BARE BONES: DON’T HANG UP and ELOISE

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DON’T HANG UP (2016)

Very ho-hum horror has a group of Youtube pranksters who call themselves “Prank Monkey 69” apparently pranking the wrong person, who decides to take a cruel and gruesome revenge. The four members and some of their unsuspecting loved ones, all become targets of this deranged Saw-like individual. We might care somewhat if it weren’t for the fact that the Prank Money members all come across as a bunch of real assholes and we actually want to see them meet a horrible fate ourselves.

Flick is blandly directed by Damien Mace and Alexis Wajsbrot from an uninspired script by Joe Johnson. It’s a dull movie about a bunch of jerks who basically get what’s coming to them and we never sympathize with them for a moment. The found footage genre is running out of gas quickly and mundane flicks like this are only speeding it towards it’s demise. A scant few effective scenes, but they are very few and far between.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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ELOISE (2017)

Flick takes place at a real and infamous asylum in Michigan and even has the audacity to dedicate itself to those interned there and their families. The plot has down on his luck Jacob Martin (Chace Crawford) learning his rich dad has passed away and he is set to inherit millions…but there is a catch. His aunt was a patient at the now abandoned Eloise asylum, where a doctor (Robert Patrick) was rumored to have conducted brutal experiments and cruel treatments on patients. His aunt apparently died there, but without a death certificate, the court can’t consider him the sole heir. Jacob can’t wait months for the paper work to be found through normal channels and thus plots to break into the asylum and find them himself…what he finds, however, is that something dark and evil still remains within the walls of Eloise Asylum.

OK haunted asylum flick is written by Christopher Borrelli and directed by Robert Logato, who is an Academy Award winning FX man. Logato guides the familiar tale competently and has a nice visual eye, but the film basically covers no new ground when it comes to these kind of pics and we’ve seen it all before. That would be fine if he just could muster up some real scares or suspense, instead of just putting us and the characters through the motions. There are some effective scenes, the asylum locations are well used and Patrick has fun chewing the scenery, but other than that it’s a little too familiar and a bit too by-the-numbers to really chew our popcorn with rapt attention. There are some amusing twists at the end, but it needed more punch along the way. Also stars genre favorite Eliza Dushku as a pretty bartender who gets dragged along for the ride. If there is nothing else on, you could give it a try.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: LOST AFTER DARK (2014)

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LOST AFTER DARK (2014)

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

Lost After Dark is a homage to 80s horror flicks that takes place in 1984, though it lacks a real 80s feel. The film has a group of Broomfield, Michigan high school kids hijacking a school bus to go to a cabin, for a weekend of partying, that belongs to good girl Adrienne’s (Kendra Leigh Timmins) father. The bus runs out of gas on a secluded stretch of road, stranding the kids in the middle of nowhere. While seeking help, they discover an old house nearby. Unknown to them, the abandoned looking structure is home to a murderous redneck cannibal, who sees the hapless teens as delivery. Will any of them survive the night?

Director Ian Kessner’s throwback horror, that he co-wrote with Bo Randell, has it’s heart in the right place, but never feels like an 80s movie despite the music and clothes. Maybe it was the handheld cameras, which wasn’t a popular filming method back then (save for Sam Raimi’s wild camerawork in Evil Dead), or that the characters just felt more like contemporary teens. Kessner’s direction is also a little too by-the-numbers and the film needed to be a bit livelier, as there was a buoyancy to a lot of the 80s slasher’s that would have helped here. The killer also had no personality, nor was he all that menacing and it would have worked better for him, if the backstory given at the end, came earlier in the form of an urban legend…maybe a story told by one of the kids to spook the others. It would have fit the 80s slasher mold better and set up our villain and given him some character development. The opening flashback to 1977 isn’t quite enough, though works in a more traditional sense, as these films usually had a flashback pre-credit sequence. On the good side, this is still a mildly amusing slasher. There is some really good and plentiful gore with some solid kills. Kessner also plays with our expectations as to who our final girl would be and that made it interesting. The location was spooky and the film was not without some atmosphere. There was also a really gross and fun Lucio Fulci reference, that was cool if you are familiar with his flicks. Not completely successful in it’s attempt, but was watchable and there was some heart in the effort.

Robert Patrick is the only familiar name here, as the tough ex-soldier principal. Though, his being an ex-soldier doesn’t really factor in and just serves to give him a hard-nosed personality. The young cast give their characters their all and while none really stand out, none fail miserably either. The usual stereotypes are present, such as virgin (Timmins), virgin’s best friend (Elise Gatien) princess (Lanie McAuley), rebel (Alexander Calvert), jock (Justin Kelly), tough girl (Eve Harlow), nerd (Jesse Comacho) and the token black character (Stephan James), which are all fine for a homage. While I won’t spoil who our final girl turns out to be, the actress does fine when handed the job. Mark Wiebe plays cannibal redneck Junior Joad, in an obvious fake beard and wig, but his killer lacked menace and wasn’t very physically imposing either. You need a strong villain and a strong final girl to make a slasher really click. Here we got it half right.

