Ain't It Cool News (


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

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Yes, I know, this is a bit late, but this Halloween list is killing me lately. No excuse, and I hope to be back on track this Friday for another all new column.

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

DRY BONES (2013)
WOLVES (2014)
Advance Review: ANATOMY OF MONSTERS (2014)
Advance Review: JULIA (2014)
And finally… Cameron Macgowan’s LIEBE!

New this week on DVD!

DRY BONES (2013)

Directed by Greg Lamberson, Michael O'Hear
Written by Greg Lamberson
Starring Debbie Rochon, Michael O'Hear, John Renna, Paul McGinnis, Kathy Murphy, Kevin Van Hat Trick, Kim Piazza, Jessica Zwolak, Tia Maurice, Mark Goodfellow, Kaelin Lamberson, Alexander S. McBryde, Robert Bozek, Tim O'Hearn, Jason Tannis
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

SLIME CITY MASSACRE writer/director Greg Lamberson’s newest effort is a story of a man who returns to his boyhood home only to find that his childhood terrors are still lingering under his bed. When Drew (Michael O'Hear, who also is credited as co-directing this film) returns home years after his father was killed by a monster under his bed in front of him, he starts experiencing strange blackouts, bad dreams, and monstrous hallucinations all seemingly tied to the night his father died and an ancient evil.

I have to admit, when I first started watching DRY BONES, it was pretty difficult for me to sustain my attention due to O’Hear’s amateur acting and dead-pan delivery. He’s not really leading man material and the fact that the audience is supposed to believe the balding, overweight middle-ager could walk into a bar and pick up chicks seemed a stretch I don’t think I was prepared to believe. But I stuck with the film, and while O’Hear’s acting didn’t really improve, the story did. All of the things that bothered me about the logic of the film; mainly why this guy seems to be the mack daddy of his home town, logically plays out by the end. So much so, that I ended up liking this film quite a bit for the way it is ingeniously constructed story-wise to counter expectations and challenge preconceptions in terms of the way one would think a horror movie would and should unfold.

Because of its clever story structure and ingenious delivery, things like shoddy acting, DIY special effects, flat lighting, and off and on sound didn’t really bother me as much as it probably should. I know it sounds like I’m apologizing for the film, but the way everything works out in the end actually turned out to be a lot of fun.

DRY BONES is not going to be for everyone. Hell, there will be a lot of folks who won’t give it a chance after seeing the first five minutes, but the story surprised me and there’s a do it yourself quality to this film that makes the rough edges not only forgivable, but downright endearing. If you’re an supporter of indie horror, Lamberson’s DRY BONES is one that exemplifies indie spirit and shows that just because it’s done on the cheap, the story can still be clever and original.

New this week on DVD from Image Entertainment!


Directed by BC Furtney
Written by BC Furtney
Starring Brian Berry, Melissa Carnell, Matt Copko, Danielle Lozeau, Irena Murphy, Bill Oberst Jr., & Taylor Horneman as the Werewolf!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I have to give this little low budgeter props for trying something new with the werewolf genre. WEREWOLF RISING seems to feel my malaise for the repetition often associated with werewolf flicks as all of them feel and play out so similarly, it’s difficult to distinguish one from the next. So for putting the extra effort in the narrative to make it more of a guessing game as to who is and who isn’t a werewolf, at least it feels like something fresh.

The story follows a young woman who is a recovering alcoholic. She returns to her home town to recoup, reassess, and figure out how she is going to move forward with her life now that she’s sober. But a woman just can’t get some peace as long as there are men around, as a somewhat clingy and creepy friend of her family seems to be interested in her despite the fact that he’s decades older than her, and a rough and tumble drifter has eyes for her as well. Then there are the rumblings from the woods that sound like a wild animal on the hunt. After a series of attacks it’s kind of unclear who has received the bite, and as the story goes on it’s more like a guessing game as to who hasn’t, which I found to be a lot of fun since most werewolf flicks highlight just one werewolf and not a pack of them.

Don’t look for Oscar award-winning special effects here. For the most part this wolf man’s costume is a Halloween mask and a fur suit, but writer/director BC Furtney seems to know this and makes the scenes with the wolf rather choppy and quick to cover up the amateur effects, so it’s not as bad as it could be had the camera lingered.

