BARE BONES: VIRAL and SUMMER CAMP

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VIRAL (2016)

Basically a high school version of 28 Days Later and the more recent What We Become and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Flick finds sisters Emma (Sofia Black D’Elia) and Stacey (Analeigh Tipton) trapped at home alone when an viral outbreak caused by a worm-like parasite initiates a quarantine with both their parents unable to come back to their neighborhood. The parasite takes over it’s hosts, who violently and animalistic-ally seek out other hosts for the organism to spread to. The sisters must battle former friends and the threat of infection themselves to survive as the outbreak spirals out of control.

Written by the Paranormal Activity series’ Christopher Landon, with Barabara Marshall and directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost (Catfish, Paranormal Activity 3 and 4), this is actually an entertaining little movie despite it’s familiarity. Joost and Schulman create a nice mood of continual dread and danger, along with delivering some suspenseful sequences and moments of intense and bloody action. The actresses give us two very likable heroines in D’Elia’s smart and sweet Emma and Tipton’s more aggressive and headstrong Stacey. The combination of endearing characters and the directors making good use of the familiar tropes (as they did with Paranormal Activity 3) makes this a worthwhile flick for a night on the couch. Aside from some so-so CGI, the production value is good and the filmmakers prove they can work beyond found footage. A fun little apocalyptic outbreak horror despite having seen it all before.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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SUMMER CAMP (2015)

Horror flick finds three Americans (House of the Devil’s Jocelin Donahue, Scream Queen’s Diego Bonita and Maiara Walsh) traveling to Spain to be councilors at an English summer camp for kids and dealing with some kind of viral outbreak/infection that turns the effected violent and vicious. Is it the pollen, the water or something else turning others and themselves into homicidal monsters? Will these strangers in a foreign land survive?

Summer Camp is directed by Alberto Marini from his script with Danielle Schleif. What makes this flick work, despite the oft-told premise, is that Marini has a little fun with his ‘infection’ in both it’s actual cause and the fact that we find the effects are only temporary. This allows for the film to swap out infected and uninfected, so one minute we are fearing someone and rooting for someone else and then it switches them out as someone recovers and someone else starts foaming black at the mouth. There are some suspenseful moments and some vicious and gory violence as our three councilors battle each other, commit acts of murder while under the influence and then battle a group of infected rednecks (Yes! Even in Spain!) camped out in an RV nearby. It moves fast enough to keep us from realizing just how silly and familiar it all is and the added caveat of having our infected recover, does leave them to amusingly have to face what horrors they have committed. It’s not perfect, we are a bit confused as to what is going on till the late in the third act explanation and the end is predictable, even though still very amusing. Go in with moderate expectations and this can be fun if you just go with it.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 and SLEEP TIGHT

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HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 (2015)

 

Harmless sequel to the surprisingly fun Hotel Transylvania finds Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Johnny (Andy Samberg) married and expecting their first child. Drac (Adam Sandler) couldn’t be more excited to have a new little monster in the house till Dennis (Asher Blinkoff) is born appearing quite human. While Mavis and Johnny consider moving to L.A. so Dennis can be in more human surroundings, Dracula and his friends are determined to bring out the little monster in his young grandson.

Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky and written by star Sandler and Robert Smigel, sequel is an OK follow-up that is amusing enough at times, but doesn’t quite have the first flick’s sense of fun. A lot of the jokes and routines are replayed from last time around and it doesn’t seem as energetic. The vocal performances are all fun, including Mel Brooks as Dracula’s estranged father Vlad, but the script just isn’t quite as clever as the original flick. Kids will probably like it just fine, but it just feels like there is something missing this time amidst the messages about being accepted for who you are.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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SLEEP TIGHT (2011)

Sleep Tight is a unnerving flick from Jaume Balagueró from the REC series that should have been far more disturbing considering it’s premise. The story from Alberto Marini’s script has building concierge Cesar (Luis Tosar) secretly stalking pretty tenant Clara (Marta Etura) and doing things to create tension in her life. Cesar is a twisted and very unhappy man who wants to share his misery with others. Her targets poor Clara and sneaks into her room, hiding under her bed only to pop out and knock her out each night while she sleeps. He takes advantage of her physically and adds things to her make-up to give her a rash and even fills her apartment with cockroach eggs…all with the pretty girl unaware.

Another flick that just seems to be missing something. While Cesar’s activities are certainly disturbing, the film has a very laid-back approach that seems to keep it from being as terrifying as it should be. Cesar seems to get away with a lot and it gets a little far-fetched and the fact that we never really get a solid explanation as to why he picks Clara and chooses to torment a woman who is continually sweet to him, remains a mystery. It needed a bit more depth to really give it some intensity. The performances are good with Tosar being appropriately creepy and Etur being a very likable and sweet girl, so we do feel bad for her. The flick just needed a heavier atmosphere and a little more intensity to make it really click.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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