HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SCHERZO DIABOLICO (2015)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

scherzo diabolico

bars

SCHERZO DIABOLICO (2015)

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

Latest film from Adrián García Bogliano (Here Comes The Devil, Late Phases) tells the story of Aram (Francisco Barreiro), who works for an accounting firm and despite being their best and hardest working employee, seems to be going nowhere. He hatches a devious plan to kidnap pretty Anabela (Daniela Soto Vell), his boss’s (Jorge Molina) teenage daughter. She’s not to be taken for ransom, but only to be held long enough to turn his boss into an emotional wreck, so that he looses his job and Aram can replace him. The kidnapping goes off without a hitch and as he holds the poor girl in an abandoned warehouse, he soon finds himself at the top of his firm and living the good life. But one thing Aram didn’t count on, was having pushed Anabela far enough over the edge that she would figure things out and come after him with a bloody vengeance.

Flick is a bit offbeat as is Bogliano’s style and doesn’t really get intense till the last act. It is disturbing to see how thoroughly Aram plans out the abduction, to the point of even practicing his timing on his son and his restraint techniques on a hooker he frequents regularly. We certainly feel for Anabela as he holds her against her will in a rat infested building and takes unsettling…and inappropriate… videos and photos of her to turn her dad into a mess. This takes up the first hour of the flick and is fine, but the film really doesn’t take off till he releases Anabela thinking he has it made. He has a beautiful home, his secretary/lover (Pau Alva) set up in a nice apartment…and a really pissed off schoolgirl who figures things out and plans a far more vicious payback. This is where the film finally kicks into gear and one wishes this plot element was brought in a little sooner, as it really doesn’t seem like we are given enough time to savor Anabela’s brutal revenge…though we did need time spent to understand how a sweet kid got so violently unraveled. Aram’s cruel treatment of the innocent girl pales in comparison to the payback she exacts and there is some very brutal violence as the now psychotic girl turns the tables in a game of cat and mouse. Again, while the film is an economical 90 minutes, this segment could have used a bit more time as she turns the screws.

The film has a few obvious flaws. One of them is plainly that if Aram has the balls to kidnap a young girl..and cheat on his wife (Milena Pezzi) with a voluptuous hooker (Vita Vargas)…than why did he not have the stones to stick up for himself at work and demand his due? Why go through the whole kidnapping ordeal and involve an innocent girl?…just stand up to your boss! Also, where are the police during all this? The girl is kidnapped and held for what appears to be weeks and yet the cops are mentioned only in a brief throwaway line, after the fact. We never get to see them question the office workers to potentially see Aram squirm. Perhaps Bogliano thought this was too cliché…and he wouldn’t be wrong…but it seemed out of place that the police barely figure into the film till Anabela’s revenge has her breaking into Aram’s office to mess with him…then they show up. That and for a schoolgirl, the pushed over the edge Anabela proves quite the little terminator. While it’s disturbing and fun to watch, it’s also a little hard to swallow that she can easily take out two gangsters who have obviously killed before. We also never get a proper grasp of how much time lapses as Anabela  scopes out Aram to discover all his habits…like he did her…and secrets, like where he keeps his mistress and important files. It gives the last act a feeling of being rushed after taking so much time with the set-up.

The cast are all good. Francisco Barreiro’s Aram is a little bit of a contradiction as mentioned. He is a hard worker, but very meek in standing up to his boss or his wife, yet has the guts to cheat on that wife and stage a daring and mean-spirited kidnapping. The actor does a good job, though, especially when we get to see him squirm, as the tables are turned in the last act. Daniela Soto Vell also shines as a typical teen thrust into a horrible situation. We feel for her as she is held prisoner by Aram and we see her slowly crack. Then when a twist of fate sends her over the edge and on the path to vicious revenge, she is quite good as schoolgirl turned psychotic killer. Pezzi is good as Aram’s demanding wife and she plays it just low key enough to not send her into over-the-top cliché territory. Rounding out, Molina is solid as the boss/heartbroken father, Vargas is hot and sexy as Aram’s hooker lover and so is Alva as his secretary/mistress…which brings up another point…kinda hard to believe that bookish Aram was getting so many caliente mamas, if he can’t even ask for a raise.

