BARE BONES: NEKROTRONIC (2019)

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NEKROTRONIC (2019)

Nekrotronic is another mash-up from the makers of the gory, fun 2014 Road Warrior/Dawn of the Dead hybrid Wyrmwood. This flick is basically Ghostbusters, meets The Exorcist with a dash of The Avengers and Buffy The Vampire Slayer thrown in. It tells the story of Howard (Ben O’Toole), who if he isn’t having a bad enough time draining septic tanks, finds out he is from a long line of necromancers who have been battling demons for ages. He also finds out his own mother Finnegan (Monica Bellucci) has found a way to put demons into the internet and use a new ghost hunting video game to unleash them, thus possessing the players and swallowing their souls. Howard reluctantly teams up with two pretty demon fighters, Molly and Torquel (Caroline Ford and Tess Haubrich) and his recently deceased bud, Rangi (Epine Bob Savea) to take mom down.

Australian horror/comedy is not quite as deliriously fun as Wyrmwood, but is still an amusing homage to some very classic movies. Flick is energetically directed by Kiah Roache-Turner from his script with brother Tristan Roache-Turner and is filled with some cool FX, tons of gore and a host of demon possessed citizens and minions. It takes it’s ludicrous plot seriously enough for us to follow along and the cast perform it with the right tone and gusto. It could have been a little tighter, currently running at 99 minutes, but overall is a good time and the Turners, once again, achieve a lot with a little. If, as a filmmaker, you are going to have fun with your film influences, this is an amusing way to go…in your face and with a blood-spattered wink at your audience. A bloody fun time, when all is said and done.

Flick can currently be found on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE FURIES (2019)

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THE FURIES (2019)

The Furies is a derivative, but intense horror flick that is basically Battle Royale meets…well, pick any slasher. After having an argument with her friend Maddie (Ebony Vagulans), Kayla (Airlie Dodds) and Maddie are kidnapped. Kayla wakes up in a box in the middle of some remote woods and soon finds some very disturbing facts. First of all, she’s not the only woman abducted and deposited here, second, they are also being hunted by a group of armed, masked killers. Now the meek Kayla must learn to fight for her life, as she searches for Maddie, all the while trying to survive her relentless pursuers.

Tony D’Aquino writes and directs this Australian mash-up of flicks we’ve seen before, but does so well. The film can be intense at times and the attack/fight sequences can be quite brutal and vicious. There is a lot of very well rendered gore, as body parts and blood on both sides are spilled quite frequently. There are some clever additions to the ideas D’Aquino has borrowed, such as each girl…or “beauty”…has a corresponding killer…or “beast”. When a beauty is killed, her corresponding beast’s head explodes, literally. This sets up an interesting angle as beasts must protect their corresponding beauties to survive and beauties must protect their beasts to protect them from the other killers. This sets beast against beast and beauty against beauty at times. It changes the game up a bit. We don’t know much about who or what has set this game of horrors up. We see brief glimpses of a surgical procedure as devices are attached to the participants eyes, so whoever’s watching can see it from a POV perspective. We also get a dark glimpse of some sort of control room. It is only in the last scenes where we get some of the answers to our questions, though the movie looses some momentum when the film switches gears for the reveals…and we’ve seen that all before as well. The killers are effective, although they are simply large men in grotesque masks with sharp objects and they never speak. Are they kidnapped maniacs, or something? Who knows? The girls are alright, but with all the running and carnage, we don’t get to learn too much about them before they are killer fodder. The small cast are all fine with Airlie Dodds making a decent final girl as Kayla, with Linda Ngo as Rose being the only other girl getting any significant screen time. The real star here is Larry Van Duynhoven, whose prosthetic make-up and gore are a sight to behold, even to the most jaded horror fan.

Overall, this flick is far from original, but it an entertaining mash-up of recycled ideas with a few fun twists thrown in. Tony D’Aquino keeps things moving at a fast and furious pace, with the blood spattering quite frequently and thus little time for us to ask too many questions till it’s over. Sure we’ve seen it all before, from masked killers to folks hunted for sport and entertainment, but the gore effects are worth watching it for alone and there are some brutal and intense fight sequences to keep us munching our popcorn for the economical 82 minutes it lasts. Blood-soaked flick is available on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 (out of 4) axes.

