HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SPUTNIK (2020)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2now playing

bars

SPUTNIK (2020)

Russian sci-fi/horror takes place in 1983 with a Soviet spacecraft finishing it’s mission and about to begin re-entry to Earth. Something impacts the ship and when it does land, one of the cosmonauts is dead and the other taken to a military instillation. Neurophysiologist Tatyana Yuryevna Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) is called in to examine the surviving Cosmonaut Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov), who is suffering from amnesia about the incident. To her horror, Tatyana soon discovers that Konstantin did not return alone. There is an alien creature living inside him that comes out once a night to feed…and what it is being fed is the worst nightmare of all.

Film is very effectively directed by Egor Abramenko from a script by Oleg Malovichko and Andrei Zolotarev. There will be comparisons to Alien, but they aren’t as many as one might initially expect. The creature here is using Konstantin as a space suit, technically and has formed a symbiotic relationship with the cosmonaut, who is at first thought to be oblivious to his internal guest. There are some clever explanations as to how the creature exits his body without causing harm and goes back in when done with it’s meals. There are some disturbing reveals about just how much Konstantin knows about what his symbiote is up to when it exits and just what their “relationship” is exactly. The most Alien of Sputnik’s plot elements is what the villainous Colonel Semiradov (Fyodor Bondarchuk) is planning to do with the creature and Konstantin. No spoiler there, as what else do these guys plan to do with dangerous biological entities in these movies. There are some subplots which give Tatyana and Konstantin some emotional depth, though Semiradov remains a stereotypical military bad guy with opportunistic and power hungry plans. There is a lot of blood and gore spilled to satisfy the horror crowd, some nice tension and suspense and the Russian locations are very atmospheric. The creature’s design is a little different and comes across more Cloverfield than H.R. Giger, which helps distance it from the 1979 Ridley Scott classic even more. The creature is given a lethality and a viciousness, yet there are hints of an intelligence beyond what it shares with it’s cosmonaut sleeping bag. An effective beastie!

The cast is small in terms of leads but good. Oksana Akinshina is a very likable heroine as Tatyana. She strong and clever and sympathetic to Konstantin’s plight. Add to that, her horror over what Semiradov is doing and planning, is enough for her to risk her own life to stop him. She’s also not perfect, as the opening moments reveal. Pyotr Fyodorov is solid as Konstantin. The character is interesting and not completely portrayed as a victim, so much, but possibly someone accepting this as his fate for some selfish decisions. Some nice depth here for the character. Rounding out is Fyodor Bondarchuk as a classic military bad guy. He’s very effective in the part, even if it is a bit two-dimensional and familiar. Lastly is Anton Vasiliev as Yan Rigel, a scientist too afraid to speak out against what he’s seen, though he does have a nice…and not all that surprising…change of heart in the last act.

All in all, Sputnik was an entertaining science fiction/horror that evokes the classic Alien, but not as much as one might expect. There are some similar plot elements, but Sputnik is it’s own thing and tells it’s own story. There are the classic tropes of military bad guys, sympathetic scientists and of course, a person caught in-between. We have an interesting and threatening alien creature and there is plenty of blood and body parts spread about when the beast is on the loose from his human host. A solid and entertaining flick that may evoke Alien, but never feels like it’s copying or ripping it off. Available on streaming formats from IFC Midnight!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 (out of 4) Sputniks!

 

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: UNDER SIEGE (1992)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

UNDER SIEGE (1992)

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

Flick finds Navy SEAL Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) serving as a cook on the battleship USS Missouri for disciplinary reasons. It’s the captain’s birthday and a big celebration is planned. Rogue Navy officer Commander Peter Krill (Gary Busey) uses the celebration as a cover to bring in terrorist William Strannix (Tommy Lee Jones), an ex-CIA operative, to take over the ship with his men. Now it’s up to cook Casey and a stripper hired for the party (Erika Eleniak) to outwit Strannix and his thugs and take back the Missouri and save the crew.

