HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: STRANGER THINGS season 2 (2017)

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STRANGER THINGS season 2 (2017)

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

Stranger Things returns with nine new episodes on Netflix that take place a year later, delightfully around Halloween. The story returns us to Hawkins, Indiana, now in 1984 with new trouble brewing. Our four heroes, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Will (Noah Schnapp), are a year older, though still feeling the effects of their encounter with the Upside Down, especially Will. Unknown to the gang, a new threat is emerging from that paranormal dimension and has it’s sights set on Will. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has escaped and is now being hidden by police chief Hopper (David Harbour) from the Hawkins Laboratory folks who are still messing in otherworldly matters. While the group start to realize Will is once again in danger, Eleven goes on a journey to discover her real name and find her birth mother (Aimee Mullins) and half-sister (Linnea Berthelsen). Obviously all the characters’ stories will collide before the season is over.

Second season is just as good as the first and in some ways even more effective as now we are emotionally invested in the familiar characters. Ross and Matt Duffer (Hidden) again pay homage and give plentiful references to the sci-fi and horror flicks of the 80s, while still giving Stranger Things is very own heart and soul. They mange to expand the story, while keeping it familiar, also introducing us to some new characters like new gang member Maxine “Max” Hargrove (Sadie Sink) and her enormous jerk of a brother, Billy (Dacre Montgomery from Better Watch Out). The Duffer Brothers still manage to blend in so many 80s references and yet without them being intrusive or overwhelming, or becoming the main focus. There is another great soundtrack of 80s tunes and the original score, again by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, really adds atmosphere as it did for season one. The FX are top notch, like last time and this season helps give the proceedings a bit bigger scale to go with it’s massive monster. There’s plenty of action, suspense, drama and otherworldly critters to keep it’s core audience happy while rooting for our favorite characters to battle evil once more.

The cast are just as good as last time with new facets being added to the characters. Winona Ryder is again solid as Will’s mother, who is now a bit overprotective, but more of a fighter when her boy is again in danger. Millie Bobby Brown really shines as Eleven, who is now frustrated at being kept from her friends and needing to find out who she really is and where her lost relatives are. As the gang, Wolfhard, Matarazzo, Schnapp and McLaughlin all are really strong and get to play the characters a year older, but still the lovable nerds we last saw, but now with an added strength of being heroes. Schnapp especially gets to show his stuff with Will being a far more present character this season with a strong connection to our story. Harbour is again, a good hero as police chief Hopper, who is going to great lengths to protect Eleven and has made a deal with the Devil, per say, to keep the bad guys out of Hawkins. The rest of the supporting cast get more to do and do it well and the new faces such as Sink, Montgomery and veteran Paul Reiser as Dr. Owens, a shady scientist, all add to the character mix quite nicely. The Duffers juggle a lot of characters, but everyone gets their moment.

This was another solid and very entertaining season. The 80s nostalgia was again very enjoyable as was the recreation of the look and feel of the 80s decade. It took the story in new directions, introduced new characters, yet never lost that Stranger Things feel. The cast are all good, both new and returning and the FX were top notch. There were plenty of chills, suspense, thrills and surprises and some cool critters, too. Can’t wait for season 3 and now there is little doubt the Duffer Brothers can deliver the goods.

EPISODE LIST

  1. MADMAX – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  2. Trick or Treat, Freak – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  3. The Pollywog – directed by Shawn Levy and written by Jessica Mecklenburg
  4. Will the Wise – directed by Shawn Levy and written by Paul Dichter
  5. Dig Dug – directed by Andrew Stanton written by Jessie Nickson-Lopez
  6. The Spy – directed by Andrew Stanton and written by Kate Trefry
  7. The Lost Sister – directed by Rebbeca Thomas and written by Justin Doble
  8. The Mind Flayer – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  9. The Gate – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 mysterious and powerful little girls.
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: 47 METERS DOWN (2016)

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47 METERS DOWN (2016)

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

Sisters Lisa (singer Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are on vacation in Mexico and decide to go on a boating excursion where they will spend time suspended underwater in a shark cage observing the local great white population. An equipment malfunction occurs during their dive and now the sisters are stranded 47 meters down and running out of oxygen. Worse still, the massive sharks they came to swim amongst surround them, making rescue or escape almost impossible. Will help arrive in time?…or will the sisters become the next meal for the hungry predators.

