HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DON’T BREATHE (2016)

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DON’T BREATHE (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Don’t Breathe is an intense and very entertaining thriller that turns the home invasion flick on it’s head and proves writer/director Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead remake) is the real deal. The story takes place in a rundown suburb of Detroit where house thieves Rocky (Evil Dead’s Jane Levy), Money (It Follows‘ Daniel Zovatto) and Alex (Goosebumps’ Dylan Minnette) hear of a big score. There is an almost deserted street with only one house still occupied, the home of a blind war veteran (Stephen Lang) who supposedly was given a large cash settlement by the family of a rich girl who ran over and killed his daughter. Thinking it easy money, the three break into the man’s home one night. But the man turns out to be far more dangerous than they realize and soon has them trapped inside his house with the intent they never leave.

Co-written with his Evil Dead co-scribe Rodo Sayagues, Alvarez crafts a very suspenseful and intense game of cat and mouse inside the Detroit house that gets started quickly and never gives up till it’s unsettling last moments. Alvarez gives us a claustrophobic and isolated setting by placing the house on a deserted block and making great use of the desolated Detroit setting to give it atmosphere. He then has his ex-soldier seal our three thieves inside, where he knows the layout and they…and we…don’t. Alvarez also uses the character’s blindness to set up nerve-wracking moments, as our thieves try to quietly elude him and then he clever turns off the power to turn the odds in his favor. There are also some moments of brutal violence that really punctuate the intensity of the proceedings, as the director plays with the home invasion formula by turning our intended victim into the monster and the invaders into the victims. This works well due to the way his characters are written. While Money is basically a street thug, Alex has a conscience and a heart, which keeps him likable and Levy’s Rocky is only stealing to get enough money to take her little sister out of Detroit and away from her alcoholic mother. This makes them sympathetic, despite their criminal activity, yet Alvarez still puts them through the ringer for them to truly earn our empathy. If the brutal pursuit through the three floors of the old house isn’t enough, Alvarez has a late reveal that adds a really disturbing angle to a simple theft gone awry story…one that will have you squirming as much as Levy’s Rocky was…and turns the blind soldier into a true fiend. And it works very well. As with Evil DeadAlvarez accents his story with a great visual eye. His settings and shots are captured stylishly by the lens of Pedro Luque and Evil Dead composer Roque Baños returns for an atmospheric score. It all adds up to a suspenseful, intense and very atmospheric thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and squirming in it too!

Alvarez has assembled a small but very effective cast for his sophomore film for Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures. Evil Dead leading lady Jane Levy is very strong as the street smart Rocky. She is convincing in that she is stealing only out of love for her little sister and she moves from thief to anti-hero to heroine very well. Her Rocky is really put through Hell, just as her Mia was in the 2013 horror remake and she really provides us again with a strong character to root for, even if she, like Mia, isn’t the sweet girl next door. Levy has a unique way of combining an intensity with a sensitivity that deserves more spotlight roles. Daniel Zovatto, who was the kindly Greg in It Follows, plays basically a street thug and does play him well. He has his charisma, but is not a good guy and the one we least feel sorry for when the poop hits the fan. Dylan Minnette’s Alex seems almost too nice to be part of this group, but it is made known he crushes on Rocky and is betraying his security company father most likely to be close to her. It succeeds in keeping him likable and he proves once again he is a charming actor with an appealing screen persona. This would not work if our blind ex-soldier, whose name is never given, wasn’t convincing as a monster and Stephen Lang once again is a strong bad guy. He is sympathetic at first, then let’s us know that this man is still lethally dangerous, even with his war injury handicap and then becomes a full blown fiend once the movie progresses. His soldier is filled with menace and threat and once we get the full picture, any feelings that this guy is just protecting what’s his, go out the window and it works thanks to an intense performance from a skilled actor.

I really liked this movie and it proves to me Fede Alvarez is a filmmaker to keep a close eye on. I really enjoyed his remake of Sam Raimi’s horror classic and certainly enjoyed the results now of a film entirely his own. This is an intense, brutally violent and sometimes twisted thriller that turns a home invasion into a house of horrors with a strong cast to back up the director’s vision and story. A solid thriller and one of the few films to live up to early word in the summer of 2016 movie season.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 turkey basters…you’ll have to see the movie!

