BARE BONES: DREAD (2009)

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DREAD (2009)

Dread is a dark film that surprises by having deeper things going on than the deceiving coming attractions would have us believe. It’s a simple but gruesome tale, of college students doing a study on fear…and what could possibly go wrong with that?

The film, written and directed by Anthony DiBlasi (Extremity, Last Shift), from a story by Clive Barker, is actually well made and tries to accomplish something beyond just portraying unpleasantness and pain. DiBlasi gives his sometimes cruel and brutal film, some depth and emotional resonance. That’s the difference between this and the recent trend of torture horror. The violence in the last act is part of the downward spiral the story slowly makes and is not done for it’s own sake, or to outdo the last torture themed flick. It’s not the subject of the film, but an unfortunate result of a character’s unraveling. There are cruel moments, but they are brief and have impact. We feel horrified for the victims, not numbed, as they are people and not just subjects for some SPFX team’s expertise. Not an enjoyable film, on an entertainment level, but an interesting one that was released as part of the After Dark Horrorfest and produced by Barker himself. Stars Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Evans and Hanne Steen, who all perform the material well.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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5 DIRECTORS BRINGING NEW BLOOD TO HORROR!

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5 DIRECTORS BRINGING NEW BLOOD TO HORROR!

At Halloween 🎃 time it is when we most think about scary movies, even those of us who watch them all year round. So why not take a look at five individuals who are bringing their own distinct vision to the genre and whom horror fans should be talking more about!…and no, I didn’t forget the ladies, they deserve their own installment, forthcoming!

(To get to the full reviews of the films mentioned, just hit the highlighted titles that link to the corresponding page!)

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Adam MacDonald

 

Adam MacDonald is a Canadian actor and filmmaker who has written and directed two features, thus far, that have made quite an impression. His first film Backcountry is a survival thriller that followed a couple (Jeff Roop and Missy Peregrym) who go camping in the woods. Jealous of his girlfriend’s success, her beau chooses a lesser traveled route to prove himself to her. This puts them within the feeding ground of a massive and very hungry grizzly bear and thus sets up an intense and sometimes brutal last act. His second film Pyewacket is a supernatural thriller which finds a mother and daughter (Laurie Holden and Nicole Muñoz) in conflict over their methods of mourning the death of their husband/father. This propels the occult fascinated teen Leah (Muñoz) to evoke the dark entity Pyewacket to kill her mother. Leah soon learns to be careful what you wish for. Both films use troubled relationships as a catalyst for their stories and Pyewacket especially has some good old fashion scares and chills supported by a strong emotional center. MacDonald is showing a versatility and a depth to his filmmaking. Adam currently wrapped filming on Slasher season 3, so look out for more from this talented new voice in horror!

Nicole Muñoz conjures the wrong spirit in Adam MacDonald’s Pyewacket

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Stevan Mena

 

Stevan Mena is a New York born filmmaker who is a one man production company, writing ,editing, directing, producing and even scoring his own films. He made a splash in 2003 with his low budget slasher Malevolence, which was an old-fashioned horror throwback that echoed both Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Set in and around an abandoned slaughterhouse, it told the chilling story of some bank robbers and their hostages meeting up with serial killer Martin Bristol (Jay Cohen). He followed that up with a horror icon filled horror/comedy called Brutal Massacre, before returning to the saga of Bristol in 2010 with the brutal and intense Bereavement. The second Malevolence film was a prequel telling the story of how serial killer Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby) kidnapped Martin (Spencer List ) as a child and trained him to be his successor. It’s one of the best horrors of the decade IMO. Recently Mena overcame some tragic events to complete his Malevolence trilogy with the independently financed Malevolence 3: Killer. Sequel has an adult Martin (a returning Jay Cohen) leaving a blood soaked trail on the way back to his home town. Mena’s work evokes that of John Carpenter himself and one hopes he returns to the director’s chair sooner than later.

A killer (Jay Cohen) returns home in Stevan Mena’s Malevolence 3: Killer

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Colin Minihan

 

Colin Minihan started out as part of the writing/directing duo known as The Vicious Brothers along with collaborator Stuart Ortiz. Their first film was the fun and spooky found footage paranormal show send up Grave Encounters in 2011. They followed that up with the entertaining and chilling cabin in the woods/alien invasion hybrid Extraterrestrial in 2014. Though co-written with Ortiz, Minihan took the director’s chair solo for the next film It Stains The Sands Red. This was an amusing, bloody and offbeat tale of a lone woman (Brittany Allen) being followed across the desert by a lone zombie. An interesting relationship forms as she fights brutal heat, dehydration and her relentless undead pursuer. Minihan wrote and directed his fourth film on his own with the brutal and intense What Keeps You Alive. One of the years best, it finds a married lesbian couple (Brittany Allen and Hanna Emily Anderson) celebrating their anniversary in a remote cabin in the woods. Soon romantic bliss becomes a battle for survival as one of the women is not who she seems. This flick proves Minihan is a force to be reckoned with, armed with a great script, taunt direction and brilliant work by his lead actresses. Minihan is a filmmaker fans need to be talking more about.

