HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HALLOWEEN (2018)

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HALLOWEEN (2018)

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

It’s the 40th anniversary of John Carpenter’s Halloween and so there is no surprise that there is a new Michael Myers film this year. This film hits the reset button and rejects all the other sequels and remakes and is a direct continuation of the first film, picking up the story 40 years later…

Halloween 2018 opens to find Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) living in solitude after some failed marriages and loosing custody of her only daughter Karen (Judy Greer). She’s taught herself to survive and fight and is in a constant state of preparedness for Michael Myers’ (Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) possible return. As for Michael, he was recaptured after that fateful night and has been incarcerated in the Smith’s Grove Asylum ever since. A pair of British journalists (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall) visit Michael, on the eve of his transfer to an even more secure institution, and try to evoke a response by presenting him with his old mask. Of course, that night, the transfer bus suffers an accident and Michael escapes, reclaims his mask and heads off to Haddonfield in time for Halloween. But Laurie intends to protect her daughter and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) and goes on the hunt to confront Michael once and for all.

John Carpenter returns to the series to executive produce, along with Jamie Lee Curtis. He also co-wrote the score with son Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies. The film itself is directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) who co-wrote with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley for Blumhouse and Miramax. Background in comedy aside, Green delivers what is probably the best of the post Halloween III sequels, though technically that is not saying much. It also feels much more like a Halloween film than Rob Zombie’s efforts, but those are their own thing and exist in their own universe. It’s not perfect and still can’t come close to the original, but it does provide some intense scenes, especially in the last act confrontation. There is some brutal violence and Myers hasn’t mellowed in his old age (he’s about 61 here) as he still has a fondness for babysitters, anyone home alone…and or course, the Strode women. The film’s drawbacks are mostly script problems. The character of Loomis protégée, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) seems shoehorned into the story, just so it has another Loomis. He doesn’t provide any useful exposition and as Michael hasn’t spoken in 40 years, he can’t know anything much more about him than Loomis did. There is also a last act plot twist involving him which simply doesn’t work and serves only to set up one of the film’s many conveniences. The flick also never maintains a constant feeling of dread as did the original. It’s never really scary, though it does get intense and there are some suspenseful moments. Michael’s killings in Haddonfield seem far more random than before. In the original he stalked Laurie’s friends, here it’s just randomly picked people to add body count before the last reel showdown. It works, but still seems like filler. When that showdown comes, it is intense and delivers what we came for and Green does pay nice homage to the original and some of the sequels it chooses to ignore. It also looks great, Green has a good visual eye and Haddonfield looks the most like Haddonfield since it did in 1981’s Halloween II.

Green also gets good work out of most of his cast. Jamie Lee Curtis is great as the emotionally troubled survivalist that Laurie Strode has become. If her character evokes the transformation of Sarah Conner from The Terminator to it’s sequel, T2: Judgement Day, it’s probably intentional…and it works. She’s still the queen of final girls. Greer is very good as her somewhat estranged daughter and it’s a shame this talented actress constantly gets these second banana supporting roles. Andi Matichak was solid as Strode’s granddaughter Ally. She seems to take more after her grandmother than her mother, though due to the story trajectory, she takes a backseat to Curtis in terms of final girl duty. Will Patton was solid as the local sheriff, Haluk Bilginer is no Donald Pleasence as Sartain, and Rees and Hall were suitable in their brief roles as the British journalists who rattle the wrong cage.

Overall, Halloween 2018 was a suitable enough sequel, though not without it’s flaws and it’s no classic. Director Green gave us some intense scenes and some brutally violent moments, as well as, a strong last act confrontation. His script let’s us down a bit, with some really contrived conveniences and a Loomis replacement that wasn’t necessary and who suffered one of the worst plot twists of the film. The continual sense of dread Carpenter established was missing and Michael’s kills seemed especially random and there to “kill” time as we awaited his reunion with Laurie. Curtis is still queen of the final girls forty years later and Dr. Sartain aside, most of the cast and characters worked, even if some were obvious Michael fodder.

Halloween 1978 is a masterpiece and a horror classic, so one can’t expect the same from any of the sequels. Most of them sucked, anyway, making it easy for this film to be able to at least hold it’s ground against the original three…and flaws aside, it does. Stay through the credits.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 three carving knives. Happy Halloween 🎃!

