BARE BONES: AUTOMATION (2019)

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AUTOMATION (2019)

Automation tells a familiar story set in the near future about a robot, affectionally named “Auto”, who is put to work as a prototype at a small company. Auto does his job well, so well that the owner Susan (Sadie Katz) wants to replace her workforce with robots and scrap Auto for the new and improved models. Auto, has become quite human-like in his emotional responses and finding out he is about to be scrapped, activates his former programing as a combat robot and even his human crush Jenny (Elissa Dowling) may now be in danger.

Stories of robots gaining human feelings and reacting badly to the idea of being shut down are not new, but director Garo Setian gives it enough charm and effectiveness to entertain, despite the familiarity. His script, written along with Rolfe Kanefsky and Matthew L. Schaffer, makes Auto very likable, which in turn makes his relationship with wannabe singer Jenny work very well. This gives us conflicting feelings and keeps us sympathetic when Auto starts to enter combat mode and kills. Do we cheer for him, or boo him? We don’t hate Auto. As he and Jenny’s relationship works so well, we are certainly sympathetic for her when she has to choose to try to stop Auto to save her co-workers. There is violence, but it is not too over-the-top to disrupt the film’s balance, but it does make Auto a threat when he needs to be. A fun and well made little movie that uses a familiar story very well. Also stars low budget horror film fixture Graham Skipper as an employee who resorts to desperate actions upon finding out he’s going to be replaced.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR (2019)

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GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR (2019)

Flick has Don Koch (Phil Brooks, a.k.a. former WWE Superstar CM Punk) trying to right past wrongs for his pregnant wife, Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) by buying an old house and renovating it. The house has a history, though, and there were acts committed in the former brothel that may come back to haunt Don and his family…literally.

Haunted house horror is effectively directed by Travis Stevens from a script and story by he, Paul Johnstone and Ben Parker. The flick is entertaining, though a bit uneven, which does hold it back a little. There are some nice subtle, spooky touches early on in the proceedings, some good gore and some amusingly bonkers stuff here and there that achieve more Evil Dead II level supernatural hi-jinx. There are also stretches that are a bit dull, the tone is a little uneven and it’s hard to feel concerned or sorry…not that we’re supposed to…for Don when he is such a jerk. Don cheats on his wife, he deceived his clients, he’s a liar, a drinker and just seems like a bit of an all around a-hole in general. It’s like he’s getting what’s coming to him, especially when dealing with the sexy, mysterious and troublesome Sarah (Sarah Brooks). As such, it’s hard to sympathize and be afraid for a guy meeting the karma train head on. By centering the film on an unlikable character, you get more apathy than empathy from your audience, whether his comeuppance is the point or not. The flick does switch focus to his far more likable wife in the last act and douche Don seems to disappear for quite some time, while his pregnant spouse then deals with the horrors of the house. The sudden switch of focus is s a little off-putting, but we do like and fear for Liz far more and it makes for a very effective last act.

On a production level, the flick looks great and the FX well rendered. Stevens also makes great use of the old house location. The cast are fine with Brooks doing a good job in a role that is often a one man (and dog) show at times and pretty Trieste Kelly Dunn doing strong work when she shows up in the last act and the house reveals all. Sarah Brooks (no relation to Phil) is both sexy and spooky as Sarah, Karen Woditsch is good as insightful neighbor Ellie and Travis Delgado is effective as Don’s fed-up friend Milo.

Overall, flick is definitely worth a watch. A few things hold it back from firing on all cylinders, but it is atmospheric, spooky and can be both effectively subtle and delightfully over-the-top when it needs to be. There is some good gore, a few novel twists added to the haunted house tropes and the cast are all solid. Travis Stevens could be a filmmaker to keep an eye on.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) marbles.

 

 

 

 

 

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