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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. Sorry about the late post, but the GHOSTBUSTERS review took more time out of my schedule than I thought. Nevertheless, here's what's ne win horror this week. Since, I'll be neck deep in San Diego Comic Con, I'm posting this one early. Look for interviews from my participants in my "Reinventing Horror" panel taking place on Friday and I hope to post the whole panel next week for those who aren't able to attend.

Before we jump into the reviews, I want to let folks know that I’ll be at San Diego Comic Con this week and I’ll be hosting my tenth “Reinventing Horror” panel this Friday at the Con with guests Mickey Keating (director of POD, DARLING, and CARNAGE PARK), Adam Egypt Mortimer (director of SOME KIND OF HATE and producer of HOLIDAYS), Matt Pizzolo (Black Mask Studios publisher and writer of YOUNG TERRORISTS and GODKILLER), Radio Silence (directors of segments in V/H/S and SOUTHBOUND), and maybe a special guest or two. I’ll be posting interviews with all of my panelists throughout the week and posting the panel itself after the con for those who can’t be there, so be on the look out for that.

I checked out the short film KLAGGER a while back (reviewed here). The folks behind the atmospheric slasher/ghost film have started a Kickstarter campaign to make the short into a full length feature. Below is the pitch video for KLAGGER. If you feel the urge to support it with your hard-earned dollars, feel free to follow this link and give them some support!

AICN HORROR 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 HORROR and TFAW and click the pic above. You just might find something you can’t live without, such as Cullen Bunn’s excellent Southern gothic horror tale from Dark Horse Comics!

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

The Boo Tube: SLASHER Season One (2016)
Retro-review: CRIMES OF PASSION (1984)
Retro-review: RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)
Retro-review: A CAT IN THE BRAIN (1990)
Retro-review: BAD MOON (1996)
Retro-review: MECANIX (2003)
TRADERS (2015)
And finally…”Light’s Out: The Corpse in Studio B!”

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

SLASHER (Season One, 2016)

Directed by Craig David Wallace
Written by Aaron Martin
Starring Katie McGrath, Brandon Jay McLaren, Steve Byers, Patrick Garrow, Christopher Jacot, Dean McDermott, Erin Karpluk, Rob Stewart, Jessica Sipos, Alysa King, Mayko Nguyen, Jefferson Brown, Enuka Okuma, Mark Ghanimé, Hannah Endicott-Douglas, Susannah Hoffmann, Shawn Ahmed, Dylan Taylor, Wendy Crewson, Booth Savage, Victoria Snow
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

I think one can put Chiller’s SLASHER just a skosh under MTV’s SCREAM series in terms of quality and effectiveness. While the series is a little too much like the SCREAM series (which I reviewed not long ago), it tries to distinguish itself by vying for the twenty to thirty-something crowd rather than MTV’s tween viewers. Sure cell phones are used as flashlights, but the entire story doesn’t revolve around online presence as SCREAM did. In fact, what made SLASHER fun was how old school it was.

Sara was the only survivor when a killer attacked her home and murdered her parents while she was in her mother’s womb on Halloween night 1989. The police captured the killer who was found rocking the baby to sleep. Now it’s the present day and Sara (Katie McGrath) returns to her childhood home for the first time with her new husband Dylan (Brandon Jay McLaren) and immediately after her return, she witnesses the murder of her neighbor by a man in a black hood. This spawns a string of copycat killings that murder people guilty of one of the seven deadly sins with the murder based on the matching punishment for each sin from the Old Testament. Obviously a target in the murders (or maybe she’s the killer herself), Sara enlists plays super sleuth despite warnings from the cops, her husband, her family, and friends to leave it be.

As with SCREAM, the first episode of SLASHER establishes the routine of each episode, which usually has something shocking in the first segment before the credits, and you’re sure to have at least one murder per episode before the end credits. Meanwhile, the story slinks along, many characters are chucked at you for you to suspect to be the killer—most of which are quickly dispatched by the killer, whose identity isn’t revealed until the final episode when there are only a handful of people left for the killer to be. The story also lifts from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS as Sara visits the original killer in jail for advice in tracking down this new killer which may or may not have something to do with the old killings. Being similar to SCREAM is forgivable as both series came out at the same time, but I found myself being a bit more annoyed with these SILENCE OF THE LAMBS riffs as they feel just a little bit too on the nose, especially when you throw in the Lecter-esque smugness of the killer in chains by Patrick Garrow, Later in the series, folks will recognize elements from the drama thriller ROOM, which is less deliberate and equally disturbing. Despite the blueprint being the exact same, the difference between SCREAM and SLASHER is that this series feels much more adult in tone compared to MTV’s serial killer serial, which I felt a bit too old to be watching at times. While there are equally boneheaded moves made by the folks in SLASHER, at least there are more adult themes of infidelity, trust in a relationship, and a code of journalistic ethics being played with in this series.

At times, SLASHER is downright cartoonish in its sometimes bloodless kills. But just when you are about to give up on the series, it tosses in some dismemberments, some scenes of animals chomping on human flesh, and a few really goopy and gory scenes. And while the look of the killer is somewhat uninspired as it looks like the original Scream killer with his hood closed, series director Craig David Wallace and series writer Aaron Martin do manage to take you into some perverse corners. It’s not as perverse as AMERICAN HORROR STORY can get, but still some of the areas are definitely squirm inducing including one scene where a kid in a mask tosses his mother down a stairwell and another woman drops a cinderblock on a convertible full of kids. These are visceral kills that are filmed and written in with a bite that most slasher movies lack lately.

