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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. Sorry again for this being a day or two late. Been dealing with the dreaded Con Cough I managed to bring back with me from the San Diego Comic Con. Still, it gave me plenty of time to watch a shit ton of horror films, so I’m trying to catch up with all of the latest, greatest, and not so great releases in horror.

On with the horror reviews!

(Click title to go directly to the feature)

Retro-review: THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF (1973)
Retro-review: DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. (1980)
Retro-review: HELLHOLE (1985)
BITE (2015)

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


Directed by Nathan Juran
Written by Bob Homel
Starring Kerwin Mathews, Elaine Devry, Scott Sealey, Robert J. Wilke, Susan Foster, Jack Lucas, Bob Homel, George Gaynes, Loretta Temple, George Gaynes, Loretta Temple, David S. Cass Sr., Harold Goodwin, Eric Gordon, Paul Baxley
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

This goofy little movie has more bite than its fairy tale title suggests with a pretty fun werewolf, and a very dark story mulling around amidst a bunch of wonkiness.

Taking a fun father and son vacation in the woods, but while Richie (Scott Sealey) and his father Robert (Kerwin Mathews) take a shortcut through the woods into town, they run across a werewolf. Though they end up accidentally killing it, the werewolf manages to bite Robert before making his final howl. Now Robert has the curse of the werewolf and Richie knows it, though no one believes him, not his mom Sandy (Elaine Devry) not the sheriff nor the religious hippies sleeping in the woods. No matter how many times he has to repeat himself and the evidence piles up that his cries are real, as Robert rampages through the small town, pool little Riche’s story of lycanthropy in the woods aren’t taken seriously.

There’s a whole lot of goofy fun going on here. This is definitely one of those drive in films that wasn’t really meant to be taken seriously, though it does its best to try to connect with the target audience (i.e. rebellious kids) in a moronic kind of way by interspersing the family troubles of Richie and his divorced parents with way too many shots of a camp of hippies spouting religious mumbo jumbo in the woods. This film was definitely made by people who have never met a hippie in their life, which is part of the charm as instead of “free love” this roving band of non-conformists preach religion (though they still talk as if they are high). Add these the weirdly large amount of attention the hippies get to the climax where the entire town walks in a straight line formation through the forest to track the werewolf and you’ve got a pretty unintentionally funny film on your hands.

But beneath that inanity, it really seems the filmmakers are trying their best to make an honest to gosh monster movie. The story of a man being ripped from his family because of his wolf-like mannerisms (aka wandering eye, if you’re looking at this metaphorically, which is always fun to do) is actually quite the compelling one. The relationship between this split mother and father is thought out pretty well as is the push and pull relationship between father and son as the marital ties fall apart. This complex triangle of emotions are pretty three-dimensional here and handled in a manner more sophisticated than one would assume given the title of the film.

There’s also a pretty bleack ending which I won’t reveal, but turns the film in a direction that kind of veers from the almost family friendly nature of most of the film. Surprisingly, I found the kid to be less annoying than most and the child actor actually did a decent job of making me not want to root for him to end up as a pile of werewolf shit. It is actually kind of funny seeing this kid relentlessly trying to convince the clueless adults that there is a werewolf on the loose. Plus this film has some fun wolf makeup. While the elongated snout looks a bit goofy, it is articulated and often covered with foam, which makes the werewolf look like a rabid dog. While the choice of clothing the wolf man chooses to wear is indicative of the goofy style of the seventies, seeing this beast lurk in the woods is rather fun. The transformations themselves are handled deftly as well as the camera transitions photographs in slo mo to handle the change from man to beast and back again. All in all, if you’re looking for a harmless, yet surprisingly effective little monster movie, THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF fits the bill nicely.

Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Severin!


Directed by Marino Girolami (as Frank Martin)
Written by Fabrizio De Angelis (story), Romano Scandariato(screenplay)
Starring Ian McCulloch, Alexandra Delli Colli, Sherry Buchanan, Peter O'Neal, Donald O'Brien, Dakar, Walter Patriarca
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

This old Italian schlocker is a weird mix of cannibal and zombie film that exemplifies some of the gory greatness of both while not really making any sense of why the two meat-eaters are put into the same film other than it seems someone tried to schmeld two films that didn’t quite make the runtime of a feature, but together do.

Also known as ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST (minus the hospital scenes that open the DOCTOR BUTCHER MD version), this is a rather uneven film, mainly because it seems to leap from being one of the many cannibal films that popped up in the late seventies and early eighties and also having some kind of zombie gods walking around chewing chunks out of folks as well. The film opens with a weird sequence ripped from the THRILLER video where zombies rise from a grave (one of them weirdly marked Snuff Maximus) that really has nothing to do with the rest of the film which follows a mad doctor and his cannibalistic assistant in a hospital who are stealing body parts and sometimes eating them. As a team of investigators look into the case, the assistant leaps from a window before being caught, but they manage to track the assistant’s roots to an ancient tribe in the East Indies who worship a cannibal god named Kito and eat human flesh.

