FAREWELL AND R.I.P. BETSY “MRS. VOORHEES” PALMER!

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Betsy Palmer 1926-2015

Sad news tonight for the horror film community. We have lost a modern horror icon. Actress Betsy Palmer, who was immortalized in the horror classic Friday The 13th as Jason’s mother, Mrs. Voorhees, passed away on Friday at age 88, of natural causes. She was the killer in the original film before her loyal son took over for the sequels. A sad farewell to a horror legend.

-MonsterZero NJ

Source: internet

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAY 29-31

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office!

1. “San Andreas” $53.2 Million

2. “Pitch Perfect 2” $14.4 Million

3. “Tomorrowland” $13.8 Million

4. “Mad Max: Fury Road” $13.6 Million

5. “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” $10.9 Million

6. “Aloha” $10 Million

7. “Poltergeist” $7.8 Million

8. “Far From The Madding Crowd” $1.4 million

9. “Hot Pursuit” $1.37 Million

10. “Home” $1.15 Million

 

source: Deadline

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REVIEW: SAN ANDREAS (2015)

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SAN ANDREAS (2015)

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

Go into San Andreas with the right frame of mind and you may find yourself having the most fun at the movies so far this summer. From it’s opening sequence, it’s obvious that this is pure popcorn entertainment and not to be taken too seriously, though, it is played very straight. It’s all the corny, cheesy disaster movie cliche’s possible, served up in a cinematic smoothie and topped with The Rock… and it’s a load of fun if you let it be.

Our story opens with a young woman’s car being forced off a cliff by a tremor and hanging precariously (and in defiance of physical laws) off the sheer side of a thin canyon. Enter the Los Angeles Fire Department’s ace rescue pilot Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) and his ex-military rescue crew. The girl is saved but, that is only the beginning of Ray’s soon-to-be rough day. Ray is in the process of a divorce from his hot wife Emma (Carla Gugino)…who has moved in with her millionaire douche boyfriend (Ioan Gruffudd)… at the same time, his equally hot daughter Blake, (Alexandra Daddario) is leaving for college. Nothing brings an estranged family back together, though, like a natural disaster and just as scientist Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) discovers a fool-proof way to predict earthquakes…the whole San Andreas fault decides to shift. Now Ray and Emma must reunite to go to a decimated San Francisco to find and rescue Blake, before another impending super-quake finishes the job…and as Ray is already haunted by the loss of one daughter, he vows to not lose another.

San Andreas is directed by Brad Peyton…who directed Johnson in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island…and the filmmaker mixes a straightforward approach with over-the-top situations, rescues and escapes, letting the latter provide the fun. This keeps the film from becoming a joke, but, at the same time, provides all the ludicrous entertainment we want from an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink disaster film. The script by Carlton Cuse…from a story by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore…is loaded with all the disaster movie clichés you could want and, from the first scene, throws out logic and physics for preposterous situations and unbelievable coincidences and it’s all on purpose and, somehow, even avoids going too overboard and entering Sharknado territory. The FX are spectacular and we witness some eye popping spectacle such as the ground literally rippling under L.A. and a massive tsunami heading into an already destroyed San Francisco Bay. It’s all orchestrated very well, on a technical level and is surrounded by a fitting score from Andrew Lockington and some nice crisp cinematography by Steve Yedlin. Peyton gives the film a very brisk pace but, wisely let’s us catch our breath, as we get some delightfully corny melodrama that a disaster film like this shouldn’t be without. It’s all intentional and if you just go with it, this movie can be a blast. This isn’t about logic or realism, it’s about The Rock vs. an earthquake and a tsunami and, on that level, it delivers big time. Sure it’s not perfect…why were we introduced to Ray’s team only to have them disappear in the first act?…but, it’s a popcorn flick and it’s goal is to entertain and not portray a situation like this with too much accuracy, that it stops being fun. The corny dialog and melodramatic situations are part of the plan…and it’s OK to have a good time with them. It’s all in your frame of mind when you sit down and put on your 3D glasses…and this is one flick where I think that gimmick works in it’s favor…and I’m normally not a fan.

