BARE BONES: THE HOLE IN THE GROUND (2019)

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THE HOLE IN THE GROUND (2019)

Pretty single mom Sarah (Seána Kerslake) lives in a small, remote Irish village with her son Chris (James Quinn Markey). When Chris encounters a large, mysterious sinkhole in the woods near their home, his behavior starts to change. As her son’s actions become more and more disturbing, Sarah starts to believe that he might not be her son at all and that something else came back from that hole in the ground.

Irish horror is directed by Lee Cronin from his script written along with Stephen Shields. While there are some familiar elements, such as doubts about a strange behaving loved one’s identity and no one believing the doubter, Cronin turns this into a very creepy flick. Seána Kerslake also helps by giving a strong performance as Sarah, a woman who has had her own trauma and who is terrified that her child is no longer her son. Cronin and his actress gives us doubts ourselves about Sarah’s belief until Chris’ increasingly odd behavior starts us believing right along with her…but who or what is he? Again, the story is familiar, but skillful and atmospheric direction from Cronin and good work from lead Kerslake, make this a very spooky and unsettling movie. Not everything is explained, but here the ambiguities work in it’s favor and the movie knows how to get under your skin in subtle but disturbing ways. Recommended!

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 IRISH HORRORS TO WATCH ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 IRISH HORRORS TO WATCH ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

The celebrating of all that’s Irish is almost upon us! As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, those with horror in our Irish hearts can have plenty to watch with their corned beef and carnage! Here is a list of Irish horror flicks…OK, #15 isn’t an Irish made flick, but you know I couldn’t leave that one out…to send shivers down your shillelagh!

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(Click on the titles below to get to our reviews of the titles covered here at the Movie Madhouse!)

1. The Hallow

2. From The Dark

3. Wake Wood

4. Grabbers

5. Let Us Prey

6. Isolation

7. Shrooms

8. The Devil’s Doorway

9. Dark Touch

10. Citadel

11. I Am Not A Serial Killer

12. A Dark Song

13. The Lodgers

14. In Fear

15. Leprechaun

 

-MonsterZero NJ

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 IRISH HORRORS TO WATCH ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 IRISH HORRORS TO WATCH ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

The celebrating of all that’s Irish is almost upon us! As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, those with horror in our Irish hearts can have plenty to watch with their corned beef and carnage! Here is a list of Irish horror flicks…OK, #15 isn’t Irish, but you know I couldn’t leave that one out…to send shivers down your shillelagh!

st patricks clovers

st patricks clovers

(Click on the titles below to get to our reviews of the titles covered here at the Movie Madhouse!)

1. The Hallow

2. From The Dark

3. Wake Wood

4. Grabbers

5. Let Us Prey

6. Isolation

7. Shrooms

8. The Canal

9. Dark Touch

10. Citadel

11. I Am Not A Serial Killer

12. A Dark Song

13. The Lodgers

14. In Fear

15. Leprechaun

 

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: A DARK SONG (2016)

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A DARK SONG (2016)

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

Irish horror presents the story of the grieving Sophia (Catherine Walker) who has hired occult expert Joseph (Steve Oram) to perform a series of dark rituals so that she may speak with her dead son. The rituals are grueling and take an emotional toll on both participants. Nothing will prepare them, however, for what they will meet when the rituals start to take effect.

Written and directed by Liam Gavin this is a tense and atmospheric chiller that presents black magic rituals with a far more grounded and realistic approach than the usual theatrics. Gavin focuses mainly on his two leads and adds to the tension by having them become more and more confrontational as impatient Sophia doesn’t feel the rituals are working and Joseph doesn’t feel Sophia has been honest about her intent. It’s an interesting character study under emotional and supernatural duress as Joseph becomes more abusive to keep Sophia following the procedures and Sophia becomes more and more desperate to accomplish her goals. There are also some very spooky moments as signs appear that the barriers between worlds are coming down and thus otherworldly things are coming in. This leads to a last act which can be outright scary at times and surprisingly sentimental at others. Gavin has a very good visual eye, via Cathal Watters’ cinematography and uses the old house setting to maximum effect. There is also a really haunting score by Ray Harman, that rivals last years The Witch score by Mark Korven. If there is anything that holds the film back a bit is that the middle section drags somewhat, as the film is already moderately paced. The antagonistic relationship between Joseph and Sophia also starts to wear out it’s welcome as Joseph’s methods and demeanor towards Sophia start to become borderline cruel. Just at the point where one starts to feel the film’s grip slipping, the walls come down and the things that go bump in the night come knocking. The last act does deliver the goods and a few unexpected surprises as well.

