BARE BONES: THE MIDNIGHT MAN (2016)

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THE MIDNIGHT MAN (2016)

Creepypasta based flick finds emotionally troubled teen Alex (Gabrielle Haugh) caring for her dementia inflicted grandmother, Anna (Lin Shaye) in her old house. When she and boyfriend Miles (Grayson Gabriel) are poking around in the attic, they find what appears to be some sort of game. The Midnight Game involves inviting a malevolent spirit, known as The Midnight Man, into the house and then trying to evade him until 3:33 AM. If you do, you win. If you don’t…he claims you. Not taking it seriously, Alex and Miles begin to play not realizing the game is all too real…and so is The Midnight Man!

While yet another urban legend/boogeyman flick, Midnight Man is elevated by the presences of horror vets Robert Englund, as Anna’s old friend and physician Dr. Goodberry and Lin Shaye. It’s also well directed by Travis Z (Travis Zariwny) who wrote the script based on a screenplay by Rob Kennedy, from Kennedy’s own 2013 film about this creepypasta urban legend. Despite a fairly routine story, the film is atmospheric and entertaining and has a very effective visual style. Travis Z may not have concocted the most original film, but he still redeems himself here after the awful Cabin Fever remake, with some solid and spooky direction. It’s not perfect. The film’s boogeyman isn’t really all that scary, though Lin Shaye’s disturbing portrayal of Anna certainly makes up for it, and the characters seem willing to believe the game is real a little too quickly. Overall, though, what could have been another cookie cutter teen-centric horror, stands out a bit from the pack with some atmospheric direction from Travis Z, some generous blood and gore and the good use of two horror icons to support the young cast. Also stars Emily Haine as Alex’s friend Kelly who joins in on the game and has one of the spookier sequences.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DESOLATION (2017)

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DESOLATION (2017)

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

Desolation is a small but sometimes intense little movie about three people being pursued by a mysterious figure while camping in the woods. Pretty, young widow Abby (Jaimi Paige) hikes deep into the mountains with her son Sam (Toby Nichols) and her friend Jen (Alyshia Ochse). They are there to lay to rest the ashes of Abby’s late husband and soon find themselves being followed by a creepy hiker (Claude Duhamel) who may have ill intent for the three.

Disturbing thriller is directed by Sam Patton from a script by Matt Anderson and Michael Larson-Kangas. It gives us a little time to get to know Abby, Sam and Jen and what emotional state they are in, before they start to realize there is someone trailing them as they hike into the mountains and camp. The chills from director Patton start off slowly as the hiker sits quietly staring from a distance, before turning the screws when he brutally let’s us know, what we suspected all along, that this hiker is up to no good. Then it’s a last act struggle to survive with a savage killer in pursuit. Granted this isn’t something new story-wise, with innocents in the middle of nowhere under siege by a deadly attacker. It’s in the telling that the story picks up it’s intensity as Patton has introduced us to three likable characters, two of which who are emotionally vulnerable at the moment. All the more reason to fear for them as their pursuer moves in and reveals his violent and cruel intentions. We may have an idea as to how this will all play out, but it is effective none the less…brutally effective at times. And at only 78 minutes, it is a tight little movie that certainly doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.

The minimal cast all perform well. Jaimi Paige presents a sweet but wounded woman in widowed mom Abby. She’s trying to remain strong and be supportive of her son and we sympathize with her. Paige gives her a down to earth quality that really makes her endearing. Same could be said for Alyshia Ochse as her best friend, Jen. Jen is also a sweet and playful girl-next-door type and she and Paige have a good on-screen chemistry. They are very convincing as friends and their concern for each other, both before and after the hitchhiker makes his presence known, seems sincere. Toby Nichols does a solid job portraying a young boy coping with the death of a parent and then trying to be strong for his mother when they come under attack. A good performance from the young man where he has to convey a wealth of different emotions. Finally, Claude Duhamel imbues his silent hitchhiker with some nice malevolence, using just his body language and facial expressions to convey this guy is not right. Even before he gets violent, we are uncomfortable for our trio when he is around. The film also leaves the aspects of his motivations ambiguous, with enough gruesome clues to form our own conclusions.

An original movie?…No. A well done telling of a familiar tale…quite! Sam Patton keeps the film small and intimate, gives his audience time to get to know and endear to his main characters and then slowly allows his creepy stalker to get closer and closer to our vulnerable trio. He waits sometime for things to get really vicious and then it becomes a brutal struggle to survive against an enigmatic and highly disturbed individual. A good cast and some nice New York State locations help make this a solid survival thriller and a good start to Sam Patton’s feature film resume.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 extremely concerned hikers.

