BARE BONES: BOOK OF MONSTERS (2018)

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BOOK OF MONSTERS (2018)

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

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

Available on Amazon Prime and other VOD platforms.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE HOLE IN THE GROUND (2019)

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THE HOLE IN THE GROUND (2019)

Pretty single mom Sarah (Seána Kerslake) lives in a small, remote Irish village with her son Chris (James Quinn Markey). When Chris encounters a large, mysterious sinkhole in the woods near their home, his behavior starts to change. As her son’s actions become more and more disturbing, Sarah starts to believe that he might not be her son at all and that something else came back from that hole in the ground.

Irish horror is directed by Lee Cronin from his script written along with Stephen Shields. While there are some familiar elements, such as doubts about a strange behaving loved one’s identity, no one believing the doubter, Cronin turns this into a very creepy flick. Seána Kerslake also helps by giving a strong performance as Sarah, a woman who has had her own trauma, who is terrified that her child is no longer her son. Cronin and his actress gives us doubts ourselves about Sarah’s belief until Chris’ increasingly odd behavior start us believing right along with her…but who or what is he? Again, the story is familiar, but skillful and atmospheric direction from Cronin and good work from lead Kerslake, make this a very spooky and unsettling movie. Not everything is explained, but here the ambiguities work in it’s favor and the movie knows how to get under your skin in subtle but disturbing ways. Recommended!

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U (2019)

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HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U (2019)

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

Sequel pics up right after the first flick with Tree (Jessica Rothe) cozying up with Carter (Israel Broussard) and all being well until roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) starts to relive his own murder over and over. Tree finds out her previous predicament and Ryan’s current one are as a result of Ryan and friends science experiment that effects time…just not in the way they planned. An effort to kill the loop sends Tree back to Monday the 18th again, only this time in an alternate universe.  She’s reliving her death all over again, only in this dimension Lori (Ruby Modine) is no longer the killer, Carter is dating Danielle (Rachel Matthews) and her mother is still alive. Can Tree get back to her normal dimension…and does she want to?

As you can guess by the plot description, Happy Death Day 2U sends the slasher elements to the background and focuses more on a Star Trek-ian/Back to the Future-esque tale of alternate timelines and other dimensions. It’s still fun, though shifting the focus also mutes some of the chills and thrills that made the first film such a treat. There is a lot of entertainment to be had and they have fun with the expanded concept, but this seems more like a cinematic episode of The Big Bang Theory with a slasher sub-plot. Christopher Landon again directs well, though this time from his own script and seems to want to play more with the whole alternate timeline thing and guide the story away from the slasher elements. A mid-credits scene hints that a part 3 will veer away even further. There was also a brief flirting with dopplegangers, but that disappears quickly, which is a shame as Tree being stalked by other alternate reality selves sounds like it would have been a hoot. If the film is missing anything, it’s the intensity the slasher elements brought to the table in the first film. The mix was more even in Happy Death Day and this sequel could have used a bit more.

Jessica Rothe is again a blast to watch though she shares the film’s focus with other characters and isn’t always the center of attention. The actress also proves again she is a leading lady with talent and can do drama, comedy and kick some ass, too. Israel Broussard is still charming and likable as Carter. The alternate reality version is pretty much the same guy, except for dating Rachel Matthews’ Danielle, who is a lot nicer in this other dimension. Matthews gets more screen time and gets to perform some slapstick comedy in one of the sillier sequences. Phi Vu gets a far more expanded role and is fun as Ryan and Suraj Sharma and Sara Yarkin play two of his nerdy lab partners/friends.

In conclusion, the sequel is not an equal, but not a disappointment either, unless you were expecting more of a horror film. There are some amusing sequences, some fun character interaction and even a little heart-tugging drama to go with the occasional dips back into slasher territory. On the downside it is slower paced, the killer was easy to guess and horror fans might not be happy with all the science geek quantum this and quantum that mumbo jumbo. Leading lady Jessica Rothe is still at least every bit the firecracker and if there is a three-quel, hopefully she is not pushed to the sidelines or lost in an ensemble piece. A fun movie thought maybe not what you might go in expecting. Stay through the credits for that mid-credits scene.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 baby-faced killers.

