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

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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.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HAUNT (2013)

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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.

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

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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

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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

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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

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DARK SUMMER (2015)

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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.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION

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I watched this double feature recently and found this classic and it’s prequel to be a lot of fun together!

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THE AMITYVILLE HORROR  (1979)

The Amityville Horror is renown as a horror classic and I certainly won’t argue that. While I find it more corny than creepy…even when I saw it at the Rialto Theater in Ridgefield Park, N.J. back in 1979…it is a lot of fun and created many of the clichés that now permeate today’s haunted house flicks.

Based on a supposed true story, the film has newly married couple George (James Brolin) and Kathy (Margot Kidder) Lutz moving into a large house that was the site of a grizzly murder the year before. The Lutzes are hesitant, but they can’t beat the price. Soon after they move in, strange things begin to occur…and always at 3:15 a.m., the time of the murders. George’s behavior also seems to start to become more and more odd, as he appears sick all the time and the peaceful man has developed a bad temper almost overnight. A priest, Father Delany (Rod Steiger), comes to bless their home and is made to flee as some unseen entity forces him from the house. Now under attack from some malevolent force, the family begins to realize they are in great danger from something inside that house that certainly means them harm. With a history of murder, Devil worship and Native American burial grounds, can the family escape this Hell they call home with such powerful forces aligned against them?

Whether it’s believed this actually happened or not, is still being argued today. Demonologists, the Warrens, who have been brought back to attention with The Conjuring, were the investigators on the case and their legitimacy is debated about as much as this incident. A recent investigation on the TV special Real Fear: The Truth Behind The Movies, revealed new facts that George Lutz practiced the occult and validated that the house was build on Native American burial grounds. So is it real? Who knows? As a movie it is a lot of fun and even though I personally don’t find it very scary, director Stuart Rosenberg and writer Sandor Stern do concoct an entertaining and sometimes innovative horror that established some supernatural elements that now have become movie standards. They take their film, based on Jay Anson’s book, and make a very theatrical horror with bleeding walls, bloody hallucinations, threatening voices and a house that does seem to ooze evil. It just looks spooky, even in daylight. Rosenberg gives it a moderate pace and there are some chilling moments, but to me it’s more fun than actually scary. The film is a bit overly melodramatic, which holds it back for me. The dialogue is corny, especially from Rod Steiger’s very over-the-top holy man and while Brolin and Kidder perform their roles with stark seriousness, they do lean toward over-the-top, too, on occasion. I will admit it has lots of atmosphere, though and Rosenberg is helped in that department by a very chilling score by Lalo Schifrin and there is some moody cinematography by Fred J. Koenekamp. Maybe not very scary, but it is a good time especially with some added nostalgia from it being very 70s.

So while I don’t think this is quite the scare-fest it was meant to be, I do enjoy it as much now as I did when seeing it in 1979. It portrayed some haunted house elements in a way that have now made them tradition in these films and treated what could have been a silly story with dignity and respect. It’s atmospheric and just plain fun. Maybe not one of my all time favorites, but a film I recognize and acknowledge as the classic it now is.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) haunted houses!

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AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION (1982)

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

Even in the 70s and 80s, if it made money, there was usually a sequel. While The Amityville Horror told the complete story of the Lutz haunting, legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis found a way to give us more. The film was a prequel and based it’s story on the real-life DeFeo family murders that occurred in the house before the Lutz family moved in. They changed the names in Tommy Lee Wallace, and an uncredited Dardano Sacchetti’s (Luci Fulci’s Zombie), script and now we get the tragic story of the Montelli family. As with the Lutz family, the Montelli’s, Anthony and Dolores (Burt Young and Rutanya Alda) move in with their kids and almost immediately strange things start to happen. As dad Anthony is an abusive jerk, there is already tension between he and older son Sonny (Jack Magner) who the entity targets as it’s vessel. Also, like with the last flick, there is a priest involved, Father Adamsky (James Olson), who detects an evil force in the house and vows to take it on. The film chronicles Sonny’s being broken down and possessed to the point where he murder’s his family and then Father Adamsky’s attempts to drive the demon from him to prove his innocence.

I actually enjoy this sequel, but this time, for all the wrong reasons. Director Damiano Damiani presents everything with such a dire seriousness that it just accents how silly it all is. While the real-life crime was tragic and horrifying, the film just comes across as campy despite the solemn tone. We get some really cheesy levitation effects that are flagrantly over-used, delightfully corny dialogue and intense over-acting by most of the cast, as well as, some well-executed, but out of place make-up effects to simulate Sonny’s possession. The addition of an incestuous relationship between Sonny and pretty sister Patricia (80s film hottie Diane Franklin) also adds an uncomfortable creepiness, but not of the good kind. It is, however, supposedly a plot point based on a factual relationship between Ronald DeFeo Jr. And his sister. Lalo Schifrin returns to score and it gives the film some atmosphere, as does Franco Di Giacomo’s cinematography. Having the murders occur about two-thirds of the way through and then turning the last act into a routine possession/exorcism flick, also hurts what could have been a very intense finale. The film should have been leading up to the murders, which are very effective, but then the film goes on for another half-hour for Adamsky’s attempt to free Sonny of the demon and that just get’s silly…but it’s fun to watch and entertainment is the point.

