HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS (2015)

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THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS (2015)

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

Flick is most notable for being the last film to be attached to the late, great Wes Craven as he was executive producer. Director and co-writer Nick Simon tries to give it a bit of Craven’s style, but the film is a mixed bag and a prime example of how a character and the actor playing them, can sink a flick like a stone. Story has pretty grocery clerk, Colleen (Claudia Lee) being sent photos of mutilated women by a couple of psychopaths. The photos also capture the attention of pretentious and self-centered, L.A. photographer Peter Hemmings (an awful Kal Penn) who, for some reason, travels to Spearfish, South Dakota to meet Colleen. Suffice to say this new attention  to Colleen does not sit well with the psychopaths in question and people start to die.

Co-written by Oz Perkins and Robert Morast, the film, obvious by the plot description, has a weak story that ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere. Major plot holes abound, like the local police practically laughing off the fact that Colleen is getting pictures of dead girls and despite disappearances in the area, these local Barney Fifes (including a wasted Mitch Pileggi) don’t seem to feel there is anything worth investigating here. Add to that, gratingly annoying photographer Hemmings, finds out everything he needs to know about it online on a blog and feels these photos are personally calling him out, even thought they are being sent to Colleen, not him. If you are scratching your head, you are not alone. So Hemmings and entourage go to Spearfish and instead of investigating the photos, Hemmings becomes obsessed with making Colleen his new model. Ummm…what? This sets in motion more brutal murders from our killers, who we meet early on and are never given any sort of motive or reason for their actions. Just two redneck weirdos (Luke Baines and Corey Schmitt) who enjoy brutal killings and for no real reason have become obsessed with Colleen. There are a few brutally effective scenes and our psychos are very creepy, if not underwritten, but the plot never comes together or makes all that much sense as a cohesive story. There is very little suspense and the flick basically comes to a sudden and unsatisfying end. At least the production had legendary cinematographer Dean Cundey to give the film an atmospheric look.

The cast are a very mixed bag, too. Claudia Lee is fine as Colleen and she is a girl who can handle herself. She is pretty, though the character lacks the magnetism that seems to attract psycho killers and jerk photographers alike. Speaking of which, Kal Penn is absolutely awful as Hemmings, who is a an annoying character to begin with. The character is just a self-absorbed, prima donna and with Penn’s performance, it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard whenever he speaks. He is completely unconvincing as a sexy, genius photographer and really drags down an already weak movie. Kenny Wormald is fine as Colleen love interest…another plot element that goes nowhere… and member of Hemmings entourage, Chris. He seemed like a bit too much of an ass-kisser to get the interest of a strong-willed, independent girl like Colleen, IMO. There is also scream queen Katharine Isabelle, former Disney channel star Christy Carlson Romano and the awesome Mitch Pileggi all wasted in small roles.

Suffice to say, it’s disappointing the Wes Craven’s legacy ends with his name on this misfire. The flick has barely a cohesive story, there is no real suspense and none of the characters have much motivation for what they do. Kal Penn is not only insufferable as Hemmings, but the characters is awfully annoying as written and really serves no purpose, like a lot of the characters here. There are a few effective scenes, mostly because they are brutal and the redneck psychos are creepy, if not purposeless in what they do. Saving grace has former Carpenter D.P. Dean Cundey lensing the flick and the appearance of some fan favorites in small roles. Not completely awful but definitely forgettable.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 knives.

final exam rating

 

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REVIEW: 88 (2014)

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88 (2014)

Canadian thriller opens with a young woman named Gwen (Katharine Isabelle) suddenly finding herself in a diner and having no recollection of how she got there. There is also a gun in her bag and an unfortunate set of circumstances find a waitress shot and Gwen being pursued by the police. Now the young woman is on the run trying to remember who she is, how she got in this mess and why the number 88 is apparently very important to her. With some sporadic memories returning to her, the young woman realizes that her past…and future… involve murder, death and a quest for revenge.

I liked this crime thriller well enough. All the flashing back and forth in time does get a bit tiring after the first hour and sometimes it’s a bit too over-stylized for it’s own good but, overall it is still fairly entertaining. The story by Tim Doiron is nothing new. We have seen thrillers involving memory loss before and certainly, in the age of Tarantino, have seen many a quirky, stylish tale of unsavory types and abundant bullets and bloodshed. But, director April Mullen does a decent enough job of keeping things moving and keeping us guessing as Gwen tries to piece her head back together and figure-out why she is heavily armed and missing a pinky finger. Again, nothing trend-setting and nothing we haven’t sat through before but, it is involving enough, though, I did guess where it was heading long before we get there. The biggest reason to watch is to see star Isabelle in a strong turn as Gwen. She does a nice job conveying the current confusion of her character, as well as, the different personas she takes on, as we flash back and forth to the different points in time that lead her to where she is now. Isabelle is a sexy leading lady and she can be confused victim and vicious killer from one scene to the next and it really makes this far more worth watching than it might be otherwise. It was also cool to see Christopher Lloyd in a strong role, once again, as a crime boss name Cyrus who figures heavily in Gwen’s fate and Michael Ironside as a cop on Gwen’s bloody trail. Nice to see veterans like this playing something other than goofy old men.

