HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE QUIET ONES (2014)

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THE QUIET ONES (2014)

What horror fan isn’t happy that Hammer is back in business making horror flicks and they seem to, so far, be trying to deliver them in that old fashioned gothic horror style they are famous for. The latest flick from the legendary studio is The Quiet Ones a supernatural chiller about a young woman named Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke) who, upon appearance, is possessed by an angry spirit named Evey. But, her doctor, a Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) believes the supernatural is simply manifestations of an unbalanced mind and intends to use Jane in experiments to prove that Evey is a manifestation of Jane’s own psychosis… or so he thinks. He brings along students Brian (Sam Claflin), Harry (Rory Fleck-Byren) and Kristina (Erin Richards) to assist and document his experiments in a secluded old house after being thrown off campus for his unconventional methods. As the experiments probe deeper and Brian documents with his camera, Professor Coupland may have to face some horrifying facts about the real truth of what is psychological and what is supernatural.

The Quiet Ones is an interesting supernatural thriller to a degree and has some spooky moments but, doesn’t really get scary and seems to get a little too theatrical in it’s final act for it’s own good. The film is set in the mid 70s and supposedly based on real experiments but, the film, directed with some atmosphere by John Pogue, never really pulls us into Jane’s torment or really makes good use of it’s story. Four writers are credited and maybe that’s why it seems to be a supernatural soup that someone keeps throwing ingredients into in the form of plot twists that aren’t all too surprising and sudden jolts of horror elements we’ve all seen before such as CGI vomited entities, popping light bulbs and boiling baths.Then, there is various human melodrama such as, is Brian falling for Jane, is Coupland shagging a student and what is his obsession with Jane anyway? None of the answers to these questions is either all too unexpected and some ultimately don’t really have much baring on the plot. It’s no surprise that we start to see Coupland as more Frankenstein than Freud and his motivations are quite cliche’ as these flicks go. It’s not quite as bad as it sounds. It can be entertaining at times and it’s never dull. It also has some spooky moments but, it’s never innovational or rises about the traditional cliche’s to tell it’s tale. Even the use of Brian’s film footage to give us a camera POV throughout seems convoluted and doesn’t really serve much purpose other than to try to add a little found footage element to the film. And that’s what brings this fairly well-acted and atmospheric chiller down, is that we’ve seen it all before and it comes to a predictable and familiar conclusion which is sad that none of the four writers could add a little innovation or originality even with it’s fact-based premise.

Pogue’s cast all are fine and do good work. Cooke makes a very sympathetic Jane but, can also be creepy when she needs to be. We like Jane and feel sorry for her as we’re not sure if Coupland’s experiments are doing more harm than good. As Coupland, Harris is effective as a man on the border between dedicated professor and mad scientist. Obviously he has personal reasons for his obsession and Harris convey’s to us that something is behind the man’s experiments before the plot reveals it. Sam Claflin makes a noble and likable hero in Brian and Richards and Fleck-Byren are adequate in their roles, though they don’t seem to add up to much when all is said and done.

So, in conclusion, The Quiet Ones is a moderately entertaining tale that doesn’t really make interesting enough use of it’s story and chooses to stay familiar and cliche’ despite the efforts of four writers working on it’s supposedly fact-based script. It has some effective atmosphere and performances and achieves some spooky moments but, never goes anywhere all that interesting with it’s story elements. I was never bored by watching it, but, also found very little of it memorable except for a couple of poor CGI effects that stuck out very badly in a film that seemed to use in-camera effects otherwise. Not a total loss but, very disappointing considering the directions it chose to go with it’s premise are ones already well traveled in the genre.

2 and 1/2 haunted heroines.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE SACRAMENT (2013)

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THE SACRAMENT (2013)

From the director of House Of The Devil and The Innkeepers comes this faux documentary chiller about a supposedly idyllic commune that echoes the real-life Jonestown incident of 1978. The story finds fashion photographer Patrick (Kentucker Audley) traveling to a remote South American jungle with his friends Jake (Joe Swanberg) and Sam (AJ Bowen) when he gets a letter from his sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz) about her new life in a religious commune. As the three all work for a New York based multimedia company named Vice, they decide to make a documentary about the commune as part of their visit. And while, at first, the place seems like the peaceful haven it appears, that starts to change upon meeting it’s charismatic founder “Father” (a haunting Gene Jones), a man who might be more about playing God then serving him. Now, the longer they stay, the more they realize something is terribly wrong here and they may not live to present the world the story of Eden Parish.

