BARE BONES: BOOK OF MONSTERS (2018)

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BOOK OF MONSTERS (2018)

When Sophie (Jessica Fay) was eight years-old, her mother used to read to her from an ancient book called The Book of Monsters…until one of those monsters dragged her mother under her bed and killed her. No one, including her father (Nicholas Vince), believed her and she was sent to an institution for a year. Ten years later on her eighteenth birthday, Sophie (now Lyndsey Craine) is given the Book of Monsters by her father. Smart move dad! Obviously, the monsters are unleashed during her birthday party and it become a bloodbath, as she and her friends have to fight for their lives.

UK Horror/comedy is directed by Stewart Sparke from a script by Paul Butler and is a fun 84 minutes, if you can get past the blatantly stupid plot device of Sophie’s dad giving her a book for her birthday that traumatized her as a child. The flick looks good enough for a Kickstarter movie made for under $100,000 and the gore is plentiful and it’s low budget monsters are simple yet effective. Sparke does conjure some spooky sequences and mixes the comedy and horror fairly well. The cast are all attractive and do a fine job, with Craine making a cute and endearing heroine. Sure there are plot contrivances and conveniences to move things along and it can be very predictable, but it’s bloody, homage-paying heart is in the right place. Also stars Lizzie Stanton, Rose Muirhead and Michaela Longden as Sophie’s friends Beth, Jess and Mona. Watch through the credits for the traditional sequel set-up.

Available on Amazon Prime and other VOD platforms.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE GOLEM (2019)

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THE GOLEM (2019)

Period horror takes place in Lithuania in 1673 and is steeped in Jewish mythology. A woman named Hanna (Hani Furstenberg) is still in mourning seven years after the death of her little boy. She is terrified at the idea of having another child with her husband Benjamin (Ishai Golan) and is scorned by his father, the village rabbi (Lenny Ravitz). A nearby community is ravaged by plague and the leader Vladimir (Alexey Tritenko) blames the Jewish settlement who are unaffected. When he and his thugs take her village hostage, Hanna uses forbidden knowledge in the Kabbalah to raise a Golem, an elemental creature, to defend them. Unforeseen complications arise, however, when The Golem proves not only uncontrollable, but takes the form of a little boy the same age as her dead son.

Film is directed by the Paz Brothers (Doron and Yoav who directed Jeruzalem) from a script by Ariel Cohen. The setting and the fact that the story is filled with Jewish mythology makes it intriguing and gives it a lot of atmosphere. The Paz Brothers also achieve some effectively spooky scenes and there is some disturbing violence, too. They get good work out of their cast and make excellent use of the Ukrainian locations. The film does evoke the classic story of Frankenstein as Hanna’s creation harms villagers and invaders alike protecting his “mother”, but also reminds one of the 80s cult classic Pumpkinhead as Hanna feels any pain that is inflicted on her elemental offspring. An intriguing and effective film from two filmmakers to keep an eye on.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE LODGERS (2017)

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THE LODGERS (2017)

Creepy flick is set in 1920’s Ireland in an old mansion where twins Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) preside alone after the suicide of their parents. There is something unnatural there with them, something that decrees that they must be in bed by midnight, never let in strangers and never leave the estate. But their trust fund has run out and Rachel starts to feel the desires of womanhood when handsome Sean (Eugene Simon) comes home from the war. Can Rachel escape the curse and her increasingly disturbed brother, or is there a worse fate in store for her?

Irish supernatural thriller is stylishly directed by Brian O’Malley (Let Us Prey) from a script by David Turpin. The film is loaded with atmosphere and is very creepy, especially when we get some last act details on what fate awaits the twins and some truths about their family’s past. It’s a methodically paced film and is more about the mood of dread and foreboding than physical horror, though there is a little bloodshed, too. On that level it works very well in giving us goosebumps as we watch Rachel try to escape this curse that claimed her parents and their parents and so on. If you are looking for body count or intense scares look elsewhere, as this is about a prevailing spookiness which director O’Malley provides. He has a really effective visual style and makes great use of the decrepit old house setting and some water based imagery for the supernatural elements. There is some really atmospheric cinematography by Richard Kendrick and an appropriately Gothic score credited to Stephen Shannon, Kevin Murphy and writer David Turpin. It’s a slow burn chiller, but if you go in expecting something more on a Crimson Peak level, it is very unsettling and spooky.

