BARE BONES: AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING (2014)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING (2014)

Unnecessary horror sequel has sat on the shelf for three years and now we know why. Flick has single mother Joan (Jennifer Jason Leigh) moving into the infamous house with rebellious daughter Belle, (Bella Thorne) younger daughter Juliet (Mckenna Grace) and son, James (Cameron Monaghan), who has been in a vegetative state since an incident that Bella blames herself for. Once settled in, Bella starts to believe something is very wrong as she learns the house’s horrifying history and her brother starts to make some remarkable and impossible improvements. Cue flies and the prerequisite “get outs”.

Despite it’s title, you’ll find it hard to stay awake during this sequel. Flick is written and directed by Franck Khalfoun who shows none of the style he showed in his Maniac remake and has concocted a very lazy script with all the familiar tropes un-inventively rolled out. Movie tries to legitimize itself by acknowledging all the other films were just that, movies and that this film is supposed take place in reality. But, it’s as far from reality as you can get and the only scary thing is how often Khalfoun likes to film actress Bella Thorne’s rear. It’s a terrible sequel with a wooden cast and even vets like Leigh and Kurtwood Smith seem to be phoning in their parts. Having the demon inhabit a person in a vegetative state is just dull and it keeps the action “bed ridden” till the climax we all know is coming a mile away. Awful waste of time and belongs back on the shelf it came from.

-MonsterZero NJ

Humerus-Bone1 

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

 double feature_AH-AH2

bars

I watched this double feature recently and found this classic and it’s prequel to be a lot of fun together!

Amityville_poster

bars

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR  (1979)

The Amityville Horror is renown as a horror classic and I certainly won’t argue that. While I find it more corny than creepy…even when I saw it at the Rialto Theater in Ridgefield Park, N.J. back in 1979…it is a lot of fun and created many of the clichés that now permeate today’s haunted house flicks.

Based on a supposed true story, the film has newly married couple George (James Brolin) and Kathy (Margot Kidder) Lutz moving into a large house that was the site of a grizzly murder the year before. The Lutzes are hesitant, but they can’t beat the price. Soon after they move in, strange things begin to occur…and always at 3:15 a.m., the time of the murders. George’s behavior also seems to start to become more and more odd, as he appears sick all the time and the peaceful man has developed a bad temper almost overnight. A priest, Father Delany (Rod Steiger), comes to bless their home and is made to flee as some unseen entity forces him from the house. Now under attack from some malevolent force, the family begins to realize they are in great danger from something inside that house that certainly means them harm. With a history of murder, Devil worship and Native American burial grounds, can the family escape this Hell they call home with such powerful forces aligned against them?

Whether it’s believed this actually happened or not, is still being argued today. Demonologists, the Warrens, who have been brought back to attention with The Conjuring, were the investigators on the case and their legitimacy is debated about as much as this incident. A recent investigation on the TV special Real Fear: The Truth Behind The Movies, revealed new facts that George Lutz practiced the occult and validated that the house was build on Native American burial grounds. So is it real? Who knows? As a movie it is a lot of fun and even though I personally don’t find it very scary, director Stuart Rosenberg and writer Sandor Stern do concoct an entertaining and sometimes innovative horror that established some supernatural elements that now have become movie standards. They take their film, based on Jay Anson’s book, and make a very theatrical horror with bleeding walls, bloody hallucinations, threatening voices and a house that does seem to ooze evil. It just looks spooky, even in daylight. Rosenberg gives it a moderate pace and there are some chilling moments, but to me it’s more fun than actually scary. The film is a bit overly melodramatic, which holds it back for me. The dialogue is corny, especially from Rod Steiger’s very over-the-top holy man and while Brolin and Kidder perform their roles with stark seriousness, they do lean toward over-the-top, too, on occasion. I will admit it has lots of atmosphere, though and Rosenberg is helped in that department by a very chilling score by Lalo Schifrin and there is some moody cinematography by Fred J. Koenekamp. Maybe not very scary, but it is a good time especially with some added nostalgia from it being very 70s.

