BARE BONES BOOK REVIEW: FROM BELOW by DARCY COATES

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FROM BELOW by DARCY COATES

Newest book from author Darcy Coates is a spooky change from her usual haunted house tales and presents a story of underwater horror…though not without the haunted element that she does so well. Adventure seeker and reality TV star Cove sets out with her crew to investigate the sunken wreckage of the SS Arcadia which disappeared long ago. The ship was finally found at the bottom of the ocean, and Cove has been hired to be the first to enter the wreckage and solve the mystery of the luxury liner’s disappearance, along with the fate of its passengers and crew. What awaits the divers is far more than your typical seafaring mystery but a nautical nightmare they may not return from.

Coates takes her haunted house story and delightfully transplants it into the wreckage of a lost ocean liner fathoms beneath the surface. The added caveats of limited oxygen and visibility adds an element of isolation and tension that is not usually present in a traditional haunted house tale, where one can simply leave the spook infested building. She also skillfully tells two stories at once in this chilling and involving tale, as we switch back and forth, chapter to chapter, from the Arcadia’s fateful last days to Cove and crew slowly finding out the frightening truth as to what happened and realizing the ship may not be as dead in the water as they believe. It’s scary, entertaining and like all her books, has a cast of very likable characters especially the strong-willed Cove. For a book over 400 pages, it’s a fast read and is perfect for a lazy summer’s day at the beach, or a nighttime read snuggled under the covers. Another solidly spooky story from a woman who is becoming a modern master of the haunted house…or ship…tale.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES BOOK REVIEW: THE RAVENOUS DEAD by DARCY COATES

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THE RAVENOUS DEAD by DARCY COATES

Second chapter in Darcy Coates’ Gravekeeper series finds Keira trying to help a faceless. nameless spirit find it’s rest while also battling the specter of a local serial killer that has evolved into a vicious entity that devours other spirts. At the same time, a brush with a secret organizing puts her closer to finding her true identity while also placing her in danger. Even with the help of new friends Mason, Zoe and kindly priest Adage, can Keira succeed in saving her graveyard home and herself?

Coates, now armed with a group of endearing characters from the first installment, The Whispering Dead, concocts another entertaining tale that is again part ghost story and part mystery. Keira finds herself in double danger as the spirit of serial killer Gerald Barge drains the energy of both the living and the dead, while mysterious men in black recognize and almost capture her at a local hospital. Keira is literally caught between threats from both the living and the dead! There are a lot of spooky moments, scary confrontations, chases, escapes and mysteries to be solved to thoroughly entertain the reader. As we now know and like these characters, it makes it even more engaging. With a third book on the way, this is a spooky series from Darcy Coates that one can’t wait for more of!

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES BOOK REVIEW: THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR by DARCY COATES

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THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR by DARCY COATES

Jo lives next door to The Marwick House, an ominous home that has a dark history and has seen more than one owner flee the residence in the middle of the night, never to return. When pretty Anna moves in, she and Jo become friends bringing Jo into the house for the first time. Jo and Anna soon find out that there is indeed a presence in this house, and it is very angry and may want something even more frightening than just its mere presence.

This is one of Darcy Coates more intense chillers and perhaps one of her darker stories. Aside from the angry spirit inhabiting the house, Anna’s abusive boyfriend also plays a part. There is an air of mystery as now Jo feels she must help Anna and is drawn into finding out who haunts the house and why. It has some very spooky moments and Coates weaves some very atmospheric imagery as the secrets of Marwick House are slowly revealed. There is more intensity here than in some of her previous haunted house tales and is delightfully a bit scarier that one usually expects from her. Another spooky and chilling read from Darcy Coates and one refreshingly darker than her norm.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES BOOK REVIEW: DEAD LAKE by DARCY COATES

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DEAD LAKE by DARCY COATES

Another spooky tale from Darcy Coates, this one set at a remote cabin on the shore of a lake, where there have been some disappearances as of late. Artist Sam intends to spend a week at her uncle’s self-built cabin to try and finish an art project for an upcoming exhibit. She soon starts seeing a mysterious figure and it becomes apparent that she is not alone in these woods, and someone may be stalking her.

Coates gives us something different from her traditional haunted house and paranormal tales, though this story does have some supernatural elements. It’s a very creepy and unsettling tale as we quickly endear to struggling artist Sam and given a good idea of just how isolated and alone she is there. Not only does she start seeing this figure, but there is evidence someone is entering the cabin and she is painting frightening portraits at night of a very grim looking stranger…paintings she has no recollection of doing. Of course, there is a mystery element and there is a spirit involved and it all comes to a very intense and unnerving climax, where we get some startling answers. The book also comes with four spooky and entertaining short stories, the nerve-wracking Whose Woods These Are, the chilling Mannequin, the bizarre Hitchhiker and the haunting Bellamy. Another very spooky book for nights under the covers from an author who has yet to disappoint!