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BARE BONES: BORN and COMPLIANCE

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BORN (2007)

Unintentionally hilarious horror stars Alison Brie (Sleeping WIth Other People) as a virginal young woman who is impregnated by a demon at her mother’s funeral…don’t ask. Now as she falls under her unborn child’s evil influence, she goes on a killing spree to supply six victims for it’s birthing ritual.

Low budget horror is as stupid as it sounds and as filled with clichés as you’d expect and gets more and more ridiculous as it goes on. Star Brie recites some side split-tingly awful dialog and goes completely over the top in scenes that are meant to be shocking and scary, but provide rib-tickling laughs instead. The sex scene is worth watching this for alone… you’ll laugh till you cry…as is the scene where her water breaks and it looks like green dishwashing liquid! And the whole thing is meant to be serious! Epic fail for them!…Win, win for us!

Also starring Denise Crosby and genre favorite Kane Hodder who actually looks embarrassed to be in this. Crack open your favorite brew and enjoy this schlock-fest.

Oh…and for those watching for the charming Alison Brie, there’s good and bad news…the Community star does get to kiss another girl and talk hilariously dirty during a sex scene, but sadly uses an obvious body double for the brief nude scenes. Below rating is purely for ‘so bad it’s good’ entertainment value.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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COMPLIANCE (2012)

A disturbing thriller based on supposedly true events about a mean spirited prank pulled on the employees of a fast food restaurant. A caller (Pat Healy), claiming to be a police officer, tells manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) that one of her employees, Becky (Dreama Walker) has committed a theft and needs to be searched and detained. The caller asks Sandra and her staff to do increasingly humiliating things to Becky all under the guise that it is part of a criminal investigation and none of them seem to have the courage to question the increasingly depraved acts until it’s too late.

Compliance is a tough movie to sit through and it would be hard to believe that people could be stupid enough to go along with such a horrible prank for as long as they did, except for the fact that it is all taken from a case in 2004 at a Mc Donald’s in Fort Washington, Kentucky. Craig Zobel writes and directs the story fairly straightforward and he gets good performances out of his cast and the result is a disturbing movie that is tough to sit through…even more so, because it actually happened. Not a great film. The aftermath seems rushed after the film took it’s time portraying the events, but it is still effective and fairly well made.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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“ASH VS. EVIL DEAD” SEASON 2 PROMO POSTERS!

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Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead series (click HERE for our season 1 review!) is set to return soon for a second season. The adventures of Ash, Pablo and sexy Kelly will continue on 10/2/16 as Ash returns to his hometown in Michigan to battle the Deadites!

For now, here’s some great character posters, including new cast members Lee Majors as Ash’s dad Brock, Ted Raimi as old friend Ted Kaminski, Michelle Hurd as old flame Linda and Joel Tobeck as new bad guy “Baal”, to enjoy while we wait!

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Sources: Dread Central, Starz

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SUBSPECIES (1991)

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SUBSPECIES (1991)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

As it was the birthday of the late, great Angus Scrimm recently, I decided to revisit this flick in which he stars in a small role as Vampire King Vladislav. This is one of Charles Band’s Full Moon direct to video productions and actually has a bit of a cult following, spawning three sequels and a spin-off. This first film tells of the approaching of the Festival of Prejmer in which the locals celebrate a time when, as they believe, vampires saved them from the invading Turkish army. The Vampire King (Scrimm) is going to use it to pass his crown and the powerful relic, the Bloodstone, onto his younger son Stefan (Michael Watson). His evil eldest son Radu (Anders Hove) is not happy about this and returns from his banishment to murder his father and take the powerful Bloodstone for himself. Now Stefan must find a way to stop him and help two American college students (Laura Tate and Michelle McBride) and their local friend (Irina Movila), who have been targeted by his bloodthirsty brother.

