MONSTERZERO NJ’S BEST HORROR FLICKS of 2017!

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It’s time to look back at the past year and see what horrors left an impression. M. Night Shyamalan made a return to form, Jordan Peele made an impressive feature debut and Chucky proved he is still a horror icon to reckon with! Without further ado, here are my favorite/best 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! Blackcoat’s Daughter, for instance, was made in 2015 and did not see release until this year! -MZNJ)

(To get to our reviews of these titles use the search engine at the top of the page!)

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES DEC. 8-10

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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. “Coco” $18.3 Million

2. “Justice League” $9.6 Million

3. “Wonder” $8.45 Million

4. “The Disaster Artist” $6.4 Million

5. “Thor: Ragnarok” $6.3 Million

6. “Daddy’s Home 2” $6 Million

7. “Murder on the Orient Express” $5.1 Million

8. “Lady Bird” $3.5 Million

9. “Just Getting Started” $3.1 Million

10. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” $2.9 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SORORITY ROW (2009)

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SORORITY ROW (2009)

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

Flick is a remake of sorts of the 1983 House on Sorority Row. It finds the girls of the Theta Pi sorority in quite the moral conundrum as a prank goes awry and leaves one of their sisters, Megan (Audrina Patridge) dead. Good girl Cassidy (Briana Evigan) is overruled and the rest of the girls (Margo Harshman, Jamie Chung, Leah Pipes and Rumor Willis) decide to hide the body and forget it ever happened. But eight months later, on graduation day, the girls start getting cryptic messages and bodies start to pile up. Someone knows what happened that fateful night and has a homicidal grudge against the sorority sisters of Theta Pi.

Slasher is well directed by Stewart Hendler from a script by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger. It follows the slasher formula very well, setting up a group of people being stalked by an unknown assailant for reasons of retribution based on an earlier incident. There are some good kills with some decent gore and even if it’s never really scary, there are some suspenseful chases and there is a bit of a sly sense of humor to the proceedings. There is nothing new or innovative here, but it is a well executed use of the traditional slasher scenario and the classic reveal is a bit of a surprise. The use of a group of bitchy sorority girls with a secret narrows the likable characters down to only a few, so in some cases we’re actually rooting for the mean girls to get theirs, but Cassidy is a likable heroine and so is conflicted Ellie and Megan’s smart-ass younger sister Maggie (Caroline D’Amore). So at least we have some characters to get behind as our hooded killer lurks about with their tire iron turned murder weapon.

As for the cast playing these characters, Evigan really shines as the morally sound Cassidy, who is blackmailed basically into keeping the big secret. She has screen presence aside from girl-next-door good looks and makes a solid final girl. Leah Pipes is fun as the sorority queen bitch, Jessica and while she is an unlikable character, the actress does give her some charm and swagger. Margot Harshman and Jamie Chung are also good as sorority snobs Chugs and Claire with Harshman giving her Chugs a strong devil-may-care attitude that makes her amusing. Rounding out is Rumor Willis as the sweet, but conflicted Ellie who is not dealing well with her guilt and Caroline D’Amore is fun as Maggie, especially when she gives major attitude to Jessica. There is also a small role by the late Carrie Fisher as the sorority house mother, Mrs. Crenshaw, which the veteran actress gives lots of character in her few scenes.

Overall, this is a solid enough slasher, though far from anything trend setting. It’s competently made and has enough sly humor and gory kills to entertain. It follows the traditional formula well and the cast go with the material, especially Briana Evigan as heroine Cassidy. A fun slasher and not bad as remakes go.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 tire irons turned nifty weapons.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS (1977)

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SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS (1977)

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

Horror comedy has a cheer-leading squad and their coach being kidnapped by a group of Satan worshipers. One of the girls will be chosen as his bride and the rest will be used as sacrificial offerings. That’s it in a nutshell.

