BARE BONES: AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING (2014)

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AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING (2014)

Unnecessary horror sequel has sat on the shelf for three years and now we know why. Flick has single mother Joan (Jennifer Jason Leigh) moving into the infamous house with rebellious daughter Belle, (Bella Thorne) younger daughter Juliet (Mckenna Grace) and son, James (Cameron Monaghan), who has been in a vegetative state since an incident that Bella blames herself for. Once settled in, Bella starts to believe something is very wrong as she learns the house’s horrifying history and her brother starts to make some remarkable and impossible improvements. Cue flies and the prerequisite “get outs”.

Despite it’s title, you’ll find it hard to stay awake during this sequel. Flick is written and directed by Franck Khalfoun who shows none of the style he showed in his Maniac remake and has concocted a very lazy script with all the familiar tropes un-inventively rolled out. Movie tries to legitimize itself by acknowledging all the other films were just that, movies and that this film is supposed take place in reality. But, it’s as far from reality as you can get and the only scary thing is how often Khalfoun likes to film actress Bella Thorne’s rear. It’s a terrible sequel with a wooden cast and even vets like Leigh and Kurtwood Smith seem to be phoning in their parts. Having the demon inhabit a person in a vegetative state is just dull and it keeps the action “bed ridden” till the climax we all know is coming a mile away. Awful waste of time and belongs back on the shelf it came from.

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972)

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DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972)

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

Dr. Phibes (Vincent Price) rises from his self-imposed embalming and travels to Egypt to find the River of Life to resurrect his bride (Caroline Munro) from her eternal slumber. Phibes is in a race against time, as his rival Darius Biederbeck (Robert Quarry) also seeks eternal life and is headed there himself with his team. Phibes, not to be undone, finds gruesome ways to eliminate his competition, as he closes in on his goal.

Sequel is again directed by Robert Fuest from a script by he and Robert Blees. The 60s art deco look also returns, as does the twisted sense of humor. This installment seems to be a bit quicker paced and has more of a sense of fun, as Phibes’ death traps are even more elaborate and he has a hidden lair in one of the tombs that would make a Bond villain envious. How did he get all this stuff into Egypt and built without notice? Who cares? It’s a delightfully devious and fun romp as Phibes now has a rival who may be, at heart, even more sinister than he is. This dynamic makes Phibes more of an anti-hero this time as he slaughters his way through Biederbeck’s team with one death more inventive than the other. Watching him outwit his nemesis and decimate his accomplices, one by one, is a lot of ghoulish fun.

Price is again in top form, as usual, as Anton Phibes. The legendary actor is a delight to watch as the diabolical madman, and this time we don’t have to hide the fact that we are rooting for him. Robert Quarry is a suitable foil for the skull faced Phibes. His Biederbeck is a smug megalomaniac and we delight in watching his scheme slowly unravel at the hands of the devious doctor. Fiona Lewis is a sexy femme fatale as Biederbeck’s accomplice and romantic interest, Diana and Phibes’ loyal assistant Vulnavia returns (somehow) as well, though is this time played by Valli Kamp. Flick also features a brief cameo by the legendary Peter Cushing as a ship’s captain and a returning Terry-Thomas in a new role.

Like the first film, this is a cult classic and another example of why Vincent Price is a horror legend. It’s a bit more outlandish and thus twisted fun, than the first film, though the original was a bit more gruesome. There were many plans to bring the doctor back for a third film, one project was to be directed by George Romero and another would see Quarry return and add William (Blacula) Marshall to the mix. Sadly, none ever happened. There is talk of a remake with Malcolm McDowell, but this is such a classic Price role, it’s hard to see anyone else playing the organ and wearing the skull face.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Phibes.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: WISH UPON (2017)

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WISH UPON (2017)

Wish Upon is yet another generic, teen-centric PG-13 horror that finds cute high school student Clare (Joey King) being given a Chinese wish box found by her dumpster diving father (Ryan Phillippe). The picked-on teen uses it to make a wish against the local mean girl (Josephine Langford) and finds it actually comes true. Now as she begins to use the box, she learns that it comes with a terrible price as those close to her begin to suffer horrible fates.