Overall, this movie was well intended, but missed the mark. It wasn’t totally unsuccessful as it did entertain, but never felt like an 80s slasher and didn’t connect on some of the things it needed to, to be like one. There are some good kills and gore and the cast all give it their all, so it is worth a look. Even if director/co-writer Ian Kessler didn’t give it the energy it needed and didn’t quite accomplish the 80s feel, there is still some fun to be had.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 glass shards. Will let you find out what that’s about, yourselves.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HELLIONS (2015)

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HELLIONS (2015)

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

Simply put, Hellions is one of the best horror films of the year and possibly a new Halloween cult classic. Spooky, fairy tale-like story has 17 year-old teen Dora Vogel (Chloe Rose) finding out on Halloween that she is pregnant. Being an expectant mother is the least of her worries as Dora finds herself home alone on Halloween night with a blood moon in the sky and her house besieged by a pack of bizarre and vicious, costumed ‘children’ who want her unborn child. Now, as her child grows at an unnatural rate, Dora must fight for her life against this demonic brood who want ‘blood for baby’ and turn Halloween night into a nightmare.

Written by Pascal Trottier and directed by Pontypool‘s Bruce McDonald, this is a spooky and sometimes downright surreal Halloween tale that not only evoked parts of Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat, but Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm as well. Even so, it is it’s own movie with it’s own style and a style filled with Halloween spirit it is! With fields of pumpkins and it’s creepy costumed gremlins that haunt and hunt our pretty heroine, the film does ooze All Hallows Eve. McDonald gives this loads of atmosphere and there are some scenes that border on hallucinogenic, as the world around Dora changes into some kind of nightmarish dimension under the blood moon. There are some suspenseful sequences as the demonic little fiends try to get at Dora and chases once she’s forced to flee with the help of a local cop (Robert Patrick). There are also some delightfully gory moments, our little demons are creepy as hell and McDonald uses the traditional Halloween tropes in a gleefully ghoulish manner. McDonald’s creepy visuals and dark fairy tale ambience for the film are captured perfectly by Norayr Kasper’s spooky cinematography and there is a very atmospheric score by Todor Kobakov and Ian LeFeuvre. If the film has a weak point, much like this year’s It Follows, it’s that it’s climax is possibly a bit too ambiguous for it’s own good. While the ambiguity of exactly who or what Dora is carrying inside her and who exactly our little “Hellions” are works fine, the ending leaves us scratching our heads a little…or maybe it was all in Dora’s head? Other than that, this is a nightmarish and creepy little Halloween-steeped horror that doesn’t spare us on chills, thrills and splashes of gore.

We have a small, but very effective cast. As Dora, Chloe Rose makes quite an impression and has strong star potential delivering a frightened teen who becomes a resourceful fighter when threatened. She has a strong screen presence and not just because she is beautiful, but she radiates a strength even in the sequences where she is afraid. She brings Dora’s range of emotions to the screen well and can kick demon ass when she needs to. Robert Patrick is good as Office “Corman”…a nice nod to Roger Corman…and  while it’s Rose’s show, he has some strong moments as a cop dealing with something he has encountered before and trying to help Dora escape a fate he once witnessed. The small supporting cast are all fine in minor roles with Rossif Sutherland as Dr. Henry, Rachel Wilson as Dora’s Mother and Peter DaCunha as her little brother Remi.

Some may not like this film due to it’s somewhat surreal nature and an ending that is maybe a touch too ambiguous, but it is filled with Halloween spirit and has plenty of spooky atmosphere, chills and spattered blood. Our diminutive spooks are very effective and we have a very memorable horror heroine in Chloe Rose. As a big fan of the horrors this film sometimes evoked, I really enjoyed this diabolically mischievous horror thriller and highly recommend it, especially to those who love films that embrace the spirit of Halloween.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Hellions.

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BRUCE McDONALD’S “HELLIONS” GETS A RELEASE DATE!

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Beauty, Power and Grace

First we got a trailer for the new Halloween set horror Hellions from Pontypool director Bruce McDonald. Now, word comes from the awesome folks over at Arrow In The Head that IFC Midnight plans to release this spooky looking horror on VOD and in limited theatrical release on September 18th! As Scream Factory is in cohoots with IFC Midnight currently, that probably means a Scream Factory disc soon after! Hellions stars Robert Patrick and Chloe Rose.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Source: Arrow In The Head

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REVIEW: TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015)

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TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015)

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

31 years after his first appearance in the role that made him a star, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns once again as the T-800 in this new reboot of The Terminator franchise. We do get a new Sarah Conner (Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke), a new Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and a new timeline to reset things much like Star Trek did successfully in 2009…but, was it as successful as that redo?

