BARE BONES: NIGHTBOOKS (2021)

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NIGHTBOOKS (2021)

Kid friendly horror is based on a book by J.A. White and tells the tale of young Alex Mosher (Winslow Fegley). Alex is an imaginative boy whose love for horror, and writing his own scary stories in particular, has made him a virtual outcast in school. Frustrated with his own interests and the effect they have on his life, the boy runs away from home. He is lured into a strange apartment, which turns out to be the lair of Natacha (Krysten Ritter), a witch who likes to kidnap children. To escape a horrible fate, Alex convinces Natacha that he can tell her a new scary story every night. That is a tall order, especially to satisfy a witch, so not only must he write better and better stories each night, but must team up with her other young captive, Yazmin (Lidya Jewett), to try to outwit Natacha and escape.

Flick is directed David Yarovesky (Brightburn) from a script by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, who wrote the mediocre The Curse of Llorona. While it’s very colorful and should definitely appeal to the Harry Potter crowd, the flick is missing something to make it really magical. Maybe it’s because it is very dower at times and seems to lack a real sense of devious fun. The only one who gets the material is Krysten Ritter, who gives a delightfully wicked and over-the-top performance as Natacha. She chews the colorful and well-designed scenery in every sequence she is in and steals the flick from her two costars, who sadly are a bit bland as Alex and Yazmin. It’s still entertaining enough and is worth the watch for Ritter and the production design alone, but would have been far more fun with two livelier lead kids and a little more of a wicked wink to it’s audience, like the Goosebump flicks. Flick is currently streaming on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: KATE (2021)

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KATE (2021)

Netflix streaming action flick finds assassin Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) working in Japan for her handler Varrick (Woody Harrelson). After killing a target in front of his own child, Kate feels it’s time to retire. During her last mission, she finds she’s been poisoned and with 24 hours to live, she sets out to find those responsible and get revenge.

Film is directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan from a script by Umair Aleem and is a routine action flick with a plot that’s been used before, such as in both versions of D.O.A. There are plenty of bloody action scenes and chases and a top-notch performance by Mary Elizabeth WInstead, but it’s all too familiar and forgettable. The Japanese locations provide a cool look to the proceedings, but it’s not enough to make it feel fresh. Nicolas-Troyan has a good visual eye, but doesn’t give any life to the material. Also, why is it when there is a strong female character in a film like this, do they need to add a precocious child for her to babysit, so she gets to show her maternal side? Did we really need Yakuza brat, Ani (Miku Martineau)? Overall, a forgettable, routine action flick far undeserving of it’s talented leading lady, who is the only reason to watch this for.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

BARE BONES: THE OLD WAYS (2020)

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THE OLD WAYS (2020)

Troubled Latina reporter Christina (Brigitte Kali Canales) returns to her Mexican hometown village of La Boca to research a story about witchcraft. She finds herself kidnapped and held by the local bruja Luz (Julia Vera), her assistant Javi (Sal Lopez) and Christina’s cousin Miranda (Andrea Cortés). The bruja believes Christina is possessed by a demon, a malevolent entity that must be removed and banished at all costs.

Flick is directed by Christopher Alender from a script by Marcos Gabriel. The Latin background to the proceedings gives it a bit of a fresh feel and director Alender gives it atmosphere and a spooky visual style. What holds it back a bit is that it basically takes place in one room for most of the runtime and, for the most part, is a slow and drawn-out 90 minute exorcism in multiple parts, with Christina doing some soul searching in between. The pretty reporter does bare her soul in more ways than one and the exorcism scenes are effective, but it really feels like an hour long episode of a TV show stretched out to feature length. This is especially evident when about two-thirds in, the demon is expelled, but finds another host and we repeat the main exorcism all over again. It becomes repetitive and tedious. Leading lady Brigitte Kali Canales is very pretty and tries hard, but could have been a bit stronger in the role of Christina. Supporting cast was very good, so that helped. Not a waste of time and can be effective and atmospheric, but definitely needed a bit more story to properly fill it’s hour and a half runtime. Flick is now streaming on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

BARE BONES: BLOOD RED SKY (2021)

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BLOOD RED SKY (2021)

German horror streaming on Netflix finds, widowed mother Nadja (Peri Baumeister) on a flight to New York with her young son Elias (Carl Anton Koch). Before the plane takes off, a group of terrorists board and hijack the flight. Now Nadja must unleash a dark and terrible secret to protect her son from these dangerous and violent intruders.

