HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE (2016)

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I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE (2016)

Sophomore flick from Osgood Perkins, shows the filmmaker has indeed mastered spooky atmosphere with this tale of home care nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) moving in with ailing horror novelist Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss). As she cares for the woman, the easily scared Lily starts to believe that the house is more than just a home, but a direct inspiration as it appears one of Blum’s character’s, Polly (Lucy Boynton) was indeed murdered in the house…and her spirit may still be there.

While Perkins script presents a very thin story, the director loads it up with some really creepy atmosphere. Most of the film consists of Lily wandering about the house and seeing and hearing some very strange things as the film takes her on a journey of discovering that something happened in that house to inspire Blum’s most famous novel, The Woman Inside The Walls. Perkins accomplishes a lot with some very simple visuals and some very chilling moments as Lily discovers that Blum may have recounted an actually murder that took place in the house and relayed by the spirit of the victim herself, Polly. The story is far simpler than Perkins’ creepy The Blackcoat’s Daughter, but despite taking place solely in the house and mostly with just Lily, it still is quite unsettling at times. To say much more would be to spoil the effectiveness of this atmospheric tale. The equally atmospheric score for the film is once again by the director’s brother Elvis Perkins.

The minimal cast is quite good as it practically is a one woman show. Ruth Wilson creates a very meek and timid woman, possible a bit eccentric, too and takes her on a supernatural quest of discovery as Lily finds that the house has a dark secret that may have inspired her charge’s most famous tale. As Blum, Paula Prentiss doesn’t have many scenes, but is effective at portraying a woman with dementia, who is only adding to Lily’s mystery with her words, that may be more than babbling. Bob Balaban has a small part as a man who manages Blum’s affairs, Erin Boyles plays Blum in flashbacks and Lucy Boynton effectively plays Polly in flashbacks and when Lily has visions of her.

The film may be of a simpler nature than Oz Perkins’ first flick, but this is an old fashioned haunted house movie done in what is becoming the writer/director’s signature spooky style. It’s loaded with chilling atmosphere and unsettling scenes and while it is very economical in terms of story, it is still effective in giving chills for those patient enough to go with it’s slow burn.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 pretty things that live in the house.

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: IT STAINS THE SANDS RED (2017)

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IT STAINS THE SANDS RED (2017)

Offbeat zombie flick has erotic dancer and coke-head Molly (Brittany Allen) driving across the desert outside Las Vegas at the start of a zombie outbreak. She and her boyfriend Nick (Merwin Mondesir) are heading to a small airport to make a getaway with some of Nick’s friends. A mishap strands them in the middle of nowhere and an encounter with a lone zombie (Juan Riedinger) leaves Nick dead. Now Molly heads across the desert alone with the relentless walking corpse in pursuit and the desert heat taking it’s toll.

This is a very unusual zombie flick written by “The Vicious Brothers” Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz and directed by Minihan. It plays it’s tale out in a slightly twisted way as, at first, it’s a thriller with Molly struggling in her high heeled boots to keep ahead of the slow moving but ever persistent corpse and then turns into something else. As the desert sun beats down on her and she starts to get a bit delirious, Molly begins to form a weird relationship with her hungry pursuer, taunting and talking to it and even naming him “Small Balls.” The film shifts to an almost twisted buddy movie as Molly develops an attachment to the flesh eater while she also tries to keeps him at a safe distance. There is some clever stuff here and the film is effective enough to work as both horror and buddy/road movie despite that the initial intriguing premise of a lone woman pursued tenaciously by a lone zombie was interesting enough. Perhaps Minihan and Ortiz felt the story wasn’t enough to fill a whole film and thus it changers gears to the unusual bond between girl and ghoul and then to a last act deviation when Molly decides it’s more important to find the young son she gave up than to escape with Nick’s crazy friends. The narrative shifts are a bit jarring, but as individual parts do work well enough. There are also some Romero-esque messages about the evil men do, as when Molly meets two ex-cons, who are far worse a threat than the lumbering “Smalls” and some funny bits, such as Molly using a tampon to distract the hungry zombie from his pursuit and her dialogue in general aimed at her un-dead pursuer. There is plenty of gore despite the minimal cast and Minihan makes good use of the desert local. There is also an effective score by Blitz//Berlin, who scored Extraterrestrial and some nice cinematography by Clayton Moore to add atmosphere.

