BARE BONES: THE DEEP HOUSE (2021)

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THE DEEP HOUSE (2021)

French horror flick carries the unique label of being the first underwater haunted house movie. It finds urban explorers and vloggers Ben and Tina (James Jagger and Camille Rowe) hearing about a creepy old house that remains fully intact at the bottom of a lake, after a flood many years earlier. The two scuba dive to the location with their drone to capture footage and enter the house. Obviously they become trapped inside with dark forces beyond their comprehension surrounding them.

Flick is from French filmmakers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, the directors of InsideLivide and Among The Living. Despite the clever novelty of being the first haunted house flick to take place underwater, it’s disappointingly not very scary. There are some really creepy visuals and the filmmakers take very good advantage of their submerged old house setting to create atmosphere, but the film evokes very little actual frights. Rowe and Jagger do their best to try to act scared, but sadly can’t convince us, the audience. Even the spooks and specters can’t rise above a basic visual creepiness. They are spooky looking, but never feel overly threatening. There are the usual jump scares and a few moments that are effective, especially in the last act, but overall, it’s just a water-logged horror that squanders a very spooky idea. The underwater sequence in Dario Argento’s Inferno is scarier than this entire movie. Still worth a look for look for it’s submerged approach to the traditional haunted house tale, but go in with moderate expectations to actually being scared. Film also stars Eric Savin as Pierre, the man who leads them to the house and offers the traditional warnings. Watch through the end credits for one last chill. Flick will be available on VOD starting 11/5/21.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (2021)

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SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (2021)

Flick is a remake/reimagining and, to a degree, a sequel to the Roger Corman cult classic. Flick opens at a slumber party in the 90s where power-drill wielding serial killer Russ Thorn (Rob Van Vuuren) murders all the girls except for Trish (Masali Baduza). In present day, Trish (Schelaine Bennett) is now an over-protective mother of her own daughter Dana (Hannah Gonera), who is headed off to a slumber party of her own with friends. Needless to say Russ Thorn shows up, but the hunter may become the hunted as Dana and her friends are not the helpless victims her mother’s friends were.

Flick is written by Suzanne Keilly and directed by Danishka Esterhazy, who directed the disappointing Banana Splits Movie. This slasher remake/homage is a dull mess that tries to be contemporary and clever, but is just routine and dull and never takes full advantage of any of it’s own ideas. Making the girls survival savvy and actually luring Russ into a trap was an amusing idea, but the film defeats it’s own purpose when the ladies start to fall victim anyway to serial killer #2—and that killer’s identity is so obvious, not sure why they bothered to try and keep it a secret. There is also a subplot of a house full of boys who mistake Dana and her friends for the killers, but that doesn’t go anywhere either, as the arrival of killer #2 puts an end to that plot element. The end confrontation is somewhat effective, but at that point the film has gotten so convoluted, you really don’t care. Stick with Corman’s classic as this SYFY misfire will be forgotten before October is even over.

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021)

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HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021)

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

Sequel to Halloween 2018 starts out with a pre-credits flashback to 1978 and after the fiery jack-o-lantern filled credits sequence, picks up were the last flick left off. While the citizens of sleepy Haddonfield have yet to realize who’s back and a wounded Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) heads to the hospital with Karen (Judy Greer) and Allyson (Andi Matichak), an ill-fated group of firemen unleash Myers (James Jude Courtney) from his burning prison. Now, as an angry Michael starts carving up the town, locals, including 1978 survivors Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) and Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet), decide it’s time to hunt him down and put an end to his reign of terror.

Halloween Kills is again directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) who co-wrote with Danny McBride and Scott Teems. The result is an incredibly polarized mixed bag with some really great scenes and scenes that borderline suck. The good stuff is anything involving Michael. The opening flashback to his capture in 1978 is one of the best Halloween sequences outside of the 1978 original and has a really shocking surprise cameo. The scene of Michael decimating his first responder rescue team is not only already controversial, but quite intense and bloody. The Michael Myers here is angry and his stalk and kill scenes are intense, very graphically violent and sometimes outright scary. They have impact and we see one of the most vicious portrayals of Michael Myers since Rob Zombie’s flicks. Unfortunately, the scenes featuring Tommy Doyle and his mob of frenzied townies at the hospital are downright terrible. The dialogue spoken by Doyle and the hospital security chief, former sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers), is awful and hearing an angry mob shouting “Evil dies tonight!” in the hospital lobby is almost laughable, if one wasn’t busy cringing. Add in the silly mob pursuit of another escaped mental patient mistaken for Michael and hilarity not intensity ensues. How could Green nail the scenes with Michael so well and completely bungle everything else? Laurie is sidelined for pretty much the entire movie, with Karen and Allyson taking up the mantle of Myers hunters and their confrontation with him at the old Myers house is thankfully one of the things Green gets right. The gore is plentiful and quite gruesome and the violence is quite brutal, but it’s sadly the stuff that should have given this dramatic weight that fails so badly here. At least Carpenter, his son Cody and Daniel Davies provide a really good score and David Gordon Green still has a good eye for visuals. The film looks great and the score really punches up the kill scenes. Everything else just induces a lot of intense eye rolling and mumblings of “WTF” were they thinking.

