Welcome to the darker side of AICN! M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Not only do I have horrors old and new for you… Not only do I have clowns and Bigfoots this week, but I also have two (count ‘em two) films with Ron Jeremy. The horror…the horror…
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964)
Retro-review: PSYCHOMANIA (1973)
SPACE CLOWN (2016)
MOUNTAIN DEVIL: THE SEARCH FOR FRANK PETERSON (2016)
GETTING SCHOOLED (2017)
MASSACRE ON AISLE 12 (2016)
Christopher Gans’ BEAUTY & THE BEAST (2016)
NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE (2016)
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (2016)
And finally…THE BLIND DATE OF COFFIN JOE!
Retro-review: New on DVD and BluRay from Synapse Films!
AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964)Directed by José Mojica Marins
Written by José Mojica Marins, Magda Mei
Starring José Mojica Marins, Magda Mei, Nivaldo Lima, Valéria Vasquez, Ilídio Martins Simões, Arildo Iruam, Genésio de Carvalho, Vânia Rangel, Graveto, Robinson Aielo, Avelino Morais, Luana, Leandro Vieira, Antônio Marins, Mário Lima, Eurípedes da Silva, Luiz Gonçalves, Carmen Marins, Eucaris Moraes
Find out more about Coffin Joe here!
Retro-reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL was Coffin Joe’s first film which went on to spawn many sequels including the direct sequel THIS NIGHT I’LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE and a lesser known sequel, LAST MARCH I LEFT AN UPPER DECKER IN YOUR TOILET…
So AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL introduces us to Coffin Joe (José Mojica Marins) in his earliest form, as a village grave-digger who dresses eccentrically in a top hat and cape and sporting lengthy fingernails. Obviously this look is popular with the ladies and Coffin Joe, referred to as Zé do Caixão in his native tongue, seems to fall hard and intensely with pretty much any woman who crosses his path. The problem is that he is already married, so after doing away with his own wife (since apparently she is barren, though this isn’t made exactly clear in the movie), he sets out to conquer the local hottie and have her bear his perfect seed and give birth to the ideal baby. When that doesn’t work out, Coffin Joe presses on after a ten second mourning period to woo the next gal in line. Soon the locals get privy to Joe’s creeper ways and set out to put a stop to him with a gypsy curse.
While THIS NIGHT I’LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE delved more into Coffin Joe’s resurrection from the fate he sees here and his punishment he receives in the afterlife, what makes AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL interesting is that it focuses on why Joe deserves to go to hell in the first place. Apart from being a blasphemer in a highly religious and superstitious town, Joe is also quite the horrible person here to pretty much everyone in his life. His dedicated wife is not good enough for him, and after he kills her, he goes through the rest of the film simply taking what he wants from others (be it sex, dignity, lives, and whatnot) with little care for anything but his own need to live on through the perfect woman’s child. Coffin Joe’s love for children is not highlighted here as much. While it was prevalent in the sequel, this film only has one scene where Joe stops a father from beating his son. Still, the origin of this fascination with the innocence of children comes from the fact that Joe only wants a child of his own and can’t seem to have a relationship to produce one without killing the woman first. There is a great moment in AT MIDNIGHT where Joe chaperones a complete stranger (a female, of course) through a graveyard and as he walks away, he comments on how nice she was and how great it will be to take her. This really highlights how set in his ways Joe is and is a fantastic character moment indicating he will never change, no matter how many times he fails at finding a bride.
As with the sequel, Marins sets a campy, but undeniably effective mood here. Using animation, still photography, painted sets, real cobblestone streets, and an actual cemetery (or at least a convincing set of one), this is a mood made to be watched at a midnight showing with all the lights out. While creeping spiders and skulls might not be the stuff of nightmares, it effectively conveys a mood of old school schlock. Still Marins offers up some amazing shots; including intense close-ups of Marins arched eyebrows and bloodshot eyes or an especially effective creeping camera shot through the cemetery as Joe curses the heavens. This is one fun looking spook show.
Having never seen any of the other Coffin Joe films, I don’t know if he ever will get the child he longs for. I’ll definitely be seeking his later films out. And while there is a do it yourself quality of these films, it only makes things all the more charming and fun watching the lecherous Coffin Joe take on every person, belief, and moral in his small village. This Special Edition disk contains a Making of featurette, Marins himself discusses his short film “Reino Sangrento,” an archive interview with Joe, an opening introduction to the film by Coffin Joe himself, a new scene for the film which was made in 2002, and rare theatrical and promo trailers.
Retro-review: New this week on Special Edition BluRay from Arrow Films and MVD Visual!
PSYCHOMANIA (1973)aka THE DEATH WHEELERS, THE FROG, THE LIVING DEAD, THE DEATH WHEELERS ARE…PSYCHO MANIACS!