While a lot of the acting is pretty amateur, the hardest working man in horror, Bill Oberst Jr., shows up as a malfeasant who may or may not bear the curse, but either way he’s a bad customer. And while there are some trips along the way in terms of acting and effects, WEREWOLF RISING gets points for trying something new. And if you’re a fan of werewolf flicks like me, that’s enough to get me interested in this film as we all know how hard it seems to be to make a good werewolf flick these days.

New this week on DVD, On Demand, & digital download from Lionsgate!


Directed by Hank Braxtan
Written by Dan Sinclair
Starring Natalie Victoria, Arielle Brachfeld, Stephanie Greco, Lacy Fisher, Leigh Davis, and Lony'e Perrine
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Because this film takes a group of women and places them in the middle of a secluded locale and then puts them through holy hell which endangers not only their relationships but their own sanity and lives, comparisons to THE DESCENT will be inevitable when talking about CHEMICAL PEEL. THE DESCENT was a hell of a film, allowing for some high drama to unfold before the horror was unleashed. In the same fashion, CHEMICAL PEEL throws a bachelorette party in the woods and turns that party into a toxic nightmare.

The film opens with a group of women crawling from the wreckage of a car crash which takes the lives of one of the passengers. Driving the car was the victim’s sister, and also in the car was another sister. A year later, the group meets for a bachelorette party in a secluded cabin in the middle of the woods which gets underway in the usual fashion, with lots of screamed hellos, talks about boyfriends and husbands, and a vibrator gift or two. But when a train wrecks nearby spilling out its noxious contents all over the forest, the chemical mist begins to seep into and around the cabin. Soon the women are fighting for their lives, trying to get away from the fumes and chemicals in the air and attempting to avoid melting into a gooey mess.

While this film could have easily fallen into the same ridiculous hole as M. Night Shyamalan’s THE HAPPENING, where the cast must outrun the wind in order to survive, writer Dan Sinclair and director Hank Braxtan avoid such cheesiness by giving us characters we care about and making the conflict among the women in the group just as toxic as the chemicals outside. Though I’m sure I’ll get shit from this, in my experience, any time you place a group of women together in a small space things often become pretty catty post haste. Here it does as well, as one sister blames the other for the third’s death while the rest of the crew are dealing with their own quirks and challenges. As death comes knocking and creeping under the door, the bride to be becomes an actual bridezilla and tears into the rest of the women in hopes of surviving to see her wedding day. All of this is played straight and deadly, with the effects of the chemicals in the air making the danger all too real and palpable.

Aside from the strong story and actresses involved, the effects in CHEMICAL PEEL are a gorehound’s wet dream as what look to be practical effects were used throughout, and done so in a truly creepy manner. Skin boils. Parts fall off. Puss oozes and drips. This is not a tidy film, and those weak of stomach (and what the hell are you doing here then, if that’s the case) might find themselves looking through shivering fingers and holding down their lunch in their gullets.

CHEMICAL PEEL is one of those films that creeps under your skin by getting you close to the characters and then melting their faces off.

New on Bluray, DVD, & digital download from The Asylum!


Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante
Written by Thunder Levin
Starring Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Vivica A. Fox, Mark McGrath, Kari Wuhrer, Courtney Baxter, Dante Palminteri, Judd Hirsch, Stephanie Abrams, Kurt Angle, Downtown Julie Brown, Billy Ray Cyrus, Sandra 'Pepa' Denton, Andy Dick, Jared from Subway, Judah Friedlander, Robert Hays, Perez Hilton, Richard Kind, Robert Klein, Biz Markie, Kelly Ripa, Kelly Osbourne, Tiffany Shepis, Michael Strahan, Rachel True, Matt Lauer, & Al Roker
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug


It’s like a special needs child that is just too cute not to love. The original was big and dumb, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any dumber, it pulled off an ending that was downright idiotic, but spectacular all the same. That’s pretty much the same criticism for THE SECOND ONE, the fan-titled sequel to the surprise hit from last year (reviewed here), except this time around, it’s bigger and dumber.

