REVIEW: FEAST OF THE SEVEN FISHES (2018)

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FEAST OF THE SEVEN FISHES (2018)

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

Holiday flick takes place in 1983 in a predominately Italian working-class area of Pennsylvania. It follows aspiring artist Tony (Skyler Gisondo) as he has just broken up with girlfriend Katie (Addison Timlin) and his family is preparing for the annual Christmas Eve “Feast of the Seven Fishes”, an Italian Catholic tradition. When hanging out one night with friends Angelo (Andrew Schultz) and Sarah (Jessica Darrow), Tony is introduced to Beth, a Protestant college girl from the wealthier part of town. Tony and Beth start to fall for each other and he invites her over for the Christmas Eve feast. With his wacky Catholic family, Katie wanting him back and Beth’s mother (Lisa Velten-Smith) not liking her hanging out on the wrong side of the tracks, will these two ever find holiday romance?

Holiday romantic comedy is filled with old-school charm thanks to writer/director Robert Tinnell knowing to downplay the over-the-top bombasity that ruins most holiday flicks. The film has loads of atmosphere, both for the Yuletide season and from being steeped in old-fashioned Italian tradition. The 1983 setting adds to the charm, but Tanell never lets it become the focus over his well-written characters. Fishes follows many traditions of holiday romantic comedies, such as two people from different worlds meeting on a special night, yet avoids the clichés and overblown melodrama of the bigger Hollywood holiday flicks. That’s what makes this work so well, it’s subtle presentation of it’s story. It seems far more real and far less fabricated than it’s big studio counterparts, which prefer big overcooked set pieces to the down-to-earth human interaction that we get here. It feels like you’re watching real people and not something manufactured. The characters themselves are traditional, yet not stereotypes and the cast wonderfully fill the roles of real people types, despite playing familiar/classic roles.

As for that cast, it’s what really makes this movie fire on all Yule logs. Skyler Gisondo leads an excellent ensemble of actors. He’s likable, charming, but very understated. A very down to earth performance that makes Tony very realistic and endearing. Madison Iseman once again proves she’s an actress to keep an eye on. She makes Beth far more than the stereotypical rich girl that she could have been. Instead we get a young woman who wants to live her life her way. She’s sweet and very likable and she and Gisondo have some really nice subtle chemistry that makes their romance down-to-earth and relatable. Addison Timlin is also good as Katie. Another role that could have been cliché, but script and actress make you feel sympathy for a young woman who hasn’t quite found herself, or her happiness, yet. We like Katie and hope she does find what she’s looking for someday. Supporting cast is very impressive. We get veteran Paul Ben-Victor as Johnny, the host of the feast and a man who will defend his baccala to the end. Lynn Cohen is wonderful as Tony’s old-school Catholic grandmother who, at first, doesn’t approve of Protestant Beth. Again, a character avoiding stereotype with some subtlety and depth. Nonnie might surprise you. Rounding out are flavorful performances from Ray Abruzzo as Uncle Carmine, the legendary Joe Pantoliano as Uncle Frankie, Jessica Darrow as Sarah, Andrew Shultz as Angelo and Josh Helman () as Juke. A great cast.

In conclusion this is a wonderfully charming and refreshingly subtle and atmospheric Christmas romance. It’s steeped in the flavor of old school tradition and contains classic characters that avoid being stereotypes, thanks to down-to-earth portrayals and a heartfelt script. Writer/director Robert Tinnell avoids the overblown dramatics and bombastic set pieces that weigh down the big budget Hollywood holiday fare, to give us an old-fashioned Christmas tale of two kids from opposite sides of town meeting and falling in love under the glow of Christmas lights and some salty baccala. An absolute delight and maybe a new Christmas classic if given the attention it deserves!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Christmas trees.

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DEPRAVED (2019)

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DEPRAVED (2019)

Modern day Frankenstein tale has former army medic Henry (David Call) suffering from a traumatic tour in the Middle East and wanting to use his talents for a good purpose. He teams up with pharmaceutical exec Polidori (Joshua Leonard) to combine a new drug and Henry’s medical skills in the creation of a human being from spare body parts. Adam (Alex Breaux) is the result and at first seems like a naive child, but as in all such tales, the combination of the harshness of the world around him and the truth of his existence turns Adam’s curiosity and innocence into anger and rage.

