BARE BONES: INFRARED (2022)

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INFRARED (2022)

Found footage horror finds paranormal investigator Geoff (Greg Sestero) teaming up with his estranged psychic sister Izzy (Leah Finity) to investigate an abandoned and allegedly haunted school. If personal tensions weren’t enough, the effects of a past tragedy and a sinister presence lurking the halls make this possibly the most real and terrifying episode of Infrared of all! 
 
Flick is written and directed by Robert Livings and Randy Lundlall Jr. and the duo try hard. There are a few spooky sequences, but like most found footage flicks it takes a long time to really get going and we spend at least an hour with Geoff and Izzy’s personal melodrama. It follows the formula almost too closely with anything interesting happening in the last act and then it ends suddenly with a cheap jump scare. Yes, there is an unexpected element that is revealed near the end, but it comes too little and too late to make things interesting and not enough is done with it before the credits roll. At least the directors give the flick a bit of a found footage feel, most of the time, though an overacting Jesse Janzen as the eccentric property owner Wes comes across as nothing but scripted hijinks. Seen worse. Seen better. Infrared premiers on VOD on 7/22/22 on the Terror Films Channel and 7/29/22 on all other digital streaming outlets.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: MEGAN IS MISSING (2011)

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MEGAN IS MISSING (2011)

Extremely unpleasant found footage thriller tells the story of Megan Stewart (Rachel Quinn), a promiscuous 14-year-old party girl who is friends with good girl Amy Herman (Amber Perkins). Megan meets a guy named Josh (Dean Waite) online and begins to chat with him. She leaves her home to go meet Josh one night and disappears without a trace. Amy tries to help authorities find her friend, while documenting her own feelings about the disappearance. Unfortunately, this earns the sweet natured girl the wrong kind of attention.
 
Flick written and directed by Michael Goi was originally made in 2011 and based on some real disappearances. The decade old found footage feature has become a bit of an internet sensation recently when it was featured on Tik Tok. The film in itself is very effective in a few unsettling ways. While like most found footage movies there are some slow parts, it’s the first and last act that are the most disturbing. The first act has some very shocking portrayals of underage drinking and sexual activity amongst kids barely in their teens that is chilling in itself. Then we watch the mystery unfold for the second act as Amy tries to figure out what happened and speaks online to the increasing hostile Josh, who denies he met Megan on that fateful night. It’s the final act that really gets stomach churning as Amy gruesomely finds out what really happened to Megan and it’s not pleasant. There is some shocking imagery and just the thought about what happened and happens beyond what we see onscreen is even more chilling. It’s not only a very unsettling and cautionary tale of online predators, but unchecked teenage behavior as well. BE WARNED…the last act is extremely graphic, brutal and disturbing, especially as the subject is an underage teen girl. Goi maintains the illusion we are watching actual footage and his young leads add to the realism with good and natural performances. Megan is Missing made barely a ripple in 2011, but now has attained cult status due to online exposure and a recent wider release on streaming networks. Megan is Missing can be found on Amazon Prime and Google Play, if you dare. It’s not a pleasant watch and the rating here is for effectiveness alone as, this is not an enjoyable or entertaining film in any way.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: GODFORSAKEN (2022)

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GODFORSAKEN (2022)

When documentary filmmaker Chad (Chad Taylor) returns to his hometown for a funeral, he gets an unexpected opportunity to make a new documentary, when the dead girl Lisa (Mélie B. Rondeau) rises from her coffin. He returns with his crew to find out the truth of what has happened, but his dream documentary may become a nightmare the more he and his friends investigate.

Found footage horror is written and directed by Ali Akbar Akbar Kamal and the flick is far more silly than scary. Lisa’s resurrection is seen by some as an act of God and once she starts to perform miracles, the religious community is convinced her actions are divine. One can appreciate the attempted commentary here, but the awful acting and silliness of the proceedings ruins any impact the film strives for. As found footage, it never feels like we’re actually watching real footage as the goings on are too hokey to be taken seriously or seen as anything other than a movie…and a disappointingly bad one at that. Obviously, our crew starts to see that something more sinister than saintly is at work here, but as the events become more obviously evil, the film just gets sillier and sillier till it’s ludicrous finale. Also, at only 75 minutes long, the film still feels tedious, like a TV show episode dragged out to almost feature length. Other cast members include Katie Fleming, Chris Kelly, Domenic Derose, Nicole Fairbairn, JoAnn Bundock, and Flora Burke. Film will be available this Friday 3/25/22 on The Terror Films Channel and on other VOD outlasts 4/8/22.