The cast are a mixed bag, too. Curtis does the best with what little she has to work with and it’s Greer and Matichak that shine here, as they go on the offensive with mom Laurie in the hospital. Anthony Michael Hall just doesn’t click as Tommy Doyle, who, for some reason, is given the Dr. Loomis role here. It doesn’t work and his Loomis-esque dialogue is terrible. Dylan Arnold is good again as Cameron and Robert Longstreet is fine as his dad Lonnie. Rounding out the original character returns is Kyle Richards returning to her original role as Lindsey, Cyphers as Brackett and Nancy Stephens returning as Nurse Marion. Nice to see these original faces, but they could have been better used. Also returning is Omar J Dorsey as Sheriff Barker and Will Patton as Hawkins. James Jude Courtney is once again imposing as Michael Myers.

What can one say. After a fantastic opening sequence and an intense and brutal escape by Michael Myers, the film turns into a silly pitchfork and torch mob movie—and yes, there is actually a pitchfork at one point—with some scenes that feature awful dialogue and completely misfire, killing any intensity the Myers stalk and kill scenes have. With those at least, the film lives up to it’s promise with David Gordon Green really nailing these scenes and giving us the vicious, brutal and scary Michael Myers that we came to see. We can only hope Halloween Ends is exactly that and this incarnation of  Myers can finally rest in peace.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated a generous 3 (out of 4) carving knives, because the Michael scenes rocked. Happy Halloween 🎃!

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BARE BONES: GRAVE INTENTIONS (2021)

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GRAVE INTENTIONS (2021)

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
 
Grave Intentions is an indie horror anthology that features magic shop proprietor Madam Josephine (Joy Vandervort-Cobb) using the tales told as examples of harmful intentions bringing bad results. They are told as a warning of how powerful intent can be, while she also teaches us about her craft.
 
The tales here are presented from a number of writers and directors and unfortunately, with a less than 90 minute runtime, the five tales appear more like vignettes than actual stories. The Bridge Partner has a meek woman (Beth Grant) being tormented by her aggressive bridge partner (Sharon Lawrence). It simply doesn’t go anywhere. The Disappearance of Willie Bingham is an unsettling tale that has a criminal paying for his misdeeds in a very disturbing manner. It’s effective. Violent Florence is a chilling and violent tale of a troubled teen (Charly Thorn) and a resilient feline. This one has it’s chills. The Son, The Father… features a family (Lucas Oktay, Colleen Carey and director Lukas Hassel) and a series of mean-spirited practical jokes that go too far. This segment is silly and the weakest. The final segment, Marian, is about a little girl (Johanah Basanta) stalked by a malicious entity. This is the only segment that feels like a complete story and is the most effective one by far. The casts vary in performance, with veterans Sharon Lawrence and Robert Forster doing quality work in The Bridge Partner segment. Vandervort-Cobb also seems to be having fun as our hostess Madam Josephine, while little Johanah Basanta does great work in Marian. The production value here is good for a low budget indie and the FX work is effective enough, as the flick as a whole doesn’t try to overstep it’s budget. Overall, this anthology is worth a look, but lacks the constancy in story quality to make it a real sleeper hit for the spooky season. Grave Intentions premieres 10/15/21 on VOD.
 
