HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: IT STAINS THE SANDS RED (2017)

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IT STAINS THE SANDS RED (2017)

Offbeat zombie flick has erotic dancer and coke-head Molly (Brittany Allen) driving across the desert outside Las Vegas at the start of a zombie outbreak. She and her boyfriend Nick (Merwin Mondesir) are heading to a small airport to make a getaway with some of Nick’s friends. A mishap strands them in the middle of nowhere and an encounter with a lone zombie (Juan Riedinger) leaves Nick dead. Now Molly heads across the desert alone with the relentless walking corpse in pursuit and the desert heat taking it’s toll.

This is a very unusual zombie flick written by “The Vicious Brothers” Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz and directed by Minihan. It plays it’s tale out in a slightly twisted way as, at first, it’s a thriller with Molly struggling in her high heeled boots to keep ahead of the slow moving but ever persistent corpse and then turns into something else. As the desert sun beats down on her and she starts to get a bit delirious, Molly begins to form a weird relationship with her hungry pursuer, taunting and talking to it and even naming him “Small Balls.” The film shifts to an almost twisted buddy movie as Molly develops an attachment to the flesh eater while she also tries to keeps him at a safe distance. There is some clever stuff here and the film is effective enough to work as both horror and buddy/road movie despite that the initial intriguing premise of a lone woman pursued tenaciously by a lone zombie was interesting enough. Perhaps Minihan and Ortiz felt the story wasn’t enough to fill a whole film and thus it changers gears to the unusual bond between girl and ghoul and then to a last act deviation when Molly decides it’s more important to find the young son she gave up than to escape with Nick’s crazy friends. The narrative shifts are a bit jarring, but as individual parts do work well enough. There are also some Romero-esque messages about the evil men do, as when Molly meets two ex-cons, who are far worse a threat than the lumbering “Smalls” and some funny bits, such as Molly using a tampon to distract the hungry zombie from his pursuit and her dialogue in general aimed at her un-dead pursuer. There is plenty of gore despite the minimal cast and Minihan makes good use of the desert local. There is also an effective score by Blitz//Berlin, who scored Extraterrestrial and some nice cinematography by Clayton Moore to add atmosphere.

The minimal cast are all solid, especially the feisty Brittany Allen (Extraterrestrial). Allen’s Molly is spirited and tougher than her manicured nails and designer handbag would let on. She’s a survivor and while currently living an indulgent lifestyle, she does seem to learn from her experiences. It’s practically a one woman show and Allen carries the movie on her shoulders very well and can be very funny with her rambling dialogue bits with the silent Smalls. As zombie “Smalls”, Juan Riedinger does really good work emoting under all the make-up. Much like Day of The Dead‘s Bub, Smalls seems to have some sort of primal emotions under his relentless hunger and some trace elements of thought left, despite being a walking corpse. While he generally has simple animistic reactions, the actor conveys the tinges of thinking and emotion very well using just facial expressions, body language and his eyes. In support, Merwin Mondesir plays Molly’s “gangstsa” boyfriend Nick with the appropriate swagger, yet with a bit of a wink and Andrew Supanz and Michael Filipowich are suitably despicable a a pair of ex-cons who cross paths with Molly and Smalls.

Despite an eccentric narrative and deviating from a simple and effective horror premise that was basically a zombie version of Fredric Brown’s Arena, the film was entertaining and did work. Brittany Allen was sassy enough to pull off the bizarre relationship between Molly and Smalls and was effective in her more terror filled scenes early on and then at the point where she becomes a survivor and takes charge of her situation. Juan Riedinger made a fearsome and yet oddly sympathetic zombie and for fans of these flicks there was enough gore to meet requirements. There are some intense moments and some funny ones, too. Not a perfect flick and one might have wanted to see it simply play out as woman vs zombie, but it takes a less expected route and it’s offbeat enough to keep it from getting stale in an overplayed sub-genre. The “Vicious Brothers”…if they’re still called that…have yet to disappoint.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 tampons.

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE VOID (2016)

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THE VOID (2016)

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

The Void is not only a trippy tribute to horror films of the 80s and the practical make-up and gore effects used in them, but a bloody good time and a creepy monster flick in it’s own right. The film opens with a young couple being chased by two men, with the man (Evan Stern) barely escaping and the woman being shot and then brutally burned alive. The man is found by local policeman, Dan (Aaron Poole) and brought to a nearby hospital that is in the process of closing down after a recent fire. There the cop and minimal staff and patients find the building soon surrounded by mysterious and lethal hooded figures, while inside it starts to turn into a house of horrors, as staff murder patients and the dead return to life transformed into creatures from out of a nightmare. Can Dan, his nurse wife Allison (Kathleen Munroe) and the remaining survivors figure out what is happening and how to get out alive?