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HELL HOUSE LLC III-LAKE OF FIRE (2019)

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HELL HOUSE LLC III: LAKE OF FIRE (2019)

Shudder Exclusive takes place nine years after the events of the first film with a new chapter of the story told with new footage. We find that the Abaddon Hotel was finally set to be demolished after all the death and disappearances that have occurred there. It was suddenly purchased in 2018 by entrepreneur Russell Wynn (Gabriel Chytry) to be used to stage his performance show Insomnia. He asked the new host of Morning Mysteries, Vanessa Shepherd (Elizabeth Vermilyea) to cover the set-up of the show with his cast and crew, leading up to opening night. It’s mostly her footage we are witnessing, as once again spooky things are documented occurring at the infamous location, leading up to an opening performance where all Hell breaks loose…literally.

Supposed final film in what is now the Hell House LLC trilogy is once again written and directed by Stephen Cognetti. It’s an improvement over the somewhat disappointing Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel, though not as consistently creepy as the spooky surprise that was the first flick. To a degree it’s more of the same, with a documentary showing footage that was filmed while folks tried to do something spooky within the house and paid dearly for it. The last act does open things up and takes things in a more “Biblical” direction and it’s a matter of horror film preference as to whether one finds it effective, or too over-the-top. Cognetti does build some tension, atmosphere and provide some chills here, despite this being the third go around, and even if the novelty has warn off, he gets credit for taking some risks to conclude his trilogy. The hotel location is as creepy as ever and the cast of unknowns all perform well enough to assist in the suspension of disbelief that this is real footage. There are also some amusing cameos from the other installments that won’t be spoiled here.

Overall, it’s an entertaining finale and while some of it’s wrap-up worked and some of it wasn’t so successful, Cognetti proves he is a filmmaker to keep an eye on. He still can chill with his now familiar format and there is a surprise or two that play with expectations. Hopefully his next film abandons the tired found footage genre and gives us some straight up horror to see what he really has up his sleeve. Most certainly worth a watch, especially if you are a fan.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) scary clown mannequins…who are still in that darn cellar.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HAUNT (2019)

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HAUNT (2019)

There have been a lot of horrors set in Halloween haunts as of late, from The Houses October Built to Hell Fest to Extremity, so, this Shudder* produced flick needed to impress coming in with a concept that is already becoming familiar…and not only does it do that, it might be one of the best horrors this year.

Story finds pretty Harper (Katie Stevens) trying to part with abusive boyfriend Sam (Samuel Hunt) and heading out to party on Halloween night with friends Bailey (Lauryn Alisa McClain), Angela (Shazi Raja) and Mallory (Schuyler Helford). At a club, they run into a couple of guys, Nathan (Will Brittain) and Evan (Andrew Caldwell) and decide to leave with them to find a Halloween haunt, dragging a reluctant Harper along. They stumble upon one such haunt, in the middle of nowhere and soon find they may have picked the wrong haunt to haunt.

Flick is directed intensely by the A Quiet Place writing duo of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who also scripted here. It’s premise may not be novel at this point, but is carried out very effectively. It starts out tense with Harper putting on make-up over a bruise suffered from her alcoholic boyfriend and Bailey trying to convince her to finally break up with him. We find out in flashbacks that Harper’s father was also an abusive alcoholic and all this personal drama gives the character some emotional depth, much like Extremity‘s emotionally wounded Allison. We are thus sympathetic to Harper, and her friends, too, as they are all likable characters, especially when we start to realize those running this backwoods haunt are in it for some deadly thrills of their own. The pranks start out playful and then get mean spirited before becoming lethal. The violence is sparse, so it has impact when it occurs and there is some decent gore once things really start to get vicious…and Harper finally learns to stand up for herself and fight back. Beck and Woods build some good old-fashioned suspense and stage some nicely intense set pieces to put our likable leads through. Obviously, not all of them make it and killing off main characters makes us feel unsure about any of their safety. It adds to the suspense. The film looks cool and the sets are well rendered on what appears to be a modest budget. It has a Halloween feel and an atmosphere of foreboding throughout. The costumes for our haunt folk are creepy and they are equally spooky without their Halloween masks. We don’t get to know them very well, or their motives, but they come across as deranged and dangerous and that helps this work. Add to that a very cool score by tomandandy, and you’ve got a very effective Halloween themed chiller that makes very good use of a now familiar setting. Any issues here are minor, such as the movie evoking some of the other haunt set flicks mentioned earlier and the addition of Harper’s jerk boyfriend Sam to the action in the last act, doesn’t really add anything to the proceedings. Otherwise this is a very solid horror.

