BARE BONES: ALMOST HUMAN and SANATORIUM

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ALMOST HUMAN (2013)

Story takes place in rural Maine and tells of ill-fated Mark (Josh Ethier), a man abducted into the sky one horrific night leaving his friend Seth (Graham Skipper) to carry the suspicion for his disappearance. Two years later Mark returns, but he’s not the same man he used to be and cuts a blood-soaked path back home to his girlfriend Jen (Vanessa Leigh), to give her the ‘family’ she’s always wanted.

Almost Human is a completely derivative, but still fun horror flick. It combines elements of Fire In The Sky, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and John Carpenter’s The Thingbut has a bloody good time with those elements as it tells it’s much smaller scaled story. There are drawbacks. The acting is a bit wooden all around, the pacing is slow at times and, fun as it may be, we’ve seen it all before. Director/writer Joe Begos does try hard and manages to do a good job building some suspense and keeping us interested. The FX team also provide some effective make-up and gore to punctuate this horror tale with a lot of spurting blood and goo. Not a great movie, but an entertaining enough chiller for a night on the couch. Extra kudos to actress Vanessa Leigh for being a real trooper in performing one of the more graphic and disturbing scenes late in the film. Watch after the credits, too.

3 star rating

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SANATORIUM (2013)

Biggest failing of Brant Sersen’s found footage horror is that at no time does it ever feel like real footage that we are watching, or anything but actors in staged settings. Add to that, bad dialogue and some very amateur acting…and there is little to recommend. In a plot very reminiscent of Grave Encounters, we have a team of paranormal investigators from a fictional show called Ghost Trackers, investigating the infamous, abandoned Hillcrest Sanatorium where murder and death plagued the halls of it’s past. Obviously, their investigation leads to horrors beyond their imagination, though the film is never the least bit scary. We are never frightened, because it’s a series of weak and obvious set-ups acted out by amateur actors who never once appear to be anything but characters reading off a script. The whole point of found footage is to make us believe we are watching actual footage, events and people…something Sersen’s flick never achieves. At least there was good use made of the abandoned building setting and there was more bloodshed than usual in a flick like this. Otherwise, it’s a rather dull and forgettable attempt. At least the far more effective Grave Encounters, had the smarts to wink at it’s audience and have fun with it’s premise.

2 star rating

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 -MonsterZero NJ
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: IT FOLLOWS (2014)

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IT FOLLOWS (2014)

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

As I was watching this much-hyped horror thriller for the first two thirds, I truly felt I might be witnessing this generation find it’s Halloween. It’s only in it’s final act when writer/director David Robert Mitchell loses his grip a bit and his chiller comes to an abrupt end, that the film falls short.

The story opens with a young girl (Bailey Spry) fleeing her own house in terror and making her way to a deserted beach where she meets a gruesome fate. We then cut to pretty Detroit teen Jay (Maika Monroe) who is going out on a date with a handsome young man named Hugh (Jake Weary). The date takes an odd turn but, Jay sees him again and this time has sex with him in his car. Hugh then abducts Jay and proceeds to tell her that he has passed something on to her and it is now coming to kill her. She, in turn, must now pass it on to someone else, by way of intercourse, or die…and if she dies, it will turn it’s attention back to Hugh. This entity can look like anyone it wants, can only be seen by those marked and will stalk her until it gets her…unless she passes this ‘curse’ on to another. He gives her a glimpse of her pursuer, in the guise of a naked woman, but, before it gets too close, he escapes with her and takes her home, leaving her to her fate. Now Jay is in constant pursuit by this being and there is nowhere she is safe and few who believe her. Can she save herself by putting someone else in harm’s way? Or can she and her friends find a way to stop it…if, indeed, it can be stopped.

