BARE BONES: HOST (2020)

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Host (2020)

Host is an innovative little found footage film in that it was filmed entirely on Zoom and during the Covid 19 lockdown. It has a group of friends assembling on Zoom during the lockdown to conduct an online seance. When one of the girls (Jemma Moore) doesn’t take the event seriously, her prank invites a malevolent entity into all their homes.

Hour long paranormal horror is directed by Rob Savage from his script with Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd. It’s fun and can be quite spooky, especially in it’s first half. It’s at it’s most effective when it is being subtly creepy, as when the girls first lose the help of their online medium (Seylan Baxter) and now have to go it alone, quarantined in their homes, with things going bump in the night. The second half takes things to another and more over-the-top level and that’s when it loses it’s grip somewhat. A lot of the bits we then see are directly lifted from the Paranormal Activity series, such as bodies dropping from the ceiling, powder on the floor to reveal footprints and sheets that suddenly take on the shape of something underneath. To give Savage credit, some of this stuff still works and the jump scares are effective, but some of it is also very hokey and the familiarity with the Oren Peli series, removes Host from the veneer of being real, that worked so well in the first act. Still, overall, the inventiveness in getting it made, a charming and effective cast and all the things it succeeds at, make it a fun 60 minute spook show. Stars Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova and Caroline Ward as our five main characters all using their own names. Seylan Baxter plays the medium Seylan and Edward Linard plays friend Teddy, who leaves the circle early on, but gets drawn back in towards the end. Now streaming on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980)

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BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980)

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

Never one to pass up an opportunity to make a buck on a trend, Roger Corman put this space opera into production with the hopes of capturing a little of the Star Wars lightening in New World Pictures’ bottle. The story finds the inhabitants of the peaceful planet of Akir, under siege from Sador of the Malmori (John Saxon), a ruthless warlord who conquers worlds and uses spare body parts to keep himself young and tyrannical. Not able to defend themselves, village elder Zed (Jeff Corey) sends the rebellious young Shad (Richard Thomas) out to hire mercenaries to defend their planet against the invading army. Can Shad find warriors bad and brave enough to take on Sador and his planet-destroying Hammerhead starship?

As you can tell by the story description, this is more a take on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai than a retread of George Lucas’ box office titan, though Star Wars rip-off it shamelessly still is. No more obvious than the planet name Akir, which is a tribute to the legendary Japanese director, whose story is being appropriated here. The fun script is by John Sayles (Piranha, The Howling) and it’s directed with a comic book flare by Jimmy T. Murakami, who previously had experience in animation. The film never makes a joke out of the proceedings, but is loaded with humor and plenty of innovative SPFX on a small budget, as designed by James (Terminator, Aliens, Avatar) Cameron. The action is fast and furious, there is a variety of ships to go along with the motley group of mercenaries and it’s all a good time as intended. Sure it’s only got about a fifth of Star Wars’ budget, but the film has loads of heart and the hard work and imagination of everyone that worked on it shows through. The FX can be cheesy and there are a few spots where things slow down a bit, but otherwise it is a cult classic in it’s own right and how can you not like a movie that has a spaceship with a set of boobs…only in a Roger Corman flick, folks!

The cast really make this work especially well. All the actors get the tone and none of them treat the material like a joke, yet still have a good time with their roles. Richard Thomas makes a noble hero as Shad. A young man willing to risk all to save his world and people. Darlanne Fluegel is pretty and resilient as Nanelia, who joins Shad on his quest and becomes his first love interest. John Saxon is simply on target with his portrayal of Sador. He gives him a sense of malice and villainy, yet is careful to never carry him too far into over-the-top territory, so he stays threatening. As our warriors, we have George Peppard as “Space Cowboy” a space trucker caught up in the fight, Robert Vaughn as Gelt, an outlaw on the run, Sybil Danning as the beautiful but arrogant warrior woman Saint-Exmin, Morgan Woodward as the reptilian Cayman, who has a personal grudge against Sador, as well as, a heat communicating duo called The Kelvin and a group of five clones, who act and think as one, called The Nestor. And let’s not forget Sador’s army of patchwork mutants, too. A colorful and diverse group of characters if there ever was.

A cult classic in itself, this is a fun low budget space epic with loads of heart. Sure, the sets are cheesy, as are some of the SPFX, the dialogue corny and the pacing a little erratic, but this movie is a lot of fun. The cast all get the material and give it their all. The imagination of James Cameron and his FX crew is up on screen and it has one of James Horner’s best scores. A Roger Corman cult classic that may have been inspired by George Lucas’ surprise blockbuster, but has earned an identity and place in B-movie history all it’s own.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Sadors.

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SATAN’S SLAVES (2017)

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SATAN’S SLAVES (2017)

Indonesian horror is from Impetigore writer/director Joko Anwar and tells of the ailing matriarch (Ayu Laksmi) of the Suwono family. When she passes, strange things start to occur around the house, causing eldest daughter Rini (Impetigore‘s Tara Basroto look into her mother’s past. Rini finds to her horror that her mother was part of a Satanic sect and the price of what benefits she gained from it are to be paid to that sect in the form of the youngest child in the family, little Ian (Muhammad Adhiyat).

Anwar directs again from his own screenplay, this time based on a 1980 Indonesian horror of the same name. It’s a spooky film with some offsetting visuals, such as ghastly specters and the dead rising from their graves. It’s not quite as consistently intense as Impetigore and seems like about ten minutes, or so, longer than it needs to be, but it is more of a slow burn that comes to a very creepy last act and climax. The benefit of a slower pace is that we get to know the members of this family well enough to care, especially Rini, and we find out the details of the hidden part of their mother’s life gradually, as they do. Anwar also plays with the motivations of some of his spectral guests in the family’s modest home, providing some interesting twists. The writer/director gets really good work out of his cast, including the kids and especially leading lady Tara Barso, as a young woman forced to take over as head of a supernaturally embattled family. Anwar juggles a fairly large amount of characters and it helps that his strong storytelling skills are at work. Can this clan keep together and save little Ian?…and themselves?…the flick is worth a look to find out the answer. On the technical side, the visual and make-up FX are well done and provide some very chilling entities to populate this supernatural thriller and Anwar’s visual eye keeps things atmospheric and unsettling.

This is a spooky and atmospheric film from a filmmaker who is proving he is good at supplying both scares and story. Director Joko Anwar and leading lady Tara Basro are also proving to be a formidable team as they were in Impetigore. Film can be found streaming on Shudder and if you liked Impetigore, you’ll probably like this!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 (out of 4) sisters of Satan’s spawn!

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: YUMMY (2019)

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YUMMY (2020)

Belgium zombie comedy has Michael (Bart Hollanders) taking his girlfriend Alison (Maaike Neuville) and her mother Sylvia (Annick Christiaens) to an obscure clinic to have plastic surgery. There is some kind of strange experimentation going on there and when Michael releases a patient (Louise Bergez) he finds bound to a stretcher and muzzled, he unleashes one of the side effects of said experiments, a flesh-eating zombie. Soon Michael and company are trapped inside the hospital surrounded by hordes of hungry undead.

Flick is directed by Lars Damoiseaux from his script with Eveline Hagenbeek. There is nothing new here zombie flick-wise, but the film does have a manic energy during it’s action sequences and the expected gore is abundant and well done. There are some funny bits, a flaming penis gag being one of the standouts, and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 88 minutes. There are a few spots where the film stops dead…pun might be intended…for exposition, but otherwise it’s fast paced and can be bloody fun at times. If anything, it never tries to be more than it is. Nothing new, but an amusing zombie comedy if you aren’t burnt out on this overrun sub-genre.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE RENTAL (2020)

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THE RENTAL (2020)

Flick has two couples, Charlie and his wife Michelle (Dan Stevens and Alison Brie) and his brother Josh and girlfriend Mina (Jeremy Allen White and Sheila Vand) renting a remote oceanside house for the weekend. Things get off to a tense start when Mina accuses handyman/house owner Taylor (Toby Huss) of being a racist and as Mina and Charlie are business partners, there is tension between them of the sexual kind. Add to that, a mysterious individual is watching the couples from without and within the house and it’s a recipe for a weekend of infidelity, betrayal, violence and murder.

