BARE BONES: THE NIGHT WATCHMEN (2017)

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THE NIGHT WATCHMEN (2017)

When world famous Blimpo The Clown (Gary Peebles) dies of a mysterious illness in Romania, his body is shipped home and to the wrong building. When his coffin is opened, it’s discovered that he was bitten by a vampire and is now one of the undead himself. Unleashed in the building, he starts to turn the late-working employees into bloodsuckers. Now it’s up to three incompetent night watchmen (Kevin Jiggetts, Ken Arnold and Dan DeLuca), their new rookie (Max Gray Wilbur) and a cute and feisty employee (Kara Luiz) to stop the blood-craving clown and his minions.

Horror/comedy is directed by Mitchell Altieri (who directed The Hamiltons and The Thompsons with his “Butcher Brothers” collaborator Phil Flores) from a script by stars DeLuca and Arnold and Jamie Nash (Exists, Altered). It’s an amusing 80 minutes that may not always hit the mark, but is still goofy fun. There is a lot of blood spattered along with the occasional laughs and the cast do seem like they are having a good time. Sexy, girl-next-door Kara Luiz especially shows an endearing screen presence as the spunky, smart-ass turned vampire slayer, Karen. Would like to see her do more final girl work. Overall, it is an amusing and gory time on the couch and who can pass up vampire clowns? Also features veteran actor James Remar as a creepy boss and cult favorite scream queen Tiffany Shepis as an ill-fated employee.
-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WILDLING (2018)

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WILDLING (2018)

Wildling finds a little girl named Anna (Aviva Winick) being held in a single room by a man she knows only as “Daddy” (Brad Dourif). He cares for her and tells her tales of a creature called a “Wildling” that will come for here if she steps outside. When Anna grows into a young woman (Bel Powley from Diary of a Teenage Girl) the man becomes fearful and his suicide attempt brings the police. Rescued, Anna is put in the custody of Sheriff Ellen Cooper (Liv Tyler) till they can find her real parents. The longer she stays with Ellen and her brother Ray (Collin Kelly-Sordelet), though, the more Anna starts to change. When a young boy’s body is found mutilated in the woods, it starts to appear that Anna is something far more than simply a victim of imprisonment…and there may be far more truth to the fables of The Wildling.

This is certainly not the first time that lycanthropy has been used as a euphemism for a young woman coming of age. It is, however, a far different film than the cult classic Ginger Snaps, as directed by Fritz Böhm from his script with Florian Eder. While Ginger Snaps was more about budding sexuality, here there is a large focus on the fear in men of a woman’s empowerment, as the last act centers on a group of hunters trying to track Anna down and destroy her. We also get some disrespect from some of these men towards Tyler’s female sheriff, as she tries to find Anna and figure things out. Unfortunately, it is also in the last third where the film loses a bit of it’s grip, as Anna becomes more beast-like and it turns into torch light villagers hunting the monster, when the first two thirds were about a girl trying to find her place in the world, while dealing with some kind of metaphorical transformation. That was more emotionally interesting, as we like Anna and sympathize with her trying to fit in after years in a cell. Still Böhm tells his tale in his own style and he accomplishes some atmosphere and does make some really good use of the New York State locations, including some in downtown Piermont, NY, which I personally have frequented often. The film is visually satisfying and there are some gruesome sequences to remind you there is a horror flick under all the thinly veiled metaphors.

The small cast is very good, especially Powley as Anna. She creates a young woman both frightened and fascinated by the new world she is thrust into and then having to deal with a terrifying transformation into something she was taught is very dangerous. Her petite stature and youthful features allow her to successfully portray a woman ten years younger, as she did in the sexually themed Diary of a Teenage Girl. Liv Tyler is solid as the caring Sheriff. She becomes attached to Anna and it becomes hard for her when she starts to believe the girl might be dangerous. Dourif is good, as always, as “Daddy” a man who may have actually been locking the little girl up for her own good. Rounding out is a good performance by Collin Kelly-Sordelet as Ellen’s brother Ray, who also cares for Anna and James LeGros as a hermit who lives in the woods and may know more about Anna than she does herself.

