HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: VERÓNICA (2017)

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VERÓNICA (2017)

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

Spanish horror flick from [REC]‘s Paco Plaza takes place in 1991 and is based on a real police report. The story opens with a frantic 911 call and police arriving at an apartment to find something horrible has occured. We then go back a few days to find teen Verónica (Sandra Escacena) conducting a seance at school during a total eclipse to talk to her dead father. Something goes wrong and now a dark spirit follows her home and preys on her and her three siblings (Bruna González, Claudia Placer and Iván Chavero). Can Verónica protect her little brother and sisters from this malevolent entity and what did police find on that fateful night?

Directed by Plaza from a script by he and Fernando Navarro, there is nothing new here story-wise, even if based on a real-life incident. All the demonic haunting clichés are present, but it’s how Plaza uses them that still makes this an effective flick. The director takes some very familiar tropes and uses them to spooky effect as he tells this tale of a teen being stalked by a very vicious spirit will ill intent. He separates the kids from their widowed mom (Ana Torrent) having her working all day and night at the family owned business, thus leaving the children without guidance and protection, save for Verónica…who has no clue what to do. She turns to the creepy blind nun (Consuelo Trujillo) at school for help and while this character is also a cliché, she is a spooky sister and provides some ominous exposition to the terrified teen. Again, the tropes work. We get some some really effective use out of shadow figures, gross stains, nightmare sequences and moving objects and it’s a sign of a talented director that some very familiar stuff, still gives us the creeps. The climactic posting of the actual police report and events that followed also leaves us with a chill. Add to that a spooky score by Chucky Namanera and we have a creepy little flick despite having seen pretty much everything before.

The cast is good, especially lead Sandra Escacena as Verónica. She plays a teen interested in the occult and seeing it as a way to talk to the father she misses. She also portrays well the fear of a teen whose made a dire mistake and now must try to correct it and protect her family, even if no one believes her. Bruna González, Claudia Placer and little Iván Chavero are cute as her little siblings and each get to act in some spooky sequences and do so, well. Consuelo Trujillo is very creepy as the blind nun dubbed “Sister Death” by the Catholic school’s students and Ana Torrent is solid as the mother who works till exhaustion, though still cares about her kids. She’s the skeptic in the scenario and just thinks this is just a byproduct of Verónica spending too much time with her supernatural hobby. This isolates the teen emotionally, weakening her for the entity.

This was a completely unoriginal flick, even if supposedly based on fact, but also a good example of how a talented director can still make an effective chiller out of oft used material. The story has been done before, the tropes are nothing new, but this is still a spooky flick with a good cast to make the characters likable and sympathetic. As his resume shows, Plaza can do spooky and with this tale of a teen haunted by a demonic entity, he does just that. Recommended especially if you are a fan of supernatural chillers and like the familiar trappings.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 planchettes.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: RAWHEAD REX (1987)

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RAWHEAD REX (1987)

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

Rawhead Rex is a 1987 British horror based on a short story by Clive Barker. It has a pagan demon (Heinrich von Schellendorf) being unleashed from his tomb in Ireland when a farmer removes a protective stone. The creature goes on a killing spree, claiming victim after victim, till he murders the son (Hugh O’Conor) of an American researcher (David Dukes), who vows to find a way to destroy the monster once and for all.

Flick is lamely directed by George Pavlou from a screenplay by Barker himself. The director fails to bring any scares or intensity to the tale, even with Rex reigning bloody terror on Ireland’s trailer parks and tourists. You’d think that with this local legend being so well known in a small town, to the point of being included in a church stained glass window, that a local farmer would known better than to remove the stone that has imprisoned the beast for centuries. The creature himself is extremely rubbery and when it roars, you can see actor Heinrich von Schellendorf’s own mouth inside it’s maw. The monster is dressed like he’s a member of a Danish heavy metal band, complete with mohawk and there seems to be little rhyme or reason for his killing. It’s very random. There is also little explanation as to why or how Rex gains control of a local priest (Ronan Wilmott) by pissing on him. The acting from a cast of basic unknowns is quite underwhelming and despite the amusement of abundant gore, the make-up and visual FX are all quite cheesy. The climactic confrontation with Rubberhead Rex is also silly and we get little explanation as to why things work out the way they do. It seems made up as they go along…like the rest of the movie, to be honest.

I never understood the love for this flick. It has a decent fan-base and is fondly remembered, but I am not a fan. A recent revisit didn’t change my mind, even with laughably cheesy FX and a lot of 80s nostalgia. It’s not scary. It’s not intense. It has a very thin story that really doesn’t go anywhere and it’s creature is too rubbery and silly looking to be the least bit effective. There is a lot of bloodshed and heads ripped off, but otherwise, little to recommend. For it’s fans only.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 rubbery Rexs.

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES FEB. 23-25

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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. “Black Panther” $108 Million

2. “Game Night” $16.6 Million

3. “Peter Rabbit” $12.5 Million

4. “Annihilation” $11 Million

5. “Fifty Shades Freed’ $6.9 Million

6. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” $5.6 Million

7. “The 15:17 to Paris” $3.6 Million

8. “The Greatest Showman” $3.4 Million

9. “Every Day” $3.1 Million

10. “Early Man” $1.7 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE LODGERS (2017)

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THE LODGERS (2017)

Creepy flick is set in 1920’s Ireland in an old mansion where twins Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) preside alone after the suicide of their parents. There is something unnatural there with them, something that decrees that they must be in bed by midnight, never let in strangers and never leave the estate. But their trust fund has run out and Rachel starts to feel the desires of womanhood when handsome Sean (Eugene Simon) comes home from the war. Can Rachel escape the curse and her increasingly disturbed brother, or is there a worse fate in store for her?

Irish supernatural thriller is stylishly directed by Brian O’Malley (Let Us Prey) from a script by David Turpin. The film is loaded with atmosphere and is very creepy, especially when we get some last act details on what fate awaits the twins and some truths about their family’s past. It’s a methodically paced film and is more about the mood of dread and foreboding than physical horror, though there is a little bloodshed, too. On that level it works very well in giving us goosebumps as we watch Rachel try to escape this curse that claimed her parents and their parents and so on. If you are looking for body count or intense scares look elsewhere, as this is about a prevailing spookiness which director O’Malley provides. He has a really effective visual style and makes great use of the decrepit old house setting and some water based imagery for the supernatural elements. There is some really atmospheric cinematography by Richard Kendrick and an appropriately Gothic score credited to Stephen Shannon, Kevin Murphy and writer David Turpin. It’s a slow burn chiller, but if you go in expecting something more on a Crimson Peak level, it is very unsettling and spooky.

The cast was very effective as well. Charlotte Vega presents us with a sad young woman, who is determine not to share the fate of her parents and ancestors. She evokes the feeling of being trapped in an undeserved fate, yet also gives us the tinges of desire of a woman come of age. Bill Milner is very creepy as the deranged Edward. He embraces his cursed life completely and he can be very chilling as he tries to convince his twin to accept it, too. Rounding out the main cast is Eugene Simon as handsome WWI vet Sean. Sean is rejected by the townsfolk upon his return for fighting with the English. That combined with the loss of a leg, makes him a lonely and sympathetic character, who finds a kinship with Rachel aside from the physical attraction. It makes for an interesting triangle as Edward’s unnatural attachment to his sister evokes a growing jealousy.

This flick may not be for everyone, especially those looking for more visceral horror like in O’Malley’s Let Us Prey. It is a more Gothic thriller and thus relies on atmosphere and dark moods to tell it’s tale of supernatural horror. The performances help guide the tale of a family cursed and the director knows how to build tension and dread to go with his spooky visuals. Yes, it’s slow moving and with only a few moments of bloody action, but still a very disturbing and creepy film from Brian O’Malley.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 black birds.

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BARE BONES: MOHAWK (2017)

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MOHAWK (2017)

Flick takes place in 1814 with America once again at war with the British and both sides trying to win the allegiance of the local Native American tribes. A British soldier (Eamon Farren) becomes personally involved with Mohawk woman Okwaho (Kaniehtiio Horn) and her lover Calvin (Justin Rain) while on just such a mission. When Calvin murders a group of American soldiers in their sleep, this brings the surviving platoon members out for revenge and they ruthlessly pursue the trio through the wilderness.

Film is directed by Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here) from a script by he and Grady Hendrix and not only does he cast Native American actors in Native American roles, but audaciously paints the American soldiers clearly as the bad guys. Low budget film has a very raw feel to it, shot in Upstate New York and with minimal sets. The acting is a bit uneven at times, but the casting, costumes and settings give atmosphere to this very violent and brutal period flick. It has a deliberately methodical pace and there is a slight supernatural edge to it, especially in the last act. Add to that a very effective electronic score by Wojciech Golczewski and you have an interesting and effective little movie from Ted Geoghegan. Also stars horror film familiar face Noah Segan (Some Kind of Hate, Starry Eyes) and WWE Superstar Luke Harper under his real name of Jonathan Huber. Recommended for something a little different.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: WHEN WE FIRST MET (2018)

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WHEN WE FIRST MET (2018)

Dull and sometimes annoying romantic comedy has Noah (an awful Adam Devine) watching the love of his life Avery (Alexandra Daddario) become engaged to another man (Robbie Amell). He somehow uses a photo-booth he and Avery used on the Halloween night they first met and travels back in time three years to that day, determined not to end up being just the best friend this time.

This is a terrible romantic comedy that sadly starts out OK till we once again use both the Groundhog Day and Big plot devices of both someone going back in time and reliving a fateful day over and over to try to get things right. None of it done cleverly like in Happy Death Day. It’s a simply unimaginative script by Miracle Jones, whose writing is anything but, lamely directed by Ari Sandel, who did much better helming The Duff . It’s monotonous and tedious to watch Noah keep going back to that day and trying more and more ludicrous ways to win Avery, all the while screwing things up even worse. Then two thirds of the way in, he switches his attention to Avery’s gal pal Carrie (Shelly Hennig). WHAT? This is a terribly written and generic rom-com that has no point or purpose and uses a now time worn plot device in the most unimaginative way possible. Add to that a truly smug and grating performance by lead Devine and there is little to no reason to waste time on this flick. At least Daddario’s cute and perky thing saved her dignity in this mess.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: MARROWBONE (2017)

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MARROWBONE (2017)

Film takes place in the late 60s and finds an ailing mother (Nicola Harrison) traveling, with her four children, to the United States to her ancestral home to escape her husband. When the mother dies, eldest son Jack (George MacKay) decides to hide her death till he turns twenty-one and can take custody of his three siblings (Matthew Stagg, Charlie Heaton and Mia Goth). Now alone in the house, the four must deal with something that dwells in the abandoned home with them…is it something supernatural, or a dark secret that has taken a life of it’s own.

Written and directed by Sergio G. Sánchez this is an atmospheric mystery/thriller in the spirit of flicks like The Others and The Orphanage. We know something isn’t right in the house as the kids cover up mirrors and little Sam (Stagg) is convinced it is the ghost of their father, a cruel man who they say is now dead. We also have seen enough flicks like this to have our own suspicions, as to who or what lurks in the bricked-up attic. Once the credits role and the secrets are revealed, it is effective, though we have already figured out parts of it and aren’t exactly surprised at the rest. The very ending itself also doesn’t quite sit well, either, as we question a certain character’s choices. An atmospheric mystery, though one that doesn’t quite takes as by surprise as we would have liked and does leave some questions as it concludes. Also stars Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split) as pretty neighbor, Allie, who takes in interest in Jack.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DRACULA’S DOG (1977)

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DRACULA’S DOG (1977)

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

Also known as Zoltan: Hound of Dracula and based on the book Hounds of Dracula by Ken Johnson, this 1977 horror features the legendary vampire’s mutt trying to recreate his master. After being accidentally revived by Romanian soldiers excavating a tomb, Dracula’s manservant Veidt Smit (Reggie Nalder) and his dog Zoltan, set off to America to find Michael Drake (Michael Pataki) who is the last surviving member of Dracula’s bloodline. Once they find him, they plan to turn him into a bloodsucker and their new master. In hot pursuit is Van Helsing-like Inspector Vaclav Branco (José Ferrer) who plans to stop them and their fiendish plot.

Canine-centric vampire flick is written by Frank Ray Perilli, based on Johnson’s book and directed by Albert Band, father of Full Moon Studio’s Charles Band. It’s a silly movie for sure, though played very straight and if there is anything that actually works here it’s that Zoltan and his pack of vampire dogs are kinda fierce and spooky thanks to trainer Karl Miller. There are some fun goof-ups, along the way, like the opening scene that takes place in Romania, with the Romanian army, where a military jeep clearly says “U.S. Navy” on the hood. It’s low budget is no better illustrated than by the fact that it mostly takes place outdoors during a Drake family camping trip, reducing the need for sets. The make-up and gore FX are by Stan Winston, so at least they are done well and director Band does give the silly proceedings a bit of atmosphere. The fact that it’s a film about Dracula’s dog and is taken as seriously as it is, at the very least gives it’s makers some audacity points.

As for the cast, the doberman playing Zoltan is definitely the standout. He is a spooky pooch. Reggie Nalder (Salem’s Lot) is creepy as Smit, but Nalder always did nail creepy in his performances. Pataki plays it straight as the clueless last heir to Dracula’s coffin and José Ferrer takes the material very seriously as the valiant Inspector Branco. The supporting players are a mixed bag and the other dogs in the film prove the most effective actors in their roles.

