BARE BONES: INITIATION (2020)

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INITIATION (2020)

Initiation is another horror with a message about inappropriate sexual behavior towards women. The slasher focuses on a college campus where girls thought to be promiscuous are marked in texts with exclamation points by predatory males. Pretty Kylie (Isabella Gomez) finds herself waking up in a male student’s bedroom after passing out during a homecoming party and not sure of what happened to her. Soon, one of the boys possibly involved, star student Wes Scott (Froy Gutierrez), is brutally murdered. While Kylie struggles with what happened to her and Wes’ sister Ellery (Lindsay LaVanchy) struggles with the murder of her brother and what he’s accused of, a mirror masked killer begins stalking and murdering students.

Flick is stylishly directed by John Berardo from his script with Brian Frager and star LaVanchy. It finds inspiration not only from contemporary themes from the #metoo era, but classic slashers like Scream, and it’s visual style, with it’s mirror masked face killer and bold neon colors, hinting Berardo may have been a fan of Dario Argento, as well. The kills are quite vicious and there is some graphic bloodshed, as the stalker uses various tools to savagely kill his or her victims. It’s a very somber slasher for it’s first hour with it’s gruesome kills few and spaced out, while focusing on the emotional turmoil of both Kylie and Ellery. It cranks up the intensity for it’s climax, where we get a reveal which works in context of the story, though isn’t a complete surprise, as, at this point, there are not too many suspects left. Overall, this is an effective and stylish slasher with a more moderate pace, until the last act, which deftly applies some very topical themes with it’s subtext of young women being taken advantage of and more concern show for the victimizer than the victim. Worth a watch on streaming outlets like Amazon Prime and has a good cast that also stars veteran actress Yancy Butler, as a police detective and horror vet Lochlyn Munro (Freddy vs. Jason), as the university chancellor, who may be more concerned with reputations than justice.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY TO FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2!

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY TO FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2!

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Five years after the events of Friday the 13th, a new group of camp counselors line up for the slaughter!

40 years ago this weekend, 4/30/81 to be exact, Friday the 13th Part 2 was released in theaters and a classic horror icon was born! Jason arrived to avenge his mother, in this installment, and thus his iconic character first came to life! HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2!

MZNJ PERSONAL NOTE: Saw F13P2 opening night at the Hackensack Drive-In Little Ferry, N.J.

Screen-Shot-2016-04-26-at-8.55.19-PMJason arrives to avenge his mom and horror history is made!

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Life lessons to be learned in F13P2! Fun-loving Ted (Stuart Charno) survives the movie by staying at the bar and continuing to get drunk!

-MonsterZero NJ

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COOL STUFF: THE HILLS RUN RED (2009) COLLECTOR’S EDITION BLU-RAY!

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THE HILLS RUN RED (2009) COLLECTOR’S EDITION BLU-RAY!

 

The Hills Run Red (2009) (full review HERE) is a bloody…and very 80s…slasher flick that was sadly overlooked when first released directly to DVD on 9/29/2009. It has since gained a strong and loyal cult following and now, thanks to the great folks at Scream Factory, is getting the treatment and respect it deserves!

 

As for the disc itself….

The high definition transfer of this cult favorite looks really good and wonderfully complements Ilan Rosenberg’s cinematography, as well as, the film’s unsettling visual design. The flick is presented in the original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The colors are bright and vibrant and the images are sharp. The sound is in DTS HD 5.1 and should satisfy any home theater enthusiasts, as well as, it’s intended audience.

 

Now on to the extras….

There are some very extensive and informative extras on this disc! The special edition contains all the extras from the original DVD release, including the audio commentary and the It’s Not Real Until You Shoot It: MakingThe Hills Run Red feature.

