BARE BONES: 3 FROM HELL (2019)

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3 FROM HELL (2019)

Unnecessary sequel finds that Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Captain Spaulding (the late Sid Haig) survived their shoot-out with police at the climax of The Devil’s Rejects and have been on death row for ten years. Spaulding is executed by lethal injection, but Otis escapes with the help of half-brother Winslow (Richard Brake) and plans to spring baby. Once that’s accomplished with plenty of bloodshed, the three head to Mexico. That’s kinda it.

Flick is written and directed by Rob Zombie and is a chore to sit through. There is barely what could be called a story and the mess of a script seems to be making it all up as it goes along. Fans of these characters will note that they don’t even seem like the same fiends that graced House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects and their intensity is lacking. Otis seems a bit too laid back and Zombie’s wife is way overdoing it as the demented Baby. She’s more silly than scary. Only Brake’s Winslow seems to exude a little legitimate menace and he is never really given a chance to be fully unleashed. Even their carnage and depravity feels like it’s been dialed down a few notches. Are these killers slowing down?

Zombie seemed to have peaked with the interesting and spooky Lords of Salem and is continuing his filmmaking downward spiral that began with the uninspired 31 and now includes this undercooked, rambling mess. You know something is wrong when even the violence in a Rob Zombie flick has a very ho-hum, been-there-done-that feeling. At least we got to see Sid Haig one more time. Also stars Poncho (31) Moler, Zombie regular Jeff Daniel Phillips and horror legend Dee Wallace.

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SATANIC PANIC (2019)

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SATANIC PANIC (2019)

Simple plot finds pizza delivery girl Sam (Hayley Griffith) delivering to a rich neighborhood and stumbling into a Satanic ceremony. She’s chosen as a sacrifice due to her virgin status, but the resourceful young lady escapes. She meets up with the Satanic Coven Leader Danica’s (Rebecca Romijn) outcast daughter Judi (Ruby Modine), who is in peril of her own and the two try to evade capture. Can the two women escape almost certain death with the forces of evil in hot pursuit?

Flick is directed by Chelsea Stardust from a script and story by Grady Henrix and Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here) and sadly doesn’t quite live up to it’s amusing premise. One problem is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be, a hip comedy or a horror flick. The tone changes from scene to scene with one moment trying to have fun with the tropes of a Satanic thriller and another trying to pull off some serious horror. Unfortunately, director Stardust doesn’t really evoke any scares or intensity when it tries to be more of a horror film and the script fails to be all that funny when it’s trying to be humorous. It wants to be a quirky, edgy comedy one minute and a occult themed horror the next and never really accomplishes either to a successful degree. Sure, there is some fun to be had and there is the underlying commentary about the haves vs the have nots, but none of it really hits the mark we hoped it would. It’s colorful, energetic and Stardust has a good visual eye, it’s just she never really settles on a tone. Should we be having fun?…or should we be taking this more seriously? On the plus side, there is a cool score by the “Wolfmen of Mars” and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 89 minutes. There is also some fun practical gore, too and it is elevated by a cast that is all in with the material.

On the subject of cast…Hayley Griffith makes a strong and very endearing heroine in her Sam. She’s a down on her luck young lady, working her first night as a pizza delivery girl and her pursuit of a much needed tip turns her first night into a literal living Hell. Rebecca Romijn chews the scenery appropriately as Danica, a rich woman who is also the coven leader. She’s fun in the part and gives her scenes a lot of the “snap” they need. Ruby Modine is good as Danica’s rebel daughter Rubi. Rubi is tough and confident, but being on the outs with a Satanic cult has put her in mortal danger. Modine and Griffith work well together. There are also supporting roles from Jerry O’Connell, horror vet Jordan Ladd and Rob Zombie regular Jeff Daniel Phillips. The cast get the material and really help make this very watchable despite a disappointing script.