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HELL HOUSE LLC III-LAKE OF FIRE (2019)

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HELL HOUSE LLC III: LAKE OF FIRE (2019)

Shudder Exclusive takes place nine years after the events of the first film with a new chapter of the story told with new footage. We find that the Abaddon Hotel was finally set to be demolished after all the death and disappearances that have occurred there. It was suddenly purchased in 2018 by entrepreneur Russell Wynn (Gabriel Chytry) to be used to stage his performance show Insomnia. He asked the new host of Morning Mysteries, Vanessa Shepherd (Elizabeth Vermilyea) to cover the set-up of the show with his cast and crew, leading up to opening night. It’s mostly her footage we are witnessing, as once again spooky things are documented occurring at the infamous location, leading up to an opening performance where all Hell breaks loose…literally.

Supposed final film in what is now the Hell House LLC trilogy is once again written and directed by Stephen Cognetti. It’s an improvement over the somewhat disappointing Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel, though not as consistently creepy as the spooky surprise that was the first flick. To a degree it’s more of the same, with a documentary showing footage that was filmed while folks tried to do something spooky within the house and paid dearly for it. The last act does open things up and takes things in a more “Biblical” direction and it’s a matter of horror film preference as to whether one finds it effective, or too over-the-top. Cognetti does build some tension, atmosphere and provide some chills here, despite this being the third go around, and even if the novelty has warn off, he gets credit for taking some risks to conclude his trilogy. The hotel location is as creepy as ever and the cast of unknowns all perform well enough to assist in the suspension of disbelief that this is real footage. There are also some amusing cameos from the other installments that won’t be spoiled here.

Overall, it’s an entertaining finale and while some of it’s wrap-up worked and some of it wasn’t so successful, Cognetti proves he is a filmmaker to keep an eye on. He still can chill with his now familiar format and there is a surprise or two that play with expectations. Hopefully his next film abandons the tired found footage genre and gives us some straight up horror to see what he really has up his sleeve. Most certainly worth a watch, especially if you are a fan.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) scary clown mannequins…who are still in that darn cellar.

 

 

 

 

 

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HELL HOUSE LLC III: LAKE OF FIRE GETS A TRAILER!

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Hell House LLC was a surprisingly spooky found footage flick that, of course, generated a sequel, Hell House LLC II: The Abbadon Hotel. Now filmmaker Stephen Cognetti is back with a third installment, Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire. Threequel finds rich entrepreneur Russell Wynn (Gabriel T. Chytry) buying The Abbadon for his own haunt attraction and inviting pretty journalist Venessa Sheppard (Elizabeth Vermilyea) to record the event. Obviously, they get more than they bargained for. Flick is set to premiere exclusively on Shudder on on 9/19/19!

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-MonsterZero NJ

Source: youtube

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 1 & 2

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Haven’t done one of these in a long time! However, the Halloween season 🎃👻 is approaching and what better way to spend a Saturday night during the spooky season than with a good double feature. Here is a pair of found footage flicks that take place in the world of Halloween Haunts and makes a splendidly spooky double bill to enjoy with some popcorn and pumpkin ale!

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THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT (2014)

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

The Houses October Built is a found footage horror with a simple but fairly novel premise. During the Halloween season, five friends decide to take an RV road trip to seek out and find the most extreme and scary Halloween attractions they can, documenting it all on camera. This includes tracking down an almost mythical attraction called The Blue Skeleton rumored to be the most extreme of all. Obviously, the more intense these attractions get, the stranger the individuals they run into and it increasingly appears this group might be getting more than they bargained for, until they actually find the elusive Blue Skeleton and…as the old saying goes…be careful what you wish for!

I liked this found footage horror, which seems to have grown out of director Bobby Roe’s own 2011 documentary about Halloween attractions with the same name and cast. The film sets up the intriguing idea that there are attractions out there that hire questionable individuals who have no problem crossing boundaries to get the appropriate scares…and are not to be trifled with. The film then illustrates what may happen when a group of thrill-seeking individuals goes looking for such fright experiences and unfortunately finds them. This is not a great flick, but has some very creepy moments, not only from some of the attractions our crew visit, but when they piss off the wrong people and it begins to be clear that they are being followed by some malevolent individuals…or are they being lead? The found footage format makes you feel like you are there with this fairly likable bunch, but the drawback is that I never felt like I was watching anything but actors. They never really make you feel like they are real people, so I wasn’t completely taken in when they appear to be threatened or in harm’s way. The film still has some very effective moments, especially in the last act when things start to go very wrong for our group and the only female, Brandy (Brandy Schaefer) seems to be singled out at times. I will admit, though, that the climax could have used a bit more intensity and shock value to offset the fact that we go into this knowing it won’t end well to some degree. It’s not a groundbreaking film, but it does work on quite a few levels and we can’t help but imagine ourselves in a spot where we are surrounded by individuals who may not know…or care..where the show ends and real terrorizing begins.

