HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DIG TWO GRAVES (2014)

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DIG TWO GRAVES (2014)

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Not really a horror film, but more like a rural mystery/thriller with a thin layer of the supernatural. The film takes place in a community in the Illinois mountains in 1977 and finds young Jake (Samantha Isler) mourning the loss of her brother Sean (Ben Schneider), who drowned while diving into a local quarry. A tragic event for which Jake feels guilty. Three mysterious men appear to Jake and tell her that they have the power to bring Sean back, but someone must take his place, namely her classmate Willie (Gabriel Cain). Unknown to the girl, the motivations of these men involve Jake’s sheriff grandfather (Ted Levine) and a possible quest for revenge that’s taken 30 years to unfold.

This is an impressive debut from Hunter Adams from a script by he and Jeremy Phillips, that is loaded with atmosphere. The film plays like a dark fable as we start out with a glimpse of something awful taking place in 1947 then are introduced to Jake thirty years later as she loses her only sibling. From then on we meet the mysterious Wyeth (Troy Ruptash) and his two brothers, who claim to have the power to bring Sean back…but at a price. As we progress forward with Jake’s moral dilemma, Adams also takes us back thirty years with flashback’s told through the eyes of her grandfather Sheriff Waterhouse (Levine) to slowly, over the course of the film, reveal what got us to this point and how all the dots connect. It’s all done with the aura of  dark magic and something slightly supernatural going on and in just the right doses to keep us on edge, but not tip into full blown horror. The film stays somewhat grounded in reality which makes the moments that hint of something otherworldly all the more unnerving. The film sometimes evoked the rural set Winter’s Bone, but with a hint of dark fantasy that keeps us uneasy throughout. It takes till the very last scenes for all the pieces to come together and the climax will stay with you after the film is over.

Adams also gets very good work from his cast, especially his two leads. Veteran Ted (Silence Of The Lambs) Levine is very strong as Jake’s grandfather Sheriff Waterhouse and really creates an effective portrayal of a good man haunted by past events and wanting to protect his granddaughter from them. Samantha Isler gives a powerful performance as a young teen wanting to correct something she feels is her fault, but tormented by the moral implications of it’s solution. The young actress is a talent to keep an eye on. There is also Troy Ruptash as the creepy Wyeth. Ruptash gives the man a sense of power and menace with an aura of someone with dark powers beyond being just potentially lethal. Rounding out is Danny Goldring as former Sheriff Procter. Procter is a man with skeletons in his closet, skeleton’s he might kill to keep hidden and Goldring gives him that sense of a man desperate to keep something hidden.

This was an atmospheric thriller with a constant feeling of foreboding and an undercurrent of dark magic and possibly the supernatural. It’s a slow burn mystery that unravels at a deliberate pace and takes you on a journey both forward and backward in time to tell us it’s complete story. It has some very strong guidance from it’s first time director and excellent work from a good cast to punctuate the script and direction. The film was first released at film festivals in 2014 and finally has gotten a limited release and the attention it deserves thanks to Executive Producer Larry Fessenden! Highly recommended!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 rattlesnakes

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: CARNAGE PARK (2016)

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CARNAGE PARK (2016)

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Flick takes place in 1978 with country girl Vivian Fontaine (Ashley Bell) not having a good day. Her home is being sold out from under her and while at the bank getting turned down for a loan to save it, she’s taken hostage by two ex-cons (James Landry Hebert and Michael Villar) who rob the bank. That’s the least of her problems, as the three find themselves in a stretch of remote wilderness stalked by psychotic ex-soldier Wyatt Moss (Pat Healy), who slaughters anyone that enters his domain. Soon Vivian finds herself alone and in a battle for survival against the well-armed and quite deranged maniac.

