HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE DROWNSMAN (2014)

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THE DROWNSMAN (2014)

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

The Drownsman is an earlier film from Chad Archibald (The Heretics, I’ll Take Your Dead) and tells the spooky tale of pretty Madison (Michelle Mylett) and the malevolent spirit she encounters. Madison nearly drowns at a party and claims to have seen some kind of malevolent presence during the ordeal. This gives her an extreme fear of water and a year later friends Hannah (Caroline Korycki), Lauren (Sydney Kondruss), Kobie (Gemma Bird Matheson) and medium Cathryn (Clare Bastable), attempt an intervention that makes matters even worse. Troubled Madison’s research leads her to serial killer Sebastian Donner (Ry Barrett) also known as “The Drownsman”, a sadistic killer who kidnaped women to be drowned in his basement. Donner was finally drowned himself by his last attempted victim, Isabelle (JoAnn Nordstrom) and now his spirit uses water as a conduit back to the corporeal world, to continue his foul deeds. Worse still, he now has his waterlogged sights set on Madison and her friends, who one by one are meeting a horrid, watery fate.

Canadian filmmaker Archibald has proven himself an interesting filmmaker who uses his influences well. He directs from a script he co-wrote with Cody Calahan and makes it work far better than it should. Premise could have been silly in less capable hands, but Archibald delivers some very creepy sequences and gives the film an unsettling look, especially when we are in Donner’s lair. As our bad guy, The Drownsman is an effective supernatural creeper even if this kind of story has been presented quite a lot lately. The water element does give it a bit of a different angle and there are some interesting twists in the second act, where the intensity gets cranked up. Archibald accomplishes a lot on a modest budget and the film never tries to be more than it is. It’s effective even if basically just a familiar supernatural haunting tale mixed with a classic slasher flick. There are some questions, like where is newly married Hannah’s husband during all this and why didn’t authorities level, or at least lock up, Donner’s home after Isabelle’s escape? It’s just sitting there waiting for final girls to wander into. On a production level, Archibald has a solid visual eye and the film looks good, the make-up FX on Donner are very effective and the drowning deaths have impact, even without any gore or overly graphic violence.

Actress Michelle Mylett is a good final girl as the traumatized Madison. She presents well a woman living in fear, fears she must overcome if she and any of her friends are to survive. Caroline Korycki is solid as best friend Hannah, who at first doubt’s there is anything paranormal going on, but soon begins to believe her friend might not be imagining things. Matheson and Kondruss are also good as friends Kobie and Lauren, with Clare Bastable delivering a likable enough friend/medium in Cathryn. Last, but certainly not least, Ry Barrett brings presence and menace to the silent but lethal specter, Sebastian Donner/The Drownsman.

Not a classic, but an earlier work by a filmmaker that continues to up his game with each film. Archibald handles well a story that could have gotten very silly and delivers a spooky, at times, chiller. We have likable characters stalked by an effective boogeyman and the bloodless drowning deaths are given weight and impact. A good example of a filmmaker able to use familiar story elements and still make them effective and showing the potential he is currently living up to.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) bathtubs.

 

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BARE BONES: I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD (2019)

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I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD (2019)

William (Aidan Devine) is a widower who lives on a remote farm with his twelve year-old daughter Gloria (Ava Preston). He also disposes of bodies for a gang from a nearby city, a livelihood he’s never wanted and plans to escape. Things become complicated for William and Gloria when one of the bodies deposited on his doorstep is not quite dead. Now with the young woman Jackie (Jess Salgueiro) a reluctant hostage and the gang members wanting her dead for good this time, William’s plans to get away from it all are suddenly coming down around him.

Flick is well directed by Chad Archibald (Bite, The Heretics) from a script by frequent collaborator Jayme Laforest. While on the outset it’s an offbeat crime drama, Archibald adds a spooky element as it seems the dead disposed of by WIlliam still very much haunt this farmhouse, especially Gloria. It takes the film into supernatural territory, especially when the gang shows up at the door for Jackie and their previous victims are not happy to see them. It makes an already interesting movie very creepy at times and Archibald gives it a lot of atmosphere. LaForest’s script gives us characters that are not inherently bad, just forced into their morally ambiguous lifestyles, which makes them intriguing. William really just wants the best for Gloria and not quite a corpse Jackie is just trying to survive a hard life on the streets. The cast all do well in bringing the characters to life, especially young Ava Preston as Gloria, whose only friends are ghosts. As for the the bad guys, they are more cliché gang member types, but serve their purpose well as the villains of the piece. There is some bloody violence and the make-up on the dead that inhabit William and Gloria’s home is very effective, as is Archibald’s visual style.

