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Review

AICN HORROR looks at TABLOID VIVANT! CABIN FEVER! AEON: THE LAST VAMPYRE! MODEL HUNGER! ME & MY MATES VS. THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! THE PACK! BACHELOR GAMES! THE LEVENGER TAPES! Bava’s BLOOD & BLACK LACE! & THE X-FILES: THE EVENT SERIES!

Logo by Kristian Horn
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. Before we get started, here are a few points of interest for horror fans!


One of the films which left an indelible mark on my psyche was THE TAINT, a madcap descent into madness about mass hysteria, gore, and patriotism. I reviewed THE TAINT a while back, but the film is putting together a crowd-funding project for a Vinyl Soundtrack for the film.

Those interested in supporting THE TAINT Vinyl Soundtrack can follow this link and donate your hard earned money to help support the project!


AICN COMICS has a new sponsor: Things From Another World—also known as TFAW!
Up To 40% Off Harrow County Comics & Graphic Novels

TFAW carries everything from comics to toys and any kind of collectible in between. Show your support for AICN COMICS and TFAW and click the pic above. You just might find something you can’t live without, such as Cullen Bunn’s excellent Ssuthern gothic horror tale from Dark Horse Comics!

On with the horror reviews!

Today on AICN HORROR
(Click title to go directly to the feature)

The Boo Tube: THE X-FILES: SEASON TEN - THE EVENT SERIES (2016)
Retro-review: BLOOD & BLACK LACE (1964)
MODEL HUNGER (2016)
THE LEVENGER TAPES (2013)
AEON: THE LAST VAMPYRE ON EARTH (2013)
ME & MY MATES VS. THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (2015)
THE PACK (2015)
CABIN FEVER (2016)
BACHELOR GAMES (2016)
Advance Review: TABLOID VIVANT (2016)
And finally…Lights Out: Hollywood Visitor!


Released this week on BluRay/DVD from Fox Home Entertainment!

THE X-FILES: SEASON TEN - THE EVENT SERIES (2016)

Directed by Chris Carter (10.1, 10.5, 10.6), James Wong (10.2), Darin Morgan (10.3), Glen Morgan (10.4)
Written by Chris Carter (10.1, 10.2, 10.3, 10.4, 10.5, 10.6), James Wong (10.2), Darin Morgan (10.3), Glen Morgan (10.4), Anne Simon (10.6), Margaret Fearon (10.6)
Starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, Joel McHale, Annet Mahendru, Hiro Kanagawa, William B. Davis, Jonathan Whitesell, Rebecca Wisocky, Doug Savant, Aaron Douglas, Vik Sahay, Ryan Robbins, Christine Willes, Kacey Rohl, Christopher Logan, Omari Newton, Nikolai Witschl, Alison Wandzura, Daniela Dib, Megan Peta Hill, Craig March, Amanda Burke, Jaiven Natt, Rhys Darby, Kumail Nanjiani, D.J. Pierce, Richard Newman, Ryan Beil, Tim Armstrong, Daryl Shuttleworth, Peggy Jo Jacobs, Sheila Larken, Alessandro Juliani, Chris Shields, John DeSantis, Sachin Sahel, Veena Sood, Jannen Karr, Seth Whittaker, Daniel Jacobsen, Lauren Ambrose, Robbie Amell, Eric Breker, Janet Kidder, Artin John, Nina Nayebi, Garry Chalk, Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, Mo Said, Julian Christopher, Annabeth Gish
Find out more about this series here!
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug


I can’t say that I’m the biggest X-Phile, but I definitely watched the series from time to time. Not being as interested in the overall mythology, personally, I found myself more intrigued by the monster of the week one-offs more reminiscent of THE NIGHT STALKER. Still, I respect it for the groundbreaking series that it was and even though the stars seemed to not want to have anything to do with it in the latter seasons, I watched it all the way up until the end. But it looks like Duchovny and Anderson gotta eat, so this year Chris Carter and crew decided to reopen the X-FILES in a miniseason. Overall the season is a mixed bag, but there are some good episodes to enjoy here and there. Here’s a quick overview of the good, the bad, and the ugly of Season 10, also known as “The Event Series.”

