BARE BONES: THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER (2018)

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THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER (2018)

Film takes place ten years after a small Kentucky town was plagued by a series of murders by a serial killer known as The Clovehitch Killer. The killings mysteriously stopped with the killer never found. When young Tyler (Charlie Plummer) finds a disturbing photo in his father’s truck, he starts to question things about his churching-going, Boy Scout master father (Dylan McDermott). The more Tyler seeks answers, the more he starts to suspect his father and The Clovehitch Killer might be one and the same.

Written by Christopher Ford and directed by Duncan Skiles, this is a methodically paced thriller that evokes similar films like the recent Summer of 84 and the classic Frailty. Whether his father is really a killer or not, isn’t the true mystery here, but what a boy will do when he finds out disturbing things about his own flesh and blood. The film is well done and the performances are excellent and it has a nice replay of events from another POV that works well in the last act. What holds this thriller back is that it lacks a real punch. It’s a bit too understated for it’s own good and since we all know where it is heading, it needed more punctuation at the time of it’s reveals. It’s a well-made thriller about what darkness can lurk beneath the All-American veneer, but one that needed a bit more of a “wow” factor to really be something worth talking more about. As it is, it is still an unsettling thriller about what one might be faced with when learning dark things about someone they love. Also stars Samantha Mathis as Tyler’s mother and Madisen Beaty, who impresses, as a girl who befriends Tyler and with a personal interest in Clovehitch’s identity.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: JOSIE (2017)

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JOSIE (2017)

Flick finds the world of reclusive former prison guard Hank (Dylan McDermott) turned a bit askew with the arrival of sexy tattooed teen Josie (Sophie Turner) at the school where he is a security guard. Josie uses her charms to get Hank’s attention, as well as, the attention of local teen delinquent, Marcus (Jack Kilmer). The two men already don’t like each other and sexy Josie may have more than just flirtation in mind.

OK thriller is directed by Eric England (Madison County, Contracted)  from a fairly predictable script by Anthony Ragnone II. The cast all perform well, especially Game of Thrones’ Turner, who is quite effective as a femme fatale. It’s just that we can see where this is headed almost from the start. When Hank, early on, confides in Josie about his past, we know it’s got to be connected to her appearance and we’re not wrong. It comes to the violent…though still unsettling…conclusion that we also know is coming and the big reveal looses all it’s impact because we have already figured it out long before Hank. Watchable to see Turner strut her stuff as a bad girl, but if you think you’ve figured it out early on…you have.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: HARDWARE (1990)

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HARDWARE (1990)

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

“No flesh shall be spared” – Mark 13:20

Richard Stanley supposedly based his cult classic on a short story called SHOK! that ran in the British 2000 AD sci-fi comics, but it seems equally inspired by The Road Warrior, The Terminator and the Japanese live-acion Manga flick Testsuo. This midnight movie was released in late 1990 and while some action flicks were still very 80s, at this time, Hardware had a darker, more nihilistic tone and grungier look that would be more distinct to the 90s.

The story is set in a post apocalyptic world where most of the planet is ruined and people live in industrialized cities and scavengers roam the wasteland for anything salvageable/sellable. One such scavenger is Moses Baxter (Dylan McDermott) or ‘Mo’ who happens upon another scavenger selling parts of what appear to be a maintenance drone. Mo buys the parts for his artist girlfriend Jill (Stacey Travis) who specializes in metal sculptures. But unknown to Mo or Jill, the parts are actually from a M.A.R.K. 13 combat robot who, while Jill sleeps, rebuilds itself from the parts and the miscellaneous junk Jill uses in her art. Upon a rude awakening, Jill finds herself locked in her own apartment with a lethal and unstoppable killing machine who is carrying out it’s only order…exterminate!

