BARE BONES: THE MIDNIGHT MAN (2016)

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THE MIDNIGHT MAN (2016)

Creepypasta based flick finds emotionally troubled teen Alex (Gabrielle Haugh) caring for her dementia inflicted grandmother, Anna (Lin Shaye) in her old house. When she and boyfriend Miles (Grayson Gabriel) are poking around in the attic, they find what appears to be some sort of game. The Midnight Game involves inviting a malevolent spirit, known as The Midnight Man, into the house and then trying to evade him until 3:33 AM. If you do, you win. If you don’t…he claims you. Not taking it seriously, Alex and Miles begin to play not realizing the game is all too real…and so is The Midnight Man!

While yet another urban legend/boogeyman flick, Midnight Man is elevated by the presences of horror vets Robert Englund, as Anna’s old friend and physician Dr. Goodberry and Lin Shaye. It’s also well directed by Travis Z (Travis Zariwny) who wrote the script based on a screenplay by Rob Kennedy, from Kennedy’s own 2013 film about this creepypasta urban legend. Despite a fairly routine story, the film is atmospheric and entertaining and has a very effective visual style. Travis Z may not have concocted the most original film, but he still redeems himself here after the awful Cabin Fever remake, with some solid and spooky direction. It’s not perfect. The film’s boogeyman isn’t really all that scary, though Lin Shaye’s disturbing portrayal of Anna certainly makes up for it, and the characters seem willing to believe the game is real a little too quickly. Overall, though, what could have been another cookie cutter teen-centric horror, stands out a bit from the pack with some atmospheric direction from Travis Z, some generous blood and gore and the good use of two horror icons to support the young cast. Also stars Emily Haine as Alex’s friend Kelly who joins in on the game and has one of the spookier sequences.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HATCHET (2006)

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HATCHET (2006)

With word coming today that Adam Green secretly filmed a fourth Hatchet flick entitled Victor Crowley, I thought I ‘d drag out my original Hatchet review written pre-blog -MZNJ

Hatchet is both a homage and a spoof of the slasher films of the 80s and it’s obvious director Adam Green has a love for the films he playfully has fun with. Hatchet is a gory but silly story of Victor Crowley, a deformed boogie man legend claims stalks the New Orleans bayou. When a group of tourists on a haunted swamp tour become shipwrecked in Crowley’s backyard, they soon learn this is one urban legend with a lot of truth to it.
While Green does a good job recreating one of those 80s slasher flicks, he’s not as totally successful at juggling the gory horror with the comedy elements. Green is not subtle here and the film jarringly changes tone between scenes where one minute it’s being a comedy, and the next it’s trying to be seriously spooky. It’s this back and forth that keeps one from completely settling into his tribute to all things Jason. Green is also hindered here from his inner film geek seeing his vision not as a story, but as a movie. This gives Hatchet a staged look, it looks like a movie filmed on sets whether it was or wasn’t. This robs us of the illusion of watching his story unfold and instead constantly reminds us that this is only a movie and these are not characters but actors. Even in a playful homage like this, we still need that illusion.
But, there is still fun to be had as Adam Green does both skewer and stroke the slasher genre. The gore is over the top and top notch and he points out with a wink the absurdities of some of the films it references…Crowley finding a hand sander in the middle of a swamp, rain at a most crucial and inappropriate time…and the film geek in us knows exactly where he’s coming from. Despite the flaws in his method we still get his madness. Stars horror legends Tony Todd, Robert Englund and Kane Hodder as Crowley.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 hatchets.

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: THE ONES BELOW and THE FUNHOUSE MASSACRE

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THE ONES BELOW (2015)

British thriller has young couple Kate and Justin (Clémence Poésy and Stephen Campbell Moore) expecting their first child, as are the new and very odd neighbors downstairs, Jon and Theresa (Walking Dead’s David Morrissey and Laura Birn). When Kate and Justin invite the neighbors to a cozy dinner party, an accident ends Theresa’s pregnancy and the neighbors hold them accountable. Things seem to be all forgiven month’s later when Kate gives birth, but slowly she starts to believe it’s a smokescreen and that Jon and Theresa have sinister plans for her newborn son.

Written and directed by David Farr, this is a average thriller. It might have worked better if we were given stronger reasons to doubt that Kate is right about her neighbors intent and that the neighbors weren’t so weird and thus immediately suspicious. It also makes no sense that after the initial anger and blame, that Kate and Justin would so easily accept the neighbor’s change of heart, even to the point of letting Theresa continually baby-sit. It is just simply not believable. Still there are some effective moments and the cast do perform their roles well, which makes it work far better than it should.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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THE FUNHOUSE MASSACRE (2015)

Flick has five serial killers broken out of an asylum on Halloween night by one’s equally twisted daughter (Candice De Visser). They take up residence at a Halloween funhouse attraction where they are all being represented in the exhibits. At the same time, a group of friends visit the funhouse having no idea that the exhibits are now horribly real. Obviously, you can tell where this is going to go.

