BARE BONES: THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC (1981)

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THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC (1981)

1981 Indonesian horror is the basis for the recent quasi remake of the same name that has gotten some online attention. It has a very simple plot. The story finds pretty Murni (Suzzanna) betrayed by her lover (Alan Nuary) over another woman and accused of practicing black magic. She is thrown off a cliff by the terrified villagers, but survives. She is rescued by shaman Gendon (W.D. Muchtar) and given the powers of black magic to exact revenge on those who betrayed and tried to murder her.

Original version is directed by Lilik Sudjio from a script by Subagio Samtono, and aside from a revenge seeking woman named Murni and some gory black magic practicing, there is little carried over to the 2019 Joko Anwar written flick. This film is a fun and very gory supernatural revenge flick with plenty of maggots, flying heads and levitations. There is even a dash of martial arts. The FX utilized range from simple but effective to delightfully cheesy. After what Murni was put through, we don’t exactly root against her, when she gruesomely kills those who tossed her off a cliff. Actress Suzzanna is very pretty and charming one minute and fierce the next. Her Murni is reluctant at first, but soon finds the anger to exact her vengeance. There is even an interesting twist during the climactic confrontation that will pit student against teacher. While it lacks the remake’s depth of background story, this version knows to give us a break now and then and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 89 minutes in length. Overall, this is an amusing and fun supernatural horror with both versions now available to stream on Shudder. Either version is worth a look.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: HUNTED (2020)

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HUNTED (2020)

Survival thriller finds Ève (Lucie Debay) meeting a guy (Arieh Worthalter) in a bar. He turns out to be a psychopath that, along with his reluctant assistant (Ciaran O’Brien), take Ève bound and gagged in the trunk of a car out to the woods for obviously insidious activities. The young woman escapes and is pursued by the two men.

Ho-hum flick is directed by Vincent Paronnaud from his script with Léa Pernollet. There is a slight supernatural element, as the wildlife in the area seem to be acting in Ève’s favor, but mostly it’s just this unnamed psycho pursuing her through the woods and abusing his accomplice and a couple of unlucky folks, along the way. It gets tiresome quickly, even at less than 90 minutes, as does the overacting. There is some effective violence and bloodshed, but is ultimately predictable as the pursued woman, of course, learns to fight back. There are some faint allusions to Little Red Riding Hood, but it is really just another flick about a woman being in the wrong place, at the wrong time and meeting the wrong creep. Now streaming on Shudder if you want to give it a go.

-MonsterZero NJ

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2020: THE YEAR THAT PUT INDONESIAN HORROR ON THE MAP!

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2020: THE YEAR THAT PUT INDONESIAN HORROR ON THE MAP!

Maya (Tara Basro) returns to her birthplace to find a decades old curse that’s marked her for death in the Indonesian horror Impetigore.

The horror genre is no stranger to Indonesian cinema, in fact they make spooky flicks quite prolifically. It’s just that, up till now, this was only known to die hard horror movie buffs and dedicated cinephiles. That may have changed this year, thanks to streaming networks like Shudder and Netflix, whose acquiring of some recent titles has brought Indonesia’s horror cinema to mainstream attention…and availability! Film’s like Netflix’s May The Devil Take You and Shudder’s Impetigore have gotten solid reviews for being really spooky and well made movies. It’s also brought much deserved attention to not only their respective writer/directors, Timo Tjahjanto and Joko Anwar, but their resilient final girls Chelsea Islan (May The Devil Take You, May The Devil Take You Too)  and Tara Basro (Satan’s Slaves, Impetigore), as well. This has also brought attention to the fact that Netflix has numerous other Indonesian horror offerings such as The 3rd Eye franchise, The Doll and Kuntilanak, and the same goes with Sudder, Amazon Prime and Tubi. Now everyone is aware of what only a few movie fans have known for some time and thanks to these streaming networks, we have a whole new world of horror flicks to choose from!

Four recent releases that helped put Indonesian horror on the map!

(To get to our reviews of the flicks covered here, click on the highlighted titles!)

