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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Welcome to the darker side of AICN! Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Step right up for another dose of horror! This week we have a pair of boobie horrors and, to keep things even, a short about a killer schlong. Plus a pair of found footagers, some truly great slasher flicks, a sort of adaptation of a Poe classic, and two genius descents into madness!

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On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1971)
Retro-review: DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS (1971)
Retro-review: CHERRY FALLS (2000)
Short Cuts: TROUSER SNAKE Short Film (2016)
DARLING (2015)
Advance Review: KILLER RACK (2015)
And finally…Lights Out: Munghara!

Retro-review: New this week as a Bluray double feature from The Shout Factory!


Directed by Gordon Hessler
Written by Edgar Allan Poe (story), Christopher Wicking, Henry Slesar (screenplay)
Starring Jason Robards, Herbert Lom, Christine Kaufmann, Adolfo Celi, Maria Perschy, Michael Dunn, Lilli Palmer, Peter Arne, Rosalind Elliot, Marshall Jones, María Martín, Ruth Plattes, Xan das Bolas
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Very few of the Poe adaptations seem to follow the source material very closely. CONQUEROR WORM (aka WITCHIFNDER GENERAL) barely even refers to the original poem. But apart from the play that is the centerpiece of this film, it is much closer to a PHANTOM OF THE OPERA remake than anything else. Still, MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE offers up some fantastic performances from the cast and a truly terrifying final act.

Jason Robards stars as thespian Cesar Charron, who runs a theatre that performs a gory version of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” to the appalled masses who flock to the theatre to witness the tale of murder fueled by passion on a weekly basis. But this theatre house seems to be haunted by a phantom who is bound and determined to sabotage the production and burn anyone who gets in his way with acid. Turns out this phantom is a former actor in the troupe, Rene Marot (Herbert Lom), who was scarred horribly by acid and long thought dead, though the bodies piling up seem to indicate that he is very much alive and looking to regain the hand of the lovely Madeline (Christine Kaufmann), who remarried Charron when she believed Marot to be dead from the accident.

Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue” is one of my favorites, as it is one of the first “locked room” mysteries ever conceived. This story is not a gore-filled tale of revenge, but an intricately presented crime with an inspector investigating the clues and solving a mystery that baffles everyone else. **SPOILER** The murderer is an escaped gorilla! **END SPOILER** While there is a murder mystery in this version of MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, that’s pretty much the only similarity with the original story. But since from the get-go we see a masked Lom enacting bloody murder in front of the gathered masses in the theatre, there’s no real mystery to solve, so the aspect of which appealed the most to me about this story isn’t there. There is a guy in a monkey suit which does factor in later in the tale, but for the most part, Lom is playing the Phantom of the Opera (which is weird, since he played the Phantom almost a decade earlier in Hammer’s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) as for a Phantom movie, this one is pretty great with some fantastic gore, a brutal tone, and a vicious tale of revenge. The film is filled with horrible death by acid (which is this Phantom’s M.O.) and terrifying dream sequences where the heroine runs in slo mo with a weird man wearing black panties over his face swinging an axe in her room. Linking this film with Poe’s ongoing themes, MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE also features age-old Poe-isms of being buried alive and guilt-filled hauntings of past sins.

The cast is phenomenal. Robards is fun as Charron and offers up a morally complex character which we root for one minute and loathe the next. Lom does the same thing as the Opera Phantom as his acts of revenge are heinous, but what causes him to go mad makes him sympathetic all the same. Seeing these two actors square off against one another is a true treat.

Another thing that elevates this AIP film a touch above the Hammer films that deal with heinous crimes in a Victorian era is that the final act ends up actually being moody and effectively scary. While most Hammer and AIP films have that well-lit and stage play flatness, director Gordon Hessler (who directed SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN, THE OBLONG BOX, CRY OF THE BANSHEE, and later Sho Kosugi actioner PRAY FOR DEATH) really makes the final scenes drenched in darkness and mood as the Phantom relentlessly pursues the damsel to the rafters above the stage of the theatre. These scenes were surprisingly frightening, something lacking from some of the more staged-looking Hammer films. So while MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE doesn’t really have much to do with the Poe story, it still is a damn effective little shocker from the past.

Retro-review: New this week collected in a limited edition BluRay box set DEATH WALKS TWICE: TWO FILMS BY MUCIANO ERCOLI from Arrow/MVD Visual!


