HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ISOLATION (2005)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

isolation

bars

ISOLATION (2005)

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

Irish horror finds down-on-his-luck farmer Dan (John Lynch) allowing John (Marcel Iureș), a scientist from a bio-corporation, to do genetic experiments on his cows for money. It is not only supposed to accelerate their growth, but increase fertility at an earlier age. The experiment goes awry and a calf is not only born with genetic defects, but pregnant with strange little creatures. The pretty local vet Orla (The Babadook’s Essie Davis), who is assisting John, tries to destroy them all, but one gets away and the parasitic creature now seeks a host to gestate and reproduce. It’s bite is also infectious making it even more dangerous. This puts Dan, Orla, two drifters camped out near Dan’s property (Sean Harris and Ruth Negga) and John in deep trouble as they try to stop it. Can they escape Dan’s isolated farm alive…should they?

Written and directed by Billy O’Brien, this is an effective and entertaining horror despite some familiar plot elements. We have seen stories about genetic experiments gone wrong, often, as we have ones about mutations that can reproduce and infect others very quickly. O’Brien uses these tropes well in creating atmosphere and tension as our small group of people try to stop the little bugger from getting off the farm or reproducing. His script gives us realistic characters throw into a nightmarish situation and he also plays around with our expectations as to who will survive…if any…and who is monster fodder. This keeps us off balance and unnerved, as on that level he doesn’t deliver what’s expected. This adds to the tension and if O’Brien is not keeping us in suspense as to where our beastie is and what it’s up to, he’s delivering some generous blood and gore and a vey unusual looking creature. It all makes for a solid little horror that may not be the most original in terms of story, but has a director who uses the familiar elements very well and to good effect.

One of the reasons the film also works is that we do like most of the characters and the actors help. John Lynch gives us a simple farmer in Dan, who makes a bad decision to save his farm and now regrets it greatly. He conveys that regret and the desire to make things right and stop the monster, very well. Nine years before she delivered a stunning performance in The Babadook, Essie Davis gives us a likable women in Orla, who has also has made a bad decision in helping the genetics firm mess with Dan’s cows. Like Dan, she is horrified at the result and yearns to see it stopped before it spreads. Marcel Iureș gives us a scientist, who while is basically the human villain of the piece, at first doesn’t seem so bad. He has us fooled for a while, then delivers a solid bad guy scientist when his true colors come through. As the drifters, Negga and Harris make a likable duo of not so innocents who get drawn into a nightmare, but valiantly try to help. A small but effective cast.

Not a perfect flick or overly original, but a solidly entertaining one from Billy O’Brien. It has plot elements we’ve seen before, but uses them well and effectively. The director creates some nice mood, atmosphere and tension and doesn’t skimp on the gore or critters either. The FX are well rendered, without any CGI and the cast all do good work with their respective characters, which helps make them believable and identifiable. A solid horror from Irish filmmaker O’Brien.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 cows who don’t remember being asked about participating in genetic experiments.

 isolation rating

 

bars

BARE BONES: AREA 51, BURYING THE EX and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROUGUE NATION

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

area 51

AREA 51 (2015)

After the smash success of Paranormal Activity, Oren Peli returned to the director’s chair for his sophomore effort in 2009…and the movie has since languished in post-production hell for the last six years…now we know why. Found footage flick has a silly plot with three young friends (Darrin Bragg, Reid Warner and Ben Rovner) concocting an absurd scheme to break into the infamous Area 51 military base. They have the help of a former employee’s daughter (Jelena Nik) and succeed where many have failed.

Obviously, they are not happy with what they find…and neither are we. Flick takes a ridiculous 70 minutes for anything interesting to happen and at about 95 minutes long (including it’s slow crawl credits) that’s simply too long to wait. What we do get is amusing, but exactly what you’d expect to get in a flick about Area 51 and it’s fleetingly glimpsed and over far too quickly. There is barely anything resembling scares or suspense and what we do finally encounter is very predictable and been done before, especially in the X-Files…and done better. Area 51’s actual secrets may still be a mystery, but why this flick sat for six years and was quietly dumped onto VOD and home media, isn’t.

 -MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

burying the ex

BURYING THE EX (2014)

Director Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins) has made quite a few classic films, which is why it’s disappointing that his latest effort is so sadly mediocre. Story has horror movie fan and slacker Max (Anton Yelchin) dating the hot but extremely bitchy, Evelyn (Ashley Greene), while he could be with the sweet, horror movie-themed-ice-cream-shop owner, Olivia (Alexandra Daddario). The wrong words said in front of the wrong magic item in the shop Max works at, ensures he will be with Evelyn forever…even when she is hit by a bus and killed. Now, as he desperately wants to date Olivia, Max’s girlfriend is back and there’s going to be trouble.

