REVIEW: DOCTOR SLEEP (2019)

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DOCTOR SLEEP (2019)

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

Doctor Sleep is an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel which in itself is a sequel to The Shining. The film picks up in 1980 shortly after the events of the first film/book with Danny (Roger Dale Floyd) and his mother Wendy (Alex Essoe), who are both still traumatized from their stay at the Overlook Hotel. Danny is especially troubled because of his psychic abilities and what they attract. It then moves forward to 2011 where Danny is now an adult (Ewan McGregor) and an alcoholic mess of one at that, still trying to get over his emotional scars. He joins AA and gets a job at a hospice where he finds he can bring solace to the terminally ill residents. The film finally settles in presented day, with Dan now clean and sober, but being contacted by a girl with similar abilities named Abra (Kyliegh Curran). Unknown, at first, to Dan and Abra, a sinister group called the True Knot, who feed upon the powers of people with such abilities, are hunting Abra down. This eventually leads Dan and Abra back to the dreaded Overlook Hotel for a showdown with True Knot’s powerful leader Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and the spirits that still linger there.

Adaptation is written and directed by Mike Flanagan, who did the brilliant Gerald’s Game adaptation for Netflix and is one of the most innovative writer/directors in horror right now. Here he creates what is more of a dark fantasy than straight up horror with some clever representations of the various abilities of both those with Shining and the True Knot. The recreations of events, places and characters from Stanley Kubrick’s film are really on point, too and a lot of fun with some inspired casting, such as Starry Eyes’ Alex Essoe as Wendy and Carl Lumbly as Hallorann. If anything holds this intriguing and entertaining film back a bit, it’s that it feels like one must have read both Stephen King’s books to really appreciate the mythos being created here. Maybe this flick needed to be in two parts like the It adaptation, as it feels like certain things needed more attention, such as who or what really are the True Knot, and Abra and Dan’s friendship could have been fleshed out a bit more for it to resonate. Still, Flanagan has a solid script and is a good editor in cutting his own material, but here it just feels like there wasn’t enough of certain elements to really emotionally involve the uninitiated viewer not familiar with King’s books. The audience in attendance was very quiet and seemed a bit detached from the film. The flick does earn it’s R rating. There is graphic violence and some disturbing sequences, especially when the True Knot kidnap and murder a young boy (Jacob Trembly), and the final conflict had intensity and chills. It’s just, overall, the flick didn’t inspire a strong emotional investment to really get one involved in what was going on…unless there was already an invested interest in the material going in. A first for a Flanagan film, which are usually emotionally gripping and intense like Gerald’s Game and Hush. The FX are very well done and there are some really wild sequences, like Abra taking on Rose who’s not used to being challenged. At 152 minutes it’s not boring, there is an atmospheric score by the Newton Brothers and Flanagan’s visual style is well represented by Michael Fimognari’s cinematography. It just it wasn’t as gripping as it needed to be, despite all that Flanagan gets right…and he gets a lot right, here.

Flanagan has a great cast and the characters are well written. Ewan McGregor is very good as the adult Danny, who becomes a reluctant hero, of sorts, when the True Knot come after Abra. His downward spiral as an alcoholic and eventual recovery to the point where he is selfless enough to combat Rose, is well played by the veteran actor. As Rose, Rebecca Furguson steals the film as the sinister yet smolderingly sexy True Knot leader. A devious yet powerful woman and one who will commit horribly acts without question to keep she and her followers “fed.” Kyliegh Curran is very good as Abra, a powerful young teen in her own right. The actress gives her the strength needed to believe in her abilities, yet still keeps her a relatable teen. Cliff Curtis is also very good as Dan’s only friend and AA support, Billy. There are some familiar faces in the supporting cast, such as House of the Devil’s Jocelin Donahue as Abra’s mom, the before mentioned Alex Essoe as Wendy, Henry Thomas in a role not to be spoiled here and Bruce Greenwood as Dan’s AA group leader. Sadly, Greenwood’s likable Dr. John Dalton character just disappears and one questions his inclusion at all.