Directed by Don Sharp
Written by Julian Zimet (as Julian Halevy), Arnaud d'Usseau
Starring George Sanders, Beryl Reid, Nicky Henson, Mary Larkin, Roy Holder, Robert Hardy, Patrick Holt, Denis Gilmore, Ann Michelle, Miles Greenwood, Peter Whitting, June Brown, Lane Meddick, Rocky Taylor, Alan BennionJohn Levene, Jacki Webb, David Millett, Linda Gray, Andrew Laurence, Roy Evans, Bill Pertwee, Seretta Wilson, Denis Carey, Stanley Stewart, Ann Murray, Fiona Kendall, Ernest C. Jennings, Martin Boddey, Heather Wright, Penny Leatherbarrow
Retro-reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
While there is a tendency to feel like you’re watching an AUSTIN POWERS movie while watching PSYCHOMANIA—as it paint a pretty vivid picture of the late sixties/early seventies mod style era, it does boil down to a timeless little deal with the devil tale.
Tom Latham (Nicky Henson who is the spitting image of Stephen Dorff) is a shagadelic fancy lad who runs his own gang of motorcyclers calling themselves The Living Dead. When they are not running around causing chaos on the freeways or hopping the curbs downtown and hassling folks on the street, Tom likes to pontificate about dying and moving on to see what’s on the other side. His curiosity is fueled by his mother (DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN’s Beryl Reid) and her job as a medium and his butler Shadwell (George Sanders who was the voice of Shere Khan in THE JUNGLE BOOK cartoon) who both practice and appreciate the dark and paranormal arts. Tom finds this existence tedious and wants to kill himself and the rest of his crew to raise hell on the other side, but his main gal Abby (Mary Larkin) isn’t keen on the idea and throws a monkey wrench in the plan. This doesn’t sit well with Tom, who decides to off himself and come back, utilizing a magic frog necklace given to him by Shadwell, and convince the rest of his crew to cross over.
The first thing that stands out is with PSYCHOMANIA, other than the fact that the name of the film has absolutely nothing to do with the movie itself, is that for bikers, these guys aren’t that intimidating at all. While at the same time in America, folks were checking out EASY RIDER for grungy road livin’, this film shows that even when they try to grunge it up, the Brits can’t shake that proper, polite, and buttoned down vibe. It’s hard to respect a tough guy who lives with his mother and has a man servant, but Tom does and sports it like a badge of honor. This is the type of “gang” that wouldn’t last a minute with a real group of hog riders. Sporting names like Hatchet, Hinky, Gash, and my favorite, Chopped Meat (all of their names clearly embroidered onto their leather jackets, of course), the gang, their rampage, and menace are more cartoonish than threatening. Still, this is a fun look at what an outsider with very little knowledge of bikers and gangs might perceive from high atop an ivory tower. Or maybe that’s the point of PSYCHOMANIA; to show a group of people who think they are badass, but really aren’t terrifying at all. In casting Tom as a fancy boy, it shows how naïve he is and thus susceptible to his eventual downfall once he has made his deal with the devil. In that sense, this is a highly effective little morality tale using the Satanic and death cult trends that were running rampant in seventies stylistic culture. Either way you look at it—as a cartoonish farce or a commentary on the childishness of an up and coming alternative culture, the film never fails to be entertaining. While is doesn’t really have a lot of terrifying scares going on—maybe one in a flashback Tom experiences while experimenting with the dark arts and another at the end, but for the most part, this film is scare free and instead offers up a deal with the devil story affixed to a certain rising trend.
That doesn’t mean that the film isn’t fun as hell. If you love the historical trend commentary that ran through the AUSTIN POWERS films, you’ll die for this film. While it most likely wasn’t trying to completely, the clothes, the furniture, and the talk of the era is highlighted here in all of its decadent and outlandish glory. I loved the wonky juxtaposition of the rebel lifestyle Tom emulated paired with the elaborate and ornate décor of his home. And if the sights don’t wow you, the psychedelic music will as this film has a fantastically groovy guitar tracks throughout that really add to the mood and intensity of Tom’s obsession with the other side. In addition, some awesome animation effects that might seem rudimentary now are used in the final act that make the film (and especially the ending) unique and powerful.
This wonderfully fun Faust tale is packaged with all the trimmin’s as usual from an Arrow Films release, including; a new interview with Nicky Henson, an archive featurette “Return of the Living Dead” featuring interviews with the cast and crew, “Sound of Psychomania” which interviews composer John Cameron about the film’s unique soundtrack and score, “Riding Free” interviews singer Harvey Andrews about the film, “Hell For Leather” is a new featurette focusing on costumes from the film, “Remastering Psychomania” talks about the restoration used in rereleasing the film for Arrow, plus the usual trailers and pics.
New on DVD from Wild Eye Releasing and MVD Visual!
SPACE CLOWN (2016)Directed by Graham Skipper
Written by Graham Skipper
Starring Graham Skipper, Jordann Baker, Brian Joseph Gillespie, Jeffrey Glaser, Paul Guyet, Vein Huge, Josh LaCasse as the Space Clown!