Episode 10.1 entitled ”My Struggle” starts the series with more of a whimper than a bang, as a billionaire played by Joel McHale and some newly uncovered evidence suggests that all of the alien abductions have been an elaborate ruse in order to cover up a government conspiracy. While this shakes the ongoing story up by taking Scully and Mulder in a direction not to find aliens, but to prove that they’ve been faked by the government, it definitely goes against all of the alien stuff this series has shoved in their faces in the nine seasons and two movies prior to this episode. Let’s forget the shape-changing aliens, the black oil, the greys, the sightings, the implants, and all of the other alien stuff the X-Files have investigated through the years--it’s all a government conspiracy. Mulder accepts this conspiracy a bit too fast for my taste, and Scully tags along out of love for Mulder and the son they share. It all falls into place a little too neatly, but I guess the pace has to move briskly as this is only a six-part series—and only one of the very few episodes that deals with the overall mythos of the series in this truncated season. What this episode does decently is send Scully and Mulder back out into the trenches with a new direction, and that’s all we can ask for, right? It reintroduces the characters who seem to have aged only slightly, a bit due to botox and gym time, in a manner that didn’t suck. I did cringe when Mulder tears his UFO poster in his office, though.

Episode 10.2, “Founder’s Mutation,” goes into full-on investigation mode as a secret facility for people with superhuman powers is looked into by Mulder and Scully. Originally this episode was supposed to be episode 5 in the order of the series, which might make the leap from intro in the last episode to the “just two investigators on a weird mission” feel for this one. Scully and Mulder are back to their usual banter and seem comfortable with one another in this one, and maybe this connection was what made the series heads put this one sooner in the season rather than later in order to give fans more of what they used to get in the old series. This episode had a Cronenbergian creepy feel to it as it deals with mutations, deformities, and special powers which may be due to genetically mixing the DNA of aliens with humans. While the first episode veers from the notion that aliens exist, this one feels more like a throwback where the investigators are trying to prove their existence. This wobbling of “are there aliens or aren’t there” seems to happen a few times in this season, again possibly because some of the episodes are presented out of their intended order.

”Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster” is a return to the fun monster of the week feel this series used to have as the investigators set out to investigate a series of murders committed by some kind of were-monster. This is a much more lighthearted episode, with FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS’ Rhys Darby starring as a man who can turn into a lizard creature. But things aren’t as cut and dry as Scully and Mulder think. There are nods to PSYCHO here with a peephole in the head of a mounted animal in a motel (Fox Mulder actually looks through a mounted fox head) and, in one of the most amusing scenes, Fox gets drunk in a cemetery and leans against the tombstone of late X-FILES producer Kim Manners. It is also reveals that Mulder has the X-Files theme song as a ringtone on his phone, which is a little too much on the nose type of humor for me, but made me chuckle. All in all, this was one of the more enjoyable episodes of the run, but I know these comedy episodes annoy some longtime fans of the series.

”Home Again” is a weird one. It’s a dark and dire monster of the week episode where a golem of sorts is made by a street artist (Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong) and shows up covered in trash and slime before he utterly decimates a chosen target. The grossness of the monster itself is palpable and makes this episode one of the more dank and disgusting ones of the bunch. While the action of this episode is all Mulder’s as this seems to want to be a “statement on the homeless” episode with the trash golem battling “the man,” this is Scully’s episode as Dana is called home to be by her mother’s bedside after she suffers from a heart attack. This exchange is about as emotionally powerful as you’re going to get this season, and Anderson really does make it work. After the goofy were-lizard episode, this one sets the needle on deathly serious and shows the broad rage this series can go when they actually give a fig about things. It also adds weight to the ongoing subplot of Dana missing her son and wondering if they will ever have a normal life with one another again. I walked away from this episode with a heavy heart, and I think most fans of the series will too.

”Babylon” is a heavy-handed political statement episode which I could have done without. Sure this episode gives way to one of the funniest sequences of the season, but it feels out of place in this short season in tone and pacing. The main thing that annoys me about this episode is the need to call mini-Scully and mini-Mulder in on the case as SIX FEET UNDER’s Lauren Ambrose and THE FLASH’s Robert Amell play Agents Einstein and Miller, who seek out Scully and Mulder to present a possible X-File to them about a Muslim terrorist who bombs an art gallery and survives. There is a hope to thwart further plots, but only if Scully and Mulder know a way to get into the terrorist’s mind. This leads to some fun deconstruction of the series as a whole by presenting the aged and wizened Scully and Mulder with idealistic, younger versions of themselves in Einstein and Miller. Ambrose is great, as usual, but I found Amell to be flat and unlikable. Pairing off the cynic Einstein (Ambrose) with Mulder and the believer Miller (Amell) even shoves this dichotomy of character in your face all the more and felt way too much like writers trying to be clever rather than entertaining. This is another episode where the out of sequence ordering of episodes effects the overall story as Einstein and Miller show up in the last episode again, seemingly some time later, but just a week later in terms of how the audience experienced it. Still, this episode shines for me as Mulder takes mushrooms and goes on a trippy bender to a cowboy bar, line dances, and even runs into the Lone Gunmen in a trippy hallucination. So contrivances and preaching aside, this episode has some high points.

