BARE BONES: THE DOMESTICS (2018)

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THE DOMESTICS (2018)

Flick takes place after a biological weapon attack by our own government kills off a large amount of the population. Those fortunate…or unfortunate…enough to survive have formed into vicious gangs that have cut out their own territories throughout the countryside. Enter mild-mannered husband and wife Nina (Kate Bosworth) and Mark West (Tyler Hoechlin) who have to travel through these dangerous territories to find safe-haven in Milwaukee.

Written and directed by Mike P. Nelson this is basically a suburban Road Warrior with a touch of The Warriors thrown in as this kindly duo have to defend themselves from a variety of gangs such as The Nailers and The Gamblers during their journey. There is plenty of violent action and quite a few eccentric and scary characters are met as the two try to survive each enemy territory along the way. It’s no secret that the especially timid Nina will find her inner alpha and this husband and wife team will learn to handle themselves against the crumbling of civilization and rekindle their fading relationship, too. It’s entertaining and fast enough paced, though basically stuff we’ve seen many times before. As for the leads, Hoechlin especially could have used a bit stronger screen presence, though it is Bosworth who becomes the family ass-kicker and the film’s focus by the last act. The solid direction does show some promise for director Nelson and it is worth a look despite the familiarity. Also stars Lance Reddick from The Guest and the John Wick films.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: BEFORE I WAKE (2016)

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BEFORE I WAKE (2016)

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

A couple who tragically lost their own child, Mark (Thomas Jane) and Jessie (Kate Bosworth), adopt young Cody (Room’s Jacob Tremblay), a boy who lost his mother (Courtney Bell) and has been bounced from family to family…even abandoned by the most recent one. The Hobsons soon find that Cody has a special ability, his dreams become real. At first they are enchanted as their home is filled with swarms of butterflies and visions of their dead son, Sean (Antonio Evan Romero). But, their wonder turns to terror as not all of Cody’s dreams are happy ones and a malevolent entity manifests through them into their home. 

While this may be director Mike Flanagan’s most generic film to date, his skill as a filmmaker makes it better than most of the recent PG-13 horrors that it resembles at times. Co-written with Jeff Howard, the script may be filled with familiar elements, but is given some really nice emotional weight by Flanagan and his cast and he also delivers what most of today’s cookie cutter horrors don’t, some legitimate chills and scares. Flanagan and his actors portray a heartbroken family who still haven’t gotten over the accidental death of their son. They have a chance to regain some of their happiness by adopting a little boy, who has had his own traumatic loses. This alone is well done and we feel for the couple and the boy and on it’s own would suffice as a drama of a special boy finally meeting the right family. But this is no drama, it’s a horror and Flanagan gives us a little boy terrified to go to sleep for visits from “The Canker Man” usually end in someone he cares about vanishing. When this malevolent entity arrives, Flanagan brings out the chills, just as he brings out some more Spielberg-ian wonder when Cody dreams of far more pleasant things, like butterflies and Sean. There is also a nice air of mystery as there is more to Cody’s story and whens it’s investigated, we get some surprising revelations about the boy’s past and who or what this entity is and why it haunts Cody. Again, the story elements may be familiar, like in Flanagan’s Hush, but the skilled filmmaker makes it work. Not everything is perfect. The film does get a little too sentimental for it’s own good at times and yes, some of the spooky imagery has become a little too commonplace in these types of horror to be fully effective. The story also gets wrapped up in a bit too neat of a nice little bow, but the film succeeds far more than it doesn’t. We also get some nice and atmospheric cinematography from Michael Fimognari and an equally effective score by Danny Elfman and The Newton Brothers.

As mentioned, the cast does solid work in support of Flanagan’s story. Bosworth and Jane are very good as the Hobsons. The pain of their loss is portrayed well, especially by Bosworth who’s Jessie is still in therapy and still having a hard time moving on. We almost understand when she manipulates Cody to see Sean again. Jacob Tremblay gives another good performance. We really like Cody and obviously feel sympathy for his fear of sleeping and share his fear when his malevolent dream demon appears. The film also stars Annabeth Gish as an adoption agent who knows a bit more than she tells the couple and Absentia’s Courtney Bell appears in a brief flashback role as Cody’s mom and is very sympathetic in the part.

Overall, this was an entertaining film from a filmmaker who has yet to disappoint. Even with some familiar material and with a lesser aggressive tone than his Hush or Oculus the film gives us some good chills and scares. It’s a film that is meant to be more mainstream friendly than his other work, but he still gives it an intensity and emotional depth most of it’s peers don’t have. Before I Wake may be PG-13, but it’s not aimed at teens like pretty much everything else these days. It’s also not perfect. It sometimes is a bit too familiar and a bit too sentimental, especially in it’s wrap-up. Even so, Flanagan gives us some solid entertainment that far outweighs the common elements that today’s generic horror movies parade out on home media and in theaters to the point of repetitive banality.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 butterflies.

