IFC Midnight flick finds blind Sophie (Skyler Davenport) cat sitting in a luxurious house and planning a little thievery while she’s there. The tables are turned, however, when professional thieves break into the home. Now Sophie’s only ally is an app called See for Me where an operator visually guides her via her smart phone. Lucky for Sophie, her guide is Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy) an armed forces veteran who acts as her eyes and helps her go on the offensive.
Crime thriller is directed by Randall Okita from a script by Matthew Gouveia and Drew Tyce. It’s a moderately engaging movie that never really feels like it takes full advantage of a clever premise. There are some tense moments and a few violent ones, too, but the film never really gets the firm grip on the viewer that it needs to. Maybe it’s because it’s heroine isn’t the most likable person to endear to, or that home invasion flicks are fairly one-note to begin with, and the Sophie/Kelly app gimmick is the only new wrinkle here. Other than that, it’s fairly routine with a very predictable outcome. Performances are good with Jessica Parker Kennedy being a standout as the tough but caring Kelly. Also stars Sons of Anarchy veteran Kim Coates as one of the invaders.
Flick takes place about eight years, or so, after the events of the first film. The Blind Man (Stephen Lang) is living in a remote house with young orphaned girl Phoenix (Madelyn Grace) whom he rescued—sort of—from a fire and now has raised as his own daughter. When a group of thugs invade his home to kidnap Phoenix, The Blind Man once again goes on the violent offensive. Things get complicated when one of the invaders, Raylan (Brandan Sexton III), turns out to be Phoenix’s real father.
Sequel is co-written by the first film’s director Fede Álvarez along with Rodo Sayagues, who takes over the directing reigns here and does a fine job of matching the look and feel of the gritty and violent original. For those concerned that The Blind Man—now called Norman—was going to be portrayed as a hero here, he’s not a good guy by any means, but those he goes up against are just as bad or worse. Their intentions for Phoenix are the furthest thing from a family reunion and despite “Norman” being a villain himself, you don’t mind seeing bad guy vs worse guys, when he comes to rescue his kidnapped “daughter”—whom he technically kidnapped himself. It’s vicious and very violent and while it does seem like a cash grab sequel, it also entertains in a basic way—if one is looking for some savage violence perpetrated against people who basically deserve it. Lang is good, once again, as the twisted Blind Man and Sexton and crew make perfectly acceptable deviants for him to go up against and violently dispatch. Young Madelyn Grace impresses as Phoenix, whom Norman has trained with survival skills, and Stephanie Arcila is likable as a fellow war veteran and friend of Norman and Phoenix, Hernandez, a good character who had far too little screen time. In the end, after all the bone-crushing violence, it may be a forgettable sequel, but Rodo Sayagues at least shows he did pay attention well to collaborator Álvarez’s work. Watch through the credits. Now available on VOD platforms such as Amazon Prime.
Drive has a delightfully 80s vibe to it. It reminds one of Michael Mann’s neon drenched crime thriller Thief, but with the out of nowhere blood-soaked violence of David Lynch. Even Cliff Martinez’s sscore evokes Tangerine Dream, who created Thief’s haunting music, among many other film scores during that era. Like that James Caan headlined flick, Drive is also based on a book and involves a man on the wrong side of the law getting into trouble when trying to do good. Despite what appears to be obvious influences, director Nicolas Winding Refn has created his own work from Hossein Amini’s screenplay based on James Sallis’ book of the same name. Drive may evoke but, it never copies. The story finds a mysterious stunt driver, who moonlights as a getaway car driver, getting into trouble with local mobsters when trying to protect his pretty neighbor from the mistakes of her ex-con husband. It is a moody atmospheric piece with sudden jolts of intense action and bone crunching violence. It also has a top notch cast.
Ryan Gosling superbly plays the man known only as Driver with equal parts mystery, menace and heart. This is a bad dude when provoked, but you have no trouble believing he truly cares for Irene and her son.The supporting cast is also excellent with Carey Mulligan as the sweet young woman who seems to fall for the bad guy every time. Albert Brooks is intense and sleazy as a Jewish mobster, who can be quite vicious when he wants to be. Rounding out the cast is the awesome Ron Perlman as Brook’s crude and temperamental partner and Bryan Cranston as Driver’s mentor, a sad man who just can’t seem to avoid getting involved with the wrong people.
