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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. Before we head into this week’s reviews, I wanted to let folks know about my own new website, which will serve as both an archive for my thousands of horror movie reviews as well as updates on my own upcoming comic book projects. I’m just beginning the archive, but it will be a one stop shop for all of my reviews all categorized and lumped in one place. So zip over to and let me know what you think of it!

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On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

HAPPY F13 – A look at FRIDAY THE 13TH: HELL LAKE Novel (2005)
The Boo Tube: SCREAM Season One (2015)
Retro-review: VAMPIRES (1986)
THE BOY (2016)
HIGH RISE (2015)
Advance Review: TICKLED (2016)
And finally…Steve Rudzinski’s THE SURVIVORS!

HAPPY FRIDAY THE 13TH Book Creeport!


Written by Paul A. Woods
Published by BlackFlame in 2005 (Out of Print)
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

So since I’m getting closer and closer to running out of FRIDAY THE 13TH films to review, I figured I’d do something a little different this time around and take a look at one of the BlackFlame novels that were released continuing the tales of Jason Voorhees and all of the horrors he enacts upon those who are unfortunate enough to cross his path near Crystal Lake. BlackFlame released a series of five books under the FRIDAY THE 13TH Banner and four more under the JASON X Banner, all of which have become extremely rare to find these days. I was lucky enough to pick up four of the five books when they were released, but had never really sat down to read them. It’s a shame, though, that these books have been out of print, as I feel they would be prime fodder to be bought up and collected in a massive tome by some publisher looking to have all the money from the scores of FRIDAY THE 13TH fans out there ravenous for new material about their favorite masked serial killer. Now, there is no news yet about rereleasing these books, but I figure a little attention in this here column might be a nice impetus to get people talking about these books again and maybe, someday, they’ll see the light of day once again.

HELL LAKE is technically the second of these five releases, but the first I read, and since most of the books are standalone, it doesn’t matter what order they are read in. The premise of this book written by Paul A. Woods is a winner: Jason tooling about the lowest level of Hell, where all of the serial killers are sent to after they die. The occupants of this realm wander around aimlessly, occasionally running into and fighting each other, only to find both the winner and loser showing up again in the same level for eternity. It’s in Hell that Jason meets Wayne “Devilboy” Sanchez, a Night Stalker-like serial killer who idolizes Jason and carves satanic images and words into the flesh of his victims. Knowing Jason to be somewhat of a loner, Sanchez keeps his distance, but manages to spark as close of a kinship as one can have with the masked monster. Sanchez convinces Jason to lead a charge in one direction in Hell—up, killing everyone in his way to keep the portal between Earth and Hell open enough for them to ascend to the next upper level of hell and continue to do so with the rest of the killers from the lowest level behind them, ascending to the top of Hell and exploding outward from the waters of Crystal Lake. Now the entire East Coast is overrun with criminals, rapists, and murderers and, of course, Jason is free to return to Camp Crystal Lake and torment the community, who regard Jason as a local myth to scare tourists and keep the kids in line. A group of kids who witnessed the explosion in the lake are pursued not only by the local police for questioning, but also the killers and Jason themselves. After the kids fight for their lives against rapists and murders, they are brought in for questioning by the cops who refuse to believe the long-thought dead killers have returned to life. Also, a late in the story development has one of the more unstable kids, Gretchen, somehow possessed by the spirit of Pamela Voorhees and sharing a link with Jason.

So, yeah, there’s a lot going on in this book and only some of it works. I will say that on the surface the whole thing feels a bit fan fic-y, but writer Paul A. Woods does a decent enough job filling up an entire book with this fan fic-y story. I like the idea of a story following Jason into Hell. This fulfills the promise JASON GOES TO HELL never kept, and the scenes where Wayne is trying to cautiously deal with Jason without being killed by him are some of the best in the book. I also liked the concept of Hell bursting open and the worst of its occupants returning to the world all at once, causing a nationwide murder and chaos spree. While that concept feels larger in scope than what one usually gets in a FRIDAY THE 13TH story, writer Woods keeps things grounded by flipping between location (Hell and Crystal Lake) and time (before Jason makes it out of Hell and after) and filling in the gaps with some pretty decent kills I wouldn’t mind seeing reenacted on screen some day. The scenes of Jason charging like a berserker through the masses of his roomies in Hell are well described, as are a lot of the attack scenes where Jason seems bent on finding Gretchen, who witnessed his resurrection and somehow has the voice of Mama Voorhees in her head.