We have a very fitting cast, too. Dwayne Johnson has grown from his WWE “The Rock” persona into a very charming leading man/action hero. There is a very welcome hint of vulnerability in his screen presence that keeps him from being a bit too superhuman like Arnold and Stallone fell into in the 80s. It makes him more accessible and a bit more down-to-Earth, despite being a physically imposing man. Carla Gugino is very sexy as his estranged wife and she seems to be having a fun time here, despite playing second banana to her leading man and she and Johnson have a nice chemistry together that makes the corny melodrama work. Daddario shows she is also leading lady material and is not only stunning to look at, but, has a charming screen presence and despite her natural beauty, gives off a very girl-next-door vibe that makes her endearing. She also has a good camaraderie with her co-stars and shows some action hero chops herself. Maybe a DC or Marvel film in her future? Hugo Johnson-Burt and Art Parkinson play British bothers Ben and Ollie who join Daddario with older Ben becoming a romantic interest, as a disaster film needs a blossoming love story in it’s midst. Rounding out is the always enjoyable Paul Giamatti as the stereotypical scientist who is crying earthquake to empty ears, Archie Panjabi as a reporter caught in the middle of things and Ioan Gruffudd is appropriately a douche as Emma’s millionaire developer boyfriend Daniel, who turns out to be a selfish coward…like we didn’t see THAT coming.

On one level this movie is silly, preposterous, predictable and ridiculous, but, go in expecting that and you will have a blast like I did. Sure it’s science is out of whack but, it’s heart is in the right place and it is unapologetically delivering exactly what we really want from one of these epic action/melodramas. If you go in expecting a National Geographic documentary on the effects of a massive earthquake in California with Academy Award winning dialogue and performances, you will not be pleased. Go in expecting “The Rock” to wade through an epic cataclysm and rescue his daughter as a city collapses around his muscular shoulders and you’ve got a fun time at the movies.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 “The Rocks”.

san andreas rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE DEN (2013)

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THE DEN (2013)

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

The Den is one of those pleasant little surprises that you watched out of moderate curiosity and enjoyed far more than expected. It also sets it’s horror story completely on the laptop of it’s lead character, a full year before Unfriended. The story tells of pretty Elizabeth Benton (Melanie Papalia from Extraterrestrial) who has received a grant to do a social study of people who populate internet chat sites. The site she chooses for her 24/7 study is “The Den.” She meets all sorts of strange people and, as can be expected in a horror flick like this, catches the attention of a deranged and dangerous individual. Soon she is being cyber-stalked, her computer hacked, her life invaded and her friends and loved ones start o fall victim to some masked assailant. Can Elizabeth escape this maniac?…or will she be their next victim?

Directed by Zachary Donohue and co-written by he and Lauren Thompson, this is actually a clever and effective little horror/thriller with some gruesome and disturbing moments. More than a year before Unfriended and even a few weeks before Open WindowsDonohue sets his entire thriller on Elizabeth’s laptop and phone so we see her POV of those she’s watching and the POV of those watching her. What unfolds is nothing new to the slasher sub-genre, with a young victim being chosen and stalked and those around her put in harm’s way, but, the stage it plays out on is novel…for when it was made…and there are some moments that use the POV format very well. Donohue keeps us involved and there is some suspense and it’s only in the last act when it takes a bit of a “Hostel” turn, that the familiarity really starts to sink in…though it still worked well enough and provided some action caught on the various cameras. While it’s ending was nothing new and a bit abrupt, it still added a chill, so, it worked.

Another real big factor in this working as well as it does, is leading lady Melanie Papalia. The entire movie rests on her shoulders and she carries it well. Elizabeth is a sweet, ambitious and likable girl who is thrust into a nightmarish situation. Papalia plays her terror well, but, adds a strength and resilience to her character that helps make her resourcefulness and toughness believable when she has to fight tooth and nail for her life. The Extraterrestrial actress makes an impressive and endearing heroine and hopefully, she gets to play final girl more often. Also stars David Schlachtenhaufen, Adam Shapiro, Katija Pevec and Anna Margaret Hollyman as Elizabeth’s friends and loved ones but, it is Papalia’s show all the way.

