BARE BONES: P2

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P2 (2007)

Flick takes place in NYC on Christmas Eve where pretty executive Angela Bridges (Rachel Nichols) is the last one to leave the office. She gets to the parking garage to find her car won’t start and the building is now locked down. Those are the least of her problems, as she is trapped inside the building parking levels with psychotic parking attended Thomas (Wes bentley). The deranged man apparently has had his twisted eye on her for some time and will do anything, and to anyone, to impress/keep her.

Film is directed by Franck Khalfoun (the Maniac remake) from a script by he, Grégory Levasseur and Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D, Crawl). It’s a well made thriller that is basically one long cat and mouse game. Angela continually tries to evade and escape Thomas, while the unhinged attendant tries to reacquire her after she initially gets away from him. It’s made even more difficult on Angela as she is scantily clad, barefoot and handcuffed and Thomas has the security system and a Rottweiler at his disposal. There are also a few casualties along the way, in his pursuit of his obsession, though body count is minimal. Rachel Nichols makes a really solid and resilient heroine, though Bentley is simply missing a strong threat factor, despite all the creepy and homicidal things he does. Sometimes he’s a little too over-the-top and thus more silly than scary. Things like his Elvis obsession don’t help. Despite being a nut, he comes across as kind of a wuss. There is never any doubt as to who is going to come out on top here and thus it’s not as suspenseful as it needed to be to really work. It’s entertaining enough, but there should have been more intensity and tension and it all leads back to Thomas simply being a weak villain.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: CONAN THE BARBARIAN and 13 ASSASSINS

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CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2011)

The original Conan flick has a legendary aura and is now fondly remembered as a classic. This Conan is no classic, but to be honest, is actually an entertaining and action packed popcorn flick that is better than the trailers led one to believe. Like Arnie’s, this Conan seeks revenge against the man who killed his father, the power hungry tyrant, Khalar Zym, who seeks to enslave all. On his way to avenge himself, he meets a woman, Tamara, who is key to the villain’s plan. Sure, it’s easy to predict there will be some sex and plenty of bloodshed before the credits roll, but the ferocity of the action does make up for the predictability and Momoa is solid enough as Conan, though obviously lacking in Arnie’s larger then life persona. Zym is played effectively by Steven Lang along with Rachel Nichols as the spunky and pretty heroine/love interest, Tamara. She and Momoa seem to have some chemistry together which helps as their relationship is given very little time between beheadings. Rose McGowan is creepy as Lang’s sorceress daughter and the always good Ron Perlman cuts a strong profile as Conan’s father. Director Marcus Nispel moves everything along at a brisk pace, stages the action well and makes it all look good. The production and FX are solid. The make-up is good as is the gallons of blood spilled. Tyler Bates score doesn’t convey the majesty of Basil Poledouris’ brilliant soundtrack for the 1982 flick, but is fine if not generic.

All in all, Conan is a fun summer flick that delivers a good time as long as you know not to expect another movie the likes of Millius’ classic. It never gives you that ‘making of a legend’ feeling we got while watching that flick, but it passed the time quickly and was never boring. Fun if not forgettable.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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13 ASSASSINS (2001)

Takashi Miike’s films can be overbearing and extremely graphic at times, such as the horrifying Audition, but with 13 Assassins he uses some nice restraint and falls back on a more traditional filmmaking style to tell this old fashioned story of a band of few going against a much larger foe. As with films like Dirty Dozen and Seven Samurai, Miike takes his time to build his plot and gather his band of assassins before setting them loose. Their target is the Shogun’s ruthless and cruel half brother who must be stopped from ever reaching the throne and replaced with a more responsible heir…if they can get past the army that guards him. The showdown in a remote village with the 13 going against over 200 is a masterful piece of filmmaking and maybe some of the finest work Miike has done in his eclectic career, as well as, one of the best action sequences of it’s kind to hit film in a long time. A great movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: PANDEMIC and THE DEVIL COMPLEX

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PANDEMIC (2016)

Zombie outbreak flick is a mildly entertaining diversion that has a doctor (Rachel Nichols) being taken by a small squad of soldiers (Alfie Allen, Mekhi Phifer and Missi Pyle) into a contaminated area to search for a missing team and the uncontaminated survivors they supposedly found. The mission goes awry, stranding the team and putting their lives in danger…as it does the doctor’s own secret, personal agenda.

