HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MUSE (2017)

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MUSE (MUSA) (2017)

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

Spanish horror flick from [REC]‘s Jaume Balagueró finds Professor Samuel Solomon (Elliot Cowan) at an Irish college having an affair with one of his students (Manuela Vellés). She makes him promise to love her forever and then commits suicide in his own tub. A year later he begins to have strange dreams of the ritualistic murder of a woman (Leonor Watling) he’s never met. When the murder actually occurs, he begins to investigate with the help of Rachel (Ana Ularu), a single mother who was having the same dream. They find out about the existence of a sect, The White Circle, who believed in seven supernatural women, muses, who infiltrate our world through the words they inspire mortals to write. Members of the sect have all died and now the seven muses may be coming for Rachel and Sam.

Flick is filmed in English and directed by Jaume Balagueró from a script by he and Fernando Navarro (who ironically also co-wrote Verónica with Paco Plaza), based on a book by José Carlos Somoza. There are some very spooky moments here and some bloody ones as well. The story is a bit different with a focus on this group of seven supernaturally empowered women who manipulate things through the words and poetry they inspire writers to write…and not all of their inspirations are good. On paper, in Somoza’s book, a lot of what happens probably worked very well, especially with the pages to develop ideas and plot points. On film, though, things get a bit convoluted and some of the story elements start to feel made up as the film goes along. It is atmospheric and there are some very chilling and disturbing moments, but the story almost starts to feel it’s rambling a bit, before it comes to a conclusion that’s pretty much spelled out before the last act confrontation begins. Overall, it’s not a bad film, Just maybe not one easily translated from book to film and therefor we don’t get the full impact of the original tale, even if much of it is effectively done.

The cast is fine. Elliot Cowan tires hard as Professor Solomon, though comes across as a tad bland. His character also seems to dive right into the supernatural elements a little too easily for someone still suffering emotional trauma. Ana Ularu is sympathetic and a bit mysterious as Rachel. She will do anything to protect her son, which has her in practical slavery to the unsavory owner of a strip club. Franka Potente is solid as a close associate of Solomon who gets dragged into the supernatural drama. Flick also stars veteran Christopher Lloyd as the last remaining member of The White Circle, who is in hiding and a chilling Joanne Whalley as one of the seven ladies, Jacqueline.

This was a decent supernatural tale. It had an interesting premise, was atmospheric and had some spooky moments. Drawbacks are sometimes the film feels like the story is being made up as it goes and it gets a bit convoluted in the second half. It is based on a novel and maybe the story simply doesn’t translate that well to film. Some tales are better told on paper, despite a good filmmaker like Balagueró at the helm.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 razor blades.

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BARE BONES: HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 and SLEEP TIGHT

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HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 (2015)

 

Harmless sequel to the surprisingly fun Hotel Transylvania finds Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Johnny (Andy Samberg) married and expecting their first child. Drac (Adam Sandler) couldn’t be more excited to have a new little monster in the house till Dennis (Asher Blinkoff) is born appearing quite human. While Mavis and Johnny consider moving to L.A. so Dennis can be in more human surroundings, Dracula and his friends are determined to bring out the little monster in his young grandson.

Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky and written by star Sandler and Robert Smigel, sequel is an OK follow-up that is amusing enough at times, but doesn’t quite have the first flick’s sense of fun. A lot of the jokes and routines are replayed from last time around and it doesn’t seem as energetic. The vocal performances are all fun, including Mel Brooks as Dracula’s estranged father Vlad, but the script just isn’t quite as clever as the original flick. Kids will probably like it just fine, but it just feels like there is something missing this time amidst the messages about being accepted for who you are.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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SLEEP TIGHT (2011)

Sleep Tight is a unnerving flick from Jaume Balagueró from the REC series that should have been far more disturbing considering it’s premise. The story from Alberto Marini’s script has building concierge Cesar (Luis Tosar) secretly stalking pretty tenant Clara (Marta Etura) and doing things to create tension in her life. Cesar is a twisted and very unhappy man who wants to share his misery with others. Her targets poor Clara and sneaks into her room, hiding under her bed only to pop out and knock her out each night while she sleeps. He takes advantage of her physically and adds things to her make-up to give her a rash and even fills her apartment with cockroach eggs…all with the pretty girl unaware.

