BARE BONES: DARKNESS RISING (2017)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1


DARKNESS RISING (2017)

Silly and dull flick has the already ludicrous plot of pretty young Maddie (Tara Holt) breaking into her childhood home twenty years after her mother murdered her baby sister and her father then killed her mother. Once inside the house, which is slated for demolition, she and her friends (Katrina Law and Bryce Johnson) become trapped by both a vicious version of Maddie’s childhood dog and a force field of some kind…no, really! There is a dark force inside the house that won’t let them leave and wants to finish what it started all those years ago.

Directed by Austin Reading from a mess of a script by Vikram Weet, this routine haunted house flick is far more filled with clichés than scares. It’s familiar one minute with the usual possessions and ghostly figures and borderline dumb the next with Maddie thinking nothing of making out with her boyfriend a room away from where her loved ones were murdered…and why would you need a demonic dog to keep the trio trapped inside if the house is surrounded by a force field? Asking such questions will not get any answers as one wonders why Maddie would want to spend the night in a house with such painful personal history anyway, especially finding out it has a history of death. While on the subject, just who owns the house now anyway, if it’s been empty for twenty years? Apparently not Maddie if she has to break in. But with characters continually doing stupid things, like trying to steal medication that is literally two decades old, why would you expect any other aspect of the script to make sense. A real waste of time that makes 80 minutes seem like three hours. Also features Ted Raimi in a small role in the framing segments, which add nothing.

MonsterZero NJ Rant: I’ll never understand how junk like this gets financed, yet a talented filmmaker like Stevan Mena can’t get the money to finish Malevolence 3. Grrrrrr!

-MonsterZero NJ

Humerus-Bone1

bars
Advertisements

BARE BONES: THE DEAD ROOM (2015)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1


THE DEAD ROOM (2015)

New Zealand haunted house flick is nothing new plot-wise as it features three paranormal investigators (Jed Brophy, Jeffrey Thomas and Laura Peterson) entering a recently vacated house to see if it’s as haunted as the owners claim. Obviously the answer is “yes” or we wouldn’t have a movie.

Film is directed well enough by Jason Stutter from a script by he and Kevin Stevens and while it presents nothing new, there is a charm about it’s old fashioned, CGI-less approach. The three leads are very likable as the stereotypical veteran ghost hunter (Brophy), skeptical scientist (Thomas) and pretty, goth psychic (Peterson), so we are willing to go along with their cliché and somewhat low-key ghost hunt. The film has a few spooky bits and while the last act does provide an intriguing twist, it also ends very abruptly and never gives us the backstory needed to clue us in as to who the spirits were and what had originally gone on in that house. It leaves one unsatisfied as the credits roll, despite having been somewhat entertained by the flick’s laid back style. Currently on Netflix Streaming, so it’s worth a peek if you’ve got nothing else to watch.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WITCHTRAP (1989)

MZNJ_New_TONnow playing

witchtrap

bars

WITCHTRAP (1989)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

1989 horror flick is written and directed by Kevin S. Tenney who gave us two 80s cult classics, Witchboard and Night Of The Demons. The story here, in his third flick, has a team of paranormal psychologists entering an old mansion that used to belong to a powerful psychic and warlock (J.P. Luebsen), who is now dead. His spirit supposedly haunts the place and the team is sent in with a trio of detectives to try to free the structure from it’s malevolent occupant’s grip. The spirit of Avery Lauder is a powerful one and soon the team’s numbers begin to dwindle as his diabolical influence attacks from beyond the grave.

This is a pretty bad movie. For starters, this flick has a silly plot of trying to subdue the evil spirit, so the present owner can turn the place into a ‘haunted bed and breakfast’ while the malevolent spirit is trying to resurrect himself. Add on to that the really wooden performances from the cast of unknowns…except for 80s scream queen Linnea Quigley…and some hysterically awful dialog and Tenney has fallen far from his first two cult favorite flicks. Even the shot set-ups are really awkward and the pacing is incredibly slow for a 90 minute flick, not to mention the really cheesy make-up and visual FX. It would appear Tenney forgot everything he learned about filmmaking for his third film and sadly, as it looks really amateur and he never really recovered, based on his mostly forgettable filmography following this clunker. At least there is a very 80s electronic score by the director’s brother, Dennis.

