REVIEW: THE HONEYMOON PHASE (2019)

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THE HONEYMOON PHASE (2019)

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Young couple Eve (Chloe Carroll) and Tom (Jim Schubin) pose as newlyweds to enter The Millennium Project which pays $50,000 to participating couples. All they have to do is basically remain isolated together in a futuristic home while their behavior and relationship is observed round the clock for 30 days. At first it seems like easy money, but soon their relationship begins to unravel. As things get worse and worse, Eve begins to wonder who Tom really is and Tom thinks she’s losing her mind. Are the couple unraveling on their own, though, or is there something more sinister at work here?

Intriguing flick is written and very well directed by Phillip G. Carroll Jr. as a psychological thriller mixed with a dash of science fiction. It is also a very tense and disturbing journey as we watch a young couple in love disintegrate and turn on each other, as their isolation wears on and they start to learn who they really are…or do they? There is some outside influence here from their holographic “handler” (Tara Westwood), who may be giving the couple reasons to distrust each other, or is simply telling them the reality about each other. Is Eve really emotionally unstable, or is Tom not the man she thought she knew and are they finally finding out the truth, now that they are forced to cohabitate. Something very relevant in today’s times. It’s a well written and intense thriller as we watch a couple go from tender lovemaking to inflicting violence on one another. There is some social commentary mixed in about abusive relationships, today’s state of matrimony and about a woman’s right to choose in matters of her own body, too. It’s all interwoven very well in this unsettling tale and best of all it has some surprises in store when it changes direction in the last act. It becomes something quite unexpected, while giving us some surprising reveals as to what is really going on here. It’s an engaging and sometimes unnerving flick, but one not without some emotional depth…and one not without some unsettling violence, once things start to come apart and the lovers are pitted against each other. A smart and effective movie from Phillip G. Carroll Jr.

Carroll casted this flick well, which is a big part of why it works so effectively. For the most part, this is a two person show and Jim Schubin and Chloe Carroll really shine as Tom and Eve. In the early moments they are very convincing as a loving couple who want to make a little easy cash to start their lives together. They are engaging and likable. As the film progresses and they start to distrust and turn on each other, they are equally effective with Eve feeling betrayed and alone and Tom becoming abusive and controlling. They also handle the last act revelations and reveals well, too and the climax is chilling enough to stay with you as the credits role. A good cast that helps make this interesting flick as effective as it is.

The Honeymoon Phase was a surprising thriller that takes a simple premise and turns the screws, as we watch a cute and charming couple turn against each other and transform into people we don’t expect. It’s very well written and directed by Phillip G. Carroll Jr. who keeps it interesting with a bit of a science fiction turn in the last act. It’s fast paced and gets it’s story told in an economical 90 minutes, without skimping on character or story development. There is some startling violence, but also some relevant social commentary woven within it’s story of a relationship imploding…possibly with a little help. Some may see this as a Twilight Zone-esque tale, but if so, one Serling might well have approved of. Also stars Tara Westwood as The Handler and François Chau as the project’s director.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) curling irons used painfully.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HOSTS (2020)


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HOSTS (2020)

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UK horror takes place on Christmas Eve where a family dinner turns into a bloody nightmare. Michael (Frank Jakeman) and wife Cassie (Jennifer K Preston) are having a holiday dinner with their children when friends Lucy (Samantha Loxley) and Jack (Neal Ward) drop by to join them. Unknown to the family, Lucy and Jack have encountered something malicious that has taken control of both of them. Soon a night of celebration and festivities turns into an evening of terror and murder.

Flick is directed by Adam Leader and Richard Oakes from Leader’s script based on the pair’s story. The duo do provide some very disturbing scenes and chilling moments with their tale of possession. There is also some shockingly bloody violence to go along with the chills. One scene in particular comes out of nowhere and is quite cruel considering the character exposition it follows. The intent and origin of this supernatural/otherworldly threat isn’t quite spelled out, as first the possessed seem to simply delight in tormenting and harming their prey, then appear to be setting them up to be possessed by other like beings. At first they seem demonic, but then there is an indication they might be extraterrestrial…and, if so, cruel ones at that. A bit of ambiguity does work in the film’s favor. The visual FX are quite good and very creepy and the gore and bloodletting equally effective. The only thing that holds this little flick back a bit is that there are long dialogue stretches between the chills and action, where the film looses it’s momentum somewhat. There is certainly nothing wrong with character development, or some interesting reveals, but some of the scenes drag on and the film looses some of it’s grip as a result. The movie is just under 90 minutes long, so it certainly doesn’t wear out it’s welcome and it recovers for the finale, leaving one a bit unsettled, when it is over, thanks to a spooky last act. The cinematography by Oakes is quite effective, as is the score by Benjamin Symons.