In conclusion this is not an original idea, it could be oversimplified into Room meets Ginger Snaps, but is well done enough to walk to the beat of it’s own drum. Director/co-writer Fritz Böhm creates an atmospheric allegory of a young woman coming of age and thus becoming dangerous to those who fear her empowerment. The first two-thirds are involving and it’s only in the last act, when it becomes more of a monster hunt that it loses it’s grip somewhat, thought it’s point is still made. A good cast, especially our lead, also helps tell the story well. Worth watching, though one might end up wanting to like it a bit more than one actually does. Not bad for a first full length film, Böhm could be someone to keep an eye on.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 full moons.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES APRIL 13-15

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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. “Rampage” $34.5 Million

2. “A Quiet Place” $32.6 Million

3. “Truth or Dare” $19 million

4. “Ready Player One” $11.2 Million

5. “Blockers” $10.2 Million

6. “Black Panther” $5.3 Million

7. “Isle Of Dogs” $5 Million

8. “I Can Only Imagine” $3.8 Million

9. “Tyler Perry’s Acrimony” $3.7 Million

10. “Chappaquiddick” $3 Million

 

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: RAMPAGE (2018)

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RAMPAGE (2018)

Latest flick to be based on a video game arrives just weeks after the Tomb Raider reboot. This monster mash finds the Engyne Corporation conducting illegal genetic experiments on a space station. When it’s test subject gets free, the cataclysm sends samples of this genetic-altering material crash-landing to Earth. It’s encountered by simian wildlife sanctuary resident, George, a wolf in the Wyoming wilderness and something beneath the waters in the Everglades. The animals begin to grow at an alarming rate and acquire new strengths and abilities, causing havoc wherever they go. Engyne’s sinister siblings Claire (Malin Åkerman) and Brett (Jake Lacey) send out a signal that will lure their Frankenstein creations to Chicago, while the military and government frantically try to stop the monsters. Meanwhile George’s handler, primate specialist and ex-solider, Davis Okoye ( Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) tries to save his friend with the help of a pretty geneticist (Naomie Harris) and with a government agent (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hot on his tail.

Film is directed very-by-the-numbers by Brad Peyton who directed Johnson in the much livelier San Andreas. Maybe it’s the messy script by four writers, no less, or maybe Peyton is tired of assaulting his frequent leading man with monsters (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) or crashing buildings around him. There are some fun bits and the monster throw-down at the end is a bit punchier than Pacific Rim: Uprising’s Kaiju/Jaeger clash, but it’s not as much dumb fun as it should be…though it is dumb. The flick seems to follow the template of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, with a little monster action here and there, but most of it saved for the last act with a lot of exposition and pontificating from hero and villain alike, in-between. There are all the clichés present you could want, from evil corporate villains, to hard-nosed military types, to the slimy government agent who eventually sees things our hero’s way. Aside from some top-notch creature FX and city smashing CGI, there just isn’t really the sense of fun Peyton gave his earlier movies with “The Rock”. One is never bored, but you’re still not having the great time you did watching Johnson navigate falling skyscrapers in San Andreas. There are more plot holes than you can shake a giant albino ape at…such as, if they could track the two fallen canisters that produced George and Ralph (The Wolf), why couldn’t they track the third canister that produced the gargantuan, mutant alligator? And while not genetically altered, why is Davis able to shrug off being shot in the gut by Claire? One minute he is in intense pain and the next he’s skipping over fallen buildings with the greatest of ease. Biggest question of all…why am I looking for sense and logic in a movie like this?

There is an impressive cast for what is basically a B-movie monster flick, name-wise anyway. Johnson has proven he has the charm and chops to be a solid action hero and he can be very funny, as his WWE days already illustrated. He is charismatic and fun here, though given some very weak dialogue that even his muscles can’t beat. Naomie Harris is a fine heroine as the geneticist whose work is used for ill by Claire and Brett, although she is mostly a second banana to Johnson…sorry about the dual penis euphemisms, sometimes they just pop up…As for our villains, they are as two-dimensional and cliché as they come with Åkerman and Lacey hamming it up as pontificating corporate banshee and her cowardly brother respectively. Jeffrey Dean Morgan also goes over-the-top as cowboy government agent Russell, who is first a pain in Davis’ side, than an ally. Another walking cliché. Rounding out is Joe Manganiello in a brief part as a mercenary sent to take down Ralph and Demetrius Grosse as a military operative too hard-nosed for his own good…and let’s not forget Jason Liles who did the motion capture performance for the big albino ape George, giving him the personality the other critters lacked.

Simply, despite the set-up of Dwayne Johnson and oversized monsters battling it out in Chicago, this flick is too pedestrian to generate the fun needed to overcome the script’s shortcomings. The characters are tired clichés, some of the actors are simply over-compensating for the lack of character development, George aside, the monsters are strictly generic and the final throw-down is a little too by-the-numbers to get us really entertained. It’s not as dull as the recent Pacific Rim: Uprising, thanks in part to the charisma of it’s leading man, but is not nearly as fun as last year’s Kong: Skull Island. Those familiar with the video game on which it’s based might be more emotionally invested, but otherwise this is a moderately amusing flick that is best saved for checking out on Netflix at some point.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 Johnsons.