Sure, there is some entertainment value here. The dialog and some of the terrible acting can produce some giggles and Linnea Quigley does get to flash the assets that made her a horror icon during the 80s. It’s still not enough to really elevate this bomb or make it really worth sitting through. A disappointing and surprising misfire from a man who started his film career with two cult classics. Maybe he gave us everything he had the first two times around.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 powerful warlocks who inhabit a bad movie.

witchtrap rating

 

 

 

 

 

bars

BARE BONES: IRRATIONAL MAN, LAKE EERIE and LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

irrational man

IRRATIONAL MAN (2015)

Odd flick from Woody Allen has philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) trying to find meaning in his life. When an affair with a married member of the faculty, Rita (Parker Posey) and a relationship with one of his students, Jill (Emma Stone) doesn’t help, he decides to murder a judge who is about to rule on having a woman’s children taken from her. He thinks he has committed the perfect crime and done some good, when it all starts to unravel as both his lovers begin to figure out whodunit.

As per the plot synopsis, this is a weird flick from Allen who has kinda been on autopilot for quite a few years now. The film is intriguing and has some quirky and eccentric characters, but starts to unravel in it’s last act just as the professor’s plan does. The whole notion that mild mannered Abe would just commit a random murder to give his life some meaning is a bit out there, as it is. It also seems a little too far-fetched that it would be both his lovers that start to put the clues together and actually come to believe Abe committed the murder, as it seems equally ludicrous that he would so easily conclude that he had to do it again to keep his lady loves silent. It’s one of those movie’s were it seems to be taking itself very seriously, but would have worked far better as a comedy, which it’s not, though it feels like it should be. Would also love to see Allen, for once, make a film that didn’t involve upper class elitists, that might be refreshing, too.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

lake erie

LAKE EERIE (2016)

Written by and starring Meredith Majors and directed by husband and co-star Chris Majors, this is a little horror that may be too ambitious for it’s own good. Film has artist and recent widow Kate (Meredith Majors) moving into an old lakeside house. No one has lived there since the previous owner disappeared in 1969 and soon Kate starts to witness weird phenomena. Her research into the house reveals that the previous owner was an archeologist (Chris Majors) who may have discovered an amulet that could open dimensional portals. His notes indicate he may have entered one of these portals in pursuit of a banished Egyptian princess…you read that right…and Kate teams with her neighbor’s niece (Anne Leigh Cooper) to find the doorway and finally free the missing explorer.

I appreciate trying to do something a little different than the routine haunting, but this flick gets a bit convoluted long before the credits roll. The story mixes a haunting flick with something out of Tomb Raider and it doesn’t quite mesh together. The acting is also questionable from our leads and one thinks the writing/directing/producing couple should maybe have left the performances to more experienced actors than multi-tasking here. The film also doesn’t have the budget to really portray it’s alternate dimension, so it goes the Insidious route with staging it in the house with different lighting. It worked in Wan’s film, but here it just looks cheap. There is some nice atmosphere early on, but once the story starts to go all Indiana Jones meets Amityville Horror, it looses it’s grip. Yes, the attempt to do something more original is certainly admirable, but here a simpler haunting story might have been easier to pull off on a small budget and easier to swallow by the audience. Also stars Betsy Baker, who was Linda in the original Evil Dead and the incomparable Lance Henriksen in a small part as Kate’s concerned dad.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

love in the Time of Monsters

LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS (2013)

Written by Micael Skvarla and directed by Matt Jackson, this is a fairly unremarkable and only mildly amusing horror comedy. The story has sisters Carla (Marissa Skell) and Marla (Gena Shaw) heading to a family getaway lodge to meet up with Carla’s fiancé Johnny (Jade Cater) who works there. Toxic chemicals dumped in a nearby lake start to turn the forest life and a few of the employees, including Johnny, into zombies. Now the girls and the survivors must band together and fight for their lives…oh, and there is a Sasquatch mixed in there, too.

Sure, the girls are hot and there is a lot of gore, but aside from having the zombified lodge employees dressed in Sasquatch costumes, this is another routine zombie outbreak comedy. Most of the humor falls flat and the acting and dialog are equally sub-par and that would be OK if the flick were witty and had more of a devious sense of fun, like the similar Zombeavers. There are a few amusing bits, but aside from an actual Sasquatch appearing in the last act to take on the zombified animals and people, there is little to set this flick apart from all the other by-the-numbers zombie comedies.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

REVIEW: CRIMSON PEAK (2015)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

crimson peak poster

bars

CRIMSON PEAK (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Crimson Peak is the latest film from Guillermo del Toro whose diverse resume ranges from the comic bookish Pacific Rim to the dark fantasy masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s Masterpiece Theater meets Hammer Studios in a deliciously gothic tale of romance, mystery, murder and things that go bump in the night.