Aside from the weird opening which might have been cashing in on the ZOMBIE/DAWN OF THE DEAD craze, this is pretty much your typical cannibal film. As with most cannibal films, there’s the initial expedition into the deep dark jungle. There’s the clueless extras made up to look like indigenous cannibals who probably were paid nothing to chew raw meat and wear makeup effects. There is the usual little to no research done about the actual tribes going on with most of the horror coming from the ‘bizarre’ non-Anglo culture the group is visiting. While much of these types of films are stereotypical and horribly racist, I do admit to being fascinated by them as they show a time capsule perception of the world at the time the films were being made. This was not even a lifetime ago and people were still making broad assumptions that hadn’t changed in hundreds of years thinking that these cultures were uncivilized creatures who live to rape, kidnap, murder, and eat anyone outside of the tribe. While it is a pretty awful view of other cultures, it still shows the fear people had of these tribes which had existed untouched by what we all call civilization. So while yes, these films were horrible in a sense of treating every human as equals, it is the closest thing to an earth bound expedition into an alien environment you’re going to find. The main problem with these cannibal films is that they are all pretty much the same with the same plot, twists, and turns running from one cannibal film to another.

Distinguishing DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. is the nonsensical zombie sequences at the beginning and the existence of weird zombie gods who sort of appear from nowhere throughout the film. Looking like someone just gooped a shit ton of mud onto their faces and left room for eyeholes, these zombie gods have a primitive yet terrifying aspect to them as they walk slowly and stare blankly as they stalk our “American” (this was an Italian made film, you know) heroes through the bush. The action is actually pretty fast paced once they make it to the jungle as the group is attacked immediately by the cannibals, succumb to booby traps, get captured, and then have to deal with these zombie gods. While the threat of being eaten by the cannibals are prevalent in all cannibal movies, DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. stands out as there is a spiritual and supernatural angle thrown into the mix.

As always, the gore in these films are one of the main highlights as fake heads are caved in, machetes are wedged into skulls, and bamboo shafts are thrust through torsos. Also prevalent are the extended sequences of the savages chomping on what looks to be some kind of raw meat which I found to be especially nauseating here. This is enough to make DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. stand out among the rest of the cannibal films and while the intention behind the film is a bit prejudice and the acting and filmmaking are a bit crude, the twists in the story and the attention to gore make it one of the better of its ilk. This version by Severin comes with a ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST cut as well as a DOCTOR BUTCHER cut. Special features include a featurette called BUTCHERY & BALLYHOO An Interview with Aquarius Releasing’s Terry Levene which talks about the marketing of this film and films like it in the 70’s and 80’s. There is also Roy Frumkes’ segment of an unfinished anthology ‘TALES THAT WILL TEAR YOUR HEART OUT’ with an additional commentary. Another is THE BUTCHER MOBILE which is an interview with Gore Gazette Editor & Butcher Mobile Barker Rick Sullivan talking about marketing this film in New York and yet another is entitled CUTTING DOCTOR BUTCHER which is an interview with editor Jim Markovic. Plus a few essays written on the film, trailers, stills, and much more than this schlocker deserves, but a must watch for fans of the film and films like it (like me)!

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


Directed by Pierre De Moro
Written by Aaron Butler (as Vincent Mongol), Lance Dickson & Mark Evan Schwartz (additional story and new dialogue),
Starring Judy Landers, Mary Woronov, Ray Sharkey, Marjoe Gortner, Richard Cox, Edy Williams, Terry Moore, Robert Z'Dar, Martin Beck, Cliff Emmich, Lynn Borden
Retro-reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

This amalgamation of HALLOWEEN 2 and every other women’s prison flick you might have seen is pretty typical from start to finish, but still manages to have a few shining moments that make it worth a look-see.

Judy Landers (the more skeletal and silicone of the two Landers Sisters) plays Susan, a survivor of a vicious attack by a weirdo named Silk (Ray Sharkey), who is after some important documents her family is in possession of. After a foiled attempt to find the papers and kill everyone to cover up the evidence, Susan suffers amnesia and is committed to an asylum where the unethical Dr. Fletcher (Mary Woronov) and the slightly more ethical Dr. Dane (Marjoe Gortner) conduct underground lobotomies on the patients in order to build a better patient. Meanwhile, the good counselor Ron (Richard Cox) fights to get Susan out of the institution before she becomes another mindless monster the evil doctors stow away in a place called Hellhole.

