BARE BONES: P2

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P2 (2007)

Flick takes place in NYC on Christmas Eve where pretty executive Angela Bridges (Rachel Nichols) is the last one to leave the office. She gets to the parking garage to find her car won’t start and the building is now locked down. Those are the least of her problems, as she is trapped inside the building parking levels with psychotic parking attended Thomas (Wes bentley). The deranged man apparently has had his twisted eye on her for some time and will do anything, and to anyone, to impress/keep her.

Film is directed by Franck Khalfoun (the Maniac remake) from a script by he, Grégory Levasseur and Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D, Crawl). It’s a well made thriller that is basically one long cat and mouse game. Angela continually tries to evade and escape Thomas, while the unhinged attendant tries to reacquire her after she initially gets away from him. It’s made even more difficult on Angela as she is scantily clad, barefoot and handcuffed and Thomas has the security system and a Rottweiler at his disposal. There are also a few casualties along the way, in his pursuit of his obsession, though body count is minimal. Rachel Nichols makes a really solid and resilient heroine, though Bentley is simply missing a strong threat factor, despite all the creepy and homicidal things he does. Sometimes he’s a little too over-the-top and thus more silly than scary. Things like his Elvis obsession don’t help. Despite being a nut, he comes across as kind of a wuss. There is never any doubt as to who is going to come out on top here and thus it’s not as suspenseful as it needed to be to really work. It’s entertaining enough, but there should have been more intensity and tension and it all leads back to Thomas simply being a weak villain.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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REVIEW: CRAWL (2019)

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CRAWL (2019)

New flick from director Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, Piranha 3D) and producer Sam Raimi is basically 2010’s Burning Bright with alligators instead of a tiger…and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Flick has massive category 5 hurricane Wendy hitting Florida so hard even rescue operations are imperiled. College student Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) defies evacuation orders to track down her father Dave (Barry Pepper), who hasn’t answered texts or calls. She finds him at their old family house unconscious in the basement and soon finds out why…the rapidly flooding house is surrounded by a pack of very hungry alligators.

Aja directs from a script by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen (The Ward) and delivers a fun and sometimes intense thriller. We follow the father and daughter as they try to evade the reptilian predators both inside and outside, while the storm intensifies around them and slowly fills the house with water. There are some very suspenseful moments as Haley tries to get out of the basement and get help for her injured father, who is too hurt to escape on his own. It makes for some very tense moments as the vicious reptiles can come from almost anywhere and often do. In case we’ve forgotten what damage a gator can inflict, some would-be looters and a couple of cops arrive to become gory gator fodder to remind us. The film does slow down for a few moments here and there to give us some character development and some father/daughter bonding. It works both for and against the movie, as it does build a nice relationship between Haley and David, turning them into three dimensional characters, but also stops the momentum dead, at times, as the alligators seem to disappear during these moments. Once the third act kicks in, though, it’s all cat and mouse between Kellers and alligators as the waters rise in the gators’ advantage. Here Aja does what he does best and provides some intense and brutal action. The film looks great with a lot of underwater photography in the flooded house and Haley is put through some very tense and suspenseful set-pieces as she tries to escape and/or save her dad. A fun summer flick with some gory bite that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at a brisk 87 minutes.

It’s basically a two character show with the occasional gator snack showing up. Actress Kaya Scodelario has been through this before in Tiger House, where she played John McLane to a bunch of thieves that lay siege to her boyfriend’s house. Her Haley is courageous and resilient and does just as well against alligators as her Kelly did against home invaders. Scodelario proves she is not only a good actress, who can bring intensity, but she can kick ass as an action heroine. She gives Haley some nice depth in the quieter moments between scenes of her battling her reptilian adversaries with anything and everything available. Barry Pepper is also solid as her father, Dave. His character is both mourning a divorce and injured by gator bite and Pepper gives him some depth, so we feel for him. The two actors have a nice on-screen chemistry and work very well together portraying a father and daughter, who have their issues with each other. Good casting especially since the movie is very much on their shoulders.

