REVIEW: THE GIFT (2015)

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THE GIFT (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Simon Callum (Jason Bateman) is living a charmed life. He has a successful career and has just moved into a upscale suburban house with his beautiful wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall). A chance meeting with Gordon Moseley (Joel Edgerton who also wrote and directs), a former classmate from high school, changes his idyllic existence as Moseley starts making uninvited stops at Simon’s house, especially when Robyn is home alone. As Simon fears the man is obsessed with his wife, he finds another game may be afoot and one whose revelations Simon may not like. What does Gordon know and what is Simon hiding?

A very impressive debut from actor Joel Edgerton as both writer and director as he creates a tense thriller that fools you into thinking you’re watching one type of story, but it turns into another. At first we think we are watching yet another Cape Fear scenario with straightedge Simon and Robyn being stalked by the strange “Gordo”, but Edgerton has some surprises up his sleeve and we get revelations uncovered that may change our perspective on the true nature of our characters. His script gradually unravels a far more complicated story, as Robyn begins to ask questions as to just what the relationship was between the two men in the past and what happened between them. She finds that neither man may be who she thought they were and neither has been telling the complete truth. Edgerton skillfully takes us on the investigation and we learn the shocking truths as she does. This is far more than a simple creepy stalker plot and to reveal any more would be to spoil a tense and suspenseful thriller that subtly pulls the rug out from underneath you as to what you know about our players. You may find your sympathies shifting once all is said and done…or will you? It’s a very offbeat thriller from the first-time director.

Our small cast is very good. Jason Bateman is strong in a non-comedy role as an ambitious man who has it all. His Simon is likable at first, but as our script slowly let’s secrets become uncovered, Bateman handles the character changes deftly and we respond appropriately. Rebecca Hall is good as Robyn. She is a supportive wife, but as the movie progresses she becomes a woman with many doubts and questions and possibly some demons of her own. Edgerton is excellent as the weird and unsettling Gordon. Like Bateman, when character aspects are revealed, Edgerton helps us see his character in a different light, though he always remains purposely a bit off, as Gordon is an emotionally troubled man regardless of what we find out.

I liked this thriller. It had me thinking I was watching something oft seen before, but slowly revealed layers to the story that changed my perspective. Characters are presented as one thing, but as we proceed, deeper secrets are revealed and we realize that we don’t know these people like we thought. There are games and lies being played out here, but it may surprise as to the who and whats in the details. An engaging thriller and a very auspicious debut from Joel Edgerton as writer and director.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 gifts.

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CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: ANNE-MARIE MARTIN as JESSICA in THE BOOGENS!

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Cult Classic Cuties are characters from some of our favorite cult classics and midnight movies who captured our hearts and/or actresses who got our attention but, sadly, never returned to these type of flicks or whose sexy stars shined only briefly, not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

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ANNE-MARIE MARTIN

While Rebecca Balding’s perky and cute girl-next-door Trish is clearly the heroine of the 1981 creature cult classic The Boogens, it’s Anne-Marie Martin’s sexy, sassy Jessica that got my attention. Whether in a plaid shirt and cowboy hat or running from the title creatures in nothing but a towel, Jessica had a fiery personality and sarcastic sense of humor that made me want to get snowbound in a remote cabin with her…monster infestation or not. Martin gave the character a feisty and vivacious liveliness that made her very crush-worthy and imbued her with smarts and a tinge of girl-next-door charm that kept her from being the stereotypical ‘horny chick’ slasher character that she could have been…and as such, she stole our hearts long before catching the eye of the creepy critters that lurk in the catacombs beneath the cabin in question.
Being Boogens fodder aside, the Canadian beauty also had another genre role in the classic slasher Prom Night and a bit part in the classic horror sequel Halloween II. Martin also had a fairly busy TV career between 1976 and 1988 before retiring from acting and was married and had a daughter with legendary author Michael Crichton before divorcing in 2003!

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 as JESSICA in THE BOOGENS!

(click on the poster for a full review)

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SIDE NOTE: While we were falling for Martin’s sassy and sexy Jessica, Boogens’ director James L. Conway was falling for leading lady Rebecca Balding and the two have been happily married ever since!

Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here on the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE AWAKENING (2012)

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The Awakening is a charming and spooky old-fashioned ghost story set in England after WWI that tells the story of paranormal investigator, Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) who specializes in debunking supernatural occurrences. When Florence is called upon to investigate reports of a ghost at a boys boarding school, she finds that there are more then one definition of haunted. Director Nick Murphy crafts a very effective and quite spooky tale that explores that people can be haunted by their pasts as much as a home can be haunted by spirits. Aside from building some chilling atmosphere and providing a nice dreary visual style to enhance it, he also gets good performances from all his cast with Hall portraying a woman whose motivations may stem from her own past and Dominic West as Robert, a man haunted by the war time guilt that he lived when others didn’t. These personal issues are played out against the mystery of what exactly is going on in this massive house. And once we find out, the film gives us some nice revelations and surprises along with the chills and thrills. A very entertaining and delightfully old school haunted house story.

A solid 3 spooks!

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