HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: JULIA’S EYES (2010)

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JULIA’S EYES aka LOS OJOS DE JULIA (2010)

Julia’s Eyes is an occasionally effective and nicely photographed thriller that tries to be a combination of Italian Giallo and Hitchcockian thriller, but doesn’t quite succeed at either. Eyes is the story of Julia (The Orphanage’s Belén Rueda) a woman with a degenerative sight condition who is investigating the suicide of her twin sister, who was also afflicted. What follows is a somewhat convoluted tale as Julia, with her rapidly diminishing sight, tries to track down an almost phantom like character who she feels is responsible for her sister’s death.

There are some very effective scenes in this Spanish thriller especially the spooky opening scene and the climactic confrontation, but there are a lot of slow spots in between and some of director and co-writer Guillem Morales’ ideas and plot directions border on the silly. Morales shows potential to be a good director, there is some nice atmosphere and everything is well framed and shot. There are some solid scenes of tension and he also gets good performances from his cast, especially from leading lady Rueda. Morales just needs to rein his scripts in a bit and try to not let his story stray outside of what is necessary to tell his tale. The flick feels about 10-15 minutes too long with some scenes playing out far longer than they seem like they need to. Perhaps at a tighter 90 minutes, Julia’s Eyes would have been more of the thriller he was going for.

Julia’s Eyes is produced by Guillermo del Toro and is still worth a look despite it’s flaws. Guillem Morales has worked only sporadically since, despite showing potential here, while ironically, co-writer Oriol Paulo has gone on to have a successful career as a writer and director.

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: I TRAPPED THE DEVIL (2019)

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I TRAPPED THE DEVIL (2019)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Spooky flick finds Matt (A.J. Bowen) and his wife Karen (Susan Burke) going to the family house on Christmas night to visit Matt’s emotionally troubled brother Steve (Scott Poythress). They arrive to find the house in disarray and Steve insisting they leave. Matt refuses to go and soon they find out Steve has someone locked behind a door in the cellar…someone he claims is The Devil.

Flick is atmospherically directed by Josh Lobo from his own script. There are some very spooky moments here, especially when we are in the cellar and near that door. He uses Bryce Holden’s lighting and Ben Lovett’s really unsettling score to maximum effect in building a mood of dread and foreboding. The voice on the other side of the door sounds human, but there is something about it that makes Matt and Karen…and us…unsure. Does Steve really have Old Scratch trapped behind the cellar door? If anything holds this flick back a bit is that the dialogue sequences can get a bit tedious even for a film well under 90 minutes. The premise provides very little opportunity for action, so there is a lot of talk between the chilling moments, and it needed to be more involving. Steve’s babbling does indeed lay down doubt of his sanity, but also can get a bit annoying at times. It’s when things get creepy, like with Steve’s oddly behaving TV, that this film really works. The cast are fine, though Scott Poythress’ Steve could have been more intense, and there is a really unsettling and blood-spattered finale.

Overall, this was a really unnerving flick at times, though not consistently. Writer/director Josh Lobo knows how to build atmosphere and tension, but could make his dialogue sequences more gripping. An original idea that is certainly worth a look. May not be perfect, but is really effective when it is working.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 (out of 4) Christmas trees…it is a Christmas film after all.

 

 

 

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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, though overdoes the colored lighting a bit, though 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 a decent effort from a first time feature filmmaker who could deliver once he gets more experience under his belt and reigns in his stories somewhat. We also get a leading lady who makes an impression as the flick’s final girl. 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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REVIEW: HELLBOY (2019)

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HELLBOY (2019)

Mike Mignola’s Hellboy is back from comic book page to movie screen and unfortunately, without Ron Perlman and Guillermo del Toro. Not the conclusion of the previous film’s proposed trilogy, it’s a new origin story with a new cast and a far darker and somewhat less humorous tone. This latest incarnation finds Hellboy (Stranger Things’ David Harbour) dealing with both the truth of his destiny to bring about the apocalypse and the resurrection of the Blood Queen Nimue (Milla Jovovich), who’d love to help him. The heroic demon has to wade through an army of creatures and even some close to home betrayals to try and bring her down and save the world.

