BARE BONES: NEKROTRONIC (2019)

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NEKROTRONIC (2019)

Nekrotronic is another mash-up from the makers of the gory, fun 2014 Road Warrior/Dawn of the Dead hybrid Wyrmwood. This flick is basically Ghostbusters, meets The Exorcist with a dash of The Avengers and Buffy The Vampire Slayer thrown in. It tells the story of Howard (Ben O’Toole), who if he isn’t having a bad enough time draining septic tanks, finds out he is from a long line of necromancers who have been battling demons for ages. He also finds out his own mother Finnegan (Monica Bellucci) has found a way to put demons into the internet and use a new ghost hunting video game to unleash them, thus possessing the players and swallowing their souls. Howard reluctantly teams up with two pretty demon fighters, Molly and Torquel (Caroline Ford and Tess Haubrich) and his recently deceased bud, Rangi (Epine Bob Savea) to take mom down.

Australian horror/comedy is not quite as deliriously fun as Wyrmwood, but is still an amusing homage to some very classic movies. Flick is energetically directed by Kiah Roache-Turner from his script with brother Tristan Roache-Turner and is filled with some cool FX, tons of gore and a host of demon possessed citizens and minions. It takes it’s ludicrous plot seriously enough for us to follow along and the cast perform it with the right tone and gusto. It could have been a little tighter, currently running at 99 minutes, but overall is a good time and the Turners, once again, achieve a lot with a little. If, as a filmmaker, you are going to have fun with your film influences, this is an amusing way to go…in your face and with a blood-spattered wink at your audience. A bloody fun time, when all is said and done.

Flick can currently be found on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: CHARLIE’S FARM (2014)

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CHARLIE’S FARM (2014)

If writer/director Chris Sun’s Boar was a homage to the nature run amok horrors inspired by Jaws than Charlie’s Farm is the Australian filmmaker’s nod to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and that which it inspired. Flick has four friends (Tara Reid, Allira Jaques, Dean Kirkright and Sam Coward) heading into rural country to find the supposedly haunted “Charlie’s Farm”. Local legends say that in the 1980s area townsfolk brought lethal justice to the murderous, cannibalistic Wilson family…all but their young, deranged son Charlie. Now he is said to “haunt” the area surrounding the farm, dispatching anyone who dares venture near. The four friends unfortunately find out there is some truth behind urban legends.

Flick is not perfect, but is a fun throwback/homage with former WWE Superstar Nathan Jones making an imposing Charlie along with some very gruesome kills. As Chris Sun is paying homage to flicks of this kind, don’t expect anything too original, but he seems to know his influences well enough. The rest of the cast are fine here with standouts being Sam Coward as fun, lovable lug “Donkey” and pretty Aussie Allira Jaques as spunky Melanie, who IMO would have been a better final girl than the by-the-numbers Reid. The violence can be brutal and while it isn’t much in the suspense department, the farm setting is creepy and effective and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 88 minutes. Film also stars horror legends Bill Mosley, who is channeling “Otis” in flashbacks as cannibal patriarch John WIlson and Kane Hodder, as a friend who comes looking for the ill-fated campers and finds trouble himself. An amusing enough slasher.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WYRMWOOD (2014)

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WYRMWOOD (2014)

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

“The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.”- Revelations 8:11

Leave it to the Australians to give life back to the stale zombie genre with this delightful mash-up of Evil Dead and The Road Warrior. This fun and sometimes intense and gruesome flick, tells the story of brother and sister, Barry (Jay Gallagher) and Brooke (Bianca Bradey) during a mysterious zombie outbreak. Not much is given to us about the cause except for an abundance of shooting stars on the night it begins and a biblical reference to Wyrmwood, a star which falls to earth during Revelations and brings a plague of death. Barry is with his family and Brooke doing a photo shoot in the town of Bulla Bulla. Barry looses both his wife and daughter to the mysterious condition which, for some reason, spares those with A- blood. He eventually teams up Aborigine camper Benny (Leon Burchill) who lost both his brothers. Together they run into some locals and discover that while this ‘situation’ has rendered gas and fossil fuels inert, the zombies’ blood is quite flammable and the methane-like gas they exhale works as a fuel substitute. So, they go out armed and armored to gather ‘fuel’ and rescue Barry’s sister. Brooke, on the other hand, has been kidnaped by a sinister military group who keeps her restrained and gagged in a lab where there are performing experiments on zombie and human alike. Experiments, unbeknownst to her captors, that render Brooke with the ability to telekinetically control the living dead. Obviously the two siblings and their stories will come together…and then the bloody fun begins.