Overall, Satanic Panic is a flick that has it’s moments, but ultimately doesn’t live up to it’s potential or premise. It has a bit of an identity problem and isn’t funny enough when it’s trying to be funny and isn’t scary enough when it wants to be scary. It’s heart is in the right place and with a better script with a more consistent tone, one wonders if Chelsea Stardust might be a filmmaker to keep more of an eye on. At least it has enough moments and a material savvy cast to make it worth a look, as long as expectations aren’t conjured too high.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 (out of 4) pizzas.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE ICE CREAM TRUCK (2017)

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THE ICE CREAM TRUCK (2017)

Flick finds pretty, married mom Mary (Deanna Russo) moving from Seattle back to her old suburban neighborhood. She’s arrived a week ahead of her family to get the house ready while the kids finish school. Mary suddenly realizes this is the first time she’s had to herself in over a decade and plans to enjoy it. Two things, though, impact Mary’s return to suburban living and “me” time…the tempting advances of her neighbor’s hunky teenage son, Max (John Redlinger) and a creepy ice cream man (Emil Johnsen) who has taken notice of the new woman on the block.

The Ice Cream Truck is written and directed by Megan Freels Johnston who successfully mixes the two stories of a woman reconnecting with herself and a slasher stalking an unsuspecting neighborhood. She gives us a likable heroine in Mary who is having trouble readjusting to suburban life and the nosey, eccentric, judgmental, neighbors she’s surrounded by. Being a wife and mother for so long, she has a chance to unwind and is certainly tempted by Max, her pot smoking, well-built neighbor’s son who has taken an interest in the pretty older woman. In the midst of Mary’s self proclaimed “reconnecting with her youth” there is the creepy ice cream man stalking the neighborhood and killing anyone who doesn’t follow his old fashioned sensibilities. Johnston does a good job having these stories run parallel to each other till it’s time they collide when Mary and the creepy confections vendor face-off. Johnston has a very interesting visual style and her shot composition does evoke John Carpenter at times as did Michael Boateng ‘s very 80’s/Carpenter-esque score. There is tension and we are certainly unnerved when the ice cream man is onscreen. The kills are bloody but routine, though they aren’t the point. This isn’t a gore flick. On another level, we also watch the tale of a woman simply enjoying being a little frisky for a few days and that works too. If the film falters a bit, it is in first, the confrontation between Mary and the psychotic ice cream vendor is far too short and over before it has time to have impact. The other is the “wait…what?” ending. Without giving away any details, it seems to imply that much of what we just saw might have been in Mary’s head. It undos some of what we just witnessed and makes us wonder if writer Mary was just daydreaming a little excitement, letting her imagination run a bit wild, to relieve the boredom of waiting for her family to arrive. Either way, it does’t have the impact it was probably intended to have, though does set up a potential sequel and Mary was a strong enough character that we would’t mind seeing more of her experiences in surreal suburbia.

As Mary actress Deanna Russo really nails it in what is basically her show. She presents us with a woman who has lived for others for far too long and now suddenly has a chance to cut loose a bit, smoke some pot, have the house to herself and enjoy that she has the attention of a much younger man. And what makes this work is that Russo doesn’t play her like the stereotypical MILF, she is a little awkward and has a bit of a sarcastic sense of humor, but is naturally pretty and has a sexuality to her that is just part of her personality and not something forced. She’s just being herself and is naturally sexy, especially when she starts to let herself enjoy Max’s attention. The two have a chemistry on screen and the scenes of high school grad Max’s awkward seduction attempts do crackle with a sexual tension. Credit to actor Redlinger here, too as the object of Mary’s temptations. Russo also makes a good final girl…and it was refreshing to have one that wasn’t a high school or college girl…though, these moments were far too short to really enjoy. As stated, John Redlinger did a good job as the infatuated Max and he was charming and one could understand how his awkward attempts at getting in Mary’s pants, could actually be a bit endearing to a lonely older woman looking to feel not so mom-like for a bit. Finally we have Emil Johnsen who is properly unnerving as the ice cream man. Not much info is given and we have no idea of his true motives, but he presents a very creepy dude and he is chilling in his scenes. The flick also has an appearance by Rob Zombie regular Jeff Daniel Phillips as a creepy delivery man. Poor  Mary seems to be a magnet for creepy dudes, as well as, high school hunks.