Overall, this was an entertaining film, though not as engrossing as it should have been. Flanagan directs solidly with a clever and innovative script, but doesn’t quite get the emotional investment needed from those not already familiar with King’s material and characters. There are some intense and disturbing sequences and the dark fantasy element works so very well, but something was still missing for those of us who haven’t read the books. It did have a strong villainess and it was spooky fun to revisit the Overlook Hotel again. A good movie, but as the end credits roll, one feels it should have been more.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) hats.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GERALD’S GAME (2017)

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GERALD’S GAME (2017)

Gerald’s Game is a Netflix original film adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name that many felt was almost impossible to adapt. Along comes Hush and Oculus director Mike Flanagan to prove those naysayers wrong. Story finds Jessie (Carla Gugino) and husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) going up to a secluded lake house to put some spark back in their marriage. Gerald’s idea of turning up the heat is to handcuff Jessie to the bed. When his sex game gets a little too rough for Jessie, she protests and struggles and the ensuing argument…plus the effects of the Viagra Gerald took…gives the man a fatal heart attack. Now trapped by the bonds of the intended sex game, Jessie is unable to get free, left alone with only the manifestations of a panicking mind, haunting memories from her past and a hungry stray dog to keep her company.

Flanagan once again delivers one of the best horror films of the year, as well as, one of the best Stephen King adaptations. His script with Jeff Howard brilliantly comes up with a way to portray Jessie’s inner monologue by using a trick he used briefly in Hush, by having Gugino and Greenwood basically play different trains of thought going on in her head. It works tremendously in letting us know what is going on in Jessie’s frightened mind as her imprisonment drags on for days and she engages in conversation with herself and her dead husband, revealing her fears and the painful memories her current situation drags up. If the inner terror isn’t enough…and some of these dialogue bits are intense and disturbing…there is the hungry mutt who is snacking on Gerald and a ghoulish phantom figure Jessie keeps seeing at night, at least one of which being a very real threat. The result is a very terrifying and nail-biting story of a woman basically left by happenstance to die and what goes on in her head during the ordeal. If the film falters a little…and it’s only a little…is that the last ten minutes deviates a bit into the subject of Jessie’s possible creeper and it feels like it’s part of a different movie, despite being basically from the book. It still brings us to a satisfying conclusion, but just felt a little out of place when compared to the preceding 90 minutes, which was dark and gripping on an intimate scale, taking place up to that point in the Burlingame bedroom.

Flanagan may have indeed masterfully directed this tale of terror, but his success would not be without two Oscar caliber performances from leads Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood. Both actors play themselves and manifestations of Jessie’s fears and mental breakdown and as such these actors are superb. Gugino has always been a good actress and here she delivers one of the best performances of her career. As Jessie, she vividly portrays a woman harboring some dark memories and secrets which come bubbling to the surface as she left alone and helpless to a horrible fate. The actress is simply amazing as both Jessie and the manifestation of Jessie’s subconscious. The same could be said of Greenwood, who plays not only her husband, who has a bit of a dark side himself, but also the manifestations of Jessie’s fears and weaknesses. The two actors’ performances are unbelievably in-sync especially when playing off each other as conflicting patterns of thought in the terrified woman’s head. Fantastic work. There are some supporting actors as well, such as Henry Thomas and Hush‘s Kate Siegel as Jessie’s mom and dad in flashbacks and Carel Struycken as the phantom figure Jessie interprets as death coming to take her.

Mike Flanagan has yet to disappoint and here he delivers one of his strongest films yet. He and co-writer Jeff Howard have a script that borders on brilliant at times in it’s adapting of a story that many felt was impossible to adapt. The film is terrifying and disturbing and doesn’t pull punches or turn away from some of the more intense subject matter…and there is a bit of effective gore, too. The last few scenes may feel a bit out of place from the previous nail-biting sequences, but they remain faithful to King’s story and certainly don’t tarnish one of the best horror films of the year. The teaming of Flanagan and Netflix has produced two really top notch horror flicks and it makes one eagerly anticipate The Haunting of Hill House series Flanagan has upcoming on the network.

