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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. It’s another FRIDAY THE 13TH! Woo hoo! And I celebrate it as I always do, by covering another entry in my favorite horror series. Also thrown in are some reviews of new releases, a classic or two, and a film on the horizon. On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Happy Friday the 13th: JASON GOES TO HELL – THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993)
Retro-review: THE NEPTUNE FACTOR (1973)
Short Cuts: BLOODY BITS (2016)
THE BARN (2016)
Advance Review: WEKUFE: THE ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016)
And finally…JASON GOES TO HELL – THE FINAL FRIDAY Comic Book #1-3!

Get the FRIDAY THE 13TH The Complete Collection BluRay here!


Directed by Adam Marcus
Written by Jay Huguely, Dean Lorey, & Adam Marcus
Starring John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Williams, Steven Culp, Erin Gray, Rusty Schwimmer, Richard Gant, Leslie Jordan, Billy Green Bush, Kipp Marcus, Andrew Bloch, Adam Cranner, Allison Smith, Julie Michaels, James Gleason, Dean Lorey, Diana Georger, Adam Marcus, Mark Thompson, Brian Phelps, Blake Conway, Madelon Curtis, Michelle Clunie, Michael B. Silver, Kathryn Atwood, and Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Let me start out by saying that I am not a fan of JASON GOES TO HELL. I don’t really know many who are. The film was the first of the New Line FRIDAY THE 13TH films and it is indicative of how the company really didn’t respect the franchise or want these films to succeed. If I were a conspiracy theory enthusiast (and I am), I would think that the folks at New Line simply bought the franchise to bury it since it really was the only competition at the Box Office for their main man Freddy Krueger. Now, I think they wanted the money (especially when it came to a possible team up of the two of them), but in terms of respect for the film series, it really didn’t seem like anyone really tried to make a good movie here. JASON GOES TO HELL simply is a film made by folks who most likely didn’t see the series, weren’t fans of the series, and knew nothing about what fans wanted from a next installment. It’s a great example of producers thinking very little of the fans of the series and delivering stupid clichés, cardboard characters and most importantly ineffective scares because they think that’s either what they are looking for or that they are too stupid to know the difference.

As my coverage of the FRIDAY THE 13TH films would indicate, I am a fan of the series. Even the worst of the series, and this one most definitely is, has some merits and I’ll struggle to find a few later. But I remember hearing about this FINAL FRIDAY and scoffing right from the get go. We were given THE FINAL CHAPTER five movies prior and that didn’t stop them from proceeding with more movies. So when the tagline came out, I remember being excited for a new F13 film, but knowing that this we will always have another chapter.

I also remember going to see this one in the theaters despite the fact that PART 8 was a disappointment. Still, the ad campaign was bigger, as was the budget, so I was hoping for a better installment and went with a group of friends to see the film. I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but have you ever gone to a movie and felt embarrassed for the movie you are watching? This was the experience I had with JASON GOES TO HELL. My friends knew I was a F13 fan and sitting next to them in the theater, I could almost feel them judging me for liking the series as the shitty movie played out in front of me. Not only were my hopes dashed, but now my friends thought I had horrible taste in movies.

Things start out promising enough in this installment. A plucky young gal in a baseball hat (there seems to be a lot of women in baseball hats in this one for some reason) arrives at Crystal Lake and of course, after a bulb burns out and she replaces it, she immediately strips and takes a shower. As fast as you can say “nip slip”, Jason appears and starts swiping away at the gal with his machete. She runs out of the house, leading Jason into the open as a military team pops out and unleashes hot-lead hell upon Mr. Voorhees. The whole ballistic battle ends with someone tossing a grenade at Jason and blowing him to bits.

Now, this opening was actually pretty decent. We get some nudity and a typical final girl chase. And I kind of like flipping the script and having all of this being a trap for Jason as very rarely do we have the tide turned against Jason with him not being the one in control (especially not in the opening moments). Sure, I would have liked Jason to take on some of these military types and maybe dismember a few before the grenade was thrown, but that is but one of many missed opportunities for cool here from first time director Adam Marcus (who went on to write the screenplay for TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D).

Remember the iconic “Jason on the mobile home” shot from PART 6 or the epic battle between Jason and Tina in PART 7 or even the fun Jason in Times Square scene from PART 8. All of these films are not perfect, but they provided some moments of coolness that showed him doing something fun and new. None of that is in this film. Jason gets no cool kills in this one and this opening scene against the military unit could have been that scene appeasing fans looking for another reason to love the character. One of the cardinal rules of the FRIDAY films is that you simply don’t make fun of Jason. Make fun of the stupid kids. Make fun of the scary situation. But nothing kills the bite of a villain than having someone make fun of the killer (see Busta Rhymes showdown with Michael Myers for a prime example of that). In JASON GOES TO HELL, not only does her get no cool scenes, everyone is making fun of him. The mortician talks about shitting on his chest. They make hamburgers with hockey masks. Hell, even Kane Hodder gets in on the action and as a security guard, calls him a pussy. This does nothing to make Jason scarier. It makes us laugh at him, thus making him less ominous.

Wanting to take the film in a series in a new direction, they decided to toss out everything we knew about Jason and make him into a supernatural creature that swaps bodies. As bounty hunter Creighton Duke (Steven Williams) explains, “We haven’t seen the real Jason. He wears bodies like we wear suits.” Since it wasn’t a huge blockbuster of a film, the producers didn’t think anyone saw THE HIDDEN, so basically they ripped off the entire film by having Jason’s real form be that of a worm-like creature that travels from one person to another through the hosts’ mouths, eating up the life essence of that form, and then needing another soon after. So instead of Jason, the bulk of the film has us following around different characters who walk stiffly and murder people—looking like Jason in their reflections. A Jason film without Jason in it…it worked so well before in PART 5 and in HALLOWEEN 3, didn’t it? (Granted I like HALLOWEEN 3, but it was disappointing not to have Michael Myers in a HALLOWEEN movie).

