HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (2016)

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I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (2016)

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

Horror/thriller is based on the first book of the same name from Dan Wells’ trilogy about sociopathic teen John Wayne Cleaver. Fifteen year-old teen John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records) is currently being treated by a therapist (Karl Geary) for having homicidal thoughts. Not helping John is that he lives and works in his mother’s (Laura Fraser) mortuary and is surrounded by death on a daily basis. He sets up rules to control his urges, despite being fascinated with death and serial killers, but things take an odd turn when people in his small Midwestern town start showing up dead. John becomes obsessed with the case and sets out to find who this serial killer is…and his first suspect may be his kindly old neighbor Mr. Crowley (Christopher Lloyd). Is John over-imagining things due to his dreary obsession, or has he found real evil in his sleepy little town?

British/Irish flick is directed by Billy O’Brian with the book based script written by he and Christopher Hyde. It is part horror, part mystery and part character study as we watch a boy investigating the very type of activity that he struggles with himself not to commit. It is an interesting study of an interesting character as John fights with his inner dark urges and by contrast sees death everyday working with his mother and now by pursuing a killer. It is offbeat and intriguing and O’Brian avoids a lot of clichés by not making this a straight up serial killer thriller, but from the view of someone who might be one in the making, himself hunting another. A sort of teenage “Dexter” if you will. There are some brutal and disturbing moments and the film only stumbles a bit when it’s reveal conjures something far less grounded than we expected from the tone of the film up till that point…though it is effective and the film does come to an appropriately suitable conclusion that fits the story and direction it took. It just was a bit off-putting that the film’s killer is something a bit more supernatural when the film seemed to be examining the evil’s that men do.

The cast are all good. Records makes an intriguing and odd youth in his John Wayne Cleaver. He is certainly not your normal kid and he knows it. He knows there is something wrong in his head and the young actor portrays well the conflict and effort to avoid becoming something he already has shown great potential in being. The fact that he pursues another “like” personality seems, at first, to be more out of curiosity than to battle evil. Laura Fraser is solid as John’s single and hard working mother. She conveys well the frustration of loving her child yet knowing he is a bit unstable and has urges that could turn dangerous. Christopher Lloyd is a veteran actor and gives the old neighbor Crowley a nice sympathetic touch so we find it hard to believe that this kindly old man might be a monster on the inside. Solid acting from supporting cast members as well.

I liked this movie, though didn’t quite love it, despite a novel premise. It features a sociopathic lead who is fighting to control his own homicidal urges while pursuing someone else who is giving in quite brutally to theirs. The reveal kind of switches the focus to something more supernatural, when the film seemed to be telling a more grounded story and that is a bit off-putting. Director and co-writer O’Brien does recover and ends the film appropriately and effectively. Recommended, but just go in without grand expectations.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scalpels.

harvest rating

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE DEVIL MAY CALL (2013)

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THE DEVIL MAY CALL (2013)

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

Thriller has an interesting story. Sam (Corri English) is a young blind woman who works the night shift at the ‘Here For You’ crisis center. One of her regular callers is a brooding man named John (Tyler Mane) who none of the other councilors wants to deal with. Sam is working her last night at the center and when co-worker Valerie (Traci Lords) takes a call from John, she let’s it slip to the emotionally disturbed man that it is Sam’s last day. Now John has become unhinged and unknown to the pretty young Sam, he is heading to the crisis center to exact revenge for what he sees as a betrayal. Also unknown to Sam and her co-workers is that John is a full fledged serial killer and already has a trail of bodies in his wake.

Devil May Call is actually a fairly engaging little thriller as written by Jason Cuadrado and Wyatt Doyle and directed by Cuadrado. There are a few disturbing moments and some suspense, especially because we know right away that John is a killer yet, the compassionate Sam does not. The fact that Sam is blind adds to the tension and makes her especially vulnerable, but also makes her resilience seem stronger when she fights back. The film also has a more intimate scope, as it really has only two locations, John’s home and in and around the office building where Sam works. This gives it a somewhat claustrophobic feel and serves the film’s small budget, as well. There is some disturbing violence, but nothing too over the top and thus the film stays somewhat grounded. The flick is not perfect. There are some plot holes such as, if John cut off the building’s power then why do the elevators still work? Never having seen Sam, how does he know who she is? He seems to know who she’s not, even before hearing the sound of people’s voices. There is also a scene where Sam crawls across a floor covered with broken glass, cutting her hands when all she had to do was stand up, which she doesn’t do till she exits the room. It makes no sense and exploit’s Sam’s blindness simply for effect.