Flick is the debut feature from actor/director Dave Franco from his script with Joe Swanberg. It’s an atmospheric but bland mix of genres and sub-genres that never really grabs hold of you. We get a slasher flick, mixed with a stalker/voyeur flick, mixed with a ‘self-centered yuppies try to cover up a death to save their selfish asses’ flick and none of these elements are engrossing, nor is the mash-up itself one that is put together with much cleverness. Taken as a whole, or in it’s genre/sub-genre parts, it’s all very flat and routine. Mix in the fact that none of the characters are particularly likable and there is no one to care about or root for, either. They are all self-absorbed and seem to have little problem cheating on, lying to and backstabbing each other. Once the stalker and slasher element kicks in, we really don’t care if any of them fall victim to his hammer. We don’t care if he uses his acquired footage to turn them against each other, either. Besides, why go through all trouble manipulating them if you’re just going to hunt them down and try to kill them regardless? Even the victim whose death the four are trying to cover up…in a sub-plot that adds nothing and doesn’t further the story any…isn’t particularly likable. The dog Reggie (Chunk) is the only character we do like and even he conveniently disappears for most of the last act. There is some graphic violence and some bland shower sex and overall, this is simply a very routine and forgettable flick beneath the sumptuous cinematography and a bit of atmosphere in the last act.

The cast are solid enough in their parts, but, again, none of the characters are particularly likable. Stevens’ Charlie is a bit full of himself and is apparently a cheater and does so as Michelle sleeps in the next room. Alison Brie’s Michelle is a bit of a prissy whiner, even before she has to deal with infidelity and a dead body. Josh seems like a stereotypical hotheaded punk and while White is fine in the role, he comes across as a jerk, especially when he outs Charlie to Michelle about his cheating ways. Vand is possibly the most likable, as the feisty Mina, but she looses any sympathy when she cheats on Josh with Charlie. Even Toby Huss’ homeowner Taylor is accused of being a creep and a racist, so we don’t endear to him either, even when he gets caught in the middle of couples and killer…which is no spoiler, as it is obvious from the start that Taylor isn’t our stalker. No strong suspicion is ever set up. As for the killer, he doesn’t generate enough menace to make an impression and is given no personality. Even the climactic coda has been done before and is nowhere near as unsettling as it’s meant to be. Again, bland.

Franco shows he can give a flick a little mood and atmosphere and has a good visual eye, but needs to come up with a better script and story to put that to good use. This flick is a ho-hum mash-up of routine elements, some that don’t even really seem to serve the story much. Why pit the couples against one another with infidelity and the murder cover-up, only to have them stalked indeterminately by the killer anyway? It seems like filler and a waste of time. Overall a very flat and routine thriller from Dave Franco and IFC Midnight.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) shower heads complete with spy camera.

 

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FAREWELL AND R.I.P. TO THE LEGENDARY JOHN SAXON!

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Photo by New Line – © 1987 New Line Cinema. All rights reserved.

Carmine “John Saxon” Orrico 1936-2020

Heartbreaking news comes to movie fans tonight, a bonafide cinema and TV legend has passed away, the legendary John Saxon. Born in Brooklyn as Carmine Orrico, John Saxon enjoyed a career that spanned six decades and over 200 films with a variety of different roles and in countless classics. A favorite actor, especially to horror film fans, the legendary Saxon lost a battle with pneumonia at the age of 83. He shall be missed greatly and his legacy will live on forever. Farewell and R.I.P. John Saxon.

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-MonsterZero NJ

Source: internet

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: IMPETIGORE (2019)

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IMPETIGORE (2019)

Impetigore is an Indonesian horror that finds a young woman named Maya (Tara Basro) looking into her past after a mysterious individual tries to kill her. Also down on her luck, Maya returns, with her best friend Dini (Marissa Anita), to the rural village that is her birthplace, to seek her inheritance. Having been away from her family home since she was a child, she finds that there is a curse on this small village. Worse still, the locals believe her family is involved and the only way to end the curse is to kill the last remaining member of her family…Maya.

Very spooky and well-made flick is written and directed by Joko Anwar and is a nice mix of dark folktale and city girl in a backwoods nightmare. Anwar creates a very thick atmosphere of malevolence and dread as Maya enters her former hometown, that she hasn’t step foot in since she was five years-old. As those around her plot against her, Maya finds a past filled with jealousy, infidelity, murder and black magic. The writer/director slowly lets us find out the real facts about Maya’s past, as she does, with a nice last act reveal that finally unveils the dark truth behind the curse and it’s origin, as well as, Maya’s role in it and how it can be stopped. It’s classic storytelling and the elements of dark fairy tale, backwoods horror and Indonesian culture are all blended skillfully. The last act has some very suspenseful moments, as the outnumbered Maya is hunted through the village and surrounding woods and it’s all delivered with a very impressive visual style from director Anwar and cinematographer Ical Tanjung. Up till that point, the film is consistently unsettling as Maya gradually finds out what’s going on and how much trouble she’s in. It helps that our heroine is also very likable, as is her spunky best friend Dini. There is some bloody violence and gore and the plot elements involving village newborns, missing children, and puppets made out of human skin are extremely effective, especially when woven into the story so well. Anwar is a skilled storyteller and one who knows how to tell one in a very chilling and unnerving way.

The cast are all very good with lead Tara Basro standing out as Maya. She is a young woman trying to make a living in the city and who remembers very little about her past. When that past comes for her with a vengeance, she bravely, though cautiously, goes to get some answers, though her dire financial situation also plays a factor in her decision. When she realizes there is a village out to kill her, her resilient side comes through. Marissa Anita is cute and feisty as her friend Dini. Dini is a true friend indeed, traveling with Maya to this spooky little village in the middle of nowhere and the actress makes her very endearing. Ario Bayu is very effective as the film’s villain, village elder Ki Saptadi. He is the one who believes Maya’s demise is the answer to the village’s curse problems and Anwar does throw us a nice curve concerning Saptadi in the last act and Bayu plays it all well. In support there is Christine Hakim who oozes malevolence as Nyi Misni, Saptadi’s mother and Zidni Hakim and Faradina Mufti play Maya’s parents in flashbacks with no dialogue.

This is a very spooky and atmospheric film from a filmmaker who knows how to tell a story. It’s part backwoods horror and part dark folktale, with a young woman whose past comes back to haunt her. There is a very effective mood of danger and malevolence, some very atmospheric Indonesian locations, really taunt suspense and some surprising reveals and unlocked secrets, that enrich an already engrossing tale. Highly recommended and both director Joko Anwar and leading lady Tara Basro are talents to keep an eye on. Now streaming on Shudder!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) unfortunate heirs to a family curse!

 

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TERRIFIER 2 GETS a TEASER TRAILER!

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Art the Clown is back and Damien Leone’s sequel finally gets a teaser trailer! Here is IMDB’s story synopsis for Art’s latest…

After being resurrected by a sinister entity, Art the Clown returns to the timid town of Miles County where he targets a teenage girl and her younger brother on Halloween night.

The film stars horror legend Felissa Rose, David Howard Thornton returning as Art and Lauren LaVera as heroine Sienna. No official release date has been announced, but one can hope for something around Halloween!

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-MonsterZero NJ

Source: Youtube and IMDB

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BARE BONES: DEAD SHACK (2017)

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DEAD SHACK (2017)

Horror/comedy finds a dysfunctional family heading up to a remote house in the woods for some vacation time. Divorced dad Roger (Donavon Stinson) is bringing his daughter Summer (Lizzie Boys), son Colin (Gabriel LaBelle), Colin’s friend Jason (Matthew Nelson-Mahood) and Roger’s latest younger woman conquest Lisa (Valerie Tian from Juno and Jennifer’s Body) together for what he hopes is some bonding time. If trying to get along isn’t hard enough for this bunch, they cross paths with a mysterious neighbor (Lauren Holly), who has a very deadly secret in her house…one the nosey kids unfortunately let loose.

Canadian flick is directed by Peter Ricq from his script with Phil Ivanusic and Davila LeBlanc. As such it’s a bit of an uneven mix as it starts out more comedic and then gets very gory and violent in it’s last act. It’s amusing enough and the gore is well done, but some of the characters, especially drunken, man-child Roger, are very grating and we never get a clear enough explanation as to why the neighbor’s “family” are in the state they are in. Not that we really need much of one, as the bloody hi-jinx are the point here. Lizzie Boys does make a cute and perky heroine, Holly an appropriate villain and the film moves along quickly, so, at 85 minutes long, there isn’t too much time to think about how silly it all is. A moderately entertaining movie currently streaming on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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