Welcome to the darker side of AICN! M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. One again, I’ve got a few new terrors to discover, a few you’ll want to avoid, and a few that’ll make you feel all warm and fuzzy remembering them. Hope you find a horror just for you!
Another moment of shameless self promotion; I’ve got a new comic coming out in September called GRAVETRANCERS from Black Mask Studios. It’s in July’s Diamond Previews under item code #JUL171455. Please let your comic shop know they should order a plenty as it’s a pretty potent little horror tale, if I do say so myself with mesmerizing pencils and inks of James Michael Whynot, psychedelic colors by Dee Cunniff, and bold and beautiful letters by Jim Campbell! The four issue miniseries follows Maribel and Anthony who are in search of the grave of their dead father, not knowing that they are stumbling into a graveyard owned by an eccentric clan of grave-robbers who’ve devised a highly-addictive drug made from human remains–and the fresher the corpse, the stronger the dose. What started out as an attempt to reconnect with the past becomes a descent into a psychedelic, neon-colored nightmare—will Maribel and Anthony find their way through the hallucinogens or will they become the next hit? It’s a story fans of grindhouse horror are going to like that I tried to make as unpredictable and going against as many clichés and tropes as I could think of, as I know you all and I have seen it all before. The news broke on Bleeding Cool here and on ComicCon.com. You can order GRAVETRANCERS #1 here!
Next up I have an exclusive preview of the new film THE EVIL IN US from filmmaker Jason William Lee and starring Ian Collins, Kylee Bush, Debs Howard, John Gillich. The film is described as; Six school friends meet up for a fourth of July celebration on a remote island off the Washington coast for a weekend of fun and partying. But the good times quickly turn into a nightmare when they unknowingly take a new bio-active drug containing a virus that causes fits of psychotic rage. Only one girl, Brie, doesn’t take the drug and she alone must fight to stay alive as her friends slowly turn into bloodthirsty cannibals. Trapped on the island, Brie must endure the unimaginable and fight for her life.
The film is available on DVD exclusively at WalMart on July 4th and on VOD and digital Aug 29th. Below I have an exclusive clip from the film. I’ll most likely be reviewing this one soon, but until then, enjoy the clip!
I also have a new trailer to the j-horror-esque POLAROID. The film is set to be released in theaters August 25th and is directed by Lars Klevberg, written by Blair Butler, and stars Kathryn Prescott (FINDING CARTER), Mitch Pileggi (THE X-FILES), Grace Zabriskie (THE GRUDGE), Tyler Young (EYEWITNESS), Keenan Tracey (BATES MOTEL), Samantha Logan (THE FOSTERS), Priscilla Quintana (STRANDED), Madelaine Petsch (RIVERDALE) and Javier Botet (MAMA, IT). Here’s the official synopsis; From the producers of the THE RING and THE GRUDGE and based on the award-winning short by Lars Klevberg, comes the next iconic and bold new vision in horror: POLAROID. High school loner Bird Fitcher has no idea what dark secrets are tied to the mysterious Polaroid vintage camera she stumbles upon, but it doesn’t take long to discover that those who have their picture taken meet a tragic end.
You can check out the Facebook here and @Polaroid_Movie. And here’s the trailer!
I have one last trailer for you for a new film from SLIME CITY/SLIME CITY MASSACRE/KILLER RACK filmmaker Greg Lambertson. This one is called JOHNNY GRUESOME and it’s Facebook page can be found here and @johnnygruesomezombie. Here’s the synopsis; Based on the award winning horror novel by Gregory Lamberson. In the village of Red Hill, high school student Eric Carter (Byron Brown II) suspects his murdered best friend Johnny Grissom (Anthony De La Torre) has returned from the grave to exact revenge upon his enemies.
Here’s the trailer!
I wanted to give out an open call to advertisers interested in helping to keep this column running. Any inquiries should contact me here!
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: CRAWLSPACE (1986)
Retro-review: ESCAPES (1986)
THE LAWNMOWER MAN (1992)
CLOWN PANIC (2016)
3 HOURS TILL DEAD (2016)
DEATH POOL (2016)
ALIEN IMPLANT (2017)
NAVY SEALS V. DEMONS (2017)
THE BAD BATCH (2016)
SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL (2016)
And finally… SIN REAPERS Episodes 5 & 6!
Retro-review: New in the Empire Pictures BluRay Box Set Collection from Full Moon Entertainment!
CRAWLSPACE (1986)aka REMEMBER TIME
Directed by David Schmoeller
Written by David Schmoeller
Starring Klaus Kinski, Talia Balsam, Barbara Whinnery, Carole Francis, Tane McClure, Sally Brown, Jack Heller, David Abbott, Kenneth Robert Shippy
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Empire Pictures made some amazing films in the 80’s. The precursor to Full Moon Entertainment stretched their budgets and put varied and extremely creative images on screen. These mini-epics tackle horror, sci fi and beyond and now they’ve collected them all in one huge, badass box set. I’m going to be covering each film in this collection over the next few weeks, but if you’re a film collector, you’re going to want to grab this set as soon as possible as there are only 600 of them. Check out this sizzle reel featuring some of the iconic films collected in this Box Set.