”My Struggle II” ends the season, and it feels like the series heads wake up and finally realize that they have to tie this all together somehow, so the episode feels rushed and unsatisfying. Mulder goes missing (again), and it’s up to Scully to race against the clock in order to combat a virus that is released into the populace. Everyone from Agent Einstein (from all the way back to last episode…) to Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish, from the underrated Season Eight) crawl out of the woodwork to help Scully. Meanwhile, Mulder spends some alone time with the Smoking Man (William B. Davis). This was one of those episodes where, as the clock ran down, I wondered how the hell they were going to wrap this all up, then got pissed when I realized that they simply weren’t going to. Ending the series on a whopper of a cliffhanger and painting themselves into a corner where it is going to take some pretty strong writing to get them out, I ended up rather annoyed as I knew it was going to be a dog’s age until the next season or next movie was going to continue the story. All of the Scully’s kid stuff isn’t really dealt with, so there really is no emotional resolution to this season and the action feels as if there is no way an X-Files can exist now that the genie is out of the bottle for the population to see.

All in all, this was a fun miniseason that attempted to give the fans a little bit of everything of what the X-FILES series was in the decade it was on. The problem is that it tried to do this in very little time. Six episodes was not enough to reintroduce characters, set up a new/old threat, and give fan service to the more fun and haunting episodes of the series. I don’t know if Duchovny made that down payment on the summer home or if Anderson needs a new boat, so I don’t know if another season is in the works or if there is going to be another span of time before another movie or season comes about. But at least this time they came back to the X-FILES with some energy and some of the episodes show that Anderson can still bring the emotional heft and Duchovny can bring the funny when they want to. And I hope next time the folks behind the series spread the intrigue, scares, and thrills a little more evenly throughout the series, as this one felt as if it ended just when we were getting caught up and comfortable with Scully and Mulder again.

One of these days, I might dust off my X-FILES collection and do a season synopsis episode by episode. This collection definitely whetted my appetite for revisiting these shows. This collection has audio commentary for some of the episodes from Chris Carter, James Wong, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Darin Morgan, Gabe Rotter, and Kumail Nanjiani. There is also a cool little feature centering on the best “Monster of the Week” episodes from the original series, a Making of featurette for the final episode, a few unnecessary deleted and extended scenes, and a short entitled “Grace” by Karen Nielsen.




Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Arrow Films/MVD Visual!

BLOOD & BLACK LACE (1964)

aka FASHION HOUSE OF DEATH, SIX WOMEN FOR THE MURDERER
Directed by Mario Bava
Written by Marcello Fondato (story and screenplay), Giuseppe Barilla & Mario Bava (collaboration)
Starring Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner, Ariana Gorini, Dante DiPaolo, Mary Arden, Franco Ressel, Claude Dantes, Luciano Pigozzi, Lea Lander, Massimo Righi, Francesca Ungaro, Giuliano Raffaelli, Harriet Medin
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug


Anyone wondering why Bava is known as one of the true innovators in the world of horror needs to look no further than BLOOD & BLACK LACE, one truly amazing and influential murder mystery tale with a heavy helping of black humor and blood-drenched intrigue.

Touted as one of the very first giallo films, BLOOD & BLACK LACE focuses on a series of murders centered around the world of high fashion. It’s funny that this film is being released around the same time THE NEON DEMON is being released, as it definitely shares some similarities in terms of the soullessness of the modeling industry as well as a distinct eye for capturing both the beautiful and the macabre. BLOOD & BLACK LACE is much less pretentious and more enjoyable because of it. Bava amps us the stylization to the nth degree right from the start, as the opening credits creatively pan to our cast of suspects and soon-to-be-victims, all of them looking guilty and lit remarkably to convey their specific character. The film then goes right into the mystery as a person in a mask murders a model. When the police arrive, everyone is a suspect and Bava keeps the clues close to his vest in order to give everyone a motive for the murder. Soon the bodies start piling up, and while the reveal is guessable, the various twists and turns as well as the overly complex reasoning is explained at length in the end (another aspect of giallo that is one its more quaint features, though clunky in terms of storytelling).

What stands out the most is the amazing choreography Bava orchestrates through space and lighting. Each murder is a chase through corridors and alleyways. Lit in dream-like neon colors, each murder becomes a descent into hell for the victims and the viewer, who are given otherworldly colors to heighten the sense of unease Bava wants to communicate. The use of neon-colored mannequins only adds to the weirdness of this film as they show up all over the place throughout the story.

