BARE BONES: THE DEEP HOUSE (2021)

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THE DEEP HOUSE (2021)

French horror flick carries the unique label of being the first underwater haunted house movie. It finds urban explorers and vloggers Ben and Tina (James Jagger and Camille Rowe) hearing about a creepy old house that remains fully intact at the bottom of a lake, after a flood many years earlier. The two scuba dive to the location with their drone to capture footage and enter the house. Obviously they become trapped inside with dark forces beyond their comprehension surrounding them.

Flick is from French filmmakers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, the directors of InsideLivide and Among The Living. Despite the clever novelty of being the first haunted house flick to take place underwater, it’s disappointingly not very scary. There are some really creepy visuals and the filmmakers take very good advantage of their submerged old house setting to create atmosphere, but the film evokes very little actual frights. Rowe and Jagger do their best to try to act scared, but sadly can’t convince us, the audience. Even the spooks and specters can’t rise above a basic visual creepiness. They are spooky looking, but never feel overly threatening. There are the usual jump scares and a few moments that are effective, especially in the last act, but overall, it’s just a water-logged horror that squanders a very spooky idea. The underwater sequence in Dario Argento’s Inferno is scarier than this entire movie. Still worth a look for look for it’s submerged approach to the traditional haunted house tale, but go in with moderate expectations to actually being scared. Film also stars Eric Savin as Pierre, the man who leads them to the house and offers the traditional warnings. Watch through the end credits for one last chill. Flick will be available on VOD starting 11/5/21.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: DASHCAM (2021)

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DASHCAM (2021)

Indie thriller takes place on Halloween night and finds news editor Jake Caul (Eric Tabach) awaiting the press release of dashcam footage for a big story. A police officer (Rich Vience) and a discredited former Attorney General (Larry Fessenden) were both killed when a routine DUI stop went bad. When Jake is accidentally sent a classified file containing police bodycam footage, that isn’t supposed to exist, and the real coroner’s report, he realizes there was nothing routine about the deaths and there is a larger conspiracy at hand. Having always wanted to be a reporter himself, Jake sees revealing the truth as his big break—a truth someone may not want known.

Effective indie thriller is written and directed by Christian Nilsson and takes place mostly on Jake’s desktop, though it does leave the confines of his apartment in the last act. The real intensity comes as Jake compares the press release footage with the classified information that has fallen into his hands, and starts to see the lies being fed the public. There is also an ominous phone call with thinly veiled threats, if the information accidentally e-mailed to him ever gets out. It makes for a tense little thriller as Jake digs deeper into the conspiracy and at the same time, gets more and more paranoid that someone might come after him. The flick only stumbles in a few places with some weak dialogue spots and a few plot contrivances—such as someone being stupid enough to e-mail a news editor classified information—that keep the story going. Otherwise this is an intense and entertaining little thriller, even more so for anyone with an interest or experience in digital video editing. Also stars Zachary Booth as Jake’s reporter boss Tim and Crawlers and Punisher season 2 star Giorgia Whigham as his girlfriend Mara. Now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: TIME NOW (2021)

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TIME NOW (2021)

Time Now is an indie drama with a thriller element, as single mother Jenny (Eleanor Lambert) returns home to Detroit to reunite with her estranged family after the death of her twin brother Victor (Sebastian Beacon) in a car accident. There are hard feelings and resentment on both sides, but as Jenny tries to reconnect with her family and meets with some of Victor’s friends, she comes to believe that something is not right with Victor’s death.