It doesn’t make sense to pick on this for being too familiar, as it is a homage and therefor the familiarity is on purpose. But, unfortunately, as a horror/comedy it’s neither scary nor funny and that’s what keeps it from being much fun. Written by Ben Begley (who also plays the cliché stupid deputy) with Renee Dorlan and directed by Andy Palmer, the film tries hard, but fails to accomplish it’s goals and is overall rather dull. It’s a shame, because it certainly has it’s heart in the right place and the production looks good for a low budget flick with some abundant and very impressive gore. It’s just that it lacks any scares or laughs and even the stale jokes have been made many times before. Only familiar face in the cast is the legendary Robert Englund in a brief appearance as the Asylum warden.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006)

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BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006)

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

Amusing and clever mockumentary has a film crew (Angela Goethals as Taylor, Ben Pace as Doug and Britain Spellings as Todd) documenting the efforts of a man who calls himself Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) and who plans to join Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers as one of the all time great killer icons. Leslie is said to have been killed by an angry mob of townsfolk, after he murdered his own parents, when he was a child. He has now returned to the small town of Glen Echo as an adult, like his iconic heroes, and plans his revenge. He has invited the film crew to follow him as he trains, gets advice from a retired serial killer (Walking Dead’s Scott Wilson), picks his virginal final girl, Kelly Curtis (Kate Lang Johnson), and plans to murder her friends and take her on at the old farmhouse where he was born. At first the crew is as enthusiastic as Leslie, till it becomes more and more apparent that he is very serious and they are practically on their way to being accessories to murder. When the big night arrives to slaughter the teens at the abandoned farmhouse, the film crew has a change of heart that, unfortunately, put’s them directly in the plot for this horror film come frighteningly to life.

This movie is a lot of fun, especially if you are a horror/slasher movie fan and know all the horror tropes that Leslie giddily lays out to the eager journalists. It’s very entertaining to see how methodically he plans this to mirror the type of horror films we all watch and love, down to the littlest detail. The movie let’s you in on the joke from the start and as Vernon explains the whole process from selecting his victims to planning their demise, the film slowly starts to become a slasher movie in itself, much to the dismay of the documentary crew members. At first they are in a state of denial, but soon they realize this guy is serious, people are going to die and they are in the middle of it. Directed by Scott Glosserman from his script with David J. Stieve, this is a very inventive and loving homage to the late 70s-80s slasher genre that not only has a real blast sending-up that genre, by presenting such a film from the killer’s point of view, but also gives us some very cool nods and homages to those films as well. We are treated to appearances by horror vets Kane Hodder, Zelda Rubenstein and Robert Englund, who plays the “Dr. Loomis” role of Doc Halloran…or the “Ahab” as Leslie calls it, in reference to Moby Dick’s obsessed pursuer. The rest of the cast all do a good job at playing their roles both in documentary form and then as participants in an actual horror movie. The best thing of all is that Glosserman and company slowly take this from ingenious send-up to an actual slasher and it works perfectly. What starts as an fun faux-documentary detailing Leslie’s meticulous preparation, becomes a very serious slasher in it’s last act and gives us some very clever twists worthy of one of the films it’s paying homage to. It’s a really fun ride and it’s sad this film never really got the attention it was due and Glosserman hasn’t been given a chance to show us more of his stuff. Adding to the effectiveness is a worthy horror score by Gordy Haab (Once it becomes an actually horror film) and some nice cinematography by Jaron Presant.

As a huge fan of the horror films of the era this film pays tribute, I had a blast of a good time with this. It’s a fun comedy/horror that shares it’s love of the slasher genre with it’s audience and is really smart about it. It gives us an affectionate send-up of how Michael, Freddy or Jason might have prepared for one of their bloodbaths and then gives us one such bloodbath in itself…although the actually bloodletting was a bit tamer than I would have expected. The way it goes from mockumentary to actual slasher is ingenious and clever and most of all, works perfectly and thus, so does the film as a whole. Add an engaging cast and this is a really good time and when all is said and done, a pretty good horror movie too…though one with a very twisted smile.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 wannabe horror icons!

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)

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

2010’s remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street isn’t really a bad movie, it’s just a very unremarkable movie that doesn’t bring enough new to the franchise to justify it’s existence. To a degree it’s just another sequel with a new Freddy and new characters, including a new Nancy in name only.

The story follows that of the original film very closely with a group of teens having nightmares of a horribly scarred man with a gloved hand fitted with knives. He is murdering them in their dreams and they are all now afraid to sleep as their numbers dwindle. The man is Freddy Krueger (now played by Jackie Earle Hayley) and he is a child molester that their parents hunted down and burned alive…and he has returned to exact his revenge against the teens he preyed upon as children.

