’re a fan of RE-ANIMATOR, you’re a fan of BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR and you’re going to want to own this rerelease with all its bells and whistles.
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!
JOHN CARPENTER’S VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1995)Directed by John Carpenter
Written by John Wyndham (book), Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla, Ronald Kinnoch (1960 screenplay), David Himmelstein (screenplay)
Starring Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Paré, Meredith Salenger, Mark Hamill, Pippa Pearthree, Peter Jason, Constance Forslund, Karen Kahn, George 'Buck' Flower, and Thomas Dekker, Lindsey Haun, Cody Dorkin, Trishalee Hardy, Jessye Quarry, Chelsea DeRidder Simms, Adam Robbins, Renee Rene Simms, Danielle Keaton as the Midwich Cuckoos!
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
John Carpenter is rumored to have only taken on this remake of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED in order to get his CREATURE OF THE BLACK LAGOON film made (which never came to pass, BTW) and it’s quite obvious this was a film made under obligation, because the lack of passion abounds in this remake of the 1960 evil children tale.
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED 90s style begins much like VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED 1960, with a small town suddenly knocked unconscious by a mysterious force with the women waking up pregnant and nine months later giving birth to a group of albino kids who walk in two-by-two formation and force their parents to kill themselves. Only a government agent (the chain-smoking Kirstie Alley) and a local schoolteacher overwhelmed by the loss of his wife (Christopher Reeve) seem to have the power to withstand the little mind controllers, though the town around them seems to be falling apart at the seams.
OK, what went wrong with VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED? John Carpenter knocked it out of the park with his last remake, THE THING, so it’s not like he hadn’t tried this remake thing before. But while THE THING is probably one of the best horror films ever made, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED comes up sorely lacking. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I think Carpenter does his best work in settings that are an isolated locale. ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, HALLOWEEN, THE THING; practically all of Carpenter’s most successful films deal with some kind of isolation from the outside world (I know someone’s going to mention BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, but those had Kurt Russell’s awesomeness abounding and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK was an escape film, so just roll with me here, I’m hypothesizing). Metaphorically, I think VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED fits as the adults feel isolated from their alien-acting children, but Carpenter doesn’t really explore it in much depth. Instead, he just has the kids kill one parent after another simply by staring at them.
It doesn’t help that this film is really well lit and lacks any real scenes of tension other than kids staring creepily and adults convulsing because of the kid’s creepy staring powers. It’s kind of hard to make this scary (though Cronenberg did it successful with SCANNERS, and the original VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED did it ok). Carpenter seems to have chosen to tell the film through the perspective of the parents of the kids, which does lead to some interesting scenes, but there are so many of these instances with the parents questioning their kids’ intentions only for them to be murdered soon after that this tension loses its effect after a while. So basically, this film racks up a body count by repeating the same mind control trick over and over, which ultimately makes for a pretty dull movie.
It doesn’t help that there are plot holes all over the place here. Meredith Salenger’s character becomes pregnant, but loses the baby. Why does this happen? No real explanation other than she was a virgin before she had the kid is given. Kirstie Alley’s character takes the baby away, but we don’t see what she does with it. It seems, because she is keeping the baby wrapped and takes it away so quickly, it might actually be alive, but this is never elaborated on. It would have been especially interesting to see what one of the little albino kids would have been like separated from its flock, but that never really happens. Also, the overall motivation of the kids is really never fleshed out. What do they want to happen next after they mind murder the entire town? No answer.
What we do get is a film that doesn’t really delve deeply into anything long enough to care. Reeves and Alley aren’t meant to have chemistry, but even without the need to toss them in the sack with each other, they both feel pretty robotic in their roles. Maybe if the characters were forced into a relationship there would have been some sparks with these characters, but because Reeve’s first love interest kills herself and his new love interest isn’t the leading lady in the film, these relationships feel somewhat inconsequential. The fact that Reeve’s accident occurred a month after this film’s release always put a bit of a pall over this film for me as well, though that’s more of a bad coincidence than anything else and is more of a shame given the blandness he brought to this role.
