TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE FILMS OF DON DOHLER

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THE FILMS OF DON DOHLER

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Don Dohler and ‘friends’ circa the early 80s

Don Dohler was an ultra low budget filmmaker from the state of Maryland who churned out a number of cheesy horror and Sci-fi flicks in his home state during the 70s, 80s and again in the first decade of the 2000s, before he passed away in 2006. Dohler started out publishing Cinemagic, a magazine for amateur filmmakers, before becoming one himself with his first film The Alien Factor in 1976. His films were very small budget and charmingly amateur with Dohler himself multi-tasking as director, writer, editor, cinematographer, producer and even working on the FX as well…a kind of Maryland Ed Wood! He worked with many of the same actors in his flicks, such as regulars Don Leifert, Richard Dyszel, Ann Firth and George Stover…with Firth and Stover starring in all six of his solo directorial efforts. Dohler took a break from filmmaking at the end of the 80s, while his films got some attention and notoriety via TV, VHS and exposure in Famous Monsters of Filmland and Starlog magazines. Don also gave a few famous names their start as SPFX legend Ernest D. Farino worked on a few of his flicks, before moving out to the West Coast and finding his success and a 16 year-old J.J. Abrams wrote the score for Nightbeast! Don returned to filmmaking with one last directorial effort in 2001 before turning the reins for future productions over to his new collaborator Joe Ripple, sticking with writing, cinematography and post-production. Sadly, after producing a few more direct to video films, Don passed away of cancer in December of 2006 at the age of 60. His films still have a following to this day and a charm that many bigger productions don’t have.

As all of Don Dohler’s films were extremely low budget and delightfully amateur, it would be unfair to rate them on the same scale as one would healthier budgeted productions, so here the rating is simply as a Don Dohler film and these are only the films that Dohler himself directed…

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THE ALIEN FACTOR (1976)

alien factorDohler’s first film cost a mere $3,500 and told the story of an alien ship that crashes near the small rural town of Perry Hall, Maryland…where Dohler himself lived until his untimely death…unleashing three hostile extraterrestrial creatures upon the hapless town. The local sheriff (Tom Griffith) and a scientist (Don Leifert) work to track them down, before they decimate the town’s population. The FX are crude, the dialog is awful and the acting is incredibly wooden, but there is a sense of fun in this Sci-fi/horror. Future FX legend Ernest D. Farino did some stop motion animation for one of the critters, though the rest look delightfully like papier-mâché. The flick has heart and can be fun in it’s epic badness, if you just go with it. Overall, one of his best efforts.

3 star rating

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FIEND (1980)

fiendCo-written with the film’s star Don Leifert, this might be Dohler’s worst movie entertainment-wise. Story tells of a malicious supernatural entity which resurrects the body of a recently dead man (Leifert) to inhabit. It must, however, regenerate itself each day by killing and draining the life-force of a living person. As the bodies pile up and Leifert’s undead music teacher Longfellow is the weirdest new face on the block, it doesn’t take long before nosey neighbor Gary (Richard Nelson) begins to suspect somethings afoot. The movie is incredibly boring, so we are far less tolerant of the awful acting, crude make-up, terrible dialogue and the cheesy glowing effects when the ‘fiend’ kills. Dohler’s usually moderate pace just makes it worse. The least of his six solo directorial films.

2 star rating

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NIGHTBEAST (1982)

NightbeastNightbeast is an odd film as it appears to be a sort of sequel/remake to Alien Factor. It tales place in Perry Hill, has the same actors playing the same characters, such as Griffith returning as Sheriff Jack Cinder, but also includes ones who died in that film such as Mayor Wicker (Richard Dyszel). It again has an alien ship crash-landing in the nearby woods, though it’s only one nasty and heavily armed being that begins to stalk and attack the townsfolk. The events of the first film are never mentioned, so…remake, maybe? It may have 12x the budget of Alien Factor, but still features rubbery monsters, cheesy visual effects and the expected bad dialog and wooden acting. Unlike Fiend, it isn’t boring and there is fun to be had for those who like a ‘so bad it’s good’ movie with their beers.

