Ain't It Cool News (


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. But first…

I’ll be reviewing BEHIND THE WALLS in a future column, but here’s the new trailer and poster on the right there for this film which boasts a pretty cool cast of genre greats. Starring Vanessa Angel (WEIRD SCIENCE, KINGPIN), Hutch Dano (Disney's ZEKE & LUTHER, ZOMBEAVERS), Reggie Lee (NBC's GRIMM), Lew Temple(Rob Zombie's 31, WALKING DEAD, LONGMIRE), and Bailey Spry (IT FOLLOWS) and directed by Jon and James Kondelik (BLOOD BROTHERS aka THE DIVINE TRAGEDIES, reviewed here), here’s the official synopsis; “Years it has waited. Now, someone has moved in. Through the eyes of the evil within, we witness a broken family desperately seeking a new beginning, in a new home. But this house lives, watches and wants them to stay-FOREVER.”

The film should be touring the festival circuit over the next few months and hopefully be available to be seen by all soon. Here’s the trailer.

Behind the Walls official trailer from The Kondelik Brothers on Vimeo.

I’ll be covering THE POSSESSION EXPERIMENT next week on AICN HORROR but I have an exclusive clip of the film for you guys as a little teaser. The film is directed by Scott B. Hansen and stars Chris Minor, Jake Brinn, Nicky Jasper with KT Fanelli and Bill Moseley. Here’s the official synopsis; THE POSSESSION EXPERIMENT tells the story of Brandon (Minor), who has always been drawn to the supernatural. So when asked to pick a topic to base his final world theology class project on, he decides to explore the dark world of exorcisms. Teamed up with three classmates, the group investigates a multiple homicide that they eventually discover was an exorcism gone horribly wrong. Brandon becomes obsessed with the event, and in a strange turn of events, decides the only way to research this topic is to undergo an exorcism himself.

THE POSSESSION EXPERIMENT is available On Demand, VOD and DVD on Dec. 6, 2016. Here’s the clip.

AICN HORROR has a new sponsor: Things From Another World—also known as TFAW!
20% Off Preorders for Suicide Squad Harley Quinn Statue

Please support AICN HORROR by clicking the Things From Another World banner and checking out all of their amazing collectibles! TFAW carries everything from comics to toys and any kind of collectible in between. You just might find something you can’t live without!

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: THE UNDYING MONSTER (1942)
Retro-review: RABID (1977)
Retro-review: WAXWORK (1988)
Retro-review: DARK WATER (2002)
THE STRAY (2016)
CLASSROOM 6 (2016)
And finally…Light’s Out: Profits Unlimited!

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Kino Lorber!


Directed by John Brahm
Written by Lillie Hayward & Michael Jacoby(screenplay), based on the novel by Jessie Douglas Kerruish
Starring James Ellison, Heather Angel, John Howard, Bramwell Fletcher, Heather Thatcher, Aubrey Mather, Halliwell Hobbes, Alec Craig, Harry Carter, Holmes Herbert, Eily Malyon, Charles McGraw, Clive Morgan, John Rogers, Valerie Traxler, Heather Wilde
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

While the poster might try to convince you that this is a werewolf film, it’s really more akin to THE HOUSE OF THE BASKERVILLES than THE WOLF MAN.

A series of attacks by the foggy moors indicate that a family curse has been unearthed by the light of the moon. But are these attacks by man, beast, or something else? That’s what a private investigator (the charming James Ellison) must get to the bottom of using the state of the art investigative forensics of the day.

Released a few years after THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES which suggested a kind of monster haunting a noble family, this film hinges on the same presence, but while that film proves that there really is nothing supernatural stuff going on, this one goes in the opposite direction and proves to be equally entertaining. Also distinguishing itself from THOTB, it’s not keen observation, but actual science in a lab that aids in finding out the culprit. While it’s not named precisely, DNA analysis which is called spectrum analysis here is the key to the mystery. This film marks one of the first times this type of investigation is documented in a movie.

This is an extremely fun film. Watching the noblemen treat each other so polite and civilly in times of tension and fear is downright quaint. The attention to the lights and darks taking place on the moors and in the intricately decorated castle make this film a feast for the eyes. And while the monster doesn’t show up until very, very late in the game, the punchy dialog keeps everything bopping along just fine (though there are some stinkers in terms of attempts at humor).

The monster himself is impressive as well. Sure he looks almost exactly like the Wolf Man of the classic Universal films only a bit bushier. But it’s the animated transformation sequence at the end that impressed me as it is both jarring and convincingly done given the rudimentary technology available at the time. While there are similarities between the two films, a double feature with THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES and this film would be pretty awesome as they are flip sides of the same coin. While one has Sherlock Holmes, THE UNDYING MONSTER has an actual monster, the first example of forensics on film, and a unique transformation sequence, so I kind of prefer the latter to the former.

Retro-review: New on BluRay Special Edition from The Shout Factory!

RABID (1977)

aka RAGE
Directed by David Cronenberg
Written by David Cronenberg
Starring Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore, Joe Silver, Howard Ryshpan, Patricia Gage, Susan Roman, Roger Periard, Lynne Deragon, Terry Schonblum, Victor Désy, Julie Anna, Gary McKeehan, Jérôme Tiberghien, John Gilbert, Madeleine Pageau, Mark Walker, Monique Bélisle, Louis Negin, Harry Hill, Riva Spier
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

With SHIVERS fledgling filmmaker David Cronenberg made a film about the monstrosity of sexually transmitted diseases and set in the confines of a state of the art condominium complex. Upping his game a skosh, Cronenberg continued this budding fascination with body horror with RABIES which is similar in tone, but wider in scope and further indication of the amazing things to come from this iconic master of horror.