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: AMONG THE LIVING (2014)

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AMONG THE LIVING (Aux yeux des vivants) (2014)

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

French horror finds three troublesome youths Victor, Tom and Dan (Théo Fernandez, Zacharie Chasseriaud and Damien Ferdel) playing hooky from school and sneaking onto an abandoned movie lot. There they find a woman bound and gagged in an abandoned car who is sequestered away before they can decide what to do. The police don’t believe them due to their reputations, but the man responsible, deranged war veteran Issac (Francis Renaud) isn’t taking any chances and sends his deformed son Klarence (Fabien Jegoudez) to kill the three boys and their families. 

Flick is written and directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the duo the brought us Inside, Livide and the recent Leatherface. It combines a youth coming of age story with a Texas Chainsaw Massacre slant as these deranged individuals plan to kidnap women to expand their family…which is introduced to us in the gruesome opening…and murder any witnesses. There is some vicious and brutal violence and some very disturbing moments and the makers aren’t afraid to do more than just put the three boys in harm’s way. The deranged Issac is a war veteran whose been effected by chemical warfare and thus it has led to Klarence being born deformed and being a bit unhinged himself. That being said, this really isn’t anything new. Changing the location from an abandoned slaughter house to an abandoned movie studio isn’t much of a change and innocents being stalked and murdered by deranged and deformed individuals has been a horror standard for decades. It’s effectively done and thus is still disturbing and the cast all play their parts well. It’s an effective thriller even though it combines story elements that have been told time and time again.

In conclusion this is a brutal thriller, though nothing innovative or new. It uses a combination of popular movie tropes and adds some very graphic violence and isn’t afraid to unleash that violence on any of the cast members. It’s easy to see why the duo was chosen for the prequel Leatherface, though that was nothing new as well. An effective if not derivative thriller.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) naughty lads who should have played somewhere else.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: INCIDENT IN A GHOSTLAND (2018)

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INCIDENT IN A GHOSTLAND (2018)

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

Story finds Beth (Emilia Jones), her sister Vera (Taylor Hickson) and their mother, Pauline (Mylène Farmer) moving into a creepy house they’ve inherited. That very night they are attacked by two deranged individuals (Rob Archer and Kevin Power) they encountered earlier on the road driving a candy truck. Vera is raped before mom savagely kills the intruders. The film picks up many years later with adult Beth (Crystal Reed) a wife, mother and now a famous horror author. One day she gets a panicked phone call from the emotionally damaged Vera (Anastasia Phillips), who still lives in the creepy old house with mom. Beth returns to the old home to check up on them and finds out there is still something very wrong going on in that house.

Disturbing flick is written and directed by Pascal Laugier (Martyrs) who certainly knows disturbing. It doesn’t quite reach Martyrs territory, but comes close with it’s brutal beatings and the swollen and bloody faces warn by our leads. It’s extremely effective, especially after we get our midpoint reveal, but also very unpleasant to sit through. It’s a tough film to watch as the sisters are continually abused by these two deranged individuals, dressed up like dolls, shackled and worse. It’s also set in a house that is very unsettling in itself, with it’s dark hallways and rooms filled with creepy toys. The design of the home and it’s furnishings is quite spooky and does give the film atmosphere. As for the sadistic and deranged intruders, they are given no background or motivation, other than Vera giving them the finger, for their attack on the family and we never even get names for them. The one listed in the cast as “Fat Man” (Archer) seems to be a bit of a perverted man-child, while his androgynous partner “The Candy Truck Woman” (Kevin Power) is the only one that talks and only when he/she has something disturbing to say. They work, but it seems to be all senseless brutality without some kind of character depth to give their vile behavior some weight or point.

Cast is small but effective with Crystal Reed giving her Beth a strength despite what she is going through and Anastasia Phillips evoking a lot of sympathy as the emotionally disturbed and abused Vera. As their younger selves, Emilia Jones and Taylor Hickson are also good. Mylène Farmer is solid as their mother, Pauline and is especially effective in the scenes where she protects her young daughters. Not much is known about our intruders, but Rob Archer and Kevin Power make them very effective and frightening.