CRAWLSPACE takes some of the voyeuristic creep directly from psycho and meshes it with even more creepiness by way of Nazi nostalgia and then throws one of the most influential and batshit crazy actors of our time into the stew to make one loony little broth of a film.
The story opens mid-creep as landlord Karl Gunther (Klaus Kinski) peeks in on a gorgeous tenant from the ventilation shaft in her apartment. Immediately this film gets DePalma-esque as Karl views another man peeping into her window and seems to get rather peeved at someone trying to out creep him. Soon the man at the window enters and attacks the girl, while Karl scurries back to his secret room which contains scores of Nazi paraphernalia, rats, a little white kitten, and of course, what is a secret lair without a female gimp in a cage? After killing a woman who infiltrates his apartment, Karl sits at a white table, puts a bullet into a gun, spins the revolver, points it to his temple, and clicks the empty round. Muttering “So be it.” it’s pretty clear that this is going to be one of the more offbeat horrors you’ve ever seen.
Kinski’s performance here is the reason to seek this film out. He is full on madman here, shouting and then whispering, glomming on makeup and saluting Hitler, and branding his victims with swastikas. Kinski seems to be having a blast with this one, giving is lunatic all. The rest of the cast is decent as well with THE KINDRED’s Talia Balsam playing the part of Lori, a new tenant who catches Karl’s voyeuristic eye. While things get rather slasher-esque when Karl decides to clean house and kill all of his tenants, the real fun occurs when Karl gets his cat-and-mouse on when Lori uncovers his perverse preoccupations.
The extended chase scenes are fantastic to see unfold. Schmoeller keeps things tight and claustrophobic taking full advantage of the prezteline maze-work throughout the building. The chase never gets boring and Schmoeller does a great job of throwing everything but the kitchen sink in Lori’s way as she tries to escape the pursuing Karl. Things get really nuts when Karl jumps onto his little Crawlspace-mobile, a plank with wheels that allows him to scoot through the ventilation system faster.
Though it does add to the creep, the inclusion of the Nazi stuff in this one seems like an odd detail to Karl’s demented persona. Home movies and flashbacks flesh out that Karl is a twisted soul, but one look into Kinski’s whirlwind eyes could have told you that as well. He might as well have been Amish or Martian or Caveman and seeing Kinski would have made it all seem bonkers. That is just what the thespian did best and he does it perfectly here.
The BluRay release has got audio commentary from director David Schmoeller (who also directed PUPPETMASTER and TOURIST TRAP) as well as a fascinating short film called PLEASE KILL MR. KINSKI made by Schmoeller, who discusses how difficult Klaus Kinski was to work with while making the film and how he ultimately survived the experience. Makeup man John Vulich also offers up a commentary.
Retro-review: New on DVD from Intervision!
ESCAPES (1986)Directed by David Steensland
Written by David Steensland
Starring Vincent Price, Todd Fulton (“Hall of Faces”), Jerry Grisham (“A Little Fishy”), Michael Patton-Hall, John Mitchum, Lee Cranfield, Roelle Mitchell, Mick Martin (“Coffee Break”), Ken Thorley, Jeff Boudov, Mark Steensland, Sean Hannon, Matthew Mattingly, Caleb Mattingly, Zackery Stillings, Stan Lemkuil, Ron Andaya (“Who’s There?”), Shirley O'Key, Robert Elson, Bill Sibley (“Jonah’s Dream”), Gil Reade, Rocky Capella, Bob Peeler, David Newnham, Mike Martinez (“Think Twice”)
Retro-reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Attached as a bonus feature on the recent from DARK HARVEST (reviewed here) release from Intervision, ESCAPES is a cheaply made, but well intentioned ripoff of AMAZING STORIES with all ages thrills with none of the recognizable faces or good writing. It appears this film was broken up into shorts and played between films on the early Sci Fi Channel. Sadly, Vincent Price appears in this one as the sort of Crypt Keeper telling these tales from a mythical place called The Hall of Faces. The film gets meta when it sends itself to an ill fated man in VHS form. The man plops down on the couch and watches the video, not knowing that he has already sealed his fate. The rest of this review will talk about each of the stories featured in this loosely threaded anthology.
The first story is uncredited and untitled, but it’s the best of the bunch. A young kid tries to keep up with his older brother and his friends on their bikes, but his little legs just can’t pedal that fast. Upon arriving at the edge of an abandoned bridge, the older kids try to scare the litter one saying that there’s a hobgoblin living in the bridge and if you don’t follow a certain path, he’s bound to get you! This installment is nicely paced and does a really great job of capturing the wild imagination that race through a child’s mind when frightened. There are also some pretty cool fast clips of the hobgoblin that are actually very frightening. All in all, this one is the most fully realized of the bunch.
