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, nostalgic and it even has a disco dance sequence, how can you hate that!?

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 in November of 2018, 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 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 (out of 4) hammers.

 

 

 

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Farewell and RIP Brittany Belland

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REVIEW: SUMMER OF 84 (2018)

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SUMMER OF 84 (2018)

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

80s set flick is from Turbo Kid makers François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell and takes place in the small town of Ipswich, Oregon where normally nothing happens. The area, however, has been plagued with the disappearances of some teenage boys and now a killer dubbed The Cape May Slayer is taking credit. Ipswich teen Davey (Graham Verchere) is convinced his cop neighbor, Officer Mackey (Rich Sommer) is responsible. Determined to save themselves and their neighborhood, Davey and friends Tommy (Judah Lewis), Curtis (Cory Gruter-Andrew) and Woody (Caleb Emery) decide to gather enough evidence to bring him down.

Simard and the Whissells direct from a well-written script by Stephen J. Smith and Matt Leslie and give this mystery/thriller loads of atmosphere, aside from it’s wonderfully nostalgic 80s feel. It’s like one of those teen-centric buddy movies from the 80s like Stand By Me, but with the brooding atmosphere and last act right out of an 80s slasher. While Turbo Kid paid homage to the low budget Road Warrior rip-offs that permeated much of the decade, this one recreates an 80s coming of age movie that’s been cross-bred with a slasher flick and the mix works perfectly. The tropes are all present, including our young hero Davey crushing on his former babysitter, Nikki (Tiera Skovbye) and finding she likes him back and a climax that leaves us unsettled long after the credits roll. This trio knows their 80s and they also know how to deftly create a homage while still making their own film. By the very nature of being a homage we’ve seen a lot before, but it is the love and respect given the recreation of the beloved elements that makes it work so well. It also knows our familiarity with these scenarios and is not afraid to play a little with our expectations, too. We get a likable group of young guys to get behind and the makers are not afraid to put them…and the audience…through the ringer once the last act kicks into intense gear. Add to that some nice nostalgic cinematography by Jean-Philippe Bernier and a great electronic score by Le Matos and you have not only return to a style of filmmaking that inspired many of today’s talent, but a successful mystery/thriller in it’s own right.

The cast of relative unknowns are really effective. Graham Verchere is a very likable, yet realistic teen. He has an overactive imagination and a crush on the slightly older girl-next-door and an obsession that his neighbor is a killer. A classic character, but one given enough of his own personality to avoid being a cliché. Lewis, Gruter-Andrew and Emery also accomplish the same with their characters taking the classic delinquent, geek and “fat kid”, respectively and making them more than the stereotype characters they represent. Rich Sommer is also good as Officer Mackey. The actor makes him nice enough to have us doubt Davey one moment, yet also gives him a subtle creepiness that makes you think that maybe Davey is right after all. Rounding out the main cast is pretty Tiera Skovbye as sassy girl-next-door Nikki, a character also given enough emotional depth from the actress and script to transcend the cliché she could have been. The flick’s script gives each character some emotional resonance and thus a good cast a solid base to work with.

Overall, this was a really good homage to a unique age of movies that was the 80s. It had all the tropes very well recreated, yet as a mystery and thriller was quite effective on it’s own, aside from the nostalgic 80s setting. The script gives the characters some dimension and depth while putting them through the paces of a coming of age movie intertwined with a slasher. If you are a fan of 80s flicks or are old enough to have seen a lot of these flicks during that era, this movie is both a nostalgic treat and a chilling and intense thriller, that’s not afraid to play with your expectations at times.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3and 1/2 (out of 4) 80s style walkie talkies.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: DON’T KILL IT and DARK FOREST

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DON’T KILL IT (2016)

Horror/comedy follows the exploits of demon hunter Jebediah Woodley (Dolph Lundgren) as he hunts a nasty body hopping demon in a small town. The demon’s murderous activities attracts the attention of the FBI and now Woodley is forced to team with sexy FBI agent Evelyn Pierce (Kristina Klebe from RZ’s Halloween and Tales Of Halloween) to hunt it down…if he can convince her it really exists and he’s not crazy.

Goofy, fun and delightfully over-the-top gory, flick is directed in Sharknado style by Mike Mendez from a script by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen. Sure it’s silly and never scary for a minute, but the cast seem to be having a good time and Mendez brings his energetic and humor filled style to the proceedings such as he did with Gravedancers and Big Ass Spider. Mendez can take the most ridiculous of premises and just run with it and this flick is no different. Lundgren plays it straight, as does Klebe who proves once again she can pull double duty as leading lady and action hero. Goofy, harmless and blood-spattered fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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DARK FOREST (2015)

Slasher homage finds four gal pals, Emily (Laurel McArthur), Michelle (Veronica Ternopolski), Francine (Jalin Desloges) and Jolene (Weronika Sokalska) all heading into the woods for a girls camping trip. Unknown to them, they are being followed by Peter (Dennis Scullard), Emily’s psychotic boyfriend who wants revenge for being defied and embarrassed by the four party girls. As our unsuspecting hotties enjoy their trip, Peter cuts a bloody path of pursuit into the woods leaving a trail of bodies behind him.

Flick written and directed in 80s slasher style by Roger Boyer may be a bit amateurish at times, but has it’s bloody heart in the right place. Boyer may not conjure any real scares, but the film does have a strong 80s slasher vibe, including 80s style soundtrack and gives us some abundant gore and an equally abundant cast of hotties, much like the horrors of that era did. Our four leading ladies are actually quite fine in their roles and are very likable characters to root/fear for while Scullard does make a creepy killer. Boyer’s slasher may be short on story, but at 75 minutes, the flick is kept short and sweet and doesn’t wear out it’s welcome. Sure there are some editing weaknesses and the film looks very low budget, but these are things a filmmaker can overcome with experience and low budget horror is where the heart and soul of the genre resides anyway. A nice effort that pays respectful tribute to it’s influences.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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