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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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: HAPPY DEATH DAY and HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U

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While talk of a third installment goes back and forth, the two current installments of Blumhouse’s comedy/horror franchise are a lot of fun when paired together. So, if you’re looking for something light and more fun, but don’t want to completely leave the horror genre, this is an entertining Saturday Night Double Feature…

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HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017)

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

College student Theresa (Jessica Rothe) is having a really bad day…over and over again. She wakes up in the dorm of a strange guy, she’s mean to those around her, she’s sleeping with one of her professors, it’s a birthday she doesn’t want to face and someone is trying to kill her…and does. But Theresa keeps waking up at the moment of her death, starting the day all over again. She soon realizes that if she is to break the loop, she has to find out who this masked killer is and stop them. Easier said than done if there weren’t so many people who might want her dead.

Obviously, the Groundhog Day routine with reliving the same day over and over has been done to death, but here it’s literally. Director Christopher B. Landon knows we’ve seen it all before and takes the derivative ball and runs with it. Landon is helped by a fun script he co-wrote with Scott Lobdell and a sassy stick of dynamite leading lady in Rothe’s Theresa. As it starts out, Theresa is an unlikable mean girl…though her mean quips are very funny…but as she embarks on her journey of identifying her masked killer and ending this loop, it takes her from snotty sorority girl to sarcastic and feisty heroine. It’s a blast to watch Theresa as she meets each day head on and each time finds a new piece of the puzzle, all the while discovering things about herself. If it sounds corny, it is and Landon knows it and revels in it. He also delivers some solid suspense, some intense action and a few surprises on the road to Theresa’s final confrontation with the killer in her midst. It’s also kind of fun to watch the spunky girl die over and over again in different ways, only to have to do it all again with increasing frustration. The humor and suspense are perfectly mixed here, making it all the more enjoyable. This is a prime example of a filmmaker taking familiar elements and having a good time with them and not just re-using them in a by-the-numbers manner. The result is a fun slasher/thriller with a very hip sense of humor and a heroine to really endear to and root for.

As for our leading lady, Jessica Rothe is having an outright blast with the plot contrivances and owns this flick from start to finish. She introduces us to a mean, snarky, sorority princess and slowly transforms her into a smart, sarcastic and resilient final girl, who grows with each repeat of the ill-fated Monday the 18th. She is firecracker of a leading lady and really makes even the corniest elements of her transformation believable, such as her having the courage and tenacity to face a killer head on. It’s her show and she handles it like a boss. In support is a charming turn by Israel Broussard, as Carter, the boy she wakes up with and bonds with over her dilemma. The two have a nice chemistry on screen and their forming relationship works very well. The rest of the cast is also solid with Rachel Matthews as Theresa’s even meaner sorority sister Danielle, Ruby Modine as her sweet and verbally abused roommate Lori, Charles Aitken as her professor/lover and Rob Mello as a captured serial killer who may, or may not, be her masked murderer.

So, maybe this is not the most original film in terms of story, but it knows it and just runs with it. Christopher B. Landon…who wrote four successive Paranormal Activity sequels and also directed the Marked Ones spin-off…has really sharpened his craft by having a blast with he and Scott Lobdell’s clever slasher variation on the Bill Murray classic…which is playfully acknowledged in the film. It’s a fun movie that succeeds beyond it’s means thanks to a filmmaker who gets how to handle the material and a star-making performances by leading lady Jessica Rothe.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) baby-faced killers.

 

 

 

 

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HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U (2019)

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

Sequel pics up right after the first flick with Tree (Jessica Rothe) cozying up with Carter (Israel Broussard) and all being well until roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) starts to relive his own murder over and over. Tree finds out her previous predicament and Ryan’s current one are as a result of Ryan and friends science experiment that effects time…just not in the way they planned. An effort to kill the loop sends Tree back to Monday the 18th again, only this time in an alternate universe.  She’s reliving her death all over again, only in this dimension Lori (Ruby Modine) is no longer the killer, Carter is dating Danielle (Rachel Matthews) and her mother is still alive. Can Tree get back to her normal dimension…and does she want to?