Unfortunately, most of the other stories try to be surprising and ironic with a twist ending tossed in that really makes little sense. A fisherman gets taught a lesson when the lake starts fishing for him in “A Fishy Tale.” An impatient deliveryman is told to slow down and enjoy life by an old timer who likes to talk too much in an old backwoods town and ends up paying the price when he doesn’t listen in “Coffee Break.” And a bum finds himself linked to a handful of crystals after a thief tries to take them away from him in “Think Twice.” None of these are great and if I hadn’t written this review right after watching the film, I’d surely have forgotten them.
Two other tales of note are “Who’s There?” and “Jonah’s Dream.” “Jonah’s Dream” is downright sweet and even though the production is low, it tells a fine tale of a widow who promises her dead husband she will continue looking for gold he believes is somewhere in the county. It takes a visit from an alien to assure her that her husband’s belief is true. And “Who’s There?” is worth mentioning because it makes absolutely no sense at all. Some kind of little monsters escape from a lab and stalk children and a jogger in the park in some weird game. The story cuts away to a science facility in an uproar because the monsters have escaped, but no real resolution is given to this short. Just an odd little jokey ending that never pays off.
It’s kind of a shame seeing Vincent Price in this one. After all of the amazing roles he played through the years, he really offers up nothing but his worldly presence here. He isn’t given any worthwhile dialog and aside from simply being himself, he really has nothing to do in this film. This is a film of Price’s that has eluded me through the years so the completist in me is satisfied with seeing ESCAPES, though it is not a movie that deserves Price’s presence at all.
Retro-review: New on BluRay from The Shout Factory!
THE LAWNMOWER MAN (1992)Directed by Brett Leonard
Written by Brett Leonard & Gimel Everett (screenplay, based on the concept of a Stephen King story, but his name was removed due to lawsuit)
Starring Jeff Fahey, Pierce Brosnan, Jenny Wright, Mark Bringelson, Geoffrey Lewis, Jeremy Slate, Dean Norris, Colleen Coffey, Jim Landis, Troy Evans, Rosalee Mayeux, Austin O'Brien, Michael Gregory, Joe Hart, John Laughlin
Retro-reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
During Stephen King’s heyday when every one of his works was being adapted for movie or TV, New Line bought the rights to King’s short story “The Lawnmower Man” and attached it to a completely unrelated project called CYBER GOD at the time. The film was released as a Stephen King adaptation, yet it had nothing to do with the King story. King sued and got his name taken off, but still, when I think of THE LAWNMOWER MAN, I can’t help but think that it was written by King as it was burnt into my brain as a kid. Even though it isn’t by King himself, the filmmakers did try to incorporate a few King-isms along the way in order to make it seem like it fit into the Master of Horror’s brand.
Set in a small New England town and filled with all sorts of down to earth, small town characters, THE LAWNMOWER MAN tells the tale of Jobe (Jeff Fahey), a simple lawn care specialist who happens to mow the lawn of Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan), a scientist who works for The Shop, a government organization specializing in experiments centering on paranormal phenomenon (if that sounds familiar, you must have seen FIRESTARTER – reviewed here, as The Shop plays an integral part in that film too). When a chimp from The Shop escapes and is murdered in Jobe’s arms, Dr. Angelo is distraught that his prize experiment is killed. Looking for a new test subject, Dr. Angelo lures Jobe into his lab and subjects him to experiments to raise his simple IQ. But the experiment works too well and Jobe’s intelligence multiplies as an exponential rate. Dr. Angelo’s experiments with virtual reality have created a monster in Jobe as he evolves into a god like creature that no longer needs a human form.
At its heart, THE LAWNMOWER MAN is a Frankenstein story where Brosnan’s Dr. Angelo begins with noble intentions, but is soon overcome with curiosity and compelled to push his experiments past ethical boundaries. Like Frankenstein’s Monster, Jobe is simple at first and seen as a child in a man’s body. He is an outcast, again like the Monster, friends only to his abusive father’s brother (a drunk played by character actor Geoffrey Lewis) and a neighbor boy (LAST ACTION HERO’S Austin O'Brien). He tries to form a relationship with a flirtatious neighbor woman (NEAR DARK’s Jenny Wright) with disastrous results much like way the Monster accosts Frankenstein’s wife. This is a science gone wrong tale that follows Mary Shelley’s classic almost beat for beat.
But what makes it rather fascinating is that it really is kind of prolific in the fact that the film ventures into the realm of man’s fascination with being online. While we haven’t all logged on and leapt into a virtual world where we float and fly, our obsession with our online activities is not that much different than the cyberworld depicted in this film. It’s especially accurate in how Jobe’s attention span and patience is exchanged for this new online awareness as evidenced by the ADHD world we live in today. As Jobe gets smarter, he doesn’t appreciate entire songs, whole books, or simple experiences, preferring a more truncated, online experience instead. The film also delves a bit into online addiction as Dr. Angelo’s wife feels more and more estranged as Angelo would rather log on that do anything with her. While the effects might seem rudimentary now, the leaps into cyberspace were top of the line in its day and the computer generated climax is fun in a quaint and nostalgic way. While it is not the first to play with the idea of mankind’s ever growing temptation to leave this world and leap into a world of their own making, it certainly tells the tale capably.