So while I don’t think this is quite the scare-fest it was meant to be, I do enjoy it as much now as I did when seeing it in 1979. It portrayed some haunted house elements in a way that have now made them tradition in these films and treated what could have been a silly story with dignity and respect. It’s atmospheric and just plain fun. Maybe not one of my all time favorites, but a film I recognize and acknowledge as the classic it now is.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) haunted houses!

amityville horror rating

**************************************************

plus

amityville 2

bars

AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION (1982)

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

Even in the 70s and 80s, if it made money, there was usually a sequel. While The Amityville Horror told the complete story of the Lutz haunting, legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis found a way to give us more. The film was a prequel and based it’s story on the real-life DeFeo family murders that occurred in the house before the Lutz family moved in. They changed the names in Tommy Lee Wallace, and an uncredited Dardano Sacchetti’s (Luci Fulci’s Zombie), script and now we get the tragic story of the Montelli family. As with the Lutz family, the Montelli’s, Anthony and Dolores (Burt Young and Rutanya Alda) move in with their kids and almost immediately strange things start to happen. As dad Anthony is an abusive jerk, there is already tension between he and older son Sonny (Jack Magner) who the entity targets as it’s vessel. Also, like with the last flick, there is a priest involved, Father Adamsky (James Olson), who detects an evil force in the house and vows to take it on. The film chronicles Sonny’s being broken down and possessed to the point where he murder’s his family and then Father Adamsky’s attempts to drive the demon from him to prove his innocence.

I actually enjoy this sequel, but this time, for all the wrong reasons. Director Damiano Damiani presents everything with such a dire seriousness that it just accents how silly it all is. While the real-life crime was tragic and horrifying, the film just comes across as campy despite the solemn tone. We get some really cheesy levitation effects that are flagrantly over-used, delightfully corny dialogue and intense over-acting by most of the cast, as well as, some well-executed, but out of place make-up effects to simulate Sonny’s possession. The addition of an incestuous relationship between Sonny and pretty sister Patricia (80s film hottie Diane Franklin) also adds an uncomfortable creepiness, but not of the good kind. It is, however, supposedly a plot point based on a factual relationship between Ronald DeFeo Jr. And his sister. Lalo Schifrin returns to score and it gives the film some atmosphere, as does Franco Di Giacomo’s cinematography. Having the murders occur about two-thirds of the way through and then turning the last act into a routine possession/exorcism flick, also hurts what could have been a very intense finale. The film should have been leading up to the murders, which are very effective, but then the film goes on for another half-hour for Adamsky’s attempt to free Sonny of the demon and that just get’s silly…but it’s fun to watch and entertainment is the point.

The cast all over-act. Burt Young is just doing another version of his “Paulie” though one that likes to smack around his wife and kids. Having one of the leads being intensely unlikable also doesn’t help the film overall. We actually don’t have much sympathy when Sonny guns him down. Rutanya Alda does some really over the top facial expressions and James Olson’s priestly dialogue seems made up as it goes along and never convinces as legitimate prayer. Magner is actually somewhat fine as Sonny. He has his over the top moments, but isn’t quite as flagrant as some other cast members despite having to act out demonic influence. Rounding out the leads, Franklin has some pretty bad dialogue to utter and the script has her way too accepting of her brother’s sexual advances…demonic influence or not. The scene doesn’t have the shock value it needs because she goes along with it way too easy…and it makes her later guilt seem a bit insincere. Maybe not the actress’ fault, but some of her dialogue does invite some generous chuckles….sorry, I don’t envision a demon ever saying “make love” it’s just laughable.

I have fun with this flick. It’s cheesy, corny and has some laughably fun bits. It tries way too hard to top it’s predecessor, so much that it goes over-the-top and neuters a lot of the effect the story should have. It takes what could have been a dramatically intense and disturbing climax and serves it up about an hour in, leaving the last act to fall into a routine and silly exorcism flick. All this does make for an entertaining movie though, but definitely for all the wrong reasons. Also, despite taking place before the late 70s set Amityville Horror, the film has a definite 80s vibe to it. Nostalgic and entertaining in spite of itself.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) “so bad it’s good” haunted houses!

amityville horror rating

***************************************************

bars

REVIEW: REAL FEAR: THE TRUTH BEHIND THE MOVIES (2012)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

real fear

bars

REAL FEAR: THE TRUTH BEHIND THE MOVIES (2012)

Real-Fear-Show-Thumbnail

Normally I don’t dabble too much in TV reviews but, I am a big fan of paranormal shows and movies and watch them frequently. Paranormal State was and is still my favorite paranormal investigation show and regardless of whether you believe or not, it was good TV. So when I heard Chiller TV was doing a paranormal investigation special where they were investigating paranormal cases that inspired some classic and well known horror movies AND the investigations were going to be conducted by Paranormal State‘s sexy spook hunter Katrina Weidman…I was definitely looking forward to it. And, for the most part, was not disappointed…

Katrina Weidman had spent 5 seasons as a Paranormal Investigator on Paranormal State and was inspired to become a PRS (Paranormal Research Society) member due to some supernatural experiences of her own growing up in rural Pennsylvania. So she has a natural and passionate interesting in the paranormal and Real Fear puts her experience to work to investigate the alleged real stories behind the films The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, The Mothman Prophecies and Silent Hill. Katrina was a researcher for PRS and she does her homework here with a lot of fascinating history and background facts to garnish the team’s investigations. Along with Katrina are friends Chris Holt, John McGarry and Charity Winters. What results is a fun look at some supposed true stories that inspired, whether acknowledged or not, some very popular horror movies. The show also gives us some insight on what embellishments Hollywood added to these cases to make them more cinematic. Even if you do not believe in the supernatural, it’s an entertaining two hours of how Hollywood can turn real life ghost stories and urban legends into box office gold.