A couple (Rose played by pornstar Marilyn Chambers and Heart played by Frank Moore) crash their motorcycle close to a plastic surgery clinic. After being rushed to the clinic in critical condition, the doctor’s do an experimental skin graft on Rose that turns cancerous and develops into a stinger which infects those she entices to be close to her and turns them into rabid crazies who in turn continue to spread the super-rabies across Montreal like a modern day plague. Unknown she is the cause of the virus, Rose escapes the institute and wanders the streets of Montreal as a modern day Typhoid Mary.

The subtext about sexually transmitted disease is not subtle here. Especially in the casting of a pornstar as the lead (though Cronenberg said he wanted Sissy Spacek for the role, but producer Ivan Reitman insisted upon Chambers) and the seductive way in which she spreads the disease. Still, Cronenberg injects the same amount of skin-crawling body horror into this film that he does in films like SHIVERS, THE BROOD, and much later, THE FLY here with an especially weird little stinger Chambers grows from her armpit which spreads the virus. The stinger isn’t revealed until later in the film and initially I thought it was some kind of vagina dentata going on as Chambers attacks her victims by clutching them in a passionate embrace. In fact, the film kind of switches gender roles giving the female Rose a stabbing protrusion that injects the virus and the receivers of the virus (mostly male) on the receiving end.

It’s also worth pointing out, in terms of body horror, the setting of this film is a truly bizarre and awesome one—a plastic surgery center with all sorts of people walking around in different types of bandages and recovering from some type of cosmetic surgery. This type of body modification is touched upon later in EXISTENZ, VIDEODROME, and CRASH, but this seems to be the first time Cronenberg delves into this realm. Seeing these people walk around in bandages gives the entire world of the clinic a nightmarish, otherworldly feel and really does set the stage for the odd science to come.

Outside of Marilyn Chambers, who offers up a pretty great performance here as equal parts innocent victim of this unethical surgery and seductress spreading a plague. There is a point in this film where Rose calls her boyfriend and says she has trapped herself in a room with a person to see if she really is the cause of the plague. Chambers is fantastic in this scene as she is convincingly confused about what she is and if she truly is responsible for the massive plague of madness she has started. The rest of the cast is simply ok here compared to what Chambers gives and it’s a shame she didn’t do more dramatic work in her career.

The rest of the film, while it is effective in the intimate scenes, just isn’t able to convey the massive scope it is trying to communicate in terms of how much the virus has spread. Filmed on what looks like closed streets, alleys, and a few choice crowd shots in a subway, the outbreak is supposed to encompass all of Montreal, but really never really seems to work. If there is a weakness in this film, it’s the scenes outside of the institute and on the street. The budget just doesn’t seem to match what the story had in mind.

This presentation comes with a commentary track from David Cronenberg, William Beard, author of The Artist As Monster: The Cinema Of David Cronenberg, an interview with Cronenberg, Executive Producer Ivan Reitman, Co-producer Don Carmody, a new interview with author Jill C. Nelson (Golden Goddesses: 25 Legendary Women Of Classic Erotic Cinema, 1968-1985) & Marilyn Chambers' personal manager Ken Leicht, and more!

Retro-review: New on BlyRay from Vestron Classics/Lionsgate Home Entertainment!

WAXWORK (1988)

Directed by Anthony Hickox
Written by Anthony Hickox
Starring Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman, Jennifer Bassey, Joe Baker, Michelle Johnson, David Warner, Eric Brown, Clare Carey, Patrick Macnee, Buckley Norris, Dana Ashbrook, Micah Grant, Mihaly 'Michu' Meszaros, Jack David Walker, John Rhys-Davies, Christopher Bradley, Miles O'Keeffe, Tom MacGreevey, Irene Olga López, Charles McCaughan, Edward Ashley, J. Kenneth Campbell, Anthony Hickox
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

While this may at first seem like another typical HOUSE OF WAX riff, there are some darker themes going on in WAXWORK, a recognizable cast and some high quality effects that make this film stand out atop the rest of the pack in terms of eighties horror.

A group of privileged kids are invited to a midnight showing of a Waxwork Museum which seemingly has popped up overnight in their neighborhood. The enigmatic Mr. Lincoln (David Warner) guides the group through his waxwork which contains scenes of some of the most notorious monsters and fiends in history. But these are not mere wax and props, they are actual portals into worlds where these monsters exist, and if Mr. Lincoln lure 18 souls into the waxworks, he will set these monsters free to make hell on earth. Mark (Zach Galligan), his ex girlfriend China (Michelle Johnson), and Sarah (Deborah Foreman) the gal he most likely will be scrogging next, are among the group of kids who are destined to thwart Lincoln’s plans.

WAXWORK is an odd little piece of cinema. Usually, horror films go out of their way to present “normal kids” for the audience to relate to in contrast to the monsters that oppose them. Sure they may act annoying, but usually they look like the boys and girls next door. WAXWORK doesn’t do this. The lily white kids here are obnoxiously rich and elitist, and that includes our final gal and guy. The opening scene shows Mark (Galligan) having an uppity conversation with his mother across a decadent table. This is followed by a scene where he is dressed by his butler and then decides to walk to school instead of taking one of his many cars. The rest of the group are unlikable as well, specifically China, played by Michelle BLAME IT ON RIO Johnson who has some truly terrible self-centered dialog about the way she gets what she wants, when she wants. Even the virginal Sarah (Deborah Foreman) is set to be a closet perv who gets off on being whipped by the Marquis De Sade when she stumbles into his waxwork portal. These are not the kids next door. These kids are pampered and I guess the filmmakers want us to hate these kids, but usually they tend to throw someone worth rooting for in the narrative. Here there really are none.