The story takes place in the 19th century with Mia Wasikowska playing aspiring American writer Edith Cushing (a homage to the legendary Peter Cushing, no doubt.) who meets and falls in love with the dashing but mysterious Sir Thomas Sharpe, who owns a massive but ancient castle in Cumbria, England. The castle is built over red clay deposits…that Sharpe hopes to mine…which seep up through the ground and stain the winter snow blood red…thus earning the land the ominous nickname Crimson Peak. Edith’s widowed father Carter (Jim Beaver) and handsome suitor Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) are against this romance and Carter’s investigation into Sharpe’s past gets him murdered and sends Edith into wedlock with Sir Thomas. Now having moved into the castle with her new husband and his odd sister, Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain), Edith begins to see ghostly apparitions that warn her all is not right. What is really going on at Crimson Peak?…what are Thomas and Lucille Sharpe hiding?…and why are ghastly spirits warning Edith to fear for her life?

Co-written with Matthew Robbins, Del Toro delivers a visually sumptuous feast saturated with gothic atmosphere. It’s a lush tale of romance, mystery and sinister goings on in a delightfully spooky castle. There are some surprisingly violent moments, especially in the blood soaked last act and a little steamy sex here and there, too. There are also spirits in this ancient structure and if Del Toro’s film has any slight disappointment it’s that, despite the ghostly presence, the film is never really scary. Sure there are some spooky moments and the specters are visually unnerving, but aside from some well executed jump scares, the film never gets as chilling as say, the hallway scene in The Devil’s Backbone. Del Toro does get some intensity going in the last act, but the film is a deliberately slow burn, though the mystery and intrigue do keep one interested till dark secrets are unearthed and the purpose of spectral apparitions revealed. It is an enjoyable film, the type they don’t make anymore and the visual design is worth the price of a ticket alone…as is the sound design. It’s just not the horror film it’s being sold as and while it does qualify as a haunted house movie, that is only a part of the overall story. Those looking for funhouse style frights may be disappointed. On the other hand, if you are looking for something with class, style, intrigue and some nasty violence to punctuate it, than this film should entertain. It’s very atmospheric and Del Toro is helped in that department by Dan Laustsen’s (Brotherhood Of The Wolf) cinematography and Fernando Velázquez’ (The Orphanage) hauntingly beautiful score. It’s a very old fashioned flick, despite the sex and violence, and one wonders if today’s audience will appreciate the Dark Shadows-esque (The show, not the goofy Tim Burton flick) tale he creates.

Del Toro’s cast is simply wonderful. Mia Wasikowska creates an idealistic woman who dreams of being a writer and has seen spectral apparitions since her mother died years earlier. She is young, though and falls in love with the charismatic Sharpe even if things don’t quite add up from the beginning. Once she is convinced something is amiss, despite her feelings, she digs deep in dangerous places to find answers. She’s a strong, smart heroine and an endearing character. Tom Hiddleston is once again engaging as the charming and mysterious baron with some very dark secrets. He conveys Sharpe’s emotional torment between his sinister agenda and the real feelings he has for Edith. A flawed and conflicted character and Hiddleston has the presence to make him intriguing and keep him from becoming a stereotypical bad guy. Jessica Chastain’s Lucille is the true villain of the piece and she is a dragon lady to be feared and reckoned with. Her secrets are dark, deep and covered in blood and the actress really gives us a villainess worthy of a classic Disney film…though one definitely not for kids. Charlie Hunnam is a suitable hero, though much of the focus is on Edith and her efforts to uncover the truth and Jim Beaver gives Edith’s father a strength and wisdom while allowing the warmth and love for his daughter to come through. A likable character for his time on screen. Del Toro regular Doug Jones also appears as various apparitions.