Alexandre Aja is a versatile filmmaker even though he does seem to prefer the horror genre. This flick is not as intense or savage as his Hills Have Eyes remake, or outright bonkers like his ridiculously gory and fun Piranha 3D. It’s a mainstream thriller with some intense moments and some gory action, but not enough to scare off the casual movie goer. It does slow down for some character development and while that’s a good thing in making us care for these folks, it does kill the momentum in a few spots. Otherwise this is a tense and entertaining popcorn thriller from a director who knows intensity.

On a side note…This is a case of the trailer giving away too many good moments. If you plan to see this and haven’t watched the trailer yet…DON’T!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 (out of 4) alligators!

 

 

 

For those interested but be WARNED, trailer is SPOILER heavy…

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ALEXANDRE AJA’S “CRAWL” GETS A TRAILER and POSTER!

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A young woman (Kaya Scodelario) is hunted by a massive alligator during a fierce hurricane in this new thriller directed by Alexandre Aja and produced by Sam Raimi and Ghost House Pictures! Flick is set to hit theaters 7/12/19!

-MonsterZero NJ

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source: Youtube

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006)

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THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006)

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

The original The Hills Have Eyes (1977) is not among my favorite Wes Craven films, but it certainly is an enjoyable, and now a touch nostalgic, survivalist horror that pitted a vacationing family against a clan of mutant cannibals in the middle of the desert. This remake basically follows the same story, but with a larger budget and cranking the intensity and brutality up to 11 by handing the writing/directing reigns to Haute Tension writer/director Alexandre Aja.

The screenplay is credited to Aja and frequent collaborator Grégory Levasseur, but it follows Craven’s original film very closely except it focuses heavier on the vicious clan being the genetic mutation result of atomic testing decades earlier and obviously, cranks up the violence and intensity which is Aja’s style. The story still follows the family of ex-cop Bob Carter (Ted Levine) who is heading out to California with his wife Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan), daughters Lynn (Vinessa Shaw) and Brenda (Emilie de Ravin), son Bobby (Dan Byrd), Lynn’s meek husband Doug (Aaron Stanford) and their infant daughter (Maisie Camilleri Preziosi). They are led astray by a gas station attendant (Tom Bower) who, unbeknownst to them, is in league with a vicious clan of cannibalistic mutants led by patriarch Jupiter (Billy Drago). Soon they find themselves stranded and their car disabled and under attack by a hungry and brutal clan that wants them all for dinner. Will this family perish in the middle of nowhere, or will they find it within themselves to meet brutal violence with brutal violence?

We all know the answer to that question and Alexandre Aja has a gory, brutal blast not only putting this average American family through a vicious ringer, but administering payback with equally violent, blood-spattering efficiency. The film is far more intense than the moderately placed original and it’s larger budget enables it to really crank up the gruesome carnage which reaches a fever pitch in the blood soaked last act. The effects by K.N.B. Effects are very well executed and now the cannibalistic clan look far more like the mutant creatures they are than the original ‘dirty hobo’ look of the 1977 version. The Craven film had some violent moments, but Aja plays it very hard-core and his backwoods mutants are far more threatening and the carnage on both sides far more graphic and with more impact. This film is a really rough ride and has a far darker edge than the original, which was quite brutal in it’s own right back in it’s time, but also had some unsettling humorous moments as well. Aja’s visual eye combined with Maxime Alexandre cinematography give the film a gritty and grungy look that serves to make one uncomfortable even when nothing is going on and when you add in the pulse pounding score from Tomandandy and François-Eudes Chanfrault, you have one intense and brutal 106 minutes that expands and improves on an original that is, in itself, considered a cult classic.

The cast all do well and play their parts very effectively from Levine’s macho ex-cop to Stanford’s mild mannered yuppie phone salesman, who slowly transforms into a man who will do anything to protect his own. Ravin and Byrd also gives strong performances as the frightened teen siblings who find not only the will to survive, but the ability to kill to do so. Drago and company all give us some truly frightening and detestable villains though, none really stand out and make an impression like fan legend Michael Berryman did in the original film that made him a horror icon. Overall, a good cast with solid performances that help add to the film’s effectiveness.