While the movie series is full of WTF moments like Pamela Voorhees rising from the lake in Part 3, Tina’s dad rising well preserved after ten years of being fish food in Part 7, or Jason melting into toxic goo in Part 8, this book has plenty of those moments as well. Psychic links have been established before in the movies, as Tina and Jason seem to have some kind of rapport in Part 7 and Tommy and Jason seem to have their souls linked in Part 5, so the inclusion of this psychic rapport between Gretchen and the ghost of Pamela Voorhees isn’t so far out of left field. What’s more hard to fathom is Wayne and Jason’s link, as the two seem to have spent so much time in Hell together they are now seeing their kills through each other’s eyes. It may be one link too many for this book, as more time is spent taking on Jason and Wayne (the more unexplained one) and hardly anything is left to delve into the late in the game Gretchen and Pamela connection (the one that I was more interested in). I’d be interested in hearing what Pamela has to say about how her boy has grown up, but every scene where Gretchen channels Pamela is described rather than heard. This is unfortunately the case too many times to count in this book, as Woods prefers to tell us about the scene rather than show us--a cardinal rule of writing that is broken more times than one would think in HELL LAKE.

The book also loses focus numerous times, as Woods seems to forget that this is a FRIDAY THE 13TH story and seems more interested in writing about the kids at the lake, the police detectives on the case, and more distractingly, Wayne and the other escaped inmates of Hell and their shenanigans. Too much of this book is dedicated to filler, seemingly trying to get a decent page count rather than elaborating on characters that are crucial to the plot. The often quick pacing you get in a FRIDAY THE 13TH film just isn’t there. Sure, this is the difference between books and film; you’re able to delve into the bits only suggested in a musical beat or a slight nuance or a directorial trick, but I kind of wish Woods would have been a little more picky as to what he decides to elaborate on.

What I’m seeing in these FRIDAY THE 13TH novels, though, are ideas I would love to see realized onscreen. While the entire story of HELL LAKE isn’t perfect, the concept of what happens in between installments when Jason seems to die is an interesting one. One also wonders what other movie maniacs who seemingly die in the last act of their sequels might occupy Jason’s corner of Hell and if that might be a good impetus to toss Jason and Michael Myers into battle with each other or have a Freddy rematch or even a tussle/team-up with Chucky. And for every misstep Woods makes, like having Jason lose his mask early on in the story only to replace it with a welding mask or having him wear a flesh mask a la Leahterface for a tick, HELL LAKE gets quite a bit right. The kills are quite graphically described and gory, many of which really having a more thematic heft than the usual machete to the forehead. Woods delves somewhat briefly into Jason’s psychosis involving the covering of his face at all times and the bullying he received as a kid. I liked these little glimpses into Jason’s brain pan, and it’s one of the main reasons I like these book as they add another fun layer to a movie franchise no true horror fan can help but love.

Happy Friday the 13th, folks! Let me know if you want me to delve into some of the other FRIDAY THE 13TH books in this BlackFlame series. And scream it loud and proud that you want these books back in print and collected somewhere! These books are pretty freaking expensive to buy online, so a re-release would be amazing. No FRIDAY fan should be without these fun little reads, so let whomever it is who owns the rights to these books know we want to see these books available again!

Links to previous FRIDAY THE 13TH Coverage!
Ambush Bug on the IT’S ALWAYS FRIDAY THE 13TH Podcast!
AICN HORROR - CANNIBAL HORRORCAST picks their favorite Friday the 13TH!
FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)/FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) Review
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 (1982) Review

New this week on DVD/BluRay and digital download from Anchor Bay Home Entertainment!

SCREAM Season One (2015)

Series Created by Jay Beattie, Jill E. Blotevogel, Dan Dworkin
Directed by Jamie Travis, Tim Hunter, Brian Dannelly, Julius Ramsay, Leigh Janiak, Rodman Flender, Ti West
Written by Jay Beattie, Jill E. Blotevogel, Dan Dworkin, David Coggeshall Jordan Rosenberg, Meredith Glynn, Erin Maher, Kay Reindl, Jamie Paglia (screenplay), Kevin Williamson (original story and screenplay)
Starring Willa Fitzgerald, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Carlson Young, John Karna, Tracy Middendorf, Amadeus Serafini, Jason Wiles, Tom Maden, Mike Vaughn, Amelia Rose Blaire, Connor Weil, Bobby Campo, Bryan Batt, Brianne Tju, Bella Thorne, Sosie Bacon, Sophina Brown, Anthony Hill, Lindsay Musil, Bryce Romero, Tom Everett Scott, Anna Grace Barlow, Shona Gastian, Lenore Banks, Max Lloyd-Jones
Find out more about this series on its Facebook page here!
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Having seen all of the SCREAM films and none of the TV series, I was looking forward to seeing how MTV’s serial would measure up. Would it be fresh and fun, like the first SCREAM, or a stale rehash like SCREAM 4? Turns out it lies somewhere firmly in the middle.