THE SEGMENT CREATORS…
The Wraparound segment is written by Brian and Jocelyn Rish, who also directs
The Bridge Partner is written by Peter S. Beagle and Gabriel Olsen, who also directs
The Disappearance of Willie Bingham is written by Michael L. Fawcett and Matthew Richards and directed by Richards
The Son, The Father… is written and directed by Lukas Hassel
Violent Florence is written and directed by Jaime Snyder
Marian is written by Levi San Luis and Brian Patrick Lim who also directs

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: DEMIGOD (2021)

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DEMIGOD (2021)

When her grandfather dies and leaves her everything, Robin Murphy (Rachel Nichols) travels back to her childhood home in the German Black Forest with her husband Leo (Yohance Myles). Soon they and a group of others are kidnaped by the cult-like followers of a forest deity known as The Great Hunter. True to it’s name, they are released into the dark woods and hunted by the hooded pagans—and possibly something far more unearthly. 

Flick is directed by Miles Doleac from his script with Michael Donovan Horn and is an entertaining and sometimes spooky supernatural/survival horror. It can be atmospheric at times and the basis in pagan folklore does add some atmosphere as well. It is methodically paced and that is by design. Performances vary with Nichols doing solid work as heroine Robin and Doleac himself playing the role of local hunter Arthur. Yohance Myles tries hard, but seems to get the worst of the dialogue to recite as Leo and remaining cast member’s playing the hunted seem to be there just to provide body count. Those portraying the pagan worshipers are appropriately creepy and dangerous, as they should be. There is some effective violence and graphic gore and even if we have seen the innocents being hunted scenario many times before, it’s not badly done here, with the hunters using primitive weapons rather than guns. The forest setting also works well to create a sense of isolation and hopelessness for our prey, as the are relentlessly pursued. The flick has some effective visuals, as photographed by Nathan Tape, with a fitting score by Clifton Hyde. Horror fans will appreciate that there is a slasher element to the proceedings and the last act changes gears from the hunt to a more straight-up and bloody horror conclusion.
 
Overall, an entertaining little indie that is a mash-up of backwoods pagan horror and the hunt scenario. If you are looking for something a little different than the usual spooky season fair, you might want to give this flick a watch. Demigod will be available On Demand and in select theaters on 10/15/21!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE MUTATION (2021)

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THE MUTATION (2021)

Monster flick finds zoologist Allen Marsh (Ricardo Freitas) drawn into the case of a scientist’s murder, when it appears the killer was some kind of animal. Soon he finds himself teaming up with two cops (Andrew Rolfe and James Robertson) and the scientist’s wife (Amanda-Jade Taylor) when the killings continue and evidence mounts that some sort of massive rodent is the perpetrator. 

Old-school monster flick is written and directed by Scott Jeffrey, who missed a golden opportunity to have a good time here. He chose the old-fashioned man in a suit technique to portray his critter and while it’s more cuddly than scary, it is a charming throw-back to 80s style B-movies, as is the plentiful and graphic practical gore that is the result of the creature’s carnage. Here is where Jeffrey makes his mistake. He should have saw this as an opportunity to cut loose and have a bloody good time with his cheesy rat monster and it’s making a gory mess of the local citizenry. Instead, he takes his story of science gone amuck way too seriously and it creates not only a somber and mirthless tale, but plenty of eye rolling as characters talk with deadpan seriousness about a man-sized bipedal rat monster lurking about in the city. It also makes the wooden acting by the cast even more obvious. If Jeffrey had gone all Humanoids From The Deep here, this could have been a nostalgic good time. Instead, the flick takes itself way too seriously and kills more fun than our rat critter kills locals. Flick is now available for streaming and gets a little extra credit for going with a charmingly cheesy man in a suit and saving the CGI for it’s overblown and unintentionally funny climax.
 
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Cute little guy, isn’t he!

Photo: IMDB

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: BINGO HELL (2021)

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BINGO HELL (2021)

Flick takes place in the barrio neighborhood of Oak Springs where feisty and stubborn elder Lupita (Adriana Barraza), and her friends, are growing frustrated with the changes going on around them. It comes to a boil when their favorite place, the bingo hall, is bought by a mysterious man (Richard Brake). Gentrification is the least of Lupita’s worries, as her friends are soon drawn to this charismatic, but sinister man. What fate does he have in store for them and can Lupita stop him?