Overall, this was an interesting mix of slasher flick and drama of a woman trying to reconnect with her youthfulness and sexuality. This ties in well as bad behavior is usually what attracts slashers in the classic format, so it works here. Megan Freels Johnston appears to be a filmmaker to keep an eye on with some very impressive shot framing and imbuing the film with some nice atmosphere both as a slasher and a tale of a fish out of water in oddball suburbia cutting loose much to her neighbors’ chagrin. The flick may have stumbled in it’s last scene and with not letting it’s confrontation between Mary and maniac play out a bit longer, but it is an enjoyable little movie and hopefully a sign that Megan Freels Johnston might be someone to watch out for in the future.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 ice cream trucks.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ROB ZOMBIE’S 31 (2016)

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ROB ZOMBIE’S 31 (2016)

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

With The Lords Of Salem, Rob Zombie delivered his best film and one where he showed a lot of growth as a filmmaker. He also showed he was capable of writing outside his grind house influences and even some maturity in the writing of his characters. With 31 Zombie unfortunately takes quite a few steps back with this dull, vulgar flick that is simply a series of brutal vignettes where a group of uninteresting characters are beset upon by a group of equally mundane villains. Story takes place on Halloween in 1976 where five carnival workers (Kevin Jackson, Meg Foster, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Sheri Moon Zombie) are kidnaped by a group of rich weirdos (Malcolm McDowell, Judy Geeson and Jane Carr) who force them to play a sick game called “31”. The rules are simple…the five have twelve hours to survive against a group of hired killer clowns, Sick-Head (Pancho Moler), Psycho-Head (Lew Temple), Schizo-Head (David Ury), Sex-Head (E.G. Daily), Death-Head (Torsten Voges) and the worst of them all, Doom-Head (Richard Brake). Locked in an abandoned factory, they must kill or be killed as their aristocratic hosts watch and wager on their survival.

If it sounds interesting, it isn’t. It’s basically yet another version of The Most Dangerous Game with innocents being hunted by killers while the haves cheer the deaths of the have-nots. Zombie directs from his own script and it’s one of his more uninspired stories, that lacks even the fun, homage heavy atmosphere of his first flick, House of 1,000 CorpsesSalem showed a lot of progress in his dialog and characters and with this mundane flick we’re back to obscenity spouting, two-dimensional characters that aren’t endearing or particularly likable…and those are the good guys. We just don’t care what happens to this bunch. The only person that earns our sympathy is Daniel Roebuck’s pre-credits scene preacher. The villains are all bland and generic loonies with only Brake’s Doom-Head projecting any menace, because he is the only one who doesn’t go over-the-top turning his killer-for-hire into a cartoon character that loses their threat factor. Zombie does still have a good visual eye and gives us interesting things to look at, despite the simple setting and crowd-funded budget. The violence once again returns to that of his earlier films and once again we are bludgeoned with so much brutality that we become numb to it long before the film’s 102 minutes are over. The movie does have a few moments, such as when our protagonists decide to go on the offensive against Psycho-Head and his brother Schizo-Head, but the overall effect is that the heroes become as vicious as the killers and it becomes hard to side with them as they match brutality with brutality. After a few more bloody battles, the film just ends suddenly with a sort of “That’s it, thanks for coming”. On a production level it is well made for a low budget flick and Zombie does pepper the soundtrack with some great tunes, like he always does. It’s just a sad disappointment that the maturing filmmaker that made the intriguing Lords Of Salem turned back into a horny 13 year-old who thinks endless vulgarity and gallons of spurting blood is all you need to be entertaining. Even his first feature, House of 1,000 Corpses was more interesting and a more solid movie.