-MonsterZero NJ

A solid 3 and 1/2 handcuffs.

 

 

 

 

 

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MIKE FLANAGAN’S GERALD’S GAME ADAPTATION GETS A TRAILER!

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Mike Flanagan, who has brought us Absentia, Oculus and Hush, has now adapted Stephen King’s novel  Gerald’s Game for Netflix and they have just released a trailer. Schedule to air September 29th, 2017, the flick stars Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood. Gerald’s Game is directed by Flanagan from a script by he and Jeff Howard. Can’t wait!

Source: Youtube

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: HALLOWEEN HOTTIE OF 2016…DANA DeLORENZO!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S HALLOWEEN HOTTIE OF 2016…DANA DeLORENZO!

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This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features our Halloween Hottie Of 2016, the beautiful and very talented Dana DeLorenzo (her hilarious and dead-on celebrity impressions can be seen here in her Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbuMPeuUZlM ), who easily earns this title by appearing in the hit horror/comedy series Ash vs. Evil Dead. Lorenzo plays Ash sidekick and kick-ass Deadite fighter Kelly Maxwell, whose smoldering intensity and sexy sarcasm makes it easy to see she was chosen this year. Kelly gets drawn into the Deadite drama when she comes to work with Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his bud Pablo (Ray Santiago) at the Value Stop, just as Ash foolishly releases the Deadite’s again. When the Evil Dead menace hits too close to home, Kelly vows to smash the ancient evil alongside her neighbor Pablo and our chainsaw-handed hero. The show premiered on October 31st, 2015, just after we announced last year’s winner Maika Monroe, and her work in the first season and the now in-progress season 2, by far earns the versatile Ohio-born actress the title Halloween Hottie Of 2016!

(Click on the highlighted links or on the show poster to read a review of the hit horror series that have earned Dana Halloween Hottie of 2016!)

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ASH vs. EVIL DEAD seasons 1 & 2

with Dana DeLorenzo as sexy Deadite fighting sidekick, Kelly Maxwell!

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Gotta love a Deadite fighting babe with attitude!

HALLOWEEN HOTTIE OF 2016 RUNNER UP, KATE SIEGAL!

This year, like last, I also have a runner-up who made a memorable impression. Kate Siegal portrayed quite a resourceful and strong-willed heroine as Maddie Young, a deaf writer whose secluded home in the woods comes under siege by a homicidal psychopath in Mike Flanagan’s intense suspense thriller Hush. The actress (who is also co-writer and Mrs. Flanagan) got our attention as her sexy girl-next-door Maddie tries to outwit her stronger and more well-armed opponent, even using her disability against him. Kate created an intelligent and resourceful character to root for and we definitely want to see more of this writer/actress in future fright flicks!…and she just appeared in a small role in her husband’s Ouija: Origin Of Evil!

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And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties including Addison TimlinMelanie PapaliaBriana EviganKatrina BowdenAlexandra DaddarioKatie FeatherstonKatharine IsabelleAmber Heard and Danielle Harris! (just click on their names to go to their pages or simply go to our Halloween Hotties main page!)

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016)

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OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016)

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

Flick is a prequel to the 2014 Ouija, a much criticized, but extremely successful teen centric horror. New chapter takes us back to 1967 and tells the story of Doris Zander (Lulu Wilson) who was the malevolent entity in the first installment. The story opens with pretty widow Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) who is trying to support her two daughters, nine year-old Doris and teen Lina (Annalise Basso), as a fraudulent fortune teller. Upon hearing Lina used a Ouija board at a party, Alice decides to add one to her act. This brings a presence into the house that fixates on Doris and claims to be her father. As they use the board more and more and Doris’ behavior starts to change, it appears something malevolent has entered their home…and Doris.