 

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BARE BONES: LOWLIFE (2017)

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LOWLIFE (2017)

Almost 25 years later and filmmakers are still trying to recreate the magic of Quentin Tarantino’s now classic Pulp Fiction. This latest attempt takes place on the mean streets of Southern L.A. where sleazy crime boss Teddy “Bear” Haynes (Mark Burnham) runs an illegal organ harvesting business beneath his taco restaurant. He uses a Mexican wrestler “El Monstro” (Ricardo Adam Zarante) as his enforcer. El Monstro’s girlfriend…and Haynes adopted daughter…Kaylee (Santana Dempsey) is pregnant and is the latest target for Haynes’ business when her real mother Crystal (Nicki Michaeaux) pleads with him for a kidney for Kaylee’s dying father, Dan (King Orba), unknowing her long given away daughter is the perfect match. When she finds out, she teams with El Monstro to take Haynes down and bloody hi-jinx ensue…still with me?

Flick is directed by Ryan Prows with script and story by he and at least four other people. It’s a fairly dull movie with it’s attempts at dry, hip humor falling mostly flat and director Prows not having nearly enough style to evoke QT’s most famous work. There is graphic violence, organ removal and the film goes back and forth in time as Pulp Fiction did, but isn’t anywhere near as fun. The cast are all fine, but the flick is just never really that interesting or entertaining and is just too obvious in it’s wannabe goals. Even at slightly over 90 minutes it was tedious to sit through this dull nonsense. El Monstro was amusing and deserved a better movie to be in.

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES APRIL 6-8

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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. “A Quiet Place” $50 Million

2. “Ready Player One” $25 Million

3. “Blockers” $21.4 Million

4. “Black Panther” $8.4 Million

5. “I Can Only Imagine” $8.3 Million

6. “Tyler Perry’s Acrimony” $8 Million

7. “Chappaquiddick” $6.2 Million

8. “Sherlock Gnomes” $5.6 Million

9. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” $4.9 Million

10. “Isle Of Dogs” $4.6 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: A QUIET PLACE (2018)

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A QUIET PLACE (2018)

Our tale opens in the year 2020, just 89 days into some kind of apocalyptic event involving aggressive predators who hunt by sound and are virtually un-killable. We are introduced to the Abbott family, who have been surviving by living a life of silence at their remote farmhouse and raiding local stores for supplies. It is on one such supply run that little Beau (Cade Woodward) makes an innocent mistake, with a toy spaceship he got from a store and the Abbott’s suffer a devastating loss. The film then picks up about a year later when mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is pregnant again and father Lee (John Krasinski) is trying to make life comfortable and safe for his family, including Marcus (Noah Jupe) and his deaf older sister Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who blames herself for Beau’s death. One night, as Evelyn is about to give birth, a series of events separates the family members and the creatures are brought to their doorstep. Will the Abbotts be able to survive as their worst fear comes true?

While this is as mainstream as horror gets, it is exceptionally well directed by star Krasinski, who also co-wrote with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. We’ve seen critters that hunt by sound before (The Descent), but never have we seen such a detailed world, crafted out of necessity, around their existence. The Abbotts walk barefoot and use trails of dirt to get from place to place. Their house has painted squares on the floor to mark the floor boards that don’t squeak. They eat on lettuce leaves instead of plates. As Regan is deaf, they all speak sign language and that helps them communicate quietly. They are an everyday family in a horrible situation and we like them and thus as they convey a constant sense of alertness and tension, we are tense, too. Krasinski keeps that intensity tight as little Beau’s demise illustrates what happens with the slightest sound…and that no one is safe…so we are startled whenever a sound is made. The director knows this and sets us up by the foreshadowing of sounds and accidents to come. Yes, this is a very manipulative flick, but in a very good way. We know that the nail pulled up will cause trouble and we damn well know Evelyn is not giving birth at a convenient time…and babies make lots of noise, too. And just so we never forget these beasts are dangerous, we get a few bloody reminders of what a mess they can make. Sure, the film can be predictable, but the director uses that against us and very well. There are some plot holes. The Abbott house is filed with items that look like they could fall at any moment…way too many tchotchkes for a family trying to be quiet…and just where are they getting electricity if the world is decimated…a generator?…and don’t generators make a lot of noise? Still the film is constructed expertly to get reactions out of the audience and it does. The sense of isolation also works very well, too, in keeping us on edge. The creatures are kept in shadows till the last act and are very effectively designed when we finally see them. They remain scary even when out of the dark. Their exact origin is kept ambiguous, but newspaper clippings in the Abbott house give us some information to make our own conclusions. The quiet nature of the film also gives opportunities for some fun jump scares, but not the cheap kind. There are legitimate scares here, even if we do feel Krasinski has been pulling our strings like a bunch of popcorn munching marionettes.

