BARE BONES: BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN

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BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN (2016)

Interesting, but not totally successful, HBO documentary focuses on the alleged 2014 stabbing of young Payton Leutner by her two 12 year-old (at the time) friends Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier. The strange motivation for the attempted murder was to please a fictional internet boogeyman known as The Slenderman. The documentary traces the horrid events back to the two girls’ delusional belief that they could appease this urban legend through the killing of another. The documentary also traces Slenderman’s origins to the CreepyPasta website where the two girls discovered it and interviews with their befuddled parents and so-called “experts” as to how they (and apparently many other youths) came to believe this tale was real.

Documentary is directed well by Irene Taylor Brodsky and while it certainly is interesting, it never quite as chilling as it should be considering the subject matter. We do get a picture of two girls who are delusional to the point of plotting and planning the murder of a friend to appease an internet urban legend that sprang from a photoshop contest. It does fill us uninitiated in on how this fictional phantom came to be and only stumbles on it’s not too successful attempt to explain why so many youths have come to believe that it actually exists…especially to the point of murder. The ‘experts’ the documentary interviews on that aspect of the subject don’t impress or really have a solid explanation as why this made-up specter has so many believing it’s real. We also never really get a clear picture as to why these two girls were so delusional and infatuated with this internet grown tale. As a viewer, I never got a feel for what the big deal about Slenderman is and therefor don’t understand what the fuss was about and why two young girls would try to kill over what is clearly a made up story…and to truly succeed, this documentary needed to to that.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN 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. “Split” $26.3 Million

2. “A Dog’s Purpose” $18.4 Million

3. “Hidden Figures” $14 Million

4. “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” $13.9 Million

5. “La La Land” $12 Million

6. “XXX: The Return Of Xander Cage” $8.2 Million

7. “Sing” $6.2 Million

8. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” $5.1 Million

9. “MonsterTrucks” $4.1 Million

10. “Gold” $3.4 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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FAREWELL AND R.I.P. TO THE LEGENDARY SIR JOHN HURT!

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SIR JOHN HURT 1940-2017

It is with a great sadness that I post the heartbreaking news of the passing of one of the most prolific actors of his generation, Sir John Hurt. An actor for over 50 years. Hurt appeared in many classics and genre films such as Alien, The Elephant Man, the Hellboy films, three of the Harry Potter movies and so many more! He was a wonderful screen presence who elevated any film he was in. He will be missed!

-MonsterZero NJ

Source: internet

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BARE BONES: THE AXE MURDERS OF VILLISCA

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THE AXE MURDERS OF VILLISCA (2016)

Ho-hum horror is based on a real and gruesome murder from 1912 where eight people, including six children, were found slain, apparently with an axe. No one was ever convicted of the crime. This routine flick has a group of teens, who fancy themselves paranormal experts, sneaking into the Iowa house to perform a seance…great idea! Supernatural hi-jinxs ensue.

Film is directed by Tony E. Valenzuela from a script and story by he, Owen Egerton and Kevin Abrams. Between the three of them they can’t conjure up anything we haven’t seen before as we are treated to extremely familiar dark figures, ghostly phantoms, character possessions and bloodshed as the spirits of this house turned morbid museum take over the minds and bodies of those who enter. The cast of young actors try their best (including Jarrett Sleeper, Alex Frnka and Robert Adamson), but nothing can save them from the fact that this is tiresomely repetitive of the last umpteen haunted house movies we’ve seen. Valenzuela has a decent visual style, I’ll give him that, but can’t generate any suspense or scares. Also stars John Gries in a small part as the house/museum caretaker.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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BARE BONES: HONEYMOON (Luna de miel) and SIREN

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HONEYMOON (Luna de miel) (2015)

Spanish language horror/thriller finds lonely, odd doctor Jorge (Hector Kotsifakis), kidnapping and holding prisoner his pretty married neighbor Isabel (Paulina Ahmed). The more Jorge tries to convince Isabel they are made for each other, the more his behavior becomes cruel and sadistic towards her.

Awful flick is directed by Diego Cohen from a script by Marco Tarditi Ortega. It is a mean-spirited, cruel and misogynistic movie that quickly degenerates into a torture show…all in the name of love? The more Jorge tries to make Isabel see things his way, the crueler and more uncomfortable to watch this ugly flick gets. As Isabel resists, this demented doctor does increasingly sadistic things to the terrified woman, like spraying acid in her mouth and surgically removing the skin on some of her fingers. Worst part, it’s all directed with a slight tone of whimsy like we’re supposed to be endeared to Jorge’s horrid attempts to woo his tormented captive. It’s not an easy watch nor one that I would recommend anyone attempt. A cruel, heartless and unpleasant movie without a purpose or a point.