The acting was pretty strong throughout with McGrath and McLauren making us suspicious while making us root for them at the same time and the series manages to make itself unique despite the premise of the killings is straight out of SE7EN. I’m not going to say SLASHER was the best TV horror I’ve ever experienced, but this series and SCREAM showed me that it is possible for a slasher story to be done in a serial format. And while the blueprint is definitely repetitive, I found myself intrigued enough to want to find out who the killer was and if my own hypotheses were correct. Turns out I was correct as I guessed the killer halfway through, but I must admit I was intrigued enough to stick around and see if I was right or not.

New this week on BluRay from Arrow Films/MVD Visual!


Directed by Ken Russell
Written by Barry Sandler
Starring John Laughlin, Kathleen Turner, Anthony Perkins, Bruce Davison, Annie Potts, John G. Scanlon, Stephen Lee, Pat McNamara, Joseph Chapman, Norman Burton, Louise Sorel
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Any Ken Russell film is often indescribable and completely difficult to box into one genre. So while on the surface, CRIMES OF PASSION might not be the likeliest of candidates for a horror column, the deeper you descent into this tale of madness, sexual identity, adultery, and perversity, the more you’ll see it is a film worth mentioning for those with an appetite for terror.

Kathleen Turner at her absolutely sultriest plays China Blue, a call girl willing to be any man’s fantasy woman for the right price. She is able to keep her heart out of the business until one particular john named Bobby (SONNY BOY’s John Laughlin) makes love to her in a way she has never been loved before. The two begin a relationship despite China’s reluctance to do so. Things get complicated as Bobby is married (to GHOSTBUSTERS’ Annie Potts) with children, yet he is willing to discard it all for China. Meanwhile, perverted street preacher Reverend Peter Shayne (Anthony Perkins) is bound and determined to cure China of her heathen ways, even if it kills her.

The first thing you’re going to notice about CRIMES OF PASSION is that it is chock full of sexy business. From the opening scene where China Blue is having cunnilingus performed on her to the leering men peeping through peep holes (including Perkin’s sweaty freako character) at a jaded dancing girl to the sexual dysfunction group Bobby is attending because “he is accompanying his friend and definitely not because he is not having sex with his wife anymore,” this is a film about the ugly side of sex. The film does a great job of covering all the bases and making it all feel downright slimy. Even in this sexually open modern age, there were some moments in CRIMES OF PASSION that I felt were pretty risqué in this film, let alone in the mid-eighties when this film was originally released. I’m sure this caused quite a stink back in the day. And while it does tell a rather nuanced tale of a woman trying to get out of a profession that calluses the heart and learning to love, the entire story itself cancels out all of that saccharine by having the sex be raunchy and hard to shake off for China no matter how hard she tries.

CRIMES OF PASSION is a witty little film as well. Both John Laighlin’s bumbling married man and the bugnutz Anthony Perkins role as the preacher are often outrageous and more representational of two sides of this argument for and against life of sexual freedom/servitude. Caught in the middle is the amazing Kathleen Turner who is utterly fearless in her performance as China Blue. Appearing completely in the buff numerous times and really performing a sexually liberated lady, again, Turner plays a role that most likely some from that era wouldn’t have been comfortable seeing, and it feels downright groundbreaking even seen today. The climax of the film where all of these aspects of sexuality slam together violently is surprisingly shocking.

CRIMES OF PASSION ends with a huge action sequence filled with gender swapping, perversion, S&M, crucifixion, and a sharp, shiny dildo. It’s reminiscent of PSYCHO, especially with Perkins in the mix, but the overt sexuality of the film separates the much more repressed sexuality of Hitchcock’s classic. In fact, PSYCHO and CRIMES OF PASSION would make for an interesting double feature dissecting the horrors and pitfalls of holding sexual urges in vs. giving into them. All of this is presented by Arrow, a company who has made their bread and butter from rereleasing some fantastic films with even more fantastic special features. This one is presented in the Director’s Cut as well as the Uncensored Cut of the film (I watched the Director’s Cut for the purpose of this review). There’s a brand new interview with screenwriter Barry Sandler, an audio commentary with director Ken Russell and Sandler, as well as a number of extended/deleted scenes, some Home movie footage of Ken Russell visiting Florida for a retrospective screening of the film at the 2009 Florida Film Festival, and a booklet featuring new writing by Ken Russell's biographer, Paul Sutton, correspondence between Russell and Kathleen Turner, and an on-set interview with Russell. It’s a lot of content for a really subversive and enthralling film that breaks stereotypes and kicks sexuality in the taint that is worth checking out if you haven’t seen it before.

New this week on BluRay Collector’s Edition from The Shout Factory!


