BARE BONES: UNCANNY ANNIE (2019)

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UNCANNY ANNIE (2019)

Uncanny Annie is part of Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into The Dark series and originally aired on 10/4/19. Flick takes place on Halloween night, where six friends, Wendy (Adelaide Kane), Michael (Dylan Arnold), Eve (Georgie Flores), Craig (Jacques Colimon), Grace (Paige McGhee) and Peter (Evan Bittencourt) are hanging out together. They discover an old board game called Uncanny Annie and they decide to play. Soon the friends find themselves in some kind of void where they are not only forced to bare their souls, but are assailed by a variety of spooks and specters, including Annie (Karlisha Hurley) herself. Is there any way to win and escape for them, or will they be all taken one by one?

Flick is spookily directed by Paul Davis from a fun script by Alan Blake Bachelor and James Bachelor. Sure, we’ve seen the whole drawn into a board game thing before and the haunted board game, too, but the filmmakers know it and go with it with supernatural gusto. There are some spooky spooks and Annie herself is quite unnerving, thanks to a creepy performance by Karlisha Hurley. The whole cast give us some likable characters, even though some have dark secrets to keep, with Adelaide Kane making a solid heroine as sexy Goth chick Wendy. There is some bloodshed and the ghost FX are well done, too. Even if it isn’t the most original concept, it’s a fun Halloween flick that takes itself just seriously enough, yet let’s us have a good time as it’s premise plays out. One of the better Into The Dark flicks.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: FREAKY (2020)

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FREAKY (2020)

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

Blumhouse’s latest is a slasher twist on the classic body switch scenario. While the town of Blissfield is being stalked by a serial killer, misfit high school teen Millie (Kathryn Newton) has her own problems to deal with. She is still mourning the death of her father, her mother (Katie Finneran) has turned to drinking, her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton) doesn’t even notice her and she is not exactly the most popular girl in school. The paths of she and The Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) are fated to cross and when they do, the use of an ancient Aztec dagger, procured from a previous victim, causes Millie and her attacker to switch bodies. Now, on Friday the 13th, of all days, Millie, in the Butcher’s body, has till midnight to fix things before the switch becomes permanent. She has to convince her best friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) that it’s really her, avoid her cop sister (Dana Drori) and stop The Butcher, who is using Millie’s body to stalk new prey in her high school’s very halls. It’s going to be a freaky Friday the 13th indeed!

Flick is directed by Christopher Landon from his script with Michael Kennedy. Landon is responsible for writing a number of Paranormal Activity sequels and directing that series’ The Marked Ones installment, as well as, directing and writing the fun Happy Death Day movies. It’s an entertaining mash-up of slasher meets Freaky Friday, though not quite the energetic fun that was his previous slasher meets Groundhog Day flicks. It is a lot more gruesome than Happy Death Day, though, and earns it’s “R” rating, while still being filled with some fun dialogue and generous movie references. The script is fairly clever with getting the Aztec dagger “La Dola” into The Butcher’s hands quickly, to get the story rolling, and using web savvy teens to give us the exposition we and Millie need, as to how the dagger works and what needs to be done. This sets in motion the race to regain possession of La Dola, before midnight passes and Millie is trapped forever in the body of a middle aged murderer…which The Butcher realizes may not be a bad thing. The film only falters a little when a few sentimental dialogue scenes go on for a bit too long and the filmmaker’s desire to be politically correct becomes a little too obvious in spots. The last act could have been a bit punchier, too, with it’s teen filled party in a warehouse setting. Otherwise, it’s a fun slasher/high school flick homage with some witty banter, some bloody carnage and a hip sense of humor.