And while the ever-shifting relationship is a symptom of every teenage drama, this one really shuffles the deck as Mark and China break up in the opening moments when China admits to sleeping with the local football star. The next day, Mark is making the moves on Sarah who refuses his advances one minute and is making out with him the next. I point this out because none of the kid characters in WAXWORK look, sound, or act like real people. They are all living in a sparkly clean world acting like total pieces of shit. This is the same kind of snot-nosed pampered world films like DREAM A LITTLE DREAM, LICENSE TO DRIVE, A NIGHT IN THE LIFE OF JIMMY REARDON, and the John Hughes teen comedies exist in, but the good thing about this film is that we get to see these kids get massacred in truly gruesome ways. So this off-kilter view of the world does pay off in the end, I guess, despite the fact that the final two are two of those annoying brats too.

I love looking for subtext in these horror movies and this one has a whopper. While it may be an unpopular notion, but if you believe what this film is telling you, women love their whips and chains. In such a comically spirited film, it’s interesting to see this theme arise numerous times as Sarah is mesmerized by the Marquis De Sade and once fallen into his waxwork, fights against Mark when he tries to rescue her, preferring the taste of De Sade’s whip. She is so enraptured that she tells him to leave her there to be De Sade’s whipping post. Later, when another woman enters the waxwork, she too is enticed to enter De Sade’s dungeon and falls victim to De Sade. One could say this is an antiquated notion of the age (this secret desire especially in women represented as sexually repressed to be tortured as a means of seduction is often visited in horror, see Barbara Crampton’s sexually repressed S&M freak performance in FROM BEYOND), but then again, with FIFTY SHADES OF GREY moistening house fraus across the world, these filmmakers might just be on to something. Still this gives Sarah a bit more depth than your usual final girls and Deborah Foreman is able to straddle the virginal and sexy quite capably here.

But despite the odd take on the heroes, there is a whole lot of bloodletting in this film. We don’t get to see all eighteen portals in detail, but the ones we do are actually pretty awesome little vignettes that almost make this film feel like an odd little anthology of sorts. The first focuses on everything you really would want in a werewolf story without things like character development and story getting in the way. This story simply focuses on the werewolf, the bite, the transformation, and the killing of a werewolf, all done to the tune of some pretty awesome werewolf effects and gory bites spattering lots of blood. It also has a cameo by John Rhys Davies, which is always fun. Portal two is my favorite as the gold-digging China enters a vampire’s portal and battles vampire brides, rats, and Dracula itself. Most of the coolest parts of this segment take place in a white basement containing a man strapped to a table with his leg gnawed away by the vampires. By the end of this scene, the entire room along with sexy Michelle Johnson is covered in blood from top to bottom. We also get to see a mummy portal, one filled with zombies straight out of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and the aforementioned Marquis De Sade portal where Sarah gets her rocks off via whiplash.

The rest of the portals are only hinted at as we are shown a menagerie of horrors from the past like witches, Frankenstein, snake-men, and invisible murderers. But shrewd eyes will see the Audrey II from LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (who even says his trademark “Feed me!” line) and Jason Voorhees. Due to trademark reasons, the line where Mark asks Lincoln “You have a waxwork from the Jason movies?” to which Lincoln replies, “They made movies about Jason?” was taken out and replaced with the same comment about the Phantom of the Opera. Still, in the bombastic finale, you can see Jason Voorhees slicing away at people who run around the waxworks. Another fun fact is that Kane Hodder, who coordinated the stunts in this film, actually played Frankenstein during the final scene, so this film’s got FRIDAY THE 13TH all over it.

WAXWORK is unconventional from top to bottom and that makes it a pretty amazing little film. From it’s quirky and downright unlikable characters, to the unconventional way the story is told with vignettes of other stories, Anthony Hickox put together quite a little horror masterpiece. It’s also a pretty funny little film featuring a lot of intentional, and not so intentional moments filled with eighties fashion and trends. While it’s not really politically correct, every scene with Hans (the vertically challenged Mihaly 'Michu' Meszaros) is comedy gold especially the way he is taken care of in the end.

This Vestron Classics version of the BluRay comes with WAXWORK II: LOST IN TIME which I will be reviewing in a future column. It also comes with a new audio commentary with Anthony Hickox & Zach Galligan, a new 6 part WAXWORK CHRONICLES feature, plus a making of featurette.

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


Directed by Hideo Nakata
Written by Koji Suzuki
Starring Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno, Mirei Oguchi, Asami Mizukawa, Fumiyo Kohinata, Yu Tokui, Isao Yatsu, Shigemitsu Ogi, Maiko Asano, Yukiko Ikari, Shinji Nomura, Kiriko Shimizu
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Literally dripping with atmosphere, this is one ghost story that takes it time before it sinks its claws into you. Though the American remake of this film was rather tame, the original DARK WATER is a potent little ghost story.

Yoshimi (Hitomi Kuroki), a young mother with a past of mental instability attempts to prove she is capable of taking care of her young daughter Ikuko (Rio Kanno) alone, though her husband believes she is unfit. Moving into an apartment complex and enrolling her daughter into school, Yoshimi begins seeing a little girl in a raincoat in the periphery and the leaking ceiling above the apartment begins to grow, suggesting something physically and spiritually afoot. Doubting her sanity, Yoshimi uncovers a tragic mystery of a missing girl and gallons and gallons of dark water.

