BARE BONES: MOLOCH (2022)

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MOLOCH (2022)

Netherlands horror finds widowed Betriek (Sallie Harmsen) returning home with her young daughter Hannah (Noor van der Velden) to her family farmhouse after the death of her husband. Upon returning she is greeted by some odd deaths, a stranger attacking her family and the discovery of a group of buried bodies of woman with their throats slit. What is going on and why does Betriek feel something ancient, and evil has targeted her family.
 
Dutch horror is directed by Nico van den Brink from a script by he and Daan Bakker. Despite some intriguing story elements involving a malevolent biblical entity and a woman suspected of witchcraft, the film is very routine and kind of dull. There are some spooky visuals, and a few effective moments, along with some nice folklore elements but the film is very talky and takes far too long to get to the spooky stuff. The cast and setting give it some atmosphere and a refreshing look and feel, but there is little tension or scares, and it ends exactly as you expect it to. A disappointing example of some good ideas executed in a mundane and pedestrian manner. Flick is available to stream on Shudder.
 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: GLORIOUS (2022)

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GLORIOUS (2022)

Flick has down on his luck Wes (Ryan Kwanten) being locked in a disgusting, public rest stop bathroom with a powerful deity (voice by J.K. Simmons) that resides in one of the stalls. Yup…you read that right! The being needs the emotionally distraught man to help save the universe. No, really…that’s the plot!
 
Flick is directed by Rebekah McKendry from a script and story by Joshua Hull, David Ian McKendry and Todd Rigney. It’s a woefully misguided attempt to do H.P. Lovecraft in a gross public bathroom…complete with glory hole. It’s gross for the sake of being gross and doesn’t have any of the cleverness it thinks it does. It’s dreadfully slow paced for a film under 80 minutes and is mostly long-drawn-out dialogue sequences with a few moments of activity here and there. The lead character of Wes is unlikable long before the big end reveal…which is not all that unexpected…when being sympathetic to his predicament would have worked much better. McKendry’s direction is unremarkable, and she borrows a lot of her visuals from the recent Lovecraft adaptation Color Out of Space. J.K. Simmons does good work vocalizing the deity “Ghat”, but Kwanten is a bland lead as Wes. Aside from a few brief effective moments that are very few and very far between, there is little to recommend here. Flick is currently available to stream on Shudder if you want to waste 80 minutes of your time.
 

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: THE FOUND FOOTAGE PHENOMENON (2021)

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THE FOUND FOOTAGE PHENOMENON (2021)

The Found Footage Phenomenon is a fun and informative documentary about one of horror’s newest sub-genres…or is it? Flick from Sarah Appleton and Phillip Escott traces the start of the sub-genre back to moments and films from the 60s and 70s, such as the opening moments of the classic slasher Peeping Tom to Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust, where the seeds of this sub-genre first were sown. We then cover films like The Last Broadcast and The Blair Witch Project where found footage really started to take form, to some of the newer entries like the Paranormal Activity series, [REC] series, Cloverfield and Megan is Missing. Along the way we get interviews from found footage filmmakers like Jaume Balagueró, Oren Peli, Eduardo Sánchez, André Øvredal, Ruggero Deodato himself and many more. We learn about how some of these films were made and of some of the titles we haven’t seen, or that missed the spotlight and credit they deserve. It’s a lot of fun! All in all, a very entertaining and interesting documentary for found footage and horror fans alike. Now available to stream on Shudder! 
 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: HAIL TO THE DEADITES (2020)

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HAIL TO THE DEADITES (2020)

Hail to the Deadites is a documentary from writer/director Steve Villeneuve that takes a fun look at the Evil Dead franchise’s loyal and dedicated fan base. The film travels from convention to convention and puts the spotlight on some of the movies’ most avid fans, as well as features interviews with the series’ cast members like Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss, the late Dan Hicks, Kassie DePavia and the man, the myth, the legend himself, Bruce Campbell. It’s a fun and interesting look at the fans of one of horrors greatest and most recognized franchises and the effect that loyal fandom has had on the talent involved with those movies, such as FX legend Tom Sullivan. If you are one of these diehard fans and want an entertaining look at some of your peers and how you have affected the lives of the actors you idolize, then this is a nice companion piece to the classic horror film series. Documentary is now available to stream on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SUPERHOST (2021)