Directed by Luciano Ercoli
Written by Ernesto Gastaldi, Mahnahén Velasco, & Dino Verde
Starring Frank Wolff, Nieves Navarro, Simón Andreu, Carlo Gentili, George Rigaud, José Manuel Martín, Fabrizio Moresco, Luciano Rossi, Claudie Lange
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Staying true to form, it seems I did this review backwards and should have checked out DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT, as it was Luciano Ercoli’s first of his two DEATH WALKS films. But alas, I ended up watching this one first, so here goes.

DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS opens with a murder on a train by a bulging blue-eyed masked killer. We then jolt over to France where a cabaret dancer named Nicole (Nieves Navarro) who occasionally dances in black face for some reason and her lover Michel (Simón Andreu) seem to have a hunky-dorey relationship, though Nicole is tormented by a stalker who calls her and asks her where some missing diamonds are. When the same bug-eyed killer from the train shows up and threatens to skewer Nicole, she believes the killer to be Michel and flees the country with an admirer from the club named Robert (Frank Wolff). Robert is an optometrist and seems to be quite wealthy, and though he is smitten with Nicole, he is very much married to the sultry Vanessa (Claudie Lange). There’s a lot of mystery going on as some people are attacked and shot, some are murdered, some seem to commit suicide, and everyone seems to be after a bunch of diamonds. Who is the bug-eyed murderer and why is he tormenting Nicole? The answers are revealed by the end, but there’s a lot of twists, turns, red herrings, misdirection, and out and out lies to endure before it happens.

What I loved about this film is that it is so overly complex that it is almost impossible to guess who the murderer is and why he or she did it. The other thing I love is that it is fairly obvious who the killer is, but this film flips and flops on who the guilty party is so much that it made me think I was wrong, then right again, then wrong, and then right once again before the truth is told. I’m pretty sure folks will be able to point out the murderer as soon as he appears on screen and I won’t reveal it here, but I love the loopty-loop this film puts the viewer through in order to affirm this guess. There’s just something utterly appealing about how much director Luciano Ercoli and his writers (Ernesto Gastaldi, Mahnahén Velasco, & Dino Verde) fuck with the expectations of the viewer in this film.

There are also a whole bunch of moments that are simply hilarious, mainly because they have become so cliché in this day and age. The film most likely wasn’t meant for laughs, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at the suspicious servant stroking his cat, and the horrible sound effects every time someone is punched or slapped. The film’s ending is fantastically hammy as the hero and villain duke it out with no one stepping in to stop them. I also loved it when the inspector (Carlo Gentili) who is looking into this convoluted caper (who is intentionally funny in this film and very successful at it) finishes off his foe with a well placed karate chop. Gentili even adds after the final blow that usually he simply hurts his hand when he does that.

Filled with fun both intentional and otherwise, DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS is a sometimes sultry, sometimes silly murder mystery that will definitely keep you guessing and second guessing yourself. The murderer is actually pretty frightening with his bulging blue bug eyes and there are a few surprisingly gory murders as well. All in all, this is one great Giallo. Special features on this disc include a trio of featurettes; “From Spain with Love” which focuses on the making of the film, “Master of Giallo” which centers on director Luciano Ercoli, and one focusing on the music of the film called “Death Walks to the Beat.” So far, half of this box set was definitely worth a watch. Next week, I’ll cover the other one, DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT.

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!


Directed by Geoffrey Wright
Written by Ken Selden
Starring Brittany Murphy, Jay Mohr, Michael Biehn, Jesse Bradford, Candy Clark, Amanda Anka, Joe Inscoe, Gabriel Mann, Natalie Ramsey, Douglas Spain, Bre Blair, Kristen Miller, Michael Weston, Keram Malicki-Sánchez, Joannah Portman, Vicki Davis, Bret McKee, Clementine Ford, Margaret Molster, Michael Goodwin, Rick Forrester, Tammy Ballance, Rand Courtney, Colin Fickes, DJ Qualls, Mark Joy, Patt Noday
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Hitting theatergoers in 2000, I remember CHERRY FALLS to be ill-received as I feel these SCREAM-esque self-aware slasher films had run their course, but I have to give it to this film for committing full-on to offer up some brutal slasher tropes and of course its lead, the batshit freaky Brittany Murphy.