3 star rating

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GALAXY INVADER (1985)

galaxy Invader posterDohler goes for a three-peat by having an alien creature once again crash-land in some rural woodland near a small remote town. This time the creature is benign and it’s the humans who are the villains, as a trio of rednecks want to capture the being and it’s hi-tech weapons to sell to the highest bidder. It’s a race against time as some good natured townsfolk try to outwit the greedy backwoods thugs. This film is less fun than the last two alien themed flicks and the use of the alien in the woods storyline is getting tiresome. The pace is a lot slower and it’s a lot smaller scaled, even for a Don Dohler movie. The alien costume is laughable, but so is the atrocious acting by our band of psychotic rednecks (including Dohler regular Don Leifert as lead ‘good ole boy’ Frank Custor). Once more the low budget FX and clumsily staged action is supported by bad dialog and worse acting. Not his best, but not the worst either.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BLOOD MASSACRE (1991)

blood massacreDohler gave aliens dropping into backwoods towns a rest, as well as, regular Don Leifert and decided to return to full-blown horror. The story has a group of delinquents trying to rob a convenience store and having the heist go awry, resulting in someone being shot. They head out of town, but run out of gas in the middle of nowhere and wind up taking a young woman hostage and forcing her to drive them to her family farmhouse to hide out. It soon turns out they picked the wrong family to take hostage, as the Parkers are cannibals and this band of would-be thieves are now in a fight for their lives. By far the goriest of Dohler’s films and also one of the better ones. Sure there is still, the bad dialogue, wooden acting, by-the-numbers direction and sub-par gore FX, but there is a sense of loony, off-the-wall fun when bad guys take on country psychopaths. Amateurish like all of Dohler’s films, but there is entertainment to be had in this goofy bloodbath.

3 star rating

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ALIEN FACTOR 2: THE ALIEN RAMPAGE (2001)

alien rampageThis flick, Don Dohler’s last solo directing effort, is a sequel to his original 1978 flick in name only. This time, an alien comes to Perry Hall, Maryland in pursuit of another alien that has stolen something it wants back. Meanwhile, the female alien thief is wounded and caught by the FBI after she steals some plutonium from a nearby nuclear facility. The reptilian creature in pursuit surrounds the small town in an impenetrable force field while it decimates everyone in it’s path as it looks for it’s quarry. It’s up to the sexy female sheriff (Donna Sherman) to save her town. Despite the availability of CGI at this point in time and more advance FX technology, Dohler’s $35,000 budget gave the filmmaker no option but to stick to cheap plastic models, rubber aliens and bargain basement visual FX. The film is slow paced as usual and we get the typical bad dialog and amateur acting, as in all of Dohler’s films. It still has it’s amusements, though and the film does try hard despite all the shortcomings. Not quite as charming as some of his earlier efforts, but still a few notches above Fiend or Galaxy Invader.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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After Alien Factor 2: The Alien Rampage, Dohler handed the director’s chair over to new collaborator Joe Ripple, keeping himself occupied with producing, writing, editing and cinematography on the remaining films in his filmography, Harvesters,  Stakes, Vampire Sisters, Crawler and Dead Hunt, the latter he co-directed with Ripple in 2006 before he passed away. An inspiration to the aspiring filmmaker, Dohler proved that you can still get your film made even with limited resources and get yourself noticed in the process!

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Don Dohler 1946-2006 (photo by Sam Holden)

-MonsterZero NJ

sources: IMBD and Wikipedia

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES FEB 26-28

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

1. “Deadpool” $31.5 Million

2. “Gods Of Egypt” $14 Million

3. “Kung Fu Panda 3” $9 Million

4. “Risen” $7 Million

5. “Eddie The Eagle” $6.3 Million

6. “Triple 9” $6.1 Million

7. “How To Be Single” $5.1 Million

8. “The Witch” $5 Million

9. “Race” $4.3 Million

10. “The Revenant” $3.8 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983)

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THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983)

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

The Deadly Spawn is an 80s low budget Sci-fi/horror with it’s heart firmly planted in the 50s. The story opens with two campers in the woods seeing a meteorite crash-land nearby a la The Blob. They go to investigate, but are soon attacked and killed by the meteorite’s passenger. This venus flytrap on steroids crawls into the basement of a nearby house and not only begins to snack on the house occupants, but grows and multiplies, it’s spawn spreading out into the neighborhood, during a fierce rain storm. The house survivors desperately try to find a way to fend off the alien creatures, while the rest of the neighborhood is slowly being added to the menu.