As I mentioned two paragraphs ago, this film is the bastard child of HALLOWEEN 2 and a women’s prison movie. The story borrows heavily from the follow up to Carpenter’s most famous film by setting a wide-eyed gal (in this case Judy Landers) being stalked through the dark hallways of a hospital. And while pretty much every trope from the women’s prison films are swiped here—from wrestling in the showers to touchy-feely orderlies to sadistic wardens, everything is represented in a better than average way. The showers scenes are admittedly titillating, with pubic hair represented in mass quantities. There are the usual asshole orderlies who enjoy their torture of the nubile patients a little all too well, represented capably by the manacing MANIAC COP himself, Robert Z’Dar. Sure you’ve seen everything here in other films, but with this cast of recognizable genre stars, HELLHOLE is something a cut above most of its ilk.

Elevating this film all the more is Mary Woronov’s fantastic portrayal of the evil Dr. Fletcher. Again, the wicked warden character is as clichéd as they come, but Woronov adds a lot of weight to her performance to the role of a doctor who gets off on the pain she inflicts on others. The curve of her smirk is amazing here as she fills syringes with horrible toxins and tests them on her patients. She is having a blast with this role and it shows in every scene.

Copious amounts of nudity and girl on girl wrasslin’ (in the showers, the wreckyard, the cafeteria, and even in a makeshift therapeutic sandbox) is enough to satisfy those who don’t have the internet and look to these films for stimulation. But while there really isn’t much HELLHOLE didn’t swipe from a better, more-effective film, the amalgamation of it all, combined with a cool genre cast makes it something utterly unique. Sure Landers’ blank stare is somewhat annoying and the amount of hairspray used in this film alone is responsible for much depletion of the ozone layer, but there’s something utterly watchable about HELLHOLE. Categorize this one as a guilty pleasure and enjoy HELLHOLE despite its failed attempts to be original.

New on DVD/BluRay from Brain Damage Films!


Directed by Kevin Van Stevenson
Written by Brandon Trask
Starring Danny Hansen, Frankie Ray, Shenik Taylor, Amy Waller, Jonathan Adam Cousens, Sharon Fredrickson, Deirdre V. Lyons, Cassie Carpenter, Cynthia Dane, Joe Karam, Tony Pandolfo, Dan Sutter, Franco Di Vittorio, Ashley Devane, Bruce Kirkpatrick
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Even bad movies can have something decent and interesting in them. That’s an overall philosophy I have to reviewing films. A film might be riddled with problems, but I know that no film is made by one person alone, so while certain things are definitely lacking in quality, there might be an aspect or two of the film that is actually working to redeem the film. Some might call this being kind to a film, but I simply call it my way of critiquing things. So excuse me if I go “glass half full” on ON THE BRAIN, a contagion film reminiscent of Romero’s THE CRAZIES.

The town of Golden Torch is a sleepy old town in middle Amerrrrrica. There’s a Sheriff (Danny Hansen) and bumbling deputy (Jonathan Adam Cousens). And the Mayor (Sharon Fredrickson) also happens to own the most popular diner in town. But when the people of the town start going crazy and attacking folks, the Sheriff is forced to man up and crack the case, even if it leads to the Mayor’s doorstep. But the gun-toting Mayor won’t go down without a fight and more and more citizens are succumbing to the contagion.

This film’s pacing issues really highlight the rough acting at play throughout most of this film. Most will have difficulty getting through this one because of the amateur acting going on. But the story is kind of fun as it shows a small town being overcome by disease and the visual effects of the contaminated are really well done. One of the biggest saving graces of ON THE BRAIN comes up in the editing of this film as it really does a decent job of covering up all of the rough edges. Creative clips here and there, vivid transitions between actions which might have landed with a plop, and some sick opening and closing credits elevated ON THE BRAIN from unwatchable, to watchable for me. If you’re one who doesn’t toss out a film for having one or two problems, you might have some fun with this one as, for me, it showed that the filmmakers behind the piece have potential for something greater down the line.

New in theaters and On Demand from Gravitas Ventures and soon on iTunes!


Directed by Rich Fox
Blackout created by Josh Randall & Kristjan Thor
Starring Russell Eaton, Bob Glouberman, Allison Fogarty & Abel Horwitz
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Why do you watch horror films? It’s a question not often asked. Many simply like horror films. Others avoid them like the plague. And the reasons in between are as varied as every snowflake. Personally, I love seeing things that I’ve never seen before. It thrills me that something can scare me when I think I’ve seen so much that I’m jaded to such a start. This is the nugget from which THE BLACKOUT EXPERIMENTS was made; everyone experiences fear in different ways and no two people are going to be scared to their very core by the same thing. This documentary attempts to examine why we seek out things to scare us, and more importantly, how doing so can be a cathartic experience.

