BARE BONES: THE MORTUARY COLLECTION (2019)

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THE MORTUARY COLLECTION (2019)

Horror anthology finds pretty, young Sam (Caitlin Fisher) looking for work at the Raven’s End mortuary. The caretaker is spooky mortician Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown), who begins to weave stories of the supernatural and the macabre at Sam’s insistence. Dark begins to tell a series of tales from a slinky pick-pocket (Christine Kilmer) encountering a Lovecraftian medicine cabinet, to a womanizing, college stud (Jacob Elordi) finding his comeuppance with a mysterious new co-ed (Ema Horvath), to a husband (Barak Hardley) driven to desperate measures with an ailing wife (Sarah Hay) to Sam’s own tale of her babysitting encounter with an escaped psychopath (Ben Hethcoat). As the stories unfold, we find that there may be far more to the Raven’s End Mortuary than just it’s grave history.

Anthology is well directed by Ryan Spindell from his own script. The stories are fairly constant and while none is particularly original, or scary, they are all entertaining and well presented. Spindell has a very good visual eye and the stories all look spooky and atmospheric, especially with the wraparound filmed in Oregon’s Flavel House Museum, which was one of the locations for The Goonies. The last story and the wraparound are the best, with some creepy FX, chilling moments and spooky revelations. The gore and make-up effects are top notch all around and the cast seem to all be having a good time, especially Brown as mortician Dark and Fisher as the feisty Sam. Fun anthology is streaming on Shudder and is certainly worth a look for horror anthology fans and quite fitting for the Halloween season.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 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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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: 10/31 PART II (2019)

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10/31 PART II (2019)

Sequel to the indie Halloween set anthology flick 10/31 once again presents a horror movie marathon hosted by Malvolia, the Queen of Screams (Jennifer Nangle). It tells five tales, with some fun trailers this time, by a host of new indie filmmakers, all taking place on Halloween.

After opening with some amusing trailers, the best being Treaters from Zane Hershberger, and then an introduction by Malvolia, the show begins. We start out with A Samhain Liturgy written and directed by Tory van Buskirk. It’s a classic tale of a babysitter (Rhema Srihartiti) encountering peril and evil on Halloween night. The tale is a mash-up of more than one classic horror scenario, has some very disturbing moments and follows the classic tropes with a few twists. It can be gruesome at times and the make-up FX are well rendered. Lead Rhema Srihartiti makes a nice heroine as teen babysitter Holly and Devin Douglas, a very creepy kid as Tommy.

Second story is Dead Lift from director Stephen Wolfe. Story finds down on his luck rideshare driver Jeremy (Tim Robinson) picking up a very ominous passenger (William McCarthy). The segment is spooky and atmospheric, but also a bit talky and feels like it wears out it’s welcome long before it’s over. Dead Lift also stars Ashley Nief as Jeremy’s long suffering girlfriend Whitney. Does score points for trying to do something a little different and having a bit of a Phantasm vibe in spots.

Next up is the very comical and cheesy Apache Hatchet Massacre II from director Max Groah. Basically a story of a Halloween party being held in a cabin on an ancient Native American burial ground. There’s a lot of overacting and the segment comes across as very cheap looking and just plain silly. It doesn’t feel like it fits in with the rest of the stories, which take a more serious approach and look far better produced. It simply comes across as filler. Thankfully, AHM II is mercifully short.

Fourth story is Overkill from writer, director Drew Marvick and is an amusing tale of two serial killers (Aaron Strong and David E. McMahon) fighting over the same shapely babysitter (Anastasia Elfman) on Halloween night. Segment is amusing and features some good gore, but is another segment that seems like it’s a bit long for it’s one sentence scenario. On the plus side, the segment does feature some nice nudity from shapely Lauren Fogle (as “Hot Chick”), which is a rarity for this anthology series.

Fifth and final tale finds Tory van Buskirk back writing and in the director’s chair for Sister Mary, a story of a sexy nun with a dark and bloody secret. It’s an effective segment with some disturbing moments, plenty of blood and lead London Grace does a really good job as the disturbed, conflicted, tormented…and possibly haunted?…Mary.

