BARE BONES: THOROUGHBREDS (2018)

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THOROUGHBREDS (2018)

Story takes place in a wealthy suburb in Connecticut and finds emotionally troubled Amanda (Olivia Cooke) facing trial for animal cruelty for brutally euthanizing her crippled horse. She is currently being tutored by Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) who hates her jerk of a new step-father Mark (Paul Sparks). Amanda suggests they kill him and Lily takes her up on the idea. When recruiting a local drug dealer (Anton Yelchin) to do the job fails, they begin to plot how to do it themselves.

Off-beat flick is written and stylishly directed by Cory Finley, but when all is said and done, doesn’t have much of a point. Unhappy kids plotting the murder of a parent or step-parent is nothing new and though it holds our attention, it ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere all that interesting. There is a bit of an unexpected twist towards it’s conclusion, but even that doesn’t add much overall to the scenario. Taylor-Joy and Cooke both deliver really good performances, especially Cooke’s emotionally detached Amanda, but Paul Sparks is just your stereotypical douche step-parent, though good at it. It’s bittersweet to see Yelchin in one of his last performances and his turn as delinquent Tim illustrates why he is sadly missed. Entertaining to a degree, but not unique enough to make a well-worn plot feel fresh and it comes to a conclusion that doesn’t feel like the film actually accomplished anything. Acting gives it a little extra in the rating.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: MARROWBONE (2017)

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MARROWBONE (2017)

Film takes place in the late 60s and finds an ailing mother (Nicola Harrison) traveling, with her four children, to the United States to her ancestral home to escape her husband. When the mother dies, eldest son Jack (George MacKay) decides to hide her death till he turns twenty-one and can take custody of his three siblings (Matthew Stagg, Charlie Heaton and Mia Goth). Now alone in the house, the four must deal with something that dwells in the abandoned home with them…is it something supernatural, or a dark secret that has taken a life of it’s own.

Written and directed by Sergio G. Sánchez this is an atmospheric mystery/thriller in the spirit of flicks like The Others and The Orphanage. We know something isn’t right in the house as the kids cover up mirrors and little Sam (Stagg) is convinced it is the ghost of their father, a cruel man who they say is now dead. We also have seen enough flicks like this to have our own suspicions, as to who or what lurks in the bricked-up attic. Once the credits role and the secrets are revealed, it is effective, though we have already figured out parts of it and aren’t exactly surprised at the rest. The very ending itself also doesn’t quite sit well, either, as we question a certain character’s choices. An atmospheric mystery, though one that doesn’t quite takes as by surprise as we would have liked and does leave some questions as it concludes. Also stars Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split) as pretty neighbor, Allie, who takes in interest in Jack.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: HALLOWEEN HOTTIE OF 2017…JESSICA ROTHE!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S HALLOWEEN HOTTIE OF 2017…JESSICA ROTHE!

It’s Halloween🎃!…and as it has become tradition, it’s time to announce MonsterZero NJ’s Halloween Hottie of the Year!…
…and our Halloween Hottie of 2017 is the beautiful and very talented Jessica Rothe, who earns this title with her sassy performance in the hit slasher Happy Death Day. Rothe plays smart-ass sorority girl Theresa Gelbman, who is having the worst birthday possible. Someone is trying to kill her…and does, over and over again. Theresa is caught in a Groundhog Day style loop where she keeps waking up on the same morning, repeating the day leading up to her death. The only way this spirited girl can break the chain is by finding out who wants to kill her and stopping them. As Theresa sets out to solve and prevent her own murder, she transforms from snotty mean girl to feisty final girl and we are along for the ride! The Denver, Colorado born actress handles the role like a boss and gives us a smart, sexy heroine to root for, whose sarcastic sense of humor is as kick-ass as she is!

(Click on the highlighted links or on the movie poster to read a review of the hit horror flick that stars  Halloween Hottie of 2017, Jessica Rothe!)

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Jessica Rothe as feisty final girl, Theresa Gelbman!

Jessica’s versatility is on display here as Happy Death Day is a suspense thriller not without some very funny moments and intense action. We’d love to see her back in final girl duties, but she proves that she could probably play in any genre and play it well! So, who knows where we’ll see this charming actress next.

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIE OF 2017 RUNNER UP, ANYA TAYLOR-JOY!

