HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: IT STAINS THE SANDS RED (2017)

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IT STAINS THE SANDS RED (2017)

Offbeat zombie flick has erotic dancer and coke-head Molly (Brittany Allen) driving across the desert outside Las Vegas at the start of a zombie outbreak. She and her boyfriend Nick (Merwin Mondesir) are heading to a small airport to make a getaway with some of Nick’s friends. A mishap strands them in the middle of nowhere and an encounter with a lone zombie (Juan Riedinger) leaves Nick dead. Now Molly heads across the desert alone with the relentless walking corpse in pursuit and the desert heat taking it’s toll.

This is a very unusual zombie flick written by “The Vicious Brothers” Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz and directed by Minihan. It plays it’s tale out in a slightly twisted way as, at first, it’s a thriller with Molly struggling in her high heeled boots to keep ahead of the slow moving but ever persistent corpse and then turns into something else. As the desert sun beats down on her and she starts to get a bit delirious, Molly begins to form a weird relationship with her hungry pursuer, taunting and talking to it and even naming him “Small Balls.” The film shifts to an almost twisted buddy movie as Molly develops an attachment to the flesh eater while she also tries to keeps him at a safe distance. There is some clever stuff here and the film is effective enough to work as both horror and buddy/road movie despite that the initial intriguing premise of a lone woman pursued tenaciously by a lone zombie was interesting enough. Perhaps Minihan and Ortiz felt the story wasn’t enough to fill a whole film and thus it changers gears to the unusual bond between girl and ghoul and then to a last act deviation when Molly decides it’s more important to find the young son she gave up than to escape with Nick’s crazy friends. The narrative shifts are a bit jarring, but as individual parts do work well enough. There are also some Romero-esque messages about the evil men do, as when Molly meets two ex-cons, who are far worse a threat than the lumbering “Smalls” and some funny bits, such as Molly using a tampon to distract the hungry zombie from his pursuit and her dialogue in general aimed at her un-dead pursuer. There is plenty of gore despite the minimal cast and Minihan makes good use of the desert local. There is also an effective score by Blitz//Berlin, who scored Extraterrestrial and some nice cinematography by Clayton Moore to add atmosphere.

The minimal cast are all solid, especially the feisty Brittany Allen (Extraterrestrial). Allen’s Molly is spirited and tougher than her manicured nails and designer handbag would let on. She’s a survivor and while currently living an indulgent lifestyle, she does seem to learn from her experiences. It’s practically a one woman show and Allen carries the movie on her shoulders very well and can be very funny with her rambling dialogue bits with the silent Smalls. As zombie “Smalls”, Juan Riedinger does really good work emoting under all the make-up. Much like Day of The Dead‘s Bub, Smalls seems to have some sort of primal emotions under his relentless hunger and some trace elements of thought left, despite being a walking corpse. While he generally has simple animistic reactions, the actor conveys the tinges of thinking and emotion very well using just facial expressions, body language and his eyes. In support, Merwin Mondesir plays Molly’s “gangstsa” boyfriend Nick with the appropriate swagger, yet with a bit of a wink and Andrew Supanz and Michael Filipowich are suitably despicable a a pair of ex-cons who cross paths with Molly and Smalls.

Despite an eccentric narrative and deviating from a simple and effective horror premise that was basically a zombie version of Fredric Brown’s Arena, the film was entertaining and did work. Brittany Allen was sassy enough to pull off the bizarre relationship between Molly and Smalls and was effective in her more terror filled scenes early on and then at the point where she becomes a survivor and takes charge of her situation. Juan Riedinger made a fearsome and yet oddly sympathetic zombie and for fans of these flicks there was enough gore to meet requirements. There are some intense moments and some funny ones, too. Not a perfect flick and one might have wanted to see it simply play out as woman vs zombie, but it takes a less expected route and it’s offbeat enough to keep it from getting stale in an overplayed sub-genre. The “Vicious Brothers”…if they’re still called that…have yet to disappoint.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 tampons.

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JULY 28-30

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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. “Dunkirk” $28.1 Million

2. “The Emoji Movie” $25.6

3. “Girls Trip” $20 Million

4. “Atomic Blonde” $18.5 Million

5. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” $13.4 Million

6. “War for the Planet of the Apes” $10.3 Million

7. “Despicable Me 3” $7.7 Million

8. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” $6.8 Million

9. “Baby Driver” $3.4 Million

10. “Wonder Woman” $3.5 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: A CURE FOR WELLNESS (2017)

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A CURE FOR WELLNESS (2017)

Flick has an up and coming executive named Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) being sent to a wellness clinic in the Swiss Alps to retrieve his company’s estranged CEO (Harry Groener). The man is needed to complete a crucial merger and his latest correspondence has the board questioning his sanity. What Lockhart finds is a strange place where there may be something very sinister going on despite the idyllic appearance. Trapped there after a car accident, Lockhart begins to investigate the institute and it’s equally strange founder, Dr. Heinreich Volmer (Jason Issacs). But what he finds is something straight out of a nightmare…unless he too is losing his mind.