I really enjoyed Crimson Peak, even if it wasn’t quite the horror movie I went in expecting. It is a sumptuously filmed mystery dripping with gothic atmosphere and not afraid to splash some blood or throw a little sex into it’s old fashioned mix. There are some spooky moments and the ghosts are unnerving, it’s just not as scary a ghost story as we’d like and the ghosts are not the central focus as the marketing would have us believe. It does deliver on the mystery, murder and even romance in a style that is rarely used in today’s world of popcorn blockbusters, vulgar comedies and generic romances. It also proves once again that Guillermo del Toro is one of the most versatile storytellers around. Highly recommended, but just don’t expect the horror flick it’s being sold as.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 Sharpe family crests

crimson peak rating

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: POLTERGEIST (2015)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

Poltergeist_2015_poster

bars

POLTERGEIST (2015)

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

The 1982 Poltergeist is a classic and even if it comes off as a bit cheesy, over three decades later, it’s still a roller coaster ride of fun. Gil Kenan’s remake, on the other hand, is a completely by-the-numbers, generic haunted house flick that reminds one more of the awful The Apparition than the Spielberg produced, Tobe Hooper directed fright flick.

Story is basically the same, with couple Eric and Amy Bowen (Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) moving with their three children, teen Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), young Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and little Madison (Kennedi Clements), into a housing development…built over a former cemetery, of course…and soon starting to experiencing paranormal activity. The activity seems to be targeting the two youngest, with Maddie in particular being the focus. Soon the little girl is abducted into a spirit realm and a paranormal crew, headed by famous TV ghost hunter Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), arrive to try and save Maddie and rid the house of it’s angry specters.

Completely unnecessary remake is unimaginatively written by David Lindsay-Abaire and directed flatly by Gil Kenan, who brings nothing new or special to the tale. There are a few scant effective moments but, that is only when the film deviates slightly or tries to add a new wrinkle, like sending a toy drone, equipped with a camera, into the spirit realm. The film rarely tries anything new, though and basically follows the original story and very blandly at that. Kenan brings none of the fun that he gave his animated Monster House and writer Lindsay-Abaire rarely strays from the path set by the original movie. The flick also gives us very little to be scared of and doesn’t even try to match the original’s bombastic funhouse atmosphere. This flick is actually far more grounded and thus far less interesting and most of the time, it’s outright dull. The characters are all bland and not particularly endearing, like the slightly eccentric Freeling family were in the 1982 original. They also seem to accept the supernatural explanations far too easily to add any tension. If you are going to remake a classic like Poltergeist…and you really shouldn’t…then at least go somewhere new with it and really shake things up. People give Rob Zombie alot of flack for his Halloween remake but, at least he tried to go in a different direction with it. This is a mediocre at best retread with none of the energy and life that was given the original film by those behind the camera. The look of the film and it’s lack of any real vitality evoked the recent and epically terrible, The Apparition far more than the beloved 1982 classic.

Despite the presence of vets like Rockwell and Harris the cast are also very bland and wooden. Rockwell seems like he is basically on a paycheck job and gives us none of the vitality he usually brings. Anyone could have played the part. Rosemarie DeWitt is equally bland and brings none of the fire Jobeth Williams had in the original. Sharbino is pretty but, a typical bratty teenager and Kennedi Clements is cute as Maddie but, just nowhere near as sympathetic or memorable as Heather O’Rourke. Only Young Kyle Catlett gives his role a little vibrance as Griffin, as does Jared Harris as the TV paranormal expert…but, still, Zelda Rubenstein he’s is not.

Simply put, this is a boring and very generic remake whose few effective scenes come only when the film finally tries something new or deviates from the original story…mostly in the last act. Even then, it is only slight and the new elements are minimal. It’s not quite a scene for scene remake but, almost and none of it has the over-the-top energy or fun of the classic original. There are also no real scares either, including the new version of the infamous clown doll and if you can’t make a clown doll scary, then what exactly is the point? Watch the original.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 epic fail scary clowns.

poltergeist 2015 rating

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WE ARE STILL HERE (2015)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

we-are-still-here-poster

bars

WE ARE STILL HERE (2015)

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

We Are Still Here is a supernatural indie horror that serves up some nice chills and surprisingly generous gore, though not quite living up to the internet hype that preceded it…but then again, little ever does.