2018 Indonesian horror May The Devil Take You has teen Alfie (Chelsea Islan) and her step-siblings paying the price for their father’s occult practices.

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-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: CASTLE FREAK (2020)

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CASTLE FREAK (2020)

Flick is a remake of Stuart Gordon and Full Moon’s 1995 cult classic of the same name. Updated story has Rebecca (Clair Catherine), who was recently blinded in an accident, inheriting her estranged mother’s (Kika Magalhães) castle in Albania. She travels there with her boyfriend John (Jake Horowitz), who seems to see his girlfriend’s new inheritance as his own personal gain. They not only find that her family was involved with some bizarre cult activity, but that there may be someone…or something…still living in the castle walls. So, of course, they invite their friends over to party.

Remake tries to do something a little different with Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli’s original story by giving the freak a more Lovecraftian origin and make it a female this time. There is some very well rendered gore and some viciously violent scenes, but a lot of this effort is undone by Tate Steinsiek’s very by-the-numbers approach. Kathy Charles’ script tries to maintain enough of the original’s storyline to pay it homage and yet be more it’s own thing by adding the cult past, Lovecraft-like elements and the creature’s link to both an ancient evil and Rebecca. For the most part she is successful, but it’s Steinsiek’s pedestrian directing that makes this flick a tedious watch despite some delightfully gory, goofy and gross moments. The castle and Albanian settings are atmospheric, though, to be honest, the young cast inhabiting them are rather bland. Add to that the flick is ten to fifteen minutes too long and could have been a tight 90 minutes without loosing anything important, and you have a close but no cigar attempt at updating, and improving upon, a cult classic. Though, IMO, the original is more unpleasant than anything else. At least this version has a cool score by the legendary Fabio Frizzi! Streaming on Shudder if you are interested and, if so, watch through the credits as apparently, they are considering tampering with another Gordon classic.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: ANYTHING FOR JACKSON (2020)

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ANYTHING FOR JACKSON (2020)

Occult practicing grandparents Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Henry (Julian Richings) Walsh are devastated by the loss of their grandson Jackson (Daxton William Lund). So devastated, that they kidnap single mom-to-be Shannon (Konstantina Mantelos) and plan to use a centuries old Satanic ceremony to put Jackson’s spirit into the body of Shannon’s unborn child. What could go wrong?

Demonic horror is effectively directed by Justin G. Dyck from a script by Keith Cooper. Flick has some very spooky moments and disturbing sequences, while balancing a very dry and twisted undercurrent of humor. It’s subtle, so not to undo all the creepy goings on, but it is there and helps to make the situation all the more unsettling. There are some very effective make-up effects, as The Walsh’s unintentionally invite far more than little Jackson into their home, and a considerable amount of bloodshed. The cast are all good, with McCarthy and Richings being quite sinister in their determination to have their grandson back at any cost and Konstantina Mantelos is sympathetic and resilient as the pregnant Shannon, who somehow must outwit the duo, a bound and gagged captive in their house. It’s not perfect. We know from the start that the Walsh’s perfectly thought out plan will start to crack and fall apart at some point, and we know from past movie experiences that demons don’t play fair. Sometimes it’s a bit too deadpan for it’s own good and there are lulls between the effective moments that slow down the momentum. Overall, it’s spooky entertainment and certainly worth a look for a reverse spin on the classic exorcism story with a pair of Satan worshipping geezers as our bad guys. Now streaming on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE DARK AND THE WICKED (2020)

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THE DARK AND THE WICKED (2020)

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

Chilling horror finds siblings Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) returning home to their parent’s rural farmhouse, as their father (Michael Zagst) has taken gravely ill. Soon after, their mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) mysteriously commits suicide and upon reading her journals, the atheist brother and sister start to believe there is a dark and sinister force stalking their family.