I have been a big fan of director/writer Ti West since first seeing his low budget horror The Roost and he hasn’t disappointed me yet. The Sacrament is a chilling story of desperate people who fall under the control of a manipulative megalomaniac whose promise of freedom is only made so he can imprison and control them. West does a good job of first making us think that maybe Eden Parish isn’t such a bad place as our media crew interview some very happy and satisfied settlers. But, once Father appears and they interview him, West slowly starts to build tension and chills as there is a malicious underlying meaning to some of his answers. As the night goes on, the tension and chills mount as the 3 men realize that this is not a haven and they may not be allowed to leave. The film legitimately disturbs as our crew become increasing afraid and realize they may be trapped in a serpent’s nest and Ti West’s use of the documentary format helps get the viewer in close. If there is any Achilles’ Heel to this film, it is that it follows history a little too closely and anyone with knowledge of Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre, know what’s coming. Sure, it’s unsettling to watch unfold but, it doesn’t quite have the shock it needed to really punctuate the rest of the film and give it the powerful climax it needs. It is effective, don’t get me wrong but, as someone who was a teen in 1978 when the incident this is based on occurred… the familiarity did lessen the event’s impact. Overall the film is disturbing, especially when you add in Eric Robbins’ cinematography and Tyler Bates effectively chilling score but, as this event played out in real-life and is historically renown, it does take away the core shock of what transpires.

But in the director’s favor, West also gets good work out of his cast and this helps with the film’s effect. Swanberg, Audley and Bowen all present realistic characters that definitely give the vibe of metro filmmakers, who, especially in the case of Bowen’s Sam, give the impression of being equal parts idealistic and naive. They wade into their documentary full steam ahead realizing only too late they are in shark infested waters. Their fear appears quite genuine. Amy Seimetz is especially convincing as a woman who seems very happy on the outside but, is brainwashed to the point of committing horrible acts to preserve that ‘happiness’ as her leader commands. But, the real star of this show is a truly mesmerizing Gene Jones as Father. Jones presents a man who truly believes what he says and who uses the word of God and the promise of a peaceful life to control and manipulate those around him. He also is not above bending or breaking the very laws of God that he claims to uphold, if it suits his purpose and maintains his control over his subjects. He comes across as that friendly uncle who always greets you with a warm hug but, this time has a knife hidden behind his back. A really noteworthy performance.

In conclusion, I liked Ti West’s The Sacrament. It is chilling and disturbing and the found footage format puts us in the compound with our beleaguered film crew and adds to the tension. The only real flaw the film has, is that it follows a tragic historical event a bit too closely and anyone with knowledge of that incident knows where this is heading. The last act of the film is less shocking because of it but, is still unsettling to watch unfold under the skilled lens of Ti West and the very chilling performance of Gene Jones. Still very recommended.

3 jugs of Kool Aid.

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COOL STUFF: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 on BLU-RAY

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THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014) DVD/Blu-Ray

I have mixed feelings about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (click on the title for full review), though will admit I have softened my stance a little after watching it again. Not having done quite as well as previous installments, this summer blockbuster has been rushed onto home media before the summer is even over and comes loaded with extras to lure us in. But is it worth the buy?… Let’s take a look…

TASM2 may  have it’s flaws but, it was a great looking and well designed movie and the digital Blu-Ray image is gorgeous and even crisper on your HD TV then blown up on a movie screen. The colors are rich and the complex action and FX really look great and hold up under the scrutiny of being up close in your living room. The sound is great and the film may, overall, actually play better at home where it’s somewhat convoluted story can be absorbed better with the more intimate setting. The deciding factor when considering picking up a somewhat flawed film are the extras… and this disc has a generous amount of them to sway us. First off we get about a dozen deleted scenes. Not all of them are gems, we can see why some did not make the cut but, we do get to see more of the Green Goblin, a few more scenes with Felicity Jone’s character of Felicia Hardy and a scene between Peter and his father which was interesting though I understand the decision to not go that route. The real draw for me is over 100 minutes of production footage and interviews and as an amateur/wannabe filmmaker myself, I can eat this stuff up and it was cool to see how this complex production came together. There is also the traditional director’s commentary and even a music video from Alicia Keys for “It’s On Again” from the movie.