Overall, this was another fun and spooky anthology from this indie franchise, featuring a different set of directors than the first flick. Like the original 10/31, the stories are a bit uneven, but the makers show potential and most stories have Halloween spirit 🎃 along with some great electronic scores from Rocky Gray! 10/31 Part II is available to stream on Amazon Prime!

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) jack-o-lanterns.

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Sorry, this is as close to a trailer as I could find!

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE WITCHING SEASON (2015-2017)

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THE WITCHING SEASON (2015-2017)

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

The Witching Season is an indie web anthology series, currently found on Amazon Streaming, created by Michael Ballif and is five stories filmed between 2015 and 2017. All the stories are set on Halloween and are filled with pumpkins, scarecrows and masked individuals to ad the nuance of horror’s favorite holiday.

First story is written and directed by Baliff and is entitled Killer On The Loose and finds a pretty young woman (Hailey Nebeker) running for her life on Halloween night. She makes her way to an isolated home and with finding no one there, she enters and hides. Sure enough a masked man (James Morris) with a machete enters after her and now she is trapped alone inside with him. This was an effective tale and was atmospheric and suspenseful and even if we figured out where it was going to end, it was still creepy fun.

Second story, Princess, is written and directed by James Morris from a short story by Baliff and finds pretty single mother, Kendra (Anita Rosenbaum) moving into a new house with her little girl, Jamie (Emily Broschinsky) at Halloween. Jaime finds a box of toys in the basement including a creepy stuffed rabbit she claims is called Princess. Soon strange things start happening and it’s almost as if Princess has a sinister life of it’s own. Another atmospheric and creepy tale even if we’ve seen the evil doll scenario dozens of times before. It still works.

Third story is called Not Alone and is also written and directed by Morris. This story finds a man, Kyle (Sean Hunter) listening to UFO reports on a radio show and having some strange occurrences begin happening in his home. That’s about it. It is atmospheric, but doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s some weird things happening, a spooky climax and that’s it. Not Alone is the shortest and weakest of the five.

Fourth story is called They Live Inside Us and is written and directed by Baliff and stars James Morris as a writer (and other various roles) who breaks into the Boothe House where a infamous murder/suicide occurred. He’s there to get inspiration for a horror script he is writing and let’s say he gets it in droves. An interesting and spooky story that is the longest and possibly best of the tales and is another atmospheric entry from series creator Baliff. It also stars Stevie Dunston as Mrs. Boothe who appears in all of the writer’s various scenarios.

Fifth and final tale is called Is That You and is another directed by Morris from a story he co-wrote with Baliff. It’s a short and simple tale where a spooky nursery rhyme comes all too true for a girl, Whitney (Karlee Broschinsky) stuck home on Halloween night with an injured leg. There isn’t much to it and like Not Alone it’s basically someone in a house with weird occurrences going on around them until a spooky ending. It’s atmospheric, but again, like Not Alone, it really doesn’t go anywhere just sort plays out and then ends.

I enjoyed this web anthology series which shows a lot of love for the spooky season and horror films from the series creative team of Michael Baliff and James Morris. Even the weakest of the tales had some Halloween spirit and all were atmospheric. Both directors got good work out of their cast of unknowns and seem to handle their multiple chores on each story quite well. Baliff seems like the stronger of the two behind the camera, though Morris shows potential even if all three of his stories followed the same format. He did create atmosphere. There is some great cinematography all around and some effective music on each story by Randin Graves and the series opening credits is quite effective at setting the spooky tone. A well done labor of Halloween love from creator Michael Baliff and collaborator James Morris. Can’t wait to see more from these guys!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) pumpkins.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GHOST STORIES (2017)

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GHOST STORIES (2017)

British horror anthology has an interesting premise. Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman) has spent his career debunking supernatural events and exposing fraudulent psychics. Professor Charles Cameron, a renown paranormal investigator in the 70s, who hasn’t been heard of for years and is assumed dead, summons Goodman and tasks him with a challenge. He must debunk the only three cases that Cameron failed to. One is the case of Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse) a night watchman in an abandoned asylum who is seeing things go bump in the night. The second is that of Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther) a meek young man who claims to have hit a demonic goat creature with his father’s car and is now hunted by it. The third is the case of Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman) who is haunted by a malevolent spirit while his wife lay in the hospital in painful labor. As Goodman investigates each case, it may be himself that he ultimately learns the truth about.