The ten episodes of the first season open much like the original film: with Nina, a pretty girl all alone, being called by a mysterious stranger. While the caller doesn’t really quiz the pretty teen abut her knowledge of horror films, he does try to trick her by posing as her boyfriend and ends up getting her out in the open to kill her. Nina’s death rocks the sleepy town of Lakewood. It turns out Nina is one of the elite cool kids of her high school and very active in the fine art of cyber-bullying. One particular target is Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus), who is filmed making out with her girlfriend and outed as a lesbian to the entire school. The death of Nina unearths one of the town’s most notorious secrets, serial killer Brandon James, a hideously deformed man who was accused of murdering students a generation ago and murdered (of course, his body was never recovered). Many other twists and turns occur as the cast is introduced in the first episode and sets the tone. This series’ Sydney is Emma (Willa Fitzgerald), former friend of Audrey, but also part of the cool bullying kids. With her in the clique are two jocks with a secret, Jake and Will (Tom Maden and Connor Weil), poor little rich girl Brooke (Carlson Young), and nice Asian girl Riley (Brianne Tju). Adding to the list of suspects are video game/movie nerd Noah (John Karna), ultra-inquisitive crime blogger Piper (Amelia Rose Blaire), shady new kid in town Kieran (Amadeus Serafini), philandering teacher Seth (Jason Wiles), and the new sheriff Clark (Jason Wiles), who happens to be schtupping Emma’s mom and county coroner Maggie (Tracy Middendorf), who also had a thing with Brandon James many, many moons ago. Got all that? The rest of the series is a cat and mouse caper where the killer calls Emma and gives her tasks and tests hinting at the motive of the murders and the identity of the killer. By the end of the season, a killer is revealed.

First and foremost, I have to acknowledge this series for actually making modern technology a part of the storyline. These days, scary movies and even series go to great lengths to cut out the cell phone quotient by destroying the phones, having the action happen out of range, having the battery run out, or most commonly, setting the film in the past before everyone had their own mobile phone in their pocket. This TV series embraces and actually comes up with some clever moments that make having a cell phone integral to the plot and sometimes even downright scary. Inserting the concept of cyber-bullying gives the series a socially conscious edge, but it also adds a new layer in terms of possible motivations of the killer as well as challenges for the leads being connected to the web with a flick of a switch. The first episode alone has the first victim trying to dial her phone with wet fingers and having Siri not recognize “Call Police” when she whispers in the phone, and these moments feel timely and fun. Yes, Noah is a tech nerd and does that thing where they type extremely fast and lines of code type out in rapid motion on the screen in front of him, making it seem like he’s cracking some kind of code or security network, but embracing our tech connectivity rather than writing it out of the script is something I feel needs to be mentioned and applauded with this series.

What’s practically gone is the self-referential tone that put SCREAM on the map. While it is on the money about the tech-addicted culture we live in, there are only a few moments in the series that refer to horror movies, and even then it feels more like an afterthought, as if the creators forget occasionally what the original films were all about. Yes, the first episode has Noah discoursing about how “You can't do a slasher movie as a TV series”, but this feels more like an attempt at irony than the type of clever observation that the original film was filled with. This is much more of a straight up whodunnit series with some gruesome deaths and a moderately engaging storyline.

I won’t reveal who the real killer is here, though it seems MTV doesn’t care because they asininely reveal who it is in the trailer for Season 2 (which doesn’t even air until the end of the month, so those who missed the series will have the entire season spoiled if they buy the Season One disk and see these new trailers before finishing all ten episodes—like I did, you idiotic preview-making fuck-tards!). The reveal sort of makes sense, though I predicted someone else to be the killer. The series itself is actually decently acted and, I have to admit, rather addictive. I watched the entire season over one weekend and ended up finding myself invested in these teens’ plight. Yes, it’s teeny-bopper pretty people in peril, but the Whedon-esque dialog, fun characters, and many, many twists and turns had me for the long haul. I’m looking forward to the new season of SCREAM and hope the quality level is just as high, as I had a lot of fun with this series.

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


Directed by Nicholas Gessner
Written by Laird Koenig (novel & screenplay)
Starring Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen, Alexis Smith, Mort Shuman, Scott Jacoby
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Extreme levels of creep are achieved in this pretty tame but extremely suggestive thriller. THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE benefits from an amazing cast and a script that doesn’t completely “go there”, but makes you think it does over and over again.

A 13 year old Jodie Foster plays Rynn, an extremely intelligent girl who tells everyone who comes to her door that her father is either in his study or out of town, depending on when you ask her. This causes people to start talking--specifically Mrs. Hallet (Alexis Smith) and her pedophile son Frank (Martin Sheen). Turns out Rynn has a secret in the cellar of the house that answers all of the questions the nosy neighbors are having, but if they get too close to uncovering the truth, something unfortunate seems to happen to them.

First and foremost, it is simply amazing the power Jodie Foster was able to command in her performances at such a young age. She is the central figure in this film, taking up most of the screen time, and the film is never boring or meandering. Foster holds her own interacting with the adults of this film and while there is a difference in size, the sheer personality tips to her favor every time. Foster plays defensive, sorrowful, scared, controlling, manipulative, and simply childishly joyous so well, it feels like she is simply being captured on film rather than acting out a character. The film also stars BAD RONALD’s Scott Jacoby, who shares a lot of screen time with Foster, but every moment he is with her only highlights Foster’s dominant thespian presence.