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what I was watching when I started THE BLACKOUT EXPERIMENTS. Was it a faux documentary or the real thing? The folks being interviewed in the film were real looking enough, but then again, maybe they’re just actors hired because they look like every day people. Not knowing this was a documentary kind of added a level of danger that I hadn’t experienced since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT where you just don’t know if what you are seeing is really happening. Turns out, unlike THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, everything that happens in this film is 100% real and that’s what makes this film all the more dangerous and terrifying.

Those chosen to participate in THE BLACKOUT EXPERIENCE are thrill seekers who strive to feel the ultimate fear. We are made privy to a few of these people; one is a man who lives in constant fear and suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, another was once mugged and now identifies with his fear so much that it takes over his entire life, another feels fear that various aspects of his life will not accept him as a gay man. All of these people have their reasons to seek out this mysterious organization who sets up elaborate immersive horror experiences made up around their individual insecurities and fears. The film delves into why these people seek out the Blackout Organization and puts you through not only their first experiences, but the reasons why these people seek to re-experience this waking nightmare that seems to seep into their daily lives and make them riddled with paranoia as to when Blackout will appear again.

What starts out as a dissection of human fear and our obsession with it evolves into something much more prolific and interesting as not only do the experiences challenge each of the participants to face their fears, but also challenges them to overcome them. What is even more unsettling are the adrenaline junkies who seem to want to re-experience these tortures that involve verbal abuse, pseudo-sexual abuse, sado-masochism, and simple shock, and how they don’t want these experiences to end. This is a fascinating look at some truly damaged people who want to be scared to their ultimate limits of sanity, yet it also is somewhat of a victory as these people have found something redeeming within the experiments, as well as camaraderie gained from groups formed of survivors of the experiments.

The final act of the film turns the light on Blackout and introduces the viewer to the two men behind the experiments; Josh Randall & Kristjan Thor. These two artists and philosophers seem to want to use their experiment as a catharsis, but the experiments themselves are so nightmarish and horrific that one wonders how these guys get away with what they are doing. Withholding judgment on what how they are trying to answer these questions about the human condition, it is hard to view these guys as anything more than people who get off on torturing people psychologically. Then again, there seems to be an abundance of folks who are interested in this experiment, so who am I to judge. A couldn’t blink while watching this documentary unfold. The dark world the Blackout people have made and the participants enter is absolutely engrossing. This is a fantastic look into one of our most primal emotions and one only the brave should seek out and experience. It’s a film filled with the drama of real life, and how that reality can cause one to be pulled towards the shadows. Be brave and don’t miss THE BLACKOUT EXPERIMENTS.

New this week on DVD/BluRay from The Scream Factory!

BITE (2015)

Directed by Chad Archibald
Written by Chad Archibald, Jayme Laforest
Starring Elma Begovic, Annette Wozniak, Jordan Gray, Lawrene Denkers, Denise Yuen, Tianna Nori, Barry Birnberg
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

The structure of BITE is a familiar one, reminding me of body horror films of note over the last few years (CONTRACTED and THANATOMORPHOSE, to be precise), but the insectoid lens in which this film is cast through makes it feel more akin with Cronenberg’s THE FLY than anything else. This is good company to be in as all of these films made me squiggle and squirm. BITE will make you feel that way too, I guarantee it.

Casey (Elma Begovic) goes on a bachelorette vacation on a tropical locale. The found footage handheld opening minutes of this film (don’t worry, it’s not for the whole film) establishes that Casey has some doubts about marrying her beau Jared (Jordan Gray), Jared has a domineering mother in law, and Jared is waiting to have sex until marriage. All of this proves to be too much for the party girl who gets drunk and sleeps with a random guy at a bar. The next day, as Casey and her two friends are swimming in a secluded pond, something under the water bites her. Ignoring the pain and brushing the whole thing off as simple bite, Casey comes home to America and plans on having whatever happened on vacation stay on vacation. But these sins of the past come back to haunt Casey as the bite on her leg becomes infected and she begins metamorphosizing into some kind of monster. Holing herself up in her apartment, Casey is changing into some kind of creature and woe to the friend or lover who crosses her doorstep to see if she is ok.

As with THANATOMORPHOSE and CONTRACTED, the message here is, quite plainly, unprotected and reckless sex will kill you. All three films play with the metaphor of the horror of picking up an STD from a one night stand and what that does to a woman, her relationships, and her life. Not only is there a physical transformation, but there’s also the shame in receiving this disease that hurts and looks horrible, making you feel like a monster. It’s a metaphor that is ripe with potential and just as THE FLY did this with cancer, BITE does the same for STD’s as Casey is guilt-ridden first at what she did behind Jared’s back, but instead of telling him, she decides to keep it a secret. Later, the inner guilt evolves into Casey literally turning into a monster and makes her adulterous behavior impossible to hide for long. While the metaphor isn’t subtle, it speaks volumes and makes for some fantastic moments throughout the film that end up being very real, despite the fact that Casey is turning into a giant bug monster.