Drive is definitely a film that might befuddle the average movie goer, who were weened on Michael Bay and music videos. It uses it’s sumptuously filmed visual style to create a mood and it’s characters to convey emotions. There is no unnecessary exposition to explain how character’s feel, they show it and Refn let’s us, the viewer, experience it for ourselves without explaining it to us like children. When he needs to, he hits us with action and it serves a purpose to move the story along. When he jolts us with the gruesome violence, it’s an extension of a character’s emotional state. Bad and desperate people do bad and desperate things. Our anit-hero Driver seems to have an inner rage that’s never explained and his character is all the more richer for that added mysterious dark side. Drive is something today’s average movie going audience is rarely exposed to…something called cinema! Highly recommended for those who want more then just a movie.
This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features a new final girl on the block, who appeared in her first horror flick in 2019 and made an impression in her debut! With the release of Brian Childs’ indie financed Hell of a Night, we were introduced to this fresh face in the role of the film’s heroine, Blake! Blake gets into double trouble when getting away from it all on her own, as the farmhouse she rents is haunted and she is being stalked by a far more earthbound threat. The actress portraying her displayed some solid final girl qualifications, so without further ado…MonsterZero NJ’s Halloween Hotties rookie of the year 2019 is…
Actress and model Rachael Hevrin has a very natural girl-next-door appeal that really made Blake a very likable character to carry this small cast horror flick. She handles double trouble from both human and spiritual opponents and shows that even in her damsel in distress moments, she doesn’t need a hero to rescue her. Like all classic final girls, she has a wholesome quality, yet is resilient and quite the fighter. Currently, the Texas native seems to be keeping busy with modeling, short films and commercial work, though with her down-to-earth good looks and endearing screen presence, we hope to see more of her in our favorite genre soon!
And don’t forget to check out our previous HalloweenHotties!
Head over to the HalloweenHottieslistings! to read them all!)
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.
Normally I don’t post trailers on Bare Bones, but I think it’s worth a look!
Thriller opens with pretty Lindsay Pittman (Alex Essoe from Starry Eyes and The Neighbor) tied to a chair and gagged with duct tape. Then we go back a few hours to find out how and why she’s there. Driving home from a New Years Eve party, down-on-their-luck couple Lindsay and Jeff (Dylan McTee) hit a man on a remote road in the woods. The man appears to die before they can get help and the couple take the body home, concerned with the consequences of the man being dead and that they both were drinking. That’s when things start to go wrong. The man is not dead, has a gun and after surprising Lindsay’s sister Hannah (Perla Haney-Jardine), is really killed when she gets hold of his weapon. Even worse, when going through his things, Jeff, Lindsay and Hannah find their home was the gunman’s objective all along. And thus begins a tale of hidden money, betrayal, double-crossing and murder.
Flick is well directed by Julius Ramsay from a script by Alston Ramsay and is a solid thriller. Film sets up a tense enough situation with a couple already facing hard times, thinking they killed a man and not wanting to deal with the consequences. Things get worse as they find the man had a gun and their address in his wallet. Who was he and why was he heading to their home? The story slowly unfolds, as thrillers like this traditionally do, as Police come knocking at their door, a mysterious detective (Ward Horton) shows up soon after and a cache of cash has everyone turning guns, duct tape and other household torture devices on each other. It’s well done and while not quite as gripping as hoped, it is still solid entertainment that offers up some nice betrayals, twists and some horror movie level violence, murder and bloodshed. By it’s satisfying conclusion all secrets are revealed, questions answered and a fitting trail of bodies left. To say anymore would be to spoil some deviously entertaining moments.
The Ramsays have a fairly good cast to support their script and direction. Alex Essoe once again proves she’s an actress to watch with a solid performances as Lindsay. Mrs. Pittman seems to be caught in the middle of all this and Essoe gives her some life, depth and resourcefulness as we watch a woman toughen up and try to turn things in her favor in an increasingly disturbing situation. She’s a good actress and can play both sympathetic and strong very well. Dylan McTee was efficient as Jeff, but could have used a bit more intensity. Maybe it’s just that his character is not at his best when our story begins and is, when all is said and done, not as strong as his wife. He’s not a wuss, but his character could have used a bit stronger presence. Perla Haney-Jardine is solid as Hannah. She’s not new to trouble and it’s no surprise that some of the Pittman’s current woes might have Hannah’s fingerprints on them. Finally we have a malice laced performances by Morristown, N.J. native Ward Horton as the mysterious Detective “Smith”. Let’s just say he’s not a nice guy and his being a detective may be questionable, too. Horton makes for a slimy and charismatic villain which always benefits movies like this.
