REVIEW: EUROPA REPORT (2013)

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EUROPA REPORT (2013)

This found footage sci-fi flick tells the story of a company that privately funds a manned space mission to the Jupiter moon of Europa, where conditions may be right to support life. As the film opens the mission is being described by Europa Ventures’ CEO Dr. Unger (Embeth Davidtz) and we know right away the mission did not go well as she tearfully begins to tell the ill-fated tale by playing the mission footage communicated back to Earth. As the footage progresses we follow the astronauts from launch to the loss of one of the crew during an accident while on spacewalk to the landing on Europa where things really start to spiral out of control. We then follow the mission to it’s obviously tragic conclusion.

Europa Report is a decent and engrossing enough sci-fi thriller, though it never really builds the intensity or suspense we would have liked. The story by Philip Gelatt is interesting and it is competently directed by Sebastián Cordero, though it never really pulls us in like the recent Gravity which has some similar sequences. One of the flaws that hurts here is that we never really get endeared to the crew. The characters are likable enough and the cast of actors are all competent but, we never really interact with them enough or get to know them well enough to really care like we did with Gravity’s two astronauts in peril. The use of the mission control footage from the ship’s interior and exterior cameras makes us distant voyeurs and the use of POV is limited so we never really feel like we are there, which is the entire point of found footage. The use of professional actors like Davidtz and Elysium’s Sharlto Copley also hinders the found footage use, as they obviously are actors, not astronauts and thus this can’t be actual footage. It renders the illusion powerless. But, those flaws aside the story is interesting and I was never bored during it’s 90 minute running time. The production value is very good. There are some nice SPFX and the sets are well-made and give the illusion of the characters being inside a real spacecraft and not a set. Too bad we are never made to feel like we are in there with them. Obviously, it is not until the final frames do we find out what is really been happening on Jupiter’s moon and the film kept me curious though, I suspected the conclusion would reveal as much and play out like it did.

It’s just a shame this was only a moderately entertaining little flick instead of a real nail-biter like the story’s potential held. If you like sci-fi and you like found footage, it certainly is better than Apollo 18 but, should also have been a lot better than it is. I wasn’t expecting another Gravity or even a space set Blair Witch but, it could have been something that at least evoked those films and gave us more chills, suspense and intensity. Overall worth a look and I did enjoy it but, could have been so much more.

3 moons of Jupiter!

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MUSIC REVIEW: AFI- BURIALS (2013)

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AFI-BURIALS (2013)

AFI have changed their sound a bit over the years and personally I like the progression and enjoy their new stuff as much as their earlier tunes. And that being said I must say AFI’s new album Burials is a really strong album of hard rocking and versatile Goth Rock tunes. There’s not one bad or weak song on the album and if you like this band’s current sound then you should really enjoy this disc. The band is as tight as ever with Davey Havok delivering his usual melodic and sometimes haunting vocals, Jade Puget on guitar, Hunter Burgan on bass and Adam Carson on drums and all three providing backing vocals. The production from Gil Norton is top notch with the each song mixed to maximum effect from both lead and backing vocals and the instruments supporting them to the SPFX which are well used yet not overbearing thus creating songs with melodic impact but, not overproduced. From the gloomy opening tune “The Sinking Night” that has an almost Goth Pink Floyd vibe to it, to the intense “I Hope You Suffer”, to the fast paced and morbid “17 Crimes” this is an album that seems to indicate a band getting back to their more intense and darker side after the well made and satisfying but, somewhat lighter toned Crash Love. Even when the album does lighten up a bit like on the slower paced “Heart Stops” the band’s darkly whimsical lyrics are present to tell this tale of a broken heart. But, the album rarely slows down and when the band does have a little fun like on the slightly more upbeat “Greater Then 84″ there is always still a touch of the morbid to remind us that they haven’t forgotten their roots or influences and we won’t be getting hearts and flowers anytime soon. And we wouldn’t want it any other way. The first studio album from AFI in 4 years is definitely worth the wait and is a solid 13 track album that should satisfy fans of this Goth/ Rock/ Punk band and maybe earn them a few new ones in the process. A really solid and hard rocking album from AFI and highly recommended if you are a fan of theirs or Goth Rock in general. Great to have them back and in top form! A really good album!