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MALEVOLENCE 3: KILLER (2018)

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MALEVOLENCE 3: KILLER (2018)

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

After Bereavement, writer/director/editor Stevan Mena decided to go back to basics with the third installment of his Malevolence franchise by not only returning to a more classic slasher format, but by independently financing the film. Tragedy struck his production, though, with only 75% of the movie finished, when actor Scott Decker sadly took his own life. With little money for re-shoots, the film went on hiatus for two years until Mena’s passion and perseverance found a way to finally finish it. Malevolence 3 now sees it’s release on home media and video streaming right in time for Halloween! 🎃

Malevolence 3: Killer opens with the final scenes of the first film…remember, Bereavement was a prequel…with serial killer Martin Bristol (Jay Cohen) escaping into the woods. Martin, in true Michael Myers fashion, returns to his childhood home town and begins a killing spree. He leaves a trail of bodies as he returns to the house he was born in, which is now home to pretty student and musician Elle (Katie Gibson) and her roommates Tara (Kelsey Deanne) and the vivacious Lynn (Alli Caudle). Drawn to the three girls, Martin begins stalking them, killing anyone who crosses his path. All the while Agent Perkins (Kevin McKelvey) is hot on his trail in hopes to stop Martin before he kills again.

Malevolence was a solid slasher homage giving us elements that evoked both Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Bereavement was something all it’s own with a portrait of a deranged killer (Brett Rickaby) teaching his grim trade to kidnapped little boy, Martin (Spencer List). With the third installment, Stevan Mena returns to a more traditional slasher film with the adult Martin paying his home town a bloody visit and a trio of young girls picking the wrong house to preside in. As such, Mena crafts another solid slasher flick much on par with his original. The film doesn’t quite have the emotional resonance of his creation of a serial killer prequel, though there are some scenes with Martin’s grieving mother (Ashley Wolfe) and grandmother (the legendary Adrienne Barbeau), which work nicely on that level. In most slashers if the killer’s mother is still alive, she’s usually portrayed as equally deranged, so this was a nice change and added some depth. Most importantly, the film does do what it’s supposed to do and does it well. It’s paced much like the slashers of the early 80s with a moderate burn till the last act. There is some traditional skin shown by it’s lovely cast and the kills are bloody and brutal, yet grounded, so they keep their impact and avoid the outlandishness of many other slasher franchises. Mena’s killer is effective and needs no mask to elicit chills and his prey are a likable group of girls and neighbors, so we feel for them. When that last act comes and Martin and Elle throw down, it’s intense and bloody as Agent Perkins closes in…but will it be in time? On a technical level Mena’s shots are excellently framed, that and his cinematography evokes Carpenter and Dean Cundey in the very best way. The film looks very good for a low budget flick and except for a few shots of Katie Gibson’s hair changing length a bit, there is really no evidence the film had such a troubled production. Again, a filmmaker’s passion and perseverance found a way to complete his vision.

Cast-wise Mena hits a home run with the casting of Katie Gibson as Elle. Her Elle is sweet, strong and a very likable young lady. She is also tough and resilient when Martin finally moves in for the kill. She’s a great final girl in every sense of the word and even gets to play a variation of the traditional babysitter, when, thanks to Martin, her young neighbor Victoria (Victoria Mena) finds herself all alone. If Stevan Mena continues this franchise or makes another horror film, I hope he brings Gibson along. As Martin, Jay Cohen is an imposing figure. He doesn’t speak, but isn’t hidden behind a mask, so the actor has to display his cold blooded-ness with only his eyes and facial expression and he does so very well…and rememeber, Martin also has congenital analgesia, so he can’t feel pain. Kevin McKelvey returns for his third go as Perkins and fits the mold of the “Dr. Loomis” of the film. He’s tough and strong, yet there is also compassion, as he recognizes that in some ways Martin is just as much a victim as he is a killer. This touch helps Perkins avoid being a stereotype. Barbeau is effective in her few scenes as Martin’s grandmother, as is Ashley Wolfe returning as Martin long-suffering mom. In support, Alli Caudle and Kelsey Deanne are likable as the saucy Lynn and studious Tara, respectively and it is sad Scott Decker was not able to complete his role, as Agent Roland is a likable character with, unavoidably, too little screen time. RIP.