Reboot is directed by The Descent’s Neil Marshall from a script by Mike Mignola and Andrew Cosby. As such, it is darker, edgier and more of a horror film than the PG-13 superhero films that preceded it. There are gallons of blood and gore spattered on the screen as Hellboy and allies, psychic Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane), were-beast Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) and his “father” Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) battle dozens of monsters, demons and mythical creatures. There is a lot of bloody action and while it lacks the charm and fun of del Toro’s flicks, it is entertaining enough in it’s own right. Marshall’s visual style is different than del Toro’s, but no less spectacular, as we are treated to all sorts of monsters including a wrestling vampire, the pig-like Gruagach (Stephen Graham), Slavic folk legend Baba Yaga and a trio of hungry giants. The film has it’s stumbling points, such as that it is rather plot heavy with elements of everything from monsters of myth to King Arthur, Merlin and Excalibur. We also get another retelling of Hellboy’s origin that isn’t different enough to make it necessary, though this flick does delve deeper into who he really is. We also once again get glimpses of his apocalyptic destiny that are very familiar to what we have already seen. Sure this is a reboot, but it recovers quite a bit of old ground without enough innovation to keep it fresh. The film feels a little overloaded with all that goes on, though ironically, the final confrontation with Nimue came across as a bit underwhelming. It’s over quicker than one would expect after a two hour build up. No it’s not del Toro’s Hellboy, but it’s not the train-wreck early word makes it out to be, either.

As for Marshall’s cast, Harbour is solid as Hellboy. He doesn’t quite have Perlman’s roguish charm and arrogant swagger, but he actually is pretty good in the role. McShane is a veteran actor and his Professor Bruttenholm is less the doddering old man than John Hurt’s interpretation and is given a bit more of a gruff, grizzled demeanor. Kim is also fine as the macho soldier with a ferocious secret in his B.P.R.D. operative Daimio. He and Hellboy butt heads at first, but we know they will bond at some point. Sasha Lane is cute and feisty as the psychic Alice and Jovovich is a suitable enough villain, though never really given strong enough material to let her unleash her inner Maleficent. She could have been a bit more over-the-top. The dozens of CGI supporting monsters are rendered well enough, though some appear a bit more cartoony than others.

In conclusion, this reboot is not as memorable as del Toro’s adaptations, yet is not an insult to them either. Neil Marshall has a heavier hand than Guillermo and this flick stretches it’s R-rated limits, but he also creates some impressive otherworldly sequences with a cool array of beasts and critters. The film is loaded with action, but also felt a bit bloated at times with a lot of plot elements. It has a decent cast and if we can’t have Perlman, Harbour isn’t a bad replacement. Not the mess early word has made it out to be, though not an equal to the previous cinematic incarnations that came before it.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) rebooted Hellboys.

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: THE HEAD HUNTER (2018)

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THE HEAD HUNTER (2018)

Minimalist horror/fantasy tells the tale of a warrior (Christopher Rygh) who hunts monsters for a living and saves their heads as trophies. The head he is determined to add to his collection, is the one of the creature that killed his little girl (Cora Kaufman). As in all tales of revenge, be careful what you wish for.

Dark and somber tale is directed by Jordan Downey (Thankskilling and it’s sequel) from his script with Kevin Stewart and is more about grief and the desire to sate it with revenge than action. Those expecting epic battles will be disappointed as the film focuses on the aftermath and effect on “Father”, returning from battle with gory scars and wounds and in obvious pain, as he works his way towards his target. We do get a final confrontation, but it happens in a way you may not expect and concludes in an equally unexpected and unsettling finale. Downey’s film is a far cry from his silly Thankskilling and ironically this film could have been silly in parts if not for Downey’s deft handing of the subject. Instead the last act is quite intense and has some scary moments, as Father hunts and is hunted by the creature. The film reportedly only cost around $30,000 and the director creates a visually impressive film both in the detailed sets, costumes and creature heads and utilizing the Portuguese locations very effectively. The flick has atmosphere, portrays some intriguingly subtle uses of dark magic and features a good performance from Rygh as the grieving warrior. Not for everyone, but an interesting and very effective little movie from Jordan Downey.

Flick is available on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE WIND (2019)

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THE WIND (2019)

Old West set horror finds frontier wife Lizzy (Smiley’s Caitlin Gerard) left by herself after the tragic death of her neighbor Emma (Jukia Goldani Telles) during childbirth. While her husband (Ashley Zuckerman) is away and she’s secluded in their home, Lizzy reflects on recent events and the loss of her own child as a sinister supernatural force closes in on her.