On top of that, out of the blue, Jason has an all new motivation. Gone is the sense of revenge that was engrained in the character ever since PART 2 to pay back anyone to tread into Crystal Lake territory because they remind him of those who killed his dead mommy. In JASON GOES TO HELL, Jason takes a page from Michael Myers’ playbook and is in search of his relative to murder them. So a sister was cooked up in the form of Diana Kimble (BUCK ROGERS Erin Gray) and Jason is an uncle and a grand uncle too as Diana has a daughter Jessica who also has just had a baby, making them a target as well. The reason for this sudden urge to use is that the only way Jason can truly be reborn is if he possesses someone in his lineage (more shit made up, not by piecing together threads from previous films, but just to support their half-assed plot). Once again, the filmmakers behind this one had no idea what FRIDAY THE 13TH is about. They even introduce an “Old Vorhees House” (note the misspelling straight from the film—they couldn’t even bother to spell Jason’s last name right…) which never existed before in the films and somehow still exists in Crystal Lake despite the Voorhees name being such a bane to the town (they even changed the name three films ago to Forest Green), but of course they left the vacant Voorhees home still standing. The place even houses such treasures as the Necronomicon from the EVIL DEAD series and the crate from CREEPSHOW as useless winks to other better horror films you wish you were watching instead of this one.

But while the body swapping route was a bad way to go, in some weird sense it kind of follows a pattern that occurs in these films leading all the way back to the original. In the original FRIDAY THE 13TH, Crazy Ralph claims that Crystal Lake has a “death currrrrse!” Now if you follow the film, Pamela is the killer in the first film until she is killed by one of the counselors. At that point, through a fuzzy dream or fevered reality, Jason makes his first appearance by springing out of the lake and pulling Final Girl Alice underwater. For the next three films, Jason goes on a killing spree until THE FINAL CHAPTER where he is murdered by Tommy. In PART 5, a Jason-less film, the hockey-masked killer is a man inspired by Tommy’s story who is set off when his own son is killed. When that guy is killed, Tommy seems to become unhinged, dons the hockey mask, and looks as if he is about to start the killing anew with his counselor Pam as the first victim. Stay with me here. So in PART 6, haunted by Jason, Tommy goes to Jason’s grave in order to destroy his body once and for all to make sure he is dead. But he accidentally reanimates Jason’s corpse and Jason goes on to kill and kill and kill all the way until the subject of this review JASON GOES TO HELL.

If you follow me here and look at this in a particular way, the evil that has been killing in Crystal Lake has been swapping bodies all along; hopping from Pamela to Jason to Tommy to Roy the killer ambulance driver back to Tommy and finally back to Jason. This has been a more nuanced metaphysical leap from body to body rather than the clumsily realized slug swap we get in JASON GOES TO HELL, but still it feels as if there may have been an incarnation of this script that may have been a little more in tune with the series at one point. That doesn’t mean the body swapping was good. It just means that it isn’t as completely out of left field as it originally seems. This “Death Curse” seems to have been hopping from one person to another throughout the entire series.

The main problem with JASON GOES TO HELL (apart from once again failing to deliver what is promised in the title as we get less of hell in this one as we got Manhattan in PART 8) is that at this point the series really had run its course. Instead of focusing on characters like Pamela, Alice, Jason, and Tommy, PARTS 7-10 relied mainly on gimmicks in order to carry the movie. Jason Voorhees had become a household name. Kids were dressing up as Jason for Halloween. He was appearing on the Arsenio Hall show and on MTV. He simply was no longer scary or at least was portrayed as such. It was well known that Paramount was always ashamed at the millions of bucks the franchise made for them and when it was bought by New Line it was the equivalent of an adopted child being treated poorly while all of the spoils were going towards their favorite son Freddy. This oversaturation of Jason is exemplified pretty well in the diner scenes in JASON GOES TO HELL. Despite being cartoonish and gaudy, the marketing of Jason in these scenes with Voorhees Burgers and Jason Fries actually reflects how “out of the shadows” Jason had become to the world.

Not that being out of the shadows was a good thing in this one as the look of Jason is about as sloppy and clumsy as you can get here. The design of Jason is usually a highlight of the F13 films. Even when the story was shit, Jason looked menacing and awesome. For some reason, it was decided that Jason’s monstrous mongloid noggin would tumorously grow into his mask, making a facial reveal impossible in this film (a mainstay in most of the Friday films). Kane Hodder does his best in the fifteen minutes he gets as Jason, but he gets the short end of the stick in this film and doesn’t get to really deliver any of his subtle, yet seething moves he used to animate the mute monster in previous films.

Speaking of Jason’s vocal mutterings, not only does Jason roar and scream in this one numerous times, he also is able to speak through one of his possessed bodies. But hell, by that point, it was obvious the filmmakers weren’t interested in following any kind of consistency with past incarnations, so why should I give a shit.

So instead of Jason wandering around and stalking victims, we get a whole bunch of weirdness that really doesn’t fit into a F13 film such as the wasted Creighton Duke character who Stephen Williams does a fantastic job with, yet really never gets to show us any action to backup his big and tough words he spouts to the press and to those around him not believing in Jason (though I have to say, I loved the “A little girl in a pink dress sticking a hotdog through a donut” line). Had he been the focus of the story, there could have been a truly great climax. Instead, we get John D. LeMay in the lead. LeMay was the star of the off center FRIDAY THE 13TH TV series and makes for a weird final girl for this installment. LeMay’s Steven is nebbish, smart-assed, and downright unlikable at times, yet for some reason convention is bucked and he survives this ordeal with Jason and even comes out as the hero. Seeing LeMay try to act tough and go fist to fist with Jason is both hilarious and pitiful as it just makes LeMay look all the more ineffectual as a hero and makes Jason look weak for actually letting this dweeb get the better of him.