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: KILLING GROUND (2017)

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KILLING GROUND (2017)

Killing Ground is an Australian thriller that finds couple Ian (Ian Meadows) and Sam (Harriet Dyer) going on a camping trip in a rural part of the country. They find another vehicle and tent at the campground, yet no occupants seem to be around. Soon Ian and Sam encounter two local “hunters” (Aaron Pedersen and Aaron Glennane) who, unknown to the couple, know exactly what happened to the abandoned tent’s former occupants.

Written and directed by Damien Power, this is an effective but familiar survival thriller. His story is basically in the Wolf Creek ballpark with innocent travelers happening upon deranged locals in a rural setting. What we see is brutal and effective and while certain cruel acts are off-camera, just knowing what is going on induces chills. Power tells his story in a split narrative where we inter-cut scenes of Sam and Ian in the present with scenes from earlier on with the ill-fated family that resided in the now empty tent. It works well enough and once the stories meet it continues to it’s finish within the present timeline.  It makes for a grim yet fairly involving 90 minutes, though there are some questions. What drove these two to get homicidal with this family, as it seems they are too sloppy to have done it before and not gotten caught. Also, they are well known to local police, so they would logically be prime suspects if something went askew in that jurisdiction…though the police portrayed here are done so as stereo-typically daft local cops. Still, the film does work well enough and the cast are effective in their roles.

Harriet Dyer is a fine heroine in Sam. She isn’t a damsel and is a fighter when she has something worth protecting. Ian Meadows’ Ian starts out as a likable character, though as the story progresses and it becomes a battle for survival, he shows some unfortunate true colors. As for our bad guys, Pedersen and Glennane make fine deranged locals and even if the characters are well-worn stereotypes, they play them effectively. Again, the problem with them aside from familiarity, is they seem too sloppy in their activities and if this isn’t the first time they’ve done this…previous jail time is mentioned but not why…it’s hard to believe they haven’t already been caught. If this is their first crime of this magnitude, what was it about this family that triggered the violence and cruelty? We never get to know them enough to gives us a clue.

In conclusion, this is an effective but familiar survival thriller. Damien Power directs well enough to make it work better than it should and we are chilled by some of what we see. The film is overall, though, nothing new and there are some questions we are asking once it’s over. Also stars Maya Stange, Julian Garner, Tiarnie Coupland and Liam and Riley Parkes as the ill-fated family whose grim tale unfolds during the film.

3 bullets.

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: DARKNESS RISING (2017)

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DARKNESS RISING (2017)

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

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

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

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET (2017)

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HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET (2017)

Flick has four kidnappers snatching a girl (Carlyn Burchell) whom they plan to ransom, only to find she is possessed by a demon and now they can’t get rid of her as she takes them down one by one. Silly flick is flatly directed by Alastair Orr from a script by he, Jonathan Jordaan and Catherine Blackman. Despite that it gets goofier and goofier as it moves along, this flick takes itself way too seriously, so we can’t even have fun with the ridiculousness of it all. It’s an endless parade of horror clichés and movie scene rip-offs that doesn’t even have the decency to allow us to laugh at it, as it’s just so dull. There is some nice make-up FX and gore, but the CGI is laughably bad and the performances and dialog are wooden and weak. Overall it’s a tedious mess of things we’ve seen so many times before and not reused with any cleverness or ingenuity. Yawn.

There was some good advanced word on this, though not sure where it came from. Stars Sharni Vinson (You’re Next, Patrick: Evil Awakens), who looks uncomfortable and like she’d rather be elsewhere, during the entire movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: THE DEVIL’S DOLLS (2016)

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THE DEVIL’S DOLLS (2016)

Silly but amusing flick has a cop, Matt (Christopher Wiehl) gunning down a serial killer and taking the killer’s Guatemalan Worry Dolls into evidence. Upon visiting his ex-wife’s (Samantha Smith) house, his little girl (Kennedy Brice) sees the dolls in his car and takes them. The dolls are possessed by the killer’s evil essence and now anyone who comes into possession of one gets possessed themselves and kills…still with me? Now Matt must recover the dolls before more people meet gruesome ends and free his daughter of the killer’s spirit.

Directed by Padraig Reynolds from a script by Danny Kolker and star Christopher Wiehl, it feels like someone read about Guatemalan Worry Dolls and cobbled together a story to use them. The result is a hodgepodge of a horror mixing possessed dolls, possessed people and a Guatemalan witch doctor (Tina Lifford) living in the middle of the woods (for exposition, of course) in a shack bigger than most people’s condos. If the film has a strong point, it is that there is plenty of gore and it is well rendered and quite abundant and somehow director Reynolds seems to keep the silliness somewhat amusing for the flick’s 85 minute run. It’s never scary, though never boring either. An unintentionally goofy flick and on that level it does entertain despite how bad it all really is.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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A DARK SONG TRAILER GIVES CHILLS!

