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“Sometimes dead is better.”- Jud Crandall

Flick is the second film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name, with the first being Mary Lambert’s 1989 chiller. This version finds Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moving his family, wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz), daughter Elle (Jeté Laurence) and young son Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) from Boston to a rural house in Maine, to get away from big city life. Unfortunately their property is bordered on one side by a busy road and a local “Pet Sematary” on the other. When their family cat Church is run over, kindly old neighbor Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) takes Louis to bury it, in a stretch of ground beyond the pet graveyard, that Crandall claims has some supernatural properties…and a horrific chain of events begins to unfold as per King’s classic book.

Adaptation is this time directed by Starry Eyes duo Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer from a script by Jeff Buhler and Matt Greenberg. Kölsch and Widmyer do bring a creepy touch to King’s tale and certainly know how to make the New England countryside look very spooky. The film is effective and tries to change things up a bit, as it is a second adaptation of the bestselling book. Even with taking liberties with certain plot elements, though, the familiarity does work against it at times. We all know where this is heading, no matter what changes are made. Still, it is spooky enough to entertain and the last act has some nice chills. The flick is very atmospheric and has some viciously violent moments. Despite the directors’ skill, though, it’s still faithful enough to King’s story to keep it from being really fresh or innovative, like the duos unsettling first feature. Like any classic book, we all know the story.

The cast are solid. Clarke is well cast as an ordinary man of medicine facing something he, up till now, hasn’t believed in. Amy Seimetz is fine as wife Rachel. Rachel is haunted by events from her own past and of course, it comes to bare when things go bump in the night. Lithgow is a veteran and makes Jud a charming and likable old man, though Fred Gwynne really nailed the role first in the 1989 film. Jud provides a lot of the exposition having personal history with whatever lurks in the woods beyond the houses. The Lavoie Brothers are cute as Gage and Jeté Laurence is very effective as Elle, especially when given some difficult scenes for a kid to perform. A good cast.

Overall, this was an entertaining and sometimes creepy adaptation of one of Stephen King’s most famous books. Being the second adaptation, it tries to change things up a bit, but is still a little too familiar to really thrill us. We know what’s coming. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer do create some disturbing moments and give the film some chilling atmosphere, but can’t completely overcome that this is very well known material…though they try hard. Certainly worth a look and would probably be a bit more effective to a new generation, who haven’t seen the 1989 flick, or are not too overly familiar with King’s classic novel.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) cats that were dead at one time.









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Holidays is a horror anthology that presents eight short stories, each based on a holiday and adding some kind of supernatural/horror twist. Each tale is written and directed by different filmmakers with somewhat mixed resluts.

The first is Valentines Day, written and directed by Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch (Starry Eyes) and tells the story of  introverted high school girl Maxine (Madeleine Coghlan) who has a crush on her swimming coach (Rick Peters). When she misinterprets a sympathetic Valentine’s Day card from him, she decides to solve her bullying problem and present her object of affection with a special gift, all at the same time. It is an effective story with some very gruesome moments and has a bit of that offbeat, disturbing feel that made Starry Eyes work so well.

Next up is St. Patrick’s Day written and directed by Gary Shore (Dracula Untold). This tells the story of a new little girl (Isolt McCaffrey) at school who gives her teacher (Ruth Bradley) a St. Patrick’s Day wish with disturbing results. This episodes starts out creepy enough, but gets progressively silly till it’s goofy ending.

Next up is Easter written and directed by Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact). This tells a really weird and disturbing tale of a little girl (Ava Acres) who accidentally catches the Easter Bunny (Mark Steger) in the act…but he’s not quite what she expected and there is a disturbing price for being the first child to ever see him. This is a weird episode that unsettlingly combines both the Christian doctrine and traditional bunny folklore of Easter. While not totally successful, it gets extra points for being daring enough to ‘go there’.

The next tale is written and directed by Sarah Adina Smith and is called Mother’s Day. It’s an odd story about a woman (Sophie Traub) who is ‘cursed’ by getting pregnant every time she has sex. She is sent to, of all places, a fertility clinic, to solve her problem, one which turns out to be more than it seems. This episode was really strange, yet a bit unsatisfying as it didn’t seem to go anywhere and had a predictable and cliché shock ending.

Father’s Day is one of the best tales. It is written and directed by FX man Anthony Scott Burns (FX for The Last Exorcism Part II). It tells of a young woman (House of the Devil’s Jocelin Donahue) who receives a recorded message from her long dead father, asking her to meet him at a special place from her childhood. This is a very effective episode that is moody, creepy and heartbreaking, thanks in equal parts to good direction and a very strong performance by Donahue.

The biggest disappointment and worst episode is Kevin Smith’s Halloween. It takes place on Halloween, but has little to do with the holiday as it tells the story of Ian (Harley Mortenstein) the mean owner of a Sex Cam business who has a painful rebellion from three of his employees (Ashley Greene, Olivia Roush and Harley Quinn Smith). It forgoes any attempt at something spooky for more of Smith’s traditional adolescent vulgarity. Boring, crude and has nothing to do with the holiday it represents.

