BARE BONES: TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID (2017)

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TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID (2017)

Mexican film is both heartbreaking drama and supernatural thriller that takes place in 2006 during the drug wars as thousands are being abducted and killed, thus leaving orphans to live on the cruel streets. Estrella (Paola Lara) is one such girl whose mother disappears while she is at school. She is forced to join a group of four orphaned boys (Juan Ramón López as Shine, Rodrigo Cortes as Pop, Nery Arredondo as little Morro and Hanssel Casillas as Tucsi) who are surviving by theft and sticking together. Not only are they pursued by a ruthless drug lord and his thugs, for a phone they stole, but Estrella is being followed by a supernatural entity whose intent is yet unknown.

Film is very well directed by Issa López from her own script. The movie combines supernatural thriller, harsh street drama and a touch of fantasy, as we are dealing with children after all. The supernatural elements can be spooky, but it is the unflinching look at children surviving under the worst conditions that really tugs the heart. López’s camera doesn’t flinch in it’s portrayal of children in a violent world and how these kids become “tigers” to survive it. The fantasy elements blend in well, as children at this age are still capable of believing in magic and fairy tales to help them cope with adversity…and loss. To say López gets good performances out of her young cast is an understatement. The kids are great. The film can be a bit slow moving at times, even at only 83 minutes, and is very dark, violent and grim, but also comes to a satisfying conclusion where all the elements come together nicely. Not perfect, but it’s an original, spooky and very touching and thought provoking movie from Issa López. Also stars Tenoch Huerta as drug lord El Chino and Ianis Guerrero as one of his thugs whose path the kids unfortunately cross.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: CANDY CORN (2019)

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CANDY CORN (2019)

Boring Halloween set horror has a group of small town thugs following their cruel Halloween tradition of pranking local boy Jacob (Nate Chaney), who now works for a carnival. Their bullying takes an unexpected turn when Jacob finally fights back and they accidentally kill him in retaliation. The carnival’s ring master Dr. Death (Pancho Moler from Rob Zombie’s 31) uses his voodoo powers to resurrect Jacob as a mask wearing monster that avenges himself brutally on his attackers, leaving candy corn stuffed in their dead mouths.

Flick is written and directed very by-the-numbers by Josh Hasty, who has obviously seen a lot of horror films, but doesn’t really understand what makes them work. His script is a dull hodgepodge of flicks we have all seen before, from Carpenter’s classic to Pumpkinhead, yet without any of those films’ chills or thrills. He thinks all that he had to do was hire some familiar faces from horror films past and present, yet gives us no likable or interesting characters for us to identify with or root for. The victims of his dull creature are all cruel local thugs, so they are getting what’s coming to them and we have no sympathy or interest in their deaths whatsoever. Jacob looks like some guy wandering around in a generic Halloween mask and exudes no threat or menace. If you can’t conjure memorable or likable characters, at least have a memorable monster. Epic fail on both counts. Add to that, the cast all recite their dialogue with a deadpan monotone and it makes every scene tedious. There is some routine bloodshed, but absolutely no suspense, atmosphere or tension to give it weight. At 85 minutes it’s a bore to sit through and is as forgettable as it’s vengeful walking corpse. Don’t waste your time unless you have to see every Halloween themed movie out there and even on that level the film has very little Halloween spirit. Also stars Candyman‘s Tony Todd, Halloween’s P.J. Soles and Children of the Corn’s Courtney Gains.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: RIOT GIRLS (2019)

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RIOT GIRLS (2019)

Riot Girls takes place in a somewhat post-apocalyptic future where a plague of some sort has wiped out all the adults and placed the teens in charge. We get the poor kids on the East Side vs the rich kids on The West Side run by the high school football team the Titans. Enter East Side lesbian couple Nat (Madison Iseman) and punker Scratch (Paloma Kwiatkowski) who must go up against the Titans when Scratch’s brother, Jack (Alexandre Bourgeois) is taken prisoner by them.

