MONSTERZERO NJ’S 12 CONTEMPORARY VAMPIRE FLICKS THAT ADD BITE TO THE GENRE!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 12 CONTEMPORARY VAMPIRE FLICKS

THAT ADD BITE TO THE GENRE!

Bliss’s Dezzy (Dora Madison) finds a designer drug that has a nasty side effect

The first two decades of the 2000s have shown a nice resurgence in horror, especially indie horror. Obviously, certain popular sub-genres are being revisited by today’s filmmakers. As such, contemporary talent are mixing their own ideas with those of their inspirations when making their films. No better example than the vampire sub-genre. The first vampire film was Nosferatu made in 1922 making this particular type of horror film one of the oldest. With decades of inspiration to draw from and new filmmakers putting their own spin on these creatures of the night, here are 12 new millennium horror films that give new bite to the vampire movie…

A Nosferatu inspired blood-sucker from the Irish vampire flick From The Dark

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(To get to the reviews of the titles listed above covered here at the Movie Madhouse, just type the title in the search engine to find the corresponding critique!)

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GHOST STORY (1981)

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GHOST STORY (1981)

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

1981’s Ghost Story is a combination of supernatural chiller and mystery based on a book by Peter Straub. It tells of the Chowder Society, four elderly men who have known each other since college. Sears James, Edward Wanderley, Ricky Hawthorne and Dr. John Jaffrey (John Houseman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Fred Astaire and Melvyn Douglas), all gather together once a week to tell horror stories. One of their spooky stories comes to life, when the ghost of a mysterious woman (Alice Krige) starts to haunt them and their kin. Soon members and family members are dying tragically and Edward’s son Don (Craig Wasson) comes home to investigate after the death of his twin brother. What he finds is a mystery fueled by a terrible secret, the one grim story the Chowder Society won’t tell.

Classy flick is directed by John Irvin from a script by Lawrence D. Cohen, based on Straub’s book of the same name. It’s atmospheric and very old fashioned and has a great cast of actors. Sadly it’s also a very dull and slow paced flick with the scares few and far between and a mystery which isn’t very hard to figure out. There is some nice SPFX make-up from the legendary Dick Smith and it is relatively bloodless, despite the era it was made in. The performances from the veteran cast are all good. Krige is very sexy and mysterious as the spectral femme fatale, though Wasson seems a bit miscast, especially in his scenes as twin brother David. Despite all the talent in front of and behind the camera, the film just plods along and takes almost two hours to reach a conclusion we all already know is coming. There is also the edition of two characters, escaped lunatic and son Gregory and Fenny Bate (Miguel Fernandes and Lance Holcomb) that add nothing to the story. It would have flowed smoother without them, even if they were in the book. A well intended film, but also a bit of a misguided one as well. It simply should have been consistently scarier and perhaps with a director more comfortable with the supernatural elements…elements Irvin almost seems to try to avoid.

In conclusion, it’s a noble effort with a lot of talent involved, but one that unfortunately fails to deliver the chills. It’s atmospheric and looks good, by way of Jack Cardiff’s cinematography. It has a few spooky moments and the score by Philippe Sarde is very effective. What really holds this flick back is simply a far too pedestrian pace, taking longer to tell the story than needed and a director just not taking full advantage of the trappings of such a tale. Definitely a movie that hasn’t aged well either, despite a very classy cast of legendary actors.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) spooks.

 

 

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 CABIN IN THE WOODS HORRORS!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 CABIN IN THE WOODS HORRORS!

The Granddaddy of the modern cabin in the woods horror, Evil Dead 1981!

Despite being a horror film no-no, folks are always vacationing in, or moving into, remote cabins or houses in the woods. Win, win for us horror movie fans, as this almost always means bad news for the occupants! So…here are 15 such chillers, that can be found on various streaming outlets such as iTunes, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon, Tubi, Google Play, Netflix and Youtube Movies. Just Google the title and they’ll tell you where it’s available and how much to rent, if it applies!

 

Here are three old school honorable mentions that were remote house/cabin flicks before it was cool!

