5 DIRECTORS BRINGING NEW BLOOD TO HORROR!

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5 DIRECTORS BRINGING NEW BLOOD TO HORROR!

At Halloween 🎃 time it is when we most think about scary movies, even those of us who watch them all year round. So why not take a look at five individuals who are bringing their own distinct vision to the genre and whom horror fans should be talking more about!…and no, I didn’t forget the ladies, they deserve their own installment, forthcoming!

(To get to the full reviews of the films mentioned, just hit the highlighted titles that link to the corresponding page!)

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Adam MacDonald

 

Adam MacDonald is a Canadian actor and filmmaker who has written and directed two features, thus far, that have made quite an impression. His first film Backcountry is a survival thriller that followed a couple (Jeff Roop and Missy Peregrym) who go camping in the woods. Jealous of his girlfriend’s success, her beau chooses a lesser traveled route to prove himself to her. This puts them within the feeding ground of a massive and very hungry grizzly bear and thus sets up an intense and sometimes brutal last act. His second film Pyewacket is a supernatural thriller which finds a mother and daughter (Laurie Holden and Nicole Muñoz) in conflict over their methods of mourning the death of their husband/father. This propels the occult fascinated teen Leah (Muñoz) to evoke the dark entity Pyewacket to kill her mother. Leah soon learns to be careful what you wish for. Both films use troubled relationships as a catalyst for their stories and Pyewacket especially has some good old fashion scares and chills supported by a strong emotional center. MacDonald is showing a versatility and a depth to his filmmaking. Adam currently wrapped filming on Slasher season 3, so look out for more from this talented new voice in horror!

Nicole Muñoz conjures the wrong spirit in Adam MacDonald’s Pyewacket

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Stevan Mena

 

Stevan Mena is a New York born filmmaker who is a one man production company, writing ,editing, directing, producing and even scoring his own films. He made a splash in 2003 with his low budget slasher Malevolence, which was an old-fashioned horror throwback that echoed both Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Set in and around an abandoned slaughterhouse, it told the chilling story of some bank robbers and their hostages meeting up with serial killer Martin Bristol (Jay Cohen). He followed that up with a horror icon filled horror/comedy called Brutal Massacre, before returning to the saga of Bristol in 2010 with the brutal and intense Bereavement. The second Malevolence film was a prequel telling the story of how serial killer Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby) kidnapped Martin (Spencer List ) as a child and trained him to be his successor. It’s one of the best horrors of the decade IMO. Recently Mena overcame some tragic events to complete his Malevolence trilogy with the independently financed Malevolence 3: Killer. Sequel has an adult Martin (a returning Jay Cohen) leaving a blood soaked trail on the way back to his home town. Mena’s work evokes that of John Carpenter himself and one hopes he returns to the director’s chair sooner than later.

A killer (Jay Cohen) returns home in Stevan Mena’s Malevolence 3: Killer

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Colin Minihan

 

Colin Minihan started out as part of the writing/directing duo known as The Vicious Brothers along with collaborator Stuart Ortiz. Their first film was the fun and spooky found footage paranormal show send up Grave Encounters in 2011. They followed that up with the entertaining and chilling cabin in the woods/alien invasion hybrid Extraterrestrial in 2014. Though co-written with Ortiz, Minihan took the director’s chair solo for the next film It Stains The Sands Red. This was an amusing, bloody and offbeat tale of a lone woman (Brittany Allen) being followed across the desert by a lone zombie. An interesting relationship forms as she fights brutal heat, dehydration and her relentless undead pursuer. Minihan wrote and directed his fourth film on his own with the brutal and intense What Keeps You Alive. One of the years best, it finds a married lesbian couple (Brittany Allen and Hanna Emily Anderson) celebrating their anniversary in a remote cabin in the woods. Soon romantic bliss becomes a battle for survival as one of the women is not who she seems. This flick proves Minihan is a force to be reckoned with, armed with a great script, taunt direction and brilliant work by his lead actresses. Minihan is a filmmaker fans need to be talking more about.