Arguably Steven Seagal’s best film, Under Siege is directed by Andrew Davis (Code of Silence, The Fugitive) from a fun script by J. F. Lawton. Davis takes the now classic Die Hard scenario and milks it for all it’s worth in his battleship setting. There is a lot of action, some taunt suspense and some nice humor mixed in with Seagal’s trademark martial arts. He gets one of the liveliest performances out of the usually stoic action star and some very strong but entertaining villains in Busey and Jones. The film used a real battleship as it’s setting, the USS Alabama, and the cat and mouse chase between Strannix and Ryback works really well in the claustrophobic setting. Just so it doesn’t wear out it’s welcome, the filmmakers find a few reasons to get the action outside and on deck now and again. There is a generous amount of violence and bloodletting, as Seagal’s style of hand to hand combat and weapons handling gives him plenty of opportunities to stab, shoot and break numerous bones, when not blowing up bad guys with booby traps. It’s a lot of fun and very fast paced, though does take enough time to establish it’s characters which are colorful.

As for those characters the film has a top notch cast. This might be one of Seagal’s best performances, as the action star gives Casey a bit more of a sense of humor and heart than his usual straight-faced tough guys. He has some nice charm and can act a bit. One of the reasons he gets to do this is being paired with Erika Eleniak’s terrified and out of place Jordan. The Baywatch star, at first, is just scared out of her wits, but the character grows from a frightened young woman to a fighter and solid part of the resistance, when she and Casey go on the offensive. The script gives the two some nice scenes together and the actors have a good chemistry between them. Busey and Jones make very good bad guys. Both go just over-the-top enough to be fun, but not enough to make a joke out of the proceedings, or lose their threat factor. They are both dangerous men. Rounding out is a great Colm Meaney as one of the lead henchmen, Nick Mancuso as a sleazy CIA operative, real-life Marine war vet Dale Dye as a navy officer, Andy Romano as Admiral Bates, along with Bernie Casey, Dennis (Retribution) Lipscomb and even Kane “Jason Voorhees” Hodder. A great cast, both main and supporting.

A classic action flick and depending on what you look for in one of his films, Steven Seagal’s best flick and performance. There is plenty of action, strong suspense and tension and some great characters, who interact wonderfully. You get the traditional elements from both a Steven Seagal movie and a Die Hard-esque thriller, yet Under Siege has it’s own heartbeat. Solid directing from veteran Andrew Davis and a tight, fun script from J.F. Lawton and you have pretty much all you could want from an action flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) cooks who moonlight as SEALs.

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

bars

BARE BONES: UNCLE PECKERHEAD (2020)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

UNCLE PECKERHEAD (2020)

Horror/comedy finds the members of the band “Duh” being evicted from their apartment and having their van repossessed right before they embark on their first tour. Judy (Chet Siegel), Max (Jeff Riddle) and Mel (Ruby McCollister) meet a guy who calls himself “Peckerhead” (David Littleton), who offers to lend them the use of his van and himself as the driver, in exchange for food and gas money. Only problem is, Peckerhead turns into a flesh eating monster for thirteen minutes each midnight. What’s a struggling band to do?

Flick is written and directed by Matthew John Lawrence and is sadly kind of a mixed bag despite the amusing premise. The flick has some moments, some very gory bits and the cast all try hard, especially Chet Siegel as the feisty and ambitious Judy. It’s just that Uncle Peckerhead is simply not very funny as a comedy and not scary or all that disturbing as a horror. The elements of neither genre are strong enough to make this a real midnight movie treat and Lawrence simply doesn’t milk the amusing concept for all it’s worth. A flesh eating monster, roadie in a rock band? You need to take the ball and run with it! The direction is very by-the-numbers and the film has a bit of a blasé feel to it, when it should have been a lot of fun. It’s also feels stretched out a bit, even at only 97 minutes long. To paraphrase, when a rock band hires a flesh eating monster as a roadie in a film called Uncle Peckerhead, you just expect a lot more energetic, wacky fun. Does earn points for some really good gore and being film in New Jersey!

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ACTUALS AUG 7-9

MZNJ_New_WBO

Complete actuals are in for the weekend box office

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

1. “The Tax Collector” $309,694

2. “The Rental” $123,744

3. “Peninsula” $118,647

4. “The Big Ugly” $71,690

5. “Made In Italy” $33,998

6. “The Burnt Orange Heresy” $26,173

7. “Juvenile Delinquents” $11,605

8. “The Grizzlies” $1,610

9. “What We Found” $1,528

10. “Killer Raccoons 2: Dark Christmas In The Dark” $1,236

 

source: Box Office Mojo

bars

 

BARE BONES: BLACK WATER-ABYSS (2020)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

BLACK WATER: ABYSS (2020)

Thirteen years later, Andrew Traucki returns to his Black Water with an unrelated sequel, save for the hungry crocodile and it’s human snacks. This film finds five friends going cave exploring in the middle of the wilderness. A sudden and fierce rainstorm causes flash flooding, which fills the cave system with water. Drowning isn’t the worse concern, as a large and hungry crocodile is in there with them and now hunts the scared spelunkers.