As for the minimal cast, both leads are very good. Walker plays a grieving and desperate woman quite skillfully. We sympathize with Sophia even if she is dabbling in some very dark arts to see her child one last time. She has a few secrets and over the course of the film, Walker does strong emotional work revealing them. Steve Oram is equally solid as Joseph. He can be a cruel and mean person when he feels Sophia is straying off the path, but Oram and Gavin’s script also give glimpses to a more likable person under the surface. He is driven but human and he is never portrayed as a bad guy. Good work by both cast members.

Overall, I liked A Dark Song and was especially intrigued by it’s more realistic approach to dark magic rituals. There are some genuinely scary scenes and the film is always atmospheric. If the film has any flaws, it’s that the bickering and abusive behavior between Sophia and Joseph starts to wear on one after awhile and the middle of the film, where much of this occurs, drags a bit before the film’s spooky last act kicks in. There is an intensity about the film and some surprising sentimentality, too, though the methodical pace might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe it doesn’t quite live up to early word and I didn’t love it as much as I’d have liked, but it’s a starkly original take on occult thrillers and certainly worth a spooky look.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 candles.

 

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 12 IRISH HORRORS TO WATCH ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

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HAVE A HAPPY HORROR-FILLED ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

During this day of celebrating the Irish, those with horror in our Irish hearts can have plenty to watch with their corned beef and carnage! Here is a list of twelve recent Irish horror flicks…OK, #12 isn’t Irish or recent, but you know I couldn’t leave that one out…to send shivers down your shillelagh!

st patricks clovers

(Click on the titles below to get to our reviews of the titles covered here at the Movie Madhouse!)

1. The Hallow

2. From The Dark

3. Wake Wood

4. Grabbers

5. Let Us Prey

6. Isolation

7. Shrooms

8. The Canal

9. Dark Touch

10. Citadel

11 I Am Not A Serial Killer

12. Leprechaun

 

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: CHERRY TREE (2015)

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CHERRY TREE (2015)

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

Weird movie has high school girl Faith (Naomi Battrick) learning her father (Sam Hazeldine) has leukemia and being approached by witch, Sissy (Anna Walton from Hellboy 2 and The Seasoning House) with a proposal. Sissy and her coven will save her father’s life, if Faith agrees to have a baby for her. Once pregnant, Faith begins to have second thoughts, especially when she learns the child is to be used as part of a sacrifice. Can Faith find a way to save her child without sacrificing the life of her father?

Cherry Tree is the type of movie that you start out really wanting to like, but the film just gets increasingly awful and silly as it goes on. Irish horror is directed with a surprisingly stale hand by David Keating who made the spooky and effective Wake Wood with it’s silly and bordeline incoherent script written by Wake Wood co-scribe Brendan McCarthy. Not sure what happened here, as these two have delivered much better. But despite a few spooky moments and some interesting design work, this horror just gets worse and worse as it goes along. Even the scene set-ups appear amateurish at times and the script just gets more and more ludicrous as the film goes on, right down to the laughable final scene. These filmmakers have done far more competent work and that’s what is so puzzling about this flick, aside from it’s ridiculous story. Did Keating forget how to direct a movie? Some scenes almost play like there wasn’t a director on set and the actors were just winging it. There is a total lack or atmosphere or scares and considering the story, it is totally humorless and takes itself way too seriously. Though it’s not quite bad enough to make it funny and thus enjoyable on that level.

The cast are fine considering what they have to work with. Battrick is a decent heroine. A bit of a tough girl and that works considering what Faith is up against, though I question how quickly she decides witchcraft and teen pregnancy was a viable solution. Walton makes a creepy witch, though her role gets increasingly silly and what kind of a name is Sissy for a diabolical witch anyway? Rounding out the leads, Sam Hazeldine isn’t really given much to do and is adequate as Sean, Faith’s brave yet ailing father.

Not sure what happened here. Keating and McCarthy have teamed before with spooky and successful results. This flick is a silly mess tha gets worse and worse as it goes along. There are a few chilling moments and some of the imagery is effective, if not overused. It did have a bit of a unique look to it’s design work, but it’s wasted on a film that is unentertainingly looney and borders on incoherent at times. An odd mess from filmmakers who have been far more reliable in the past.

-MonsterZero NJ

1 and 1/2 cherries.

cherry tree rating

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SHROOMS (2007)

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SHROOMS (2007)

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

A group of five American college friends travel to Ireland for a backwoods camping trip to sample the local hallucinogenic mushrooms. Their guide Jake (Jack Huston) takes them in the woods to harvest what they came for and later that night tells them a campfire story of a cruel religious sect called The Black Brothers and a massacre they were involved in, in a nearby monastery. He tells them ingesting dangerous mushrooms were the cause of the killings and the only two survivors were a burned young boy and the most heinous of the monks. These two are said to even today haunt the surrounding woods. The more the mushrooms take effect, the more the story begins to impact them. To make matters worse, Tara (Lindsey Haun) has accidentally ingested one of those dangerous mushrooms and begins to see visions of horrible fates befalling her friends…or are they premonitions of what is yet to come? Is it all hallucination, or is there something sinister lurking in the surrounding countryside?

