Hey Comicon-ers! Welcome back to “Zombies & Sharks!” I’m ML Miller and once again I have a couple of horror flicks you might be interested in. This time around, I’m focusing on low budget and DIY horror films. I know this type of film is not for everyone, but I always find something in these little features that prove to be worthwhile. Most are created by folks with an undeniable passion for the horror industry. These horror enthusiasts don’t bother with huge budgets and they don’t mind if you see the seams of the filmmaking process. Instead, they deliver the best horror they can muster and there’s something so endearing about that. I’ll have some bigger budgeted horror films for you later in the week, but until then, check out these do it yourself and low fi horror films. You never know, there might be one in here that’ll scratch that horror itch!
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Available on digital download and On Demand from High Octane entertainment!
TERROR TALES (2016)
Directed by Jimmy Lee Combs
Written by Jimmy Lee Combs
Starring Lynn Lowry, Jennifer Runyon, Helene Udy, Felissa Rose, Laurene Landon, Ari Lehman, Christopher Showerman, Ashley Park, Jonathan Tiersten, Yan Birch, Matt Block, Natalie Waldrip, Vivienne Bersin, Allie Escaffi, Karen Thomas, Pam Renall, Paige Awtrey, Irene Leonard, R.J. Wagner, Ben Hilzer, Spencer Kane, Miranda Byers, Carmine DePaulo, Thomas Fears, J. Giordano, Shelly Maxwell, Chelsey Shernaman, Jacob Thomas Brooks, Peggy Lapp, Erica Lapp, Brett Shafer, Ana Bersin
Find out more about this film here
TERROR TALES is an ambitious, yet overly long anthology that makes use of a gaggle of genre stars you’ll remember from better films. Still, if TERROR TALES proves anything, it’s that there is still a lot of vibrancy in these older actors and a whole lotta love for the genre from the filmmaker.
The wraparound story is a roadside carjacking scenario, where a drifter nabs a family, tosses them into the trailer of his truck, and proceeds to torment them a la THE HITCHER or THE BUNNY GAME. While this short, which serves as the connective tissue between segments lacks the impact of those much more intense films, it does move along breezily and ends in a satisfying and downright gory fashion. The acting in this segment is better than most and Christopher Showerman makes for a strong villain as the Driver.
“By Proxy” is a strong story and a decent execution about a mother (played by the still beautiful Lynn Lowry) who, as the title suggests, has some difficulties mothering her son. The segment is structured in the manner of “A Christmas Carol” as a smoky specter guides her through the horrors and mistakes of her life. While the story is predictable, given the title, the effects are surprisingly good. The demon is a mix of computer and practical effects. There are a few lighting issues with the creature effects, but it still looks rather gnarly. This one is only slightly overlong and could use a snip here or there in order to make the mystery it is trying to tell more of one.
The middle section is called “Radical Video” and there is a lot of retro-fun to be hed with this film, centered on a video store set during the booming video rental blitz of the late eighties. I had a lot of fun with this one simply looking at the video boxes which line the shelves of the store. Such a great era. And one filled with some great DIY horror. “Radical Video” is a love letter to that era and gives us some nice gory effects when a serial killer with a sledge hammer begins terrorizing the guests and owners of the video store. A cop on the edge (are there any other kinds in this type of story) is after him. This one runs for about forty-five minutes and definitely needs a lot of trimming editorially. I still had a lot of fun with this ambitious not-so-shortie, watching it try to be a much bigger film that it really is. Look for the great Lauren Landon in this one chewing up a lot of scenery as an unhinged mother.
“Epidemic” hit all the right notes with me. This one’s got low fi effects slapped onto spitting and writhing people possessed by an epidemic of demons spreading across the globe and a mentally and physically spent preacher trying his best to take on the Devil himself (played by Yan Birch). Also appearing is Ari (First Jason) Lehman as a witchfinder and Felissa (SLEEPAWAY CAMP) Rose as a possessed witch. The acting is over the top and the effects are grisly nightmare fuel.
TERROR TALES is a one of those films done by longtime horror fans for longtime horror fans. Its throwback style and small budget leaps to greatness is endearing. The segments in an ideal anthology seem like they should be fifteen-twenty minutes tops. This one gets very long in the tooth, especially the “Radical Video” segment. Had these segments been a little faster to develop, shock, and end, I think this would have been easier to digest. Still. The love of the DIY filmmakers of the eighties is alive and well in TERROR TALES.