The new stuff is bountiful. We get two new audio commentaries featuring director Dave Parker, podcaster Patrick Bromley and fan favorite filmmakers Joe Lynch and Adam Green. We get a bunch of video interviews. They start off with an in-depth look at the creation of it’s score from composer Frederik Wiedmann. We get extensive interviews with executive producer Erik Olsen, director Dave Parker and writer David J. Schow. These interviews give some great insight into the production, especially detailing Warner Brothers enthusiastically green-lighting the film after reading the script, then backtracking once they saw the first cut. This explains the short runtime and why the film was dumped unceremoniously on DVD. We get a day in the shooting of the film with, Friday the 13th, June 2008. We get a look at improve scenes shot by the cast for the character filmed segments in The Hills Are Alive…With The Sound Of Improv. The next batch of new featurettes appear to be put together from unreleased interview and behind the scenes footage during the production. These include separate documentaries each on William Sadler’s portrayal of Wilson Wyler Concannon, as well as, Janet Montgomery, Sophie Monk, Alex Wyndham and Tad Hilgenbrink playing their respective roles. After the cast, there are on-set interviews with producer Robert Meyer Burnett and production designer Antonello Rubino. Also be aware, there is a lot of unused footage from the film peppered throughout all these featurettes and a nice production scrapbook that is the icing on the new extras cake. All in all, this is a whooping selection of extras to delight the film’s fans that make this modestly priced special edition well worth the purchase.

 

The Hills Run Red (2009) may not have gotten the attention or box office release it deserved, but the folks at Scream Factory have finally given this fan favorite slasher the respect it’s due. The film looks great and there are some very extensive and informative extras involving many facets of the film’s production. If you are a fan of this film, this disc is almost certainly what you have been waiting for!

-MonsterZero NJ

HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY TO FRIDAY THE 13th!

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The woman that started it all, Jason’s mom, Mrs. Voorhees!

40 years ago today the original Friday the 13th was released in theaters and a horror classic, a legendary franchise and a horror icon were born! Sure, Jason didn’t come along as the killer till part 2, but this is the installment were his iconic character first came to life! HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY FRIDAY THE 13th!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2018!

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2018!

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features a new final girl on the block who appeared in her first horror flick in 2018 and made quite an impression! With the release of Stevan Mena’s long awaited Malevolence 3: Killer, we were introduced to this fresh face in the role of the film’s heroine, Ellie!…And this actress got our attention! Without further ado…MonsterZero NJ’s Halloween Hotties rookie of the year 2018 is…

KATIE GIBSON!

Katie Gibson is new to the horror movie scene, making her final girl debut in Stevan Mena’s Malevolence 3: Killer. While she had a vocal part in Mena’s Bereavement, this is her first starring role and she made a strong impression. Her Ellie was a very likable character, resilient, smart, compassionate and when serial killer Martin Bristol comes knocking, she responds with some knocks of her own. We can only hope that if Mena continues the franchise, Katie is along for the next installment…or Malevolence 3: Killer gets her enough attention for future roles in other projects. Attention she deserves! We can’t wait to see more of this talented and beautiful young actress!

KATIE GIBSON as ELLIE in MALEVOLENCE 3: KILLER!

Malevolence 3: Killer‘s brave and strong-willed Ellie, unaware evil lurks close by!

Katie Gibson gets to try on a classic slasher trope as she watches her young neighbor!

Ellie finds out something is very wrong as Martin Bristol returns to his former home.

Ellie risking her own life to protect her young neighbor, Victoria (Victoria Mena).

Can Ellie turn the tables on a killer?

Katie’s got talent and a girl-next-door presence that made her a natural for this type of role. Mena has a gift for picking good final girls, as Alexandra Daddario served final girl duties in Bereavement and hot mom type Samantha Dark was a strong heroine in the original Malevolence. Hopefully actress Katie Gibson and director Stevan Mena will both be working on new projects soon!

-MonsterZero NJ

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And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties!

Head over to the Halloween Hotties listings! to read them all!)

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5 DIRECTORS BRINGING NEW BLOOD TO HORROR!