The small cast are great at conveying a loving family in a constant state of fear. Despite a lot on his plate, Krasinski the actor delivers a strong and caring father in his Lee Abbott. He will do anything for his family and his technical know-how helps create a safe place for them…as safe as it can be. A very likable man. Emily Blunt is solid as Evelyn. True, she becomes more of a damsel in distress in the second half, but portrays a strong woman nonetheless and one still wounded over the loss of one child, despite the impending birth of another. Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds is great as Regan. She is a strong-willed young girl, though one who feels directly responsible for the death of her little brother. She gives a very pained and emotional performance using only her body language and eyes. Noah Jupe is good as younger brother Marcus. Marcus is a frightened boy, especially after witnessing the death of his sibling, but will learn to be strong in a dangerous world. Finally cute little Cade Woodward made an impression as Beau. He doesn’t have a lot of screen-time, but made enough of an impact that his loss is very traumatic for the audience. A great cast that realistically portrays a loving family. Krasinski and Blunt are married in real life, so it probably wasn’t too much of a stretch.

Whoever says PG-13 horror is weak is proven wrong here by John Krasinski. In the right hands it can be a scary and suspenseful time and A Quiet Place sure is. True, this is a horror film for folks who don’t normally watch horror, but that’s just fine. This longtime horror fan had a fun time and really appreciated director John Krasinski’s manipulative and skilled direction. He gets the most out of his scenario and used some of it’s predictability to get us unsettled. Sometimes it’s just as nerve-wracking to know what’s coming as it is when not. The flick’s just bloody enough to get it’s point across and has some fearsome critters to add validity to our featured family’s fears. Well done and highly recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 …SHHHHHH!…They’ll hear you!

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HAPPY 92nd BIRTHDAY, ROGER CORMAN!

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The legendary director/producer of countless classic exploitation and B-movies turns 92 today! Happy Birthday, Roger Corman!

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If you haven’t picked up this great book about Roger Corman’s career, YOU SHOULD! (review HERE)


-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: APARTMENT 212 (2017)

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APARTMENT 212 (2017)

Jennifer (Penelope Mitchell) is moving to the city to escape her abusive ex-husband, Boyd (Chris Johnson) and start life anew. She moves into a rundown apartment complex and immediately starts hearing noises and whimpering from her reclusive neighbor. Soon after that neighbor commits suicide, Jennifer starts to awaken with nasty bite marks. These nocturnal attacks escalate, but the exterminator says she has no bugs or vermin and her doctor can’t identify them. Her lack of sleep is getting to her and everyone, including her sweet neighbor Terry (Kyle Gass) thinks she’s on drugs. Jennifer begins to investigate her deceased neighbor’s apartment for answers and finds she might be up against something out of a nightmare.

Horror is well directed by Hylar Garcia from a screenplay by he, Kathryn Gould and Jim Brennan. The film has some solid tension and until our reveal, gives us the willies quite nicely. Garcia paces the film moderately and it is a bit of a slow burn, but it gives us the chance to get to know Jennifer and both like and feel sorry for her, on both counts of being victimized by her mystery pest and the abusive ex-husband who finds her quite easily. It is a creepy flick for the most part. There are some flaws which kept this from being a real treat. First off, if Jennifer is trying to escape the abusive Boyd, why does she move, what appears to be, driving distance away from his trailer. You’d think a few states away would be more effective. Next, an opening credits sequence with her neighbor gives us a good idea of what we are dealing with right off the bat and thus removes much of the suspense of figuring it out along with Jennifer. The sequence is disturbing, it starts things off ominously, but practically lets the creature out of the bag, so to speak. Finally, when our little “guest” is revealed, it looks like something out of a Charles Band, Full Moon flick and proves that the imagination can conjure up far worse when it remained unseen. The showdown between Jennifer and her nemesis also evoked the Karen Black Trilogy of Terror episode Amelia which featured the Zuni devil doll. Maybe that was intentional, or maybe an influence…and it was well done enough…but the tone of the confrontation isn’t as creepy or disturbing as what came before. It never sinks into camp, but the very nature of it makes it somewhat lighter and less intense. The film also comes to a predictable conclusion, though it is fitting and it works.

