5 DIRECTORS BRINGING NEW BLOOD TO HORROR!

MZNJ_new_views

now playing

5 DIRECTORS BRINGING NEW BLOOD TO HORROR!

At Halloween 🎃 time it is when we most think about scary movies, even those of us who watch them all year round. So why not take a look at five individuals who are bringing their own distinct vision to the genre and whom horror fans should be talking more about!…and no, I didn’t forget the ladies, they deserve their own installment, forthcoming!

(To get to the full reviews of the films mentioned, just hit the highlighted titles that link to the corresponding page!)

****************************************

Adam MacDonald

 

Adam MacDonald is a Canadian actor and filmmaker who has written and directed two features, thus far, that have made quite an impression. His first film Backcountry is a survival thriller that followed a couple (Jeff Roop and Missy Peregrym) who go camping in the woods. Jealous of his girlfriend’s success, her beau chooses a lesser traveled route to prove himself to her. This puts them within the feeding ground of a massive and very hungry grizzly bear and thus sets up an intense and sometimes brutal last act. His second film Pyewacket is a supernatural thriller which finds a mother and daughter (Laurie Holden and Nicole Muñoz) in conflict over their methods of mourning the death of their husband/father. This propels the occult fascinated teen Leah (Muñoz) to evoke the dark entity Pyewacket to kill her mother. Leah soon learns to be careful what you wish for. Both films use troubled relationships as a catalyst for their stories and Pyewacket especially has some good old fashion scares and chills supported by a strong emotional center. MacDonald is showing a versatility and a depth to his filmmaking. Adam currently wrapped filming on Slasher season 3, so look out for more from this talented new voice in horror!

Nicole Muñoz conjures the wrong spirit in Adam MacDonald’s Pyewacket

****************************************

Stevan Mena

 

Stevan Mena is a New York born filmmaker who is a one man production company, writing ,editing, directing, producing and even scoring his own films. He made a splash in 2003 with his low budget slasher Malevolence, which was an old-fashioned horror throwback that echoed both Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Set in and around an abandoned slaughterhouse, it told the chilling story of some bank robbers and their hostages meeting up with serial killer Martin Bristol (Jay Cohen). He followed that up with a horror icon filled horror/comedy called Brutal Massacre, before returning to the saga of Bristol in 2010 with the brutal and intense Bereavement. The second Malevolence film was a prequel telling the story of how serial killer Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby) kidnapped Martin (Spencer List ) as a child and trained him to be his successor. It’s one of the best horrors of the decade IMO. Recently Mena overcame some tragic events to complete his Malevolence trilogy with the independently financed Malevolence 3: Killer. Sequel has an adult Martin (a returning Jay Cohen) leaving a blood soaked trail on the way back to his home town. Mena’s work evokes that of John Carpenter himself and one hopes he returns to the director’s chair sooner than later.

A killer (Jay Cohen) returns home in Stevan Mena’s Malevolence 3: Killer

****************************************

Colin Minihan

 

Colin Minihan started out as part of the writing/directing duo known as The Vicious Brothers along with collaborator Stuart Ortiz. Their first film was the fun and spooky found footage paranormal show send up Grave Encounters in 2011. They followed that up with the entertaining and chilling cabin in the woods/alien invasion hybrid Extraterrestrial in 2014. Though co-written with Ortiz, Minihan took the director’s chair solo for the next film It Stains The Sands Red. This was an amusing, bloody and offbeat tale of a lone woman (Brittany Allen) being followed across the desert by a lone zombie. An interesting relationship forms as she fights brutal heat, dehydration and her relentless undead pursuer. Minihan wrote and directed his fourth film on his own with the brutal and intense What Keeps You Alive. One of the years best, it finds a married lesbian couple (Brittany Allen and Hanna Emily Anderson) celebrating their anniversary in a remote cabin in the woods. Soon romantic bliss becomes a battle for survival as one of the women is not who she seems. This flick proves Minihan is a force to be reckoned with, armed with a great script, taunt direction and brilliant work by his lead actresses. Minihan is a filmmaker fans need to be talking more about.

