BARE BONES: FINAL GIRL and THE STRANGER

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FINAL GIRL (2015)

Final Girl is an entertaining and stylish thriller about a girl named Veronica (Abigail Breslin) who lost her parents when she was eight and is taken in by a man named William (Wes Bentley). She’s trained for the next twelve years to be an efficient killing machine and then unleashed on her first assignment. There are four young men, led by the charismatic Jameson (Alexander Ludwig), who like to lure young women in the woods and then hunt them for sport, while wearing tuxedos. Veronica is to set herself up as their next victim and then find a way to take these serial killers out…but the odds are against her. Tyler Shields’ directorial debut is a bit too stylish for it’s own good at times, but overall this is a fun flick as we watch Veronica play a dangerous cat and mouse game deep in the woods with these four arrogant killers. There are some good fight scenes with petite Abigail Breslin holding her own quite well and making an impression once again. The rest of the cast are good with Ludwig being a detestable villain and Bentley making a mysterious figure as Veronica’s handler, William. A simple story and script written by four people that might have been a bit more fun had they kept us in the dark for awhile about Veronica’s origins, but it does entertain and still photographer Shields does give it an intriguing visual style. Not great, but fun and an interesting debut for Shields. Also stars Cameron Bright, Reece Thompson and Logan Huffman as Jameson’s fellow frat boy killers.

3 star rating

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THE STRANGER (2015)

Written and directed by Guillermo Amoedo and produced by Eli Roth, this flick is a strange and somber take on the vampire genre. A stranger (Cristobal Tapia Montt) arrives in a small town and stops at the home of Peter (Nicolás Durán) and his mother (Aleesandra Guerzoni) inquiring about a woman, Ana (Lorenza Izzo) who died around the time Peter was born. An encounter with a group of thugs leads Peter to believe this stranger, Martin, is something more than an average man. Now as Peter becomes fixated wit this man, he begins to learn there is something very unnatural about him and his reason for being there and Peter may be involved closer than he would like. The film certainly has some very effective moments and there is some effectively gruesome violence, too, but the film was a bit too somber to really draw one in. Even with the subplot of a vicious thug (Ariel Levy) and his dirty cop father (Luis Gnecco), who complicate things for Peter and Martin, the film is a little dull at times and never rises about moderately intriguing. The vampire aspects are treated more like a disease than a curse and the reveals are seen coming miles away. Not really a bad movie, but nothing overly memorable or thrilling.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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-MonsterZero NJ
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE GREEN INFERNO (2013)

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THE GREEN INFERNO (2013)

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

It’s been a while since Eli Roth has sat in the director’s chair and his latest film, though it’s waited two years for distribution, pays homage to the Italian cannibal films of the 70s and 80s, even acknowledging them by name in the credits (A nice touch!). The story focuses on college freshman Justine (Lorenza Izzo) who falls under the charms of social and environmental activist Alejandro (Ariel Levy). So much so, that she agrees to join him and his fellow activists on a trip to the Peruvian jungle where a ruthless corporation is planning to tear down a portion of the rainforest inhabited by a primitive tribe, who will be slaughtered in the process. While their protest is a success and the destruction halted, their plane crashes in the jungle on the way home and the survivors, including Justine, are taken prisoner by the very tribe they set out to save…a tribe of cannibalistic headhunters who have a very frightening way of showing their gratitude.

Roth…who co-wrote with Guillermo Amoedo…definitely shows some growth as a filmmaker here, despite a six year period between flicks, as this film, for the most part, curbs his impulses towards the sophomoric, frat-boy humor that marred his earlier efforts. There still are some unnecessary sequences featuring diarrhea and masterbation that we could have done without, but, otherwise this is a straightforward horror/thriller and a very gruesome and disturbing one at that. Roth can be overindulgent but, despite the frequent blood spattering here, it is just enough to get under your skin without bludgeoning you over the head. We are treated to eye-gouging, dismemberment and witnessing someone being eaten alive and while it is quite the gore-fest, Roth knows when to give us a break, so we don’t become numb. Fans of his will be happy to know that his more devious sense of humor is still intact, such as a scene where the tribe becomes stoned on a stash of pot hidden in one of the bodies and get the ‘munchies’ in a truly bloodcurdling manner. So, he certainly won’t disappoint his fans despite some maturing as a director. What really works about the film, though, is we get some very likable characters here, especially Justine, so, we care about them and are horrified when they are hurt…and some get hurt in awful ways. Roth also manages some suspenseful and very intense sequences that don’t require devoured limbs and the film looks far bigger than his modest budget might suggest. It’s not perfect. There are those unnecessary sequences involving bodily fluids mentioned earlier and there are two bits that don’t quite work. One bit is a ‘dream sequence’ during the climactic scenes that only exists to add one last shock and it’s cliché, the other a mid-credits, scene, that undermines the ironic strength of his conclusion, somewhat, basically to set up a sequel. Otherwise this is a disturbing and intense horror flick and one that respectfully and quite gruesomely honors the films it pays homage to. The cinematography by Antonio Quercia is quite lush, the score by Manuel Riveiro is quite effective and the abundant gore excellently rendered and mostly, with what appear to be live effects.

Roth also has a good cast and avoids too many unlikable characters which hurt his first Hostel flick. Chilean actress Lorenza Izzo is quite a strong leading lady and is extremely likable and easy to get behind. She is obviously frightened out of her mind but, finds strength when she needs to and we rally to the character when she is able to overcome her fear and act. Not to mention, some of the sequences must have been very uncomfortable for Izzo and she handles them well. Ariel Levy is good as activist leader Alejandro. He appears noble at first, if not a bit smug, but, a plot twist finds him just another self-serving douchebag and then he becomes more of an outright villain than the cannibals. At least their motivation is simply hunger and survival with little malice…though the extras portraying them, seem to really enjoy their work. We also have Daryl Sabara as the stereotypical stoner Lars and Adam Burns as Jonah, a lovable teddy bear who has a crush on Justine…we may like him the most, which usually spells bad news in a horror flick. The rest of the cast are very likable and obviously, we don’t want to see them hurt and feel their fear through their performances as captured Roth’s lens.

So, I did like this flick. It’s not perfect but, I think it’s Roth’s best film so far and he treated us to not only a highly disturbing and gruesome film…even a horror vet like me felt some of the scenes were very uncomfortable to watch…but, gave us some real intensity and suspense as we watched horrible things befall a group who, mostly, doesn’t deserve it. One of the film’s tag lines is “No good deed goes unpunished” and the film is a shining example of the horrible irony when do-gooders are down-in by those they’re trying to help. Certainly not for everyone but, a tense and blood-soaked horror/adventure that gives us some likable characters to fear for and some legitimate suspense, when not spattering the screen with body parts. A worthy tribute to a long gone genre and era of films from a filmmaker who has an obvious appreciation for grind house style movies…which under the professional gloss, this is.

…and don’t forget to watch through the credits…

-MonsterZero NJ

3 femurs…at least I think it’s a femur.

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