Opening as if it were a typical urban legend with a pair of lovers massacred at Make-Out Pointe, the story unfolds unconventionally as it is revealed that the murderer seems to be targeting virgins—a flip side to the usual sex = death scenario that usually occurs in these films. The late Brittany Murphy plays Jody, one of these virgins who denies her boyfriend her woman-bits mostly out to respect to and fear of her overprotective father (Michael Biehn) who also happens to be the sheriff of Cherry Falls. Once word gets out that virgins are the target of the killer, the students of Cherry Falls schedule a sex party for all virgins to lose their virginity. Meanwhile, the sheriff and Jody perform separate investigations tied to a never-reported rape/murder of an outsider named Loralee Sherman. As the suspects line up and look guilty, Jody finds herself the new target in the murderer’s bloody rampage.

Yes, there are a lot of clichés going on in this film. It basically follows the typical slasher blueprint from start to finish. But the thing that separates it from the rest is that CHERRY FALLS follows this well-trod path well. The murders are really brutal, and the fact that these are the types of girls who usually end up being the final girl makes the fact that they are being murdered so viciously all the more painful to see. While most of the time these films paint the kids as deserving of the bloodletting, this film goes out of its way to make you actually root for the kids, which was kind of refreshing. And while sex has always been a factor in these films, instead of being present on a thematic and metaphoric level, sex and sex crime is something dealt with much more head on, with the rape/murder of Loralee Sherman being the initial cause of these murders and the killer specifically targeting those who just say no to sex giving this film both a more ballsy and more risqué edge that you normally don’t see in those safe teeny bopper horrors of the Nineties.

But the real reason to watch this film is that is highlights another truly unique and tragic performance by Brittany Murphy. While her character completely contradicts itself simply to propel the story, there’s a train wreck quality to Murphy that cannot be denied. One minute she’s the virginal sheriff’s daughter saying no to her boyfriend in the backseat of his car and the next she’s having him suck her toes and peeling off her clothes to protect her from the murderer. All of this is performed through the gorgeously big and tear-filled eyes of someone who unfortunately seemed to have felt too much and lived a little too close to the edge. While she is playing the final girl heroine really well here, you feel as if she is still dancing a little too close to the danger simply for the thrill of it all. Hers is a fantastically spunky and quirky performance in CHERRY FALLS and one of the main reasons it’s so good.

The rest of the performances here are fun too. Biehn brings his usual intensity, Jay Mohr offers up a surprisingly straightforward and serious performance, and there’s even an appearance by DJ Qualls as one of the nerds intent on losing his virginity at the party. Coupled with some really in your face gore, CHERRY FALLS is one potent little slasher that is a head above most of the films of its era.

Short Film Premiering this week at the Boston Underground Film Festival!


Directed by Alex DiVincenzo
Written by Alex DiVincenzo & James Cilano
Starring Alexander Gauthier, Jamie Lyn Bagley, Michael Thurber, William DeCoff, Monica Saviolakis, Morgan Walsh and Jordan Pacheco
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Recently playing at the Boston Underground Film Festival, TROUSER SNAKE is a fun concept that really doesn’t get a chance to go past its name in the short runtime of this bit of truncated cinema.

Men often accuse their penis of having a mind of its own, and in this film it seems to be true--and this mind seems to be intent on eating women alive! Hokey and fun, TROUSER SNAKE plays mostly for laughs and achieves the cheesy kind of laughs associated with old school 50s monster movies.

Unfortunately, the short feels more like a preview of a film rather than a complete story. This definitely feels like a proof of concept work to garner interest in order to get funding for a bigger full length feature. But consider my interest garnered, because if the humor and tone can be conveyed into something bigger, I’d definitely be interested.

When TROUSER SNAKE is released wide, hopefully I’ll be able to share it at the end of the column in my “And finally…” section. Until then, look for it at a film festival near you!

New this week on DVD from Indican Pictures!