Track Listing

1.”The Sinking Night”  2:18

2.”I Hope You Suffer”  4:37

3.”A Deep Slow Panic”  4:01

4.”No Resurrection”  4:27

5.”17 Crimes”  2:57

6.”The Conductor”  3:41

7.”Heart Stops”  3:08

8.”Rewind”  4:12

9.”The Embrace”  3:25

10.”Wild”  3:11

11.”Greater Than 84″  4:17

12.”Anxious”  3:50

13.”The Face Beneath the Waves”  5:10

A hard rockin’ 3 and 1/2 guitars

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A TRAILER ARRIVES FOR THE LONG AWAITED ‘WOLF CREEK 2!’

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It’s been almost 10 years since Greg McLean’s intense horror Wolf Creek introduced us to Outback nutjob Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) but now Mick and director McLean are back to terrify us again with Wolf Creek 2 which is scheduled to open in Australia in 02/2014. There is no US release date yet, but, it probably won’t be long till we get one. Check it out below to watch the intense trailer in the meantime…

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)

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THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)

Partially inspired by true life serial killer Ed Gein, this is the original teens v.s. redneck cannibals flick and still the best and most effective. 5 friends travel to checkout stories that the gravesite of bother and sister Franklin (Paul A. Partain) and Sally’s (Marilyn Burns) family has been vandalized and on the way to their family’s abandoned property, they encounter a bizarre hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) who seems to mark them for something by leaving a bloody smear on their van. That something turns out to be an encounter with his fiendish family of backwoods cannibals including the hulking, chainsaw wielding Leatherface (Gunner Hansen) and the disturbed family matriarch (Jim Siedow) who runs the twisted clan. Now one by one the young victims are murdered by this deranged family who have found a horrifying way to keep their kitchen and BBQ business filled with meat now that the local slaughter house is closed. Will any of them escape or will they all become lambs for the slaughter? Director and co-writer Tobe Hooper makes every frame of this classic fright flick give you the willies and saturates this tale of teens and cannibalistic rednecks with dread and tension from the first frame to the last. From the opening scene at the cemetery, to the fateful picking up of the bizarre hitchhiker, to arriving at “the house” this film has us on edge for the full duration. Hooper takes his teens on a nightmare roller-coaster ride that will not end well for most and his disturbing visuals and frantic explosions of deadly action, take the audience along with them. Added to his visual assault is a very disturbing soundtrack of strange sounds and music that give the film a really unsettling feel even in it’s quieter moments and truly unique production design complete with furniture made from bones. The film oozes dread and Hooper adds just enough of a twisted sense of humor to keep us from being numbed to his horror show and make us even more uncomfortable for giggling at his demented family while they horrify and torment their prey. The film is obviously bloody, though not nearly as gory as it’s reputation suggests or any of it’s sequels would become. Hooper ultimately creates one of the greatest horror flicks of all time and one of the most iconic horror characters in Leatherface. He also gets good work from all his cast from the likable young victims to the crazed cannibal clan, it all combines to make a terrifying and unforgettable horror flick. A text book example of how to make a low budget horror film. Also stars Allen Danziger as Jerry, Teri McMinn as Pam and William Vail as Kirk, who are among the 5 intended victims of Leatherface and company’s wrath. A great horror and a true classic.

4 classic chainsaws!

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REVIEW: ESCAPE PLAN (2013)

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ESCAPE PLAN (2013)

Escape Plan is a routine but, thoroughly enjoyable action thriller elevated by being the first real team-up of Sly and Arnie… Arnie’s role in both Expendables flicks being barely more then a cameo… and a really top notch supporting cast. The story behind this thriller is of security firm co-owner Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) whose expertise is testing the security of prisons by literally escaping from inside them. He’s hired by a CIA operative to test the supposedly escape proof “Tomb”, a secret high security penitentiary where the world’s most heinous criminals are sent to never be heard from again. But, it is actually a set-up and Ray’s incarceration is very real and whoever is behind it, has no intention of Ray ever getting out. But, Ray has other plans and seeks the help of fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to escape from The Tomb and it’s sadistic warden (Jim Caviezel) and get payback from those responsible. It’s a shame it took this long for these two action juggernauts to get together because, they have a great chemistry and work really well together. Arnold especially gives some nice dramatic weight to his grizzled inmate with a secret and Sly is in top form as a man with very personal reasons for what he does. They really click well together and it would have been nice to see them do a movie like this in their prime… not that they don’t still have it, cause they do. And I like that neither man is trying to pretend they are still in their 30s and let the grey show and get up a little slower after being knocked down… but, they still get back up. And they couldn’t have a better supporting cast with Caviezel making a really cruel and slimy villain along with Vinnie Jones as Drake, an equally sadistic prison guard. We also get strong work from Sam Neil as the prison’s symapthetic doctor, Vincent D’Onofrio as Ray’s partner and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as Ray’s friend and employee ‘Hush’. And the top notch cast helps as Director Mikael Håfström directs fairly by the numbers. The film is well paced and has some nice suspense and action scenes but, there is nothing groundbreaking or exceptional about how he films Miles Chapman and Jason Keller’s script. It’s a solid enough action thriller but, would be rather forgettable if not for the dynamic cast. And it is the cast that really makes this an entertaining movie and a fun throwback to the type of flicks both men made during their heyday in the 80s. If you are a fan of these two, it’s definitely worth a look and you’ll probably get a bang out of it like I did. A fun old school action movie with 2 of the genres greatest stars showing there is still some fire in the furnace. Also stars Amy Ryan and Ironman’s Faran Tahir as a fellow inmate. 