Still, there are moments of laugh out loud wrongness here. Fahey’s simple minded Jobe would most likely be seen as offensive in this sensitive day and age. Seeing him act wide eyed and all special needsy did cause me to inappropriately laugh a time or two. It’s also unintentionally funny during the terribly realized opening sequence where a test monkey escapes all decked out in basically a Laser Tag getup with full helmet and everything. It’s also rather funny that Brosnan plays pretty much the entire movie with a cigarette dangling from his lip. He even fights without losing it. Add in some truly creepy scenes where Dr. Angelo gets all molestery by tempting Jobe to come to his basement and play games with him and you’ve got a truly odd little sci fi horror mash up in THE LAWNMOWER MAN, Stephen King in the credits or not.
This BluRay release of THE LAWNMOWER MAN comes with two discs—a theatrical cut with a new 4K scan of the interpositive, a new featurette “Cybergod: Creating The Lawnmower Man” – featuring interviews with co-writer/director Brett Leonard, actor Jeff Fahey, editor Alan Baumgarten, make-up effects artist Michael Deak & special effects coordinator Frank Ceglia, an audio commentary with writer/director Brett Leonard & writer/producer Gimel Everett, deleted scenes, original electronic press kit with cast interviews & behind-the-scenes footage, edited animated sequences, theatrical trailer, TV spot, and then a director’s cut with a new 4K scan of the interpositive with additional "Director's Cut" footage from the original camera negative, audio commentary with writer/director Brett Leonard & writer/producer Gimel Everett, conceptual art & design sketches, behind-the-scenes & production stills, and storyboard comparison.
New on DVD from MVD Visual/World Wide Media and digital download on ITunes here!
CLOWN PANIC (2016)aka CLOWNS: BEHIND THE FEAR
Directed by Warren Speed
Starring Pervo, Frizbee, Splat
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
While I have my own theories about why folks have an irrational fear of clowns and tried to exploit it to its maximum in my clown horror comic book series PIROUETTE (which should be collected in trade very soon for mass consumption), I was hoping to get a little more insight into clourophobia (fear of clowns) in the documentary CLOWN PANIC. Instead, I got something else.
I don’t want to complain too much as CLOWN PANIC achieves in doing what they set out to do by documenting the lives of two English punk rockers from a band called Clownarchy who have chosen to wear clown getups 24/7 including the panic that hit the streets of England back in 2016 when a group of folks were video taped stalking schools, houses, and neighborhoods in clown costumes. This lead to the banning of all clown costumes, which made the lives of Clownarchy rather difficult to buy groceries, new noses, and whatnot. The film follows the clowns as they walk the streets and get tossed out of malls and shopping centers. And while a lot of the film is filler and a lot feels pretty staged (I’m doubtful that these guys always wear clown getups, but who knows), it does highlight that while we fancy to call ourselves a tolerant society, deep down, if you look different, you’re not going to be accepted.
There are a lot of clown antics and some decent attempts at punk rock in this story, but what compelled me the most was that if one would replace the clown getups with turbans and hajibs, this would have been a much scarier film. Seeing people turn their heads at the clowns as they are trying to keep their fears in check or just trying not to be seen on camera and seeing store owners toss out these guys because of the way they look isn’t that far from intolerance and prejudice one might face if you’re the wrong skin color or wearing different clothing. It’s not that much of a reach to liken the clowns with others who face prejudice and bigotry every day.
In that sense, CLOWN PANIC turns out to be a bit more resonant than I imagine they expected it would be. The documentary is overlong. A lot of it feels staged, especially the bits about putting together the band and interacting with management who don’t understand them. But the repeated scenes on the street where the clowns cause instant panic when they are simply walking and minding their own business is a surprisingly stark view of a society who aren’t as tolerant as we think we are.
New On Demand from Gravitas Ventures!
3 HOURS TILL DEAD (2016)Directed by Jason Mills
Written by Jason Mills
Starring Chris Walters, Al Dales, Darren Andrichuk, Brooke Walker, Silas Allan, Vladimir Zaric, Hans Potter, Marisa Crockett, Delia Tatiana, Heather Marie Scott, Michael Sardine, Amylynn Emm, Kiana Passmore, Alex Camp, Sean Jensen, Marshall Moubert, Kim Mills, Becky Smalls, Poi Yuk Lee, Simon Mills, Terry Lee, Alec Marquis, Courtney Hyson, Aralyn Walker Morrison
Find out more about this film @Hourstildead, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
The premise of 3 HOURS TILL DEAD is pretty typical, a group of kids out on a camping trip somehow miss the news that the world is ending and zombies have begun to take over the earth. Having left their phones back home, none of the kids get the news and one of them who is AWOL from the military, is forced to come to terms with his decision as well as learn how to man up and fight back against the impending zombie horde.
So basically, it’s TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING (with the whole AWOL theme) meets just about every zombie movie you can imagine with people seemingly never seeing a zombie movie before and being taken totally off guard by the dead rising and biting. People get bit and slowly turn. People are faced with decisions whether to give into their inner flight reflex or stand and fight for those they care about. And 3 HOURS TILL DEAD does a great job doing that even though we’ve seen it a million times.