Lover vs lover in Colin Minihan’s brutal and intense What Keeps You Alive

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Anthony Diblasi

 

Boston born Anthony Diblasi is another filmmaker showing great versatility and a mastery of horror while also providing some emotional depth to his films. His first film Dread was a chilling tale of a college documentary project about fear, spinning horribly out of control. His next film Cassadaga, found deaf art teacher Lily (Kelen Coleman) being haunted by the spirit of a murdered young woman whose killer may have his sights set next on the pretty teacher. Diblasi worked on some non-genre projects and the horror anthology The Profane Exhibit before co-writing and directing The Last Shift in 2014. One of his scariest flicks, the story found a young policewoman being given the final shift in a haunted police precinct closing it’s doors in the morning…but can she survive the night? Diblasi returned to horror again in 2015 with Most Likely To Die, an old fashioned slasher about a high school reunion turned deadly, and again in 2018 with Extremity. His latest finds an emotionally troubled woman turning to an extreme haunt to make her face her fears…bad idea. The film was not only disturbing and scary, but had a strong emotional lining with multi-dimensional characters and commentary about abuse and the lives it effects. Another filmmaker that is bringing a distinct voice to the horror genre.

Emotionally troubled Allison (Dana Christina) turns to an extreme haunt to face her fears in Anthony Diblasi’s Extremity

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Oz Perkins

 

Just because he is the son of legendary actor Anthony (Psycho) Perkins, one should not assume actor/director Oz Perkins knows horror…but he does! One of the most interesting filmmakers out there, Perkins has a unique vision and a strong ability to chill to the bone. His first film The Blackcoat’s Daughter finds Rose (Lucy Boynton), a student at a Catholic girls school, given charge of new student Kat (Kiernan Shipka) at break. With almost everyone else gone, Rose starts to realize there is something very wrong with Kat and that she may be in danger. Perkins followed that up with a very atmospheric ghost story I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House. Perkins writes and directs a subtle, yet chilling tale of care nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) coming to live with ailing horror novelist Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss). Soon timid Lily starts to find out that Iris Blum’s inspirations may be far more real than she’d like. It’s a creepy and very effective film. Word has it his next film may be entitled A Head Full Of Ghosts and as he is bringing a very unique style to the genre, he sounds like the right man for the job!

Care nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) finds her charge may have had all too real inspiration for her horror novels in Oz Perkins’ I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House

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So these are five creative forces bringing new blood to horror. Each one is worth screaming about and their films are certainly worth checking out!

…and stay tuned for our second installment taking a look at the creative ladies bringing their unique voices to the genre!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: EXTREMITY (2018)

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EXTREMITY (2018)

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

It is the fate of glass to break-tattoo on the back of lead Allison’s neck

Latest film from Anthony DiBlasi (Last Shift, Most Likely To Die) finds emotionally troubled Allison (Dana Christina) wanting to free herself from her childhood traumas and face her fears. She turns to an extreme haunt called Perdition, to help her accomplish this. But will a trip through this hellish underground haunt free Allison of her demons…or unleash them?

DiBlasi directs from a script by David Bond which is based on works from Rebecca Swan. What we see unfold here is not only a story of childhood abuse and the long term effects it has on the victim, but a filmmaker taking what could have been a routine horror flick and give it some very solid emotional depth. As the film unfolds, we follow Allison and a young man named Zachary (Dylan Sloane) as they begin their journey of torment and terror at the hands of the Perdition crew, headed by their skull-masked leader (Chad Rook). We already know Allison is troubled and on medication, but as her cruel treatment commences, we are taken in gradual flashbacks to her past and the horribly abusive treatment by her alcoholic father. Her father’s treatment in the past often echoes her current treatment in the depth’s of the haunt. Bond’s script peals back the layers of our unstable heroine to portray a woman who has attempted suicide, has violent impulses and now attempts to purge her issues by facing everything she fears. Perdition, of course has it’s own plans for her and maybe pushing her too far may not be a good idea. We also get some surprising depth into the skull-masked leader, revealing a man with his own demons and giving us an interesting portrayal of someone who might run a haunt like this. It gives the film some weight, making it more than a parade of abusive treatment and brutal violence, especially when the last act gets bloody. Diblasi guides us through a tense and brutal ride, though one with a lot to say about the types of people who frequent these haunts and those who create them…and on a deeper level about the effects of abuse and tragedy and how it shapes someone. As the Perdition crew continually up the ante on their abusive treatment of Allison, so does Anthony Diblasi keep showing us his versatility and depth as a filmmaker. It makes Extremity all the more effective, aside from Perdition being portrayed as a very scary place, with added emotional resonance beneath the intensity and bloodshed. As it heads toward it’s shocking and brutal climactic moments, we get some last minute reveals and surprises that are effectively shocking.