The minimal cast are all solid, especially the feisty Brittany Allen (Extraterrestrial). Allen’s Molly is spirited and tougher than her manicured nails and designer handbag would let on. She’s a survivor and while currently living an indulgent lifestyle, she does seem to learn from her experiences. It’s practically a one woman show and Allen carries the movie on her shoulders very well and can be very funny with her rambling dialogue bits with the silent Smalls. As zombie “Smalls”, Juan Riedinger does really good work emoting under all the make-up. Much like Day of The Dead‘s Bub, Smalls seems to have some sort of primal emotions under his relentless hunger and some trace elements of thought left, despite being a walking corpse. While he generally has simple animistic reactions, the actor conveys the tinges of thinking and emotion very well using just facial expressions, body language and his eyes. In support, Merwin Mondesir plays Molly’s “gangstsa” boyfriend Nick with the appropriate swagger, yet with a bit of a wink and Andrew Supanz and Michael Filipowich are suitably despicable a a pair of ex-cons who cross paths with Molly and Smalls.

Despite an eccentric narrative and deviating from a simple and effective horror premise that was basically a zombie version of Fredric Brown’s Arena, the film was entertaining and did work. Brittany Allen was sassy enough to pull off the bizarre relationship between Molly and Smalls and was effective in her more terror filled scenes early on and then at the point where she becomes a survivor and takes charge of her situation. Juan Riedinger made a fearsome and yet oddly sympathetic zombie and for fans of these flicks there was enough gore to meet requirements. There are some intense moments and some funny ones, too. Not a perfect flick and one might have wanted to see it simply play out as woman vs zombie, but it takes a less expected route and it’s offbeat enough to keep it from getting stale in an overplayed sub-genre. The “Vicious Brothers”…if they’re still called that…have yet to disappoint.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 tampons.

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER (2015)

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THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER (2015)

Flick is a spooky supernatural horror set at a Catholic all girls school and focuses on odd freshman Kathryn (Kiernan Shipka) and upperclassman Rose (Lucy Boynton). Break is coming, but Kat and Rose are not being picked up by their respective parents. Kat has been put in Rose’s charge and soon Rose begins to feel there is something off with the young girl. As they are alone at school with only two chaperones (Elana Krausz and Heather Tod Mitchell) on campus, Rose starts to realize something is not right with the increasingly creepy Kat. Intertwined is another story of a lone young woman who calls herself Joan (Emma Roberts) and a couple (James Remar and Lauren Holly) who are headed to the school who offer her a ride. These stories are destined to collide, but how and why?

This is a very impressive debut from writer/director Oz Perkins, son of legendary horror icon Anthony Perkins. He drenches the film in atmosphere which helps keeps us unnerved and attentive as his two narrative’s play out. It seems a bit unconventional at first, but as the separate, but connected stories progress, we start to realize just how they are related and by the end credits it makes disturbing sense. There is some shocking violence in it’s last act and Perkins is smart to hold it off till then as it has jarring impact because the film was relying on mood and shadows to establish it’s unsettling ambiance. Though, the director doesn’t go overboard with that violence either, so it doesn’t overshadow his established atmosphere, just embellishes it. The stories of Joan and Rose and Kat are connected indeed and the added mystery adds to a film that already has a good grip on us as we realize Kathryn has some very disturbing secrets and Rose may be in danger. To say anymore would be to spoil a very creepy film from first time director Perkins, who went on to direct the equally spooky I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, which was oddly released first.

The cast are all good. Young Kiernan Shipka is very effective as the somewhat odd Kathryn. She gives us a young girl who seems a bit emotionally detached and yet offers tinges that there is something a bit disturbing about Kat. The actress is very effective in both maintaining an air of mystery and then being outright scary once we find out what she is really all about. Lucy Boynton is also good as the rebellious Rose. We like Rose, who has her own secrets, though far more grounded ones, and are along with her suspicions when she starts to believe there is something very “off” about Kat. Emma Roberts is also very good as mystery woman Joan. We know there is definitely more to this drifter and as things progress, we find we are right. Remar and Holly also do good work as Bill and Linda. They are good at making us very unsure about their motives, especially Bill’s, in picking up the pretty young drifter. There is something just as off about them as with Joan and the film and actors keep us guessing as to who we should be wary of most. A good cast that add to the atmosphere as does brother Elvis Perkins’s effective score.