Find out more about this film @SpaceClownMovie on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
OK, right off the bat, I’m just going to tell you that this is a movie that most are going to have a tough time getting through. Basically it’s actor Graham Skipper, who folks will recognize from Joe Begos’ films ALMOST HUMAN and THE MIND’S EYE, just sort of fucking around with his camera. It’s sort of a found footage movie, but even in the opening credits, it farcically pokes fun at found footage by stating that this footage was found after a night of drinking…and then was edited. That, and many other inanities going on in this film, got me chuckling. But, I’m pretty sure if you don’t like inane humor, you’re going to say this movie is the turds; as the kids say these days (no kids say that, BTW).
The plot, if you can call it that is that writer/director/editor Graham Skipper (who plays himself here) buys a new camera, and after a night of drinking, playing video games, and fucking off, he films a meteor shower and an asteroid lands in his guest house. In that asteroid, is apparently a spaceship containing one space clown. This footage is what happened that night.
So right off the bat, there is a lot of just plain fuckery going on with Skipper talking in different voices, showing off his apartment and the various geek stuff he has, and his preparation to film the meteor shower scheduled later that evening. After the meteor shower, the fuckery continues as another cam is introduced—that of the Clown’s in the form of the “Clown Cam” which is written at the bottom of the scene to distinguish who is filming at that particular moment. So we follow Graham, who intermittently is unconscious (passed out drunk) for large portions of the film, and then the Clown performs to the camera various diabolical and disgusting acts like taking a dump and passing a man he ate in 1994 and using a vibrator on himself. These things are tasteless, for sure, but in a train wreck sort of way, I wanted to ride this odd attempt at filmmaking until the end.
Those who make it to the end of this film will find that there are quite a few scenes that’ll make you chuckle. There are a few that’ll make you wince. There’s a problem with pacing as some scenes just go on endlessly and pointlessly, making things feel slow (which is weird because this is a pretty short movie clocking in at an hour and ten minutes). Still, there are a few moments that really suggest that somewhere under all of the potty humor and oddball-itude, Skipper does have some talent at presenting the weird and the funny on occasion. SPACE CLOWN is not a film I would push on many. If you like the idea of mixing horror, clowns, and sci fi, I suggest KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, not this one. This one is going to try to patience of some. But if you’re in the right mood for a movie that cranks the wheel a far cry from the norm, this is definitely that movie.
New on DVD from MVD Visual!
MOUNTAIN DEVIL: THE SEARCH FOR FRANK PETERSON (2017)Directed by Ryan Cavalline
Written by Ryan Cavalline
Starring Eric Altman, Eddie Benevich, Dennis Dean, Ron Gallucci, Stan Gordon, Eric Koval, Dwayne Pintoff, Dave Rupert, “Duane Bradley” as the Host!
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
While this film might be considered more of a documentary than an actual movie about Bigfoot, the somewhat sketchy facts being tossed around may make it more of a work of fiction as those who seriously want to believe in Bigfoot might actually like. MOUNTAIN DEVIL: THE SEARCH FOR FRANK PETERSON is an interesting work nonetheless.
Frank Peterson was an outdoorsman and hunter who often told the tale of his encounter with a large hairy creature in the Pennsylvania Appalachian Mountains that some might call Bigfoot. The film follows Peterson’s trip which started out as a typical huntin’ excursion with his friend, but turned into a nightmare where they feared for their lives. We are told at the beginning of MOUNTAIN DEVIL that whenever possible, actual film footage and photographs taken on this trip will be used. Through reenactments, archive interviews with Peterson, and his photos of the incident, his story is told. Also incorporated into this film to fill it out to feature length is a Bigfoot research team’s journey into the Appalachian Mountains showing Bigfootin’ research techniques and sample gatherings (aka the typical stuff folks see on FINDING BIGFOOT and shows of its like).
While Peterson’s tale is a compelling one, reminiscent of THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, where a pair of hunters are trapped in their own cabin with a Bigfoot pounding on the doors and windows. While the acting in the reenactments ain’t pretty, the story is rather gripping and I found myself invested more than I thought I would. Interspersed with interviews with Peterson himself, who sometimes seems like he is telling the truth and other times looks as if he is just enjoying passing on a tall tale, this makes for a compelling little mix of Bigfoot phenomenon. Of course, other than a few grainy photographs, there is no real evidence to be found. The added testimony of Peterson’s granddaughter adds that the government came out to where Peterson claims to have buried the body of a Bigfoot and took it makes things a) more intriguing to those who believe and b) more unbelievable to the unbelievers. Trying to straddle the fence between both believer and non-believer, as far as an entertaining film, this one works pretty well. While it doesn’t add anything to prove or disprove anything, I didn’t find myself looking at my watch to see when the film would end.