Originally due to hit theaters back in 2016, 47 Meters Down is a fun and tense action/thriller from director Johannes Roberts (The Other Side Of The Door) which he co-wrote with Ernest Riera. Sure, there is suspension of disbelief and we could have used a bit more shark action, but Roberts keeps the flick moving fast at 80+ minutes and the action of one kind or another is almost constant. There is some nice tension in the atmosphere and we get some engaging and suspenseful set-pieces throughout. It’s all very well staged and the underwater photography avoids being murky, so we never loose track of what is going on. Roberts’ sharks obviously pop up at the most inconvenient times and that adds to the fun and the filmmaker even has the audacity to play with our emotions a bit in the tense last act. And as there are sharks, there is some blood, but the bloodletting is sparse, so when it does come, it has impact and is surprisingly gruesome. The film can be predictable at times, though even when it does, it’s still works to an entertaining degree, as some of the familiar elements are what we came expecting to see from a shark movie anyway.

The cast is small with the focus mostly on Moore and Holt while they spend their terrifying ordeal in the shark cage. Both ladies do well in creating likable and sympathetic characters for us to become endeared to. One of the reasons the film works as well as it does is we like these two girls and want to see them rescued. Matthew Modine plays the tour ship’s captain, but is mostly heard on the radio communicating with his trapped customers and is fine in a role which didn’t really need a name actor.

Simply, this was a fun little movie featuring babes vs sharks. There is some nice suspense and tension, likable characters and when we do get some bloodletting, it is effective and surprisingly gruesome. It can be predictable and we are asked to suspend belief more than once, but the film still entertains and doesn’t try to be any more than it is. A fun underwater thriller with enough bite to keep our interest. More of a straight up action flick than the recent shark drama The Shallows which will obviously draw comparisons.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 great whites who want Moore (sorry, had to!).

in the deep rating
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HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: STRANGER THINGS (2016)

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STRANGER THINGS (2016)

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

Stranger Things is an eight episode series from Netflix that takes place in Hawkins, Indiana in 1983. This fun retro series tells of four friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Will (Noah Schnapp), who are into Dungeons and Dragons and Star Wars like most nerdy kids of this era. A bizarre series of events occur with Will disappearing and a mysterious young girl (Millie Bobby Brown) with strange powers showing up in town, at the same time. She calls herself ‘Eleven’ and seems to be on the run. The three friends bond with Eleven and the four set out to find Will, as does local police chief Hopper (David Harbour) with all clues pointing to the mysterious Hawkins Laboratory and it’s presiding head scientist (Matthew Modine). Where is Will? Who really is Eleven? And what do the experiments at Hawkins have to do with all this?

This is a fun and nostalgic series from Ross and Matt Duffer (Hidden) that not only pays homage and gives affectionate nods to the sci-fi/horror flicks of the 80s and their filmmakers, but succeeds in being it’s own thing as well. Sure we see references to many 80s classics, but Stranger Things has it’s own vibe and it’s own story to go along with it’s tributes and provides it’s own chills, as no more evident than it’s opening scenes. We get little girls with deadly powers, evil men in black, alternate dimensions, creatures, conspiracy and a small town caught in the middle of it all. The Duffers deliver it with the look and feel of a movie of that era, as well as, a really cool electronic 80s score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, but not without a touch of their own style. While the mysteries slowly unravel over the course of the eight chapters, we are kept in the dark as long as possible, fed only small bits till it all comes together in the thrilling last few episodes. It’s a delightfully retro series that delivers the goods on all levels including having a little bit of an unobtrusive and offbeat sense of humor. It’s engaging and entertaining and very cleverly written by it’s creators who know exactly in what degree to deliver both it’s homages and it’s scares. The FX are well done, with much of the creature work appearing to be live effects and it never goes too overboard with them as to not betray the era it is recreating. To say anymore would be to spoil a really enjoyable and spooky show.

