HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DEAD NIGHT (2018)

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DEAD NIGHT (2018)

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

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.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HEREDITARY (2018)

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HEREDITARY (2018)

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

Story finds an eccentric family, whose lineage has a history of mental illness, experiencing strange occurrences and tragic events after the death of it’s matriarch. Her surviving daughter Annie (Toni Collette) slowly begins to believe something supernatural is attached to her family, something evil, while her husband feels it’s all in her head. Is Annie losing her mind, or is she about to find out she inherited more from mom than just some mental issues.

The hype machine has been working overtime for weeks on this flick being an instant classic, but much like 2016’s The Witch, which received the same pre-release praise, this one has some merit, but is far from the traumatizing experience it’s being sold as. Hereditary is atmospherically directed by Ari Aster from his own script, has some very unsettling moments and the eccentric family members are enough to give you the willies themselves. From Collette’s Annie who relives traumatic events in her life by building miniature dioramas of them and daughter Charlie, who likes to cut the heads off dead birds, this is an Addams Family in the making. From a distance, the post funeral events could be the result of traumatic events, mixing with some bad DNA, but we slowly discover there might actually be something malevolent stalking this family. There are some creepy moments and Aster gives us some initial doubts whether this is elemental or simply mental, till a last act where we finally open the flood gates to hell and get what we came for…and that’s the flaw here. The film is very slow paced and while it seems to be intentional, it’s a bit too slow paced for it’s own good. Much like The Witch there are some very spooky sequences and visuals, but there are also long stretches that are just tedious. Some of the supernatural hocus pocus comes off as a bit silly, too, and the really scary stuff doesn’t happen until the last few scenes. It’s a long stretch till the film really delivers and while there is plenty of unsettling things to keep us occupied, there are also quite a few moments where you might find yourself checking your watch. The film does go somewhere that was very effective, had some chilling developments, but sometimes felt like it was rambling at times before getting to it’s Rosemary’s Baby-esque finale. On a strictly production level, the cinematography is very effective from Pawel Pogorzelski, as is Aster’s visual eye and a lot of the atmosphere comes from Colin Stetson’s goosebump inducing score.

Aster did perfectly cast this somewhat mixed-bag. Toni Collette is near brilliant as a woman with her own issues dealing with not only the trauma of two deaths, but the belief that there is some sort of curse or malevolent entity stalking her family. It’s an opinion her somewhat clueless husband doesn’t share, which isolates her. Gabriel Byrne does a wonderful job as husband Steven, a man who is sometimes too calm and emotionally detached to be of any help. He believes it’s all in her head and refuses to see there is something very odd going on. Milly Shapiro is downright creepy as the introverted and odd daughter Charlie. The young actress gives us goosebumps with just a look and a tilt of her head, not to mention carrying out the script’s extremely weird behavior for her. Rounding out the family is Alex Wolff as teen son Peter who already has a tenuous relationship with Annie thanks to her trying to set him on fire while sleepwalking at one point. He is very sympathetic, especially in the second half when things escalate. There is also a small part portrayed by Ann Dowd as Annie’s friend from a loss support group, who is a little off-kilter herself after losing her grandson.

In conclusion, the sum of it’s parts are greater than the whole. There are too many stretches where the film gets a bit tedious and borders on outright dull to be the modern horror classic PR hype wants us to believe. Ari Aster shows he has a nice touch for providing atmosphere and unsettling visuals and while it takes a bit too long to get to them, he can produce outright scares, such in the last act. The final ten minutes alone make up for some of the waiting. His characters were disturbing without the supernatural goings-on, though some of those those goings-on weren’t always as effective as they should have been, to keep the tension consistent. The director loses his grip here and there as his pace is a little too meandering for the movie’s own good. There is a lot of potential shown here for Aster as a filmmaker, just too soon to be calling him a master…or this a masterpiece. Despite being extremely over-hyped, it is worth a look for all the things that do work.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 cans of lighter fluid which should be kept away from sleepwalkers at all times.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: FERAL (2017)

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FERAL (2017)

Flick has a group of six grad students taking a hiking trip deep in the woods. Alice (Scout Taylor-Compton) has brought her new girlfriend Jules (Olivia Luccardi) and officially come out to her friends, not all who take her pronouncement well. None of them, however, are prepared when a vicious and animalistic man attacks them in the night, wounding one and killing another. On route back to get their friend help, they encounter mysterious, lone woodsman Talbot (Lew Temple) who takes them to his cabin. After some provocation, Talbot warns them that what they encountered carries a virus that kills it’s host and takes over the body…and their wounded friend will eventually turn. Alice and company soon start to wonder how he knows so much and if he is possibly more dangerous than what now hunts them from outside.