The flick wouldn’t have worked nearly as well, if it wasn’t for our two leads having a blast playing each other’s parts. Kathryn Newton is very good, first as the awkward, likable and sympathetic Millie, and then as the sadistic serial killer. Newton is very successful as oozing evil and malice from within a high school girl’s veneer and has a threatening presence despite being a very pretty young girl. It’s Vince Vaughn, however, that really has a chance to take the ball and run with it as Millie in The Butcher’s body. Vaughn is hilarious as the awkward high school girl in the body of a middle aged serial killer and his mannerisms and body language are just as funny as his line delivery. He is even very threatening when he is The Blissfield Butcher back in his own body, in case you forgot he was a sadistic killer. Supporting cast is solid, too. Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich as Nyla and the flamboyantly gay Josh are a fun duo. They play off Vaughn very well and have some amusing dialogue and comic bits as they race to help get Millie back in her own body. Katie Finneran is good as Millie’s lonely, mourning mother, as is Dana Drori as Millie’s tough, sarcastic cop sister. Uriah Shelton is likable as Millie’s crush, Booker, who is dragged into this mess and Ferris Bueller star Alan Ruck appears as a harsh wood shop teacher.

Overall, this flick was fun and was a nice mash-up of two types of film’s one wouldn’t immediately think of mixing up. The cast are really good, especially our body swopping leads, who have a blast playing each other. It can be gruesome, but is very witty and clever as well. It does drag in a few parts, due to some lengthy attempts at adding some sentimentality to the proceedings, but otherwise is an entertaining homage, though not quite the infectious fun of Landon’s Happy Death Day flicks…which Landon recently conceded take place in the same universe. Freaky Death Day someday maybe?

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) chainsaws which pretty Kathryn Newton wields quite well.

 

 

 

 

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2020!

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2020!

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features a relatively new girl on the block, though technically not a total rookie. She did first appear in season three of Scream: The TV Series in 2019, but didn’t get her first lead role in a horror movie till the 2020 Into The Dark flick Crawlers! The NYC born actress made an impression in her final girl debut as the tough, street-smart and sassy conspiracy theorist, Shauna. Shauna is a local in a small college town overrun by co-eds and under siege by shapeshifting aliens on St. Patrick’s Day. The actress displayed some solid final girl/heroine qualifications and did some major alien ass-kicking! So without further ado…MonsterZero NJ’s Halloween Hotties rookie of the year 2020 is…

 GIORGIA WHIGHAM as SHAUNA in CRAWLERS

GIORGIA WHIGHAM as SHAUNA in CRAWLERS!

Shauna is a conspiracy theorist and blogger in a small college town soon to be invaded!

Something strange is going on this St. Patty’s Day and Shauna is thinking aliens!

Shauna gathers the troops and makes a plan of attack!

Inside the nest!

Busy actress Giorgia Whigham between roles.
Photo: source unknown
There’s no telling where this beautiful and talented actress will show up next. She kept up with Jon Bernthal’s Punisher in season two of that Netflix series and showed some comic chops on The Orville, so versatility is already part of her rapidly expanding resume. Hopefully she’ll return to the horror genre soon, as she made a kick-ass final girl!

-MonsterZero NJ

And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties!

Head over to the Halloween Hotties listings! to read them all!)

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: HAPPY DEATH DAY and HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U

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While talk of a third installment goes back and forth, the two current installments of Blumhouse’s comedy/horror franchise are a lot of fun when paired together. So, if you’re looking for something light and more fun, but don’t want to completely leave the horror genre, this is an entertining Saturday Night Double Feature…

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HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017)

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

College student Theresa (Jessica Rothe) is having a really bad day…over and over again. She wakes up in the dorm of a strange guy, she’s mean to those around her, she’s sleeping with one of her professors, it’s a birthday she doesn’t want to face and someone is trying to kill her…and does. But Theresa keeps waking up at the moment of her death, starting the day all over again. She soon realizes that if she is to break the loop, she has to find out who this masked killer is and stop them. Easier said than done if there weren’t so many people who might want her dead.

