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When Dr. Tora Hamilton (Radha Mitchell) moves to rural Scotland to live with her husband (Rupert Graves) in his ancestral homeland, it’s not soon after that she finds the body of a woman buried in her backyard. With the victim’s heart removed and strange runes carved in the flesh, it has all the markings of a ritualistic killing. The local officials seem to want to brush it off as a relic of the past, but Tora feels the corpse is far fresher than implied. As she begins her own investigation, she discovers not only a conspiracy, but the possibility that ancient ritualistic killings are still being conducted. Worse still, someone doesn’t want the truth revealed and Tora might be the next victim to silence her.

Written and directed by Peter A. Dowling from Sharon Bolton’s book, flick plays like a Lifetime drama with a female main character battling a dangerous conspiracy that may include someone close to her. It’s well done and the actors do adequate work, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before and many times. It adds nothing new to the ‘stranger in a strange land uncovering evil’ scenario and as thrillers go, is very routine and by-the-numbers. It’s never boring, but is predictable and lacks any real energy or innovation to keep it fresh. An OK diversion if there is nothing else on.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating



KRÜEL (2015)

Pretty teen babysitter Jo (Kierney Nelson) has an unsettling run-in with a creepy ice cream man complete with clown face-paint and inappropriate advances towards her. Soon after, one of her charges, little Elliot, disappears on her watch and is thought drowned in a nearby lake. While Jo is devastated, she also believes the creepy ice cream man had something to do with the little boy’s disappearance. She starts her own investigation with her ex-boyfriend Ben (Dakota Morrissiey) and soon finds that odd loner Willie (J.T. Cinn) maybe be the suspect. As she investigates the strange local man further, she realizes she might have put herself in mortal danger.

Dull flick from writer/director Robert Henderson puts too much emphasis on the soap opera relationship between Jo and Ben and the sappy personal dramas going on, than actually trying to generate suspense or scares. It’s slow paced with some wooden acting from the cast and even peppers it’s soft-lit melodramatic scenes with cheesy piano music. Add in some awful dialog and every cliché you can think of and this is a tedious flick at just over 90 minutes. We know from the start who the creepy clown is, so its no surprise and we also know he will eventually get his mitts on the Nancy Drew-like Jo. It’s also quite obvious that this town has the laziest police force on the planet, who won’t investigate even when it is apparent that the plucky babysitter is in trouble. There actually is some creepy life to the scenes with Jo held in the backwoods campground that is Willie’s home, but it is over too soon and blows a chance for a daring ending by wrapping everything up in a neat and pretty bow. Dull, unoriginal and ends just as it was starting to be effective. Actress Kierney Nelson also produced.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating




Despite there being a curfew in town due to some recent disappearances, two brothers, Killian (J. Michael Trautmann) and Crawford (Daniel Fredrick) sneak out to join friends in shooting off fireworks in the nearby woods. When their friends don’t arrive, the brothers explore the area and discover an old treehouse. Inside they discover one of the missing teens Elzabeth (Dana Melanie) who is hiding there from some deranged individuals who have now set their sights on all three of them.

Film is directed competently by Michael Bartlett from a script by Miles Harrington and Alex Child. It’s a mildly entertaining entry in the psycho redneck sub-genre and has some suspenseful and effective scenes, if overall nothing new. The acting is decent enough with pretty Dana Melaine showing some potential as the strong-willed country girl Elizabeth. There are definitely some questions left unanswered, such as to why the trio of vicious rednecks don’t just go in the treehouse and finish them. There are also some conveniences that stick out, like the crash of a police car that enables our young protagonists to become armed. Add to that a very sudden ending that doesn’t quite complete the story and the film could have been more satisfying. There is some good stuff, too as the film is visually atmospheric and our villains are effectively sadistic and we do get hints as to why they have suddenly been unleashed upon the surrounding area. Overall, an amusing enough diversion, if not derivative and forgettable.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating



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