Flick is directed by John Leonetti (Annabell) from a script by Barbara Marshall and the result is a mildly entertaining hodge-podge of classic horror stories like The Monkey’s Paw and other flicks like the Final Destination series. Leonetti is a competent director, but not really able to create any scares. The film has some amusing scenes and the young cast are charming enough, but it’s nothing new and the familiar elements are not used inventively enough to really make this spooky fun. Not a complete waste of time, but forgettable and by-the-numbers as the teen horror sub-genre goes.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES SEPT 29-OCT 1

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

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

1. “It” $17.3 Million

2. “American Made” $17.016 Million

3. “Kingsman:The Golden Circle” $17 Million

4. “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” $12 Million

5. “Flatliners” $6.7 Million

6. “Battle of the Sexes” $3.4 Million

7. “American Assassin” $3.3 Million

8. “Home Again” $1.75 Million

9. “Til Death Do Us Part” $1.5 Million

10. “Mother!” $1.4 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GERALD’S GAME (2017)

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GERALD’S GAME (2017)

Gerald’s Game is a Netflix original film adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name that many felt was almost impossible to adapt. Along comes Hush and Oculus director Mike Flanagan to prove those naysayers wrong. Story finds Jessie (Carla Gugino) and husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) going up to a secluded lake house to put some spark back in their marriage. Gerald’s idea of turning up the heat is to handcuff Jessie to the bed. When his sex game gets a little too rough for Jessie, she protests and struggles and the ensuing argument…plus the effects of the Viagra Gerald took…gives the man a fatal heart attack. Now trapped by the bonds of the intended sex game, Jessie is unable to get free, left alone with only the manifestations of a panicking mind, haunting memories from her past and a hungry stray dog to keep her company.

Flanagan once again delivers one of the best horror films of the year, as well as, one of the best Stephen King adaptations. His script with Jeff Howard brilliantly comes up with a way to portray Jessie’s inner monologue by using a trick he used briefly in Hush, by having Gugino and Greenwood basically play different trains of thought going on in her head. It works tremendously in letting us know what is going on in Jessie’s frightened mind as her imprisonment drags on for days and she engages in conversation with herself and her dead husband, revealing her fears and the painful memories her current situation drags up. If the inner terror isn’t enough…and some of these dialogue bits are intense and disturbing…there is the hungry mutt who is snacking on Gerald and a ghoulish phantom figure Jessie keeps seeing at night, at least one of which being a very real threat. The result is a very terrifying and nail-biting story of a woman basically left by happenstance to die and what goes on in her head during the ordeal. If the film falters a little…and it’s only a little…is that the last ten minutes deviates a bit into the subject of Jessie’s possible creeper and it feels like it’s part of a different movie, despite being basically from the book. It still brings us to a satisfying conclusion, but just felt a little out of place when compared to the preceding 90 minutes, which was dark and gripping on an intimate scale, taking place up to that point in the Burlingame bedroom.

Flanagan may have indeed masterfully directed this tale of terror, but his success would not be without two Oscar caliber performances from leads Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood. Both actors play themselves and manifestations of Jessie’s fears and mental breakdown and as such these actors are superb. Gugino has always been a good actress and here she delivers one of the best performances of her career. As Jessie, she vividly portrays a woman harboring some dark memories and secrets which come bubbling to the surface as she left alone and helpless to a horrible fate. The actress is simply amazing as both Jessie and the manifestation of Jessie’s subconscious. The same could be said of Greenwood, who plays not only her husband, who has a bit of a dark side himself, but also the manifestations of Jessie’s fears and weaknesses. The two actors’ performances are unbelievably in-sync especially when playing off each other as conflicting patterns of thought in the terrified woman’s head. Fantastic work. There are some supporting actors as well, such as Henry Thomas and Hush‘s Kate Siegel  as Jessie mom and dad in flashbacks and Carel Struycken as the phantom figure Jessie interprets as death coming to take her.