David Robert Mitchell knows how to build suspense and scares here. That, combined with his shot framing and the film’s pulse-pounding electronic score by Disasterpeace, evokes John Carpenter and his classic chiller very often. Mitchell, knows how to use shadows and lighting to create tension along with a strong atmosphere and mood of constant dread and can build some pretty scary scenes right out in broad daylight, too. With the added skill of cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, this flick also looks great, as well as, conveys a constant feeling that something isn’t right. Also like Carpenter’s masterpiece, the villain here is ambiguous and stays that way and, like Michael Myers, is relentless in it’s quest to kill Jay. There is almost non-stop tension and chills during this pursuit and some flat-out scary sequences. Whether you look at it as a metaphor for the fear of STDs or simply as a horror flick, the first two thirds of this movie live up to the hype. Unfortunately, though, the film falls short of instant classic status as it loses it’s way a bit in the last act. Mitchell doesn’t really seem to know how to wrap this story up, so, we get an intense pool-set confrontation, that ultimately goes nowhere and then an abrupt ending soon after. Granted, Carpenter’s ending was a bit ambiguous, too, but, still was a satisfying conclusion that left us considerably spooked as the credits rolled. Here it’s more of a head scratcher, which leaves one asking “That’s it?” It’s too bad, as with a third act equal to what came before it, this might truly have been this generation’s Halloween. It’s that scary at times. With the last act weakness aside, there is still a lot to like about this flick and ultimately I did really enjoy it. There are enough scares and tension to satisfy and even if the film lost it’s grip when it should have tightened it, you still get more than your money’s worth overall. I also liked how Mitchell used the suburban Detroit locations to give the film a fresh look and his young cast all did a good job, especially lead Maika Monroe (The Guest).

Between this and The Guest, I can say Maika Monroe is a star in the making. She gives us a vivacious and real young women who is plunged into a world that is terrifying and unsafe no matter where she turns. She is strong to a degree but, not having the tools to fight back, is slowly breaking her down. She also struggles with the notion that simply having sex with someone else can possibly save her but, can she do that to someone…and if she does and they die, she’s back to being it’s target and an innocent is dead. Monroe conveys it all very well. The rest of the cast are also strong. Keir Gilchrist is sympathetic as Paul, a friend who has been crushing on Jay for years but, she doesn’t see him that way. Lili Sepe is good as her strong-willed and sometimes wiser little sister Kelly. Daniel Zovatto is solid as Greg, a neighbor who has a past with Jay and is willing to help despite his disbelief. Rounding out is Olivia Luccardi as their perky friend Yara, who has the least to do but, does it well. The entity itself is never played by the same person twice, but, Mitchell always evokes a strong threat and sense of fear from whomever is playing it.

Overall, I highly recommend this horror. It has a bit of a fresh look and feel, despite heavily evoking John Carpenter’s classic of stalked teens and provides some downright scary sequences, especially in it’s first two thirds. It does wander off the path a bit in the last act…though certainly not nearly enough to sink it…and doesn’t quite wrap up in the completely satisfying way it needs to. Flaws aside, though, this is still a very effective and scary horror. So, while it falls a bit short of being the Halloween for a new generation, it’s still a damn scary as hell horror flick and shows big things ahead for director David Robert Mitchell and star Maika Monroe.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 haunted heroines.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: OUIJA (2014)

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OUIJA (2014)

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

This teen-centric supernatural chiller got a lot of flack from hardcore horror fans when it first came out, but considering it’s aimed at tweens and not at those who could recite Texas Chainsaw Massacre in their sleep, it’s treatment can be viewed as a little harsh. It’s maker, Blumhouse Productions did give us adults the clever and spooky Oculusso let the Divergent crowd have their horror flick, too.

The story tells of longtime friends Debbie (Shelly Hennig) and Laine (Olivia Cooke) who have been pals since childhood and even played with a ouija board as kids. Lately Debbie has been acting strange and, unknown to Laine, is dabbling with a ouija board again and whatever Debbie has contacted, drives her to commit suicide. Heartbroken, Laine discovers her friend’s indulgence and she decides to gather their friends in Debbie’s empty house and use the ouija board to contact her and find out why she took her own life. Sounds like a good idea, right? Obviously, what they conjure up is not Debbie and now there is a malevolent force following Laine and her friends with their demises in mind. Can Laine discover the true identity of this dark spirit and send it back to whatever hell it came from?…before it gets them first!

