BARE BONES: HELL OF A NIGHT (2019)

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HELL OF A NIGHT (2019)

Low budget indie flick opens with a Ouija game being played at a remote cabin by two young girls (Kaylee King and Tori Carew) and of course, it goes predictably awry. Two years later pretty co-ed Blake (Rachael Hevrin) rents that same remote cabin to get away from it all. Unknown to the Blake, she’s not alone in her spooky getaway spot, add to that the house Blake recently moved into with her mother (Deborah Kay Hooker) and sister Shaine (Grace Powell) is supposedly haunted, too and Shaine is alone there! Poor Blake is surrounded by danger from both within and without, as not only is there a presence inside the cabin, but someone close to her is not what they pretend to be. This girl has no luck!

Flick is written and directed by Brian Childs, who makes a good effort and seems to have a love for this type of movie. He gets the camera angles and mood right on a technical level, though overdoes the colored lighting a bit, though does accomplish some spooky moments. Leading lady Rachael Hevrin is very pretty and has a really nice girl-next-door presence which makes her a good final girl. It was also interesting that Childs sets up double trouble for his heroine as there is definitely a dangerous supernatural element here and a threat from the real world as so-called “friends” conspire against her. Drawbacks are, the dialogue scenes are a little flat, some of the paranormal stuff is very familiar and did we need both locations to be haunted AND having a plot convenience that has the hauntings collide at Blake’s rental? Also, the ghost in the opening Ouija scene is a male named Raymond, so why is the spirit stalking Blake an axe wielding woman?…and if it’s a ghost, why does she have corporeal attributes like being injured or bleeding when Blake fights back? Was she actually a living person and I missed something? She’s billed as “Blood Splattered Ghost” in the credits. Anyway, it gets a bit convoluted and some of the conveniences are bit of a stretch. Did we need two hauntings and a betrayal? A rookie director adding a few too many elements in his supernatural soup, perhaps? Also, the real world threat looming in the shadows for Blake isn’t as convincingly as it should be. Blake doesn’t seem like a stupid girl and is quite resilient, so would she be that oblivious to the true nature of her “friend” Chloe (Ella Taylor)?

Overall, it’s a decent effort from a first time feature filmmaker who could deliver once he gets more experience under his belt and reigns in his stories somewhat. We also get a leading lady who makes an impression as the flick’s final girl. Cool to see filmmakers getting their flicks made!

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD (2019)

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I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD (2019)

William (Aidan Devine) is a widower who lives on a remote farm with his twelve year-old daughter Gloria (Ava Preston). He also disposes of bodies for a gang from a nearby city, a livelihood he’s never wanted and plans to escape. Things become complicated for William and Gloria when one of the bodies deposited on his doorstep is not quite dead. Now with the young woman Jackie (Jess Salgueiro) a reluctant hostage and the gang members wanting her dead for good, this time, William’s plans to get away from it all are suddenly coming down around him.

Flick is well directed by Chad Archibald (Bite, The Heretics) from a script by frequent collaborator Jayme Laforest. While on the outset it’s an offbeat crime drama, Archibald adds a spooky element as it seems the dead disposed of by WIlliam still very much haunt this farmhouse, especially Gloria. It takes the film into supernatural territory, especially when the gang shows up at the door for Jackie and their previous victims are not happy to see them. It makes an already interesting movie very creepy at times and Archibald gives it a lot of atmosphere. LaForest’s script gives us characters that are not inherently bad, just forced into their morally ambiguous lifestyles, which makes them intriguing. William really just wants the best for Gloria and not quite a corpse Jackie is just trying to survive a hard life on the streets. The cast all do well in bringing the characters to life, especially young Ava Preston as Gloria, whose only friends are ghosts. As for the the bad guys, they are more cliché gang member types, but serve their purpose well as the villains of the piece. There is some bloody violence and the make-up on the dead that inhabit William and Gloria’s home is very effective, as is Archibald’s visual style.

A offbeat and unusual thriller that successfully mixes crime drama and supernatural chiller quite effectively. Chad Archibald has made some effective flicks and people should be keeping a closer eye on he and writer LaForest. Recommended for something a little different and spooky. Check it out on Amazon Prime.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Normally I don’t post trailers on Bare Bones, but I think it’s worth a look!