The film is actually directed fairly well by Samuel Bayer from a script by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer and does have a few effective sequences. One of the main problems here is the fact that it just comes across as another series entry with very little new, other than a new actor as Freddy and a brief period of time where they try…but don’t succeed…in making us have doubts surrounding Freddy’s guilt. It’s obvious from the get-go how horrible he is and that this is not a nice guy done wrong. The dream sequences are well filmed, but again, offer nothing really new and it wouldn’t seem like a remake at all if it weren’t for a couple of sequences lifted from the original, a heroine named Nancy (Rooney Mara) and rehashing Freddy’s origin, adding little new to that. Why not just make this another series entry and keep Robert Englund as Freddy? There lies another big problem, despite a strong turn in Watchmen as Rorschach, Haley does not impress or scare as Freddy. He comes across as someone’s sleazy, perv of an uncle and he is never as threatening as Englund in the early installments and certainly not as charismatic as Englund was in the later installments, when Freddy became more of a wise-cracking gremlin. Haley is just a generic boogie man and that legendary persona is all but gone. He’s bland and the film is neutered without a strong villain. The make-up and visual FX are top notch, as is most of the production, but it’s kinda hollow without a stronger story and more fearsome villain.

Aside from Hayley not living up to the challenge as Freddy, there at least is a strong lead from Rooney Mara as Nancy. She makes a strong heroine with her own inner turmoil and pain and it’s too bad she’s not in a better film to play her character in. Her character is so different from Langenkamp’s Nancy, that she could had been re-named and it would have had no effect on the story. Kyle Gallner is good as Nancy’s friend Quentin. He helps her uncover the truth behind who this dream specter is who is hunting them and killing their friends. As those friends, we have Katie Cassidy as Kris, Kellan Lutz as Dean and Thomas Dekker as Jesse and they all do a suitable job as Freddy fodder. We also have good performances by Connie Britton as Nancy’s mom and Clancy Brown as Quentin’s dad. A decent cast, but wasted in a ho-hum reboot attempt.

I’ll admit this mediocre attempt to restart the series is still better than the worst of the original series (2 & 6 in my opinion), but far from the best of the bunch and can’t hold a candle to the original. The film is well enough directed by Samuel Bayer, who has a nice visual eye, but doesn’t deviate nearly far enough from what has come before it to justify it being made. It plays it safe and gives us little new except recast Freddy unsuccessfully. I didn’t hate this flick, but it is unremarkable and quite forgettable and certainly nothing worthy of building a new franchise over. It lacks the kind of intensity that made the familiar yet, entertaining Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake one of the better of this remake trend. Not the worst, but far from the best and makes you appreciate the great Robert Englund even more.

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Freddys…and the real one, might I add.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4 & 5

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As the Halloween season is in full swing, I decided to put together two of my favorite A Nightmare On Elm Street sequels! Not only do their stories connect and fit together well, but they are certainly both proper viewing for a month long celebration of things that go bump in the night. Enjoy!

 

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988)

When deep sleep falleth on men,
Fear came upon me, and trembling,
Which made all my bones to shake
~ Job IV, 13:14

ANOES 4 has the distinct honor of being not only one of the highest grossing of the Elm St. series, but the highest grossing horror film, domestically, of the 80s. It is also one of my personal favorites and in my opinion one of the best of the series after the classic original.

This entry picks up where Dream Warriors left off with Kristen (Tuesday Knight replacing Patricia Arquette) unable to shake her fear of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and thus empowering him to come back to try to finish off the surviving kids from that flick. He also targets Kristen’s new friends including boyfriend Rick (Andras Jones) and his shy sister Alice (Lisa Wilcox). When Kristen’s ability to bring people into her dreams is passed on to Alice, the meek girl must now find the strength to destroy Freddy before he uses her to kill all those she loves.

Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) directs this one from a script by Brian Helgeland and Scott Pierce from a story by William Kotzwinkle and Helgeland. It’s one of the most imaginative entries in terms of it’s use of the dream world and one of the coolest in terms of look and design. It makes some very clever use of Freddy’s ability to use people’s fears against them…one girl’s fear of bugs being a good example…and Harlin builds some nice suspense and tension as we do have a likable cast of characters to root and care for. Steven Fieberg’s cinematography captures Harlin’s visual style very well and the make-up and visual FX are top notch in it’s portrayal of Freddy’s hi-jinx. There is also a fitting score by John Easdale and Craig Safan with a cool opening song sung by star Tuesday Knight  and it adds up to one of the best of the sequels and one of the most fun, too.

