REVIEW: SCREAM VI (2023)

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SCREAM VI (2023)

Neve Campbell-less sequel has previous installment survivors Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) and her sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) leaving Woodsboro and heading to the Big Apple with fellow survivors Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown). A year after the last installment’s events and right in time for Halloween, bodies start falling again and a familiar voice begins making those fateful phone calls. Along with Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), who is now an FBI agent, they try to stop Ghostface one and for all.

Latest installment in this enduring slasher franchise is again directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett from a script by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick. This is a brutal and vicious installment and actually works very well without Sydney Prescott’s involvement. The torch seems to rest fine in the hands of Tara and Sam, as does the refreshing change to the streets and subways of New York City. Setting it on Halloween is also a plus as now there are masked figures, especially Ghostface masks, everywhere. The kills are intense and nasty and this, along with a more 80s portrayal of NYC, with grimy streets, crowded subways and dark alleys, gives the film an even gritter edge. It’s an improvement over the so-so 2022 requel and does freshen up the franchise a bit even if the final act reveals aren’t quite as jaw dropping as we’d hoped. The violence is well rendered as always and is very intense although one feels that the trope of our heroes getting the upper hand on Ghostface then running away before finishing him off is getting really tiresome…understandably the movie would only be about a half hour long then if they did. At least Olpin and Gillett do have some fun with series expectations and relax the tiresome meta nonsense for a more straightforward slasher.

The cast is good here. Cox and Panettiere work well with the newer cast members, Panettiere especially with slipping back into the role of Kirby after 12 years. Her character’s explanation of why she became an FBI agent makes sense. Melissa Barrera again makes for a very strong lead as Sam, now dealing with the effects of the previous year’s attack and the savage internet fallout which paints Sam as the real villain. Rising star Jenna Ortega (X, Wednesday) gets far more to do here and is already a veteran in parts like this. Jasmin Savoy Brown is again fun as horror movie fan Mindy and Mason Gooding (Booksmart) is solid as Chad. Newcomers include Dermot Mulroney as Det. Bailey, Liana Liberato as his daughter and Tara and Sam’s roommate Quinn and Jack Champion as Chad’s roommate Ethan.

Overall, Scream VI doesn’t reinvent the franchise wheel but does freshen it up a bit with a new location, focusing more on the newer cast members and having a little fun with the franchise template. It’s also gritter and nastier than the last flick and delivers some brutal and intense scenes. The reveal could have had a bit more impact, but all in all Scream VI rates as one of the better sequels and shows the franchise still has some life in it yet.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Ghostfaces!

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BARE BONES: CANDY LAND (2022)

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CANDY LAND (2022)

Slasher flick centers on a group of sex workers at a remote truck stop. Their days and nights are filled with slobs, drug addicts, religious fanatics and a pervert of a local sheriff (William Baldwin). None of those are their biggest problem, though, as they are now being stalked by a vicious killer brutally offing them one by one.

Horror is written and directed by John Swab who creates a very unsettling slasher. This grindhouse style flick is filled with a bunch of eccentric and oddball characters, some likable and some not. There are some vicious kills, and some disturbing sexual situations, as the line of work these folks are in is rarely pleasant. Swab surprisingly lets us know who our killer is very early on, and it works, as now we know to be afraid for characters when they are in the killer’s presence. We know who they are, but the inhabitants of this den of iniquity do not…and we have come to like or feel sorry for most of them. The bloody violence has impact, is well rendered and Swab gets pretty good work out of most of the cast. Not a classic but a solid slasher and worth a watch, especially if you like grindhouse era stuff. Also stars Olivia (It Follows) Luccardi and Owen (X) Campbell.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S FINAL GIRL/BAD GIRL OF THE YEAR 2022!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S FINAL GIRL/BAD GIRL OF THE YEAR 2022!

It’s HalloweenūüéÉ!…and as it has become tradition, it’s time to announce MonsterZero NJ’s Final Girl of the Year!…an actress that has not only captured our hearts, but gotten our attention with a strong performance, in the traditional role of horror final girl!…
…and this year, our Final Girl of the Year 2022 is also our bad girl of the year too!…

So, without further ado, our winner for 2022 is…

MIA GOTH!

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Mia Goth plays both final girl and villain with an amazing dual performance in Ti West’s X and again as Pearl in its¬†prequel Pearl!

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Mia Goth as Maxine and Pearl in X!

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Mia Goth as Maxine. A pretty young woman with big dreams and stars in her eyes!

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Mia Goth as Pearl, a lonely old woman with dark secrets and darker desires.

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Pearl is also very dangerous!

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…But so is Maxine when provoked!

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…and Mia Goth as Pearl in Pearl

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Goth as Pearl. A young woman with big dreams and stars in her eyes!

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Dreams that unfortunately get shattered!

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This brings out the worst in the young country girl!

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And a demented killer is born and so is a stunning performance!

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This year was an easy choice as Goth was simply amazing in not one but two roles, in not one but two films! As the tough porn star wannabe Maxine, and the demented product of broken dreams Pearl, she was outstanding. A third film is on the way from Ti West centering on Maxine, and we can’t wait to see it!

-MonsterZero NJ

final girl of the year

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

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RANDOM NONSENSE: X AND THE BATMAN ARRIVE ON BLU-RAY!

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X AND THE BATMAN ARRIVE ON BLU-RAY!

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Photo on 5-24-22 at 7.42 PM

Good things came from Amazon yesterday! Two of my favorite movies arrived on Blu-ray. X is simply my favorite horror so far this year and a film I find gets better with repeat viewings. The Batman which has many horror film elements and even starts out on Halloween night!

 

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TI WEST’S HORROR FLICK “X” IS COMING TO BLU-RAY and DVD!

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TI WEST’S HORROR FLICK “X” IS COMING TO BLU-RAY and DVD!

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Indie director Ti West’s (House of the Devil, Innkeepers) new film horror film X has already set a release date for Blu-ray and DVD! The film will arrive on home media on 5/24/22 and is already available for pre-order on Amazon! The flick stars Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, and Scott Mescudi!
“In 1979, a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas, but when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act, the cast find themselves fighting for their lives.”

 

Here’s the link to the Amazon pre-order page: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VJDBF1V/ref=ox_sc_saved_image_1?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1

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-MonsterZero NJ

Source: Joblo.com; Amazon

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REVIEW: X (2022)

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X (2022)

Latest indie horror from A24 takes place in 1979 and finds sleazy Texas producer Wayne (Martin Henderson) setting out to make a porn film with stars Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), Maxine (Mia Goth), and Jackson (Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi) along with their two-person film crew RJ (Owen Campbell) and his girlfriend Lorraine (Jenna Ortega). They travel to the remote farm of strange, elderly couple Howard (Stephen Ure) and Pearl (also Mia Goth), who turn out not to be the harmless old folks they seem, and the porn film soon turns into a horror movie…for real.

X is written and directed by Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) and is basically The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Debbie Does Dallas. It is a good, old-fashioned, grindhouse style flick with lots of sex, gore and flesh crawling moments. X starts out like most of West’s flicks with a slow burn, but one where we start to feel from the very start that something is not right. This prevailing sense of dread builds as things get weirder and weirder and West makes us constantly feel that a threat is soon to emerge, no better symbolized then by the gators lurking about the couple’s property. When the blood finally starts to flow, it’s prosthetic gore and there are some nasty kills to characters we’ve gotten to know and like. Even sleazy Wayne has a good-ole-boy charm that’s hard not to endear to. This makes it all the more impactful when the film crew starts to fall to various sharp objects, shotguns and the before mentioned gators. It’s scary, nasty and in between the violent moments, there are some that will certainly make your skin crawl. The sexual, undercurrent the film has also gets very disturbing…and that’s by design. This is simply West’s best horror since The House of The Devil, and one of the best horrors so far this year. It’s sexy. sleazy, scary and gory…what more do you want from a horror flick!?

Director West has a good cast in support. Henderson gives Wayne a charming appeal that despite his sleazy nature and willingness to exploit his girlfriend, Maxine, makes him a likable rogue. As Maxine, Mia Goth deftly balances a young woman with both a strong sexuality and a gentle sweetness that really makes her character work. Snow is delightfully sassy as Southern belle and porn star Bobby-Lynne, who is no dumb blonde. She’s using her natural talents to make a better life for herself. Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi is also solid as ex-Marine and war veteran turned porn star Jackson. He’s fun and has a nice heroic side. Jenna Ortega is once again impressive as “church mouse” Lorraine who seems sweet and virginal but may not be as innocent as she appears. Owen is likable as filmmaker wannabe RJ, and Stephen Ure and Mia Goth are very creepy‚ÄĒespecially Mia Goth‚ÄĒas the elderly Howard and Pearl. A good cast.

Overall, this is one of West’s best films and a refreshingly, old-fashioned horror that leaves all the overdone meta/retconning crap behind. It’s scary, gory and has some moments and kills that will legitimately make your flesh crawl. It has a sexual undercurrent that goes from sexy to disturbing and pays homage to the classic grindhouse era horrors of the 70s, while yet being its own thing. Definitely one of the best horror flicks to come out so far in 2022 and one of West’s most effective horror flicks yet. Stay through the credits!

-MonsterZero NJ

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

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REVIEW: SCREAM (2022)

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SCREAM (2022)

Latest sequel finds Woodsboro once again the target of someone wearing the Ghostface mask. This time it’s Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), who is allowed to live only to lure estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) back to Woodsboro. Why is Ghostface so interested in Sam? Could a dark secret trailing back to the original Woodsboro murders have something to do with it? Sam and her friends have an edge though, as Dewey (David Arquette), Gail (Courteney Cox) and Sydney (Neve Campbell) have vowed to stop Ghostface once and for all!

Self-labeled “requel” is directed by the team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not) from a script by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick. It’s more “meh” than meta as this fifth installment is showing that the Scream formula is running out of gas and this one in particular adds little new to revitalize the franchise. Even Sydney herself claims this Ghostface is the most derivative yet and she’s ironically not wrong. Our three veteran characters all seem visibly tired of this schtick, though the new cast members do try hard, especially Barrera and Ortega. The attempts to give fan service to the original film works only about half the time, though there are some impactful deaths of series characters. There are also some solid kills, a few suspenseful sequences, and some clever dialogue, but even Ghostface lacks a strong threat and the whole film simply felt like it was going through the motions. Even the film’s reveal lacked a strong impact and the reasons for this happening a fifth time seemed very convoluted. Worst of all, It’s actually a bit dull in spots. Something a slasher should never be.

The veterans are fine, but you get the feeling they are also going through the motions and are not really invested in having to do this yet again. Campbell, Cox and Arquette just don’t breathe the life into the characters that they did in the past installments and are actually overshadowed by some of the newcomers. Speaking of which, Melissa Barrera makes for a very strong lead as Sam, the focus of the newest Ghostface’s attention. She’s strong-willed and makes a solid final girl. Also solid is Jenna Ortega (The Babysitter: Killer Queen), who has been a familiar face in horror lately, and she does good work as Sam’s younger sister Tara. Ortega is sympathetic, but also shows some toughness in her encounters with Ghostface. Dylan Minnette (GooseBumps) is likable as the son of now Sheriff Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) and Jack Quaid does a fine job as Sam’s boyfriend Richie. Rounding out the attractive young cast are Mikey Madison as Amber, Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding (Booksmart) as siblings Mindy and Chad and Sonia Ammar as Chad’s girlfriend Liv. A likable cast who deserved a stronger script and better movie.

Overall, this new¬†Scream neither refreshes the franchise for a new generation nor gives it a strong finish‚ÄĒ though if it ended here‚ÄĒwhich it probably won’t‚ÄĒit would be a fitting enough, though weak, send-off. It has some good kills, a few clever touches, and a solid young cast, but otherwise only seems to illustrate that this franchise is running out of gas. The veteran actors seem tired of it all and the script could have done more than put this installment through familiar paces. Entertaining to a degree, but also too slow and routine in spots to let it slide on some of it faults.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Ghostfaces!

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BARE BONES: GETAWAY (2020)

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GETAWAY (2020)

Film student Tabitha (Abigail Haggerty) is making a slasher movie for her thesis project. Fellow student Maddie (Emma Norville) gets a part in it. They even plan to shoot their movie at a summer camp. Unknown to the cast and crew of this amateur production, however, there is a real killer stalking them and filming his kills for his own fiendish film project.

Low budget horror is written and directed by Blayne Weaver, who also has a long resume as an actor. It has it’s heart in the right place, though not an overly successful effort. GetAWAY respectfully follows the classic slasher film tropes, like the crazy person (Kristen Trump) warning our filmmakers about impending doom and the cantankerous caretaker (Hank Stone) as an all too obvious suspect. The acting is amateurish, but somehow works in the context of making this bunch of wannabes¬†seem more like real students trying to make a movie. Norville does make a decent enough final girl, too, as Maddie and she’s likable. There is little suspense or scares, the kills are simple but bloody and unfortunately, our killer lacks a¬†really strong personality to give him more impact. Just a mask doesn’t an effective killer make. His identity reveal is also kinda ho-hum, though a much bigger reveal a bit later works very well, as does the flick’s finale. In conclusion, it’s not a terrible movie, certainly not unwatchable, just kind of routine and forgettable, even if well intended. Also stars Danielle Carrozza as cast member Kayla.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star 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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BARE BONES: OPEN 24 HOURS (2018)

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OPEN 24 HOURS (2018)

Mary (Leatherface’s Vanessa Grasse) is on probation and suffering from paranoid delusions after setting her serial killer boyfriend James (Cole Vigue) on fire. Trying to get her life back together, Mary lands a job on the night shift of a 24 hour gas station convenience store in the middle of nowhere. Strange things starts to occur and Mary starts to think someone is stalking her on her first night. Is it her hallucinations acting up? Has a scarred and vengeful James somehow gotten out of prison?…or has someone else indeed targeted the young woman?

Flick is written and directed by Padraig Reynolds (Rites of Spring, Dark Light)¬†and if you can overlook a few plot-holes, like a police officer’s death, and thus disappearance, not alerting anyone at the PD to send more cops, this is an intense, suspenseful and sometimes bloody violent flick. Reynolds establishes Mary’s tendency to hallucinate very well and then plays with the concept, so even we aren’t sure what Mary is really seeing, even though we know someone dangerous is indeed out there. There are some red herrings as to who that someone may be and once things really get going, there is a nasty and intense last act, as Mary confronts the individual who has targeted her and has been killing anyone near the gas station. There is some nice atmosphere and intensity and when the gore comes, it’s very effective. Vanessa Grasse makes a very likable heroine as the troubled Mary and the remote gas station location works to establish isolation…even if it all does evoke John Carpenter’s The Gas Station episode from the anthology flick Body Bags. A solid and entertaining slasher/horror from Padraig Reynolds. Now streaming on Amazon Prime.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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