BARE BONES: HEARTTHROB (2017)

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HEARTTHROB (2017)

Pretty high school grad Sam (Aubrey Peebles) is struggling with her father’s suicide and using the affections of some of the local boys to ease her pain. She runs into high school valedictorian Henry (It Follows’ Keir Gilchrist) and the mismatched pair start dating. Sam puts aside her promiscuous ways for the charming science nerd, but is unaware that Henry is becoming obsessive and has a jealous side which could turn dangerous…or even deadly…when provoked.

Indie romance/thriller is written and directed with a nice low key style by Chris Silvertson. The film both charms us with the teen romance and chills us when Henry starts stalking his own girlfriend. It works because it starts us off with a cute romance between the two troubled teens and then suddenly gets disturbing when Henry starts to listen in on Sam’s cellphone conversations and decides to literally eliminate his competition. By getting us emotionally invested in their relationship before letting us know Henry is wound a bit too tight, it makes his actions all the more unnerving. Sure there are some elements that don’t quite mesh, like one of Sam’s former teachers (Peter Facinelli) also showing possible interest and the cops never questioning Henry, despite witnesses putting him in crucial places. But overall it works, there are good performances from it’s cast and it combines both tragic romance and disturbing thriller effectively. Also stars Ione Skye (Say Anything) as Sam’s mom.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: GET THE GIRL (2017)

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GET THE GIRL (2017)

Dumb and dull flick has love-struck Clarence (Justin Dobies) falling in love with sexy bartender Alex (Elizabeth Whitson) and hiring lowlife Patrick (Noah Segan) to kidnap her, so he can rescue her and become her hero to win her heart. Things go awry and soon blood and bullets are flying instead of cupid’s arrows.

Writer director Eric England has shown some potential with his horror flicks like Contracted and Madison County, but fails as a Tarantino wannabe. It’s a silly movie with a story that gets dumber and dumber as it goes along, even though it’s trying to be clever. It also tries way too hard to be hip and the characters are annoying and the attempts at slick humor fall flat. England has proven he can make a good movie, especially in the horror genre and it’s hard to give a filmmaker a hard time for trying something different, but maybe the hip, ultra-violent comedy thing is not for him. Also stars Scout Taylor-Compton as Patrick’s dim-witted girlfriend.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: DAY OF THE DEAD-BLOODLINE (2018)

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DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE (2018)

Second remake of George Romero’s third zombie classic is basically a retread with scientists and military in a secure…somewhat…bunker trying to find a cure for the zombie virus. One zombie, Max (Johnathon Schaech) seems to hold the key, as he is far more human than his vicious counterparts. Added caveat is, however, Max was a psychopath in life and obsessed with scientist with model good looks, Zoe (Sophie Skelton). This puts the entire base in danger as Max will do anything to get his hands on her.

Pointless remake is written by Mark Tonderai and Lars Jacobson with directorial chores handed over to someone named Hèctor Hernández Vicens. Vicens directs competently, but there are little scares or suspense and the zombie action is strictly routine. It follows the basic plot of Romero’s flick, but changes character names, eliminates and combines other characters and adds soap opera level relationships for our survivors and soldiers, who all look like models. They have a larger group of civilians in the bunker which means more food for the flesh eaters…called “rotters” here…and of course intelligent zombie “Bub” is now psycho zombie “Max”. The dull characters continually do stupid things to put themselves and others in harm’s way and the writers even have the audacity to give it a bright and happy ending. The acting is nothing special, though technical aspects, including make-up, are good, but ultimately a waste of time as both zombie film and remake.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: HAUNTERS-THE ART OF THE SCARE (2017)

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HAUNTERS-THE ART OF THE SCARE (2017)

Haunters is a fun and sometimes disturbing documentary focusing on the folks who set up extreme haunts at Halloween…and some of the individuals who go to them. Writer/director Jon Schnitzer interviews some small time extreme haunt makers whose mission it is every Halloween to terrify people as much as possible. One such entrepreneur, Russ McKamey, runs a haunt that may cross some lines, but Schnitzer let’s you decide if that is so for yourself. He shows how the people work hard to put these attractions together and then shows us the eager customers willing to be bound, gagged, blindfolded, manhandled, dunked under water and covered in all sorts of who-knows-what. It’s hard to tell who is more disturbed, the haunt creators or their excited to be frightened clients. The interviews and footage are equally fun and disturbing and also gives us a look at what effect this horror hobby has on the makers and their families. And while you consider if these haunts are unethical or dangerous, you have to at least appreciate the creativity and effort put into them. A fun and fascinating documentary from Jon Schnitzer.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017)

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THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017)

Intense drama tells the story of angry mother, Mildred Hayes (an amazing Frances McDormand), who sees, what she believes, to be a lack of effort on her local sheriff’s (Woody Harrelson) part in catching the man who raped and murdered her daughter, Angela (Kathryn Newton). In response, she puts up three billboards on the outskirts of her small town calling the police force out on their failings. This not only sets the town against her, as they sympathize with a sheriff dying of cancer, but also puts her, and those affiliated, in the cross hairs of his ignorant and hateful second in command, Dixon (Sam Rockwell).

Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, this is a powerful film, that not only illustrates what anger and hatred causes folks to do, but the consequences of those actions. The film is not really about Angela’s murder, but the effect it has had on her family and the town they live in, mostly on the rage coming from mother Mildred. The film also delivers some surprising transformations as the effects of all this anger and hatred changes people, some for the better, others for worse. McDonagh gets some fantastic performances out of his cast, especially McDormand and Rockwell and his script gives some intense dialogue and material for the cast to work from. Maybe the film isn’t perfect, one wonders if this town arrests anyone for anything at times, but it is a film that will stay with you long after the credits roll. Also stars Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Samara Weaving and Abbie Cornish.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: LADY BIRD (2017)

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LADY BIRD (2017)

Indie comedy/drama takes place in early 2000s Sacramento as strong-willed and opinionated Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) spends her senior year at Catholic school and has plans for her future in a New York City college. This plan causes her to butt heads with her money minded mother (Laurie Metcalf) who is determined she go to school locally to ease the financial burden on her down-on-their-luck family.

Enchanting indie flick is written and directed by Greta Gerwig, who has been in a number of indie films herself and certainly has paid attention. She creates a very spirited and rebellious character in the self-proclaimed “Lady Bird” without that character becoming a cliché. We are endeared to her and cheer her on, as her fire and determination to be her own person, rubs family and faculty alike the wrong way. Gerwig never steers the film into melodrama, yet also keeps the humor subtle so we take Christine’s journey, to walk to the beat of her own drum, seriously. She gets great performances out of her cast, especially Ronan and Metcalf and gives us real people to populate Christine’s world and not stereotypes. A fun and engaging story of a young woman coming of age in post 911 America. Also stars Tracy Letts as Christine’s father, Larry.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006) and SILENT NIGHT (2012)

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BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006)

Remake, of sorts, of the holiday slasher classic finds a group of bitchy sorority sisters under siege by a demented serial killer and his sister. William Lenz (Robert Mann) escapes from a mental hospital and heads to his former home which is now a sorority. He is joined by his equally psychotic sister Agnes (Dean Friss) to stalk such cuties as Lacey Chabert, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Buffy alumni Michelle Trachtenberg and Katie Cassidy. Blood and body parts fly as they decimate the sorority sisters, one by one.

Flick is written and directed by X-Files writer Glen Morgan and turns what was a stylish and mysterious slasher into a blunt and over-the-top one. Bob Clark’s original was simple, had it’s bloody kills and never let us know who the killer really was, adding an eerie quality. Here we are introduced to our psychos right away with continual flashbacks and we get some really gory death’s and some very drunk and bitchy sorority girls to inflict them on. There is little or no suspense, though the action is fast paced, there is some entertainment to be had and the gore is well rendered. The girls are certainly Christmas eye candy and Katie Cassidy does make a good final girl even if Morgan’s script gets silly at times. Worth a look, but hardly a classic.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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SILENT NIGHT (2012)

This remake of the 1984 Silent Night, Deadly Night, barely qualifies as such, as it takes half the title and a few scenes and primarily does it’s own thing. Here Christmas is approaching and a pretty deputy (Jaime King) is hunting a sadistic murderer in a Santa suit and mask, who is killing the bad folks of Cryer, Wisconsin in ho ho ho-rrible ways.

Flick is directed by Steven C. Miller from a script by Jayson Rothwell and takes all the fun out of the holiday themed slasher concept. It’s an ugly and sleazy flick that has it’s homicidal Santa killing, bad kids, lecherous priests, drug dealers, porn film makers and their scantily clad actresses. It makes this small town look like quite the sleaze pit and gives us few to root for as the victims are all unlikable for the most part and we meet them like three minutes before they die. They’re just Santa fodder and not characters we care about. At least in the original the characters were only questionably bad, regular people and not societies dregs which evoke little sympathy. Also stars Malcolm McDowell as the town sheriff, Zombeaver’s Cortney Palm, and Scott Pilgrim’s Ellen Wong as the police station receptionist. An ugly and boring movie.

-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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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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BARE BONES: ATOMIC BLONDE (2017)

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ATOMIC BLONDE (2017)

Action-fueled spy thriller takes place in 1989 in an unstable East Berlin as MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is interrogated by her superiors over the events of the past few days. Her mission was to retrieve a list of all agents active in the area, including the traitorous Satchel, who was to be eliminated. As she relates her failure to capture this list, we go back and relive her problematic mission.

Neon drenched flick is directed by David Leitch from a script by Kurt Johnstad, that is based on a graphic novel called The Coldest City by by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart. Despite a lot of intense and vicious fight scenes in which Theron gets to play a lethal bad-ass, the film is a bit dull and struggles to hold one’s interest. It’s also a flick that is trying way too hard to be hip and even overdoes it with it’s 80s soundtrack, which is almost impossible. Aside from the bone breaking action, the plot is extremely routine spy stuff and fails to really involve you when Theron isn’t snapping arms or breaking faces. A fairly forgettable movie despite a strong characterization by vet Theron and some very effective action sequences, which in themselves are worth watching. Also stars James McAvoy as her eccentric, Berlin MI6 contact and Sofia Boutella as a French agent and Theron’s love interest.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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