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BARE BONES: THE PRODIGY (2019)

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THE PRODIGY (2019)

At the same moment that serial killer Edward Scarka (Paul Fauteux) is gunned down by police, Sarah Blume (Taylor Schilling) gives birth to her son Miles. As this is a horror movie, that kind of coincidence is never a good thing. Growing up, the boy starts to show a remarkable intelligence. As he reaches his eighth year, Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) also starts to show a propensity towards violent behavior. Soon Sarah and husband John (Peter Mooney) start to believe that there is something very wrong with their son…and they may not live to tell about it.

Very familiar tale is also very well directed by Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact) from a derivative script by Jeff Buhler. We’ve seen the bad seed/possessed kid story so many times that this movie has an uphill battle all the way trying to do something effective with this often used scenario. That being said, McCarthy succeeds in making this a very creepy and sometimes downright disturbing movie, despite having seen it all before. He is also helped by a truly chilling performance from young Jackson Robert Scott, as the serial killer in a little boy’s body and Taylor Schilling does strong work as a woman terrified of her own child. While it’s hard to give the flick any points for originality, it is easy to give Nicholas McCarthy big time kudos for making this well-worn scenario as effective as it is. A great example of a skilled filmmaker taking a lemon and making lemonade. Also stars Colm Feore as a reincarnation expert and Brittany Allen (What Keeps You Alive, Extraterrestrial) as the Scarka victim that got away.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY (2019)

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FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY (2019)

Comedy/biography is produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and tells the true story of Saraya-Jade Bevis aka WWE Superstar Paige (Florence Pugh), who was raised in Norwich, England with a Mother (Lena Headly), Father (Nick Frost) and brother (Jack Lowden), who were all professional wrestlers. The film chronicles her wrestling upbringing, to being chosen to join WWE development in NXT, and finally her rise to the main roster and becoming the youngest WWE Diva’s Champion in history on 4/7/14.

Cute, if not cliché, bio-pic is written and directed by actor/director Stephen Merchant. Merchant delivers a fun and sometime heartwarming movie, though one that really cranks up the often told sports underdog scenario. Here, to try to achieve her dream of being a top WWE Superstar, Paige is portrayed as having to fight every step of the way to gain acceptance among her trainers, peers and the NXT audience. Adding to that a conflict with her wrestler brother Patrick (Lowden), who didn’t make the cut. In actuality, the real Paige was very popular in NXT and even had a successful run as their Women’s Champion before being called up to the main roster on the post-Wrestlemania XXX episode of RAW, where she faced Diva’s Champion AJ Lee in an impromptu title match. For cinematic purposes, it’s presented as a CInderella-like opportunity that comes out of nowhere, granted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whereas in real life she simply earned her promotion with her success in NXT. Obviously, much of Paige’s story is embellished to sell the Rocky-like underdog tone of the flick and a lot of the focus is also on her relationship with her eccentric family. Pugh makes for an endearing and plucky heroine and is surrounded by a good supporting cast, especially Nick Frost as her wrestler father, Vince Vaughn as her trainer and, in a fun bit of irony, current WWE Superstar Thea “Zelina Vega” Trinidad as former WWE Superstar AJ Lee. A fun enough movie and probably more so, if you aren’t a fan and am going in without prior knowledge of Paige’s career.

Personal Note: As a WWE fan and a big fan of Paige herself, my review may be more critical of the dramatic license taken with her story, as well as, it’s failing, though understandably, to acknowledge the bittersweet reality that Saraya-Jade “Paige” Bevis was forced to retire, four years after her victory over AJ Lee, at the age of 25 due to a career ending neck injury. She does still work with the WWE to this day in management positions on their Smackdown show.-MZNJ

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: SLENDER MAN (2018) and WEBCAST (2018)

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SLENDER MAN (2018)

Flick is based on the popular urban legend and finds four friends, Hallie, Wren, Katie and Chloe (Julia Goldani Telles, Joey King, Annalise Basso and Jaz Sinclair) trying to conjure up the boogie man-like specter during a get-together one night. Soon after, one of their number disappears and the rest start to fear they’ve actually succeeded. Is the Slender Man real and now out to get them?