The cast also seems to have regressed. Both Phillips and Zombie’s wife Sheri Moon were really good in Salem and here they are given very little to work with and don’t seem to really be into this flick. Their characters are bland, lifeless and have nothing all that interesting to say between curse words, sexual banter and violent death. We never really get to know them enough to care. Veteran Foster gives her Venus some gusto when under attack and Brake does give Doom-Head some real menace, but the rest of the cast seem to be operating on a paycheck level, not that they have much to work with from what might be Zombie’s weakest script.

In conclusion, this film was a major disappointment from a filmmaker who has been progressing from film to film. Even his much maligned Halloween II had some brilliant imagery and had the guts to do it’s own thing with a classic character and franchise. 31 has a minimal plot, that pits a group of cardboard good guys against some generic, vulgar and violent villains for another group of sadistic aristocrats. Nothing we haven’t seen often before. All the vulgarity and violence would be fine if there was some genuine wit, intensity or suspense here, but there isn’t…it’s just a series of increasingly violent interludes. It’s a dull and brutal movie that wears out it’s welcome long before the first hour is up and shows you all it has to offer in even less time. Would much rather have seen Zombie make his canceled Broad Street Bullies hockey flick than this dull regression.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 very disappointing butcher knives.

final exam rating

 

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: EVIL DEAD and THE LORDS OF SALEM

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I’ve covered these two movies before but, as I recently named them as my top 2 favorite horrors of 2013, I decided to watch them together and found they made quite a chilling double feature so, if you are looking for an evening of frights and chills on the couch, why not give these two a try together…

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EVILD DEAD (2013)

The original Evil Dead is one of my all time favorite fright flicks so, I was very apprehensive about a remake. With Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert and even Bruce Campbell on board as producers, I hoped the material would at least be treated with respect. Now having seen this new vision of one of the all time horror classics, I can say not only was the material treated with respect but, it is one of the best horror remakes and one hell of a nasty, scary, bloody blast. The best thing is that co-writer and first time director Fede Alvarez smartly takes the basic premise and does his own thing with it. This version has heroine addict, Mia (Suburgatory’s Jane Levy) being taken by big brother, David (Skateland’s Shiloh Fernandez) and 3 friends to an old family cabin to try to get Mia to quit her habit cold turkey. But, someone has been in the cabin since they were last there and something gruesome has definitely gone on inside with blood stains and dozens of dead animals hanging in the cellar. Of course there is also a mysterious book and within it ominous warnings that certain words not be read aloud… so, of course, someone does… and at the same time Mia is alone in the woods… uh, oh… I don’t need to tell you that soon Mia is possessed by some horrible demonic entity and the gruesome blood soaked nightmare begins as the ancient evil wants to claim them all. Alvarez really crafts a strong, gruesome and scary horror of the likes we haven’t seen in a while. It’s vicious and nasty with top notch gore and make-up that is done the old fashioned way without any CGI. When limbs fly… and they do, it is good old fashioned prosthetics and I loved the lack of CGI when it came to the ghouls and gore. Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues (Diablo Cody was supposedly hired to work on the script but, if she was credited, I missed it.) basically give us enough elements of the original to make it recognizable as an Evil Dead flick and thus fits in with the series but, makes the flick it’s own animal. And that’s the way to do a remake like this. And Alvarez is the real deal who knows how to make a good old fashioned horror movie complete with suspense, tension and intensity, not to mention, plentiful scares. He also gives the film a strong atmosphere and I really liked his visual style. He gets good work from his cast too, especially leading lady Levy whose character has a few stages to go through from heroine addict to a demon possessed creature to… well, you’ll have to see the flick to find out. Shiloh Fernandez is also very good, after a lifeless performance in Red Riding Hood, he shows us the actor we saw in Skateland was no fluke. The rest, Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric, Jessica Lucas as Olivia and Elizabeth Blackmore as Natalie, do fine making their characters more then demon fodder and they are all likable enough to make us afraid for them when all hell breaks loose.  The flick is not perfect but, any flaws are minor and can be overlooked due to all that is done right. Evil Dead 2013 may not be as groundbreaking as the original and only time will tell if it will be highly regard like it’s predecessor but, it is a strong, visceral horror that gives equal parts suspense and scares with all the goo and gore. Maybe not quite a classic but, a film worthy of the title Evil Dead. Well done!… and stay to watch after the credits!