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REVIEW: HOMEFRONT (2013)

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HOMEFRONT (2013)

Much like Out Of The Furnace, Homefront is another example of a film with a routine and cliche’ B-movie action plot elevated into something more by a good cast and a solid director behind the camera. Here we have a plot that in the 80s would have perfectly suited Van Damme, Norris or Seagal with undercover DEA agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham), who has had enough of the violence and bloodshed associated with his job, moving to a small rural town in Louisiana to start a new life. But, an altercation between widower Phil’s daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) and a bully at school raises the ire of the boy’s redneck parents Cassie and Jimmy (Kate Bosworth and Marcus Hester) and when it escalates, Cassie calls upon her meth dealer brother Gator (James Franco) to get them payback. But, in a cruel twist of fate, Gator knows the man Phil last put behind bars, a biker gang leader named Danny Turrie (Chuck Zito) and sees this as an opportunity to earn a favor from the powerful gang leader. Now a schoolyard incident turns into a bloody fight for survival as Turrie sends a squad of killers, led by the lethal Cyrus (Frank Grillo), into this quiet town to get revenge on the man who put him in jail and caused the death of his son.

Sure we have seen this all before but, with a surprisingly tight script by none other then Sylvester Stallone, based on Chuck Logan’s book, and a real solid directing job by Gary Fleder, this film goes from direct to home media action flick to a very taunt and entertaining thriller. Felder creates some nice tension and suspense from a routine action movie plot and when that action comes, it’s fast, furious and bloody. The film has an intensity that runs through every scene and the action is well choreographed and we get just enough of it to punctuate the story without going overboard or getting over stylized. Most of the scenes are hard-hitting fight scenes and shootouts, saving the car chases and explosions to up the ante in the last act. Felder has a nice but, unobtrusive visual style which takes good advantage of the small town Louisiana locations, especially the scenes shot at night in the swamps and around Broker’s old house. There’s none of that post production editing FX or filters, just some crisp cinematography by Theo van de Sande that makes every shot have some nice, rich but, natural color. His night shots in the swamps are bathed in cool blues and I liked this no nonsense approach to the look of the film.

Felder also has a good cast to work with. Statham is an underrated leading man and does far too many generic action flicks but, he is as good an actor as he is effective in the action and here he proves it again with his portrayal of a loving father who will go to any length to protect his daughter. And he has never looked better in the film’s vicious fight scenes. Franco once again proves himself a chameleon in his portrayal of a sleazy redneck drug dealer who, is sly and clever but, ultimately, not clever enough to know when enough is enough and he is in over his head. He wants to be a big league gangster but, would be better off sticking to his small time meth business and staying out of his sister’s petty squabbles. Winona Ryder is a surprising choice to play Sheryl, Gator’s ex and a woman with connections in the seedy underworld and is the one who helps bring in the reinforcements from Turrie when Gator’s thugs get their asses handed to them by the ex-DEA agent, Broker. Frank Grillo makes an imposing villain as hired killer Cyrus and one of my few complaints about the film is he is not utilized enough and his showdown with Broker should have been a bit more epic. Rounding out, Bosworth and Hester are adequate as a stereotypical redneck couple who start a huge bloody mess just because their bully son is basically bested by a girl. Fan favorite Clancy Brown is also solid as the local sheriff, who will only look the other way so much. And Rachelle Lefevre is pretty and likable as Maddy’s teacher Susan, a potential love interest for Phil but, a story sub-plot that gets dropped and goes nowhere when the plot gets rolling.

To wrap things up, this is, on the inside, a routine B-movie action flick given some surprising depth by a good script from Sly… who avoids, for the most part, a lot of the cheesy dialog that usually inhabits his Expendables scripts… a very solid directing job by Gary Fleder and good performances all around by it’s cast. We have seen it all before, it’s not original in any way but, it’s a cliche’ action flick elevated to more quality entertainment due to the respect given the material by the creative team behind it. And it just proves that talent can overcome mediocrity. No classic, but a really solid action flick that puts some class back into the overdone ‘trying to escape violence but, having it follow you’ action flick. One of Statham’s better flicks in quite some time, too. Won’t win any awards but, should certainly provide satisfying entertainment on movie night.

3 very solid bullets. Would have given it more had it’s story not been so familiar.

ex2 rating

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