Given the adultness of Foster in this film, it makes things somewhat more watchable than it would be had she played her character more innocent and girly. This film gets pretty damn dark, and does so almost immediately as Martin Sheen’s Frank arrives on her doorstep and weasels his way into her living room. Sheen is convincingly lecherous here as he first investigates Rynn’s vulnerabilities before he tries to manipulate her in getting what he wants. Every time Sheen is on screen you want to lock up your daughters, your future daughters, or the daughters of any friends and family you know.

That said, the violence turns out to be pretty mild. THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE suggests much more than it delivers, and it shows that the power of suggestion can be so much more effective than the most bloody or seedy shots of gore and depravity. Destined to creep you out more than any other film this week and most weeks, THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE is something sublimely effective in getting under your skin.

Retro-review: Available this week on DVD from Film Chest Media Group!


Directed by Len Anthony
Written by Len Anthony & James Harrigan
Starring Duane Jones, Orly Benyar, John Bly, Jackie James, Kit Jones, Robin Michaels
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

This was another rough one to get through, folks. It’s a low fi vampire flick that was considered lost and after watching it, there’s not a lot that makes me thankful it was found. This was originally going to be the second half of an anthology film called FRIGHT HOUSE that never really made it to completion. The film at least had camera work from Ernest Dickerson, who later went on to shoot some THE WALKING DEAD episodes and DO THE RIGHT THING for Spike Lee, so at least one of the folks behind this one went on to bigger and better things.

Less emphasis is focused on bloodletting and more attention is put on eternal life as a woman named Abadon poses as a headmaster of an elite college in order to recruit young and beautiful people to sap their life essence. Abadon’s opposite number is a sort of anti-vampire named Charles (played by NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’s Duane Jones) who seems to have had a previous relationship with Abadon. A youthful student is the next target of the she-vampire, and Charles is set to save her. The film is broken up by the flipping of tarot cards which only sort of correlate with the story unfolding.

Chunks of this film have not been recovered and instead, just the audio of action is played over the flipping of these Tarot cards. I was kind of impressed with the inventiveness of this scene and the pluckiness the filmmakers had to compensate for their shortcomings creatively. The film is also very dark in spots given the low quality of the film it was made on and the wear and tear it’s seen through the ages, so key scenes are simply obscured by shadows. The script has its moments as well. Most is melodramatic crap, but Duane Jones makes his lines work while the rest of the cast simply shits out their work with little conviction.

This one should be seen simply as a curiosity for vamp completists. Apparently snippets from this film were actually reused in the film NEGATIVES when VAMPIRES was originally released. This is a good time capsule flick showing off some of the more horrific styles of the Eighties. I kind of dug the retro-New Wave soundtrack, but at this point I’m stretching to find things to like about VAMPIRES. Don’t mistake this one for the John Carpenter VAMPIRES flick or you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Sorry, can’t find a trailer for this one.

Retro-review: New this week on DVD and VHS from Camp Motion Pictures!


Directed by Jack Perez
Written by Jack Perez
Starring Danny Bonaduce, Michael L. Wynhoff, Mollena Williams, Melora Walters, Gretchen Bonaduce, Michael S. Thompson
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Though it’s not quite accurate in being the first found footage style film (that prestigious accomplishment belongs to CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST), AMERICA’S DEADLIEST HOME VIDEO does predate THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, so props must be given to this film for trying something relatively new. Also, this film predates MAN BITES DOG, and while AMERICA’S DEADLIEST HOME VIDEO is not as shocking or effective as the French film, it plays around with some of the same themes.

Danny Bonasuce (yes, that Danny Bonaduce) plays Dougie, a down on his luck guy who decides to take his camera and go on a road trip across the country after he finds out his girlfriend is cheating on him. When he happens to catch a trio of no-goodniks disposing of a car with a body inside, the trio take Dougie hostage and bring them along on their cross-country crime spree. Soon Dougie is wrapped up in the crimes these malfeasants commit, and he can’t tell whether or not he’s a hostage or an active participant in these crimes.

Simply in terms of concept, I really liked AMERICA’S DEADLIEST VIDEO. So many found footage films get the core fundamentals, that being that what isn’t captured by the camera shouldn’t be in the film, that I was endeared to this film for sticking with the format from start to finish. There’s even a cool sequence towards the end where the rampaging criminals run into a group of cops being filmed by a COPS-style camera crew that really does make the meta multiply.

The acting is simply ok and what would be expected from the often hammy Bonaduce. This film does feature a very young and very naked Melora Waters from Paul Thomas Anderson’s films, so it has that going for it. And while it does stick to its guns and keep having things happen on camera, none of the violence is going to shock hardcore horror fans. That said, simply in terms of when it was made and how it was made, AMERICA’S DEADLIEST HOME VIDEO is somewhat revolutionary and worth a watch.