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2021)

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LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2021)

British thriller finds a young girl named Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) traveling to London to become a fashion designer. Eloise also has a bit of a gift of sight and her sight activates upon taking a room in the home of the elderly Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg). She starts traveling back to the 60s where she begins to follow and live in the footsteps of a pretty young socialite named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). First, she’s enjoying the experience and nightlife, until Sandie meets the mysterious Jack (Matt Smith) and things start to take a dangerous and dark turn for both Sandie and Eloise.

Flick is directed by Edgar (Shaun of the Dead) Wright from a script and story by he and Krysty Wilson-Cairns. As with all of Wright’s films the cinematography is sumptuous, the editing sharp and innovative and the soundtrack nearly perfect. Yet, despite being very well done, there is something missing here. Maybe it’s that we never really bond with McKenzie’s Eloise, or Taylor-Joy’s mysterious and aloof Sandie, to really get emotionally involved in what happens to them. Maybe it’s also that the clever and sometimes trippy set-up leads to a fairly routine murder thriller when all is said and done. The glitzy time traveling, spooky visions and Argento-like death scenes are well done, but it isn’t enough to really make us care about where this is all going. A pointless romantic subplot concerning Eloise and one of her coworkers doesn’t add anything either. There is an interesting twist in the last act, but once you peel back all the inventive smoke and mirrors, the story isn’t as involving as we would have liked and that twist not as impactful as it should have been. The cast, including Dame Diana Rigg and the legendary Terrance Stamp, are all good, though as stated, we never really warm up to McKenzie’s Eloise or Anya Taylor-Joy’s Sandie. Without the emotional anchor of being endeared to the lead characters, we just drift through the visual sea of Wright’s certainly interesting concoction. Odd, as endearing characters are usually one of Wright’s strengths. Liked it to a degree but didn’t love it.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES BOOK REVIEW: THE HAUNTING OF LEIGH HARKER by DARCY COATES

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THE HAUNTING OF LEIGH HARKER by DARCY COATES

Latest chiller from Darcy Coates tells the story of Leigh Harker, a single woman who lives alone in an old house…until now. She starts being visited in her bedroom in the middle of the night by a mysterious and frightening figure. The door under the stairs begins to rattle, as if someone—or something—is trying to get out from inside. Leigh starts to believe a malevolent entity has come to her once cozy home and now needs to find out why it’s here and what it wants!

Coates delivers another haunted house tale with a heavy dose of mystery and, at the same time, one of her most intriguing books yet. She gives us the tropes we’ve come to expect from her, a strong heroine, a haunted house and a mystery to be solved. She also throws us a curve, as this time, it’s a haunting told from the ghost’s point of view. It’s the specter who feels the living occupant of the home is the one haunting it, until the two join forces to solved the mystery behind the spirit’s demise and reason for it’s current presence in the house. It’s a spooky and fun tale, with some chilling surprises and a very unexpected twist early on. We have two very likable characters in Leigh and Sarah and it keeps you guessing till all is unsettlingly revealed in it’s final chapters. Overall, it’s simply one of Darcy Coates’ best books yet. This author has yet to disappoint! Her books definitely cry out to be adapted to film!

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES BOOK REVIEW: THE WHISPERING DEAD by DARCY COATES

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THE WHISPERING DEAD by DARCY COATES

Latest book from Darcy Coates begins with a young woman named Keira fleeing from a group of men who are hunting her. She has no memory of who she is and why she is being pursued. She finds herself at a small church and graveyard, outside the remote town of Blighty, where a kindly pastor lets her stay at the groundskeeper’s cabin. There she discovers that she can see and communicate with the spirits still inhabiting the cemetery and gets embroiled in a mystery, while helping the troubled ghost of a murdered young woman move on from her mournful wandering.

Once again Coates spins an entertaining yarn that is equal parts ghost story and mystery. A story brimming with fog shrouded graveyards, shadow filled woods and locals with dark secrets. It’s the start of a new series, so don’t expect to get answers to all your questions, but Keira is a very engaging character and the town of Blighty a strange and gothic place, filled with some eccentric—and maybe some dangerous—characters. It’s a very quick read and a very entertaining tale, populated with some likable supporting characters, such as Pastor Adage, conspiracy theorist and general store clerk Zoe and charming med student Mason. The type of spooky fun book, perfect for reading under the covers at night, that we’ve come to expect from Coates, and starring a heroine we want to hear more from.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: KNIVES OUT (2019)

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KNIVES OUT (2019)

