HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SUPERHOST (2021)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2now playing

superhost

bars

SUPERHOST (2021)

Disturbing yet fun flick finds travel vloggers and couple Teddy (Osric Chau) and Claire (Sara Canning) picking a remote house in the woods for the next installment of their failing vlog, Superhost. The home is owned by Rebecca (Gracie Gillam) a woman who seems a bit eccentric to say the least. The longer Claire and Teddy stay, the more they begin to feel something isn’t right in this house and something is certainly very wrong with their Superhost, Rebecca.

Flick is written and directed by Brandon Christensen (ZStill/Born) and despite being a familiar story, it is still a very effective and entertaining horror. Christensen lets us know from the start that something isn’t right with Rebecca and we know where it is all headed from the moment they get there, but unlike Teddy and Claire, this is about the ride and not the destination. What a ride it is, as we slowly find out, along with the couple, just how deranged Rebecca is and what she’s prepared to do—aside from what we find out she’s already done. What starts out as unsettlingly eccentric becomes diabolical and viciously violent, as the two are stranded in the middle of nowhere with the demented Rebecca watching their every move and listening to their every word. It’s a creepy fun flick, though it does get straight-up disturbing and bloodily violent before the credits roll. Christensen has a nice visual eye and creates an atmosphere of dread from very early on, then delivers a suspenseful and blood-spattered last act that might have you spilling your popcorn here and there—or even laughing uncomfortably in a few spots.

The small cast really helps make this work! Gracie Gillam, who, under her former stage name of Grace Phipps, starred in Some Kind of Hate, Dark Summer and Tales of Halloween, gives an over-the-top tour de force performance as the demented Rebecca. She’s unsettlingly cute and energetic one moment and full-blown vicious psychopath the next. She nears Heath Ledger Joker heights at times with her ability to change levels of crazy at the drop of a hat and being equally scary both in her exaggerated moments and in the calm ones, too. She and The Loved One’s Lola could be roommates no problem. Osric Chau is very likable as Teddy. Teddy is the weaker and more emotional of the couple, but is sweet and sympathetic. Claire is the more ambitious and business minded of the two…and the stronger. She sees Rebecca as prime ratings subject matter and is willing to continue with the episode long after Teddy’s alarms are going off about the alleged homeowner. Sara Canning plays her well and yet keeps her likable, despite her putting the vlog before boyfriend Teddy. Rounding out the cast is horror legend Barbara Crampton, who plays Vera, a woman with a grudge against Claire and Teddy. A solid cast!

Overall, this may be a familiar story and there is no doubt how this is going to end up, but it is a chilling hoot getting there. Brandon Christensen proves yet again he is a skilled director who can freshen up familiar tales and provide some nice atmosphere, chills and suspense. He has definitely become a filmmaker to keep an eye on. The small cast all perform well, with a delightfully demented performance from horror veteran Gracie Gillam. Superhost is now streaming exclusively on Shudder!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 1/2 (out of 4) Superhosts.

superhost rating

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

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: JAKOB’S WIFE (2021)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2now playing

jakobs wife

bars

JAKOB’S WIFE (2021)

Story finds Anne Fedder (Barbara Crampton, who also co-produced) unhappy in her marriage to overbearing Minister Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden). When on an ill-fated rendezvous with an old flame (Robert Rusler), Anne is bitten by a female vampire (Bonnie Aarons). Now Anne suddenly finds the strength to stand up to her husband and be her own person, but only the bad thing is, she also develops a strong appetite for blood.

Tale of female empowerment and vampirism is directed by Travis Stevens (The Girl on the Third Floor) from a script by he, Kathy Charles and Mark Steensland. It’s well intended and there are plenty of effective scenes, but the first third seems a bit bland and slow moving until the spooky stuff really begins. Once things get going, there is plenty of bloodshed and it is when dealing with it’s vampire elements that Travis’ flick really comes to life…pun intended. It’s fun to watch Crampton “vamp’ it up as the bitten Anne and also see Fessenden’s minister going all Van Helsing in order to save his wife. It has it’s slow spots, as Travis seems to be far better at the horror elements than the husband/wife drama between Anne and Jakob. It is fun, though, to see the tables turn, as Anne starts to wear the pants in the relationship and Jakob is revealed to be a bit of a coward. The vampire scenes are chilling and there is a subtle humor laced into the proceedings, so we can have a little fun between the darker and bloodier moments. Travis also avoids the clichés in this type of flick whenever possible and while it is not completely unconventional, the familiar tropes are used very well and it comes to a fitting conclusion. The film also has an effective visual style, as photographed by David Matthews and a fun vampire appropriate score by Tara Busch.