But that’s what we have come to expect from these films, so anyone who goes into watching SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE and trying to hold it to the standards of good films is going to be sorely disappointed. If you go in knowing it is lowest common denominator crap with more guest stars than sense, then you might actually have some fun with it. The premise is as simple as it is moronic. This installment opens with Finn (Ian Ziering) and his estranged wife April (Tara Ried) taking a trip to New York on a book signing tour for a book April wrote in response to the last Sharknado. In a somewhat clever scene which swipes from, but never really acknowledges the famous “Nightmare on 20,000 Feet” TWILIGHT ZONE episode by screaming “THERE’S A SHARK ON THE WING OF THIS PLANE!”, the plane Finn and April are riding in flies right through a brand new sharknado which is forming just off the coast of New York City. Barely surviving the flight, right from the get go, Finn is determined to clear out New York and prepare them for a new tornado with twirling teeth.

The film oozes camp. Not a bit should be taken seriously, though the actors involved are acting as if this thing is Shakespeare. I’d like to think Ziering knows how idiotic this all is, but I’m not so sure that he does as he is taking this awfully seriously throughout the film. Reid is just cringe inducing in peril as it seems she is in a haze even before she gets her hand bitten off by a shark and drugged up in the hospital. The film itself culminates to such a ridiculous level that I found myself tossing all reason out the window and just going for the ride because of the fun level of ridiculousness that was transpiring.

Riddled with as many guest stars as badly rendered CG sharks, SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE is not a bad film; it’s a horrible one. But this definitely registers high on the “so bad it’s good” scale, making it a guilty pleasure kind of film you want to hate but can’t help but feel endeared to its idiocy.

New this week on DVD from Screen Media Films!


Directed by Phil Hawkins
Written by Phil Hawkins
Starring Robert Englund, Finn Jones, Emily Berrington, Keith Allen, Malachi Kirby, Chris Geere
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

While the pace is rather slow and the kill count is chinsy, there are a lot of good things going on in this low budget thriller that make THE LAST SHOWING a lot of fun.

The film opens with scenes of a young couple (Martin and Allie, GAME OF THRONES’ Finn Jones and 24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY’s Emily Berrington) meeting at a costume party and going on a date cut with a scene of a theater clerk named Stuart (Robert Englund) who seems to take way too much pride in his work for the modern mall theater he works in. Stuart has years and years of experience behind the camera, back when setting up and rolling the reels for the theater goers was more of a process and took a significant level of skill. Dissatisfied with his work, Stuart begins to hatch a plan to make his life significant again and it involves filming a real horror film with real people using the theater he works in as the movie set. Hijacking the theater and locking the couple in is only the beginning of Stuart’s elaborate plan at making a cinematic masterpiece.

The true highlight here is watching Robert Englund shine as he really is a fantastic actor even when he’s not wearing the Freddy burn makeup. Here Englund channels Vincent Price himself as the seemingly harmless theater clerk that hides dark intentions. Engund shifts between innocence and deviousness so skillfully in this role. Yes, the glasses and vest are going to remind you of a similar performance by Robin Williams in ONE HOUR PHOTO and the comparisons are justified as they are both playing practically the same character. But Englund really does do a great job here in this role.

That said, the story of THE LAST SHOWING is rather contrived. Yes, this is a story that reies on contrivance as it is about a man leading his characters along in order to make a horror film, but the hoops Stuart gets the couple to leap through in this film are rather steep. Stuart has ridiculous index cards which plainly show the audience that he has planned every step of the way. The numerous amounts of runtime is dedicated to watching Stuart cross out the incident that just occurred with a black sharpie made my eyes roll so much I was dizzy. Plus the ending of the film is rather ludicrous, making Stuart out to be some kind of Jigsaw kind of genius madman in order to have planned it all to go down this way and there is nothing to indicate that this theater camera operator is nothing more than a disgruntled worker.

Still, Phil Hawkins takes advantage of the other worldly glam and pop décor of the modern theater and heightens it to an edgy and thrilling set to stage a movie. Diagonal escalators, bright lights, twirling disco balls, and low lit theaters add a lot of nice atmosphere to the film. And while this is a very contrived film, it looks good and the performances are even better, especially Englund. Here’s hoping that this film leads to more juicy horror roles for Englund, sans the Freddy makeup. The actor definitely has the skills to pull off some frighteningly complex characters as evidenced in THE LAST SHOWING.

