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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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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NEW FOUND FOOTAGE SCARY CLOWN FLICK GETS A TRAILER!

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Clowns are scary enough horror movie material, but director and co-writer Tony H. Cadwell has added a found footage angle based on some real-life scary clown sightings! Check out the trailer for the creepy clown flick Behind The Sightings that’s eyeing an appropriate Halloween season release in October!

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source: Youtube

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BARE BONES: DON’T HANG UP and ELOISE

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DON’T HANG UP (2016)

Very ho-hum horror has a group of Youtube pranksters who call themselves “Prank Monkey 69” apparently pranking the wrong person, who decides to take a cruel and gruesome revenge. The four members and some of their unsuspecting loved ones, all become targets of this deranged Saw-like individual. We might care somewhat if it weren’t for the fact that the Prank Money members all come across as a bunch of real assholes and we actually want to see them meet a horrible fate ourselves.

Flick is blandly directed by Damien Mace and Alexis Wajsbrot from an uninspired script by Joe Johnson. It’s a dull movie about a bunch of jerks who basically get what’s coming to them and we never sympathize with them for a moment. The found footage genre is running out of gas quickly and mundane flicks like this are only speeding it towards it’s demise. A scant few effective scenes, but they are very few and far between.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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ELOISE (2017)

Flick takes place at a real and infamous asylum in Michigan and even has the audacity to dedicate itself to those interned there and their families. The plot has down on his luck Jacob Martin (Chace Crawford) learning his rich dad has passed away and he is set to inherit millions…but there is a catch. His aunt was a patient at the now abandoned Eloise asylum, where a doctor (Robert Patrick) was rumored to have conducted brutal experiments and cruel treatments on patients. His aunt apparently died there, but without a death certificate, the court can’t consider him the sole heir. Jacob can’t wait months for the paper work to be found through normal channels and thus plots to break into the asylum and find them himself…what he finds, however, is that something dark and evil still remains within the walls of Eloise Asylum.

OK haunted asylum flick is written by Christopher Borrelli and directed by Robert Logato, who is an Academy Award winning FX man. Logato guides the familiar tale competently and has a nice visual eye, but the film basically covers no new ground when it comes to these kind of pics and we’ve seen it all before. That would be fine if he just could muster up some real scares or suspense, instead of just putting us and the characters through the motions. There are some effective scenes, the asylum locations are well used and Patrick has fun chewing the scenery, but other than that it’s a little too familiar and a bit too by-the-numbers to really chew our popcorn with rapt attention. There are some amusing twists at the end, but it needed more punch along the way. Also stars genre favorite Eliza Dushku as a pretty bartender who gets dragged along for the ride. If there is nothing else on, you could give it a try.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: THEY’RE WATCHING

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THEY’RE WATCHING (2016)

Silly and dull found footage horror has a TV home improvement reality show filming in the remote Western European village of Moldova. There, American artist becky (Brigid Brannagh) has bought a run-down old home to which she has made great renovations in making her own. Once in Moldova, the crew find not only superstitious and odd locals, but that the townsfolk suspect Becky of being a witch!…and plan to do something about it!

Written and directed by Jay Lender and Micah Wright this is an awfully dull comedy/horror that is never funny enough to be the former or scary enough to be the latter. It’s a tedious watch that comes to a really silly and predictable conclusion that is badly pulled-off to boot. There is no tension at anytime, the strange, superstitious locals scenario has been done to death, especially in stories set in that part of the world, and we can see the end coming miles away. The film also is not only not convincing as found footage, but has no real reason to be found footage other than keeping the budget down for it’s makers. A real silly snoozer without the intensity or wit to make it’s story work. Also stars David Alpay, Kris Lemche and Mia Faith as the show production crew.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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BARE BONES: SATANIC and THE PHOENIX INCIDENT

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satanicSATANIC (2016)

Forgettable horror has a group of obnoxious youths heading to Coachella and stopping off to tour true crime sites with occult activity allegedly involved. They get more than they bargained for, of course.

Written by Anthony Jaswinski and directed by Jeffrey Hunt, this is a dull and predictable horror with some really obnoxious and annoying characters. There is nothing here we haven’t seen before and done better. I had a hard time paying attention as nothing held my interest other than it being very teen centric, yet rated R so the intended audience can’t see it. Stars cute Sarah Hyland who should stick to Modern Family.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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THE PHOENIX INCIDENT (2016)

Found footage sci-fi flick uses real life footage of alleged UFO activity over Phoenix, Arizona and uses it to spin a yarn about a conspiracy involving alien creatures. It centers around four friends who are investigating the UFO activity and get caught in the middle of a confrontation between extraterrestrials and the military. Film takes place after the men disappear and an investigation into the cover-up discovers their footage.

