Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Why ZOMBIES & SHARKS? Well, those are the two things that I’ve had the most nightmares about. It’s the reason I rarely swim in the ocean. It’s the reason I have an escape plan from my apartment just in case of a zombie apocalypse. Now if you’ve ever had those fears or fears like them, inspired mainly by nights upon nights of watching films of the frightening kind, this is the place for you. So look for AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS every Friday for the foreseeable future, horror hounds, where we’ll be covering horror in all forms; retro, indie, mainstream, old and new.
Well, I got a bit behind on my new horror films with my tribute to Vincent Price and my Found Footage columns from the last two weeks, so to whittle down my to-see pile, I decided to give you all a double dose of fresh fright films to enjoy this week. So, enjoy a special Thursday edition of AICN HORROR and come back tomorrow for more new horrors to enjoy too!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
DOLL-BOY Short Film (2010)
DEATHHUNTER: WEREWOLVES VS VAMPIRES (2011)
THE BLEEDING HOUSE (2011)
THE VIOLENT KIND (2011)
DOLL-BOY Short FilmDirected by Bloody Bill
Written by Billy Pon & Lee Ankrum
Starring Ryan Clapp, Jed Duesler, Dominic Lopez, Heather Francell, Venus Monique, Raul Gonzalez, Adrienne Martinez, Shawn Black, Sergio Gracida, Samantha Ankrum, Angelina Zorilla, & Drake Ankrum
Find out more on the DOLLBOY Facebook page!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
DOLL-BOY doesn’t blaze new trails in the horror genre. In fact, it’s a straight up stalk and slash (or in this case, pound) serial killer short film that literally cuts right to the chase. But just because it’s not breaking new ground doesn’t mean it’s not awesome. Directed and written by Bloody Bill and Lee Ankrum, DOLL-BOY may be a by-the-numbers slasher fest, but it’s a damn fine one.
Since this is a half hour short film, no time is wasted on lengthy explanations behind the pathos of Doll-Boy, a pudgy, doll-masked psychopath stalking the dark and TCM-esque hallways and rooms of a closed down Tex-Mex flea market with a sledgehammer. No minutes are spared getting to know the group of prey dropped off by an evil clown and let loose into the maze of darkness to their doom. From the get-go, we know all we need to know; these eight folks will die soon. The fun is watching it all go down.
The folks behind this film have seen all of the horror films we all have. This is a true homage to every slasher film you’ve seen with all of the boring parts ripped out and tossed into the trash. It’s straight up high tension and horror action done with a surprisingly skilled hand at capturing the claustrophobic setting and a deft delivery of amping up the chills. Going in, we know next to nothing about Doll-Boy. In the end, we still know nothing. This is a mere snippet of the existence of a madman. DOLL-BOY is a fantastically brutal and scary short film. Here’s hoping we see more of this madman with a hammer soon. Find out where and when you can see DOLL-BOY on its Facebook page!
New on VOD, DVD & BluRay!
DEATHHUNTER: WEREWOLVES VS VAMPIRES (2011)Directed by Dustin Rikert
Written by Dustin Rikert
Starring Sam McConkey, Paulino Hemmer, Mike Lawler, Shari Weidmann, & Richard Williams
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Well, you can’t fault this film for not being ambitious. The storyline shoots for the stars, even though things like budget, acting, lighting, directing, and effects kind of bog it down. I want to support all kinds of horror films here, but I think the main problem with DEATHHUNTER: WEREWOLVES & VAMPIRES is that it tries way too hard to be a badass monster movie, but doesn’t really have the know-how to pull it off.
Apart from the lead actor, John Croix (pronounced “Cross” and played by Sam McConkey) lines are delivered pretty woodenly, which may help them ward off vampires if sharpened, but doesn’t do well at making me like this film. The story is a bit convoluted as well—as John and his wife are separated by a vampire king, then John is bitten by a werewolf, given an antidote by an old man in leather pants which gives John all the power of the wolfman, but none of the hairyness. An hour into the film, a quartet of teens are introduced just to be picked off, and it all wraps up in a bow of cheese by the end. There’s a death scene that is so drawn out it makes Yoda’s death in EMPIRE seem abrupt by comparison. Humor drops like anvils in this one producing more groans than laughs and every vamp and wolf cliché is used and reused.
Though there are a few positives here. As I said, the filmmakers were ambitious. Effects wise, they go for a lot. Wolfmen. Lycans. Bats. Vampire teeth. Gun shot bursts. Animated vamp deaths. Prosthetic blood and gore. Beheadings. There are a ton of effects shots in this film. But the best effects (such as a smiling lycan getting ready to pounce on its prey), though competent for the budget they are on, are used and reused numerous times in the film. And obvious green screen effects give the film an even more cheesier look.