Larry Fessenden is one of the hardest working people in indie horror and here he returns to write, direct, produce and edit this New York set modern day Frankenstein. He does so very well and presents an intriguing and effecting updating of the oft told classic tale. Fessenden has updated the players. His Dr. Frankenstein is now an emotionally disturbed combat veteran, who thinks he can bring his healing talents to the world through Adam. The manipulative Polidori represents big pharma and wants to promote his new healing drug and will go to any lengths, even murder, to do so through Henry’s work. Their “creature” Adam is a bandage for Henry’s emotional wounds, while to Polidori, he is a marketing tool to be exploited. Adam himself, is a conflicted being trying to deal with his “new” and complex emotions, the vague memories of a past life and find his place in this sometimes “depraved” world. His anger and rage over wanting to be loved and treated like a human being sets-up a tragic and violent last act much like in Shelley’s classic. Fessenden tells this new slant on the story well and might be one of the few filmmakers who could successfully transport Mary Shelley’s gothic tale from Victorian England to the warehouse loft apartments and sometimes mean streets of modern day New York City. Fessenden’s script presents Adam as sympathetic and we do feel for him, as he is manipulated and taught about being human by possibly the two worst choices in Henry and his partner. Only Henry’s girlfriend Liz (Ana Kayne) shows any true compassion for Adam as a person and not a thing. It’s an interesting and involving telling and possibly the freshest take on the classic story in quite some time.

The cast are really good here. David Call as Henry, much like his namesake, is also a bit sympathetic as his original intent is good. A skilled combat medic who has discovered ways to revive the very recently dead and Adam represents all the soldiers he couldn’t save. He is sometimes overprotective of Adam till he, like Shelley’s doctor, realizes he may have made a mistake, when Adam starts to grow frustrated and uncooperative. Blair Witch Project’s Joshua Leonard is solid as the scheming and somewhat flamboyant Polidori. He sees Adam as a showpiece to demonstrate a new drug and even somewhat of a toy. His idea of introducing the world to the “creation” is to take him to strip clubs and introduce him to illegal drugs, sleazy women and alcohol. Alex Breaux is very impressive and sympathetic as Adam. Adam must learn to handle his emotions all over again. It’s no surprise he is conflicted with such bad examples to teach him and being haunted by memories and people from another life. Finding out who he really is and how he came to be, pushes him over the edge. We sympathize with him and never see him as a “monster” even when he causes harm. Ana Kayne is good as the sweet and caring Liz, as is Addison Timlin as Shelley, a playful yet ill-fated girl Adam encounters in a bar. A good cast.

Overall, Fessenden has given a very intriguing and sometimes intense update of a time worn classic. He puts a contemporary modern day New York spin on Mary Shelley’s legendary tale. The heart and soul of the original story are here, but woven in with more modern day themes. Adam, the “monster”, is sympathetic and we understand his growing frustration and eventual anger. An intriguing new take on a classic story by filmmaker Larry Fessenden.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Adams.

 

 

 

 

 

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10 PERFORMANCES THAT PROVE WOMEN RULED HORROR IN 2014!

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THE TOP 10  PERFORMANCES OF 2014

Woman have always played a role in horror. Whether it be fiendish femme fatales, the damsels of yesteryear or the final girls of the modern era, they have always played a part. As this is Women In Horror Month, I’ve decide to look back at the past year and some very strong roles/performances from the ladies. 2014 was an exemplary year for female horror roles, as there were a lot of very strong performances from actresses in the lead parts of some of the year’s best flicks…and some movies where the performances was the only thing worth watching for. Which to me is solid proof that the ladies ruled horror in 2014!…

(Just click on the banners to go to our reviews of these films!)

#1 Essie Davis in The Babadook

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#2 Karen Gillan in Oculus

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#3 Jill Larson in The Taking Of Deborah Logan

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#4 Alex Essoe in Starry Eyes

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#5 Rose Leslie in Honeymoon

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#6 Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive

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#7 Addison Timlin in The Town That Dreaded Sundown

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#8 Sarah Snook in Jessabelle

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#9 Danielle Harris in See No Evil 2

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#10 Perdita Weeks in As Above, So Below

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HONORABLE MENTION

Manuela Velasco in [REC] 4: Apocalypse

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source: MonsterZero NJ

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: HALLOWEEN HOTTIE OF 2014…ADDISON TIMLIN!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S HALLOWEEN HOTTIE OF 2014…ADDISON TIMLIN!

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features our Halloween Hottie Of 2014, the lovely and very talented Addison Timlin, who easily earns this title by appearing in, not one, but, two of MonsterZero NJ’s Best Horror Flicks Of 2014!…and knocking it out of the park with two very different characters in two films with starkly different tones.

(Click on the highlighted links or on the movie posters to read a review of the film’s that have earned her Halloween Hottie of 2014!)