Yes, this is another film about a ghost that takes the form of a little girl with her hair over her face. It’s a common seen in the genre of J-horror, but while films like THE GRUDGE and THE RING rely mainly on creepy noises and jump scares, DARK WATER relies on a solid narrative following extremely sympathetic characters. Because Hitomi Kuroki is so convincing in her portrayal of Yoshimi, we sympathize with her dire situation and when her credibility and sanity are brought into question, we witness (along with Yoshimi) that there is something much more supernatural going on. While the imagery may be familiar, it is the power of this story that makes it different from the Grudge and Ring gals. In fact, due to the depth of sorrow and suffering in this story and dire stakes, DARK WATER feels much more akin to DON’T LOOK NOW or ALICE SWEET ALICE as the little girl in this film wears a yellow slicker similar to the little terror in those films.

The story here takes its time to develop into something much more investment-worthy than your usual shock a minute light horror romp, and the stakes are much more emotionally higher as well. Nakata fills every nook and cranny of the film with moody hallways, water worn ceilings, and dank lighting. It is constantly raining inside and out in this film, and the sea green and grey tones over everything makes this film feel like it’s constantly underwater. Sure there are some scenes where the little ghost girl creeps in the periphery and per every Japanese horror film, someone swallows some hair that somehow manages to get into the water supply, but the real scares seem to echo some of the same creepiness Kubrick achieved with THE SHINING. There’s even a scene where water bursts out of an elevator much like the bloody elevator scene from Kubrick’s film.

Adding to the creepiness of this film is the fact that it is very reminiscent of a case that happened AFTER this film and its American remake was made where a young Elisa Lam was videotaped in an elevator acting strangely as if she were being pursued and was found days later in the water tower atop the Cecil Hotel in 2013 after tenants complained that the water tasted funny. Everything from the elevator, to the water tower to the grody water is much like this strange case and is either one of those weird coincidences or a true case of life imitating art. Watch the video below if you don’t believe me. This was the same hotel connected to the Black Dahlia murder and as if this weren’t trippy enough, in the remake, Jennifer Connelly’s character is named Dahlia. The more you know about this strange case the more creepy this movie gets. Check out this video listing some conspiracy theories connected to this case and tell me it isn’t eerie how close DARK WATER and this case really are.

Despite the conspiracy theories and ghost stories, DARK WATER is a really effective little ghost story that doesn’t really fit into what we know to be the J-horror trend of the Oughts. This new BluRay comes with a new interview with director Hideo Nakata, another with novelist Koji Suzuki, another with cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi, and one with actress Asami Mizukawa, a Making of documentary, and more!

Retro-review: Recently released on BluRay with THE HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS FEAST Collection from Arrow Films/MVD Visual!


Directed by Frank Henenlotter & Jimmy Malson
Starring Herschell Gordon Lewis, David F. Friedman, Frank Henenlotter, Mal Arnold, John Bloom, John Waters, Ray Sager, Bunny Yeager
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

The amazing Arrow Films and MVD Visual have put together the ultimate collection of films and specials focusing on the true Godfather of Gruesome, Herschell Gordon Lewis. I totally missed the news that Lewis passed away this past September and hearing the news really hit me this week as I had a chance to chat with Lewis a few years ago and found him to be an absolutely charming and fascinating man. That’s why I’m reposting this documentary review I did of HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS: THE GODFATHER OF GORE first because once you get to know what the guy was all about, you can’t help but love the pioneer her was and the schlock-filled greatness of his films.

I love the number of documentaries recently focusing on horror through the ages. I’ve greatly enjoyed AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE as well as NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE, & BLUE in that not only do they provide a much-needed history lesson in the annals of horror, but they also provide a correlation to America’s own history through the eyes of a camera lens and actors, directors, writers, and fans that have spent many a night watching horror. If you’re a horror enthusiast, you know about Herschell Gordon Lewis. He coined the tern gore in cinema and applied it heavily to many of his more popular films, but this film does a great job of providing some of the back-story behind the Godfather of Gore.

I found the parts talking about Lewis’ ingenuity through the years to be most fascinating. He seems to be a man who sees the holes in popular culture and knows how to fill them, rising to opportunity when it is most beneficial. Sure, his films were somewhat badly acted and shoddily shot, but the fact that he was the first making films which relied so much on gore makes his work iconic and historic. Lewis painted the screen with Technicolor reds, staining the audiences’ minds with a crimson gruesome hue. John Waters comments that much of the way Lewis staged his films was like a porno with the payoff being a gory and sticky finish comparable to the cum-shot. Somewhat crude, sure, but an accurate description nevertheless.

Lewis comes off as a charming and somewhat stubborn director with a will and craftiness that couldn’t be beat. Hearing the stories that went on behind the scenes of some of Lewis’ classics such as BLOOD FEAST, 2000 MANIACS, and WIZARD OF GORE makes the films themselves richer and more enjoyable. Something Weird is also releasing those three films on BluRay this week, which is the perfect accompaniment to this documentary.

The documentary kind of sags in the end, making me think that this might have been a tighter documentary if it were only an hour, but nevertheless, it is a fountain of great stories about a filmmaker who definitely stained his mark on the horror industry.

Highly recommended.

Somewhere Lewis is looking down and smiling that this collection was made and more people can be nauseated and offended by his legacy. I can’t wait to revisit the films in this collection. Look for more reviews of Lewis’ films featured in THE HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS FEAST in upcoming columns of AICN HORROR!

New on DVD from MVD Visual!