All in all, apart from one kind of cool shockeroo death by BBQ, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED is pretty mundane from start to finish. Had it been darker, had the script been leaner and more well thought out, had the actors actually cared instead of acting more robotic than the emotionless kids, I think this would have been a much better movie. As is, see the original; it’s much more effective.
New this week on Troma Now!
VHS MASSACRE: CULT FILMS AND THE DECLINE OF PHYSICAL MEDIA (2015)Directed by Kenneth Powell, Thomas Edward Seymour
Starring Mike Aransky, Alan Bagh, Troy Bernier, John Bloom, Dick Boland, Ron Bonk, Carmine Capobianco, Juliette Danielle, Chris Ferry, Matt Ford, Mark Frazer, Jonathan Gorman, Philip Guerette, Phil Hall, Lloyd Kaufman, Debbie Rochon, David Leute, Ellen Muth, James Nguyen, Kenneth Powell, Nick Prueher, Deborah Reed, Whitney Moore, James Richardson, David Royal, Josh Schafer, Greg Sestero, Bruce Seymour, Thomas Edward Seymour, Eric Swain, Girard Tecson, Jason West
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
One of the more depressing documentaries I’ve seen in quite a while was VHS MASSACRE: CULT FILMS & THE DECLINE OF PHYSICAL MEDIA. Being a child of the Eighties, I fondly remember taking a trip to Sounds Easy Video or Curtis Mathis Video, and even occasionally Video Hospital, in Lima, Ohio every Friday and Saturday. My brother and I would peruse the horror and martial arts sections, eventually settling on two with the most awesome box cover art and then setting out to convince our mom into letting us rent the sure to be horrible video. It’s because of these memories that I am the through and through horror fan I am today, so watching a film focusing on how those mom and pop video stores went the way of the dodo hit me pretty hard.
Through interviews with Lloyd Kaufman, Debbie Rochon, and Joe Bob Briggs, as well as various video store owners, collectors, and enthusiasts, Kenneth Powell and Thomas Edward Seymour do a pretty thorough job of walking through the slow death of the video store in American culture. This doc elaborates on the debate between Beta and VHS, the birth of DVD and BluRay, and how downloading and streaming may be the final death knell for physical copies of films. But all is not lost, as the film explains that there has been somewhat of a retro-resurgence for VHS recently as well as talking about how we as the viewers can help save this type of media by refusing to pirate tapes and supporting low budget filmmakers and their distributors.
This was a really fantastic documentary that didn’t leave me too down, as the filmmakers seemed to have had a blast making it. There seems to be hope in the collectors’ market for physical media, so that’s a plus, and the doc has some fun snippets as filmmaker Thomas Edward Seymour searches far and wide for a store that features his indie film MARK OF THE BEAST (which I reviewed a while back here and recommend to fans of Rudyard Kipling and good indie cinema) only to find way too many copies of MAGIC MIKE and the crew scour thrift shops to find the most obscure video tapes and compete to see who found the oddest of the bunch. While I still lament the good old days of checking out videos (hell, even the $1.00 rewind charges were kind of quaint), this film at least gives those of us lucky enough to remember those days something to feel nostalgic about. Fans of VHS or those curious about the history of media will definitely want to check out VHS MASSACRE, as it does a deft job of mapping out an outdated but still fun method of watching movies.
New this week on DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment!
FLIGHT 7500 (2014)aka 7500, FLIGHT 75, 7500: DESTINATION DEATH
Directed by Takashi Shimizu
Written by Craig Rosenberg
Starring Leslie Bibb, Ryan Kwanten, Amy Smart, Jamie Chung, Scout Taylor-Compton, Nicky Whelan, Jerry Ferrara, Christian Serratos, Alex Frost, Rick Kelly, Johnathon Schaech, Ben Sharples
Find out more about this film Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
From the director of THE GRUDGE, FLIGHT 7500 actually succeeded in maintaining my interest with an eclectic cast, a weird premise, and a nice little high altitude mystery.
