HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: BLAIR WITCH (2016)

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BLAIR WITCH (2016)

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Flick is a disappointing and scare-less sequel to the classic found footage horror The Blair Witch Project. It’s a true sequel this time, unlike the wonky Book Of Shadows which focused on the mania caused by the movie and was not a continuation of the film’s story. Found footage follow-up takes place twenty years later with Heather’s brother James (James Allen McCune) deciding to re-enter the Burkittsville woods after seeing footage posted on Youtube that he believes reveals his long lost sister. His trek to find his sibling is being documented by love interest Lisa (Callie Hernandez) along with two friends (Corbin Reid and Brandon Scott) and the two locals (Valorie Curry and Wes Robinson) who posted the footage that sparked this new expedition. Of course things start to go bump in the night in the Black Hill Woods.

First problem with Adam (The GuestYou’re Next) Wingard’s surprise sequel…it was secretly filmed under the pseudonym The Woods…is that never once did it feel like found footage. The cast all appear to be actors and not real people and the dialog, unlike the first flick, never seems anything but scripted…as by Simon Barrett. The first movie presented unknowns who improvised much of their dialog and it fooled a lot of people. Here these youths, with model good looks, never fool us for a minute that their trailer is just a few feet away and lost they are not. Second big problem is that not only is the film never tense or scary, but it actually was kinda dull for it’s brief 89 minutes.  It may be a sequel, but it’s more like a tepid remake that rolls out the Blair Witch tropes mechanically from noises in the woods, to characters running through the trees screaming, to twig stick figures popping up regularly. Things pick up somewhat in the last few minutes, set in a familiar old house, but even that goes on for too long and doesn’t really go anywhere the first film hadn’t already gone. There is a little bit more blood and violence in this one and there is some newer technology, like ear cameras and drones, but Wingard and Barrett never do anything interesting with it. The drone is taken out of the picture soon after it launches. Done. There were a few claustrophobic moments in some tunnels towards the climax, but, honestly, the film evoked last year’s Nightlight far more than recaptured any of the tension and fear of the classic film that it’s a continuation of…especially in the house set last act.

This is a sadly dull and repetitive sequel that only has a few original moments and relied far more on way too many jump scares than actual fear. Wingard builds no tension or suspense and the flick is too polished and over-produced to ever feel like it’s actual footage. Whether James finds Heather, or we actually see the Blair Witch this time, is up to you to decide if it’s worth finding out. Some will say this is at least an improvement over 2000’s Blair Witch 2, but at least that film failed while trying to be original and interesting. This one is just a retread and a very generic and assembly-line one at that.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 stick figures that are all too familiar.

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BARE BONES: THE APPARITION and THE CHILDREN

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THE APPARITION (2012)

Put equal parts Paranormal Activity, The Ring and Poltergeist in a blender and the result would be The Apparition, a routine supernatural thriller about a young couple battling a supernatural entity. Kelly (Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan) move into her parent’s future retirement home to maintain it and soon start to experience strange occurrences. Before long it is clear there is a malevolent entity in the home and an experiment Ben was involved in might be why.

Director and writer Todd Lincoln helms this very familiar tale pretty much by the numbers, although he does achieve some effective scenes early on before the story starts to get more involved and thus sillier and more convoluted. It would have been better off if it stuck with being a routine haunting flick, but once Ben’s friend, Patrick (Tom Felton), the author of the experiment, shows up and tries to play ghostbuster, things just fall part with all the Star Trek meets Ghost Hunters mumbo jumbo about rifts and predatory entities from other dimensions. Fortunately, the film is barely over 80 minutes, so it moves quickly toward it’s stale climax. At least leading lady Greene is charming enough to allow us to like her character, even when she isn’t parading around wearing only half her clothes. Now only if she had a much better movie built around her scantily clad heroine, it might have been more of an enjoyable guilty pleasure.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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THE CHILDREN (2008)

Kids can be creepy enough as it is, but this chilling and sometimes brutal British horror takes it to a whole new level. Writer/director Tom Shankland’s flick is a very effective and disturbing tale of a Christmas vacation get-together that becomes a nightmare when the children start to exhibit increasingly strange and soon violent behavior. What begins as a possible cold spreading from child to child, soon starts to take on some aggressive then violent characteristics. The young couples are soon faced with a parent’s worst nightmare, as it appears their kids want to kill them.