Flick is an OK vampire yarn elevated by some nice Romanian locations where it was actually filmed. The plot, as per Band and Jackson Barr’s script, plays it safe and doesn’t stray too far from the traditional vampire story. It has it’s fiend pursuing innocents and turning some into his own kind and a Van Helsing  type character, which here is represented in the form of local man Karl (Ivan J. Rado). There is a romance between Stefan and Michelle (Laura Tate) that seems added to satisfy the Anne Rice crowd, but otherwise it’s very old-fashioned. The film does have some atmosphere, though even at only 80 minutes director Ted Nicolaou moves things at a very moderate pace. There is the expected bloodshed and some nudity to appease the intended target audience and some brief stop motion animation from the legendary David Allen, in the portrayal of Radu’s diminutive demon-like minions. Being direct to video, the cinematography is sadly TV-like and the film’s sumptuous Romania locales deserved better. Aside from the always delightful Scrimm and Anders Hove giving his raspy voiced Radu some menace, the cast is fairly wooden all across the board. There is also a bit of a physical resemblance between Watson and Tate, including similar hairdos, that adds an uncomfortableness to their vampire/human romance. Too bad producer Charles Band couldn’t have given this flick a little more effort on a production and creative level, as it had potential to be something with a bit more weight had it not been targeted for direct to video sales.

Not a great movie by any lengths, but it has it’s entertainment value and even filmed unflatteringly, the Romanian locations are atmospheric. The vampire tropes are all paraded out for fans and our lead fiend is memorable and deserved a better film to be in. Angus Scrimm adds class to his pre-credits role as the Vampire King and might have been even more impressive if not for that silly wig they make him wear. Worth a look, but don’t expect too much. Actress Denise Duff would replace Tate as Michelle for the next three flicks.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 fangs.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES AUG 19-21

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to the reviews here at The Movie Madhouse!)

1. “Suicide Squad” $20.7 Million

2. “Sausage Party” $15.3 Million

3. “War Dogs” $14.3 Million

4. “Kubo and the Two Strings” $12.6 Million

5. “Ben Hur” $11.4 Million

6. “Pete’s Dragon” $11.3 Million

7. “Bad Moms” $8 Million

8. “Jason Bourne” $7.9 Million

9. “The Secret Life Of Pets” $5.7 Million

10. “Florence Foster Jenkins” $4.3 Million

 

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANGUS SCRIMM!

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Today marks the birthday of horror film legend Angus Scrimm! Renown to fans worldwide as Phantasm‘s Tall Man, he has terrified and delighted us with his legendary performances as one of horror’s greatest icons for over three decades with a 5th Phantasm film on the way!

MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse celebrates the legacy of Angus Scrimm and his contribution to horror and fantasy cinema on this, his birthday!

For a review of the coinciding Angus Scrimm film, just click on the poster

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john dies at the end lost empire

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: CONAN THE BARBARIAN and 13 ASSASSINS

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CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2011)

The original Conan flick has a legendary aura and is now fondly remembered as a classic. This Conan is no classic, but to be honest, is actually an entertaining and action packed popcorn flick that is better than the trailers led one to believe. Like Arnie’s, this Conan seeks revenge against the man who killed his father, the power hungry tyrant, Khalar Zym, who seeks to enslave all. On his way to avenge himself, he meets a woman, Tamara, who is key to the villain’s plan. Sure, it’s easy to predict there will be some sex and plenty of bloodshed before the credits roll, but the ferocity of the action does make up for the predictability and Momoa is solid enough as Conan, though obviously lacking in Arnie’s larger then life persona. Zym is played effectively by Steven Lang along with Rachel Nichols as the spunky and pretty heroine/love interest, Tamara. She and Momoa seem to have some chemistry together which helps as their relationship is given very little time between beheadings. Rose McGowan is creepy as Lang’s sorceress daughter and the always good Ron Perlman cuts a strong profile as Conan’s father. Director Marcus Nispel moves everything along at a brisk pace, stages the action well and makes it all look good. The production and FX are solid. The make-up is good as is the gallons of blood spilled. Tyler Bates score doesn’t convey the majesty of Basil Poledouris’ brilliant soundtrack for the 1982 flick, but is fine if not generic.

