HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021)

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HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021)

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

Sequel to Halloween 2018 starts out with a pre-credits flashback to 1978 and after the fiery jack-o-lantern filled credits sequence, picks up were the last flick left off. While the citizens of sleepy Haddonfield have yet to realize who’s back and a wounded Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) heads to the hospital with Karen (Judy Greer) and Allyson (Andi Matichak), an ill-fated group of firemen unleash Myers (James Jude Courtney) from his burning prison. Now, as an angry Michael starts carving up the town, locals, including 1978 survivors Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) and Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet), decide it’s time to hunt him down and put an end to his reign of terror.

Halloween Kills is again directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) who co-wrote with Danny McBride and Scott Teems. The result is an incredibly polarized mixed bag with some really great scenes and scenes that borderline suck. The good stuff is anything involving Michael. The opening flashback to his capture in 1978 is one of the best Halloween sequences outside of the 1978 original and has a really shocking surprise cameo. The scene of Michael decimating his first responder rescue team is not only already controversial, but quite intense and bloody. The Michael Myers here is angry and his stalk and kill scenes are intense, very graphically violent and sometimes outright scary. They have impact and we see one of the most vicious portrayals of Michael Myers since Rob Zombie’s flicks. Unfortunately, the scenes featuring Tommy Doyle and his mob of frenzied townies at the hospital are downright terrible. The dialogue spoken by Doyle and the hospital security chief, former sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers), is awful and hearing an angry mob shouting “Evil dies tonight!” in the hospital lobby is almost laughable, if one wasn’t busy cringing. Add in the silly mob pursuit of another escaped mental patient mistaken for Michael and hilarity not intensity ensues. How could Green nail the scenes with Michael so well and completely bungle everything else? Laurie is sidelined for pretty much the entire movie, with Karen and Allyson taking up the mantle of Myers hunters and their confrontation with him at the old Myers house is thankfully one of the things Green gets right. The gore is plentiful and quite gruesome and the violence is quite brutal, but it’s sadly the stuff that should have given this dramatic weight that fails so badly here. At least Carpenter, his son Cody and Daniel Davies provide a really good score and David Gordon Green still has a good eye for visuals. The film looks great and the score really punches up the kill scenes. Everything else just induces a lot of intense eye rolling and mumblings of “WTF” were they thinking.

The cast are a mixed bag, too. Curtis does the best with what little she has to work with and it’s Greer and Matichak that shine here, as they go on the offensive with mom Laurie in the hospital. Anthony Michael Hall just doesn’t click as Tommy Doyle, who, for some reason, is given the Dr. Loomis role here. It doesn’t work and his Loomis-esque dialogue is terrible. Dylan Arnold is good again as Cameron and Robert Longstreet is fine as his dad Lonnie. Rounding out the original character returns is Kyle Richards returning to her original role as Lindsey, Cyphers as Brackett and Nancy Stephens returning as Nurse Marion. Nice to see these original faces, but they could have been better used. Also returning is Omar J Dorsey as Sheriff Barker and Will Patton as Hawkins. James Jude Courtney is once again imposing as Michael Myers.

What can one say. After a fantastic opening sequence and an intense and brutal escape by Michael Myers, the film turns into a silly pitchfork and torch mob movie—and yes, there is actually a pitchfork at one point—with some scenes that feature awful dialogue and completely misfire, killing any intensity the Myers stalk and kill scenes have. With those at least, the film lives up to it’s promise with David Gordon Green really nailing these scenes and giving us the vicious, brutal and scary Michael Myers that we came to see. We can only hope Halloween Ends is exactly that and this incarnation of  Myers can finally rest in peace.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated a generous 3 (out of 4) carving knives, because the Michael scenes rocked. Happy Halloween 🎃!

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BARE BONES: BLACK AS NIGHT (2021)

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BLACK AS NIGHT (2021)

Vampire flick premiered on Amazon Prime this past weekend as part of the new Welcome to the Blumhouse series. It takes place in New Orleans in the rundown housing project of Ombreux, where folks are suddenly disappearing. When teenager Shawna (Asjha Cooper) is attacked and bitten and her mother is turned, Shawna realizes vampires are preying on the locals. Determined to save the Ombreux and those who live there, Shawna and best bud Pedro (Fabrizio Guido) set out to hunt down and destroy the master vampire (Keith David).

