BARE BONES: THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY (2018)

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THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY (2018)

Found footage flick takes place in 1960 and is supposed to be film footage shot by two priests, Father Thomas (Lalor Roddy) and Father John (Ciaran Flynn) as they investigate the reported bleeding eyes of a Virgin Mary statue. The statue stands in an Irish Magdalene laundry which were basically homes for wayward women cast out by society. Once the priests start to investigate, they find the statue is the least of their problems as there is true evil in this place both human and supernatural in origin.

Aside from it’s intriguing setting, there is nothing all that original in this flick, as either a found footage film or a demonic thriller. Director Aislinn Clarke makes atmospheric use of her locations, including some creepy rooms and catacombs beneath the building, but fails to set anything all that involving within them. Her script, that she wrote along with Martin Brennan and Micheal B. Jackson, drags out every cliché imaginable in the found footage and demonic possession genres from the shaky cams and conveniently failing lights to the laughter of spectral children and levitating young women in nightgowns. The last act down in the subterranean catacombs beneath the building were right out of As Above, So Below and the sticks used for demonic symbols, right out of Blair Witch. Roddy’s Father Thomas was an interesting character and there was a creepy twist involving his past and Helena Bereen‘s Mother Superior was spooky without the last act reveals. It’s just the film seems to be simply a mash-up of elements and scenes from other movies and not done interesting enough to freshen them up or give the filmmakers a break. There is some feminist commentary mixed in, but it doesn’t make up for all the under-cooked horror elements that we’ve seen so many times before. There is some spooky and disturbing stuff in the last act, but it’s too little, too late and too familiar to elevate the film, even with a brief 76 minutes run-time.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE DOMESTICS (2018)

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THE DOMESTICS (2018)

Flick takes place after a biological weapon attack by our own government kills off a large amount of the population. Those fortunate…or unfortunate…enough to survive have formed into vicious gangs that have cut out their own territories throughout the countryside. Enter mild-mannered husband and wife Nina (Kate Bosworth) and Mark West (Tyler Hoechlin) who have to travel through these dangerous territories to find safe-haven in Milwaukee.

Written and directed by Mike P. Nelson this is basically a suburban Road Warrior with a touch of The Warriors thrown in as this kindly duo have to defend themselves from a variety of gangs such as The Nailers and The Gamblers during their journey. There is plenty of violent action and quite a few eccentric and scary characters are met as the two try to survive each enemy territory along the way. It’s no secret that the especially timid Nina will find her inner alpha and this husband and wife team will learn to handle themselves against the crumbling of civilization and rekindle their fading relationship, too. It’s entertaining and fast enough paced, though basically stuff we’ve seen many times before. As for the leads, Hoechlin especially could have used a bit stronger screen presence, though it is Bosworth who becomes the family ass-kicker and the film’s focus by the last act. The solid direction does show some promise for director Nelson and it is worth a look despite the familiarity. Also stars Lance Reddick from The Guest and the John Wick films.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: TAU

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TAU (2018)

Pretty petty thief Julia (Maika Monroe) finds herself kidnapped and held prisoner by a man named Alex (Ed Skrein) who is conducting sinister experiments in his secluded computerized home. All she needs to do to escape is somehow befriend and outwit his complex artificial intelligence, Tau (voiced by Gary Oldman). That’s kind of it!

Netflix debuted film is directed by Federico D’Alessandro from a script by Noga Landau and is a silly and far-fetched movie that evokes other films like 1977’s Demon Seed for one. The script is sloppy and one wonders why a genius like Alex can’t figure out how to effectively restrain Julia, who is always escaping confines and causing havoc. It has some amusing sequences and some shockingly graphic violence, but is just too weakly scripted to make effective use out of it’s scenario. We should have been far more scared for Julia, but Alex is a lame villain and Tau becomes charmed by her far too quickly for us to feel she’s in peril for too long. Producer/lead Monroe is a feisty heroine, though sometimes we feel her heroics are handed to her a bit too easily by script conveniences. On the other hand, if you have a foot fetish, bondage fetish, Maika Monroe fetish, or all of the above, this may be your Gone With The Wind. Currently streaming on Netflix.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: ALI WONG-HARD KNOCK WIFE (2018)

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ALI WONG-HARD KNOCK WIFE (2018)

Last we saw actress, writer, comedienne Ali Wong she was seven months pregnant and dishing out some raunchy and quite funny comedy on stage for her first Netflix comedy special. Her second special finds her pregnant again with her second child and sharing her witticisms on birth, new motherhood, marriage, and sex. It’s naughty fun and motherhood hasn’t dulled Wong’s sharp wit or muted her energetic delivery. As with last time a few bits go on longer than they should, such as her description of how she would sexually favor a hot, young male nanny, but overall Wong is a bitingly funny comedienne who hopefully will be back on stage once this child is delivered.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: DEATH WISH (2018)

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DEATH WISH (2018)

Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis), a surgeon in crime ridden Chicago, turns vigilante when his wife and daughter (Elisabeth Shue and Camila Morrone) are victims of a home invasion gone bad. Now he roams the streets hunting the perps down and killing other criminals becoming a media sensation known as “The Grim Reaper”.