This is also a quite grisly film, as the murders take long amounts of time to accomplish, which only adds to the tension that the murderer is about to be caught as someone else stumbles into the scene. Later slasher films cut after the kill, but here Bava shows just how hard it is for the murderer to elude capture and adds scenes where the killer is almost caught by others in the scene. This is a tension forgotten in modern slasher films which focused on the kill, and is seen mostly today in Cohen Brothers films from BLOOD SIMPLE to FARGO. Bava’s deft construction of his scenes in terms of light, space, and the looming threat that the killer will be caught is what makes this an amazing venture into the realm of suspense and terror.

BLOOD & BLACK LACE is a must see for any self-respecting horror fan. It gets so much right and looks amazing doing it. While the film establishes some of the giallo clichés, like the overly long and complex explanation at the end, it definitely does so in an iconic and original manner, proving that this film was influential in the scores of giallo films that followed for the next twenty years. This BluRay is chock full of bells and whistles, including the original soundtrack for the film, the US and European opening credits, a new audio commentary by Bava historian Tim Lucas, plus some featurettes including “Gender & Giallo” by Michael Mackenzie, “The Sinister Image featuring Cameron Mitchell” from David Del Valle’s TV series, a new giallo feature “Yellow” from Ryan Hansom & John Britt, and one with AMER filmmakers Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani. All in all this is a fantastic presentation for one of the best giallo films you’re ever going to see.




New next week on DVD/BluRay from Wild Eye Releasing!

MODEL HUNGER (2016)

Directed by Debbie Rochon
Written by James Morgart
Starring Brian Fortune, Tiffany Shepis, Suzi Lorraine, Lynn Lowry, Kaylee Williams, Aurelio Voltaire, Robert Bozek, Michael Varrati, Lisa Dee, Bette Cassatt, David Marancik, Jayne Caswell, Carmine Capobianco, Samantha Hoy, Michael O'Hear, Mia Page, Kathy Murphy, Jennifer McMahon, Michael Thurber, Rachel Jane Conn
Find out more about this film on its website here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by
Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug


Scream Queen Debbie Rochon makes her directing debut in this low budget cannibal comment on females in the entertainment industry. MODEL HUNGER has some meaty issues to delve into and does so with little subtlety and a lot of gore.

THE CRAZIES/SHIVERS actress Lynn Lowry stars as washed up actress Ginny, who has developed a taste for young flesh and holds much resentment against both the men who run the Hollywood studios and the women they exploit. Next door lives the homebound and mentally unstable Debbie (Tiffany Shepis), who begins to suspect her neighbor is up to no good, but of course, no one believes her. Meanwhile, the body count rises as Ginny abducts more young girls to feast on and men to punish.

The thing about MODEL HUNGER is that it feels like this is a film written and made with a real fire lit under it, as I imagine it is based on some personal experiences Rochon might have had in her long career in the film industry. Ginny is full of rage for being exploited, manhandled, and then tossed away when she no longer exemplifies the Hollywood model of youth and beauty. It is this genuine rancor that Ginny conveys that fuels some of this film’s most compelling moments.

The problem is that the film becomes somewhat repetitious after a while, with Ginny going into a rant during every kill in order to give reason to her rampage. I’d rather have had the cause come out in some of the action rather than have it monologued to me. The film also gets gory and gratuitously nude throughout, which again, is a celebration of the low budget roots from which Rochon sprung, but sometimes contradicts the message it is trying to convey about the exploitation of females in this genre. MODEL HUNGER has a strong message and shows promise in terms of Rochon’s writing and directing abilities. Here’s hoping some subtlety and nuance can spring from her next endeavor.




Retro-review: New this week on DVD/BluRay from Lionsgate Home Entertainment!

THE LEVENGER TAPES (2013)

aka SCREAMING LADY CREEK
Directed by Mark Edwin Robinson
Written by Mark Edwin Robinson
Starring Johanna Braddy, Lili Mirojnick, Morgan Krantz, Chris Mulkey, Maria Olsen, Jeff Pride, John Rosenfeld, Camden Singer, Tom Virtue
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug


THE LEVENGER TAPES is your typical found footage film, but is a well done found footage film which makes it more watchable than most of its class.