So, whether you want to pick this up depends on how much you liked the flick. The film plays a bit better at home, looks and sounds great and has a generous amount of extras to add to it’s appeal. As a movie geek, who loves this kind of stuff, I found myself being a bit more forgiving of it’s flaws the second time around and really enjoyed the in-depth look at how the film’s production came together. Unless the movie completely failed to interest you, or, you consider it to be a far greater disappointment then I did (see review) then I’d say it’s worth having, especially as most retail outlets have it on sale for it’s release, as well.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANGUS SCRIMM!

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Today is the 87th birthday of horror film legend Angus Scrimm! Renown to horror 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 wishes Angus a very happy and healthy birthday!

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

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE WOODS (2006)

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THE WOODS (2006)

Lucky McKee followed up his devious and gruesomely fun May with this David Ross written story of supernatural goings on at at all girls boarding school set deep in the woods. The story is set in 1965 and centers on troubled and trouble-making teen Heather (Agnes Bruckner) who is sent to the strict Falburn Academy by her mother and father (Emma Campbell and horror icon Bruce Campbell, who are not related.) and put under the guidance of the dean Ms. Traverse (Patricia Clarkson). Upon entering, the rebellious Heather not only befriends the lonely and picked-on Marcy (Lauren Birkell) and meets the reigning mean girl Samantha (Rachel Nichols),but, also beings to have strange dreams of something terrifying deep in the woods. Heather hears tales of three witches who once entered the academy and brought carnage and death along with them. As her dreams become more and more ominous and girls begin to disappear, Heather may soon find out that there may be some truth behind the bedtime ghost stories and the fate of she and her schoolmates may have already been sealed.

The Woods is an atmospheric chiller that seems to be influenced by Dario Argento and his classic Suspiria, which dealt with a coven of witches in a dance academy. DIrector Lucky McKee gives the film a nice feeling of dread but, also gives it a touch of fairy tale whimsy in it’s story of school girls encountering supernatural forces in their school in the woods. His visual style is less flashy then Argento but, the earthy colors are rich and the production design not only evokes the era it takes place but, aids in adding that dark fairy tale element as well. The film was also a refreshing return to a more old-fashioned gothic style horror in the tradition of films like Horror Hotel or some of the Hammer horrors by taking it’s time to establish that something is very wrong and unnatural going on and relying more on atmosphere then gore, though, when the time comes, we get a good helping of that. The film moves well but, saves it’s big reveals and most horrific moments for it’s last act and it works and McKee delivers a final showdown between our heroine and the dark forces that is suspenseful, chilling and very spooky. The FX presenting the supernatural are very well orchestrated in both the visual and make-up departments and the sparingly used gore is quite effective. Add to that a very atmospheric score by John Frizzell…with some Lesley Gore tunes added in to give the film some added embiance of not only the time period, but, of teen girl angst…and you have a well crafted and satisfying supernatural horror that entertains and holds ones interest for it’s 90 minutes.

There is a good cast here, too and McKee gets good work from them. Agnes Bruckner is very strong as rebellious teen and resourceful heroine and creates a likable and tough girl who we believe can put up a fight against greater odds when needed. Clarkson is solid, as always, as the strict and yet caring Ms. Traverse but, also imbues her with an air of mystery to keep us guessing as to her true intentions. Campbell is effective as well, in a role that is far less comic then we are used to seeing him and his restraint makes the role work as Heather’s harried and concerned father. Rounding out is an also solid supporting cast of students and teachers that give the film a good helping of it’s atmosphere with their performances. A good cast that help make this old school supernatural horror work.

I like The Woods. It is charmingly old-fashioned at times and relies heavily on atmosphere which director McKee gives it plenty of. It saves it’s most shocking moments till it’s last act, thus making them more effective, and is supported by a good cast and some very good FX on a modest budget. Despite heavily evoking Dario Argento’s Suspiria at times, the film has it’s own style and gives us some unique moments and ideas within it’s more traditional story. No classic but, an effective and entertaining tale of schoolgirls and dark forces.

3 resourceful heroines.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES AUG 15-17

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Complete estimates are in and Ninja Turtles rule again!

1. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” $28.4 Million

2. “Guardians OF The Galaxy” $24.7 Million

3. “Let’s Be Cops” $17.7 Million

4. “The Expendables 3” $16.2 Million

5. “The Giver” $12.8 Million

6. “Into The Storm” $7.7 Million

7. “The Hundred-Foot Journey” $7.1 Million

8. “Lucy” $5.3 Million

9. “Step Up All In” $2.7 Million

10. “Boyhood” $2.1 Million

source: box office mojo

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: I COME IN PEACE and STONE COLD

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This week’s double feature pairs together two very underrated B action flicks from director and ex-stuntman Craig R. Baxley. We have the sci-fi themed Dolph Lundgren flick I Come In Peace and ex- Seattle Seahawk Brian Bosworth making his action flick debut as an undercover cop in Stone Cold. Baxley is a sadly underrated and overlooked action director and it’s a shame that his skill behind the camera wasn’t more readily recognized despite the lack of attention his film’s got. These two flicks prove he could deliver some solid B-movie action entertainment… and in these guilty pleasures, he did!