Not helping in the credibility of this film, the host of MOUNTAIN DEVIL is referred to in the credits as “Duane Bradley” but is actually Kevin Van Hentenryck, who played Duane Bradley in the BASKET CASE trilogy. That weird misidentification of the host and the suspect “real footage” of Frank Peterson at the end which shows an actual Bigfoot laying dead on the ground make this “documentary” less than believable. Still, this is the kind of folklore I love. I’ll recommend this one to folks like me—a Bigfoot fan who wants to believe and loves seeing people believe in it and watching movies about the big, hairy, elusive bastard.
New this week On Demand, digital download, and on DVD from Brain Damage Films!
GETTING SCHOOLED (2017)Directed by Chuck Norfolk
Written by Chuck Norfolk, Steven Scott Norfolk, Tim Norfolk
Starring Mayra Leal, Tom Long, Roland Ruiz, Jake Byrd, Susan Ly, Morgan Tyler, Ron Jeremy, Nick W. Nicholson, Paula Marcenaro Solinger
Find out more about this film on its website here, @GettingSchooledMovie and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
While it doesn’t offer a lot new to the table, GETTING SCHOOLED is a fun little low budget teacher-slasher flick with so much heart you can’t help but feel for it.
A typical BREAKFAST CLUB scenario is plotted out in the first moments of GETTING SCHOOLED as a jock, a prom queen, a geek, an outcast, and a degenerate all show up to a Saturday morning detention towards the end of the school year in 1983. When their wheelchair-bound teacher Mr. Roker (Tom Long) shows up to supervise the class, they are taken aback by their teacher’s demeaning and militaristic tone. While the kids get to know each other through putdowns and empty threats, they are forced to band together when Mr. Roker suffers a head trauma and begins having a Nam flashback that won’t go away. Now Roker is rolling around the halls of a locked down school and using the murderous techniques he used in the bush to pick off the kids one by one.
And Ron Jeremy plays the janitor, of course.
While the clichéd teen roles have been done to death in both comedy and horror, GETTING SCHOOLED manages to inject some fun humor into the slasher template as these kids take on their psycho teach. Making things more likable is the fact that there is a big beating heart in this film that really makes the characters more than their roles the more you spend with them. Sure, they talk tough to one another, but like THE BREAKFAST CLUB, this film does a great job of blurring the social partitions between the different set of cliques that occur in high school. By the end of this film, you really do end up feeling for these characters and rooting for them to survive. This has a lot to do with the fun over the top performance by Tom Long as the rolling killer and the heartwarming performances of the kids, specifically Mayra Leal who plays the quiet outcast Ally Sheedy role.
While this film is kind of low on gore and actual chills, by the end of the film, I found myself sort of in love with the way this film pulled the same heartstrings John Hughes original film did long ago. Checking this out with the zombie-themed BREAKFAST CLUB riff DETENTION OF THE DEAD would make for a really fun double feature. I think if you are a fan of THE BREAKFAST CLUB, born in the 80’s, and like low key/low gore horror, this might be a film you’ll want to check out.
New On Demand and on DVD from Indican Pictures!
MASSACRE ON AISLE 12 (2016)Directed by Jim Klock, William Mark McCullough
Written by Chad Ridgely, A.J. Via
Starring Chad Ridgely, Michael Buonomo, Jim Klock, Doug Burch, Mike Capozzi, Aikido Burgess, Melissa Saint-Amand, William Mark McCullough, Amber Jean, Anthony Paderewski, John Geoffrey Wilson, Jermaine Rivers, Matthew Krueger
Find out more about this film @MassacreOnAisle12 and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Leaning more towards screwball comedy with morbid themes than actual horror, a talented cast of comedic actors pull off the bloody dark comedy MASSACRE ON AISLE 12.
It’s the first day of work at the hardware store for all around nice guy Dave (Michael Buonomo). As his assistant manager Jack (Chad Ridgely) shows him the ropes at the job, they stumble across a dead body and a duffle bag full of cash locked in a tool chest in the back of the store. This sets off a series of events that pits everyone in the store against one another in a bloody and comical battle for who gets the cash and who survives with all of the sharp, blunt, and mechanical tools within reach to cause more carnage.
While this film feels sort of sitcom-y in the way it presents itself and plays out, that doesn’t mean MASSACRE ON AISLE 12 isn’t entertaining. The laughs are actually pretty spot on most of the time as the talented cast is able to really deliver. While cast with relatively no-name actors, this group really does work well together to bring about some gory and funny scenes. As the cast is picked off one by one and the stakes get higher, the film is able to maintain it’s lever of goof and debauchery all the way until the end (which is something you can’t say about most bigger budget comedies that usually blow their load early and then limp across the finish line). None of the cast is particularly worth rooting for. They’re all despicable people motivated by greed, laziness, or both, but they are likable and funny, which makes the whole thing work like a gorier, R-rated version of SEINFELD.