Flick is directed by Maritte Lee Go from a script by Sherman Payne. It has it’s heart in the right place, covering some socially relevant topics such as gentrification of urban neighborhoods and the effects of Hurricane Katrina on people of color, fifteen years later. The film makes good use of the New Orleans locations, and has some fun moments and entertaining action sequences as Shawna and friends turn vampire killers. Where the film falters, is as a vampire movie it’s very routine and could have been more energetic. The similar Vampires vs, The Bronx handled similar socially relevant themes, but was much more fun and effective as a vampire flick, too. Sure it’s great to see Keith David as a master vampire and his purpose fits in with the film’s themes, but it’s all very 90s Buffy—not that there’s anything wrong with that—but without the pop culture wit. Bronx’s gentrifying vampires were more fun, as were it’s spunky vampire fighting kids. Cooper and the cast all perform well, but well-intended social messages aside, we just wish Black as Night was simply more bloody fun.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE DARK AND THE WICKED and THE VIGIL

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This installment of MonsterZero NJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature pairs two of the spookiest flicks to come out in recent months. Both features present persons who are either non-believers, or of lost faith, who are faced with a malevolent demonic presence. Both are extremely spooky and make for quite a scary MonsterZero NJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature!

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THE DARK AND THE WICKED (2020)

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

Chilling horror finds siblings Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) returning home to their parent’s rural farmhouse, as their father (Michael Zagst) has taken gravely ill. Soon after, their mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) mysteriously commits suicide and upon reading her journals, the atheist brother and sister start to believe there is a dark and sinister force stalking their family.

Movie is written and directed by Bryan Bertino (The Strangers, The Monster) and is one creepy and unsettling film. The flick opens with some mood setting sequences that elude to the fact that there is something malevolent indeed stalking this house. As the siblings arrive and their mother’s suicide causes them to investigate what is going on, it becomes obvious that in her final days, their atheist mother began to believe something evil was after their ailing father’s soul. Bertino maintains a very unsettling atmosphere throughout the entire film and it really starts to get under your skin as the film progresses. It also makes it unnerving that these simple folk are atheists, yet come to believe something very sinister and supernatural is at work here. He turns up the tension and creep factor gradually, as farm animals are gruesomely harmed and visitors to the house, such as a very strange priest (Xander Berkeley), prove to not be what they seem. Some may not like that we never get a solid explanation as to who, what and why, but here it seems to serve the film’s dread-filled atmosphere to have the cause and exact nature of this malevolence remain somewhat ambiguous. The film has some shockingly violent moments and some really goose-bump inducing scenes and imagery. Bertino rarely uses jump scares, and crafts all of the scares we do get, which are frequent and very effective, with an expert hand. The flick rarely let’s you relax, much like the characters within it are constantly on edge.

As those characters, the small cast are very good. Lead Marin Ireland is very effective as the concerned and then very frightened Louise. The actress starts Louise out with a convincing performance as a woman conflicted and a little hurt by her mother’s demands that she stay away, but then someone who becomes very scared when it seems the things she doesn’t believe in may be all too real. Michael Abbott Jr. is also solid as her brother Michael. Unlike his sister, he has his own family to take care of and it’s no surprise the evil in the house uses that to it’s advantage, to separate and divide the brother and sister. Julie Oliver-Touchstone is quite spooky, as their haunted mother, in her brief screen time. Her performance helps set the tone for the film. Michael Zagst doesn’t do much as their comatose father, but he is an important character nonetheless and has some chilling scenes. Rounding out are a very creepy Xander Berkeley as a “priest” and Ella Ballentine (The Monster) is effective in what she has to do as farmhand Charlie’s (Tom Nowicki) granddaughter. A really good cast!