Irish horror is written by Pearse Elliot and directed by Paddy Breathnach and has a good time with having it’s cast stoned and thus not sure what they are seeing or hearing is real…which translates to the audience. It also has fun with Tara seeing horrible things that may…or may not…be coming to pass and having her frantic over trying to prevent her friends’ possible fates. It’s not a great movie and isn’t exactly overly suspenseful or intense, but it does have a good time with it’s premise. Breathnach has a nice visual eye and uses some varied digital effects to portray the constant hallucinogenic state of our six characters. There is some decent bloodshed…or is there?…and if the film really falters is that you can easily guess the big reveal long before the climax. Other than that, it is an amusing enough slasher where it takes a while to find out if any of the slashing is really occurring and if so, who or what is responsible. On a production level, the film looks good under Nanu Segal’s lens, the score by Dario Marianelli is suiting and the locations and well-rendered FX help enhance the atmosphere of the moody Irish backwoods setting. Not a classic, but an enjoyable horror flick with an amusing stoner twist.

The cast are all adequate. Girl-next-door type Lindsay Haun makes a cute and suitable leading lady. She conveys well the confusion and horror of a women who is having terrible visions pertaining to her friends and is trying to prevent them from coming to pass. As the Irish guide and Tara’s love interest, Jack Huston has some charisma though his thick accent isn’t always clearly understandable. The supporting players are all adequate as stereotypical American college characters with Robert Hoffman as the obnoxious and loud, Bluto (an Animal House reference?), Alice Greczyn as the hippie chick, Holly, Max Kasch as the stoner, Troy and Maya Hazen as the party girl, Lisa.

Overall, this is an enjoyable enough flick. It takes the ‘Americans in a strange land finding peril’ scenario and adds a hallucinogenic twist to keep us guessing as to if what we see happening is real or not. Our characters also are having trouble discerning hallucination from reality and that’s fun too. There is some some decent bloodshed and if anything really takes this down a few pegs, it’s that we can see the big reveal coming a mile away. An amusing Irish horror.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 psilocybin mushrooms.

shrooms rating

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ISOLATION (2005)

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ISOLATION (2005)

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

Irish horror finds down-on-his-luck farmer Dan (John Lynch) allowing John (Marcel Iureș), a scientist from a bio-corporation, to do genetic experiments on his cows for money. It is not only supposed to accelerate their growth, but increase fertility at an earlier age. The experiment goes awry and a calf is not only born with genetic defects, but pregnant with strange little creatures. The pretty local vet Orla (The Babadook’s Essie Davis), who is assisting John, tries to destroy them all, but one gets away and the parasitic creature now seeks a host to gestate and reproduce. It’s bite is also infectious making it even more dangerous. This puts Dan, Orla, two drifters camped out near Dan’s property (Sean Harris and Ruth Negga) and John in deep trouble as they try to stop it. Can they escape Dan’s isolated farm alive…should they?

Written and directed by Billy O’Brien, this is an effective and entertaining horror despite some familiar plot elements. We have seen stories about genetic experiments gone wrong, often, as we have ones about mutations that can reproduce and infect others very quickly. O’Brien uses these tropes well in creating atmosphere and tension as our small group of people try to stop the little bugger from getting off the farm or reproducing. His script gives us realistic characters throw into a nightmarish situation and he also plays around with our expectations as to who will survive…if any…and who is monster fodder. This keeps us off balance and unnerved, as on that level he doesn’t deliver what’s expected. This adds to the tension and if O’Brien is not keeping us in suspense as to where our beastie is and what it’s up to, he’s delivering some generous blood and gore and a vey unusual looking creature. It all makes for a solid little horror that may not be the most original in terms of story, but has a director who uses the familiar elements very well and to good effect.

One of the reasons the film also works is that we do like most of the characters and the actors help. John Lynch gives us a simple farmer in Dan, who makes a bad decision to save his farm and now regrets it greatly. He conveys that regret and the desire to make things right and stop the monster, very well. Nine years before she delivered a stunning performance in The Babadook, Essie Davis gives us a likable women in Orla, who has also has made a bad decision in helping the genetics firm mess with Dan’s cows. Like Dan, she is horrified at the result and yearns to see it stopped before it spreads. Marcel Iureș gives us a scientist, who while is basically the human villain of the piece, at first doesn’t seem so bad. He has us fooled for a while, then delivers a solid bad guy scientist when his true colors come through. As the drifters, Negga and Harris make a likable duo of not so innocents who get drawn into a nightmare, but valiantly try to help. A small but effective cast.