As you can guess by the plot description, Happy Death Day 2U sends the slasher elements to the background and focuses more on a Star Trek-ian/Back to the Future-esque tale of alternate timelines and other dimensions. It’s still fun, though shifting the focus also mutes some of the chills and thrills that made the first film such a treat. There is a lot of entertainment to be had and they have fun with the expanded concept, but this seems more like a cinematic episode of The Big Bang Theory with a slasher sub-plot. Christopher Landon again directs well, though this time from his own script and seems to want to play more with the whole alternate timeline thing and guide the story away from the slasher elements. A mid-credits scene hints that a part 3 will veer away even further. There was also a brief flirting with dopplegangers, but that disappears quickly, which is a shame as Tree being stalked by other alternate reality selves sounds like it would have been a hoot. If the film is missing anything, it’s the intensity the slasher elements brought to the table in the first film. The mix was more even in Happy Death Day and this sequel could have used a bit more.

Jessica Rothe is again a blast to watch though she shares the film’s focus with other characters and isn’t always the center of attention. The actress also proves again she is a leading lady with talent and can do drama, comedy and kick some ass, too. Israel Broussard is still charming and likable as Carter. The alternate reality version is pretty much the same guy, except for dating Rachel Matthews’ Danielle, who is a lot nicer in this other dimension. Matthews gets more screen time and gets to perform some slapstick comedy in one of the sillier sequences. Phi Vu gets a far more expanded role and is fun as Ryan and Suraj Sharma and Sara Yarkin play two of his nerdy lab partners/friends.

In conclusion, the sequel is not an equal, but not a disappointment either, unless you were expecting more of a horror film. There are some amusing sequences, some fun character interaction and even a little heart-tugging drama to go with the occasional dips back into slasher territory. On the downside it is slower paced, the killer was easy to guess and horror fans might not be happy with all the science geek quantum this and quantum that mumbo jumbo. Leading lady Jessica Rothe is still at least every bit the firecracker and if there is a three-quel, hopefully she is not pushed to the sidelines or lost in an ensemble piece. A fun movie thought maybe not what you might go in expecting. Stay through the credits for that mid-credits scene.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) baby-faced killers.

 

 

 

 

 

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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: SORORITY ROW (2009)

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SORORITY ROW (2009)

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

Flick is a remake of sorts of the 1983 House on Sorority Row. It finds the girls of the Theta Pi sorority in quite the moral conundrum as a prank goes awry and leaves one of their sisters, Megan (Audrina Patridge) dead. Good girl Cassidy (Briana Evigan) is overruled and the rest of the girls (Margo Harshman, Jamie Chung, Leah Pipes and Rumor Willis) decide to hide the body and forget it ever happened. But eight months later, on graduation day, the girls start getting cryptic messages and bodies start to pile up. Someone knows what happened that fateful night and has a homicidal grudge against the sorority sisters of Theta Pi.

Slasher is well directed by Stewart Hendler from a script by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger. It follows the slasher formula very well, setting up a group of people being stalked by an unknown assailant for reasons of retribution based on an earlier incident. There are some good kills with some decent gore and even if it’s never really scary, there are some suspenseful chases and there is a bit of a sly sense of humor to the proceedings. There is nothing new or innovative here, but it is a well executed use of the traditional slasher scenario and the classic reveal is a bit of a surprise. The use of a group of bitchy sorority girls with a secret narrows the likable characters down to only a few, so in some cases we’re actually rooting for the mean girls to get theirs, but Cassidy is a likable heroine and so is conflicted Ellie and Megan’s smart-ass younger sister Maggie (Caroline D’Amore). So at least we have some characters to get behind as our hooded killer lurks about with their tire iron turned murder weapon.

As for the cast playing these characters, Evigan really shines as the morally sound Cassidy, who is blackmailed basically into keeping the big secret. She has screen presence aside from girl-next-door good looks and makes a solid final girl. Leah Pipes is fun as the sorority queen bitch, Jessica and while she is an unlikable character, the actress does give her some charm and swagger. Margot Harshman and Jamie Chung are also good as sorority snobs Chugs and Claire with Harshman giving her Chugs a strong devil-may-care attitude that makes her amusing. Rounding out is Rumor Willis as the sweet, but conflicted Ellie who is not dealing well with her guilt and Caroline D’Amore is fun as Maggie, especially when she gives major attitude to Jessica. There is also a small role by the late Carrie Fisher as the sorority house mother, Mrs. Crenshaw, which the veteran actress gives lots of character in her few scenes.

