BARE BONES: A GHOST STORY (2017)

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A GHOST STORY (2017)

Supernatural drama tells the story of a young couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) whose lives are shattered when the husband is killed in a car accident right outside their home. His spirit returns to the house and watches as his wife grieves, heals, moves on and eventually moves out. Now it is his spirit that needs to learn to move on as he haunts the house and anyone that comes to live in it.

Written and directed by David Lowery, this is a somber yet effective story of grief and healing told interestingly from the perspective of the deceased. Lowery also has the audacity to have his silent, brooding ghost portrayed simply by having his actor wear a sheet with the eyes cut out and it works. It is definitely not a movie for everyone as Lowery lets scenes linger for a very long time, but these scenes have resonance and Lowery achieves a lot with silence in terms of telling his story. It is only in the last act when things get a little trippy that the film looses it’s grip a little bit. Here the ghost seems to be reliving the history of the house, up to his living there with his wife, though reliving the couple’s time there does help us understand his reluctance to leave…and maybe helps him understand too. A very unusual but effective and original indie flick from David Lowery, with very good performances from his small cast.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: IT (2017)

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IT (2017)

New adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel basically covers the first half of his book by focusing on the characters as kids. The children of Derry, Maine have something to be afraid of as someone…or something…is stalking them and taking them, including Bill Denbrough’s little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott). Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) gathers his band of misfit friends to investigate and finds that a number of children die or go missing in Derry every twenty-seven years. They also find that an evil entity is involved that takes the form of a clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) and worst of all, the group of friends now have the fiendish clown’s attention.

New version of King’s best selling book is a well enough made film by Mama director Andy Muschietti from a script by Cary Fukunaga, Chase Palmer and Gary Dauberman. Like his first film this flick has some wonderfully creepy visuals, but isn’t really all that scary. There are certainly some effective moments in It, but the film never really gets intense or digs it’s nails in to really frighten you. It works and entertains, but is obviously a horror made to appeal to the mainstream audience who doesn’t venture too far from the generic PG-13 horror fair that is all too common lately. The film is R-rated and has a few gruesome moments, but never gets too intense or brutal, so it doesn’t alienate the average movie goer who is only going due to the Stephen King name being attached or having read the book. Folks who watch everything horror will probably find it entertaining enough, yet leave wishing it had really turned the screws instead of mildly twisting them. In It‘s favor, there are also some very well done coming of age story elements, such as dealing with bullies (Nicholas Hamilton), being perceived as different and first love, as between Bill and Bev (Sophia Lillis). They work well enough to endear us to the characters, so we do care when things start to really pick up. The film is moderately paced and takes time to tell it’s story…technically, it’s half of the story…and it’s only in the second act when the horror elements become steady and as such, it’s delivers some fun stuff, just nothing truly frightening. Much like with Mama, one leaves feeling it could have been more had Muschietti really went for the throat. He seems to be a director who likes to play it safe and when wanting to appeal to a mainstream audience with a horror…even an R-rated one…studios generally like to play it safe.

The cast are strong and that helps even if the horror elements felt like pulled punches at times. The young cast members are all good in their roles with Jaeden Lieberher and Sophia Lillis being standouts. Lieberher conveys well a boy not willing to give up hope that his lost little brother will someday come home and Lillis is very strong as a young girl becoming a young woman and catching her widowed father’s attention in the worst way. The rest of the kids play their fairly stereotypical roles well with the fat kid (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the Jewish kid (Wyatt Oleff ), the wise-ass (Finn Wolfhard), the black kid (Chosen Jacobs) and the sickly kid (Jack Dylan Grazer) all present and accounted for. As the main villain, Bill Skarsgård is certainly effective as Pennywise, but his performance is enhanced with a lot of state-of-the-art SPFX whereas Tim Curry achieved more with simply his performance in the modestly budgeted 1990 TV movie version. Curry was creepier without being surrounded by CGI, though Skarsgård certainly has his moments.

Overall, this was an entertaining flick, but clearly a horror flick made for mainstream audiences that don’t regularly choose horror. It’s made for the folks that flock to big name adaptations or the works of A-list directors, but avoid the more intense stuff that usually premiers on VOD or in limited runs. Mama director Andy Muschietti directs well and the film looks great, though plays it safe scare-wise with not getting too intense or brutal as to scare away the wider audience for which this was made. Either way, the success of It means studios will green-light more R-rated horror flicks, which isn’t a bad thing for a genre drowning in PG-13 teen-centric chillers as of late.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 red ballons.