The cast all over-act. Burt Young is just doing another version of his “Paulie” though one that likes to smack around his wife and kids. Having one of the leads being intensely unlikable also doesn’t help the film overall. We actually don’t have much sympathy when Sonny guns him down. Rutanya Alda does some really over the top facial expressions and James Olson’s priestly dialogue seems made up as it goes along and never convinces as legitimate prayer. Magner is actually somewhat fine as Sonny. He has his over the top moments, but isn’t quite as flagrant as some other cast members despite having to act out demonic influence. Rounding out the leads, Franklin has some pretty bad dialogue to utter and the script has her way too accepting of her brother’s sexual advances…demonic influence or not. The scene doesn’t have the shock value it needs because she goes along with it way too easy…and it makes her later guilt seem a bit insincere. Maybe not the actress’ fault, but some of her dialogue does invite some generous chuckles….sorry, I don’t envision a demon ever saying “make love” it’s just laughable.

I have fun with this flick. It’s cheesy, corny and has some laughably fun bits. It tries way too hard to top it’s predecessor, so much that it goes over-the-top and neuters a lot of the effect the story should have. It takes what could have been a dramatically intense and disturbing climax and serves it up about an hour in, leaving the last act to fall into a routine and silly exorcism flick. All this does make for an entertaining movie though, but definitely for all the wrong reasons. Also, despite taking place before the late 70s set Amityville Horror, the film has a definite 80s vibe to it. Nostalgic and entertaining in spite of itself.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) “so bad it’s good” haunted houses!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BURNT OFFERINGS (1976)

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BURNT OFFERINGS (1976)

When I first saw this flick in 1976 as an 11 year old, it creeped me out very much and actually gave me nightmares for a few days after. Upon a recent re-visit though, I actually find it a bit slow moving and dull despite some spooky atmosphere from director Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker, Trilogy Of Terror) who is no stranger to horror.

The story has the Rolf family, dad Ben (Oliver Reed), mom Marian (Karen Black), son David (Lee Montgomery) and aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis), renting a large old house from the eccentric and strange Allardyce siblings (Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart) for the summer. The price is cheap as long as the Rolf’s take care of the 85 year old Matriarch who stays sequestered in her attic room…never a good sign. Things start off wonderfully, but soon the family starts to show signs of odd behavior. Ben becomes tense and aggressive while suffering nightmares of his mother’s funeral. Marian seems to becoming a different person and feisty, lively Aunt Elizabeth starts to quickly deteriorate and become frail. And even more disturbing, the more the family suffers these changes and sets themselves against each other, the newer and more restored the old house appears. Can this family escape from this evil place and whatever fate it has planned for them?

Despite whatever effect this film had on me as a lad, it now seems very tame and slow moving to the point where it’s a good 90 minutes in before it really starts to get creepy. Dan Curtis gives it some nice atmosphere throughout, but the film takes such a long time to really get going. I can appreciate the slow burn and slow character transformations, but it really doesn’t grab you till things really start to get bad and a character death brings dead flowers to bloom and the house literally sheds it’s old shingles for new. At almost two hours in length, it’s a long time to wait and then after an admit-tingly shocking climax, it’s over. The script is written by Curtis and William F. Nolan based on a book by Robert Marasco and is well written enough, though there is some clunky dialog and the somber tone and funeral slow pace really don’t serve it too well. That and Curtis’ experience as a TV director gives the whole film a TV movie look and feel despite being a theatrical release…which is where I saw it at the Park Lane Theater in Palisades Park, N.J. There is a spooky score by Bob Cobert helping things along and it’s overall not a bad film, just really doesn’t start to grab hold of you till it’s last act. Today’s impatient audiences would probably find it very hard to sit through a flick with little happening till then.

The cast are fine though, there is a bit of overacting on the part of all the actors despite the low key tone. After a flat first half hour Black seems to get more into her performances as the more Marian changes and Reed is good, though doesn’t quite seem right as father and husband Ben. Something is just a bit off to his casting in the role. Vets Davis and Meredith seem to enjoy being a bit over-the-top and young Montgomery really doesn’t get to do much but be a typical kid and then cry a lot when things start to get weird. A talented cast, but possibly not used to their fullest potential at least in Reed and Black’s cases.