Overall, this is a solid enough slasher, though far from anything trend setting. It’s competently made and has enough sly humor and gory kills to entertain. It follows the traditional formula well and the cast go with the material, especially Briana Evigan as heroine Cassidy. A fun slasher and not bad as remakes go.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 tire irons turned nifty weapons.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017)

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HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017)

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

College student Theresa (Jessica Rothe) is having a really bad day…over and over again. She wakes up in the dorm of a strange guy, she’s mean to those around her, she’s sleeping with one of her professors, it’s a birthday she doesn’t want to face and someone is trying to kill her…and does. But Theresa keeps waking up at the moment of her death, starting the day all over again. She soon realizes that if she is to break the loop, she has to find out who this masked killer is and stop them. Easier said than done if there weren’t so many people who might want her dead.

Obviously, the Groundhog Day routine with reliving the same day over and over has been done to death, but here it’s literally. Director Christopher B. Landon knows we’ve seen it all before and takes the derivative ball and runs with it. Landon is helped by a fun script he co-wrote with Scott Lobdell and a sassy stick of dynamite leading lady in Rothe’s Theresa. As it starts out, Theresa is an unlikable mean girl…though her mean quips are very funny…but as she embarks on her journey of identifying her masked killer and ending this loop, it takes her from snotty sorority girl to sarcastic and feisty heroine. It’s a blast to watch Theresa as she meets each day head on and each time finds a new piece of the puzzle, all the while discovering things about herself. If it sounds corny, it is and Landon knows it and revels in it. He also delivers some solid suspense, some intense action and a few surprises on the road to Theresa’s final confrontation with the killer in her midst. It’s also kind of fun to watch the spunky girl die over and over again in different ways, only to have to do it all again with increasing frustration. The humor and suspense are perfectly mixed here, making it all the more enjoyable. This is a prime example of a filmmaker taking familiar elements and having a good time with them and not just re-using them in a by-the-numbers manner. The result is a fun slasher/thriller with a very hip sense of humor and a heroine to really endear to and root for.

As for our leading lady, Jessica Rothe is having an outright blast with the plot contrivances and owns this flick from start to finish. She introduces us to a mean, snarky, sorority princess and slowly transforms her into a smart, sarcastic and resilient final girl, who grows with each repeat of the ill-fated Monday the 18th. She is firecracker of a leading lady and really makes even the corniest elements of her transformation believable, such as her having the courage and tenacity to face a killer head on. It’s her show and she handles it like a boss. In support is a charming turn by Israel Broussard, as Carter, the boy she wakes up with and bonds with over her dilemma. The two have a nice chemistry on screen and their forming relationship works very well. The rest of the cast is also solid with Rachel Matthews as Theresa’s even meaner sorority sister Danielle, Ruby Modine as her sweet and verbally abused roommate Lori, Charles Aitken as her professor/lover and Rob Mello as a captured serial killer who may, or may not, be her masked murderer.

So, maybe this is not the most original film in terms of story, but it knows it and just runs with it. Christopher B. Landon…who wrote four successive Paranormal Activity sequels and also directed the Marked Ones spin-off…has really sharpened his craft by having a blast with he and Scott Lobdell’s clever slasher variation on the Bill Murray classic…which is playfully acknowledged in the film. It’s a fun movie that succeeds beyond it’s means thanks to a filmmaker who gets how to handle the material and a star-making performances by leading lady Jessica Rothe.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 baby-faced killers.

 

 

 

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CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: ELIZABETH COX as JENNIFER in INTRUDER!

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Cult Classic Cuties are characters from some of our favorite cult classics and midnight movies who captured our hearts and/or actresses who got our attention, but sadly never returned to these type of flicks. They’re femme fatales and final girls whose sexy stars shined only briefly, not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

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ELIZABETH COX as JENNIFER in INTRUDER (1989)!