As directed by Kiah Roache-Turner from a script he co-wrote with his brother Tristan Roache-Turner, this flick is a blast of fun and a breath of bloody fresh air for the zombie sub-genre. A sub-genre made stale by an over-saturation of movies and weekly zombie TV shows. They make even the silliest aspects of the story work, and work very well. They take their story very seriously…though it is laden with that off-beat Australian sense of humor, which seems to fit in perfectly with the more gruesome aspects of this deviously twisted tale. The film has a really cool visual style and is obviously made by those who love these kind of movies and who also know what makes them work. This energetic mash-up is filled with subtle references to films like Dawn Of The DeadEvil Dead, the Mad Max films and even a playful nod to The Walking Dead involving a Samurai sword. Roache-Turner, however, creates his own flick from all the hat-tipping, despite borrowing concepts from George Romero and George Miller and makes his homage to the movies he loves in his own style. One of the things I loved most about it was that the combination of eclectic elements is mixed so well and works far better than it sounds like it should…cause it’s mixed in the right amounts and given the respect it deserves. The film is action packed but, never at the sacrifice of it’s off-kilter story, or characters, and can be very intense at times. There is also a lot of gory violence, which appears to be mostly…and thankfully… well-rendered live effects, too. Abundance of action and bloodshed aside, though, what makes it really work so completely is a charming group of main characters and some delightfully eccentric supporting characters, such as a sinister scientist who prefers to listen to K.C. and the Sunshine Band while he conducts his gruesome experiments. There really is little to not like about this film, made by film geeks for the film geek in all of us. Roache-Turner is certainly a filmmaker to watch.

As for the cast, they are all engaging. Gallagher is a charming and solid hero as Barry. Despite his loses and what is happening, he is valiantly going to find his sibling, as she is all he has left. Burchill is delightful as the oddball Benny. The character is given a lot of charm by the actor and is extremely likable. He has some of the best lines and is a perfect side-kick for Barry. As Brooke, Bianca Bradey is strong and sexy and her tattooed heroine becomes quite the powerhouse once she learns to use the side-effects of the experiments against those who hold her captive. The actress spends about 75% of the movie tied up with a fetishistic gag in her mouth and has to express her emotions and thoughts in her eyes and body language and Bradey does a great job. Long before she gets free, we like her immensely and are rooting for her. The supporting characters are also an eccentric lot and help add an offbeat atmosphere to the story and film. They seem both over-the-top and yet, somehow believably human, at the same time.

What little faults the film has are minor and not really worth bringing up when the filmmakers get so much, so right. They somehow mash-up quite a few different genres worth of ideas to fuel their homage and, as such, make sure to give nods to the types of film’s that inspired them. It reminded me of Neil Marshall’s Doomsday in that the entire film existed to pay homage to others yet, somehow, is it’s own movie. Energetic, delightfully gory and with a fast and furious pace, Wyrmwood is a real blast of George Romero meets Sam Raimi meets George Miller and yet remains very Kiah Roache-Turner. One of the year’s best horrors, so far, in my book and by a filmmaking talent to keep a close watch on!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Road Warrior-esque zombie fighters!

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE BABADOOK (2014)

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THE BABADOOK (2014)

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

The Babadook is an Australian horror film that has garnered quite a reputation online and I finally had a chance to catch up with it and am happy to report it not only lives up to it’s hype but, joins Oculus and The Town That Dreaded Sundown 2014 as one of the best horrors I have seen this year.

