BARE BONES: ZOMBIELAND-DOUBLE TAP (2019)

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ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP (2019)

Sequel opens with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) now living in the White House. Columbus asks Wichita to marry him and unfortunately it causes she and Little Rock to leave. Little Rock then strikes out on her own with stoner musician Berkeley (Avan Jogia) and when Wichita returns to ask for help in getting her back, she finds Columbus is now with ditzy blonde, Madison (Zoey Deutch), whom he found hiding in a mall. If that doesn’t add tension enough, there is apparently a new faster and deadlier type of zombie on the prowl.

Ruben Fleischer returns to direct from a script by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham. As such it’s a fun sequel, though completely unnecessary as it’s basically just more of the same. There is a fun bit with Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch as Albuquerque and Flagstaff, two travelers who are amusingly like Tallahassee and Columbus, but nothing much is done with it and it is over too quickly. Rosario Dawson is a welcome addition as Nevada, an Elvis loving love interest for Tallahassee, but even her character disappears for a while till joining the last act action. The climactic battle in a pacifist commune with the evolved zombie horde is entertaining and the four leads interact together very well, as they did last time. Aside from the fun of seeing the characters together again, there isn’t much to this sequel, which follows the template of the first film a little too closely to feel like anything more than a redo. Still, it’s an entertaining movie while it lasts, mostly because of the cast, but nothing that lingers after the credits have rolled. If you are a fan of the first film, you’ll probably have a good time with this one, even if it never accomplishes more than being an amusing, nostalgic reunion.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: LAST CHRISTMAS (2019)

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LAST CHRISTMAS (2019)

Christmas season set romantic comedy finds pretty Kate (Emilia Clarke) down on her luck and unable to keep a roof over her head, because of constantly pissing-off those she roommates with. She’s had a traumatic life threatening illness, has not been herself since and is alienating her family and friends. Even her stern, Christmas loving boss (Michelle Yeoh) is loosing patience with the wannabe singer turned Christmas store elf. One night things start to change, however, as Kate meets the mysterious and charismatic Tom (Henry Golding), who inspires Kate to overcome her emotional troubles and be herself again.

Holiday flick is directed by Paul Feig (Ghostbusters 2016) from a script and story by co-star Emma Thompson, Greg Wise and Bryony Kimmings. As such it is a mixed bag. Even though we are supposed to be on Kate’s side, she is somewhat annoying at first and it’s hard to sympathize with her when she is being a bit of a selfish a-hole. The romantic aspects are very cliché, though thanks to a charming cast they still work very well. That cast elevates this above the mediocre holiday rom-com it is, with Clarke and Golding having really nice chemistry together. Clarke especially wins us over once Kate starts to change her ways and goes from annoying to adorable in the last act and Golding proves to be a charismatic leading man. A fantastic Michelle Yeoh steals every scene she is in and Dame Emma Thompson is amusing as Kate’s Yugoslavian mother. The London setting is equally charming and the film does have a surprising reveal, about two third through, that you may not see coming. Overall, it’s entertaining enough, wins you over by it’s last act and made far better than it’s routine script by a solid cast and some good old fashioned charm…though, you might be a little tired of that Wham! song by it’s end.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE SHED (2019)

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THE SHED (2019)

Flick opens with a man named Joe Bane (Frank Whaley) running from what appears to be a vampire (Damian Norfleet). He is saved by the rising sun, but not before being bitten. Now infected, he flees to a local house and hides from the rays of the sun within the shed. The house is occupied by teen Stan (Jay Jay Warren), who lives there with his abusive grandfather Ellis (Timothy Bottoms), after the death of his parents. Stan and his friend Dommer (Cody Kostro) are continual victims of school bully Marble (Chris Petrovski), but that is nothing compared to discovering he has a blood-thirsty monster in his own backyard. Trapping the creature inside the shed, Stan tries to figure out what to do, though the fed-up Dommer has some ideas of his own.