Decades later, no one has learned from the movies!…as Evil Dead 2013‘s bunch will soon find out!

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(To get to the reviews of the titles listed above covered here at the Movie Madhouse, just type the title in the search engine to find the corresponding critique!)

-MonsterZero NJ

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HAPPY 94th BIRTHDAY, ROGER CORMAN!

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Photo by Angela George

The legendary director/producer of countless classic exploitation and B-movies turns 94 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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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: EQUINOX and THE EVIL DEAD

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MonsterZero NJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature is back! For years horror fans have discussed the similarities between the 1970 low budget flick, Equinox and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. Was this flick an inspiration for Raimi’s classic, or was it all a coincidence? We may never know exactly, but we can watch both films together and decide for ourselves…

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EQUINOX (1970)

Four college students (Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner and Robin Christopher) venture into the woods to meet a professor (Fritz Leiber) who, unknown to them, has discovered an ancient book of evil. They find the cabin destroyed and once acquiring the book from a creepy old man (Irving L. Lichtenstein), find the devil himself is after them to get it back.

While this does sound like the plot of an Evil Dead film, it is actually the plot of the low budget horror, Equinox which was released in 1970. Over a decade before Raimi’s classic, the film does share a lot of plot elements, such as the students being possessed, here by the park ranger disguised Satan, and even the book itself is quite similar to Raimi’s Necronomicon. It’s never been stated that the film was an influence on Raimi’s flick, but Evil Dead effects artist Tom Sullivan admits seeing the film and it inspiring him to make movies. Draw you own conclusions.

Equinox is campy by today’s standards and is slow paced, unlike Raimi’s roller coaster ride, but there is some fun to be had and some nice SPFX for such a low budget flick. Equinox started out as a low budget short film, put together by three future FX legends, Dennis Muren, Jim Danforth and Dave Allen in 1967. It was made for about $6,500, from a story by Mark Thomas McGee and directed by Muren. So there is some great FX work for the time and budget, including some very cool stop-motion animated creatures, representing the Devil’s minions and Old Scratch himself in winged demon form. Producer Jack H. Harris saw their film and hired writer/director Jack Woods to film some new footage and expand the 70 minute short film into feature length and re-edit it. The film was finally released in 1970 as Equinox, shortened from the original title of Equinox…A Journey Into The Supernatural. I saw this as a kid and must admit it creeped me out back then. I watch it now and it’s more campy fun than scary, but it’s no denying that it is a valiant low budget effort, despite some very amateurish acting from the cast, including director Jack Woods, who also appears as The Devil in park ranger form.

This film, like Raimi’s, is now considered a classic. Whether it inspired Evil Dead or not, both films represent the achievement that future filmmakers can make on a micro-budget, if their hearts and talent are in the right place. Evil Dead fans should check it out for the interesting similarities, even if we may never know if Raimi indeed saw and was influenced by it, or if the familiar elements are just coincidence. It’s been released in a wonderful restored edition by the Criterion Collection, which includes the original short film and effects work that didn’t make the final cut. A campy, fun horror that gave the world, Dennis Muren, Jim Danforth and the late, great David Allen…and maybe…just maybe, Evil Dead.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated A campy fun 3 (out of 4) blue giants!

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The original Evil Dead is one of my all time favorite horror movies, if not the all time favorite. I was fortunate enough to see it in a theater when it was released in 1981 and it changed how I looked at horror movies. This one was furiously paced, wildly inventive and delivered buckets of blood and gore, all on a shoestring budget. It launched writer/director Sam Raimi’s career and made a cult legend out of star Bruce Campbell.

The film opens as Ash (Bruce Campbell) and girlfriend, Linda (Betsy Baker) are traveling to vacation in a remote cabin with another couple, Scott (Hal Delrich) and Shelly (Sarah York), along with Ash’s sister, Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss). When they get to the rundown cabin they find an old book and a tape recording, in the creepy cellar, that claims it is the book of the dead and wrapped in human flesh. Thinking it’s all a joke, they play the recording, which includes someone reading from the book and find out the hard way that it’s all too real, as they unleash horror beyond their imaginations. The quiet Cheryl is the first to be possessed, as she is attacked and literally raped by the trees during one of the film’s most talked about scenes, As the panicked bunch lock her in the cellar, it is only the beginning as they are soon possessed one by one by an ancient evil that can only be stopped by total bodily dismemberment. Let the fun begin!

