HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021)

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HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021)

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

Sequel to Halloween 2018 starts out with a pre-credits flashback to 1978 and after the fiery jack-o-lantern filled credits sequence, picks up were the last flick left off. While the citizens of sleepy Haddonfield have yet to realize who’s back and a wounded Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) heads to the hospital with Karen (Judy Greer) and Allyson (Andi Matichak), an ill-fated group of firemen unleash Myers (James Jude Courtney) from his burning prison. Now, as an angry Michael starts carving up the town, locals, including 1978 survivors Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) and Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet), decide it’s time to hunt him down and put an end to his reign of terror.

Halloween Kills is again directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) who co-wrote with Danny McBride and Scott Teems. The result is an incredibly polarized mixed bag with some really great scenes and scenes that borderline suck. The good stuff is anything involving Michael. The opening flashback to his capture in 1978 is one of the best Halloween sequences outside of the 1978 original and has a really shocking surprise cameo. The scene of Michael decimating his first responder rescue team is not only already controversial, but quite intense and bloody. The Michael Myers here is angry and his stalk and kill scenes are intense, very graphically violent and sometimes outright scary. They have impact and we see one of the most vicious portrayals of Michael Myers since Rob Zombie’s flicks. Unfortunately, the scenes featuring Tommy Doyle and his mob of frenzied townies at the hospital are downright terrible. The dialogue spoken by Doyle and the hospital security chief, former sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers), is awful and hearing an angry mob shouting “Evil dies tonight!” in the hospital lobby is almost laughable, if one wasn’t busy cringing. Add in the silly mob pursuit of another escaped mental patient mistaken for Michael and hilarity not intensity ensues. How could Green nail the scenes with Michael so well and completely bungle everything else? Laurie is sidelined for pretty much the entire movie, with Karen and Allyson taking up the mantle of Myers hunters and their confrontation with him at the old Myers house is thankfully one of the things Green gets right. The gore is plentiful and quite gruesome and the violence is quite brutal, but it’s sadly the stuff that should have given this dramatic weight that fails so badly here. At least Carpenter, his son Cody and Daniel Davies provide a really good score and David Gordon Green still has a good eye for visuals. The film looks great and the score really punches up the kill scenes. Everything else just induces a lot of intense eye rolling and mumblings of “WTF” were they thinking.

The cast are a mixed bag, too. Curtis does the best with what little she has to work with and it’s Greer and Matichak that shine here, as they go on the offensive with mom Laurie in the hospital. Anthony Michael Hall just doesn’t click as Tommy Doyle, who, for some reason, is given the Dr. Loomis role here. It doesn’t work and his Loomis-esque dialogue is terrible. Dylan Arnold is good again as Cameron and Robert Longstreet is fine as his dad Lonnie. Rounding out the original character returns is Kyle Richards returning to her original role as Lindsey, Cyphers as Brackett and Nancy Stephens returning as Nurse Marion. Nice to see these original faces, but they could have been better used. Also returning is Omar J Dorsey as Sheriff Barker and Will Patton as Hawkins. James Jude Courtney is once again imposing as Michael Myers.

What can one say. After a fantastic opening sequence and an intense and brutal escape by Michael Myers, the film turns into a silly pitchfork and torch mob movie—and yes, there is actually a pitchfork at one point—with some scenes that feature awful dialogue and completely misfire, killing any intensity the Myers stalk and kill scenes have. With those at least, the film lives up to it’s promise with David Gordon Green really nailing these scenes and giving us the vicious, brutal and scary Michael Myers that we came to see. We can only hope Halloween Ends is exactly that and this incarnation of  Myers can finally rest in peace.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated a generous 3 (out of 4) carving knives, because the Michael scenes rocked. Happy Halloween 🎃!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 31 HORROR FLICKS FOR THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN 2021!

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While I watch dozens of horror films during the month of October…these are a mix of classic favorites and recent horrors that I feel are especially perfect to watch during the Halloween season!

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(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)

 

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haunt 06Harper (Katie Stevens) and friends visit the wrong Halloween haunt on Halloween night!

-MonsterZero NJ

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RANDOM NONSENSE: VINTAGE HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS!

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VINTAGE HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS!

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Ordered these fun vintage style wall decorations from Ryan Dowell Art! Halloween 🎃 is on the horizon and it’s time to start planning the decorations! Ryan is a talented artist with some really spooky cool Halloween decorations of his own design for sale on his website! His prices are reasonable and he often runs sales, so check it out at the link below!

Here’s a better look from Ryan’s web store!

Check out all of Ryan’s holiday art decorations at https://ryandowellart.myshopify.com/

…or you can skip straight to his Halloween 🎃 stuff through this link here…

https://ryandowellart.myshopify.com/collections/horror-movies

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MonsterZero NJ

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COOL STUFF: CEMETERY PHOTOGRAPHY!

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CEMETERY PHOTOGRAPHY: LIFE GOES ON AMONGST THE DEAD!

I have been waiting almost five years to capture these images! Since driving home from work past the cemetery each night and in spring seeing the deer grazing amongst the tombstones, I have always wanted to capture this beautiful imagery of life thriving amidst the resting places of the dead!