HONORABLE MENTION #1

ODD THOMAS

Who didn’t fall madly in love with Addison’s feisty, adorable and fiercely loyal Stormy Llewellyn? As the girlfriend of the movie’s paranormally gifted hero, Odd Thomas, the brown-eyed beauty practically stole the flick away from its star with her sweet smile, confident smirk and the one-two punch of her in daisy dukes and that yummy Burke and Bailey’s Ice Cream Shop uniform. Stormy stands by her man no matter how weird the situation gets and we can plainly see why Odd believes her to be his one and only…It also helped greatly that Timlin and the perfectly cast Anton Yelchin had a great on-screen chemistry together!

 

Scene stealing Addison Timlin as Odd Thomas’ Stormy Llewellyn!

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And her disturbing second feature…

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THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN 2014

While Odd Thomas was a darkly whimsical, supernatural thriller, this clever and very chilling flick was remake, sequel and homage all-in-one to the 1976 horror classic of the same name. This was a vicious, bloody and straightforward horror that saw Addison as Jami Lerner, a young woman being stalked by a copycat killer imitating ‘The Phantom’ from the original movie…and the real-life crimes that inspired it. This strong-willed woman, played with a quiet strength by Miss Timlin, decides to fight back, though, and the masked hunter becomes the hunted! Addison takes center stage in this intense flick and proves she is leading lady material…and a great final girl!

 

A strong and intense performance by Addison Timlin as The Town That Dreaded Sundown’s Jami Lerner!

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Addison Timlin will be seen again soon as Lucinda Price in the 2015 film Fallen. An adaptation of Lauren Kate’s young adult fantasy/romance novel that will find Timlin’s character caught in a romantic triangle between two very unusual suitors. Whether she is stealing scenes or battling masked psychopaths, Addison Timlin is a beautiful young woman and versatile actress we want to see a lot more of, no matter what the genre!…and a more than worthy Halloween Hottie Of 2014!
halloween hottie 2014

And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties focusing on, Briana EviganKatrina BowdenAlexandra DaddarioKatie FeatherstonKatharine IsabelleAmber Heard and Danielle Harris! (just click on their names to go to their pages!)

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (2014)

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THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (2014)

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

The original The Town That Dreaded Sundown is based on a true series of murders that occurred in Texarkana, Arkansas in 1946 and were committed by a person known only as “The Phantom”… a man who was never caught. The 1976 film is considered a cult classic but, when I finally caught up with it, I wasn’t impressed with the pseudo-documentary flick. Now comes a new version which actually is a sequel of sorts that not only acknowledges the actual crimes but, the existence of the 1976 film, as well as, Texarkana’s morbid custom of screening Charles B. Pierce’s original film every Halloween… and it’s at one such screening in 2013 that the film begins…

The movie opens with pretty Jami Lerner (Addison Timlin, the scene stealing Stormy Llewellyn in Odd Thomas) and her date Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) leaving a Halloween drive-in screening of The Town That Dreaded Sundown as Jami is put-off by the film’s violence. The two retreat to a local make-out point but, much like the movie, a masked man appears and forces them out of the car, murdering Corey and letting Jami live as long as she “makes them remember Mary.” The traumatized girl makes her way back to the drive-in where the film is showing and soon the town is caught in a real grip of fear as the locals believe The Phantom has returned. Whether he is truly back or someone is imitating the killer from real life and the 1976 film, the result is the same, soon the bodies begin to gruesomely pile up. Worse for Jami, is that the killer has chosen her to be his messenger as he threatens to kill more unless she delivers his message of remembrance. But, Jami decides to fight fire with fire and begins to investigate the original case to try to find out who is the one actually stalking her and murdering innocent townsfolk and why. But, will she uncover the real killer or will he catch her first?

Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, this film takes the Blair Witch 2 concept of making a film about events inspired by the original film but, does it so much better. This is a stylish and sometimes strange… in a good way… flick that is basically a slasher that chillingly references real events and playfully references the original film, even cleverly having the director’s son Charles Pierce Jr. (Denis O’Hare) as a character. There are some brutal and disturbing sequences depicting the killer’s wrath and Gomez-Rejon gives us some nice suspense throughout, especially in the last act when Jami and the masked killer reunite. Not only does the director have a nice visual style to enhance his story and off-kilter storytelling but, gives the film a nice atmosphere of foreboding and bravely paces the film more moderately, much like the original film and the films of that era were paced. This is complemented by Michael Goi’s moody cinematography and Ludwig Göransson’s atmospheric score. The killings are also quite gruesome at times and have a lot of impact and the FX portraying them are well rendered and makes this overall a very effective slasher whether it be a remake/sequel or whatever you want to classify it.