A zombie is a zombie and whether it runs or walks, whether you call it a virus or if it’s supernatural in origin, it’s still a zombie. The creatures in Mark Young’s film, that he co-wrote with Adam Frazier, kill their prey, who themselves reanimate at night, vicious and hungry. Physically they more resemble the creatures from Neil Marshall’s The Descent, but otherwise, they are the living dead. Young and Frazier do try to freshen them up a bit, like the virus being dormant in the daytime and the creatures seeming to have animal-like intelligence, but at the core they are still zombies who need to be shot in the head to be put down. Even so, the attack scenes are still very effective, there is some nice tension and the flick gets quite gruesome, as the camping friends are besieged by these “feral” creatures of the night. The horror elements here are familiar, though still work well. What makes this film even more interesting, though, is strong characters, particularly lead Scout Taylor-Compton as Alice and the very effective sub-plot involving her and her girlfriend Jules. Taylor-Compton is a real bad-ass here, yet she is a caring one who is trying to protect her friends. Before the first “feral” creature appears, there is some tension as Alice is concerned for how her religious parents will react to her new relationship and her friend Jesse (Brock Kelly) is very un-excepting of her announcing she’s gay. Obviously Jesse focuses his anger on Jules and it’s no surprise at one point there will be a confrontation between the two. Young is a competent filmmaker and does use the familiar tropes solidly, but it is his characters and the insertion of some topical human drama that makes this undead chiller stand out a bit from the pack.

We have a good cast here. Mark Young uses Rob Zombie film vets Taylor-Compton and Lew Temple very well. Scout Taylor-Compton gives us a very strong and intelligent young woman, but one with a heart. She fights hard for her friends and loved ones and while it’s a bit convenient that she is a med student and from a “family of hunters”, she is a very strong final girl. She conveys a toughness and a sensitivity. She also has very good on-screen chemistry with Olivia Luccardi (It Follows) as Jules. They come across as a believable couple and it helps make their characters endearing. There is also some interesting tension between them, as differing opinions on dealing with infected friends causes conflict between the lovers. Temple is good as the woodsman who knows far more about these creatures than he first lets on. He has a dark secret and the actor keeps us curious till it’s revealed. It’s not anything we haven’t figured out, but Temple plays it well. Renee Olstead is fine as the injured Brienne, Landry Allbright is a standout as Gina, George Finn is likable as the ill-fated Matt and Brock Kelly conveys the anger and ignorance of Jesse very well. A good cast.

In conclusion, while still a zombie film at it’s core, it’s solidly directed by Mark Young. The horror scenes are gory and effective, and he and co-writer Adam Frazier try to make their zombies a bit different, which begs the question why they needed to be zombies at all and not just infected and crazed humans. What makes the film really worth a look is strong character interaction, a solid heroine in Scout Taylor-Compton’s Alice and an interesting story element finding a young woman opening up to her friends about being gay and the mixed reactions she and her girlfriend get. The dynamic of Alice fighting to save her friends, especially Jules, gives the film a fiery spark that adds something beyond good use of very familiar tropes. Definitely worth a look.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 bullets so you can shoot ’em in the head!

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE WITCHING SEASON (2015-2017)

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THE WITCHING SEASON (2015-2017)

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The Witching Season is an indie web anthology series, currently found on Amazon Streaming, created by Michael Ballif and is five stories filmed between 2015 and 2017. All the stories are set on Halloween and are filled with pumpkins, scarecrows and masked individuals to ad the nuance of horror’s favorite holiday.

First story is written and directed by Baliff and is entitled Killer On The Loose and finds a pretty young woman (Hailey Nebeker) running for her life on Halloween night. She makes her way to an isolated home and with finding no one there, she enters and hides. Sure enough a masked man (James Morris) with a machete enters after her and now she is trapped alone inside with him. This was an effective tale and was atmospheric and suspenseful and even if we figured out where it was going to end, it was still creepy fun.

Second story, Princess, is written and directed by James Morris from a short story by Baliff and finds pretty single mother, Kendra (Anita Rosenbaum) moving into a new house with her little girl, Jamie (Emily Broschinsky) at Halloween. Jaime finds a box of toys in the basement including a creepy stuffed rabbit she claims is called Princess. Soon strange things start happening and it’s almost as if Princess has a sinister life of it’s own. Another atmospheric and creepy tale even if we’ve seen the evil doll scenario dozens of times before. It still works.