Flick is written and directed by Mickey Keating who is proving himself quite diverse in his influences with films like the David Lynch-esque Darling and the X-Files-ish Pod under his belt. Here he delivers a brutal and twisted little movie that seems to have a bit of a Rob Zombie influence, as it did evoke some of the imagery, brutality and a bit of the deranged humor that was on display in Zombie’s first two flicks. But this is very much Keating’s own movie and he starts us out with the story in progress, with robber Lenny (Villar) wounded and Scorpion Joe (Hebert) pulling hostage Vivian out of the trunk to help him. We then get some brief flashbacks to fill us in on some character and plot details as the crazed Wyatt discovers the intruders on his land and the hunt/action begins. The film is stylish and off-beat and very entertaining as our girl-next-door Vivian tries to overcome a superior enemy and escape with her life. The film is intense, strange and very violent at times and does entertain as it intends with the oddball Wyatt tracking/tormenting the dazed and desperate, yet not totally defenseless, Vivian. It’s a twisted little flick, that tells it’s story in a Tarantino meets Rob Zombie kind of way. It’s not perfect, as Keating’s influences are a bit too obviously borrowed from at times and one character just disappears, which makes one question why they were included at all. But when all is said and done, Keating accomplishes what he set out to with splattered brains and all.

The cast go a long way in making this work and work well. Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism) delivers a strong heroine in her Vivian. She is a simple country girl who starts out trying to save her home and ends up trying to save her life. Bell gives her a dazed look of a woman who just got dumped into the frying pan and then the fire and is trying to just stay alive and somehow get home. She gives Vivian a simple tenacity and a strong will to survive with a touch of frustration and confusion. She is endearing and likable. Pat Healy (Innkeepers, Tales Of Halloween) portrays a true psychotic, but yet not one who doesn’t deliriously enjoy what he is doing. He is arrogant and self-righteous and while his motives are not completely explained, the religious symbolism around his lair and in what he says and does, implies he is doing God’s work in some form. Healy is threatening and dangerous and a touch humorously demented and it is a good role for an underrated and versatile actor who can play both hero and villain. Ex-con and thieves James Landry Hebert (Skateland) and Michael Villar have smaller parts, but Hebert succeeds in making an impression as Scorpion Joe. He’s another underrated character actor who does good work when on screen. There is also an appearance by Alan Ruck as Wyatt’s sheriff brother who keeps cleaning up his sibling’s messes, despite the emotional drain of the conflict of interest and indie icon Larry Fessenden as one of Wyatt’s prey.

So, not a perfect thriller, but one that is successful in being 80+ minutes of twisted entertainment. Mickey Keating’s films seem to illustrate a variety of influences with him channeling a bit of Rob Zombie in this, his latest film. It’s off the wall and sometimes brutally violent and has a good cast to make it work very well. A fun and demented little movie, that while not completely original, amuses with a healthy dose of bullets, blood and weirdness.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bullets.

ex2 rating

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REVIEW: IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE (2016)

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IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE (2016)

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Western homage is written and directed by Ti West who is known for horror films like The House Of The Devil and the recent The Sacrament. This is a departure for West and shows he can do more than just horror with this tale of revenge. Flick has ex-soldier Paul (Ethan Hawke) wandering into the small town of Denton, New Mexico. He is just passing through, but in true western fashion, has an altercation with the town bully/deputy, Gilly (James Ransone). Paul is commanded to leave town by Gilly’s sheriff father (John Travolta), but is pursued into the desert by Gilly and his thugs. Upon being ambushed, his beloved dog, Abbie is murdered and Paul himself left for dead. Surviving Gilly’s attempt at payback, the lone drifter heads back to Denton with death and revenge on his mind.

