5 DIRECTORS BRINGING NEW BLOOD TO HORROR!

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5 DIRECTORS BRINGING NEW BLOOD TO HORROR!

At Halloween 🎃 time it is when we most think about scary movies, even those of us who watch them all year round. So why not take a look at five individuals who are bringing their own distinct vision to the genre and whom horror fans should be talking more about!…and no, I didn’t forget the ladies, they deserve their own installment, forthcoming!

(To get to the full reviews of the films mentioned, just hit the highlighted titles that link to the corresponding page!)

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Adam MacDonald

 

Adam MacDonald is a Canadian actor and filmmaker who has written and directed two features, thus far, that have made quite an impression. His first film Backcountry is a survival thriller that followed a couple (Jeff Roop and Missy Peregrym) who go camping in the woods. Jealous of his girlfriend’s success, her beau chooses a lesser traveled route to prove himself to her. This puts them within the feeding ground of a massive and very hungry grizzly bear and thus sets up an intense and sometimes brutal last act. His second film Pyewacket is a supernatural thriller which finds a mother and daughter (Laurie Holden and Nicole Muñoz) in conflict over their methods of mourning the death of their husband/father. This propels the occult fascinated teen Leah (Muñoz) to evoke the dark entity Pyewacket to kill her mother. Leah soon learns to be careful what you wish for. Both films use troubled relationships as a catalyst for their stories and Pyewacket especially has some good old fashion scares and chills supported by a strong emotional center. MacDonald is showing a versatility and a depth to his filmmaking. Adam currently wrapped filming on Slasher season 3, so look out for more from this talented new voice in horror!

Nicole Muñoz conjures the wrong spirit in Adam MacDonald’s Pyewacket

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Stevan Mena

 

Stevan Mena is a New York born filmmaker who is a one man production company, writing ,editing, directing, producing and even scoring his own films. He made a splash in 2003 with his low budget slasher Malevolence, which was an old-fashioned horror throwback that echoed both Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Set in and around an abandoned slaughterhouse, it told the chilling story of some bank robbers and their hostages meeting up with serial killer Martin Bristol (Jay Cohen). He followed that up with a horror icon filled horror/comedy called Brutal Massacre, before returning to the saga of Bristol in 2010 with the brutal and intense Bereavement. The second Malevolence film was a prequel telling the story of how serial killer Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby) kidnapped Martin (Spencer List ) as a child and trained him to be his successor. It’s one of the best horrors of the decade IMO. Recently Mena overcame some tragic events to complete his Malevolence trilogy with the independently financed Malevolence 3: Killer. Sequel has an adult Martin (a returning Jay Cohen) leaving a blood soaked trail on the way back to his home town. Mena’s work evokes that of John Carpenter himself and one hopes he returns to the director’s chair sooner than later.

A killer (Jay Cohen) returns home in Stevan Mena’s Malevolence 3: Killer

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Colin Minihan

 

Colin Minihan started out as part of the writing/directing duo known as The Vicious Brothers along with collaborator Stuart Ortiz. Their first film was the fun and spooky found footage paranormal show send up Grave Encounters in 2011. They followed that up with the entertaining and chilling cabin in the woods/alien invasion hybrid Extraterrestrial in 2014. Though co-written with Ortiz, Minihan took the director’s chair solo for the next film It Stains The Sands Red. This was an amusing, bloody and offbeat tale of a lone woman (Brittany Allen) being followed across the desert by a lone zombie. An interesting relationship forms as she fights brutal heat, dehydration and her relentless undead pursuer. Minihan wrote and directed his fourth film on his own with the brutal and intense What Keeps You Alive. One of the years best, it finds a married lesbian couple (Brittany Allen and Hanna Emily Anderson) celebrating their anniversary in a remote cabin in the woods. Soon romantic bliss becomes a battle for survival as one of the women is not who she seems. This flick proves Minihan is a force to be reckoned with, armed with a great script, taunt direction and brilliant work by his lead actresses. Minihan is a filmmaker fans need to be talking more about.

