Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Here’s column number two this week. Who says I never do anything for you ghouls?
Enjoy this week’s picks!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-Review: THE PETER WALKER COLLECTION: DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE (1971)
Retro-Review: SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981)
ZOMBIE HORROR FRIGHT FEST: FAST ZOMBIES WITH GUNS (2009)
SLAUGHTER TALES (2012)
DICK NIGHT (2011)
THE DAY (2012)
Advance Review: RESOLUTION (2012)
And finally… The Zombie Disposal Unit presents THE ZOMBIE TRUCK!
Retro-review: Rereleased this week from Kino Lorber/Redemption!
THE PETER WALKER COLLECTIONDIE SCREAMING, MARIANNE (1971)aka DIE BEAUTIFUL, MARIANNE
Directed by Pete Walker
Written by Murray Smith
Starring Susan George, Barry Evans, Christopher Sandford, Judy Huxtable, Leo Genn, Kenneth Hendel
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
I must admit, my only experience with director Peter Walker was with his excellent schlocker FRIGHTMARE. I’d known he’d made more films, but just haven’t gotten around to seeing them yet. So I was really excited when I heard Redemption was rereleasing four of Peter Walker’s films on BluRay. I’m going to cover all four of these films in the next few weeks. Last week I took a look at SCHIZO. This week, we’ve got DIE SCREAMING MARINNE.
This snoozeroonie was a test to my patience. I guess Peter Walker can’t have all winners. I guess I was just lucky with FRIGHTMARE and SCHIZO being my first dose of Walker. In DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE a happening free-wheeler known as Marianne “The Hips” McDonald (played by the always smokin’ Susan George) flits from one bloke’s shag pad and seems to be on the run from some shady individuals, one of them sporting the sweatiest and worst comb-over ever put to film. She almost gets run over by another happening lad named Sabastian (Christopher Sandford) who fancies her quite a bit from the get-go and they decide to get married after spending a car ride together. Shocker! The two don’t really have a lot in common, but that’s alright. The confused pastor at the insta-marriage stand accidentally marries Marianne to Sebastian’s friend Eli (Barry Evans) instead because he was standing in between the two at the altar. How kooky! Soon, Marianne decides to split town on Sebastian and ends up falling for Eli, but wait! We haven’t even gotten to the main plot yet!
If that lengthy explanation of the first fifteen minutes of the film didn’t lose you, then the rest of the film works overtime to try. The story devolves into a plot by Marianne’s family to rub her off because a) they’re money grubbing bastards and b) kinda incestual as Marianne’s sister tends to like to grope her father a bit. The rest of the movie has Marianne and Eli in various states of danger, from abductions at gunpoint to a lackluster steam room scene where Marianne is locked in there wearing only a towel and made to pant and moan a bit from the heat.
Interspersed are scenes of Marianne walking down the road. Marianne walking across fields. Marianne driving in a car all set to the same soupy love song played over and over.
Still, Susan George in a bathing suit…
But despite the attractiveness of the lead, this story is pretty dull and even Walker’s attempts to liven things up with some murder, betrayal, and incest can’t save this one. I found myself thinking about my need to do laundry and dishes during the dramatic ending.
So far we are 1 for 1 with SCHIZO being a winner last week. We’ll see how the rest of this Walker BluRay Box Set fares next week!
Retro-review: New this week on BluRay & DVD in the UK from Second Sight!
SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981)Directed by Walter Hill
Written by Michael Kane, Walter Hill, David Giler
Starring Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Fred Ward, Franklyn Seales, T.K. Carter, Lewis Smith, Les Lannom, Peter Coyote, Alan Autry, Brion James
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though it may leave people scratching their heads why a hard core action movie like SOUTHERN COMFORT is being reviewed in a horror column, upon watching this rerelease, Walter Hill’s classic soldiers vs Cajuns battle in the bayou has a lot in common with your typical horror movie and is a pretty effective one as well.