The cast are good, especially an excellent Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, Chopping Mall) as the oppressed wife experiencing a supernaturally charged awakening. It’s one of her best roles in a long time. Larry Fessenden is also well cast as her boorish minister husband who realizes there are vampires afoot…and his wife is one of them. It’s fun to see Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Vamp) back in a horror, though his appearance is basically an extended cameo. The film also stars Nyisha Bell as a parishioner turned bloodsucker, Jay DeVon Johnson as Sheriff Mike Hess, along with a cameo by former WWE Superstar CM Punk (The Girl on the Third Floor) as a deputy and featuring Bonnie Aarons (The Nun), who is very effective as the master vampiress.

Overall, Jakob’s Wife starts off a little slowly, but finds it’s footing and presents a spooky and entertaining story of a woman rediscovering and asserting herself, with the help of a little vampirism. Some of the dramatic scenes can come across as a little flat, but director Travis Stevens handles the spooky and bloody stuff a lot more effectively to make up for it. The filmmaker has a good cast, especially with a strong performance by lead Crampton. Not a completely fresh take on the traditional vampire tale, but one that has some novel moments, does it’s own thing at times and mixes in some contemporary themes of female empowerment deftly into it’s story. Flick from RLJE Films and Shudder is now available to stream on Amazon Prime and other streaming outlets.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) fangs.

blacula_2_rating

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

bars

BARE BONES: SACRIFICE (2021)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

SACRIFICE (2021)

Flick finds Isaac (Ludovic Hughes) and his pregnant wife Emma (Sophie Stevens) returning to his Norwegian birthplace after the death of his mother. Isaac and his mother fled the home when he was a boy and now local Sheriff Renate (Barbara Crampton) tells him that his father was actually murdered and the case is still open. The worst is yet to come, though, as there is something strange in the waters around this island and Isaac and Emma may be in great danger.

Creepy yet tedious flick is directed by Andy Collier and Toor Mian based on their script and story, which is itself based on a short story by Paul Kane and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. It is moody and visually atmospheric, but something is missing, as it never really grabs us. Maybe it’s because we never really endear to Isaac and Emma, who aren’t especially likable, so we don’t get emotionally invested once things start to get weird. The film is also paced like a funeral and even a slow burn needs some kind of flow to keep us interested. The flick is also predictable and leads exactly where one expects it to go. Nothing comes as a surprise. Maybe that’s it. The film is so gloomy from the start that we know from the first frames that it is not going to end well for this young couple, no matter what the backstory or reasons for the spooky goings on turn out to be. It tries hard and has a bit of a Lovecraftian feel, and you can’t completely hate a flick that has Barbara Crampton chewing up the scenery in a Norwegian accent. There was a good movie in here somewhere, but Andy Collier and Toor Mian can’t seem to find it.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to HORROR ICON BARBARA CRAMPTON!

MZNJ_NEW_news

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to HORROR ICON BARBARA CRAMPTON!

mv5body2nzmzndy1nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzy5mtaymdi-_v1_uy317_cr840214317_al_

Today is not only my own birthday, but that of horror film legend Barbara Crampton! Not bad sharing a birthday with a horror icon! MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse wishes Barbara a very happy and healthy birthday!

-MonsterZero NJ

bars

BARE BONES: CASTLE FREAK (2020)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

CASTLE FREAK (2020)

Flick is a remake of Stuart Gordon and Full Moon’s 1995 cult classic of the same name. Updated story has Rebecca (Clair Catherine), who was recently blinded in an accident, inheriting her estranged mother’s (Kika Magalhães) castle in Albania. She travels there with her boyfriend John (Jake Horowitz), who seems to see his girlfriend’s new inheritance as his own personal gain. They not only find that her family was involved with some bizarre cult activity, but that there may be someone…or something…still living in the castle walls. So, of course, they invite their friends over to party.

Remake tries to do something a little different with Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli’s original story by giving the freak a more Lovecraftian origin and make it a female this time. There is some very well rendered gore and some viciously violent scenes, but a lot of this effort is undone by Tate Steinsiek’s very by-the-numbers approach. Kathy Charles’ script tries to maintain enough of the original’s storyline to pay it homage and yet be more it’s own thing by adding the cult past, Lovecraft-like elements and the creature’s link to both an ancient evil and Rebecca. For the most part she is successful, but it’s Steinsiek’s pedestrian directing that makes this flick a tedious watch despite some delightfully gory, goofy and gross moments. The castle and Albanian settings are atmospheric, though, to be honest, the young cast inhabiting them are rather bland. Add to that the flick is ten to fifteen minutes too long and could have been a tight 90 minutes without loosing anything important, and you have a close but no cigar attempt at updating, and improving upon, a cult classic. Though, IMO, the original is more unpleasant than anything else. At least this version has a cool score by the legendary Fabio Frizzi! Streaming on Shudder if you are interested and, if so, watch through the credits as apparently, they are considering tampering with another Gordon classic.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE EVIL CLERGYMAN (1988)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