Which leads to some foam muppet hands reaching out of the soil and dragging Jason to Hell (you would have thought they wouldn’t have put the spoiler for the ending in the title, but they did…). The hands are awkward foam mitts that are more comical than scary and the final scene as Freddy’s claw emerged from the soil to pull the hockey mask under only hints at a possible better movie to come rather than caps off a good one. And if you’ve never seen it, the alternative ending, which features not only giant foam hands, but actual demons dragging him down was shot, but if doesn’t make the end any better.

I told you I’d get to the good parts of the film eventually, so as I wrap this review up I guess I should get to them. This is one of the bloodier installments, though none of the carnage actually comes from the hockey masked Jason. These scene where the cop melts into a puddle of goo is great if it were in another film, but like everything else, it feels out of place in a FRIDAY THE 13TH film. Stephen Williams is wasted, but does have some decent lines and the finger breaking scene in the cell is pretty hardcore. And that’s about it in terms of something positive I can take away from this ill conceived, remedially executed, and poorly made sequel. By far, this is my least favorite of the series and though I had to re-watch this one for this review, I hope to never have to endure it again. If you’re looking to watch a FRIDAY THE 13TH film tonight, skip this one and watch any of the other ones.

The extras on the JASON GOES TO HELL disk in this collection are scant. All we get are a few extended scenes for the TV version of the film that are pretty lame, useless, and revolving around the cartoonish diner. Next up is another film that veers off into the great void of outer space in JASON X, a film that had F13 fans split down the middle. But that is a review for the next Friday the 13th!

Links to previous FRIDAY THE 13TH Coverage!
Ambush Bug on the IT’S ALWAYS FRIDAY THE 13TH Podcast!
AICN HORROR - CANNIBAL HORRORCAST picks their favorite Friday the 13TH!
FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)/FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 (1982) Review

Retro-review: New on BluRay from Kino Lorber!


Directed by Daniel Petrie
Written by Jack DeWitt
Starring Ben Gazzara, Walter Pidgeon, Ernest Borgnine, Yvette Mimieux, Donnelly Rhodes, Chris Wiggins, Michael J. Reynolds, Mark Walker, Leslie Carlson, Stuart Gillard, Ed McGibbon, David Renton, Joan Gregson, David Yorston, Ken Pogue, Dave Mann, Kei Fujiwara, Dan MacDonald
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

You can make out hints of where James Cameron might have come up with the plot for THE ABYSS in this quaint little sci fi underwater epic called THE NEPTUNE FACTOR.

An undersea research station is caught in an underground earthquake and disappears along a deep trench in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, leaving deep sea explorers Commander Adrian Blake (Ben Gazzara) and Chief Diver Don McCay (Ernest Borgnine) to man an underwater rescue vehicle along the trench to try to retrieve them before they succumb to the deep sea pressure and lack of oxygen. The fate of the lab and the scientists on board seem dire as the rescue team races against time to find them.

Interestingly enough, this film doesn’t go the usual route and focus on the sunken vessel struggling for survival like disaster pics like THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and the like. Instead the main focus is on the crew of the rescue vehicle as they desperately search for the crashed lab. Most likely, this is because of the lack of budget as this is one cheap looking film. Scenes of the divers seem like they’ve been filmed in a swimming pool, while close ups on marine life are supposed to show these sea beasties at an immense size at this uncharted depth. While these images of sea life might have been shocking and new to moviegoers when this film was put out, it’s nothing most of us haven’t seen on Animal Planet or the Discovery Channel these days, so the effect is less than startling. Still it’s fun seeing the obvious remote control toy swimming among fish in what looks to be a fish tank with the crew in the interior vehicle set reacting to them as they pass by the windows.

The real treat is seeing wizened actors Ernest Borgnine and Ben Gazzara do their thing in their younger years. Gazzara is especially good as the voice of reason in the ship trying to make the others accept that those in the lab are most likely dead and the trip isn’t worth it. Borgnine plays his usual likable self, but Gazzara stands out because of how abrupt and to the point he is.

Put together fun close-ups of sea beasties, toy submarines, nice character work by some elder actors, and a dire situation and you have one undeniably lovable little people in peril tale. It’s great Saturday afternoon fare back when they used to play movies on Saturday afternoons, that is.

This is one cheaply made, but nevertheless fun joyride of a retro-classic.

New on DVD from Blood in the Snow and Black Fawn Distribution!


Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Blood in the Snow and Black Fawn Distribution have compiled seven short films to make up BLOODY BITS. This one doesn’t waste any time with a bookend feature trying to tie all of these stories together. It just plays out the shorts one at a time. No frills. Still, some of the shorts are pretty great.

In “Dead All Night,” a jailed vigilante is given a chance of freedom if he goes into a futuristic crime zone to retrieve a microchip that controls nuclear missiles. Yes, it’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, but it stars THE DEMOLISHER’s Ry Barrett as the vigilante and Robert Nolan (from the shorts HEIR and FAMILIAR as well as SILENT RETREAT). This one is directed by Christopher Giroux and has a fun 70’s apocalyptic feel to it seen in MAD MAX and THE WARRIORS. The score is nice and synthy. The plot is simple and the action is intense all the way through. Barrett is basically playing the same character he is playing in THE DEMOLISHER—filled with rage and determination, though he makes more with the quips here than he did in that film. This one makes for a fun little action short that is worth the ride despite being a bit too similar to stuff we’ve seen before.