Flick is directed by Jovanka Vuckovic from a script by Katherine Collins and seems to resemble something that could have been made in the 80s. Sadly something also seems missing from this retro-ish flick that keeps it from really being the offbeat treat it should have been. The characters seemed very cliché, despite the contemporary addition of lesbian leads, and the direction seemed a bit by-the-numbers. Adding a punk rock song every five minutes does not creativity make and one feels they could have done a lot more with the premise. The cast are fine, though only Munro Chambers as the Titans lead douchebag Jeremy has a strong presence here. Scratch seems like the usual movie version of a punk rocker and is sadly the most stereotypical of all the characters, with Iseman at least tackling a different role than her usual girl-next-door types she’s frequently cast as. There is some bloody violence, though none of it has any real impact as the film slides back and forth between high school movie and teen Mad Max wanna-be. A concept that simply should have been carried out with a lot more ingenuity.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES SEPT 13-15

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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. “It: Chapter Two” $40.7 Million

2. “Hustlers” $33.2 Million

3. “Angel Has Fallen” $4.4 Million

4. “Good Boys” $4.3 Million

5. “The Lion King” $3.55 Million

6. “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” $2.8 Million

7. “Overcomer” $2.7 Million

8. “The Goldfinch” $2.6 Million

9. “The Peanut Butter Falcon” $1.9 Million

10. “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” $1.85 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HAUNT (2019)

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HAUNT (2019)

There have been a lot of horrors set in Halloween haunts as of late, from The Houses October Built to Hell Fest to Extremity, so, this Shudder* produced flick needed to impress coming in with a concept that is already becoming familiar…and not only does it do that, it might be one of the best horrors this year.

Story finds pretty Harper (Katie Stevens) trying to part with abusive boyfriend Sam (Samuel Hunt) and heading out to party on Halloween night with friends Bailey (Lauryn Alisa McClain), Angela (Shazi Raja) and Mallory (Schuyler Helford). At a club, they run into a couple of guys, Nathan (Will Brittain) and Evan (Andrew Caldwell) and decide to leave with them to find a Halloween haunt, dragging a reluctant Harper along. They stumble upon one such haunt, in the middle of nowhere and soon find they may have picked the wrong haunt to haunt.

Flick is directed intensely by the A Quiet Place writing duo of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who also scripted here. It’s premise may not be novel at this point, but is carried out very effectively. It starts out tense with Harper putting on make-up over a bruise suffered from her alcoholic boyfriend and Bailey trying to convince her to finally break up with him. We find out in flashbacks that Harper’s father was also an abusive alcoholic and all this personal drama gives the character some emotional depth, much like Extremity‘s emotionally wounded Allison. We are thus sympathetic to Harper, and her friends, too, as they are all likable characters, especially when we start to realize those running this backwoods haunt are in it for some deadly thrills of their own. The pranks start out playful and then get mean spirited before becoming lethal. The violence is sparse, so it has impact when it occurs and there is some decent gore once things really start to get vicious…and Harper finally learns to stand up for herself and fight back. Beck and Woods build some good old-fashioned suspense and stage some nicely intense set pieces to put our likable leads through. Obviously, not all of them make it and killing off main characters makes us feel unsure about any of their safety. It adds to the suspense. The film looks cool and the sets are well rendered on what appears to be a modest budget. It has a Halloween feel and an atmosphere of foreboding throughout. The costumes for our haunt folk are creepy and they are equally spooky without their Halloween masks. We don’t get to know them very well, or their motives, but they come across as deranged and dangerous and that helps this work. Add to that a very cool score by tomandandy, and you’ve got a very effective Halloween themed chiller that makes very good use of a now familiar setting. Any issues here are minor, such as the movie evoking some of the other haunt set flicks mentioned earlier and the addition of Harper’s jerk boyfriend Sam to the action in the last act, doesn’t really add anything to the proceedings. Otherwise this is a very solid horror.

The cast of fresh faces really helps this flick click. Katie Stevens is very impressive as Harper. She’s a girl with a painful past, dealing with her own issues and finally learning to fight for herself, when thrown into a nightmarish situation. The actress makes her likable and sympathetic and we’re totally with her when she goes on the offensive. Actress McClain is very likable as best pal Bailey. She’s a caring person and looking out for her friend makes her endearing to us. Will Brittain is a solid male lead and he is charming, handsome and his Nathan seems like the nice guy Harper really needs. This makes us like him and fear for him. Caldwell is fun as the obnoxious and bombastic Evan. This character could have been annoying, but script and actor avoid that by presenting his sarcastic humor in the right degrees. He is also brave when he needs to be. Raja and Helford get the least focus of the group, but the actresses make them extremely likable supporting characters with the scenes they have. The key to a horror flick’s success is feeling empathy for it’s main characters and here we do. It also needs effective villains and our masked haunters, Chaney Morrow as “Ghost”, Justin Marxen as “Clown”, Terri Partyka as “Witch”, Justin Rose as “Vampire”, Damian Maffei as “Devil” and Schuyler White as “Zombie” all give their characters a lethality from under their already effective costumes. Last but not least, Samuel Hunt makes the brutish Sam appropriately dislikable with what limited screen time the character has. A solid cast all the way around.

