BARE BONES: TRESPASSERS (2018)

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TRESPASSERS (2018)

Run of the mill home invasion flick has two yuppie couples (Angela Trimbur, Zach Avery, Janel Parrish and Jonathan Howard) taking a vacation at a remote desert house. Unknown to them, the previous tenants were kidnaped and murdered by a group of mask wearing thugs…and those thugs want something that is still there. But first, there is a ton of self-absorbed yuppie relationship drama and even a murder to wade through before our home invasion begins.

Orson Oblowitz unremarkably directs this flick from a very derivative and unimaginative script by Corey Deshon. It’s a movie one struggles to find a reason for existing, as it is just tired ideas paraded out without anything new to add or any innovation in the telling. It’s a ho-hum mix of home invasion flick mashed-up with the angry douche-bag kills someone and holds his friends hostage flick, as a strange woman (Fairuza Balk), who shows up at the house, pushes uber-jerk and coke-head Victor (Howard) too far. And that’s another problem, the four main characters are such a-holes that when the thugs finally show up, you can’t wait to see them tormented and get what’s coming to them. How are we supposed to have any sympathy for these characters when they are so self-centered and unlikable and one is now a murderer? Victor would be the villain in any other flick. Angela Trimbur (The Final Girls, Halloween II) tries to give her Sarah a bit of a soul, but the rest are such cheating, drugging, ass-clowns that we find ourselves rooting for and not lamenting their demises. Let’s not even get started on the generic “bad guys” who show up. There are a few effective moments, very few, but otherwise this is a soulless copy of films from sub-genres that, in themselves, were never that thrilling to begin with. Sad, flicks like this get made and released and so many talented young filmmakers struggle to get financing for far more worthy projects. Waste of time.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: CHARLIE’S FARM (2014)

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CHARLIE’S FARM (2014)

If writer/director Chris Sun’s Boar was a homage to the nature run amok horrors inspired by Jaws than Charlie’s Farm is the Australian filmmaker’s nod to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and that which it inspired. Flick has four friends (Tara Reid, Allira Jaques, Dean Kirkright and Sam Coward) heading into rural country to find the supposedly haunted “Charlie’s Farm”. Local legends say that in the 1980s area townsfolk brought lethal justice to the murderous, cannibalistic Wilson family…all but their young, deranged son Charlie. Now he is said to “haunt” the area surrounding the farm, dispatching anyone who dares venture near. The four friends unfortunately find out there is some truth behind urban legends.

Flick is not perfect, but is a fun throwback/homage with former WWE Superstar Nathan Jones making an imposing Charlie along with some very gruesome kills. As Chris Sun is paying homage to flicks of this kind, don’t expect anything too original, but he seems to know his influences well enough. The rest of the cast are fine here with standouts being Sam Coward as fun, lovable lug “Donkey” and pretty Aussie Allira Jaques as spunky Melanie, who IMO would have been a better final girl than the by-the-numbers Reid. The violence can be brutal and while it isn’t much in the suspense department, the farm setting is creepy and effective and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 88 minutes. Film also stars horror legends Bill Mosley, who is channeling “Otis” in flashbacks as cannibal patriarch John WIlson and Kane Hodder, as a friend who comes looking for the ill-fated campers and finds trouble himself. An amusing enough slasher.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: BOAR (2017)

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BOAR (2017)

Australian nature run amok horror has a massive wild boar terrorizing the remote Australian countryside. A group of locals and a visiting family find themselves battling the monster, who is very hungry and will eat anything…or anyone…that wanders into it’s hunting ground.

Flick is a fun and delightfully gory monster on the loose flick from writer/director Chris Sun. The flick evokes the nature gone wild films of the 70s and 80s like Grizzly, Alligator and, of course, Razorback, that were themselves inspired by Jaws. Sun gives his monster boar a lot of menace and the creature FX are mostly good old fashioned prosthetics, and very effective ones at that. CGI is only used minimally for a few full body shots needing the big pig to move like a real animal. It’s quick and rendered well enough to work. There is plenty of blood, entrails and limbs flying all over the place, yet Sun doesn’t forget to give us some likable and endearing characters to root and fear for. As the writer/director is not afraid to have characters we like fall to the critter, it ads suspense, as anyone could end up a meal. A really fun and bloody as heck, old fashioned monster flick from down under. Boar stars Wolf Creek’s John Jarratt, horror legend Bill Moseley and former WWE Superstar turned actor Nathan Jones (Mad Max: Fury Road). Check it out on Shudder for a bloody good time!