Awful remake is directed by Eli Roth from a terrible script by Joe Carnahan. Film has none of the effectiveness of the Charles Bronson classic and is sometimes downright stupid, such as in the way Kersey gets his first gun, or in the blatant convenience of his first clue in finding the men who broke into his home. Film takes away the dynamic of a man frustrated and angry and simply taking it out on random criminals, by having Willis’ Kersey able to hunt down the actual men who killed his wife and severely wounded his daughter. He does kill random criminals in between, but this version gives Kersey his revenge on the actual perpetrators, thus granting him the satisfaction of that vengeance. It was more effective that Bronson’s Kersey was robbed of that satisfaction and thus the lack of closure fuels his attempts to clean up the streets…kinda like Batman. It also put’s names and identities on the gang who committed the crime, when in the original they were random street punks representing the almost lawlessness of a city out of control. It gives Willis specific people to hunt where Bronson was as random as the thugs he killed. It becomes just another revenge flick. Film also changes the location of the story from New York to Chicago…where Bronson’s Kersey went after being asked to leave NYC…but that is the least of it’s problems. Finally, Willis is simply starting to look too old for this kind of stuff.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: CARGO (2017)

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CARGO (2017)

Australian flick takes place during a zombie outbreak, but focuses on a man and his daughter instead of the zombies. When his wife Kay (Susie Porter) is bitten, turns and bites him, husband Andy (Martin Freeman) has 48 hours to find someone to care for his infant daughter Rosie (Lily Anne and Marlee Jane McPherson-Dobbins), before he turns into one of the flesh eaters himself and harms his little one.

Flick is very well directed by Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling from Ramke’s script. It chooses to use a zombie outbreak as a backdrop while telling a human drama of a father trying to find safety for his little girl, before he becomes a threat to her. It’s basically the flip side of the Arnold Schwarzenegger flick Maggie, though not quite as powerful. There is a nice humanity at the heart of the story…which is hard to classify as horror, despite the elements being present…and it’s only when it turns to the more familiar zombie film themes, such as man being more of a monster than the monsters, that the film has little new to say. Freeman puts in a very strong and heartfelt performance and gives this film the solid sentimental core that it needs to work, though the film does seem to be a tad longer than it needed to be. Worth a watch and is currently streaming on Netflix.
-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT and HUNTING EMMA

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THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT (2018)

Sequel to the disturbing The Strangers, finds couple Cindy and Mike (Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson) going with son Luke (Lewis Pullman) on a road trip to bring troublesome daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison) to boarding school. They stop at an uncle’s trailer park for the night and soon find themselves hunted by three masked individuals.

Original film director Bryan Bertino steps aide and lets Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) take the helm, though he does write the script with Ben Ketai. The result is a more routine slasher flick, but one that does have some effective scenes, especially in the last act When Kinsey goes on the offensive. It’s entertaining enough and has some very violent moments, though is held back by characters doing some very dumb things…even for a horror flick. It’s also hard to believe that a character afraid to pull the trigger in one scene, would suddenly find the balls to stab someone repeatedly a scene later. In fact, why introduce the gun into the scenario at all when it’s never fired, lost quickly, and doesn’t become a factor? Roberts does direct competently and as slashers go, it gets the job done well enough, but is nothing memorable like the original home invasion flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HUNTING EMMA (2017)

South African thriller finds peace-loving, school teacher Emma (Leandie du Randt) heading across the Karoo to go visit her father (Tertius Meintjes). When her car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, she happens across the murder in progress of a police officer (Drikus Volschenk) by a gang of six vicious drug dealers. Now Emma finds herself pursued across the wilderness by the gang, who don’t realize that Emma’s father was a special forces soldier and he taught his daughter everything he knows.