Directed by Gore Verbinski from a script by Justin Haythe, this tries to be an old fashioned gothic chiller from the likes of Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft, but wears out it’s spooky welcome long before it’s over. The film’s biggest problems are it’s overindulgent running time of 146 minutes and the fact that it’s hero is kind of unlikable. The flick could have been at least forty minutes shorter and not lost any important story elements and it’s hard to feel for DeHaan’s Lockhart as he is just another stereotypical ambitious suit character. There are some creepy moments and Verbinski is a skilled visualist, but the movie runs out of gas long before it’s over and where it leads can be seen coming an hour before it does finally end. An interesting effort that could have been better if it didn’t take so long to tell a story that didn’t need so much time to tell it and we actually cared what happened to it’s lead.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

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JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (2017)

John Wick: Chapter 2 is a well-made sequel that returns Keanu Reeves’ “retired” assassin back to action. Here he must honor the marker from Italian crime boss Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) and go to Italy to assassinate D’Antonio’s own rival crime boss of a sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini). Wick completes the mission, but is betrayed by D’Antonio with a contract put on his head for seven million dollars. Now every assassin in the NYC area wants the bounty, including Gianna’s vengeful bodyguard (Common).

Written and directed again by Derek Kolstad and Chad Stahelski, respectively, the duo deliver an action packed and fun sequel to the surprise hit John Wick. The action is slick and rapid fire with a larger body count as now Wick must battle his own kind. The locations are used well between Rome and New York City and Reeves is again solid as the stone faced assassin, who just wants to retire. It’s an entertaining action flick and a sequel that knows to stick close enough to the formula to not alienate it’s core audience and yet change’s things just a bit to keep it from being stale. Ian McShane returns as Winston as does John Leguizamo as Aurelio with Lawrence Fishburn appearing as the leader of a guild of homeless street people assassins in NYC.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MARTIN (1978)

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MARTIN (1978)

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

This George Romero film made in 1976, before Dawn Of The Dead, tells the story of Martin (John Amplas), a young man who thinks he is an 84 year-old vampire. Despite his belief, he knows he can’t change into a bat, the sun won’t turn him to dust and crosses and garlic won’t harm him either. He does however feed on blood and uses a syringe and razor blades to do so. He is forced to live with his extremely religious uncle Tateh Cuda (Lincoln Maazel) in Pennsylvania, who thinks Martin is an actual vampire. Now Martin must be more careful in finding victims as his uncle would just as soon put an end to his vampiric habits the old fashioned way.

As written and directed by Romero, Martin is a somber and disturbing tale of a young man acting out some deep issues under the guise of vampirism. Martin’s obviously has more grounded psychological problems such as being socially inept, homicidal and fearful of normal sexual contact. Romero daringly portrays the latter by showing Martin disrobe and lie with his unconscious female victims implying the need for far more than blood. Sadder still, is that his uncle knows of his homicidal tendencies and is so backwards in his thinking that instead of getting Martin professional help, he fills the house with garlic and crosses. Even when Martin enters an actual affair with a lonely housewife (Elyane Nadeau), he still seeks other victims for his needs. Romero creates a character that is tragic and creepy in Martin, yet also makes the young man underneath the pseudo-vampire oddly likable. The director also cleverly uses black and white flashbacks to portray Martin’s ‘memories’ of being a vampire, pursuing his victims and being pursued by angry mobs from some past time. It shows how deep-rooted Martin’s belief is as he has created his own backstory in his head. The film has a deliberately moderate pace and despite Martin’s heinous acts, the not too unexpected climax comes across as tragic and a bit sad. Martin, after all, is not a monster just a very deeply disturbed young man.

The cast all perform well, especially lead John Amplas who is able to make Martin creepy yet sympathetic and sad. There is a facet of Martin that is oddly likeable and Amplas gives him an offbeat charm despite the character’s homicidal and sexually deviate activities. Lincoln Maazel is imposing and authoritative as Martin’s old world uncle and the Van Helsing of this vampire saga. He is boorish and borderline abusive as he tries to deal with his ‘vampire’ nephew. He exemplifies the outdated thinking that hampers the treatment of the mentally ill, especially at the time this was made. There is also Christine Forrest, the future Mrs. Romero, as Martin’s sweet and sympathetic cousin, Christina, FX legend Tom Savini as her macho boyfriend and a cameo by George Romero himself as a priest.