The passengers and crew of FLIGHT 7500 are unaware that on their flight there is an evil force. It’s not a vampire in a coffin or a crate of zombies or a hatbox full of snakes or a screaming Samuel L. Jackson, but it is something deadly. When a passenger dies suddenly, the rest of the passengers and crew are shaken, but they are not prepared for the turbulence ahead.
I am trying to keep things ambiguous here because this film works when you don’t know much going into it. I was swept up in the mystery, trying to categorize the threat as a virus or a zombie plague, and while this film takes its sweet time answering those questions, the tightly wound tension-filled scenes placated me until they came. Director Takashi Shimizu does a fantastic job of holding all of his cards here, instead focusing on a handful of passengers and crew filled with the same questions we in the audience are experiencing. This masterful use of tension is what makes this movie work. Each scene provides a piece of the puzzle. Each passenger seems to have witnessed a clue or two, but no one has all of the answers. When the answers are provided, I definitely wasn’t let down as the originality of the threat is unique and something I wouldn’t have guessed.
While he doesn’t really show leading man potential here, Ryan Kwanten is decent here as a paramedic on board who is essential in determining what is wrong with the initial sick passenger. His role isn’t necessarily a lead hero role, as this is an ensemble piece filled with fine actors with Leslie Bibb, Amy Smart, Jamie Chung, Scout Taylor-Compton, Nicky Whelan, Jerry Ferrara, and Jonathan Schaech all doing well with their roles. But while this performs as an ensemble piece, even in those stories there is a designated hero, and this film kind of either lacks that or Kwanten doesn’t really offer it up.
What this film does have is fun gory effects and nicely plotted scenes of sheer tension. FLIGHT 7500 feels like equal parts TWILIGHT ZONE and infection movie (I say infection because that’s how the passengers react to the threat rather than some kind of disease being the culprit here). Hopefully, I’ve kept this review vague enough to let you know that it’s worth checking out without revealing too much. It’s a lot of fun in a “movie of the week” kind of way that they just don’t do any more.
New this week in select theaters and On Demand from Gravitas Ventures
13 CAMERAS (2015)Directed by Victor Zarcoff
Written by Victor Zarcoff
Starring Neville Archambault, Brianne Moncrief, PJ McCabe, Sarah Baldwin, Jim Cummings, Heidi Niedermeyer
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
One of the most uncomfortable and fascinating films I’ve seen in a long time is 13 CAMERAS, an unrelentingly dark comedy of sorts with horrors that will keep you awake at night because they are so real and play on paranoias we’ve all experienced from time to time.
Clair (Brianne Moncrief) and Ryan (PJ McCabe) are a newlywed couple moving into their dream home, though their landlord Gerald (Neville Archambault) creeps them the hell out. But they don’t have to live with the landlord, right? So the newlyweds decide to take the home, but unbeknownst to them, Gerald has set up a multitude of security cameras throughout the apartment. As Clair and Ryan go about their everyday lives--cooking, cleaning, fighting, having sex, and what-not--Gerald is watching a wall of monitors and enjoying this 24 hour a day reality show starring them. But when infidelity shadows the home, Gerald puts into motion a plan to make things right and keep the home together in one piece so that his reality show doesn’t get cancelled—making him sort of a demented matchmaker of sorts, trying to manipulate things in order to feed his voyeuristic desires. As the film goes on, Gerald ups the ante and becomes more and more a part of their lives and crossing boundaries left and right without them knowing until it’s too late.