The cast was very effective as well. Charlotte Vega presents us with a sad young woman, who is determine not to share the fate of her parents and ancestors. She evokes the feeling of being trapped in an undeserved fate, yet also gives us the tinges of desire of a woman come of age. Bill Milner is very creepy as the deranged Edward. He embraces his cursed life completely and he can be very chilling as he tries to convince his twin to accept it, too. Rounding out the main cast is Eugene Simon as handsome WWI vet Sean. Sean is rejected by the townsfolk upon his return for fighting with the English. That combined with the loss of a leg, makes him a lonely and sympathetic character, who finds a kinship with Rachel aside from the physical attraction. It makes for an interesting triangle as Edward’s unnatural attachment to his sister evokes a growing jealousy.

This flick may not be for everyone, especially those looking for more visceral horror like in O’Malley’s Let Us Prey. It is a more Gothic thriller and thus relies on atmosphere and dark moods to tell it’s tale of supernatural horror. The performances help guide the tale of a family cursed and the director knows how to build tension and dread to go with his spooky visuals. Yes, it’s slow moving and with only a few moments of bloody action, but still a very disturbing and creepy film from Brian O’Malley.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 black birds.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE MONSTER PROJECT (2017)

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THE MONSTER PROJECT (2017)

Found footage horror finds two Youtube pranksters Devon (Justin Bruening) and Jamal (Jamal Quezaire) coming up with a idea for a put-on to find and interview monsters for a Youtube show they dub The Monster Project. They add Jamal’s druggie roommate Bryan (Toby Hemingway) and Devon’s ex Murielle (Murielle Zuker) to the crew and begin advertising for “monsters” to interview. They rent an old creepy house to use as their setting and actually get people claiming to be a vampire (Yvonne Zima), a skin-walker (Steven Flores) and demon possessed girl (Shiori Ideta) answering their ad. As the night and interviews progress, the team start to find out these “monsters” are very real and that their lives are in real danger.

Directed by Victor Mathieu from a script and story by he with Corbin Billings and Shariya Lynn, this is an amusing concept of Youtube video makers getting more than they bargained for. The interview segments are creepy and when their supernatural subject matter turns out to be real, there are some truly spooky and intense sequences, as the vampire, skin-walker wolf and demon girl pursue them all through the maze-like old house. It’s played straight and there is some gore as the four aren’t all lucky enough to evade their fiendish pursuers. The found footage style works here, with even the cop/skin-walker having his own uniform cam as he follows his intended victims. This part of the film is the best and the most entertaining, even with some weak CGI. Where the film stumbles, is where a lot of found footage flicks do. The build-up to the interview/chase segment is nowhere near as interesting, especially when it delves into the drama between Devon and Murielle’s failed relationship and Bryan’s attempts to appear clean when he isn’t. It’s kind of dull and the actors aren’t always up to the task. The film also comes apart a little bit in the last act when there is a reveal which takes the film and the survivors in a different direction. It seemed like it was unnecessary when the simpler plot of the film crew actually finding real monsters was enough to entertain. It takes the simpler premise into different territory and the initial story didn’t need a hidden agenda. It had some spooky moments, too, but also seems to overload the flick in it’s last moments.

For the most part this found footage flick has an amusing set-up and generates some intensity, chills and some fun chase sequences as a crew of Youtube entrepreneurs get exactly what they wished for. There is some decent gore and make-up for a low budget flick and the found footage format works here to the flick’s advantage. Where the flick falters is in the personal drama between some of the characters which is dull and doesn’t add much and that the cast of unknowns aren’t always convincing in their roles. The ending takes the film in an unneeded direction and convolutes things a bit when the simpler premise was working just fine and didn’t need an extra inning. Sometimes less is more, though what we get does have it’s moments. Not the complete success it wants to be, but entertains well enough when it’s working.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 full moons.

 

 

 

 

 

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