In A Valley Of Violence may not be perfect, but it is a fun homage to both spaghetti and American westerns. Ti West creates a classic drifter in Paul, a man who grew tired of killing Native Americans senselessly and left the army behind, too ashamed to return home to his own family. He wants no more to do with death, but is forced by the slimy Gilly and his father into picking up gun and knife once more. We also get the classic love interest in young Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga) who happens to be the sister of Gilly’s fiancé, Ellen (Karen Gillan) and takes a shine to the handsome drifter. In telling this classic story, West’s horror background does come through. Paul uses an assortment of weapons to gain revenge, including gun, straight razor and bludgeoning a man with his own boot heel. The flashback to the Native American massacre the broke him down is also very reminiscent of his set up for the sacrifice scene in The House Of The Devil. This western is also a bloody one, thought he does not go overboard with it. If West stumbles a bit, it’s with the film’s odd sense of humor. It is a bit intrusive in a few spots such as during the climactic scenes with Paul stalking Sheriff Martin and his posse throughout the town. There are a couple of moments where some humorous dialogue interrupts the tension that West has built, such as after witnessing a cohort gunned down, one of Martin’s thugs (Tommy Nohilly) declares, in a rant, that he no longer wants to be called “Tubby”. The humor is blended fine most of the time, but here it seems to slow the momentum a bit and break the suspense. It doesn’t damage the film, but the climactic showdown could have been tighter and more tense. On a technical level the film looks good. Cinematographer Eric Robbins makes good use of the New Mexico locations and Jeff Grace gives it a homage filled western score that evokes Morricone at times.

West also gets good work out of an impressive cast. Hawke may be no Clint Eastwood, but he plays the tortured drifter very well. Paul is a man who has come to abhor violence, but is forced back into it, reluctantly, by the bully Gilly. His dog Abbie is the rock that what humanity he has left clings to and when she is taken, the killer is unleashed again. Hawke makes Paul likable, yet a bit distant and we do believe he is lethal when the time comes. Travolta is very good as Sheriff Martin. He plays him as not quite a bad guy, but obviously someone who lets his son and thugs have their way around town. He knows enough to not mess with the ex-soldier Paul, but sadly is not convincing enough to his son. As Gilly, James Ransone is appropriately slimy and full of himself. Gilly is a bit too much of a jerk to really be completely menacing and Ransone plays him as someone a bit too over confident to know when to quit. Taissa Farmiga is sweet and spirited as Mary-Anne, the lonely impressionable young girl who falls for Paul and Karen Gillan is also entertaining as her snooty sister Ellen, who is engaged to the bully Gilly. Indie flick icon Larry Fesenden also appears as one of Gilly’s three thugs along with Toby Huss and Tommy Nohilly.

Overall, I liked this odd little western homage and was entertained. The story is common to the genre as are the stereotypical characters, but that is completely on purpose. This is some nice tension and suspense to go with the bloody action and the cast all perform their parts well. If the film falters somewhat, it is in that sometimes it’s quirky humor comes at the wrong moments when things should stay tense. Otherwise this is a fun western from a man who has already impressed with his horror flicks and Blumhouse who continues to support indie filmmakers. Also stars Burn Gorman as a less than typical priest.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 six-shooters.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SESSION 9 (2001)

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SESSION 9 (2001)

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Chilling tale tells the story of a crew of hazardous material removal workers who get a contract at a long closed state hospital for the mentally ill. Each man already has his own drama, but as they continue to work strange things start to happen effecting each one. Is it the hazardous materials they work with?…have the spirits of this forgotten place come out of hiding…or is one of their number coming unglued?

Written and directed by Brad Anderson, who co-wrote with Stephen Gevedon who also plays”Mike” in the film, this is an unsettling little indie that is subtly unnerving at first and then builds towards it’s disturbing climax. Anderson gives each of his men their own personal issues to start, such as boss Gordon (Peter Mullan) having problems at home with a new baby and his wife and Phil (David Caruso) dealing with co-worker Hank (Josh Lucas) having stolen his girlfriend away. This adds tension to the small work crew before any odd occurrences begin and gives us pause as to whether the is really something supernatural going on here. There are also a series of tapes that Mike uncovers detailing the sessions between a hospital doctor and a patient with multiple personalities and a dark secret. Each tape he plays brings us closer to finding out the secret of patient Mary and tears our crew a little further apart…until the climatic session 9. There is a surprisingly violent and bloody conclusion to all this, as up till now the film has remained low key and if Anderson doesn’t quite spoon feed us all the answers, it only works to this spooky flick’s advantage. The use of the real life abandoned Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts is also a big factor in creating atmosphere as the building is almost another character in the film and Anderson knows how to use his setting to maximum effective. The low budget flick is shot well by Uta Briesewitz and has an effective score by Climax Golden Twins. Not perfect, but a solid little thriller that gets under the skin.