Flick is written and directed by star Nyman and Jeremy Dyson and is a spooky affair. The story set-up is quite intriguing with a skeptic, who has made a career of exposing frauds and hoaxes, being called upon by a like individual to solve three cases the man could not. As such, the three stories are very spooky, especially the first two, as Goodman faces what could be actual supernatural occurrences, unlike the frauds he’s used to dealing with. The second case “Simon Rifkind” is by far the creepiest with the young man’s home life being as unsettling as the story he is telling, his own house being scarier than the demon infested woods that his tale takes place in. The film generates the creeps with little blood or CGI and uses some nice spooky locations to add atmosphere. If the film stumbles a bit, it’s that the three stories seem a bit rushed and feel like they could have gone on longer. Also, the last act reveal/wrap-up is a bit disappointing compared to what has passed. After being rushed through the really spooky stories that could have used more attention, we get a reveal that has been done before and seems like a bit of a let-down after such a clever set-up. It evoked a “that’s all?” reaction instead of a “that’s fricken’ creepy” which it needed.

The small cast is solid. Co-writer/director Nyman was fine as Goodman, though he could have used a bit more presence. Paul Whitehouse is good as Tony Matthews, the working class man who has seen things he cannot explain or comprehend in our first case. Alex Lawther is positively creepy as the odd Simon Rifkind, who may be more unnerving than the idea he ran over an actual demon. Martin Freeman is good as Mike Priddle, a self centered business man haunted in his home, while his poor wife suffers an unusually grueling labor in a hospital. As for who plays Charles Cameron…you’ll have to watch to find out.

Overall, this was a spooky flick that only loses it’s grip in the final act when we get our big reveal. Star Nyman and his collaborator Jeremy Dyson deliver some spooky goods in their three cases, as well as, a clever set-up. Not able to end the flick on the same level of scary and clever is the only stumbling point the flick has. It’s not that the finale doesn’t work, it does. It’s just that we were expecting something more…unexpected. Still very much worth a look, as the three cases do deliver and we wish they had more attention spent on them than with our wraparound story.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 spooks.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: TERRIFIER (2016)

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TERRIFIER (2016)

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

Terrifier is the first full length horror to star spooky Art The Clown (David Howard Thornton), who previously appeared in a few stories of writer/director Damien Leone’s 2013 Halloween anthology flick All Hallows’ Eve. It’s Leone’s second film and the story is once again set on Halloween, as gal pals Dawn (Catherine Corcoran) and Tara (Jenna Kanell) are on their way home from a party. They encounter a scary clown and while Tara is legitimately scared, Dawn teases him. This begins a night of horror as the deranged clown corners the girls in an old apartment building basement. Art plans a horrible fate for both them, as well as, Tara’s sister Vicky (Samantha Scaffidi) who is on the way to pick them up and unaware of the psychotic clown awaiting her.

Written and directed by Leone, the director does show he can build tension and can produce some very creepy moments. It’s almost a shame then that he also likes to wallow in Herschel Gordon Lewis levels of gore, as the film can be creepy enough, at times, without having to drown us in severed limbs and cruelty. Let’s just say simple stabbings and shootings are not Art’s style. The clown villain is disturbing even without his blood-soaked antics and one wonders if Leone had dialed it back a bit, the film would have been more effective. As is, the constant hacking and dismemberment wears out its welcome and we become numb to it even before the 82 minute run time is up. It’s also a bit disappointing that the story switches attention from Tara to sister Vicky, about half way through, as Tara was proving quite the fiery opponent for Art and had a stronger presence than the more demure Vicky. Leone also knows how to find and utilize some really creepy urban locations and one might feel the urge to shower after spending so much time in the basement labyrinth Art uses as his house of horrors. For those who think this sounds a but misogynist, there are two male pizza parlor employees and a pest exterminator who demonstrate that Art dismembers everyone equally. The gore FX are fairly effective and are quite abundant as you can guess.