A solid 3 bullets!

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES OCTOBER 18-20

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Complete estimates are in for this weekend’s box office and Gravity kicks Carrie’s ass and Arnie and Sly’s too!

1. “Gravity” $31 Million

2. “Captain Phillips” $17.3 Million

3. “Carrie” $17 Million

4. “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2” $10.1million

5. “Escape Plan” $9.8 Million

6. “Prisoners”  $2 Million

7. “Enough Said” $1.8 Million

8. “The Fifth Estate” $1.7 Million

9. “Runner Runner” $1.6 Million

10. “Insidious: Chapter 2” $1.5 Million

source: box office mojo

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: EVIL DEAD 2013 and CABIN IN THE WOODS

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I admit I’ve covered these two films here already at the Movie Madhouse but, I watched this double feature last night and had a bloody good time with it so, I thought I’d share. They make a great double bill!

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EVILD DEAD (2013)

The original Evil Dead is one of my all time favorite fright flicks, so I was very apprehensive about a remake. With Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert and even Bruce Campbell on board as producers, I hoped the material would at least be treated with respect. Now having seen this new vision of one of the all-time horror classics, I can say not only was the material treated with respect, but it is one of the best horror remakes and one hell of a nasty, scary, bloody blast. The best thing is that co-writer and first time director Fede Alvarez smartly takes the basic premise and does his own thing with it.

This version has heroin addict, Mia (Suburgatory’s Jane Levy) being taken by big brother, David (Skateland’s Shiloh Fernandez) and three friends to an old family cabin to try to get Mia to quit her habit cold turkey. But someone has been in the cabin since they were last there and something gruesome has definitely gone on inside, with blood stains and dozens of dead animals hanging in the cellar. Of course there is also a mysterious book and within it, ominous warnings that certain words not be read aloud…so, of course, someone does…and at the same time Mia is alone in the woods…uh, oh…I don’t need to tell you that soon Mia is possessed by some horrible demonic entity and the gruesome blood-soaked nightmare begins as the ancient evil wants to claim them all.

Alvarez really crafts a strong, gruesome and scary horror of the likes we haven’t seen in a while. It’s vicious and nasty with top notch gore and make-up that is done the old fashioned way without any CGI. When limbs fly…and they do, it is good old fashioned prosthetics and I loved the lack of CGI when it came to the ghouls and gore. Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues (Diablo Cody was supposedly hired to work on the script, but if she was credited, I missed it.) basically give us enough elements of the original to make it recognizable as an Evil Dead flick and thus fits in with the series, but makes the flick it’s own animal…and that’s the way to do a remake like this. Alvarez is the real deal, who knows how to make a good old fashioned horror movie complete with suspense, tension and intensity, not to mention, plentiful scares. He also gives the film a strong atmosphere and I really liked his visual style.

He gets good work from his cast too, especially leading lady Levy whose character has a few stages to go through from heroin addict to a demon possessed creature to…well, you’ll have to see the flick to find out. Shiloh Fernandez is also very good, after a lifeless performance in Red Riding Hood, he shows us the actor we saw in Skateland was no fluke. The rest, Lou Taylor Pucci (Spring) as Eric, Jessica Lucas as Olivia and Elizabeth Blackmore as Natalie, do fine making their characters more than demon fodder and they are all likable enough to make us afraid for them when all hell breaks loose.

The flick is not perfect, but any flaws are minor and can be overlooked due to all that is done right. Evil Dead 2013 may not be as groundbreaking as the original and only time will tell if it will be highly regarded like it’s predecessor, but it is a strong, visceral horror that gives equal parts suspense and scares with all the goo and gore. Maybe not quite a classic, but a film worthy of the title Evil Dead. Well done!… and stay to watch after the credits!