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I COME IN PEACE (1990)

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

I Come In Peace (released in foreign territories as Dark Angel) is a really fun 1990 sci-fi/action flick and it fits in quite nicely with other similar themed movies from that era like The Terminator and The Hidden. Maverick cop Jack Caine (Dolph Lundgren) is having a really bad day. While on stakeout to bust drug lord Victor Manning (Day Of The Dead‘s Howard Sherman) he is distracted by a liquor store robbery and it not only costs his undercover partner his life, but allows a third party to come in and steal the heroin that the drug dealers just stole themselves from federal evidence storage. Federal involvement gets Caine a new straight-arrow FBI agent for a partner (Brian Benben) and his investigation has a few too many mysteries for his liking. Worse still, this mysterious thief is using the heroin to kill and as Caine and Agent Smith continue to clash, the evidence starts to point to the possibility that there is something otherworldly going on here. Soon Caine and Smith find that not only are they targeted by Manning’s people, who think Caine has their dope, but they are caught in the middle of a battle between an alien drug dealer (Matthias Hues)…who is here to harvest human endorphins manufactured by injecting folks with the stolen heroin…and an alien cop (Jay Bilas) trying to stop him. Warring aliens, vengeful drug dealers, an uncooperative partner and an angry girlfriend (Betsy Brantley)…is there any way Caine can get out of this alive?

Under the guidance of former stunt coordinator and stuntman Craig R. Baxley, getting the answer to that question is a lot of fun. I Come In Peace is a very fast paced flick with numerous action scenes that are well staged and shot, nothing groundbreaking, but very effective and energetic. The science fiction aspects of the story are kept fairly grounded, so the flick never gets too fantastic as to lose our suspension of disbelief. And one of the reasons we go along with it is that Baxley takes the subject matter just serious enough to not make a joke out of it, but the tone is light enough so we have some fun…and he serves up enough of the action to keep us from thinking about things too much, just in case.

He gets good work out of his cast. This is still one of Lundgren’s best and most relaxed roles. He seems to be having a good time and works well with Brian Benben as they clash and then slowly learn to trust each other and bond. David Ackroyd is appropriately slimy as Smith’s double crossing FBI boss Switzer and Betsy Brantley is cute and feisty as Caine’s coroner girlfriend. As the aliens, Matthius Hues is quite formidable and has a dangerous presence as the drug dealer who seems to say very little but the title phrase and Jay Bilas is equally formidable, yet in his brief dialog scene comes across as an honorable alien lawman.

Both aliens wisely have minimal make-up, so their personalities come through without being buried in prosthetics. The Houston locations give the film a unique look as most flicks like this are set in L.A. or NYC and the FX, stunts and overall production value look good on a modest budget, especially when presenting the carnage caused by the various alien weaponry. And the film is refreshingly CGI free.

I Come In Peace has a cult following and it deserves it. It may not have gotten as much attention as some other similar flicks from the 80s…and while the movie was released in 1990 it is still so 80s with the hair, clothes and Jan Hammers electronic score…but it is a really entertaining, fast moving, action-packed flick that is just a good 90 minutes of escapist entertainment.  Sure it has it’s flaws, but it doesn’t try to be anything more then it is and is very efficient at what it does. Baxley followed this up with the equally entertaining action flick Stone Cold with Brian Bosworth and Lance Henriksen. I Come In Peace would make a nice third feature along with a viewing of The Terminator and The Hidden!

I Come In Peace is available now under it’s Dark Angel title in a beautifully transfered blu-ray from the awesome folks at Scream Factory. A must have if you are a fan of this flick!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 CD shaped alien weapons!

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STONE COLD (1991)

Stone Cold is a really fun B action movie that sadly was not appreciated when it first opened but, now seems to have garnered a very well deserved cult following. The film was the action flick debut of ex-football player, the notorious Brian Bosworth and had it been better received, might have led to a more prolific action flick career for the former Seahawk in other B movie epics like it.