Overall, The Dark and the Wicked is definitely one of the best horror’s of the year and one of the most consistently creepy and unsettling horror movies in some time. Bryan Bertino keeps the unnerving atmosphere cranked up and gives us numerous sequences and events to chill and spook us. His frights are legitimate and he never resorts to cheap jump scare tactics to get a reaction out of us. Keeping his malevolent entity ambiguous only works in the film’s favor, as the director knows how to get under our skin and does so often. Even the cinematography by Tristan Nyby and the haunting score by Tom Schraeder is effective in giving us the creeps. Definitely one of the best horror films in a movie year where major new releases were few and far between and indie horror came to the forefront at drive-ins and on VOD. Now streaming on Shudder!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) ill-fated goats.

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THE VIGIL (2019)

Supernatural horror steeped in Orthodox Jewish culture comes from Blumhouse Productions and is released by IFC Midnight. The story tells of Yakov (Dave Davis), an emotionally troubled young man, who has left his Orthodox Jewish background and is out of work, in therapy and on medication. He is offered much needed money to be a Shomer for the night, someone who, in Jewish tradition, watches over and prays for the recently deceased till dawn. As he watches the body of a man called Litvak, he starts to realize there may be something malevolent in the house with him.

Yes, this story does evoke the classic flick The Viy, but is most definitely it’s own thing. The film is written and directed by Keith Thomas and is a very impressive feature debut. Thomas creates tension from almost the first scene by first establishing Yakov’s emotional and financial duress, but also then the tension between he and the members of the Orthodox Jewish community that want him back. Once Yakov enters the house, he finds out the first Shomer left in fear and the widow, Mrs. Litvak (Lynn Cohen from Feast of the Seven Fishes), doesn’t want him there, either. As the spooky goings on in the house begin to escalate, Thomas lets us know that not only did Yakov witness the death of his little brother as a result of a hate crime, a death he feels responsible for, but that the recently deceased Mr. Litvak (Ronald Cohen) was obsessed with combating a demon called a Mazzik (Rob Tunstall). Thomas knows how to create an atmosphere of dread and knows how to generate chills simply with his camera. The combination of lighting, spooky sets and shot composition, go a long way in making this flick very spooky all in itself. There are some familiar tropes that come with these type of demonic haunting flicks, but Thomas knows how to use them very well and knows when to mix in some new twists, such as demonic manipulation of Yakov’s cellphone. The entity uses Yakov’s past trauma and the voices of those he trusts against him and it is scary stuff. Add to all that a really effective score by Michael Yezerski (The Devil’s Candy) and some very unsettling cinematography by Zach Kuperstein (The Eyes of My Mother) and you have a legitimately scary movie.

The small cast is also very good, with Dave Davis pulling out a very strong, emotional performance of a man already on the edge, being pushed by something unearthly. He makes Yakov sympathetic, so we connect with him and feel badly as the demonic presence really puts him through the ringer. We also are behind him when he digs deep into his abandoned faith to fight back. Solid work! Lynn Cohen can be very spooky as Mrs. Litvak, a woman suffering from loss and a touch of Alzheimer’s, but also somewhat likable as we get to know her. Menashe Lustig is also good as Reb Shulem, an Orthodox Jewish community leader who wants Yakov to return to them and gives him this job as a way of coercing him back. A very good cast.

Keith Thomas delivers what might be the first truly scary horror flick of 2021. Despite the flick playing festivals and internationally since 2019, it is only now being released here in the U.S by the awesome folks at IFC Midnight. It is simply a good, old fashioned, scary movie that uses atmosphere, tension and some super creepy camera work to scare you. Thomas builds a lot of tension before the scares even begin and gives us an emotionally troubled main character to get put through a truly hellish night. All his characters have some history and depth to them, that the telling of which is woven cleverly into his simple, but layered story. A very spooky, scary horror with some nice emotional depth behind the proceedings, a refreshingly different cultural perspective and some really effective use of the familiar tropes and trappings. Keith Thomas is definitely a filmmaker to keep an eye on. The Vigil is available to stream on Amazon Prime and other streaming outlets, while also in a limited theatrical release.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) candles.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE VIGIL (2019)

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THE VIGIL (2019)

Supernatural horror steeped in Orthodox Jewish culture comes from Blumhouse Productions and is released by IFC Midnight. The story tells of Yakov (Dave Davis), an emotionally troubled young man, who has left his Orthodox Jewish background and is out of work, in therapy and on medication. He is offered much needed money to be a Shomer for the night, someone who, in Jewish tradition, watches over and prays for the recently deceased till dawn. As he watches the body of a man called Litvak, he starts to realize there may be something malevolent in the house with him.