Check out our look back at the original classic that started it all!… HERE!

Rated A very solid 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) demon possessed sitcom stars

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THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012) 

The Cabin In The Woods was originally filmed in 2009, but wasn’t released due to financial problems at it’s original studio, MGM. The film was finally released by Lionsgate in 2012 after an almost 3 year wait…and worth the wait it was!

If anyone knows how to have fun with pop culture horror conventions, it’s Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Avengers) and he and Director Drew Goddard craft a funhouse of a horror movie by doing just that…and we are happily along for the bloody fun ride. Cabin is a movie where the less you know going in, the better…so, I’ll simply say that it starts out with the classic “five young partiers heading up to an isolated cabin” scenario and then turns this horror sub-genre into something quite different and deviously fun.

Aside from a really clever script, Cabin benefits from the fact that Drew Goddard knows how to craft suspense and scares, despite letting us in early on what is going on. We also get a bunch of likable characters to root and care for and the cast is as likable as the characters they play. This is very important to make a horror flick work and so many films today makes their leads unlikable jerks who we could care less about. We are only scared when we care what happens to the protagonists and here we do. From plucky heroine Dana (Kristen Connolly) to hunky Curt (Thor’s Chris Hemsworth) to stoner Marty (Fran Kranz), we really like all five characters and it adds to the film’s effect that we don’t want to see them suffer the fate that has befallen them. And what a clever and cruel fate Whedon and Goddard have in store for their victims…and, in turn, providing a clever and inventive blood-soaked horror for all of us.

The FX are top notch and the performances from his cast, especially leading heroine Connolly, are all good and help make the wicked scenario work. The script provides plenty of scares and gore, but also gives us some tension-relieving laughs with Whedon’s trademark sly humor. Everything is blended together well by director Goddard, who gets us primed and ready for the “all hell breaks loose” final act…and that is a blood spattered treat, let me tell you!

A real horror movie blast! Also stars Jesse Williams as Holden, Anna Hutchison as Jules and a really fun surprise cameo that I won’t spoil here! One of the most inventive and fun horror movies in quite a long time! Highly recommended!

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) cabins!

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: KATIE FEATHERSTON

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This installment of Halloween Hotties takes a look at the paranormally beautiful and very talented Katie Featherston, a girl next door from the lone star state of Texas who has been capturing our hearts and scaring us out of our wits in the Paranormal Activity movie series.

click on the highlighted links to read a review of Paranormal Activity featured here recently in our Date Movie column at MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse! And click HERE for a more in depth look at Katie’s character in our Why Do Good Scares Like Bad Girls expose’ of some of Horror’s recent femme fatales. And for fans of her co-star Micah Sloat, we take a look at his character here!

KATIE FEATHERSTON

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Texas born Katie Featherston has long dreamed of being actress. She studied acting at Southern Methodist University graduating with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts… beauty as well as brains… and headed out to L.A. to seek her dream like many other acting hopefuls. Answering an ad, she auditioned for a role, along with another aspiring young actor named Micah Sloat, for first time filmmaker Oren Peli’s supernatural themed thriller, Paranormal Activity. Peli liked the dynamic between Katie and Micah and the rest is history. The actors where paid around $500 each for a week’s work where they would not only be doing a lot of the filming themselves, but improvising most of their dialog as well for the now classic found footage haunting flick. The film became a huge hit after gathering a reputation playing film festivals and Katie’s character has now appeared in all 3 smash hit sequels with another on the horizon… though her participation is being kept secret as always, we can only hope she will haunt us again in PA5. But fans may not know that Katie was also in 2 other low budget horror flicks before Paranormal Activity hit big. She played a rescued victim of a serial killer in the 2006 low budgeter Mutation and the loving girlfriend of the main character in the gory Psychic Experiment which finally got a recent release and made good use of Miss Featherston’s star power featuring her prominently on the movie art despite her role being a supporting one. Katie also recently had a multi episode role in Oren Peli’s supernatural found footage TV series The River as a camerawoman on an ill-fated expedition. Paranormal Activity is now considered a modern classic and it’s sequels are very popular all around the world and whether she’s playing an angel or a devil, her work in the horror genre makes Katie one of our favorite Halloween Hotties!
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As a potential victim of a serial killer rescued by a pursuing detective in Mutation...

