REVIEW: 68 KILL (2017)

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68 KILL (2017)

Chip (Matthew Gray Gubler) makes a meager living draining septic tanks. His crazy, abusive girlfriend Liza (AnnaLynne McCord) is a hooker who has hatched a plan to get them out of squalor quick. She wants to rob her sugar daddy Ken (David Maldonado) of the $68,000 in cash from his safe. She promises the meek Chip that no one will get hurt. Two dead bodies and a hostage (Alisha Boe) in the trunk later, Chip has had enough and double crosses Liza and takes off with her car, the hostage and the cash. But Chip is not about to escape the current situation unscathed, as his path to freedom is blocked by all sorts of unsavory characters, not to mention a furious Liza in hot pursuit.

This sleazy grind house style flick from writer/director Trent Haaga starts out fun mostly due to a delightfully over-the-top AnnaLynne McCord. Where it falters and loses it’s grip somewhat is having McCord’s Liza disappear for most of the second half of the movie as Chip falls for pretty hostage Violet (Boe) and then encounters a group of trailer trash sleazebags who want his money and his life. The story then loses that grimy fun as Chip becomes a hostage himself and is brutalized by this group and the film starts to wallow in the sleaze and viciousness a bit too much for it’s own good. Also, getting back to Violet…SPOILERS

why introduce a potential romance between Violet and Chip, only to have her leave the story a few scenes later? Why have her character there at all, if the story isn’t going anywhere with their romance and Chip must face the trailer park group alone. It seems like filler and a waste of time, not to mention it happens way too quickly and her reason for being in Ken’s house is a bit convoluted to begin with…

END SPOILERS. The film does pick-up when McCord catches up with Chip and finally reappears, but then it is over too quickly to really enjoy the character’s return. When Liza isn’t present the film becomes just another Quentin Tarantino grind house revival style flick which have been all too common since the Pulp Fiction director made them cool again. There is nothing to set it apart from others of it’s ilk.

Gubler makes a fine enough schlep of a hero. Chip’s meek and let’s Liza walk all over him and predictably he finally “grows a pair”…in Liza’s own words…by the film’s end. The character is not as interesting as his psycho girlfriend and the film loses something when Chip takes center stage and Gubler has little more to do than look like he’s in over his head. As Liza, AnnaLynne McCord is a stick of bad girl dynamite and is having a blast of a good time chewing up the scenery and the men in it. She showed she had some real acting chops in Excision and here she is really lighting up the screen as sexy, trashy, crazy Liza. It’s her show and the film makes a big mistake keeping her off screen for most of the second half…a BIG mistake. Alisha Boe is pretty and sexy as hostage Violet, but the character doesn’t amount to much and there seems to be no point to her even being there once the story changes gears after she and Chip hook up.

Overall, there was some fun to be had here, but mostly when star AnnaLynne McCord was onscreen tearing it up with her sexy, out-of-her-mind, bad girl Liza. When McCord’s character is absent, the fun fades and sadly filmmaker Haaga wallows a bit too much in the violence and trash of his story as it progresses. The flick only crackles when Liza is involved and it is a big mistake to have her absent for so long to pursue a romantic sub-plot that is discarded a few scenes later. Having his start with Troma Films, Haaga knows trash cinema, but he also needs to recognize when it’s a bit too much and when he’s messing up a good thing by letting the best part of the movie sit on the sidelines for far too long. Worth a look, but not the sleazy roller coaster ride it wants to be.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 bullets!

 

 

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BARE BONES: THE HAUNTING OF MOLLY HARTLEY

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THE HAUNTING OF MOLLY HARTLEY (2008)

Teen centric horror stars Haley Bennett, who was recently seen in the really effective thriller Kristy and probably the only reason to watch this. Story has 17 year-old Molly Hartley approaching her 18th birthday and being continually haunted by the nightmare of her own mother (Marin Hinkle) attacking her with a pair of scissors. Mom is in a psychiatric ward now and Molly lives with her dad (Jake Webber) and carries the physical and mental scars of that attack to her new school. Soon though, Molly learns that her mother tried to kill her due to a deal made with a mysterious woman to save Molly’s life when she was born stillborn after a miscarriage in a public restroom… yup, you read that right. The deal was that on her 18th birthday, Molly would become a servant of Satan…and now her birthday draws near.