A trio of college students go for a weekend getaway in the middle of the desert, but after they accidentally hit a car and drive off with their car, they stumble upon a kidnapping and the kidnapper wants to make sure they don’t get out of this weekend alive. The story follows three kids bickering, making up, and professing their love and hate for one another. All of this is filler in between creepy happenings as the trio venture into the dark to investigate what may be the site of a kidnapping/murder. Soon they get separated from one another and the camera is passed back and forth to different members of the trio to tell the whole story. Some perspective is given cinematically as three cops are shown watching the tapes in order to solve the crime and possibly find the missing Levenger girl from the title of the film.

THE LEVENGER TAPES has all of the things that annoy me about found footage horror. The camera is always dropped to show the action going on. There are long stints of nothing going on but character development dialog between the three who most likely are going to die anyway, so all this time getting to know them is kind of pointless. And while the film hints that there are some twists and turns coming, it turns out to be so straightforward with its story that it becomes frustrating. That said, I have to say there are a number of effective jump scares scattered throughout the film. Two of the three actors (Johanna Braddy and Lili Mirojnick) are actually quite good and make the gettin’-to –know-you parts interesting; the third, being the Ashton Kutcher-esque boy toy, is simply annoying.

The film kept the camera rolling for a decent reason (they need the light) and the acting is ok for the most part. This makes THE LEVENGER TAPES watchable, which can’t be said for most found footagers. Had the mystery been a little more mysterious and the resolution been a little more complete, this might have been a better film. As is, THE LEVENGER TAPES is technically a decent found footager with only a semi-intriguing story being captured in the first person point of view.




Available on DVD from Sector Five FIlms!

AEON: THE LAST VAMPYRE ON EARTH (2013)

Directed by Daniel E. Falicki
Written by Warren Croyle & Ryan Lieske
Starring April Basile, Daniel E. Falicki
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug


Rock-solid writing makes AEON: THE LAST VAMPYRE ON EARTH a film worth seeking out and an interesting companion piece to Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND (the book, not the Will Smith movie).

Catherine (April Basile) frantically escapes a warzone into a building which quickly collapses. Soon she finds herself trapped in a subbasement with an honest to gosh vampire ( ACCIDENTAL EXORCIST’s star and director Daniel E. Falicki) who was tortured and tested upon by the military. Weak and depleted of blood, the vampire is unable to stalk and kill Catherine, and with the earth being decimated by UFOs above them, the two of them are forced to discuss the pros and cons of life and death.

For the most part, this simple, yet effective film is the perfect example of how to film a horror film on a low budget and get the best results. Set in one decimated basement with two actors talking with one another, this story covers the pointlessness of life and the meaning of death for the duration of its runtime. Punctuated by scenes of the vampire mustering enough strength to pounce on Catherine, the film is a sittin’ and talkin’ film, but the power of the performances and the words they are saying make every word compelling. Filmmaker Falicki and writers Warren Croyle & Ryan Lieske keep the conversations electric as the vampire and hopeful victim discuss their roles in the world and how each perceives the other. Falicki continues to be a force to be reckoned with and is almost unrecognizable under mounds of decaying makeup as the vamp. He is definitely the stronger of these two accomplished actors here.

The simple makeup effects are nicely done, especially with some amazingly stark lighting, and just when the film becomes a bit long-in-the-tooth at the one hour mark and the discussion begins to falter a bit, things get exciting again in a powerful climax. I love the simplicity of this one. It’s just two actors relying on powerful writing and creative directing to support their strong performances to make one small but resonant and memorable vampire flick. Smart, powerful, and frugal fun is to be had with AEON: THE LAST VAMPYRE ON EARTH.




New this week on DVD from Lightyear Entertainment!

ME & MY MATES VS. THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (2015)

aka DEAD EXCHANGE
Directed by Declan Shrubb
Written by Declan Shrubb
Starring Jim Jefferies, Adele Vuko, Alex Williamson, Greg Fleet, Matt Popp, Andy Trieu
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug


More SHAUN OF THE DEAD than DAWN OF THE DEAD, ME & MY MATES VS. THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE stands above most zombie films because it has a lot of character and heart under that tough Australian exterior.

A trio of Australian pals, Jim (comedian Jim Jeffries), Daryl (Alex Williamson), and Roy (Greg Fleet), hole up in a telephone exchange building during the zombie apocalypse with Roy’s horny daughter Emma (Adele Vuko) and her two boyfriends. While the zombies make their way inside the building, the group struggles to escape the building to get to the military complex close by.

