BARE BONES: 47 METERS DOWN-UNCAGED (2019)

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47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED (2019)

Sequel to the fun Mandy Moore vs sharks epic, 47 Meters Down is basically Jaws meets The Descent and takes place in Yucatán, Mexico. A group of four pretty girls, Mia (Sophie Nélisse), Sasha (Corinne Foxx, daughter of Jamie Foxx), Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sly’s daughter, Sistine Stallone) decide to forgo the boat tour they are supposed to be on and go scuba diving in a flooded underground Mayan temple Mia’s dad (John Corbett) is exploring. Once the four get inside, they become trapped and are pursued by the blind, albino great white sharks that live inside the temple catacombs.

Directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, Strangers: Prey at Night) from a script he co-wrote with Ernest Riera, it’s a silly but fun sequel. Uncaged takes itself just serious enough and plays a lot like Neil Marshall’s chiller with our scantily clad heroines using both silence and sound to evade the great whites, who are blind due to living in darkness all this time. It’s entertaining nonsense as our ladies seek to escape when accidentally sealed in and are running out of air. The leading ladies are charming, pretty and likable enough, so we don’t especially want to see them become shark food and the flick does try to keep us in suspense as to if and when any of our adorable ladies will become dinner. This is a shark flick after all and the movie does provide some gruesome chow downs. Other divers are present to serve as food for our predators and one character appears and then is eaten so fast, there is no question as to why they were even there, except for the obvious reason of a great white happy meal. There are also some amusing conveniences, too, as characters who can be of any assistance in the girl’s escape are devoured at just the right crucial moments. Not as gripping as the surprisingly solid thriller the first flick was, but still mindless entertainment if you let it be and the last act is pretty much non-stop action. Silly and cliché, but a fun time.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: SPIDERHOLE (2009)

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SPIDERHOLE (2009)

Spiderhole is a British horror thriller about a group of four young squatters who break into an abandoned house to live in. Unfortunately for them, there is already an occupant and he doesn’t want them to leave…ever.

Spiderhole is technically well made, but it’s nothing new, nor is it done in a way to make it fresh. The four leads are dull and not particularly endearing or likable, so right there we have no emotional investment to care about their well being, which is a common mistake in horror films these days. When the film is not following them around the maze-like house, it’s being a routine torture show as the creepy plastic wearing occupant one by one captures them for some very nasty surgery. We never get to know much about this sick surgeon, not enough to give him the kind of presence or threat he needed to be effective. In fact we never really feel any dread or suspense despite the fact that he is always lurking about. Aside from our emotional detachment to the leads, the film never builds any atmosphere or a sense of danger with it’s by-the-numbers presentation of it’s story. Director and writer Daniel Simpson has a very point and shoot style that creates none of the mood this film needed to get past it’s tired plot. As a result, Spiderhole is an empty hole.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: THE NIGHTINGALE (2018)

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THE NIGHTINGALE (2018)

Flick takes place in the British penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land, which is now Tasmania, during the 19th century. An Irish couple, Clare (Aisling Franciosi) and Aiden (Michael Sheasby) are serving sentence there, along with their infant child and awaiting release. Clare has captured the eye of ambitious British Officer Hawkins (Sam Clafin) who is postponing her release and one night takes horrible advantage of her. This sets off a confrontation with Aiden, in front of a superior office, that causes Hawkins professional harm. In a fit of rage, Hawkins and his men rape Clare, again and kill her husband and child. As Hawkins travels to an outpost in search of securing promotion, Clare sets off in pursuit for revenge across wild lands with only native Aboriginal guide, Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) as company.

Australian period piece is written and directed with a very heavy hand by The Babadook’s Jennifer Kent. We understand going in this is not an action film, or Charles Bronson-esque revenge flick, but even so, the pace is dreadfully slow and the film simply about a half hour too long. The messages about the treatment of women and the terrible treatment of native Aboriginal peoples are well intended, but just because you have something important to say, doesn’t mean the audience should be bludgeoned with these messages for over two hours. Did we really have to endure Clare being brutally raped twice? We got the point the first time. The rape and murder of an Aboriginal tribeswoman also seems gratuitous, as by that point we understand that Hawkins and his thugs (Damon Herriman and Harry Greenwood) are horrible people and the black Aboriginals are treated awfully by the British and white locals. We get these messages clearly early on, but Kent keeps hammering away to make sure. It’s a well made film and the cast, especially leads Franciosi, Clafin and Ganambarr, give strong performances, but it’s also a tedious, heavy handed and meandering movie, even if well intended.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: DON’T LOOK (2018)

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DON’T LOOK (2018)

Routine backwoods horror has five friends, Lorena (Luciana Faulhaber), Ted (Jeff Berg), Sebastian (Javier E. Gómez), Nicole (Lindsay Eshelman) and Alex (Curtis K Case) traveling to a remote house in the country for a holiday getaway. There are some twisted redneck neighbors (Jarrod Robbins and Hailey Heisick) they cross paths with and a masked psycho soon starts stalking and killing them one by one. You’d think, at this point, city folk would stop vacationing in rural farmhouses or cabins in the woods, but…nope.

