BARE BONES: INFRARED (2022)

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INFRARED (2022)

Found footage horror finds paranormal investigator Geoff (Greg Sestero) teaming up with his estranged psychic sister Izzy (Leah Finity) to investigate an abandoned and allegedly haunted school. If personal tensions weren’t enough, the effects of a past tragedy and a sinister presence lurking the halls make this possibly the most real and terrifying episode of Infrared of all! 
 
Flick is written and directed by Robert Livings and Randy Lundlall Jr. and the duo try hard. There are a few spooky sequences, but like most found footage flicks it takes a long time to really get going and we spend at least an hour with Geoff and Izzy’s personal melodrama. It follows the formula almost too closely with anything interesting happening in the last act and then it ends suddenly with a cheap jump scare. Yes, there is an unexpected element that is revealed near the end, but it comes too little and too late to make things interesting and not enough is done with it before the credits roll. At least the directors give the flick a bit of a found footage feel, most of the time, though an overacting Jesse Janzen as the eccentric property owner Wes comes across as nothing but scripted hijinks. Seen worse. Seen better. Infrared premiers on VOD on 7/22/22 on the Terror Films Channel and 7/29/22 on all other digital streaming outlets.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE BLOODY MAN (2022)

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THE BLOODY MAN (2022)

The Bloody Man is an 80s set horror flick centering on young Sam Harris (David Daniel) a comic book loving kid dealing with the death of his mother (Lisa Wilcox), a new stepmother (Tuesday Knight), the bullies in school and an obnoxious older brother (Sam Hadden) and brat little sister (Olivia Sanders). Feeling alone and out of place, Sam turns to his comic books. When a malevolent entry called the Bloody Manis is accidentally unleashed, Sam has to figure out a way to stop the spooky specter.
 
Throwback to 80s horror is directed by Daniel Benedict from his script with Casi Clark. Benedict definitely has a love for 80s horror and does a good job giving this flick the look and feel of the films he is paying homage to, right down to its very 80s score by Johnathan Fan Octo Evans. There are some unfortunate drawbacks though. Some of the dialogue is straight-up bad. The acting is very flat, from a mostly amateur cast, though it is fun to see Freddy alumni Tuesday Knight and Lisa Wilcox back on onscreen again. At well over two hours long, the flick drags on and on with a lot of long running flashbacks and there’s enough material for two movies. It’s over an hour before The Bloody Man even starts to make its presence known. A good forty minutes could have been cut without any harm to the story. The slow pace also doesn’t help with such an unnecessarily long runtime. It’s like the film was barely edited at all. It becomes a chore to sit through, when it should have been fun to watch. On the plus side, the filmmakers smartly don’t try to attempt things beyond the modest budget, and if some SPFX are a bit cheesy…well, that’s how they were in the 80s. There is some blood and gore, with some of it a little graphic for what is otherwise a fairly kid/teen centric flick.
 
Overall, the flick has its heart in the right place, but needed a lot of editing and a little more energy from director and cast to make this the fun nostalgic treat it could have been.
 
The Bloody Man arrives on VOD on 7/12/22
 

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: WATCHER (2022)

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WATCHER (2022)

Suspense thriller finds Julia (Maika Monroe) moving to Romania with her husband Francis (Karl Glusman). Bored and alone, Julia is looking out the window one night and sees a neighbor (Burn Gorman) staring back. As her feelings of loneliness and isolation grow, and reports of a serial killer on the loose spread through the city, Julia begins to believe the man staring back at her might be the killer. Is it her imagination getting the better of her, or is she really in grave danger?
 
Flick is written and directed by Chloe Okuno and is a sadly underwhelming thriller. This type of story with a fish out of water in a strange land believing they are being watched and followed by someone dangerous has been done many times before. That would be fine if this flick did something innovative with the scenario, but Okuno doesn’t. It plays out just as we expect, follows the formula to the letter, and even ends exactly as we knew it would. Aside from a solid performance by Monroe as Julia and some nice cinematography of Bucharest from Benjamin Kirk Nielsen, there is very little to recommend from this mundane and very routine thriller.
 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: H.P. LOVECRAFT’S WITCH HOUSE (2022)

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H.P. LOVECRAFT’S WITCH HOUSE (2022)

H.P. Lovecraft’s Witch House is an impressive low budget indie horror based on the legendary writer’s short story Dreams in The Witch House. The story finds graduate student Alice (Michelle Morris) staying at an old house that allegedly was the scene of much occult and supernatural activity. Alice intends to prove that witchcraft was actually used to open dimensional doorways, but her investigation only opens up a nightmare for the pretty young student.
 