Mike Flanagan has yet to disappoint and here he delivers one of his strongest films yet. He and co-writer Jeff Howard have a script that borders on brilliant at times in it’s adapting of a story that many felt was impossible to adapt. The film is terrifying and disturbing and doesn’t pull punches or turn away from some of the more intense subject matter…and there is a bit of effective gore, too. The last few scenes may feel a bit out of place from the previous nail-biting sequences, but they remain faithful to King’s story and certainly don’t tarnish one of the best horror films of the year. The teaming of Flanagan and Netflix has produced two really top notch horror flicks and it makes one eagerly anticipate The Haunting of Hill House series Flanagan has upcoming on the network.

-MonsterZero NJ

A solid 3 and 1/2 handcuffs.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: WELCOME TO WILLITS (2016)

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WELCOME TO WILLITS (2016)

Ho-hum flick has pot farmer, Brock (Bill Sage) in the backwoods town of Willits, seeing aliens and conspiracy at every turn. When a group of campers invade his turf and some actual aliens drop by, too. Brock doesn’t know who to trust and his paranoia puts everyone in danger, alien and human alike.

Boring flick is directed by Trevor Ryan from a script by Tim Ryan and the flick doesn’t know whether it wants to be funny or serious and is successful at neither. It a dull thriller about a paranoid burn-out who sees aliens and conspiracy everywhere, even with his own girlfriend (Sabina Gadecki) and niece (Anastasia Baranova), not to mention some innocent campers. The flick has some decent effects, but there are long dialogue stretches that aren’t interesting or entertaining, as the film switches focus from paranoid Brock to the fish-out-of-water campers who eventually cross his path. Those looking for the credited Dolph Lundgren will be greatly disappointed, as he appears only as a cop on a TV show that Brock is watching during the course of the film…and false Dolph Lundgren advertising is definitely going to loose this flick even more points with this reviewer.

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: CULT OF CHUCKY (2017)

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CULT OF CHUCKY (2017)

It’s been four years since horror icon Chucky’s triumphant return to form in Curse Of Chucky. Now he returns again, this time roaming the halls of a medium security institute for the mentally ill. This installment finds Nica (Fiona Dourif) declared mentally insane after taking blame for the murders Chucky committed in the Pierce house and she’s been institutionalized since. Meanwhile, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) has been keeping and tormenting Chucky’s possessed head and Nica’s doctor (Michael Therriault) decides to bring in a Good Guys Doll as part of her therapy. It also seems, though, that Chucky has been busy learning new spells and can inhabit more than one doll…and as more Good Guy Dolls show up at the institute via Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) and Andy, all hell breaks loose with Nica at the center of it. With more than one Chucky stalking the halls and Andy and Tiffany on premises, the inmates will soon be running the asylum!

Don Mancini returns again to write and direct and again delivers one of the best of the series. Cult of Chucky is an absolute blast of bloody fun as the demented Chucky starts to off the inmates and staff of the Harrogate institute, all the while tormenting Nica. The gore is plentiful and the kills inventive and Mancini takes full advantage of the sterile environment of the institute in contrast to the old haunted house style setting of the last flick. He giddily splashes the clean white walls with bright red blood and really has come into his own as a visual director with some Kubrick-esque shots and hallucination sequences. He balances the mood very well here with playing things fairly straight, yet keeping and honing the series’ twisted sense of humor, especially in portraying Chucky’s enthusiasm for what he does. He also gets to have some fun with the fact that Chucky can inhabit more than one doll at once and there are at least three roaming the dimly lit halls at one point. And Chucky gets to delight in the fact that only Nica knows he’s real and the rest of the inhabitants are in dangerous denial. It’s simply a really fun, stylish and gory time with one of horrors most famous icons in top form thanks to Mancini’s clever script and direction. Sure there area few plot holes, such as how did Chucky research new spells if he was only a disembodied head in Andy’s possession, but otherwise this is a solid entry in the Child’s Play franchise.