Third story is called Not Alone and is also written and directed by Morris. This story finds a man, Kyle (Sean Hunter) listening to UFO reports on a radio show and having some strange occurrences begin happening in his home. That’s about it. It is atmospheric, but doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s some weird things happening, a spooky climax and that’s it. Not Alone is the shortest and weakest of the five.

Fourth story is called They Live Inside Us and is written and directed by Baliff and stars James Morris as a writer (and other various roles) who breaks into the Boothe House where a infamous murder/suicide occurred. He’s there to get inspiration for a horror script he is writing and let’s say he gets it in droves. An interesting and spooky story that is the longest and possibly best of the tales and is another atmospheric entry from series creator Baliff. It also stars Stevie Dunston as Mrs. Boothe who appears in all of the writer’s various scenarios.

Fifth and final tale is called Is That You and is another directed by Morris from a story he co-wrote with Baliff. It’s a short and simple tale where a spooky nursery rhyme comes all too true for a girl, Whitney (Karlee Broschinsky) stuck home on Halloween night with an injured leg. There isn’t much to it and like Not Alone it’s basically someone in a house with weird occurrences going on around them until a spooky ending. It’s atmospheric, but again, like Not Alone, it really doesn’t go anywhere just sort plays out and then ends.

I enjoyed this web anthology series which shows a lot of love for the spooky season and horror films from the series creative team of Michael Baliff and James Morris. Even the weakest of the tales had some Halloween spirit and all were atmospheric. Both directors got good work out of their cast of unknowns and seem to handle their multiple chores on each story quite well. Baliff seems like the stronger of the two behind the camera, though Morris shows potential even if all three of his stories followed the same format. He did create atmosphere. There is some great cinematography all around and some effective music on each story by Randin Graves and the series opening credits is quite effective at setting the spooky tone. A well done labor of Halloween love from creator Michael Baliff and collaborator James Morris. Can’t wait to see more from these guys!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 pumpkins.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DOWNRANGE (2017)

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DOWNRANGE (2017)

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A group of teens on a road trip find their journey interrupted when they get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. Soon they find out this was no accident and that their tire was shot out. They also find, to their horror, that a sadistic sniper has got them in his sights and is patiently waiting till they make the wrong move so he can brutally gun them down.

Dark and sometimes savage flick is tautly directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus, Azumi, The Midnight Meat Train) from a script by he and Joey O’Bryan. There is some very gruesome violence, here and Kitamura puts these young characters through the bloody ringer as the sniper plays with them. The director also keeps tension high, as the killer waits the kids out, for their fear, the isolation and the elements to wear them down into making the wrong move. The script also simply solves the cellphone problem by having our group pinned down in an area with no signal, and uses trying to get to a signal spot a tense plot point. Add to that some clever use of the technology, as the teens try to determine their assailant’s location. If the film has anything that holds it back, somewhat, it’s that a sequence with a family in a passing car gets really over the top with the violence and gore. It’s not that the rest of the film has been subtle, but here it seems just over-indulgent, as it does in the gruesome finale. There’s nothing wrong with a good gore flick, just that this film didn’t need to go that overboard to make us understand the lead characters’ desperation and eventual rage. It was brutal enough at this point. That and it is a very simple premise to be drawn out to feature length, even at just 90 minutes, though never boring.

The young cast are very good, especially Stephanie Pearson as the tough and level-headed Keren. Kelly Connaire is also solid as the sweet and meek Jodi, who learns to overcome her timidity. Anthony Kirlew is sympathetic as the injured Eric and Rod Hernandez does well as the short tempered Todd. Rounding out the road tripping teens are Alexa Yeames as Sara and Jason Tobias as Jeff, both likable in their roles. Overall, an endearing enough bunch, so our sympathies are with them as they are trapped and tormented by this unseen assailant. The Sniper in question is played by someone named Aion Boyd, but he has no dialogue and his motives are kept ambiguous, which works very well here. Any supporting characters such as cops and the before mentioned family are paraded out quickly and disposed of as sniper fodder, to add to the hopelessness of our lead characters’ situation and for body count.

In conclusion, this is a tough, bloody and intense watch from a director whose American films have been spotty. Kitamura’s Japanese films prove he is a talented filmmaker, but he has gotten little opportunity to really show that here…until maybe now. There is some savage violence and some very over-the-top gore…much like his ‘Reservoir Dogs meets Evil Dead’ film, Versus…to add to the suspense and some likable characters to fear for. It’s a very dark and nasty flick, but very effective.

Flick is currently an exclusive on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 bullets.