Sure, this is a silly flick and it is filled with all the clichés and familiar horror trappings from every horror flick made in the last five years, but as directed by Stiles White, from a script he co-wrote with Juliet Snowden, it never tries to be more than it is. It’s made for the ages 10 to 15 crowd and it knows it. OK, so…even on that level, it is a bit stale and predictable and relies on jump scares far more than atmosphere. Yet, considering the target audience, mostly teenage girls and their dates, the film still works well enough for those who are far less demanding than the veteran horror flick fan, who is looking for the next big thing. It occupied the time well enough and was completely forgettable, but I’ve been watching horror films for over four decades and the flick wasn’t made for me. Go in with that understanding and it can be moderately amusing and certainly far from the worst thing I’ve seen this year. Sure there are plot holes, characters do really stupid things and the last act gets especially goofy, but the film is competently enough made and has kind of a Scooby Doo with an edge vibe to it. Though, it could have used a bit more of Scooby’s hip humor.

The main cast are all attractive, though none really acts with any enthusiasm and are basically generic twenty-somethings as teens. Olivia Cooke has shown that she has potential as an actress, but even she can’t muster too much gusto as the lead, Laine. Two mediocre horror flicks (the other being The Quiet Ones) in one year is not a good sign though, for Miss Cooke. We also get cameos by the Insidious series’ Lin Shaye and Paranormal Activity 2‘s ghost fighting housekeeper Vivis Colombetti, playing a similar part as Laine’s paranormally knowledgeable grandmother. To be honest, Shaye and Colombetti are having far more fun and get the material far better than their monotone speaking, younger co-stars who seem to be taking this way too seriously.

I certainly didn’t hate this flick. As a movie for older kids and young adults, it’s just fine. They probably will have a good time with it. It’s not made for a veteran horror buff like me and I’m not going to judge it from the perspective of one. If I were an average 13 year-old, I probably would have been very amused and maybe a bit spooked. As a horror movie loving adult, it passed the time and didn’t insult me, but I did go in with reasonable expectations. Its forgettable and predictable, but if you are a kid between 10 and 15, it’s probably just as much fun as the Hasbro board game that inspired and co-produced it. It was a big hit and a sequel has been announced, so it seems like it satisfied it’s intended audience just fine!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) planchettes!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE HILLS RUN RED and MIDNIGHT MOVIE

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I know I’ve covered both these movies before, but they are two really good slasher flicks whose plots both involve a movie within a movie, where a celluloid horror becomes all too real for it’s characters. A fun double feature for a Halloween season Saturday night and two cool horror movies about horror movies!

 

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THE HILLS RUN RED  (2009)

A good, solid horror flick, Hills is the story of young filmmaker, Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrink) who is obsessed with looking for a lost 80’s slasher flick, The Hills Run Red, by seeking out it’s equally lost director, Wilson Wyler Concannon. The film is notorious for having been banned for being too violent and it is rumored that all the prints were destroyed, except for the director’s own original copy…and he disappeared after all the controversy. Tyler locates the director’s drug addict daughter, Alexa (Sophie Monk) and convinces her to lead him to the backwoods town where the notorious flick was filmed and Concannon was last known to be. Needless to say, he and his friends, Serina (Janet Montgomery) and Lalo (Alex Wyndham) wind up not liking what they find when they get there and start investigating into something that maybe should remain lost.

Director Dave Parker does nicely combining atmosphere, tension and gore into a deviant-ly fun little horror flick from the pens of David J. Schow and John Carchietta. He also creates a memorable and quite vicious villain in Babyface, the Jason-like serial killer from Concannon’s film, that is a bit too based on real events for our young leads’ liking. Add to that, a good cast including a creepy William Sadler as Concannon and the hot Sophie Monk as his daughter, helps bring this wicked little movie to life.