Low budget horror is produced, directed and co-written, with Jessica Boucher and Danielle Killay, by star Luciana Faulhaber (The Night Crew). Story-wise there is definitely nothing new here, though following a classic horror storyline did seem more like the point. Film is low budget and has a bit of an amateur production feel, though Faulhaber does direct well enough and makes good use of the rural Plowville, Pennsylvania locations. The cast are fine, performances vary with Faulhaber giving her fiery Lorena some sex appeal and strength, though oddly Lorena takes a backseat to another character in the last few scenes. Robbins and Heisick are also amusing as the twisted rednecks who live on the property and the flick does take a while to let us know if they are the killers, or a red herring (redneck herring?). There is a last act twist that isn’t totally unexpected, but fits in with the familiar tropes this film embraces. Not a lot of suspense, but there is some intensity in the last act. There are some decent kills with a sufficient amount of gore and the flick doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at a scant 71 minutes long. Overall, it’s an amusing enough watch for the spooky season on Amazon Prime and if Luciana Faulhaber continues to hone her craft she might turn into a director to keep an eye on.

Personal Note: I always support independent horror filmmaking and love the fact that Faulhaber didn’t sit around waiting for a movie role, she made her own movie! You can get your movies made, filmmakers!-MZNJ

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE TRICK OR TREAT PICTURE SHOW (2019)

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THE TRICK OR TREAT PICTURE SHOW (2019)

Nostalgia heavy anthology, presents a couple of stories surrounded by faux trailers and some old style ads and PSAs.

On one level this flick written and directed by Anthony Ashmore is commendable for it’s trying to be an authentic nostalgia piece. It’s filmed in 35mm and then transferred to VHS for an 80s video age flavor. It has the look of the old school movies it emulates, with scratches, faded color and sound that hisses, pops and clicks. Unfortunately, the drawback is not enough effort put in the actual writing with ho-hum stories that don’t really go anywhere and a couple of weak trailers that don’t seem to have much purpose other than be filler, something this little flick has a lot of. Overall, the sum of the parts are greater than the whole as the nostalgia element is done so well, while the stories themselves are kinda dull, even at only an 84 minute run time. At least it’s heart is in the right place. Check it out on Amazon Prime, as a heartfelt curiosity, though don’t expect much of an actual horror movie.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: SILENT HOUSE (2011)

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SILENT HOUSE aka LA CASA MUDA (2011)

Allegedly based on a true story, film tells the tale of Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father (Gustavo Alonso) who are going to work on a rundown, isolated house so it can be sold. As they prepare to stay the night, strange noises give the Laura the feeling they are not alone. When she finds her father murdered, a night of terror begins for the isolated and alone woman.

Horror from Uruguay is a creepy and spooky thriller that is also interesting due to it being filmed as if it were one continuous scene. Flick is tensely directed by Gustavo Hernández, who knows how to use his locations well, from a script by Oscar Estévez. There is enough atmosphere and chills to make this an enjoyable horror film, but there are lapses in logic and the end reveal wasn’t that much of a surprise. Still, thanks to the talent behind the camera, it is an entertaining enough chiller for a Saturday night on the couch with the lights out. Much better than the english language remake starring “Avenger” Elizabeth Olsen. Also stars Abel Tripaldi as the house’s owner, Nestor.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: 3 FROM HELL (2019)

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3 FROM HELL (2019)

Unnecessary sequel finds that Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Captain Spaulding (the late Sid Haig) survived their shoot-out with police at the climax of The Devil’s Rejects and have been on death row for ten years. Spaulding is executed by lethal injection, but Otis escapes with the help of half-brother Winslow (Richard Brake) and plans to spring baby. Once that’s accomplished with plenty of bloodshed, the three head to Mexico. That’s kinda it.

Flick is written and directed by Rob Zombie and is a chore to sit through. There is barely what could be called a story and the mess of a script seems to be making it all up as it goes along. Fans of these characters will note that they don’t even seem like the same fiends that graced House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects and their intensity is lacking. Otis seems a bit too laid back and Zombie’s wife is way overdoing it as the demented Baby. She’s more silly than scary. Only Brake’s Winslow seems to exude a little legitimate menace and he is never really given a chance to be fully unleashed. Even their carnage and depravity feels like it’s been dialed down a few notches. Are these killers slowing down?