“Greater Than” is a short about twisted love as a store owner meets an exotic woman and begins a relationship with her. He buys her roses and she sends him an arm. Things intensify from there as he tries to track her down and finds himself drawn to her all the more after her sacrifice. Directed elegantly by Darryl Shaw, this is one perverse love tale that takes a very dark turn, even when you think it can’t get any darker. This is one short you won’t forget.

Jay Clarke’s “Lively” is another take on the babysitter horror subgenre as a handsy little boy seems to be one babysitter’s only hope when a serial killer comes a knocking. Short and sweet, this one implies some pretty horrific things and has both a creepy kid and a serial killer (once again played by Ry Barrett).

“One More for the Road” follows a couple with a myriad of problems, mainly involving the husband’s distrust and the wife’s infidelity. Out on a deserted road, the two have it out with a crowbar in an extremely brutal scene with only one of them walking away from it. But there’s more going on with this one than it seems in this toothy little terror. Navin Ramaswaran delivers some nice moments of tension and a killer ending to this little film.

A beautiful model gets bitten on a photo shoot and finds herself transforming into something strange in Kat Threlkeld’s “Seiren.” This one not only has some awesome effects, but really does make them scary through some sped-up motion and fancy editing. While it’s nothing particularly new that we haven’t seen in THALE and the other mermaid horror flicks in recent years, it does feature an awesome death sequence.

Fans of MEET THE FEEBLES and MAGIC will want to get a load of “Tasha & Friends,” by Greg Kovacs. This one focuses on the star of a children’s show who is afraid of being upstaged by a puppet. But one night, when a random bolt of lightning hits the furry little guy, the puppets get to show her who’s boss. Some nicely paced scenes, a dark sense of humor, and no hesitation for some nice and bloody gore. While Tasha seems to accept the fact that these puppets are talking and walking on their own a little too quick, I’ll give it a pass because of the truncated runtime. This one is a keeper and probably the best of the bunch.

“Uncommon Enemies” closes out the collection. In Occupied France, a couple of wounded American soldiers hole up in a barn for the night to wait for the cavalry, but while they are ready for Nazis, they aren’t ready for vampires. This one is really damn funny and clever. It’s just long enough for a couple of jokes, some nice gore, and a good time. While it gives the punch line away that vampires exist in this one at the beginning, this one still manages to keep thing suspenseful as enemies must ban together against a common supernatural evil. Really fun stuff from Alex Hatz.

While something typing these short films together might have made for a more satisfying watch, BLOODY BITS collects a nice variety of scares and thrills. From comedic horror to macabre action to edge of your seat thrillers, this collection has it all.

New on DVD from MVD Visual!


Directed by Jason Matherne
Written by Jared Scallions
Starring Eric Fox, Dana Kieferle, Steve Waltz, Bill Heintz, Katheryn Aronson, Jared Scallions, Samantha M. Capps, Amanda Kiley, André Le Blanc, Kristen McCrory, Matt Mitkevicious, Bonnie W. Picone, Jerry C. Paradis, Helen Whiskey, J.C. Pennington
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Even before I pressed play, I kind of knew I was going to love STABBED IN THE FACE. I mean, for the title alone, this one gets extra points. But while the acting is horrible and the production values are pretty non-existent, this one has a DIY charm that is undeniable.

A group of twenty-somethings posing as teenagers decide to go out to a haunted hotel in the middle of nowhere on Halloween weekend to party, do drugs, and have premarital sex. But while they are busy doing that, a killer has escaped from a mental ward. Still, that’s not the only one with murder on his or her mind at this party.

While it probably cost very little to make and was most likely cast with a bunch of friends with a free weekend, the story of STABBED IN THE FACE is actually pretty impressive. While it looks like a pretty standard stalk ‘n slasher, it saves some surprising twists for the final act. Sure the acting is awful, but there is some nicely done gore, a creepy nude zombie corpse, and lots of metal heads getting lopped off. Gratuitous nudity and gruesome bloodletting fills this one from start to finish.

STABBED IN THE FACE wears it’s love for 80’s low budget horror on its sleeve and if you grew up in that era and can look past the low fi production, you’re going to have a good time with this cleverly written cheapo horror surprise.

New this week On Demand from Indican Pictures!


Directed by Tom Lewis
Written by Tom Lewis
Starring Kristen StephensonPino, Nick Clark, Andrew Olson, Jared Boghosian, Carol Anne Watts, Corrin Evans, Myron Natwick, Larrs Jackson, Donna Rusch, Kimberly Spak, Matt Weber
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

THE CHANNEL is an ambitious little exorcism movie that may be trying a bit too hard to be as epic as it wants to be.

Cassie (Kristen StephensonPino) is brought back from the brink of death after surviving a horrific car accident. But ever since she came back, Cassie has been haunted by shadow figures appearing in the periphery of her vision. It will take her priest, her psychiatrist, and her childhood friend to find out what’s haunting her and survive the experience.

There’s a whole lot going on in THE CHANNEL and that might be the main problem with this film. Filmmaker Tom Lewis tries to cover all of the bases by giving copious amounts of screen time to psychoanalysis, biblical theology, and supernatural discourse to try to attack Casse’s problem from all angles. It’s a great way to tackle a real life problem, but sadly, it makes for a rather unfocussed narrative. Since this is an exorcist movie, comparisons to THE EXORCIST are going to be evident and this film is structured in the same way in one of its tangents with a doubting priest going to the elder priest when Cassie comes to him for her problem. She also goes to her psychiatrist and puts a lot of faith into him. In THE EXORCIST, there was plenty of time picking and poking at the problem before deciding an exorcist is necessary, but they still had time to commit to one mode of action for a large part of the film. This one, though it’s evident that it is supernatural, doesn’t really commit until the last minute to being an exorcism movie as it follows Cassie through her therapy, her belief in the church, her discovery of what is going on with her, and the rekindling of a childhood friendship. That’s just too much for one movie and even if it isn’t, it’s pretty apparent that it is too much for this filmmaker to handle as even with all of that going on, the film’s pace is off for most of it.