Welcome to The Blumhouse movie is directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero from her script with Shane McKenzie and Perry Blackshear and is a loud, obnoxious and dull flick. Guerrero directs with the subtlety of a chainsaw, as the viewer is bludgeoned over the head with it’s messages about gentrification and eminent domain that have been presented far more effectively in other recent films. If that isn’t enough to get your attention, there are scenes bathed in garish neon and all sorts multicolored spurting fluids and bombastic violence. Problem is, once Guerrero has your attention, she really doesn’t know what to do with it, as the film is boring, silly, overly preachy and Lupita is so obnoxious, she’s hard to endear to even when the points she is making are right. The tone is all over the place and one wonders if this was supposed to be a comedy or horror. Either way, it fails as both and as social commentary, too. Very little to recommend here as even the usually reliable Richard Brake is reduced to a ho-hum villain.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: BLACK AS NIGHT (2021)

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BLACK AS NIGHT (2021)

Vampire flick premiered on Amazon Prime this past weekend as part of the new Welcome to the Blumhouse series. It takes place in New Orleans in the rundown housing project of Ombreux, where folks are suddenly disappearing. When teenager Shawna (Asjha Cooper) is attacked and bitten and her mother is turned, Shawna realizes vampires are preying on the locals. Determined to save the Ombreux and those who live there, Shawna and best bud Pedro (Fabrizio Guido) set out to hunt down and destroy the master vampire (Keith David).

Flick is directed by Maritte Lee Go from a script by Sherman Payne. It has it’s heart in the right place, covering some socially relevant topics such as gentrification of urban neighborhoods and the effects of Hurricane Katrina on people of color, fifteen years later. The film makes good use of the New Orleans locations, and has some fun moments and entertaining action sequences as Shawna and friends turn vampire killers. Where the film falters, is as a vampire movie it’s very routine and could have been more energetic. The similar Vampires vs, The Bronx handled similar socially relevant themes, but was much more fun and effective as a vampire flick, too. Sure it’s great to see Keith David as a master vampire and his purpose fits in with the film’s themes, but it’s all very 90s Buffy—not that there’s anything wrong with that—but without the pop culture wit. Bronx’s gentrifying vampires were more fun, as were it’s spunky vampire fighting kids. Cooper and the cast all perform well, but well-intended social messages aside, we just wish Black as Night was simply more bloody fun.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: LIKE DOGS (2021)

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LIKE DOGS (2021)

Lisa (Annabel Barrett) is a young woman kidnapped off the street and imprisoned in a small kennel, chained to the wall and fed dog food out of a dish. Along with her is fellow captive Adam (Ignacyo Matynia), the two are literally treated like dogs with choke collars and cattle prods for punishment. Who are their abductors and what do they want from them?

Written and directed by Randy Van Dyke this is an effective and disturbing psychological horror. It wastes no time getting started, as our heroine is thrown into a nightmarish situation and tries to keep her head. We get to know Lisa as the story progresses and let’s say there are some interesting surprises. There is a big reveal early on that works nicely, too and Van Dyke takes the story in a direction we weren’t expecting. Lets just say things do start to spiral out of control, but not in the way we thought they would. The reason all this happens may not sit well with everyone, but the flick is twisted enough to make it work. The cast of fresh faces are very good, especially lead Annabel Barrett, whose character of Lisa has some dimensions we are not expecting. There are some nice twists and turns throughout, some starting violence and it never lets us feel too confident that we know what’s coming next. An effective and sometimes nasty little thriller from Randy Van Dyke. Flick is now available for streaming on Tubi

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE (2021)

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NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE (2021)

Book based horror finds undocumented immigrant Ambar (Cristina Rodlo) coming to America and facing all sorts of challenges, from the creepy landlord (Marc Menchacha) at the boarding house she is staying at, to her demanding boss (Mitchell Mullen) at the sweatshop she works at, to the extreme costs of fake IDs. Those are the least of her worries, though, as the boarding house has a dark past, might be haunted and a terrible fate possibly awaits her and her fellow borders there.

Flick is well directed by Santiago Menghini from a script and story by Jon Croker and Fernanda Coppel based on a book by Adam Nevill. Aside from being very spooky and atmospheric, Menghini conjures some very chilling and effective imagery and some unsettlingly bloody violence. Through Ambar, director and writers also paint a tale of undocumented immigrants being taken advantage of, abused and cheated, as going for help would only get them deported. This gives the flick some emotional weight amongst the scares. Add to that, something very wrong is going on in this boarding house and a malevolent supernatural force may be after Ambar and the other girls and you have a fright flick that is not without something to say. Menghini creates some nice chills and scares and delivers a very unsettling and gruesome last act when evils, both paranormal and not, come out of the shadows. The fact that the cast is good, with Cristina Rodlo making a really strong heroine, adds a nice bonus to an already solid horror flick from Santiago Menghini and company. Recommended! Now streaming on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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