HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WOLF CREEK season 2 (2017)

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WOLF CREEK season 2 (2017)

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

Wolf Creek is a cult classic 2005 Australian horror from writer/director Greg McLean that introduced the world to homicidal Outback redneck Mick Taylor (John Jarratt). The film gained notoriety, but took till 2013 to produce a sequel and now, has brought us two seasons of an episodic web show. This second season finds a group of people on an Outback safari tour crossing paths with the Down Under psychopath. Mick hijacks the tour bus into the middle of nowhere and begins to hunt and slaughter it’s occupants as they fight to survive the harsh wilderness.

Second season is again six episodes with Wolf Creek creator Greg McLean once more returning to direct episodes and produce. The series continues to follow the dark, gritty, but more grounded tone of the original film, which made it so effective. Like the first season, it does feel a bit like a movie plot stretched out over five hours, but it manages it’s time well enough to never feel boring or repetitive. The added time of a mini-series let’s us get to know Mick’s potential victims very well, so they are more than just serial killer fodder. The show can be violent and brutal at times, but never goes over the top or gets campy. Mick is as intimidating as ever, with his off-color vulgarity and deranged sense of humor just making him even more disturbing. Where the first season was a story or retribution and revenge, this one is a tale of survival, as Mick strands the tourists in the middle of nowhere setting them against the elements and after a while, each other. Not to mention he’s constantly stalking them and anyone that comes in contact with them. As such, there are some innocents caught in the crossfire, like some Aborigine tribesman and a family living in an abandoned mining complex. It’s a bloody and effective journey till the inevitable showdown back at Mick’s lair, which has a few surprises waiting for us.

The cast are all good and once again we get an assortment of offbeat characters, like the strong-willed Rebecca (Tess Haubrich), criminal psychologist Brian (Matt Price), tattooed lesbian Kelly (Laura Wheelwright) and German tourists Oskar (Julian Pulvermacher) and Nina (Felicity Price). John Jarratt still plays Mick Taylor with the usual viciousness, intensity and gusto. He can play this role in his sleep at this point, but most certainly doesn’t as the character still disturbs us intensely.

In conclusion, the second season maintained the quality of the first season and gave us a different story with all new characters aside from Mick. Sure, it still feels like a movie plot stretched out over a longer running time, but managed it’s time a bit better, so less sequences felt like filler. It was intense at times and bloody and there was some nice suspense as Mick methodically thins the heard. Serial killer Mick Taylor hasn’t warn out his welcome yet and if there is a season three…and I won’t spoil if this season leaves us with that possibility…as Mick would say, I reckon I’d have to tune in!

Wolf Creek: The Series is available on the streaming service Stan.

EPISODE LIST

  1. Journey – directed by Greg McLean and written by Nick Parsons
  2. Outback – directed by Greg McLean and written by Shanti Gudgeon
  3. Chase – directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith and written by Nick Parsons
  4. Singing – directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith and written by Mark Dapin & Greg Haddrick
  5. Shelter – directed by Geoff Bennett and written by Shanti Gudgeon
  6. Return – directed by Geoff Bennett and written by Mark Dapin & Greg Haddrick

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated a solid 3 Micks.
wolf creek rating

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE RITUAL (2017)

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THE RITUAL (2017)

Based on a book by Adam Nevill, this chiller finds four friends traveling deep into the Swedish wilderness on a hiking excursion while mourning the death of a fifth member of their group. Deep in the woods they find a supernatural entity presides there, one worshiped as a deity by the locals and who feeds on the mental…and physical…pain of it’s sacrifices…and anyone wondering into it’s territory qualifies as a sacrifice.

Film, directed by David Bruckner (the Amateur Night segment of V/H/S) from Joe Barton’s script, which is based on Nevill’s novel, evokes mixed feelings. On one hand it is basically The Blair Witch Project meets The Wicker Man (original version, of course) and thus is very familiar. On the other hand, Bruckner does conjure up some spooky sequences and the film has a very unsettling visual style, especially in the last act when it’s wendigo-like deity makes it’s appearance. There are scenes directly lifted from The Blair Witch Project with symbols found carved on trees, strange formations made from sticks and antlers and characters screaming in the distance as something unseen drags them away. There is a spooky cabin in the woods and even a witch. We do, however, also get some gory stuff with animals and people found gutted and hanging from trees and some very unsettling dream sequences, especially from lead Luke (Rafe Spall) who feels guilty over his friend’s death. It turns full blown into The Wicker Man in it’s last act, when the surviving hikers are taken to a village lost in time, where they are to be sacrificed to whatever lurks among the trees. Once the thing shows up, Bruckner gets some good effect from the spirit creature’s look and ferocity and the fight to escape it by the remaining characters. The movie is atmospheric and the small cast perform their clichéd roles well. There is a spooky score by Ben Lovett and some really effective cinematography from Andrew Shulkind to add to it’s overall effectiveness.

