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Logo by Kristian Horn
What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. But, as always, before that…there’s this!

Severin Films is set to release Jim Van Bebber’s classic horror film THE MANSON FAMILY on BluRay on May 7th and the film will be getting a small theatrical run for its 10th Anniversary. Find out if the film is coming to a theater near you here! The screenings and the BluRay will also feature Van Bebber’s brand new short film GATOR GREEN and the uncut version of the previously censored, feature length documentary THE VAN BEBBER FAMILY on the film’s near-mythic production. I’m really looking forward to checking this film out again, as anything Van Bebber seems to touch is pure indie horror gold!

Here’s a new teaser for DO NOT WATCH, a creepy looking found footager that I’m looking forward to seeing soon. I don’t know much about it, but I’m looking forward to finding out more. For more info on the film, check out its Facebook page.

I reviewed BATH SALT ZOMBIES last week on AICN HORROR, but if you’re interested in seeing it on the big screen, it’s premiering in New York on March 9th at the Screening Spectacle Theater (124 S.3rd Street - Williamsburg) at midnight. Admission is only 5 bucks! The film is a hell of a good time and a perfect midnight movie. I’m jealous of you New Yorkers for being able to see all the mayhem that is BATH SALT ZOMBIES on the big screen.

GRIMM UP NORTH is always a good time and continues to make me jealous for not living closer to Manchester, UK, but those of you across the pond might want to pay attention to the latest event they’ve conjured up. On March 7th at the Dancehouse Theatre, they’ll be showing Elijah Wood’s spectacular MANIAC (reviewed here) followed by the pretty decent 247°F (reviewed here) rounding out the double feature. You can get tickets and more information to this fun double billing here! Both films are worth your while and make for a great night of horror moviegoing.

The folks behind the Australian Yowie film THROWBACK have been cool enough to be posting behind the scenes clips throughout production, and we’ve posted quite a few of them here on AICN HORROR. This is the seventh and final installment as the film wraps. It’s currently being edited and prepped for the convention circuit. Check out this clip from behind the scenes on THROWBACK! For more info on the film, check out its Facebook page.

Now on with the scary!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: ZOMBIE LAKE (1980)/OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (1982)
Advance Review: ROADSIDE (2013)
Advance Review: COME OUT AND PLAY (2013)
And finally…Vincent Price reading ESCAPE: THREE SKELETON KEY!

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Redemption/Kino Lorber Films!


Directed by Jean Rollin
Written by Jess Franco
Starring Anouchka, Howard Vernon, Pierre-Marie Escourrou


Directed by Jess Franco
Written by Jess Franco
Starring France Lomay, Jeff Montgomery, Manuel Gélin, Myriam Landson
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Beware--there be boobies swimmin’ in this ZOMBIE LAKE trailer!

I paired these two films up for this review for a few reasons. First and foremost, they’ve both got zombies, which the title should tell you. Secondly, both are written by Jess Franco. Thirdly, these aren’t your typical zombies. These are the especially nasty zombies of the Nazi type. And finally, and most importantly, both are being rereleased by Kino Lorber Redemption this week on BluRay sporting new cover art that is pretty damn awesome.

Now, I don’t want to say that these two films are the best zombie films ever made, but they are pretty fun. One more than the other, but interestingly enough both start out relatively the same: with some buxom and bouncy babes out for a frolic who happen upon the walking dead…like you do. Apparently, all it takes to raise the dead in these films is have a scantily clad babe wander into a lake or a sand dune. Who knew?

I’ll start with the best of the two, ZOMBIE LAKE. Though both were written by Jess Franco, this one was directed by one of Europe’s kings of art house horror-slash-nudes, Jean Rollin. Known for his dream-like storylines filled with arthouse sets filled with scantily clad babes, ZOMBIE LAKE is a bit of a departure from what we usually see from Rollin and is more grounded in reality, though it relies heavily on flashback. One consistency with his other works is his reliance on always undressing his female actresses, as no matter what they do, be it volleyball or sittin’ around the ramshackle homestead, clothes seem to be a hindrance and are dropped almost as soon as the babes walk on screen.