This year was so close that it’s more like a co-winner than a runner up. Anya Taylor-Joy first got our attention in the acclaimed The Witch last year and then again this year in M. Night Shyamalan’s intense and creepy hit thriller Split. In this chilling tale, Anya plays Casey, a young woman who is kidnapped with two other girls by Kevin Wendell Crumb (a brilliant James McAvoy), a man with twenty-three separate personalities who is about to be unleash a horrifying twenty-fourth. Casey must use her own inner pain to strengthen her and find a way to escape her increasingly dangerous captor. Taylor-Joy shows once again that she is star in the making and a very versatile actress.

This year was a tough choice. Both these ladies were great in their roles and really brought it as final girls. If Rothe edged out the win, it was only because of the sheer energy, attitude and sassy sex appeal she brought to her role. Taylor-Joy’s brooding goth girl was excellently portrayed as well and both actresses will surely be delivering more strong work in films to come!

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And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties including Dana DeLorenzo, Addison TimlinMelanie PapaliaBriana EviganKatrina BowdenAlexandra DaddarioKatie FeatherstonKatharine IsabelleAmber Heard and Danielle Harris! (just click on their names to go to their pages or simply go to our Halloween Hotties main page!)

-MonsterZero NJ

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: 3 ACTRESSES TO SCREAM ABOUT!

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This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features three relatively new faces in horror that recently have made quite an impression in the genre. These three actresses made for memorable final girls/characters in their respective horrors/thrillers and we can only hope they will grace the horror genre again and soon!

(Click on the highlighted links to read a review of the films that our Halloween Hotties have appeared in)

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ANYA TAYLOR-JOY!

Anya has taken the horror world by storm, appearing in two highly acclaimed horror films within the space of a year and an entertaining Sci-fi thriller in the middle. The actress was born in Miami, but has lived in Argentina and London and has also modeled and been a ballet dancer. Her varied background may be the reason she can play such different roles and almost be unrecognizable from one to the other. Whether it be a coming of age puritan teen in The Witch, a genetic experiment in Morgan, or an emotionally troubled teen kidnaped by someone with far bigger head problems in Split, Anya is proving a welcome presence in the horror genre and an actress to keep an eye on! Rumor now suggests she may join the cast of The New Mutants, the new X-Men film in the works…and we hope so!

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Anya first got our attention as The Witch’s tempted teen Thomasin!

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CAITLIN STASEY!

Between movies and TV, this Aussie beauty has been quite busy and we couldn’t be happier that some of that busy has been in our favorite type of flicks! Stasey, already a veteran of TV and films, made her first waves in the horror genre in Lucky McKee’s 2013 horror comedy All Cheerleaders Die as lead Maddy. She next appeared in the unintentionally funny graphic novel adaptation I, Frankenstein, as a sexy gargoyle, no less. She then starred as kidnap victim, Chloe in the 2015 horror/thriller All I Need, which is only now being released and just last year in the horror comedy Fear, Inc. While we wait for this Australian stunner to appear in her next genre role, she can currently be seen in the sexy TV historical drama Reign. A busy girl we’d like to see even more of!

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Caitlin would like to tell you how much she loves being in horror movies, but…(from All I Need)

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HALEY LU RICHARDSON!

This talented twenty-something from Pheonix, Arizona is an actress and a dancer and has proven to be quite versatile. She first caught our attention in the violent post apocalyptic epic The Last Survivors as the tough and tenacious Kendal, who takes on an entire gang to save the lives of those close to her. She also starred in the thriller Follow, was Krista, best friend to troubled teen Nadine, in the heartfelt and hilarious The Edge Of Seventeen (OK, not horror, but a really good flick!) and battled 23 different James McAvoys in the intense chiller Split! Obviously we’d watch Haley in any of her upcoming projects, but hope she returns to our favorite genre soon!

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Haley’s Claire finds outwitting 23 different personalities may not be that easy in Split!

-MonsterZero NJ

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And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties focusing on, Maika MonroeAddison TimlinMelanie PapaliaBriana EviganKatrina BowdenAlexandra DaddarioKatie FeatherstonKatharine IsabelleAmber Heard and Danielle Harris! (just click on their names to go to their pages or head over to the Halloween Hotties listings!)

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SPLIT (2016)

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SPLIT (2016)

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

With The Visit, M. Night Shyamalan had started to show a bit of a return to form after a string of disappointments lasting over a decade of his career. Now with Split, he seems to have hit his stride again with this intense and disturbing thriller.