Lover vs lover in Colin Minihan’s brutal and intense What Keeps You Alive

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Anthony Diblasi

 

Boston born Anthony Diblasi is another filmmaker showing great versatility and a mastery of horror while also providing some emotional depth to his films. His first film Dread was a chilling tale of a college documentary project about fear, spinning horribly out of control. His next film Cassadaga, found deaf art teacher Lily (Kelen Coleman) being haunted by the spirit of a murdered young woman whose killer may have his sights set next on the pretty teacher. Diblasi worked on some non-genre projects and the horror anthology The Profane Exhibit before co-writing and directing The Last Shift in 2014. One of his scariest flicks, the story found a young policewoman being given the final shift in a haunted police precinct closing it’s doors in the morning…but can she survive the night? Diblasi returned to horror again in 2015 with Most Likely To Die, an old fashioned slasher about a high school reunion turned deadly, and again in 2018 with Extremity. His latest finds an emotionally troubled woman turning to an extreme haunt to make her face her fears…bad idea. The film was not only disturbing and scary, but had a strong emotional lining with multi-dimensional characters and commentary about abuse and the lives it effects. Another filmmaker that is bringing a distinct voice to the horror genre.

Emotionally troubled Allison (Dana Christina) turns to an extreme haunt to face her fears in Anthony Diblasi’s Extremity

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Oz Perkins

 

Just because one is the son of legendary actor Anthony (Psycho) Perkins, one should not assume actor/director Oz Perkins knows horror…but he does! One of the most interesting filmmakers out there, Perkins has a unique vision and a strong ability to chill to the bone. His first film The Blackcoat’s Daughter finds Rose (Lucy Boynton), a student at a Catholic girls school, given charge of new student Kat (Kiernan Shipka) at break. With almost everyone else gone, Rose starts to realize there is something very wrong with Kat and that she may be in danger. Perkins followed that up with a very atmospheric ghost story I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House. Perkins writes and directs a subtle, yet chilling tale of care nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) coming to live with ailing horror novelist Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss). Soon timid Lily starts to find out that Iris Blum’s inspirations may be far more real than she’d like. It’s a creepy and very effective film. Word has it his next film may be entitled A Head Full Of Ghosts and as he is bringing a very unique style to the genre, he sounds like the right man for the job!

Care nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) finds her charge may have had all too real inspiration for her horror novels in Oz Perkins’ I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House

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So these are five creative forces bringing new blood to horror. Each one is worth screaming about and their films are certainly worth checking out!

…and stay tuned for our second installment taking a look at the creative ladies bringing their unique voices to the genre!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: EXTRATERRESTRIAL (2014)

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EXTRATERRESTRIAL (2014)

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

Written and directed by the Vicious Brothers (Grave Encounters), this flick is a fun homage to cabin in the woods horrors, alien abduction flicks and has a delightfully 80s horror movie feel to it.

Story opens with a woman (Ginger Snaps’ Emily Perkins) running hysterically to a closing gas station and begging for help. Turned away by an obnoxious clerk, she runs to the phone booth where both she and the booth are snatched up into the sky before she can complete her 911 call. We then cut to pretty April (Brittany Allen) who is going with friends to her family’s soon-to-be-sold remote cabin for a weekend stay to take pictures for the realtor…and do a bit of partying. Once there, they witness an object crash into the woods and upon investigating, discover a disc-like craft and some very inhuman footprints. Back at the cabin, they have a terrifying encounter with the occupant and the creature is shot and falls into the pool, presumed dead. Now they are being hunted by otherworldly beings and according to local pot grower/conspiracy theorist Travis (a fun Michael Ironside), they have broken a treaty between the extraterrestrials and the U.S. Government and the aliens will find them and make them pay. Is there any escape for them?