Directed by John Schneider
Written by John Schneider
Starring Kane Hodder, R.A. Mihailoff, Bill Moseley, Brea Grant, Dane Rhodes, Malcolm Danare, Don Shanks, Rachel Alana Handler, Amy Brassette, Ritchie Montgomery, John Schneider, Michael Berryman, John Kassir, Aiden Flowers, Andrew Bowen, Wayne Pére, Shanna Forrestall, David Jensen, Adria Tennor, Jeff Galpin
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Anyone who has been to a horror convention or a fan expo or a comic convention should know that the life of a con celebrity isn’t the most glamorous. Sure there are the big stars that are shipped in from the studios for the day, but those don’t count. I’m talking about the guys who go on tour with the cons, making money out of the obscure celebrity they’ve carved out for themselves from that one role in that one movie all those years ago. Anyone who has seen THE WRESTLER has seen a snippet of this kind of life and while I don’t want to make a broad comment that all of these convention stars are in the same boat, I’ve seen enough of them at cons and talked with many of them to know that it’s a hard life. Still, it’s a living and I respect these guys who I see over and over at the various cons I attend as much for living it as I do for starring in that one role in that one movie all of those years ago.

SMOTHERED is a love letter to all of those former/semi/past celebrities who you’ve seen lining the exterior of the cons signing the glossies, smiling until their faces crack for photos, and living from one con to the next. The film itself stars quite a few celebrities of horror and, at times, feels somewhat like an EXPENDABLES of horror, minus a few key horror icons like Robert Englund, Doug Bradley, and maybe Brad Dourif. Still, the ones who did show up to star in SMOTHERED seem to have had a blast making it and also seem to still have a lot of talent to carry a movie themselves as they may have done all those years ago.

And what a cast it is. Kane Hodder is stepping into the lead role, and as I’ve seen before in some of his more obscure and hockey-maskless roles (EXIT 33, THE AFFLICTED, & EXIT TO HELL), he is a good actor and a strong presence in front of the camera. Here he calls the shots of the group confidently, chasing dreams and being both optimistic and hopeful even when the bodies of his compadres start piling up. Along with Hodder, Don Shanks is the other true standout here and the biggest surprise as he owns every scene he is in, playing the coolest man in the room despite his age—buff as all get-out and still possessing that cold stare he cast as Michael Myers many moons ago. Who’d have thunk he was able to be so confident, chilling, and strong in this pic? I didn’t but now, I kind of want to see Shanks star in everything and get a shot to show how damn cool he is to more people.

The rest of the cast have fun supporting roles. RA “TCMIII’s Leatherface” Mihailov has fun as the group’s fraidy cat while TCMII’s Chop-Top Bill Moseley doesn’t have a lot to do with his character, which is obviously supposed to have been for Robert Englund. Other obscuriosities such as Malcolm Danare who was the fat kid who was run down by the flaming car in CHRISTINE, THE HILLS HAVE EYES’ Michael Berryman, Crypt-Keeper John Kassir, and writer/director John Schneider himself appear in key roles. The lovely Brea Grant literally rounds out the cast with enormous fake boobs which may or may not have something to do with the title of the film (**SPOILER**they do**END SPOILER**). Grant seems to be having a great time turning the tables and inflicting the horror upon these icons instead of being on the chopping end of things, as she usually is as the damsel.

The film itself is a little bit odd, a little bit genius, and a little bit off at times. There are genuine moments of laugh out loud funny as these horror icons aren’t too big in the britches to laugh at themselves. The timeline flips and flops around, but somehow Schneider never lost me despite all of this. There’s also a lot of typed out captions describing which character is which, what part of the timeline the movie is taking place in, and highlighting key lines from the cast. These captions bordered on annoying, but did serve a purpose for the narrative, so I understand why he did them. The quotes from the script are slightly masturbatory, but the cast at times is a lot of fun and waiting to see what the context the pull quote takes in the upcoming scene did add to the fun of this film.

The only minor annoyance is the fact that instead of Leatherface, when referring to RA Mahailov’s character he plays in the movies we get Quiltface. Instead of Jason, there’s Mason. Instead of Freddy, it’s Teddy. Surprisingly, typing out what these guys’ iconic roles were in their captioned bios is included, but naming them verbally seems to be a no-no. I’d have preferred not to name those names rather than coming up with corny alternatives, but that’s just a small pet peeve in an otherwise fun film.

The true highlight of the film lies in the honor director/writer John Schneider has placed on the shoulders of these horror icons. Like THE EXPENDABLES, he treats these guys like battle-scarred soldiers who can’t leave the war behind them (or in this case, the movies that made them famous). In doing so, he casts this motley crew in an instantly likable light, making us root for them as they search for that golden goose at the end of the rainbow or that second chance at superstardom. Schneider’s adoration for these guys, this genre, and this lifestyle is present throughout SMOTHERED and while there may be a few stumbles along the way, it proved to be a fun film true horror fans are bound to appreciate.