Flick is written and directed by Frank Sabatella and is an entertaining enough tale, though could have been a bit more clever with it’s premise. Having a bullied individual suddenly finding a monster at their disposal is nothing new, but The Shed is at least, smart enough to never have vampire Bane actually under the control of the boys and thus he is always a threat, even when Dommer decides to use a captured vampire to his advantage. The film also keeps Stan extremely reluctant to use the monster as a tool of revenge, so the teen stays a likable and sympathetic hero. The vampire scenes are effective, there is some decent gore and the final showdown is intense, as Bane finally gets out of the shed. The cast are good, even those playing stereotypical characters such as school bully and redneck cop (Siobhan Fallon Hogan), and who knew comedic actor Frank Whaley would make a spooky vampire. Sabatella treats the material seriously and with respect. So, even when it’s at it’s most cliché, the film never gets outright silly and thus entertains for the right reasons. Not a great movie, but an effective enough horror and Sabatella does show some potential with his camera work and ability to induce chills with a cliché story. Also stars Sofia Happonen as Stan’s girlfriend Roxy.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: STAG NIGHT (2008)

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STAG NIGHT (2008)

Stag Night finds a group of bachelor partiers and a couple of strippers in NYC running afoul of a tribe of vicious, cannibalistic homeless people in the subways after hours. Flick is written and directed by Peter A. Dowling and has a group of young antagonists who aren’t particularly likable and therefor we really don’t care what happens to them. Their pursuers are generic snarling savages and don’t have enough of a persona to really generate fear or dread. So, we have a basic by-the-numbers gory horror that fails to generate any thrills, because there is nothing given us to get thrilled about. Many of today’s filmmakers miss the point, horror needs to evoke emotions in it’s audience, just as much as any other type of film. Fear is an emotion and if we care about characters, we are afraid when they are. Flicks like this also need a strong villain to evoke that fear. Gore and mood lighting do not a horror film make. Production value is decent and the locations and gore FX are effective, but that’s about it. Very routine despite an amusing premise. Stars Kip Pardue, Vinessa Shaw, Sarah Barrand, Breckin Meyer, Karl Geary and martial artist/actor Scott Adkins.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: RABID (2019)

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RABID (2019)

The Soska Sisters are back in the director’s chair after a four year absence and this time it’s a remake of David Croneneberg’s classic 1977 horror Rabid. Update finds fashion designer Rose (Laura Vandervoot) suffering an accident on her way home from a party. Her face is badly damaged and she has received severe injuries. Dr. William Burroughs (Ted Atherton) promises to heal her wounds at his clinic with an experimental stem cell treatment. It works, but there are a few disturbing side effects. Rose not only has some vivid nightmares, but the mild mannered vegetarian also starts to crave blood and meat, not to mention show violent tendencies. Even worse, any human she bites or scratches develops a mutant strain of rabies and become increasingly crazed and violent. As an epidemic spreads throughout the city, Rose tries to find out who…or what…she’s become.

Aside from directing, Jen and Sylivia Soska have written the script along with John Serge. They’ve updated the story well and have done a good job staying faithful to Cronenberg’s basic film, while taking it in their own direction, most notably in the last act. It’s one of the better remakes in a remake heavy era, one that maintains respect for the source. The film can be quite gruesome at times and there are some very disturbing moments. The FX are well done, especially in depicting Rose’s injuries and during the earlier operating sequences. The violence can be brutal, but is used sparingly, so it has impact when it comes. The last act does take things in an interesting direction, but also pays homage to Cronenberg’s penchant for body horror, while adding a Soska spin to the original story. Rabid accomplishes a lot on what appears to be a modest budget, especially when the disease spreads and the film has a strong visual style to portray it’s horrors. Also making it work very well is having a likable leading lady and sympathizing with Rose, not seeing her as a villain, is important to the story’s success. She’s never portrayed as a monster, even if she starts to believe she is one. The film is, overall, chilling and and disturbing and modernizes a forty year-old premise without losing it’s essence.

The Soska’s have a solid cast. Laura Vandervoot is really good as Rose. At first she is a meek and mild mannered woman in a cutthroat industry. After her treatment, she gains her confidence and begins wowing her prima donna boss Gunter with her work. As the side effects progress, Vandervoot gives us a very troubled and confused woman, as well as a vicious predator. We like her and have empathy for her, even when she’s on the attack. As the before mentioned Gunter, Mackenzie Gray delivers the designer exactly as one would expect someone like him to behave. He’s not a villain, just extremely demanding and not above humiliating those who he feels failed him. Ted Atherton is good as Dr. William Burroughs. He doesn’t really turn into a true villain till the last act, but at first seems like a man legitimately wanting to help Rose and provide advancements in medicine. When he reveals his inner Frankenstein, Atherton is a solid mad scientist and his villainous turn keeps any blame off the tragic Rose, who needs to remain sympathetic. Rounding out is Hanneke Talbot as Rose’s friend and one of the firm’s models and Ben Hollingsworth as a fashion photographer who has a personal interest in Rose. The Soska’s are wrestling fans, so guest appearances by former WWE Superstars Phil “CM Punk” Brooks and A.J. “A.J. Lee” Mendez are no surprise, nor is a cameo from the Twisted Twins themselves.