Flick finds best selling mystery writer and millionaire, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) dead with his throat cut. It’s ruled a suicide, but an anonymous someone has hired private detective Benoit Blanc (a wonderful Daniel Craig) to take on the case. Blanc finds the game is afoot with a family cut out of Harlan’s will at his 85th birthday the night of his death and his personal care nurse Marta (Ana de Armas) now the sole inheritor of his fortune and assets. With a house filled with those who would benefit from Harlan’s demise, can the unwelcome detective unravel the tangled web that has been woven.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) this is a near perfect flick. It’s a delightfully old fashioned murder(?) mystery with a dozen or so suspects, all with a motive, and an intricately woven plot that our detective must unravel. It’s easy to follow, but like Craig’s Blanc we must find and interpret the clues, while the web keeps getting more and more complex around him…and us. The film has a darkly comic tone, which suits the story perfectly and an absolutely fabulous cast to play our suspects including, de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson and Toni Collette, not to forget the legendary Christopher Plummer as Harlan. It keeps you guessing and smiling, never confuses you, but doesn’t make it easy for you either. When the time comes, there are some fun surprises and reveals and you also realize that for the last two hours you’ve been spectacularly entertained. A near perfect movie that has a perfect cast. Also stars Katherine Langford, Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan.

-MonsterZero NJ

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REVIEW: SEARCHING (2018)

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SEARCHING (2018)

Mystery thriller finds widower David Kim (John Cho) frantically searching for his teenage daughter Margot (Michelle La) who has gone missing. The entire story takes place on his laptop and phone, as he desperately searches all her social media sites for clues to where she went or who might know where she is. More frightening to David, aside from her disappearance, is that he may not have known his daughter at all.

Flick is not the first movie to take place entirely on a computer, but is one of the better ones thanks to skillful direction from Aneesh Chaganty from his clever script co-written with Sev Ohanian. The film starts out introducing us to the Kims, quickly etching out a portrait of a loving family, that is devastated by the loss of wife and mother Pam (Sara Sohn). We then get a single father trying to do what’s best for his daughter when, out of nowhere, she vanishes. It now evolves into a tense and suspenseful mystery as David tries to track down his daughter through social media, as a police detective (Debra Messing) investigates. For a movie that takes place entirely digital, Chaganty finds some clever ways to let us find out information, while still keeping us as in the dark as David as to where Margot went. Did she run away?…or worse? There are a few red herrings and if the film has an Achilles Heel, it’s that after putting us…and David…through a lot to get to it’s conclusion, it gets a bit convoluted in order to give it a crowd pleasing ending. It gets a bit dark and then has to juggle a somewhat far-fetched late story development in order to end things with a less grim and more safe Hollywood finale. Otherwise, this is a very entertaining and involving thriller with strong work from it’s leading man.

The cast is very small with many characters only appearing in quick video clips or photos such as Margot herself and her mother. John Cho gives a very strong and heartfelt performance as a slightly overprotective dad frantically searching for his daughter. Cho is both sympathetic and tenacious as he tries to track down Margot, refusing to believe the police and public…once the case goes viral…that Margot is dead or run away. A strong performance by Cho. Debra Messing is also good as a women who is both detective and a mother herself and the character fits well into the framework of the story. The only other character that has a steady amount of screen time is Joseph Lee as David’s stoner brother Peter, with whom David frequently confides in.

Overall, this was a very entertaining thriller. It’s social media setting is no longer new, but Aneesh Chaganty uses it cleverly and directs his cast and story very well. It’s suspenseful and intense and if it lets it’s build-up down a bit, it’s in a last act turn away from the dark path it was headed, taking the film away from a more realistic and grim ending in order to play it safe. Otherwise this was a solid mystery thriller with strong work from John Cho.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) laptops.

 

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BARE BONES: THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (2016)

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THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (2016)

The Disappointments Room is exactly that. Kate Beckinsale stars as architect, wife and mother, Dana, who is moving into a rural country home with her family. Exploring her new house she finds it has a hidden locked room in the attic. Research reveals it’s a disappointments room…a room where well-to-do families hid deformed or handicapped children, to live out their lives in secret without ’embarrassing’ their families. Dana, having lost one of her own children, is especially disturbed by this and starts to see and be haunted by visions and apparitions of a past family and their deformed daughter. Is she just experiencing delusions caused by grief over the accidental death of her baby daughter, or is she really being haunted?

Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia), from a script by he and Wentworth Miller, this is an incredibly generic ghost story. All the well-worn clichés are present, such as Dana being the only one who sees these apparitions and the husband (Mel Raido) leaving mid-haunting to go away for a few days with the haunted wife now home alone with her son (Duncan Joiner). Beckinsale really tries hard here to give her emotionally strained mom some depth, but the incredibly bland script doesn’t give her much to work with. Raido’s husband is the typical doubter who believes it’s all in his wife’s head and there is the stereotypical young, hunky handyman (Lucas Till) to hit on Beckinsale’s hot mom, in a sub-plot that goes nowhere. Caruso directs competently, but achieves only a few spooky moments and holds our interest only by a thread. Bland and very familiar.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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