Yes, this story does evoke the classic flick The Viy, but is most definitely it’s own thing. The film is written and directed by Keith Thomas and is a very impressive feature debut. Thomas creates tension from almost the first scene by first establishing Yakov’s emotional and financial duress, but also then the tension between he and the members of the Orthodox Jewish community that want him back. Once Yakov enters the house, he finds out the first Shomer left in fear and the widow, Mrs. Litvak (Lynn Cohen from Feast of the Seven Fishes), doesn’t want him there, either. As the spooky goings on in the house begin to escalate, Thomas lets us know that not only did Yakov witness the death of his little brother as a result of a hate crime, a death he feels responsible for, but that the recently deceased Mr. Litvak (Ronald Cohen) was obsessed with combating a demon called a Mazzik (Rob Tunstall). Thomas knows how to create an atmosphere of dread and knows how to generate chills simply with his camera. The combination of lighting, spooky sets and shot composition, go a long way in making this flick very spooky all in itself. There are some familiar tropes that come with these type of demonic haunting flicks, but Thomas knows how to use them very well and knows when to mix in some new twists, such as demonic manipulation of Yakov’s cellphone. The entity uses Yakov’s past trauma and the voices of those he trusts against him and it is scary stuff. Add to all that a really effective score by Michael Yezerski (The Devil’s Candy) and some very unsettling cinematography by Zach Kuperstein (The Eyes of My Mother) and you have a legitimately scary movie.

The small cast is also very good, with Dave Davis pulling out a very strong, emotional performance of a man already on the edge, being pushed by something unearthly. He makes Yakov sympathetic, so we connect with him and feel badly as the demonic presence really puts him through the ringer. We also are behind him when he digs deep into his abandoned faith to fight back. Solid work! Lynn Cohen can be very spooky as Mrs. Litvak, a woman suffering from loss and a touch of Alzheimer’s, but also somewhat likable as we get to know her. Menashe Lustig is also good as Reb Shulem, an Orthodox Jewish community leader who wants Yakov to return to them and gives him this job as a way of coercing him back. A very good cast.

Keith Thomas delivers what might be the first truly scary horror flick of 2021. Despite the flick playing festivals and internationally since 2019, it is only now being released here in the U.S by the awesome folks at IFC Midnight. It is simply a good, old fashioned, scary movie that uses atmosphere, tension and some super creepy camera work to scare you. Thomas builds a lot of tension before the scares even begin and gives us an emotionally troubled main character to get put through a truly hellish night. All his characters have some history and depth to them, that the telling of which is woven cleverly into his simple, but layered story. A very spooky, scary horror with some nice emotional depth behind the proceedings, a refreshingly different cultural perspective and some really effective use of the familiar tropes and trappings. Keith Thomas is definitely a filmmaker to keep an eye on. The Vigil is available to stream on Amazon Prime and other streaming outlets, while also in a limited theatrical release.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) candles.

 

 

 

 

 

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2020!

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2020!

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features a relatively new girl on the block, though technically not a total rookie. She did first appear in season three of Scream: The TV Series in 2019, but didn’t get her first lead role in a horror movie till the 2020 Into The Dark flick Crawlers! The NYC born actress made an impression in her final girl debut as the tough, street-smart and sassy conspiracy theorist, Shauna. Shauna is a local in a small college town overrun by co-eds and under siege by shapeshifting aliens on St. Patrick’s Day. The actress displayed some solid final girl/heroine qualifications and did some major alien ass-kicking! So without further ado…MonsterZero NJ’s Halloween Hotties rookie of the year 2020 is…

 GIORGIA WHIGHAM as SHAUNA in CRAWLERS

GIORGIA WHIGHAM as SHAUNA in CRAWLERS!

Shauna is a conspiracy theorist and blogger in a small college town soon to be invaded!

Something strange is going on this St. Patty’s Day and Shauna is thinking aliens!

Shauna gathers the troops and makes a plan of attack!

Inside the nest!