This is some pretty simple zombie stuff going on here as this film knows anyone interested in watching this film has seen a bunch of zombie films, so the initial outbreak crap is tossed aside for some more comedic scenes about a bunch of lifelong buddies trying to survive against insurmountable odds. Toss a horny daughter of one of the buddies into the mix and comedy ensues. What saves this film from being way too familiar are the pitch perfect comedic beats this film achieves as the group struggle to keep themselves from killing each other while hungry death claws at the door. Jeffries, Williamson, and Fleet are fantastic as blokes who love one another, but are annoyed as hell being under the same roof with one another. It’s a statement about how friends may grow apart, but never completely apart, and how important those bonds are in times of stress. If you think this is a message too sweet for a zombie film starring rough talkin’ guys from Australia, that’s kind of what the appeal of this film is. There is a surprising amount of tenderness to this film on top of dick, fart, and sex jokes.

The gore isn’t anything to stand up and scream about, nor is it terrible. Sometimes you see the same zombie getting killed over and over again, but this also adds to the charm of this film that may be low on budget, but high on character, laughs, and charm. If you’re sick to death of your typical zombie movie, give ME & MY MATES VS. THE ZOMBIE APOCALYSPE a try. It’s definitely something completely different than the norm.




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

THE PACK (2015)

Directed by Nick Robertson
Written by Evan Randall Green
Starring Anna Lise Phillips, Jack Campbell, Katie Moore, Hamish Phillips, Kieran Thomas McNamara, Charles Mayer
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


While it’s definitely not a remake of the 2010 monster movie that I reviewed here, THE PACK 2015 might be a remake of the 1977 Jo Don Baker flick of the same name. Both THE PACK ’77 and ’10 involve a group of people fighting for their lives against a pack of feral dogs who have developed a taste for human flesh. The original is a film I haven’t seen in years, but I remember loving it fondly. This new dogs gone wrong film does everything right in terms of being a monster movie, but for some reason, it just didn’t thrill me like the original (if in fact this is a remake, that is).

Set in the Australian countryside, the Wilson family have fallen on hard times. The Wilson farm faces foreclosure as the family’s matriarch Carla (Anna Lise Phillips) tries to make ends meet by being the local veterinarian. Meanwhile, Carla’s husband Adam (Jack Campbell) investigates the property and finds sheep partially devoured, which add to the financial woes. But as the banks encircle the farm to take it away from the family, so do a vicious pack of man-eating dogs who seem to be smarter and more vicious than any the Wilson family has seen before.

While there are typical elements of nature fighting back animals on the attack films, the more prevalent metaphor at play in THE PACK is how the pack of dogs represent the swirling financial troubles the family has. Both threaten to destroy the family and their home, only the dogs are much less subtle about it. While it’s not the deepest of themes, it is one that is well done with THE PACK. The family really doesn’t do anything to offend nature here, they are just trying to live peacefully. So thematically, though you wouldn’t know it, THE PACK is much more like a haunted house film which is traditionally about the weaknesses and the strength of the family in most horror films.

The dog attacks are pretty brutal. The mutts in this film are giant, black, and downright terrifying. Still, the film really doesn’t get up close and into the fracas between man and dog. Most attacks are viewed from a distance, and unfortunately, seeing a man with padded arms getting bitten by a dog doesn’t look all that real. The film uses real dogs, which I’m sure limits the camera to get up close and in the maw of the beasts as they attack, but as far as dog attacks go, THE PACK doesn’t really deliver anything we haven’t seen before. I’m not calling for CG dogs, but the distanced way every attack occurs just doesn’t convey a level of tension I needed to b stirred with this film. It doesn’t help that these dogs occasionally act very un-dog-like as they seem to be unable to smell its prey as the humans hide in their house and form a vendetta against the Wilsons for no real reason other than this is a horror movie and it needs to happy, so they rally and attempt to break into the house en masse.

The film is very dark and there are some really fine moments of tension as the dogs stalk the family. There is a real sense of danger here and it’s cool to see real animals trained to be so monstrous. The acting is good and the Australian countryside is gorgeous. Still, if you’ve seen any bad dog movie, you’re probably not going to find anything surprising with THE PACK.




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

CABIN FEVER (2016)

Directed by Travis Zariwny
Written by Randy Pearlstein (script), Eli Roth (original screenplay)
Starring Gage Golightly, Matthew Daddario, Samuel Davis, Nadine Crocker, Dustin Ingram, Randy Schulman, George Griffith, Tim Zajaros, Aaron Trainor, Louise Linton, Laura Kenny, Derrick R. Means, Jason Rouse, Benton Morris, Dawson Doupé, Teresa Decher, Travis Zariwny, Michelle Damis, Ted Pfeifer, Eli Roth
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug


Ok, let’s set aside the fact that this is a needless remake. Sure CABIN FEVER was released 14 years ago, but anything released after 2000 seems like it shouldn’t be worthy of a remake yet. But I’m sure this is something like the way we got shitty PUNISHER movies year after year; the studios have to keep making these things or the rights revert somewhere else. At least that’s what I hope happened. Still, it’s not like CABIN FEVER 2 and CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO (reviewed here) were smash hits and I guess, if you’re going to make a new film, it’s best to return to the source since that’s the biggest hit of the bunch. Still—TOO SOON!