Lover vs lover in Colin Minihan’s brutal and intense What Keeps You Alive

****************************************

Anthony Diblasi

 

Boston born Anthony Diblasi is another filmmaker showing great versatility and a mastery of horror while also providing some emotional depth to his films. His first film Dread was a chilling tale of a college documentary project about fear, spinning horribly out of control. His next film Cassadaga, found deaf art teacher Lily (Kelen Coleman) being haunted by the spirit of a murdered young woman whose killer may have his sights set next on the pretty teacher. Diblasi worked on some non-genre projects and the horror anthology The Profane Exhibit before co-writing and directing The Last Shift in 2014. One of his scariest flicks, the story found a young policewoman being given the final shift in a haunted police precinct closing it’s doors in the morning…but can she survive the night? Diblasi returned to horror again in 2015 with Most Likely To Die, an old fashioned slasher about a high school reunion turned deadly, and again in 2018 with Extremity. His latest finds an emotionally troubled woman turning to an extreme haunt to make her face her fears…bad idea. The film was not only disturbing and scary, but had a strong emotional lining with multi-dimensional characters and commentary about abuse and the lives it effects. Another filmmaker that is bringing a distinct voice to the horror genre.

Emotionally troubled Allison (Dana Christina) turns to an extreme haunt to face her fears in Anthony Diblasi’s Extremity

****************************************

Oz Perkins

 

Just because one is the son of legendary actor Anthony (Psycho) Perkins, one should not assume actor/director Oz Perkins knows horror…but he does! One of the most interesting filmmakers out there, Perkins has a unique vision and a strong ability to chill to the bone. His first film The Blackcoat’s Daughter finds Rose (Lucy Boynton), a student at a Catholic girls school, given charge of new student Kat (Kiernan Shipka) at break. With almost everyone else gone, Rose starts to realize there is something very wrong with Kat and that she may be in danger. Perkins followed that up with a very atmospheric ghost story I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House. Perkins writes and directs a subtle, yet chilling tale of care nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) coming to live with ailing horror novelist Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss). Soon timid Lily starts to find out that Iris Blum’s inspirations may be far more real than she’d like. It’s a creepy and very effective film. Word has it his next film may be entitled A Head Full Of Ghosts and as he is bringing a very unique style to the genre, he sounds like the right man for the job!

Care nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) finds her charge may have had all too real inspiration for her horror novels in Oz Perkins’ I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House

****************************************

So these are five creative forces bringing new blood to horror. Each one is worth screaming about and their films are certainly worth checking out!

…and stay tuned for our second installment taking a look at the creative ladies bringing their unique voices to the genre!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

bars

HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: MELANIE PAPALIA

MZNJ_halloween_hotties

Papalia

MELANIE PAPALIA

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features a relatively new scream queen on the block, Canadian actress Melanie Papalia. This hardworking beauty has kept very busy since her first TV role in 2003 and along the way has had some close calls with the horror genre with roles on Blade: The Series and Supernatural, along with a part in the killer car flick Super Hybrid. It wasn’t until 2012 with a role in the internet themed slasher Smiley, that she made her presence fully known in the genre and she’s continues to make an impression with two more sassy, spunky performances in two more genre flicks since…

(Click on the highlighted links or on the movie posters to read a review of her horror film’s that I’ve covered here previously. )

Smiley-Movie-Poster

SMILEY

While 2012’s Smiley may not have achieved all it set out to, Papalia certainly made us take notice as sassy party girl, Proxy, who is roomate to the film’s heroine, Ashley (Caitlin Gerard). Ashley and Proxy conduct a dangerous experiment with an internet urban legend and unintentionally unleash a mysterious masked killer on an unsuspecting campus. Oops!

mp_smiley_01

Melanie Papalia as feisty party girl, Proxy!

mp_smiley_05

Proxy and Ashley may have taken an internet urban legend a bit too lightly.

mp_smiley_08

Has an innocent prank put the fun loving vixen in jeopardy? See Smiley to find out!