There are some solid ideas in THE CHANNEL and despite the fact that the budget was low, Lewis bathes everything in blue to give the entire film a wet and somber tone. Lead actress Kristen StephensonPino is decent in the lead, though she needs to learn how to close her mouth as her jaw is usually slack for most of the film. It makes for sultry modeling pics, I’m sure, but in motion, it just makes one wonder how many flies get in her gob. The subtle use of CG and the ambitious story suggests filmmaker Tom Lewis has bigger and better things ahead of him, but this one lacks the focus to be a complete success.

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


Directed by Glenn Douglas Packard
Written by Glenn Douglas Packard, Darryl F. Gariglio
Starring Brian Raetz, Lindsey Nicole, Ryan Moore, Celina Beach, Nicole Dambro, Keith Webb, Sheila Leason, Vibhu Raghave, Rachel Carter, Andrew Dawe-Collins, Derek Reynolds, Carol Ludwick, Addisyn Wallace, Anisbel Lopez, David Mayorga, Dena Woods, Shane Adkins, Mason Packard, & Daniel Wilkinson as Pitchfork!
Find out more about this film here, @PitchforkOfficial, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

There’s a lot to like about this new attempt to make an iconic slasher, but just when something cool happens in PITCHFORK, filmmaker Glenn Douglas Packard injects something absolutely asinine.

The motive of this one is original; Hunter (Brian Raetz) brings a group of his friends home as support since it’s his first time home after announcing that he is gay to his family. While his parents are disapproving, they accept the varied group of kids which consist of pretty much every stereotype you usually find in these films. But while the gang has a barn dance party on their minds, a killer wearing a dog carcass on his face and a pitchfork on his hand is tracking them down one by one. And there’s an extended dance sequence…

Everything with the killer, and there’s a lot, is pretty cool. While the Pitchfork is derivative of Leatherface and his inbred kin, actor Daniel Wilkinson really does give a great, primal performance here—jumping around like an animal and panting like he is in heat with his female victims. The problem is that Packard seems to want to prove he can make both a slasher film AND a dance video. I understand breaking things up with a musical interlude. I’m a fan of Scorsese and have enjoyed my share of MTV videos back when MTV played videos, but having every character stop what they are doing, stare directly at the camera and bust out in a barn dance with multi-colored spotlights and extreme zooming in and out is a buzzkill of epic proportions. The problem is that the song is lame, the dancing is lame, and the cast is obviously so into it and thinks it’s so cool that you can’t help but feel they are lame too. All of the cast look like they stepped off of a modeling shoot and act out stereotypes rather than real characters. None of them seem to get along very well and there is no real reason this group should be friends (one of them doesn’t even accept the fact that Hunter is gay). This is just a Breakfast Club style scenario (and one cast member even points that out) with a half dozen unlikable characters.

Plus there is an attempt at some kind of back-story between Pitchfork and Hunter, but it’s never fully realized. Living one farm over, one would think Hunter would have warned his friends about the fork-handed psycho next door, but maybe he hates his friends as much as I do and wanted them to be forked. The gore is pretty intense and Packard is able to play out some rather tension filled scenes. But damn…that dance number. PITCHFORK has a good psycho, but it’s got some bad decisions built around it.

New on DVD from Nevermore Productions!

THE BARN (2016)

Directed by Justin M. Seaman
Written by Justin M. Seaman
Starring Mitchell Musolino, Will Stout, Lexi Dripps, Cortland Woodard, Darling, Nickolaus Joshua, Linnea Quigley, Ari Lehman, Ryan Nogy, David Hampton, James Weldon, Rik Billock, & Justin M. Seaman as the Boogeyman!
Find out more about this film here, @TheBarnmovie, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

THE BARN is an undeniably fun throwback to 80’s horror. While the tone of the film is rather all over the place, it makes sure to bring in copious amounts what horror fans love; gore, guts, and mayhem.

The film opens on Halloween 1959, as a pair of kids don’t listen to what their church tells them and goes to an old barn on the edge of town. After knocking on the barn door, three horrific demons emerge and murder one of them. Flash forward 30 years and we meet best friends Sam (Mitchell Musolino) and Josh (Will Stout) who are a little too old for trick or treating, but their love for all things Halloween keep them upholding the traditions. Sam even has a set of rules he follows on Halloween in fear of breaking tradition. When a concert one town over is announced on Halloween, Sam, Josh, and a group of teens load up the van and decide to go, with some trick or treating and partying right before it. Of course, the party takes place in a fire-pit right outside of the barn from the opener and sure enough, the three demons emerge from the barn again to wreak unholy vengeance on Beggar’s Night.

I feel the need to always mention when a film is made on the budgetary low because films like this don’t usually get featured on this site (other than in this column) and expectations for high production values and solid acting are often large. But in horror (at least for me), good ideas outweigh production and acting any old day and THE BARN has a lot of them. There’s an undeniable heart to this film that compelled me to cheer for it. Sure the acting isn’t on par with Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe Oscar bid, but it makes up for it with flaming pumpkin headed demons and scarecrows with candy corn teeth. Much of the effects are simply fright masks with CG additions, but they are effective. Also effective is the mayhem factor in THE BARN which is set to high for most of the film, but really kicks into gear in the latter half hour as Sam and Josh take on the demons with every edged weapon they have in the barn. Blood spews everywhere and while at times THE BARN feels like a goosebumps episode, it goes gory very well and very often.

THE BARN is a modern day homage to a film like THE GATE, another Amblin-esque horror that had more bite than one would expect. Look past the rough edges and newbie acting and you most likely will have a great time with this one.

Available on Netflix and iTunes (find out where here )!