Available On Demand on today and in select theaters on November 21st from IFC Midnight!


Directed by The Vicious Brothers (Colin Minihan & Stuart Ortiz)
Written by Colin Minihan & Stuart Ortiz
Starring Brittany Allen, Freddie Stroma, Melanie Papalia, Jesse Moss, Anja Savcic, Sean Rogerson, Emily Perkins, Mike Kovac, Ian Brown, Fred Keating, Gil Bellows, Michael Ironside
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

There’s a lot I liked about EXTRATERRESTRIAL, the new film from the makers of the funhouse ride film GRAVE ENCOUNTERS and its sequel, the Vicious Brothers. Like their previous films, EXTRATERRESTRIAL moves at a pace akin to a carnival ride, tossing everything but the kitchen sink at you. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t have the script to back up its dazzling effects and jaw dropping visuals.

Unlike the GRAVE ENCOUNTERS films, this one is shot cinematically, and for the most part, the Vicious Brothers do a deft job of shooting the film without the need of a shaky hand held cam, which they relied on in the last two films. The story follows a group of kids who go to a secluded cabin belonging to the mother of one of the kids. After some drama which honestly only serves to extend the runtime to a full hour and a half, a large ball of fire crashes in the forest outside of the cabin. When they investigate, the kids find a crashed UFO and footprints leading into the woods. What transpires is pretty much everything you’ve seen in every UFO movie you’ve ever seen.

Every urban myth, every reenacted encounter from a million and one documentary shows on the subject of aliens and their visits/abductions/sightings. Everything. As with GRAVE ENCOUNTERS which used the kitchen sink approach to some success as things jumped out at you over and over as seen through night vision on a handheld cam, this film does the same with scenes lifted from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, SIGNS, especially FIRE IN THE SKY, DARK SKIES, EXPLORERS, SUPER 8, and any other alien visitor film you can think of. If you’re a sucker for that sort of film, I’m pretty sure you’re going to find yourself taken in by this film as well as it apes key scenes from those films very well.

That said, if you’re looking for something new, EXTRATERRESTRIAL offers up very little. The film borrows from FIRE IN THE SKY generously and if you saw the horrific abduction sequence of that film, you’re going to be non-plussed at the way the climax of this film plays out. And while there is a pretty hilarious scene inside of the alien craft involving the clichéd probing we always hear about, the rest of the stuff feels as if it were made from stock footage found on the FIRE IN THE SKY cutting room floor.

That said, EXTRATERRESTRIAL, which was made on a pretty conservative budget, looks fantastic and feels like a film made with millions rather than thousands of dollars. The expansive spaceship sequences are pretty creative and awe inspiring as are the lanky grey aliens lurking about. In terms of stretching ones dollar, this film could give a few lessons to much shittier looking films with a much bigger budget.

What the film doesn’t have is a strong script. The interactions between the kids; especially the ones involving highly emotional moments are painful to witness. Though it might seem to want to come off as some kind of parody of melodrama, it ends up being not that clever and just being downright badly written. Any emotionally hard hitting beats that are supposed to be occurring are laughably bad; partly due to the delivery of the cast, but mostly due to the lack of emotional depth and substance in the script itself. Still, some fun moments with Michael Ironside as a pot farmer/conspiracy theorist and Gil Bellows as a teen antics-weary cop elevate the acting a skosh. Unfortunately, those two actors don’t have the emotional moments in question to deal with. As is, from a sights and sounds aspect, EXTRATERRESTRIAL is fun—kind of like going through a slideshow of other alien movies at a rapid pace, but the melodramatic script does everything it can to mess up any fun to be had.

New this week on DVD from IFC Midnight!


Directed by Álex de la Iglesia
Written by Jorge Guerricaechevarría & Álex de la Iglesia
Starring Hugo Silva, Mario Casas, Pepón Nieto, Carolina Bang, Terele Pávez, Jaime Ordóñez, Gabriel Ángel Delgado, Santiago Segura, Macarena Gómez, Secun de la Rosa, Javier Botet, Enrique Villén, Carlos Areces, Manuel Tallafé, María Barranco
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

A few years ago, I discovered Alex de la Iglesia’s THE LAST CIRCUS (reviewed here) and loved it so much that I named it the best horror film of the year. The film was absolutely uncategorizable, filled with elements of horror, superheroics, drama, comedy, and fantasy. Iglesia filled every moment of the film with vibrant and kinetic power. I eagerly waited to see what Iglesias would follow this tour de force with and while AS LUCK WILL HAVE IT was more of a drama, the writer/director’s newest film WITCHING & BITCHING is every bit the lunatic rollercoaster ride that THE LAST CIRCUS is…maybe even crazier.

WITCHING & BITCHING begins with a trio of witches around a cauldron. Like Shakespeare’s MACBETH, the three witches predict the events that will be occurring throughout the entire film to come. We then cut to a Guy Ritchie-esque heist as Jose (Hugo Silva) clad in a silver Jesus costume giant cross and all, Anotnio (Mario Casas) dressed as a life-size green soldier figurine, and Jose’s young gun toting son Sergio (Gabriel Ángel Delgado) steal a satchel full of gold rings, hijack a cab, and head for France to begin new lives. Left behind is Jose’s ex-wife and Sergio’s mother Silvia (Macarena Gómez) who is not happy in the least that her ex-husband has put their son into this type of trouble. Fleeing across the Spanish countryside, the group of bandits run down a witch in the road and happen upon the small village of Zugarramurdi, a fabled town of witches. Despite their best efforts, the group can’t seem to escape this town and the coven of witches gathered for a ritual that will finally give the witches power to conquer man’s world.

Though that’s a long description, it’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the story that Iglesia unfolds over this two hour long epic. As with THE LAST CIRCUS, the sights and sounds come at the viewer at a rapid fire pace. But while THE LAST CIRCUS tells a single epic tale of a sad clown in search for love, Iglesia juggles multiple storylines and character motivations in WITCHING & BITCHING and not one character seems to be getting the short end of the broom here. Iglesia is able to leap from one corner of this story to the other with ease, making the entire thing flow seamlessly and effortlessly juggling multiple genres with so much skill. As a comedy, there are moments of both broad and more complex laughs as Iglesia isn’t above slapstick, but is also able to develop a scene built on more complex comedic blocks. As a thrill ride actioner, Iglesia channels Spielberg at his prime, especially in a climactic ritual scene that is right out of INDIANA JONES & THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, yet still overflows with creativity and imagery you’re not bound to see anywhere else.

Finally, as a horror film, Iglesia doesn’t forget witches are creepy characters, filling this film with all sorts of amazingly spooky imagery such as scenes of the witches skittering across the ceiling as well as scenes of utter grossness such as a man trapped underneath a toilet whose skin is falling off and the inner bowel workings of a giant witch the size of King Kong.

I find it hard to find anything to criticize about this film, but if I had to find a nit to pick, it may lay in the cartoonish nature of the aforementioned giant witch. While I was dazzled by the concept of a giant witch mother, the CG occasionally is a bit on the animated side and there are bits where the giant monster doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the scene. That said, the entire sequence the way the giant witch monster arrives, right down to the way our heroes combat it is absolute gold. It’s a creature and a sequence that needs to be seen to be believed.

WITCHING & BITCHING has a little bit of something for everyone. Scares, thrills, gross outs, laughs, tender moments, and scenes that titillate and thrill. I can’t finish this review without mentioning the smoking hot performance by Carolina Bang (who was also in THE LAST CIRCUS as the object of desire) as the seductive witch who rides a broom like no other and the cameo by the always fantastic Carlos Areces (the star of THE LAST CIRCUS) appearing here in drag as a visiting witch. THE LAST CIRCUS was no fluke. Iglesias is the real deal in terms of insane imagery, thrilling scenes, and bedlamic storytelling. WITCHING & BITCHING is amazing from its kinetic opening sequence to its bombastic finale. Highly, highly, highly recommended.

New this week On Demand and in select theaters November 17th!

WOLVES (2014)

Directed by David Hayter
Written by David Hayter
Starring Jason Momoa, Lucas Till, Stephen McHattie, Merritt Patterson, Kaitlyn Leeb, John Pyper-Ferguson, Jennifer Hale, Adam Butcher, Miriam McDonald, Melanie Scrofano, Alain Moussi, Adam MacDonald, Robert Homer Mollohan, Matthew Currie Holmes
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Man, why’s it so hard to make a good werewolf film? It seems that besides the obvious AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and THE HOWLING, with A COMPANY OF WOLVES and WOLFEN getting honorable mentions and DOG SOLDIERS and GINGER SNAPS being the best in terms of modern movies can get, the age of good ol’ werewolf scares is over. I don’t want to discredit David Hayter’s WOLVES too much. For what it is, it ain’t bad. But it’s a far cry at the moon from great.

Slightly toothier than TWILIGHT, but only by a hair, to call WOLVES a conventional Hollywood studio film is kind. There’s not a lick of this film that hasn’t been done better in other films and while it may elaborate on your typical “person gets bit by a werewolf and copes with the transformation” werewolf story by a skosh, there isn’t an unpredictable moment in this film from start to finish. The film centers on Cayden (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS’ Havok Lucas Till) who begins feeling different towards the end of high school. He was always good in sports, but during a high school football game at night, he lashes out animalistically on one of the opposing team causing many to raise their eyebrows. Later at Lover’s Lane when he cannot control himself with his high school girlfriend, she runs off and he blacks out only to find his parents in pieces when he awakens and the cops on his tail. Taking to the road, Cayden is directed by a scurvy werewolf in a biker bar to go to Lupine Ridge (Lupine, get it?), a town infested with werewolves. Once there, he butts snouts with the local leader of the pack named Connor (GAME OF THRONES and future Aquaman Jason Mamoa) and catches the eye of a young beautiful bar owner named Angelina (THE HOLE’s Merritt Patterson). The two fall in love in a conventional manner, but as usual, it ain’t easy to stay in happily ever after land.

Writer/director David Hayter made his name on comic book films such as X-MEN and WATCHMEN, but here it feels like Hayter originally wanted to make a WEREWOLF BY NIGHT film and when he couldn’t get the rights, he just made a TWILIGHT-esque film version of it. Cayden is a pure werewolf, which means he doesn’t have to be bitten to be cursed. Adding this element to the film is the one original thing that occurs in Hayter’s script which is otherwise as conventional as they come. From the clichéd high school scenes to the conventional meeting of the leading male and the spunky female leads to final act montage set to rockin’ music, this is the kind of Hollywood film that gets made fun of in SOUTH PARK. Everything is overly complex and emotional. From structure to script, this plays out like a defanged LOST BOYS.

There are a few saving graces for this film. Jason Mamoa is really great here. He seems to be having a ball all done up like an animal skin clad biker. He struts and howls animalistically and really seems to be the only one having fun with his role as the bad guy. Stephen McHattie is always good and here he’s trying really hard to make us care for these characters as the elder historian who explains the long and pointless history of the town and the werewolves. The presence of these two character actors elevates this film to watchable status given their fun performances.

Lucas Till is an ok actor in his own right, though this role requires a bit more of a tough edge than the boy-faced actor can muster up. And while the makeup does make things a little more fun, a lot of the makeup makes everything feel like Halloween masks rather than iconic prosthetics. There are some nice CG teeth in this one as jaws are extended and incisors are enlarged, but don’t look for AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON style transformation scene here. All in all, with a highlight on the love story between two characters destined to be with one another, this feels more like a film that has its fangs filed down in order to appeal to a mass audience of tweens. Given that it isn’t going to be playing wide, I think it will most likely disappoint hardcore horror fans and get missed by the teens who only see films at the mall. With standout performances by Mamoa and McHattie being the only saving graces of WOLVES, this sadly isn’t the next big thing in werewolf horror it tries to make itself out to be.

New in select theaters, On Demand, and iTunes!


Directed by Gerard Johnstone
Written by Gerard Johnstone
Starring Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Cameron Rhodes, Millen Baird, Ross Harper, Bruce Hopkins, Ryan Lampp, Ian Mune, Wallace Chapman
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Reminiscent in tone (not gore) of Peter Jackson’s early work, HOUSEBOUND is an absolute treat filled with all sorts of things that go bump in the night.

The story is an original and compelling one. A young woman named Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) who is akin to breaking the rules since she left her home as a teenager is caught during a botched robbery in the opening minutes and sentenced to a year in her childhood home with her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) wearing a anklet alerting the police if she leaved the premises. The problem is that the house Kylie is bound to stay in appears to be haunted. Trapped in the house by law, Kylie is forced to deal with her childhood fears and find out just what is going on in the dark hallways and even darker corridors of her home.

Sure this is a contrived concept; chaining a main character into a haunted house, but it’s also a creative and original one. Part of the fun here is watching Kylie at first try to save herself from the restless spirits of the house without setting off the alarm and then seeing her try to do a full fledged investigation while bound to the place as well. It’s this contrivance that makes for an endearing and fascinating hook and it’s one that reeled me in from start to finish.

There’s a morbid sense of comedy at play here. Kylie is as obstinate as they come, hating the fact that she must return to live with her house marm mother and her new husband. The snotty remarks are often hilarious delivered by actress O’Reilly, who delivers a star making performance here as she shows great skill at both comedic timing and dramatic bits. While playing an absolute snit, O’Reilly shows a lot of skill still winning me over as a character to root for despite the fact that she’s a horrid ass to her mother and stepfather. It’s that bratty nature of an adult regressing back to teenage years once they step foot in their childhood home that O’Reilly does so well that makes it all a fun and likable thread to follow.

Honorable mention goes to Ross Harper as Graeme, Kylie’s social worker who just so happens to be an amateur ghost hunter in his free time. The way Harper plays Graeme as an overly serious investigator, taking EVP’s and all of the other ghost hunting techniques with utter seriousness is fodder for some great comedic bits.

Not without it’s gory moments, HOUSEBOUND shines brightest when it is a spooky comedy more in the vein of THE FRIGHTENERS than THE OTHERS. Sure there are some fun scary bits, but it is the capable and effective laughs in between them that make HOUSEBOUND such a joy to watch. While not too scary, writer/director Gerard Johnstone does set up some amazingly kinetic sequences as the ghostly shit hits the fan in the third act and all is revealed in terms of what secrets this house holds. With an endearing concept, some well timed scares, and loads of laugh out loud moments, HOUSEBOUND is bound to please all who take a chance on it.

Advance Review: Just played at the Seattle Gothic Film Festival!


Directed by Byron C. Miller
Written by Byron C. Miller & Paul Morgan
Starring Tabitha Bastien, Jesse Lee Keeter, Conner Marx, Keiko Green
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

This low fi thriller shows a lot of ambition and guts as it lets the strong script and decently talented actors carry the film rather than effects and gimmicks. Because of this, ANATOMY OF MONSTERS is a film many who only like big budgeters will snub their snouts at, but if you do, you’ll be missing some cool ideas and nice deliveries in terms of thrills and suspense.

Our indie story opens as a young man (Jesse Lee Keeter) enters a bar and sits alone. Across the bar, a young woman (Tabitha Bastein) notices him and after a while she realizes that he is not going to come over to her, she decides to sit down next to him. As the two make small talk, the dialog is boppy and clever, never really lagging or missing beats as one often sees in films of the lower caliber. After some more drinks and chit chat, the two leave together and get a room. If one were to walk into a movie theater or watch this film without knowing the title, once might think that ANATOMY OF MONSTERS is a low budget rom com. Of course, when the man shows his hand and cuffs the woman to the bed, brandishing a knife, it’s pretty evident that this is a horror film.

What ANATOMY OF MONSTERS does well is pace the story in such a way that it unfolds slowly, but with each layer let loose, it leads to one fascinating revelation after another about these two people in this hotel room. These are two complex individuals and as they tell each other their stories as to how they both ended up in this room, you get to know the monsters underneath both of their seemingly harmless exteriors. This turns into a tale of who is the bigger monster, the woman or the man, as both reveal sides of monstrosity and humanity that usually isn’t seen in horror films, especially of the lower budget variety.

Have I stressed this is a low fi indie enough? I guess so and I don’t mean to harp, but I do want to give fair warning to those expecting a high body count or gratuitous gore or effects. This is a much more subtle horror film, delving deep into the brain of a psychopath and making them more relatable to you and I, which is scary in and of itself. ANATOMY OF MONSTERS isn’t an in your face horror film, but it is a subtle type of terror that slips into your mind and festers causing a great deal of unease and tension.

This one is currently touring fests and was last seen at the Seattle Gothic Film Festival. If ANATOMY OF MONSTERS comes to a film fest near you and you like your horror on the more cerebral level, it’s worth seeking out.

Advance Review: Plays tonight at Screamfest 2014!

JULIA (2014)

Directed by Matthew A. Brown
Written by Matthew A. Brown
Starring Ashley C. Williams, Tahyna Tozzi, Jack Noseworthy, Joel de la Fuente, Cary Woodworth, Darren Lipari, Ryan Cooper, Brad Koed, Sean Kleier, Bridget Megan Clark, Kumiko Konishi, Chris Cardona, James Henry B.
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Shades of Abel Ferrara’s MS. 45 ( reviewed here) are ever present in this metropolitan gothic tale of revenge from director/writer Matthew A. Brown.

The film opens with the inciting offense as a young nurse named Julia (Ashley C. Williams) who works in a plastic surgery clinic is invited on a date with a young rich man, but quickly the date goes south as she wakes up bruised and bloody wrapped in a comforter and left for the tide to take her out to sea. Making her way home, Julia attempts to cope with the fact that she has been assaulted on her own instead of going to the authorities, attempting to wash it all away with alcohol in a local pub. Overhearing some women in the bar talking about a psychologist who uses a radical technique of healing from sexual assault, Julia becomes enwrapped in the methods of Dr. Sgundud (Jack Noseworthy, BTW where the hell has be been?) which empowers the victim and gives Julia a strong urge for the dish best served cold.

JULIA is an emotionally powerful film. Its effectiveness rests solely on the big beautiful eyes of Ashley C. Williams, who plays the nebbish young weakling who begins to burn with rage, though her emotionless face doesn’t show it. Like Zoe Lund in MS. 45, Williams says it all with her eyes; hiding them behind thick glasses and downward glances avoiding eye contact. As Julia becomes more and more obsessed with revenge on her assailants—an act that Sgundud forbids, things take a pitch dark turn in this one as victim becomes predator towards anything with a penis. The transformation is subtle, but Williams is definitely undergoes a metamorphosis through this runtime—one that highlights the young actresses talent.

There is some utterly wince-inducing scenes of violence and gore in this one as acts of violence towards both men and women are played out ruthlessly. There is one scene in particular that looks so real that being a man, it hurts for me to think about it. But the scene in particular is shown in the most dramatic of effects, highlighting the eroticism and the horror all at once. The twisted ending is also a gore de force that will leave those of you who like your horror on the bloody side cheering.

This tale of female empowerment and combat against male aggression could have been unbearably preachy, but Matthew A. Brown does a great job of burying this message in a compelling story and a character you become invested in from the get go. In doing so, while JULIA is a revenge story—the type of story that is often criticized for being overly simplistic and comprised of base elements of storytelling, but it’s a revenge story with depth and power like few others in the revenge subgenre of horror.

And finally…here’s a short I reviewed a while back at last year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival from writer director Cameron Macgowan called LIEBE which translated into LOVE. Check out this twisted little sonnet to love which goes to dark places rather quickly…

Liebe (Love) from Awkward Silencio Films on Vimeo.


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 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.

Be sure to tell your comic shop to order his new comic PIROUETTE (out now!) from Black Mask Studios!

Find out what are BLACK MASK STUDIOS and OCCUPY COMICS here and on Facebook here!

Interested in illustrated films, fringe cinema, and other oddities?
Check out Halo-8 and challenge everything!

Look for our bi-weekly rambling about random horror films on Poptards and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday!

Find more AICN HORROR including an archive of previous columns on AICN HORROR’s Facebook page!

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus