WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JULY 12-14

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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. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” $45.3 Million

2. “Toy Story 4” $20.6 Million

3. “Crawl” $12 Million

4. “Stuber” $8 Million

5. “Yesterday” $6.75 Million

6. “Aladdin” $5.8 Million

7. “Annabelle Comes Home” $5.55 Million

8. “Midsommar” $3.55 Million

9. “The Secret Life of Pets 2” $3.1 Million

10. “Men In Black: International” $2.2 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: CRAWL (2019)

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CRAWL (2019)

New flick from director Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, Piranha 3D) and producer Sam Raimi is basically 2010’s Burning Bright with alligators instead of a tiger…and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Flick has massive category 5 hurricane Wendy hitting Florida so hard even rescue operations are imperiled. College student Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) defies evacuation orders to track down her father Dave (Barry Pepper), who hasn’t answered texts or calls. She finds him at their old family house unconscious in the basement and soon finds out why…the rapidly flooding house is surrounded by a pack of very hungry alligators.

Aja directs from a script by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen (The Ward) and delivers a fun and sometimes intense thriller. We follow the father and daughter as they try to evade the reptilian predators both inside and outside, while the storm intensifies around them and slowly fills the house with water. There are some very suspenseful moments as Haley tries to get out of the basement and get help for her injured father, who is too hurt to escape on his own. It makes for some very tense moments as the vicious reptiles can come from almost anywhere and often do. In case we’ve forgotten what damage a gator can inflict, some would-be looters and a couple of cops arrive to become gory gator fodder to remind us. The film does slow down for a few moments here and there to give us some character development and some father/daughter bonding. It works both for and against the movie, as it does build a nice relationship between Haley and David, turning them into three dimensional characters, but also stops the momentum dead, at times, as the alligators seem to disappear during these moments. Once the third act kicks in, though, it’s all cat and mouse between Kellers and alligators as the waters rise in the gators’ advantage. Here Aja does what he does best and provides some intense and brutal action. The film looks great with a lot of underwater photography in the flooded house and Haley is put through some very tense and suspenseful set-pieces as she tries to escape and/or save her dad. A fun summer flick with some gory bite that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at a brisk 87 minutes.

It’s basically a two character show with the occasional gator snack showing up. Actress Kaya Scodelario has been through this before in Tiger House, where she played John McLane to a bunch of thieves that lay siege to her boyfriend’s house. Her Haley is courageous and resilient and does just as well against alligators as her Kelly did against home invaders. Scodelario proves she is not only a good actress, who can bring intensity, but she can kick ass as an action heroine. She gives Haley some nice depth in the quieter moments between scenes of her battling her reptilian adversaries with anything and everything available. Barry Pepper is also solid as her father, Dave. His character is both mourning a divorce and injured by gator bite and Pepper gives him some depth, so we feel for him. The two actors have a nice on-screen chemistry and work very well together portraying a father and daughter, who have their issues with each other. Good casting especially since the movie is very much on their shoulders.

Alexandre Aja is a versatile filmmaker even though he does seem to prefer the horror genre. This flick is not as intense or savage as his Hills Have Eyes remake, or outright bonkers like his ridiculously gory and fun Piranha 3D. It’s a mainstream thriller with some intense moments and some gory action, but not enough to scare off the casual movie goer. It does slow down for some character development and while that’s a good thing in making us care for these folks, it does kill the momentum in a few spots. Otherwise this is a tense and entertaining popcorn thriller from a director who knows intensity.

On a side note…This is a case of the trailer giving away too many good moments. If you plan to see this and haven’t watched the trailer yet…DON’T!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 (out of 4) alligators!

 

 

 

For those interested but be WARNED, trailer is SPOILER heavy…

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BOOK REVIEW: THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON by MALLORY O’ MEARA

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I know this is the Movie Madhouse, but I will review a book now and then, one that I really loved or one that pertains to the movie world…and what pertains more than a memoir about the woman behind one of the most famous horror icons in movie history, Milicent Patrick.

THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON by MALLORY O’ MEARA

You would think that a woman who was one of Disney’s first female animators and the designer of one of the most famous monsters in movie history, would be a household name, but Milicent Patrick’s legacy has gone virtually unknown, until a girl named Mallory O’Meara saw a picture of a beautiful woman working on the Creature from the Black Lagoon and swore to change that. Now an adult and a movie producer in her own right, O’Meara went on a quest to find the true story of this unsung pioneer artist and her journey is just as fascinating as the story she painstakingly uncovered.

O’Meara’s crusade was not an easy one. Peppered between the stories of Patrick’s upbringing as Mildred Elisabeth Fulvia Rossi, growing up around the Hearst estate where her father worked as an structural engineer, there are parallel’s to O’Meara’s own life and details of her investigation into Patrick’s. Whether it be going through endless files in Universal’s archives, or hitting the jackpot by tracking down Milicent’s niece “Gwen”, O’Meara’s task is worthy of a book of it’s own. It turns a simple biography into a fun mystery as we uncover the career of a talented woman, whose accomplishments were buried simply for making waves in a male dominated industry during the forties and fifties. We go along for the ride as O’Meara’s detective work uncovers Patrick’s breakaway from her strict family, to her going to art school, to becoming one of DIsney’s first female animators, including work on the masterpiece Fantasia. We’re then taken to the most important part of this untold story with her time working for Bud Westmore at Universal Studios make-up department, where Patrick did the initial designs for the Creature from the Black Lagoon…something Westmore took credit for…as well as other projects. Despite Universal sending her on tour with many of her monster designs, O’Meara paints a tragic story of professional jealousy…and maybe outright misogyny…as Bud Westmore fired Patrick for all the attention she was getting as “The Beauty Who Made The Beast”. The last third of the book is both sad and triumphant as Patrick’s personal and professional lives began a downward spiral that she never quite recovered from and author O’Meara details the big break of finally finding a living relative, who provided much of the info now in this book. Sure, there is a lot of filler, with details of Patrick’s life being so scarce, but some of it can be interesting, such as when we learn about another pioneer woman, architect Julia Morgan and some of Mallory’s own stories of what she’s had to face as a woman in a field still dominated by men.

The book isn’t perfect. O’Meara’s feminist rants can sometimes stop the story’s momentum and she does get repetitive. We understand she is passionate, but she makes her points well and doesn’t need to repeat herself. The whole book is a commentary on a woman whose rightful legacy was denied simply because she was making accomplishments and getting attention for them, in a man’s world. It makes O’Meara’s point without trying. Also, one sometimes wonders how and if she was able to remain objective dealing with a subject so close to her heart. You can feel her anger in her words. Were certain people definitely acting out of misogynistic intent…or was it simply ego?…thought the results are the same.

Overall, this is a very entertaining and thought-provoking book, with some hilarious footnotes from the author. Any horror or monster movie fan should read this, as should any girl wanting to make a career in film or in the arts. You may have to fight twice as hard, but it’s worth the fight when it’s something you love. Milicent Patrick didn’t fight back when her rightful due was taken from her…until Mallory O’Meara picked up the gloves and fought for her…and a rightful legacy is restored because of it. Now let’s make sure history does not repeat itself for all the future Milicent Patrick’s waiting to make their mark! A highly recommended read!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) creatures, as designed by Milicent Patrick!

 

 

 

 

 

Milicent Patrick in a publicity still posing with her creature. (Family Collection)

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JULY 5-7

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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. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” $93.6 Million

2. “Toy Story 4” $34.3 Million

3. “Yesterday” $10.75 Million

4. “Annabelle Comes Home” $9.75 Million

5. “Aladdin” $7.6 Million

6. “Midsommar” $6.5 Million

7. “The Secret Life of Pets 2” $4.7 Million

8. “Men In Black: International” $3.6 Million

9. “Avengers: Endgame” $3.1 Million

10. “Rocketman” $2.8 Million

 

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2019)

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SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2019)

Spider-Man: Far From Home opens with a lot going on in the life of Peter Parker (Tom Holland). He’s adjusting to life after returning from “The Blip”…the five year period during which those Thanos vanquished were gone. He’s trying to cope with the death of mentor Tony Stark. He’s dealing with an apparent relationship between Happy Hogan (John Favreau) and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and his own feelings for MJ (Zendaya). Even his class trip to Europe gets complicated as he’s approached by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to battle creatures from another dimension with help from Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man said to be from an alternate dimension Earth. Can Peter save the planet, his friends and win the heart of MJ?…and can he trust Mysterio?

Sequel is a lot of fun and a bit bittersweet, as it deals with the effects of Tony Stark’s death on Peter and the world and it’s the first MCU flick without a cameo from the late, great Stan Lee. It’s directed with enthusiasm and a fast pace by a returning Jon Watts from a script by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. It’s a bit refreshing…and slightly off-putting…getting Peter Parker out of NYC for a while, but it keeps things fresh as Peter tries to deal with Stark’s hopes the he would pick up the mantle, if anything should ever happened to Tony…and it obviously has. There are a lot of lighter moments, too, as Peter has to juggle his secret mission for Fury, keep his identity a secret, battle otherworldly creatures and still try to win MJ away from handsome jock Brad (Remy Hii). The script keeps the various story elements mixed nicely, all the while delivering some spectacular action scenes in various European locals, much like a 007 film. The movie establishes a nice bond between Peter and Quentin which makes the betrayal all the more effective, even though we know it’s coming, as Mysterio is one of Spidy’s classic villains. It all comes together in a nice, action-packed climax in London and then a shocking mid-credits sequence back in NYC that has a familiar face turning Peter and Spider-Man’s life upside down. The next Spider-Man flick should be interesting indeed!

The cast are all good. Tom Holland is a great Peter Parker and he handles the various emotions very well. He’s a superhero still growing into his suit and now has to handle the pressure of Stark choosing him as his successor. He also has to balance his duty to battling evil and satisfy his own heart with the girl he’s falling for. As MJ, Zendaya is smart, sarcastically funny, sweet at heart and has a girl next door beauty that makes her completely crush worthy and a fitting addition to Peter’s small circle. The actress creates a very quirky, independent, yet endearing character. Jackson and Favreau can play their characters in their sleep at this point and thankfully they don’t. Jake Gyllenhaal is a welcome addition to the MCU as Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio. Initially he delivers a man with very noble and heroic intentions, a man you can believe Peter would bond with. Once his nefarious plan is unveiled, Gyllenhaal goes delightfully over-the-top for some solid villainy. A good choice for one of Spider-Man’s major bad guys. The supporting cast, such as Jacob Batalon as the lovable Ned, Tony Revolori as Flash, Martin Starr as Mr. Harrington and Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, all create entertaining supporting characters in their given moments.

After the dramatic intensity of Avengers: Endgame, Far From Home delivers a lighter break, but with enough emotional depth to make sense with what it follows and as the supposed last film in MCU Phase 3. It has Peter Parker adjusting to missing five years, handling the death of his mentor and the possibility of filling his shoes to a degree. As with all the Spider-Man films, he also has to balance being a hero and yet still be a teenage boy. There are some really fun moments, a lot of spectacular action, it balances multiple characters well and delivers a solid villain in Mysterio. There are a few scenes that could have been a bit shorter, but overall is a lot of fun and feels far more like it’s own film than Homecoming. Stay through the credits for a shocking mid credits scene and a fun end credits scene.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 (out of 4) webs!


 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DARKMAN (1990)

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DARKMAN (1990)

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

Darkman is Sam Raimi’s first big studio film and is a fun horror movie/superhero flick mash-up. It tells the tale of Dr. Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson), whose life’s work is to create synthetic skin. His lawyer girlfriend Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand), however, has unintentionally crossed paths with ruthless land developer Strack (Colin Friels) and crime boss Robert Durant (Larry Drake) who send thugs to Westlake’s home/lab to collect some incriminating paperwork. This results in Peyton being brutalized and badly burned with his work destroyed. Now horribly disfigured and without the ability to feel pain, Westlake continues his work in hiding and uses his ability to create skin masks to infiltrate the criminal organization…and exact gruesome revenge!

Flick is directed by Sam Raimi from Raimi’s story and a script by he and four other writers. That’s a lot of scribes for what is basically Phantom of the Opera meets Batman, but it’s far from the mess that number implies. Darkman is actually a fun and amusingly gruesome superhero/revenge flick as Neeson’s scientist turned vigilante hunts down Durant’s thugs, while carving out a path towards the gangster and his crooked developer partner. He also tries to restart his romance with Julie with a hilarious and tragic amusement park scene being the result of that epic fail. The film has a strong comic book vibe, with over-the-top characters, such as Evil Dead II’s Dan Hicks playing a one-legged thug with a machine gun in his wooden leg. There is a lot of action, but as this is a horror film, too, some cartoon-ishly gruesome death’s for Durant’s men. Raimi isn’t afraid to get bloody, as this is rated R, yet maintains the feel of a comic book, which probably got him the job directing three Spider-Man flicks. He takes his material seriously, yet has a lot of fun with it.

The cast all get the material. Neeson plays Westlake as a charming but dedicated scientist and then makes for a very Phantom of the Opera-esque vigilante when he transforms into a vengeful anti-hero. Frances McDormand is good as Julie, who is at first fooled by Strack’s charms. As Strack, Friels makes for a charming yet slimy villain. Drake is very good as the brutal crime boss Durant. He can be ruthless and cruel and is a perfect match for the once kind, now vengeful Westlake. The supporting cast including Nicholas Worth, the before mentioned Hicks and a cameoing Bruce Campbell, all get the tone of the material and their characters.

Overall this is a really fun flick that captures the comic book spirit sometimes better than the straight-up superhero flicks of the time. The cast all get the tone of the material and despite the overabundance or writers, it’s a clever script that balances the comic book style with the horror elements perfectly…as does Raimi’s direction. There is action and drama and some gruesome ends to some very deserving creeps. Inspired a pair of direct to video sequels with The Mummy’s Arnold Vosloo taking over as Westlake.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 an 1/2 Darkmen (out of 4).

 

 

 

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JUNE 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. “Toy Story 4” $57.9 Million

2. “Annabelle Comes Home” $20.3 Million

3. “Yesterday” $17 Million

4. “Aladdin” $9.3 Million

5. “The Secret Life of Pets 2” $7 Million

6. “Men In Black: International” $6.5 Million

7. “Avengers: Endgame” $5.5 Million

8. “Child’s Play” $4.3 Million

9. “Rocketman” $3.9 Million

10. “John Wick: Chapter 3-Parabellum” $3.2 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: ANNABELLE COMES HOME (2019)

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ANNABELLE COMES HOME (2019)

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

The third time is the charm, as the latest Annabelle flick is a haunted house roller coaster ride of scares, fun and thrills! The film starts off from the opening scene of The Conjuring with paranormal investigators Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick WIlson) Warren, bringing the haunted doll home and placing it in their room of haunted and cursed objects, locked inside a blessed glass cathedral case. They have to go away overnight and leave their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace), who has inherited some of her mother’s psychic abilities, with pretty babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). Mary Ellen’s feisty friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) comes over, too, and despite warnings, goes into the forbidden room of haunted and curse objects, in the hopes of contacting her dead father. Annabelle is released from her prison and a sleepover becomes a nightmare, as the demonic doll lets all the malevolent spirits loose with the three girls trapped inside the house.

This is how you make a haunted house movie! Gary Dauberman hits a grand slam his first time at bat as the writer and director of this threequel. He has written for The Conjuring Universe before, but shows he knows how to direct horror, too, with this delightfully old fashioned scare-fest. Dauberman uses some very atmospheric camera work, in-camera practical effects, some very well built tension and suspense, along with some outright goose-bump inducing scares, to deliver simply one of the best haunted house movies since Poltergeist..the 1982 original, that is. His script cleverly gets the adult Warrens out of the house and using some classic horror tropes turns an already spooky home in a nightmare for the three young ladies trapped inside. There are a few jump scares, but only to climax some expertly built tension while his camera turns every shadow into the potential hiding place for something evil. Anything could come from anywhere at anytime and it keeps one constantly on edge. The room of haunted objects is wisely a focus and Dauberman milks all the chilling tchotchke for all it’s worth. Despite conjuring some Carpenter level scares, it’s the emotional depth that really makes it work. The girls are all three dimensional characters. Judy is a very likable kid, who’s “spooky” parents have earned her outcast status at school, with Mary Ellen being her only real friend. Mary Ellen is a sweet and very endearing young lady and one who is very brave when tasked with protecting Judy. Her tenderness and protectiveness towards the Warren’s daughter really makes her someone whose wellbeing you care about. Daniela could have been a stereotype ‘bad girl”, but Dauberman gives her a sympathetic and sweet core under the mischievous veneer. Her inner pain over the death of her father gives her a very sympathetic and endearing quality, even if this mess is kinda her fault. Add to it all that, that the writer/director, having put you through a last act ringer, gives us a nice cool down with a very sweet climax that works far better than it should being this is a intense horror flick. Very Spielbergian.

The cast are wonderful here and really bring the scripted characters to life. Farmiga and Wilson are basically just there at the beginning and end, but have really locked these characters down. Regardless of what you think of the real Warrens, their cinematic counterparts are quite the likable duo. Mckenna Grace handles the lead like a pro. She really makes us feel Judy’s loneliness due to the reputation caused by her parents line of work and the emotional turmoil caused by inheriting her mother’s abilities. Obviously, the demonic spirit in Annabelle, targets her. Madison Iseman continues to impress as an actress. She takes the stereotypical babysitter and gives her a very endearing personality and imbuing her with a very natural sweetness in her caring for Judy. She’s also brave and resilient when Annabelle’s demonic entity unleashes all the other spirits, including a particularly spooky entity that sets it’s sights on the babysitter. Iseman has a natural girl-next-door presence and she really makes this character three dimensional. Same could be said of Katie Sarife as Daniela. Her character is more the mischievous bad girl, but Sarife really makes her a bit complex as inside she is in pain over the death of her father and it motivates some of the bad decisions she makes. She wants to talk to her father one last time. She is also very sweet at heart, especially when it comes to Judy. Makes for a very un-stereotypical classic character. All three young actresses share great chemistry, which makes their on-screen relationships gel realistically. Lastly, is Michael Cimino as Bob, a nice boy who has a crush on Mary Ellen. Their awkward and sweet conversation scene, when he comes over to the Warren’s to see her, has such a natural feel to it. A perfect example of a good script meeting a good cast.

This movie gave continual goose-bumps to a man who has literally been watching horror movies for half a century. It proves when a talented director pushes all the right buttons, and in the right ways, old tropes can become solid scares. We have a nice build to the story and given time to get to know some well-rounded and likable characters, all the while the tension is simmering with it. We are then thrown into a literal fun house of horrors, as all hell breaks loose in the last act. Along the way Dauberman proves subtle nuances can be just as scary as grotesque phantoms and nothing makes the scares stronger than a solid emotional center to all the supernatural hijinx. An incredibly impressive directorial debut from Gary Dauberman who delivers one of the scariest flicks in quite some time and yet one with some surprisingly sweet and sentimental moments that mix far better than one might expect. Evoking Carpenter and Spielberg at their best in your first flick is quite an accomplishment.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) Annabelles.

 

 

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIE ON THE RISE: MADISON ISEMAN

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIE ON THE RISE: MADISON ISEMAN

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features a fairly new face in horror, and she has made quite an impression in her first appearances. In only a few years, up and coming actress Madison Iseman (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) has played the older sister/crush object in the Halloween set Ghost Squad, the classic role of the babysitter in Tales Of Halloween, made a resourceful heroine in Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween and most recently, joins “The Conjuring Universe” in Annabelle Comes Homewhere she’s in the classic babysitter role again! Hopefully this is only the beginning for this beautiful and talented actress!

(Click on the highlighted links to read reviews of the films that our Halloween Hottie has appeared in)

 

GHOST SQUAD (2015)

As girl next door crush Brandy

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TALES OF HALLOWEEN (2015)

As babysitter Lizzy in the Sweet Tooth segment

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GOOSEBUMPS 2: HAUNTED HALLOWEEN (2018)

As big sister and resilient heroine Sarah

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ANNABELLE COMES HOME (2019)

as imperiled Mary Ellen

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Photo: IMDB

That’s four horror themed flicks in as many years and three of them set on Halloween! That’s why Madison Iseman certainly qualifies as one of MonsterZero NJ’s Halloween Hotties!

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And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties profiles…just click on the following link to head over to the Halloween Hotties listings!)

 

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: CHARLIE’S FARM (2014)

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CHARLIE’S FARM (2014)

If writer/director Chris Sun’s Boar was a homage to the nature run amok horrors inspired by Jaws than Charlie’s Farm is the Australian filmmaker’s nod to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and that which it inspired. Flick has four friends (Tara Reid, Allira Jaques, Dean Kirkright and Sam Coward) heading into rural country to find the supposedly haunted “Charlie’s Farm”. Local legends say that in the 1980s area townsfolk brought lethal justice to the murderous, cannibalistic Wilson family…all but their young, deranged son Charlie. Now he is said to “haunt” the area surrounding the farm, dispatching anyone who dares venture near. The four friends unfortunately find out there is some truth behind urban legends.

Flick is not perfect, but is a fun throwback/homage with former WWE Superstar Nathan Jones making an imposing Charlie along with some very gruesome kills. As Chris Sun is paying homage to flicks of this kind, don’t expect anything too original, but he seems to know his influences well enough. The rest of the cast are fine here with standouts being Sam Coward as fun, lovable lug “Donkey” and pretty Aussie Allira Jaques as spunky Melanie, who IMO would have been a better final girl than the by-the-numbers Reid. The violence can be brutal and while it isn’t much in the suspense department, the farm setting is creepy and effective and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 88 minutes. Film also stars horror legends Bill Mosley, who is channeling “Otis” in flashbacks as cannibal patriarch John WIlson and Kane Hodder, as a friend who comes looking for the ill-fated campers and finds trouble himself. An amusing enough slasher.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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