Flick is atmospherically directed by Bobby Easley from a script by he and Ken Wallace, and Easley gets a lot accomplished on his low budget. The director has a good visual eye and there is some very spooky imagery here. He gets good use out of the atmospheric old house that a lot of the film is shot in, the dream/hallucination sequences are spooky, and what minimal make-up and gore FX there are, such as a very effective demonic entity, are well shot and executed. The story has been done before, and the ending is no shocker if you are a horror fan, but it’s still quite effective. Lead Michelle Morris gives a really good performance as Alice, a woman with a scientific interest in witchcraft and who is also emotionally wounded by a toxic relationship with an abusive boyfriend (Andrew Hutchinson). Aubrey Smith-Leonard is spooky as the owner of the allegedly haunted house and Julie Anne Prescott is good as her daughter Tommi, whom Alice forms a friendship and romantic relationship with. Not all the acting is as solid and some of the surreal dream sequences are shot a little too dark, with the color filters and lights being used a bit too much. Flaws and budget restraints aside, though, Bobby Easley crafts an effective little horror with some legitimate chills and some very impressive and spooky visuals on what appears to be an extremely modest budget. Worth a look when it comes to VOD on 7/5/22!
 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: DASHCAM (2022)

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DASHCAM (2022)

Dashcam has rapper and vlogger Annie (Annie Hardy) traveling to England and almost upon arrival beginning to cause trouble for her friend and former bandmate Stretch (Amar Chadha-Patel). She accepts the task of driving an old woman named Angela (Angela Enahoro) to a destination for cash and soon she and Stretch learn to regret it, as Angela turns out to be something quite unexpected…and dangerous.

Found footage horror is directed by Rob Savage, who made the quarantine filmed internet sensation horror Host. The script is by he with Gemma Hurley along with Jed Shepard and is simply a bloody mess. This is literal as the film is quite the splatter-fest, but also because the mess of a story seems to be making itself up as it goes along, instead of following some sort of cohesive narrative. Sure, there are a few creepy sequences, and the gore can be fun, but the flick is as loud and obnoxious as it’s heroine Annie. By presenting a lead who grates on ones every nerve, it leaves no one to endear or fear for, except for maybe the hapless Stretch, as we really don’t care what happens to a woman who is basically a big, selfish, a-hole. Angela…or whatever she is…can be spooky at times, but the rapid-fire hurling of crashes, mutilations and chases being thrown at us gets tiring very quick. That and at already less than 80 minutes, the film pads out its runtime with a grating, precredit Annie Hardy rap sequence that feels like it goes on forever. A sadly disappointing sophomore effort by Savage, who showed potential with his first flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: MEGAN IS MISSING (2011)

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MEGAN IS MISSING (2011)

Extremely unpleasant found footage thriller tells the story of Megan Stewart (Rachel Quinn), a promiscuous 14-year-old party girl who is friends with good girl Amy Herman (Amber Perkins). Megan meets a guy named Josh (Dean Waite) online and begins to chat with him. She leaves her home to go meet Josh one night and disappears without a trace. Amy tries to help authorities find her friend, while documenting her own feelings about the disappearance. Unfortunately, this earns the sweet natured girl the wrong kind of attention.
 
Flick written and directed by Michael Goi was originally made in 2011 and based on some real disappearances. The decade old found footage feature has become a bit of an internet sensation recently when it was featured on Tik Tok. The film in itself is very effective in a few unsettling ways. While like most found footage movies there are some slow parts, it’s the first and last act that are the most disturbing. The first act has some very shocking portrayals of underage drinking and sexual activity amongst kids barely in their teens that is chilling in itself. Then we watch the mystery unfold for the second act as Amy tries to figure out what happened and speaks online to the increasing hostile Josh, who denies he met Megan on that fateful night. It’s the final act that really gets stomach churning as Amy gruesomely finds out what really happened to Megan and it’s not pleasant. There is some shocking imagery and just the thought about what happened and happens beyond what we see onscreen is even more chilling. It’s not only a very unsettling and cautionary tale of online predators, but unchecked teenage behavior as well. BE WARNED…the last act is extremely graphic, brutal and disturbing, especially as the subject is an underage teen girl. Goi maintains the illusion we are watching actual footage and his young leads add to the realism with good and natural performances. Megan is Missing made barely a ripple in 2011, but now has attained cult status due to online exposure and a recent wider release on streaming networks. Megan is Missing can be found on Amazon Prime and Google Play, if you dare. It’s not a pleasant watch and the rating here is for effectiveness alone as, this is not an enjoyable or entertaining film in any way.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: SCARE ZONE (2022)

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SCARE ZONE (2022)

Indie horror/comedy finds a group of new employees at the mall Halloween haunt Scare Zone trying to frighten customers while a real killer is stalking them behind the scenes.
 