Sick, twisted and very gory tale, not only pays homage to these types of 80s slasher movies, but is one…and a very nasty one, at that. Small but very effective horror deserves far more attention then it got when released straight to DVD. Make sure you watch into the credits for an extra chilling scene.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

3 babyface killers

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MIDNIGHT MOVIE (2008)

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

Midnight Movie is one of those pleasant surprises that I rented on a whim and found myself being quite entertained by. Sure we’ve seen a lot of the elements before, but it is a homage of sorts and director/co-writer Jack Messitt uses those familiar conventions very well in his movie within a movie slasher tale.

The story opens with director and star Ted Raford (Arthur Roberts) of the 40 year-old horror flick The Dark Beneath in a mental institution with his doctor about to show him his black and white slasher flick as part of his therapy. It obviously doesn’t end well and there is a resulting blood bath and Radford disappears leaving strange symbols on the floor written in his own blood. Five years later, a movie theater is screening a midnight showing of The Dark Beneath with a small audience and theater staff present in the theater. Theater manager Bridget (Rebekah Brandes) leaves her post to watch the movie with boyfriend Josh (Daniel Bonjour) while trying to keep her little brother Timmy (Justin Baric) from sneaking in. Unknown to the small audience is that among them is Dr. Wayne (Michael Swan), the only survivor of the hospital massacre and Detective Barrons (Jon Briddell) who investigated the case and feels if Radford is going to resurface, this showing may be where. And the detective couldn’t be more right… for as soon the film starts to unspool, the line between movie and reality are blurred as theater patrons and employees alike appear on the screen to become victims of Radford’s corkscrew bladed killer and the serial murderer uses some dark power to move between movie and movie theater to hunt down his victims and bring them into his movie world. Can any of them escape alive?

Co-written with Mark Garbett… from a story by Sean Hood… Jack Messitt crafts a really fun slasher homage that makes good use of the movie within a movie format and provides some fun chills and graphic gore of it’s own. We get a killer who can enter our world from the movie and bring his victim’s back in, right before our and the movie audience’s eyes. The characters band together to try to escape the killer, who seals the theater and, in true stalker fashion, hunts them down one by one with his corkscrew shaped blade. We get some likable characters, especially Brandes’ plucky heroine Bridget, and a very effective killer with quite a vicious lust for blood. Messitt also gives us a third act that takes place inside the movie with our survivors trying to find their way out and it works very well as both horror and homage. The film has a very 70s/80s horror feel, which I obviously enjoyed. There are some flaws. Radford’s film is 40 years old which would place it being made in the late 60s, years before the modern slasher era started and so, it’s Chainsaw Massacre– ish vibe doesn’t make sense for the time period… although if you don’t see the film taking place when it was made in 2008, but now in the present, it brings Radford’s film to the late 70s which is a better time frame. There is a lack of explanation as to Radford’s apparent dark magic, but it is obvious there is more to this director/actor than just his film work, so we go along with it. Messitt does gives us some chills and suspense and so we suspend our disbelief as we are having a good time. The gore is well done and plentiful and despite being a lengthy shutdown in the film’s production as per the extras, the sequences filmed by two different DOPs blend seamlessly. I also loved the movie theater setting, as such small local theaters are rapidly becoming a thing of the past and Messitt seems to share my affection for them.

The cast are fine and we get some likable and not so likable characters to root for. Rebekah Brandes makes a feisty heroine whose past pain fuels her will to survive and keep her friends and little brother alive. I liked that her character had a little depth. Daniel Bonjour is solid as Josh, Rebekah’s boyfriend. Young Justin Baric avoids being annoying as the little brother who sneaks in to see the show and Stan Ellsworth stands out as a big jerk of a biker who has a heroic side hidden behind the Sons Of Anarchy swagger. Lee Main does a good job behind the skull mask as the killer and creates an imposing figure, as well. The rest play fairly typical horror movie roles and do a fine job and their characters avoid being total clichés, but are familiar enough to work with the homage theme.