Overall this is a very impressive debut film from a new voice in the horror genre. Being the son of legendary actor Anthony Perkins may be an  interesting footnote, but Osgood Perkins is making his own name with two impressive and really spooky first features. The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a very atmospheric and creepy little movie with a good dose of mystery and Perkins connects all the dots in disturbing fashion by it’s end. It’s chilling, has a very effective visual style and even surprises us with some moments of shocking violence. A bone chilling debut from Oz Perkins!

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 carnivorous critters

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: PIRANHA 3DD (2012)

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PIRANHA 3DD  (2012)

Sequel to Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D (which is in itself a remake) is not as fun as it’s predecessor, nor is it quite as bad as it’s made out to be. The story, this time, has the prehistoric piranha traveling from the decimated Lake Victoria through an underground river to a sleazy water theme park to continue their feeding.

The problem with this sequel is, director John Gulager seems to take the material a little too seriously despite a script that replaces Piranha 3D‘s wit for blatantly stupid. And stupid would be fine if director Gulager took the ball and ran with it like Alexandre Aja did. The budget for this installment is smaller and thus the film’s scale and carnage lesser, but still, look how fun the low budget 1978 original was without the budget and bloodshed of the 2010 remake. Joe Dante knew to play it serious to a point, but all the while letting the cast and audience in on the fun. When you open a film with Gary Busey and a dead cow that farts piranha eggs, there’s no point in pretending you’re directing Jaws. The gore effects are fine although the CGI is even weaker then it’s predecessor, but despite it’s faults, there is still some entertainment to be had such as MZNJ Halloween Hottie Katrina Bowden, reciting one of the best lines in the film involving a baby piranha and a certain part of her anatomy.

Gulager’s cast is fine, though only David Hasselhoff seems to really be in on the joke. The rest of the cast, including pretty lead Danielle Panabaker, try really hard to give they proceedings some weight, but probably should have just embraced the goofy material and had a good time. The cameos from some of the survivors from the last entry are fun and there are some funny bits, most involving The Hoff.

It could have been a lot better, but Piranha 3DD did pass the time and I actually feel that with a better script that was more clever than crude, John Gulager might actually have delivered a decent B-movie. An OK time waster when watched in the right frame of mind, but far short of the deliriously fun remake that precedes it.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 carnivorous critters

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: 47 METERS DOWN (2016)

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47 METERS DOWN (2016)

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Sisters Lisa (singer Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are on vacation in Mexico and decide to go on a boating excursion where they will spend time suspended underwater in a shark cage observing the local great white population. An equipment malfunction occurs during their dive and now the sisters are stranded 47 meters down and running out of oxygen. Worse still, the massive sharks they came to swim amongst surround them, making rescue or escape almost impossible. Will help arrive in time?…or will the sisters become the next meal for the hungry predators.

Originally due to hit theaters back in 2016, 47 Meters Down is a fun and tense action/thriller from director Johannes Roberts (The Other Side Of The Door) which he co-wrote with Ernest Riera. Sure, there is suspension of disbelief and we could have used a bit more shark action, but Roberts keeps the flick moving fast at 80+ minutes and the action of one kind or another is almost constant. There is some nice tension in the atmosphere and we get some engaging and suspenseful set-pieces throughout. It’s all very well staged and the underwater photography avoids being murky, so we never loose track of what is going on. Roberts’ sharks obviously pop up at the most inconvenient times and that adds to the fun and the filmmaker even has the audacity to play with our emotions a bit in the tense last act. And as there are sharks, there is some blood, but the bloodletting is sparse, so when it does come, it has impact and is surprisingly gruesome. The film can be predictable at times, though even when it does, it’s still works to an entertaining degree, as some of the familiar elements are what we came expecting to see from a shark movie anyway.

The cast is small with the focus mostly on Moore and Holt while they spend their terrifying ordeal in the shark cage. Both ladies do well in creating likable and sympathetic characters for us to become endeared to. One of the reasons the film works as well as it does is we like these two girls and want to see them rescued. Matthew Modine plays the tour ship’s captain, but is mostly heard on the radio communicating with his trapped customers and is fine in a role which didn’t really need a name actor.