Totally routine and forgettable PG-13 horror is directed very by-the-numbers by Mickey Liddell from a script by John Travis and Rebecca Sonnenshine. Basically it’s a high school version of Rosemary’s Baby with poor young Molly being stalked by those who want to kill her before she reaches her birthday and by the servants of evil who want to see her meet her date with destiny. It’s all very boring and while Haley Bennett does show some of the intensity that made her a great heroine in Kristythe actress has very little to work with here. Dull and forgettable. Also stars AnnaLynne McCord as a typical mean girl, a part that she seems to play so well.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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BARE BONES: SANTA’S LITTLE HELPER and POD

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SANTA’S LITTLE HELPER (2015)

Moderately amusing and heavily cliché’d flick has selfish businessman, Dax (WWE superstar Mike “The Miz” Mizanin) out of a job and being tested for a new one by mysterious woman, Billie (AnnaLynne McCord). It turns out Billie is one of Santa’s elves and old St. Nick (Eric Keenleyside) needs a new right hand man and based on his kind-hearted youth, feels Dax is the one to be his new “Ho Ho”…not making that up. Standing in Dax’s way is ambitious and arrogant elf, Eleanor (WWE superstar Paige) who is outraged that a normal human is being courted for the job and not her…and vows to stop him.

Silly flick has it’s amusing moments, but is so cliché that it needed a lot more entertainment value to overlook it’s extremely familiar story from James Robert Johnston and Bennett Yellin’s script. As directed by Gil Junger it is very-by-the numbers and only McCord’s adorable perkiness adds some life. Both Mizanin and Paige seem to just be playing versions of their WWE ring persona’s and the film doesn’t try hard enough to give itself some real Christmas spirit. Completely bland and forgettable, but not without some small amount of charm…probably more due to watching it during the Christmas season than the film itself. At least the girls were cute.

Kids may find it more amusing, especially if they are fans of Miz and Paige, but after her work in Excision, McCord deserves better.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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POD (2015)

Sci-fi/horror has psychiatrist Ed (Dean Cates) picking up his alcoholic sister Lyla (Jug Face’s Lauren Ashley Carter) and heading to a remote cabin to check on brother Martin (Brian Morvant). Martin is a paranoid schizophrenic with a history of violence and emotional problems who recently sent Ed an ominous and upsetting message. They arrive to find the house and Martin, in complete disarray with the ex-soldier claiming to have been part of government experiments and that one of those experiments, has followed him there. Does Martin really have a creature locked up in the basement or has he finally lost his mind?

Written and directed by Mickey Keating, this isn’t a bad movie just an extremely familiar one that offers nothing new to this conspiracy type tale told many times before and better…including 2014’s Extraterrestrial. The directing is competent and there are a few suspenseful scenes, but it’s predictable and we’ve seen it so many times before. The acting is decent, though Morvant’s raving gets really tiresome especially since it goes on for over 30 minutes. Worth a look, if you like X-Files flavored stuff, but don’t expect much or anything fresh or new. Also stars indie horror icon Larry Fessenden in a cliché role that I won’t spoil.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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-MonsterZero NJ
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YEAR END HORROR ROUND-UP 2013

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I’m not a big fan of top 10 lists and all that year end fuss but, I thought I would give a bit of a look back at what I liked and didn’t like in the horror genre this year and, or course, share it with all of you. These are just my opinions and since the world is filled with different tastes and preferences and each horror film effects, or doesn’t effect, everyone differently, I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with my selections but, this is how I look at what the horror genre had to offer this year…

BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR

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EVIL DEAD (2013)

To a degree it’s sad that the best horror of the year was a remake but, I had a blast with Fede Alvarez’s re-imagining and it had some nice scares, plenty of gore and Jane Levy rocked in the lead. Alvarez showed he’s a director to keep an eye on and he paid tribute to the original while doing his own thing. Fun horror! Read my full review HERE…