New on DVD from Brain Damage Releasing!


Directed by Miguel Müller
Written by Scott Bunt, Rodrigo Goulart, & Miguel Müller
Starring Jules Hartley, Danielle Baker, Circus-Szalewski, Phillip Andre Botello, Danny Arroyo, Ted Jonas, Megan Hui, Julianne Dowler, Sean Patrick McGowan, Peter Paul Basler, Aidan Marus, Glen Talley
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

While it’s guilty of quite a few found footage blunders and clichés, THE BEFORE TIME manages to have quite a few shocking moments and a likable cast acting like they aren’t acting.

The premise of this one is somewhat new. A pair of rival news stations team up to film a reality show pitting the two teams together on one assignment and seeing the sparks fly between the rival news crews who are too self-absorbed to realize the danger they are wandering into. This danger takes the shape of an ancient Native American curse and an ancient treasure lost in a particular region of the desert.

There have been other found footagers dealing with lost treasure in the desert and a curse that goes along with it. Both THE GARLOCK INCIDENT and DARK MOUNTAIN, among others, have dealt with similar themes. But this one at least has a pretty interesting monster or monsters haunting the desert after the gold is found. While we only get a few brief glimpses, the look of the Native American ghosts are really nicely done and the scares they elicit throughout the story are surprisingly well done.

That said, this film has two of the most overused scenes from found footage films. Both the BLAIR WITCH up-snout confessional shot and the [REC] drag away to your death shot are used here. These two scenes have been used so many times and parodied an equal amount. The word to future found footage filmmakers: do not use any variation of these scenes. They are overplayed, tired, and are why found footage films have such a bad name these days. That said, the cast is convincing and this story does have a nice theme of how self-absorbed and self-important the news has become. I just wish they would not have resorted to those clichéd shots, because there’s much more to this film than that.

New this week in select theaters, available on iTunes and On Demand next week from XLRATOR Media!


Directed by John Suits
Written by Dustin T. Benson
Starring Rachel Nichols, Missi Pyle, Alfie Allen, Mekhi Phifer, Paul Guilfoyle, Danielle Rose Russell, Jaime Gallagher, Amanda Baker, Matt Socia, Dominic Bogart, Brandon Higa
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Taking the found footage method up a notch, PANDEMIC takes a page from the upcoming HARDCORE HENRY film and offers up a first-person shooter feel to the zombie apocalypse.

By now, zombie films and found footage films have become so common, the mere mention of them causes people to flee in terror as if the real zombie apocalypse is going on. Mixing the two seems like an exercise in futility in terms of standing out from the norm. Films like THE ZOMBIE DIARIES and its sequel had middling success in mixing the two films as did Romero’s DIARY OF THE DEAD, though less so. PANDEMIC, while still a first person POV film, resembles a first person shooter game as it supplies the viewer with the view of the operating end of the machine gun, knife, fist, or whatever is being used against the undead hordes infected with a virus that infects, incubates, renders comatose, and finally evolves the diseased into a flesh eating non-person. One doctor (Rachel Nichols) is sent out with a driver (Alfie Allen), a soldier (Mekhi Phifer), and a scientist (Missi Pyle) to retrieve a previous research and rescue group who disappeared within the infected territory.

Though this type of film has been made before, this is a nice installment into the zombie/found footage genre. For the most part, it adheres to the found footage rules with only a few cheats. These cheats are rather distracting as occasionally, we see a camera shot that is not coming from one of the helmet cams of the research team and more distracting, there is a musical score to highlight times when we are supposed to jump or become scared. When these things occur in a found footage film, I’m immediately taken out of the film because unless a symphony orchestra followed this team into the quarantine zone, there’s no reason music should be in footage captured on a military helmet cam.

What distracted me from these derivations from the found footage rules were the great performances from a truly varied and talented cast. Nichols, Pyle, Phifer, and Allen are all fully committed to their roles and offer up an interesting group of folks to take a ride with through the zombie apocalypse.