The cast of fresh faces really helps this flick click. Katie Stevens is very impressive as Harper. She’s a girl with a painful past, dealing with her own issues and finally learning to fight for herself, when thrown into a nightmarish situation. The actress makes her likable and sympathetic and we’re totally with her when she goes on the offensive. Actress McClain is very likable as best pal Bailey. She’s a caring person and looking out for her friend makes her endearing to us. Will Brittain is a solid male lead and he is charming, handsome and his Nathan seems like the nice guy Harper really needs. This makes us like him and fear for him. Caldwell is fun as the obnoxious and bombastic Evan. This character could have been annoying, but script and actor avoid that by presenting his sarcastic humor in the right degrees. He is also brave when he needs to be. Raja and Helford get the least focus of the group, but the actresses make them extremely likable supporting characters with the scenes they have. The key to a horror flick’s success is feeling empathy for it’s main characters and here we do. It also needs effective villains and our masked haunters, Chaney Morrow as “Ghost”, Justin Marxen as “Clown”, Terri Partyka as “Witch”, Justin Rose as “Vampire”, Damian Maffei as “Devil” and Schuyler White as “Zombie” all give their characters a lethality from under their already effective costumes. Last but not least, Samuel Hunt makes the brutish Sam appropriately dislikable with what limited screen time the character has. A solid cast all the way around.

Overall, Haunt is a chilling and intense horror that overcomes the familiarity of a recent horror trend by simply being really good at what it does. It’s intense, scary, has some striking violence and gore and makes good use of it’s spooky setting. It gives us some very likable lead characters, including a three dimensional and sympathetic final girl, to root and fear for and some dastardly villains to be fearful of. Really solid horror and a very spooky surprise from Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, producer Eli Roth and those great folks at Shudder.

*Just to be clear…Flick was produced by Shudder, but won’t be hitting their streaming network until next month. It is currently available on most Pay Per View outlets such as Verizon, Vudu and iTunes. Sorry if there was any confusion caused by my initial referral to it as a Shudder “Exclusive”. -MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 (out of 4) creepy haunt hosts.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: BOAR (2017)

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BOAR (2017)

Australian nature run amok horror has a massive wild boar terrorizing the remote Australian countryside. A group of locals and a visiting family find themselves battling the monster, who is very hungry and will eat anything…or anyone…that wanders into it’s hunting ground.

Flick is a fun and delightfully gory monster on the loose flick from writer/director Chris Sun. The flick evokes the nature gone wild films of the 70s and 80s like Grizzly, Alligator and, of course, Razorback, that were themselves inspired by Jaws. Sun gives his monster boar a lot of menace and the creature FX are mostly good old fashioned prosthetics, and very effective ones at that. CGI is only used minimally for a few full body shots needing the big pig to move like a real animal. It’s quick and rendered well enough to work. There is plenty of blood, entrails and limbs flying all over the place, yet Sun doesn’t forget to give us some likable and endearing characters to root and fear for. As the writer/director is not afraid to have characters we like fall to the critter, it ads suspense, as anyone could end up a meal. A really fun and bloody as heck, old fashioned monster flick from down under. Boar stars Wolf Creek’s John Jarratt, horror legend Bill Moseley and former WWE Superstar turned actor Nathan Jones (Mad Max: Fury Road). Check it out on Shudder for a bloody good time!