Coming soon from Midnight Releasing!
SHELLMONT COUNTY MASSACRE (2018)
Directed by Gus Trapani
Written by Gus Trapani
Starring Roderick Klimek, Matthew Lafferty, Rick Rodgers, Jarred Hickey, Rob Servidone
Find out more about this film here
SHELLMONT COUNTY MASSACRE aka SHELLMONT is one of those films that is made with the blood, sweat and tears of die-hard horror fans. As with many movies of this kind, done in a do-it-yourself way, SHELLMONT COUNTY MASSACRE focuses on gore and some wickedly creepy scenes and less so on some of the more polished aspects of bigger budgeted fare. Still, if you’re a fan of horror, you’re going to find a lot to like here.
A giggling masked clown goes on a senseless rampage until he murders someone close to a local sheriff. As the bodycount rises and seems to circle those closest to the sheriff, the sheriff will stop at nothing to track this monster down.
I sometimes get a lot of heat for giving low fi films like SHELLMONT COUNTY MASSACRE a positive recommendation. The world has definitely seen better acting, directing, editing, and what not. But there is something pure and honest about these DIY films that the big budgeters out there simply lack. There’s an energy and liveliness—a passion that really endears me. SHELLMONT COUNTY MASSACRE did that over and over. But I understand. There are those that have no time or energy for films made outside of the studio system. It’s fine. There are plenty of films in this column that fit that bill.
But what I like about SHELLMONT is that it really dives headfirst into the horror here. The killer is relentless and completely insane-giggling like a madman even when he himself is nervous, scared, and in pain, but especially creepy when he giggles with glee at the blood he spills. The extra effort here is definitely paid to the gore as all kinds of bodily dismemberment occurs at the hands of this madman. Those with a sensitive stomach need not enter. This is for gorehounds and houndettes. And the gore actually looks top notch here, making it all ooze grindhousey goodness. As a person who loves not only the films he watches but the makings behind them, I love DIY films like SHELLMONT because those inner workings are so evident. If that’s the type of horror fan you are, I think you’ll be into SHELLMONT as well.
Available on digital download and On Demand from Wild Eye Releasing!
BONEHILL ROAD (2017)
Directed by Todd Sheets
Written by Todd Sheets
Starring Eli DeGeer, Ana Rojas-Plumberg, Linnea Quigley, Millie Milan, Dilynn Fawn Harvey, Gary Kent, Douglas Epps, Aaron Brazier, Alexander Brotherton, David E. McMahon, Aaron Neal, Scott Simmons
Find out more about this film here
Todd Sheets offers up a do it yourself horror film that hits the ground running on all furry fours and really doesn’t stop until the end and beyond (see the after credits sequence for what I mean).
A pair of sisters are pursued from the heavily forested darkness into a house of pure horror. With wolves of many different kinds at the front door and inside the house, the sisters fight tooth and nail to survive.
THE highlight with BONEHILL ROAD is definitely the practical effects. Reminiscent of the awesome found footager WOLF HOUSE, the werewolves pursuing these two hapless females are all CG-free and practically realized. There are even a few awesome transformation sequences which, while make me laugh since it screeches the momentum of the film to a halt, is a werewolf movie trope that I love sincerely. Seeing the blood, fur, grime, and slime in these transformations is something no gorehound should miss.
But surprisingly enough, though the acting has some speedbumps here and there, the pace of this film is pretty admirable. Sheets wastes no time getting into the action and prolonging that action all the way through the film, making this film feel more like a romping caper than the usual sluggishly paced horror film. I’m surprised at how fast things move from start to finish.
Don’t expect high acting moments and some of the direction is pretty flat and uninspired, still wolfman fans are going to want to follow this bloody rampage. It’s a tale worth seeking out. Not the best in the werewolf genre, but definitely not the worst. BONEHILL ROAD makes do with what it has well, focusing more on a rapid pace than character and moments of tension.
New on DVD/BluRay, digital download, and On Demand from Cleopatra Entertainment!