Rollin and Franco tell a particularly poignant story about a Nazi soldier who is murdered and thrown into a lake, only to haunt that lake years later. ZOMBIE LAKE is actually a ghost story, with one of those rare nice Nazi soldiers who rises from the lake to connect with his daughter from beyond the grave. Though the melodrama is layered on pretty thickly, I found ZOMBIE LAKE to be a pretty touching story, and less violent than most zombie films of this era.

One thing that will definitely make folks hold back the giggles is the shoddy makeup of the zombies. Seems waterproof effects weren’t really perfected by the time this film was made, and it’s pretty funny seeing the makeup melt off from exposure to water. The actors playing the zombies are fun to watch too, as they seem to be making out with their victims rather than eating them.

Compared to OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES, though, ZOMBIE LAKE is a masterpiece. The film feels like a pale reflection of ZOMBIE LAKE with the locale changed from a swampy lake to an arid desert. This time it is Nazi treasure that seems to be the spark that resurrects the dead, as OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES feels more like an Indiana Jones film, albeit a very cheap one.

I actually thought the effects and zombies themselves in OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES were a whole lot better than ZOMBIE LAKE despite the script, which sort of meanders about through the past and present, trying to tell some kind of narrative and ultimately kind of failing. Scenes seemingly are shoehorned in simply to have another shock or another kill or another set of boobs, rather than the more organic story of ZOMBIE LAKE.

Neither of these films are particularly great, but ZOMBIE LAKE does at least attempt to strum some heartstrings as the zombie father and his lost daughter attempt to connect. Any film ending with a little girl crying over her dead zombie father is the right type of wrong for me. OASIS has some great practical effects of zombie dummies with worms, which gives it a technical leg up over ZOMBIE LAKE.

SO don’t go looking for early Romero quality here, or even Zack Snyder DAWN OF THE DEAD quality, but there are some fun scenes of zombie chomping, lots of boobs, and a crying girl in this double shot of the undead from yesteryear.

New on DVD from Troma!


Directed by Art Brainard, Shawn Haran, Joe Badiali and Steven Shea
Written by Shawn Haran, Art Brainard, Joe Badiali, Jason Hawkins and Steven Shea
Starring Paul Petrus, Michael Santi, Paul Alessi, Tara Lightfoot & John Archer Lundgren
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

New from Troma (of course) is DOOMSDAY COUNTY, an anthology of sorts about a specific county where all sorts of hell breaks loose. The story itself is ambitious as it is tied together as happening one event after another, yet each installment seems to be helmed by a different director. I can’t say that the quality of this film is high. It has a shot on video feel that I kind of miss from renting VHS tapes from my corner video store, and if you remember those types of films fondly, then you might get a kick out of DOOMSDAY COUNTY.

The first installment is a pre-credit sequence about a bunch of guys ordering pizza and turning out to be vampires. It’s got a truncated FROM DUSK TILL DAWN feel, as we really aren’t given any indication that the vamps are there until the fangs pop out, so there’s that kind of surprise going on. Still, this is a quick and easy little teaser from director Art Brainard that sets the tone for the rest of the film—that is, a whole bunch of random weird shit is going to happen, so strap yourself in and check your brain at the door.

The narrative shifts to “Xenombies” by Shawn Haran, which is one of my favorite installments of the film as a Xenon bulb is broken during the filming of a zombie film only to create real zombies from the fumes. There’s not a lot of under-thought going on here. It’s just a straight forward zombie yarn. It is fun seeing one person after the next going to check on things only to be chomped on by the undead over and over.

“The Curse of Dr. Mongoo” by Joe Badiali follows a pair of wizened buddy cops after a diabolical evil mastermind. Again we have zombies, but these are the more disease-ridden variety. Dr. Mongoo chews the scenery quite a bit, and it’s fun to watch the character revel in his evilness.

The most stylized and ambitious of the installments is “Betty Baretta” by Steven Shea, following actress Tara Lightfoot as the title character. The actress does a good job of playing a sultry special agent with a smoking gun and body to match. This time, the monster du jour is aliens set to take over the world (what else?).

All of these installments have a low budget grindhouse feel. Not particularly awful, but definitely low by way of most people’s standards. Still, there’s gore and boobs to look forward to, so DOOMSDAY COUNTY ain’t all that bad.

New on DVD (find it on Netflix here)!


