MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: LAID TO REST and CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2

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The Laid To Rest flicks are contemporary slashers that have a bit of a following in the horror community. So what better choice for a MonsterZero NJ Saturday Night Double Feature than both of these gory slashers from director Robert Green Hall…

LAID TO REST (2009)

Flick opens with a pretty young woman (Bobbi Sue Luther) awakening inside a coffin. She has no memory and no idea how she got there. Before she has a chance to figure things out, she is attacked by a deranged killer (Nick Principe) with a chrome skull mask and a nasty serrated knife. She barely escapes with her life and is pursued into the night by this madman. She picks up a few allies along the way, in friendly local, Tucker (Kevin Gage) and nerdy, Steven (Sean Whalen), who try to help her escape him. The killer relentlessly pursues her and those trying to help her, murdering anyone that gets in his way. Who is he and why does he want her dead?

Gory slasher is written and directed by make-up FX man and musician Robert Green Hall and is a perfect showcase for his PostHuman FX special effects shop. First and foremost, this is a very gory flick and that gore is very well designed and rendered. Gore fans will enjoy the inventive and very realistic looking kills. It’s not an overly scary film, but there is some intensity in the attack and chase scenes. Chromeskull is an imposing villain and there are some likable characters to fear for, such as our final girl, dubbed “Princess” by Tucker, and Tucker himself, of course. The film moves fast, looks good on what is probably a very modest budget and there is plenty of action. To a degree it’s also a chase film, as we move from location to location with Chromeskull in hot pursuit. Princess is chased from one house to another, makes her way back to the funeral home and then finally to the blood-spattered conclusion at a gas station/convenience store. It’s an economical 90 minutes and delivers plenty of the blood and gore fans look for. If there is any flaw the film has that holds it back a bit, is going all out with the gore from moment one. By starting right off with the brutality and extreme bloodletting, by the time the third act rolls around, we are getting a little numb to it. Otherwise, this is a brutal, bloody and entertaining slasher flick from Robert Green Hall.

The cast are all fine here. Curvy and cute Bobbi Sue Luther makes a fine heroine as “Princess.” Her real identity is kept secret and she is a strong and resilient woman, once her situation sinks in and she decides to survive. Kevin Gage is good as local man Tucker. A likable man just wanting to help out a young girl in trouble. Whalen is also solid as the whiny, timid Steven. The recent death of his mother makes him especially sensitive to the death and murder going on around him. Nick Principe, who was the pig-masked killer in Madison County, is an imposing killer as Chromeskull. We don’t get too much background on him, but he is effective. There are some familiar faces playing killer fodder. Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey is Tucker’s ill-fated wife, legendary Richard Lynch is a funeral director in league with Chromeskull, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010’s Thomas Dekker is Tommy, a convenience store customer and Johnathon Schaech is Tucker’s ill-fated brother in-law. A good cast.

Maybe not a classic, but Laid To Rest is a solid enough slasher that gets the job done. Its extremely gory and it’s inventive and graphic kills are exceptionally done. It may pull the trigger on it’s brutality and graphic demises a little too soon, though, where a build up would have been more effective. Otherwise, it has an effective killer, a likable cast and moves quickly, and at times, with intensity.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated a gory 3 (out of 4) Chromeskulls.

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CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2 (2011)

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Sequel finds that Chromeskull has a well financed and equally disturbed support team run by a man named Preston (Brian Austin Green) and a woman named Spann (Danielle Harris). They resuscitate the masked killer and have a team of surgeons restore him as best as possible. Preston tracks down and kills “Princess” (now Allison Kyle), while Chromeskull sets his sights on new girl Jessica (Mimi Michaels). Jessica is brought to his new lair and so is Tommy (Thomas Dekker), the only survivor left from the last movie. As Chromeskull prepares to play with his new toys, dissension between Spann and Preston threatens to tear this evil organization apart, while the police close in.

Flick is also directed by Robert Green Hall from his script with Kevin Bocarde. It’s a bit of a letdown after the first flick. The impressive gore and kills are still there in abundance, but putting Chromeskull in charge of a sinister James Bond meets Jason Voorhees organization, complete with minions, takes away a lot of the killer’s mystique. He’s a mystery in the last film, now we may find out a bit too much. The bickering between Spann and Preston isn’t interesting, as we know where that will lead, and having the flick set basically in the same location for 90% of the movie, also makes it very stagnant. The last flick was basically one long chase. Here, it’s basically a standstill with victims sitting around waiting for their teased demise…which, for some, doesn’t even come. There are some effective bits, but it never really feels like a slasher flick. That’s one thing the last film did well. 