Cast standouts are Chad Ridgely as the assistant manager who goes from slightly off to batshit crazy through the course of the film. This is a fun and more importantly fun-NY horror comedy. Light on the scares, but heavy on the gore and laughs, MASSACRE ON AISLE 12 is a low budget horror comedy worth laughing with.
New this week in select theaters, On Demand, and iTunes from Freestyle Digital Media!
VOODOO (2017)Directed by Tom Costabile
Written by Tom Costabile
Starring Samantha Stewart, Ruth Reynolds, Dominic Matteucci, Daniel Kozul, Ron Jeremy, Lavelle Roby, Constance Strickland, Nicole DeMaria, Courteney Winter, Timothy Patrick O'Neill, Jennifer Buttell
Find out more about this film here, @vood00film, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
VOODOO is another addition to the found footage genre that basically, by the end of the film, tosses the found footage motif right out the window and just starts telling a typical cinematic narrative. The found footage purist in me got annoyed with this, but the guy who likes to see films do something astray from the norm kind of admired this film’s balls to do so. Not all of VOODOO is good. Not much of it is tasteful. But it is a film that goes into some dank, dark territory most wouldn’t dare venture into, so I will give VOODOO credit for that.
Dani (Samantha Stewart) decides to leave New Orleans for a while and take an extended vacation to LA to visit her cousin Stacy (Ruth Reynolds). Back home, she has recently broken off a relationship with a man she did not know was married. Turns out Dani’s old beau was married to someone who practiced Voodoo and his wife placed a curse of Dani before leaving town. Not taking any of that seriously, Dani tries to enjoy the high life of LA, going out and partying, running into Ron Jeremy at a bar, making out with Stacy’s roommates, and of course, filming it all. But along the way, it becomes apparent that something evil has followed Dani to LA and it is literally going to drag her into hell. And the camera is there to record the entire thing.
VOODOO has a good premise and decent acting throughout, meaning that the actors involved do not seem like they are acting at all, but simply being in front of the camera spouting unscripted dialog. All of that is great about this film and I want to get that out of the way first. I also want to commend this film for going past where most films fear to tread. Halfway through this film, the found footage part is simply dropped as an omniscient being seems to grab the camera from Dani and simply document her torment as she seemingly crosses over into a realm that is as close to a low budget hell as one can imagine. While this descent looks and plays somewhat like a haunted house horror ride with Dani confronting demons of her own as well as scores of monsters that are simply there to torture her, it still is quite effective in depicting a place where every fear, sin, and terror comes alive. This is an intense forty or so minutes of Dani screaming and reacting to an elaborate, despicable, vile, and dark world that is unlike anything I’ve seen before.
One of the problems is that too many times, I am seeing the writer’s pen in this film as well as some glaring plot holes that cannot be left unmentioned. Dani apparently is filming every minute of her trip supposedly to send to her father to let him know she is ok. And even though this promise was made, I’m pretty sure her dad doesn’t want to see her out doing shots with Ron Jeremy, making out in the park with a random dude, and doing drugs with her cousin. Seeing these acts recorded without Dani worrying that her dad will see all of this or at least mentioning that she is editing this out immediately pokes holes in the reason everything is being filmed in the first place.
The second problem with this film is that, while it is admirable that this film goes to the darkest of places and I’m sure hell is full of rape, mutilation, death, and torture, that doesn’t mean that seeing all of that for a forty minute stretch is entertaining. While it is quite shocking, many are going to be put off by what actress Samantha Stewart is put through in the last forty minutes of this film. Yes, it’s shocking, but damn is it hard to watch. I didn’t mind the funhouse feel to the trip to hell, but the level of depravity and grossness depicted was even too much for this jaded horror fan.
VOODOO is an extreme horror that starts out with the safe trappings of a found footage film. It starts out with some decent scares (one particular one where the camera switches to night vision is back is especially effective), but the excess in horrific things in the final forty minutes make the film a hard one to sit through.
New this week in select theaters and next week On Demand and iTunes from XLRator Films !
DRIFTER (2016)Directed by Chris von Hoffmann
Written by Chris von Hoffmann, Aria Emory
Starring Aria Emory, Drew Harwood, Monique Rosario, James McCabe, Anthony Ficco, Rebecca Fraiser, Joseph Atash, Melissa Raquel, Jack G. Davis, Craig Rose, Jonah Ehrenreich, Bram Barouh, Chris Santi
Find out more about this film here, @DrifterFeatureFilm, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
The future is pretty fucked. All of the movies indicate this. The post-apocalyptic wasteland featured in ROAD WARRIOR kind of paved the path for this to be a go to place for future films and veered from the utopian future filled with hope and glorious technology seen in STAR WARS and STAR STREK. Plus, (and this is key) it’s cheaper to drive out into the middle of the desert to film a movie in what looks to be a desolate shell of humanity than to use a crap ton of CG and practical effects to create a gorgeous environment. That’s why films like DESOLATE are a dime a dozen. Still, while the surroundings are familiar, the film itself is a few humongous heads above your usual end of the world outing in terms of grit, style, and gore.