A offbeat and unusual thriller that successfully mixes crime drama and supernatural chiller quite effectively. Chad Archibald has made some effective flicks and people should be keeping a closer eye on he and writer LaForest. Recommended for something a little different and spooky. Check it out on Amazon Prime.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Normally I don’t post trailers on Bare Bones, but I think it’s worth a look!

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE HERETICS (2017)

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THE HERETICS (2017)

Creepy flick finds a pretty young woman named Gloria (Nina Kiri) kidnapped by a cult for some sort of ceremony. They commit mass suicide leaving Gloria a blood spattered survivor. Five years later she’s still haunted by the events, living with her mother, Ruth (Nina Richmond) and going to group therapy where she’s met her girlfriend Joan (Jorja Cadence). Just when she thinks things might be getting better, she’s kidnapped by Thomas (Ry Barrett) a former cult member who claims he’s trying to save her. He warns her that not all the cult members are dead and she is key to the birth of their deity. While Joan and Ruth begin to search for her, Gloria begins a horrifying transformation in a secluded cabin that no one may be able to save her from.

Horror is written and directed by Chad Archibald (Bite, Ejecta) from a story by Jayme Laforest. As illustrated by his work in Bite, Archibald can come up with some creepy and disturbing stuff and does so again here. He seems to have a penchant for body horror as captive Gloria begins to transform before would-be savior Thomas’ eyes. The second half of the movie especially has some unsettling stuff as cult members resurface and an unearthly ceremony begins again. The cabin in the woods setting is a much used trope, but Archibald gets good use out of it and shows he has a very effective visual style, too. There are some very unsettling scenes here and there are also a few surprises and reveals as characters are not who they seem and flashbacks fill us in on more details of what happened to Gloria five years ago. It’s a spooky and atmospheric flick that provides some memorable images and a few shocking moments. It also has some violent and gory scenes and the FX portraying them are well done. It’s not perfect. We can see a few things coming and lead Nina Kiri is sadly reduced to a damsel in distress in the second half where earlier on she seemed like she was capable of giving the character some depth. Too bad, Gloria seems to sit on the sidelines during a time when her character is proving crucial. That aside, this is an effective horror from filmmaker Chad Archibald.

The cast was on point for the most part. Lead Nina Kiri was good at portraying an emotionally damaged young woman trying to heal from a horrific experience. She gives Gloria a sense of tragedy when her transformation starts and it’s too bad she isn’t given much to do in the second half, but sit in a chair and looked hurt and bewildered. Ry Barret is somewhat likable as the ex-cultist who fell for the victim. He gives Thomas a sense of inner pain and torment and a touch of nobility. He also remains a tad creepy and that works in the context of the story. Jorja Cadence is the real show stealer. Her Joan seems like a strong, determined woman at the start, but certain revelations about her take the character to a whole new level and the actress is up for the task. She plays it well and avoids camp or going over-the-top. Rounding out is Nina Richmond, who is solid as Gloria’s caring and concerned mother.

Overall, this was a very creepy and effective flick from a director who is showing some potential both atmospherically and visually. He has a feel for body horror and uses it effectively as his last two films dealt with physical transformation. He has a good visual eye and was able to use some familiar tropes effectively. Aside from a few issues, this was an unsettling horror and makes for a spooky night on the couch.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 pairs of antlers, perfect for that cult ceremony mask you always wanted.

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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: BITE (2015)

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BITE (2015)

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

Flick starts out with three pretty friends Casey (Elma Begovic), Jill (Annette Wozniak) and Kristen (Denise Yuen) traveling to a tropical island to celebrate Casey’s engagement. The girls are coerced into to going to a secluded spot deep in the jungle by a stranger and while in this little spot of paradise, Casey is bitten by something while swimming in a pool of water. Once home, as Casey starts to have cold feet about her wedding, she starts to feel sick and thinks the bite is infected. But each day Casey appears sicker and starts to change physically. Worse still, she discovers she’s pregnant…but with what?

Basically this is a female version of David Cronenberg’s The Fly, but with the female lead there is an the added caveat that she is also pregnant. As directed by Chad Archibald from a script by Jayme Laforest, it is still an effective little movie despite the obvious comparisons with Cronenberg’s classic. The film has similar elements, as Casey starts to physically degenerate like loosing her hair and pulling her own nails off. She also can spit corrosive digestive fluids like Brundle-Fly and uses it against people who piss her off like he did. It still works well enough, especially as Casey starts turning her apartment into a nest/nursery with thousands of gelatinous eggs all over the floor, walls and ceiling with Casey herself starting to look like some slimy otherworldly creature. We feel for her and even if we didn’t, Archibald, gives the film a very unsettling look and atmosphere and it is consistently grotesque without going too over-the-top. And that’s where it really works, as this touch of restraint keeps it from getting laughably disgusting and instead remains effectively disturbing. There are some flaws. Casey, even in her more creature-like form, has a jealous spat with Jill over attention towards her fiancé Jared (Jordan Grey). It’s a tad silly and obviously doesn’t bode well for Jill, though does lead to the violent final confrontation between Jared and insectiod future wife. Also, as numerous characters remark about the smell coming from Casey’s apartment, why aren’t the authorities ever called? For a low budget film, though, the make-up effects are well done. Not up to Chris Walas’ standards on The Fly but still very effective. Keeping most of the action confined to Casey’s apartment also serves the budget and works in putting us in there with the gruesomely transforming woman on a more personal level.