Overall, this was a solid slasher and another example of Stevan Mena’s love of the genre. IMO Bereavement is one of the best horror films in the last ten years and Mena wisely doesn’t try to replicate it. Sequel instead returns to basics to display the results of Graham Sutter’s (Rickaby) work in Martin. It has a moderate pace echoing it’s influences and delivers the goods from some bloody kills to a resilient and very endearing final girl. Mena overcame some heavy obstacles to complete his trilogy and one hopes the trilogy becomes a series and Malevolence 4 will be a smoother production and come sooner than the eight years between these films. Mena is yet another filmmaker people need to be talking more about and another example that you can get your film made!

F.Y.I. Malevolence 3: Killer is available for streaming on Amazon and iTunes, or you can order the complete trilogy on Blu-Ray from Amazon.com and Walmart.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 knives!

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: EXTREMITY (2018)

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EXTREMITY (2018)

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

It is the fate of glass to break-tattoo on the back of lead Allison’s neck

Latest film from Anthony DiBlasi (Last Shift, Most Likely To Die) finds emotionally troubled Allison (Dana Christina) wanting to free herself from her childhood traumas and face her fears. She turns to an extreme haunt called Perdition, to help her accomplish this. But will a trip through this hellish underground haunt free Allison of her demons…or unleash them?

DiBlasi directs from a script by David Bond which is based on works from Rebecca Swan. What we see unfold here is not only a story of childhood abuse and the long term effects it has on the victim, but a filmmaker taking what could have been a routine horror flick and give it some very solid emotional depth. As the film unfolds, we follow Allison and a young man named Zachary (Dylan Sloane) as they begin their journey of torment and terror at the hands of the Perdition crew, headed by their skull-masked leader (Chad Rook). We already know Allison is troubled and on medication, but as her cruel treatment commences, we are taken in gradual flashbacks to her past and the horribly abusive treatment by her alcoholic father. Her father’s treatment in the past often echoes her current treatment in the depth’s of the haunt. Bond’s script peals back the layers of our unstable heroine to portray a woman who has attempted suicide, has violent impulses and now attempts to purge her issues by facing everything she fears. Perdition, of course has it’s own plans for her and maybe pushing her too far may not be a good idea. We also get some surprising depth into the skull-masked leader, revealing a man with his own demons and giving us an interesting portrayal of someone who might run a haunt like this. It gives the film some weight, making it more than a parade of abusive treatment and brutal violence, especially when the last act gets bloody. Diblasi guides us through a tense and brutal ride, though one with a lot to say about the types of people who frequent these haunts and those who create them…and on a deeper level about the effects of abuse and tragedy and how it shapes someone. As the Perdition crew continually up the ante on their abusive treatment of Allison, so does Anthony Diblasi keep showing us his versatility and depth as a filmmaker. It makes Extremity all the more effective, aside from Perdition being portrayed as a very scary place, with added emotional resonance beneath the intensity and bloodshed. As it heads toward it’s shocking and brutal climactic moments, we get some last minute reveals and surprises that are effectively shocking.

The cast are very effective. Dana Christina makes for an interesting heroine as the troubled Allison. She is both strong and fragile at the same time. She wants to handle her life long trauma on her own terms and she has chosen to face her fears dead on…and Perdition has a lot to fear in store for her. As the creator and operator of Perdition, Chad Rook portrays a man who enjoys the torment and fear of others on the outside, but is a three dimensional character on the inside with his own issues and tragic history. He’s not a true villain, but a man trying to deal with his own demons. In support Dylan Sloane is solid as the meek Zachary, there to face his own weaknesses. Ashley Smith is a fine femme fatale as bad girl, Nell, one of Perdition’s top “performers” and Ami Tomite adds a little bit of a break to the tension as an over ambitious Japanese reporter there to profile Perdition’s operation. A solid cast.

This is Anthony Diblasi’s most interesting film yet. He’s a filmmaker that has yet to disappoint and another director that people should be talking more about. Extremity tells an intense, cruel and sometimes brutal tale on the outside, while on the inside telling a bluntly honest story about abuse, tragedy and how they shape the recipients. A tough and intense film at times, but like it’s heroine, one that faces some serious subjects head on.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 skulls.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HELL FEST (2018)

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HELL FEST (2018)

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

Hell Fest is a slasher flick that finds pretty Natalie (Amy Forsyth) reluctantly going to a Halloween Haunt with her friends on All Hallow’s Eve. Hell Fest is almost a Renaissance faire for horror fans with costumed performers and dozens of mazes, fun houses and ghoulish games. What Natalie and company don’t know, is that a real serial killer (not listed in the cast 😱) has entered the park and she and her friends have gotten his attention in the worst way.

