BARE BONES: EVOLUTION (2015)

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EVOLUTION (2015)

Dreary and dull French flick has a group of young boys living on a secluded island with their mothers who are also nurses. They take the boys to a mysterious institute each day to be experimented on…and that’s kinda it, plot-wise.

Directed by Lucile Hadžihalilović from script by she and Alante Kavaite, this is a tedious affair. While it has atmosphere and there are some disturbing visuals, the film is short on exposition and explanation. It’s all very gloomy and mysterious, but with only vague hints at what is actually taking place and why, one looses patience and interest in this flick quickly. The cinematography by Manuel Dacosse was quite sumptuous as was Hadžihalilović’s shot framing, but ultimately it’s depressing and achieves only boredom. A little too artsy for it’s own good.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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BARE BONES: LAVENDER

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LAVENDER (2016)

Flick is a mystery thriller with a supernatural element as young wife and mother, Jane (Abbie Cornish) has been struggling all her life to remember the events from her childhood that took the lives of her parents and sister. A car accident gives her temporary amnesia and as her memories return, so she starts to remember things from that night 25 years ago. But something or someone is trying to help coax her memories back and whatever or whoever it is, it draws her to her childhood home for a confrontation with that dark event her mind has chosen to forget.

Film is stylishly directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly from a script by he and Colin Frizzell. It presents us with hints of what happened in it’s opening and then takes us 25 years into the present where Jane tries to remember the occurrence and it takes another traumatic event to start shaking the memories loose. As Jane begins her journey with her family in tow, we go along with her as she slowly puts the puzzle pieces together. There is also a bit of a supernatural twist, as though there is some force leading her in the directions she needs to go. It adds a spooky element to the film that works in it’s favor and keeps the audience a bit unsettled…in a good way. A strong performance by Cornish helps us like and root for Jane, too, even when we suspect she may have been somehow involved in the deaths. The supporting cast, Including Justin Long and Dermot Mulroney as her uncle, help keep the film involving as does the rural farm setting add atmosphere. The plot and resolution may not be entirely original, but it is engrossing and a bit spooky, too.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY PHANTASM!

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MonsterZero NJ wishes  a very happy (belated) 38th birthday to one of my all-time favorite horror films and a true horror original… Phantasm! The Don Coscarelli classic was released on March 28th, 1979 and spawned not only a beloved franchise, but added The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) to the list of immortal horror icons!

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CAN’T BUY ME LOVE (1987)

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CAN’T BUY ME LOVE (1987)

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

Flick is now renown as an 80s teen comedy classic and upon a revisit, it still has it’s charm and plenty of 80s nostalgia.

Story finds nerdy Ronald Miller (Patrick Dempsey) hopelessly infatuated with high school cheer-leading captain Cindy Mancini (Amanda Peterson). Ronald has saved up over $1,000 for a new telescope, but when opportunity arises and Cindy needs to replace one of her mother’s (Sharon Farrell) expensive dresses she’s ruined, Ronald uses the money to “rent” Cindy for one month. Ronald believes that if Cindy pretends to like him, he’ll become popular…and he does. What he doesn’t foresee, is a real affection forming between the two that Ronald’s new popular status may cause him to overlook.

It’s hard to deny this teen romantic comedy written by Michael Swerdlick and directed by Steve Rash is cliché as they come, but it is loaded with charm and has a sweet center that is kind of irresistible. Film is basically a teenage high school version of Pretty Woman with a young man “renting” a pretty popular girl instead of a prostitute. There are all the expected lessons, such as being cool isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, being yourself is the most important thing and true love can conquer all. There is nothing original about it, but it has a charming cast, some funny moments and some very sweet and romantic moments too…not to forget the traditional corny speech by the hero when he finally figures it all out. Add to it all those 80s styles and music and you have a really fun movie that has gotten even more enjoyable with the nostalgia element thrown in by the passing of time.

