HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HIDDEN (2015)

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HIDDEN (2015)

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

Intense thriller has a family hiding in an old bomb shelter in fear of what lurks on the surface. Ray (Alexander Skarsgård), his wife Claire (Andrea Riseborough) and their daughter Zoe (Emily Alyn Lind) have been hiding here since a virus began to ‘change people’ and now they are in fear of ‘the breathers’ who are hunting for them above. Life is hard in their sequestered hiding spot, but they try to remain a family until an unfortunate accident leads those lurking on the surface to their little safe haven.

Directed and scripted by Ross and Matt Duffer, this is a very intense and suspenseful thriller which keeps the events that forced the family here a mystery, one it slowly unveils over the course of this tense little movie. We get flashbacks as the family remembers the events that sent them to the old school bomb shelter and despite not getting an explanation for the first two acts as to who ‘the breathers’ are, we can tell by the family’s fear that are something to be afraid of…and it sets us on edge. Once the Duffers finally let us in on the who’s and what’s, it is a clever and shocking surprise that works and works really well. To give anymore details away would ruin a solid little thriller, suffice to say the last act comes with some intense action and surprising blood spattering as things literally explode to the surface. The film is given a nice atmosphere of fear and foreboding and that is aided by Thomas Townend’s moody cinematography and David Julyan’s equally moody score. A first rate thriller with some nice and clever surprises.

The small cast is excellent. Alexander Skarsgård successfully portrays a man trying to keep his family safe and together despite the heinous conditions they are forced to live in. He is very likable and will go to any length to protect his family. He has maintained his playfulness when it comes to his daughter, even living under such dire conditions. Andrea Riseborough is equally strong and gives us a caring woman who also will do anything to keep her little girl safe. She is a little more cautious than her husband, but the contrast makes the characters work well together. Young Emily Alyn Lind is endearing and actually a solid little actress as daughter Zoe. She has her fears about what lurks above but retains that child-like innocence and curiosity. She can also be quite brave when she needs to. A solid cast for a vey well-made thriller.

I really enjoyed this movie. Very well directed by the Duffers and very cleverly scripted. It gives us a tense situation with some mysterious circumstances and keeps the atmosphere and tension constant by only slowly revealing the whole picture. There are some shocking and inventive revelations in the last act as well as some intense action and bloody violence, as the story takes us out of the claustrophobic hiding place and into the world. A first rate little thriller and a really impressive feature debut from Ross and Matt Duffer.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 canned peaches.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MOCKINGBIRD (2014)

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MOCKINGBIRD (2014)

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

POV horror flick has three groups of people, a couple (Todd Stashwick and Audrey Marie Anderson), a college student (Alexandra Lydon) and a slacker (Barak Hardley) still living with his mom, getting cameras sent to them with the ominous message to keep filming or someone will die. More messages and packages are sent, as the couple and the student are threatened and tormented, while Leonard is told to put on a clown suit and go on various tasks…of which he is gleefully happy to do. Whoever this manipulator is, they are playing a dangerous game with an  ulterior agenda that will bring all three subjects together…and probably not in a good way.

Flick is written and directed by Bryan Bertino for Blumhouse and is fairly entertaining. It may not be anything new, but it does generate some chills, as our couple and student are being tormented by this mysterious person/persons and some laughs with the far too giddy to cooperate Leonard. They are trapped inside their homes with the threat of death looming and it is kind of creepy as they are manipulated slowly and gradually, till finally instructed to leave and head to a specific address on Mockingbird Drive. The cast members all do well in portraying their fright, or in Leonard’s case their delighted compliance and that helps make this stay fairly entertaining for most of the running time. The film only really falters at the end and in more than one way. First, this is exactly where we figured this flick was going as bringing the characters together in a devious manner was obvious from the start. Another point is that after just over 80 minutes we realize that there isn’t much of a story here, once it predictably ends. The third and biggest problem is once we find out who is instigating this sadistic plan, it becomes obvious that they would not have had the resources and mode of travel to accomplish all that they do. Those responsible would have needed to get from place to place very quickly and have considerable capital to pull this off. Once you meet them, you realize it’s highly implausible that they could have authored all this by themselves and they appear to be acting alone. It’s supposed to be creepy, but our villains inspired more questions than chills, once finally unveiled. We are also never given a reason for all this, or any backstory as to who these people are, or why the victims are chosen, other than a vague but effective opening scene. The film works until it’s reveal, then it looses it’s grip as the creditability is strained a bit too much…aside from leading exactly where we thought it would.

