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THE MEG (2018)

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Flick is based on Steve Alten’s book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror (review HERE) about a giant prehistoric shark discovered deep below the ocean depths. The film starts out with Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) on a deep sea rescue mission, when something huge attacks his sub. He is forced to leave two comrades behind, though saves the eleven survivors. Five years later he is a guilt-ridden drunk on a beach in Tailand when his ex-wife, Lori (Jessica McNamee)…who was a reporter named Maggie in the book…becomes trapped in a sub investigating a warm water system underneath a silt cloud, deep at the bottom of the sea. He joins the rescue team at the Mana One research platform and soon discovers the cause of the accident is an enormous prehistoric shark…a Megalodon. The survivors are rescued, but now the Megalodon has followed them up to the surface and Jonas and the Mana One team must battle a predator that hasn’t inhabited these oceans in millions of years.

Jon Turteltaub directs this adaptation after schlockmeister Eli Roth left the project. The script is by Dean Georgaris and Jon and Erich Hoeber and not only takes considerable liberties with Alten’s original story, but also dumbs down science that was already presented in a digestible manner. It also changes everything Japanese to Chinese to please Chinese co-producers, such as turning Jonas’ future wife Terry Tanaka into Chinese divorcée and single mom Suyin Zhang (Li Bingbing). It now almost seems like an Asian production with a lot of dialogue coming with subtitles. Changes aside, there are a number of things that keep The Meg from having real bite. One is Turteltaub’s by-the-numbers direction which does not have nearly enough fun with the scenario. It’s Jason Statham vs a giant prehistoric shark, take the ball and run with it. The film should have been a lot more fun…or at least far more suspenseful. Turteltaub doesn’t exactly build much suspense either. Another thing is that the monster shark isn’t really given much of a threat factor, as the film’s PG-13 rating neuters most of her carnage…though Jaws did a lot with a PG rating, so it’s not just the lack of gore…and she only briefly encounters civilization and population. There is also no sense of wonder given to her or the underwater lost world she comes from. We don’t get a sense that this is a creature that time forgot. She’s just a big shark. The book took more time in her original surroundings so we understood her existence as a dinosaur more clearly. Finally, the script has some very dumb dialogue and is as cliché as a nature run amok movie can get. It’s no better than any of the SYFY channel shark themed movies that have been cranked out like cheap cars over the last few years. For this to stand above, it should have followed the book a bit more closely, as it streamlines the story too much. It’s also confusing that they left out a major plot point which easily set up a sequel…and we know Hollywood loves a sequel, especially if this makes money. What does save this a bit is that there is an action-packed last act and weak script and lackluster direction aside, it still entertains and it is still Jason Statham vs a giant prehistoric shark, after all. It also successfully restructured an ending that worked on paper, but would have been very difficult to film. What they came up with keeps the essence, but works much better for film. On a technical side, the flick is well made and the CGI shark is serviceable, though never really as frightening as she should be.

The cast are fine. Statham works well as Jonas Taylor, though his whole guilt issue gets abandoned pretty quick and he sobers up just as fast. He is a reliable action hero and if anyone can battle a massive sea predator, Statham is at the top of the list. He’s charming and handles the physicality of the role well. Li Bingbing is a solid love interest/heroine and gets to shuffle back and forth here from damsel in distress to action hero and does so, well. English is not her first language so some of her line delivery is a bit awkward, but she does well enough to be likable as Suyin…and looks damn fine in a wet-suit, too. Rainn Wilson is OK as Billionaire Jack Morris who was not in the book. It’s a very stereotypical and cliché character that appears clueless, but turns into a real douche just when you expect him to. Rounding out the leads is Winston Chao as Suyin’s father Dr. Minway Zhang, who was Masao Tanaka in the book, and cute little Shuya Sophia Cai as Suyin’s daughter, Meiying. As the “precocious child” she could have been far more annoying.

Overall, this novel adaptation was entertaining, but could have been a real blast with a director who appreciated the scenario and a script that kept the book’s sense of wonder and the savage aggressiveness of it’s title creature. The film is cliché and turns what could have been a real nail-biter into a routine creature run amok movie. There is plenty of action, the second half livens up quite a bit and Statham works as the flawed hero and that keeps us from getting bored. The most puzzling thing about the film is that it leaves out a major plot point from the book that easily sets up a sequel…as book writer Steven Alten has fully taken advantage of. Fans of the book will probably be disappointed, but as a bargain matinee it entertains well enough.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) megalodon teeth for an action filled second half and Li Bingbing looking mighty fine in her wet-suit.








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COOTIES (2014)

Horror comedy finds a group of summer school teachers under siege from a horde of students turned into flesh eating zombies by some rancid chicken nuggets. Written by Leigh Whannell and Ian Brennan, this flick gives us nothing fresh or new in the zombie sub-genre, whether it be comedy or straight horror. It’s all been done before. The direction by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion is very by-the-numbers and none of the humor is really all that funny. There is some abundant gore and the cast, including Elijah Wood, Alison Pil and Rainn Wilson seem to be having a fun time, but not much of that really translates to the audience…unless you think simply seeing students kill their parents and teachers, or teachers killing their students, is funny. The film’s attempts to be clever are far too obvious to be successful, like the town being called ‘Fort Chicken’ and Elijah Wood’s Mr. Hadson being compared to a Hobbit by Rain Wilson’s cliché redneck. That’s pretty much the level this flick is on. Overall, it’s kinda dull even at less than 90 minutes. The students-turned-zombies Halloween episode of Community was a lot funnier with a similar plot.