Overall, this was a solid and entertaining thriller that rolled out the story nicely and deviously. It could have used a bit more intensity, but was still a well done movie with some nice backstabbing and other kinds of stabbing to keep us in our seats. There were some good performances, especially from lead actress Alex Essoe, which enhanced the characters and thus the effectiveness of this blood-soaked thriller. Recommend for a night of noir-ish thrills and entertainment on the couch.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a music loving getaway driver for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). Doc caught Baby stealing his car, but was so impressed by his technique and driving that he is letting him work off his infraction by employing the orphaned young man to get his robbery teams out quick. Baby has almost worked off his dept and wants out, especially when he meets beautiful and sweet waitress Debora (Lily James), who steals his heart. But Doc isn’t about to let Baby get away that easy and when a big job brings in loose cannon Batz (Jamie Foxx), Baby might be in for the ride of his life…and maybe his last ride, too!
Written and directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), this is a routine crime thriller energized by having the action synced up with the film’s awesome soundtrack of classic tunes. In this aspect the film is impressive, especially on a technical level and does have some really energetic chase sequences when the law are in hot pursuit. The romance is also very hip and sweet between Baby and the captivating Debora and we believe these two kids are in love. The film is, overall, fun from start to finish, but does falter once the soundtrack syncing starts to wear out it’s novelty and we realize that underneath Wright’s showmanship is just another crime thriller about a good man in with some bad people. It follows the formula very closely, so it’s no spoiler to know that Baby’s plans to go away with Debbie are going to be thwarted by Doc, the last big job will go awry and we know Baby will be forced to go up against his former “friends” when Debbie gets caught in the middle. Even while very predictable, this is still an enjoyable thriller and Wright’s style of telling the familiar tale does freshen things up for a while. Edgar Wright may not always be the most original filmmaker in terms of his stories, but he is one of the more innovative ones when it comes to how he tells them.
The cast is really on target with Ansel Elgort being a handsome and charming young rogue with the beautiful Lily James being quite captivating as the sassy and sweet apple of his eye. They have chemistry and their scenes together are engaging, as they should be. Kevin Spacey is having a blast as the eccentric Doc and even manages to give the crime boss a little bit of heart underneath the bad guy veneer. Jon Hamm and Eiza González also sizzle as a married couple who are a modern day Bonnie and Clyde with González being a suitably sexy bad girl and Hamm being a likable bad-ass who becomes a real beast when things go wrong. Jamie Foxx is fine as Batz, though the character sometimes seemed a little too reckless to have lived this long in this business. Jon Bernthal also appears briefly as another member of Doc’s rotating crime team who doesn’t like that Baby never gets his hands dirty. A good cast who get the tone of the material and has a good time with their characters.
In conclusion this was a fun movie with a great soundtrack and some top notch action and editing. The romance elements were hip and sweet and the film only falters when it’s soundtrack syncing gimmick looses steam and we realize we’ve seen this movie many, many times before…thus making it predictable. It’s still worth watching, though, especially for the hip cast, fast action and awesome tunes, but by the end we do realize that this car is actually an old model, just one with shiny new rims.
Killing Ground is an Australian thriller that finds couple Ian (Ian Meadows) and Sam (Harriet Dyer) going on a camping trip in a rural part of the country. They find another vehicle and tent at the campground, yet no occupants seem to be around. Soon Ian and Sam encounter two local “hunters” (Aaron Pedersen and Aaron Glennane) who, unknown to the couple, know exactly what happened to the abandoned tent’s former occupants.
Written and directed by Damien Power, this is an effective but familiar survival thriller. His story is basically in the Wolf Creek ballpark with innocent travelers happening upon deranged locals in a rural setting. What we see is brutal and effective and while certain cruel acts are off-camera, just knowing what is going on induces chills. Power tells his story in a split narrative where we inter-cut scenes of Sam and Ian in the present with scenes from earlier on with the ill-fated family that resided in the now empty tent. It works well enough and once the stories meet it continues to it’s finish within the present timeline. It makes for a grim yet fairly involving 90 minutes, though there are some questions. What drove these two to get homicidal with this family, as it seems they are too sloppy to have done it before and not gotten caught. Also, they are well known to local police, so they would logically be prime suspects if something went askew in that jurisdiction…though the police portrayed here are done so as stereo-typically daft local cops. Still, the film does work well enough and the cast are effective in their roles.
Harriet Dyer is a fine heroine in Sam. She isn’t a damsel and is a fighter when she has something worth protecting. Ian Meadows’ Ian starts out as a likable character, though as the story progresses and it becomes a battle for survival, he shows some unfortunate true colors. As for our bad guys, Pedersen and Glennane make fine deranged locals and even if the characters are well-worn stereotypes, they play them effectively. Again, the problem with them aside from familiarity, is they seem too sloppy in their activities and if this isn’t the first time they’ve done this…previous jail time is mentioned but not why…it’s hard to believe they haven’t already been caught. If this is their first crime of this magnitude, what was it about this family that triggered the violence and cruelty? We never get to know them enough to gives us a clue.