This entry also had one of the liveliest casts and cast of characters in the series with Knight doing a fine job as Kristen and Rodney Eastman and Ken Sagoes returning as Joey and Kincaid, respectively, to face the dream demon again. They do step aside for a new cast of very endearing characters, highlighted by Lisa Wilcox, who takes her Alice from shy and sweet to ass-kicker over the course of the film…and Wilcox is very convincing as both. Andras Jones is fun as Rick and he seems like he has a good chemistry with Wilcox as her sibling and the supporting cast of Brooke Theiss as tough chick Debbie, Dan Hassel as school hunk and object of Alice’s secret crush, Dan and Toy Newkirk as brainy Sheila, all are a very likable bunch which helps us care for them, root for them and feel for them when they face Freddy’s knives. A solid cast of young performers who are always one step ahead of the oblivious adults. And as usual, Robert Englund is perfectly chilling and fun as Freddy and new cast member Nick Mele is also effective as Alice and Rick’s alcoholic ass of a dad.

Overall, this is my favorite sequel after Freddy vs. Jason and it’s a lot of fun. The characters are all colorful, as are Freddy’s methods for taking them out. It’s an imaginative sequel that takes the story of Dream Warriors and moves it forward and opens it up. It’s got some nice tension and suspense and makes really good use of the dream world sequences which are well-designed and executed. A bloody good time!

3 and 1/2 Freddys!

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD (1989)

Dream Child picks up shortly after Dream Master left off with Alice (Lisa Wilcox) getting pregnant by now boyfriend Dan (Danny Hassel) and Freddy (Robert Englund) using her unborn baby’s dreams to get back into the real world to exact revenge against those who put him away…and their loved ones. Alice is not only forced to fight Freddy again, but deal with an unexpected pregnancy which Freddy takes full advantage of as he targets the very soul of her unborn child, Jacob (Wet Hertford). Can Alice defeat Freddy and save her child or will the dream demon gain a new protégée’ to help take out Alice and her friends once and for all? But there is one crack in Freddy’s plan…Alice may have an ally too…Freddy’s dead mother, Sister Amanda Krueger.

Not quite as good as Dream Master, I still think it’s a solid sequel, though, it did far less business than it’s predecessor. Leslie Bohem scripts this time as Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2) steps in to direct. The result is an entertaining enough entry that falls a little short of equalling the last flick. Hopkins does create some tension and suspense, but his visual style and imaginative use of the scripted dream segments, while effective, aren’t quite as sharp as Harlin’s. But the addition of an unborn child into the mix, as well as, the deeper look into Freddy’s conception…when his nun mother becomes locked inside an insane asylum overnight…does add a nice edge to the proceedings and gives the film a slightly different direction than the previous chapters. Hopkins presents the material well, it’s just the script need to be a bit stronger, maybe one more draft before filming began. The flick looks good with Peter Levy’s cinematography and Jay Feguson scores this time and utilizes the Elm Street theme well.

The cast is good, though the new characters aren’t quite as lively or mix as well as previously. Englund is awesome again as Freddy, no surprise there! Wilcox gives her Alice a nice maturity since we last saw her and her concerns over her newfound motherhood come across as legit for a character her age. Hassel’s Dan also has matured a bit and he and Wilcox have a nice camaraderie and their relationship comes across as fairly real. Newcomers Kelly Jo Minter as skeptic Yvonne, Erika Anderson as reluctant model-in-training Greta and Joe Seely as comic nerd, Mark are all fine, but the characters aren’t quite as memorable as the last batch and don’t seem as natural a fit as friends as the last crew. Nick Mele returns as Alice’s father who gives a nice performance as a man overcoming his alcoholism and finally becoming the dad he should have been years ago.

In conclusion I like this sequel. It is not up to Dream Master, but it is good enough and certainly far better than the train wreck that would follow with Freddy’s Dead. It’s moderate box office sadly caused the producers to drop the Alice/Jacob angle which was originally supposed to continue and considering how awful Freddy’s Dead is, it’s too bad.  A fun sequel that continued the series and fits in very well with the other films in this classic franchise.

3 Freddys!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and EATEN ALIVE

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This week’s double feature is in tribute to horror icon and one of the original horror final girls, Marilyn Burns who passed away at the age of 65 this week. I put together both of her Tobe Hooper directed horrors, the classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the cult classic… and hard to find… Eaten Alive.

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Marilyn Burns 1949-2014

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THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)

Partially inspired by true life serial killer Ed Gein, this is the original teens v.s. redneck cannibals flick and still the best and most effective. It is also one of the greatest horror films ever made and one that has influenced many of today’s filmmakers and created a horror sub-genre that is still very prolific even today.