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SUPERHOST (2021)

Disturbing yet fun flick finds travel vloggers and couple Teddy (Osric Chau) and Claire (Sara Canning) picking a remote house in the woods for the next installment of their failing vlog, Superhost. The home is owned by Rebecca (Gracie Gillam) a woman who seems a bit eccentric to say the least. The longer Claire and Teddy stay, the more they begin to feel something isn’t right in this house and something is certainly very wrong with their Superhost, Rebecca.

Flick is written and directed by Brandon Christensen (ZStill/Born) and despite being a familiar story, it is still a very effective and entertaining horror. Christensen lets us know from the start that something isn’t right with Rebecca and we know where it is all headed from the moment they get there, but unlike Teddy and Claire, this is about the ride and not the destination. What a ride it is, as we slowly find out, along with the couple, just how deranged Rebecca is and what she’s prepared to do—aside from what we find out she’s already done. What starts out as unsettlingly eccentric becomes diabolical and viciously violent, as the two are stranded in the middle of nowhere with the demented Rebecca watching their every move and listening to their every word. It’s a creepy fun flick, though it does get straight-up disturbing and bloodily violent before the credits roll. Christensen has a nice visual eye and creates an atmosphere of dread from very early on, then delivers a suspenseful and blood-spattered last act that might have you spilling your popcorn here and there—or even laughing uncomfortably in a few spots.

The small cast really helps make this work! Gracie Gillam, who, under her former stage name of Grace Phipps, starred in Some Kind of Hate, Dark Summer and Tales of Halloween, gives an over-the-top tour de force performance as the demented Rebecca. She’s unsettlingly cute and energetic one moment and full-blown vicious psychopath the next. She nears Heath Ledger Joker heights at times with her ability to change levels of crazy at the drop of a hat and being equally scary both in her exaggerated moments and in the calm ones, too. She and The Loved One’s Lola could be roommates no problem. Osric Chau is very likable as Teddy. Teddy is the weaker and more emotional of the couple, but is sweet and sympathetic. Claire is the more ambitious and business minded of the two…and the stronger. She sees Rebecca as prime ratings subject matter and is willing to continue with the episode long after Teddy’s alarms are going off about the alleged homeowner. Sara Canning plays her well and yet keeps her likable, despite her putting the vlog before boyfriend Teddy. Rounding out the cast is horror legend Barbara Crampton, who plays Vera, a woman with a grudge against Claire and Teddy. A solid cast!

Overall, this may be a familiar story and there is no doubt how this is going to end up, but it is a chilling hoot getting there. Brandon Christensen proves yet again he is a skilled director who can freshen up familiar tales and provide some nice atmosphere, chills and suspense. He has definitely become a filmmaker to keep an eye on. The small cast all perform well, with a delightfully demented performance from horror veteran Gracie Gillam. Superhost is now streaming exclusively on Shudder!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 1/2 (out of 4) Superhosts.

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BARE BONES: THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR (2020)

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THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR (2020)

Thriller has two young boys, Kevin (Ezra Dewey) and Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) kidnaped by a strange woman (Kristen Bauer van Straten) and her creepy accomplice (Micah Hauptman). Bobby is left to suffocate in the trunk of the car, while Kevin is taken and imprisoned inside a house. Resilient Bobby escapes his fate and instead of running away, enters the house with every intent of freeing his friend.