I really like this movie, if ‘like’ is the proper word to use in reference to such a brutally intense blood-bath that Aja transforms Craven’s original film into. It’s got some nail-biting action, some really intense gore, and characters that we like enough to not want to see harmed…and some we want to see get it real good! It’s one of the few remakes that improves upon the original and stands on it’s own as a horror achievement. A really good and really brutally effective horror that honors the original film it’s based on, yet makes it’s own statement. A really good horror.

3 and 1/2 axes.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HIGH TENSION (HAUTE TENSION) (2004)

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HIGH TENSION (HAUTE TENSION) (2004)

This French horror film brought director/writer Alexandre Aja to the attention of horror movie fans and an impressive first impression it is. Hight Tension or Haute Tension in it’s native French is a gruesome and intense slasher flick set during one long night of terror for two young women Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Maïwenn Besco) who are pursued by a mysterious and vicious killer. The film opens with the two young girls heading out to Alex’s parents’ (Andrei Finti and Oana Pellea) secluded farmhouse in the French countryside. We already know something is amiss as we cut to the family’s home and see an old beat up truck watching the house from a distance and the occupant (Philippe Nahon) seems to be getting oral sex from a woman but, it actually turns out to be a severed head which he discards when done. Once the girls arrive and settle in, the vehicle and it’s ill-intending driver returns in the dead of night and sends them on a journey into terror and murder that no one may survive. Alexandre Aja crafts a very intense and brutal thriller with some very graphic and effective kills. True to it’s name, there are moments of very intense action and suspense to go along with some very effective gore. Aja knows how to build scares and can shock even jaded horror fans with his explosions of gruesome violence. His visual style adds some nice atmosphere to it all, aided by Maxime Alexandre’s cinematography and he also gives us a horrifying juggernaut in his stocky and sadistic killer. His villain is an effective character despite not knowing much about him. All we know is he is up to murderous no-good and in blood drenched and merciless fashion. The enigma of this human monster adds a nice air of mystery to the proceedings and makes his apparently random attack all the more disturbing. The film is not perfect, Alex’s parents and little brother Tom (Marco Claudiu Pascu) are given little or no character development so, they do appear no more then simple fodder for our killer and despite the horrible things that occur to them it’s hard to be all that empathetic without a better glimpse into who they are. The script by Aja and Grégory Levasseur gives us a disturbing twist in it’s last act that, I will admit, I did not see coming but, once it is revealed, it does pose just as many questions as it answers. But, what came before is a really intense horror and even after, it remains effective, even though taking us in a different direction, and still has dramatic impact, so, we can cut Aja a little slack for trying to throw us a curve. All in all Haute Tension is a vicious and intense horror and even with it’s flaws it is still an impressive debut from the man whose re-imaginings of the horror classics The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha were equally impressive and entertaining. Also has an appearance by Maniac remake director Franck Khalfoun as a gas station convenience store clerk who gets the wrong customer.

3 straight razors!

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REVIEW: MANIAC (2013)

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MANIAC (2013)