-MonsterZero NJ

one star rating

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SIREN (2016)

Siren is a feature film based on the V/H/S/ segment Amateur Night revolving around Hannah Fierman’s “Lily” character from that film’s story. Here she is discovered by a group of annoying bachelor partiers at a remote backwoods brothel, who discover her locked up in the building’s basement. They set her free and escape with her and now the demoness is loosed to commit carnage and murder with her handlers in hot pursuit of demon and dullards alike.

Boring movie is lamely directed by Gregg Bishop from a weak script by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski. No surprise original segment director David Bruckner chose not to be involved, as this is simply a really awful movie trying to squeeze a few more bucks out of one of that 2012 horror’s more effective sequences. It’s amateurishly made, badly acted and has basically little more story than the short anthology segment it’s based on. Director Bishop even doesn’t get the disturbing performance and use out of Fierman and her character that the original V/H/S/ utilized so well. The characters are dull and annoying, there are random sequences in slow motion for no reason or effect and the guy playing the villain (Justin Welborn) comes across as someone’s creepy uncle, not the badass he’s supposed to be. Epic fail on all levels.

-MonsterZero NJ

one star rating

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HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WOLF CREEK season 1 (2016)

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WOLF CREEK season 1 (2016)

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

Wolf Creek was a disturbing 2005 flick from Aussie director Greg McLean that introduced the horror community to psychopathic Australian redneck Mick Taylor (John Jarratt). The film produced a sequel nine years later in 2014 and now, a six part mini-series with episodes directed by Ash vs Evil Dead’s Tony Tilse and McLean himself. The story finds an RV crossing the Outback with an American tourist family, The Thorogoods, stopping for the night and encountering Mick. The vicious psychopath brutally slaughters all of them…or so he thinks. Teen daughter Eve (Lucy Fry) survives the carnage and decides to hunt down the murderous Mick and exact some paypack, despite protestations of a handsome police officer (Dustin Clare). Her journey towards revenge puts her in contact with some of the best…and worst…of the Outback’s citizenry, on her collision course with Mick Taylor.

This Australian web series has episodes written, alternatively, by Peter Gawler and Felicity Packard and thankfully returns to the more grounded violence and brutality of the first film, whereas Wolf Creek 2 got a bit too over-the-top for it’s own good. Mick Taylor has been returned more to the brutal psychopath that made him so scary in the first flick with his one-liners and demented cackling kept effective by not being taken too overboard. The tone is gritty and a slow burn as Eve makes some interesting allies and meets some morally questionable individuals while she tracks down the elusive Mick. At the same time Mick encounters more lambs for the slaughter, including some of the individuals that Eve unintentionally draws into the conflict and onto his radar. There are some very disturbing scenes and the first five episodes are well directed by Tilse, who paces them moderately as this is leading up to an eventual showdown. McLean returns to the director’s chair for the final episode where American teen takes on Aussie madman and it’s as good as the best moments of the first two theatrical flicks. If the series has a weakness, it’s that the basic story doesn’t seem to warrant over five hours to tell. We do get the feeling that some of it is filler and that a tighter two hour movie might have told the tale more effectively. We do find out more about Mick’s past and what turned him into the maniac he is. We also get some very brutal sequences as Eve gets toughened up to face Mick and Mick continues to illustrate why we should root for Eve. The film makes very good use of the desolate Outback locations and populates them with some interesting and unsettling characters. The violence level will not disappoint fans of the films and most likely neither will this series, when all is said and done, even if it does feel like a movie stretched out at times.

The cast are all effective and create an assortment of offbeat characters that Eve and Mick wade through. John Jarratt is disturbing, once more, as Mick Taylor. The actor really does good work in having Mick come off first, as an eccentric country bumpkin to disarm his potential victim’s and then chills us to the bone when the inner murderer is released. He plays Mick with demented gusto, but with the help of director and scripts, he is restrained enough to avoid the over-the-top parody that Mick became in the film series sequel. Lucy Fry holds her own in both character and performance with her co-star. She gives us a strong teen who is not going home without finding out who killed her family and wounded her…and making them pay. If the extend time given the story accomplishes anything over six episodes, it is watching Eve grow in anger, tenacity and determination as she begins to realize she is hunting an elusive monster. When she and Mick finally meet, we have no problem believing that this little lady is going to bring it to Wolf Creek’s residing serial killer…and bring it she does. Dustin Clare is good as Officer Hill, who is one of Eve’s few friends in this untamed part of the world. The actor conveys both authority and compassion as a man sympathetic to Eve, yet obviously, bound by the law he upholds to try and stop her…and catch Mick at the same time. The supporting cast are all effective in creating an eclectic group of Outback residents both friend and foe.