Origin of Evil is directed by Mike (Absentia, HushOculus) Flanagan from a script he co-wrote with Oculus co-writer Jeff Howard. While it is an improvement over the silly but amusing original, it is Flanagan’s most routine and familiar movie yet. Perhaps having to follow-up an established property without alienating it’s core audience put restrictions on just how much the usually inventive writer/director could do with it, but aside from a few interesting touches, we get a story that is extremely familiar with an evil entity entering a home and targeting a child. The use of Mrs. Zander as a phony medium does work well and there was some nice depth to the characters, which is one of Flanagan’s strengths. It’s just that the core story has been done before and the film rarely gets scary because it’s all so familiar. Flanagan does deliver some spooky moments, but far fewer than in his previous films, which is surprising as spooky is something he does well. It’s the character drama that is more involving than the supernatural elements, which at least keeps our attention, if not slightly disappoints those looking for something with a far steadier scare factor for the Halloween season which it was released. His visual style is strong as always, but here he relies a bit too much on tired CGI creations that resemble every other PG-13 horror film manifestation thrown at teenagers today. It’s not a bad movie, just far too ‘been there, done that’ for a director who got our attention with some very original takes on his supernatural tales.

As with previous Flanagan flicks he gets strong work out of his cast. He is a director that works well with actors. Little Lulu Wilson is really good as Doris. She can be really creepy at times and very sweet and precocious at others. She is asked to handle a lot of strong material for a kid and does so very well. Elizabeth Reaser is solid as a loving mother just trying to provide for her daughters. She’s not trying to scam people, but sees her services as a way to help those suffering from loss. When Doris’ ouija use seems to be genuine, she jumps at the chance to do some real good. Annalise Basso is also very good as Doris’ caring teenage sister. She plays the character that was played by the incomparable Lin Shaye in the original and we see the journey that got her to that point and essayed very well by the young actress. There is also E.T.’s Henry Thomas all grown up and playing a widowed priest who is the principal at the girls’ Catholic school and has an interest in Alice. He obviously gets involved when it appears there is something sinister going on. The cast also features a small appearance in the opening sequence played by Hush star and co-writer Kate Siegal, who is also Mrs. Flanagan. A good cast that helps keep the flick interesting and our attention.

This wasn’t a bad flick just a surprisingly familiar one coming from Flanagan who has been very innovative with his use of traditional story elements, like in Hush. This movie could have used some of that thriller’s intensity as the scare level was fairly low and despite a more mature story than the first installment, we got a lot of elements that we have seen often and recently. Maybe picking up someone else’s franchise didn’t fit Flanagan all that well, or possibly having to follow up a previous film he wasn’t involved in, handcuffed him a bit. It passed the time, had a few spooky moments and was an improvement over it’s 2014 predecessor, but coming from one of the brightest new director’s to hit the genre in some time, it was a little bit of a disappointment.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 planchettes as the solid cast earns some extra points.

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FIRST TRAILER FOR MIKE FLANAGAN’S “OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL”

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We finally get a trailer for Mike Flanagan’s (Oculus, Hush) follow-up to Blumhouse Productions’ 2014 teen-centric horror hit OuijaWhile originally thought to be a sequel, this seems more like a prequel or possibly a completely unrelated period piece with a ouija board being the only common thread. Either way the flick is headed our way 10/21/16 right in time for the Halloween season!

-MonsterZero NJ

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ROB ZOMBIE’S “31” GETS A NEW TRAILER!

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Fans of Rob Zombie and his flicks have been chomping at the bit for a trailer for his new Halloween set horror “31”. Now that moment has gruesomely arrived! “31” is due out 9/16/16!

 

Sources: Facebook

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: BEFORE I WAKE (2016)

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BEFORE I WAKE (2016)

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

A couple who tragically lost their own child, Mark (Thomas Jane) and Jessie (Kate Bosworth), adopt young Cody (Room’s Jacob Tremblay), a boy who lost his mother (Courtney Bell) and has been bounced from family to family…even abandoned by the most recent one. The Hobsons soon find that Cody has a special ability, his dreams become real. At first they are enchanted as their home is filled with swarms of butterflies and visions of their dead son, Sean (Antonio Evan Romero). But, their wonder turns to terror as not all of Cody’s dreams are happy ones and a malevolent entity manifests through them into their home. 