Check out the gallery below to see some of these long awaited shots!…

 

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All photos and text-MonsterZero NJ

 

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CEMETERY OF TERROR (1985)

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CEMETERY OF TERROR aka CEMENTERIO DEL TERROR (1985)

Mexican horror takes place on Halloween night with a group of youths going to an abandoned house to party. In the house they find a book of occult rituals and spells and as a prank, decide to steal a body from the morgue and try to raise it from the dead at a local cemetery. What could go wrong? Of course, the teens pick the body of Satan worshipping serial killer, Devlon (José Gómez Parcero) and soon Devlon is back from the dead and slaughtering the partiers back at the abandoned house. The only person who stands in the way, as a group of young trick or treaters finds themselves in the undead killer’s path, too, is Dr. Cardan (Hugo Stieglitz), a professor who knows all about Devlon’s powers and might be able to stop him.

Flick is directed by Rubén Galindo Jr. from his script with Carlos Valdemar and while it is a hodge-podge of films we’ve seen before, it is spooky fun. Galindo knows the trappings of a horror flick, especially one set on Halloween, and fills the flick with creepy trees, fog, spooky old houses, tombstone filled graveyards and plenty of gore. There is a lot of blood and the FX are well rendered and Devlon is a scary enough villain along with his horde of zombies, which burst out of their graves in the last act. It’s nothing new, but is a lot of fun and is also very 80s. Part Spookies and part Halloween, this is an entertaining horror for All Hallows Eve, as long as you don’t mind subtitles and that the switch of focus from teens to kids, in the last act, makes the film more kid-centric for it’s finale.

Cemetery of Terror might evoke some flicks you’ve seen before, but is made by a filmmaker who knows how to have a good time with the familiar tropes and use the familiar story elements well. Dumb, sex crazed teenagers, reanimated killers, zombies, gore and graveyards are all put to good use in this tale of horrors on Halloween night. We have both kids and teens in peril and the Mexican version of Dr. Loomis racing to the rescue. It’s a good time Halloween horror from South of the Border that fits in nicely with any All Hallows Eve flick. Available on Blu-ray from the awesome folks at Vinegar Syndrome.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) jack o lanterns!

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BARE BONES: WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL (2013)

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WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL (2013)

Comedy/horror is made to resemble a VHS copy of a Halloween night newscast from 1987. It features intrepid reporter Frank Stewart (Paul Fahrenkopf) entering a supposedly haunted house on live TV with a pair of paranormal investigators (Brian St. August and Helenmary Ball) and a priest (Robert Long II). Things obviously don’t go as planned. Throughout the broadcast there are numerous faux commercials.

Flick is written and directed by a host of filmmakers, too many to mention here. Despite having a beloved reputation, the WNUF Halloween Special is not funny enough to be entertaining as a comedy and doesn’t take itself seriously enough to be a spooky horror. The gimmick of being a network broadcast wears out before it’s over, as do the faux commercials which get very repetitive in both style, tone and yes, some actually repeat numerous times. It gets tiresome. As for the nostalgia element, the makers nail the look of a VHS recording of something off of TV and the style and tone of the material does match local cable TV shows and commercials of that era. Maybe they just should have gone one way or the other with the comedy or horror and kept the runtime at about an hour, rather than 83 minutes, to avoid the schtick wearing out before it concludes. The effort is appreciated, but after years of hearing about it, the WNUF Halloween Special disappointed upon finally viewing it on Amazon.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THEY LIVE INSIDE US (2020)

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THEY LIVE INSIDE US (2020)

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

Flick from the makers of the The Witching Season web anthology takes one of those tales and expands it to feature length. The story is simple. Writer Jake (James Morris) is looking for inspiration, so he and his daughter Dani (Emily Broschinsky) stay in a haunted house on Halloween. The Booth House has a past filled with witches, madmen and murder and Jake may get more inspiration than he bargained for.

They Live Inside Us is written and directed by Michael Ballif and acts as both stand alone film and an anthology film in itself, as we visualize Jake’s various story ideas as he writes them. These segments are filled with Halloween imagery and many of the popular tropes, such as masked killers, living scarecrows and killer clowns (each played by lead Morris) all chasing a pretty woman (Hailey Nebeker). In between the segments, we see writer Jake slowly feeling and seeing the effects of staying in an allegedly cursed house with a terrible past. It’s not quite as fun as the bits born of his writing ideas, but it certainly has it’s spooky moments as the house brings Jake’s tales and it’s own story to life. A Halloween horror would not be complete without some spooky reveals and Baliff provides them in a chilling last act. It’s moderately paced, but that suits the type of story it is. On a production level, the film looks good. Ballif has a really strong visual eye, especially for the All Hallow’s Eve inspired stuff and his cinematography gives this some nice atmosphere and Halloween spirit. There is also a really cool house location and a very atmospheric score by the aptly named Randin Graves.

The cast is solid. James Morris is good as Jake. He could have been livelier in a few scenes, but nails it when it counts, such as his scenes with dead wife Cynthia (Stevie Dutson). He also has fun playing all the film’s Halloween creepers. Emily Broschinsky is good as Jake’s precocious, paraplegic daughter Dani. The two actors have a nice chemistry together and sell being father and daughter well. Hailey Nebeker gets to show various degrees of fear as the “Woman in White” in Jake’s stories. The actress does however, get to do a bit more once Jake’s stories and the house’s history collide.