The small cast work very well in making the story effective. Penelope Mitchell is very likable as the young woman trying to escape abuse, Jennifer. We instantly like her and obviously feel sympathy for her when both the attacks start and abusive cop Boyd finds her fairly quickly. She’s a likable actress and handles the material really well, taking it serious enough to make it work and it gives the mystery intruder some weight. Chris Johnson is very effective as Boyd. The bad tempered cop is a very unlikable person and it makes us like Jennifer more. The character needed to be detestable with only a few scenes and Johnson delivers a real A-hole. Rounding out is Kyle Gass as the sweet-natured Terry, who is Jennifer’s first new friend at the complex and veteran actress Sally Kirkland as the grumpy landlord Claudette. A good cast.

Overall, this was a very creepy and effective flick from Hylar Garcia. It has some flaws which chip away some of the chills, including some plot holes and feeding us some information a little too early. The film’s pest isn’t as effective when finally seen as it was when it remained stealthily hidden and the final confrontation evokes a classic 70s TV horror, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as Garcia keeps it from turning campy, but does give the film a bit different tone than the disturbing chills that came before it. Still recommend giving this a look, as it still succeeds more than it stumbles. Watch through the credits for a few additional scenes.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 band aids.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: TERRIFIER (2016)

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TERRIFIER (2016)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Terrifier is the first full length horror to star spooky Art The Clown (David Howard Thornton), who previously appeared in a few stories of writer/director Damien Leone’s 2013 Halloween anthology flick All Hallows’ Eve. It’s Leone’s second film and the story is once again set on Halloween, as gal pals Dawn (Catherine Corcoran) and Tara (Jenna Kanell) are on their way home from a party. They encounter a scary clown and while Tara is legitimately scared, Dawn teases him. This begins a night of horror as the deranged clown corners the girls in an old apartment building basement. Art plans a horrible fate for both them, as well as, Tara’s sister Vicky (Samantha Scaffidi) who is on the way to pick them up and unaware of the psychotic clown awaiting her.

Written and directed by Leone, the director does show he can build tension and can produce some very creepy moments. It’s almost a shame then that he also likes to wallow in Herschel Gordon Lewis levels of gore, as the film can be creepy enough, at times, without having to drown us in severed limbs and cruelty. Let’s just say simple stabbings and shootings are not Art’s style. The clown villain is disturbing even without his blood-soaked antics and one wonders if Leone had dialed it back a bit, the film would have been more effective. As is, the constant hacking and dismemberment wears out its welcome and we become numb to it even before the 82 minute run time is up. It’s also a bit disappointing that the story switches attention from Tara to sister Vicky, about half way through, as Tara was proving quite the fiery opponent for Art and had a stronger presence than the more demure Vicky. Leone also knows how to find and utilize some really creepy urban locations and one might feel the urge to shower after spending so much time in the basement labyrinth Art uses as his house of horrors. For those who think this sounds a but misogynist, there are two male pizza parlor employees and a pest exterminator who demonstrate that Art dismembers everyone equally. The gore FX are fairly effective and are quite abundant as you can guess.

The cast do just fine, especially our three lead females. Jenna Kanell makes the biggest impression as the tough and feisty Tara. She gives Art a good fight and as stated, it’s a shame focus switches to Vicky when she arrives to play designated driver. It’s not that Samantha Scaffidi isn’t a decent final girl, it’s just Tara was a more interesting character. Vicky is more of a damsel who needs saving, while Tara was a fighter. Catherine Corcoran was cute and sexy as Dawn, but, unfortunately, we all know what happens to the sexy blonde in a flick like this, so…Rounding out David Howard Thornton is very effective as the silent Art. The actor projects the clown’s lunacy and lethal-ity quite well using only body language and his expressive eyes. There are also some supporting characters, homeless people and unsuspecting exterminators, to serve as clown fodder and they are fine for their purpose. Flick also features an opening scene cameo by All Hallows’ Eve‘s sexy Katie Maguire.

The film has it’s moments and the Art character is effective. Leone does manage some tension and legitimate scares and gives the flick some atmosphere. If anything takes it down a few notches, it is that relying on such extremely graphic gore and the constant acts of brutality by Art, by the last act, we are more tired of it, than unsettled by it. Still, Leone has a little something and Art is very creepy as creepy clowns go. Worth a look if you like your horror brutal and bloody.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 scary clowns.

 

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