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HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ASH vs EVIL DEAD season 3 (2018)

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ASH vs EVIL DEAD season 3 (2018)

“Good sex is 30 seconds followed by a cheeseburger”– Ash Williams

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

Ash vs Evil Dead season three is the final season, not only for the canceled, cult favorite show, but also a final farewell to Bruce Campbell’s Ash, too, as with it’s cancellation, the actor has officially announced his retirement from the role. One can’t fault him, he’s been playing the character on and off for over thirty years and is a true horror icon. Thank you, Bruce!

Season three arrived later than usual, debuting on February 25, 2018 and opens with Ash (Bruce Campbell) still in Elk’s Grove, Michigan and now running his father’s hardware store. Ash also finds out he has a daughter, Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) who immediately becomes a target of Ruby (Lucy Lawless) and her evil schemes to create Hell on Earth. Pablo (Ray Santiago) is selling tacos outside the hardware store and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) returns, along with a Knight of Sumeria, Dalton (Lindsay Farris), who belongs to an order sworn to assist “The Chosen One”. Can Ash handle fatherhood and fighting evil, as Ruby has birthed a hell-spawn of her own and The Dark Ones are soon to rise?

Like the past two seasons, this one has it weak spots and strong points. Season three starts off a tad shaky with introducing Brandy pretty much right off the bat, in the first episode Family and then having her thrown into the gory action before we or Ash really get a chance to embrace her. Not only are father and daughter thrown together a little too quickly, but new characters such as Brandy’s mother Candy (Katrina Hobbs) and knight Dalton get introduced and then meet their fates way too early for the characters to have resonated. A little more time with them would have been nice. There is still the trademarked gory action and some of it is quite clever, like a scene in the music room of Brandy’s school in episode #1, which utilizes musical instruments in quite a bloody inventive way. There are also some funny bits, too, such as Ash checking on his “donations” at a local sperm bank in Booth 3. The stuff involving Ruby’s pregnancy and birth are as disturbing as a delightful inappropriate funeral scene in Apparently Dead, is hilarious. Things start to get serious in episode four and then build in intensity as Ruby’s hungry offspring grows, Pablo comes into his own as a Brujo and Ash and his daughter bond in blood…and pop tarts. There are some really great moments in the second half, though few match a final showdown between Kelly and Ruby in Tales from the Rift, which is really intense and violent and shows how much Kelly has grown as a character. There are a few weak spots, too, such as yet another evil Ash doppelganger in Twist and Shout, but all the death, resurrection and blood and gore hasn’t quite warn out it’s welcome just yet. The last few episodes all lead up to the return of The Dark Ones and Ash’s confrontation with the massive demon Kandar, himself, as Deadite chaos erupts all over the world in the finale, The Mettle of Man. It’s a strong finish to the season and the show as a whole and the last scene is true to the Evil Dead spirit and is typical Ash. A fond farewell.

The cast are enjoyable as ever and certainly will be missed. Campbell plays the role with the same perfect blend of hero and schlep he has from the beginning. He pulls it all off with his trademark swagger and a little newly added paternal instinct when it comes to his daughter. As Brandy, Arielle Carver-O’Neill is a chip off the old chainsaw. Early on she is a typical troublesome teen who is not eager to accept that her dad is Ashy Slashy, but by the last few episodes is dispatching evil with the same blood-soaked gusto as her dad. The actress is quite appealing and it would have been nice to see the character evolve further. Dana DeLorenzo still shines as Kelly. Her showdown with Ruby might be one of her finest moments and one of the best episodes in the entire three season run. Ray Santiago really owns the role of Pablo, especially now that he is a full Brujo Especial. He’s a very talented actor, who has a gift for comedy and can be a hero, as well as, a sidekick. Lucy Lawless continues to be a strong villain as Ruby. Here she is defying not only Ash, but the Dark Ones themselves, which leads to Ruby being on everyone’s hit list. Lawless oozes malice and devilish confidence. Newbies Lindsay Farris as Sumarian Knight Dalton and Katrina Hobbs as Brandy’s mom Candy, both are good in their parts, but neither character hangs around long enough to really make an impact or get fully developed. To get to the meat of the story, some character development went out the window with the supporting players. Good news to fans of last season, though, Lee Majors returns in episodes Apparently Dead and Unfinished Business as Ash’s dead dad Brock. Couldn’t have cast Ash’s dad any better.