The cast are fine. Nick Principe is effective again as Chromeskull, but it’s how he’s used and what he’s involved in that looses the character a lot of steam. Thomas Dekker gets a bigger role and is good as Tommy, now the hero of the flick. Mimi Michaels is really good as final girl Jessica. She’s pretty and sweet and unfortunately, isn’t given much to do but cry and look scared for most of the movie. The one setting keeps her put till the end and only gives her one scene where she shows some resilience. Green and Harris are going through the motions as Chromeskull’s feuding minions and Johnathon Schaech appears again, this time as an F.B.I. agent.

Second flick is sadly a disappointment from the fun and gory first flick. While the inventive and well-rendered kills remain, the setting and story not only keep the film grounded in one spot, but strip Chromeskull of a lot of his mystique by turning him into a James Bond villain, complete with pontificating minions. The rivalry between his first and second in-commands adds nothing and only succeeds in taking time away from the final girl, who basically sits around crying the whole movie. Despite the end setting up a an interesting possible third installment, Chromeskull has yet to return.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Chromeskulls.

 

 

 

 

 

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-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991)

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THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991)

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

The People Under The Stairs is just another example of director Wes Craven’s versatility as he treats us to a darkly humored tale of urban horror. Story finds young “Fool” (Brandon Adams) on his 13th birthday finding out his mother is ill and his family is about to be evicted from the ghetto tenement they live in. Street tough Leroy (Ving Rhames) talks the boy into helping him get payback and a paycheck by robbing the house of the reclusive rich landlords. Once entering the former funeral parlor that is home to the bizarre Robeson’s (Everett McGill and Wendy Robie), Fool finds himself in a house of horrors that includes, kidnapping, murder, cannibalism and…the people under the stairs!

While Craven certainly gives his flick some disturbing moments, he tells his story with a very twisted sense of dark humor as we follow our heroic teen as he tries to escape the virtual fortress of horror. The legendary director has a good time filling his house full of devious and deadly traps, the psychotic Robesons and the tormented souls they keep in the basement. The movie moves quickly, thought could have benefited, pace-wise, from being a few minutes shorter and there is enough action and laughs to keeps us entertained. Sure, the film’s messages about ghetto life and the vastly uneven distribution of wealth between the haves and have-nots is a bit too obvious, but we can overlook that since we are having ghoulish fun with the story those messages are attached to. Despite the humorous tone, Craven doesn’t skimp on the blood and gore and the FX portraying the carnage and the house’s hidden inhabitants are well done and shown in just the right amounts to keep them effective. The house itself is a creepy fun-house of secret doors, hidden passages, traps, bones and cobweb filled rooms…and if that’s not enough, we have Everett McGill running around in his bizarre S & M gear that he wears when on the hunt. It’s loaded with atmosphere and is a fun flick with a ghoulish sense of humor that still holds up well almost a quarter century later.

Craven also has a good cast to portray his oddball characters. Young Brandon Adams is quite an engaging and noble hero as young “Fool”. An inner city teen who, despite his nickname, is wise beyond his years and is tough when he needs to be, but has a surprising sense of honor for a kid his age and the hard life he lives. Adams does a good job making him three dimensional and very likable. Everett McGill reaches near Bruce Campbell levels with his borderline slapstick portrayal of the weird and put-upon Robeson. He may be a twisted killer, but conveys the essence of a man who truly never gets a break…especially when dealing with Fool. Wendy Robie is equally creepy as his disturbed sister and one can truly believe of the two, she is the one to really be scared of. A.J. Langer is sweet, naive and sympathetic as the Robeson’s captive “daughter” Alice. She has lived in captivity all her life, but knows she is being mistreated and bonds with Fool as she sees a possible means to finally seeing the outside world. Rounding out the main cast is Ving Rhames, who is effective as the tough, street crook Leroy, pretty Kelly Jo Minter, who is sweet and street-wise as Fool’s tarot card reading sister Ruby and Sean Whalen is likable as Roach, one of the escaped captives loose in the house’s walls. A good cast for a very offbeat film.

Maybe not the best of Craven’s work, but it is an original and fun flick. It entertains us with a bizarre and twisted sense of humor without sacrificing the tense action, chills or gore. It may get a little preachy, especially in the last act and could have had a bit tighter with it’s running time, but overall, is ghoulish fun and another example of how versatile Craven was as a filmmaker.

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Wes Craven 1938-2015

-MonsterZero NJ

3 kitchen knives.

malevolence rating

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