Obviously, the Groundhog Day routine with reliving the same day over and over has been done to death, but here it’s literally. Director Christopher B. Landon knows we’ve seen it all before and takes the derivative ball and runs with it. Landon is helped by a fun script he co-wrote with Scott Lobdell and a sassy stick of dynamite leading lady in Rothe’s Theresa. As it starts out, Theresa is an unlikable mean girl…though her mean quips are very funny…but as she embarks on her journey of identifying her masked killer and ending this loop, it takes her from snotty sorority girl to sarcastic and feisty heroine. It’s a blast to watch Theresa as she meets each day head on and each time finds a new piece of the puzzle, all the while discovering things about herself. If it sounds corny, it is and Landon knows it and revels in it. He also delivers some solid suspense, some intense action and a few surprises on the road to Theresa’s final confrontation with the killer in her midst. It’s also kind of fun to watch the spunky girl die over and over again in different ways, only to have to do it all again with increasing frustration. The humor and suspense are perfectly mixed here, making it all the more enjoyable. This is a prime example of a filmmaker taking familiar elements and having a good time with them and not just re-using them in a by-the-numbers manner. The result is a fun slasher/thriller with a very hip sense of humor and a heroine to really endear to and root for.

As for our leading lady, Jessica Rothe is having an outright blast with the plot contrivances and owns this flick from start to finish. She introduces us to a mean, snarky, sorority princess and slowly transforms her into a smart, sarcastic and resilient final girl, who grows with each repeat of the ill-fated Monday the 18th. She is firecracker of a leading lady and really makes even the corniest elements of her transformation believable, such as her having the courage and tenacity to face a killer head on. It’s her show and she handles it like a boss. In support is a charming turn by Israel Broussard, as Carter, the boy she wakes up with and bonds with over her dilemma. The two have a nice chemistry on screen and their forming relationship works very well. The rest of the cast is also solid with Rachel Matthews as Theresa’s even meaner sorority sister Danielle, Ruby Modine as her sweet and verbally abused roommate Lori, Charles Aitken as her professor/lover and Rob Mello as a captured serial killer who may, or may not, be her masked murderer.

So, maybe this is not the most original film in terms of story, but it knows it and just runs with it. Christopher B. Landon…who wrote four successive Paranormal Activity sequels and also directed the Marked Ones spin-off…has really sharpened his craft by having a blast with he and Scott Lobdell’s clever slasher variation on the Bill Murray classic…which is playfully acknowledged in the film. It’s a fun movie that succeeds beyond it’s means thanks to a filmmaker who gets how to handle the material and a star-making performances by leading lady Jessica Rothe.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) baby-faced killers.

 

 

 

 

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HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U (2019)

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

Sequel pics up right after the first flick with Tree (Jessica Rothe) cozying up with Carter (Israel Broussard) and all being well until roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) starts to relive his own murder over and over. Tree finds out her previous predicament and Ryan’s current one are as a result of Ryan and friends science experiment that effects time…just not in the way they planned. An effort to kill the loop sends Tree back to Monday the 18th again, only this time in an alternate universe.  She’s reliving her death all over again, only in this dimension Lori (Ruby Modine) is no longer the killer, Carter is dating Danielle (Rachel Matthews) and her mother is still alive. Can Tree get back to her normal dimension…and does she want to?

As you can guess by the plot description, Happy Death Day 2U sends the slasher elements to the background and focuses more on a Star Trek-ian/Back to the Future-esque tale of alternate timelines and other dimensions. It’s still fun, though shifting the focus also mutes some of the chills and thrills that made the first film such a treat. There is a lot of entertainment to be had and they have fun with the expanded concept, but this seems more like a cinematic episode of The Big Bang Theory with a slasher sub-plot. Christopher Landon again directs well, though this time from his own script and seems to want to play more with the whole alternate timeline thing and guide the story away from the slasher elements. A mid-credits scene hints that a part 3 will veer away even further. There was also a brief flirting with dopplegangers, but that disappears quickly, which is a shame as Tree being stalked by other alternate reality selves sounds like it would have been a hoot. If the film is missing anything, it’s the intensity the slasher elements brought to the table in the first film. The mix was more even in Happy Death Day and this sequel could have used a bit more.