Despite a lot of obvious inspirations and influences, writer/director Richard Stanley uses them wisely and makes Hardware his own as he sets heroine Jill against the self-repairing juggernaut inside a fairly confined space. He gives the flick a lot of atmosphere and despite having a quirky sense of humor at times, the film is very dark toned, though, also oddly comic book as well. Like something out of the legendary Heavy Metal magazine. The film is populated with some very comic book-ish characters too, such as Jill’s perverted neighbor (Batman’s William Hootkins) who breaks into her apartment and is too infatuated with getting in her pants to take her warnings of her homicidal robot guest too seriously. The film can be both cartoonish and very gruesome at times and Stanley gives it a very MTV music video style with a really effective assortment of industrial and metal songs…including Stigmata from Ministry…that blend perfectly with Simon Boswell’s electronic score and the visuals. The look of the film, though somewhat derivative, is also very effective at giving the film it’s post-apocalyptic mess atmosphere and it is bathed in stark colors and well captured by Steven Chivers’ cinematography. If Stanley’s fun and sometimes very intense and brutal film has any flaws, it is that sometimes the more comic book aspects of the flick and some of the offbeat, humorous moments don’t quite always gel with the darker moments and tone. The film also is somewhat moderately paced and takes pretty much halfway through for our robotic slaughterhouse to get going. Then things move with a more accelerated pace. The film also stops it’s picked-up momentum dead in the last act for a psychedelic sequence brought on when the murderous robot injects a character with it’s lethal venom. It’s well staged, but stops the film in it’s tracks for a few moments while it plays out and takes a few more moments for it get going again. There is also some stilted dialog as well, but there isn’t a lot of talking once things get started, so it isn’t overly hurtful to the proceedings.

The small cast are fine with Travis making a very resourceful and tough heroine as she must use her wits and tenacity to outwit her virtually indestructible opponent. McDermott is also fine as Mo, but was slightly wooden in his line reads though his character obviously steps aside for most of the film’s middle to let Travis’ Jill take center stage. Hootkins is really creepy as the perverted Lincoln and the supporting cast play their eccentric characters just fine, too. Rounding out is an amusing cameo by Motorhead’s Lemmy as a cab driver and a vocal performance by punk legend Iggy Pop as a radio DJ named Angry Bob.

I liked Hardware and remember it’s dark and nihilistic tone getting under my skin a bit when I first saw this at the Stanley Warner theater back in 1990. The film has it’s flaws and wears it’s influences proudly on it’s sleeve, but it is an effective sci-fi chiller that can be brutal, gruesome and yet very comic book all at once. Sometimes that blends well, at other times not so much. But overall it is a cult classic and one of the first generation of films to break from the 80s style of filmmaking and embrace the more grim and less over-the-top tone of the 90s, though it does have it’s over-the-top moments, especially when it comes to the gore. A cool and enjoyable little sci-fi/horror…though a little dated at this point…and sadly Stanley never really made good use of the attention the flick got him and this was his only hit, though, he still works proficiently on documentaries and short films.

3 combat robots.

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REVIEW: OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (2013)

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OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (2013)

Olympus is a far fetched but, action packed flick that basically follows the Die Hard formula with a lone hero fighting terrorists in a besieged White House. Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is a former Secret Service agent and friend of President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) who is busted down to a desk job when rescuing the President during a car accident allows the First Lady (Ashley Judd) to be killed. But, old habits ‘Die Hard’ when a well organized and armed North Korean terrorist, Kang (Rick Yune) takes over the While House and with it, the President and his cabinet hostage. Banning gets himself inside and becomes the country’s only hope of rescuing the President and stoping Kang’s plan for nuclear destruction and forcefully uniting the Koreas. As directed by Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua, Olympus moves fast and keeps the action flying along with the bullets and blood providing a solid two hours of sometimes gruesome and brutal entertainment. And this is a good thing as, when all is said and done, the flick is ridiculous and filled with plot holes but, Fuqua keeps us from thinking too much about that with all the carnage that gets hurled our way. The cast are all good with Butler returning to bad ass action star after a string of sub-par romantic comedies. He kicks some major ass and it’s fun to watch him take out the Korean bad guys with brutal efficiency. The rest of the cast are good with Eckhart playing the type of cool President we wish we actually had and Morgan Freeman as The Speaker Of The House, who takes control of the Presidency once Asher and his cabinet become hostages. Rounding out the fine cast is Yune making a sophisticated yet appropriately slimy terrorist, Dylan McDermott as a traitorous ex- agent, Angela Bassett as The Director of the Secret Service and veteran Robert Forester as an army General who doesn’t quite have faith in the one man army already on the inside. Everyone takes their roles seriously and it helps us suspend our disbelief though, I wish Fuqua would have lightened up just a bit and had a little more fun with the outlandish premise. Sometimes Olympus takes itself a little too seriously. The biggest drawback with this flick, however, is that the action is marred by some really sub-par CGI FX with a lot of phony looking CGI blood and bullet hits to go along with the fake looking planes and explosions but, all in all it is an entertaining enough time on the couch and definitely better then the latest Die Hard sequel that was also released earlier this year. Fun as long as you go with it and don’t expect a classic.

3 bullets!

ex2 rating

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