Overall, I had some fun with this and it did have some spooky moments, some chilling scenes and some legitimate laughs when we follow Leonard. It works for most of the movie until it’s last scene reveal. Once we find out what is going on, we have serious doubts that they would have been able to successfully pull it off. It also ends as we knew it would with our victims. Not a bad flick for a night on the couch, but one that needed to be a bit more clever to keep belief suspended beyond it’s final moments.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 gift boxes

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAY 27-29

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

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

1. “X-Men: Apocalypse” $65 Million

2. “Alice Through The Looking Glass” $28.1 Million

3. “Angry Birds Movie” $18.7 Million

4. “Captain America: Civil War” $15.1 Million

5. “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” $9.1 Million

6. “The Jungle Book” $7 Million

7. “The Nice Guys” $6.4 Million

8. “Money Monster” $4.25 Million

9. “Love & Friendship” $2.5 Million

10. “Zootopia” $831,000

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016)

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X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016)

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

While X-Men: Apocalypse is not the worst of this series, it may be the dullest. The film opens in ancient Egypt where a powerful being, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) is about to transfer his consciousness into another body when he is betrayed and buried beneath the ruins of a great pyramid. We then cut to 1983 where he is dug up by a cult of mutant worshipers and set free to resume his plan of…you guessed it…world destruction and domination. Now Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and rebel hero Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) must somehow stop the first and most powerful mutant with only a group of young students and CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) at their sides. Worse still, En Sabah Nur has gathered a strike force of his own, Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and only needs one more piece to carry out his apocalyptic plan…Charles Xavier.

As this is the fourth X-Men flick directed by Bryan Singer and written by Simon Kinberg, co-written with Singer, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, we see a series in definite need of new creative blood. The story is just another powerful villain looking to annihilate mankind yarn, directed very by-the-numbers by Singer. Gone is the cleverness from his first two flicks, as well as, the energy and the fun. The film plods along for 144 minutes, taking itself way too seriously and we only see a spark of life in the last few moments, when the young members of the team must step up against a god-like being…though a god-like being that never really impresses or exudes much menace. And that is another big problem with this flick, En Sabah Nur…or Apocalypse…is a boring villain. He is never frightening, nor do we ever truly feel the power he is supposed to have. He’s just some blue guy who wants to rule the world…yawn. Even his sidekicks, including the usually impressive Magneto, are given little to do, but stand glowering behind him, till the climactic battle and even then only Olivia Munn’s Psylocke shows a little promise, despite being as underused as the rest of them. Add to that a detour into William Stryker’s (Josh Helman) lair, which serves no purpose other than to give a certain familiar face a cameo and adds at least twenty minutes to an already overlong flick. Remove the sequence entirely and it would have no bearing on the story. Even Stan Lee’s usually amusing cameo is dull, though at least we get to meet his real-life wife.

There are some positive points. There is some solid action and the FX are spectacular, even though the whole city destruction thing has been done to death in recent superhero flicks. Evan Peters has another movie stealing scene as Quicksilver and should get his own movie at this point. Mystique’s graduation to team leader works well and Lawrence again shines in the role, as does Sophie Turner as a young Jean Grey, who has a bit of a scene stealing moment of her own in the final conflict. One of the few moments to show some life and have impact. Newton Thomas Sigel returns with some crisp cinematography and John Ottoman from X2 and Days Of Future Past again scores the soundtrack…of which also contains some cool 80s tunes.

The film has a big cast and the recent regulars like McAvoy, Fassbender, Hoult, Byrne and Lawrence all perform their roles well and we wish they were given something more challenging to do. Oscar Isaac is sadly underwhelming as En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse. He just doesn’t project any power or malice, as the supposedly first and most powerful mutant. It is almost as if he was phoning in the part. Evan Peters is once again amusing as the smart-ass Quicksilver and thankfully he has a bigger role. Sophie Turner is good as young Jean Grey and in her big scene evokes the kind of power Isaac could have used to make his villain memorable. As for the rest of the newbies, Jodi Smit McPhee is fun as Nightcrawler, Tye Sheridan is fine as the new Cyclops, Ben Hardy is given very little to do as Angel, so it is hard to really comment on his performance, Alexandra Shipp shows potential for Storm and Olivia Munn, as mentioned previously, makes an impression as Psylocke, even if she is underused.