I’m going to try not to compare this film with the original too much in this review, but it’s hard not to with it being released not that long ago and this film not really doing much to distinguish itself as anything but an almost shot-for-shot/line-for-line remake of the original. Sure some characters have switched genders and some additional gore has been added, but let’s get this straight here right away: the original is infinitely better in almost every way. In fact, if I didn’t know better, Roth had director Travis Zariwny, who refers to himself pretentiously as Travis Z in the credits, do this as an ego boost to make his original look superior. Nevertheless, top to bottom Roth made a much better film 14 years ago.

Not like you need it, but here’s the recap. The film opens with a hunter returning from the hunt to find his dog exposed to some kind of plague-like disease. The mutt explodes in his face and we cut to credits. Next a group of kids make their way through the forest-flanked roads all geared up to party, drink, party, sex it up, and party. Arriving at the cabin, everything looks hunky-dory until the hunter from the pre-credits sequence shows up and begins spitting blood and gore all over the campers. Soon one by one gets infected, with the hill folk attempting to contain the disease by murdering and burning them all.

CABIN FEVER 2016 pales in comparison to the original in every way: story, direction, pacing, acting, gore, comedy, scares, you name it. The actors in the original weren’t thespians, but at least they were distinct actors giving convincing performances. This new group of soon-to-be-infecteds are generic models, with very little by way of acting skills. The gore, scares, and tension were way more palpable in the original, mainly because Roth knew to give a scene room to breathe and space to build tension before zooming right in there and sopping us with some slimy grossness. This film feels like it is marking off story point boxes like the director is crossing off items on a grocery list: yes, the hillbilly boy attacks, but gone is the insane kung fu. Yes, the girl is exiled to the shed, but because the actress just doesn’t deliver anything remotely like a personality, we just don’t care. Hell, the first was able to even pinpoint the source of the infection, which was the water itself, but this story doesn’t even try to drive this point home. With the way it was edited and talked about in this film, the infection comes mysteriously from the woods and not from the toxic polluted waters Roth so effectively focused on in the original. The only thing that works that is even mildly interesting is that Deputy Winston, played so creepily by Giuseppe Andrews, is played equally if not more creepily by Louise Linton, who adds a new level of awkwardness to the role simply by repeating the same lines. Even the abrupt resolution of the film feels as if everyone wanted to leave work early, collect their paychecks as soon as possible, and put this film behind everyone involved.

I can’t blame Travis Zariwny (I refuse to call him Travis Z) for this. Much like the schlubs who remade MARTYRS (reviewed here), he was destined to fail. Make the film too different from the original and the people will complain. Make it too close, as he did here, and it’s the same. I can’t help but tear this film a new one, though. Watching this film so closely after watching the original, it’s easy to see what the filmmaker needs to work on to strengthen his craft--that being the lack of tension leading up to key scenes, reveals, and moments. Here’s hoping the filmmaker moves on to something a little more original, or even something that hasn’t been done in the last 15 years. As is, apart from curiosity, there’s no real reason to visit this unnecessary remake.




New this week on iTunes, and other digital platforms, as well as On Demand!

BACHELOR GAMES (2016)

aka RULES OF THE GAME
Directed by Edward McGown
Written by Chris Hill & Sam Michell
Starring Charlie Bewley, Jack Doolan, Jack Gordon, Mike Noble, Obi Abili, Daniel Elías
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug


Lifelong friendships are tested when a bachelor party weekend goes straight to hell in well made, well acted piece of tension and terror.

The scenario for BACHELOR GAMES is a familiar one. A bunch of bros set out to have a rip roaring weekend of sex, drugs, alcohol, rock n’ roll, and more sex as they send off one of their own into the terrifying arms of matrimony. But just when they don’t think they can take much more fun, something horrible happens. In most of these films, the story feels like a Public Service Announcement in favor of stable, married life as all of the sins the bachelors commit come back to haunt them in either a comedic, ironic, or terrifying way.