DEATH HOUSE (2017)
Directed by B. Harrison Smith
Written by B. Harrison Smith & Gunnar Hansen
Starring Cody Longo, Cortney Palm, Adrienne Barbeau, Michael Berryman, Barbara Crampton, Sid Haig, Lindsay Hartley, Kane Hodder, Lloyd Kaufman, Camille Keaton, Bill Moseley, Tony Todd, Dee Wallace, Vincent M. Ward, Vernon Wells, Steven Chase, Lauren Compton, Bernhard Forcher, R.A. Mihailoff, Sean Whalen, Bill Oberst Jr., Debbie Rochon, Felissa Rose, Richard Speight Jr., Nicole Cinaglia, Kenny Ray Powell, Joseph Ferrante, Brinke Stevens, Stelio Savante, Tiffany Shepis, Beverly Randolph, Larry Zerner, Yan Birch, Elissa Dowling, Michael Guarnera, Steve Nappe, Gabrielle Stone
Find out more about this film here
DEATH HOUSE is wall to wall fun, filled with monstrous cameos from practically everyone who is everyone in horror. While it definitely is a film that has lofty goals, it actually achieves most of them, despite an obvious low budget. If you’ve been to a horror convention in the last few years and have walked the celebrity row, you’re going to find a lot of familiar faces in this film. It’s a nostalgic love letter to the horror genre. It’s far from a perfect film, but it is something that will make horror fans smile from ear to ear.
Some of the worst criminals, serial killers, madmen, and monsters are housed in the Death House. When a power outage results in a breakout in the deepest and darkest levels od the facility, a pair of special agents must dive into the abyss and instill order to the chaos unleashed. Both with troubled pasts, the specialists must take on humanity’s dankest, most ruthless foes before they get to the top level and escape.
The main problem with DEATH HOUSE is that, hearing the cast it has and what it’s about, the potential for something pretty damn awesome is there. It’s got actors who have played the Candyman, the main mutant from THE HILLS HAVE EYES, Leatherface, and Jason freakin’ Voorhees in its cast, along with some of the best femme fatales and final girls from some of your favorite horror films. The potential of seeing all of them in one film is bound to make horror fans downright giddy. And while there is a strong element of horror fun and appreciation at play throughout this film, it is kind of disappointing seeing these iconic characters play less than iconic roles or simply being shuffled on and off screen in throwaway cameos. I’d have taken half of this cast of horror’s big names if they were given stronger characters, but the leads are two pretty people people I’ve never seen before and the folks I do recognize simply aren’t in frame long enough.
That doesn’t mean that DEATH HOUSE is bereft of interesting ideas. The film has quite a few of them. In fact, there are some ideas at play that I would have rather seen developed as full fledged films on their own than a way to pad out the story, which centers on a race against time to stop a prison break. The idea of three horrific devil-based killers (one who thinks he’s the Antichrist, one who thinks he’s Satan’s Creator, and one who thinks he’s Satan himself. This is an idea that I wish they had gone with for a whole feature and just describing it gives me chills. The scene is set with originality and style and if the setup isn’t enough for you, one of them is played by the awesome Bill Oberst Jr.!
There are a few other moments of fun here. Kane Hodder is actually a really good actor and shines in a meaty role. He’s just not Jason, which is ok, but with all of the talk about the icons and then never seeing them in the iconic roles that gave them the iconic status—well, it really has no chance of living up to expectations. I think the folks behind DEATH HOUSE had good intentions. They just didn’t have the budget to pull it off and too many ideas crowding a film already crowded with horror icons. DEATH HOUSE plays as if you’re breezing through the autograph section of the best horror convention. But I’m the type of guy who would rather see a few of these great stars and spend some time with them, than speed through them all with only seconds to remember of each one. Still, the film stands as a reminder that there are a lot of talented folks in horror and wrangling all of those cats together in one bag must have been hard. For that alone, DEATH HOUSE is an achievement worth seeing.
Well, that’s it for this week’s Zombies & Sharks. There’s a lot to seek out and some to steer clear from. Be sure to let me know what you think below in the comments and please share the love across the internets.
M. L. Miller does not profess to be an expert in horror, but he has seen a ton of horror films in his time. You can check out an archive of his horror reviews as well as news about his various comic book projects such as Black Mask’s GRAVETRANCERS and PIROUETTE on his website, MLMILLERWRITES.com. Follow him on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.