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5 DIRECTORS BRINGING NEW BLOOD TO HORROR!

At Halloween 🎃 time it is when we most think about scary movies, even those of us who watch them all year round. So why not take a look at five individuals who are bringing their own distinct vision to the genre and whom horror fans should be talking more about!…and no, I didn’t forget the ladies, they deserve their own installment, forthcoming!

(To get to the full reviews of the films mentioned, just hit the highlighted titles that link to the corresponding page!)

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Adam MacDonald

 

Adam MacDonald is a Canadian actor and filmmaker who has written and directed two features, thus far, that have made quite an impression. His first film Backcountry is a survival thriller that followed a couple (Jeff Roop and Missy Peregrym) who go camping in the woods. Jealous of his girlfriend’s success, her beau chooses a lesser traveled route to prove himself to her. This puts them within the feeding ground of a massive and very hungry grizzly bear and thus sets up an intense and sometimes brutal last act. His second film Pyewacket is a supernatural thriller which finds a mother and daughter (Laurie Holden and Nicole Muñoz) in conflict over their methods of mourning the death of their husband/father. This propels the occult fascinated teen Leah (Muñoz) to evoke the dark entity Pyewacket to kill her mother. Leah soon learns to be careful what you wish for. Both films use troubled relationships as a catalyst for their stories and Pyewacket especially has some good old fashion scares and chills supported by a strong emotional center. MacDonald is showing a versatility and a depth to his filmmaking. Adam currently wrapped filming on Slasher season 3, so look out for more from this talented new voice in horror!

Nicole Muñoz conjures the wrong spirit in Adam MacDonald’s Pyewacket

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Stevan Mena

 

Stevan Mena is a New York born filmmaker who is a one man production company, writing ,editing, directing, producing and even scoring his own films. He made a splash in 2003 with his low budget slasher Malevolence, which was an old-fashioned horror throwback that echoed both Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Set in and around an abandoned slaughterhouse, it told the chilling story of some bank robbers and their hostages meeting up with serial killer Martin Bristol (Jay Cohen). He followed that up with a horror icon filled horror/comedy called Brutal Massacre, before returning to the saga of Bristol in 2010 with the brutal and intense Bereavement. The second Malevolence film was a prequel telling the story of how serial killer Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby) kidnapped Martin (Spencer List ) as a child and trained him to be his successor. It’s one of the best horrors of the decade IMO. Recently Mena overcame some tragic events to complete his Malevolence trilogy with the independently financed Malevolence 3: Killer. Sequel has an adult Martin (a returning Jay Cohen) leaving a blood soaked trail on the way back to his home town. Mena’s work evokes that of John Carpenter himself and one hopes he returns to the director’s chair sooner than later.

A killer (Jay Cohen) returns home in Stevan Mena’s Malevolence 3: Killer

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Colin Minihan

 

Colin Minihan started out as part of the writing/directing duo known as The Vicious Brothers along with collaborator Stuart Ortiz. Their first film was the fun and spooky found footage paranormal show send up Grave Encounters in 2011. They followed that up with the entertaining and chilling cabin in the woods/alien invasion hybrid Extraterrestrial in 2014. Though co-written with Ortiz, Minihan took the director’s chair solo for the next film It Stains The Sands Red. This was an amusing, bloody and offbeat tale of a lone woman (Brittany Allen) being followed across the desert by a lone zombie. An interesting relationship forms as she fights brutal heat, dehydration and her relentless undead pursuer. Minihan wrote and directed his fourth film on his own with the brutal and intense What Keeps You Alive. One of the years best, it finds a married lesbian couple (Brittany Allen and Hanna Emily Anderson) celebrating their anniversary in a remote cabin in the woods. Soon romantic bliss becomes a battle for survival as one of the women is not who she seems. This flick proves Minihan is a force to be reckoned with, armed with a great script, taunt direction and brilliant work by his lead actresses. Minihan is a filmmaker fans need to be talking more about.

