BARE BONES: CLOWNTERGEIST (2017)

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CLOWNTERGEIST (2017)

This is one of those low budget efforts that has it’s heart in the right place and really tries, but unfortunately falls short, even thought you are rooting for it. Story finds pretty young Emma (Brittany Belland) being stalked by a demon possessed clown in her small boring town. Not the kind of excitement she was hoping for, especially as clowns are not Emma’s favorite thing.

Flick is directed by Aaron Mirtes from a weak script by he and Brad Belemjian. The story never really comes together even after a last act reveal and the editing is very choppy making one wonder what is exactly going on at times. Despite these flaws in the film-making process, Mirtes tries hard and does get a few effective moments even if Ribcage the Clown (Eric Corbin) is not as scary as we’d like him to be. The cast seems to be having a good time, especially perky lead Brittany Belland and that helps a little with the flick’s creative flaws. Also stars Monica Baker and Sean Patrick Henry as Emma’s co-workers and friends.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: SUPER DARK TIMES (2017)

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SUPER DARK TIMES (2017)

Off-beat thriller has four teens smoking pot and goofing around and when the roughhousing gets a little out of hand, one of the teens (Max Talisman) is accidentally killed. The story then focuses on best friends Josh (Charlie Tahan) and Zach (Owen Campbell) as the emotional strain of covering up the boy’s death starts to tear their friendship apart and change the youths drastically. Add in the presence of a pretty mutual love interest (Elizabeth Cappuccino) and the situation may once again become deadly.

Film is directed with a refreshing low-key style by Kevin Phillips from a script by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, who wrote Siren. It’s a tense little movie that portrays not only the awkwardness of teen emotions very well, but the unraveling of not being able to handle something tragic. Josh and Zach react in different ways which pushes them toward a volatile situation. It’s a slow burn, but one worth watching. The last act violence seems s little over-the-top compared to the quieter nature of the rest of the film, but works in the context of teenagers dealing with emotions that would challenge most adults. The young cast of mostly unknowns (Tahan was in The Harvest) are very good and the leads in particular show potential. An atmospheric and occasionally disturbing thriller. Also stars Sawyer Barth as the fourth teen in the scenario, Charlie.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING (2014)

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AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING (2014)

Unnecessary horror sequel has sat on the shelf for three years and now we know why. Flick has single mother Joan (Jennifer Jason Leigh) moving into the infamous house with rebellious daughter Belle, (Bella Thorne) younger daughter Juliet (Mckenna Grace) and son, James (Cameron Monaghan), who has been in a vegetative state since an incident that Bella blames herself for. Once settled in, Bella starts to believe something is very wrong as she learns the house’s horrifying history and her brother starts to make some remarkable and impossible improvements. Cue flies and the prerequisite “get outs”.

Despite it’s title, you’ll find it hard to stay awake during this sequel. Flick is written and directed by Franck Khalfoun who shows none of the style he showed in his Maniac remake and has concocted a very lazy script with all the familiar tropes un-inventively rolled out. Movie tries to legitimize itself by acknowledging all the other films were just that, movies and that this film is supposed take place in reality. But, it’s as far from reality as you can get and the only scary thing is how often Khalfoun likes to film actress Bella Thorne’s rear. It’s a terrible sequel with a wooden cast and even vets like Leigh and Kurtwood Smith seem to be phoning in their parts. Having the demon inhabit a person in a vegetative state is just dull and it keeps the action “bed ridden” till the climax we all know is coming a mile away. Awful waste of time and belongs back on the shelf it came from.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: WISH UPON (2017)

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WISH UPON (2017)

Wish Upon is yet another generic, teen-centric PG-13 horror that finds cute high school student Clare (Joey King) being given a Chinese wish box found by her dumpster diving father (Ryan Phillippe). The picked-on teen uses it to make a wish against the local mean girl (Josephine Langford) and finds it actually comes true. Now as she begins to use the box, she learns that it comes with a terrible price as those close to her begin to suffer horrible fates.

Flick is directed by John Leonetti (Annabell) from a script by Barbara Marshall and the result is a mildly entertaining hodge-podge of classic horror stories like The Monkey’s Paw and other flicks like the Final Destination series. Leonetti is a competent director, but not really able to create any scares. The film has some amusing scenes and the young cast are charming enough, but it’s nothing new and the familiar elements are not used inventively enough to really make this spooky fun. Not a complete waste of time, but forgettable and by-the-numbers as the teen horror sub-genre goes.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: WELCOME TO WILLITS (2016)

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WELCOME TO WILLITS (2016)

Ho-hum flick has pot farmer, Brock (Bill Sage) in the backwoods town of Willits, seeing aliens and conspiracy at every turn. When a group of campers invade his turf and some actual aliens drop by, too. Brock doesn’t know who to trust and his paranoia puts everyone in danger, alien and human alike.

Boring flick is directed by Trevor Ryan from a script by Tim Ryan and the flick doesn’t know whether it wants to be funny or serious and is successful at neither. It a dull thriller about a paranoid burn-out who sees aliens and conspiracy everywhere, even with his own girlfriend (Sabina Gadecki) and niece (Anastasia Baranova), not to mention some innocent campers. The flick has some decent effects, but there are long dialogue stretches that aren’t interesting or entertaining, as the film switches focus from paranoid Brock to the fish-out-of-water campers who eventually cross his path. Those looking for the credited Dolph Lundgren will be greatly disappointed, as he appears only as a cop on a TV show that Brock is watching during the course of the film…and false Dolph Lundgren advertising is definitely going to loose this flick even more points with this reviewer.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: A GHOST STORY (2017)

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A GHOST STORY (2017)

Supernatural drama tells the story of a young couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) whose lives are shattered when the husband is killed in a car accident right outside their home. His spirit returns to the house and watches as his wife grieves, heals, moves on and eventually moves out. Now it is his spirit that needs to learn to move on as he haunts the house and anyone that comes to live in it.

