BARE BONES: MERCY BLACK (2019)

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MERCY BLACK (2019)

Netflix horror flick has it’s roots in the Slenderman urban legend and the real life stabbing of a young girl by two twelve year-olds (documentary review HERE). Marina (Daniella Pineda) has been released from a psychiatric institute fifteen years after she and another friend stabbed a little girl to appease a mythical supernatural entity called Mercy Black. Marina comes to live with her sister Alice (Elle LaMont) and Alice’s son Bryce (Miles Emmons) to try to resume a normal life. Things get complicated as Bryce starts to become obsessed with Mercy Black and Marina starts to believe it may not be just an urban legend after all.

Film is written and directed by Owen Edgerton (Blood Fest, Follow) and is a fairly generic horror. The real-life crime story that it is inspired by is a lot more unsettling and this film follows the urban legend come to life template with little or no inventiveness. Lead Pineda does give a good performance and we’d love to see her in something that is a lot more effective. The director at least utilizes his locations well and his visual eye gives the film an atmospheric look. Edgerton has shown promise in his previous efforts it just seems here he was uninspired by his own script. Very routine and by-the-numbers. Also stars Austin Amelio as a creepy handyman and Janeane Garofalo as Marina’s psychologist.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: ERREMENTARI-THE BLACKSMITH AND THE DEVIL (2017)

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ERREMENTARI: THE BLACKSMITH AND THE DEVIL (2017)

Netflix original is based on a European fairy tale and finds a bitter and angry blacksmith (Kandido Uranga) holding a demon prisoner (Eneko Sagardoy). He blames the demonic creature for the bad things that have befallen him and torments it. When a young orphan (Uma Bracaglia) wanders into his smithy, things get a bit complicated for the three of them.

Film is directed well by Paul Urkijo Alijo from his script with Asier Guerricaechevarría based on this old folktale and takes place in the Basque Country of Spain. The visuals are quite sumptuous and the demonic make-up is exceptionally well-rendered. It’s a dark tale that includes a last act trip to Hell itself, but also has an old world charm to match it’s somber tone. There is some graphic violence, as it is a dark fairy tale after all, but a very well made one, with a good cast and would probably make a nice double feature with Pan’s Labyrinth or The Viy.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: HE’S OUT THERE (2018)

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HE’S OUT THERE (2018)

Wife and mother Laura (Yvonne Strahovski) is taking her two daughters Maddie (Abigail Pniowsky) and Kayla (Anna Pniowsky) up to the family’s remote cabin in the woods…always a bad sign…with husband Shawn (Justin Bruening) to join them later. Unfortunately, the three are not alone and soon find themselves stalked by a deranged masked individual.

While the film is nothing original story-wise and is reminiscent somewhat of Mike Flanagan’s Hush, it is still quite effective in it’s own right. It’s very well directed by Quinn Lasher from a script by Mike Scannell and is quite spooky and suspenseful, even though familiar. Lasher gets good use out of his remote woodland location and the large old cabin setting and evokes strong performances from his small cast. There is graphic violence though it is used sparingly and thus has impact. Strahovski is especially good in the final girl…final mom?…role and the Pniowsky sisters are impressive, too. The film wouldn’t work as well without an effective villain and the deranged individual who calls himself “John” (Ryan McDonald) is disturbing despite being derivative. He delivers his few lines of dialogue well and conveys a threatening presence behind his creepy mask. All in all, a solid horror/thriller now streaming on Netflix…where you can also stream Flanagan’s Hush for comparison.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: CAM (2018)

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CAM (2018)

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

Cam is an interesting and sometimes unsettling thriller about pretty Alice (Madeline Brewer), who unbeknownst to her mother, works as a web cam model known as “Lola”. Alice is struggling to get her sexy/playful online show up in the ratings, and is just happy to break the top fifty. One morning she awakens to find that her account has been stolen and her web show is now being run by a woman who looks like her exact duplicate. Not only is having her identity and livelihood stolen away from her driving her crazy, but this new “Lola” is rising in the ratings faster than Alice ever could. Now the desperate young woman goes on a hunt to find out who…or what…has taken over her cyberspace.

