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TRICK (2019)

In 2015 at a Halloween party in the town of Benton, N.Y., Patrick Weaver (Thom Niemann) or “Trick” goes crazy, killing five of his high school classmates and injuring several others, until stopped by pretty schoolmate Cheryl (Kristina Reyes). At the hospital, Trick makes a daring escape attempt while being questioned by Det. Mike Denver (Omar Epps) and Sheriff Lisa Jayne (Ellen Adair). He’s shot several times, falls out a second story window and wanders off collapsing into a nearby river. He’s presumed dead, but the body is never found and each Halloween after, a masked killer shows up in a nearby town on the river and kills a number of people before vanishing. As Trick starts to become famous as an internet Halloween boogeyman, Denver vows to hunt him down and stop him. With evidence leading to Trick’s return to Benton for Halloween 2019, Denver, Sheriff Jayne and Cheryl prepare to meet the killer head on.

Trick is written by My Bloody Valentine 2009 and Drive Angry duo Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier and directed by Lussier. The two were once involved with an official Halloween sequel that never got made and maybe this is the result of that disappointment. And Trick is a bit of a disappointment, as it is kind of a mixed bag of Halloween candy. The script has a number of plot holes and while most horror flicks do, these are a bit jarring, such as why no one in school remembers what Patrick Weaver looked like. It’s a weak contrivance so no one recognizes him when he’s among them and to try to add an air of mystery to him. Lussier directs this flick very by-the-numbers, too and the first hour of the flick seems rushed and devoid of any atmosphere as the story tries to quickly establish Trick as the new boogeyman of All Hallow’s Eve. In fact, it tries way too hard, and that forced approach doesn’t make Trick click. It follows the formula a bit too closely and thus seems more like a copy of Carpenter’s classic, early on, than a sincere effort. Things do settle down and Lussier does start to generate some tension and atmosphere once Halloween and Trick arrive in Benton, especially in a scene set in a haunted maze attraction. The last act goes a bit off the rails as the writers try to add a few twists during its hospital set conclusion and it takes the flick in a bit of a different direction, which may divide viewers as to whether it works or not. There is some really good gore along the way, though the film loses some points for some awful CGI blood for gunshot hits. The upstate New York settings were a refreshing change from the usual small Midwestern town and it’s too bad they couldn’t have infused the film with more of the Halloween spirit that the upstate New York area has this time of year. It’s a little flat in that department. Again, it tries too hard. Trick’s initial double-sided pumpkin mask and freaky knife are kinda cool, but the new Michael Myers, he sadly is not.

Cast is Good. Omar Epps actually does very well in the Dr. Loomis by way of Fox Mulder role. A veteran detective who is forced into retirement due to his obsession with Trick. Ellen Adair is Scully to Epps’ Mulder as the town sheriff that refuses, at first, to believe Trick is still alive and that this is anything more than a copycat killer. Kristina Reyes makes for a really solid heroine/final girl and it’s too bad it takes the film so long to focus on her. She’s strong, resilient and the actress has an endearing screen charm. Rounding out are supporting roles from Scream’s Jamie Kennedy as a doctor at the town hospital and the legendary Tom Atkins (Halloween III) as a diner owner.

Overall, not sure what happened, as My Bloody Valentine 2009 is gory, intense and fun, while Drive Angry is simply an all-out hoot. This flick could have used more of those movies’ intensity and over-the-top fun. Trick is not the new Halloween classic one hoped for, though is not a completely smashed pumpkin. It’s attempts to create a new horror icon are rushed and forced, though once Halloween night hits, Trick is an effective killer and there is some really gruesome carnage. The film follows the formula possibly too closely to start, then veers off in a different direction in its climactic scenes that may, or may not, work depending on the viewer. There are some bigger than usual plot holes, though it does have its moments. A bit of a disappointment from a duo who have made some bloody fun flicks, but certainly not the worst Halloween set horror out there. Might be the type of flick that grows on one with repeat viewings during the spooky season.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Trick masks.





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31 years after his first appearance in the role that made him a star, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns once again as the T-800 in this new reboot of The Terminator franchise. We do get a new Sarah Conner (Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke), a new Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and a new timeline to reset things much like Star Trek did successfully in 2009…but, was it as successful as that redo?