Directed by Pavel Soucoupe, Lee Mathews, Patrick Rea, Ruben Rodriguez, Anthony Fanneli
Written by Pavel Soucoupe, Lee Mathews, Patrick Rea, Ruben Rodriguez, Anthony Fanneli
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

The best thing about anthologies such as this, which collect a bunch of short films and put them into one package, is that is you don’t like one, there’s another right behind it that might be better. While THE INVOKING 3: POLTERGEIST DIMENSIONS isn’t the best collection of shorts, it does have a few worth watching and another indication that the short film is a medium that is still alive and kicking and scaring. Let me walk through this collection and give you all a few thoughts on each short film on this release.

We start off with a found footage style short about a group who enter a cave which is rumored to be haunted by Aztec demons only to find…Aztecs and demons. The short runtime of this one cuts through the usual boring stuff one finds in found footagers like developing characters, back-story, and reasons for filming. Instead we just get a scattered and unbelievable jumble of people running, screaming, and attacks from guys in Aztec costumes and a CG demon. Even though this fast forwards to the action, this segment shows how important the setup is to a found footage film by not having a lot of it.

I liked the short, but sweet goblin in the cupboard flick about a woman who keeps hearing weird noises coming from behind under her kitchen sink. There’s not a lot to this one, but the creepy goblin hand and the noises made is just enough to send a shiver or two.

Another shortie focuses on a woman taking selfies who keeps seeing a faceless man behind her in the photographs. While it doesn’t make a lot of sense in the end, it is creepy—offering up a final image that is some potent nightmare fuel.

Next is another found footager with a news team tagging along with a family who are bringing the ransom to what appears to be a kidnapping handoff. Hell breaks loose and this one turns out to be better at establishing a problem and then turning everything on its ear in the final moments. I admire the chaos this one is able to contain.

A Mexican short focuses on the long and varied “curse of the woman on the side of the road” fables. The lead in is a little slow, but this one uses some great sound and is able to convey a car crash in a pretty gruesome manner. Still, the short contains a whole lot of screaming at a rapid pace, which makes it difficult to follow if you are trying to read the subtitles.

A seemingly innocent day in a park turns into something quite hellish as a boy is forced to bring his step sister out to play with him. But when the playground is empty when they arrive, they find that a simple game of hopscotch opens a gateway to another dark dimension. This was one of the best shorts of the bunch, mainly because it establishes a powerful feeling of danger and makes the innocent seem not so much.

Next is a nice new slant on the baby monitor terror story where parents watch in horror as a creature appears in their child’s room in the middle of the night. This one is nicely paced and has a hell of a scary image at the end of it, though it is simply adding visual to the audio horrors we heard in INSIDIOUS and THE BABY’S ROOM from a baby monitor.

The final segment is another one of the better ones where a woman is haunted by eerie sounds and phone calls in a dark house in the middle of the woods. While this one doesn’t really come to a satisfying conclusion, the road there is full of terrifying moments and sounds that seem like they are coming straight from hell. I loved most of this one, and even though no real answers are given, the final shot is a doozie.

The original INVOKING film (reviewed here) was a haunted house film and a rather uninspired one. The sequel (reviewed here) chose the format this third film hollows and I felt it was a more successful one, though it had nothing really to do with the original. THE INVOKING 3: POLTERGEIST DIMENSIONS is not the strongest short film anthologies out there, but it does highlight some decent talent and ends up being a forgettable, yet somewhat potent collection.

Available On Demand from Uncork’d Entertainment!

STRAY (2015)

Directed by Nena Eskridge
Written by Nena Eskridge
Starring Gabrielle Stone, Dan McGlaughlin, Samantha Fairfield Walsh, Andrew Sensenig, Sean Patrick Folster, Alexandra Landau, Arita Trahan, Ben Lyle Lotka, Paul McNair, Scarlett Robison, Ana-Maria Arkan
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

While the acting is rock solid and the premise shows promise, STRAY teeters a bit too far into the brink of Lifetime-esque bland melodrama than nail-biting thriller.

Jennifer (Gabrielle Stone) is a mysterious drifter who follows a businessman (Andrew Sensenig) home after sitting next to him on a train unrealistically hoping to start a new life with him. Of course, he sleeps with her, but when she wants more and he isn’t ready for an immediate commitment with this loon rando he met on a train, so she kills him. Taking up residence in his house, Jennifer gets a job at a bar, shacks up with the bartender (Dan McGlaughlin) after breaking up his engagement, and tries to start a new life again, this time succeeding, but her old psychotic ways are harder to shake than she believes.

STRAY is more HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE than anything else—where the urge to procreate and settle in the lead is so overwhelming that every thing else, even respect for life and sheer common sense are thrown out the window for these ideals. I know people like this and while this film takes it to the extreme with the murder, it’s an interesting motivation for a lead to have that hasn’t really been explored in horror so much. That’s why I was hopeful in going into this one, but the problem is that the film itself lingers too much on the chase for happiness and less so on the dark descent for chasing that dream. The film drags way too much and needs a solid edit from an hour forty to maybe a brisker hour fifteen to me more effective. There’s just too much fluff in the sandwich that is this movie and not enough spice. A little more action, a little more bloodletting, a little more teeth bared—and this could be a great movie. As is, it’s simply too tame to really cause any hackles to be raised as there is practically no blood, no nudity, and no swearing that I can remember.

That said, Gabrielle Stone (daughter of Dee Wallace Stone) is one hell of an actress and I can’t wait for her to soar in some solid horror films like her mother did. She’s gorgeous and looks uncannily like her mother in some scenes, while delivering a rock solid performance in carrying the lead role as a complicated victim of abuse yearning for something she keeps self sabotaging. The rest of the cast is pretty great too with Sensenig and McGlaughlin both offering strong turns as the unfortunate men in Jennifer’s life.

