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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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rites of spring



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Rites Of Spring is nothing original. It’s plot is a mash-up, of sorts, of things we’ve seen before. It’s basically Children Of  The Corn meets From Dusk Till Dawn with bits and pieces of a few others thrown in for good measure. But, it is well made and well directed by filmmaker Padraig Reynolds and is a perfectly suitable horror entertainment for a night on the couch.

This tale of terror has two separate story lines occurring at once. One is the kidnapping of a rich couple’s little girl by four individuals, two brothers of whom are a bit reluctant, and the other is the kidnapping of two young women (Anessa Ramsey and Hannah Bryan) by a strange man in a bar parking lot. One abduction is for the purpose of extortion, while the other is for a far more horrifying purpose. Obviously, these two separate stories will collide as kidnappers and abductees alike will face a blood-thirsy abomination that wants both victim and criminal dead with equal relish. Will any of them survive?

Again, this is not an original story nor is it anything we haven’t seen before but, writer/director Padraig Reynolds presents his story well and knows how to build some suspense and chills. His script is nothing new but, it is atmospheric and moves quickly and kept my attention throughout the familiarity of it all. Not a great flick but,  I was entertained and only a last act coincidence of two characters from the separate story lines knowing each other had me grimace, as it seemed a bit too far-fetched and had no baring on the story. It was a pointless attempt to give A.J. Bowen’s kidnapper Ben a reason to risk his life for heroine Rachel (Anessa Ramsey) when his moral difficulties with being involved in the kidnapping and the events following, were enough for us to believe he wants to make things right. Other than that small misstep, and that the ending is also a bit abrupt, the film works fine and we get some well-orchestrated blood and gore to go with our decapitation happy creature. The film also keeps our monster in question just ambiguous enough to add an air of mystery, as we only know “The Stranger” (Marco St. John) needs to feed it during the weeks of Spring to ensure a healthy crop. It’s origins are never discussed and in this case it worked for the character though, it could have carried a bit more menace. As for the rest of the low budget but, good looking production, the cinematography by Carl Herse accents Reynolds efficient visual style nicely and we get some added atmosphere by Holly Amber Church’s creepy score.

The cast are all adequate though, no real stand-out performances. Indie horror fixture A.J. Bowen is fine as Ben, the first-time criminal with a conscience. Ramsey has a bit of a grating scream but, otherwise is feisty and resourceful as abductee and potential monster meal, Rachel who never gives up fighting. Sonny Marinelli lays it on a bit thick as Ben’s partner with his own agenda and Marco St. John is a suitably creepy “Stranger”. The supporting cast, including Katherine Randolph as Ben’s eager to kidnap girlfriend Amy, are all fine and there were three people listed in the cast as the creature dubbed “Karmanor” and all do well in giving the creature some menace though, it could have been a bit stronger a villain overall.

So, I enjoyed Rites Of Spring. It’s not a great movie or an original one but, it is solidly enough made and filmmaker Padraig Reynolds seems to know enough about what makes a horror film work to keep it from getting dull. There are some spooky moments and some bloody kills and enough suspense to make this a pleasant 80 minutes on the couch if you are looking for something to watch and an indie horror will do. I’ve seen much better but, you could do far worse.

3 hung up heroines.

rites of spring rating




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youre next


YOU’RE NEXT (2013)

It amazes me how such a dull and predictable thriller such as You’re Next can arrive with such positive hype. It boggles the mind that so many positive adjectives are thrown at something that was so tedious to sit through and so unoriginal. You’re Next tells the story of a group of snooty rich people that gather for a family dinner at a remote mansion in the woods. But, all is not what it seems as soon they are besieged by a group of masked and well-armed killers and predictably, all inside the house are not what they seem either so it’s no surprise the killers are not in for an easy night. What follows is over an hour of annoying shaky cam, annoying characters, plot holes, brutal, numbing violence, plot twists seen from a mile away and a few well placed jump scares but, very little suspense or frights. First problem is the folks at the house are cardboard pretentious rich folks and not very interesting so, we have a hard time really giving a hoot as they become prey to the masked killers. The deaths on both sides are telegraphed long before they happen so, there is little suspense to go with the gore. We know ‘who’s next’ immediately by the unimaginative scene set ups that we’ve seen countless times before. Characters recuperative powers defy logic as they are gravely injured in one scene and appear fine the next. Running up the stairs with a crossbow bolt in your back? Sure! Characters also do really stupid things to set themselves up as victims on both sides and as for the ‘surprise plot twists’ they are obvious the minute the characters arrive as to who we should keep an eye on. There are a few effective scenes but, far too few to make this tolerable and it’s not inventive or clever enough to forgive that it’s really a routine home invasion flick with some predictable plot turns that are no surprise once revealed. We suspect this is what’s up from early on and are proven right by Simon Barrett’s weak script. Director Adam Wingard is too busy shaking his camera and spattering blood to do anything interesting with the simple concept nor distract us from seeing where this tedious flick is going long before it get’s there. The violence gets tiresome long before the final showdown… thought that scene does contain one of the film’s best bits. The cast too are pretty bland with Sharni Vinson showing a bit of spunk as the resourceful Erin but, even Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton can’t give these two dimensional characters much life especially with spurts of some truly awful dialog. A character’s confession in the last act was literally making me wince. Worst yet, aside from knowing how it’s going to end, the film’s last shot ‘joke’ is also glaringly obvious, we know it’s coming and it offers no surprise or fun. A predictable and ineffective shock ending for a predictable and ineffective horror thriller. Also stars director Ti West in a brief role and TI West regulars AJ Bowen and Larry Fessenden. Very little to recommend unless you like violence for violence sake. A major disappointment.

2 blenders!

youre next rating