BARE BONES: DORFMAN IN LOVE and THE SEASONING HOUSE

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

dorfman in love

DORFMAN IN LOVE (2011)

Cute indie romantic comedy tells the story of Debbie Dorfman (Sara Rue). She takes care of her father (Elliott Gould), works for her brother Dan (Jonathan Chase) and has a massive crush on her brother’s friend Jay (Johann Urb). Her life isn’t going anywhere till she gets a chance to cat-sit and apartment-sit for a week for Jay at his new downtown L.A. digs. She decides to use it as a springboard to making big changes in her life and her big move on Jay, when he returns. Things get complicated when her brother dumps her widower father in her lap and she meets a charming artist (Haaz Sleiman) who is Jay’s neighbor.

Written by Wendy Kout and directed by Brad Leong, this is in many ways a typical indie rom-com, but leading lady Rue has charm and spunk and the film avoids the vulgar jokes that similar flicks seem to embrace today. Deb is a likable girl and it’s fun to watch her slowly come out of her shell and start to enjoy life on her terms, not the ones dictated by those around her. The supporting cast work well together and if the film stumbles, it’s when it shifts focus from Deb’s personal adventure to her getting caught in the middle of her brother’s infidelities. This sub-plot is dull and just drags Deb into someone else’s drama when we were fine with her story of personal growth. It sidelines the best part of the movie for almost a half hour and almost makes Deb a supporting character in her own story. The flick does get back on track and Deb makes some surprising discoveries about herself and real love. Cute movie with a charming leading lady.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

 

Humerus-Bone1

seasoning house

THE SEASONING HOUSE (2012)

This is a very brutal and unpleasant film set in the Balkans in 1996. It tells of a young girl named Angel (Rosie Day) who is kidnapped along with other girls by military personal to be forced into prostitution in a house run by a man named Viktor (Kevin Howarth) and military officer Goran (Sean Pertwee). Angel is a deaf mute and has a birthmark on the side of her face that saves her from the same fate as the other women. She instead is forced to care for the girls, which includes doping and prettying them up for ‘customers’. When one of her favorite girls is brutalized by a sadistic soldier, Angel takes violent revenge which sets off a chain of equally brutal events which may bring this house of horrors crashing down.

Directed by Paul Hyett from a script by he and three others, this is a well-made, but very tough movie to sit through. While it never exploits it’s story, it never shies away from the brutal realities either. These young women are kidnapped from their families and horribly mistreated in a land that has become lawless and empathetic to it’s own people. There are numerous and very unpleasant scenes portraying their abusive life and then, once Angel sets out to avenge her friend, the violence is quite brutal and effective. This is a very vicious and bloody film and while it never tries to make it’s harsh story into entertainment, it also is not a pleasant or easy movie to sit through. Well-done, but something you may only want to watch once…if that.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars
Advertisements

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HOWL (2015)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

howl

bars

HOWL (2015)

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

Okay British horror has a young train guard (Ed Speleers) presiding over a late night passenger train heading out of London on a stormy night. While traveling through some dense woodland, a minor accident strands the train and it’s small group of passengers and crew, in the middle of nowhere. Being stuck in the woods is the least of their problems, as they soon find themselves stalked by some kind of vicious and hungry predator, one only heard of in fairy tales…and horror movies.

Despite the simple premise, this werewolf flick has four writers attached, including Neil Marshall (The Descent, Doomsday, Game Of Thrones). But, it’s veteran special make-up effects man turned director, Paul Hyett that lets us down somewhat, as he fails to give the film any real intensity or suspense. The film does have some atmosphere, but with a savage beast lurking just outside the train cars, you’d think we’d be feeling a lot more dread or tension. The film is directed very by-the-numbers and is a bit too slow paced for it’s own good. The cast of stereotypical characters are all very bland, too, so we never really get endeared to anyone and our strongest reaction is to the wolves themselves and in hating selfish douchebag, Adrian (Eliot Cowan), who is the standard ‘sacrifice others to save himself’ character. Not to mention commonsense things like, don’t they keep track of their trains in England and so, therefor, why doesn’t anyone at HQ notice one of it’s trains has stopped in the middle of nowhere. The good points are that the werewolves are not only interestingly designed but well-rendered and look pretty cool onscreen. They make an impression and Hyett does give their attack sequences some ferociousness and there is plentiful, top-notch gore to represent their carnage. It’s a shame Hyett couldn’t keep the intensity going as the werewolf scenes succeed in what they set out to, but then the film settles back down into it’s less impressive motions until the next one, or till the moderately involving but predictable climax. There is some moody cinematography by Adam Biddle and an appropriate score by Paul E. Francis, but it doesn’t elevate this film above the mediocre flick it is.

