BARE BONES: MALEVOLENT (2018)

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MALEVOLENT (2018)

Netflix original takes place in 1986 Scotland where American siblings Angela (Florence Pugh) and Jackson (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) are running a paranormal investigation scam to earn money. They are called to investigate a former foster home where some of the girls were murdered and the owner Mrs. Green (Celia Imrie) believes they now haunt the house. What starts out as another con becomes far too real for the phony investigators and their very lives may now be in danger as there is something malevolent in that house.

Despite there being a lot of familiar elements here, the film is well directed by Olaf De Fleur from a script by Ben Ketai (The Forest) and Eva Konstantopoulos. It’s atmospheric and has a Gothic visual style. De Fleur uses it’s spooky location well and there is some effectively bloody violence in the last act. Florence Pugh is very good as Angela, a young woman whose mother was thought insane, but apparently had legitimate psychic abilities that her daughter may now share. Ben Lloyd-Hughes is also a perfect douche as her con artist brother, who has no problem bilking grieving innocents out of their cash and doesn’t realize his sister may be the real thing. The rest of the cast are effective as well, even if we see certain character revelations coming. Nothing new, but effective enough to entertain and Pugh is an actress worth keeping an eye on as she gives Angela some integrity and depth.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT and HUNTING EMMA

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THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT (2018)

Sequel to the disturbing The Strangers, finds couple Cindy and Mike (Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson) going with son Luke (Lewis Pullman) on a road trip to bring troublesome daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison) to boarding school. They stop at an uncle’s trailer park for the night and soon find themselves hunted by three masked individuals.

Original film director Bryan Bertino steps aide and lets Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) take the helm, though he does write the script with Ben Ketai. The result is a more routine slasher flick, but one that does have some effective scenes, especially in the last act When Kinsey goes on the offensive. It’s entertaining enough and has some very violent moments, though is held back by characters doing some very dumb things…even for a horror flick. It’s also hard to believe that a character afraid to pull the trigger in one scene, would suddenly find the balls to stab someone repeatedly a scene later. In fact, why introduce the gun into the scenario at all when it’s never fired, lost quickly, and doesn’t become a factor? Roberts does direct competently and as slashers go, it gets the job done well enough, but is nothing memorable like the original home invasion flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HUNTING EMMA (2017)

South African thriller finds peace-loving, school teacher Emma (Leandie du Randt) heading across the Karoo to go visit her father (Tertius Meintjes). When her car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, she happens across the murder in progress of a police officer (Drikus Volschenk) by a gang of six vicious drug dealers. Now Emma finds herself pursued across the wilderness by the gang, who don’t realize that Emma’s father was a special forces soldier and he taught his daughter everything he knows.

Very similar to the recent Revenge, this flick is directed solidly by Bryon Davis, though from a weak script by Deon Meyer. The script has not once but twice, a male character having the advantage over Emma, but putting down his weapon to teach her a lesson either bare-fisted or by engaging in an old school, Western-style gunfight. It’s silly. At these points in the film, Emma’s proven she’s dangerous. Are these guys that in need of macho validation? Secondly, the script assumes we’re too dumb to get the point and after numerous flashbacks of Emma learning survival tactics from her dad, there is a painstakingly long exposition scene with her dad explaining this all to a friend (Albert Maritz) in explicit detail. We already got that she’s a bit of a Rambo in Daisy Dukes, it’s completely unnecessary and adds ten minutes to a film that would have benefited from a slightly tighter edit job. The bad guys are quite routine, though the film does entertain and leading lady du Randt is solid and likable as the wolf in sheep’s clothing, Emma. A tighter script that didn’t insult our intelligence would have made this a lot better as the action and violence is effective.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD (2016)

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JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD (2016)

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

In 1981, a nun by the name of Tadea Benz was brutally raped and murdered on Halloween night. A mentally handicapped young man by the name of Johnny Frank Garrett was convicted and executed for the crime. All during the trial and his incarceration Garrett proclaimed his innocence and on the night before he died by lethal injection, he proclaimed his innocence one last time in a letter that also said that those who wrongly accused him would pay…

This is from an actual real-life murder case that occurred in Texas in 1981 and serves as the basis for this horror film that takes the all-true story and portrays the effects of Garrett’s ominous last words as folks involved with the case and their loved ones, start to die mysteriously. Former juror Adam Redman (Mike Doyle) begins to investigate and finds they may have indeed sent an innocent man to his death and his revenge may now be coming to bare!

It’s hard to decide whether it’s daring or in bad taste that writer Ben Ketai and director Simon Rumley made a horror film out of a real life murder case…and not just based on it, like many films…but use actual events and names and all, adding a supernatural element to turn it into a horror flick. Whatever one decides, it is an effective horror and the fact that a lot of the events we are watching are true…such as later revelations that Jarrett may have indeed been innocent…adds a very unsettling element. The supernatural additions to the story are a bit disturbing, too, as Garrett’s “curse” target’s Redman’s son and he races to save him, as others from the case die around him. There are some creepy moments here, though turning the possibly innocent Garrett into a vengeful specter is a bit odd as you should want to feel sorry for him, yet he is preying on innocent children to make his point from beyond the grave. Obviously, the prosecutor (Sean Patrick Flanery) is the real bad guy here, but Jarrett is the “Freddy Krueger” of the flick and it’s still hard to feel bad for his cinematic incarnation and we should.  The film was still effective enough and it makes one want to catch up on Jesse Quackenbush’s documentary The Last Word, which is about the actual events including the discovery of evidence years later that Garrett might possibly have been a victim of a justice system at it’s worst.

This was an effective and atmospheric horror film, even if the use of so many of the real facts from the case makes one uneasy about their use. Whether the filmmakers were being daring or exploitive is probably up to the viewer. The end credits also proclaim that there were indeed a number of mysterious deaths concerning individuals close to the case, but, so far, my online research has not confirmed this. Courageous or crass, Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word is if anything an unnerving little horror flick that does inspire one to find out more about what really happened on October 31st, 1981 in Texas.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 gavels

 

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