As for that charming cast, they go a long way to helping make this flick click. Dempsey plays the quintessential nerd here who transforms into a slick Lothario and then finally back to himself, though now with a bit more confidence from his experiences. The actor plays the transformation and growth well and is very likable until the moments where he acts like a jerk, but we are willing to forgive him when the time comes. It’s not hard to understand Ronald’s obsession with pretty and spunky Amanda Peterson bringing the role to life. Her Cindy is not the stereotypical popular girl, she is smart, girl-next-door pretty and seems to not be totally on board with her peers’ high school elite behavior. Peterson makes her really endearing and despite being the ‘popular girl’ we feel sorry for her when Ron’s over-inflated ego cause him to be a jerk to her. Peterson has charm and charisma and she and Dempsey have some nice chemistry together.

This is a favorite. I liked it back in the day and I still love it now. It’s cliché but charming and even more fun with all the 80s nostalgia thrown in. Also stars familiar 80s faces Tina (Teen Witch) Caspary, Courtney (Children Of The Corn) Gains, Darcy (Friday The 13th Part 6) DeMoss and a young Seth Green as Ronald’s obnoxious little brother.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 80s riding mowers.

Farewell and RIP Amanda Peterson 1971-2015

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE HOUSE ON SKULL MOUNTAIN (1974)

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THE HOUSE ON SKULL MOUNTAIN (1974)

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

Blaxploitation haunted house flick has elderly Pauline Christophe (Mary J. Todd McKenzie) on her deathbed requesting her priest mail four letters for her. Pauline dies soon after and the letters summon four distant relatives (Janee Michelle, Mike Evans, Xerona Clayton and Victor French) to her home for the funeral and will reading. But Pauline was a practitioner of voodoo and while her four relatives stay at the house, strange things begin to happen. Soon they start to mysteriously die one by one with evidence that voodoo is involved. Who or what is causing these deaths and has some evil force been awakened in The House On Skull Mountain?!

Flick is directed a bit by-the-numbers by Ron Honthaner from a script by Mildred Pares, but still can be spooky 70s fun. The voodoo element sets it apart a bit from most routine haunted house flicks and it’s too bad they didn’t use it with a bit more intensity till the last act. The film is rather tame with a PG rating and they could have had  some more fun with the horror elements, which come off a bit subdued till the finale. Still there are visions of skulls, snakes and hooded figures and the house does actually sit on a mountain that looks like a skull. The SPFX are all delightfully cheesy…this was the 70s…and there is some atmospheric cinematography by Monroe Askins. The cast are all fairly wooden and while there seems to be some kind of interracial romantic interest brewing between Victor French’s Andrew and Janee Michelle’s Lorena, it fizzles out because of the fact that they, ultimately, are cousins. So why was it included at all? There is some corny dialogue to go along with the colorful costumes and charming old house and Honthaner does manage a few spooky scenes.

Overall, this is an enjoyable blaxploitation flick with some nice 70s nostalgia. It’s a bit tame and moderately paced, but there are a few spooky moments and the voodoo element adds a bit of a refreshing touch, even if it is a bit too subdued for it’s own good. The cast are all amusingly wooden and we get hints of an interracial romance between our leads that never materializes, though the tension is there for the entire film. Worth a look if you are a fan of 70s horror, blaxploitation flicks, or both.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 skulls.

 

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAR 24-26

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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. “Beauty and the Beast” $88.3 Million

2. “Power Rangers” $40.5 Million

3. “Kong: Skull Island” $14.4 Million

4. “Life” $12.6 Million

5. “Logan” $10.1 Million

6. “Get Out” $8.7 Million

7. “CHiPs” $7.6 Million

8. “The Shack” $3.8Million

9. “The LEGO Batman Movie” $1.9 Million

10. “The Belko Experiment” $1.8 Million

 

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990)

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TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990)

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

Tales From The Darkside started out as a horror anthology series produced by the legendary George A. Romero, that ran four seasons from October 1983 till July of 1988. In 1990 a movie version was released presenting a trio of terrifying tales tied together by a wraparound story. In the opening segment we see a young boy (Matthew Lawrence) being held in a cell by a witch (Deborah Harry). She plans to cook the kid as the main course for a dinner party and he tries to stall her by reading her stories from a book she left for him in his cell…Tales From he Darkside! As Timmy reads to prolong his fate, three tales of terror unfold!