The effects in BITE is over the top gross and amazing to witness. Just when you think things can’t get more disgusting, it does as Casey is vomiting up little see thru eggs housing larvae, sprouting a tail, and losing all of her hair. The effects look to be pretty practical (though the prehensile stinger tail is definitely CG), so to see actress Begovic go through this transformation is pretty gnarly. The effects crew really makes not only Casey look horrific, but make her entire apartment a disgusting nest covered with egg sacs, mucous, webs, and other sticky secretions. This looks like an absolutely disgusting movie to make with all of the actors having to slosh around in slime, ooze, and what looks to be KY jelly for most of the latter half of the film.

Begovic does a fantastic job of convincingly turning from a beautiful guilt-ridden girl who made a mistake to a cold-blooded monster by the final act. Every step of the way she straddles the line of being both sympathetic and menacing. Director Chad Archibald continues to evolve in a positive direction as a filmmaker. While I found flaws in his last two films (THE DROWNSMAN and EJECTA), there is an undeniable talent to both films and I feel it has come together much more successfully in BITE by telling a simple allegory focusing on a common predicament and taking it to monstrous proportions. BITE is disgusting, depraved, disturbing, and diabolical…in a way that will please gore-appreciative horror fans in the fullest!

Opening theatrically in New York and On Demand (exclusively on FlixFling today), opening in Los Angeles on August 5th, with a national rollout to follow from Invincible Pictures!


Directed by Harrison Atkins
Written by Harrison Atkins
Starring Lindsay Burdge, Peter Vack, Chase Williamson, Keith Poulson, Jennifer Kim, Andrew Ryder, Drigan Lee, William Nadylam, Betsey Brown, Kati Skelton, Joe Swanberg
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Full of quirk, wit, and a heavy dose of what haters tend to label as mumble-core, LACE CRATER is an infectiously creepy film like nothing you’re bound to see this year.

Just getting over a breakup, Ruth (Lindsay Burdge from THE INVITATION and on THE MIDNIGHT SWIM) goes to a cabin in the woods with four of her friends (JOHN DIES AT THE END’s Chase Williamson, SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME’s Keith Poulson, plus newcomers Jennifer Kim and Andrew Ryder) to party and forget about the woes of their twenty-something world they left behind. Being the shy one of the bunch, Ruth takes the guest house to sleep in and is especially intrigued when she hears that it might be haunted. After a night of drinking and doing ecstasy, Ruth goes to her room and after hearing a noise in the shadows, jokingly challenges the ghost to come out and show itself. To her surprise, a ghost named Michael (Peter Vack) appears and still high on X and alcohol, Ruth’s fascination with the ghosts leads to a one night stand with the supernatural. But upon returning to her life in the big city and thinking the whole thing was a drug-induced dream, Ruth is shocked to find herself undergoing…changes that indicates that she may have caught some kind of STD from her night with a supernatural being.

From the description above, one might assume this film is a comedy—some kind of hipster ironic version of GHOST, but that assumption would be wrong as this film veers more into uncategorizable territory. The initial meetup between Ruth and the ghost Michael is definitely something filled with quirk and levity. Michael shows up bundled in a mound of burlap and isn’t really trying to scare Ruth as much as he is trying to make a connection with her. And the way Ruth simply accepts the fact that he is a ghost and moves on to flirting with him is odd, but given her current state of drunkenness as well as her loneliness, it sort of makes sense that her curiosity gets the better of her in this situation. But what comes after this ghostly one night stand is the stuff of true nightmare, reminiscent of recent films BITE, CONTRACTED and THANATOMORPHOSE, three films which, like this one, depict in gross detail the horrors of experiencing an STD soon after a night of anonymous sex. The latter portion of this film focuses on Ruth’s shock that her body is literally falling apart and how her friends react to both her insane claims that she slept with a ghost and her bizarre behavior since the weekend getaway. In both cases, the fantastic is handled with a realistic and horrifying manner that caused a great sense of unease in this viewer.

And this believability in the fantastical elements and the sense of unease conveyed is mostly due to the uber-strong performances from the entire cast of indie actors. This isn’t a film reliant on major effects. Filmmaker Harrison Atkins does a great job of using rudimentary camera effects and quick edits to convey an otherworldly mood. But this is a film that is carried by its actors for the most part. Many might up-snout this type of film because it falls into the rather demeaning category of mumblecore, especially with the late in the game appearance by mumblecore creator Joe Swanberg. I can see where this almost too casual way of communicating lines can feel rather bland, but delivered by this cast and even though the lines are sometimes muttered out in a drunken or lazy haze, they still feel electric—specifically from Burdge who really steals the show here as the lead. A good portion of the film focuses mainly on her, even through the partying scenes at the beginning and the actress does a fantastic job of allowing you into her vulnerable and conflicted way of seeing life.