This film was a bit hard to rate as it is very effective in terms of it’s atmosphere, it’s spooky visuals and some effectively creepy moments from director Bruckner, but constantly reminds us of other movies. It does use the familiar elements to do it’s own thing, but also borrow heavily from some widely renown films. It’s definitely worth a look, but go in knowing you’ve seen a lot of it before. Also stars Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier and Sam Troughton as Luke’s three friends. Film is currently streaming on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 deer.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: VICTOR CROWLEY (2017)

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VICTOR CROWLEY (2017)

Fourth installment of Adam Green’s slasher homage series takes place ten years after the last one with survivor Andrew Yong (Parry Shen) becoming a bit of a cult celebrity after writing a book about his encounter with Victor Crowley. On route to an interview, his plane crashes right into Crowley’s killing ground, Honey Island Swamp. At the same time, a group of amateur filmmakers head into the swamp to make a trailer for a proposed film on Crowley. The plane survivors and the filmmakers soon find out that Crowley’s legend is all too true.

Adam Green returns to the director’s chair…after abdicating it to B.J. McDonnell for part III…and again writes. The result is a lazy, by-the-numbers sequel with a few laughs and gory moments here and there, but the “been there done that” is heavily setting in. Green doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before in this series and delivers a fourth dose of the same gory kills and goofy humor in the same setting. Fans of this series will probably enjoy the familiarity, but if you are looking for Green to do something innovative to freshen up his franchise, you’ll be extremely disappointed. The gore FX are well done, but the film otherwise looks cheap and restricts a good two-thirds of the action to the wrecked plane interior and the immediate grounds surrounding it. The film centers on the whiny Andrew Yong and the likes of Danielle Harris’ vengeful Marybeth Dunston are sadly missed.

Kane Hodder returns as Crowley and stomping around and grunting is basically all the role requires him to do. Shen tries hard, but Yong is a supporting character and promoting him to lead really doesn’t help. Laura Ortiz shows a bit more spunk as movie make-up artist Rose and Dave Sheridan is fine as wannabe actor turned hero, Dillon. We also get horror vets Felissa Rose and Tiffany Shepis as Yong’s agent and ill-fated passenger, Casey, respectively. The cast get the material and go with it.

Overall, this is basically just more of the same and not very effectively at that. Adam Green doesn’t do anything to freshen up his slasher homage series and falls back on the same ole, same ole for his latest chapter in the Victor Crowley saga. It just comes across as lazy. The first film was amusing and the two sequels had their moments, but this fourth flick shows a franchise definitely running out of swamp gas.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 hatchets.

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DEVIL’S GATE (2017)

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DEVIL’S GATE (2017)

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

Flick finds FBI agent Daria Francis (Amanda Schull) traveling to the rural town of Devil’s Gate, North Dakota in search of a missing woman (Bridget Regan) and her son (Spencer Drever). Along with a local deputy (Shawn Ashmore), she decides to question the woman’s husband, Jackson Pritchard (Milo Ventimiglia), who is her prime suspect, even against the warnings of the local sheriff (Jonathan Frakes). Once at his remote farmhouse, Agent Francis discovers that those actually responsible for the disappearances may be something quite otherworldly.

Directed by Clay Staub from his script he co-wrote with Peter Aperlo, this is a sci-fi flick with severe X-Files envy. The film starts out intriguing enough with the death of a stranded motorist at the booby trapped Pritchard farmhouse and that Jackson has someone…or something…locked up in his basement. Once Agent Francis and Deputy Salter get there, we soon find that the basement’s occupant is definitely someTHING and what Pritchard claims to be demons are actually extraterrestrials. From here it becomes a routine alien movie of the Mars Needs Women variety with heavy doses of Mulder and Scully conspiracy theory. We’ve seen it all before, alien/human hybrids, abducted humans and captured extraterrestrials. After a decent start, this flick degenerates into a very routine, and sometimes silly alien abduction/conspiracy flick and not an all that great one at that. There is some entertainment here and Staub is a competent director, but it’s far too familiar to really make an impact.