A small cast and they are all pretty good for fairly unknowns. Elma Begovic does really well as Casey and is actually stronger once in make-up and having to wade around in thousands of slimy eggs. She’s fairly likable as the uncertain fiancé to start, but seems to really rise to the challenge of acting out this grotesque situation that gets increasingly worse. A real trooper considering all she does. Wozniak plays the scheming bitch part well as Jill and Denise Yuen’s Kristen is solid as the more compassionate and caring of Casey’s two friends. Finally, Jordan Grey rounds out as the workaholic Jared, who is a bit too involved in his own life to notice something is really wrong with Casey…until it’s too late. An efficient cast to help make the flick work.

Despite the glaring similarity to David Cronenberg’s classic The Fly this film still remains an effective little horror. Director Chad Archibald, whose story Laforest’s script is based on, keeps the film creepy and icky enough to make it still work. He gets help from a solid performance from his leading lady, who rises to the challenge of acting from under prosthetics and slime for most of the movie. The film has atmosphere and is solid on a production level for a low budget film with high aspirations. Derivative…yes, but still effective and entertaining.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 slimy eggs

bite rating

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: EJECTA (2014)

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EJECTA (2014)

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

This Sci-Fi thriller is written by Tony Burgess, who wrote the book the film Pontypool was based on, and tells the story of William Cassidy (Julian Richings) who allegedly had an encounter with extraterrestrials 39 years earlier and hasn’t lived in peace since. He asks amateur filmmaker and conspiracy theorist Joe Sullivan (Adam Seybold) to come to his secluded home, on the eve of a historic sun storm, to document his story. Nothing can prepare either of them, though, as the solar storm brings not only the return of William’s alien abductors, but a sinister government organization that will go to any lengths to find out what William knows.

As directed by the pair of Chad Archibald and Matt Wiele, Ejecta is a film filled with a lot of interesting ideas that are not quite successfully carried out in the execution. The story opens with Cassidy’s abduction by the unnamed government organization and brought before the ruthless Dr. Tobin (Lisa Houle) for interrogation and torture. The footage shot by Sullivan detailing what happened during the night, is intercut with Cassidy’s incarceration as we and Dr. Tobin slowly review the footage to see the evening’s events unfold. It gives the film an odd fractured narrative as we cut back and forth with the found footage format serving as flashbacks and the cameras of soldiers on the scene with the straight forward style for the lab interrogation. The film also takes a while before it really gets interesting, but there are some spooky sequences in the found footage flashbacks and some surprising gory violence in it’s last act. The interrogation stuff is less effective as Tobin comes across as some cheesy movie villain just short of rubbing her hands together and maniacally cackling as she gleefully tells Cassidy of what horror she has in store for him. It takes what is supposed to be a serious thriller and brings it down a few notches as the character and the actress’ overacting make Tobin more of a stereotypical movie villain who seems unnecessarily cruel. It strips away the realism as does the character’s more outlandish torture methods and habit of killing her own people when not satisfied. It’s corny and cliché when the rest of the film is trying to be believable and interesting. On a production level, the film looks good on what was probably a modest budget and the FX work is very well done with some surprising and effective bloodshed at times.

Aside from the over-acting from Houle, Richings is effective as Cassidy. He’s plays a man who has been tormented for decades in seclusion from what he has experienced, only to have it return and then be tortured by his own kind to be given the details. He does evoke sympathy and gives the appearance of a haunted man. Adam Seybold is fine as the conspiracy theorist Sullivan, who jumps at the chance to meet Cassidy and get the truth he believes exists. His part is smaller, but he does fine as a young man who gets more than he bargained for. There are also a bunch of supporting scientists and soldier types who are all adequate in their parts.

To wrap it up, Ejecta is an interesting and sometimes spooky mixed bag. While it’s flashback found footage scenes work well and provide most of the chills, it’s sequences of torment and interrogation fall short due to an overacting and very over-the-top, cliché villain. There are some interesting ideas throughout and there are a few surprises, secrets revealed and gruesome moments, too, especially in it’s last act. Worth a look, but not quite what it had the potential to be.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 haunted abductees.

ejecta rating

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