HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HOLIDAYS (2016)

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HOLIDAYS (2016)

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

Holidays is a horror anthology that presents eight short stories, each based on a holiday and adding some kind of supernatural/horror twist. Each tale is written and directed by different filmmakers with somewhat mixed resluts.

The first is Valentines Day, written and directed by Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch (Starry Eyes) and tells the story of  introverted high school girl Maxine (Madeleine Coghlan) who has a crush on her swimming coach (Rick Peters). When she misinterprets a sympathetic Valentine’s Day card from him, she decides to solve her bullying problem and present her object of affection with a special gift, all at the same time. It is an effective story with some very gruesome moments and has a bit of that offbeat, disturbing feel that made Starry Eyes work so well.

Next up is St. Patrick’s Day written and directed by Gary Shore (Dracula Untold). This tells the story of a new little girl (Isolt McCaffrey) at school who gives her teacher (Ruth Bradley) a St. Patrick’s Day wish with disturbing results. This episodes starts out creepy enough, but gets progressively silly till it’s goofy ending.

Next up is Easter written and directed by Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact). This tells a really weird and disturbing tale of a little girl (Ava Acres) who accidentally catches the Easter Bunny (Mark Steger) in the act…but he’s not quite what she expected and there is a disturbing price for being the first child to ever see him. This is a weird episode that unsettlingly combines both the Christian doctrine and traditional bunny folklore of Easter. While not totally successful, it gets extra points for being daring enough to ‘go there’.

The next tale is written and directed by Sarah Adina Smith and is called Mother’s Day. It’s an odd story about a woman (Sophie Traub) who is ‘cursed’ by getting pregnant every time she has sex. She is sent to, of all places, a fertility clinic, to solve her problem, one which turns out to be more than it seems. This episode was really strange, yet a bit unsatisfying as it didn’t seem to go anywhere and had a predictable and cliché shock ending.

Father’s Day is one of the best tales. It is written and directed by FX man Anthony Scott Burns (FX for The Last Exorcism Part II). It tells of a young woman (House of the Devil’s Jocelin Donahue) who receives a recorded message from her long dead father, asking her to meet him at a special place from her childhood. This is a very effective episode that is moody, creepy and heartbreaking, thanks in equal parts to good direction and a very strong performance by Donahue.

The biggest disappointment and worst episode is Kevin Smith’s Halloween. It takes place on Halloween, but has little to do with the holiday as it tells the story of Ian (Harley Mortenstein) the mean owner of a Sex Cam business who has a painful rebellion from three of his employees (Ashley Greene, Olivia Roush and Harley Quinn Smith). It forgoes any attempt at something spooky for more of Smith’s traditional adolescent vulgarity. Boring, crude and has nothing to do with the holiday it represents.

Anthology get’s back on track with Scott Stewart’s (Dark SkiesChristmas. This one tells the tale of a down-on-his-luck dad (Seth Green) who goes to disturbing lengths to get his kid the pair of virtual reality glasses he wants. These glasses, however, reveal a person’s true self and he and his wife (Clare Grant) learn some very unsettling things about each other. This is a fun and chilling episode and Green is entertaining to watch as the desperate dad and Clare Grant is good as the wife with a secret side to her.

Final episode is New Year’s and is is directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer (Some Kind Of Hate) from a script by Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch. It tells the story of a serial killer (Andrew Bowen) who has specific plans for his New Year’s Eve date (Lorenza Izzo) who turns out to have far more in common with him than he realizes. This is a twisted and fun episode with a really entertaining psycho  turn by Izzo as Jean. Izzo is showning a talent for these roles, as she was one of the few fun parts of Knock Knock.

Overall, this was a mixed bag, but the good outweighed the bad. There were a few disappointments, especially from Kevin Smith who dropped the ball on delivering something in the Halloween spirit for his tale. We did gets some spooky and effective stories, with the standout being Burn’s Father’s Day which had a sympathetic and strong portrayal from Jocelin Donahue. Definitely worth a watch for the segments that did work and even a couple of the failures had an originality to their telling.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Christmas trees.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SOME KIND OF HATE (2015)

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SOME KIND OF HATE (2015)

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

Some Kind Of Hate is a vicious, vengeful and yet, sometimes heartfelt slasher about bullying and the effect it can have on those bullied.