It’s difficult to be too hard on a film that is basically an ambitious home movie. The flick was made in my home state of New Jersey for just $25,000, which was dirt cheap even in the early 80s and has developed a cult following. The film is a strictly bargain basement but fun movie written and directed by Douglas McKeown from a story by he and Special FX man John Dods and producer Ted A. Bohus. There is a lot of heart here, but it is still very amateurish on a production level. The film is directed rather by-the-numbers by McKeown and there are some scenes that are obvious filler and seem to go on and on and not accomplish much. A lot of the sequences are also clumsily staged, especially the laughable neighborhood clean-up in the last act where people are obviously just wandering around without much purpose or direction. What makes this work is some impressive monster and gore effects done with far more ingenuity than cash and while the budget doesn’t afford us too much monster on the loose stuff, what it does gives us is rubbery and bloody fun. There is plentiful gore and while the acting is wooden across the board and the dialog downright terrible at times, there is still fun from watching the effort by cast and crew to give us a 50s monster flick 80s style. There is a very 80s electronic score by Michael Perilstein to add nostalgia and atmosphere and the film looks pretty good for such a low budget shoot under Harvey M. Birnbaum’s cinematography. A cheesy labor of love from a group of Jersey monster movie fans that may be strictly amateur, but has a lot of heart and some delightfully rubbery critters to go along with it’s cliché characters and table top miniatures.

This is an ultra low budget flick that looks and feels it, too. The makers did have a love for what they were doing and obviously, for the films that inspired them and that makes up for a good deal of the cheesy, low budget badness the film carries. Sure the dialog is terrible, the acting awful and the directing very-by-the-numbers, but it has charm and is a noble effort with some entertainingly rubber monsters and surprisingly effective gore. A cult favorite flick that deserves it status and shows what you can accomplish with very little when you give it your heart into it.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 spawns.

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REVIEW: ALL THINGS MUST PASS (2015)

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ALL THINGS MUST PASS (2015)

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

Personal Note: It’s difficult for me to view this documentary completely objectively as I was an employee of Tower Records for nine years during the 90s. I started out as a clerk and then moved up to receiving clerk and then made video department manager in just two years in Tower’s Paramus N.J. store. It was probably the most fun ‘job’ I ever had and I met a lot of unique people there, some I am proud to still call friends. It is a time of my life that I miss and will never forget. -MZNJ

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My former place of employ, the long- gone Tower Records, Paramus N.J.

All Things Must Pass is a documentary from director (and actor) Colin Hanks and writer Steven Leckart about the rise and fall of one of the most recognized names in the retail music industry. The documentary follows the start of this legendary retail music chain from it’s humble beginnings in Sacramento, California at the pharmacy owned by founder Russ Solomon’s father. It then traces it’s illustrious history from Solomon opening the first Tower Records store on Watt Avenue in 1960 and then over the years as it became one of the largest and most unique music retailers ever to grace the planet. It then sadly unfolds a series of events and changes, both within the company and in the business itself, that caused it to ultimately close it’s doors in 2006.

As a history of this legendary store, Hanks’ documentary is very informative choosing wisely to let Tower’s story be told by Russ Solomon himself, as well as, a number of his former upper management team, who all started working for him as clerks in his first stores. They present a fun tale of a simple dream growing into something special that attracted the attention of the entire world. We get these reflections mixed with film, video and photos from former staff, as well as, from TV commercials and news coverage. Add to that some celebrity input, too, from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, David Grohl and Elton John, who were also loyal customers…or employees as in Grohl’s case…aside from having their music sold there. It almost plays out like a fairy tale, as soon Tower’s success spread across the country and then internationally, to Japan and other parts of the world…and that’s also part of it’s comeuppance, which is regretfully detailed by Solomon and his former managers. A sad tale of a changing market and a company spending money faster than they could make it. The testimony is quite frank and honest about how this once iconic retailer basically derailed it’s own dream and couldn’t keep up with the times.