So, in conclusion, the film is a very slow and kinda dull burn till it’s effective and disturbing last act. I don’t mind a good slow burn, but this was a bit too slow. It has a good cast and is well made by a veteran director, but just takes a little too long to get to the good stuff, which still works and it’s conclusion does stick with you. Not as as scary as I remembered it, but not a total letdown either. Worth a look for horror fans, but just be prepared to wait a bit before the willies really set in.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: The house used in the film is the Dunsmuir House also used in the original Phantasm as the mortuary!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 creepy old houses…one before tormenting a family, one after. You decide which to cut in half.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE EVIL (1978)

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THE EVIL (1978)

This 1978 haunted house flick, released by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, spooked me quite a bit as a kid. And upon a recent revisit, I still found it to be a fun, nostalgic good time, but obviously for different reasons. It may be tame and kind of silly by today’s standards, but as 70s B-movie horror entertainment, it’s delightfully effective. The film opens with drunk caretaker Sam (Ed Bakey) grumbling about having to clean up the large old house he now enters. He hears children laughing once inside and follows the sounds into the basement to the cold, dead furnace…which promptly blazes to life and sets him on fire. Creepy old house now has our attention! We soon find the large old house is being renovated by psychologist, C.J. Arnold (Richard Crenna) as a clinic, along with his doctor wife Caroline (Joanna Pettet). They are getting help from volunteers and friends who are going to work and live there over the summer till it is ready to open. Despite some spooky occurrences during the walk-through and local tales that the house and grounds are haunted, they move in anyway and begin work. And as soon as they do, the weirdness begins such as apparitions, strange noises, moving objects and a seemingly friendly pet dog who turns vicious. As a man of science, C.J. refuses to believe there is anything supernatural going on, even when his wife finds a diary that warns of an ancient doorway to evil within the house, that has been sealed and must never be opened. So, of course, when C.J. finds a stone door in the cellar floor sealed by a cross…he removes the cross and opens it. To say all hell breaks loose is far more appropriate than you think, as now the house is sealed by some horrible force and the trapped guests are being tormented and murdered one by one in gruesome ways. Will they find a way to escape with their lives?…and their souls?

Written and directed by Gus Trikonis (Moonshine County Express), The Evil has everything you could want from a 70s B-Movie haunted house flick. There’s cheesy apparitions with dire warnings, levitations, diabolical echoing laughter, an endless thunderstorm, possessions, horrible deaths and even a showdown with Old Scratch (Victor Buono) himself. What more could you want to go along with a six pack of your favorite poison on a Saturday night?  Trikonis’ style is pretty straightforward and he takes his material seriously, but he is definitely having fun with his supernatural story, as it’s elements are presented with just the right touch of theatricality and flair. The cheesy dialog and simple FX work all the better because, it is presented sincerely and not made a joke of. It’s not the intense, visceral horror of today’s standards…though there are some violent moments that are still effective…but the film has it’s devious heart in the right place and I appreciate the daring of having our atheist hero actually come face to face with the Prince Of Darkness himself for a James Bond-ish hero vs. villain Tête-à-Tête at the film’s climax. It works better then you think, especially due to some witty dialog and Buono’s malice drenched performance that goes just over-the-top enough without becoming camp.

The rest of the cast take their parts seriously, too, with Crenna giving us a man of science who is resisting the notion that the supernatural things he’s disbelieved all his life may be far too real. And to survive, he may have to turn to the God, whose existence he has always denied. Pettet gives us a solid heroine in his wife and as she’s a doctor, too, she is strong-willed and a fighter, though far more receptive to what she is experiencing than her husband. The supporting cast, including 70s mainstays Andrew Prine and Cassie Yates, all do well in creating likable people out of characters who all face possible doom in the grasp of an ancient evil right out of a bedtime story. It’s treating the material with respect and playing it straight by cast and crew that makes this film so much fun. If it were played for laughs, then we as the audience would appreciate it much less. Our entertainment comes from the fact that it’s all being presented to us in a serious manner, whether it be the house’s former tenant possessing Caroline right before C.J.’s eyes, or his arguing there must be a scientific explanation for a house filled with diabolical laughter locking you and your friends inside. Sure doc…it’s the humidity.

It all comes down to a really entertaining 70s B-Movie horror that, while it may not be perfect and may not scare like it did back in it’s day, still thoroughly entertains for much different reasons and that, is still entertainment after all. A flick made unintentionally campy by the passage of time, but still not without some very effective moments. A prime example of fun, nostalgic 70s B-Movie horror!

Rated 3 (out of 4) delightfully devilish Buonos.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE AWAKENING (2012)

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The Awakening is a charming and spooky old-fashioned ghost story set in England after WWI that tells the story of paranormal investigator, Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) who specializes in debunking supernatural occurrences. When Florence is called upon to investigate reports of a ghost at a boys boarding school, she finds that there are more then one definition of haunted. Director Nick Murphy crafts a very effective and quite spooky tale that explores that people can be haunted by their pasts as much as a home can be haunted by spirits. Aside from building some chilling atmosphere and providing a nice dreary visual style to enhance it, he also gets good performances from all his cast with Hall portraying a woman whose motivations may stem from her own past and Dominic West as Robert, a man haunted by the war time guilt that he lived when others didn’t. These personal issues are played out against the mystery of what exactly is going on in this massive house. And once we find out, the film gives us some nice revelations and surprises along with the chills and thrills. A very entertaining and delightfully old school haunted house story.

A solid 3 spooks!

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