The cast are fine enough. Schull makes a good FBI agent. She was tough and believable in the part. Ashmore and Frakes are solid as small town deputy and sheriff respectively and Ventimiglia is also fine as a simple farmer whose sanity we question. As for the extraterrestrials, their design and prosthetic representations are well done and effective, if not familiar.

Devil’s Gate can be amusing at times, but is too derivative to really grab you. The film is technically well done, but reuses too many plot elements from previous extraterrestrial films and TV series to really stand out. The initial opening catches ones interest, but once we find out we’ve seen a lot of this on the X-Files, it loses a lot of it’s momentum.

-MonsterZero NJ

rated 2 and 1/2 aliens.

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DESOLATION (2017)

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DESOLATION (2017)

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

Desolation is a small but sometimes intense little movie about three people being pursued by a mysterious figure while camping in the woods. Pretty, young widow Abby (Jaimi Paige) hikes deep into the mountains with her son Sam (Toby Nichols) and her friend Jen (Alyshia Ochse). They are there to lay to rest the ashes of Abby’s late husband and soon find themselves being followed by a creepy hiker (Claude Duhamel) who may have ill intent for the three.

Disturbing thriller is directed by Sam Patton from a script by Matt Anderson and Michael Larson-Kangas. It gives us a little time to get to know Abby, Sam and Jen and what emotional state they are in, before they start to realize there is someone trailing them as they hike into the mountains and camp. The chills from director Patton start off slowly as the hiker sits quietly staring from a distance, before turning the screws when he brutally let’s us know, what we suspected all along, that this hiker is up to no good. Then it’s a last act struggle to survive with a savage killer in pursuit. Granted this isn’t something new story-wise, with innocents in the middle of nowhere under siege by a deadly attacker. It’s in the telling that the story picks up it’s intensity as Patton has introduced us to three likable characters, two of which who are emotionally vulnerable at the moment. All the more reason to fear for them as their pursuer moves in and reveals his violent and cruel intentions. We may have an idea as to how this will all play out, but it is effective none the less…brutally effective at times. And at only 78 minutes, it is a tight little movie that certainly doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.

The minimal cast all perform well. Jaimi Paige presents a sweet but wounded woman in widowed mom Abby. She’s trying to remain strong and be supportive of her son and we sympathize with her. Paige gives her a down to earth quality that really makes her endearing. Same could be said for Alyshia Ochse as her best friend, Jen. Jen is also a sweet and playful girl-next-door type and she and Paige have a good on-screen chemistry. They are very convincing as friends and their concern for each other, both before and after the hitchhiker makes his presence known, seems sincere. Toby Nichols does a solid job portraying a young boy coping with the death of a parent and then trying to be strong for his mother when they come under attack. A good performance from the young man where he has to convey a wealth of different emotions. Finally, Claude Duhamel imbues his silent hitchhiker with some nice malevolence, using just his body language and facial expressions to convey this guy is not right. Even before he gets violent, we are uncomfortable for our trio when he is around. The film also leaves the aspects of his motivations ambiguous, with enough gruesome clues to form our own conclusions.

An original movie?…No. A well done telling of a familiar tale…quite! Sam Patton keeps the film small and intimate, gives his audience time to get to know and endear to his main characters and then slowly allows his creepy stalker to get closer and closer to our vulnerable trio. He waits sometime for things to get really vicious and then it becomes a brutal struggle to survive against an enigmatic and highly disturbed individual. A good cast and some nice New York State locations help make this a solid survival thriller and a good start to Sam Patton’s feature film resume.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 extremely concerned hikers.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SORORITY ROW (2009)

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SORORITY ROW (2009)

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

Flick is a remake of sorts of the 1983 House on Sorority Row. It finds the girls of the Theta Pi sorority in quite the moral conundrum as a prank goes awry and leaves one of their sisters, Megan (Audrina Patridge) dead. Good girl Cassidy (Briana Evigan) is overruled and the rest of the girls (Margo Harshman, Jamie Chung, Leah Pipes and Rumor Willis) decide to hide the body and forget it ever happened. But eight months later, on graduation day, the girls start getting cryptic messages and bodies start to pile up. Someone knows what happened that fateful night and has a homicidal grudge against the sorority sisters of Theta Pi.