Overall, much like Martyrs, it’s very effective though extremely unpleasant. It never gets quite as horrific as that movie, but has some brutal moments. The opening scenes are violent and effective and the mid-film reveal is startling, though not unexpected. By the last act, though, we are getting tired and numbed to all the unpleasantness and abuse and thankfully the film is a quick 90 minutes. While a well made film, not one which viewers can say they enjoyed. Also, not something one needs to watch again.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 creepy dolls (out of 4).

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER (2018)

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YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER (2018)

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

Flick opens with bloodied camp counselor Sam (The Cabin in the Woods’ Fran Kranz) terrified and hiding out in one of the camp cabins. He calls his good friend and horror movie buff Chuck (Buffy TVS’s Alyson Hannigan) to ask her advice as to how he might survive a killer on the loose right out of a slasher movie. As he starts to relate the ghastly events, Chuck comes to a possible conclusion…”You Might Be The Killer!”

Clever and fun comedy/horror is directed by Brett Simmons from a script by he and Thomas P. Vitale. It takes about a half hour to really click, but when it does, it is not only a fun homage to 80s summer camp horrors, but playfully has a good time messing with the familiar tropes. As the frightened Sam starts to relate and remember the bloody deaths of his co-workers, Chuck comes to the conclusion that he actually might be the killer. What comes next is a flashback to what really happened that has an amusing twist on the killer’s origin and even an interesting slant on the tradition-following mask that the killer wears. Is it Sam?…if it is, his killer has one problem…the final girl! The film also has a bit of fun with the final girl trope, too and the kills are quite gruesome as they should be. When one realizes where this flick is headed, you find yourself ready and willing to go along for the ride and a bloody fun, clever ride it is.

The film is well cast. Kranz is energetic and fun as Sam. He is having a good time playing both fearful victim and then suspected killer, as Chuck’s movie knowledge leads her to believe her long time friend is actually the killer in this unfolding slasher flick. As Chuck, Hannigan does little but stand in her video/collectibles shop and talk to Sam on the phone, but she makes Chuck a fun character and obviously this is not her first rodeo in delivering pop culture references, of which this flick has in abundance. Brittany S. Hall is good as Sam’s tough and tattooed ex-girlfriend Imani and Jenna Harvey is sweet and feisty as Jamie. Both are camp counselors and both are final girl candidates that Sam might need to look out for, if Chuck is right.

Once the flick locks in it’s premise, it’s a really fun homage to and clever meta twist on the beloved summer camp horror. It has all the tropes present and not only has a good time with them, but has fun playing with a few of them too. There are some clever twists mixed in with the nostalgia and having our hero, possibly be the villain works very well in the context to which the concept is used. A fun little flick that is both tribute and slasher flick.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 masks!

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE SLEEPER (2012)

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THE SLEEPER (2012)

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

Flick bares a very close resemblance to Black Christmas by having a disturbed individual making eerie phone calls to the Alpha Gamma Theta sorority, then stalking and killing it’s members and whoever is close to them. It opens with the grisly murder of one of it’s pretty residents in 1979 and then jumps to 1981 with new pledges arriving. One by one the pretty Thetas fall, as the killer (Jason Jay Crabtree) cuts a bloody path to new pledge Amy (Brittany Belland).

Written and directed by Justin Russell there is obviously nothing very original here, even setting the flick at winter time like the 1974 classic it emulates. What Russell does succeed at is giving the film loads of atmosphere and really nailing the look and feel of a slasher flick from the era it’s set in. From the lighting, to camera shots, to the really nostalgic score by Gremlin, the film could pass for something made at that time period. It’s not all that scary or suspenseful, though it does have some spooky moments and even the killer is very derivative…most likely on purpose. It still has a creepy late 70s early 80s vibe to it and the kills are gruesome at times. The killer’s preferred weapon is a hammer and the FX can be cheesy, which is fine since many of the films of that time period were restricted by small budgets. If anything, Russell knows his influences very well and his film is atmospheric and nostalgic.