I had a very good time with this flick and found it a really fun homage to a number of favorite types of horror. The Vicious Brothers script pays tribute to not only alien abduction themed chillers, but to the old remote cabin scenario, and maybe even a touch of Friday The 13th, too. Under their direction, the film has a distinctly 80s vibe and is quite colorful and loaded with spooky action and impressive FX sequences. The filmmakers also proudly incorporate far too many clichés to be anything, but an intentional homage…and as such, it’s a lot of fun. The film has some intense scenes…especially in the last act…but is more of an outright sci-fi/monster flick and is a very entertaining one at that. There are some top notch visual and make-up FX to portray our creatures, as well as, their ships and abilities, and a fun and surprising amount of gore to illustrate their carnage. The movie has an 80s look as filmed by Samy Inayeh and a really effective score by the Canadian band Blitz//Berlin. Maybe not an altogether original movie, but it used the traditional elements wisely and mixed the homages very well.

The cast are all fine and play their roles effectively. Brittany Allen makes a good heroine with her resilient and strong April. Freddie Stroma is likable as April’s loving boyfriend, Kyle. Melanie Papalia plays cute, loyal friend Melanie. Jesse Moss is appropriately grating as party animal Seth…the “Hudson” of the group. Anja Savcic is pretty, but doesn’t get to do much, as Seth’s girlfriend Lex and Gil Bellows is solid as the local sheriff with a personal interest in what is going on. As for the genre familiar guest stars, Perkins is good as the hysterical mom who’s lost her husband and child to the visitors and Ironside is a hoot in a lighter role than we are used to seeing him, as the stoner/conspiracy theorist Travis. A solid cast.

I think this is a very fun movie. Some may criticize the film for using far too many familiar elements, but in my opinion, they are paraded out proudly and far too often to be anything but an intentional homage. It has some intense action, top notch SPFX, a great 80s horror vibe and a last scene that is not only disturbing, but a deviously amusing nod to a classic TV show that I won’t spoil. It’s not anything we haven’t seen before, but it uses the clichés well and in a very entertaining manner and every now and then splashes the screen with some fun gore. The Vicious Brothers…like with Grave Encounters…know we are familiar with a lot of the tropes and just have a good time with them without the pretension of pretending they are showing us something new. It’s a really fun and possibly underrated sci-fi/horror.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2… well…you know.

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BARE BONES: GINGER SNAPS on BLU-RAY

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GINGER SNAPS (2000) on BLU-RAY

I’m normally not one for product reviews, but am so very happy that this cult classic (full movie review here) has finally been given the love it deserves by the awesome folks at Scream Factory. This label just keeps delivering these wonderful editions of horror cult classics and giving fan favorites and obscure guilty pleasures the respect they deserve with pristine restored prints and engaging extras. Ginger Snaps is finally presented in it’s Anamorphic Widescreen glory (1.78:1) and has a nice DTS 5.1 sound mix. I don’t have the best sounds system, but it sounded really good to me and the picture was clear and had only some mild graininess in some of the darker scenes, but this is a low budget horror movie and that is just fine. The colors are rich, but not over-saturated, so they look natural and the picture is certainly better quality then any other presentation before it. There are some nice featurettes and deleted scenes along with commentary and new interviews from director and co-writer John Fawcett and Karen Walton as well as leading lady Emily Perkins. Obviously the presence of star Katharine Isabelle is sadly missing, but Scream Factory claims communication with the actress’ representatives went unanswered. Too bad. Otherwise this is a must buy for fans of this Canadian cult classic horror.

… and DAMN! Emily Perkins looks good in those new interviews!

three and one half stars rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: STEPHEN KING’S IT (1990)

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STEPHEN KING’S IT (1990)

Based on Stephen King’s book, this TV mini-series was first aired back in November of 1990 and it’s taken me quite a long time but, I have finally caught up with it. To be clear, I haven’t read the book so, I am viewing the movie as a movie and not comparing it to the original source material for which I am not familiar.