This very unsettling story, written and directed, by Jennifer Kent tells the chilling tale of Amelia (Essie Davis), a widow and single mother still traumatized by the death of her husband over 6 years ago. Making things harder on Amelia is that her son Sam (Noah Wiseman) has grown into a very strange and emotionally erratic young boy who is not only difficult at times, but, sometimes reminds the lonely woman a little too much of her husband. As her husband died in a car accident driving Amelia to the hospital to deliver Sam, the boy’s birthday brings back painful memories every year and his 7th birthday fast approaches. But, to complicate things even further, Sam begins to obsess over a scary children’s book called Mister Babadook and is insistent that the book’s supernatural fiend is after them. Stressed to the limits, Amelia begins to see the thing too. Is the emotionally strained woman loosing her mind… or are they actually being stalked by something not of this world that wishes both of them great harm?

Even without the supernatural element… if indeed there really is one… this would be a very spooky and disturbing movie. Kent skillfully paints a portrait of a woman on the edge from not only the emotional loss of her spouse, but, the increasingly difficult behavior of the only thing she has left to remind her of him, their son. And being reminded of him is not always a good thing and sometimes Amelia becomes resentful of Sam. The complicated emotions of dealing with a child whose birth is a constant reminder of a loved one’s death and who’s affections are sometimes misinterpreted and rejected by a woman who has been alone too long, are handled very effectively and I give Kent credit for tackling some of these sensitive issues head-on. Then we get the added element of the title creature, whose existence is constantly in question. Are they being stalked by a supernatural horror or is Amelia concocting a fiction villain on which to project her growing resentment and frustration with Sam. Jennifer Kent is not in a hurry to tell you and it makes the film all the more frightening as Amelia starts to unravel and becomes more aggressive towards her son and the appearances of The Babadook become more frequent and intense and yet, we are not sure what is real and what is imagined. Is she possessed by a supernatural fiend, or has she equated her son with the loss of her husband to the point of wishing the boy harm. Well… you’ll need to see the movie to find out but, it is an intriguing and sometimes downright scary journey either way, whether The Babadook is a real entity, or a figment of Amelia’s fragmenting emotional state. And Jennifer Kent takes us along for a very bone-chilling ride that builds steadily, suspense-fully and strongly to it’s nail-biting last act. On top of all this, Kent has a very gothic visual style brought to vibrant life by Radek Ladczuk’s cinematography and there is an atmospheric score from Jed Kurzel to add to the already strong atmosphere that Jennifer Kent maintains throughout the film.

As for it’s minimal cast, the effectiveness of this fright flick is enhanced further as Kent also gets a tour de force performance out of star Essie Davis. Davis is simply riveting as a woman who loves her child very much but, is being exhausted not only by his increasingly difficult behavior but, by the constant reminder that he is of the loss of the man she loved. She is downright frightening at times as she becomes increasingly unraveled and aggressive towards her son and whether it be supernatural influence or simply a woman loosing control, she is a powerhouse. Young Noah Wiseman is equally effective as Sam. This is an instance where a child character is supposed to be annoying, to illustrate how much his mother has to deal with by herself and being the only bread winner in the house, too. It is difficult to watch Wiseman’s Sam at times so, we understand how tough it is for his single mom to handle this emotionally challenged… and sometimes downright creepy… little boy. The young actor nails it but, also surprises us, too as when Sam comes to face and deal with a mother who may mean him harm when she comes under, what may or may not be, the Babadook’s influence. The supporting cast are all effective as well, but, it’s Davis and Wiseman’s show as the way.

I really enjoyed this flick, it was intense, faced down some very sensitive emotional issues, was downright scary at times and all within the framework of a film that was both supernatural horror and psychological thriller. Jennifer Kent keeps us guessing as to whether this is a scary tale of a malevolent entity or an equally frightening tale of a mother unraveling to the point of wanting to endanger her own child. I certainly won’t tell you which it is, but, I will say, that either way, you will be properly disturbed and chilled by the time the credits roll.

3 and 1/2 creepy kids.

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