Exploitation comedy is directed by Greydon Clark (Without Warning) from a script by he and Alvin L. Fast. It’s a goofy flick filled with bad sex jokes, exposed breasts and Satan worshipers who don’t evoke much fear and don’t seem all that competent at evoking Satan either. A lot of the humor falls flat and the flick seems like it’s made up as it goes along and lacks the charm of Clark’s 1980 extraterrestrial cult classic. One wonders if Clark has treated the material more seriously and let the situation itself provide the humor, it would have been more successful at accomplishing it’s goals. The story is ripe for exploitation fun, but it’s the misfiring dirty jokes and goofball humor that don’t click. There is plenty of skin shown by our pom pom wielding heroines, but the villains just don’t evoke much threat for us to feel like our girls are in any real danger, even for a comedy. The last few moments do click, but it took us 90 minutes to get there and the first act is all lame, naughty high school stuff before our girls even find themselves in peril. It’s one of those flicks where a great title is in need of a far better movie and sadly from a director who can deliver the B-movie fun as Without Warning proves.

Clark has a decent cast here. The veterans like John Ireland, Yvonne DeCarlo, Jack Kruschen and John Carradine all perform well and get the tone of the material, even if their cultists are more comical than creepy. The young cast of unknowns are very uneven, but no one really expects acting from a cast probably hired for their looks, especially our young ladies. Kerry Sherman is the one standout, mostly because she shows the most skin and she seems to be the only one to go on to other roles in film and TV.

As much as I love B-movies and exploitation flicks from this era, this one doesn’t live up to the fun of it’s title. Most of the jokes and goofball comedy falls flat and it’s attempts at horror are equally unsuccessful. There is some fun to be had, the nostalgia is certainly present and at least the ladies look good in and out of their uniforms. It still just seems like a bit of a mess and director Clark was far better combining horror and humor a few years later in the cult classic Without Warning. Worth a look for the 70s nostalgia, but not the midnight movie it could have been with a tighter script and maybe playing it a bit more straight.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 pom poms.

 

 

 

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REVIEW: THE TOWN THAT WAS (2007)

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THE TOWN THAT WAS (2007)

The Town That Was is a moving documentary about the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania which has become a virtual ghost town after an underground coal fire has slowly forced most of it’s inhabitants out. The documentary by Chris Perkel and Georgie Roland, focuses on some of the few citizens left, specifically a man named John Lokitis Jr, who still sees the shell of a town as home.

The documentary first details how in 1962 a fire that was set to burn a garbage dump, reached the coal mines beneath the town and ignited it. Bureaucracy then prevented the situation from being remedied quick enough and now the fire has been burning out of control underground ever since. As the fire spreads people either left, or sold their homes under eminent domain when the government stepped in to buy them out. By the time this documentary was made, their were only eleven people left in a town that once held 3,000.

Once we learn the history of how this once thriving little coal town has practically disappeared, we get the story of some of the few that refuse to leave, even though the government now owns all the property. One such man is John Lokitis Jr, who has lived there all his life. John works hard to keep alive what little of the town is left, including repainting benches, mowing the lawns of dozens of properties and hanging Christmas decorations from the telephone poles as was tradition. It’s both empowering to watch someone fight for what he believes in and sad to see someone in denial about what is happening around him. John maintains there is no danger, but it’s hard to agree with him while smoke billows out of the ground behind him. We also get some experts’ opinions and most agree there is a constant danger of CO2 poisoning or the ground collapsing as it has in the past…almost fatally for one boy. Regardless, this is a disturbing story of a town all but erased from the map by a bizarre situation.

Whether you believe the last hold-outs are being foolish or standing up for the home they love, is left up to the viewer. We’re given the history on the town and the fire that’s been it’s undoing and hear from experts, citizens who left and those few who remain. At times the documentary did feel like it focused on Lokitis a bit too much and could have delved a bit more into the current state of the fire itself and the havoc it reeks on the area, but the human element was definitely the goal here. Either way, this is a fascinating and disturbing piece of Americana and the freak accident that has been swallowing a small town for over 50 years.