Written and directed by David Lowery, this is a somber yet effective story of grief and healing told interestingly from the perspective of the deceased. Lowery also has the audacity to have his silent, brooding ghost portrayed simply by having his actor wear a sheet with the eyes cut out and it works. It is definitely not a movie for everyone as Lowery lets scenes linger for a very long time, but these scenes have resonance and Lowery achieves a lot with silence in terms of telling his story. It is only in the last act when things get a little trippy that the film looses it’s grip a little bit. Here the ghost seems to be reliving the history of the house, up to his living there with his wife, though reliving the couple’s time there does help us understand his reluctance to leave…and maybe helps him understand too. A very unusual but effective and original indie flick from David Lowery, with very good performances from his small cast.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: DEAD AWAKE (2016)

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DEAD AWAKE (2016)

House of the Devil star Jocelin Donahue plays twin sisters Kate and Beth in this routine tale of supernatural horror. Beth claims to be pursued in her sleep by something sinister. No one believes her until she dies mysteriously. Now sister Kate investigates the unthinkable, as there may have been a supernatural entity involved. But unknown to Kate, she may be it’s next target.

Flick is directed with little style or originality by Phillip Guzman from Jeffrey Reddick’s routine script. The uninspired story tries to explain the sleep paralysis phenomena by attaching a generic boogie man called the sleep hag, which is responsible for people dying as they slumber. It all comes across as very dull and lazy and wastes the efforts of Donahue who tries hard to overcome the by-the-numbers material in both roles and makes a good heroine in spite of what little she has to work with. A dull cookie cutter horror that wastes a talented leading lady. Also stars Lori Petty in the role of Dr. Sykes.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: CIRCUS KANE (2017)

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CIRCUS KANE (2017)

Balthazar Kane (Tim Abell) is renown for his haunted circus attractions though hasn’t been heard from since a devastating fire ripped through his tent. Now he has come out of hiding and has invited a group of prominent horror bloggers to test out his plans for a new attraction. All they have to do is spend the night and if they make it through, they will receive $250,000. But soon the group find out getting through one of Balthazar Kane’s attractions is a literal fight for survival.

Low budget horror is directed by Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray, who is the son of prolific low budget horror filmmaker Fred Olen Ray, from a story and script by Sean Sellars, James Cullen Bressack and Zack Ward. It’s got it’s bloody heart in the right place and is actually somewhat entertaining, even with the restrictions of a limited budget. Ray, like his cult favorite father, gets a lot out of a little and gives the film a sense of twisted fun even if the minimal budget restricts the action to thriftily decorated sets. There is some spooky make-up on it’s sinister clowns, some decent gore and presents us with a fairly likable group of bloggers to fear for. Sure, we’ve seen plot elements before and sometimes Ray gets a little overindulgent with the digital editing effects, but it does entertain and that’s what counts. Fun little flick also stars Nicole Fox, Ted Monte and Victoria Konefal among the ill-fated bloggers and Night Court’s Richard Moll as “The Pale Man”.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: LITTLE EVIL (2017)

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LITTLE EVIL (2017)

Little Evil is a Netflix horror/comedy that has likable schlep Gary (Adam Scott) marrying pretty mom Samantha (Evangeline Lilly) and soon suspecting her six year-old son Lucas (Owen Atlas) might be the spawn of Satan…literally. And that’s kinda it.

There is little to recommend about Little Evil as it is a dreadfully unfunny attempt to spoof the bad seed/demon child scenario. Most of the jokes fall flat and the film takes itself a little too seriously anyway, which would be fine if the derivative horror elements worked at all. We’ve seen it all before and that would be fine if the flick was funny enough to laugh at the familiar tropes. It’s not. Scott is once again a dull lead and at least Lilly is perky as the oblivious mom and young Owen Atlas is suitably creepy as devil child Lucas. Other than that, the direction from Eli Craig is as pedestrian as his script is uninspired and both lack the cleverness, style or laughs to make a spoof/homage like this work. A bore from start to it’s cliché finish. Also stars Clancy Brown as a priest.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (2017)

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PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (2017)

Latest installment of this popular franchise has a bit of a complicated story, but that isn’t a new thing with this series. Will Turner’s (Orlando Bloom) son Henry (Brenton Thwaites ) sets out to find Poseidon’s Trident to break the curse and free his father from the Flying Dutchman. He plans to enlist the help of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) himself who currently is running from the ghost of the dread Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who wants revenge for Jack causing the demise of he and his crew. Throw in Carina (Kaya Scodelario), a young woman accused of witchcraft, who is the only one who knows how to find the trident and the resurfacing of Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and you have enough story for two movies.

Latest yarn is directed by the Kon-Tiki duo of Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg from a busy script and story by Jeff Nathanson and Terry Rossio. It’s certainly better than the lackluster Stranger Tides, though still shows that this series is running out of gas, especially with a very underwritten part for Depp’s Captain Jack. There is a lot going on in it’s series short running time of 129 minutes and not all of it necessary to further the plot. There is some fun action and some spectacular visuals, but at the same time, it just doesn’t have that energetic spark of the first film. The cast, especially the newcomers, seem to be having a good time though Depp appears to be just going through the motions and Rush’s Barbossa has little to do but be a possible link to one of the new characters. Bad guy Bardem disappears for periods of time, so the sense of urgency in the quest is neutered somewhat. The pursuit of the pirates and accused witch Carina by a British naval officer, also seems like excess and takes the focus away from Salazar at points. Overall, it was still a fun enough adventure, but the series seems to be getting mired in the shallows and needs a reboot or be decommissioned.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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