Lover vs lover in Colin Minihan’s brutal and intense What Keeps You Alive

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Anthony Diblasi

 

Boston born Anthony Diblasi is another filmmaker showing great versatility and a mastery of horror while also providing some emotional depth to his films. His first film Dread was a chilling tale of a college documentary project about fear, spinning horribly out of control. His next film Cassadaga, found deaf art teacher Lily (Kelen Coleman) being haunted by the spirit of a murdered young woman whose killer may have his sights set next on the pretty teacher. Diblasi worked on some non-genre projects and the horror anthology The Profane Exhibit before co-writing and directing The Last Shift in 2014. One of his scariest flicks, the story found a young policewoman being given the final shift in a haunted police precinct closing it’s doors in the morning…but can she survive the night? Diblasi returned to horror again in 2015 with Most Likely To Die, an old fashioned slasher about a high school reunion turned deadly, and again in 2018 with Extremity. His latest finds an emotionally troubled woman turning to an extreme haunt to make her face her fears…bad idea. The film was not only disturbing and scary, but had a strong emotional lining with multi-dimensional characters and commentary about abuse and the lives it effects. Another filmmaker that is bringing a distinct voice to the horror genre.

Emotionally troubled Allison (Dana Christina) turns to an extreme haunt to face her fears in Anthony Diblasi’s Extremity

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Oz Perkins

 

Just because one is the son of legendary actor Anthony (Psycho) Perkins, one should not assume actor/director Oz Perkins knows horror…but he does! One of the most interesting filmmakers out there, Perkins has a unique vision and a strong ability to chill to the bone. His first film The Blackcoat’s Daughter finds Rose (Lucy Boynton), a student at a Catholic girls school, given charge of new student Kat (Kiernan Shipka) at break. With almost everyone else gone, Rose starts to realize there is something very wrong with Kat and that she may be in danger. Perkins followed that up with a very atmospheric ghost story I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House. Perkins writes and directs a subtle, yet chilling tale of care nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) coming to live with ailing horror novelist Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss). Soon timid Lily starts to find out that Iris Blum’s inspirations may be far more real than she’d like. It’s a creepy and very effective film. Word has it his next film may be entitled A Head Full Of Ghosts and as he is bringing a very unique style to the genre, he sounds like the right man for the job!

Care nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) finds her charge may have had all too real inspiration for her horror novels in Oz Perkins’ I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House

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So these are five creative forces bringing new blood to horror. Each one is worth screaming about and their films are certainly worth checking out!

…and stay tuned for our second installment taking a look at the creative ladies bringing their unique voices to the genre!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

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“THE HERETICS” GETS A POSTER and TRAILER!

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The Heretics is an interesting looking upcoming occult horror directed by Chad Archibald (Bite) from a script by Bite scribe Jayme LaForest. The spooky looking flick now has a trailer and poster to intrigue us, though no U.S. release date as of yet. It does look like it has some creepy potential. Right now it’s making the rounds at festivals and hopefully this Canadian chiller finds a distributor soon!

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source: Youtube/ Arrow in the head.com

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: BACKCOUNTRY (2014)

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BACKCOUNTRY (2014)

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

Tense wilderness thriller finds young couple Alex (Jeff Roop) and Jenn (Missy Peregrym) going deep into the woods for a romantic camping trip. Alex arrogantly takes a trail a ranger (Nicholas Campbell) warns him is closed and does so without a map, confident he knows the way to a lake he’d visited years ago. His attempts to impress Jenn gets the two of them lost in the wilderness, but that is the least of their worries…as a massive black bear has staked out that area as it’s hunting ground and Jenn and Alex are now it’s prey.

Canadian thriller is written and tensely directed by Adam MacDonald (Pyewacket) and is an impressive debut. MacDonald gets the foreboding atmosphere started early using the red herring of a strange man (Eric Balfour) the couple meet in the woods who leaves both them and the audience, with an uncomfortable feeling. It also causes a bit of tension between the couple, so we are already on edge when he starts to hint to his audience that something far more dangerous is stalking the two. The tension builds as the two quarrel over being totally lost and MacDonald let’s us stew in it till almost an hour in when our predator makes it’s deadly and surprisingly gruesome appearance. Then it’s a suspenseful last act as our lone survivor tries to escape with the massive creature hot on their trail. For a first time director, MacDonald manages it all quite well, building the tension slowly then giving us a pulse pounding fight for life finale. It’s not perfect. Alex does some stupid and cliché things to move the plot forward, like arrogantly not bringing a map and secretly removing Jenn’s cellphone from her bag and leaving it behind, but in the context of the story and character, they are not unbelievable actions. As MacDonald takes time to let us get to know the couple, we can believe that certain actions or reactions are fitting, even if we have seen them before in other movies. The only other slight disappointment is that the last act seems to be over a little too quickly when compared to the slow build-up that leads us to it. We are just getting really involved, when suddenly it’s over. A little more of the chase and hunt would have made this a bit more satisfying, though, it still certainly entertains.