Teen centric horror is not the best of the recent trend, though certainly not the worst. Director Sylvain White does create some spooky scenes from David Birke’s generic script and has a very effective visual style to give the film some atmosphere. His cast of young actors try hard and are likable enough, even if we have seen the “urban legend-based boogie man” flick a few too many times recently. Not a waste of time, but nothing new either. Also stars veteran horror creature performer Javier Botet (The REC series, Mama, Insidious: The Last Key ) as The Slender Man.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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WEBCAST (2018)

Chloe Webber (Samantha Redford) is making a webcast documentary about the disappearance of her aunt during the 80s. While filming, she captures footage which leads her to believe her neighbors are holding a young girl against her will. With only her boyfriend Ed (Joseph Tremain) believing her, they begin to investigate. As they observe and record their neighbors’ activities, Chloe starts to experience some strange occurrences of her own. Is there something evil in their midst and are they getting too close?

British found footage flick is basically The Blair Witch Project meets The Wicker Man as written and directed by Paul McGhie. It’s nothing really new, once you get past the initial premise, though has some spooky sequences towards the climax. As for that climax, it blows the opportunity to end on an unsettling note by taking it to an extra step which is unnecessary and confusing. For the most part this is another forgettable entry in the found footage arena, save for pretty lead Samantha Redford being quite charming and endearing with a movie star smile. Hope to see more of her in other, better things.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE HEAD HUNTER (2018)

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THE HEAD HUNTER (2018)

Minimalist horror/fantasy tells the tale of a warrior (Christopher Rygh) who hunts monsters for a living and saves their heads as trophies. The head he is determined to add to his collection, is the one of the creature that killed his little girl (Cora Kaufman). As in all tales of revenge, be careful what you wish for.

Dark and somber tale is directed by Jordan Downey (Thankskilling and it’s sequel) from his script with Kevin Stewart and is more about grief and the desire to sate it with revenge than action. Those expecting epic battles will be disappointed as the film focuses on the aftermath and effect on “Father”, returning from battle with gory scars and wounds and in obvious pain, as he works his way towards his target. We do get a final confrontation, but it happens in a way you may not expect and concludes in an equally unexpected and unsettling finale. Downey’s film is a far cry from his silly Thankskilling and ironically this film could have been silly in parts if not for Downey’s deft handing of the subject. Instead the last act is quite intense and has some scary moments, as Father hunts and is hunted by the creature. The film reportedly only cost around $30,000 and the director creates a visually impressive film both in the detailed sets, costumes and creature heads and utilizing the Portuguese locations very effectively. The flick has atmosphere, portrays some intriguingly subtle uses of dark magic and features a good performance from Rygh as the grieving warrior. Not for everyone, but an interesting and very effective little movie from Jordan Downey.

Flick is available on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE WIND (2019)

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THE WIND (2019)

Old West set horror finds frontier wife Lizzy (Smiley’s Caitlin Gerard) left by herself after the tragic death of her neighbor Emma (Jukia Goldani Telles) during childbirth. While her husband (Ashley Zuckerman) is away and she’s secluded in their home, Lizzy reflects on recent events and the loss of her own child as a sinister supernatural force closes in on her.

Moody supernatural horror is directed by Emma Tammi from a script by Theresa Sutherland and focuses more on Lizzy’s decaying state of mind than supernatural events. There are scenes of paranormal activity, especially in the last act, when it appears Lizzy is unraveling, but there is a greater focus on telling the story in flashbacks as we learn this “presence” may have been haunting Lizzy for some time. It’s far more somber than scary, but worth a look for Caitlin Gerard’s performance of a woman isolated, slowly coming apart and possibly haunted by a sinister force. The film does try to keep you guessing if Lizzy is simply cracking under the pressures of frontier life, or is there actually a demonic force roaming these lands. The pace is deliberately moderate and the last act has some disturbing events and reveals. Not for everyone, but a bit of a different perspective on the traditional supernatural/demonic haunting flick. Also stars Miles Anderson as a traveling preacher and Dylan McTee (Midnighters) as Emma’s devastated husband Gideon.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: MERCY BLACK (2019)