New this week on DVD from Unearthed Films, MVD Visual, Invasive Image!


Directed by Kurtis Spieler
Written by Kurtis Spieler
Starring Jamie Lyn Bagley, Zach Gillette, Mark Resnik, Michael Schantz, Laurence Mullaney, Bryan Manley Davis, Ria Burns-Wilder
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

I love a good locked room mystery and while this isn’t exactly that, SHEEP SKIN unfolds like a stage play with one setting, giving the actors involved to show a lot of character and the mystery a chance to breathe.

SHEEP SKIN is a rock solid mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. Is this a supernatural tale? Or is it just a bunch of hearsay and accusations? The members of a punk rock band who kidnap a business man believe he is a werewolf and they’ve gathered information to back that theory up, as ludicrous as it sounds. The businessman admits to having an affair with the sister of the lead punk, but thinks his kidnappers are nuts for thinking he’s a creature of the night. But the punks don’t believe him and decide to wait the night out until the full moon rises to make sure their theories are true. As soon as the businessman sprouts one hair, tooth, or claw, they have a gun full of silver bullets ready for him.

The thing SHEEP SKIN does well is really keep you guessing up to the final moments of this film as to whether this is a werewolf story or just a story about people paranoid enough to believe in the creatures existing. Writer/director Kurtis Spieler keeps this secret guarded until it is absolutely the last moment as to what the man bound to the chair really is. The answer is provided in the final moments (and I won’t reveal it here), but I will say that the reveal is satisfying and makes sense in regard to the info given to us throughout the film.

The acting here is kind of hit and miss. The two lead punks, played by Michael Schantz and Ria Burns-Wilder are decent actors and deliver their roles effectively. The businessman in peril bound to the chair is played by Laurence Mullaney who has a peculiar delivery which seems perfect for the slimy businessman he plays, but the volume of his voice is so low that it was difficult to understand him at times. Still, Mullaney exuded an untrustworthy vibe which really does play well into the mystery as to whether or not he’s going to wolf out any second or not. The rest of the small cast are decent here as well, but the acting is not the draw or the focus of this film, the one question about whether werewolves exist or not is always front and center.

This isn’t a big film. What effects this film has are pretty modest and there are no expansive sets or elaborate technical aspects to SHEEP SKIN. But it does unfold a mystery with a steady and patient, and most importantly, rather capable hand, so fans of slow burn stories are going to want to seek this one out if it crosses your path.

New this week on BluRay/DVD from Universal Home Entertainment!

THE BOY (2016)

Directed by William Brent Bell
Written by Stacey Menear
Starring Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, James Russell, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, Ben Robson, Jett Klyne, Lily Pater, Stephanie Lemelin
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

While the more deserving film named THE BOY (reviewed here) released by Chiller never had a wide theatrical release, this other film called THE BOY that’s on the slab to be reviewed today came and went pretty quickly from theaters. But though it still isn’t as good as the terrible tyke film, THE BOY 2016 isn’t as bad as its hasty retreat from theaters might suggest.

Greta (THE WALKING DEAD’s Lauren Cohen) is looking for a new start to reinvent herself after getting out of an abusive relationship, so she ships off to the English countryside to take a job as a nanny in a mansion owned by a pair of eccentric elderly folk. Once she arrives she finds out that she is to be the nanny not to a rambunctious child, but a doll named Brahms that the elderly couple has been taking care of as if it were a real, live boy. Unable to turn down the money the couple is willing to give her, Greta agrees though she thinks the whole thing is creepy as hell. Scoffing at the list of duties that must be followed to the T, Greta sets out to enjoy these cake duties and ignores the doll in its room. But strange things begin to happen that suggest Brahms is actually alive. While she is creeped out at first, she begins to form a kinship with the doll, not knowing that doing so is only sealing her fate.

The main problem with THE BOY is the pacing. Greta is convinced the doll is somehow alive way too easily and while there seem to be supernatural forces at work, she seems comfortable to accept it way too early in the game. This isn’t necessarily Cohen’s fault as she does a decent job with what she’s given here. But it’s more so a problem with the script really not being paced to the point where this transition is believable.

I actually was impressed with the latter portion of THE BOY as it definitely becomes utterly unpredictable by the end of the film. The explanation as to why Brahms seems to be moving around makes sense in the context of the film and while the resolution to the film is unconventional, it’s somewhat of a throwback to films like FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (once you see it, you’ll understand, but I’m not spoiling the connection here). It’s the ending and resolution of this film that actually make me surprised that this film didn’t do better in theaters, as it definitely delivers on some solid scares and unexpected twists.