STRAY isn’t a bad film; just a tame one that really never really leaves the realm of safety and blandness. The ending is actually pretty intriguing with a bit of a revelation that is downright good, but as a whole STRAY would do some good to have a few scenes shaved off and a little more nitty gritty tossed in to spice things up.

WARNING: This trailer gives way too much away of the film, so steer clear if you’re going to watch it.

New on DVD and digital download from Midnight Releasing!


Directed by Mitch Wilson
Written by Mitch Wilson
Starring Julin, Katie Bosacki, Cameron Deane Stewart, Taylor Tippins, Justin Arnold, Mary Catherine Wells, Daniel Walker-Rice, Carrie Holland, Tom Young, Jason Duffy Klemm, Erin Marie Garrett, Brian Tyler Cohen, Ashley Brinkman, Jennifer Juvenelle, & Tom Zembrod as Knucklebones!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

This attempt at making a note-worthy and franchise-worthy slasher only makes it halfway there as unrealistic characters, lame humor, and a dated tone really end up cracking KNUCKLEBONES.

A group of bored kids who look like they’ve fallen off of a supermodel truck decide it is a good idea to go to the outskirts of town to a clothing mill with a dark history involving Nazi occult rituals and think it’s a good idea to try to summon a demon named Knucklebones. After successfully summoning the demon, Knucklebones tears a bloody swath down the middle of them.

If this film would have come out in the 80’s it might have been interesting. Coming out now and it only feels uninspired and aged to imperfection. The story is paper thin as the kids somehow have what it takes to summon a demon and the events play out where they are force fed the way to kill it as well when a conveniently placed bum appears with a prepared speech. Knucklebones makes short work of the group of kids (and delivers one-liners that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger roll his eyes) just in time for another group of kids to show up simply to up the body count and show more boobs, blood, and carnage.

I don’t want to hate on this film too much. It’s capably filmed and the gore is pretty brutal, but this is brainless horror that only supports horror’s criticisms of being uninspired, shallow, creatively-empty, narratively-ignorant. If you like your horror that way, shame on you, but here is a film that’ll fill your hankerin’.

Available now On Demand!

CLASSROOM 6 (2015)

Directed by Jonas Odenheimer
Written by Jonas Odenheimer
Starring Valentina Kolaric, Mike McLaughlin, Maurice Mejia, Vince Major, Victor Manso, Jessica Amal Rice, Paul Thomas Arnold, Craig Cranic, Matt Poe, Wesley Rice, Jean-Louis Darville, Caroline Guivarch, Lauren Tess
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

So it might be a bit late, but I’m going to try to make a found footage checklist which indicates whether or not it is a decent film or not. For me, believing that this is found footage is crucial in being a successful found footage or not. Many will say that simply because it is a found footage film, it’s going to be shit. I don’t. I feel like there are some found footagers worth seeking out, but the best follow a specific criteria for making the viewer believe this is something caught on tape with as little hands on it apart from the person filming it. Still, there are a lot of shit ones who break these rules. I guess a checklist like this is still relevant since they keep making these films. So here goes.

What’s the premise?
A group of eager reporters are investigating a haunted school building of a still running school that is rumored to be haunted and full of portals to hell. After they lock themselves inside the building, strange things start occurring to the team consisting of a lead reporter, cameraman, sound guy, and two PA’s.

Are the actors believably acting like they aren’t acting?
Some of them, but the range of acting definitely doesn’t match the emotion needed, specifically in the latter half when everyone starts freaking out. It’s just not believable, which is integral to a found footage film. It is kind of funny that the PA’s disappear and the main crew don’t really seem to give a shit about them. In their defense, the PA’s were rather annoying and pretentious.

Is there music added from an invisible orchestra breaking the believability of everything happening on camera is real?
No, but there are some eerie sound effects going on in the scene, which doesn’t break the rule.

Is there the presence of multiple edits, as if there were an omniscient editor switching between cameras when there shouldn’t be one in footage that is supposed to have been found?
No, most edits happen when the cameraman turns the camera on and off, though there are moments where we cut to the security cams in other rooms which shouldn’t have shown up on the tape. This suggests an omniscient editor which is ok here because it is explained that this film was edited together “too honor those who have gone missing.”

Is there a valid reason the camera isn’t dropped and they just get the hell out of there?
Not really. Once shit goes down, instead of thinking about themselves and breaking through a window with the many classroom desks around the place, they simply keep rolling. There isn’t even the oft present line “Record EVERYTHING!”

Is the lead in too long and the payoff too short?
Not as long as some. The film is spliced to show flashes of clips from the latter portions of the film when things get crazy interspersed ominously among the quieter moments at the beginning of the film. Though it doesn’t explain why these clips were edited in, it serves as a way to break up the usual monotony that occurs in the first portion of these types of films.

Is there an up-nose BLAIR WITCH confessional?
Yes, and it’s annoying. Anyone still considering to put this in their found footage movie should have their head examined. At least in this one, someone actually has the sense to say, “What is that message going to do to help us get the hell out of here?”

Does someone get REC-dragged away from the camera?
No, but the camera man is dragged away from someone while he is holding the camera in the final scenes. It’s a variation on the REC-drag, but still annoying and found footagers need a new shot since this one is as overplayed as the up-nose confession shot.

Does anything actually happen?
There’s a lot of screaming and running around. Some ominous scenes that amp the tension when people inexplicably go off by themselves to explore. The budget is, as usual, low—so there really is no kind of big reveal of a monster or explanation of what just happened in the end.

Does the film add anything to the subgenre and is this one worth watching?
CLASSROOM 6 is simply ok, but doesn’t really adding anything new to the game. The portal to hell references never really pay off and the effects are so low key that the shaky camera often obscures any chills it might cause. Apart from a few tension-laden scenes early on, this one really doesn’t add anything to the subgenre and pretty much validates those critical of this type of film.