Moody supernatural horror is directed by Emma Tammi from a script by Theresa Sutherland and focuses more on Lizzy’s decaying state of mind than supernatural events. There are scenes of paranormal activity, especially in the last act, when it appears Lizzy is unraveling, but there is a greater focus on telling the story in flashbacks as we learn this “presence” may have been haunting Lizzy for some time. It’s far more somber than scary, but worth a look for Caitlin Gerard’s performance of a woman isolated, slowly coming apart and possibly haunted by a sinister force. The film does try to keep you guessing if Lizzy is simply cracking under the pressures of frontier life, or is there actually a demonic force roaming these lands. The pace is deliberately moderate and the last act has some disturbing events and reveals. Not for everyone, but a bit of a different perspective on the traditional supernatural/demonic haunting flick. Also stars Miles Anderson as a traveling preacher and Dylan McTee (Midnighters) as Emma’s devastated husband Gideon.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: PET SEMATARY (2019)

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PET SEMATARY (2019)

“Sometimes dead is better.”- Jud Crandall

Flick is the second film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name, with the first being Mary Lambert’s 1989 chiller. This version finds Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moving his family, wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz), daughter Elle (Jeté Laurence) and young son Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) from Boston to a rural house in Maine, to get away from big city life. Unfortunately their property is bordered on one side by a busy road and a local “Pet Sematary” on the other. When their family cat Church is run over, kindly old neighbor Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) takes Louis to bury it, in a stretch of ground beyond the pet graveyard, that Crandall claims has some supernatural properties…and a horrific chain of events begins to unfold as per King’s classic book.

Adaptation is this time directed by Starry Eyes duo Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer from a script by Jeff Buhler and Matt Greenberg. Kölsch and Widmyer do bring a creepy touch to King’s tale and certainly know how to make the New England countryside look very spooky. The film is effective and tries to change things up a bit, as it is a second adaptation of the bestselling book. Even with taking liberties with certain plot elements, though, the familiarity does work against it at times. We all know where this is heading, no matter what changes are made. Still, it is spooky enough to entertain and the last act has some nice chills. The flick is very atmospheric and has some viciously violent moments. Despite the directors’ skill, though, it’s still faithful enough to King’s story to keep it from being really fresh or innovative, like the duos unsettling first feature. Like any classic book, we all know the story.

The cast are solid. Clarke is well cast as an ordinary man of medicine facing something he, up till now, hasn’t believed in. Amy Seimetz is fine as wife Rachel. Rachel is haunted by events from her own past and of course, it comes to bare when things go bump in the night. Lithgow is a veteran and makes Jud a charming and likable old man, though Fred Gwynne really nailed the role first in the 1989 film. Jud provides a lot of the exposition having personal history with whatever lurks in the woods beyond the houses. The Lavoie Brothers are cute as Gage and Jeté Laurence is very effective as Elle, especially when given some difficult scenes for a kid to perform. A good cast.

Overall, this was an entertaining and sometimes creepy adaptation of one of Stephen King’s most famous books. Being the second adaptation, it tries to change things up a bit, but is still a little too familiar to really thrill us. We know what’s coming. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer do create some disturbing moments and give the film some chilling atmosphere, but can’t completely overcome that this is very well known material…though they try hard. Certainly worth a look and would probably be a bit more effective to a new generation, who haven’t seen the 1989 flick, or are not too overly familiar with King’s classic novel.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) cats that were dead at one time.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: BOOK OF MONSTERS (2018)

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BOOK OF MONSTERS (2018)

When Sophie (Jessica Fay) was eight years-old, her mother used to read to her from an ancient book called The Book of Monsters…until one of those monsters dragged her mother under her bed and killed her. No one, including her father (Nicholas Vince), believed her and she was sent to an institution for a year. Ten years later on her eighteenth birthday, Sophie (now Lyndsey Craine) is given the Book of Monsters by her father. Smart move dad! Obviously, the monsters are unleashed during her birthday party and it become a bloodbath, as she and her friends have to fight for their lives.

UK Horror/comedy is directed by Stewart Sparke from a script by Paul Butler and is a fun 84 minutes, if you can get past the blatantly stupid plot device of Sophie’s dad giving her a book for her birthday that traumatized her as a child. The flick looks good enough for a Kickstarter movie made for under $100,000 and the gore is plentiful and it’s low budget monsters are simple yet effective. Sparke does conjure some spooky sequences and mixes the comedy and horror fairly well. The cast are all attractive and do a fine job, with Craine making a cute and endearing heroine. Sure there are plot contrivances and conveniences to move things along and it can be very predictable, but it’s bloody, homage-paying heart is in the right place. Also stars Lizzie Stanton, Rose Muirhead and Michaela Longden as Sophie’s friends Beth, Jess and Mona. Watch through the credits for the traditional sequel set-up.

Available on Amazon Prime and other VOD platforms.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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