Book based horror tells the story of 7 childhood friends in the small Maine town of Derry, where, at this time, there have been a rash of murders and disappearances of small children including the little brother of one of the group. And soon after, the group themselves become terrorized by something evil in the form of a horrifying clown who calls himself Pennywise (Tim Curry). The creature preys on their fears and weaknesses until the seven friend’s finally gather the courage to enter the abandoned sewer plant where they believe this creature lives and after a terrifying confrontation, appear to have defeated it. But, they make a promise that if “It” ever returns they would come together and fight the creature once more… But, after 30 years their worst nightmares come true and children start to disappear or are found murdered again in Derry and the call is raised for the “Loser’s Club” to rejoin and keep their promise. But, the horrors of what happened in 1960 are hard to overcome and worse yet, the mysterious and sinister Pennywise knows they are coming and is more than ready. Can the group defeat their own fears and reunite to put this fiend to rest once and for all… or will they all finally fall victim to the monstrous clown… or whatever it is that has haunted this town for generations?

TV movie directed by John Carpenter alumni Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III, the original Fright Night II), who also adapted King’s book with Lawrence D. Cohen, is a well made and entertaining film though a bit long-winded when watched all at once instead of broken up into two parts as when it was originally aired. The film starts off in 1990 as we are first treated to the murder of a poor child by the fleetingly glimpsed Pennywise and then slowly over the course of the first 90 minutes we are introduced to the main characters both as children and adults and then shown the horrifying events that take place in 1960 that lead up to the being’s temporary defeat and the pact made to return if need be. The narrative is a little choppy but, it smoothes out after about 3/4 of an hour and since King likes to add extensive detail and backgroud to his many characters, it’s easy to see why the filmmakers weren’t 100% successful in relaying that to screen even with 3 hours to work with. The narrative is much smoother in it’s second half as it builds to the reunion of friends and then it’s climactic confrontation. Even with the uneven narrative in the first act, the film is effective and creepy fun, especially when Curry is onscreen as Pennywise. He really nails the whole scary clown thing and seems to be having a blast as the sinister villain. It’s in the final battle when sadly It let’s us down as the film turns into another movie altogether once the creature, in it’s true form, is revealed. Not only does the climax become a routine monster movie complete with a generic creature, but, it robs us of what we have been wanting to see all along, Pennywise getting what’s coming to him. The creature in true form is basically a monstrous spider and while I liked the charming stop-motion animation from Terminator FX man Gene Warren Jr. and his Fantasy II Film Effects, it simply doesn’t resonate and is devoid of what made the film work for the last 2 and 1/2 hours, Curry’s creepy clown. Overall, I think Wallace did a good job and he certainly learned from Carpenter as evidence by his camera angles and Richard Leiterman’s Dean Cundey-esque cinematography but, the film’s cheesy monster movie (and I love cheesy monster movies) ending doesn’t give his film the horrifying and powerful climax the story needs. Whether it was the script or the book itself that disappoints… though friends assure me the book does not… we need this to end with an intense bang and not a whimper. And despite all it gets right, the film does end on a whimper and that is really sad because otherwise, this was a very engaging and fun horror flick with talented people involved on all fronts from behind the camera to a fine cast.

And as for the cast, Wallace get’s good work out of them all, but, obviously Curry takes the creepy ball and runs with it and makes this his show. Pennywise is a true cinema villain with Curry under the grease paint and it’s sad he is replaced by Boris the spider at the climax. The rest of the cast both young and adult actors are good. We have… Richard Thomas as adult Bill Denbrough with Johathan Brandis as young Bill, Annette O’Toole as adult Beverly Marsh with Ginger Snaps‘ Emily Perkins as young Beverly, John Ritter as adult Ben Hanscom and Brandon Crane as young Ben, Harry Anderson as adult Richie Tozier and Buffy’s Seth Green as young Richie, Fade To Black’s Dennis Christopher as adult Eddie Kaspbrak and Adam Faraizi as young Eddie, Tim Reid as adult Mike Hanlon and Marlon Taylor as young Mike with last, but not least, Richard Mazur as adult Stanley Uris with Ben Heller as young Stan. They all do a good job giving some personality to their characters, both in young and adult incarnations and are an endearing bunch. A solid cast who perform their roles well though, all upstaged by Curry and, as he is to haunt their nightmares, rightfully so!