Very similar to the recent Revenge, this flick is directed solidly by Bryon Davis, though from a weak script by Deon Meyer. The script has not once but twice, a male character having the advantage over Emma, but putting down his weapon to teach her a lesson either bare-fisted or by engaging in an old school, Western-style gunfight. It’s silly. At these points in the film, Emma’s proven she’s dangerous. Are these guys that in need of macho validation? Secondly, the script assumes we’re too dumb to get the point and after numerous flashbacks of Emma learning survival tactics from her dad, there is a painstakingly long exposition scene with her dad explaining this all to a friend (Albert Maritz) in explicit detail. We already got that she’s a bit of a Rambo in Daisy Dukes, it’s completely unnecessary and adds ten minutes to a film that would have benefited from a slightly tighter edit job. The bad guys are quite routine, though the film does entertain and leading lady du Randt is solid and likable as the wolf in sheep’s clothing, Emma. A tighter script that didn’t insult our intelligence would have made this a lot better as the action and violence is effective.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: THOROUGHBREDS (2018)

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THOROUGHBREDS (2018)

Story takes place in a wealthy suburb in Connecticut and finds emotionally troubled Amanda (Olivia Cooke) facing trial for animal cruelty for brutally euthanizing her crippled horse. She is currently being tutored by Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) who hates her jerk of a new step-father Mark (Paul Sparks). Amanda suggests they kill him and Lily takes her up on the idea. When recruiting a local drug dealer (Anton Yelchin) to do the job fails, they begin to plot how to do it themselves.

Off-beat flick is written and stylishly directed by Cory Finley, but when all is said and done, doesn’t have much of a point. Unhappy kids plotting the murder of a parent or step-parent is nothing new and though it holds our attention, it ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere all that interesting. There is a bit of an unexpected twist towards it’s conclusion, but even that doesn’t add much overall to the scenario. Taylor-Joy and Cooke both deliver really good performances, especially Cooke’s emotionally detached Amanda, but Paul Sparks is just your stereotypical douche step-parent, though good at it. It’s bittersweet to see Yelchin in one of his last performances and his turn as delinquent Tim illustrates why he is sadly missed. Entertaining to a degree, but not unique enough to make a well-worn plot feel fresh and it comes to a conclusion that doesn’t feel like the film actually accomplished anything. Acting gives it a little extra in the rating.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: STEPHANIE (2017)

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STEPHANIE (2017)

Something strange is happening in the world and it has left little Stephanie (Shree Crooks) all alone in her house. She’s surviving the best she can and is trying to stay clear of what she believes is a monster living in the woods outside. When her military parents (Frank Grillo and Anna Torv) suddenly return home, dad starts building an immense wall in the backyard and mom starts doing research on a strange phenomena affecting the brain. What are her parents trying to protect Stephanie from?…or is it Stephanie from whom they need protection?

Flick starts out like Home Alone meets A Quiet Place, but evolves into something different, though not totally unexpected. It is effectively directed by Akiva Goldsman from a script by Luke Piotrowski and Ben Collins that has some clever spins on situations we’ve seen before. The opening of a little girl trying to raise herself in a house with only her stuffed turtle, Francis and the corpse of her dead brother, Paul (Jonah Beres) to keep her company, is unsettling enough. When her folks mysteriously show up, things starts to really get strange. Sure, ultimately it’s just a variation of the creepy kid sub-genre, but a fairly clever one and it has some very disturbing sequences, especially in the last act when we finally discover what is actually going on. The small cast are very good, especially young Miss Crooks as Stephanie, who can be quite cute, or quite chilling, depending on the situation. At it’s core it may not be all that original, but it presents it’s premise with some interesting and creepy touches and ends on a chilling note. Definitely worth a look!
-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: IMITATION GIRL (2017)

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IMITATION GIRL (2017)

Strange but appealing sci-fi flick has a black ooze falling to Earth in New Mexico and taking the form of a woman on the magazine it lands on. That woman is New York based porn star Julianna Fox (Lauren Ashley Carter). The film follows the imitation as it learns about life and love through, Saghi (Neimah Djourabchi), a young Iranian man she encounters and his sister Khahar (Sanam Erfani), while shadowing Julianna who is beginning to question her life of sex, drugs and excess. Despite being miles apart, Julianna and her doppelganger are destined to meet.

Interesting film is written and directed by Natasha Kermani and paints a portrait of a young woman from opposite sides of the spectrum. While Julianna has fallen into a life of vice and having love-less sex for a living, her imitation is learning to enjoy the simple things in life and to truly appreciate those around her. It’s almost as if the imitation is who Julianna would have become had she pursued her piano playing instead of porn. It’s an intriguing portrayal of two sides of the same woman and both are very well acted by lead Carter. The rest of the cast perform their roles well and Kermani displays that she is a filmmaker to keep an eye on with her skill for visuals and a deft handling of a movie that could have been very silly if not handled by someone so capable. Also stars genre favorite Catherine Mary Stewart as Julianna’s former piano teacher, who presents her with a potential life-changing opportunity.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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