Intruder is a fun 1989 slasher that has the night crew of the Walnut Lake Market being stalked and killed one by one by a mysterious assailant. One of the employees is adorable cashier, Jennifer, as played by pretty Elizabeth Cox. Jennifer is currently being staked by her delinquent ex-boyfriend (David Byrnes), but does he want her back bad enough to kill all her friends? You’ll have to watch Intruder to find out and if you love 80s slashers, that shouldn’t be a problem, especially with this Cult Classic Cutie as our valiant final girl!
Elizabeth Cox fits the Cult Classic Cuties profile perfectly as she had a relatively short career on camera from 1984 to 1989 before disappearing from movies. The Chicago born actress had her first part as a student in the John Hughes classic Sixteen Candles before performing in small roles in not one but two cult classics in 1986, The Wraith and Night of the Creeps. She had another small role as a student in the Susanna Hoffs headlined comedy The All-Nighter, before her first and sadly last, starring role in this cult classic slasher. Too bad, she made a cute and resourceful final girl that we’d liked to have seen more of!

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(click on the poster for a full review)

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Stalked by her ex, about to lose her job and the target of a killer! Rough night at work!

Soon, collecting shopping carts will be the least of her worries!

Something is very wrong at the Walnut Lake Market!

Trapped between breakfast cereal and a serial killer!

Will help come in time for poor Jennifer?

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Elizabeth Cox may have left movies after only a few flicks, but seems to have kept very busy with wildlife conservation, news anchoring, magazine editing, working for the El Paso Zoo and having a family. She has a BA in Broadcast Journalism from USC, so this cutie is no dummy! Whatever Liz is doing now, we will always remember her Jennifer in this fun, supermarket set 80s slasher!

A recent photo reveals she’s still a beauty!

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Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here on the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

source/ IMDB

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MOST LIKELY TO DIE (2015)

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MOST LIKELY TO DIE (2015)

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Old school slasher flick tells the story of an approaching ten year high school reunion being attended by a group of friends who meet beforehand at a remote house in the California hills. Obviously, by our opening scene, there is a killer stalking them and killing them in ways that reference their yearbook’s ‘most likely’ quotes about them. Is it the student they teased and tormented in school now back for revenge?…or does someone else have a grudge against these ill-fated alumni?

Flick is directed by Anthony DiBlasi (Cassadaga, Last Shift) who gives the proceedings a sense of grisly fun despite not having the strongest script from Laura Brennan. It’s hard to tell sometimes if Brennan is deliberately trying to pay homage to the 80s era slashers by having characters do dumb things, like separate individually to check the rooms of the house once they know a killer is at large, or stopping to bare each other’s souls while that killer is at large, who could attack at any minute. Some of the dialogue is a bit clunky and a few of the kills would have required the killer knowing exactly where someone is going beforehand for things to be set up and waiting. It’s just hard to tell if some of this is done on purpose, or just out of lack of imagination, as sometimes the script follows the classic 80s slasher formula and sometimes it seems like it wants to be it’s own thing. There is some cleverness, too, such as the killer’s yearbook based MO and his weapon of choice, a razor edged graduation cap. The script, thankfully, also avoids going the smarmy, pop culture reference imbued post-Scream route, which has been done to death. We also get a fairly surprising reveal and the film does have a bit of a twisted sense of humor. On a production level, DiBlasi again proves he is a talent to watch. He makes the most out of the script and turns this into an enjoyable slasher with some suspenseful scenes, intense action and some inventively gory kills with that razor edged graduation cap, a box cutter and some other handy items. Some of the demises are quite vicious and gives our killer some solid menace. As for the killer, they are very effective with graduation gown and spooky homemade mask and they seem quite giddy when they slaughter their victims. The gore is quite abundant and well done and DiBlasi’s visual style works well with the story. Not his strongest film, but still very entertaining.

Except for Glee alumni Heather Morris, Jake Busey and a part played by internet gossip Perez Hilton, the cast are fairly unfamiliar faces. Morris shows the makings for a good heroine here and is solid as good girl Gaby. Busey is suitably creepy as the groundskeeper..always gotta have a creepy groundskeeper…and Hilton is actually good as a cowardly, ex-alcoholic returning to old habits once things get intense. The rest of the cast are all fine in their roles with Tess Christiansen showing some final girl potential herself as Gaby’s friend Jade.