Overall, I recommend this series to fans of McLean’s first two theatrical adventures of psychopathic Aussie, Mick Taylor. While the story did feel a bit like a movie plot stretched out over six episodes, there are plenty of effective and brutal moments and the tone returns to the more gritty and disturbing tone of the original film. The pace is a purposeful slow burn and our leading lady becomes quite formidable by the time she goes one on one with Mick. The character of Mick Taylor is once again the more heinous maniac he was in the first film, with excessive theatrics and one-liners left behind for a more unsettling return to the character’s roots. There is talk of a season two and I am curious where they go with it.

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EPISODE LIST

  1. Billabonge – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Peter Gawler
  2. Kutyukutyu – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Felicity Packard
  3. Salt Lake – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Peter Gawler
  4. Opalville – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Felicity Packard
  5. Rome – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Peter Gawler
  6. Wolf Creek – directed by Greg McLean and written by Felicity Packard

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Micks.
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (2016)

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I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (2016)

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

Horror/thriller is based on the first book of the same name from Dan Wells’ trilogy about sociopathic teen John Wayne Cleaver. Fifteen year-old teen John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records) is currently being treated by a therapist (Karl Geary) for having homicidal thoughts. Not helping John is that he lives and works in his mother’s (Laura Fraser) mortuary and is surrounded by death on a daily basis. He sets up rules to control his urges, despite being fascinated with death and serial killers, but things take an odd turn when people in his small Midwestern town start showing up dead. John becomes obsessed with the case and sets out to find who this serial killer is…and his first suspect may be his kindly old neighbor Mr. Crowley (Christopher Lloyd). Is John over-imagining things due to his dreary obsession, or has he found real evil in his sleepy little town?

British/Irish flick is directed by Billy O’Brian with the book based script written by he and Christopher Hyde. It is part horror, part mystery and part character study as we watch a boy investigating the very type of activity that he struggles with himself not to commit. It is an interesting study of an interesting character as John fights with his inner dark urges and by contrast sees death everyday working with his mother and now by pursuing a killer. It is offbeat and intriguing and O’Brian avoids a lot of clichés by not making this a straight up serial killer thriller, but from the view of someone who might be one in the making, himself hunting another. A sort of teenage “Dexter” if you will. There are some brutal and disturbing moments and the film only stumbles a bit when it’s reveal conjures something far less grounded than we expected from the tone of the film up till that point…though it is effective and the film does come to an appropriately suitable conclusion that fits the story and direction it took. It just was a bit off-putting that the film’s killer is something a bit more supernatural when the film seemed to be examining the evil’s that men do.

The cast are all good. Records makes an intriguing and odd youth in his John Wayne Cleaver. He is certainly not your normal kid and he knows it. He knows there is something wrong in his head and the young actor portrays well the conflict and effort to avoid becoming something he already has shown great potential in being. The fact that he pursues another “like” personality seems, at first, to be more out of curiosity than to battle evil. Laura Fraser is solid as John’s single and hard working mother. She conveys well the frustration of loving her child yet knowing he is a bit unstable and has urges that could turn dangerous. Christopher Lloyd is a veteran actor and gives the old neighbor Crowley a nice sympathetic touch so we find it hard to believe that this kindly old man might be a monster on the inside. Solid acting from supporting cast members as well.

I liked this movie, though didn’t quite love it, despite a novel premise. It features a sociopathic lead who is fighting to control his own homicidal urges while pursuing someone else who is giving in quite brutally to theirs. The reveal kind of switches the focus to something more supernatural, when the film seemed to be telling a more grounded story and that is a bit off-putting. Director and co-writer O’Brien does recover and ends the film appropriately and effectively. Recommended, but just go in without grand expectations.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scalpels.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN 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. “Split” $40.1 Million

2. “XXX: The Return Of Xander Cage” $20 Million

3. “Hidden Figures” $16.25 Million

4. “Sing” $9 Million

5. “La La Land” $8.35 Million

6. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” $7.04 Million

7. “MonsterTrucks” $7 Million

8. “Patriots Day” $6 Million

9. “The Founder” $3.75 Million

10. “Sleepless” $3.7 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: A MONSTER CALLS (2016)

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A MONSTER CALLS (2016)

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

Film by Orphanage director J. A. Bayona is the sad tale of Connor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) who is dealing with not only the terminal illness that is slowly taking his divorced mother (Felicity Jones) from him, but having to live with his stern grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) with whom he has a tenuous relationship, as well. His father is now living in the U.S. with his new family and he has no one to turn to…until a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) appears and says he will tell Connor three stories, but only if the boy agrees to tell the fourth, which is to relate a reoccurring nightmare Connor is having. The boy reluctantly agrees, but soon finds these tales have more in common with his current situation than he could have imagined.