Directed by Dan O’Bannon
Written by Dan O’Bannon, Rudy Ricci, John A. Russo, & Russell Streiner
Starring Clu Gulager, James Karen, John Kalfa, Thom Matthews, Beverly Randolph, John Philbin, Jewel Shepard, Miguel Nunez, Brian Peck, Linnea Quigley, Mark Venturini, Alan Trautman
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

C’mon. How can you not love this movie? RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is as good as it gets when it comes to zombie movies and though many of today’s moviegoers who love their zombies fast don’t know it, next to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, this film is one of the most influential zombie films of all times

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD does the impossible by incorporating scenes of laugh out loud humor with true jolts and scares. For some reason, the eighties were able to do that so much better than now. FRIGHT NIGHT is another film that does this amazingly. But here, slapstick meets splatterpunk as a hapless medical factory worker unleashes toxic gas from a misplaced military experiment while showing a new worker around the shop. Soon the gas reanimates all of the cadavers and dissection animals in the building and when the two dunces (played with dimwitted glee by James Karen and Thom Matthews) and their boss (played by the iconic Clu Gulager) try to cover up the mess, they end up unleashing the gas into the atmosphere, reanimating the corpses in the graveyard next door. As fast as you can say “More brains!” you’ve got a zombie apocalypse on your hands.

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is iconic for numerous reasons. First and foremost, the delicate tightrope between humor and horror is tiptoed across by director Dan O’Bannon with elegance and respect for both genres. The horror is terrifying, grotesque, and hilarious. When an axe goes through a cadaver’s bloodless head, it’s played for laughs, but the actors play it straight so the ludicrous act also rings as scary. Never does the film wink at the viewer. Never does it shit on the horror genre. It laughs at the ridiculous ways we all react to the unknown, not the unknown itself. That’s where the genius lies in this film and what makes it so effective.

The film is also an effects masterpiece. There is shit in this film that still makes me wonder how they did it. The half corpse captured in the last act of this film is a marvel in puppeteering and make-up. The Tarman make-up is gory, gross fun but also the stuff of the darkest nightmares (made more ghoulish by actor Alan Trautman’s lanky, lopsided performance that gives the appearance that the slimy creature has no bones as all). Linnea Quigley’s zombie make-up, though briefly seen in the film, is an impressive work of minimalistic terror.

And speaking of Linnea Quigley, she is another reason this film is a standout. Though her role as Trash is small, Quigley steals every scene she’s in. Her tombstone strip tease is not only pants-tighteningly delicious, but also bold and fearless. Though her confession of her deepest fears in the first scenes make it pretty obvious how she will die later, the ferocious way she acts with the rest of the poseur punks lends an heir of legitimacy to the entire group. I also love the fact that she acts so fragile when the acid rain starts pouring down. It just adds a little humanity to all of that weirdness Trash vomits out in the moments before. And her brief scenes as a pale-skinned zombie offer some of the most frightening scenes in the film.

Though some might mistakenly claim this film to be the first fast zombie movie (that honor I believe goes to NIGHTMARE CITY, another classic flick worthy of extensive coverage in a future column), RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is by far the first modern film to utilize zombies as more than slow moving slugs. More notable though, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is one of the few zombie films that actually gives the zombies voices. Some moments, like the “Send more paramedics!” line, serve as comedic beats, but the interrogation scene with the half corpse (which looks a lot like THE WALKING DEAD’s crawling half corpse in the first season opener) offers one of the only glimpses cinema has ever shown into the mind of a zombie as the moaning corpse screams that “It hurts to be dead!” and “Brains make the pain go away.” And in those simple lines, the zombies are at once made both more human and more terrifying.

This Collector’s Edition comes with tons of new and old special features such as a new commentary from the co-author of THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD Gary Smart and Chris Griffiths, new commentary from actors Thom Matthews and John Philbin and makeup artist Tony Gardner, old audio commentary from Director Dan O’Bannon and Production Designer William Stout, a DECADE OF DARKNESS documentary looking at 80’s horror, plus new documentaries THE FX OF THE LIVING DEAD, PARTY TIME: THE MUSIC OF THE LIVING DEAD, a new HORROR’S HALLOWED GROUNDS, MORE BRAINS – the definitive documentary of the film (which I reviewed here), the final interview with Dan O’Bannon, an interview with John A. Russo called THE ORIGINS OF THE LIVING DEAD, and another doc called DESIGNING THE DEAD.

So much stuff about a film deserving of this kind of attention. Having just rewatched RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, it still holds up quite nicely. The music is amazing, the effects are revolutionary, the acting is fun, and Dan O’Bannon’s writing off of John (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD) Russo’s script still crackles and pops in all the right places. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD was a true standout in the zombie genre and even to this day there isn’t a zombie flick out there like it.

Retro-review: New this week on a Special Edition BluRay/DVD from Grindhouse Releasing!


Directed by Lucio Fulci
Written by Lucio Fulci, Giovanni Simonelli, Antonio Tentori
Starring Lucio Fulci, David L. Thompson, Malisa Longo, Shilett Angel, Jeoffrey Kennedy, Paola Cozzo, Brett Halsey, Ria De Simone, Sacha Darwin, Robert Egon, Vincenzo Luzzi
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

THE BEYOND, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, and THE NEW YORK RIPPER will always be rock solid entries in the world of horror. While I admire much of what director Lucio Fulci made through the years, CAT IN THE BRAIN is definitely not one of his best. Still, this film, one of Fulci’s last, has some qualities that make it worth seeking out.