In conclusion, this is not a great movie. “Hip” crime thrillers like this are a dime a dozen these days, but, a strong performance by it’s leading lady and some stylish direction make it watchable and enjoyable enough. It isn’t very original and it isn’t overly memorable, but, it is intriguing enough to keep one involved. We get strong parts for veterans like Christopher Lloyd and Michael Ironside and there are enough bullets and blood to keep one from getting too worn out by all the jumping back and forth in time. A decent, if unremarkable flick.

2 and 1/2 gum-ball machines.

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BARE BONES: 13 EERIE and OUTPOST III: RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ

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13 EERIE (2013)

Canadian zombie film, directed by Lowell Dean and written by Christian Piers Betley, is a routine one, though, entertaining enough. Flick has a group of forensics students, including scream queen Katharine Isabelle, going on a field trip to an island that once housed a prison. Unknown to them, there were experiments performed on the prisoners there that have left some of the corpses they are to examine a bit livelier and hungrier than they are counting on. The film moves quickly and has lots of action and well-executed gore but, really doesn’t do much new with the zombie formula to really set it apart from the numerous other walking dead flicks we’ve seen. Competently made and it passes the time, but ultimately it’s routine and forgettable zombie fare even with the lovely miss Isabelle as a potential meal.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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OUTPOST III: RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ (2013)

I liked the first two Outpost films which tell the tale of zombified Nazi soldiers and while this latest installment isn’t outright bad, the formula is wearing thin and it is very by-the-numbers. This film directed by Kieran Parker and written by Rae Burton also takes place in WWII, like the second flick, with a group of Russian soldiers being captured by the Nazis and taken to an underground bunker where they are experimenting with the creation of super soldiers from the bodies of dead German troops and using captured prisoners as fodder for the undead’s training. Our valiant comrades must somehow fight their way out if they are to survive. The film does move quick enough, there is plentiful gore and has plenty of action, but it never really caught my interest and the endless battles with growling corpses seemed to get very monotonous after about halfway in. I suppose it’s worth a look if, like me, you enjoyed the first two films, but I think I have had enough of this series, if they decide to continue from here.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SEE NO EVIL 2 (2014)

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SEE NO EVIL 2 (2014)

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

I’m not a big fan of the original See No Evil. Despite the use of the imposingly massive WWE superstar Glenn “Kane” Jacobs, the film was a by-the-numbers slasher that generated very little suspense and it’s juvenile delinquent characters didn’t generate much endearment to give us someone to root/fear for. But the film does have a bit of a following and did well, especially on home media. So, after 8 years…Jacob Goodnight is back and he’s not only bringing fan favorite scream queens Danielle Harris and Katharine Isabelle along with him, but he is being directed by the devious duo behind American Mary, the Soska Sisters, as well.

The story opens the same night as the massacre at The Blackwell Hotel, with pretty morgue attendant Amy (Danielle Harris) about to leave her shift and head out to celebrate her birthday. But with bodies from the massacre heading in, Amy decides to stay and help her co-worker Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) with the added workload…and thus her friends, including vixen with a morbid side, Tamara (Katharine Isabelle) decide to surprise her at the morgue with an impromptu birthday party. But there is still some life in the prone corpse of vicious serial killer Jacob Goodnight (Glenn “Kane” Jacobs) and soon he rises from his slab, with an assortment of postmortem surgical tools at his disposal, to continue his work by slaughtering the “sinners” who are partying in the morgue. Will any of them escape alive as Goodnight seals them in and begins adding to the bodies already stored there?

With the Twisted Twins taking over from ex-porn director Gregory Dark, the film is an improvement over the first one and for some very surprising reasons. The Soskas are working from a script by Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby and thus it doesn’t quite have the delightfully eccentric tone of Mary, that they wrote themselves, but it does have their style and does have a bit more fun with this slasher sequel than the deadpan and too-serious-for-it’s-own-good first flick. At first I was a little disappointed as the film started out and seemed to be a bit routine coming from directors whose work is anything, but until the second half suddenly cranks things up considerably and that’s where the film surprised me a little bit. And it’s not with the kills, which are cool, that the Soskas really got my attention with, but with some surprisingly poignant moments between the characters, mostly involving Harris’ Amy, that really resonated and really added something to the proceedings. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a slasher/horror that took the time to have such nice character moments between the carnage and it really added to the endearment of those characters and the suspense of wanting them to get out of there moderately intact. The film also deviated at times from the slasher formula and that added some freshness to it and the Soskas, as with American Mary, give us some disturbingly gruesome moments, but without going overboard or being gross for gross sake like SNE #1. A little restraint makes the violent moments all the more effective when they do come…and there are a couple that elicited an out loud “whoa” from me as I watched. Add in some nice moody cinematography by Mahlon Todd Williams that takes good advantage of the city morgue setting and a nice score from The Newton Brothers and you have an entertaining little slasher that does have the usual slasher plot holes…such as, are there so few exits in such a large public building that Goodnight could seal them all on all floors and without anyone knowing…and why are the guests’ cellphones locked in a safe?… but it still entertains like it’s supposed to.