Flick is written and directed by Spencer King from his own script and he wisely avoids the theatrical melodrama that studio dramas of this type can have and that would only serve to distance audiences from the matters at hand. It’s played very low key and thus on a more realistic level, as Jenny confronts her family and faces not only some resentment on their part, but some of her own guilt and hard feelings over not having had a better relationship with her artist brother. Then there is the added caveat of mystery, as Jenny starts to get the feeling Victor’s DUI death behind the wheel, may not be the whole story. Again, the flick avoids theatrics and presents a slow burn as Jenny is trying to deal with family issues while investigating what happen to her sibling on that fateful night. Sometimes the flick is a little too laid back for it’s own good and as a result, the last act reveal is almost anti-climactic. It should have had more of a punch than it does. The flick rebounds with a last scene that does give us some stronger emotional resonance in which to leave us with, as the credits roll. Overall, this is an interesting and simmering indie flick with a strong performance from leading lady Eleanor Lambert, who is surrounded by a solid cast of fresh faces in support. Flick opens in limited theatrical release and On Demand on 10/26/21!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: DUNE (2021)

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DUNE (2021)

Dune is the latest adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic Sci-Fi novel—well, the first half. Story has Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Issac) and his family being assigned to takeover spice production on the desert planet of Arrakis from the vile Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). It turns out to be a trap and after a massacre, Leto’s escaped son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) is now left on the hostile planet with his mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). They must somehow survive heat, sandworms and the mystical natives called The Fremen. Lady Jessica, however, is a woman of mystical abilities herself and her powerful son Paul may be the prophesized savior The Freman are waiting for—The Kwisatz Haderach!
 
Adaptation is directed by Denis Villeneuve from his script with Eric Roth and John Spaihts. Having read the book, this is an epic task and as an adaptation, this is a far better one than David Lynch’s bombastic but entertaining 1984 flick. The problem is it’s far less fun or involving. Villeneuve’s first half of the story looks great and has a solid cast, but aside from a couple of sequences, meanders along till it’s abrupt conclusion. The Harkonnen attack on House Atreides aside, the film has a ponderous pace and feels far longer than it’s 156 minute runtime. Dune was not an action heavy book, but this flick seems to drag, not to mention Timothée Chalamet is kind of a dull lead as Paul. He doesn’t have the charisma to be the savior of Arrakis he is supposed to be. The FX and visuals are spectacular and the action is equally so, the few times we get some, but overall this flick moves slower than a sandworm and isn’t nearly as involving as the detail and intrigue filled literary classic it’s trying to adapt. Maybe a Game of Thrones style series would have been a more efficient approach. Hopefully the planned Dune Part 2 will gives us both the story and entertainment we came for in this part. Also stars Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa and Zendaya, all in roles far smaller than they deserved. 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (2021)

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SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (2021)

Flick is a remake/reimagining and, to a degree, a sequel to the Roger Corman cult classic. Flick opens at a slumber party in the 90s where power-drill wielding serial killer Russ Thorn (Rob Van Vuuren) murders all the girls except for Trish (Masali Baduza). In present day, Trish (Schelaine Bennett) is now an over-protective mother of her own daughter Dana (Hannah Gonera), who is headed off to a slumber party of her own with friends. Needless to say Russ Thorn shows up, but the hunter may become the hunted as Dana and her friends are not the helpless victims her mother’s friends were.

Flick is written by Suzanne Keilly and directed by Danishka Esterhazy, who directed the disappointing Banana Splits Movie. This slasher remake/homage is a dull mess that tries to be contemporary and clever, but is just routine and dull and never takes full advantage of any of it’s own ideas. Making the girls survival savvy and actually luring Russ into a trap was an amusing idea, but the film defeats it’s own purpose when the ladies start to fall victim anyway to serial killer #2—and that killer’s identity is so obvious, not sure why they bothered to try and keep it a secret. There is also a subplot of a house full of boys who mistake Dana and her friends for the killers, but that doesn’t go anywhere either, as the arrival of killer #2 puts an end to that plot element. The end confrontation is somewhat effective, but at that point the film has gotten so convoluted, you really don’t care. Stick with Corman’s classic as this SYFY misfire will be forgotten before October is even over.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: GRAVE INTENTIONS (2021)

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GRAVE INTENTIONS (2021)

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
 
Grave Intentions is an indie horror anthology that features magic shop proprietor Madam Josephine (Joy Vandervort-Cobb) using the tales told as examples of harmful intentions bringing bad results. They are told as a warning of how powerful intent can be, while she also teaches us about her craft.
 