So, I will say I enjoyed It and am now curious to read the book. The ending did let me down, although it was the type of ending I would have enjoyed if it were attached to a low budget monster movie and not the finale that we were building three hours up to. Overall, I would still recommend it as a creepy good time and one of the better TV made movies around, it’s just a shame that it falls short of classic status due to a final act which doesn’t live up to the rest of the film’s promise.

3 creepy clowns.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GINGER SNAPS 2 and GINGER SNAPS BACK

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GINGER SNAPS 2: UNLEASHED (2004)

(WARNING!: if you have not seen the original Ginger Snaps, this review contains spoilers for that film.)

Actually a pretty decent sequel, Unleashed finds an infected Bridgette (Emily Perkins) fighting the transformation while being haunted by her dead sister, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and hunted by a male werewolf looking to mate. She first finds herself stuck in a women’s clinic where the staff attributes her claims of lycanthropy as a product of her addiction to the monkshood, which is actually slowing the transformation. But there she meets, Ghost (Tatiana Maslany) a strange, comic book obsessed girl, but the only one who believes her, so she reluctantly bonds with her. As her perspective mate draws near, Bridgette and Ghost escape to Ghost’s home deep in the woods for a final confrontation with a few surprises of it’s own.

Brett Sullivan does a good job of continuing John Fawcett’s saga yet making this flick in his own style. The first half is a little slow, but Bridgette’s plight in the clinic is well done and holds our interest and gives us a little time to catch up with the character since we last saw her and get to know the eccentric Ghost. Sullivan then cranks things up quite a bit once the vicious male finds and invades the clinic and the girls subsequently escape to the cabin to take it on. There is some nice gore and the film has a different visual style then the first film, but not one that alienates fans of that film. There are some likable supporting characters such as clinic director Alice (Janet Kidder) and unlikable ones like jerk orderly Tyler (Eric Johnson) and Sullivan gets serviceable performances out of them all including strong work from his leads especially Maslany who really gives new character, Ghost some interesting quirks and layers. There is some nice suspense and action especially in the last act and overall it’s a sequel that should keep Ginger Snaps fans happy enough and certainly doesn’t dishonor the cult classic original. A better than average sequel.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 sexy she-wolves!

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Ginger Snaps Back The Beginning (2004)

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GINGER SNAPS BACK: THE BEGINNING (2004)

Grant Harvey helms the second sequel which is actually a prequel/retelling set in the 1800s that was shot back to back with Ginger Snaps 2. Frontier set film opens with the Fitzgerald sisters, or their ancestors, it’s never quite clear, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Bridgette (Emily Perkins) lost in the wilderness and finding there way to a remote outpost that is besieged by werewolves who are slowly decimating the occupants. The girls are reluctantly let in, as they don’t trust strangers, but since they were led there by an Indian hunter (Nathaniel Arcand) well known to the men, they gain entrance. Soon after, Ginger is bitten by the lycanthrope infected son of the fort leader, Wallace (Tom McCamus) who hid the boy in a small room to avoid him being destroyed by his men. So now the sisters have to deal with not only the wolves prowling outside, but the distrust of the frightened men inside and a slowly transforming Ginger.

Third Ginger Snaps took an interesting route and it works well enough. The film has a nice visual style to complement the setting and story with a lot of scenes lit by fire and filled with menacing shadows. There is a lot of gory action especially during it’s last act that involves touches of hallucinations from Indian practices and a siege on the fort by the wolves led by Ginger. It’s an entertaining addition to the series that, while not fully explaining itself, does seem to set up the curse and the possible bloodline to connect to the original Ginger Snaps, if you want to view the girls here as ancestors. It has it’s flaws such as some very stereotypical characters and basically a replay of Ginger’s infection from the original, but the girls carry the movie once again and it gets points for going a different route. There is also a lot of blood soaked carnage and some nice atmosphere, so when all is said and done, this third Ginger Snaps flick is still bloody fun and fits into the series well.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 sexy she-wolves!