In conclusion, This was consistent with the other two seasons and thus fans should be thankful for three solid seasons of Ash and his battle against the Deadites. There were a few weak spots, but they were outweighed by lot of fun and gory moments, true to the franchise. The last half of the season was really strong and gave us a satisfying…and very Evil Dead…finale as the show and it’s star are not returning. Thanks to Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi and the rest of the cast and crew for finishing Ash’s story in true Evil Dead style.

EPISODE LIST

  1. Family – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Mark Verheiden
  2. Booth Three – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Rob Fresco
  3. Apparently Dead – directed by Diego & Andres Meza-Valdes and written by Ivan Raimi
  4. Unfinished Business – directed by Daniel Nettheim and written by Nicki Paluga
  5. Baby Proof – directed by Daniel Nettheim and written by Luke Kalteaux
  6. Tales from the Rift – directed by Regan Hall and written by Aaron Lam
  7. Twist and Shout – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Caitlin Meares
  8. Rifting Apart – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Bryan Hill
  9. Judgement Day – directed and written by Rick Jacobson
  10. The Mettle of Man – directed and written by Rick Jacobson

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…and a farewell message from “Ash Williams” himself, Bruce Campbell…

“Good people, Evil Dead fans everywhere, I bid you a heartfelt farewell playing Ash – the character I took acting lessons with for 39 years. I am hereby retiring from that portrayal. It’s time. I followed Ash from his formative years thru his mid-life crisis and decline. What a thrill! What a privilege! We had a great resurgence with the help of Starz (kudos not jeers, folks). They made it possible for 15 more hours of Evil Dead-ness in your life – the equivalent of 10 more features! Is Ash dead? Never. Ash is as much a concept as a person. Where there is evil in this world, there must be one to counter – man or woman, it matters not.

Thanks for watching.

Love, Bruce”

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 groovy chainsaws.
evil dead 2 rating

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GHOST STORIES (2017)

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GHOST STORIES (2017)

British horror anthology has an interesting premise. Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman) has spent his career debunking supernatural events and exposing fraudulent psychics. Professor Charles Cameron, a renown paranormal investigator in the 70s, who hasn’t been heard of for years and is assumed dead, summons Goodman and tasks him with a challenge. He must debunk the only three cases that Cameron failed to. One is the case of Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse) a night watchman in an abandoned asylum who is seeing things go bump in the night. The second is that of Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther) a meek young man who claims to have hit a demonic goat creature with his father’s car and is now hunted by it. The third is the case of Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman) who is haunted by a malevolent spirit while his wife lay in the hospital in painful labor. As Goodman investigates each case, it may be himself that he ultimately learns the truth about.

Flick is written and directed by star Nyman and Jeremy Dyson and is a spooky affair. The story set-up is quite intriguing with a skeptic, who has made a career of exposing frauds and hoaxes, being called upon by a like individual to solve three cases the man could not. As such, the three stories are very spooky, especially the first two, as Goodman faces what could be actual supernatural occurrences, unlike the frauds he’s used to dealing with. The second case “Simon Rifkind” is by far the creepiest with the young man’s home life being as unsettling as the story he is telling, his own house being scarier than the demon infested woods that his tale takes place in. The film generates the creeps with little blood or CGI and uses some nice spooky locations to add atmosphere. If the film stumbles a bit, it’s that the three stories seem a bit rushed and feel like they could have gone on longer. Also, the last act reveal/wrap-up is a bit disappointing compared to what has passed. After being rushed through the really spooky stories that could have used more attention, we get a reveal that has been done before and seems like a bit of a let-down after such a clever set-up. It evoked a “that’s all?” reaction instead of a “that’s fricken’ creepy” which it needed.

The small cast is solid. Co-writer/director Nyman was fine as Goodman, though he could have used a bit more presence. Paul Whitehouse is good as Tony Matthews, the working class man who has seen things he cannot explain or comprehend in our first case. Alex Lawther is positively creepy as the odd Simon Rifkind, who may be more unnerving than the idea he ran over an actual demon. Martin Freeman is good as Mike Priddle, a self centered business man haunted in his home, while his poor wife suffers an unusually grueling labor in a hospital. As for who plays Charles Cameron…you’ll have to watch to find out.

Overall, this was a spooky flick that only loses it’s grip in the final act when we get our big reveal. Star Nyman and his collaborator Jeremy Dyson deliver some spooky goods in their three cases, as well as, a clever set-up. Not able to end the flick on the same level of scary and clever is the only stumbling point the flick has. It’s not that the finale doesn’t work, it does. It’s just that we were expecting something more…unexpected. Still very much worth a look, as the three cases do deliver and we wish they had more attention spent on them than with our wraparound story.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 spooks.

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