Written and directed by the team of Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie, this is a mash-up/homage to the films of John Carpenter and Stuart Gordon, among others. There are elements of Assault On Precinct 13, The Thing, In the Mouth Of Madness, as well as Re-animator, From Beyond and a host of other cult classics. But Kostanski and Gillespie make it their own with their tale of other dimensions and nightmarish activities and the film is filled with some really unsettling imagery and a host of practical creatures and gore, along with it. The story itself is a bit convoluted at times and the filmmakers don’t spoon feed you everything, but that works far more in the film’s favor than it doesn’t. It’s a disturbing ride, loaded with atmosphere and we do gradually find out enough of what’s going on to satisfy, as the deliberately moderate pace carries us to an unsettling conclusion right out of Fulci’s The Beyond. Sure the acting is a bit wooden here and there and the FX are a bit rubbery, but it’s the charm of what the filmmakers are trying to do and of the many cult classics they evoke, that makes it so enjoyable and fun. Not to mention the filmmakers do conjure some of their own goosebumps along the way. It may not make total sense, but it is enjoyably creepy and when the gore hits the fan, it hits delightfully hard and spatters everywhere. There is some effective cinematography by Samy Inayeh and a cool soundtrack by Blitz//Berlin, who did the soundtrack for Extraterrestrial.

I enjoyed this love letter to many a classic 80s film, including Galaxy Of Terror…which I just re-watched…yet one that didn’t loose it’s own identity. It’s a weird flick that is part Lovecraft, part Carpenter with a few other pinches of famous names of horror thrown in. It has some effectively designed creatures and some delightfully gory moments and gives us some spooky visuals along with the thrills and chills. You may scratch your head a bit here and there, but it’s fun throwback that may have introduced us to two filmmakers to keep an eye on. Also stars Art (Black Christmas, The Brood) Hindle as a state trooper and Scott Pilgrim’s Ellen Wong as an intern in over her adorable head.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scalpels, because I didn’t want to spoil any of the weirdness.

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: EXTRATERRESTRIAL (2014)

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Extraterrestrial-film-2014

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EXTRATERRESTRIAL (2014)

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

Written and directed by the Vicious Brothers (Grave Encounters), this flick is a fun homage to cabin in the woods horrors, alien abduction flicks and has a delightfully 80s horror movie feel to it.

Story opens with a woman (Ginger Snaps’ Emily Perkins) running hysterically to a closing gas station and begging for help. Turned away by an obnoxious clerk, she runs to the phone booth where both she and the booth are snatched up into the sky before she can complete her 911 call. We then cut to pretty April (Brittany Allen) who is going with friends to her family’s soon-to-be-sold remote cabin for a weekend stay to take pictures for the realtor…and do a bit of partying. Once there, they witness an object crash into the woods and upon investigating, discover a disc-like craft and some very inhuman footprints. Back at the cabin, they have a terrifying encounter with the occupant and the creature is shot and falls into the pool, presumed dead. Now they are being hunted by otherworldly beings and according to local pot grower/conspiracy theorist Travis (a fun Michael Ironside), they have broken a treaty between the extraterrestrials and the U.S. Goverment and the aliens will find them and make them pay. Is there any escape for them?

I had a very good time with this flick and found it a really fun homage to a number of favorite types of horror. The Vicious Brothers script pays tribute to not only alien abduction themed chillers but, to the old remote cabin scenario, and maybe even a touch of Friday The 13th, too. Under their direction, the film has a distinctly 80s vibe and is quite colorful and loaded with spooky action and impressive FX sequences. The filmmakers also proudly incorporate far too many clichés to be anything but, an intentional homage…and as such, it’s a lot of fun. The film has some intense scenes…especially in the last act…but, is more of an outright sci-fi/monster flick and is a very entertaining one at that. There are some top notch visual and make-up FX to portray our creatures, as well as, their ships and abilities, and a fun and surprising amount of gore to illustrate their carnage. The movie has an 80s look as filmed by Samy Inayeh and a really effective score by the Canadian band Blitz//Berlin. Maybe not an altogether original movie but, it used the traditional elements wisely and mixed the homages very well.

The cast are all fine and play their roles effectively. Brittany Allen makes a good heroine with her resilient and strong April. Freddie Stroma is likable as April’s loving boyfriend, Kyle. Melanie Papalia plays cute, loyal friend Melanie. Jesse Moss is appropriately grating as party animal Seth…the “Hudson” of the group. Anja Savcic is pretty, but doesn’t get to do much, as Seth’s girlfriend Lex and Gil Bellows is solid as the local sheriff with a personal interest in what is going on. As for the genre familiar guest stars, Perkins is good as the hysterical mom who’s lost her husband and child to the visitors and Ironside is a hoot in a lighter role than we are used to seeing him, as the stoner/conspiracy theorist Travis. A solid cast.

I think this is a very fun movie. Some may criticize the film for using far too many familiar elements but, in my opinion, they are paraded out proudly and far too often to be anything but an intentional homage. It has some intense action, top notch SPFX, a great 80s horror vibe and a last scene that is not only disturbing but, a deviously amusing nod to a classic TV show that I won’t spoil. It’s not anything we haven’t seen before but, it uses the clichés well and in a very entertaining manner and every now and then splashes the screen with some fun gore. The Vicious Brothers…like with Grave Encounters…know we are familiar with a lot of the tropes and just have a good time with them without the pretention of pretending they are showing us something new. It’s a really fun and possibly underrated sci-fi/horror.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2… well…you know.

extraterestrial rating

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