The cast are very effective. Dana Christina makes for an interesting heroine as the troubled Allison. She is both strong and fragile at the same time. She wants to handle her life long trauma on her own terms and she has chosen to face her fears dead on…and Perdition has a lot to fear in store for her. As the creator and operator of Perdition, Chad Rook portrays a man who enjoys the torment and fear of others on the outside, but is a three dimensional character on the inside with his own issues and tragic history. He’s not a true villain, but a man trying to deal with his own demons. In support Dylan Sloane is solid as the meek Zachary, there to face his own weaknesses. Ashley Smith is a fine femme fatale as bad girl, Nell, one of Perdition’s top “performers” and Ami Tomite adds a little bit of a break to the tension as an over ambitious Japanese reporter there to profile Perdition’s operation. A solid cast.

This is Anthony Diblasi’s most interesting film yet. He’s a filmmaker that has yet to disappoint and another director that people should be talking more about. Extremity tells an intense, cruel and sometimes brutal tale on the outside, while on the inside telling a bluntly honest story about abuse, tragedy and how they shape the recipients. A tough and intense film at times, but like it’s heroine, one that faces some serious subjects head on.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) skulls.

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MOST LIKELY TO DIE (2015)

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MOST LIKELY TO DIE (2015)

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

Old school slasher flick tells the story of an approaching ten year high school reunion being attended by a group of friends who meet beforehand at a remote house in the California hills. Obviously, by our opening scene, there is a killer stalking them and killing them in ways that reference their yearbook’s ‘most likely’ quotes about them. Is it the student they teased and tormented in school now back for revenge?…or does someone else have a grudge against these ill-fated alumni?

Flick is directed by Anthony DiBlasi (Cassadaga, Last Shift) who gives the proceedings a sense of grisly fun despite not having the strongest script from Laura Brennan. It’s hard to tell sometimes if Brennan is deliberately trying to pay homage to the 80s era slashers by having characters do dumb things, like separate individually to check the rooms of the house once they know a killer is at large, or stopping to bare each other’s souls while that killer is at large, who could attack at any minute. Some of the dialogue is a bit clunky and a few of the kills would have required the killer knowing exactly where someone is going beforehand for things to be set up and waiting. It’s just hard to tell if some of this is done on purpose, or just out of lack of imagination, as sometimes the script follows the classic 80s slasher formula and sometimes it seems like it wants to be it’s own thing. There is some cleverness, too, such as the killer’s yearbook based MO and his weapon of choice, a razor edged graduation cap. The script, thankfully, also avoids going the smarmy, pop culture reference imbued post-Scream route, which has been done to death. We also get a fairly surprising reveal and the film does have a bit of a twisted sense of humor. On a production level, DiBlasi again proves he is a talent to watch. He makes the most out of the script and turns this into an enjoyable slasher with some suspenseful scenes, intense action and some inventively gory kills with that razor edged graduation cap, a box cutter and some other handy items. Some of the demises are quite vicious and gives our killer some solid menace. As for the killer, they are very effective with graduation gown and spooky homemade mask and they seem quite giddy when they slaughter their victims. The gore is quite abundant and well done and DiBlasi’s visual style works well with the story. Not his strongest film, but still very entertaining.

Except for Glee alumni Heather Morris, Jake Busey and a part played by internet gossip Perez Hilton, the cast are fairly unfamiliar faces. Morris shows the makings for a good heroine here and is solid as good girl Gaby. Busey is suitably creepy as the groundskeeper..always gotta have a creepy groundskeeper…and Hilton is actually good as a cowardly, ex-alcoholic returning to old habits once things get intense. The rest of the cast are all fine in their roles with Tess Christiansen showing some final girl potential herself as Gaby’s friend Jade.

