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Desolation is a small but sometimes intense little movie about three people being pursued by a mysterious figure while camping in the woods. Pretty, young widow Abby (Jaimi Paige) hikes deep into the mountains with her son Sam (Toby Nichols) and her friend Jen (Alyshia Ochse). They are there to lay to rest the ashes of Abby’s late husband and soon find themselves being followed by a creepy hiker (Claude Duhamel) who may have ill intent for the three.
Disturbing thriller is directed by Sam Patton from a script by Matt Anderson and Michael Larson-Kangas. It gives us a little time to get to know Abby, Sam and Jen and what emotional state they are in, before they start to realize there is someone trailing them as they hike into the mountains and camp. The chills from director Patton start off slowly as the hiker sits quietly staring from a distance, before turning the screws when he brutally let’s us know, what we suspected all along, that this hiker is up to no good. Then it’s a last act struggle to survive with a savage killer in pursuit. Granted this isn’t something new story-wise, with innocents in the middle of nowhere under siege by a deadly attacker. It’s in the telling that the story picks up it’s intensity as Patton has introduced us to three likable characters, two of which who are emotionally vulnerable at the moment. All the more reason to fear for them as their pursuer moves in and reveals his violent and cruel intentions. We may have an idea as to how this will all play out, but it is effective none the less…brutally effective at times. And at only 78 minutes, it is a tight little movie that certainly doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.
The minimal cast all perform well. Jaimi Paige presents a sweet but wounded woman in widowed mom Abby. She’s trying to remain strong and be supportive of her son and we sympathize with her. Paige gives her a down to earth quality that really makes her endearing. Same could be said for Alyshia Ochse as her best friend, Jen. Jen is also a sweet and playful girl-next-door type and she and Paige have a good on-screen chemistry. They are very convincing as friends and their concern for each other, both before and after the hitchhiker makes his presence known, seems sincere. Toby Nichols does a solid job portraying a young boy coping with the death of a parent and then trying to be strong for his mother when they come under attack. A good performance from the young man where he has to convey a wealth of different emotions. Finally, Claude Duhamel imbues his silent hitchhiker with some nice malevolence, using just his body language and facial expressions to convey this guy is not right. Even before he gets violent, we are uncomfortable for our trio when he is around. The film also leaves the aspects of his motivations ambiguous, with enough gruesome clues to form our own conclusions.
An original movie?…No. A well done telling of a familiar tale…quite! Sam Patton keeps the film small and intimate, gives his audience time to get to know and endear to his main characters and then slowly allows his creepy stalker to get closer and closer to our vulnerable trio. He waits sometime for things to get really vicious and then it becomes a brutal struggle to survive against an enigmatic and highly disturbed individual. A good cast and some nice New York State locations help make this a solid survival thriller and a good start to Sam Patton’s feature film resume.
2010’s Skyline was an awful alien invasion flick that centered around a bunch of boring characters in a condo dealing with an extraterrestrial incursion. Despite bad reviews, it still made a lot of money on a meager budget. Considering this, it’s actually surprising the flick took seven years to get a sequel. Follow-up takes place during the same event, but focuses on recently widowed cop, Mark Corley (Frank Grillo) and his troubled son, Trent (Jonny Weston). Along with other captives on an alien ship, Corley and son fight to escape. The plot then takes us on a goofy journey of stolen brains, rebellious robots, Asian outlaws, genetically altered babies and human resistance fighters…still with me?
Sequel is written and directed by Liam O’Donnell, who co-wrote the original, and it is a bit of an improvement. Original filmmakers Colin and Greg Strause, return to produce and let O’Donnell turn this into more of a straight-up action flick, with a solid and gory R rating, as opposed to the original’s PG-13. Unfortunately, the first time director also gets a bit over-indulgent with a very busy and silly script which finds the aliens harvesting human brains to control their machines and altering the DNA of human babies to accelerate their growth. We know this by running into pregnant Elaine (now Samantha Jean) and her boyfriend Jarrod (Tony Black) from the first movie, Jarrod, who’s brain is now in an alien drone. It is Jarrod that rebels and helps Corley by crashing the ship, turning the second half of the movie into a thriller about fighting back, when the survivors hit the ground running in what looks like Indonesia. This is where the Asian outlaws and human resistance fighters come in. It’s all very kooky and cliché, though at least O’Donnell takes the silly material seriously and doesn’t make a joke out of it. The action is fun and the FX are very good.
Adding Frank Grillo to this flick helps. Grillo is a solid leading man/action hero and takes the goofball script seriously and this helps us enjoy some of the more scatterbrained stuff. We also get The Hallow’s Bojana Novakovic as an LA subway driver, literally along for the ride, and she’s fine. There is also Antonio Fargas as a homeless, ex-soldier and Iko Uwais and Pamelyn Chee as outlaw siblings Sua and Kanya. Grillo is the strength here, but the rest of the cast do well enough.
Certainly more fun than the dull original, but also a lot goofier and with a far more convoluted and cliché plot. We get a lot of action, which includes spurting blood, some martial arts and even a Godzilla-esque giant monster battle. O’Donnell seems to be a bit better director than the Strauses, but is very overindulgent with his script. Grillo helps by doing a good job as it’s hero and the production value/ SPFX are quite solid. Ridiculous, but at least, not boring and there are also some fun bloopers during the end credits.