Slasher is well directed by Stewart Hendler from a script by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger. It follows the slasher formula very well, setting up a group of people being stalked by an unknown assailant for reasons of retribution based on an earlier incident. There are some good kills with some decent gore and even if it’s never really scary, there are some suspenseful chases and there is a bit of a sly sense of humor to the proceedings. There is nothing new or innovative here, but it is a well executed use of the traditional slasher scenario and the classic reveal is a bit of a surprise. The use of a group of bitchy sorority girls with a secret narrows the likable characters down to only a few, so in some cases we’re actually rooting for the mean girls to get theirs, but Cassidy is a likable heroine and so is conflicted Ellie and Megan’s smart-ass younger sister Maggie (Caroline D’Amore). So at least we have some characters to get behind as our hooded killer lurks about with their tire iron turned murder weapon.

As for the cast playing these characters, Evigan really shines as the morally sound Cassidy, who is blackmailed basically into keeping the big secret. She has screen presence aside from girl-next-door good looks and makes a solid final girl. Leah Pipes is fun as the sorority queen bitch, Jessica and while she is an unlikable character, the actress does give her some charm and swagger. Margot Harshman and Jamie Chung are also good as sorority snobs Chugs and Claire with Harshman giving her Chugs a strong devil-may-care attitude that makes her amusing. Rounding out is Rumor Willis as the sweet, but conflicted Ellie who is not dealing well with her guilt and Caroline D’Amore is fun as Maggie, especially when she gives major attitude to Jessica. There is also a small role by the late Carrie Fisher as the sorority house mother, Mrs. Crenshaw, which the veteran actress gives lots of character in her few scenes.

Overall, this is a solid enough slasher, though far from anything trend setting. It’s competently made and has enough sly humor and gory kills to entertain. It follows the traditional formula well and the cast go with the material, especially Briana Evigan as heroine Cassidy. A fun slasher and not bad as remakes go.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 tire irons turned nifty weapons.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: LIVIDE (2011)

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LIVIDE (2011)

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

French horror tells the story of a young woman named Lucie (Chloé Coulloud) who is studying to be a home care nurse. On her first day, she learns that one of her future patients, a comatose old woman named Mrs. Jessel (Marie-Claude Pietragalla), is rumored to have some kind of hidden treasure in her creepy old house. Lucie tells her boyfriend William (Félix Moati), who sees possible riches as a way out of their small coastal fishing village. They break into the house one night, along with their friend Ben (Jérémy Kapone), but soon find themselves locked in and that the house and it’s occupant have a nightmarish secret.

Flick is written and directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the French duo who brought us the bonkers chiller Inside and the recent Leatherface. It starts out as a sort of haunted house thriller, but then evolves into something else as we find out what really inhabits the Jessel home. There are some very spooky visuals as the duo use the creepy old house setting very well. There is also some of their trademarked graphic violence and the film has an unsettling atmosphere, especially once our three protagonists get inside the house. The flick is held back by a narrative that doesn’t always make sense, but does weave in some dark fairy tale elements, especially in the last act. The film also has moments that evoke Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos and even if we are scratching our heads a bit by the time the credits roll, there was enough to chill and entertain and maybe gross us out a little bit.

The cast are good with lead Chloé Coulloud making a strong heroine in student nurse turned reluctant thief, Lucie. She seems like a sweet girl and has issues of her own that motivate her and even affect her actions when she meets the occupants of the old house. Félix Moati is fine as her fisherman boyfriend, who dreams of a better life. He’s not an outright bad guy, just someone who is willing to cross lines to get out of his small town. Jérémy Kapone is also solid as Ben, a friend of the couple and another reluctant participant in the events. He is more likable than William. Marie-Claude Pietragalla is suitably creepy as Mrs. Jessel in both flashbacks to her days as a cruel dance instructor and to the old woman she is now. Rounding out is Catherine Jacob who is the home care specialist with a secret who is training Lucie and Chloé Marcq as Jessel’s daughter, who we are told is long gone and is seen in flashbacks when we start to get some backstory.

After the shocking Inside, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo followed it up with a spooky flick that has some chilling moments, but also suffers from being a bit too ambiguous at times. It may leave us with a quite a few questions once it’s all over, but has enough chills and unsettling sequences to entertain us well enough. Not as memorable as Inside, but shows the French duo have some interesting ideas, some unique twists on familiar tropes and a solid visual style to accompany the chills and gore.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 rusty scissors.

 

 

 

 

WARNING!: the Livide trailer gives away some substantial spoilers!