I had fun with this despite it’s flaws. The script could have been tighter, but it’s heart is in the right place and it did follow the slasher formula well enough to entertain. There are some nice touches and Anthony DiBlasi guides things well, gives us some nice suspense, some outrageous and brutal kills and keeps the atmosphere going from the opening scenes. Not as intense as Last Shift but a fun slasher flick with an effective killer.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 graduation caps

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: CASSADAGA (2011)

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CASSADAGA (2011)

Cassadaga takes place in the real life town of Cassadaga, Florida which is apparently renown as “The Psychic Capital Of America”. And while there is a psychic character in this serial killer/haunting mash-up, it really doesn’t use it’s location to any sort of real advantage other than to add a little atmosphere to the film. Horror flick opens with a young boy being chastised by his mother for dressing like a girl. She tears up his dress and smashes the puppet he is playing with and he responds by mutilating his privates with a pair of scissors. What a way to start! We then move forward years later to focus on pretty, deaf art teacher, Lily (Kelen Coleman) who is traumatized when her younger sister (Sarah Sculco) is killed in an accident outside her school. Distraught, Lily leaves everything behind to return to art school in Cassadaga, her mother’s alma mater and restart her life. She’s staying with the headmistress (Louise Fletcher), who knew her mom, and her strange reclusive grandson Thomas (Lucas Beck) who likes to watch abusive porn and masterbate in his room. When she starts to see a handsome divorcee (Kevin Alejandro), a date finds them at the home of a psychic whom Lily asks to put her in touch with her dead sister. But it is the angry ghost of a missing young woman named Jennifer (Amy LoCicero) who contacts her instead and thus begins an intense haunting that seems to be forcing Lily into solving her death…and a confrontation with the serial killer who killed Jennifer…a serial killer who may be a lot closer to Lily than she realizes.

Under the direction of Anthony DiBlasi, Cassadaga is an atmospheric and fairly entertaining chiller that combines some familiar elements of both the haunting and serial killer sub-genres and has some very spooky scenes. It’s just that Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley’s script starts to crumble a bit in it’s last act when Lily turns Nancy Drew and starts investigating Jennifer’s death which points possibly to Thomas. She learns to pick a lock like a professional in a matter of hours in order to sneak into Thomas’ room to find some sort of incriminating evidence, in the hopes of appeasing Jennifer’s angry spirit. And to be honest, it gets a little silly. When the killer is revealed it is also kind of hard to believe that they have avoided capture all this time, as they appear to be very sloppy at the whole serial killer thing. Perfect example would be that the killer has a lair in the middle of the woods yet, for some reason, has another one on the school grounds where it is far easier for him to be seen or discovered…such as, let’s say, by a pretty deaf art teacher/student. The killer’s identity is also no surprise as the film gives us very few suspects to begin with and since we witnessed him remove his privates as a child, it makes sense to omit anyone who still has use of their’s from the suspect list. Still DiBlasi does create some very effective and disturbing scenes when we are in the killer’s liar and the climactic confrontation with Lily is tense and a little brutal. Another reason the film works well enough with a lot of familiar elements is, not only the director’s use of those elements, but we have an exceptionally likable heroine in Lily. On a technical side, the production looks good with some nice cinematography and solid make-up and gore effects and a spooky score from Dani Donadi.

Overall the cast are all fine, but it is adorable lead Kelen Coleman who gives us a very sweet yet emotional scarred woman, who turns into a strong and determined heroine when supernaturally inspired. She’s very endearing and we let some of the film’s flaws and plot holes slide, because we want to see her get through this and we like her. Sure it’s a bit far-fetched that she’d pursue this dangerous killer alone, when her haunting episodes cause her new beau to walk away from it to protect the visitation rights with his daughter, but we root for her anyway. I also liked that her being deaf was just part of her character and rarely exploited as a plot device.

So in conclusion, we have a horror/thriller with a lot of familiar, but well used elements, a third act where the story starts to fall apart a little, but a really likable heroine played by a very charming actress. I was entertained by Cassadaga, it could have been better with a tighter script, but it was effective and atmospheric enough to keep my interest and the final confrontation had impact. I think director DiBlasi has a lot of potential, as I did also enjoy his previous horror flick the 2009 Dread, an interesting film about a college psychological experiment that spirals out of control in a horrible way. So he is definitely a filmmaker to keep an eye on, just as we shall be keeping an eye out for more of the lovely Miss Coleman as well.

F.Y.I. : Keep watching after it ends as Cassadaga also has a post credits scene that hints we may not have seen the last of Lily’s spooky adventures. And to be honest, even with Cassadaga’s flaws, I liked Lily enough that I’d check it out if she does return in a sequel.

3 sexy and haunted heroines!

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