I’m usually pretty positive with reviews here, even for films that aren’t so hot. But DEATHHUNTER: WEREWOLVES VS VAMPIRES is a sliver above what one would usually see in a Skinimax after dark film…without the major reason why we watch those films. With those films, we put up with the shoddy acting, horrible lighting and directing, and bad attempts to thread a story because eventually there’s some boobage coming along. Here it’s just a highlight reel for amateur effects shots. My advice to the makers of DEATHHUNTER; aim lower. If you don’t have the money to make BLADE, then don’t make BLADE. Sometimes smaller horror is better. Though the ambition is there, the skill, talent, and most importantly, the duckets just aren’t there in DEATHHUNTER.
New on DVD & BluRay! Part of the After Dark Originals
PROWL (2011)Directed by Patrick Syversen
Written by Tim Tori
Starring Courtney Hope, Ruta Gedmintas, Bruce Payne, Saxon Trainor, Joshua Bowman
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I reviewed this film a while back when it was in limited release as part of the After Dark Originals series. It’s been released on DVD & BluRay so I figured I’d report the review since you all have a better chance of catching it this time around.
PROWL is the second "kids on a roadtrip gone wrong" film I watched this week, but there's nothing wrong with it as long the "wrong" part of it is distinct and interesting. And for the most part PROWL is both. Though I'm as sick as you guys are of vampire stories (though I can never get enough of zombie films for some reason), I have to get behind the gritty and grimy vampires we rarely see. Instead of the twinkler vamps, in PROWL we get the 30 DAYS OF NIGHT/NEAR DARK sort. Things get scary. Things get bloody. This isn't a teen romance, but a story of a girl trying to escape her fate, but failing at every turn.
Told from the perspective of Amber (played by freckle-faced cutie Courtney Hope), PROWL tackles an age old conflict between a person with big dreams and a small town that seems bent on squashing them. Like Luke Skywalker gazing across the dunes of Tantooine, Amber dreams of leaving home, but can't seem to do it. When an opportunity arises for her to get an apartment in Chicago, she convinces a group of friends to drive her out of Farmfield, Nowhere and into her new life. Of course, as with any "kids on a road trip" flick, shit goes wrong.
When their car breaks down, Amber thinks she'll never get out of town, but they convince a trucker to cart them into Chicago. The film teeters on this moment where we must believe the kids are desperate enough to be locked in the back of a semi for 19 hours and director Patrik Syversen does a decent job of making the situation desperate enough to make this stupid decision believable. The kids are likable enough, which is crucial, because PROWL takes its time letting us get to know these kids and Amber's plight well before the vamps come. But once the truck backs into a dark warehouse and the door slides open, shit gets real really fast.
The initial meet between the kids and the vamps is about as tense as it comes. The acting is really good, for the most part, and there's a real sense of danger as these kids have no clue what they are getting into. For me, the highpoint of the film happens about 45 minutes in when all hell breaks loose and dire circumstances occur at a wickedly fast pace. After this mark, though, the movie kind of skids, as if the makers suddenly realized that there were still quite a bit of movie minutes to fill. The scenes still have a lot of power, but lack the intensity of the initial encounter with the vamps. A couple of jarring edits and an ending that just kind of ends abruptly had me appreciating this film, but wishing it hadn't peaked so soon. Still, there are some great performances there by the kids and the trucker (played by Bruce Payne who some will remember from HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME and PASSENGER 57) and the scene where the kids first encounter the vampires make the film memorable to me. I also love the splatter and filth this film tosses on our heroines. PROWL may not be the most original of vamp flicks, but it’s a fun one.
Available on VOD now through June 23rd and in limited theaters now!
THE BLEEDING HOUSE (2011)Directed by Phillip Gelatt
Written by Phillip Gelatt
Starring Patrick Been, Alexandra Chando, Betsy Aidem, Richard Bekins, & Charlie Hewson
Find out more here.
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
THE BLEEDING HOUSE is one of those films that would make a great stage play. There’s basically one set, a family home, and most of the action centers around one character, Nick, a smooth talking Southern gentleman dressed in a white suit played wonderfully by character actor Patrick Been. Nick shows up on the doorstep of the Smith family home, but just as Nick has intentions he is hiding, the family itself has a dark secret. This is one of those films that is boiled down to basics, not overshooting its budget and taking full advantage of the talented actors assembled and a riveting script written.