Lover vs lover in Colin Minihan’s brutal and intense What Keeps You Alive

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Anthony Diblasi

 

Boston born Anthony Diblasi is another filmmaker showing great versatility and a mastery of horror while also providing some emotional depth to his films. His first film Dread was a chilling tale of a college documentary project about fear, spinning horribly out of control. His next film Cassadaga, found deaf art teacher Lily (Kelen Coleman) being haunted by the spirit of a murdered young woman whose killer may have his sights set next on the pretty teacher. Diblasi worked on some non-genre projects and the horror anthology The Profane Exhibit before co-writing and directing The Last Shift in 2014. One of his scariest flicks, the story found a young policewoman being given the final shift in a haunted police precinct closing it’s doors in the morning…but can she survive the night? Diblasi returned to horror again in 2015 with Most Likely To Die, an old fashioned slasher about a high school reunion turned deadly, and again in 2018 with Extremity. His latest finds an emotionally troubled woman turning to an extreme haunt to make her face her fears…bad idea. The film was not only disturbing and scary, but had a strong emotional lining with multi-dimensional characters and commentary about abuse and the lives it effects. Another filmmaker that is bringing a distinct voice to the horror genre.

Emotionally troubled Allison (Dana Christina) turns to an extreme haunt to face her fears in Anthony Diblasi’s Extremity

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Oz Perkins

 

Just because he is the son of legendary actor Anthony (Psycho) Perkins, one should not assume actor/director Oz Perkins knows horror…but he does! One of the most interesting filmmakers out there, Perkins has a unique vision and a strong ability to chill to the bone. His first film The Blackcoat’s Daughter finds Rose (Lucy Boynton), a student at a Catholic girls school, given charge of new student Kat (Kiernan Shipka) at break. With almost everyone else gone, Rose starts to realize there is something very wrong with Kat and that she may be in danger. Perkins followed that up with a very atmospheric ghost story I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House. Perkins writes and directs a subtle, yet chilling tale of care nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) coming to live with ailing horror novelist Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss). Soon timid Lily starts to find out that Iris Blum’s inspirations may be far more real than she’d like. It’s a creepy and very effective film. Word has it his next film may be entitled A Head Full Of Ghosts and as he is bringing a very unique style to the genre, he sounds like the right man for the job!

Care nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) finds her charge may have had all too real inspiration for her horror novels in Oz Perkins’ I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House

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So these are five creative forces bringing new blood to horror. Each one is worth screaming about and their films are certainly worth checking out!

…and stay tuned for our second installment taking a look at the creative ladies bringing their unique voices to the genre!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MALEVOLENCE 3: KILLER (2018)

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MALEVOLENCE 3: KILLER (2018)

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

After Bereavement, writer/director/editor Stevan Mena decided to go back to basics with the third installment of his Malevolence franchise by not only returning to a more classic slasher format, but by independently financing the film. Tragedy struck his production, though, with only 75% of the movie finished, when actor Scott Decker sadly took his own life. With little money for re-shoots, the film went on hiatus for two years until Mena’s passion and perseverance found a way to finally finish it. Malevolence 3 now sees it’s release on home media and video streaming right in time for Halloween! 🎃

Malevolence 3: Killer opens with the final scenes of the first film…remember, Bereavement was a prequel…with serial killer Martin Bristol (Jay Cohen) escaping into the woods. Martin, in true Michael Myers fashion, returns to his childhood home town and begins a killing spree. He leaves a trail of bodies as he returns to the house he was born in, which is now home to pretty student and musician Ellie (Katie Gibson) and her roommates Tara (Kelsey Deanne) and the vivacious Lynn (Alli Caudle). Drawn to the three girls, Martin begins stalking them, killing anyone who crosses his path. All the while Agent Perkins (Kevin McKelvey) is hot on his trail in hopes to stop Martin before he kills again.