Traucki directs from a script by John Ridley and Sarah Smith. It is an entertaining movie but would have been far more effective if we hadn’t already seen the scenario played out in The Descent and the more recent 47 Meters Down: Uncaged. It’s all quite familiar at this point, though Traucki does give it some nice tension and Ridley and Smith give us some fairly likable characters to fear for. There is some bloody violence, as can be expected, as the gator thins the numbers of our trapped adventurers. We once again have a pregnant character and it’s this abundant familiarity that keeps Black Water: Abyss from being a really bloody fun treat. We’ve seen it all before. Worth a watch, but too ‘been there, done that’ to really make a lasting impression. Stars Jessica (The Meg) McNamee as Jennifer, Luke Mitchell as Eric, Amali Golden as the pregnant Yolanda, Benjamin Hoetjes as Viktor and Anthony J. Sharpe as Cash.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

BARE BONES: BLACK WATER (2007)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

BLACK WATER (2007)

Australian survival thriller finds Lee (Maeve Dermody), her sister Grace (Diana Glenn), Grace’s partner Adam (Andy Rodoreda) along with guide Jim (Ben Oxenbould), heading into the mangrove swamps for a little fishing tour. Unfortunately they are attacked by a hungry crocodile which strands them up in a tree surrounded by water. Can they make a daring escape, or is it only a matter of time before the hungry predator makes a meal out of them?

Flick is based on a true story and directed by The Reef’s Andrew Traucki from his own script with David Nerlich. Like that movie, Traucki keeps things tense and suspenseful, as he not only establishes quite early that the crocodile can strike from out of nowhere and no one is safe, but also that Grace is pregnant, which gives us added reason to fear for her. There is obviously some graphic violence and the threat of croc attack is always present, as our survivors try to figure out a way back to the boat and out of reptile infested waters. The small cast are all good and create characters we like and care about. It’s a tight, though moderately paced, 89 minutes but an 89 minutes that is thick with atmosphere and tension.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

BARE BONES: LA LLORONA (2019)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

LA LLORONA (2019)

Shudder original is a Guatemalan film that mixes the supernatural with some all too real events from Guatemalan history. The film opens with elderly Enrique (Julio Diaz) on trial for war crimes he’s accused of committing as a general during the bloody Guatemalan Civil War. Events surrounding the trial have he and his family trapped inside his home, with hundreds of angry protestors outside. When new housekeeper Alma (María Mercedes Coroy) is brought into the house, strange things start to occur and soon it appears something more dangerous than the angry mob outside, is now inside the home with them. What is it and what does it want?

Guatemalan tale of a vengeful spirit is directed by Jayro Bustamante from his own script with Lisandro Sanchez. It ‘s a very atmospheric and spooky film on one side and some stark commentary on Guatemala’s bloody history of internal war and genocide on the other. The film is very moderately paced and while there is plenty of supernatural activity going on, it does seem to lean more towards drama, as the family is forced to look at it’s part in some horrific events. When the spooky stuff comes, it is quite effective and Bustamante not only presents some chilling visuals, but achieves his effectiveness with simple in-camera lighting and shot composition. There are no CGI phantoms here, just good old-fashioned filmmaking. The cast are all very good and the Latin folklore adds even more atmosphere to an already atmospheric film. An effective movie that chills both with the supernatural and with the evils that men do. Now streaming on Shudder and costars Sabrina De La Hoz as Enrique’s daughter Natalia, Margarita Kenéfic as wife Carmen, Ayla-Elea Hurtado as granddaughter Sara and María Telón as Valeriana, a housekeeper and possibly illegitimate family member. Definitely NOT to be confused with last year’s lackluster Conjuring Universe flick, The Curse of La Llorona.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

BARE BONES: WARRIOR NUN (2020)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

WARRIOR NUN (2020)

Netflix original series is based on Ben Dunn’s comic book Warrior Nun Areala and finds teen Ava (Alba Baptista) waking up in a morgue with a strange and powerful object in her back and possessing supernatural powers. She soon finds the object is allegedly an angel’s halo and she now belongs to The Order of the Cruciform Sword, a Vatican backed order that protects the world against demons. How Buffy!