This is a silly flick, though taken very seriously by the cast and crew. It makes it all the more watchable, but it still is about Dracula’s best friend, after all. There is some decent make-up and gore courtesy of a young Stan Winston and it does have some atmosphere to go along with the unintentional chuckles. Worth a look. Only in the 70s, folks!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 hounds of Dracula.

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REVIEW: BLACK PANTHER (2018)

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BLACK PANTHER (2018)

Black Panther is the latest edition to the MCU and once again Marvel comes up with a way to keep this series fresh after ten years and eighteen films. The movie opens with a brief introduction to the history of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. It tells of the fateful meteorite landing which introduced the miracle metal vibranium to the land, which transformed Wakanda into a technically advanced civilization. They’ve long kept hidden their technology from the world, though, to prevent ill use of their weaponry. Enter the newly crowned King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who is also The Black Panther, Wakanda’s protector as well as ruler. While still mourning the death of his father, T’Challa finds out a hard truth about the death of his uncle and of a cousin he didn’t know he had…a cousin known as the mercenary Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who wants to take the throne and use Wakanda’s arms technology to start a global revolution.

This sometimes stunning film is directed by Ryan Coogler from a script by he and Joe Robert Cole. Coogler has a wonderfully sumptuous visual eye and making full use of African cultural influence turns this into a film worth seeing for the sights alone. His script with Cole takes things deeper than that with a story rich in depth, not only in it’s cultural surroundings but in the political, racial and social issues effecting it’s African characters and the continent’s descendants around the world. It weaves this context into it’s action/adventure story-line very well, so it’s never preaching, but the issues are boldly there. It represents those who have a more aggressive way of dealing with these issues in it’s antagonist N’Jadaka / Killmonger and those who see a more peaceful solution in it’s hero T’Challa. It also doesn’t shy away from the fact that these differences can pit brother against brother, too. Black Panther is still also very much a superhero movie and we gets some spectacular action, some amazing gadgets and even a James Bond-ish trip to South Korea, where T’Challa meets old friend Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and old foe Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) who is aligned with Killmonger. Panther is given some wonderful support in his sister Suri (Letitia Wright) who is technology savvy and is the “Q” to T’Challa’s Bond. There is king’s bodyguard Okoye (Danai Gurira) who is Wakanda’s greatest warrior, elder Zuri (Forest Whitaker) and his proud and strong mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett). The SPFX are amazing, there is a wonderfully African infused soundtrack by Ludwig Göransson and some beautifully realized dream sequences that add even more depth to a film that has spirit and heart as well as action.

Simply put this movie also has a great cast. Boseman is a perfect fit for a character that has to be ruler, hero and diplomat, as well as, simply a man. He is charming, handsome and gives the heavily burdened T’Challa a sense of humor and warmth as well. Michael B. Jordan is solid as his vengeful cousin known as Killmonger. Jordan is usually in the role of hero or nice guy and here he shows he can be a bad-ass too. N’Jadaka is a street smart killer raised in America and he brings that urban edge to his warrior with a mission. His purpose may have a bit of a noble center, but it’s his methods and ruthless execution of them are what make him a villain. Serkis is fun as Klaue, following-up his amusing part in Age of Ultron and it’s too bad his part here is almost as small. He’s a fun and eccentric bad guy. Letitia Wright is cute and energetic as T’Challa’s genius sister Suri and Danai Gurira is a blast as warrior woman, Okoye. She’s a powerhouse and deserves her own movie. Rounding out are strong characterizations from Freeman as Ross, Angela Bassett as Ramonda and Forest Whitaker as the noble Zuri. There is also a cool post credits cameo I won’t spoil.

Once again Marvel has delivered a splendid entertainment that is at once a story with it’s own heart, soul and purpose and yet fits well into the MCU game plan. There are political and racial issues weaved into T’Challa’s first solo flick and it is as energetic and exciting as it is thought provoking. Ryan Coogler is a director who has not only a brilliant visual style but can make popcorn entertainment that is also food for thought. A delightfully entertaining movie with some well appreciated heart and depth. As always, stay through the entire credits for two extra scenes.

-MonsterZero NJ

rated 3 and 1/2 black panthers.

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES FEB. 16-18

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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. “Black Panther” $192 Million

2. “Peter Rabbit” $17.25 Million

3. “Fifty Shades Freed’ $16.9 Million

4. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” $7.9 Million

5. “The 15:17 to Paris” $7.7 Million

6. “The Greatest Showman” $5.1 Million

7. “Early Man” $3.1 Million

8. “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” $2.5 Million

9. “Winchester” $2.2 Million

 

10. “Samson” $1.9 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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