Malevolence was a solid slasher homage giving us elements that evoked both Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Bereavement was something all it’s own with a portrait of a deranged killer (Brett Rickaby) teaching his grim trade to kidnapped little boy, Martin (Spencer List). With the third installment, Stevan Mena returns to a more traditional slasher film with the adult Martin paying his home town a bloody visit and a trio of young girls picking the wrong house to preside in. As such, Mena crafts another solid slasher flick much on par with his original. The film doesn’t quite have the emotional resonance of his creation of a serial killer prequel, though there are some scenes with Martin’s grieving mother (Ashley Wolfe) and grandmother (the legendary Adrienne Barbeau), which work nicely on that level. In most slashers if the killer’s mother is still alive, she’s usually portrayed as equally deranged, so this was a nice change and added some depth. Most importantly, the film does do what it’s supposed to do and does it well. It’s paced much like the slashers of the early 80s with a moderate burn till the last act. There is some traditional skin shown by it’s lovely cast and the kills are bloody and brutal, yet grounded, so they keep their impact and avoid the outlandishness of many other slasher franchises. Mena’s killer is effective and needs no mask to elicit chills and his prey are a likable group of girls and neighbors, so we feel for them. When that last act comes and Martin and Ellie throw down, it’s intense and bloody as Agent Perkins closes in…but will it be in time? On a technical level Mena’s shots are excellently framed, that and his cinematography evokes Carpenter and Dean Cundey in the very best way. The film looks very good for a low budget flick and except for a few shots of Katie Gibson’s hair changing length a bit, there is really no evidence the film had such a troubled production. Again, a filmmaker’s passion and perseverance found a way to complete his vision.

Cast-wise Mena hits a home run with the casting of Katie Gibson as Ellie. Her Ellie is sweet, strong and a very likable young lady. She is also tough and resilient when Martin finally moves in for the kill. She’s a great final girl in every sense of the word and even gets to play a variation of the traditional babysitter, when, thanks to Martin, her young neighbor Victoria (Victoria Mena) finds herself all alone. If Stevan Mena continues this franchise or makes another horror film, I hope he brings Gibson along. As Martin, Jay Cohen is an imposing figure. He doesn’t speak, but isn’t hidden behind a mask, so the actor has to display his cold blooded-ness with only his eyes and facial expression and he does so very well…and remember, Martin also has congenital analgesia, so he can’t feel pain. Kevin McKelvey returns for his third go as Perkins and fits the mold of the “Dr. Loomis” of the film. He’s tough and strong, yet there is also compassion, as he recognizes that in some ways Martin is just as much a victim as he is a killer. This touch helps Perkins avoid being a stereotype. Barbeau is effective in her few scenes as Martin’s grandmother, as is Ashley Wolfe returning as Martin long-suffering mom. In support, Alli Caudle and Kelsey Deanne are likable as the saucy Lynn and studious Tara, respectively and it is sad Scott Decker was not able to complete his role, as Agent Roland is a likable character with, unavoidably, too little screen time. RIP.

Overall, this was a solid slasher and another example of Stevan Mena’s love of the genre. IMO Bereavement is one of the best horror films in the last ten years and Mena wisely doesn’t try to replicate it. Sequel instead returns to basics to display the results of Graham Sutter’s (Rickaby) work in Martin. It has a moderate pace echoing it’s influences and delivers the goods from some bloody kills to a resilient and very endearing final girl. Mena overcame some heavy obstacles to complete his trilogy and one hopes the trilogy becomes a series and Malevolence 4 will be a smoother production and come sooner than the eight years between these films. Mena is yet another filmmaker people need to be talking more about and another example that you can get your film made!

F.Y.I. Malevolence 3: Killer is available for streaming on Amazon and iTunes, or you can order the complete trilogy on Blu-Ray from Amazon.com and Walmart.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 knives!