Rabid may not be a classic in itself, but does successfully put a contemporary spin on one. It’s good to see the Soska’s back in the director’s chair (chairs?) and back in horror, as their last film Vendetta was a violent prison/revenge drama that didn’t quite feel like a right fit for the duo. Their take on Cronenberg’s classic pays proper homage and respect, but also updates the story and does a few new things with it. It’s not quite as starkly original as their American Mary, but is still a gory, disturbing thriller that proves The Soska’s are here to stay.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) raw steaks.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: NEKROTRONIC (2019)

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NEKROTRONIC (2019)

Nekrotronic is another mash-up from the makers of the gory, fun 2014 Road Warrior/Dawn of the Dead hybrid Wyrmwood. This flick is basically Ghostbusters, meets The Exorcist with a dash of The Avengers and Buffy The Vampire Slayer thrown in. It tells the story of Howard (Ben O’Toole), who if he isn’t having a bad enough time draining septic tanks, finds out he is from a long line of necromancers who have been battling demons for ages. He also finds out his own mother Finnegan (Monica Bellucci) has found a way to put demons into the internet and use a new ghost hunting video game to unleash them, thus possessing the players and swallowing their souls. Howard reluctantly teams up with two pretty demon fighters, Molly and Torquel (Caroline Ford and Tess Haubrich) and his recently deceased bud, Rangi (Epine Bob Savea) to take mom down.

Australian horror/comedy is not quite as deliriously fun as Wyrmwood, but is still an amusing homage to some very classic movies. Flick is energetically directed by Kiah Roache-Turner from his script with brother Tristan Roache-Turner and is filled with some cool FX, tons of gore and a host of demon possessed citizens and minions. It takes it’s ludicrous plot seriously enough for us to follow along and the cast perform it with the right tone and gusto. It could have been a little tighter, currently running at 99 minutes, but overall is a good time and the Turners, once again, achieve a lot with a little. If, as a filmmaker, you are going to have fun with your film influences, this is an amusing way to go…in your face and with a blood-spattered wink at your audience. A bloody fun time, when all is said and done.

Flick can currently be found on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: BELZEBUTH (2017)

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BELZEBUTH (2017)

Mexican horror opens with a massacre in a hospital maternity ward where police detective Emmanuel Ritter (Joaquín Cosío) loses his infant son. Five years later, he is given a case of a similar massacre at a school…one right out of today’s headlines. Aside from the painful similarities, Ritter doesn’t see a connection till Vatican paranormal expert Ivan Franco (Tate Ellington) arrives. Franco warns Ritter these killing may be the work of rogue priest Vasilio Canetti (Tobin Bell) and an ancient demonic presence. At first Ritter is skeptical, but soon his eyes are opened to things he’s never imagined, especially when he finds out the reason all these innocent children are being slaughtered.

Film is effectively directed by Emilio Portes from a plot heavy script by he and Luis Carlos Fuentes. There is a lot going on, but the film has some spooky and intense moments, especially the shocking maternity ward scene which sets the tone. The flick has biblical implications, some interesting plot twists and some very familiar demonic possession tropes, but uses them effectively for the most part. It is a bit overlong, but the cast is good and Portes has a visual style that works well with the horror elements. There is some graphic violence which has impact and Portes uses his Mexican locations atmospherically. Even the traditional exorcism is effective enough, despite the familiarity. An entertaining horror, even if a bit cliché heavy. Also stars Liam Villa as Isa, a little boy who is the focus of the demon’s attention and Yunuen Pardo as his mother.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: ANTRUM-THE DEADLIEST FILM EVER MADE (2018)

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ANTRUM: THE DEADLIEST FILM EVER MADE (2018)

Flick starts out as a faux documentary about a 70s horror film named Antrum, which supposedly has caused the deaths of dozens of people. After a few minutes of sullen and serious interviewees describing how the film has claimed lives and has now been banned, we are treated to the film itself. Antrum tells the tale of young Nathan (Rowan Smyth) whose dog has died and because she bit him once, he’s convinced she’s gone to Hell. His older sister Oralee (Nicole Tompkins) concocts a plan to put his mind at ease and takes him camping in a forest she tells him is the spot where the Devil landed when he fell from Heaven. She tells him here they can dig a hole through the layers of Hell and rescue his dog’s soul. Tall tale or not, Hell is exactly what the siblings get.