The story focuses on maverick Alabama cop Joe Huff (Bosworth) whose loose cannon tactics and current suspension catches the eye of the FBI. They want Joe to go deep undercover in a vicious biker gang named The Brotherhood. The Brotherhood and it’s leader Chains (an awesome Lance Henrikson) are not only expanding their criminal operations, but have targeted District Attorney Brent “The Whip” Whipperton (David Tress) for assassination as he runs for governor of Mississippi and has his own sights set on taking the gang down. Huff becomes outlaw biker John Stone and infiltrates the gang with the hopes of bringing them to justice and halting their murderous plans, but the suspicions of Chains’ sergeant-at-arms Ice (William Forsythe) and getting too close to his ‘old lady’ Nancy (Arabella Holzbog) could jeopardize Huff’s mission and make John Stone the gang’s next target.

Stone Cold is written by Walter Doniger and directed by former stuntman Craig R. Baxley, who also directed the cult classic I Come In Peace with Dolph Lundgren. Baxley gives the film a fast pace and delivers some really energetic action scenes, just like he did with I Come In Peaceand the film is populated with some fairly colorful characters. The plot is certainly no worse then anything starring Norris, Seagal or Van Damme at this point in time and the film delightfully still has that 80s action movie feel which hasn’t been shed yet at this stage of the early 90s. The flick is really a fun time and maybe at this point, people were just tired of action fantasies with larger than life, over the top heroes or perhaps people had had enough of Bosworth after his over-hyped and incredibly disappointing and brief NFL career, so it bombed. Who knows? Over twenty years later the film can be viewed with lots of nostalgia and is a real blast and I personally have always enjoyed it for the over the top action fun it is. Baxley also continued his style of using untraditional locations. While most flicks tend to use LA or NYC as settings for flicks like this, Baxley gives us some refreshingly different Mississippi set action that gives the film a more unique look. There’s some crisp and well framed shots courtesy of cinematographer Alexander Gruszynski and a cool action score by Sylvester Levay who also scored Stallone’s similar Cobra. As far as this type of action flick goes, Baxley delivers the goods and with a few brews, this movie rocks!

The director also gets good work from his cast. As for Bosworth, sure his bleached blonde mullet is ridiculous and he is a little too much of a clean-cut pretty boy to be believable as an outlaw biker, but he’s actually fine in the role of Huff/Stone and is no more wooden then Norris or Seagal in their earlier features. He received a Razzie for his performance, but as these flicks go, I think he would have been a suitable B level action hero had this film been more successful and he got more work. The real star, in my opinion, in this flick is Lance Henrikson, who is at his serpentine best as bad guy, Chains…a brutal, psychotic yet charismatic leader that would fit right in on Sons Of Anarchy. It’s one of my favorite Lance Henrikson characters, a Hell’s Angels style Jim Jones and Lance is having a blast with it. William Forsythe is right behind him as his brutal enforcer, Ice. Forsythe exudes menace and it’s disappointing his character didn’t have a more epic showdown with Bosworth’s undercover cop. Holzbog is not only pretty, but gives Nancy a bit of a heart and soul under the seasoned biker momma exterior. She conveys a quiet strength and is another character that is underused in the film. Rounding out is Sam McMurray as Huff/Stone’s nerdy FBI partner and Rocky V’s Richard Gant as the FBI head who recruits Huff and you have a B movie action flick that is filled with some good character actors giving weight to some cliche’ characters.

Well, what can I say…this is among my favorite B-Movie action guilty pleasures. Sure it has faults, but it makes up for the plot holes, lapses in logic and sheer implausibilities by being a blast of a good time. We get an overstuffed hero going up against some fiendishly cartoonish biker villains and surrounded by constant and well orchestrated action sequences. I also liked the less tradition settings and Lance Henrikson gives one of his all time best villains. Another film finally getting the love and respect it deserves after initially being all but ignored.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 bullets.

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After watching the trailer for Stone Cold, it’s no wonder it didn’t find an audience. Whose idea was this?

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REVIEW: THE EXPENDABLES III (2014)

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THE EXPENDABLES III (2014)

Having grown up in the 80s, I obviously have an appreciation and love for the styles of  movies that came out then. And the 80s action flick is no different. So,no surprise, I am a fan of this series which takes a lot of those 80s action icons and let’s them suit up and shoot it out once more. And maybe I am biased but, I had an absolute blast with the latest installment.

