BARE BONES: MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO (2020)

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MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO (2020)

Indonesian horror sequel takes place two years after the events of the first film and finds Alfie (Chelsea Islan) still haunted by specters of the dead. She and her youngest step-sister Nara (Hadijah Shahab) are kidnaped by a group of orphans, who murdered their abusive foster father, Ayub (Tri Hariono). They believe the occult practicing Ayub is now haunting them from beyond the grave and is back to fulfill his original intent to sacrifice them all. They also feel that Alfie is their only hope to escape this cruel fate and thus she is once more thrust into a nightmare battle with the forces of darkness.

Film is again written and directed by Timo Tjahjanto. He again borrows heavily from Sam Raimi, and from Fede Álvarez’s remake. A perfect example being a very familiar looking “Black Bible” the orphans are now in possession of. This sequel, however, benefits from being a bit more it’s own thing than it’s predecessor and really cranking up the intensity and scares. As before, Tjahjanto does know how to use the familiar tropes and trappings well. Here he also shows not only more of his own ideas, but set pieces that are just as much his, as ones that are recycled Raimi. There is also none of the family drama that slowed down the first flick. This one moves. Chelsea Islan gets to play more of a hardened demon fighter, as these orphans turn to her experiences as their only way out of this supernatural mess, and she makes an impression doing so. The gore and make-up are again very effective, as is the visual style, and there are some chilling reveals along the way. Even if it is a bit overlong, like the first installment, it’s pretty relentless from almost the first scene and only occasionally gives us some quieter moments to take a breath. A sequel that improves upon the original. This second installment is streaming on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU (2018)

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MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU (2018)

Indonesian horror finds young Alfie (Chelsea Islan) traveling to her father’s old home, with her stepmother (Karina Suwandi) and step-siblings, after her dad, Lesmana (Ray Sahetapy) mysteriously takes ill. To her horror, she discovers that her dad made a deal with the Devil for his successes and now old scratch is coming to collect…and Alfie and the rest of her step-family are included in the price.

Film is written and directed by Timo Tjahjanto with a definite case of Sam Raimi envy at times. The film borrows elements not only from Raimi’s Evil Dead films, but also Drag Me to Hell. Sure, the story is different and Tjahjanto tries to do his own thing with them, but some of the set pieces, possessed family members and creepy cellar activity, echo Raimi’s works. Tjahjanto paid attention to his influences, though, as he uses what he borrows well and there are some very effective and impressive make-up and gore effects to portray his supernatural carnage. The film looks good with some effective cinematography by Batara Goempar and atmospheric art direction by Antonius Boedy. The location is quite spooky and actress Chelsea Islan makes a solid heroine as tough teen Alfie. On the downside, it is a bit too familiar, at times, to be consistently scary and at 111 minutes, it seems to drag on far too long with a climax that goes into extra innings before it ends. There is also some drama between Alfie and her step-family members that does slow the momentum down at points. It makes the pacing somewhat uneven. Overall, this Netflix streaming horror is still worth a look and is entertaining, but not quite the scare-fest we were hoping for. Timo Tjahjanto still shows strong potential with the mix of his own ideas and the well used elements he borrowed. Inspired a 2020 sequel, May The Devil Take You Too, that is oddly streaming over at Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE CLEANSING HOUR (2019)

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THE CLEANSING HOUR (2019)

Shudder Original has a shyster priest, Father Max (Ryan Guzman) staging phony exorcisms for his web show, The Cleansing Hour. During one of his staged performances, a real demonic entity decides to show up. Now the fraudulent Father Max has to not only battle the real thing, but has all his darkest secrets brought out to bear in front of his live audience.

Flick is well directed by Damien LeVeck despite being from a silly script from he and Aaron Horwitz. There is some very bad dialogue and some silly moments, but LeVeck directs the nonsense with a skilled hand and makes it far more effective than it should be. His demon puts Max through an emotional wringer, as the former priest is forced to bare his soul before his internet audience, which grows as the demonic hi-jinx accelerate. LeVeck has a good visual style and there are some very convincing gore and creature effects. He gets good work from his cast, especially Guzman as the troubled priest, Father Max and even sneaks in some biting commentary on the contemporary clergy. Director and cast take this all very seriously and this also helps make it far more effective than it should be, including a very disturbing climax. No classic, but worth a watch and signals LeVeck could turn out something really interesting with a stronger script. Also stars horror flick vet Kyle Gallner (Jennifer’s Body, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010) as Max’s childhood friend and partner, Drew and Alix Angelis as Drew’s fiancée and the object of demonic possession, Lane.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY (2018)

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THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY (2018)

Found footage flick takes place in 1960 and is supposed to be film footage shot by two priests, Father Thomas (Lalor Roddy) and Father John (Ciaran Flynn) as they investigate the reported bleeding eyes of a Virgin Mary statue. The statue stands in an Irish Magdalene laundry which were basically homes for wayward women cast out by society. Once the priests start to investigate, they find the statue is the least of their problems as there is true evil in this place both human and supernatural in origin.