That’s what makes this horror flick work so well, despite some flaws, is the simple questions it poses… what would YOU do if you had to fight for your life against your own child? Could you? The parents in this film are confronted with that exact dilemma, as their own children become homicidal, with nowhere to run in their secluded country house. A disturbing and well made horror flick from Tom Shankland. Stars Hannah Toiton, Eva Birthistle (Wake Wood) and Jeremy Sheffield.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE POSSESSION (2012)

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THE POSSESSION (2012)

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

The story of this PG-13 horror concerns a divorced couple Clyde (Jeffery Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and their two daughters Hannah (Madison Davenport) and Emily (Natasha Calis). When Clyde buys Emily a strange wooden box she spots at a yard sale, Emily soon starts to exhibit strange and violent behavior. Clyde soon finds out the box is a Hebrew demon box whose occupant Emily has unleashed. Now, somehow, Clyde must save his daughter from the demon’s grasp!

The Possession is a well-made and, for the most part, well-directed horror film that is sadly weakened by being just too routine and filled with clichés. Director Ole Bornedal actually does a good job building tension and does gives us a few scares, but Leslie Gornstein’s script is so full of the typical possession/exorcism elements, that even with the Jewish slant, it can’t save the material from being far too familiar to be effective. The film is at it’s weakest when the actually exorcism finally takes place, as even in Hebrew, we’ve seen it all before, from swarms of insects to creepy voices to contorting bodies to conveniently empty hospital hallways. The more familiar it gets, the more Bornedal’s tension evaporates and the last act loses us completely when it should grip us the most.

The cast is all fine, especially young Natasha Calis who really does a great job as the tortured Emily. It’s only Sedgwick who overacts a bit and seems uncomfortable with the supernatural themed material. Morgan makes a strong father figure and Davenport is quite adequate as Hannah.

All in all it’s an OK  passing of time, but nothing new to this horror sub-genre and quite forgettable when it’s all said and done.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 flies.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES SEPT 9-11

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

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1. “Sully” $35.5 Million

2. “When The Bough Breaks” $15 Million

3. “Don’t Breathe” $8.1 Million

4. “Suicide Squad” $5.6 Million

5. “The Wild Life” $3.4 Million

6. “Kubo and the Two Strings” $3.2 Million

7. “Pete’s Dragon” $2.9 Million

8. “Bad Moms” $2.8 Million

9. “Hell Or High Water” $2.6 Million

10. “Sausage Party” $2.3 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE NEIGHBOR (2016)

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THE NEIGHBOR (2016)

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Intense crime drama tells the story of John (Josh Stewart) and Rosie (Alex Essoe from Starry Eyes and Tales Of Halloween) who live in the rural town of Cutter, Mississippi and work for drug runners. They plan to do one more job and when they collect their money, they plan to make a run for Mexico and an early retirement. When John returns after a job and finds Rosie missing, he suspects his odd neighbor Troy (comedian Bill Engvall) who seemed to be quite taken with his pretty girlfriend. When John sneaks into Troy’s house, he discovers his neighbor has been engaging in far worse activities than he could ever have imagined…and he may not get back out alive.

Writer/director Marcus Dunstan (the Saw series, the Collector movies) crafts a lean and mean thriller about bad people going up against far worse people in a small backwoods town in rural Mississippi. It does share some similarities with the recent Don’t Breathe, but is it’s own movie and aside from criminal types, who are looking to make a better life for themselves, being trapped in a house by psychotics, that’s where the similarities end. Dunstan gets his story started quite quickly, but not too quick that we don’t get to know John and Rosie a bit, and keeps the intensity cranked till the very last frames. We find ourselves rooting for John, even though he is not a good person, because Dunstan is able to make Troy and his boys a lot creepier. Add in a corrupt cop (Jaqueline Fleming) who already has it in for John and you have solid reasons to get behind our anti-hero couple. There is some graphic violence, but unlike his torture heavy Collector and Saw films, Dunstan uses it sparingly, so it is vicious and effective when it happens. The director does have a good visual eye and stages the action fast and furious with some nice suspense in-between the bullets and beatings. The tension is thick at times and while the climax may conveniently wrap things up, it is quite satisfying. There is some crisp cinematography from Eric Leach and a really cool score by Charlie Clouser.