The cast do just fine, especially our three lead females. Jenna Kanell makes the biggest impression as the tough and feisty Tara. She gives Art a good fight and as stated, it’s a shame focus switches to Vicky when she arrives to play designated driver. It’s not that Samantha Scaffidi isn’t a decent final girl, it’s just Tara was a more interesting character. Vicky is more of a damsel who needs saving, while Tara was a fighter. Catherine Corcoran was cute and sexy as Dawn, but, unfortunately, we all know what happens to the sexy blonde in a flick like this, so…Rounding out David Howard Thornton is very effective as the silent Art. The actor projects the clown’s lunacy and lethal-ity quite well using only body language and his expressive eyes. There are also some supporting characters, homeless people and unsuspecting exterminators, to serve as clown fodder and they are fine for their purpose. Flick also features an opening scene cameo by All Hallows’ Eve‘s sexy Katie Maguire.

The film has it’s moments and the Art character is effective. Leone does manage some tension and legitimate scares and gives the flick some atmosphere. If anything takes it down a few notches, it is that relying on such extremely graphic gore and the constant acts of brutality by Art, by the last act, we are more tired of it, than unsettled by it. Still, Leone has a little something and Art is very creepy as creepy clowns go. Worth a look if you like your horror brutal and bloody.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 scary clowns.

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990)

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TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990)

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

Tales From The Darkside started out as a horror anthology series produced by the legendary George A. Romero, that ran four seasons from October 1983 till July of 1988. In 1990 a movie version was released presenting a trio of terrifying tales tied together by a wraparound story. In the opening segment we see a young boy (Matthew Lawrence) being held in a cell by a witch (Deborah Harry). She plans to cook the kid as the main course for a dinner party and he tries to stall her by reading her stories from a book she left for him in his cell…Tales From he Darkside! As Timmy reads to prolong his fate, three tales of terror unfold!

All three stories and the wraparound are directed by John Harrison, a frequent Romero collaborator, though the script is by Romero and Michael McDowell and based on various works.

The first story is the lesser of the three and is based on a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Lot 249 involves betrayal, revenge, murder and an ancient Egyptian mummy. When student Bellingham (Steve Buscemi) is cheated out of a deserved scholarship, he uses the mummy to exact revenge on those responsible, Lee and Susan (Robert Sedgwick and Julianne Moore). The plot for retribution works out fine till Susan’s brother Andy (Christian Slater) tries to turn the tables on Bellingham for some revenge of his own. This segment is kind of ho-hum and comes to a predictable conclusion, but is still somewhat entertaining, has a good cast and is quite gory.

Second story is called The Cat From Hell and is based on a story by Stephen King. The tale finds pharmaceutical billionaire Drogan (William Hickey) hiring a hit man named Halston (David Johansen) to exterminate a black cat that Drogan claims has killed the rest of the members of his household. What ensues is a cat and mouse game…pun intended…throughout the dark mansion with predator hunting predator. It’s a fun episode, especially thanks to a lively and over-the-top performance from Johansen and has some really good gore. While the ending isn’t unexpected, it’s gruesome fun. Probably the best episode overall.

Final tale is a tragic love story called Lover’s Vow. Down on his luck artist Preston (James Remar) witnesses the savage murder of a local bartender by a creature resembling the local building gargoyles. He promises the creature, in return for his life, that he will never speak of it to anyone. On that same night Preston meets the beautiful Carola (Rae Dawn Chong) whom he falls in love with. The two wed and have children, but on one fateful night, Preston reveals his chilling tale to his loving wife…and with horrifying results. Story is the most serious of the bunch which otherwise have a bit of humor mixed in with the chills and as with the others, some nice gore. It too, is also a bit predictable, but works in spite of that.