As written and directed by David Charbonier and Justin Powell, this is no Home Alone but a brutal and intense thriller about a young boy fighting for his life and that of his friend. There is some startling violence and bloodshed, as the tough and tenacious Bobby fights against two nasty individuals who had no problem leaving him to die a horrible death. Kevin is the far more timid of the two and is also incumbered by a shock collar that is activated by sensors in the house. This leaves it mostly Bobby’s fight, even once the two boys are reunited. The cast is really good here. with Lonnie Chavis doing a fantastic job as the tough but likable Bobby. This kid goes through some rough stuff and performs it well. Ezra Dewey is sympathetic as the weaker Kevin, who is traumatized by what is happening and also performs it well. Van Straten and Haupton make for disturbing and effective villains, as a pair who not only traffic in children, but have no problem tormenting or killing them. This is a brutal, violent and suspenseful thriller, all the more effective as it involves two kids and doesn’t hold back because of it. It’s a rough watch, with some tough subject matter, but a very intense and well made thriller from this promising directing duo. Filmmakers to watch Charbonier and Powell also directed Ezra Dewey in IFC Midnight’s spooky The Djinn released just last May. The Boy Behind The Door is now streaming on Shudder. 

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: VICIOUS FUN (2020)

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VICIOUS FUN (2020)

Horror comedy takes place in 1983 with horror magazine writer, Joel (Evan Marsh) crushing on his hot roommate Sarah (Alexa Rose Steele). A jealous Joel decides to follow her new boyfriend Bob (Ari Millen) and tails him to a bar and restaurant. There he befriends and questions Bob, who eventually leaves with a young woman, while Joel soon passes out drunk. Upon awakening, he finds himself in a bizarre twelve step meeting, at the restaurant, for what turns out to be a bunch of serial killers. Joel is mistaken for one of their number, until Bob joins in and outs him. Now Joel becomes their next intended victim until he finds an unexpected ally, when one of the psychos turns out to be a killer with a grudge against killers

Flick is directed by Cody Calahan from a script by James Villeneuve. It starts out to be a lot of bloody fun, as we first get introduced to this bunch of various serial murderers and then when Bob shows up to out Joel and the blood and body parts start to fly. It’s the second act that really hurts this flick as a change of locations to a police station, grinds the momentum and bloody fun to a halt. A lot of time is wasted with Joel and his new ally sitting in jail cells as the moronic police try to pin the bodies at the restaurant on them. It’s not until the third act, when Bob, along with remaining killers, the Jason-like Mike (Robert Maillet) and the Gacy-like Fritz (Julian Richings) attack the police station to finish their work. The film is fun from here on in, but never really fully recovers from the dead weight of the middle. The cast are all good and get the sarcastic tone of the material and there is plenty of blood, guts and action, when killers, cops and prey all collide. It’s just a slow mid-section that really keeps this from being a consistent delight from start to finish. Also stars David Koechner as the session leader, Sean Baek as cannibal Hideo, Amber Goldfarb as female killer Carrie and has a great 80s-esque electronic score by Steph Copeland. Worth a watch on Shudder, but not the complete blast it could have been with a little trimming in the second act.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE AMUSEMENT PARK (1973)

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THE AMUSEMENT PARK (1973)

Lost film from legendary director George A. Romero has been rediscovered, restored and released on Shudder. Romero made this scathing indictment of the ill treatment of the elderly from a script by Wally Cook. It was a film originally commissioned by the Lutheran Society to educate viewers on how badly seniors are treated by society. Romero’s film was so disturbing, that the Lutherans decided not to release it. The film tells a simple story of a 71 year-old man (Lincoln Maazel) who goes to an amusement park to spend the day and instead finds himself in a nightmare where he and the other elderly at the park are ignored, abused, taken advantage of, and even brutally beaten and robbed. The only senior given any respect or attention is one who is obviously wealthy. Romero presents a nightmare of ill treatment heaped on our elderly hero and his peers and it is quite uncomfortable to watch. It can be a bit preachy…though it’s subject no less important…and the performances of the supporting characters are admittingly amateur. It still conveys a strong message about how the senior members of our society are cast out and abused that resonates almost five decades since the film was made. Romero made this statement so strongly that the very people wanting to spread the message felt it too disturbing to release. 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: SON (2021)

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SON (2021)

Flick opens with Laura (Halloween 2018’s Andi Matichak) pregnant and escaping from a cult run by her father. She gives birth in a car while hiding from pursuit. Eight years later, she is a single mother of a boy David (Luke David Blumm) and a teacher. One night she sees a group of people, resembling cult members, in David’s room, but by the time the police arrive, there is no evidence anyone was there. David soon falls ill and the doctors have no explanation. The police detective on the case (Emile Hirsch) can find no evidence of a cult, as he digs into Laura’s disturbing past. As Laura fears something sinister is after them, she takes David and flees. Even worse, she discovers David’s illness can only be sated by something out of a nightmare. Is something demonic influencing her son, or is it all in Laura’s head?