Zombie seemed to have peaked with the interesting and spooky Lords of Salem and is continuing his filmmaking downward spiral that began with the uninspired 31 and now includes this undercooked, rambling mess. You know something is wrong when even the violence in a Rob Zombie flick has a very ho-hum, been-there-done-that feeling. At least we got to see Sid Haig one more time. Also stars Poncho (31) Moler, Zombie regular Jeff Daniel Phillips and horror legend Dee Wallace.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: POLAROID (2019)

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POLAROID (2019)

Teen centric horror was filmed in 2017 and due to Dimension Pictures’ financial woes, has not found release until recently on VOD and streaming formats. Plot finds high school student and photographer Bird (Kathryn Prescott) getting an old polaroid camera from friend Tyler (Davi Santos), who works with her at a local antique shop. Later that night at a costume party, Bird takes pictures of her friends with the old camera. Soon her friends start dying and it seems anyone who she takes a picture of, falls victim to some kind of supernatural entity. Can Bird find out who, or what, this thing is and how to stop it.

Flick is directed by Lars Klevberg based on his short film, which has been adapted to feature length by Blair Butler. It’s a fairly generic teen horror that closely follows the pattern of today’s PG-13 horror trend targeting teenage audiences. As such, it’s not all that bad. It has a few spooky moments, the young cast are likable enough and it plays well the Scooby Doo mystery solving element. It actually has a few interesting twists. There is very little gore and when the specter is portrayed with CGI, it can be quite cheesy looking at times. Not the best of this recent horror-lite trend, but far from the worst. Also stars Haunt’s Katie Stevens, Galaxy of Terror’s Grace Zabriskie, X-Files’ Mitch Pileggi and prolific creature performer Javier Botet, for the none CGI entity segments.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: MIDSOMMAR (2019)

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MIDSOMMAR (2019)

Dani (Florence Fighting WIth My Family Pugh) has suffered a major trauma with her sister murdering her parents before taking her own life. Despite wanting out of the relationship, her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) invites her to join he and some of his friends in Sweden for a remote village’s midsummer festival. Faster than you can say The Wicker Man things get very weird…and possibly deadly for the group.

Ari Aster is an interesting filmmaker, though here in his sophomore effort, he fails to connect with his story of pagan rituals, bloody violence and emotionally damaged characters. The backstory of emotional trauma, the distressed relationships and the sparse horror elements don’t mix nearly as well, or as interestingly, as they did in Hereditary. In fact Midsommar is quite tedious and extremely overlong at 147 minutes and the disturbing moments are few and far between. Sometimes the film seems like it’s being weird just for weird’s sake and there is really not much of a story to actually be told. Also, by the time the ending comes, we’ve been so bludgeoned with strange acts and behavior, it has no impact and is kinda what we expected to happen, anyway. There are moments of brutal and gory violence here, like in Hereditary, but it doesn’t seem nearly as effective. The cast of mostly fresh faces are a mixed bag, with Pugh trying hard, but when the story seems like it’s being made up as it goes along, even the strongest performance looses it’s potency. An interesting and colorful curiosity, but ultimately, a whole lot of boring strangeness that really doesn’t add up to much in the end.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: ARTIK (2019)

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ARTIK (2019)

Artik (Jerry G. Angelo) is a man who lives on a sunflower farm and likes to draw comics. He’s also a man who likes to imprison children to work on the farm and kill people. He’s trying to teach his son (Gavin White) the serial killer trade, until his son befriends a stranger (Chase Williamson) who starts to open the boy’s eyes about his dad’s “hobby”…and by that we don’t mean the comics.

Film is actually well directed by Tom Botchii Skowronski from his own script. It has some disturbing moments and some gruesome violence, as we watch a man teaching a boy to become a killer. We add in that boy coming of age and having conflict over what he is seeing, especially when he makes a friend who crosses the brutal Artik’s path. It adds an intriguing element to a familiar tale. Sure, we’ve seen countless serial killer flicks before and the serial killer mentoring a youth has been done already in Bereavement, but Skowronski presents it well and gets really good performances out of his cast. He gives the scenes of violence some impact and intensity and the film doesn’t wear out it’s welcome at just under 80 minutes. Worth a look. Also stars indie horror familiar face Lauren Ashley Carter as Artik’s demented partner (wife?) Flin.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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