What can be said? It’s not an outright bad movie like Last Stand, but even that had some fun stuff in it. While this is a better made and written film, it is also a very drab, uninvolving and overlong one. At least Last Stand had the decency to be less than two hours long. Our main bad guy is heaps of dull and his world destroying plot is heaps of been-there-done-that. On a plus note, the FX are as well rendered, the action is well staged and the recast favorites work well enough, with Sophie Turner standing out. There are a few good new characters such as Olivia Munn’s villainous Psylocke and another fun sequence with the scene stealing Quicksilver. A ho-hum entry in a series which has too many interesting characters to run out of gas quite yet.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 sexy but underused Psylocke’s.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE ZERO BOYS (1986)

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THE ZERO BOYS (1986)

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

Aside from starring 80s B-movie babe Kelli Maroney, having the score composed by future mega-composer Hans Zimmer and Frank Darabont as an assistant art director, there is little or nothing remarkable about this flick. Three paintball enthusiasts who fancy themselves survivalists and call themselves The Zero Boys, take their girls into the woods for a camping trip and wind up spending the night at a secluded cabin, that does not belong to them. The actual owners turn out to be sadistic, murderous rednecks and decide to make the group pay for the intrusion. But the Zero Boys are armed and ready and when rednecks attack, this means war!…sort of.

Flick is written, produced and directed by Greek filmmaker Nico Mastorakis and is a tedious and dull movie with very little of the action that the premise would suggest should be in abundance. The story unfolds very slowly with a lot of uninteresting dialog with the rednecks only making brief appearances here and there until they kidnap one of the girlfriends, later on in the flick. It’s only in the last few minutes where we finally get a confrontation and that’s over quickly with minimal body count…not counting various miscellaneous corpses that seem to pop up here and there to illustrate the good ole boys have been doing this for a while. The acting from the cast of mostly unknowns is wooden and bland across the board, with only Maroney showing a little spark getting to play a bad girl this time instead of the more wholesome types she played in Chopping Mall and Night Of The Comet. As for the villains, they are seen in shadow most of the time and are stereotypical creepy rednecks. They lack much threat and even their leader (Joe Estevez billed as Joe Phelan) is dressed like a suburban dad complete with sweater and collared shirt. Not very scary for a homicidal redneck. Director Matorakis provides little or no tension, suspense or even fun and stages everything very by-the-numbers. His script gets borderline silly at times and only moderately delivers on the throw-down that the story sets up.

Despite seeming to have a bit of a following, this is a really lame and dull movie even for slightly under 90 minutes. The premise would suggest a lot of action, yet there is very little till the last 10-15 minutes and even that is very by-the-numbers and over quickly. The Zero Boys themselves are a dull group and only Kelli Maroney gives her feisty Jaime a little life and is the only recognizable cast member. Worst of all, it even lacked the 80s charm that can sometimes make stuff at least a little fun. Only if you are an 80s movie completist.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 bullets.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WHAT WE BECOME (2015)

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WHAT WE BECOME (2015)

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

While the film is overall about a zombie outbreak, Danish filmmaker Bo Mikkelsen chooses instead not to focus on the carnage, but the effect the initial quarantine and then eventual spreading out of control, has on a typical Danish suburban family. It starts out with father, Dino (Troels Lyby), his wife, Pemille (Mille Dinesen), rebellious teen son, Gustav (Benjamin Engell) and young daughter, Maj (Ella Solgaard), hearing about some viral outbreak on TV. Soon their neighborhood and surrounding area is quarantined by gun toting military and news on TV becomes more and more sparse. Anyone who tries to leave the neighborhood is shot and soldiers routinely patrol the streets with gunfire being heard throughout the night. As the tension rises in their home over concerns as to what is exactly going on, the family soon find they are confined in their house with something out of a nightmare lurking outside…in the form of their former neighbors.