The cast are all really good from the name actors to the new faces. Winona Ryder is solid as Will’s emotionally troubled mother, who is pushed close to the edge by her son’s disappearance and the strange events that follow. Matthew Modine is appropriately arrogant and sleazy as head Hawkins scientist, Dr. Brenner, who pretends to care for Eleven, but is only using her for his experiments. Young Miss Brown is very endearing as Eleven, a child with some amazing and dangerous gifts who just wants to have a normal life and be cared for. We do feel sorry for her use as a test subject and how hurt she is that people fear her once they know what she is capable of. As our main group, Wolfhard, Matarazzo and McLaughlin all are engaging and make a likable trio of friends. They are brave in their search for Will and noble, especially Mike, in their befriending of Eleven. Harbour is also a good hero as the police chief who will go up against some very dangerous people to find a little boy. Schnapp doesn’t get much screen time as the missing Will, but he is likable enough in his brief appearances that we are sympathetic to what has happened to him. A good cast.

This was a solid and very entertaining series from start to finish. The 80s nostalgia was very enjoyable as was the recreation of the look and feel of films of that era, especially those of Carpenter and Spielberg. It payed homage to and referenced many 80s classics, yet was very much it’s own story that let it’s paying tribute be part of it’s tale, but not dictate it. The cast are all good, the FX were well-rendered, but did not look out of place in an 80s style film and there were plenty of chills, suspense and thrills throughout. Highly recommended and hopefully, there is only a second season, if it can match the quality of the first. Otherwise it stands perfectly on it’s own.

 

EPISODE LIST

  1. The Vanishing of Will Byers – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  2. The Weirdo on Maple Street – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  3. Holly Jolly – directed by Shawn Levy and written by Jessica Mecklenburg
  4. The Body – directed by The Duffer Brothers and written by Justin Doble
  5. The Flea and the Acrobat – directed by The Duffer Brothers written by Alison Tatlock
  6. The Monster – directed by The Duffer Brothers and written by Jessie Nickson-Lopez
  7. The Bathtub – directed by The Duffer Brothers and written by Justin Doble
  8. The Upside Down – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers from a story by Paul Dichter

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 mysterious and powerful little girls.
stranger things rating

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: IN THE DEEP (2016)

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IN THE DEEP (2016)

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

Sisters Lisa (singer Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are on vacation in Mexico and decide to go on a boating excursion where they will spend time suspended underwater in a shark cage observing the local great white population. An equipment malfunction occurs during their dive and now the sisters are stranded 47 meters down and running out of oxygen. Worse still, the massive sharks they came to swim amongst surround them, making rescue or escape almost impossible. Will help arrive in time?…or will the sisters become the next meal for the hungry predators.

Originally titled 47 Meters Down, this is a fun and tense action/thriller from director Johannes Roberts (The Other Side Of The Door) which he co-wrote with Ernest Riera. Sure, there is suspension of disbelief and we could have used a bit more shark action, but Roberts keeps the flick moving fast at 87 minutes and the action of one kind or another is almost constant. There is some nice tension in the atmosphere and we get some engaging and suspenseful set-pieces throughout. It’s all very well staged and the underwater photography avoids being murky, so we never loose track of what is going on. Roberts’ sharks obviously pop up at the most inconvenient times and that adds to the fun and the filmmaker even has the audacity to play with our emotions a bit in the tense last act. And as there are sharks, there is some blood, but the bloodletting is sparse, so when it does come, it has impact and is surprisingly gruesome. The film can be predictable at times, though even when it does, it’s still works to an entertaining degree, as some of the familiar elements are what we came expecting to see from a shark movie anyway.

The cast is small with the focus mostly on Moore and Holt while they spend their terrifying ordeal in the shark cage. Both ladies do well in creating likable and sympathetic characters for us to become endeared to. One of the reasons the film works as well as it does is we like these two girls and want to see them rescued. Matthew Modine plays the tour ship’s captain, but is mostly heard on the radio communicating with his trapped customers and is fine in a role which didn’t really need a name actor.

Simply, this was a fun little movie for a night on the couch. There is some nice suspense and tension, likable characters and when we do get some bloodletting, it is effective and surprisingly gruesome. It can be predictable and we are asked to suspend belief more than once, but the film still entertains and doesn’t try to be any more than it is. A fun underwater thriller with enough bite to keep our interest. More of a straight up action flick than the recent shark drama The Shallows (which ironically wore the title In The Deep before it’s release) which will obviously draw comparisons.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 great whites who want Moore (sorry, had to!).

in the deep rating
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