Everything about Gerald (Neville Archambault) is going to creep you out. From the kind of staggered way Gerald walks around to the heavy mouth-breathing and gravelly mutterings that escape his lips, Gerald is a character who made every inch of my skin squirm every time he was on screen. Director/writer Victor Zarcoff knows this quite well as the camera often just lingers on his wrinkled, sweaty face staring at the wall of TV monitors in his secret lair. Like the lost cousin of Laurence R. Harvey from THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II, Archambault commands every scene he is in with a sort of ultimate pathetic power that is absolutely overwhelming: fascinating to watch, yet disgusting all the same. Seeing Gerald attempt a normal interaction with Clair is as uncomfortable as jumping into a bathtub full of earthworms. Archambault’s performance is what makes this film a horror movie of the highest caliber, and he creates one of the more memorable movie bad guys you’re likely to see this year.
What also works here is the relationship between Ryan and Clair, which has all sorts of layers painting them in a multidimensional light rather than the usual cardboard characters you see in horror films. Ryan seems to be a different person with everyone he interacts with and is most disingenuous with Clair, the person who he is supposed to be closest with. But while I wanted to hate Ryan (and there was a part of me that did), the relationship with Clair is realized in a manner that highlights both characters’ faults and why they most likely are not good for each other. The reality of the relationship, which is definitely not your typical Hollywood romance, added to the reality of the threat Gerald embodies, makes 13 CAMERAS one heavy dose of real world discomfort many folks will not be able to take.
I stated this film is a comedy, as it is quite ludicrous the lengths Gerald takes in worming his way into the lives of Clair and Ryan. Sneaking in when they are gone, feeding the dog McDonalds, fixing cameras that get broken, and finding out just where some of these cameras have been placed throughout the house; all reach a level of horror that if you don’t laugh at it, you’ll crack at how uncomfortable it makes you feel. The fact that this sort of thing occurs in the real world is what makes it all the more effective, as 13 CAMERAS informs us in the opening moments. 13 CAMERAS is not a film for those who can’t take real life horror. And while it does go to an absurd level of horror by the end, the way Zarcoff expertly inches up the tension and complexity of Gerald’s involvement in the couple’s lives makes this a thriller that is on par with few others you’ll see this year. 13 CAMERAS is filled to the brim with fantastic suspense and scares that will needle their way into paranoid spaces you didn’t think you had. Highly recommended.
Available On Demand and coming soon to DVD/BluRay from IFC Midnight!
BASKIN (2015)Directed by Can Evrenol
Written by Ogulcan Eren Akay, Can Evrenol, Cem Ozuduru, Ercin Sadikoglu
Starring Muharrem Bayrak, Mehmet Akif Budak, Fadik Bülbül, Mehmet Cerrahoglu, Elif Dag, Mehmet Fatih Dokgoz, Mümin Kaar, Gorkem Kasal, Sevinc Kaya, Serhat Mustafa Kiliç, Ergun Kuyucu, Fulya Peker, Sevket Suha Tezel, Sabahattin Yakut, Seyithan Özdemir
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Some fantastic editing, simple effects, and an overall hell-bent tone make BASKIN one of the more memorable horrors of the year. This is a film that gets a lot of bang for its buck, mainly because of a few well-paced scenes of throat-clenching terror and modest yet effective effects.
BASKIN’s plot is as labyrinthine as the dark maze the five police officers find themselves lost in as they receive a distress call to the middle of nowhere that ends up being the ends of this world and any sanity associated with it.
In tone, this film resembles most JACOB’S LADDER. It’s got a twisty-turny kind of plot that flows in and out of dreams and really plays with the concept of what is real and what is all inside one unwell mind. In the end, it doesn’t really matter because as a viewer, I was taken on such a swirling descent that I appreciated all of the perverse sounds and disquieting sights I was inundated with too much to give a crap whether I knew all of the answers to this puzzle.