**************************************************

p10572196_p_v8_aa

THE DEN

Melanie Papalia returned to horror in 2013 in the clever, internet set chiller The Den. This flick takes place totally on the laptop of Papalia’s heroine, Elizabeth Denton, whose research project on the behavior of people in internet chat communities, attracts the wrong kind of attention from a dangerous and demented individual. Papalia took center stage here and carried this disturbing flick on her petite, but sturdy shoulders. A very effective little movie whose leading lady helps make it work with a strong performance!

mp_den_02

Pretty Elizabeth may have picked the wrong social studies project…

mp_den_04

…as she soon finds herself and her friends in harm’s way, targeted by a maniac!

mp_den_12

Our feisty heroine isn’t giving up without a fight!

**************************************************

Extraterrestrial-film-2014

EXTRATERRESTRIAL

Melanie’s latest foray into horror…and hopefully, far from her last…was the really fun 2014 Sci-Fi/horror Extraterrestrial from the Vicious Brothers (Grave Encounters)! In this chilling and really entertaining flick, Papalia plays another feisty party girl, who, along with friends, is trapped in a secluded mountain cabin by some vengeful space aliens.

mp_ex_04

Papalia’s character, also named “Melanie”, is maybe too inquisitive for her own good?

mp_ex_07

A calmer moment before the pissing off of some unfriendly ETs!

mp_ex_10

Is that a…

mp_ex_12

Melanie and friends learn pissing off aliens is never a good thing.

**************************************************

v_22781

Party girl, bad girl or final girl, it doesn’t matter to us! We would love to see this gorgeous and talented lady from Up North in more genre flicks, as she’s already made quite an impression in the films she’s done. Whether in peril from internet entities, fighting off demented killers, or fleeing not-so-little green men, we just want to see this Canadian charmer get the spotlight she deserves!…and while horror is our favorite choice, we’d pretty much watch this talented lass in just about anything!

-MonsterZero NJ

And don’t forget to check out our Halloween Hotties focusing on Briana EviganKatrina BowdenAlexandra DaddarioKatie FeatherstonKatharine IsabelleAmber Heard and Danielle Harris! (just click on their names to go to their pages!)

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SMILEY (2012)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

Smiley-Movie-Poster

bars

SMILEY (2012)

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

Smiley is a horror flick you wished you could like more because the makers seem to be trying really hard to deliver…but misses the mark a bit too much to be completely forgiving. The story centers on an internet urban legend of a serial killer named, ‘Smiley’. When you are on a video chat with someone, you’re supposed to type in ‘I did it for the lulz’ three times and Smiley will appear behind the person you are chatting with and kill them. College roommates Ashley (Caitlin Gerard) and Proxy (Melanie Papalia) give it a try one night and, to their horror, watch someone be brutally murdered before their eyes. Now good girl Ashley is convinced that Smiley will soon come for her and Proxy and even starts to see the faceless killer around campus. Is he real and is her life in real danger, or is Smiley all in the emotionally troubled girl’s head?

Written by Michael Gallagher and Glasgow Phillips and directed by Gallagher, this flick tries hard to be a sort of Scream meets Candyman for the internet age, but just doesn’t accomplish it’s goal. The whole Smiley legend seems a little too far fetched and silly to really grab us and Gallagher really doesn’t create any tension with it. Attempts to create enough doubt as to whether Ashley is imagining him, or if he really exists aren’t effective enough and that might have added some mystery and suspense to it, if we weren’t sure. Simply adding a Scream-like plot element that Ashley lost her mother and is still grieving, isn’t enough to make her an unreliable witness…that and more deaths occur, so we know something is up. Ashley also only starts to get a little unglued when she starts to see Smiley, otherwise she seems like she has her head on straight. The script is actually very talky, too with very little Smiley action. There are numerous, lengthy scenes in one of Ashley’s classes with her Professor (Roger Bart) waxing philosophical and none of the scenes really go anywhere or contribute to the story. They seem like time wasters to stretch out a thin script to feature length and the time would have been better spent trying to scare us with more Smiley. The opening scene with a pretty babysitter (Nikki Limo) is actually the best scene in the film and the flick never reaches that effectiveness again. There are a few gory deaths and the Smiley character himself looks effective, but he is never around enough to evoke true menace and the big reveal at the climax really comes as no surprise. It’s too bad, a tighter script and a far more capable hands behind the camera and this could have been a cool little flick. It’s few effective parts just don’t add up to a successful whole.