Busy actress Giorgia Whigham between roles.
Photo: source unknown
There’s no telling where this beautiful and talented actress will show up next. She kept up with Jon Bernthal’s Punisher in season two of that Netflix series and showed some comic chops on The Orville, so versatility is already part of her rapidly expanding resume. Hopefully she’ll return to the horror genre soon, as she made a kick-ass final girl!

-MonsterZero NJ

And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties!

Head over to the Halloween Hotties listings! to read them all!)

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BARE BONES: YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT (2020)

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YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT (2020)

Theo Conroy (Kevin Bacon) is a man who’s been accused of killing his first wife. Despite being acquitted, it has made him somewhat infamous and left him mentally scarred. He’s trying to live a new life with his new, young, actress wife Susanna (Amanda Seyfried) and their adorable daughter Ella (Avery Essex). WIth Susanna doing a play in London, the family rents a secluded house in Wales. Unfortunately, there is something very strange going on in that house and Theo’s past comes back to haunt him, as does the house’s shadowy occupant.

Supernatural thriller is written and directed by David Koepp, but despite a nice try to concoct something a little different and spooky, the flick seems cold and distant. Maybe it’s because we never really like or feel sorry for Theo, as he seems to be a bit of a jerk at times and we know from the start there is something about his tragic past he is not telling his new wife, or us. It’s all very predictable and ends exactly as we expect, even up to and including the identity of the house’s specter-like occupant. There are a few spooky moments, but they are few and far between and the excuse to get Susanna out of the house for the last act, just succeeds in making her unlikable as well. As for the couple’s marriage, the fact that Theo is so weird from the start and so much older than Susanna, not to mention his past, leaves their whole relationship, very unconvincing. It might have worked If there was some nice chemistry between the actors, but Bacon and Seyfried never click as a couple onscreen, either. At least young Avery Essex shines as Ella, who is basically the only truly likable person in the movie. Kinda of “meh” when all is said and done. Most entertaining thing about the film, is that it takes place in Wales yet was actually filmed entirely in New Jersey.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: FANTASY ISLAND (2020)

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FANTASY ISLAND (2020)

The idea of taking the popular 70s show Fantasy Island and turning it into more of a Twilight Zone/horror flick is actually a good idea. Too bad they couldn’t make a good movie out of it. As with the show, a group of people are brought to a tropical island to live out their fantasies. In this darker version, the fantasies don’t quite work out as they expect and dangerously so.

Flick is flatly directed by Jeff Wadlow from a weak script by by Chris Roach and Jillian Jacobs, that seems like it was made up as it went along. Things get more and more ludicrous as the film progresses. It takes an amusing premise and rolls it out as unimaginatively as you can think of. There is no suspense, no tension and no innovation with turning a classic TV show concept into something much darker. It’s four segments playing out at the same time and none of them very interesting. The supernatural mumbo-jumbo as to how and why this is all happening is silly, as the revelation that everyone’s fates are somehow connected is no surprise. The big end reveal as to why these particular five are all here, is laughable…though points for the audacity in giving it a somewhat upbeat ending after all that goes on. The movie is also about ten to fifteen minutes too long and by the last act you just want it to be over. Flick also wastes a good cast, including Michael Peña as Roarke, Maggie Q, Michael Rooker, Lucy Hale and Portia Doubleday. This might be one of the only times one can say the versatile Peña is miscast. That, sadly, is the film’s biggest accomplishment. Blumhouse, lately, has been churning out cookie cutter thrillers like this. They make these flicks so cheaply, that even a misguided mess like Fantasy Island makes them money…so why should they try harder?

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: THE HUNT (2020)

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THE HUNT (2020)

Flick is yet another version of the the tired ‘rich people hunting poor people’ scenario. Here a group of elitist, extreme left rich folks bring a group of low income, right wing captives to an area of Croatia to be hunted for sport. A case of mistaken identity amongst their specifically chosen targets lands ex-soldier Crystal (Betty Gilpin) in their midst and she has no plans to die easily.