Another flick that just seems to be missing something. While Cesar’s activities are certainly disturbing, the film has a very laid-back approach that seems to keep it from being as terrifying as it should be. Cesar seems to get away with a lot and it gets a little far-fetched and the fact that we never really get a solid explanation as to why he picks Clara and chooses to torment a woman who is continually sweet to him, remains a mystery. It needed a bit more depth to really give it some intensity. The performances are good with Tosar being appropriately creepy and Etur being a very likable and sweet girl, so we do feel bad for her. The flick just needed a heavier atmosphere and a little more intensity to make it really click.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: [REC] 4: APOCALYPSE (2014)

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[REC] 4: APOCALYPSE (2014)

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

After the fun but, lighter toned [REC] 3: Genesis directed by series co-creator Paco Plaza, this Spanish horror franchise returns to it’s more serious roots and brings back original chapter heroine Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) for it’s supposed conclusion. The story picks up where [REC] 2 left off with Angela being rescued from the tenement by a team of armed soldiers and finding herself in “quarantine” on a large ship at sea housing a few other survivors, including an old woman (María Alfonsa Rosso) from the wedding in [REC] 3. The ship is filled with soldiers and scientists who claim to be testing the survivors for the lethal virus before releasing them. Unknown to the survivors and crew, though, the paramilitary team is also experimenting on an antivirus and to do that, they need the infected to test it on. When one of there test subjects is freed, the zombie plague begins to spread through the ship, which is isolated at sea, and now the lives of everyone are threatened by zombies and self-destruct protocols alike.

This final(?) installment is directed by series co-creator Jaume Balagueró, who co-wrote with Manu Diez and completely jettisons the found footage format that was used for the first two films and part of the third. The film also underplays the religious overtones while returning to a darker and more intense tone after the more playful third film. Balagueró definitely gives the proceedings some nice atmosphere and cinematographer Pablo Rosso adds to that with taking full advantage of the claustrophobic old ship it’s set on. The film never quite reaches the nail-biting intensity of the first two films but, Balagueró does gives us a very exciting and suspenseful third act when the infestation is in full swing and our survivors are fighting the undead and each other. The film is also quite gory in the series tradition and the only thing that is somewhat disappointing is that it never feels like a climactic chapter but, just another installment. I really liked this flick but, never felt like it was a conclusion or that it truly wrapped things up for the remaining characters or the infestation for that matter. By downplaying the religious aspects of the zombie outbreak, it removes the need for a deeper explanation to what was initially a demon caused viral possession. Now it is just a virus that can be isolated and stopped once the host parasite is found and destroyed. It does take away a bit of the creepiness derived from the fact that the zombies were caused and guided by a malevolent demonic intelligence. There is only a brief moment where a character that hosts the parasite talks as if possessed but, it is brief and leads nowhere. Don’t get me wrong, the film still delivers a very entertaining and bloody 90 minutes and there is a very effective score by Amau Bataller to accent the action…of which there is plenty. It’s just the film never gives the viewer the closure they need to bid farewell to this franchise, if it truly is the end. We needed something stronger and something that felt more final.

The cast are all very good, from sexy heroine Manulela Velasco who can get just as vicious as any zombie when she needs to. Paco Manzanedo is a solid hero as Guzmán, the soldier that saves Angela from the tenement and earns himself a voyage on the ship/lab. Héctor Colomé is appropriately slimy and intense as Dr. Ricarte, who has been following this outbreak from it’s inception and seems to have his own agenda. As for the supporting players, all do solid work whether good guy, bad guy, human or zombie and having a strong cast goes far in making this as good as it is.

Overall, I liked [REC] 4 very much but, was just slightly disappointed that it chose to side-step some of the more interesting religious aspects of the initial story developed over the first three films. By doing away with the found footage formula also, it both freshens it up and takes away one of the more unique aspects of the series and now it’s a routine zombie flick, though a very good one. As a conclusion, it didn’t have the weight and finality that once expects from a final chapter but, overall it is a suspenseful and gory good time. Maybe not a completely worthy finale but, a very solid and entertaining installment in an overall quality horror series and a return to form after the lighter third chapter.

3 solid outboard motors.

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NEW RED BAND TRAILER ARRIVES FOR [REC] 4: APOCALYPSE!

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(Click on the highlighted links to go to our reviews of the first 3 entries!)

The Spanish [REC] horror film series from Jaume Balaguero’ and Paco Plaza has a fourth and final entry that will be released on 1/2/15. Horror sequel is directed by Balaguero’ and picks up after the events of [REC] 2 and follows the fate of TV newswoman Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco). The found footage format of the first two and part of the third has been dropped for a conventional film style. And based on this new trailer, it looks gruesomely awesome!

WARNING: TRAILER IS VERY GRAPHIC!

source: Youtube

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NEW TRAILER HITS FOR [REC] 4: APOCALYPSE!

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UPDATED WITH SUBTITLES! The Spanish [REC] horror film series from Jaume Balaguero’ and Paco Plaza have a fourth and final entry in the series that will begin release on Halloween overseas and hopefully make it’s way here soon in the US. The flick is directed by Balaguero’ and picks up after the events of [REC] 2 and follows the fate of TV newswoman Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco). The found footage format of the first two and part of the third has been dropped for a conventional film style. And based on this new trailer it looks awesome! UPDATED WITH SUBTITLES!

source: Fangoria/Youtube

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NEW POSTER FOR [REC] 4: APOCALYPSE!

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I am a huge fan of the Spanish [REC] horror film series from Jaume Balaguero’ and Paco Plaza. The fourth and supposedly climactic entry in the series will begin release on Halloween overseas and hopefully make it’s way here soon in the US. The flick is directed by Balaguero’ and picks up after the events of [REC] 2 and follows the fate of TV newswoman Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco). The found footage format of the first two and part of the third has been dropped for a conventional film style. I can’t wait!