As directed by Peter Thorwarth, from his script with Stefan Holtz, this is basically Passenger 57 if you removed Wesley Snipes’ security expert John Cutter and substituted a female vampire instead. It’s an amusing concept as Nadja reveals herself to be a bloodsucker and sets out to battle the bad guys to protect Elias. Things gets complicated when psychopathic terrorist EIghtball (Alexander Scheer) uses some of Nadja’s blood to turn himself and starts to turn others. It’s vampires vs terrorists, passengers vs vampires and vampires vs vampires over the Atlantic ocean. It’s fun, at times, and very gory, though is held back by a far too long 121 minute runtime. There is a lot of exposition and quite a few flashbacks to Nadja’s turn into a creature of the night and while interesting, it slows the film’s momentum considerably and makes the flick about twenty to thirty minutes longer than it should be. Overall, despite it’s flaws, it is still an entertaining and bloody enough action/horror for an evening on the couch. Also stars Blade Trinity’s Dominic Purcell as a terrorist.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR (2021)

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BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR (2021)

Brand New Cherry Flavor is a bizarre and disturbing 90s set series, now streaming on Netflix, that finds wannabe film director Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar) heading out to Hollywood, hoping to score a deal to direct a feature version of her well-received short horror film. She gets just such a deal from producer Lou Burke (Eric Lange), who convinces her to sign over the rights to her movie before proving he’s just another sketchy, sleazy Hollywood producer. After rejecting his advances and getting her film project stolen away from her, Lisa turns to strange, black magic practicing, tattoo artist Boro (Catherine Keener) to get her revenge. Let’s just say vengeance has a price and Boro may not be any different than Burke when it comes to having her own plans for Miss Nova.

This is a fun, gory and delightfully weird show as created by Channel Zero’s Nick Antosca from a book by Todd Grimson. It’s eight episodes and fans will be happy to find out it only covers the first third of Grimson’s book, thus leaving room for a season or two more. It’s a neon colored nightmare, as Lisa encounters witches, zombies, hitmen and the vengeful star (Siena Weber) of her own short film, on top of a sleazy producer more concerned with her talents in bed than in filmmaking. There are some very disturbing sequences, some brutal violence, gore and a few spectral spooks as well. It doesn’t follow the traditional template of supernatural curse/revenge films and at times, has a bit of a David Lynchian vibe to it. What holds it together, and our interest, even in the slower moments, is a fantastic performance by Rosa Salazar as Lisa Nova. She’s cocky, strong-willed, sexy and resourceful, yet also can be vulnerable and is not always the good guy here. Salazar makes all the aspects of Lisa’s character work, gives her emotional depth and makes her a likable, in-over-her-own-head heroine, even when she is being selfish. Salazar also portrays her as a bit mysterious, as Lisa may have her own personal supernatural troubles, even before meeting Boro. The supporting cast is great, especially Lange as the sleazy Burke and a wonderfully eccentric Catherine Keener as witch/tattoo artist Boro. It’s not perfect. There are a few episodes that feel dragged out, and this part of the story probably could have been told in a more economic five or six episodes, but, it’s so delightfully weird and disturbing—where else can one see someone vomiting up live kittens—that we stick with it nonetheless. It’s also cool that with multiple writers and directors at work, all the episodes retain the same look, atmosphere and unsettling feel. Definitely looking forward to a season two if this is a success for Netflix.

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Rosa Salazar as Lisa Nova, a young filmmaker who turns to black magic for revenge when her dreams are ruined by a sleazy producer.

Episode List:

1. “I Exist”—directed by Arkasha Stevenson; written by Lenore Zion & Nick Antosca

2. “Hair of the Dog”—directed by Gandja Monteiro; written by Mando Alvarado

3. “Roman Candle”—directed by Gandja Monteiro; written by Christina Ham

4. “Tadpole Smoothie”—directed by Matt Sobel; written by Nick Antosca, Haley Z. Boston & Alana B. Lytie

5. “Jennifer”—directed by Matt Sobel; written by Lenore Zion & Haley Z. Boston

6. “Milk Bath”—directed by Jake Schreier; written by Matt Fennell

7. “Egg”—directed by Jake Schreier; written by Mando Alvarado & Christina Ham

8. “Bodies”—directed by Nick Antosca; written by Lenore Zion & Nick Antosca

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Can Lisa escape the nightmare she’s found herself in?