Flick’s problems lie in it’s uninspired and sadly unfunny script by Alan Trezza. Dante tries to give it some life and it is colorful and filled with the horror movie references and imagery Dante excels at, but the script is unimaginative, predictable and let’s Dante down at every turn. The premise has been done before, but still could have made fun use of it’s scenario, instead it is routine and without the wit to really make this a good time. At least Dante get’s good work out of the cast as Yelchin, Greene and Daddario…who is especially endearing as the ultimate horror geek girlfriend fantasy, Olivia…do their best to get something out of their thinly written parts. With a better script this could have been a real treat as it had a great director!

 -MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION (2015)

I originally was not a fan of this series, but to be honest, each installment has been an improvement over the last with this and the previous installment, Ghost Protocol, being a lot of fun. Dare I say this series has finally hit it’s stride with it’s fourth and fifth entries. This chapter finds the IMF being dissolved by the government right in the middle of Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) mission to track down “The Syndicate”, an organization that is the IMF’s equal, yet dedicated to disruption and terrorism. Now considered a rogue agent and being hunted around the world, Hunt must team with Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Luther (Ving Rhames) and mysterious agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) to bring the syndicate down.

As written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Rogue Nation is fast-paced and entertaining with some great camaraderie between Cruise and his team, especially Pegg. There are some fun action sequences and some thrilling escapes with the usual espionage and covert operations mixed in. The only thing holding it back a little, is that the action is nothing out of the ordinary, despite being well-staged and the main villain (Sean Harris) is rather weak. Otherwise this is a fun spy/action flick and Swedish actress Ferguson gets to steal a few scenes from Cruise…which isn’t an easy thing to do. Also stars Alec Baldwin as a CIA thorn in the IMF’s side. Fun!

 -MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1
bars

REVIEW: DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2014)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

deliver-us-from-evil

bars

DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2014)

Deliver Us From Evil is the latest film from Sinister director Scott Derrickson, who co-wrote with Paul Harris Boardman based on the supposedly true experiences of New York Detective Ralph Sarchie and detailed in the book Beware The Night written by Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool. The movie tells the story of Detective Sarchie (Eric Bana), a once Catholic cop who has lost his faith, and his partner Butler (Joel McHale) who are investigating a number of strange cases that all seem to be connected not only by some very bizarre and violent behavior but, by three Iraqi War vets Santoino (Sean Harris), Jimmy (Chris Coy) and Griggs (Scott Johnsen). The incidents all seem to involve some very unexplainable activity and key on something the three found when on maneuvers in Iraq. But, when a mysterious priest named Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez) shows up proclaiming there is something far more evil going on here then just the dark side of human nature, Det. Sarchie’s disbelief is put to the test… and further tested as his family’s lives may now be in danger when the demonic force takes notice of Sarchie’s investigations and follows him home. Can a NYC cop, with demons of his own, fight an evil of biblical proportions?

I am not a big fan of Derrickson’s overrated Sinister, though I did like his The Exorcism Of Emily Rose. And I did like this movie though, I was caught off-guard that, for the first two thirds, the film is played like a routine police thriller with some very supernatural elements mixed into it rather then a straight-up horror. As the film progresses and the investigation deepens, it is only then that it starts to resemble a horror film and becomes a full blown one in it’s last act. Derrickson gives us some creepy moments throughout but, doesn’t really deliver the real scares and chills till the entity goes on the attack and Sarchie and Mendoza bond to confront it. It’s a little jarring but, it does work overall. The film is involving and interesting when it’s not being spooky though it could have used a bit more intensity and atmosphere like it gives us in the final act and it is plagued by some very familiar elements that we’ve seen time and time again in possession themed movies. We get swarms of flies, flickering lights, scratching noises and oddly behaving children’s toys and it is these overused elements that hold the movie back somewhat from really chilling us. Whether this is really what happened to Sarchie and his family or not, we’ve seen it all before. Even as the entity targets his 6 year old daughter, it reminds us of countless other flicks. But, Derrickson’s direction is solid and he has a really effective visual style. He is also supported by a really good cast, who all shine here, and while the film does have yet another exorcism scene, the director manages to craft a really effective one that actually throws in a few new twists on another overly familiar trapping of this type of flick. Too bad he couldn’t have freshened up some of the other time-worn elements a bit more, then this film would have been a real goose bump inducing treat throughout and not just in it’s last act when things get really intense and spooky. Flick is also not above getting gruesome, which it does at times with some top notch gore FX.