In conclusion, the movie wasn’t terrible, just not nearly as involving as it should have been considering the setting of isolation and what’s lurking about. The werewolf scenes worked very well and had a viciousness to them, yet the scenes in-between were flat and concerned un-involving, common stereotype characters. The make-up and gore effects were top notch and the scenario itself was suitable for a fright flick had director Paul Hyett been better at managing the scares and intensity. Worth a look if you like werewolf flicks, but don’t expect another Dog Soldiers or Late Phases. Also stars Shauna Macdonald from The Descent and Sean Pertwee from Doomsday and ironically, the far superior Dog Soldiers.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 full moons.
howl rating

 

 

 

 

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DOG SOLDIERS (2002)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

dog soldiers

bars

DOG SOLDIERS (2002)

I am a big fan of writer/director Neil Marshall and while it is his The Descent which really sold me on him as a filmmaker, it was his freshman film Dog Soldiers which first got my attention. The film is a simple yet very effective and intense story of a group of British grunts on training maneuvers in the Scottish Highlands, who not only find their SAS opponents dead, but by the claws of what appear to be a pack of werewolves straight out of legend. With their Sergeant (Sean Pertwee) injured, stoic Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd) takes control of the panicked group and attempts to get them to safety. They soon find themselves in the company of pretty Zoologist Megan (Emma Cleasby) who leads them to a small cottage where they decide to make a stand and fight against their lycanthropic pursuers. Thus begins a terrifying siege through the night as unbeknownst to our group of beleaguered soldiers, that when the moon is not full, the cottage is where these werewolves call home.

Sure Marshall’s werewolf flick does evoke Aliens with it’s soldiers v.s. monsters story, which even includes a bit of military conspiracy concerning the SAS unit’s true mission, but we let him slide because, he does it so damn well. Dog Soldiers is a very intense and sometimes very gruesome horror flick with a group of tough and likable grunts in the fight for their lives against supernatural creatures in the middle of nowhere and with no one coming to their aid. Unlike James Cameron’s classic, these guys also have to deal with their own who get bitten, as we all know what happens when the moon is full to those who get bit. There are moments of quiet to let the audience catch their breath, but Marshall then gives us sudden explosions of intense action and sometimes in some very tight places within the small cottage. Bullets and blood fly regularly, but it’s all the more effective because Marshall has given us enough time to get to know and like his besieged soldiers and he gives their canine opponents a real sense of menace…and an intelligent menace at that. These are cunning, vicious and powerful creatures and as the myths are true, the soldiers weapons are only a temporary inconvenience. This sets up a sense of not only dread but, of a growing hopelessness as our protagonists are running out of time, options and numbers in which to save themselves.

Marshall gets very good work from his cast, especially McKidd who is a strong and heroic lead. Cooper is a simple but smart and tenacious man who is not going to give up even when faced with opponents from out of a horror movie. We get a cute but very smart and spunky heroine from Cleasby as Megan and a tough but lovable sergeant from Pertwee. The rest all give their characters a personality and life beyond the printed script and the performers under the latex and fur give our lycanthropes some real threat. As for our wolves, the costumes are effective animatronics and prosthetics and since they are created on a low budget, Marshall keeps them effective by shooting them in quick shots and keeping them in shadow giving them an air of mystery, as well as, hiding any possible flaws from budgetary restraints. The rest of the gore and bloodshed is also quite well orchestrated and there is plenty of it!

While not perfect…there are a few plot holes, but most flaws come from a limited budget…Dog Soldiers is an atmospheric and action-packed tale of hard and tough men up against something even their steel nerves and military skills can’t handle. It’s witty and fast paced and takes a time honored siege story and really makes it work. A solid and scary horror/action flick that also has a bit of a sly sense of humor and is not without a few surprises too. Highly recommended! Also stars Liam Cunningham as sole surviving SAS Captain Ryan, a man with quite a few secrets of his own.

There has been continual talk for years about a sequel. but so far, nothing has yet to happen…and maybe that’s a good thing as we all know how the sequel to Marshall’s The Decent…which he didn’t write or direct…turned out.

3 and 1/2 bullets…which only annoy a werewolf since they are not silver!

raid rating

bars