The newest adventure finds Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and crew (Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture) rescuing an old Expendable member referred to as Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) from a moving train incarceration and taking him on a mission in Somalia. There, not only does Barney find former Expendables co-founder turned arch-enemy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) still alive… after Barney himself thought he killed him… but, one of his team is critically wounded. CIA operative Drummer (Harrison Ford) is not happy with the team’s failure and demands they try again. But, Barney realizes his team has been doing this a long time and the next mission may be their last so, he releases his longtime friends to gather a newer, younger team including the headstrong Smilee (Kellan Lutz) and the sexy and quite lethal Luna (Ronda Rousey). But, Conrad Stonebanks is one step ahead of them again and when he takes Barney’s rookies hostage, Barney realizes his mistake and the old team reunites to go into battle once more… maybe for the last time as Stonebanks has an army and is waiting.

I really enjoy these flicks and am certainly cutting them some slack due to the wonderful nostalgia of seeing these icons back in action and this time joined by veterans Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas… who practically stole the movie… and even a cameo by Robert Davi. But, to be honest, aside from some cheesy dialog, some sub-par CGI shots and a few wooden performances, the movie is a lot of fun especially in it’s roller coaster ride of a last act. Stallone’s script with Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt conveys a theme of adding new blood and this carried over to Sly’s choice of Australian director Patrick Hughes (Red Hill) to helm. Hughes directs well and and really brings it during the action scenes such as the exciting opening train assault and the final showdown, which was one of the most exciting extended action scenes I’ve seen since in a while. Hughes gives the film far more dramatic weight then Simon West’s somewhat weaker Expendables 2 but, doesn’t take his material too seriously as to not have a good time with it. The film is never boring at over 2 hrs and while the pace is fairly moderate, it makes the action all the more thrilling when Hughes and his cast crank it up to 11 for the carnage. For those worried about the lesser PG-13 rating, this might have the largest body count yet, so, it’s not a concern. Again, you have to go in knowing this is an old school style action flick and corny dialog and implausibility is to be expected. Sure I didn’t quite buy that Barney would cast away his old team so easily but, you know that’s not going to last and it doesn’t. Along the way there are some corny messages about ‘family’ but, it’s all part of the formula and for me, it works. It’s popcorn action, with a popcorn plot and Stallone and his team delivered the old school smack down once again, in my opinion. Brian Tyler also delivers another exciting score to accent the action and the film is shot well by Peter Menzies Jr.

There is quite a big cast so I will start by saying that Stallone and Expendables regulars Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture, Li and Schwarzenegger all give us what we expect from them and seem to be having a really fun time especially, Arnold who hams it up a little more then usual. As for newcomers… Snipes hasn’t lost a beat and it’s great to see him back in action on the big screen. Gibson is simply a great villain and really chews up the scenery in grand style. Antonio Banderas is hilarious and practically steals the show as the screwball Galgo and his scene laying the Latin charm on Ronda Rousey mid-battle was a showstopper. As for Rousey her line delivery is a bit wooden but, it’s her first flick and when she is in action, the girl is poetry in lethal motion. Harrison Ford also seems to really be enjoying himself too and he and Sly seem to actually have a nice camaraderie together. Too bad it took this long to appear in a flick together. Kelsey Grammar gets some nice laughs as Barney’s grizzled recruiter Bonaparte and the also work well together. And rounding out Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell are fine in their parts with Lutz’s Smilee possibly being groomed to take a larger role in future installments. And if there is an Expendables 4… I’m in.

Overall, I really enjoyed this flick. It is definitely better then Expendables 2 and comes close to being an equal to part 1. It did take a little time to tell it’s story but, there is no shortage of action and when it comes, it’s fast and furious, especially the all out war of a last act. There were some really enjoyable appearances by action icons absent too long from the screen and the new additions seem like they make a good fit if this series continues. The audience I was with wasn’t full but, cheered louder then any audience I have heard in some time. Everyone seemed to have had a blast with this second sequel and I am definitely one of them. A really fun, action-packed popcorn flick that proves Sly and company still got it. It isn’t Shakespeare… it’s The Expendables!

3 and 1/2 bullets.

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: BRIANA EVIGAN

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BRIANA EVIGAN

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This Halloween Hottie is an actress, singer and dancer as well as a heartbreaker!

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features an unsung Scream Queen who isn’t immediately recognized for her horror genre work but, has certainly done enough for her to more than qualify… the lovely and multi-talented Briana Evigan! More renown for her appearances in the dance-fueled Step Up flicks, Ms. Evigan is the daughter of actor Greg Evigan and seems to be following in her famous father’s footsteps having already put together quite a prolific resume’ of film, music video and TV work. But, it is her forays into the horror genre that we are focusing on here and Briana has graced quite a few fright fests with her charms, talents and that sexy voice. And this is one feisty final girl we’d like to see return to the genre as soon as possible!

