BARE BONES: HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET (2017)

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HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET (2017)

Flick has four kidnappers snatching a girl (Carlyn Burchell) whom they plan to ransom, only to find she is possessed by a demon and now they can’t get rid of her as she takes them down one by one. Silly flick is flatly directed by Alastair Orr from a script by he, Jonathan Jordaan and Catherine Blackman. Despite that it gets goofier and goofier as it moves along, this flick takes itself way too seriously, so we can’t even have fun with the ridiculousness of it all. It’s an endless parade of horror clichés and movie scene rip-offs that doesn’t even have the decency to allow us to laugh at it, as it’s just so dull. There is some nice make-up FX and gore, but the CGI is laughably bad and the performances and dialog are wooden and weak. Overall it’s a tedious mess of things we’ve seen so many times before and not reused with any cleverness or ingenuity. Yawn.

There was some good advanced word on this, though not sure where it came from. Stars Sharni Vinson (You’re Next, Patrick: Evil Awakens), who looks uncomfortable and like she’d rather be elsewhere, during the entire movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: TANK 432 (2015)

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TANK 432 (2015)

Mildly spooky thriller has a group of mercenaries coming under heavy fire and taking shelter in a tank. The longer they stay locked inside, the more they begin to realize the enemy outside is the least of their worries.

Written and directed by Nick Gillespie this is a fairly routine horror that sadly becomes more familiar the more it tries to be clever. We can guess the Twilight Zone-ish reveal coming a mile away and despite a few spooky moments, we definitely get the feeling we’ve seen this all before…though, admit-tingly not in a tank. The cast are all fine, though none really make an impression and Gillespie never really takes full advantage of the claustrophobic tank interior setting. Forgettable despite what could have been an intriguing premise.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: THE TALL MAN (2012)

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THE TALL MAN (2012)

Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs was a brutal, shocking, visceral horror that grabbed the horror film community by the balls when released in 2008. Laugier returned to the writer/director’s chair in 2012 with The Tall Man and while it’s nowhere near as brutal or horrifying as his previous flick, Tall Man shows Laugier is a skilled filmmaker that can turn the tables on you and surprise you at will. He makes you think your watching something and that you know exactly what’s going on…then proves just how wrong you are.

The story here begins in the desolate, rural town of Cold Rock, WA., a dying town where the children are disappearing at an alarming rate and a supernatural figure known as The Tall Man is held responsible. A recently widowed doctor (a mesmerizing performance by Jessica Biel) is suddenly thrust in the middle of this urban legend when her son is abducted in the middle of the night. To say anymore would be to ruin a really intense viewing where the rug is pulled out from under you many times and you won’t see it coming. Yes, it’s more of a thriller than a horror film, but Laugier keeps you guessing and keeps you surprised and gives us something quite different, but no less effective, than his 2008 shocker. Laugier is no fluke. Highly recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: A HAUNTING AT SILVER FALLS (2013)

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A HAUNTING AT SILVER FALLS (2013)

Scare-less flick has pretty, orphaned teen, Jordan (Alix Elizabeth Gitter) moving in with her aunt (Tara Westwood) and uncle (Steve Bacic) in the town of Silver Falls after the death of her father. Soon Jordan becomes haunted by the spirits of two twins who died mysteriously. No one believes Jordan, but is this a haunting or a warning?

Directed by Brett Donowho from a generic script by three writers, no less, this is a completely routine haunting flick. We have the lonely teen who stumbles onto a past murder/death and is now being haunted. Her only friend is the local outcast (Tadhg Kelly) and as she has experienced a personal tragedy, no one believes this is anything but emotional duress. Flick has a scant few spooky moments and Gitter makes for a cute, likable and thus sympathetic heroine, but otherwise this supernatural thriller is as cookie cutter as they come. The end reveal is no surprise as we are expecting something like this since we’ve basically seen this movie before. Not quite a complete waste of time, but one can do much better.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: PROMETHEUS (2012)

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PROMETHEUS (2012)