The cast are all in top form, too. Brad Dourif once again performs Chucky’s vocals with gusto and at this point, it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing it. Daughter Fiona Dourif is also solid as Nica. She takes the material seriously and plays the role with conviction, until the last act where the script allows her to go a little over-the-top and she has fun with what she’s required to do. Alex Vincent certainly is having a good time as the adult Andy and Jennifer Tilly is a delight as the demented Tiffany, playing it as if there was never a long break in-between films. The rest of the cast do well in portraying various inmates and staff, many of whom fall to Chucky’s homicidal antics.

This installment was really entertaining. Don Mancini has found a way to revive this series with two recent quality installments that further the adventures of Chucky and yet delightfully pay tribute to the earlier chapters in the franchise. Where most horror series slowly fizzle out as they go along, Don Mancini has found a way to keep this one fresh, inventive and lots of bloody fun. Sure there are a few plot holes, but you are willing to overlook them because you’re having such a gory good time.

-MonsterZero NJ

A solid 3 Chuckys.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: LEATHERFACE (2017)

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LEATHERFACE (2017)

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

Latest in this franchise, inspired by the late Tobe Hooper’s original horror classic, is a prequel that attempts to take us back to the youth of one Jed Sawyer, aka Leatherface. The film opens with young Jed (Boris Kabakchiev) getting his trademark chainsaw as a gift from his deranged mother (Lili Taylor), but not too keen on using it on the captive pig thief they mean to teach a lesson. When the clan murders a lawman’s daughter (Lorina Kamburova), her father, Texas Ranger Hal Hartman (Stephen Dorff) can’t prove it, but does get young Jed removed from the Sawyer house for child endangerment. He’s committed to an institution for wayward youth and there he is raised with a new name and identity. When four young inmates violently escape the institute with a pretty young nurse (Vanessa Grasse) as a hostage, their trail of blood will transform one of them into the mass murderer known as Leatherface.

Latest film in this series is written by Seth M. Sherwood and directed by the duo of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury who directed the over-the-top French gore-fest Inside. As such, the film does have some nasty gore and some really disturbing moments, including a shiver inducing scene of necrophilia. What the film doesn’t really have is a purpose. Do we really need to see Leatherface’s teen years? It may be somewhat clever that we don’t know which of the teens…well, it’s obviously not psychotic Tammy (Nicole Andrews)…is the grown-up Jed. We are kept guessing if it’s crazy Ike (James Bloor), the hulking Bud (Sam Coleman) or the somewhat noble Jackson (Sam Strike), who will turn out to be Jed. Once we find out though, it’s not the powerful revelation it should be. And this is where the film falters. Most of the flick is focused on these youth on the run causing bloody carnage wherever they go. It removes Jed from his clan for the first two acts and thus we really don’t get a sense of how the man became a monster, as we don’t really see him with his deranged kin and in their influence till the last third and then the transformation seems to happen all too quickly. True, the institute was almost a worse place than his childhood home and there is plenty of violence when they’re on the run, but like Rob Zombie’s Halloween, it almost takes away from the randomness of the character to try to explain his behavior through his constant exposure to horrifyingly brutal acts, even outside his bonkers family. Isn’t the maniac scarier when he is simply a maniac?…a natural born killer? Even in it’s final moments, we never really connect this young man with the monster, even when he dons his first face mask. At least Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury deliver some really twisted moments to keep the film entertaining on a basic horror film level and the carnage is very well rendered. It’s just it never completely feels like a part of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre legacy or adds anything really worthy to the lore.

The cast are fine enough. The teen leads all do their parts in playing their respective roles. Nicole Andrews is chilling as the completely deranged Tammy, as is James Bloor as the violently inclined Ike who becomes her lover. Sam Coleman is the large but outwardly timid Bud, who becomes extremely savage once provoked. Strike is solid as the only escaped inmate with somewhat of a moral center and Vanessa Grasse is a likable heroine as the hostage Lizzy. The real standouts here, though, are veteran actress Lili Taylor as the out-of-her-mind Sawyer matriarch, Verna and Stephen Dorff as the equally psychotic Texas Ranger Hardy. The film should have focused more on them.