Not a perfect flick or overly original, but a solidly entertaining one from Billy O’Brien. It has plot elements we’ve seen before, but uses them well and effectively. The director creates some nice mood, atmosphere and tension and doesn’t skimp on the gore or critters either. The FX are well rendered, without any CGI and the cast all do good work with their respective characters, which helps make them believable and identifiable. A solid horror from Irish filmmaker O’Brien.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 cows who don’t remember being asked about participating in genetic experiments.

 isolation rating

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 IRISH HORRORS TO WATCH ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

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HAVE A HAPPY HORROR-FILLED ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

During this day of corned beef, cabbage and green beer, those with horror in our Irish hearts can have plenty to watch with their Shepherd’s Pie and favorite pints! Here is a list of ten recent Irish horror flicks…OK, #10 isn’t Irish or recent, but you know I couldn’t leave that one out…to send shivers down your shillelagh!

st patricks clovers

(Click on the titles below to get to our reviews of the titles covered here at the Movie Madhouse!)

1. The Hallow

2. From The Dark

3. Wake Wood

4. Grabbers

5. Let Us Prey

6. Isolation

7. Shrooms

8. The Canal

9. Dark Touch

10. Leprechaun

 

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: LET US PREY (2014)

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LET US PREY (2015)

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

Irish made horror takes place in a small Scottish police station where newly assigned Constable Rachel Haggie (Pollyanna McIntosh) is starting her night with a bang. On her way to work she arrests a youth (Brian Vernel) for a hit and run where the victim mysteriously disappears. Once at the station, she finds the cells slowly filling up and some not so welcoming behavior from her fellow and commanding officers. Things get even more tense as the mysterious stranger from the hit and run (Liam Cunningham) arrives at the station and appears to have intimate knowledge of everyone’s darkest secrets. Now, as the evening crawls toward the midnight hour, a reckoning comes to this place and there is bloody hell to pay…literally.

As directed by Brian O’Malley this is a spooky, intense and, sometimes, brutally violent horror/thriller about bad people getting what’s coming to them. We know from the moment we see Cunningham’s “Six” (so named for the cell he’s put in, as he has the fingerprints of a deadman) apparently rise from the sea, that a man followed by blackbirds, and with a little black book of names, is not here on vacation. We’ve seen David Cairns’ and Fiona Watson’s story before, from Twilight Zone episodes to High Plains Drifter, but, it’s the way O’Malley tells the story, though, with stark visuals and a brooding atmosphere that makes it work very well, despite the familiar story of the lone stranger coming to exact otherworldly justice. “Six” gets into peoples heads and we get to see the dark deeds of both cop and detainee alike and soon the walls of the small police station are spattered in blood and there may be no one left to tell what has happened in the backwater town. Sure, it gets a little borderline over-the-top in the last act, but, O’Malley keeps it intense and fast moving and keeps the blood and gore flowing and thus, keeps us fairly riveted till his dark tale is over. The last scene does oversell, with some talky dialogue, what we’ve already figured out, but, after a tense and spooky 90 minutes we can cut the filmmakers some slack. There is also some lush and atmospheric cinematography by Piers Mc Grail and a very moody and appropriately spooky score by Steve Lynch to add to the film’s overall effectiveness.

As for O’Malley’s cast…Game Of Thrones and Dog Soldiers vet Cunningham cuts a dark and mysterious figure. His “Six” has a quite intensity and a calm demeanor that makes him far more effective than had he played it over-the-top. McIntosh is a strong heroine and while we do guess where things are headed for her, she’s still a solid character to get behind. In support there is Douglas Russell as the station Sergeant with his own hidden sins. We have Hanna Stanbridge and Bryan Larkin as two officers who are having an affair with each other and with abusing suspects. Brian Vernal, Niall Greig Fulton and Jonathan Watson round out, as the cell occupants who may have committed far darker crimes than the officers realize. A solid cast that makes things work well.

I liked this movie. It was intense and bloody and kept moving at a quick enough pace to keep one from thinking too much about the familiar story. There was a spooky score and some great visuals to assist with the film’s atmosphere. Sure, we’ve seen the whole avenging dark angel thing in countless other films but, the film knows it and doesn’t insult us by trying to pretend we haven’t. It’s not perfect. We can easily figure out what’s coming but, there are still some surprises and some effectively shocking moments to keep things darkly afloat. An entertaining and chilling Irish horror that shows director O’Malley has some skills worth keeping an eye on.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 blackbirds.

crow-coa rating

Be warned…trailer is a bit gruesome…

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