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: VICTOR CROWLEY (2017)

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VICTOR CROWLEY (2017)

Fourth installment of Adam Green’s slasher homage series takes place ten years after the last one with survivor Andrew Yong (Parry Shen) becoming a bit of a cult celebrity after writing a book about his encounter with Victor Crowley. On route to an interview, his plane crashes right into Crowley’s killing ground, Honey Island Swamp. At the same time, a group of amateur filmmakers head into the swamp to make a trailer for a proposed film on Crowley. The plane survivors and the filmmakers soon find out that Crowley’s legend is all too true.

Adam Green returns to the director’s chair…after abdicating it to B.J. McDonnell for part III…and again writes. The result is a lazy, by-the-numbers sequel with a few laughs and gory moments here and there, but the “been there done that” is heavily setting in. Green doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before in this series and delivers a fourth dose of the same gory kills and goofy humor in the same setting. Fans of this series will probably enjoy the familiarity, but if you are looking for Green to do something innovative to freshen up his franchise, you’ll be extremely disappointed. The gore FX are well done, but the film otherwise looks cheap and restricts a good two-thirds of the action to the wrecked plane interior and the immediate grounds surrounding it. The film centers on the whiny Andrew Yong and the likes of Danielle Harris’ vengeful Marybeth Dunston are sadly missed.

Kane Hodder returns as Crowley and stomping around and grunting is basically all the role requires him to do. Shen tries hard, but Yong is a supporting character and promoting him to lead really doesn’t help. Laura Ortiz shows a bit more spunk as movie make-up artist Rose and Dave Sheridan is fine as wannabe actor turned hero, Dillon. We also get horror vets Felissa Rose and Tiffany Shepis as Yong’s agent and ill-fated passenger, Casey, respectively. The cast get the material and go with it.

Overall, this is basically just more of the same and not very effectively at that. Adam Green doesn’t do anything to freshen up his slasher homage series and falls back on the same ole, same ole for his latest chapter in the Victor Crowley saga. It just comes across as lazy. The first film was amusing and the two sequels had their moments, but this fourth flick shows a franchise definitely running out of swamp gas.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 hatchets.

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HATCHET (2006)

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HATCHET (2006)

With word coming today that Adam Green secretly filmed a fourth Hatchet flick entitled Victor Crowley, I thought I ‘d drag out my original Hatchet review written pre-blog -MZNJ

Hatchet is both a homage and a spoof of the slasher films of the 80s and it’s obvious director Adam Green has a love for the films he playfully has fun with. Hatchet is a gory but silly story of Victor Crowley, a deformed boogie man legend claims stalks the New Orleans bayou. When a group of tourists on a haunted swamp tour become shipwrecked in Crowley’s backyard, they soon learn this is one urban legend with a lot of truth to it.
While Green does a good job recreating one of those 80s slasher flicks, he’s not as totally successful at juggling the gory horror with the comedy elements. Green is not subtle here and the film jarringly changes tone between scenes where one minute it’s being a comedy, and the next it’s trying to be seriously spooky. It’s this back and forth that keeps one from completely settling into his tribute to all things Jason. Green is also hindered here from his inner film geek seeing his vision not as a story, but as a movie. This gives Hatchet a staged look, it looks like a movie filmed on sets whether it was or wasn’t. This robs us of the illusion of watching his story unfold and instead constantly reminds us that this is only a movie and these are not characters but actors. Even in a playful homage like this, we still need that illusion.
But, there is still fun to be had as Adam Green does both skewer and stroke the slasher genre. The gore is over the top and top notch and he points out with a wink the absurdities of some of the films it references…Crowley finding a hand sander in the middle of a swamp, rain at a most crucial and inappropriate time…and the film geek in us knows exactly where he’s coming from. Despite the flaws in his method we still get his madness. Stars horror legends Tony Todd, Robert Englund and Kane Hodder as Crowley.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 hatchets.