Dominic (Drew Harwood) and Miles (Aria Emory) are two brothers making their way across the wasteland, scavenging for food and fuel. Miles is a bit slow and weak, but his brother Dominic is savvy and tough. So he looks out for his brother. though Miles seems to get beaten up pretty badly whenever Dominic is not around. The two brothers’ luck may have just run out when they cross into the town of Doyle, which is inhabited by lunatic cannibals and run by a clown-like Ice Cream Man the town is named after (James McCabe).
DRIFTER seems like it initially wanted to be OF MICE AND MEN set in the post apocalypse. The pairing of a slow person and a wily and tough guy has been done many times through the years in film to greater and lesser degree and isn’t a bad tent pole to hang a new take on the day after the fall of civilization. The problem is that the film doesn’t really follow that narrative to the end and while I am not bothered by this film being an exact remake, the strength of the initial idea wares thin by the time it veers away from that familiar story and makes for a less interesting story when one of the two brothers don’t fare well against these cannibals. One of the problems is that one of the brothers is much more interesting than the other and taking him out of the equation early made my interest wane.
The other problem is that when this film does veer, it becomes too much like TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. There’s even a dinner table scene where all of the lunatics we’ve met in the film show up to eat human flesh and torture those who haven’t died yet. This is a scene that has become redundant in the TCM films themselves (and I actually loved that the latest TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D smartly decided not to have one), so when it shows up in other films, it still feels tired.
That said this is a pretty and stylistic looking film. The rapid fire way the film opens and the creative ways the intensity of the action is displayed definitely sets this above and beyond most films. There is a lot of real skill displayed in terms of giving us interesting frames to look at and transitioning from one scene to the next. Had the creativity behind the way this film was directed been applied more to the script, I’d have given this film my wholehearted recommendation. As is, it is a great looking film with some solid acting going on. James McCabe is nice and creepy in a subdued way as the big bad and both brothers are great at the roles they play. And while everyone is grimy and gross, the film manages to get grimier and grosser with a whole lot of tactile gore to splatter in your face. DRIFTER is not a perfect film, but it looks fantastic and is worth checking out just for that. While the story had problems, this is one pretty looking shithole of a future we have to look forward to.
New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!
LA BELLE ET LA BETE (BEAUTY & THE BEAST, 2014)Directed by Christophe Gans
Written by Christophe Gans & Sandra Vo-Anh (screenplay), based on the original book by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
Starring Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux, André Dussollier, Eduardo Noriega, Myriam Charleins, Audrey Lamy, Sara Giraudeau, Jonathan Demurger, Nicolas Gob, Louka Meliava, Yvonne Catterfeld, Dejan Bucin, Wolfgang Menardi, Mickey Hardt, Arthur Doppler, Elisabeth Bogdan, Marie Gruber, Gotthard Lange, Max Volkert Martens, Richard Sammel, Nora Huetz
Find out more about this film here, @LaBelleEtLaBete.LeFilm, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF and SILENT HILL director Christophe Gans offers up an absolutely gorgeous fairy tale that is a beauty to see unfold. Because of Disney, we all know this tale as old as time, but it has never looked so breathtaking.
When a rich merchant (André Dussollier) loses his fortune, he must sell his estate and move his family to a simple home on the French countryside. His children are devastated by the loss, refuse to get used to living the simple life, and resent their father for putting them in this place—all but Belle (SKYFALL’s Lea Seydoux) who makes the best of what they have and appreciates the little things in life. When the merchant becomes lost and happens upon an abandoned castle, he encounters a vast fortune and attempts to make off with it, not knowing that the castle is occupied by a monster in the shadows. Capturing the merchant, the monster makes a deal with him that he may see his family one last time before returning to his castle, but once Belle gets wind of this, she decides to protect her father from his doom and go to the castle in his stead. At the castle, she meets this Beast (voiced by Vincent Cassel) who is actually a cursed prince himself and the two begin to for a relationship of sorts. But as money hungry bandits make their way to the castle, the budding romance between Belle and her Beast is set for tragedy.
First and foremost, this is one eye-popping, jaw-dropping visual extravaganza of a film. Every scene has so much detail, you’ll find yourself scanning the entire area of the screen to soak in all of the sumptuous colors, intricate details, and gorgeous sights. Gans artistic eye was shown in SILENT HILL as he made the video game world come to life with dark streets and harrowing monstrosities. Here, he focuses on the labyrinthine forest filled with mazes of vines, bushes, trees, and undergrowth; all richly alive. The countryside is stunning as every scene feels like a masterpiece painting.
Once in the castle, again, this film is alive with detail as the Beast’s castle is aged and dusty, but every corner is elegant and stunning. As Belle makes her way through the castle, she literally brings it back to life and every room dazzles with ornate floors and interiors. Again, everything looks like a painting and the work done on this film by the cinematographers and decorators (both virtual and real) should be commended. It’s absolutely breathtaking to behold.