Written and directed by Keith Arem, an interesting concept is given the routine found footage treatment. It’s a cookie cutter found footage flick with the worst of the genre all present and accounted for from annoying shaky cam to even more annoying characters running around and screaming each others names for an hour. Done far better in The Vicious Brothers’ fun Extraterrestrial.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE GALLOWS and LAST SHIFT

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THE GALLOWS (2015)

On October 29th, 1993, during a high school play called The Gallows, student Charlie Grimille (Jesse Cross) was actually hung to death due to a prop malfunction. Twenty years later the play is being performed again at the same high school and when a group of students break into the school theater to vandalize the production, they are trapped and stalked by what appears to be Charlie’s vengeful spirit.

Written and directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, this is a lame and boring found footage flick that exemplifies all of the sub-genre’s flaws. It’s tedious, predictable and except for a few effective jump scares, there is nary a chill or thrill to be had. We can see plot twists coming miles away and even if we didn’t, they are as cliché as it gets. It’s also one of the worst cases of ‘why are you still filming’ that comes to mind and arrives at an outright silly conclusion. Even at a scant 80 minutes, this flick is a waste of time. Stars Reese Mishler, Cassidy Gifford, Pfiefer Brown and Ryan Shoos as our ill-fated teens.

1 and 1-2 star rating

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LAST SHIFT (2014)

Shades of Assault On Precinct 13, rookie Officer Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy) is sent on her first assignment to watch over the last shift at the closing Sanford police station. What starts out as a lonely and boring first duty, becomes a nightmare for the rookie cop as the station is haunted by the spirits of a trio of Manson family-like murderers, who committed suicide at the station. As her father was killed in the line of duty during their apprehension and it is the one year anniversary of the death of the demonic Paymon family members, Officer Loren is in for an especially rough night.

Directed by Anthony DiBlasi (Dread and Cassadaga) and co-written by he and Scott Poiley, this is a creepy and very effective little horror, as DiBlasi takes our pretty rookie officer on a roller coaster ride to hell. There are not only some legitimate chills and suspense, but some gruesome visuals as well. Actress Harkavy gives a very good performance as a strong woman who is slowly being broken down by something that is pure evil. Not perfect, but a solid little horror with some nice scares, abundant gore and a good performance by it’s leading lady (much like Kelen Coleman in DiBlasi’s Cassadaga ) to tie it all together. Based on this and his previous flicks, I definitely think DiBlasi is a talent to keep an eye on!

3 star rating

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-MonsterZero NJ
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BARE BONES: CHAPPIE, BLACK WATER VAMPIRE and THE DAMNED

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CHAPPIE (2015)

Neil Blomkamp’s third feature, co-written by Terri Tatchell is entertaining enough, but the originality that made his District 9 so enjoyable and even his lesser effort Elysium entertaining, is substituted for a Short Circuit meets Robocop mash-up that has heart, but a severely cloned one. Movie tells the story of a very near future Johannesburg, which is plagued by crime and is patrolled by robot police officers. When one of those is damaged, it’s maker (Dev Patel) uses it to experiment with an artificial intelligence and the robot dubbed “Chappie” becomes self-aware. Add to it that, Chappie has been taken by a street gang to be used in criminal activities, gives the child-like robot some very conflicting emotions to sort through as he tries to learn right from wrong. There are some fun moments in the film, but it is far too familiar to embrace completely with some scenes lifted directly from Verhoeven’s Robocop including Chappie’s battle with a large battle drone. It also has some severe tonal shifts as it is on a children’s film level one minute and spattering the screen with bloody violence the next. I wanted to like this more, but Blomkamp recycles too much and resorts to clichés too often. Also stars Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman and Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley as the voice and movements of Chappie. FX are top notch as always in Blomkamp’s films.

3 star rating

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BLACK WATER VAMPIRE (2014)

Flick is a shameless rip-off of The Blair Witch Project substituting the witch for a vampire-like creature. Film has amateur filmmaker Danielle (Danielle Lozeau) wanting to investigate and make a documentary about a series of killings of young women that take place once every ten years in the woods surrounding the rural town of Black Water, WA. In each case the victim is left with large bite wounds and a complete loss of blood. Danielle and her crew (Andrea Monier, Robin Steffen and Anthony Fanelli) enter the woods and obviously, find far more than they bargained for. Written and directed by Evan Tramel, this found footage horror rips-off scenes directly from the previously mentioned Blair Witch, [REC] and even a bit of The Last Exorcism and doesn’t even do it with any style or inventiveness, so you cut the flick some slack. The acting and dialog are sub-par and the few effective scenes it has don’t make-up up for the laziness of everything else. Creature looked cool, I’ll give it that.

2 star rating

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THE DAMNED (2013)

By-the-numbers and dull supernatural horror has a group of people in rural Bogota, Columbia getting into a car accident during a bad storm and finding refuge in an old, closed-down hotel. Once there, they are greeted by a very odd man (Gustavo Angarita) and soon find he has a little girl locked up in the cellar. Against his protests, they free her only to find out she has been locked up for almost 40 years and is possessed by a vengeful witch who has the power to take over people’s bodies. Directed by Victor Garcia and written by Richard D’Ovido, this is a very routine possession/supernatural horror that does nothing new with it’s oft told tale of possession, revenge and murder. The FX are fine and location atmospheric, but the execution is very mundane and the cast, except for Brit cutie Sophia Myles, are equally dull. A few moments here and there, but very formula and very predictable. Also stars Nathalia Ramos and Peter Facinelli.