Overall, this turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It was a fun movie within a movie slasher/homage and worked as a slasher itself beyond being a tribute to those types of horror. The production looks good and the gore is plentiful and well orchestrated and director Jack Messitt delivers some legitimate thrills and chills while showing some love to the 70s and 80s slasher genre. He doesn’t have a bad visual style either. Fun horror that works as both horror and homage. While Messitt currently does a lot of camerawork for TV, would love to see him tackle another horror flick. A bloody good time!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 creepy killers.

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BARE BONES: DRAG ME TO HELL, DAYBREAKERS and HOME MOVIE

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DRAG ME TO HELL (2009)

Drag Me To Hell is an entertaining return to horror from Sam Raimi about a pretty young bank employee who pisses off the wrong gypsy and gets a nasty demonic entity sent her way. Poor Christine (Alison Lohman) has just three days to find a way out of this curse as her supernatural stalker gets stronger and stronger in it’s pursuit of her soul. More fun then scary, it’s like a carnival funhouse with it’s jump scares, loud noises and CGI phantoms that jump out at you without warning. And much like a funhouse it’s all phoney but, we play along anyway for the sake of entertaining ourselves… and that’s what Sam Raimi is counting on. And just so we don’t forget it’s all for fun, there’s plenty of gross out laughs to relieve us from all the jump scares ringmaster Raimi pulls out of his hat. A fun horror flick that makes you jump and giggle and usually at the same time. Also stars Justin Long as her disbelieving boyfriend and a creepy Lorna Raver as the vengeful gypsy, Mrs. Ganush.

3 star rating

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DAYBREAKERS (2010)

An interesting and original horror film-noir about a world in the future where vampires rule and their blood supply, humans, is running out. Ethan Hawke plays Edward (The non-sparkling kind) a vampire scientist searching for a blood substitute before the lack of food turns the vampires into vicious savages who’ll turn on each other. What he finds, through a series of circumstances, is a cure discovered by an ex-vampire turned human rebel, Lionel (Willem Dafoe). Now Edward, Lionel and pretty rebel Audrey (Claudia Karvan) must battle a vampire hierchy (led by Sam Neil) that has little to gain by a world returned to it’s humanity. An intelligent script by writer/directors The Spierig Brothers adds a refreshingly novel take on the oft visited vampire mythos and they are aided by a good cast to tell their blood soaked story. Yes, while more of a noir/action flick, Daybreakers doesn’t ignore it’s horror roots and there are some deliciously gory moments mixed in with the abundant action. And this is not to say that Daybreakers is all action, as the Spierig’s make sure there is enough time devoted to story and character developement to go along with the bullets, chases and blood. A really entertaining and original vampire flick for horror, action and sci-fi fans alike!

three and one half stars rating

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HOME MOVIE (2008)

While not entirely successful, Christopher Denham’s horror flick is very creepy and disturbing at times. Told thru the home movies of the Poe family, is the gradual discovery that the Poe’s 10 year old twins (Austin Williams and Amber Joy Williams) are harboring increasingly violent thoughts and twisted behavior. There are some very chilling scenes and the young actors playing the twins are really good at playing creepy. But there are problems… the last 20 minutes is when things totally disintegrate but, I wasn’t as disturbed as I should have been. Maybe because you can see it all coming from a mile away. There are some annoying lapses in logic, especially when the parents start to realize what’s going on, and when they first try to deal with it themselves… their psychiatrist mother (Cady McClain) with pills, their pastor father (Adrian Pasdar) with an exorcism… you can almost understand why these kids are so messed up. Pasdar’s over the top performance also hurts because, the rest of the cast does so well in their roles. He tries way too hard. Overall a disturbing movie with some twisted scenes but, not as consistanly so as it should have been or we would have liked. Still worth a watch.