Being set in a sorority there are some pretty faces in the cast, including scream queen Jessica (Silent Night) Cameron as Cindy. It’s girl-next-door Brittany (Clowntergeist) Belland that makes an impression, though, as new pledge and final girl Amy. Belland, who sadly passed away recently, has a down-to-earth beauty and a natural charm and is very effective in the final girl role. The rest of the Theta actresses are fine as eye candy and killer fodder, as are the gents playing their ill-fated boyfriends. As for our killer, the mask-less Jason Jay Crabtree is suitably unsettling even if he reminds one quite a lot of the killer from the original Black Christmas.

Overall, it’s not a great horror, or a very original one, but is very effective as the homage it was most likely intended to be. It has the look and atmosphere of a horror from the late 70s and early 80s with the traditional blood, sex and electronic score. The late Brittany Belland makes a very good final girl as Amy and even if the killer is a bit too familiar, he and his kills are effective enough. A fun and nostalgic throwback to an era which obviously served as an inspiration to many of today’s filmmakers. Also features the legendary Joe Bob Briggs in a cameo.

The Sleeper is available from Scream Team Releasing who brought you The Barn, 10/31 and The Witching Seasonhttps://screamteamreleasing.com/products/the-sleeper-special-collectors-edition-blu-ray-dvd-combo-pack

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 hammers.

 

 

 

Farewell and RIP Brittany Belland

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: CAM (2018)

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CAM (2018)

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

Cam is an interesting and sometimes unsettling thriller about pretty Alice (Madeline Brewer), who unbeknownst to her mother, works as a web cam model known as “Lola”. Alice is struggling to get her sexy/playful online show up in the ratings, and is just happy to break the top fifty. One morning she awakens to find that her account has been stolen and her web show is now being run by a woman who looks like her exact duplicate. Not only is having her identity and livelihood stolen away from her driving her crazy, but this new “Lola” is rising in the ratings faster than Alice ever could. Now the desperate young woman goes on a hunt to find out who…or what…has taken over her cyberspace.

Effectively directed by Daniel Goldhaber, from a script and story by he, Isa Mazzei and Isabelle Link-Levy, this is a movie that delves into a few cyber subjects while telling it’s tale of a woman whose alter-ego is stolen away from her. Aside from identity theft, it covers the world of sexy web shows and chat rooms, internet celebrities, the lengths folks go to become famous on the web, cyber relationships, as well as, cyber stalking turning into real stalking as one of “Lola’s” online followers “Tinker” finds her in real life. The film has a slightly playful nature at first, than gets a bit creepy as we watch Alice’s online world and identity taken away. She goes on a quest to find this impostor, but along the way we learn a lot about this online alternate reality and how it becomes the only reality for some. We also see the damage caused when the impostor’s antics out Alice to the real world and the negative impact it has on her and her family. It all leads to a cyber showdown with Alice trying to turn the tables on Lola V2, which is tense and unsettling. It’s an off-beat and clever little movie that can be quite disturbing at times and in more ways than one. Are we heading towards a fantasy world that exists totally online? Cam might give some cyber food for thought on that, as it’s conclusion is no surprise and that’s on purpose. It’s making a point and making us think. There may be some unanswered questions, too, by the time it’s over, but in this case, the cause is not the focus but the effect. Besides, if you pay attention to what some of the characters are saying and a few things that occur, you can probably fill in the blanks on your own.

As for the cast, this is Madeline Brewer’s show and she gives a lively and strong performance as Alice, her alter-ego Lola and the impostor Lola. She’s a perky and slightly eccentric young woman as Alice, playful and sexy as Lola and gives Lola V2 something a bit off as the impostor escalates the sexy hi-jinx, yet, we feel there is something not quite right about her. Very good work by an actress that has to carry pretty much the whole movie on her shoulders. In support there is Love Witch’s Samantha Robinson as an online rival, Patch Darragh, who is suitably creepy as Tinker and Michael Dempsy as another of Lola’s followers who…surprise!…also turns out to be a creep.