Movie is written and directed by Bryan Bertino (The Strangers, The Monster) and is one creepy and unsettling film. The flick opens with some mood setting sequences that elude to the fact that there is something malevolent indeed stalking this house. As the siblings arrive and their mother’s suicide causes them to investigate what is going on, it becomes obvious that in her final days, their atheist mother began to believe something evil was after their ailing father’s soul. Bertino maintains a very unsettling atmosphere throughout the entire film and it really starts to get under your skin as the film progresses. It also makes it unnerving that these simple folk are atheists, yet come to believe something very sinister and supernatural is at work here. He turns up the tension and creep factor gradually, as farm animals are gruesomely harmed and visitors to the house, such as a very strange priest (Xander Berkeley), prove to not be what they seem. Some may not like that we never get a solid explanation as to who, what and why, but here it seems to serve the film’s dread-filled atmosphere to have the cause and exact nature of this malevolence remain somewhat ambiguous. The film has some shockingly violent moments and some really goose-bump inducing scenes and imagery. Bertino rarely uses jump scares, and crafts all of the scares we do get, which are frequent and very effective, with an expert hand. The flick rarely let’s you relax, much like the characters within it are constantly on edge.

As those characters, the small cast are very good. Lead Marin Ireland is very effective as the concerned and then very frightened Louise. The actress starts Louise out with a convincing performance as a woman conflicted and a little hurt by her mother’s demands that she stay away, but then someone who becomes very scared when it seems the things she doesn’t believe in may be all too real. Michael Abbott Jr. is also solid as her brother Michael. Unlike his sister, he has his own family to take care of and it’s no surprise the evil in the house uses that to it’s advantage, to separate and divide the brother and sister. Julie Oliver-Touchstone is quite spooky, as their haunted mother, in her brief screen time. Her performance helps set the tone for the film. Michael Zagst doesn’t do much as their comatose father, but he is an important character nonetheless and has some chilling scenes. Rounding out are a very creepy Xander Berkeley as a “priest” and Ella Ballentine (The Monster) is effective in what she has to do as farmhand Charlie’s (Tom Nowicki) granddaughter. A really good cast!

Overall, The Dark and the Wicked is definitely one of the best horror’s of the year and one of the most consistently creepy and unsettling horror movies in some time. Bryan Bertino keeps the unnerving atmosphere cranked up and gives us numerous sequences and events to chill and spook us. His frights are legitimate and he never resorts to cheap jump scare tactics to get a reaction out of us. Keeping his malevolent entity ambiguous only works in the film’s favor, as the director knows how to get under our skin and does so often. Even the cinematography by Tristan Nyby and the haunting score by Tom Schraeder is effective in giving us the creeps. Definitely one of the best horror films in a movie year where major new releases were few and far between and indie horror came to the forefront at drive-ins and on VOD.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) ill-fated goats.

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: HALLOWEEN HOTTIE OF 2020!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S HALLOWEEN HOTTIE OF 2020

TARA BASRO!

It’s Halloween🎃!…and as it has become tradition, it’s time to announce MonsterZero NJ’s Halloween Hottie of the Year!…an actress that has not only captured our hearts, but gotten our attention with a strong performance, be it as a final girl or a femme fatale!…
…and our Halloween Hottie of 2020 is…Tara Basro!
Tara Basro is a talented Indonesian actress and model who seems to have become the go-to leading lady for Indonesian director Joko Anwar. She had previously starred in his spooky horror flick Satan’s Slaves and his superhero flick Gundala, before her attention getting role as heroine Maya in the Shudder original Impetigore. This very intense and creepy flick finds down on her luck Maya looking into her past after a mysterious individual tries to kill her. Maya travels, with her best friend Dini (Marissa Anita), to the rural village that is her birthplace, in hopes of securing her inheritance. Having been away from her family home since she was a child, she finds that there is a curse on this small village. Worse still, the locals believe her family is involved and the only way to end the curse is to kill the last remaining member of the family…Maya. Thankfully the resilient and resourceful Maya proves to not be the easiest target. Not many final girls have taken on an entire village full of killers, black magic and ghosts, all at one time, but Basro’s Maya does exactly that and made an impression doing so! A talented actress we’d like to see more of, especially in the horror genre!

(Click on the highlighted links or on the movie poster to read a review of the Shudder original, Impetigore!)

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Tara Basro as Maya in Impetigore!

Down on her luck Maya has been going from one mundane job to another.

A close call with an armed madman leads disturbingly back to her ancestral village.