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WAXWORK (1988)

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WAXWORK (1988)

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

Waxwork is a fun horror flick written and directed by Anthony Hickox that imbues the lighter toned, more colorful style of horror flicks that were made in the second half of the 80s like Fright Night and some of the later Elm Street sequels.

The story has a group of college kids including Mark (Zach Galligan), his ex, China (Michelle Johnson), Sarah (Deborah Foreman) and Tony (Dana Ashbrook) being invited to a special midnight viewing at a new waxwork that has opened, oddly, in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. The invitation is extended by it’s mysterious owner Mr. Lincoln (David Warner) himself. All the fiends of fiction and fact are represented, such as Dracula (Miles O’Keeffe), The Wolfman (John Rhys-Davies) and the Marquis de Sade (J.Kenneth Campbell). But what our young visitors don’t know, is that through the darkest magic, each display must claim a living victim and once they all do, the represented horrors will take real form and enter our world to commit their evils upon mankind. Can these youths escape and save our world from it’s worst nightmares come true?

Hickox crafts a fun horror that certainly doesn’t skimp on the blood and gore. His plot enables the intended victims to enter a portal into the world of the subject it’s display represents, so his co-eds and characters can come face to face with Dracula, The Mummy and the cruel and lustful Marquis. The results can be deviously gruesome until our leads figure out what is going on and then try to stop the diabolical Lincoln and his plan, which then culminates in a fun free-for-all between the fiends of lore and a group of armed monster fighters led by our remaining students and the Van Helsing-like Sir Wilfred (Patrick Macnee), who knew Mark’s grandfather. The only thing that takes this entertaining monster movie down a few pegs…and some of Hickox’s other films…is that the writer/director can be heavy handed with the humor. For the most part there is an even mix of gruesome, scary and campy fun, but occasionally things get silly right in the middle of a scene that should be a bit more intense. There are some delightfully gory sequences and the gore and make-up is well done, but then we get something more of a slapstick nature that neuters the effect of the more intense moments, especially during the last act brawl. For the most part things are evenly mixed and this rates as Hickox best and probably most renown of his flicks. Some of the director’s later films, including the sub-par Waxwork sequel, get very heavy handed with the humor and it out weighs the horror elements quite a bit. At least here, it is only occasional. There is some nice suspense, too, especially in the first half when we are finding out the true sinister purpose of the wax museum and it is all very colorful under Gerry Lively’s lens. And the sequences inside the various worlds of the monsters that dwell in them are the best parts.

The cast are fine though I felt the younger members could have been a bit livelier, especially in the earlier scenes. Galligan plays the rich playboy Mark who finds the hero inside himself when he discovers there is a personal involvement for him in stopping Lincoln’s sinister plan. Deborah Foreman is cute and feisty as the girl next door, who secretly crushes on Mark and shows an interesting hidden side when thrust into the Marquis de Sade’s world. Johnson is sexy and snooty as China and she shows some real fire when she finds herself at a dinner party at Dracula’s castle, the film’s most gruesome segment. Dana Ashbrook is fine as the stereotypical wiseass, Tony. David Warner is top notch, as always, as the villainous Lincoln and Patrick Macnee is a pleasure, also, as always, as the paranormal expert and monster hunter Sir Wilfred. As for our legendary fiends, O’Keeffe, Rhys-Davies and Campbell and the rest all represent their monsters well in their sequences. A good enough cast who rise to the occasion when things get interesting.

I like Waxwork. It’s fun and gruesome at the same time and get’s things right more than it stumbles. Some of the humor gets a bit heavy handed and silly at times, but for the most part, the mix of humor and horror is fine. The veterans of the cast shine and while there could have been a bit more spark in our college co-eds, they do come through when their characters find themselves in situations from their worst nightmares…or desires. A fun flick and sadly a stride Hickox would never really hit again except for the entertaining Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth. There was a sadly inferior direct to DVD sequel Waxwork II: Lost In Time four years later.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 (out of 4) surprisingly pro-de Sade heroines.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SHOCK WAVES (1977)

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SHOCK WAVES (1977)

Shock Waves is a very effective and spooky 70s horror flick that goes in slightly different direction with the traditional zombie formula and does a lot with a little.

