BARE BONES: THOROUGHBREDS (2018)

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THOROUGHBREDS (2018)

Story takes place in a wealthy suburb in Connecticut and finds emotionally troubled Amanda (Olivia Cooke) facing trial for animal cruelty for brutally euthanizing her crippled horse. She is currently being tutored by Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) who hates her jerk of a new step-father Mark (Paul Sparks). Amanda suggests they kill him and Lily takes her up on the idea. When recruiting a local drug dealer (Anton Yelchin) to do the job fails, they begin to plot how to do it themselves.

Off-beat flick is written and stylishly directed by Cory Finley, but when all is said and done, doesn’t have much of a point. Unhappy kids plotting the murder of a parent or step-parent is nothing new and though it holds our attention, it ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere all that interesting. There is a bit of an unexpected twist towards it’s conclusion, but even that doesn’t add much overall to the scenario. Taylor-Joy and Cooke both deliver really good performances, especially Cooke’s emotionally detached Amanda, but Paul Sparks is just your stereotypical douche step-parent, though good at it. It’s bittersweet to see Yelchin in one of his last performances and his turn as delinquent Tim illustrates why he is sadly missed. Entertaining to a degree, but not unique enough to make a well-worn plot feel fresh and it comes to a conclusion that doesn’t feel like the film actually accomplished anything. Acting gives it a little extra in the rating.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: OUIJA (2014)

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OUIJA (2014)

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

This teen-centric supernatural chiller got a lot of flack from hardcore horror fans when it first came out, but considering it’s aimed at tweens and not at those who could recite Texas Chainsaw Massacre in their sleep, it’s treatment can be viewed as a little harsh. It’s maker, Blumhouse Productions did give us adults the clever and spooky Oculusso let the Divergent crowd have their horror flick, too.

The story tells of longtime friends Debbie (Shelly Hennig) and Laine (Olivia Cooke) who have been pals since childhood and even played with a ouija board as kids. Lately Debbie has been acting strange and, unknown to Laine, is dabbling with a ouija board again and whatever Debbie has contacted, drives her to commit suicide. Heartbroken, Laine discovers her friend’s indulgence and she decides to gather their friends in Debbie’s empty house and use the ouija board to contact her and find out why she took her own life. Sounds like a good idea, right? Obviously, what they conjure up is not Debbie and now there is a malevolent force following Laine and her friends with their demises in mind. Can Laine discover the true identity of this dark spirit and send it back to whatever hell it came from?…before it gets them first!

Sure, this is a silly flick and it is filled with all the clichés and familiar horror trappings from every horror flick made in the last five years, but as directed by Stiles White, from a script he co-wrote with Juliet Snowden, it never tries to be more than it is. It’s made for the ages 10 to 15 crowd and it knows it. OK, so…even on that level, it is a bit stale and predictable and relies on jump scares far more than atmosphere. Yet, considering the target audience, mostly teenage girls and their dates, the film still works well enough for those who are far less demanding than the veteran horror flick fan, who is looking for the next big thing. It occupied the time well enough and was completely forgettable, but I’ve been watching horror films for over four decades and the flick wasn’t made for me. Go in with that understanding and it can be moderately amusing and certainly far from the worst thing I’ve seen this year. Sure there are plot holes, characters do really stupid things and the last act gets especially goofy, but the film is competently enough made and has kind of a Scooby Doo with an edge vibe to it. Though, it could have used a bit more of Scooby’s hip humor.

The main cast are all attractive, though none really acts with any enthusiasm and are basically generic twenty-somethings as teens. Olivia Cooke has shown that she has potential as an actress, but even she can’t muster too much gusto as the lead, Laine. Two mediocre horror flicks (the other being The Quiet Ones) in one year is not a good sign though, for Miss Cooke. We also get cameos by the Insidious series’ Lin Shaye and Paranormal Activity 2‘s ghost fighting housekeeper Vivis Colombetti, playing a similar part as Laine’s paranormally knowledgeable grandmother. To be honest, Shaye and Colombetti are having far more fun and get the material far better than their monotone speaking, younger co-stars who seem to be taking this way too seriously.