Cam isn’t the first time cyberspace and impostors have been the subject of a horror or thriller. Just recently, we saw sexual chatrooms and cam shows in Girlhouse, mysterious doppelgangers in Imitation Girl and +1, cyber stalking in Open Windows and other cyber horrors in the Unfriended movies. Still Cam has it’s own style and a strong leading lady to stand out from the pack in how it presents it’s tale and themes. It’s a fun thriller and a bit disturbing in it’s portrayal of a world that exists on the internet and how so very important it has become to some.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 very solid laptops.


unfriended rating

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: OVERLORD (2018)

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OVERLORD (2018)

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

Hybrid war movie/horror flick takes place on the night before the Normandy invasion where a mission to take out a communications tower goes horribly awry. After their plane is hit, four surviving American soldiers, Boyce (Jovan Adepo), Ford (Wyatt Russell, Kurt’s son), Tibbet (John Magaro) and Chase (Iain De Caestecker) find themselves on the run from German soldiers in rural France. Now behind enemy lines, the commandos are snuck into a German occupied village by the beautiful Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), who lives there with her little brother Paul (Gianny Taufer) and her sick aunt (Meg Foster). Soon the four find out that the Germans, under the command of sadistic Hauptsturmführer Wafner (Pilou Asbæk) are conducting sinister experiments under the local church. Experiments that are right out of a nightmare and whose product may change the course of the war.

Flick is directed effectively and energetically by Julius Avery from a homage-filled script by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith. There are some solid action scenes, some good gore, when it gets going, and the heroes are a likable bunch as are the villains detestable. There are some nice nods to it’s influences and the makers have some fun with classic war movie tropes and characters, like the wise-guy soldier with the NYC accent and the precocious foreign child who develops a liking towards him. It is a fun movie, though one that doesn’t fully deliver on it’s promises. Where the film falters, is that it doesn’t focus enough on the horror elements and spends a lot of time at Chloe’s home in the village, before our heroes finally assault the church. Then it’s over without really delivering the battle between man and Wafner’s squad of Frankenstein monsters we came to see. We hardly spend any time with the scientist actually conducting the experiments (Erich Redman), nor do we get any clue as to what the substance is bubbling out of the ground that is the basis for the Nazis’ work. We get glimpses of atrocities when Boyce sneaks into the Nazi stronghold, but when the climactic assault finally happens it focuses on a serum-jacked Wafner and the experimental soldiers barely play a part. What was the point of introducing them if they never really become part of the action? Make no mistake, the action scenes are fast and furious when they come and overall this is an enjoyable action/horror, it’s just one that fails to really live up to it’s promises and that is where it stumbles. On a technical level it’s a top notch production with an especially effective score by Jed Kurzel and strong cinematography by Laurie Rose and Fabian Wagner.

The cast are good and using lesser known faces only helps one suspend disbelief in what they are watching. Jovan Adepo makes a solid hero as Boyce, a compassionate man who may not be cut out for war, but does have courage when needed. The actor is charming and engaging. Wyatt Russell is a chip off of his father as the war hardened corporal Ford. He’s a bit of a hard-ass, but one endears to him nonetheless. Magaro is fun as the clichéd soldier from New York talking like he just came from an old Bowery Boys movie. Caestecker is good as Chase, more photographer than soldier and a bit too timid for this kind of mission. Mathilde Ollivier makes an impression as Chloe. She’s strong and a fighter and makes the sacrifices she needs to, to keep her family safe. Pilou Asbæk has a stereotypical role as the power-hungry and sadistic Wafner, but one feels that this is on purpose and the character is a homage to classic war movie bad guys. Gianny Taufer is cute as Paul and sadly Meg Foster has no dialogue and is unrecognizable under her make-up as Chloe’s aunt.

In conclusion, this is not a film one needs to run out and see, yet is still fun and entertaining, especially if one reigns in the expectations. The action is well-choreographed and when the horror elements present themselves, they are effective and can be quite gruesome. Where the film lets it’s audience down is that it takes quite some time to really get going and then it’s over too quickly once it does. It promises us freakish products of horrible experiments, but they are actually not as large a part of the action as we were led to believe, or hoped they would be. They kind of sit on the sidelines save for a few appearances. It’s a bit of a letdown, despite the fact that the film is well made and effective in what it does do. Not a bad movie at all, just one that doesn’t fully deliver what the trailers promised.