If Colin Hanks makes any mistakes it’s in two ways. One, his documentary is very by-the-numbers and rather somber, even in the beginning stages when Tower was in it’s glory. He never really catches the true spirit of the place in the telling. We don’t get a real feel for what made this place truly special which is also in part due to the second mistake…never interviewing some of the former store employees. Having worked there, I experienced first-hand the wonderful and eclectic assortment of people that were Russ Solomon’s soldiers in the trenches. By not getting a more store level view from some of the wonderful variety of employees that graced Tower’s aisles, Hanks leaves out a vital part of what made this chain special…the unique individuals who worked there. His focus remains on the upper management and record company executives and celebrities, but never touches on the delightful diversity of the employees that made each individual store a unique experience. He only touches on it briefly when the upper management are telling about their beginnings, but never sought out testimony from those who made Tower their life and formed Russ Solomon’s loyal crew. As a former employee, this was a large part of what made the Tower Records experience what it was. A serious misstep by the first-time filmmaker, restricting the perspective solely to the corporate level.

Overall, this was an informative documentary and a very personally nostalgic one. It does provide a vivid history of this legendary music chain’s rise and fall, but does so a little too by-the-numbers considering the subject matter. Hanks also leaves out one of the most important details about what made this place special, aside from it’s deep catalog and that’s the diverse and passionate music and movie lovers who were Russ Solomon’s employees…and it’s that omission that left this documentary a little hollow despite the richness of the tale to be told.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Tower Tags… scanned from MonsterZero NJ’s own personal collection.

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BARE BONES: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS! and KNOCK KNOCK

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ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS! (2015)

Great documentary about schlockmeister Cannon Films that churned out so many delightfully bad…and very entertaining B-movies during the 80s. Mark Hartley’s documentary is told through the eyes of a number of talents who worked for Cannon during their existence from both behind and in front of the camera. We get a real good look at the inside of the studio founded by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus and how they dreamed of taking America by storm. We hear from actors like Bo Derek, Molly Ringwald, Robert Forster and Cannon regulars Lucinda Dickey and Michael Dudikoff, who all have entertaining stories to tell about starring in some of the studios most infamous productions. We also hear what it was like to make films for them by the likes of Tobe Hooper, Sam Firstenberg and Franco Zeffirelli. We get a story of two men whose dream to be a major studio was derailed by churning out some of the shlocky-est productions during a decade renown for it’s excesses. They made a major action star out of Chuck Norris and reignited Charles Bronson’s career…although not completely in a good way. Documentary is almost as fun as some of the ‘so bad it’s good’ movies they produced under Golan and Globus between 1979 and 1985.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

 

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KNOCK KNOCK (2015)

Eli Roth’s flick is a reworking of a 1977 film called Death Game where two women (Sandra Locke and Collen Camp who are given producers credits here) terrorize a man (Seymour Cassel) over a two day period. In this update, we have architect and family man Evan Webber (Keanu Reeves) who is left home alone on Father’s Day weekend to finish some work while his wife and kids hit the beach. During a rainstorm, two beautiful young women (Ana de Armas and Lorenza Izzo) show up soaking wet at his door, claiming to be lost and wind up seducing Evan into a threesome. The following morning Evan finds his guests still there and acting quite out of control. He manages to evict them, but they return that night to take Evan hostage and begin to torment him as punishment for what he did to them, claiming they are only fifteen years-old. Viewing him as a pedophile, the psychotic women claim he must die at dawn unless he plays their twisted games.

Despite a familiar premise that could have been fun, this flick is just dull and silly as these two loonies torment Reeves’ unfaithful family man for over forty minutes. It’s not only never gripping, but really just amounts to a fairly bloodless and uninventive torture show as the two women claim that Webber needs to pay for taking advantage of underage girls like themselves. While the two actresses do have a good time going all over-the-top, neither is remotely believable for a minute at being that young, or is given any real meaty material to work with. As for Reeves, he seems very miscast here and does not seem comfortable at all with the material…and it goes beyond the character’s discomfort with being a married man in the company of two horny vixens turned psychopaths. Even had Reeves been less wooden, the film offers nothing new and doesn’t even make inventive use of the familiar tropes of this type of Fatal Attraction flick. Roth does clarify his ladies intentions in the DVD extras, but one shouldn’t need supplemental material to make things clearer. Dull and only worth watching for the generous nudity from Armas and Izzo (Mrs. Eli Roth) who are clearly having a fun time with their parts. Wish Reeves would have had more fun with his part and Roth stopped recycling his influences and gave us something more original.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: SCREAM QUEENS ON THE RISE!