THE EVIL CLERGYMAN (1988)

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

In 1988 Charles Band was preparing a three story anthology film called Pulse Pounders. The film was shut down before post production was completed when Empire Pictures collapsed and the footage was thought lost. In 2011 a VHS work print of the film was discovered and while inferior to the original filmed footage, Band decided still to restore the three segments, one at a time. One segment was a sequel story to Empire’s Dungeonmaster, another was a sequel to their popular Trancers flick. The third segment was The Evil Clergyman which was based on an H.P. Lovecraft story and starred alumni from Band’s other H.P. Lovecraft based productions Re-Animator and From Beyond… *

The Evil Clergyman is a spooky segment with a bit of an erotic tinge. The story finds a young woman (Barbara Crampton) returning to the old rat-infested house where she had a tumultuous affair with a handsome priest (Jeffrey Combs), who recently killed himself. When entering the room where the two committed their passionate acts, she finds the priest alive…or so she thinks. She also finds herself in a nightmare, as her lover’s intentions for her were apparently far more sinister than just sinful and consorting with her wasn’t the only consorting he was doing.

Chilling segment is directed by Charles Band from a script by Dennis Paoli, based on Lovecraft’s story of the same name. It has atmosphere and there are some very creepy moments when things start to go wrong for our pretty heroine. Aside from Crampton’s Said Brady entering the castle-like home and confronting the landlord (Una Brandon-Jones), the rest of the segment takes place entirely in one spooky room. Band gives it some decent chills and there is a little fire in the sex scene between Crampton and Coombs. What limited make-up FX we see, such as David Gale’s rat demon and the wounds on David Warner’s spectral bishop, are well rendered by legendary FX man John Carl Buechler. It ends on an unsettling note and works well enough on it’s own and thus probably would have been very effective as part of the anthology, as originally intended.

The cast are all good. Barbara Crampton is sexy and very effective as the first elated, then terrified Said Brady. Coombs is spooky and sinister as the title clergyman, Jonathan. He and Crampton work well together as they have before and this wouldn’t be the last time, teaming again on Trancers II for Band and Castle Freak for Stuart Gordon in the 90s. The late David Gale is creepy as the rat demon with a human face and David Warner as well, as a ghostly bishop apparently murdered by Coombs’ priest. Last but not least, Una Brandon-Jones is solid as the judgmental and angry landlord. A good cast for what would have been a solid segment for this unfinished anthology flick.

Overall, this was a spooky little short film and it’s cool Full Moon restored it, so it can be seen. At some point it is said that they intend to put all three segments together as intended, but for now The Evil Clergyman is available for free streaming on Tubi and Full Moon’s own streaming channel. Trancers: City of Lost Angels can be seen on Amazon and Full Moon streaming, too. Dungeonmaster 2 seems to be the only segment left to be yet restored, but time will tell if that will emerge out of obscurity, too.

-MonsterZero NJ

*Sources: Wikipedia, IMDB and the segment’s own opening notice.

Rated 3 (out of 4) rats without human faces.

 

 

 

 

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

Trailer for the Pulse Pounders anthology including The Evil Clergyman…

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 REASONS IT’S NOT HALLOWEEN WITHOUT BARBARA CRAMPTON!

MZNJ_new_views

MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 REASONS IT’S NOT HALLOWEEN WITHOUT BARBARA CRAMPTON!

The scream heard round the world, as the horror community is introduced to Barbara Crampton in Re-Animator!

Watching horror flicks during the Halloween 🎃 season, there might be one face, aside from Karloff, Lee, Lugosi and Tom Atkins, that you might see more than once…and that pretty face is actress and horror icon Barbara Crampton! A cult favorite, Barbara Crampton has appeared in a number of horror classics and cult classics from the 80s to present day and shows no sign of stopping! So, in honor of this queen of horror, here are 10 horror flicks that illustrate why it’s not Halloween 🎃 without Barbara Crampton!

Crampton chews up the scenery playing an evil politician…well, more evil than usual…in the recent Dead Night.

(To get to the reviews of the titles listed that were covered here at the Movie Madhouse, just type the title in the search engine to find the corresponding critique!)