Dunstan also gets good work from a good cast. Despite being a criminal who works for a sleazy drug lord, Josh Stewart makes his John quite likable and embues him with a bit of a heart underneath his criminal activities. His work reminded me of Jane Levy’s Rocky from Don’t Breathe, an anti-hero to root for. I have been a fan of Alex Essoe since her stunning work in Starry Eyes and she is solid again here. She does spend part of the flick as a damsel in distress, but gets to really turn it up in the last act and show another side to a versatile actress we want to keep seeing more of. Her Rosie is a badass when provoked. Bill Engvall makes for a very creepy villain. He gives you chills without going over the top and his subtle yet unnerving Troy is all the more effective because he doesn’t overdo it. A very creepy villain that makes you forget John and Rosie are criminals of a different kind. Jaqueline Fleming is also good as a cop with her own agenda and Luke Edwards and Ronnie Gene Blevins are solid as Troy’s equally creepy sons, Cooper and Harley. Melissa Bolona is also effective as another of Troy and company’s “guests.” 

This little flick took me by surprise. I am not a big fan of the Collector films and never watched Dunstan’s Saw movies, as I was done with that series by then, but this high octane thriller took me a bit by surprise. Sure there are some familiar story elements, but Dunstan uses those elements well and really cranks up the suspense and tension in the last hour, peppering it with moments of brutal violence that don’t overstay their welcome and are very effective because of it. A good cast helps the filmmaker out and overall, cast and crew deliver a solid and engrossing thriller.

MonsterZero NJ Double Feature Tip: Don’t Breathe, which would make a great co-feature, is down the road on home media, so I’d pair this up with Bound To Vengeance for a night of vicious and suspenseful crime thrillers.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 bullets.

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BARE BONES: HIGH RISE and THE NEON DEMON

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high-riseHIGH RISE (2015)

Barely coherent British film has Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moving into a luxury high rise and discovering his neighbors are quite an eccentric bunch. The longer he lives there, the more decadent and out of control the activities get till it descends into a maelstrom of debauchery and even murder.

Written by Amy Jump, from J.G. Ballard’s novel and directed by Ben Wheatly, this flick starts out interesting and plummets quickly into pretentious nonsense quite early. There is a good cast, including Hiddleston, Luke Evans, Jeremy Irons and Sienna Miller, who try hard, but they are wasted on this boring and meandering mess whose story and point are lost in all the random violent and decadent behavior. A waste of time that thinks it’s far more important than it is.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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THE NEON DEMON (2016)

Latest film by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) has sixteen year-old Jesse (Elle Fanning) going to Hollywood to become a model. She takes the modeling world by storm, but soon learns there is a dark side to her dream and there are those who will go to shocking lengths to keep the new competition from taking what’s theirs.

Obviously, the story concocted by Refn and co-written with Mary Laws and Polly Stenham is nothing new. We’ve seen the naive newcomer in the Hollywood jungle story numerous times. Neon Demon starts out intriguing, though and Refn’s visual style is hypnotic at times, but the film collapses under the weight of it’s own absurdity when it goes over the top to include necrophilia and cannibalism in it’s cautionary tale. The cast, that includes Fanning, Jena Malone and Keanu Reeves perform well, but the film just gets too weird…and gross…to maintain it’s dramatic grip.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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PHANTASM: RAVAGER GETS A POSTER AND UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS GETS A TEASER TRAILER

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The fifth and final installment of the Phantasm franchise is headed to theaters and VOD on October 7th and a cool new poster has been released!

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The fifth installment of the Underworld franchise is also headed to theaters, on January 6th 2017 and a new teaser has been released for Underworld: Blood Wars!

source Arrow In The Head/Youtube

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: FRIEND REQUEST (2016)

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FRIEND REQUEST (2016)

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German horror filmed in English has pretty college student Laura Woodson (Alycia Debnam-Carey, The Devil’s Hand and Fear The Walking Dead) feeling sorry for lonely, withdrawn Marina (Liesl Ahlers) at school and befriending her on her social media account (which we assume is Facebook although the name is never given). Laura soon finds out Marina is emotionally unbalanced as the young woman begins to become obsessed with her. She “unfriends” the strange girl which pushes Marina over the edge and thus, she commits suicide. This only makes things worse, as Marina now stalks Laura as some kind of malevolence presence and worse still, is one by one killing her friends and posting videos of their gruesome deaths to Laura’s social media page. As everyone she knows begins to grow fearful of her, Laura begins a quest to find out who this mysterious girl really was and why she has such dark power from beyond the grave…but will she find out in time?