While this may be director Mike Flanagan’s most generic film to date, his skill as a filmmaker makes it better than most of the recent PG-13 horrors that it resembles at times. Co-written with Jeff Howard, the script may be filled with familiar elements, but is given some really nice emotional weight by Flanagan and his cast and he also delivers what most of today’s cookie cutter horrors don’t, some legitimate chills and scares. Flanagan and his actors portray a heartbroken family who still haven’t gotten over the accidental death of their son. They have a chance to regain some of their happiness by adopting a little boy, who has had his own traumatic loses. This alone is well done and we feel for the couple and the boy and on it’s own would suffice as a drama of a special boy finally meeting the right family. But this is no drama, it’s a horror and Flanagan gives us a little boy terrified to go to sleep for visits from “The Canker Man” usually end in someone he cares about vanishing. When this malevolent entity arrives, Flanagan brings out the chills, just as he brings out some more Spielberg-ian wonder when Cody dreams of far more pleasant things, like butterflies and Sean. There is also a nice air of mystery as there is more to Cody’s story and whens it’s investigated, we get some surprising revelations about the boy’s past and who or what this entity is and why it haunts Cody. Again, the story elements may be familiar, like in Flanagan’s Hush, but the skilled filmmaker makes it work. Not everything is perfect. The film does get a little too sentimental for it’s own good at times and yes, some of the spooky imagery has become a little too commonplace in these types of horror to be fully effective. The story also gets wrapped up in a bit too neat of a nice little bow, but the film succeeds far more than it doesn’t. We also get some nice and atmospheric cinematography from Michael Fimognari and an equally effective score by Danny Elfman and The Newton Brothers.

As mentioned, the cast does solid work in support of Flanagan’s story. Bosworth and Jane are very good as the Hobsons. The pain of their loss is portrayed well, especially by Bosworth who’s Jessie is still in therapy and still having a hard time moving on. We almost understand when she manipulates Cody to see Sean again. Jacob Tremblay gives another good performance. We really like Cody and obviously feel sympathy for his fear of sleeping and share his fear when his malevolent dream demon appears. The film also stars Annabeth Gish as an adoption agent who knows a bit more than she tells the couple and Absentia’s Courtney Bell appears in a brief flashback role as Cody’s mom and is very sympathetic in the part.

Overall, this was an entertaining film from a filmmaker who has yet to disappoint. Even with some familiar material and with a lesser aggressive tone than his Hush or Oculus the film gives us some good chills and scares. It’s a film that is meant to be more mainstream friendly than his other work, but he still gives it an intensity and emotional depth most of it’s peers don’t have. Before I Wake may be PG-13, but it’s not aimed at teens like pretty much everything else these days. It’s also not perfect. It sometimes is a bit too familiar and a bit too sentimental, especially in it’s wrap-up. Even so, Flanagan gives us some solid entertainment that far outweighs the common elements that today’s generic horror movies parade out on home media and in theaters to the point of repetitive banality.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 butterflies.

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EPIC NEWS FOR THE HALLOWEEN FRANCHISE!

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If it wasn’t enough to hear great news this morning that horror factory Blumhouse, Trancas International Films and Mirimax are bringing us a new Halloween flick, they also have convinced the master himself John Carpenter to return to the franchise to executive produce and possibly score, as well. Now the great folks over at Bloody Disgusting.com have broken news that Absentia, OculusHush director Mike Flanagan is in talks to direct! As a huge fan of Flanagan and Carpenter being one of my favorite filmmakers of all time, this is epic news to MonsterZero NJ’s ears!
From John Carpenter himself…

“We’re going to go back to the earlier traditions that we started with. It’s kind of gone astray a little bit. I thought that maybe the remake went off somewhere that I didn’t want it to go. Michael Myers is not a character, he’s a force of nature. He is not a person; he is part supernatural, part human. When you start straying away from that and start explaining, you’re lost. So hopefully we can guide it back in that direction.”

AWESOME!!!