Directed by Jay Lender, Micah Wright
Written by Jay Lender, Micah Wright
Starring David Alpay, Brigid Brannagh, Carrie Genzel, Mia Marcon, Kris Lemche, David Alpay, Dimitri Diatchenko, Cristian Balint, Andrei Morariu, Puiu Mircea Lascus, Alin Popa, Andreea Mateiu, Cici Caraman
Find out more about this film here, @TheyreWatchingMovie, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Horror comes in the form of pitch black humor in the home improvement show gone to hell film THEY’RE WATCHING. As with all found footage films, I have a criteria I apply to them since a) there are a ton of them out there and b) they can be awfully formulaic. Despite that, found footagers do grab me on occasion—usually when things feel so real that I get wrapped up in the film. Let’s see how THEY’RE WATCHING fares under this scrutiny.

What’s the premise?
THEY’RE WATCHING revolves around a reality home show where a couple decides to buy and renovate the home of their dreams in the Eastern European town of Moldavia, a rustic town of simple people. The producer and crew of the show leave the couple to renovate the home and return six months later to see the progress. But something a little more sinister is brewing in the periphery as the quiet town seem to be massing around the home and the couple themselves seem to have something weird going on as well. The story follows the crew as they try to shoot their show amidst the chaos.

Are the actors believably acting like they aren’t acting?
For the most part, the acting is good here. This is more of a comedy than a horror film, at least for the first hour and fifteen. But the humor works really well and everyone is really into their individual characters as they act like the ugly, untouchable Americans traipsing through this backwoods land. All of the cast is over the top at times, but because the comedy is so on the nose, the crazy antics actually all work together and this is one of the funnier found footage films you’re going to see. More in line with a Christopher Guest flick than something by Eduardo Sanchez or Oren Peli. The true standout is Dimitri Diatchenko who plays Vladamir the realtor who seems to know what is going on, but is more interested in profit than anything else.

Does is seem like this footage was actually found and not untouched by additional production (which means there is no omniscient editor making multiple edits or an invisible orchestra providing music)?
This is where the film goes off the rails as this movie commits the ultimate sin in a found footage film and adds a musical score. The score is subtle at first, but by the end of the film, the score is over the top, swooping and swaying and trying to influence the viewer with soupy violins during the quiet romantic moments between two crew members and erupting with tympanic fervor during the bombastic climax. All of this is like a short guy with a big truck. The film lacks the confidence that the scenes are effective enough without these musical cues, so it tosses them in, even though if this were a found footage film, none of it should be there. It’s these kind of cheats that give found footage films a bad name because it immediately takes the viewer out of the story itself and sends them scanning the screen to see where the guy with the cello is hiding.

Is there a valid reason the camera isn’t dropped and they just get the hell out of there?
The reason they are filming is pretty valid. They’re filming B-roll stuff and behind the scenes stuff for the DVD of the show. When the shit goes down, the camera is being controlled by an unnatural force, so it’s become part of the action rather than just a means of recording it. There is also a fun moment when night vision is used to see a key plot point that no one else sees which makes for the camera use as a nice method of building tension.

Is the lead in too long and the payoff too short?
I was never bored with THEY’RE WATCHING. The comedy carries the film for most of it and the characters are likable. When the shit finally goes down in the latter half hour, it really does so in a satisfying miles over the top fashion. The climax is absolutely bug-nuts as all forms of witchery and mystic shit begins to occur and no one can seem to get away from the horrific onslaught, no matter which direction they run. The lead in is funny, but all the while there is this ominous tone to the story, so when things get crazy, it doesn’t seem like it’s just coming from out of the blue.

Is there an up-nose BLAIR WITCH confessional or a REC-drag away from the camera?
I think there might have been an up-snout shot and a few folks are dragged away, but these seem to be done more as an homage to found footage tropes (and even making fun of them) rather than simply trying to ape these scenes and trying to pull them off as scary.

Does anything actually happen?
A whole hellofalot happens. While the lead in is slow (and punctuated by fantastic comic beats), the ending is a whole bunch of fun. I dare you not to have fun with the way things end up. The filmmakers really did a great job of capturing all of the chaos and tossing it back into the viewers faces with the ending.

Does the film add anything to the subgenre and is this one worth watching?
The often too serious found footage genre might learn a thing or two with this comedy horror hybrid. Feeling a bit more like an episode of THE OFFICE or ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (or at the very least BEST IN SHOW or A MIGHTY WIND) in the way it is filmed, framing this film as a TV show is something pretty fresh (though it was used in the film DELIVERY in a brilliant way as well). And while THEY’RE WATCHING commits the cardinal sin of using a score for music where music should not be, it still managed to knock me over with that shock and awe ending.

New on digital platforms such as Amazon, Playstation, Vudu, iTunes, XBOX, and Google Play and available for pre-order on Terror Films’ website!


Directed by John Campopiano & Justin White
Written by John Campopiano & Justin White
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

One of Stephen King’s most effective adaptations gets the documentary treatment in UNEARTHED & UNTOLD: THE PATH TO PET SEMATARY; a thorough and entertaining little doc which details the film from initial inception to the last day of filming.

John Campopiano & Justin White are obviously fans of PET SEMATARY as they have dedicated a feature length to this documentary. Beginning with King’s inspirations for the film which include obviously FRANKENSTEIN and THE MONKEY’S PAW, the film goes into some nice details pointing out the bits and pieces from literature that King might have pulled from. I also really enjoyed the way the filmmakers focused on King’s hesitancy to print the story as it deals with very dark themes; including the taboo subject of the death of a child. These details of the origin of PET SEMATARY, which include King’s recounting of the death of his own family cat, his children’s first experience with death, and an emotional story where King experienced the horror of seeing his own child wander towards a busy road, were fascinating to see.