On top of that, there are some really nicely choreographed moments of terrifying zombie ambush and mayhem paired with some truly horrifying moments of suspense as this group of likable heroes trudge though the dark trying not to be noticed. While the monsters and the motif of the story have been used way too much in recent years, director John Suits knows how to set up a nice tense scene and some great scenes of balls to the wall action and carnage. The film really is relentless and non-stop with the terror-filled action from start to finish and rarely stops to catch its breath. So while this is familiar territory, Suits and this fun genre cast do a lot to make PANDEMIC a worthwhile trip into the danger zone.

Available this week On Demand, VHX Download, and Limited Edition VHS from Moondog Media!


Directed by Jerry J. White III
Written by Raymond Creamer, Sarah Carman, Jerry J. White III
Starring Callie Ott, Raymond Creamer, Schell M. Peterson, Ellie Cecala, Cory Coleman, Gary Crites, Lexi Moeller, Bridget Mulcahy, Kayla Nocera, Chris Oliver
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

File THE HORROR under slow burn horror, but damn if this one isn’t a scorcher of a film that takes its time to burrow deep before a truly tragic and horrifying end.

THE HORROR has me won over in the opening moments, as we are taken on a handheld camera journey to Crybaby Bridge in Lima, Ohio. Being a resident of Lima for the earliest portions of my life, I remember, like the kids doing the filming, taking my camcorder to Crybaby Bridge, right off of Greely Chapel Road on the edge of Lima, Ohio in hopes of capturing images of ghosts and strange happenings. These opening moments filled me with so much nostalgia I almost popped.

The film, though, is not found footage, as we are quickly transitioned to a home office where a therapist named Kristen (Schell M. Peterson) is meeting with a young woman who seems to have experienced much trauma in her short life. This woman, Isabelle (Callie Ott), has recently lost her parents in a car accident and soon after was attacked at her summer home in Bear Lake, Michigan by home invaders. Having survived those experiences, Isabelle’s main concern is the well being of her twin brother Malcolm (Raymond Creamer) who witnessed his parents’ deaths and the latter home invasion. While Isabelle has sought out therapy, Malcolm has chosen to hole up in the summer home where the invasion occurred, not interacting with anyone and chopping holes in the frozen lake with an axe until he passes out from exhaustion. Isabelle worries that this is an unhealthy choice and having visited him numerous times, she is afraid his sanity is dissipating the longer he stays there.

This is a slow dispersion of sanity tale that echoes far past when the credits roll. THE HORROR offers up both a deeply disturbed tale of psychological terror as well as a horrifying home invasion sequence that chills all my bones. Much of the film is without dialog as we simply follow Malcolm through his day to day seclusion, and actor Raymond Creamer is fascinating as this deeply disturbed man. But just as the silent moments resonate endlessly, the therapy sessions are also quite transfixing as the therapy session actually seems to be something that unfolds naturally. Having experience in the therapy profession, it was refreshing for me to see this type of therapeutic logic and insight added to the script. This is a meticulously planned out film that offers up just enough information to hint at dire times to come, but not enough to give you the whole story so you are truly shocked at what happens.

Somewhat similar in tone to Mickey Keating’s insane masterpiece POD, this low budget horror film shows that big budgets are not needed for effective scares. Masterfully plotted, simply performed, deftly acted, and mesmerizingly terrifying, THE HORROR is everything one would want in a psychological horror film. Those looking for a smash/bang horror film should venture elsewhere. This film is painstakingly patient in the way it hints at all kinds of horrors before it actually shows its hand. Unlike much of the horror out there today, THE HORROR is something worth seeking out.

In select theaters today from Screen Media Films!

DARLING (2015)

Directed by Mickey Keating
Written by Mickey Keating
Starring Lauren Ashley Carter, Sean Young, John Speredakos, Brian Morvant, Larry Fessenden, Helen Rogers
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Mickey Keating is proving to be a force to reckon with in the horror genre. He’s currently dazzling folks at festivals with CARNAGE PARK (which I am dying to see). He knocked my socks off last year with the paranoid masterpiece POD. And somewhere in the middle he managed to film another one, the subject of this review, DARLING.