Anderson has a good cast to work with aside from his impressive setting. Veteran actor David Caruso is solid as Phil. He is already on edge with having to work with a man who currently sleeps with his ex-girlfriend and when things start to get weird, it only adds to an already existing tension and Caruso plays it well. Peter Mullen is also good as Gordon. Gordon has a sick newborn to deal with and the sleepless nights are taking their toll both at home and at work. When things start to happen at the hospital, it further negatively effects a man who is already unraveling. Mullen plays this slowly fragmenting man very effectively. Co-writer Gevedon is convincing as Mike, who is very interested in the hospitals past, especially the therapy sessions of the mysterious patient Mary Hobbs (voiced by Jurian Hughes). Rounding out is Josh Lucas as Hank, who is a bit of a jerk and a thorn in Phil’s side and Brendan Sexton III as Gordon’s young nephew Jeff, who is afraid of the dark. There is also a cameo in the last act by Larry Fessenden, before he became an indie flick icon.

I like this little flick. It is slow paced, but that is deliberate as it it is more of a slow burn towards it’s unnerving climax. Anderson uses his creepy real-life setting to maximum effect and keeps us guessing as to whether it is supernatural or psychological, as to why things spiral out of control for these men. Not a great movie, but a very effective one with a good cast and a great location.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 dust masks.

session 9 rating

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE MIND’S EYE (2015)

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THE MIND’S EYE (2015)

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In Almost Human writer/director Joe Begos gave us a horror/sci-fi with some nice homages to flicks like Fire In The Sky and John Carpenter’s The Thing in a gore wrapped story of alien abduction and a creature within stalking a small rural town. Here Begos returns to pay tribute to David Cronenberg’s Scanners with a story of individuals with powerful psychic abilities, even setting his flick in the early 90s. The story tells of Zack (Graham Skipper) and Rachel (Jug Face and Darling’s Lauren Ashley Carter) who are two people with incredible psychokinetic abilities and are being held by Dr. Michael Slovak (John Speredakos) for his own nefarious purposes. The two escape and thus begins a tale of pursuit and revenge that leaves a trail of bodies in it’s wake.

Joe Begos certainly knows his influences and his affection for that which he pays homage is certainly apparent through his past two films. That being said, the same applies here even more so than Almost Human in that, while it is entertaining, the film is a little too close to it’s source material to really have it’s own identity. Almost Human was, at least, a bit of a mash-up within it’s own story. Here the flick is basically just a stripped down version of Cronenberg’s classic, right down to exploding heads…a tribute, we get that…to the climactic duel between good and evil psychokinetic powered individuals. Again, it is a fun tribute, that while it spares us the more complicated conspiracy aspects of Scanners, ups the gore and violence quotient in it’s place. As with Begos’ last flick, the film is moderately paced, which to be fair, is much like the films it purposely evokes. Also like Almost Human, the acting is again a bit wooden especially from the overacting Speredakos, who might have been a bit more threatening bad guy with some moderation and less eye-rolling. The gore FX are quite good, Begos has a good visual eye and style and there is a wonderfully nostalgic electronic score by Steve Moore to give it that 80s/early 90s feel.