Simply, this was a fun little movie featuring babes vs sharks. There is some nice suspense and tension, likable characters and when we do get some bloodletting, it is effective and surprisingly gruesome. It can be predictable and we are asked to suspend belief more than once, but the film still entertains and doesn’t try to be any more than it is. A fun underwater thriller with enough bite to keep our interest. More of a straight up action flick than the recent shark drama The Shallows which will obviously draw comparisons.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 great whites who want Moore (sorry, had to!).

in the deep rating
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: A DARK SONG (2016)

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A DARK SONG (2016)

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Irish horror presents the story of the grieving Sophia (Catherine Walker) who has hired occult expert Joseph (Steve Oram) to perform a series of dark rituals so that she may speak with her dead son. The rituals are grueling and take an emotional toll on both participants. Nothing will prepare them, however, for what they will meet when the rituals start to take effect.

Written and directed by Liam Gavin this is a tense and atmospheric chiller that presents black magic rituals with a far more grounded and realistic approach than the usual theatrics. Gavin focuses mainly on his two leads and adds to the tension by having them become more and more confrontational as impatient Sophia doesn’t feel the rituals are working and Joseph doesn’t feel Sophia has been honest about her intent. It’s an interesting character study under emotional and supernatural duress as Joseph becomes more abusive to keep Sophia following the procedures and Sophia becomes more and more desperate to accomplish her goals. There are also some very spooky moments as signs appear that the barriers between worlds are coming down and thus otherworldly things are coming in. This leads to a last act which can be outright scary at times and surprisingly sentimental at others. Gavin has a very good visual eye, via Cathal Watters’ cinematography and uses the old house setting to maximum effect. There is also a really haunting score by Ray Harman, that rivals last years The Witch score by Mark Korven. If there is anything that holds the film back a bit is that the middle section drags somewhat, as the film is already moderately paced. The antagonistic relationship between Joseph and Sophia also starts to wear out it’s welcome as Joseph’s methods and demeanor towards Sophia start to become borderline cruel. Just at the point where one starts to feel the film’s grip slipping, the walls come down and the things that go bump in the night come knocking. The last act does deliver the goods and a few unexpected surprises as well.

As for the minimal cast, both leads are very good. Walker plays a grieving and desperate woman quite skillfully. we sympathize with Sophia even if she is dabbling in some very dark arts to see her child one last time. She has a few secrets and over the course of the film, Walker does strong emotional work revealing them. Steve Oram is equally solid as Joseph. He can be a cruel and mean person when he feels Sophia is straying off the path, but Oram and Gavin’s script also give glimpses to a more likable person under the surface. He is driven but human and he is never portrayed as a bad guy. Good work by both cast members.

Overall, I liked A Dark Song and was especially intrigued by it’s more realistic approach to dark magic rituals. There are some genuinely scary scenes and the film is always atmospheric. If the film has any flaws, it’s that the bickering and abusive behavior between Sophia and Joseph starts to wear on one after awhile and the middle of the film, where much of this occurs, drags a bit before the film’s spooky last act kicks in. There is an intensity about the film and some surprising sentimentality, too, though the methodical pace might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe it doesn’t quite live up to early word and I didn’t love it as much as I’d have liked, but it’s a starkly original take on occult thrillers and certainly worth a spooky look.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 candles.

 

 

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HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MST3K: THE RETURN (2017)

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MST3K: THE RETURN (2017)

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Mystery Science Theater 3000 was created by Joel Hodgson and originally ran for ten seasons from 1988 till 1999 and was a beloved show for movie geeks everywhere, as it playfully skewered some of the worst cult classics and B-movies of all kinds. The format had a working stiff (originally series creator Joel Hodgson and then Mike Nelson) being kidnapped to a satellite in space and forced to watch some of the worst films ever made. The subject and a group of robots would then comment on these films as the series’ villains observed and routinely tried to make things miserable for our heroes. Fans have missed the show since it’s cancellation and were overjoyed to find out that Netflix was reviving it.

Premiering on Netflix streaming this April, the new series follows the same plot with newcomer Jonah (comedian Jonah Ray) being the newest test subject under the watchful evil eye of Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day), daughter of original series villain Dr. Clayton Forrester and Max (Patton Oswalt), otherwise known as The TV Son of TV’s Frank, offspring of original series villain TV’s Frank. There are fourteen new episodes featuring fourteen bad movies to which our hero, along with robots Gypsy, Tom Servo, Crow and Cam-bot, watch and mock while Kinga and Max do their best to make Jonah crazy…all with mostly hilarious results.

