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KRISTY (2014)

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

Kristy is a taunt and intense little thriller that finds pretty college student Justine (Haley Bennett) staying behind on campus during the Thanksgiving break. Her weekend of solace, solitude and study is turned into a living nightmare when she has an unsettling encounter with a very strange women (Ashley Greene) at a convenience store. The woman and her masked associates follow Justine back to campus and begin to hunt her like an animal, killing anyone that gets in their way and referring to her as “Kristy”. Whatever their motives or reasons, Justine has no plans to be an easy target and this time, the hunters may have chosen the wrong prey!

Intense thriller is directed by Oliver Blackburn and is a simple story made all the more effective because of it’s simplicity. There is no excess baggage here. Blackburn, from Anthony Jaswinski’s script, establishes from the first frames that these are deranged and dangerous individuals and then quickly establishes Justine as a very likable and hardworking young woman. We like her right away and thus when she is targeted by Greene’s disturbing woman and her associates, we care about her and are rooting for her. Also established is just how alone Justine is, as the campus is all but empty and any possible help are dispatched quickly and brutally. This creates an atmosphere of helplessness and tension as Justine is outnumbered and forced to play a cat and mouse game with these vicious killers. The film never gives us an outright explanation of exactly who they are and why they are doing this…though the opening montage voiceover states that Kristy means ‘flower of Christ’ and to “kill ‘Kristy’ is to kill God”, so this may indicate a Satanic cult. Whatever their origins, we do get just enough to establish that they are serial murderers with an agenda and a purpose and there are vague clues left for us to put together on our own as for the details. Blackburn skillfully combines all this into a tight little movie about a young woman fighting for her life and we like Justine enough and hate these thugs enough that when she does fight back, it evokes strong reaction. If you find yourself cheering out loud for our heroine, you are not alone. It can be brutal at times, but never overdoes it, so the violence has impact.

Our two female leads are very strong. Haley Bennett gives us a very smart, determined and resilient heroine in the very likable Justine. She is obviously terrified, but not going down without a fight and when cornered, she strikes out with a vengeance. Ashley Greene again shows with the right material and project she can impress as she did with her touching performance in Skateland. Here she is a psychotic killer and a very effective one. As the only one of the killers to show her face and speak, it is up to her to establish the menace and lethality of the deranged individuals who hunt Justine and she does so, very well. As for the rest of the supporting players they all do solid work from ill-fated campus security (Mathew St. Patrick) to Justine’s loving boyfriend (Lucas Till) to Greene’s silent companions in murder (Chris Coy, Mike Seal and Lucius Falick).

I liked this movie a lot. Simple and direct, with no unnecessary baggage. Establishes heroine and villains quickly and gets down to the suspense and violence. It gives our bad guys…and girl…menace and yet an air of mystery and creates a strong and very likable heroine to root for. When the violence comes, it’s just enough to give it impact, but not bludgeon us or numb us to it. There is some nail-biting suspense, good atmosphere and Blackburn uses the empty halls and rooms of Kristy‘s college campus setting to maximum effect. Add in an effective 80s-ish electronic score by François-Eudes Chanfrault (High Tension, Inside) and you have got an entertaining and intense night on the couch!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 baseball bats.
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Deliver Us From Evil is the latest film from Sinister director Scott Derrickson, who co-wrote with Paul Harris Boardman based on the supposedly true experiences of New York Detective Ralph Sarchie and detailed in the book Beware The Night written by Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool. The movie tells the story of Detective Sarchie (Eric Bana), a once Catholic cop who has lost his faith, and his partner Butler (Joel McHale) who are investigating a number of strange cases that all seem to be connected not only by some very bizarre and violent behavior but, by three Iraqi War vets Santoino (Sean Harris), Jimmy (Chris Coy) and Griggs (Scott Johnsen). The incidents all seem to involve some very unexplainable activity and key on something the three found when on maneuvers in Iraq. But, when a mysterious priest named Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez) shows up proclaiming there is something far more evil going on here then just the dark side of human nature, Det. Sarchie’s disbelief is put to the test… and further tested as his family’s lives may now be in danger when the demonic force takes notice of Sarchie’s investigations and follows him home. Can a NYC cop, with demons of his own, fight an evil of biblical proportions?

I am not a big fan of Derrickson’s overrated Sinister, though I did like his The Exorcism Of Emily Rose. And I did like this movie though, I was caught off-guard that, for the first two thirds, the film is played like a routine police thriller with some very supernatural elements mixed into it rather then a straight-up horror. As the film progresses and the investigation deepens, it is only then that it starts to resemble a horror film and becomes a full blown one in it’s last act. Derrickson gives us some creepy moments throughout but, doesn’t really deliver the real scares and chills till the entity goes on the attack and Sarchie and Mendoza bond to confront it. It’s a little jarring but, it does work overall. The film is involving and interesting when it’s not being spooky though it could have used a bit more intensity and atmosphere like it gives us in the final act and it is plagued by some very familiar elements that we’ve seen time and time again in possession themed movies. We get swarms of flies, flickering lights, scratching noises and oddly behaving children’s toys and it is these overused elements that hold the movie back somewhat from really chilling us. Whether this is really what happened to Sarchie and his family or not, we’ve seen it all before. Even as the entity targets his 6 year old daughter, it reminds us of countless other flicks. But, Derrickson’s direction is solid and he has a really effective visual style. He is also supported by a really good cast, who all shine here, and while the film does have yet another exorcism scene, the director manages to craft a really effective one that actually throws in a few new twists on another overly familiar trapping of this type of flick. Too bad he couldn’t have freshened up some of the other time-worn elements a bit more, then this film would have been a real goose bump inducing treat throughout and not just in it’s last act when things get really intense and spooky. Flick is also not above getting gruesome, which it does at times with some top notch gore FX.

But, getting back to the cast, everyone is strong across the board and that helps get past the familiarity of it all. Bana is exceptional as Sarchie and I’m not his biggest fan. He takes us from good New York cop, who sometimes sees too much of the dark side of human nature, to one who recognizes there is even darker forces out there and its willing to fight them. Edgar Mendoza is also exceptional as the very unconventional priest and demonologist who has some past demons of his own and he and Bana really work together well. They have a great onscreen chemistry and the two opposing characters support each other very effectively. I also loved Community’s Joel McHale as Sarchie’s tough, tattooed but, wise-cracking partner. These two really work well together and their bond comes across as authentic and McHale paints an endearing character who is a bit of a wise-ass but, also a badass when he needs to be. I hope this leads to McHale’s talent finally being recognized and getting more major movie roles. He is leading man material. Harris and Coy are very creepy as our possessed former soldiers. We only get to see Johnsen’s Griggs in flashback footage so, there isn’t much he is given to do. We also get a nice down-to-earth turn by Olivia Munn as Sarchie’s wife Jen and Lulu Wilson is cute and precocious as 6 year old daughter Christina. Rounding out is a very creepy Olivia Horton as Jane Crenna, another of the possessed who gets some of the film’s more unnerving scenes. A really top notch cast that help elevate this above the routine.

So, in conclusion, Deliver Us From Evil is a routine possession thriller merged with a routine cop thriller but, elevated by some really good performances from it’s cast and a director who effectively cranks up the juice in the final act and gives us a few chills in the meantime. The film is weighed down by some all too familiar elements that we’ve seen in countless possession themed films but, is effectively directed enough to entertain and chill us, so we can be a bit forgiving and have had a creepy good time by the time the credits roll. A good and sometimes very effective horror that could have been better but, considering the familiarity of the elements involved, is a lot better then one might expect.

3 stuffed owls.

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