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-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: IS KIANA MADEIRA THE NEW QUEEN OF HORROR?

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Photo:  IMDB/Megan Vincent

IS KIANA MADEIRA THE NEW QUEEN OF HORROR?

This latest installment of Halloween Hotties features an actress who has recently taken the horror community by storm, with her roles in the hit Netflix horror movie series Fear Street, based on the books by R.L. Stine. Canadian actress Kiana Madeira certainly got the attention of horror fans, not only for playing the tough and resourceful teen Deena, but the “Fier Witch” herself, Sarah Fier, when, in the third installment, Deena lives Sarah’s final days through her eyes. What horror fans may not know, is that this hit trilogy is not Madeira’s first foray in horror. In fact, the versatile actress has been in three other horror flicks, including two set on Halloween, during her busy career, one that started when she was only fifteen. Is Kiana Madeira the new queen of horror? Check out her resume below to decide for yourselves!…
(Click on the highlighted links to read reviews of the films covered here that Kiana Madeira has appeared in)

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THE NIGHT BEFORE HALLOWEEN (2016)

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As Lindsay, a girl cursed, along with friends, when a Halloween prank goes horribly wrong!

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NEVERKNOCK (2017)

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As Amy, a young woman who, along with friends, unwisely tests a deadly urban legend on Halloween.

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SHE NEVER DIED (2019)

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As Suzzie, a young woman rescued from a horrible fate by a very unusual and dangerous woman.

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FEAR STREET PART 1: 1994 (2021)

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As Deena, a teen drawn into a witch’s curse, who is forced to fight for her life and that of her friends.

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FEAR STREET PART 2: 1978 (2021)

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In the second installment, Deena turns to the curse’s sole survivor for help.

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FEAR STREET PART 3: 1666 (2021)

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As Sarah Fier, when Deena lives the alleged witch’s final days through her eyes…

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…And again as Deena when the finale returns to 1994 for it’s climactic battle of good vs evil.

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photo: IMDB/Megan Vincent

There’s no telling where this versatile and talented actress will show up next. She shows no sign of slowing down with new projects already in various phases of production! We can only hope she will return to horror, or Fear Street sequels, soon! For now, her body of work, especially the recent R.L. Stine adaptations, puts her in the running as one of horror’s new queens!

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And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties profiles…just click on the following link to head over to the Halloween Hotties listings!)

-MonsterZero NJ

source: IMDB

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BARE BONES: GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (2021)

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GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (2021)

Sam (Karen Gillan) is an assassin for The Firm, and after her most recent assignment goes awry, is tasked with retrieving some money stolen from them and killing the man, David (Samuel Anderson), who took it. She finds he stole the money for ransom, to get his kidnapped daughter Emily (Chloe Coleman) back and Sam proceeds to go rescue her. Along the way the money is destroyed, David dies and now The Firm wants Sam dead. With Emily in tow, Sam is forced to team with her estranged assassin mother, Scarlet (Lena Headly) and a sisterhood of assassins (Carla Guigino. Michelle Yeoh and Angela Bassett) Scarlet once belonged to, to face down an army of killers sent her way.

Netflix streaming movie is stylishly enough directed by Navot Papushado (Rabies) from a script by he and Ehud Lavski. It’s an entertaining enough movie, though a bit of a mess and clearly is a strong case of John Wick meets The Professional, with a little Tarantino thrown in for good measure. The cast all seem to be having a good time playing a host of oddball characters and there is plenty of gunfire, but it gets tiresome after a while. We’ve been watching these slow motion gunfights and stabbings since John Woo made them popular in the 90s and these hip, hyper-violent crime flicks are starting to get played out. They’ve become their own subgenre. Gunpowder Milkshake has a fun neon colored look to go along with all the CGI blood and gun flares and while it’s never boring, it’s never all that involving either. An OK waste of time if there is nothing else to watch and Gillan does make Sam a likable killer with a sarcastic sense of humor and a heart. Also stars Paul Giamatti as Firm head Nathan.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: FEAR STREET PART 3-1666 (2021)

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FEAR STREET PART 3: 1666 (2021)

Third film opens in 1666 with young Sarah Fier (now Kiana Madeira) being thought wicked for her love for village girl Hannah (Olivia Scott Welch). With the warnings of “The Widow” (Jordana Spiro), a local woman suspected of practicing witchcraft, and the increasingly strange and gruesome events that are occurring in the village, Sarah—and the villagers—start to believe it. Soon a full witch hunt is underway and Sarah and Hannah become the targets of the villagers’ fears and anger, as they wish to purge their village of this evil presence.