Directed by James Balsamo
Written by James Balsamo
Starring James Balsamo, Tom Savini, Andrew W.K., Dan E. Danger, Laurence R. Harvey, Frank Mullen, David Naughton, Billy Walsh, Tim Ritter, Scott Levy, Donald Farmer, Caleb Emerson, Lauren Adamkiewicz, Samantha Rose, Sam Awry
Find out more about this film on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

The director behind I SPILL YOUR GUTS (reviewed here is back for a CLERKS meets FAUST low budgeter. I wasn’t thrilled with I SPILL YOUR GUTS because I felt it took itself a bit too seriously. Here, director/writer/lead actor James Balsamo goes in the opposite direction and goes for laughs, which leaves much to be desired, but still oozes with indie spirit, which I can’t help but admire.

James Balsamo plays Mitch, a Dante from CLERKS-esque character who works in a comic shop and has no luck with the ladies. He’s got his own Randall in Benny (Dan E. Danger,) and that’s pretty much all he has going for him. Schlubbing around bars and unsuccessfully trying to pick up ladies, it doesn’t seem like his luck will ever change. Maybe if he didn’t have leopard print hair and would lose the Hawaiian shirt, he might have a shot, but for some reason, he thinks the look is a good thing. Enter Az (played by Billy Walsh), a demon who is enthralled with Mitch and, though he does so in mischevious ways, he tries to turn Mitch’s life around. Madcappery ensues.

I’ve definitely reviewed worse films here on AICN HORROR, but the fact that this film makes CLERKS look like a million dollar blockbuster makes it hard for me to get behind it. Balsamo injects some nice one-liners and goofy situations and the metal soundtrack makes it all kind of fun, but this is pretty low fi entertainment. Balsamo seems to have his heart in the right place, and he’s somehow got a decent effects team as well as cameos from everyone from Tom Savini toAndrew W.K., and even David Naughton, but aside from a few well-timed gags, I found myself groaning more than laughing at this horror comedy.

New this week on DVD (find it on Netflix here)!


Directed by Jason Christopher
Written by Jason Christopher
Starring Jen Dance, Shaun Paul Costello, Chelsey Garner, Matthew Nadu, Nikki Bell, David J. Bonner, Chris Ready, Brian Gallagher, Clint Howard
Find out more about this film on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

People rag on found footage films and zombie flicks and complain that the market is oversaturated by these types of movies. There are those who roll their eyes as soon as first person camera style or the undead is even mentioned, immediately passing judgment and calling for a stoppage of such films for the immediate future. I’m not one of those people. If a film is good, I don’t care if the monster du jour has been done to death. There’s always an interesting, or at the very least technically capable, way to tell a new story.

The slasher subgenre of horror is another one that gets a bad rap, mainly because so many films have been made following the exact same pattern, hitting all the same beats, and coming to the exact same resolution. I can understand not wanted to see the same film over and over. With the amount of horror films I see on a consistent basis, I have to admit seeing a group of kids stalked in the woods by a madman with a sharp instrument is getting a bit tedious to sit through.

I went on that extended rant because I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’ve seen it all before or what, but NOBODY GETS OUT ALIVE isn’t blazing new territory when it comes to the slasher genre. Sure it’s a throwback to FRIDAY THE 13TH and all the other woodland slashers of the 70’s and 80’s, but the slasher film has been a steady staple of horror ever since, not really letting up. NOBODY GETS OUT ALIVE follows the same well-tread path of having kids go to the woods for naughtiness, naughtiness is acheived, then the killer perishes them in quick succession, dwindling down to a final girl, and finishing with a shockeroo ending.

The thing that does set NOBODY GETS OUT ALIVE apart from the herd is the fact that it has capable actors doing the woodland tomfoolery, a capable yet predictable script, and some real talent behind the camera as far as pacing, direction, and cinematic shock-trickery. So while NOBODY GETS OUT ALIVE is a film I’ve seen many times before, it does so in a capable manner, making the experience much more enjoyable and easier to sit through.

Don’t expect any wheels to be reinvented here. If you haven’t seen a slasher film in a while and want to see a decently produced one, NOBODY GETS OUT ALIVE is a pretty good one. Writer/director Jason Christopher definitely has some talent in making a scary movie. Here’s hoping his next endeavor takes a path a little less trod upon.

New this week on BluRay (find it on Netflix here)!