A CAT IN THE BRAIN begins with Fulci, playing himself, tapping away at a typewriter and talking about various ways people can be killed. The camera zooms into the top of his head from above and goes inside his brain to reveal a cat clawing at what looks to be brain matter. Zip to a movie set where Fulci is directing a new feature and he begins having flashes that make his wonder whether he is living in one of his films or if this is just part of the creative process or maybe he is simply losing his mind. After being reassured he is sane by his psychiatrist (David L. Thompson) and his producer (Shilett Angel) we see someone murdering someone bloodily and Fulci hallucinating that his family is being killed by a man with a chainsaw. This begins a repetitious sequence where Fulci feels as if he is going insane as everyone around him ends up dying in the exact same ways people are dying in his films. After numerous times to see his producer and psychiatrist, Fulci finally figures out the mystery and sails off on a boat named Perversion with a hot babe in tow. There are a few moments after this sail into the sunset that I won’t ruin as they turn out to be quite amusing, but that’s pretty much how this one ends with a smug tongue tucked into an old Italian cheek.

A CAT IN THE BRAIN tries really hard to be edgy and unconventional and in some ways it succeeds at this. While the dream within a hallucination within reality was fodder played with in many films before A CAT IN THE BRAIN, this one does so before the self-referential nineties and six year before it went mainstream with the original SCREAM. Numerous times, A CAT IN THE BRAIN makes us wonder if what we are seeing is a dream in Fulci’s head, something playing out in one of this films, or if it is really happening in the reality of the film itself. This is meta-textual stuff that you just didn’t see too much of in this age of the slasher (though the dream vs. reality tango was something often danced with in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET).

Fulci may have been influenced by Wes Craven in terms of overlapping reality, but he remains stuck to his Italian horror roots in terms of gore. From start to finish, this is one blood drenched film. It touts itself as one of the goriest films ever, but while I doubt the validity of this, I will admit that the level of gore is intense in this one. Stabbings, chainsawings, axings, and all sorts of dismemberment can be found in this one and it is done so in that crude, looks like lunch meat effects style one would often see in late Italian gore cinema. It’s a type of gore that really does have a visceral feel to it and one most will find nauseating. There’s even a chainsaw meets tricycling toddler scene that took balls to make and I give this film kudos for going there.

Still, like most directors turned actor, Fulci is not the best thespian and the repetitious story structure does wear out its welcome early. The gore is going to hit your gag reflex, but the acting and story might steer you away first. This version from Grindhouse Releasing contains a separate DVD containing the soundtrack to the film, plus the disks present the film in English and Italian. There are also interviews with Fulci, star Brett Halsey, new interviews with the screenwriter Antonio Tentori, composer Fabio Frizzi, cinematographer Sandro Grossi, and poster artist Enzo Sciotti (and how awesome is that poster, by the way). Also included is Fulci’s appearance at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in 1996, trailers, stills, and a glow in the dark disk cover.

New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!

BAD MOON (1996)

aka THOR
Directed by Eric Red
Written by Wayne Smith (novel), Eric Red (screenplay)
Starring Mariel Hemingway, Michael Paré, Mason Gamble, Ken Pogue, Hrothgar Mathews, Johanna Marlowe, and Primo as Thor!
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Eric Red burst onto the scene with THE HITCHER, NEAR DARK, and BLUE STEEL and immediately became a name I followed when it came to hard-hitting films that didn’t hold back. He followed it with BODY PARTS, which didn’t really succeed in blowing me away, but still had a lot of interesting moments. Then came BAD MOON which kind of marked the downfall of Red as a mainstream movie writer/directing force. I didn’t hate BAD MOON, it’s just that there are aspects of this film that exemplify the worst in werewolf movies and there are plenty of moments where it just felt as if Red was in over his head in this production.

BAD MOON follows Ted (Michael Paré) who loses his girlfriend in an unnamed jungle to a giant hairy wolf-beast and ends up scarred from the creature’s bite. A short time later, his sister Janet (Mariel Hemingway) is surprised to hear Ted is back in the states and visits him at his mobile home in the woods with her young son Brett (Mason Gamble, who folks will admit to recognizing him from RUCHMORE and less so from DENNIS THE MENACE) and their protective German Shepherd Thor. While Janet senses something is wrong with Ted, she has no idea he is cursed with lycanthropy and invites him to come back to her home. Thinking that being around the ones he loves will help him quell the beast within, Ted shackles himself up every full moon to save his family. But the family dog knows what’s up and is trying to protect Janet and Brett from Wolfy Uncle Ted.

BAD MOON missteps quite a few times in its story. Other than putting his own family in danger, there really isn’t a reason for Ted to move close to Janet and Brett, so that kind of makes him an asshole for doing so. It doesn’t help that he does seem to have growing evil intentions the longer he stays at the house. Usually, there’s some kind of sympathetic struggle between man and animal that goes on with the person cursed with lycanthropy, but in BAD MOON, it’s either because the story just forgets to make Ted sympathetic or just that Pare is terrible at playing sympathetic characters that really doesn’t communicate this. My vote is for a little of both since Pare never has been one to play sympathetic characters (he’s more of a bulletproof 80’s macho man stereotype than anything else) and Red never really gives him many scenes to provoke any sympathy.