We then return to the wraparound where Timmy is not going into the oven without a fight. Will he be freed or fried?…you’ll have to watch to find out!

Overall this is a fun anthology, though not a true classic. There is some nice nostalgia here too, as well as, some entertaining moments across the board. Harrison directs well and it is a fun horror flick in the spirit of Romero and King’s Creepshow from years earlier. Nothing overly special, but a solid good time. Did fairly well upon it’s release in 1990, but not enough to inspire a second go around.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 books of spooky stories.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HOLIDAYS (2016)

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HOLIDAYS (2016)

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

Holidays is a horror anthology that presents eight short stories, each based on a holiday and adding some kind of supernatural/horror twist. Each tale is written and directed by different filmmakers with somewhat mixed resluts.

The first is Valentines Day, written and directed by Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch (Starry Eyes) and tells the story of  introverted high school girl Maxine (Madeleine Coghlan) who has a crush on her swimming coach (Rick Peters). When she misinterprets a sympathetic Valentine’s Day card from him, she decides to solve her bullying problem and present her object of affection with a special gift, all at the same time. It is an effective story with some very gruesome moments and has a bit of that offbeat, disturbing feel that made Starry Eyes work so well.

Next up is St. Patrick’s Day written and directed by Gary Shore (Dracula Untold). This tells the story of a new little girl (Isolt McCaffrey) at school who gives her teacher (Ruth Bradley) a St. Patrick’s Day wish with disturbing results. This episodes starts out creepy enough, but gets progressively silly till it’s goofy ending.

Next up is Easter written and directed by Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact). This tells a really weird and disturbing tale of a little girl (Ava Acres) who accidentally catches the Easter Bunny (Mark Steger) in the act…but he’s not quite what she expected and there is a disturbing price for being the first child to ever see him. This is a weird episode that unsettlingly combines both the Christian doctrine and traditional bunny folklore of Easter. While not totally successful, it gets extra points for being daring enough to ‘go there’.

The next tale is written and directed by Sarah Adina Smith and is called Mother’s Day. It’s an odd story about a woman (Sophie Traub) who is ‘cursed’ by getting pregnant every time she has sex. She is sent to, of all places, a fertility clinic, to solve her problem, one which turns out to be more than it seems. This episode was really strange, yet a bit unsatisfying as it didn’t seem to go anywhere and had a predictable and cliché shock ending.

Father’s Day is one of the best tales. It is written and directed by FX man Anthony Scott Burns (FX for The Last Exorcism Part II). It tells of a young woman (House of the Devil’s Jocelin Donahue) who receives a recorded message from her long dead father, asking her to meet him at a special place from her childhood. This is a very effective episode that is moody, creepy and heartbreaking, thanks in equal parts to good direction and a very strong performance by Donahue.

The biggest disappointment and worst episode is Kevin Smith’s Halloween. It takes place on Halloween, but has little to do with the holiday as it tells the story of Ian (Harley Mortenstein) the mean owner of a Sex Cam business who has a painful rebellion from three of his employees (Ashley Greene, Olivia Roush and Harley Quinn Smith). It forgoes any attempt at something spooky for more of Smith’s traditional adolescent vulgarity. Boring, crude and has nothing to do with the holiday it represents.

Anthology get’s back on track with Scott Stewart’s (Dark SkiesChristmas. This one tells the tale of a down-on-his-luck dad (Seth Green) who goes to disturbing lengths to get his kid the pair of virtual reality glasses he wants. These glasses, however, reveal a person’s true self and he and his wife (Clare Grant) learn some very unsettling things about each other. This is a fun and chilling episode and Green is entertaining to watch as the desperate dad and Clare Grant is good as the wife with a secret side to her.