Story finds older couple Paul and Anne Sacchetti (Andrew Sensenig and Barbara Crampton) moving from the city up to the small rural town of Aylesbury to escape the painful specter of their son Bobby’s recent death. They move into a secluded old house and immediately Anne starts to see and hear things and senses a presence she wants to believe is Bobby. Paul is skeptical and it only gets worse when a neighbor, Dave (Monte Markham) shows up and tells them that the house was a former mortuary and the owners were run out of town for selling the bodies and burying empty coffins. Paul is even slipped a note from the neighbor’s wife telling him “The house needs a family” and to “get out”. To get to the bottom of things, the couple invite their friends over, a hippie couple May and Jacob (Lisa Marie and Larry Fessenden) who have an interest in the paranormal. They come to believe there is a dark presence in the house and they are surrounded by death. What they don’t know is, that the dark presence was awakened long ago when the house was built and every thirty years must be appeased with the sacrifice of a family, or it’s darkness and death will spread from the house to infect the entire town. Is it too late for the Sacchettis and friends to escape…and will they be allowed to leave?

Horror flick is written and directed by Ted Geoghegan and supposedly inspired by the works of the late, great Lucio Fulci. Geoghegan certainly has the gore part down, as the film gets graphically bloody at times and does have a visual style that is atmospheric and effective. He also does provide a lot of chills and spookiness throughout and the flick is loaded with atmosphere. Geoghegan uses the familiar tropes of the small town with a dark secret, well and there are some extremely gruesome deaths, especially during the blood-spattered finale. So what holds this flick back a bit? First thing is there is a seance/possession sequence with Sensenig and Fessenden, it should be a major scene, but the sequence itself comes off a little clumsy and gets borderline silly. Part of the reason is that filmmaker Fessenden is not a seasoned performer…despite numerous small roles in his fellow filmmaker’s productions…and the scene needed someone with stronger acting chops to really pull it off. It’s not as convincing as it needs to be. The next thing is the gore-soaked final act. It certainly was fun, but it’s not as spooky as the more subtle things that come before it. Everything is out in the open and the blood and organs are flying, but it’s not as atmospheric as when Geoghegan kept things in the shadows with lurking figures and only hinted at the malevolence that surrounded the family. When his vengeful specters are in plain sight ripping people apart, it becomes something more outwardly visceral and less deeply bone-chilling. There is also some shaky dialogue spoken, especially during that sceance/possession scene, as well as, a few of the exposition scenes that weakens their effectiveness. That and if Dave wants the family to stay, why does he keep telling them unsettling stories about the house? Doesn’t make sense.

Technically, this low budget film looks good and the make-up effects by Oddtopsy FX are really well-rendered in presenting our dark spirits and their carnage. There is some very atmospheric cinematography of the New York State locations by Karim Hussain and a fitting score by Wojciech Golczewski (Late Phases). For a low budget flick, production value is top notch.

The cast work well here, for the most part. It’s great to see Barbara Crampton on screen again and she plays the grieving Mrs. Sacchetti very well. We like Anne and she is our emotional anchor for the story. Andrew Sensenig is adequate as her skeptical husband, but his Paul seemed a little bland at times. The character could have used some warmth to make him more accessible. Lisa Marie is a little off as May, but since the character is a bit eccentric to begin with, that may have been intentional and seems to fit the amateur medium. Larry Fessenden is actually amusing as the stoner Jacob and it is only in the seance sequence where his limited range hindered the effectiveness. TV and film vet Monte Markham is solid as neighbor Dave whose knows the truth and has his own agenda. He is our human villain of the flick and makes a good bad guy. There is some weak acting from some of the supporting actors, but it’s not enough to hurt the proceeding to any degree.

Overall, I liked this flick and give it a recommend. It has some really good atmosphere, provides some solid chills and splatters the gore and guts generously, when needed. It has some flaws that keep it from really firing on all cylinders, but it still works very well and certainly is effective enough to make it worth checking out. A solid enough indie horror that shows we may see some interesting things yet from Ted Geoghegan.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scary specters.

we are still here rating

 

 

 

 

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HAUNT (2013)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

haunt

bars

HAUNT (2013)

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

Haunt is a very routine haunted house thriller but, it did hold my interest and was effective enough to be entertaining. The story has teen Evan Asher (Harrison Gilbertson) and his family moving into a house where there were four unfortunate deaths…which is NEVER a good idea. Soon after, Evan starts to see evidence of paranormal activity…SEE! When troubled teen neighbor Sam (Liana Liberato) convinces Evan to investigate, things at the Asher house take a turn for the supernatural worse as an angry spirit makes it’s presence known. Did this spirit cause the deaths of members of the former occupants, the Morello family years earlier?…or is there a far darker secret this specter wants to reveal?