While the film turns out to be quite conventional in the first half, the ending impressed me. There are certainly other films that are much tamer and lamer that have garnered a theatrical release, so it’s a shame this one wasn’t recognized for the chances it took. Cohen is a really solid actress and proves so every episode of THE WALKING DEAD she is on, but she isn’t given much to do here and casting her as a woman crippled by abuse doesn’t seem believable given the ass she kicks on TV. But the ending, Cohan’s presence, and some solid twists in the latter half of this film makes it better than it should be and I think many will have a lot of fun with THE BOY. Still, it’s not as good as the other THE BOY movie, but I think you’ll be somewhat surprised.

New this week in select theaters and On Demand from IFC Midnight!


Directed by Bo Mikkelsen
Written by Bo Mikkelsen
Starring Mille Dinesen, Marie Hammer Boda, Troels Lyby, Mikael Birkkjær, Ole Dupont, Benjamin Engell, Ella Solgaard, Therese Damsgaard, Rita Angela, Diana Axelsen
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Those who are sick of infected/zombie films are going to immediately go sour on WHAT WE BECOME, but if you do stick around, you’re in for an intimate, potent, and narratively sound little horror flick.

Everything seems keen in the idyllic town of Sorgenfri, Denmark. That is until reports of people getting sick in an old folks home lead to the quarantine of an entire neighborhood as gas-masked military patrol the streets, gunning down anyone who leaves their homes, and performing mysterious experiments in the neighborhood school. When teenager Gustav (Benjamin Engell) leaves his home to check in on Sonja (Marie Hammer Boda) the girl across the street who just moved into the neighborhood, he starts a series of events which endanger both families as the military move out and the infected roam the streets and try to claw their way into their quarantined home.

There are things in WHAT WE BECOME that are very typical in many infected/zombie movies. There’s the barricading of doors and windows, there’s the infected but not turned person kept inside the home, there’s the temptation to leave the secure home and venture out for answers, and the voracious attempts by the infected to get inside. All of these elements have showed up in a million and one films of this type. In many ways, WHAT WE BECOME is a very typical infected/zombie film.

That said, the combination of some solid acting, great narrative progression, and a focus on simply what is going on inside one household within one group of people makes WHAT WE BECOME a compelling piece of survivalist cinema. While things are familiar, these familiar features in this type of film are done in a competent and compelling manner. Filmmaker Bo Mikkelsen makes every scene drip with desperation and heart as we watch this family attempt to stick together and survive this horrific ordeal.

One frustrating flaw about this film is that the poster reveals a key plot point of the film. That doesn’t take away from the deft filmmaking from Bo Mikkelsen who relies very little on dialog and more so on the establishment of a dour mood, grey toned atmosphere, a Carpenter-esque synth score, unflinching action. and simple straightforward story. Though there are a lot of infected/zombie films out there, very few of them can be truly categorized as great. WHAT WE BECOME definitely is one of the great ones.

New this week on BluRay/DVD and digital download from Anchor Bay Home Entertainment!


Directed by Alejandro Amenábar
Written by Alejandro Amenábar
Starring Ethan Hawke, David Thewlis, Emma Watson, Lothaire Bluteau, Dale Dickey, David Dencik, Devon Bostick, Aaron Ashmore, Peter MacNeill, Adam Butcher, Jacob Neayem, Aaron Abrams, Catherine Disher, Julian Richings, Kristian Bruun, Wendy Lyon, Janet Porter
Find out more about this film here on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Some solid performances and intense moments of fear don’t save the convoluted and somewhat pointless film, REGRESSION from the director whose last venture into horror brought us the truly excellent THE OTHERS.

Ethan Hawke stars as super-intense detective Bruce Kenner, who is investigating a complex centering on a young girl named Angela Gray (Emma Watson) who is accusing her entire family of sexual abuse, murder, and Satanism. As Kenner continues to get wrapped up in the case, he consults a psychiatrist named Kenneth Raines (David Thewlis) who uses an experimental therapy called Regressive Therapy which takes the client back to the exact moment in time and helps them reexperience trauma in order to help remember suppressed memories. As the accusations begin flying in all directions, Kenner reaches a breaking point, yet feels he is just about to crack the case and uncover a Satanic conspiracy that has an expansively wide reach.

First things first, Ethan Hawke gets a pass for this film because he’s picked quite a few very good to phenomenal genre films over the years from PREDESTINATION to DAYBREAKERS to SINISTER to THE PURGE and THE ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 Remake. So while he goes absolutely batshit here, I was along for this one for the ride simply because I respect the actor involved, no matter how over the top he goes. But Hawke does indeed go so over the top with this one as the obsessed cop that he almost goes into parody mode. Hawke is almost immediately swept up in this conspiracy theory being woven by Angela that it’s hard to go there with him. His performance is decent, but man, does he try to sell this thing hard. The rest of the cast is convincing in their roles though; specifically Thewlis and Watson, but also lesser players like Aaron Ashmore, David Dencik, and the always amazing Dale Dickey get moments to shine brightly. There’s no doubt about the skills of this cast involved here and they make this film watchable all the way through.