The film tells the story of Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a man diagnosed with over 23 different personalties. His therapist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) is using Kevin to prove her theory that the belief in a personality can effect the physiology of the subject while under the influence of that personality. But unknown to Fletcher, Kevin’s alter egos have kidnaped 3 young girls, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy from The Witch and Morgan), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson from The Last Survivors and The Edge Of Seventeen) and Marcia (Jessica Sula). His alternates say they are to be used as sacrifice for a new personality…called The Beast. Can these three young girls escape before The Beast is unleashed?

Written and directed by Shyamalan, this is an intense and suspenseful thriller that is his best work in well over a decade. It has some interesting ideas, such as strong personality disorders developing physical changes within certain personalities, for example, Dr. Fletcher’s citing of a blind woman who gained sight under the influence of one of her alternate personalities. This does not bode well when Kevin’s alternates like Patricia, Barry and Dennis keep heralding something called The Beast. We also like the three captive girls and their refusal to give up trying to escape and it certainly makes us fear what’s in store for them. Shyamalan plays this out in the confined space of Kevin’s lair, only briefly going outside to Fletcher’s office during Kevin’s sessions. This keeps things isolated and claustrophobic which adds to the overall atmosphere. Of course the last act delivers the goods and without giving any details, it is a very intense and effective ride as ‘guess who’ finally arrives. As usual with his best work, Shyamalan also gives us some solid surprises and fans of his films will be thrilled as to how this one closes out. I’d go more in depth, but this is a film that is best seen knowing as little as possible.

James McAvoy is simply brilliant as the multi-personality Kevin and a number of his alternates. He plays each one as a separate person and gives each alternate a full personality, complete with facial expressions and their own body language. If there is any minor complaint, it’s that we only see about four or five of the personalities and McAvoy’s performance begs us to want to see more of the supposed 23. The girls are all good. Taylor-Joy plays the loner and social outcast and she is not only likable, but strong, resilient and may have some things in common with her captor. Richardson’s Claire is also resilient and is the one who is the most vocal and steadfast about escaping their captivity. She and Casey butt heads sometimes as to how to proceed in their efforts, as Claire sees Casey’s waiting for the right moment as more of an excuse to not try. Sula’s Marcia is the quietest and most timid of the three basically doing what she is told and seems to be the most frightened. Rounding out is a very solid Betty Buckley as Dr. Fletcher, a woman who is too fascinated by her subject to see how dangerous he really is. A very good cast who make this film work so well, especially lead McAvoy and his stunning performance.

This was definitely the Shyamalan of old with some truly suspenseful moments, an unusual, but well written story and some legitimate scares and intensity. He is aided by the perfectly cast James McAvoy who gives many of the film’s chills and a solid supporting cast in those playing his three hostages and therapist. The film has a fantastically nerve-wracking last act and a final scene that will have fans on their feet. Welcome back, M. Night!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 alternate personalities.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MORGAN (2016)

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MORGAN (2016)

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

Morgan is a sci-fi/horror about the attempts to artificially engineer a human being and the product of those experiments…Morgan. In a secret lab facility deep in the woods, a team of scientists have created a young women who they named Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy from The Witch), who at five years-old appears to be closer to her teens and is vastly intelligent. Her emotional development is not coming along as well and a temper outburst injures a team member (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and causes the corporation in charge to send specialist Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) to the facility to assess the situation. But the more Lee starts to see that the emotionally unbalanced Morgan should probably be terminated, the more she finds out what this genetically manufactured girl will do to survive.

Morgan is written by Seth Owens and directed by Luke Scott, who is the son of the legendary Ridley Scott. While this tale of man trying to play God with disastrous results is nothing new, Scott has learned well from his father and makes this a suspenseful and entertaining thriller despite the familiar plot and themes. The tension is there as Morgan begins to realize she is in danger and maybe these people who she thought of as family and friends really aren’t and it works if not a bit predictable. The last act goes expectedly in full Frankenstein mode with Morgan on the loose, but despite us knowing this is exactly where it was heading, Scott does direct the proceedings well and there is some startling and brutal violence to add weight to what we see. The closing moments may also not be the surprise it’s meant to be, but again Luke Scott makes it effective and overall this is an entertaining and atmospheric flick despite being a tale told quite often since Mary Shelley’s classic first appeared in 1818.