All in all, Conan is a fun summer flick that delivers a good time as long as you know not to expect another movie the likes of Millius’ classic. It never gives you that ‘making of a legend’ feeling we got while watching that flick, but it passed the time quickly and was never boring. Fun if not forgettable.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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13 ASSASSINS (2001)

Takashi Miike’s films can be overbearing and extremely graphic at times, such as the horrifying Audition, but with 13 Assassins he uses some nice restraint and falls back on a more traditional filmmaking style to tell this old fashioned story of a band of few going against a much larger foe. As with films like Dirty Dozen and Seven Samurai, Miike takes his time to build his plot and gather his band of assassins before setting them loose. Their target is the Shogun’s ruthless and cruel half brother who must be stopped from ever reaching the throne and replaced with a more responsible heir…if they can get past the army that guards him. The showdown in a remote village with the 13 going against over 200 is a masterful piece of filmmaking and maybe some of the finest work Miike has done in his eclectic career, as well as, one of the best action sequences of it’s kind to hit film in a long time. A great movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: DETENTION

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DETENTION (2012)

Detention is a self aware spoof of self aware horror flicks that is far too ambitious for it’s own good. There are some laughs and many bits work, but the movie wants to spoof too much and looses focus and just becomes a schizophrenic mash-up spoofing everything it can get it’s greedy hands on. What starts out as an amusing send up of Scream style 90s horror just becomes a mess of pop cuture references and jabs at every movie writer/director Joseph Kahn and co-writer Mark Palermo can think off. It’s a shame, there are some clever ideas and funny gags mixed in with the swirling cyclone of a story that involves serial killers, aliens, body switching, time travel and the apocalypse. For the most part, the cast is appealing and works well with what they have. Shanley (The Conjuring) Caswell’s nerdy Riley in particular is a cute and sassy heroine that deserved a better movie. Kahn and company need to narrow their vision and show some restraint and they might have something next time. Also stars Josh (Hunger Games) Hutcherson and a bland as usual Dane Cook as the Grizzly Lake High School principal.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE DIVIDE (2011)

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THE DIVIDE (2011)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Xavier Gens (Frontier(s), Hitman) weaves this grim and violent tale of a group of survivors who are trapped together in a bomb shelter after a nuclear attack on New York City. The longer they stay cooped up in the shelter together, the more civilized behavior collapses and the worst in human nature comes out.

Divide is a well made film and Gans gets really good performances out of his cast, including Michael Biehn, Lauren German and Rosanna Arquette. He crafts a lot of tension and takes us and his characters through some very disturbing sequences as savagery takes over and atrocities are committed with growing ease. But despite how well Gans’ film is made, it is the nature of the story and the filmmaker’s willingness to indulge in it that weighs it down. The problem is we’ve seen this kind of civilization breakdown many times before and Gans spends a little too much time on the horrible acts that the characters commit on each other. After a while we start to become numb and a bit bored as a good portion of the two hour running time is a journey through the evils that men do. The constant bombardment of vulgar and repulsive behavior looses it’s effect and the last act is spent just wanting it to come to some sort of conclusion. And when that conclusion comes, we are already too weary to fully feel it’s bleak impact. There are some interesting segments too, including one that gives us an idea of just who has perpetrated the attack, which is quite chilling and we do have to give Gans credit for such a brutally realistic portrayal of such an event. The production value is high and the scenes of a nuclear devastated NYC are extremely vivid and horrifying which adds to the emotionally dark tone of the film.

A well done movie, but a bit too bleak and depressing for it’s own good. The film makes it’s point over and over and it is emotionally draining. Certainly was worth seeing, but not the kind of movie I’d want to watch again.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 cans of lye…gotta keep that bomb shelter toilet fresh!

