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: BELZEBUTH (2017)

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BELZEBUTH (2017)

Mexican horror opens with a massacre in a hospital maternity ward where police detective Emmanuel Ritter (Joaquín Cosío) loses his infant son. Five years later, he is given a case of a similar massacre at a school…one right out of today’s headlines. Aside from the painful similarities, Ritter doesn’t see a connection till Vatican paranormal expert Ivan Franco (Tate Ellington) arrives. Franco warns Ritter these killing may be the work of rogue priest Vasilio Canetti (Tobin Bell) and an ancient demonic presence. At first Ritter is skeptical, but soon his eyes are opened to things he’s never imagined, especially when he finds out the reason all these innocent children are being slaughtered.

Film is effectively directed by Emilio Portes from a plot heavy script by he and Luis Carlos Fuentes. There is a lot going on, but the film has some spooky and intense moments, especially the shocking maternity ward scene which sets the tone. The flick has biblical implications, some interesting plot twists and some very familiar demonic possession tropes, but uses them effectively for the most part. It is a bit overlong, but the cast is good and Portes has a visual style that works well with the horror elements. There is some graphic violence which has impact and Portes uses his Mexican locations atmospherically. Even the traditional exorcism is effective enough, despite the familiarity. An entertaining horror, even if a bit cliché heavy. Also stars Liam Villa as Isa, a little boy who is the focus of the demon’s attention and Yunuen Pardo as his mother.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE (2018)

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THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE (2018)

Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell) is an ex-cop still traumatized over freezing up and allowing a perpetrator to kill her partner. It’s turned her into a recovering addict who gets a graveyard shift job at the morgue. Makes sense! Along comes the body of Hannah Grace (Kirby Johnson), a young girl killed during a botched exorcism. The demonic entity that inhabits Hannah’s body hasn’t left yet and supernatural hi-jinx ensue. 

Film is directed by someone named Diederik Van Rooijen from an uninspired script from Brian Sieve. It offers almost nothing new to the possession sub-genre and pulls out every lame cliché demonic themed flicks have to offer. Any new wrinkles are few, far between and silly…like Hannah’s demon infested corpse being able to regenerate itself with each person it kills. What? It’s also hard to believe a former cop who is suffering from depression over the death of her partner would choose a morgue as a new place of work. Mitchell makes a solid enough heroine, but is let down by the movie surrounding her. Hannah Grace made almost four times it’s budget back at the box office, so someone thought this drivel was cool.

-MonsterZero NJ

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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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BARE BONES: THE OFFERING

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THE OFFERING (2016)

 

Ho-hum possession/demonic thriller has pretty atheist Jaime Waters (Elizabeth Rice) rushing to Singapore when she learns of her sister’s (Rayann Condy) suicide. She begins to investigate the reasons behind her sibling’s demise and finds a a supernatural threat is emerging and one that challenges her disbelief and threatens her young niece (Adina Herz).

Despite the novelty of the Singapore location and Rice making a likable heroine, this is a dull and routine demonic thriller that makes good use of neither. There is a convoluted plot invoking a demonic entity trying to resurrect the Towel Of Babel and even when writer/director Kelvin Tong comes up with a clever idea of the demon using computers to influence, he jettison’s it for the same old possession/haunting tropes, including a basement-set exorcism finale that totally rips-off The Conjuring. Completely derivative and forgettable even when it tries to be clever. Would like to see cutie Elizabeth Rice do final girl duty in a much better film. Also known as The Faith Of Anna Waters.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE POSSESSION (2012)

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THE POSSESSION (2012)

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

The story of this PG-13 horror concerns a divorced couple Clyde (Jeffery Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and their two daughters Hannah (Madison Davenport) and Emily (Natasha Calis). When Clyde buys Emily a strange wooden box she spots at a yard sale, Emily soon starts to exhibit strange and violent behavior. Clyde soon finds out the box is a Hebrew demon box whose occupant Emily has unleashed. Now, somehow, Clyde must save his daughter from the demon’s grasp!

The Possession is a well-made and, for the most part, well-directed horror film that is sadly weakened by being just too routine and filled with clichés. Director Ole Bornedal actually does a good job building tension and does gives us a few scares, but Leslie Gornstein’s script is so full of the typical possession/exorcism elements, that even with the Jewish slant, it can’t save the material from being far too familiar to be effective. The film is at it’s weakest when the actually exorcism finally takes place, as even in Hebrew, we’ve seen it all before, from swarms of insects to creepy voices to contorting bodies to conveniently empty hospital hallways. The more familiar it gets, the more Bornedal’s tension evaporates and the last act loses us completely when it should grip us the most.

The cast is all fine, especially young Natasha Calis who really does a great job as the tortured Emily. It’s only Sedgwick who overacts a bit and seems uncomfortable with the supernatural themed material. Morgan makes a strong father figure and Davenport is quite adequate as Hannah.

All in all it’s an OK  passing of time, but nothing new to this horror sub-genre and quite forgettable when it’s all said and done.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 flies.

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BARE BONES: GRACE: THE POSSESSION and DEVIL’S PASS

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GRACE: THE POSSESSION (2014)

Jeff Chan’s horror tries to do something novel by telling his possession tale from the demon’s point of view, but the idea never really works and just creates a non-camera POV movie where it isn’t needed. The film tells of 18 year-old Grace (Alexia Fast) a young woman coming of age who lives with her strict religious grandmother (Lin Shaye) after her single mom (also Fast) dies during childbirth.  Due to the nature of her conception…a reveal later on…there is a demon that want’s to corrupt the shy girl. What follows is basically just a routine possession flick told from the eyes of the demon within, though it could just be Grace’s eyes as nothing clever is ever done with the concept. It also wears out it’s welcome long before the film ends. Even as a possession flick, it’s nothing new or particularly scary and is actually slow going for a 90 minute movie. I appreciate trying something different, but then do something different with it. Routine and dull. Also stars The Guest’s Joel David Moore as a young priest taken with the pretty Grace.

2 star rating

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DEVIL’S PASS (2013)

Renny Harlin (NOES4, Prison) returns to his horror roots with this fact-based found footage tale of a group of US college students trying to discover the fate of a team of Russian hikers, who all died mysteriously during an expedition into the Ural mountains in 1959. As written by Vikram Weet, there are some good ideas here, but after an intriguing set-up, the film goes completely over-the-top for it’s final act. Not only is that final act filled with elements from a dozen X-Files episodes, but drags in elements from another supposed factual incident, as well. Some of it is still interesting, but going from a subtle mystery to an out-of-control adventure better fitting Mulder and Scully, is jarring and we get some truly awful CGI that totally undermines the impact of what it is supposed to represent. An intriguing and well-made effort that ultimately sinks itself under the weight of it’s own ambitions and the epic fail of it’s CGI artists. A case where an ambiguous ending may have been more effective than the idea overload we get.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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