Campopiano and White do a fantastic job of gathering everyone even remotely involved in the making of PET SEMATARY. Everyone from the gal who built the elaborate children’s pet cemetery and the Micmac burial ground to the extra who played the truck driver who runs down Gage is interviewed and it paints an elaborate tapestry of what it was like to work on this film. King himself worked hard to make this film in his home state of Maine, so many of the cast and crew were locals who still live in the area, so it seemed like it was easy to go back to the locations and find those with stories of the shoot. Another interesting aspect of this film is that it revisits those locales, which still look familiar all these years later.

Some rather heavy moments of the doc were the scenes looking back at Fred Gwynn’s career and how much he brought to the role of Judd in the film as well as how Gwynn the actor touched the hearts and souls of all of the cast he worked with. The resonant and powerful theme of losing a child is also delved into by the cast and crew as they recall how difficult the scenes were building up to Gage’s death scene and the memorable funeral sequence. These pieces feel like the heart of the film and get the right time that they deserve.

The filmmakers were able to get everyone involved in the film, except for Gwynn and King himself (though some interviews of King are referred to). It was nice to see Lambert look back on her first feature film as well as actors Dale Midkiff and Denise Crosby look back on how it affected their lives. It was even more fun seeing the child actors who played Gage (Miko Hughes) and the twins playing Ellie (Blaze and Beau Berdahl) looking back on their performances and what they did and didn’t know about the film as child actors protected from the more intense bits of the film.

If there’s a criticism to be made about UNEARTHED & UNTOLD, it is that this is obviously a doc told from undeniable fans of the film. It is definitely more of a celebration of the film than an objective take on it, so much of the not-so-successful moments of the film and any other critical thinking applied to the actual film itself are glossed over. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely isn’t very objective in its approach. Still, UNEARTHED & UNTOLD is a doc I would recommend to any fan of the original film (and who isn’t a fan, really?). It’s a remarkable tribute to a thoroughly effective story of life, death, and beyond with some of the more grueling moments in modern horror.

New in select theaters today!


Directed by Emiliano Rocha Minter
Written by Emiliano Rocha Minter
Starring Noé Hernández, María Evoli, Diego Gamaliel, Gabino Rodríguez, María Cid
Find out more about this film @tenemoslacarne, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

A good thing to know going into WE ARE THE FLESH is that it can be summed up with one word—Jodorofsky-esque. Now, if you don’t know what that means, then go see EL TOPO or SANTA SANGRE or HOLY MOUNTAIN and then come back and thank me for sending you in that direction. If you come back offended at the graphic sexuality, arguably blasphemous religious iconography, and sadistic violence, then most likely, WE ARE THE FLESH is not going to be for you. But if those types of shocking metaphors and loose narratives strike something inside of you, you are the type of viewer who will most likely find something worthwhile here. I find myself somewhere in between these two camps as I can enjoy a powerful metaphor as much as the next film scholar, but there has to be something more than just shocking imagery to move me and I just don’t know if WE ARE THE FLESH has it in it to do that. The following is my extremely conflicted review.

A pair of sibling youngsters wander into a warehouse inhabited by a busybody vagrant who is busy taking drugs, cooking, making gasoline out of fermented bread, and turning the inside of the building into a womb like structure with wood, duct tape, and cardboard. After agreeing to let the two stay with him, as the world outside is said to be an uninhabitable apocalypse, the vagrant begins to mentally break down the two siblings to act out their most primal of instincts. This includes breaking almost every taboo known to man including incest, rape, cannibalism, murder, and sexual acts such as drinking menstrual blood, urination, and masturbation. All the while, the vagrant waxes philosophic about life, death, borders, and crossing them to his captive audience.

Everything about this film is metaphor—from the Adam and Eve-like siblings wandering into the building to the building itself which is transformed into a womb like haven for them all. Wide eyed and open to suggestion, the two younger kids at first distrust the vagrant, but eventually come to live by his every rule and move. Using psychological torture, whispered commands, and so-called words of wisdom in his owned warped way, the vagrant has these two kids wrapped around his finger. And while they resist this control at first, when he leaves them, he proves they are helpless without his guidance. Everything, from the in your face sex and fetishism to the symbolic eating of steaks and then human beings, seems to reflect some kind of carnal sin these kids are being tempted with in this womb room to prepare themselves for what is outside. By the end, when they do emerge from the room and out into the street, merged into one form, it still feels like the movie is trying desperately to tell us something about how we are made up of the sins of our parents and the environment around us. And only by succumbing to these sins can we prepare and steel ourselves for that the real outside world has in store for us.

While I appreciate metaphors a whole hell of a lot, the excess of shocking imagery is going to be too much for many people. The mid-way menstruation scene is going to be the breaking point for some, but even by this time you would have endured the rape, incest, masturbation, on-screen fellatio, cannibalism, and urination. I understand that the filmmaker was trying to shock the viewer with the inundation of all of these distasteful acts and while the metaphor is there, filmmaker Emiliano Rocha Minter’s lack of nuance and narrative consideration is evident. Minter simply wallows in the sin of it all and asks the viewer to go along with it. Personally, I like a little more story with my metaphor and found myself not necessarily shocked, but somewhat bored as Minter rolls out one means to shock after another. The whole things looks extremely beautiful, specifically the womb room and the fantastical lighting and trippy way everything is shot. But then someone eats period blood and I’m just thinking that the method with which Minter is trying to tell us his message is just overkill.

The one thing people can take away from this film is the undeniable power of Noé Hernández who plays Mariano the vagrant. He is a mesmerizing actor who exudes the type of fanatical power that it would take to manipulate people to do such horrific acts. I’m hoping we see more of this intense actor who commands every scene he is in whether he is simply staring maniacally at someone, singing a national anthem, or taunting the siblings like the devil himself. The other two young actors (María Evoli and Diego Gamaliel) are really good here, but are simply overshadowed by the impact of Hernandez’ rampage through this film.