As for his small cast, the first-time director gets good work. Jeff Roop’s Alex is a likable guy, but his need to constantly impress his girlfriend gets a bit annoying and is supposed to. He’s a little bothered that she is a lawyer and his is a landscaper and his insecurity fuels his behavior at having to be the ‘macho’ one. Roop conveys this masculine insecurity well, especially when in the presence of Brad, whom he sees as a threat. Missy Peregrym shines as Jenn. She is a sweet but smart girl…though, maybe a little too trusting as in the case of Brad (Balfour). She isn’t very wilderness savvy, but when faced with the looming danger, she becomes quite the survivor. We like her and we are drawn in when she becomes hunted prey in an unfamiliar environment. Eric Balfour is unsettling and a bit creepy as Brad. The character is designed to ignite tension in the audience and between the couple, and the actor gives life to a role that is basically a plot device…and one that works. The only other cast member is Nicholas Campbell who has a brief role as the park ranger who sets the couple on their way and warns Alex, unheeded, to stay off the Blackwood trail.

Overall, this is a good flick with some nice tension and some surprisingly gruesome moments. It is well written and well directed by Adam MacDonald, who makes an impressive debut feature. It’s not perfect, in that there are some dumb decisions made by characters to set the plot in motion, though that is countered by the fact that they don’t seem far-fetched coming from the characters in question. The climactic chase/pursuit between bear and survivor also felt a little short when compared to the slow burn build-up, but does provide some good chills and suspense. Definitely a recommended flick for those who like wilderness-set thrillers and nature run amok movies.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 hungry bears (I know the one in the movie is a black bear. Just being lazy).

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: TORMENT (2013)

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TORMENT (2013)

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

While Torment offers nothing new to the horror genre, it is a very well made Canadian thriller that provides some very effective chills in it’s 80+ minute running time. After a grim opening at a secluded house, the film settles into the story of widower Cory Morgan (Robin Dunne), his new bride Sarah (Katharine Isabelle) and Cory’s young son Liam (Peter DaCunha) who is not warming up to his new step-mom at all. Cory decides to take them to a remote, family vacation house in the woods for some time to bond. But upon arrival, it appears there has been somebody squatting in the secluded house and unknown to the young couple, they haven’t exactly left yet. Soon Liam vanishes and Cory and Sarah find themselves pitted against a trio of disturbed masked individuals in a fight for their lives and for Liam’s as well.

While normally I am not a fan of the recent torture and home invasion sub-genres, Torment did have elements of both, but these familiar elements were used fleetingly and effectively. Director Jordan Baker knows not to dwell on the more brutal aspects of Michael Foster and Thomas Pound’s script and thus when the shocking moments come, they are effective and we are never bludgeoned over the head with the rough stuff. Baker builds some nice suspense and tension and even successfully creates a likable little family unit that is going through a rough adjustment period and we sympathize with them and that gives us someone to care for when our mysterious intruders reveal themselves. And that, unfortunately, is also one of it’s flaws. The film is a little too ambiguous about the overall purpose of it’s invaders and we never really find out who they are. Sometimes ambiguity is good for a story, but here we needed a little more as to why this bunch is so happily homicidal and intent on keeping Liam. There seems to be something about building their own family, which contrasts the Morgans’ attempt to bring peace to their little trio, but a little more about this Chainsaw Massacre-ish clan would have helped. Jordan Baker does keep the flick moving fast enough that we don’t ask too many questions while it plays out and he has a nice eye for his shots and makes good use of his rural house settings and overall, gives the film some nice atmosphere to go along with the suspense and chills. It’s only once the film reaches it’s conclusion that we start to realize that the whole point is kinda vague. And at that juncture we have been already been moderately entertained and spooked. Familiar material made effective by a good director’s hand.

Another plus in the flick’s favor is that cast are all really solid. We have genre vet, Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps, American Mary) giving a strong performance as Sarah. She conveys the young woman’s desire to bond with Liam and the pain she feels when she is being rejected by him. She also presents a resilience and strength when Liam is taken and she is under siege by their uninvited guests and she fights for Liam with a strong maternal instinct despite his rejection. Dunne is also good as a man caught in the middle of a new wife and his son’s grief for his deceased mom and then must fight for his and their very lives when this predatory bunch invades their already fragile family bonding vacation. Also good is young Peter Dacunha, who at 11 is already a horror movie vet having been in The Barrens and Haunter before appearing in this flick. The young actor succeeds in expressing the pain of not only his mother’s loss, but his reluctance to accept his new step-mom and does so without coming across as an annoying brat. Good work kid! As for our spooky mask wearing ‘family’ Noah Danby as ‘Mouse’, Inessa Frantowsky as ‘Pig’, Amy Forsyth as ‘Monkey’ and Joe Silvaggio as ‘Rabbit’ all do well in conveying a sense of menace with little or no dialogue. It’s too bad they weren’t given more meat to their story. There is also a small role of a local cop played by vet Stephan McHattie, who is a welcome addition to any cast.