Effectively directed by Daniel Goldhaber, from a script and story by he, Isa Mazzei and Isabelle Link-Levy, this is a movie that delves into a few cyber subjects while telling it’s tale of a woman whose alter-ego is stolen away from her. Aside from identity theft, it covers the world of sexy web shows and chat rooms, internet celebrities, the lengths folks go to become famous on the web, cyber relationships, as well as, cyber stalking turning into real stalking as one of “Lola’s” online followers “Tinker” finds her in real life. The film has a slightly playful nature at first, than gets a bit creepy as we watch Alice’s online world and identity taken away. She goes on a quest to find this impostor, but along the way we learn a lot about this online alternate reality and how it becomes the only reality for some. We also see the damage caused when the impostor’s antics out Alice to the real world and the negative impact it has on her and her family. It all leads to a cyber showdown with Alice trying to turn the tables on Lola V2, which is tense and unsettling. It’s an off-beat and clever little movie that can be quite disturbing at times and in more ways than one. Are we heading towards a fantasy world that exists totally online? Cam might give some cyber food for thought on that, as it’s conclusion is no surprise and that’s on purpose. It’s making a point and making us think. There may be some unanswered questions, too, by the time it’s over, but in this case, the cause is not the focus but the effect. Besides, if you pay attention to what some of the characters are saying and a few things that occur, you can probably fill in the blanks on your own.

As for the cast, this is Madeline Brewer’s show and she gives a lively and strong performance as Alice, her alter-ego Lola and the impostor Lola. She’s a perky and slightly eccentric young woman as Alice, playful and sexy as Lola and gives Lola V2 something a bit off as the impostor escalates the sexy hi-jinx, yet, we feel there is something not quite right about her. Very good work by an actress that has to carry pretty much the whole movie on her shoulders. In support there is Love Witch’s Samantha Robinson as an online rival, Patch Darragh, who is suitably creepy as Tinker and Michael Dempsy as another of Lola’s followers who…surprise!…also turns out to be a creep.

Cam isn’t the first time cyberspace and impostors have been the subject of a horror or thriller. Just recently, we saw sexual chatrooms and cam shows in Girlhouse, mysterious doppelgangers in Imitation Girl and +1, cyber stalking in Open Windows and other cyber horrors in the Unfriended movies. Still Cam has it’s own style and a strong leading lady to stand out from the pack in how it presents it’s tale and themes. It’s a fun thriller and a bit disturbing in it’s portrayal of a world that exists on the internet and how so very important it has become to some.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 very solid laptops.


unfriended rating

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: MALEVOLENT (2018)

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MALEVOLENT (2018)

Netflix original takes place in 1986 Scotland where American siblings Angela (Florence Pugh) and Jackson (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) are running a paranormal investigation scam to earn money. They are called to investigate a former foster home where some of the girls were murdered and the owner Mrs. Green (Celia Imrie) believes they now haunt the house. What starts out as another con becomes far too real for the phony investigators and their very lives may now be in danger as there is something malevolent in that house.

Despite there being a lot of familiar elements here, the film is well directed by Olaf De Fleur from a script by Ben Ketai (The Forest) and Eva Konstantopoulos. It’s atmospheric and has a Gothic visual style. De Fleur uses it’s spooky location well and there is some effectively bloody violence in the last act. Florence Pugh is very good as Angela, a young woman whose mother was thought insane, but apparently had legitimate psychic abilities that her daughter may now share. Ben Lloyd-Hughes is also a perfect douche as her con artist brother, who has no problem bilking grieving innocents out of their cash and doesn’t realize his sister may be the real thing. The rest of the cast are effective as well, even if we see certain character revelations coming. Nothing new, but effective enough to entertain and Pugh is an actress worth keeping an eye on as she gives Angela some integrity and depth.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: TAU

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TAU (2018)

Pretty petty thief Julia (Maika Monroe) finds herself kidnapped and held prisoner by a man named Alex (Ed Skrein) who is conducting sinister experiments in his secluded computerized home. All she needs to do to escape is somehow befriend and outwit his complex artificial intelligence, Tau (voiced by Gary Oldman). That’s kind of it!

