now playing



(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Story finds Beth (Emilia Jones), her sister Vera (Taylor Hickson) and their mother, Pauline (Mylène Farmer) moving into a creepy house they’ve inherited. That very night they are attacked by two deranged individuals (Rob Archer and Kevin Power) they encountered earlier on the road driving a candy truck. Vera is raped before mom savagely kills the intruders. The film picks up many years later with adult Beth (Crystal Reed) a wife, mother and now a famous horror author. One day she gets a panicked phone call from the emotionally damaged Vera (Anastasia Phillips), who still lives in the creepy old house with mom. Beth returns to the old home to check up on them and finds out there is still something very wrong going on in that house.

Disturbing flick is written and directed by Pascal Laugier (Martyrs) who certainly knows disturbing. It doesn’t quite reach Martyrs territory, but comes close with it’s brutal beatings and the swollen and bloody faces warn by our leads. It’s extremely effective, especially after we get our midpoint reveal, but also very unpleasant to sit through. It’s a tough film to watch as the sisters are continually abused by these two deranged individuals, dressed up like dolls, shackled and worse. It’s also set in a house that is very unsettling in itself, with it’s dark hallways and rooms filled with creepy toys. The design of the home and it’s furnishings is quite spooky and does give the film atmosphere. As for the sadistic and deranged intruders, they are given no background or motivation, other than Vera giving them the finger, for their attack on the family and we never even get names for them. The one listed in the cast as “Fat Man” (Archer) seems to be a bit of a perverted man-child, while his androgynous partner “The Candy Truck Woman” (Kevin Power) is the only one that talks and only when he/she has something disturbing to say. They work, but it seems to be all senseless brutality without some kind of character depth to give their vile behavior some weight or point.

Cast is small but effective with Crystal Reed giving her Beth a strength despite what she is going through and Anastasia Phillips evoking a lot of sympathy as the emotionally disturbed and abused Vera. As their younger selves, Emilia Jones and Taylor Hickson are also good. Mylène Farmer is solid as their mother, Pauline and is especially effective in the scenes where she protects her young daughters. Not much is known about our intruders, but Rob Archer and Kevin Power make them very effective and frightening.

Overall, much like Martyrs, it’s very effective though extremely unpleasant. It never gets quite as horrific as that movie, but has some brutal moments. The opening scenes are violent and effective and the mid-film reveal is startling, though not unexpected. By the last act, though, we are getting tired and numbed to all the unpleasantness and abuse and thankfully the film is a quick 90 minutes. While a well made film, not one which viewers can say they enjoyed. Also, not something one needs to watch again.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 creepy dolls (out of 4).










now playing



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

Grim western tells the story of Liz (Dakota Fanning), a midwife married to a widower and with a child of her own. One day a mysterious, scarred preacher (Guy Pearce) comes to town, a man of the cloth that Liz knows from her past and greatly fears. This preacher knows her as well and proclaims that he has come to make the young woman suffer and bring her to retribution. Who is this man and what has Liz done to incur his wrath?

Over the next two and one half hours of writer/director Martin Koolhoven’s harrowing film, we go into Liz’s past to find out the answers to those very questions…and a harsh journey it is. The film is told in four parts with the middle two parts going back further and further into the story to tell us  how this quest for revenge began and how and if “Liz” earned it. It is not a pleasant journey and we bare witness to some cruel and hard events, as well as, some shockingly graphic violence along the way. To go in depth too much would be to spoil the mystery and even if he crafts an unpleasant film, Koolhoven does make an intriguing one, whose mysteries we want answers to. It’s suspenseful and many of the images and events we witness have impact and weight that stays with us. The film takes us through a series of sometimes unpleasant events that bring us to where our story opens…and then comes to an equally harsh and unsettling finish. It’s not perfect. At 148 minutes, it is a bit long, especially as it is not a happy tale and there are a few glaring mysteries left unanswered, such as how one character escaped what seems like a certain death. Add to that, the overall unpleasantness of the story and some of it’s subject matter and you have a well crafted film that is not always easy to watch. On a technical level it is a solid production with Koolhoven showing he knows how to frame a shot. There is nice cinematography by Rogier Stoffers and an effective soundtrack by Junkie XL along with some effective sets and settings for within which the story takes place.

The cast are all quite good, which helps keep us with this grim tale. Dakota Fanning proves quite the strong actress in her portrayal of Liz. We have a woman with a past who will fight to save the family she now has, but as strong as she is, this “Preacher” fills her with dread and fear and she conveys that to the audience, so we share her feelings. It is a solid performance with many facets for the young actress to portray…and she portrays them well. Guy Pearce is imposing as the mysterious and vicious “Preacher”. Whether his quest for retribution is just or not, he is a vicious and cruel man. He commits horrible acts and even as we go back into the past to see how this story began to unfold, we are treated to a hard and sometimes brutal man, who seems to be using his religion to excuse his actions. Pearce really gives this man a black heart that makes the character truly frightening. Emilia Jones is also very good as the younger “Liz” who goes by another name. Jones has to act out some very harsh and uncomfortable scenarios and the young actress does very strong work and it makes for a seamless portrayal of the younger version of Fanning’s frontier midwife in peril. The cast also features good work from supporting actors such as Carice van Houten as “Liz’s” mother and Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington as an outlaw who crosses paths with our main characters at one point.

This was a very well made film, but not one you could say you enjoyed. It deals with some harsh subject matter and is sometimes cruel and unpleasant. One can definitely appreciate the talent of the director/writer and the craft of his cast, but it still is a tough watch at times. It is a bit long, even though it has a lot of story to tell and even at it’s length, there are some questions that remain. Recommended, but only with the understanding that this is not a pleasant film by any stretch.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 guns.