It doesn’t help that the main conflict for Ted is a dog named Thor. It feels like Red is going for a CAT’S EYE feel here as the family pet faces all sorts of struggles being heard when it senses danger has entered the home. While CAT’S EYE is a flawed film, it really did get down to the cat’s level and we understood this strong connection between a little drunk Drew Barrymoore and her loyal tabby. In BAD MOON, there’s that same level of loyalty, but Red never gets up down into Thor’s level and literally is often showing the character from a distance instead of giving us more POV shots (granted there are a few wide-angle POV wolf and dog eye view shots early on, but as the film goes on, these shots become fewer an fewer). Because this film has such difficulty getting into Thor’s head and Pare is playing your typical gruff and unsympathetic manly man, it’s hard to feel for either of them (though I will always root for the dog, even if the character is not fleshed out). The whole thing feels undeveloped, as if it were the first draft of something interesting that never got a decent developing.

For every great aspect of this film—such as the effects which sometimes are pretty damn gnarly as the werewolf takes huge chunks out of its victims, there is a scene you’ve seen in a million werewolf films—such as the stoppage of time where the soon to be victim freezes and watches the man go through a lengthy transformation into a werewolf instead of beating feet in the opposite direction. The attack at the beginning is indeed brutal, but it’s precipitated by an almost pornographic sex scene between Pare and an actress who gets very little lines and very little to do than look good naked. The transformation is actually quite good though as computer effects and old school practical effects do a decent job making Pare go wolfy. There’s also an amazing scene where a prowler gets swiped by the werewolf and his fingers are hanging from his bloody hand by only the skin alone. All of these details are great and reminiscent of the visceral, ground level horror you saw in THE HITCHER and NEAR DARK, but they are only a few highlights in an otherwise unconvincing battle of man vs animal. BAD MOON is decent fun for werewolf completists, but it’s far down on my list of best werewolf flicks.

Retro-review: New this week from Unearthed Films/MVD Visual!

MECANIX (2003)

Directed by Rémy M. Larochelle
Written by Mélissa Hébert (dialogue), Rémy M. Larochelle
Starring Stéphane Bilodeau, Julie-Anne Côté, Philippe Chabot
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Heavy on the artsy and fartsy comes Remy M. Larochelle’s MECANIX, an experimental art film that will send literal thinkers for the hills, but if you have an open mind, there’s some twisted horror at play here.

The story, if you look hard enough, is about a world taken over by mysterious and twisted animal-metal creatures and their search for a fabled embryo which is being stored inside the body of one human being. So the creatures spend their time taking apart each human one by one to find the embryo which is said to have the power to eradicate their dominion over the human race. At least, that’s what I think this one is all about. Given that this is an art film, narrative isn’t necessarily the most important factor in MECANIX.

Instead the film goes for visual impact with its monsters made of twisted metal and clay globs. The creatures sort of resemble parts of human organs smooshed together with machinery and are effectively creepy. Larochelle incorporates human actors in key scenes to make it all feel like it’s happening in the real world, but the most effective stuff occurs with the stop-motion monsters as they go about their business in their human dissecting factory.

Like most art films, this is a celebration of the imagery the artist/director comes up with, so expect long shots of creatures doing repetitious stuff. This isn’t a film for the impatient. It takes it’s time lingering on the imagery so the viewer can see it move in three dimensions and ponder its meaning whilst sipping cheese and chewing wine. Fans of Lynch’s ERASERHEAD and Guy Maddin’s films are the audience this type of film is made for and if you consider yourself a fan of those two eccentric filmmakers, you might want to take a shot with MECANIX. Director Larochelle is interviewed in the bonus material which sheds a little more light on what MECANIX is all about.

New this week on BluRay from Synapse Films!


Directed by Michael Felsher
Starring George A. Romero, Tom Savini, Tom Atkins, Adrienne Barbeau, Pasquale Buba, Bernie Wrightson, Rick Catizone, David Early, Ed Harris, John Harrison, Nicholas Mastandrea, Bingo O'Malley, Richard P. Rubinstein, Marty Schiff, Joanne Small, Nick Tallo
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

There seems to be a new trend in horror where the documentaries that usually accompany a film in the BluRay special features section are being released in their own BluRay disk for purchase. I’m not complaining about this, mind you, but just noting this current trend. In the past few weeks, I have reviewed the Harryhausen documentary, as well as the upcoming definitive PET SEMATARY Documentary entitled UNEARTHED & UNTOLD and MORE BRAINS, the RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD Documentary. Maybe this new trend started with the fantastic behind the scenes feature released last year, LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. Whatever the impetus, I appreciate this highlighting of these behind the scenes films as I often don’t have time to appreciate the special features of the films I review as I check out so many on a weekly basis. One such documentary in this current trend is JUST DESSERTS: THE MAKING OF CREEPSHOW.