5 friends travel to checkout stories that the grave site of brother and sister Franklin (Paul A. Partain) and Sally’s (Marilyn Burns) family has been vandalized and on the way to their family’s abandoned property, they encounter a bizarre hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) who seems to mark them for something by leaving a bloody smear on their van. That something turns out to be an encounter with his fiendish family of backwoods cannibals including the hulking, chainsaw wielding Leatherface (Gunner Hansen) and the disturbed family matriarch (Jim Siedow) who runs the twisted clan. Now, one by one, the young victims are murdered by this deranged family who have found a horrifying way to keep their kitchen and BBQ business filled with meat now that the local slaughter house is closed. Will any of them escape or will they all become lambs for the slaughter?

Director and co-writer Tobe Hooper makes every frame of this classic fright flick give you the willies and saturates this tale of teens and cannibalistic rednecks with dread and tension from the first frame to the last. From the opening scene at the cemetery, to the fateful picking up of the bizarre hitchhiker, to arriving at “the house”, this film has us on edge for the full duration. Hooper takes his teens on a nightmare roller-coaster ride that will not end well for most and his disturbing visuals and frantic explosions of deadly action, take the audience along with them. The film looks unsettling with muted colors and bleak, desolate camera shots courtesy of cinematographer Daniel Pearl and his use of shadow makes the film’s old house setting even more unnerving. Added to this visual assault is a very disturbing soundtrack of strange sounds and music that give the film a really unsettling feel even in it’s quieter moments with some truly unique production design complete with furniture made from bones. The film oozes dread and Hooper adds just enough of a twisted sense of humor to keep us from being numbed to his horror show and makes us even more uncomfortable for giggling at his demented family while they horrify and torment their prey. The film is obviously bloody, though not nearly as gory as it’s reputation suggests or any of it’s sequels would become. Hooper ultimately creates one of the greatest horror flicks of all time and one of the most iconic horror characters in Leatherface. He also gets good work from all his cast from the likable young victims to the crazed cannibal clan, including making horror icons out of Leatherface and final girl Marylin Burns.

It all combines to make one terrifying and unforgettable horror flick. A text book example of how to make a low budget horror film. Also stars Allen Danziger as Jerry, Teri McMinn as Pam and William Vail as Kirk, who are among the 5 intended victims of Leatherface and company’s wrath and opening narration is by actor John (Night Court) Larroquette. A great horror and a true classic.

4 classic chainsaws!

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EATEN ALIVE (1977)

Tobe Hooper’s follow-up to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a strange film that brings back Chainsaw final girl Marylin Burns and follows a blood-soaked night at a spooky hotel on the bayou run by deranged proprietor Judd (Neville Brand). There is barely a plot as it simply follows a group of various guests and locals who find their way to Judd’s decrepit Starlight Hotel and fall victim to his scythe and are then fed to his enormous pet crocodile that lurks in a gated area of the swamp right next to the hotel. And that’s pretty much it.

Hooper once again creates a very atmospheric and disturbing movie, though it’s nowhere near as effective as his Texas-set classic. It’s a shame that the story and script by Kim Henkle, Mardi Rustam and Alvin L. Fast is borderline incoherent and never really gives a reason for the eccentric, well-know local Judd to turn viciously homicidal after running the old hotel for years. If Hooper had more of a story, he might have had another real horror treat on his hands rather than just a spooky, strange curiosity. He and cinematographer Robert Caramico give the film a very interesting look that is grungy like Chainsaw, but at the same time a bit more colorful and it gives the flick a surreal quality that helps make the less then stellar script work in it’s favor. There are some gruesome scenes and the film does get under your skin, but once it’s over, you realize there wasn’t much accomplished or much of a point…but Hooper still manages to give us the creeps to a good degree. He also wisely keeps his plastic prop croc dimly lit and in shadow so it remains effective even though it is obviously fake. Hooper and Wayne Bell again do the score and again the blend of music and unsettling sounds really goes a long way to making this chilling. It’s not a great horror by far, but it is a spooky and offbeat one that is definitely worth a look especially since Hooper’s work would become more mainstream upon landing the gig helming Poltergeist (which in itself is surrounded in controversy)…and I personally believe he lost his effectiveness upon going Hollywood.

The cast all do there part in helping this flick achieve it’s midnight movie aura. Marilyn Burns plays another damsel in distress who is a young wife and mother Judd kidnaps after murdering her stressed-out husband (Phantom Of The Paradise’s William Finley) and chasing her young daughter (Halloween’s Kyle Richards) into the crawlspace under the house. Poor Burns spends most of her time bound and gagged in her hotel room before being chased all over the place by Brand’s Judd in the last act. And speaking of Neville Brand, the actor delivers a very creepy Judd and it almost helps enhance the character’s creep factor that his dialog sometimes is made of rambling that makes little sense. He is quite over the top, but as the film does have a somewhat surreal, nightmare quality, it works in the character’s favor. We also get veteran Stuart Whitman as the local sheriff and future Freddy Krueger Robert Englund as a trouble making young local who meets the working end of Judd’s reptilian friend.