Halloween set horror/comedy is written and directed by Jon Binkowski and is a well-intended flick with its heart in the right place. Horror/comedies are not easy to pull off and despite Binkowski trying hard, the film comes off as a 90-minute sitcom Halloween episode. That’s not altogether a bad thing, but the film is never really funny enough to nail it as a comedy, and never really scary enough to nail it as a horror. It has a generic sitcom feel and a very generic killer, though at least it has a likable cast of characters, and the actors do a good job making them such. You could do worse and at least indie filmmakers are getting their films made and you can never have too many flicks set on Halloween. Flick is available on VOD from Terror Films on 5/28/22.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: TORN HEARTS (2022)

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TORN HEARTS (2022)

Collaboration from Blumhouse Pictures and Epix finds country singer wannabes Jordan (Abby Quinn) and Leigh (Alexxis Lemire) performing under the name Torn Hearts and seeking to hit big. They gain an opportunity to visit reclusive country music legend Harper Dutch (Katey Sagal) at her home, and try to convince her to perform with them, as a way of getting the attention they seek. Harper Dutch, however, turns out to be something quite unexpected…and possibly quite dangerous.
 
Flick is directed by Brea Grant from a script by Rachel Koller Croft. Grant has a good cast to work with, as Lemire and Quinn play well the wannabe rising stars, and Katey Sagal does strong work, as usual, as the unstable Harper. The flick gets a bit unsettling the moment the girls arrive at Harper’s home, Brea Grant quickly establishing that something is wrong with this former star and our ambitious duo may have bothered the wrong country music icon. Even when a night of partying with their idol seems harmless enough, the following morning things start to get weird. It does take a while for the flick to get going, but it is still fun to watch veteran actress Sagal gradually bring Harper to a psychotic boil, without ever descending into camp. Harper’s behavior goes from eccentric to unhinged and she takes her young guests with her. Sagal’s costars also do a nice job keeping up with her, as Harper plays them against each other, and things get a little nasty. It’s the last act where things get a bit disappointing, though. Torn Hearts is like a tense fuse that never leads to the explosion. It does have the situation finally descending into secrets revealed, emotions boiling to the surface, madness and murder, though doesn’t really get nuts like we want it to, until literally the last few minutes, and even then, it seems to be holding back. The ending doesn’t have the impact or resonance it needs to, either, as it simply comes as no surprise. Grant also could have given the film a snappier pace, as it starts to drag just when it should have been ramping up. She does have a nice visual eye, though, especially in Harper’s old, music paraphernalia-filled house, and the setting works very well to establish some atmosphere. Not a complete success, but not a total failure either, flick is still worth a look, especially for fans of Sagal. Torn Hearts also stars Shiloh Fernandez as Caleb Crawford, a country star who gives Jordan Harper’s address and Joshua Leonard as the girls’ manager, Richie.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: HATCHING (2022)

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HATCHING (2022)

Finnish horror finds young Tinja (a wonderful Siiri Solalinna) caring for a bird’s egg after she is forced to put its wounded mother out of her misery. The egg starts to grow to an unnatural size and soon hatches into bird-like creature. The animal endears to Tinja and she to it, until it becomes obvious it’s means of pleasing and protecting Tinja are quite lethal.

Creature feature from Finland is directed by Hanna Bergholm from a script and story by she and Ilja Rautsi. By giving Tinja a pair of self-absorbed parents (Sophia Heikkilä and Jani Volanen) it makes the girl sympathetic, and also believable that the child could keep such a creature in her room unnoticed, except by her brat of a little brother (Oiva Ollila). The creature is an interesting design and portrayed by some nice old-fashioned prosthetics and proves to be very intelligent, as well as, quite dangerous. There is also an unnerving caveat of Tinja having a mental connection with her surrogate child and having seizures and visions when it kills. They also feel each other’s pain. The creature she dubs “Alli” becomes a conduit to releasing Tinja’s inner turmoil. It makes for a tense and sometimes disturbing monster movie with some effective gore once “Alli” starts to viciously protect Tinja and also begins to transform into something quite startling. Altogether an impressive horror feature debut from Hanna Bergholm.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: FIRESTARTER (2022)

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FIRESTARTER (2022)

Blumhouse/Universal flick is a remake of the 1984 thriller, which in turn, was an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. The story is the same. A young couple Andy (Zac Efron) and Vicky (Sydney Lemmon) undergo drug experiments that give them special abilities. More troublesome, is their daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) is born with the power to set fires with her mind. Now the shady organization that created them is hunting them down to take control of Charlie’s incendiary skills.

Update is lamely directed by Keith Thomas from a weak script by Scott Teems that fixes none of the problems with the original film’s screenplay. There is no suspense, the film is extremely by-the-numbers and dull, the villains are boring and the performances stale. Only young Ryan Kiera Armstrong gives her underwritten role a little life. There has been little or no publicity for this release and now it’s obvious why. Aside from being completely forgettable, the film even looks cheap. The only redeeming thing about the flick is the score by legendary filmmaker/composer John Carpenter, his son Cody and Daniel A. Davies. The delightful irony here is that Carpenter was originally set to direct the 1984 version before being fired after the lackluster box office performance of The Thing. Now his contribution is the only memorable part of this pointless remake. Film is currently available in theaters and streaming on Peacock.

-MonsterZero NJ

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