 

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HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: STRANGER THINGS season 2 (2017)

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STRANGER THINGS season 2 (2017)

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

Stranger Things returns with nine new episodes on Netflix that take place a year later, delightfully around Halloween. The story returns us to Hawkins, Indiana, now in 1984 with new trouble brewing. Our four heroes, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Will (Noah Schnapp), are a year older, though still feeling the effects of their encounter with the Upside Down, especially Will. Unknown to the gang, a new threat is emerging from that paranormal dimension and has it’s sights set on Will. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has escaped and is now being hidden by police chief Hopper (David Harbour) from the Hawkins Laboratory folks who are still messing in otherworldly matters. While the group start to realize Will is once again in danger, Eleven goes on a journey to discover her real name and find her birth mother (Aimee Mullins) and half-sister (Linnea Berthelsen). Obviously all the characters’ stories will collide before the season is over.

Second season is just as good as the first and in some ways even more effective as now we are emotionally invested in the familiar characters. Ross and Matt Duffer (Hidden) again pay homage and give plentiful references to the sci-fi and horror flicks of the 80s, while still giving Stranger Things is very own heart and soul. They mange to expand the story, while keeping it familiar, also introducing us to some new characters like new gang member Maxine “Max” Hargrove (Sadie Sink) and her enormous jerk of a brother, Billy (Dacre Montgomery from Better Watch Out). The Duffer Brothers still manage to blend in so many 80s references and yet without them being intrusive or overwhelming, or becoming the main focus. There is another great soundtrack of 80s tunes and the original score, again by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, really adds atmosphere as it did for season one. The FX are top notch, like last time and this season helps give the proceedings a bit bigger scale to go with it’s massive monster. There’s plenty of action, suspense, drama and otherworldly critters to keep it’s core audience happy while rooting for our favorite characters to battle evil once more.

The cast are just as good as last time with new facets being added to the characters. Winona Ryder is again solid as Will’s mother, who is now a bit overprotective, but more of a fighter when her boy is again in danger. Millie Bobby Brown really shines as Eleven, who is now frustrated at being kept from her friends and needing to find out who she really is and where her lost relatives are. As the gang, Wolfhard, Matarazzo, Schnapp and McLaughlin all are really strong and get to play the characters a year older, but still the lovable nerds we last saw, but now with an added strength of being heroes. Schnapp especially gets to show his stuff with Will being a far more present character this season with a strong connection to our story. Harbour is again, a good hero as police chief Hopper, who is going to great lengths to protect Eleven and has made a deal with the Devil, per say, to keep the bad guys out of Hawkins. The rest of the supporting cast get more to do and do it well and the new faces such as Sink, Montgomery and veteran Paul Reiser as Dr. Owens, a shady scientist, all add to the character mix quite nicely. The Duffers juggle a lot of characters, but everyone gets their moment.

This was another solid and very entertaining season. The 80s nostalgia was again very enjoyable as was the recreation of the look and feel of the 80s decade. It took the story in new directions, introduced new characters, yet never lost that Stranger Things feel. The cast are all good, both new and returning and the FX were top notch. There were plenty of chills, suspense, thrills and surprises and some cool critters, too. Can’t wait for season 3 and now there is little doubt the Duffer Brothers can deliver the goods.

EPISODE LIST

  1. MADMAX – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  2. Trick or Treat, Freak – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  3. The Pollywog – directed by Shawn Levy and written by Jessica Mecklenburg
  4. Will the Wise – directed by Shawn Levy and written by Paul Dichter
  5. Dig Dug – directed by Andrew Stanton written by Jessie Nickson-Lopez
  6. The Spy – directed by Andrew Stanton and written by Kate Trefry
  7. The Lost Sister – directed by Rebbeca Thomas and written by Justin Doble
  8. The Mind Flayer – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  9. The Gate – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 mysterious and powerful little girls.
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HELL HOUSE LLC (2016)

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HELL HOUSE LLC (2016)

Found footage flick begins by revealing there has been a fatal occurrence at the grand opening of a Halloween haunt called Hell House. A number of guests and crew were killed and there is a veil of secrecy as to what actually happened. Years later, a documentary filmmaker (Alice Bahlke) tries to find out the real story and is given some of the crew’s own footage by surviving member Sara (Ryan Jennifer), leading up to that fateful night. As the footage is reviewed, it’s found that strange things were happening during the event set-up at the former Abbadon Hotel, a place with an already dark history, and something sinister might have actually been the cause of the catastrophe.