Jessica Rothe is again a blast to watch though she shares the film’s focus with other characters and isn’t always the center of attention. The actress also proves again she is a leading lady with talent and can do drama, comedy and kick some ass, too. Israel Broussard is still charming and likable as Carter. The alternate reality version is pretty much the same guy, except for dating Rachel Matthews’ Danielle, who is a lot nicer in this other dimension. Matthews gets more screen time and gets to perform some slapstick comedy in one of the sillier sequences. Phi Vu gets a far more expanded role and is fun as Ryan and Suraj Sharma and Sara Yarkin play two of his nerdy lab partners/friends.

In conclusion, the sequel is not an equal, but not a disappointment either, unless you were expecting more of a horror film. There are some amusing sequences, some fun character interaction and even a little heart-tugging drama to go with the occasional dips back into slasher territory. On the downside it is slower paced, the killer was easy to guess and horror fans might not be happy with all the science geek quantum this and quantum that mumbo jumbo. Leading lady Jessica Rothe is still at least every bit the firecracker and if there is a three-quel, hopefully she is not pushed to the sidelines or lost in an ensemble piece. A fun movie thought maybe not what you might go in expecting. Stay through the credits for that mid-credits scene.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) baby-faced killers.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: FANTASY ISLAND (2020)

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FANTASY ISLAND (2020)

The idea of taking the popular 70s show Fantasy Island and turning it into more of a Twilight Zone/horror flick is actually a good idea. Too bad they couldn’t make a good movie out of it. As with the show, a group of people are brought to a tropical island to live out their fantasies. In this darker version, the fantasies don’t quite work out as they expect and dangerously so.

Flick is flatly directed by Jeff Wadlow from a weak script by by Chris Roach and Jillian Jacobs, that seems like it was made up as it went along. Things get more and more ludicrous as the film progresses. It takes an amusing premise and rolls it out as unimaginatively as you can think of. There is no suspense, no tension and no innovation with turning a classic TV show concept into something much darker. It’s four segments playing out at the same time and none of them very interesting. The supernatural mumbo-jumbo as to how and why this is all happening is silly, as the revelation that everyone’s fates are somehow connected is no surprise. The big end reveal as to why these particular five are all here, is laughable…though points for the audacity in giving it a somewhat upbeat ending after all that goes on. The movie is also about ten to fifteen minutes too long and by the last act you just want it to be over. Flick also wastes a good cast, including Michael Peña as Roarke, Maggie Q, Michael Rooker, Lucy Hale and Portia Doubleday. This might be one of the only times one can say the versatile Peña is miscast. That, sadly, is the film’s biggest accomplishment. Blumhouse, lately, has been churning out cookie cutter thrillers like this. They make these flicks so cheaply, that even a misguided mess like Fantasy Island makes them money…so why should they try harder?

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: INTO THE DARK-CRAWLERS (2020)

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INTO THE DARK: CRAWLERS (2020)

Emerald Springs is not only a small college town, but a predominately Irish town as well. As such, it goes bonkers on St. Patrick’s Day, but this year, March 17th takes an otherworldly turn. It seems the town is being invaded by bodysnatching aliens and it’s up to spunky, rebellious, drug-dealing local Shauna (Giorgia Whigham) to rally students Misty, Yuejin and Aaron (Pepi Sonuga, Olivia Liang and Cameron Fuller) to save the town and the planet.