DARLING tells a simple descent into madness tale of a lonely girl named Darling (Lauren Ashley Carter, who is racking up quite the horror resume starring in THE WOMAN, JUG FACE, and the aforementioned POD) who applies for a job as a caretaker in a townhome in a big city. The owner of the building, simply called Madame (Sean Young, Carter’s co-star in JUG FACE), warns Darling that something horrible happened to the previous caretaker resulting in her death. Unfazed by this ominous warning, Darling takes the job and moves in. Immediately she finds a necklace with an upside down cross hanging from it which seems to belong to the previous caretaker, but that’s just the beginning of the spooky happenings as doors close, hallways shift, and Darling begins having visions of ghostly forms roaming through the rooms. Darling doesn’t run out of the place screaming, though. She simply ignores the obvious signs of haunting and remains in the building and, thus, slowly goes insane.

DARLING is Mickey Keating exercising his more experimental muscles. Some might call this film a bit pretentious as it is mostly dialog free, filmed in black and white, and doesn’t offer any easy answers for the viewer. Personally, I found myself transfixed by Keating’s choice in setting, elegant décor, eclectic music, and unique imagery he chooses to focus on rather than spoon-feed a typical narrative to us. Reminiscent of Polanski’s REPULSION, DARLING offers up a quiet and powerful view of a woman being swallowed up in a home due to her own paranoia (and a little bit of the supernatural), which eventually leads to her seclusion from the outside world and the destruction of anyone who enters Darling’s home. Despite its artsy delivery, the film is thorough in accentuating the deep dark descent into Darling’s madness.

The thing that makes this film so transfixing is Lauren Ashley Carter, through and through. Carter is an absolute beauty, but also possesses a soulfulness most young actresses simply don’t possess. While she moves in a dreamlike trance through most of this film, reacting in a manner that is more and more alien as her soul seems to be sucked away by the house she is residing in, her eyes are hypnotizing and convey a sense of melancholy that simply touches the soul. Keating’s camera is obviously in love with Carter as he makes her look beautiful be she covered in tears, screaming in horror, or bathed in blood. Carter makes this film soar because of her simple presence in her quiet stare and giant sullen brown eyes. Carter is a gift to horror, and hopefully she is comfortable and stays in this genre as she is able to convey emotional depth while being a ravishing beauty all at once. Her descent is convincing here because she is so convincing every step of the way.

Less substantial than POD as it feels Keating was interesting in doing something simple in between the paranoid nightmare that was POD and the dark road trip film CARNAGE PARK, DARLING is powerful in its silence and beauty. Through Keating’s artistic lens and his threadbare story, DARLING’s resonance comes from its simplicity and the truly astounding star power of Lauren Ashley Carter. This one is not for big budget horror freaks, but if you like your paranoia at a personal level, DARLING will definitely fill the bill.

New in select theaters and On Demand today from Vertical Entertainment!


Directed by Nick Simon
Written by Robert Morast, Osgood Perkins, Nick Simon
Starring Claudia Lee, Kal Penn, Mitch Pileggi, Katharine Isabelle, Christy Carlson Romano, Kenny Wormald, Eva Bourne, Toby Hemingway, Miranda Rae Mayo, Toby Levins, Autumn Kendrick, Luke Baines, Kathryn Kirkpatrick, Oliver Seitz, Corey Schmitt
Find out more about this film on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

One of the final films produced by Wes Craven is a truly horrifying little piece of stalker cinema. While all of the familiar beats are there from your favorite stalker/slasher films, there’s a higher caliber of tension and thrills attached to this perverse and petrifying little film.

Claudia Lee plays Colleen, a cashier at a grocery store in the quiet town of Spearfish. Colleen is stuck with a dead end job and a dead end boyfriend in this dead end town, and seems doomed to watch her youth fade from the banality of it all--that is, until she receives photographs via email of what looks to be a bloody and beaten dead body posed exactly in the same poses as the models in photographer Peter Hemmings’ (Kal Penn) most famous works. Colleen is terrified of the photos she finds, but without a body, the police chief (the always awesome Mitch Pileggi) doesn’t take it seriously. Peter is fascinated with the photographs, which elevate his work to a “whole notha level” and heads to Spearfish to take some inspiring shots with a bevy of models. Seeing Colleen in the grocery store and finding out she is the one who received the photos, Peter invites Colleen to a party as his house. In the meantime, a pair of masked monsters are abducting people and photographing them just before they meet their deaths and with everyone gathering at a model party, they take it upon themselves to crash it…bloodily.