Flick is a routine but fun slasher, as directed by Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) from a script and story by six people, no less. It’s not especially scary, though there are a few effective moments, mostly in the last act. The body count is unusually low for a modern day slasher, but there is some good gore and Plotkin at least has a very cool stetting that he can take advantage of…though more could have been done with the concept. All the tropes are followed and handled well enough to entertain, though there is nothing inventive enough to really make an impression and the generic masked boogie man was serviceable at best. The cast of characters are all fairly stereotypical, though the attractive cast does make them likable enough for us not to be completely apathetic with their fates. Lead Amy Forsyth (Torment) is a decent final girl, though she didn’t leave a strong enough impression to make her Natalie overly memorable. If any of the cast members stood out, it was Bex Taylor-Klaus as the cute but obnoxious horror buff Taylor. The rest of the supporting cast make decent killer fodder and there is a brief appearance by genre legend Tony Todd as a Hell Fest carnival performer. The film ends a bit suddenly and the denouement is both interesting and anti-climactic at the same time. Only time and box office numbers will tell if the makers can expand on that ending, if there ever is a Hell Fest 2.

Overall, Hell Fest is an entertaining enough horror flick as long as you are not expecting anything groundbreaking or innovative. Plot-wise it was by-the-numbers slasher hi-jinx and it’s killer was effective just enough, but not so much to make one look forward to an ongoing franchise. There was some nice gore, the Hell Fest setting was fun and the young cast was likable enough, so we weren’t detached from the proceedings. The film is also helped by the fact that it was nice to have a horror movie out this Halloween season that didn’t involve found footage or increasingly ridiculous traps. Routine but fun and you could do a lot worse during the spooky season..

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 masked killers…generous, but hey…it’s Halloween 🎃

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE NUN (2018)

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THE NUN (2018)

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

The Nun is the latest film in The Conjuring film series now referred to as “The Conjuring Universe”. The film explores the origins of the demonic nun that plagued the Warrens in Conjuring 2 and is a spooky fun entry in a series that, up till now, has taken itself a bit too seriously at times. The story opens in 1952 where a veteran priest, Father Burke (Demián Bichir) is asked by the Vatican to travel to Romania to investigate the suicide of a nun at a remote Abbey. He is asked to bring along young Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) who is about to take her vows to join the sisterhood. There they find that the locals think the place is cursed and maybe with good reason as the Abbey is housed in the castle of a duke who used to perform occult ceremonies. Something evil he conjured has been reawakened and now needs a human host to escape. It’s focused on Irene and so she, Burke and a French-Canadian migrant named Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), must find a way to send this demon in nun’s clothing (Bonnie Aarons) back to the hell it came from before it releases it’s bad habits upon an unsuspecting world.

Flick is directed by Corin Hardy (The Hallow) from a script and story by James Wan and Gary Dauberman. Hardy brings loads of atmosphere and some incredibly spooky visuals to the proceedings. The man knows how a Gothic horror should look. He manages some spooky scenes and delivers loads of nods to other movies such as Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, Raimi’s Evil Dead and at times it even evoked the Blind Dead series and obviously, some of the nun themed horrors out of Europe in 70s, like Jess Franco’s The Demons. It’s never truly scary, even if it does play it’s story straight, but it’s fun in that it throws it’s familiar tropes at us fast and furious and mixes and uses them quite well. We get frightened villagers, ominous woods, exorcisms, fog strewn graveyards, re-animated corpses, folks buried alive and more crosses than you can shake at a demonic nun. We do find out who the demon in question is and why it’s here, but other than liking the style or mocking it’s prey, it’s never clear why it prefers to dress like a nun. But with all the spooky goings on, do we really need to know? What the heck…It works. By the rolling of the credits a good time has been had and the film does gives us that vital link to the Warrens that makes the Conjuring connection. After the holy smoke clears we haven’t seen anything new, but are amused by the way Corin Hardy took all the familiar tropes and ran with them…and run with them he does. He also had good support from Maxime Alexandre’s sumptuous cinematography and a really Gothic score by Abel Korzeniowski.