Leatherface was a decent edition to the Texas Chainsaw franchise and better than some of it’s predecessors. But it’s also one that never really seems necessary or overly relevant. The events portrayed can be disturbing and gruesome, yet we never really feel we are watching the birth of a monster, as we did in Bereavement for example. It is interesting that the film tries to keep us in the dark as to who actually is the grown up Jed Sawyer, but once we find out, it lacks the impact it should have, even when iconic chainsaw and skin mask come into play. Worth a watch for some chilling moments, but the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 chainsaws.

 

 

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES SEPT 22-24

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

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

1. “Kingsman:The Golden Circle” $39 Million

2. “It” $30 Million

3. “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” $21.2 Million

4. “American Assassin” $6.25 Million

5. “Home Again” $3.3 Million

6. “Mother!” $3.2 Million

7. “Friend Request” $2.4 Million

8. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” $1.85 Million

9. “Stronger” $1.7 Million

10. “Wind River” $1.26 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 (2017)

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THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 (2017)

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

The Houses October Built was a  fun found footage horror with a simple premise. During the Halloween season, five friends decide to take an RV road trip to seek out and find the most extreme and scary Halloween attractions they can, documenting it all on camera…of course they got more than they bargained for. The sequel picks up a year later with the group having become internet celebrities due to the broadcasting of their predicament at the hands of The Blue Skeleton on social media. Now Halloween haunts are paying them to come and promote their attractions…all but Brandy (Brandy Schaefer) who is still traumatized. Brandy…now known on the net as “coffin girl”…however, is the one the haunts all want promoting their attractions and the gang have to do a lot of convincing…and paying…to get her back in. Brandy eventually agrees, not knowing that someone is watching them and that the The Blue Skeleton group may not be done scaring them yet.

First flick was a lot of fun as it both worked both as a horror flick, yet also dove into the underground world of Halloween haunts. This sequel does the same but opens it up to include Zombie 5k’s and even an “adult” themed haunt. The script by director and actor Bobby Roe, with cast member Zack Andrews, cleverly gets the gang back out there by having them now being paid by the haunts themselves to do what they did last time. Roe keeps the found footage format somewhat, but this one plays more like a movie which works as the feel of legitimate found footage was one of the weaker aspects the first time around. The group’s use of a drone, also opens up the scale with some frequent aerial photography. This sequel does take a little while to get going and may not be as consistently Halloween spirited as the last one, but once things start to get spooky, when our group…Brandy in particular…are being stalked, it gets as fun as the last one. It also has a few surprises up it’s sleeve, especially when the group meets their intended fate at the Hellbent attraction where the familiar blue skull-ed creepers spring their trap. It provides an intense and entertaining last act and shows Bobby Roe has matured as a filmmaker, somewhat, providing some legitimate chills.

The main cast, Zack Andrews, Mike and Bobby Roe, Jeff Larson and Brandy Schaefer, all return and are certainly fine, basically playing themselves. Schaefer stands out as she has the most emoting to do with her character being a reluctant participant, who is still haunted by almost being buried alive. Brandy has a couple of strong scenes expressing her fears and concerns over returning to these underground haunts and the climax gives her some solid material to work with. She would make a good final girl in a straight up horror. Mikey Roe also has some screen charisma as lovable party animal and joker of the group.

This was an enjoyable sequel and with some clever writing they may be able to get at least one more chapter out of this franchise. This follow-up pretty much equaled the first flick, which was a fun look at extreme Halloween haunts and a sometimes spooky little horror flick, too. The sequel freshens things up by opening up it’s spectrum of interested to include other types of Halloween attractions and figures out a way to get it’s characters back out there, after being scared out of their wits the last time. It does take a while to get going and the Halloween spirit isn’t as consistent as the last time…maybe too much of it was shot in the daytime?…but it does deliver some goods, especially in the last act. If you liked the first The Houses October Built you might enjoy this second romp as well and it would make a nice double feature during the spooky season to watch both films together.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scary clowns…they return too!

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