Aside from it’s intriguing setting, there is nothing all that original in this flick, as either a found footage film or a demonic thriller. Director Aislinn Clarke makes atmospheric use of her locations, including some creepy rooms and catacombs beneath the building, but fails to set anything all that involving within them. Her script, that she wrote along with Martin Brennan and Micheal B. Jackson, drags out every cliché imaginable in the found footage and demonic possession genres from the shaky cams and conveniently failing lights to the laughter of spectral children and levitating young women in nightgowns. The last act down in the subterranean catacombs beneath the building were right out of As Above, So Below and the sticks used for demonic symbols, right out of Blair Witch. Roddy’s Father Thomas was an interesting character and there was a creepy twist involving his past and Helena Bereen‘s Mother Superior was spooky without the last act reveals. It’s just the film seems to be simply a mash-up of elements and scenes from other movies and not done interesting enough to freshen them up or give the filmmakers a break. There is some feminist commentary mixed in, but it doesn’t make up for all the under-cooked horror elements that we’ve seen so many times before. There is some spooky and disturbing stuff in the last act, but it’s too little, too late and too familiar to elevate the film, even with a brief 76 minutes run-time.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: VERÓNICA (2017)

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VERÓNICA (2017)

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

Spanish horror flick from [REC]‘s Paco Plaza takes place in 1991 and is based on a real police report. The story opens with a frantic 911 call and police arriving at an apartment to find something horrible has occured. We then go back a few days to find teen Verónica (Sandra Escacena) conducting a seance at school during a total eclipse to talk to her dead father. Something goes wrong and now a dark spirit follows her home and preys on her and her three siblings (Bruna González, Claudia Placer and Iván Chavero). Can Verónica protect her little brother and sisters from this malevolent entity and what did police find on that fateful night?

Directed by Plaza from a script by he and Fernando Navarro, there is nothing new here story-wise, even if based on a real-life incident. All the demonic haunting clichés are present, but it’s how Plaza uses them that still makes this an effective flick. The director takes some very familiar tropes and uses them to spooky effect as he tells this tale of a teen being stalked by a very vicious spirit will ill intent. He separates the kids from their widowed mom (Ana Torrent) having her working all day and night at the family owned business, thus leaving the children without guidance and protection, save for Verónica…who has no clue what to do. She turns to the creepy blind nun (Consuelo Trujillo) at school for help and while this character is also a cliché, she is a spooky sister and provides some ominous exposition to the terrified teen. Again, the tropes work. We get some some really effective use out of shadow figures, gross stains, nightmare sequences and moving objects and it’s a sign of a talented director that some very familiar stuff, still gives us the creeps. The climactic posting of the actual police report and events that followed also leaves us with a chill. Add to that a spooky score by Chucky Namanera and we have a creepy little flick despite having seen pretty much everything before.

The cast is good, especially lead Sandra Escacena as Verónica. She plays a teen interested in the occult and seeing it as a way to talk to the father she misses. She also portrays well the fear of a teen whose made a dire mistake and now must try to correct it and protect her family, even if no one believes her. Bruna González, Claudia Placer and little Iván Chavero are cute as her little siblings and each get to act in some spooky sequences and do so, well. Consuelo Trujillo is very creepy as the blind nun dubbed “Sister Death” by the Catholic school’s students and Ana Torrent is solid as the mother who works till exhaustion, though still cares about her kids. She’s the skeptic in the scenario and just thinks this is just a byproduct of Verónica spending too much time with her supernatural hobby. This isolates the teen emotionally, weakening her for the entity.

This was a completely unoriginal flick, even if supposedly based on fact, but also a good example of how a talented director can still make an effective chiller out of oft used material. The story has been done before, the tropes are nothing new, but this is still a spooky flick with a good cast to make the characters likable and sympathetic. As his resume shows, Plaza can do spooky and with this tale of a teen haunted by a demonic entity, he does just that. Recommended especially if you are a fan of supernatural chillers and like the familiar trappings.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 planchettes.

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