Directed by Austin Chick
Written by Austin Chick
Starring Danielle Panabaker, Nicole LaLiberte, Liam Aiken, Michael Stahl-David, Andrew Howard
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

When I read the premise of GIRLS AGAINST BOYS, I immediately was intrigued as this felt a lot like a film that would turn the tables on all of the misogynistic tendencies horror films seem to have. The story of a pair of girls who go on a killing spree after a particularly bad night out on the town wasn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but I like that “turn the genre on its ear” mentality. While there’s a lot to like about GIRLS AGAINST BOYS, I couldn’t help but feel, though, that it could have been a whole lot cooler.

FRIDAY THE 13TH remake (review here), THE CRAZIES and THE WARD actress Danielle Panabaker adds another horror-ish film to her repertoire with GIRLS AGAINST BOYS. Here she plays Shae, a shy but rebellious young woman having an affair with an older man and working her nights as a bartender. When she is ditched by her boyfriend, she decides to hang out with fellow bartender Lu (played by bold actress Nicole LaLiberte), who is much more outgoing and ballsy. As they wander off with a trio of guys for an afterhours drink, Shae is raped when one of the guys takes her home. When the police do nothing about it, Shae is seduced by Lu to wreak some holy vengeance on the attackers. Soon, anyone with a twig and berries is fair game and that’s where the film gets really interesting, as the two go on a killing spree against all things male.

There are some really great and stylistically engrossing scenes of slo mo in this film, mostly focusing on Panabaker as she spirals downward into this pool of vengeance. Ironically named director Austin Chick is able to guide us through these moments that change Shae’s life forever. These scenes focus on a single puff of smoke from a recently fired gun or the strobe of the lights in a seedy nightclub and prove to be quite entrancing. I only wish there were more moments like this and that some of that style would have been saved to make the key moments (i.e. key kills) all the more effective.

Case in point: there’s a scene later in the movie as Lu, feeling rejected, shows up to a Halloween party Shae is at wearing a kabuki costume and brandishing a samurai sword. Though this scene is somewhat surreal, I felt the scene lacked that otherworldly quality Nicole LaLiberte oozes from every gorgeous pore on her body. I found myself impressed but wanting more, and that was a feeling that lasted the entire movie for me.

The film is well acted, and there are some really effective moments in GIRLS AGAINST BOYS. I don’t want to get stuck with coulda beens, but I feel that the potential of this film just isn’t lived up to. Both actresses will most definitely go on to bigger and better things, and I can only hope the minimal style Austin Chick used here is expanded upon in his next endeavor.

Advance Review: World Premiere this weekend at the Cinemayhem Filmfest on March 2nd, 2013 in Thousand Oaks, CA (get tickets here)!


Directed by Eric England
Written by Eric England
Starring Ace Marrero, Katie Stegeman, Jack E. Curenton, Alan Pietruszewski, Lionel D. Carson, Marshall Yates
Find out more about this film on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Sopping wet with Hitchcockian influences, Eric England sets up a dire scenario for a pair of travelers who happen to cross paths with a madman with a gun on the side of the road. Though I’m sure this film didn’t cost a lot to make as it takes place mostly in one location at the side of a road in a woodland area, ROADSIDE stands out for its deft talent in ratcheting up the tension.

It takes a lot of skill to pull off a one locale film. There’s got to be enough going on so that the audience doesn’t get bored. That means good performances from the cast, a script that keeps you guessing or keeps you enthralled, and maybe some camera work that spices things up. ROADSIDE has all three for the most part.

The actors involved here, Ace Marrero and Katie Stegeman do a good job with the material they are given as Dan and Mindy, a couple expecting a child, but having marital problems of their own. Since the film literally hinges on these two performances and they have 90% of the screentime, they’d better be able to carry the film and for the most part, they do. Though setting up the situation where these two people cannot call or leave for help may be seen as contrived, it works here, mainly because of the actors performances.

Where the film is sort of lacking is the script as it gets a bit repetitious towards the end. At times, it felt like there were some opportunities not really taken and some ambiguous decisions made, especially when the gunman allows Dan to approach the car’s driver side numerous times. I couldn’t really see the reason the gunman would allow this and it just felt kind of weird that Mindy never leapt over to the driver side and attempted to drive out of there. There’s another scene where the gunman approaches the vehicle and neither of his hostages see him which didn’t really make sense either.

