BARE BONES: HIGH RISE and THE NEON DEMON

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high-riseHIGH RISE (2015)

Barely coherent British film has Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moving into a luxury high rise and discovering his neighbors are quite an eccentric bunch. The longer he lives there, the more decadent and out of control the activities get till it descends into a maelstrom of debauchery and even murder.

Written by Amy Jump, from J.G. Ballard’s novel and directed by Ben Wheatly, this flick starts out interesting and plummets quickly into pretentious nonsense quite early. There is a good cast, including Hiddleston, Luke Evans, Jeremy Irons and Sienna Miller, who try hard, but they are wasted on this boring and meandering mess whose story and point are lost in all the random violent and decadent behavior. A waste of time that thinks it’s far more important than it is.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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THE NEON DEMON (2016)

Latest film by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) has sixteen year-old Jesse (Elle Fanning) going to Hollywood to become a model. She takes the modeling world by storm, but soon learns there is a dark side to her dream and there are those who will go to shocking lengths to keep the new competition from taking what’s theirs.

Obviously, the story concocted by Refn and co-written with Mary Laws and Polly Stenham is nothing new. We’ve seen the naive newcomer in the Hollywood jungle story numerous times. Neon Demon starts out intriguing, though and Refn’s visual style is hypnotic at times, but the film collapses under the weight of it’s own absurdity when it goes over the top to include necrophilia and cannibalism in it’s cautionary tale. The cast, that includes Fanning, Jena Malone and Keanu Reeves perform well, but the film just gets too weird…and gross…to maintain it’s dramatic grip.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE RUINS (2010)

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THE RUINS (2008)

The Ruins is a an effectively creepy horror flick set deep in the jungles of Mexico that opens with a young girl huddled in the dark screaming for help, signaling us from the start that something is very wrong and setting the tone for the film. The story then focuses on four young twenty-somethings, med student Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), his girlfriend Amy (Jena Malone), Eric (Shawn Ashmore) and his girlfriend Stacy (Laura Ramsey) on vacation in Mexico and meeting a German tourist name Mathias (Joe Anderson) while at their hotel. Mathias tells them that his brother Heinrich has met a female archeologist who has taken him to some Mayan ruins and he invites them to join him in meeting his brother there the next morning. Their expedition to the ruins starts off on a disturbing note as they are intercepted by a group of gun wielding Mexican locals who seem to be very unhappy with their plans to enter the temple and kill Mathias’ friend Dimitri (Dimitri Baveas) to prove it. The remaining five flee up to the top of the temple while the gunmen set up a perimeter around it to prevent their escape but, refusing to pursue them any further. But, violent locals are the least of their worries as Heinrich is found dead at the temple’s top and soon the stranded group realize that there is something inside this temple that is a far more dangerous and hungry threat and the gun-toting locals may have good reason to not want anyone to enter the temple or leave it alive if they have. Now the group must find some way to survive, as escape or rescue seems more and more unlikely. Director Carter Smith makes good use of Scott Smith’s screenplay based on his own book and crafts a creepy and suspenseful tale of a group of young people trapped and isolated with a very unique and dangerous life form that is also cleverly conceived and a breath of fresh air from the routine serial killers and rampaging animals. The set-up provides our likable group with nowhere to run and surrounds them with a lethal entity that can’t be frightened off or hurt… something that frightens the locals so much, that they will even kill one of their own to keep it within the temple confines. Carter tensely guides us through the group’s gradual disintegration as they realize help isn’t coming and they are surrounded by something that literally thrives on their blood and is starting to claim them one by one. The attractive cast are fine, presenting a group of likable enough yet, not perfect young people and they all convey the confusion and fear of their situation well enough for it to translate to the audience. As for the lethal threat that surrounds them, director Smith and the FX team successfully give us something that has some really disturbing attributes aside from it’s need to feed and presents us with a novel and chilling ‘adversary’ that we can fully understand why it induces such fear in the locals who are aware of it’s presence. There is also some gruesome and well done gore prompted by the entities’ activities, as well as, some impromptu surgery done by our struggling survivors for reasons I won’t spoil. The film is not perfect. One begs to ask how  ‘it’ became isolated in this one temple and if the locals were able to isolate it here, which has probably been their duty for centuries, why were they not able to fully destroy it. But, sometimes a little mystery can add to the fun and it is amusing to think the answer to the downfall of Mayan civilization was something a lot creepier then sickness or invaders. Overall The Ruins is a fun, disturbing and sometimes gruesome little horror flick that gives us something a bit novel and fresh to fear in the dark… and in the light. An entertaining horror with some nice, clever touches and a unique threat.

3 menaced Malones.

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