Written by Dustin T. Benson and directed by John Suits this is absolutely nothing new in the zombie sub-genre and certainly adds nothing to freshen up it’s story in the current over-saturation of living dead movies, shows and books. It is well made for a low budget flick and moves along quickly enough with some decent action, but nothing innovative. The constant use of POV shots from the team’s helmet cams may amuse some, but if you’re not a gamer, it will probably just give you a headache. The cast are fine and Nichols makes a solid heroine with her own secret and gives the movie a little emotional weight. If you just want a little entertainment to go along with your beers, you could do worse than this SYFY-ish zombie flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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THE DEVIL COMPLEX (2016)

Absolutely awful found footage flick has student Rachel (Maria Simona Arsu) hiring a small crew (Patrick Sebastian Negrean and Marius Dan Munteanu) to enter Romania’s supposedly haunted Baciu forest to film a documentary. Sound familiar? As we know from the professor that opens the movie (Adrian Carlugeo), the trio disappeared and we are now watching their laughably Blair Witch-ish footage that looks like a home movie filmed in one afternoon on a dare.

Directed by Mark Evans who co-wrote with Caroline Riley this is bottom of the barrel found footage nonsense that is not only terribly boring, but is so blatant a Blair Witch rip-off that it could almost be a remake…and a horrible one at that. The dialog between them is awful as we meander around the snowy countryside following these idiots as their nut job of a guide (Bill Hutchens) disappears and they get lost. They then start to loose there minds when they can’t find their way out and feel something evil is stalking them based on finding a teddy bear and a shoe…all with some heinously bad dialog that is equally ineptly acted. There is a scant bit of bloodshed in the last act, but it is with little effect and at that point we just want this inane flick to be over with. Leading lady Arsu was kind of cute, but no amount of beauty would make this watchable.

-MonsterZero NJ

one star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE WOODS (2006)

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THE WOODS (2006)

Lucky McKee followed up his devious and gruesomely fun May with this David Ross written story of supernatural goings on at at all girls boarding school set deep in the woods. The story is set in 1965 and centers on troubled and trouble-making teen Heather (Agnes Bruckner) who is sent to the strict Falburn Academy by her mother and father (Emma Campbell and horror icon Bruce Campbell, who are not related.) and put under the guidance of the dean Ms. Traverse (Patricia Clarkson). Upon entering, the rebellious Heather not only befriends the lonely and picked-on Marcy (Lauren Birkell) and meets the reigning mean girl Samantha (Rachel Nichols),but, also beings to have strange dreams of something terrifying deep in the woods. Heather hears tales of three witches who once entered the academy and brought carnage and death along with them. As her dreams become more and more ominous and girls begin to disappear, Heather may soon find out that there may be some truth behind the bedtime ghost stories and the fate of she and her schoolmates may have already been sealed.

The Woods is an atmospheric chiller that seems to be influenced by Dario Argento and his classic Suspiria, which dealt with a coven of witches in a dance academy. DIrector Lucky McKee gives the film a nice feeling of dread but, also gives it a touch of fairy tale whimsy in it’s story of school girls encountering supernatural forces in their school in the woods. His visual style is less flashy then Argento but, the earthy colors are rich and the production design not only evokes the era it takes place but, aids in adding that dark fairy tale element as well. The film was also a refreshing return to a more old-fashioned gothic style horror in the tradition of films like Horror Hotel or some of the Hammer horrors by taking it’s time to establish that something is very wrong and unnatural going on and relying more on atmosphere then gore, though, when the time comes, we get a good helping of that. The film moves well but, saves it’s big reveals and most horrific moments for it’s last act and it works and McKee delivers a final showdown between our heroine and the dark forces that is suspenseful, chilling and very spooky. The FX presenting the supernatural are very well orchestrated in both the visual and make-up departments and the sparingly used gore is quite effective. Add to that a very atmospheric score by John Frizzell…with some Lesley Gore tunes added in to give the film some added embiance of not only the time period, but, of teen girl angst…and you have a well crafted and satisfying supernatural horror that entertains and holds ones interest for it’s 90 minutes.

There is a good cast here, too and McKee gets good work from them. Agnes Bruckner is very strong as rebellious teen and resourceful heroine and creates a likable and tough girl who we believe can put up a fight against greater odds when needed. Clarkson is solid, as always, as the strict and yet caring Ms. Traverse but, also imbues her with an air of mystery to keep us guessing as to her true intentions. Campbell is effective as well, in a role that is far less comic then we are used to seeing him and his restraint makes the role work as Heather’s harried and concerned father. Rounding out is an also solid supporting cast of students and teachers that give the film a good helping of it’s atmosphere with their performances. A good cast that help make this old school supernatural horror work.

I like The Woods. It is charmingly old-fashioned at times and relies heavily on atmosphere which director McKee gives it plenty of. It saves it’s most shocking moments till it’s last act, thus making them more effective, and is supported by a good cast and some very good FX on a modest budget. Despite heavily evoking Dario Argento’s Suspiria at times, the film has it’s own style and gives us some unique moments and ideas within it’s more traditional story. No classic but, an effective and entertaining tale of schoolgirls and dark forces.

3 resourceful heroines.

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