The final moments of this film again go into the realm of quirk, even though the events leading up to them are grotesque and horrifying. And that’s what I love about this film. LACE CRATER is not something you can predict or fully understand. It sort of fumbles through its story in the same manner its protagonist does, but it’s that kind of vulnerable and honest portrayal of how uncontrollable life is that is both the most terrifying and most appealing aspect of this odd, yet amazing little film.

In theaters now from WellGo USA Entertainment!


Directed by Sang-ho Yeon
Written by Sang-ho Yeon
Starring Yoo Gong, Dong-seok Ma, Woo-sik Choi, Yu-mi Jeong, Sohee, Kim Soo-ahn
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Every year there’s a film that proves that there’s life in the old reanimated corpse that is the overspread subgenre of horror dedicated to zombies. This year TRAIN TO BUSAN is that film.

Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo ) is a workaholic father who agrees to take his daughter Soo-an (Kim Soo-ahn) to see his estranged wide/her mother who lives in a neighboring city of Seoul, South Korea. As they board a bullet train, a passenger boards the train suffering from some kind of ailment. On the news, reports of a viral outbreak are ignored as people go on their day to day, so the last minute board isn’t thought about until she collapses, spasms, and awakens as an infected dead—ready to bite and spread a contagion from one train car to the next as those uninfected fight from car to car for their survival.

So yeah, it’s SNOWPIERCER with zombies or ZOMBIES ON A TRAIN instead of SNAKES ON A PLANE, but what this film did is remind me of why I love zombie movies in the first place. For one thing, there isn’t a self-referential, annoyingly ironic tone to this film as many modern zombie films have. This is a straight up zombie film that is occurring all over the Korean country (and most likely the world, but we aren’t made privy to that in the world of the movie). We see snippets of the outbreak at the beginning, some rushing police cars, and some reports on the news, but what makes this compelling is the personal story that takes place within the zombie outbreak. It’s the story of a disconnected father who plays the role of caregiver without really knowing what it takes to do so. Gong Yoo is great as the absent dad who is all business and connected to his cell at all times with clients, too busy to see his marriage crumbling and his daughter crying for attention. Through much of this film, the choice is made between what is good for oneself and what is simply heroic. It’s a strong and universal theme, broad enough to work in any situation and applied to this bleak scenario, it’s works amazingly here. The role of the self-centered vs the heroic is exemplified by different characters here as THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE WEIRD’s Dong-seok Ma plays a noble husband protecting his pregnant wife. His character is often put into contrast with Gong Yoo’s to show just what the businessman/father is doing wrong. Dong-seok Ma’s presence is formidable here and I hope to see more of this gruff and buff actor in future films. These characters are painted with broad strokes, but serve their purpose to tell as story of what to do and what not to do as a parent.

But stealing the show is little Kim Soo-ahn, who plays Soo-an, the adorable little girl caught in the middle of this mess. This little kid is a hell of an actress and the main reason I was pulled into this movie so deeply. At such a young age, she is able to express emotions that will break your heart into pieces and those who don’t shed a tear during the emotional climax of TRAIN TO BUSAN might want to check for a pulse.

The zombies themselves are not exactly original, but presented in a way that feels fresh and new. These are fast moving zombies, but twitchy and oddly moving due to their animalistic mannerisms and disregard for the damage done to their bodies in their pursuit of prey. The film also borrows a bit from WORLD WAR Z, showing the zombies moving in a mass. It’s not as over the top as the zombie wave, but much subtler, and therefore more effective, as the zombies move like ants, clinging to one another to catch a speeding train or clumping together to move en masse in close quarters. This gives them an otherworldly feel that many zombie movies lack and the seamless CG helps immensely in making these zombies formidable and scary.

Strong performances, tight effects, a strong linear story structure, and treating old material in a fresh manner makes TRAIN TO BUSAN the best zombie movie of the year. You’re not sick of zombie movies. You’re sick of zombie movies that are redundant and suck. This is definitely not one of those movies. Seek out TRAIN TO BUSAN, it’s an emotional rollercoaster and a downright horrifying trip into dark undead territory.

New this week on BluRay from Drafthouse Films!


Directed by Karyn Kusama
Written by Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Starring Logan Marshall-Green, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michiel Huisman, Tammy Blanchard, John Carroll Lynch, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michelle Krusiec, Mike Doyle, Toby Huss, Karl Yune, Lindsay Burdge, Marieh Delfino, Aiden Lovekamp, Jordi Vilasuso, Danielle Camastra, Jay Larson, Trish Gates
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Some of the best horror taps into human emotion and amplifies those feelings of discomfort to fever pitch levels. There have been many films that rely on a heavy dose of paranoia to work. Recent films such as THE CONSPIRACY, and ENEMY, and classics such as JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING, REPULSION, and ROSEMARY’S BABY push the paranoia to deafening levels of intensity. Another film can be added to that list of nerve-shredding paranoid masterpieces: THE INVITATION.