I liked The Den. It’s no classic and it’s far from perfect but, it is surprisingly more effective than one might expect from a little movie set entirely on a laptop. The slasher story is familiar, despite the novel cyber setting, but, Donohue makes it work well enough and his firecracker leading lady carries this internet horror on her pretty but, sturdy shoulders. It’s not going to revolutionize horror and you might forget about it six months from now, but, for 80+ minutes, it’s entertaining, has some effective and disturbing sequences and introduces us to a director and actress we’d like to see more of. I’d say check it out if you have the chance. Cool little flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 laptops.

unfriended rating

BE WARNED: Trailer is spoiler-ish…

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: LET US PREY (2014)

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LET US PREY (2015)

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

Irish made horror takes place in a small Scottish police station where newly assigned Constable Rachel Haggie (Pollyanna McIntosh) is starting her night with a bang. On her way to work she arrests a youth (Brian Vernel) for a hit and run where the victim mysteriously disappears. Once at the station, she finds the cells slowly filling up and some not so welcoming behavior from her fellow and commanding officers. Things get even more tense as the mysterious stranger from the hit and run (Liam Cunningham) arrives at the station and appears to have intimate knowledge of everyone’s darkest secrets. Now, as the evening crawls toward the midnight hour, a reckoning comes to this place and there is bloody hell to pay…literally.

As directed by Brian O’Malley this is a spooky, intense and, sometimes, brutally violent horror/thriller about bad people getting what’s coming to them. We know from the moment we see Cunningham’s “Six” (so named for the cell he’s put in, as he has the fingerprints of a deadman) apparently rise from the sea, that a man followed by blackbirds, and with a little black book of names, is not here on vacation. We’ve seen David Cairns’ and Fiona Watson’s story before, from Twilight Zone episodes to High Plains Drifter, but, it’s the way O’Malley tells the story, though, with stark visuals and a brooding atmosphere that makes it work very well, despite the familiar story of the lone stranger coming to exact otherworldly justice. “Six” gets into peoples heads and we get to see the dark deeds of both cop and detainee alike and soon the walls of the small police station are spattered in blood and there may be no one left to tell what has happened in the backwater town. Sure, it gets a little borderline over-the-top in the last act, but, O’Malley keeps it intense and fast moving and keeps the blood and gore flowing and thus, keeps us fairly riveted till his dark tale is over. The last scene does oversell, with some talky dialogue, what we’ve already figured out, but, after a tense and spooky 90 minutes we can cut the filmmakers some slack. There is also some lush and atmospheric cinematography by Piers Mc Grail and a very moody and appropriately spooky score by Steve Lynch to add to the film’s overall effectiveness.

As for O’Malley’s cast…Game Of Thrones and Dog Soldiers vet Cunningham cuts a dark and mysterious figure. His “Six” has a quite intensity and a calm demeanor that makes him far more effective than had he played it over-the-top. McIntosh is a strong heroine and while we do guess where things are headed for her, she’s still a solid character to get behind. In support there is Douglas Russell as the station Sergeant with his own hidden sins. We have Hanna Stanbridge and Bryan Larkin as two officers who are having an affair with each other and with abusing suspects. Brian Vernal, Niall Greig Fulton and Jonathan Watson round out, as the cell occupants who may have committed far darker crimes than the officers realize. A solid cast that makes things work well.

I liked this movie. It was intense and bloody and kept moving at a quick enough pace to keep one from thinking too much about the familiar story. There was a spooky score and some great visuals to assist with the film’s atmosphere. Sure, we’ve seen the whole avenging dark angel thing in countless other films but, the film knows it and doesn’t insult us by trying to pretend we haven’t. It’s not perfect. We can easily figure out what’s coming but, there are still some surprises and some effectively shocking moments to keep things darkly afloat. An entertaining and chilling Irish horror that shows director O’Malley has some skills worth keeping an eye on.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 blackbirds.

crow-coa rating

Be warned…trailer is a bit gruesome…

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE BLIND DEAD SERIES

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THE BLIND DEAD SERIES (1971-1975)

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

The Blind Dead series are four cult classic horror films written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Amando de Ossorio during the 70s. They tell four separate stand-alone tales about a sect of 14th century Templar knights who turned away from the church to Satanism and were excommunicated and executed for their rituals of human sacrifice and drinking of blood. They did, however, achieve a sort of immortality from their horrific ceremonies and now rise from their graves to continue their gruesome ways. They are blind…though the reasons vary per film…and hunt their prey by sound.