I’ve always been a fan of films about untamed America. I love it that there are nooks and crannies in this country that have been untouched by modern civilization. The fact that there are pockets in Middle America that aren’t logged onto their iPhones or computers all day fascinates me. In SOUTHERN COMFORT, this culture clash of civilization meets their primitive ancestry is told brilliantly as a well intentioned unit of reservists is assigned to the Louisiana Bayou. These guys aren’t war vets. As explained in the BluRay special feature which interviews Walter Hill called “Will He Live or Will He Die”, they are part time soldiers. Some from well to do families trying to get military cred on their resume, others are nutcases who wouldn’t make it in the big league military, and still others are those who desperately need the money. Hill intersperses all of these aspects in this band of odd yet likable weekend warriors and establishes early that these guys are playing soldier, not real soldiers. This becomes evident later when they run afoul of a group of Cajun hunters and the conflict becomes real.
The thing that makes SOUTHERN COMFORT so good is its cast. Keith Carradine is the Southern aristocrat and Powers Boothe is the stoic warrior; both seem to be polar opposites but able to meet eye to eye early on realizing that they are in trouble and that these Cajuns and this situation is extremely dangerous when the group gets lost in the swamp. The other standout is the always amazing and underappreciated Fred Ward, who embodies the menacing psychopath with dangerous eyes who most likely is taking this military stuff a little too seriously and is a danger to the entire group in that none of them is more important than his own survival. Most of the tension built in the group revolves around Ward’s character and his stone cold eyes and concrete delivery of line makes him the one you want in your corner, but don’t turn your back on him.
What makes this a successful horror tale as well as a solid action film is that it follows a lot of the same horror tropes as the Cajuns whittle the soldiers down with vicious swamp traps and their home field advantage of the terrain the soldiers are splashing through. Horror icon, the late great Brion James plays the one armed lead Cajun who is seen most. As with all of his performances, he’s got an other-worldly menace quality that makes his menace all the more terrifying. Though there are definite scenes that remind one of APOCALYPSE NOW, especially in the pig slaughtering scene interspersed with a Cajun jamboree full of music and dancing, SOUTHERN COMFORT’s immersion into the Cajun culture by the end of the film definitely makes one feel as if they’ve stepped into another planet. As the Cajun music plays, it acts more of a horrifying, never-ending reverb as the few soldiers left must evade the hunters in the final moments.
Bleak and brutal, like I like my action films. SOUTHERN COMFORT is welcome in this AICN HORROR section any old time with it’s gore death scenes, memorable performances from some faces you’re bound to recognize, the uncomfortable swampy landscape it all goes down in, and a look at a culture that puts it in a pretty terrifying light.
ZOMBIE HORROR FRIGHT FESTDirected by Bennie Woodell
FAST ZOMBIES WITH GUNS (2009)
Written by Bennie Woodell
Starring Leena Kurishingal, Tony Swansey, Will Cummings III, Dennis Doornbos, Ken Svitak, Elizabeth Tannehill, Kayla Malec, Nicole Frier, James Hauser, Charles Ramsey, Chad Meyer, Sofiya Smirnova
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This week I’m cracking open Chemical Burn’s four disk set called ZOMBIE HORROR FRIGHT FEST which features THE DEFILED, MELVIN, FAST ZOMBIES WITH GUNS, and WOODS OF TERROR; all zombie films which approach the subgenre in a fresh and unique way. Last time we checked out THE DEFILED, this time around it’s FAST ZOMBIES WITH GUNS.
This movie had me at the title. There’s something unbelievably interesting about the words FAST ZOMBIES WITH GUNS put together in that particular order. And pretty much, that’s what you get with this release from director Bennie Woodell; zombies…running really fast…with guns…
Now I don’t want to oversell this one. It’s a very low budget movie, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with this flick. It tries to be a lot bigger than it really is. It aims for the stars and sometimes misses when the actors are asked to perform way beyond their ability. But occasionally there are moments of true inspiration as Woodell tries to cram just about every zombie attacking human with guns scenario into this hour and a half flick. The film only lags when it slows down to bother with a plot (something about the murder of a mob informant and a couple on the run), which sounds like a complaint, but really it only means that the scenes of zombie carnage were so much fun that I was wishing there were more of them.