As for the cast… “Kane” is as imposing as ever as Goodnight. Harris does really strong work here. Not only in creating a little depth for Amy, who has chosen a career that is obviously not popular with her family, but really shines in some of those character moments I mentioned before. Amy is a strong, though slightly cynical, heroine with guts and a heart. She also has a nice chemistry with Eriksen, who is good as Seth. Seth is crushing on her big time and she knows it and the scene when they reveal their mutual feelings for each other works really well and the actors’ chemistry makes it work despite there being a 7 foot madman stalking them at the moment. Isabelle is a hoot as the promiscuous babe with a dark side, Tamara. It’s not a deep role as her Mary Mason and it seems like, this time, she’s having some fun with a more ditzy part and letting Harris do the more serious emoting. Her postmortem lap dance for Jacob Goodnight’s corpse is a fun number, to say the least. The rest of the cast are solid and despite Amy’s brother Will (Greyston Holt) being a bit of a self-centered jerk, we have a fairly likable cast of supporting characters with Chelan Simmons as pretty blonde Kayla, Lee Majdoub as Tamara’s boyfriend Carter and Michael Eklund as the chief morgue attendant Holden. A much more endearing bunch than the angry delinquents that populated the first flick.

So, See No Evil 2 may not be a classic, but it is a solid and entertaining slasher that has some surprisingly effective quieter moments in-between the well-orchestrated carnage. The Soska’s bring the action and suspense, especially in the second half and even with it’s barely 90 minute running time, give us some nice resonating character scenes bolstered by it’s lead actors especially, Harris, who does some of her best work. And that’s what impresses about the Twisted Twins the most…they can deliver some very sick and twisted moments, but can also deliver some poignant quiet moments in between, just like the little conversations between Mary and Lance in American Mary. Another intriguing film from two of the more original filmmakers out there.

3 extremely hot morticians.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: TORMENT (2013)

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TORMENT (2013)

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

While Torment offers nothing new to the horror genre, it is a very well made Canadian thriller that provides some very effective chills in it’s 80+ minute running time. After a grim opening at a secluded house, the film settles into the story of widower Cory Morgan (Robin Dunne), his new bride Sarah (Katharine Isabelle) and Cory’s young son Liam (Peter DaCunha) who is not warming up to his new step-mom at all. Cory decides to take them to a remote, family vacation house in the woods for some time to bond. But upon arrival, it appears there has been somebody squatting in the secluded house and unknown to the young couple, they haven’t exactly left yet. Soon Liam vanishes and Cory and Sarah find themselves pitted against a trio of disturbed masked individuals in a fight for their lives and for Liam’s as well.

While normally I am not a fan of the recent torture and home invasion sub-genres, Torment did have elements of both, but these familiar elements were used fleetingly and effectively. Director Jordan Baker knows not to dwell on the more brutal aspects of Michael Foster and Thomas Pound’s script and thus when the shocking moments come, they are effective and we are never bludgeoned over the head with the rough stuff. Baker builds some nice suspense and tension and even successfully creates a likable little family unit that is going through a rough adjustment period and we sympathize with them and that gives us someone to care for when our mysterious intruders reveal themselves. And that, unfortunately, is also one of it’s flaws. The film is a little too ambiguous about the overall purpose of it’s invaders and we never really find out who they are. Sometimes ambiguity is good for a story, but here we needed a little more as to why this bunch is so happily homicidal and intent on keeping Liam. There seems to be something about building their own family, which contrasts the Morgans’ attempt to bring peace to their little trio, but a little more about this Chainsaw Massacre-ish clan would have helped. Jordan Baker does keep the flick moving fast enough that we don’t ask too many questions while it plays out and he has a nice eye for his shots and makes good use of his rural house settings and overall, gives the film some nice atmosphere to go along with the suspense and chills. It’s only once the film reaches it’s conclusion that we start to realize that the whole point is kinda vague. And at that juncture we have been already been moderately entertained and spooked. Familiar material made effective by a good director’s hand.