-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating





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HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003)

After directing his own horror influenced music videos, rocker Rob Zombie finally directed his first feature film, House Of 1000 Corpses in 2003. Zombie’s first film is, no surprise, a horror film that is a throwback to the grind-house/drive-in style horror flicks of the 70s like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the 1980 Mother’s Day. It tells the gruesome tale of four friends, Denise (Erin Daniels), Jerry (Chris Hardwick), Bill (Rainn Wilson) and Mary (Jennifer Jostyn) who happen upon a roadside freak show run by redneck clown Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig)…who we already have witnessed slaughter a couple of would be robbers. They go on his ‘murder ride’ which features a local serial killer named Dr. Satan. Soon the inquisitive teens are off investigating this local urban legend which, through some circumstances that are far from happenstance, leads them to the Firefly house. Inside they become prisoners of the disturbed and twisted Mother (Karen Black), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (Bill Moseley), R.J. (Robert Mukes), Grandpa (Dennis Fimple) and Tiny (Matthew McGrory) who treat them to a nightmare of murder and torment, all on Halloween night.

House is a faithful homage to the gritty, gory low budget horrors of the 70s and Zombie shows some real potential, but the film, while deviously entertaining to a degree, is never really scary, suspenseful or shocking enough to truly emulate the films it’s inspired by. The film also has a somewhat uneven tone as it plays it straight for the most part, but then can be borderline goofy at times. The humor doesn’t come across as disturbing as it should, as say in the dinner scene in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Zombie gives us some interesting characters amongst the Firefly family, though the four teens are fairly generic and only heroine Daniels shows some spunk, and there are some shocking and brutal moments along with some quotable dialogue. It only starts to get really interesting when a hard nosed cop (Tom Towles) shows up looking for the kids and then shows us some twisted originality during the surreal final act when it turns into a sort of dark, nightmarish Alice in Wonderland. The ghoulish visuals here are Zombie’s strong point and while the whole film is visually interesting, it’s here that things get truly bizarre and grabs our attention, when the film takes the traumatized Erin into the underground lair of ‘guess who’. Then it’s over with a shock ending that’s not all that much of a shock. Still Corpses is a fun tribute to a type of exploitation horror they don’t make anymore, nothing groundbreaking though and I don’t think it was meant to be. What it does most is show Zombie’s potential and that he has a passion for this type of horror flick and the film really shines when Zombie forgets his influences and does his own thing.

The cast are fine with veterans like Black, Haig, Fimple and Towles standing out. Moseley is fine too as Otis, but gets some of the movie’s more stilted dialogue and Zombie’s wife does a nice job in her first feature as the sweet and twisted Baby. Erin Daniels is the only one of the four protagonists, sadly, that really shows a bit of spark in her performance.

Despite it’s flaws I like House as I like the type of films it pays homage to and while it could have been much better, it’s black heart is in the right place and it shows that Zombie might yet gives us something to really spill our popcorn over.

A solid 3 homicidal clowns!

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Rob Zombie’s sophomore film is technically a sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, but the further the film moves along, the less it has to do with that film, except for the three main characters, it’s opening sequence and a few references.

The story picks up with vengeful Sheriff John Quincey Wydell (Willaim Forsythe) laying siege to the Firefly house to avenge the murder of his brother Lt. George Wydell (Tom Towles), who the vicious clan killed in House Of 1000 Corpses. Mother (played here by Leslie Easterbrook) is captured, while Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Spaulding (Sid Haig) make their escape. The film then takes us along for the gruesome ride as the three fugitives flee to a motel where they torment and murder some of the guests and occupants while the revenge crazed Wydell continues his manhunt to track them down.

Again a homage to exploitation flicks of the 70s, this time Zombie creates a savage crime thriller about three deranged murderers on the run from an equally deranged lawman and the group of innocents caught in the middle. This an unflinchingly violent tale that is straight out of a 70’s grind-house revenge flick, or sleazy biker movie. It can be very brutal, gruesome and quite disturbing at times. Gone is House’s goofy humor and uneven tone, Zombie maintains an intensity from the opening shoot-out to the climactic showdown and crafts a lean and mean movie of the kind they don’t make anymore. His expert use of classic 70’s music throughout, ads to the overall effect and atmosphere of the film. You may never listen to Freebird the same way again. One of the things I liked about the film is that it’s three main characters are horrible people who do horrible things, but when Wydell catches up to them, he has let revenge turn him into a far more horrible person and you begin to root for our homicidal trio. Zombie takes a few moments here and there to show what little humanity the three have left, at least in relation to their bond with each other, so when their paths finally collide with the deranged sheriff’s, we clearly see that Wydell has lost all his humanity in his quest to make them pay for his brother’s death, and it makes him the villain. Sure the film has flaws. Did we really need to sit through the torture and torment of the hotel guests for so long and the re-emergence of a Corpses character later on, is a bit jarring as we left that film behind in the first act. Zombie sometimes revels in the trashy nature of the characters a bit too much, but the director/musician also shows growth as a filmmaker and the film does gives us a rousing last act with a really cool shoot-out finale.

Again, not perfect, but Zombie continues to show he does know his source material and does have his own ideas about what to do with his influences. He is a director to watch whether you like his type of films or not. Also stars a who’s who of low budget film icons such as Ken Foree, Danny Trejo, P.J. Soles and Michael Berryman to name a few.

3 homicidal clowns!

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Also click here to check out our review of his latest flick, The Lords Of Salem.