The tales here are presented from a number of writers and directors and unfortunately, with a less than 90 minute runtime, the five tales appear more like vignettes than actual stories. The Bridge Partner has a meek woman (Beth Grant) being tormented by her aggressive bridge partner (Sharon Lawrence). It simply doesn’t go anywhere. The Disappearance of Willie Bingham is an unsettling tale that has a criminal paying for his misdeeds in a very disturbing manner. It’s effective. Violent Florence is a chilling and violent tale of a troubled teen (Charly Thorn) and a resilient feline. This one has it’s chills. The Son, The Father… features a family (Lucas Oktay, Colleen Carey and director Lukas Hassel) and a series of mean-spirited practical jokes that go too far. This segment is silly and the weakest. The final segment, Marian, is about a little girl (Johanah Basanta) stalked by a malicious entity. This is the only segment that feels like a complete story and is the most effective one by far. The casts vary in performance, with veterans Sharon Lawrence and Robert Forster doing quality work in The Bridge Partner segment. Vandervort-Cobb also seems to be having fun as our hostess Madam Josephine, while little Johanah Basanta does great work in Marian. The production value here is good for a low budget indie and the FX work is effective enough, as the flick as a whole doesn’t try to overstep it’s budget. Overall, this anthology is worth a look, but lacks the constancy in story quality to make it a real sleeper hit for the spooky season. Grave Intentions premieres 10/15/21 on VOD.
 
THE SEGMENT CREATORS…
The Wraparound segment is written by Brian and Jocelyn Rish, who also directs
The Bridge Partner is written by Peter S. Beagle and Gabriel Olsen, who also directs
The Disappearance of Willie Bingham is written by Michael L. Fawcett and Matthew Richards and directed by Richards
The Son, The Father… is written and directed by Lukas Hassel
Violent Florence is written and directed by Jaime Snyder
Marian is written by Levi San Luis and Brian Patrick Lim who also directs

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: DEMIGOD (2021)

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DEMIGOD (2021)

When her grandfather dies and leaves her everything, Robin Murphy (Rachel Nichols) travels back to her childhood home in the German Black Forest with her husband Leo (Yohance Myles). Soon they and a group of others are kidnaped by the cult-like followers of a forest deity known as The Great Hunter. True to it’s name, they are released into the dark woods and hunted by the hooded pagans—and possibly something far more unearthly. 

Flick is directed by Miles Doleac from his script with Michael Donovan Horn and is an entertaining and sometimes spooky supernatural/survival horror. It can be atmospheric at times and the basis in pagan folklore does add some atmosphere as well. It is methodically paced and that is by design. Performances vary with Nichols doing solid work as heroine Robin and Doleac himself playing the role of local hunter Arthur. Yohance Myles tries hard, but seems to get the worst of the dialogue to recite as Leo and remaining cast member’s playing the hunted seem to be there just to provide body count. Those portraying the pagan worshipers are appropriately creepy and dangerous, as they should be. There is some effective violence and graphic gore and even if we have seen the innocents being hunted scenario many times before, it’s not badly done here, with the hunters using primitive weapons rather than guns. The forest setting also works well to create a sense of isolation and hopelessness for our prey, as the are relentlessly pursued. The flick has some effective visuals, as photographed by Nathan Tape, with a fitting score by Clifton Hyde. Horror fans will appreciate that there is a slasher element to the proceedings and the last act changes gears from the hunt to a more straight-up and bloody horror conclusion.
 
Overall, an entertaining little indie that is a mash-up of backwoods pagan horror and the hunt scenario. If you are looking for something a little different than the usual spooky season fair, you might want to give this flick a watch. Demigod will be available On Demand and in select theaters on 10/15/21!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE MUTATION (2021)

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THE MUTATION (2021)

Monster flick finds zoologist Allen Marsh (Ricardo Freitas) drawn into the case of a scientist’s murder, when it appears the killer was some kind of animal. Soon he finds himself teaming up with two cops (Andrew Rolfe and James Robertson) and the scientist’s wife (Amanda-Jade Taylor) when the killings continue and evidence mounts that some sort of massive rodent is the perpetrator. 