New this week On Demand, iTunes, and other digital download platforms found here !


Directed by Jonathan Straiton
Written by Jonathan Straiton, Ron Bonk, Mean Gene, Jonathan Straiton
Starring Trey Harrison, Rebecca C. Kasek, Wayne W. Johnson, Michael Merchant, Toni Ann Gambale, Nicola Fiore, John Walsh, Janet Mayson, Tarrence Taylor, Kera O'Bryon, Wes Reid, Billy Garberina, Al Lawler, Kirk LaSalle, David Meadows, Brinke Stevens, Alexis Katherine, Brett Janeski, Jennie Russo
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

There is highbrow horror and lowbrow horror, just as there is highbrow humor and lowbrow humor. And I love them both. I’ll fawn all over something like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, but I’ll also give some love to DEAD ALIVE. Both are great movies. One just takes itself seriously while the other does not. NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE is the latter and if you can appreciate a little gross humor with your gross-out horror, this is a low budget horror messterpiece you’re going to want to pay attention to.

A group of kids decide to take a hiking trip and spend the night in a cheap motel before taking to the trail. But they never get to that hike as they cross paths with a man-monster infected with a virus he caught from sleeping with a corpse. The disease transforms the host into a frothing, drooling, bleeding, horny, sex-crazed monster bent on spreading the virus through sexual contact. Being sex-minded kids guided by their own hormones, the group of kids prove to be the perfect means to spread the virus and they battle through the night simply to survive and get to a safe space that seems not to exist.

This IS a virus outbreak movie of sorts, but while all the tick boxes are ticked off following the outbreak movie format, the main interest of NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE is to make you wince, scream, and laugh out loud. Little things like logic, believable acting, and any kind of a meaningful message is tossed out the window as this film seems to only want to highlight the grosses aspects of sex, life, and love. There isn’t a body fluid that isn’t spewed about, up the walls, and down the chimney of every frame of this film. Just when you think the film couldn’t get any grosser, it ends up topping itself once again. And while I can say I have seen quite a bit in terms of gross, this film manages to top even that list. For that, I applaud NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE. If you’re going to be king, you might as well go for the gold and NOSS is the new king of gross-out horror films.

The acting in NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE almost killed it for me in the beginning of this film. It’s pretty atrocious in the opening scenes at a poorly lit schoolroom filled with actors belching out flat lines. But I’m glad I stuck with this film because as the film proceeds, it really does improve in both quality and likability. The clichéd dialog that littered the first half seems to have been improved upon tenfold as the picture progressed and the actors playing the characters seem to improve as well. If you’re watching this one and start feeling like it’s too low budget with it’s rough acting, sound, and editing, I implore you to stick with it. This film seems to have been made over the span of a long time and like the sex virus afflicted in this film, it undergoes a transformation about twenty minutes in from unwatchable to something highly enjoyable.

Enormous ejaculation, mistaken butt-sex, vagina dentata, sharting, and unexpected death are just some of the can’t-believe-your-eyes-and-ears moments of this film. It’s downright wrong in every way and isn’t afraid to step in its own shit and laugh at itself. Bold, ballsy, and all around bowel-churning—NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE is the best low-fi, gross-out, horror rollercoaster ride your bound to take. See it with a bucket close to you because you’re either going to barf from the gore or the laughs.

New this week on BluRay, On Demand, and Digital download from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment!


Directed by Fede Alvarez
Written by Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Starring Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Emma Bercovici, Franciska Töröcsik, Christian Zagia, Katia Bokor, Sergej Onopko, Olivia Gillies
Find out more about this film here
and on
Facebook here!
Review by Mark L. Miller aka
Ambush Bug

DON’T BREATHE is that kind of rock solid horror film you just don’t often see. Meticulously constructed and tightly written, filmmaker Fede Alvarez and his co-writer Rodo Sayagues have built a masterful play on tension, terror, shock, and awe. It’s no wonder I ranked it #4 in my year’s best horror list this past year.

Three young criminals (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto) stake out the home of a blind man (Stephen Lang), thinking he’s an easy mark for their next heist. But once inside, they realize they have bitten off more than they can chew and find themselves trapped in the dark layer of a madman.

Let’s start with the performances here. Stephen Lang has always proven himself as an actor who will give his all for a role. Be it as the cowardly gunslinger Ike Clanton in TOMBSTONE or sleazy reporter Freddy Lounds in MANHUNTER or more recently as the psychotic Colonel Miles Quaritch in AVATAR, he always stands out as an amazing character actor. But in DON’T BREATHE, he gets to shine brightly as the main menace for the three unsuspecting burglars. Lang is able to convey sympathy in the early moments as he is portrayed as a weak blind man suffering from the loss of his daughter and family. But once the lights go out and revelations are revealed, Lang shows how vicious he becomes and is equally convincing as someone you would never want to mess with.

The rest of the cast is pretty talented as well with young Jane Levy leading the pack as Rocky, the crook with the heart of gold who just wants to get this one big score so she can move to California and get her little sister out of a horrific home environment. Levy was great in Alvarez’s last film THE EVIL DEAD remake and while in that film, she spent the whole time either coming down from drugs or being possessed or both, she gets to show a whole lot more range here. Levy is tough as nails, but still manages to maintain that fragile quality that makes the viewer feel like she can really get hurt here in this situation and is not some kind of cartoon heroine.