(Click on the highlighted links or on the movie posters to read a review of her horror film’s that I’ve covered here previously. )

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Briana had her first acting role alongside her hard working dad in the 1996 film Spectre aka House Of The Damned, at the young age of 10. This horror had a family moving into an ancestral estate not only to find it haunted but, with a dark past as well. Briana played the couple’s young daughter Aubrey.

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Much like Scream Queen legend Danielle Harris… A precocious 10 year-old, Briana begins her acting career in a horror flick!

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Years later in 2008, a full grown Briana would return to the horror genre in an episode of the TV horror series Fear Itself. Directed by Saw’s Darren Lynn Bousman, the episode, entitled New Years Day, told the spooky tale of Helen (Evigan) a young woman who wakes up on New Years Day with not only a hangover but, in the middle of a full blown zombie outbreak in progress. What a way to start the year!

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As Helen, a woman who has far more to worry about than a hangover.

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Briana followed up her first Step Up movie appearance with the 2009 horror sequel S. Darko. The film was a misguided attempt at sequelizing the cult classic, one-of-a-kind Donnie Darko, not a great flick but, at least Evigan got to shine in the important role of best friend to Samantha Darko, Corey… and as usual, the actress outshines the material.

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As best friend Corey to Daveigh Chase’s Samantha Darko in S. Darko.

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That same year Evigan got the lead part in the slasher remake Sorority Row which cast her as one member of a high profile sorority that is forced to keep a terrible secret when a prank goes awry. As with the 1983 film House On Sorority Row, which this film is a redo of, that secret will come back to haunt them in the form of a vicious and vengeful killer. Briana’s Cassidy proves to be one resourceful and feisty final girl, as well as, one of the more morally sound members of the group!

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Cassidy takes charge when a killer targets her sorority sisters.

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Cassidy is one sorority sister who isn’t going down without a fight!

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In 2010, Briana Evigan really got to show us her stuff when she played Kelly in Burning Bright. The story has a greedy stepfather locking Kelly and her autistic brother in a house with a hungry tiger in an effort to collect money on the insurance policies he took out on his stepchildren’s lives. Briana strongly carries the film on her petite shoulders and really impressed us as the resourceful yet, caring young woman who takes on the massive jungle predator to save herself and her little brother. A really underrated thriller which showed that Evigan is leading lady material and then some!
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Trapped in a house with a fierce, hungry predator…

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…but, who is hunting who?

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Also in 2010, Evigan re-teamed with director Bousman for his loose remake of the 1980 cult classic Mother’s Day (review of the original). Briana’a Annette becomes trapped with friends when a psychotic woman, and her equally crazed offspring, invade what is now their former home and make hostages of the current occupants during a party. A horrifying night of torment and violence ensues. Evigan also co-wrote and sang the end credits tune ‘Better Than Yesterday’. Talented young woman!

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Sexy party girl Annette.

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Annette ‘quietly’ ponders her nightmarish situation.

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In 2011 Briana found herself in peril again as the hostage of a psychotic Native American-obsessed nut in the oddball horror/thriller Rites Of Passage. Her role is not a big one but, her feisty attempt to escape her crazed captor is the best sequence in this sadly convoluted flick. No surprise there, that she’s a scene stealer too!

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Poor party girl Penelope catches a ride with the wrong guy!

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Making a daring escape that is clearly the most exciting scene in this otherwise forgettable flick.

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and finally… for now… Briana teamed with Darren Lynn Bousman once again in his twisted vaudevillian short film, The Devil’s Carnival. Here the talented vixen got to play dual roles and sing for us, as both Ms. Merrywood… a young woman whose embrace of the term ‘diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ lands her in this hellish side show… and a devilish mirror of herself when ‘The Twin’ teases Merrywood in her own image. Her ‘Beautiful Stranger’ is the best musical number in the flick.
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As the greedy Ms. Merrywood…

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…and The Twin mocking the doomed woman in her own guise.

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Briana Evigan as her beautiful, playful (it’s so HOT when a pretty girl makes funny faces, isn’t it!) and multi-talented self who we can’t wait to see more of, whether it be in horror, or dancing her heart out in her latest, Step Up All In. She’s filming Devil’s Carnival 2 right now, so, it won’t be long before she’s enchanting us once more in our favorite genre!