Overall, I like this film mainly for the atmosphere and the fact that the film has a surreal-like quality to it thanks to Hooper’s style and production work. The script is a mess and the film barely has what resembles a plot, but the talented Hooper makes a fairly spooky flick out of that script and it gets under your skin even if a lot of it doesn’t always make much sense and it comes off more as a series of loosely tied together vignettes than an actual story. It delivers get some very effective scenes and some decent blood and gore to go with it and despite it’s flaws, is a spooky flick, especially if watched along with a few brews. Also stars Mel Ferrer and ‘Morticia Addams’ herself, Carolyn Jones as the owner of a local brothel.

3 well-fed crocodiles.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DEAD AND BURIED (1981)

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DEAD AND BURIED (1981)

80s horror written by Alien scribes Ron Shusett and Dan O’Bannon seems to have developed a reputation and a cult following since it’s unremarkable release back in 1981…but is that rep and following well deserved? In my opinion…not really.

The story finds a series of murders perpetrated against visitors in the small town of Potter’s Bluff and the efforts of Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) to solve them. The more Gillis investigates, the more bizarre a direction the evidence seems to lead him. Worse still, the more it starts to appear the locals he’s known all his life are not who, or what, they seem and the town’s kindly mortician (Jack Albertson) might be at the center of it. Will Dan be able to solve the case, or will it be the death of him?

Flick has an atmosphere that is a bit unsettling throughout and a nice visual style, but that’s all director Gary Sherman (Vice Squad, Poltergeist III) accomplishes, as his direction is rather flat. He creates no suspense for the proceedings and no impact to the gory kill sequences. All the victims are introduced moments before their deaths, so they are just subjects for Stan Winston’s gore effects. Sherman also evokes very little in terms of performance from his cast and while the townspeople’s trance-like demeanor might be on purpose, that doesn’t explain everybody else. The dialog is terrible at times and the basic story of a strange little town where out-of-towners are offed with bloody regularity, is nothing new, though, the climactic revelation is a bit spooky and different. You can at least give it that.

There is a good cast here which, aside from Farentino and Albertson, also includes Melody Anderson as Gillis’ wife, and familiar faces Lisa Blount (Prince Of Darkness), Barry Corbin (WarGames) and Robert Englund (Do I need to tell you where you’ve seen him?), but they aren’t utilized to maximum effect and it’s a shame. With it’s premise and the direction the story leads, there could have been a really good movie here, had the film been in hands that had a better idea of what to do with it.

An odd little movie that doesn’t quite accomplish much else than being moody, atmospheric and weird though, Buried is still off the beaten path from the run-of-the-mill slasher flicks that were popular at the time. By today’s standards Dead And Buried is quite dated, tame and slow moving, but for horror fans it’s definitely worth a curiosity viewing, just don’t expect the hidden classic some make it out to be.

-MonsterZero NJ

rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) hypodermic needles.

dead and buried rating

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WARNING: Trailer is graphic and contains spoilers if you haven’t seen this flick…

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: JASON X and FREDDY vs. JASON

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My Friday The 13th film retrospective is back with a vengeance with the final two films in the original series before the 2009 reboot…which we will cover soon…these two are certainly the most over the top of the series as one brings Jason into not only the future, but outer space and the last pits him against the Springwood Slasher himself, Freddy Krueger…

 

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JASON X (2001)

With the awful Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday not making that much of an impact, despite trying something a bit new with the franchise and being yet another entry boasting it was the series’ last, it was eight years before New Line tried to get the series going again in anticipation for their plans for Freddy v.s. Jason which was in development at this point, but not ready for production. Not sure why they chose this completely over-the-top approach to get Jason back in action, but the 10th Friday The 13th flick finds Jason not only in the future, but in space and turned into a cyborg as well.

The film starts out in 2010 where Crystal Lake apparently has a research facility and Jason is imprisoned there as the subject of government research into why they can’t kill him and why he can regenerate his body tissue so quickly…though from what I gather he is still a zombie at this point, so not sure how he is regenerating anything if he is dead. The arrogant Dr. Whimmer (legendary director David Cronenberg in a cameo) wants him studied, while Research Director Rowan (Lexa Doig) wants him cryogenically frozen after repeated attempts to destroy him have all failed. During an attempt to transfer Jason elsewhere, he escapes and kills everyone before Rowan tricks him into the cryogenic freeze chamber, but not before being wounded and frozen herself. We then cut to 2455 where earth is uninhabitable and a research ship filled with students, who are not unlike the nubile camp counselors and partying teens in previous installments, find Jason and Rowan and bring them back to their ship with intents of returning to Earth 2 with their find. Rowan is revived and healed and warns the crew to destroy the frozen Jason. A greedy professor (Jonathan Potts), however, sees dollar signs in making the infamous serial killer an exhibit and has no interest in seeing him destroyed. Jason has his own agenda and despite being thought dead, thaws out and returns to his old habits and starts slaughtering the crew…including their well-armed security force. Can Rowan and the remaining crew fend off the revived killer, or will their ship become a floating tomb?