The first Evil Dead did not have the heavy comic elements of it’s two sequels or recent series and what follows is a gore soaked roller coaster ride, when Ash finds himself the last man standing against his demon possessed friends. Raimi uses some fantastically inventive camera work and low budget gore effects to bring us Ash’s battle to survive against the people he once loved, in all it’s gory glory. The film is fast paced and once it starts, it never stops, as this classic turns the screws on it’s viewing audience with a barrage of scares, jolts and suspense, all bathed in buckets of blood. This was the first of it’s kind to use such a relentless and merciless attack on it’s viewers where most films at the time, like John Carpenter’s Halloween, or the original Friday The 13th, used a bit of a slower burn and more of a methodical pace to present it’s suspense and scares. Raimi paces this like an action flick. Carpenter did crank things up in the last act of The Fog, a year earlier, but it was still nothing like Raimi’s final act, as the outnumbered Ash refuses to “join us”, as his demonic assailants constantly taunt.

Evil Dead revolutionized horror to a degree and inspired some of today’s best young horror directors. Without it, we may not have a Blair Witch, Dead Alive or Martyrs. While we still get the occasional slow burn horror like Paranormal Activity and the films of Ti West and Stevan Mena, which is just fine, Raimi opened the door for horror filmmakers to take a far more aggressive approach and showed us horror can be deliriously scary, delightfully gory and just plain fun. A true classic that placed Raimi amongst the likes of George Romero and John Carpenter!

-MonsterZero NJ

Check out our review of the remake!

A solid 4 (out of 4) Ash salute!

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ALSO…

If you’ve got time, add Evil Dead II as a third feature, which also shares some amusing similarities with Dennis Muren and Jack Woods’ 1970 cult classic!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: EXPOSURE (2018)

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EXPOSURE (2018)

Flick finds a young couple, James (Owen Lawless) and artist Myra (Carmen Anello), traveling to a remote cabin in the woods…which is never a good idea in a horror movie…to work on repairing their relationship. The cabin was the home of James’ grandparents (Lynn Lowry and Bruce Smith), till his grandmother was murdered and his grandfather disappeared after going mad. How these two thought this was a good spot for date weekend is the film’s biggest mystery. Once there, Myra begins to hear voices and suffer time losses, while James gets bitten by a strange creature and begins to transform into something unearthly. Relationship problems are now the least of their worries.

Cabin in the woods horror is directed by Austin Snell from his script with Jake Jackson. It’s a noble effort and Snell directs it well enough despite the scatterbrained story. It’s hard to believe anyone would go to a cabin with such an unpleasant personal history, no matter how picturesque it might be. The scenes between the couple are done well and once things start to get going, there are a few spooky moments. It is somewhat atmospheric. The story is where the film has it’s biggest drawbacks. There is something supernatural going on at the cabin, but we never get any kind of explanation, or hint, as to what. If there is some kind of demonic presence, then what is the mutant fish creature that bites and ultimately transforms James? His grandfather apparently went mad, yet James turns into a monster. What exactly is going on here? We never find out. The climax was also a bit of a head scratcher, as it’s not clear if the grandparents returned, or Myra is seeing past events. Again, what exactly is going on here? On a technical level, the film looks good on a supposed $20,000 budget and the make-up FX are well done. There is also a cool electronic score by Joshua Luttrell that is very 80s. With a better script and story, Snell might deliver something solid. Here things are a bit too much of a mess, story-wise, to really click.