RLJE Films production is directed by Ivan Kavanagh from his own script. This is a continually creepy and unsettling film, as the story unfolds and we question whether this is real, or all a product of Laura’s imagination, as a result of her troubled past. Is she responsible for some of the horrible things going on?…or is there something truly demonic coming to claim her son? The film has a consistent atmosphere of dread and some very gory sequences, as David’s illness is sated in a very disturbing and violent manner. The pace is more moderate, but that serves the slowly unfolding story. The cast are all good with Matichak being very strong as the emotionally troubled but loving mother, Laura. The flick comes to a chilling climax, that may not be totally unexpected, but will stay with you for a while, all the same. Son is available on streaming networks including Amazon Prime and is an unsettling film along the lines of The Dark and the Wicked.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: JAKOB’S WIFE (2021)

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JAKOB’S WIFE (2021)

Story finds Anne Fedder (Barbara Crampton, who also co-produced) unhappy in her marriage to overbearing Minister Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden). When on an ill-fated rendezvous with an old flame (Robert Rusler), Anne is bitten by a female vampire (Bonnie Aarons). Now Anne suddenly finds the strength to stand up to her husband and be her own person, but only the bad thing is, she also develops a strong appetite for blood.

Tale of female empowerment and vampirism is directed by Travis Stevens (The Girl on the Third Floor) from a script by he, Kathy Charles and Mark Steensland. It’s well intended and there are plenty of effective scenes, but the first third seems a bit bland and slow moving until the spooky stuff really begins. Once things get going, there is plenty of bloodshed and it is when dealing with its vampire elements that Travis’ flick really comes to life…pun intended. It’s fun to watch Crampton “vamp’ it up as the bitten Anne and also see Fessenden’s minister going all Van Helsing in order to save his wife. It has its slow spots, as Travis seems to be far better at the horror elements than the husband/wife drama between Anne and Jakob. It is fun, though, to see the tables turn, as Anne starts to wear the pants in the relationship and Jakob is revealed to be a bit of a coward. The vampire scenes are chilling and there is a subtle humor laced into the proceedings, so we can have a little fun between the darker and bloodier moments. Travis also avoids the clichés in this type of flick whenever possible and while it is not completely unconventional, the familiar tropes are used very well, and it comes to a fitting conclusion. The film also has an effective visual style, as photographed by David Matthews and a fun vampire appropriate score by Tara Busch.

The cast are good, especially an excellent Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, Chopping Mall) as the oppressed wife experiencing a supernaturally charged awakening. It’s one of her best roles in a long time. Larry Fessenden is also well cast as her boorish minister husband who realizes there are vampires afoot…and his wife is one of them. It’s fun to see Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Vamp) back in a horror, though his appearance is basically an extended cameo. The film also stars Nyisha Bell as a parishioner turned bloodsucker, Jay DeVon Johnson as Sheriff Mike Hess, along with a cameo by former WWE Superstar CM Punk (The Girl on the Third Floor) as a deputy and featuring Bonnie Aarons (The Nun), who is very effective as the master vampiress.

Overall, Jakob’s Wife starts off a little slowly, but finds its footing and presents a spooky and entertaining story of a woman rediscovering and asserting herself, with the help of a little vampirism. Some of the dramatic scenes can come across as a little flat, but director Travis Stevens handles the spooky and bloody stuff a lot more effectively to make up for it. The filmmaker has a good cast, especially with a strong performance by lead Crampton. Not a completely fresh take on the traditional vampire tale, but one that has some novel moments, does its own thing at times and mixes in some contemporary themes of female empowerment deftly into its story. Flick from RLJE Films and Shudder is now available to stream on Amazon Prime and other streaming outlets.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) fangs.

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