Having been a fan of the influential anthology since seeing it in theaters at a very young age (most likely too young, some would say), I have read or seen quite a bit about the making of CREEPSHOW. But this film gathers all of this info pretty succinctly and presents it in a pretty fantastic manner. Much is talked about how the film came together and extensive tales of makeup woes and successes. I especially loved hearing about the “They’ll Creep Up On You” segment and the insanity that occurred whilst trying to wrangle all of those cockroaches and the stories about now deceased actors such as Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielsen, E.G. Marshall, and Fritz Weaver. This doc goes down the line, segment by segment, talking about each of them in detail and as all of them are pretty great for one reason or another, each is extremely entertaining.

One of the things missing in this doc as well as the PET SEMATARY doc is Stephen King. Being a writer myself, I felt myself asking questions about how King came up with these ideas for the film as well as what he thought of the final product, specifically his own performance as Jordy Verill. While I know King is very selective with his interviews, specifically about his process, any time there was a little insight from Romero or any of the producers about how King works had me glued to the screen.

That said, with Fangoria Magazine going the way of the dodo, I love these documentaries which peel back the bloody curtain and show us the gory innards of these classic films. No fan of CREEPSHOW should be without this film and even though some of the clips, pics, and stories have been told before, it’s great hearing them again and a sure fire way to get you to dust off that copy of CREEPSHOW we all have and rewatch it.

New this week On Demand from Uncork’d Entertainment!


Directed by Lou Simon
Written by Lou Simon
Starring Jamie Bernadette, Katie Carpenter, Gema Calero, Michele Gourdine, Sharron Calvin, Karishma Lakhani, Hannah Gourdine
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

I owe it to my readers to let you know when a movie is good and when a movie is bad. And while I do have a soft spot for low budget movies and don’t necessarily equate low budget to bad, this is one of those cases where the budget, the ideas, and pretty much everything about the film is just bad.

ALL GIRLS WEEKEND is basically THE DESCENT meets…I don’t know some possession in the woods movie. Basically, A group of women get together for an active hiking adventure trip and run into what seems like a haunted woods that compels them to off one another.

This film is a perfect example of overstretching your capabilities and budget. Don’t write in a bear attack when you’re just going to use stock footage of a bear charging through water. Don’t say it’s a giant hiking adventure and simply have the girl zip line across a river one by one. Don’t have your actors emote to the stars when they just don’t have it in their range. ALL GIRLS WEEKEND commits all of these sins and more when all it would take would be to have the script call for less to cover up the obvious lack of budget. If done smartly, this could have been a tight little film, but because everyone is over-reaching, it’s blatant where it comes up lacking.

Add an uninspired and droning script where the girls just wander around, bicker, and get lost in the woods and editing that leaves long dull pauses and seems to use the fade in and out button too much and you have a film I can’t recommend. Like all horror films, it feels like this one comes from someone who wanted to combine BLAIR WITCH with THE DESCENT, but in hoping to make the next big blockbuster, it really did reach too far and the end result is a film that fails over and over to do what it sets out to accomplish.

New this week on DVD from Brain Damage Films!


Directed by John William Holt
Written by Jason Turner
Starring Bill Oberst Jr., Austin Madding, Abby Murphy, Josh Cornelius, Joshua Mark Robinson, Wendy Keeling, Alan Walters, William Ryan Watson, Easton Lee McCuiston, Christopher Bower, Brandon Brockwell, Shaun Gerardo, Steve Crowley, Nate Hargrove, Kyle Davis, Andrew Wiggins, Adam Moyers, Barbie Clark
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Director John William Holt and writer Jason Turner offer up an ambitious film with Lovecraftian themes and an imaginative format to present them in. THE DOOMS CHAPEL HORROR is not a perfect film, but there are moments of strength scattered throughout.

Kyle Cole (Austin Madding) has been haunted by the death of his brother Ryan (William Ryan Watson) since he was ten years old. Now an adult, he returns to his hometown to make amends and come to some peace with the past. Bringing his girlfriend Mandy (Abby Murphy) and a friend who agrees to film this coming to grips with the past, Kyle returns home to find the town basically unchanged. The townsfolk still resent Kyle for being the one who survived as Ryan was the town superstar. And a cult from the town next door, lead by the enigmatic Jordan (the hardest working man in horror, Bill Oberst Jr.) continues to thrive and worship some kind of entity in the woods. As the camera rolls, Kyle confronts Jordan and the monsters of his past which are much bigger and meaner than anyone would have imagined.

I love the “town with a past” motif this film takes. Using a documentary format, it places the viewer into the action and instead of this feeling like a straight up found footager, the documentary feel adds a level of reality that wouldn’t have been achieved had this been filmed cinematically. The idea of a Lovecraftian entity in the woods is equally intriguing as the film really does a great job of hinting at something big and mean trouncing around in the woods without showing it at full size. This may frustrate those who want to see the monster, but the hint of it works here and it achieves a level of scary that there is no way this film could achieve given the budget it had. But even without a big monster reveal, Holt and Turner are able to convey a level of creep by going the less is more route.

That said, things get pretty ridiculous during the climax of this film. To keep the documentary format going, every townsfolk is equipped with a camera, so we see each of them, from multiple angles being picked off one by one by the monster. I can suspend my disbelief for only so long and seeing this montage of carnage, while fun, just didn’t work for me on a technical sense. This is where the “less is more” rule should have been followed as it really does tear a hole in the ass end of this film. The other issue is that the script calls for a level of emotion that a lot of the main actors just don’t have the experience to achieve. These actors, who most likely have acted in only a handful of films, are shooting for the Oscar in scenes, but fall short due to that inexperience.