This installment at least is smart enough to try to have a good time with actor/writer Todd (Drive Angry) Farmer’s silly script and makes no pretense in trying to be a serious horror flick. As directed by James Issac…a Visual FX Supervisor who did FX work for both David Cronenberg and Sean S. Cunningham, which explains Cronenberg’s cameo and being hired to direct this flick…the film makes a solid effort to have a fun with the outlandish premise and yet deliver at least some of the familiar elements that F13 fans look for. Unfortunately, Issac’s minimal experience as a director doesn’t give the film the vitality and faster pace it needed to really make effective use of the Sci-Fi imbued story. His directing is very by-the-numbers and the film only really livens up in the last act when Jason goes up against a female android, the KM 14 (Lisa Ryder) who goes all Ripley on the Crystal Lake juggernaut. This leads to a computer malfunction repairing Jason and turning him into an even more lethal cyborg. It’s these moments when the film really takes off and has a good time with taking the iconic character into space. It’s a little too late to really turn the film into a B-movie treat, but it saves it from being a little more then a head scratching curiosity. Issac at least knew his material was silly and it’s too bad he couldn’t have given it a little more spark till these scenes. Not that some of what came before isn’t entertaining, it just isn’t outrageous or fun enough to match the premise. Again…by the numbers. Issac’s approach is competent but very straight-forward and if you’re going to take Jason Voorhees into space, go with it and have a blast. Maybe…and I’m just guessing here…it’s simply because Issac’s experience is more technical and that’s how he approached directing it. The film needed someone with a more passionate touch. The gore FX are, at least, well done and there is enough to please fans.

The cast are fine. Lexa Doig makes a decent enough heroine as Rowan, but she really doesn’t become that endearing. Lisa Ryder steals the show as the spunky, sexy android KM 14 and the film could have used more of her. Peter Mensah makes a good impression as tough-as-nails and resilient Sergeant Brodski who bonds with Rowan, and Jonathan Potts is appropriately slimy as Professor Lowe. Kane Hodder returns for his fourth and final…at least for now…appearance as Jason and gives the character his needed presence and menace.

Overall, it is not the weakest entry, but certainly not one of the better flicks. I was moderately entertained and only wished there was more fun had with the premise like we were treated to in the last act. The film was not the success New Line hoped for, considering the 14 million investment they made on it and it barely made it’s money back. But Freddy v.s. Jason was on the horizon and that would become the highest grossing film containing Mrs. Vorhees’ baby boy thus far. Worth a look if you are a fan of this series and haven’t seen it.

2 and 1/2 hockey masks.

friday 13 2009 rating

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FREDDY vs. JASON (2003)

After quite some time in development, New Line Cinema finally brought two of modern horror’s most infamous icons together for a throw-down…and in my opinion it is a bloody blast of gory fun. The clever plot has Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) finally outwitted by the people of Springwood. His memory has been wiped almost clean from the townsfolk by a diligent policy of never discussing the nightmare demon and institutionalizing and medicating anyone who dreams about him. He’s powerless in his dream realm and quite unhappy about it. Not to be outwitted, Freddy has a nefarious plot to get back in action. He needs someone in the physical world to return to Elm St. and start killing again. The murders will obviously be attributed to him and once he is in the minds of the townsfolk and they begin to fear him again, his power will be restored. The monster he’s chosen for the job is a certain Crystal Lake resident. Freddy revives Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger) and sends him to Elm St. to start a killing spree to which he will gleefully take credit. Jason picks the original Elm St. house to start his carnage, which is occupied now by a troubled girl named Lori (Monica Keena) and her widowed father (Tom Butler). Jason thus interrupts a get-together between Lori and some friends in gruesome fashion and Freddy’s plan is set in motion as troubled locals and the authorities think the Springwood Slasher is back. Freddy’s plan seems to be working fine except for two things he didn’t expect….One, Lori is a smart and resilient girl who figures things out a lot quicker than Freddy anticipated and rallies her friends to stop him. Secondly, Jason may have a kill-switch but not an off-switch and if he kills all the beleaguered Elm St. teens, Freddy will be back to square one with no one to fear/empower him. Now the dream demon has to not only foil Lori and friends from stopping him, but must now destroy the very fiend he set in motion. It’s monster vs. monster with Lori and her decreasing number of friends caught in the middle. Who will win?