Found footage horror is written and directed by Stephen Cognetti and not only is it’s premise clever and spooky, but there are some downright scary bits in this little chiller. The idea of an ambitious crew setting up a Halloween haunt in a building that is already rumored to be haunted, works well and Cognetti gets a lot of mileage out of his story. The location used has a lot of dark places, especially the creepy cellar and having it already dressed for Halloween makes the filmmaker’s specters and shadows all the more creepier. Add in the manipulation of some scary clown mannequins and this is one unsettling little flick at times. Not everything works, the shock ending didn’t seem as much of a shock/surprise as it should have been and the actual disaster doesn’t seem quite as spooky as expectations lead us to believe it would be. But there is a lot of fun, creepy stuff leading up to the finale and the cast of unfamiliar faces do perform well enough to give the illusion that this is someone’s footage and not actors. Director Cognetti knows how to build scares and smartly gets things started fairly quickly, where most found footage movies take a while to get going. The flick also spares us a lot of the shaky cam until all Hell breaks loose at Hell House during the climactic disaster.

Overall, this was a spooky surprise. It’s a found footage flick that has some very scary moments thanks to a clever idea and script by Stephen Cognetti and some skillful direction. The makers get some good use out of it’s location and really do well in establishing early on that there is a malevolent presence in this notorious hotel. The climactic scenes could have used a little more punch, but there is some outright scary stuff leading up to it. A spooky little Halloween found footage flick from Stephen Cognetti.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scary clown mannequins…or are they?

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017)

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HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017)

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

College student Theresa (Jessica Rothe) is having a really bad day…over and over again. She wakes up in the dorm of a strange guy, she’s mean to those around her, she’s sleeping with one of her professors, it’s a birthday she doesn’t want to face and someone is trying to kill her…and does. But Theresa keeps waking up at the moment of her death, starting the day all over again. She soon realizes that if she is to break the loop, she has to find out who this masked killer is and stop them. Easier said than done if there weren’t so many people who might want her dead.

Obviously, the Groundhog Day routine with reliving the same day over and over has been done to death, but here it’s literally. Director Christopher B. Landon knows we’ve seen it all before and takes the derivative ball and runs with it. Landon is helped by a fun script he co-wrote with Scott Lobdell and a sassy stick of dynamite leading lady in Rothe’s Theresa. As it starts out, Theresa is an unlikable mean girl…though her mean quips are very funny…but as she embarks on her journey of identifying her masked killer and ending this loop, it takes her from snotty sorority girl to sarcastic and feisty heroine. It’s a blast to watch Theresa as she meets each day head on and each time finds a new piece of the puzzle, all the while discovering things about herself. If it sounds corny, it is and Landon knows it and revels in it. He also delivers some solid suspense, some intense action and a few surprises on the road to Theresa’s final confrontation with the killer in her midst. It’s also kind of fun to watch the spunky girl die over and over again in different ways, only to have to do it all again with increasing frustration. The humor and suspense are perfectly mixed here, making it all the more enjoyable. This is a prime example of a filmmaker taking familiar elements and having a good time with them and not just re-using them in a by-the-numbers manner. The result is a fun slasher/thriller with a very hip sense of humor and a heroine to really endear to and root for.

As for our leading lady, Jessica Rothe is having an outright blast with the plot contrivances and owns this flick from start to finish. She introduces us to a mean, snarky, sorority princess and slowly transforms her into a smart, sarcastic and resilient final girl, who grows with each repeat of the ill-fated Monday the 18th. She is firecracker of a leading lady and really makes even the corniest elements of her transformation believable, such as her having the courage and tenacity to face a killer head on. It’s her show and she handles it like a boss. In support is a charming turn by Israel Broussard, as Carter, the boy she wakes up with and bonds with over her dilemma. The two have a nice chemistry on screen and their forming relationship works very well. The rest of the cast is also solid with Rachel Matthews as Theresa’s even meaner sorority sister Danielle, Ruby Modine as her sweet and verbally abused roommate Lori, Charles Aitken as her professor/lover and Rob Mello as a captured serial killer who may, or may not, be her masked murderer.

So, maybe this is not the most original film in terms of story, but it knows it and just runs with it. Christopher B. Landon…who wrote four successive Paranormal Activity sequels and also directed the Marked Ones spin-off…has really sharpened his craft by having a blast with he and Scott Lobdell’s clever slasher variation on the Bill Murray classic…which is playfully acknowledged in the film. It’s a fun movie that succeeds beyond it’s means thanks to a filmmaker who gets how to handle the material and a star-making performances by leading lady Jessica Rothe.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 baby-faced killers.

 

 

 

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