I certainly didn’t hate this flick. As a movie for older kids and young adults, it’s just fine. They probably will have a good time with it. It’s not made for a veteran horror buff like me and I’m not going to judge it from the perspective of one. If I were an average 13 year-old, I probably would have been very amused and maybe a bit spooked. As a horror movie loving adult, it passed the time and didn’t insult me, but I did go in with reasonable expectations. Its forgettable and predictable, but if you are a kid between 10 and 15, it’s probably just as much fun as the Hasbro board game that inspired and co-produced it. It was a big hit and a sequel has been announced, so it seems like it satisfied it’s intended audience just fine!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) planchettes!

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE QUIET ONES (2014)

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THE QUIET ONES (2014)

What horror fan isn’t happy that Hammer is back in business making horror flicks and they seem to, so far, be trying to deliver them in that old fashioned gothic horror style they are famous for. The latest flick from the legendary studio is The Quiet Ones a supernatural chiller about a young woman named Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke) who, upon appearance, is possessed by an angry spirit named Evey. But, her doctor, a Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) believes the supernatural is simply manifestations of an unbalanced mind and intends to use Jane in experiments to prove that Evey is a manifestation of Jane’s own psychosis… or so he thinks. He brings along students Brian (Sam Claflin), Harry (Rory Fleck-Byren) and Kristina (Erin Richards) to assist and document his experiments in a secluded old house after being thrown off campus for his unconventional methods. As the experiments probe deeper and Brian documents with his camera, Professor Coupland may have to face some horrifying facts about the real truth of what is psychological and what is supernatural.

The Quiet Ones is an interesting supernatural thriller to a degree and has some spooky moments but, doesn’t really get scary and seems to get a little too theatrical in it’s final act for it’s own good. The film is set in the mid 70s and supposedly based on real experiments but, the film, directed with some atmosphere by John Pogue, never really pulls us into Jane’s torment or really makes good use of it’s story. Four writers are credited and maybe that’s why it seems to be a supernatural soup that someone keeps throwing ingredients into in the form of plot twists that aren’t all too surprising and sudden jolts of horror elements we’ve all seen before such as CGI vomited entities, popping light bulbs and boiling baths.Then, there is various human melodrama such as, is Brian falling for Jane, is Coupland shagging a student and what is his obsession with Jane anyway? None of the answers to these questions is either all too unexpected and some ultimately don’t really have much baring on the plot. It’s no surprise that we start to see Coupland as more Frankenstein than Freud and his motivations are quite cliche’ as these flicks go. It’s not quite as bad as it sounds. It can be entertaining at times and it’s never dull. It also has some spooky moments but, it’s never innovational or rises about the traditional cliche’s to tell it’s tale. Even the use of Brian’s film footage to give us a camera POV throughout seems convoluted and doesn’t really serve much purpose other than to try to add a little found footage element to the film. And that’s what brings this fairly well-acted and atmospheric chiller down, is that we’ve seen it all before and it comes to a predictable and familiar conclusion which is sad that none of the four writers could add a little innovation or originality even with it’s fact-based premise.

Pogue’s cast all are fine and do good work. Cooke makes a very sympathetic Jane but, can also be creepy when she needs to be. We like Jane and feel sorry for her as we’re not sure if Coupland’s experiments are doing more harm than good. As Coupland, Harris is effective as a man on the border between dedicated professor and mad scientist. Obviously he has personal reasons for his obsession and Harris convey’s to us that something is behind the man’s experiments before the plot reveals it. Sam Claflin makes a noble and likable hero in Brian and Richards and Fleck-Byren are adequate in their roles, though they don’t seem to add up to much when all is said and done.

So, in conclusion, The Quiet Ones is a moderately entertaining tale that doesn’t really make interesting enough use of it’s story and chooses to stay familiar and cliche’ despite the efforts of four writers working on it’s supposedly fact-based script. It has some effective atmosphere and performances and achieves some spooky moments but, never goes anywhere all that interesting with it’s story elements. I was never bored by watching it, but, also found very little of it memorable except for a couple of poor CGI effects that stuck out very badly in a film that seemed to use in-camera effects otherwise. Not a total loss but, very disappointing considering the directions it chose to go with it’s premise are ones already well traveled in the genre.

2 and 1/2 haunted heroines.

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