Another plus in the flick’s favor is that cast are all really solid. We have genre vet, Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps, American Mary) giving a strong performance as Sarah. She conveys the young woman’s desire to bond with Liam and the pain she feels when she is being rejected by him. She also presents a resilience and strength when Liam is taken and she is under siege by their uninvited guests and she fights for Liam with a strong maternal instinct despite his rejection. Dunne is also good as a man caught in the middle of a new wife and his son’s grief for his deceased mom and then must fight for his and their very lives when this predatory bunch invades their already fragile family bonding vacation. Also good is young Peter Dacunha, who at 11 is already a horror movie vet having been in The Barrens and Haunter before appearing in this flick. The young actor succeeds in expressing the pain of not only his mother’s loss, but his reluctance to accept his new step-mom and does so without coming across as an annoying brat. Good work kid! As for our spooky mask wearing ‘family’ Noah Danby as ‘Mouse’, Inessa Frantowsky as ‘Pig’, Amy Forsyth as ‘Monkey’ and Joe Silvaggio as ‘Rabbit’ all do well in conveying a sense of menace with little or no dialogue. It’s too bad they weren’t given more meat to their story. There is also a small role of a local cop played by vet Stephan McHattie, who is a welcome addition to any cast.

Sure Torment has it’s flaws. The villains’ purpose is never clear, nor do we get any background on who they are, where they came from and why they are building this disturbing patch-work family…and quite violently, might I add. But, it has a good cast led by fan-favorite Isabelle and director Jordan Barker really knows how to build suspense and thrills and has an effective but not overstated visual style that gives this rural set flick a lot of atmosphere. The gore and violence is used wisely to maintain it’s effectiveness and we are given characters to care about which goes along way in helping us overlook that we don’t really know the full reasons for this vicious attack and that we’ve seen it all before. Not a classic by any stretch, but an effective little thriller that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and shows strong potential for director Jordan Baker with a more solid story and script.

3 scary mouse masks.

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BARE BONES: ‘SEE NO EVIL 2’ TRAILER and ROB ZOMBIE’S NEXT FLICK

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The Soska sisters, who brought us the disturbing and original American Mary with the lovely Katharine Isabelle, have followed that up with a sequel to the slasher See No Evil which featured WWE superstar Kane (Glenn Jacobs) as homicidal madman Jacob Goodnight. I was not a big fan of the original but, the Soska’s involvement and now this really cool looking trailer have my interest very peaked… not to mention it stars Isabelle and Danielle Harris, two of today’s most popular scream queens!

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Filmmaker/musician Rob Zombie is headed back to the director’s chair this fall with a new and original horror film simply titled “31” referring to Halloween night. The controversial writer/director has been rather tightlipped about the film’s plot and details, save to say it is an original idea not based on anything previously seen. While details are still slim… for now… we at least have these two production photos to wet our gruesome appetites…

31-sketch   31Zombie33

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BARE BONES: GINGER SNAPS on BLU-RAY

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GINGER SNAPS (2000) on BLU-RAY

I’m normally not one for product reviews, but am so very happy that this cult classic (full movie review here) has finally been given the love it deserves by the awesome folks at Scream Factory. This label just keeps delivering these wonderful editions of horror cult classics and giving fan favorites and obscure guilty pleasures the respect they deserve with pristine restored prints and engaging extras. Ginger Snaps is finally presented in it’s Anamorphic Widescreen glory (1.78:1) and has a nice DTS 5.1 sound mix. I don’t have the best sounds system, but it sounded really good to me and the picture was clear and had only some mild graininess in some of the darker scenes, but this is a low budget horror movie and that is just fine. The colors are rich, but not over-saturated, so they look natural and the picture is certainly better quality then any other presentation before it. There are some nice featurettes and deleted scenes along with commentary and new interviews from director and co-writer John Fawcett and Karen Walton as well as leading lady Emily Perkins. Obviously the presence of star Katharine Isabelle is sadly missing, but Scream Factory claims communication with the actress’ representatives went unanswered. Too bad. Otherwise this is a must buy for fans of this Canadian cult classic horror.

… and DAMN! Emily Perkins looks good in those new interviews!

three and one half stars rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: JASON X and FREDDY vs. JASON

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My Friday The 13th film retrospective is back with a vengeance with the final two films in the original series before the 2009 reboot…which we will cover soon…these two are certainly the most over the top of the series as one brings Jason into not only the future, but outer space and the last pits him against the Springwood Slasher himself, Freddy Krueger…

 

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JASON X (2001)

With the awful Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday not making that much of an impact, despite trying something a bit new with the franchise and being yet another entry boasting it was the series’ last, it was eight years before New Line tried to get the series going again in anticipation for their plans for Freddy v.s. Jason which was in development at this point, but not ready for production. Not sure why they chose this completely over-the-top approach to get Jason back in action, but the 10th Friday The 13th flick finds Jason not only in the future, but in space and turned into a cyborg as well.