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Sources: Arrow In The Head and Bloody Disgusting.com

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HUSH (2016)

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HUSH (2016)

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

Hush is a perfect example of a talented filmmaker taking a very familiar story and using it in a clever and fresh manner. Maddie (Kate Siegel, who also co-wrote) is an author who moves into a remote house in the woods to write and live a more secluded life away from the city and her ex-boyfriend. Maddie also lost her hearing and speech when she was thirteen to a sever case of meningitis. One night, as Maddie tries to work on her next book, a deranged crossbow-wielding individual (John Gallagher, Jr.) lays siege to her home, cutting off her communications and power with the intent of her not living out the night. Now Maddie, alone and trapped inside her own home, must defend herself against a foe she can’t hear coming.

Directed and co-written by Mike Flanagan (Absentia, Oculus), this flick gives new life to the scenario of a sole individual trapped by some evil force or persons in a secluded house. By giving it’s heroine/intended victim a disability that puts her at a disadvantage, it ups the ante in the suspense and intensity department. It also gives our Maddie the resourcefulness of a woman who has had to make do without the benefit of hearing and speech for over half of her life. And that’s what really made this thriller click, was Maddie’s ingenuity in outwitting and communicating with her attacker and her tenacious will to survive and fight back. The film also gives Maddie’s inner monologue a voice, her own, as we hear her thoughts as she’s trying to outthink the unnamed invader and even moments where she plays her own inner monologue in person, as she tries to convince herself not to give up. It’s very clever and really works so well under Mike Flanagan’s skilled direction. It also worked that her mysterious attacker is unmasked quite early and we get someone who is not only a psychopath, but is quite full of personality himself. It makes him so much more than a cliché masked bad guy that he is basically just a person, though a decidedly demented and sick one. We never get an explanation for his attack, though there are clues that this is not his first rodeo. On a more basic level there is some surprisingly brutal violence and some intense action and nail-biting suspense to go along with two opposing characters with surprising depth for what could have been a routine thriller in lesser hands. Routine it is far from, as Flanagan and leading lady/co-writer Kate Siegel deliver this oft-told tale with a freshness, cleverness and tension that make this such an enjoyably nail-bitting thrill ride.

While there are brief appearances from supporting players Samantha Sloyan and Michael Trucco as neighbors, Sarah and John, it is a two person play and we get really strong work from both actors. Co-scribe Kate Siegel is really good as Maddie and makes her extremely likable without saying a word. She wonderfully conveys the woman’s personality with her facial expressions, phrasing in sign language and her reactions when spending time with her neighbor Sarah. She endears to you quickly. Once she comes under siege, we get a strong-willed and very clever woman who, despite her handicap, stays one step ahead of the vicious man outside her door. As that man, 10 Cloverfield Lane’s John Gallagher, Jr. plays his stalker with a surprisingly offbeat and almost down-to-earth personality. He is a killer, no doubt, as he brutally murders anyone who gets in his way and has a not too pleasant fate in-store for his quarry…a quarry he enjoys toying with. He is, however, never over-the-top or theatrical, as many stories feel their villains need to be. The script and Gallagher, make him more than just a simple, deranged monster, he is a very human one. There is a person under the killer’s mask, though certainly a twisted and cruel one. Avoiding a cliché film fiend portrayal makes him scarier, as you literally feel like you could pass him on the street and not notice him…or even work with him and never know he’s homicidal. Great cast to compliment the clever script.

This was one top-notch thriller. It was intense, smart, suspenseful and had some brutal moments that really caught one off-guard. It had a solid leading lady who conveyed a lot of personality and resourcefulness, despite her handicaps and used the resourcefulness born of those handicaps to battle her opponent. We got a villain who was surprisingly human, which made him all the more frightening as he could be anyone you meet and not some generic, hulking, over-the-top madman that exists only in a movie. It was a delightfully gripping game of cat and mouse with a clever script by star Siegal and director Mike Flanagan, who also skillfully and inventively presents a fresh slant on a familiar story. Highly recommended! Almost certainly will be on my list for best horror flicks of the year!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 crossbow bolts.

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