Flick is written by Patrick Ness based on his book that was inspired by writer Siobhan Dowd, who came up with the idea during her own illness, one she sadly did not live to write herself. It is excellently directed by Bayona, though is a very somber and sad story when all is said and done. The film certainly has a strong emotional core, as we watch a young boy trying to deal with the fact that his mother is dying and there is nothing he can do about it. Is the monster there as an imaginary way of sorting through his emotions, or an actual being only Connor can see, that is there to help the boy sort things out? Bayona and Ness aren’t eager top let us find out and the film does have a sort of magic because of it, despite the dour tone. Much like Orphanage J. A. Bayona gives this the feel of a sort of dark fairy tale and it boldly deals with the theme of a child facing the death of a loved one, without sugar coating it or giving it an unrealistic wrap up. That’s one of the things that also holds it back a bit, is that it is overall, a very sad film and contains some very serious subject matter despite having a young child as it’s central focus. On a production level, the FX are excellent, especially in the rendition of the tree-like monster, and the hand drawn illustrations that relate the creature’s tales are full of charm. The film has a wonderful visual style, that does not betray the serious tone, from the eye of it’s director. It also adds loads of atmosphere from Orphanage cinematographer Óscar Faura and an equally appropriate score from Orphanage composer Fernando Velázquez. A heartbreaking yet very well made film.

The cast also contributes much with exceptional performances all around. Young Lewis MacDougall is simply amazing with all the emotions he needs to convey as Connor. He presents a sweet natured young boy who must deal with a turmoil of feelings, including anger, with his mother slowly dying before his eyes and having to deal with both his stern grandmother and a bully at school, as well. The young actor is simply wonderful in a very emotionally heavy role. Felicity Jones will break your heart as the young mother trying to stay strong for her son. The actress gives a truly noble and endearing performance as a woman who will leave when she’s good and ready. Weaver is also very good as his grandmother. She’s is a tough women, but not a villain. Weaver let’s us see the pain she is in, watching her own child fading away and somehow having to deal with that and now raise her grandson. It’s a difficult place her character is in and while she may not handle every situation the right way, we do appreciate her position. Neeson, of course does top-notch work giving the monster both a nobility and a ferocity. He is a creature not without a bit of a heart, fierce as he can be. Neeson also appears in a photo as Connor’s grandfather who we assume is gone as well. Actor Tony Kebbell also has a minor role as Connor’s estranged dad.

In conclusion, this is a very well done and emotionally engaging movie. It is also, however, a very sad film and despite having a young boy as it’s focus, tackles that child facing some very adult decisions and emotions. The cast is exceptional and the film looks sumptuous and the movie works very well, despite it’s somber tone, thanks to a director who knows how to tell this kind of tale…with heart, albeit a broken one.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 books on which this film is based.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: STRIPPED TO KILL (1987)

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STRIPPED TO KILL (1987)

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

Roger Corman produced flick finds a mysterious killer brutally murdering strippers. Pretty police detective Cody Sheenan (Kay Lenz) goes undercover in a strip club to try and catch the culprit. Her partner, Heineman (Greg Evigan) tries to keep a close eye on her, but with so many suspects, can he protect her if Cody becomes the next target?

Exploitation flick is directed by Katt Shea (as Katt Shea Ruben) who used to be an actress in some Corman productions. It is another example of Corman giving women a chance behind the camera when few others were doing it. It’s from a script from she and then husband Andy Ruben and started the actress off on a career behind the camera. As with most Corman productions there is a focus on nudity and there is plenty, including from leading lady Kay Lenz. But Shea manages to also portray a more sympathetic side to these ladies and not as just sex objects. The film may be a bit amateurish at times and the script, especially the dialog, could have used a bit of work, but first time director Shea does get some effective moments in and does make us feel for the targeted strippers. The death scenes are brutal and effective and the last act reveal/chase sequence between Cody and the killer is suspenseful and puts our heroine through the ringer. The film itself is very low budget and wisely sets a lot of it’s action in the strip club and overall, is a little thriller that shows a director’s potential and does it’s job as an exploitation flick though one with a bit of a sympathetic side towards it’s subject matter.

The acting varies in a low budget flick like this. Leads Kay Lenz and Greg Evigan are vets of TV and movies and are fine. Lenz in particular has both a toughness and a soft side to her Detective Sheenan. Another TV vet, Norman Fell, is appropriately sleazy as club owner Ray, yet he’s not portrayed as an outright bad guy and does seem to have some affinity for his performers. The rest of the supporting cast do well enough as various strippers and suspects and our killer is very effective once revealed.

While far from a perfect flick, Stripped to Kill gets the job done. It gives the targeted audience the nudity and violence they came for and yet Director Katt Shea does portray her stripper characters with a sympathetic eye. There is also some disturbing scenes and some suspense, especially in the last act and leading lady Kay Lenz not only is a likable heroine cop, but is surprisingly not shy with the nudity required for the role. A very successful flick for Corman and the start of a prolific directing career for Katt Shea, including the cult classic thriller Poison Ivy with Drew Barrymore.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 pumps.

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WARNING: This is the RED BAND trailer NSFW!

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