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This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features three relatively new faces in horror that made quite an impression in their maiden appearances. These three actresses made for memorable final girls in their respective horror/thrillers and we can only hope they will grace the horror genre again and soon!

(Click on the highlighted links to read a review of the film’s that our Halloween Hotties have appeared in)

#1 CHLOE ROSE!

Canadian actress Chloe Rose made for quite a resourceful and strong-willed heroine as Dora Vogel in Bruce McDonald’s Halloween set fright flick Hellions. The young actress made quite an impression as a pregnant teen who must fend off a pack of demonic little fiends, who want her unborn child. In interviews to promote the film, she has expressed her interest in returning to the horror genre and we sure hope her wish comes true…soon!

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#2 ALI COBRIN!

Aside from a small role in Joe Dante’s teen friendly horror The Hole, Girlhouse is Ali Cobrin’s first time doing final girl duty and she pulls it off with flying colors! She gives us sweet girl-next-door Kylie who is forced to work at the steamy Girlhouse to earn money for college. When the girls come under attack from the deranged Loverboy (Slain), she proves more than a match for the vicious masked killer! Miss Cobrin has acted in a number of projects since this cool slasher and hopefully another horror role is awaiting this beautiful and talented lady!

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#3 TINA IVLEV!

While Bound To Vengeance isn’t technically a horror flick, there was enough gore and intensity in this vicious crime thriller to pass as one. Russian born actress Tina Ivlev made a big splash with her dynamite performance as a young girl kidnaped and held prisoner by a group of deviants. Her Eve not only breaks free and goes on a quest for revenge, but also sets out to free the sleazy group’s other hostages…and she does so with bullets and blood flying! She’s a busy actress and hopefully that will include more horror roles in the near future!

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And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties focusing on, Maika MonroeAddison TimlinMelanie PapaliaBriana EviganKatrina BowdenAlexandra DaddarioKatie FeatherstonKatharine IsabelleAmber Heard and Danielle Harris! (just click on their names to go to their pages or head over to the Halloween Hotties listings!)

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE PACK aka LA MEUTE (2010)

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THE PACK aka LA MEUTE (2010)

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

French horror The Pack (La Meute) proves that even in France, picking up a hitchhiker in a backwoods area can only lead to trouble. Young, pretty Charlotte (Émilie Dequenne of Brotherhood of the Wolf) is driving through a very rural area of the French countryside when she picks up hitchhiker, Max (Benjamin Biolay), to give herself some company after being accosted by a group of sleazy bikers. While she’s asleep, Max stops at a secluded truck stop run by a woman named La Spack (Yolande Moreau). It’s a strange little place and after another encounter with the biker gang, Max disappears. Charlotte goes looking for him and finds that not only is the young hitchhiker La Spack’s son, but she’s been set-up to be their prisoner…and what the duo have in store for her is beyond her wildest nightmares. The Pack needs to be fed and Charlotte might be their next meal.

Written and directed by Franck Richard, The Pack is a gruesome, disturbing and sometimes very effective, if not familiar, little horror. It’s got a cool visual style, some well-orchestrated gore and effectively creepy title creatures. Sure, we have seen these elements before and the basic story of a traveler getting involved in some backwoods horror is quite common, but Richard does present it fairly well. Our creatures are not directly explained, nor is La Spack’s need to feed them, though it is implied that something strange occurred in a mine where her sons were killed….or were they transformed into something unearthly? It’s not spelled out and that may frustrate some, but there is enough there for one to come to their own conclusions and at the very least, feeding them keeps them away from her and her son. There is also a sub-plot about a retired cop (Philippe Nahon) poking his nose around La Spack’s truck stop in relation to the missing Charlotte, but we all know how story threads like that get wound up. This is not a great or original flick, nor is it really scary or overly suspenseful, but it does work on a basic level and the atmosphere is aided by an effective score by Chris Spencer and Ari Benjamin Meyers and there is some moody cinematography by Laurent Barès. Not everything works…like the biker gang showing up conveniently three times, or that no one has noticed the disappearances in the area…or the monsters, for that matter…but it is an entertaining flick from the French horror renaissance of the first decade of the 2000s.