Despite its faults, THE DOOMS CHAPEL HORROR is an unconventional horror film with a bunch of terrors and themes you don’t normally see in low budget films. Every film is better with Bill Oberst Jr. in it and the actor shines here as a cult leader as his wide terrifying stare is enough to fill a thousand nightmares. While the film itself kind of loses track of what works in the end, the rest of THE DOOMS CHAPEL HORROR is a lot of fun for little dough.

New this week on DVD/BluRay from Midnight Releasing!


Directed by Joel Vallie
Written by Eric Machiela & Joel Vallie
Starring Kaelin Stockwell, Mónica Almanza, Valentina Arnold, Kristen Barrett, Benjamin Chamberlain, Ernesto D'Alessio, Leila Garza Stockwell, Liam Matthews, Caleb Pope
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

It’s nice seeing low budget horror take chances at telling different stories these days. It used to be films with small budgets would go the slasher or zombie route, but lately there have been some truly imaginative films coming out for very little cash from folks who know how to stretch a dollar and still make their ideas sing on screen. BEAUTIFUL PRISON is such a film as it definitely relies on some strong performances by its cast and an even stronger story to convey a powerful message.

A brain-damaged adult named Ben (Kaelin Stockwell) is trying to live a normal life working in a factory run by his sister’s husband Chente (Ernesto D'Alessio). His sister Angela (Kristen Barrett) tries to take care of her brother who was the victim of abuse as a child, but also tries to teach him to take care of himself, but her husband doesn’t have the same temperament. When Ben once again screws up on the job, Chente pushes Ben who falls into the road and is run over by a passing car. Now in a coma, Ben experiences all sorts of vivid dreams where he is a hero battling demons from the past, trying to save a girl he watched on a Telenovella, and attempting to overcome the specter of his abusive father who now rules his world like an evil overlord.

Reminiscent of JACOB’S LADDER, only you know that this is all taking place inside Ben’s head, BEAUTIFUL PRISON is a sometimes uplifting and sometimes heart-breaking tale of a simple man trying to make it in the world. Stockwell plays Ben with an earnestness that you can’t help but root for as he tries to be independent in the real world, but once he is in his own mindscape, I couldn’t help but root for him to achieve all of the dreams he couldn’t in real life. Seeing him be cool enough to get the girl and take on these demons that had been haunting him all his life is pretty satisfying. The demonic imagery that threaten Ben is pretty potent throughout and director Joel Vallie and his co-writer Eric Machiela know how to set up some exciting and downright scary scenes.

And while the ending might be somewhat of a downer, you can’t help but feel good that, even though Ben might have been held back by his handicap in the real world, he got to live his dreams in his head and fight his own demons. I left this film feeling uplifted and satisfied, which is something I don’t often feel leaving a low budget horror film. That in itself is an accomplishment and this little film is worth checking out.

New this week on BluRay from Dark Sky Releasing!

TRADERS (2015)

Directed by Rachael Moriarty, Peter Murphy
Written by Rachael Moriarty, Peter Murphy
Starring Killian Scott, John Bradley, Peter O'Meara, Nika McGuigan, Barry Keoghan, Kelly Byrne, Tom Davis, Moe Dunford, Caoilfhionn Dunne, Olwen Fouere, Dónall Ó Héalai, Laurence Kinlan, Laurence Kinlan, Lydia McGuinness, David McSavage, Donal O'Farrell, Tom O'Sulleabhain, Jonathan White
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Being neck deep in GAME OF THRONES as many folks are these days, it’s interesting seeing these grungy and hairy stars of the HBO series all cleaned up and made presentable in other films set in a more modern age. This is one of the feelings I couldn’t shake while watching TRADERS, an interesting look at the tough financial times this modern world offers up to the populace these days unfortunately. GOT’s lovable Sam (whose real name is John Bradley) stars all shaved and clean, which is the reason I mentioned GAME OF THRONES in the first place.

Bradley plays Vernon Stynes, who with his friend Harry Fox (Killian Scott), lost his job in a massive layoff at his business film. While Harry scrambles to get an immediate replacement job, Vernon decides to take this opportunity to develop an idea he’s had percolating in the back of his mind for a while; a gambling tournament of sorts where a participant compiles all of his life savings and brings it to a secluded location to meet another participant who has done the same. Both participants dig a hole and when the holes are complete, they fight to the death. The winner takes both bags. While Vernon lacks the physical prowess, he has the drive to put this tournament in action, but he recognizes Harry’s physical power, which he thinks will gain him a lot of money in this twisted game. Harry though is reluctant to take this risk, but when he becomes desperate and romantically involved in Vernon’s neighbor Orla (Nika McGuigan) who needs money as well, Harry agrees to do it and finds out he’s actually pretty good at this game Vernon has dubbed “Trading.” Of course, this game attracts some unsavory characters, so the stakes begin to rise to extremely dangerous levels as the fights progress. Plus the ties that bound Vernon and Harry together are fraying because Vernon always had eyes for Orla, but never had the guts to approach her. All of this means that this “Trading” business, while it looks to be profitable, might have been a bad idea from the get-go.