Overall, this was an enjoyable tribute to a classic flick from a filmmaker who has an eye for what made those flicks work. As with Almost HumanBegos shows potential as a good low budget filmmaker who certainly has some classic influences and his heart in the right place. Now it’s time for him to take what he has learned from the films he grew up with and do his own thing…and looking forward to it when he does. A fun Cronenberg love letter that while isn’t overly original, successfully evokes what it is giving homage to. Also stars indie horror flick icon Larry Fessenden as Zack’s dad and Noah Segan who is racking up quite the horror resume.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 beers lifted cinematically to David Cronenberg.

worlds end rating

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SOUTHBOUND (2015)

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SOUTHBOUND (2015)

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Spooky flick is a strange anthology that starts out with two men fleeing mysterious creatures down a stretch of remote desert highway. Their tale leads into the next and so on, each tale leading directly into the one that follows, till the last story returns us to where we started, as if these stories are occurring in an infinite loop with each person reliving the events over and over. We get a sense that each person has a dark secret or sin to hide and the film never quite spills all the beans, remaining unsettlingly ambiguous, save for some interesting comments from a radio DJ (Larry Fessenden) everyone appears to be listening to on this desolate stretch of road.

The Way In and The Way Out are the opening and closing segments that keep the tales connected in it’s loop are directed by Radio Silence (Devil’s Due) and written by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin. They are quite spooky and effective tales that opens mysteriously and only let’s us know what it’s blood-covered characters (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Chad Villella) have been up to when we reach the anthology’s end. Creepy and very effective and starts the flick off on a disturbing note and ends it chillingly.

Siren tells the story of an all-girl band (Nathalie Love, Fabianne Therese and Hannah Marks) who break down on the same road and meet an interesting fate. There is some vague talk about the death of a fourth band member and where the blame might lie and a seemingly nice couple (co-writer Burke and Davey Johnson), that come to their aid, who are not what they appear. Another spooky and off-putting segment written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin, who co-wrote with Susan Burke.

Third segment is called The Accident and has the surviving band member from Siren getting hit on that same highway by a man named Lucas (Mather Zickel), who tries to do the right thing and get her help. His efforts become a living nightmare as he happens upon a hospital that is more a house of horrors with empty halls and blood spattered walls. Another very effective segment written and directed by David Bruckner.

Jailbreak is the weakest segment, which features a brother (David Yow) trying to rescue his sister (Tipper Newton) from a strange town the mysterious highway runs through and were Lucas found the hospital in the last segment. This sequence simply doesn’t quite have the same impact as the others and while it delivers the gore and blood, as they all do, it doesn’t resonate as well. It is written and directed by Patrick Horvath, who co-wrote with Dallas Hallam.

We then come to the previously mentioned The Way Out, where we segue back to the characters from the opening while telling the story of a young girl (Hassie Harrison) who is spending time with her parents (Gerald Downey and Kate Beahan) for the weekend before going off to school. The house they are renting comes under attack from some masked individuals, but the story doesn’t go where you expect and successfully brings us back to the films opening.

All the segments are well performed by it’s cast of relative unknowns (indie icon Larry Fessenden’s vocal performance aside) and not only provides some definite chills and thrills, but quite a lot of creepy imagery and blood-spattering gore.

Overall, I liked this flick. It’s disturbing and unsettling and doesn’t spoon-feed you all the answers…though pay attention and there are subtle clues to what might be going on and fun ways the stories connect. It’s no secret we are possibly watching a form of Hell were those inside are doomed to repeat their sins or suffer the consequences over and over, though there is indication one might free themselves from this unearthly loop by making the right choice. Either way, it’s a creepy, blood-soaked ride down an unnamed highway of horrors.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 highway signs on a road to nowhere.

southbound rating

 

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BARE BONES: SANTA’S LITTLE HELPER and POD

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SANTA’S LITTLE HELPER (2015)

Moderately amusing and heavily cliché’d flick has selfish businessman, Dax (WWE superstar Mike “The Miz” Mizanin) out of a job and being tested for a new one by mysterious woman, Billie (AnnaLynne McCord). It turns out Billie is one of Santa’s elves and old St. Nick (Eric Keenleyside) needs a new right hand man and based on his kind-hearted youth, feels Dax is the one to be his new “Ho Ho”…not making that up. Standing in Dax’s way is ambitious and arrogant elf, Eleanor (WWE superstar Paige) who is outraged that a normal human is being courted for the job and not her…and vows to stop him.