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…As loving girlfriend Elsbeth in Psychic Experiment

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…in a quieter moment as ‘Katie’ before all hell breaks loose in Paranormal Activity… 

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…under the thrall of a supernatural fiend in Paranormal Activity’s chilling last act…

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…looking adorable with the equally cute Sprague Grayden who plays sister Kristi in PA3…

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… as “Rabbitt” an ill-fated documentary crew member in Oren Peli’s short lived TV show The River…

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… stalking her prey in Paranormal Activity 4

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…and as herself, a beautiful and talented young woman we’d like to see a lot more of!

BONUS: watch this very funny skit as Katie pokes fun at PA‘s effect on her auditions…

And don’t forget to check out our Halloween Hotties focusing on Melanie PapaliaKatharine IsabelleAmber Heard, Alexandra DaddarioKatrina Bowden, Briana Evigan and Danielle Harris! (just click on their names to go to their pages!

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REVIEW: ALYCE KILLS (2011)

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ALYCE KILLS (2011)

Alyce Kills is an interesting and sometimes very gruesome and disturbing tale of downward spiral caused by the refusal to take responsibility for one’s own actions. Alyce (Jade Dornfeld) is a pretty young woman with a mundane job and her own issues. One night she gets together with her best friend Carroll (Tamara Feldman) and a night of partying gets a bit out of control as Carroll finds her boyfriend (James Duval) is unfaithful and convinces Alyce to do drugs with her after a night of drinking. The evening winds up on the roof of Alyce’s building where some poorly judged playfulness leaves Carroll on the pavement barely clinging on to life. Alyce hides from her involvement and soon her growing guilt leads her to seek solace with Carroll’s drug dealer Rex (a very effective Eddie Rouse) who finds more physical ways for pretty Alyce to pay for her increasing drug habit. But drugs don’t stop her pain or the haunting visions of her friend and now Alyce decides to remove herself of guilt by placing it on others and then punishing them for what she sees as their part in Carroll’s accident. From her cheating boyfriend, to Rex, to Carroll herself, Alyce has a disturbing and gruesome plan to remove the guilty parties and thus her own guilt and savagely starts to carry it out.

Writer/director Jay Lee tells his story of guilt and gory murder with an approach that is both straightforward and yet stylish. The film did remind me a bit of American Mary in that it has a down on her luck heroine who turns to some very gruesome activities after an emotionally traumatic event. The difference being Mary was a victim and took full responsibility for her actions whereas Alyce puts her responsibility on others and then bloodily dispatches them to ‘avenge’ an accident that was basically her fault. The film gets increasingly disturbing as we watch Alyce’s descend into homicidal madness and she calmly dispatches her victims and then uses common kitchen implements such as a garbage disposal and blender to try to get rid of the bodies. Even more disturbing then the gore and body parts littering her kitchen is the almost Martha Stewart-like demeanor Alyce sports while working diligently at her task.

Leading lady Jade Dornfeld does good work at portraying a young woman who already has some emotional quirks and is unhappy with her life now slowly sent over the edge by not facing the consequences of her actions. She never goes over the top, which would have been less disturbing in this case, and her slow detachment from her emotional responsibility does come off well. Another performance that stood out for me was Eddie Rouse as drug dealer and streetwise philosopher Rex. Rouse creates a vibrantly realistic portrayal of a street hood who justifies and revels in his place and purpose in society. A very strong and layered portrayal of what could have been a cliche’ supporting character.

The film is not perfect. It has a very methodical pace for a 90 minute flick which works both for and against it. Despite some top notch gore FX, we wonder if maybe Lee spends a bit too much time on Alyce’s blood soaked activities, as a large portion of the last act is the dismemberment of one of her victim’s body right down to scrapping the meat off of their bones. It’s a bit much. Maybe we could have had less of that and one more emotionally disturbing scene like that of Alyce at Carroll’s funeral. That was more effective then seeing body parts and made one’s skin crawl over her inappropriate behavior at such an event. Also, it didn’t seem quite right that the police accepted Alyce’s alibi so easily. It didn’t sound solid to me and the officer questioning it seemed skeptical, but then the police involvement in the story just gets dropped.

Still, even with it’s flaws, I found Alyce an interesting and disturbing watch and there was some nice acting from some of it’s principals. Jay Lee seems to be a filmmaker with potential and in an age of endless remakes and sequels, it’s nice to see a filmmaker create something original and in his own style. Not for everyone, but worth a look for those who like something a little offbeat with their horror.

-MonsterZeroNJ

 

3 baseball bats!

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