The rest of the CG is pretty good as well. The Beast himself looks monstrous, yet still regal. The scenes where he monsters out are truly thrilling and there are scenes of slo mo action where the Beast pounces for attack that are filled with cool. But occasionally, the Beast and his pack of little hound-monkey creatures which serve as comic relief much like the candle, clock, and tea kettle did in Disney’s animated version, have an animated quality about them that makes them feel just a bit outside of the world the rest of the film was made. It’s close and there are some great moments with this CG, but it’s just not as perfect as the scenery and décor.
Seydoux is breathtaking as Belle. She exemplifies the princess aesthetic and looks the part. She also is able to pull off the stubborn part of her character that allows her the grit to stand up to the monstrous beast. Though he is mostly CG, Cassel does some great voice work here, putting a growl in his voice when necessary, but softening it for the quieter scenes. But even during these scenes, there is a little animal snarl in everything he says.
This is a fantastic tale told by a director who knows how to make every scene worth pausing and soaking in. While this isn’t exactly horror, there are some extremely thrilling moments in this film as the Beast defends his castle with monstrous giant sculptures come to life and writhing vines. This is a big and brassy film that isn’t afraid to have dire consequences, yet it’s the type of film I would have loved to have seen as a kid. Sure there’s a tiny bit of nudity in the form of a butt crack, but that’s nothing. It’s much better and more feels at stake than with the characters in a saccharinated Disney cartoon come to life flick. It’s a shame that since this film is in French, it’ll be delegated to the art house theaters, but Gans’ BEAUTY & THE BEAST will be available later this year through The Shout Factory.
New this week on BluRay, also available on iTunes, and other digital download platforms found here!
NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE (2016)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, @nightofsomethingstrange, 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 Demand and on iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play/YouTube, Vudu, Xbox Live, Sony PlayStation, Vimeo on Demand, I Bleed Indie and 3 Roku channels from Terror Films!
SAVAGELAND (2017)Directed by Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, David Whelan
Written by Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, David Whelan
Starring Noe Montes, George Savage, Len Wein, J.C. Carlos, Lawrence Ross, Jason Stewart, Ed L.Green, Cathy Aron, Dan Trabulus
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M.L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
While I covered SAVAGELAND as an advance review a few years ago, it is just getting released now and the film, though it was terrifying then, is much more relevant now than ever with the Mexican border dispute going on at the moment. Filmmakers Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, & David Whelan seemed to be ahead of there time in this modern horror film utilizing all forms of media to tell an intricate and fascinating tale of terror. It really is a fantastic little shockumentary and I highly recommend it. Here’s a clip from this compelling and horrifying film.
My favorite relative of the found footage film is the mockumentary. Films like LAKE MUNGO (reviewed here), TROLLHUNTER (reviewed here), and HAROLD’S GONE STIFF (reviewed here) are a few of the more successful ones and the list just got larger by one with SAVAGELAND, a new film from writers/directors Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, and David Whelan which does everything it can to make everything going on in this film feel as real as possible and by doing so, making it scary as all get out.
I don’t know why, but when presented in this type of 60 MINUTES style format, these films end up being all the more effective. Interspersed with interviews, reenactments, animated maps, “actual footage” from the court room and from the police videos, and from evidence compiled, SAVAGELAND recreates what looks to be the mass murder of an entire town by one single man. At least, that’s what the cops and politicians are trying to convince us of. But this mock-doc expands the canvas a bit more to interview those who have their doubts that a mild mannered illegal immigrant from Mexico would be capable of wiping out and entire town. Evidence uncovered late in the game tells a different story as photos the accused took at the night of the killings show that something “not human” was actually unleashed upon the town.
SAVAGELAND unfolds patiently and frighteningly, revealing dark truths about the society that habituates around the borders of America and the prejudices and hardships that are ever present. As much as this is a horror film, it’s also a social commentary about the US/Mexican border debate, showing both sides of the coin, but mainly showing the bigoted attitudes that seem to be percolating in these south eastern US towns. With the accused being an illegal Mexican immigrant as well, the rushed assumption that he is guilty is also put into question. At the same time, those speaking out about the mistreatment of immigrants (illegal or otherwise) seem to be blinded by their beliefs as well here as while they are pointing the fingers at the white man, the real horror seems to be something not of this world.
SAVAGELAND is as much a social commentary as it is a horror film. With the discovery of the 33 blurry and hurried pictures documenting what went on the night the town was murdered, all fingers seem to point to a supernatural cause, but it feels like none of the sides involved here want to consider or take them into account since it seems to contradict their own pre-formed opinions. Thus is the case with politics and I think this film details that with a shrewd, accurate, and intelligent eye.