The revived series certainly is a welcome return and, for the most part, can be as funny as the original show. As with all the other seasons, there are some strong and hilarious episodes and some which are just OK. The key here is the movies have to provide the crew with something to work with. The funniest episodes of the new season, such as premiere episode Reptilicus, Time Travelers, Starcrash, The Land That Time Forgot and the season finale At The Earth’s Core all provide material that is ripe for commentary and the writers certainly take the ball and run with it. Then there are movies which are just bad, like Cry Wilderness, the first hour of Beast From Hollow Mountain, Wizards of the Lost Kingdom and Carnival Magic, which are so bad that Jonah and the boys struggle through them to keep the comments coming and funny. If the movie they’re watching is boring, there isn’t much the crew can do. Thankfully, the episodes that do work…and more do than don’t…hilariously make up for the few where laughs and fun are scarce. As with the previous seasons, there are movie geek references galore, such as Kinga’s house band looking delightfully like Infra-Man’s skull soldiers and meta references to previous episodes.

The cast are all having a blast and it shows. Jonah Ray is a suitable replacement for the earlier Joel and Mike. He’s a likable lug and fits the part well. Felicia Day is having a blast as Kinga, a cross between Cruella Deville and Veruca Salt. Day knows how to ad camp in just the right amounts and to dial up just enough villainy so Kinga stays a fun bad girl, like her predecessors and doesn’t tip over into unlikable. Patton Oswalt is equally successful as the bumbling Max…who has a crush on Kinga, which she obviously ignores…and is not quite such a bad guy as his boss lady…though he is trying. The robots’ voice actors all do a good job with instilling them with personality, although they are the same characters from the original show, so they don’t have to work as hard to establish themselves like out new leads. There are also cameos from original series characters and actors and some amusing appearances from famous faces such as Mark Hamill and Jerry Seinfeld.

Overall, this is a very happy return for a personal favorite show. The new cast and characters are likable and fit in with the show’s established style and the old format still works and works well when given material ripe for the picking-on. There are a few yawn inducing episodes, when the movie itself is dull and not even funny in the wrong way, but when the movie is the right kind of bad, the episodes measure up to some of the previous series best on equal footing. Welcome back MST3K!…and when can we expect season 12???

EPISODE LIST

(Rating the show by episode instead of the usual overall rating)

  1. Reptilicus – 3 and 1/2 stars
  2. Cry Wilderness – 2 and 1/2 stars
  3. Time Travelers – 3 and 1/2 stars
  4. Avalanche – 2 and 1/2 stars
  5. The Beast of Hollow Mountain – 3 stars…the last 1/2 hour was very funny
  6. Starcrash – 3 and 1/2 stars
  7. The Land That Time Forgot – 3 and 1/2 stars
  8. The Loves Of Hercules – 3 stars
  9. Yongary – 3 and 1/2 stars
  10. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom – 2 and 1/2 stars
  11. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II – 3 stars
  12. Carnival Magic – 2 and 1/2 stars
  13. The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t – 2 and 1/2 stars
  14. At the Earth’s Core – 3 and 1/2 stars

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DIG TWO GRAVES (2014)

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DIG TWO GRAVES (2014)

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Not really a horror film, but more like a rural mystery/thriller with a thin layer of the supernatural. The film takes place in a community in the Illinois mountains in 1977 and finds young Jake (Samantha Isler) mourning the loss of her brother Sean (Ben Schneider), who drowned while diving into a local quarry. A tragic event for which Jake feels guilty. Three mysterious men appear to Jake and tell her that they have the power to bring Sean back, but someone must take his place, namely her classmate Willie (Gabriel Cain). Unknown to the girl, the motivations of these men involve Jake’s sheriff grandfather (Ted Levine) and a possible quest for revenge that’s taken 30 years to unfold.

This is an impressive debut from Hunter Adams from a script by he and Jeremy Phillips, that is loaded with atmosphere. The film plays like a dark fable as we start out with a glimpse of something awful taking place in 1947 then are introduced to Jake thirty years later as she loses her only sibling. From then on we meet the mysterious Wyeth (Troy Ruptash) and his two brothers, who claim to have the power to bring Sean back…but at a price. As we progress forward with Jake’s moral dilemma, Adams also takes us back thirty years with flashback’s told through the eyes of her grandfather Sheriff Waterhouse (Levine) to slowly, over the course of the film, reveal what got us to this point and how all the dots connect. It’s all done with the aura of  dark magic and something slightly supernatural going on and in just the right doses to keep us on edge, but not tip into full blown horror. The film stays somewhat grounded in reality which makes the moments that hint of something otherworldly all the more unnerving. The film sometimes evoked the rural set Winter’s Bone, but with a hint of dark fantasy that keeps us uneasy throughout. It takes till the very last scenes for all the pieces to come together and the climax will stay with you after the film is over.