From top to bottom this feels like a Wes Craven film. While he most likely didn’t write or direct any of it, his mark is all over this. There’s a bit of SCREAM here, as this film once again involves small town celebrity and all of the horror it can bring. There’s also references to soul stealing and the power of photography as the images the killers capture in their photos are beautiful and inspiring to some, terrifying and nauseating to others. Much of this film focuses on the power of the camera and the imagery it creates. Penn’s character is an exploiter of this power, while other characters covet what the photos represent and still others are terrified by them. Seeing this cross-section of reactions to these photos makes this feel like a well-thought out dissection of the subject matter done by intelligent and deft writers (again, reminiscent of the dream analysis and other psychological aspects Craven often delved into in his films).

There are a lot of by the numbers beats that go on in this film. There’s the virginal final girl, the typical cat and mouse, the absent parents, the disinterested lawmen, and of course the big party gathering in the end where the killers make like a fatty at an all you can eat buffet. But the extra thought put into the photography motif, a fresh and talented cast of likable characters (including a really phenomenally douchey performance by Kal Penn), and the viciousness of the murders themselves make this one stand out as something special.

I loved this film for the brutality and spunk it conveyed throughout. Not one person is an idiot in this film, and not one kill is without absolute terror accompanying it as the masked killers torment their prey before killing them. But what really sold me on this film were the final moments that ended up being so absolutely scary that I felt blown back in my chair. Stick with this film until the end, even though it might seem like you’ve seen it before. There are a few slasher films like FRIDAY THE 13TH, TOURIST TRAP, and HALLOWEEN that contain final moments that make you reel backwards with sheer brute force. THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS might be late to the game, but it still is one of those horror films.

Coming soon: Currently touring festivals!


Directed by Greg Lamberson
Written by Paul McGinnis
Starring Jessica Zwolak, Debbie Rochon, Paul McGinnis, Michael Thurber, Lloyd Kaufman, Sam Qualiana, Robert Bozek, Brittani Hare, Michael O'Hear, Alexander S. McBryde, Tim O'Hearn, Julian Dickman, Sephera Giron, and Brooke Lewis as The Killer Rack!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

I’m sure no one is going into KILLER RACK looking for Shakespeare, and if you go in with the right kind of attitude, you might just have some fun with this low fi boobie body horror.

Betty (Jessica Zwolak) suffers from an inferiority complex. Her female coworkers in the office get the promotions and raises, the other girls on the street get hooted and hollered at, and her boyfriend is more interested in going to the strip club than making out. All of these women in Betty’s life have one thing in common—big boobs. Betty, on the other hand, does not, But when she becomes fed up with society’s fascination with the well endowed, she goes to Dr. Thulu (scream queen Debbie Rochon), who offers up an almost supernatural method of plastic surgery that guarantees she will be noticed. But after her breast enhancement, her knockers start having a mind of their own and devour anyone who gets too close to the hungry areolas. Now Betty has to beat her admirers off with a stick, but as her popularity grows, so do her boobs’ hunger and the more the boobs feast, the bigger they get!

KILLER RACK has the same type of fun mixing sex and horror that films like FRANKENHOOKER have done before. Not a second of this film should be taken seriously and while most body horror goes for the gut, this one targets the funny bone and is pretty successful in doing so. Now, I’m not going to say that this is one of the smartest films ever made, but it does do gutter humor decently and has a lot of fun making crass boob jokes for its entire runtime.

The effects are equally decent, if not crude and rudimentary. There’s a heaping dose of blood and gore in this film, not including the boobs themselves that have spiked teeth for areolas and tear people apart in the final act. Like the humor and production level of this film, the effects are pretty crude, but I have to admit the effects in the final scenes are downright fun.

KILLER RACK is campy fun. I was especially surprised at how PG rated this film is. For a film centering on a killer set of funbags, there is very little nudity and a story that ends up being kind of sweet by the end. Adding to the fun are over the top performances by Debbie Rochon and Lloyd Kaufman as a boob-fixated psychologist. This is kitsch filmmaking from the corny humor to hammy delivery of dialog to the hokey theme music. There is no high caliber filmmaking at play here. KILLER RACK is filmmaking from the gutter and unabashedly proud of it!

And finally…here’s yet another radio play from yesteryear, this dark tale from the horror series LIGHTS OUT is called “Munghara!”

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 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.

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