Still the story is a strong and tension laden one, so I was able to look past that given the white-knuckle first hour of the film. ROADSIDE owes a lot to the master of suspense (even the opening credit sequence mirrors NORTH BY NORTHWEST) and does a good job of conveying some nice, solid doses of terror and danger. While those wanting explanations an everything tidied up in a bow in the end might be left disappointed, those who appreciate suspense will be pleasantly surprised with ROADSIDE.

Advance Review: In select theaters on March 22nd, Available on VOD/iTunes now!


Directed by Makinov
Written by Juan José Plan (original story), Makinov (screenplay)
Starring Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Vinessa Shaw, Daniel Giménez Cacho,
Find out more about this film on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

My favorite movie of the week will also most likely be very high up on my best horror films of the year list I post every October here at AICN HORROR. I’ve heard of Juan José Plan’s 1976 Spanish film, EL JUEGO DE NINOS (WHO CAN KILL A CHILD) before, but had never seen it. Knowing it was about a city of children who suddenly turn on every adult in the city, it felt too familiar with other kids on a rampage films such as THE BROOD, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, THE CHILDREN (reviewed here), and CHILDREN OF THE CORN. Now that I’ve seen COME OUT AND PLAY, I feel the undeniable urge to go back and watch WHO CAN KILL A CHILD, the film COME OUT AND PLAY was remade from.

COME OUT AND PLAY feels like CHILDREN OF THE CORN set in the tropics with a dash of Gareth Edward’s MOSNTERS thrown in. Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and his pregnant wife Beth (Vinessa Shaw) are getting away from their work and kids to South America before the baby arrives. Though they are taken with the culture, they want something a bit more relaxing and serene and rent a boat to go to a more secluded island. Arriving on the island, they are greeted by smiling children on the docks, but as they venture further into the island, they find no adults at all and kids slinking in the background. Soon the kids show their true colors and, packed into an angry mob, they pursue Francis and Beth across the island and back.

What makes this film work so effectively is triplefold. The actors, Moss-Bachrach and Shaw, are very talented and you believe that not only are they very much in love, but they are also very much afraid of this predicament they have found themselves in. Moss-Bachrach has a Michael Caine quality about him. Maybe it’s because I recently rewatched THE ISLAND (reviewed here), but the way he sweatily and frantically runs through the empty dirt streets made me think of the thespian.

Director/writer Makinov does a good job of peppering in the horror early on, and if you didn’t know this was a horror film to begin with, you might be surprised at the way the kids perch themselves on porches and rooftops, reminiscent more of Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS than most of the killer kids films that would more obviously come to mind. The film has a gritty feel to it, as if the camera (and the viewer by association) is rolled around in the dirt and sand, giving this a more grindhousey feel to it ( a much more interesting effect than the computer grindhouse effect one often sees). The washed out way everything looks again adds to this feeling, as if this was a film uncovered from a different era of cinema.

I mentioned Gareth Edwards’ MONSTERS (reviewed here) mainly because, as with that film, Makinov takes full advantage of the environment this film was shot in. From the labyrinthine houses to the dirt roads to the rocky beaches, this is a beautiful island looked at through an insidious lens. There’s a feel of danger even when the camera is focused on the most gentle of things, a theme which reflects the concept of killer children as well.

The sheer ballsiness and brutality of not only the kills but the violence in general is pretty grueling. This is not a film that holds back, and though Makinov does some camera sleight of hand so that the kids don’t actually get too bloody, this trickery works most of the time resulting in a series of seamless acts of violence crescendoing into an ending which will reverbrate within.

Though I was shocked by the ending of this film, I was slightly put off by the end credits as Makinov’s name is shoved in our faces over the last image, forcing us to acknowledge his contributions as writer, director and editor. Though this is a bawdy move, I can see how it might be off-putting and self-indulgent to some. Still, Makinov has made a damn fine film with COME OUT AND PLAY and he should be proud of it.

Asking tough questions, delivering fantastic performances, and showing us some gritty and harrowing horror, COME OUT AND PLAY is definitely one of the better horror films I’ve seen so far this year.

And finally…I blew the dust off of this one. Vincent Price narrates “Three Skeleton Key” for the old radio show ESCAPE! Curl up next to your radios and listen closely!

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. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.

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