BARE BONES: THE WASTELAND aka El PÁRAMO (2022)

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THE WASTELAND aka El PÁRAMO (2022)

Netflix streaming horror finds a family, husband Salvador (Roberto Álamo), wife Lucia (Inma Cuesta) and their young son Diego (Asier Flores), living on an isolated farm far from wars and the evils that men do. When Salvador leaves and doesn’t return, the loneliness and isolation start to embrace Lucia and Diego. Worse still, they have told Diego about a beast that roams the wasteland between their farm and the rest of the world and Diego believes it is now stalking his fragmenting mother.

Spanish film is directed by David Casademunt from his script with Martí Lucas and Fran Menchón. As such, it is a bleak and depressing film as we watch the loneliness and hopelessness set in on the mother and son, as the days drag on and Salvador does not return. It’s also heartbreaking to watch as Lucia starts to go mad and becomes suicidal, with little Diego having a terrified front seat to it all. The film looks great, as Casademunt has an effective visual eye, but The Wasteland is more tedious than scary, as the scenes with the stalking beast are few and far between. Is it real?…or just the specter of death pursuing the desperate Lucia and her frightened son Diego? Overall, it is a somewhat effective movie with some gruesome gore, spooky visuals and very good performances, especially from young Flores and his screen mom Cuesta. Overall, though, the film is far too bleak to be truly engaging or to be considered entertaining.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: FINAL GIRL OF THE YEAR 2021!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: FINAL GIRL OF THE YEAR 2021!

It’s Halloween🎃!…and as it has become tradition, it’s time to announce MonsterZero NJ’s Halloween Hottie’s Final Girl of the Year!…an actress that has not only captured our hearts, but gotten our attention with a strong performance, in the traditional role of horror final girl!…
…and our Halloween Hotties: Final Girl of the Year 2021 is…

…A TIE!!!

It was was too hard to pick between these two talented ladies, so I am going with both! Without further ado, our dual winners for 2021 are…

Kiana Madeira…

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Kiana Madeira From Fear Street part 1, part 2 and Part 3!

Talented Canadian actress Kiana Madeira is no stranger to horror, but certainly got the attention of genre fans in Netflix’s Fear Street Trilogy, based on the books of R.L. Stine. Not only did this versatile actress play the tough and resourceful teen Deena, but the “Fier Witch” herself, Sarah Fier, when the third entry had Deena reliving Fier’s final days through her eyes. Not only playing our final girl, but the villainous witch—or was she?—as well!

Kiana Madeira as Deena in the Fear Street Trilogy!

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Headstrong student Deena must confront a witch’s curse to save the ones she loves!

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Deena vows to save her friends and must look to the past to find answers to the terrifying events of the present.

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Reliving Sarah Fier’s final days through her eyes brings some horrifying revelations!

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Deena must put her own life on the line in a final confrontation with evil.

…and our second winner, Rosa Salazar!

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Rosa Salazar from Brand New Cherry Flavor!

Canadian actress Rosa Salazar came to the attention of movie fans in the Maze Runner films and with a wonderfully emotion filled performance doing motion capture and vocals for droid Alita in Alita: Battle Angel! She really knocked our spooky socks off, though, with her performance in the creepy, weird Netflix series Brand New Cherry Flavor. The talented actress plays ambitious, young filmmaker Lisa Nova, a woman who gets involved with sleazy producers, witches and black magic when seeking fame, fortune and revenge in Hollywood! It’s a layered and emotion filled performance as back stabbing producers and eccentric witches are not the only ones with secrets.

Rosa Salazar as Lisa Nova in Brand New Cherry Flavor

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Lisa Nova, a hot new director headed to Hollywood where dreams can be fulfilled or shattered!

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Lisa gets mixed up with sleazy producers, witches and black magic fueled revenge!

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Be careful what you wish for is a lesson Lisa learns the hard way.

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Will this nightmare ever end for Lisa Nova?

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This year was, again, a tough choice…or maybe MonsterZero NJ is just an old softie when it comes to final girls. Both these ladies were great in their roles and really brought it as their respective film’s lead! Great work ladies and we hope we’ll be seeing more of you in our favorite genre!

-MonsterZero NJ

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(And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties by simply going to our Halloween Hotties main page!)

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2021!

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2021!

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features a relatively new girl on the block, though technically not a total rookie. She did appear in 10 episodes of season 2 of AMC’s The Terror series in 2019, but didn’t get her first lead role in a horror movie till the 2021 Netflix original No One Gets Out Alive. The Mexican born actress made an impression in her final girl debut as Ambar, an undocumented immigrant, who has moved into the wrong boarding house. The actress displayed some strong final girl/heroine qualifications, gave the role some nice emotional resonance and did some major ass-kicking! So without further ado…MonsterZero NJ’s Halloween Hotties rookie of the year 2021 is…

CRISTINA RODLO!

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 CRISTINA RODLO as AMBAR in NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE!

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Cristina as Ambar, an undocumented immigrant just looking to make a living.

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Harassed at work and taken advantage of, may be the least of Ambar’s problems!

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Something very wrong is going on at this boarding house!

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This was not part of the rental agreement!

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Cristina’s Ambar is a tough girl who won’t give up without a fight!

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Photo Credit: The Movie Database
There’s no telling where this beautiful and talented actress will show up next. She seems to keep busy and has been acting steadily since 2008. Hopefully she’ll return to the horror genre soon, as she made a kick-ass final girl!

-MonsterZero NJ

And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties!

Head over to the Halloween Hotties listings! to read them all!)

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BARE BONES: NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE (2021)

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NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE (2021)

Book based horror finds undocumented immigrant Ambar (Cristina Rodlo) coming to America and facing all sorts of challenges, from the creepy landlord (Marc Menchacha) at the boarding house she is staying at, to her demanding boss (Mitchell Mullen) at the sweatshop she works at, to the extreme costs of fake IDs. Those are the least of her worries, though, as the boarding house has a dark past, might be haunted and a terrible fate possibly awaits her and her fellow borders there.

Flick is well directed by Santiago Menghini from a script and story by Jon Croker and Fernanda Coppel based on a book by Adam Nevill. Aside from being very spooky and atmospheric, Menghini conjures some very chilling and effective imagery and some unsettlingly bloody violence. Through Ambar, director and writers also paint a tale of undocumented immigrants being taken advantage of, abused and cheated, as going for help would only get them deported. This gives the flick some emotional weight amongst the scares. Add to that, something very wrong is going on in this boarding house and a malevolent supernatural force may be after Ambar and the other girls and you have a fright flick that is not without something to say. Menghini creates some nice chills and scares and delivers a very unsettling and gruesome last act when evils, both paranormal and not, come out of the shadows. The fact that the cast is good, with Cristina Rodlo making a really strong heroine, adds a nice bonus to an already solid horror flick from Santiago Menghini and company. Recommended! Now streaming on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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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 by 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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