While a little too slow moving for me, personally, to truly embrace them as favorites, I do enjoy watching these spooky films. They are held in high regard, due to their thick atmosphere and creepy visuals…deservedly so…and are even believed, by many, to have been a strong influence on John Carpenter’s The Fog… but, more on that later…

 TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (1971)

Knotombs_of_blind_dead_poster_01wn in it’s native land as La noche del terror ciego, the first of this series centers around an abandoned monastery that holds the tombs of the Templar Knights executed for their practice of dark rituals. It is avoided by all of the locals and the subject of fearful folklore. A set of circumstances leads a woman to stay the night on the grounds and she falls victim to the bloodthirsty walking corpses who rise from their tombs. When her husband and friend form a search party to go looking for her, what they find is a nightmare they may not escape. The film is extremely atmospheric and Ossorio certainly knows how to make a horror film look spooky. The FX and gore may be a bit cheesy by today’s standards but, are still effective and the film can be quite unsettling with it’s walking skeletons that mercilessly stalk and gruesomely slay our characters in the abandoned monastery setting. A very creepy film. Stars Lone Fleming, César Burner and María Elena Arpón.

3 star rating

RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD (1973)

El Areturn of the blind deadtaque de los Muertos Sin Ojos is the second and arguably the best of the series. It takes place in the Portuguese city of Bouzano where there is a grand celebration going on to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the defeat and burning alive of a sect of Templar Knights that terrorized the village with black magic and human sacrifice. The Knights vowed revenge and when an angry local summons them from their tombs, the celebration becomes a slaughter and a remote church may be the survivors’ last hope. This flick is also very atmospheric, has some generous blood-letting and once again has a spooky visual style that can chill the bones. Ossorio gives his silent Templar Knights a lot of menace and their are some vivid flashbacks to give their vengeful characters weight. A strong entry in the series if not the pinnacle. Stars Tony Kendall, Fernando Sancho and Esperanza Roy.

3 star rating

THE GHOST GALLEON (1974)

El ghost galleonBuque maldito is the third and possibly the weakest of the four films but, is still very creepy and atmospheric at times. This story tells of a pair of pretty models adrift at sea for an outrageous…and dangerous…P.R. campaign for the new boat they are on. They encounter a fog bank and within an ancient Spanish Galleon that looks centuries old. When they board it, they find it filled with the walking corpses of the Templar Knights who proceed to gruesomely slay them. When a search party comes looking for them, they may be heading toward a horrifying fate aboard the ghostly ship. This entry might be the silliest story-wise, though, it has some of the best visuals with it’s ghost ship setting filled with the blind dead. It is slower moving than the usual moderate pace of these flicks and is sometimes hard to believe when a character is in peril and no one hears their screams, despite being not far away. On the plus side, the setting is very claustrophobic and the production design very effective. The lesser of the four, but not by much as the Templars are still effectively spooky! Stars Maria Perschy, Jack Taylor and Barbara Rey.

2 and 1-2 star rating

THE NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS (1975)

La Nocnight of the seagullshe de las gaviotas is the fourth and final film and is a bit stronger than Galleon. Returning to a land-based setting, this entry takes place in a secluded coastal village where a young city doctor and his wife have come to set up a practice as the local doctor retires. They are not well-received and soon they find they have walked into a setting from a bad dream. A nearby monastery houses the walking corpses of an evil sect of Templar Knights who, every seven years for seven days, descend upon the village where they are appeased by being offered seven village maidens as a sacrifice. When the doctor intercedes to save one girl, there is hell to pay…literally. Once again the film is atmospheric and has some disturbing scenes, especially in it’s flashbacks to the Templar’s heinous sacrificial ceremonies. The Knights remain creepy and effective and there is the expected amounts of gore to go with the chills. Ossorio quit while he was ahead and this entry does serve as a fitting climax to the series. Stars Victor Petit, Maria Kosti and Sandra Mosarosky.

3 star rating

And what about the alleged influence on John Carpenter’s classic The Fog?