BEST HORROR RUNNER-UP

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THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013)

Rob Zombie’s latest horror is not for everyone but, I enjoyed this out-there story of a Salem Mass. DJ (Sheri Moon Zombie) who is sent a record that, when played, sets in motion the return of a coven of Devil worshipping witches and their plan to bring great evil into our world. Zombie’s flick has some really disturbing visuals and some very subtle and creepy scenes to go along with it’s more shocking moments and evokes the works of some of horror’s best directors while remaining a Rob Zombie film. His most solid directorial effort and a refreshingly off-beat and very unsettling movie. Even the soundtrack was disturbing and, as usual in a Zombie film, there are some great songs included in it that almost become a character in the film themselves. An acquired taste but, I really enjoyed it. Read my original review HERE…

BEST HORROR HONORABLE MENTION

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MANIAC (2013)

For a guy who bitches a lot about all the horror remakes, it is quite ironic that two of my favorites this year are in fact remakes but, Franck Khalfoun’s re-imagining was a vast improvement over the sleazy and overrated original and Elijah Wood gave me the creeps. There were some truly shocking and disturbing moments, strong tension and the film made creepy use of it’s POV shooting style. An art house style horror that really worked for me. Read my full review HERE…

MOST ORIGINAL HORROR

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AMERICAN MARY (2013)

Sure Mary isn’t perfect but, this story of pretty Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle), a down on her luck medical student who is lured into the world of underground body modification surgery for money and then is turned into a sadistic killer when horribly wronged, is a breath of fresh air in a genre saturated by generic haunted house and home invasion thrillers. A wickedly fun and disturbing flick from the Soska Sisters and one that made me second guess myself and I give it a lot of credit for that. Read my full review HERE…

ORIGINAL HORROR RUNNER-UP

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EXCISION (2012)

Yes, this film is from 2012 but, I didn’t catch up with it till this year and it deserves a shout out for being one of the more original flicks I watched during 2013. Another surgery themed flick has a troubled teen Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) whose obsession with surgery and bizarre fantasies leads this demented ugly duckling to commit some horrible acts. A trippy and disturbing  little movie with a really strong performance by McCord who disappears into the role. A nice turn by Traci Lords as well as Pauline’s overbearing mother also gives this flick some weight. Read my full review HERE…

ORIGINAL HORROR HONORABLE MENTION

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JUG FACE (2013)

Chad Crawford Kinkle gave us an unsettling and offbeat little horror about a rural backwoods community presided over by a supernatural creature that resides in a large sink hole just inside the woods. The creature watches over the village and even cures ills as long as the residents feed it the appropriate sacrifice when it calls for it. When one of the intended sacrifices has other ideas, she brings it’s wrath down upon her entire village. Read my full review HERE…

BEST DIRECT TO HOME MEDIA HORROR /

BEST COMEBACK

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CURSE OF CHUCKY (2013)

This flick sadly went direct to home media but, Chucky’s first horror in almost 10 years is a fun, gory and suspenseful tale that returns to the series’ more serious roots and sets Chucky loose in a spooky old house. It had some nice suspense, some vicious kills, Fiona Dourif made a plucky wheelchair bound heroine and there’s some nice surprises for fans of the series too. Chucky was back in style and didn’t get the attention/respect he deserved. Read my full review HERE…

 

MOST OVERRATED HORROR

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THE CONJURING (2013)

Don’t get me wrong, The Conjuring is a well made and fairly enjoyable horror flick especially in it’s spooky first act, but with a second act that gets not only theatrical and a bit hokey, but climaxes with yet another routine exorcism, it lost it’s grip on me much like Wan’s Insidious did in it’s second half. A good flick, but not the masterpiece internet hype makes it out to be. Also doesn’t hold up under repeat viewings as the scares have lost some of their effect and the flaws only get more obvious. Read my full review HERE…

 

MOST DISAPPOINTING HORROR

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YOU’RE NEXT (2013)