The film opens in the war-torn future where we get yet another representation of the Skynet initiated Judgement Day and then the efforts of John Connor’s (Jason Clarke) rebel forces to take back the world from the machines. We see the discovery of the time displacement device and the sending of Kyle Reese back in time to save John’s mother Sarah from an incoming Terminator. At first the events unfold exactly as they did in James Cameron’s 1984 classic but, then we discover that not only is Sarah armed and ready for the Skynet sent cyborg attack but, the arriving Terminator is met by another Terminator (also Arnold) assigned to protect Sarah since she was a little girl. That and the T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun) that appeared in 1991 is already here in 1984. Reese soon finds out that this is a new timeline created by all this time traveling back and forth and the only way to stop Judgement Day now is to go back to the future…without Michael J. Fox! Still with me???

One of the things that really hurts this new attempt to breath life into this tired franchise is obviously, the convoluted plot that simply uses the alternate timeline excuse to rewrite the series lore but, instead of taking it to interesting new places, like J.J. Abrams’ Star Trekit just seems to be making things up as it goes along to reset deadlines and give our characters an excuse to leave the 80s and back into a contemporary setting. There are some other curves the film throws us, too, that actually should negate the whole plot, but, at this point you give up trying to figure it all out. One of the characters actually points this out and the question is blown off. The writers obviously didn’t have an answer either. And all this time travel mumbo jumbo would be fine if director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) and writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier gave us characters we cared about, a story with some suspense or intensity and one that went some in new directions that were at least fresher than what has come before. New dates and new faces but, it’s the same old song and dance. Taylor directs this very by-the-numbers and with a very moderate pace for a film in which we are supposed to feel like we are under some kind of pressure to avert the end of mankind. We never feel any real urgency and Clarke and Courtney never endear us as Sarah and Reese, so, we really don’t get emotionally invested in their struggle. On the plus side, the action scenes are fun but, the minute they are over, the film slows down and you go back to that emotional void. Schwarzenegger is a lot of fun as the grumpy old terminator and when he is on-screen the film does pick-up. There is also some wonderful recreations and revisions of scenes from the first movie that are a lot of nostalgic fun, but, once we leave the 80s, it becomes just another ho-hum popcorn action movie. It would have been more fun if they had stayed in the 80s and just had a good time playing with our expectations of what we thought we already knew. That was working. Once we are in 2017, it becomes another generic Sci-Fi action flick with humans against a big bad Artificial Intelligence…which we alread got this Summer in Age Of Ultron…and with less confusion.

Cast-wise, Schwarzenegger is obviously having fun and it shows. He plays The Terminator like a grumpy old tin man and it’s fun to watch. He has some fun lines but, nothing as memorable as those he repeats from past films. Emilia Clarke is physically a good match for Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Conner but, is just very cold in the role. She brings none of the fire and emotion Hamilton gave her Sarah or Clarke’s own Daenerys Targaryen on Game Of Thrones, for that matter. She and Jai Courtney also don’t have nearly the chemistry that Hamilton shared with Michael Biehn. As for Courtney, he is also playing it very by-the-numbers and his Reese seems as confused as we are as to what is going on and doesn’t have the edge of a battle-hardened soldier like Biehn. Jason Clarke has a bit more life as John Connor and his Connor does get to share a lot of screen time due to more time travel nonsense/Skyney hi-jinx. The only other person to liven things up like Arnold, is J.K. Simmons as a cop who witnesses The Terminator in the 80s and then re-enters the picture when our heroes show up in 2017. Too bad the character’s only purpose seems to be some comic relief as he really has no bearing on the plot, other than to give Sarah and Reese a temporary ally when they are arrested. Finally, Lee Byung-hun seems lethal enough as the T-1000 but, doesn’t quite have the relentless intensity of Robert Patrick.