The film opens with old WWII newsreel footage telling of rumored German experiments to create a super solider and of allied troops actually meeting squads of German commandos that were relentless, unstoppable and fought with only their bare hands. We then cut to the present with a young woman (Brooke Adams) in shock, being pulled from a boat and it is her narration that sets the tale in motion. The woman, named Rose, was aboard a tour boat near the Bahamas that had an engine malfunctioned and became lost. In the middle of the night, it strikes what appears to be an abandoned ship and is damaged, forcing guests and crew onto a small island where they find an old, apparently abandoned hotel. But the structure is not abandoned and is inhabited by an old German man (horror legend Peter Cushing) who warns that the appearance of the ghost ship that struck them, “The Pretorius” means they are all in mortal danger. He reveals that he was a soldier who commanded a platoon of scientifically altered troops who were vicious and unstoppable and designed to fight in the water. The soldiers were uncontrollable and were taken out to sea to be kept out of allied hands. When the war was lost, he sank his shipload of them and came to live on this island. But now that the ship and it’s living dead cargo has washed up on a reef, the ‘Death Corp.’ are now free to do what they were created to… kill!

Despite a PG rating and being very tame in terms of violence, Shock Waves is a very atmospheric and spooky flick thanks to director Ken Wiederhorn’s creating of a constant and heavy mood of dread and keeping his zombie-like soldiers shrouded in mystery even once they are revealed. He manages no small feat by creating such atmosphere on a sunlit tropical island, but his camera work and skilled scene set-ups overcome the idyllic setting to make a satisfyingly gothic horror. The scenes of his Death Corp. troops rising silently from the water with their scarred faces and dark goggles chills each time as does their silent and relentless pursuit of our ill-fated castaways. Despite a modest budget, Wiederhorn creates the illusion that they are everywhere and that no one is safe, no matter where they try to hide. The fact that they are renown for attacking their fellow soldiers and commanders makes even the former SS commander fearful of them and that he is also afraid, translates to the rest of the characters and to the audience. Add to this a really creepy electronic score by Richard Einhorn and you have a movie that, depute being relatively bloodless and very tame in it’s actual violence, is still quite unsettling from beginning to end. For those who whine about today’s trend of teen friendly PG-13 horror need only look to this PG rated fright flick to learn that it is the atmosphere and chills that make a horror work, not the gore and guts… though I do love a good gore fest, too!

The cast are all fine. Obviously Cushing is in top form, as always, as the SS commander and he is joined by the legendary John Carradine in a small role as the shipwrecked tour boat’s captain. A young Brooke Adams is a strong-willed heroine in her Rose and the fact that the film gets the shapely young actress in a bikini frequently, doesn’t hurt either. The rest of the small cast are relative unknowns, but do a decent job though, there won’t be any awards either. And the men who portray the stalking Death Corp. troops give their characters some lethal and deadly presence, which adds to the film’s effectiveness.

So, in effect, Ken Weiderhorn delivers a very atmospheric and chilling horror, that he co-wrote with John Kent Harrison, that is very successful in delivering the creepy goods, despite it’s low budget and minimalist approach. The film is practically bloodless and is very moderately paced, but it still gives goosebumps and makes very good use of the deserted motel location and even the jungle surrounding it. It’s not a great movie, but is still a very effective little horror that proves that you can chill without extravagant make-up FX or gore. Today’s impatient and visually overstimulated audiences might not be impressed, but for those who can appreciate it’s laid-back approach, it is a very spooky 90 minutes.

3 spooky submerged stormtroopers.

shock waves rating

 

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