Netflix debuted film is directed by Federico D’Alessandro from a script by Noga Landau and is a silly and far-fetched movie that evokes other films like 1977’s Demon Seed for one. The script is sloppy and one wonders why a genius like Alex can’t figure out how to effectively restrain Julia, who is always escaping confines and causing havoc. It has some amusing sequences and some shockingly graphic violence, but is just too weakly scripted to make effective use out of it’s scenario. We should have been far more scared for Julia, but Alex is a lame villain and Tau becomes charmed by her far too quickly for us to feel she’s in peril for too long. Producer/lead Monroe is a feisty heroine, though sometimes we feel her heroics are handed to her a bit too easily by script conveniences. On the other hand, if you have a foot fetish, bondage fetish, Maika Monroe fetish, or all of the above, this may be your Gone With The Wind. Currently streaming on Netflix.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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IT FOLLOWS’ MAIKA MONROE RETURNS TO HORROR IN NETFLIX’S TAU!

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It Follows star Maika Monroe returns to our favorite genre in the Netflix sci-fi/horror thriller Tau. Monroe plays a young woman kidnapped by a scientist (Ed Skrein) to be used in experiments to test an A.I. (voiced by Gary Oldman) of his own creation. The film premieres June 29th! Check out some stills (from Maikamonroe.us) and the trailer…

 

Production stills: maikamonroe.us

 

 

Sources: Youtube/Netflix/maikamonroe.us

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BARE BONES: ALI WONG-HARD KNOCK WIFE (2018)

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ALI WONG-HARD KNOCK WIFE (2018)

Last we saw actress, writer, comedienne Ali Wong she was seven months pregnant and dishing out some raunchy and quite funny comedy on stage for her first Netflix comedy special. Her second special finds her pregnant again with her second child and sharing her witticisms on birth, new motherhood, marriage, and sex. It’s naughty fun and motherhood hasn’t dulled Wong’s sharp wit or muted her energetic delivery. As with last time a few bits go on longer than they should, such as her description of how she would sexually favor a hot, young male nanny, but overall Wong is a bitingly funny comedienne who hopefully will be back on stage once this child is delivered.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: CARGO (2017)

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CARGO (2017)

Australian flick takes place during a zombie outbreak, but focuses on a man and his daughter instead of the zombies. When his wife Kay (Susie Porter) is bitten, turns and bites him, husband Andy (Martin Freeman) has 48 hours to find someone to care for his infant daughter Rosie (Lily Anne and Marlee Jane McPherson-Dobbins), before he turns into one of the flesh eaters himself and harms his little one.

Flick is very well directed by Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling from Ramke’s script. It chooses to use a zombie outbreak as a backdrop while telling a human drama of a father trying to find safety for his little girl, before he becomes a threat to her. It’s basically the flip side of the Arnold Schwarzenegger flick Maggie, though not quite as powerful. There is a nice humanity at the heart of the story…which is hard to classify as horror, despite the elements being present…and it’s only when it turns to the more familiar zombie film themes, such as man being more of a monster than the monsters, that the film has little new to say. Freeman puts in a very strong and heartfelt performance and gives this film the solid sentimental core that it needs to work, though the film does seem to be a tad longer than it needed to be. Worth a watch and is currently streaming on Netflix.
-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: WHEN WE FIRST MET (2018)

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WHEN WE FIRST MET (2018)

Dull and sometimes annoying romantic comedy has Noah (an awful Adam Devine) watching the love of his life Avery (Alexandra Daddario) become engaged to another man (Robbie Amell). He somehow uses a photo-booth he and Avery used on the Halloween night they first met and travels back in time three years to that day, determined not to end up being just the best friend this time.

This is a terrible romantic comedy that sadly starts out OK till we once again use both the Groundhog Day and Big plot devices of both someone going back in time and reliving a fateful day over and over to try to get things right. None of it done cleverly like in Happy Death Day. It’s a simply unimaginative script by Miracle Jones, whose writing is anything but, lamely directed by Ari Sandel, who did much better helming The Duff . It’s monotonous and tedious to watch Noah keep going back to that day and trying more and more ludicrous ways to win Avery, all the while screwing things up even worse. Then two thirds of the way in, he switches his attention to Avery’s gal pal Carrie (Shelly Hennig). WHAT? This is a terribly written and generic rom-com that has no point or purpose and uses a now time worn plot device in the most unimaginative way possible. Add to that a truly smug and grating performance by lead Devine and there is little to no reason to waste time on this flick. At least Daddario’s cute and perky thing saved her dignity in this mess.

-MonsterZero NJ

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