While on the surface this might not seem exactly like a horror film, it definitely gets brutal once the games begin. Seeing these businessmen in ties and sportscoats take on one another is something we’ve seen before in FIGHT CLUB, but while that was a film about defining what it meant to be a male in modern society, this one addresses the financial crisis many have found themselves in these days. Because this inciting action is such a real and compelling one, I was willing to go down the rabbit hole of desperation with these two doomed souls. Seeing this business thrive, grow, and finally fizzle out for these two is an arduous, but moralistic ride, one where no one leaves unscathed and it’s this strength of story that makes this film utterly engrossing from start to finish.

While he basically plays the dim-witted Sam character in modern days, John Bradley actually shows quite a broad range in TRADERS. He still is the pudgy guy who everyone would think it harmless, but here he plays someone who has always lost and has finally found a way to get the world back at their treatment of him. While he’s not a moustache twirling villain, he is the mad scientist behind this monster of a tournament he has created and his arc is the most fascinating and devastating to see unfold. But Killian Scott isn’t that shabby here either as he is forced from becoming a mild-mannered accountant to a cold blooded killer. This evolution is equally believable due to Scott’s subtle and often silent performance.

I keep referring to the story because it’s such a good one and is the main strength of TRADERS. While the actors playing out this story are excellent, it’s the moral conundrums set up in this tale that makes it work so well. Little details such as the fact that Vernon still lives at home or some of the more evil entries in the fight are all due to filmmakers Rachael Moriarty and Peter Murphy who directed and wrote this tale. It makes me look forward to Moriarty and Murphy’s next collaboration, as this one is a monster tale about the power of greed and lust for power that really is like few other films out there today. Highly recommended.

I posted this just a few weeks ago, but it opens this weekend and I want to make sure folks go out and see this masterpiece of a film!
Opening select theaters this week from A24 Films!


Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
Written by Jeremy Saulnier
Starring Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Patrick Stewart, Joe Cole, Mark Webber, Callum Turner, Eric Edelstein, Taylor Tunes, Macon Blair, Kai Lennox, October Moore, David W. Thompson, Brent Werzner, Mason Knight, Samuel Summer, Colton Ruscheinsky
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

I have witnessed one of the most intense cinematic experiences this year and it comes from the director who brought us one of the most intense films from a few years ago. The filmmaker is Jeremy Saulnier and the film from a few years ago, if you didn’t already know, is BLUE RUIN (reviewed here). But the most important thing you should take from this review is that you need to see GREEN ROOM as it is one of the most horrifying film experiences I’ve seen in years.

Made up of Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner), the Ain’t Rights, a punk band who makes their way across country in a van by swiping gas from cars along the way, have fallen on hard times. So when an opportunity to make $350.00 comes up, they don’t ask too many questions about it. Turns out, their latest gig is at a Nazi skinhead bar and when the band witnesses a murder, they hole up in the Green Room where the band gets ready to go on stage What transpires is an all out war between the trapped punk band inside the room and the murderous skinheads outside trying to make everything, including the Ain’t Rights, disappear.

What impressed me the most about GREEN ROOM is the immersive way the film engulfs the viewer. Sure it helps to know a thing or two about the punk scene, but really, this is a film, not unlike ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, there a group is trapped in a small place and surrounded by murderous maniacs looking to get into the fortified place the group is hiding. While the punk band is trapped in this small room, there is no way for the skinheads, lead by a super restrained and deathly powerful Patrick Stewart and BLUE RUIN’s soulful and subtle Macon Blair, to get in, so there’s a standoff here of epic proportions. This high standard is achieved because we get to know and like this band in the opening moments and sympathize with their struggle to simply make enough money to get to their next gig. Because these opening moments are so genuinely engaging, I was rooting for the band to get out of this one alive, no matter how perilous the threat.

And that’s exactly what Saulnier does here by making these Nazi skinheads, which are already pretty deplorable by name alone, truly menacing threats. As the band saunters into the backwoods bar and watches the scowling faces ready to take out their aggressions through angry music and much mosh pitting, Saulnier patiently scans the entire facility to plainly show this dire situation even before the band realizes what kind of hell they’ve wandered into. Keenly played negotiations between the band and the skinheads outside as Yelchin and Steward act as the mouthpieces for each group could be seen as tedious, but the performances are so good here and the setting has become such a character, that the scenes are chock-filled with tension and scares.

GREEN ROOM is much more of a gory and horrific action movie than a true horror film, though there is lots of blood, scares, and horrific things going on. Those scares are potent. The stakes are dire. The characters are likable, mainly because Saulnier has padded this film with top tier talent. This is one gut punchingly good film that never holds back and spits suspense, fire, sound, and gore right in your face from start to finish. Don’t miss GREEN ROOM as it truly is one of the most in-your-facey, edge-of-your-seaty, balls-to-the-wallsy films you’re going to experience this year!

Plus it’s got an amazing soundtrack to boot by pretty much all of the punk bands you’re every going to need to know!

And finally…how about another trip back in time before the television took over our hearts and minds, to the time of the radio, specifically an excellent little show called “Light’s Out” which scared the bejeebus out of our parents and grandparents on a weekly basis. Here’s an episode called “The Coffin in Studio B.” 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

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