While not discussed as much as his zombie films, this is still a very interesting film from Romero. It makes commentary on mental illness and the outdated treatment of it through it’s tragic lead character, who thinks he’s a vampire and his old fashioned, narrow minded uncle who agrees. It takes an interesting point of view as Martin is very practical about his vampirism to the point of admitting there is nothing supernatural about it. It has some very disturbing moments and some early examples of Tom Savini gore, but also makes it’s homicidal, sexual deviate a bit sympathetic as with proper care, there might be have been a good kid inside him that could have come out. Another example of Romero’s unique slant on a familiar tale.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 razors.

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: KILLING GROUND (2017)

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KILLING GROUND (2017)

Killing Ground is an Australian thriller that finds couple Ian (Ian Meadows) and Sam (Harriet Dyer) going on a camping trip in a rural part of the country. They find another vehicle and tent at the campground, yet no occupants seem to be around. Soon Ian and Sam encounter two local “hunters” (Aaron Pedersen and Aaron Glennane) who, unknown to the couple, know exactly what happened to the abandoned tent’s former occupants.

Written and directed by Damien Power, this is an effective but familiar survival thriller. His story is basically in the Wolf Creek ballpark with innocent travelers happening upon deranged locals in a rural setting. What we see is brutal and effective and while certain cruel acts are off-camera, just knowing what is going on induces chills. Power tells his story in a split narrative where we inter-cut scenes of Sam and Ian in the present with scenes from earlier on with the ill-fated family that resided in the now empty tent. It works well enough and once the stories meet it continues to it’s finish within the present timeline.  It makes for a grim yet fairly involving 90 minutes, though there are some questions. What drove these two to get homicidal with this family, as it seems they are too sloppy to have done it before and not gotten caught. Also, they are well known to local police, so they would logically be prime suspects if something went askew in that jurisdiction…though the police portrayed here are done so as stereo-typically daft local cops. Still, the film does work well enough and the cast are effective in their roles.

Harriet Dyer is a fine heroine in Sam. She isn’t a damsel and is a fighter when she has something worth protecting. Ian Meadows’ Ian starts out as a likable character, though as the story progresses and it becomes a battle for survival, he shows some unfortunate true colors. As for our bad guys, Pedersen and Glennane make fine deranged locals and even if the characters are well-worn stereotypes, they play them effectively. Again, the problem with them aside from familiarity, is they seem too sloppy in their activities and if this isn’t the first time they’ve done this…previous jail time is mentioned but not why…it’s hard to believe they haven’t already been caught. If this is their first crime of this magnitude, what was it about this family that triggered the violence and cruelty? We never get to know them enough to gives us a clue.

In conclusion, this is an effective but familiar survival thriller. Damien Power directs well enough to make it work better than it should and we are chilled by some of what we see. The film is overall, though, nothing new and there are some questions we are asking once it’s over. Also stars Maya Stange, Julian Garner, Tiarnie Coupland and Liam and Riley Parkes as the ill-fated family whose grim tale unfolds during the film.

3 bullets.

 

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JULY 21-23

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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. “Dunkirk” $50.5 Million

2. “Girls Trip” $30.3 Million

3. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” $22 Million

4. “War for the Planet of the Apes” $20.4 Million

5. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” $17 Million

6. “Despicable Me 3” $12.7 Million

7. “Baby Driver” $6 Million

8. “The Big Sick” $5 Million

9. “Wonder Woman” $4.6 Million

10. “Wish Upon” $2.4 Million

 

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: 12 FEET DEEP (2017)

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12 FEET DEEP (2017)

Supposedly fact-based flick has two sisters, Bree (Nora-Jane Noone from The Descent and Doomsday) and Jonna (Alexandra Park), trapped by unfortunate circumstances over a holiday weekend in an indoor Olympic pool, with the fiberglass cover shut. That’s not the worst of their troubles as the emotionally disturbed maintenance woman (Diane Farr) discovers them and turns their misfortune into a night of extortion and terror.