Flick is directed for Blumhouse’s monthly movie series by Brandon Zuck from a script by Catherine Wignall and Mike Gan. Story-wise it’s very routine with aliens invading a small town and stealing the bodies of their conquests, but it’s also filled with some fun nods to the films that inspired it. It is a homage and one that is affectionate towards it’s influences, evoking Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the 1988 Blob remake, and John Carpenter’s The Thing, to name a few. Zuck moves things along fairly quickly and has a good time with the scenario to make it fun. The characters are also entertaining to watch, especially Whigham’s sarcastic, tough Shauna, who also serves as the film’s narrator, as this is played as an entry for her online blog. The flick doesn’t try to be more than it is, though there are some serious themes touched on, such as Misty’s being taken advantage of by jerk and campus stud, Michael (Zachary Roozen). Inappropriate behavior commentary aside, It’s tone is mostly all in fun, though it has some bloody moments, some well-rendered SPFX and there is an amusing 80s vibe the helps make it a nostalgically entertaining watch. No better example than the 80s-ish electronic score by Ceiri Torjussen and colorful, green themed cinematography from James Kniest.

The cast are having a good time. Leading lady Giorgia Whigham, is quite the spitfire as the sarcastic, conspiracy theorist that is Shauna. She is a delight to watch a she oozes contempt for the college students invading her town, but these party animals are most certainly the lesser of two evils when compared to the aliens also invading Emerald Springs. So, off she goes to save the world. This along with her roles on season 2 of Netflix’s The Punisher, and season 3 of MTV’s Scream: The TV Series, make her a talent to definitely keep an eye on. Pepi Sonuga is also good as the emotionally troubled, Misty. The issues of a possible date rape, add some nice depth to her character and Sonuga plays it well. Olivia Liang is fun as the bitchy, skeptical Yuejin. Yuejin is looking to replace Misty as campus queen Chloe’s (Jude Demorest) new bestie and wants none of Shauna’s alien invasion theories, despite being dragged into into the middle of it all. Cameron Fuller is solid as Aaron, a frat boy who comes to regret some of his party animal activities, when he realizes Misty and her friends are people and not trophies or conquests. A cast having a good time and getting the tone of the material.

Crawlers isn’t a great movie, but it is an entertaining one and is now one more choice to watch on St. Patrick’s Day. It has a routine sci-fi/horror story, but the director gets the tone of the homage laden script and directs it appropriately. It’s has a hip sense of sarcastic humor, as does it’s leading lady and the characters are fun to watch as they take on invading aliens while everyone else is pub-crawling. It’s cliché and no classic, but still a fun time and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome with an economical 90 minute runtime. Stay through the credits for some fun bloopers.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) pints.

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BARE BONES: BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019)

 

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BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019)

Remake, or re-imagining takes place on a college campus at Christmas break. The MKE sorority girls put on a controversial Christmas show at the DKO fraternity, calling out an alumni for his rape of sorority member Riley (Imogen Poots). Soon the ladies of MKE and other sororities, start to fall one by one, as a group of hooded and masked killers stalk them across campus.

Flick is directed by Sophia Takal from her script, co-written by April Wolfe. In the age of #MeToo the film faces the issue of sexual abuses on college campuses head on, as well as, the disbelief and stigma that falls on the accuser instead of the accused. In this aspect, the film achieves it’s goals. It’s so busy with it’s messages, though, that it almost forgets to be a horror film. It takes almost an hour for the flick to really get going and the kills are mostly offscreen, muting their impact. Aside from being set in a sorority and a few scattered elements, it doesn’t really follow the 1974 original, or the previous 2006 remake. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t really do too much new with the stalker premise, either. On a horror film level, it’s derivative, despite adding a supernatural element to it’s story not present in the other versions. It’s climax is a bit overblown and it’s at that point where the film’s message starts to become sledgehammered, when the flick already made it’s point so well in the first half. Also, if there is a supernatural element controlling certain individuals, are they really to blame for their actions and deserved of their fates? Wouldn’t it have served the story’s point better if they were simply misogynist a-holes and not in a black magic thrall? The cast are fine, especially Poots as the emotionally wounded Riley. Veteran actor Cary Elwes, as a douchey professor, does overdo it a bit. He practically has a neon sign saying “bad guy” floating over his head the entire movie. There are some nice nods to the original like the address of a sorority being “1974”, the year the first Black Christmas was released and it does have a few intense moments. Overall, It’s a film that delivers it’s messages, sometimes with a heavy hand, but boldly straight on. Unfortunately, though, it skimps somewhat on being an actual horror flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: MA (2019)