In conclusion, this is an effective but familiar survival thriller. Damien Power directs well enough to make it work better than it should and we are chilled by some of what we see. The film is overall, though, nothing new and there are some questions we are asking once it’s over. Also stars Maya Stange, Julian Garner, Tiarnie Coupland and Liam and Riley Parkes as the ill-fated family whose grim tale unfolds during the film.
Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs was a brutal, shocking, visceral horror that grabbed the horror film community by the balls when released in 2008. Laugier returned to the writer/director’s chair in 2012 with The Tall Man and while it’s nowhere near as brutal or horrifying as his previous flick, Tall Man shows Laugier is a skilled filmmaker that can turn the tables on you and surprise you at will. He makes you think your watching something and that you know exactly what’s going on…then proves just how wrong you are.
The story here begins in the desolate, rural town of Cold Rock, WA., a dying town where the children are disappearing at an alarming rate and a supernatural figure known as The Tall Man is held responsible. A recently widowed doctor (a mesmerizing performance by Jessica Biel) is suddenly thrust in the middle of this urban legend when her son is abducted in the middle of the night. To say anymore would be to ruin a really intense viewing where the rug is pulled out from under you many times and you won’t see it coming. Yes, it’s more of a thriller than a horror film, but Laugier keeps you guessing and keeps you surprised and gives us something quite different, but no less effective, than his 2008 shocker. Laugier is no fluke. Highly recommended.
Two thrillers/horrors that I think would make a good pairing for a Saturday night on the couch with your favorite brew. One was a big hit recently and the other deserves more attention than it got and both involve sneaking into someone’s house and the unexpected things you might find there…
DON’T BREATHE (2016)
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Don’t Breathe is an intense and very entertaining thriller that turns the home invasion flick on it’s head and proves writer/director Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead remake) is the real deal. The story takes place in a rundown suburb of Detroit where house thieves Rocky (Evil Dead’sJane Levy), Money (It Follows‘ Daniel Zovatto) and Alex (Goosebumps’ Dylan Minnette) hear of a big score. There is an almost deserted street with only one house still occupied, the home of a blind war veteran (Stephen Lang) who supposedly was given a large cash settlement by the family of a rich girl who ran over and killed his daughter. Thinking it easy money, the three break into the man’s home one night. But the man turns out to be far more dangerous than they realize and soon has them trapped inside his house with the intent they never leave.
Co-written with his Evil Dead co-scribe Rodo Sayagues, Alvarez crafts a very suspenseful and intense game of cat and mouse inside the Detroit house that gets started quickly and never gives up till it’s unsettling last moments. Alvarez gives us a claustrophobic and isolated setting by placing the house on a deserted block and making great use of the desolated Detroit setting to give it atmosphere. He then has his ex-soldier seal our three thieves inside, where he knows the layout and they…and we…don’t. Alvarez also uses the character’s blindness to set up nerve-wracking moments, as our thieves try to quietly elude him and then he clever turns off the power to turn the odds in his favor. There are also some moments of brutal violence that really punctuate the intensity of the proceedings, as the director plays with the home invasion formula by turning our intended victim into the monster and the invaders into the victims. This works well due to the way his characters are written. While Money is basically a street thug, Alex has a conscience and a heart, which keeps him likable and Levy’s Rocky is only stealing to get enough money to take her little sister out of Detroit and away from her alcoholic mother. This makes them sympathetic, despite their criminal activity, yet Alvarez still puts them through the ringer for them to truly earn our empathy. If the brutal pursuit through the three floors of the old house isn’t enough, Alvarez has a late reveal that adds a really disturbing angle to a simple theft gone awry story…one that will have you squirming as much as Levy’s Rocky was…and turns the blind soldier into a true fiend. And it works very well. As with Evil Dead, Alvarez accents his story with a great visual eye. His settings and shots are captured stylishly by the lens of Pedro Luque andEvil Deadcomposer Roque Baños returns for an atmospheric score. It all adds up to a suspenseful, intense and very atmospheric thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and squirming in it too!
