BARE BONES: THE RECKONING (2021)

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THE RECKONING (2021)

Period thriller takes place in 1665 during The Great Plague of London. Pretty wife and mother Grace (Charlotte Kirk) is widowed when the sickness takes her husband (Joe Anderson). Her landlord Squire Pendleton (Steven Waddington) requests a lecherous way for her to pay her rent and when she refuses, he accuses her of witchcraft and has her arrested. In the dungeons, a battle of wills thus takes place as cruel and sadistic inquisitor John Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee) tries to get a resistant Grace to confess to the false charges.

Violent and tedious flick is directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent, Centurion) from his script along with star Charlotte Kirk and Edward Evers-Swindell. As such, it starts out interesting, but degenerates into a dull torture show, for the next hour, as Moorcroft gets crueler and crueler to get Grace to confess. There are some interesting nightmare sequences, which are effective, and like most Marshall flicks there is a healthy amount of blood and gore. There are even some feminist messages mixed in with all the cruelty, about the treatment of woman at that time and about abusive relationships. Flick does pick up a bit in the last act, when it turns into an action/revenge flick with Grace turning the tables and getting some payback. Charlotte Kirk and Sean Pertwee do give strong performances, which add a little weight, as does Christopher Drake’s strong score. Overall, kind of disappointing, considering Marshall’s previous flicks were all very entertaining to one degree or another and his Game of Thrones episodes were quite good, as well. Available on Amazon Prime, if you want to give it a look.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ABATTOIR (2016)

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ABATTOIR (2016)

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

Pretty reporter Julia (Jessica Lowndes) has recently suffered a tragedy when a random psychopath murders her sister and family in their own home. Before she even has time to get over her grief, she finds her sister’s house has been bought by a mysterious individual and the crime scene room completely removed. Julia begins to investigate along with her cop love interest, Grady (Joe Anderson) and finds that there is a history of homes bought after tragedies and in each case, the room containing the deaths has been completely removed. Her investigation leads to a small dying town called New English, a town she has personal connections to, and a enigmatic individual by the name of Jebediah Crone (Dayton Callie) who is collecting places that hosted horrific events…but why?

Flick is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman from a script by Christopher Monfette based on a graphic novel. While it has some interesting ideas and the concept of someone building a house made out of crime scene rooms is quite intriguing, the details surrounding our villain’s actions are a bit cloudy…especially as to how this is going to accomplish his proposed goals. There are some questions that seem only vaguely answered, such as what did Crone promise the citizens of New English that they would so easily kill, and of their own blood to get it and why does his house made of the ghosts of the horribly slain need a ‘fresh’ tragedy to be finished? Also, what is Crone? Demon? Ghost? We are never quite sure why he walks the earth now, after apparently meeting his demise years earlier and where he gets his power from. Some weak dialog throughout also doesn’t help matters, either and it seems there are some good ideas here that could have been better developed or conveyed more effectively to the audience. Bousman does direct this stylishly and with a lot of atmosphere, especially in the second half after a bit of a stale start. He makes great use of the Louisiana locations and despite the overloaded story, the last half hour set in Crone’s house of horrors is spooky and effective, even if we aren’t all that clear on where exactly all this is leading. Crone states his purpose but nothing indicating why he believes so. Bousman gives the movie a film noir flavor and it works with the supernatural subject matter very well. There is some violence, but it is done with restraint and not as prevalent as some of Bousman’s past films. The cinematography by Michael Fimognari is loaded with atmosphere as is the score by Mark Sayfritz which helps give the film a chill factory despite it’s flaws.

Even if Bousman and Monfette are being purposely a bit ambiguous on the ultimate point of all that occurs, it also doesn’t help that the film is also dragged down a bit by some sadly sub-par performances by some of it’s leads. Jessica Lowndes is beautiful and has the look of a film noir character, but isn’t much of an actress and it hurts as she is our main character. She’s not terrible, but far too wooden and limited in range to really pull this off. Anderson growls all his dialog and is simply weak as the love interest/cop Grady. Dayton Callie is creepy and mysterious as Jebediah Crone and it helps make the enigmatic nature of the character work, even though we’d like a clearer picture as to who he is and why he has the power to do what he does. Rounding out is the always delightful Lin Shaye as Allie, one of the few citizens of New English that is receptive to Julia…but one with a secret, too.

An interesting if not totally successful flick. On one hand the dialog is weak and the story is a bit convoluted. We are never completely clear on who our antagonist really is and how what he does is going to accomplish what he desires…and where is he getting his power to do it? On the other hand, the film is atmospheric and despite being a bit ambiguous, is quite spooky in it’s last act. The house Crone assembles from the tragedies of others is quite impressive and imaginative and works even if we are not totally convinced of it’s purpose. And while our leads are weak, Callie presents a creepy mystery man in his Jebediah Crone that makes this work as well as it does. Worth a look as it has some original and spooky ideas.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 Crones.

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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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