 

 

 

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES SEPT 15-17

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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. “It” $60 Million

2. “American Assassin” $14.8 Million

3. “Mother!” $7.5 Million

4. “Home Again” $5.3 Million

5. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” $3.55 Million

6. “Annabelle: Creation” $2.6 Million

7. “Wind River” $2.55 Million

8. “Leap!” $2.1 Million

9. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” $1.8 Million

10. “Dunkirk” $1.3 Million

 

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: DEAD AWAKE (2016)

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DEAD AWAKE (2016)

House of the Devil star Jocelin Donahue plays twin sisters Kate and Beth in this routine tale of supernatural horror. Beth claims to be pursued in her sleep by something sinister. No one believes her until she dies mysteriously. Now sister Kate investigates the unthinkable, as there may have been a supernatural entity involved. But unknown to Kate, she may be it’s next target.

Flick is directed with little style or originality by Phillip Guzman from Jeffrey Reddick’s routine script. The uninspired story tries to explain the sleep paralysis phenomena by attaching a generic boogie man called the sleep hag, which is responsible for people dying as they slumber. It all comes across as very dull and lazy and wastes the efforts of Donahue who tries hard to overcome the by-the-numbers material in both roles and makes a good heroine in spite of what little she has to work with. A dull cookie cutter horror that wastes a talented leading lady. Also stars Lori Petty in the role of Dr. Sykes.

-MonsterZero NJ

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TWISTED XMAS FLICK “BETTER WATCH OUT” GETS A TRAILER!

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The twisted holiday horror/comedy Better Watch Out (formally titled Safe Neighborhood) arrives October 6th on VOD and presents the story of pretty babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) having to protect her two tween charges (Levi Miller and Ed Oxenbould) from intruders with bad intentions…but who needs protecting from who? Flick is directed by Chris Peckover from a script by he and Zach Kahn. Check out the RED BAND trailer below…

Source: Youtube

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971)

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THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971)

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

Four years earlier Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price) lost his beautiful wife, Victoria (Caroline Munro) during a medical procedure. Racing home upon hearing the news, Phibes himself got into a car accident and was presumed burned to death. But the doctor is not dead and though horribly scarred, he plans to exact revenge on the nine medical personnel he feels responsible for Victoria’s death. Now the police are baffled as Phibes begins to exact his revenge in the form of biblical plagues and begins a bloody path leading to the chief surgeon (Joseph Cotton) for whom he plans the worse fate yet!

Price classic is stylishly directed by Robert Fuest from a script by he, along with William Goldstein and James Whiton. The flick may take place in 1925, but Fuest gives it a 60s art deco look and a very twisted sense of humor. While Phibes’ plans for those he seeks revenge on are quite ghastly, there is a sense of fun as Phibes unleashes his plagues with an assortment of bizarre gadgets and a disguise or two. The results can be gruesome, but nothing too extreme as the film was rated PG…or “GP” as it was called during this era. There is some fun to be had in watching Phibes make a fool of Scotland Yard Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey) and evade any attempts by the law to protect those still yet to meet a horrible fate. It is a bit methodically paced and feels somewhat longer than it’s 94 minute run time, but watching Phibes play the organ while plotting horrible deeds is campy, ghoulish fun with Price doing what he does best. On a technical level it is well made though some of the FX are delightfully cheesy by today’s standards.

As for the horror legend, Price is at the top of his game here as the sinister Phibes. Even having to play the role mute and add his voice later (Phibes lost the ability to speak in the accident and uses a device to emit his voice) he still chills with the look in his eyes and his mannerisms and his dialogue is still recited with that Vincent Price flair. He never goes overboard, but just over-the-top enough to give a diabolical horror movie style Bond villain vibe to the gadget making/organ playing Phibes. Joseph Cotton is another movie veteran who knows to take the campy/creepy material seriously as the main target on Phibes’ list, Dr. Vesalius. Peter Jeffrey seems to be having a good time as the constantly baffled and outwitted Inspector Trout. Another role that is meant to be campy with the actor showing just enough restraint to not become outright silly. Virginia North is a sexy femme fatale as Phibes’ silent assistant Vulnavia and an un-credited role playing Phibes’ Victoria in photos and corpse form is British film vixen and future Bond girl, Caroline Munro. A classy cast that all approach the material with proper amounts of camp or seriousness.

Overall, this is a cult classic and another example of why Vincent Price is a legend. As a film itself, it is a little too slow paced for it’s own good and the mix of gruesome and giddy may not always work completely, but it is still a lot of twisted fun. The diabolical doctor would return for a sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, the following year.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Phibes.

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: CIRCUS KANE (2017)

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CIRCUS KANE (2017)

Balthazar Kane (Tim Abell) is renown for his haunted circus attractions though hasn’t been heard from since a devastating fire ripped through his tent. Now he has come out of hiding and has invited a group of prominent horror bloggers to test out his plans for a new attraction. All they have to do is spend the night and if they make it through, they will receive $250,000. But soon the group find out getting through one of Balthazar Kane’s attractions is a literal fight for survival.