Accepting an invitation from an ex and her new husband to join old friends for a dinner party, Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his new girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) arrive at the lavish home of Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and David (Michiel Huisman) to find it full of their friends, partying and greeting them with smiles. As the night goes on, there is obvious tension in the group and it eventually comes out that Will and Eden lost their child, which ended up breaking up their marriage. This being the first time they have seen each other since the breakup, it’s obviously somewhat uncomfortable, but pleasantries are used by all--that is, until Eden and David start talking about a new life betterment program they have been following. As the night goes on and the wine begins flowing, Eden and David begin to push their newfound spiritual awakening on the group, playing a video of the spiritual leader (Toby Huss from CARNIVALE) in which a woman embraces death and dies on the video. This of course unsettles the group, but doesn’t seem to bother Eden and David, who feel it is a beautiful moment. Writing this off as some kind of eccentricity used to cope with the loss of Eden’s son, the group moves past it and continues with the evening’s drinking and feasting--save for Will, who from the get-go has a dreadful feeling that something evil is going on. But is Will being paranoid and insecure, having been confronted with his ex-wife and their loss, or is there really something horrible transpiring? The answers are given by the end of the film, but it keeps you guessing for most of the film’s runtime.

What this film achieves so masterfully is the sinking feeling that something is off. By focusing the camera on Will through this film, casting him as the outsider in this group of friends, THE INVITATION does an amazing job of making you question if the scenes we are seeing play out are suspicious because we are seeing this from Will’s depressed and troubled perspective or if this really is reality and something horrifying is happening under the partygoers’ noses. So many scenes focus on Will looking around corners, sneaking through the hallways and witnessing snippets of conversations that, again, could be taken either way. The masterful way in which this film teeters on either being a story of a paranoid man or a truly dire situation for such an extended period of time is what grabbed me by the collar and pulled me in off the edge of my seat and as close to the screen as possible.

Those who like the slam-bang style of action horror where there’s a jump scare every two minutes that you can giggle at into your sweetie’s shoulder will definitely want to take a pass on THE INVITATION. This is a film you must allow to slowly creep in to enjoy. It’s a film where you have to give up the need to release that tension that is building in the situation before you. The release will come, eventually, but the beauty in THE INVITATION is the way it patiently holds back the answers until the very last minute. That doesn’t mean that once the answers are given, the credits roll. It means that you don’t know if the situation or Will is nuts for quite a while, but once the ball is dropped, the resolution is definitely worth the wait, with a final scene that is infinitely powerful in its simplicity.

THE INVITATION conveys a sense of paranoia so strong it cannot be denied. It’s a film that deftly plays with your expectations and amplifies the senses to a level where you are suspicious of everything. The performances are fantastic, especially that of Marshall-Green and Blanchard as the former couple who are familiar with who each other were, but not who they have become. Add the always amazing John Carroll Lynch in yet another creepy-ass performance and you’ve got a cast of characters who we will look back on one day and recognize as the first time we’ve seen these superstars in action. If you’re the type who gets a thrill about movies that make you slowly look over your shoulder in fear, THE INVITATION is a film that accomplishes both an excellent build-up and an equally amazing resolution.

Premiered last night on ScyFy (find out showtimes here)!


Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante
Written by Thunder Levin
Starring Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, David Hasselhoff, Tommy Davidson, Ryan Newman, Cody Linley, Masiela Lusha, Stacey Dash, Steve Guttenberg, Gary Busey, Alexandra Paul, Mindy Robinson, Imani Hakim, Gilbert Gottfried, Gena Lee Nolin, Scott 'Carrot Top' Thompson, Justine Ezarik, Stassi Schroeder, Hayley Hasselhoff, Daniel Logan, Caroline Williams, Susan Anton, Carrie Keagan, Cheryl Tiegs, Kym Johnson, Patti Stanger, Paul Shaffer, Duane 'Dog' Chapman, Todd Chrisley, Anthony Rogers, T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh, Nicole Chauvet, Colby Lopez, Dan Yeager, Vince Neil, Steffanie Busey, Cynthia Bailey, Jax Taylor, Taylor-Ann Hasselhoff, Erika Jayne, Robert Herjavec, Andre Meadows, Benjy Bronk, Roy Nelson, Elisa Jordana, Dolvett Quince, Jay DeMarcus, My Do, Lloyd Kaufman, Adrian Zmed, and the weird skeleton formerly known as Al Roker
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Yeah, yeah. We all know the SHARKNADO films are bad. But unlike most of the overly-serious monster of the week films we see on ScyFy, director extraordinaire Anthony C. Ferrante is at least having a lot of fun with this series. So while some films require you to think to get what’s going on, this one most definitely works better if you just check your brain at the door and ride the Sharknado!