Prometheus is not only Ridley Scott’s long awaited return to sci-fi, but also to the same universe that his breakout classic Alien took place in. Prometheus is a prequel of sorts detailing events that may have set the story of Alien in motion and created it’s iconic creatures. So why at the climax are we so unsatisfied by what we just saw? As with all Scott’s films Prometheus is a gorgeously designed and filmed movie, but despite the interesting set-up about the possible origins of man and the existence of other superior beings, the visuals are just an empty candy coating as the film goes nowhere with these ideas. We get a story about Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Repace) who discovers numerous occurrences of a hieroglyphic throughout various earth times and cultures which she interprets as an invitation from an extraterrestrial race. Enter the Weyland Corporation (The villainous “Company” from the Alien films) who fund an expedition, but apparently with their own agenda. And the good ship Prometheus is off to investigate with it’s cliche’ corporate villain captain (Charlize Theron, who really doesn’t do much but be a company bitch) and the usual suspicious android, David (Michael Fassbender, who has the best role).

…And herein lies the problem. We start out expecting to find something fascinating, but Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts’ script gives us a cliche’ story of extraterrestrials whose intentions aren’t as noble as first believed and slimy corporate villains who want to use what they find for there own nefarious purposes. Sorry, been there, done that. Seen it all before. The beings’ true purpose in their genetic tampering is never revealed, nor does it make sense to leave evidence of their existence on earth when they are ultimately up to no good. Prometheus leaves the most interesting questions unanswered and instead moves the plot along by having characters do the stupidest things…seriously, genius scientists taking their helmets off in an alien environment without any clue that there might be an undetected threat?…Are you kidding me? I’ll admit there are a few tense scenes, although the film is rather laid back pace wise, and could have used a lot more suspense and energy if it wasn’t going to get overly interesting with it’s story. And most aggravating of all, is that the film is open-ended. It doesn’t even give us a satisfying conclusion. It leaves the most important questions unanswered and implies we have to wait for yet another film to find out how this story ends and how it links to the beginning of Alien, which it eventually will.
A major disappointment from Ridely Scott and company.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: THE DEVIL’S DOLLS (2016)

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THE DEVIL’S DOLLS (2016)

Silly but amusing flick has a cop, Matt (Christopher Wiehl) gunning down a serial killer and taking the killer’s Guatemalan Worry Dolls into evidence. Upon visiting his ex-wife’s (Samantha Smith) house, his little girl (Kennedy Brice) sees the dolls in his car and takes them. The dolls are possessed by the killer’s evil essence and now anyone who comes into possession of one gets possessed themselves and kills…still with me? Now Matt must recover the dolls before more people meet gruesome ends and free his daughter of the killer’s spirit.

Directed by Padraig Reynolds from a script by Danny Kolker and star Christopher Wiehl, it feels like someone read about Guatemalan Worry Dolls and cobbled together a story to use them. The result is a hodgepodge of a horror mixing possessed dolls, possessed people and a Guatemalan witch doctor (Tina Lifford) living in the middle of the woods (for exposition, of course) in a shack bigger than most people’s condos. If the film has a strong point, it is that there is plenty of gore and it is well rendered and quite abundant and somehow director Reynolds seems to keep the silliness somewhat amusing for the flick’s 85 minute run. It’s never scary, though never boring either. An unintentionally goofy flick and on that level it does entertain despite how bad it all really is.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK (2016)

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FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK (2016)

This is a heartfelt and fun documentary about the legendary Leonard Nimoy and the equally iconic character that made him famous. It’s told through the eyes of his son Adam Nimoy, using all sorts of footage and interviews of his father and many of those who worked with him. It touches on Nimoy growing up in Boston and deciding to become an actor and then his path to playing one of the most famous characters ever on Star Trek, Mr. Spock. Adam Nimoy relates his father’s story…and that of his Vulcan counterpart…with a genuine affection and seems to have a good time going back in the past to tell it. Adam also doesn’t shy away from the less glamorous parts, such as his relationship issues with his famous father, Nimoy’s drinking, as well as, his own substance abuse problems. If the buoyant tone of this flick falters a bit, it is here during these segments. The story is what it is, though and Adam Nimoy doesn’t hide some of the more bitter moments behind the larger than life character his dad is known and loved for. Ultimately we get a portrait of a ambitious man, who had his flaws, but worked hard, genuinely loved his fans and family and rediscovered some of the relationships damaged by his successes and excesses, in time to repair and enjoy his family life before his passing in 2015. If you a fan of Star Trek, Spock and Nimoy, watching this documentary is the logical thing to do. Not perfect, but very sincere.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (2016)