The film starts out in 2010 where Crystal Lake apparently has a research facility and Jason is imprisoned there as the subject of government research into why they can’t kill him and why he can regenerate his body tissue so quickly…though from what I gather he is still a zombie at this point, so not sure how he is regenerating anything if he is dead. The arrogant Dr. Whimmer (legendary director David Cronenberg in a cameo) wants him studied, while Research Director Rowan (Lexa Doig) wants him cryogenically frozen after repeated attempts to destroy him have all failed. During an attempt to transfer Jason elsewhere, he escapes and kills everyone before Rowan tricks him into the cryogenic freeze chamber, but not before being wounded and frozen herself. We then cut to 2455 where earth is uninhabitable and a research ship filled with students, who are not unlike the nubile camp counselors and partying teens in previous installments, find Jason and Rowan and bring them back to their ship with intents of returning to Earth 2 with their find. Rowan is revived and healed and warns the crew to destroy the frozen Jason. A greedy professor (Jonathan Potts), however, sees dollar signs in making the infamous serial killer an exhibit and has no interest in seeing him destroyed. Jason has his own agenda and despite being thought dead, thaws out and returns to his old habits and starts slaughtering the crew…including their well-armed security force. Can Rowan and the remaining crew fend off the revived killer, or will their ship become a floating tomb?

This installment at least is smart enough to try to have a good time with actor/writer Todd (Drive Angry) Farmer’s silly script and makes no pretense in trying to be a serious horror flick. As directed by James Issac…a Visual FX Supervisor who did FX work for both David Cronenberg and Sean S. Cunningham, which explains Cronenberg’s cameo and being hired to direct this flick…the film makes a solid effort to have a fun with the outlandish premise and yet deliver at least some of the familiar elements that F13 fans look for. Unfortunately, Issac’s minimal experience as a director doesn’t give the film the vitality and faster pace it needed to really make effective use of the Sci-Fi imbued story. His directing is very by-the-numbers and the film only really livens up in the last act when Jason goes up against a female android, the KM 14 (Lisa Ryder) who goes all Ripley on the Crystal Lake juggernaut. This leads to a computer malfunction repairing Jason and turning him into an even more lethal cyborg. It’s these moments when the film really takes off and has a good time with taking the iconic character into space. It’s a little too late to really turn the film into a B-movie treat, but it saves it from being a little more then a head scratching curiosity. Issac at least knew his material was silly and it’s too bad he couldn’t have given it a little more spark till these scenes. Not that some of what came before isn’t entertaining, it just isn’t outrageous or fun enough to match the premise. Again…by the numbers. Issac’s approach is competent but very straight-forward and if you’re going to take Jason Voorhees into space, go with it and have a blast. Maybe…and I’m just guessing here…it’s simply because Issac’s experience is more technical and that’s how he approached directing it. The film needed someone with a more passionate touch. The gore FX are, at least, well done and there is enough to please fans.

The cast are fine. Lexa Doig makes a decent enough heroine as Rowan, but she really doesn’t become that endearing. Lisa Ryder steals the show as the spunky, sexy android KM 14 and the film could have used more of her. Peter Mensah makes a good impression as tough-as-nails and resilient Sergeant Brodski who bonds with Rowan, and Jonathan Potts is appropriately slimy as Professor Lowe. Kane Hodder returns for his fourth and final…at least for now…appearance as Jason and gives the character his needed presence and menace.

Overall, it is not the weakest entry, but certainly not one of the better flicks. I was moderately entertained and only wished there was more fun had with the premise like we were treated to in the last act. The film was not the success New Line hoped for, considering the 14 million investment they made on it and it barely made it’s money back. But Freddy v.s. Jason was on the horizon and that would become the highest grossing film containing Mrs. Vorhees’ baby boy thus far. Worth a look if you are a fan of this series and haven’t seen it.

2 and 1/2 hockey masks.

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FREDDY vs. JASON (2003)

After quite some time in development, New Line Cinema finally brought two of modern horror’s most infamous icons together for a throw-down…and in my opinion it is a bloody blast of gory fun. The clever plot has Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) finally outwitted by the people of Springwood. His memory has been wiped almost clean from the townsfolk by a diligent policy of never discussing the nightmare demon and institutionalizing and medicating anyone who dreams about him. He’s powerless in his dream realm and quite unhappy about it. Not to be outwitted, Freddy has a nefarious plot to get back in action. He needs someone in the physical world to return to Elm St. and start killing again. The murders will obviously be attributed to him and once he is in the minds of the townsfolk and they begin to fear him again, his power will be restored. The monster he’s chosen for the job is a certain Crystal Lake resident. Freddy revives Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger) and sends him to Elm St. to start a killing spree to which he will gleefully take credit. Jason picks the original Elm St. house to start his carnage, which is occupied now by a troubled girl named Lori (Monica Keena) and her widowed father (Tom Butler). Jason thus interrupts a get-together between Lori and some friends in gruesome fashion and Freddy’s plan is set in motion as troubled locals and the authorities think the Springwood Slasher is back. Freddy’s plan seems to be working fine except for two things he didn’t expect….One, Lori is a smart and resilient girl who figures things out a lot quicker than Freddy anticipated and rallies her friends to stop him. Secondly, Jason may have a kill-switch but not an off-switch and if he kills all the beleaguered Elm St. teens, Freddy will be back to square one with no one to fear/empower him. Now the dream demon has to not only foil Lori and friends from stopping him, but must now destroy the very fiend he set in motion. It’s monster vs. monster with Lori and her decreasing number of friends caught in the middle. Who will win?