Sure Torment has it’s flaws. The villains’ purpose is never clear, nor do we get any background on who they are, where they came from and why they are building this disturbing patch-work family…and quite violently, might I add. But, it has a good cast led by fan-favorite Isabelle and director Jordan Barker really knows how to build suspense and thrills and has an effective but not overstated visual style that gives this rural set flick a lot of atmosphere. The gore and violence is used wisely to maintain it’s effectiveness and we are given characters to care about which goes along way in helping us overlook that we don’t really know the full reasons for this vicious attack and that we’ve seen it all before. Not a classic by any stretch, but an effective little thriller that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and shows strong potential for director Jordan Baker with a more solid story and script.

3 scary mouse masks.

torment rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TERROR TRAIN (1980)

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TERROR TRAIN (1980)

Terror Train is another of the more fondly remembered of the 80s slashers, but mostly because it stars horror queen Jaime Lee Curtis who was having a banner horror year in 1980 with The Fog, Prom Night and this Canadian fright flick. Though despite it’s novel setting, I actually think this is one of the duller of the major horrors of the early 80s and was never a really big fan of it. A recent revisit hasn’t changed my mind.

The film opens with a fraternity/sorority New Years Eve party for a bunch of pre-med students and like most slashers, involves a prank gone horribly wrong. Pretty Alana (Jaime Lee Curtis) lures shy and dorky Kenny (Derek MacKinnon) up to her room where unknown to both of them, a medical cadaver waits for him in her bed. Kenny has a breakdown as the horrified Alana looks on and the poor student is shipped off to a mental hospital. Three years later Alana is still heartbroken over her role in the incident, but her boyfriend Mo (Timothy Webber) and jerk frat leader Doc (Hart Bochner), who were involved in the original prank, have organized another NYE masquerade party on an old train that will travel through a remote mountain area as they ring in the new year. As we see one partier already dead by the side of the tracks as the train leaves, we know not everyone will be alive by the journey’s end. Who…like it’s hard to figure out…is on the train with murder on their mind?

Terror Train is directed by Roger Spottiswoode who went on to direct the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies almost 2 decades later and we wish he would have given this film some of the energy and excitement of his 007 flick. While I understand that a lot of horror films at this time had a more moderate, slow boil pace…which is fine with me as I came of age at this time and these were the horror flicks I was weened on as a teenager…but Terror Train seems especially slow moving and lethargic even by those standards. The film never really makes good use of the confined and remote setting of the moving train, nor does much with the plot device of the killer utilizing his victim’s costumes to move around unnoticed. After all, we see them die, so we know right away who it is when their costume reappears, so it’s not all that suspenseful or clever. Most of the kills happen off camera and while there is certainly some blood, it is rather routine and nothing we haven’t seen in any number of horror flicks. There is also very little suspense as we really never get to know any of the costumed victims very well and have little emotional investment in their wellbeing and they are just that, victims. Also, aside from Spottiswoode’s failure to make this 90 minute flick feel less then at least two hours, the film stops dead for scenes of a mysterious and creepy magician (real-life illusionist David Copperfield) doing his act. I understand it’s part of the plot as the magician is a suspect, but it’s obvious the filmmakers are trying to get the most out of their celebrity guest star. The film does pick up a bit in the last act as Curtis finally becomes the target and is hunted through the train, fighting back against her assailant, but when we get to the reveal/finale, it is really no surprise as we are given few suspects and one character is obviously not who they appear to be when we see them. This plot element also defies logic as the killer already got onto the train wearing a victim’s costume, so why then take up another identity that put’s them in plain sight? Going from costume to costume should have worked just fine on a train full of drunk college kids.

The cast really doesn’t help matters either or the director just failed to inspire them. Curtis doesn’t show the pep and fire she had in Halloween Or The FogShe’s performing on a paycheck level and only perks up when she has to for the climactic scenes when she is being chased. Otherwise she doesn’t really seem like she wants to be there and as this was her third horror role in one year, she was probably getting tired of the typecasting at this point and it shows. Veteran actor Ben Johnson is solid as the conductor who realizes something is very wrong on his train and breathes a little life into his part. As for the rest, everyone is pretty bland and none of the character’s rise above the college student/victims that they are. At least non-actor Copperfield is basically playing himself and created all the illusions for the film and seems to be a trooper in his part as a creepy suspect…which also makes no sense as they start to believe he’s ‘Kenny’ and they should know what Kenny looks like, he was a fellow student till they drove him nuts.