Director Matt Eskandari’s thriller has it’s scenario born out of some unfortunate conveniences happening all at the right…or wrong…time, but as it is based on an actual incident, it can’t be all that much of a stretch. Eskandari’s script, that he wrote along with Michael Hultquist, does pack in a lot of melodramatic elements, such as the sisters sharing a tumultuous relationship, Bree being a diabetic, Jonna out of rehab and the whole ex-con with a grudge, maintenance woman thing, but they are used in just the right amounts and the director does build some nice tension and suspense from some of the clichés. Both Noone and Park give good performances, which make the melodramatics work better than they should and endear us to the two ladies in distress. Farr’s ex-con maintenance woman also starts out as a cliché bad guy, but turns out to be a bit more layered than the simple villain she first appears. The film doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 85 minutes and overall is a tense and entertaining time on the couch, at least as much as two girls stuck in a pool could be. A well made little thriller that takes a simple premise, that could have been silly, and makes it work to entertaining good use. Also stars “Jigsaw” himself Tobin Bell as the grumpy pool manager who carelessly locks the ladies in. Definitely worth watching.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER (2015)

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THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER (2015)

Flick is a spooky supernatural horror set at a Catholic all girls school and focuses on odd freshman Kathryn (Kiernan Shipka) and upperclassman Rose (Lucy Boynton). Break is coming, but Kat and Rose are not being picked up by their respective parents. Kat has been put in Rose’s charge and soon Rose begins to feel there is something off with the young girl. As they are alone at school with only two chaperones (Elana Krausz and Heather Tod Mitchell) on campus, Rose starts to realize something is not right with the increasingly creepy Kat. Intertwined is another story of a lone young woman who calls herself Joan (Emma Roberts) and a couple (James Remar and Lauren Holly) who are headed to the school who offer her a ride. These stories are destined to collide, but how and why?

This is a very impressive debut from writer/director Oz Perkins, son of legendary horror icon Anthony Perkins. He drenches the film in atmosphere which helps keeps us unnerved and attentive as his two narrative’s play out. It seems a bit unconventional at first, but as the separate, but connected stories progress, we start to realize just how they are related and by the end credits it makes disturbing sense. There is some shocking violence in it’s last act and Perkins is smart to hold it off till then as it has jarring impact because the film was relying on mood and shadows to establish it’s unsettling ambiance. Though, the director doesn’t go overboard with that violence either, so it doesn’t overshadow his established atmosphere, just embellishes it. The stories of Joan and Rose and Kat are connected indeed and the added mystery adds to a film that already has a good grip on us as we realize Kathryn has some very disturbing secrets and Rose may be in danger. To say anymore would be to spoil a very creepy film from first time director Perkins, who went on to direct the equally spooky I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, which was oddly released first.

The cast are all good. Young Kiernan Shipka is very effective as the somewhat odd Kathryn. She gives us a young girl who seems a bit emotionally detached and yet offers tinges that there is something a bit disturbing about Kat. The actress is very effective in both maintaining an air of mystery and then being outright scary once we find out what she is really all about. Lucy Boynton is also good as the rebellious Rose. We like Rose, who has her own secrets, though far more grounded ones, and are along with her suspicions when she starts to believe there is something very “off” about Kat. Emma Roberts is also very good as mystery woman Joan. We know there is definitely more to this drifter and as things progress, we find we are right. Remar and Holly also do good work as Bill and Linda. They are good at making us very unsure about their motives, especially Bill’s, in picking up the pretty young drifter. There is something just as off about them as with Joan and the film and actors keep us guessing as to who we should be wary of most. A good cast that add to the atmosphere as does brother Elvis Perkins’s effective score.

Overall this is a very impressive debut film from a new voice in the horror genre. Being the son of legendary actor Anthony Perkins may be an  interesting footnote, but Osgood Perkins is making his own name with two impressive and really spooky first features. The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a very atmospheric and creepy little movie with a good dose of mystery and Perkins connects all the dots in disturbing fashion by it’s end. It’s chilling, has a very effective visual style and even surprises us with some moments of shocking violence. A bone chilling debut from Oz Perkins!

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 carnivorous critters

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017)

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GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017)

Based on the classic Anime of the same name, flick tells the future-set story of The Major (Scarlett Johansson), who is the first of her kind, a completely cybernetic being with a human brain. The Major is part of an anti-terrorist unit and is called to action when members of Hanka Robotics, the folks that created her, are being murdered. The Major’s journey to find those responsible takes a very personal turn which may compromise her mission and cost her, her life.

On one hand it’s amazing that Blade Runner and The Matrix are still influencing movies and film-makers today, while on the other hand it’s getting kind of tiresome to see the same neon drenched city-scapes and slow motion gunfight scenes. As for the 1989 Anime by Masamune Shirow, it was ground breaking in it’s day, but almost twenty years later, the story elements have been reused and warn out. So despite some hefty influences and classic source material, this live action version has nothing really to offer and director Rupert Sanders and his script by three writers can’t change that. It’s a dull affair with plot and visual elements that we’ve all seen countless times since the films that inspired them. Even Ms. Johansson’s charms are lost among-st all the “been there, done that” and barely make this watchable for. A cyberpunk snoozefest. At least the score by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe was 80s electronic cool.

-MonsterZero NJ

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