Swiping elements of Clive Barker’s worst nightmares and lathering them with blood, mud, and froggy slime, once in the cops’ hellish nightmare you’re going to be amazed at what is happening. The real treat here is that none of it is explained or really seen in a clear manner. There’s a sexual aspect to it all, but with all of the screaming and gore, it’s hard to find anything titillating about it all. What amazes me is that much of what we are seeing is not anything more than an elaborate and gory room one might see in an upscale haunted house, but it’s Can Evrenol’s gifted editing and camera work that highlights just enough to cause all sorts of unease that makes it all seem like something we’ve never seen and never really want to. Using dark lighting, filming around corners, and using quick cuts, what your mind’s eye puts together from all of these pieces is more terrifying than any well lit set piece could provide.
BASKIN is also a really well-acted film with a talented cast of Turkish actors, especially Gorkem Kasal, who gets a masterfully paced retelling of the bizarre dream imagery we witness before the opening credits. The other actors play mostly grizzled cop roles, but do them in a no-nonsense and gritty sort of way that makes one believe they have seen and done things that are deserving of this hellish descent.
Moving at a brisk pace, BASKIN doesn’t wait long to toss the viewer into the abyss. Filled with all kinds of unsettling gore paired with disturbing actions one can only barely understand, BASKIN is less of a narrative to be understood and more of an experiential trip through the most perverse and gruesome corners of hell. Abandon all hope ye who enter BASKIN!
Advance Review: Currently touring festivals and recently played at the Alamo Drafthouse in Texas!
SOMEBODY’S DARLING (2016)Directed by Sharad Kant Patel
Written by Sebastian Mathews (story), Sharad Kant Patel
Starring Paul Galvan, Jessa Settle, Monique Cortez, Fred Parker Jr., Matt Tramel, Kristen Tucker, Cathy Baron, Joshua Tomasik, Al Fallick, Brandon Hearnsberger, Mike Kiely, Trevor Doyle Nelson,
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
While the late in the game twist is going to be pretty obvious to horror fans, the way the serious topic of campus date rape is used in SOMEBODY’S DARLING as a pretty powerful metaphor works well.
Though she goes with her girlfriends to a fraternity party, Sarah (Jessa Settle) won’t put up with the “love ‘em and leave ‘em” antics of Christian (Paul Galvan) and his fraternity brothers. But this only intrigues Christian and as his interest grows to romantic interest, his brothers think they are losing one of their own to a girl. But as with many relationships, things get complicated and Sarah begins to have an interest in someone else while Christian becomes more and more obsessed with her. All the while, something far more sinister is boiling just under the surface.
I’m not trying to be the guy who yells “I got the twist early!” expecting some kind of prize. Simply because this is a horror film and the first portion of this film is focused mainly on the development of the relationship between Sarah and Christian, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop and when it did, I was able to pick up on the clues enough to predict what the big reveal was. That said, there might be a few who stumble across this movie without knowing it’s horror, but even then, it’s pretty obvious well before the reveal what’s happening.
Nevertheless, this is a well-acted, nicely plotted, and rather resonant take on campus sexual violence set to a horror movie template. The scenes that are to be scary are very much so, especially when two of the brothers find an inebriated girl wandering onto their property only to high five and drag her upstairs. There are many wicked scenes like this in SOMEBODY’S DARLING and while the budget is low here, writer/director Sharad Kant Patel sets up quite a few scenes filled with tension and develops the characters nicely for us to care about them.
SOMEBODY’S DARLING is a solid horror film that might surprise some in its final moments. I have to say, the ending--despite the reveal--packed quite a wallop in its brutality and take no prisoners attitude. With great performances by its fresh young cast and some mature handling of its serious themes, SOMEBODY’S DARLING is one to watch for.
And finally…check out this really awesome werewolf short from J. Spencer called END OF THE ROAD. Mentioning it is a werewolf short is kind of a spoiler, but that doesn’t take away from the tons of story and some great moments of tension packed into a short feature--not to mention the transformation scene and the monster itself is really well done as well, what we see of it. The filmmaker is busy making his new film BAD MEAT, which is about zombie-werewolf hybrids, so I can’t wait for that! Find out more about Unmanned Media here and enjoy the short below!
END OF THE ROAD from Unmanned Media on Vimeo.
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.
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