Whether this film is still better than the last two attempts is basically a matter of taste and opinion. In mine it’s better than Salvation but, really not much better than Rise Of The Machines, which I feel is criticized a little too harshly at times. On a positive side it has Arnold having a good time and showing it and some really fun re-creations and re-mixes of classic scenes from the original film. There is some nice action at times but, nothing groundbreaking like in T2. On the downside, the film is directed very by-the-numbers and the script is a borderline mess of time travel hocus pocus used to take things in other but, equally stale directions. The re-cast classic characters have none of the life and intensity that made the originals the beloved characters they are and while the new actors are attractive, they share none of the heat and sexual tension either. Stay after the credits and if you didn’t like this, be prepared to groan in anguish.

-MonsterZero NJ

  2 and 1/2 terminators.

terminator genisys rating








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This week’s double feature is comprised of the remakes/reboots/re-imaginings of two horror classics which are actually not bad on their own as horror flicks go. They may not be held in the same regard as the films they are based on but, as a fun night on the couch, they both provide some bloody horror entertainment and stand enough on their own so as not to dishonor their predecessors.




While I can’t say I am a fan of remaking horror classics, it has been a trend for quite a few years now and occasionally you get one that stands on it’s own like the recent Evil Dead remake or this fun horror which actually, slightly improves on the 1981 original …which, in my opinion, doesn’t quite live up to it’s reputation, though is still nostalgic and enjoyable.

The 2009 remake is based on the original’s story, but basically does it’s own thing and that’s what helps keeps it from being a bland redo. Filmed in 3D, this film opens with a mining accident caused by the mine owner’s son, Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles), who forgets to vent the lines and the resulting explosion traps six miners inside a cave-in. When they are finally dug out, five are dead at the hands of the sixth, Harry Warden (Richard John Walters), who murdered them to preserve oxygen for himself. When found, he is comatose and subsequently hospitalized. A year later Harry awakens from his coma and after a bloody massacre at the hospital, returns to the mine on Valentine’s Day where a party is in progress and he viciously attacks the party goers which includes Tom, his girlfriend Sarah (Jaime King), along with Axel Palmer (Kerr Smith) and his girl Irene (Betsy Rue). Many youths are killed by the time the sheriff (the great Tom Atkins) arrives and guns down Warden resulting in another cave-in. Warden is thought dead and Tom, still feeling guilt over his accident causing mistake and the following deaths, leaves town and disappears. We pick up the story 10 years later where Axel is now sheriff, Sarah is his wife and Tom has returned to sell the mine now that his father has died. But, death and murder has also returned to Harmony as a man dressed in miner’s gear is going on a killing spree with his trusty pick-axe. He is leaving a trail of mutilated bodies, some with hearts ripped out and placed in heart-shaped boxes. Did Harry Warden escape the mine and his wounds 10 years earlier, or has the approaching sale of the mine sent an unbalanced individual on a copy-cat killing spree? All this peaceful town and it’s inhabitants know is that suspects and bodies are piling up. Will the killer be unveiled and stopped?

Brought to us by the team of director Patrick Lussier and writer/actor Todd Farmer (co-wrtten with Zane Smith)…who would next collaborate on the grind-house style Drive Angry…this remake uses the original’s storyline to get things started, then goes off on it’s bloody own. Lussier is able to have a good time with the flick, adding some intensity, livening things up and giving it a bit faster pace, which the original film lacked. He also adds a touch of humor here and there such as a scene where he gets to slaughter his writer Todd Farmer, in an amusing sex scene gone wrong with Axel’s ex, Irene, in a seedy hotel. The classic original could have benefited from some of what Lussier brings here, as it was very by-the-numbers and had a very dry approach…though, credit where credit is due, the original had a bit more atmosphere.

Lussier also gets lively performances out of his leads, especially our final girl Jaime King who proves to be a resilient and tough woman when corned by a psycho with a pick axe. Ackles and Smith are both good as well, especially considering their characters are not only in a competition for Sarah, but flip-flop back and forth as possible suspects or potential heroes. And Tom Atkins is a delight to watch as always.

The film is not perfect. Filmed for 3D, there is a lot of stuff thrust at the screen and it gets tiresome watching it in 2D and having scenes often stop for a few seconds to stick something in your face. The big reveal in the film is not as surprising as it was in the original and there is some mediocre CGI mixed in with the abundant prosthetic gore. And while on that subject, the film is quite gruesome like the original, but in the last act I have to admit the whole death by pick axe thing was wearing out it’s welcome. At least the original added some variety in it’s kills.