The cast are all good with Timlin being a moody yet, resourceful heroine. She conveys the emotional trauma of a young woman who witnesses her date’s murder yet, the strength to fight back by investigating the very psychopath that may be waiting outside her door. A far different character than Odd ThomasStormy Llewellyn and proves this is a young actress to keep an eye on. Film vet Veronica Cartwright plays her grandmother who lived through the time of the original murders and gives us a woman who is pained to see her granddaughter living through similar events. Gary Cole is solid as the local sheriff, Anthony Anderson plays an updated Lone Wolf Morales echoing Ben Johnson’s character from ’76 and Travis Trope is charming as Nick, a young man who befriends Jami and helps her with her investigation. A solid cast who do good work in bringing this chiller to effective life.

Overall, I really liked this movie and was pleasantly surprised by it. It cleverly is both sequel and remake, yet, is also a film made outside the original so, it may deviously reference that film and use both the film and the actual crimes from 1946 as part of it’s story history. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has a bit of a quirky and offbeat storytelling style that adds to the unsettling atmosphere of the film and gives us some nice suspense and some disturbing and brutal scenes of violence to punctuate it. All in all, a solid and somewhat off-beat horror/slasher that is one of the more interesting horror flicks I have seen this year. Sad, it’s gotten too little attention, especially coming from the horror factory that is Blumhouse. It deserves more.

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) killers.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ODD THOMAS (2013)

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ODD THOMAS (2013)

Even someone like me who has been watching movies for almost five decades and can be very cynical about them at times can be pleasantly surprised occasionally by a movie I wasn’t expecting much from. Odd Thomas is one of those pleasant surprises. Based on a book of the same name and the following series of novels by Dean Koontz, Stephen Sommers’ adaptation tells the story of Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) an eccentric young fellow who lives in Pico Mundo, a small town in California, and has a very unique talent. He is a clairvoyant who not only sees dead people, but other unearthly spirits as well. Odd Thomas…his real name…uses his special gifts to not only bring justice to those whose deaths are caused by foul play, but to thwart evil in general whenever it rears it’s ugly head. He has a beautiful, loving girlfriend, Stormy (Addison Timlin) who understands his powers and is very supportive and acts as a sidekick. He also has a good friend in the local police chief (Willem Dafoe) who is grateful to Thomas’ ability to find the guilty and prevent heinous acts before they are committed. But there is an evil brewing in Pico Mundo signaled by the appearance of a strange man (Shuler Hensley) surrounded by demons and a rash of nightmares suffered by Odd, and some close to him, that foretell of a coming doom…a doom that even Odd Thomas may not be able to stop. But Odd is going to try, even if it costs him his life.

Despite being a far smaller film than Mummy and G.I. Joe director Stephen Sommers is used to, he brings his creative energy and fine-tunes his over-the-top style to give Odd Thomas a fast paced and eccentric tone that perfectly fits the material. He also creates some very creepy moments with his visual eye and crafts some very tense and suspenseful sequences, especially in the nail-biting last act. But what really made Odd Thomas a special treat for me was the combination of Sommers’ witty script banter and the wonderful work from his cast, especially lead Anton Yelchin. Yelchin creates a very likable hero who is saddled with a great burden and yet, not only uses it to do good and defeat evil, but is actually happy to do so. The banter between he and adorable leading lady Addison Timlin really creates a delightful character dynamic between the two and totally makes the relationship between this strange, yet noble, young man and his spunky and fiery girlfriend, work. It’s very effective and makes you really care about both of them. The same goes when either character is onscreen with Dafoe. The dynamic between the three characters is a delight to watch and really is what makes an already good supernatural suspense thriller even more enjoyable. Timlin and the veteran Dafoe shine in their parts and are great support for what is Yelchin’s show, one he carries to perfection. Shuler Hensley is also creepy and unsettling as “Fungus Bob”…Odd’s name for the man who triggers the events of the film…but he is just the tip of the iceberg and I will say no more as the less you know going in, the better it draws you into Odd’s attempt to uncover the diabolical plot in the making.

Odd Thomas is an odd and off-beat but very effective film from a writer/director usually more at home with bigger, more comic book-style stories. But here he shows he can also take things down a few notches and gives us some chills and entertainment on a smaller and more intimate scale. He can also gives us some very endearing and three dimensional characters to go with his story. And this book-based story of evil, both supernatural and human created, and the young man who stands in it’s way, is very entertaining if anything. A really fun and very plesant surprise. Shame this flick is getting dumped unceremoniously onto home media when so much junk gets a theatrical release.

Check out my review of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas book series HERE.

3 and 1/2 baseball bats.

odd thomas rating

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