This movie shows a lot of love for the spooky season and of horror films in general from Michael Baliff. It’s not perfect, but one can really see the labor of love put into it and Baliff’s passion for all things Halloween and horror, show through. Baliff knows the tropes well and knows how to use them effectively. It’s certainly worth a look and has enough spooky moments to make it a nice new flick for watching during The Witching Season. Available to rent on streaming networks such as Amazon Prime and on blu-ray.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) pumpkins.

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BARE BONES: THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT-ORIGINAL DOCUMENTARY (2011)

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THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT-ORIGINAL DOCUMENTARY (2011)

Bobby Roe’s fun 2014 found footage horror, The Houses October Built, had five friends deciding to take an RV road trip to seek out and find the most extreme and scary Halloween attractions…they got more than they bargained for. The film was actually inspired by a documentary Roe made three years earlier with the same premise. He, Brandy Schaefer, Mikey Roe, Jeff Larson, and Zack Andrews, all pile into an RV and seek out the scariest Halloween haunts they can find. The five friends take us through a tour of quite a few halloween haunts, focusing on the pretty and energetic Schaefer going inside, experiencing the haunts and then interviewing owners, employees and attendees. It’s fun and as Roe pursues the notion that some haunts employ real deviates and use actual corpses in their exhibits, one can see where the 2014 film idea grew from. This leads to tracking down the elusive Blue Skeleton Inn haunt which closes this amusing documentary in theatrical fashion, foreshadowing the movies to come.

If you are a fan of the 2014 film, and it’s 2017 sequel, this is actually a must see, that gives you some nice background on how those film’s came about. It is also a good way to get to know the real people behind the movie characters…who aren’t that much different…and some of the real haunts that made it into Roe’s found footage films. It’s also a fun look at Halloween haunts and the pursuit of the scariest way to spend All Hallow’s Eve. The documentary is currently found as an extra on the Houses October Built blu-ray, making the disc a real bargain, if you are a fan.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BOOK REVIEW: DARK HARVEST by NORMAN PARTRIDGE

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I know this is the Movie Madhouse, but I will review a book now and then, one that I really loved, or one that pertains to the movie world…and what pertains more than a tale of Halloween night that is as ripe for filming as the perfect pumpkin is for picking!

DARK HARVEST by NORMAN PARTRIDGE

Entertaining Halloween tale takes place in 1963 and finds a small town with a strange All Hallow’s Eve tradition. Each year on October 31st a pumpkin headed figure, grown in a cornfield, made of vines, stalks and filled with candy, descends on this rural Midwestern town. The teen males of this small municipality have till midnight to hunt the “October Boy” down and destroy it, before it can make it to the church in the middle of town. Wealth and fame are awarded to the winner, along with the freedom to leave town. Pete McCormick vows to win “The Run” this year and use his victory to get out of this small dead-end place…until he learns the truth about The Run and The October Boy.

Story by Norman Partridge is a very atmospheric Halloween tale filled with imagery of the season, such as corn stalks, jack o’ lanterns and, of course, a pumpkin headed being with a carved face and glowing light emanating from within. We have a strong hero in Pete, who wants to get away from this small town and his alcoholic father. A tough, likable heroine with Pete’s ally, Kelly Haines, a girl defiantly entering a boys only event, and a solid villain in the vicious Officer Ricks, who has more to do with The Run than at first appears. As for The October Boy, he is a more well-rounded character than one might expect from a monster…or is he? You’ll have to read this fast paced tale to find out the truth as Pete does. At only 169 pages it moves like a rocket and has plenty of action and bloody violence, as this year’s Run doesn’t go quite as planned. The reveals have impact and the only disappointment was not knowing more about the origin’s of The Run and of the mysterious Harvester’s Guild at it’s center. Otherwise, this is a fun and atmospheric tale for a breezy October night and one desperately in need of being adapted to the big screen!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 (out of 4) jack o’ lanterns!

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES BOOK REVIEW: TAKING SHAPE by DUSTIN McNEILL and TRAVIS MULLINS

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TAKING SHAPE: DEVELOPING HALLOWEEN FROM SCRIPT TO SCREAM

by DUSTIN McNEILL and TRAVIS MULLINS

Taking Shape: Developing Halloween From Script To Scream was a really fun and informative read that is a must for any fan of the Halloween film franchise. Dustin McNeill and Travis Mullins use a host of interviews and quotes from a variety of people involved in the productions, from John Carpenter’s original classic to Rob Zombies re-imaginings to the newest installment released in 2018. We get script and story development on all the films, accounts of the production shoots, unmade script details and sometimes tales of development hell, scarier than the films themselves, when attempted sequels fell victim to artistic differences and studio interference. It’s a fast and fun read and one that gives a detailed account of the making of one of horror’s most renown series from many of those who were involved. A recommended read for anyone who is a fan of this classic franchise, or horror movies and filmmaking in general.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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