Silly flick has it’s amusing moments, but is so cliché that it needed a lot more entertainment value to overlook it’s extremely familiar story from James Robert Johnston and Bennett Yellin’s script. As directed by Gil Junger it is very-by-the numbers and only McCord’s adorable perkiness adds some life. Both Mizanin and Paige seem to just be playing versions of their WWE ring persona’s and the film doesn’t try hard enough to give itself some real Christmas spirit. Completely bland and forgettable, but not without some small amount of charm…probably more due to watching it during the Christmas season than the film itself. At least the girls were cute.

Kids may find it more amusing, especially if they are fans of Miz and Paige, but after her work in Excision, McCord deserves better.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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POD (2015)

Sci-fi/horror has psychiatrist Ed (Dean Cates) picking up his alcoholic sister Lyla (Jug Face’s Lauren Ashley Carter) and heading to a remote cabin to check on brother Martin (Brian Morvant). Martin is a paranoid schizophrenic with a history of violence and emotional problems who recently sent Ed an ominous and upsetting message. They arrive to find the house and Martin, in complete disarray with the ex-soldier claiming to have been part of government experiments and that one of those experiments, has followed him there. Does Martin really have a creature locked up in the basement or has he finally lost his mind?

Written and directed by Mickey Keating, this isn’t a bad movie just an extremely familiar one that offers nothing new to this conspiracy type tale told many times before and better…including 2014’s Extraterrestrial. The directing is competent and there are a few suspenseful scenes, but it’s predictable and we’ve seen it so many times before. The acting is decent, though Morvant’s raving gets really tiresome especially since it goes on for over 30 minutes. Worth a look, if you like X-Files flavored stuff, but don’t expect much or anything fresh or new. Also stars indie horror icon Larry Fessenden in a cliché role that I won’t spoil.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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-MonsterZero NJ
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WE ARE STILL HERE (2015)

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WE ARE STILL HERE (2015)

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We Are Still Here is a supernatural indie horror that serves up some nice chills and surprisingly generous gore, though not quite living up to the internet hype that preceded it…but then again, little ever does.

Story finds older couple Paul and Anne Sacchetti (Andrew Sensenig and Barbara Crampton) moving from the city up to the small rural town of Aylesbury to escape the painful specter of their son Bobby’s recent death. They move into a secluded old house and immediately Anne starts to see and hear things and senses a presence she wants to believe is Bobby. Paul is skeptical and it only gets worse when a neighbor, Dave (Monte Markham) shows up and tells them that the house was a former mortuary and the owners were run out of town for selling the bodies and burying empty coffins. Paul is even slipped a note from the neighbor’s wife telling him “The house needs a family” and to “get out”. To get to the bottom of things, the couple invite their friends over, a hippie couple May and Jacob (Lisa Marie and Larry Fessenden) who have an interest in the paranormal. They come to believe there is a dark presence in the house and they are surrounded by death. What they don’t know is, that the dark presence was awakened long ago when the house was built and every thirty years must be appeased with the sacrifice of a family, or it’s darkness and death will spread from the house to infect the entire town. Is it too late for the Sacchettis and friends to escape…and will they be allowed to leave?