In the hope a life changing inheritance awaits, Maya travels back to her birthplace.

Almost immediately Maya and bestie Dini, find something is not right in this small remote village.

The more Maya finds out about her family history, the more she finds reason to be afraid…for her life!

Maya finds herself surrounded by black magic, mortal enemies and in deep trouble. Will she escape alive?

MONSTERZERO NJ’S HALLOWEEN HOTTIE OF 2020 RUNNER UP…SEO YE-JI!

As it is now tradition, we have a runner up! A new face on the horror flick scene! Korean actress Seo Ye-Ji made an impression in the Shudder Original Warning: Do Not Play as young, up and coming film director Mi-Jung. Mi-Jung has two weeks to come up with a screenplay in order to keep her first big directing job. Research leads her to a student film, that when shown at it’s premiere, caused panic and even death. Intrigued, she sets out to to find this supposedly haunted film and it’s equally elusive maker Jae-Hyun (Jin Seon-Kyu), who disappeared along with the movie. Mi-Jung learns to be careful what she wishes for and some urban legends are better left alone!
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Seo Ye-Ji as Mi-jung in Warning: Do Not Play

Mi-Jung will lose her directing job without a script, until an urban legend about a haunted film catches her attention.

Mi-Jung soon learns to be careful what you wish for and some things should be left alone.

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This year was, again, a tough choice…or maybe MonsterZero NJ is just an old softie when it comes to final girls. Both these ladies were great in their roles and really brought it as their respective film’s lead!

-MonsterZero NJ

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(And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties by simply going to our Halloween Hotties main page!)

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BARE BONES: THE CLEANSING HOUR (2019)

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THE CLEANSING HOUR (2019)

Shudder Original has a shyster priest, Father Max (Ryan Guzman) staging phony exorcisms for his web show, The Cleansing Hour. During one of his staged performances, a real demonic entity decides to show up. Now the fraudulent Father Max has to not only battle the real thing, but has all his darkest secrets brought out to bear in front of his live audience.

Flick is well directed by Damien LeVeck despite being from a silly script from he and Aaron Horwitz. There is some very bad dialogue and some silly moments, but LeVeck directs the nonsense with a skilled hand and makes it far more effective than it should be. His demon puts Max through an emotional wringer, as the former priest is forced to bare his soul before his internet audience, which grows as the demonic hi-jinx accelerate. LeVeck has a good visual style and there are some very convincing gore and creature effects. He gets good work from his cast, especially Guzman as the troubled priest, Father Max and even sneaks in some biting commentary on the contemporary clergy. Director and cast take this all very seriously and this also helps make it far more effective than it should be, including a very disturbing climax. No classic, but worth a watch and signals LeVeck could turn out something really interesting with a stronger script. Also stars horror flick vet Kyle Gallner (Jennifer’s Body, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010) as Max’s childhood friend and partner, Drew and Alix Angelis as Drew’s fiancée and the object of demonic possession, Lane.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: SPIRAL (2019)

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SPIRAL (2019)

Spooky thriller finds a gay couple, Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) and Aaron (Ari Cohen) moving into a suburban town with their daughter Kayla (Jennifer Laporte). Malik is still suffering trauma from a vicious hate crime perpetrated against he and a former lover and starts to feel something is not right in this town from the moment they move in. Aaron thinks it’s all in his head, but Malik comes to believe their is something very sinister going on here and it has set it’s sights on them. Is he being paranoid?…or is there evil here beyond small town, narrow-minded prejudice?