Aside from all of the politics, SAVAGELAND is a harrowing film as we walk through the role of photographs one by one, describing the terrifying night in detail, how fast it occurred, and how gruesome it really was. The information is doled out patiently and with a conservative hand, building the suspense up as we go through each horrific photo. While the images are blurred, there is still a suggestion of absolute horror and it makes you fill the gaps in with things scarier than any film could play out conventionally.
By the end of the film, it feels like the filmmakers have told such a broad and intricate story all at once that it almost feels completely real, though it does teeter a bit off the rails towards the end when camera footage shows up. While the ending serves its purpose in cementing that the threat seen in the photos is very real, it is a shift in tone and format and doesn’t work with the rest of the film. Still, SAVAGELAND works on many, many levels, convincing the audience that what you are seeing is real and delving into a complex subject in a metaphorical and intelligent way. This one comes highly recommended for those who like a little political debate along with their horrors.
New this week in select theaters and On Demand from Lionsgate/Saban Films!
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (2016)aka SHE WHO BRINGS GIFTS
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Written by Mike Carey
Starring Gemma Arterton, Dominique Tipper, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Sennia Nanua, Anamaria Marinca, Fisayo Akinade, Anthony Welsh, Tessa Morris, Elise Reed
Find out more about this film @girlwithallthegifts and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
I promise you. While you’re going to have to fight back the urge to roll your eyes when I say that one of (if not THE) best horror films of the year is a zombie film, after watching this amazing new take on the well worn subgenre, you’re going to look folks straight in the eye and say it’s true. THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is a sophisticated and wonderfully original tale of the zombie apocalypse that you’ll never forget.
While we aren’t made privy to it in the opening sequences, the world has been overrun by zombie like creatures. The military and scientific communities have been working together for a cure and a defense against these rampaging beasts which spread their virus fast and cause those afflicted to sprint and bite anything and everyone in their path that isn’t afflicted. Meanwhile, a second generation of the affected has been discovered. A handful of children afflicted with the virus are being studied alive and dead to understand the virus better. One of these children is Melanie (Sennia Nanua) a polite and smart little girl who happens to also be afflicted with the virus. Every day Melanie counts down to the moment she is shackled to a wheelchair and taken to class with Miss Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) a kind hearted teacher who struggles with seeing the virus in the eyes of these innocent looking children. When the gates to the military facility are knocked down and the camp is overrun, Melanie, Helen, a gruff Sergeant (the always amazing Paddy Considine), and scientist Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) continue the research and search for both a cure and a safe place to survive.
Right from the top, this film is absolutely amazing and most of that has to do with the bright hearted spirit of Sennia Nanua as Melanie. When we are introduced to her, we only see the inhumanity in the way she is treated in this prison cell where all she has is a few pictures of cats and families to give her hope. And despite all of the horrors around her, Melanie never seems to lose hope and look at the brighter side of horrific situations. She truly is a caged animal, only allowed out for a class she looks forward to and spending time with Helen, a person who actually shows her kindness. But instead of wallowing in self pity, Melanie never seems to have her spirit broken and this is a role that will make you go through a myriad of emotions as we laugh with her when she is happy and cry when we see her still chin up even in times of true horror. Nanua has a bright career ahead of her and seeing the power in her performance here is something most folks will leave awe-struck. I certainly was.
The story itself, by writer Mike Carey (who wrote the comics LUCIFER and UNWRITTEN as well as the novel this film is based on) is exactly what I am looking for in zombie film, in that it ventures into uncharted territory. This is not the same old outbreak film you’ve seen a million and one times. This is an altogether new monster as it focuses on humanity trying desperately to cling to this earth despite insurmountable odds. Sure there are scenes of zombies bursting through gates and humans battling masses of biting creatures. But while those scenes are intense, it gets those scenes out of the way for newer, more interesting scenes that takes the story into more of a DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS realm than your typical George Romero joint. The virus is more spore-like and grows like a weed out of the mouths and eyes of the zombies once they are spent and blossoming into something more beautiful and deadly. Again, by giving us something we haven’t seen before, THE GIRL WITH ALL OF THE GIFTS shines brighter than any zombie film I’ve seen in years.
Top level effects, nerve-shredding directing, phenomenal performances from actors who rarely don’t give their all like Paddy Considine to big names who don’t mind getting grungy like Glenn Close. But the glue holding it all together is the amazing relationship between Melanie (Nuana) and Helen (Atherton). It makes the film all the more poetic, unique, and iconic from beginning to end. All of this makes for a shining gem in the crown of horror and something all who call themselves horror fans have no excuse not seeing.
And finally…here’s a modern day ode to Coffin Joe, one of the more…unique characters from the annals of international horror. This one follows Joe’s never ending quest to find the perfect mate. Enjoy THE BLIND DATE OF COFFIN JOE by Raymond Castile!
See ya next week, folks!
Ambush Bug is M. L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller and on his new website collecting posts for AICN HORROR as well as all of the most recent updates on his various comic book projects on MLMillerWrites.com.
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!