As directed by Honk Kong filmmaker Ronny Yu, Freddy vs Jason is a lot of gory fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously, or expect it to be the least bit scary. The movie moves very quickly and Yu’s visual style is colorful, as with his Chinese films, but it is when these two modern horror icons finally lock horns that Yu’s HK filmmaking style really kicks in. The final battle is vicious and ridiculously gory like a Tom and Jerry cartoon by way of George Romero. When the smoke clears, you’ve had a bloody good time.

Yu also has a good cast with gorgeous Monica Keena making a sexy and smart final girl. The lively supporting cast features fan favorite Katharine Isabelle, as tough but cute Gibb, Kelly Rowland as smart-ass Kia, Jason Ritter as Lori’s ex Will, who has escaped from being hospitalized and drugged to prevent his dreams from evoking Freddy, with Brendan Fletcher as Will’s oddball bud and fellow hospital inmate, Mark. The supporting characters are all fun and likable and the cast members give them some nice personality to make it all the more effective when either Freddy or Jason take one of them down. The movie works very well because the cast of characters are endearing and our fiends are at their best. Obviously, Englund is at the top of his game as Freddy and he is given some fun dialogue and bits to chew on and serves as the main villain of the piece with Jason ending up being a sort of anti-hero or lesser of two evils. As Jason, big Ken Kirzinger gives him presence and menace and he holds his own against Mr. Krueger.

Sure some of the hardcore fan base may have been hoping for a more serious attempt at a legitimate horror with these two, but at this point, both characters have become more like anti-heroes and it would have been hard to take the bringing together of these two icons all that seriously. Yu chose an approach which never makes a joke out of it, but has a good time with the possibilities as does Damian Shannon and Mark Swift’s script which provides some clever touches such as Freddy discovering Jason’s only ‘fear’. The flick gets a lot of mileage and fun out of the legacy of both characters and the bringing them together for a fight. It’s a very energetic movie and is a blast of fun and works very well for what it is. The characters still have some threat and there is plenty of the red stuff spurted about as their paths cross and the make-up effects portraying the carnage is top notch. The production as a whole is very slick and and makes good use of it’s healthy budget. A really entertaining flick that deserved, but sadly never got a rematch. A fun blast to end the original series for both Freddy and Jason.

3 and 1/2 hockey masks.

friday 13 1980 rating

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

Much like a dream…or a nightmare…A Nightmare on Elm St. is many things at once. It’s one of the quintessential 80s horror flicks…defining a decade where horror was quite prolific…it gave birth to the legendary icon that is Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund)…who now sits proudly among Frankenstein’s monster and Count Dracula in the halls of horror… and it certainly is one of Wes Craven’s best films, in a solid career of genre filmmaking. Most of all, it’s a damn good horror flick!

Wes Craven gives us a cast of likable teens haunted by the malevolent specter of a child molester that their parents murdered after he was freed on a technicality. Now vengeance comes when they are at their most vulnerable…while they sleep. And that’s what makes this work so well. We all know how vulnerable we are when we are sleeping and Craven uses that fear to not only draw the audience in, but present us with some unsettling and spooky dream sequences where Freddy torments and then finishes off his victims. Craven also crafts a spooky boogie man who is a very frightening figure in his first outing, before becoming an anti-hero of sorts in the later sequels that got more humorous and outlandish as they went on.

The lead cast is fairly solid including spunky Heather Langenkamp as our heroine Nancy, Amanda Wyss as the ill-fated Tina, Nick Corri as Tina’s delinquent boyfriend Rod, the always good John Saxon (and I am a BIG John Saxon fan!) as Nancy’s sheriff father and a young unknown named Johnny Depp as Nancy’s boyfriend Glen…not to forget Robert Englund chilling our bones as Freddy in a role that would make him a horror film legend.

The film isn’t perfect, there is some very weak dialog peppered throughout and a few weak performances in the supporting cast especially Ronee Blakely who seems to be acting in another movie, or a soap opera, as Nancy’s alcoholic mother. Langenkamp has a few weak moments early on, too, but as Nancy gets stronger so does her performance. Flaws aside, the make-up and gore effects supporting our story are quite good and the dream sequences are visually effective and quite spooky, despite the limitations of a low budget. The film is loaded with chills and suspense and is still effective all these years and sequels later.

Another trend setting horror and a true classic that continues to find fans with each new generation. This series was a favorite of mine as the 80s horror franchises went, as the Halloween and Friday the 13th sequels just became redundant weapon of the month club features while the Elm Street films, even in their weakest installments, were continually inventive with their nightmare sequences. Also stars the Insidious series’ Lin Shaye as one of Nancy’s teachers. A classic!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Freddys!

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