Adams also gets very good work from his cast, especially his two leads. Veteran Ted (Silence Of The Lambs) Levine is very strong as Jake’s grandfather Sheriff Waterhouse and really creates an effective portrayal of a good man haunted by past events and wanting to protect his granddaughter from them. Samantha Isler gives a powerful performance as a young teen wanting to correct something she feels is her fault, but tormented by the moral implications of it’s solution. The young actress is a talent to keep an eye on. There is also Troy Ruptash as the creepy Wyeth. Ruptash gives the man a sense of power and menace with an aura of someone with dark powers beyond being just potentially lethal. Rounding out is Danny Goldring as former Sheriff Procter. Procter is a man with skeletons in his closet, skeleton’s he might kill to keep hidden and Goldring gives him that sense of a man desperate to keep something hidden.

This was an atmospheric thriller with a constant feeling of foreboding and an undercurrent of dark magic and possibly the supernatural. It’s a slow burn mystery that unravels at a deliberate pace and takes you on a journey both forward and backward in time to tell us it’s complete story. It has some very strong guidance from it’s first time director and excellent work from a good cast to punctuate the script and direction. The film was first released at film festivals in 2014 and finally has gotten a limited release and the attention it deserves thanks to Executive Producer Larry Fessenden! Highly recommended!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 rattlesnakes

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE VOID (2016)

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THE VOID (2016)

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The Void is not only a trippy tribute to horror films of the 80s and the practical make-up and gore effects used in them, but a bloody good time and a creepy monster flick in it’s own right. The film opens with a young couple being chased by two men, with the man (Evan Stern) barely escaping and the woman being shot and then brutally burned alive. The man is found by local policeman, Dan (Aaron Poole) and brought to a nearby hospital that is in the process of closing down after a recent fire. There the cop and minimal staff and patients find the building soon surrounded by mysterious and lethal hooded figures, while inside it starts to turn into a house of horrors, as staff murder patients and the dead return to life transformed into creatures from out of a nightmare. Can Dan, his nurse wife Allison (Kathleen Munroe) and the remaining survivors figure out what is happening and how to get out alive?

Written and directed by the team of Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie, this is a mash-up/homage to the films of John Carpenter and Stuart Gordon, among others. There are elements of Assault On Precinct 13, The Thing, In the Mouth Of Madness, as well as Re-animator, From Beyond and a host of other cult classics. But Kostanski and Gillespie make it their own with their tale of other dimensions and nightmarish activities and the film is filled with some really unsettling imagery and a host of practical creatures and gore, along with it. The story itself is a bit convoluted at times and the filmmakers don’t spoon feed you everything, but that works far more in the film’s favor than it doesn’t. It’s a disturbing ride, loaded with atmosphere and we do gradually find out enough of what’s going on to satisfy, as the deliberately moderate pace carries us to an unsettling conclusion right out of Fulci’s The Beyond. Sure the acting is a bit wooden here and there and the FX are a bit rubbery, but it’s the charm of what the filmmakers are trying to do and of the many cult classics they evoke, that makes it so enjoyable and fun. Not to mention the filmmakers do conjure some of their own goosebumps along the way. It may not make total sense, but it is enjoyably creepy and when the gore hits the fan, it hits delightfully hard and spatters everywhere. There is some effective cinematography by Samy Inayeh and a cool soundtrack by Blitz//Berlin, who did the soundtrack for Extraterrestrial.

I enjoyed this love letter to many a classic 80s film, including Galaxy Of Terror…which I just re-watched…yet one that didn’t loose it’s own identity. It’s a weird flick that is part Lovecraft, part Carpenter with a few other pinches of famous names of horror thrown in. It has some effectively designed creatures and some delightfully gory moments and gives us some spooky visuals along with the thrills and chills. You may scratch your head a bit here and there, but it’s fun throwback that may have introduced us to two filmmakers to keep an eye on. Also stars Art (Black Christmas, The Brood) Hindle as a state trooper and Scott Pilgrim’s Ellen Wong as an intern in over her adorable head.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scalpels, because I didn’t want to spoil any of the weirdness.