NOTE: Some personal research on my part has revealed that Lokitis was finally evicted from his home in 2009 and his house demolished a year later, though ironically, in 2013 the remaining citizens were granted permission to stay by state and local government.

There’s also a segment of Real Fear: The Truth Behind The Movies focusing on Centralia, hosted by paranormal expert Katrina Weidman, who actually has family from there.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 stars.

 

 

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CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: CINDY WEINTRAUB in HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP and THE PROWLER!

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Cult Classic Cuties are characters from some of our favorite cult classics and midnight movies who captured our hearts and/or actresses who got our attention, but sadly never returned to these type of flicks. They’re femme fatales and final girls whose sexy stars shined only briefly, not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

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CINDY WEINTRAUB

This installment of Cult Classic Cuties, much like the previous one, is going to be a little different as it won’t profile an actress in a particular role, but this time, in a double feature of her only two horror appearances! Actress Cindy Weintraub definitely fits the definition of Cult Classic Cutie as she only made two films in her brief career and both of those are horror cult classics. Her first role was playing pretty girl-next door, wife and mother Carol Hill in Humanoids from the Deep and the second as sassy, sexy Lisa in The Prowler.

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Carol and husband Jim (the man, the myth, the legend…Doug McClure) find trouble in their little coastal fishing village in Humanoids from the Deep

When the hubby’s away, the humanoids are out to play, but Carol is armed and ready!

Carol Hill is one Noyo mom a fish-man may not want to mess with!

As sexy, flirtatious Lisa in the cult classic slasher The Prowler

Lisa’s sexy midnight swim is certainly going to attract attention…

…the WRONG kind of attention!

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After starring in these two cult classics, Cindy appeared in all six episodes of the 1982 tv series Baker’s Dozen before disappearing from show biz. She recently reappeared for the Humanoids from the Deep special edition extras in which she relates her time spent on Corman’s creature feature.

Cindy offering commentary on the extras for Shout Factory’s Humanoids from the Deep DVD and Blu-ray special edition. Still a looker!

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Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here on the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: COLD MOON (2016)

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COLD MOON (2016)

Supernatural thriller finds pregnant sixteen year-old Margaret Larkin (Sara Catherine Bellamy) murdered, throwing her family and the small town of Babylon, Florida into turmoil. While the killer, Nathan Redfield (Josh Stewart), successfully points blame towards another man, he is haunted by Margaret’s angry spirit. When more bodies start to pile up to cover his tracks, he finds himself surrounded by vengeful specters and a local sheriff (Frank Whaley) closing in.

Silly flick is directed by Griff Furst from a script by he and Jack Snyder from a book by Michael McDowell, who wrote the screenplay for Beetlejuice. Problem here is that subtlety would have worked better on this small town set chiller, yet Furst instead uses some over-the-top haunting sequence that laughably evoke McDowell’s Beetlejuice when it should be chilling to the bone. It’s not a comedy. The director has a nice visual style and when he does dial it down, there are some spooky sequences, but it’s hard to get scared with coffins exploding and giant snakes with old lady heads chasing after a terrified Redfield. Also, our killer is revealed way too soon, obviously, thus ending the mystery element in the first half hour, and the focus then switches to him unraveling and away from the grieving Larkin family. It gets comical as he is pursued by the overused visual of spirits with snakes coming out of their mouths and starts to leave a trail of bodies that gets ridiculous. Sad thing is, there was a spooky little movie in here somewhere drowned in overindulgence. Also stars Candy Clark and Christopher Lloyd and there is an effective score by the director’s brother Nathan.