Final episode is New Year’s and is is directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer (Some Kind Of Hate) from a script by Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch. It tells the story of a serial killer (Andrew Bowen) who has specific plans for his New Year’s Eve date (Lorenza Izzo) who turns out to have far more in common with him than he realizes. This is a twisted and fun episode with a really entertaining psycho  turn by Izzo as Jean. Izzo is showning a talent for these roles, as she was one of the few fun parts of Knock Knock.

Overall, this was a mixed bag, but the good outweighed the bad. There were a few disappointments, especially from Kevin Smith who dropped the ball on delivering something in the Halloween spirit for his tale. We did gets some spooky and effective stories, with the standout being Burn’s Father’s Day which had a sympathetic and strong portrayal from Jocelin Donahue. Definitely worth a watch for the segments that did work and even a couple of the failures had an originality to their telling.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SOUTHBOUND (2015)

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SOUTHBOUND (2015)

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

Spooky flick is a strange anthology that starts out with two men fleeing mysterious creatures down a stretch of remote desert highway. Their tale leads into the next and so on, each tale leading directly into the one that follows, till the last story returns us to where we started, as if these stories are occurring in an infinite loop with each person reliving the events over and over. We get a sense that each person has a dark secret or sin to hide and the film never quite spills all the beans, remaining unsettlingly ambiguous, save for some interesting comments from a radio DJ (Larry Fessenden) everyone appears to be listening to on this desolate stretch of road.

The Way In and The Way Out are the opening and closing segments that keep the tales connected in it’s loop are directed by Radio Silence (Devil’s Due) and written by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin. They are quite spooky and effective tales that opens mysteriously and only let’s us know what it’s blood-covered characters (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Chad Villella) have been up to when we reach the anthology’s end. Creepy and very effective and starts the flick off on a disturbing note and ends it chillingly.

Siren tells the story of an all-girl band (Nathalie Love, Fabianne Therese and Hannah Marks) who break down on the same road and meet an interesting fate. There is some vague talk about the death of a fourth band member and where the blame might lie and a seemingly nice couple (co-writer Burke and Davey Johnson), that come to their aid, who are not what they appear. Another spooky and off-putting segment written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin, who co-wrote with Susan Burke.

Third segment is called The Accident and has the surviving band member from Siren getting hit on that same highway by a man named Lucas (Mather Zickel), who tries to do the right thing and get her help. His efforts become a living nightmare as he happens upon a hospital that is more a house of horrors with empty halls and blood spattered walls. Another very effective segment written and directed by David Bruckner.

Jailbreak is the weakest segment, which features a brother (David Yow) trying to rescue his sister (Tipper Newton) from a strange town the mysterious highway runs through and were Lucas found the hospital in the last segment. This sequence simply doesn’t quite have the same impact as the others and while it delivers the gore and blood, as they all do, it doesn’t resonate as well. It is written and directed by Patrick Horvath, who co-wrote with Dallas Hallam.

We then come to the previously mentioned The Way Out, where we segue back to the characters from the opening while telling the story of a young girl (Hassie Harrison) who is spending time with her parents (Gerald Downey and Kate Beahan) for the weekend before going off to school. The house they are renting comes under attack from some masked individuals, but the story doesn’t go where you expect and successfully brings us back to the films opening.

All the segments are well performed by it’s cast of relative unknowns (indie icon Larry Fessenden’s vocal performance aside) and not only provides some definite chills and thrills, but quite a lot of creepy imagery and blood-spattering gore.

Overall, I liked this flick. It’s disturbing and unsettling and doesn’t spoon-feed you all the answers…though pay attention and there are subtle clues to what might be going on and fun ways the stories connect. It’s no secret we are possibly watching a form of Hell were those inside are doomed to repeat their sins or suffer the consequences over and over, though there is indication one might free themselves from this unearthly loop by making the right choice. Either way, it’s a creepy, blood-soaked ride down an unnamed highway of horrors.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 highway signs on a road to nowhere.

southbound rating

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ALL HALLOWS’ EVE (2013)

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ALL HALLOWS’ EVE (2013)

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This is one of those low budget, direct to home media horror entries that deserves a bit more attention than it got, as it makes a really nice effort and overcomes the restrictions of it’s budget to deliver some chills and Halloween set fun.