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: LAST GIRL STANDING (2015)

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LAST GIRL STANDING (2015)

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

Interesting little movie takes a look at the traditional slasher film, but from a different direction…what happens to the final girl after the massacre is over. Pretty young Camryn (Akasha Banks Villalobos) is the only survivor when a masked serial killer called “The Hunter” (Jason Vines) murders all her friends. Camryn barely escaped with her life, but managed to kill the maniac before he killed her. Four years later, her life is a mess. She works a minimum wage dry cleaning job and is a shy introvert still haunted by the memories of what befell her on that terrible night in the woods. When new guy Nick (Brian Villalobos, Akasha’s real-life husband) starts working at the dry cleaners, Camryn starts to slowly open up and join Nick and his group of friends. But the closer she gets to them, the more she starts seeing The Hunter again. Has the killer somehow returned from the dead to stalk her new friends, or is Camryn far more haunted by that fateful night than she imagined?

Written and directed by Benjamin R. Moody, this is an intriguing look at what happens in a slasher movie to the victim’s life, after the events of the movie are over. He opens his film with the gruesome final moments of Camryn fighting for her life against the masked madman and then barely surviving as she kills the fiend trying to save herself. He then takes us four years later with the scars, both physical and mental still apparent. He presents a young women in emotional and social withdrawal who is haunted by the memories of the murder of her friends. We then get a glimmer of hope for her, as Nick arrives and introduces her to a new group of people. Obviously, the fear of losing her new friends takes it’s toll and she begins to see the killer and evidence of his return…or does she? Moody keeps us guessing a bit as to if the killer truly has returned, as so many in slasher sequels do, or is Camryn far more damaged that even she suspects. Just as the premise starts to wear out it’s welcome, the blood starts to spatter again…but who is spilling it? If the film falters a bit, it’s that it does remain mostly a drama till it’s last act and it’s not always as gripping as we’d like, but the director/writer balances that with some interesting and effective scenes such as one of Camryn being taken to The Hunter’s grave by new friend Danielle (Danielle Evon Ploeger) to try and give her closure. Emotionally the scene is one of the best in the film. For those wanting a horror movie here, your patience pays off and there is a quite bloody finale to go along with the gruesome beginning and “The Hunter” is effective enough to work as the character needs to. We may see the end coming, but it still ironic, still works and very well.

As for our actors, Akasha Banks Villalobos does a very good job evoking our sympathy as Camryn. The role is wisely played low key, as over-the-top would have taken the film in a more theatrical direction and keeping it grounded makes it work nicely. Villalobos is effective as both final girl and presenting the effects of a victim haunted by dire events. She also shines in the climactic last act where Moody turns this back into a slasher movie. The actress’ husband Brian Villalobos is also good as Nick. He portrays a likable guy who is interested in his shy co-worker and portrays well a character who is trying to be patient with someone he is starting to care about, but who has issues he doesn’t fully understand. Danielle Evon Ploeger really makes an impression as Nick’s friend Danielle, who takes a sympathetic liking to Camryn. The actress creates a very likable and sweet girl-next-door type and she has some really nice scenes together with Villalobos as she tries to help Camryn heal. Ploeger and her character are final girl material in themselves and that may not be unintentional.

I liked this movie. Maybe it was a bit too low key at times and there are a few questions, like why Camryn isn’t in therapy, but it tells a side of a beloved horror mainstay that we rarely see…what happens to the final girl’s life long after the killer is gone. Director Benjamin R. Moody gives us a sad and sympathetic portrayal of a young women whose life has been tragically damaged by horrific events and then makes us watch as the prospect of new friends to care about both entices and terrifies her. And just as the film starts to wear out it’s welcome, Moody turns it back into the horror flick it started out as, but with a twist. The acting is effective and the gore is surprisingly abundant once it does get bloody. Definitely a flick worth taking a look at if you are a horror/slasher fan.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 hand axes.

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