Horror is very well directed by Kurtis David Harder from a strong and smart script by Colin Minihan (What Keeps Us Alive) and John Poliquin. The story deftly mixes social commentary about the prejudice and hate homosexuals endure at times, with a very unsettling yet more traditional horror scenario. Kurtis David Harder creates some very tense, atmospheric and spooky scenes, as poor Malik is manipulated and isolated from the people he loves by something sinister…or is he? We are kept guessing, for quite some time, as to whether Malik’s emotional trauma isn’t letting some simple prejudices and the ominous warnings of an old townie, “spiral” out of control in his head. It’s heartbreaking to see Malik, tormented, broken down and separated from his loved ones, whether it be mental or supernatural, and the last act is very disturbing and chilling, once we find out whether this is a result of past trauma, or something far more diabolical. The cast is very good, especially a strong, emotionally charged performance by Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman as Malik. The players also include horror vets Lochlyn Munro (Freddy vs Jason) and Chandra West (Shudder’s Z, Puppet Master 4 & 5), who evoke Get Out, as neighbors who seem a bit too welcoming to the gay couple to be legit. Kurtis David Harder is a director to keep an eye on and co-writer/producer Colin Minihan once again proves he’s a filmmaker more people should be talking about. A very chilling and relevant Shudder Original streaming now.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE (2019)

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RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE (2019)

Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams from Cabin in the Woods) is the creator of the popular Slasherman comic book that is based on a real-life serial killer. To get inspiration for the final issue, he goes on a road trip to the area of the original murders with girlfriend, Kathy (Jordana Brewster), assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson) and friend/publisher Ezra (Jay Baruchel). There is already some tension, as Todd comes under fire for sensationalizing a real life killing spree and Kathy is writing a true crime book about the actual murders. Those are the least of his worries, however, as someone is making cryptic phone calls to him and people start dying around him in recreations of his gruesome comic book pages.

This is a brutal and vicious slasher flick as directed by co-star Jay Baruchel from his script with Jesse Chabot, based on the comic of the same name by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. There are some very effective and impactful kills and despite being renown for his comic roles, Baruchel creates a very intense and chilling tale of life imitating art and vice-versa. The Canadian actor/director gives the film some depth by having Todd finding himself right in the middle of the age-old arguments about the media sensationalizing violence, violence as entertainment and killers that get more attention than their innocent victims. As it causes friction between Todd and Kathy, it gives some emotional depth to the characters as the two lovers have different points of view on these issues. So, or course, there is conflict between them. Some surprise reveals in the last act also makes things a lot more personal, as we discover the details on who this fiend is, why they are doing what they are doing and why Todd has been targeted. It makes for a gruesome last act that really cranks up the intensity. Baruchel’s directing here evoked the 2014 The Town That Dreaded Sundown remake and his visual style is impressive with the use of comic book style coloring and animated comic book frames being used to tell the disturbing story. A bit of a familiar story, but one done very well here. The violence is very effective and nasty when it comes, though it’s just enough to not desensitize or numb you to the gruesome goings on. It remains quite unsettling. A very intense and effective movie about horror as entertainment, that is both an effective slasher and yet commentary on the line between inspiration and exploitation. Baruchel doesn’t preach and let’s you drawn you own conclusions.

The cast is small but really good. Jesse Williams makes an interesting character as Todd. We like Todd and his is never vilified, but we do question whether his use of a real-life serial killer as a basis for a comic book character was the right thing to do. WIlliams gives Todd a heart and he is not without inner turmoil as bodies start to fall and he feels scared and, more so, responsible. When the big reveals come, we understand him all the more. Brewster is good as Kathy. A strong independent woman who loves Jesse, but has her own feelings about his comic and it’s use of the death of real innocents for entertainment purposes. Her real crime book causes issues between them and the two actors portray that very well. The scenes of their confrontations on the subject are also well written. Baruchel is good in the supporting role of Todd’s friend and publisher Ezra. Ezra is one of the first to start freaking out over what’s going on, as is Aurora. As Aurora, Niamh Wilson creates an endearing character and while she is the least focused on, she makes her on-screen time count and we like this emotional and slightly eccentric girl. A good cast.

Despite making a name for himself with comic roles and stand-up, Jay Baruchel directs a very strong, atmospheric and unapologetically violent slasher film that is in itself a commentary on violence as entertainment and the possible responsibilities of those who make it. We get a likable character who is himself conflicted over the effects of what he has created, especially when it inspires someone to act out the horrors from it’s very pages. There are some intense and brutal kills and some unsettling last act reveals that really work well in keeping this film tense and disturbing. A very impressive horror from Jay Baruchel and a recommended watch that can be found on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) welding masks!

 

 

 

 

 

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