Check out our look back at the original classic that started it all!… HERE!

A very solid 3 and 1/2 demon possessed sitcom stars

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THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013)

If Stanley Kubrick, Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci got drunk and decided to make a horror movie together, Lords Of Salem would probably be close to what you’d get. Even back in the White Zombie days, rocker/director Rob Zombie has always shown a heavy influence from movies, especially horror so, it’s no surprise to see such influences in his films. And this time, Zombie sheds the 70s grind-house style that his earlier films have had and goes for something that evokes the work of the previously mentioned filmmakers and also some of the 70s occult themed flicks like the infamous Mark Of The Devil. To a degree, it is Zombie’s most solid effort as director but, also his most experimental as Lords gets downright head trippy and surreal at times, especially in it’s last act. If you liked his dream sequences in Halloween 2, there’s lots more where that came from. Today’s impatient audiences weaned on cookie cutter horrors and endless sequels may not appreciate what Zombie has done here but, to me it was a disturbing breath of fresh air. In a time of CGI phantoms and overused jump scares, I really like that Zombie had the courage to make something that aims to simply unsettle and disturb you with it’s atmosphere and imagery and doesn’t rely on cheap scares and elaborate post production hocus-pocus. Lords tells the creepy story of late night Salem DJ Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) who receives a wooden box with a record in it from someone referring to themselves simply as “The Lords”. When she plays the vinyl album she suddenly starts to have increasingly disturbing hallucinations and her life starts to spiral out of control. When author Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) begins to investigate, he finds that an ancient evil in the form of a devil worshiping witch coven, once burned at the stake, may be returning to Salem and Heidi might be key to their vengeance. Director/writer Zombie tells his disturbing tale with a deliberately slow burn yet, never at any moment does he ease up on the atmosphere that something sinister and very wrong is going on here. Whether it’s the haunting visuals that he fills the film with or the excellent use of Griffin Boice and John 5’s score… which evoked Fabio Frizzi and Goblin at times… the film oozes atmosphere and keeps us involved even if the film’s narrative flow doesn’t always follow a tradition path. And as for the visuals, they range from haunting to shocking and as disturbing as they can be, they are also beautiful. This is certainly, at the very least, a visually striking film. And despite all the shocking imagery, I actually feel Zombie showed some restraint at times which made the horror elements all the more horrifying when they arrive. And Rob is not the only Zombie to watch here, Sheri, who proved she had some acting chops as Deborah Myers, is again very effective here as Heidi, a woman with emotional troubles and past bad habits who is being drawn into a living nightmare that she is not equipped to fight. Jeff Daniel Phillips is also good playing one of the two Hermans who DJ with her, a man with feelings for Heidi who tries to help her without knowing the true cause of her emotional down-turn. And Zombie also peppers his film with genre vets like Ken Foree (the other Herman), Meg Foster, Sid Haig and the effectively spooky trio of Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn and Judy Geeson as Heidi’s neighbors, who are more then they appear. Overall Zombie has created his most interesting work yet and one that won’t appeal to everyone. It evokes a type of horror in the vein of Argento’s early films or Fulci’s The Beyond, that they don’t make anymore. But, that’s why I liked it so much. Zombie remembers a time before the MTV generation when horror films took their time to draw you in and had loads of atmosphere. He also knows, like those films, that there is a time to shock you too, and he does that well. And finally, he knows that sometimes the best way to make sure you leave the theater spooked is to not wrap everything up in a neat little bow and thus leave you looking over your shoulder when you are home at night. I would recommend this film highly for those who don’t mind a slow burn and a splash of avant garde with their horror. Not perfect but, a really spooky flick for those that can appreciate it.