There is some 80s nostalgia added to the flick now and I am very sentimental about this era because, it was when I was finally old enough to go see this flicks and saw so many on a big screen, where movies like this should be seen. It still doesn’t really save this film for me as it is just very slow moving and un-involving and considering the premise, should have been so much more than an incredibly average at best slasher flick. I still feel, though, that if someone is looking to familiarize themselves with the horror films of this great era for horror movies, that this is still one they should watch, but I am not a fan and it is not one of the films from this time that I hold dear.

2 knives.

terror train rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981)

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981)

During the early 80s Canada was quite prolific in churning out these types of slashers inspired by the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween and this 1981 horror is one of the more renown titles, along with Prom Night and Terror Train, mostly for it’s inventive kills and last act surprises. Happy Birthday To Me tells the story of young college student Virginia (Melissa Sue Anderson). She’s one of Crawford Academy’s Top 10, a group of 10 elite senior students who rule the school. But, someone is stalking and killing the members of the Top 10 in gory fashion. And with Virginia’s birthday approaching, will there be anyone left to celebrate a day already darkened by a horrible accident that years earlier claimed the life of Virginia’s mother and almost cost ‘Ginny’ her own life as well.

Obviously these incidents are connected as this does follow the 80s slasher formula quite well with past events provoking the current bloodshed but, Birthday manages to throw us some surprises and curves within the formula even when we think we have it all figured out. The film is directed by straightforward filmmaker J. Lee Thompson who is mostly known for The Guns Of Navarone and numerous Charles Bronson action flicks but, it was probably his work as director of the original classic Cape Fear that got him this gig. As such, Thompson directs fairly by the numbers and the first two thirds of this flick are moderately paced, as were many of the horror thrillers of this era. I also feel it’s about 10 or 15 minutes too long as the this portion drags on a bit and at almost two hours, the flick is lengthy for a type of film that usually clocks in at around 90 minutes. Potential victim’s are quite obvious so, there is little suspense but, the unusual and quite bloody kills, which were still new for slashers around this time, make up for the routine style and approach. It’s a little more then halfway through when things start to get interesting as we are given a big reveal that leads us to believe one thing but, as the last act progresses and we think we’ve figured it all out, the climax throws us some nice curves. Even upon revisiting it… and I haven’t seen this flick in decades… I found myself still fooled as the surprise ending wasn’t quite the way I remembered it and thus still had some effect.

The cast are, unfortunately, all pretty wooden, though in their defense their characters are all fairly two dimensional as well. Movie veteran Glenn Ford does give us his usual strong work as Virginia’s psychiatrist Dr. Faraday and leading lady Anderson perks up in the last act as things start to really liven up and the script gives her more to chew on. The gore effects are well orchestrated and there is certainly a lot of bloodshed, which signaled the changeover was in full swing from the more moderate violence of Halloween and some of it’s predecessors toward the more graphic gore of flicks like Dawn Of The Dead (which seemed to kickstart the following 80s gore trend), Maniac and Friday The 13th. Gore and body count would soon become more the focus of the 80s horror flick over chills and suspense and this was one of the first slashers to actually promote itself based on it’s kill methods not it’s story or twists. So, overall the first two thirds of this flick are fairly slow moving and generic though with some inventive and quite bloody kills but, it’s in it’s third act and climax that things really start to pick up and we get some twists and surprises that are a bit over the top but, more entertaining because of it. There is now some good 80s nostalgia too that helps liven up Thompson’s very direct approach and simple style and the ending still works after all this time.

Happy Birthday To Me is considered a classic of this era, and while it’s not a great movie, it is one of the more famous flicks of the time period slashers, even though when looking back at it now, the kills and violence don’t seem like that much of a big deal after all that has followed it. Back in the day, it made an impression and should be recognized for that and is definitely required viewing for those of later generations who are finding themselves broadening their horror horizons or are simply fans of the horrors of this time. A cult classic and rightfully so, as it represents it’s era well. Also stars Canadian actor Lawrence Dane, known to genre fans from Scanners and Bride Of Chucky, as Virginia’s father.

3 shish kebabs.

happy birthday to me rating

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