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MA (2019)

Cliché filled thriller finds pretty high school student Maggie (Diana Silvers) moving back to her mother Erica’s (Juliette Lewis) home town after her parents separate. Maggie soon makes friends and when out in pursuit of some liquor to party, they meet lonely Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer). Sue Ann starts to buy them booze and soon invites them to use her basement to party in. As “Ma” gets more and more involved in their lives, her behavior starts to get stranger and stranger. Maggie soon starts to believe their new ‘friend’ has ulterior motives for her hospitality, but what is she up to and why?

Aside from an unsettling performance from veteran Spencer and a solid heroine in Silvers’ Maggie, there isn’t much to say about this flick. It’s a routine and very familiar thriller from writer Scotty Landes and director Tate Taylor, who don’t bring anything new to the stalker/crazy person sub-genres. Ma’s hidden agenda is no surprise, as it is revealed to us, over the course of the film, through flashbacks to Sue Ann’s days in high school and what pushed her over the edge, so to speak. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, plays out exactly as we expect and not portrayed in any way innovative or creative. Aside from good performances from the leads and from supporting cast members Juliette Lewis and Luke Evans, there would be very little to recommend here. The cast, especially Octavia Spencer, deserved better material and we deserved a better movie.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U (2019)

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HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U (2019)

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

Sequel pics up right after the first flick with Tree (Jessica Rothe) cozying up with Carter (Israel Broussard) and all being well until roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) starts to relive his own murder over and over. Tree finds out her previous predicament and Ryan’s current one are as a result of Ryan and friends science experiment that effects time…just not in the way they planned. An effort to kill the loop sends Tree back to Monday the 18th again, only this time in an alternate universe.  She’s reliving her death all over again, only in this dimension Lori (Ruby Modine) is no longer the killer, Carter is dating Danielle (Rachel Matthews) and her mother is still alive. Can Tree get back to her normal dimension…and does she want to?

As you can guess by the plot description, Happy Death Day 2U sends the slasher elements to the background and focuses more on a Star Trek-ian/Back to the Future-esque tale of alternate timelines and other dimensions. It’s still fun, though shifting the focus also mutes some of the chills and thrills that made the first film such a treat. There is a lot of entertainment to be had and they have fun with the expanded concept, but this seems more like a cinematic episode of The Big Bang Theory with a slasher sub-plot. Christopher Landon again directs well, though this time from his own script and seems to want to play more with the whole alternate timeline thing and guide the story away from the slasher elements. A mid-credits scene hints that a part 3 will veer away even further. There was also a brief flirting with dopplegangers, but that disappears quickly, which is a shame as Tree being stalked by other alternate reality selves sounds like it would have been a hoot. If the film is missing anything, it’s the intensity the slasher elements brought to the table in the first film. The mix was more even in Happy Death Day and this sequel could have used a bit more.

Jessica Rothe is again a blast to watch though she shares the film’s focus with other characters and isn’t always the center of attention. The actress also proves again she is a leading lady with talent and can do drama, comedy and kick some ass, too. Israel Broussard is still charming and likable as Carter. The alternate reality version is pretty much the same guy, except for dating Rachel Matthews’ Danielle, who is a lot nicer in this other dimension. Matthews gets more screen time and gets to perform some slapstick comedy in one of the sillier sequences. Phi Vu gets a far more expanded role and is fun as Ryan and Suraj Sharma and Sara Yarkin play two of his nerdy lab partners/friends.