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Check out my review of the original Ginger Snaps!

Also check out what I thought about Katherine Isabelle’s latest movie, the 2013 original horror thriller American Mary and my Halloween Hotties profile of this talented actress…

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GINGER SNAPS (2000)

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GINGER SNAPS (2000)

Canadian horror opens in the prefab suburban neighborhood of Bailey Downs where some kind of wild animal dubbed the “Beast Of Bailey Downs”  is killing the local dogs. But Bailey Downs is also home to the emotionally troubled teenage Fitzgerald sisters, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins). The two sisters have a bizarre fascination with death, they recreate death scenes and photograph themselves in different methods of demise, as well as have a suicide pact. But the older Ginger is starting her menstrual cycle and when the sisters are out one night looking to kidnap the dog of local mean girl, Trina (Danielle Hampton), Ginger has her period and the blood attracts The Beast, a wolf-like creature that attacks and savages her before it’s run over in pursuit of the girls by local drug dealer, Sam (Kris Lemche). But Ginger’s wounds start to heal soon after and within days her behavior starts to become more and more aggressive and the anti-social Ginger starts transforming into a flirtatious high school vamp. But an increased sexual libido and interest in boys isn’t the only thing growing as she is also starting to sprout thick hair in interesting places and a tail…not to mention she’s developed an appetite for the neighborhood dogs. Now Brigitte fears for her sister and turns to Sam, the only other witness to have seen the Beast, to try to help her save Ginger from becoming a monster. But as Ginger’s behavior becomes more and more dangerous and her nails and teeth are starting to grow and sharpen, will it be Brigitte and Sam that need saving?

Director John Fawcett, who co-wrote along with Karen Walton, creates a moody and sometimes gruesome tale that uses lycanthropy as an obvious metaphor for coming of age and the development of sexual urges, but despite the obviousness, he works it quite well into his horror flick that not only reminds us of the confusion of our teens, but provides plenty of chills and thrills as well. He populates his flick with characters that come across as real teens and not caricatures and only the sisters’ parents (Mimi Rogers and John Bourgeois) seem to be more your stereotypical, clueless adults, but it serves the story to have them oblivious to Ginger’s changes with mom happily babbling about how her daughter is a woman now and dad not wanting to hear about all the ‘bloody’ details.

Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins both really come through and give good performances as they basically carry the movie. Both women portray their respective transformations appropriately with Isabelle going from angry Goth girl to sexual predator to monster quite well, giving Ginger both an air of danger ready to explode and a sympathetic sadness of a young girl who’s becoming something that’s beyond her control. Perkins takes the shy girl used to hiding behind her more protective big sister, and turns her into a strong willed young woman ready to both fight the monster her sister is becoming, but at the same time, save her as she’s not willing to give up on her despite Ginger’s increasing homicidal tendencies. A major part of why the film works is because of the performances Fawcett gets out of his leading ladies. Add to that his mix of teen angst movie and bloody horror flick with a dash of satiric humor and you get a very underrated flick that is considered a cult classic by many…myself included.

Ginger Snaps is not perfect, it’s slow paced at times and while that gives time for character development, it also takes it a while to get to it’s tense and bloody last act. The make-up FX are a little rubbery, but I still prefer the practical approach over CGI any day.

A sadly overlooked and underrated horror flick that deserves better attention and a proper blu-ray release. UPDATE: The awesome folks at Scream Factory are releasing this on blu-ray on 7/22/14! Here’s my review of this great disc!

Also check out my look at the sequels and Katherine Isabelle in her latest role as the title character in the 2013 original horror thriller American Mary! and click on her name above for our Halloween Hotties focus on this beautiful and talented actress!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 sexy she-wolves!

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