As directed by Honk Kong filmmaker Ronny Yu, Freddy vs Jason is a lot of gory fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously, or expect it to be the least bit scary. The movie moves very quickly and Yu’s visual style is colorful, as with his Chinese films, but it is when these two modern horror icons finally lock horns that Yu’s HK filmmaking style really kicks in. The final battle is vicious and ridiculously gory like a Tom and Jerry cartoon by way of George Romero. When the smoke clears, you’ve had a bloody good time.

Yu also has a good cast with gorgeous Monica Keena making a sexy and smart final girl. The lively supporting cast features fan favorite Katharine Isabelle, as tough but cute Gibb, Kelly Rowland as smart-ass Kia, Jason Ritter as Lori’s ex Will, who has escaped from being hospitalized and drugged to prevent his dreams from evoking Freddy, with Brendan Fletcher as Will’s oddball bud and fellow hospital inmate, Mark. The supporting characters are all fun and likable and the cast members give them some nice personality to make it all the more effective when either Freddy or Jason take one of them down. The movie works very well because the cast of characters are endearing and our fiends are at their best. Obviously, Englund is at the top of his game as Freddy and he is given some fun dialogue and bits to chew on and serves as the main villain of the piece with Jason ending up being a sort of anti-hero or lesser of two evils. As Jason, big Ken Kirzinger gives him presence and menace and he holds his own against Mr. Krueger.

Sure some of the hardcore fan base may have been hoping for a more serious attempt at a legitimate horror with these two, but at this point, both characters have become more like anti-heroes and it would have been hard to take the bringing together of these two icons all that seriously. Yu chose an approach which never makes a joke out of it, but has a good time with the possibilities as does Damian Shannon and Mark Swift’s script which provides some clever touches such as Freddy discovering Jason’s only ‘fear’. The flick gets a lot of mileage and fun out of the legacy of both characters and the bringing them together for a fight. It’s a very energetic movie and is a blast of fun and works very well for what it is. The characters still have some threat and there is plenty of the red stuff spurted about as their paths cross and the make-up effects portraying the carnage is top notch. The production as a whole is very slick and and makes good use of it’s healthy budget. A really entertaining flick that deserved, but sadly never got a rematch. A fun blast to end the original series for both Freddy and Jason.

3 and 1/2 hockey masks.

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YEAR END HORROR ROUND-UP 2013

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I’m not a big fan of top 10 lists and all that year end fuss but, I thought I would give a bit of a look back at what I liked and didn’t like in the horror genre this year and, or course, share it with all of you. These are just my opinions and since the world is filled with different tastes and preferences and each horror film effects, or doesn’t effect, everyone differently, I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with my selections but, this is how I look at what the horror genre had to offer this year…

BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR

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EVIL DEAD (2013)

To a degree it’s sad that the best horror of the year was a remake but, I had a blast with Fede Alvarez’s re-imagining and it had some nice scares, plenty of gore and Jane Levy rocked in the lead. Alvarez showed he’s a director to keep an eye on and he paid tribute to the original while doing his own thing. Fun horror! Read my full review HERE…

BEST HORROR RUNNER-UP

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THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013)

Rob Zombie’s latest horror is not for everyone but, I enjoyed this out-there story of a Salem Mass. DJ (Sheri Moon Zombie) who is sent a record that, when played, sets in motion the return of a coven of Devil worshipping witches and their plan to bring great evil into our world. Zombie’s flick has some really disturbing visuals and some very subtle and creepy scenes to go along with it’s more shocking moments and evokes the works of some of horror’s best directors while remaining a Rob Zombie film. His most solid directorial effort and a refreshingly off-beat and very unsettling movie. Even the soundtrack was disturbing and, as usual in a Zombie film, there are some great songs included in it that almost become a character in the film themselves. An acquired taste but, I really enjoyed it. Read my original review HERE…

BEST HORROR HONORABLE MENTION

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MANIAC (2013)

For a guy who bitches a lot about all the horror remakes, it is quite ironic that two of my favorites this year are in fact remakes but, Franck Khalfoun’s re-imagining was a vast improvement over the sleazy and overrated original and Elijah Wood gave me the creeps. There were some truly shocking and disturbing moments, strong tension and the film made creepy use of it’s POV shooting style. An art house style horror that really worked for me. Read my full review HERE…

MOST ORIGINAL HORROR

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AMERICAN MARY (2013)

Sure Mary isn’t perfect but, this story of pretty Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle), a down on her luck medical student who is lured into the world of underground body modification surgery for money and then is turned into a sadistic killer when horribly wronged, is a breath of fresh air in a genre saturated by generic haunted house and home invasion thrillers. A wickedly fun and disturbing flick from the Soska Sisters and one that made me second guess myself and I give it a lot of credit for that. Read my full review HERE…