So, I did like this flick. I think it’s clever that Roe made a documentary about some really over-the-top Halloween attractions and used what he learned to turn it into a movie. It’s as if this actually happened to him and his crew while they were making the 2011 film. Almost a film within a film, though I have yet to see the original documentary and hope to remedy that. This isn’t a great horror, but it is a spooky enough flick about a hidden dark side to a favorite holiday pastime. It may not ever totally make us feel like we’re watching actual footage, but has enough effective imagery and situations to accomplish a good deal of what it sets out to do. Film was co-written by Roe along with Zack Andrews and Jason Zada and stars Roe, Andrews, Brandy Schaefer, Mikey Roe and Jeff Larson as themselves. If you like Halloween and all the trappings, you’ll probably enjoy this effective little flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) scary clowns… and there are plenty in this flick!

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THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 (2017)

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

The Houses October Built was a  fun found footage horror with a simple premise. During the Halloween season, five friends decide to take an RV road trip to seek out and find the most extreme and scary Halloween attractions they can, documenting it all on camera…of course they got more than they bargained for. The sequel picks up a year later with the group having become internet celebrities due to the broadcasting of their predicament at the hands of The Blue Skeleton on social media. Now Halloween haunts are paying them to come and promote their attractions…all but Brandy (Brandy Schaefer) who is still traumatized. Brandy…now known on the net as “Coffin Girl”…however, is the one the haunts all want promoting their attractions and the gang have to do a lot of convincing…and paying…to get her back in. Brandy eventually agrees, not knowing that someone is watching them and that the The Blue Skeleton group may not be done scaring them yet.

First flick was a lot of fun as it both worked both as a horror flick, yet also dove into the underground world of Halloween haunts. This sequel does the same but opens it up to include Zombie 5k’s and even an “adult” themed haunt. The script by director and actor Bobby Roe, with cast member Zack Andrews, cleverly gets the gang back out there by having them now being paid by the haunts themselves to do what they did last time. Roe keeps the found footage format somewhat, but this one plays more like a movie which works as the feel of legitimate found footage was one of the weaker aspects the first time around. The group’s use of a drone, also opens up the scale with some frequent aerial photography. This sequel does take a little while to get going and may not be as consistently Halloween spirited as the last one, but once things start to get spooky, when our group…Brandy in particular…are being stalked, it gets as fun as the last one. It also has a few surprises up it’s sleeve, especially when the group meets their intended fate at the Hellbent attraction where the familiar blue skull-ed creepers spring their trap. It provides an intense and entertaining last act and shows Bobby Roe has matured as a filmmaker, somewhat, providing some legitimate chills.

The main cast, Zack Andrews, Mike and Bobby Roe, Jeff Larson and Brandy Schaefer, all return and are certainly fine, basically playing themselves. Schaefer stands out as she has the most emoting to do with her character being a reluctant participant, who is still haunted by almost being buried alive. Brandy has a couple of strong scenes expressing her fears and concerns over returning to these underground haunts and the climax gives her some solid material to work with. She would make a good final girl in a straight up horror. Mikey Roe also has some screen charisma as lovable party animal and joker of the group.

This was an enjoyable sequel and with some clever writing they may be able to get at least one more chapter out of this franchise. This follow-up pretty much equaled the first flick, which was a fun look at extreme Halloween haunts and a sometimes spooky little horror flick, too. The sequel freshens things up by opening up it’s spectrum of interested to include other types of Halloween attractions and figures out a way to get it’s characters back out there, after being scared out of their wits the last time. It does take a while to get going and the Halloween spirit isn’t as consistent as the last time…maybe too much of it was shot in the daytime?…but it does deliver some goods, especially in the last act. If you liked the first The Houses October Built you might enjoy this second romp as well and it would make a nice double feature during the spooky season to watch both films together.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) scary clowns…they return too!

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HELL HOUSE LLC SEQUEL GETS A TRAILER!

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Hell House LLC was a surprisingly spooky found footage flick and now filmmaker Stephen Cognetti is back with a sequel. Set to premier on VOD on 9/14/18, Hell House LLC 2: The Abbadon Hotel has an investigative reporter (Jillian Geurts) taking her crew into the dreaded Abbadon Hotel to find out what really happened there eight years earlier. Will this sequel be an equal? Only time well tell!

-MonsterZero NJ

Source: Bloody-Disgusting.com

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BARE BONES: THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY (2018)

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THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY (2018)

Found footage flick takes place in 1960 and is supposed to be film footage shot by two priests, Father Thomas (Lalor Roddy) and Father John (Ciaran Flynn) as they investigate the reported bleeding eyes of a Virgin Mary statue. The statue stands in an Irish Magdalene laundry which were basically homes for wayward women cast out by society. Once the priests start to investigate, they find the statue is the least of their problems as there is true evil in this place both human and supernatural in origin.