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IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016)

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TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016)

Korean horror/thriller is a fun mash-up of zombie outbreak flick and disaster movie that may be familiar in it’s story elements, but uses them very well. The plot has self absorbed businessman, Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) in the middle of a divorce and taking his young daughter, Su-an (Kim Su-an) on an early train to Busan to see her mother. Meanwhile, a leak at the YS Biotech plant starts some kind of viral reaction that turns people into vicious killers who spread the infection through their bite. One of the infected gets on the train and now, while the outbreak spins out of control in the country all around them, the infection starts to spread throughout the cars. Trapped with increasing numbers of the infected onboard, the survivors must battle for their lives against the mindless killers, as well as, the selfish living who would sacrifice others for their own survival. But there is hope, as their destination, the district of Busan, has become one of the only safe havens left…now they must live long enough to get there.

Park Joo-suk’s script is very reminiscent of flicks like 28 Days Later and World War Z with some familiar disaster film elements thrown in, like the pretentious ass (Kim Ui-Seong) who thinks his life is worth more than that of others and the pregnant lady (Jung Yu-mi) fighting for both her and her baby’s survival. But it is Yeon Sang-ho’s tight and skilled direction that takes the routine and familiar elements and really uses them well. He has a background in animated films and this helps him keep the action fast and furious and the film is visually satisfying and very colorful with a surprisingly bright color palette for a zombie film. There is quite a lot of bloodshed, though Sang-ho restricts it to an R-rated level and we don’t get the Romero or even Walking Dead level gore…though the film really doesn’t need it, as tension and suspense are more it’s focus. The director does gives us plenty of that, but doesn’t leave out character development or social commentary, which is added at just the right amounts. The film moves quickly, but does stop to let us catch our breath for a few moments, or to let certain plot points and events resonate. There are a few clever twists, such as the zombies not being able to see in the dark and for his first live action film, Sang-ho does freshen up the many clichés. There are a few slow spots here and there and one element of the climax gets a bit over-sentimental, but otherwise this is a solid thriller with a good cast of characters and high quality production value all around.

With his horde of zombies being very effective, the director does guide his cast of human characters well, too, even if they are mostly all stereotypes. Gong Yoo is the selfish workaholic, Seok-Woo, who has ignored his wife and daughter to the point of divorce and alienation. Obviosuly, he learns to be more selfless and to be a hero during these dire events. Kim Su-an is very sweet as his neglected daughter and she handles her part very well, being likable and sympathetic without getting in the way or being annoying. She’s a tough and strong-willed kid played by a promising young actress. Jung Yu-mi is the stereotypical pregnant lady, but she gives her Seong-kyeong some fighting spirit and keeps her from being a helpless damsel. Ma Dong-Seok is solid as her husband, Sang-Hwa, the traditional tough guy character who shames the selfish lead into becoming more heroic. Rounding out the main cast is Kim Ui-Seong as a ruthless businessman who thinks he is more important that the others and will risk everyone else to insure his own survive. A very stereotypical character for this kind of film played to perfection by the actor. We hate Yong-suk and want to see him get his. A good cast that add some dimension to characters typical of both the zombie and disaster genres.

One of the benefits of living in an area with a heavy Asian population, aside from the yummy authentic food and great markets, is that my local theater occasionally will play a high-profile Korean film complete with subtitles. I just started hearing good word about this when I noticed it had opened at my favorite movie haunt right here in town. Seeing this in a theater was definitely a plus and despite being very familiar with it’s plot and story elements, a skilled director used them very well and delivered a fast paced and suspenseful flick that overcame familiarity with simple fun. It’s well-crafted and takes itself just serious enough, so we do too. It’s spatters plenty of blood, piles up a significant body count and has enough furious action to be effective despite the heavy ‘been there, done that’. It also does so while delivering some well-rounded characters, stereotypical as they may be. Original?…no. Fun despite being part of an over-saturated genre?…very much so!

MonsterZero NJ Extra Trivia: Star Gong Yoo and actress Jung Yu-mi, who plays the pregnant Seong-kyeong, are actually from Busan, South Korea, the destination for our embattled train passengers.

-MonsterZero NJ

A solid 3 baseball bats…sadly, the only anti-zombie weapon on a train!

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