That said, the procedural stuff is pretty blah here as Hawke’s Kenner simply listens to tapes over and over, moodily interviews the same people, and drives around in his car in order to crack the case. Amenábar tries his hardest to spice things up with dreams, hallucinations, and flashbacks involving white-faced robed Satanists, screeching cats, and moody atmosphere. This works only to a point and offers up some creepy moments and jump scares, but result in very little in regards to making the whole story worth telling.

Without revealing too much, this is a film reminiscent of DELIVER US FROM EVIL, THE WITCH, or even THE CRUCIBLE, but with only about half of the effectiveness of all of them. Amenabar wants to convey whiffs of conspiracy and paranoia around every corner, but Hawke’s over the top performance and the much ado about nothing ending is going to make people who watch REGRESSION more frustrated than entertained.

New this week in select theaters, On Demand, and itunes from Magnet Releasing!

HIGH-RISE (2015)

Directed by Ben Wheatley
Written by J.G. Ballard (novel), Amy Jump
Starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes, Peter Ferdinando, Sienna Guillory, Reece Shearsmith, Enzo Cilenti, Augustus Prew, Dan Renton Skinner, Stacy Martin, Tony Way, Leila Mimmack, Bill Paterson, Louis Suc, Neil Maskell, Alexandra Weaver, Julia Deakin, Victoria Wicks, Joseph Harmon, Emilia Jones, Dylan Edwards, Toby Williams, Siobhán O'Kelly, Maggie Cronin, Patrick FitzSymons, Kenneth Hadley,
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

I don’t know. This may be the last Ben Wheatley review you’ll see here on AICN HORROR. The filmmaker burst onto the scene with the effectively creepy (yet slightly overrated) KILL LIST (reviewed here), then gave us the genius and macabre road trip from hell flick SIGHTSEERS (reviewed here), and finally wobbled a little bit with the trippy Medieval drug-induced witch-hunt experiment A FIELD IN ENGLAND (reviewed here). But with each film, he seemed to be inching further and further away from the horror genre. Putting even more distance between himself and horror is Wheatley’s latest film, HIGH-RISE, which turns out to be a slickly produced, and somewhat heavy handed political statement set in the 70’s in a brand new tenement building. While there are horrific elements to this film, this definitely seems like Wheatley’s attempt to leave the genre and go into other territories. I hate to see this happen, but we can’t keep all of the great in the gnarly, yet comforting embrace of the horror genre.

Tom Hiddleston plays Laing, an up and coming doctor who just moved into a brand new deluxe apartment in a sky-scraping tenement building. This is clearly Laing’s first steps of becoming one of the elite as he meets with the owner/architect of the building (Jeremy Irons) and awkwardly hobnobs with the upper crust including domestic goddess Charlotte (Sienna Miller) and fancy businessman Pangbourne (James Purefoy) who all occupy the top floors of the tower block. But Laing isn’t snobby enough to ignore the common folk who live in the lower floors and associates with them as well including the brawny Wilder (Luke Evans) and his pregnant wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss). When the power goes out in the lower floors of the building due to structural flaws, instead of attending to the needs of the powerless down below, the upper floors decide to have a decadent party. This incites an East Coast/West Coast rivalry of sorts which continues to escalate to the point where both groups (the upper and lower floors) resort to barbarism, murder, looting, and every sort of deviant behavior you can (and can’t) imagine with Laing caught squarely in the middle of the conflict.

It is a lot of fun seeing this conflict escalate. From the get-go, Wheatley points out the differences in the two social groups that occupy the building which seems to function as it’s own insular world with a shopping center and grocery store right there on site. Areas like these and the pool area which can be occupied by both groups are where the first salvo of this war between the classes occurs and for the most part, the inciting shot that cases the fracas is well choreographed and acted out. There are also some great character moments for Hiddleston mainly (as everyone else is pretty much a symbol for one extreme class or another) such as Laing’s decision to take a fellow doctor down a few pegs by fooling him into believing he has a brain tumor. This act of spite ends up being disastrous, but also is one of the more engrossing bits of the film.

I also loved seeing the rich quickly devolve into extreme hedonism in the latter half of the film as their drug and alcohol abuse make them do the most depraved and heinous things. While much is suggested, much is actually shown, so there’s definitely a lot of shocking stuff going on.

The main problem is that it really is quite heavy handed in making it’s point of the tenement building being the perfect battle ground between the rich and the poor. The metaphor is a little too on the nose and just in case you didn’t get it beat into you with the bulk of the film pitting the have’s against the have-not’s, Wheatley throws in a radio broadcast at the very end talking about the inevitability and horrors of capitalism and its terrifying effect on the world. I have no problem with a movie tackling this topic, but if you have to have a final meme spelling out what your movie is about, you didn’t do your job with the movie itself.