Anthology flick has a clever wrap-around story of babysitter, Sarah (hot girl-next-door type Katie Maguire) watching two kids, Timmy and Tia (Cole Mathewson and Sydney Freihofer) on Halloween night. Timmy finds a VHS tape that someone has put in his trick ‘r’ treat bag and wants to watch it. Sarah reluctantly puts it on and it is revealed to be a horror flick starring a very disturbing clown (Mike Giannelli) as it’s centerpiece. After the first gruesome segment, Sarah sends the kids to bed, but decides to watch the rest by herself. As the young woman continues the movie, she is treated to two more vignettes of terror and strange things start to happen around her. Is there more to this tape and this mysterious clown than a simple low budget fright flick? Is this movie more trick than treat?

Written and directed by Damien Leone, this little flick overcomes budget restrictions and clichés to deliver some legitimate chills and a couple of gruesome sequences, all the while maintaining that Halloween spirit. One of the keys is establishing three likable characters in Sarah and the kids, so when they are scared, we are sympathetic. The heroines within the tape’s stories are likable and sympathetic as well. Leone also gives us one creepy clown as our host/villain and a strong bad guy is another plus in any horror. The three vignettes are a bit of a mixed bag, The first has pretty Casey (Kayla Lian) waiting alone for a train on Halloween night and being abducted by “Art The Clown” and taken to be held prisoner with two other girls in a tunnel beneath the city streets. Obviously, something awaits in that tunnel and they have gruesome plans for our young ladies. This segment is OK, but didn’t do that much for me. It doesn’t really go anywhere and despite a creepy start, doesn’t deliver too many chills until the final few minutes. The second segment has a woman (Catherine A. Callahan) alone in her big, new, remote home while her husband’s away and dealing with some very otherworldly intruders. Despite the villains of the piece looking like someone in costume for Comic-Con, Leone still generates some nice atmosphere and suspense aided by a good performance by Callahan as the trapped and isolated wife. Third segment is the best, as it brings Art back and the sinister clown stalks a pretty young costume designer (Marie Maser) lost on the backroads and looking to get home. This segment is really creepy and delivers some gruesome gore as well. We then wrap-up the film as life imitates art…or “Art”…and Sarah faces a babysitter’s worst Halloween nightmare right out of the movie. Overall, a good effort and definitely shows potential for Leone. There is also an atmospheric score by Noir Deco and each segment is given it’s own look and feel by having a different cinematographer film each one.

The cast help Leone along and he gets good work out of most. I liked that he chose a bit older actress to play Sarah instead of a screaming teen. Actually makes it more effective that a level-headed adult is starting to really get creeped out. Maguire is not only hot, but makes a good choice as one of mom’s pretty friends coerced into babysitting on a night you least want to babysit. Mathewson and Freihofer are solid as the siblings and avoid the annoying child syndrome. Lian, Callahan and Maser all do well in giving us our damsels in distress during their respective vignettes and Mike Giannelli creates a very disturbing and creepy clown in “Art” and does so without dialogue. Using just his eyes and facial expressions, Giannelli gives us a very effective villain and it helps make this little flick work so well.

I liked this little movie and am willing to cut it some slack for it’s shortcomings. Possibly more for the effort than the actual movie itself, but Leone does seem to love horror and knows a bit of what makes them work. Two of the three vignettes are very effective and the second even overcomes some low budget looking creatures to remain spooky, while the third really nails it. The wrap-around story does bring it all together, as intended and even if we’ve seen a lot of this before, the Halloween clichés are used well and are there for a reason. A well-intentioned little Halloween horror that shows some potential for it’s makers and gives us something else to watch during that special time of year. Great movie…no, fun little flick with it’s heart in the right gruesome place…yes!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scary clowns.

all hallows eve rating

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