ORIGINAL HORROR RUNNER-UP

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EXCISION (2012)

Yes, this film is from 2012 but, I didn’t catch up with it till this year and it deserves a shout out for being one of the more original flicks I watched during 2013. Another surgery themed flick has a troubled teen Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) whose obsession with surgery and bizarre fantasies leads this demented ugly duckling to commit some horrible acts. A trippy and disturbing  little movie with a really strong performance by McCord who disappears into the role. A nice turn by Traci Lords as well as Pauline’s overbearing mother also gives this flick some weight. Read my full review HERE…

ORIGINAL HORROR HONORABLE MENTION

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JUG FACE (2013)

Chad Crawford Kinkle gave us an unsettling and offbeat little horror about a rural backwoods community presided over by a supernatural creature that resides in a large sink hole just inside the woods. The creature watches over the village and even cures ills as long as the residents feed it the appropriate sacrifice when it calls for it. When one of the intended sacrifices has other ideas, she brings it’s wrath down upon her entire village. Read my full review HERE…

BEST DIRECT TO HOME MEDIA HORROR /

BEST COMEBACK

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CURSE OF CHUCKY (2013)

This flick sadly went direct to home media but, Chucky’s first horror in almost 10 years is a fun, gory and suspenseful tale that returns to the series’ more serious roots and sets Chucky loose in a spooky old house. It had some nice suspense, some vicious kills, Fiona Dourif made a plucky wheelchair bound heroine and there’s some nice surprises for fans of the series too. Chucky was back in style and didn’t get the attention/respect he deserved. Read my full review HERE…

 

MOST OVERRATED HORROR

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THE CONJURING (2013)

Don’t get me wrong, The Conjuring is a well made and fairly enjoyable horror flick especially in it’s spooky first act, but with a second act that gets not only theatrical and a bit hokey, but climaxes with yet another routine exorcism, it lost it’s grip on me much like Wan’s Insidious did in it’s second half. A good flick, but not the masterpiece internet hype makes it out to be. Also doesn’t hold up under repeat viewings as the scares have lost some of their effect and the flaws only get more obvious. Read my full review HERE…

 

MOST DISAPPOINTING HORROR

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YOU’RE NEXT (2013)

With all the positive buzz and internet hype I heard about this flick, it was a major disappointment when I left the theater having seen this predictable and routine home invasion flick with transparent plot twists and a completely contrived excuse for the lethal skills of it’s final girl… though Sharni Vinson was effective in the part. Otherwise the bland cast recites some really bad dialog and does incredibly stupid things to set themselves up as victims both invaded and invader alike. A weak script and a shaky cam obsessed directer make this not only one of the year’s biggest disappointments, but one of the weaker horrors I saw this year. See my full review HERE…

 

WORST HORROR

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THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (2013)

After the entertaining and effectively chilling first flick, this shameless and stupid cash grab sequel is awful in almost every way. A poor script and story, lame direction and a laughable climax makes this hands down the worst horror I saw this year. Ashley Bell does try really hard, but the actress is given garbage to work with and garbage is what this sequel is. Read my full review HERE…

WORST HORROR THAT I STILL ENJOYED

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TEXAS CHAINSAW  (2013)

I’m not going to defend this flick, it had some glaring story problems, a highly questionable timeline…our plucky heroine Heather (Alexandra Daddario) should be in her forties not a nubile 20 something…and numerous other issues, but it gave me some chuckles and a couple of real hotties being chased by a chubby, balding Leatherface…who should be like 60 here…there were also some gruesome kills and did I mention it’s got Alexandra Daddario? A guilty pleasure for sure for, as bad as this was, I had fun watching it and it did have some nice cameos and homages to Hooper’s original masterpiece. Read my full review HERE…

HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE NEW YEAR!

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THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT AMERICAN MARY

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WARNING: If you haven’t seen American Mary, then be aware there are some MAJOR SPOILERS in this article…

I’ll start off by saying that I have been watching and loving movies for almost 5 decades and I certainly don’t consider myself any kind of expert and I am not going to sit here and tell you that I always ‘get’ what a filmmaker is trying to accomplish. But I have seen a lot of movies and will admit I am a bit cynical and hard to please at times, so when a movie comes along that either challenges me or makes me second guess myself, it isn’t often, but it is very refreshing. Which brings me to the Soska Sisters’ American Mary. American Mary is a horror thriller with a very intriguing story… down on her luck medical student Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) in an effort to pay her way through medical school gets involved, by a series of bizarre circumstances, in illegal body modification surgery. Worse still, she is drugged and raped by her arrogant professor and uses her surgical skills to exact a cruel and brutal revenge. Mary’s path in life goes from struggling medical student to underground body modification rock star to sadistic killer. Upon first watching the film, I was definitely intrigued by the Soskas’ original story and their focusing on a segment of society that is rarely glimpsed in film, those who use their very own bodies as canvases for surgically altered sculptures. But I had some issues and while some of those issues still stand, my biggest conundrum came with the character of Mary herself.