All three stories and the wraparound are directed by John Harrison, a frequent Romero collaborator, though the script is by Romero and Michael McDowell and based on various works.

The first story is the lesser of the three and is based on a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Lot 249 involves betrayal, revenge, murder and an ancient Egyptian mummy. When student Bellingham (Steve Buscemi) is cheated out of a deserved scholarship, he uses the mummy to exact revenge on those responsible, Lee and Susan (Robert Sedgwick and Julianne Moore). The plot for retribution works out fine till Susan’s brother Andy (Christian Slater) tries to turn the tables on Bellingham for some revenge of his own. This segment is kind of ho-hum and comes to a predictable conclusion, but is still somewhat entertaining, has a good cast and is quite gory.

Second story is called The Cat From Hell and is based on a story by Stephen King. The tale finds pharmaceutical billionaire Drogan (William Hickey) hiring a hit man named Halston (David Johansen) to exterminate a black cat that Drogan claims has killed the rest of the members of his household. What ensues is a cat and mouse game…pun intended…throughout the dark mansion with predator hunting predator. It’s a fun episode, especially thanks to a lively and over-the-top performance from Johansen and has some really good gore. While the ending isn’t unexpected, it’s gruesome fun. Probably the best episode overall.

Final tale is a tragic love story called Lover’s Vow. Down on his luck artist Preston (James Remar) witnesses the savage murder of a local bartender by a creature resembling the local building gargoyles. He promises the creature, in return for his life, that he will never speak of it to anyone. On that same night Preston meets the beautiful Carola (Rae Dawn Chong) whom he falls in love with. The two wed and have children, but on one fateful night, Preston reveals his chilling tale to his loving wife…and with horrifying results. Story is the most serious of the bunch which otherwise have a bit of humor mixed in with the chills and as with the others, some nice gore. It too, is also a bit predictable, but works in spite of that.

We then return to the wraparound where Timmy is not going into the oven without a fight. Will he be freed or fried?…you’ll have to watch to find out!

Overall this is a fun anthology, though not a true classic. There is some nice nostalgia here too, as well as, some entertaining moments across the board. Harrison directs well and it is a fun horror flick in the spirit of Romero and King’s Creepshow from years earlier. Nothing overly special, but a solid good time. Did fairly well upon it’s release in 1990, but not enough to inspire a second go around.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 books of spooky stories.

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BARE BONES: THE DEAD ROOM (2015)

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THE DEAD ROOM (2015)

New Zealand haunted house flick is nothing new plot-wise as it features three paranormal investigators (Jed Brophy, Jeffrey Thomas and Laura Peterson) entering a recently vacated house to see if it’s as haunted as the owners claim. Obviously the answer is “yes” or we wouldn’t have a movie.

Film is directed well enough by Jason Stutter from a script by he and Kevin Stevens and while it presents nothing new, there is a charm about it’s old fashioned, CGI-less approach. The three leads are very likable as the stereotypical veteran ghost hunter (Brophy), skeptical scientist (Thomas) and pretty, goth psychic (Peterson), so we are willing to go along with their cliché and somewhat low-key ghost hunt. The film has a few spooky bits and while the last act does provide an intriguing twist, it also ends very abruptly and never gives us the backstory needed to clue us in as to who the spirits were and what had originally gone on in that house. It leaves one unsatisfied as the credits roll, despite having been somewhat entertained by the flick’s laid back style. Currently on Netflix Streaming, so it’s worth a peek if you’ve got nothing else to watch.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAR 17-19

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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. “Beauty and the Beast” $170 Million

2. “Kong: Skull Island” $28.85 Million

3. “Logan” $17.5 Million

4. “Get Out” $13.2 Million

5. “The Shack” $6.1 Million

6. “The LEGO Batman Movie” $4.7 Million

7. “The Belko Experiment” $4 Million

8. “Hidden Figures” $1.5 Million

9. “John Wick: Chapter Two” $1.2 Million

10. “Before I Fall” $1 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE DEVIL’S CANDY (2015)

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THE DEVIL’S CANDY (2015)

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

I’m a huge fan of Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones and was obviously looking forward to seeing another flick from him…and finally, after eight years, it’s here. The Devil’s Candy is Byrne’s newest film, made in 2015, it’s only now getting a proper release on VOD and in select theaters from the cool folks at IFC Midnight.