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: HAGAZUSSA (2017)

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HAGAZUSSA (2017)

German film takes place in the 15th century and tells the story of lonely Albrun (Aleksandra Cwen) who has lived alone in her rural cabin since the death of her mother (Claudia Martini). Her mother was thought to be a witch, for her pagan beliefs and so now is Albrun. She is persecuted by the local villagers and their clergy, especially when she has a child out of wedlock. The continual betrayal and abuse from those around her, drive poor Albrun to desperate and terrible acts.

Moody piece is written and directed by Lukas Feigelfeld and is a very slow burn tale. Feigelfeld doesn’t spoon feed his audience anything, as we never find the identity of the father of Albrun’s child, nor are we ever clear if her mother…or she…is really a witch. Strange things happen, that may or may not be all in Albrun’s mind, a result of the constant loneliness and the horrible treatment by the local villagers, including betrayal and rape. There are some subtle hints that maybe there is something supernatural going on and some not so subtle commentary about religious persecution and the evils done in the name of religion. The performances are good, especially from actress Cwen as the persecuted and finally vengeful Albrun. If you are patient enough for the slow pace and can handle some of the disturbing sequences of abuse and madness, this might be an interesting change of pace. An unnerving chiller with some very disturbing moments. Also stars Celina Peter, who portrays Albrun as a child.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA (2019)

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THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA (2019)

Supernatural horror takes place in 1973 with widowed social worker Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini) looking into the death of two children, from one of her cases. Their mother (Patricia Velásquez) claims it was La Llorona, The Weeping Woman, who murdered her children and they are dead because of Anna’s interference. Anna discovers that La Llorona is from Mexican folklore, a woman in the 1600s who got revenge on a cheating husband by murdering her own children and then killing herself. Distraught with guilt, her spirit is now said to seek out other children to kill to take the place of her own. Whether the folktale is true or not, a dark force is now stalking Anna and her own kids (Roman Christou and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). Is the spirit of La Llorona real and out to get Anna’s offspring?

Generic horror flick is directed by Michael Chaves from a routine script by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis. Mexican folklore base could have been interesting had there been a more involving movie built around it, or a better use of that folklore. Flick centers on the usual, vengeful, sinister specter surrounded by dark cinematography, flickering lights and an abundance of jump scares. The lead character, Anna, is the cliché skeptic who is forced to go to someone of faith and supernatural belief (Raymond Cruz) for help. There is even an exorcism of sorts in the last act. Chaves tries to build atmosphere and Cardellini gives it her all, as the frightened Anna, but this is just too familiar to really evoke solid scares. It follows the recent template for mainstream supernatural horror to the letter and does nothing innovative or intriguing with it. While it also lacks the over-the-top fun of last years The Nun, this was still another box office hit for producer James Wan and his Conjuring universe, which this film is thinly linked to by the appearance of Annabelle‘s Father Perez (Tony Amendola).

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: CHERNOBYL DIARIES (2012)

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CHERNOBYL DIARIES (2012)

With HBO’s Chernobyl getting some attention, I thought I’d drag this review out of the vaults-MZNJ

Chernobyl Diaries tells the story of a group of six twenty-somethings who sign up for a shady tour of Pripyat, a city outside Russia’s infamous Chernobyl reactor, where all the workers lived with their families. The city is still abandoned…or is it?

Despite the novel set- up, Diaries becomes very routine once our young adventure seekers become trapped in the city with whatever is lurking there. Despite some reasonable competence behind the camera by director Brad Parker, the film never generates much suspense or tension, as we know what’s coming and even the jump scares were familiar enough to not have much effect. The photography is spooky and it helps give it a bit of atmosphere, but the two dimensional characters never give us a reason to care and the film follows a time worn blueprint for this kind of flick. Add to that a very odd and unsatisfying end that doesn’t help either.

Chernobyl Diaries isn’t the worst horror, but it’s lazy in that it takes it’s unique setting and places within it a very unoriginal story and does nothing interesting with playing it out. It’s as if the filmmakers felt that the creativity with the initial idea of setting a movie in that desolate area was enough to carry the whole film. It’s not. They could have at least given us some shocking gore. They don’t even do that, as the kills are off screen and the carnage is barely shown. Flick is written by Paranormal Activity’s Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke and stars Olivia Taylor Dudley, who later went on to star in The Vatican Tapes and the final Paranormal Activity flick The Ghost Dimension.

-MonsterZero NJ

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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, and while he overuses the colored lighting that is currently popular with filmmakers, he 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 still a decent effort from a first time feature filmmaker. And Childs could deliver solidly once he gets more experience under his belt and reigns in his stories somewhat. We do get a leading lady who does make  an impression as the flick’s final girl and who we want to see more of. 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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