The cast work well, especially young Taissa Farmiga as Sister Irene. She portrays well a young woman of the cloth whose faith and strength are tested against something not even The Bible has prepared her for. She’s a good actress much like her older sister Vera Farmiga from The Conjuring films. She makes for a good heroine. Demián Bichir is good as the priest with a past. He has a grizzled demeanor and a gravelly voice which essays a man who has seen a lot in his lifetime and experienced some harsh events. Of course the demon uses those events from his past against him and it makes things interesting. Jonas Bloquet is OK as the French Canadian Maurice or ‘Frenchie’ as he is known to the locals. He has some of the weakest lines and his character disappears for a long stretch, so his character development is the weakest. Rounding out is Bonnie Aarons as our demonic nun Valak, and she is effective under the make-up and CGI, but never appears long enough to really chill us like she should.

Not being the biggest fan of this Conjuring Universe, the general opinion is that they run hot and cold with the original The Conjuring still being the most effective of the lot, with Annabelle: Creation and now The Nun being the more enjoyable spin-offs. The Nun is full of things we’ve seen before, but mixes them well and serves them up at a rapid pace with some real nice atmospheric and visual support from director Corin Hardy. It’s played straight, but one can tell Hardy is having fun throwing all the crosses, headstones, spooks and specters at us and the film is more self aware and a bit less serious than it’s predecessors in this series…and that’s a good thing. Spooky fun.

For those who haven’t seen Corin Hardy’s first film The Hallow, I recommend you check it out! -MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 demonic nuns.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE (2018)

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WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE (2018)

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Jules (Brittany Allen) and Jackie (Hanna Emily Anderson) are a married couple going up to Jackie’s lakeside family cabin in the woods to celebrate their one year anniversary. Once there, Jules starts to find out that Jackie is not the person she thought she married. In fact, Jules has married a monster and will soon be fighting for her life against the person she loves most.

Intense and brutal flick is written and directed by Colin Minihan, who from Grave Encounters to Extraterrestrial to It Stains The Sands Red to this, is getting better and better as a filmmaker and it’s a mystery why more people aren’t talking about him. Minihan weaves a disturbing tale of lies, betrayal and murder as a young woman finds out her wife is a dangerous psychopath who delights in killing her lovers…among others. What makes this work so well is that Minihan builds a nice and believable relationship between Jules and Jackie in a short time and then has it painfully unravel and turn into a fight for survival between the two wives. The script is clever and Minihan gives it some nice artistic touches which elevate it from a simple horror flick to a movie with substance, style and some shocking moments, too. There is brutal violence and as it’s used sparingly and at the right moments, we feel it when it comes and it’s effective throughout. The cat and mouse game between Jackie and Jules is tense and suspenseful and we are riveted when Jules is forced to watch her lover engage in some horrible acts against innocents. It’s a rough ride for the audience, yet never exploitative…which makes it all the more effective. Minihan knows how to build suspense and how to use his camera and shots to create atmosphere and tension. That camera work is captured excellently by David Schuurman’s cinematography and there’s a really great score by star Brittany Allen. Having seen all of Minihan’s films, this is his most confident and daring movie yet. It’s the film where a filmmaker moves out from under his influences and finds his own voice.

What also makes it work so well is borderline brilliant performances by it’s leading ladies. Brittany Allen, in her third film for Minihan, gives a powerful portrayal of a woman who is torn apart by betrayal and finding that her wife is a psychotic monster. We watch a gentle woman shattered by the pain and torment of these horrific revelations and then slowly finding the strength to fight back against someone she loved more than anything. Hanna Emily Anderson at first fools us into believing, as does Jules, that this is a sweet and caring woman in love with her soulmate. We then watch her slowly turn into the calculated and cunning psychopath she really is and one with disturbing depth, making her unnervingly real. She’s not a stereotype and the fact that Anderson avoids over-the-top and stays chillingly calm, makes her even more frightening. Wonderful work by both actresses. Martha MacIsaac and Joey Klein also appear as a couple that live across the lake, but we know their purpose from the start and they serve it well.

Simply one of the best horror films of the year, so far and the best film yet from a writer/director who gets better and better with each film. It’s clever, intelligent and brutal and intense. It’s a disturbing portrayal of love and betrayal. It’s two former lovers in a battle of wills and survival that is as provocative as it is unnerving. The leading ladies give really powerful performances and Colin Minihan proves he is a filmmaker that genre fans should be talking far more about.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 hunting knives.