As a horror movie fan, I found the special a real treat and Katrina’s legitimate enthusiasm for her investigations comes through and helps pull you in just as her novice friend’s fearful reactions, especially when doing some actual investigations of supposedly haunted places, are fun to watch. That is also the only drawback with the special that I had. While it is fun to watch her friends get scared, it’s also disappointing that in a couple of spots when things get interesting, they retreat instead of standing their ground as more experience ghost hunters would do. I f they had stuck with the investigation instead of running, they may have gotten some even more intriguing evidence. So, if this fun special has it’s Achilles’ heel, it’s that her friends are not experienced investigators and are prone to flee just as things get interesting. We do get a lot of fun facts such as an interview with one of the Lutz children from Amityville who reveals that their step-dad George Lutz was actually a practicer of the occult, so that made moving into a house that was the scene of a multiple homicide a volatile mix. He also explains that things weren’t anywhere near as dramatic as the movie. Sorry folks, no blood on the walls or swarms of flies.

We also get a glimpse of The Herman case, a reported instance of poltergeist activity that supposedly inspired Spielberg and Hooper’s classic flick. Ironically both Amityville and the Herman cases both took place in Long Island in the vicinity of Indian burial grounds…which the team check out. Hmmmm…Guess I’m staying in Jersey…which has it’s own plethora of supernatural tales! We then get a look at the Mothman case from the 60s, which inspired the spooky Richard Gere movie, where a bizarre creature was seen by quite a few people in Point Pleasant, West Virginia for over a year and ceased after a tragic bridge collapse that killed dozens of people. The interviews here definitely give some chills and makes one question what really happened. What did people see? The show finishes up with a journey to Miss Weidman’s own backyard in Centralia, Pennsylvania where a mine fire that started underground in1962 still burns and has caused the abandonment of an entire town. Katrina’s family is from Centralia and her personal and emotional ties to the place add a very interesting dimension to the segment. The events here are very similar to the events from the video game based movie, Silent Hill and it’s hard to think there wasn’t some inspiration from this real life tragedy. This segment is rather spooky with the thought that there has been a fire burning underground for decades and it steadily causes cave-ins and slowly is claiming this abandoned ghost town, building by building. The team also does some investigating into tales of the spirits of miners who perished there that are said to still haunt the area and this combined with Katrina’s personal stories really resonates.

All in all this is a fun look at the tales that inspired some of our favorite horror flicks. Again, I do wish Katrina’s friends weren’t so easily spooked when they started getting some possible spirit activity, such as when investigating the wooded area that supposedly was home to the Mothman and the allegedly haunted mines of Centralia, but otherwise they are a likable bunch and they do handle themselves very professionally in the interview segments and get some interesting answers out of their witnesses…and watching them get scared and run screaming did give me a few chuckles, so I’ll cut them some slack…I probably would have been running right along with them.

As a horror movie and paranormal show fan, I overall really enjoyed seeing some deep digging into stories that have, or allegedly have, inspired some entertaining and classic horrors. The special is overall effective and spooky and very entertaining…and even surprisingly touching…when all things are said and done. Katrina seems like a very down to earth and accessible person as she did on Paranormal State and seems to be very comfortable, yet laid back, leading her group. That and her camaraderie with her friends makes us feel more like we are along for the ride then just an audience watching a show. If you are a movie fan…or a fan of ghost hunting shows…I recommend it, even if you don’t believe in supernatural events, it’s still fun stuff and is very entertaining, maybe more so then some of the movies these tales inspire. Real Fear is real fun!

3 and 1/2 spooks !

real fear_Rating

GOOD NEWS!: Katrina and Co. will be back on Chiller TV on September 6th 2013 at 9PM with a new special, Real Fear: The Truth Behind More Movies which will focus on the cases behind The Haunting in Connecticut, The Blair Witch Project and more! Check your local listings and join in the fun!

real_fear_2_hero_1061x515_0

bars