And that’s what makes this film so good. It’s simply unpredictable. You don’t know who, if anyone, will survive. Nothing is taken for granted and no convention should be relied upon. Just when you think the characters you’ve been following are safe, suddenly they are back in the middle of a nightmare. Alvarez constructs an amazing nightmare with multiple levels, various threats, and all sorts of surprises. He focuses in on specific details at the beginning of the film, letting us know that these things are going to be important later in the film. Much like Hitchcock, Alvarez shows us his hand. He maps out the hell these characters are moving around in and then with that knowledge, manages to keep us on the edge of the seat waiting for him to use the imagery, props, and tools that he has shown us at the beginning. This is a sophisticated level of storytelling here, as it could become predictable, but Alvarez defies prediction. He may show us a hammer hanging on a wall or a piece of glass on the ground, but we have no idea how it’s going to come into play later. We just know it is there and by letting us know about every aspect of this environment the action is going on in, he puts the viewer on edge as to how it is all going to play out given that knowledge.

On top of the expert construction, this film isn’t afraid to go into areas seldom covered in mainstream horror. One scene in particular (hint: it involves a turkey baster) is something I was shocked to see happening in a big budget theater and the audience I saw this film seemed to be utterly shocked as well. This is a film that feels dangerous to watch because it allows itself to plunge deep into real human horror and feels fearless in how far it will go. For that, I respect DON’T BREATHE a whole hell of a lot.

Exciting from beginning to end, DON’T BREATHE is a really satisfying horror film from a filmmaker I hope has a long career in the genre. Alvarez shows he is able to act as a tour guide through an absolutely horrific situation and fills every moment with all sorts of terrors that are all the more potent because everything is set in the world we live in. In a medium where the only horrors we see are cut and paste haunted house fare from BlumHouse, DON’T BREATHE is a breath of fresh air for the genre.

New this week in select theaters and On Demand from Magnet Releasing!


Directed by Nicolas Pesce
Written by Nicolas Pesce
Starring Kika Magalhaes, Diana Agostini, Will Brill, Olivia Bond, Joey Curtis-Green, Flora Diaz, Paul Nazak, Clara Wong
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Filmed in beautiful black and white, THE EYES OF MY MOTHER is an unconventional horror story split into three parts about a misguided woman seeking companionship in ways that are most uncanny. While there are elements of torture porn in this film, as there is a person in chains being broken by mistreatment, the focus is less on the torture and more about the formation of twisted relationships and the uglier side of family and love.

In chapters marked “Mother,” “Father,” and “Family,” THE EYES OF MY MOTHER follows a young girl Francisca (played by wide-eyed cutie Olivia Bond) as she grows into a young woman (played by the enchanting Kika Magalhaes) and how she forms her twisted outlook on love through various tragic events happening to her family. A character only seeking to be loved and to follow in her dear mother’s footsteps, Francisca is first seen taking advice from Mother (Diana Agostini) definitely seems like she has a few loose screws herself as she attempts to educate the young girl in surgery at a very young age. When a mysterious giggling stranger appears on her doorstep, he ends up attacking the house while Father (Paul Nazak) is away, but when he returns and incapacitates the stranger, he is given to Francisca as a sort of present to take care of in the barn, which she does with misguided tenderness. This is but the first domino to topple in Francisca’s psyche through these three chapters.

There’s a simplicity to this film that cannot be denied. The decision to go black and white with this really does set it apart and make it feel more resonant as it covers odd family relations, torture, and more twisted beliefs. Each frame seems to be meticulously plotted out by filmmaker Nicolas Pesce who, like many surreal painters, has an eye for making disgusting and off-putting things look beautiful. The subtle blending of the soft tones also help a lot, as Pesce’s lingering camera makes everything look like a moving and flowing painting during the scenes taking place outside. Inside, there are more harsher tones, reflecting the strong differentiation between the blacks and whites and the moral conflict of the twisted behavior going on behind the walls of the farmhouse and the barn. This all seems very intentionally mapped out by a filmmaker who pays attention to how the softness or harshness of shadow and tone can represent the action of that specific scene. Compare the gentle conversation in a field with a herd of cows and all of its grays to the extreme black and whites of the footage inside the barn with Francisca’s captive pet and you will see a master at work in Pesce’s film.

The acting is out of this world as well. Magalhaes is beautiful and doe-eyed as Francisca, a complex character doing horrible things through the understanding of a child’s view of the world. No matter what horrible acts she commits, I sympathized with her as she is truly a cracked human being. Agostini is the true standout as Mother here with her haunting, bone-like face to the cold delivery she gives as she teaches her daughter how to cut out an eye is truly chilling. Her performance is what many will remember from this film after the credits. And Will Brill’s performance as the giggling drifter is one that will cause many a nightmare as he descends upon the house.

THE EYES OF MY MOTHER serves as three interconnected shorts starring the same characters at different stages in their lives. Seeing this growth from one point in life to the next feels almost invasive as these moments are delicately and intimately played out. This is an odd film—taking narrative risks and offering extremely flawed characters as the centerpiece, but it’s a brave one to take the chances to do something different with a story. I didn’t want this film to end as this world is truly one of bizarre beauty and a somewhat simple, albeit bent look at life and love. Unfortunately for the lead character, the world isn’t so simple and that’s the biggest moral you’re going to take from this exquisite little horror.

And finally…here’s another radio play from the chilling horror series from yesteryear, LIGHT’S OUT called PROFITS UNLIMITED! 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

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!

Look for our bi-weekly rambling about random horror films on Poptards and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday!

Find more AICN HORROR including an archive of previous columns on AICN HORROR’s Facebook page!

Finally, if the text is running over the pics in the body of the article, refresh the screen and that should fix it. I still have no idea why this is happening lately…
Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus