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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column.

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: MADHOUSE (1974)
Retro-review: CELLAR DWELLER (1987)
FELT (2014)
And finally…KROS: HALLOWED GROUND Kickstarter!

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


Directed by James Clark
Written by Greg Morrison & Kevin Levinson, based on the novel “Devilday” by Angus Hall
Starring Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry, Adrienne Corri, Natasha Pyne
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

MADHOUSE was Vincent Price’s last film in which he stars. He had a long career after this film, but those were mostly lesser roles or comedies. MADHOUSE, though not the best of Price’s films, almost feels like a swan song of sorts. Price plays Paul Toomes, an actor known for his roles in horror films, in particular a role known as Dr. Death. A victim of a midlife crisis which resulted in the unsolved murder of his fiancée, Toomes returns to England to reprise his role as Dr. Death for a television series. As the filming of the series proceeds, the bodies start piling up and all involved begin to wonder if Toomes’ mental state is not well. Price, as usual, is perfect in the role as the oftentimes persnickety, often charming aging actor who has grown weary of playing the same role over and over.

At its heart, MADHOUSE is a mystery. Is Toomes the killer? Or is someone else wearing his costume and murdering the ambitious actresses that cross Toomes’ path? Director James Clark sets up a lot of red herrings with an actor turned director, a producer, and a crazy scarred starlet lurking about. Clark does a great job of laying out the scenes of horror (there’s an especially effective scene where the camera closes in on the eyelashes of one of the dead bodies as they curl from the heat of the flames that is especially amazing) MADHOUSE also may be one of the first of the self-referential films we saw too much of in the 90s (another fantastic scene has the killer being blinded by a Dr. Death film being projected into his eyes) as it pulls back the curtain and shows the behind the scenes drama of the filmmakers making a horror film. The dramatic final scenes of MADHOUSE are especially creepy as we find out who the killer is and how despite the deaths that occur, the show must go on.

Was MADHOUSE Price’s response to a lifetime of horror films? Maybe. Maybe not. Price plays the complex character of Toomes with his usual style and grace. Throughout the film, Toomes is faced with clips of his long career in scenes provided from some of his real life films such as THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, TALES OF TERROR, THE RAVEN, & HOUSE OF USHER. Price is often shown gazing upon these clips, sometimes with remorse, sometimes with fascination, sometimes with boredom. Price also has fellow horror veteran actor Peter Cushing to share the stage with. In a touching scene, both actors look upon a picture of themselves as young actors with fondness and a little bit of melancholy. Robert Quarry from COUNT YORGA also shows up in this love song to horror films of yesteryear in as especially biting role as a film producer.

If Price were bored with horror, he doesn’t show it in MADHOUSE. In an interview in the movie, Toomes explains the audience’s fascination with his horror films:

“I think it’s because they are not about the ordinary, everyday world around us. They’re about a world that is deep inside of us. A world of impulses and instincts that we have been taught to suppress.”

He goes on to say, “—impulses that we don’t dare admit. Impulses that sometimes we don’t even know we have. They’re tamed and caged. Sometimes they prowl around inside of the cages we’ve built for them. And there comes a time in between our sleeping and our waking when they whisper to us that they want to be set free. Well, we don’t set them free. I think maybe that’s why the pictures are so successful, because they do set them free.”

Price seems to be speaking beyond the film about his own expansive career in horror and shows an understanding that few in the genre have.

Retro-review: New on a Double Feature BluRay from The Shout Factory!


Directed by John Carl Buechler
Written by Don Mancini
Starring Yvonne De Carlo, Debrah Farentino, Brian Robbins, Pamela Bellwood, Miranda Wilson, Vince Edwards, Jeffrey Combs, Floyd Levine, & Michael Deak as the Cellar Dweller!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Steeped in 80s horror movie clichés is CELLAR DWELLER (which I keep wanting to spell as CELLAR DWELLAR for some reason). The film is far from perfect. In fact, it’s quite awful. But I don’t know about you, but occasionally I love to sit back and watch an old, dumb horror movie and CELLAR DWELLER definitely qualifies in terms of story, acting, and scares.

The story opens with comic book creator Colin Childress (horror icon Jeffrey Combs) making black marks in the already shaded areas of a comic book page that looks to be some derivation of a TALES FROM THE CRYPT-style anthology horror comic called CELLAR DWELLER (like the name of the movie, get it?). After the once and always Herbert West finishes the page of a monstrous and satanic looking hairy wolf-beast, the monster actually magically rises from the shadows and murders the artist. Jumping ahead thirty years, the ominously named Throckmorton Institute of Art is open for business once again, run by the art snob hausfrau Mrs. Briggs (THE MUNSTERS’ Yvonne DeCarlo). Our heroine is a comic artist named Whitney (Debrah Farentino), who happens to love Childress’ CELLAR DWELLER comic and hopes to make a comic similar to his one day and from the pages she draws, it looks like the pages are from the same artist. After meeting her classmates in this eclectic art school, Whitney is compelled to explore Childress’ basement studio for inspiration and finds it as her pages begin to come to life and the Dweller in the cellar begins lopping off the heads and eating her classmates one by one.

Looking at the creative team behind this film, one would think there would be something better to say about this film. It was written by CHILD'S PLAY’s Don Mancini and was directed by FX guru John Carl Buechler. But while this is a rather repetitious film in terms of the way the Dweller dispatches the cast, at least Buechler makes up for it with some pretty amazing effects. The Dweller itself is a nicely articulated mask and full body suit, and the gore effects are nice and wet with heads being lopped off and the Dweller slurping up flesh and sinew during his attacks.

Typical of 80s horror, it’s the gore here that takes center stage, so it makes sense that this was helmed by Buechler, but there’s little else in CELLAR DWELLER worth dwelling upon. It’s fun to see Combs in his brief cameo and Yvonne DeCarlo lends some senior flair to the mix, but that hardly makes up for Brian Robbins from HEAD OF THE CLASS dorking the whole place up right good. Flat acting with an uninspired story that felt torn from the reject pile of one of the horror comics it emulates is what we get here.

All I could find was this fan-made trailer below, but it pretty much gives you everything you need to know about the film.

New this week on DVD/BluRay, digital download, and On Demand Cinedigm Entertainment!


Directed by AJ Wedding
Written by Oliver J. Defilippo, James Orlik, Nathan Reid
Starring Nathan Reid, Gabriel Tigerman, Luis Jose Lopez, Dante Spencer, Jen Yeager, Jodie Bentley, Jim Dowd, Angie Simms, Sandra Luesse, Vanessa E. Garcia, Caryn West
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

What really holds THE JOKESTERS back from being an engaging film is the fact that the cast proves to be completely unlikable and therefore it’s hard to give a shit when the jokes get real.

Nick (Nathan Reid), Andrew (Gabriel Tigerman), Chris (Luis Jose Lopez) and Ethan (Dante Spencer) run a JACKASS style youtube channel where they pull mean-spirited practical jokes on one another and their friends and relatives. When Ethan plans to get married to Gabrielle (Jen Yeager), the crew decides to retire the show and have a prank-free day for the wedding. When Nick overhears that his best bud Ethan plans to move out of the state after the wedding, he takes the news hard, gets drunk and makes an ass of himself in front of everyone by giving an inappropriate speech and basically acting like an immature idiot. But Nick’s not a complete ass as he has offered up Ethan and his new bride his father’s cabin in the woods as a honeymoon destination for the newlyweds. This well intentioned wedding gift has a duplicitous side as Nick plans to pull one last prank on his best pal and it’s going to be a doozy.

Right off the bat, the logic of this film is completely off. Nick and his crew seem to constantly be on stage, on camera, and playing practical jokes with one another. If that were the case, why would you trust your most conniving and jokey friend that he would lend you a cabin in the woods and not expect some kind of prank. Because of there is no real logic behind Ethan’s sudden trust towards his prankster friend Nick, it’s just a testament to the character’s stupidity that Ethan is this gullible in the first place. As soon as noises in the woods begin to happen on Ethan’s honeymoon, any person with two brain cells would put together that he is being pranked.

The other problem is that what kind of friends constantly scare the shit out of each other and make fun of each other to the point of near bodily harm. Now the dude bro answer to this is that “That’s the way we bra’s interact with each other, bro.” Well, sure if you’re 12. But these are late twenty/early thirty year old men still acting as if every immature prank they have is funnier than an “Ouch My Balls!” marathon on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Sure the story is about how one of these pranksters is trying to pull away from the crew, but the fact that all of them have shown so much immaturity makes them difficult to care about. And if you don’t care about your cast then you’re not going to give a shit when the joking stops and things get deadly. So when one of the jokes goes too far and someone finally takes things too seriously, I didn’t give a shit when the bodies started to fall. That’s a huge problem when your cast is so unlikable that you don’t care whether they live or die.

There are some nice and gory kills here. Once character gets an axe to the throat and doesn’t die immediately which I found to be disturbing in a good way. But if the found footage route this film takes doesn’t immediately turn you away, the asinine antics of the actors involved will. Things get twisty and turned at about the 50 minute mark, but for most of the film, we follow man-childs acting up and thinking it’s all gold material. I’m sure THE JOKESTERS might have been a fun film to make and there’s a part of me that thinks that if I were ten years younger and drunk I might have liked it a bit more. But even when the JACKASS phenomenon was going on, it felt mean-spirited and immature. Ten years later and this film feels like it showed up a bit late in the game and is a bit misguided in its intentions.

New this week on DVD/BluRay from MVD Visual Entertainment!


Directed by Travis Bain
Written by Travis Bain
Starring Shawn Brack, Anthony Ring, Melanie Serafin, Vernon Wells, Warren Clements, Andy Bramble, Mike Elliott, Trevor Garvey, Shaun Cram
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

For those who are into low budget action horror, I present for your consideration THROWBACK. Being a fan of Sasquatchonian films, this was a must-see and while the budget limitations are evident, THROWBACK has a lot going for it.

Swiping a pinch from the Indiana Jones films, THROWBACK focuses on a pair of fortune hunters seeking lost gold in the Australian outback. They have a general knowledge of the area and a whiff of the golden scent and sure enough, they end up finding a stash that will fulfill their dreams for riches. Unfortunately, they also find a Yowie, the Australian equivalent of Bigfoot. With the gold-diggers stabbing each other in the back and the Yowie on their trail, it will be the ultimate struggle to get out of the jungle alive.

Fans of 80s actioners will have a lot of fun here. While it doesn’t have Arnie or Sly or even Van Damme, THROWBACK does have old school action baddie Vernon Wells (ROAD WARRIOR, COMMANDO) lending his talents as a hunter who knows quite a bit about both the gold and the Yowie. His presence alone in this film makes it fun. And while most of the acting is decent, his appearance ratchets the quality up a notch.

One of the things that is make or break for Bigfoot films is the fur costume itself, and while much of the time the Yowie is in the background and obscured by either trees or out of focus shots, it does look good in the moments we do get to see the beast. Much like the elusive Bigfoot itself, the film has it on the periphery and difficult to stay in frame, lending to the mystery and threat of the beast.

Following an action movie template, this is a pretty standard and straightforward narrative: gold diggers run afoul of Bigfoot and try to survive. But sometimes simplicity is good and here, THROWBACK makes do with the budget it has and delivers some clever and potent thrills along the way.

New this week on DVD, On Demand and Google Play from RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment!


Directed by Sheldon Wilson
Written by Richard Beattie, Sheldon Wilson
Starring Derek Theler, Erica Cerra, Paul du Toit, Arnold Vosloo, Neels Van Jaarsveld, Wayne Harrison, Ashleigh van der Hoven, Henie Bosman, Nathan Wheatley, Joseph Mitchell, Grant Swanby, Paul Pieterse, Rory Acton Burnell, Chase Agulhas
Find out more out this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Now, I know everyone is still creaming from the awesomeness that was SHARKNADO 3, but this week another shark film came out and at least this one tries to be something interesting. SHARK KILLER isn’t a great movie by any means, but it is kind of fun.

Though he hates the ocean, Chase Walker (only action films of this caliber have characters named Chase Walker) played by Derek Theler, is an expert at shark hunting. The opening scene has Chase in a JAWS scenario where a Mayor opens the beach despite Chase’s warnings to keep it closed due to a shark infestation. Sure enough, as the swimmers launch themselves into the surf, a great white pounces, but Chase is there to dive in and thwart the toothy beast. Getting the shark movie clichés out of the way in the first few minutes, it leaves the film to become a straight up action movie as Chase is whisked to coast of South Africa by his adopted brother in search of a lost diamond which was swallowed by a great white shark with a black fin. Joined by a hot diver/driver named Jasmine (the talented Erica Cerra), Chase sets out to track the shark, but the diamond’s original owner and clichéd Bond villain wannabe Nix (played by a slumming Arnold Vosloo) is after the diamond as well.

Many action movie clichés were used in making this film. From the clichéd villain to the goofy scenarios to the cocky, but charming hero; this is a movie made of tried and true tropes of the action movie genre. Still what makes it fun is the star Derek Theler who plays like Chris Pratt’s taller, bulkier, ginger brother and seems to know it by acting like him every chance he can get. Granted, a lot of the material he is given is not Shakespeare, but Theler pulls most of it off as this film doesn’t require much aside from a heavy dose of snark and attitude. Out acting Theler is the truly enchanting Erica Cerra who’s natural beauty and acting ability is evident here. Arnold Vosloo, though, it hamming it up as if his life depended on it. With a pasted on scar and an over the top sneer, Vosloo is really just going for a paycheck here and nothing else.

It’s a good thing Vosloo isn’t the only threat in the film or it would be in trouble. Readers of this column know I have a lifelong fear of sharks, yet I watch shark films all of the time because believe it or not, I love getting scared (whodathinkit, the guy who writes horror reviews like being scared?). Most of these straight to video shark films are so badly made that it hardly causes me to flinch while watching, but the use of CG in SHARK KILLER is actually not half bad. This is mainly because director Sheldon Wilson often chooses to film the shark coming at a swimmer from the darkness of the background ocean and in turn, coming at the viewer maw open wide. Even though this is obviously CG, it’s an effective use of it super-imposed behind a real swimmer and offers up a pretty solid scare.

Again, don’t look for this to be a great film. It’s a popcorn fluff of a movie through and through with hammy acting, an inundation of clichés, and uninspired scripting. But despite all of that, the goofy charm of the actors and the effective use of CG puts SHARK KILLER a cut above your usual ScyFy monster fare. So if you’re looking for a brainless shark film with some low carb thrills, you can look no further than the hammy charm of SHARK KILLER.

New this week On Demand!


Directed by Nicholas Bushman
Written by Nicholas Bushman, Mike Dwyer
Starring Mike Dwyer, Seth Hammond, Katie Keene, Keith David, Kevin Crowley, Tara Bellando, Misa Farslow, Chris Griffith, David Hayward, Lyle Kanouse, Louie Lawless, John W. Lawson, Megan Morelock, John Newkirk, Benjamin Franklin Crawford Wallace
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

UNION FURNACE is the type of indie film I love to discover. Having not an inkling of what this film was about save for the image of the golden lion masked man in a clown colored shirt in front of an audience of masked onlookers who seem to be enjoying themselves at whatever they are coldly looking at, I was tickled to see the coolness that this film exudes from every second of screentime.

The title UNION FURNACE refers to the small Ohio town in which this film is filmed. Being a native Ohioan, I was surprised to never have heard of Union Furnace, but I’m more familiar with Northwestern Ohio than Southern Ohio where this film is located as references to Cincy (Cincinnati, OH) are made numerous times on the film. One Ohioan named Cody (Mike Dwyer) is down on his luck and buried in debt. Stealing a car from a church parking lot, he is followed by a shady individual later to be named Lion (Seth Hammond) who is the aforementioned dancing dude in the gold lion mask. Lion charms Cody with a wad of cash and promises him more if he is to meet him and take part in a friendly competition. Soon Cody finds himself among 8 contestants in a small lodge with the masked audience hooting and hollering for blood. The first game is a derivation of the board game Sorry and seems innocent enough, but as the contestants who lose begin to disappear, the stake rise and soon each contestant is out for each blood and the most desperate is the only one who gets the money and gets to survive the night.

Immediately, when the soupy torch song/retro-country mash-up plays over the credits, I knew I was in for something outside of the norm. The patient and stylistic way director Nicholas Bushman soaks in the poverty stricken and bland colored Ohio small town vibes conveys the mood of desperation. The director makes the mundane landscape pop with surreal music and a steady, unblinking lens. The scenes of Lion gyrating among the overweight and overzealous crowd wearing masks set to bizarre musics is both gorgeous and grotesque. Very much reminiscent of dirty oversaturation of Vincent Gallo’s BUFFALO 66, this film looks like a rusty relic found in an antique store and I immediately recognized it as something truly unique.

The story itself is not new. Films like INBRED, DELIVERANCE, and even hints of Illuminati conspiracy groups of the rich seeking the poor as entertainment as hinted at in EYES WIDE SHUT and THE CONSPIRACY came to mind while watching this film. But in truth, I love those types of films. Kubrick and Tarantino are definitely influences Bushman seems to be pulling from. And the actors themselves have a sort of David Lynch/David Cronenberg/Stanley Kubrick style disconnect from the way the rest of the world works that I found fantastic. As Lion, Seth Hammond proves he is someone to look out for as he exhibits a Matthew McConaughey sort of laid back manner and Mike Dwyer channels Tim Roth in scenes as the captive who seems to be Lion’s favorite to win. Keith David adds a bit of class to any role he plays and does so here as an uptight captive who wishes he wouldn’t have accepted Lion’s offer. While the rest of the cast are made up of faces I haven’t seen before, but all of them do a great job of playing either down and out types with their own unique backstory or the haunting masked crowd that could be made up of anyone, but still make for an ominous background to this twisted tale of human lives at stake for a profit.

UNION FURNACE is a unique tale shown through a lens that tells me that director Nicholas Bushman is someone to look out for. The richness of the way this film looks is unlike most I’ve seen and while Bushman borrows from other directors, he borrows from the right ones to spark my interest. As Bushman evolves into his own style, I’m hoping this evolution continues to focus on great character as seen through a lens that balances between the grotesque and the beautiful. UNION FURNACE is a powerful film that will definitely leave you wanting to soak in more of its bizarre imagery and sounds even after the satisfying end. Highly recommended for those who love a little quirk, ambience, and class war in their thrillers.

New this week in select theaters and On Demand from RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment!


Directed by Jack Heller
Written by Tyler Hisel
Starring Kevin Durand, Lukas Haas, Bianca Kajlich, Steve Agee, Nick Damici, Ethan Khusidman, Billy Paterson, Heath Freeman, Sabina Gadecki
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I should be angry with this film, but I’m not. Back in the day, most horror films waited until the very end of the movie to reveal the monster. This was mainly due to the fact that the monster revealed wasn’t really that scary when seen clear as day. Looking back on those films, I recognize the hokey charm they had for understanding their shortcomings and trying to make up for it by showing as little of the monster as possible until the last moments. DARK WAS THE NIGHT does this as well and I shouldn’t like it because of it, but I actually loved this quite a bit—just not for the reasons that they held off their reveal until the end.

Sheriff Paul Shields (THE STRAIN’s Kevin Durand) is a damaged and grief stricken man. When a moment of distraction leads to an accidental death of his infant son in a kiddie pool, Shields leaves his equally grief-filled wife Susan (Bianca Kajlich) and son Adam (Ethan Khusidman) and wallows in despair and self loathing. Paired with big city cop gone country Deputy Donny Saunders (Lukas Haas), Shields throws himself into the small town day-to-day law-upholding gig taking care of small town problems. Sheriff Shields seems to be barely hanging on to his own sanity when a string of murders, missing people, and animal abductions occur with all fingers pointing to something unnatural at loose in the woods. At the monstrous threat creeps closer to town, the Sheriff must conquer his personal demons as well as fight the real ones at his doorstep.

DARK WAS THE NIGHT is one scary good movie. Director Jack Heller does a fantastic job of doling out the scares and ratcheting up the tension in increasing intensity. Yes, the monster is obscured for the bulk of the film, only to be revealed in the final few moments in full, but the lead up to this reveal is expertly done every step of the way. From claw marks on barns to strange footprints trailing around houses and through the town, Heller makes every step of this film count as Sheriff Shields gets closer to figuring out just what kind of creature is disturbing this peaceful town. While the final moments where most of the town takes shelter in a church is something we’ve seen numerous times, Heller does a good job of making these scenes distinct and suspenseful.

But it’s not the directing that had me loving this film. It was the truly inspired performance by Kevin Durand. Usually known for playing badass, bad guy roles, I wasn’t sure what to make of Durand as the lead, but that doubt cleared up early in the film as Durand commands every scene he is in. Filled with despair and dread, Durand’s Sheriff Shields is hollow and utterly hopeless and that is something not only conveyed in the story, but more importantly in Durand’s expressive and sorrow-stricken face. Durand carries this film on his wide shoulders battling his inner turmoil in ways you don’t usually see in a monster movie. It’s all in his face as the camera lingers on it in the early minutes of the film. Durand’s speech to his wife later in the film is wrought with more emotion than I thought the actor was capable of. This is a stellar performance and hopefully Durand gets more leading roles because of it.

The film is also filled out with two solid actors in Nick Damici who plays a crusty, yet knowledgeable barkeep and Lucas Haas who crawls out of obscurity to offer up the flip side to Durand’s dour and staunch performance. Haas is all grown up now, but next to the giant that is Durand, the shorter actor looks as if he hasn’t grown an inch since THE LADY IN WHITE. Nevertheless, Haas offers up some much needed comedy relief breaking up all of the tension throughout the film.

I won’t reveal what the monster in the woods is. I’ll just say what little we do find out about the three-toed monster is pretty cool. And while the motivation of the monsters is vague, it looks pretty awesome as well once I finally got to see it. I don’t know if the reason they revealed the monster so late in the game was due to budgetary reasons or if they just wanted this to be a suspense heavy film and didn’t think it was necessary. I have to admit, I found myself growing impatient as the film wound down to see this beast that lurks just out of camera range or just out of focus. But the performance by the stellar cast and the intriguing content of the story as well as the way the tension was doled out kept me from being distracted by the lack of a reveal for most of the film. The ending of the film suggests that this may just be the beginning and that a sequel may be planned. If this is the case, I’ll be happy as this is a pretty amazing film. I just hope we get a little more behind why these monsters are attacking the town and hopefully more fantastic performances from Durand and Haas who make an interesting team. DARK WAS THE NIGHT does scary well and the film is made a must-see due to Kevin Durand’s powerful and mesmerizing lead performance.

New this week in select theaters, on iTunes, digital download, and On Demand (Available on DVD/BluRay on September 1)!

FELT (2014)

Directed by Jason Banker
Written by Jason Banker & Amy Everson
Starring Amy Everson, Kentucker Audley, Ryan Creighton, Elisabeth Ferrara, Roxanne Knouse, Brendan Miller, Alanna Reynolds, Tony Ruiz, Mark Skubala, Brandileigha Stracner
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Billed as a feminist psychological horror film, I feel labeling FELT as such is a bit of a detriment to the film and to the feminist movement as well. I would hope the feminist movement doesn’t want people to believe that its ultimate goal is to castrate all males (or maybe it is), as that’s what this movie seems to imply if feminism is the lens we are supposed to view this film through, so I prefer to look at this film as a look into a deeply damaged mind and leave it at that.

Amy (Amy Everson) is a deeply troubled young woman. She has friends and family who care for her, but her off-kilter way of looking at the world and even more bizarre acts she performs when she is alone indicate that something is deeply off with her. She tends to say whatever crosses her mind, not really considering if it is appropriate for the conversation being held. In fact, she seems to go out of her way to make uncomfortable situations, get into arguments with strangers, and offend anyone she meets. On top of that, she likes to dress in skin-tight spandex and fabrics and wear false male genitalia and wander around with a wooden sword in the woods. She seems to be in love with her best friend Elizabeth (Elisabeth Ferrara), but when Elizabeth spurns her affections and is creeped out when Amy tries to share her spandex world with her, Amy latches on to Kenny (THE SACRAMENT’s Kentucker Audley). As the two form a relationship, Kenny seems to bring out the best in Amy and she seems to be able to contain her eccentric ways. But crazy can’t be caged long, and at the first sign of trouble in the relationship, Amy begins to slip back into her crazier ways.

As a psychological study, FELT is fascinating. The quiet moments where Amy dons her costumes and explores the woods with her dildo and sword are rather fascinating in a trainwreck/”what the hell is this loon going to do” sort of way. Director Jason Banker flashes to these scenes in between somewhat normal interactions with saner folk like Elizabeth and Kenny. The blossoming love story between Kenny and Amy is actually quite touching, as Kenny recognizes she is somewhat off and seems to want to help Amy be more stable. The quiet scenes between the two as Amy reveals parts of her past to him and shares her phallic and vaginal artwork with him is the most touching part of the film. In contrast to these scenes, we get the beautifully grotesque scenes of this secret life in costume. In this world, Amy places herself in dangerous situations literally walking naked in the woods and answering ads for naked photo shoots with seedy photographers. Again, Banker films these scenes as if we are talking a tightrope anticipating the moment when the delicate balance of Amy’s world will drop out from under her.

If the film suffers from faults, it’s that the ending is pretty predictable. I guess if you want to go the feminist route, every male in this film has faults, the two prominent ones being Kenny who has not been completely honest with Amy in their relationship and another guy Amy meets on a dating site who is characterized as a guy who simply wants to get drunk and laid. In either case, these are not absolutely horrible sins and certainly don’t deserve the fate that befalls them. So when Amy invites Kenny to a walk in the woods to her “special place,” we pretty much know how it’s all going to end up. Banker does prolong the scene to boost anticipation, so it does make for some tense moments, but what we think is going to happen happens in a pretty graphic and horrific way, so aside from the act itself, there is little in the way of narrative shocks or surprises at the end.

Being a male, I don’t want to disregard this film for its attempts to make a feminist statement, but again, I feel having a mentally unstable woman as a protagonist really doesn’t lend credit to feminism be the instability attributed to past male interactions or, more likely, chemical imbalance that could be rectified with therapy and medication. So again, I don’t want to think of this as so much of a feminist message but rather a portrait of a deeply flawed human being attempting to reach out and connect, but lacking the skills or the support achieve it. In that, the film is beautiful, engaging, and quite fascinating to see unfold. It’s not for the squeamish as it has some very socially uncomfortable and sometimes gory scenes, but FELT is a really powerful film despite the philosophies that have unfortunately been adhered to it.

New this week in theaters!


Directed by Mark Neveldine
Written by (based on a story by) Chris Morgan & Christopher Borrelli, Michael C. Martin & Christopher Borrelli (screenplay)
Starring Michael Peña, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Dougray Scott, Kathleen Robertson, Djimon Hounsou, John Patrick Amedori, Michael Paré, Tehmina Sunny, Daniel Bernhardt, Noemi Gonzalez, Cas Anvar, Peter Andersson, Bruno Gunn, Kent Shocknek, Alex Sparrow, Jarvis W. George, Alex Corrado, Montanna Gillis, Allegra Lucchesi, Ashley Gibson
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Angela (Olivia Taylor Dudley) seems to be living the idyllic life with a happy relationship with her boyfriend Pete (John Patrick Amedori) and a strong bond with her father Roger (Dougray Scott). When she is wounded cutting her birthday cake, she is rushed to a Catholic hospital and immediately shows signs of weirdness upon entering the place. As her condition worsens, it raises the ire of attending priest Father Lozano (Michael Peña), who notices signs of a possible possession case. We are informed at the beginning of THE VATICAN TAPES that the Vatican has been performing more and more exorcisms these days, and Lozano informs the church of Angela’s case. Meanwhile, Angela is acting strangely: losing time, blacking out, attacking loved ones, and speaking in other voices. It all cumulates in more of the “Power of Christ compels you” schtick we’ve seen in many an exorcism movie.

If you were turned off by the found footage-heavy trailer, I will inform you that this is not a found footage film. Director Mark Neveldine litters the film with security camera and camera phone footage, but for the most part this is a cinematically filmed movie. That doesn’t take away from the fact that THE VATICAN TAPES borrows heavily from other, more popular and more effective exorcism flicks as it feels as if the film is checking off boxes in an instruction manual on what is necessary for these types of films. Seizures…check. Concerned priest…check. Speaking in tongues…check. Body contortions…check. I don’t want to fault the film too much as it does seem like it wanted to depict genuine possessions. The problem is that many other films have done this before as the heavily covered cases of real life possessions seem to all have the same details, making these films very repetitive and seem uninspired. Little tweaks like double irises are added in this film, but the derivations are outnumbered by things we have seen many times over.

A decent cast is sorely underutilized here. Dougray Scott is given the most emotional beats as Angela’s father. He does a capable job with a clichéd role as a doting dad who is overly protective of his daughter against the boyfriend she lives with. When Angela displays signs that something is wrong, though, everything switches to concerned parent role where he sits in the sidelines and furrows his brow. Kathleen Robertson (SCARY MOVIE 2) shows up as the straight-faced psychiatrist overseeing Angela’s case, but is not given much to do either. Angela herself, Olivia Taylor Dudley, is up for the physical and emotional demands the story takes her through and she seems talented, so here’s hoping better films are in her future. It does seem she might have been cast due to her resemblance to a young Patricia Arquette, who starred in STIGMATA, a film this movie seems to be borrowing from the most. The multi-faceted Michael Pena is really given very little to do other than act as the Father Karras role of the go-between between Angela and the exorcist from the Vatican. None of the personality he is overflowing with in his other films is present here. Pena tries to bring a bit of depth to his character as a former military man who has taken up the cloth, but the film is so drowned in clichés from films like STIGMATA, THE LAST EXORCISM, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, and THE EXORCIST that his reserved performance is overshadowed completely.

The worst offense of this film is that somewhere beneath the clichés there’s an intriguing idea. ****SUPER SPOILER***** The film itself ends with Angela’s exorcism resulting in the healing of a group of people in the hospital. This news spreads worldwide and many gather in a stadium to bear witness to Angela’s power in hopes of being healed themselves. As a quote from the Bible tells us, the Anti-Christ will falsely heal people and that will be the way it convinces many to follow it. Angela heads into a stadium of people which is being broadcast worldwide so that she will win over the world. Now that is a film I want to see! Unfortunately, instead of giving us something truly original like that, the film fades to white as she enters the stadium and the credits roll. So disappointing. ****END SUPER SPOILER****

What bothers me is that this is the type of safe, uninspired horror film that gets released in theaters these days. Truly inspired films like SPRING, CREEP, THE CANAL, and THE BABADOOK are segregated to limited theatrical and On Demand releases, while the mainstream movie going masses get stuff like THE GALLOWS and this film in theaters. Most likely rolling on the hope that Pena’s role in ANT-MAN will tempt folks to see this film, THE VATICAN TAPES really doesn’t give Pena a chance to shine and more importantly, the entire film fails to do anything new and therefore prevents itself from being scary.

And finally…I posted our interview with comic book writer John Ostrander and artist Tom Mandrake about their new project called KROS: HALLOWED GROUND earlier in the week in our 300th episode of AICN COMICS Poptards Podcast. With the Kickstarter coming to a close in a few days, I wanted to send out a reminder to support the horror project of a vampire hunter hunting vamps during the Battle of Gettysburg. If the idea intrigues you as much as it does me, you can support the Kickstarter by clicking here!

Below is the pitch trailer for KROS: HALLOWED GROUND!

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 support his new comic PIROUETTE (trade released in May Diamond order code FEB15 1090 for only $9.99!) from Black Mask Studios!

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