Woodell doesn’t shy away from using the wet stuff. Arteries are chewed open, causing a geyser of gore. Bullets splatter through adult and child zombie alike. Tossing in the element of firearms to the mix adds something new and refreshing as the bullet hits erupt in fountains of blood. Sure there are hints of 28 DAYS LATER throughout this one, as well as nods to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and just about any other zombie apocalypse movie you can think of. Woodell even gets his Tarantino on with the hitman couple on the run motif. But the true selling point of this one is in its title. Like peanut butter and jelly or dead hookers and car trunks, FAST ZOMBIES WITH GUNS is a winning combination.
New on DVD!
SLAUGHTER TALES (2012)Directed by Johnny Dickie
Written by Johnny Dickie
Starring Joe Ankenbrand, Katrina Basilio, Joey Davalos, Matt Desiderio, Johnny Dickie, Molly Russakoff, & Lloyd Kaufman
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
So this is a homemade film made by a 15 year old and rumored to cost only $64.00 to make is made of all of the good kind of stuff that reminds me of my childhood. Rudimentary dialog, barely a story involved, amateur acting, and effects made with whatever they could cook up with from mom’s kitchen. Now, if this is the type of thing that makes you want to run to the talkbacks and rant feverishly, scroll on to the next review. For me, it was fun to see these kids trying hard for depth of story, trying hard to act, trying hard to make things scary, and basically, trying extremely hard to make their own movie. And they succeeded. And they should be proud of that and there’s a part of me that’s proud of them too for doing something my friends and I couldn’t get our shit together to complete when I was growing up.
As I said, the stories are barely that. A man drinks a mysterious poison. A serial killer escapes and kills people. A Claymation parasite attacks and possesses hosts. A murderer meets his rival in a battle that takes him from the kitchen to the backyard. All wrapped together with a story about a kid who steals a DVD called SLAUGHTER TALES and slowly goes mad while watching it. None of these stories have nuance or depth. None of them really have a character arc. But they do have a lot of murder, f-words, and gore. You know, the kind of stuff all 14 year olds love.
I was utterly endeared to this film from start to finish because I know what it was like to be 14 and dream of being the next HG Lewis or Eli Roth. And I’m sure there are quite a few readers who could relate to this too. But don’t get mad at me thinking I’m telling you this is even a film. It’s more like an awesome home movie from a kid who has his shit together enough to write, direct, star, do effects, and even distribute a movie. But I couldn’t help but grin that the only place the kid could splatter blood on the wall was in the bathtub and I swear there’s a scene where a hand gets cut off and there’s actually plastic put under the hand at the last minute so the carpet doesn’t get stained. I guess that’s what happens in low budget filmmaking when you don’t want to get in trouble from mom. Plus there are some previews spliced into the film of other tales called GORY THINGS and FROSTY SCREAM, which are downright precious in their simplicity.
Kudos to Lloyd Kaufman who recognized the indie spirit and gumption this kid had and appearing in this film. He makes a fun cameo as on Uncle Lloyd can.
A word of advice to the filmmaker who definitely shows potential and spunk. This film needs to have tighter edits, there is too much time between shots. A nip and tuck here and there can make even an amateur film look good, but a second between cuts of silence can kill it.Second, take some writing courses and focus on establishing characters, making an interesting conflict, and coming up with a resolution that makes sense. Too many of the sequences in the film are there to showcase effects you’ve cooked up and not tell an actual story. Don’t worry, there are tons of major motion pictures that make that same mistake…that’s right, I’m looking at you THE THING!
Stephen Speilberg began making movies in his backyard. Every filmmaker has to start somewhere. SLAUGHTER TALES is a fun trip back to my childhood and if you’re as ghoulish as I am, you’re bound to appreciate it.
New on iTunes & Video On Demand!