The small cast are good here. Frank Jakeman is solid as family patriarch Michael. A working class man by appearance with a strong sense of family, but with a secret of his own. Preston is endearing as his wife, Cassie, a woman struggling with illness and yet wanting a nice holiday with her family. Nadia Lamin is brave and resilient as daughter Lauren. Lee Hunter is fine as their meek son Eric, as is Buddy Skelton as the youngest child, Ben. Ward and Loxley make appropriately sinister villains as the possessed Jack and Lucy. Having a likable family unit and effective villains also helps this flick work despite familiar story elements.

Overall, this flick may not be perfect, but does deliver some chills and thrills. It’s well directed by the duo of Leader and Oakes and only stumbles a little when some long dialogue spots slow down it’s spooky momentum. An effective little horror from a pair of filmmakers to keep an eye on.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) hammers!

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REVIEW: THE DEEPER YOU DIG (2019)

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THE DEEPER YOU DIG (2019)

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On his way home from a bar during a snowstorm, Kurt (John Adams) is distracted by a herd of deer crossing the road and accidentally runs over his neighbor’s teen daughter Echo (Zelda Adams), who is sleigh-riding at night. He brings her body back to the house he is renovating, where he suddenly finds she isn’t dead. He panics and kills her, then hides her body. Her mother Ivy (Toby Poser), who is a medium, starts a search for her daughter, using her knowledge of the supernatural to aid her. As Ivy starts to suspect Kurt, the guilt ridden man becomes haunted by Echo’s spirit, as her mother draws ever closer to finding out the truth.

Intriguing supernatural thriller is written by stars John Adams and his wife Toby Poser and co-directed by the duo, along with their daughter, co-star Zelda Adams. It is very grounded despite a lot of supernatural elements and most of the FX appear to be done in camera. The three filmmakers concoct an interesting tale of guilt, the supernatural and revenge from beyond the grave. It’s subtle, for the most part, spooky at times and atmospheric. Echo, at first, simply haunts and torments Kurt and deservedly so. As her mother gets signs pointing her toward what happened and who’s responsible, Echo starts to communicate through him, giving her mother clues as she gets closer to the man she suspects. It’s actually very effective most of the time, with the exception of a few scenes that bordered on getting a little silly, unfortunately, such as the last scene. It’s supposed to illustrate Ivy getting what she wanted and yet paying a price for using darker forces to find the truth. Sadly, it’s just not as effective as it needs to be. It doesn’t stick with you for the right reasons. There are some nice hallucination and dream sequences that evoked some of the work Don Coscarelli achieved, with next to nothing, on the original Phantasm. Offbeat and inventive. There is some bloody violence and some disturbing imagery and it maintains an unsettling mood most of the time.

The writing and directing trio also do well in their on-screen roles. John Adams is good as Kurt. He panics and does something terrible and then follows it up with something even worse. Bad decisions snowballing and now he is haunted by the spirit of a young girl he’s murdered, as well as, by his own guilt. Toby Poser gives an understated performance as Ivy. As a mother she is willing to sacrifice anything and everything to find her daughter and delves into darker arts to do so. She also is strong in the face of admitting her daughter is gone, but relentless in trying to prove what she already knows, her neighbor had something to do with it. Rounding out is Zelda Adams as Echo. Most of her role is of a taunting spirit, and as that she is effective, but in her brief time as a living person, she successfully conveys a typical rebellious teen. Good work from a hard working trio.

This film is a family affair in the complete sense of the word and an intriguing one at that. It’s inventive and clever in portraying it’s supernatural subject on a small budget and effective more times than not. We feel Kurt’s guilt and Ivy’s anguish and Echo’s almost playful taunting of the man who killed her can be chilling. Not all of it’s supernaturally tinged sequences worked and the climactic moments weren’t as disturbing as they were meant to be. Here, the journey is almost more interesting than the resolution. Ultimately, it’s an original telling of a familiar story and one that hints at interesting things to come from this family of filmmakers. Not for everyone, but if you like your flicks a little offbeat, than it’s certainly worth a watch.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) deer antlers.

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: 1BR (2019)

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1BR (2019)

Pretty Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) moves out on her own to LA. to escape some drama at home and start a new life. She moves into a gated community and soon finds out her dream apartment is a nightmare…one she may not escape.

Disturbing thriller is written and effectively directed by David Marmor. It’s an unsettling look at cults and their sometimes extreme methods of conditioning new prospects. Sarah is held prisoner and physically and mentally abused till she fits in as the perfect neighbor. The scenes of her “indoctrination” into the fold are not easy to watch, but Marmor knows when enough is enough and doesn’t linger on the unpleasantness. There is some cruelty and some violence, but we see just enough to have an effect, but not enough to numb us to it. Marmor balances it very well and it’s chilling to see unfold. Nicole Brydon Bloom is really good as Sarah, portraying an emotionally wounded young woman, who is vulnerable to her situation and needs to find her strength. Taylor Nichols is very good as the cult leader Jerry, a man who truly believes he is helping people. Same also goes for Giles Matthey, as a handsome young man who befriends Sarah with obvious ulterior motives. A well acted, well directed thriller that is a disturbing look at cults and their methods. It is a sometimes unpleasant watch, yet a very effective one.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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