Horror flick is written and directed by Ted Geoghegan and supposedly inspired by the works of the late, great Lucio Fulci. Geoghegan certainly has the gore part down, as the film gets graphically bloody at times and does have a visual style that is atmospheric and effective. He also does provide a lot of chills and spookiness throughout and the flick is loaded with atmosphere. Geoghegan uses the familiar tropes of the small town with a dark secret, well and there are some extremely gruesome deaths, especially during the blood-spattered finale. So what holds this flick back a bit? First thing is there is a seance/possession sequence with Sensenig and Fessenden, it should be a major scene, but the sequence itself comes off a little clumsy and gets borderline silly. Part of the reason is that filmmaker Fessenden is not a seasoned performer…despite numerous small roles in his fellow filmmaker’s productions…and the scene needed someone with stronger acting chops to really pull it off. It’s not as convincing as it needs to be. The next thing is the gore-soaked final act. It certainly was fun, but it’s not as spooky as the more subtle things that come before it. Everything is out in the open and the blood and organs are flying, but it’s not as atmospheric as when Geoghegan kept things in the shadows with lurking figures and only hinted at the malevolence that surrounded the family. When his vengeful specters are in plain sight ripping people apart, it becomes something more outwardly visceral and less deeply bone-chilling. There is also some shaky dialogue spoken, especially during that sceance/possession scene, as well as, a few of the exposition scenes that weakens their effectiveness. That and if Dave wants the family to stay, why does he keep telling them unsettling stories about the house? Doesn’t make sense.

Technically, this low budget film looks good and the make-up effects by Oddtopsy FX are really well-rendered in presenting our dark spirits and their carnage. There is some very atmospheric cinematography of the New York State locations by Karim Hussain and a fitting score by Wojciech Golczewski (Late Phases). For a low budget flick, production value is top notch.

The cast work well here, for the most part. It’s great to see Barbara Crampton on screen again and she plays the grieving Mrs. Sacchetti very well. We like Anne and she is our emotional anchor for the story. Andrew Sensenig is adequate as her skeptical husband, but his Paul seemed a little bland at times. The character could have used some warmth to make him more accessible. Lisa Marie is a little off as May, but since the character is a bit eccentric to begin with, that may have been intentional and seems to fit the amateur medium. Larry Fessenden is actually amusing as the stoner Jacob and it is only in the seance sequence where his limited range hindered the effectiveness. TV and film vet Monte Markham is solid as neighbor Dave whose knows the truth and has his own agenda. He is our human villain of the flick and makes a good bad guy. There is some weak acting from some of the supporting actors, but it’s not enough to hurt the proceeding to any degree.

Overall, I liked this flick and give it a recommend. It has some really good atmosphere, provides some solid chills and splatters the gore and guts generously, when needed. It has some flaws that keep it from really firing on all cylinders, but it still works very well and certainly is effective enough to make it worth checking out. A solid enough indie horror that shows we may see some interesting things yet from Ted Geoghegan.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scary specters.

we are still here rating

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: BIRTH OF THE LIVING DEAD (2013)

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BIRTH OF THE LIVING DEAD (2013)

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Birth is a fun and informative documentary on the making of one of the greatest horror films of all time. The flick chronicles how George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead came to be, through not only interviews with the legendary filmmaker himself but, reflections and observations from others such as indie filmmaking fixture Larry Fessenden (who also produced), Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Heard, NOTLD star Bill Hinzman (earlier interview footage from before his death in 2012) and a host of others. They takes us through Romero’s interest in being a filmmaker, to his early commercial days, to the financing and filming and then to the struggle to get it released and it’s eventual impact. They also compare events going on in the world, at the time, such as the Viet Nam War and how it effected the way people viewed Romero’s classic, to how Romero’s trend-setting zombie epic unintentionally reflected a lot of what was going on in the world, as well. It’s very entertaining and takes one inside the making of a little movie that has become a bonifide classic. We find out how some of the film’s most effective elements were sometimes by mistake or simply out of budgetary necessity and how some of the most quotable lines were ad-libbed on the spot. We also get the sad story of how a simple mistake robbed Romero and company of any rights and profits from the movie to this day. And we discover that the groundbreaking casting of a black hero at a time when that was still not a popular notion in Hollywood, was simply a case of hiring the right actor to play the part and no one saw the racial impact the casting of Duane Jones would have. The part wasn’t even written race specific. All in all, it’s a charming and very affectionate look at the making of one of horrors all time greatest flicks from one of it’s most celebrated filmmakers. A must for Romero and zombie film fans alike.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Romeros.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: LATE PHASES (2014)

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LATE PHASES (2014)

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

“People don’t come to places like this to live, they come here to die.”