Overall, this is a fairly entertaining flick with some disturbing moments, especially in the last act. The lead character is a bit of a contradiction, but Daniela Soto Vell’s Anabela impresses with her schoolgirl turned unbalanced killer. The kidnapping portion of the film is done well enough, though it is the last act where the film really ignites and we wish a little more time was spent with this portion of the story, too. There are some flaws in it’s story telling, but it still entertains despite that. Definitely worth a look, especially if you have enjoyed Adrián García Bogliano other movies

-MonsterZero NJ

3 baseball bats.

alyce rating

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: LATE PHASES (2014)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

LatePhases_Poster

bars

LATE PHASES (2014)

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

“People don’t come to places like this to live, they come here to die.”

Late Phases is the first English language film from Here Comes The Devil director Adrián García Bogliano. The film tells the story of Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici), an armed services/Viet Nam veteran now blind and put into the Crescent Bay retirement community by his son, Will (Ethan Embry). The first night there, a full moon, his neighbor Dolores (Karen Lynn Gorney) is killed and Ambrose is viciously attacked by a savage wolf-like beast. His seeing-eye dog, Shadow, is mortally wounded fighting it off, saving the man’s life. The defiant Ambrose is determined to get answers and soon finds out these attacks occur once a month and the police pass it off as some animal that lives in the nearby woods. They also don’t seem too concerned about the seniors that are it’s victims. But Ambrose begins to put the hard to believe pieces together and realizes he has one month to find out who this shape-shifter is and a means to stop it, by the next full moon. However, his lycanthropic opponent knows he’s coming and is preparing, too…to make sure it’s a war Ambrose won’t win.

I really liked this flick! Not only was it a solid and refreshing take on a werewolf story, but a well made tale of a tough old man who won’t give up. Director Adrián García Bogliano, from Eric Stolze’s tight and clever script, quickly establishes McKinley’s stubborn character, his closeness to Shadow and the mundane life of Crescent Bay, so when the vicious attack comes in the first act, we get it’s full impact. We are then taken along for the smoldering ride as the blind veteran begins to investigate the identity of his lupine invader and make his plans to stop it on the next full moon. The suspense is turned up as we get our reveal a bit early and the cursed individual begins to prepare his counterattack. All this builds up to a very tense and bloody third act showdown between the blind ex-soldier and his lycanthropic enemy. It all works so well, because Bogliano takes his story seriously, generates the proper intensity and we like McKinley and are rooting for the stubborn vet to do what others don’t seem concerned enough to do. There are some minor flaws. McKinley comes to the werewolf conclusion rather quickly, an obnoxious cop character’s dialog is a little too obvious in it’s intent to convey the lack of concern for the seniors here and the climax could have actually played out a bit longer, but otherwise I liked what they accomplished here. It’s suspenseful, intense and has some vicious and very gory action. Technically, the low budget movie is sound, too. There is nice cinematography from Ernesto Herra who shot Here Comes The Devil and a very atmospheric score by Wojciech Golczewski. The werewolf suits and transformations use charming prosthetics and are very effective. There also is some really good and plentiful gore, as well as, a convincing job aging star Dimici about 20 years.

And as for Dimici… he is another reason this works so well. There is a really strong performance here by the Stake Land writer/actor. Damici creates a man who is handicapped by the horror of war and accepts it as punishment for deeds he committed in battle. He is stubborn, difficult but also strong and determined. He makes the crotchety old man very likable and gives him a lot of depth and we go right along with his quest to see this creature brought down. We totally believe that he would give his life to see this fiend stopped, if necessary. We also get nice work from Ethan Embry as his son. The dynamic between the two really works and we get Will’s frustration at how difficult Ambrose is, but yet he still wants to take care of him. The two have good chemistry and make this film really gel with their relationship dynamic. In support, and all doing good work, are familiar faces like Lance Guest (The Last Starfighter), House of the Devil’s Tom Noonan, the legendary Tina Louise as a catty housewife and a small role from the incomparable Larry Fessenden. A good cast that makes this film come together almost perfectly.