The cast is solid. Anya Taylor-Joy is both sympathetic and creepy as Morgan. She portrays well her conflicting emotions, so we side with her at first and then gives her a sense of threat and lethality when the monster is unleashed. A good job by the young actress. Kate Mara gives her Lee a Spock-like cold efficiency that rarely breaks. This does keep her from being endearing, but the character isn’t written to be sympathetic or a ‘hero’. She’s there to do a job and can’t afford emotional distractions. As such, Mara does good work. We also have Rose Leslie who is sympathetic and likable as the behavior expert who is most emotionally attached to Morgan. We do sympathize with her once Morgan goes into survival mode and she is caught in the middle between her and the pursuing Lee. Rounding out is Michelle Yeoh as the scientist in charge, Dr. Cheng, Toby Jones as one of the lead scientists who is opposed to Lee’s plan to terminate the experiment and Paul Giamatti as a psychologist sent in to evaluate Morgan psychologically. All do good work in their parts.

So, this flick is far from original and definitely heads in a direction that we fully expect. It overcomes some of it’s predictability with being solidly directed by Luke Scott and the cast are all good in their parts, stereotypical of this kind of flick, though they may be. There is some tension and suspense despite the familiarity and the last act has some legitimately startling moments, though leads to a conclusion we can see coming. Worth a look and not bad for an evening’s entertainment on the couch, even if we have seen it all before.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 syringes.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE WITCH (2016)

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THE WITCH (2016)

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

The Witch is an atmospheric folk tale from writer/director Robert Eggers that is consistently moody and has some very spooky sequences, but far from lives up to all the hype that’s been made about it at film festivals. Story finds a Puritan family leaving their village to live out in the wilderness in a clearing before a dense wood. When daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) takes her infant brother for a walk, he disappears basically right in front of her. We all know who and what is the cause of his disappearance, but dissension starts to eat away at the family as the father feels it has to do with their earthly sins and the other children claim Thomasin is a witch and gave the child to the Devil. As more tragedy befalls the family, paranoia begins to tear them apart as they believe something evil is in their midst.

Eggers tells his tale more like an old-style New England folktale than a more traditional horror and the end credits explain that this is fully the intent. He creates a steady atmosphere of uneasiness and the film certainly has the feel of it’s time when religion and superstition were believed in equally. There are some truly spooky sequences, especially in the last act, but there were also times where the slow paced film was a bit tedious as the lamentations of the mother and father get repetitious and fingers start getting pointed at various family members by the others. Kinda like a Puritan era version of John Carpenter’s The Thing but, it doesn’t quite have the tension of that classic. This is because we know from early on that there is a witch and it’s not in the house, as Eggers has shown her to us when she takes the infant and then another child. There is purpose, though to her dividing the family and as the film enters the last act it becomes apparent and then the film really locks in the chills till it’s not totally unexpected final sequence. The dialog is also spoken in the language of the time and while it adds to the atmosphere, it also is hard to understand the characters meaning at times, not being familiar with the vernacular of the period. On a production side, Eggers does have a visual style that suits his unnerving tale and it is photographed well by Jarin Blaschke and given a really creepy score by Mark Korven. There is also some graphic bloodshed and some disturbing imagery that do help with the ambiance of dread, as well. This is a spooky flick, but just not consistently and not as intensely as certain famous author quotes would like us to believe.

The cast are all convincing. Taylor-Joy plays a young Puritan woman coming of age, very well. Her awakening sexuality makes her a prime target for the accusations of her younger siblings and grief-stricken mother. Kate Dickie conveys that mother well, too. A woman tormented with grief as she looses her infant child and than another and slowly begins to believe her own daughter is something evil. Ralph Ineson is very good as the God fearing father trying to keep his family together, but slowly loosing control while trying to keep his faith. He is sometimes hard to understand with his gravely voice combined with the old-style tongue, but he is very good as the patriarch William. Harvey Scrimshaw is solid as Caleb, also coming of age as a young boy and he handles some difficult scenes he’s involved in very well. Rounding out the family is Ellie Granger and Lucas Dawson are Mercy and Jonas, the familiy’s creepy young twins who add to the paranoia by speaking often to the family goat, Black Phillip and claiming he tells them things. Not a good sign!

In conclusion, The Witch was a spooky and effective folk tale horror, but just not as consistently horrifying as film fest hype would have us believe. There are some slow spots and the pacing is very moderate and the old world language is not always easy to decipher, though it does add atmosphere. There are some very spooky scenes, especially in the last act and some effective bloodshed, though Eggers does neuter some of the inter-family tension by letting us know extremely early that there is something very evil in them thar woods. No, it doesn’t live up to the hype, but still a moderately effective story of old world New England evil that has it’s share of chills.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 goats who may…or may not…be emissaries of evil.

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