Old-school monster flick is written and directed by Scott Jeffrey, who missed a golden opportunity to have a good time here. He chose the old-fashioned man in a suit technique to portray his critter and while it’s more cuddly than scary, it is a charming throw-back to 80s style B-movies, as is the plentiful and graphic practical gore that is the result of the creature’s carnage. Here is where Jeffrey makes his mistake. He should have saw this as an opportunity to cut loose and have a bloody good time with his cheesy rat monster and it’s making a gory mess of the local citizenry. Instead, he takes his story of science gone amuck way too seriously and it creates not only a somber and mirthless tale, but plenty of eye rolling as characters talk with deadpan seriousness about a man-sized bipedal rat monster lurking about in the city. It also makes the wooden acting by the cast even more obvious. If Jeffrey had gone all Humanoids From The Deep here, this could have been a nostalgic good time. Instead, the flick takes itself way too seriously and kills more fun than our rat critter kills locals. Flick is now available for streaming and gets a little extra credit for going with a charmingly cheesy man in a suit and saving the CGI for it’s overblown and unintentionally funny climax.
 
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Cute little guy, isn’t he!

Photo: IMDB

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: BINGO HELL (2021)

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BINGO HELL (2021)

Flick takes place in the barrio neighborhood of Oak Springs where feisty and stubborn elder Lupita (Adriana Barraza), and her friends, are growing frustrated with the changes going on around them. It comes to a boil when their favorite place, the bingo hall, is bought by a mysterious man (Richard Brake). Gentrification is the least of Lupita’s worries, as her friends are soon drawn to this charismatic, but sinister man. What fate does he have in store for them and can Lupita stop him?

Welcome to The Blumhouse movie is directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero from her script with Shane McKenzie and Perry Blackshear and is a loud, obnoxious and dull flick. Guerrero directs with the subtlety of a chainsaw, as the viewer is bludgeoned over the head with it’s messages about gentrification and eminent domain that have been presented far more effectively in other recent films. If that isn’t enough to get your attention, there are scenes bathed in garish neon and all sorts multicolored spurting fluids and bombastic violence. Problem is, once Guerrero has your attention, she really doesn’t know what to do with it, as the film is boring, silly, overly preachy and Lupita is so obnoxious, she’s hard to endear to even when the points she is making are right. The tone is all over the place and one wonders if this was supposed to be a comedy or horror. Either way, it fails as both and as social commentary, too. Very little to recommend here as even the usually reliable Richard Brake is reduced to a ho-hum villain.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: BLACK AS NIGHT (2021)

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BLACK AS NIGHT (2021)

Vampire flick premiered on Amazon Prime this past weekend as part of the new Welcome to the Blumhouse series. It takes place in New Orleans in the rundown housing project of Ombreux, where folks are suddenly disappearing. When teenager Shawna (Asjha Cooper) is attacked and bitten and her mother is turned, Shawna realizes vampires are preying on the locals. Determined to save the Ombreux and those who live there, Shawna and best bud Pedro (Fabrizio Guido) set out to hunt down and destroy the master vampire (Keith David).

Flick is directed by Maritte Lee Go from a script by Sherman Payne. It has it’s heart in the right place, covering some socially relevant topics such as gentrification of urban neighborhoods and the effects of Hurricane Katrina on people of color, fifteen years later. The film makes good use of the New Orleans locations, and has some fun moments and entertaining action sequences as Shawna and friends turn vampire killers. Where the film falters, is as a vampire movie it’s very routine and could have been more energetic. The similar Vampires vs, The Bronx handled similar socially relevant themes, but was much more fun and effective as a vampire flick, too. Sure it’s great to see Keith David as a master vampire and his purpose fits in with the film’s themes, but it’s all very 90s Buffy—not that there’s anything wrong with that—but without the pop culture wit. Bronx’s gentrifying vampires were more fun, as were it’s spunky vampire fighting kids. Cooper and the cast all perform well, but well-intended social messages aside, we just wish Black as Night was simply more bloody fun.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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