BARE BONES: LOWLIFE (2017)

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LOWLIFE (2017)

Almost 25 years later and filmmakers are still trying to recreate the magic of Quentin Tarantino’s now classic Pulp Fiction. This latest attempt takes place on the mean streets of Southern L.A. where sleazy crime boss Teddy “Bear” Haynes (Mark Burnham) runs an illegal organ harvesting business beneath his taco restaurant. He uses a Mexican wrestler “El Monstro” (Ricardo Adam Zarante) as his enforcer. El Monstro’s girlfriend…and Haynes adopted daughter…Kaylee (Santana Dempsey) is pregnant and is the latest target for Haynes’ business when her real mother Crystal (Nicki Michaeaux) pleads with him for a kidney for Kaylee’s dying father, Dan (King Orba), unknowing her long given away daughter is the perfect match. When she finds out, she teams with El Monstro to take Haynes down and bloody hi-jinx ensue…still with me?

Flick is directed by Ryan Prows with script and story by he and at least four other people. It’s a fairly dull movie with it’s attempts at dry, hip humor falling mostly flat and director Prows not having nearly enough style to evoke QT’s most famous work. There is graphic violence, organ removal and the film goes back and forth in time as Pulp Fiction did, but isn’t anywhere near as fun. The cast are all fine, but the flick is just never really that interesting or entertaining and is just too obvious in it’s wannabe goals. Even at slightly over 90 minutes it was tedious to sit through this dull nonsense. El Monstro was amusing and deserved a better movie to be in.

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES APRIL 6-8

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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. “A Quiet Place” $50 Million

2. “Ready Player One” $25 Million

3. “Blockers” $21.4 Million

4. “Black Panther” $8.4 Million

5. “I Can Only Imagine” $8.3 Million

6. “Tyler Perry’s Acrimony” $8 Million

7. “Chappaquiddick” $6.2 Million

8. “Sherlock Gnomes” $5.6 Million

9. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” $4.9 Million

10. “Isle Of Dogs” $4.6 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: A QUIET PLACE (2018)

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A QUIET PLACE (2018)

Our tale opens in the year 2020, just 89 days into some kind of apocalyptic event involving aggressive predators who hunt by sound and are virtually un-killable. We are introduced to the Abbott family, who have been surviving by living a life of silence at their remote farmhouse and raiding local stores for supplies. It is on one such supply run that little Beau (Cade Woodward) makes an innocent mistake, with a toy spaceship he got from a store and the Abbott’s suffer a devastating loss. The film then picks up about a year later when mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is pregnant again and father Lee (John Krasinski) is trying to make life comfortable and safe for his family, including Marcus (Noah Jupe) and his deaf older sister Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who blames herself for Beau’s death. One night, as Evelyn is about to give birth, a series of events separates the family members and the creatures are brought to their doorstep. Will the Abbotts be able to survive as their worst fear comes true?

While this is as mainstream as horror gets, it is exceptionally well directed by star Krasinski, who also co-wrote with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. We’ve seen critters that hunt by sound before (The Descent), but never have we seen such a detailed world, crafted out of necessity, around their existence. The Abbotts walk barefoot and use trails of dirt to get from place to place. Their house has painted squares on the floor to mark the floor boards that don’t squeak. They eat on lettuce leaves instead of plates. As Regan is deaf, they all speak sign language and that helps them communicate quietly. They are an everyday family in a horrible situation and we like them and thus as they convey a constant sense of alertness and tension, we are tense, too. Krasinski keeps that intensity tight as little Beau’s demise illustrates what happens with the slightest sound…and that no one is safe…so we are startled whenever a sound is made. The director knows this and sets us up by the foreshadowing of sounds and accidents to come. Yes, this is a very manipulative flick, but in a very good way. We know that the nail pulled up will cause trouble and we damn well know Evelyn is not giving birth at a convenient time…and babies make lots of noise, too. And just so we never forget these beasts are dangerous, we get a few bloody reminders of what a mess they can make. Sure, the film can be predictable, but the director uses that against us and very well. There are some plot holes. The Abbott house is filed with items that look like they could fall at any moment…way too many tchotchkes for a family trying to be quiet…and just where are they getting electricity if the world is decimated…a generator?…and don’t generators make a lot of noise? Still the film is constructed expertly to get reactions out of the audience and it does. The sense of isolation also works very well, too, in keeping us on edge. The creatures are kept in shadows till the last act and are very effectively designed when we finally see them. They remain scary even when out of the dark. Their exact origin is kept ambiguous, but newspaper clippings in the Abbott house give us some information to make our own conclusions. The quiet nature of the film also gives opportunities for some fun jump scares, but not the cheap kind. There are legitimate scares here, even if we do feel Krasinski has been pulling our strings like a bunch of popcorn munching marionettes.

The small cast are great at conveying a loving family in a constant state of fear. Despite a lot on his plate, Krasinski the actor delivers a strong and caring father in his Lee Abbott. He will do anything for his family and his technical know-how helps create a safe place for them…as safe as it can be. A very likable man. Emily Blunt is solid as Evelyn. True, she becomes more of a damsel in distress in the second half, but portrays a strong woman nonetheless and one still wounded over the loss of one child, despite the impending birth of another. Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds is great as Regan. She is a strong-willed young girl, though one who feels directly responsible for the death of her little brother. She gives a very pained and emotional performance using only her body language and eyes. Noah Jupe is good as younger brother Marcus. Marcus is a frightened boy, especially after witnessing the death of his sibling, but will learn to be strong in a dangerous world. Finally cute little Cade Woodward made an impression as Beau. He doesn’t have a lot of screen-time, but made enough of an impact that his loss is very traumatic for the audience. A great cast that realistically portrays a loving family. Krasinski and Blunt are married in real life, so it probably wasn’t too much of a stretch.

Whoever says PG-13 horror is weak is proven wrong here by John Krasinski. In the right hands it can be a scary and suspenseful time and A Quiet Place sure is. True, this is a horror film for folks who don’t normally watch horror, but that’s just fine. This longtime horror fan had a fun time and really appreciated director John Krasinski’s manipulative and skilled direction. He gets the most out of his scenario and used some of it’s predictability to get us unsettled. Sometimes it’s just as nerve-wracking to know what’s coming as it is when not. The flick’s just bloody enough to get it’s point across and has some fearsome critters to add validity to our featured family’s fears. Well done and highly recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 …SHHHHHH!…They’ll hear you!

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HAPPY 92nd BIRTHDAY, ROGER CORMAN!

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The legendary director/producer of countless classic exploitation and B-movies turns 92 today! Happy Birthday, Roger Corman!

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If you haven’t picked up this great book about Roger Corman’s career, YOU SHOULD! (review HERE)


-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: APARTMENT 212 (2017)

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APARTMENT 212 (2017)

Jennifer (Penelope Mitchell) is moving to the city to escape her abusive ex-husband, Boyd (Chris Johnson) and start life anew. She moves into a rundown apartment complex and immediately starts hearing noises and whimpering from her reclusive neighbor. Soon after that neighbor commits suicide, Jennifer starts to awaken with nasty bite marks. These nocturnal attacks escalate, but the exterminator says she has no bugs or vermin and her doctor can’t identify them. Her lack of sleep is getting to her and everyone, including her sweet neighbor Terry (Kyle Gass) thinks she’s on drugs. Jennifer begins to investigate her deceased neighbor’s apartment for answers and finds she might be up against something out of a nightmare.

Horror is well directed by Hylar Garcia from a screenplay by he, Kathryn Gould and Jim Brennan. The film has some solid tension and until our reveal, gives us the willies quite nicely. Garcia paces the film moderately and it is a bit of a slow burn, but it gives us the chance to get to know Jennifer and both like and feel sorry for her, on both counts of being victimized by her mystery pest and the abusive ex-husband who finds her quite easily. It is a creepy flick for the most part. There are some flaws which kept this from being a real treat. First off, if Jennifer is trying to escape the abusive Boyd, why does she move, what appears to be, driving distance away from his trailer. You’d think a few states away would be more effective. Next, an opening credits sequence with her neighbor gives us a good idea of what we are dealing with right off the bat and thus removes much of the suspense of figuring it out along with Jennifer. The sequence is disturbing, it starts things off ominously, but practically lets the creature out of the bag, so to speak. Finally, when our little “guest” is revealed, it looks like something out of a Charles Band, Full Moon flick and proves that the imagination can conjure up far worse when it remained unseen. The showdown between Jennifer and her nemesis also evoked the Karen Black Trilogy of Terror episode Amelia which featured the Zuni devil doll. Maybe that was intentional, or maybe an influence…and it was well done enough…but the tone of the confrontation isn’t as creepy or disturbing as what came before. It never sinks into camp, but the very nature of it makes it somewhat lighter and less intense. The film also comes to a predictable conclusion, though it is fitting and it works.