As for our cast, pretty Carmen Anello does a good job as Myra. She’s a likable character and she makes a good final girl. She comes across as a real person. The actress is also a trooper, as the credits list her as part of the SPFX make-up crew and also playing “Grandfather Creature.” On a low budget film like this, one can find themselves wearing many hats. Owen Lawless is fine as James. He and Anello have a decent chemistry and it is in the early scenes when the character’s are going through some emotional awkwardness, Lawless seems the most natural. Bruce Smith and Lynn Lowry play the grandparents and they are scene in flashbacks and possible hallucinations, it’s not clear.

Exposure isn’t a great movie, but it’s one where the effort is noticeable and adds some charm. It’s heart is in the right place and the filmmakers try hard. On a production level, it looks good on a low budget, has some solid make-up FX and the cast, especially lead Carmen Anello, are effective. The story is where the flick suffers as it’s not ever clear as to what is actually going on here. Some of it, like creature James firing his nails at Myra like knives, gets a bit silly. This indie horror is still worth a look if you like low budget flicks and enjoy seeing filmmakers getting their movies made, even if not totally successfully.

Flick is available to stream on Amazon Prime and to buy on Scream Team Releasing’s website… https://screamteamreleasing.com/

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) axes, mostly for effort.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3-DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

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

Third Elm St. flick is a marked improvement over the misfire that was ANOES2. It also saw the return of Wes Craven to the franchise as a writer and the return of Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon in their original ANOES roles. This installment finds Freddy haunting the dreams of a group of teens all under psychiatric care at an institute. Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) is now an intern there with a vested interest in the nightmares these kids are having. As Freddy starts to claim the young lives, Nancy and Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson), try to figure out how to stop the dream demon once and for all.

Clever second sequel is directed by Chuck Russell (The Blob 1988) from his script co-written with Frank Darabont, Bruce Wagner and Wes Craven. It was a great return to what made the first film work so well and also started the series in the direction it would go till it ended. It felt far more like an Elm St. movie that it’s predecessor, too. ANOES3 made very inventive use of the dream segments and was the film that gave Freddy his twisted sense of humor and proclivity for witty one liners, that would accompany the demise of his intended victims. It was also the film that introduced the character of Freddy’s mother, Amanda Krueger (Nan Martin), a nun accidentally locked inside an insane asylum, who is violated by the inmates and thus gives birth to Freddy, “The Bastard Son of 100 Maniacs.” The film does have a moderate pace, but there are some gory and innovative death sequences, with some great prosthetic make-up effects. ANOES3 is today thought of by many as the best of the sequels in this classic franchise. It was a success and paved the way for five more appearances by Freddy and an eventual remake in 2010.

Film is supported by a good cast that make for memorable and mostly likable characters. Obviously Robert England is at the top of his game here as Freddy. He gets to do a bit more and have more fun with the role, which really helped keep this franchise afloat. He was still scary, but now imbued with a dark and mean-spirited sense of humor. Heather Langenkamp is good as an older and more mature Nancy. She cares for these kids and is one of the only people who believes their claims about a scarred man haunting their dreams…a man Nancy knows all too well. Craig Wasson is solid as Dr. Gordon. He’s desperate to save these kids, even if it means reluctantly believing there is a malevolent supernatural entity after his patients. Saxon is really good as Nancy’s father, who is now a security guard and a drinker. Classic John Saxon. A good cast of young actors play our kids, with Patricia Arquette as Kristen, Bradley Gregg as Phillip, Ken Sagoes as Kincaid, Penelope Sudrow as Jennifer, Ira Heiden as Will, Rodney Eastman as Joey and Jennifer Rubin as Taryn. All the cast members make their characters memorable and helped establish the template of a diverse, colorful group of kids for Freddy to stalk in the future installments.

In conclusion, this flick got the series back on track and headed in a direction that would carry it till it’s end. It’s fun, still has some scares and is very inventive with it’s dream-set deaths. While not as vicious as the first two, it still has the blood and gore, not to mention some outrageous make-up effects. The cast are all good and it also contains the now classic theme song Dream Warriors by the 80s metal band Dokken. Solid entry in this classic horror film franchise.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Freddy Kruegers .