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: TERRIFIED aka ATERRADOS (2017)

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TERRIFIED aka ATERRADOS (2017)

Argentinian supernatural horror finds a police detective (Maxi Ghione) teaming up with three paranormal investigators (Norberto Gonzalo, Elvira Onetto and George Lewis) when a neighborhood starts to suffer horrific…and fatal… supernatural occurrences.

Written and directed by Demián Rugna, Aterrados can be one disturbing and scary flick at times. It has some very creepy sequences, some shocking and brutal violence and a very steady atmosphere of dread and mystery. The ghost FX are all executed in camera with actors in very effective make-up and the gore is very well done and quite gruesome. Rugna creates some very scary moments and it helps that even his valiant leads, despite their expertise in their fields, are all quite afraid too…and they should be. What really holds the film back is that none of it is ever given any explanation, or are we given any reason why these spirits decide to suddenly attack this one block and start quite brutally killing residents. Who are they even? Ambiguity can be useful in stories like this, but getting no hints or exposition at all, as for what is happening and why, leaves us very unsatisfied by it’s conclusion. We get a lot of good scares and graphic deaths, but it all leads nowhere and we are given no clues as to why it suddenly starts happening. Still worth a look, but you won’t know any more at the beginning than you do at it’s end. Terrified, or Aterrados in Spanishis a Shudder exclusive only on their streaming horror network.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: HELL HOUSE LLC 2 (2018)

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HELL HOUSE LLC 2 (2018)

Sequel to the spooky surprise Hell House LLC takes place eight years later with internet journalist Jessica Fox (Jillian Geurts) planning to find out actually what happened in the Abaddon Hotel turned Halloween Haunt, on that fateful night, documented in the first film. She convinces surviving documentarian Mitchell Cavanaugh (Vasile Flutur) to join her crew (Dustin Austen and Joy Shatz) and a pompous TV psychic (Kyle Ingleman) to go inside the allegedly haunted building. Obviously, breaking into the sinister Abaddon will turn out to be a very bad idea.

Film is once again written and directed by Stephen Cognetti and is a little disappointing, especially since the first film was such a creepy surprise. Flick starts off on shaky ground with a set-up from a TV show called Morning Mysteries. These opening segments are a bit hokey and the flick only starts to get spooky once Jessica and company sneak into the Abaddon and become trapped. Once inside, Cognetti proves he can still muster up some very creepy moments and scares. Unfortunately the film doesn’t maintain it’s atmosphere as we keep cutting back to the Morning Mysteries segment that occurred before they enter the sinister hotel and then to a police interrogation with a bloodied Jessica that takes place a few days later. Going back and forth breaks up some of the tension Cognetti started to build. The last act also looses some sinister steam as we finally meet the source of the hotel’s evil and they turn out to be a cliché pontificating villain. The momentum stops dead as they chatter away about their evil plot.

The sequel’s worth a look if you enjoyed the first flick and has some very spooky moments of it’s own, but it’s not as consistently unsettling like the first film and the climax is rather anti-climactic…not to mention predictable. Flick hints at yet another installment, but maybe it’s time Cognetti moved on from the Abaddon and gave us something new. You can find Hell House LLC 2 exclusively on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: RUIN ME (2017)

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RUIN ME (2017)

Shudder exclusive finds pretty Alex (Marcienne Dwyer) out of rehab and going on “Slasher Sleep-out” weekend with her new boyfriend Nathan (Matt Dellapina) and four other participants. It’s supposed to be a simulated slasher flick in the woods, but something strange is going on and Alex starts to believe that this Slasher Sleep-Out is far more real than they bargained for. Is it all in Alex’s troubled head?…or is this more than a game?

Flick is directed well by Preston DeFrancis from a script by he and Trysta A. Bissett. It’s a fairly fun movie that works in some of the familiar tropes and then plays with them a bit as this simulated slasher weekend starts to go awry…or does it? The concept that we are never sure if this is all part of this faux horror movie weekend, or if someone is having deadly fun with our bunch, works well enough, even if we can see certain things coming. The cast are all good, especially lead Dwyer, who makes a sufficient final girl…or is she? There is entertainment to be had and some surprises, too and while it’s not perfect, it actually surpasses the moderate expectations one might go in with. Worth a watch.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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