PERSONAL NOTE: With some recent talk of the X-Files possibly being revived for TV, I personally think Briana Evigan would be a perfect addition to the cast as a new young agent recruited for the team. I think her buoyant personality and quiet strength would make a good fit and she can play tough as we’ve seen her take on Dolph Lundgren (Stash House) and a Bengal tiger, too. It’s a fanboy dream but, love to see it happen. Hey, as long as we get to see this charming young actress again, soon!

And don’t forget to check out our Halloween Hotties focusing on Melanie PapaliaKatrina BowdenAlexandra DaddarioKatie FeatherstonKatharine IsabelleAmber Heard and Danielle Harris! (just click on their names to go to their pages!)

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR (2014)

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AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR (2014)

I am a fan of writer/director Nicholas McCarthy’s first feature, the surprisingly effective The Pact. It had it’s flaws, but it was very spooky, used some familiar horror conventions well and had a few surprises. When I heard he was working on a second feature, originally titled Home, I was anxious to see what he had up his sleeve next.

Now re-titled At The Devil’s Door, McCarthy brings us another tale of supernatural horror this time involving a demonic entity and those who have the misfortune of coming into contact with it. The film opens in the 80s with a young woman (Ashley Rickards) playing a strange game with an equally strange man (Michael Massee) in the middle of the desert for $500. She wins and is thus told she has been ‘chosen’ and to her horror, she realizes an evil presence has now followed her home. We cut to modern day where realtor Leigh (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is tasked to sell a house in foreclosure. The same house that once housed the girl we met from years earlier. But there is a dark presence still within in that empty home which has now targeted Leigh and her younger sister Vera (Glee’s Naya Rivera). And the more the history of the house and those that lived there is looked into, the more danger the sisters appear to be in from a malevolent force that has now ‘chosen’ one of them.

Much like with The PactMcCarthy crafts a very unsettling chiller that is not without a few flaws, but certainly the spooky goods far outweigh those flaws. Again he uses some very familiar horror movie trappings, but uses them well. It’s a creepy mix of Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen and with a touch of Paranormal Activity. It also reminded me slightly of Oculus from earlier this year, as it did employ flashbacks to fill in blanks in the story and briefly involved a mirror, but I believe that is purely coincidental and the overall story is quite different. McCarthy creates some very chilling atmosphere and his simple old school visual style is quite effective in enhancing that. I liked that his FX are mostly done in camera with good old fashion smoke and mirrors and the man certainly knows how to build tension and gives us a few good scares. The film’s flaws come in that the story sometimes jumps forward giving the impression that certain plot elements where achieved a bit too easily or persons found too quickly. And as such, they don’t resonate as much as they could when they seem to come about with so little effort. We could have used a bit more of the investigation aspects of the story so things had the illusion of some degree of difficulty to increase their dramatic weight. I’m also not sure I quite bought certain elements that set up the last act, but to discuss details would be unfair to those who want to go in knowing as little as possible, which I recommend. Suffice to say there are a few little plot holes that might evoke some questions, but nothing detrimental to the overall effect of this very unsettling film. There is also some nice cinematography by Bridger Neilson and an effective score by Ronen Landa to add to the overall mood.

McCarthy gets good work from a fairly small cast. Moreno is likable as Leigh. She’s an ambitious young woman, but one that has her own inner dramas and when it seems she’s unknowingly walked into contact with something malicious, her fear seems genuine as is our concern for her. Rivera also gives us a likable character in the artistic younger sister Vera, who is even less prepared to deal with this demonic entity especially since she is also unaware that she has been targeted. When the film switches focus to her in the second half, she handles it well as she begins to investigate into what is going on and why. The rest of the supporting cast do well in their parts including a brief appearance by Rob Zombie favorite Daniel Roebuck as the eager to sell homeowner and a creepy turn by young Ava Acres as a little girl who figures into the story later on.

Overall, I liked At The Devil’s Door. Not a major improvement over The Pact, but McCarthy is showing growth as a filmmaker and writer and it is a very spooky and moody little horror and one of the better ones I’ve seen so far this year. I think there are some very good things to come from McCarthy if he maintains his progression and, at the very least, he has delivered two spooky chillers so far. There’s a charm to his ability to make entertaining use of some traditional horror elements and his style is refreshingly simply and old school. A recommended horror, as is The Pact if you still haven’t seen that.

3 red raincoats.

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