Overall, Haunt is a chilling and intense horror that overcomes the familiarity of a recent horror trend by simply being really good at what it does. It’s intense, scary, has some striking violence and gore and makes good use of it’s spooky setting. It gives us some very likable lead characters, including a three dimensional and sympathetic final girl, to root and fear for and some dastardly villains to be fearful of. Really solid horror and a very spooky surprise from Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, producer Eli Roth and those great folks at Shudder.

*Just to be clear…Flick was produced by Shudder, but won’t be hitting their streaming network until next month. It is currently available on most Pay Per View outlets such as Verizon, Vudu and iTunes. Sorry if there was any confusion caused by my initial referral to it as a Shudder “Exclusive”. -MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 (out of 4) creepy haunt hosts.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: CHILD’S PLAY (2019)

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CHILD’S PLAY (2019)

Remake, reboot, or whatever you want to call it, of the classic 1988 Child’s Play upgrades (or downgrades?) Chucky from a doll possessed by the spirit of a serial killer to a doll with a sabotaged A.I. As such, it actually isn’t a bad flick, as we find single mom Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza) wanting to get her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) a new Buddi doll for his birthday. When a defective one is returned to the store she works at, she takes it home for him. The needy doll dubs itself Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill) and soon starts to exhibit unusual behavior. This behavior soon escalates into cursing, violence and then murder, in protection of his pal Andy. When Andy tries to get rid of him, Chucky becomes a vengeful little Buddi, a friend till the end…which may come soon for Andy and anyone close to him.

Lars Klevberg directs well from a script by David Katzenberg and despite being unnecessary, as the two recent, old school Chucky movies were really good, it is an effective and entertaining horror. Making Chucky a doll with an Alexa-like A.I. is less spooky on one level, but creepy on another, as Chucky can control any item made by his home company, The Kaslan Corporation, such as lights, smart phones, televisions, cars and other toys. Mark Hamill is a solid successor to Brad Dourif and makes Chucky his own. The actor gives him a personality and is quite scary when Chucky starts to unravel due to a vengeful factory employee turning off his safety features. Gabriel Bateman is good as Andy and is likable. The added caveat of him being hearing impaired, doesn’t really effect the story much and just gives an excuse for him to be a bit of a loner. Plaza is fine as mom, Karen, though seems a bit too young to have a thirteen year-old son. There is a throwaway line about her getting knocked-up at her sweet sixteen party to explain it, but not sure what the point in casting her was other than being the subject of hot mom lines. The flick has a lot of gore, when it gets going and things do move quickly during the 90 minute running time. It’s got some good suspense and has some fun with it’s carnage. While Don Mancini’s killer doll will always remain the classic horror icon, this retread is actually a bloody good time when given a chance and taken on it’s own merits.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HELL HOUSE LLC III: LAKE OF FIRE GETS A TRAILER!

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Hell House LLC was a surprisingly spooky found footage flick that, of course, generated a sequel, Hell House LLC II: The Abbadon Hotel. Now filmmaker Stephen Cognetti is back with a third installment, Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire. Threequel finds rich entrepreneur Russell Wynn (Gabriel T. Chytry) buying The Abbadon for his own haunt attraction and inviting pretty journalist Venessa Sheppard (Elizabeth Vermilyea) to record the event. Obviously, they get more than they bargained for. Flick is set to premiere exclusively on Shudder on on 9/19/19!

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-MonsterZero NJ

Source: youtube

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BARE BONES: THE DEAD DON’T DIE (2019)

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THE DEAD DON’T DIE (2019)

If one ever said that eclectic indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch would make a zombie film, or Bill Murray would make two, one would initially be thought mad…but here we are. Flick takes place in the small, rural town of Centerville where a group of eccentric characters including Police Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) are dealing with a bizarre situation. The Earth has been thrown off it’s axis and now the dead are returning to life. As the town population dwindles, Robertson and Officer Ronald Peterson (Adam Driver) must battle the increasing army of the flesh eating living dead.