Our leading ladies are fine and probably would have been more effective with a better script and direction. Caitlin Gerard is a cute, but emotionally troubled girl-next-door as Ashley and we do like her. Melanie Papalia (Extraterrestrial, The Den) is pretty and spunky as party girl Proxy though, she seems like the stronger of the two for certain, though the script has her character being a little too unfazed by witnessing a murder and possibly being the cause. Bart is a bit eccentric as Professor Clayton, but his character really doesn’t contribute much and Shane Dawson is adequate as loner/nerd Binder, who Ashley falls for and asks for help getting to the bottom of this urban legend. A decent cast that work well with cliché characters and could have used better material.

The movie was OK. It’s not terrible, but it is far from succeeding in what it wants to do. You get the feeling the filmmakers were trying their best…there is nothing pretentious about it…it’s just they fell short. It has a bit of a charm, so you want to like it better, but it’s too weak to really embrace and enjoy thoroughly. That and the familiar elements aren’t used creatively enough to give it a total pass. Not a waste of time, but up to you if you want to spend that time checking it out.

-MonsterZero NJ

A generous 2 and 1/2 Smiley’s.

smiley rating

 

 

 

 

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE DEN (2013)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

p10572196_p_v8_aa

bars

THE DEN (2013)

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

The Den is one of those pleasant little surprises that you watched out of moderate curiosity and enjoyed far more than expected. It also sets it’s horror story completely on the laptop of it’s lead character, a full year before Unfriended. The story tells of pretty Elizabeth Benton (Melanie Papalia from Extraterrestrial) who has received a grant to do a social study of people who populate internet chat sites. The site she chooses for her 24/7 study is “The Den.” She meets all sorts of strange people and, as can be expected in a horror flick like this, catches the attention of a deranged and dangerous individual. Soon she is being cyber-stalked, her computer hacked, her life invaded and her friends and loved ones start o fall victim to some masked assailant. Can Elizabeth escape this maniac?…or will she be their next victim?

Directed by Zachary Donohue and co-written by he and Lauren Thompson, this is actually a clever and effective little horror/thriller with some gruesome and disturbing moments. More than a year before Unfriended and even a few weeks before Open WindowsDonohue sets his entire thriller on Elizabeth’s laptop and phone so we see her POV of those she’s watching and the POV of those watching her. What unfolds is nothing new to the slasher sub-genre, with a young victim being chosen and stalked and those around her put in harm’s way, but, the stage it plays out on is novel…for when it was made…and there are some moments that use the POV format very well. Donohue keeps us involved and there is some suspense and it’s only in the last act when it takes a bit of a “Hostel” turn, that the familiarity really starts to sink in…though it still worked well enough and provided some action caught on the various cameras. While it’s ending was nothing new and a bit abrupt, it still added a chill, so, it worked.

Another real big factor in this working as well as it does, is leading lady Melanie Papalia. The entire movie rests on her shoulders and she carries it well. Elizabeth is a sweet, ambitious and likable girl who is thrust into a nightmarish situation. Papalia plays her terror well, but, adds a strength and resilience to her character that helps make her resourcefulness and toughness believable when she has to fight tooth and nail for her life. The Extraterrestrial actress makes an impressive and endearing heroine and hopefully, she gets to play final girl more often. Also stars David Schlachtenhaufen, Adam Shapiro, Katija Pevec and Anna Margaret Hollyman as Elizabeth’s friends and loved ones but, it is Papalia’s show all the way.