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In my initial review I questioned how Mary was portrayed by both star Isabelle and the directors. First off, let me say that I am a big fan of this underrated and very hard working (since 7 or 8 years old) actress, so the fact that I was questioning whether she portrayed the character with a bit too much of an even tone or emotional detachment, already didn’t sit right with me. Obviously playing a character like Mary more over the top would have not worked well with the tone of the film, but I felt there should have a bit more of a difference between the Mary we meet and the person she becomes as the film takes her on this bizarre and dark path. She seems to adapt too easily to both becoming an illegal surgeon catering to the whims of this sect of society that alters their own bodies and then a sadistic killer when she is horribly wronged. I also questioned whether the Soskas properly portrayed the gradual changes in Mary as her path takes her from a medical student who calls her grandmother to check in on her, to a woman capable of some very vicious and cruel behavior. But it seemed odd that they would miss the point of their own character and story. So was it me who missed something? I have watched the film a few times since my initial view…actually watching it now as I write…and I still wasn’t quite getting the impact of Mary’s transformation. Then I considered something I hadn’t upon first watching it…what if Mary hadn’t changed? What if this wasn’t a story of s good girl turned bad or Jekyll and Hyde? What if Mary hadn’t transformed…but was freed? It would explain why Isabelle’s Mary really doesn’t show much of a personality change…except for a more confident air…as the film progresses and the Soskas’ don’t present us with any moments of dramatic alteration in her personally…this person was inside Mary all along and the events in her life did not create her, but unleashed her. Had I missed the point initially? Was I mistaken in expecting this to be a more traditional story? Now really needing an answer to my pondering…I turned to the Soskas.

 
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Writers, directors and actors “The Twisted Twins” Jen and Sylvia Soska.

Thanks to the power of social media we can now actually talk with some of our favorite celebrities and filmmakers and was able to Tweet the Soskas… who just finished filming See No Evil 2  with Isabelle, Danielle Harris and WWE Superstar Kane… and asked them my question, “Was Mary changed by her experiences or did it awaken someone who was already there inside her?”…and the Soskas’ were gracious enough to give me an answer… “It was inside her always. There are situations in life that bring out our darker nature, that was hers.”… so, there it was. And watching the film now as I type this, their answer makes sense. Mary was lost and unhappy in her life as a broke medical student and becoming this diva of underground surgical procedures gave her the purpose and direction her life needed. This also gave her the tools to fight back and get revenge for her brutal violation by her Professor. Her validation from her new life gives her the strength to get back at a man who took advantage of her…and who knows how many other girls…sadly, this does push Mary into a very dark place and awakens her ability to use her skills to be very sadistic, cruel and commit murder. Was Mary mirroring her patients and only becoming her true self after some drastic and unconventional alterations to her life as they to their bodies? I now think this could be. You might even consider that altering the physical form of her patients gave her a bit of a God complex and she now felt punishment and death was hers to give out. It does parallel Grant and his fellow surgeons view that others were theirs to act out their perverted desires on, whenever they chose and without consequence. Though, oddly enough, I do think Mary had somewhat more of a moral center, if not a very skewed one. After all Grant and his cronies victimized innocents while she killed for revenge and, in the one case, panic/self defense. Despite her treatment of Dr. Grant…and the unfortunate security guard…Mary does seem to have moments where she appears a bit remorseful or seems to be questioning herself, but we may never know where she was going to finally end up as Mary’s darker deeds don’t go unpunished and karma catches up with her in an ironic and bloody way. Not a traditional story or character, so it now makes sense not to view it with tradition expectations.

So there it is. I feel a lot more satisfied with the film now that the Soskas confirmed my suspicions and I gotta give them credit with giving this grizzled movie geek something to think about and chew on with their flick. And it’s been a long time since a movie did that. I still feel the film has it’s flaws. Some of the subplots and character relationships could have been better explored and the end seems to come out of almost nowhere. But this is an intriguing and original horror thriller and gives us a lead character who isn’t your typical heroine and is actually still likable despite her sadistic and homicidal sides. I appreciate this film making me second guess myself and intriguing me and presenting me with a character that wasn’t black and white and took me a few viewings to figure out…if I truly have. While I’m going to leave my original review here on the site as it is, as some of the points within are still valid, but I am going to now link it here, so readers can see how my perception of this flick and it’s lead character have changed. And again, if a movie can challenge me like this one did, it makes me want to keep an eye on this creative duo even more. Thank you very much to the Soskas for answering my question and keep messing with my head ladies, I think I like it!

You can also take a look here for our Halloween season look at Katharine Isabelle’s contributions to the horror film genre which also links to our reviews of  Ginger Snaps and it’s follow-ups!

-MonsterZero NJ

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