Concluding R. L. Stine based installment is once again directed by Leigh Janiak from her script with Phil Graziadei and Kate Trefry. A strong and spooky finale that has some fun telling the origin story of “witch” Sarah Fier by having the cast members of the first two chapters play the parts. Kiana Madeira really shines here playing the part of Sarah, after already making a strong heroine out of her Deena. She’s a star in the making. There is sympathy for Sarah as we find out the surprising truth behind her story, one of an independent and passionate young woman and the ignorance and superstitions of others. It’s a dramatically strong finish, as we find out how the Shadyside curse came to be, it’s true nature, and then return to 1994, to wrap up the story in a thrilling climactic last act. It’s a spooky and strong concluding chapter, with the atmosphere and gruesome bloodshed we’ve come to expect from this Netflix series.

All in all a solid finale that manages to be the best of the three flicks. A fitting end for this wonderfully creepy and bloody three part horror series, based on the works of beloved author R.L. Stine.

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Click on the link here for my review of  Fear Street part 1: 1994

Click on the link here for my review of  Fear Street part 2: 1978

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: A CLASSIC HORROR STORY (2021)

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A CLASSIC HORROR STORY (2021)

Derivative on purpose Italian horror finds five travelers on an RV trip crashing in the middle of nowhere. They happen upon a strange cabin, that turns out to be the sacrificial alter of a bizarre and bloodthirsty cult.

Flick is directed by Roberto De Feo and Paolo Strippoli from their script with Lucio Besana, David Bellini and Milo Tissone. Amusing it took five people to write the script for what is basically another variation on the cabin in the woods horror, but it shows with some definite idea overload. On the plus side, it has some effective and brutal violence, some unsettling sequences and some spooky and disturbing visuals. The cast are all fine and it at least has the respect to acknowledge it’s influences—a character refers to the cabin as “Sam Raimi’s house”—but when it comes down to it, we’ve seen it all before—many times. Between the spooky bits there are also some long dialogue sequences, with characters bickering and passing blame on each other for their predicament, and did we need another pregnant character for sympathetic effect? Last act veers off into a couple of different directions that are, like the rest of the movie, a mash-up of flicks we’ve already seen. It goes on a bit too long and gets quite convoluted before finally ending, thus losing what little grip it had. Overall, some effective moments, but maybe too many cooks adding too many ingredients to the homage soup for it’s own good. Flick is available on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: FEAR STREET PART 2-1978 (2021)

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FEAR STREET PART 2: 1978 (2021)

Second film opens with Deena (Kiana Madeira) and Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) seeking out Christine Berman (Gillian Jacobs), the sole survivor of a previous massacre at a summer camp. The flick then goes back to 1978 to Camp Nightwing as Christine, known then to everyone as Ziggy (now Sadie Sink) is a picked-on outcast at the camp, who has a reputation for getting into and causing trouble. Ziggy is there with her older, good-girl sister, Cindy (Emily Rudd) and future sheriff, Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland). The Shadyside/Sunnyvale rivalry is in full swing and the legend of Sarah Fier (Elizabeth Scopel) hangs over the camp. Soon bodies start to fall, and both Ziggy and Cindy must try to survive and stop the witch’s curse.

Second R. L. Stine based installment is again directed by Leigh Janiak from her script with Zak Olkewicz, written from their story with Phil Graziadei. Flick follows the template of summer camp horrors fairly closely, yet also does it’s own thing, while adding the self aware movie references that contemporary horror fans expect. It has the stereotypical characters one also expects, well played by it’s young cast and both Ziggy and Cindy make for good leads. Much like the first installment, it’s fun, nostalgic and has some intense and scary moments. The makers, from Stine to Janiak, know their influences well, but also bring some of their own ideas, such as some spooky stuff in catacombs under the camp. Like Part 1 there is a lot of bloody action, some nicely placed homages and plenty of gruesome gore. There is also a great soundtrack of 70s songs and some very creepy visuals to add atmosphere. If there is anything that holds 1978 back a little bit, is that due to information given us in Part 1, we go in knowing the fates of our two leading ladies and a few others. That does mute the suspense a little bit. Other than that, this is another solid chapter in Nextflix’s adaptation. So far, this three part series has yielded two strong entries and hopefully, it ends as strongly as it has started. Bring on Fear Street part 3: 1666!

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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