2 star rating

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 -MonsterZero NJ
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: INFLICTION (2014)

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INFLICTION (2014)

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

Infliction is a found footage horror from writer/director Jack Thomas Smith (Disorder) that claims to be the actual footage of a murder spree committed in 2011 in the state of North Carolina but, never seems anything but a staged movie. The story has brothers John (Jason Mac) and Kenny (Elliot Armstrong) going on a vendetta fueled killing spree and they have decided to document the whole thing as they torment and murder their victims…all for what they see as wrongs committed against them. And that’s basically it.

The main problem with this film is the same problem that haunted Smith’s Disorder, scenes just ramble on and the dialogue keeps covering the same ground. The pace of the film is incredibly slow and its gets quite tedious as the two siblings voice their grievances with each of their bound victims and then brutally slaughter them. Between the murder scenes, we get long dialogue exchanges with the two waxing philosophical about their actions with them usually arriving at the opinion that their vengeance is just…and they do this after each and every victim. The final confrontation with their sister and parents makes the film feel far longer than the 100 minute running time that it actually is. The reason for their bloody revenge is also kind of weak when we slowly…and I do mean slowly…get the whole story as to why they are stalking seemingly random victims, who are actually connected to the two, leading up to the confrontation with their family. The reason makes sense but, isn’t overly interesting and we’ve seen it all before. The acting across the board is very wooden and when mixed with the endless rambling dialogue sequences, makes this quite a chore to sit through. Add to this that the film never feels like actual footage, no matter how much random static is used, and appears like exactly what it is, stiffly staged sequences. It all amounts to very little here to warrant sitting through this. Very disappointing considering the peeks of promise Smith’s last film showed.

While Disorder was flawed but showed promise, this dull flick seems like more of a step back. It’s got a ho-hum plot as an excuse to film some torment/murder sequences that are sandwiched between long dialogue sequences. And these sequences basically keep hammering home the already obvious point, that these two are damaged and want to blame/punish everyone involved for what they see as injustices done to them. The also have the brazen audacity to blame everyone else for their homicidal behavior, as well. They are the whiniest serial killers to be captured on film…by their own hands…in quite some time. Also stars Ana Shaw, Catherine Trail and Don Henderson Baker as their sister, mother and father respectively.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 knives.

final exam rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: AS ABOVE, SO BELOW (2014)

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AS ABOVE, SO BELOW  (2014)

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

As Above, So Below is a spooky, funhouse kinda movie from John Erick Dowdle, the writer/director of The Poughkeepsie Tapes and, more recently, Devil. The found footage film tells the story of dedicated archeologist Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) who specializes in the study of alchemy and is searching for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone, which is said to be able to turn ordinary metals into gold… and hold the secret of eternal life. Scarlett’s search leads her from the Iranian desert to the skeleton-filled catacombs beneath the city of Paris, where she believes the stone is hidden. As Scarlett and her crew descend into the caverns beneath the City of Lights, it starts to become more and more apparent that they may also be entering the very gates of hell itself.

Co-written with his brother Drew, Dowdle is showing that he is finally living up to the potential he has given us glimpses of in his previous, but, in my opinion, unsatisfactory, flicks. He crafts a very creepy and atmospheric movie that starts out slow but, like a good carnival funhouse, gradually builds momentum and gets more and more bizarre and intense as it goes along. Scarlett and her crew are clearly on a hellish ride as they climb deeper and deeper into uncharted territory and some malevolent force is more than happy to torment and divert them to even darker places than they ever imagined. They are tormented by cloaked figures, strange creatures, as well as, their own personal demons and it’s disturbing and claustrophobic fun to watch their expedition spiral out of control. Sure there are some Blair Witch-ish elements we’ve seen before but, Dowdle directs them effectively, uses the found footage format to his advantage and adds some scary and clever twists of his own. He also overcomes one of The Poughkeepsie Tapes‘  biggest flaws and gets good work out of his cast, especially Weeks, and creates some fairly realistic and likable characters. Not all of it works. Some of it gets a bit silly and the ending seems sudden and anti-climactic, but, the preceding 90 minutes is a fun and goose-bump inducing movie with a director finally his stride…or at least getting there.

So, overall I liked this flick and had a spooky good time with it. Not everything works and it takes awhile to really start giving us some good shivers but, it succeeds more than it fails and it adds some of it’s own original elements to those that have become commonplace with found footage horror. Not a great movie but, a creepy and unsettling one with a few unique twists and a very atmospheric location. Also stars Edwin Hodge, Ben Feldman and Francois Civil as members of Scarlett’s crew. I already posted my Best Horror Flicks of 2014 but, this definitely would have gotten an honorable mention. Fun horror!

3 skulls.

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