Flick gained some attention after being delayed from it’s September 2019 release date due to some real-life shootings at the time. Now having seen the film, it seems more like a publicity stunt to give some notoriety to this turkey. The flick is badly directed by Craig Zobel (the far better Compliance) from an awful script by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse. The makers give no credit to it’s audience for having any intelligence and the film stops dead, so characters can recite the film’s political and social commentary right at you. It’s so heavy-handed and obvious that midway through it starts to give you a headache. It would seem like the script writers had no faith in their own story to relay it’s messages…about race, immigration, the division between rich and poor…so they literally throw it in your face every chance they get. Having the rich a-holes being extreme leftists this time and their quarry being right wing “rednecks” does not cleverness make and the attempts at humor and satire fall flat most of the time, as well. Gilpin (Glow) does the best she can with what she’s given to work with and if there are any points to give here, her climactic fight with Hilary Swank’s villainous Athena, is fun to watch. The reveals during this last act confrontation, however, aren’t as big a deal as the film wants us to think they are. We’ve been force fed so much already, we simply don’t care at this point. Avoid unless you are too curious to save yourself money and 90 minutes of your time. Definitely a candidate for worst film of the year

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: INTO THE DARK-CRAWLERS (2020)

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INTO THE DARK: CRAWLERS (2020)

Emerald Springs is not only a small college town, but a predominately Irish town as well. As such, it goes bonkers on St. Patrick’s Day, but this year, March 17th takes an otherworldly turn. It seems the town is being invaded by bodysnatching aliens and it’s up to spunky, rebellious, drug-dealing local Shauna (Giorgia Whigham) to rally students Misty, Yuejin and Aaron (Pepi Sonuga, Olivia Liang and Cameron Fuller) to save the town and the planet.

Flick is directed for Blumhouse’s monthly movie series by Brandon Zuck from a script by Catherine Wignall and Mike Gan. Story-wise it’s very routine with aliens invading a small town and stealing the bodies of their conquests, but it’s also filled with some fun nods to the films that inspired it. It is a homage and one that is affectionate towards it’s influences, evoking Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the 1988 Blob remake, and John Carpenter’s The Thing, to name a few. Zuck moves things along fairly quickly and has a good time with the scenario to make it fun. The characters are also entertaining to watch, especially Whigham’s sarcastic, tough Shauna, who also serves as the film’s narrator, as this is played as an entry for her online blog. The flick doesn’t try to be more than it is, though there are some serious themes touched on, such as Misty’s being taken advantage of by jerk and campus stud, Michael (Zachary Roozen). Inappropriate behavior commentary aside, It’s tone is mostly all in fun, though it has some bloody moments, some well-rendered SPFX and there is an amusing 80s vibe the helps make it a nostalgically entertaining watch. No better example than the 80s-ish electronic score by Ceiri Torjussen and colorful, green themed cinematography from James Kniest.

The cast are having a good time. Leading lady Giorgia Whigham, is quite the spitfire as the sarcastic, conspiracy theorist that is Shauna. She is a delight to watch a she oozes contempt for the college students invading her town, but these party animals are most certainly the lesser of two evils when compared to the aliens also invading Emerald Springs. So, off she goes to save the world. This along with her roles on season 2 of Netflix’s The Punisher, and season 3 of MTV’s Scream: The TV Series, make her a talent to definitely keep an eye on. Pepi Sonuga is also good as the emotionally troubled, Misty. The issues of a possible date rape, add some nice depth to her character and Sonuga plays it well. Olivia Liang is fun as the bitchy, skeptical Yuejin. Yuejin is looking to replace Misty as campus queen Chloe’s (Jude Demorest) new bestie and wants none of Shauna’s alien invasion theories, despite being dragged into into the middle of it all. Cameron Fuller is solid as Aaron, a frat boy who comes to regret some of his party animal activities, when he realizes Misty and her friends are people and not trophies or conquests. A cast having a good time and getting the tone of the material.

Crawlers isn’t a great movie, but it is an entertaining one and is now one more choice to watch on St. Patrick’s Day. It has a routine sci-fi/horror story, but the director gets the tone of the homage laden script and directs it appropriately. It’s has a hip sense of sarcastic humor, as does it’s leading lady and the characters are fun to watch as they take on invading aliens while everyone else is pub-crawling. It’s cliché and no classic, but still a fun time and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome with an economical 90 minute runtime. Stay through the credits for some fun bloopers.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) pints.