I had fun with this despite it’s flaws. The script could have been tighter, but it’s heart is in the right place and it did follow the slasher formula well enough to entertain. There are some nice touches and Anthony DiBlasi guides things well, gives us some nice suspense, some outrageous and brutal kills and keeps the atmosphere going from the opening scenes. Not as intense as Last Shift but a fun slasher flick with an effective killer.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 graduation caps

most likely to die rating

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DR. GIGGLES (1992)

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DR. GIGGLES (1992)

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Dr. Giggles may have been released in 1992, but is very 80s from it’s look and feel to the metal tune blasting during the end credits…though sadly it reflects the exhaustion of the 80s slasher trend more than anything else.

The story has it’s roots in 1957 where Dr. Evan Rendell was murdered by the townsfolk of Moorehigh for killing his patients by removing their hearts in order to revive his dead wife. Rendell’s son escaped the mob and has disappeared without a trace. In modern day (1992, that is), a John Doe mental patient referred to as Dr. Giggles (Larry Drake), for his obsession with medical procedures and disturbing laugh, escapes an asylum and makes his way to Moorehigh. It would seem Dr. Giggles is actually Evan Rendell Jr. and he has set his sights on the people of the town for revenge. His plans alter a bit when he encounters pretty young Jennifer Campbell (Holly Marie Combs), a teen with a heart condition of the same kind that claimed Rendell’s mother…and Jennifer’s own. Now Dr. Giggles is out to acquire his patient and perform surgery on her at all costs and will kill anyone that gets in his way…or has the right amount of heart!

Flick is directed and co-written (with Graeme Whifler) by Manny Coto, who is far better known for his TV work than his few feature films. Coto doesn’t seem to know what kind of film he wants to make, as while Dr. Giggles has a serious tone, it is filled to the brim with goofy kills and frequent quips from it’s killer that highlight all the medical jokes and clichés it can fit in it’s 96 minute running time. Is it a comedy?…or a horror? The problem is that, as either, it is not very successful. The film has it’s fans, but it’s dull as a routine slasher and the medical jokes and exaggerated kills get tiresome quickly. There are little chills and suspense and the kills aren’t quite gruesome enough to shock…and are neutered by the jokiness anyway. There are also some major plot holes, such as when did Giggles have the time to make all his exaggerated/comical medical implements to use on his victims and if his father was suddenly dragged from his home and stoned to death, who sealed up his secret operating room in the basement? His escaped son was only seven. There are a few more questions we’d liked answered, but the film never really does and only it’s climactic showdown between Rendell, heroine Jennifer and her boyfriend-to-the-rescue Max (Glenn Quinn), gives us some intensity and action. Otherwise, this is a fairly ho-hum horror with a few gross moments, but mostly a lot of bad doctor clichés and far too obvious plot holes that just illustrate how tired slasher flicks had become at this point.

The cast, at least it’s leads, are far better than the film deserves. Larry Drake is very creepy as Giggles and gives him just the right balance of over-the-top and restraint. Too bad the material let’s him down. Same can be said of pre-Charmed Holly Marie Combs who makes Jennifer a feisty, strong-willed young lady and she is very likable. Cliff De Young is fine as her recently remarried dad and 80s hottie and horror veteran Michelle Johnson is hot and bitchy as Jennifer’s new shrew of a step-mom. Glenn Quinn is also likable and charming as Jennifer’s boyfriend Max and makes a suitable hero. A decent cast with sadly weak material to work with.

Not overly fond of this flick. It has a few scant moments, but for the most part, is dull and a perfect example of the slasher genre out of gas and at the end of it’s initial run, before Scream came along and revived it as self-aware, pop-culture reference dropping homage. The cast are actually very good, but the script is weak and full of far more holes than usually tolerable in a horror movie. Director Manny Coto doesn’t leave much of a signature on the film and was far more successful writing for TV. The flick has it’s fans, so it’s up to you if you want to catch up with it, if you haven’t seen it yet.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 (out of 4) scalpels.

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