Where the film deviates from the norm is actually kind of interesting. Usually, our dependence on technology is looked at as a hindrance, but in this film is really is a detriment as the group doesn’t know what’s going on because they’ve agreed to go cell phone free for the entire trip. Part of it is because the lead is avoiding the military who is after him for going AWOL, but it makes for a nice alternative to the usual “cell phones are poison” theme one often sees in overly preachy horror films and the wave of J-horror we saw in the 90’s and 00’s. A film pointing out how essential cells can be to survival is somewhat refreshing, though it might just signify a shift to the millennial attitude of the pointlessness of life without internet connection.
Either way, 3 HOURS TILL DEAD is a solid, albeit typical zombie experience. It does zombie horror well, even though it’s a well-played tune. I liked the chomping zombies who clack their teeth together at anyone who comes near them and this film incorporates fast and slow zombies, so that’s kind of cool. If you’re looking for zombie horror, there’s plenty to find out there. And 3 HOURS TILL DEAD does it well.
New On Demand from MTI Video/Traplight Media!
DEATH POOL (2016)aka THE VALLEY DROWNER
Directed by Jared Cohn
Written by Jared Cohn
Starring Randy Wayne, Sara Malakul Lane, Shawn C. Phillips, James Cullen Bressack, Afton Jillian, Walker Mintz, Delpaneaux Wills, Kelly Erin Decker, Karalynn Dunton, Rhett Wellington, Tom McLaren, Demetrius Stear, Amanda Goff, HenRii Coleman, Jessica Louise Long, Xan Rogers, Scotch Hopkins, Carl Donelson, Ava Kujik, Shelley Jane, Kimberly Rebeca, Nash Carter, Hannah Townsend, Chance Guess, Christopher M. Don, John Nikitin, Crystal Coreen, Callie Cleaves, Jessica Beeman, Nicole Webb, Jos Deacon, Jordan Preston, Noah Thorne, Jay Carreker, Brandon Kurt, Brian C. Baker, A.J. Wartinger, Gregory Kulp, Azikwa Rustin, Maya Washington, Gena Kay, Gino Miller, Ashley Young, Amanda Wade, Jack Matzye
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Man, this film plays on an entirely different plane of reality. It feels like it was made by people and for people who have never left the West Coast as everything is about partying, image, popularity, and looking good while thinking about all of that. I’ve seen vapid movies made well—I’m looking at you, NEON DEMON, but this is one with really no grounding as none of the characters really appeal to me, making none of them worth following. This tale of a kid who is tormented by his babysitter and grows up to be an unstable adult who is triggered to kill when he encounters a hottie while taking on a pool-cleaning job. Eventually, Johnny (Randy Wayne) can’t controls his psychotic urges any more and goes on a rampage, attaining infamy among the party-people of the Valley as the notorious Valley Drowner.
So yeah, this is basically SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT except replace Santa Claus with swimming pools. The kid goes on a ridiculous rampage drowning people in swimming pools, bathtubs, toilets, garbage cans full of rainwater, and basically any puddle deep enough to submerge a face in. And speaking of shallow, that’s pretty much this film in a nutshell. The flimsy motivation of the killer might have made sense in pop culture eighties terminology, but the “this trauma equals this psychosis” equation just doesn’t fly in this day and age. Johnny isn’t sympathetic at all. Sure he had a hot baby sitter who forced him to swim when he didn’t want to, but that doesn’t really make it understandable that he flips out like he does. His attempts at quelling his psychotic urges aren’t really convincing as those attempts are tossed out the window once wind gets to the party-people of Cali and he becomes a star. Johnny laps it up like a dog and it only encourages him to kill more.
The timeline in DEAD POOL is all over the place as well. Johnny goes nuts and kills someone in a pool one morning and he has a cult following by the end of the day—all of the kids had the time to print up “I Heart the Valley Drowner” t-shirts and everything. I guess this film could be looked at as a farcical satire on serial killer popularity, but it just doesn’t seem smart enough in the script or execution to live up to that claim. In the end, stale acting, loose morals, a skewed perspective of reality, and really just all around inanity makes DEAD POOL one you might want to take a pass on.
New On Demand from Sector 5/Reality Films!
ALIEN IMPLANT: THE HUNTED MUST BECOME THE HUNTER (2017)Directed by Daniel Falicki
Written by Warren Croyle, Daniel Falicki
Starring Lisa Mueller, Gil Stansell, Sadie Rose
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Too many horror films try to live beyond their means. They try to buy a swimming pool when they haven’t even made the first payment on the car or house yet. It takes real skill to make a film on solid ideas rather than trying to wear a Magnum and trying to convince everyone your hung by wrapping a rubber band around it with crappy CG, an over-expansive script, and a cast filled with tons of non-actors. Daniel Falicki has made a career of doing the opposite. He makes small films with small casts and offers up strong ideas that never overstay their welcome. He made the amazing ACCIDENTAL EXORCIST and AEON: THE LAST VAMPIRE ON EARTH and he does it again with the tightly packed alien conspiracy thriller ALIEN IMPLANT.