This is the case with BACHELOR GAMES, but there is an added layer of irony and tension in this film that I won’t reveal (though it might end up being revealed in the trailer below). What makes this film all the more fun is that it stars a fun quintet of actors and while this was most likely a low budget film, the acting and quality of the direction (and beauty of the Argentinean locale) make it feel like a film made with a lot more cash behind it. The actors, most likely, will be showing up in bigger movies sometime soon as they all stand out as more than the cliché characters that usually show up in these types of films (specifically the womanizing lead Charlie Bewley, the Gyllanhaal-esque Jack Gordon, and tough guy Jack Doolan). The quality of these performances add to the believability that these guys are lifelong friends grown apart with age which is one of the main themes pushing the narrative along.

I also liked the design of the monster (monsters) in this film. Without giving too much away, there are a few things that go bump in the night by the time this film is over with and both have interesting designs incorporating animal parts and practical effects and filmed in a way to amp up the tension. Some quick cuts and edits make the threats all the more scary when they finally do rear their horned heads.

BACHELOR GAMES isn’t a flawless film. I felt the entire thing kind of wraps up too nicely and quickly, but the road there is dramatic and thrilling. While it isn’t anything you haven’t seen before as the story involves a group of people going into a desolate locale and encountering something unknown and terrifying, this is a film that handles these conventions with a deft hand in terms of acting and direction. BACHELOR GAMES is a capable entry in the “fish out of water” scenario style horror films that is entertaining despite its familiarity.




Premiering this week at the DOC Theater in Chicago (find out about this screening here)!

TABLOID VIVANT (2016)

TABLEAU VIVANT
Directed by Kyle Broom
Written by Kyle Broom
Starring Jesse Woodrow, Tamzin Brown, Chris Carlisle, Ana Corbi, Amber Friendly, Lisa Valerie Morgan, Christopher Heltai, Nicole Stark, Tim Padilla, Emerson Becker-Spector
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug


There seems to be a movement of genre films making comments of the entertainment and art industry this year. This may be due to the fact that many filmmakers/screenwriters are writing what they know and the life of the starving artist may be all they do know. Still, the tale of someone trying to make it big in an overcrowded field in an industry to seems to reward the most reprehensible can be the stuff of compelling storytelling and this is the case with TABLOID VIVANT.

Struggling artist Max (Jesse Woodrow) is developing a new art technique and captures the interest and heart of art critic Sara (Tamzin Brown) who feels his work may just spark a new movement in modern art. Or maybe this is wishful thinking from an art critic who becomes biased when she falls for the artist she is critiquing. Or maybe the art is not so revolutionary and just a way for these two tortured souls to come together and destroy one another. Or maybe it means all of this or none of this. Like art itself, TABLOID VIVANT is open to interpretation and offering mine in this review is immediately making me part of the problem this film, I think, is trying to dissect.

As Max and Sara seclude themselves from the rest of the world in order for Max to develop this new technique and Sara to write about it, they forget things like eating, sleeping, washing, and taking care of themselves and throw themselves into an obsession with the art and, ultimately their mutual goal of becoming famous though that art. While this feels like a vapid goal, it does seem to be the motivation for both of these well rounded characters to be bright shining stars in a world they are too cool to admit they are a part of. It’s this complex presentation of these vapid characters that sets TABLOID VIVANT apart from most films which emulate the arts by showing the pomposity of it all in an aloof and shallow presentation. Instead of playing things shallow (I’m talking about you, THE NEON DEMON), this film delves deep into the psyches of these two tortured souls, showing their motivations, their flaws, their desires, and their nightmares. In doing so, TABLOID VIVANT paints a horrifying portrait of the tortured artist at his very worst.

Stylistically, this is a highly original film as well. The opening sequence of the Black Dahlia murder, which factors later into the film in regards to the pursuit of fame despite self harm, is a gorgeously filmed black and white sequence that makes the well documented murder look distinct and unique. Other portions of this film use multi-media such as still photography, obvious green screen while driving, quick edits, snippets from the scrawled on script itself, and even computer animation to show this story from multiple angles and like much of modern art, proclaiming that this film is a product of many art forms that came before it.

TABLOID VIVANT is a smart film that at its core is about how far one will go in the name of art. It’s not a new tale as Roger Corman even delved into these themes with A BUCKET OF BLOOD, but it’s a story that continues to be an important one to tell. These tragic characters go a bit too far and pay the price, which makes this a nihilistic yet moralistic tale to be heeded by any artistic moths attracted to the flame of fame.




And finally…here’s yet another radio classic from yesteryear. This episode of LIGHT’S OUT is called “Hollywood Visitor!” Enjoy!




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 and on his new website collecting posts for AICN HORROR as well as all of the most recent updates on his various comic book projects on MLMillerWrites.com.



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