The cast are serviceable. Émilie Dequenne makes for a strong-willed and defiant heroine. Her tattooed, leather jacket wearing Charlotte is a far cry from the proper noble woman she played in Brotherhood of the Wolf. She’s a fighter and an asskicker here and there are hints that she is running away from an old life/relationship and trying to start anew. Moreau is effective as the sort of cross between Leatherface and the Sawyer family patriarch from Chainsaw Massacre. Her motives aren’t 100% clear as to her killing innocents to feed The Pack, but there is something a bit maternal about it and we wonder if her sons weren’t killed, but the deaths are a cover-up for some sort of transformation from miner to monster. That being the case, one wonders why it was covered up, yet nothing done about the monster population in the area. Back to the cast, Biolay is fine as the soft spoken Max, who takes a liking to he and his mom’s latest victim and Nahon makes for a good ex-cop who can’t let old habits drop. A decent cast.

The Pack isn’t a great movie from a country that has made some surprisingly good horrors during the last decade or so. The story elements are very familiar and there are certain plot ambiguities concerning our title creatures. Are they monsters unleashed from the bowls of the earth, or men transformed by something they unearthed? Who knows? It is an effective little flick, though and definitely passes the bloody time for a lazy horror filled Saturday night on the couch.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Pack members.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES FEB 19-21

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

1. “Deadpool” $55 Million

2. “KungFu Panda 3” $12.5 Million

3. “Risen” $11.8 Million

4. “The Witch” $8.7 Million

5. “How To Be Single” $8.2 Million

6. “Race” $7.3 Million

7. “Zoolander 2” $5.5 Million

8. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens ” $3.83 Million

9. “The Revenant” $3.8 Million

10. “Hail,Caesar!” $2.6 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE WITCH (2016)

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THE WITCH (2016)

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

The Witch is an atmospheric folk tale from writer/director Robert Eggers that is consistently moody and has some very spooky sequences, but far from lives up to all the hype that’s been made about it at film festivals. Story finds a Puritan family leaving their village to live out in the wilderness in a clearing before a dense wood. When daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) takes her infant brother for a walk, he disappears basically right in front of her. We all know who and what is the cause of his disappearance, but dissension starts to eat away at the family as the father feels it has to do with their earthly sins and the other children claim Thomasin is a witch and gave the child to the Devil. As more tragedy befalls the family, paranoia begins to tear them apart as they believe something evil is in their midst.

Eggers tells his tale more like an old-style New England folktale than a more traditional horror and the end credits explain that this is fully the intent. He creates a steady atmosphere of uneasiness and the film certainly has the feel of it’s time when religion and superstition were believed in equally. There are some truly spooky sequences, especially in the last act, but there were also times where the slow paced film was a bit tedious as the lamentations of the mother and father get repetitious and fingers start getting pointed at various family members by the others. Kinda like a Puritan era version of John Carpenter’s The Thing but, it doesn’t quite have the tension of that classic. This is because we know from early on that there is a witch and it’s not in the house, as Eggers has shown her to us when she takes the infant and then another child. There is purpose, though to her dividing the family and as the film enters the last act it becomes apparent and then the film really locks in the chills till it’s not totally unexpected final sequence. The dialog is also spoken in the language of the time and while it adds to the atmosphere, it also is hard to understand the characters meaning at times, not being familiar with the vernacular of the period. On a production side, Eggers does have a visual style that suits his unnerving tale and it is photographed well by Jarin Blaschke and given a really creepy score by Mark Korven. There is also some graphic bloodshed and some disturbing imagery that do help with the ambiance of dread, as well. This is a spooky flick, but just not consistently and not as intensely as certain famous author quotes would like us to believe.