While not necessarily a horror film, Wheatley’s comment on the class system does fall into the area of the tenement horror/genre films such as CITADEL, TOWER BLOCK, ATTACK THE BLOCK, JUDGE DREDD, and THE RAID: REDEMPTION—the difference being this one takes place when these buildings were pristine symbols of the new future of public housing and not run-down dinosaurs. This film also feels a bit like Cronenberg’s SHIVERS in which a killer STD runs rampant in a state of the art building not unlike the one Hiddleston’s Laing moves into in HIGH-RISE. All of those films seem to drive the point home of the horrors these complexes can turn into given the right kind of negligence from those in charge, it’s just that HIGH-RISE feels the need to explain that very point in it’s final moments to the cheap seats, seemingly in fear that the audience didn’t understanding the point.

Coming soon to theaters on June 17th from Magnolia Pictures!

TICKLED (2016)

Directed by David Farrier & Dylan Reeve
Starring David Farrier, Dylan Reeve, David Starr, Hal Karp
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

I had a chance to check out the tickling documentary TICKLED this week and was absolutely blown away. Being ticklish myself, I can’t imagine a more horrifying torture than being bound and tickled by a stranger, but beyond that, this documentary actually goes into some pretty dark territory, so while a tickling documentary at first might seem like a stretch to be covered in a horror column, after watching, you’ll see it definitely is right at home with the other ghouls and goblins that occupy this page.

The film begins innocently as an Australian journalist named David Farrier who has a history of investigating stories of an odd nature, stumbles across a “competitive endurance tickling” video and decided that investigating this weird fetish would be a fun story to tackle. But as soon as he writes the company sponsoring the “sport,” he receives a very aggressive and homophobic email in response threatening legal action if he pursues this subject further. Seeing this as a challenge and a little over the top in terms of responses to a simple inquiry, David pushes further and the deeper he gets into this secret fetish work of tickling, the creepier it gets with all trails leading to one extremely wealthy man with a pretty twisted fascination.

I dare you to try to look away from this film. From the get go with the aggressive kickback David gets upon even suggesting some kind of interview or report on the subject, it suggests something a little more seedy is at play. David and his partner Dylan Reeve do an amazing job of digging deep into this subject by talking to other tickling fetish aficionados as well as some getting testimonies of the ticklers who showed up in the tickling videos released online. These interviews reveal even more disturbing info about the person behind it all as the ticklers and ticklees reveal the abuse they have taken from participating in the events. Talking about tickling is sure to make one think this is all a laughing matter, but the deeper this fascinating documentary goes, the darker it gets.

If there is one thing this film is lacking, it’s educating the viewer just what it is about tickling that causes us to spasm and laugh. I’d have loved a brief bit about the science behind tickling, letting us know why certain areas are ticklish and others aren’t. Also, why are some people ticklish and others not so much. This really isn’t delved into at all as the focus mostly is on uncovering the secret behind the extortion, abuse, and bullying going on behind the scenes. I understand why the filmmakers chose not to go into the science of tickling. Had it been the fun story Farrier originally intended, it might have been included, but still, these are questions I had going into the film that were not answered.

TICKLED is a fascinating look at the tickling fetish world as well as a strong statement on bullying and the abuse of power. While there is no blood or gore, there is plenty of tension and views of humanity’s worst side. This is a film for fans of cinema of the odd, but the bullying aspect of the film is going to strike a chord in many who view it. The bound aspect of these tickle tournaments definitely portrays an uneven balance of power and those who get off on it. There are moments of sheer tension as David and Dylan track down the kingpin of this organization and uncover just what it is about tickling that seems to fascinate him so. The final moments definitely give us that answer and it’s an extremely morose and pitiful reason, but one that makes sense in the end. Expertly crafted and paced to make you not want to blink, TICKLED is a look at something that seems harmless, but looking deeper, will make you think twice about unleashing a tickle monster on your loved ones ever again.

And finally…here’s a culmination of pretty much all of DIY low budget filmmaker Steve Rudzinski’s films. I’ve reviewed a lot of them such as CAPTAIN Z & THE TERROR OF LEVIATHAN, EVERYONE MUST DIE, RED CHRISTMAS, and THE SLASHER HUNTER under the banner of Silver Spotlight Films and all of them show an undeniable love of the horror genre. I had a lot of fun with the winks and nods at my favorite styles of films and those winks and nods are coming at you at rapid fire in Rudzinski’s latest film incorporating characters from all of his previous films into one single film.

The film is called THE SURVIVORS and it pits a team of Slasher Killers against the killers from Rudzinski’s past films, including his version of Ghostface and Freddy Krueger. Those who demand craft service filled casts and budgets that would break most banks should most likely move on. That’s not what THE SURVIVORS and Rudzinski’s movies are all about. This is about someone like you and me, grabbing a camera, some friends, and having a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun with THE SURVIVORS and Rudzinski has made the whole darn thing available for everyone here at AICN HORROR below!


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 and on his new website collecting posts for AICN HORROR as well as all of the most recent updates on his various comic book projects on

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