Aside from it’s intriguing setting, there is nothing all that original in this flick, as either a found footage film or a demonic thriller. Director Aislinn Clarke makes atmospheric use of her locations, including some creepy rooms and catacombs beneath the building, but fails to set anything all that involving within them. Her script, that she wrote along with Martin Brennan and Micheal B. Jackson, drags out every cliché imaginable in the found footage and demonic possession genres from the shaky cams and conveniently failing lights to the laughter of spectral children and levitating young women in nightgowns. The last act down in the subterranean catacombs beneath the building were right out of As Above, So Below and the sticks used for demonic symbols, right out of Blair Witch. Roddy’s Father Thomas was an interesting character and there was a creepy twist involving his past and Helena Bereen‘s Mother Superior was spooky without the last act reveals. It’s just the film seems to be simply a mash-up of elements and scenes from other movies and not done interesting enough to freshen them up or give the filmmakers a break. There is some feminist commentary mixed in, but it doesn’t make up for all the under-cooked horror elements that we’ve seen so many times before. There is some spooky and disturbing stuff in the last act, but it’s too little, too late and too familiar to elevate the film, even with a brief 76 minutes run-time.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HELL HOUSE LLC (2016)

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HELL HOUSE LLC (2016)

Found footage flick begins by revealing there has been a fatal occurrence at the grand opening of a Halloween haunt called Hell House. A number of guests and crew were killed and there is a veil of secrecy as to what actually happened. Years later, a documentary filmmaker (Alice Bahlke) tries to find out the real story and is given some of the crew’s own footage by surviving member Sara (Ryan Jennifer), leading up to that fateful night. As the footage is reviewed, it’s found that strange things were happening during the event set-up at the former Abbadon Hotel, a place with an already dark history, and something sinister might have actually been the cause of the catastrophe.

Found footage horror is written and directed by Stephen Cognetti and not only is it’s premise clever and spooky, but there are some downright scary bits in this little chiller. The idea of an ambitious crew setting up a Halloween haunt in a building that is already rumored to be haunted, works well and Cognetti gets a lot of mileage out of his story. The location used has a lot of dark places, especially the creepy cellar and having it already dressed for Halloween makes the filmmaker’s specters and shadows all the more creepier. Add in the manipulation of some scary clown mannequins and this is one unsettling little flick at times. Not everything works, the shock ending didn’t seem as much of a shock/surprise as it should have been and the actual disaster doesn’t seem quite as spooky as expectations lead us to believe it would be. But there is a lot of fun, creepy stuff leading up to the finale and the cast of unfamiliar faces do perform well enough to give the illusion that this is someone’s footage and not actors. Director Cognetti knows how to build scares and smartly gets things started fairly quickly, where most found footage movies take a while to get going. The flick also spares us a lot of the shaky cam until all Hell breaks loose at Hell House during the climactic disaster.

Overall, this was a spooky surprise. It’s a found footage flick that has some very scary moments thanks to a clever idea and script by Stephen Cognetti and some skillful direction. The makers get some good use out of it’s location and really do well in establishing early on that there is a malevolent presence in this notorious hotel. The climactic scenes could have used a little more punch, but there is some outright scary stuff leading up to it. A spooky little Halloween found footage flick from Stephen Cognetti.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) scary clown mannequins…or are they?

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BARE BONES: CREEP 2 (2017)

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CREEP 2 (2017)

Creep had some disturbing and uncomfortable moments, even if it’s last act was a bit of a let-down. Sequel is the opposite with only it’s last few minutes showing some spark after over an hour of dull and borderline silly moments with Duplass’ serial killer. In this sequel the killer, now amusingly calling himself Aaron, invites a young woman (Desiree Akhavan) to his secluded cabin, who is making her own failing web series called Encounters. He reveals to her that he is a killer and that he wants to make a documentary about his homicidal habits. Sara sees a golden opportunity despite her fears and over the next 24 hours, she and “Aaron” start to form a strange bond as the filming progresses.

Sequel is once again directed by Patrick Brice from a script by he and star Duplass, though this time without the effectiveness of their first effort. Most of the banter between Aaron and Sara is dull and she seems to accept and start to like the weird man way too soon and it’s not convincing. Aaron’s primadonna approach to making the documentary is silly not scary and the film only starts to get effective in it’s last few minutes as their time together must come to a close according to Aaron’s constantly changing plans. It’s not enough to save the flick which up till this point was an effort to sit through and sadly lacks the uncomfortable vibe the first one used so well. Duplass and Akhavan do have a bit of chemistry and they do perform the underwhelming material well enough, but it comes across more ludicrous than scary. Concept was done better in Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.

-MonsterZero NJ

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