On the positive side, Haunt is competently directed by Mac Carter from Andrew Barrer’s script. While Carter doesn’t really generate much in the way of true scares and tension, the film does have atmosphere and the numerous jump scares do work more often than not. The film looks good as shot by Adam Marsden and the young leads are likable and have a nice chemistry together so, it makes their relationship work. The film may be routine and predictable at times but, I will admit I was not expecting the climax to play out as it did and the big reveal was effective. On the downside, Barrer’s script is very familiar and the fact that the Ashers move in having full knowledge of the Morello deaths was a bit hard to swallow. Even though Evan’s parents (Ione Sky and Brian Wimmer) seem like non-believers when it comes to the paranormal, they seem to let a lot of weird stuff slide, too. The plot point that the littlest Asher, Anita (Ella Harris) appears to be communicating with the Morella’s youngest daughter (Maggie Scott) is just dropped and goes nowhere after a few instances. The subplot of Sam having a drunk and abusive father also never really has any real impact on the story as it never leads to anything or really has too much baring on things, other than to get Sam over at Evan’s for prolonged periods of time. The big reveal also poses as many questions as it answers but, I won’t ruin any surprises by discussing details.

Haunt is a mixed bag but, I was entertained and it did have some effective elements and a surprise or two. It may not be anything new or groundbreaking but, also wasn’t outright bad or badly made either. It’s a mildly entertaining chiller that will pass the time effectively enough but, will quickly be forgotten. Also stars Jacki Weaver as the last surviving member of the Morello family and a creepy one at that.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 spooks.

spooks 2 and 1-2_Rating

bars

BARE BONES: MAS NEGRO QUE LA NOCHE, BIG HERO 6 and NIGHTCRAWLER

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

mas_Negro_Que_La_Noche_Poster_Oficial_Mx_JPosters

MAS NEGRO QUE LA NOCHE (Blacker Than Night) (2014)

Spanish film is a remake of a 1975 flick and is a fun and very gothic haunted house movie. The story finds pretty Greta (Zuria Vega) inheriting an old mansion from her Aunt Ofelia (Lucía Guilmáin), as well as, her fortune and her strange black cat, Becker. She moves in with her three friends, Maria (Adriana Louvier), Vicky (Ona Casamiquela) and Pilar (Eréndira Ibarra) and soon things start to get strange. When Maria kills Becker, whom she suspects savaged her beloved ferret, the unexplained apparitions and strange behavior of the house’s occupants starts to build to a shocking and bloody conclusion, where dark secrets are revealed both past and present. This is a fun flick as written and directed by Henry Bedwell and has some very gothic atmosphere to go with it’s ghostly apparitions, revealing flashbacks and possibly spirit-influenced behavior. It’s taken seriously but, there is a sense of fun about it, as our four beautiful Latinas start to feel that there is something very wrong in this house…and obviously there is. A haunted house thriller and a bit of mystery too, adds up to an entertaining flick with some nice eye candy as it’s lead characters. Gets the whole gothic drama thing far better than Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows did. Also stars Margarita Sanz as the housekeeper Evangelina, who obviously knows more than she’s saying. Not great but, fun.

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

big hero 6

BIG HERO 6 (2014)

I enjoyed Big Hero 6. it’s a fun, colorful and fast moving animated adventure about a group of teens and their lovable robot Baymax, who are forced to become superheroes to thwart a masked villain. As a kids movie it’s got enough action and likable characters to keep the young ones occupied but, as an adult, I kept seeing bits and pieces lifted from other movies. This would be fine if the film was a homage and acknowledged it’s influences but, this Disney flick seemed to flagrantly borrow designs and ideas without giving those sources a nod. There are designs and concepts taken from Tron and Stargate as well as scenes lifted from films like Spider-Man 2, Kick-Ass and even last year’s Star Trek Into Darkness. They even ruin a great post credits cameo by showing the surprise guest in a portrait about halfway through. So, while the film did it’s job and entertained, I just felt it could have been so much more if the makers either came up with more of their own ideas or at least had the decency to give their influences a bit more of a nod.