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THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (2016)

The Disappointments Room is exactly that. Kate Beckinsale stars as architect, wife and mother, Dana, who is moving into a rural country home with her family. Exploring her new house she finds it has a hidden locked room in the attic. Research reveals it’s a disappointments room…a room where well-to-do families hid deformed or handicapped children, to live out their lives in secret without ’embarrassing’ their families. Dana, having lost one of her own children, is especially disturbed by this and starts to see and be haunted by visions and apparitions of a past family and their deformed daughter. Is she just experiencing delusions caused by grief over the accidental death of her baby daughter, or is she really being haunted?

Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia), from a script by he and Wentworth Miller, this is an incredibly generic ghost story. All the well-worn clichés are present, such as Dana being the only one who sees these apparitions and the husband (Mel Raido) leaving mid-haunting to go away for a few days with the haunted wife now home alone with her son (Duncan Joiner). Beckinsale really tries hard here to give her emotionally strained mom some depth, but the incredibly bland script doesn’t give her much to work with. Raido’s husband is the typical doubter who believes it’s all in his wife’s head and there is the stereotypical young, hunky handyman (Lucas Till) to hit on Beckinsale’s hot mom, in a sub-plot that goes nowhere. Caruso directs competently, but achieves only a few spooky moments and holds our interest only by a thread. Bland and very familiar.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: FELT (2014)

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FELT (2014)

Amy (Amy Everson) is a young woman who has been emotionally damaged by a past sexual trauma. She expresses her pain and anger through her art which includes creating strange costumes and acting out in them. Things start to brighten up for Amy as she meets Ken (Kentucker Audley), a man who seems to like the young woman for who she is and be sympathetic to her past hurt. But can Amy have a normal loving relationship or will her inner pains be unleashed with tragic results?

Indie flick is co-written by star Everson with Jason Banker, who also directed and is a disturbing and sad portrait of the effects of sexual trauma such as rape. What makes the film work despite heading towards a predictable conclusion is that Amy comes off as quite sympathetic, despite her eccentric and disturbing behavior. We don’t get specific details about what happened to her, but do know enough to understand her defensive and aggressive behavior towards men and feel saddened by how this hurt has damaged her and how it has shaped her current personality. We also feel hopeful for her relationship with Ken, despite knowing deep down this will not end well. An effective little film about the horrible effects of sexual trauma and a society which all but ignores it, that isn’t quite horror, though isn’t quite straight-up drama either. There are good performances from the cast, too, especially Everson who manages to make Amy very likable and sympathetic despite her sometimes creepy, yet understandable, behavior.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: PERSONAL SHOPPER (2016)

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PERSONAL SHOPPER (2016)

French thriller tells the story of Maureen (Kristen Stewart) who is a personal shopper for bitchy celebrity Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten) …and a paranormal medium. She’s also in Paris to try to make contact with the spirit of her twin brother, who recently died in his home there. On top of all, that she is receiving ominous texts from an unknown source who seems to be stalking her. Still with me?

Despite not knowing what it wants to be about, the film is well directed by Olivier Assayas from his own script. It manages to provide some very spooky moments when dealing with the paranormal issues and some taunt suspense when dealing with the ominous texts Maureen keeps receiving from the unknown sender. The personal shopper drama is also well done though the least interesting part of the film. Assayas also gets good work out of Kristen Stewart whose disassociated style of acting works perfectly for the emotionally troubled Maureen. A few of the supernatural moments come close to tipping over into silly and the author of the mysterious texts wasn’t hard to figure out, but somehow despite, the multiple narrative, Personal Shopper does remain intriguing and sometimes very effective! Worth a look for something a bit offbeat.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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