Late Phases is the first English language film from Here Comes The Devil director Adrián García Bogliano. The film tells the story of Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici), an armed services/Viet Nam veteran now blind and put into the Crescent Bay retirement community by his son, Will (Ethan Embry). The first night there, a full moon, his neighbor Dolores (Karen Lynn Gorney) is killed and Ambrose is viciously attacked by a savage wolf-like beast. His seeing-eye dog, Shadow, is mortally wounded fighting it off, saving the man’s life. The defiant Ambrose is determined to get answers and soon finds out these attacks occur once a month and the police pass it off as some animal that lives in the nearby woods. They also don’t seem too concerned about the seniors that are it’s victims. But Ambrose begins to put the hard to believe pieces together and realizes he has one month to find out who this shape-shifter is and a means to stop it, by the next full moon. However, his lycanthropic opponent knows he’s coming and is preparing, too…to make sure it’s a war Ambrose won’t win.

I really liked this flick! Not only was it a solid and refreshing take on a werewolf story, but a well made tale of a tough old man who won’t give up. Director Adrián García Bogliano, from Eric Stolze’s tight and clever script, quickly establishes McKinley’s stubborn character, his closeness to Shadow and the mundane life of Crescent Bay, so when the vicious attack comes in the first act, we get it’s full impact. We are then taken along for the smoldering ride as the blind veteran begins to investigate the identity of his lupine invader and make his plans to stop it on the next full moon. The suspense is turned up as we get our reveal a bit early and the cursed individual begins to prepare his counterattack. All this builds up to a very tense and bloody third act showdown between the blind ex-soldier and his lycanthropic enemy. It all works so well, because Bogliano takes his story seriously, generates the proper intensity and we like McKinley and are rooting for the stubborn vet to do what others don’t seem concerned enough to do. There are some minor flaws. McKinley comes to the werewolf conclusion rather quickly, an obnoxious cop character’s dialog is a little too obvious in it’s intent to convey the lack of concern for the seniors here and the climax could have actually played out a bit longer, but otherwise I liked what they accomplished here. It’s suspenseful, intense and has some vicious and very gory action. Technically, the low budget movie is sound, too. There is nice cinematography from Ernesto Herra who shot Here Comes The Devil and a very atmospheric score by Wojciech Golczewski. The werewolf suits and transformations use charming prosthetics and are very effective. There also is some really good and plentiful gore, as well as, a convincing job aging star Dimici about 20 years.

And as for Dimici… he is another reason this works so well. There is a really strong performance here by the Stake Land writer/actor. Damici creates a man who is handicapped by the horror of war and accepts it as punishment for deeds he committed in battle. He is stubborn, difficult but also strong and determined. He makes the crotchety old man very likable and gives him a lot of depth and we go right along with his quest to see this creature brought down. We totally believe that he would give his life to see this fiend stopped, if necessary. We also get nice work from Ethan Embry as his son. The dynamic between the two really works and we get Will’s frustration at how difficult Ambrose is, but yet he still wants to take care of him. The two have good chemistry and make this film really gel with their relationship dynamic. In support, and all doing good work, are familiar faces like Lance Guest (The Last Starfighter), House of the Devil’s Tom Noonan, the legendary Tina Louise as a catty housewife and a small role from the incomparable Larry Fessenden. A good cast that makes this film come together almost perfectly.

I really liked this flick a lot. It’s very well directed. It’s suspenseful, intense, the last act provides some really gory action and it has some nice emotional depth. It’s a refreshing take on the oft-told werewolf tale and it is a well balanced mix of horror, mystery and character drama. The FX are charmingly old-fashioned prosthetics and it’s briskly paced despite the middle act being an intentional slow burn. Highly recommended for something a little different and a horror made for adults at a time when PG-13 teen-centric fright flicks are making up most of what the genre is offering.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 silver bullets.

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