With all the positive buzz and internet hype I heard about this flick, it was a major disappointment when I left the theater having seen this predictable and routine home invasion flick with transparent plot twists and a completely contrived excuse for the lethal skills of it’s final girl… though Sharni Vinson was effective in the part. Otherwise the bland cast recites some really bad dialog and does incredibly stupid things to set themselves up as victims both invaded and invader alike. A weak script and a shaky cam obsessed directer make this not only one of the year’s biggest disappointments, but one of the weaker horrors I saw this year. See my full review HERE…

 

WORST HORROR

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THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (2013)

After the entertaining and effectively chilling first flick, this shameless and stupid cash grab sequel is awful in almost every way. A poor script and story, lame direction and a laughable climax makes this hands down the worst horror I saw this year. Ashley Bell does try really hard, but the actress is given garbage to work with and garbage is what this sequel is. Read my full review HERE…

WORST HORROR THAT I STILL ENJOYED

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TEXAS CHAINSAW  (2013)

I’m not going to defend this flick, it had some glaring story problems, a highly questionable timeline…our plucky heroine Heather (Alexandra Daddario) should be in her forties not a nubile 20 something…and numerous other issues, but it gave me some chuckles and a couple of real hotties being chased by a chubby, balding Leatherface…who should be like 60 here…there were also some gruesome kills and did I mention it’s got Alexandra Daddario? A guilty pleasure for sure for, as bad as this was, I had fun watching it and it did have some nice cameos and homages to Hooper’s original masterpiece. Read my full review HERE…

HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE NEW YEAR!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: AMERICAN MARY and EXCISION

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I know that I have reviewed these films within the last few months, but I think these two unconventional films that both deal with a lead  female character with an interest/skills in surgery and the disturbing stories within which our leading ladies find themselves in, make for a very provocative and chilling Saturday night combo…

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AMERICAN MARY (2013)

Flick tells the interesting story of pretty med student, Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle) who, when in need of cash, finds herself getting accidentally involved with illegal surgery and body modification. But it’s not till she is drugged and raped at a party by her arrogant pervert of a professor (David Lovgren) that Mary’s skills get put to horrifying use and her inner Frankenstein is unleashed.

American Mary is intriguing, but never fully decides what it is really about to make it completely captivating, or gets truly twisted enough to make it cult film material. This Canadian flick written and directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska (who also play twins in the movie) has a nice visual style and some very gruesome moments, but never really grabs us completely or shocks us enough to solidify itself the cult status it aims for. The cast is decent and there are a few interesting and eccentric characters, but lead Katherine Isabelle, who was so good in Ginger Snaps, plays Mary with a bit of an emotional detachment for the most part or maybe a bit too low key. With all that befalls Mary, the tone of the character seems to remain the same despite that her life gets sent in disturbing directions and the changes it makes to her. She’s still good, but there should have been a bit more of a difference between Jekyll and Hyde. It would have made more impact. But Isabelle is a good actress and maybe it’s not her fault as she is not given a lot of time to develop Mary before the story sets in motion, so we don’t really see the changes in the character as the film progresses. Perhaps the Soskas get things moving too quickly and as Mary gets drawn in deeper and deeper into this bizarre world, we haven’t gotten to know her well enough to really add resonance to her life’s sudden macabre twist and the changes that occur within her. After her brutal rape, we can understand her emotional shut down, but even before that she seems to adjust a bit too quickly, despite the absurdity of what she’s asked to do and after, her cruel revenge seems to come a bit too easily. After the story events that have the most impact on Mary occur, the moments the Soskas give us to experience what Mary is feeling are all too brief and don’t sink in properly and that robs us of appreciating the true gravity of her transformation from down-on-her-luck med student to illegal body modification diva to sadistic murderer. I’m not saying what occurs doesn’t have any effectiveness, it does. But we needed a little more time with Mary at those transformation points to really appreciate what’s happened to her. To a degree Mary seems likable, but we never really get truly emotionally involved as she embraces her dark and sadistic side or begins to revel at being a rock star of underground body modification surgery…and we should in order to give the story the weight it needs to elevate it to something unique and special. There’s just something missing. The Soskas seem to be far more interested in who Mary is to become and forget that we need to know her better as who she is first to appreciate that.