Maniac is a remake of the classic 80s horror flick and if William Lustig’s gore-fest was a quintessential grind house slasher then Franck Khalfoun’s film is an art-house slasher as well as a remake… and a very effective and disturbing remake it is. Maniac, like the original, tells the story of Frank Zito (a brilliant Elijah Wood), a man who restores mannequins by day and stalks and gruesomely murders young women by night. The story is basically the same as the 80s film except this one is set in L.A. and the original was in New York. Frank has serious mother issues and when he murders his pretty victims it’s an extension of the hurt and anger he felt from watching his now dead hooker mom ply her trade when he was a child. Sexuality brings out entirely different urges in poor Frank and a lot of young ladies are suffering the consequences as Frank’s hook-ups end rather gruesomely. After his objects of desire are slaughtered, he dresses his mannequins up like his victims including their scalps so they, unlike his dead mother, will stay with him forever. But, Frank meets Anna (Nora Arnezender) and quickly falls for the pretty French photographer with an artistic interest in his mannequins but, can Frank overcome a deeply twisted mind and really be happy with her or will Anna soon become just another  piece in his horrid collection? Produced and co-written by Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, Piranha 3-D) Maniac is a film that is not only a beautifully shot art house style flick but, a very disturbing and gruesome horror. Khalfoun films most of the movie from Zito’s perspective so we generally only see him in reflections and mirrors. Only on a few occasions we see Wood’s serial killer from our perspective but, maybe it’s because in these moments Frank is watching his own gruesome actions as if a bystander in his own life, separating himself from his deeds. This effectively put’s us in his eyes and very uncomfortably in his head and it really gives this film it’s impact especially during the film’s intense and blood soaked last act. We stalk his victims along with him and this first person perspective makes us both an unwilling participant and a helpless witness to his demented acts. And this view point works so well because Woods gives a bold yet, disturbingly subtle performance in the role originated by Joe Spinell, who also wrote the original. Woods really paints the portrait of a truly deranged individual yet, gives us reason to believe that his Frank could actually be a kind and gentle man had he not been twisted by watching his mother’s depraved sexual acts as a child. Arnezeder’s Anna is sweet yet, a little eccentric as the artsy photographer, making her likable and obviously causing us to fear for her as we know the true nature of the man she sees as a gentle, timid soul. The rest of the cast are fine though the focus remains on Frank and Anna but, Khalfoun’s camera captures enough of the supporting characters personality so those that fall prey to Frank’s sharp bowie knife don’t come across like the mannequins that populate his shop/home and aren’t just body count. His camera also captures some beautiful images too and there’s a really nice nod to the original’s movie poster captured in the reflection of a car door… there’s also a playful jab at that film’s lead, Joe Spinell, too that will amuse fans of the original. The film is set in modern day yet has a delightfully 80s feel to it including it’s atmospheric electronic score by ‘Rob’. The gore effects by Greg Nicotero and KNB are extremely realistic and graphic and will make even the most jaded gorehound wince. And while not quite as gory as the 80s classic, I felt the gore here was more effective because, it is used a bit more sparingly and has more impact when it occurs. Maniac ranks among some of the best of the recent horror remakes, it has some flaws, such as some dialog was added by Wood in post production whose line readings seem to be a bit flat, but, it does improve upon the trashy, gory, fun original by making it a seriously disturbing ride in the shoes of a twisted mind. It’s chilling and shocking at times and and very unsettling even in it’s quieter moments. One of the best horrors I’ve seen this year and ironically, one of the others (Evil Dead) was also a remake.  So much for my complaining about all these horror remakes. A highly recommended horror.

A solid and disturbing 3 and 1/2 mannequin heads!

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: PIRANHA 3D (2010)

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PIRANHA 3D  (2010)

Director Alexandre Aja takes Roger Corman’s classic original and totally “cranks it up to 11” in this deliriously gory and delightfully horny remake. Aja takes Corman’s blood and boobs formula to the extreme and creates a highly entertaining action/ horror that, if it’s your cup of tea, delivers the goods in overdrive. It might be one of the goriest movies I’ve seen in quite some time with an army of spring break co-eds making up a meal for an army of prehistoric Piranha and the bodies and body parts are everywhere.

When an earthquake opens the floor of an Arizona lake and releases the Jurassic fish from their underground lair, it puts a bite on the Spring Break celebration in progress. Now it’s up to Sheriff Forester (Elizabeth Shue) to bite back, but first, she has to rescue her son, Jake (Steven R. McQueen) and his love interest, Kelly (Jessica Szohr) who have taken to the lake to document the wild partying with trashy video producer, Derrick (Jerry O’Connell).

Sure, director Aja has all the exploitation elements present, but what really makes it work is that Aja and the script don’t forget about the story, don’t forget about the lead characters and put together a couple of nail biting suspense scenes amidst the carnage and it’s all done with a devious giddiness. As with the filmmakers who worked for Corman, they never forget to give us a movie underneath all the exploitation. Only real flaw to me was some cheesy CGI. If you like this kind of flick, this is one of the most entertaining exploitation style movies in quite some time. A type of film that sadly doesn’t get made much anymore, at least not with this kind of respect and care. And one final note, forty- something year old Elizabeth Shue is still hot and held her own among all the co-eds. The lady can still rock a pair of blue jeans.

Also stars Adam Scott as a diver helping Sheriff Forester, Ving Rhames as a deputy, Christopher Lloyd as an eccentric scientist and the heavenly body of Kelly Brook as one of Derrick’s models

3 and 1/2 carnivorous critters

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