In conclusion, the sequel is not an equal, but not a disappointment either, unless you were expecting more of a horror film. There are some amusing sequences, some fun character interaction and even a little heart-tugging drama to go with the occasional dips back into slasher territory. On the downside it is slower paced, the killer was easy to guess and horror fans might not be happy with all the science geek quantum this and quantum that mumbo jumbo. Leading lady Jessica Rothe is still at least every bit the firecracker and if there is a three-quel, hopefully she is not pushed to the sidelines or lost in an ensemble piece. A fun movie thought maybe not what you might go in expecting. Stay through the credits for that mid-credits scene.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 baby-faced killers.

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: UPGRADE (2018)

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UPGRADE (2018)

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

Set in the near future, Upgrade tells the story of vintage car restorer Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green), who on the way home from delivering a car to a client with his wife Asha, (Melanie Vallejo) is ambushed by a group of men. They kill Asha and turn Grey into a paraplegic. Paralyzed from the neck down, Grey’s client, billionaire genius Eron Keen (Harrison Gilbertson) offers him a chance at being able to function again. A micro computer called STEM (voiced by Simon Maiden) will be inserted in his spine to bridge the gap between his body and mind. STEM, however, is not just a computer but an A.I. that co-exists with Grey. Now with STEM operating in his head and enhancing his physical abilities, the A.I. begins to help Grey track down those who murdered his wife and make them pay.

Fun 80s style action flick is written and directed by Leigh Whannell, who wrote the first three Saw films, all the Insidious flicks and directed Insidious: Chapter 3. It tells of a future where humans can be enhanced by computers and internal parts, such as the thugs who killed Grey’s wife having their guns built inside their arms. Now enhanced with STEM, mild-mannered Grey can fight like a trained soldier and move like a martial artist. He can also kill with lethal efficiency. It’s an entertaining good time to watch him track down those responsible, all the while being pursued by a cop (Betty Gabriel) who is trying to figure out how a paraplegic is killing the thugs in question one by one. While the film can get silly at times, a bar scene stands out as an example, it’s mostly a fun time well directed and cleverly presented by Whannell, with some intense action and chase sequences and horror movie level gore. On a technical level Whannell accomplishes a lot on his modest budget. The film looks great and has an awesome 80s vibe with colorful cinematography by Stefan Duscio and Jed Palmer’s very 80s electronic score. A fun homage, yet also very contemporary with it’s portrayal of the gap between man and technology becoming smaller and smaller.

The cast are solid. Logan Marshall-Green is convincing as a guy-next-door who becomes a detective and a skilled killer basically overnight. He is fun to watch as he tries to deal with having another intelligence in his head and abilities he’s never had before, not to mention a peaceful man now killing for revenge. He’s very well cast. Simon Maiden is effective as the voice of STEM, who only Grey can hear. He gives the A.I. character. Harrison Gilbertson portrays well the recluse billionaire who is barely out of his teens. He captures the solitude and awkwardness of being a unique individual very effectively. Betty Gabriel is good as Cortez, a cop trying to figure out how these thugs are being murdered when her only suspect is in a wheelchair. Rounding out the leads is Benedict Hardie playing Fisk. He’s basically the lead thug, a former military man now with computer enhancements to make him even more lethal and an equal opponent to the upgraded Grey. It was refreshing that he wasn’t played as a paramilitary tough guy, but almost a nerd that was now equipt to kill and enjoying it. While her screen time is limited, Melanie Vallejo made an impression as Asha and she and Logan Marshall-Green had nice chemistry, so their relationship was believable and the effect of her demise strongly felt.

Overall, this was a fun and clever action movie with a delightfully 80s vibe. Whannell directs well from his own inventive script and accomplishes a lot without a big budget. He has a good cast and if the film has any flaws, it’s that occasionally it veers into silly territory and the end reveal wasn’t that hard to see coming. The action is well choreographed and there is some graphic violence which fits in with it’s 80s feel. A very entertaining and sometimes inventive little movie that works as both 80s homage and contemporary sci-fi thriller.

-MonsterZero NJ

  Rated 3 computer chips.

 

 

 

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