The film opens in the war-torn future where we get yet another representation of the Skynet initiated Judgement Day and then the efforts of John Connor’s (Jason Clarke) rebel forces to take back the world from the machines. We see the discovery of the time displacement device and the sending of Kyle Reese back in time to save John’s mother Sarah from an incoming Terminator. At first the events unfold exactly as they did in James Cameron’s 1984 classic but, then we discover that not only is Sarah armed and ready for the Skynet sent cyborg attack but, the arriving Terminator is met by another Terminator (also Arnold) assigned to protect Sarah since she was a little girl. That and the T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun) that appeared in 1991 is already here in 1984. Reese soon finds out that this is a new timeline created by all this time traveling back and forth and the only way to stop Judgement Day now is to go back to the future…without Michael J. Fox! Still with me???

One of the things that really hurts this new attempt to breath life into this tired franchise is obviously, the convoluted plot that simply uses the alternate timeline excuse to rewrite the series lore but, instead of taking it to interesting new places, like J.J. Abrams’ Star Trekit just seems to be making things up as it goes along to reset deadlines and give our characters an excuse to leave the 80s and back into a contemporary setting. There are some other curves the film throws us, too, that actually should negate the whole plot, but, at this point you give up trying to figure it all out. One of the characters actually points this out and the question is blown off. The writers obviously didn’t have an answer either. And all this time travel mumbo jumbo would be fine if director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) and writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier gave us characters we cared about, a story with some suspense or intensity and one that went some in new directions that were at least fresher than what has come before. New dates and new faces but, it’s the same old song and dance. Taylor directs this very by-the-numbers and with a very moderate pace for a film in which we are supposed to feel like we are under some kind of pressure to avert the end of mankind. We never feel any real urgency and Clarke and Courtney never endear us as Sarah and Reese, so, we really don’t get emotionally invested in their struggle. On the plus side, the action scenes are fun but, the minute they are over, the film slows down and you go back to that emotional void. Schwarzenegger is a lot of fun as the grumpy old terminator and when he is on-screen the film does pick-up. There is also some wonderful recreations and revisions of scenes from the first movie that are a lot of nostalgic fun, but, once we leave the 80s, it becomes just another ho-hum popcorn action movie. It would have been more fun if they had stayed in the 80s and just had a good time playing with our expectations of what we thought we already knew. That was working. Once we are in 2017, it becomes another generic Sci-Fi action flick with humans against a big bad Artificial Intelligence…which we alread got this Summer in Age Of Ultron…and with less confusion.

Cast-wise, Schwarzenegger is obviously having fun and it shows. He plays The Terminator like a grumpy old tin man and it’s fun to watch. He has some fun lines but, nothing as memorable as those he repeats from past films. Emilia Clarke is physically a good match for Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Conner but, is just very cold in the role. She brings none of the fire and emotion Hamilton gave her Sarah or Clarke’s own Daenerys Targaryen on Game Of Thrones, for that matter. She and Jai Courtney also don’t have nearly the chemistry that Hamilton shared with Michael Biehn. As for Courtney, he is also playing it very by-the-numbers and his Reese seems as confused as we are as to what is going on and doesn’t have the edge of a battle-hardened soldier like Biehn. Jason Clarke has a bit more life as John Connor and his Connor does get to share a lot of screen time due to more time travel nonsense/Skyney hi-jinx. The only other person to liven things up like Arnold, is J.K. Simmons as a cop who witnesses The Terminator in the 80s and then re-enters the picture when our heroes show up in 2017. Too bad the character’s only purpose seems to be some comic relief as he really has no bearing on the plot, other than to give Sarah and Reese a temporary ally when they are arrested. Finally, Lee Byung-hun seems lethal enough as the T-1000 but, doesn’t quite have the relentless intensity of Robert Patrick.

Whether this film is still better than the last two attempts is basically a matter of taste and opinion. In mine it’s better than Salvation but, really not much better than Rise Of The Machines, which I feel is criticized a little too harshly at times. On a positive side it has Arnold having a good time and showing it and some really fun re-creations and re-mixes of classic scenes from the original film. There is some nice action at times but, nothing groundbreaking like in T2. On the downside, the film is directed very by-the-numbers and the script is a borderline mess of time travel hocus pocus used to take things in other but, equally stale directions. The re-cast classic characters have none of the life and intensity that made the originals the beloved characters they are and while the new actors are attractive, they share none of the heat and sexual tension either. Stay after the credits and if you didn’t like this, be prepared to groan in anguish.

-MonsterZero NJ

  2 and 1/2 terminators.

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