On a personal note…IMO, running a mediocre rap song over the end credits, instead of the more fitting, classic AC/DC song that played perfectly in the trailer, just didn’t work at all. Just came across as awkward and didn’t fit the tone of the film we just watched.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 bullets.

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SUSPIRIA (2018)

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SUSPIRIA (2018)

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

Film is a remake…of sorts…of Dario Argento’s classic 1977 horror of the same name. It uses the very basic plot framework of a coven of witches in a German dance academy, along with a few character names, but otherwise is it’s own thing. This re-imagining takes place in 1977 West Berlin during the Lufthansa Flight 181 hostage crisis. A former Mennonite from Ohio, Susie Bannion (Dakatoa Johnson) comes to study dance at the Markos Dance Academy. There is, as with Argento’s version, something very sinister going on at the academy and headmistress Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) may have plans for the pretty new student.

Remake is directed by Luca Guadagnino from a script by David Kajganich based on the original screenplay by Argento and Daria Nicolodi and does involve Argento’s “Three Mothers”. It’s an intriguing film to be sure and is far more art house than grind house. It is also, however, a bit of a meandering film at 150 minutes long. It takes an hour longer to tell the story and that wouldn’t be a bad thing, if that story was expanded, gave the characters more depth, or added emotional resonance…and there is the film’s major problem. Despite adding a lot of details to Argento’s simple tale, such as Susie’s Mennonite past, the hostage crisis occurring at the same time, or the sub-plot of a German Doctor (also Swinton, billed as Lutz Ebersdorf) who lost his wife during the war, none of it really adds anything to the story or enhances the characters. It simply just makes the movie longer, but not especially richer. There is some feminist and social commentary, but it’s not enough to really resonate or make this any more relevant than it’s predecessor. What the remake does have in it’s favor, is that there are a lot of disturbing and unsettling moments and the movie can get quite grotesque, especially in the last act when all hell breaks loose, quite literally. We are treated to some creepy dream sequences and some squirm inducing moments, such as when dancer Olga (Elena Fokina) learns the hard way that leaving the academy is not so easy. The sequences in the witches’ lair behind the academy walls are also quite effective and the film can be very atmospheric when it wants to be…though in contrast, some of the earlier moments are a bit bland to be honest. It takes a while to get going and that’s when the atmosphere starts to kick in. With all the subtext and subplots, Guadagnino does avoid outright pretension and that helps keep the film from imploding from taking itself too seriously, which some may feel it does. The cinematography is quite the opposite of Argento’s vibrantly colored set pieces, with the colors here being muted and the set and costume design far more grounded till things start to delve into the supernatural in the last act.

The cast is another plus. Johnson is good as Susie. She is a bit more mysterious than Argento’s heroine and the actress again shows she is fine with daring roles. Thankfully here she is given more to work with than those awful Shades of Grey movies. Tilda Swinton is mesmerizing both as Madame Blanc and in a very impressive performance as Dr. Josef Klemperer. Unfortunately, Klemperer’s character and subplot could have been removed completely and not done harm to the story, though it would have robbed us of seeing Swinton in a very unconventional part. In support we have a solid performance by Chloe Grace Moretz as a student that alerts Dr. Klemperer to the shady goings on at the academy and a likable Mia Goth as Sara, a student who befriends Susie. The rest of the cast are fine and do efficient work as minor supporting and background characters.

This remake does enough of it’s own thing to not fall under the unnecessary banner. There are some gruesome and grotesque moments and some disturbing and unsetting scenes that effectively chill. The cast do very good work, especially Swinton and the flick can be atmospheric at times. What keeps this from really being something special is that there are a lot of details added to what was a simple story and they don’t really enhance that story or add any depth or resonance. The film can be bland at times, when not focusing on the supernatural elements and some of the detailed subplots simply make the film longer and not necessarily better. Intriguing and worth watching once, but not something one feels the need to revisit again like Argento’s film. Keep an eye out for original star Jessica Harper in a cameo and stay through the credits for one last bit of spookiness.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 broken bones…you’ll know the scene when you see it. OUCH!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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