Low budget horror is directed by Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray, who is the son of prolific low budget horror filmmaker Fred Olen Ray, from a story and script by Sean Sellars, James Cullen Bressack and Zack Ward. It’s got it’s bloody heart in the right place and is actually somewhat entertaining, even with the restrictions of a limited budget. Ray, like his cult favorite father, gets a lot out of a little and gives the film a sense of twisted fun even if the minimal budget restricts the action to thriftily decorated sets. There is some spooky make-up on it’s sinister clowns, some decent gore and presents us with a fairly likable group of bloggers to fear for. Sure, we’ve seen plot elements before and sometimes Ray gets a little overindulgent with the digital editing effects, but it does entertain and that’s what counts. Fun little flick also stars Nicole Fox, Ted Monte and Victoria Konefal among the ill-fated bloggers and Night Court’s Richard Moll as “The Pale Man”.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: JACKALS (2017)

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JACKALS (2017)

Jackals opens in 1983 with a chilling murder of a family in the middle of the night. The film then switches to the kidnaping of a young man, Justin (Ben Sullivan) by two masked individuals. We find out they are actually Ben’s father, Andrew (Johnathon Schaech) and ex-Marine, Jimmy (Stephen Dorff). We also learn that Justin is involved with a cult and his family has abducted him to a remote cabin for Jimmy to deprogram him. But as horror fans we know remote cabins in the woods are never a safe place and soon they are surrounded by masked cultists who want Justin back and his family all dead.

Flick is written by Jared Rivet and directed effectively by Kevin Greutert (Jessabelle). The plot may be a mix of things we’ve seen before like The Strangers, Faults and You’re Next, but it works well enough. There are some chilling scenes and some intensity, especially when the cultists surround the cabin and begin their efforts to get in. There is also some brutal violence and director Greutert does give it some atmospheric visuals to support the night-set story. The film falters a bit in a few aspects. First off, the Powell Family remain far too calm and organized when the cultists make their presence known. They quickly arm themselves, make weapons and seem quite ready to defend the cabin as if they’ve done this before. Have they? Did we miss something? Did Jimmy conduct a family boot camp just in case? Also, the cultists seem like they are a large group, yet constantly attack the cabin one or two at a time, instead of rushing the cabin all at once and overrunning it…which would end the movie very quickly. That and the whole animal masked killers thing is starting to get old and is far less effective since many films have used this trope in recent years. Still the film does entertain and there are some effective moments alongside the familiar ones.

The cast are all fine enough. The vets like Schaech, Dorff and Deborah Kara Unger take the material seriously and try their best to add some dramatic intensity. Ben Sullivan is creepy as Justin and the dynamic of being a brainwashed cultist is conveyed well enough to make the story work. We also have Nick Roux and Chelsea Ricketts as Justin’s jerk brother and girlfriend/baby momma, respectively and as the cultists are masked and silent, we never really get to know any of them. Cultist “Fox Girl” (Alyssa Julya Smith) had nice abs, but that’s as far as the character development went with her.

Overall, this was a decent enough horror/thriller to pass the time and there were some effective and brutally violent scenes to punctuate the story. There visual style of director Greutert added some atmosphere and the veteran cast took the material seriously. There were some story flaws, questions and a lot of familiarity which kept this from being a real nail-biter or more original, but you could do far worse for a night on the couch with a brew or two.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 hatchets, a common weapon for jackal masked cultists.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES SEPT 8-10

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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. “It” $117.1 Million

2. “Home Again” $9 Million

3. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” $4.85 Million

4. “Annabelle: Creation” $4 Million

5. “Wind River” $3.2 Million

6. “Leap!” $2.5 Million

7. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” $2 Million

8. “Dunkirk” $1.95 Million

9. “Logan Lucky” $1.8 Million

10. “The Emoji Movie” $1 Million

 

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: LITTLE EVIL (2017)

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LITTLE EVIL (2017)

Little Evil is a Netflix horror/comedy that has likable schlep Gary (Adam Scott) marrying pretty mom Samantha (Evangeline Lilly) and soon suspecting her six year-old son Lucas (Owen Atlas) might be the spawn of Satan…literally. And that’s kinda it.

There is little to recommend about Little Evil as it is a dreadfully unfunny attempt to spoof the bad seed/demon child scenario. Most of the jokes fall flat and the film takes itself a little too seriously anyway, which would be fine if the derivative horror elements worked at all. We’ve seen it all before and that would be fine if the flick was funny enough to laugh at the familiar tropes. It’s not. Scott is once again a dull lead and at least Lilly is perky as the oblivious mom and young Owen Atlas is suitably creepy as devil child Lucas. Other than that, the direction from Eli Craig is as pedestrian as his script is uninspired and both lack the cleverness, style or laughs to make a spoof/homage like this work. A bore from start to it’s cliché finish. Also stars Clancy Brown as a priest.

-MonsterZero NJ

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