BARE BONES: P2

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P2 (2007)

Flick takes place in NYC on Christmas Eve where pretty executive Angela Bridges (Rachel Nichols) is the last one to leave the office. She gets to the parking garage to find her car won’t start and the building is now locked down. Those are the least of her problems, as she is trapped inside the building parking levels with psychotic parking attended Thomas (Wes bentley). The deranged man apparently has had his twisted eye on her for some time and will do anything, and to anyone, to impress/keep her.

Film is directed by Franck Khalfoun (the Maniac remake) from a script by he, Grégory Levasseur and Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D, Crawl). It’s a well made thriller that is basically one long cat and mouse game. Angela continually tries to evade and escape Thomas, while the unhinged attendant tries to reacquire her after she initially gets away from him. It’s made even more difficult on Angela as she is scantily clad, barefoot and handcuffed and Thomas has the security system and a Rottweiler at his disposal. There are also a few casualties along the way, in his pursuit of his obsession, though body count is minimal. Rachel Nichols makes a really solid and resilient heroine, though Bentley is simply missing a strong threat factor, despite all the creepy and homicidal things he does. Sometimes he’s a little too over-the-top and thus more silly than scary. Things like his Elvis obsession don’t help. Despite being a nut, he comes across as kind of a wuss. There is never any doubt as to who is going to come out on top here and thus it’s not as suspenseful as it needed to be to really work. It’s entertaining enough, but there should have been more intensity and tension and it all leads back to Thomas simply being a weak villain.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING (2014)

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AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING (2014)

Unnecessary horror sequel has sat on the shelf for three years and now we know why. Flick has single mother Joan (Jennifer Jason Leigh) moving into the infamous house with rebellious daughter Belle, (Bella Thorne) younger daughter Juliet (Mckenna Grace) and son, James (Cameron Monaghan), who has been in a vegetative state since an incident that Bella blames herself for. Once settled in, Bella starts to believe something is very wrong as she learns the house’s horrifying history and her brother starts to make some remarkable and impossible improvements. Cue flies and the prerequisite “get outs”.

Despite it’s title, you’ll find it hard to stay awake during this sequel. Flick is written and directed by Franck Khalfoun who shows none of the style he showed in his Maniac remake and has concocted a very lazy script with all the familiar tropes un-inventively rolled out. Movie tries to legitimize itself by acknowledging all the other films were just that, movies and that this film is supposed take place in reality. But, it’s as far from reality as you can get and the only scary thing is how often Khalfoun likes to film actress Bella Thorne’s rear. It’s a terrible sequel with a wooden cast and even vets like Leigh and Kurtwood Smith seem to be phoning in their parts. Having the demon inhabit a person in a vegetative state is just dull and it keeps the action “bed ridden” till the climax we all know is coming a mile away. Awful waste of time and belongs back on the shelf it came from.

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HIGH TENSION (HAUTE TENSION) (2004)

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HIGH TENSION (HAUTE TENSION) (2004)

This French horror film brought director/writer Alexandre Aja to the attention of horror movie fans and an impressive first impression it is. Hight Tension or Haute Tension in it’s native French is a gruesome and intense slasher flick set during one long night of terror for two young women Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Maïwenn Besco) who are pursued by a mysterious and vicious killer. The film opens with the two young girls heading out to Alex’s parents’ (Andrei Finti and Oana Pellea) secluded farmhouse in the French countryside. We already know something is amiss as we cut to the family’s home and see an old beat up truck watching the house from a distance and the occupant (Philippe Nahon) seems to be getting oral sex from a woman but, it actually turns out to be a severed head which he discards when done. Once the girls arrive and settle in, the vehicle and it’s ill-intending driver returns in the dead of night and sends them on a journey into terror and murder that no one may survive. Alexandre Aja crafts a very intense and brutal thriller with some very graphic and effective kills. True to it’s name, there are moments of very intense action and suspense to go along with some very effective gore. Aja knows how to build scares and can shock even jaded horror fans with his explosions of gruesome violence. His visual style adds some nice atmosphere to it all, aided by Maxime Alexandre’s cinematography and he also gives us a horrifying juggernaut in his stocky and sadistic killer. His villain is an effective character despite not knowing much about him. All we know is he is up to murderous no-good and in blood drenched and merciless fashion. The enigma of this human monster adds a nice air of mystery to the proceedings and makes his apparently random attack all the more disturbing. The film is not perfect, Alex’s parents and little brother Tom (Marco Claudiu Pascu) are given little or no character development so, they do appear no more then simple fodder for our killer and despite the horrible things that occur to them it’s hard to be all that empathetic without a better glimpse into who they are. The script by Aja and Grégory Levasseur gives us a disturbing twist in it’s last act that, I will admit, I did not see coming but, once it is revealed, it does pose just as many questions as it answers. But, what came before is a really intense horror and even after, it remains effective, even though taking us in a different direction, and still has dramatic impact, so, we can cut Aja a little slack for trying to throw us a curve. All in all Haute Tension is a vicious and intense horror and even with it’s flaws it is still an impressive debut from the man whose re-imaginings of the horror classics The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha were equally impressive and entertaining. Also has an appearance by Maniac remake director Franck Khalfoun as a gas station convenience store clerk who gets the wrong customer.