A woman known only as The Victim (Lisa Mueller) is a survivor of an alien abduction and has holed herself up in a station in the middle of the woods sending a signal out to other aliens to land so she can murder them. That’s a hell of a sentence I just tossed out there and the execution is pretty awesome as well. There’s no “what’s that light in the sky” scene here or no “maybe we are not alone” scene. This is a bare bones story taking place midway through this person’s tale that has the hunted become the hunter (as the subtitle of this film claims). The film focuses solely on one location in the middle of a forest in a shack filled with tech equipment that summons aliens. This leads to a lot of Mueller fiddling with tech knobs and circuitry, but the payoff, when an alien does arrive is a lot of fun. Add in a mentally talkative messenger who offers up a truce between the aliens and the Victim and you have a small, but effective little sci fi tale filled with intrigue and suspense.
Mueller is great as the jittery and dedicated survivor as most of the film relies solely on her facial expressions. Low on dialog, but big on ideas, this one works as a small scope film that resounds. I’m sure it didn’t cost much to make, but filmmakers should take note that one or two solid actors cast is much better than tossing all of your friends into a low budget film. If you don’t have money for big effects, keep things simple. Use your elbow grease and the old noodle instead of hoping some z-rate CG will make up for it in post. That’s what Falicki does here and has been doing. I’d love to see what this director could do with a big budget, but until then I’m totally enjoying his low fi nightmares like ALIEN IMPLANT.
New on BluRay/DVD from MVD Visual!
NAVY SEALS V. DEMONS (2017)aka DEMONS OF JACK COUNTY, JACK COUNTY, JACK COUNTY DEMONS
Directed by Jeffrey Reyes
Written by A.K. Waters (story), Charles Roy (screenplay), Kerry Patton, Mikal Vega, Robert Markovich (contributing writers)
Starring Liana Mendoza, Tim Abell, Samantha Stewart, Joey Abril, Mikal Vega, Anthony L. Fernandez, Natasha Hall, Aldo Gonzalez, Jeff Davis, Celina Molina, Kerry Patton, Tony Nevada, Alexandria Provenghi, Corey Allen Kotler, Matthew R. Anderson, Bobby V, Joe Chacon, Trevor Scott, Sandra Villa, Hector S Quintana, Jon Bangle, Chayce Lee, Rafael Lozano, Les Brooks Jr., Beatriz Adriana, Priscilla Hernandez, and David Lonigro as Legion the Demon Rider!
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
This follow up to NAVY SEALS V. ZOMBIES (which I have not seen) is a solid little grab bag of action movie clichés. You’ve got the reluctant heroes coming back together in order to take on a new threat. You’ve got the sorrowful hero who is looking for purpose. You’ve got barfights, shirts with no sleeves, shots, strippers with hearts of gold and magical boobs. NAVY SEALS V. DEMONS is everything you need in a testosterone laden action flick in terms of story.
It’s too bad the film lacks any type of budget. Sure there are a few practical effects shots of pronounced brows and wrinkly faced demons, but that pretty much is it in terms of effects as the demons basically are just normal people wearing black. And for as much physicality on display in the cast of heroes, there really isn’t that much of a conflict requiring these guys to use those glamour muscles.
Maybe I’m missing crucial pieces of the story from NAVY SEALS V. ZOMBIES or maybe there just isn’t much story there other than the old getting the gang back together montage and then cut to a bar fight and then cut to a scene where a bunch of tech heads are looking at a screen and then back to some more punching demons. I’m thinking the latter. NAVY SEALS V. DEMONS plays like an EXPENDABLES movie with action stars you don’t know. The vibe is all there and the acting is not as bad as one would expect. But there just isn’t much story to speak of. The climax is weak and the threat is weaker mainly because the budget doesn’t seem to allow it—or, more likely the filmmakers couldn’t think of a way to make things interesting within that budget.
Either way, aside from some nice boobs and some well executed action movie clichés, there’s not much to see in NAVY SEALS V. DEMONS.
New On Demand!
PATCHWORK (2015)Directed by Tyler MacIntyre
Written by Chris Lee Hill, Tyler MacIntyre
Starring Tory Stolper, Tracey Fairaway, Maria Blasucci, James Phelps, Eric Edelstein, Mark Hapka, Jon Rudnitsky, Craig Anstett, Seth Cassell, Amanda Markowitz, Corey Sorenson, Aaron Webman, Danny Jolles
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
As I’ve said before, the story of Frankenstein often bores me, not because it’s a snoozer of a story but because it’s been made and remade over and again. What doesn’t bore me to tears are new iterations of the tale, and PATCHWORK is one of the best uses of Frankensteinian themes I’ve seen since Stuart Gordon’s heyday.
