BARE BONES: SPONTANEOUS (2020)

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SPONTANEOUS (2020)

Offbeat and darkly comic flick finds students at a small town high school spontaneously exploding for an undetermined reason. In the middle of all the bloody chaos, rebellious movie nerd Mara (Katherine Langford) finds love with fellow student Dylan (Charlie Plummer), despite the looming danger that either could be next.

Spontaneous is written and directed by Brian Duffield (who wrote Underwater and Love And Monsters) from a novel of the same name by Aaron Starmer. It can be very clever at times, heartfelt at others and darkly funny, without loosing sight of the very sweet love story at the core of it’s blood-spattered tale. These kids are dealing with mortality, loss and death for the first time and each of the characters reacts to the situation in their own interesting ways. Mara and Dylan press on with their relationship despite all that is happening around them. Life goes on, even when surrounded by death. It may sound very COVID centric, but the book was written in 2016, as were the initial plans to make a movie out of it. Many of the themes fit, though, as the kids are isolated, quarantined and medicated with the looming threat constantly present. They also have to deal with the sudden loss of some of those they love. The cast is really good with Katherine Langford giving Mara a buoyant personality with a nice sarcastic sense of humor. She carries the movie with a strong performance, as it is predominately Mara’s story. Charlie Plummer is sweet and a bit nerdy as the charmingly eccentric Dylan and Hayley Law does good work as Mara’s best friend Tess. The young cast have nice chemistry together. An interestingly contemporary movie that proves love can blossom in the most dire of situations and…to steal a quote from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan…”how we face death is at least as important as how we face life!A really good little movie with some surprising depth and emotional resonance.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: LOVE AND MONSTERS (2020)

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LOVE AND MONSTERS (2020)

Monster movie/love story finds Earth a host to hordes of monsters after an asteroid destroyed to avoid a collision, mutates normal critters into creatures with it’s fallout. Humans now live in underground shelters as monsters rule the Earth. Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) is a young survivor separated from his lady love Aimee (Jessica Henwick), but now leaves the comfort and safety of his underground bunker to find her. Will he rekindle his lost love with Aimee, or become a critter snack?

Entertaining enough flick is directed by Michael Matthews from a script by Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson. There are a generous amount of sequences of Joel and his newfound canine friend “Boy” encountering a number of well designed and fearsome creatures. It’s predictable, as we know Joel will find bravery and overcome his habit of freezing under adverse conditions. We also know he will eventually find Aimee and his overcoming of this annoying and dangerous condition will be to save her. Still, it is well made and amusing, with some excellent SPFX courtesy of a fairly healthy $30 million budget. In the long run, it’s not anything especially memorable and a lot of it’s elements routine, but it does entertain for it’s 109 minute run time and sometimes that’s all one needs for a night on the couch. Also stars Guardians of the Galaxy actor Michael Rooker as a fellow survivor Joel meets on his travels.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE BABYSITTER-KILLER QUEEN (2020)

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THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN (2020)

Netflix original movie sequel takes place two years after the events of The Babysitter with no one believing Cole (Judah Lewis) about his fight for life against his homicidal, cultist babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving). Cole’s trying to get past the trauma of that night, but his clueless parents (a returning Leslie Bibb and Ken Marino) want to send him away to a psychiatric academy and the only one who believes him, is his best friend/crush Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind). His gal pal suggests coming with her to a  party at a lake, where all hell breaks loose…again…as familiar faces return for blood.

Horror/comedy is again directed with an over-the-top style by McG from a script by he, Dan Lagana, Brad Morris and Jimmy Warden. Also returning, aside from most of the cast, is the hip sense of humor, pop culture references and gallons of blood, once things get restarted. In a way, it is a bit of a retread, with virginal Cole once again thrust into danger, as new enemies and ghosts from his past conspire to make him a sacrifice once more. There are some fun betrayals and reveals and at least, this time Cole has an ally in new bad girl Phoebe (Jenna Ortega). The dialogue is again snappy and once more the flick likes to have fun with the familiar tropes and traditions, with the outdoor setting opening things up a bit. It may be more of the same, but it’s still fun and the returning cast all seem to be having a blast, as are the new faces. The formula does start to wear a little thin by it’s last act and the flick could have been a bit tighter with maybe an additional ten minutes or so trimmed. It does end satisfyingly and with a few nice twists, that sort of wrap up the story. It may not quite be an equal, but it is a fun enough second go around and an entertaining watch on the couch. As for Samara Weaving’s Bee making an appearance…you’ll have to stream this on Netflix to find out. Watch through the entire credits.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: UNDERWATER (2020)

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UNDERWATER (2020)

Over six miles beneath the ocean surface, the Kepler drilling station suffers a massive, crippling earthquake (or is it?). Five survivors, including mechanical engineer Norah Price (Kristen Stewart), Captain Lucien (Vincent Cassel) and crewmembers Emily (Jessica Henwick), Paul (T.J. Miller) and Liam (John Gallagher Jr), have no choice but to walk across the ocean floor in high pressure suits to another station. Something, however, is down there with them and is now hunting them, as they make a desperate attempt to get out of this catastrophe alive. Did the drilling station awaken something best left undisturbed?

Undersea horror is competently directed by William Eubank from an Alien-esque script by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad. It’s a routine and derivative monster movie, but that’s not overwhelmingly a bad thing. The movie gets to the action quickly, with the quake hitting almost instantly, though this gives us no time for character or story development. We do learn a little about our characters as we go along, at least the ones that stick around and the cast are good, with Stewart making a solid heroine as Norah. We also learn, a la Alien, that the drilling company might have known something was amiss, but proceeded anyway. No surprise there. As for the horror, there is some suspense and a few spooky sequences, though those looking for a gory monster mash will be a bit disappointed, as the film is strictly PG-13. The creatures are kinda cool and wisely kept in shadows till the last act and are more H.P. Lovecraft than H. R. Giger in appearance. It has an effective and creepy climax, which might leave one with a few chills. On a production level, the flick moves at a decent pace and is economical at only 95 minutes long. The FX are well done, with most of the film’s $50+ Million budget on screen and it all looks good through Eubank’s visual eye. Underwater was a box office bomb when released in January, but, overall, is an enjoyable, if not familiar and forgettable monster movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE BABYSITTER (2017)

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THE BABYSITTER (2017)

Netflix original movie finds nerdy twelve year-old Cole (Judah Lewis) spending the weekend with his hot babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving from Ash vs Evil Dead season 1) when his parents go away. The much picked-on tween thinks his got it made, until he wakes up one night to find Bee and her friends murdering another teen for some satanic ceremony. Now Cole has to somehow survive the night as his once beloved babysitter and her friends find out he knows too much.

Horror/comedy is directed with an over-the-top style by McG (Charlie’s Angels, Terminator: Salvation) from a script by Brian Duffield and is a lot of fun. It’s got a hip sense of humor and has a good time with some of the clichés of the horror genre, while spilling quite a lot of blood in giddy fashion. Cole and Bee actually have a very sweet friendship, especially considering how Cole is treated by his peers and it makes it much more effective when she turns all “big bad” on the kid. It’s fun to watch Cole uses his cleverness to evade and sometimes unintentionally off Bee’s fellow cultists and even if it’s not the most original story, it has fun with it’s oft told premise. The cast are having a good time here and Weaving makes a solid femme fatale, as much as, Lewis a charming young hero. A fun 90 minutes of blood, pop culture references and playfully poking the horror genre in the ribs. Also stars Leslie Bibb and Ken Marino as Cole’s oblivious parents and Robbie Amell and Bella Thorne as two of Bee’s sinister group.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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