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES DEC. 1-3

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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. “Coco” $26.1 Million

2. “Justice League” $16.5 Million

3. “Wonder” $12.5 Million

4. “Thor: Ragnarok” $9.6 Million

5. “Daddy’s Home 2” $7.5 Million

6. “Murder on the Orient Express” $6.7 Million

7. “Lady Bird” $4.54 Million

8. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” $4.53 Million

9. “The Star” $4 Million

10. “A Bad Moms Christmas” $3.4 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (2017)

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BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (2017)

Vicious prison flick tells the story of down on his luck Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn) who after losing his job as a tow truck driver and finding out his wife, Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter) is cheating, takes a high paying job as a drug courier to try to improve his current state of life. A year and a half later, he’s living in a nice home and Lauren is pregnant. His good fortune runs out, however, when a drug pick-up goes wrong and he lands in jail. That’s not the worst of his problems, his wife is kidnapped by an angry drug lord and Bradley must get himself transferred to the notorious maximum security prison of Redleaf to kill an inmate there, to ensure her release. Armed only with his fists, Bradley must now survive this hell on earth with a target on his back.

Brutal flick is written and directed by S. Craig Zahler who did the same on Bone Tomahawk. Much like that film, it takes it’s time to tell it’s story and for a film that is basically an exploitation flick, treats it’s subject with a lot of respect. It’s almost 90 minutes before the real intense violence starts and Bradley finds he has been brought to Redleaf for a far more sinister purpose and now must fight for his life and that of his wife. The fights in the film are quite brutal, though some poorly rendered gore FX do lessen their impact and the depiction of prison life is quite nightmarish. Vaughn is surprisingly good in a non-comic, action role and Carpenter, Udo Kier and Don Johnson as a sadistic warden, make for a solid supporting cast. An effective and sometimes brutal drama with an old fashioned B-movie prison flick at it’s center.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: LIVIDE (2011)

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LIVIDE (2011)

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

French horror tells the story of a young woman named Lucie (Chloé Coulloud) who is studying to be a home care nurse. On her first day, she learns that one of her future patients, a comatose old woman named Mrs. Jessel (Marie-Claude Pietragalla), is rumored to have some kind of hidden treasure in her creepy old house. Lucie tells her boyfriend William (Félix Moati), who sees possible riches as a way out of their small coastal fishing village. They break into the house one night, along with their friend Ben (Jérémy Kapone), but soon find themselves locked in and that the house and it’s occupant have a nightmarish secret.

Flick is written and directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the French duo who brought us the bonkers chiller Inside and the recent Leatherface. It starts out as a sort of haunted house thriller, but then evolves into something else as we find out what really inhabits the Jessel home. There are some very spooky visuals as the duo use the creepy old house setting very well. There is also some of their trademarked graphic violence and the film has an unsettling atmosphere, especially once our three protagonists get inside the house. The flick is held back by a narrative that doesn’t always make sense, but does weave in some dark fairy tale elements, especially in the last act. The film also has moments that evoke Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos and even if we are scratching our heads a bit by the time the credits roll, there was enough to chill and entertain and maybe gross us out a little bit.

The cast are good with lead Chloé Coulloud making a strong heroine in student nurse turned reluctant thief, Lucie. She seems like a sweet girl and has issues of her own that motivate her and even affect her actions when she meets the occupants of the old house. Félix Moati is fine as her fisherman boyfriend, who dreams of a better life. He’s not an outright bad guy, just someone who is willing to cross lines to get out of his small town. Jérémy Kapone is also solid as Ben, a friend of the couple and another reluctant participant in the events. He is more likable than William. Marie-Claude Pietragalla is suitably creepy as Mrs. Jessel in both flashbacks to her days as a cruel dance instructor and to the old woman she is now. Rounding out is Catherine Jacob who is the home care specialist with a secret who is training Lucie and Chloé Marcq as Jessel’s daughter, who we are told is long gone and is seen in flashbacks when we start to get some backstory.

After the shocking Inside, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo followed it up with a spooky flick that has some chilling moments, but also suffers from being a bit too ambiguous at times. It may leave us with a quite a few questions once it’s all over, but has enough chills and unsettling sequences to entertain us well enough. Not as memorable as Inside, but shows the French duo have some interesting ideas, some unique twists on familiar tropes and a solid visual style to accompany the chills and gore.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 rusty scissors.

 

 

 

 

WARNING!: the Livide trailer gives away some substantial spoilers!

 

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