Anthology get’s back on track with Scott Stewart’s (Dark SkiesChristmas. This one tells the tale of a down-on-his-luck dad (Seth Green) who goes to disturbing lengths to get his kid the pair of virtual reality glasses he wants. These glasses, however, reveal a person’s true self and he and his wife (Clare Grant) learn some very unsettling things about each other. This is a fun and chilling episode and Green is entertaining to watch as the desperate dad and Clare Grant is good as the wife with a secret side to her.

Final episode is New Year’s and is is directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer (Some Kind Of Hate) from a script by Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch. It tells the story of a serial killer (Andrew Bowen) who has specific plans for his New Year’s Eve date (Lorenza Izzo) who turns out to have far more in common with him than he realizes. This is a twisted and fun episode with a really entertaining psycho  turn by Izzo as Jean. Izzo is showning a talent for these roles, as she was one of the few fun parts of Knock Knock.

Overall, this was a mixed bag, but the good outweighed the bad. There were a few disappointments, especially from Kevin Smith who dropped the ball on delivering something in the Halloween spirit for his tale. We did gets some spooky and effective stories, with the standout being Burn’s Father’s Day which had a sympathetic and strong portrayal from Jocelin Donahue. Definitely worth a watch for the segments that did work and even a couple of the failures had an originality to their telling.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Christmas trees.

fred clause rating




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Starry Eyes is a very disturbing and at times, gruesome horror flick that may be a metaphor for loosing one’s soul in the pursuit of fame and fortune…in this case, literally. The film tells the story of emotionally fragile, wannabe actress Sarah (Alex Essoe) who lives with a group of hipster acting hopefuls and works at a degrading Hooters-esque fast food restaurant. She answers an ad for a horror film to be made by Astraeus Pictures, a company renown for such films and gets a strange audition to say the least. The more auditions she goes on for the film, the more bizarre the auditions get till she meets the creepy producer (Louis Dezseran) and he wants something very inappropriate from her. At first Sarah refuses but, the more hopeless her quest for stardom appears, the more she may be willing to give in to his demands. Unbeknownst to Sarah, Astraeus is far more than just a film studio and wants something far more than simple casting couch behavior…and Sarah might sacrifice literally everything to get what she wants.

This movie is a very disturbing horror that evokes Rosemary’s Baby and the work of David Lynch at times, with it’s sinister cult, somewhat surreal approach and explosions of vicious and gruesome violence. It is an exaggerated telling of someone sacrificing their life and soul for a chance at Hollywood stardom and writers/directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer use the cult-like Astraeus Pictures to symbolize the inner circle of Hollywood fame that some might even kill to become part of. They place their already emotionally fragile Sarah into a situation where she is desperate enough to sacrifice everything for her dream, but, as this is a horror film, that ‘everything’ is literal as is the application of the word sacrifice. They skillfully and effectively follow Sarah’s transformation, as the person she was dies away and a new person evolves, one that will kill those she feels have wronged her or, are in her way. The results are chilling, especially when Sarah turns violent towards her one-time friends. It’s a very unsettling ride and even to a hardened horror movie fan, some of the violence is savage enough to evoke a strong response. Graphic violence aside, the film is just very creepy at times with the bizarre employees of the sinister studio and mysterious cloaked figures that seem to follow Sarah, as her physical and mental downward spiral continues toward whatever end is coming. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer also have a simple yet effective visual style and their atmospheric film is aided by some nice shadowy cinematography by Adam Bricker and a John Carpenter-ish score by Jonathan Snipes.

As for the cast, it’s mostly Alex Essoe’s show and she is really strong here and helps make this work so well. She at first gives us a sweet but, somewhat damaged young woman who wants to give meaning to her mundane life by achieving the Hollywood fame she’s always dreamed of. Once she gives herself over to the strange people at the studio, the actress takes us on a startling and disturbing transformation that would be just as effective without the well-executed make-up effects. Essoe gives it her all and she is downright scary at times whereas moments before, she seemed unable to ‘hurt a fly’ as Norman Bates would say. A really good performance and she is supported by an effective cast of relative unknowns as her actor friends and cult members alike. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer get good work out of their players and it helps make this film effective as it is.

I liked this movie, if ‘liked’ is a word that can be applied to a film that is creepy and sometimes absolutely vicious. It is a very effective horror and gives a very literal and sinister nature to the whole concept of sacrificing all to become one of Hollywood’s elite. It has an effective cast, including a knock-out performance from Alex Essoe as Sarah and some very gruesome gore and make-up FX. A very unnerving and sometimes savagely violent horror with a chilling atmosphere that lasts after it’s over. Also stars The Innkeepers’ Pat Healy as Sarah’s boss at The Big Taters fast food restaurant.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 wannabe actresses!

starry eyes rating