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Liam Gavin’s supernatural horror arrives here in the U.S. on 4/28/17 from IFC Midnight and tells the story of a woman (Catherine Walker) joining forces with an occultist (Steve Oram from The Canal) to speak to her dead son. Nothing can go wrong with that…right? Check out the spooky trailer for this upcoming chiller!

source: Youtube

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BARE BONES: THE DEAD ROOM (2015)

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THE DEAD ROOM (2015)

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

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

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE DEVIL’S CANDY (2015)

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THE DEVIL’S CANDY (2015)

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

I’m a huge fan of Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones and was obviously looking forward to seeing another flick from him…and finally, after eight years, it’s here. The Devil’s Candy is Byrne’s newest film, made in 2015, it’s only now getting a proper release on VOD and in select theaters from the cool folks at IFC Midnight.

The story here is of heavy metal loving artist Jesse (Ethan Embry), who moves to an old rural farmhouse with his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and chip-off-the-old-block teen daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco). While Jesse and Astrid know that the couple that formerly lived there died in the house, what they don’t know is that it is also home to some kind of malevolent influence. If it’s not bad enough that Jesse’s art starts to take a dark and ominous tone soon after moving in, Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince), the child murdering son of the previous owners, wants to come home…and he has set his demented sights on Zooey.

While not quite as intense as The Loved Ones, and lacking it’s twisted sense of humor, this is still an atmospheric, disturbing and sometimes brutally violent horror flick. The mix of heavy metal music and demonic horror, obviously works as the two have been paired up since Black Sabbath took to the airwaves in 1968. While the demonic influence elements are nothing new, they are very effective as used by Bryne, draped in his thick atmosphere of foreboding. The most disturbing elements, though, are obviously Ray’s need to “feed” The Devil his favorite candy…children. He stalks Zooey right out in the open and the distraction the malevolent entity feeds Jesse by way of his art, leaves poor Zooey unprotected. It creates some very unsettling scenes as Ray gets closer to obtaining his goal, including one in Zooey’s bedroom that is absolutely bone chilling. This all leads up to not one but two harrowing sequences with Zooey and the rotund pervert, each more intense than the last. There are some drawbacks. The film comes in at a very tight 79 minutes and it sometimes feels too quickly over for it’s own good. We wish we had a little more time to let certain scenes resonate and be given a little more time to let the disturbing nature of what is transpiring sink in before moving on to the next dramatic moment. It is also never quite clear whether it is this demonic influence that led Ray to kill, or was it his homicidal habit that brought the entity into the house…if not…why is it there? On a technical level the film looks great and while there is some week CGI during the climax, the rest of the FX work is solid and there is a really atmospheric score from Mads Heldtberg, Michael Yezerski and the band Sunn O)))

If anything helps one past some of the flaws, it’s a really good cast. Ethan Embry has become a fixture in some good horror/thrillers lately such as the frustrated son in the awesome Late Phases, or the ill-fated gun dealer in The Guest. He is really good here, not only as metal head/family man Jesse, but in portraying Jesse’s gradual transformation from attentive father into obsessed artist. As his frustrated and scared wife, Shiri Appleby is solid as a woman whose family life is disrupted from both within and without. She has a suddenly moody and unfocused husband at home and a hulking child killer lurking about after her daughter. Appleby makes her a bit more than a damsel in distress, though she isn’t given as much to do when all hell breaks loose as we’d have liked. Kiara Glasco makes a really good impression as Zooey. A teen who walks to the beat of her father influenced drum but is her own person. She’s a tough kid and a little rebellious and the young actress has a great chemistry with Embry, so their father/daughter relationship really works well on screen. She has a couple of tough scenes to portray and does a good job. Making this all come together is a really disturbing performance by veteran actor Pruitt Taylor Vince (recently seen as “Otis” in The Walking Dead). Vince really makes Ray a creepy person who makes you uncomfortable every moment he’s on camera. It really makes you fear for Zooey, especially when he catches up to her…more than once. He makes your skin crawl. A solid cast just as in Byrne’s first flick.

So maybe writer/director Sean Byrne hasn’t quite equaled The Loved Ones in his sophomore feature flick, but he has delivered another disturbing, atmospheric and bloody movie that is of a different sort than his previous twisted love story. This plot may be a bit more commonplace, but he uses the familiar tropes very effectively. The theatrical cut…wikipedia lists a 10 minute longer festival cut…may be a little too short for it’s own good and there are some unanswered questions, but a really strong cast and a director who knows how to turn the screws makes up for a lot of it. Highly recommended. especially if you loved Sean Byrne’s previous work.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and1/2 screaming guitars!

 

 

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