The delivery from Patrick Been, an actor you’ll immediately recognize but if you’re like me, you won’t know from where, is both charming and chilling. The story is pretty straight forward with a few surprises along the way, but nothing that isn’t telegraphed from the very instant Nick sets foot on the Smith’s property. Though the first forty or so minutes of this film flirt with being one of those ORDINARY PEOPLE/AMERICAN BEAUTY type films with a dysfunctional family with offbeat secrets, as soon as Nick starts picking at the family like an open wound, things start getting really interesting.
I don’t want to oversell this film; it falls just short of terrifying due to the fact that a lot of the elements at play here has been seen before in your typical stalker films as Nick makes his way through the family with sharp words and an even sharper knife (which is a pocket knife like I’ve never seen before, unfolding from the middle of the blade handle—me want one!). Though we may have seen it before, Been’s performance is what makes this film shine. If anything, his performance here should garner him some much needed attention. His lanky form and beady eyes are definitely able to cause unease with a glance. I’d love to see more of him in larger roles.
Though THE BLEEEDING HOUSE isn’t blazing new territory, it does do it well and with Been’s performance as the Southern stranger and writer/director Phillip Gelatt’s poetic script, there’s a classic, literary feel to the film. Again, I’d love to see this adapted into a play. Maybe it was. Maybe it will be. As it is, THE BLEEDING HOUSE is a fine thriller.
New on BluRay & DVD!
THE VIOLENT KIND (2011)Directed by The Butcher Brothers
Written by The Butcher Brothers & Adam Weis
Starring Cory Knauf, Taylor Cole, Bret Roberts, Christina Prousalis, Tiffany Shepis, Joseph McKelheer, & Samuel Child
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
THE VIOLENT KIND took me completely by surprise. I knew nothing about this film and in doing so, I was kicked to the back of my seat as I watched it unfold at how utterly unique this film was and how inventive the folks behind it are. I’m going to give a SPOILER FREE and a SPOILER LADEN review to this bad boy of a film. For those who want to experience the film like I did, skip to the last paragraph of the review and just know that this is a film full of lefts when you expect rights, nightmares instead of dreams, and performances that resonate far beyond the screen and into your worst nightmares. This is a film that takes expectations and curb-stomps them.
***SPOILERS***Going into this film, I could gather from the title that I was in for a whole bunch of ultra violence and as the opening credits rolled by with the main characters (members of a biker gang called The Crew) beat and kick the snot out of a bald guy out of nowhere, it looks like I was going to get some kind of biker version of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE with winks and nods to those biker films of the sixties and seventies which glorified the biker lifestyle. There’s talk of initiation into the biker gang, beer swilling, hard/punk rocking, and all kinds of grease monkeying around. For the most part, that’s what you get for the first 30 minutes of the film. I thought this was going to be an R rated, ultra violent version of SONS OF ANARCHY, but then, just when I’m getting comfortable with this genre, everything slides into David Lynch-ville by way of Cthulhu and THE EVIL DEAD as scream queen Tiffany Shepis returns from making out with her new boyfriend covered in blood and making like a crimson Linda Blair with a taste for throats. As Shepis craws the walls and speaks all demon-y, I settled into another relaxed state saying “Oh cool. It’s like EVIL DEAD. Nice.” Then a bunch of creepy 50’s punks come out of nowhere looking like the extras in BLUE VELVET talking about ghosts, other worlds, and evil ones. As the killer punks torment the bikers and set up some kind of ritual to bring an ancient other-worldly evil into our existence, I gave up trying to pigeon-hole this film and realized this was something utterly, entirely original and amazing.
The performances by the entire cast is fantastic. The bikers are lanky losers with hearts of gold. Enough time is spent in the beginning to at first loathe them, but compared to the killer punks who show up later to torment our bikers, you can’t help but root for them. Vernon (played by Joe Egender) is a vicious cross between BLUE VELVET’s Frank and Giovanni Ribisi on crack. His cohorts in death are Jazz and Murderball, both serving up equal doses of insanity and grotesque violence. Crossed with Shepis’ bold performance as a possessed biker chick and Cory Knauf’s noble biker with a heart of gold, and you’ve got a rock solid cast in all of this batshit craziness.***END SPOILERS***
Writers/directors The Butcher Brothers are a talented pair; skillfully juggling genres like they had twelve arms. THE VIOLENT KIND will most definitely shock and surprise you. It defies labels and genre clichés and keeps you guessing up until the very end. If you haven’t seen the film, I hope you don’t read the spoilers here. Go into it as fresh as I did and I guarantee you will be surprised and entertained.
See ya tomorrow for another batch of new horror, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!
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