The cast are all convincing. Taylor-Joy plays a young Puritan woman coming of age, very well. Her awakening sexuality makes her a prime target for the accusations of her younger siblings and grief-stricken mother. Kate Dickie conveys that mother well, too. A woman tormented with grief as she looses her infant child and than another and slowly begins to believe her own daughter is something evil. Ralph Ineson is very good as the God fearing father trying to keep his family together, but slowly loosing control while trying to keep his faith. He is sometimes hard to understand with his gravely voice combined with the old-style tongue, but he is very good as the patriarch William. Harvey Scrimshaw is solid as Caleb, also coming of age as a young boy and he handles some difficult scenes he’s involved in very well. Rounding out the family is Ellie Granger and Lucas Dawson are Mercy and Jonas, the familiy’s creepy young twins who add to the paranoia by speaking often to the family goat, Black Phillip and claiming he tells them things. Not a good sign!

In conclusion, The Witch was a spooky and effective folk tale horror, but just not as consistently horrifying as film fest hype would have us believe. There are some slow spots and the pacing is very moderate and the old world language is not always easy to decipher, though it does add atmosphere. There are some very spooky scenes, especially in the last act and some effective bloodshed, though Eggers does neuter some of the inter-family tension by letting us know extremely early that there is something very evil in them thar woods. No, it doesn’t live up to the hype, but still a moderately effective story of old world New England evil that has it’s share of chills.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 goats who may…or may not…be emissaries of evil.

Cute brown goat’s grin

 

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BARE BONES: CONDEMNED and THE INTERN

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CONDEMNED (2015)

Awful movie has spoiled brat Maya (Dylan Penn) leaving her posh digs and arguing parents to live with her musician boyfriend (Ronen Rubinstein) and some fellow squatters in an abandoned NYC tenement building…that somehow still has electricity and running water. They live amongst an assortment of unsavory characters including meth-heads, drug addicts, drug dealers and sadomasochists. Soon a virus caused by all the filth and meth maker Cookie’s (Perry Yung) toxic refuse, creates a rabies-like infection that starts to turn the squatters into vicious killers.

Watching this 28 Days Later meets Rent…without the musical numbers…is like staring into a toilet for 80+ minutes. Writer/director Eli Morgan Gesner just keeps a steady flow of filthy imagery, deviant behavior and then over-the-top gory violence for pretty much the entire film and that might have been fine if there was any wit or cleverness to it. There isn’t and it’s just a parade of how gross can we be for 83 minutes without any suspense, tension or even fun…and if you’re looking for a point or message, you’re wasting your time. The acting and dialog is equally terrible though the make-up FX aren’t bad. You’ll want to take a shower after watching this, if you can get through it, and not in a good way. Only if you must.

-MonsterZero NJ

one star rating

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THE INTERN (2015)

Sappy and overly sentimental flick has retired widower Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) wanting to get back out in the world and applying for a senior citizen internship at a fast growing e-commerce fashion company. The company is run by multi-tasking entrepreneur Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) who reluctantly takes on Ben as her personal intern. Soon not only does Ben start to brighten things up around the office but his bonding with Jules helps her get her personal life into perspective, too. 

On the positive side, this flick is completely harmless and is actually well acted by it’s leads. Otherwise, it’s also over two hours of complete schmaltz, that is so contrived by writer/director Nancy Meyers, that it seems almost as much a fantasy as say, The Lord Of The Rings. Not that a senior citizen couldn’t excel in an internship at such a company surrounded by hipsters without a clue, but the whole solving all of Jules’ problems both business and personal…including somehow saving her failing marriage…is just a bit much. All De Niro’s Ben needed was a magic wand and some fairy dust. The film never even tries to exist in the real world, especially when it comes to Jules all too accepting attitude toward her husband’s (Anders Holm) unfaithfulness. It’s like she blames herself for being a busy businesswoman and chasing him away. Really? What is the message THERE? Add to that, some of Hathaway and De Niro’s scenes together came off as very uncomfortable. Was there supposed to be a hint of something more between the 70-ish Ben and the thirty-something Jules? Nothing happens, but at times it seemed like it was on the verge as they just seemed a bit too chummy despite Ben’s interest in company masseuse Fiona, played by the more age appropriate Rene Russo. Regardless, after the over two hour running time you basically sit there asking yourself…what was that supposed to really be about?…and what was the point?

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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