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DEAD NIGHT (2018)

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DEAD NIGHT (2018)

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Wife and mother Casey (Brea Grant) brings her family up to a remote cabin in the woods for the weekend, hoping the mineral deposits in the mountain with help her husband (A.J. Bowen) with his cancer. We soon find that what we are watching is a flashback as the family was brutally murdered and Casey, now referred to as “The Axe Mom” is accused. As we continue to watch the events of that horrible night unfold, though, we find that something far more supernatural may have been responsible.

Film is directed with a very impressive visual style by Brad Baruh from a script and story by he and Irving Walker. The snowy mountain setting and some of the more supernatural elements look great and add atmosphere to this cabin in the woods horror. The narrative cuts between a segment of a real crime show called Inside Crime detailing the deaths from the public’s point of view, to watching the events unfold and seeing a tale of a diabolical woman (Barbara Crampton), witches, creatures and a wife and mother fighting for her life and those of her family. It works well enough, though it might have been more suspenseful if we didn’t know who died and who would survive from the get go. The editing within the flashback footage is a bit choppy as well, thus sometimes disrupting the narrative a bit. On the plus side the film looks spooky as do our supernatural elements, there is some really good gore and old fashion prosthetic make-up effects and horror icon Crampton gives us a really dastardly villain. Despite the rural setting, the film avoids resembling Evil Dead and other cabin in the woods horrors, too much and there are simply some creepy action scenes once Casey’s family starts being transformed by Crampton’s evil Leslie Bison. Again, with the editing, not every story element is clear, but this is a gory good time with a very effective and atmospheric visual style. The film also has a bit of an 80s horror vibe which always scores points with us older horror movie fans.

Brea Grant makes a really good lead. She plays a women already under an emotional strain with a sick husband and now she must fight against Bison and her supernatural back-up. She watches her family one by one turn into creatures and ultimately we know she’s going to be blamed for everything she’s fighting against. Crampton steals the show here as the evil Leslie Bison, a woman with a political and supernatural agenda. The veteran actress and horror icon really chews up the scenery here and just oozes malice. She’s a lot of devious fun. Rounding out the cast of principles is horror regular A.J. Bowen as sick husband James, a good-natured fellow despite his condition, Joshua Hoffman as son Jason, Sophie Dalah as daughter Jessica and Elise Luthman as Jessica’s friend Becky who the evil elements have an interest in. Daniel Roebuck also appears in a small role as Inside Crime’s host, Jack Sterling.

In conclusion, this was a fun enough movie, though some choppy editing does hinder the story telling. Brad Baruh is an atmospheric director with a great eye for visuals and he does keep this cabin in the woods horror from getting too routine. It’s got a good cast with Brea Grant making a strong final girl and horror film icon Barbara Crampton stealing all her scenes with a sinister over-the-top performance. Flaws aside, a fun and delightfully gory horror flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 axes.

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: OUR HOUSE (2018)

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OUR HOUSE (2018)

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Brilliant college student Ethan (Thomas Mann) is forced to drop out of school to care for his younger brother Matt (Percy Hynes-White) and his little sister Becca (Kate Moyer) when his parents are killed in a car accident. He keeps working on his experiment, though, a device to create wireless energy. While the device has yet to accomplish it’s purpose, unknown to Ethan, it is opening a doorway to the afterlife. At first Matt and Becca think they are being visited by their parents, but soon it is apparent someone else has crossed over, someone malevolent and with bad intentions.