The story here is of heavy metal loving artist Jesse (Ethan Embry), who moves to an old rural farmhouse with his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and chip-off-the-old-block teen daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco). While Jesse and Astrid know that the couple that formerly lived there died in the house, what they don’t know is that it is also home to some kind of malevolent influence. If it’s not bad enough that Jesse’s art starts to take a dark and ominous tone soon after moving in, Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince), the child murdering son of the previous owners, wants to come home…and he has set his demented sights on Zooey.

While not quite as intense as The Loved Ones, and lacking it’s twisted sense of humor, this is still an atmospheric, disturbing and sometimes brutally violent horror flick. The mix of heavy metal music and demonic horror, obviously works as the two have been paired up since Black Sabbath took to the airwaves in 1968. While the demonic influence elements are nothing new, they are very effective as used by Bryne, draped in his thick atmosphere of foreboding. The most disturbing elements, though, are obviously Ray’s need to “feed” The Devil his favorite candy…children. He stalks Zooey right out in the open and the distraction the malevolent entity feeds Jesse by way of his art, leaves poor Zooey unprotected. It creates some very unsettling scenes as Ray gets closer to obtaining his goal, including one in Zooey’s bedroom that is absolutely bone chilling. This all leads up to not one but two harrowing sequences with Zooey and the rotund pervert, each more intense than the last. There are some drawbacks. The film comes in at a very tight 79 minutes and it sometimes feels too quickly over for it’s own good. We wish we had a little more time to let certain scenes resonate and be given a little more time to let the disturbing nature of what is transpiring sink in before moving on to the next dramatic moment. It is also never quite clear whether it is this demonic influence that led Ray to kill, or was it his homicidal habit that brought the entity into the house…if not…why is it there? On a technical level the film looks great and while there is some week CGI during the climax, the rest of the FX work is solid and there is a really atmospheric score from Mads Heldtberg, Michael Yezerski and the band Sunn O)))

If anything helps one past some of the flaws, it’s a really good cast. Ethan Embry has become a fixture in some good horror/thrillers lately such as the frustrated son in the awesome Late Phases, or the ill-fated gun dealer in The Guest. He is really good here, not only as metal head/family man Jesse, but in portraying Jesse’s gradual transformation from attentive father into obsessed artist. As his frustrated and scared wife, Shiri Appleby is solid as a woman whose family life is disrupted from both within and without. She has a suddenly moody and unfocused husband at home and a hulking child killer lurking about after her daughter. Appleby makes her a bit more than a damsel in distress, though she isn’t given as much to do when all hell breaks loose as we’d have liked. Kiara Glasco makes a really good impression as Zooey. A teen who walks to the beat of her father influenced drum but is her own person. She’s a tough kid and a little rebellious and the young actress has a great chemistry with Embry, so their father/daughter relationship really works well on screen. She has a couple of tough scenes to portray and does a good job. Making this all come together is a really disturbing performance by veteran actor Pruitt Taylor Vince (recently seen as “Otis” in The Walking Dead). Vince really makes Ray a creepy person who makes you uncomfortable every moment he’s on camera. It really makes you fear for Zooey, especially when he catches up to her…more than once. He makes your skin crawl. A solid cast just as in Byrne’s first flick.

So maybe writer/director Sean Byrne hasn’t quite equaled The Loved Ones in his sophomore feature flick, but he has delivered another disturbing, atmospheric and bloody movie that is of a different sort than his previous twisted love story. This plot may be a bit more commonplace, but he uses the familiar tropes very effectively. The theatrical cut…wikipedia lists a 10 minute longer festival cut…may be a little too short for it’s own good and there are some unanswered questions, but a really strong cast and a director who knows how to turn the screws makes up for a lot of it. Highly recommended. especially if you loved Sean Byrne’s previous work.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and1/2 screaming guitars!

 

 

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