Told in eight chapters, PATCHWORK follows three girls--the business-minded Jennifer (Tory Stolper), the bubbly Elle (Tracey Fairaway), and the wallflower Madeline (Maria Blasucci)--who all happen to be at the same bar one night and end up abducted and schmelded together into one patchwork woman by an underground medical facility. The lone survivor of the patchwork process, Jennifer/Madeline/Elle, escapes the facility and attempts to come to grips with having three minds and sharing the same body. Things get weird and bloody as these three women who have nothing in common must work together to try to figure out what to do next and cope with the aggressive urges to kill as well as newfound super strength to do so much more capably than a normal human.
Splicing ALL OF ME with a pinch of 9 TO 5 and bathing it in a thick coat of horror, PATCHWORK is a film like no other. Much like Stuart Gordon’s RE-ANIMATOR and Hennenlotter’s FRANKENHOOKER, this film has a wicked sense of humor while it tosses body parts into your face. The film pulls no punches with the ultragore, which is a part of all the fun. Those who long for the 80s blood-drenched horror films have a new film to fawn over as this film sloshes around in the red stuff with unabandoned glee.
But this is no simple gorefest. The story really has a soul, as it follows three very lonely women who deal with their loneliness in very different ways. Jennifer is unabashedly self-centered and turns away all her friends because of it, Elle turns the brain off and just gets drunk and parties with whomever will by her a drink, and Madeline’s insecurity stops her from even taking the plunge to meet new people. When all three are tossed into the same body, the relational pieces here are fascinating and actually pretty sweet to see unfold. This is something unique in that it’s a blood-drenched chick flick about women coming to terms with who they are, which is something I’ve never really seen in horror before.
All it takes it a pinch from one film and a dash from another to make a damn original take, and that’s exactly what PATCHWORK does splendidly. Sure we’ve seen Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin try to learn how to walk, and we’ve seen Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin team up to track down the person who wronged them in comedies before, but this film does so with originality and a wicked slant. Playing like a long lost sibling of RE-ANIMATOR and FRANKENHOOKER, PATCHWORK is something fans of gore, mad science, and complex characters will absolutely love. Highly recommended.
New this week in select theaters, On Demand, Amazon and iTunes!
THE BAD BATCH (2016)Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
Written by Ana Lily Amirpour
Starring Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Jayda Fink, Keanu Reeves, Diego Luna, Jim Carrey, Yolonda Ross, Aye Hasegawa, Giovanni Ribisi, Louie Lopez Jr., E.R. Ruiz, Cory Roberts, Joni Podesta, Almayvonne, Danielle Orner, Mandy Pursley, Eamon O'Rourke
Find out more about this film here, @thebadbatchneon, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Ana Lily Amirpour follows up her critically acclaimed A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (reviewed here) with a gritty post-apocalyptic tale of deplorable outcasts banished from civilized society and branded as the Bad Batch (like the name of the movie, get it?). In this outlaw land, muscle bound thugs BBQ humans, pet detectives wander the desert pushing shopping carts, and a Manson-esque cult leader gets everyone to chill out and party in the desert by taking drugs and listening to electronica.
The story actually follows a young girl named Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) who is newly banished and branded as the Bad Batch. After running into the wrong folks, she literally loses an arm and a leg. But still, she manages to be rescued by a mute hobo (a completely unrecognizable Jim Carey) and gets on the wrong and right side of a cannibal barbarian overlord named MiamiMan (Jason Mamoa) while rescuing a little girl who only gets caught up in a Manson-esque cult lead by a man called The Dream (Keanu Reeves). Arlen promises to rescue the little girl and forms a tentative partnership with the little girl’s father MiamiMan who is also looking for her.
Amirpour has definitely shown her style in these two films. She is not about flash-bang filmmaking. She’s much more interested in stylistically showing the world her characters live in. As with A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, much of THE BAD BATCH is without dialog. There are a lot of scenes of simple environment and people shambling around not really doing much anything more but searching for some kind of meaning in the desert. This will drive some viewers mad and I understand why a lot of folks dislike both AGWHAAT and this film as there are a lot of ponderous moments that some will mark as navel-gazing. Still, Amirpour does a great job of kind of dropping you into the middle of a land that looks like our own, but still feels completely alien. The vastness of the desert are as powerful as the strongest prison walls and while the characters are free to roam in any direction, the proximity of Amirpour’s camera and the impressive amount of character she captures with very little dialog makes you feel trapped with these characters. This being a two hour movie, that isn’t always a good thing as I feel like I got the gist of this movie at about the hour mark and the extended scenes of partying, tripping out, passing out, and waking up in the desert shows that this director needs a bit of reeling in as far as sustaining audiences attention. I can appreciate a nice moody environmentally solid piece of film, but it was the repetition of the story that really make sit feel like a good edit would make this film a whole lot more watchable.
I find it interesting that a lot of critics seem to be politicizing this film and I guess when you have a film about a wall between the haves and the have not’s, it’s inevitable. But as much as this can be seen as a class war lost between the one percenters and the rest of the world, it also can be said that this is a film that can be seen as an elitist California blocking out anyone who doesn’t conform with their ideas of right and wrong to the rest of the country. Or as a comment on the Hollywood system being extremely hard to penetrate from an independent POV. Amirpour keeps things so obtuse and vague that political stances can be applied to it, yet it doesn’t feel like she is preaching any of it and it’s more of an issue for those critics than what she is interested in.