Despite the intriguing scenario and a dynamite leading lady, this series was a bit of a disappointment and a mixed bag. The problems here are simply that there is a lot of filler drama on hand and a few of the episodes are dull and don’t seem to progress the story much. The first season’s story arch could have been told with a tighter six to eight episodes, instead of drawn out over ten. It could have lost a few subplots, too, without missing a beat. Alba Baptista does make a feisty and sarcastic heroine and the actress has a lot of charm and charisma on screen. Unfortunately, it takes far too long for her to start doing something important and the series takes far too much time dwelling on her indecision between being a regular girl and holy warrior. The actress portrays it well, but we got the idea about two episodes before she finally makes up her mind. Character development is a good thing, but it gets repetitive here. The FX are quite good, the Spanish locations sumptuous, the religious aspects of the story are treated respectfully and the action, when it does come, is energetic and surprisingly violent. The most vexing thing of all about Warrior Nun, however, is that despite having some nice major twist/reveals in the last episode, the season also ends in a massive cliffhanger without concluding any of it’s many story lines. This show does have all the elements needed to be a kick-ass show. If there is a season 2, it needs to be more streamlined and more to the point.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

BARE BONES: THE RANGER (2018)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

THE RANGER (2018)

Chelsea (Chloë Levine) and her punk rocker friends are on the run after an incident leaves a police officer gravely wounded. They flee up to her deceased uncle Pete’s (Larry Fessenden) cabin deep in the woods to hide out. There they encounter a psychotic park ranger (Jeremy Holm) who is linked to Chelsea’s past and is not happy with her choice of friends.

Flick is directed with a nod to 80s slashers by Jenn Wexler from her script with Giaco Furino. It’s got a lot of the elements that provided the template for horror flicks of that era, such as, a deranged individual, past reveals and bloody kills. It’s not overly suspenseful or scary, but there are a few brutal moments. It’s heart is in the right place and it does evoke the type of films it’s paying homage to very well. Wexler knows her inspirations, with no better example than a head in a birdcage bringing back memories of Charles Kaufman’s cult classic Mother’s Day. Chloë Levine makes a strong and likable heroine and Jeremy Holm is effective as the demented ranger with an unhealthy attachment to Chelsea. On a technical level, the film looks good, the gore well-rendered and there is a nostalgic 80s style electronic score from Wade MacNeil and Andrew Gordon Macpherson, along with some 80s-esque punk rock songs. A fun slasher throwback from Jenn Wexler. Also stars Amanda Grace Benitez as Amber, Jeremy Pope as Jerk, Bubba Weiler as Abe and Granit Lahu as Chelsea’s boyfriend Garth. Now streaming on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: SHAWNEE SMITH as MEG PENNY in THE BLOB (1988)!

MZNJ_cult_classic_cuties

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…

**************************************************

SHAWNEE SMITH as MEG PENNY in THE BLOB (1988)!

Shawnee Smith as Meg Penny in The Blob (1988)!

I am going to admit that on this installment of Cult Classic Cuties I am cheating a bit. Actress and singer Shawnee Smith is no stranger to horror and after starring in Chuck Russell’s criminally underrated 1988 remake, she went on to be featured in a number of horror related projects, such as two Stephen King TV mini-series adaptations, a Wes Craven produced remake of Carnival of Souls, an episode of The X-Files and she was a reoccurring character in the Saw movies. Sure, that makes her a straight up Halloween Hottie, but her Megan is such a great character, in this fun 80s remake and now cult classic, that I am going to break my own rules to feature her in this installment!

(You can read my full review for The Blob by clicking the highlighted titles or on the poster below)

**************************************************

bars

As the film begins, Meg Penny is an average teenager, cheerleading at football games.

A dream date turns into a nightmare, as Megan first meets The Blob!

With no one believing her, she turns to local rebel Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon) for help.

Megan risks all to get friends and loved ones to safety!

From cheerleader to warrior as Megan takes the fight to the gelatinous invader!

**************************************************

So, I cheated here to feature this talented California born actress in the Cult Classic Cutie category, even though she has had a prolific TV and movie career and done a number of horror related projects. It’s just Chuck Russell’s remake is finally getting the respect and following it’s always deserved and Smith’s Megan is a strong part of what makes this cult classic work. So forgive my indulging myself and breaking format, but to me, Shawnee Smith and her cheerleader with an M-16 will always be a Cult Classic Cutie!

**************************************************

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

-MonsterZero NJ

bars