Film is well directed by Anthony Scott Burns (the Father’s Day segment from Holidays) from a screenplay by Nathan Parker, which is based on Matt Osterman’s indie film Ghost From The Machine. Our House starts out with an interesting way of getting the supernatural ball rolling by having Ethan’s machine accidentally opening a door to the spirit world and letting something into the house. Eventually, though, it does settle into becoming a more routine haunting flick with both a benign and a more malevolent spirit focusing attention on little Becca. It also follows the traditional formula with a skeptical adult…here, Ethan…thinking Becca and Matt are just working through their grief. What elevates the film from the routine, is that at it’s center it is a very poignant story of children of various ages dealing with the sudden death of their parents. Anthony Scott Burns does use the familiar haunting tropes and very well, but it is his portrayal of a family in mourning and how each member deals with it, that makes the movie a supernatural horror with a heart and soul. These kids are on their own and Ethan is trying to raise them and it gives us a strong emotional investment in the young family. Even if we’ve seen the supernatural elements before, they are all the more effective because we care about the characters. Nathan Parker’s screenplay also includes a neighbor, Tom (Robert B. Kennedy) who is suffering from the loss of his wife and whose house is also falling under the machine’s influence. It creates a wild card character whose emotional instability adds some uncertainty, because we know he’ll enter the mix at the worse possible time. It adds to the supernatural elements which are already atmospheric and spooky, despite the familiarity. It was also refreshing that Anthony Scott Burns keeps things subtle, until the very end and even then avoids going over the top, keeping the story grounded. Only a brief scene with a floating doll came across as a bit silly and the rest of the flick is more accessible as it avoids getting too theatrical for it’s own good.

There is a very effective cast here. Lead Thomas Mann is very good as Ethan. He gives us a brilliant student who is a bit self-absorbed concerning his project and his attention is torn away and back to his family as he must now be guardian and provider for Matt and Becca. The actor portrays well both the frustration and the sacrifice as Ethan must put aside his life and be a dad to his siblings. He tries to find time for them and follow his dream and Mann essays the awkward juggling of responsibilities well. Percy Hynes-White is solid as Matt. He’s in high school and his way of handling things is to withdraw, until he thinks there is a chance his parents have returned to the house. He also blames Ethan for their deaths and that adds tension and conflict to an already tense situation. Kate Moyer was really good as little Becca. The young actress portrays a little girl who has her parents ripped away and now seeks solace from what family she has left. When she thinks her parents have returned, she embraces the spirits without realizing they may not be who they seem. She also finds a friend in the spirit of a little girl, Alice who is followed by a far more malevolent entity. In support is Robert B. Kennedy as the emotionally troubled Tom, who has lost his wife and Nicola Peltz as Ethan’s concerned girlfriend Hannah. Sadly Hannah is left on the sidelines for a lot of the movie, until resurfacing at the end. She was a sweet and caring character and her presence is missed when Ethan is sorting out his life.

Overall, this was an effective and enjoyable supernatural thriller. The basic story may have been routine, but the director and script start things off in an intriguing way and keep us interested with a very strong emotional center. The familiar supernatural elements are used well and are more effective as we care about the characters. Anthony Scott Burns keeps things from getting too theatrical which serves the overall story. It’s a refreshingly subtle spook fest with a good cast and a very likable bunch of characters to fear for. As he also had the best segment in Holidays, Burns proves to be a filmmaker to keep an eye on. Another solid release from the folks at IFC Midnight.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 rag dolls.

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE REDWOOD MASSACRE (2014)

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THE REDWOOD MASSACRE (2014)

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Completely derivative U.K. slasher has a group of friends heading into the woods to camp near a farmhouse that hosted some grisly murders two decades earlier. Apparently a farmer (Benjamin Selway) heard voices which drove him to brutally kill…and partially eat…his family. Perfect location! Obviously the hulking madman is still on the premises, all these years later and this little camping excursion goes bloodily south real quick.

Multi-tasking David Ryan Keith writes, directs, edits, produces and even does the cinematography on this slasher, though there isn’t an original bone in it’s bloody body. It’s basically a Texas Chainsaw retread with a dash of Halloween thrown in as a Scottish farmer goes bonkers and becomes a mask wearing psycho. He still haunts the same farmhouse where he killed his own family and slaughters anyone who comes near…and the notoriety of the place brings him plenty of vittles for his slaughter house. Despite the lack of originality, there is a sense of fun here, or at least a good effort on the technical side from filmmaker Keith. The gore is plentiful and fairly effective and Selway’s burlap-bag-masked killer works well enough. It isn’t very suspenseful or scary, but it passes the time adequately and all the tropes are there for those who like the redneck cannibal genre for it’s own sake. The cast are OK enough with cute girl-next -door Lisa Cameron making a decent final girl, though Lee Hutcheon‘s revenge seeking hunter doesn’t accomplish much. All in all, you could do worse as far as cookie cutter slashers go.