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REVIEW: THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)

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THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)

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Update of the classic H.G. Wells story finds Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) running from her relationship with her abusive, control freak boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). She’s helped by her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) and is living with her friend James (Aldis Hodge), a policeman, and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). Two weeks after her daring escape, she hears that millionaire Adrian has committed suicide and even has left her a large sum of money. She thinks she’s free of him, until strange things start to occur around the house and someone starts messing with her life. There are hints that it’s Adrian and soon Cecilia is convinced he’s somehow still around. The events continue to escalate, but no one believes her that her ex is somehow the cause and soon those close to her start to doubt her sanity. Is Cecilia crazy or is Adrian somehow still alive and stalking her for revenge?

Flick is extremely well written and directed by Leigh Whannell, who cut his teeth writing for the Saw and Insidious movies. Whannell showed the potential for solid direction with his debut, Insidious: Chapter 3 and the 2018 Upgradebut really comes into his own here. Not only is the script a clever updating of a story that is well over 100 years-old, but adds in some contemporary themes, such as domestic abuse, stalking and the effect of abusive relationships, in a way that perfectly blend with the story. Here our scientist is a psychotic, Tony Stark-ish, millionaire optics expert, one who uses his brilliant new technological invention to stalk and terrify his ex-girlfriend, rather than benefit mankind. In the director’s chair, Whannell starts the film off with a very tense and suspenseful scene of Cecilia trying to escape from Adrian’s bed and home, while he is in a drug induced sleep. The film gives us just a brief moment to breath before things start going on in James’ house and Cecilia starts to believe Adrian is not as dead as the world thinks. She sees his touch in all that is befalling her, sometimes literally. No one believes her, especially when the invisible stalker frames her for murder and everyone is convinced she’s crazy. It’s a tense, suspenseful and very effective ride as Adrian could be anywhere…and usually is. When Cecilia begins to fight back, all hell breaks loose leading to an intense showdown. Whannell gets a lot of milage out of mixing a classic story with contemporary story elements, but wisely never let’s it go over-the-top. By keeping things grounded, we go along with even the more fantastic parts of the story, such as the manner in which invisibility is achieved. It’s not perfect. When things start to happen in the house, Cecilia skips right over other possibilities, such as, maybe, a haunting and goes right to invisible man. Sure, she knows better than anyone Adrian’s intellect and optics expertise, but it’s hard to swallow, that she’d leap straight to that conclusion so quickly. That and after the exciting and violent final showdown, there are a few additional scenes that continue the story for another few minutes. An extra chapter after we thought it was done. It comes to a chilling conclusion, but sort of takes the flick into an extra inning that doesn’t quite match the momentum of what came before. None of it’s flaws are critical to the film’s effectiveness, but, as said, the flick is not perfect.

Whannell has a good cast. Elizabeth Moss gives a strong performance of a woman terrified to the point of feeling like she’s loosing her mind. When Cecilia starts to fight back, you fully believe she’s a woman driven to the point of finally standing up for herself. As we don’t actually see samples of her abusive relationship with Adrian, we still feel it’s potency based entirely on her performance. Great work. Oliver Jackson-Cohen has only two brief scenes and is fine. Again, most of his character actions are portrayed through Moss’ reactions and FX, so he hasn’t much to do physically. He is appropriately creepy when we do see him. Aldis Hodge is solid as supportive friend James. As a cop, he is forced to walk a thin line with what he can believe once Cecilia begins to rant about being stalked by a man who’s supposedly dead. In more supporting roles, Harriet Dyer is fine as Cecilia’s sister, Emily, Michael Dorman is appropriately slimy as Adrian’s lawyer, brother Tom and Storm Reid is likable as James’ daughter, Sydney. A solid and effective cast.

A very effective thriller from Leigh Whannell. It’s tense, suspenseful and mixes contemporary themes into it’s sci-fi/horror story very well. It’s paced efficiently and moves quickly for a film over two hours in length. There is some shocking violence to punctuate certain scenes and really recreates the fear of someone being stalked and manipulated to maximum effect. It has a few flaws, but otherwise shows Whannell has really locked in his directorial skills and one looks forward to whatever he comes up with next.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) invisible men.

 

 

 

 

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