Flick is written and directed by Jarmusch and is filled with atmosphere and the director’s trademark dry humor. There is a lot of strange stuff going on and a host of oddball characters, but the film doesn’t always click and it does have the pace of, well…a funeral. There are some amusing moments and some bloody ones, too. The familiar tropes are present and Jarmusch does play with them a bit. The cast is quite impressive and amusing, such as Tilda Swinton’s sword wielding Scotswoman, but the movie on a whole never really seems to find it’s footing and rambles on like one of it’s zombies. Considering that it’s Jim Jarmusch actually making a zombie film, one would expect something a bit more special. Also stars Iggy Pop, Selena Gomez, Danny Glover, Chloë Sevigny and Tom Waits as “Hermit Bob”.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SATANIC PANIC (2019)

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SATANIC PANIC (2019)

Simple plot finds pizza delivery girl Sam (Hayley Griffith) delivering to a rich neighborhood and stumbling into a Satanic ceremony. She’s chosen as a sacrifice due to her virgin status, but the resourceful young lady escapes. She meets up with the Satanic Coven Leader Danica’s (Rebecca Romijn) outcast daughter Judi (Ruby Modine), who is in peril of her own and the two try to evade capture. Can the two women escape almost certain death with the forces of evil in hot pursuit?

Flick is directed by Chelsea Stardust from a script and story by Grady Henrix and Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here) and sadly doesn’t quite live up to it’s amusing premise. One problem is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be, a hip comedy or a horror flick. The tone changes from scene to scene with one moment trying to have fun with the tropes of a Satanic thriller and another trying to pull off some serious horror. Unfortunately, director Stardust doesn’t really evoke any scares or intensity when it tries to be more of a horror film and the script fails to be all that funny when it’s trying to be humorous. It wants to be a quirky, edgy comedy one minute and a occult themed horror the next and never really accomplishes either to a successful degree. Sure, there is some fun to be had and there is the underlying commentary about the haves vs the have nots, but none of it really hits the mark we hoped it would. It’s colorful, energetic and Stardust has a good visual eye, it’s just she never really settles on a tone. Should we be having fun?…or should we be taking this more seriously? On the plus side, there is a cool score by the “Wolfmen of Mars” and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 89 minutes. There is also some fun practical gore, too and it is elevated by a cast that is all in with the material.

On the subject of cast…Hayley Griffith makes a strong and very endearing heroine in her Sam. She’s a down on her luck young lady, working her first night as a pizza delivery girl and her pursuit of a much needed tip turns her first night into a literal living Hell. Rebecca Romijn chews the scenery appropriately as Danica, a rich woman who is also the coven leader. She’s fun in the part and gives her scenes a lot of the “snap” they need. Ruby Modine is good as Danica’s rebel daughter Rubi. Rubi is tough and confident, but being on the outs with a Satanic cult has put her in mortal danger. Modine and Griffith work well together. There are also supporting roles from Jerry O’Connell, horror vet Jordan Ladd and Rob Zombie regular Jeff Daniel Phillips. The cast get the material and really help make this very watchable despite a disappointing script.

Overall, Satanic Panic is a flick that has it’s moments, but ultimately doesn’t live up to it’s potential or premise. It has a bit of an identity problem and isn’t funny enough when it’s trying to be funny and isn’t scary enough when it wants to be scary. It’s heart is in the right place and with a better script with a more consistent tone, one wonders if Chelsea Stardust might be a filmmaker to keep more of an eye on. At least it has enough moments and a material savvy cast to make it worth a look, as long as expectations aren’t conjured too high.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 (out of 4) pizzas.

 

 

 

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES SEPT 6-8

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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. “It: Chapter Two” $91 Million

2. “Angel Has Fallen” $6 Million

3. “Good Boys” $5.4 Million

4. “The Lion King” $4.2 Million

5. “Overcomer” $3.75 Million

6. “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” $3.7 Million

7. “The Peanut Butter Falcon” $2.3 Million

8. “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” $2.27 Million

9. “Ready or Not” $2.22 Million

10. “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” $2.17 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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