Script by Matthew Ballen, Philip Koch and director Simon Verhoeven (no relation to Robocop’s Paul) offers nothing new especially in this age of cyber-themed horror and thrillers. Film’s story has elements of similar movies such as the recent Unfriended, Ratter and Dark Summer, but effective direction from Verhoeven actually makes it work better than you might expect. He does create atmosphere and there are some spooky moments, as well as, some disturbing ones, too. The deaths of Laura’s friends have impact and the jump scares are well done and not overused. There are also a few clever bits like maintaining a countdown of the friends Laura loses on social media as the spirit continues to manipulate her account and kill those close to her. The director also gets some decent work out of his cast with Alycia Debnam-Carey making a suitable and likable heroine and Ahlers making for a creepy goth girl in her brief scenes early on. The film can be a bit formula as haunting flicks go and the ending is exactly where you expect it to end up, but the ride getting there is entertaining enough to past the time without feeling like a waste of it.

Not a great movie, or even an original one, but it is well made enough to get by. It is routine as both cyber-horror and haunting flicks go, especially more recent ones, but has enough atmosphere and effective moments to make it worth a look if you find yourself sitting on the couch with nothing to watch. The attractive cash also includes Brit Morgan, Brooke Markham, Connor Paolo, Sean Marquette and William Moseley as Laura’s friends and love interest respectively.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 lap tops.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TRUCK TURNER (1974)

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TRUCK TURNER (1974)

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1974 blaxploitation flick has soul music legend Isaac Hayes playing ex-football player turned bounty hunter, Mack “Truck” Turner. Mack and his partner Jerry (Alan Weeks) are hired to track down a vicious pimp named Gator (Paul Harris) who has skipped bail. Turner is forced to kill Gator in a gunfight and now must face his vengeful girlfriend/madame Dorinda (Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols) and her new associate Blue (Yaphet Kotto). With hired killers on his tail and a target on his back, Truck Turner is taking the fight to them to protect the ones he loves!

Aside from watching the future Duke Of New York in action and getting to see Star Trek’s Uhura as a foul mouthed madame, there isn’t too much to recommend about Truck Turner other than the obvious nostalgia. The film is sloppily directed by Jonathan Kaplan from a script that took three writers to concoct it’s simple story and hilariously vulgar dialog. The action scenes are badly choreographed and shot and the film feels like it was edited with a chainsaw. Not to say there isn’t some fun to be had from it’s epic badness or the brazen machismo in which Hayes seems to be impervious to gunfire, yet hits his target almost every time. The dialog is filled with profanity and racial slurs, which can be amusing…and quite shocking for those not used to an era long before politically correctness set in. It has something to offend everyone in today’s age of oversensitivity and if the racial slurs and portrayal of women as whores doesn’t accomplish it, a certain scene with Truck’s cat will. The thing is, the movie isn’t trying to offend, it was made at a time where exploitation films ‘went there’ and where proud of it. Still, despite it’s bravado, it seems to be just a little too badly made to really be enjoyable as camp. It is a very amateurish flick, but it did make money back in the day and does have a cult classic reputation, so who am I to argue. The legendary Hayes did the soundtrack himself, so at least there is that.

The cast play things surprisingly serious and that helps. Hayes is as cool as they come and gives his bounty hunter a confident swagger and yet there is a heart under all that testosterone. Nichelle Nichols is delightfully over-the-top and vulgar and really cranks out the trashy sex appeal as vicious madame Dorinda. Actually shows she is a versatile actress when allowed to play something other than Lt. Uhura. Yaphet Kotto gives threat and menace to his pimp Blue and Weeks is a solid enough sidekick for the macho Truck. It’s in the supporting cast that we start to run into trouble and performances range from adequate to awful with the various pimps, prostitutes and hit men. Also features small roles with Dick Miller and frequent John Carpenter guy Charles Cyphers.

Not sure why I didn’t enjoy this one. Normally I love this kind of stuff and maybe just went in with the wrong expectations. I was expecting something more on a Shaft level and maybe wasn’t ready for something that was a blatant exploitation flick that took itself far less seriously and was far less well-made. Perhaps then I will revisit Truck Turner once day and be ready this time for it’s badness, crudeness and rudeness. For now, I see it as a bad flick that was a little too bad for it’s own good at times.

-MonsterZero NJ

A generous…it is Isaac Hayes after all…2 and 1/2 bullets.

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