I really liked this flick a lot. It’s very well directed. It’s suspenseful, intense, the last act provides some really gory action and it has some nice emotional depth. It’s a refreshing take on the oft-told werewolf tale and it is a well balanced mix of horror, mystery and character drama. The FX are charmingly old-fashioned prosthetics and it’s briskly paced despite the middle act being an intentional slow burn. Highly recommended for something a little different and a horror made for adults at a time when PG-13 teen-centric fright flicks are making up most of what the genre is offering.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 silver bullets.

late phases rating

 

 

 

 

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HERE COMES THE DEVIL (2012)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

HERE_COMES_THE_DEVIL_FINAL

bars

HERE COMES THE DEVIL (2012)

I will give credit where credit is due, there are a few creepy moments in Adrián Garcia Bogliano’s horror flick and there is a pervading atmosphere, but for the most part, it’s a crude, dull and sometimes vulgar little movie that left me wondering what all the fuss was about. The story has two parents, Felix and Sol (Francisco Barreiro and Laura Caro) who, while on a day trip with their two kids, Adolfo and Sara (Alan Martinez and Michele Garcia) let the kids wander off to explore a rocky hill while they fool around in the car… nice parents! The kids vanish and locals claim the area that they disappeared in is cursed, but the two are found by police the next morning and returned to their folks seemingly unharmed. Soon strange behavior starts to occur and when examined, doctors seem to feel there has been sexual assault. This leads the parents to suspect an odd local man seen nearby and after the kids freak out upon seeing the man, indicating to the angry parents that he was the culprit, Felix and Sol savagely murder him in a rage. But the strange behavior with their children continues and they start to leave school to return to the rocky hill and a cave at it’s top. There is paranormal activity going on in the house, too and now the terrified parents must deal with the increasing implications that their children may no longer be who they seem and that they might have murdered an innocent man. For a far more supernatural fiend may be the real culprit and it may not be done with them.

As said, Bogliano does give this film a steady and spooky atmosphere and there are some effective moments, one in particular that involves a babysitter, though they all come in the last act and are not consistent enough to make it worth sitting through a fairly dull first hour. Even the murder of the pervy Lucio (David Arturo Cabezud) comes across as overdone and loses it’s impact as it seems a little too vicious and graphic considering these are supposed to be two normal parents not the Manson family. But vulgar seems to be Bogliano’s style as illustrated by the graphic opening sex scene between two lesbians, which barely has any relevance to the plot and the equally and unnecessarily graphic scene between Felix and Sol in the car, while their kids are getting lost. It just seems vulgar for vulgars sake. When the film finally gets to the supernatural stuff, after an hour of brooding concerned parents being quizzical over their now zombie-like children, it’s impact is lessened by some cheesy levitation FX and a laughable 80s death metal, music video-style montage when the babysitter is explaining what happen to her with the kids. It’s the film’s most disturbing scene, yet even it is robbed of it’s strength by an over-indulgent director showing off his film school camera tricks. Most disappointing thing is that Bogliano shows some potential with the pervading creepiness the film has, but he doesn’t follow it up with much interesting and when his film does start to get weird and disturbing, it doesn’t last and he wraps it up with a completely predictable ending.

The cast are OK, but none of them really gives us strong work, the parents in particular are not very likable or sympathetic, and the kids are basically supposed to act like zoned-out zombies so, we don’t get much from them. The film’s overall look is kinda grimy and sleazy like an old style grind house soft-core porn flick and maybe that was the goal as the film seems to wallow in sleazy moments instead of telling it’s story. Did we need to see the lengthy scene of the nude parents showering Lucio’s blood off themselves?

In conclusion, the film is an overrated and tedious movie with an atmosphere that is equal parts sleazy and creepy. The flick never really gets going and squanders the few effective scenes it has. Not sure what all the fuss was about. Very overrated.

A disappointing 2 haunted hilltops.

here comes the devil rating

bars