HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MUSE (2017)

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MUSE (MUSA) (2017)

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

Spanish horror flick from [REC]‘s Jaume Balagueró finds Professor Samuel Solomon (Elliot Cowan) at an Irish college having an affair with one of his students (Manuela Vellés). She makes him promise to love her forever and then commits suicide in his own tub. A year later he begins to have strange dreams of the ritualistic murder of a woman (Leonor Watling) he’s never met. When the murder actually occurs, he begins to investigate with the help of Rachel (Ana Ularu), a single mother who was having the same dream. They find out about the existence of a sect, The White Circle, who believed in seven supernatural women, muses, who infiltrate our world through the words they inspire mortals to write. Members of the sect have all died and now the seven muses may be coming for Rachel and Sam.

Flick is filmed in English and directed by Jaume Balagueró from a script by he and Fernando Navarro (who ironically also co-wrote Verónica with Paco Plaza), based on a book by José Carlos Somoza. There are some very spooky moments here and some bloody ones as well. The story is a bit different with a focus on this group of seven supernaturally empowered women who manipulate things through the words and poetry they inspire writers to write…and not all of their inspirations are good. On paper, in Somoza’s book, a lot of what happens probably worked very well, especially with the pages to develop ideas and plot points. On film, though, things get a bit convoluted and some of the story elements start to feel made up as the film goes along. It is atmospheric and there are some very chilling and disturbing moments, but the story almost starts to feel it’s rambling a bit, before it comes to a conclusion that’s pretty much spelled out before the last act confrontation begins. Overall, it’s not a bad film, Just maybe not one easily translated from book to film and therefor we don’t get the full impact of the original tale, even if much of it is effectively done.

The cast is fine. Elliot Cowan tires hard as Professor Solomon, though comes across as a tad bland. His character also seems to dive right into the supernatural elements a little too easily for someone still suffering emotional trauma. Ana Ularu is sympathetic and a bit mysterious as Rachel. She will do anything to protect her son, which has her in practical slavery to the unsavory owner of a strip club. Franka Potente is solid as a close associate of Solomon who gets dragged into the supernatural drama. Flick also stars veteran Christopher Lloyd as the last remaining member of The White Circle, who is in hiding and a chilling Joanne Whalley as one of the seven ladies, Jacqueline.

This was a decent supernatural tale. It had an interesting premise, was atmospheric and had some spooky moments. Drawbacks are sometimes the film feels like the story is being made up as it goes and it gets a bit convoluted in the second half. It is based on a novel and maybe the story simply doesn’t translate that well to film. Some tales are better told on paper, despite a good filmmaker like Balagueró at the helm.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 razor blades.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: VERÓNICA (2017)

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VERÓNICA (2017)

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

Spanish horror flick from [REC]‘s Paco Plaza takes place in 1991 and is based on a real police report. The story opens with a frantic 911 call and police arriving at an apartment to find something horrible has occured. We then go back a few days to find teen Verónica (Sandra Escacena) conducting a seance at school during a total eclipse to talk to her dead father. Something goes wrong and now a dark spirit follows her home and preys on her and her three siblings (Bruna González, Claudia Placer and Iván Chavero). Can Verónica protect her little brother and sisters from this malevolent entity and what did police find on that fateful night?

Directed by Plaza from a script by he and Fernando Navarro, there is nothing new here story-wise, even if based on a real-life incident. All the demonic haunting clichés are present, but it’s how Plaza uses them that still makes this an effective flick. The director takes some very familiar tropes and uses them to spooky effect as he tells this tale of a teen being stalked by a very vicious spirit will ill intent. He separates the kids from their widowed mom (Ana Torrent) having her working all day and night at the family owned business, thus leaving the children without guidance and protection, save for Verónica…who has no clue what to do. She turns to the creepy blind nun (Consuelo Trujillo) at school for help and while this character is also a cliché, she is a spooky sister and provides some ominous exposition to the terrified teen. Again, the tropes work. We get some some really effective use out of shadow figures, gross stains, nightmare sequences and moving objects and it’s a sign of a talented director that some very familiar stuff, still gives us the creeps. The climactic posting of the actual police report and events that followed also leaves us with a chill. Add to that a spooky score by Chucky Namanera and we have a creepy little flick despite having seen pretty much everything before.

The cast is good, especially lead Sandra Escacena as Verónica. She plays a teen interested in the occult and seeing it as a way to talk to the father she misses. She also portrays well the fear of a teen whose made a dire mistake and now must try to correct it and protect her family, even if no one believes her. Bruna González, Claudia Placer and little Iván Chavero are cute as her little siblings and each get to act in some spooky sequences and do so, well. Consuelo Trujillo is very creepy as the blind nun dubbed “Sister Death” by the Catholic school’s students and Ana Torrent is solid as the mother who works till exhaustion, though still cares about her kids. She’s the skeptic in the scenario and just thinks this is just a byproduct of Verónica spending too much time with her supernatural hobby. This isolates the teen emotionally, weakening her for the entity.

This was a completely unoriginal flick, even if supposedly based on fact, but also a good example of how a talented director can still make an effective chiller out of oft used material. The story has been done before, the tropes are nothing new, but this is still a spooky flick with a good cast to make the characters likable and sympathetic. As his resume shows, Plaza can do spooky and with this tale of a teen haunted by a demonic entity, he does just that. Recommended especially if you are a fan of supernatural chillers and like the familiar trappings.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 planchettes.

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