BARE BONES: DORFMAN IN LOVE and THE SEASONING HOUSE

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DORFMAN IN LOVE (2011)

Cute indie romantic comedy tells the story of Debbie Dorfman (Sara Rue). She takes care of her father (Elliott Gould), works for her brother Dan (Jonathan Chase) and has a massive crush on her brother’s friend Jay (Johann Urb). Her life isn’t going anywhere till she gets a chance to cat-sit and apartment-sit for a week for Jay at his new downtown L.A. digs. She decides to use it as a springboard to making big changes in her life and her big move on Jay, when he returns. Things get complicated when her brother dumps her widower father in her lap and she meets a charming artist (Haaz Sleiman) who is Jay’s neighbor.

Written by Wendy Kout and directed by Brad Leong, this is in many ways a typical indie rom-com, but leading lady Rue has charm and spunk and the film avoids the vulgar jokes that similar flicks seem to embrace today. Deb is a likable girl and it’s fun to watch her slowly come out of her shell and start to enjoy life on her terms, not the ones dictated by those around her. The supporting cast work well together and if the film stumbles, it’s when it shifts focus from Deb’s personal adventure to her getting caught in the middle of her brother’s infidelities. This sub-plot is dull and just drags Deb into someone else’s drama when we were fine with her story of personal growth. It sidelines the best part of the movie for almost a half hour and almost makes Deb a supporting character in her own story. The flick does get back on track and Deb makes some surprising discoveries about herself and real love. Cute movie with a charming leading lady.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

 

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THE SEASONING HOUSE (2012)

This is a very brutal and unpleasant film set in the Balkans in 1996. It tells of a young girl named Angel (Rosie Day) who is kidnapped along with other girls by military personal to be forced into prostitution in a house run by a man named Viktor (Kevin Howarth) and military officer Goran (Sean Pertwee). Angel is a deaf mute and has a birthmark on the side of her face that saves her from the same fate as the other women. She instead is forced to care for the girls, which includes doping and prettying them up for ‘customers’. When one of her favorite girls is brutalized by a sadistic soldier, Angel takes violent revenge which sets off a chain of equally brutal events which may bring this house of horrors crashing down.

Directed by Paul Hyett from a script by he and three others, this is a well-made, but very tough movie to sit through. While it never exploits it’s story, it never shies away from the brutal realities either. These young women are kidnapped from their families and horribly mistreated in a land that has become lawless and empathetic to it’s own people. There are numerous and very unpleasant scenes portraying their abusive life and then, once Angel sets out to avenge her friend, the violence is quite brutal and effective. This is a very vicious and bloody film and while it never tries to make it’s harsh story into entertainment, it also is not a pleasant or easy movie to sit through. Well-done, but something you may only want to watch once…if that.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HOWL (2015)

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HOWL (2015)

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

Okay British horror has a young train guard (Ed Speleers) presiding over a late night passenger train heading out of London on a stormy night. While traveling through some dense woodland, a minor accident strands the train and it’s small group of passengers and crew, in the middle of nowhere. Being stuck in the woods is the least of their problems, as they soon find themselves stalked by some kind of vicious and hungry predator, one only heard of in fairy tales…and horror movies.

Despite the simple premise, this werewolf flick has four writers attached, including Neil Marshall (The Descent, Doomsday, Game Of Thrones). But, it’s veteran special make-up effects man turned director, Paul Hyett that lets us down somewhat, as he fails to give the film any real intensity or suspense. The film does have some atmosphere, but with a savage beast lurking just outside the train cars, you’d think we’d be feeling a lot more dread or tension. The film is directed very by-the-numbers and is a bit too slow paced for it’s own good. The cast of stereotypical characters are all very bland, too, so we never really get endeared to anyone and our strongest reaction is to the wolves themselves and in hating selfish douchebag, Adrian (Eliot Cowan), who is the standard ‘sacrifice others to save himself’ character. Not to mention commonsense things like, don’t they keep track of their trains in England and so, therefor, why doesn’t anyone at HQ notice one of it’s trains has stopped in the middle of nowhere. The good points are that the werewolves are not only interestingly designed but well-rendered and look pretty cool onscreen. They make an impression and Hyett does give their attack sequences some ferociousness and there is plentiful, top-notch gore to represent their carnage. It’s a shame Hyett couldn’t keep the intensity going as the werewolf scenes succeed in what they set out to, but then the film settles back down into it’s less impressive motions until the next one, or till the moderately involving but predictable climax. There is some moody cinematography by Adam Biddle and an appropriate score by Paul E. Francis, but it doesn’t elevate this film above the mediocre flick it is.

In conclusion, the movie wasn’t terrible, just not nearly as involving as it should have been considering the setting of isolation and what’s lurking about. The werewolf scenes worked very well and had a viciousness to them, yet the scenes in-between were flat and concerned un-involving, common stereotype characters. The make-up and gore effects were top notch and the scenario itself was suitable for a fright flick had director Paul Hyett been better at managing the scares and intensity. Worth a look if you like werewolf flicks, but don’t expect another Dog Soldiers or Late Phases. Also stars Shauna Macdonald from The Descent and Sean Pertwee from Doomsday and ironically, the far superior Dog Soldiers.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 full moons.
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