Homage to 70s demonic horrors with a nod towards found footage is directed by David Amito and Michael Laicini from Amito’s script. The intent seems legit and it’s heart appears to be in the right place, but the idea of a film that kills or has been banned for causing violence has been done before in flicks like Midnight Movie, Hills Run Red, not to mention John Carpenter’s Masters of Horror episode Cigarette Burns. Aside from some atmosphere, the film itself is kinda dull, though does capture the look and feel of a low budget 70s horror. The cast are definitely amateurs, though Nicole Tompkins does a good job carrying most of the movie on her shoulders. It’s a bit talky and nothing much happens aside from a last act encounter with some perverted, Satan worshipping rednecks, which makes one scratch their heads more than hide their eyes. There are some subliminal images and demonic symbols peppered throughout the flick, but they actually detract from the movie far more than add any atmosphere or creepiness. They’re too random to be effective, they’re distracting and give the impression of being more like an afterthought when the film didn’t turn out scary enough. Overall, the effort here can be appreciated, but the result is definitely disappointing, especially considering the expectations built up by it’s tagline.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: 47 METERS DOWN-UNCAGED (2019)

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47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED (2019)

Sequel to the fun Mandy Moore vs sharks epic, 47 Meters Down is basically Jaws meets The Descent and takes place in Yucatán, Mexico. A group of four pretty girls, Mia (Sophie Nélisse), Sasha (Corinne Foxx, daughter of Jamie Foxx), Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sly’s daughter, Sistine Stallone) decide to forgo the boat tour they are supposed to be on and go scuba diving in a flooded underground Mayan temple Mia’s dad (John Corbett) is exploring. Once the four get inside, they become trapped and are pursued by the blind, albino great white sharks that live inside the temple catacombs.

Directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, Strangers: Prey at Night) from a script he co-wrote with Ernest Riera, it’s a silly but fun sequel. Uncaged takes itself just serious enough and plays a lot like Neil Marshall’s chiller with our scantily clad heroines using both silence and sound to evade the great whites, who are blind due to living in darkness all this time. It’s entertaining nonsense as our ladies seek to escape when accidentally sealed in and are running out of air. The leading ladies are charming, pretty and likable enough, so we don’t especially want to see them become shark food and the flick does try to keep us in suspense as to if and when any of our adorable ladies will become dinner. This is a shark flick after all and the movie does provide some gruesome chow downs. Other divers are present to serve as food for our predators and one character appears and then is eaten so fast, there is no question as to why they were even there, except for the obvious reason of a great white happy meal. There are also some amusing conveniences, too, as characters who can be of any assistance in the girl’s escape are devoured at just the right crucial moments. Not as gripping as the surprisingly solid thriller the first flick was, but still mindless entertainment if you let it be and the last act is pretty much non-stop action. Silly and cliché, but a fun time.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: SPIDERHOLE (2009)

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SPIDERHOLE (2009)

Spiderhole is a British horror thriller about a group of four young squatters who break into an abandoned house to live in. Unfortunately for them, there is already an occupant and he doesn’t want them to leave…ever.

Spiderhole is technically well made, but it’s nothing new, nor is it done in a way to make it fresh. The four leads are dull and not particularly endearing or likable, so right there we have no emotional investment to care about their well being, which is a common mistake in horror films these days. When the film is not following them around the maze-like house, it’s being a routine torture show as the creepy plastic wearing occupant one by one captures them for some very nasty surgery. We never get to know much about this sick surgeon, not enough to give him the kind of presence or threat he needed to be effective. In fact we never really feel any dread or suspense despite the fact that he is always lurking about. Aside from our emotional detachment to the leads, the film never builds any atmosphere or a sense of danger with it’s by-the-numbers presentation of it’s story. Director and writer Daniel Simpson has a very point and shoot style that creates none of the mood this film needed to get past it’s tired plot. As a result, Spiderhole is an empty hole.

-MonsterZero NJ

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