-MonsterZero NJ

bars

BARE BONES: PUPPET MASTER-THE LITTLEST REICH (2018)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

PUPPET MASTER-THE LITTLEST REICH (2018)

After a brief opening that takes place in the 80s, the film jumps to present day where there is a convention being held to commemorate the Toulon puppet murders from three decades previous. There are going to be some replica puppets given away and a tour of Toulon’s mansion. Comic artist Edgar (Thomas Lennon) and his hot girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) are there to attend and soon find the puppets present are the real thing and Toulon (Udo Kier) is not done with his reign of terror, even from beyond the grave.

Reboot is directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund who gave us the derivative but entertaining Blood Runs Cold and Wither. They direct from a script by S. Craig Zahler based on the characters created by Charles Band and Kenneth J. Hall. One would probably have to be a fan of the original series to appreciate this dull reboot. If not, it’s just a series of gruesome murders of various puppet fodder characters, that has only some well executed practical gore effects to hold one’s interest. It’s just a random series of killings with no real plot other than to see toys kill people leading up to a Sharknado-esque finale. The tone of the flick goes from silly to trying to take itself seriously and if puppets, blood and boobs are all you came for, than it does at least deliver that…though still lacks the goofy charm of the original movie. Also stars genre favorites Barbara Crampton, Michael Paré and Matthias Hues.

-MonsterZero NJ

Humerus-Bone1 

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DEAD NIGHT (2018)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

bars

DEAD NIGHT (2018)

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

Wife and mother Casey (Brea Grant) brings her family up to a remote cabin in the woods for the weekend, hoping the mineral deposits in the mountain with help her husband (A.J. Bowen) with his cancer. We soon find that what we are watching is a flashback as the family was brutally murdered and Casey, now referred to as “The Axe Mom” is accused. As we continue to watch the events of that horrible night unfold, though, we find that something far more supernatural may have been responsible.

Film is directed with a very impressive visual style by Brad Baruh from a script and story by he and Irving Walker. The snowy mountain setting and some of the more supernatural elements look great and add atmosphere to this cabin in the woods horror. The narrative cuts between a segment of a real crime show called Inside Crime detailing the deaths from the public’s point of view, to watching the events unfold and seeing a tale of a diabolical woman (Barbara Crampton), witches, creatures and a wife and mother fighting for her life and those of her family. It works well enough, though it might have been more suspenseful if we didn’t know who died and who would survive from the get go. The editing within the flashback footage is a bit choppy as well, thus sometimes disrupting the narrative a bit. On the plus side the film looks spooky as do our supernatural elements, there is some really good gore and old fashion prosthetic make-up effects and horror icon Crampton gives us a really dastardly villain. Despite the rural setting, the film avoids resembling Evil Dead and other cabin in the woods horrors, too much and there are simply some creepy action scenes once Casey’s family starts being transformed by Crampton’s evil Leslie Bison. Again, with the editing, not every story element is clear, but this is a gory good time with a very effective and atmospheric visual style. The film also has a bit of an 80s horror vibe which always scores points with us older horror movie fans.

Brea Grant makes a really good lead. She plays a women already under an emotional strain with a sick husband and now she must fight against Bison and her supernatural back-up. She watches her family one by one turn into creatures and ultimately we know she’s going to be blamed for everything she’s fighting against. Crampton steals the show here as the evil Leslie Bison, a woman with a political and supernatural agenda. The veteran actress and horror icon really chews up the scenery here and just oozes malice. She’s a lot of devious fun. Rounding out the cast of principles is horror regular A.J. Bowen as sick husband James, a good-natured fellow despite his condition, Joshua Hoffman as son Jason, Sophie Dalah as daughter Jessica and Elise Luthman as Jessica’s friend Becky who the evil elements have an interest in. Daniel Roebuck also appears in a small role as Inside Crime’s host, Jack Sterling.

In conclusion, this was a fun enough movie, though some choppy editing does hinder the story telling. Brad Baruh is an atmospheric director with a great eye for visuals and he does keep this cabin in the woods horror from getting too routine. It’s got a good cast with Brea Grant making a strong final girl and horror film icon Barbara Crampton stealing all her scenes with a sinister over-the-top performance. Flaws aside, a fun and delightfully gory horror flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 axes.

 

bars

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE LEGENDARY BARBARA CRAMPTON!

MZNJ_new_views

Today is legendary horror film icon Barbara Crampton’s birthday and as MonsterZero NJ shares a birthday with the fan favorite actress, I certainly wish her the happiest and healthiest of days. Still working hard and still a beauty, it’s no wonder this lady is held in such high regard by so many horror fans around the world! Happy Birthday, Barbara!

-MonsterZero NJ

bars