Alvarez has assembled a small but very effective cast for his sophomore film for Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures. Evil Dead leading lady Jane Levy is very strong as the street smart Rocky. She is convincing in that she is stealing only out of love for her little sister and she moves from thief to anti-hero to heroine very well. Her Rocky is really put through Hell, just as her Mia was in the 2013 horror remake and she really provides us again with a strong character to root for, even if she, like Mia, isn’t the sweet girl next door. Levy has a unique way of combining an intensity with a sensitivity that deserves more spotlight roles. Daniel Zovatto, who was the kindly Greg in It Follows, plays basically a street thug and does play him well. He has his charisma, but is not a good guy and the one we least feel sorry for when the poop hits the fan. Dylan Minnette’s Alex seems almost too nice to be part of this group, but it is made known he crushes on Rocky and is betraying his security company father most likely to be close to her. It succeeds in keeping him likable and he proves once again he is a charming actor with an appealing screen persona. This would not work if our blind ex-soldier, whose name is never given, wasn’t convincing as a monster and Stephen Lang once again is a strong bad guy. He is sympathetic at first, then let’s us know that this man is still lethally dangerous, even with his war injury handicap and then becomes a full blown fiend once the movie progresses. His soldier is filled with menace and threat and once we get the full picture, any feelings that this guy is just protecting what’s his, go out the window and it works thanks to an intense performance from a skilled actor.
I really liked this movie and it proves to me Fede Alvarez is a filmmaker to keep a close eye on. I really enjoyed his remake of Sam Raimi’s horror classic and certainly enjoyed the results now of a film entirely his own. This is an intense, brutally violent and sometimes twisted thriller that turns a home invasion into a house of horrors with a strong cast to back up the director’s vision and story. A solid thriller and one of the few films to live up to early word in the summer of 2016 movie season.
3 and 1/2 turkey basters…you’ll have to see the movie!
THE NEIGHBOR (2016)
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Intense crime drama tells the story of John (Josh Stewart) and Rosie (Alex Essoe from Starry Eyes and Tales Of Halloween) who live in the rural town of Cutter, Mississippi and work for drug runners. They plan to do one more job and when they collect their money, they plan to make a run for Mexico and an early retirement. When John returns after a job and finds Rosie missing, he suspects his odd neighbor Troy (comedian Bill Engvall) who seemed to be quite taken with his pretty girlfriend. When John sneaks into Troy’s house, he discovers his neighbor has been engaging in far worse activities than he could ever have imagined…and he may not get back out alive.
Writer/director Marcus Dunstan (the Saw series, the Collector movies) crafts a lean and mean thriller about bad people going up against far worse people in a small backwoods town in rural Mississippi. It does share some similarities with the recent Don’t Breathe, but is it’s own movie and aside from criminal types, who are looking to make a better life for themselves, being trapped in a house by psychotics, that’s where the similarities end. Dunstan gets his story started quite quickly, but not too quick that we don’t get to know John and Rosie a bit, and keeps the intensity cranked till the very last frames. We find ourselves rooting for John, even though he is not a good person, because Dunstan is able to make Troy and his boys a lot creepier. Add in a corrupt cop (Jaqueline Fleming) who already has it in for John and you have solid reasons to get behind our anti-hero couple. There is some graphic violence, but unlike his torture heavy Collector and Saw films, Dunstan uses it sparingly, so it is vicious and effective when it happens. The director does have a good visual eye and stages the action fast and furious with some nice suspense in-between the bullets and beatings. The tension is thick at times and while the climax may conveniently wrap things up, it is quite satisfying. There is some crisp cinematography from Eric Leach and a really cool score by Charlie Clouser.
Dunstan also gets good work from a good cast. Despite being a criminal who works for a sleazy drug lord, Josh Stewart makes his John quite likable and embues him with a bit of a heart underneath his criminal activities. His work reminded me of Jane Levy’s Rocky from Don’t Breathe, an anti-hero to root for. I have been a fan of Alex Essoe since her stunning work in Starry Eyesand she is solid again here. She does spend part of the flick as a damsel in distress, but gets to really turn it up in the last act and show another side to a versatile actress we want to keep seeing more of. Her Rosie is a badass when provoked. Bill Engvall makes for a very creepy villain. He gives you chills without going over the top and his subtle yet unnerving Troy is all the more effective because he doesn’t overdo it. A very creepy villain that makes you forget John and Rosie are criminals of a different kind. Jaqueline Fleming is also good as a cop with her own agenda and Luke Edwards and Ronnie Gene Blevins are solid as Troy’s equally creepy sons, Cooper and Harley. Melissa Bolona is also effective as another of Troy and company’s “guests.”
This little flick took me by surprise. I am not a big fan of the Collector films and never watched Dunstan’s Saw movies, as I was done with that series by then, but this high octane thriller took me a bit by surprise. Sure there are some familiar story elements, but Dunstan uses those elements well and really cranks up the suspense and tension in the last hour, peppering it with moments of brutal violence that don’t overstay their welcome and are very effective because of it. A good cast helps the filmmaker out and overall, cast and crew deliver a solid and engrossing thriller.