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MERCY BLACK (2019)

Netflix horror flick has it’s roots in the Slenderman urban legend and the real life stabbing of a young girl by two twelve year-olds (documentary review HERE). Marina (Daniella Pineda) has been released from a psychiatric institute fifteen years after she and another friend stabbed a little girl to appease a mythical supernatural entity called Mercy Black. Marina comes to live with her sister Alice (Elle LaMont) and Alice’s son Bryce (Miles Emmons) to try to resume a normal life. Things get complicated as Bryce starts to become obsessed with Mercy Black and Marina starts to believe it may not be just an urban legend after all.

Film is written and directed by Owen Edgerton (Blood Fest, Follow) and is a fairly generic horror. The real-life crime story that it is inspired by is a lot more unsettling and this film follows the urban legend come to life template with little or no inventiveness. Lead Pineda does give a good performance and we’d love to see her in something that is a lot more effective. The director at least utilizes his locations well and his visual eye gives the film an atmospheric look. Edgerton has shown promise in his previous efforts it just seems here he was uninspired by his own script. Very routine and by-the-numbers. Also stars Austin Amelio as a creepy handyman and Janeane Garofalo as Marina’s psychologist.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: BOOK OF MONSTERS (2018)

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BOOK OF MONSTERS (2018)

When Sophie (Jessica Fay) was eight years-old, her mother used to read to her from an ancient book called The Book of Monsters…until one of those monsters dragged her mother under her bed and killed her. No one, including her father (Nicholas Vince), believed her and she was sent to an institution for a year. Ten years later on her eighteenth birthday, Sophie (now Lyndsey Craine) is given the Book of Monsters by her father. Smart move dad! Obviously, the monsters are unleashed during her birthday party and it become a bloodbath, as she and her friends have to fight for their lives.

UK Horror/comedy is directed by Stewart Sparke from a script by Paul Butler and is a fun 84 minutes, if you can get past the blatantly stupid plot device of Sophie’s dad giving her a book for her birthday that traumatized her as a child. The flick looks good enough for a Kickstarter movie made for under $100,000 and the gore is plentiful and it’s low budget monsters are simple yet effective. Sparke does conjure some spooky sequences and mixes the comedy and horror fairly well. The cast are all attractive and do a fine job, with Craine making a cute and endearing heroine. Sure there are plot contrivances and conveniences to move things along and it can be very predictable, but it’s bloody, homage-paying heart is in the right place. Also stars Lizzie Stanton, Rose Muirhead and Michaela Longden as Sophie’s friends Beth, Jess and Mona. Watch through the credits for the traditional sequel set-up.

Available on Amazon Prime and other VOD platforms.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE HOLE IN THE GROUND (2019)

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THE HOLE IN THE GROUND (2019)

Pretty single mom Sarah (Seána Kerslake) lives in a small, remote Irish village with her son Chris (James Quinn Markey). When Chris encounters a large, mysterious sinkhole in the woods near their home, his behavior starts to change. As her son’s actions become more and more disturbing, Sarah starts to believe that he might not be her son at all and that something else came back from that hole in the ground.

Irish horror is directed by Lee Cronin from his script written along with Stephen Shields. While there are some familiar elements, such as doubts about a strange behaving loved one’s identity and no one believing the doubter, Cronin turns this into a very creepy flick. Seána Kerslake also helps by giving a strong performance as Sarah, a woman who has had her own trauma and who is terrified that her child is no longer her son. Cronin and his actress gives us doubts ourselves about Sarah’s belief until Chris’ increasingly odd behavior starts us believing right along with her…but who or what is he? Again, the story is familiar, but skillful and atmospheric direction from Cronin and good work from lead Kerslake, make this a very spooky and unsettling movie. Not everything is explained, but here the ambiguities work in it’s favor and the movie knows how to get under your skin in subtle but disturbing ways. Recommended!

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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