In a lot of ways, this film feels almost too California from an indie filmmaker’s perspective as there is a sort of anger towards the system and an outcasting of those who don’t conform. So instead of conforming, you might as well take a trip to the desert, take some peyote, and party like it’s the Burning Man every week. Again, Amirpour isn’t really interested in giving us any of these answers. Her eye for building worlds is very astute and while her stories are a bit over-indulgent, she does have talent worth looking out for. While Mamoa does a great job of basically reenacting his Karl Drago character from GAME OF THRONES and Suki Waterhouse shows a lot of grit as the never give up amputee, the star of this film is Amirpour’s filmmaking style which sadly gets in the way of making this film substantial.
New exclusively on Shudder!
SWEET SWEET LONELY GIRL (2016)aka SITTER
Directed by A.D. Calvo
Written by A.D. Calvo
Starring Quinn Shephard, Susan Kellermann, Erin Wilhelmi, Hada Vanessa, Frances Eve, Mike S. Ryan, Rob Tunstall, Lainie Ventura, Kristin Johansen, A.J. Helm, Jonathan Holtzman, Matt Goyette, David Pirrie, Adam Schartoff
Find out more about this film here, @sweetsweetlonelygirl, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Reminiscent in tone of Ty West’s HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, DON’T LOOK NOW, and ALICE SWEET ALICE, and in subject matter of THE MOTH DIARIES, A.D. Calvo’s haunting coming of age horror story SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL is a ghost story you’ll not soon forget.
Erin Wilhelmi stars as Adele, a shy young girl who is told to help out her reclusive Aunt Dora by her mother in hopes that they receive her inheritance when she passes. Unlike her gold-digging and pregnant mother, Adele actually have fond memories of spending the summer with her Aunt and gladly accepts the job to get some freedom from her oppressive mother. Once in Aunt Dora’s decadent Victorian home, Adele finds herself more lonely than ever as her Aunt never leaves her room and only communicates with Adele through notes passed under the door. While shopping for Aunt Dora’s eclectic menu at the local supermarket, Adele encounters Beth (Quinn Shephard) an outgoing gal who notices the shy girl staring at her. Seeing her again in a bar, Beth confronts Adele and the two soon spark up a deep friendship that turns into a romance. But while Adele’s love runs deep, she is too naïve to see that Beth is just having a good time. Meanwhile, things back at Aunt Dora’s are getting dire and the loneliness that runs thick through the dark house is creeping ever slowly into Adele’s soul.
SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL is a film made painstakingly as if it were crafted in the seventies. From the styles of clothing to the music to the overall cinematography, the film feels as if it were more of a long lost discovery of a film rather than something fresh and new. Yet that is exactly why this film feels so fresh and new. While many films of this sort ape the seventies gritty and grindhousey style in order to wink at the viewer and make obnoxious jabs at the fads of this era, SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL simply exists in this era and feels authentic and real. Because there is no self consciousness to speak of in this film, the danger of both putting oneself out there with the risk of being hurt as well as the supernatural danger that is creeping up on Adele in the periphery struck me deeply. I was surprised how into the relationship I was taken between these two young girls. And yet it is all because of how genuine everything felt—from the introduction of Adele, soulfully listening to her walkman and walking through a fall afternoon to the developing relationship between Adele and Beth that feels authentic although much of it feels like schoolgirl fantasy if you describe it.
Erin Wilhelmi is a true find as Adele. She has a soulful feel about her coupled with a real sense of mystery behind her sad eyes. Quinn Shephard is the opposite—full of life and vigor with a knowing look of worldly experience behind her eyes. Seeing these two girls meet and develop a relationship makes you root for them to survive. This being a horror movie, you know something dire is going to happen, but nevertheless, filmmaker A.D. Calvo sets the stage so well that I found myself wishing this film would change genres to avoid the inevitable tragedy that looms over this film like an executioner’s blade.
Once the axe drops, the terror is thick and potent. Calvo spends most of the movie setting up a terrifying scenario around Adele with her too starry eyed to see it, so it is way too late once she notices. Some well placed beats of terror really do even out this film. Still, most of the horror doesn’t happen until the last fifteen minutes. By that time, I was so wrapped up in rooting for Adele that it was painful to see when the climax finally rears its head. SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL is for appreciators of slow burn horror. It’s retro-vibe is going to be appealing, but this film is much more powerful than nostalgia. It succeeds in telling a sophisticated tale of an unconventional relationship (for the time, that is) and then placing that relationship in real danger. The final moments had me curling my toes in terror. Calvo succeeds in creating a retro-gothic horror tale that is unforgettably authentic in its tone and bone-chillingly terrifying in its resolution. Highly recommended.
And finally…here is another pair of installments of Kevin Forte’s ongoing horror webseries THE SIN REAPERS. The last two episodes have been posted and I’m passing them on to you! Enjoy Episode 5 – “Meet the Reapers.”
And episode 6 entitled “Tate.”
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.
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