The small cast work very well in making the story effective. Penelope Mitchell is very likable as the young woman trying to escape abuse, Jennifer. We instantly like her and obviously feel sympathy for her when both the attacks start and abusive cop Boyd finds her fairly quickly. She’s a likable actress and handles the material really well, taking it serious enough to make it work and it gives the mystery intruder some weight. Chris Johnson is very effective as Boyd. The bad tempered cop is a very unlikable person and it makes us like Jennifer more. The character needed to be detestable with only a few scenes and Johnson delivers a real A-hole. Rounding out is Kyle Gass as the sweet-natured Terry, who is Jennifer’s first new friend at the complex and veteran actress Sally Kirkland as the grumpy landlord Claudette. A good cast.

Overall, this was a very creepy and effective flick from Hylar Garcia. It has some flaws which chip away some of the chills, including some plot holes and feeding us some information a little too early. The film’s pest isn’t as effective when finally seen as it was when it remained stealthily hidden and the final confrontation evokes a classic 70s TV horror, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as Garcia keeps it from turning campy, but does give the film a bit different tone than the disturbing chills that came before it. Still recommend giving this a look, as it still succeeds more than it stumbles. Watch through the credits for a few additional scenes.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 band aids.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: TERRIFIER (2016)

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TERRIFIER (2016)

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

Terrifier is the first full length horror to star spooky Art The Clown (David Howard Thornton), who previously appeared in a few stories of writer/director Damien Leone’s 2013 Halloween anthology flick All Hallows’ Eve. It’s Leone’s second film and the story is once again set on Halloween, as gal pals Dawn (Catherine Corcoran) and Tara (Jenna Kanell) are on their way home from a party. They encounter a scary clown and while Tara is legitimately scared, Dawn teases him. This begins a night of horror as the deranged clown corners the girls in an old apartment building basement. Art plans a horrible fate for both them, as well as, Tara’s sister Vicky (Samantha Scaffidi) who is on the way to pick them up and unaware of the psychotic clown awaiting her.

Written and directed by Leone, the director does show he can build tension and can produce some very creepy moments. It’s almost a shame then that he also likes to wallow in Herschel Gordon Lewis levels of gore, as the film can be creepy enough, at times, without having to drown us in severed limbs and cruelty. Let’s just say simple stabbings and shootings are not Art’s style. The clown villain is disturbing even without his blood-soaked antics and one wonders if Leone had dialed it back a bit, the film would have been more effective. As is, the constant hacking and dismemberment wears out its welcome and we become numb to it even before the 82 minute run time is up. It’s also a bit disappointing that the story switches attention from Tara to sister Vicky, about half way through, as Tara was proving quite the fiery opponent for Art and had a stronger presence than the more demure Vicky. Leone also knows how to find and utilize some really creepy urban locations and one might feel the urge to shower after spending so much time in the basement labyrinth Art uses as his house of horrors. For those who think this sounds a but misogynist, there are two male pizza parlor employees and a pest exterminator who demonstrate that Art dismembers everyone equally. The gore FX are fairly effective and are quite abundant as you can guess.

The cast do just fine, especially our three lead females. Jenna Kanell makes the biggest impression as the tough and feisty Tara. She gives Art a good fight and as stated, it’s a shame focus switches to Vicky when she arrives to play designated driver. It’s not that Samantha Scaffidi isn’t a decent final girl, it’s just Tara was a more interesting character. Vicky is more of a damsel who needs saving, while Tara was a fighter. Catherine Corcoran was cute and sexy as Dawn, but, unfortunately, we all know what happens to the sexy blonde in a flick like this, so…Rounding out David Howard Thornton is very effective as the silent Art. The actor projects the clown’s lunacy and lethal-ity quite well using only body language and his expressive eyes. There are also some supporting characters, homeless people and unsuspecting exterminators, to serve as clown fodder and they are fine for their purpose. Flick also features an opening scene cameo by All Hallows’ Eve‘s sexy Katie Maguire.

The film has it’s moments and the Art character is effective. Leone does manage some tension and legitimate scares and gives the flick some atmosphere. If anything takes it down a few notches, it is that relying on such extremely graphic gore and the constant acts of brutality by Art, by the last act, we are more tired of it, than unsettled by it. Still, Leone has a little something and Art is very creepy as creepy clowns go. Worth a look if you like your horror brutal and bloody.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 scary clowns.

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAR. 30-APRIL 1

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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. “Ready Player One” $41.2 Million

2. “Tyler Perry’s Acrimony” $17.1 Million

3. “Black Panther” $11.2 Million

4. “I Can Only Imagine” $10.7 Million

5. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” $9.2 Million

6. “Sherlock Gnomes” $7 Million

7. “Love, Simon” $4.8 million

8. “Tomb Raider” $4.7 Million

9. “A Wrinkle in Time” $4.69 Million

10. “Paul, Apostle of Christ” $3.5 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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