3 straight razors!

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YEAR END HORROR ROUND-UP 2013

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I’m not a big fan of top 10 lists and all that year end fuss but, I thought I would give a bit of a look back at what I liked and didn’t like in the horror genre this year and, or course, share it with all of you. These are just my opinions and since the world is filled with different tastes and preferences and each horror film effects, or doesn’t effect, everyone differently, I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with my selections but, this is how I look at what the horror genre had to offer this year…

BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR

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EVIL DEAD (2013)

To a degree it’s sad that the best horror of the year was a remake but, I had a blast with Fede Alvarez’s re-imagining and it had some nice scares, plenty of gore and Jane Levy rocked in the lead. Alvarez showed he’s a director to keep an eye on and he paid tribute to the original while doing his own thing. Fun horror! Read my full review HERE…

BEST HORROR RUNNER-UP

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THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013)

Rob Zombie’s latest horror is not for everyone but, I enjoyed this out-there story of a Salem Mass. DJ (Sheri Moon Zombie) who is sent a record that, when played, sets in motion the return of a coven of Devil worshipping witches and their plan to bring great evil into our world. Zombie’s flick has some really disturbing visuals and some very subtle and creepy scenes to go along with it’s more shocking moments and evokes the works of some of horror’s best directors while remaining a Rob Zombie film. His most solid directorial effort and a refreshingly off-beat and very unsettling movie. Even the soundtrack was disturbing and, as usual in a Zombie film, there are some great songs included in it that almost become a character in the film themselves. An acquired taste but, I really enjoyed it. Read my original review HERE…

BEST HORROR HONORABLE MENTION

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MANIAC (2013)

For a guy who bitches a lot about all the horror remakes, it is quite ironic that two of my favorites this year are in fact remakes but, Franck Khalfoun’s re-imagining was a vast improvement over the sleazy and overrated original and Elijah Wood gave me the creeps. There were some truly shocking and disturbing moments, strong tension and the film made creepy use of it’s POV shooting style. An art house style horror that really worked for me. Read my full review HERE…

MOST ORIGINAL HORROR

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AMERICAN MARY (2013)

Sure Mary isn’t perfect but, this story of pretty Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle), a down on her luck medical student who is lured into the world of underground body modification surgery for money and then is turned into a sadistic killer when horribly wronged, is a breath of fresh air in a genre saturated by generic haunted house and home invasion thrillers. A wickedly fun and disturbing flick from the Soska Sisters and one that made me second guess myself and I give it a lot of credit for that. Read my full review HERE…

ORIGINAL HORROR RUNNER-UP

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EXCISION (2012)

Yes, this film is from 2012 but, I didn’t catch up with it till this year and it deserves a shout out for being one of the more original flicks I watched during 2013. Another surgery themed flick has a troubled teen Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) whose obsession with surgery and bizarre fantasies leads this demented ugly duckling to commit some horrible acts. A trippy and disturbing  little movie with a really strong performance by McCord who disappears into the role. A nice turn by Traci Lords as well as Pauline’s overbearing mother also gives this flick some weight. Read my full review HERE…

ORIGINAL HORROR HONORABLE MENTION

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JUG FACE (2013)

Chad Crawford Kinkle gave us an unsettling and offbeat little horror about a rural backwoods community presided over by a supernatural creature that resides in a large sink hole just inside the woods. The creature watches over the village and even cures ills as long as the residents feed it the appropriate sacrifice when it calls for it. When one of the intended sacrifices has other ideas, she brings it’s wrath down upon her entire village. Read my full review HERE…

BEST DIRECT TO HOME MEDIA HORROR /

BEST COMEBACK

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CURSE OF CHUCKY (2013)

This flick sadly went direct to home media but, Chucky’s first horror in almost 10 years is a fun, gory and suspenseful tale that returns to the series’ more serious roots and sets Chucky loose in a spooky old house. It had some nice suspense, some vicious kills, Fiona Dourif made a plucky wheelchair bound heroine and there’s some nice surprises for fans of the series too. Chucky was back in style and didn’t get the attention/respect he deserved. Read my full review HERE…

 

MOST OVERRATED HORROR

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THE CONJURING (2013)

Don’t get me wrong, The Conjuring is a well made and fairly enjoyable horror flick especially in it’s spooky first act, but with a second act that gets not only theatrical and a bit hokey, but climaxes with yet another routine exorcism, it lost it’s grip on me much like Wan’s Insidious did in it’s second half. A good flick, but not the masterpiece internet hype makes it out to be. Also doesn’t hold up under repeat viewings as the scares have lost some of their effect and the flaws only get more obvious. Read my full review HERE…

 

MOST DISAPPOINTING HORROR

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YOU’RE NEXT (2013)