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Bonus: The Dokken classic Dream Warriors!…

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BARE BONES: APRIL FOOL’S DAY (2008)

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APRIL FOOL’S DAY (2008)

Flick is a remake in name and date only. A fancy mansion party is being hosted by siblings Desiree and Blaine Cartier (Taylor Cole and Josh Henderson) on April 1st, 2007. April Fools jokes abound and one joke goes too far, with pretty Milan Hastings (Sabrina Ann Aldridge) falling to her death, after a drug induced seizure. A year later, Desiree, Blaine and some of their friends who were there, get ominous letters from MIlan proclaiming she was murdered and her killer needs to come forward, or they all will die. Soon, one by one, they are being done in.

Flick is directed by The Butcher Brothers (Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores) from a script they wrote with Mikey Wigart. It is a dreadfully slow paced and uneventful slasher, which is surprising coming from the makers of the inventive vampire flicks The Hamiltons and The Thompsons. The flick is simply dull and tedious and even the cast, including scream queen Scout Taylor-Compton, fail to generate any interest in their shallow, upper-society characters. In fact the characters are so boring, you want the killer to succeed, but even the deaths are dull. As for the big reveal…you can see it coming a mile away. Flick was released straight to DVD where it quickly and deservedly faded into obscurity.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: RADIOFLASH (2019)

 

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RADIOFLASH (2019)

Radioflash is another term for an EMP…electromagnetic pulse…an event which begins our story. When the power is knocked out, civilized behavior quickly becomes fear and panic and survivalist Frank (Will Patton) begs his teen granddaughter Reese (Brighton Sharbino) and her father Chris (Dominic Monaghan) to join him in the safety of his secluded house, deep in the mountains. The trip is treacherous and an unfortunate series of events finds Reese all alone. As the young girl runs afoul of murderous looters and a strange backwoods, mountain family, her concerned grandfather sets out to track his loved ones down.

Survival drama is directed by Ben McPherson from a script by he and Matt Redhawk. It’s a somber and low key film about a young girl trying to survive two harsh worlds, one created by a catastrophic event and the other that may have always been there. It’s well done and somewhat involving, but never really grabs us, or seems to really go anywhere. It’s refreshing to not have zombies or fetishistic biker gangs, in this kind of scenario, but it could have used a little more dramatic weight. It’s a little too laid back for it’s own good. Both the selfishness of people in panic and the weird rural mountain folk are both familiar elements at this point, but still work in the context of the story. It’s a bit questionable, though, that cellphones and laptops would still work after the EMP. Brighton Sharbino does make for a likable heroine, as the resourceful Reese and Fionnula Flanagan, Michael Filipowich and Kyle Collin are effective as the mountain clan that want to make Reese one of their own…whether she likes it or not. Well directed, but could have used a bit more intensity.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: BLOODSHOT (2020)

 

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BLOODSHOT (2020)

Comic book based superhero flick finds soldier Ray Garrison (Vin Diesal), murdered and his wife (Talulah Riley) killed by a vengeful terrorist (Toby Kebbell). They can rebuild him, they have the technology! Ray is brought back to life by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) and made better, stronger, faster…you get the idea. Nanite technology almost instantly heals his wounds and his mind is now a supercomputer. Problem is, Harting is actually using Ray as an assassin, recreating the murder of Ray’s wife, over and over, with the face of each intended target, under the deception of returning memories. Suffice to say Ray isn’t going to be happy when he finds out…which he does.

Flick is directed by David S. F. Wilson from a script by Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer, based on the Valiant Comic. As such, it’s a very routine and by-the-numbers superhero/action flick. The FX are good and there is plenty of action, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, or presented in a way that makes it fresh. Diesel is a solid enough action hero, though even he seems to be going through the numbers here. At least it does liven up a bit for it’s free-for-all climax. Also stars Eiza González, Sam Heughan and Alex Hernandez as KT, Dalton and Tibbs, three other ex-soldiers enhanced by Harting’s Rising Spirit Tech and Wilfred Wigans as a computer genius, who helps Ray find the truth and get revenge. Not terrible, but not terribly special either.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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