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

Nightcrawler-movie-poster

NIGHTCRAWLER (2014)

Without a doubt, Jake Gyllenhaal gives a dazzling performance as creepy thief and con-man Lou Bloom, who, after a chance encounter with a crew filming a car wreck, decides he can make good money following the police bands to film the aftermath’s of crimes and accidents to sell to the news media. The more gruesome events he catches and the more money he makes, the more the immoral and unethical Lou sees profit in manipulating events to get that money shot…regardless of the laws broken or innocents that may get caught in the way. Despite a very intriguing premise and Gyllenhaal’s fantastically sleazy portrayal, I found this film was overall predictable and ran out of gas about halfway through. You can see clearly, early on, where this is heading and it goes exactly where you expect and with the predicted results. I definitely give this extra credit for the acting and the interesting idea but, overall was a bit disappointed that the film, directed by Dan Gilroy, didn’t really grab me and hold on to me like it should. Worth a look but with cautioned expectations. Also stars Rene Russo as an equally unscrupulous newswoman.

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1
bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DARK SUMMER (2015)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

dark summer

bars

DARK SUMMER (2015)

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

MINOR SPOILER WARNING: To discuss certain aspects of the film, I had to go into details which may be considered spoiler-ish, though I tried to remain as vague as possible.

Dark Summer tells the story of Daniel (Keir Gilchrist), a teen who is put under house arrest after cyber-stalking classmate Mona Wilson (Grace Phipps). Alone in the house with his mother away and his parole office (Peter Stormare) keeping a close eye on him, his incarceration looks to quickly become a living hell. A living hell indeed, as Mona phones him online, one night, only to commit suicide right in front of him. Soon after, it appears there is a malevolent presence in the house with him and it might be her. Fearing she is with him in the house to exact some sort of revenge, Daniel enlists the help of his best friends Kevin (Maestro Harrell) and Abby (Stella Maeve) to help him put a stop to it. The more they investigate Mona, though…and a way of ridding the house of her dark presence…the more they realize Daniel’s object of affection was not who they though she was…and he may truly be in grave danger.

There were things I liked about this teen-centric horror and things I didn’t. On the negative side, there are some clichés that we’ve seen time and time again that could have been used more inventively, such as the usual levitations and the Scooby-Doo-ish investigations by sleuthing teens. The biggest problem for me was that Daniel comes across as not only as a creep for cyber-stalking the girl, but a real jerk for the way he callously blows off Abby, who really cares about him. True, there are certain revelations later on that might explain some of this, but for a good hour, he remains unsympathetic to us, despite what is happening to him. If you don’t sympathize with the victim, the film looses impact. The positive is that director Paul Solet (Grace) does manage some creepy moments from Mike Le’s script and I will say the last act had some fun reveals and the film wraps up on a very disturbing note. So, you take the good with the bad and overall it’s a moderately entertaining low budget flick that ends effectively. I would have liked to have seen Stomare’s parole officer be more than just a creepy cop, but at slightly over 80 minutes, such character development is not given enough time and when you think his Stokes is about to become more interesting to the plot, the film ends. Solet’s 2009 Grace was a disturbing flick, so he knows what he is doing. Maybe he works better with his own scripts.

The cast are all adequate, but nothing to grab our attention. Gilchrist is fine, but the way Daniel is written, we never really come to like him or feel bad for him much. Even after all is revealed, we still don’t feel all that sympathetic towards him. Suburgatory’s Harrell has little to do, but look concerned, as the film focuses more on the efforts of the long-suffering Abby. It is Stella Maeve as Abby that generates the most sympathy and does the strongest work as a girl who has fallen for someone who doesn’t see her that way…and that same boy is currently haunted by a malevolent spirit of the girl he stalked. That sucks for Abby. Stormare is a veteran, but here just seems to be punching a clock as the creep of a parole office. Not even sure what overall purpose the character served other than the situation warranted he be there.

Overall, Dark Summer was a decent enough watch with some effective moments and a last act with some nice surprises and a disturbing final scene (part of which comes after the credits). Not everything worked and sometimes the clichés just got silly and it was the unlikability of the leading character that lends to detachment from sympathizing with his plight. Even though there were supernaturally extenuating circumstances, he still acted like a jerk on enough levels to not feel bad when faced with supernatural payback. Worth a look and has some spooky moments, but don’t expect too much.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 laptops that should never be used to stalk you classmates.

open windows rating

 

 

 

 

bars