As for the small cast, they are all pretty good. Corri English, as Sam, comes across as a sweet but strong and independent young woman, despite her handicap and gives us a resilient and likable heroine to root and fear for. Tyler Mane is imposing and intimidating as the disturbed John and he has a nice screen presence and conveys a demented mind suitably. Van Hansis is good as office newbie and Sam love interest, Jess. He’s a likable enough character who tries to protect Sam when John invades the office. Traci Lords is also endearing as Sam’s cat lady co-worker Valerie who sadly provokes John by telling him about Sam’s last day at work. A perfectly adequate cast for an intimate low budget thriller like this.

I enjoyed this little flick. It’s not great, there are some plot holes and lapses in logic. But it also has a good cast, and some likable characters, as well as, an imposing villain. It’s got a story that’s a bit different than the usual serial killer formula, with it’s crisis center setting and has some disturbing and suspenseful moments. Overall, an entertaining enough flick that may not stay with you for long, or be especially memorable, but it is an engaging 80+ minutes with a few nice chills. Not bad for a night on the couch viewing.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 helplines.

devil may call rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE PACT 2 (2014)

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THE PACT 2 (2014)

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

I really enjoyed Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact. It was a spooky little movie with some nice surprises and well-acted by it’s small cast. Obviously, I was hesitant that they were making a sequel without McCarthy’s involvement and while The Pact 2 doesn’t come close to the original, it was a moderately entertaining supernatural thriller.

The story takes place after the events of the last film and focuses on pretty crime scene cleaner June (Camilla Luddington) who is also an aspiring illustrator. June is having dreams about a woman named Ellie (Suziey Block) who is the recent victim of, what appears to be, a Judas Killer (Mark Steger) copy-cat. Without realizing it, she is drawing her dreams and revealing Ellie’s fate in her work. Worse still, an eccentric FBI agent (Patrick Fischler) feels she might be in danger due to a shocking connection to the original killer and one of his victims, Jennifer Glick. Finding no comfort from her policeman boyfriend (Scott Michael Foster), June turns to the one person who might be able to help, Annie Barlow (Caity Lotz), the woman who finally took the Judas Killer down. But, can either escape this new and unknown serial murderer…or the vengeful spirit of the original Judas Killer?

Written and directed by Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath, this unnecessary sequel does have some spooky moments but, also gets a little convoluted by it’s end. Overall, it was moderately entertaining but, the writers do stretch things a bit to get their new character June, connected to the Judas Killer and it’s a bit cliché. Of course, having a policeman boyfriend and an FBI agent around is of no use to her and she has to investigate things on her own and with the help of Annie. This conveniently puts them both in harm’s way and even Ellie’s spirit giving them clues, doesn’t bring them all that closer to the killer. As for the copy-cat reveal, it comes out of nowhere and is there to add shock value and not make real sense. What helps the film is that, as directors, the pair do give the film some atmosphere and there are some genuinely spooky moments, as June is haunted by both, victim Ellie and serial killer Judas.

June is an interesting character and thought the rest of the cast are a bit flat, Luddington and the returning Caity Lotz are both likable and we wish the film had focused on their teamwork a bit more. Patrick Fischler’s FBI agent Ballard seems to only exist to provide exposition and suspicion and Foster’s cop boyfriend pops in and out of the story when needed. Like the original film, this focuses on a small central group of characters, mostly on it’s leading ladies.

So, this sequel passed the time and I was never bored though, there was little fresh or innovative. The filmmakers are far better directors than writers, as the script is a bit convoluted and cliché but, the film is atmospheric and has some creepy moments. Lead character June is likable as is Camilla Luddington in the part and it was nice to see Lotz return. There were some familiar faces and links to keep this from being a completely detached sequel though, we wish McCarthy had some involvement to make things mesh a bit better. Overall it’s worth a look but, go in with moderate expectations and don’t expect an equal to the enjoyable and spooky first film.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 cute, creeped-out crime scene cleaners

The Pact 2 rating

 

 

 

 

 

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