Sadly, WE ARE THE FLESH is not a film that you need to think much about because it spells out everything to you and shoves it in your face. With its throbbing score, vaginal like setting, trippy lighting, and horrific acts going on in every corner, it doesn’t leave much room for nuance or subtlety. While I appreciate the beauty of the sights and sounds Minter unleashes in WE ARE THE FLESH, I left longing for a stronger narrative and more to this film rather than just shock and awe.

Currently touring festivals: find out when and where here!


Directed by Javier Attridge
Written by Javier Attridge
Starring Paula Figueroa, Matias Aldea
Find out more about this film @Wekufemovie and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Another found footage film means another chance to apply my questionnaire to it. Seems with the way the horror film industry is today, found footage is not going anywhere. They are cheap to make and when done correctly, they can still grab an audience and make an impact like few other subgenres. WEKUFE: THE ORIGIN OF EVIL is the latest film to pick up a shaky cam and don’t stop filming. Here’s how it stacks up against my questions.

What’s the premise?
A pair of filmmakers (Paula Figueroa and Matias Aldea, who use their real names in this film—nice touch) head out to Chiloé, remote Patagonia island in southern Chile to delve into the connection between the high number of sex crimes in the area and local myths of a monster in the woods. This monster has been known by many names and as Matias tells us, many of the creatures from Lovecraft, Poe, and other masters of the macabre originate from the myths of Chile. As Paula and Matias discuss the pros and cons of the found footage genre, they get closer and closer to uncovering the shocking truth behind the myth of the Wekufe.

Are the actors believably acting like they aren’t acting?
The strongest aspect of WEKUFE: THE ORIGIN OF EVIL is the acting. And this is integral to carrying the entire film. Figueroa is mesmerizing as the lead reporter on the story. She is treating this as a legit news story and does a fantastic job talking to everyone from the people in the marketplace to the governor of the island. While she is absolutely ravishing, Paula’s main likable trait is her determination to uncover the truth in the many scenes where she becomes frustrated when her boyfriend/documentarian Matias tries to make this investigation more interesting with morbid facts, comical clowning, and attempts at affection. There were times when Paula and Matias are simply chatting and soaking up the Chilean habitat that are as entrancing as the mystery itself. Both Aldea and Figueroa are great, but because she is in front of the camera for the bulk of the film, I definitely could see Figueroa becoming an international star with what she does here in this film.

Does is seem like this footage was actually found and not untouched by additional production (which means there is no omniscient editor making multiple edits or an invisible orchestra providing music)?
For the most part, yes. There are a few instances where the camera captures something at the coincidental right moment or falls in the right spot. This is something that is evident of a narrative film being made (which always pokes the suspension of disbelief bubble surrounding found footage) but there is not additional music or multiple camera edits. This is definitely footage that could pass as if it was real if found and that authenticity makes more a more solid film.

Is there a valid reason the camera isn’t dropped and they just get the hell out of there?
Yes, they are filming a documentary; soaking in the local flavor and never knowing when something interesting will happen. This also seems to be capturing special moments between Paula and Matias as if they are treating this like a vacation as well. When things get dire, Matias uses the camera as both a light source to see what is happening and he is also still in full investigative mode, desperate to try to capture footage of the weirdness that is happening on the isle.

Is the lead in too long and the payoff too short?
No, as I said earlier, I was into simply seeing Paula and Matias act off of one another to be bored. There are ominous things peppered throughout as they two reporters get closer and closer to uncovering the mystery. These two also keep things fun because they themselves have seen a lot of found footage films. Matias is an aspiring director and wants to make a found footage film some day. He is frustrated that Spielberg, Scorsese, and the like made they first films in their twenties and becoming thirty, he hasn’t done that yet. In between the investigations, Matias and Paula talk about the horrible clichés in found footage films, which makes for a fun meta-commentary on the genre itself. The payoff in the end is pretty powerful, specifically because one is so invested in the well being of these two. I didn’t want anything bad to happen because they were so likable and because of this, the payoff, though it is quick, is satisfying.

Is there an up-nose BLAIR WITCH confessional or a REC-drag away from the camera?
Yes, but these are done in jest. Paula tears up and puts the camera under her nose to mock that trope in these films. She also comments on how the shaky cam always gets her sick and how the monster is never actually shown at the end of the film. The inclusion of these little comments are what make this film all the more fun to watch because it mentions the problems with the genre and then veers from those expectations.

Does anything actually happen?
A lot happens. Though I’m making it sound like there’s nothing but found footage discourse, this really is a well paced mystery with the situation growing dire by the moment. Though they might not completely realize it, there is danger all around these people as cops are following them, people are avoiding them on the street, and in one extremely creepy scene, masked street performers begin following them around menacingly.

Does the film add anything to the subgenre and is this one worth watching?
WEKUFE: THE ORIGIN OF EVIL is a smart and tension filled little found footager. The exotic Chilean locale makes it feel like it has a higher budget that it most likely did, but it not only serves as a cool travelogue of an faraway land, but it also goes meta at times and comments on the very found footage subgenre of horror it occupies. But while the film points out the subgenre’s faults, it also strays from expectations and leads to a shocking ending that is all the more powerful because of the talent of the two actors in front of and behind the camera.

And finally…check out the out of print Topps 3-issue comic book series played out below which fills in some of the many plot holes in JASON GOES TO HELL – THE FINAL FRIDAY. The series was published just before the film was released, written by Andy Mangles with art by Cynthia Martin and Allen Nunis. I have this series boxed away somewhere, but the main thing I remember from it was that it had a great glow in the dark hockey mask cover. Oh the comic book ‘90’s…

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

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!

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