Lincoln (Ronen Rubenstein) is an emotionally troubled young man who is bullied by his father (Andrew Bryniarski) and bullied at school for his quiet and withdrawn ways. When he finally strikes back viciously at one such bully, he is sent to the cult-like Mind’s Eye Academy for troubled youths. Nothing is different as the academy has it’s own bullies, such as Willie (Maestro Harrell), who, along with his thugs, starts to victimize Lincoln like back in high school. Lincoln has found some allies, though, one is the beautiful but troubled, Kaitlin (Grace Phipps) and the other is the vengeful spirit, Moira (Sierra McCormick) who died as a result of her cruel treatment at the academy. Now Moira begins to exact gruesome revenge on those who hurt her, using Lincoln’s hate as a driving force…but does Lincoln’s hate run deep enough to want to see his tormentors slaughtered?

Directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer who co-wrote with Brian DeLeeuw, this is a nasty tale of revenge from beyond the grave that is also a hard look at bullying and the effects it has on the victims. The hate and anger of those bullied towards their tormentors and themselves, for not being able to fight back, is personified in the cruel and vengeful spirit of Moira, who uses Lincoln’s fury (like Freddy Krueger used fear) to fuel her gruesome acts of revenge…and it is quite brutal. This is an angry movie at times and a nasty one, as not only are we treated to watching the mean Willie (Harrell) relentlessly provoke Lincoln, but the payback of the razor wearing and wielding Moira. Moira is not a wise-cracking gremlin like Freddy Krueger, but a deeply hurt and angry spirit filled with rage and hatred, yet still wanting the friendship of kindred souls like Lincoln and Kaitlin. It was a bit bold for Mortimer and DeLeeuw to give their ‘boogeyman’ such complex emotions, but she is symbolic, after all, of the victims of bullying and the turmoil they suffer. Making her a main character is also risky and sometimes the ‘rules’ of her appearance vary. At times she seems quite coporeal and can be touched and yet she can appear out of nowhere. To harm her victims, she has to inflict the wound on herself and it transfers to them without physically being touched by her razor blades. It all works most of the time, though and effectively creates a vicious slasher with some important issues felt with under all the blood and gore. Despite tackling the bully issues head on, the film never felt preachy and is very satisfying as the horror flick it’s meant to be.

We have a good cast here. Ronen Rubenstein is solid as the soft spoken, introvert Lincoln. He conveys not only the youth’s sadness at being the target of the abuse of others, but the anger and rage both at them and at himself for not being able to fight back…till pushed. Grace Phipps is not only beautiful, but gives her Kaitlin a sexy mischievousness on the outside and also her own inner pain, which draws her to the troubled Lincoln. Maestro Harrell is very effective as the bully Willie and the role is quite the contrast to his lovable Malik on Suburgatory. It shows the actors versatility and his Willie is certainly far from lovable. Sierra McCormick is very effective as Moira. She can make her cruel and hateful one moment but sad and sympathetic the next. It’s never quite clear if she was the ‘evil girl’ her victimizers make her out to be, or if that is just a defense they created to hide their guilt. McCormick does certainly gives her a maliciousness that makes one wonder if she isn’t as much a victim as Moira herself would have you believe. Also stars Lexi Atkins from Zombeavers, former child actor Spencer Breslin as Issac, who bonds with Lincoln and is his only friend at academy other than Kaitlin and Andrew “Leatherface” Bryniarski as Lincoln’s abusive biker father.

I really liked this slasher. It was nasty and vicious, but with an important message at it’s core…but one that is never obtrusive or preachy despite it’s weight. It has some very emotionally troubled characters as both protagonists and antagonists including it’s vengeful slasher spirit, Moira. The cast are all solid in their roles and there is a lot of gruesome carnage, though not enough to wash away the film’s anti-bullying theme. This horror is certainly offbeat and may not appeal to everyone, but it does provide the slasher goods and gives us a vengeful spirit who can hold her own amongst the more time-honored horror characters.

…and don’t forget to watch through the credits…

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 razors.

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