A very spooky and disturbing  3 and 1/2 haunted heroines

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REVIEW: THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013)

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THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013)

If Stanley Kubrick, Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci got drunk and decided to make a horror movie together, Lords Of Salem would probably be close to what you’d get. Even back in the White Zombie days, rocker/director Rob Zombie has always shown a heavy influence from movies, especially horror, so it’s no surprise to see such influences in his films. And this time, Zombie sheds the 70s grind-house style that his earlier films have had and goes for something that evokes the work of the previously mentioned filmmakers and also some of the 70s occult themed flicks like the infamous Mark Of The Devil. To a degree, it is Zombie’s most solid effort as director, but also his most experimental as Lords gets downright head trippy and surreal at times, especially in it’s last act. If you liked his dream sequences in Halloween 2, there’s lots more where that came from. Today’s impatient audiences weaned on cookie cutter horrors and endless sequels may not appreciate what Zombie has done here, but to me it was a disturbing breath of fresh air. In a time of CGI phantoms and overused jump scares, I really like that Zombie had the courage to make something that aims to simply unsettle and disturb you with it’s atmosphere and imagery and doesn’t rely on cheap scares and elaborate post production hocus-pocus.

Lords tells the creepy story of late night Salem DJ Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) who receives a wooden box with a record in it from someone referring to themselves simply as “The Lords”. When she plays the vinyl album she suddenly starts to have increasingly disturbing hallucinations and her life starts to spiral out of control. When author Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) begins to investigate, he finds that an ancient evil in the form of a devil worshiping witch coven, once burned at the stake, may be returning to Salem and Heidi might be key to their vengeance.

Director/writer Zombie tells his disturbing tale with a deliberately slow burn, yet never at any moment does he ease up on the atmosphere that something sinister and very wrong is going on here. Whether it’s the haunting visuals that he fills the film with or the excellent use of Griffin Boice and John 5’s score…which evoked Fabio Frizzi and Goblin at times…the film oozes atmosphere and keeps us involved even if the film’s narrative flow doesn’t always follow a tradition path. And as for the visuals, they range from haunting to shocking and as disturbing as they can be, they are also beautiful. This is certainly, at the very least, a visually striking film. Despite all the shocking imagery, I actually feel Zombie showed some restraint at times which made the horror elements all the more horrifying when they arrive.

Rob is not the only Zombie to watch here. Sheri Moon Zombie, who proved she had some acting chops as Deborah Myers, is again very effective here as Heidi, a woman with emotional troubles and past bad habits who is being drawn into a living nightmare that she is not equipped to fight. Jeff Daniel Phillips is also good playing one of the two Hermans who DJ with her, a man with feelings for Heidi who tries to help her without knowing the true cause of her emotional down-turn. Zombie also peppers his film with genre vets like Ken Foree (the other Herman), Meg Foster, Sid Haig and the effectively spooky trio of Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn and Judy Geeson as Heidi’s neighbors, who are more then they appear.

Overall, Rob Zombie has created his most interesting work yet and one that won’t appeal to everyone. It evokes a type of horror in the vein of Argento’s early films or Fulci’s The Beyond, that they don’t make anymore. That’s why I liked it so much. Zombie remembers a time before the MTV generation when horror films took their time to draw you in and had loads of atmosphere. He also knows, like those films, that there is a time to shock you, too and he does that well. Finally, he knows that sometimes the best way to make sure you leave the theater spooked is to not wrap everything up in a neat little bow and thus leave you looking over your shoulder when you are home at night. I would recommend this film highly for those who don’t mind a slow burn and a splash of avant-garde with their horror. Not perfect, but a really spooky flick for those that can appreciate it.

A very spooky and disturbing  3 and 1/2 haunted heroines

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