But, getting back to the cast, everyone is strong across the board and that helps get past the familiarity of it all. Bana is exceptional as Sarchie and I’m not his biggest fan. He takes us from good New York cop, who sometimes sees too much of the dark side of human nature, to one who recognizes there is even darker forces out there and its willing to fight them. Edgar Mendoza is also exceptional as the very unconventional priest and demonologist who has some past demons of his own and he and Bana really work together well. They have a great onscreen chemistry and the two opposing characters support each other very effectively. I also loved Community’s Joel McHale as Sarchie’s tough, tattooed but, wise-cracking partner. These two really work well together and their bond comes across as authentic and McHale paints an endearing character who is a bit of a wise-ass but, also a badass when he needs to be. I hope this leads to McHale’s talent finally being recognized and getting more major movie roles. He is leading man material. Harris and Coy are very creepy as our possessed former soldiers. We only get to see Johnsen’s Griggs in flashback footage so, there isn’t much he is given to do. We also get a nice down-to-earth turn by Olivia Munn as Sarchie’s wife Jen and Lulu Wilson is cute and precocious as 6 year old daughter Christina. Rounding out is a very creepy Olivia Horton as Jane Crenna, another of the possessed who gets some of the film’s more unnerving scenes. A really top notch cast that help elevate this above the routine.

So, in conclusion, Deliver Us From Evil is a routine possession thriller merged with a routine cop thriller but, elevated by some really good performances from it’s cast and a director who effectively cranks up the juice in the final act and gives us a few chills in the meantime. The film is weighed down by some all too familiar elements that we’ve seen in countless possession themed films but, is effectively directed enough to entertain and chill us, so we can be a bit forgiving and have had a creepy good time by the time the credits roll. A good and sometimes very effective horror that could have been better but, considering the familiarity of the elements involved, is a lot better then one might expect.

3 stuffed owls.

deliver-us-from-evil rating

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: CREEP (2004)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

CREEP

bars

CREEP (2004)

Creep is the first feature film from British writer/director Christopher Smith (Severance, Black Death) and is a tale of horrors set in the train tunnels and sewers beneath the streets of London. The film opens with a couple of sewer workers (Vas Blackwood and Ken Campbell) discovering a new hole in one of the walls which leads to an undocumented tunnel. Their foray into this tunnel does not end well and sets the tone for what is to come. We then shift focus to pretty Kate (Franka Potente) who is planning to leave the party she is at and join a friend at another party where George Clooney is said to be going. But while waiting for the last train of the night, Kate fall asleep on the bench and when she awakens she finds herself locked inside the now shut down train station. And Kate is not alone. In the station are not only a homeless drug addict couple (Kelly Scott and Paul Rattray), but an obnoxious jerk security supervisor (Morgan Jones) and the lecherous and quite high Guy (Jeremy Sheffield) who followed her from the party. They all are about to be plunged into the same nightmare as there is someone, or something, lurking beneath the streets of London that has cruel and disturbing plans for all those unfortunate enough to be there after closing. And when Kate finds herself in the underground lair of this terrifying occupant, she realizes, to her horror, that those already dead got off easy.

I’ll be the first to admit that the talented Smith’s first flick has it problems. There are plenty of plot holes and the film does rely on some conveniences to tell it’s story such as Guy actually becoming stuck in the tunnel after closing as well in his search for Kate and the security guard basically being such a jerk that he refuses to do anything to help including calling authorities when it is clear there is something wrong going on. But Smith is a skilled filmmaker and he does still manage to make an entertaining, suspenseful and very disturbing horror film out of his flawed script. He has a visual style which makes good use out of the tunnels and underground rooms and corridors and gives us a villain whose methods and purpose are quite shocking and horrifying yet, not without a touch of sympathy. The film moves quickly once it gets going and is a tight and entertaining 81 minutes.

Smith gets good work from his cast with Potente being a strong heroine who starts out as a bit of a self-centered , superficial person who not only proves to be a fighter, but learns some humility along the way. And Sean Harris gives disturbing life to the deformed and deadly “Craig” who earns both our dread and a little of our sympathy. The film has some very gruesome moments with some very top notch gore and make-up effects and Smith even adds a touch of poetic justice/irony to it’s final frames.

The film overall shows potential for a director that has been living up to it with his more recent films which prove he not only is skilled at delivering films with a dark tone, but is fairly versatile with films ranging from the surreal, like his Triangle with Melissa George to his darkly satiric Severance to his grim medieval set Black Death. A flawed, but still very effective first feature from a director who’s proven he’s worth keeping an eye on.

3 frightened Frankas!

creep rating

bars