With all the positive buzz and internet hype I heard about this flick, it was a major disappointment when I left the theater having seen this predictable and routine home invasion flick with transparent plot twists and a completely contrived excuse for the lethal skills of it’s final girl… though Sharni Vinson was effective in the part. Otherwise the bland cast recites some really bad dialog and does incredibly stupid things to set themselves up as victims both invaded and invader alike. A weak script and a shaky cam obsessed directer make this not only one of the year’s biggest disappointments, but one of the weaker horrors I saw this year. See my full review HERE…

 

WORST HORROR

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THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (2013)

After the entertaining and effectively chilling first flick, this shameless and stupid cash grab sequel is awful in almost every way. A poor script and story, lame direction and a laughable climax makes this hands down the worst horror I saw this year. Ashley Bell does try really hard, but the actress is given garbage to work with and garbage is what this sequel is. Read my full review HERE…

WORST HORROR THAT I STILL ENJOYED

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TEXAS CHAINSAW  (2013)

I’m not going to defend this flick, it had some glaring story problems, a highly questionable timeline…our plucky heroine Heather (Alexandra Daddario) should be in her forties not a nubile 20 something…and numerous other issues, but it gave me some chuckles and a couple of real hotties being chased by a chubby, balding Leatherface…who should be like 60 here…there were also some gruesome kills and did I mention it’s got Alexandra Daddario? A guilty pleasure for sure for, as bad as this was, I had fun watching it and it did have some nice cameos and homages to Hooper’s original masterpiece. Read my full review HERE…

HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE NEW YEAR!

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REVIEW: MANIAC (2013)

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MANIAC (2013)

Maniac is a remake of the classic 80s horror flick and if William Lustig’s gore-fest was a quintessential grind house slasher then Franck Khalfoun’s film is an art-house slasher as well as a remake… and a very effective and disturbing remake it is. Maniac, like the original, tells the story of Frank Zito (a brilliant Elijah Wood), a man who restores mannequins by day and stalks and gruesomely murders young women by night. The story is basically the same as the 80s film except this one is set in L.A. and the original was in New York. Frank has serious mother issues and when he murders his pretty victims it’s an extension of the hurt and anger he felt from watching his now dead hooker mom ply her trade when he was a child. Sexuality brings out entirely different urges in poor Frank and a lot of young ladies are suffering the consequences as Frank’s hook-ups end rather gruesomely. After his objects of desire are slaughtered, he dresses his mannequins up like his victims including their scalps so they, unlike his dead mother, will stay with him forever. But, Frank meets Anna (Nora Arnezender) and quickly falls for the pretty French photographer with an artistic interest in his mannequins but, can Frank overcome a deeply twisted mind and really be happy with her or will Anna soon become just another  piece in his horrid collection? Produced and co-written by Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, Piranha 3-D) Maniac is a film that is not only a beautifully shot art house style flick but, a very disturbing and gruesome horror. Khalfoun films most of the movie from Zito’s perspective so we generally only see him in reflections and mirrors. Only on a few occasions we see Wood’s serial killer from our perspective but, maybe it’s because in these moments Frank is watching his own gruesome actions as if a bystander in his own life, separating himself from his deeds. This effectively put’s us in his eyes and very uncomfortably in his head and it really gives this film it’s impact especially during the film’s intense and blood soaked last act. We stalk his victims along with him and this first person perspective makes us both an unwilling participant and a helpless witness to his demented acts. And this view point works so well because Woods gives a bold yet, disturbingly subtle performance in the role originated by Joe Spinell, who also wrote the original. Woods really paints the portrait of a truly deranged individual yet, gives us reason to believe that his Frank could actually be a kind and gentle man had he not been twisted by watching his mother’s depraved sexual acts as a child. Arnezeder’s Anna is sweet yet, a little eccentric as the artsy photographer, making her likable and obviously causing us to fear for her as we know the true nature of the man she sees as a gentle, timid soul. The rest of the cast are fine though the focus remains on Frank and Anna but, Khalfoun’s camera captures enough of the supporting characters personality so those that fall prey to Frank’s sharp bowie knife don’t come across like the mannequins that populate his shop/home and aren’t just body count. His camera also captures some beautiful images too and there’s a really nice nod to the original’s movie poster captured in the reflection of a car door… there’s also a playful jab at that film’s lead, Joe Spinell, too that will amuse fans of the original. The film is set in modern day yet has a delightfully 80s feel to it including it’s atmospheric electronic score by ‘Rob’. The gore effects by Greg Nicotero and KNB are extremely realistic and graphic and will make even the most jaded gorehound wince. And while not quite as gory as the 80s classic, I felt the gore here was more effective because, it is used a bit more sparingly and has more impact when it occurs. Maniac ranks among some of the best of the recent horror remakes, it has some flaws, such as some dialog was added by Wood in post production whose line readings seem to be a bit flat, but, it does improve upon the trashy, gory, fun original by making it a seriously disturbing ride in the shoes of a twisted mind. It’s chilling and shocking at times and and very unsettling even in it’s quieter moments. One of the best horrors I’ve seen this year and ironically, one of the others (Evil Dead) was also a remake.  So much for my complaining about all these horror remakes. A highly recommended horror.

A solid and disturbing 3 and 1/2 mannequin heads!

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