And I’m ok with that. Tons of old time monster films were fun because they were interested in entertaining on a light and boppy level rather than bone rattling scares and heady themes. So while many may poo poo SHARKNADO as the lowest form of horror entertainment (and it sort of is), I recognize this type of film’s place in the hallowed halls of horror.

SHARKNADO: THE 4TH AWAKENS opens with a STAR WARS scrawl catching us up with what’s been going on since Finn Shepherd (Ian Ziering) and his father Gilbert (David Hasselhoff) battled the biggest sharknado to date in space and Tara Reid’s April was squished by a falling shark. Now five years later, the Sharknados are a thing of the past courtesy of Aston Reynolds (Tommy Davidson) who came up with a cannon which quells the Sharknadoes magnetically (fuckin’ magnets, man…how do they work?). The entire opening sequence takes place in Las Vegas where Aston Tower is located and the Shepherd Family have decided to have a family reunion. Of course, having the Shepherds and a bunch of useless cameos by Carrot Top, Vince Neil, and a bunch of reality and YouTube stars in one place is the perfect storm in terms of creating a Sharknado and when a sand storm appears in the desert and grazes over Aston’s shark tanks…BOOM goes the Sharknado!

Yes, it makes no sense the way these tornados keep picking up sharks and flailing them about. What was a once in a million occurrence with cows in TWISTER has become commonplace in the Sharknado Universe as the twister makes its way across America; through Texas (simply for there to be a TEXAS CHAIN SAW reunion of sorts with Caroline Williams who utters the embarrassing line “It wouldn’t be Texas, without a chainsaw massacre!” and refers to her brothers Gunnar and Chop-Top—who aren’t her brothers in the TCM series, but hey, who wants to get the correct details...), Kansas (where there are tons of really lame Oz references of course), Salt Lake City (to make a stop at the Comic Con, because, why not), Chicago (which is inexplicably run by Mayor Stacey Dash), Ohio (where the tornado becomes a Nuclear Sharknado by twirling through a nuclear power plant), and finally arrives at a standoff with the Shepherd family at Niagara Falls. Meanwhile, April awakens to find half her body replaced with cybernetics due to her mad scientist pop (Gary Busey) and sets out to aid Finn, who dons robotic battle armor to take on the mother of all Nuclear Sharknados!

While most of the comedy lands with a plop, there are moments in SHARKNADO 4 that actually made me laugh. Busey is, as always, completely unhinged in the few minutes he is on screen. Another standout is Tommy Davidson who is kind of slumming it here. He plays a billionaire profiting off of the Sharknado hystera with a Vegas nightclub which is the set piece for the over the top and gravity defying opening action sequence. Davidson actually has a ton on talent and it’s a shame we don’t see more of him. Sure he is given some stupid lines and things to do, but he does have the chops to be a good heavy for the film. And Hasselhoff delivers some genuinely funny lines as the over the top hero Finn is trying to live up to. His interaction with former Baywatch babes Gena Lee Nolin and Alexandra Paul in the final moments of the film are actually kind of clever and Hasselhoff offers up a level of hamminess that really fits this series. Some of the funniest lines involve Hasselhoff.

One of the more unforgivable sins of SHARKNADO 4 is the Infinity X1 cable service product placements which are hamfistedly crammed into every orifice of this film. It’s this type of shamlessness that this film specializes in. To me, it’s utterly fascinating though. As the Sharknado twists it’s way across Americana with Finn and his band of idiots close behind, it also touches upon why this film has become such a phenomenon. Looked at metaphorically, this film does have a bit more depth than the previous SHARKNADO films as the tornado morphs from Bouldernado to Cownado to Sandnado to Oilnado to Firenado to Lightningnado to Hailnado to Lavanado and finally to Nuclear Sharknado. The film showcases a lot of what’s America is all about these days with its redundant 24 hour news cycle, overabundance of reality shows, and increasing hunger for one catastrophe to replace the next before the sun rises.

Yes, it’s all kinds of goofy and inanity and all logic and reason are tossed to the wind, but there may be a little more going on in this one than in previous films. For me, SHARKNADO 4: THE 4TH AWAKENS is the headiest of all of these films. It doesn’t make it a smart film, but it feels like there were attempts to say something here that were noticed and mildly successful. Still, I’m stretching to find merit in SHARKNADO 4, so I’ll just say I had fun with this one and leave it at that.

And finally…let’s fiddle with the radio knobs once again with another journey into yesteryear’s old time horror series LIGHT’S OUT. This week’s episode is ominously called UNTIL DEAD! Enjoy!

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

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

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