BARE BONES: BENNY LOVES YOU (2019)

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BENNY LOVES YOU (2019)

British horror/comedy finds man-child Jack (Karl Holt) working for a toy company and frustrated with his lack of success. Jack decides to finally grow up and that includes throwing out all his old toys. One toy, a stuffed animal named Benny. is possessed by a demon and refuses to let Jack go. The resulting battle of wills between man and stuffed animal leaves a bloody trail of bodies in it’s wake.

Silly and sadly unfunny flick is written, directed and produced by star Karl Holt. It’s tedious at only 94 minutes, as the humor is juvenile and most of the jokes fall flat. There is plenty of gore, but the premise wears out it’s welcome about halfway through and the comedy bits get grating quickly. There is very little story, so it feels like a half-hour comedy skit stretched out to over 90 minutes. Holt has little on-screen presence, or charm and Benny hasn’t nearly the personality of a Chucky or Annabelle to make this flick work. A dumb and gory misfire that maybe should have played it straight and let the laughs come from the absurdity of the proceedings.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: CENSOR (2021)

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CENSOR (2021)

Film takes place in England during the 80s when graphic horror films-referred to as video nasties-were heavily censored and edited. One such censor is Enid (Niamh Algar, From The Dark) whose sister Nina (Amelia Child Villiers) has been missing since childhood. She encounters a horror film by a filmmaker named Frederick North (Adrian Schiller) whose film has imagery that reminds Enid of the fateful day Nina disappeared and stars an actress (Sophia La Porta) that reminds her of her lost sibling. Now Enid sets off to find North and get some answers while those possible answers bring Enid to the edge.

Effective British horror is directed by Prano Bailey-Bond from her script with Anthony Fletcher. It is an unsettling film and while we’ve seen films about the search for elusive horror filmmakers, this one is more about Enid never having closure and how it’s affected her all these years. It’s about her finding the truth and, unfortunately, not wanting to accept maybe her sister is gone—or is she? Bailey-Bond creates a nice atmosphere of tension and dread and visually the film has some disturbing imagery and doesn’t skimp on the gore. There are some familiar plot elements, but the cast is very good, especially Niamh Algar, and the director knows how to make a spooky and unnerving flick. Censor is now streaming on Amazon Prime and definitely recommended for a creepy watch and a filmmaker showing some real promise.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HOWL (2015)

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HOWL (2015)

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

Okay British horror has a young train guard (Ed Speleers) presiding over a late night passenger train heading out of London on a stormy night. While traveling through some dense woodland, a minor accident strands the train and it’s small group of passengers and crew, in the middle of nowhere. Being stuck in the woods is the least of their problems, as they soon find themselves stalked by some kind of vicious and hungry predator, one only heard of in fairy tales…and horror movies.

Despite the simple premise, this werewolf flick has four writers attached, including Neil Marshall (The Descent, Doomsday, Game Of Thrones). But, it’s veteran special make-up effects man turned director, Paul Hyett that lets us down somewhat, as he fails to give the film any real intensity or suspense. The film does have some atmosphere, but with a savage beast lurking just outside the train cars, you’d think we’d be feeling a lot more dread or tension. The film is directed very by-the-numbers and is a bit too slow paced for it’s own good. The cast of stereotypical characters are all very bland, too, so we never really get endeared to anyone and our strongest reaction is to the wolves themselves and in hating selfish douchebag, Adrian (Eliot Cowan), who is the standard ‘sacrifice others to save himself’ character. Not to mention commonsense things like, don’t they keep track of their trains in England and so, therefor, why doesn’t anyone at HQ notice one of it’s trains has stopped in the middle of nowhere. The good points are that the werewolves are not only interestingly designed but well-rendered and look pretty cool onscreen. They make an impression and Hyett does give their attack sequences some ferociousness and there is plentiful, top-notch gore to represent their carnage. It’s a shame Hyett couldn’t keep the intensity going as the werewolf scenes succeed in what they set out to, but then the film settles back down into it’s less impressive motions until the next one, or till the moderately involving but predictable climax. There is some moody cinematography by Adam Biddle and an appropriate score by Paul E. Francis, but it doesn’t elevate this film above the mediocre flick it is.

In conclusion, the movie wasn’t terrible, just not nearly as involving as it should have been considering the setting of isolation and what’s lurking about. The werewolf scenes worked very well and had a viciousness to them, yet the scenes in-between were flat and concerned un-involving, common stereotype characters. The make-up and gore effects were top notch and the scenario itself was suitable for a fright flick had director Paul Hyett been better at managing the scares and intensity. Worth a look if you like werewolf flicks, but don’t expect another Dog Soldiers or Late Phases. Also stars Shauna Macdonald from The Descent and Sean Pertwee from Doomsday and ironically, the far superior Dog Soldiers.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 full moons.
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: CREEP (2004)

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CREEP (2004)

Creep is the first feature film from British writer/director Christopher Smith (Severance, Black Death) and is a tale of horrors set in the train tunnels and sewers beneath the streets of London. The film opens with a couple of sewer workers (Vas Blackwood and Ken Campbell) discovering a new hole in one of the walls which leads to an undocumented tunnel. Their foray into this tunnel does not end well and sets the tone for what is to come. We then shift focus to pretty Kate (Franka Potente) who is planning to leave the party she is at and join a friend at another party where George Clooney is said to be going. But while waiting for the last train of the night, Kate fall asleep on the bench and when she awakens she finds herself locked inside the now shut down train station. And Kate is not alone. In the station are not only a homeless drug addict couple (Kelly Scott and Paul Rattray), but an obnoxious jerk security supervisor (Morgan Jones) and the lecherous and quite high Guy (Jeremy Sheffield) who followed her from the party. They all are about to be plunged into the same nightmare as there is someone, or something, lurking beneath the streets of London that has cruel and disturbing plans for all those unfortunate enough to be there after closing. And when Kate finds herself in the underground lair of this terrifying occupant, she realizes, to her horror, that those already dead got off easy.

I’ll be the first to admit that the talented Smith’s first flick has it problems. There are plenty of plot holes and the film does rely on some conveniences to tell it’s story such as Guy actually becoming stuck in the tunnel after closing as well in his search for Kate and the security guard basically being such a jerk that he refuses to do anything to help including calling authorities when it is clear there is something wrong going on. But Smith is a skilled filmmaker and he does still manage to make an entertaining, suspenseful and very disturbing horror film out of his flawed script. He has a visual style which makes good use out of the tunnels and underground rooms and corridors and gives us a villain whose methods and purpose are quite shocking and horrifying yet, not without a touch of sympathy. The film moves quickly once it gets going and is a tight and entertaining 81 minutes.

Smith gets good work from his cast with Potente being a strong heroine who starts out as a bit of a self-centered , superficial person who not only proves to be a fighter, but learns some humility along the way. And Sean Harris gives disturbing life to the deformed and deadly “Craig” who earns both our dread and a little of our sympathy. The film has some very gruesome moments with some very top notch gore and make-up effects and Smith even adds a touch of poetic justice/irony to it’s final frames.

The film overall shows potential for a director that has been living up to it with his more recent films which prove he not only is skilled at delivering films with a dark tone, but is fairly versatile with films ranging from the surreal, like his Triangle with Melissa George to his darkly satiric Severance to his grim medieval set Black Death. A flawed, but still very effective first feature from a director who’s proven he’s worth keeping an eye on.

3 frightened Frankas!

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