Writer/director Bo Mikkelsen creates a tense and suspenseful film by focusing on the family and not what’s lurking outside. While, as horror fans, we know what we are going to eventually discover, the family does not and they are kept in the dark and are afraid as the situation escalates. This puts us in their shoes and creates tension as the situation gets worse and our suburbanites are told less and less and are treated harshly by the military, with no explanation. This tension turns to outright terror when they realize in the last act that this virus turns their neighbors into something horrible and violent and they are sealed in the quarantined area with them. This leads to a bloody final third which finally unleashes the horror, literally in their own backyard and we get a more traditional zombie climax that delivers what we expect in one of these movies. The difference is that Mikkelsen has taken time to escalate the tension and make us familiar with our likable family unit. So even if it ends on a familiar note, it has impact, as we like these people and now watch them fight for their very lives with no one coming to help. It works and is a bit of a refreshing spin on the over-saturated zombie sub-genre. The production values are solid and the gore FX are quite effective when they finally arrive.

The cast are really good. Lyby is solid as the patriarch Dino. A caring man thrust into a situation where even he is not sure how to protect his family. The actor portrays well the fear and concern as his world gets darker and more uncertain each day. Mille Dinesen is good as the mother Pemille. She is a strong woman who sometimes has to make hard decisions especially in a situation where they world seems to be spiraling out of control. Engell portrays a typical rebellious teen, who, even in an apocalyptic situation like this, defies his parents and risks all to be with his pretty neighbor, Sonja (Marie Hammer Boda). Rounding out is young Ella Solgaard as youngest Maj, who like most children, finds a way to retain her child-like innocense even in a fear filled situation as this. A good cast that create a likable family unit for us to endear to.

Despite being a familiar tale, Danish horror is a well told one from a less familiar angle. Instead of focusing on the carnage of the infected, it focuses on a family and tells the story from their point of view as an outbreak scenario spirals out of control. The cast give us three dimensional characters to get attached to and filmmaker Bo Mikkelsen keeps things mysterious and tense even though we ultimately know what’s coming…and when it’s does come, it is very effective. A very entertaining slant on the over-saturated zombie genre.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 bunnies.

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EPIC NEWS FOR THE HALLOWEEN FRANCHISE!

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If it wasn’t enough to hear great news this morning that horror factory Blumhouse, Trancas International Films and Mirimax are bringing us a new Halloween flick, they also have convinced the master himself John Carpenter to return to the franchise to executive produce and possibly score, as well. Now the great folks over at Bloody Disgusting.com have broken news that Absentia, OculusHush director Mike Flanagan is in talks to direct! As a huge fan of Flanagan and Carpenter being one of my favorite filmmakers of all time, this is epic news to MonsterZero NJ’s ears!
From John Carpenter himself…

“We’re going to go back to the earlier traditions that we started with. It’s kind of gone astray a little bit. I thought that maybe the remake went off somewhere that I didn’t want it to go. Michael Myers is not a character, he’s a force of nature. He is not a person; he is part supernatural, part human. When you start straying away from that and start explaining, you’re lost. So hopefully we can guide it back in that direction.”

AWESOME!!!

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Halloween

Sources: Arrow In The Head and Bloody Disgusting.com

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BARE BONES: PANDEMIC and THE DEVIL COMPLEX

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PANDEMIC (2016)

Zombie outbreak flick is a mildly entertaining diversion that has a doctor (Rachel Nichols) being taken by a small squad of soldiers (Alfie Allen, Mekhi Phifer and Missi Pyle) into a contaminated area to search for a missing team and the uncontaminated survivors they supposedly found. The mission goes awry, stranding the team and putting their lives in danger…as it does the doctor’s own secret, personal agenda.

Written by Dustin T. Benson and directed by John Suits this is absolutely nothing new in the zombie sub-genre and certainly adds nothing to freshen up it’s story in the current over-saturation of living dead movies, shows and books. It is well made for a low budget flick and moves along quickly enough with some decent action, but nothing innovative. The constant use of POV shots from the team’s helmet cams may amuse some, but if you’re not a gamer, it will probably just give you a headache. The cast are fine and Nichols makes a solid heroine with her own secret and gives the movie a little emotional weight. If you just want a little entertainment to go along with your beers, you could do worse than this SYFY-ish zombie flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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THE DEVIL COMPLEX (2016)

Absolutely awful found footage flick has student Rachel (Maria Simona Arsu) hiring a small crew (Patrick Sebastian Negrean and Marius Dan Munteanu) to enter Romania’s supposedly haunted Baciu forest to film a documentary. Sound familiar? As we know from the professor that opens the movie (Adrian Carlugeo), the trio disappeared and we are now watching their laughably Blair Witch-ish footage that looks like a home movie filmed in one afternoon on a dare.