I liked The Den. It’s no classic and it’s far from perfect but, it is surprisingly more effective than one might expect from a little movie set entirely on a laptop. The slasher story is familiar, despite the novel cyber setting, but, Donohue makes it work well enough and his firecracker leading lady carries this internet horror on her pretty but, sturdy shoulders. It’s not going to revolutionize horror and you might forget about it six months from now, but, for 80+ minutes, it’s entertaining, has some effective and disturbing sequences and introduces us to a director and actress we’d like to see more of. I’d say check it out if you have the chance. Cool little flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 laptops.

unfriended rating

BE WARNED: Trailer is spoiler-ish…

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: EXTRATERRESTRIAL (2014)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

Extraterrestrial-film-2014

bars

EXTRATERRESTRIAL (2014)

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

Written and directed by the Vicious Brothers (Grave Encounters), this flick is a fun homage to cabin in the woods horrors, alien abduction flicks and has a delightfully 80s horror movie feel to it.

Story opens with a woman (Ginger Snaps’ Emily Perkins) running hysterically to a closing gas station and begging for help. Turned away by an obnoxious clerk, she runs to the phone booth where both she and the booth are snatched up into the sky before she can complete her 911 call. We then cut to pretty April (Brittany Allen) who is going with friends to her family’s soon-to-be-sold remote cabin for a weekend stay to take pictures for the realtor…and do a bit of partying. Once there, they witness an object crash into the woods and upon investigating, discover a disc-like craft and some very inhuman footprints. Back at the cabin, they have a terrifying encounter with the occupant and the creature is shot and falls into the pool, presumed dead. Now they are being hunted by otherworldly beings and according to local pot grower/conspiracy theorist Travis (a fun Michael Ironside), they have broken a treaty between the extraterrestrials and the U.S. Government and the aliens will find them and make them pay. Is there any escape for them?

I had a very good time with this flick and found it a really fun homage to a number of favorite types of horror. The Vicious Brothers script pays tribute to not only alien abduction themed chillers, but to the old remote cabin scenario, and maybe even a touch of Friday The 13th, too. Under their direction, the film has a distinctly 80s vibe and is quite colorful and loaded with spooky action and impressive FX sequences. The filmmakers also proudly incorporate far too many clichés to be anything, but an intentional homage…and as such, it’s a lot of fun. The film has some intense scenes…especially in the last act…but is more of an outright sci-fi/monster flick and is a very entertaining one at that. There are some top notch visual and make-up FX to portray our creatures, as well as, their ships and abilities, and a fun and surprising amount of gore to illustrate their carnage. The movie has an 80s look as filmed by Samy Inayeh and a really effective score by the Canadian band Blitz//Berlin. Maybe not an altogether original movie, but it used the traditional elements wisely and mixed the homages very well.

The cast are all fine and play their roles effectively. Brittany Allen makes a good heroine with her resilient and strong April. Freddie Stroma is likable as April’s loving boyfriend, Kyle. Melanie Papalia plays cute, loyal friend Melanie. Jesse Moss is appropriately grating as party animal Seth…the “Hudson” of the group. Anja Savcic is pretty, but doesn’t get to do much, as Seth’s girlfriend Lex and Gil Bellows is solid as the local sheriff with a personal interest in what is going on. As for the genre familiar guest stars, Perkins is good as the hysterical mom who’s lost her husband and child to the visitors and Ironside is a hoot in a lighter role than we are used to seeing him, as the stoner/conspiracy theorist Travis. A solid cast.

I think this is a very fun movie. Some may criticize the film for using far too many familiar elements, but in my opinion, they are paraded out proudly and far too often to be anything but an intentional homage. It has some intense action, top notch SPFX, a great 80s horror vibe and a last scene that is not only disturbing, but a deviously amusing nod to a classic TV show that I won’t spoil. It’s not anything we haven’t seen before, but it uses the clichés well and in a very entertaining manner and every now and then splashes the screen with some fun gore. The Vicious Brothers…like with Grave Encounters…know we are familiar with a lot of the tropes and just have a good time with them without the pretension of pretending they are showing us something new. It’s a really fun and possibly underrated sci-fi/horror.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2… well…you know.

extraterestrial rating

bars