BARE BONES: THE STYLIST (2020)

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THE STYLIST (2020)

Claire (Najarra Townsend) is a lonely and emotionally troubled hairstylist who likes to live vicariously through the lives of her clients. She also murders those clients and scalps them, to wear later on when she is home pretending to be them. Maniac much, Claire? Her latest target of obsession is client Olivia (Brea Grant), who is about to be married and wants Claire to do her hair for the wedding. Will Olivia live happily ever after, or get the worst hairstyle ever on her big day?

Film is directed by Jill Gevargizian from her script along with Eric Stolze and Eric Havens. It’s a perfect example of a familiar story made fresh with an innovative and creative touch by a talented filmmaker. At it’s core, it’s a routine story about an emotionally troubled, demented and lonely individual, who forms an unhealthy and dangerous obsession/attachment to others. Sure, we’ve seen it before, but not quite like this. Gevargizian not only bathes the film in a lush visual style, with some very impressive shot composition, but gives it’s characters some nice depth, making Claire in particular sympathetic in her loneliness. Sure Claire is a demented young woman who murders those she obsesses with and keeps/wears their scalps, but we do feel sorry for her and she is almost likable, despite her homicidal activities. She is not a monster, but an incredibly damaged and sad human being. Olivia isn’t perfect either, despite being in the role of obsession/potential next victim, she can be a little selfish and self absorbed. When Olivia, at one point, rejects Claire, we do feel bad for her, even if we expect she’ll resort to violence and she does. The director and writers avoid the stereotypical character portrayals usually present in these types of tales. Gevargizian also climaxes her gory and tragic story with a gut punch ending. Even if it’s not beyond expectations, it still hits hard and shocks. It resonates as the credits role. The cast is very good, with a wonderfully demented and sad performance by Najarra Townsend (Contracted). It’s her show and she carries it beautifully. Great work from the actress in making Claire human and keeping her from simply being a monster. The cinematography by Robert Patrick Stern is absolutely amazing and there is a really great score by Nicholas Elert. Definitely worth watching.

Flick is currently showing exclusively for subscribers on ARROWPlayer.com, but should be available for VOD streaming elsewhere in June.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: LUCKY (2020)

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LUCKY (2020)

Writer May (an excellent Brea Grant) believes a man is stalking her. Each night he appears and breaks into her house and she has to fight him off. Her husband Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh) seems to be very glib when discussing it, to the point where he leaves May and goes to stay with his parents, when she confronts him about his cavalier attitude. Even the police don’t seem to be taking her very seriously. Feeling abandoned and alone, May decides to deal with it in her own way, as each day the mysterious stalker (Hunter C. Smith) returns. Is this all in May’s head?…or is someone really out to hurt her?

Film is directed by Natasha Kermani, who gave us the interesting Imitation Girl, from a script by star Brea Grant. The film is partially commentary on how female victims of sexual assault, or harassment, become the ones under scrutiny and who have to prove themselves amid disbelief. May constantly fights to be believed and finds herself having to defend herself to everyone around her. Lucky is also about living in constant fear after such a trauma and learning to confront those fears. With each encounter, May becomes stronger and more resilient, as the mysterious attacker gets bolder and more violent. The people around her also become more and more dismissive and are of no help, so she is on her own. If it seems like something is a bit off here, with so many people not believing and even patronizing May, you would be right. It’s a slasher film as a metaphor for trauma and it’s effects. If there is anything predictable about the unconventional Lucky, is that this obviously isn’t going to end like a typical slasher movie and everything is not what it outwardly seems. We also know from early on there is more beneath the surface than Kermani and Grant are telling us, or plan to tell us. There is no spoon feeding here, or revelatory reveal. It’s up to the viewer to fill in the blanks and the pieces are there if you want to put them together. The film may ultimately be unsatisfyingly ambiguous to some, but as someone who grew up in a household with an abusive parent, the film’s messages about alienation, trauma and living in fear are well received, as are those of learning to face those fears and fight back. Another bold and innovative film from Kermani and a strong, clever script by Brea Grant. Lucky is streaming on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: AFTER MIDNIGHT (2019)

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AFTER MIDNIGHT (2019)

Flick finds a man named Hank (Jeremy Gardner) alone in his rural home after his longtime girlfriend suddenly up and leaves him. Well, not totally alone. The night Abby (Brea Grant from Midnight Movie and RZ’s Halloween II) leaves, he begins to receive visits from a vicious creature, but can prove nothing. Is there really a monster at his door, or is loneliness and not knowing where Abby is driving him crazy?

Star Jeremy Gardner co directs, along with Christian Stella, from his own script. It’s an interesting mix of relationship drama and monster movie. The scenes at night with the creature lurking about are spooky and, surprising enough, it’s not bad as a flick about a relationship crumbling apart. Is Hank imagining his nocturnal visitor due to emotional duress, as local cop Shane (Justin Benson, who co-directed Spring with Aaron Moorhead) believes, or is there really some kind creature targeting Hank in his remote home? The film keeps one guessing and a solid cast helps make the story work. Not to mention Gardner and Stella effectively direct both the scenes of creature carnage…imaginary or not…and the scenes of Hank trying to figure out where his relationship with Abby went wrong. An effective and entertaining little movie from prolific indie actor Gardner (Bliss, Mind’s Eye, Spring), who has apparently been paying attention to some of the talented filmmakers he’s worked for and with.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DEAD NIGHT (2018)

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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.

 

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