So, maybe it’s nothing you haven’t seen before and not done in any way innovative, but you have to admire David Ryan Keith‘s effort just a bit. It’s a formula redneck cannibal slasher with a lot of gruesome kills and fairly decent production value for something made on a very low budget. The killer works within his familiar context and the cast is attractive enough to fall under his blades satisfactorily. Our final girl Pamela does her job adequately and there are worst ways to spend 80+ minutes on the couch with your favorite poison. If you are a redneck cannibal completest, you might want to check it out.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 axes.

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: 14 CAMERAS (2018)

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14 CAMERAS (2018)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Sequel to 13 Cameras is again written by Victor Zarcoff, though directing chores have been handed off to Seth Fuller and Scott Hussion. Follow-up takes place years later with creepy landlord Gerald (Neville Archambault) continuing his stalker ways and filling his properties with hidden cameras, watching the occupants and occasionally kidnapping female ones that suit his fancy. He’s upped his game and now streams the footage on the web and charges other creeps to watch it. He still has Claire (Brianne Moncrief) captive and raises her young son “Jr.” (Gavin White) as his own. His current targets are a vacationing family, with their daughter, pretty college student Molly (Brytnee Ratledge) and her hot, flirty friend Danielle (Amber Midthunder) as the objects of his gross attention. Things get complicated when his footage attracts like-minded individuals and he now has competition for making Danielle one of his collection.

New directors, Fuller and Hussion, keep this second installment creepy, and sometimes violent, as the scenario is opened up a bit to focus on not only Gerald’s disturbing habits, but having Claire and her son in captivity. Claire is almost used to her life in what looks like a bomb shelter dug into the desert floor and tries to convince new roommates, like athletic and pretty Sarah (Chelsea Edmundson), that escape attempts are not a good idea…and to a degree they are not. Pervert Gerald has set his sights on pretty, flirtatious Danielle and his intrusions into the house and in her belongings conveniently get blamed on Molly’s teen brother Kyle (John-Paul Howard). It’s creepy and very unsettling to follow mouth-breather Gerald as he watches the girls shower and romp around in bikini’s and then sell the footage…and a pair of Danielle’s panties…to his creepy subscribers. Things start to fall apart for the deranged landlord when “Jr.” starts to get curious about his “dad’s” activities and one of Gerald’s subscribers starts a bidding war for Danielle. It’s very disturbing to watch unfold and even though it shares some of the first film’s flaws…like gimp-legged Gerald getting out of occupied houses unseen…it has the viewer squirming in their seat enough to work. The idea of being watched in the privacy of your own home and having that privacy invaded is a concept that still hasn’t warn out it’s effectiveness. Add to that, the idea of having your most private moments sold to deviates on the dark web is equally as chilling. This flick makes good use of both scenarios.

Once again Neville Archambault paints a disturbing individual as the vile Gerald. He is a pervert and a deviate and has no moral compass whatsoever. His activities make your skin crawl and feel sympathy for those under the watchful eye of his hidden cameras, especially those who find themselves bound and gagged in the back of his truck. In this installment he even finds a way to make money off his sick behavior from like-minded creeps…and apparently, there are a lot of them. Brianne Moncrief is solid as the captive Claire. She’s pretty much given up all hope of escape and is accepting of her life in captivity, though when it comes to reuniting with the son she barely knows, it ignites a bit of fight in her. Amber Midthunder is very likable as the lively and playful Danielle. She is the type of girl that gets attention, though the wrongest kind here. The cast portraying family members are all fine in support with Brytnee Ratledge as Molly, John-Paul Howard as Molly’s high school student brother Kyle, Lora Martinez-Cunningham (Sicario, Fender Bender) as their hot mom Lori and Hank Rogerson as their dad Arthur. Whether it was intentional or not, it made the older and pervy Gerald even creepier that he ignores sexy mom Lori and goes after co-ed Danielle, who’s still a teenager. Last, but not least, Chelsea Edmundson is effective as the strong-willed captive Sarah and Gavin White, equally so, as “Jr” who is becoming quite the nosy young man.

Sequel adds up to pretty much an equal as while it shared some of 13 Camera’s flaws, it was also very disturbing and unsettling. Gerald is proving to be a very effective and creepy character in his second outing and Neville Archambault really makes him realistic and scary. The flick has a good cast and the makers took the first movie’s concept and opened it up a bit with Gerald now taking his perversions to the dark web and profiting on them from others of his ilk. An effective second film in this franchise and directed well by Hussion and Fuller.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 surveillance cameras.

alone with her rating

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