Directed by Mark Evans who co-wrote with Caroline Riley this is bottom of the barrel found footage nonsense that is not only terribly boring, but is so blatant a Blair Witch rip-off that it could almost be a remake…and a horrible one at that. The dialog between them is awful as we meander around the snowy countryside following these idiots as their nut job of a guide (Bill Hutchens) disappears and they get lost. They then start to loose there minds when they can’t find their way out and feel something evil is stalking them based on finding a teddy bear and a shoe…all with some heinously bad dialog that is equally ineptly acted. There is a scant bit of bloodshed in the last act, but it is with little effect and at that point we just want this inane flick to be over with. Leading lady Arsu was kind of cute, but no amount of beauty would make this watchable.

-MonsterZero NJ

one star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE DEMON’S ROOK (2013)

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THE DEMON’S ROOK (2013)

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

In many ways James Sizemore’s supernatural horror is quite an impressive low budget flick with heaps of imagination and some really great and abundant prosthetic FX. The story finds an imaginative young boy named Roscoe (Emmett Eckert) who constantly draws a demon named Dimwos (John Chatham) and claims the being visits him. No one takes him seriously, until one night the demon kills the boy’s parents and lures the lad into his underground lair to be his student and eventual successor. Years later, an adult Roscoe (James Sizemore) escapes from Dimwos and unintentionally releases three far more malevolent demons in the process. Returning to his home, Roscoe seeks out his childhood friend Eva (Ashleigh Jo Sizemore) for help, while the demons pursue him slaughtering any human they come across.

Sizemore does make an impression here with the film he directs from a script co-written with Akom Tidwell. While the flick is never scary, it is imaginative with it’s story and execution. Seizmore has a good eye for spooky visuals, accented by some atmospheric cinematography by Tim Reis, and the design of the creatures and settings is original and effective for a low budget crowd-sourced film. The prosthetic make-up is truly remarkable with it’s demonic entities, legion of zombies and abundance of extremely gory demises. In an age of filmmakers all too eager to go CGI, this is a refreshing throwback to the 80s style of filmmaking complete with a very 80s transformation scene from human to demonic creature. There are also a bevy of good looking ladies, some who don’t mind shedding their clothes, to add some old fashion titillation to the proceedings. Where this valiant effort stumbles, is that after about an hour, the carnage wears out it’s welcome a bit. The story never really goes anywhere and there is at least a half hour that feels like filler with a parade of bloody sequences of the demons happening upon hapless locals to slaughter. It gets tedious after a while and the film seems to be just spinning it’s wheels to pad the flick out to feature length, till we get the the climactic confrontation between Roscoe, Eva and the demons…and then it’s over a little too quickly. After 90 minutes of gory dismemberment and disembowelment, you expected a little more out of the battle between Roscoe and his foes. On a technical level,the filmmakers did a good job with meager funding and the acting may be unremarkable, with the parts acted out by the filmmakers themselves and a bunch of unknowns, but is adequate enough to get the job done.

In conclusion this is a very impressive low budget flick with some really well-done prosthetic make-up and gore. It has a nice visual style to add to the carnage and the filmmakers definitely put their hearts into it. If the film has any weak points it’s that the story isn’t enough to support it’s over 90 minute running time and the bloody sequences start to get repetitive and give the impression of filler to give the film a feature length. A nice effort, thought from James Sizemore and company.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Roscoes

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAY 20-22

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

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

1. “Angry Birds Movie” $39 Million

2. “Captain America: Civil War” $33.1 Million

3. “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” $21.8 Million

4. “The Nice Guys” $11.3 Million

5. “The Jungle Book” $11 Million

6. “Money Monster” $7 Million

7. “The Darkness” $2.4 Million

8. “Zootopia” $1.7 Million

9. “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” $1.2 Million

10. “Mother’s Day” $1.1 Million

source: Box Office Mojo

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