DICK NIGHT (2011)Directed by Andy Viner
Written by Andy Viner
Starring Jennifer June Ross, Ben Huber, Boomie Aglietti, Michael Uribes
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
DICK NIGHT is about a young woman left at the altar. She’s depressed. Unkempt. Sleeping all day. Moping all night. And trying to get by after her dream day was shattered. She meets a young orderly going through the same thing and both of them decide they need to have sex with someone in order to get over their lost loves. Of course, the set up is for the girl and the guy to get together, but one thing after another happens making that seem less and less a possibility.The orderly has the hots for a nurse. The woman gets stood up with someone else she’s lined up for a hook up and falls so low that she is considering sleeping with the pizza delivery guy. Then the orderly shows up. And then her “friend zone” friend shows up. And then the guy who left her shows up. It looks like this girl who once had no men in her life, now has an abundance to choose from.
What’s a girl to do?
And more importantly, why the hell am I writing about it in this column called AICN HORROR?
Well, it turns out that this film pulls a FROM DUSK TILL DAWN halfway through when a bunch of vampires show up with very little lead in. For the most part, this is a romantic comedy up until the halfway point checking off all of the rom com clichés as it goes along. Then all of a sudden, SWITCH! And it’s bloodsuckers.
This type of approach causes different reactions. I know when I first saw FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, half of the group of friends I went to the movie with got up and left they were so pissed by the vampire reveal. On the other hand, those who get bored from rom com’s might find this one digestible. I must admit, even the rom com aspect of this film had me interested because the performances by the entire cast were pretty goof and the lead Jennifer June Ross is both extremely likable and talented, which made me stick with this film longer than I normally would. The scares are decent and though there’s not a lot of blood, you get some and some nice action scenes as well toward the end.
I liked the twist and the mash-up of genres at play in DICK NIGHT. The laughs go over well and the actors are likable. Want to play a cruel trick on your girlfriend, pop DICK NIGHT in the DVD player and don’t tell her a thing about it. Until the first half is over you’re bound to get some snuggle points. Of course, once this film reveals itself, clear off a comfy spot on the couch, because you’ll be sleeping there tonight.
New this week on BluRay/DVD!
THE DAY (2012)Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski
Written by Luke Passmore
Starring Dominic Monaghan, Shannyn Sossamon, Shawn Ashmore, Ashley Bell, Cory Hardrict, and Michael Eklund
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I heard nothing but spite towards this film from the first time I saw it and I have to admit, I stayed away from checking it out because of those negative vibes I heard. Now, THE DAY isn’t a big movie. It’s relatively small, working on a miniscule budget, starring a lot of actors you’re bound to recognize, and takes a close snapshot and a brief story set in an entire world gone down the post-apocalyptic shitter. If you’re looking for big budget world ending effects and storyplay, this isn’t it. But what I liked about this film was that it honed in on a story of a band of survivors and put them through an ordeal in an exciting, albeit small way.
THE DAY keeps the cause of the end of the world close to its vest. All we need to know is that society has fallen. Most people are dead. And the survivors are forced to do drastic things to continue doing so. We open with Rick (Dominic Monaghan), Shannon (Shannyn Sossamon), Adam (Shawn Ashmore), Mary (Ashley Bell), and Hensen (Corey Hardrict) walking somberly packed with supplies down a dirt road. As the story proceeds, it appears this is a band of the only survivors from a much larger group and that Mary has recently joined up with them, though her tough and silent demeanor has Shannon especially distrusting of her. The group makes their way into an abandoned farm house, shit goes down, which kills a few of the party and alerts a group of cannibals hiding in the woods that they are there. The rest of the story takes place as the survivors defend themselves in the farmhouse against the savages outside. And that’s about it.
No giant world issues. No game changing plans or plots. Just a straight forward action Alamo tale set in the post-Apocalypse and I love this movie for that kind of simplicity. Too many films are going for all or nothing. They want to blow your hair back or not at all. This one dazzles in the fact that it lives within the small budget and does a good job in that space. There are a few instances when CGI blood and effects were used, which most likely were done after the entire thing was finished in order to spice things up, but for the most part the close quarters brawls and bloody hand to hand combat in this film is pretty badass.
On top of that, you have an extremely talented cast here. LOST’s Dominic Monaghan goes against his type here as the cautious leader. Iceman Shawn Ashmore his more cautious and impulsive friend. Shannyn Sossamon continues to be the hottest actress taking in air in my opinion. And THE LAST EXORCISM’s Ashley Bell is such a hard nosed, ass kicker in this film, showing that she has some serious chops in her craft. On top of it all, one of the best actors in this year’s THE DIVIDE and quickly becoming my favorite new actor, Michael Ecklund blew me away in a minor role as the leader of the savages by juggling menace and power with a strong love for his own tribe. All around, this film was awesome on the acting front.
The look of the film proves to be interesting too as most of the colors in THE DAY are washed out save for some key scenes of blood and gore. This monochromatic muddy bath of everything is covered in makes for a nice feeling, conveying a sense of wet dread from beginning to end. I don’t know why so many ragged on this film. It’s a fun little action movie with lots of blood, fantastic acting, and a tight story. Fans of THE DIVIDE and post-Apoc well done should definitely seek out THE DAY.
Advance Review: Currently touring festivals and recently played at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival! Coming to theaters and Video On Demand in 2013!
RESOLUTION (2012)Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead
Written by Justin Benson
Starring Peter Cilella, Vinny Curran, Zahn McClarnon, Bill Oberst Jr., Kurt David Anderson, Emily Montague,
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
High school buddies Michael (Peter Cilella) and Chris (Vinny Curran) have been friends forever, but while Michael has married, expects their first daughter, and is becoming successful in his life, Chris has developed a drug problem and hangs out at the edge of town doing crack in an abandoned house and shooting at birds. After receiving a video message that Michael feels is a cry for help sent by Chris, he sets out to break him of his unhealthy crack habit by locking him in a cabin for a week to sober up. Being a good friend, Michael decides to wait it out with his buddy through this tough time.
That was the plan anyway. But soon tings start going sideways. There happens to be a mental hospital nearby and the patients tend to escape from time to time. The house is near a Native American ceremonial ground and the local tribe isn’t too happy Mike is squatting there. And what about the mysterious books, videos, films, and recordings that keep showing up? And where’d that knife come from?
While this can be easily dismissed as a story of consensual descents into madness, that’s not really what’s going on. This film gets insane with time twisting, choose your own adventure style antics going on from some unseen force. This film goes through a tremendous amount of crazy shit, especially towards the end as Mike and Chris try to outrun fate which they have already experienced.
The premise of this film, which I won’t completely reveal here nor do I completely understand it having just seen the film once. Is ballsy and original. There’s a slice of MEMENTO, some TIME CRIMES, and maybe a dash of LOOPER going on here, though it keeps things much smaller than that. The film also reminds me of the of THE CORRIDOR (reviewed here), another story about unseen forces manipulating a friends in diabolical ways.
What makes this film work so well are the performances by the two leads. Peter Cilella as Michael embodies a purely good intentioned person, too blinded by his good deeds to notice he’s walking into trouble. Vinny Curran’s Chris is fantastic as the pitiful, yet quite personable and funny crack addict who still has the charm that made his friendship to Michael so strong in the first place. Both of these actors play the roles subtly, down to earth, and keep things very real in their reactions to the crazy events going on around him. I’ve gotta mention Bill Oberst Jr. (last seen scything zombies as ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS ZOMBIES reviewed here) ) who makes an appearance as a strange scientist with connections to the weird property Michael has chosen for this particular intervention with his friend. His cold stare and bizarre giggling monologue about the paranormal is absolutely riveting.
You have never seen a horror movie like RESOLUTION. I guarantee you that. The filmmakers Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead are able to tell an ingeniously creative and spooky story with a ramshackle cabin, some old video footage, some weird locations, and just a few suggestions of something-not-right here and there. Both a testament to the effectiveness of low fi horror and a marvelous achievement in doing something completely original, RESOLUTION is bound to be a memorable experience for all who watch. Fantastically acted and subtly horrific, once RESOLUTION becomes available next year, you’ve got to make a resolution yourself to see it.
And finally…get ready for the end of the world and rev up your ZOMBIE TRUCK from The Zombie Disposal Unit!
See ya next week, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over eleven years & AICN HORROR for two. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be available on iTunes and soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK last year from Zenescope Entertainment & look for his exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81 released August-December 2012. Mark will be writing GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES to be released in February-June 2013.
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