THE FOG (1980)

fog_posterWhile I have never read Carpenter acknowledge any influences from Ossorio’s series…he has sighted the 1958 film The Crawling Eye and some real-life events as inspiration…some of the similarities are fascinatingly close. In the first film, there is a scene of a victim rising off of a slab in a morgue and sneaking up behind the mortician that evokes the similar scene of the corpse rising off the slab in Dr. Phibes’ office, to startle Jamie Lee Curtis in Carpenter’s film. Return of the Blind Dead features a last act where the Templars have the survivors trapped in a remote church which is exactly where the survivors find themselves in The Fog‘s intense ending. The Ghost Galleon may be the weakest film, but it bares the strongest resemblance to Carpenter’s ghost story with a haunted ship filled with walking corpses that is shrouded in a mysterious perpetual fog bank…much like Blake and his vengeful crew of lepers. Finally, Seagulls is set in a remote coastal village much like the atmospheric fishing village of Antonio Bay, that is setting of The Fog. If these are all mere coincidences, they are ones as spooky as the films they involve! It’s hard to believe this series wasn’t an influence on one of Carpenter’s spookiest classics, but the director himself has listed other inspirations…that do make sense, too. The Crawling Eye involved it’s creatures shrouded in a mysterious fog, as well and some of the historical events fit perfectly as the basis of Carpenter’s work. Who knows? Either way, as horror fans, we win!…as all five films are horror classics in their own right!

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Were Amando Ossorio’s Templar Knights inspiration for…

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John Carpenter’s Captain Blake and crew?…we may never know for sure…

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAY 22-24

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office!

1. “Tomorrowland” $32.1 Million

2. “Pitch Perfect 2” $30.3 Million

3. “Mad Max: Fury Road” $23.8 Million

4. “Poltergeist” $23 Million

5. “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” $20.8 Million

6. “Hot Pursuit” $3.4 Million

7. “Far From The Madding Crowd” $2.2 million

8. “Furious 7” $2.1 Million

9. “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” $1.7 Million

10. “Home” $1.6 Million

 

source: Deadline

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE ASYLUM (2015)

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THE ASYLUM (2015)

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

Marcus Nispel’s abandoned asylum horror has gone through more than one name change, It started out as Blackmask, then became Exeter and now has settled on the generic The Asylum…for now. The film tells of the long abandoned Exeter Asylum where mentally disturbed children were brought for care and rehabilitation. The place became more of a house of horrors and after a fire, was shut down. As the structure is being slowly emptied out for refurbishing, a group of youths decide to hold a rave inside. As this is never a good idea, those remaining in the building the following morning, are locked in by a vengeful spirit and suffer a horrible ordeal of possession and gruesome fates. Will any escape alive?

Nispel, who directed remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday The 13th and Conan The Barbarian, delivers a goofy, dumb, but actually kind of fun horror from his script with Kristen Elms. There is nothing we haven’t seen before, but Nispel knows it and just goes with it. The result is a silly but fast paced and very gory 90 minutes that can be entertaining if you just go along with the blood spattered chaos. Nispel presents his story with a serious tone…and with some atmosphere…but throws every possession/haunted asylum trope he can at you and showers it in blood and gore. It’s far from a classic and we are very familiar with the story elements, so there are little actual scares or any real intensity about it, but it is energetic and unapologetic…and that helps make it fun. Nispel has always had a strong visual sense, so it looks good and the gore and make-up FX are quite well executed. As with many horrors of this nature, expect characters to do dumb things to make the situation worse or put themselves in harm’s way and Nispel especially seems to have fun with this ‘tradition.’

As for the cast…veteran Stephen Lang is the priest who ran the asylum, Father Conway. He is appropriately mysterious and only appears in the beginning and then in the last act. A paycheck job, probably, but he gives it his spooky all. Other than Lang we have an attractive and adequate cast of relative unknowns. Our leads are Kelly Blatz cutting a fine but reluctant hero as Patrick and pretty Brittany Curran as our heroine with a touch of mystery, Reign. The supporting actors, Gage Golightly as Amber, Brett Dier as Brad, Michael Ormsby as Patrick’s brother Rory, Nick Nicotera as Knowles and Nick Nordella as Drew, are all fine in their parts as party animals at a party gone very wrong. As angry spirit fodder they all do their jobs efficiently.

So, in conclusion, I had a fun time with this. To a degree it’s not an overly good movie and certainly not very original. It does have a good time, though, with the familiar elements of it’s unoriginal story and approached from a certain viewpoint, can be a lot of fun because of it. The cast are all serviceable, the film does have a disturbing look and feel to it and splatters the screen often with gore and body parts when not possessing it’s attractive young cast with evil entities. Good movie?…not in a strictest sense. A fun movie…yes!

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 haunted honies.

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