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE DEVIL’S CANDY (2015)

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THE DEVIL’S CANDY (2015)

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I’m a huge fan of Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones and was obviously looking forward to seeing another flick from him…and finally, after eight years, it’s here. The Devil’s Candy is Byrne’s newest film, made in 2015, it’s only now getting a proper release on VOD and in select theaters from the cool folks at IFC Midnight.

The story here is of heavy metal loving artist Jesse (Ethan Embry), who moves to an old rural farmhouse with his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and chip-off-the-old-block teen daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco). While Jesse and Astrid know that the couple that formerly lived there died in the house, what they don’t know is that it is also home to some kind of malevolent influence. If it’s not bad enough that Jesse’s art starts to take a dark and ominous tone soon after moving in, Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince), the child murdering son of the previous owners, wants to come home…and he has set his demented sights on Zooey.

While not quite as intense as The Loved Ones, and lacking it’s twisted sense of humor, this is still an atmospheric, disturbing and sometimes brutally violent horror flick. The mix of heavy metal music and demonic horror, obviously works as the two have been paired up since Black Sabbath took to the airwaves in 1968. While the demonic influence elements are nothing new, they are very effective as used by Bryne, draped in his thick atmosphere of foreboding. The most disturbing elements, though, are obviously Ray’s need to “feed” The Devil his favorite candy…children. He stalks Zooey right out in the open and the distraction the malevolent entity feeds Jesse by way of his art, leaves poor Zooey unprotected. It creates some very unsettling scenes as Ray gets closer to obtaining his goal, including one in Zooey’s bedroom that is absolutely bone chilling. This all leads up to not one but two harrowing sequences with Zooey and the rotund pervert, each more intense than the last. There are some drawbacks. The film comes in at a very tight 79 minutes and it sometimes feels too quickly over for it’s own good. We wish we had a little more time to let certain scenes resonate and be given a little more time to let the disturbing nature of what is transpiring sink in before moving on to the next dramatic moment. It is also never quite clear whether it is this demonic influence that led Ray to kill, or was it his homicidal habit that brought the entity into the house…if not…why is it there? On a technical level the film looks great and while there is some week CGI during the climax, the rest of the FX work is solid and there is a really atmospheric score from Mads Heldtberg, Michael Yezerski and the band Sunn O)))

If anything helps one past some of the flaws, it’s a really good cast. Ethan Embry has become a fixture in some good horror/thrillers lately such as the frustrated son in the awesome Late Phases, or the ill-fated gun dealer in The Guest. He is really good here, not only as metal head/family man Jesse, but in portraying Jesse’s gradual transformation from attentive father into obsessed artist. As his frustrated and scared wife, Shiri Appleby is solid as a woman whose family life is disrupted from both within and without. She has a suddenly moody and unfocused husband at home and a hulking child killer lurking about after her daughter. Appleby makes her a bit more than a damsel in distress, though she isn’t given as much to do when all hell breaks loose as we’d have liked. Kiara Glasco makes a really good impression as Zooey. A teen who walks to the beat of her father influenced drum but is her own person. She’s a tough kid and a little rebellious and the young actress has a great chemistry with Embry, so their father/daughter relationship really works well on screen. She has a couple of tough scenes to portray and does a good job. Making this all come together is a really disturbing performance by veteran actor Pruitt Taylor Vince (recently seen as “Otis” in The Walking Dead). Vince really makes Ray a creepy person who makes you uncomfortable every moment he’s on camera. It really makes you fear for Zooey, especially when he catches up to her…more than once. He makes your skin crawl. A solid cast just as in Byrne’s first flick.

So maybe writer/director Sean Byrne hasn’t quite equaled The Loved Ones in his sophomore feature flick, but he has delivered another disturbing, atmospheric and bloody movie that is of a different sort than his previous twisted love story. This plot may be a bit more commonplace, but he uses the familiar tropes very effectively. The theatrical cut…wikipedia lists a 10 minute longer festival cut…may be a little too short for it’s own good and there are some unanswered questions, but a really strong cast and a director who knows how to turn the screws makes up for a lot of it. Highly recommended. especially if you loved Sean Byrne’s previous work.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and1/2 screaming guitars!

 

 

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