Overall this is a fun and entertaining slasher that has a good time and pays homage to the original yet, takes off and does it’s own thing. I also give it credit for focusing on a group of characters who are in their late twenties/early thirties than the usual nubile teens or college kids. It’s not all that often that the final girl is a final MILF. It may not be remembered as a classic like the original 1981 film is, but it is a fun horror that entertains on it’s own and doesn’t dishonor it’s source material. A fun ‘Saturday night on the couch’ horror. Also stars Kevin Tighe from the classic 70s show Emergency as the mine’s manager.

Rated 3 (out of 4) pick axes.

my bloody Valentine 2009 rating






House Of Wax may share the title of the 1953 Vincent Price classic, but it’s plot is more Texas Chainsaw Massacre with wax than it is a true remake of that vintage horror. The film opens with 6 young people, including Carly (Elisha Cuthbert) and her delinquent of a twin brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray), on their way to Louisiana for a big football game. Along for the ride are Paige (Paris Hilton), her boyfriend Blake (Robert Ri’chard… yes, that’s how it’s spelled), Carly’s boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki) and Dalton (Jon Abrahams). They decide to camp off the side of the road and are vexed that night by an ominous truck glaring it’s headlights at them. After chasing the truck off, someone returns later that night to videotape them while they sleep and mess with Wade’s car. Something is not right in them thar woods! Carly and Wade decide to try to get the car fixed while the others leave for the game. They encounter a very odd local man dumping road kill in a huge pit filled with dead animals and hitch a ride with him into town. Makes sense! But the town they arrive at seems devoid of much life and despite being very remote, is home to a large and very creepy wax museum. The only living soul seems to be garage mechanic Bo (Brian Van Holt) who offers to take them up to his decrepit house to get the proper part for Wade’s car. Inside, Wade unfortunately meets Bo’s wax masked brother Vincent (also Van Holt) and Carly soon becomes the hunted prey of two very twisted individuals who seem to have a hobby of turning unsuspecting visitors into wax statues for display in this empty ghost town. But worse still, her brother and friends are on the way back and are looking for her and may soon join the grotesque side show attraction these demented ex-siamese twins have made of the little town of Ambrose.

Written by Chad and Carey Hayes and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan), this ‘remake’ is actually a fun popcorn horror despite being very derivative of things we’ve seen before. If you go in not expecting much, it actually has some good chills and thrills and delivers some good gore. Collet-Serra has a really nice visual style that gives the film a very unsettling look, provides some disturbing atmosphere and really shines in the fiery climax. There are some definite lapses in logic here and characters do make some dumb decisions to move the plot along, but no worse then we are used to in films like this. Though the most annoying example, is a scene with Bo securing Carly to a chair with duct tape and then wrestling with her to super glue her lips closed, when all he had to do was use another strip of duct tape and voila!…silent captive. It’s done for shock value and is just stupid and completely unpractical…not that I know what practical behavior is for a serial killer. So, if you are a fan of backwoods horror this is certainly no worse an offender in terms of character stupidity and certainly delivers what fans of the sub-genre enjoy… at least enough to make this a good time, though fairly forgettable once it’s over.

The cast are fine with Cuthbert really standing out as a strong and resourceful heroine which makes me wonder why her movie career remained unremarkable…the awful Captivity probably didn’t help. Media darling Paris Hilton was far better than expected and since her character doesn’t do much, there wasn’t much expected of her and that works fine. She was cast for her notoriety and is quite adequate in what little she is asked to do. Murray makes an OK douche turned hero and his performance picks up once Nick and his sister go up against Bo and Vincent for the final act’s twins vs. twins smackdown. The rest of the performers are adequate as fodder for slaughter and wax sculpture and there is no mistake that that’s what they are for.

The make-up FX are good and there is plentiful gore. Collet-Serra gives us some nice suspense and some tension, especially in the action packed last third where we get some fun set-pieces, including the climactic showdown in the burning wax museum. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s done well and overall it entertains well enough for a night on the coach with some brews. And as long as you don’t expect anything more, House Of Wax is perfectly fine amusement for a Saturday night horror fest.

Rated 3 (out of 4) cute and courageous Cuthberts.

house of wax rating