I won’t take away that this is an original story in a genre filled with remakes and sequels and it still held my interest throughout despite it’s flaws. This real segment of society has never really been touched on in films and we wish the Soska’s would also have delved even deeper into this sect of people that see their bodies as ever evolving canvases and physically alter them through illegal surgery such as Mary provides. There are also a few story lines going on during American Mary and none get fully developed, such as what is going on between Mary and strip club owner Billy (Antonio Cupo), who first hires her to perform an illegal surgery. A partnership/relationship between them then forms that the parameters of which are never really made clear. And then there’s the bond between Mary and Lance the bouncer (Twan Holliday) that I would like to have seen more of. And that’s what restrains American Mary, it is an interesting story with some equally interesting ideas that never gets fully developed enough to really get our complete attention or becomes bizarre and twisted enough to make it more memorable…though it has it’s moments. Worse still, the ending feels forced and sudden as if the Soska’s didn’t know where to go with Mary’s story at that point and add a plot contrivance to wrap things up in a bloody bow. It’s abrupt and not very satisfying.

An intriguing diversion and a nicely original story idea that’s worth a look and has it’s effectiveness, but could have been much more with a little more development of the story and it’s lead character. In conclusion, I did like it and find it intriguing, but it is a flawed film as much as an interesting one…and if anything, I’ve re-watched it a few times and it has made me second guess my feelings about it and the film at least deserves credit for that.

A generous 3 bones saws!

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Excision_posterEXCISION (2012)

Richard Bates Jr. writes and directs this original, trippy and really disturbing horror/drama about emotionally troubled teen, Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) who escapes from her repressive mother (Traci Lords) by immersing herself in an interest in surgery complete with gruesome and bizarre fantasies. But fantasy and reality may collide as the disturbed Pauline grows desperate to win her distant mother’s love and plots to do so by saving her little sister, Grace (Ariel Winter) from her cystic fibrosis in the only way her demented mind sees possible.

Not only does Bates weave a drama that mixes with equal parts horror, but also gets great performances out of McCord, who really surprised me with how well she disappeared into Pauline’s demented ugly duckling persona, and Lords, who shines as her overbearing mother. It’s the performances all around that really make this haunting, off-center and sometimes gruesome character study really work. He also vividly creates the fantasies inside Pauline’s head and makes them both visually beautiful and highly disturbing at the same time. It gives us a chilling idea of just how unhinged this high school outcast really is.

Not for everyone, but for those who don’t mind something different and unnerving, this is a really good watch. Also features appearances by Malcolm McDowell, Ray Wise, Marlee Matlin and John Waters.

3 solid bone saws!

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: EXCISION (2012)

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EXCISION (2012)

Richard Bates Jr. writes and directs this original, trippy and really disturbing horror/drama about emotionally troubled teen, Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) who escapes from her repressive mother (Traci Lords) by immersing herself in an interest in surgery complete with gruesome and bizarre fantasies. Fantasy and reality may collide, as the disturbed Pauline grows desperate to win her distant mother’s love and plots to do so by saving her little sister, Grace (Ariel Winter) from her cystic fibrosis…in the only way her demented mind sees possible.

Not only does Bates weave a drama that mixes with equal parts horror, but also gets great performances out of McCord, who really surprised me with how well she disappeared into Pauline’s demented ugly duckling persona, and Lords, who shines as her overbearing mother. It’s the performances all around that really make this haunting, off-center and sometimes gruesome character study really work. He also vividly creates the fantasies inside Pauline’s head and makes them both visually beautiful and highly disturbing at the same time. It gives us a chilling idea of just how unhinged this high school outcast really is.

Not for everyone, but for those who don’t mind something different and unnerving, this is a really good watch. Also features appearances by Malcolm McDowell, Ray Wise, Marlee Matlin and John Waters.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 solid bone saws!

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