Today is legendary horror film icon Barbara Crampton’s birthday and as MonsterZero NJ shares a birthday with the fan favorite actress, I certainly wish her the happiest and healthiest of days. Still working hard and still a beauty, it’s no wonder this lady is held in such high regard by so many horror fans around the world! Happy Birthday, Barbara!
It’s now time to look back at the past year and see what horrors left a bad impression. As we all know in horror, all that splatters isn’t gold. Here are my least favorite/worst horrors of 2017.
(NOTE: There are a few titles here initially released in 2016 at festivals or limited theatrical release, but I did not catch up to them till VOD or home media in 2017 and felt it unfair not to include them! -MZNJ)
(To get to our reviews of these titles use the search engine at the top of the page!)
It’s especially sad to have to report a loss at this time of year. Last year it was the legendary Carrie Fisher and this year, sadly, it is Sssssss and Piranha actress Heather Menzies-Urich, passing after a battle with brain cancer. The veteran film and television actress worked mainly in the late 60s through the 70s and also appeared in The Sound of Music, Captain America and the single season of the Logan’s Run TV show. She was married to late veteran TV and film actor Robert Urich. Our thoughts are with her family.
The holiday season is here and sometimes it seems there are more Christmas themed horrors than ones set on Halloween. But if there is a gift these holiday horrors bring, it’s a bevy of cuties and foxy final girls to warm our hearts like chestnuts roasting over an open fire. So without further ado, here are some of holiday horror’s hottest heroines!…
(Click on the highlighted titles and movie posters to get to our reviews and on the gallery photos to get a better look at the slay belles!)
Black Christmas (1974)
Black Christmas is one of the original modern slasher films and graced us with the beautiful Olivia Hussey as final girl Jess and a pre-Superman Margot Kidder as sexy, saucy Barb!
Olivia Hussey as Jess
Margot Kidder as Barb
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Silent Night, Deadly Night is another Christmas horror classic and this film has it’s shares of beauties as well. Sexy blonde Tara Buckman plays killer Billy’s mom Ellie, Toni Nero plays his work crush, Pamela and legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley plays the hot ill-fated babysitter Denise!
Tara Buckman as Ellie
Linnea Quigley as Denise
Toni Nero as Pamela
Black Christmas (2006)
Black Christmas 2006 wins the award for most holiday honies in one movie. Remake of the 1974 classic has a bevy of beautiful sorority sisters to melt any snowman…
Katie Cassiday as Kelli
Lacey Chabert as Dana
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Heather
Michelle Trachtenberg as Melissa
Crystal Lowe as Lauren
Leela Savasta as Clair
SILENT NIGHT (2012)
This quasi-remake has a few cuties of its own. It has My Bloody Valentine 2009’s Jaime King as pretty deputy Aubrey Bradimore, Scott Pilgram’s Ellen Wong as adorable police station receptionist Brenda and Zombeaver’s Cortney Palm as ill-fated adult movie actress Maria.
Jaime King as Aubrey
Ellen Wong as Brenda
Cortney Palm as Maria
BETTER WATCH OUT (2016)
We finish up this look at festive final girls, Christmas cuties and sexy slay belles with a look at one of the latest to join the holiday fun, Olivia DeJonge as embattled, yuletide babysitter, Ashley from the twisted Christmas thriller, Better Watch Out!
Olivia DeJonge as Ashley
HAPPY HOLIDAYSfrom MONSTERZERO NJ’S MOVIE MADHOUSE
Hell Night is a fun 1981 slasher that finds a group of college pledges spending the night in a haunted house as part of their initiation (Full Review HERE). It’s a good representation of the type of horror movie made back during that era and now with the added nostalgia, it’s aged very well. Scream Factory has resurrected this long sought after and unavailable flick and given it their star treatment. It comes in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack and with a host of extras
As for the feature…
The picture is a 4K remaster from a 35mm print and is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, preserving the film’s theatrical dimensions. There is some grain in the picture and a few lines here and there, but for a low budget film over 35 years-old, this is a great looking disc. The colors are vibrant and the picture has some nice contrast, especially in the shadow filled night scenes. The sound is in DTS-HD mono and it sounds just fine. Again, this low budget flick is from 1981, so don’t expect 7.1 surround sound. The menus are simple, fun and easy to navigate, which is the usual for Scream Factory’s releases. Overall a nice restoration of a cult classic and it brought memories back, having seen it during it’s theatrical run in a theater.
Now on to the extras…
The extras consist of some wonderful new interviews with cast and crew, who are all too happy to talk about this sometimes overlooked movie. We have interviews with star Linda Blair, leading man Peter Barton, producer Bruce Cohn Curtis and writer Randy Feldman. We then get some fun one on one conversations between actors Vince Van Patten and Suki Goodwin and then Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann. We also get a look at the design of the film and an examination of the death scenes with various crew members and a return to the original location. Follow that up with the usual trailers, TV spots, radio spots and photo gallery and you have a really fun and informative disc giving a low budget cult classic the respect it deserves!
As a film that has nostalgic resonance with me, I can’t express how great it is to see this little flick get such royal treatment! The disc arrives from Scream Factory on 1/2/18!