For a review of the first two films in the series click HERE and for a look at [REC] 3 click HERE.

source: AITH/Youtube

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TRAILER HITS FOR [REC] 4: APOCALYPSE!

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I am a big fan of the Spanish [REC] horror film series from Jaume Balaguero’ and Paco Plaza. The fourth and supposedly final entry in the series will begin release in the Fall overseas and hopefully make it’s way here soon in the US. The flick is directed by Balaguero’ and picks up after the events of [REC] 2 and follows the fate of TV newswoman Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco). The found footage format of the first two and part of the third has been dropped for a conventional film style. Looks cool!

source: Youtube

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: [REC] 3: GENESIS (2012)

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[REC] 3: GENESIS (2012)

Since I posted about the first 2 films in this series in a recent Saturday Night Double Feature… check it out here… I thought I’d give the third flick a shout out…

I am a huge fan of the [REC] films, they are among my favorite horrors of recent years so, I was very much looking forward to this latest installment… and while it is the weakest of the series so far, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a bloody good time. First off, [REC] 3: Genesis has the best excuse for found footage yet… a zombie outbreak at a wedding where the wedding videographer captures the horrific events but, the film also abandons the format when logic dictates the videographer no longer films and then becomes more of a routine zombie flick. And that is the film’s weakness, that it is more of a generic zombie movie then the first 2 especially when it changes to a more straightforward format. The film is also much lighter in tone then the first two installments as it tells the story of a wedding occurring at the same time as the tenement outbreak, where guests and relatives start turning into demon possessed zombies. But, a lighter tone and a change of format doesn’t mean a fan of this series or of zombie flicks won’t enjoy the fun and carnage [REC] 3 throws our way. Director Paco Plaza seems to have wanted to have a little more fun with this chapter and as long as his loyal audience accepts that, they can join in the gore soaked amusements too. The cast seem to be in on the fun and while they take their parts serious enough, there is also a quick wink to let us know that we’re lightening things up a bit this time round. Pretty lead Leticia Dolera as the blood spattered, chainsaw wielding bride, Clara especially seems to have a good time going from frightened future Mrs. to zombie killing Bridezilla. Top notch gore once again punctuate the film as with the previous two installments. Again, lesser of the three but, still blood soaked fun!

There is an [REC] 4: Apocalypse  directed by Jaume Balagueró due sometimes this year.

3 chainsaw brides!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: [REC] and [REC] 2

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[REC] (2007)

One of the best of the post Blair Witch found footage horror movies, this Spanish fright flick starts out quietly and slowly builds the tension until a truly nerve racking final act. The film starts quietly as a pretty reporter, Angela (Manuela Velasco) for a news team is documenting the activities of a Barcelona fire dept. She and her camera man, whose perspective we are following, go along with them on a routine call at an old apartment building involving and elderly woman. But soon they realize that something is very wrong as the old woman violently attacks them and one by one the occupants are turning vicious and homicidal and the group falls under seige. Worse yet, the authorities have arrived and sealed them all inside the building with the increasing numbers of ‘infected” sealed in with them and a few remaining unaffected tenants.

Using the first person camera style to draw you in, the viewer takes the perspective of Angela’s camera man and you’re along for the ride. Directors and writers, Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza really know how to turn the screws and use the found footage format to maximum effect. Their are some really tense and violent scenes once the story gets going and you are right in the middle of it through the camera’s eye as they decide to keep documenting what is happening around them. The final scenes are done in the dark with night vision and will give you the appropriate nightmares. A top notch and quite nerve wracking horror from Spain.

3 and 1/2 scared Señoritas!

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This is the best trailer I could find. It doesn’t have subtitles but, the film does…

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[REC] 2 (2009)

Sequel to the Spanish chiller [REC] picks up right where the original left off with a SWAT team escorting a health dept. official into the sealed tenement. This enables the intensity and chills to start almost immediately, where as the original took time to build the story and tension. And not only are we treated to more nail biting horror as in the first film, but some new twists to the story really crank up the goose bump factor as the ‘infection’ may have a far more horrifying origin. Add to that some foolishly inquisitive teens who find a way into the building and become trapped inside with the police and the murderous zombies and the makers of the original [REC] once again put the audience through the ringer.

A sequel that manages to continue the story and up the ante at the same time. Watch for some fun cameos from some of the first flick’s characters as zombies and a sinister surprise at the climax. Another scary treat from writers and director’s Jaume Balaguer and Paco Plaza.

3 and 1/2 scared Señoritas!

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There is an [REC] 3: Genesis but, it takes place at a wedding that is occurring simultaneously with the tenement story and is not only far lighter in tone but, abandons the found footage format about halfway through. That one is written and directed by Paco Plaza, while the soon to be released 4th entry [REC] 4: Apocaypse is directed solely by Jaume Balagueró.

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